Install Theme

Everybody Wants to be Us

Graduate Student at Loyola University Chicago. Check out the blog for what I'm currently obsessed with in film and culture. Michael Fassbender, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Winslet, Christian Bale, Jesse Eisenberg, David Lynch, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, and Daniel Radcliffe are regulars here.

#new york

"My advice for aspiring writers is to go to New York,” Mr. Kirn said. “And if you can’t go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests. Writing books begins in talking about it, like most human projects, and in being close to those who have already done what you propose to do."

-

"A Critic’s Tour of Literary Manhattan" By Dwight Garner

Opening Credits “25th Hour” (2002)

Watched the “25th Hour” last night and was completely mesmerized by this credit sequence.  As one of the first films to shoot in the city after September 11th Attacks, the credits bring you into a city that is changed, fractured, and full of rage and sadness. I love the score by Terence Blanchard, especially the vocal accents that play over various scenes.  

A City So Real: “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AL PACINO.  My favorite film of his is Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon.”  Here’s my review from last year. 

“C’Mon you’ve seen DOG DAY AFTERNOON! You’re stalling”- Det. Keith Frazier, INSIDE MAN.

From this line in Spike Lee’s New York bank heist film INSIDE MAN, I thought DOG DAY AFTERNOON would be some sort of primer for enterprising bank robbers.  So wrong.  Al Pacino’s Sonny Wortzik puts on a brave face for the cops and cameras outside of the bank, but makes an affable, almost lovable captor.  Still, Lee’s INSIDE MAN is the progeny of the great Sidney Lumet film in its depiction of a city as an organism with its own unique properties, life force, and peculiarities. In this matrix of  political and personal agendas Sonny must find a way out, hopefully alive if not closer to his goal.

In the course of the film, Sonny Wortzik emerges as an unexpected everyman.  At first I suspected he was a bumbling genius, anticipating all the angles and silent alarms in the bank.  Yet, he comes a day late to an empty vault, an asthmatic security guard, and a gaggle of high spirited bank tellers.  By his side is the nerve-racked Sal (John Cazale) clucking his gun.  As crowds and TV cameras gather outside, Sonny tries to elicit support and protection by referencing various political agendas.  To protect himself from trigger happy cops (who probably just want to end this standoff) Pacino as Sonny boisterously shouts “Attica, Attica! Remember Attica” to cheering crowds sick of NYPD brutality.  One the phone with a TV reporter, he channels the labor movement in this exchange:

Sonny: I’m robbing a bank because they got money here. That’s why I’m robbing it. 
TV Anchorman: No, what I mean is why do you feel you have to steal for money? Couldn’t you get a job? 
Sonny: Uh, no. Doing what? You know if you want a job you’ve got to be a member of a union. See, and if you got no union card you don’t get a job. 
TV Anchorman: What about non-union occupations? 
Sonny: What’s wrong with this guy? What do you mean non-union, like what? A bank teller? You know how much a bank teller makes a week? Not much. A hundred and fifteen to start, right? Now are you going to live on that? A got a wife and a couple of kids, how am I going to live on that? What do you make a week? 
TV Anchorman: Well I’m here to talk to you Sonny… 
Sonny: Well I’m talking to you. We’re entertainment, right? What do you got for us?

Sonny’s true motivation for robbing the bank- a sex change operation for his new wife Leon- adds another layer of advocacy to the character.  Yet, I still wondered what Sonny really believes in and want wants.  His motivations are uncovered beautifully by Pacino in conversations with his three loves Leon, Heidi, and his mother.  These exchanges show us his desire to be the hero of their lives without having the resources to do so.  His frustration of not being able to give Leon his operation or be the son and husband he’d like to be has driven him to this act. 

As Sonny’s plan evolves, the crazed force of the city quickly adapts and transforms this little bank robbery into street theater.  Underneath the chaos a new standoff forms between Sonny and Sheldon- a creepy bureaucrat from the FBI.  Playing the part of cold-blooded bank robber, Sonny promises the cops that if his demands are unmet he and Sal will start shooting people.  Sal, who seems more inept at crime than Sonny, asks if he was telling the truth.  Sonny reassures him he has no intention of killing anyone.  Shaking, Sal delivers the most shocking line of the piece:

Sal: Were you serious about what you said?
Sonny: About what?
Sal: About throwing.. about throwing those bodies out the door?
Sonny: That’s what I want him to think
Sal: I wanna know what you think
Sonny:[pauses]
Sal: Cause I’ll tell you right now… I’m ready to do it.

