Moriarty Reviews GANGS OF NEW YORK, CHICAGO, And CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND!
Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
I don’t want to obscure the simple idea of that under the mountain of stuff I’ve got for you today, so I’ll repeat it, and I mean it sincerely, no matter who you are...
I don’t know if I’ll have another chance to post a story again of my own before the end of the year. My first major 2003 column is going to be my 10 Best List, and I’m trying to fit in a number of last-minute screenings of things that are either just coming out or that I missed for one reason or another. I’m also finishing up a big giant DVD Shelf column I meant to have up before Christmas. Problem is, I’m in the homestretch of draft one of the-script-that-shall-not-be-named, and Harry Lime and I have spent every moment we weren’t with our families since BNAT to really hone the work. As a result, I’m a little distant these days to almost everyone in my life, even Harry (sorry, Big Red, and I hope you and Father Geek had a great Christmas, even if the world’s cutest Li’l Monster was in Mexico with his mom and dad), and I’m sorry about that. It’s always like this when I get my head well and truly into something I’m writing. I get distracted, consumed by the thing. This time, especially, there’s a fair amount of self-imposed pressure on me. I’d hate to screw up something so very public, and like any writer, I’m fully confident I have the ability to balls this one up.
Still, I take great encouragement from the way this last six weeks or show has been shaping up at the cinema, and I’ve loved each of my excursions to lose myself for a few hours in someone else’s shared dream. Well, okay, getting dragged to TWO WEEK NOTICE was a special kind of Hell, but for the most part, even when the films haven’t worked this fall, there’s no faulting them for sheer ambition. That, of course, brings us to the first film I’d like to discuss today...
GANGS OF NEW YORK
”Each of the Five Points is a finger. When I close my hand, it makes a fist.”
So says Bill Cutting, known to everyone in the New York of 1863 as Bill The Butcher, in a mesmerizing early scene from Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited pet project GANGS OF NEW YORK, the subject of much speculation and rumor and controversy. The last time one of our modern cinema masters released a film with this much attendant posturing on the parts of the studio, critics, and industry wags, it was Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT in 1999, and like that film, GANGS is sure to polarize people in their responses. It’s worthy of all the discussion that’s sure to ensue, and it defies easy, quick reaction.
In fact, I’m actually glad I saw the film with an embargo date attached to my review, because it means I’ve been able to spend the last two weeks or so chewing on the film, digesting it, thinking about what I liked and what I didn’t. It’s also given me a chance to read the hoopla about the “alternative” cut that people like David Poland and Jeff Wells have seen and proclaimed the superior version. I’m sorry that their reports are going to muddy the waters further, since I think it undermines serious discussion of the only version that matters, the one that is being released in theaters across the country today. Scorsese has already come down quite vocally on the subject, saying this is the only version that will be released, and even detailing the process that led him to this final 2 hour and 46 minute cut. Besides, we’re ultimately talking about a difference of about 20 minutes of total running time, most of which consists of slightly different edits of scenes. And despite what Poland and Wells hypothesize, I’m willing to accept that Scorsese truly believes in his heart that the film I saw, the film that you’ll see, is the best version of the movie.
And I’m equally willing, although saddened, to say that this may well be one of the frustrating and uneven films in the career of this brilliant man.
Let’s get this part of the review out of the way right up front: I love Scorsese’s work. I don’t want to write a bad review for this film, or even a mixed review. I wish I could convince myself that the flaws in this film don’t matter, or that there’s a deeper meaning here dancing just at the edge of the frame, something that will become more evident with repeat viewings. But I hate it when people give someone like Scorsese a pass just because of the backstory on something like this. I know he’s been trying to make this movie since 1977, and I admire the fact that he held true to his vision of the thing for a full quarter-century in his efforts to bring it to the screen.
So it makes me feel absolutely lousy that I’m sitting here at 3:00 in the morning, trying to find a way to start this tapdance, worried about just how much bloodletting I’m going to have to do by the end of this piece. With something like BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, it felt like Scorsese working in a minor key, and I pretty much didn’t like anything about it. It’s easier to dismiss a film outright than it is to dissect something that reaches for greatness and just brushes it before completely derailing. I spent almost 800 words working my way through Scorsese’s career, talking about highlights, things I loved, before I realized I was stalling and backed up, erasing all of it.
Maybe I should ease into this by talking about what I liked and what does work. First and foremost, there’s Daniel Day-Lewis, who casts a shadow over every single moment of this film. His work here is as good as film acting gets, and he deserves the lion’s share of the credit for what makes the film work in its best moments. It is a genuine crime that he has been off-screen since THE BOXER, and this film is a reminder of just how much we’ve been missing in that time. With a glass eye featuring an American Eagle as the pupil and a giant moustache, decked out in African-print vests and giant top hats and suits so narrow he looks like a pipe cleaner, there’s no one else that looks like Bill The Butcher. He’s arresting from the first moment we get a glimpse of him, just this side of absurd. Day-Lewis imbues Bill with an almost stifling sense of menace, though, and once we’ve seen him in action, he’s not a joke, and could never be a joke again. He’s the ruler of this strange, alien world that is somehow our past, a place we all know now, and he’s also our guide, our Virgil in this Hell.
Which, I suppose, makes Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) our Dante, our eyes and ears on this trip into chaos, and he’s got a far more problematic role to play. In a way, he creates a false expectation for the film. We expect Leonardo to be the main character in the movie, the center of it, and based on the opening of the film, one might be misled into thinking he’s the lead. After all, the film opens with him as a child witnessing the death of his father (Liam Neeson) going head-to-head with Bill The Butcher in a street war to see who will rule the Five Points, the place where five major streets come together, the heart of the immigrant population in New York. The outcome of this battle leaves Amsterdam in the care of the city, dead set on revenge for his slain father, to young to know how to go about getting it. That opening street war needs to be mythic in scale and intensity, and during the build-up, it is. Liam Neeson moves through the enormous sprawling home that all of these immigrants share, moving from underground towards the surface, and one by one, they all fall in with him, all of them armed, all of them ready for war. Scorsese expertly builds the anticipation, and then the damnedest thing happens. One of the film’s major flaws is revealed in this sequence. Throughout his career, Martin Scorsese has been associated with the extreme portrayal of violence on film. This is, after all, the man whose TAXI DRIVER was once described by his family priest as “too much Good Friday and not nearly enough Easter Sunday.” In most of those cases, though, the violence comes as quick bursts, sudden flare-ups that are over as soon as they’ve begun. GANGS represents one of his first attempts at a truly large-scale epic battle or fight scene, and it’s interesting to learn that there are indeed things that Scorsese doesn’t appear to be any good at. This street war, this focal event which the rest of the film hangs on, is scored miserably (the Peter Gabriel track with the strange electric guitar sounds doesn’t seem to be remotely connected to the images onscree), poorly shot and choreographed, and oddly truncated. This moment which should kick the film off and serve as the first moment of true power just lays there, and as Liam Neeson slowly bleeds out, so does the sequence. My sense of disappointment in the sequence was so profound that it took me a good fifteen minutes to recover and start to catch back up with the film, and by that point, Scorsese seemed to have found his footing, too.
By this point, Amsterdam has returned to the Five Points after years in an orphanage, and Di Caprio’s physically alarming at first glance, especially if you see him all sleek and polished and streamlined in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. There’s a beefy, thick-necked thuggishness about him, and it’s appropriate. He looks like a kid who grew up hard, and who is used to fighting for whatever he has. It’s in the way he carries himself, and it’s in his eyes. He is recognized right away by Johnny (Henry Thomas), a boy he knew as a child, and he finds himself swept into the only form of survival that any of these kids know, a hardscrabble existence based on what you can take off of whom and dependent entirely on how much. Johnny’s a good guide into the world, but Amsterdam has a knack, an instinctive ability to make the most of a situation. When a house catches fire, it’s Johnny who leads them inside to ransack the place. It’s Amsterdam who has to rescue Johnny, though, and his actions catch the attention of Bill the Butcher, who has become the ruler of this part of New York in the time since Amsterdam left.
And for a stretch, the film works for the most part. If there’s a flaw in this first ninety minutes or so, it’s the role that Cameron Diaz has been given to play. She does a good job with the moments she has, but the script lets her down in a major way. I find it hard to believe that Jay Cocks, Stephen Zallian, and Kenneth Lonergan all worked on this script without one of these very smart writers realizing that they had essentially crafted a paper-thin hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold clichÃ©. It’s a shame, too. Diaz throws herself into the scenes as vigorously as she can, but she’s ultimately stranded, and it leaves her as one of the movie’s many loose narrative threads. On the other hand, I couldn’t get enough of the material involving Jim Broadbent as Boss Tweed. It’s through him that we are given our best glimpse of the way politics worked in this city practically bursting from all the people and ideologies that were packed into it. He plays the role with all the oily charm he can muster, which is a considerable amount, and even though his role is largely expository, he makes it memorable. The things that are good about the Boss Tweed material are the same things that are good about the film overall... that sense that we’re getting a glimpse at American history that we’re never taught in schools, the way things really worked during a time so difficult, so dangerous, that no one got away without scars.
