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12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957)


The other jurors want Juror #3 to convince them...

I'm trying to think back to when I first watched the film and how I may have reacted. I was a teenager, but that would have been the early '70s. It was probably my introduction to how a jury might work, especially one where almost everybody sees the case as cut-and-dried. Of course, I understood it was a melodrama where everyone slightly exaggerates their words and acting for dramatic effect. It's still filmed "realistically", so it gets to have it both ways as a realistic drama and a highly-theatrical experience.

The real key to 12 Angry Men's success is Reginald Rose's tightly-wound script, which provides all the jurors [who seem to be heading, shall we say, due west] with flaws and personalities and then as it slowly reveals all of the people we've never seen in the film (those mentioned or testifying during the trial), the semblance of doubt begins to take root in more than just one juror's mind. The path seems to shift ever so subtly until near the end, the jury appears to be heading due west. It's all left to the viewer to decide how they would vote and how they may change their opinion based on the pieces of evidence being examined throughout the film. As far as I'm concerned, the strongest scene in the film the first time I watched it remains the most memorable one to me still: the scene where Juror #8 produces the knife. Besides being the centerpiece of the script, it's also Sidney Lumet's best-directed scene.
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A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)



The first time I watched A Clockwork Orange was on a double bill with Deliverance at a very large screen theatre when I was 18. I watched it by myself. Both movies pretty much blew my mind. The music in A Clockwork Orange was really overpowering, perhaps even moreso than the potent imagery. It was really quite shocking to see it considering that Kubrick's last film was the G-rated 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A Clockwork Orange sucks the viewer in with a weird, otherworldly atmosphere by using high-contrast photography and a Beethoven soundtrack. It isn't science fiction. It's closer to some kind of alternate universe. Almost immediately it pummels you with sex and ultraviolence in an attempt to either turn you on or turn you off (or perhaps more significantly, both at the same time). The subject matter is rather repulsive but the cinematics are spectacular. We follow Alex and his "little droogies" around while they "shag and fag" and vicariously see things which seem beyond the pale, but Beethoven is just oh so beautiful.

Then, the flick turns a bit more serious and substantial when Alex ends up in prison and is enticed to undergo some kind of miracle therapy. I know many people who love the first part of the film but say that the next section (the point of the film) is "boring". They wanted more in-out and ultra violence. Well, we do get to that and that's the film's coup. The authorities basically use A Clockwork Orange itself as the miracle cure for Alex to become a "normal member of society". Alex is forced to watch a facsimile of A Clockwork Orange to get repulsed by rape and violence, and since Beethoven is on the soundtrack, it deeply disturbs and affects him. The whole thing is really just a political scam though with Alex as the guinea pig in the middle of a political war. However, even the "peace and freedom" types want their revenge on Alex so the whole movie comes full circle.

Now, I realize that what I'm saying here is nothing new or enlightening. It's always been there right in the film. But as time goes by, and I get more and more students who started watching ultra-violent films and pornos when they were five-years-old, and they mostly have a kid or two by the time they're 15 and they belong to gangs and want to do things like Alex does in the first part of the movie, A Clockwork Orange takes on a kind of prescience which makes it seem better now than when it was first released. But I've always been deeply disturbed because I loved the film the first time.



The trick is not minding
Reading this reminds me how much I wish I grew up during the 70’s. To be able to see the cinema during that period would have been something.
I envy you



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Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)




I have had something of a love/hate relationship with this film since I first saw it. I can remember the very first time, I thought the opening credits with all the water dripping and extended BS was an attack on the audience, but now I can see it as an entertainer (and I believe that Leone believed himself to be more of an entertainer than an artist) trying to tell his audience that they are going to see the most personal "spaghetti" western ever made. Back in the day, the attenuated presentation pissed the crap out of me, but nowadays, I can see the thing as the first (and probably, the only) western opera. I still have problems with it, but it's easy for me to watch it repeatedly. In fact, the movie this mostly reminds me of is Apocalypse Now. Coppola probably owes Leone some more acknowledgment, but Leone may have needed to pay back the compliment with his later gangster epic.

Little did I realize that he and Morricone were creating the first genuine opera in western history. Have you heard of the term "horse opera"? That's just some way of warning certain people that westerns may be melodramatic at times. But Once Upon a Time in the West is a legit opera, and if you didn't know it, operas tend to be LONG. It's is Leone's most-otherworldly western - it's almost as if a literal horse opera were set on another planet although Monument Valley plays a part. That works with my idea though since Monument Valley also makes an appearance in 2001: A Space Odyssey during "Beyond the Infinite".



Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
Elmer Gantry (1960) -




Slightly overhyped by mark f but also slightly genius.
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In the strictest sense lesbians can't have sex at all period.



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Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)



I've seen Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen a few times, and having watched it at the Big Newport, I recommend seeing it on the largest one you can possibly find. The film paints its characters as very flawed (but most are understandable) and the story is rather unpredictable, sorta like the viewer is a grain of sand blown by the desert wind. Lawrence is undoubtedly the most enigmatic character and perhaps the most enigmatic lead character and hero of any major motion picture. Peter O'Toole plays him fascinatingly. His eyes seem to convey so much without any dialogue, but ultimately what and why he feels the way he does is not explained, nor is it necessary. The entire visual aesthetic of the film is such a powerful experience that it does most of the explaining. The film and locations are mesmerizing. You just get engulfed in it and let it take you where it does. Hopefully, you will be rewarded with a cinematic experience unlike any other. In that way, Lawrence of Arabia reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The desert seems almost as huge as outer space.



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Apocalypse Now (Francis Coppola, 1979)




I have my own kind of love for Apocalypse Now. No, it's not so deep and natural as what I have for Jaws, where you love something so much that you'll accept and adore it, warts and all. I love Coppola's spectacle for what it attempted to do and what it was able to accompish. I better love it since I've seen it over 15 times in its various incarnations.

There are so many perfect scenes, and Coppola wields so much technical prowess, showering the audience with cinema which demands to be seen and heard on the big screen. I do not consider it a masterpiece, except in the integration of some spectacular sights and sounds and a few excellent performances. I would agree with the words "meandering", "self-indulgent" and "overlong", but I would certainly advise everyone to watch it and decide for themselves. Yet somehow, to me, Coppola lost his way and became another Kurtz, losing the thread, trying to piece together a third act from bits and pieces, shadows, insane babblings from Hopper and Brando, and allegorical meaning tying the story's unraveling to that of the Vietnam War itself. Many of the film's staunchest defenders deny there's anything imperfect about it or if there is, it's supposed to be there and they love it. Welcome to my world of Jaws love.

The Redux version does add what I consider to be satirically-hilarious scenes involving a surfboard and a beautiful visual explanation of what happened to one of the main characters, but I think the original is too long as it is, so I'd watch the original first. There are about 50 added minutes in Redux, and most of those are towards the end which is already overextended in my opinion. I'd still say to watch it at some future time.



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Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
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I'm sorry this sounds so negative but I really fo like it for the most part. If anything, Blade Runner's reputation and stature has grown in recent years. I saw Blade Runner as a sneak preview, so maybe I actually saw some of the various edited features up front, on the big screen. suppose the bottom line is that it's hard for me to care about any of the characters in Blade Runner. I have the same problem with a few of Scorsese's and Lynch's films. I can intellectually understand what the intent of the filmmaker is, but I'm left completely cold and unmoved by what I actually see and hear. Maybe it's just a flaw with my heart and soul; I could just be missing certain parts of me.

On a technical level, I'm impressed with the opening visuals and many of the F/X and sets. I found those more intriguing than the plot and characters. I realize that it seems far more impressive than something like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but I can see a reference in Blade Runner to that silent epic. I also like the music, but having impressive technical credits I think Blade Runner is a good film. I realize that people believe that the visuals and sonics make it just spectacular, and if you care about these "creations" who never had a chance to rebel against their God, then you must think the film is visionary and great. Of course, when it was originally reviewed, it wasn't greeted with that many positive notices, and although it was able to earn $28 million in its first release, it wasn't really considered a financial success either. I realize the film has gone through changes and the narration has always been a problem for many viewers, but I don't seem to think the narration changes the way I feel about the film very much.

I can live with the Me against the World idea because it happens a lot. However, I find this to be a bit of a revisionist attitude. I still feel pretty much the way about the film as I did back in 1982, even without the narration, the changed ending and the dream. If anything, I thought more of it than the audience and critics did back then. It's the current audience and critics who have evolved to become the World against me. I'm just my stodgy old self. Maybe the fact is that the theme of Blade Runner subliminally resonates with me more than I know, since I cannot seem to find the compassion (at least towards the movie) which the film seems to advocate for all "humans".



