Ah, lovely, a movie about my TWO LEAST FAVORITE THINGS: WAR & KILLING ANIMALS. I will admit, this was one of my most-dreaded films to watch, and I would've excluded it because of the aforementioned WAR and KILLING ANIMALS, but it was Meryl's FIRST Oscar Nom, so it obviously had to be included. LET'S GET THIS OVER WITH.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Dir: Michael Cimino
Wri: Deric Washburn
Starring: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep
Basically, this is a movie about 3 friends from Pennsylvania who are all about to go fight in the Vietnam War, but don't worry, nothing bad happens to any of them.
HAHAHAHAHA JUST FUCKING KIDDING, BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO ALL OF THEM.
BECAUSE WAR IS STUPID.
AND VIETNAM WAS ONE OF THE STUPIDEST.
I KNOW ALMOST NOTHING ABOUT WHY WE WENT TO FIGHT IN VIETNAM BUT I AM 120% CERTAIN IT WAS A DUMB FUCKING IDEA.
The way I see it, if you want to play kickball, but there aren't enough kids on the playground to play kickball with, then guess what? YOU DON'T GET TO PLAY FUCKING KICKBALL. YOU DEFINITELY DO NOT GET TO FORCE A BUNCH OF CHILDREN TO PLAY KICKBALL WHEN THEY DON'T WANT TO, ESPECIALLY IF BY "KICKBALL" YOU MEAN "VIETNAM WAR" AND BY "PLAY" YOU MEAN "ALMOST CERTAINLY DIE, EITHER PHYSICALLY OR EMOTIONALLY!!!!"
Okay, rant over. For now. Probably.
This movie is actually AMAZING and worth watching. Once. Just once. If for nothing else, but the fact that YOUNG DE NIRO AND YOUNG WALKEN ARE SUCH GODDAMN DREAM BOATS. I literally had to start keeping a tally of how many times I said "OH MY GOD YOU'RE SO GOOD LOOKING!" De Niro won, but you still got it going on, Walken. Yeah you do.
It also must be said that this movie is definitely at least 1 hour longer than it needs to be (and it is THREE GODDAMN HOURS LONG). Literally the entire first hour is just a fucking wedding. Like, we get it, you're getting married and then going to Vietnam. The ONLY thing that needed to be established besides that was that everyone gets drunk. Idk why it took you an hour, but whatever.
We finally see young Meryl, she's dating Christopher Walken and has a shitty dad who hits her. Aw, poor Meryl.
After the wedding, they decide to go HUNTING (???) and we establish that De Niro really does not like Fredo (i.e. John Cazale).
THEN WE GO TO VIET FUCKING NAM AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF BULLSHIT HAPPENS.
In a nutshell:
- more violence
- violence against women and children
- acts of violence that young men are being forced to do against their will
- getting captured by more young men being forced to be violent
Then, just when you think there's no more violence, EVERYONE DECIDES TO GET REAL FUCKING EXCITED ABOUT RUSSIAN FUCKING ROULETTE.
Obviously, the game is a goddamn metaphor. You go to war, and it is literally a gamble with your life whether or not you'll come back. But even if you "live," you still don't really win: because you have to look somebody in the goddamn eyes as they BLOW THEIR BRAINS OUT. WHICH HAPPENS. MORE THAN ONCE.
I HATE WAR MOVIES.
Eventually, Christopher, Robert, and whatever the third guy's name is finally escape this Death Trap Russian Roulette Club House of Doom they're being held prisoner in, and they get picked up by Americans. Then Robert & The Other Guy fall out of the helicopter and get separated, but they make their way to an American base camp and get sent home.
Walken, on the other hand, is safe at a base camp but is confused and sad and alone... then gets totally preyed on by this Nasty French Guy who's like "Hey wanna be a PRO RUSSIAN ROULETTE PLAYER" and you're like NO PLEASE SAY NO WHAT A DUMB PROFESSION but Walken is like "idk y not i have nothing to live for bc war."
So De Niro goes back home and all his friends who did NOT go to war are like "HEY YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD BE A GREAT IDEA SINCE YOU JUST GOT BACK FROM A FAR AWAY PLACE COMMITTING SENSELESS, VIOLENT ATROCITIES? HOW ABOUT SOME MOTHERFUCKING DEER HUNTING!"
Like I GET that it's the TITLE of the MOVIE and it would not have been as POWERFUL if they were really into, like, BOWLING or something, but Jesus Christ no one even remotely understood PTSD back then.
So they go hunting, and De Niro is like REALLY hateful towards Fredo (who isn't), but this time he like low key almost shoots him in the face and you're like WHOA we know he's FREDO but don't SHOOT HIM IN THE FACE but then he decides NOT to shoot him and also he decides NOT to shoot a DEER and you're supposed to be like "oh nice, personal growth" and "the war did affect him" but instead I'm just like CAN WE PLEASE STOP FIRING GUNS PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
The answer is no, no we cannot.
