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Here's to Lookin' At You: The Public Enemy

Posted by jargononline on October 18, 2014 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney


 

Every great genre has a beginning. Horror movies can be traced back to the Germans, and comedies back to Ronald Regan. But the gangster drama can be traced all the way back to “The Public Enemy”, the movie that was “Goodfellas” before Martin Scorsese was chewing on the pacifier that gave him a super human brain.

Filled with numerous classic scenes—like James Cagney shoving a grapefruit in Mae Clarke’s face or him being “delivered” home at the end—the major takeaway is the grit and low-down dirty tone of the entire picture.

Following young Tommy Powers (Cagney) at a young age as he hoodlums, smirks and spits “Why I outta!” dialogue all the way until he is an adult whose mastered those very traits, “Enemy” is the true summation of a life of crime. He was born to be a crook, and Cagney was born to play the role.

You wouldn’t think that years after filming this he would win an Oscar for “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, which had him tap dancing and singing. Here he’s killing, robbing, using fruit as a weapon, smacking around anyone who tells him different, and Cagney is smirking the whole way. A naturally young looking face and short stature, his devilish grin and bulging eyes make him such an imposing figure he completely over shadows his co-stars, but it’s his undeniable charm that makes him an early anti-hero.

However dastardly likeable he may be, the movie makes the case with statements at the beginning and end that illuminate the fact these kinds of people are real, and that these kinds of foes cannot be tolerated. What better way to make the case than in the scenes eternally haunting ending, which finds a dead (and presumably tortured Powers) propped up at the doorway only to collapse when the door is opened. There is no leaving this life unless it’s through death, and even then the cycle keeps going. The movie see’s Tom’s brother Michael—a well-to-do soldier— walking into the frame filled with rage and sadness. Will he avenge his brother and fall into a life of crime, or will he see this as a sign and leave forever? I like to think the statement that fills the screen at the end that says only we can end violence hints to the ladder, but the final shot is so mysterious any explanation could be right.

The focus on Powers engaging in crime at a young age and following him to death can be seen as a direct influence on what is the best mob movie ever, “Goodfellas”, even though that movie had a slightly (okay, totally different) ending. But “The Public Enemy” laid the foundation for every mob movie to come after and gave birth to not only a star in Cagney, but an entire genre that has inspired an entire culture along with it. Director William Wellman wouldn’t be happy there is still insurmountable crime in the world done by men like Powers, but he should be proud his movie has stood the test of time.

 


Here's to Lookin' At You: All the President's Men

Posted by jargononline on August 24, 2014 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney




“All the President’s Men” is a movie that lives in the newsroom and in front of typewriters. The people involved never sleep and live on junk food, washed down with their 15th cup of coffee while wearing the same clothes for days on end. Journalists don’t live a glamorous life, but unlike being a policeman, as one you can expect to get in a gunfight every day.

Validated through the real-life story of reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and their exposure of the Watergate scandal, this is a movie that believes in the work of its subjects.

Woodward (Robert Redford)—a new kid on the block who is unsure of his own work but strives to authenticate it— and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman)—a man with more experience and journalistic savvy— are exactly the kind of men I described earlier. They don’t behave like other human beings: They never sleep beyond the occasional cat-nap and they don’t eat much and when they do it’s always McDonald’s (okay maybe that part other Americans can relate to). But that’s because they are hot on the trails of a ground-breaking story, and they have no time for petty human indulgences.

These are men who are hunting down the truth even though the abuses of higher power are stopping them at every turn. People refuse to give them the goods, and when they think they are the right track they end up talking to the wrong person and the story goes cold. They spend tireless hours in the newsroom, which they are either the only ones in it or they have to cover one ear when on the telephone to blot out all the hustle and bustle.

This is a journalist’s movie through and through. It emphasizes the intensity and excitement of chasing down leads and illuminates all the nooks and crannies of a newsroom, the desks so cluttered you can barely tell whose is whose, editors who debate your skills but will stick with you till the end, and even having to pull a few a tricks to get what you need (not the other kind of tricks, but actual schemes).

As well, it not only works as the best possible portrayal and testament of the press ever—but also as an egrossing film. The overhead shot of Redford and Hoffman digging through library records, the one shot of Redford running through the dark streets think he was being followed only to turn around and see no one was there are classic scenes of the era. Lines like “the trick is not minding” in regards to G. Gordon Liddy holding his hand over a candle or, “Grab them by the balls, and the mind and body will follow”, are not only examples of great characterizations of the hard men Woodward and Bernstein are up against, but of a perfect script too.

