Ever had to take a leak during a long movie but didn’t want to miss the action? Runpee.com tells you the best time to go and also what you will (not) miss. They will soon have an iPhone app you can use to check PeeTimes, along with a timer that tells you how much longer you need to, um, hold it.
Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is a hell that we don’t want to see, but some of us live in. Travis Bickle, a Vietnam veteran, taxi driver, is a desperate alienated man who tries to make contact but fails repeatedly. After a series of failed attempts to connect, he is so lonely that he asks himself in the mirror, “Who you talkin’ to?”
This powerful loneliness is the epicenter of the havoc Travis creates, and though his character is one of the strangest of all movie heroes, many people connect with him because they have experienced something like that in their lives.
When a girl rejects him, the camera dollies away to an empty hallway. It is as if the girl’s rejection is unbearable, but later we are shown the horror of violence in excruciating detail. The camera’s avoidance of the rejection is the most important shot according to Scorsese. He once said “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out”, but in this case, he keeps an important thing out of the frame.
Varying speeds of slow motion are used dramatically, either while observing faces in close-up or to increase awareness of Travis’s point of view. For example, the shots of the taxi are at normal speed, but what Travis observes on the street from inside it are in slow motion. Scorsese takes us inside the mind of Travis without using dialog.
See Thurman’s excellent analysis of how Scorsese pays homage via allusions in Taxi Driver.
Taxi Driver is great because it is not a superficial, violent, portrait of a sociopath. It actually takes us inside the mind and character of such alienated people, helping us understand them better. If you look at Martin Scorsese, he looks so gentle that it seems he won’t even hurt a fly. He grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood with violence all around him, and says he just wanted to be a parish priest. Those childhood days underlie many of his films, and it is important to understand Taxi Driver in the context of his own words:
Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.
Extravagant, spectacular, and dramatic, Titanic is the most-voted for movie that is not in the IMDB Top 250 charts. Clearly, there are those who like it and those who don’t. Here are some reasons why I like it:
I admire Cameron. He took great ridicule and criticism in his stride for making the costliest and most delayed motion picture, while working as a one-man army as producer, director, writer, and editor. Heck, he even drew the sketches of the artist hero, Jack! It is a reach of greatness against all odds.
Attention to detail in an epic of this size is ‘beyond fanatical’ as the NYT puts it. One of the longest Trivia section in the IMDB details the extraordinary extent to which Cameron went to make the movie seem real. Learning about the meticulous level of detail will make you realize that you need multiple viewings to appreciate it.
The characterizations and storyline of the romance was deliberately ‘standard fare’, since any attempt at serious character study would have been dwarfed by the vision of the script – to create a cinematic spectacle of the tragedy of the Titanic.
Unforgettable touching scenes: a mother reading to her children while knowing they are doomed, an old couple embracing in a watery grave, musicians performing while staring at death in the face.
The actual tragedy doesn’t strike us or the characters in an instant, like many times in real life. The gravity of the situation slowly descends upon us, slowly. This is handled very sensitively, unlike sudden hysteria so typical of disaster movies.
Awe-inspiring special effects that are subservient to the story and not the other way around.
The movie educates the audience of the ships layout and its physics in an entertaining fashion before tragedy strikes. This is ingenuous, because after it strikes, we actually understand all the stages of the sinking without being focused on the physics. Rather, we are so knowledgeable about the ship that we are fully immersed in the tragedy, emotionally involved with the characters, and know exactly what is happening and will happen.
Making a suspenseful, engaging movie of this kind is a technological feat. Making it without altering the facts or deviating from history, and weaving a romantic drama in it, is virtually impossible. Cameron is a genius who achieves it.
Tenue De Soiree was weirdly interesting. As a kid, I actually enjoyed the 1978 British adaptation of The Thirty Nine Steps more than Hitchcock’s version. Two Half-Times in Hell, Zoltán Fábri’s Hungarian masterpiece that ‘inspired’ Hollywood’s Escape to Victory, is highly recommended. Ozu’s Tokyo Monogatari is high up on a mountain that I am still learning to scale – simple, powerful, and now competing with Citizen Kane as one of the best films ever made. So, here are my noteworthy mentions:
- Throne of Blood: Kurosawa’s adaptation of Macbeth with the extremely powerful acting of Mifune is stunning. The end of the film where Mifune is killed by a thousand arrows is unbelievable, breathtaking, and iconic in cinematic lore.
- Terminator II: Pure entertainment.
- The Third Man: One of the best-ever film noir movies, that I saw only once and want to see again.
- To Kill A Mockingbird, a beautiful adaptation of a classic.
- The Terminal, Spielberg’s entertaining light film of an immigrant with a unique problem. Observe the entire construction of the set of the Terminal and study Janusz Kaminski’s unbelievable, astounding camera work.