Video Picks Archive
Reviews by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This week my picks are The Straight Story (1999 - ) and Red River (1948 - ).
I make The Straight Story my first pick this week, not just because of
its debut on DVD, but in memory of its Oscar-nominated star, Richard Farnsworth,
who recently ended his life while suffering from cancer. He played Alvin Straight
in a true story about the 73-year-old Iowan who rode a lawnmower to Wisconsin (having
lost his driver's license because of poor eyesight) to see his estranged brother
(Harry Dean Stanton), who just had a stroke. Oddly enough, this heart-warming, inspirational,
G-rated Disney film was directed by David Lynch, the surrealistic mad genius behind
Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and Blue Velvet. Besides
Farnsworth's wonderfully earthy performance, the film is blessed with incredible
cinematography by Freddie Francis (Glory).
Farnsworth's real acting career didn't begin until 1978's Comes A Horseman, for which he was first nominated for an Academy Award at the age of 58. However, for over 40 years before that, he could be seen in countless Westerns as an anonymous horseback rider and stuntman. Perhaps the greatest film from this part of his career was Howard Hawks' Red River, which is my second pick. John Wayne stars as a maverick cattle driver who drives his company to mutiny, led by his adopted son (Montgomery Clift). This film stands above most of The Duke's work, in the same pantheon as The Searchers and The Quiet Man, where his underrated talent as an actor truly showed through. His power and vulnerability in scenes with Method pioneer Clift is devastating, along with Hawks' incredible depiction of the Great Plains. For the first two hours, the film is undeniably brilliant, only to have a moronic ending tacked on for the last ten minutes. I can forgive it in this case, as I can for Psycho (even if Lauren cannot). I don't know where to look for Farnsworth in Red River, but he's in there somewhere, as is Shelley Winters, who supposedly plays one of the dancehall girls (according to the IMDb).
For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
The Straight Story (1999)
Red River (1948)
Guide to Star Ratings
Capsule Reviews © 2000 Matt Heffernan