Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Over the years since its theatrical release, during which it has been revived and discussed endlessly, I have had numerous opportunities to see Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974). I never took advantage of those opportunities until recently, when I watched the film on cable TV. Since I wasn't expecting very much, I can't say that I was disappointed. Seeing it merely confirmed something I have always thought about Coppola: he is a quite mediocre filmmaker. 

A considerable part of Coppola's reputation as a filmmaker rests on The Conversation, a monochromatic character study of a professional eavesdropper who takes a more-than-professional interest in his latest assignment and gets in over his head. The film has been extolled as a Great American Film, on the severely foreshortened scale with which American films are measured. It won the Palm d'Or at Cannes in 1974. It lost to The Godfather Part II for the Best Picture Oscar.

Who could blame a professional wire-tapper for occasionally being paranoid? Except that Coppola's hero, Harry Caul, lives behind triple-locks in an empty apartment, which is further protected from unwanted entry by an alarm that sounds like a fire alarm, uses pay phones rather than a home phone, keeps his office and all of his expensive and sophisticated equipment (mostly of his own design) in a nondescript warehouse. He avoids personal contact, and frequents prostitutes rather than bother about a girlfriend. He goes everywhere wearing a thin grey raincoat that gives him the unfortunate appearance of peep-show pervert. Why does Coppola make Harry, whom a colleague calls the "best bugger on the east coast", so seedy and sinister? Harry and his equally dismal friends are extremely proud of their expertise and their ability to pry into anyone's privacy, no matter how isolated or impossible to reach. It is a world very far below espionage, which at least has a higher aim - even if that aim isn't always clear.

Coppola was obviously paying belated homage to Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up. He even introduces a mime in the opening shots, echoing the troupe of mimes that frames Blow-Up, who appear boisterously at the beginning and who play the famous tennis match with an invisible ball during the closing scene. (1) Coppola's mime (Robert Shields, who went on to fame as one half of "Shields and Yarnell") is nothing much more than what mimes usually are in the park - annoyances.

Coppola's homage would've been welcome if The Conversation were a better film.  Antonioni's hero stumbles onto a murder. In Coppola's film, which is intended to be "existentialist", Harry actively listens in on a murder. Antonioni's film explores reality and how we manipulate it to suit our purposes. Coppola's film is a low-intensity thriller about how one man's cleverness betrays him.

Gene Hackman does the best he can with an amorphous character. He tells a prostitute who asks him too many questions (Teri Garr), "I don't have any secrets." Alas, the film shows us what a sphinx without riddles he really is.  Hackman has made a long and impressive career out of playing men who always seem to stand at a slight abgle to their fates. Harry tries to be as invisible as possible, nothing but a pair of ears pressed to a receiver. Whatever may have been the cause of his inability to connect with or to trust anyone is left to more patient imaginations than mine. I am willing to take plenty of information about a character on trust as long as it doesn't leave me hanging, as Coppola's film does.  I was no closer to knowing Harry Caul at the end of his misadventure than I was at its beginning.

The rest of the cast is a veritable who's who of aspiring 70s American actors. Cindy Williams, memorable for American Graffiti, forgettable for Laverne and Shirley, plays the wife of a business executive whom Hackman assumes is a potential victim (his dream of confessing his surveillance of her is particularly stupid). That she emerges as a co-conspirator was a plot twist that fell flat. Harrison Ford, before Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, is a completely unsinister threat, doing little more than contribute to Harry's paranoia. John Cazale, who was in practically every other significant film of the 70s (Dog Day Afternoon, The Deer Hunter) is fine as one of Harry's cohorts. 

The film closes with Harry sitting in his ruined apartment, after he has destroyed it looking for a bug (a hidden microphone). For relaxation, Harry accompanies jazz recordings on his saxophone. It's a working metaphor, if you will, for Coppola's pedestrian accompaniment of Antonioni's art.

(1) I prefer to interpret Antonioni's mimes as other than metaphorical. They are as much as they seem.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Christmas in July

As some of my readers - all three of you - should know by now, I am currently living in the Philippines. As much as I always wish I were home, I am having difficulty imagining what it must be like to be there right now, a week after the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado.

Aurora, a suburb on the east side of Denver, was my home, off an on, for twenty-five years. I even went to the same movie theater, next to Aurora Mall, on several occasions. The last film I saw there was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on Christmas Day, 2000.  Last Wednesday, I learned something that, at first, I thought was incredible: applications for gun purchases in Colorado have spiked 43% since the shootings.

