Saturday, November 26, 2011

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1978

Even if their eyes have never seen this film, any movie aficionado worth their street cred will have one exciting factoid to spew out of their mouths about the first place trophy winner of 1978; "Russian roulette! They play Russian roulette!"

There is that most famous scene, where Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken are forced to play a round of the most dangerous game ever invented, all while being captured in a POW camp in Vietnam.

Although, the misleading nature about this solely infamous scene, is that there is much more Russian roulette-like, infinity games.

Being terrified that this "game" (Who is having fun? NO ONE) actually exists in this world, I naively thought that I would only have to cover my eyes, peeking through a slight crack between my fingers, for a single intense scene-boy was I wrong. Not that I'm complaining, because lets get real, intensity creates drama, which makes for compelling movie watching.

What I'm trying to get at, is that just as much as The English Patient should really be called The Burned Guy, The Deer Hunter could just have easily been called The King Of Roulette (subtitle) The Scary Kind.

Guns ultimately are the name of the game, as the title eludes, where the hunting of deer is just as prominant as the hunting of friends and foe.

The Vietnam war is slowing beginning to effect a small town in Pennsylvania as a group of friends rally around two of their own on the day of their wedding. Three out of the group (including the groom) will be leaving for Vietnam several days later, so this wedding will be one of their last nights together, having fun as friends.

Everyone's dream pick for future Oscar Host, Meryl Streep, finds herself in a bit of a love triangle between two best friends, who would equally love to find themselves with her upon their return from Vietnam.

Walken plays her current beau (who is a cheater, cheater, compulsive eater), and De Niro quitely admires her from a far. What these two men, and any one going to war chooses to not focus on, is that they will be coming back to Pennsylvania much changed and these little dramas will be irrelevant.

At three hours long, the film is perfectly divided into, roughly, three-one hour sections; before, during, and after the war. This was another welcome surprise, as this film is often depicted as a straight up war picture. In actuality, it is less about the battle itself, and more about who these people were before and the effect of their experience in war.

Both sides of the film are book-ended with the friends (dudes only) heading to the woods to hunt for deer. Funnily enough, after my rant about no movies filming in Washington, these gorgeous scenes were actually shot in the mountains outside of my very own city.

As much as I focused in the lead in about Russian Roulette, the scenes watching De Niro hunt for deer, are the definite parts of the film. Set to powerful choral music, the poetic nature of these sections in particular makes it obvious why this became a Best Picture winner in the first place, and why people watching it today still feel its impact.

So, how does the Russian roulette theme continue to factor in throughout? All I can say is "one shot", and all interested parties should get their hands on a copy of The Deer Hunter.

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