crime drama, culture, directors, Film Spotlight, History in Films, In My Opinion, movies

The Irishman vs. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood


*They are both too long. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood runs at 2 hours and 40 minutes whereas The Irishman runs even longer at three and a half hours. Both stories could have shaved at least a half an hour and retained the essence of the story.

*They both feature iconic directors at the ends of their career doing their respective genres with all their signature marks. Cashing in on what made them famous? Give the audience what they want? Both directors are passionate about making violent films with antiheroes who gain our sympathy. Both directors have fans who worship them. Scorsese and Tarantino are boys who never stopped playing Cowboys and Indians and G.I. Joe. Their films are about who has the power, and how does he hold on to it? Nothing new in that storyline. There’s a testosterone need to see power executed on the screen with blood splatters and firebombs and Kung Fu fighting. A raucous way to combat the boredom of ordinary life. Scorsese and Tarantino fill an escapist need. How did you feel they handled their stories behind the camera? I liked Scorsese’s break to the long shot to show the environment of his characters. I liked Tarantino’s shot behind the driver’s head so you felt like you were along for the ride in the back seat of the car.

Both films rely heavily upon conversation scenes that show how normal the players are when the characters are anything but typical guys; mobsters and movie stars are real people, too. Whatever it is they are bitching about, when their gripe resonates with us, we become empathetic. Which conversation scene worked for you? Mine was Al Pacino as Hoffa when he went to Florida to meet Joe Gallo who shows up fifteen minutes late in shorts.

Both films rely heavily upon cameos of people in the industry that come and go without much importance. The reasoning behind this is they are the pepper flakes in the pot of soup that defines the culture. I wish that Harvey Keitel had had more lines, too.

These are Dick Flicks. Both films are about male interactions. Women are virtually non-existent, and when they do appear, they pose. They are there to amplify the historical climate with their costumes and hairstyles; they are subservient dolls and sexual objects. The wives and daughters in The Irishman and Precious Pussy and Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood come to mind. In The Irishman, there’s a scene when a remorseful Frank tries to understand what when wrong with the relationship between his four daughters. Peggy, his favorite, has disowned him. The other daughter says, “You don’t understand how hard it was for us, do you?” Nope. We have no idea how hard it was because they never had screen time, only glaring looks from Peggy as a girl when Frank breaks the hand of a grocer who nudged her in the store. Anna Paquin‘s role was a waste.

As a woman, I’m not offended. It’s a story about men and their observations from a historical era of the past. It’s perfect, really. It does show how women were viewed. That’s precisely why the “Me, too” movement” came about. To ask Tarantino and Scorsese to give a chick a meaty role defeats their intention. Which is —

Both directors wanted to show a male culture, the relationships between males in their historical era. This is a story about Frank and Cliff who are cleaner fish, who depend and defend their masters. Women weren’t essential to their beings. Their jobs as a stuntman and hitman necessitated a symbiotic relationship with other men to validate their appeal and power. I accept that. It is similar to the movie The Help. That story was about the relationship between females in the 1950-60s. The class struggle between white women and their black hired help who raise the babies but their livelihood depends upon the tight-rope walk between the chemistry of women. The men in the film were weak and virtually non-existent. I accept that. Women and men had definite boundaries in history. Gender spheres have always been the norm until recently. Now it’s a blended, androgynous society. I’m not convinced it’s better.

Both stories don’t have a plot. Characters are placed in situations and asked to problem solve. The solution is murder.

Both directors infuse music to establish the time and mood; music becomes a bit character in the movie. There’s rarely a scene in both films where the music doesn’t play, such as an accompaniment to a murder, a live performance at Frank’s retirement party,  or Cliff Booth’s car radio. The auditory image triggers the past of those who lived during the time. Popular music helps younger audiences associate the era with the characters. Music binds the multi-generations in a way that a set design can’t penetrate. Both directors are keenly aware of this and use it to the point of distraction.

Both films contain the dream cast of icons with the star power of three generations. I had a sugar rush from so much eye candy. The emotional love between the audience and the star fills the audience with the notion that “this is the movie of the year.” Haven’t you predicted these two films and their stars will be nominated for top awards? Wasn’t Al Pacino great as Hoffa? Who would have expected Joe Pesci to be outstanding, ascending past the acting of Robert DeNiro? You love to hate Leonardo DiCaprio, but his portrayal of the insecure Rick Dalton was brilliant.

