Movies of 1997 Bracket Game: L.A. Confidential vs Air Force One
Okay, so these two films have only very tenuous similarities. What it came down to was that I found most of the mainstream action films of 1997 to be pretty forgettable or outright bad (coughCon Aircough), but also thought that the crowd-pleasing action movie Air Force One was one that couldn’t be ignored here. That left it with no naturally matching group of films to share a bracket with. What I’ve done is basically to create a “crime” bracket and awkwardly include this Harrison Ford-led box office hit alongside Jackie Brown, The Game, and L.A. Confidential. Hopefully everybody is okay with that. If not, well…it’s done already. Let’s see what we can say about these wildly different films in which people shoot at one another.
Our previous match appeared to be decided by the continuing fame of its main actors breaking open what I had viewed as a sort of toss-up. That means Good Will Hunting will move on to face Boogie Nights in the next round. A friend of mine is 0 for 2 in his rooting interests so far.
I’m going to ask you to skip down and look at the trailer I’ve included here. It’s an interesting case. It’s almost like two different trailers mashed together to try to reach two different audiences. The first two thirds of it read like any other cops and robbers flick of the previous fifty years and is clearly meant to appeal to the mainstream action/crime audience. You know…”regular guys.” Then as it begins to wrap up the tone suddenly changes and becomes the kind of trailer a studio puts out for an awards season film, with soaring orchestral score and an emphasis on the pedigree of the people involved. It looks like there were competing versions of the trailer that they couldn’t decide between or like they didn’t realize until well through the process that they might be getting some Oscars buzz. It’s kind of strange and jarring, but it is also pretty representative of the film that it is trying to sell us. L.A. Confidential is exactly a hard-boiled detective thriller where plenty of the problems of the characters are solved with bullets. But it’s also a morally ambiguous “prestige” picture where the good guys aren’t particularly good. The movie takes a great deal of discussion afterwards and you’re going to find people on both sides of the fence who wish it was a little more like either the first half of this trailer or more like the last part. No matter which side you fall on though, there’s no denying that it’s a compelling movie experience.
On the other hand, Harrison Ford’s President vs. terrorist flick is sold as being right up the alley of most mainstream audiences. Its director Wolfgang Petersen, certainly has a history of delivering effectively tense thrillers which are a little smarter than they would necessarily have to be (think Enemy Mine and In the Line of Fire), but without giving up on the escapist thrills that make them crowd-pleasers. This is a delicate balancing act that will not always resonate immediately with everyone involved. The great Randy Newman was initially chosen to write the score for Air Force One, but when Petersen heard what he’d produced he panicked and commissioned Jerry Goldsmith to replace it on a severely shortened schedule (a job Goldsmith said he’d never try to do again). Maybe Petersen wasn’t familiar with all of Newman’s work when he selected him for the job? That’s the best explanation I can come up with. The fact that Petersen was unprepared for what he considered to be Newman’s satirical take on the material definitely suggests this. The discarded compositions were later re-used by Newman for his score of Toy Story 3. In contrast, Gary Oldman, who played the movie’s primary villain appeared to fully understand the tone Petersen intended and contributed to what cast and crew would later call “Air Force Fun,” the really enjoyable experience of shooting the film, by snapping in and out of character depending on whether they were rolling or not and immediately peppering the proceedings with jokes and glad-handing between takes.
So which way do you swing? Do you prefer the escapism of Air Force One or the hard-boiled cynicism of L.A. Confidential? Vote here and talk to us about it in the comments section.