Sergio Leone Web Board

Films of Sergio Leone => Once Upon A Time In America => Topic started by: Lac qui Parle on May 19, 2008, 09:31:47 AM



Title: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Lac qui Parle on May 19, 2008, 09:31:47 AM
Once Upon a Time in America is the only Sergio Leone film I haven't seen. And I don't intend to. Mostly because of its gloomy length, but also because every single review I have read of it has not exactly been favorable. Even the summary on the home page of this forum says, "A lot of people just do not like this movie. People think the movie is too long, too dry, and basically just a big waste of time."

Even the venerable cigar joe said, "I usually rate OUTIA lower on my preference list of Leone's films; I find myself touched not by exhilaration but by melancholy."

Now that is interesting.

Here are some other reviewers' attributes I've taken away:

gratuitously violent
no likable characters
horrible pacing
infamous rape scene
confusing chronology

So why does this movie fair so poorly with critics and audiences?
Am I wrong to trust the critics? Because I do.

Yet something gnaws at the road apple in me...

How can it be so colossally different than all the rest?


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Atlas2112 on May 19, 2008, 10:45:32 AM
every single review I have read of it has not exactly been favorable

Quote
gratuitously violent
This is quiet baffling, the dollar films have about 6 times the body count this film has. The only thing that surprised me as far as violence was concerned was the bloodshed (this probably being the only film where Leone uses blood squibs). In the case of this movie, it is by no means gratuitous violence, it's realistic violence. A bullet to the head is not a pretty sight and Leone shows that. The problem is today everyone has become all too comfortable with violence, failing to see that ALL violence is gratuitous, be it real or fictional.

Quote
no likeable characters
well of course they aren't likable, they're mobsters. Ever since the godfather people have looked at mob movies as though they are about these swell guys who are constantly harassed by the evil policemen (how dare they enforce the law!). Personally, i like the characters in this film and in some cases identify heavily with them. I feel that they are quite likeable, but it is their actions that are unforgivable.

Quote
horrible pacing
Only to someone who doesn't bother to invest himself in the film. When i watched it I never felt that it dragged or rushed, it was as though there was a complete and unbreakable bond between the sights and sounds of the TV to my head. The only time i was ever out of it was when i had to change disks to complete the movie (coming in at an awkward time).

Quote
infamous rape scene
I'll level with you and say that is a very uncomfortable scene, but then again, when is rape ever comfortable? A lot of people want the scene to be shortend (or deleted) because of their discomfort with it, but like the violence, the film shows rape as it really is, hideous.

Quote
confusing chronology
i don't know where this comes from. anyone who really pays attention to the film should understand the chronology of it. Certain things trigger Noodles to flashback to his childhood and vice versa. If anything should be confusing, it's the ending. Although it shouldn't frustrate you, its only there to make you think.

Quote
So why does this movie fair so poorly with critics and audiences?
That depends, who are these critics, because these don't sound like any critic reviews I've ever read on the film. Remember, the Oily psuedo-intellects with acne problems known as IMDB members don't constitute as actual critics.

if you want to here some actual critic and audience responses read this bit from wikipedia.

The film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival was an astounding success. Though some female audience members were offended by the rape scenes and depiction of women (Leone was often accused of misogyny based on his films' portrayal of women., the film was extremely successful, garnering a fifteen-minute standing ovation from the audience. The uncut European version of the film won rave reviews, and was very successful throughout Europe and abroad. However, several sneak premieres in Canada and the US gained a mixed reception at best (some suspect due to studio tampering). The film was drastically edited, as mentioned above, more for commercial reasons than anything else. Leone, who had turned down an offer to make The Godfather twelve years earlier, was indignant when several American critics compared the butchered version of his film to "a Jewish Godfather". The 144-minute version was a huge flop and American critics destroyed it. Roger Ebert wrote in a 1984 review that the original cut was a masterpiece but the American theatrical cut was a travesty.

The uncut version of the film gained widespread critical acclaim and a large following. James Woods, who considers Once Upon a Time in America Leone's finest work, mentions in the DVD commentary that one critic dubbed the film the worst of 1984, only to see the original cut years later and call it the best of the 1980s. Ebert, in his review of Brian DePalma's The Untouchables, called the original uncut version of Once Upon a Time in America the best film depicting the Prohibition era.[2] Sight and Sound magazine placed it among the ten best films of the last 25 years when it attempted to do a poll on recent films.


Quote
Am I wrong to trust the critics? Because I do.
Critics should never decide what you can and can't watch. You are the best critic in what you do or do not like, not anyone else.

