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My own Robert Redford night


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A handful of times a year when TCM is airing movies I've already seen a zillion times each or ones that maybe I haven't seen but just don't sound appealing to me for one reason or another, I will use the lineup in question nevertheless as inspiration for choosing out a couple of similarly themed movies of my own and watching those instead. And so, on a night when TCM was airing a lineup of Robert Redford films, all of which I had seen many, many times, I went out and rented two Robert Redford films I had never seen, which I guess didn't get included in this tribute because they were made at Fox and Universal, respectively: THE HOT ROCK (1972) and THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER (1975). Although why TCM has been able to show THE STING a thousand times and has either shown PEPPER extremely rarely or not all confuses me: they're both Universal product from virtually the same year with one of the same leading men and the same director. Admittedly, one was a Best Picture winner. I periodically have to remind myself that I probably watch TCM way too much and what for me is a way overplayed film may actually be seen by TCM as bait to lure in a casual or first time viewer. And while THE STING is pretty great, I do have to admit after tonight's viewing that the two films I watched tonight I would have to classify as lesser Redford efforts.


I found HOT ROCK to be a pretty lackluster caper film, despite its pedigree - scripted by William Goldman, scripter of multiple Redford films, and directed by Peter Yates (BULLITT, BREAKING AWAY, THE DRESSER). I just never warmed up to any of the characters or had much interest in this gem they were trying to steal. And it moves at a funereal pace when, as a caper movie, it probably should have been brisk and breezy. Somehow, it got an Oscar nomination for film editing, which I find befuddling, as it surely could have been more judiciously edited. I chuckled here and there (I found this move in the comedy section of the store); George Seagal has his moments, and Redford is pretty good at conveying the tension in certain scenes, although I felt he was coasting, like he did, frankly, in a lot of his movies (can I say that?). There's a nice Quincy Jones score featuring some jazz heavy hitters like Gerry Mulligan contributing to the soundtrack.


WALDO PEPPER is the better of the two films. Yet another Goldman screenplay, this one taken from an original story by the director, George Roy Hill, who, of course, helmed the two Redford-Newman collaborations. I liked the bits when Redford was providing us with a bit of hucksterism - it felt like he was actually acting in this one, at least for certain scenes. The aerial stunts are stunning, and this one also has a nice score, this time by Henry Mancini. But I don't know if this film really knew what it wanted to be. The screwball comedy is periodically broken up by a couple of major character deaths, each in pretty unsettling fashion. And the motivations for Redford's character in the (spoiler alert!) downer of an ending, I just didn't comprehend.


I also recorded THE WAY WE WERE while watching these other two films, so I definitely had my share of Redford tonight - a non-stop six hours. I would rate either this or PRESIDENT'S MEN as Redford's best performance. He comes across with a certain intensity and gravitas here that I just don't always see in his films. One might say Pollack brought out the best in him, though frankly, I don't know that every one of his Pollack collaborations was all that great.

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