Carlito’s Way (1993)

Carlito’s Way
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by David Koepp based on the novels by Edwin Torres
(number 286)

I gotta say, I wasn’t pleased about another movie about crime and criminals. I do love Al Pacino but I really didn’t need to see another movie about random violence and stuff. I was assured by some of my Tuesday night roleplaying group that this movie was different so… here I go.

Why does it have to be two and a half hours?

At least it’s not about glorifying the life of a criminal – this is very much Carlito trying to get out of the life. To get out of the system which has screwed him over. Unfortunately he still has the same friends who are in the life, and he gets sucked back in. With the voice over you do start to feel sorry for him. There’s a horrible inevitability to the story.

Great soundtrack – like, every hit of the seventies plays in this movie, especially since Carlito runs a club. Lots of opportunity to show off the best songs and lots of incredible dance moves and fashion.

The action sequences and shoot outs are well filmed and I think it’s worth mentioning that they all have established stakes. I know exactly why the fight is about to happen, and I know who’s involved and why they are. There’s a lot of clever cat and mouse stuff, and the sequence on the boat was genuinely gripping. It’s very well made, which… not surprising given the director. I will admit he deserves to have so many movies on the 500 list.

Does it make me love the people? I yeah, I like Gail and I like Carlito. I really really hate Kleinfeld. So pleased when Carlito had emptied his gun. I guess that’s pretty dark… but anyway. Carlito and Gail I like them, and obviously John Leguizamo because he’s amazing all the time, and Luis Guzman. But generally the other characters are kind of interchangeable.

Bechdel test: No, we have Gail and we have Steph but they never speak to each other. Most of the women are prostitutes or dancers, just there to be objects for men to fight over.

Best line: Not a line but Carlito lying down on the escalator is freaking brilliant in the last sequence.

If you can’t see the angles no more, you’re in trouble.

State of Mind: Okay yeah, this was way better than the other crime films but it’s still kind of too long and I don’t know if I’d watch it again. The end sequence really really reminds me of Twelve Monkeys… Also the staring at the poster for a tropical paradise reminds me of something else? Oh yes, the Fifth Element. Both of those came out pretty shortly after this one so… clear influences.

Watched movie count

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Dog Day Afternoon
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Frank Pierson, based on an article by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore and a book by Leslie Waller although apparently the screenplay was extensively workshopped and a lot of the lines were improvised by the actors and accepted by the director.
(number 443)

Al Pacino plays Sonny, the leader for a rag tag group who rob a bank very poorly. He looks just like a Beatle in Hard Day’s Night, and everything goes wrong in a rather entertaining way.

The cinematography is amazing, like a snapshot of the city of New York in the seventies. It’s all based on a true story, apparently. It’s pretty intense, and the level of failure on Sonny’s side makes it believable that it’s true.

The movie deals with a lot of big issues, the effects of pressure on a person, the effect of media on a situation, capitalism, gay rights and a mob – the importance of winning the mob over to your side and the power of that. It’s very powerful when Sonny starts chanting Attica! Attica! and when he gets the police to holster their guns, with the crowd cheering for him.

Unlike movies of a similar story made more recently. probably since the late 90ns, there’s a lot of people talking at the same time. Sonny and the police negotiator yell over each other and it makes it feel very real. In more modern movies you’re much more likely to get gravelly voiced dudes saying their lines with a lot of forced intensity in quick cuts back and forth which are easy to follow. I think the shouting and confusion heightens the drama and makes it feel more real.

Does it make me love the people? You are definitely rooting for Sonny, he’s trying to do something and he’s in over his head for sure. Plus, he’s a bisexual who clearly loves his boyfriend enough to rob a bank for him! Not that they ever use the term bisexual. It’s used briefly as ‘shocking’ news on the TV coverage, but the characters we actually know in the film are mostly not fazed by it, which is refreshing. Sonny’s behaviour doesn’t really change once he’s outed, and he’s not depicted as any more or less of a decent person, which was hugely refreshing, and I suspect was kind of shocking for the time. The conversation between Sonny and his lover are quite heart breaking.

Sonny is especially moving in the scene in which he dictates his will to one of the hostages, his face bleak and his voice somewhat defeated. He expresses his love for his female wife and for his pre-op trans wife as well.

I also loved Sylvia, the head teller. She was hilarious and stoic and stubborn, speaking out again and again.

Bechdel test: Yes, Sylvia to a number of the other named women hostages at various points.

Best line:
“Out of the closet, into the streets!”

but perhaps more relevant to current state of affairs in America…

Sonny: [notices other officers moving toward him] What is he doing?
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: [shouts at officers] Will you get back there!
Sonny: What are you moving in there for?
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: [runs toward closing officers] Will you get the fuck back there! Get back there will you!
Sonny: [to the other officers moving toward him] What’s he doing? Go back there man! He wants to kill me so bad he can taste it! Huh? ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA!

State of Mind: D: In a similar line to Blow Out, I really enjoyed the style of this film, it’s a really different form of movie making to the action films of today. I love the attention to character, and the weirdness of the crowd outside. The way the people involved would mug for the cameras of the media and the crowd, but the ending was pretty sad. I’d probably watch it again though…

Watched movie count

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Glengarry Glen Ross
Directed by James Foley
(number 470)

A stellar cast. The leads are Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey, all looking a bit baby faced but all performing with the strength and gravitas we know them for. A fantastic scene at the start of the film gives us Alec Baldwin delivering the harsh message, if these men don’t close some deals for the real estate firm then they’re fired.

This movie is all talky talky, but it’s fantastic talk, like watching a fantastic play (which I guess this was based on? I should check), and the actors are all virtuosos. The film builds sympathy for a character, shows horrible things happening to them, and then has them make a shitty decision or do a shitty thing… it’s twisty and dear god, every single one of these salesmen is a bullshitter.

I appreciated that because there wasn’t too much swearing in the script, it had greater impact when swear words were used. The stakes combined with the infrequency of the language meant that the words had a lot more impact and – as in a real life workplace – shows when the characters are getting stressed out.

I loved an early scene where Al Pacino’s Ricky Roma talks about moral relativity and is there an absolute morality? How you should live what you believe, and act dependent on what you believe will happen to you. Of course he means it in a “do what the fuck you want” kind of way, but the essential lesson is pretty good.

The film is about greed and capitalism and its toll on human beings, what people will do when the push is put to them to make money or get out. There are hard moral choices and a lot of stressful scenes of sales not quite working, which are painful for empathetic people like me. “Coffee is for closers only” is a phrase used at the start of the film, which demonstrates how important the making of money is.

Bechdel test: No in fact I don’t think there’s a single speaking role for a woman.

Best line:
“As you all know first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired. Get the picture? You laughing now?”

State of Mind: I felt something off about the pacing, I dunno. Maybe I wanted the climax to be more climaxy, but it was very clever. An interesting counterpoint to ‘The company of men’