Quote
How can it be so colossally different than all the rest?
Well it is a movie about the jewish mafia, while all his others are western, But other then that it still has the same Leone style and pacing that we have come to know and love. If you like his other movies there's no reason you shouldn't like this one as well


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: PowerRR on May 19, 2008, 01:23:53 PM
Gratuitously violent? What the fuck do you expect from a mob movie?

No likable characters? Go watch Austin Powers.

Horrible pacing? Attention span sucks.

Infamous rape scene? ....how exactly is this a flaw? It's part of the story.

Confusing chronology? The last time they fondled with the chronology it was considered the worst movie of the year.



And who listens to cigar joe? If Once Upon a Time in America was a western he'd probably like it more. And if OUATIA is considered "dry" then I don't know what every other movie is considered.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: moviesceleton on May 19, 2008, 02:05:05 PM
Atlas provided good points (as did rrpower); I would have passed the whole thing by saying: "Those attributes suck". Plain and simple: watch it!


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Cusser on May 19, 2008, 06:03:40 PM
It's compelling.  And gets better every viewing.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: cigar joe on May 19, 2008, 08:45:18 PM
Its better than most gangster flicks, better than most films in fact, I just rate it lower that Leone's Westerns, which is the Genre I preference. I don't relate to any of the characters, and it is melancholy, my opinion, but you should definitely see it none the less.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: dave jenkins on May 19, 2008, 11:47:17 PM
It's Leone's Citizen Kane. But better.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Tuco the ugly on May 20, 2008, 12:01:15 AM
Unlikeable characters.

People expected Vito Corleone - alpha male - Man With No Name - cynic jokes effusing - kinda (company of) anti-heroe(s).

He gave them a rapist, a psycho, a drug addict, an idiot, and a bunch of whores and corrupt half-somethings.


Not much for a superficial and narrow (read - classic) audience to like, I'm afraid.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Panache on May 20, 2008, 01:14:03 AM
i think ths film was way more realistic than mos gangster flix

showed em like they really are, not all dressed up in tuxdos and all those formalitys

Godfather was pretty to look at, but was pure bolony- mafia probly thought it was a comedy ;D

real gansters were animals jus like in ths film


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Sergio.L on May 20, 2008, 12:05:08 PM
it's THE BEST movie ever made!


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Groggy on May 20, 2008, 04:07:39 PM
It's long, features a complex, non-linear story, main characters who aren't particularly likeable, graphic violence/sexual content, and overall is not exactly fodder for mass audiences.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Panache on May 20, 2008, 06:14:03 PM
i think that when it came out hurt it most- the 80s

by then audinces wanta to see big blockbusters crap like Beverly hills Cop instead of personal film like Leone made

hell, a lot of younger audiencs dint even know who Leone is. so no connection was made

if Leone had made it in 70s it would be as wel regarde asGodfather or mean Streets. he just waited too long, is all.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Groggy on May 21, 2008, 06:34:55 AM
Nah, I don't think American audiences would have received it well anyways. Comparing it to The Godfather it's night and day. There were plenty of blockbuster "crap" in the '70s anyway, I doubt the mainstream audiences got dumber in the meantime.

PS: What's wrong with Beverly Hills Cop? ???


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: noodles_leone on May 21, 2008, 06:46:02 AM
Very good points have been made above, but i just wanted to make things clear about these 4 points:


horrible pacing
confusing chronology
So why does this movie fair so poorly with critics and audiences?


Horrible pacing:
it's a lot faster than OUATITW. And if somebody tells me HERE that OUATITW has a horrible pacing, I reap his heart.

Confusing chronology :
it goes without saying that i completly disagree with this statement, but the point i wanted to make about it is that the chronology is IMO what appeals the most to mass audience in this movie. It is a bit confusing for some people (and not the majority, IMO), but it is the "cool" part of the movie.

So why does this movie fair so poorly with critics and audiences?
Professional film critics usualy endorse the movie. Only audience doesn't.


To conclude: why don't you watch the movie and make your own opinion about it? (just to clarify: "it" refers to the greatest movie ever made)


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Groggy on May 21, 2008, 07:15:35 AM
Any negative critical reviews the OP is likely to have read were probably of the 144 minute version.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Panache on May 21, 2008, 12:04:20 PM
Nah, I don't think American audiences would have received it well anyways. Comparing it to The Godfather it's night and day. There were plenty of blockbuster "crap" in the '70s anyway, I doubt the mainstream audiences got dumber in the meantime.

