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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

DeNiro By QT

At the request of Jimmy The Gent, here someplace to discuss the QT analysis of Robert DeNiro…
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
(Sorry about the color… it gets better as the piece progresses)

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40 Responses to “DeNiro By QT”

  1. Jimmy the Gent says:

    Tarantino is right when he says critics took the opportunity to re-review The Deer Hunter when Heven’s Gate came out. Tarantino is wrong when he suggests that HG is misunderstood. It IS a bad movie, but an interesting one. The differnece between it and Deer Hunter is that HG put attention to detail ahead of the story. The Deer Hunter didn’t.
    It is one of the most intimate epics in movie history. DeNiro is smart enough to hang back and let his character slowly take center stage. The first hour really belongs to Walken and Savage. It isn’t until the Vietnam sequences that the DeNiro character takes over.
    Cimino may not have another masterpiece in him, but at least he had one in him. (I would argue that Year of the Dragon is vastly underrated.) I’m not a Richard Kelly fan, but you can see some similarity between him and Cimino. Some critics and moviegoers hailed him as a major new talent. Some didn’t. It looks as if the critics who didn’t are going to use their Southland Tales reviews as an opportunity to re-review Donnie Darko and somehow prove they were right in predicting the guy was a one trick pony.

  2. Ju-osh says:

    Jimmy said:
    “Cimino may not have another masterpiece in him, but at least he had one in him.”
    You know, I always wonder why an artist always feels the need to follow up the peice of work that successfully (artisically, not financially) expresses their burning message/unique point of view. Is it that they don’t have enough self-criticism to realize when it’s time to disappear, or is it the drug of fame and the need for money? It seems pretty universal that most artists’ produce work work as time goes on. Oh, there are surely exceptions, but I’m talking generally here. Look at Cimino, Deniro and hell, many would even add Tarantino to this list.

  3. Campbell says:

    I watched Heaven’s Gate recently. Wow. Such a bad, bad movie. So awful, it makes you question whether the person responsible for such hubris, waste, and pompousness could ever have made anything worthwhile. Fair or not, its stench reaches all the way back to The Deer Hunter. I still find TDH watchable and powerful- if deeply flawed -but by any measure, including Quentin Tarantino’s bullshit, HG is horrible.
    Some movies, such as Ishtar, are better than their rep. HG isn’t one of them. The only thing that you can say for HG (apart from the cinematography, which is often gorgeous) is that it’s a spectacular failure, unlike a Pluto Nash or Avengers, which are more pedestrian.

  4. Jimmy the Gent says:

    The Deer Hunter is flawed, but has an emotional punch that few epics have achieved. (Malcolm X is another example of an epic with an emotional punch.)
    Deer Hunter is racist but I think it can be forgiven. You have to rememeber it was the first really serious movie about Vietnam. People were still feeling pretty raw. Most people were still seeing the Vietnamese as the Other. It wouldn’t be until Platoon and Full Metal Jacket that audiences were ready to see the true horro of what occured over there.
    it would interesting if some TV show asked Cimino to direct some episodes. He would seem ideal for shows like The Unit or The Shield. Can you imagine a Cimino-directed ep of The Wire or Deadwood? I’d watch.

  5. jeffmcm says:

    “You know, I always wonder why an artist always feels the need to follow up the peice of work that successfully (artisically, not financially) expresses their burning message/unique point of view. Is it that they don’t have enough self-criticism to realize when it’s time to disappear, or is it the drug of fame and the need for money? It seems pretty universal that most artists’ produce work work as time goes on.”
    Could it not be that success breeds ambition? Most filmmakers who are fortunate enough to make an impersonal hit then go on to make a personal project that may have been gestating for a while. And they are’t all failures: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, even Star Wars wouldn’t have been made without American Graffiti being a hit.

  6. Wrecktum says:

    This video is great. It reminds me that Tarantino really has a great mind for film criticism and would be a wonderful professor of film studies. When he came on the scene in the early ’90s I was enchanted with the combination of his deep knowledge of film history and his love of pop culture and genre flicks.
    Unfortunately, his love for genre cinema (especially exploitation cinema) has totally taken over. In the past he used to indicate his favorite films were from the French new-wave and American auteurs. Now it seems all he cares about are the Shaw Brothers and ’70s Euro-porn.

