No, that’s not my best shot from Dog Day Afternoon, although that this movie begins by showing an image of a moving ship, among more b-roll, counts as guffaw-worthy to me. Because the rest of the movie presents the clashing that occurs during movement within claustrophobic surroundings, that this combination is more explosive than any kind of action in a city like 1970’s New York where something’s always happening. Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) and his accomplice Sal (John Cazale) planned a simple bank robbery in a branch in Brooklyn but one mistake after another turned it into barricaded televised street theatre. And we have to note that is the best person to document this story, one of the few who understood New York and its citizens’ contradictory cosmopolitan nature. Sonny is short, armed and scrappy and that’s not even where that list ends.
Nathaniel’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series, just like movies themselves are visual obviously, but Dog Day Afternoon is equally a sonic experience. Sonny and Moretti (Charles Durning) and all the others involved applauded or mocked by a pre-internet flash mob (they all suddenly appear as the cops set up the barricades, it’s hilarious). While rewatching this movie I wished that the players and the audience shared more screen time. And while Moretti was on his bullhorn, I wonder if a simple screen cap conveys that context that there’s an audience echoing his booming calls to Sonny. Can a screen cap let a neophyte understand that Sonny is waving to dozens of people with joy and not look like a deranged person? Can the breeze and the sweat give a hint that there are hundreds of eyes watching the two of them?
Sounds influence actions, like in the scene when cops try to break in through the windows of the back wall of the bank and the clusterfuck that happens afterwards. When he shoots the tellers inside get frantic and the people outside duck and scurry.
There are also moments that work as decrescendos here, the characters’ bellows and pleadings compensating for the lack of running around or gun pointing. No bullhorn needed, like the breeze or the light make these characters across the street from a bank look like magical vision for Sonny, begging for his sanity. And Sonny yells back, the best use of Pacno’s lung power because there’s a whole city block to fill with his voice.
But back to movement and energy, my favourite element of this movie encapsulated by the shots that I remember when this movie gets brought up in conversation. So much running in this movie, making for two of my best shots here.
Sonny trying to find out who the person is across the street who is realizing that a robbery is taking place. Moretti running either to his trigger happy cops to back away from Sonny or to running towards a random passerby who assaults Sonny. Moretti takes on a substitute father role for Sonny (Sonny’s real father, played by Dominic Chianese, is on the border of disowning his poverty-stricken son). Both surrogate father and son have trouble with the spaces they inhabit. The petulant child is moping inside while appeasing the female-dominated playground that he thinks he he’s entitled to. The father trying to make the son content while tugging on the strings of the forces of the outside world that he can barely control, which is, after all, what Sonny tragically struggles with.
From my childhood third world perspective, looking through a keyhole into the widely disseminated First World pop culture, sports were the furthest thing. But I have a sneaking suspicion, that Oliver Stone‘s portrayal of the public and private lives of a football team in Any Given Sunday feel inaccurately cartoonish. For the pats decade, there has been a different quarterbacks who would host SNL once every four years and another one who would announce his blindly conservative views. And mind my traces of nerdy, anti-jock prejudices but anyone who gets to college through a sports scholarship should never be in front of a microphone ever.
That said, I don’t remember the late 90’s with the memory of men Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx). He starts out as a nervous last resort on this movie’s football team, the symbolically named Miami Sharks, replacing quarterback Jack ‘Cap’ Rooney (Dennis Quaid), the latter feeling varying degrees of pressure from his coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) and his wife to play on, has taken it to himself to swallow his pride and make way for the new blood.
Then becoming its unlikely rising star, and it’s inevitable that this new fame, the fake friends that go with them and the endorsements get to his unprepared head. For some reason, he would be allowed to embarrass himself through a nationally broadcast sports channel and a rap music video. The movie also gives us access to his semi-private life, with his stupid crass boring ass parties and such. It was as if Stone was conflating that decade’s football stars with those in basketball, like actor Michael Jordan, rapper Shaquille O’Neal and model Lebron James. Beaman is the cringe-inducing manifestation of the black masculine ego, Stone’s inadvertent racial, gendered caricature. I’m not saying that this movie’s racist but if someone told me that it was, I wouldn’t object to his or her opinion.
Knowing that characters within the Sharks are less surprisingly coarse, what interests Stone are stories with trashy narcissists who have no business in becoming figureheads of America’s institutions, whether they be political, financial or athletic, but they end up doing so because of luck and some talent. Timing is important to them, entering these systems in dire times, and their presence within their new worlds make these institutions more precarious, the same way the Sharks’ standing within the NFL is vulnerable. Speaking of talent, I can’t fully discredit Stone’s anti-heroes or villains no matter what they do or how they get to the top, Clay Shaw is well-connected and an efficient taskmaster, Gordon Gekko knowing stocks at the back of his cranium. Of course after vomiting spells and surprisingly, Tony coaching, Beamen can magically pass the football to the other side.
