Barry Levinson

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

6.9 Diner (1982)
6.0 The Natural (1984)
6.0 Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
6.9 Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
6.3 Tin Men (1987)
7.2 Rain Man (1988)
6.4 Avalon (1990)
6.5 Bugsy (1991)
5.0 Toys (1992)
4.5 Jimmy Hollywood (1994)
6.0 Disclosure (1994)
6.8 Sleepers (1996)
7.0 Wag The Dog (1997)
6.5 Sphere (1998)
6.5 Liberty Heights (1999)
6.5 An Everlasting Piece (2000)
7.0 Bandits (2001)
5.0 Envy (2004)
4.0 Hindsight Is 20/20 (2004)
6.4 Man of the Year (2006)
4.5 What Just Happened (2008)
6.5 The Bay (2012)
5.5 The Humbling (2014)
4.5 Rock the Kasbah (2015)

Barry Levinson (USA, 1942) debuted with Diner (1982), the first part of a semi-autobiographical tetralogy of films about his hometown, that also includes Tin Men (1987) Avalon (1990) and Liberty Heights (1999).

Unfaithfully Yours (1984) is a sort of remake of the Preston Sturges film, and The Natural (1984) is an adaptation of Bernard Malamud's novel. After Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), written by Chris Columbus, Levinson directed his firsts major film, Good Morning Vietnam (1987), written by Mitch Markowitz.

This was followed by the even better sentimental comedy Rain Man (1988).

Charlie (Tom Cruise) e` un avventuriero che torna a Cincinnati, accompagnato dalla sua ragazza, perche' il padre e` morto. Scopre con sgomento che l'intera eredita` e` andata a qualcun altro: a lui il padre ha lasciato soltanto una vecchia auto d'epoca. Con un minimo di indagini, scopre che l'erede e` ricoverato in un ospedale psichiatrico, e che si tratta di un fratello, Raymond, di cui non conosceva l'esistenza. Deciso a impadronirsi dell'eredita`, trova una scusa per portare via il fratello. Benche` l'abbia praticamente rapito, lo tratta con arroganza e disprezzo, tanto che la ragazza lo lascia.
Cruise deve rientrare urgentemente a Los Angeles, ma Hoffman, forte delle statistiche sugli incidenti aerei che conosce a memoria, rifiuta di prendere l'aereo. Hoffman e` un'enciclopedia vivente, capace di imparare a memoria qualsiasi libro. Prende di continuo appunti davanti al televisore. E soprattutto e` di una calma olimpica. Cruise e` invece irritabile per via dei suoi guai finanziari.
Cruise e` costretto a prendere l'auto del padre, e Hoffman, dopo aver visto un incidente mortale, non vuole neppure che guidi sull'autostrada. I due fratelli si mettono cosi` in viaggio per le strade periferiche. Il viaggio dura dei giorni, durante i quali i rapporti fra i due fratelli si deteriorano. Hoffman rifiuta di uscire all'aperto quando piove, per cui lo chiamano "rain man". Cruise perde spesso la pazienza di fronte alla paranoia petulante e capricciosa del fratello. Devono persino fermarsi a una casa isolata perche' Hoffman non puo` perdere la sua trasmissione televisiva preferita. A Las Vegas Hoffman si fa perdonare aiutando Cruise con la sua prodigiosa memoria a prevedere le carte che usciranno. Hoffman si porta dietro un televisore portatile. La ragazza li raggiunge, sempre piu` preoccupata dalla salute del malato lontano dalla sua casa di cura. Lo fa ballare e lo bacia.
Adesso Cruise si e` sinceramente affezionato al fratello e gli dispiace quando l'ospedale gli intima di restituirlo.
E` un "road movie" un po' sui generis, tutto focalizzato sul rapporto fra i due uomini, un poco di buono sano di mente e un uomo onesto completamente pazzo.
If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

