Decades Blogathon – Taxi Driver (1976)

Decades Blogathon Banner 20161976So this is the end; the final day of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition. Thank you once again to everyone who made this such a great blogathon. My biggest thanks goes to my partner in crime on this enterprise – Tom from Digital Shortbread. We had a blast with this in 2015 and this year’s event has been just as much fun. The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade and it’s my turn to focus on Martin Scorsese’s seminal 1976 classic Taxi Driver.

Looking to the Academy Awards as a critical barometer for the best films of a given year is, for the most part, as redundant an exercise as swimming through treacle.

The list of Oscar clunkers is long and ignominious and among the most glaring is the dearth of statuettes awarded to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. A browse at the contenders that year reveals some genuine American classics – All The President’s Men, Network – but it was Rocky that knocked them all out to win Best Picture.

Taxi Driver Poster

Whilst great cinema and the sort of Cinderella story Oscar voters love, Rocky is a lightweight compared to Scorsese’s indisputable masterpiece which remains, 40 years on, one of the greatest films ever made and a dramatic tour de force for its star Robert DeNiro.

Although the hellish neon-lit New York City streets have become a chapter best left in the Big Apple’s past, the central conceit of Taxi Driver – a sad, painfully lonely and depressed young man acts out on his rage and resentment in increasingly violent and deluded ways – is a story that in all likelihood will never be far from the news headlines.

As effective as Scorsese’s brilliant visual storytelling and DeNiro’s powerhouse central performance are, without Paul Schrader’s deeply unsettling script Taxi Driver wouldn’t be the classic it is today. Schrader had been going through a messy divorce at the time and poured his damaged soul into the creation of Travis Bickle, using the taxi as the perfect vehicle (sorry) for the ex-Vietnam veteran’s loneliness and alienation.

Travis sees himself as an avenging angel (“a man who would not take it anymore”), who is the embodiment of the rain that will come and wash all the scum off the streets. The voiceover that runs throughout the film – words spoken from a journal he is writing – is both his manifesto and an expression of self-efficacy.

Taxi Driver

This mythologising can be found in Scorsese’s visual style, which gets inside Travis’ unbalanced head space and flits between stark lucidity and fever dream. This is evident in the opening scene, with the taxi cab emerging in slow motion from the steam of the street vents before cutting to a sharp close up of Travis’ uneasy eyes. The visuals of this scene are lent extra weight by Bernard Herrmann’s unforgettable score (tragically, he died hours after completing it), which opens with a escalating snare drum before switching to a jazzy saxophone for the close up.

Herrmann’s composition, one the most remarkable in cinema history, perfectly soundtracks the nightmare that unfolds, flitting between a militaristic aggression that builds towards the film’s climax and a romantic delusion in the scenes Travis shares with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) (“They. Cannot. Touch. Her.”), a campaign volunteer for presidential candidate Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris).

Taxi Driver

The connection an infatuated Travis tries to form with Betsy is both pitiful and tragic – none more so than when he takes her on a date to watch a skin flick and is surprised when she storms out. Travis sees Betsy as a figure of chastity; someone he can save from the “animals” who prowl the streets and when that goes south he switches his attention to Iris (Jodie Foster), a pre-teen prostitute whom he believes is the personification of innocence in a damned world (the multitude of candles in her bedroom have distinct Catholic overtones).

Although unbalanced, it takes time for Travis to become the mohawk-sporting vigilante we remember and the film adroitly takes us on a journey; which includes a cry for help to seasoned fellow cabbie Wizard (Peter Boyle) when he confides that “I’ve got some bad ideas in my head”. While Wizard’s advice is ultimately discounted, his belief that “people become their jobs” rings true in Travis’ case as he becomes as worn down as the tyres of his taxi cab.

Taxi Driver

The film’s finale, desaturated by Scorsese in order to avoid an ‘X’ certificate, retains an almost mythic quality and remains shocking to this day. The bloodbath that we know has been coming (Travis is repeatedly bathed in red light throughout the picture) is almost Grand Guignol in its execution and culminates in one of cinema’s most celebrated shots as Travis, his mission now complete, defiantly raises a blood-soaked finger to his head and pulls the trigger. A story related to Betsy by fellow Palantine volunteer Tom (Albert Brooks) earlier in the film about how the Mafia blow the fingers off of a thief who fouls up has resonance during the gunfight as a mafioso suffers a similar fate at the hands of Travis.

