April #1: Look Into Your Heart. Miller’s Crossing

miller

Never has the expression honor among thieves played a larger part in a modern film than in this Coen brothers’ Prohibition era gangster film. Gabriel Byrne stars as Tom Reagan, right hand man to Albert Finney’s crime boss, Leo. Tom, a brilliant strategist in the crime world’s chess game has long had Leo’s ear and his back. He also has Leo’s girl, Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) and this Lancelot/Guinevere affair threatens to undermine King Leo’s reign.

finney gat

The story begins in a Godfather-like scene with mobster Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) asking Leo to rub out John Turturro’s Bernie Bernbaum, a bookie with a knack for angering the wrong people. Leo refuses because although Bernie is a thorn in his side, he’s also Verna’s brother. Tom advises Leo to give up Bernie and when he won’t a mob war starts. Tom ends up on Leo’s bad side and despite his loyalty, Tom is cut loose. Caspar snaps him up and Tom seems to have switched sides. Caspar takes over Leo’s businesses and prospers as Tom plants seeds of distrust about Caspar’s main henchmen Eddie Dane (J.E. Freeman) thus eroding Caspar’s gang from within and proving his loyalty to Leo.

byrne seated

Based on the Dashiell Hammett novels Red Harvest and The Glass Key, Miller’s Crossing is a love letter to 1940s film noir and the snappy dialogue prevalent in novels by Hammett, Chandler, Thompson, and Cain. At one point Tom is asked if he knows the mayor. He says, “I oughta. I voted for him six times last May.” The costumes by Richard Hornung, sets by Nancy Haigh and cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld along with Carter Burwell’s spare and perfect score give the film a 1940s feel. Supporting roles by Steve Buscemi, Mike Starr, Frances McDormand, Michael Jeter, and Olek Krupa add depth to the already stellar cast and the direction by Joel and Ethan Coen just works. The scene with hit men approaching Leo to the strains of Danny Boy is as beautiful as grand opera and as violent as anything Peckinpah ever directed. Poetry. I liked Miller’s Crossing a lot. It has a flawed hero devoted to an equally flawed father figure and crime. Combine that with the Coens usual gang of quirky characters and great dialogue and you have an entertaining and almost Shakespearean story. I cheered for Tom and Leo. I booed for Bernie and Caspar. I hung on every word of dialogue and after watching the film for just under two hours, I wondered where the time went. Here’s another example of the sharp dialogue.
“Come on Tommy, wake up.”
“I am awake.”
“Your eyes are closed.”
“Who you gonna believe?”

How can you not love this film?

byrne

Shame: The Spiral Continues by @echidnabot

 

 

 

 

So I made my list and I’m happy with it, but the more I thought about it the more films I wanted to add.  My first list is sort of heavy, but I have some lighter shame too.  Here’s another list of twelve.  24 films in a year are certainly do-able.   It’s not like I was curing cancer anyway.

Being John Malkovich
Say Anything
Dances With Wolves
The Grifters
The Right Stuff
No Country for Old Men
Miller’s Crossing
Moon
The Boys in the Band
Stranger Than Paradise
Wall-E
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

This should be fun!

Shhh… Don’t tell anyone about @Andrew_Cybulska’s List of Shame

“Oh yeah… yeah that movie was great.”

LIAR. I am a BIG. FAT. LIAR. I don’t know that the movie is great, because I’ve never seen it. But how could I admit that to you? How could I possibly admit that to myself? Well enough lies. Enough with the ambiguous talking points based on what I’ve read from other critics. It’s time to make myself more knowledgable on the films that define modern and classic cinema, and it’s time to step out from the darkness into the light.

This is my list of shame…

January – Dr. Strangelove

February – Sabrina

March – Enter the Dragon (to celebrate The Raid 2 coming out)

April – The Godfather

May – The Godfather II

June – The Godfather III

July – Anchorman

August – Taxi Driver

September – Arsenic and Old Lace

October – Psycho

November – Miller’s Crossing

December – It’s a Wonderful Life

It begins this weekend with Dr. Strangelove.