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Entries in Robert De Niro (14)

Wednesday
Apr152015

Best Shot: "Taxi Driver" Visual Index

For this week's edition of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" our series in which we invite everyone to watch the same movie and pick their best image -- "best" being in the eye of the beholder -- we flag down Martin Scorsese and he drives us right into the squalor of 70s era New York and further still into the head space of one Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro). Though Scorsese had already broken through as an important auteur, this controversial classic was the first of his eventual eight "Best Picture" nominees. It was only the third Director of Photography job ever for Michael Chapman and though Chapman didn't become Scorsese regular cinematographer, he did reunite with the director for another classic (Raging Bull)

Best Shots from Taxi Driver (1976)
14 shots chosen by 15 participating blogs
Click on the image for the corresponding article 

New York as the very embodiment of hell on earth...
- The Spy in the Sandwich

The protagonist as silent predator...
-Antagony & Ecstasy 


The movie is basically made up of perfect frames, over 150,000 of them...
-Nebel Without a Cause 

It’s voyeurism, and he’s the audience...
-Coco Hits NY

Is Taxi Driver suggesting that evil is contagious... as it transfers it directly from the auteur to his muse?
- The Film Experience 


Simple gestures can function as shorthand for multiple meanings...
-Manuel Muñoz 

As if his fate is already predetermined...
-A Fistful of Films

One of the things that I've always admired about this film is the omnipresence of the political campaign in the background..."
-The Entertainment Junkie 


'You do a thing... that's who you are..."
-Sorta That Guy 

 I saw it within him because I recognized it within myself..."
-The Film's The Thing 

Never more unsettling than when he stands in a crowd clapping and smiling...
-Zitzelfilm 

Robert De Niro, I will always love you."
-Paul Outlaw

Above all, it's a fascinating character study of its titular vigilante
-Film Actually 


 'like an angel' by Travis Bickle's own account."
-Queerer Things 

 

The looking and the longing..."
-Dusty Hixenbaugh 

 

THE END. And can we talk about the end? I have... feelings.

Next Week on Best Shot:
The classic comedy Nine to Five (1980). Have you ever considered how it looks? We're watching it because we're too excited for Lily Tomlin & Jane Fonda's new series Grace & Frankie to hit Netflix next month.

Wednesday
Apr152015

Taxi Driver is *about* the movies

Taxi Driver is about the movies. That's my thesis at least. Oh sure it's about a few other things, too. But consider this: as early as the very first shot of Travis Bickle's yellow cab on duty, it drives right across a movie theater marquee (showing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) via our low angle view. 

Cinematography by Michael Chapman

Massacre? An overstatement of foreshadowing perhaps but we will get to the killings in two hours. On the other hand, since we're in Travis Bickle's headspace even more than we're in the cab, you could argue that the massacres start much much earlier. In one of Taxi Driver's most famous images, Travis, alone in a theater trains his finger pistol on porn actors on the screen and begins to fire away. It's a frighteningly short jump from finger guns to actual guns and we watch him training them on random civilians in the street from a window as well as on actors on the television set.

But what prompts the descent into violent fantasy/reality?

I'd argue that the key to understanding Taxi Driver, this reading at least, is Martin Scorsese's racist, misogynist, and altogether terrifying presence in the backseat. About halfway through the movie Scorsese's unnamed fare directs Travis to sit with the meter running outside a building and the camera drifts up, on Scorsese's orders, to frame, quite literally, the target of the director's violence in a window, his supposed wife in silhouette. The director is directing and storytelling within his own directed story.

"I got some bad ideas in my head"The fare shares his violent fantasy of murdering the woman and her lover. From that moment on, Travis himself is caught up in his own violent fantasies. Is Taxi Driver suggesting that violence or evil is contagious and transferring it directly from the auteur to his muse? Or is Scorsese's fare the driver's own fantasy, a convenient projection in the rearview mirror. Many movie fans take the events of Taxi Driver literally, but I'm not so sure it's happening as we see it. Just as Travis sees it. Consider the epilogue in which he is regarded as a hero and even the girl who rejected him reevaluates. The last thing we see in the movie appears to be Travis looking at himself in the rear view mirror in a collision of quick cuts, jittery camera, and reflected street lights.

At one point in that disturbing director/muse fare/driver scene, the camera drifts from Scorsese's shadowed face to Travis's. As it lingers on Travis's face we're hearing Scorsese's voice "You think I'm sick don't you." In the very next scene Travis expresses concern to a fellow driver that he has bad thoughts in his head. Was this one of them -- Travis in conversation with himself?

best shot

Like Patrick Bateman decades later, maybe Travis 'doesn't exist' or doesn't want to. His co-worker tells him, "You become the thing you do." And the movie seems to agree.