The cast is uniformly excellent, with Foster giving a revelatory performance as the tough-talking, but vulnerable Iris, while Harvey Keitel provides a memorable turn as Iris’ pimp ‘Sport’ – but it’s Keitel’s Mean Streets co-star who dominates.

DeNiro famously obtained a cab driver’s license and picked up fares in preparation for the role, while also absorbing the diaries of Arthur Bremer, the man who shot presidential hopeful George Wallace in 1972. DeNiro’s total inhabitation of the character is frightening at times – what light there is in his eyes dims to a black void as he becomes more obsessed with his self-appointed calling.

[spoiler warning]. Much has been spoken of the bravura tracking shot in the aftermath of the battle (is it an out-of-body experience?) and the scene that follows it. Is Travis’ metamorphosis into a tabloid hero real or is it still a fever dream? The very final shot of Travis shooting a look into the rear view mirror of his cab suggests that, if this is indeed reality, his rehabilitation may not be permanent.

“You talkin’ to me?”. A magnificent work of pure existential cinema, Taxi Driver will continues to talk to us for another 40 years and beyond.

Decades Blogathon – Grandma’s Boy (2006)

REBLOGGED FROM DIGITAL SHORTBREAD!

2006

It’s hard to believe but we are officially in the penultimate day of the 2016 Decades Blogathon, a 10-day event in which myself and the envy-inducing Mark from the terrific Three Rows Back have been asking bloggers to share their thoughts on films from decades past, releases from years ending in ‘6.’ We will have two posts today, this being one of them of course, and then Mark and I will wrap things up tomorrow, Friday. It’s been an incredible experience once again and we continue to thank our participants for making it happen. Speaking of, I’d like to welcome back Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews for his take on the 2006 stoner comedy delight Grandma’s Boy. Have at it, Drew!


'Grandmas Boy' movie posterWatched: 5/14/2016

Released: 2006

Synopsis

When video game tester Alex (Allen Covert) gets kicked out of his apartment, he moves in with his grandma (Doris Roberts) and her roommates. Meanwhile, at Alex’s work, Samantha (Linda Cardellini) has been sent by the company’s corporate office to oversee the final stages of production of their latest video game.

Review  

Grandma’s Boy isn’t going to get any recognition for being overly creative or groundbreaking, but dammit does it make me laugh.  There is something about toilet humor that always tickles my funny bone.  The characters are constantly berating each other, cursing up a storm, making sex jokes and getting high.  Despite all that, it has charm behind it. Allen Covert and Nick Swardson are so much fun to watch together on screen.  Some of the best lines of the film come from when these two are bouncing off each other.  The plot is super simple, not providing any twists or turns that allow the film to focus on the comedy. Grandma’s Boy revels very much in making as many obscene jokes as it can.  Some of the jokes hit because they are funny but others hit because you can’t help but think “they did not just do that.” The late Doris Roberts may seem out of place in a stoner film with her sweet grandma persona and all but she holds her own and meshes surprisingly well with the rest of the cast, like Covert, Swardson and Peter Dante, who fit perfectly well into the molds of their characters.

I thought Grandma’s Boy was GOOD:-).  It’s brand of comedy may not be for everyone but if you sit back and relax, you might find yourself having a good time.

Favorite Quote 

Jeff: What does “high score” mean? New high score, is that bad? What does that mean? Did I break it?

Trailer  

Cast & Crew  

Nicholaus Goossen – Director
Barry Wernick – Writer
Allen Covert – Writer
Nick Swardson – Writer
Waddy Wachtel – Composer
Allen Covert – Alex
Linda Cardellini – Samantha
Nick Swardson – Jeff
Doris Roberts – Grandma Lilly
Shirley Jones – Grace
Shirley Knight – Bea
Joel David Moore – JP
Peter Dante – Dante
Kevin Nealon – Mr Cheezle
Jonah Hill – Barry
Kelvin Yu – Kane

Decades Blogathon – Stand By Me (1986)

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1986

My apologies for a late posting today, folks. But better late than never, right? Joining in the discussion today we have Courtney from On the Screen Reviews. That site is a great one to go to if you’re looking for a variety of film reviews and yearly Top Tens. Check it out if you haven’t already, you won’t be sorry! Thanks again for helping us make this blogathon a great one Courtney, the floor is yours!


