Is The Irishman why we go to the movies?

After spending three and a half hours seeing Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, financed by Netflix, at a screening at the Writer’s Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills, there are lots of thoughts and feelings to be sorted out.

None of these have to do with the future of film exhibition or whether Netflix is justified in its release pattern for the new Scorsese film.  For those who don’t know, that would be only eight theatres in NY and LA this week, followed by additional movie screens in more cities seven days later and, finally, its streaming debut just ten days after that (Nov. 27) for anyone with a Netflix subscription or the ability to hop on to someone else’s account.

Netflix is so needy #validation

Scorsese, who turns 77 years old on Nov. 17, is one of THE best American filmmakers of the 20th and 21st centuries, or any century.  Yeah, he’s publicly expressed his disinterest in superhero films and sounded the alarm bells about a money guzzling, tent-pole-driven, market-researched-to-death movie industry obsessed with the Marvel/DC Universe at the expense of cinema dealing with humans and the complexity and nuance of their emotions.

But, for the record, he’s right about that.  Most of us would tire of potato chips and chocolate bars if we ate them 75% of the time.  Even if we didn’t, think of the affect it would have not only on our bodies but our souls, assuming it already hasn’t.

Avengers: Age of Gluttony

Point being, Scorsese not only has a good argument about what passes for present-day cinema but has earned the right to grouse.  For Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Good Fellas, New York, New York, The Aviator, Casino and The Departed alone, he can opine from now until the end of time about what displeases him and/or makes him happy about any one group of films or the movie industry in general.

also thank you for this gif

Which makes one wonder if the same goes for his audience.  If you’ve been a Scorsese admirer and mostly loyal fan all these years, do you have the right to be disappointed in the latest entry into the master’s oeuvre that everyone else seems to be calling brilliant?

Well, of course you have the right.  This is still a free(ish) country.  But is it called for, or even worth it to bring up?

Yeah, it is.

Oh there’s more…

Movies by their very nature are a communal experience.  Sure, many of us now too often watch in the confines of our own homes, and too often do it alone.  But the cinema Scorsese makes and presents is shared with others in a dark room where it’s then debated and dissected afterwards.  It’s part of the gift he’s given us for over half a century and to ignore real life discussion of a new Scorsese film would be like negating the very existence of the artist himself.

So here’s the thing…

Is that Ray Romano?

The Irishman is extremely well made, brilliantly acted and doubtless couldn’t be directed better by anyone else on the planet.  But it’s as cold as a tray of ice cubes on a bleak winter’s day and about as revelatory and/or insightful.

Ouch, Chairy!

After 209 minutes it’s difficult to not wonder aloud, Why did I just spend all of this time watching this?  What did this film tell me that I didn’t already know?  In what way was I touched, repelled or even slightly moved by the lives of these “wise guys” and the people around them?  (Note: Not to mention, I already knew the Mob murdered Jimmy Hoffa!!!).

This is especially true if you’ve ever seen a mob film by Scorsese.  Or watched one in that genre by his friend and contemporary, Francis Ford Coppola.  Or even binge watched the HBO series The Sopranos.

Don’t drag me into this! #cuttoblack

It’s unfair to say that with The Irishman Scorsese has made his version of a sequel to a sequel of his latest superhero film.  The Irishman has many flaws (Note: Despite what the critics are saying), but once it reaches the three-hour mark it forges some new ground.  In its last half hour, one begins to realize why the director spent all of these years trying to make this story and why it is likely the final chapter of every mob story he has ever told.

You can trust the Chair

But suffice it to say that dark and foreboding as it might be, that third act ending doesn’t so much surprise as simply…play out.  It takes you down a road you didn’t expect to see onscreen but pretty much could have imagined would have happened exactly that way off screen.

Would you have imagined it, if left to your own devices?  The answer is probably not if you weren’t a contemporary of Scorsese.  So in that sense, it does play in to the director’s own definition of cinema and, in its way, far surpasses anything you will see in the latest Marvel/DC superhero film.   Which is not to say it is Scorsese, or even cinema, at its best.