Filled with rich detail of a world too few actually get to see, plenty of intense scenes, stunning work by Redford and Hoffman, and a focus on the work that has influences great modern films like “Zodiac” and “Zero Dark Thirty”, “All the President’s Men” is an important, eternal 70’s classic. If you are striving to be a journalist, then this movie is essential and will make you want to jump in even more. If it doesn’t, then I suggest you seek a different line of work (taxidermy, perhaps).

 

 

 


Here's to Lookin' At You: Lawrence of Arabia

Posted by jargononline on July 2, 2014 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney


 

The grand deserts, the blowing wind, the orange sun and it bathe the Arabian Desert and its sweeping tundra and mountains in its glow. That is what makes the movie Lawrence of Arabia as it comes closer to illuminating the beauty of the desert in a way no nature documentary ever will thanks to the stunning cinematography of F.A. Young.

The booming and epic score by Maurice Jarre accompanies the rising sun when we are first taken to the endless plains of Arabia. It’s a way of waking up in the morning I would sell my arm to have. Okay maybe just a finger, but that’s still a lot.

Peter O’Toole is fantastic as T.E. Lawrence, a man struggling with the harshness of war and his allegiance to both Britain and his newfound companions in the Arabian Penninsula. It’s a subtle performance, which is almost as powerful as the visuals themselves. Almost.

I can’t stress enough how gorgeous the movie is even when, for the first two hour or so, it’s really nothing but talking and riding around. But David Lean knew that was the case, and he made the movie so even if you were nodding off, it would be to sweet dreams of beautiful faraway lands.

That is the essence of Lawrence of Arabia: It’s a movie that knows it’s an epic, and doesn’t need to keep your attention with lavish effects and colors. The landscape will do it for you, which in a way is the definition of epic scope.

 


Here's to Lookin' At You: Goodfellas

Posted by jargononline on July 2, 2014 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney


 

This is it, the granddaddy of them all. Forget The Godfather, The Godfather Pt. 2, Scarface or any kind of mob movie in film history. Goodfellas is the movie they all have to beat, and the one they never will. The ultimate Martin Scorsese movie, filled with rich music, boat loads of violence, and plenty of meatballs (both the food and the fat Italian man), this is a darkly comic odyssey of the rise and fall of a crime family.

Ray Liotta plays Henry Hill, the man at the center of this tale, who as we as a young teen wants nothing more to be a gangster. As he moves up the rank we meet a bevy of colorful and reckless characters played marvelously by legendary wise guys like Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Paul Sorvino. As we go on his journey we are exposed to all the ins and outs of the mafia lifestyle: heists, beatings, pasta, money, burying a big mouth on the side of the road, all the way to his demise and exodus into the witness protection. No stone is left unturned, and it’s a staggering, often hilarious ride indeed.

However fun a movie it is, there is a stark cautionary message looming in its loins about how crime never pays in the end, no matter how luxurious the ride may be. It’s a theme Marty would later touch on in a very similar fashion to great success in The Wolf Wall Street.

I will not continue any further because if you’ve seen the movie then you already know how stupendous this ride is, and if you haven’t, then you should stop reading and go watch it now. I’m serious. Go. Now. It’s 2014 and we have numerous way to watch a movie. You have no excuse!

 


Here's to Lookin' At You: Raging Bull

Posted by jargononline on July 1, 2014 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney


 

It’s astounding that after 33 years and watching Robert De Niro do fabulous work and work done simply for a paycheck, that Raging Bull remains one of the most endearing, challenging movie watching experiences. His performance is the definition of metamorphosis, and thank God Martin Scorsese was up to the task of elevating himself to equally delirious heights.

Robert De Niro uses the raw, intense, could-blow-at-any-minute mannerisms of boxer Jake La Motta to explore the mind of self-destructive man. To do so he gained so much amount of weight it appears he injected nacho cheese directly in his veins. This anti-glamour transformation occurs over time as he becomes larger , but as a result his star dwindles and he slowly loses the battle with his inner self, At his most bloated mentally and physically, his entire world implodes in depressing but riveting fashion. Flat out amongst the best performances by any actor at any time in any medium.

Scorsese’s atmospheric shooting style of the boxing sequences—which will forever be taught in film schools until the world collapses—are not only unparalleled as surface entertainment, but emblematic of La Motta himself. His brazenness, energy and tendency to lose himself in the heat of the moment all come through as he barrels towards an opponent. Even his arrogance shines when he lays against the ropes being pummeled by Sugar Ray Robinson followed by the line “You didn’t knock me down, Ray. You didn’t know me down.” No other time sense Taxi Driver, or ever after Bull, has made a movie feel so epic using a singular character. Kind of gives ya goosebumps.

