April 11, 2004
Quite windy out this morning. Reminds me of growing up in Kingman, where the wind blows 24-7. Went to the creek early and got about 20 rocks. Dogs diggin’ it.
Kathy was attending a “Pain Seminar” in Tempe yesterday, so I spared her (the pain) and went and saw The Alamo by my lonesome at the Cine Capri in Scottsdale. Big screen, Dolby surround sound (Who the hell is that behind me with the flintlock shooting at the back of my head?). Saw the 2:40 showing ($7 ticket, $6.75 for a medium popcorn, no butter, and a bottle of water. No I would not like to supersize the popcorn for an extra 75 cents and free refills for the rest of my life.).
First the good news. The main characters: Jim Bowie, David Crockett and especially Travis (Patrick Wilson) are excellent. Good writing, wry, believable and engaging. Billy Bob as Crockett is a total joy to watch. He has channeled The Davy and I was thrilled to see him do his stuff. The battle scenes are also exemplary, with cool tracking shots and one stunning shot where we follow a Mexican cannon ball all the way from being loaded to the target, a la that bomb scene in Pearl Harbor, only better. Great sound of musket fire and ricochets, walls being blown apart. I’m hard pressed to imagine what Ron Howard could have done with an R-rating version, with the possible exception of showing limbs being blown off, a la Saving Private Ryan. No, the fight for the Alamo is totally satisfying and I would give that part of the movie a solid nine (on a scale of one to 10). I felt like a kid at a Saturday matinee —I was literally grinning in the dark.
Now for the bad news. It’s too bloody long. They got too ambitious and the extension beyond the Alamo to the battle of San Jacinto does not pay off at all. And, unfortunately, Dennis Quaid is the weakest link in the chain. Quaid was magnificent as Doc in Wyatt Earp and I am a big fan, but he totally miss-fires as Sam Houston. He conjures up some gruff growl that seems totally contrived and fake. Plus, he’s wearing a stupid Johnny Tremane (sp?) hat and the movie just goes flat after the fall of the Alamo.
They staged a recreation of a famous painting of Sam Houston accepting Santa Anna’s surrender under a tree, with Houston lying on a blanket with his foot wrapped. For my money, a cut to the battle of San Jacinto, with the surrender of Santa Anna could have been accomplished in about 45 seconds and then cut to the final scene, which I won’t spoil for you.
The buzz coming out of the theatre was not good. I think everyone felt kind of numb. Too much. And just because they cut it from five hours down to two-and-a-half, they didn’t do us any favors. I hate to say it, but they loved the Alamo to death. It’s a shame because there’s probably a very entertaining movie stuck inside. Comparing it to Gods And Generals (which some reviewers are doing) is not fair. It’s way beyond that, but unfortunately, to the average movie goer, especially the “mall rats,” this is going to be too much like a high school history class on a hot day, with the windows closed. And we all know how that turns out.
"Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it."
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