Friday, October 17, 2014


I know by this point all of you must be getting pretty sick of me defending things that are critically and popularly reviled, but I am back again with the latest issue of Ted's Defense of the Indefensible. In today's installment we are going to discuss the director Michael Cimino and his 1980, critically and commercially panned, western film, Heaven's Gate.

However, in order to properly defend Heaven's Gate, I first need to make concessions that people will point to in an effort to debunk or discredit my apology of the film. Those are....

1) By the sheer fact of the numbers Heaven's Gate was a flop as it cost 44 million dollars to make and only took in 3 million dollars at the box office

2) It is generally considered to be the largest box office bomb of all times as a result of the money spent on it versus the money that it took in.

3) Cimino, who at the time was one Hollywood's rising star, hot shot, directors was hired by United Artists to direct Heaven's Gate on the back of his Academy Award winning movie and because of his star power he was able to negotiate a contract that gave him carte blanche and lots of other fiscal allowances that were never given to any film maker previously. This made him one of the most lawsuit-proof film director to ever work on a picture.

4) The movie was such a financial disaster for United Artists, the company that produced that movie that it, that its parent company Transamerica Corporation became nervous and abandoned film making all together, selling United Artists off to MGM. Beyond the immediate effect that this had for United Artists, the failure of this movie also had a tremendous impact on the film industry at large. From the 1960's, with films like Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, until the 1980's, which was around the time of this fiasco, the demise of the studio system led to a 20 year long period known as New Hollywood, where studio lost the majority of their control and because of this young directors arose that began to take more and more control over the industry but because of failures such as these, the studios began to take back more and more control from these directors in an effort to prevent the gross decadence and profligate spending that went into disastrous movies such as this one.   

5) The movie faced many budget overruns, high shooting demands that were made by Cimino, and endless retakes. A legend from the set said that on the sixth day of shooting, the whole shoot was five days behind where it should be.

Now of course one may wonder, Ted what is there for you to possible defend with this movie? It seems like it is such a train wreck that not even the best lawyer in the world can argue for this movie. Well, I have one response for you, watch the 216 minute cut of the movie instead of the awful 149 producer influenced dreck that was released in the 80's as a reaction to all the bad press that surrounded the movie. The 216 minute cut of the movie was first screened at the 69th Venice Film Festival and then again at the New York Film festival which I was fortunate enough to attend and see and by which I was blow away with sumptuous visuals such as these below...

Which to me proves that no matter what rumors, exaggerations, half truths or even truths are said about Mr. Cinimo, he is a clear master of his craft who no matter what can deliver a visual that is completely on point and undeniable. Throughout the entire film, the way that visual is treated reminded me of early photography that would have been prevalent around that time.  

The reason that I and others have such with the 149 minute cut of the movie is because it was a slap dash job that was ordered by the producers of the movie in a last minute rush to make the Academy Awards. Indeed, director Steven Soderberg was so interested in the massacre of this movie that he made what he entitled "The Butcher's Cut." This cut can be found here:

Which shows an extensively cut film to the point where key details of film are completely obliterated. Also Mr. Cinimo , in several trade papers blamed this excessive cutting on the failure of the movie, which given the fact that I have seen the 216 minute version I tend to agree with.

So here are two lessons to be applied after reading this blog post....

1) Critics don't always get right.

2) Don't a judge a book or in this case a film by its cover.

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