04 January 2012

5 Movies You Really Should've Seen By Now If You Want To Consider Yourself A Grown Person: Gangs of New York

yeah. i said it. gangs of new york is a movie you should see if you want to consider yourself a grown person.

i'm making this illogical assertion mostly for the very selfish reason that gony is my litmus test for finding true friends. if you and i can have a serious conversation about gony and you can withstand the horrible self-righteous thoroughly uneductated film critic bitch i am when discussing the MYRIAD (OH. MY. GOD. SOOOOOOOOOO MANY.) faults of gony... well, hey, we can be friends.

(alternately, if you hate to see me on my high horse, avert thine eyes from this blog post! you've been forewarned.)

my gut response to gony is this: AAAAAGHGHGHAGHHGHEHHHHGRRRRR.







mind you, that's the pseudo-articulate response i've managed to cultivate over the last 8 years. heaven help everyone who was around when i was mounting inarticulate arguments against the inarticulacy of martin scorsese's film-making ability circa 2003.

but if we're going to be Grown People, we need to be able to make effective arguments and we also need to know where we stand on really, really important things. like gony. so here goes. in my fling with Grown Persondom, i will now attempt an articulation of my problem with gony.

there's a part of me that wishes martin scorsese were more like oliver stone (sentences one would not expect to ever need to have exist), and that he would do three or four gony director's cuts. so we could see where, precisely, it all went wrong. and know who to blame.

gony should be good. it SHOULD be. there are at least twenty (i've counted) solid reasons for why it should be a success, of which i will now discuss three.

solid reason why gony should be a success, #1:  in gony, daniel day lewis is UH-MAZING. he is so good as bill the butcher that, through two viewings, i believed he was timothy dalton.

for reals. i spent the eight zillion hours that comprise the running time of gony x 2 thinking that bill the butcher was played by the 2nd least successful of all james bonds. come to find out it was good old DDL. while this is, admittedly, a reflection upon my own unfamiliarity with the ranks of prestigious thespians at the millennium's dawn, it's also a testament to DDL's mad skills.

people, them's be some SERIOUS acting chops. how can this film possibly fail? 

solid reason why gony should be a success, #2: martin scorsese worked on it for thirty years.

(btw, i have now thrice mistyped martin scorsese as martin sheen- which raises the spector of an alternate world where gony was directed by martin sheen and turned out SO.MUCH.BETTER. 


thirty years. seriously. poor martin scorsese. 

to be haunted by an ummade film that you simply know will be the best of your career only to finally produce it when meryl street is too damn old to play the lead you have written for her, so you have to settle on freaking cameron diaz instead.

pity. that. man.

he had thirty years to get this right. add to that the extra time created by the delay of the film's release in the wake of 9/11, which would've been an excellent time for reflection and taking stock and saying, now, hey, wait a minute. this is my life's greatest work and it kinda doesn't rock so maybe i should take a few seconds to perfect.

but no. and, FAIL.

solid reason why gony should be a success, #3: gony is a historical epic. historical epics cannot not be successful (with the exception of those starring kevin costner post-1993).

here's a quick course in what it takes to make a historical epic: a memorable theme. 

yes, that is all. any and all historical epics have this. it isn't optional and it's key. because the memorable theme situates history in suitably epical soundtext while also immediately evoking the memory of the awesomeness of your particular historical epic whenever people hear its particular memorable theme.

this doesn't have to be orchestral (see also: any song bryan adams has sung that has appeared in a feature film), but it has to be memorable.

though i cannot overstate the importance of the memorable theme, i also can't overstate how mastery of the memorable theme isn't particularly difficult. even freaking far and away by little oppie cunningham howard effectively used the existing music of enya to create a memorable cinematic mood.

gony stars The Star of titanic. even six years after the fact, the name leo dicaprio was still drenched in the teen lust of james horner's bagpipe and celine dion's "my heart will go on." and yet...

gony is twelve zillion years long. scorsese spent thirty years making it. and still it has no cohesive orchestral score nor soundtrack.

there is at one point a folk song that sounds vaguely like it involved the participation of peter gabriel. 

even more infuriatingly, there's a u2 song over the final credits that provides a melody that would've been suitably memorable had it been employed throughout the entirety of the two and a half hours that came before. but it wasn't.

and so, at the film's end, we are confronted with bono's earnesty and edge's guitars, which come busting out of nowhere at deafening volume during a pensive homage to the twin towers. an event that obviously had not occurred thirty years prior when scorcese first conceived of the film and which appears, in the aftermath, ruthlesslessy tacked on.


ok, so maybe my articulation hasn't improved much in the last 8 years. but i still contend gony is A Movie You Should See If You Want To Consider Yourself A Grown Person. if only to know where you stand on the exploitation of 9/11 in film and leonardo dicaprio's ponytail. but also to see the sad, sad death of a  thirty-year-old dream. 


Anonymous said...

it was so odd, i was just sitting here at work when i had this odd 100% absolutely sure feeling that someone on the internet was saying glowing things about DDL (or Timothy Dalton). I typed in O in the C and BOOM.

You do not disappoint.

Also the rest of this essay is, how you have put it UH-Mazing.

Osutein said...

This is awesome. You could also insert "Ben Kingsley" for "Daniel Day-Lewis"(and "Armine Mueller-Stahl" for "Timothy Dalton") and also have a review for "Hugo."

oline said...

thoughts on hugo, sensei? due to the martin scorsese factor, i'm afraid to go.

Osutein said...

It really reminded me of GONY in that it's also a deeply personal project for Scorcese, has some great acting, is a period piece, has great potential, moments I love, but is ultimately a big ol' mess. I mean, it's really two movies poorly stitched into one. There's a deeply moving, beautiful film about the birth of cinema; and there's also a really cliche, boring, sub-Dickensian, groan-inducing Harry Potter rip-off. Critics loved "Hugo" because it was essentially a giant cinematic hand job (it's message is literally that "Movies Are Magic and Life Changing" so OF COURSE nobody who reviews films for a living noticed the terrible plot, acting, and silly gimmicks surrounding said message). Like GONY, I sort of like Hugo in spite of all its considerable flaws, but thinking about it also sends me into rage-convulsions. But then most 21st Century Scorcese does that to me ("The Departed" as well). Which may be a sort of an argument in Scorcese's favor.

oline said...

i think this is, in large part, why scorcese annoys me so much. because in being so frustrated by his films, i wind up talking about them at great length in an attempt to understand why i am so frustrated by them- which, ultimately, may be a sign of how good of a filmmaker he is. maybe? the rage-convulsions must mean something. or maybe they mean nothing? blurgh. scorcese is my existential dilemma.