Avalon


2h 7m 1990
Avalon

Brief Synopsis

A Polish-Jewish family try to make a better future for themselves in the United States.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Drama
Period
Sequel
Release Date
1990
Distribution Company
TriStar Pictures
Location
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 7m

Synopsis

This prequel to Levinson's autobiographical "Diner" and "Tin Men" traces his family's roots and their Russian Jewish heritage. The film focuses on four brothers, and their assimilation into American society.

Crew

C J Appel

Adr Editor

Ted Bafaloukos

Consultant

Craig Barrow

Visual Effects

Richard Beggs

Sound Designer

Richard Beggs

Sound

Dwight Benjamin-creel

Property Master Assistant

Thomas Bookout

Dolly Grip

Gloria S Borders

Sound Editor

Ralph Brandofino

Assistant Camera Operator

Irving Buchman

Makeup

Thomas R Burman

Special Makeup Effects

Willie Burton

Sound Mixer

Norm Carpenter

Negative Cutting

John C Casey

Costumes

Brian Chavanne

Casting

Ellen Chenoweth

Casting

Wade Childress

Camera Operator

Stephanie Claxton

Accounting Assistant

Allegra Clegg

Production Coordinator

Freddie Cooper

Camera Operator

Tom Costich

Costumes

Mark Cotone

Assistant Director

Blair Daily

Assistant Editor

Allen Daviau

Director Of Photography

Sandy De Crescent

Music Contractor

Linda Descenna

Set Decorator

Louis Digiaimo

Casting

Debra Donaldson

Location Manager

Bari Dreiband-burman

Special Makeup Effects

Jennifer Erskine

Assistant

Christopher Evans

Matte Painter

Jim Flamberg

Music Editor

Brian Flora

Matte Painter

Clare Freeman

Sound Editor

Harold Fuhrman

Other

Sara Gardner-gail

On-Set Dresser

Paul Gebbia

Makeup

Gary Gegan

Adr

Michael Gignarale

Tailor

Katie Gilbert

Production Assistant

Nancy Gilmore

On-Set Dresser

Peter Giuliano

Assistant Director

Romaine Greene

Hair

Gloria Gresham

Costume Designer

Oda Groeschel

Costumes

Tony Guastella

On-Set Dresser

Allen L Hall

Special Effects Coordinator

Greg A Hall

Costumes

Winter Hall

Location Manager

Jack Hayes

Original Music

Gary Hecker

Foley Artist

Bob L Hendrix

Transportation Coordinator

Fred Hole

Art Director

Tim Holland

Sound Effects Editor

Mark Johnson

Producer

Michael Kenner

Key Grip

Bill Kohout

Hair

Joel Kramer

Stunt Coordinator

Christine Larson-nitzsche

Assistant Director

Barry Levinson

Screenplay

Barry Levinson

Producer

Marvin E. Lewis

Boom Operator

Stu Linder

Editor

Michael J Malone

Location Manager

Bobby Mancuso

Assistant Camera Operator

Ruby Manis

Costumes

Gregg Mason

Casting

Bill Mather

Matte Painter

Bill Mayberry

Electrician

Nancy Mcardle

Costume Supervisor

Barbara Mcbane

Dialogue Editor

Rich Mckay

Camera Assistant

Jonathan Mckinstry

Assistant Art Director

Ray Mercer

Property Master

Robert W Meyers

Rigging Gaffer

Pat Moran

Casting

Julie Mossberg

Casting

Jennifer Neiman

Production Accountant

Charles J. Newirth

Associate Producer

Charles J. Newirth

Unit Production Manager

Reggie Newkirk

Assistant Camera Operator

Deborah Newman

Property Master Assistant

Randy Newman

Music

Peter Norman

Camera Operator

Phillip B Olbrantz

Sound Editor

Hope M. Parrish

Property Master Assistant

Tony Piller

On-Set Dresser

Clay Pinney

Special Effects Foreman

Julie Pitkanen

Script Supervisor

John Rankin

On-Set Dresser

Robert Raring

Color Timer

Mike Revell

Accounting Assistant

Norman Reynolds

Production Designer

Edward T. Richardson

Art Director

Catherine Rowe

Foley Artist

Marie Rowe

Associate Producer

John Rusk

Assistant Director

Jill Greenberg Sands

Casting Associate

G Tony Scarano

Costume Supervisor

Charles J.d. Schlissel

Post-Production Supervisor

Jim Shelton

Dolly Grip

Robert Shoup