While most observers might believe that such incidents, which seem to be proliferating, will give the American National Rifle Association, the powerful Washington lobbyists, a massive headache, I think that the NRA couldn't have asked for a better prospect for America. 

The last opportunity the American government had to at least propose new gun control legislation was after the shootings in Tucson, Arizona in January 2011, in which six people were killed and U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords survived being shot through the head.  The newly elected Tea Party members of Congress, however, vowed to block any legislation tampering with the Second Amendment to the Constitution. And less than four months from our next election day, the issue won't be addressed substantively any time soon.

Clearly, without laws in place that would protect them from being killed by their unhinged fellow citizens, Americans can no longer depend on a reasonable expectation that they can go anywhere - the mall, a grocery store, a restaurant, a movie theater - without potentially being shot at. And since the law can't protect them, their only recourse is to protect themselves.

 It's a waste of time trying to make Second Amendment advocates understand that the age in which the Constitution was drafted is radically different from our own age, and that the Second Amendment, which meant a great deal right after our war of independence, means very little today, precisely because a gun - be it a rifle, shotgun, or handgun - is such a pitiful defense against a tank, a bomber plane, or a weapon of mass destruction. If the U.S. were ever invaded by a foreign power and ordinary citizens owning guns tried to fight, they would be massacred.

So it's another early Christmas for the NRA. Every time there is a mass shooting in America, in the absence of any political action that might make it harder for a wacko to get his hands on all the guns and ammo he needs, perfectly legally, there is no other choice for many Americans but to exercise their Second Amendment right to "bear arms". Prisoners of their own government, which is allowing a political interest group to endanger their lives, Americans, who have seen too many shoot-'em-up movies (including the ultimate, called Shoot 'Em Up) will have to gird their loins before going to work, or to the convenience store, or a bar, or a movie theater - especially if the movie is a violent one. The NRA couldn't have planned it better.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vicarious Murder

Watching the live television coverage of the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, I was struck by a statement made by one of the survivors, who saw a young girl covered in blood with apparent bullet wounds in her legs. "I don't ever want to see something like that again," he said with tears in his eyes. Yet he had gone to the theater to see precisely that, and much worse, on the movie screen.

If there is one thing that the motion picture has proven itself to be particularly adept at, aside from what James Agee called "illuminating the bottoms of the souls of human beings", it is the realistic representation of violence. The American film in particular has shown an alacrity for guns and explosions. One of the most memorable scenes in D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, which turns 100 in 2015, is a Civil War battle scene in which a Confederate army wins.

One Hollywood studio, Warner Brothers, made crime and violence its staple in the 1930s with films like Little Caesar and Public Enemy. The violence of these films helped establish the Hays Office, which thereafter, and until the 1960s, censored Hollywood films. When such censorship was dropped, and filmmakers began to explore formerly taboo material, critics began to wonder if there was any correlation between movie violence and violence in society.

It is by now a very old argument that simply won't go away. Does the film like Bonnie and Clyde, which was one of the films that started the ball rolling, inspire violence in society? At the time (1968), Wilfrid Sheed noticed the pandemonium in that Los Angeles hotel when Sirhan Sirhan opened fire on Bobby Kennedy. The people there had no difficulty recognizing the difference between the guns blazing away on the movie screen and the one handgun pumping lead at a candidate for president, and anyone else standing close by. Sheed concluded that "A kick in the groin is quite different from a pretty picture of one."

The audience in Aurora that had gathered to watch a special midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises last Friday was slow to react to the man who kicked open the exit door in the front of the theater and started shooting. Some said that they mistook his appearance for a stunt staged as part of the show. Then the teargas canister - or whatever it was - exploded and real shrapnel and bullets started flying. I imagine the crowd would've reacted more quickly if they had come to see Eat Pray Love. A television news anchor asked a movie critic if the slaughter in Aurora would affect ticket sales for The Dark Knight Rises. He said he didn't think that it would. Today it was announced that it had the highest-grossing weekend opening of all time.