Good Morning Vietnam (1987) is a military comedy that in theory should depict the moral education of an American soldier, but in practice it is neither a funny comedy or a touching parable. It is only a vehicle to make a lot of money out of a movie star. Adrian is a comedian who is flown to an American military base during the Vietnam war and put in charge of hosting an early-morning radio show ("Good morning Vietnam"). He is soon introduced to a captain and a major who show no sympathy for his status: the captain thinks he is funnier than Adrian and the major is a sadist who hates civilians. Adrian's show is immediately a success... and a scandal. Adrian's wild, fast-talking improvised monologues and his mockery of the authorities connect with the ordinary soldiers. Adrian flirts with a Vietnamese teacher, who is as cold as pretty and does not enjoy his jokes, entertains her class and befriends her younger brother. Adrian witnesses and barely survives (the young Vietnamese calls him out) a bomb that blows up a popular bar. The major forbids him to tell the news on the radio, but he still does and he's therefore thrown off the radio. Adrian is replaced by the captain but the troops complain. Adrian is reinstated (obviously, he accepts only reluctantly) but the major plots revenge and sends him out to an area that has fallen to the Viet Cong. Adrian's jeep capsizes in the middle of the jungle in enemy's territory and Adrian is saved by the girl's brother. Back at the base, he is informed by the major that the girl's brother is actually a dangerous terrorist, responsible for the very bomb he witnessed (that's why he survived it). Adrian confronts the kid, who is hiding in the slums of Saigon, but only to understand the anger and humiliation of these people (yawn). The army expels Adrian on account of his friendship with a terrorist and Adrian plays one last game of baseball with his Vietnamese friends and then leaves, escorted by military police.
After this sequence of tedious disadventures, Adrian's transformation is finally complete: he has understood that war is senseless and that soldiers (on both sides) are human, and that people are people in every place of the world.
This pathetic message could not be told in a more stereotyped (and less convincing) way.

Bugsy (1991) is a biopic.

Toys (1992) is a fantasy comedy.

Jimmy Hollywood (1994)

Disclosure (1994)

Sleepers (1996)

Wag The Dog (1997), written by David Mamet and Hilary Henkin and based on Larry Beinhart's novel "American Hero", is a hilarious, even savage, socio-political satire, both a satire of politics and a satire of Hollywood (with a sinister similarity of Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky), partly inspired by Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (but, unlike that classic, here the characters are not caricatural - they are eeriely realistic).
The other message of the film is that Washington equates Hollywood and viceversa: "war is show business" (Conrad's motto).

Conrad (Robert De Niro) is called urgently to a top-secret meeting with the team of the president of the US headed by tough woman Winifred: two weeks away from election day a sex scandal is about to break out (although everybody believes the president to be innocent) and Conrad is being hired to advise them a damage-control strategy. Conrad's idea is to deflect the media's attention by creating a bigger news, so he single-handedly manufactures a war against Albania, relying on the average American's complete ignorance of geography.
The scandal breaks out while the president is in China. Conrad hires Hollywood producer Stanley, specialist in propaganda, and Stanley, a frustrated and vain producer who is after his masterpiece, treats the war just like any entertainment product. The goal of the team is to create confusion till election day.
The first step is to create attention. Conrad exploits the media's and the audience's passion for secrets: he has the president's spokeswoman deny (fictitious) rumours about a (fictitious) bomber plane. The "secret" immediately spreads in the news.
More rumors are leaked, and the trick is deying them once they are broadcast. Soon, television news create a war that does not exist. The zealous Stanley uses all the stereotypes out of the patriotic past to create the sensation, the pride and the fear of the present war: he fabricates a phony documentary on the war by hiring an actress, setting up a stage and enhancing the action with digital techniques; he hires a country singer and a choir to record a patriotic version of "We Are the World";
Conrad and Stanley have to solve countless emergencies, but the trick works. Until the CIA realizes that there is no war, there is no warplane and there are no nuclear terrorists. Conrad deflects the blow, but the CIA strikes a deal with the President's opponent to fabricate the counter-news: the war has ended.
Conrad and Stanley sail through this with the same calm: they simply invent a new news, that an American soldier has been left behind. They invent a hero, and find a name that everybody can identify with: Schumann (rhymes with "shoeman"). Soon, the American public is ready to pay tribute to the missing hero with a shower of symbolic shoes. (While driving in a limo with Conrad, Stanley even suggests to nominate the president for the Nobel Peace Prize. When Conrad notes that there was no war, Stanley simply replies that this makes it an even greater accomplishment). Conrad and Stanley are having the time of their life fooling the American public, while each day gets the president closer to re-election.
They fly to pick up the convicted rapist who is supposed to impersonate the hero, but he suffers from some mental illness and causes the plane to crash. They all survive and find shelter in a farm in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the rapist molests the farmer's daughter and the farmer shoots him dead. So the team has to improvise a new news: the hero is dead and the whole nation cries.
But Stanley is a psycho who has spent his life dreaming of the day he could take credit for his productions and now cannot stand being left behind the scenes one more time. Conrad has to arrange for his "heart attack" so he doesn't ruin everything, while the whole country watches the military funeral of the rapist.
Suddenly, a real war starts in Albania...
The movie has an interesting premise: the accusations against the president may be completely unfounded, but the media's hunger for scandals is a guarantee that the mere mention of a possible scandal would be enough to turn the public against the president. The cynical clamor of the media and the gullibility of the public are the real protagonists of the story, even if all the attention is focused on the team that is trying to fool both. Nobody is interested in the truth anymore. A lie is enough to destroy a character, therefore you need a bigger lie to save it. What the media lives of is lies, and what the public swallows is lies. There seems to be no truth anymore.