Sound Effects Editor

Victoria J Snow

Costumes

Jim Solomon

Assistant

Gary Summers

Sound

Ewa Sztompke

Sound Editor

Ethan Van Der Ryn

Sound Editor

Larry Wallace

Lighting Technician

Marian Wallace

Sound Designer

Barry Wetcher

Photography

Marian Wilde

Sound Effects Editor

Foard Wilgis

Transportation Captain

Eddie Wirth

Transportation Captain

Frank Wolf

Music

Steve Wright

Camera

Film Details

MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Drama
Period
Sequel
Release Date
1990
Distribution Company
TriStar Pictures
Location
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 7m

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1990

Best Costume Design

1990
Gloria Gresham

Best Original Screenplay

1990

Best Score

1990

Articles

Avalon


Berry Levinson, when he's remembered today, is remembered for his debut, Diner (1982), and his Oscar-winner Rain Man (1988), but in truth he's hardly remembered, though he's still making movies, however small and unreleasable. Few American filmmakers of the last 30 years have such bifurcated filmographies--most of his movies have been pure money-making junk, pursued and executed, it seems, in order to finance the other Barry Levinson projects, the ones that have to do with Baltimore. This is why he should be rediscovered: somewhat under the radar, Levinson became a master of regional Americana, a key native cine-anthropologist, returning to his hometown in Maryland every few years, and crafting a tiny tetralogy of comedy-memoirs that stand together as a masterful, Renoirian portrait of mid-century American life. Diner, Tin Men (1987), Avalon (1990) and Liberty Heights (1999) are distinctively voiced films, so rich with detail and unfakable love for a bygone reality that they're destined to be his real legacy, as his other multi-million-dollar mastodons (from 1985's Young Sherlock Holmes to 1992's Toys to 2001's Bandits, and over a dozen others) vanish from the popular consciousness.

Diner was the trigger--a pitch-perfect recreation of the 1959, stuck-in-a-groove lifestyle of six Baltimore guys in their 20s, swapping yucks at the all-night eatery over gravied french fries like they have since they were kids, and not being much more savvy than that about adulthood or women. The around-the-table pop-culture banter was hilarious and convincing, and unprecedented in that it structured the film, and revealed these men to us while they talked about anything but themselves. (This was a significance not lost on a young fanboy named Quentin Tarantino.) Still occupying the transitional period of late-'50s-early-'60s, Tin Men moved into the ratpit world of pennyante middle-aged sales culture, and Liberty Heights steps back, into the awkward teenage Levinson's shoes for a coming-of-age struggle during the first stirrings of the Civil Rights era.

Avalon strides back further, into the late '40s, when the Barry avatar Michael (Elijah Wood) is all of nine and the youngest scion of the Krichinsky clan, led by four aging Polish Jew immigrant brothers who've already built and lost a department store business. We focus on one tale-spinning patriarch, Sam (Armin Mueller-Stahl), the testy mamele at his side (Joan Plowright), their grown son Jules (Aidan Quinn) and his wife Ann (Elizabeth Perkins) and Michael's parents, as the collected Krichinskys (Levinson's mother's maiden name, incidentally) gather for Thanksgiving, converge on annual family meetings, and generally negotiate America, which means starting new businesses, buying the family's first TV (staring at the test pattern, the kids whisper, "Seems like something's about to happen."), moving to the suburbs, and watching the once-ironclad family slowly swap one dominant generation for another and drift apart.

