1969 (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Say hello to writer/author Ernest Thompson, and meet another member of the Brady Anderson club.

What is that club?

Some men have a career. Others have only an inexplicable moment, and Brady Anderson is their patron saint. Brady was (is) a capable journeyman centerfielder who had some good legs and was pretty good with the leather, but had a hard time keeping a full-time job because he wasn't much with the stick. In his first four years in the majors, he hit 10 homers total - 2.5 per year. Yet somehow, Brady terrorized American league pitchers in 1996 to the tune of 50 dingers. He returned immediately to his normal level of play in 1997, and never again hit even half of that total. Therefore, he became the inspiration for a special category of performance, a level of genius reached by someone whose remaining life failed to provide any evidence that such an accomplishment was possible. The Brady Anderson club.

Some of our members:

Michael Cimino. It now seems apparent that he sold his soul to satan for The Deer Hunter, and that he didn't cut a very good deal with The Lord of Darkness for his subsequent career. Never negotiate without your agent. Especially with the Father of Lies. You'll end up with a one picture deal.

Robert Goulet. He was so breathtakingly handsome on stage that women fainted when he first appeared in his armor in Camelot. His robust baritone was the toast of Broadway, and he was a shining star alongside stage legends Julie Andrews and Richard Burton in the play which JFK chose to symbolize the idealistic vision of his administration. The song "If Ever I Would Leave You" is inextricably intertwined with Goulet's name in showbiz legend. But can anybody remember anything else he's ever done? I think he was on Love Boat a few times, probably playing himself.

Robert Downey Jr. Very few people survive an attempt to portray a beloved genius. It's like career suicide. Geniuses are people with talent levels inconceivable to the rest of us. How can you play them unless you can reasonably hope to represent their brilliance. Remember Paul Shenar as Orson Welles? Michael Chiklis as John Belushi? Their careers are boomin', eh?  Downey managed not only to survive, but to shine as Charlie Chaplin, and was recognized suitably for it by his peers and the world in general. OK, fair enough. Now name something else he hasn't screwed up.


Kara Zielke does full-frontal nudity as a hippie chick.

Several other anonymous hippies of both sexes are naked in a very brief scene. (Don't blink)

Our latest member, Ernest Thompson, was an actor who hoped to write. He wrote a modest play called On Golden Pond which managed to touch many people with its simple, economical portrayal of the twilight years. He won an Oscar (Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium) for the movie version. That was early in his career and he must have thought this writin' stuff was all pretty easy. Think again, Ernie. The rest of his career has consisted of drivel like 1969, which also happens to be the one and only theatrical film he ever directed. In the last couple of years, his life seems to have consisted entirely of remaking and reminiscing about On Golden Pond, as he heads down the Goulet Road towards a place where they are eternally reliving his single moment in the sun.

By the way, his fellow Anderson Awardee, Robert Downey Jr, is in this film.

The film itself is a sincere, empty-headed look at the generational conflicts which were brought into sharp contrast by the year 1969. You know, Woodstock, the moon landing. It was the defining year for our generation. The script found a few good moments, but mostly it plays out like an ABC afterschool special about why Vietnam was evil and the flower children were good. In typical synthetic melodramatic fashion, all the plot twists work out exactly the way they need to in order to support the anti-war point of view, highlighted by sudden turns of loyalty, deaths of beloved relatives, marches, protests, swelling music, stirring speeches, and an omniscient epilogue seasoned with perfect hindsight.

Being am MGM film, it has plusses. The photography is quite clear and crisp and workmanlike, and some of the actors exhibit some reasonably good comic timing in the moments of comic relief, notably Kiefer Sutherland and Downey Jr.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic (1.85) and full-screen format

  • no meaningful features

I usually like the soundtracks for movies about this era, but I didn't even much care for the "Greatest hits" musical score, which was mainly filled with Top 40 bubblegum wimp-rock crap like "I Think It's So Groovy Now" and "Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair" and "Let the Sunshine In". Not the music we 20 year olds listened to then, but the music our 12 year old kid sisters listened to.

If you want to know what the late 60's were like, watch Easy Rider, man, and see it portrayed as it happened by the people who were there, brother, shown in all of its ugly, beautiful, complex, hydra-headed reality.  

Tuna's Thoughts

I think Scoopy was too easy on the film. Nothing about it rang true, the sound track sucked big-time, the "hippies" looked like mainstream college kids, and the college kids looked like seminarians. There was no effort at all to get the dialogue right, and they didn't even begin to tap the surface of the objections to the war. It was like Ed Sullivan produced a "Really Big Show" based on the Readers Digest version of the anti-war movement.

Probably the biggest insult to my intelligence was showing the cop menacing our hero with his baton. When the police lost it and rioted, they just cracked every skull in sight. Also, building take-overs had a fairly rigid protocol. A group would have a meeting to discuss demands with some official, they would be turned down, and they would sit down and stay there. Others would hear about the non-violent protest, and join in. The "establishment" would try to outlast them, and finally have the police start cuffing them and carrying them off to jail. Demonstrations would get out of control at times, and end up in tear gas and violence, but not building takeovers. This film tried to merge the two, and didn't get either one right.

The aspect they were putting under a microscope is an interesting one. We are seeing the radicalization of a small town who was just joining the 60s, even though it was already 1969. Some of the plot elements were correct, such as kids in school only to avoid the draft, one brother in the military and another in the anti-war movement, High School valedictorians devoting their speech to an anti-war message, and kids making a road trip over the summer were all part of the era. It was unnecessary to show the alcoholic single mother, or her affair with a married neighbor, other than an attempt to show that the parents were not behaving any better than the kids. The radicals in this one were radical light. This story could be made into an interesting film, and, in case anyone wants to remake it, I have a few suggestions:

1) Either do a riot or a sit-in or both, but do them right.
2) Don't make the hippie beach commune nearly as neat or organized.
3) Lots more facial hair.
4) Have a mix of campus costumes, including mini-skirts, shorts, jeans and granny dresses/peasant outfits.
5) Take advantage of the sit-in for anti-war exposition
6) Show some hardship during the road trip, like having the van stuck in the mud.
7) Dump the song list, and try to get the following:

1) Opening scene - I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag - Country Joe and the Fish
2) Brothers Funeral - Silent Night/6 O'clock news - Simon and Garfunkel
3) Riot Scene - Light My Fire - Feliciano
4) Acid dropping scene - White Rabbit -  JEFFERSON AIRPLANE
5) Hitchhiking scene - Spinning Wheel - Blood, Sweat and Tears
6) Final demonstration - Aquarius - The Fifth Dimension
7) Brother leaving for Nam - And When I Die - Blood, Sweat & Tears
8) Sex scene with Winona - This Girl's In Love With You - Dionne Warwick (oh, and get Winona's clothes off)
9) Valedictorian speech - Blowin in the Wind - Bob Dylan
10) Comforting Winona after the riot - Bridge Over Troubled Waters - Simon and Garfunkel

Get the dialogue right, from the common slogans and anti-war rhetoric, to the hippie slang.

This would make a watchable film, but probably one without much of an audience. I, however, would see it. This film is not technically flawed, but has no strong plusses other than the clear full-frontal exposure at the hippie commune, and does not at all capture what it is aiming for. D+.


The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • domestic gross - $6 million
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. Brain-dead cornball Hollywood film about avoiding the Vietnam draft. (Tuna D+)

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