#332- Atlantic City

Quick recap: An aging gangster tries to continue being relevant. He helps a woman with her estranged husband’s funeral, sells coke and gets into a turf war with mobsters.

And starring Susan Sarandon , who likes to take lemon baths

Fun (?) fact: For a movie about gangsters, there’s a surprisingly sparse amount of trivia on IMDb. The best fact I can find is that shortly after filming the movie, Burt Lancaster nearly died from a gall bladder operation.

I spent a good chunk of time thinking Burt Lancaster was Matlock. Turns out that was Andy Griffith, so I guess I can’t tell my old white guys apart.

My thoughts: Hey! It’s good to be back, or something like that. I’ve had a couple of months of constant sickness, including losing my hearing for two weeks so you’d think I would’ve chosen a stronger film to celebrate my return to hearing. Unfortunately, that’s not how life goes.

I actually started Atlantic City with high hopes. The beginning was engaging, although Sarandon felt out of place. That could just be because I’ve seen her in so many other roles. In this one, she plays the estranged wife of a drug dealer who apparently knocked up her sister and then took off with her. While I wasn’t too keen on her placement, the guy who plays the deadbeat husband is SPOT ON:

 

Like, so spot on I could imagine what he smelled like. So anyway, Dave (pictured above) comes back with the knocked up sister to sell drugs. From here, a whole bunch of plot stuff happens that I don’t want to get into because a) there’s too much and b) everything plays out how you expect it to, once you know the characters. The other important character is Lou, the aging gangster. He is introduced in the first scene, secretly spying on Sarandon giving herself a lemon bath. She later claims this is to get the fish smell off of her, but I’m pretty sure soap does that. The next scene is of him taking orders from an old lady and running errands for him. So, early on I got the idea that he has a hear of gold but also a streak in him. Or maybe just a thing for lemon baths.

Skipping ahead to the ending (because I can), Lou eventually shoots and kills two mobsters whom Dave stole coke from. It is revealed that he has a habit of skipping out on friends when their life is in danger, so this is some sort of breakthrough I don’t think most psychologists would endorse. Honestly, the only redeeming part of this movie was the actual setting- Atlantic City. The buildings seemed to have so much character to them and I could perfect imagine this rundown resort city, past its prime but ready for its moment. There’s a scene when Robert Goulet drops by to croon and if I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought this was a Lynch film, it was so surreal. There was a part of me that wished I was still deaf so I could just watch the scenes and not have to deal with the wacky plot and subpar characters.

Final review: 2/5.

Up next: Le Samourai

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#331- The King of Comedy

Quick recap: Aspiring comedian Rupert Pupkin wants nothing more in the world than to be on the Jerry Langford Show and will do anything to secure his spot.

Fun (?) fact: Robert De Niro, a method actor, said anti-Semitic remarks to Jerry Lewis to get a rise out of him during the scene when he crashes his weekend home. It worked.

My thoughts: This movie was a total surprise- from the time I learned it was directed by Martin Scorsese to my first glimpses of Robert De Niro to the ridiculous ending. And I loved it all, even if the embarrassing moments made me want to hide forever.

With a name like The King of Comedy, I expected something hokey and I was a little disappointed that Scorsese would go for such cheap comedy. But from the very first scene as Jerry Langford tries to exit his building through a mob of rabid fans, I knew I was in for something dark. De Niro is perfect as Rupert Pupkin. I found myself constantly wavering between feeling sorry for him and supremely annoyed. The same with Sandra Bernhard as Masha, although she made me cringe much more than have empathy for her. Rupert and Masha are in this microcosm of fans who are obsessed with a celebrity and they feed off of each other. Rupert, as mentioned above, is an aspiring comedian but about the only practice he does is make tapes of himself pretending to be on the Jerry Langford Show. He is so determined to be there that this becomes his focus, instead of actually honing his craft. And Masha is just in love with Jerry and is convinced they deserve to be together.

Rupert’s fantasies of a relationship with Jerry Langford are confusing because they blend in so well with the actual plot. The first one is of Langford begging him to take over the show because he needs a break for a few weeks. It’s very obvious this is a figment of his imagination but the end of the movie has Rupert actually becoming a star because he kidnapped Langofrd and I can’t tell whether this really happened or not. There’s a point in the film about how obsessive the public can be with celebrities and how fleeting that love can be, so it would make sense Rupert lives in infamy just as much as it makes sense he is completely forgotten. Not knowing somehow makes this movie even darker and more sad. And speaking of which, Rupert’s set on tv is so self-deprecating that it physically hurt to watch but the audience loved it. Or did they? I kind of love that I don’t know for sure.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Atlantic City

#330- Amarcord

Quick recap: stories of various residents in an Italian city in the 1930s

same, most days

Fun (?) fact: Amarcord is a phonetic translation from the Italian phrase ‘A m’arcord’, which means ‘I remember’.