He also gets real chummy with Meryl, but you're okay with it because we're not really sure if Walken is alive or coming back. Also, Meryl is So Sad.
Even though her part is really small, honestly I get why she was nominated. She manages to portray such deep sadness/confusion/loss without ever "losing it." Her SMALL moments are so much more powerful than her BIG MOMENTS.
Weird sidebar, but honestly I have been watching SO MUCH GODDAMN MERYL that I am really beginning to notice this shit...
I think it has something to do with her really small mouth?
Seriously, she has a very small mouth, and I think it keeps her from looking too - sloppy? - when she has to do very emotional scenes. It ends up making her a beautiful crier, which as we all know is How To Get An Oscar 101.
...Am I crazy? Maybe I'm crazy.
So Bob and Meryl are ~ going steady ~ but then Bob decides to check on The Other Guy who totally lost 3 out of 4 limbs #bummer and The Other Guy is like "yeah random but I keep getting all this $$ sent to me from Saigon??" And Bob is like YOU IDIOT IT'S FROM CHRISTOPHER WALKEN so he decides to go BACK TO FUCKING VIETNAM to go get his BEST FRIEND #veryemotional #bromance
Okay I feel bad though, the Other Guy is John Savage I can just never remember his goddamn name. He did an outstanding job of portraying someone Who Cannot Handle The War and loses his shit completely.
So Bob goes back to Vietnam, finds Walken is a PRO FUCKING RUSSIAN ROULETTE PLAYER known as "THE AMERICAN" and decides to PLAY HIM IN A GAME.
They play each other. Walken is in a daze. He is also doped out of his goddamn mind. De Niro is sad. Please don't make me do this. They both play. They both survive. De Niro says Please come home. Walken says, "Home." For the briefest of moments, we see in his eyes that the old him is still in there, somewhere.
Then Walken GRABS THE GUN AND SHOOTS HIMSELF IN THE HEAD ANYWAY.
FUCK RUSSIAN ROULETTE.
FUCK THIS MOVIE.
SOH COOL, NOW I GET TO COMPARE THIS TO AN EMOTIONAL DOMESTIC DRAMA ABOUT DIVORCE IN MANHATTAN.
This entire escapade was a terrible idea and I regret everything.
Kramer vs. Kramer
Dir/Wri: Robert Benton (Places of the Heart, Bonnie & Clyde, Superman I)
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander, Justin Henry
At least this will be much faster to get through.
Meryl and Dustin are married. Dustin is a big advertising hot shot, and Meryl is an existentially depressed housewife. For fear of going off the deep end and killing herself, she leaves him, and their 5 year old son.
Dustin has to learn how to be a single father to their kid - the phenomenal Justin Henry, also nominated for an Oscar - and juggle life and work.
Most of this movie is just Dustin and Justin being a father and son team, figuring life out. The movie is character driven, not so much plot driven, which is generally my favorite kind of filmmaking - just letting the actors be. And damn, do they be good.
Then, after a YEAR AND A HALF, Meryl decides to come back into their lives and fight for sole custody #rude. She creeps on the kid, gets a ruthless lawyer, and sets out to Get Her Life Back.
*Shout out to Jane Alexander (Cider House Rules, The Ring) for playing a small role - the best friend caught between Meryl and Dustin - with extraordinary grace and depth. Also she looks like she could be Alyson Hannigan's mom?
Again, I cannot commend Meryl enough for how SMALL and SUBTLE and POWERFUL her acting is. Truthfully, her character is kind of a bitch. She just up and leaves her husband and kid for A YEAR AND A HALF. And I get it, she was on the brink of a breakdown, and it was the right thing for her to put her mental health first. That took bravery. BUT A YEAR AND A HALF with NO INDICATION OF COMING BACK is pretty fucking brutal.
Luckily, Meryl is a master at being VULNERABLE without being a VICTIM. She owns up to what she did, and ultimately, even though she wins custody, she decides to let Dustin have it and visit the kid when he allows her to because she knows it's actually what's best for all of them. Powerful selfishness, powerful self-awareness, powerful sacrifice. In a way that I truly believe ONLY MERYL COULD DO. #OMCD
Which brings us to our winner of Bracket #3...
KRAMER V. KRAMER
This was a fucking hard decision - how do you compare Vietnam and divorce?? But ultimately, since we are going for Best Performance, based on screen time, depth of character, nuance, and for all you actors out there - Shurtleff's Actor Guidepost #5, the winner has to be Kramer v. Kramer.