A World of Pain–April shame prompt

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The April shame prompt was to watch and report on a film shown at the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Now this is an event in which I envy all who attend, since I probably never will. But I perused the list and knew right away which movie I had to see: The Big Lebowski. I have had no end of shame over not knowing anything about this movie, and never getting the cultural references that everyone else seems to get. So I got some popcorn, some raisinets, and settled in to learn something about The Dude, and why he abides. I had high hopes, as I am never disappointed in anything I see Jeff Bridges do.

 

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Hey, careful man, there’s a beverage here

 

The coolest thing about this movie is that it is impossible to put it into a slot. Some movies are dead on Noir, Action, comedy, horror, and so forth. This one was a mixed bag of tricks that surprised me. Loved it. I give it a four out of five stars, which is very good for me as I never give anything five except the movies I could watch over and over and never get tired of, like The Third Man, Groundhog Day, and The Big Sleep. Down-side? A bit frequent on the f-bombs, more than my taste, and a pedophile, but then who didn’t deal with pedophiles in the late 90’s?

It was all part of it–the sexually ambiguous 90’s. Nothing clear and standing out like the 50’s where you knew what was morally ‘right’ to society and what you were supposed to do. You knew your role. The 90’s had slackers and hackers, terrorists and sexual predators. Yeah, I know, every era has had them. But now the general public was aware, and bothered–and I would maintain, titilated by the whole situation we’d found ourselves in. But then, this is not an analysis sort of movie review. I really hate those. You know the ones that dig into Nietzsche and Freud and tell you what to think about film history. I know what I think, and I know what I like. I like movies that don’t look like every other movie–and surprise me.

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Speaking of The Big Sleep, I did not expect this movie to feel like a noir film. The premise seemed silly to me. Not that silliness puts me off. I love it. But I thought it would be a straight comedy. It totally wasn’t. What I like about the noir films that have caught my attention is their ability to tell a story and keep me engaged, without necessarily putting closure on the plot. Like life, you finish watching the movies knowing that life will go on with those characters, as it does for us.

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Mark it zero!

 

Oh, and there are femme fatales, of which this movie has two, depending upon your view.

The noirs of the 40’s were pulpy and fiction-y, and the moment and atmosphere felt more important than the plot. Like Raymond Chandler. Oh dear, I do love his writing. I know, I know, it is not Shakespeare. It is not even Ian Fleming or Grisham. It had it’s own style and is very quoteable, even by those who say they don’t like pulp fiction. But I have digressed from The Big Lebowski. The Dude. A lazy-ass sonofabitch who goes to the grocery store at the start of the movie and writes a check for sixty-nine cents.

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Which brings me to my final point about this film, and what I liked about it the best. The running gag, or point, or philosophy, if you must about the rug. The Dude brings it up at the most infuriating of times, to some, seeming to be a minor issue, this rug he feels ought to be replaced by the older, crippled, mega-wealthy Lebowski. I found it funny, odd, and something like I would do. After all, who wants to live in a world, where someone can just walk into your place and piss on your rug, with no consequences?

Well that was enough for me, and alone made the film entertaining, even without the bowling, the white russians, the nihilists, and the kidnapping. But maybe you feel differently. Maybe this film didn’t do it for you, or you prefer to see something deeper into the plot.

Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your opinion, man.

your opinion

 

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You can also read me at  Are You Thrilled
or come and say hello to me on Twitter at @areyouthrilled for poetry and artsy stuff or @movielovebogart for movies and television

 

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Ain’t that a shame: 2018

I post my writing at Are You Thrilled, but you might have seen me around on Twitter talking about movies at So Long Holly via @movielovebogart . This list has been pulled and pushed, items deleted, replaced, and added back in. Tonight, in the spirit of being decisive, I will leave the list as is, and keep the others for alternates to watch when (if) the first dozen are finished. I watch countless films in a year’s time, but I am such a scofflaw when it comes to yearly resolutions. So let’s have at it–there is no time to lose!

  1. The Deer Hunter

In 2017 I had a list but did not officially post it. The two I remember from that list are Raging Bull , which I wrote about in a stand-alone post, and The Deer Hunter. Here is a clip featuring the late John Cazale

 

It is intense, and violent, well beyond what I usually watch. I know, I know, I can be fluffy inside when it comes to violence. But I am told that at my age it is truly shame-ful to not have seen Deer Hunter, so I will gear up with popcorn and Southern Comfort, and hubby will tell me when to cover my eyes.

