Tag Archives: Robert De Niro

The Set of 400: #28 – My Favorite Counterfeit $20s

Today! Because you didn’t know I was lying to you when you lied to me down by the river. So as far as you knew, you lied to me first –

Midnight Run (1988)

Directed by Martin Brest

Starring Robert De Niro (x7), Charles Grodin (x3), Dennis Farina (x3), Joe Pantoliano (x5), Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton (x2), Jack Kehoe (x3), Philip Baker Hall (x6), Lois Smith (x2), Tracey Walter (x2), Richard Foronjy, Wendy Phillips, Tom McCleister, Danielle DuClos

On some level, I didn’t know this movie had any awareness at all until that Rick and Morty episode where they drop Jerry off at the interplanetary day care for Jerrys, and they all watch Midnight Run with the DVD commentary (which I’ve never done, but sounds amazing). Like, you never hear anyone mention this movie, it wasn’t a particularly big hit in its day, sure it had a few minor award nominations (Best Comedy/Musical and Actor at the Globes, Top Ten film from the National Board of Review), but that’s about it. I secretly believed that maybe this was a minor wonder of a film that me and a handful of people watching daytime syndicated channels in the early ’90s knew about at all.

I also vaguely remember a story where John Ashton (tremendous here as rival bounty hunter Marvin Dorfler) got cast in…something because the filmmakers were big Midnight Run fans, but for the life of me I can’t remember the movie, or find this story on the internet. Gone Baby Gone, maybe? He’s got a ton of credits, but not much that I’ve seen, and would’ve likely brushed up against this tidbit. Anyone hear this story?

Dorfler!

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The Set of 400: #31 – My Favorite Dog Painting (Modern)

Today! Because as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster –

Goodfellas (1990)

Directed by Martin Scorsese (x5)

Starring Ray Liotta (x3), Robert De Niro (x6), Joe Pesci (x3), Lorraine Bracco (x3), Paul Sorvino (x3), Frank Vincent, Mike Starr, Tony Darrow (x2), Frank Sivero, Chuck Low, Gina Mastrogiacomo, Catherine Scorsese, Samuel L. Jackson (x12), Suzanne Shepherd, Debi Mazar (x2), Michael Imperioli, Kevin Corrigan (x3), Tony Sirico (x2), Illeana Douglas (x2), Paul Herman, Tony Lip, Vincent Pastore, Tobin Bell (x2), Vito Antuofermo, Frank Albanese, Johnny Williams, Elaine Kagan, Beau Starr, Welker White, Henny Youngman (x2), Jerry Vale, Isiah Whitlock Jr. (x2)

In the annals of great Oscar crimes, people are quick to jump on 1998, as I guess they feel Shakespeare in Love too frothy and inconsequential to beat the likes of Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, and Terrence Malick’s epic comeback to prominence, The Thin Red Line. I’m sure I’ve brought up Saving Private Ryan before, so I won’t get back into that again. But I think there’s a case that can be made for Shakespeare in Love – maybe not in that deep a year, but in some year. However, the great Oscar robbery of the ’90s and of all times isn’t that – hell, I could come up with a bunch of years more egregious than ’98. No, the worst hit job ever done was Dances With Wolves somehow beating Goodfellas for Best Picture/Director in 1990.

This boring goddamn thing

You can say that maybe the Academy didn’t want to go with the violent gangster film – even though they’d handed Best Picture to both the Godfathers by this point – but then the option became the pastoral white savior Native American movie? You’re telling me they didn’t realize how rough they’d snubbed Martin Scorsese all those years and couldn’t recognize his (ever so slightly) waning greatness, and figure maybe it was time to reward him when a truly, truly great film came along, instead of waiting for the next convenient time, which wouldn’t arrive for over a decade and a half? Plus, what, they had to give Kevin Costner an Oscar?? The 1990 Academy Awards make no sense whatsoever, so stuff your Saving Private Ryan griping. That 45 great minutes wrapped around two hours of next to nothing isn’t in the same ballpark.

Remember how Captain Miller’s last words basically show how meaningless his life was and he only existed to teach Ryan a lesson? Remember that? Remember how you think the old guy at the beginning is Miller (because of the whole eye-jump though time) but it’s not Miller, because of how lazy the device was? Ugh, Saving Private Ryan, I swear to God

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The Set of 400: #82 – My Favorite Fishing Strategy

Today! Because when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we’ve chosen –

The Godfather: Part II (1974) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (x2) Starring Al Pacino (x4), Robert De Niro (x5), John Cazale (x2), Robert Duvall (x2), Diane Keaton (x4), Michael V. Gazzo (x2), Talia Shire (x4), Lee Strasberg, G.D. Spradlin, Bruno Kirby (x3), Gastone Moschin, Richard Bright, Morgana King, Troy Donahue, Dominic Chianese (x2), Joe Spinell (x2), Abe Vigoda (x2), Gianni Russo, James Caan (x3), Harry Dean Stanton (x4), Danny Aiello (x3), John Aprea (x2)

The Godfather was my dad’s favorite movie. To be more specific, what he really loved was the collection he referred to as The Complete Novel for Television – which came to be known in a variety of different ways on home video and re-airings over the years. This compilation, first aired on network TV in 1977, pulls apart The Godfather: Part II and rearranges the whole thing chronologically, while removing some of the violence and nudity. And this was the most frequent way Rosco (not his real name, or the customary spelling) would watch it. You know how I’ve mentioned before about series of films in my early life blending together into one mass? I think it can all be attributed to seeing The Godfather movies meshed together like this almost exclusively for years. He preferred this huge, six-hour version of the story to the separate films, so that’s what he’d watch. I’m not sure I actually saw The Godfather: Part II the way it was originally intended until I was in my twenties. And, yeah, it probably works better in the original format – with young Vito’s rise set opposite Michael’s epic struggles. As iconic and basically perfect as the first film is, my favorite part of the whole series is early 1900’s Vito arriving at Ellis Island and clawing his way up through New York organized crime.