I have been critical of filmmakers who choose to explore the lives of sociopaths - people who are very far removed from their experience. Martin Scorsese has led a circumspectly civilized life, and yet he makes films about unhinged murderers, and many critics, vicarious murderers themselves, praise his work unreservedly. The first two Godfather films are routinely voted into Top Ten lists of all-time great films, alongside Battleship Potemkin and Citizen Kane. The Godfather(s) explore the hierarchy of the Sicilian-American Mafia with a degree of familiarity and sympathy that for their director, Francis Ford Coppola, had to have been an act of pure imagination (unless you want to attribute it to the trash novel on which it's based) - the same way a science fiction writer might describe life in the distant future.

It isn't so much the influence that violent films inflict on society that bothers me so much as the estheticized violence one finds in them. Sam Peckinpah, who had what John Simon a "Wagerian sense of violence", was one of the first directors to take a fresh look at violence in films. He didn't invent the slow-motion, almost balletic representation of violent death that one finds in abundance in his masterpiece The Wild Bunch, but he certainly raised it to its highest level. But in later interviews he regretted this, and feared that, in looking at such violence so abstractly, he may have glamorized it to some extent.

It's one thing to glamorize violence, to make it look strangely beautiful, and to glamorize the monsters who inflict it on one another, which is what The Godfather(s) do. In Goodfellas, to Martin Scorsese's credit, there is a great emphasis on murder, but there is never a suggestion that any of the people doing the murdering are anything but the most deplorable criminals. Bonnie and Clyde had to get close to its subjects, but in so doing showed us what a pair of stupid losers they really were, and quite deserving of their bloody fate.

The new Batman movie wreaks havoc on a humanity that is meant to resemble the real thing. As the makers of these desperately silly movies have discovered, it is only the extent to which they approximate to real people that the audience cares what becomes of them. Bruce Wayne is so manifestly psychotic that it is only his vast wealth that enables him to live in actual castles in the air. He can give substance to his insane fantasy life in ways that some of the worst fans of these movies can only dream of. If there is an act of identification going on in the audience, I shudder to think about it.

In the days immediately following the shootings in Aurora, experts were giving parents advice about how to explain the event to their children. Unless their children are very young, in which case it's a bad idea to even try to explain it to them, I suspect that children, who are exposed to such violence in films, on TV, and in computer games all the time, have already figured it out. This is a world, after all, in which Anders Breivik, who shot and killed 69 people a year ago in Norway, has been certified sane.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Globe to Globe

It's a clever name, Globe to Globe, this year's World Shakespeare Festival. The website explains:

In an event of unprecedented ambition, all of Shakespeare’s plays will be performed, each in a different language, each by a different international company.

Every day for six weeks, national theatres, renowned artists and new young companies will celebrate performing Shakespeare in their own language, within the architecture Shakespeare wrote for.

London is trying very hard to make its Olympics into some kind of cultural event. If anyone wondered, aside from Turks, what Antony and Cleopatra is like in Turkish, they need go no further than the wondrously reconstructed Globe Theater in London, the cherished dream of American actor Sam Wanamaker. We English-speakers get only Henry V in Shakespeare's English, which is a crying shame, and not simply because it isn't one of the bard's best.

One of the most memorable American stage productions of Shakespeare was produced in 1936 by 20-year-old Orson Welles for the Federal Theater Project. It was memorable for infusing the play with African elements, staging an all-black cast, and, by changing the setting from Scotland to the Caribbean, became known as the "Voodoo Macbeth". But at least Welles kept Shakespeare's words intact.

I have heard Shakespeare performed in German, French, Italian, Russian, and even Japanese. Since I know the plays and am familiar with their plots, I could follow what was happening in every scene, and, like a religious service in a foreign tongue, I knew roughly what was being said. One of the privileges that being a native English speaker has given me is the ability to read Shakespeare and to see his plays performed in the very words that he, or his actors, transcribed.

Translation is based on the assumption that any piece of writing, even a great one, can be told as well in other words. But whose words? When some great writers, like Nabokov, translate their own writing from one language to another, the results can be as interesting - if not more so - as the original. But even Nabokov must have known that it was a kind of betrayal, or his former, younger self.

