Tuesday, December 28, 2010
(December 1935, U.S.)
Many months ago, when I posted my blog for THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, I asked you all to try and open your minds and imagine what it must have been like to watch your favorite movie matinee idols in 1938 on screen in all of their glory. I ask that of you again, and in using your imagination, I also ask you to consider the impact of the hero on screen. When I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, the hero came in the form of men like Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis (they were the ones who could ACT, anyway). However, in the decade of the 1930s, there was no greater hero than Errol Flynn. Whether by land, by sea or by air, Errol Flynn WAS the hero (or matinee idol, as they were called) of the time! Imagine a glorious Saturday afternoon at the neighborhood movie house surrounded by other kids your age and watching a spectacular and dashing hero like Errol Flynn on screen! In my opinion, that kind of movie experience died a horrible death such a long time ago!
To truly appreciate a a black and white classic swashbuckling pirate adventure like CAPTAIN BLOOD in our time may not be as unthinkable as one would presume. After all, the last decade saw three PIRATES OF THE CARIBEAN films, right? Actor Johnny Depp may have simply been considered the Errol Flynn of our time (at least as far as pirate films go). The interesting plot point about CAPTAIN BLOOD is that Flynn's character Peter Blood does not start out as a pirate. He is, rather, an Irish physician who is wrongly accused and sentenced for treating the injuries of a treasonous rebel against the unjust King James II of England. Peter Blood and the surviving rebels are sold into slavery in the English colony of Port Royal and eventually secure an enemy's pirate ship to become pirates themselves. The hunted have now become the hunters, equipped with all measures of thievery, pillaging and destruction. Later in the film, when Blood and his mates learn that King James II has been deposed in the Glorious Revolution and that they've been asked by the new king, William of Orange, to offer their fight and support with the Royal Navy to Blood, they joyfully change their positions at this good news and prepare for battle against the French. So in the end, the bad guys who are supposed to be pirates becomes heros of their country. And speaking of French, I have to say that British actor Basil Rathbone gives, perhaps, the WORST French accent I've ever heard on film. The battle scenes and the special effects that accompany them are far more impressive than you might expect for a film of the 1930s. The film was a Christmas release, but could have easily qualified as a summer blockbuster, if they even existed back then.
By the way, if you were ever a fan of Hal Roach's OUR GANG (or "The Little Rascals"), keep a sharp eye out for little Matthew Beard, the kid who played "Stymie", now playing a litte slave to an English governor.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Captain Peter Blood: "Men, I've just heard a startling piece of news - King James is kicked out of England and good King William reigns in his stead! For me this changes the shape of the world. For you who were slaves with me, it means that we're no longer slaves, that we once more have a home and a country. For you who are English it means a chance to fight for your native land...for I now propose to sail into Port Royal and take it from the French! Those of you who are not English will have to be content with fighting for Captain Blood...and the loot you'll find on the French ships. Are you willing to fight, men?"
Monday, December 20, 2010
(November 1991, U.S.)
Pay attention to what I'm about to say - remakes are generally never better than the original film! Got that? Now pay even closer attention to what I'm about to say - every once a very rare and great while, there are exceptions to that conviction. Martin Scorsese's remake of CAPE FEAR is the first such exception in my film collection. Just in case you've already forgotten the story, it's of a convicted rapist who seeks vengeance against the former public defender whom he blames for his fourteen year imprisonment due to purposefully faulty defense tactics used during his trial.
If you take a good look at every film Robert DeNiro has ever made with Martin Scorsese, you'll see that each film has often brought out the ugliest side of DeNiro's character potentials, even in the lighter-hearted NEW YORK, NEW YORK (woman abuser) and THE KING OF COMEDY (obssessed kidnapper). Whereas Robert Mitchum played Max Cady with the general roughness and toughness that seemed fitting for the 1960's, DeNiro plays the same man with an updated evil that could easily be compared to Anthony Hopkin's character Hannibal Lechter from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991), although additional influence to the updated Cady character can also be credited to Robert Mitchum's character Harry Powell in THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955). The remake expands on the original's themes in some depth, changing relationships (the female drifter that Max Cady assaults is now a legal clerk who is close to Sam Bowden) and adding more complex background details. Nick Nolte's Sam Bowden is a morally flawed man and, therefore, his resorting to extreme violence is less surprising than in the original. Cady is presented as having a justified motive to pursue Bowden, because of Bowden's deliberate negligence of care during his original trial. In the original film, Cady essentially breaks apart a good, normal 1960's family. In the remake, the Bowdens are portrayed as a modern family already greatly troubled, and Cady simply takes the opportunity to manipulate their issues and weaknesses to his advantage, most notably in the case of their troubled fifteen year-old daughter, Danielle (played by Juliette Lewis), whom he ultimately has intensions of raping by the end of the film.
