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74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite films
This movie is probably not for everyone. It is slow in places, and it does not involve cars being blown up and people getting shot. It is a very personal portrait of one immigrant family. It is peculiar that it makes me feel nostalgic even though I was born in the 70s and in another country at that. In any case, as someone who grew up around immigrants I enjoyed the...
Published on May 11, 2000 by Igor Gershenson

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a simple, pleasant, nostalgic window back in time
A pretty authentic story of a Jewish immigrant family named Kirchinsky. It mostly revolves around Sam Kirchinsky who came to America in 1914. -- As members of his family had come to America and made a living, they would save and pool together and bring another family member over and help them get on their feet and then bring over another (which is how Sam's brothers...
Published on September 16, 2012 by N. Gregg


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74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite films, May 11, 2000
This review is from: Avalon [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This movie is probably not for everyone. It is slow in places, and it does not involve cars being blown up and people getting shot. It is a very personal portrait of one immigrant family. It is peculiar that it makes me feel nostalgic even though I was born in the 70s and in another country at that. In any case, as someone who grew up around immigrants I enjoyed the accurate depiction of relationships within immigrant families. The turkey scene, for example, is an absolute classic. It is funny on the one hand, but, believe it or not, it is also tragic for it very accurately shows how little arguments can ruin relationships between close relatives. We have all seen it happen. The film also accurately depicts the tension between the haves and the have-nots within a family. I have seen this movie many times and I never get tired of it. It is very poignant and beautifly acted. I especially love the scene of the grandfather coming to America. I want to cry every time I see it. It is sort of surreal and you know when watching it that it is just his memory we are seeing,not reality.... I loved this movie. By the way, the score is wonderful also.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barry Levinson's Personal Epic Is Also His Forgotten Masterpiece, January 11, 2007
This review is from: Avalon (DVD)
Looking back at some recent comedies by Barry Levinson ("Envy" and "Man of the Year"), it's hard to remember the not-so-distant past when he was a major Hollywood director. A primary creative force behind TV's lauded "Homicide," he also won accolades for film projects as diverse as "Diner" in 1982 to "Wag the Dog" in 1997. And for a few years, he was on a real roll of serious minded and critically acclaimed movies--"Good Morning, Vietnam" followed by an Oscar for "Rain Man" and then another nomination for "Bugsy." Well, in between "Rain Man" and "Bugsy" (both films that I would rate at 5 stars for different reasons), he made his most personal film yet. While "Avalon" doesn't have the high profile of some of these other films (it did secure some writing awards for Levinson, however)--it is my favorite. It's a little film, a quiet character study, a wistfully nostalgic look at a more innocent time--but it's done on an epic scale.

"Avalon" is a fictionalized (and idealized) account of Levinson's own history, a Jewish family from Russia emigrates to the United States to seek prosperity and happiness. Set largely in the Baltimore of the 1940s and 1950s, "Avalon" gently examines family and the discovery of new opportunity. Plot-wise, there isn't a lot to account for--this film doesn't just seek to tell a story, but to strike a mood and create a feeling. There are just great scenes of familial interaction, funny scenes about growing up, scenes of wonder at the progress of a new country. The film might be one of the strongest family films ever. In a day where every film represents dysfunction and quirkiness, "Avalon" is a sweet throwback. This film is based on love, communication, and how people can naturally drift apart. It can come across as innocent and sanitized, perhaps, but the writing is so crisp and observant and the performances are beautiful. To further set a mood, the film is shot beautifully with gorgeous colors and expanses and the score is spot on.

The film stars a young Elijah Wood (as Levinson's surrogate, we presume). Much of the film's wonder comes from seeing things from a child's perspective. It's easy to forget how long Wood has been around what with the "Lord of the Rings" phenomenon--but this is one of his earliest starring roles. His parents are played by Aidan Quinn and Elizabeth Perkins--both giving perfectly nuanced performances. But if the film belongs to anyone--it's Armin Mueller-Stahl as the grandfather. I've always felt that if this film had a slightly larger profile on its release, that this could have been his Oscar.