It's a gentle, meandering movie, suffused with affection and patience--the same affection and patience we felt listening to the boys talk trash late at night in Diner, and the same we harbor ourselves at our lives' ruminative moments, looking at the arc of our families. The screenplay isn't made up of events, really, but decisions, reactions and observations. Nothing in Avalon ever feels arbitrary or emphatic; the scenes don't make plot points, they're just lived by the characters, with a natural gravity and grace. Mueller-Stahl's lordy grandfather is a natural performer, and so the actor makes him large, but otherwise you hardly ever catch the actors "acting" - it's just behavior. Watch them listen to each other - the space between characters is denser with feeling than most whole movies. Levinson knows how to orchestrate busy, fifteen-points-of-view dialogue scenes, around meals or merely in cramped domestic spaces, like nobody else in Hollywood, but the particulars are also sublime. A lengthy scene centered on Perkins's young wife complaining in bed to Quinn's affable Everyguy about her maddening mother-in-law could be a cliche, but the camera stays back, the actors keep their voices down so as not to be heard, and the back-and-forth kvetch-fest sounds so true and so respectful of the characters' intelligence that it has the feel of something lived, not something contrived in Hollywood. This is what you get when a film is invested with personal memory and feeling, not market-tested greed.

As it is, the people populating the fringes of the movie are indelible, and often are Baltimore citizens enlisted for their realness: Sylvia Weinberg, as Michael's stern elementary school teacher, is unmistakably the genuine article, and Avalon is in fact her only credit; Ralph Tabakin, as the crotchety school principal, is a Baltimore resident whose filmography is comprised only of every one of Levinson's films. Avalon is perhaps best appreciated as an deft fusion of details, some poetic and many mesmerizingly authentic: the school boys playing around on a discarded upright piano in the rain; the scurry of the family into the living room, carrying their dinner plates, at the start of The Texaco Star Theatre with Milton Berle; the circus elephants magically appearing down the center of the suburban street; Michael observing, out the car's rear window after a family fight, a work crew crane-lowering a prefab diner onto a street-corner; and so on. Even the textures of car grills and console-radio tuning dials bewitch Levinson.

Somehow, the filmmaker infuses Avalon with a nostalgic passion that never feels forced or coy or treacly. Sometimes Levinson moves too quickly past his beautiful moments, but the aggregate remains lovely and moving in a way Hollywood movies aren't allowed to be any longer. Since Liberty Heights, even Levinson can't raise the funds to go back to Baltimore, even though it's clear that's all he should've been doing all these years.