I've briefly mentioned it already, but it's most interesting to note the change in the history of the relationship between Max Cady and Sam Bowden. In this film, Bowden was Cady's lawyer who buried a report of the victim's promiscuity in order to secure a justified conviction against his own client (Cady) who had brutally raped and beaten his victim. This would seem like perfect justice, and it is. This justice comes back to haunt Bowden fourteen years later, though, and it inevitably turns into a test of his moral character and personal legal convictions in defense of himself and his family.
Okay, personal story time now. In the Summer of 1993, I was taking part in a singles share house in Westhampton Beach, Long Island. I met a guy there whom I shall call Stuart (because that's really his name). We immediately bonded as friends over this film because to put it simply, Stuart ate, drank and breathed CAPE FEAR! He loved the film and did a pretty decent impersonation of DeNiro's Max Cady. Like myself, he hadn't seen the original film yet and would not until I gave him a VHS copy of it as a birthday gift. We were good friends for seven years after that until one day...well, we weren't. Shit like that happens in life sometimes. I don't what's become of him, but I do know that I'll always remember him when I watch or think of Martin Scorses's CAPE FEAR. So it is to Stuart that I dedicate this post. Thanks for the time you were able to give.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Max Cady: "Counselor? Counselor! Councelor! Come out, come out, wherever you are! I ain't no white trash piece of shit! I'm better than you all! I can out-learn you! I can out-read you! I can out-think you! And I can out-PHILOSOPHIZE you! And I'm gonna outlast you. You think a couple whacks to my guts is gonna get me down? It's gonna take a hell of a lot more than that, Counselor, to prove you're better than me!"
Saturday, December 18, 2010
(April 1962, U.S.)
This is another milestone in my blog posts. Why? Because it's the first time I'll be discussing two film versions of the same title in a row. What's interesting in this case is that I saw Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of CAPE FEAR several years before I ever saw the original version or had even heard there WAS an original version. It's a little tough to keep an open mind about watching the orininal version when you have to compare it to the kind of performance that Robert DeNiro gave in the remake. But that performance will have to wait until the next post.
So, try to imagine all of the shock and horror that you may already be familiar with in the 1991 version and take it back to 1962, when the story of CAPE FEAR was first told during a somewhat more innocent era. This film, about an attorney whose family is stalked by a criminal whom he helped to send to jail for rape, is tense and suspenseful in its own right, for its own time. Robert Mitchum as Max Cady promptly tracks down Sam Bowden (played by Gregory Peck), the Georgia lawyer whom he holds personally responsible for his eight year conviction. While Cady inevitably commits acts of violence and murder, it's his relentless stalking and threats toward Bowden and his family that fill the film with fear that is to ultimately affect the audience watching it. Now while it may be unfair to compare Robert Mitchum's Max Cady to Robert DeNiro's twenty-nine years later, Mitchum is certainly a tough, brawny and frightening character to watch on screen. And while Gregory Peck has his own level of toughness, there is something just right about him as a man who possesses enough weakness to allow himself to be terrorized by Max Cady, for a time anyway.
Getting back to the innocence of 1962; it's interesting to know that the word "rape" was entirely removed from the script before shooting and the film still enraged the censors, who were worried that there was a continuous threat of sexual assault on a child. In order to be accepted, British censors required extensive editing and deleting of specific scenes. After making 161 cuts, it still nearly garnered an X rating.
So, my friends, this ends the more "innocent" version and discussion of the film CAPE FEAR. The uglier version is on its way...
Favorite line or dialogue:
Max Cady (Bowden has shot Cady and is holding the gun on him): "Go ahead. I just don't give a damn."
Sam Bowden: "No. No! That would be letting you off too easy, too fast. Your words - do you remember? Well I do. No, we're gonna take good care of you. We're gonna nurse you back to health. And you're strong, Cady. You're gonna live a long life... in a cage! That's where you belong and that's where you're going. And this time for life! Bang your head against the walls. Count the years - the months - the hours... until the day you rot!"
Friday, December 17, 2010
(August 1935, U.S.)
