Best Shot: Dog Day Afternoon
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 Sidney Lumet 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 of Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire fame, 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.
Where the principal players of The Godfather have been better
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.”
Marlon Brando – “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Although I haven’t seen “Last Tango in Paris,” and I hope I will in two months.
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.
Gastone Moschin – “The Conformist.” The girl who plays Anna Quadri (centre) in “Conformist” also plays a small role as a doctor’s assistant/interpreter in “The Godfather II.”
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.