With poetry, translation is esecially difficult, if not impossible. The verbal precision of poetry, not to mention all of its non-verbal qualities, euphonic and mnemonic, make the sense of a poem inseparable from its words. Even when they can be separated, the results can show what a bad idea it was in the first place. If you separate Shakespeare's Macbeth from Shakespeare's words, and return to the place where Shakespeare found the story, in Holinshed's Chronicles, you are left with a atrange and obscure episode. One of the greatest Japanese filmmakers, Akira Kurosawa, did just that when he adapted Macbeth to medieval Japan in his film Throne of Blood (1958). Although the film is visually striking in many scenes, particularly in the climactic scenes in which a forest, as foretold by the witch, appear to march on the hero's castle, it is lost without Shakespeare's words, even when Kurosawa attempts to faithfully translate them into Japanese. Harold Bloom called it "the most successful film version of Macbeth." Which is meaningless since every other filmed Macbeth is terrible.

The translator's job is comparable to that of the stage director - he imposes his own interpretation on the work he is translating. In an early Autobiography Igor Stravinsky wrote of his admiration for the conductor Pierre Monteux who "was able to achieve a very clear and finished execution of my score [le Sacre du Printemps]. I ask no more of a conductor, for any other attitude on his part immediately turns into interpretation, a thing I have a horror of. The interpreter of necessity can think of nothing but interpretation, and thus takes on the garb of a translator, traduttore - traditore ["traitor"]; This is an absurdity in music, and for the interpreter it is a source of vanity inevitably leading to the most ridiculous megalomania." (Igor Stravinsky, An Autobiography,  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1936)

Non-English-speaking audiences who attended this year's International Shakespeare Festival didn't have a chance to discover Shakespeare in person, since they had to contend with the 37 plays in 37 different languages in 37 different interpretations. Timon of Athens in German might be interesting. As would Julius Caesar in Italian. But The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew? Or how about Othello in "HipHop". Pericles in Greek would still be Greek to me.

I watched a BBC profile of an Afghan woman who was tasked with directing an all-new translation (in Dari) of The Comedy of Errors. No mention was made of her lack of familiarity with Shakespeare's language and of the four hundred years theatrical history of the play. But audiences in London heard Shakespeare spoken in Dari for the first time. I doubt that, with all the alterations of time and setting, even if it's the same old Globe he knew (if at a different address), Shakespeare himself, his ghost hovering in the galleries, would recognize his own plays. Has anyone else mentioned what a dumb idea this is? 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Who's On Third?

On June 23rd, a women's 100 meter race of USA Track & Field made headlines when two runners, Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh, tied for third. It was a photo finish, so to determine the true winner (and true loser), the photograph - taken at  3,000 frames per second (we must be exact here)- was consulted. The photo didn't settle the problem of who came in third, but exacerbated it. It was as close a tie as possible. But since there can be no ties in a track and field event, the official rules had to be consulted. The outcome of the race had to be settled, seriously, by a coin toss.

What this controversy highlighted for me is the absurdity of all such sporting contests. When winning, or in this case, showing, is the only goal, but when losing is the overwhelmingly probably outcome, what is the point of competing in any sporting event? Reports of the race results never mention the people who came in 4th or 8th or last, do they? They are forgotten. Yet they are the ones who can teach us something.

I saw an Olympic runner from Morocco on TV the other day, talking about how the word "lose" doesn't exist. Lucky guy. Does he ever think about the runners whom he left in the dust? Of course not. He spends his life always looking forward. My ideal race is the one in which all ten runners cross the finish line simultaneously. A photo finish won't help. There they are, all ten of them, apparently crossing the finish line at the exact same moment. What would they do? Stage another race? Toss a coin? The coin would have to have ten sides.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Computer Degeneration

When Goethe was writing Faust he made an interesting discovery. At the moment in Part I when Faust agrees to Mephistopheles' pact, and can have every wish fulfilled, Goethe realized that, when anything becomes possible, there is no more drama.

Like Faust and Mephistopheles, film has made a similar pact with CGI, or "Computer Generated Imagery". Instead of shooting images of real people and things in real places, a filmmaker can create an entire film with a computer. With the "help" of CGI, a filmmaker like Ridley Scott can join shots of actors in costume with a computer-generated Roman Colosseum in Gladiator. Or Peter Jackson can juxtapose his breathing actors and New Zealand landscapes with computer-generated creatures and landscapes in his re-creation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Animation has been revolutionized by CGI, and the results (Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, etc.) are often marvelous.

