“Cop Land” – 1997. Dir. James Mangold

With Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Robert DeNiro, Robert Patrick, Annabella Sciorra, Noah Emmerich, Frank Vincent, Arthur J. Nascarella, Peter Berg, Cathy Moriarty, Michael Rapaport, Edie Falco with John Spencer and Ray Liotta

“Don’t shut me out Ray! You found us a sweet little town. You got us the low interest, and I’m grateful. But don’t forget who it was that you came to two years ago to cover your ass!” – Figgs (Ray Liotta)

The film “Cop Land” has a simple template – it’s a town of Garrison, New Jersey that is forty minutes from New York City – where all the towns’ folk work as police officers. The patriarch of the town, Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) is the supreme power that rules the town. The small town has its own “law” and it’s enforced by native Freddy Heflin (an overweight and bloated Sylvester Stallone) who is a bumbling and slightly dim witted law man whose dream was to be one of New York’s finest. Sheriff Heflin has limited control, and the only power he has is the power Ray Donlan lets him have.

Inside of the town is Ray’s right hand man Jack Rucker (Robert Patrick) who is a man that has a primal urge of violence and destruction who goes head on with Ray’s old partner Gary Figgis (Ray Liotta who puts on a clinic). This is an extremely close nit and private community where everyone’s doors are unlocked and no one lives in fear, the only semi outcast is Figgs who now has a drug problem.

After an incident with Ray’s nephew Murray “Super Boy” Babich (Michael Rapaport) where Murray shot and killed two black teenagers while driving drunk and suspecting the two black men were pointing a gun at him, Ray and Leo Crasky (John Spencer) and some other “higher ups” of the community decide it best to fake Murray jumping off the George Washington Bridge in hopes it would prevent any unwanted investigation to their town of Garrison, New Jersey.

An old academy classmate of Ray’s Moe Tildon (Robert DeNiro) now works for internal affairs, and knows that Ray is dirty, knows that he’s been doing favors for the mob and in turn the mob banks offered low interest rates on home loans to the fleet of officers that could all buy homes outside of the violence and mayhem of New York.

I have seen “Cop Land” over twenty times in my life, and when I watch the film I see two things – I see a modern day western that follows the path of “High Noon” where a Sheriff takes his town back from corruption. Then I look closer and I see a film that brings morals and values into a heated debate. I ask myself while watching this film, if Ray Donlan is as bad as we’re supposed to think he is. Sure he may have done some bad things – we see him do some bad things – but everything he does isn’t for his own personal gain, it’s to protect this “utopian” community where police don’t have to live in fear.

They see so many horrors and unthinkable things as police officers in New York City – that when they come home to Garrison, they don’t have to worry about them, they don’t have to worry about locking their doors or sleeping with a gun under their pillows. They know that once they cross the bridge and enter their town that they are safe from the outside world. What these men have done is cut a couple of corners, do a couple of favors for bad people to insure the protection of their families.

We know from the start that Ray, Jack and Figgs aren’t the cleanest of cops, but by getting their hands dirty, they were able to protect fellow cops. And being put in the same situation, I feel that I would do the same. I mean, how far would you go to protect and provide for your friends and their families?

James Mangold (“Walk the Line”, “Girl Interrupted” and “3:10 to Yuma”) masterfully writes and directs a film that is a masterpiece. The dialogue is rich and filled with excellent exchanges between characters. It is a remarkable screenplay, and it’s that screenplay that allowed Mangold to direct his first film, and to get the attention of Stallone, DeNiro, Keitel and Liotta – who all worked for the SAG minimum salary to insure that the film would get made and not go over budget.

Aside from the star power of the top billed actors, Mangold fills the film with remarkable character actors to help support a great foundation that the screenplay and star power started to build. John Spencer who plays a character that almost seems like the one person that Ray reports too, and Robert Patrick is magnificent as Ray’s right hand man who in a split second would jump in front of a bullet for Ray. Arthur J. Nascarella was originally a technical advisor for the film since he was an NYPD officer for twenty years, but Mangold then wrote a part for him as one of Ray’s men.

The four leads give impeccable performances. Stallone gives the performance of his career, he touches upon emotions and traits that his characters aren’t usually identified with. He struggles with loneliness and apathy – and Stallone shows an awesome amount of range. I’m still bitter about him not getting a nomination. Stallone took this role so seriously he stopped working out, and gained sixty pounds of fat, which brought so much authenticity to Freddy that when I see Stallone in the film, I don’t see Rambo or Rocky – I see dim witted Freddy.

Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro are such seasoned actors that it’s easy for them to take roles that they can just walk through (DeNiro has been doing that since “Jackie Brown”). It’s wonderful to see them onscreen again, playing bitter rivals who hate the other one so much it makes the audience uncomfortable watching them on screen together. I mean, this is the first time the two have been on screen together since “Taxi Driver” – it’s been long overdue!

Now if I had to say that one actor steals the show, it would have to be Ray Liotta. Liotta plays his much typecast “man on the edge”, but in this film that is exactly what his character is. Liotta makes decisions in the film that leave him with much guilt. Liotta plays a modern day ronin – a samurai that has no guidance from a master and has now lost his way.

The finale of the film is as epic as epic gets with an old fashion showdown between the Sheriff and Ray and his men. It’s a showdown that has the good old shoot out finale that my friend Kevin over at The Pork Chop Express stated in his “Dark Blue” review that every cop film needs. I can abide by that.

Earlier in the review I stated that this film is a masterpiece. I do feel that the film is a masterpiece; while watching this film, there isn’t one thing that I have a hang up with, nor is there anything that makes the film not feel authentic. This film fires on all its cylinders throughout and doesn’t have any lulls or a snag from DeNiro’s opening narration to his closing narration.

While the moral conflicts the characters have in the film may not be the main focus of the average viewer watching the film; it does for me. By no means is this a landmark film or bring into light taboo subjects – but what it offers is an excellent acting ensemble, a finely tuned script, and remarkable storytelling by James Mangold.