In fact, my favorite moment in the film is a long, incredible tracking shot that does indeed invoke the spirit of Sergio Leone, one of my very favorite filmmakers. In THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY, there’s that incredible stretch of film where we suddenly take a left turn into the Civil War, and we realize that it’s no fantasy canvass upon which Leone is painting his morality play. The same thing happens here in a remarkable tableau that shows Irish immigrants getting off a boat, signing up for their citizenships, signing their conscription papers, suiting up in Union uniforms, and then getting onto new boats, ready to be shipped south to fight for their new country. In that one moment, Scorsese paints entire lifetimes worth of experience, and it’s breathtaking. As you watch something like that, or as you see the way the Five Points have been recreated in painstaking detail, there’s no denying the evidence of Scorsese’s passion for this project. He’s been thinking about this forever, and that raises the question: is it possible to overthink something? Is it possible to carry a project around too long? So often, art requires a sort of vitality, a momentum that can easily be crushed by protracted development. GANGS OF NEW YORK strikes me, especially in the sequences that take place after Bill the Butcher learns the true identity of Amsterdam, as a bit of a museum piece. The recreation of history is remarkable, and the use of period music played from live sources almost makes up for the fact that there’s no score to speak of here, and much of what is used is simply inappropriate or distancing. One of the things that made Leone’s films into poetry despite their pulp origins was the brilliant work of Ennio Morricone, and Scorsese needed a composer on this film who could give it the soul it needed. That wouldn’t have repaired all the film’s flaws, but it could have smoothed out some of the rougher edges.
In the end, I don’t have the heart to rail on the film’s weaknesses. Suffice it to say, they are numerous, and by the time the ending rolls around, I felt completely and utterly distanced from what I was watching. Instead of becoming drawn into the conflict between Amsterdam and Bill, I found myself becoming more and more aware of the seams of the thing. I understand the need for Bill to face down his enemy’s son on a field of honor on an intellectual level, and there is something to the idea of having the larger struggle of the Civil War, the birth pains of a new America, intrude on that personal conflict.
But understanding the intention of the scene and connecting with the scene are two totally different things, and even as I found myself appreciating images (the elephant running through the smoke of the battle is one of those great, surreal images that I love in film, something you just wouldn’t ever expect), I felt like I was outside the experience. And in the last minute or so of running time, Scorsese commits an act of hubris so magnificent that I almost couldn’t believe I was looking at it. Like Spike Lee, he is a lifelong New Yorker, and I understand the need to make sense of September 11th using art, but in reaching for some connection, Scorsese betrays the personal story for the last time, and what we’re left with is portrait as polemic, a drama without tension, an epic without vision.
Critics who want to look for great depth in CHICAGO seem to be missing the point. Bob Fosse was a dancer before he was a dramatist, and when he originally hired John Kander and Fred Ebb to write the book and score for the piece, he was primarily interested in creating a vehicle for Gwen Verdon, his wife at the time. I’m a huge fan of ALL THAT JAZZ, a hallucinogenic film that chronicles the time right around the creation of CHICAGO, the moment when Fosse was put down by a tremendous heart attack brought on by stress and drugs and various other personal appetites. When you see ALL THAT JAZZ and then look at CHICAGO, it becomes immediately appparent why the musical is so jaded, so completely disgusted with society at large. Fosse seemed to feel he had nothing to lose, and he told the truth as he saw it, wrapped in some incredible dance numbers and some nimble character sketches.
When it originally opened on Broadway, CHICAGO was at best a cult hit. Like Sondheim, Fosse has a rabid following that analyzed everything he did under a microscope, and they saw merit in many of the pieces of what they saw as a flawed whole. The musical was optioned for film almost immediately, and in the years since, there have been many stops and starts in bringing it to life. It wasn’t until musical fanatic and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Bill Condon came up with a framework, a way into the material, that Miramax was able to really make this happen.
I should confess that I consider Condon a friend and a mentor to some degree. He inspires me because of the tenacity with which he pursues the stories that he wants to tell. A societal x-ray about Bess Myerson... a haunted romantic memory of a director dismissed by many as “just a horror filmmaker”... a story about America’s relationship with its gentials as told through the eyes of controversial researcher Kinsey... these are not the stories that Hollywood normally embraces. Yet, somehow, Condon is able to crack them and craft screenplays that allow you into these densely structured worlds and convey both information and emotion in equal measure. When he immersed himself in the world of CHICAGO, I figured it was a natural step for him. He frequently puts on one show score or another to write, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of musical theater. That’s both a strength and a drawback, though, because the potential is there for a situation just like GANGS OF NEW YORK. It’s possible to get too close, too caught up in the intellectual exercise, and to lose the sense of the thing as a film, as a communal experience that an audience is going to share.
Thankfully, that ain’t the case here.
CHICAGO is an audience film, first and foremost. It manages to recreate the energy of seeing this sort of show live, and each of the numbers has its own particular style and sound. In the film’s first big scene, “All That Jazz,” there’s a fair amount of busy intercutting between Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger). Velma’s the one onstage performing, a vamp who rolls in late with blood on her hands, and Roxie’s the one who is desperate to be onstage, so desperate that she’s willing to sleep with anyone who tells her they can get her there. When her latest boyfriend reveals his lie and slaps her around, she shoots him to death. Both Velma and Roxie end up in jail awaiting trial for murder charges under the care of Mama (Queen Latifah), who brings the house down with her first big number, “When You’re Good To Mama,” a song that Latifah belts out with abandon, using her considerable physicality to really sell it. Velma and Roxie also both end up signing the same lawyer to represent them, the one and only Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), the guy who’s never lost a case. The story’s not much more complicated than that, even when you toss in numbers about the media, fidelity, and identity.
But that’s the charm of the thing. Musicals, by their very nature, paint in oversized symbols and archetype. For me, the reason to see this is to see what Rob Marshall has done as a director, and to see the performance work by the various actors. When I first heard the casting for the film, I was almost immediately turned off to the entire thing. I couldn’t imagine sitting through a musical starring Gere and Zeta-Jones, and I hate admitting that. I try not to prejudge things, but I’m as guilty of it as anyone else at times. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I think everyone in it was ideally cast once you accept that Miramax was going to cast actors... people we recognize... and not just pure dancers or singers. Can Renee Zellweger sing and dance? Yes. She’s probably the weakest dancer in the film, and there are times that Marshall carefully protects her with the way he shoots things. He’s a choreographer himself, so he knows whether or not he can show someone doing something. There are no doubles used in the film, so if you get a shot of someone tapdancing (as Gere does to hilarious effect in a number in the courtroom), it’s really them. I’d say that Zeta-Jones is the best singer out of the three leads, which leaves Gere as the one who sings and dances well enough to acquit himself, right smack dab in the middle. By casting actors, though, Marshall did the right thing because we’re not watching this on stage, seated 40 rows back. In some cases, we’re inches from these people’s faces. Watch John C. Reilly as he milks every bit of inherent pathos out of “Mr. Cellophane.” He’s wrenching. There’s a lethal mix of fury and heartbreak simmering just below the surface, and it’s because we can see his wounded animal eyes that the number stands out as one of the film’s best. Likewise, the way “We Both Reached For The Gun” has been refigured as a large-scale ventriloquist act would only work on film because of the way perspective shifts, leading to one of the great punchlines in the movie when we see Gere as a puppeteer, conducting the press to repeat exactly what he’s fed them. It’s audacious, and Marshall pulls it off with real panache. Dion Beebe, his cinematographer, is quickly establishing a reputation for being able to achieve high style on a conservative budget, as evidenced by his work on EQUILIBRIUM and HOLY SMOKE! The rest of the art departments all did a great job of striking just the right balance between the artificial and the authentic, and the result is one of the most daring and entertaining mixes of music and film since the passing of Dennis Potter.
CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND
QUICK EDITORIAL NOTE: This review was run for about 12 hours a few weeks back, but I didn’t realize I was breaking a press embargo at the time. So, I removed it, and now I’m happy to be able to post it again. Sorry if you were one of the TalkBackers who got erased in the process. “M”
I’d like to start this review by saying “Damn you, George Clooney, for making it all look so easy, and for being so freakin’ good at it.”
I mean, sure, you’re a very solid actor who, in recent years, has shown an almost uncanny sense of material, and who was smart enough to partner up with a filmmaker who not only directed your first truly great film role (OUT OF SIGHT), but who also seems possessed of the same adventurous spirit as you. And, sure, the two of you have managed to take your commercial and critical clout and turn it into an excuse to challenge what is typical of both movie stars and A-list directors each time out now.
