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?

 

 

 

My Dirty Dozen by @gregmccambley

I am a movie junkie. I will watch just about any kind of film at the drop of a hat.  And yet, there are some movies that I have not seen, for various reasons. It’s hard to describe exactly why I’ve not seen them, though. Some are because of perceived personal taste, while others are because of lack of enthusiasm. So, thanks to Cinema Shame, I now have a chance to see if my reasons were valid.  So, over the next 12 months, the movies I want to watch are:

January – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

February – Raging Bull (1980)

March – Taxi Driver (1976)

April – Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

May – Mary Poppins (1964)

June – The Nutty Professor (1963)

July – Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

August – The Wizard of Oz (1939)

September – Fight Club (1999)

October – Se7en (1995)

November – Mean Streets (1973)

December – It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

This list is, I hope, just the start. I want to make it my movie watching mission this year to start watching movies starring people other than the usual suspects.   I want to thank my online network of movie watching buddies for really engaging my love of film.

If I have more titles (and I’m sure I will), I will definitely add to this list.

It’s gonna be a fun year.

Addendum: I might add to this list as the year goes on, so I figured why not go ahead and start now? Given that I’m gonna explore early Scorsese this year, I came across After Hours (1985) for cheap, so I’m adding it to the total. I don’t know when I’ll watch it, but I will.

And the Number of the Shaming Shall Be 12 by @echidnabot

 

 

 

 

The assignment: Find twelve films I haven’t seen that leave a gaping hole in my study/love/knowledge of film.  Simple, right?  After all, I have a list on letterboxd with close to 200 films I want to see.   I think this is a different list though.  As I grew up in the United States and in the suburbs, I watched a lot of American and some British films on TV.  I don’t have stories of walking to the theatre every Saturday or having an art house down the street.  Going to the movies meant conning someone’s mother into driving a gang of us to the nearest theatre where we’d see something new.  I have seen some foreign and a lot of cult films, but I never studied film formally so I know I’ve missed a bunch.  I did see Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Polyester at plain old suburban theatres so chalk those up for the suburbs.  I still remember my dad’s taking me to a Kenmore Square revival house to see Blow Up when I was twelve.  We talked about it all the way to our bleacher seats at Fenway which we bought, day of, for $2.50.  I digress.  Here’s my list of shame.  They’re in no order so I’m not sure when I’ll watch what.  Plus, I have thirteen because Un Chien Andalou is only fifteen minutes long.  Here goes nuthin’.

Raging Bull
Yojimbo
Bicycle Thieves
Get Carter (yes, the original)
Rashomon
The Yakuza
Persona
The 400 Blows
Un Chien Andalou
La Dolce Vita
Bob Le Flambeur
The Servant
Withnail & I

I managed to find most of these on Netflix, You Tube, and my local library, but if one eludes me, I’ll switch it out for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

Confession of Shame by @JakeDelToro

I’m sat looking at a list of sixty-one films. Well, I was before I started writing this. Why, you ask?

Well, I’ll come to that. Let me start at the beginning…

A few weeks back while perusing Letterbox’d, I thought I’d make a list of all the movies that I feel like I ‘should’ have seen by now. How do you go about qualifying films for a list like that though? Hmmm, tough question. The answer is as follows; any film that when talking to a fellow film fan would elicit a scathing response such as the one demonstrated here: “WHAT??? You haven’t seen Raging Bull?!? That’s ridiculous, everyone has seen that movie! You need to watch it immediately” So I set about creating such a list, for my own reference, so that I could tick off the films on it as and when I watched them.

Back to me staring at my list…

Earlier this evening (21st January) I spied the following exchange between @007hertzrumble and @campbelldropout:

Tweets

Perfect! I had to get in on the action. And that is why I was sat looking at a list of 61 films.

I was trying to narrow my own list down to just 12 films which I will be watching at a rate of one per month and then writing about the film here. It was quite a difficult process. Essentially, I had to pick one out of every five movies on my list to watch. How do you possibly narrow a list like that down, after all these are all films that are considered ‘classics’. Well eventually I just thought “Bollocks to it” and scanned the list quickly and picked out films that stood out from the pack. Not necessarily the twelve that would be considered the most classic but twelve films that I am genuinely excited to watch and feel could make for an interesting topic to write about. I have tried to make it a varied list taking in many genres and styles.

So here it is:

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  2. The Wild Bunch
  3. When Harry Met Sally
  4. Manhattan
  5. Raging Bull
  6. First Blood
  7. Fargo
  8. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  9. Casablanca
  10. Badlands
  11. Once Upon a Time in The West
  12. My Neighbor Totoro

Over the next twelve months I will be watching these films, one a month, and then documenting my progress and thoughts on the films as I go along.

First up: First Blood.