Three Rows Back and Digital Shortbread are hosting the Decades Blogathon, a 10(ish) day event in which film critics take a look at movies from different decades. This month we’re choosing films from any decade with the year ending in ‘6’ (given that it’s now 2016), and there’s no restrictions.

For my contribution, I’ve chosen to cover the coming-of-age classic that made the train dodge a timeless pastime, Stand by Me.

You guys wanna see a dead body . . . ?

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“I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in 1959, a long time ago, but only if you measure in term of years.”

With the overhaul of pre-teen movies that force your brain to regress in order to comprehend, it should be unanimously agreed that Stand by Me follows a blueprint of movie making that seems impossible to recreate. Recent movies like Super 8 attempted to capture youthful nostalgia, but didn’t dig deep enough to reach the gritty reality of adolescence. Stand by Me offers no gimmicks, no aliens, no gadgets, but raw human emotion.

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Stand by Me is a movie about four 12-year-old-boys living in a small town in Oregon around 1959 who go on a total boy adventure Labor Day weekend to find an undiscovered dead body. It’s narrated in present-day by a novelist (Richard Dreyfuss) who recalls the weekend that inspired his writing. (That old 80s computer tho! If that doesn’t resonate with you, I don’t know what will!!!)

Their weekend journey is the first taste of real life for the four boys and the last real taste of innocence; I think this is what resonates with viewers like myself the most. It eliminates the awkward introduction of girls into their lifestyle (because they haven’t reached that point in life yet), and focuses on more pertinent philosophical questions of that age like “Do you think Mighty Mouse can beat Superman?” Conversations around the campfire seem endless and pinky swears seem bound in blood.

The movie takes another risk filmmakers refuse to take today — it’s rated R! It’s unpretentious, hilarious and absolutely genuine with its plot and dialogue. Kids at the age of 12 are going to swear as much as this movie suggests, so why bleep it out? Stand by Me keeps it real, most notably with it’s script, which translates to some of the best scenes by young actors in cinematic history.

Here are some of my favorites scenes:

Teddy’s Freakout

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The movie really hones in on small town life and what it’s like to know everybody. In the junk yard scene where the crotchety man calls Teddy’s (Corey Feldman) father “a looney,” Teddy erupts, “I’m going to rip off your head and shit down your neck!” Firstly, what a creative and vulgarly descriptive insult! Teddy’s father allegedly stormed the beach at Normandy, and despite his father being total garbage to Teddy, he has the utmost respect for him. That’s commendable, and it unfolds layers of Teddy’s character that are deeper than one may anticipate. If it isn’t obvious, this movie really shows that boys have emotions too.

Kiefer Sutherland in any scene

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Kiefer Sutherland is a bona fide badass in this movie, and he’s one of the most believable assholes on screen in the 80s! It takes effort now-a-days to convince me that a character is the scum of the Earth, mostly due to poor acting or casting decisions, but Sutherland embodied every aspect of the sociopath Ace. Despite stealing every scene he’s in, the most character defining scene comes at the end where he affirms that he’s willing to kill a kid to get what he wants. Great acting and character embodiment by Sutherland. I would not fuck with him.

Train Dodge

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The train dodge scene is probably the scene most associated with the movie and one of my personal favorites. What I love about the train dodge is the giant metaphor being slammed in your face that the train is your life — it’s coming no matter what, and you damn sure better be ready for it. Not only is it one of the more hilarious, heart-pounding scenes, but it’s an affirmation that some kids can handle it and some can’t.

The Deer

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The deer scene comes as a breath of fresh air in-between dramatic scenes offering a reflection for both the character of Gordie and the audience. It showcases Gordie’s consciousness as a child in that he is in-tune with his creativity as an aspiring writer. There are also subtleties of the scene that I love — his smirk, the comic book he’s reading, the fact that no one else saw the deer and that he keeps the moment to himself . . . until now.

The Closing Scene

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“Chris did get out. He enrolled in the college-courses with me. And although it was hard, he gutted it out like he always did. He went onto college and eventually became a lawyer. Last week he entered a fast food restaurant. Just ahead of him, two men got into an argument. One of them pulled out a knife. Chris, who would always make the best peace tried to break it up. He was stabbed in the throat. He died almost instantly. Although I hadn’t seen him in more than ten years I know I’ll miss him forever.”