  7. Ju-osh says:

    Jeffmcm–
    You’re right, ambition probably has a lot to do with it. And like you said, it’s not always the second or third films that betray a lack of ideas/inspiration. Sometimes it’s the fifth or sixth or eleventh. But the three filmmakers whose films you use to illustrate this (Coppola, Spielberg & Lucas) are three filmmakers who I’d lump into the category of ‘perhaps they should have stopped years ago and kept a higher caliber filmography.’
    (That said, I’m fingers crossed hoping for an artistic rebirth for Coppola with his new movie.)

  8. jeffmcm says:

    Well, Coppola kind of burned himself out after Apocalypse but I don’t think it was because he ran out of things to say, and Lucas is kind of an anomaly, but in my opinion Spielberg is working at the top of game and has been since Schindler’s List.

  9. Jimmy the Gent says:

    Anyone who even suggests that Spielberg should have while he was ahead should really re-consider ther taste in movies. Spielberg is more vital than ever. His last five movies have show remarkable maturity for a man who has been at this tiing for almost 35 years. I can’t wait to see what he does next. Indy IV will be light fun. He ever does Lincoln it could be a major biopic achievment.

  10. Ju-osh says:

    I’m not trying to tell anyone their opinion is wrong, but I am curious — is anyone here’s favorite Spielberg film one of his films from the past 10 years? If so, what do you feel it has that his older work does not?

  11. Ju-osh says:

    To answer my own question/to show you where I’m coming from, I’d say that to me, the more recent Spielberg movies are missing the ‘anything’s possible’ sense of wonder that I used to feel when watching his films. I understand that he’s become a more “mature” man and filmmaker, but he seems less naturally adept at translating his ‘grown-up’ work than he was with his more innocent and child-like worldview. I can’t think of an ending as heavy-handed as Saving Private Ryan’s in any of his first few films. Nor can I think of anything as cringe-worthy in its awkwardness of the sex scene/murder montage in Munich. Am I saying that he’s a hack, though? Hell no. I just prefer the early work a whole lot more.

  12. jeffmcm says:

    My favorite Spielberg movie is probably Close Encounters, but my second and third favorites are both from the last fifteen years of his career.
    (I’ll refrain from explaining for the zillionth time why the ending of Saving Private Ryan and the sex scene in Munich are both perfect).

  13. mysteryperfecta says:

    Spielberg’s older work, like you said, had a child-like sense of wonderment and awe. He still uses sentimentality (which I like, mostly) but there’s much more cynicism now. From Spielberg’s own comments on the subject, I fear there’s no going back. Indy IV will give us some indication of whether he can rediscover his inner child. I’m doubtful.

  14. Jimmy the Gent says:

    I agree with Jeff in that you can’t really get people to see the light when it comes to the endings of Ryan and Munich.
    Munich will go down as a Top 3 or 5 Spielberg movie. I don’t think enough people realize what a major achievment it really is. It may be impossible to ever fully understand its complex notions on politics, family, compromise, and revenge.
    The cold killing of the woman who kills one of Avner’s men is one of the greatest sequences Spielberg has ever made. The same is true of the girl answering the telephone. Two classic scenes in one movie. I also think the first half hour of War of the Worlds is one of scariest sequences in the last 25 years. (The first 15 minutes of the remake of Dawn of the Dead comes thisclosce to topping it.)
    I thought we were talking about DeNiro and Tarantino.