God, he’s so rich

There are many different reasons why we go to the movies.  Though let’s qualify that to reflect a 2019 reality.  There are many different reasons why we watch movies.

Escape comes to mind.  File this under the category of general entertainment.  We want to laugh and forget or, if we are addicted to catharsis, we want (and need) to cry and commiserate.

I already know I’ll be a disaster during this movie

Perhaps we want to feel superior to a person or class of people being portrayed onscreen.  Taken one step further, we might even joyfully hate watch something we know will be hopelessly dumb, awful or not to our taste just because we can, especially if we’re the type that has no empathy for its own highly overpaid craftspeople boring us.  (Note: Rest assured the latter also includes ALL of its above-the-line talent [nee actors, producers, writers AND directors] despite what they might say or admit to in interviews.  Though this should never, ever include Scorsese or anyone of his caliber).

But mostly, many of us go to and/or watch movies simply because we are true blue fans, Scorsese or otherwise.

… and for the popcorn #arteriesclogging #delicious

We hope for the best, realize we may be disappointed and yet still are pleased that we saw it.  Some but not all of us in that category can usually find something to like in almost anything, even if it’s the good intentions of those who might have let us down.   (Note: See a few paragraphs above). More importantly, there is always a chance we will see something we like, perhaps even love, and be transported.

And for that experience, we will be grateful, perhaps forever grateful.

With so many other ways to spend our time these days there is still nothing quite like sitting in the dark (or semi-dark, or even light) and watching someone else’s idea of life unfold.  For a short time we get to feel something we might have never felt before, or in that particular way

I have a lot of feelings, OK?!?!

There are Scorsese films where we have that for a few fleeting moments, for numerous moments or, sometimes, all the way through.

You (okay, I) want The Irishman to be the latter even though the best you can say about it is that it’s in the former.  But like all great cinema, the movie and its director contain some moments where you feel as if you are in the presence of screen super heroes.

And that says something.  Actually, it says a lot.

Muddy Waters – “Mannish Boy” (from soundtrack for The Irishman)

 

Our Never-Ending Story

I love movies and the theatre. Always have. The story you can’t second-guess. Memorable characters. Unforeseen, angry, funny and generally snide and/or uncomfortable conflicts.

They tell me stories I can BELIEVE and somehow they have always informed me, metaphorically at least, about my life.

So why am I having so much trouble turning off cable news these days?

Because no play, film or even TV series can touch the Mueller vs. Trump countdown that is being broadcast 24/7 on your small, medium or perhaps even big screen in your home.

Me, watching Rachel Maddow, EVERYDAY

Don’t get me wrong – I’d be thrilled to not have this particular story. But now that it’s here, I can’t turn away.

People say:

You’ve got to do it – for your own sanity! Actually, they don’t say it – they admonish it – and me.

To which I say/admonish back:

WHAT SANITY????

I keep repeating to anyone who asks or who will listen:

These are insane times. Is the proper response to continue life as you have always known it???

Luckily, I don’t have children. Not so much because I wouldn’t be there for them. But more like —

What if one of them was a Trump supporter??????

I honestly don’t know how the Keatons did it.

Oh, don’t reassure yourself. I absolutely would NOT leave them alone. And if they pushed it too far I most certainly COULD leave them. Or at least stop talking to them. My mother stopped talking to me for four months after I relocated to Los Angeles for a job and temporarily moved in with my Dad and stepmom. And this was 10 years after they BOTH remarried!! And Jimmy Carter was president!!

So DO NOT say that I don’t have it in me.  I have a lot in me.

And more.

The Never-Ending Story is not a fantasy novel or an OLD movie from 1984.

A different white, hairy monster

(Note: Yeah – 1984 is 34 years ago so it now qualifies as OLD. And Note the year – 1984??? George Orwell? The David Bowie song? AND – yes, I AM seeing connections that make perfect sense that YOU. ARE. MISSING).

