Milius – a review/State of the Cinematic Union

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There has been a lot of great documentaries in recent years about all things cinema. These films often give us inside looks into the lives of the people responsible for some of the most significant moments in film history.

My favorite focus, however, is a look at the filmmaking of the 1970’s. The 70’s were a surreal and often cerebral time for filmmakers. Often called the time of the mavericks, the 70’s were a time and place in which the big studios were looking any which way for the next hit, becoming open to all forms of films they normally would have swiftly refused.

This paved the way for such films as those found within the BBS, a production company responsible for such movies as “The Last Picture Show” and the revolutionary “Easy Rider.” I digress, but this will all come up later after I do a brief review of the documentary titled “Milius.”

The film takes an in depth look at one of the most prolific writers of the 70’s/80’s, John Milius. Coming from a class of young filmmakers including George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Walter Murch, and the list just goes on, Milius was often seen as one of the biggest names in screenwriting.

His credits include “Apocalypse Now”, “Red Dawn”, “Dirty Harry”, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s breakout role in “Conan the Barbarian.” But, where you won’t see his credits is in one of the most famous moments in movie history: the USS Indianapolis Speech spoken by Quint in Spielberg’s “Jaws.” While Robert Shaw helped edit and cut down the massive ten page scene, it was Milius who helped craft one of the greatest monologues of all time.

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The documentary covers a lot of ground of Milius’ filmography while successfully keeping a steady pace. Even though it may not break any great barriers in documentary filmmaking, it still paints us not just a picture of a struggling artist, but a look at the ever-changing Hollywood studio system.

It shows us how Milius and his companions helped completely change the landscape of cinema. From “Star Wars” to “Jaws” they were brought in to be mavericks and came out as blockbuster millionaires.

Milius is without a doubt an enigma wrapped in a .44 Magnum pistol. He is an eccentric genius who often is seen as a possible threat to the American way/civilization. If this guy ever got into a room with Hunter S. Thompson, my mind melts at the possibilities of what adventures/hi-jinx they could have gotten themselves into. Also a small fun fact: John Milius was inspiration for John Goodman’s Walter in “The Big Lebowski.”

I without a doubt recommend this documentary. If you are, like me, a movie addict, and have a deep appreciation for the revolutionary films that forever changed Hollywood this one’s for you.

Now that we got that out of the way, let us turn to the State of the Cinematic Union.

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So, I have been obsessing a lot recently over 1970’s filmmaking. The vibes, the freedom, and the films are just something that are a wonder to behold, and it constantly keeps me thinking about the world we live in today.

Where do films stand? Have we become nothing more than a sequel machine? Many can argue for and against that notion. True we still have our Michael Bay films and our board games/candy being made into movies (a Peeps movie…seriously?), but on the flip side of that, independent filmmaking has exploded.

The new advancements in digital technology has made it possible for almost anyone to front their own low budget projects. While many see this as a negative, it still helps those unknown filmmakers get their names out there.

Another positive advance has been such companies as Annapurna Pictures, which is a company constantly dedicated to making more art-house oriented films such as “The Master” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” They too, however, are hopping aboard the sequel train in making the next entry of the “Terminator” series.

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And then of course there is television. As I briefly discussed in my last post, television has become the new medium for a maverick style of the moving image.

Companies such as Netflix, FX, and HBO have brought forward a new and exciting style of programming that easily rivals the films of the 1970’s. Be it the female driven “Orange is the New Black”, the experimental “Louie”, or the enigmatic dark & brooding “True Detective” networks are beginning to take the hint that times are drastically changing for television.

So where does that leave us, the viewers? Are films slowly dying? Does this new age of television bring any hope to the movies? I have to be honest we you: I have absolutely no idea. We will always be dealt crap, but there will always be a PTA gem on the flip side of that coin. There will always be good movies to counter act the bad, but many argue that margin is closing.

All we can do is look to the past of such days portrayed in “Milius” and “The Kid Stays in the Picture” where Hollywood wasn’t gobbled up by conglomerates and the leaders were nothing more than these larger than life men sitting behind oversized desks.

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