1992 - "You can't handle the truth"

edited September 2017 in General Movies & TV Posts: 4,302
This week, I watched two movies that I did not think were connected. Scent of a Woman and A Few Good Men. I love both of these movies and only when looking up their details did I realise they were made in the same year.
They actually have much in common. They centre on character studies with outstanding and memorable dialogue. There is hardly any action and no violence. They end with riveting and iconic scenes delivered by actors of the highest calibre at their peak. The succeed in being accessable by the mainstream audience but, at the same time, they do not dumb down. They are not afraid of adding some cheese but not too much. There is zero CGI. They are directed by men who specialised in drama and getting the best out of their actors. They are relatively slow with long cuts (compared to modern day), giving space for the characters to grow. They have not really dated in their themes/arcs. I'm sure there are more.

Anyway, do these movies represent the end of an era re Hollywood blockbusters. ? Is there room in the current market for movies like these? Do we have iconic actors to fill these rolls? Why aren't movies like this made? (or I have missed them). Why has our attention span changed so we need more and more action?

Sorry for the mini rant and I'm happy to be corrected but...I went forward 20 years and looked at the most popular movies of 2012 and could find nothing that fitted into this classic catagory of character lead drama. If I go back, I can imagine many Hollywood actors from previous decades performing these roles (Peck, Tracy, Stewart, Douglas, Lancaster, Fonda,Newman, Mitchum, Hackman)







Comments

  • edited September 2017 Posts: 684
    Yes, I see where you're coming from. Both of the films you mentioned would have been made for around $50-$60 million today, whereas most wide-release drama films are now made for probably something like sub-$40 million. Another symptom of the ever-widening budget gap.

    I've mentioned it elsewhere on here (starting with the dismal crop of potential Craig replacements), and I know others have as well, but I agree re: your point about a current lack of iconic actors. This is more true to me on the male side but applies in general across both actors and actresses.

    I went hunting on Wikipedia in hopes of finding a recent Hollywood release that was a drama made for $50+ million. It took a good number of clicks, but eventually I found one: SULLY, which was made for $60 million. It also stars Tom Hanks, who's probably among the last of the 'icons,' and I think by and large that it fits in spiritually to the two films you mentioned above.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited September 2017 Posts: 23,883
    I think these kind of films can be made today and I think they will still be successful. It just takes the right kind of creative mind to pull it off. The right kind of director. I'll admit that there are far less of them these days, but they do come around from time to time and there are actors out there who can deliver.

    Part of the problem I feel is that these films don't scale well globally. With the increasing proportion of overall box office coming from overseas foreign markets, action oriented fare rules the day.

    I haven't seen Scent of a Woman personally. A Few Good Men is one of my favourite films. The latter has an 'A' list of actors though, most notably Cruise, Moore and Nicholsan at the top of their game, but also Bacon, Sutherland etc.

    A film that comes to mind which captures the spirit of these is David O. Russell's American Hustle. There's also Adam McKay's The Big Short. Both star Christian Bale coincidentally. Tom McCarthy's Spotlight is another one. They tend to get released around Christmas time, rather than at summer.
  • edited September 2017 Posts: 4,302
    Good points @Strog

    I think there is also some form of connection with the lack of crossover now with theatre. By defintion, threatre is a very limited environment and it tends to derive its drama from human character and interation. So many of the great Hollywood classics inherited that culture and took it to the big screen. Linked to that are actors who worked within that era and created drama between people rather than drama through action.

    A Few Good Men was originaly a play and I can easily imagine Scent of a Woman on the stage.

    It could also be that leading men from that era were brought up in a more brutal or hard enviroment than todays metrosexuals with their skin cleansers, perfect teeth etc. Lancaster, for example, was capable of very sensitive scenes but, all the time , you knew that he could just beat the pulp out of you if he wanted to. There was an inner rage that came across. Pacino and Nicholson clearly also had that rage. That "inner rage" (or the threat of it) really does add to an actor and their ability to bring drama to the screen.

    Hanks is a great actor but he really is not tough enough, He lacks the inner rage. Could he have taken those roles in Scent or A Few? No way IMHO

    Costner is perhaps one of the last?

    I hate falling into the trap of "rose coloured specs" but thats how it looks to me.

    @bondjames

    Yes, love those examples you gave but they went under the radar and were nowhere near the mainstream successes of the examples I gave. I also thought of Dead Poets Society (1989) another example of a mainstream success where its just people talking. Do modern day audiences have the patience to watch people just talk or do they demand fast cuts and action?