PS: What's wrong with Beverly Hills Cop? ???

nothing if you an E Murphy fan(im not :-\

only blockbusters bein made in 70s were usualy made by just a few directors- Spielberg, Lucas Copolla Friedkin and way less than wat came out in 80s and after. foreign films did way better in 60s -70s than they did later.

only big foreign i can remember in 80s that made tons of money was Crocdile Dundee

just a suppose question- say Leone was unknown director in 1984, walks into studio and says 'i want to make some really long westerns 2 1/2 3 hours, maybe more. th star will be a guy from an old tv show, that was on for few years. we make it in Italy with a bunch of unknowns that cant speak english, wit a few small midleaged charater actors for the cast. we dub everybody. everybdy wears dirty old clothes. the star chews on a nasty old cigar, and never shaves. we have really lomg showdowns at the end with closeups of boots, hands an squinty eyes while some opera music plays. '

1984 producer says ' sounds like great idea, mR. Leone, let us know how that works out for you. Peggy, show Mr Leone to the door....

hers a list of th big hits movies of 1984-

http://www.fast-rewind.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi?target=1984&searchtype=Year


other than Terminator, thers not one on there id watch more than twice(many sorry i saw once

can you tell me with straight face that you finished watchin any of these flix an said ' wow, that one relly made me think

i dont think audiencs got dumber, studios jus started making dumber movies

and start pushing big thinking movies like America out of the way



Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: mr. mouse on May 21, 2008, 12:13:28 PM
You don't intend to?  ???

That's quite a shame as you would be missing out on one of the most beautiful movies ever made.
In my opinion Once Upon a Time in America and Once Upon a Time in the West are the movies that are the best examples of Sergio Leone's talent as a filmmaker and a storyteller.
It's true that America is probably Leone's most violent movie and that the characters aren't exactly the most likable bunch, as a matter of fact these gangsters are some of the most vicious, brutal sons-a-bitches I've ever seen in a movie, but it's not an excessively violent movie, it's a beautiful, poetic movie about friendship and most of all about love.

I can't recommend this movie enough.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: cigar joe on May 21, 2008, 02:59:08 PM
I only saw 12 of that list.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Groggy on May 21, 2008, 05:20:23 PM
I've seen:
Beverly Hills Cop
Footloose
The Muppets Take Manhattan
Red Dawn
The Terminator

And that's it.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Tuco the ugly on May 21, 2008, 05:40:56 PM
I've seen:
Beverly Hills Cop
Footloose
The Muppets Take Manhattan
Red Dawn
The Terminator

And that's it.

Ghostbusters?


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Groggy on May 21, 2008, 05:43:07 PM
I've seen the last half-hour and that's about it.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Tuco the ugly on May 21, 2008, 06:06:05 PM
Feel shame of yourself.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: dave jenkins on May 22, 2008, 12:06:52 AM
Feel shame of yourself.
Not at all. An eminently missable film.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: moviesceleton on May 22, 2008, 04:45:05 AM
I've seen 13 of them for sure (+ two maybes):
Amadeus
Beverly Hills Cop
Children of the Corn
Ghostbusters
Gremlins
The Karate Kid
The Muppets Take Manhattan (parts, maybe)
The NeverEnding Story
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Police Academy
Repo Man
Romancing the Stone
Revenge of the Nerds (I think)
The Terminator
This Is Spinal Tap

Ghostbusters isn't nearly the worst of the bunch! A lot of good movies to watch once but I can't think of five I'd be eager to see again. But of course I can't even mention you-know-what-movie in the same post with these...


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Tuco the ugly on May 22, 2008, 07:10:44 AM
Not at all. An eminently missable film.

It's an 80s comedy, for younger audiences. Cult movie doesn't necessarily mean universally likeable, you know.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Panache on May 22, 2008, 10:51:16 AM
i see nobody copped to seein Breakin 2 -eLectric boogaloo! ;D

another reason(or 2 why America dint do so well - it came out right after Scarface, kinda a tough act to follow

Scarface had just as many unliked charaters asAmerica, but America never really had the "scene", like other gangstr flix- Scarface had a bunch- the chainsaw, the guy getting hung from the copter, Pacino falling face frst into a mountin of coke, the ending.

the Godfathers had a bunch of 'scenes', Untouchables did too. Goodfelas, Casino all had scenes everybody remembers

America had the rape, but i don think anyon said later 'wow, did you see that cool rape scene!

