Dec 312013

It's only rock 'n roll!

It’s only rock ‘n roll!

Martin Scorsese is on my shit list this holiday season. Big time. I used to run out to see Scorsese movies as soon as they were released. The Last Waltz is a major reason I’m still so obsessed with rock ‘n roll. At 17, I sat in the second row of a packed theater for Raging Bull. The two of us knew exactly what that movie was getting at. I simply mention that movie to her to this day and our bond is confirmed. He didn’t miss a beat with left turns, like The King of Comedy and After Hours. Even The Color of Money paid off.

I walked through picket lines to see The Last Temptation of Christ. I saw Goodfellas the day that came out, in the company of E. Pluribus Gergely and our soon-to-be brides. What a movie! Then came Casino. As soon as I saw the trailers for that movie I thought, “This looks like a rehash of Goodfellas. I just saw Goodfellas, and I don’t need to see a Scorsese movie with Sharon Stone!” Scorsese entered his midlife crisis years, in which the greatest director with minimal need for women in his films suddenly started chasing all the blond cheerleader types who wouldn’t give him the time of day when he was in high school: Jessica Lange in Cape Fear, that preposterous version of an already mediocre B-movie; Michelle Pfeiffer in that film of  Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence; and Cameron Diaz in that 19th century Irish mobster near-musical, the most blatant cheerleader grope of Scorsese’s career.

Leonardo DiCaprio has replaced Robert DeNiro as the director’s go-to guy. I’ve got no beef with DiCaprio. He can be really good. He was great in Catch Me If You Can. He was really good as Howard Hughes, in that mostly unnecessary Scorsese movie. He’s great at playing an engaging creep, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do anything beside that. He doesn’t give off much emotional range, at least not in the Scorsese movies I’ve seen him in. Now Scorsese’s cast him as an asshole investment guy from the ’80s in The Wolf of Wall Street. Three of hours of the ’70s scenes from Goodfellas set in the ’80s, instead. Three hours of hotshots snorting coke off hookers’ asses. Hey, it may be a fantastic movie, but I get no sense that it’s going to deliver the redemption that was at the heart of all the great Scorsese movies. It looks to me like another Casino, another movie in which Marty’s characters toss Benjamins around and the camera pans in quickly, just because he can do it and we can’t! It looks to me like another midlife crisis movie from an 80-year-old master who should make one more film with DeNiro before they both die. I need my Scorsese to calm the fuck down and make a 2-hour meditation on death, with DeNiro playing an old man version of one of his classic Scorsese characters. No blonds. No Irish-Catholic gangters from Boston. No DiCaprio. No offense to blonds, Irish-Catholic gangsters from Boston, and DiCaprio. The movie must check in at less than 2 hours 15 minutes.

A few days ago the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll” came on the radio, and I couldn’t change the station fast enough. I have come to loathe that song, even more than I dislike “Angie,” despite the fact that I don’t mind the music of “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll,” its groove, it’s production. I just seems like the Stones’ version of Casino, like they felt they’d worked long and hard enough and just wanted to trade Sharon Stone an Oscar nod for a roll in the hay.

Not exactly related, but on Monday a friend suggested I see American Hustle, which I almost talked myself into seeing on Sunday. There are no movies out that I really want to see, and yesterday I really wanted to see a movie. This may shock you, but I’ve got a really bad attitude about seeing this movie. I’m annoyed by both the seeming Goodfellas ’70s scenes shown in the trailer as I am the trailer for Scorsese’s new movie. I don’t need 3 hours of hotshots strutting about. I’m not having a midlife crisis. Scorsese is OLD. He needs to make his career-capping confronting death movie, starring DeNiro, not DiCaprio in old guy makeup. He needs to stop trying to impress fourth-generation hotshots who don’t know the difference between Taxi Driver and one of those celebrity vodka ads. The rest of the movie world needs to stop acting like fourth-generation hotshots, with dramatic camera pans on stacks of bills being tossed in the air. 

I’m afraid that American Hustle is going to make me think too much about the following:

  • How sick I am of Scorsese
  • How overrated I thought Jennifer Lawrence was in the surprisingly good Silver Linings Playbook
  • How decent Bradley Cooper is for being a good-looking guy
  • How much I like Bradley Cooper just a little bit more because he grew up a few miles from where I went to school (ie, homerism)
  • How low Amy Adams’ neckline is plunging in that jumpsuit and how I wish I could like her in another movie as much as I did in that one where she played a princess
  • How much Christian Bale looks like Tom Cruise (even looking like Cruise’s fat studio boss in that Ben Stiller warm movie farce that went on for way too long)
  • And so forth.

In short, I’ll probably wait to see American Hustle when it’s out on DVD or showing on AMC.

As you probably know about me, this collective beef is my own burden.

I hope to eventually get out to see Nebraska (although the thought of seeing Bruce Dern as Nick Nolte is not appealing) and Inside Llewynn Davis (although the Coen brothers aren’t too far behind Scorsese on my list of favorite directors who need to calm the hell down).

Last night, rather than going out to see a movie we weren’t sold on, we watched an early Cary Grant movie called Topper. That was excellent. We’ve now seen a couple of films with Constance Bennett. She was a fireball! The guy who played Topper was very funny as well. Topper was not “only rock ‘n roll.”