Rating: 10/10

Man-crush Extravoganza!!!

I’m not ashamed to admit this at all. I have man-crushes – we all do (those of us who are men), and the ones that don’t admit it must have some deep seeded homosexual tendencies. Look, just because you have a man-crush, doesn’t make you any less of a man, and I’ll argue depending on who your man crushes are makes you even more of a man. Let us count down. Just because these men get me wet, doesn’t mean I’d have sex with them – or does it?

10) Rock Hudson

Yes Rock Hudson was gay. BUT!!! The roles he played, especially in the Douglas Sirk films and his role in “Giant” shoes us what a man should be. He is the embodiment of the archetypal man who influenced a generation of men into a mold of strength, honor and integrity. His role in “Far From Heaven” remains to be one of the finest performances that I’ll always resort back to when I want to see a man on screen. When I see performances like Til Schwigger’s in “Inglorious Basterds” I correlate his performance in that film, to the performances of Rock Hudson’s in the 1950’s.

9) Ken Watanabe

I had to get a little international here, didn’t I? The guy was sweet as the phony Ra’s Al Ghul and pretty nifty in “The Last Samurai” and broke my heart in “Letters from Iwo Jima” but when I saw “Inception” I just saw this man with an incredible moral compass of honor. Perhaps it’s the American stereotype of the Japanese at its finest, but I loved his character and I think he did the finest job in the film. The guy is just hott (yes, with two T’s, at least I didn’t say cool and spell it “kool”).

8) Billy Dee Williams

The “Old Smoothie” stole my heart in “The Empire Strikes Back” and in “Nighthawks” I feared him. On one side we have the slick jerri curled man in all blue with a cape that makes me scream at Carrie Fisher to at least make out with him (I know she was in love with Han Solo – but gaaarrrrsssshhhh!) or at least give him a little wink. In “Nighthawks” he played the partner of Stallone and was on the edge. He screamed fuck a lot and pointed his gun at the bad guys with an eerie state of bloodlust in his eyes. He had the crazy eye for sure, way before Steve Zissou.

7) Matthew Goode

Okay, I understand that Ozymandias is supposed to be slightly homoerotic since his character is eluded to being gay (there is a slight, slight, slight reference in the movie – when Nigh Owl II is on his computer, there is a folder titled “Boys” and there is also the scene in the opening credits where he’s at Studio 54 and is hanging out with the Village People and goes to shake Ziggy Stardust’s hand. And he pals around with Andy Warhol and Truman Copote). He plays Colin Firth’s departed lover in “A Single Man” but what really, really, really did it is when Castor posted his review for “Leap Year” (which I haven’t seen) and he put up an image of Matthew Goode and I couldn’t help but stare into his eyes.

6) Harvey Keitel

Yes I’m man enough to admit I’ve seen Harvey Keitel’s penis. Those of you who are brave enough to endure “Bad Lieutenant” (the original NC-17 version) not only got to see Keitel’s penis, but also him freebasing crack, shaking down drug dealers and jerking off while making two teenage girls simulate a blow job. That’s pretty rough stuff. Where my love for Keitel originated was not “Bad Lieutenant” – that movie makes me sick to my stomach – but when I first saw “Reservoir Dogs”. Mr. White is such a one dimensional character that we’ve seen before yet you really, really, really like him. He smokes, carries and big gun and talks a lot of shit that he can back up.

5) Roy Scheider

I do love him in “Jaws”; he’s got some cool lines. He’s pretty sweet in “The Punisher” as the patriarch Frank Castle, Sr. and pretty badass in “52 Pick-Up”. As Buddy Russo in “The French Connection” he’s so young and so awesome, and in “Marathon Man” a part of my cries every time he walks into Dustin Hoffman’s apartment bleeding and dies in Hoffman’s arms. What sealed the deal was Joe Gideon in “All That Jazz”. He is the fucking man! Whereas Hudson played the honorable man, Scheider plays the stereotypical womanizer, drinker and pill popper who wears his life down to a nub where he didn’t just walk the line, he held the line down and beat it to a pulp. Joe Gideon is one of those characters that once I’ve seen him, I’ll never forget him. He’s so memorable, and he’s such a piece of shit – but you do truly love him and you want him to survive – even though he hurts everyone around him, deep down inside of him, when you can pry his ego away and you catch a glimpse of his heart, you’ll see that Joe Gideon has a heart of gold.

4) James Ven Der Beek

I’ve never seen an episode of “Dawson’s Creek” in my life. I saw “Varsity Blues” when I was in High School and thought it was pathetic. Wasn’t there some movie called “Texas Rangers” that was like the shitty cousin of “Young Guns”? Never saw that either. So you might be asking yourself, how could I possibly have a crush on Dawson without actually ever seeing “Dawson’s Creek” (he was Dawson right?)? It’s a rather simple explanation. Are you ready? Is the suspense built up enough? Are you sure? “Rules of Attraction” where he played the emotional vampire Sean Bateman (yes – that Bateman), the motorcycle riding, unshaven, evil stare giving, jerking off to broadband speed internet porn, guitar playing, womanizing but can’t cum when he’s sober, lying, drug dealing AWESOMENESS (I don’t like the word “awesome” but in this case, Sean Bateman to me does inspire awe).

3) Warren Beatty

You walked into the party

Like you were walking onto a yacht

Your hair strategically dipped below one eye

Your scarf was apricot

You had one eye in the mirror

As you watched yourself gavotte

And all the girl’s dreamed that they’d be your partner

They’d be your partner, and

You’re so vain

You probably think this song is about you

You’re so vain

I’ll bet you think this song is about you

Don’t you, Don’t you?

You had me several years ago

When I was still quiet naïve

Well, you said we made such a pretty pair

And that you would never leave,

But you gave away the things you loved

And one of them was me *

*I realize that Carly Simon came out and said who the song was about, and sadly it wasn’t about Warren Beatty – but to me, whenever I hear this song, I can only envision Warren Beatty strutting around and not giving a fuck because he knows, he’s the man.

2) Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)

I’m sitting at Dorsia with Evelyn Williams, she’s on one or more psychiatric drugs. I’m not too sure what it was tonight, but whatever it was transformed here into this dormant state where she’s almost crawled into the fetal position in the plush chair she resides in. I sit to handsome to move. My mind wanders past the patheticness of all the empty faces that sit around us and I think of earlier in the afternoon. I went to Tower Records on the boardwalk after my squash match and late lunch with Timothy Bryce to obtain the new Talking Heads album. While in the store, the Liberal Arts majors’ home from Camden scurried around the store, in search of Duran Duran’s “Rio”. While there, in the same row of compact discs was this guy. His ears were perfect, they sat straight and flat on the side of his head. He had sideburns that were out of vogue but yet he wore them with this arrogance that you would find in Burt Reynolds. He uses aftershave with too much alcohol; his skin makes him look older than he is. He masked his overweight frame with an extra large Lacoste polo shirt. It was pink and hung below his belt where I could almost, just almost, make out a Marlboro belt buckle. He smokes. Disgusting. I thought nothing of him at first, though I kept glancing over at him. He was holding “Fore!” by Huey Lewis and the News in his hand and his Ray-Bans mirrored that of Huey’s. He likes Huey Lewis and the News. While mainstream pop had taken over the radio waves, polluting this country, polluting the foundation of our moral values and while this encroaches on our way of life, Huey Lewis is the bedrock of contemporary rock and roll proving to us, with each album, that we to can achieve the American Dream.

He’s someone that Luis Caruthers would stop and talk to.

“Hey, you’re Julian right?” he says as he interrupts me mid thought. Julian?

“No I am not,” I say with a cold tone.

“It’s Frankie. Frankie Mengarelli.”

“You are mistaken,” I start to feel a panic rush over me. The caged animal inside of me begins to scream. I start to sweat, my forehead feels wet, and my feet are becoming uncomfortable in my shoes. My hand holding the Talking Heads compact disc begins to slightly tremble, I hold my breath.

“Hey man, are you alright?” he says, with a deep and gritty voice that makes him sound almost like a Robert Mitchum/Lee Marvin hybrid. My hand begins to tremble a little more, this time it’s more apparent. I look up at him, helpless and weak. My mouth opens slightly but no words come out. I am filled with rage and distain, and I can barely utter out in a desperate plea:

“I need to return some videotapes.”

I am not alone.

1) Scott Glenn

Dawn has come; the sunlight has snuck its way past the tattered blinds that hang lazily on the window. The only sound in the room is of the ceiling fan that turns at a strategic pace. The clock to the left of me clicks with each second that passes. I lost count somewhere between midnight and now. The sheet that he allowed me to keep on my body has now imbedded itself into me. I can no longer sweat anymore. My mouth hasn’t had saliva in it for what feels like days. I’m worn out, done over – I feel like Courtney Love. In the ashtray on the desk adjacent from me, but between the bathroom lays an unfiltered Chesterfield. The smoke dances between the beams of light that shows me salvation. The door is cracked to the bathroom. He is in there, he sounds like a sound trying not make a sound. Fear is no longer an option, only the will to live is slightly inside of me. As he walks (closer to the bathroom door) his boots make an echoing sound that not only pierce my ears, but cover me with nothing less than a cold, numb feeling. He made me watch him do 2500 pushups (at one time). The bathroom door is open. I close my eyes as tight as they’ll go. The boots sound louder, louder, louder. If the Incredible Hulk was stomping down a corridor that had great acoustics – this is what it would sound like. The hulking boot steps stop. I keep my eyes closed for what feels like an eternity. I slowly, just slowly, open my eyes. I see his tight rock washed blue jeans. They’re Wranglers – no Lee – no, I was right the first time, Wranglers. As I look up, his fine tuned body I see the scratch marks on his chest, his neck. I finally make eye contact with him. With those cold, truthful eyes, he doesn’t have a scowl, or a grimace – he wears a look that can only be described as “don’t fuck with me”. He reaches for his worn out cowboy hat, and rests it upon his head without breaking his gaze at me. He put that fucking hat on his head perfectly on the first try. He bends his waist slightly towards the bed as I scuddle my feet up closer to me. He doesn’t flinch; still staring at me he grabs his perfectly white wife beater shirt and leans back into a perfectly straight stance. He holds the shirt in his right hand, and brings it across his body and wipes the blood off of his busted knuckle on his left hand (yes he’s left handed). He finishes wiping the blood off, and then slowly tosses the shirt onto me like it’s a used condom. He takes a step towards the door turning his back to me. He opens the door and turns before he exits. As he tips his hat to me and with the same expression on his face, all he says is this:

“I love you Bumpkin.”

Top Ten (currently working) Actors

Thanks to Heather over at Movie Mobsters has devised a list of who she thinks are the top ten currently working actors. After a day of debate on her blog, I thought I’d create my ultimate list so I could have controversy over on my blog. Enjoy dear readers.

10. Willem Dafoe

Career Highlights: The Last Temptation of Christ, Shadow of a Vampire, Platoon, Born of the 4th of July, Spider-Man, eXistenZ, Affliction, Auto-Focus, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, The Clearing, The English Patient, Clear and Present Danger, Wild at Heart, Daybreakers, American Psycho, Antichrist, Off Limits, Mississippi Burning, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Finding Nemo

Willem Dafoe is a champion of his craft. He’s never been afraid to take on challenging roles that other actors wouldn’t dare to touch. Dafoe has made a career of showing his in-depth range and sheer talent as a performer. He’s remarkable in almost everything he’s shown us. I will see anything that has Willem Dafoe in it.