It’s everyone’s favorite, isn’t it?

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The Set of 400: #127 – My Favorite Facelift

Today! Because if you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating –

Brazil (1985)

Directed by Terry Gilliam (x3)

Starring Jonathan Pryce (x2), Kim Greist, Ian Holm (x3), Michael Palin (x3), Robert De Niro (x4), Katherine Helmond (x3), Bob Hoskins (x2), Peter Vaughan, Ian Richardson, Jim Broadbent (x4), Barbara Hicks, Gorden Kaye, Simon Jones, Charles McKeown

Terry Gilliam’s dystopian, bureaucratic hellscape has very little obviously to do with the country of Brazil. Allegedly, in some deleted scene or old script treatment or something, the bug that falls in the printer at the beginning of the film that kicks off the whole misidentification caper is seen traveling across the globe from Brazil, thus the title and the modified usage of the great old tune “Aquarela do Brasil” as the theme song.

I also think of Brazil as the ultimate Gilliam movie, coming as it does after Python and his more fantastic adventures Jabberwocky and Time Bandits, but before the somewhat more realistic goings on in The Fisher King and Fear and Loathing (somewhat is the key there). It merges the two eras neatly – not unlike Twelve Monkeys would later – bridging pure fantasy/sci-fi with relatable human issues in a bizarro satirical context. It’s funny while being frustrating and horrifying in the world they’ve created, while also not being all that far afield from the mundane drudgery of working and living in an even remotely regimented society. Jonathan Pryce’s Sam Lowry being shifted between interchangeable government jobs under paranoid, crazed bosses and sharing a desk with a co-worker in another room all sort of makes sense once you’re out in the workplace for a bit. This is a movie I’ve long loved, for the weirdness and futurism, but have only really appreciated the underlying struggles as the years since college have piled higher and deeper. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #131 – My Favorite Coughing Endorsement

Today! Because to her dumb country ass, Compton is Hollywood. Closest she’s ever been anyway –

Jackie Brown (1997)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino (x2)

Starring Pam Grier (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x5), Robert Forster (x2), Robert De Niro (x3), Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton (x7), Chris Tucker (x2), Michael Bowen (x2), Tiny Lister (x2), LisaGay Hamilton, Hattie Winston, Sid Haig

To say I had been looking forward to Jackie Brown is woefully understating the situation in late 1997. It had been three years – three long formative years – since Pulp Fiction came out, and my whole cinematic outlook had gone through aggressive changes. I mean, going from 15 to 18 years old is going to have its own inherent alterations in lifestyle and tastes, but as I’ve said before, most of my film watching preferences were psychically embedded during this period of time. And PF was as close as anything to the heart of this transformation, so Tarantino finally bringing us his third film was a cause for celebration. Hell, it was a landmark event. It was the goddamn moon landing.

Never mind it was the return of national treasure Pam Grier

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The Set of 400: #354 – My Favorite Matchbook Clue

Today! Because a man becomes preeminent, he’s expected to have enthusiasms. What are mine? Baseball!

The Untouchables (1987)

Directed by Brian De Palma (x2)

Starring Kevin Costner (x2), Sean Connery (x2), Robert De Niro (x2), Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith, Jack Kehoe, Billy Drago, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Bradford, Brad Sullivan, Chelcie Ross, Clifton James, Del Close, Don Harvey

Brian De Palma’s second TV show adaptation to make the list, The Untouchables is in many ways the quintessential Chicago film. I mean, for all the basic improvement made here over the last hundred years, the two things you still hear most when the town comes up are the Great Fire and Al Capone. And while In Old Chicago is an okay bit of old Hollywood hokum about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, it’s not in common cinematic parlance. Al Capone, however, has a new biopic or pops up in some TV show every year or two, right? When we were in London last year, and some waiter asked where we were from, the first thing he mentioned in response? Al Capone. Who has been dead for 70 years.

Chicago icon!

And not to continue too far down this path, but Chicago doesn’t even actively try to embrace the gangster past here. Sure, there’s a cheesy Untouchables Gangster Bus Tour, but no museums, no Al Capone key chains at any of the more official city gift shops. And yet, it hangs on. People like gangster movies, that’s the only explanation. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #360 – My Favorite Movie Theater Cigar

Today! Because granddaddy used to handle snakes in church, Granny drank strychnine –

Cape Fear (1991)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, Joe Don Baker, Fred Thompson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Illeana Douglas, Martin Balsam (x2)

A terrifically tense, harrowing suspense thriller, for about an hour and a half, before collapsing into ludicrously violent madness. Sure, there were certain things Scorsese was locked into doing with Cape Fear, considering it’s a remake and all, but man, some of the choices made are…well, extreme. I think it comes at an interesting point in his career, and De Niro’s too. Figure, both were coming off of Goodfellas, which should’ve finally been the movie Marty won all the Oscars for, but instead it got screwed royally (I’m never forgiving anyone for Dances With Wolves), and through some manner of lashing out, we got Cape Fear. The directing is so intense it borders on intrusive, especially in the first half hour, but it does make for some pretty artsy handling of an otherwise straightforward crime thriller.

De Niro’s tattoos alone are so over-the-top as to question the sanity of everyone involved

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