  7 Responses to “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll?”

  1. misterioso

    Mod, I almost totally feel your pain. But first: absolutely agree with you on Topper, which is totally charming, and Constance Bennett, who is great. Unfortunately, I’ve only seen a couple others with her that were any good. She pops up in a lot of early 30s films on TCM that I always think will be more interesting than they usually turn out to be.

    Second: pretty much spot on about Scorsese. At one time I’d run to see anything be did. But since Goodfellas he’s been running on fumes. I recently tried to watch Casino again, thinking maybe time would heal, but it has not. It’s a bloated, lazy movie. After that I stopped going to see his movies. In the past year or so I’ve seen several that I had taken a pass on: Gangs of New York (mostly ridiculous), The Aviator (not half bad), The Departed (lousy, lousy, lousy). Of course I’ve also seen his Dylan documentary No Direction Home (pretty great but not sure how much that had to do with Scorsese) and the George Harrison one (interesting but disappointing).

    He doesn’t need to deliver redemption, if that’s not where he’s at, but he does need to deliver interesting movies.

    I disagree about the Coen Bros. Not to say that everything they do is excellent, they have had their mis-steps–but I think it is unfair to lump them in with Scorsese’s latter-day crap.

    Finally: I know I should hate It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll. And, in theory, I do. But invariably I enjoy myself when I hear it. Alas (?).

  2. My beef with the Coen brothers is nowhere as deepset as my beef with Marty. I still dig most of their movies, but they have been leaning toward the suffocatingly negative as time goes on. I guess this should have been expected, but I miss the sliver of hope and goodwill that used to appear at the end of movies like Fargo and Barton Fink. I liked A Simple Man a lot, for instance, but it never let up on the extended black joke.

  3. 2000 Man

    It’s Only Rock N Roll is a perfectly made record. I get tired of it too, but I still put it on and crank it up once in awhile to just admire how great it sounds, and how everything just keeps getting added one piece at a time. It’s really cool, but they play it too much. The Stones can’t play it live to save their asses, and they never have been able to.

  4. Checking in after a two week bender of fats, sugar and alcohol: Mistakes by the Coen Brothers are more interesting than most other director’s movies. I just saw a list of their movies ranked by some random guy somewhere and I’ve seen 13 out of 16. I need to check out the new one and Burn After Reading (I’ve been avoiding it because it looks stupid but I keep hearing it worth checking out). I won’t go see their remake of the Ladykillers, partly because I heard it’s horrible and partly because there was no need to remake the original. So far, Intolerable Cruelties was the only one that outright sucked.

    And it’s not the Stones’ fault that I get tired of Only Rock and Roll. I like the song but have hit the saturation point with it.

  5. Back in the late ’70s in my early days in Hartford I met a few guys into similar music. One was into the Stones, another The Who, and another Neil Young. We had dinner one night and then some music and beer at my apartment. I started off with It’s Only Rock & Roll, Pure & Easy, and Hey Hey My My (or was it My My Hey Hey?). Those three songs have always gone together for me since then and I haven’t tired of any of them.

  6. I remember being disappointed when I first saw The Departed. Probably mostly caused by Jack’s weak Boston accent, but there’s no denying whenever I land on it repeating on TNT, I stay there and enjoy it. Shutter Island didn’t live up to the 4 stars it received (it also had a hot blond in flashbacks). I look forward to seeing The Wolf, though I don’t expect to be surprised by it in any way. I think I’ll still like seeing Leo and Marty do their thing.

    Fargo excluded, I’ve always found I enjoy Coen Bro movies much more the 2nd to Nth time I watch them. Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty are awful. I thought O Brother was overrated. Burn After Reading has some really funny performances. Worth seeing.

    Neither Marty nor the Coens have jumped the shark for me yet.

    It’s Only Rock and Roll is SUCH a paint by numbers Stones song that I’m personally insulted every time it comes on the radio. I want to tell the DJ “come on, you can do better than that.”

  7. I’m coming in with a rather different perspective. I kind of figured that after the success of The Departed, Scorsese might have been given a bit more artistic freedom on The Wolf. After seeing the film, I think I was right. It is completely uncompromising (free of the tired appeals to sentimentality and loyalty that was a critical problem with Goodfellas). The Wolf is my favorite Scorsese film since Mean Streets.

    What makes the drug scenes funny is that the characters do not look or act cool. This is not Robbie Robertson flyin’ high in The Last Waltz. Rather, these guys are inarticulate and drooling on themselves. Give credit to DiCaprio and Hill who play their characters with every ounce of self-loathing they can muster–and remind us of the director’s own failings that drive his art.

    The late, great German writer/director Werner Rainer Fassbinder said that his films were not intended to offer solutions to, but rather confront his audience with, the social problems outside of the theater. The same can be said of The Wolf. If there were a “happy” ending, where we got satisfaction in seeing that these villains get what they deserve, we would be off the hook. Instead, the film brutally reminds us that these guys are the ones who wrecked the economy–and until we get serious about financial regulations (shredded during the Reagan era) the worst is yet to come.

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