MESSAGE ROAD TRIP MOVIES PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 10:24

MESSAGE ROAD TRIP MOVIES

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All text is written by and copyrighted to D S Brown. Images of book covers and movie posters are copyrighted to the various studios which released them and have no affiliation with OOCC.

BONNEVILLE (Feb 29, 2008)

EASY RIDER (Jul 14, 1969)

FIVE EASY PIECES (Sep 12, 1970)

IL GRIDO (Jun 22, 1957)
MIDNIGHT COWBOY (May 25, 1969)

THE PASSENGER (Apr 9, 1975)

ROADSIDE PROPHETS (1992)

SMOKE SIGNALS (Jan 16, 1998)
TWO LANE BLACKTOP (July 7, 1971)


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MESSAGE ROAD TRIP MOVIES use travel to make observations about society or life in general. The road trip is a catalyst or allegory in many cases. This list doesn't address movies that have incidental road trip scenes, just ones where the trip is integral to the theme. There are separate sections on this website for CRIME ROAD TRIP movies, CAR CHASE movies and so on.

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bonneville dvd

BONNEVILLE (Feb 29, 2008) follows three friends who are driving from Pocatello, to deliver the ashes of Jessica Lange's husband to Santa Barbara, CA. The film manages to expand beyond the usual constraints of the chick flick and road trip movie genres through some good character acting. And, yes, they take the 1966 Pontiac Bonneville to Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. A hitchhiker and a trucker reinforce Lange's character in her quest remain true to herself and the spirit of her dead husband.

bonneville dvd back

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easy rider

EASY RIDER (Jul 14, 1969) was a low budget film that became a giant hit catapulting director star Dennis Hopper back into the limelight. After starting in films as a youngster in the 1950s Hopper was banned from mainstream films, spending the 1960s doing grade Z films. Working in low budget motorcycle counterculture exploitation films resulted in Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson helping Hopper make EASY RIDER into a 'message film'. Hopper and Fonda ride Harleys across America from the west coast to New Orleans.

Hopper involved locals in the film. The small town vignettes, communes and open highways capture the feeling of the road as well as documenting society of the 1960s. The 'Easy Riders' are intended to mirror the loss of American freedom which Hopper perceived to have sprung from people taking shortcuts. Selling the drugs bought a tainted freedom which is summed up by Fonda's line, "We blew it." Universal compromise and selling out is picked up in Dylan's lyrics in the closing, "Ballad of Easy Rider". At other times Hopper has stated that the film was a semi documentary of the war between youth culture and traditionalists in USA.

easy rider lp

Dennis Hopper broke new ground when he selected popular songs for his soundtrack instead of having a score specifically written for his film. The LP was released by Reprise. It substitutes The Band's version of The Weight with a facsimile version by Smith.

easy rider rear lp

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five easy pieces

five easy pieces dvd back

By now you must be wondering, is this a Jack Nicholson section? He was in several cult road movies following his sudden stardom with EASY RIDER.  FIVE EASY PIECES (Sep 12, 1970) follows the travels of Jack as Bobby working odd jobs hanging out with regular folks in an attempt to distance himself from his intellectual, artistic family. The road trip to visit his family features a pair of memorable hitchhikers and a famous scene in a diner. The movie ends with an open road. For Jacks' character the road is not a true escape but rather plunging into oblivion without destination or purpose.

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IL GRIDO (Jun 22, 1957) is an earlier road trip movie by Antonioni which is far more bleak and depressing. Don't take a date to see this film. I made that mistake. After several hours of gloomy black and white angst, we staggered out shell shocked and romance was no longer in the air. Once again Antonioni uses the aimless road trip to dissect a modern condition bereft of belief which is mirrored in the pointless wandering of the hero who travels mainly by hitch hiking.

