Tag Archive: robert deniro


Bobby!

 

bobby

Always the low key ones you have to watch for when you find their passion bucket.

This made me smile quite a bit…

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heat-7

Maybe my most memorable L.A. birthday was at Kate Mandellini’s. Probably would have been the regular spot if it still existed.

Anyway, pretty much everyone I know was pissed we didn’t get to be in attendance at the ‘Heat’ screening they had at the Academy.  DeNiro, Pacino, Michael Mann, with a Q&A moderated by Christopher Nolan.

Good Lord…

The Academy was nice enough to post a few clips for us.  Here’s one about the most iconic scene.  I thought what they said about rehearsing was really interesting too.

Enjoy!

 

alandbobby

My theme for my ‘sermon’ this week was pettiness.  The results will become visible in due time, but things are going my way right now.  Power corrupts all of us (let’s get that out of the way), but when it comes to slights, it’s just interesting to see where we all fall along the scale of ‘I will not be the one to break the peace we’ve made here today’, and ‘I don’t feel I have to wipe everybody out, just my enemies.’

So, on that note…

Enjoy!

‘American Hustle’

 

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Don’t know if it’s the best film of the year, but I get why everyone is into American Hustle.  It’s fun.  It’s a lot more fun than most of the ‘serious’ stuff that gets promoted for awards season.

As the opening title card suggests, the film is loosely based on the well known ABSCAM stings the feds used to bring down power players in the 70s.  The story of this film centers around the con artist played by Christian Bale, who in true Method form (fist pump) put on a ridiculously amount of weight and even developed a serious (a little too serious) slouch for his character.  He partners early on with Amy Adams’ character, who also reinvents herself as a con artist…

Amy Adams…I think the first time I noticed was as the innocent in another con film (ironically), Catch Me If You Can.  And over time, she’s done well picking parts that use her sexuality but remind you she’s a true actress as well.  I say that to say that forever I’d see her in something and say, ‘Not that long ago, Julianne Moore would’ve played that.’  And the costume design (the only Oscar lock in my opinion) goes a long way, but in this film, HO. LY. CHRIST.  She’s not ‘kind of doing a young Julianne Moore thing’ anymore, she just took her dirty heels and grinded them all in Julianne Moore’s couch.  Amy already arrived, I’m just saying that comparison is done now (at least in my mind).

Everybody in the cast delivers.  The current It Girl, Jennifer Lawrence, pulls her weight to no surprise (figured she was in the story more, but her character turns the story a couple of times).  The homie Louie C.K. has a nice supporting role as the put upon boss of Bradley Cooper’s character.  And even though I knew he has a scene, I was still very happy to see one of my all time favorite actors do a nice cameo to further the story.  Not ruining it if you don’t know who I’m referring to.

I think the film wants to be GoodFellas… but there were a few places I thought I could have been tighter.  But still, solid film, all the way around.  Worth seeing.

 

christoph-waltz-django-unchained

Today let’s look at the performances up for top Wingman this year.  The nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role are…

  • Alan Arkin in Argo
  • Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Who Should Win: Only one of the nominees in this category actually plays the title character in the film they’re nominated for.  So why is Hoffman not in the Lead category?  Much better chance of winning (we’ll come back to that later this week).

Who I Want to Win: At this point in the game, there’s maybe…5 people left in the Game who I ‘might’ get starstruck by meeting.  And Bobby is one of them.  And to be fair in the context of his career, the most pleasant part of DeNiro’s performance was seeing him have something to do and not just show up to collect a check.

Who Will Win: Let’s keep the wide open theme of this year’s awards going and say this is where Lincoln gets some love.  Not the only major award it will win I imagine…

Tomorrow, back to the ladies…

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Usually it’s hype to say things are wide open, based off of the nominations though, it might be more true this year.

Let’s start with who the Gold Guy sent on the Walk of Shame this morning: DiCaprio (Django), Affleck (Argo), and Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) were all considered locks.  No disrespect to those who were nominated, but frankly I’m as shocked as everyone else they didn’t get invited to the dance for Best Supporting Actor and Best Director respectively.  Their films are all recognized but damn; so that was the inspiration for this post’s title.  We do have a serious film geek collection of movies this year.  I hope the Academy isn’t putting all the pressure for ratings on Seth McFarlane…

That said, when I look at the ‘major’ awards, I see a ton of familiar names: Denzel, Spielberg, Hoffman, DeNiro and Day-Lewis.  Only one of those names I thought gave possibly their best career performance, but we’ll have that argument another day (reward for this year’s work vs. ‘lifetime achievement’).

Back to the film geek point, nine Best Picture nominees this year.  Again, speaks to this being a year without a ‘Titanic’; it also means things can get real interesting real fast when (theoretically) the vote can be split nine ways.  Not a math major obviously, but it seems like you could win Best Picture this year with a very small percentage of the overall vote.  So, could be looking at another ‘Crash’ type year when that last envelope is opened, just putting it out there…

Alright, as far as we’re concerned in this space…I’ve given you 3 reviews, 2 more for sure coming Sunday and Monday, so I owe you 4 more before the show.  That’s doable.  Don’t know yet if I’ll be doing previews with Mr. Thomas like we’ve done in the past, but we shall see.

