Tag Archives: Bud Cort

Electric Dreams (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: His computer becomes jealous.

Miles (Lenny Von Dohlen) is a young architect seeking to get his life more organized, so he buys a personal computer (voice of Bud Cort) and sets it up in his apartment. A beautiful young cellist named Madeline (Virginia Madsen) moves in next door to him and practices her cello each day while at home. Miles’s computer, which goes by the name of Edgar, overhears her playing and falls in love with the sound and her in the process. When Miles becomes attracted to her the jealous computer tries everything it can to thwart their relationship.

I enjoyed the imaginative visual style implemented by Steve Barron in directorial debut. In fact it’s the film’s only selling point as the bland script offers little that is funny or interesting and drags on at a snail’s pace with hardly anything actually happening.

Sometimes it’s fun watching films from a bygone era and seeing how much technology has changed, but this thing gets so fanciful with it that it becomes illogical instead. Clearly the filmmakers had no understanding at how a computer actually works as this machine is able to do things that no normal PC could. For instance it’s able to make the knob on Miles’ door turn hot, so he can’t leave his apartment. It’s also able to connect to the servers of Miles’s credit card company even though this is before the advent of the internet and somehow shut off his credit. There’s also a scene where Miles pours champagne on the computer’s keyboard, which doesn’t permanently disable it even though we all know that in reality it would’ve.

It takes too long for the computer to become evil and then when it does it ends pretty quickly. The machine lacks a distinctive look and should’ve been made more ‘evil’ appearing, which would’ve helped coincide with the film’s otherwise flashy visual look. Bud Cort’s voice talents go to waste as it gets electronically altered until it’s unrecognizable and therefore could’ve been anyone’s.

Madsen is good, but the story is geared too much towards the preteens. The trite, overly innocuous script needed more bite, or an added edge to make it interesting to adults who will most assuredly be bored.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 20, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Steve Barron

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Region 2 and 0)

The Strawberry Statement (1970)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Students go on strike.

Simon (Bruce Davison) is a young college student attending a university simply as a means to get an education and find himself a good job. He has no real interest in the student revolt going on, but as a lark and a way to meet girls, he decides to passively get involved with students who have taken over the administrator’s building in protest of the school’s plan of building a gymnasium in an African American neighborhood. Slowly Simon finds himself taking up more of their cause and embracing their stance especially after meeting Linda (Kim Darby) who is much more of a student radical, but the two are ill-prepared for the brutal outcome when exasperated school officials have the police violently storm the building and haul the students out.

The film is based on the book ‘The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary’ by James Kunen, which in turn is based on his experiences of being involved in a student sit-in that took place at Columbia University in April of 1968. The book’s narrative had more of an engagingly detached manner as it looked at the contradictions and hypocrisies of both sides while the screenplay by Israel Horovitz is nothing more than a commercialized effort to cash in on the counter-culture emotions of the time while glossing over or ignoring some of the book’s more perceptive points. The plot is too loosely structured and relies heavily on artsy camerawork and moody music to propel it until you get an hour into it and realize that nothing much has really happened. The whole thing would’ve been better focused had it been done with a voice-over narration by the main character.

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Although at times it borders on being pretentious I still found director Stuart Hagmann’s camerawork to be intoxicating especially the bird’s eye view of the students forming into several large circles as a way to block the police from entering and taking them out. Some of the scenes involving the demonstrations look staged and phony especially when compared to similar scenes of actual protests that were captured in Medium Cool that came out around the same time. However, the scene where the students grab a police officer, strip off his pants and force him down the slide and onto the swings at a children’s playground is downright amusing. The climatic sequence where the students are violently herded out of the building while sprayed with tear gas is well captured and by far the most startling and memorable thing about the movie.

Davison gives a solid performance and creates a middle-of-the-road character that is engaging enough to hold the thing together. It’s also great seeing Bud Cort playing an atypical role of an amorous girl-crazy coed who’s constantly looking to get laid. This film also marks the film debuts of David Dukes, Jeannie Berlin, Paul Willson, Andrew Parks, Kristina Holland and soap actress Jess Walton. You can also spot Horovitz and Kunen in brief cameo parts as well as character actor James Coco as a deli owner who’s all too willing to have his placed robbed simply so he can collect the insurance money.

Although they wanted to shoot the movie at Columbia where the incident actually occurred they were unable to get permission and were forced instead to do it at Berkeley, which in some ways helped it as the liberal, free-spirited look and mood of the region helped match the tone of the story. Ultimately though the film fails to ever really gel and comes off as being too placid and generic while failing to distinguish itself from the myriad of other student protest movies from that era.

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My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 15, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated R

Director: Stuart Hagmann

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

Brewster McCloud (1970)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Flying in the Astrodome.

Brewster McCloud (Bud Cort) is a young man who lives and hides inside the giant Astrodome in Houston, Texas. He dreams of one day flying like a bird and secretly works on building a contraption that will help him do it while being aided by a mysterious guardian angel named Louise (Sally Kellerman). Meanwhile strangulations start occurring all over the city and the police become convinced that Brewster may have something to do with it. As he gets ready to ‘spread his wings’ and fly for the first time the police surround the place and try to arrest him.