But did you have to finally pick up an unfilmable, much beloved script, and somehow manage to turn it into one of the year’s most accomplished and intelligent entertainments? And did you have to establish right off the bat that you have a directorial style that is somehow original and vital without ripping off your recent talented collaborators?
And above all else, did you have to be the one who finally figured out what the hell to do with Sam Rockwell?
I remember the first time I read CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND. It was the second script by Charlie Kaufman that I got my grubby li’l hands on, and I immediately liked it more than BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. To be fair, neither script was exactly what ended up in front of the cameras, but of the two, more work had to be done on MALKOVICH. CONFESSIONS was one of my favorite reads at the time, dark and trenchant and filled with a spectrum of self-loathing that I was sure would never end up actually funded and released. At least, not as any sort of mainstream film. When Mike Myers was flirting with playing Chuck Barris, I just laughed, because I knew there was no way a studio was going to make this film with a movie star. There was no movie star brave enough to really do it.
If there’s any justice, though, this is the film that will finally turn Rockwell into the star that he’s always threatened to become. There is something magnetic and compulsively watchable about this guy. For one thing, he seems like he can barely stand still, like there’s so much energy and so many ideas all racing through his system that he has to fidget and dance and move, just trying to keep from blowing some sort of gasket. When he started getting his James Brown on in CHARLIE’S ANGELS, it didn’t matter how silly the film was. There was something that made you watch this guy, pay attention to him. In films like LAWN DOGS and BOX OF MOONLIGHT and GALAXY QUEST and THE GREEN MILE, he would continually pull these moments out of the ether, finding some fresh and fascinating way to bring a script to life. But because he’s unconventional looking (i.e. not Hollywood perfect), he seemed to be on the road to a career as a supporting player who would never get his chance to carry a film.
I don’t know what it was that brought Rockwell to mind when Clooney began to cast this film, but I know it came down to a close race between Ben Stiller and Rockwell, and that screen tests had to be done of the two of them in character before Clooney was able to convince the powers-that-be to let him go with his first choice. Stiller’s a good actor, and he’s proven his range, but he didn’t need this movie. It wouldn’t have changed anything for him. For Rockwell, this movie is a revelation. It’s proof that all of those smaller roles really were indicators of an enormous talent just waiting to be fully unleashed.
As the film begins, Chuck Barris is locked in a hotel room in New York City. The place is destroyed, and so is he. His eyes are red-rimmed holes, like cigarette burns, and he is immobile in his misery, staring at the endless cycle of a TV channel signing on for a day of broadcast, then signing off, not caring what he’s looking at. This is a man on the wrong side of a breakdown. And this film is an effort to trace just exactly how that breakdown came to be, and who that man is, and just why it is that we’re supposed to care. I mean... this is the producer and host of THE GONG SHOW. The guy who created THE DATING GAME. The songwriter of a minor nearly-forgotten hit song. Why does it matter that he had a breakdown? Isn’t that one of the oldest stories in Hollywood?
In the hands of Charlie Kaufman, though, working from the “unauthorized autobiography” that we see Barris working on as he’s locked in that miserable little hotel room, this isn’t just another story of how excess burned out someone in the industry. Far from it. Instead, it’s a surreal trip to the heart of self-hatred, another of Kaufman’s pitch perfect scripts that defies easy categorization. I know people keep saying that he’s “weird,” or that his scripts are all about these crazy high concepts, but I don’t agree. I think at heart, each of his scripts are about the same thing: people who simply aren’t equipped to ask for the love they want and need. His longing for connection in ADAPTATION is only degrees away from the nearly-pathological way Chuck Barris chases sex in CONFESSIONS, and they’re both very similar to the longing that drives everyone in the portal in MALKOVICH. These people all act out because they want a stability, an intimacy, that they’re afraid they’ll never have.
For Barris, the pattern is established very early in his life. His first sexual experience isn’t an act of mutual longing. It’s a trick. He tells a neighborhood girl that his dick “tastes like strawberries,” then bets her when she refuses to believe him. His whole life, sex isn’t something that he shares with someone he cares about. It’s a trick, something he gets because he’s clever or he’s successful or he’s got something someone wants. There’s only one person who ever gives herself to him out of genuine desire, a girl named Penny, played with an almost uncomfortably wide-open heart by Drew Barrymore. I’m not a big fan of her work as an actress. She’s a little mannered for my tastes, even in her best moments, but there’s something about the combination of her and Rockwell that finally makes her connect here. Penny’s the kind of girl who just likes to try things. She slips in and out of new personas on a whim, like when she shows up after vanishing to San Francisco and sunnily announces, “Hey, Chuck, I’m a hippie!” What makes this some of the best work of her career is the way she gradually reveals the bruised heart that somehow keeps Penny ticking along, looking for that one thing that’s going to allow her to stop, that true thing that is going to give her a reason to put her search aside. And, sadly enough, when she finds it in Chuck, it’s all wrong despite how right it is because Chuck doesn’t want to settle down. He’s incapable of it. He’s terrified of it for reasons that he won’t admit even to himself.
When you hear people try to debate what of this story is “true” and what of it is “false,” rest assured: they missed the point. Barris is an unreliable narrator, but even in his most bald-faced lies, he is telling a sort of truth about himself, about how he felt as he moved through an undignified but wildly successful career in show business. What’s key about the double lives he leads is the way he works to protect his secrets, the way he tries desperately to keep the two halves of his life from colliding. So often, even when we want to give ourselves to someone or share our lives, there are things we compartmentalize, things we hide away, and we justify it by telling ourselves that it’s got nothing to do with them, or they wouldn’t understand, or it would just hurt them for no good reason. The truth is, though, secrets fester. They’re like shrapnel that travels under the skin, tearing an unpredictable path in slow-motion, hurting us over and over. Barris is a bit of a wild animal in the film, especially as a young man, and that’s what draws the attention of Jim Byrd, a CIA agent played with a convincing sense of smarm by Clooney. He recognizes something in Barris that wants to destroy, some seed of rage that can be used in service to “the greater good.” Barris puts up a feeble protest, saying that he’s not a killer, but even he doesn’t seem to believe that for a minute. When he goes a camp sponsored by the CIA to train killers (Robert Burke’s absolutely hilarious supporting role here is worth the price of admission all by itself), he is suddenly in his element, as much or even more than when he’s working as a producer on one of his various TV shows.
Kaufman’s script may be loaded with quirk (only he would “solve” the JFK assassination in a throwaway joke line of dialogue), but it’s never at the expense of emotional honesty. Films that convincingly portray someone on a downward spiral can be difficult to sit through. If we invest in these characters we’re watching, then we get dragged down with them, and it can hurt terribly when we finally reach bottom. For Barris, the bottom seems to be hard to define. There’s a scene when he’s at the Playboy Mansion, for example, and he’s got his hit shows on the air and everything seems to be great and he makes eye contact with this stunningly beautiful woman in the pool (played with surprising flair and poise by the insanely beautiful Krista Allen), only to be devastated once she actually speaks to him, lambasting him for the puerile garbage his name is attached to.
So is success enough? Does he need something else to complete him? And would contract killing for the CIA give him that outlet for his self-loathing and his anger and the pain he still feels from his humiliating childhood? Would t
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Dec. 27, 2002, 8:10 a.m. CST
For all of it's flaws, it is still the best movie of the year. I am sorry TT fans, but that is just the way I feel. Ofcourse I still haven't seen: About Schmidt, Cofessions of a Dangerous Mind, Far From Heaven, 25th Hour, or Narc yet, but that is how I feel at the moment. So far the only film that is just as good as Gangs is Adaptation.
Dec. 27, 2002, 8:16 a.m. CST
GONY will prolly get the Oscar, just because it's big and american, while there are other films more worthy.
Dec. 27, 2002, 8:31 a.m. CST
-that hates the fact that U2's shitty-ass song at the end of GONY will win the Oscar because of the sole fact that it's U2, and they're singing about building America? Let me throw the line out a bit further, even - am I the only one in this country that hates U2 alone? Don't get me wrong, their earlier work was quality, but goddamn, the ego on these guys just doesn't have an end to it anymore. However, most Americans still cream their shorts over them, old fogeys think they're "hip", and therefore, they'll get the Oscar. Either that, or the god-awful Madonna song from Die Another Day, which if it's nominated at all, I'm officially writing off the Acadamy forevermore. Honestly, there has to be something better out there that those two songs! Oh, and GONY is a damn cool movie. Wouldn't be hurt at all if it took home the Best Pic Oscar. TTT is a damn fine movie too, but the fans can wait till RotK to get the Best Pic Oscar for the series. It will be a better movie anyway, so why waste the trophy on this one?
Dec. 27, 2002, 9:39 a.m. CST
The wife dragged me to "Maid In Manhatten" (relationships are all about negotiations) and I have viewed "Gangs" as well. Gangs is tanking and Maid is soaring at the box office. I aggree with "M" that Gangs has flaws which ultimately distance the viewer from the film but it is still is a success on many levels. Maid was..well to understate...not so ambitious or well done and the public just eats this up. Gangs maybe isn't "great" but my hell...it should make a lot more than the $25 million it will finish with. How sad. Dogs eat their own vomit too. Another thing that bugs the hell out of me, Ben Affleck is DOING JLo!
