Re-Watching the Classics: Dog Day Afternoon

986260100c954ce9b2b37bf8ad8c3417Dog Day Afternoon is a neo-noir film made in 1975, based on real events from 1972.  John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturile try to rob a branch of Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn, New York. The reason they are trying to rob the bank is  for Wojtowicz’s lover, Ernest Aron, who is trying to pay for a sex change operation.  This is to crazy to be true but it is!

Even though this film was mostly improvised, Frank Pierson won an Academy Award for his screenplay. He got the idea from a Life Magazine article.  This was nominated for 5 Academy Awards in total, but only won one.  This movie was unfortunately up against One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest for most of its awards.  This will be remembered as one of Al Pacino’s best performances and the 4th time he was nominated for an Academy Award in 4 consecutive years.  All 4 nominations where for classic neo-noir roles as well, with The Godfather, Serpico, The Godfather Part II, and this performance.  All 4 are now legendary roles, but he didn’t win for any of them.

This film was directed by legendary director Sidney Lumet.  Lumet made some of the greatest films of all time including many neo-noir films.  We will be re-looking at many of his films later on this blog.

Our co-star is John Cazale, who was way to old to play the part of real-life 18-year-old Sal.  Pacino insisted on Cazale playing the role, even though Lumet thought he was all wrong.  When Lumet saw his audition he hired him on the spot. Cazale, who’s short career only produced 5 films before his death from cancer didn’t disappoint.  All 5 films he appeared in were nominated for best picture and all 5 are classics.  They are:

The Godfather

The Conversation

The Godfather II

Dog Day Afternoon

The Deer Hunter

Who knows what Cazale could have done if his time here was longer.

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Other standouts in the cast are Charles Durning as our Police Sargent in charge, Carol Kane and Penelope Allen as two of the bank tellers who become hostages, and Lance Henriksen as the bus driver.

This is required viewing for the fan of grimy 1970’s film, and noir and neo-noir fans.  Trivia note, John Wojtowicz lover did get his sex change operation after all, paid for by Wojtowicz earnings from selling his story for this film.

Review: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is based on the book and true story of Robert E. Burns.

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This movie was a commentary of the overall situation going on in America after World War I and how the veterans coming back from war were treated.  This is also a look at how prisoners in the state of Georgia were treated, this was changed partly because of this book and movie.  Watching this movie you can see how influential it was on future movies.  This picture captured a time in history with 2 iconic elements, the blood hounds and black and white striped prison uniforms.  The film is directed by Mervyn LeRoy, he also directed Johnny Eager a film I reviewed recently here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/16/review-johnny-eager/

The movie is overall true to fact, but one big fact, Burns really did steal the little over $5 because he needed it for food.  In the film he is just an innocent bystander, which gives the film more of a noir feel.  We love the average guy that gets caught up on the wrong side of the law.

Paul Muni is the star and comes across as your everyday man, perfect for this part.  Glenda Farrell plays the femme fatale that wants to marry our hero, for better or worse.  Helen Vinson plays another lady in our hero’s life.

This movie had a lot of impact on human rights and the way people are treated when in prison.  This is also one of the first noir films, and influenced a lot of films to come in the next 3 decades.  This is a very interesting story and is well worth watching.  If you are a film-noir buff it is required watching.

Re-Watching: Zodiac

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I wanted to re-watch this film because of my review of Bullitt brought up an interesting point.  Steve McQueen based his performance of Bullitt on David Toschi, check out my look at Bullitt here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/21/re-watching-the-classics-bullitt/

Toschi, the lead investigator on the Zodiac case is portrayed by Mark Ruffalo in this film.  Toschi is the basis for Dirty Harry as well, so Toschi was a real life badass that has become part of 3 great neo-noir movies.

Zodiac is based on a book by Robert Graysmith, who is played by Jake Gyllenhaal.  This movie actually reopened the case of the Zodiac.  Though most of this film is based on Graysmith’s take of the case so it is basically from one persons prospective.

The film is directed by one of my favorite directors of all time, David Fincher.  We will be re-looking at many more Fincher neo-noir films on this site.

Robert Downey Jr. played Paul Avery, a reporter famous for working on the Zodiac case as well as the Patricia Hearst Kidnapping case.

The dialog in this film has flashing moments of classic noir dialog.  I didn’t pick up on this when I watched it the first time back in 2007.

A couple I loved:

Robert Graysmith: Doesn’t it bother you that people call you Shorty?
Shorty: Doesn’t it bother you that people call you retard?
Robert Graysmith: Nobody calls me that.
Shorty: Right.

And:

Paul Avery: What do you do for fun?
Robert Graysmith: I love to read.
Paul Avery: Mhmm.
Robert Graysmith: Umm, I enjoy books.
Paul Avery: Those are the same things.

And maybe the best is David Toschi constantly asking for some Animal Crackers.

David Fincher also does a great job of showing San Francisco in a classic fashion, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Port of San Francisco and the time laps of the Transamerica Pyramid give the film a dark look.  The creepy basement scene, with lots of shadows is almost black and white in feel.