There are several film versions of Jack London's classic story, CALL OF THE WILD. In my opinion, this is the best one for two great reasons. The first, of course, is Clark Gable. His performance and personality in many of his films simply speak for themselves. The second is the wonderment and fascination of black and white cinematography as it captures the look and feel of icy cold Alaska.
The adventures of a prospector heading for the 1900 gold rush and the complicated love triangle he finds himself tangled up in is a simple enough story. What I personally find most entertaining about watching this film, besides the above-mentioned cinematography, is the relationship between Gable's Jack Thornton and his faithful dog, Buck. There's always been something truly heartwarming about watching a master and his dog on screen, but when it's a huge Saint-Bernard like Buck, you just want to be able to reach out and hug the big beast yourself. There is also a particular scene that always catches my attention and that's when Buck mysteriously runs away into the cold mountains, presumably not to be seen again. That night, during a harsh winter storm, he returns to his new master's camp and snuggles down on the snow beside him. You just can't help but say, "Awww!" to yourself and mean it!
One other interesting little piece of information about this film; it was the last to be released under 20th Centery Films, before they merged with the Fox Film Corporation to become what we now know as 20th Century Fox. I never knew that.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Mr. Smith: "I remember watching a magician once. From an apparantly empty hand he shortly produced a rabbit. He smiled, very much as you're smiling now, because I imagine he knew all the while that he had the rabbit up his sleeve. You've something up you sleeve, perhaps?"
Jack Thornton: "Perhaps?"
Mr. Smith: "Roll up your sleeve, Mr. Thornton. There's no rabbit there!"
Thursday, December 16, 2010
(July 1980, U.S.)
Every once in a blue moon, I end up in a conversation with a bunch of guys where the subject inevitably turns to golf. When they ask me if I play, my response is always the same - "No, but I've seen CADDYSHACK many times." And why not? It's unquestionably the funniest sports-related film ever made (though I would cite SLAP SHOT as a pretty close second)! With all due respects to Kevin Costner, BULL DURHAM (1988) and TIN CUP (1996) were just pointless attempts at...I don't even know, really.
"The snobs against the slobs"; that was the tagline for the film at the time of its release, and in a way, the timing was perfect for a film of that nature. ANIMAL HOUSE had already been a major hit two years prior and comedies were on the verge of continuing their tastlelessness well into the 1980s with titles like PORKY'S and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. But with CADDYSHACK, it isn't just welcomed tastelessness, it's also pure comic talent with the likes of Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and even Ted Knight. Even the presentation of the exclusive, upscale, snobbish Florida country club is told with such idiocy and lunacy that you can't help but laugh at their very ridiculous existence.
Okay, now let's talk about all those great quotable lines. Anyone who knows this film well enough has probably allowed pieces of it into their everyday dialogue, even just in fun. If you've ever eaten bad food, you might refer to it as "low grade dog food" or claim that you've had "better food at the ballgame". If you've ever wanted to jinx someone who was trying to concentrate on something, you may find yourself saying, "Noonan!". If you've ever been impatient with someone to perform a task, you might utter with your best Ted Knight impersonation, "Well, we're waiting!". And finally, if you've ever fantasized about yourself in a famous situation, you might, when no one else is looking, say, "Cinderella story, outta nowhere.". You get my point? While CADDYSHACK may not be CITIZEN KANE or GONE WITH THE WIND, it's legacy has created enough of an impact in our popular culture and humorous dialogue for those who grew up with it, and that in its own right, makes for a great film. So to CADDYSHACK, I say "Happy 30th birthday!"
And now for something personal - thirty years ago when I was just thirteen years-old and this film was released in the Summer of 1980, I lived in a suburb of Great Neck, Long Island. Up the street from me lived a blond kid about my age. My mother, in her ususal forcefull manner, ordered me to walk up the street and introduce myself to this kid. I did it, but with great reluctance. Long story short, this kid whom I will call Jim (because that's really his name) has been one of my closest friends for the past thirty years. We've had the kind of friendship that has been surrounded by laughter and lunacy and much of it has been credited to the both of us constantly quoting lines from films like CADDYSHACK, ANIMAL HOUSE, ARTHUR and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMOST HIGH; all very popular hits during our childhood. Another reason I think of Jim when I think of CADDYSHACK is because he happens to bear a very strong physical resemblance to Michael O'Keefe who plays Danny Noonan, especially when it comes to displaying a rather silly, shit-eating grin on his face. If Jim is reading this, he knows only too well what I'm talking about. So it is to Jim, that I dedicate this post. Here's to another thirty years of friendship, laughter and lunacy, buddy!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Carl Spackler: "So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas."
