The lead cops, whose casting may be holdovers from when this was first planned as a Martin Scorsese picture, get first billing, but the film belongs to Mekhi Phifer as Strike, sort of the D’Angelo Barksdale of this story. He’s a mid-level drug dude with a stern and intense boss (Delroy Lindo) whose heart (and stomach) isn’t in his work. The poor guy either executes a rival or guilts his brother into doing it, and he’s such a harmless dude that even the cops help him get away in the end. Whoever called this a trial run for 25th Hour nailed it.
Keitel and “Chucky”:
Strike tries to get himself a protegee named Tyrone, but keeps getting yelled at by Tyrone’s mom. Some Spike Lee weirdness keeps you on your toes – the climactic murder by Tyrone is foreshadowed in a VR game, and what was up with that “No More Packing” billboard with the gun in a lunchbox? Best of all is when Harvey Keitel, terrible at his job, is telling Tyrone what he should say to get off for the killing, appearing by the kid’s side in alternate-flashback versions of the events.
Somebody was not careful when writing character names – with only a few lead roles, why would you name four of them Ronny and Rodney, Errol and Darryl? Also funny to hear an interviewee correct the cops’ pronunciation of his name “Jesus,” with John Turturro standing right behind him.
Not an exceptionally good-looking movie thirty years later, and not usually fun enough to justify the dull dialogue and tired plotting (amnesia leads to mistaken identity) but it comes alive whenever Madonna is onscreen. It was on Linklater’s list of the best 1980’s movies, and has been appearing on lists of women-directed films lately, but the thing that stuck in my mind and always made me want to see it was hearing it was inspired by Celine & Julie Go Boating. Apparent Rivette influence – one woman (Rosanna Arquette of Crash and After Hours) starts following another (Madonna in her first major film role), identities get mixed up, and a magic show is involved. There’s no Fiction House, sadly.
Roberta is married to spa king Mark Blum, wears appalling 80’s clothes and big glasses, follows the hookups of the cool and mysterious Susan and her man Jim (Robert Joy of Atlantic City, a mutant in The Hills Have Eyes Remake) in the classifieds, builds up the nerve to follow Susan around and buy her pawned jacket. Roberta’s knocked on the head and mistaken for a prostitute by NYPD, then rescued by Jim’s projectionist friend Dez (Aidan Quinn of Benny & Joon, The Handmaid’s Tale) who thinks she must be Susan.
A neighbor plays saxophone, seen backlit through a window, and I thought “1980’s, New York, saxophone, it’s probably John Lurie” and was right! Also appearing: Richard Hell (Madonna’s boyfriend who gets killed in prologue, setting off the chase), Steven Wright (dating Roberta’s sister[?] Laurie Metcalf) and John Turturro (manager of the magic club). Writer Leora Barish also did a Chantal Akerman movie and Basic Instinct 2, a weird career. Seidelman also made Smithereens and a movie about a robot John Malkovich, and directed some Electric Company reboot episodes which means I’m technically her collaborator and shouldn’t be talking smack about her most famous movie. Good acting and a pleasantly goofball flick, I’ve got no hard feelings.
Margherita Buy (the pope’s analyst in Habemus Papam) is in the middle of a difficult film shoot (“a lame social drama about workers occupying a factory,” per Cinema Scope) with attention-hog lead actor John Turturro while her mother Ada’s health is failing. Involved in the family crisis are Margherita’s daughter Livia, her brother Giovanni (played by the director) and two exes (I think Federico and Vittorio).
Not a straightforward crisis-drama. There are dreams and flashbacks, which aren’t always clearly defined. The emotional build is consistent, but the scenes are allowed to stand alone, not necessarily progressing narratively from each other. A standout moment was Giovanni quitting his job without real explanation or plan of what he’ll do next, just an example of the grief and confusion in the family’s lives. Apparently made as a tribute to Moretti’s own mother (a Latin teacher like Ada) who died while he was working on Habemus Papam.
It’s not just the work/life balance that this film gets so right, but also — and more crucially — how you can never master your own life to the point where a personal hardship can’t make you feel like an utter amateur.
Won a prize at last year’s Cannes, was Cahiers’ pick for film of the year, and won Buy her fifth Italian best-actress award. It’s really good.
Animated, Machinery-Themed, John Turturro-starring Sequel Double Feature at the Drive-In
Cars 2 (2011, John Lasseter)
In the first movie, Turturro plays a hotshot open-wheel race car named Bumblebee, I think. Larry the Cable Guy gets mixed up in a Man Who Knew Too Little super-spy plot with Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer, while Owen Wilson is off having a biggest-dick contest with Turturro. The guy who developed the so-called green alternative fuel turns out to be the bad guy, because green fuels are fake and ultimately cause more environmental harm than fossil fuels. As Ruppert says in Collapse: corn! don’t make me laugh. Katy and I loved the Barbie & Ken short. This sequel was more exciting than the predictable first movie.
Transformers 3 (2011, Michael Bay)
Then Turturro, having learned humility and the value of friendship in the first movie, uses his money and influence to help Shia The Beouf fight Megatron and Shockwave and revive Roddimus Prime, whose ship crash-landed on the moon (Katy says there is no “dark side” since the moon rotates, and that the man in the moon is a myth). Frances McDormand was an army guy, I think, and John Malkovich was his usual Malkovichy self. Patrick O’Dreamy from Katy’s shows played the evil human who’d stop at nothing to defeat Turturro’s and The Beouf’s schemes because the Decapitrons have promised that he’ll be king of the humans after they win using some Fifth Element columns to bring an entire planet into Earth’s orbit, or something along those lines. More comprehensible than part one, with the masturbation/embarrassment jokes easier to take since I saw them coming this time. Oh, and the Spanish teacher from Community.
I’ve become obsessed with this since watching it again at the Fox. Found a book about the making-of, which I’ve just begun to read. The post-film Q&A with Spike and Joie and fellow Atlanta college grad Radio Raheem was nothing earth-shattering, but it’s an honor to be in the same room as Spike Lee. Learned about the cast: Ruby Dee is still alive and working, Richard Edson (Turturro’s friendly brother Vito) was Sonic Youth’s original drummer, one of the shit-talking guys on the corner is Commissioner Burrell on The Wire, and Martin Lawrence’s comic-relief role cracks people up more than it probably should. Looked beautiful on the big screen. Must watch again soon and show to Katy.