I'll look at these in the order we watched them:
THE AGE OF AQUARIUS MEETS BIG BUSINESS
A television network coldheartedly exploits a crazed news anchor to drive up the ratings and make profits. This movie is all about dehumanization by big business and the fact that everybody has their price ... even (most amusingly) the "Angela Davis" character who rants about the Communist party not seeing a dime until her series goes into syndication.
Tom was fascinated to see how much of a time capsule the views of this movie represented (his summing up is the title for this section). He views this as an indictment of big business by a hippie who was enraged and betrayed that their movement didn't actually change anything. Tom also was interested to see that Chayefsky's view of media was so unreal based on the changes of the last 30 years. Network's bleak view was that companies get bigger and bigger and dehumanize everyone, while in reality what happens is unpredictable because as people get squeezed out they go and start new ventures which often upsets the apple cart.
My own view was amazement at the stiltedness of the dialogue. It was like a Woody Allen movie without any of the self-deprecation or acknowledgement that people really don't talk like that. It was painful to listen to at times. I also realized that when I viewed this in college I was not hit by the wholesale rage that was seething throughout. I viewed it as clever and powerful but didn't really feel Chayefsky's fury the way I did watching it this time through.
I felt as if I'd been to film school when it was done. We were both worn out by the intensity when it finished. Recommended to those who haven't seen it or who study classic films.
HC Rating: *** (Liked it despite the absence of flubber...)
WANDERING WITHOUT A MORAL COMPASS
Well, there are another two hours of my life I'll never get back. It is difficult to express just how much we both hated this movie.
Weak, whiny, and neurotic Miles takes his licentious friend, Jack, on a week-long tour of the wine country as a wedding gift. Jack constantly thinks of nothing but how much sex he can get (or encourage Miles to get) ... face it, he's a pig. Miles evidently knows right from wrong but lacks any moral fiber and so just stands back and watches Jack's escapades. The lessons that either man learns are extremely limited and of little long term value either to the viewer or to the characters.
The only good thing about this movie is that, as far as I could tell, the wine information was correct, which is no reason to watch the movie. If you are that hard up to learn about wine, go to iTunes and subscribe to Wine for Newbies. Or get a good, basic book.
HC Rating: * (worse than Godfather III)
TRUE TO LIFE
An ensemble cast headed by Michael Keaton and directed by Ron Howard examine 24 hours in the life of a tabloid newspaper. The overall plot turns on beating rival newspapers to the story proving the innocence of two teenage boys who have been arrested for killing two out-of-town businessmen. However, it is the subplots about the various characters' lives that makes us care about the movie. Specifically the story focuses on Michael Keaton as the hard-bitten editor who doesn't want his paper to get beat to the big story and Marisa Tomei as his hugely pregnant wife who is a former reporter and is terrified that she will lose her personality when she becomes a mother. Robert Duvall's attempt to reach out to the daughter he neglected because of his newspaper job and Glenn Close's cold-fish money oriented manager both sound a contrasting cautionary note about perspective.
The characters were strong and knew what mattered in life, the plot was engrossing, and it worked because it didn't ignore the human element that messes up life just when we least expect it. Highly recommended.
HC Rating: **** (Nine thumbs up)