Have a good weekend.  Mamba out.

 

Silver Linings Playbook

 

220px-Silver_Linings_Playbook_Poster

Ending the week with another potential ‘award film’.  Silver Linings Playbook is a love story, but where are two main characters are extremely effed up to say the least.  The guy (played by Bradley Cooper) is coming out of a stint in an institution after a violent end to his marriage. The girl (yet another great feather in the still very young cap of Jennifer Lawrence) is a widow who hasn’t completely moved on from the circumstances of her husband’s death.

This film moved in a lot of different directions in my opinion.  A few minutes of a classic ‘sins of the father’ story, where we get Robert DeNiro being an actor again; stretches of ‘boy meets girl’ which is the meat of the story; and (where I thought the film was strongest) some long stretches in the first and second act that tackle the great dilemma of when, internally, you know you got it for somebody else but you didn’t get or haven’t emotionally gotten to the closure of your last relationship.  Is there even such a thing as closure or is that really a Hallmark/Hollywood thing that’s completely made up?

The film isn’t bad at all but I wasn’t head over heels for it.  Like I implied a lot going on.  My take away (which I already knew) is that Jennifer Lawrence is going to have as long of a career as she wants doing whatever she wants to do.

Have a great weekend!

Hugo

 

I went into Hugo with literally no expectations.  It was a Scorsese picture, but definitely not a typical “Martin Scorsese’ picture.  It’s a 3D film (bleh) but Hugo is a complete family film (by far the best use for that technology in my opinion).  I came out of Hugo not overwhelmed, but pleasantly surprised that the film I thought I walked into 5 minutes in, morphed into something more ambitious by the time I walked out.

An orphan boy lives in a train station and keeps the clocks tuned.  He’s constantly at odds and on the run from a local shopkeeper (played by Ben Kingsley) who accuses him of theft, and a beat cop (played with subtle humor by Sasha Baron Cohen) whose trying to send him straight to the orphanage.  The story of how these various men (and others) relate to and are connected to each other is charming, and another tribute to the master storytelling ability of Scorsese.  Like any of us have doubted that ability for the past 30 years!

Without giving away the plot points that I didn’t know about walking in, I will say it’s interesting to wonder if this is the direction Scorsese may be going next.  The Departed got him his Oscar but to me that’s not even among his top 3 crime films; recently he’s done more documentaries which are nice change of pace pieces.  Is ‘Marty’ going to take a cue from his buddy DeNiro and start doing more family friendly fare?  Hmm, don’t know how I feel about that but I guess we’ll see.

Regardless Hugo is a nice film that at the moment seems to be stuck in a year (or an awards season at least) of several high quality films.  I guess we’ll see where it lands…

Honorable Mention

One of the side effects of being in the house so much lately is catching up on movies on TV/DVD.  One of the films I caught maybe should have been on my 25 Most Important Black Film list from a couple years ago.  Maybe.

Regardless, I’m not changing the past, but will give this a film (and maybe others down the line) an honorable mention.

Men of Honor is based on the true story of the first African-American diver in the Navy.  Starring Robert Deniro and Cuba Gooding Jr, Men of Honor is a formula film that shows you why there is a formula.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance: The previously mentioned storyline makes it more than relevant.  You toss in the black director (George Tillman Jr. of Notorious and Soul Food), and you have yourself a black film boys and girls.

Legacy: It’s definitely a family friendly film and very rewatchable.  As I talked about the film with one of my fellow film geeks, the question was raised, “Was this Cuba Gooding Jr’s last good lead performance?”  Discuss.

Craft: You have two Academy Award winning actors.  One of the beauties of Men of Honor is how DeNiro and Cuba Gooding Jr. (both of whom know how to show out) let the story be the star of the film.  Score one for Tillman here.

Crossover: Even now, Men of Honor isn’t what people think of when they say ‘urban film’.  It was distributed by a major studio and top billed by one of the greatest actors of our lifetimes.  In many ways, it’s the type of ‘urban film’ Hollywood would love to recreate.

Apollo: While the climax of the film (Breashear earning his way back into active duty) would be the obvious choice, I’d say the scene where he earns the crew’s (and audience’s) respect by taking his diving school final (and passing even though he gets sabotaged) is great melodrama.  It seems somewhat implausible but hey, that’s why they’re called movies.