Godfather3 dint have any big scene in it either- thats why its most boring of th 3


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: moviesceleton on May 22, 2008, 10:59:41 AM
i see nobody copped to seein Breakin 2 -eLectric boogaloo! ;D

another reason(or 2 why America dint do so well - it came out right after Scarface, kinda a tough act to follow

Scarface had just as many unliked charaters asAmerica, but America never really had the "scene", like other gangstr flix- Scarface had a bunch- the chainsaw, the guy getting hung from the copter, Pacino falling face frst into a mountin of coke, the ending.

the Godfathers had a bunch of 'scenes', Untouchables did too. Goodfelas, Casino all had scenes everybody remembers

America had the rape, but i don think anyon said later 'wow, did you see that cool rape scene!

Godfather3 dint have any big scene in it either- thats why its most boring of th 3
I see what you mean, but one could argue that there are several "scenes" in OUATIA. For example:
The cake-eating
The rooftop scene
Rolling the drunk
Hiding the money
The "identification" scene
The salt scene
Switching the babies
etc.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Groggy on May 22, 2008, 04:04:44 PM
i see nobody copped to seein Breakin 2 -eLectric boogaloo! ;D

another reason(or 2 why America dint do so well - it came out right after Scarface, kinda a tough act to follow

Scarface had just as many unliked charaters asAmerica, but America never really had the "scene", like other gangstr flix- Scarface had a bunch- the chainsaw, the guy getting hung from the copter, Pacino falling face frst into a mountin of coke, the ending.

the Godfathers had a bunch of 'scenes', Untouchables did too. Goodfelas, Casino all had scenes everybody remembers

America had the rape, but i don think anyon said later 'wow, did you see that cool rape scene!

Godfather3 dint have any big scene in it either- thats why its most boring of th 3

You should perhaps keep in mind that OUATIA was only released in the 144 minute film in the US, so the 229-minute version wasn't exactly "rejected" by the public...


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Noodles_SlowStir on May 22, 2008, 07:28:26 PM
Godfather3 dint have any big scene in it either- thats why its most boring of th 3

The Godfather III actually had a pretty good scene.  I liked the helicopter hit scene.  It stood out for me.  The hits at the end of the film during the opera presentation weren't bad.  But we had been there before with the other two films.  Granted, it was supposed to be one of the elements that all the films shared.  I had no problem with a story that involved corruption with the Vatican.  The story was just underdeveloped, the script was weak and there were casting problems.  I think it was a case of going to the well one time too many.

Quote
You should perhaps keep in mind that OUATIA was only released in the 144 minute film in the US, so the 229-minute version wasn't exactly "rejected" by the public...


I think this is the key thing about OUATIA if you're going to analyze its reception by a theater going audience.  I think it's difficult to appraise OUATIA by the box office or the year, particularly with the editing history.  I think the reviews of the edited cut impacted the U.S. box office greatly.  The targeted adult film going audience was discouraged to go see the film based upon the reviews and word of mouth on the short incomprehensible cut.  And that some of the reviews indicated there was a superior longer cut not being shown, film goers that had an admiration for Leone or this kind of film, stayed away because they felt that they were being short changed.

I think that 1984 film list does a pretty good job listing the popular mainstream films.  Although I noticed one surprising omission.  One of the top three grossing films from that year is missing, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.  I've seen quite a few of those films between cable movie channels and VHS rentals, most of them I've forgotten the details, and probably would not be inclined to check out again any time soon.  Interesting to look at that list and think about 1984.  I think you can begin to see the effects of the popularity of MTV and the music video culture.  Also 1984 would be the year that would bring Miami Vice on television.  You're seeing films with a lot of popular music in their soundtracks and also quick cut editing.  I think the blockbuster film mindset that was established with Jaws and Star Wars, and some of these other things on television had their influences on the films being released in the theaters. 

If you look at that 1984 list some of the independent films of the year are not there like The Brother From Another Planet and Stranger Than Paradise.  Also not included, with the exception of Amadeus, are the "prestige", art and international films.  I'm thinking of The Killing Fields, A Passage To India, A Soldier's Story and so on.  I think at this time, and perhaps with hindsight, this is where OUATIA fit in.  No doubt everyone involved with OUATIA (even the misguided that decided to edit the film for the U.S. release), wanted a film that was critically and financially successful; that "bridged"  :) both categories....mainstream and prestige, art.

I think I want to say that despite some of the changes in film and television, OUATIA would of still had a chance if only they had released the film in the original longer cut.  They would of had to accept that the film would of had less showings which would of affected its profitability.  It would of potentially boosted its critical reception which could of impacted its box office.  Perhaps it would of garnered more accolades from the various critic societies and even been nominated for various things.   I don't think I could say that it just wasn't a film for that time.  If anything, it had something going for it.  It would of been a film that could of potentially done well in the U.S. market and the international markets (based upon appreciation of Leone in those markets).  Also three years later another Italian filmmaker had a film that could of been dismissed as a film that possibly shouldn't be released in its time.  It ended up winning the Academy Award for best picture of that year.    The film didn't break any box office records, but it did end up making a profit in the U.S. market and also internationally.    I guess you have to determine what "faring well" and being successful is.  What are the acceptable degrees of profitability at the box office and appreciation of the film by the audience and critics.