"Avalon" may not be for everyone--there isn't a lot of action. But for me, it's a near perfect film. I'm not warm and cuddly, by any means, and like entertainment with an edge. But "Avalon" captures me every time. It's so charming, so thoughtful, so engaging, so literate, so beautiful to look at. I recommend this film wholeheartedly, and hope to see a DVD reissue someday that mirrors the quality of the production. It's time more people discover this lost treasure! KGHarris, 01/07.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A family's love is tested by changing times, November 15, 2005
This review is from: Avalon (DVD)
Barry Levinson's sprawling "Avalon" tells the story of Polish Jewish immigrant Sam Krichinsky as he joins his four brothers in Baltimore, 1914. The movie opens with a beautifully shot montage of fireworks, American symbols of liberty such as the eagle, and an immigrant's wonder at the lights and joy surrounding him on the Fourth of July. We cut to the present, where Sam's large family is introduced at Thanksgiving dinner, where the various brothers and their wives bicker in the way that large families do. Sam's son, Jules (Aidan Quinn), and his grandson Michael (Elijah Wood, in his first major role) become the focus of much of the story. Sam and his cousin Izzy (Kevin Pollack) engage in a series of risky business deals to expand their small department store into televisions, then a discount store, then a discount warehouse, all the while swept along by the tide of modern technology (television).

Levinson based the character of Sam on his own immigrant grandfather, and Avalon paints a poignant portrait of family dynamics and the intrusion of commercialism and technology on their lives. Avalon feels like it could have benefited from a little extra trimming (the subplot of Eva's long-lost brother coming to America fades in and out in the blink of an eye), but overall was a beautiful look at a family's changing traditions across the generations. Armin Mueller-Stahl is amazing as Sam, and Joan Plowright as his long-suffering wife brings a fire and charm to the character that reminded me of my own Polish grandmother.

