…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Robert de Niro

Guilty Pleasure: Analyze This


‘I love Billy Crystal, I want him to host the Oscars,’ so you say but when I hear his name I think, snarkily, like I do with my best friend’s ex-boyfriends. ‘Like really, him?’ National treasure statuses go in waves and I got introduced to him and his work during a hiatus of said status. Others have experienced him during When Harry Met Sally… or now when he upstaged whoever was hosting the Oscars – I have an interesting story of how I missed that glorious moment, by the way. I, however, lump him within middle-aged comedians dominating HBO with dated comedies of the late 1990’s. Tim Allen. Tom Arnold. It’s sad, I know, but he did star as Dr. Ben Sobel in the Harold Ramis directed movie Analyze This.

Oh, I get it, America and Canada loves him because he looks like a human Muppet, with smizing beady eyes and the way he opens his thin lips. It’s funny listening to his muffled voice when he gets high-pitched and irritated with Paul’s demanding ways. He also reaps as much as he can pose as a gangster in Paul Vitti’s (Robert de Niro) place.

With a cast including Lisa Kudrowas Ben’s long-suffering fiancée, Chazz Palminteri as a gangster rival and half of the people who have appeared in “The Sopranos,” Crystal gets sidelined, having to play the normal guy as he normally does. He doesn’t always hit a home run with some punch lines neither. However, I find myself surprised when I chuckle to some of the jokes that I didn’t catch the first or the second time I have seen this. He’s funny when he’s underplaying a punch line about himself as a psychiatrist. His brand of physical comedy more introverted than limb-y.

This movie also came out the same year when the aformentioned “The Sopranos” did, both coincidentally have plots about aging gangster types who deal with their emotional and psychiatric issues. Ben plays a psychiatrist who deals with the sexual ennui of the middle-aged until he lands on a goldmine by getting Paul as a patient. Wackiness and whacking – not off – ensues, chaos being an essential part of every generic comedy. Ben sees Paul merely as a patient but like every other comedy, the latter has boundary issues. Vitti has daddy issues but unearthing those psychological knots also mean that he can convince Ben to talk about his father too. In a way, they’re perfect for each other.

Crystal also gets upstaged and rightfully so by de Niro, who’s on his post-post-Scorsese era. The latter probably did this movie in the tail end of gangster revisionism or genre mash-ups that began a decade before. He gives the character exactly what it needs for a comedy – a childlike nature that makes him think that he beyond scrutiny. Unlike Crystal, de Niro barely if ever plays it down. In some of his scenes he’s angry. In one, he almost seems like he wants to give out a full-on Christopher Walken impersonation. He also uses his signature scrunchy frown in the greatest ways, in one scene transitioning to that to full histrionic crying about his daddy issues that he can’t function during a gangster gun fight.

And since we already brought up the ‘national treasure’ thing. He’s probably the only unscathed survivor of the great actors and actresses of the 1970’s, getting constant work that are equally hit and miss. But we’re also living in a world where Jack Nicholson stipulated in his contract that he can’t work with Lindsay Lohan in any circumstances yet de Niro is in a movie with Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi and Ashton Kutcher. I don’t like saying this phrase but how the mighty have fallen.

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Few more thoughts on Limitless


I work in a ‘cheese factory,’ where it was magazine day on Monday and Limitless stars Bradley Cooper and Abbie Cornish are on the cover of next month’s “Marie Claire.”

ph. justjared

This is on the buy list, after the Wasikowska ‘W’ and the Rihanna ‘Vogue.’ This is also on the buy list even if I’m more than five years too young for the magazine’s demographic. Just saying.

My review for Limitless for Anonymous Material (Sam did it better) went online yesterday. Sam has second thoughts about NZT, I called shenanigans on Eddie’s career change, and I have another one.

Carl van Loon asks Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper) – not to be confused with Edward Murrow – about how he knows which stocks are going to rise and fall and the latter answers something vague about knowing the algorithm of human behaviour and interests, helping him find out stock trends.

Why didn’t Carl’s (Robert de Niro) right hand man just ask Eddie about  the rise and decline of a specific stock? Carl is reputed to be a quiz master and trumps novices, and I wanted to see that in action. I would also rather be bored by a few seconds of expository dialogue than be left hanging.

Or maybe the film’s worldview chooses determinism over free will, Eddie knowing that every company or honcho has its time. He can’t pretend to have all the answers in case one of them bites him back. The film ends with Eddie bragging about how he can see 50 scenarios, knowing how to beat someone with their first move. ‘Why’ is, then, an inferior question compared to opportunities he can grasp from the said scenarios.

The assistant instead just calls Eddie a quack. It’s easier and time efficient to dismiss someone than to further test him.

I also like what it does with the idea of knowledge, that Eddie laces it with his own opinions, as he does with law theory and Renaissance European imperialism, the latter a reference hinting to the volatile nature of the Wall Street culture that Eddie is getting himself into. Spoiler, but Eddie’s victory has little to do with whether what he’s saying is right.