I think the last scene of the boys is probably one of the most relevant for the actors. The final shot of Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) walking into the distance slowly fading away is an eerie premonition of his actual fate of an overdose at the age of 23. The final scene really shows how friends grow apart in life, and that’s okay. The boys all have revelations that each is struggling with something whether it’s being bullied over weight or having an abusive parent . . . they all persevere and it shapes their characters. The character of Chris Chambers is one of my favorites, because despite coming from a crappy family situation, he had the ability to make his life better. It may sound cliche, but it shows the power of perseverance without the director making it overly showy.

This is a movie that resonates with me long after viewing and it’s really never left me.

Let me know your favorite scenes from the movie!

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Decades Blogathon – The Craft (1996)

Featured Image -- 60491996 2It’s the penultimate day of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and Tom from Digital Shortbread! I’ll say it again, make sure to check out Tom’s blog; it’s the best you’ll find around these parts. The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and it’s time to welcome Maddison from The Final Scene. Maddison casts her spell on the 1996 teen horror The Craft.

I can’t express how badly I wanted to be a witch in my early teen years. I surrounded myself with purple crystals, burning candles and glittery spell books from the marked down book bins.

The 1990s seemed to be the idyllic age of witchcraft in pop culture, welcoming such films and shows like Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, Charmed, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and even Sabrina The Teenage Witch. In an era of supernatural melodrama, in 1996 Andrew Fleming delivered the campy teen witch thriller The Craft.

The Craft Poster

The Craft focuses on Catholic prep highschool newcomer Sarah (Robin Tunney), who finds herself falling in with a trio of outcast teenage girls who practice witchcraft. Dubbed as ‘The Bitches Of Eastwick’, everything about these witchy teens encapsulate the essence of the ’90s. The Craft is a celebration of adolescent nonconformity and independence; an imposing fable of the age old guidance of what comes around goes around. Riddled with teen angst and garish special effects, the entertainment value is guiltily grandiose.

For those hesitant to step into the horror genre, The Craft is the perfect entry as it is not really scary at all. Aside from some creepy crawly fun in the final act, the film stays rather grounded in the world of teenage antics and the loyalty of sisterhood.

The Craft

My inner teenage self will never not enjoy this movie and I can’t not watch this film without a stupid cheesy smile on my face. Put aside the obvious flaws, like the vanity of their spells cast for the enjoyments of boys, beauty and riches. Don’t waste your time getting offended and just embrace the iconic giddy wickedness of witchy war!

Let’s no forget, The Craft introduces us all to Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich before they popped up in the iconic 1996 Wes Craven cult classic Scream.

The Craft

Embrace your inner wiccan and remember the moral of the story – don’t ever f**k around with the magic, that shit comes back threefold.

“We are the weirdos mister”

Decades Blogathon – About Last Night (1986)

Featured Image -- 60321986We’re in the final(ish) straight of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and the legend that is Tom from Digital Shortbread. The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and today I’m pleased to welcome Gill from the colourfully titled Realweegiemidget, who rewinds back to the ’80s for About Last Night (1986).

In a bid to narrow it down to a specific movie and after much deliberation, I decided on reviewing a film I could gitter for 700+ words. Options included the much reviewed The Breakfast Club (1985) starring Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson – hell yeah, punches fist in air – or as my friend in blogging suggested a lesser known one – Oxford Blues (1984) with Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy – in a word, nope. So luckily, the Finnish television schedule took the decision out of my hands showing the Brat Pack romance and, therefore, weeper About Last Night (1986).

This film was based loosely on David Mamet’s one scene play Sexual Perversity In Chicago. About Last Night has Brat Packers, Rob Lowe – graduate of Brat Pack films Class (1983) St Elmo’s Fire (1986) and The Outsiders (1983) – and Demi Moore – also from St Elmo’s Fire, Blame It On Rio (1984) and Wisdom (1986) – starring as Danny and Debbie, the two main romantic leads. They are supported by the younger Belushi brother, Jim and Stockard Channing Elizabeth Perkins in her debut role as Debbie’s best girly friend Joan.

About Last Night Poster

On reading that Jim Belushi had been playing the part of Bernie, Danny’s best buddy, on stage made me puzzled as to why his brother John was considered for this role, especially as it would have been with Dan Aykroyd as Danny. As darlin’ husband put it “Emmett and Jake don’t do Brat Pack” – referring to their roles in the Blues Brothers (1980) – in his best Machete (2010) adapted line. Luckily, John passed it up, saying his brother should have the role. Because that particular pairing would be totally wrong, at all levels.