Travis reduces his humanity throughout Taxi Driver, even physically, as he slims down to better hide how many weapons he's now carrying. Soon he is only violent fantasy. And then violent reality. This, my choice, for best shot tells us as much. Travis, whatever he was, is less and less that. Travis is a weapon. In a viewfinder. Scorsese is framing him for us but Travis Bickle is always staring right back in one of the most unsettling films of the 70s. 

 

TONIGHT AT 11 - THE FULL BEST SHOT INDEX 

Wednesday
Dec042013

Team Top Ten: Oscar's Greatest Losers (Actor Edition)

Al Pacino won his Oscar on his eighth nomination. He deserved it more the other seven times!Amir here, back with another monthly team poll. Back in May, we had a look at the Best Actress Oscars and picked what we thought were the greatest losers in history. Since we all love symmetry, it’s only fair to give the losing gentlemen their chance to shine. And it's also quite topical in December 2013. This year's Best Actor race has so many worthy choices that the losers are inevitably worth celebrating in advance. 

This was an incredibly arduous task. Though we may all have our regular disagreements with AMPAS, there’s no denying the wealth of talent on display in their record of movie history. These are some of the most iconic performances in film history and to narrow them down to just ten is a fool’s errand. List-making always is! How does one judge Mickey Rourke’s brooding anti-hero Wrestler against Chaplin’s satirical Great Dictator?  Is tortured Joaquin Phoenix in The Master too fresh in the memory to compare to tortured James Mason? Jack Lemmon in The Apartment or Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot? It’s heartbreaking to leave anyone out, but now it’s done. Have a look for yourself and let us know who would have made your list. 

THE 10 GREATEST BEST-ACTOR-LOSING PERFORMANCES
after the jump

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Aug082013

Where My Girls At? Blonde Edition

Let's check in with some of our favorite ladies to see what they're up to, shall we? When I daydream I sometimes imagine Actresses sitting near piles of scripts in eeny-meeny-miney-mo fashion though some of them have larger stacks then others.

AMANDA & CHARLIZE
Amanda is on my brain because she had the good taste and self awareness to agree with the world very recently that Mean Girls is still her best performance. She'll next be seen in the porn drama Lovelace, which might have some legal trouble brewing. After that she has a lot of movies lined up but the one I'm curious about at the moment is the western comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West.

Seth MacFarlane managed to nab two of the most beautiful and busiest actresses in Hollywood for the film. While he was super annoying as an Oscar host it's important to remember that his last effort Ted was more hilarious than we were expecting and in more varied ways than its high-concept synopsis suggested. "Western Comedy" doesn't generally scream "great roles for the ladies" and the plot synopsis doesn't help in determining whether Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried will have anything of note to do:

A cowardly farmer seeks the help of a gunslinger's wife to help him win back the woman who left him.

That could mean that they're both "the girl" aka...just there to be pretty and maybe sassy/badass but basically just facilitate the man's journey and his heterosexuality. But let's hope the roles are fun even if they're non-dimensional since both Charlize & Amanda have wicked comic timing.

AMANDA'S MAMMA MIA MOMMY
First Truth: I not-so secretly wish Meryl Streep, The Undisputed Queen of American Cinema, would step down from her throne for a two-year hiatus aso I could be REALLY excited about seeing her again the way I was in 2002-2003 when she surged back to artistic dominance with not one not two but three of the best performances of her career back to back to back. Second Truth: Even though I feel this way I rarely miss a Streep movie, so I'll be there for Into the Osage County Woods but I must admit that I am considerably less excited to hear about the two films she'll follow those up with.

She'll be reteaming with Robert DeNiro for the fourth time for the adaptation of the novel The Good House. The stars were romantically paired in The Deer Hunter (1978, beloved and best-picture winning) and Falling in Love (1984, modest but worth it for, well, the modesty of Streep just playing a normal woman) but I honestly can't remember their roles in Marvin's Room (1996) which is the last time they shared the screen. The last time I remember thinking about Marvin's Room was in 1997 when I was puzzled on nomination morning that Diane Keaton snagged a nod for it.

Meryl is also in talks to join Jeff Bridges in the adaptation of the dystopian novel The Giver as "the society’s Chief Elder, an authoritative and antagonistic woman who assigns the young their tasks".  [Temper Tantrum] Sounds like a perfect role for Michelle Pfeiffer. I realize it's useless to hold on to the now 24 year old dream that that Fabulous Baker Boy and his Susie Diamond would one day reunite onscreen. If they never do they're dumb and I hate them. [/Temper Tantrum]

SPEAKING OF...
Meanwhile La Pfeiffer has nothing in the immediate future after this year's The Family but here's her new character poster.

"___ is One Bad Mother" sounds like a tagline for a Julianne Moore flick.  