The scene I’m mostly likely going to remember

My thoughts: Seeing as this is my 3rd Fellini film, Amarcord is a make or break film in regards to how I see him as a director. I was confused but amused by both Juliet of the Spirits and 8 1/2 which is as good a review I’m willing to give Italian cinema. I enjoyed Amarcord the most of the 3 and was proud that this time there was no confusion, except for reading trivia afterwards and learning that there are several scathing rebukes of fascism. Oops.

Without sounding too dramatic, I was completely in love with the movie from the very beginning. I always try to go into a film without knowing much so that I can make an unbiased judgement so I fully thought ‘Amarcord’ was some woman. The first part of the movie starts with a bonfire to celebrate the start of spring and then there’s a scene at a religious school. I patiently waited for ‘Amarcord’ to show up and I grew more excited to see how all the characters would all connect. And then I eventually realized that this was more a vignette style of story rather than one centered on a handful of characters. Somehow this realization made the movie infinitely more interesting and I wish that I could go back and watch the beginning again so I can soak up everyone.

Growing up in a small town, I could connect to this Italian town somewhat. My tiny Texas town was decidedly less depraved than this one but there were ‘characters’ that stood out and tall tales that have been passed down for generations. And even though it’s become somewhat of a trope, I loved how Fellini used seasons to indicate the passage of time. Small towns live on traditions and this one is no different. Also, I totally wish mine had an endurance car race like the Mille Miglia or a boat expedition to see the new luxury cruise. We mainly just had parades and football games, although those came with their own set of problems for the locals to discuss again and again.

Even though there is a sad scene, the movie ends with a wedding, as the seasons drift right back toward spring. The whole experience was lovely and makes me wonder if I have been too harsh on Italian cinema recently.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: The King of Comedy

#329- Three Kings

Quick recap: Set during the Persian Gulf War, a group of military men head out on a rogue mission to find gold

It’s Maeby from Arrested Development!

Fun (?) fact: I’m just going to quote this straight from the IMDb trivia page:

During the editing stages, David O. Russell attended a fund raiser for George W. Bush at a Warner Brothers executive’s house. Russell walked up to Bush and said, “Hi, I’m editing a film that will question your father’s legacy in Iraq.” Bush shot back, “Well I guess I’m going to have to go back there and finish the job.”

Yeah.

The man sure can dodge a shoe though

My thoughts: War is hell, you guys. Yadda yadda yadda. If you watch Three Kings like I did, though, you’ll become jaded towards all things war. I’ve never considered myself a pacifist but this movie had me questioning all sorts of things- like, what really is the point of war? Is it ever really necessary? And who can we trust to keep things in line? Let me tell you something, an existential crisis was not what I had planned for the holiday break.

Despite the snazzy script and slick cinematography, Three Kings is fairly scathing look the Gulf War. Casting the likes of George Clooney, Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg makes it seem like this is a buddy heist romp, but it’s actually a complicated story. The beginning of the film, which is set at the end of the war, plays out like I imagined it really did- a bunch of confused but happy 18 year olds quick to pat themselves on the back for a job well done even though they didn’t do much. I was put off by the careless attitudes of the three kings (even though it’s really 4 guys) as they started out on their journey, although I knew that was the point- to show that no one really understood what was going on. By the end of the film, everyone learns a valuable lesson about war being hell and so on but it was frustrating how many lives were lost before that point hit home.

I think my main issue with the movie was George Clooney’s character Archie Gates. He has a Bugs Bunny quality about him- always one step ahead and a scheme to get out of trouble. I think I was supposed to cheer for him and the men but I just couldn’t. I know they did the right thing in the end but there was so much that was wrong to get to that point. It just showed how flawed the system is. And I think what taints this movie more is that 4 years after Three Kings was released, we were back in Iraq dealing with the mess we left. War isn’t just hell. It’s bullshit.

Final review: 2/5. Kept my attention but disagreed with almost everything else.

Up next: Amarcord