It also helps to know who’s on scriptwriting duties. Helping Stone out is John Logan, responsible for the expanisve, ambitious, masculine and violent A-list vehicles like The Last Samurai, Sweeney Todd and the Oscar-winning Gladiator and Daniel Pyne, whose work in Fracture and the TV series “Miami Vice” bring equal amounts of flash and contemporary grit to this movie.
Back to Stone’s characters, if the ‘trashy’ character is a secondary protagonist like Beamen, there comes a more major character who has to make us less cynical and make us believe that the Sharks and football are holy institutions with integrity and rules. That’s what Tony is for. Pacino amazes here, as we can hear his vocal restraint even when he’s yelling at his players and calling them ‘an embarrassment.’ He has a good rapport with the other actors playing athletes, guiding these characters individually especially in times of need, like injuries, ego deficiencies and the like.
There’s also owner-by-nepotism Christina Pagliacci (Cameron Diaz). Both are conflictophiles, Tony and her respectively representing old and new ways of handling a sports team, both of them being right in their own ways. There’s a short yet innately caricature-like moment when Diaz is sitting on her desk, “Thinker” pose and all. She’s absent in chunks of the movie and neither is she perfect, especially in verbal clashing with a commanding presence like Pacino, but she’s aware of the pressures that faces her character.
Supporting cast includes Aaron Eckhart as an offensive coach impatiently waiting under Tony’s wing, Ann Margaret as Christina’s alcoholic, chagrined and emotionally abandoned mother Margaret and LL Cool J as an endorsement hungry player resentful, like everyone else, of Willie’s refusal to follow the playbook.
The rest of it I’m not a big fan of. Stone’s indulgent camerawork were effective in his earlier movies. He tries to use the same techniques to capture the game’s frenzy but it doesn’t work, especially with adding the aggressive, multi-genre popular music. Scenes of football games portrayed with pathetic fallacy, either with glaring, desert-evoking multiple spotlights or the rain and mud, either weather condition showing every anguished sinew of the athletes despite all that padding. That and the flashbacks were needlessly fetishistic. The more subtle the better. And of course, Charlton Heston appears some commissioner who says about Christine that ‘she’ll eat her young,’ reinforcing the movie’s xenophobic streak in thinking that a woman could be in power is if she’s evil. Please.
- Are You Ready For Some Football? (Oliver Stone Style) (moviesinpurgatory.com)
This is my second time doing this. And this was the second thing distracting me during that little movie Al was in. I keep drawing from the well, aren’t I?
I hope I get this posted before actual negotiations between real people happen, and no matter what happens in the real level, and I hope they do a better job than I do, my fantasy Lear will always exist in my head and on the internet.
Lear – Al Pacino. Nothing we can do about that yet.
France – Guillaume Canet. I saw L’Affaire Farewell and he can stand his ground with someone like Al.
Burgundy -Ben Whishaw. I want someone younger for Burgundy but has good chops. And he’s played the not so smart young’n in Layer Cake, which is not the same thing but it’s a type.
Cornwall – Mark Ruffalo. He’s gonna be as explosive in this as he was in that one scene in You Can Count on Me.
Albany – Ewan McGregor. Like Ruffalo, he can interpret his character as either villainous or a goof. As long as the direction doesn’t make the characters too extreme.
Kent – Ray Winstone. He’s played the bad best friend, and Kent is a bit like that, getting into fights to prove his loyalty.
Gloucester – Jeremy Irons. He’s just a little younger than Pacino and they’ve worked together for The Merchant of Venice.
Edgar – Paul Bettany. He’s played benevolent characters before. And Edgar’s gonna be misunderstood, and Bettany can make Edgar duplicitous if he wanted to.
Edmund – Cillian Murphy. He’s known to make a lot of out secondary roles and he’ll be good as a juicy little villain and seducer. And there’s something in his eyes that makes him look like Bettany’s brother.
Fool – Diane Keaton. Emma Thompson’s played Fool against Michael Gambon’s Lear. And this will be a reunion and this will be fun.
Goneril – Kristin Scott Thomas. If there’s anyone who knows how to confront men, it’s her.
Regan – Olivia Williams. She was the perfect ice queen in The Ghost Writer, and I can’t wait to see her do another femme fatale.
Cordelia – Keira Knightley. She’s learned the silent defiance in Atonement and can bring Cordelia’s pain to screen without making her look like a weeper.
