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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Lords of Dogtown (BrianOrndorf)

By BrianOrndorf

June 3rd, 2005

Found in its earlier incarnation as a documentary, the skateboarding opus “Lords of Dogtown” was an informative and entertaining trip through 1970s history. Translated into a new dramatic, fictional feature film, “Dogtown” is a poorly made, confusingly arranged snore. This slice of history deserved a much better cinematic treatment, and a profoundly more talented director than the notorious Catherine Hardwicke.


In the mid-1970s, wave surfing Southern California teenagers were handed a message from God: urethane wheels for their skateboards. These new wheels made seemingly unbelievable skateboard jumps and moves possible, and catapulted ego-driven Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk, “Raising Victor Vargas”), responsible Stacy Peralta (John Robinson, “Elephant”), and emotionally damaged Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch, “The Girl Next Door”) to the big league of competitive freestyle skateboarding. Guided by their mentor, Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger, trying to out-act his fake teeth) and his Zephyr surf shop, the boys rocketed to fame but lost themselves, and their friendship, quickly in the excesses of the moment.

In a bizarre twist of cinematic fate, “Lords of Dogtown” has been born from the 2001 skateboarding documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys.” In effect, the viewer received the “real” story four years ago, and is now being fed the Hollywood fantasy version. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the new “Dogtown” is a serious waste of time and effort, trying to recreate a story that was already signed, sealed, and delivered.

“Dogtown” was written by Stacy Peralta (which makes it clear why his “character” comes off the most innocent), who continues to strip-mine his skateboarding past with this feature. Peralta also directed “Z-Boys,” which, admittedly, would make him the authority on this tale. Trouble is, he already treaded this water, and “Dogtown” just takes the story backwards. Events and locations that were once clear are now confusing and indecipherable, and personalities presented in “Z-Boys” that were given clear, fair treatments in the documentary are turned into asinine caricatures for their dramatic film debut.

Peralta’s screenplay is a juvenile piece of writing, drawn in big strokes that come off laughable and redundant. The Z-Boys race through their experience quickly, forcing Peralta to hit all the high points without much gravitas to the whole endeavor. In addition, he has a nasty habit of writing clownish “I don’t know what to call that!” dialog for the competition announcers whenever the Z-Boys “invent” a new move on their boards. Had anybody else written this screenplay, the experience would be much different. However, Peralta already proved himself knowledgeable and insightful with the “Z-Boys” documentary. His story was already told with greater detail and more heart, not the unprofessional film on display here. In fact, the whole endeavor feels like a heightened “After School Special” in the toxic hands of director Catherine Hardwicke.

Hardwicke, who last was seen exploiting the sexual powder keg of pre-teens in her ridiculous “Thirteen,” arrives at “Dogtown” armed with her same old tricks. You see, Hardwicke loves a moving camera. Not just crisp tracking shots or appropriate zooms. No, Hardwicke loves to throw the camera around aggressively, which erases any chance for the audience to actually see anything onscreen. This is only aggravated by a flurry of hyper-editing. “Thirteen” was ruined by its amateurish camerawork, and so is “Dogtown.” Hardwicke is attempting to capture that irrepressible spirit of youth, where mischief and curiosity lie behind every corner. She’s also striving to nail the frenzied vibe of skateboarding. While there are nanoseconds where the director can make her setting and cinematography come together in an appealing period brew, the rest of “Dogtown” is one long, atrociously directed joke.

Want more proof of incompetence? When the Z-Boys are leaping a fence to escape a neighbor’s wrath, they encounter a pair of dogs. Suddenly, off-camera a moment later, a voice yells, “dogs!” So that’s what those things were. When the Z-Boys finally find success, Hardwicke cleverly cues up Iggy Pop’s song “Success.” Hardwicke employs digital video for some of the skate POVs (Very un-1970s, if you ask me). And in an attempt at irony at the very end of the film, Engblom ends up slaving away on surfboards, employed by a customer he insulted in the opening reel. Subtle, nuanced filmmaking? You tell me.

Miscasting also cripples “Dogtown” to an overwhelming degree. Overacting in ways that scream, “Please don’t be angry, audience, Hardwicke is making us do this,” the three young leads all misfire in big ways. Rasuk is nothing but a ham and cheese sandwich as the hot-tempered Tony Alva, Robinson demonstrates his acting inexperience with his flavorless portrayal of Peralta, and Hirsch, the acting veteran of the three boys, is clearly on another planet trying to capture the elusive feel of Jay Adams’s insanity. Incredibly, “Dogtown” even asks Hirsch to play up Adams’s Latino gang affiliation (which requires a neck tattoo and a shaved head), which, to be fair, needs to be seen to be believed.

If the point hasn’t been made enough, please permit me to be crystal clear: if you need to inhale the legacy of the Z-Boys, rent Stacy Peralta’s documentary and leave this disorganized, amateurish production alone.

My rating: D-