'All That Jazz' & 'Raging Bull': Overrated Fosse & Scorsese + John Wayne Air Disaster

All That Jazz by Bob FosseBob Fosse's 1979 Best Picture nominee All That Jazz will be the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' next film in the “Great To Be Nominated” series on Monday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Several members of the cast and crew, including actors Deborah Geffner, John Lithgow and Kathryn Doby; film editor Alan Heim; associate producer and assistant director Wolfgang Glattes; executive producer Daniel Melnick; production sound mixer Chris Newman; production designer Philip Rosenberg; cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno; and music editor Michael Tronick will participate in a post-screening discussion.

In terms of content, All That Jazz was inspired by Bob Fosse's own dancing, womanizing, and pill popping. In terms of style, it was a rip-off of (or “homage” to) Federico Fellini's equally autobiographical – but infinitely superior – 8 1/2, quite possibly the Italian director's most exuberant and most touching film.

Apart from an early dance number and brief sequences here and there, All That Jazz feels like one of those musicals in dire need of amphetamines – whether in liquid or pill form. Worse yet, there is a black hole where the film's heart should have been. All in all, All That Jazz is a major letdown, especially considering that Fosse is responsible for one of the best film musicals ever made, Cabaret.

Admittedly, All That Jazz, even if somewhat over-produced, does look good – courtesy of frequent Fellini collaborator Giuseppe Rotunno (Satyricon, Roma, Amarcord).

Roy Scheider (who tries really hard to bring some zest to the proceedings) stars as Joe Gideon, a workaholic, drug-addicted Broadway choreographer and director who must eventually face the fact that he won't be around for very much longer. Jessica Lange (who was having an affair with Fosse around that time), Ann Reinking (who, two decades later, would co-direct the Broadway musical Fosse), and Leland Palmer (who had worked with Fosse in Pippin and whose character is reportedly based on Fosse's ex-wife Gwen Verdon) are three of the women in Gideon's life and death.

It should be noted that Bob Fosse made only one more film after All That Jazz, the disappointing Star 80, released in 1983. Four years later, Fosse died of a heart attack at age 60.

The film took home Oscars for Art Direction (Philip Rosenberg, Tony Walton; Set Decoration: Edward Stewart, Gary Brink); Costume Design (Albert Wolsky); Film Editing (Alan Heim); and Music – Adaptation Score (Ralph Burns). It also received nominations for Best Picture (Robert Alan Arthur, producer); Actor in a Leading Role (Roy Scheider); Cinematography (Giuseppe Rotunno); Directing (Bob Fosse); and Writing – Screenplay written directly for the screen (Arthur, Fosse).

Bob Godfrey and Zlatko Grgic's Oscar-nominated animated short Dream Doll, about a guy and his gal – who happens to be an inflatable doll – and Elaine Bass, Saul Bass (he of the funky film credits), and Laurence Starkman's Oscar-nominated live action short The Solar Film will be screened prior to the feature.

Passes for the remaining screenings in part four of “Great To Be Nominated” are $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. A $5 discount is available for those who wish to renew their passes from parts one, two or three of the series. Individual tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Passes and tickets may be purchased by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

'Raging Bull': Overrated 1980s Classic?

Martin Scorsese's 1980 Best Picture nominee Raging Bull will be screened as the next feature of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated” series on Monday, May 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Oscar winner Thelma Schoonmaker will join producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, cinematographer Michael Chapman, make-up artist Michael Westmore, and title designer Dan Perri in a post-screening discussion.

In my view, along with Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull is the most overrated American movie of the last 30 – or 40 or 50 – years. (I'm not quite sure how far back one must go to find so much praise bestowed upon so much artifice.) In any case, Scorsese's overlong drama, based on Jake LaMotta's autobiography (credited to LaMotta, Joseph Carter, and Peter Savage), revolves around the drab, mundane existence of the self-destructive middleweight boxing champion.

Despite attempts at psychological and social insights, the film barely manages to scratch the surface of LaMotta's character and of the world in which he lived. But if Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin's screenplay leaves much to be desired (surprisingly, it failed to get an Oscar nod) and much of the acting is as out of control as a bull running through the streets of Pamplona, Michael Chapman's gritty black-and-white cinematography is first-rate.