9. George Clooney

Career Highlights: “ER”, Burn After Reading, Up in the Air, Good Night Good Luck, Solaris, Syriana, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Fail Safe, The Thin Red Line, Out of Sight, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, From Dusk Till Dawn

George Clooney has completely transformed himself from a TV actor, to a superstar heartthrob to a Warren Beatty-esq Hollywood tycoon. His performances have become deep and extremely complex and he is the embodiment of a silver screen icon much like Rock Hudson, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. His charisma and sex appeal often has me questioning my sexuality. George Clooney is a fucking man.

8. Harvey Keitel

Career Highlights: Bad Lieutenant, Mean Streets, Dangerous Game, Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Fingers, Bugsy, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Piano, Smoke, Clockers, From Dusk Till Dawn, Cop Land, Shadrach, Taking Sides, Fail Safe

To me, Keitel is the cinematic basass that is reminiscent of Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum and William Holden. He takes roles that no other actor would ever, ever, ever think of taking (aside from maybe Dafoe and Cage). He’s an absolute dynamo when it comes to his performances in Bad Lieutenant, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and Dangerous Game. I would not want to fuck with Harvey Keitel.

7. Robert DeNiro

Career Highlights: Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino, Cape Fear, Jackie Brown, Once Upon a Time in America, Wag the Dog, The Good Shepherd, Heat, The Godfather Part II, A Bronx Tale, Midnight Run, The Mission, Ronin, This Boy’s Life, Frankenstein, Backdraft, Guilt By Suspicion, Awakenings, Jacknife, The King of Comedy, True Confessions, Falling in Love, The Untouchables, The Deer Hunter

We all know that Robert DeNiro is an amazing actor. His range as an actor is magnificent. He would have made it a lot higher on my list if he hadn’t been working for paychecks the past fifteen years. Yikes…

6. Christian Bale

Career Highlights: American Psycho, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Public Enemies, The Machinist, I’m Not There, The New World, Rescue Dawn

Christian Bale is the best young method actor out there. He invests himself so deeply into his roles it reminds me of Daniel Day-Lewis. Most people will often think of Batman when they think of Bale – I on the other hand will always think of Patrick Bateman.

5. Al Pacino

Career Highlights: The Godfather, The Godfather Pt II, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Scarface, Insomnia, Any Given Sunday, Heat, The Insider, Looking for Richard, Glengarry Glen Ross, Dick Tracy, Carlito’s Way, …And Justice for All, Scarecrow, Panic in Needle Park, “Angels in America”, “You Don’t Know Jack”

To me Pacino almost, just almost falls under the DeNiro category since he has pretty much worked for a paycheck the past decade and a half but what saves him is Insomnia and his amazing performance in the Barry Levinson directed HBO film “You Don’t Know Jack”. Pacino is a lion of cinema and remains to be one of the greatest actors in cinema history. The incredible range he shows as Michael in Godfather and then the Michael in Godfather Part II is just incredible.

4. William Hurt

Career Highlights: Body Heat, Gorky Park, Altered States, The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist, Into the Wild, The Good Shepherd, Syriana, The Village, Rare Birds, Master Spy, Smoke, Dark City, One True Thing, Children of a Lesser God, A History of Violence, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Broadcast News, The Incredible Hulk, “Damages”, “Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King – segment Battleground”

William Hurt is a pompous actor. He thinks he’s awesome, and well, he is. He remains to be one of my favorite actors, and the roles he’s selected have always touched me. His characters have pulled on my heart strings and have brought deep emotions out of me. I love William Hurt.

3. Jeff Bridges

Career Highlights: The Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart, The Contender, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Last Picture Show, The Fisher King, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Jagged Edge, Iron Man, Starman, Fearless, The Muse, The Door in the Floor, TRON, Heaven’s Gate, Seabiscuit, Masked and Anonymous

Jeff Bridges remains to be the biggest influence of my life – even more so than Roger Waters (which I NEVER thought I’d say). His philosophies and his art have really transformed me into someone new. I used to be somebody/Now I am somebody else. With his performances he brings emotions out of me that I never knew I had.

Thank you Mr. Bridges.

2. Peter O’Toole

Career Highlights: Lawrence of Arabia, The Ruling Class, Venus, Bright Young Things, My Favorite Year, The Last Emperor, The Stunt Man, Caligula, Man of La Mancha, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Lion in Winter, The Night of the Generals, Lord Jim, Becket

How the fuck Peter O’Toole never won an Oscar is far beyond me. This man is an icon and a master at his craft. Sure he’s made bucket loads of shit – but he was fucking Lawrence of Arabia! He was King Henry II! He was Don Quixote! This man is a legend – better yet – a world treasure.

On asked why he didn’t win an Oscar for Lawrence of Arabia: “Because somebody else did.”

1. Daniel Day-Lewis

Career Highlights: Gangs of New York, My Left Foot, The Boxer, In the Name of the Father, Nine, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Last of the Mohicans, The Crucible, There Will Be Blood, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, A Room with a View, The Age of Innocence, My Beautiful Laundrette

I have never seen in my life a performer whose total work is so amazing. Whenever I see him in a film, I don’t see Daniel Day-Lewis, I see his character. I’ve seen actors do that before, but not with ever single role they play. Greatest actor ever. Hands down.

Honorable Mentions: Michael Caine, Tom Cruise, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Plummer, Robert Downey, Jr., Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Sean Penn

Note – I know I’m going to catch shit from all of you, but I don’t think Russell Crowe is that great of an actor. He plays the same character with the exception of The Insider which I think is a remarkable performance.

“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” – 1974. Dir. Martin Scorsese

With Ellen Durstyn, Kris Kristofferson, Alfred Lutter III, Billy Green Bush, with Harvey Keitel Jodie Foster, and Diane Ladd.

“So who’s stoppin’ ya?… Pack your bags; I’ll take you to Monterey… I don’t give a damn about that ranch.”