The story tells of how Danny initially meets Debbie at a water fountain at a baseball game, they meet later in a bar and there is an instant attraction as, tbh they are the most photogenic in the room. Possibly as he hasn’t a mullet and her a dodgy perm. They flirt and have what turns into a meaningful one night stand following a totally sexy moment with headphones.

Debbie is dating her “1980s douchebag boss” but this is not a sequel to St. Elmo’s Fire as some people believe. Their buddies have also pulled. Bernie brags and no doubt embellishes about his love life – although no film evidence to support this – and Joan who appears to have the start of a queue of meaningless one night stands throughout the movie. So Dan meets Debbie again and this led to montage no 1, sponsored by the Chicago Tourist Board, which I will name… Date in Chicago. Danny and Debbie hit it off out of bed too and he tells her of his dream of opening a restaurant.

About Last Night

As this is the 1980s much of the characters’ conversation and plot is over the landline where we note that Joan is a kindergarten teacher. Don’t believe those who tell you that’s the Poltergeist (1982) kid in the first kindergarten scene with her. This fact led to darlin’ husband becoming daring husband by riffing this, stating she would have possibly been teaching Demi’s future husband and toyboy by 13 years Ashton Kutcher. This proved true after consulting the internet and doing the maths; Ashton would have been seven going on eight on the film’s release. The men work together and Danny is especially discouraged in his job.

My favourite scene, however is where Perkins explains about the Virgin Mary to her kindergarten class. This is reminiscent of, but much more funnier than the Scottish TV programme series, Chewin’ the Fat’s sketch on the same topic. Anyway, after lots of flirting, sex and snogging Danny shows his commitment to Debbie by giving her a drawer at his place to keep her stuff in. Despite her mock jesting, this really is a big deal for her. The couple then move in together leading to the second montage, the one where they move in together and lots and lots of this particular couple’s tits and asses, not just Lowe’s, lots of tears and even more montages…

Rob Lowe is lovely in this film. He shows he can play nice romantic guys and I liked him more in this than his character in St. Elmo’s Fire, where he was 1980s douchebag personified complete with saxophone solo and dodgy earring. Rob didn’t have either in this film, much to my relief. Certain Hollywood actors should just not do earrings – please take note Harrison Ford and Bill Paxton.

About Last Night

To be fair none of the characters were likeable in St. Elmo’s Fire and don’t get me started on Andie McDowall ruining this movie because, to be fair, she did only really contribute to its failure. Lowe had more chemistry with Demi than he had with Mare Winningham in that particular movie, which is just as well as they spend quite a lot of the film in the nude in plenty of ‘are they aren’t they’ moments. Moore is equally sweet and she probably gave Scarlett Johansson a masterclass on how to turn a man into a gibbering wreck with a husky voice as Demi is fantastic at this.

Although the film is, according to some sources allegedly not meant to be comedic Perkins and Belushi are extremely amusing, especially Perkins who is particularly good at being deadpan. Belushi is irreplaceable as best friend Bernie and easily in one of his best roles. These characters hate each other and their friend’s choice of partner from the get go and, despite meeting up several times continue to hate each other throughout the movie which is a refreshing change from the more predictable cliché.

Although formulaic and a romance by the numbers, the film ends to the ‘will they, won’t they’ moment (for what you’ll have to watch and find out) at the end which I hate. OK, you can make your own individual ending. I had them married and moving to Little Rock, Arkansas and husband probably didn’t. But as it ends at a softball game, you could put the film on a loop and rewatch it adfinitum or go home feeling frustrated or happy with your ending

About Last Night

Despite the film being made in the 1980s, Moore’s jumper and silk shirt collection are so of that decade it has so much more staying power than St. Elmo’s Fire. I believe there is a remake made a couple of years back, but I don’t really enjoy remakes and believe in particular that 1980s remakes shouldn’t ever be remade, especially classics such as Red Dawn (1984). The remake in 2012 may have Thor Chris Hemsworth, but even if he was shirtless throughout the whole movie I just couldn’t watch it.

Other point in case, in Total Recall‘s 2012 version – Colin Farrell is no Arnie Schwarzenegger. What I would prefer is as a complete romantic is my darlin’ husband’s idea for the director’s cut version, where the film About Last Night is renamed “About Last Year” and it’s plot a bit like Groundhog Day (1993) complete with ice statues.

OK, I did cry at About Last Night, but it’s more romance than rom-com. “As for the scenes of a sexual nature”… if you want to see more of Moore, how Lowe can you go…