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

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Scarface (1983)

Scarface
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by Oliver Stone
(number 292)

Here I go with another crime/gangster movie, with another almost three hour movie, with another critically acclaimed movie about people being assholes and I’m meant to care about it somehow? Oliver Stone, Brian de Palma, it all feels like the usual suspects of stuff I’ve already watched. Just set in a slightly different town and with people pulling different accents as they swagger and talk tough.

I didn’t know the Mariel boatlift was a thing, so reading up about that on wikipedia was pretty cool. And that this movie was made just a couple of years after it happened. Does this film count as immigrant fear mongering? Because it does seem to focus on how Cubans are all criminals.

So, okay. This movie is a little more brutal than other gangster/crime movies I’ve watched maybe. The sequence with the chainsaw in the bathroom is just nightmare fuel. I guess it’s a kind of making Tony look better thing – he’s not as nasty as the people with the chainsaw, he’s not the one carving people up. You feel like him chasing the guy down and shooting him was justified rather than just y’know, brutal. So yeah. I guess although the sequence was deeply unpleasant it was a way to frame Tony in a more sympathetic way.

I like the Miami landscapes, the lushness of the sets and the ridiculous OTT mansion Tony buys himself.

Does it make me love the people? I… no. No, it does not. I feel a little sorry for Elvira but.. eh.

Bechdel test: Elvira Hancock and Gina are our biggest characters, but they never speak. Then there’s Tony’s mother and she does talk to Gina, but it’s about Tony – arguing over whether he should be allowed to stay in the house or not. So we’ve covered the three main roles women can play: mother, virgin/little sister/needs protecting innocent and whore/love interest. Yayyy…

Best line: The world is yours

nah, it’s probably gotta be Tony with his gun: Say hello to my little friend!

State of Mind: I just… am not interested in these stories to be honest. I am feeling so done with these crime movies, which is bad news because I know I have more on the list to get through. Hopefully they won’t all be three hours long… I don’t think I love Oliver Stone movies.

Watched movie count

The Untouchables 1987

The Untouchables
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by David Mamet based on the book by Elliot Ness and Oscar Fraley
(number 302)

content warning: kids in danger a couple of different times in this movie.

What caught my eye in the opening credits? Wardrobe by Georgio Armani. Fancy! But such a sensible choice when everyone’s going to be wearing suits. Plus this film was made at the height of product placement being a fad in movies. Well, for one of the first times anyway.

Jesus H. I didn’t expect that for the opening. Immediately having flashbacks to the Battle of Algiers which I so didn’t brace myself for. Thankfully I’ve watched enough movies at this point that I predicted what was about to happen…

Awww, itty baby Kevin Costner. The tone of this movie is a bit hard to pick. It starts with a big shock, that’s for sure. Then you have Ness introduced as a lovable do-gooder, a teetotaller who takes no shit and is perfectly happy to bulldoze into a warehouse with a snow plow, just cause it might have smuggled cargo inside. There’s jokes, like with the press photographer. Then we get Capone just… baseball batting a guy to death over dinner. I felt off footed because it was hard to go ‘okay it’s this kind of movie’. Maybe that was intentional? I dunno. It’s jarring anyway.

There’s some very OTT music at points, I gotta say. The soaring Spielberg hero music as they bust the Post Office stash is very discordant to me. Like, yeah, we get it that they’re doing good but lord… we don’t need the ‘Peter Pan remembers who he is’ music to illustrate it. I liked the Opera sequence, though. Added some real gravitas to Malone’s final scenes.

Does it make me love the people? Hell yes. I love Ness right away, I love Malone as soon as he’s introduced and I love their recruits. This could all be my relief for watching a gang crime movie where the cops are actually the heroes feeding into my affection, but still. It’s hard not to enjoy Connery in this role. Super sad when Wallace bought it too 😦 I liked that little guy and then Malone. Yeah, it hurt.

How can you not love Ness when that incredible sequence in the train station with the baby carriage happens? It’s a genius sequence. Really good, really tense.

Bechdel test: Noooo, we have characters who are women and some of them are even named, but they only talk to men and seldom appear in the same scene. Not terribly surprising, but disappointing all the same.

Best line:

Ness: Hey, wait a minute! What the hell kind of policemen you got in this god damn city? You just turned your back on an armed man.
Malone: You’re a treasury officer.
Ness: How do you know that? I just told you that.
Malone: Who would claim to be that who was not? Hmm?

I want to reference the bring a knife to a gun fight moment but the full quote includes racist slurs soooo… knives to gun fights references happen in this movie and I appreciate that.

State of Mind: Didn’t expect to, super enjoyed this film. It’s interesting and kept me hooked on the story, plus the characters were so good. I had a lot of feels. It’s well written, not too dumbed down and not too intellectual or fast talking. Also, I’m one more movie off having watched and blogged the bottom 200 movies off the list! 😀

Watched movie count

Blow Out (1981)

Blow Out
Directed and written by Brian De Palma
(number 367)

John Travolta’s Jack is a movie sound technician who accidentally is on the scene of a car accident, and rescues a pretty girl. Of course it’s not just a car accident and there’s a lot more to the girl being in that car in the first place.

The movie is understandably concerned with sound, and the effects. The atmosphere music is actually pretty intrusive though. Most noticeably when Jack was convincing Sally to come home with him at the start of the film and she’s so drugged up she’s slurring words and can’t walk unassisted and the music is all romantic. That was pretty uncomfortable.

There’s a neat thing about this film’s use of media, there are lots of news casts for plot updates and Jack’s incredibly into the technology – using his film making equipment to try to get to the bottom of the mystery. His apartment is all full of recording stuff and his obsession with what happened on the bridge that night fuels more and more creative uses.

John Lithgow is a creepy freaking assassin guy, who is a creeper and I don’t like him.

Ben Franklin is a recurring image along with the Liberty Bell which is pretty expected for a film set in Philadelphia, but both images just keep on coming up. It’s pretty cleverly done, not a very obvious device as it could have been. But then the end of the film is so freaking ham fisted that I’m not sure it can be forgiven. I mean, a fight to the death in front of the american flag (projected on a screen) and Jack cradling Sally with the fireworks going off over him. Urgh.

And then the creepy, nihilistic true end when he takes the actual scream of the woman he loved and put it over a movie – well, at least he has the decency to cover his ears but… urgh. Nasty stuff.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, I was on side with Jack straight away, and Sally as well. She’s pretty sassy and not afraid to put herself into danger.

Bechdel test: It almost kinda did, because there were women at the start who spoke to each other about something other than a man. But then they weren’t named, and it was a movie within a movie situation so, I dunno. No, that’s a no.

Best line:

Jack: I’m trying to save our asses!
Sally: I’ll look after my *own* ass, thank you.

State of Mind: It was stylish, but feel like the ending let it down some. Not even because of what happened but because of how it was filmed. Maybe I need to watch it again. I do know that reading Humans of New York while I watched this counteracted the depressing overtones.

Watched movie count