FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Francis Ford Coppola |||
Francis Ford Coppola

Coppola is an amazing talent whose inspiration and influence spans many generations. Virtually the link between the studio system of yesteryear and the independent minded filmmaker of the modern age, Coppola became the first major film director to emerge from a university degree program in filmmaking, thus legitimizing a now common route for many future filmmakers.

This Academy Award winner continues to enjoy an enormous critical and popular success due in large part to Coppola’s ability to break down an epic saga of crime and the struggle for power into the basic story of a father and his sons, punctuating the prevalent theme throughout Coppola’s oeuvre: the importance of family in today’s world. His personal portrait mixed tender moments with harsh brutality and redefined the genre of gangster films.

This intense, yet unassuming thriller has an impact that touches the viewer on a personal level and raises the question of privacy and security in a world of technology – thirty years ago! Coppola’s then virtually unknown cast is a roster of inevitable superstars, including Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, and Robert Duvall. This Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Sound lost out to Coppola’s other great effort of the year, The Godfather: Part II.

Coppola's masterful Vietnam War-updating of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" was the first major motion picture about the infamous “conflict”. This colossal epic was shot on location in the Philippines over the course of more than a year and contains some of the most extraordinary combat footage ever filmed. Unforgettable battle sequences and sterling performances from every cast member (including Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, Scott Glenn, and Martin Sheen) mark this Academy Award-winning drama as a must-see for any true film fanatic.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Ned Kelly

By BrianOrndorf

March 25th, 2004

As an American, the legacy of Ned Kelly - famous Australian outlaw - was not something I was immediately familiar with. The new film, "Ned Kelly," features a strong ensemble cast (including Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Naomi Watts, and Geoffrey Rush), and detailed production values. But lame attempts to inject a little "Titanic" style romance sours the milk, as well as the slowly creeping feeling that what's onscreen doesn't correspond with historical fact.


Irishman Ned Kelly always had his fair share of bad luck growing up in Australia. Returning home after years inside a prison for stealing a horse and assaulting a lawman, Kelly tries to change his destitute family’s ways, taking on jobs and trying to rebuild his life with his brother and friends (including Bloom, Joel Edgerton, Laurence Kinlan, and Phil Barantini). When a wayward officer of the law tries futilely to win the heart of Ned’s sister, the incident turns violent, with the “copper” lying about Ned’s involvement in the situation. Finding themselves no recourse but to run, Ned and his gang retreat into the wilds, and from 1878-1880, they became national legends as they robbed banks, gave to the poor, and outwitted Superintendent Francis Hare (Rush) in their quest to clear their names.

The new cinematic take on the legend, “Ned Kelly,” is a decent primer to the ways of the Aussie outlaw, but I imagine it shouldn’t be considered the definitive lesson on the Kelly Gang. Filmed numerous times over the past 100 years (most famously, a 1970 production with Mick Jagger as Kelly), the true story of Ned Kelly has gone from fact to legend, with director Gregor Jordan’s film falling somewhere more toward the legend perspective on the events. Trying to satisfy both the purists and the newbies to the tale, Jordan (“Buffalo Soldiers”) deftly weaves the notorious factual instances of Kelly’s descent into outlaw status (the iron body armor, the Jerilderie letter, and Kelly’s beloved silk bravery sash) with traditional dramatic structure that a bio-pic like this sometimes requires to get from A to B. The invention of a romantic interest for Kelly, played by the luminous Watts, is truly the film’s most glaringly false note. Blame “Titanic” if you will, but Jordan’s attempt to inject a little romantic fire into a story populated with well-known events and historical figures is a complete failure, wasting precious screen time with an obvious attempt to appeal this rugged story to teenage girls and their disposable incomes.

One of the more interesting textures to “Ned Kelly” is Jordan and cinematographer Oliver Stapleton’s use of the bleak Australian countryside to frame the Kelly saga. Often cutting away to the unbiased gaze of the exotic creatures that populate the land, Jordan is wise to keep the location a tangible subplot to the story. And Stapleton shoots the land lovingly, even when it’s truly the desolate, immigrant-intensive, burgeoning area Australia was at the time.

Normally an actor of limited means, star Ledger finds a perfect role in Ned Kelly. Utilizing Ledger’s gift of a booming voice and tragic looks, Jordan finds his actor fits snugly with what the role requires. Jordan’s modus operandi on Kelly is more of a battered messiah, which is historically incorrect, but Ledger performs the role accordingly and expertly. Unlike the lanky, feminine Jagger’s take on the role, Ledger sells Kelly’s passion and apologetic fury with grace.

In playing narrative hopscotch with the facts, the briskly paced “Ned Kelly” soon begin to hurdle some plot points late in the game I wished were covered more thoroughly The Javert-like struggle between the Kelly brood and Francis Hare isn’t given the attention it requires, as well as Kelly’s seemingly indestructible nature in the film’s closing moments. Taken as fact or fiction, “Ned Kelly” is an interesting portrayal of the Australian legend, but the film would’ve been much better off just choosing a side and starting from there.

My rating: C+