  15. LexG says:

    Cimino:
    Year of the Dragon came out when I was around 13, and somehow that movie became sort of a minor classic to me in my formative years. It seemed kinetic and edgy and large-scale and kind of epic and awesome, with Rourke in his prime and John Lone ruling as the ice-cold villain, with tons of great nightclub scenes and shootouts. As maligned as “Heaven’s Gate” always was, I thought YOTD was a considerable comeback, full of bluster and the crazy energy you’d expect in pairing two maniacs like Cimino and Oliver Stone.
    I revisited it a few years back as an adult, and it certainly fell a little short of my rose-colored memories: For every bit of intense awesomeness, there’s a goofily overwrought bit of dialogue (“How could anybody care too much?”) and some bizarre miscasting in regards to Rourke’s well-into-middle-age wife, which leads one to ask if Rourke’s character was actually supposed to be 57 years old. It’s still worth seeing, and cuts kind of a middle ground between “Deer Hunter’s” morose intensity and “Heaven’s Gate’s” (which I like) ponderousness.
    Funny, though, his films after that never get mentioned, at all. Probably for good reason, since none is particularly distinguished, though I recall (19 years ago now) rather liking “The Sicilian,” or at least finding the material and subject matter interesting and the execution earnest, despite some miscasting and histrionic bits.
    “Desperate Hours,” I’d guess, was a bit of a for-hire job to prove he could direct a solid little movie, but it’s also amped up with Cimino-ian flights of fancy and just plain oddness, full of melodramatic bits and off-the-wall music cues and blaring declarations from characters who shouldn’t be making them at the time. Weird movie.
    Weirder still is “The Sunchaser,” which near as I can tell has been swept under a carpet somewhere. It seemed to have a ONE-WEEK release in an LA theater in 1996 (it was at the AMC Century City, I was PISSED I missed it). I later caught it as a VHS rental and was fairly perplexed by its New Age hippie-dippiness. NO idea what he was going for there, but I recall the desert scenery being lovely and a few of the episodic moments interesting. It’s NEVER on TV and it’s not on DVD.

  16. Tofu says:

    After watching the direly flawed War of the Worlds and surprisingly excellent Munich in the same year, I simply am not interested in the “Blockbuster” Spielberg at all anymore. He can operate at a higher dramatic level now, incorporating all of his epic elements into the same package.
    He gave my Father Jaws, and myself Jurassic Park. Outside of giving my own son a big ol’ monster movie to hold on to, I think his time is better spent on movies that reflect his views on the world.

  17. Jimmy the Gent says:

    I kind of liked Desperate Hours as a sleazy B movie. rourke and Hopkins. That must’ve been a tense set. I also liked how Cimino kept finding ways to undress Kelly Lynch.

  18. movielocke says:

    well I can’t say it’s my favorite Spielberg (that’s Empire of the Sun), but A.I. is a top ten film for me, and my second favorite of his work. He’s a superb filmmaker working at the top of his game, Munich was phenomenal, one of his best films ever.
    I get really tired of this idea of THE MASTERPIECE as if that is the end all be all of any artist, career or craftsperson. In the old sense of the word, a masterpiece was simply a work of exceptional quality that meant you were no longer a journeyman, it was expected that you were capable of many more masterpieces. Nowadays we have critics leaping and frothing at the mouth to quickly label a film as a masterpiece and then conveniently shelve the filmmaker (and his ‘masterpiece’) in a box so they don’t have to think about them anymore–it’s so much easier on the critics that way.
    Everyone complaining about the new Spielberg should remember that all the critics complained about the old Spielberg, his films, be it Jaws, CE3K, ET, Raiders, Empire etc were fatally flawed by ‘a childlike sense of wonder,’ and he was an incompetent or idiot-savant who couldn’t conceptualize deep adult emotions or even the adult experience (meaning stereotypical artfilm angst, as best I can tell [note sarcasm]). In other words Spielberg should not have made the films he was making… what’s going on in this thread? Spielberg shouldn’t be making the films he is making. win win situation.

  19. movielocke says:

    didn’t mean to do two posts, but two more thoughts,
    Same thing is happening to Will Smith, he’s not a ‘real’ actor because he’s popular, successful, has been in action blockbusters, has worked in comedies, and horror of horror’s came from the abysmal pit of decay, teen television comic star (gasp, NO!), by this point I don’t think his music career even counts against him anymore, he’s so far in the red it doesn’t matter. With that kind of accumulated debt working against his credibility, how can he ever get a favorable treatment :p (sarcasm again)
    second thought, at least Spielberg is consistent in pissing off the critics, so maybe he hasn’t changed so much afterall. 😉 still 103 oscar nominations for his films, with only three films completely nomination free, he must be doing something right in appealing to somebody. :p

  20. jeffmcm says:

    Good points but I don’t think Will Smith is in the same category. Even in Pursuit of Happyness, he did a good job, but he was still playing Will Smith, Likeable Everyman. In that sense he’s not unlike a modern Jimmy Stewart but I’m waiting for him to do a Rear Window or Vertigo (of course he’s still young so there’s time).