No matter how good they may be, other boxing movies are video games compared to Raging Bull, their simplicity abundantly obvious. Just like in Taxi Driver, Scorsese and De Niro have crafted one of the most intriguing characters studies of all time, the greatest sports movie ever, and one of the most staggering masterpieces of the silver screen

 



Here's to Lookin' At You: City of God

Posted by jargononline on July 1, 2014 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney




It’s impossible to deny a movies greatness when it both accurately and captivatingly depicts the lives of people, as well as the culture they live in. If The Godfather and Goodfellas do this for the Italian and mob community, then City of God is The Godfather and Goodfellas of the Brazilian favela society.

Shot with more kinetic energy then any movie since, City of God looks like a real time documentary illuminating the harsh, sometimes feel good, but mostly harsh landscape that was the gang controlled slums of Brazil during the 70’s. It feels as if you are being dragged right into the heart of the action. I didn’t ask for that kind of manhandling but it’s okay, I guess.

The shooting is not only superb in style, but in what it is being shot. The portrayal of lives of multiple people caught up gang life—in one way or another—provides a stark look into the unavoidable void that is crime. Some crave it and fall through their own hubris; some choose it out of revenge and get what’s coming to them; others choose to watch through a lens, thrust into the middle of things. Either way you’re gonna have to deal with it, so suck it up.

There isn’t a single story that isn’t immensely engaging or remotely useless. The stories of crime lord Lil Ze, his partner Benny, revenged fueled Knockout Ned and the morally challenged Rocket who is confronted with all sides blend together seamlessly perfectly. No one is wasted, and even ancillary characters have their place.

As well as being a grim crime tale, forcing the audience to see things they wouldn’t dream about (I know I’m not the only one who teared up when the small children are forced to pick either their hand or foot to be shot in) it’s also quite funny and sometimes even sweet.

Knowing that a lot of the story involves teens, director Fernando Meirelles never forgets to have moments of genuine tenderness as friends enjoy the beach, a dance party, or just the others company. Granted this all before either dying or having to watch something awful, but like I said it all blends very well.

The combination of these stories infused with a lot of disturbing, intense sequences, but never forgets their innocence (if only ever at one point in their lives) City of God is both a staggering crime drama and riveting coming of age story. In short it’s a perfect movie. Absolutely. F-ing. Perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Here's to Lookin' At You: The Shawshank Redemption

Posted by jargononline on June 30, 2014 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney


 

If I were ever in prison, The Shawshank Redemption will be one of the movies I’ll be glad I saw so many damn times being that it is the ultimate movie about the celebration of life and inner freedom. However I wouldn’t be able to shake the whole rape aspect for quite a while.

What has made the movie a classic, and one worth watching again and again is the universal story. It’s all about two men living seemingly comfortable but routine lives, who after coming together learn to look at themselves and see the possibilities of a full life beyond bars.

But even though that may seem hokey to the uninitiated, director and writer Frank Darabont tells this story with just as much violence, foul language and engaging characters as needed to tell the end all be all of prison movies. And again, there’s a bit about some rape, but we don’t need to go into that.

Tim Robbins is excellent as Andy Dufrane, a man locked up not for killing his wife, but for driving her away with his lack of passion or free-spiritedness, who must go through trial after trial to find the true meaning of living.

Morgan Freeman plays the role he will forever be most identified, as he is the only man who could’ve played it. Wise, funny, sensitive, calming and who always knows what to say and when to say it. It was a defining role for Freeman, as it officially defined him as a person to the world.

This is a movie that could’ve been depressing and overbearing, but thanks to sympathetic and insightful direction from Darabont who keeps the pace lively, the story of Dufrane and his quest for inner redemption is as entertaining as any studio blockbuster. Unless it’s when he’s getting raped. Then maybe put the kids to bed.

 

 


Here's to Lookin' At You: The Exorcist

Posted by jargononline on June 29, 2014 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney



 

Never has a movie been so adamant about scaring the holy shit out of someone as The Exorcist. Its goal is cause nightmares inside your nightmares, and it succeeds brilliantly.

Director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty build up the movie so well they go as far as to start it off almost like a straight drama.

Focusing on the relationship between Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) and her soon-to-be-pea-spitting daughter Regan (Linda Blair), as well as on Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) struggling with his faith it would seem The Exorcist is an eerie character study. Then Regan’s heads starts spinning like an owl as her face is covered in blood.

Immense props need to be given to the special effects and make-up department, whose work on the young child is now the stuff of legend. People around the world will forever be scared by the images of Regan’s haunting face as she convulses and floats in the air.

These effects may not work on today’s audience watching it for the first time, being exposed to more blood in one Saw movie than this movie could even imagine using. But once little Regan starts crawling down the steps with blood pouring out of her mouth accompanied by demonic screams, its becomes hard for anyone to deny the sheer, horrific power of imagery.