This movie comes to a conclusion that a certain suspect was in fact the Zodiac Killer(I will not mention names for those that have not seen the movie).  Later DNA testing seems to have cleared this person.  There is many other theories on who was the Zodiac Killer, but nobody has officially solved the crime yet.  Since this film there has been numerous deathbed confessions and supposed new evidence.  One theory actually links the case of the Black Dahlia with the Zodiac Killer.  We may never know the real story of this case, but this film is entertaining on its own.

Review: The Drop Movie vs Book

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So  I finally got to see The Drop!  One of the bad things about living in small town Montana is we don’t get every movie that comes out in the theaters, in our theaters.  I am a huge Dennis Lehane fan and have read almost all of his work and seen every movie based on his novels.  This story started as a novel, that didn’t get finished, that got turned into a short story, that got picked up as a movie and turned into a screenplay, movie gets made and the novel finally gets finished.  The good news is Lehane is the one that wrote all the material.  I read the book months ago when it first came out and thought it was a great little book.  Since the book was actually written after the screenplay and movie, it doesn’t vary from the movie but may give a little more insight into the characters.  Compared to Leahane’s current series, the Coughlin books, this is a short pulpy book, but no less fun.

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I then was ready to see the movie, but had to wait for the DVD release and for Netflix to send it to my house.  I know this film was a small film, but could have been a lot bigger at the box office in my opinion.  Maybe we were spoiled in 2014 with so many great neo-noir films coming to theaters, maybe this got lost in the shuffle between Gone Girl and Nightcrawler.  No, I would not put this movie in a class with those two, but it isn’t that far behind.

This film may be best known and go down in history as the last film of James Gandolfini.  Gandolfini does his normal, but no less memorable New York baddy.  This is also the first American film for director, Michaël R. Roskam.  Roskam previous work Bullhead is a cool little country noir from Belgium and is worth searching out if you haven’t already seen it.   Matthias Schoenaerts, who also worked with Roskam on Bullhead, does a great job as a street thug. Original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace plays the slightly broken girl our protagonist falls for.  Our protagonist is played by Tom Hardy, whom I feel is a very underrated actor.  He always choices interesting roles and with the exception of “This Means War,” I’ve loved him in everything I’ve seen.

So a quick non-spoiler preview that works for both book and movie.  We have a bar called Cousin Marv’s run by Bob and his Cousin Marv.  The bar is a drop bar for the mob.  A drop bar is where all the money owed the mafia is dropped at every night.  There are many drop bars and the bars are picked at random each night.  Our hero Bob is walking home one night and finds a puppy pit bull in a trash can, beaten and left for dead.  The lady whose trash can the dog is found in, work together to bring the dog back to health.  From this the story takes off on a wild ride of crime in a hard neighborhood.

So what wins in this book verses movie?  I can’t decide, I really liked them both.  Do this dynamic duo in whatever way you normally like to do them.  Book then Movie, Movie then Book, I don’t think it matters, if you enjoy anything Lehane grab the one easiest for you to find and enjoy.

Bad news for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fans.

We know we are getting a new book in August, but it looks like we are a long ways away from getting a new movie.  According to E! who got to talk to Rooney Mara, said “I don’t think it’s going to happen,”.  Read the full article here:

http://www.comingsoon.net/movies/news/413263-rooney-mara-says-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-sequel-is-dead#/slide/15

Review: The Lookalike

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The Lookalike is a new neo-noir that has just come out on DVD.  The casting is very interesting, it has three actors, known for their comedy and play straight dark characters.  They are Justin Long, Gillian Jacobs and Jerry O’Connell.  I didn’t know if I could take any of them seriously, but they all did a fine jobs.  We have veteran crime actors Gina Gershon, Luis Guzmán and Steven Bauer.  Normal good guy John Corbett also plays against type as one of the baddies.  Scottie Thompson also plays an important role in the film.  I’m not to familiar with her work, but look forward to seeing her in more movies. Felisha Terrell played a smaller role in this, but was a stand out in my opinion.

So a quick idea of what you are getting into without to much of a spoiler.  We have a bar owner/drug dealer that hires a lady to have sex with a business partner to help close a deal.  This business partner wants this particular lady because she is the daughter of an ex-partner.  Unfortunately this lady  accidentally dies before this can happen, so our drug dealer must find a lookalike to take her place.  This part of the story takes place in the first few minutes and we or off on our adventure.

We have drug dealers, cocaine addicts, loan sharks, strippers, informants, a cancer survivor and some shady cops, all with their own stories that all intertwine into one crazy ride.

This film takes place and is shot in New Orleans, a great location for a modern noir film, but it is not part of the story and simply a great looking back drop in this movie. This film is directed by Richard Gray and written by his wife Michele Davis-Gray, This is their 5th film together and their first crime film.  I can see them getting better as they go and hope they revisit the genre in the future.  This is a fun little film for noir fans looking for something new to rent and watch on a snowy winters night.