  21. Spielberg’s last few movies have all had quality aspects, but all extremely flawed (in my eyes). Munich had a stunning first half (STUNNING) but I wish he had just made a 70s throwback film because the second half was dire.
    Catch me If You Can was fun, sort of slight, and way too long.
    AI was gorgeous to look at and had some great performances, but it didn’t all add up.
    War of the Worlds and The Terminal were on life support from very early on and never recovered. The Terminal was particularly insulting in it’s complete and utter desire to not even raise any possibly irksome topic (an entire movie set in an airport and not one single mention of terrorism?) And, well, there are so many flaws in Worlds that it’s just impossible to list them.

  22. Ju-osh says:

    JimmyTheGent said:
    “I kind of liked (Cimino’s) Desperate Hours as a sleazy B movie.”
    Around the time Pulp Fiction was released, Tarantino used to say this was one of his favorite flicks. I vaguely remember someone from Film Comment crew asking him something to the effect of, ‘Yeah, but you’re not saying that it’s better than Bogart’s version, right?’ And Tarantino replied, ‘No, that’s exactly what I’m saying.’

  23. Jimmy the Gent says:

    One of the more charming things about Tarantino, I think, is the way he seems to enjoy taking the piss out of standard-issue beliefs in film culture. Telling someone from Film Comment that Cimino’s Desperate Hours is better than Bogie’s is the kind of thing that would make a writer for FC head explode. I have no idea if Tarantino really believes that, but it’s fun to think about.
    A favorite comment of Tarantino’s I’ve always liked is his opinion that Ferrara’s King of New York is a better gangster movie than the same-year release of GoodFellas. I violently disagree, but I like the suggestion. It just makes me appreciate KoNY more, even if GF is clearly the better film.

  24. jeffmcm says:

    The second half of Munich is where Spielberg takes it from a fun throwback thriller to a serious, thoughtful masterpiece. Catch Me could be too long but there’s a lot going on under its candy coating. AI is a masterpiece that throws people because its seams show too clearly. And Spielberg knows that everyone expects to hear ‘terrorism’ in The Terminal so he avoids it and allows it to be the elephant in the movie. That one is his least polished movie of the last decade (I’ll agree that the ending just doesn’t work) but it’s still a fun and charming piece of work.

  25. The thing for me was that I didn’t want Munich to become a serious movie about religion and faith and all that jazz. And when it did that I think it went off the rails. But, to each their own.

  26. grandcosmo says:

    I agree that Tarantino’s obsession with grindhouse and exploitation films has grown pretty tiresome. After “Jackie Brown” I figured we would have great Tarantino films every couple of years for decades but since then I have been mostly underwhelmed.
    I’m happy to see that his much talked about ‘men on a mission’ WWII movie ala “Where Eagles Dare” is slated as his next film on IMDB. However he has been talking about getting ready to film that for over 10 years so I’ll believe it when I see it.

  27. jeffmcm says:

    “The thing for me was that I didn’t want Munich to become a serious movie about religion and faith and all that jazz.”
    You’re right, there are wayyyyy too many of those these days. God forbid Spielberg makes a movie that, like means stuff and shit.

  28. Ugh, that wasn’t what I was saying and you know it. What I meant was that the first half just felt so expertly handled and I was really going along with it and was sitting there with wide eyes, but then it just became something I didn’t want to see. I would have been much more satisfied if it had just been Spielberg’s take on a stylish ’70s-esque thriller. After the brilliant first half I didn’t feel like watching a sermon. If you like what Spielberg did then that’s fine, but don’t act condescending to me because I don’t agree.
    Moving on,
    Jackie Brown = Tarantino’s finest. Boo-yah!

  29. westpilton says:

    If we needed any more proof of how terribly DeNiro has squandered his relevance on Meet the Fockers and Rocky and Bullwinkle, take a look at how many posts it took a bunch of cinephiles to change the conversation to Spielberg!
    I think it is sad that DeNiro has let himself go so badly. Though I don’t think anyone considers him irretrievable. It

  30. jeffmcm says:

    “Ugh, that wasn’t what I was saying and you know it.”
    Sorry, KCamel, but I didn’t know that and I still don’t. You said you liked Munich in its first half when it’s cool spy action and men-on-a-mission, and then didn’t like it when it got more serious and complicated. I don’t think it’s a ‘sermon’ (for what? Moral ambiguity?) but a great, tangled web of a movie. I’m sorry that you so often feel that I’m condescending to you but there are other ways around that.