Now, Sonny has to be the wall- keeping Sal from killing the hostages and shielding Sal from  the police.  Sonny, not a bank robber, not a bread winner, not an activist, cannot meet this challenge.  Lumet lets the tension overwhelm Sonny and us as the imminent final confrontation plays out. 

In DOG DAY AFTERNOON, Lumet cleverly subverts the bank robbery plot to show us what diversity really looks like.  From Sonny’s political schizophrenia, the morphing jeering crowds, over eager cops, and silently lethal Sal; Lumet’s New York is a place of real danger and love by those we least suspect.  DOG DAY AFTERNOON nails how cities behave and how it feels to love, hate, and live in them.

Rest in peace, Sidney Lumet.  New York was lucky to have you.

"Carr’s “honor slaying” of Kammerer, as The Daily News called it, served as an emotional fulcrum for the group a decade before Kerouac, Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs published their seminal works; the violent death in their midst lent credibility to the tortured-soul narrative they yearned for. Columbia University was critical to that narrative, and its Beaux-Arts campus is featured in a film now in production, “Kill Your Darlings,” starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg. The university stood as a kind of crucible for the Beats, who were emerging “like a wild seed in a city garden,” wrote the Beat historian Bill Morgan. Many of their haunts in Morningside Heights remain (all within a few blocks of the 116th Street subway station on Broadway), including the venerable dorms where they lived — Hartley and what is now Wallach. Any pilgrim’s archeological Beat tour, inspired by the movie or not, must begin with the university itself, a useful antagonist in the iconoclasts’ quest for artistic self-actualization."

-

Columbia U. Haunts of Lucien Carr and the Beats - NYTimes.com

Great combination of history, book review, and travel (if you don’t live in NYC) writing.  Also making me more excited for “Kill Your Darlings” if that’s even possible. 

"I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics.”
-MANHATTAN
Hanging with Woody Allen.

"I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics.

-MANHATTAN

Hanging with Woody Allen.

Particular Proclivity for Pyrotechnics: BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK *Day 92* →

I recently went back to see this film and I still adore it completely

cine-a-day:

Intro: BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK is the most moving film I’ve seen this year. Here follows a great deal of gushing.

The people doing the most important work in this world are too busy for recognition. Each day they perform their duties with excellence and have no time for petty pursuits of…

BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN: Chicago Underground Film Festival *101*

While watching “Battle for Brooklyn”, a documentary about the fight between residents and a moneyed block of developers, politicians, and business people, I had the famous Gandhi quote pounding in my head, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”  As a former community organizer,  I was solidly on the side of Daniel Goldstein and the group of residents, local politicians, activists, and lawyers fighting to stop the Atlantic Yards project and reach a compromise that would bring amenities to the area without uprooting people.   I realized, through hopeful documentaries of David over Goliath triumphs, I had been trained to hope for the victory Gandhi promised with the application of diligence, intelligence, and perseverance.  I was so longing for the catharsis of victory, that I almost missed the truly wonderful gift of the film. “Battle for Brooklyn” succeeds in illuminating the birth and tracking the growth of one person’s public life through political action.

Daniel Goldstein starts the film as a miffed and idealistic homeowner in the cross-hairs of the Atlantic Yards Development.  His house is located where the envisioned basketball stadium is being planned.  Goldstein joins up with other neighbors, attends rallies, and makes flyers.  As developers proceed with clearing the building site, Goldstein finds himself the only resident of his condominium not to take the property buy out.  This shock to his system becomes the fuel for the cause.  Speaking at his first press conference Goldstein smiles saying, “I think it went really well and that I like this.”  As his political involvement increases his apartment becomes more of a war room for him and his new girlfriend, a fellow activist, to coordinate the campaign.