Dec. 27, 2002, 9:45 a.m. CST
This was a solid film but I cannot for the life of me figure out why FFH is "the best picture" around. I think critics want to love it and so they do but I just don't think audiences will connect with it in that same way. Fine performances, fine acting, cool approach but the sum of all these just is NOT what critics everywhere are making it out to be. Sometimes "momentum" films bug me. Example: Beautiful Mind. Do people, a year later, REALLLY think it was "best picture" for 2001? I sure as hell don't. Have I mention that Ben Affleck is DOING JLo AND he gets to be Daredevil AND hang out with Jennifer Garner? People magazine meant to say "Luckiest Man Alive" not "Sexiest Man Alive."
Dec. 27, 2002, 10:04 a.m. CST
I wouldn't agrue with your subjective opinion that you felt distanced from the film but to call the film's final images an act of hubris on Scorsese's part is bs. This was the way the film was planned to end prior to 9/11 so all Scorcese did was leave his film as is. I would've been more offended by a further dissolve to show the absense of the Towers and was glad that he didn't take that additional step to bring the film "up to date". While it's not a flawless film it is so ambitous and so much of it DOES work that I don't think to praise it is in anyway letting Scorsese off the hook. This movie has more blood, sweat and tears in it than almost any recent movie I can think of.
Dec. 27, 2002, 10:17 a.m. CST
by Bill The Butcher
I went into this movie expecting to be disappointed, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be one of my favorites of the year. It deifnitely has been meddled with, and it sucks we won't see more on the DVD, but I just don't see how Scorsese didn't have the foresight not to get in bed with the Weinsteins to begin with. The original ending sounds superior to the theatrical release's ending, which is muddled and gives neither Bill nor Amsterdam any real closure. *SPOILER* I didn't get the point of the shrapnel, though perhaps it was fitting since in the end Amsterdam never got his pointless revenge, as Bill was already on the way out before the dagger was plunged into his heart. Oh well, don't judge this film based on someone else's word, give it a try.
Dec. 27, 2002, 10:19 a.m. CST
When you know that some of us are still waiting for your the rest of your Best of the 90s columns! :)
Dec. 27, 2002, 12:18 p.m. CST
by Margot Tenenbaum
Yes, the plot & characters were unfocused, and the Weinstein-demanded editing was more obvious than the hack job done on STAR TREK NEMESIS, but I'd like to offer a dissenting opinion on the two things that have been praised almost universally: Daniel Day Lewis' performance and the production design. Whoever compared Bill the Butcher to Al Pacino's mobster in DICK TRACY was right on -- it's as if Scorsese gave Lewis a tape of the last 15 minutes of THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE and said "This is what I want." The Five Points set couldn't have looked more like a set if it were in a Tim Burton BATMAN movie. I could sense the trailers just behind the brick facades. Finally, I think Scorsese's inspiration to make GANGS was borne of it's time -- he originally read the book in 1970 -- and I think the Civil War/draft riots bit would have played a lot better when there WAS a draft for an unpopular war and a lot of domestic infighting. Hmmm. Perhaps GANGS will look better next Christmas.
Dec. 27, 2002, 12:31 p.m. CST
Yes, better than the slightly over-rated TWO TOWERS.
Dec. 27, 2002, 1:09 p.m. CST
GONY was incredible....a great career comes full fuckin circle....true the score isnt very good and the pace and plot are chaotic and all over the map...but you cant deny the emotional and visceral whallop of the movie..especially the ending with the passage of time of New York... the movie isn't so much a story about individual characters, but more about the history of a city, and the social and political atmosphere of the time.....great flick...hope it wins best pic....
Dec. 27, 2002, 1:10 p.m. CST
by Shaner Jedi
Yeah Moriarty, the rest of the '90's perhaps before a 2002 one? I agree MOSDEF, TTT is a very good,entertaining film, but Gangs is a better film with deeper ideas and moments.
Dec. 27, 2002, 1:23 p.m. CST
...tell us something about your girlfriend! We all love sooooo much hearing about the fact that you have a girlfriend, even though she absolutely never has anything to do in relation to your film reviews! Please, throw us a little nugget, you pompous ass! Ugh...sorry about that tirade. Anywho, the GONY score was a bit lifeless, as are most of the scores in 99% of the films today. Even for as incredible as TTT was, the score was very underwhelming. It seems to me that people need to try and stop duplicating the Williams/Elfman/Horner scores that are often too thoughtlessly cut-and-pasted onto most films these days.
Dec. 27, 2002, 1:26 p.m. CST
by Darth Brooks
If there's any good to come out of GONY, it's in making its viewers focus on exactly what's *wrong* with the film. The Five Points set is quite obviously bunch of backlot flats, akin to the theatrical look of the sets in CANNERY ROW, or even POPEYE. I was hoping for more of a STING (RIP George Roy Hill, btw) level of veracity to the mise-en-scene - - even the matte paintings were sub-par. Mori's point about Cameron Diaz's role being a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold is spot on, and any empathy for her life had no adhesive property. Little things, like the pearly whiteness of orphan-boy diCaprio's teeth just exacerbate the non-reality of this Sweeney Todd-cum-Newies film. That's the tragedy of this whole work: Scorcese is so much better than this steamer he's put in theaters.
Dec. 27, 2002, 1:39 p.m. CST
by Lazarus Long
I'm glad this film is getting shout outs from so many TBers. I don't understand people like Morgoth (no offense intended) who are NOT going to pay to see the film because of too many bad reviews. Did Moriarty ever say it wasn't worth seeing? Is it really a waste of $7 to see Scorsese's half-lifetime project? How many "bad" films have you paid to see in the past? If you're giving the studios money for franchise films like xXx or Spider-Man you should support a real artist as well. Unless you have some immaculate view of Scorsese that you don't want tainted, there's no reason to skip it. In fact, don't even bother renting it, because I'm sure its power will be diminished on the small screen. See it in the theatre ONCE, than think about it until it comes out on video, and give it another shot. *** I'd like to thank Moriarty for at least acknowledging the thought process behind the interrupted showdown at the end of the film. If it took him out emotionally, that's not Moriarty's fault. What I will say, however, is that if I had misgivings about a sprawling film like this, especially one by an artist of Scorsese's caliber, I would see it again before going too far into its flaws. We all have films that we've warmed up to with repeated viewings; some of them are the best films ever made. Expectations can cloud the minds of the most objective viewers. *** As for U2, it's not their fault they are popular. It's not their fault Scorsese ASKED them to contribute to the film's music. I'd like you to tell me another band that popular who changed their sound that much and explored as much musical territory during their career (which is far from over). Yeah, there isn't one. They've also stuck together for 20 years without any lineup change, or compromising their integrity by doing commericals on television or taking corporate sponsorship for their tours. There's something to be said for that, regardless of your personal taste.
Dec. 27, 2002, 1:45 p.m. CST
It's a shame, but that's how Oscar works. Personally, I'm OK with waiting for the DVD (and hopefully there will be a director's cut).
Dec. 27, 2002, 2 p.m. CST
Oh yeah, beyotch! We Canadian covert operatives kick major ass! I start the evening with a shadow mission to Vancouver, break a beer bottle over some goon's head, then I'm off to London (Ontario), where I infiltrate an underground facility of the hockey equipment black market, I get to fuck a supervillain's mistress, a cowgirl from Calgary who likes it rough, and finally I go home, in a Qu
Dec. 27, 2002, 2:01 p.m. CST
Oh yeah, beyotch! We Canadian covert operatives kick major ass! I start the evening with a shadow mission to Vancouver, break a beer bottle over some goon's head, then I'm off to London (Ontario), where I infiltrate an underground facility of the hockey equipment black market, I get to fuck a supervillain's mistress, a cowgirl from Calgary who likes it rough, and finally I go home, in a Qu
Dec. 27, 2002, 2:14 p.m. CST
Rockwell is basically interchangeable with Joe Pantoliano. Go George Clooney, Go George Clooney, Go George Clooney Go-ooooo!
Dec. 27, 2002, 4:27 p.m. CST
noooo! Say it aint so,
Dec. 27, 2002, 5:46 p.m. CST
as long as you keep in mind that your review really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but the movie does. So hard to be an artist, so easy to be a critic.
Dec. 27, 2002, 6:18 p.m. CST
by FD Resurrected
I may not agree with your final assessment of the film (frankly, the ending sequence in GONY left me moved). Thanks for listening to my rave and complaint in the previous talkbacks. I still believe Gangs of New York is a visually and viscerally astonishing "transported-in-time" albeit flawed masterpiece - like Peter Travers said, pick flaws if you must, but the film succeeded in its ambition. Scorsese, Lewis and crew will rule the major film award shows next year.