Really, how OUATIA has fared with audiences is an ongoing situation.  Some people were lucky to see the uncut version in the theater at some time.  Some were able to check it out uncut on VHS.  Although consider that when OUATIA was released on VHS the home video phenomenon was just beginning to explode after VHS triumphed.  I think that the recent 2003 release on DVD is an even more important stage in bringing the uncut film version to the public.  So really this is almost like a new period in how the film is being appreciated.  I think a lot more people come out on the receiving the film positively side.   


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: noodles_leone on May 23, 2008, 04:28:12 AM
OUATIA wasn't a big success in countries where the "full" version was released in theaters. France, for instance. The movie ddn't lose money, but as a Leone movie staring Bob DeNiro, it was a failure everywhere, regardless the version, even if, of course, the long one worked out better than the short one.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Groggy on May 23, 2008, 06:17:08 AM
Great post Noodles. I may add that when OUATIA was released on DVD, it was a best-seller on Amazon for at least a month.

A lot of long movies do better on video than they do in theaters simply because of their length. Gettysburg and Gods and Generals were best sellers when released on home videos even though neither did well at the box-office for that reason. That's because at home you can pause the film whenever you wish. Obviously, a lot of longer films are/were popular, cf. David Lean, most big musicals in the '50s and '60s, Titanic, The English Patient, the LOTR films, but those films were for the most part more obvious crowd-pleasers designed for the mass market. A movie like OUATIA was made primarily for artistic reasons. I'm sure Sergio would have loved the movie to have been a huge hit, but on the other hand I doubt he was upset at the end result.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: dave jenkins on May 23, 2008, 09:12:00 AM
OUATIA wasn't a big success in countries where the "full" version was released in theaters. France, for instance. The movie ddn't lose money, but as a Leone movie staring Bob DeNiro, it was a failure everywhere, regardless the version, even if, of course, the long one worked out better than the short one.
This is a good point (and Groggy's follow-up about OUATIA's success on video is good too). After the failure of the chronological version in the USA, the film was re-released in its proper form, but it played art houses (like the Biograph in Chicago, where I saw it). Given the limited number of screens, and the film's long running time, there was never any way in the US it was going to make more than, say, a French movie released that same year.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: downtown187 on June 24, 2008, 09:05:45 PM
Once Upon a Time in America is the only Sergio Leone film I haven't seen. And I don't intend to. Mostly because of its gloomy length, but also because every single review I have read of it has not exactly been favorable. Even the summary on the home page of this forum says, "A lot of people just do not like this movie. People think the movie is too long, too dry, and basically just a big waste of time."

wow all I can say is that if as a filmgoer you boycott movies that are not universally popular with critics... well good luck to you... I guess you've never seen a Star Wars movie, Casablanca or the Godfather.  All of which got nuked by some critics.

However in this case you are wrong... if "every single review" you've seen has been unfavorable you must be posting from Communist China where the internet is heavily censored.  Here in the free world, Leone's movie was acclaimed by many notable critics including Roger Ebert.  Today on Rottentomatoes.com OUATIA is rated 93% fresh, that's better than recent Oscar winner Brokeback Mountain.  I'm not sure if you're purposefully trying to spread misinformation on OUATIA or living proof that even the best things can be twisted to suit people's purposes.

If being "too long" is a dealbreaker for you, I guess Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind are also trash in your book.  Yeah you're right it's best to judge a movie by its running time.

Violent??? A mob movie?  I guess Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction are trash IYO.  I guess all the noir stuff by Chanwook Park is also trash.  It's pretty funny that for political purposes the "violence card" can be brought out to suppress movies like OUATIA or Apocalypto, ignoring how VIOLENT our acclaimed best movies like Saving Private Ryan, Schindlers list are.  Yeah OUATIA is violent and it's not for kids but is it so violent as to be blacklisted or is it MORE violent than many oscar winners?  Definitely no.