Goldstein learns about power, influence, and how well money organizes people to do things that simply aren’t logical.  On the side of the developers emerges BUILD, a community group praising Atlantic City Yards and touting the jobs, housing, and basketball.  In hearings and press conferences, BUILD’s line comes out simple a quick, while Develop, Not Destroy must back track and explain the merits of their case.  Goldstein bemoans the division between residents in his community knowing that together they would have the power to beat the project.  It comes out later, BUILD is on the take and completely discredited.  

Even after scandal, outcries from the community, alternative plans, and the credit crisis, Goldstein and company cannot break the momentum of Atlantic City Yards. As the project breaks ground in a star-studded ceremony, Goldstein leads a protest march and must barrel through police and private guards to get to his home.  The fight is over and Goldstein has to move out with the new family he’s built in the intervening years. Yet, he’s become a different person- agile with the press, steadfast with private guards trying to limit his access to his home, and connected to the community he’s worked to preserve.  ”Battle for Brooklyn” shows that public action may not always lead to the just result, Atlantic City Yards proceeded without the affordable housing and amount of jobs it promised, but it can still transform the lives of the people that engage in it.

★ ★ ★ 1/2

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK *Day 92*

Intro: BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK is the most moving film I’ve seen this year.  Here follows a great deal of gushing.

The people doing the most important work in this world are too busy for recognition. Each day they perform their duties with excellence and have no time for petty pursuits of money and fame.  Inevitably, these people will never get profiles on TV shows or films.  Their lives are dedicated to to what they love and not themselves.  So it is a great surprise and delight to see Richard Press’ documentary about someone of this type in BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK.  The film follows the famous New York street photographer and gives us a look into his history and personal drives.  I saw Bill Cunningham through the film as a person of true integrity and was moved by his tremendous focus that seemed to anchor him amidst change in his life and work.

Bill Cunningham has been capturing the vibrant New York street fashion scene since the 50’s.  He derives genuine excitement from people who choose to tell a story with their outfits each day. Cunningham could care less about celebrities. For him, it’s about the clothes and the few mavericks who continually challenge his eye.  Cunningham’s long history documenting the daily fashions of New York makes him a kind of historian plotting trends and movements.

Cunningham’s “On The Street” column is an egalitarian celebration of fashion and the city.  He captures everything from high society figures and fashion moguls like Anna Wintour to fashion forward eccentrics and regular stylish city dwellers going about their day.  His lens seeks beauty, but does not judge or promote one person over another.  He chooses to remain anonymous and pedestrian traveling around the city on bicycle or foot, camera in hand clicking constantly.  By night, Cunningham highlights worthy charity events capturing people having good times for good causes in fine garb.  Known by many of the luminaries, Cunningham never schmoozes and refuses to even take a glass of water while on the job. Cunningham has great affection for the everyday women spending their time and money to look fantastic over the celebrities in free dresses and jewels. 

Cunningham’s great integrity shines through the piece.  While he spends his days documenting the rich world of fashion, Cunningham lives a simple, almost ascetic life.  His trademark blue smock is the uniform of street sweepers in Paris.  His studio in Carnegie Hall is a cramped maze of fashion books and file cabinets of his photos with a small cot for resting.  Cunningham does not own anything unrelated to his vocation.  While his pictures hold esteem in the fashion world, Bill Cunningham refuses payment or position.  He muses in the film, “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do.”  Without money and bosses, Cunningham has the freedom to document and celebrate the street.

Cunningham’s humor and lack of vanity make him a delight to watch. The film is dominated with footage of Cunningham at work either on the street or in the offices of the New York Times collating his images for his columns.  I loved the rare moments when the director caught Cunningham sitting still enough for a straightforward interview. Bill Cunningham’s ethos of seeking and appreciating beauty everywhere combined with his integrity moved me.  In watching BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK, I located and reflected on my own desire to do something I love and to do it well.  Bill Cunningham is a true inspiration. 

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A City So Real: DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975) *Day 81*

"C’Mon you’ve seen DOG DAY AFTERNOON! You’re stalling”- Det. Keith Frazier, INSIDE MAN.