    "I haven't seen Scent of a Woman personally."

    c'mon !! its a treat

    PS still on the 1992 two drama theme - "Glen Garry" just men talking and shouting but, just iconic cinema.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited September 2017 Posts: 23,883
    @patb, I certainly think audiences have the patience for such fare even today. It's just that the studios don't want to take a chance on these kinds of films because they are extremely risk averse. From what I know production costs are much higher now than they were in the 90s and less people are visiting the movie theatre in general on account of competing visual mediums. It's a much more 'front loaded' business these days and even theatre chains need their money faster.

    So quite frankly I think far more of this has to do with business factors than it does audiences. The audience is there, but they may just not go to the theatre. Films have to 'scale' globally, as I mentioned previously.

    In terms of the 'theatre', there are still several actors out there who can deliver exceptional theatrical performances. Hiddleston for instance, is just finishing off a limited UK run of Hamlet for which he has received rave reviews. Craig did Othello a few months back. Etc. etc.

    If we're talking about actor masculinity, then yes perhaps that isn't quite what it was before. Arguably however that has been changing for decades. Was there a Clark Gable or John Wayne competitor in the 90's? No. Who comes close to Sean Connery from the 90's? Nobody. So unfortunately perhaps, changing cultural norms have changed the way men appear and interact. One could even argue (in the extreme) that the emancipation of woman may be leading to the emasculation of man.

    So there are several factors at play here, but lack of talent and lack of audience interest is not really the cause imho. The younger generation may be ADHD to some extent, but there is still a large component of the older demographic that long for less action and more 'old school'. I would argue that this is precisely why SF was a massive cross generation hit and QoS wasn't.
  • edited September 2017 Posts: 4,302
    @bondjames

    Yes, tend to agree and, as a fan, have to agree re your point on SF.

    I was thinking that Goodwill Hunting was perhaps one of the last and then found this article where Damon agrees the point re drama. Look at the huge money made by Bourne and I enjoy them, but Goodwill is just wonderful.

    https://stephenfollows.com/disappearing-mid-budget-drama-movies/

    I mentioned Costner and McFarland was a wonderful drama but it never crossed over into mainstream cinema, You have to make an effort to hunt these movies down, they are gems.

    You can see a similarity both in giving the leading actors their own time but also in the delivery. 20 years ago, Pacino would have been perfectly cast. Men leading men. (plus that certain level of cheese)



  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited September 2017 Posts: 23,883
    @patb, even Sam Mendes lamentably commented on this situation earlier this year:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-40349026/sam-mendes-warns-budget-films-can-not-compete-with-blockbusters

    The kinds of films you're referring to only get pushed out around Christmas time.
  • mattjoesmattjoes matthaujoes
    Posts: 4,132
    I'm curious: Did anybody here watch Scent of a Woman or A Few Good Men on release? How did their cultural impact back then compare with that of films like American Hustle, The Big Short or Spotlight?

    ---

    Of the two films mentioned in the OP, I've only seen Scent of a Woman and I loved it. The climactic scene was especially gratifying to watch. A masterclass of writing, acting and directing. A Few Good Men I intend to watch one of these days. Nicholson appears to be fantastic in it. Cruise seems to overact a bit but that won't keep me away. I greatly enjoy films like these, but especially those from the 90s, because of a certain nostalgia for the era. I didn't watch them back in the day --I was a kid-- but they intrigued me. I'm having fun exploring them now.
  • edited February 2018 Posts: 4,302
    @mattjoes Please do watch AFGM, it really is a modern classic IMHO , remarkable effort for a first time script writer. With a very very strong cast.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    Posts: 23,883
    Agreed. It's one of my favourite court room style dramas. In some ways, I prefer it to The Firm.
  • BondJasonBond006BondJasonBond006 on fb and ajb
    Posts: 9,021
    Personally for me, 1989 to 1993 was my 5 years of golden age of Hollywood.

    And I'm ONLY naming the dramas/political dramas! There would be a whole big page of iconic action, sci-fi and comedies from those years too....

    There were some more quality films like that further up in the nineties of course, but nowhere in the quantity of those years. For instance As Good As It Gets 1997, Good Will Hunting 1997, A Time To Kill 1996, James Ryan 1998, Truman Show 1998

    89-93 with a lot from 91 and 92
    -scent of a woman
    -a few good men
    -fried green tomatoes
    -steel magnolias
    -bugsy
    -jfk
    -my private idaho
    -dances with wolves
    -misery
    -edward scissorhands
    -presumed innocent
    -days of thunder
    -the two jakes
    -dead poets society
    -field of dreams
    -driving miss daisy
    -born 4th of july
    -howard's end
    -malcolm x
    -and a river runs through it
    -single white female
    -patriot games
    -chaplin
    -remains of the day
    -schindler's list
    -piano
    -philadelphia
    -gilbert grape
    -much ado about nothing
    -indecent proposal
    -the firm
    -the pelican brief
    and that's not even all...
  • edited February 2018 Posts: 4,302
    I think it's in the extras on the DVD but there is a story of the first rehearsal of the courtroom scene and the rest of the cast are just warming up, learning their lines, feeling their way into the scene but Nicholson comes in, word perfect and gives 100%, exactly as he did in the movie and, by the end, the whole room is just stunned by the power of his delivery.