-David (Kris Kristofferson)

Alice Hyatt is on her own. Her dominant husband (Billy Green Bush) just died in a car accident and Alice her young son Tommy (Alfred Lutter III) are left to fend for themselves. Alice then embarks with Tommy to travel to Monterey so Alice can start a career as a singer.

Alice arrives in Phoenix where she gets a job at a bar singing and she meets a young and suave man named Ben (Harvey Keitel). Alice starts to feel like she’s beginning to stabilize her life. Things seem to be going well with her singing in a bar and her relationship with Ben.

Ben’s wife eventually shows up and asks Alice to stop seeing him. Alice is unaware that Ben was married and she is mortified. Ben shows up at Alice’s hotel room. He demands to be let in and when he’s not he busts open the door and chases after his wife, knocking her to the ground and kicking her out of the door. He then turns his rage on Alice and begins screaming at her and threatens her with fatal violence. Harvey Keitel is frightening in this scene.

Alice once again picks up and now travels to Tucson where she gets a job at a diner. Diane Ladd is the matriarch of the diner and Alice reluctantly allows Ladd to take her under her wing. She meets David (Kris Kristofferson) who is the embodiment of the ideal man who walks through fire to court Alice.

Alice’s son Tommy meets a girl a little older then him (Jodie Foster) and the two of them begin to pal around and muse about life together. I can’t stress this enough, but Alfred Lutter is amazing in this film. I am so impressed with his acting.

This is a film that was a passion of Burstyn’s. She found the script and wanted to make the film more than anything. She was looking for a young and creative director to make the film, she phoned Francis Ford Coppola to get his advice and he told her to watch the film “Mean Streets”. Scorsese was quickly hired to direct the film and asked Burstyn to teach him about women.

This is the first film to deal with the woman’s movement – dealing with the independence of women. The entire point of the film is that a woman can support herself, that she can survive without a man and still raise her son on her own. Ellen Burstyn gives one of the best performances that I have ever seen (which she won an Oscar for). She is absolutely delightful in this film.

The acting in this film is what stands out above the screenplay and Scorsese’s direction. Burstyn gives a great performance that is so symbiotic with the other actors in the film. Alfred Lutter who plays her son is such a wonderful actor and holds his own against Burstyn. Harvey Keitel is just tough as nails (when isn’t he?) and Kris Kristofferson brings the house down.

The climactic showdown between Burstyn and Kristofferson in the diner is a wonderful scene. The dialogue is so rich and real – it makes us completely understand both of these characters. Emotion just flows out of both of these two great actors and we are completely taken by them the entire film. We are rutting for Alice to get to Monetary – yet we are rooting for David to get Alice to stay and live with him on his ranch.

This film is very important for women’s liberation – but I also think it’s a film about wanting/needing/deserving a second chance. I’m not sure what to call this genre but it’s very important and it’s very surreal.

This film is brilliantly crafted by Scorsese’s direction. Even though this isn’t a personal film for Scorsese, he puts his own label on it. He makes it his own. The opening credit sequence is a wonderful homage to “The Wizard of Oz” and the long takes and steady cam shots that Scorsese uses lets us know it’s his film without us knowing it’s his film.

Review: 9.5/10

“Taxi Driver” – 1976. Dir. Martin Scorsese

With Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster, Cybil Shepherd, Albert Brooks, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle with Marin Scorsese and Harvey Keitel

“I think someone should just take this city and just… just flush it down the fuckin’ toilet.”

-Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro)

It took me a long time to really be able to get a handle on “Taxi Driver”. I saw it when I was a teenager and I felt that I didn’t really understand the movie. It wasn’t until my early twenties when I really discovered the beauty and perfection that the film holds.

I can only watch this film every so often – about twice a year. The film is haunting and affects me deeply. It engages in psychological warfare with me and it’s hard to shake the film when I see it. We just get thrown into this world of filth and disgust and we are to fend for ourselves. And who is our hero? Travis Bickle. It’s difficult to watch because we can identify with Bickle, we can understand him and we can almost trust him.

The opening of the film is fucking magnificent. The protruding score by Bernard Herman beats in our eardrums and soaks into the marrow of our bones then a quick cut to DeNiro’s eyes with a red gel over the light. He’s looking around, he’s almost frightened at what he’s seeing, quick cut back to the smog in the streets and the beating of drums to a taxi cab emerging from the smog.

There have been many scenes that have stuck with me over time, many scenes that can creep up on me when I’m not expecting them. The character of Betsy, the self righteous snooty bitch who is Bickle’s love interest in the movie has always stuck with me. She’s very contrived and knows how to play the game.

After Bickle’s botched date with Betsy where he takes her to a porn theater and she abruptly gets up and leaves almost makes me feel bad for Bickle. But you have to ask yourself, is Bickle really that naïve? Doesn’t he know what he’s doing? Is it just a game to Bickle too?

Scorsese’s camera work in the film is what makes this film so great. The way Scorsese slides the camera with his perfect tracking shots allow us to almost escape from certain situations. The scene that always has stuck with me is the long shot when Travis calls Betsy from a payphone. He’s in a back room that has a long hallway from the entrance of the building. This is one of Travis’ many attempts to try and contact Betsy after the porn theater disaster.

Travis finally gets a hold of her and asks her about the flowers he sent her. He asks her out for coffee and she tells Travis she’s sick. Travis just won’t let go, he continually tries to court her. It’s extremely embarrassing to watch. It almost makes you want to look away because it’s just too hard to watch, the way Travis fidgets as he talks to Betsy about how she probably has a 24 hour virus. In the midst of Travis’ pandering, the camera slowly rolls away from Travis and we are now looking down the long hallway to the entrance of the building. Travis conversation continues for a short while after this, but at least we don’t have to watch it anymore.

That’s how you direct a fucking movie.

The way the film glides and flows are perfect. The voiceover narration that DeNiro deliverers is so Shakespearian in the way he has this constantly running inner monologue with himself that we have the rare opportunity to hear. The man’s demons are taking control of him, they are running over his mind, body and soul – he can’t be saved. He knows he can’t be saved. Bickle must become a martyr; plain and simple.