By Michael Atkinson
Avalon

Avalon

Berry Levinson, when he's remembered today, is remembered for his debut, Diner (1982), and his Oscar-winner Rain Man (1988), but in truth he's hardly remembered, though he's still making movies, however small and unreleasable. Few American filmmakers of the last 30 years have such bifurcated filmographies--most of his movies have been pure money-making junk, pursued and executed, it seems, in order to finance the other Barry Levinson projects, the ones that have to do with Baltimore. This is why he should be rediscovered: somewhat under the radar, Levinson became a master of regional Americana, a key native cine-anthropologist, returning to his hometown in Maryland every few years, and crafting a tiny tetralogy of comedy-memoirs that stand together as a masterful, Renoirian portrait of mid-century American life. Diner, Tin Men (1987), Avalon (1990) and Liberty Heights (1999) are distinctively voiced films, so rich with detail and unfakable love for a bygone reality that they're destined to be his real legacy, as his other multi-million-dollar mastodons (from 1985's Young Sherlock Holmes to 1992's Toys to 2001's Bandits, and over a dozen others) vanish from the popular consciousness. Diner was the trigger--a pitch-perfect recreation of the 1959, stuck-in-a-groove lifestyle of six Baltimore guys in their 20s, swapping yucks at the all-night eatery over gravied french fries like they have since they were kids, and not being much more savvy than that about adulthood or women. The around-the-table pop-culture banter was hilarious and convincing, and unprecedented in that it structured the film, and revealed these men to us while they talked about anything but themselves. (This was a significance not lost on a young fanboy named Quentin Tarantino.) Still occupying the transitional period of late-'50s-early-'60s, Tin Men moved into the ratpit world of pennyante middle-aged sales culture, and Liberty Heights steps back, into the awkward teenage Levinson's shoes for a coming-of-age struggle during the first stirrings of the Civil Rights era. Avalon strides back further, into the late '40s, when the Barry avatar Michael (Elijah Wood) is all of nine and the youngest scion of the Krichinsky clan, led by four aging Polish Jew immigrant brothers who've already built and lost a department store business. We focus on one tale-spinning patriarch, Sam (Armin Mueller-Stahl), the testy mamele at his side (Joan Plowright), their grown son Jules (Aidan Quinn) and his wife Ann (Elizabeth Perkins) and Michael's parents, as the collected Krichinskys (Levinson's mother's maiden name, incidentally) gather for Thanksgiving, converge on annual family meetings, and generally negotiate America, which means starting new businesses, buying the family's first TV (staring at the test pattern, the kids whisper, "Seems like something's about to happen."), moving to the suburbs, and watching the once-ironclad family slowly swap one dominant generation for another and drift apart. It's a gentle, meandering movie, suffused with affection and patience--the same affection and patience we felt listening to the boys talk trash late at night in Diner, and the same we harbor ourselves at our lives' ruminative moments, looking at the arc of our families. The screenplay isn't made up of events, really, but decisions, reactions and observations. Nothing in Avalon ever feels arbitrary or emphatic; the scenes don't make plot points, they're just lived by the characters, with a natural gravity and grace. Mueller-Stahl's lordy grandfather is a natural performer, and so the actor makes him large, but otherwise you hardly ever catch the actors "acting" - it's just behavior. Watch them listen to each other - the space between characters is denser with feeling than most whole movies. Levinson knows how to orchestrate busy, fifteen-points-of-view dialogue scenes, around meals or merely in cramped domestic spaces, like nobody else in Hollywood, but the particulars are also sublime. A lengthy scene centered on Perkins's young wife complaining in bed to Quinn's affable Everyguy about her maddening mother-in-law could be a cliche, but the camera stays back, the actors keep their voices down so as not to be heard, and the back-and-forth kvetch-fest sounds so true and so respectful of the characters' intelligence that it has the feel of something lived, not something contrived in Hollywood. This is what you get when a film is invested with personal memory and feeling, not market-tested greed. As it is, the people populating the fringes of the movie are indelible, and often are Baltimore citizens enlisted for their realness: Sylvia Weinberg, as Michael's stern elementary school teacher, is unmistakably the genuine article, and Avalon is in fact her only credit; Ralph Tabakin, as the crotchety school principal, is a Baltimore resident whose filmography is comprised only of every one of Levinson's films. Avalon is perhaps best appreciated as an deft fusion of details, some poetic and many mesmerizingly authentic: the school boys playing around on a discarded upright piano in the rain; the scurry of the family into the living room, carrying their dinner plates, at the start of The Texaco Star Theatre with Milton Berle; the circus elephants magically appearing down the center of the suburban street; Michael observing, out the car's rear window after a family fight, a work crew crane-lowering a prefab diner onto a street-corner; and so on. Even the textures of car grills and console-radio tuning dials bewitch Levinson. Somehow, the filmmaker infuses Avalon with a nostalgic passion that never feels forced or coy or treacly. Sometimes Levinson moves too quickly past his beautiful moments, but the aggregate remains lovely and moving in a way Hollywood movies aren't allowed to be any longer. Since Liberty Heights, even Levinson can't raise the funds to go back to Baltimore, even though it's clear that's all he should've been doing all these years. By Michael Atkinson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Barry Levinson was nominated for the Directors Guild of America's 1990 Outstanding Directorial Achievement Award.

Released in United States Fall October 5, 1990

Released in United States January 1991

Released in United States October 19, 1990

Released in United States on Video May 10, 1991

Shown at Brussels International Film Festival January 9-19, 1991.

Began shooting September 6, 1989.

Completed shooting November 22, 1989.

Released in United States January 1991 (Shown at Brussels International Film Festival January 9-19, 1991.)

Released in United States on Video May 10, 1991

Released in United States Fall October 5, 1990

Released in United States October 19, 1990