Angie D'Annunzio: "A looper?"
Carl: "A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice."
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
(March 1921, U.S.)
We now return to another silent film and the first of the letter 'C' in my alphabetical film collection. THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI is one of the most influential of German Expressionist films and is often considered one of the best horror films of the early times of cinema.
Watching this film is definitely an exercise in opening your mind and your imagination, because when you do so, the images on screen and the physical elements, gestures and actions of the actors can be very creepy. The character of Cesare, a somnambulist (sleepwalker) has been under the control of the evil Dr. Caligari for twenty-five years and is being passed off as a simple carnival side show. But like the character Raymond Shaw in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962), he is being used (presumably against his knowledge and his will) to commit brutal murders throughout the small German mountain village. And getting back to the creepiness of it all, just watch carefully as Cesare slowly opens his eyes and moves his body at the command of his master. In it's black and white and grainy imagery, it can be truly eerie and frightening, even by today's horror film standards. But like I said, it's all in the open mind of the imagination.
What's most interesting about this film is that it's one of the first (if not THE first) films cited as having introduced audiences to the "surprise twist ending" in cinema. The entire story is presented as a flashback by one who has supposedly lived through it. It is only at the "twist" end that we find out the entire story was actually a deluded fantasy of one of the patients at an insane asylum and that Dr. Caligari is actually the asylum doctor who may or may not be able to cure the patient of his delusions. Hey, does all of this sound more than vaguely similar to Martin Scorsese's SHUTTER ISLAND or am I just crazy??
Favorite line or dialogue (it's a SILENT film, so the pickings are slim!)
Alan: "How long shall I live?"
Cesare: "The time is short! You die at dawn!"
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
(September 1969, U.S.)
This is the first western to be discussed from my film collection. But don't get too used to it. After musicals, westerns are my least favorite film genre, so I don't have a lot of them. Really, when you think about it, aren't most western stories and plotlines the same? The peaceful town, the bandits and rustlers, the women is distress, and the hero who saves the town at the end with the traditional climactic gunfight showdown.
Thankfully, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID doesn't fall into any of those cliche western categories. This is an Amercian western disguised as a buddy, action and chase film. Butch and Sundance are two of the most likable bandits you're ever likely to see on screen. The dialogue they share thorughout the film feeds off of each other like almost perfect clockwork. For its filming style, there is an interesting montage done in sepia still photographs of the 19th Century period—showing Butch, Sundance, and Etta (played by Katherine Ross) having a brief fling in New York and making the steamer passage to South America. The stills tell you so much about the curious and sad relationship of these three people that it's with almost reluctance that you allow yourself to be absorbed again into their further slapstick adventures. I say "almost", thought, because Butch and Sundance's relationship and adventures can easily sweep you up again.
Then, of course, there's the end of the film when they're inevitably killed by the Bolivian army (sorry for the spoiler!) and the shot that depicts them ready for their final fight before presumably escaping to freedom. The film freezes as the endless rifle gunshots go off and you hear the word "¡Fuego!" (that's Spanish for "Fire!"). You know our two heroes are dead and the camera slowly pulls back, not only revealing the extent of the forces that were surrounding them for an ambush, but it also allows you a moment of reflection on who Butch and Sundance were and how much you just enjoyed the last two hours of your life watching them on screen.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford were, perhaps, one of the greatest team-ups in film history, and it's just a shame that they only made two films together. Paul Newman died in September 2008 and I still miss him today.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Butch Cassidy: "Alright. I'll jump first."
Sundance Kid: "No."
Butch: "Then you jump first."
Sundance: "No, I said."
Butch: "What's the matter with you?"
Sundance: "I can't swim!"
Butch (laughing): "Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you!"
Sunday, December 12, 2010
(December 1991, U.S.)
Whatever happened to director Barry Levinson? I don't mean that he's dead, or sick or he stopped working altogether. What I mean is there was a time when he was making successful, Oscar-worthy films almost one after the other. There was a time, like Spielberg, when you could count on repeatedly being blown away by films like GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (1987), RAIN MAN (1988), DISCLOSURE (1994) and SLEEPERS (1996). Somewhere along the way, though, the films got smaller and, in my opinion, far less impressive. Perhaps that's just what comes with getting older at your craft.