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midnight cowboy.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY (May 25, 1969) was based upon a book by James Leo Herlihy. It follows Texan Joe Buck's road trip to New York. His adventures in underworld NYC attempting to make it as a gigolo lead to a friendship with street scuffler "Ratso" Rizzo which changes him. The film opens with a long Greyhound bus trip from Texas to NYC. Buck encounters various people and places, lapsing into dreams of his past. The movie ends with a bus trip from NYC to Florida with Rizzo. Both of the trips feature scenes that chronicle the wandering of Buck's mind through memory and fantasy as the bus churns down the road.

midnight cowboy lp

The soundtrack to MIDNIGHT COWBOY had big hits with "Everybody's Talkin" sung by Nilsson, and the haunting harmonica theme song "Midnight Cowboy". The soundtrack LP was released by United Artists.

midnight cowboy reear lp

midnight cowboy dvd

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the passenger

THE PASSENGER (Apr 9, 1975) follows Jack Nicholson's rambling road trip after he impulsively assumes the identity of a dead gun runner. Maria Schneider, fresh out of LAST TANGO IN PARIS joins the trek around Europe in a convertible. Antonioni pulls the camera back on a conversation to put it into its perspective amongst the vastness of the landscape. He seems to be saying that we put meaning into our communications, which are just one fragment of the huge world with all of its other sounds and motions. There are incredibly long shots that emphasize the slow undulating movements across the earth that Nicholson is making. The last scene is very long with intricate camera work that works in tandem with some great non verbal acting on Jack's part.

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ROADSIDE PROPHETS (March 27, 1992)

The New York debut of this film didn't make much of an impact. Written and directed by Abbe Wool (electrician on BIG LEBOWSKI, ALPHA DOG) the film has some of the offbeat humor associated with a later road film by the Coen Brothers OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU which also uses a classic quest interwoven into a modern setting. WILD AT HEART also adapted a classic tale (Wizard of Oz) into a modern road movie. All of these films share a mix of drama and comedy as quirky characters are encountered along the road.

ROADSIDE PROPHETS uses dialogue too obviously to make points while simultaneously trying to make story transitions. The hasty 'explanation dialogue' causes some scenes to become awkward, but John Doe's grounded acting holds it together. The concept of the film grows on you as you watch it. John Doe stars as ultra cool divorced factory worker Joe Mosley. Joe's new friend David Coleman rants to Joe about wanting to hit the Jackpot in Eldorado just before being electrocuted by a video game in a strip joint. In a take off on the EASY RIDER scene where they stash dope in the gas tank, Joe puts David Coleman's ashes in a gas tank and takes off on his 1957 Harley Davidson from San Bernardino, California to find 'Eldorado, Nevada'.

Joe is stalked by a hyper nerdy kid named Sam (Adam Horovitz) who follows him around on a Triumph Bonneville. When the chain breaks on Joe's bike a slow moving blue pickup truck stops with a standard appearing rancher behind the wheel. The rancher (played by Timothy Leary) begins dispensing metaphysical advice. Cameos by other 'Roadside Prophets' include Arlo Guthrie as a settled down former biker talking about prehistoric fish, John Cusak as 'Caspar' a dine and dash subversive and David Carradine as a guitar strumming hookah smoking Gladiator historian. Other actors from the music scene include Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers (appearing as a member of the Too Free Stooges act seen in Vegas) and the two lead actors. Adam Horovitz was a member of the Beastie Boys at the time this film was made and John Doe was a former member of X.

The Carradine scene occurs in Eldorado Canyon, a desolate campground which bears no resemblance to David Coleman's description of 'Eldorado'. This pushes the travelers to widen the scope of their search for the 'true Eldorado'.

Sam is obsessed with staying at Motel 9s wherever they go which causes a rift when Joe waits out rain in a small town hotel. Sam carries on to Ely, Nevada which they have both surmised could be 'Eldorado'. On the highway Joe picks up an exotic dancer Miss Labia Mirage (Jennifer Balgobin) he had spent the night with prior in Las Vegas. Her character refers to him as Conquistador to make the symbolism of Eldorado more overtly explicit to viewers.

After taking Highway 50 ('the Loneliest Road in America') Joe finds Sam and defuses his rage at being left alone by Joe. They go drinking in the bar at the Jackpot, Nevada Motel 9 casino. Sam reveals that his parents checked into a Motel 9 under phony names and committed suicide. He stalks Motel 9s in some vain attempt to discover their fate which Joe compares to his pointless search for a place to dump the ashes of a guy he barely knew. After a week of covering for him, Angie the human resources girl at the factory loses patience with Joe and he loses his job.

David Coleman's last words just before dying were,

"Everyone gets lucky sometime!"

This could be seen as ironic or prophetic. Joe and Sam take it as a sign they are going to turn this around. Their journey can't end like this. They gamble and lose all the money. Then Joe has an inspiration and asks the casino teller to lend them money. She readily advances them $3,000.00 after they name drop David Coleman. They lose all of it. Signing over the titles to their bikes they are still $200.000 short. Labia Mirage covers for them and gets on a bus for the Yukon informing Joe that her real name is Prudence Kierkegaard.