  31. anghus says:

    hey, a Munich discussion
    It sucked. Hard.
    it barely touches on the issues, and when it does Speilberg kicks back into simple button pushing mechanics.
    The scene where the girl answers the phone is a masterpiece?
    Really?
    Your standards are really, really low.

  32. jeffmcm says:

    Depends, I guess, on what you thought ‘the issues’ were. The film isn’t about the Munich Olympics, really, or Israelis and Palestinians per se, but about how we in the civilized West deal with terrorism and the effects it has on our psyches. I think it’s pretty obvious that the movie says a hell of a lot on these issues. The scene where the girl answers the phone is one scene in the larger tapestry of the film. It’s not a simple button-pushing scene.

  33. anghus says:

    That’s the thing about Speilberg that will never sit well with me. When he makes movies that work, everyone jumps up and down and says ‘see’. But when he makes bad choices, people just bang their stupid kettles and try to ‘explain’ to you why no one gave a damn.
    Say what you want about Munich, it was not well received by the public, not because it was too smart or too controversial. It was just a poor film with a lot of holes. You guys add levels that just aren’t there.
    The 2nd half of the film epically falls apart as the material is just too much for a mainstream filmmaker like Senor Speilbergo.
    The ending for saving Private Ryan was pretty piss poor too.
    “Did i live a good life?” or whatever manipulative bullshit he says at the end. My eyes rolled back in my head so far i could see my medulla oblongata.
    Speilberg’s biggest fault with serious material is the inability to let anyone feel the moment. He grabs you by the hand and tries to lead you to a reaction.
    I mean, the scene in Munich where he’s fucking while they intercut the footage of the athletes being killed. I can’t remember a more mismanaged scene by a quality filmmaker. The audience i saw it with was laughing.
    Why don’t i hear more people defending The Terminal?

  34. jeffmcm says:

    Then I guess the discussion is over.
    The problem that Spielberg has is that, thanks to his immense successes, people typically underrate him as an artist. In fact his films are very subtle but they hide their ideas in plain sight. The ending of Saving Private Ryan isn’t a statement, for example – it’s a question that remains unanswered as the film ends. It’s only manipulative if you haven’t been paying attention.
    The Terminal is a good movie, but probably his weakest in the last ten years.

  35. jeffmcm says:

    To get back to the original subject of this thread: if DeNiro appearing in Meet the Fockers was the price that had to be paid for The Good Shepherd, then it was worth it.

  36. anghus says:

    “The Terminal is a good movie, but probably his weakest in the last ten years.”
    thank you for validating everything i was saying in one simple sentence.
    Even shit gets shine.
    As for ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘it made sense if you were paying attention’
    Did it really even require that much attention. He repeats the fucking line Tom Hanks says to him 5 minutes before.
    I eagerly await the cries of ‘genius’ on Indiana Jones and Indiana Jones Jr.

  37. jeffmcm says:

    “Did it really even require that much attention. He repeats the fucking line Tom Hanks says to him 5 minutes before.”
    Apparently it did, since this is not something that happens in the movie.
    There’s such a thing as ‘subtext’ which is not the same as ‘text’. Tom Hanks tells Matt Damon, “Earn this”. When his old version asks his wife, “Am I a good man?” he’s asking, has he earned it? His wife answers as of course she would but the question lingers in the air as the movie ends.
    Give it another try if you’re inclined.

  38. anghus says:

    jeff
    if you think Hanks saying “earn this” and his older saying “am i good man” is subtext, then you my friend are even dumber than i gave you credit for, which ain’t a whole hell of a lot.
    Seriously, you would call a character saying ‘earn this’ and then in the very next seen asking if he led a good life as subtext?
    Subtext, as defined by the encyclopedia”
    “Subtext is content of a book, play, musical work, film or television series which is not announced explicitly by the characters (or author) but is implicit or becomes something understood by the observer of the work as the production unfolds.”
    The key phrase there is:
    “Is NOT announced explicity by the characters”
    A character is dying who sacrificed his life for another
    “…earn this”
    CROAK
    “Am i a good man?” he says, surrounded by his wife and loved ones….
    Thanks for the laugh jeff.

  39. jeffmcm says:

    Sigh.
    The whole point is that the scene is about the exact _opposite_ of what you think it is. As I said above in the post that you obviously didn’t read: that scene is a question, not an answer.
    It makes me pretty confident that you do not know how to watch a movie.

  40. The Terminal was, and I don’t use this word often, dumb.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon