Movie Review – Tucker: The Man and His Dream

Tucker: A Man and His Dream (1988)
Written by Arnold Schulman & David Seidler
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

The Tucker automobile had captured Coppola’s mind since childhood. While at UCLA’s film school, the burgeoning director further developed his idea for this biopic. Marlon Brando was approached to star as the lead, then Jack Nicholson, and then Burt Reynolds. Coppola decided he wanted to make it experimental, a modern musical where he would reference Bertolt Brecht and Kabuki performances. His colleague Paul Schrader’s Mishima film inspired him, and Coppola wanted Tucker to be like that. In 1986, George Lucas encouraged Coppola to make his Tucker movie; he thought Tucker was one of the best things the filmmaker had developed in a while. Lucas would produce it, but he convinced the director to back away from the project’s experimental nature. Instead, Coppola would take inspiration from the work of Frank Capra, an exploration of the American Dream and the hope that industrialization brought in the wake of World War II. This would be Coppola’s final production of the 1980s.

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Movie Review – Gardens of Stone

Gardens of Stone (1987)
Written by Ronald Bass
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

There’s a good reason you probably have never heard of this Coppola film. It is bad. Like truly, the bottom of the barrel, not even the fun kind of bad. Yet, it doesn’t make me dislike the director or think he’d completely lost his creative touch. To understand why Gardens of Stone is so bad, you need to know what happened to Coppola during the production. It is no big reveal that Coppola centered his family in his life. You can see this in how he included them in every level of his film’s production. The man kept the people he loved the closest to him.

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Movie Review – Peggy Sue Got Married

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Written by Jerry Leichtling & Arlene Sarner
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

To paraphrase Rick James, nostalgia is a hell of a drug. The fawning over past decades has reached a high-pitched furor in American culture at the moment. The 1980s seem to be evergreen. The fashions of the 1990s are rearing their heads again. Sadly, the austerity of the 1970s appears to be coming back too. Political movements like the crypto-fascist MAGA ideologies are rooted in delusions of the past. Look at how QAnoners are convinced that their favorite celebrities of their youth aren’t really dead and will come back. Boomer MAGA, like my mother, are lost in the insanity that believes JFK is still alive. Gen Xers and Millennials in the movement talk about Michael Jackson still living out there somewhere. It’s a rather widespread hysterical version of the Elvis sightings I remember hearing about as a kid. 

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Movie Review – Captain EO

Captain EO (1986)
Written by George Lucas, Rusty Lemorande, and Francis Coppola
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

It would be effortless to write up a mocking review of Captain EO. It is a piece of 1980s cheese, battered in cheese and fried in it. It’s a short 3-D movie made for a ride at Disney World starring Michael Jackson and a bunch of Lucasfilm design puppet aliens. Oh yes, and Anjelica Huston is in there too. However, I don’t feel interested in mocking it because that’s lazy. Instead, I would rather talk about Francis Ford Coppola’s creative drive and how, when you are a genuine artist, you make compromises to enable future work that means something to you. That’s the actual story of Captain EO, the story of how to be creative in this rotten capitalist system; you have to sell parts of yourself and learn how to keep moving on in the wake of that.

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Movie Review – The Cotton Club

The Cotton Club (1984)
Written by William Kennedy, Francis Ford Coppola, and Mario Puzo
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

It feels like it cannot be emphasized enough, but for Francis Ford Coppola, the entirety of the 1980s and some of the 1990s was shaped by the failure of One From the Heart. Many of his decisions of which projects to take were driven directly by the massive debt he accrued by spending his money on that critical & box office disaster. His old producer Robert Evans (The Godfather films), brought him to The Cotton Club. 

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Movie Review – Rumble Fish

Rumble Fish (1983)
Written by S.E. Hinton & Francis Ford Coppola
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

In March 1983, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders. By October 1983, he already had another film coming out, a thematic continuation of what was going on in that first film. Rumble Fish, also based on a novel by S.E. Hinton, drew Coppola’s attention more strongly than any of her other books. He identified with the idol worship of an older brother, something he experienced with his older brother August. The director decided he would direct Rumble Fish next about halfway through production on The Outsiders and managed to keep everything in Tulsa with the same crew and many of the same cast members. However, Warner Brothers did not like an early cut of The Outsiders and passed on his next movie. Rumble Fish would become acclaimed in the film festival circuit, with a more minor release, only 296 theaters nationwide.

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Movie Review – The Outsiders

The Outsiders (1983)
Written by Kathleen Rowell
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

The 1980s did not start well for Francis Ford Coppola. Despite some strong entries into his filmography, it didn’t end up too great at the end, either. This decade was a period of change & tragedy for the director, a clear sign that whatever magic had manifested itself in the 1970s would be tempered. One From the Heart was his first entry into the decade, and it was a box office disaster, only making $600,000+ against a $26 million budget. 1983 found Coppola selling his 23-acre Zoetrope Studios to begin paying off the debts One From the Heart left him with. He would spend the entire decade working to pay that debt off, contributing to some of the more unexpected jobs he took. Coppola was still a great filmmaker; they weren’t all hits this time. The Outsiders, though, isn’t a miss and is one of the highlights of the 1980s.

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Movie Review – Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Written by John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola’s final film of the 1970s was yet another brilliant piece of cinema. I first saw Apocalypse Now in college (the early 2000s) and was immediately blown away. I had never seen anything like this before in my life. It probably didn’t help that I was homeschooled, and there was pretty much a zero-tolerance policy on R-rated movies in my home. College opened my eyes to so many great films. While other movies have faded in their appeal in the time that’s passed, Apocalypse Now is still up there for me as one of the great pictures. With this recent rewatch, I was discovering connections I hadn’t made before, enriching my experience. I will note I went with the original theatrical cut as I am not a fan of the Redux. I don’t really think the additional material adds much to the spectacular experience of the original.

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Movie Review – The Godfather Part II

The Godfather Part II (1974)
Written by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

It’s not a big surprise to say The Godfather Part II is a masterpiece of American cinema. It just simply is. This is a director doing the best work of his life surrounded by magnificent performers and working with a very literate & polished script. When you have these sorts of elements, you will end up with a movie that resonates with audiences. I don’t think it can be understated how thoroughly Coppola reshaped American film with his work in the 1970s. This is a template for movies still coming out today and the precursor to the prestige television that is so common on streaming platforms. 

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Movie Review – The Conversation

The Conversation (1974)
Written & Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Privacy has become an essential topic of discussion in recent years. This is partly due to the profoundly invasive Patriot Act, passed under “fighting terrorism,” and how social media has convinced users to give up information and involuntarily spy on them as they use the internet. Some people have leaned into the seeming dissolution of privacy in modern life, becoming incredibly open about all aspects of their lives or creating a manufactured public face to create a particular narrative. Others have worked obsessively to “get off the grid” by refraining from using any internet connections they believe aren’t secure and certainly never joining social media. In the 1970s, privacy was not as big a concern among the majority of the population as it is now, but through his research, Francis Ford Coppola could see that it would be one day and was curious about how one of the voyeurs would handle the gaze of others on him.

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