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February 21, 2007

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freeman

Awww. I didn't see Internal Affairs. But I really thought the Departed was a blast. Perfect? No. But a really fun time at the movies, and that's a whole lot more than I can say for half the films I see these days.

On a side note: Brian De Palma could make a bad movie out of the script of Casablanca.

herxanthikles

Couldn't agree with you more about the Departed on every point. If Nicholson was reigned in or replaced, it could've been a superb violent tragedy even with the plot missteps. I think maybe Dana Stevens was saying this (or was it you?) but it's like there are two different films fighting for prominence in the Departed, the thriller-tragedy represented by the moles vs. the disconnected sadistic comedy represented by Nicholson and the spirit of the awful last shot. Nicholson's spirit wins, infecting the climactic bloodletting so that it's borderline comic.

On thrillers: of recent David Mamet films Spartan was pretty "eh." But I thought Heist was great, if rather off key. Of recent thrillers Inside Man was pretty well done, if also off key in the way that almost any Spike Lee film is to some degree. But I freely admit that after Children of Men (a transcendent thriller) I have the biggest crush on Clive Owen.

herxanthikles

Couldn't agree with you more about the Departed on every point. If Nicholson was reigned in or replaced, it could've been a superb violent tragedy even with the plot missteps. I think maybe Dana Stevens was saying this (or was it you?) but it's like there are two different films fighting for prominence in the Departed, the thriller-tragedy represented by the moles vs. the disconnected sadistic comedy represented by Nicholson and the spirit of the awful last shot. Nicholson's spirit wins, infecting the climactic bloodletting so that it's borderline comic.

On thrillers: of recent David Mamet films Spartan was pretty "eh." But I thought Heist was great, if rather off key. Of recent thrillers Inside Man was pretty well done, if also off key in the way that almost any Spike Lee film is to some degree. But I freely admit that after Children of Men (a transcendent thriller) I have the biggest crush on Clive Owen.

Joshua James

I liked THE DEPARTED but didn't love it. Agree with most of your points, but mostly it didn't bother me.

But if you want to see a really great film about the Boston mob, watch Monument Ave, directed by Ted Demme and starring Denis Leary, among others. Really good.

Disagree, however, that the US isn't making worthy thrillers anymore . . . the Bourne Identify films alone discount that . . . I think the genre has suffered, as of late (now big comedies and big horror are what sells) but the market is fluid and it will bounce back.

Are you speaking of action thrillers or suspense thrillers?

Joshua James

Oh and SPARTAN may be my favorite Mamet film time, though I loved THE HEISTS . . . he's only getting better and better.

Mark

I'm with Josh. Spartan, Heist and State and Main are all great films.

Joshua James

I forgot about State and Main, a brilliant and funny movie . . . it's amazing that the same guy wrote and directed Spartan, ain't it?

Abe Goldfarb

Isaac knows how I feel about The Departed, and about Nicholson in it, so I'll keep my trap shut on that one. Otherwise...

I absolutely ADORE Spartan. It just strips everything away but the essentials, an almost monastic approach. It's also Mamet's most visually dense and beautiful movie. State and Main is a miscast sitcom with a thin script, no pacing and a visual style that seems to be constantly throwing up on itself. I simply DO NOT get the affection it receives, except for Alec Baldwin's splendidly played moment following the car crash.

Josh is on point with the Bourne films, which are almost without peer in the current thriller climate.