As for audience reaction, you're off there too.  It got a 15 minute olvation at Cannes and it was wildly popular not only in Europe but VERY popular in Asia where it's one of the DEFINITIVE mob movies... rivaling Godfather and more popular than Scarface, Untouchables or the old Edward G Robinson movies.  As to why it was not successful in the US?  Probably for political reasons.  There's been many many charges of studio tampering because they didn't want this movie about the Jewish Mob (which many Americans are totally ignorant even existed or rivaled the Italian Mafia).  There was even talk about Warner's having bought the movie rights to North America in order to bury it.

Here's Ebert's 1984 review where he called it "a murdered movie" and discusses the differences between the real movie and what ppl were allowed to see in the US: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19840101/REVIEWS/401010365/1023

In short, it's not my favorite Leone movie but it's arguable his best.  And what a cast:  De Niro, James Woods, Joe Pesci, Treat Williams, Danny Aiello and a young Elizabeth McGovern and Jennifer Connelly.  Do yourself a favor.  Ignore the mind control and rent this movie... if you at all appreciate movies and have a mind of your own you wont be sorry


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Groggy on July 17, 2008, 06:58:18 AM
This is quiet baffling, the dollar films have about 6 times the body count this film has. The only thing that surprised me as far as violence was concerned was the bloodshed (this probably being the only film where Leone uses blood squibs). In the case of this movie, it is by no means gratuitous violence, it's realistic violence. A bullet to the head is not a pretty sight and Leone shows that. The problem is today everyone has become all too comfortable with violence, failing to see that ALL violence is gratuitous, be it real or fictional

I didn't see anyone else address this point... DYS makes fairly limited use of squibs, particularly in the firing squad scenes, but you're right, this is the first time we see en masse bloodshed in a Leone movie.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: ShortFuse on February 07, 2009, 05:19:02 PM
The pacing is actually pretty quick in this film. It's nothing like Giu' La Testa where it takes over an hour to get into the story. I believe that was the slowest paced of all of Leone's films. But for 3 hours and 49 minutes the film moves along pretty well.

Noodles character can be difficult to like after his rape of Deborah, but in the closing scene of the film, you can't help but feel for him. The rape was part of the story, and only a wuss would want it cut out. Most directors today are not brave enough to show a rape scene that graphic. And I can't help but feel the scene following it was astonishing. Try watching the train scene just before the Intermission on a 50 " LCD, and Robert De Niro can tell  a story with his facial expression as he see's Deborah for the last time for 35 years.

I know people expect The Godfather when it comes to Once Upon a Time in America, but it's the perfect film for the audience to see following Godfather Part II. That depicted a Sicillian crime family, now lets take a look at another group of gangsters Hollywood rarely depicts. And Leone did that, plus went further than Coppola to make us uncomfortable.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Polynikes on September 21, 2009, 03:01:32 PM
I hope this does not ruffle too many feathers, but I would like to explain why I think OUTIA is not a much loved film.  I think there was the nucleus of an all-time great film there, but sadly I found it infuriating when it finished.

My reaction to watching Once Upon A Time in America was: visually impressive, beautifully filmed (albeit a little overdone in places), very well acted (particularly by the young actors playing the characters as youngsters they deserved to go on to greater things) and a lovely haunting score by Ennio Morricone.....but I could not get past the jarring absurdities of the plot.  I can cope with a degree of ambiguity, uncertainty and even a reasonable suspension of belief, but the revelation at the end just does taxes credulity too far.
If we are seeing the drug-induced imaginations of Noodles as a young man, then saying to the audience "by the way, I have just spent four hours conning you with a shaggy dog story" is a disappointing cop-out.
If the film is to be taken at face value, the plot just does not work satisfactorily:

1. Surely Carol and many others would have recognised "Mr Bailey" at some time in the intervening 35 years.
2. Why did Deborah hook up with him, knowing who he was?
3. What did Max hope to gain from the elaborate faking of his own death via the device of the Federal Bank job? Would he really have set up Patsy and Cockeye? And what was in it for the Syndicate?
4. How did Max manage to escape the shoot-out?
5. Max/Mr Bailey thows himself into a conveniently placed garbage truck as an act of suicide?! Oh, really.....

And so on...
I think Leone may have been aware of the faults with his project and deliberately created such an ending to create a sense of ambiguity, which satisfies many watchers.  Throughout this film, when confronted with an incident which needs to be set in context (either chronologically or in terms of hinting at a character's feeling or motivation), he seems to take refuge in a langorous, stylishly filmed shot set to emotive music rather than trying to do the hard work of adding convincingly to the potrayal of a character or developing the background of events which have shaped the character's thinking.
Such a shame, because as I first said, it is a film which should be gripping, but ends up being infuriating. It is as if Sergio became so obsessed with his film-making (which is of the highest standard), that he cared little about ensuring a coherent or even semi-coherent plot. 9/10 for cinematography (one point deducted from the perfect ten because occasionally scenes are lengthened for "dramatic effect" to the point of absurdity), 3/10 for story-telling: it just does not work, even allowing a generous degree of licence.
I am sorry to sound carping, but I just feel frustrated that so talented a cinematographer took such a casual attitude to the basic element of plot setting.
I hope this at least goes some way towards answering the original question of this thread without annoying too many people!