The scenes next scene that I am in love with is Scorsese’s cameo as Travis’ passenger. I wrote about it yesterday in my Art of the Crossover: Directors in front of the Camera post. What is so vital to the film is that Scorsese’s role is the only person, only thing that frightens Travis throughout the entire film. He’s the only person that has Travis on the edge of his seat, carefully watching him, carefully observing him.

What is so great about the scene is that it’s so very brief, we don’t know if the man goes in and kills his wife and her black boyfriend. We don’t know if Bickle reports it to the police (probably not). It’s a wonderful and marvelous scene that just adds to the sheer emotional power the film holds over us.

The one character that is a moral compass in the film is that of Wizard (brilliantly played by Peter Boyle). He’s the one person who Travis looks up too; he’s the veteran that all the cabbies come to for advice and for guidance. His character is very interesting, he is much like Travis, but he is able to control himself, control his demons.

For me, Harvey Keitel as Sport displays the sheer power that he holds as an actor. The character was transformed by Keitel (Sport was black and only had three lines of dialogue in the script) and he added his own brand, his own label to the character. Keitel is a true maverick when it comes to film, he doesn’t often appear in too many big budget Hollywood films – he’s found his calling in small independent films where he can shine.

Jodie Foster is tough as nails and shows from such a young age the capability of being a mature and powerful actress. She holds her own against both DeNiro and Keitel – not an easy feat for anyone let alone a twelve year old. That is nothing less than raw talent.

The films epic climax is always sighted and over romanticized by film school douche bags (yes – I went to film school). The climactic bloody ending isn’t what the film is supposed to be memorable for, it’s supposed to show us what happens when a man is alone, and can’t take it anymore. It’s not supposed to show DeNiro as a hero – he’s not. He’s filth just like the rest of the film; yet we can identify with him, we can relate with him. It’s pretty scary stuff.

What makes the ending so powerful is the last scene. What I don’t think many people really realize is when Travis is driving away from Betsy and Bernard Herman’s magnificent score starts to play and we’re watching DeNiro’s eyes scan the streets once again, looking for his next move. He sees something in the rearview mirror! He quickly brings his right hand up to adjust the mirror and he sees something and stares at it with his cold gaze.

The biggest rumor to emerge from the Berlin Film Festival was that Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese and Lars von Trier were set to do a remake of “Taxi Driver”. I’m not a fan of remakes, but I will stand in line all day to see that.

Review 10/10

The 10 Best Films of the 1990’s.

10. “In the Name of the Father” – 1993. Dir. Jim Sheridan. With Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite and Emma Thompson.

“I’m a free man, I’m going out the front door!”

This is one of the most dramatically powerful films I’ve ever seen. Seeing the true story of Gerry Conlon (Day-Lewis) and his father (Postlethwaite) being wrongfully accused and imprisoned in London over an IRA bombing is just so heartbreaking. Emma Thompson gives an amazingly great performance as the two men’s lawyer and the only one who believes their innocence.

9. “Natural Born Killers” – 1994. Dir. Oliver Stone. With Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Russell Means, Robert Downey, Jr. and Tommy Lee Jones.

Mickey and Mallory Knox are loose, Scagnetti’s dead, and they’re live on national TV!”


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Olive Stone is the filmmaker of the times, making films that deal with our current status in America. With NBK Stone brings forth a film with a killer soundtrack and excellent cast that explores our need for Reality TV and the media and our cultures obsession with killers. It shows us how we as American are obsessed with the killers themselves and how we turn them into pop culture icons. This is one wild ride of a fucking movie! The finest performance in the film has to be Tommy Lee Jones as Warden Dwight McClusky. He’s out of his fucking mind!

8. “Boogie Nights” – 1997. Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. With Mark Wahlbeg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Grahm and Don Cheadle.

Wait a minute. You come into my house, my party, to tell me about the future? That the future is tape, videotape, and not film? That it’s amateurs and not professionals? I’m a filmmaker, which is why I will *never* make a movie on tape.”

The opening one shot is a magnificent display of talent. It shows much homage to Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” and much more to Russia’s 1950’s propaganda film, “I am Cuba”. It sends us into a furry and introduces us to all the major characters that we need to know about. I want to call this film his masterpiece, but I can’t – “There Will Be Blood” is. This was back in the days when John C. Reilly used to be a good actor – and when Burt Reynolds blew all of his chances of having anything resembling a comeback. I love this film.

7. “Goodfellas” – 1990. Dir. Martin Scorsese. With Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent and Paul Sorvino.

“You may know who we are, but we know who you are.”

Gosh, Martin Scorsese. What a master. I truly believe that this is the film that de-glorified the “romantic” life of mobsters. Sure “The Godfather’s” were brutal and violent, but we always sympathized with Michael – we were always pulling for him. We do that to a certain extent in “Goodfellas” but once we hit the second act of the film, and we watch Ray Liotta spin out of control – we know that he’s paying for the life he’s led. It’s amazing and beautiful and no one could ever do it better. Martin Scorsese is a God among artists.

6. “American Beauty” – 1999. Dir. Sam Mendes. With Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Mena Suvari, Thora Birch, Wes Bently and Chris Cooper.

“This is my first time.”

Man…all I can really saw about this is Chris Cooper winning for “Adaptation” was his make-up for not even being nominated for his role in this film. That’s it.

5. “Seven” – 1995. Dir. David Fincher. With Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gweyth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey.

“Where to?”

“Far away from here.”

People like to say that “Fight Club” is Fincher’s masterpiece. I think “Fight Club” is overrated and trendy – but “Seven”…oh my God “Seven” – this film is just downright amazing! Kevin Spacey steals the show as John Doe, Brad Pitt is great as the young and cocky cop and Morgan Freeman gives the performance of his career as a cop that the world has left behind. Remarkable filmmaking!