In 1991, BUGSY solidified Levinson as a major directing force and it also brought back Warren Beatty after what I consider to be a major debacle with his version of DICK TRACY (1990) only a year and a half earlier (man, that movie SUCKED!). This is a gangster film with much of the same colorful and and music-scoring style that we'd seen some years before in THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987). BUSGY is less about violence, though, and more about attitute, dialogue and the dream of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel to create the city in the middle of the Nevada desert that would one day become the great city of Las Vegas. Warren Beatty and Annette Bening feed off of each other's persona so perfectly in this film that it's no wonder they would inevitably end up together in real life. Bening as Virginia Hill is an ultra-sexy mob moll with a brain and the capacity for business and management that is not to be found in other gangster films. And you know what they say; behind every great man is woman telling him what to do to be that great man...I think.
Let me digress for a moment on the subject of Las Vegas - before seeing BUGSY or ever having heard of gangster Ben Siegel, I had seen THE GODFATHER-PART II many times. Would you believe that I actual thought, for a fact, that there had been a real man named Moe Green who had actually invented the city of Las Vegas, just like Lee Strasberg describes in the film? Talk about putting too much faith in what you hear in the movies! But then again, haven't we learned much of what we know about gangsters and the Mafia from the movies, be they totally accurate or not?
Favorite line of dialogue:
Virginia Hill: "Were you under the impression that I was a virgin?"
Ben Siegel: "No, no, no, I just thought maybe there was somebody you HADN'T fucked."
Thursday, December 9, 2010
(May 2003, U.S.)
For a while, it seemed as if Jim Carrey and director Tom Shadyac were becoming the Scorsese/DeNiro team of comedy with ACE VENTURA (1994), LIAR LIAR (1997) and this film. BRUCE ALMIGHTY is not a perfect film, by any means, but there are some irresistable moments of Carrey's lunacy that can have you in absolute stitches. These are the moments that make any comedy, even faulted ones, totally worthwhile.
I don't believe in God, but if he or she does exist and wanted to hand over his or her omnipotent powers to someone for a time, why not give them to someone who would completely abuse them for their own personal gain? As struggling Buffalo (the city) news reporter Bruce Nolan, why not use those new-found powers to gain the reputation as "Mr. Exclusive" by causing exciting news, such as a meteor impact and the discovery of Jimmy Hoffa's body, to occur whenever you happen to be on the scene reporting? Why not use those powers to make your girlfriend's breasts biggers and give her a series of monumental orgasms without even touching her? Why not use those powers to force humiliation to your co-worker on live television (my favorite part of the film!)? Why not cause your city's hockey team to win the Stanley Cup and create havoc by causing everyone in the city to win the state lottery so that all that any winner ends up getting is about seventeen dollars? Why not for all of it??? Hell, I would!!!
The problem with a crazy comedy like this is the innevitable moment when it begins to turn sentimental and even depressing on you. The word "serious" can sometimes act as a cancer when all you really want to do is laugh and laugh 'till you drop. Woody Allen can be serious if he wants to, but Jim Carrey, short of starring in something like THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998) or THE MAJESTIC (2001) is not someone I want to get too deep on me.
Favorite line or dialogue (I have laughed so hard at this sequence, I've literally had trouble breathing!):
Evan Baxter (reading the news prompter under Bruce's divine intervention): "In other news the Prime Minister of Sweden visited Washington today and my tiny little nipples went to France."
Director: "What'd he just say? Check the prompter."
Technician: "The prompter's fine."
Director: "Evan, READ THE COPY! Please! The copy's good. Just read it."
Evan: "The White House reception committee greeted the Prime Ribroast Minister and...I do the cha-cha like a sissy girl. I lik-a do da cha-cha. I'm sorry we seem to be having some technical difficulties. In other news..."
Monday, December 6, 2010
(March 2010, U.S.)
When I was a child, my grandmother lived in Brooklyn. I thought it was a shithole! Growing up, I saw movies like THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971), SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977) and DO THE RIGHT THING that depicted Brooklyn in its existence. I thought it was a shithole! The college I attended and lived at was in Brooklyn. I thought it was a shithole! Having watched BROOKLYN'S FINEST three times since its release, I am convinced that the borough of Brooklyn, has been, is, and will forever remain in my eyes and my opinon, A FUCKING SHITHOLE!