This film is reportedly director Robert Altman’s favorite out of all the ones that he did and it is easy to see why. The quirky, offbeat script by Doran William Cannon nicely compliments Altman’s free-form, cerebral style. The film works on many different levels with every shot and scene being unique and a kind of story in itself. The dream-like quality is nicely balanced with harsh realities creating an interesting theme that touches a wide array of senses. Although this film is never mentioned in relation to car chases the one that is has is exciting and well photographed without any of the jump cuts that you normally see.

The city of Houston gets captured well and I liked the fact that Altman stayed away from the downtown and instead focused more on the neighborhoods and city streets. The filming of the inside of the Astrodome is the most impressive and the building becomes like a third character. It may seem hard to believe now, but at one time it was considered ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ and was the very first dome stadium in existence. Watching Cort fly around on the makeshift wings he creates gives off an exhilarating feeling especially with the way Altman captures it against the backdrop of the stadium’s ceiling filled with skylights. The best shot in my opinion though is the bird’s-eye view of seeing Kellerman walking the entire length of the field and out the exit.

The broad and amusing characterizations are fun and Altman gives his actors wide range to create them. Some of the best ones are Stacy Keach who is unrecognizable under heavy make-up as an elderly, cantankerous and greedy landlord who goes reeling down the city streets in nothing but a wheel chair. Bert Remsen is good as a corrupt and racist policeman who even beats and berates his own family. Michael Murphy is interesting as a narcissist, hotshot detective who ends up killing himself and Rene Auberjonois as the lecturer who slowly turns into a giant bird as the film progresses. There is even the aging Margaret Hamilton who says a few curse words and dies while wearing her ruby red slippers.

The film is one-of-a-kind and perfect fare for those looking for something offbeat and diverting. The kooky opening and ending title sequences alone make it worth it. My only real complaint would be the fact that supposedly a bird is committing all these strangulations, but we never see how. All the viewers see is the victims getting bird poop on them and nothing more. I realize this might have been technically difficult to film or visualize, but for such an otherwise creative movie this seems like a bit of a cop-out.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: December 5, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD

Why Shoot the Teacher? (1977)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Not a good job.

If you hate your job then watching the escapades of Max Brown (Bud Cort) dealing with his should make you feel a lot better about yours, or even lucky. The setting is 1935 and Max has traveled to an isolated farming community in Saskatchewan Canada in order to live out his dream of being a school teacher. The problem is that he must live in the dingy basement of the school that has no running water and an outhouse that gets regularly overturned by the rowdy school children, sometimes with Max in it, and he is only paid $20 dollars a month for his efforts, which even back then was a paltry amount. What is worse is that the district can’t even afford to pay him so instead gives him promissory notes and forces him to be dependent on the generosity of the townspeople for his food. Since he had to borrow money for his train ride up there he is unable to go back and forced to spend the harsh Canadian winter all alone while dealing with difficult students and indifferent parents and adults.

Cort really shines. The fact that through all his diversity he still remains civil and upbeat makes the character quite appealing even though he does evolve and at times compromises from his initial ideals. The best example of this is when he eventually, despite his initial reluctance, uses the strap on one of the older bigger students while the rest of the school children watch through the school windows. Although Cort is best known for his starring role in Harold and Maude I’d actually say this is his best all-around performance.

Samantha Eggar another under-appreciated and underused performer is terrific in support as Alice Field a woman transplanted from England who like with Max finds herself alienated and unconditioned to the harsh climate. She also has a really amusing line when she states “Canada is a nice country…sometimes…in the spring.”

Filmed on-location in the tiny town of Hanna, Alberta the sprawling wheat fields create a tremendous sense of isolation as well as a distinctive sense of natural beauty. The story is filmed during all three seasons, which makes the viewer feel like they are battling the rigorous Nordic climate right alongside Max. One of the funniest moments is when the word ‘Spring’ is flashed on the screen while a raging blizzard goes on behind it making Canada one of the few places that can make Minnesota, where I am originally from, seem like a mild climate.

The film is wonderfully vivid and creates a rich multi-textured tapestry of life on the prairie. By keeping everything on a realistic level it helps recreate what life must have been like for a lot of rural school teachers during the period, which is what makes it so fascinating. The film’s faded washed-out color and archaic low budget technical approach only helps to accentuate the look and feel of the period. There are shades of Wake in Fright here that also dealt with a man teaching school in an isolated school house while battling the elements and I found it interesting to note that Ted Kotcheff who was the director of that film was listed as a production consultant on this one.

My only complaint about the film was the misleading title. There is no shooting of any kind of the teacher, or even any talk of it. Why they came up with that title, which is based on the book with the same title is a mystery. Unfortunately it may give some people the idea that this is a violent film when nothing could be further from the truth and may turn-off potential viewers from enjoying this endearing slice-of-life comedy/drama.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: June 23, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Silvio Narizzano

Studio: Lancer Productions Limited

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube