…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Sidney Lumet

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.


The Anderson Tapes


The Anderson Tapes is one of three Sidney Lumet and Sean Connery collaborations. Sidney Lumet is one of my favourite directors, and I’ve also believed that he’s the only director to make Sean Connery act. The opening credits reveal that ‘and Introducing Christopher Walken.’ There was no way I would skip this movie, despite the flaws I’m sensing. Then Dyan Cannon, the less human-looking yet more talented Farrah Fawcett. The flaws kept coming in, yet Martin Balsam plays a dated version of a gay guy. Are there names for the eras when gay guys dressed like Balsam’s character as opposed to today, when gay guys dress like douchebros?

ph. Columbia/Sony

Their characters are some members of a mish-mash group representing maligned groups in America, all involved in a caper that will rob an Upper East side apartment building while being spied on by multiple government agencies.

My mother talks over movies, but I’m in the school of criticism that listens to both Roger Ebert and Carmela Soprano equally. Apparently he looks older and more gaunt here than he did in the 90’s. Also, can I call on the BS on Connery retiring please? His contemporaries are fed leftovers these days. Guys getting roles are five decades younger than him. It’s equally ridiculous to expect him to work. But don’t crap on movies today. If you hate the movies made today, make better ones.

Now, on to the movie itself. The commentary at “The Interviews” suggest a science fiction feel set in their contemporary times, engendered by the digital font of the opening credits, the score and the non-diagetic sound playing while Duke Anderson (Connery) notices the cameras that are obviously watching him. All of those feel a little forced, but it does bring out the futuristic anomalies that people at that time and even this time have to constantly update themselves with. Duke has been in jail for ten years, Pops for forty, prison then mitigates their distance from the evolving technology they missed out on. Being secluded from society during a long period, the changes are more drastic for them, the loss of control of their privacy more alarming. The opposing teams of the film – the capers and the Italian mob against the wealthy New Yorkers and the government, arguably are all groups from the old guard, playing in a new, more technologically equipped playing field.

The film also keeps cutting back and forth between events and locations, calling itself to its narrative. A scene between Duke and Italian mobsters are interrupted by, such as the IRS committees spying on them for other suspected crimes. An audio of a love scene between Duke and Ingrid (Cannon) is played back to them days later, the second time with Ingrid’s other lover present and spying on them. The robbery scenes are intercut with interviews of the robbed after the fact. This structure of the film calls out on how every scene has information we spell out in our heads. Recounting a scene also emphasizes its consequences, who will get caught, who’s getting hurt, who wins.

Final thought on the love scenes, not sex scenes. A little goes a long way. As well as the acting, and that Connery and the other actors playing capers express all that masculine bravado and vulnerability through those masks.


15 Directors Meme


Ruth from FlixChatter responded to being tagged to do a 15 Directors Meme post she did two-ish weeks ago, and I did some proud begging for her to tag me because I like talking about my favourite directors. Or I think I did – it was hard going past 12. I changed the list compared to my pre-list on her comments section. And it took me a while to respond.

What I look for in a director’s work is beautiful cinematography, theatre-like scripts or energy, decent representation of strong female characters. Lastly, a sense of humour, preferably dark, like coffee I would only drink if I was lazy. List.

  1. Stanley Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket)
  2. Charles Laughton (The Night of the Hunter)
  3. Christopher Nolan (Inception)
  4. Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Vol. II)
  5. Woody Allen (Sleeper, Another Woman)
  6. Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line ’98)
  7. Elia Kazan (East of Eden)
  8. Mike Nichols (The Graduate)
  9. Michael Haneke (Code Inconnu)
  10. Jane Campion (Bright Star)
  11. George Cukor (A Star is Born ’54)
  12. Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien)
  13. Sidney Lumet (Serpico)
  14. Lars von Trier (Dogville)
  15. Fritz Laing (Fury)

And now I have to tag ETA: six bloggers who have lives.