Dec. 27, 2002, 6:23 p.m. CST
by Mr Fuckinstuff
I considered GONY my Christmas present to myself. After sitting through other "films" which I seriously thought were going to induce rectal bleeding and urinary infections ("The Santa Clause 2" Among the many reasons to rape Tim Allen with a frozen wolverine, this is the best. Then there is "Maid in Manhattan" J'Lo's ass just keeps spreading and spreading, don't know what the movie was about, I didn't pay attention to anything other than Ralph Fiennes is without a doubt going to HELL for this one. Then there was "2 Weeks Notice" One of these days Sandra Bullock is going to smile so hard her her cheeks will rip away from her face and will forever circle the earth in different directions bringing on the End Times. It will fuck up the rotation of the Earth, Cities will fall etc and all that terrible stuff and when mankind finally recovers, anyone who smiles more than once a day will be burned alive. Then there was "Star Trek" I hate Trek, always have. The idea that we will one day overcome our own stupid bullshit conceptions (Like the idea of 'race'. There's only one, yeah, big surprise.) and live in a society that does nothing but explore and learn and build spaceship equivalents of Chrysler Sebrings makes me.....sleepy. It's boring and it will never happen. We need our sleazeand hate as a race, to survive, it defines us, Agent Smith said so. So, naturally after watching "The Two Towers" which was a good film, but COMPLETELY GUTTED THE GODDAMN BOOK!!!!!! DAMN YOU PETER JACKSON, YOU GAVE US PREFECTION IN "FOTR" AND THEN YOU FUCK IT UP!!!!!! Ahem. Sorry, had get that out of my system. I'm tired of typing now, but GONY was a crushing disappointment. Scorsese has NO FUCKING IDEA HOW TO STAGE AN ACTION SEQUENCE!!! That was my major complaint. No idea, whatsoever. Other than that, I really wish he'd gone with someone who could act, someone other than Cameron Diaz and Lenny DiCaprio. (Is it just me or do people with two big letters in their last names suck dirty ass?) Yes, yes Daniel Day Lewis was wonderful and all that, but the movie seemed so......schizo, at one moment prefect, the other reaching for.....something. And yes, U2 does SUCK!!!!!!!! THEY SUCK!!!! THEY SUCK!!!!!! After "Rattle and Hum" (Their last passable album.) They went and got on fucking Prozac or something. Fuck U2 and fuck anyone who thinks they are a great band. One of the worst side affects of the 60's was fucking musicians sticking their fucking noses in everything and trying to make a 'difference' who cares what someone who FUCKING SINGS for a living "THINKS"? All in all Christmas has sucked, most of the films I saw were awful, U2 is sucking harder than a black hole, I think my girlfriend is screwing some guy in her art history class and I hope God incinerates this planet come New Year's. He won't, because he's a bastard, but there's always hope that the New Year will bring about my instant death and I won't have to sit through anymore 'art' from the likes of people such as Scorsese, Lucas, Spielberg and Coppola. Short of a hasty death at the hands of God, if the New Year brings more crap, know what I'm going to do? Do you? I'm going to continue wasting my money and taking it up the ass like every year that came before. That's what I'm going to do. The "Kill Bill" trailer was pretty damn good though.
Dec. 27, 2002, 6:35 p.m. CST
I liked GONY, didn't see as many flaws as a lot of folks 'round here. I thought the battle scenes were much better than many recent films, including that choppy mess at the beginning of FOTR. And trust me, I'm no Scorcese finatic. I just found myself emersed in the world of New York circa 1850's. I also loved the real period music and found it to be refreshingly different that typical bombastic blockbuster orchestrations. Hated the Peter gabriel/U2 stuff however. Daniel Day lewis was so good, I forgave the minor flaws. Long live Bill the Butcher, my new favorite cinematic villian!
Dec. 27, 2002, 6:40 p.m. CST
by dr. robert
Scorsese fanatics really need to start being honest to themselves about just how underwhelming this film is. I'm not saying Gangs of New York is a bad film (despite it's glaring flaws it is still vastly superior to the majority of rubbish being released each month) but it is the weakest film Scorsese has made since Boxcar Bertha. The tragically miscast Leo and Cameron shouldn't be the only scapegoats here; none of Scorsese's past technical brilliance is visible in GONY. Unlike past failures such as Casino and Cape Fear, the score here is terrible and the editing (in places) sloppy. The opening Neeson/Day Lewis showdown is surprisingly weak as are the silly (Weinstein inserted?) "just to remind you who this character is" flashbacks. The direction during the climactic Draft Riots is so hamfisted that there is zero dramatic impact. I'm not sure how much of this is actually the fault of Harvey "the audience won't sit still for a 4 hour movie" Weinstein, but at times I felt I was watching a film directed by Ron Howard NOT Martin Scorsese. BTW, the Kill Bill trailer was terrible!
Dec. 27, 2002, 6:41 p.m. CST
by byron hadley
But unfortunately, it is still only a good film. I did not see one great film this year, and it breaks my heart. And no TTT is not more than a good film. Saw "Catch Me" last night and thought it pretty much blew. This time last year I thought this was going to be a great year for film. I saw a lot of good films, but not a single great one. I'm not holding out much hope that Narc or Confessions will be that great film. To tell you how bad this year was, I can't even come up with a ten best list, only five best. Gangs, Road to Perdition, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Frailty(yes, the year was that bad) and I'll reserve spot five for Narc. Hope it deserves it.
Dec. 27, 2002, 7:52 p.m. CST
by a goonie
Your comments on the opening battle sequence are wonderful. Exactly how I felt. Practically every person gets killed with their back to the camera and a jab or swing of a sword across their abdomen. Technically and choreographically, the sequence is a bore. The funny thing is that Scorcese so blatantly rips off two directors who started making movies AFTER him: Mel Gibson (with his extremely complicated sequences of gore in Braveheart) and even moreso, Ridley Scott with his opening sequence for Gladiator (make note of the excessive use of slo-mo). After that, the movie enters familiar old-fashioned territory with a very bloated screenplay that can't seem to figure out what the hell its second act is saying. DiCaprio's accent teeter-totters between a lightly-faked Irish accent and his far more recognizable American one. Diaz is completely wasted, but unlike you, I felt her performance was quite dimwitted, as was the dialogue she was forced to spew out. The love story was moronic; teaming two actors with very little chemistry together with no attention paid to actual DEVELOPMENT of the relationship is a crime of absolute laziness. Day-Lewis does a fine job of lending fire and energy to a relatively flat character, but his performance is still not all that it has been trumped up to be. By the time Amsterdam's disloyalty to Bill has been uncovered, the movie is awash with boredom. By this point, I could tell that all that was left in the picture was a series of what I call "rounding up the troops" sequences" and then a great big battle finale. Then the finale comes, and it's big and loud and kind of soulless. We know that in the end, there has to be some sort of one-on-one fight between Amsterdam and Bill. What we don't know is that it has to be so crappy. You have that great shot of our protagonist and antagonist lying next to each other, amidst the smoke, exhausted. Then suddenly Bill sits up and he's got a knife in him. Well that's great. It's as though Scorcese figured we all knew he had to die, so he just gave up and got it out of the way. You have that concluding shot (of which much controversy was made) of the New York (specifically Manhattan) growing as a city, and that's nice and all because NY is such a beautiful city, but it really is a pretty silly idea in the end. A closing image that manages to elude its message. Then you have the other complaints, such as how is it that the children (namely Amsterdam and Johnny) have grown up after 16 years, but yet every other character of note seen at the beginning of the film hasn't aged a day? And so Bill the Butcher says he's going to disfigure Amsterdam, make him a freak, then it turns out he has a slight burn on one cheek (that disappears by the end of the movie) and a few light slashes on his face. Obviously, we couldn't have a big-budget American film where the attractive young lead is physically disfigured. Of course not. In the end, the film is a mess plagued with numerous problems. However, Dante Ferretti's exquistite production and Sandy Powell's decrepitly evocative costumes are a wonder to behold. It's a shame they have to be wasted on such a movie.
Dec. 27, 2002, 7:56 p.m. CST
by a goonie
Followed closely behind by The Two Towers and Full Frontal.
Dec. 27, 2002, 8:17 p.m. CST
by Jack D. Ripper
Sick of this. GANGS is easily in the Scorsese canon, right below GOODFELLAS, and yeah the opening battle did suck, but regardless. The film is a brilliant, bold epic and is totally misunderstood now, but in twenty years it will be accepted as one of his best. NO, THIS IS NOT A LESSER or WEAKER Scorsese film. And FAR FROM HEAVEN while indeed excellent is utterly overrated. What's so special about it? Someone tell me that
Dec. 27, 2002, 9:17 p.m. CST
by byron hadley
Can people please stop saying that "everyone knows this movie sucks, they just can't admit it" bullshit. You sound like nothing more than a presumptuous little shithead. I saw it with a friend who has no particular allegiance to Scorsese and was not anticipating the film at all and he liked it. He admitted it had problems but gave it a 7/10. And I know he's not "lying to himself" as some jagoff try to put it. I think it's a good movie, you don't. End of fucking story. There's no deep psychological denial, and I'm not a fucking moron. So shut the fuck up.