Having gotten that less-than-flattering conviction out of the way, let's talk about the film. BROOKLYN'S FINEST, directed by Antoine Fuqua (he made TRAINING DAY, too) is a police crime thriller that depicts the horrible grit and the ugliness of the New York City streets in such an outstanding way that I haven't seen since films like THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971), SERPICO (1973), DEATH WISH (1974) and even Sylvester Stallone's NIGHTHAWKS (1981). Watching this film can cause you to temporarily forget all of the hype that has been generated about New York City ever since former mayor Rudy Giuliani supposedly "cleaned it up". The look, the feel and the sense of the city are hard-hitting and frightening. The cops who comprise the story here are equally frightening in their own manner.
Let's begin with Ethan Hawke. I had never heard of this guy before I saw him as an innocent and scared schoolboy in DEAD POET'S SOCIETY (1989). The schoolboy has not only grown up, but also displays an acting credibility that has transformed him into one of the most desperate "bad-ass motherfucker" cops I have ever seen on screen. His desperation, though, is not without empathy and understanding. He's a man with a loving wife, needy children and an immediate need for a bigger house. For this, he will commit acts of violence and theft against the very evil men he has sworn to fight. Following these acts is the inevitable rationalization and church confession that he must cling to in order for his soul to survive. In the end, though, neither he nor his soul will survive and you can only feel bad for the guy. He's a corrupt cop, yes, but that doesn't lessen your own longing for him to get what he needs to support and protect his family, even if he has to blow away the drug dealers and steal their money!
There is less to say about Don Cheadle, except that his style, his performance, his attitude and his personality as a desperate undercover narcotics cop are exactly what you'd expect on screen outside of a silly OCEAN'S ELEVEN film. And believe me, that's more than welcome, in my opinion. Wesley Snipes returns to the big screen after many years and offers more of the same that you may have seen in a film like NEW JACK CITY (1991). Don't worry - that's a good thing for a film of this magnitude.
Richard Gere has played a cop before. This time, there's no glory and no guts. He's a 22 year veteran who is so burned out that he no longer cares about anything except getting through the last week of the job to reach his long-deserved pension. Except there's one problem; deep down inside he's still a man with a heart and a conscience to do the right thing. This is never clearer than in the end when, after having already surrendered his shielf forever and acting on nothing more than his cop's instincts, he saves three girls from drug dealing pimps. Yes, there's probably nothing more cliche than the hero saving the girl from the villian, but I'll be damned if it doesn't work beautifully here. The last shot of the film is unforgettable, as he slowly walks away from the crime scene, having saved the girl(s) and finally redeemed his long-lost soul.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Detective Sal Procida (inside a church confession booth): "I did a bad thing...but to a bad guy; a very, very bad guy, all right, and for a good reason. You think that a rationalization, right? That's what you're thinkin'."
Priest: "Here, did you pray for guidance?"
Sal: "No, I couldn't do that."
Priest: "Why not?"
Sal: "'Cause prayers were not gonna get me what I needed."
Priest: "Is it more important than your relationship with God? No matter what you may have done, he's ready to forgive you."
Sal: "He is, huh?"
Priest: "We're all imperfect creatures, and we're lead to sin. That's why we have to surrender our souls to God."
Sal: "Well to be honest with you - I've been here before, all right, askin' for God's help, a lotta times, okay, an' my situation is not gettin' any sunnier, you know? So, so why should it now?"
Priest: "Your pride is denying the possibility of God's goodness."
Sal: "Why does He get all the glory, you know? Why is that, huh? He gets all the glory an' I get all the blame. I mean, is it not possible that maybe God isn't carryin' his end of the weight?
Priest: "Look, this thing is obviously weighing on you...so release it. Confess your sin. Pray for foregiveness."
Sal: "I don't want God's foregiveness! I WANT HIS FUCKIN' HELP!"
Thursday, December 2, 2010
(January 1984, U.S.)
Compared to some of Woody Allen's bigger classics like SLEEPER (1973), ANNIE HALL (1977) and MANHATTAN (1979), a modest little film like BROADWAY DANNY ROSE probably doesn't stand up as well. It doesn't, really. But in its own right, the film has an irresistable quality to it. The fact that's it's shot in black and white adds a cliche of artistic element to it. The fact that it stars Woody Allen playing his usualy neurotic, moronic and sometimes psychotic personality never hurts, either.