On that note, more later…

Limitless IX – Jayhawk

My people will never let me forget this, but I was um, a little less friendly and approachable when I arrived in Lawrence.  Fists balled up.  Chest poked out.  Hardcore scowl.  Every shirt I owned was black, one even had ‘Danger – Educated Black Man’ printed across the front.  One kid I met that week told me his dad took one look at me and said, “Son, stay away from THAT brother!”  I smiled once my first week in Lawrence, and would pay for that mistake for the next four years…

The week before class started, there was a big ‘Welcome to KU’ event called Beach and Boulevard.  On the main street (Jayhawk Boulevard) the main hangout spot was known as Wescoe Beach.  Yes in Lawrence, Kansas.  Don’t ask.  Anyway, one of the Orientation Assistants happened to be a young lady I went to high school with.  She was in the same class as my godmother’s daughter, a Hall of Fame class of fine sisters that came through those halls.  I had no idea she even knew who I was, something that would become a recurring theme as I went through college…

We started chatting at the Beach and Boulevard, and this white kid with a camera asked if he could take a picture of her putting a ‘lei’ around my neck.  My initial facial expression: I still want to know what happened to that picture!  He timidly asked if I would smile for one, and I begrudgingly cracked the sides of my mouth up.  ‘One more?’  Sigh…

Now I was irritated.  I just wanted to be left the hell alone!  ‘You want a smile huh?  OK.’  So I pulled a 180, and busted out the biggest Sambo, over the top, “This is the greatest day of my life!  Rock Chalk Jayhawk!” 32 teeth special I could muster. 

Even if you’re not a storyteller, or you didn’t go to KU, if you know how comedy works, you know what happened next.  That picture started popping up everywhere.  For years.  Orientation pamphlets, multicultural student recruitment newsletters, the works!  I’ve got a good enough sense of humor about it all to tell you that picture is floating around online, but I won’t say where.  If you do find it, at least now you know the real story.  It wasn’t some ‘great times at KU’ picture the way it got spun.  I was being a complete ass and she was laughing at me being a complete ass.  I learned a real important lesson about media and image that day though.

I make this next statement not to make you laugh, but as an expression of my mentality when I stepped on campus:  I had no intention of making friends, and the absolute last thing I planned on doing was find a girlfriend or a wife.  The events of my senior year had turned me into Robert DeNiro’s character from Heat:

“A guy told me once, don’t attach yourself to anything you’re not willing to walk away from in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat coming around the corner.  Now, if you’re me, and you gotta move when I move, how do you keep a…marriage?”

In all sincerity, my Plan was to go to class, go to the mosque when I could, figure out how the hell I ended up here and what I had to do so that in four years I wouldn’t be in this situation again.  I wasn’t completely naive, I was a Black Muslim in Kansas.  All the possible odds were stacked against me.  In high school, I felt I had the drive and the talent to make films, but I had a very small margin for error.  After what went down, now I felt like I had no margin for error.  So I guess I was turning into my favorite comic book character without fully knowing it.

Fate would step in of course to keep me from completely becoming a recluse.  This was college after all!  That kid whose dad warned him about me?  He was a Muslim!  We’re still friends to this day.  Over the first couple of weeks, a lot of us freshmen black men would find each other and start hanging out.  Amazingly all these years later, most of us are still friends.  As I get older I appreciate how rare that is.  Anyway, none of us could pledge straight out of high school, so we ended up giving our crew a Greek like name I won’t repeat here.  The initials were NTN though.  You can probably fill in the blanks.  Being black at the University of Kansas, you really had to go the extra mile to stay off the radar.  We quickly learned about the unofficial hangout spot on Saturday nights: the Burge.

Those little student union parties seem so innocent now.  For our intro into this college version of the Club, we stomped down the Hill, reciting the Chain Gang theme from the film ‘Cadence’.  The party was from 10 ‘until’, so of course our green asses showed up at 10!   The girls we had been eyeballing in Mrs. E’s cafeteria all week in their oversized T-shirts and sweat pants?  On Saturday night boy, they cleaned up quite nice!  Oh yes they did… 

For me especially as a hip hop lover, as soon as I could feel the bass coming from the basement, I would get hyped.  I could still put together a nice little playlist of the jams from those first couple of years:

  1. Do You Wanna Ride – Do or Die
  2. Hay – Crucial Conflict (our first hype song)
  3. Player’s Anthem – Junior Mafia
  4. Get Money Remix – Junior Mafia
  5. Drop – Pharcyde
  6. I Got 5 On It – Luniz (the NTN theme song, even though none of us smoked, still can’t figure that one out)
  7. Dolly My Baby (Remix) – Super Cat (still my favorite reggae song, I sweat just thinking about it)

I would jump in for the hype songs and our little NTN group dances, but beyond that I usually hung back.  Michael Jackson, Hammer…I could do a choreographed routine like nobody’s business.  Hell, I learned to Electric Slide to Ditty by Paperboy.  But freestyle dancing and grinding? That was new to me.  The females noticed and (naturally) would flirt a little more to try to get me to come out of my shell.  There was one in particular who would do the ‘come here’ move in front of me for like 5 straight Burge parties, trying to be funny.  That 6th party though, my damn 18 year old hormones decided to pull rank on the Plan, and I had her ass posted against one of those light blue columns, her legs wrapped around my waist, me gyrating to Shaggy’s ‘Boombastic’.  And it was fantastic, just like the song says. 

Normally though you would find me where you will still find me today if I happen to hit the Club:  hanging out on the dance floor, right in front of the DJ booth, bobbing my head and playing Junior Hype Man.  I’m one of those brothers.  In time I naturally started to make friends with the brothers who were DJing the Burge parties. 

As it turned out, they all happened to be members of the same fraternity…