Movie #108: The Graduate (1967)

Director: Mike Nichols

Starring: Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, and Murray Hamilton

Academy Awards (1968):

Best Director: Mike Nichols

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Dustin Hoffman

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Anne Bancroft

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Katharine Ross

Best Cinematography: Robert Surtees

Best Picture: Lawrence Turman

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Calder Willingham, Buck Henry

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Recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) doesn’t know what to do with his life.  He spends his days lounging at the pool, and doing the whole, “What’s next for me?” routine.  Mrs. Robinson, Ben’s dad’s business partner’s wife, and Ben eventually begin an almost exclusively physical affair.  Eventually Ben wants more out of it, and they end up breaking off their escapades.  Things change, though, when Ben falls in love with the Robinson’s daughter Elaine (Ross).

The Graduate has drama, romance, and comedy all rolled into one with this coming of age film about a young man trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life.

thegraduate1I thought Dustin Hoffman performed well.  His awkwardness with Mrs. Robinson at the beginning of the movie was great.  There is that transition period in relationships with others as a younger person starts relating to other adults on a more adult level.  At the same time, it takes some getting used to.  Hoffman pulls this off nicely even though Bancroft is only 6 years older than him in real life.  However, Hoffman doesn’t quite have the look of a man in his early 20s, he was 30 when the film was made.

This is the sort of film that I get a little more out of with each viewing.  I’ve been able to see and appreciate a lot of the wit and comedic/satirical elements of this film.

The opening shot of The Graduate with Ben standing on a moving sidewalk in the airport sets a more low-key tone for the film.  It helps establish the “now what” mentality that Ben has as he’s finished college and isn’t sure what to do next.  At times, especially for the first half of the film, I felt a lot like Benjamin, disinterested and bored.

For me, the film picked up and became great once Elaine came into the picture.  Since Ben’s affair with Mrs. Robinson had become stagnant, adding in a new dynamic was the right move, and while I think Hoffman had great chemistry with Bancroft, it seemed exponentially better with Katharine Ross.  Maybe since their characters were much closer in age, dealing with the same uncertainties and whatnot.  It just seemed like their characters played off each other better.

The soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel plays well throughout the film.  The way their songs were integrated after Elaine went back to school really slowed down the film and added for the dramatic effect.

Ben’s drive to the church to Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Mrs. Robinson” is good, but the fact that it’s been redone shows just how great that whole sequence is.  My personal favorite it the homage in Wayne’s World 2, here.

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The final shot of the film is great and sets the plot apart from your fairytale ending.  In my book that’s a big plus when a filmmaker and performers add that layer of realism.

The Graduate is a gem of a film.  Drama, romance, and comedy sprinkled throughout made this enjoyable to watch.  Balanced acting chemistry between the three leads really showcased the acting talent of Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, and Katharine Ross and made more a memorable film.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Movie #107: Witness (1985)

Director: Peter Weir

Starring: Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Josef Sommer, Lukas Haas, Jan Rubes, Danny Glover

Academy Awards (1986):

Best Film Editing: Thom Noble

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: William Kelley, Pamela Wallace, Earl W. Wallace

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Harrison Ford

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: Stan Jolley, John H. Anderson

Best Cinematography: John Seale

Best Director: Peter Weir

Best Music, Original Score: Maurice Jarre

Best Picture: Edward S. Feldman

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While waiting at the train station, Samuel Lapp (Haas), a young Amish boy, witnesses the murder of an undercover cop.  He and his mother, recently widowed Rachel (McGillis), go into hiding in the Amish community with hard-bitten cop John Book (Ford).  Worlds collide as Detective McFee (Glover), one of the killers, and Book’s superior Schaeffer (Sommer) attempt to kill the only witness and in doing so introduce a world of violence into an otherwise peaceful community.

Witness was interesting to watch for a few reasons.  The thriller elements of this film worked well.  The dramatic elements weren’t over-the-top, and as such the story flowed naturally.  There is a good balance of drama, romance, and action.  None of them necessarily dominated the others.

It was also interesting as a case study in the drastically contrasting cultures of the Amish and then ‘English,’ the outside world.  Though Book is doing a good thing in protecting Samuel and Rachel, he unintentionally brings violence and murder into the Amish community.

Witness was a launching point for a number of big name actors and actresses.  Harrison Ford had been well established by 1985, but this performance really showcased him as a serious actor, and he gives one of his better performances in my opinion.  Kelly McGillis has a good balance and demonstrated she could play a strong yet conflicted character.  Danny Glover had a few notable roles prior to this movie.  Viggo Mortensen also has a minor part in the film.

The chemistry between Ford and McGillis in this film was interesting to watch.  As they slowly progressed in their like of one another, you could see Rachel’s inner struggle as she is torn between her upbringing and her desire.  The love story between them doesn’t feel forced, and though love stories are common in films, this one is done well enough that it’s not just your run-of-the-mill love story that’s thrown in.

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Witness combines a number of dramatic, thriller, and romantic elements to make for a well-rounded and engaging movie.  It was interesting to watch, and I’d recommend it.

My Rating: 4/5 stars