Unfortunately, CGI has succeeded in making filmmaking both easy and impossible. As film has grown more tediously illustrative and less expressive, making grossly obvious what ought to be inferable to an intelligent viewer, it has fallen further from its essence. At the beginning of the documentary, Le Fantome d'Henri Langlois, Langlois stands in front of a screen on which is being projected an old film:

"My goal was to show shadows of the living coexisting with shadows of the dead. For that's the essence of film. It supercedes time and space. It goes beyond the 4th dimension. Here we see Seville in a fragment of a re-framed Lumière film. It's a procession there in 1895. But that's not what counts. What matters is that these people are like us and as they walk, we walk along. So the audience is right there with them.

At the beginning of the Kevin Brownlow series Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood, Kenneth Branagh narrates:

"A hundred years ago, moving pictures were a miracle. When audiences saw this train [ L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat - see photo above] coming at them, they were overwhelmed. A new art with a new power was released."

The essence of film is the recording of images of real people and places, arranged in a form that creates a narrative. Robert Bresson also saw this truth:

"For me, filmmaking is combining images and sounds of real things in an order that makes them effective. What I disapprove of is photographing with that extraordinary instrument — the camera — things that are not real. Sets and actors are not real."

Unlike Bresson, I am prepared to accept the substantive truth even of sets and actors. Every great movement in film history, from French Poetic Realism in the 1930s to Italian Neo-Realism to the French New Wave all the way up to the Danish Dogme, has been a rediscovery of this truth and a rediscovery of the world. What is patently false is the creation of images, with the aid of computers, of people and places that are not real.

In the DVD commentary for his film The Tailor of Panama, director John Boorman (Point Blank, Deliverance) claimed that he wished that he could put a disclaimer in the closing credits similar to that of the American Humane Society's that would read: "No CGI was used in the making of this film." Would that more filmmakers made such a claim.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ernest Borgnine

"I did [think it - The Wild Bunch - was a moral film]. Because to me, every picture should have some kind of a moral to it. I feel that when we used to watch old pictures, as we still do I'm sure, the bad guys always got it in the end and the good guys always won out. Today it's a little different. Today it seems that the bad guys are getting the good end of it. There was always a moral in our story." (1)

He doesn't look like an Ernest.

I must have seen Ernest Borgnine (Ermes Effron Borgnino 1917-2012) for the first time on his TV show, McHale's Navy (1962-66) when I was a kid. Once a week, there was Borgnine on his PT boat (#103) somewhere in the Pacific, still fighting the Japs. And it reassured middle-aged Americans that things hadn't changed that much since the end of WWII - even though they had.

You could tell Borgnine was a tough guy. But, like most heavy men, he never had to demonstrate it. I saw him regularly on the TV game show Hollywood Squares, with the host Peter Marshall calling him - who knows why - "Ernie Borganinny". Then a thoughtful neighbor couple took their son and me to the Starlight Drive-In in Columbia, South Carolina to see him in The Wild Bunch. I was just 12, but the R rating was evidently not enforced at drive-ins. The film's violence was so disturbing to me that I had to half-close my eyes in the back seat. (I opened them again for the nude scenes.)

Borgnine played Dutch Engstrom, old friend of Pike Bishop, played with unforgettable world-weariness by William Holden. Pike was the obvious leader of the gang of outlaws, but Dutch had to put him in his place now and then. In a late scene, as Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) and his scavengers can be seen gaining on them as they flee deep into Mexico, Dutch says: "Damn that Deke Thornton to hell!" Pike responds:

"What would you do in his place? He gave his word."
Dutch: "Gave his word to a railroad."
Pike: "It's his word!"
Dutch: "That ain't what counts! It's who you give it to!"

When Pike resolves to take himself and his three comrades out with a bang, Dutch is sitting outside on the ground, whittling on a stick. He looks up as Pike and the two others emerge from a cantina. The look in Pike's eyes ("let's go!") makes him laugh. It's the same laugh we hear when Dutch notices after they shoot General Mapache to death and his whole army raises their hands as if in surrender. It's Dutch's full-throated sawed-off shotgun you hear so prominently in the ensuing, magnificent mêlée. He's the last to go down. He speaks the last line of the scene, "Pike".

The last thing I saw Borgnine in was an episode of the film 11'09"01, September 11, a composite of eleven short films, from eleven directors, in eleven countries. Sean Penn directed the one with Borgnine. He's the only actor in the film, who walks around his Manhattan apartment, talking to someone who isn't there - his wife who has died but whose death he can't accept. Until the Twin Towers fall and his apartment is suddenly flooded with sunlight. A vase of withered flowers springs - literally - to life and Borgnine comes to his senses, weeping for his lost wife.