Brad and Bobbie similarity:  The story follows the characters of Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro). These are the two principal characters who support and are defined by the Alpha Dog they protect. Yet, Pitt and DeNiro’s acting was surpassed by others.

Both films are obsessed with paying attention to the details that recreate a time in history with mastery and great love. For both directors, their highest achievement was their attention to the details that created the historical climate. For Tarantino, the nostalgic drive around L.A. was authentic, and we time-traveled back to the streets of 1969. For Scorsese, his epic spanned decades; his sets and film locations were real places, too, and his recreation of the 50s, 60s, and 70s were perfect. Congratulations to both. It made me hang in there as the hours went by.

Which epic was better? Which one would you watch more than once? 

actors, directors, Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Allied

cindylucky13banner-1It is the thirteenth of the month and time for the Lucky 13 Film Club discussion; thank you for stopping by to share your opinion of December’s topic, the recent release of Allied. Please welcome my blogging buddy, Ruth from Flixchatter, whose interesting movie site is a steadfast choice to follow. Check out her full review linked below.

Ruth’s perspective: 

FlixChatter Review: ALLIED (2016)

Allied is a gorgeous film. Unfortunately, it’s more style over substance… an elegant, sleek but utterly superficial affair. The 1940s set pieces look authentic, the streets, the cars, planes, etc. I especially love the Morocco setting, which instantly conjures up memories of Casablanca. The retro clothes are beautiful, especially Marion Cotillard’s sateen dress in a pivotal scene in Morocco, her slinky nightgown when she’s all seductive up on the roof, etc. Costume designer Joanna Johnston apparently studied Old Hollywood films from that era, and she is a master of creating retro styles, as evident in her work in Forrest Gump and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The stunning cinematography is courtesy of Robert Zemeckis’ regular collaborator Don Burgess. The opening shot is striking, with an aerial shot of the desert and a wide shot of Brad Pitt walking under the hot Sahara sun. The dust storm effects set during the film’s love scene inside the car is particularly memorable as well. Clearly, they have a big enough budget to create such painstakingly detailed sets (filmed in Spain and the UK). Needless to say, Zemeckis & co. achieved an authentic look of a wartime period drama, if only the actors’ performances were as convincing.

Cindy’s thoughts: 

So how about that acting? Marion Cotillard lit up the screen. Her complicated character switched from coquette to teacher, to lover, to wife, to mother, to mysterious spy with all the mannerisms, facial expressions and passion that you would expect from an accomplished actress. In fact, since this film seems to create associations for many of Casablanca(1942), I’ll claim Marion gave a performance that Ingrid Bergman would have been proud, which is the highest compliment I could give Ms. Cotillard since Ingrid Bergman is my favorite actress of all time.

Brad Pitt. Criticisms of the film include a hefty dose of the blame falling on the square shoulders of Pitt. Was he too wooden, too stoic, to give a heartfelt performance? Especially since Marion was lively and interesting to watch? That was my initial impression, too. But, if we are going to link similarities of Allied to Casablanca, then I’d say Brad acted just like Humphrey Bogart. Perhaps that was how Brad Pitt approached the role. Sly and stoic, a gentleman, letting the lady shine while he watched, internalizing the situation rather than impulsively reacting. As the movie progresses and the plot switches to London locales and domesticity, Brad Pitt’s stiff start warms up with more smiles. The worried pangs of doubt threaten his character’s introversion, and when he attempts to discover whether his wife is a German spy, the movie finally blossoms and becomes intriguing. By the climax at the movie’s end, I am engaged, and Max’s trust and love for Marianne felt believable. If you aren’t in a hurry, it’s not a disappointment.

What went wrong with this beautiful film? There were two grievous errors that kept it from being a top rated film. First, side characters did not help the plot or support the motivations of the principal pair. There was no Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) for which to show another side of Rick’s personality. There were no sidekicks that brought humor and charm to soften the stoicism of Rick’s personality like Sam (Dooley Wilson), Yvonne (Madeleine LeBeau), or Ugarte (Peter Lorre). Second, where’s the score? They missed a golden opportunity to include beautiful music to represent their feelings and the ambiguity of their situations. I would bet anyone a fiver if Zemeckis had included a decent score, more people would have appreciated the film. 3.5/5. 

What did you like or not about Allied? Did you get a chance to see it?  If not, what are some of your favorite Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard performances?