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: cigar joe on September 22, 2009, 04:02:57 AM
Look at it this way How many people know on sight (other than say Secretary of State) the Secretaries of other government Departments (Commerce, Health & Welfare, etc., etc.) they are not household names and are rarely in the news.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Groggy on September 22, 2009, 12:53:39 PM
Exactly CJ.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: dave jenkins on September 22, 2009, 04:19:18 PM
Look at it this way How many people know on sight (other than say Secretary of State) the Secretaries of other government Departments (Commerce, Health & Welfare, etc., etc.) they are not household names and are rarely in the news.
Unless there's a scandal, then their faces are all over the news. Old Noodles sees Treat Williams on the TV and recognizes him immediately; it strains credulity that no image of Secretary Bailey is ever displayed for him to see as well.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: stanton on September 23, 2009, 05:31:46 AM
Look at it this way How many people know on sight (other than say Secretary of State) the Secretaries of other government Departments (Commerce, Health & Welfare, etc., etc.) they are not household names and are rarely in the news.

But he's still living in or near New York. At least he would be as a politician in the local news and everybody would have recognized him. It doesn't make any sense to fake your death and then return with a job where you are part of the public interest.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: cigar joe on September 23, 2009, 08:06:23 PM
I live in New York, and other than the Governor I don't know any of the various secretaries of the various agencies by sight THEY ARE NEVER IN THE NEWS.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: The Firecracker on September 28, 2009, 01:09:23 AM
Even if Woods' mug got on the news, wasn't Noodles pretty convinced Max had died in that fire?
I think he'd write Bailey off as a look alike.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: noodles_leone on September 28, 2009, 09:17:56 AM
Yeah, after all, there is also a hollywood actor called "john woods" or "james woods" that kind of looks like the guy too.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: dave jenkins on September 29, 2009, 08:36:27 PM
I live in New York, and other than the Governor I don't know any of the various secretaries of the various agencies by sight THEY ARE NEVER IN THE NEWS.
THEY ARE IF THEY ARE AT THE CENTER OF A SCANDAL.

I had never heard of Van Jones or Yoshi Sargent either, and then they screwed up and were fired, but not before their images got transmitted across the country. And their crimes/indiscretions did not rise anywhere near to the level of car bombings.

Which is to say, if the press had gotten even a whiff of what Sec. Bailey was into, his face would have been plastered all over the media. And those old guys who go to bed early every night? They read newspapers, and watch a hell of a lot of TV.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Dust Devil on September 30, 2009, 07:37:34 AM
Yeah, I remember we've talked about this many times before, it gets mentioned every now and then. It's not very believable nobody saw Bailey prior to the scandal, I'm sorry, I know it's a Sergio Leone movie, but it just isn't. They should have made him a powerful businessman that had connections to the government and the crime underworld, there was no purpose at all for him being a politician.

But I guess the biggest flaw was driving the script/story to the point where a pat situation was the only way out. - If Bailey wasn't a politician Noodles wouldn't have heard of him until he was dead (for real this time), and the second option (chosen for the movie; him being a politician involved in a huge scandal) is somewhat of an attack to the intelligence of the audience. Not only Noodles never heard of him nor saw him, but also Fat Moe (who didn't know Bailey was with his sister), or Treat Williams' character (who worked with him once and was in the same milieu for the next 30+ years), or the other million people that worked with him and saw his face in the old days.

If that wasn't the longest chain of lucky coincidences for Mr. Bailey, I must be Jonathan Livingston.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: uncknown on October 09, 2009, 12:21:44 AM
i repeat: because it isnt very good
the story just doesnt cut it
if only he had stuck to the story of immigrant jews, told so masterfully in the childhood sections, instead of his half-baked gangster soap opera.....
sigh :(


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: The Firecracker on December 05, 2010, 01:29:26 AM
Again.

Even if Woods' mug got on the news, wasn't Noodles pretty convinced Max had died in that fire?
I think he'd write Bailey off as a look alike.



Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: cigar joe on December 05, 2010, 04:06:42 AM
true


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: dave jenkins on December 05, 2010, 11:55:52 AM
I must be Jonathan Livingston.
Seagull?