4. “Pulp Fiction” – 1994. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. With John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman and Harvey Keitel.

“You see – this is a moral test of one’s self. You’re going to go back, drink your drink, go home, jerk off and that’s all you’re gonna do.”

Fuck “Forrest Gump”.

3. “Bad Lieutenant” – 1991. Dir. Abel Ferrara. With Harvey Keitel.

“Where the fuck were you when I needed you? Why the fuck weren’t you there for me, when I needed you?!”

Harvey Keitel does nothing but bare his soul in this haunting and repulsive film about a cop who’s fallen so far from grace, Jesus himself can’t even help him. This is pretty powerful stuff, and if you think you’re tough enough to watch this, make sure it’s the NC-17 version.

2. “Schindler’s List” – 1993. Dir. Steven Spielberg. With Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley.

“This is very cruel, Oskar. You’re giving them hope. You shouldn’t do that. *That’s* cruel!”

The reason I resent Steven Spielberg is because he has the talent to make this, “Jaws”, “Close Encounters” and “E.T.” – why waste it.

1. “L.A. Confidential” – 1997. Dir. Curtis Hanson. With Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito and David Strathairn.

“Go back to Jersey, sonny. This is the City of the Angels, and you haven’t got any wings.”

Honorable mentions:  “The Insider”, “Unforgiven”, “Rushmore”, “The Thin Red Line”, “The Big Lebowski”

10 Absolute 10s!

I haven’t recently posted in a while.  My apologies to the the five people who frequent my blog.  I have been watching a lot of films lately and have come up with a list of films that I have give a 10 of 10 too.  I get into arguments with my friend Peyton about giving films a ten, I tend to give slightly more 10s out then he does, but I am constructing a cohesive list of ten films that have the equivalent rating.  So far this year, I’ve only given out two 10s, one to “Antichrist” and the other to “A Single Man”.  Enjoy…

“Apocalypse Now” – 1979.  Dir. Francis Ford Coppola.  With Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburn, Harrison Ford, Fredirc Forest, Sam Bottoms, Bill Grahm, Albert Hall, Scott Glenn and G.D. Spradin.

This is film is truly an unstoppable force.  It grabs you and pulls you in for the full 153 minutes (202 min for “Redux”).  This is my favorite war film, but then again it really isn’t a war film.  It’s a story of Willard, brilliantly played by Martin Sheen, a man who is lost in the jungle, who is lost in horrors of war.  It’s about his journey through life as he navigates his way through beaches, and through rivers, and meeting eccentric and psychopathic people – it’s his journey to The End, to Col. Kurtz, to Marlon Brando.  It’s Martin Sheen as Odysseus in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Odyssey”.

The making of this film is a story that is as, if not more, fascinating then the film itself.  The trials and tribulations that Coppola had to deal with and concur as he was forced to shut down production, forced to deal with Brando’s bad behavior, forced to deal with Sheen having a heart attack while filming.  A documentary titled: “Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” by Coppola’s wife featuring interviews with the cast and crew during filming and then contemporary interviews (circa 1992) is almost as good as the film itself.

The ensemble cast that is shown in this film is an unbelievable abundance of talent.  All the unknown faces and known faces play together in a perfect mesh to show the utter horrors that war and that life have in store for us.  Everyone excels, from Sheen to Brando, from Hopper to Ford, from Hall to Glenn, from Spradin to Duvall.  This is a film that cannot ever, ever be remade or even reworked.  The filming was to chaotic, and too filled with it’s own horrors that it couldn’t have been made without the horror of film making itself.

“Brokeback Mountain” – 2007. Dir. Ang Lee.  With Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllehaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams and Randy Quaid.

Ang Lee’s epic saga about the pain and joy we all feel from love is one of the most emotionally draining films I have ever seen.  It even matches the emotional pull and despair I feel from “The Deer Hunter”.  The homophobic backlash this film endured is beyond belief appalling and it shows us how our society isn’t near as tolerant as we should be toward gays.  But I’ll get off my liberal soap box.  This is a love story that transcends gender.  It’s a story about a love we have all felt, about a love that we can’t let go of.  It’s about a love that is just so beautiful and painful and full of joy that we can’t let go of it.  We just can’t.  Heath Ledger gives the best performance of his very brief and short career as Enis Del Mar, who is a heterosexual man who falls in love with a gay man played by Jake Gyllenhaal.  The despair, the pain, the love, the affection are all too real in the film.  We can take this period piece love story and parallel it to our lives.

Ang Lee proves himself as a master of his craft.  The way he molded Larry McMurtry and Annie Proulx’s words to the screen is a monumental feat that many can’t achieve.  The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is flawless and the heartbreaking score by Gustavo Santaolalla is pitch perfect.  This film continues to break my heart each time I watch it.  I live for films like “Brokeback Mountain”.

“The Deer Hunter” – 1978. Dir. Michael Cimino. With Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, George Dzundza, Michael Savage and John Cazale.

“The Deer Hunter” is a film that I put in once a year and it’s a landmark event if I can find the strength within myself to watch it all the way through.  I gladly make it through the beginning, where all the characters are happy.  Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep are getting married.  When the boys go deer hunting before they embark on their own personal hell in Vietnam.  The first 45 minutes or so, I’m good.  Once we reach Vietnam and see the characters forced into playing  Russian Roulette by their Vietcong captors, I start to break.  The actual scene that breaks me isn’t the end (which I’ve only made it too about five times over my twenty attempts), it’s the scene when they are DeNiro arrives back from Vietnam and they go deer hunting.  DeNiro is stalking a beautiful buck through the woods for what seems like hours upon hours.  He finally gets his “one shot” – but doesn’t take it.

Another emotional factor for me is knowing that while the crew and actors were filming this film they knew that John Cazale (best known as Al Pacino’s acting partner and as Fredo from “The Godfather”) was dying of a rare form of cancer, that this film was going to be his swan song.  Cazale and Streep were engaged during the filming of “The Deer Hunter”.  This film also isn’t purely a war film, even though the backdrop of the film is Vietnam.  I believe the film is more about the power of love and friendship.  Would you travel across the world in a fleeting moment to save a friend who refuses to be saved.  Would you try?

