Part of the joy is not always knowing who the good guys are. Tarantino shot Pulp Fiction as a time-twisting weave of stories where villains can become heroes, or a guy peppered with bullets in one scene comes back from the dead, so to speak, in the next. Behind it all is a hipness in everything from the wardrobe to the set design to the beat-heavy soundtrack that kicks off with Dick Dale’s guitar classic “Misirlou” in the opening credits.
100 Greatest Gangster Films
May 25th, 2013
May 24th, 2013
Enrico Bandello was the prototype for every film gangster who followed. The tight-fitting three-piece suits, the high-collared shirt and tie, the fedora and the ever-present cigar—Rico brought it all to the big screen. There was also the tough-guy lingo, usually delivered out of the side of the mouth.
May 23rd, 2013
There are references to Hawthorne, Shakespeare and James Joyce. Conversely, and while we didn’t keep count, the IMDb website notes that the film also includes 237 uses of the word “fuck” or its derivatives. According to IMDb, that’s the most ever in a film that won the Best Picture Oscar.
May 22nd, 2013
One of the reasons the movie works so well is the interplay between Pacino and Johnny Depp, who established himself as more than just a pretty-boy actor with his performance here as Joe Pistone. Using the undercover name Donnie Brasco (a name Pistone “borrowed” from a cousin), the street-smart, New Jersey-raised FBI agent manages to infiltrate a major New York crime family by posing as a jewel thief and hustler who knows how to make money.
May 21st, 2013
The genesis of this complex thriller was a magazine article, or—more accurately—the headline of an article. Director Bryan Singer was thumbing through Spy magazine in 1992 when he turned to a story entitled, “The Usual Suspects” after Claude Rains’ classic line in Casablanca. Hmm, thought Singer. Now that would make a good title for a movie.
May 20th, 2013
In the opening shot of Casino, a man in a salmon-colored sports jacket climbs into his Lincoln Continental. He turns the key and the car explodes. Then, as director Martin Scorsese explains it, “You see him in slow motion, flying over the flames—like a soul about to take a dive into hell.”
May 19th, 2013
Still, there’s something beyond the stereotypes and the arcane movie talk that makes this a great film. For one, the story it tells remains—as it was then—the American dream come to life: an immigrant from humble beginnings gets the money, gets the power, gets the women. The bad guy has always mesmerized audiences, and Muni is as magnetic as Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were a half-century later.
May 18th, 2013
Once Upon a Time in America tells the lifelong tale of a clan of Jewish mobsters. It has two main chapters—set in 1920 and 1933—plus a third chapter, set in 1968. Each chapter deals with power and sex and treachery.
May 17th, 2013
He’s a highly efficient—but in many ways naïve—hit man who drinks milk, exercises religiously and seems obsessed with the care and maintenance of a houseplant. She’s a 12-year-old who smokes, curses and is wise way beyond her years. Together they form an unlikely crime team in this fascinating and unusual look at the New York underworld.
May 16th, 2013
One of the best things about watching Mean Streets more than 30 years after its debut is that you know what’s coming after this. And so you look and you watch and you listen for little signs—small scenes that are the roots and the seedlings of the Scorsese/De Niro oeuvre.
May 15th, 2013
Reservoir Dogs is an action film without much action. A crime drama in which you never see the main crime take place. A comedy that makes you sometimes feel uneasy about laughing. A buddy movie where the buddies end up killing each other.
May 14th, 2013
A remake of the 1932 classic of the same name starring Paul Muni, Al Pacino’s Scarface is more often compared to his other underworld epics, The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II. All four movies are about the immigrant experience and a charismatic figure from the underclass using any means possible to realize the American dream. The dream, of course, becomes a nightmare.
May 13th, 2013
This was film noir, movies where evil not only exists, but flourishes. Cagney’s Cody Jarrett isn’t a charismatic outlaw who viewers could vicariously admire, but rather a despicable embodiment of immorality, a man who takes what he wants whenever he wants it, mocking and abusing all those he comes in contact with—including the cops, members of his own gang and his less-than-virtuous wife, Verna (Virginia Mayo).
May 12th, 2013
A Bronx Tale is more than a wonderful portrait of growing up around the mob in the 1960s. Written by Chazz Palminteri, directed by Robert De Niro and starring both, the movie is a primer on life. No film this side of The Godfather provides as many valuable life lessons.
May 10th, 2013
“Young people understood this movie instantly,” director Arthur Penn told the Los Angeles Times. “They saw Bonnie and Clyde as rebels like themselves. It was a movie that spoke to a generation in a way none of us had really expected.”
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