As with many of Allen's film characters, Danny Rose is associated with show business. The kick here is not so much his profession as a theatrical manager, but rather the ridiculous acts he handles; a one-legged tap dancer, a blind xylophone player, a balloon artist and a woman who plays the tops of drinking glasses with her hands whom Danny swears will one day play at Carnegie Hall (???). His one great client is an overweight Italian crooner who's in love with a cheap, gangster's blonde Tina (played by Mia Farrow), and it's with her that the screwball adventure begins to take shape, much in the spirit of films like BRINGING UP BABY (1938) and WHAT'S UP, DOC (1972). Those who know Woody Allen's nervous style and mannerism will know that he won't take too kindly to any kind of adventure that puts him in any confusing or dangerous position.
As mentioned earlier, BROADWAY DANNY ROSE will likely not go down in film history as one of Woody Allen's best. It's a fun film to watch, nonetheless. The dialogue below when he's just been grabbed and shoved into a car with two gangsters who intend to kill him is a prime example -
Favorite line or dialogue:
Danny Rose: "Fell...fellas...fellas...fellas...may I...can I...may I just interject one thing at this particular point in time?"
Gangster #1: "Keep goin' straight."
Danny: "Look, I LIKE Johnny. This is...what you don't understand...I LIKE your brother. I got nothin' against him. I just met him today. He's sweet. I liked his poem. What's under discussion here is the girl's feelings. That's what we're...the girl...incidentally, where is the girl?"
Gangster #2: "Oh, we're gonna take real good care-o-you, pal."
Danny: "I wanna say one thing, and I don't mean to be didactic or facetious in any manner...she doesn't love him. That's...she doesn't love him anymore. What can I...? You know...I know, it's hard to take, you know, because we all want what we can't have in life. This is...it's a natural thing. But, uh, you know, take my cousine Seal - not, not pretty like Tina at all. She looks like something in a reptile house in the zoo. So, you'll like this story...she meets this accountant..."
Gangster #1: "Will ya shut up!"
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
(December 1987, U.S.)
Ah, Christmas 1987 - I was in my third year of college and partying my ass off! At the movies, Michael Douglas was telling the world that greed was good, Robin Williams was yelling "Good morning!" to Vietnam and BROADCAST NEWS was giving a young guy like me his first glimpse as to just how phoney and fabricated network news television could be. Even today, I find myself unable to watch the news for no more than a half hour without developing a knot in my stomach. It's not just because nearly all of the news is bad news, but the style in which it's presented has become completely over-sensationalized in its delivery, filming and editing style. In short, it has, in my opinion, developed a status level that falls just short of a reality TV show. You want an example? Just watch anchorman Chuck Scarborough on New York's NBC-TV nightly news at 11 pm; the man has a constant happy and chipper demeanor throughout his broadcast, even when the news is horribly tragic, just as if he were prepped, primed and put together like an overbloated TV game show host. So what's the solution? Watch more CNN or MSNBC? Well, it's a slight improvement, but I'm afraid even those two so-called "serious" news networks may be falling victim to the disease of broadcast sensationalism.
But anyway, back to movie in discussion - BROADCAST NEWS is a film that can be called as knowledgeable about the TV news-gathering process as any movie ever made, but it also has insights into the more personal matter of how people use their high-pressure jobs as a way of avoiding time alone with themselves. The best example is news producer Jane Craig (played by Holly Hunter) who is so appalled by every negative element that modern television news epitomizes, she has actually managed to repell other people through her personality and convictions. When alone with herself, she can only cope with the stress and pressures by experiencing a well-needed cry. News anchorman Tom Grunick (played by William Hurt) is admitedly uneducated, uninformed and unseasoned at his profession, and as he puts it, is "making a fortune" (what's not to love about the guy?). Albert Brooks' presence is as funny and as charming as you'd expect from any role he takes on. Frankly, I don't think I've ever heard anyone express sarchasm on film the way he does. But in this film, he's also excellent at taking the viewer inside the world of television news, though perhaps not terribly good at analyzing it all. Can ANYBODY alalyze television these days? It's all such a horrible mess!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Aaron Altman: "I know you care about him. I've never seen you like this about anyone, so please don't take it wrong when I tell you that I believe that Tom, while a very nice guy, is the Devil."
Jane Craig: " This isn't friendship!" You're crazy, you know that?"
Aaron: "What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around?"
Aaron: "Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No, I'm semi-serious here."
Jane: "You're serious..."
Aaron: "He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing. He will just bit by little bit lower our standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance...just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he'll get all the great women."