Jose, who talks about classics with wicked witches and fugly whores.
Simon, who reminds us that David Bowie played Andy Warhol in a movie.
Andy, who’s going to see Ellen Ripley cut a bitch.
Nick and Nathaniel. One’s very chipper and the other’s a quipper. Both are getting me really excited for the Oscars.
Farran, who reminded me that my birthday was also Constance Bennett Day.

For some reason, I think I know who they’re gonna pick, but I know they have the ability to surprise me and their own readers. 🙂


The Verdict


(Pinball wizard ph. screencap from DVD)

You can’t really tell whose vehicle this is – whether it is Sidney Lumet’s urban theatre about power struggle and the defense for what is right, or if it’s David Mamet’s, again, theatre where the world crowds and burdens our idealistic protagonist looking for redemption. It’s both. I’m more familiar with Lumet’s work. The other film I’ve seen of Mamet is “Redbelt.” I’ve read “Glengarry GlenRoss” the play and for some reason only have a vague recollection of it. Either way this seems like a slow marinade compared to their other work. It’s after fifty minutes later when Frank Galvin’s (Paul Newman) client’s brother-in-law confronts him which gets us at the edge of our seat.

It’s also unlike their work where in this movie, we get a lot of short scenes instead of a few big acts. The drama gets built up as we see both Galvin’s side and the archdiocese’s camp strategize, both teams stoic but they show a few breaks of sweat now and then. Speaking of stoic, Paul Newman’s looking the same but with gray hair. His performance is a bit quieter here than his showy roles fifteen years earlier. He doesn’t do any yelling even in his last speech. It’s this subtlety that would mark his better roles after this one.

(Oh no she didn’t)

I’ve joked in private that David Mamet couldn’t write women. This movie, however, gives us Laura Fischer (Charlotte Rampling), a strong female who’s also afraid of her tough persona. There’s Sally Doneghy, still feeling the pull and tug between her husband and vegetable sister. Finally, there’s Kailtin Costello Price, the nurse whose less than five-minute appearance makes us feel as if we’ve known her life story. This is one of the incidents where I couldn’t have been more glad to be wrong.

Lastly, this paragraph isn’t necessarily a spoiler as much as it is an advice to douchebag judges and lawyers. How did Frank and the Plaintiff win? Sandbag the little guy once, shame on you. Sandbag them twice and they jury will see what’s going on.


Serpico


(Everybody loves Paco ph. secret)

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.

Serpico(Not Woody Allen)

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.


Network at the Bloor


Network(Like Noah’s Ark. ph. secret)

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

That is Howard Beale’s (Peter Finch) jeremiad proclamation, echoed by a handful of New Yorkers decorating its apartment walls. Seeing this on the big screen will incite wonder and dread, the first of many proclamation within this movie.

One of the components of a movie or it to be considered a favourite is the crazy. I mentioned this in my post about “Twelve Monkeys,” but you’ll hear different pitches of it in “Network.” The movie is one dialogue explosion surpassing the previous scene, culminating with a last and fucked up solution.

Sidney Lumet, one of my favourite directors,  is the hand that rocks this film. His theatre background is well demonstrated here, again handling Paddy Chayefsky’s eloquent script like it’s Shakespeare. Howard Beale asks his audience to be involved the same way Lumet provokes his audience to new crazy heights. The characters referring to the fourth wall reminds us that a self-aware fictional lie is better than the comforting one.

Everyone else who has seen this movie will talk about its parallels today. We’re at the ‘Golden Age of Television’ now, but that doesn’t stop “processed instant God,” as Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) says, to seep through and turn every viewer into a madman. Imagine a Glenn Beck who cannot understand Ayn Rand.

I want you get up now, turn off your computers, get up on your chairs, and go to the Bloor tomorrow night at 9. Plan this. Take at least one other person with you. See the movie and find out whether “Rocky” should have won. You have to see this movie before you die.