Johnny To...where does one begin with Johnny To? Isaac mentions Breaking News, a movie that begins with an unbroken 7 minute crane shot encompassing a massive shootout in a public place. It's a good place to start. To makes terse, tough, violent thrillers about guys who do guy stuff with other guys before killing a bunch of guys, guy. And he's also probably the premier action director working, next to Mann (his exceptionally idiosyncratic thrillers are usually underwritten by silly comedies like the mahjong romp Fat Choi Spirit). His Election films, which break the romanticized gangster mould with horrible precision, are so dark you might not want to look at anyone for days after viewing them. With their savage beatings, flashing machetes, sinister plotting and jaw-dropping Gitmo allusions, they are the last word in Triad films. They demand to be seen. Other than those and the ones Isaac mentions, seek out Exiled, this decade's greatest shoot-em-up thus far; A Hero Never Dies, the macho-est movie ever; Throwdown, a judo comedy (?) of terrific grace; Running Out of Time, which most pleasingly pits Hong Kong's biggest star, Andy Lau, against its greatest actor, Lau Ching-wan; Lifeline, a soapy and totally satisfying movie about firemen in peril; PTU, a gorgeous film about the Hong Kong police force that seems to be shot almost entirely in shadow; and the delightfully nuts Running on Karma, about a bodybuilding ex-monk stripper who can, like, see people's karma. Those're my favorites.

I think Netflix carries most of them, and you won't be sorry you checked them out, I promise. Even you people who hated Miami Vice. Maybe especially.

Joshua James

Wait, State and Main is not a good film, but the recent Miami Vice is?

Oh me oh my. Can open. Worms everywhere.

Mann is a great director, responsible for one of my all time favorite films . . . but he also directed THE KEEP.

Great directors don't do things halfway. They either do great movies or great fucking mistakes.

To change the subject, I just recently re-watched TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA and what a well made action movie that is, dripping in 80's lore . . . if you haven't seen that, add it to your list.

It reminded me of another 80's action film I've always admired . . . STREETS OF FIRE, a Walter Hill film.

"Tom Cody. Pleased to meet ya."

herxanthikles

Abe, I don't know how you feel about Departed and Nicholson and I"m dying to. Netflix mentions Election in it's blurb abotu Johnny To but doesn't seem to mention it. Sniff.

Abe Goldfarb

Joshua, we agree on so much...can we, as gentlemen of class, let the Vice debacle go by saying that we agree to disagree? There are enough people on both sides of the Vice debate (in both the critical and audience communities) to lead me to believe that it may simply be a Marmite matter (love it or hate it, it's just what it is).

State and Main, meanwhile, manages the astonishing trick of being short, slight and agonizingly dull. It's an endless iteration of one joke that even Mamet seems completely bored by. The camera seems to yawn every few minutes out of disinterest. And can anyone honestly say that Rebecca Pidgeon (who I loved in Heist, unlike nearly everyone else in the world) and William H. Macy (who I love in everything) were well cast?

To Live and Die in L.A. is absolutely brutal. Great stuff, Friedkin at his best. And Peterson and Dafoe are just awesome together. Is there an actor who better encapsulates all that is good and bad about the '80s than William Peterson? Methinks not. And I can't tell you how pleased I am to hear Streets of Fire mentioned. Walter Hill aimed for some mighty weird rafters with that one, and he hit it straight out of the park, if by park you mean the realm of reason. I like it.

Hill's one of those dudes who SERIOUSLY knew how to make a movie and then kind of lost it, though his Lonesome Trail TV movie was the jam. The Warriors, 48 Hours, Southern Comfort, Wild Bill, The Long Riders....what happened?

Abe Goldfarb

Oh, and Herxanthikles, if that is your REAL name, I'd be delighted to talk Departed over a drink. It's been a while.

Joshua James

We can agree to disagree on Vice, though I think the critical response was far less positive, and it didn't make any money after a good opening weekend, but that's cool.

Disagree completely on State and Main, and in particular on Macy, he's perfect, the whole cast is. And it's not too different from the few sets I've been on, as far as I can tell.

the film is offputting for some because of it's more than jaundiced view of movies, the people that make them and those that love them as a spectable. And Hoffman was great.

But I wouldn't say it was anything other than smart and funny.

It's not his greatest film, but far from his worst, not even medium, it's a great comic examination of what happens when a film company visits a small town.

We'll have to agree to disagree on that one. But Mamet's like that. You either love what he does or hate it.