2. Johnny Dangerously

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Flipping the Tables

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The movies I watch most frequently, roughly 80%, are subtle, full of dark images, deep thoughts, and painted with smoke, mirrors, and chiaroscuro. The movies I tend to walk around, to avoid, even when given four-star reviews, are bloody, action flicks, brutal and gruesome, cruel and angry. My best friend might argue with you, that is exactly what I watch, a mixture of the usual top-ten noir films we’ve all seen with Bogart and Mitchum and their splendid ilk. But I also watch a lot of 1940’s crime films with twisted femme fatales, and a mixture of characters with seemingly no conscience and no regrets. I suppose there is a discrepancy there but we all have our limits and I never did well with brutal, unless it was painted up pretty and put in stockings and a ball gown.

Enter Raging Bull, the top daddy on many critics’ lists, including Roger Ebert’s. I have a long love affair with both De Niro and Italian culture. They feel like family, like the sort of folks I suspect are in a few generations of my lineage and my husband’s. So when I was asked what films everyone has seen that I have not, Raging Bull and The Deer hunter were the first on my mind and out of my mouth.

I sat with my ice water, Raisinets, and popcorn and hit play. I was immediately transported into a painting. The movie is magnificent, and would be even with the sound off. But the combination of the music and the visuals is nothing short of, and the choice of Scorsese to use black and white hooked me from the start.

I was at ringside, not cheering or taking pictures. I was mesmerized by Jake LaMotta in the ring, boxing the air. He was alone in a smoky haze, only the camera flashes from out of the darkness indicating that anyone else could see him fighting his adversaries, and only he knew who he was boxing.

There are 8 boxing matches featured in this film but I don’t think Raging Bull is really about boxing. He could have been a tailor or a policeman or a mail carrier. It gets to the heart of jealousy and insecurity, and how a person can tear their family  and their own life apart with their hands. In that way boxing serves as the perfect illustration of a man that punishes others for their weaknesses and for their strengths that make him feel weak. A man that can punish himself just as easily, and take it. Over and over again.

I grew up enamoured with boxing. I think I got it from my mother, who, though she didn’t watch any sports regularly, except figure skating during the Olympics, but never missed a heavy weight bout. This was during Ali’s reign in the late 70’s–as well as Holmes, Norton, Spinks, et al. I never missed a Rocky movie, and loved all of them. But this is an entirely different animal. I believe that is because it begins as truth, from LaMotta’s own autobiography. I understand there were a few changes, but not crucial ones.

If it was fiction, I would be saying, hey, drop the anger a bit and balance things out. A viewer can only take so much? Lighten a few scenes, take a break with the pressure. But this is real life and Scorsese pulled no punches. We ride the wave from beginning to end, and it never lets up. But I won’t say anything about the end, never a spoiler with me, just in case I am not the only person in the world that has not seen Raging Bull.

The main difference between this and other ‘boxing’ movies, is that clearly each scene has been edited perfectly, edited for effect, and somehow the effects come off without being pretentious or condescending. It is a truly beautiful film. Cathy Moriarty is fantastic as his second wife, and Joe Pesci is brilliant as his brother. Most underrated actor ever, but I digress.

Check this out, one of my favourite scenes, when Jake tells his brother to hit him in the face.

De Niro barely even moves his head and body when he’s hit over and over. I understand he trained with LaMotta for a year to do this film right.

The hardest scenes to watch, but the most interesting are the ones with his wives, especially those with Vikki. They clearly loved each other desperately, but when Jake was jealous, or reacting to something she said, he was an animal, ferocious and unpredictable.

 

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De Niro’s LaMotta reminds me of what Brando pulled off in On The Waterfront, especially showing how a lady can temper the beast, at least for a time, and help him to feel something other than rage. In one memorable scene, Jake is trying to abstain before a fight but Vikki pushes him close to the edge. He pours ice down his pants and she goes to him and kisses him, holding him close. She walks away with a wet spot on her gown.

Between the rage and the passion, my inner voyeur was well satisfied, and now I can cross Raging Bull off my list. I could wax long about not letting anger ruin us and stopping the rage before we tear ourselves apart, but we all know this already, so lets’ be good to each other, and see lots of good movies to keep life rich, capiche?