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Author Topic: Why does this movie fair so poorly with audiences?  (Read 29691 times)
Groggy
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« Reply #30 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.

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« Reply #31 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.

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« Reply #32 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

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« Reply #33 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.

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« Reply #34 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.

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« Reply #35 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!

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cigar joe
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« Reply #36 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.

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« Reply #37 on: September 22, 2009, 12:53:39 PM »

Exactly CJ.

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« Reply #38 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.

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« Reply #39 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.

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« Reply #40 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.

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« Reply #41 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.

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« Reply #42 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.

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« Reply #43 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.

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« Reply #44 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.

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