    "Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know; that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, *saves lives*. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you" and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a *damn* what you think you are entitled to!"

    Try reading this fast and punchy. It's very complex dialogue.
  • Posts: 11,619
    1992 was a good year for movies. I definitely saw SCENT OF A WOMAN in the cinema with my buddies as we were going to a couple films per week on average then.
    A FEW GOOD MEN I caught later.

    One of the reasons (aside from inflation) I don't go to movies hardly ever anymore is the lack of character driven dramas as blockbusters. Both GOOD MEN and SCENT were quite popular as I remember.
    You could do no wrong with Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson. One often went to see a movie based on the leading actors. GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, one of my favorites, had Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, and Ed Harris. Great writing, directing and acting. No CGI and no superhero costumes. I'll take that over BATMAN V SUPERMAN any day.

    I personally feel that was the last era in which we had movie stars, who were also great actors. Stars who could stand along the likes of Gregory Peck, James Stewart, Robert Mitchum, and Bogart. Today it seems the only actors that may be considered a star are because they are linked to a franchise rather than their talent. Even actors from that era now going strong: Tom Cruise, and Robert Downey Jr are part of a franchise.


    In addition, there were still a few actors from the golden age alive then and active. Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Peck, Jack Palance, and Lauren Bacall, to name a few.

    In 1992, TNT among other stations were still playing the classics and there was a stronger link to the golden age then. Cinemas would often re-release CASABLANCA, TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE or THE PHILADELPHIA STORY and you could actually see these classics in the cinema with an audience.

    The summer blockbuster season of 1992 consisted of variety. If you wanted your action fix, you could see LETHAL WEAPON 3 or BATMAN RETURNS. I'd consider PATRIOT GAMES to be more of a drama/thriller. Speaking of which, and getting back to the star angle, most of us saw PATRIOT GAMES as the latest Harrison Ford film rather than a Jack Ryan franchise entry. There were character driven comedies: A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, and Eastwood's western UNFORGIVEN.

    IMO, all those films were memorable compared to, say, last summer's offerings. So I do feel Hollywood has changed since then, and I sincerely hope for a return to character films that bring out an actor's ability.

  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited February 2018 Posts: 23,883
    It's great to see that speech in its entirety again. I can just hear him enunciating each word to perfection as he delivered it in the film. A jaw dropping moment if there ever was one. What's great about that scene is how Kaffee plays him like a fiddle and uses his pride against him.

    Great list by the way @BondJasonBond006 . I've yet to see many of those films but I'll get to them at some point.
  • mattjoesmattjoes matthaujoes
    Posts: 4,132
    patb wrote: »
    @mattjoes Please do watch AFGM, it really is a modern classic IMHO , remarkable effort for a first time script writer. With a very very strong cast.
    bondjames wrote: »
    Agreed. It's one of my favourite court room style dramas. In some ways, I prefer it to The Firm.
    I'll watch it. I enjoy courtroom dramas quite a bit. 12 Angry Men, The Verdict, The Rainmaker are some I like.

    ToTheRight wrote: »
    I personally feel that was the last era in which we had movie stars, who were also great actors. Stars who could stand along the likes of Gregory Peck, James Stewart, Robert Mitchum, and Bogart. Today it seems the only actors that may be considered a star are because they are linked to a franchise rather than their talent. Even actors from that era now going strong: Tom Cruise, and Robert Downey Jr are part of a franchise.
    I do miss the more prominent presence of movie stars. Nowadays you get these posters with ten plus names listed at the top in small print, but are these people true stars? Not really. They're just in big films. A movie star can be a great asset to a film. Beyond the charisma and talent they can bring to a film, stars have a history with audiences that can make both their work and the film they're in more impactful, meaningful and distinctive. They can stick to their persona and be effective, or play against type and create a wonderful contrast. We don't have enough of that today.

    A trailer for 1995's Heat has the narrator saying this: From The Godfather to Scent of a Woman. From Raging Bull to Goodfellas. Their performances have created a legacy of landmark films. Now, for the first time, America's two most electrifying actors collide.