Dec. 27, 2002, 10:08 p.m. CST
by dr. robert
My movie audience hated that trailer even more than they did the silly U2 three hours later!
Dec. 27, 2002, 10:17 p.m. CST
by dr. robert
Whoops! I meant to say "U2 song" in my previous post. Isn't it sad that SCORSESE (pay attention to that spelling guys) doesn't feel the need to show us the hour or so of cut footage (for the DVD next year). He feels the version we just saw is the ONLY cut he wants seen. Looks like Harvey played some kind of Jedi mind trick on old Marty.
Dec. 27, 2002, 10:53 p.m. CST
by Homer Jay
One of the funniest ranting posts I've read in a while. Seriously made me laugh out loud.
Dec. 27, 2002, 11:16 p.m. CST
by FD Resurrected
Never mind misspellings, bad word choice and grammatical errors, I don't bother with that shit: "Thanks for the comparision of Martin Scorsese's longer version and Miramax version. It's very interesting. Harvey always apply pressure to film directors that shorter is better and in effect have the potential to recoup the budget money spent on the film. Hence the reason why he is called Harvey Scissorhands. He may love films but his love of film does not hold up well in terms of his demand on running time condension that affect the outcome of a final cut film's quality. Lawrence of Arabia is one of the best movies I've ever seen and that's longer than three hours giving character development and pacing enough time to simultaneously unravel and astonish in the organical process. Scorsese wasn't alone. Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now), Wim Wenders (Till the End of the World) and Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line) were forced to compromise their grand vision to settle for a shorter version in order to make money easier based on the financial logic of multiple showings on any given day, despite the loss of creative impact. The rule in Hollywood is that a shorter film that runs between 1 1/2 hour and 2 1/2 hour have a good chance of box office return. In effect, Hollywood is motivated by profit and not art. There are exceptions to this rule, particularly with PT Anderson and Kevin Costner of Magnolia and The Postman respectively. Personally I find these films to be bloated vanity films. James Cameron persistently refused to compromise over his final theatrical cut of Titanic (3:14 running time)after the test audiences unanimously gave Titanic rave approval, with the exception of some unnecessary footage (most famously an extended chase sequence with Leo and Billy as Titanic sinks filmed for a million dollars) deleted at the audiences' input. James Cameron had said on Charlie Rose show that there will be an extended director's cut to become available on laserdisc around Titanic's North America theatrical release but he never kept his word for any reason. I have a 6-hour workprint of Apocalypse Now on two-part videotape and it was an interesting work in progress. I own A.N. on shorter version laserdisc and long version DVD. I have seen Gangs of New York on Christmas night and the majority of the audiences (mostly twentysomethings) find the film to be unbearably uninteresting, boring and muddled which prompted a few to walk out randomly in the middle of the film, and most got up from the their seats to walk out right as soon as the final ending sequence appears (I'm not kidding). To concur with Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, pick flaws if you must, the movie have certainly achieved its ambition. In my opinion Gangs of New York is the best film of 2002, despite its horribly glaring flaws in the final hour not to mention oddly inadequate character development and poor continuity throughout. I also have held the same opinion with The Thin Red Line I saw in January 1999, another film that was savagely edited in the final hour because of Malick's inability to meet the deadline (remember Days of Heaven editing lasted 2 years) and the film was forced out of his hands to complete at the last minute in time for deadline. Thank you for some of your valuable time and I hope you find this mail informative.
Dec. 27, 2002, 11:58 p.m. CST
by Larry of Arabia
I find more joy watching flawed epics than I do in many of the "great" movies. First, they are almost always done with a love and sense of passion that shows on the screen. Say what you will about the flaws in "Gangs," they were all committed by serious craftsmen who loved what they were working on. Second, they are often made by big driectors taking chances and moving away from their comfort zone. While it might have been better for the director to have made another historical epic before hand to get the feel of how to pull it off you can't deny some of the ideas and images - the elephant, the strikes out of the fog, having the entire fued that seemed so all consuming to the city essentially mean nothing to NY as history cousumes their petty battles while they remain to the end too blind to see it, are all daring. Finally, they always prompt the best debates.
Dec. 28, 2002, 12:14 a.m. CST
Yes i've seen gangs of new york twice now. Its has its little moments. I went in not looking for the "profound" message shit. But more like a western...except its an eastern.... I wanted a spaghetti eastern so to speak. What would have made Gangs a masterpiece is a few things. First one writer, second if Sergio Leone had directed it, Ennio Morricone to do a badass score more character development and a running time of 4 hours plus and total free control for the director.. O whats that? that movie will never happen . Very true. I weep for what could have been. So hopefully Scorsese has opened up a new potential "genre" I like to call it the eastern... (instead of western).. so hopefully some other filmmaker will take a stab at the gangs.. Focus more on gangs and the fighting and the story. Only use new york as the setting and the gangs as the tool for fighting..forget all that politics,and love stories. And bring it in at 2 hours. As for talk about violence in this film.. I found it weak very weak...Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan were more violent. I felt the violence was very very restrained. The opening gang fight should have been the most violent scene ever captured on film. Scorsese had his chance. I think a little Leone mixed with Peckinpah violence and slow motion would have made it masterful. I would have shown every wound being inflicted guts spilling out knives entering wounds teeth knocked out. I would have shown the whole damn thing not split second shots. I think it would have been better if he had focused on just Bill the Butcher and Priest Vallon moving around and who they were killing during the chaos. Well does anyone know if those New York sets still are standing at Cinecitta(spelling?) because someone can now go make a real gang movie.. less fucking axes and swords and more bats, bricks, knives. Fuck it.. wait till i get to hollywood.. i'll make a fucking spaghetti eastern and i'll call it something fitting to Leone.. I'll just change the america for new york.. you get the picture... I hope Morricone lives that long... I don't think anyone does music that sounds like him really.... till then.. Gangs was very entertaining.. the elephant looked fake.. I hate bad CGI... more on this later...
Dec. 28, 2002, 12:28 a.m. CST
Daniel Day-Lewis was incredible. over the top yes.. and thats what i loved.. Right when he comes onto the scene was incredible. He SHOULD get the oscar no doubt about it IMO. I loved the movie and might have come off as negative in my last posting.I enjoyed the experience very much. I applaud the effort and will buy the DVD.. perhaps make my own 2 hour edit of it. lol, Best movie i've seen in years. It has flaws but the acting by lewis, the sets... well they just don't make em like that too much these days.. I heard scorsese say on charlie rose that George Lucas came to the set and said "your the old and I'm the new, you won't need these sets with my cgi" may i vomit now.. Fucking Lucas.. The guy makes star wars and now wants to change film forever.. lets not shoot on film anymore and lets never have to build sets cause my great CGI... fuck off please Mr. Lucas. CGI is good but nothing can replace real sets. CGI is just a tool and a excess of it just doesn't appeal to me at all. Maybe it will look real one day.. but till then i'm not going to march for the cause. I think actors need the settings. Not just fucking green all around them. I mean look at 2001 and Blade Runner.. no CGI and they still look incredible(with exception to spinner wires).I could go on and on but i'm sure i'll get thrashed.
Dec. 28, 2002, 1:11 a.m. CST
U go on to defend the version that Scorsese turns in, then u say it's an uneven film???? DUH, no SH!T, that's because the REAL MOVIE IS SITTING ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR...This movie should of at least been a half hour longer. John C. Riely's character was a complete chop job....What purpose did he serve?? He was the kids uncle, next thing u know he's dead.. All in All, think ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, compare those two versions, the longer being a classic, the shorter being a mess, same problem here, and Harvey Wienstien is a moron, ruined this film, Robert Evens he isn't...Film should of been 3 hours, bottom line, it's an EPIC..
Dec. 28, 2002, 1:15 a.m. CST
BEST FILM OF THE YEAR, HANDS DOWN!! Brillant F-ing SCRIPT! Spike lee BARLEY gets in the way, does his typical tracking shot, where the person is floating a few times, but other than that he stay's the fck out of the way!