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Classic Rating




I loved the way the silent title of the movie segued into the fence outside Xanadu and focused on the "No Trespassing" sign; it basically tells you right up front that Kane does not want you meddling in his personal affairs but then the film attempts to do so. The camera climbs the fence and proceeds to get closer to the main building, passing the remnants of a zoo (Hearst Castle had a zoo) and a golf course. Eventually we get close to the one light on in the main building which goes off and then comes back on. Cut to the snow globe, Kane's lips, "Rosebud", globe gets dropped and broken as the nurse walks in and finds that Kane is dead.

After that we get the News on the March newsreel which delineates Kane's life and shows many views of the man. I especially like the scene on the balcony where Kane is with Hitler and the implication that Kane supported him before he knew any better. After the newsreel ends, the director seems to want to find a hook into Kane's life and focuses on the great man's final word Rosebud to try to find out what made him tick. However, the first few people seem to have no idea of what Rosebud is. However, Gregg Toland's photography highlights the use of saturated rear lighting and the way it causes people's extremities to darken and extend that light. Brenda said, "It reminds me of (the scene where Sally sings "Maybe This Time" in Cabaret.

After the death of the main character, it segues into a long newsreel about his life story. The beginning is so audacious that it throws a lot of first-time viewers for a loop. Not only that, but as you begin to get your bearings, the film introduces a number of elderly characters who all reminisce about Kane, so now we see him from many different perspectives, but they aren't always in chronological order and some of them are contradictory. So, once again, the narrative is completely unusual, and Welles and his fellow artists continue to catch you off guard by using overlapping dialogue, deep focus photography, special effects to make things seem larger than they are, extensive makeup work on almost every actor seen in the film during various times in their lives, an intense and haunting Bernard Herrmann score, which coupled with bizarre sound effects and strange editing (the scene where the bird cackles, the scene where the photograph comes to life, the photographic journey up to the opera house rafters during a particular "aria", and hundreds more). All these directorial choices just make the film more enjoyable and dense for the watcher, but once again, some people do not like films where they do not like the characters. I don't know. It seems to me that several modern directors have become famous for highlighting some of the most unlikable characters ever, and among those I would include Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan



I believe that Rosebud's use is two-fold. It's obviously meant to humanize Kane at the end of the film. At the beginning, we have no idea what Rosebud could be although we are given the clue of the snow globe falling out of Kane's hands when he says it. The beginning uses Rosebud as the entire basis of what turns out to be the "plot" of the movie. How are we going to go about trying to find out the soul of this dead man who the world knows a lot of but cannot really understand what makes him tick. Therefore, Rosebud is the clothesline from which the various witnesses are strung in an attempt to crack the nut of Citizen Kane. The fact that no one surviving or studied is able to illuminate Rosebud's meaning is significant but actually fades well into the background for a while until the film reaches its conclusion. It's only in the film's final moments, after we've seen Kane at his most-selfish-and-despotic, that Rosebud returns as something important to show that the man may truly have been just a child at heart. Rosebud certainly relates to Kane's innocence and is also somewhat explainable as the reason why he initially runs his newspaper as if he were a kid in a candy store. Kane did start out as someone who just seemed to have fun with all the things he inherited but eventually he thought of them and all his friends and employees more as possessions rather than toys or things for him to entertain himself, his cohorts and hopefully the world.

You see, I don't believe that Kane ever lost "Rosebud". After all, it was at Xanadu and he could have found it if he truly desired that. What he lost was the meaning of Rosebud and he only recalled it on his deathbed. It's as if Kane's life flashed before his eyes (sort of like the newsreel which immediately comes on directly after his death) and the thing which made him happiest of all was Rosebud. At the end of the movie we see that Kane and Rosebud are both going to the same place -- to ashes. It's tragic, yes, but what it really means is that Kane is just another man. No matter how rich and influential you are during life, you can't take it with you and you'll never really separate yourself from the simplest, humblest soul on Earth, except that perhaps that person may live a life filled with his/her Rosebud and not need to try to find a substitute by collecting objects and people. It may not be profound but it still turns the movie and the man into a tragic figure. Think about it. If we never learned what Rosebud was, most people wouldn't think as highly of the film. At least that's my opinion.




Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)




Vertigo is thought of way better than it once was, but it deserves to be. Vertigo is basically about obsession, transference, guilt, fate, and possession of the characters. It's multi-layered, even if it's the viewers who increase its significance through repeat viewings. You've pretty much got what the characters did in the film after the first bell tower scene, but it should really be looked at from the perspective of a dream or nightmare which it resembles for the most part. It's not supposed to be rational, so if your problems with it are that it doesn't make sense, you'll never like it or get what you're supposed to get out of it. If you try to go along with it, you'll be rewarded with a hypnotic experience. I realize that I criticize similar films for similar reasons, but take my word for it , this one is better. I love the on-location and subjective photography of San Francisco and its environs but my fave is the walk in the Redwoods. Vertigo is not your average film or viewing experience. It seems to defy logic and has few likable characters. However, the photography and music are hypnotic. Vertigo is the kind of film which demands multiple viewings to "get into it", and then eventually you discover that the film is thematically-rich, not only in the way people behave in a relationship but how directors/scripters use their actors and how films use their viewers. Vertigo is a film which greatly divides people. Many believe it's the apotheosis of everything Hitch ever did and reveals himself more than any other film. Then there are those who like it up to a point but are baffled by some of the plot, plot twists, and character revelations. They just think it gets stupid and/or silly.




Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
Mary Goes Round (2017)



As recommended by @mark f in the Recommend me some pick-me-up, feel-good, comfort food movies thread. Well, I don't know but the film surely wasn't what I asked for in this thread but hey, it's mark f - he's probably entertained by a giant shark devouring people. Oh, WAIT!!! Apart from the fact the film wasn't what I really wanted (to be fair, it's hard for a non-Asian film to be that), it was a very good film. A sort of Kenneth Lonergan-core tackling serious topics in a genuine, heartfelt manner. Apart from all the gloom and heaviness of the topics depicted in this indie drama, it indeed turned out quite on the sunny side, which made me smile quite a bit. I can totally see why mark recommended it in this thread and after all I'm glad he did. Thanks, mark.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)



Inspired by The Phantom Carriage


To tell you the truth, I never understand why people think that The Shining is so good. I do believe that it's a good film, but when the word "best" raises its head, I become incredulous. My brother and I drove an hour to Hollywood to get in a line for another hour and watch a sneak preview of The Shining. The opening credits almost made us giddy, and there were many other impressive scenes. However, since we both loved the novel, we knew that many of the highlights were changed around and that Nicholson gave one of his earliest "over-the-top" performances. People were laughing when something ominous was happening and it cut to 4:05 PM. It's just too long in my opinion and doesn't really have to be, but Kubrick has a way of making long movies sometimes. Therefore, we were both disappointed. Kubrick eventually cut about three minutes, mostly at the end (which didn't really seem to be nearly as important as things like how Scatman Crothers has the "shining" and knows that something bad will happen, yet he has no idea it will happen to him!! Now I can accept it for the pleasures found along the way [mostly visual but some good audio/music too], and I can forgive Nicholson because he's so funny



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)




If you don't like 2001: A Space Odyssey that is your right. It has always been liked though. It earned an enormous amount at the box office in 1968 when it was released and has always been massively popular. This is from the common viewer's perspective and not something limited to critics and "art house snobs" if you believe such a group exists. Now, the fact that it can be studied and discussed in film classes throughout the world just adds to its accessability to "everyone". Once again, I realize that not everyone likes it but there is no film which everyone likes.

I have my own interpretations of what happens in the film, and I believe many others do too. It's not that we know everything; it's just that we know enough to understand what seems to be the intended meaning of the overall film. It doesn't seem that difficult to grasp what's happening since it's all told chronologically and the evolution of Man seems directly related to the Monolith appearances. Now, who's responsible for the Monoliths and what the ultimate act of evolution (if any) is, that's open to interpretation and what makes the film complex and personal. Within the film are all kinds of other messages, including a mistrust of technology and governments and the fact that a single human being seems to be more important than all the technology in the world, even if you believe that human being to be incredibly boring.