This is what was distracting me while watching “The Godfather.” This is also probably a proof that the epic ‘lit a fire under everyone’s careers,’ but it didn’t let most of the people involved feel like this is their magnum opus. The same, however, could be said about “Gone With the Wind or “The Dark Knight.”
Al Pacino – “Serpico,” more of an Al Pacino vehicle than “Dog Day Afternoon.” Him in “DDA” is hailed as his best, and it’s surprising how his best role is his gay one, but it also owes a lot to Lumet’s stage-like directing.
James Caan – “Dogville,” where he plays a cameo that’s a polar opposite of his character in “The Godfather.”
Robert Duvall – “Apocalypse Now.” It could have been “Network” if there was more for him to do.
Sterling Hayden – “Asphalt Jungle,” just because of that last scene.
Diane Keaton – “Reds,” where she’s acidic. And in this movie directed by Alan Parker which I have yet to see.
John Cazale – “Dog Day Afternoon.” Cool, calm, sadistic.
Sofia Coppola – Not as an actress, but “Lost in Translation.”
Cast in Sequel:
Robert de Niro – “Taxi Driver,” obviously.
Francis Ford Coppola – “The Conversation.” I love this movie so much I wanna marry it.
Nino Rota – See (or hear) Fellini’s crazy, psychedelic, surrealist, fun yet moody films.
- The Conversation (notreallyworking.wordpress.com)
Finally! And just to let TV folks know that no one can sit through four hours of this with commercials. Luckily, I caught this on the Bloor on Thursday. I was still slightly distracted, partly because I’ve seen most of this movie until the baptism massacre. I’ve read some of the criticism of this movie listed here, so seriously, what else is there to say?
That I’m flip flopping as to whether or not this is nature or nurture – either his safe distance from the family business made him learn enough and to stay temperamental or that Michael (Al Pacino) was ordained to be Don, despite everyone else’s plans. That this is “greatest movie ever” despite that all the principle players with the exception of Abe Vigoda have been better somewhere else.
That Michael, brandishing an Anglo name, had the swagger of Jimmy Cagney once he turned into the hat-wearing gangster.
That this movie’s pretty meditative until the murder scenes, all having the punch of William Wellman gangster movies.
That I couldn’t remember Sterling Hayden’s name and that bugged me for the whole movie, so I just kept calling him Robert Ryan instead.
That Italians really like Italian stage blood.
That where are the women?
That one reviewer actually pointed out Sonny’s (James Caan) shoulder and back hair and yes, I would still hit it.
And lastly, that there’s a place in my heart for Godfather III because Michael and Kay (Diane Keaton) make the cutest old divorced couple ever and that I can turn that into a drinking game, unlike this one.
p.s. CHCH is gonna be airing on pan-and-scan and HD versions of “The Godfather” on June 13th at 7, and the respective sequels will be aired at Sunday June 20th and 27th at the same time slot.
Police work involving a black woman getting raped followed by a dance party followed by police work followed by a discussion of Japanese art followed by police work involving smoking pot to ‘learn about its effects’ followed by the best breakup ever in a Greenwich village apartment and police work and the worst breakup ever in a chic coffee shop plus more police work. That sounds like a B-movie or a Sidney Lumet biopic, “Serpico,” that it actually is. I also realized that the hipster references only made up less than ten minutes of the movie, but they stand out. The movie after all depicts the cusp of the 1970’s and not only does an Italian American police officer, Frank ‘Paco’ Serpico (Al Pacino) like his friends do, from the old neighborhood get within the wave of the moment but he takes advantage of it and incorporates the whims of the baby boomers to fit in despite his job as a cop.
Mixing “the scene” into a cop movie makes this a unique example of a genre, and it’s surprising how a little element can have such a huge impact. Instead of being a moralist, Paco is an enlightened man and that’s what drives him as the honest police officer in a sea of payola cops. He ends up with a suffering girlfriend instead of a crying wife and children, but to refer again to this coolest of police officers, we still feel like we’re on the brink of losing a person to his profession.
And from what I’ve seen of their work so far, this is the most cinematic of Lumet’s movies since it relies on cadence than blocking or script like it does in his other movies I’ve seen. And it’s one of Pacino’s best performances, being whiny and intellectual and loving all in the same person. Also prepare yourself for a mustache and beard and ridiculous, fun-to-watch outfits including a Rabbi costume. The Fleet Foxes look actually makes his eyes pop and look benevolent. Were his grooming and his hemp fabric shirts supposed to evoke Jesus? No one else will allow him become all those because he’s too old and it wouldn’t work.