From this line in Spike Lee’s New York bank heist film INSIDE MAN, I thought DOG DAY AFTERNOON would be some sort of primer for enterprising bank robbers.  So wrong.  Al Pacino’s Sonny Wortzik puts on a brave face for the cops and cameras outside of the bank, but makes an affable, almost lovable captor.  Still, Lee’s INSIDE MAN is the progeny of the great Sidney Lumet film in its depiction of a city as an organism with its own unique properties, life force, and peculiarities. In this matrix of  political and personal agendas Sonny must find a way out, hopefully alive if not closer to his goal.

In the course of the film, Sonny Wortzik emerges as an unexpected everyman.  At first I suspected he was a bumbling genius, anticipating all the angles and silent alarms in the bank.  Yet, he comes a day late to an empty vault, an asthmatic security guard, and a gaggle of high spirited bank tellers.  By his side is the nerve-racked Sal (John Cazale) clucking his gun.  As crowds and TV cameras gather outside, Sonny tries to elicit support and protection by referencing various political agendas.  To protect himself from trigger happy cops (who probably just want to end this standoff) Pacino as Sonny boisterously shouts “Attica, Attica! Remember Attica” to cheering crowds sick of NYPD brutality.  One the phone with a TV reporter, he channels the labor movement in this exchange:

Sonny: I’m robbing a bank because they got money here. That’s why I’m robbing it.
TV Anchorman: No, what I mean is why do you feel you have to steal for money? Couldn’t you get a job?
Sonny: Uh, no. Doing what? You know if you want a job you’ve got to be a member of a union. See, and if you got no union card you don’t get a job.
TV Anchorman: What about non-union occupations?
Sonny: What’s wrong with this guy? What do you mean non-union, like what? A bank teller? You know how much a bank teller makes a week? Not much. A hundred and fifteen to start, right? Now are you going to live on that? A got a wife and a couple of kids, how am I going to live on that? What do you make a week?
TV Anchorman: Well I’m here to talk to you Sonny…
Sonny: Well I’m talking to you. We’re entertainment, right? What do you got for us?

Sonny’s true motivation for robbing the bank- a sex change operation for his new wife Leon- adds another layer of advocacy to the character.  Yet, I still wondered what Sonny really believes in and want wants.  His motivations are uncovered beautifully by Pacino in conversations with his three loves Leon, Heidi, and his mother.  These exchanges show us his desire to be the hero of their lives without having the resources to do so.  His frustration of not being able to give Leon his operation or be the son and husband he’d like to be has driven him to this act. 

As Sonny’s plan evolves, the crazed force of the city quickly adapts and transforms this little bank robbery into street theater.  Underneath the chaos a new standoff forms between Sonny and Sheldon- a creepy bureaucrat from the FBI.  Playing the part of cold-blooded bank robber, Sonny promises the cops that if his demands are unmet he and Sal will start shooting people.  Sal, who seems more inept at crime than Sonny, asks if he was telling the truth.  Sonny reassures him he has no intention of killing anyone.  Shaking, Sal delivers the most shocking line of the piece:

Sal: Were you serious about what you said?
Sonny: About what?
Sal: About throwing.. about throwing those bodies out the door?
Sonny: That’s what I want him to think
Sal: I wanna know what you think
Sonny: [pauses]
Sal: Cause I’ll tell you right now… I’m ready to do it.

Now, Sonny has to be the wall- keeping Sal from killing the hostages and shielding Sal from  the police.  Sonny, not a bank robber, not a bread winner, not an activist, cannot meet this challenge.  Lumet lets the tension overwhelm Sonny and us as the imminent final confrontation plays out. 

In DOG DAY AFTERNOON, Lumet cleverly subverts the bank robbery plot to show us what diversity really looks like.  From Sonny’s political schizophrenia, the morphing jeering crowds, over eager cops, and silently lethal Sal; Lumet’s New York is a place of real danger and love by those we least suspect.  DOG DAY AFTERNOON nails how cities behave and how it feels to love, hate, and live in them.

Rest in peace, Sidney Lumet.  New York was lucky to have you.

© Everybody Wants to be Us

Theme by Dubious Radical