Interesting fact about STREETS OF FIRE, it was originally supposed to be a trilogy, but when the first movie tanked at the box office, the whole thing was called off.

Wouldn't that have been interesting? And Bill Paxton, the biggest star in the group, in the mix!

Amy Madigan's part was originally male, they looked to her for a sister part but she was more interested in the sidekick guy part and they rewrote it.

Hill is a superstar, I just don't think he's comfortable with how movies are currently made . . . he's old school and not a flash editing Michael Bay clone. His recent flick with Duval was great, on TV, and classic.

Hill and Carpenter, they're from another era . . . I also just watched Lone Wolf McQuade, there's a flick that takes me back!

Yes, I don't write as much as I should!

isaac

Gotta side with Abe on State and Main. Gotta give it up for the Baldwin, but pretty much everyone else delivers performances I can only call "embarassing". There's nothing in there that isn't done exponentially better in "The Player", "My Favorite Year" or (can I get a witness for...) "Living In Oblivion", my personal favorite movie about making movies, favorite Steve Buschemi performance, favorite satire of a very specific film star and favorite cameo by a dwarf. Also, Catherine Keener in unshaven-pitted glory.

But I will fight in a duel anyone who claims that "Heist" is a good movie. To me, it was a bunch of not particularly entertaining nonsense. Unlike the entertaining nonsense of, say, The Spanish Prisoner.

Gentlement (and ladies!) what do you think of Mamet's film HOMICIDE?

I just wanted to note that this is by far one of my most commented posts in a long time. Hilarious.

Joshua James

Now Isaac, you don't really want to duel me on HEIST, do ya? Adverbs and twenty paces? Adjectives at dawn? Or the two of us naked in a pit, armed only with verbs and conjunctions, whomver crawls out wins.

Heist. Saw it TWICE in the theatre. Has this thing, called a plot, it's beautiful and layered.

Great flick and fun, too. Hackman, DeVito and Sam Rockwell spitting out the dialogue like old pros . . . not to mention Delroy, it was fabulous . . .

HOMICE is a fetus that would grow to become HEIST . . . gets points for an early Ving Rhame spottage, but other than that, still too stilted . . . and what's it really about, anyway? Damn, just a guilty mess, really.

Abe Goldfarb

Heist is so the jam it's not even funny. Real tension, real performances, tough action, great dialogue...It's just supremely satisfying in that way (and, notably, the style) that the '70s thrillers you adore always were, Isaac. And I went for the theatrical double dip myself, James.

Homicide I enjoy for its genuinely meaty thematic sauce, rock-ass Mantegna performance and excellently bleak twist ending. But moviemaking-wise, I think Heist has it all. Spartan extends its approach with supreme tastiness, and I want a t-shirt that says "Where's the girl?" Sorry, Spartan joke (the first and last time those words will ever be used).

To clarify, I don't find State and Main's jaundiced view of movies off-putting. If anything, I think it's almost jaw-droppingly toothless for a film from someone who KNOWS Hollywood like Mamet. I kept waiting for the film to show its claws, to really say something trenchant or wicked about the whole sordid business, but it didn't.

And actually, not to harp on the Vice score, there was a massive swell of critical support, some from American press (the Times, the Voice, New York, Salon, innumerable others) and even more internationally. On rottentomatoes, it's split almost right down the middle with the big-league print giving it a majority thumbs up. I don't think the response was unanimously positive, but I do think the film has its rabid supporters in established places. This doesn't mean I'm right and you're not, but I can't imagine using the film's box office drop as a barometer. Vice is still in my top films for '06, and I'm not alone.

Joshua James

Hey! You said you were gonna drop the Vice thing!

I could go through and pare down what's wrong with the movie, but what's the use? The guy can direct action sequences like no other, I will admit that . . . but it only works when the sum is equal to or greater han its parts. Like in Heat. Or Insider. Not the Keep.

Thief is a great film. Vice, well . . . I can understand the rush some folks got from it, but I bet it won't hold up . . .

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