The sci-fi movie Sphere (1998)

Liberty Heights (1999)

An Everlasting Piece (2000)

Bandits (2001) is a mix of comedy and crime thriller about the perfect bank heist. It recycles themes from the "Bonnie and Clyde" kind of movies but adds enough of humor and suspense to elevate it above the average and the dejavu. The film is frequently hilarious and it has a well architected plot.

The film opens in a bank that is surrounded by an army of police officers armed to their teeth, determined to arrest the bandits who have just robbed the bank, two famous robbers, Joe and Terry. Joe and Terry are arguing aloud in front of the hostages, and their argument is rapidly escalating. Terry accuses Joe of having caused their demise by trusting a woman named Kate, who is the one who betrayed them to the police. The film then flashes forward to a studio where a TV host is preparing a special on the two bandits, a special based on an interview that they gave him 24 hours before being killed, when they broke into his house. The film then flashes back to a penitentiary where Joe is a handsome and psychotic convict who easily loses his temper and Terry, who is almost the exact opposite, insecure and paranoid, is his best friend. Terry is obsessed with health and suffers from all sorts of allergies and phobias. Joe is calm and methodic. He sees a big concrete mixing truck and suddenly attacks the driver, steals the truck and drives it into the gate of the prison. Terry instinctively jumps on the truck and finds himself escaping with him, chased by dozens of police cars. Joe drives the truck into the forest and loses the police cars. Joe then stops a car and politely tells the driver, a woman, to get out of the car, and steals her car (after handing her the purse that she was forgetting). Joe drives into town while Terry is reminding him that it's an impossible escape because they have no money and they are still wearing convict uniforms. Joe stops the car and uses a magic marker to rob a bank. The security guard hands him the gun and he collects whatever cash he can from the customers. Then he steals another car and drives away, always taking with him the confused and hesitant Terry, who is having palpitations, hallucinations and so on. They hide inside an open garage and find that the only people in the house are a teenage girl and her boyfriend, who are making out while listening to loud music. The convicts are nice to the kids and the kids are not really scared. In fact, the boy is almost impressed. The boy tries to grab a shotgun but Joe sees him and humiliaties him. Joe tells Terry that his plan is to rob enough banks to fund his dream: to purchase a building in Mexico and turn it into a night-club and restaurant. Terry comes up with the easy way to do it: instead of attaching the bank when it's open, they will kidnap the manager of the bank at his home the night before and then force him to open the safe in the morning before the bank opens. The following morning they take the boy's car and drive to a rural place where Joe meets his friend Harvey, a stuntman, who is readily drafted into the scheme as the getaway driver. Joe and Terry arrive at the home of the first victim. They take hostage his family but in a nice and polite way. They dine with them and Terry compliments the woman on the food and even helps the children eat. The following morning they all drive to the bank. The manager opens the safe while all the employees, as they arrive, are taken hostage in the same room. No violence is needed. (Part of the story is told in the TV interview that will be made 24 hours before their killing). Then they get into Harvey's car and drive away. The trio splits with the intention of meeting again in a few days in another town. Unfortunatey, Terry gets stuck with no gasoline and has to abandon his car. Meanwhile, frustrated housewife Kate is preparing an elaborate dinner for her husband. When dinner is almost ready, he coldly informs her that he will dine out. Hurt and disappointed, she takes the car and drives around. She happens the one who Terry stops. She is crying and hysterical and fails to stop in time, hitting him but without injuring him. Panicking, she loads him in the car and starts driving like a maniac towards the hospital. Terry takes a while to recover his senses. When he realizes what is happening, she points the gun at her and asks her to get out of the car. But she is completely mad, venting her unhappiness while driving at high speed and breaking all traffic rules. He tries in vain to scare her because she is suicidal and is not afraid of his gun. He even considers jumping out of the car but she won't unlock the door. So he is forced to let her drive him to the appointment with Harvey and Joe. They are not amused to see that he brought a stranger. Terry describes her to Joe as "mentally unbalanced to a spectacular degree". But Joe is not angry because he's a womanizer and is immediately attracted to her, so that it's Joe who wants her to stay and it's Terry who wants to get rid of her. Terry