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Dust Devil on December 05, 2010, 02:20:52 PM
Seagull?

Who else.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: Senza on February 24, 2013, 12:43:15 AM
I guess some people have the patience to watch lengthy movies like this. For me, this is one of the ones that can pull it off, there are some like Lawrence Of Arabia which struggle to keep me entertained with their length.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: stanton on February 24, 2013, 02:40:37 AM
OUTA was comparatively successful in Germany in the uncut version. The # 9 of that year. Sold more tickets than Romancing the Stone or Footloose, much more than Dune.



Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: dave jenkins on February 24, 2013, 08:54:07 AM
OUTA was comparatively successful in Germany in the uncut version. The # 9 of that year. Sold more tickets than Romancing the Stone or Footloose, much more than Dune.
Thank you for that. I've never liked the premise of this thread. It assumes a fact not in evidence.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: drinkanddestroy on February 24, 2013, 09:41:58 AM
I've never liked the premise of this thread. It assumes a fact not in evidence.

I agree with you. The opening post, by some dumbass who is happily no longer with the board, can basically be summed up with 'I have no intention of watching this movie cuz of it's "gloomy length" and the fact that I read reviews of people that people don't like it, and that cihgar joe says he prefers other Leone movies to this.  ::)


Sure, the butchered version of OUATIA did awful with audiences -- as it well should have -- but by now, now that the 229 minute version is widely available, it has an incredible following. (For whatever it's worth: imdb users have rated it the 78th greatest movie ever, making it imdb's the third most popular Leone movie [behind GBU and OUATITW]. There has been significant interest from around the world in the new restoration; and, for some anecdotal evidence, one of the ushers at Film Forum told me it was packed all week when it showed twice a day in December; and that was not even the new version; it was the 229-minute version available on dvd and blu ray.

Of course, it's a travesty what happened to OUATIA upon its initial American release. But for someone to state that 'this movie fair so poorly with audiences,' that's simply wrong, by any barometer.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: drinkanddestroy on February 24, 2013, 10:06:04 AM
i repeat: because it isnt very good
the story just doesnt cut it
if only he had stuck to the story of immigrant jews, told so masterfully in the childhood sections, instead of his half-baked gangster soap opera.....
sigh :(

It's true that the scenes of the Jewish Lower East Side in OUATIA are amazing, and the greatest of any movie that has ever attempted to depict that. But this is not a story about immigrant jews. (It's not the Jewish equivalent of The Godfather Part II. In fact, to the extent that the Jewish stuff is mentioned, it's mentioned in the context of the kids breaking away from the traditions of their parents, as is evident in a deleted scene where Noodles is seen rejecting his parents' religion, expounding upon his earlier mocking of "my old man is praying...". By the time the gang is grown up, the fact that they are children of Jewish immigrants is not very important to the movie).

This movie is a story about gangsters, and a gangster returning to his old neighborhood, as far as the literal plot goes. On the deeper, thematic level, it's a movie about Time, Dreams, Cinema, etc. It is simply not a movie about the story of immigrant Jews (or, more precisely, immigrant Jews' children).

Of course, you may believe that the childhood scenes are the best, and that the later scenes aren't nearly as good. That's a matter of opinion. (I believe, though I am not certain, that Elizabeth McGovern said in in an interview something about how the magic of those childhood scenes wasn't captured in the later scenes; maybe she agrees with you).
But saying you wish the movie "had stuck to the story of immigrant Jews," is saying you wish this had been a completely different movie. This movie was never a story about the lives of immigrant Jews. There are a million and one other movies about poor children growing up on the Lower East Side, but this is not one of them.


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: dave jenkins on February 24, 2013, 04:30:30 PM
It's true that the scenes of the Jewish Lower East Side in OUATIA are amazing, and the greatest of any movie that has ever attempted to depict that. But this is not a story about immigrant jews. (It's not the Jewish equivalent of The Godfather Part II. In fact, to the extent that the Jewish stuff is mentioned, it's mentioned in the context of the kids breaking away from the traditions of their parents, as is evident in a deleted scene where Noodles is seen rejecting his parents' religion, expounding upon his earlier mocking of "my old man is praying...". By the time the gang is grown up, the fact that they are children of Jewish immigrants is not very important to the movie).
This is actually a really, really good point.  O0  Btw, where did Ebert say this?


Title: Re: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?
Post by: dave jenkins on February 24, 2013, 04:36:20 PM
I've never liked the premise of this thread.
Which is not even to mention the fact that the wrong "fair/fare" is used.