Oliver Stone’s mean little thriller about dope, guns, and fucking in the California sun is enough fun to watch that, for about half of its running time, I didn’t care that it has little else going for it. An Oliver Stone screenplay used to bring with it a wild-eyed bid for topicality — films like Salvador and Scarface stood not just as provocation but also as snapshots of their era. Savages nods briefly in the direction of politics, with a sidelong reference to the presumably inevitable three-years-hence legalization of the kind of hard-to-get, THC-rich substance that’s the speciality of sexed-up potheads Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), who get rich quick on their killer weed by day, then kick polyamorous squeeze Ophelia (Blake Lively) back and forth between them like a hacky-sack by night. Shit gets real when a Mexican drug cartel takes an interest in their business acumen and offers them a partnership they’d love to refuse.
One of the most powerful moments in Scarface is the culmination of a violent, perfectly judged sequence of events crafted for maximum impact by screenwriter Oliver Stone and staged with ferocious efficiency by director Brian De Palma. It takes place at the end of a night when Al Pacino’s Cuban gangster, a feisty little hard-on named Tony Montana, has survived an attempt on his life that left him with a bullet in his shoulder. He has overseen the execution of his boss, who was behind the hit. He has shot dead a corrupt cop who was extorting his cash and favours. And he has just been upstairs to collect from between satin sheets his boss’s woman, a sleek blonde dressed in white who is his prize. The camera zooms out from a medium close-up on Pacino’s face as, still bleeding, arm in a sling, exhaustion writ large across his face, Tony Montana peers through 20-foot-tall glass windows, staring dumbly into a Giorgio Moroder sunrise as an advertising blimp floats over the water, its pithy slogan an empty promise of greatness yet to come: “The World Is Yours….”
Link Dump #5: W., Stars, Vampire Weekend, and Criterion Blu-Ray
W., un film de Oliver Stone
If this trailer (for Oliver Stone’s W.) were just a joke, it would be a great joke. We’ll see what happens with the movie.
Music Video: Stars/”Bitches in Tokyo”
“This is what you’re worried about: something called The New York Dolls.”
Music Video: Vampire Weekend/”Oxford Comma”
It’s probably too soon for the Wes Anderson homage videos, but whatever.
Criterion Collection, High-Definition Division
Speaking of Wes Anderson, The Criterion Collection has just announced details on its November (delayed from October) opening salvo of Blu-ray Disc releases, and it’s a doozy. Bottle Rocket. Chungking Express. (Swoon.) The Third Man. The Man Who Fell to Earth. And The Last Emperor. Five solid selections from five great directors — and two films (the one with Faye Wong and the one with Orson Welles) that I absolutely adore. I am so there.
World Trade Center
Or, Buried Alive on the Fourth of July
If you’re buried alive under a pile of smoldering rubble in an Oliver Stone movie, it seems your salvation may come from one of two places. First, there’s Jesus. If he shows up, he may offer to deliver you from suffering, but it will likely mean punching your ticket. Hang on, buddy, because your second saviour is the U.S. Marines. And if the Marines show up, boy howdy are you in good hands. That’s the non-ironic gist of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, a conservative yarn of life in these times rife with sentiment and earnestness. I’ll go so far as to say the bit with the Marines is a well-timed moment of catharsis in a movie that needs it. It made me smile and laugh out loud in spite of myself. Sometimes, hokum works pretty beautifully. The film’s opening is just lovely — a sober collection of shots of New York City, skyline still intact, coming to life in the morning. It reminded me a little of the majestic opening montage of Woody Allen’s Manhattan, set to “Rhapsody in Blue,” but this version is laced unavoidably with overwhelming sadness.