“Five Easy Pieces” – 1970.  Dir. Bob Rafelson.  With Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Billy Green Bush.

Jack Nicholson’s finest work came from his filmmaking partner Bob Rafelson.  In “Five Easy Pieces” Nicholson gives his best performance as Robert Erocia Dupea, a piano prodigy who left a life of wealth and prosperity to make it on his own, to live his own dilapidated life.  This film defines an era of rebels and individuals and is about the last of a dying breed.  Nicholson gives a powerful performance as a man who’s life is falling apart.  He quits his dead end oil drilling job after his best friend gets arrested, and then travels back home to see his dying father.

Dupea never stops running, and he never will.  He was born to run, to Run Like Hell.  This film is so powerful and raw that it defined Nicholson as an icon, as a Hollywood and American legend.  It’s just a shame that Nicholson couldn’t produce films like these his entire career.  The ending to this film has to be one of the most powerful endings to any film I have ever seen.

“Blue Velvet” – 1986.  Dir. David Lynch.  With Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern and Dean Stockwell.

David Lynch is one of the most original and unique film artists in cinema.  While Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Coppola, and Tarantino are just as gifted, if not more then Lynch, they all show homages to the greats who made them who they are in their films.  The only artist David Lynch shows homage to is David Lynch.

I have never seen a film that blends two genres so well together.  A mellow-dramatic horror film.  Only David Lynch could do this.  The film transcends time, it has an ambiguous time frame, it’s a period piece mellow drama, yet once Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper who gives the best performance of his impressive career) enters the film, it’s turned upside down into a contemporary horror/thriller.  It’s a hard film to put a label on, but if I had too I would call this film a love story.

I cannot even begin to comprehend how David Lynch thinks.  I won’t even try.  It’s too perplexing to me how he does it.  He’s truly the most unique and impressive filmmaker I have ever seen.  Now I understand why Mel Brooks called Lynch “Jimmy Stewart from Mars”.

“Bad Lieutenant” – 1992.  Dir. Abel Ferrara.  With Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo and Frankie Thorn.

This is one of the rawest, and most stomach turning films I have ever seen.  The story is a simple: a cop who’s fallen from grace.  It’s a simple and generic story but the way it’s shot, and the elements it involves goes way beyond all other films like it.  This is as raw, and as gritty as filmmaking gets.  Harvey Keitel gives undoubtedly his best performance as the Bad Lieutenant.  He bares his body, his heart, and his soul on camera until he has nothing left.  The story is about a man who has fallen so far from grace, it takes the brutal raping of a nun to get him on the path to redemption.  This is a film that comes along once in a great while.  This film is the “Antichrist” of the 90s.  If you actually do come across this film, or are interested in seeing it, don’t waste your time with the R rated version, the NC-17 cut of the film is the only one that is true to the film.

“There Will Be Blood” – 2008.  Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson.  With Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano.

This is a film that is the closest thing I have ever seen to “Citizen Kane”.  One man, Daniel Plainview, whose obsession with greed and power destroys absolutely everything in his path, whether it be the towns he claims, or his son, nothing will remain standing in the rubble.  Nothing at all can stop Plainview’s lust for power.  He is truly an unstoppable force, he’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  Day-Lewis gives the biggest tour-de-force performance out of anyone’s career.  The amount of anxiety the fills you while watching this monster tear through everything, slash and burn it is truly incredible and shows the great gift PTA and DDL have in the world of film.  All I know is it scares me that I have a little bit of Daniel Plainview inside of me, but then again.  Who doesn’t?

“The Natural” – 1984.  Dir. Barry Levinson.  With Robert Redford, Wilford Brimley, Darrin McGavin, Glenn Glose, Kim Basinger, Joe Don Baker, Michael Madsen, Richard Farnsworth and Robert Duvall.

I can’t think of a movie that has filled me with more inspiration than “The Natural”.  It is hands down the best film that deals with baseball and sports, and all that comes with it.  For all the people who say you can’t do it, you’re too old, you’re too fat, you’re too skinny, you’re not strong enough, fast enough – watch “The Natural”.  Robert Redford is truly a marvel in this film, and yet again this film isn’t just about baseball – it’s about one man’s odyssey through life, through all the bumps in the road Roy Hobbs chooses to never give up, he chooses to travel the path he was meant to take.  It may take him 10, 15, 20 years to get there, but he finally does, and it’s beautiful.  This movie fills me with pride about myself, because maybe one day, someone some where will say, “There goes Frank Mengarelli, the best there has ever been, the best there ever will be.”

“2001: A Space Odyssey” – 1968.  Dir. Stanley Kubrick.  With Keir Dullea.

What could I possibly have to say about this film or Stanley Kubrick that hasn’t already been said.  I wouldn’t be able to do either justice.

“Taxi Driver” – 1976.  Dir. Martin Scorsese.  With Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel.

This film is one of Scorsese’s masterpieces.  It’s one of the roughest films I’ve ever watched.  I’d say I can only watch this film about once a year and I almost loath every moment of it.  It’s too painful to watch, to hard to watch – to real.  Your just thrown into this world of absolute filth and disgust and the punchline of it is, Robert DeNiro is the character you relate to, the most sympathetic and has the most redeeming qualities to him.  What a sick joke that is!  This world where Travis Bickle becomes the antihero is just to bizarre and so strange.  I’ve never truly seen a film like this before, it’s 100% true and 100% genuine to it’s medium and too the world.  The one thing that I pride myself on is the final shot of the film I don’t think most people understand, but I think I do.  Lets talk.

Thank you for reading and I hope you disagree with me so we can argue and battle to the death about these films.  These aren’t the only 10’s I’ve ever seen, but it’s a good grouping of them.