What bolster these scenes to even greater heights are the score (which has now been everyone’s ringtone at least once) and the ceaseless atmosphere of the home. The room where the possessed girl resides becomes such a beacon of terror the heart skips pretty much every beat at even the thought of going in it, a method used even today by movies like Paranormal Activity

As for this Regan character she is played to absolute physical perfection by the then young Blair. Never has a young actor been so committed to a role, embracing to the grueling effects as she gets thrown around the bed like a rag doll. Many women would say similar bedroom work would be demeaning, but I’m sure Blair considers it a high point.

Burstyn and Miller are great two as the struggling mother and priest, but never have professional actors been so outshined by a child.

As I said, there may be scenes that have not aged well—which can be a death sentence for a horror movie—but the overwhelming intensity of most of the movie and the mythology (or reality) of the story is too hard to deny that The Exorcist has rightfully earned the a place as one of the scariest movies of all time. It’s only competition is any movie where Mickey Rourke shows his face.

 


Here's to Lookin' At You: Young Frankenstein

Posted by jargononline on June 28, 2014 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney


 

Young Frankenstein is such a good parody that it could easily be a worthy sequel in the Frankenstein cinematic pantheon. It never wastes a moment to have fun with the source material and does so with respect to it through eerie castles, deep shadows and an entrancing violin score. But mostly, it’s a total goofball ride.

Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks prove they were one of the great comedy teams (also collaborating on The Producers and Blazing Saddles) perfectly mixing a unique wit with an adolescent spirit. Their jokes range from hilarious word play to countless bits about a wooden arm. The adult and the child in me both shared in the laughs, and then went back to fighting.

Wilder is not only a great comedic talent but a tremendous actor. He seamlessly evolves the character for Frederic Frankenstein from the reserved intellectual who prefers the Jewish pronunciation of his name to the manic, obsessed, eye-bulging scientist who shouts his German namesake from the top of a castle. I bet you his mother would not be thrilled.

However epic Wilder’s performance, it is the expert Marty Feldman as the world’s best cast hunchback in history (even though he’s not really aware of it). His eyes that look about to pop out of his skull at all times are never not funny, as well as his ability to deliver lines of comedy gold (“What hump?”, “It’s pronounced, Eye-Gor”, “BLUECHER!”) will forever be the stuff of legend. As a lanky individual, he gives me hope for a better life.

Brook’s is famous for many works— his later stuff is not really my thing, but who cares—but this is by far his most passionate. He takes the atmosphere, set design, lighting and every other little tidbit that made the old Universal horror movies such classics and then injects them with a satirical, child-like sense of humor syringe that I’m sure he keeps on him at all times. The result is a worthy spoof all his own.

 


Here's to Lookin' At You: The Social Network

Posted by jargononline on June 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

By Matt Rooney


 

Any guy or girl has been dumped and immediately said, “How can I show them? I know! I’ll create the best thing anyone’s ever seen.” This possibly eternal emotional response is the driving force behind David Fincher’s The Social Network, one of the definitive movies of this generation.

A semi-fictional adaptation of the creation of Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, a dweeb who shows up the girls who won’t love him and the men he’s not in the most spectacular fashion: creating something that they themselves will never be able to avoid. If that’s not nerd justice I don’t know what is.

David Fincher, reaching the peak of his digital filmmaking (he would continue to use it Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl) creates a sleek and precise style that works perfectly with the movies overall…motif (ugh, hate that word)

Just as well, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross contribute in their own entrancing ways with one of the most distinct scores, well, ever. Haunting, often energetic, but mostly soul gazing electronic beats are like something out of a computer hacker’s heart, but much less Tron-like.

Featuring a career-defining turn by Jesse Eisenberg as the smug, self-obsessed, and quick-witted Zuckerberg, Network has a cast fit for the ages including Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield and Rooney Mara.

But no matter how beautiful the score or perfect the acting, the movies crème de la crème belongs to bespectacled writer Aaron Sorkin and his crisp, air-tight script that could put Quentin Tarantino on notice. His ability to flesh out the honesty in a person’s character as a reflection of the society that morphs them, as well as a wicked sense of humor and pace, elevate Network to levels that solidify it as a undeniable masterpiece. I’m totally not jealous.

Maybe once in a decade a movie like The Social Network comes along that defines the angst, drive and voice of a generation, and sometimes not even then. In order to that everyone must be on the same page, and working together to bring it to life. Network is a movie made by people so in sync that it could make any other filmmaking team bang their faces into a wall repeatedly. And that’s the perfect way to sum up this movie: It’s face-bashingly good.