Or that there’s no rift or resentment between old ascetic Eddie and new suit Eddie. Being a few years younger than Eddie, I should prefer the old one over the new Wall Street one but writer artsy types are only tolerable if they’re successful and/or content. Or do director Neil Burger and his writers Leslie Dixon and Alan Glynn think that old Eddies can’t be successful? This is a B-movie, I should stop thinking too much about it.


Images: Casino


Geek done good Martin Scorsese is like a pre-Tarantino in his depth in film knowledge. The master, however, exceeds the extra mile by referencing both film and art in his 90’s film Casino, and make those references fit into the 1970’s and 1980’s when the movie was set. Scorsese’s always been visual but it was his work in the 90’s showcased this talent, with movies like Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence, and arguably Cape Fear.

John Ferren

ph. Universal

Dan Flavin

Caravaggio

Edward Hopper – although this is a little bit of a stretch

Edvard Munch – SPOILERS!


But Melanie … Ralston … Is A Badass Too


I love how every stoner posits him or herself as a medical or legal expert, such as Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) in Jackie Brown. You’ve had one of those in your social circle.

ph. Miramax/A Band Apart

Coughing’s good! It opens up the capillaries. You know, when you cough you’re pulling in air, or in this case – smoke, into parts of the lungs that don’t normally get used. So, coughing’s good, it gets you higher.

I mean, she’s white. She must have gone to college or something. And Fonda never hesitates nor clings on a word and just lets them fly out of her mouth with such certainty and security. While depicting drug addicts or questionables or damaged an actress can either go shrew or 33 variations of victim, and thankfully she’s neither.

For some reason, everybody watched Jackie Brown last Tuesday or Thursday nights when it was on at CBC at one in the morning. I only caught the last two hours of it, but I remember past viewings when Samuel L. Jackson shoots Chris Tucker. And by watching the rest, I guess I get the picture. I just love Bridget Fonda’s performance and character here so much. I’m not alone. She’s well-traveled, liberated, subversive. I had to blog her.

Quentin Tarantino is a great director in a technical side, deftly showing his audience the shot-counter shot relationship through Melanie, such as shot.

Counter shot.

Stop hating, Jackie.

Bechdel time!

Melanie?
Jackie?
Hey, girl, what’s up?
Hey, are you getting that suit?
Yeah. You like it?
It looks really good on you.
You got something for me?
You betcha.
I put a cherry on top. Booh-yah!

Good enough.

Melanie the character also has one of the greatest swan song in movies. Melanie started this precedent of women dying awesome in Tarantino’s oeuvre. O-Ren Ishii’s (Lucy Liu) decapitation, Elle Driver (Bo Derek) losing an eye, Bridget von Hammersmarck (Diane Kruger) getting strangled. For Melanie it all started with ‘Louisss…Lou-isss…’

And she gets shot. The end!


Stardust


ph. Paramount

There’s nothing real about this movie. As Wesley Morris wrote of the spin and sweep and woosh of the camera, trying to depict a vast magical world, it’s all CGI. When the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) fails to kill literally fallen star Yvaine (Claire Danes) and belts that big scream, the camera didn’t need to zoom and fly up. The movie turned a human moment – for a witch – into a technical exercise.

Fine, maybe a few things and real. First is the iceberg-laden beach scene with Prince Septimus (Mark Strong). This movie’s a great outing for him. His line read of ‘Do your work for my brother,’ is amazing, just evoking ruthlessness. Evil doesn’t break a sweat. He also fights out teenage hero Tristan while his body’s supposed to be dead, and I bought his physicality.

Then this scene where Tristan and Yvaine are just walking. There are other scenes like floating ships and craters that need CGI, or the latter just being shot in a set or something and again, no need to zoom out till later. Actual locations. Too much to ask? Just tone the CGI down, please.

I also totally didn’t get the Claire Danes hate until this movie. While she’s confessing her love to Tristan in the form of a mouse, she oversells it. Her face uncontrollably twists and she produces little bumps on her face that I never thought was humanly possible.

Other than the one scene and one b-roll, the movie had finer moments in Captain Shakespeare (Robert de Niro). His performance and hammy yet adorable. However, for British movie with a half-American cast, the accents aren’t that bad. Thank God for the generation of Carey Mullgan though, when British characters can be played by British actresses again.

I changed the channel 15 minutes before the end of the movie, and frankly, I can probably guess how it ends.

And oh hai, Ricky Gervais. I guess Andy Millman’s meeting with Robert de Niro worked out fine.


Image: Taxi Driver


(Am I the only one who thinks that Travis Bickle threatening to karate chop someone is less harmful and more lovably dorky? ph. Warner)


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.”

Cast:

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.”

Crew:

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.