The one element that seemed too transparent was the family's Jewishness, or lack of it. We never see the Krichinsky family at seders, Shabbat, Hanukkah, or other holidays, which seems in a way to strip them of the freedom sought in America (there is some Yiddish spoken, we do hear that Eva's brother was in a concentration camp, and see a Jewish cemetery, but that's about it). The next generations become more and more Americanized, changing their names. Kudos for the excellent period music (1940s Big Band and swing, jazz) and vintage television serials, costumes, and cinematography. This is a beautiful film that embraces family and tradition in turbulent times.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece!, March 8, 2001
This review is from: Avalon [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This film is one of the best I've ever seen in the history of movie-making. While others might scoff at the "boring reality" of it, I found Avalon insightful and involving. The movie revolves around the deterioration of the extended family and primarily the life of one man, Sam Kirkchinski, the patriarch of his family. There is everything good to say about this film: the script, the acting, the directing, the music...everything was absolutely wonderful! While watching this film you fall in love with some characters and grow to dislike others. The directing is probably the most beautiful thing about Avalon, interpreting beautifully Sam's memories of coming to the country, which grow more and more beautiful in his mind with time. The soundtrack comes in a close second, however: Randy Newman composed one of his most beautiful and most overlooked scores for this movie. Overlooked, I don't know why. This movie slipped right by many people when it came out and I hope that they are able to see it sometime. Be warned: if you see Avalon once, it won't be the last time!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opened my Memory Floodgates, July 8, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Avalon [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I saw this movie recently on cable for the first time. As a man approaching 40, I hate to admit that I was in tears by the end of the move. "Avalon" brought back memories of people, places and events from my youth that I had not thought of in years. At times, it almost seemed that some of the characters were based on my family members. This film made me think about how much my family has changed in the last 2 decades--something that I've been too wrapped in my day-to-day affairs to notice. If nothing else, I'm grateful to Barry Levinson for paying tribute to a way of life that, sadly, no longer exists.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet commentary on family life in America, August 2, 2004
By 
C. M. Nelson (Santa Ana, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Avalon (DVD)
Every time I see this movie, the last 20 minutes or so depress the hell out of me and it makes me nostalgic for an earlier time in which I didn't even live. The closeness of the family, the way kids, parents and grandparents all shared the household, the family talks in the living room...it's just such a departure from the way families exist today, everyone in another city, if not another state. Everyone zoning out in front of the tv. It's a downer, but it's so true! The mood and look of the film are beautiful to watch. It's a thoughtful film worth catching.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Heartfelt Motion Picture!, February 9, 2002
By 
Sam Bethune (Lincoln, Nebraska USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Avalon (DVD)
I had put off watching Avalon for a long time because I was afraid I would be lukewarm to a film about an immigrant family coming to America and the abandonment of tradition by its next generation. How wrong I was! Avalon is the third element in Barry Levinson's "Baltimore Trilogy". It falls somewhere between Diner (to which I would also give 5 stars) and Tin Men (to which I would give 3 stars) in quality, but it has more sentiment than either.
Armin Mueller-Stahl, who I had not seen before this picture, turns in an excellent performance. I take some degree of issue with Amazon's description of the movie as starring Elizabeth Perkins; she is in fact plays a minor character. Personally, I found her performance one dimensional. Joan Plowright's performance as the family matriarch is much better. Aidan Quinn and Kevin Pollak, the latter of whom I have been a fan of for years, are nothing less than excellent. Yes, this film can get ponderous and a bit long in the tooth, but I would hardly dismiss it as "artsy" or "cutesy". To those who gave this movie negative reviews, I would respectfully suggest that you have forgotten what great filmmaking is all about.
The soundtrack to this film is one of Randy Newman's best ever. Sadly, it is no longer in print. It complements this film beautifully.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine cinematic experience..., February 8, 2004
By 
A Customer (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Avalon (DVD)
Avalon is a tragic drama with moments of warmth as a second generation immigrant family tries to create a better life in the United States while living under the same roof as their parents. The grandfather, Sam (Armin Mueller-Stahl), tells his grandson, Michael (Elijah Wood), his life stories as he teaches him valuable life lessons. However, the family attempts to break bonds with the past by changing their last name and breaking other traditions. In this endeavor they lose contact with themselves as they lose their connection with their family and television then becomes a substitute for family life. Avalon is a representation of the many who came to the US in search of the American Dream; however, in pursuit of this dream lost the connection with what is important in life. In the end, Avalon offers a fine cinematic experience that "may" and "can" produce tears and laughs.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paradise lost, May 21, 2001
By 
Daniel S. Russell "syzygy121" (Blacksburg, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Avalon (DVD)
This film is a powerful depiction of the loss of innocence experienced by so many immigrants who came to this country, believing it was a veritable promised land. Slowly and subtly, Levinson shows how their once close families are pulled apart by the demands of the culture. From the flight of the middle class to the suburbs and the loss of traditional business values, the transformations our society underwent in the post-war period are captured here with masterful storytelling. Watch how television gradually becomes the center of the home, rather than the family table. The turkey scene, as funny as it is, is profound. The extended family is falling apart, as the geographical distance afforded by the automobile grows.
The acting is tremendous. The performances of Quinn, Perkins, Muehler-Stahl and Plowright are worth the purchase alone. But don't miss young Elijah Wood in his first major film role.
This movie is one to treasure and revisit year after year--how about at Thanksgiving... :)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic look at growing up in the fifties, December 19, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Avalon [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This movie is a journey though the soul and minds of a family of immigrants. Watching them settle, adapt, fail and thrive in a new world is exciting and thought provoking. How brave it is to leave all that is familiar and deal with everything and everyone new and uncharted. The characters are every family, universal, ongoing caricatures we all identify with and recognize from our families and friends. The scenes in this movie are like memories-almost forgottten-tucked away in the backroads of the mind..not gone..not quite forgotten,,like seeing everyone leave the dinner table to watch Uncle Miltie on the brand new TV..you just want to grab them and say 'no, it isn't that important..stay and finish your dinner with your family" For me this film is a documentary of family lost and how we got from there to here.. A chance to look back, to remember the way it was and to dream perhaps it will be that way again. This should be required viewing in the eighth grade.
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Avalon
Avalon by Barry Levinson (DVD - 2001)
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