#THEREALDONALDTRUMP is the malevolent force in OUR NEVER-ENDING STORY and the only one who can stop IT from permeating the globe and destroying US is not a BULLIED CHILD – as it is in the book (Note: Ahem, ANOTHER magical connection you didn’t see or won’t acknowledge – bullies? Children?). It is the former head of the Globe’s chief law enforcement agency – ROBERT MUELLER.

And another SIDE NOTE: Just know that if this is over soon (though as Carrie Fisher once wrote: Wishful Drinking) it is NOT too late for Harrison Ford to play him in the movie. Mueller will be 74 next month and Mr. Ford just turned 76. So by Hollywood standards Mr. Ford is actually a bit young for the part. Nevertheless, I am SURE he would take it —

…If he got final script approval.

…And his choice of director.

… and if he can’t, we know De Niro is game #efftrump

Yeah, IF this is ever over (Note: A BIG if) AND we all survive, the movie industry will be back to business as usual.   Even I would like to dream that we’ll all be a lot more benevolent by then but if the post Drumpf years really do turn out to exist the one bromide we’ll all be well-advised to even more strenuously live by will be to watch our backs.

Even the Harrison Fords among us.

I had two favorite snippets this week from our ongoing, ad-infinitum, never-ending narrative. One occurred during the 10-hour testimony of my new fantasy boyfriend, FBI agent Peter Strzok, before the House of Representatives.

Hey Pete… DM me. <wink>

Mr. Strzok was called on the carpet by countless Republican congressmen for sending text messages criticizing Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign to his former mistress, Justice Department attorney Lisa Page, which were no more inflammatory than numerous public statements made by some of those very same sitting Republican Congressman at the time about the sheer guttural horror of allowing Trump anywhere near the Republican nomination for president, much less the White House.

Still, each elected official kept coming, trying to rattle, corner and otherwise grandstand Mr. Chair Strzok into admitting his political bias disqualified him from doing his job properly just as they simultaneously and continuously disproved this theory by showing their own extreme right leaning biases over and over again with each heated accusation they threw his way.

Disgusted that his grilling of Strzok was not even slightly cracking the trained-to-be-uncrackable veteran FBI man, Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican Christian conservative from Texas long referred to as…well…any number of pejorative terms for crazed by his House colleagues, at one point angrily stared at Strzok and sputtered:

I can’t help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk — How many times did you look so innocent in your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page!?….

um… YIKES

To which Rep. Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-NJ) finally shouted back at him:

….What is wrong with….You need your medication!!!

And you wonder why I can’t, okay won’t, turn away.

The other example was a soundless 30-second video snippet that encapsulates everything one needs to know about the ways in which Trump is able to insult everything not only within inches of his grasp but many millions of miles beyond.

After dodging 250,000 protestors in London demonstrating against him and his policies with various sizes of Baby Trump floats in diapers, our Electoral College president was scheduled the next day to meet 92 year old Queen Elizabeth for a brief tea at Windsor Castle.

It’s real.. and it’s spectacular

As the Monarch stood outside under a canopy, periodically glancing from side to side, dressed in her signature suit, gloves, hat and handbag, #Drumpf arrived a full 15 minutes late, not only leaving the nonagenarian waiting in an overly bright daytime sun but causing her to check her watch several times. Even after he finally arrived he couldn’t find a way to walk gentlemanly beside, near or behind her – only in front.

seems about right… #chompchomp

This is not only a grievous mistake in Royal protocol but, as everyone but him knows, a common courtesy when you find yourself beside 92 year olds of any station.

It is also one more reason I can’t turn off cable news. That daily reality check is the ONLY thing that is keeping my thoughts and me from TRULY going INSANE and not falling into some awful alternative universe of a dreaded NEW NORMAL.

That said, I guess I could cut down. A little.

Blondie – “One Way Or Another”