Dec. 28, 2002, 1:30 a.m. CST
Right there's a big part of whats wrong with the film. Two and a half hours of trying desperately to feel some emotional connection to someone, ANYONE in the movie, and the payoff is it isnt about anyone youve seen as an individual. What the hell is this about? Interesting characters like Priest Vallon, Bill, and Monk are presented and then nothing. Howd they get to be who they are, why are they there? Whats their story? Dunno cause we skip all that to Amsterdam farting around with whatever Diaz's character is named. Must be a vengeance story with Amsterdam after The Butcher except Ive got no feel for why Priest needs to be avenged. Oh, wait, its because Bill doesnt like Irish, Germans, Blacks, Catholics or anyone else. Okay, I get he's the bad guy. Wait, Amsterdam is his right hand suckboy and theyre both in love with the same hooker! Except I guess shes not a hooker and Bill isnt interested in her anymore and Amsterdam is still jealous because, well, I guess he still loves her even though she's no Rose. Ah, well, over 2 hours and at least we know Bill is the bad guy cause he hates immigrants. Here we go, Amsterdam gets all the irish together, the Dead Rabbits are reformed! Hey, theyre burning black people! Good job, Amsterdam. What the fuck?? History is fascinating, personal stories are involving. This ended up and an uninvolving personal story that ends with a history that the previous two hours barely presented. There are two stories to be told here, Priest's and The Butchers rise to power and the New York draft riots. Instead we get nothing of the first and a confusing mesh of the latter into the climax of an uninvolving vengeance/love story.
Dec. 28, 2002, 1:58 a.m. CST
The movie was as unfocused as a blind man with a lenseless Hasselblad. This was the first Scorsese movie I've ever seen (no, really!) and I wanted desperately to like this movie, but other than Daniel Day-Lewis' amazing portrayal of a moustache-twirling madman (I was hoping he'd tie Cameron Diaz to the train tracks), there was nothing much to this film other than a really wide scope. Was it about revenge? Was it about love? Was it about racism? Was it about New York? A bit of all, but not enough focus on any one thing in particular.
Dec. 28, 2002, 2:23 a.m. CST
by jules windex
Terrific fun. And the Kill Bill trailer was the coolest trailer in a LONG time.
Dec. 28, 2002, 3:50 a.m. CST
by dr. robert
I'd be the first to agree that GONY is ambitious but that alone is simply not good enough. I didn't read the book that the film is based so can someone tell me if it was possible for a black man to be a member of an Irish strret gang? I seriously doubt the reality of this but someone please prove me wrong. Wasn't it pathetic that the black character in GONY had so few lines. Why even bother (create this character) I ask. Did the Navy really bomb the 5 Points to stop the Draft Rioting? Were there really street girls in the 1860's that looked as clean and attractive as Diaz's character? Were you guys as shocked as I by the condescending character flashbacks? Did you cringe at the music during the Priest/Bill confrontation? I'm sorry if it seems i'm redundantly picking on GONY. I just expected so much more from the director of Raging Bull, Casino (yeah, you heard me right) and Goodfellas.
Dec. 28, 2002, 3:53 a.m. CST
by Alice Adams
What an amazing piece of work! I saw it today in a full theatre. After each number, the audience applauded as if we were watching it on the stage. Quite remarkable. All the actors are very capable in their talents, but Catherine Zeta-Jones is fierce! I'd like to say that I'd like to be her when I grow up.
Dec. 28, 2002, 4:36 a.m. CST
This just in: People magazine has published the rumor that Ian McKellen will play Dumbledore in the next Harry Potter movie. This has been confirmed as FALSE. Sir Ian has commented he'd like to be in a Potter film eventually, but a someone else, not Dumbledore.
Dec. 28, 2002, 2:21 p.m. CST
by frank cotton
that U2 really does SUCK!!!!! THE JOSHUA TREE was their peak (sorry, but i can't stand RATTLE AND HUM). i once drove for seven hours to see them live, back when they were worth it, but i wouldn't walk across the street for them today. is there a larger ego on the planet than BONO's? has there ever been? could there ever be?
Dec. 28, 2002, 2:26 p.m. CST
by Bad Guy
...needs a hug. Funny post, dude. But I will go on record as saying that I liked GONY. Yes, it's not perfect, but how many films are? Yes, Daniel Day-Lewis steals every scene he's in. The guy's a brilliant actor "and" he's playing the villain. This is a "no-brainer". I thought Leo was just fine. Nothing earth shattering, but he doesn't embarass himself either. Diaz was fine too, but her role was basically a cliche. I thought the film looked great and I learned a little about a part of American history that wasn't even touched upon in my high school books. On my "Scorsese Scale", not as good as "Goodfellas" but better than "Bringing Out the Dead". *** out of ****
Dec. 28, 2002, 3:33 p.m. CST
The stupid moose who reviewed Peter Jenkin's FOTR last year? Go read her review of TTT for the best laugh you've had in ages: http://www.eclipsemagazine.com
Dec. 28, 2002, 3:35 p.m. CST
There weren't any films released this year that I actually learned something from. This is the first film to represent New York during this time period. I found the film to be very immersive. Yes, it wasn't as violent as previous Scorsese films, but I think that has more to do with the current sensitivity of the MPAA. Most films are PG-13. Studios are willing to emasculate their last truly masculine directors in favour of the feminizing of films for profit. A film like Goodfellas would be mercilessly censored. In any case, I found the film thorougly engaging, though I understand the problem of trying to fight someone who can equal Daniel Day-Lewis. He is simply stunning, and rules the film from the moment he steps in. The myopic or one sided view he has of America is symbolized by his glass eye, which even has an American Eagle on it. One of the greatest sequences was when McGinn is talking about politics and discussing his problems with Bill, and Bill chops him in the back. The framing of the shot was the type of multilayered filmmaking that is missing today. The formative strategies of telling a narrative. By putting McGinn at the top of the hill, and Bill and the bottom, Scorsese is saying that democracy, constition/government/ infrastructure is a high-minded intellectual pursuit. Bill as at the bottom, in the street, looking up- he is closer to the ground, the street. An idea/constitution isn't a shield on the street. McGinn turns around and Bill throws the chopper into his back. I couldn't think of a more beautiful scene then that. Despite Lewis not saying anything, he seethed with hate. It was palpable and you knew what was coming. Gangs of New York, unlike other films this year shows the true power of performance. It is the fuel for the engine of Scorsese's formative strategies. Compared to other films released this year, Gangs of New York stands out as a film, the last of its ilk. A true auteurist film.
Dec. 28, 2002, 3:40 p.m. CST
Face it film freaks, GONY was horrible. Cameron Diaz??? AWFUL. Daniel Lewis was the only one to give this movie a spark, and to be quite honest...His performance wasn't that great. You guys have to back off of the fact that this is marty s. Directing this flick. Had it been anyone else, you would have canned it. Just like 1/2 of you are hating on the TT. Just face it. GONY is a waste of film. We all knew what was going to happen in the story, blah blah blah. Thank christ i was able to get my money back. TTT best of 2002
Dec. 28, 2002, 3:40 p.m. CST
You talk about the bad intrusive music and how guitar doesn't belong in the scene or in the film at all.. but if i remember right Once Upon A Time In The West has its share of electric guitar.. during the show down between frank and harmonica. and it works well. Yes i know that was morricone but maybe scorsese was trying to go for something similar perhaps... He should have done the full length cut just how he wanted it. at 3 and half hours with a REAL score... It pisses me off that he keeps making clear there will never be a directors cut.. maybe after he's dead we'll see the full version re editted with elmer's score.
Dec. 28, 2002, 5:11 p.m. CST
Moriarty, I loved your GONY review! It was exactly how I felt coming out of the theatre. I wanted to like this movie, but like you, I felt this movie falling very short of the hyped up expectations. I am actually surprised that it had as many Golden Globe nominations. I really don't understand it. The movie was poorly edited and it left me cold at the end. The music score was terrible and did not relate to the scenes. As far as the battle scene in the beginning, it distanced me from the conflict instead of drawing me in. It just showed me how great the battle scenes were in TTT and especially in Saving Private Ryan. I felt like the "eye" that Bill the Butcher had on made him look like a caricature in the beginning and that "cat in the hat" tophat look was all wrong for the beginning of the movie. I did also love the scenes with the Irish coming off the boats and signing up to be shipped off to war. If we had explored more of that part of the history, or something, perhaps the movie would have been better. At the end, I was left cold and I had a hard time feeling anything for these characters. When I look at performances for best actor this year, I still come back to Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, which made a role so creepy and real and not a joke. Perhaps Scorcese did overthink this piece.
Dec. 28, 2002, 6:05 p.m. CST
I remember him pretty well. If memory serves, he managed to slip in the name 'Fuck Barris' into his skits with Chuckie Chuckie Chuckie about every show, just mushing the 'ch' and 'f' to get by...it was a '70's thing. Trust me...anyways, I loved Three Kings and if this is anything like it, so much the better.
Dec. 28, 2002, 6:41 p.m. CST
...Leo's teeth were yellow and dirty in the film. BTW, what kind of fucking complaint is that anyway? "His teeth were too white! This movie sucks!"
Dec. 29, 2002, 1:53 a.m. CST
I don't understand why people think this film fell short? I thought it kicked ass! I thought the acting was top notch. DiCaprio did a great job, portraying someone who is handicapped by his thirst for revenge. I thought the editing and cinematography were outstanding, coupled with the music, and the performances, I can see why Scorsese likened the film to an Opera. I thought the film was one of the best of the year.