Michelle might co-star with Tim Robbins in Man Under about a couple thrust into the art world. I would be VERY excited about this one since Robbins is a good director and all three of his previous films have the smartness going for them which is, frankly, something Michelle's filmography could use. But Robbins hasn't actually directed a feature in over 12 years so who knows if financing will come together before the famously skittish Pfeiffer bolts. 

how did i miss Kate being honored at Buckingham Palace last year?We end with...

KATE THE GREAT
Things went silent for Kate Winslet on the big screen post-Oscar win (The Reader, 2008) but she's back at Christmas with Labor Day and after that, something infinitely more exciting on paper: The Dressmaker with the one and only Judy Davis (who really ought to get a few of the roles that Streep/Mirren/Dench get if you ask me). The pairing of two world class actresses piques interest but this description from director Jocelyn Moorhouse is everything:

the tale of love, revenge and 1950s haute couture... “Unforgiven with a sewing machine.”

I'll just be over here mopping up gray matter because my mind is blown.

Saturday
Jun292013

Release Date Shuffle: Oscar Players, Musical Wars, Franchise Heroes

I know most film blogs make a post for every teaser, release date, and every last press release. I frankly don't have the time but even if I did... why encourage Hollywood's itchy trigger fingers when they're constantly fussily rescrambling their pieces on the puzz--I'm mixing too many metaphors--  Moving on to the Release Date Switches/Announcements. We're less than 200 days away from Oscar nominations! So yes, we gotta update those charts again soon, I know.

Oscarable Switcheroos
August: Osage County has, as you now, moved to Christmas day, despite its summer friendly title. And Saving Mr Banks, the Mary Poppins related Disney flick is opting to get out in front of the Christmas crowd a bit with a December 13th bow. Meanwhile Twelve Years a Slave, from director Steve McQueen and Grace of Monaco, the new Kidman flick, both move from the Dread Oscar Eligibility Dump Week (that awful New Years week) into airier mid October. And October is getting busier and busier, really because Ridley Scott's The Counselor (just discussed) has also moved from its intended mid November start to late October.

Contrary to popular belief this does not automatically mean that the studios are less gung ho about their Oscar chances. Oscar watchers (and, yes, distributors sometimse) often forget that you don't have to open in late December to be a player. It helps to open in the last third of the year though, sure! But MANY MANY films have had good luck in September (your Argos and your American Beautys), October (your Departeds) and November (your Slumdogs and your No Countrys) among other months. 

Your Oscar calendar is currently looking like this... [Oscar Types, Superheroes and Meryl vs. Annie after the jump]

woo woo ♪ here comes the life of the Oscar partay

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun052013

Yes, No, Maybe So? "Malavita"... Which is Now "The Family"

It's not every month, hell, it's not every year when we get the trailer to a new Michelle Pfeiffer movie so naturally we have to talk about Malavita again. Or, I guess, The Family as it's been rechristened before release. It's always a pity when a movie ditches a really specific title for one that could work for thousands of movies and thus stakes no claim on personality whatsoever.

Perhaps the trailer itself has personality. Let's watch and discuss.

[watches]

Okay. Only watch that if you're the kind of person who doesn't care about spoilers. IF you are this kind of person i envy you because the movie studios don't care about them either - they love shovin' them into trailers. I get the sense you're basically seeing the whole movie here.  But we gotta break it down anyway as we do because...

LA PFEIFFER IS BACK

YES

  • Michelle Pfeiffer saying "merci"
  • This might be funny. It's kinda tough to tell in the trailer because so much of comedy depends on good editing and trailers never have a sense of that since they're cutting entirely different scenes and dialogue together for their specific 2 minute effect
  • The return of Michelle Pfeiffer's Married to the Mob accent "we're not in Brooklyn anymore"
  • Michelle Pfeiffer driving that car with those sunglasses
  • Tommy Lee Jones has been on a real roll lately. Does this end the party or continue it?
  • and Michelle Pfeiffer as fire starter. Bring it bitch. 

NO

  • After Silver Linings Playbook, I'd like to believe that Robert DeNiro is back to acting rather than cashing in but a mob comedy is probably not the place to believe that.
  • Whenever trailers show this much of the wink-wink laughs and action, I worry about "those are all the best parts" and there's a lot of ways in which this might be super offensive (xenophobia, "hurting people is hilarious!" immaturity and so on) rather than funny. 

MAYBE SO

 

  • Luc Besson, in the director's seat, isn't totally reliable.
  • The casting of the kids looks great visually but Dianna Agron coasts a lot on her looks and when you're playing Pfeiffer's daughter... well, she better take it up a notch. Pfeiffer never did that and good lord she could have coasted for decades with the ones she got.
  • Also: Can you believe my restraint that I only used one photo of Pfeiffer to illustrate this?

Here's the trailer if you don't mind spoilers.

Are you a Yes, No or Maybe So?