I'm not sure what else to say. Kubrick was always a perfectionist and he certainly is here. I have watched the film dozens of times dating back to seeing it at the theatre in 1970. I'll admit to not "getting it" the first time when I was 14, but I knew I was watching something which was spectacular and unlike any thing I had ever seen, so it made watching it a compulsive experience. I certainly do think that movie audiences of the late '60s/early '70s had some awesome movies to watch and didn't consider themselves any more pretentious than you consider yourself. If people want to call Kubrick pretentious, go ahead, but trying to make a super realistic film in the context of a visionary sci-fi plot is something nobody had ever done before. The audiences of both 1968 and 2021 still enjoy the ride, at least for the most part.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)




I'm not going to get into any in-depth psychological rationale about whether what happens to Cruise in the film is real or imaginary because I choose to accept it all as real. That makes the film scarier and more significant as a possibly-serious film about the complexity of marriage and open relationships. Cruise can't handle that his wife (Nicole Kidman) finds other men attractive and/or fun, and she can even have a Citizen Kane-type memory, albeit far more erotic in nature, than the one about the girl with the parasol.

Cruise uses his wife's confession to go on a night-long odyssey, which involves death by old age, drugs and murder, pedophilia, secret organizations, humongous, otherworldly orgies and attacks from drunken, macho homophobic youths. His world is turned almost inside out and his wife and daughter are threatened. This is all in exchange of Cruise trying to somehow payback his wife for her "non-infidelity", and even Cruise doesn't actually get laid, but he comes a lot closer than she ever did.

I have to admit that the film is slowly paced, but as it moves along, it builds suspense and becomes much more compelling and hypnotic. It has one of the most attractive female casts I can remember. Sydney Pollack is especially good playing a character who knows far more than Cruise and the audience do. I probably have a lot more to say about this film because I haven't really said anything, but I haven't watched this film in at least six years. I do own it though (I received it as a gift), so I will try to rewatch it so that I can make a more-compelling argument next time. For people who have actually seen it and didn't like it at all, I'd rewatch the orgy scene first because that is its own mini-movie and seems pretty unique in cinema to me. The music, camerawork and staging are spectacular, and it all builds to an almost Phantom of the Opera-ish crescendo with the removal of a mask. Really creepy stuff.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)




Alien is a classic and one of those films which should be seen on as large a screen as possible. True, it borrows a lot from It! The Terror from Beyond Space and Planet of the Vampires, but its budget and technical/creative team (including H.R. Giger) allow it to be far more spectacular than those low-budget flicks. Alien is a terriifc example of a sci-fi/horror flick. The first half is mind-bending sci-fi showing things which had never really been shown before, especially within what appeared to be such spectacular and wide-open sets (even if some were matte paintings). The second half is one of the better claustrophobic monster-on-the-loose flicks aboard the spaceship.

I really love Alien, I remember seeing it several times on the Big Newport's humongous screen and later at FILMEX's 50-hour horror marathon back-to-back with The Exorcist. Even after all these years and newer movies, it still has the strong basic foundation, combined with a sense of originality due to Giger's art directon and creature designs, to qualify as one of the scariest, most-visionary horrors and sci-fis ever made. My fave Alien scene is the long scene down on the planet where they find an enormous underground world, and the eggs on the surface. Then John Hurt sticks his head down a little too close...POW! For me, that scene climaxes with the chest buster




Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
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I'm once again one of the outsiders at the celebration although Taxi Driver has gone up in my estimation about as much as any film I've seen from the time I first watched it and downright hated it until now. I suppose I could stand at the doorway to the party though and ask Holden or cricket for a piece of cake or a beer.

I had a real problem with Taxi Driver when I first saw it in 1976. I didn't like or understand Travis Bickle, and what's more, I didn't like any of the other characters. I've seen it many times since, and I still find it to be extremely-flawed, but its pure cinematics have finally won me over enough to raise my rating up to what it is here. The cinematography and music were always great, but only go so far for what I thought was convoluted. For every scene which I find extended or overkill, I'm rewarded with some spectacular visual/aural pyrotechnics, often something as simple as a taxi driving down a neon-lit night-time street set to the jazzy Bernard Herrmann musical score. Robert De Niro's performance is quite incredible even though he remains an enigma. I believe the most-controversial scenes in the film are the entire rescue bloodbath at the end and the way it's perceived by the press and allegedly the filmmakers. Taxi Driver is definitely a film to be seen, and I'm now begrudgingly allowing myself to come to almost admit that I can "like" or "enjoy" it. One thing's for sure. Compared to all the other vigilante-type flicks which have come along since, Taxi Driver is much more complex and compelling. Ultimately, movies have caught up with Taxi Driver in content and subject matter, but most make it feel much better, both in reality and in the fact that it was almost prescient in the direction a large portion of modern cinema would take. I think it's a very good movie.



mark f over the past week:





Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
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I had a real problem with Taxi Driver when I first saw it in 1976. I didn't like or understand Travis Bickle, and what's more, I didn't like any of the other characters. I've seen it many times since, and I still find it to be extremely-flawed, but its pure cinematics have finally won me over enough to raise my rating up to what it is here.
I've loved Taxi Driver since I was a teen mainly because I found Bickle tragically relatable. I didn't quite realize why at first, but I think it was Travis' incredibly flawed way of turning his own confused frustrations into disgust for others. Lashing out at external stressors (often understandably) instead of addressing his many internal problems. I think many people do this without realizing it. Maybe I'm way off base, but he remains a powerful character because I feel like I still have a grasp of what's going on in his mind and can immerse myself in the character, for better or worse.



Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
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I'm once again one of the outsiders at the celebration although Taxi Driver has gone up in my estimation about as much as any film I've seen from the time I first watched it and downright hated it until now. I suppose I could stand at the doorway to the party though and ask Holden or cricket for a piece of cake or a beer.

I had a real problem with Taxi Driver when I first saw it in 1976. I didn't like or understand Travis Bickle, and what's more, I didn't like any of the other characters. I've seen it many times since, and I still find it to be extremely-flawed, but its pure cinematics have finally won me over enough to raise my rating up to what it is here. The cinematography and music were always great, but only go so far for what I thought was convoluted. For every scene which I find extended or overkill, I'm rewarded with some spectacular visual/aural pyrotechnics, often something as simple as a taxi driving down a neon-lit night-time street set to the jazzy Bernard Herrmann musical score. Robert De Niro's performance is quite incredible even though he remains an enigma. I believe the most-controversial scenes in the film are the entire rescue bloodbath at the end and the way it's perceived by the press and allegedly the filmmakers. Taxi Driver is definitely a film to be seen, and I'm now begrudgingly allowing myself to come to almost admit that I can "like" or "enjoy" it. One thing's for sure. Compared to all the other vigilante-type flicks which have come along since, Taxi Driver is much more complex and compelling. Ultimately, movies have caught up with Taxi Driver in content and subject matter, but most make it feel much better, both in reality and in the fact that it was almost prescient in the direction a large portion of modern cinema would take. I think it's a very good movie.
Really enjoyed your review of this movie and I totally agree with one thing you said...there isn't a single likable character in the movie, but that doesn't make the movie any less riveting.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1989)




Scorsese basically shows off in every single scene, and for once, he has a screenplay worthy of it. Even if all the acting is very good, I'm not all that gung-ho about the male leads' (Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci) although I believe that Paul Sorvino does his finest cinematic work and that Lorraine Bracco (and Marty's Mom!) outact everybody else. It covers most of the major mob activity in NYC from the '50s through the '80s, but don't expect to find anybody to root for or care about. Even so, it's a brilliant film. As far as the long, "drug-induced" helicopter scene [which is understandable in Henry Hill's case], there really have been police helicopters flying over my house for decades. My friends have often been paranoid because they thought it was about our illegal outdoor toking, but they fly around constantly searching for criminals who try to hide out in a huge park near my house. Scorsese's masterpiece covers almost everything significant he's tried to convey through cinema. You can watch many other of his films, but I'd start with this one and branch off from there.



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American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973)




When I feel like watching something which enables me to just sit back with what amounts to about two dozen old friends and admire film in an almost pure form, this is always one of my Go-To films. From the opening titles, it's clear that Lucas is in complete control of the camera and sound, and in fact, it's partly the way he actually lights and shoots (with plenty of expert help) the film (95% of which takes place at night) which turns something which can be seen as a silly high school comedy into something much more meaningful. However, with that rock solid script, a collection of great performances and one of the greatest uses of pop songs in motion picture history (each song seems to comment on the exact actions of the characters at the time), it would be difficult to confuse American Graffiti with something like Porky's. There are so many memorable episodes and incidents, and they all flow so smoothly, that anyone who has never watched this yet or didn't get it the first time should take another look ASAP. Be sure to watch the Special Features where Lucas discusses that nobody wanted to film the original script, the original cut was over three hours and that if he didn't get a name attached to the film (Francis Ford Coppola), it would have never been financed and filmed in the first place, even though the budget was only $700,000. Of course, when you're watching this on DVD now, it looks like the budget was closer to $40 million with the state-of-the-art visual updating and ultimate sound recording and effects.