Bert Schneider: 1933 — 2011
“Who???” I hadn’t heard of him either until I saw his obituary a few days ago. But his work lives on. Bert Schneider brought us “The Monkees,” “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces,” “The Last Picture Show” and “Hearts and Minds.”
I never watched the Monkees’ TV show but I liked a lot of their songs (there, I’ve admitted it). Quite a leap from TV pap to heavy hitters like Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces and The Last Picture Show.
Heaviest of all was his Oscar-winning “Hearts and Minds” (1975) about the Vietnam War. The movie was named after Lyndon Johnson’s speech where he said we need to capture the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people if we want to win the Vietnam War. Or maybe it was unofficially named after Charles Colson’s “grab them by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow.”
It’s one of those movies where you’re glad you saw it because it’s so deep, but you’re reluctant to recommend it to anyone. It’s too much of an emotional roller coaster. The movie was mostly a series of short interviews and film clips, juxtaposed for maximum emotional impact. A person is sitting there, giving an emotionless recital of all the bombing runs he made, all the people he’s killed. Then the camera moves further away and you can see for the first time that he’s in a wheelchair. Another scene shows a Vietnamese funeral. Bereaved relatives are sobbing, stamping their feet, clawing at the casket. The next scene is General Westmoreland saying “You know, Orientals don’t place the same high value on human life that we do here in the West.”
Stuff like that.
Sometimes you just want to tune that shit out and watch The Monkees.