Borgnine was wonderful, despite the piece itself being sadly bad. Like so many great actors we've never met, his films will keep him alive as long as people watch them.

(1) "Features NFT Interviews Ernest Borgnine". BFI. October 10, 2007.

Monday, July 2, 2012

I haven't actually celebrated the 4th of July in a long time. 1994, I think, was the last time I joined a group of people to drink beer and watch the fireworks. It was atop the ruins of Katsuren Castle in Okinawa, and the fireworks display was visible from Kadena Air Force Base on the other side of the island.

I have noted before how Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite for hokum. They like to be reminded that they're living in the greatest country in the world. It isn't so much the message that I find tiresome, since I happen to agree with it. It's the fulsome and saccharine language and imagery with which the message is so often delivered that I object to.

The feelings that I have for my country are powerful but complex. I prefer the more subtle and sensible expressions of patriotic feeling. This 4th of July, I'm italicizing two speeches that, for me, capture the soul of the holiday better than most others.

From Abraham Lincoln's Reply to Judge Douglas at Chicago on Popular Sovereignty, the
Nebraska Bill, etc. July 10, 1858:

"Now, it happens that we meet together once every year, somewhere about
the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of July gatherings,
I suppose, have their uses. If you will indulge me, I will state what I
suppose to be some of them.

"We are now a mighty nation: we are thirty, or about thirty, millions of
people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land
of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for
about eighty-two years, and we discover that we were then a very small
people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a
vastly less extent of country, with vastly less of everything we deem
desirable among men. We look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous
to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away
back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of
prosperity. We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as
our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men; they fought for the
principle that they were contending for, and we understand that by what
they then did, it has followed that the degree of prosperity which we
now enjoy has come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind
ourselves of all the good done in this process of time,--of how it was
done, and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and
we go from these meetings in better humour with ourselves,--we feel more
attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we
inhabit. In every way we are better men, in the age and race and country
in which we live, for these celebrations. But after we have done all
this, we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else
connected with it. We have, besides these men--descended by blood from
our ancestors--among us, perhaps half our people who are not descendants
at all of these men; they are men who have come from Europe,--German,
Irish, French, and Scandinavian,--men that have come from Europe
themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here,
finding themselves our equal in all things. If they look back through
this history, to trace their connection with those days by blood, they
find they have none: they cannot carry themselves back into that
glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us; but
when they look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find
that those old men say that "we hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal," and then they feel that that moral
sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that
it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a
right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of
the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration; and so they are. That
is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of
patriotic and liberty-loving men together; that will link those
patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of
men throughout the world."

The other speech is delivered in the movie Meet John Doe by veteran character actor James Gleason. He's drunk, and has something to tell Gary Cooper:

"You're a nice guy, John. I like you. You're gentle. I like gentle people. Me? I'm hard — hard and tough. Yep, I'm hard. But you want to know something? I've got a weakness. You'd never guess that, would you? Well, I have. Want to know what it is?
The Star Spangled Banner. Screwy, huh? Well, maybe it is. But play the 'Star Spangled Banner' — and I'm a sucker for it. It always gets me right here — [points at his chest]. You know what I mean? It gets me right back here. [points to the back of his neck] You weren't old enough for the first world war, were you? Course not. Must have been a kid. I was. I was just ripe. And rarin' to go. Know what my old man did when I joined up? He joined up too. Got to be a sergeant. That's a kick for you. We were in the same outfit. Funny, huh? He was killed, John. I saw him get it. I was right there and saw it with my own eyes. Me? I came out of it without a scratch. Except for my ulcers. Should be drinking milk. This stuff's poison. Yessir. I'm a sucker for this country. I'm a sucker for the Star Spangled Banner — and I'm a sucker for this country. I like what we got here! I like it! A guy can say what he wants—and do what he wants — without having a bayonet shoved through his belly. Now, that's all right, isn't it? All right. And we don't want anybody coming around changing it, do we? No, sir. No, sir. And when they do I get mad! I get b-boiling mad. And right now, John, I'm sizzling! I get mad for a lot of other guys besides myself - I get mad for a guy named Washington! And a guy named Jefferson—and Lincoln. Lighthouses, John! Lighthouses in a foggy world! You know what I mean?"

Watch the scene here.