    Damn cool stuff.

    bondjames wrote: »
    It's great to see that speech in its entirety again. I can just hear him enunciating each word to perfection as he delivered it in the film. A jaw dropping moment if there ever was one. What's great about that scene is how Kaffee plays him like a fiddle and uses his pride against him.
    I can hear the speech in my head as well. I've watched that scene a few times. Nicholson is impeccable; every voice inflection and emphasis is spot on.

    bondjames wrote: »
    Great list by the way @BondJasonBond006 . I've yet to see many of those films but I'll get to them at some point.
    Same here.
  • edited February 2018 Posts: 4,302
    I think we do have some great actors but there is a lack of character lead dramas and, when they are made, they dont get the attention they deserve. Anyone seen Moneyball? No violence, no CGI. Just a drama about one guy trying to run a baseball team. Wonderful film IMHO. Brad Pitt is a top actor.

    I also watched Seabiscuit last night. Falls directly into the same category.

    @BondJasonBond006 PS Can I add The Fabulous Baker Boys (89) to that list?

  • RemingtonRemington I'll do anything for a woman with a knife.
    edited February 2018 Posts: 1,499
    Both great films. Saw them both for the first time just a few months ago. The 80s and 90s were my personal favorite decades for film although I believe the 50s, 60s, and 70s were the best. It's truly depressing seeing the crap Hollywood is releasing nowadays.
    Also, great list @BondJasonBond006
  • Posts: 1,491
    I saw both of these on original release either back in late '92 or early '93 as I think both were holiday releases.

    I liked both, especially A Few Good Men. As far as the question about cultural impact, I don't think either were super huge, but both were big in pop culture at the time due to lines such as Pacino's hoowa catchphrase that was even quoted on Seinfeld, which was the hottest show on TV at the time, along with "You can't handle the truth," which is still big.

    I'd completely forgotten Scent of a Woman was nominated for Best Picture and Martin Brest for Best Director, although I recall A Few Good Men was for Best Picture but am surprised Rob Reiner didn't get a Best Director nom. Also surprised Scent got a nom for screenplay from another medium and Men didn't.

    One of the things about Nicholson's nomination for Best Supporting Actor was it was a time when he got nominated a lot and was thought of more as a charming rogue type and it really showed his versatility playing such an arrogant jerk. I think he deserved the award for this, although I've never seen Unforgiven and Gene Hackman's performance.
  • edited February 2018 Posts: 4,302
    There is a certain template when it comes to screenplay writing where you have the hero making some fantastic, rousing speech/presentation as the climax and you work backwards from that. Courtroom dramas fit perfectly into that tempate as the court case draws to a close and the final cross-examinations and summing up take place (JFK did this very nicely, ). They provide wonderful opportunities for actors to really "show their metal", where the spotlight is on them 100%, they have a big chunk of dialogue and they really produce the goods. The theme normally is "pursuasion against the odds". Where logic and rationality say one thing and our hero says another and they manage to alter the direction of opinion.

    If done well, they provide standout moments that people remember beyond the films themselves and, may also, contain a couple of great, quotable lines. This is the real power of the cinema IMHO - way more powerful than action or CGI.

    I love these type of movies and I'm struggling to think when the last one was?

    Example below: "People will come, Ray" (89, that "golden era")



    “Ray. People will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. "Of course, we won't mind if you look around", you'll say, "It's only $20 per person". They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh...people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”





  • mattjoesmattjoes matthaujoes
    Posts: 4,132
    Watched A Few Good Men. Damn good.
  • Posts: 4,302
    @mattjoes Glad you enjoyed it. Remarkable to think that was his first movie script. An instant classic IMHO

  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited February 2018 Posts: 23,883
    I had no idea Sorkin wrote this. That explains a lot. In retrospect I realize now that it does have his trademark rapid fire approach.
  • edited February 2018 Posts: 4,302
    There us another doc somewhere where he openly credits Rob Reiner with, what is now, his classic trade mark of "walking and talking". There is a scene where Cruise and Moore are arguing and the original script had them static and Reiner reminded Sorkin that he was no longer writing for the stage and he should add an urgency to the conversation by having them walking. Sorkin obviously took this on board. Taking the advice of more experienced people is a classy thing to do. Reiner so so underrated as a director IMHO

    PS can you imagine a more talented supporting cast.? In a movie from a first time script writer? remarkable
  • mattjoesmattjoes matthaujoes
    Posts: 4,132
    Yeah, great cast, including the always dependable and sadly departed J.T. Walsh.
  • Posts: 4,302
    Yes, there are so many great characters that he does not get enough screen time.
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