Raging Bull won Oscars for Actor in a Leading Role (Robert De Niro – quite possibly less for his acting than for his eating; DeNiro gained a ton or two for the role) and Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker). It received six additional nominations: Best Picture (Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, producers), Actor in a Supporting Role (Joe Pesci), Actress in a Supporting Role (Cathy Moriarty), Cinematography (Michael Chapman), Directing (Martin Scorsese) and Sound (Donald O. Mitchell, Bill Nicholson, David J. Kimball, Les Lazarowitz).

Michael Mills' Oscar-nominated animated short History of the World in Three Minutes Flat will be screened prior to the feature.

Passes for the remaining screenings in part four of “Great To Be Nominated” are $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. A $5 discount is available for those who wish to renew their passes from parts one, two or three of the series. Individual tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Passes and tickets may be purchased by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

John Wayne Centennial Screening

In celebration of John Wayne's centennial, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will premiere a new restoration of The High and the Mighty (1954), an airborne disaster-about-to-happen melodrama. The screening will take place on Thursday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

The event will be hosted by columnist Army Archerd, and will feature an onstage discussion with Wayne's daughter-in-law Gretchen Wayne; William A. Wellman, Jr., son of the film's director, William A. Wellman; and actresses Angie Dickinson and Nancy Olson, both of whom co-starred with Wayne in other films. (Dickinson in Rio Bravo; Olson in Big Jim McLain.)

Based on a bestselling novel by Ernest K. Gann (who also penned the screenplay), The High and the Mighty, a major box office hit upon its release, stars Wayne as a veteran airline pilot who must save his plane and its stellar passengers when the engine fails on a flight from Hawaii to San Francisco. Others in the cast are Robert Stack, Claire Trevor, Jan Sterling, Laraine Day, William Campbell, Phil Harris, Robert Newton, David Brian, Paul Kelly, Sidney Blackmer, and Julie Bishop.

According to the Academy's press release, the restoration of The High and the Mighty — which was shot in CinemaScope – began in 1992, “when the vault containing the negative was flooded and the entire negative soaked. Wayne's son Michael embarked on the process of reconstructing the film and soundtrack from numerous source materials. Following Michael's death in 2003, his widow, Gretchen, completed the restoration.”

The High and the Mighty received six Academy Award nominations: Actress in a Supporting Role (Jan Sterling and Claire Trevor), Directing (William A. Wellman), Film Editing (Ralph Dawson), Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Dimitri Tiomkin), and Music - Song (Tiomkin and Ned Washington). Tiomkin, who earned 22 Oscar nominations and four statuettes over the course of his career, won the film's only Oscar.

Wayne, who was born Marion Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa, wasn't nominated for his airline pilot. The Academy did, however, nominate him for the by-the-book 1949 war melodrama Sands of Iwo Jima, and gave him the best actor Oscar for the minor 1969 Western True Grit. Considering that Jon Voight was in the running for Midnight Cowboy, that was quite an injustice. If Academy members wanted to honor Wayne for the body of his work, they should have picked some other year. Since Wayne played the same character in just about every movie he made, it wouldn't have made a difference.

Come to think of it, John Wayne's acting only impressed me once – in The Shootist. That was his last film – released in 1976 – and one in which he dies at the end. For once, Wayne, who was nearly 70 but looked a good ten years older, played a recognizable human being on screen. (He would succumb to cancer three years later.)

Tickets to “A Centennial Salute to John Wayne” are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members. Doors open at 7 p.m. Seats are unreserved. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Complimentary parking is provided in the garages located at 8920 and 9025 Wilshire Boulevard. For additional information, call (310) 247-3600.

Photo © A.M.P.A.S.

'All That Jazz' & 'Raging Bull': Overrated Fosse & Scorsese + John Wayne Air Disaster © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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1 Comment to 'All That Jazz' & 'Raging Bull': Overrated Fosse & Scorsese + John Wayne Air Disaster

  1. Occams Tool

    One of the greatest boxing movies ever, about a man who has turned his life around. Sorry, gotta disagree.