told her that they are convicts and Harvey tells her that they are bank robbers. The next robbery gets complicated when the bank manager has a fit and collapses in a cataleptic state. Graciously, they pull it off, and then split again, but this time Joe leaves with Kate. The TV host airs a special in which he talks about the two mysterious bandits, whom he nicknames the "sleepover bandits" because of their method of staying over at the bank manager's home. He also points out that a housewife, Kate, disappeared and circumstances indicate that she may have been kidnapped by the bandits. Later the same TV host reveals that the police have determined the identity that the two bandits after making the connection between the escaped convicts and the convicts who stayed at the teenager's house. And so the next bank heist ends with the robbed staff addressing them by their first names, like celebrities. On the way out of town, Harvey causes an accident with a truck that almost kills Joe and Terry. As usual Terry feels that his entire body is hurt. Joe tells him to run away with Kate while he and Harvey steal the truck. The whole bizarre accident is filmed by an amateur filmmaker who was nearby. Once aired on the TV host's show, it confirms that Kate is with the bandits. Kate is touched by the many phobias of Terry, who is nonetheless sweet and intelligent, and in some ways mirrors her own insecurity. And so she sleeps also with him. When they rejoin Joe, the atmosphere is tense. Terry tells Joe the truth and the two fight over Kate. Kate, however, tells them that she has no intention of choosing between the two because, together, they make the perfect man: Joe is handsome and strong, Terry is sensitive and smart. And so they agree on a "menage a trois" Kate is wanted to now. When she hears her husband's plea on television, she is reminded of how much she dislikes him, and she gets even more determined to stay with the bandits. Thanks to the TV show, Joe and Terry have become so famous that when they show up at the residence of a female bank manager, she recognizes them right away and, excited to be their next victim, welcomes them in her house. The following morning the robbery fails because a) the manager refuses to open the safe knowing that they never hurt anyone and b) Harvey gets distracted by a girl wearing pink boots (he has a weak spot for pink). But the manager helps them escape. They are mad at Harvey, but Harvey too is tired of the job and quits. And sure enough he picks up a girl with pink boots (he tells her the truth, that the car is stolen). The flash-forward of the TV interview shows them talking about the unbreakable bond of friendship but the film shows them fighting over Kate so violently that Kate decides to leave them in order to save their friendship. Some time later Joe and Terry call her to make peace and then visit the TV host. This is the interview done 24 hours before they are killed. In the interview they mainly clear Kate of any responsibility, claiming that they kept her hostage against her will (which is not true at all). The following morning Joe and Terry enter a bank and begin the biggest robbery of their career. They get the money but then we are back to the beginning of the film: the bank is surrounded by police, helicopters flying overhead and military tanks rolling in. Kate tipped the police. Joe and Terry are arguing loudly in front of the hostages. The police are ready to attack but stop because they see that the two are pointing their guns at each other. In fact, they start shooting at each other, at first aiming for limbs, and then eventually kill each other. But that's when we see what's happening backstage: in an ambulance parked nearby Harvey and his girl are monitoring the events and using a radio to create the effects of blood on the men's clothes. We realize that it's all fake. Joe and Terry lie on the floor, pretending to be dead. Harvey and his girl walk inside with the police and wrap the "dead" bodies into body bags which they load into the ambulance with the bag of the loot, and then they drive away. It's the perfect escape: Joe and Terry get out of the body bags and celebrate. Meanwhile the TV host is announcing live on television that Joe and Terry killed each other and Kate is fainting in front of the cameras. Harvey simulates an accident that blows up the ambulance, so that the police will believe that the bodies burned. Kate is now a heroine who helped terminate the career of the two bandits and receives a large reward from the authorities. Days later the trio (Joe, Terry and Kate) drive into Mexico. The last scene is the TV host ending his special on the two dead bandits, while Harvey and his girl get married in Mexico.

Envy (2004)

Man of the Year (2006) is another political thriller.

What Just Happened (2008)

The Bay (2012) is a horror thriller that takes place over a period of 24 hours and is largely told via phones and webcams.

The Humbling (2014)

Rock the Kasbah (2015)

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )