Saturday, December 18, 2010

No. 89: Patton

Patton (1970)

Starring: George C. Scott and Karl Malden

Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner

Awards won: 7 Oscars, including one for Best Picture

First off, I'd like to say I'm truly sorry for not posting in what, 2 months? I mean, I'm a busy teenager, but it doesn't take too much effort to sit and write a post. From now on – I promise! - there will be a lot more posts coming your way.

When I sat down to watch Patton, I was a little apprehensive. I didn't know much about the movie; the only thing I knew was what my parents told me - that Patton swears like a sailor. That didn't bother me - I've seen Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas. Not too much shocks me now.

Quite frankly, I think Patton is the story of a madman: General George S. Patton. The movie begins with his famous Army "pep talk" in front of an enormous American flag: one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history. The rest of the movie follows his military exploits through Europe and North Africa - the whole time, trying to balance his insatiable need for attention with being a good leader.

Patton has major highs and lows. Low? The Army suspends him for slapping a troubled soldier. High? The general marches his troops across the continent, demolishing a good chunk of the German army and contributing to victory in Europe. When the movie's over, the theme becomes clear: Patton was a successful general who got results - but his big mouth and egotism consistently damaged his career.

There were a lot of things I liked about Patton. George C. Scott is amazing, channeling Patton's manic energy and craziness to a tee. Karl Malden is equally good as General Omar Bradley – it’s a less showy part than Scott's, but just as impressive and entertaining. The location shooting (Spain, Morocco, Italy) and sweeping cinematography work together beautifully, the Francis Ford Coppola script is engaging, and the soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith will stick in your head for ages. I'm warning you about the music. I found out the hard way.

There weren’t too many negatives, just a few small details. Scott can go too over-the-top and makes his character a little unwatchable. Malden is believable as Omar Bradley (“The G.I.’s General”) but his goody-two-shoes dialogue can make you cringe.

Let’s summarize. If you like:

* Military men with big egos

* Inspiring speeches - with liberal profanity thrown in for flavor!

* Karl Malden’s bespectacled self

* World War Two history (Oh hey, Dad. You don't like this, do you?)

* Soundtracks that permanently stick in your head

..then you'll like Patton. A lot.

Next up, Easy Rider (1969) - starring and directed by the recently deceased Dennis Hopper, and also featuring Peter Fonda. According to my mom, the movie is unwatchable. Should I be looking forward to this? Either way, stick around and read about it!


  1. Wonderful. Thank you.

    Your review reminded me that I have never seen Patton. Initially, I avoided it as my own, mini, war protest. Then, not seeing it became a tradition. Then, I forgot about it. :-)

    George C. Scott is so magnificent as General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove (1964), that I am reluctant to replace his splendid satiric take on a warmongering general for his take on the very real Patton. It is long past time to see this film though, so I've added it to my Netflix queue. I'm willing to risk the music getting stuck in my head. Thank you for the reminder.

    By the way, have you seen Dr. Strangelove? Is it one of your 100 films? It is an excellent movie: funny, smart, sobering; a little bit sad. See it if you haven't.

    General Buck Turgidson in the War Room:

    It is exciting to read that you'll be seeing Easy Rider next. I am curious to read your reaction to that watershed film.

    Thank for your review, Josie. It's always a pleasure to get your perspective on a film.

  2. Fantastic review as usual, It's good to have these back, they level out the doldrums during school. I thought this movie was entertaining and informative, not overly dramatic like most of the crap that gets churned out about wwII. It definitely earned its spot on this list. The movie i'm most excited for is easy rider, and i'm looking forward to your opinion on it.

  3. You know I love me some Karl Malden. Good review!

  4. My favorite scene is the meeting of Axis leaders when they're told about Patton getting suspended for slapping a soldier. They find it so impossible to believe that they start coming up with conspiracy theories.