Dec. 29, 2002, 8:23 a.m. CST
by Trader Groucho
Phenomenal period dialogue. Taking me to a place I am fascinated by and wanted to see. Bringing a very shameful piece of American history (the 1863 draft riots) into focus. Brass Monkey made the point I wanted to make about Bill and Amsterdam's two-bit feud shrinking to insignificance in the maelstrom of the riots, and the use of the military to put down the unrest. The Civil War is the single most important war in this planet's history, period, because it was the first time a nation went to war with itself over the issue of an entire race being forced into perpetual servitude. Neither Bill, nor Amsterdam, nor anyone else in New York seemed to grasp the importance of that war. When it comes to current events/history, if you don't understand the larger events as they happen, and put them into context, they will swallow you. And that's exactly what happened to Bill AND Amsterdam. Scorcese's shot of the coffins being offloaded from the same boat taking on fresh recruits summed up the Union's problems at that point perfectly. As for the New York angle, Bill Cutting didn't (or couldn't) see the future. Boss Tweed did. As corrupt a son of a bitch as he was, Tweed understood where power lies in a democracy, how to grasp it AND how to maintain it. Tweed's philosophy of winning voters by giving them what they need and want stood in sharp contrast to Bill's use of fear. You draw more flies with honey than vinegar, and the closing dialogue in the film - Tweed ordering his people to the docks to give the arriving new voters hot soup and bread - was funny, brilliant, and instructive. I can understand why audiences are not embracing this movie more enthusiastically - many people don't like to take an unflinching look at their own dark side. I guess a lot of white people are uncomfortable with the ignorance of their (our) ancestors. I hope more people can overcome their discomfort and gain a clearer understanding of history, of themselves. And God Bless Martin Scorcese for making this film. - Trader Groucho
Dec. 29, 2002, 10:53 a.m. CST
dude HOW ON EARTH DOES THIS PERSON GET TO WRITE REVIEWS...(eclipsemagazine.com) she needs another 4 years of high school... holy crap that sucks.
Dec. 30, 2002, 1:36 a.m. CST
I've never posted here...I respect your opinions Moriarty...but your CHICAGO review pissed me off. -First of all...it's not a mistake to look for depth in Chicago. Chicago, in my opinion, is a deep show...more so than many movies or musicals. Part of it's depth lies in it's presentation. An audience has to understand that. I can't stand when musicals are written off as musicals...and that they're not very deep because...it's completely false. -Fosse co-wrote the book with Fred Ebb...Ebb wasn't brought on to write it alone. -As for Chicago's original run...it had a run that would be considered very successful right now. It was running up against A Chorus Line...what do you expect? -I'm not quite sure what you mean when you speak of Chicago's fans...like Sondheim's fans (where did that come from) love it despite it's flaws? For one...Chicago in and of itself is pretty perfect the way it is. It does exactly what it sets out to do and is extremely successful that way. That's not to say that it's the best musical ever, but in it's own world it can't get much better. And as for Sondheim, I don't see the connection...however Sondheim musicals, many of the them like Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Follies are near, if not, perfect...in comparison to most musicals plays or movies. So I take issue with that statement. -To my understanding it was Marshall who came up with the structure of the film which was part of why he was the lucky director chosen to do it finally. Not to discredit Condon. -What exactly do you mean by "Musicals, by their very nature, paint in oversized symbols and archetype." This is a blanket statement that is true of all art, not just musicals. By their nature...what does that even mean? I don't see how Chicago paints in more oversized symbols than say, A Clockwork Orange. Chicago's structure is less subtle...but especially considering the source material they aren't that much different when it comes to oversized symbols. -As for the cast...Zeta Jones started in musicals, starring, among others in 42nd Street on the west end in London. And Gere started the same way in the original production of Grease as Danny Zucko. So this casting should not have been considered so revolutionary. Both were singers and dancers before film stars. -The staging of "We Both Reached For The Gun" has ALWAYS been a large scale ventriloquist act...always...from the original show to the revival to the movie. This was not "refigured" as you say. I'm glad you liked the movie as much as you did...but some of your opinions came from some wrong information.
Dec. 30, 2002, 11:18 a.m. CST
Bono is another is a long line of celebrities not content to simple have millions of dollars and millions of fans. They feel it necc. to interject themselves into any social or political situation that will strike a cord with an increasingly fickle and fleeting fanbase. How many more records does Bono sell for bashing the US and trying to get us to forgive Turd world debt? How many confused young people think it cool to be Anti-American because they saw Eddi Vedder do it? These musicians and movie stars should stike to what they know best --- fantasy, because their treason and sedition only serves to weaken our country and de-stabilize the globe.
Dec. 30, 2002, 12:48 p.m. CST
I almost thought I was reading a Harry post, Moriarty. You may not be able to post much in the next few weeks (months?) but wow, this one was quite a post. p.s. I always look forward to reading your stuff.
Dec. 30, 2002, 2:42 p.m. CST
During the scar comparison scene in GONY between Amsterdam and Jenny was anyone else reminded of Swamp Thing 2? Sadly, I found SW2 more enjoyable.
Dec. 31, 2002, 1:38 a.m. CST
Both made by once great directors who are scrounging for new ideas and losing their touch of moviemaking.
Dec. 31, 2002, 4:46 p.m. CST
by Darth Brooks
The quality of Dicaprio's orthodontia is the *least* of the awfulness of the GONY crapfest. Number One on the list is: nobody in the audience could give a rat's ass about who lives and who dies - and that disconnection from caring about the characters is the death of this film. No matter, anyhow. This movie's tanking faster than that big boat in Leo's other movie.
Dec. 31, 2002, 7:03 p.m. CST
I loved "Gangs of New York". And just like all of you I've read dozens of reviews tearing it apart, some condemning it for its ambition, others disappointed at a Scorsese film that wasn't what they wanted it to be. That's fine by me. If people disliked the film, that's their opinion, and it's cool. But not one review I've read, NOT ONE - and that includes Moriarty's - has actually said what's wrong with the film. No review has pointed out in any specific way what the precise flaws of the film are. The battle wasn't staged the way you would have staged it? Bill the Butcher looks like an alien? The film is overlong, too tangential? The ending seems inconsistent with the rest of the movie or too trite for what has preceded it? Viewers weren't involved in what was taking place? I think I've summed up the major faults most critics have found with the film, and come on... is that it? Every single one of these problems could easily vanish wer one to rewatch the film now fully congnisant of what it actually is and the choices Scorsese actually made. No, the opening battle wasn't "Braveheart" or "Two Towers", but I have never seen a battle like it before, and in spite of whether one believes it to have been successful or not, one must respect its innovation and the risk taken in its execution. The first time I watched "Amelie" I really thought it was a weak movie. It had been so built up by everyone who'd seen it, so hyped, that when I saw it, there was no way it could possibly be what I expected it to be. But everytime I see it I like it more. Same with "Two Towers". First time I saw it, I liked "Fellowship" better. Second time? "Two Towers" has it, man. If any other filmmaker had made "Gangs", do you not think its critics would be singing its praises? What are its flaws? I sincerely want to know. And are those flaws so great at to actually make the movie unsuccessful? Even bad? Personally, I was riveted. The film pulverized me. I adored it. But I don't believe it to be the best film of the year. That title belongs to "Rabbit-Proof Fence," in spite of its acknowledgment at the Oscars, or lack thereof. But then, just my opinion.
Dec. 31, 2002, 11:09 p.m. CST
by Margot Tenenbaum
It's very, very, very good. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Dec. 31, 2002, 11:32 p.m. CST
I thought that John Travolta would have been perfect for the part when the singing and dancing started. Shame he wasn't cast.
Jan. 2, 2003, 12:15 p.m. CST
...is wrongly attributed. That is actually from Martin Scorsese himself, and it comes from him talking about "Last Temptation," not "Taxi Driver."
Jan. 2, 2003, 4:43 p.m. CST
All you people that rip on celebrities for having an opinion and, GASP!, actually using their celebrity to stand up for something are freking retarded!! Do you realize that you are dissing someone for actually putting themselves on the line and doing something with their lives? Wether you like it or agree should have NOTHING to do with it. It's their life, not yours. After all, YOUR big accomplishment today was to insult someone famous for having an opinion and doing something about it on a piddly little entertainment BBS. Oooooooo! How impressive! Give me a break. 99% of us dissing someones movie, song, etc. is already assanine as we have NO FORMAL TRAINING other than the ability to type (barely) and and the sense to have an internet connection wired to our PC's. Talking shit about ANYONE'S social activism as you sit on your ass eating junkfood patting yourself on the back for anonymously ripping someone apart on any of the 1000 boards you go to a day is just sad. What did you do today, this week, in the last month or last year, for anyone other than yourself?
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