If David Coleman's last words simply meant that letting go is 'lucky' and his death was welcome then his comment can be referenced to conversations throughout the film with a dying couple (one with radiation induced cancer, the other with AIDS) or a lonely old man who has sat on the sidelines of life all of whom extol death as welcome to some.

The travelers dump the ashes and are headed back to L.A. where Joe hopes to get his job back. A young hitchhiking teen escaping from a work camp catches Sam's fancy and he follows her hitchhiking to "Idaho or Alaska". Losing everything is seemingly lucky for the pair of travelers. Joe has complained that he is in a rut and now he has been freed. When Joe spots a 1970s Thunderbird heading north on Highway 93, he crosses over and gets a ride to "Idaho or Alaska".

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SMOKE SIGNALS (Jan 16, 1998)

SMOKE SIGNALS is based upon the popular Sherman Alexie book "The Lone Ranger and Tonto's Fistfight in Heaven". Victor and Thomas grew up on the Cour D'Alene, Idaho reservation together. Both have issues surrounding Victor's father who saved Thomas. His parents threw him to safety out the window of a burning house when he was baby back in July 4, 1976. Victor's father also saved Victor although he wasn't aware of that until later. Thomas' parents died in the fire and he was raised by a grandmother. He is a quirky storyteller. Victor is annoyed by Thomas' idolizing of his father because he saw him as a mean drunk. Victor is a teetotaller as a reaction to his father's alcoholism. He is also mad at the world because his father left he and his mother when he was 12.

When word reaches the reservation that Victor's father has died, Victor reluctantly allows Thomas to accompany him to pick up his father's old yellow pickup truck from the Phoenix, Arizona area. The two young men get a ride from a funny pair of girls on the reservation whose mid 1960s two door Chevelle only drives in reverse. They then take a Greyhound bus to Phoenix.

Thomas contributes money and elaborate fantasy versions of stories revolving around Victor's father. Victor tries to break some of Thomas' quirks and schools him in being a stoic Indian who trusts no one. When the pair arrive at a trailer park a friend of Victor's father, a young girl hands over the ashes. She tries to break through to Victor who still resents his father and doesn't believe that he quit drinking or had regrets about leaving.

On the road home Victor and Thomas get into a fight regarding the true nature of Victor's father and Victor's bad attitude. As the argument escalates a narrow miss with a roadside accident propels Victor into being the hero. He runs 20 miles for help. This positive action marks the start of his new attitude now that he has forgiven his father for leaving. The two arrive back home. The 6 day trip has changed Victor's attitude towards his father and to Thomas. The two share equal portions of Victor's father's ashes.

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two lane blacktop dvd

two lane blacktop dvd back

TWO LANE BLACKTOP (July 7, 1971) follows the travels of The Driver (James Taylor) and The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson) cruising USA seeking drag races for The Car, a 55 Chevy with a built 454. The Girl (Laurie Bird) tags along with them, frustrated by their distant personalities and their narrow focus entirely on cars. They goad the driver of a 1970 Orbit Orange GTO with a 455 into a race to Washington, DC against The Car. The GTO driver is named of course, GTO, played in a wonderfully amusing and touching performance by Warren Oates. Oates and director Monte Hellman paired repeatedly, creating a team similar to DeNiro and Scorcese. GTO spins outrageous tales about his past to various hitchhikers as he teeters on the verge of a total breakdown.

Most of the film has wide open vistas and driving scenes, sparse dialogue, capturing the openness of the road as well as depicting the vacuum within the characters. The film verges on being an art film as minimalist dialogue allows overwhelming views of the open space to dominate. The space that characters must fill highlights their inner shortcomings.

The film is also a nice documentary of the racing subculture and life of nomads, using real street racers and drag strips. Much of the touted austere style of the film is credited to the low budget, as attested to by an amused Hellman in interviews, but it serves to capture the loneliness of the drifters. Conversations in the film contrast the readymade factory supercar GTO unfavorably to the home grown custom Chevy. The race disintegrates and is essentially dropped. Neither of the racers ever goes to Washington, DC which is significantly the source of legislation that was crushing the muscle car culture. The characters split up and continue on their separate road trips as the film concludes.

 

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 27 June 2017 21:07 )