Thursday, December 08, 2005

"And thus, as sure His foe to wound"

I love these weekly features. It lets me have something reassuring to look forward to and, it's darned easy for a blogger...someone else's done all the work. Others may have had the idea long before I learned of it, but I was introduced to the idea by no less than Swiss Toni, a bona fide legend in this corner of blogworld.

So it is with great honor and pleasure that I welcome him as my guest for this week's "Least Favorite Movie."

According to the readers of Empire magazine, Robert De Niro has appeared in no fewer than 8 of the 100 Greatest Films of All Time. He is undoubtedly an actor of impressive range, having appeared as a gangster, psycho or a thug of some kind in films as varied as: The Godfather, Part II, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, The Untouchables, Casino, Cape Fear, Heat, Analyse This… do I need to go on? With versatility like that, it is no surprise that De Niro is widely considered one of the greatest actors of all time.

His work as a method actor is legendary: although De Niro himself is left-handed, in Taxi Driver, he writes with his right hand! Amazing. Now that’s real dedication to your craft.

Perhaps the film he is most famous for is the one that is ranked at number 17 in that Empire poll: Raging Bull (1980). Indeed, the film has been deemed “culturally significant” by no less an organisation than the United States Library of Congress (who clearly know a great film when they see one) and has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, as well as on the DVD shelves of countless homes across the world. . The film tells the story of the chaotic rise and fall of the boxer Jake La Motta, ‘The Bronx Bull’, the first man to beat Sugar Ray Robinson.

I hate it. When I saw it for the first time, I was really looking forward to a treat. I had read about this film; I knew all about its reputation as one of the finest films ever made. I emerged two hours later more than a little bemused. This was one of the most highly praised films ever, and yet I found it boring and irritating. Perhaps I had missed something?

Stupidly, I watched it again.

I’m sure it has lots to recommend it as a film. I’m sure that the editing is marvellous, that the fight scenes are amongst the most realistic ever committed to film… it’s just that I found the characters unconvincing at best and at worst deeply annoying (has Joe Pesci ever been anything but?). De Niro won the Best Oscar for his performance in this film, and I have to wonder why. What does he do? He runs through his standard Italian-American psycho schtick, shouts incoherently a lot and pointlessly puts on 60lbs (that’s 27kg) to play an older La Motta for about 5 minutes of film…er, and that’s it. Ah, but he’s a method actor, you see. He became quite the boxer and could maybe have fought professionally. And then he put all that weight on so he could REALLY BECOME like an old, washed-up Jake La Motta. Remarkable!

My arse. Mr. Creosote from ‘Monty Python & The Meaning of Life’ is a more convincing fat bloke than De Niro. I wish someone had passed him a wafer-thin mint, that’s for sure, then we might have been spared such gems as Meet The Fockers, Men of Honor, Frankenstein… and the rest. To be fair to him though, I thought he excelled in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. He really brought Jar-Jar Binks to life. He BECAME Jar-Jar. Apparently he spent six months living in space in preparation for that role…

One of the Greatest Films Of All Time? Not in my books. I’d rather watch Spiceworld than this overrated nonsense.

Opine away, my dear friends. I'm a-glow in the lights brought to me by the return of our friend. Hopefully this will quell the rumors that I am trying to take over the world (or at least lull you all into a sense of false security!).

I'll be back with some long overdue readings tomorrow. In the meantime, I've got some Christmas shopping to see to.


mrmystic said...

It is funny how on important matters I agree with you most of the time....but with movies it always seems as if you miss the point...don't take me wrong it is not meant to be's just that I think you have artistic qualities in you that you are not letting rise to the plane leaves this afternoon so I hve to get ready, but when I get home I will explain why people think that Raging Bull is such a magnificent film.

SwissToni said...

But that's the thing, isn't it? You can explain to me why people think this is a great film all you like, and I'll still turn round and tell you that I don't like it. You can talk to me about the cimematography, the way the fight scenes are shot from La Motta's perspective (the fights he wins we see everything in perfect focus, but during the beating he gets from Sugar Ray everything is shrouded and dark...). I still found it boring, and you won't be able to change that.

At the end of the day it's a matter of personal taste, isn't it? I can't make myself like something just because it is deemed a masterpiece. Who deems it a masterpiece? Why is their judgement any more valid than my own?

I learnt a really important lesson after leaving school. I had spent God knows how many years having "classic" books drummed into me in my English classes. I learnt to associate the cream and black covers of the "Penguin Classics" editions with deathly dull books - I'm sure lots of people do. Then I read "The Three Musketeers", a "classic", and discovered that it was an absolute riot of a book, and a fantastic read. It made me realise that it's all about personal taste, and that I won't like everything... but that's okay.

It's all subjective. All of it. You're welcome to your opinion, of course you are, but equally I'm entitled to mine. If I think that "A Muppet Christmas Carol" has more to recommend it than "Raging Bull", then what of it?


SwissToni said...

...and anyway. I don't care what "people" think. What do *you* think?

Fred said...

I've never seen the movie. But, judging on some of the comments above, maybe I should?

Good luck shopping. It's the worst part of the season for me.

MrMystic said...

swiss Toni, there are criteria for certain things that have to be met inorder to make it good,....If you don't personally like it after that is your bussiness, but what makes art good is not whether or not the individual likes or dislikes it.

SwissToni said...

I think that's exactly what makes art good, actually. There isn't a rulebook of what is good and what is bad... it's entirely subjective.

red one said...

Apparently he spent six months living in space in preparation for that role…

That made me laugh.

Thing is, I don't want to watch boxing. I don't want to see it on telly. I don't want to see a film about it - especially not a realistic film about it that looks like actual boxing. So Raging Bull is lost on me.

Th closest I can get to boxing is reading a book about Muhammed Ali, who I think is a very interesting bloke. And it's a bloody tragedy he was a boxer and all. There should have been something better for a man like that.


the urban fox said...

I'm with Red on boxing. No interest. Never seen Raging Bull so can't comment.

This, though:

"I learnt to associate the cream and black covers of the "Penguin Classics" editions with deathly dull books - I'm sure lots of people do."


*stares Swiss out*

Hyde said...

See, now, I like watching boxing, even though it makes me squirm to see people hurt each other. That's why I like movie boxing better than real boxing-- it's not real violence-- just glamorized violence. (Less flinching, more of a turn on). I'll stop there before I say too much. So sorry, ST-- I won't argue that "Raging Bull" is great art, but have to say-- I do enjoy watching it.


Aravis said...

I'm not a boxing fan either, but Cinderella Man was an incredible film. The story of the man outside the ring was so compelling that I didn't mind the stuff inside the ring. As for Raging Bull, I've never felt like watching it so I can't comment fairly.

As for art, I agree with ST that it's subjective. When the Impressionists came onto the scene their work broke all the rules and many dismissed the same artists that are now so often revered: Seurat, Monet, Degas, Cassat. Many insisted that these people weren't true artists. The same holds true for subsequent schools of art.

It's all subjective.

SwissToni said...

foxy you clown, I was saying I was wrong about (some) penguin classics! My elder brother has a phobia about them though, and only discovered that David Copperfield was in fact a masterpiece and worth reading was when he was given it in a different edition. Seriously.


Lord Bargain said...

I won't touch a Penguin Classic for exactly the same reason. Likely to be full of some tedious old cobblers, in my opinion.

Eva said...

I think these 'classic' movies are like some modern art. One 'important' critic thinks its fantastic and no one wants to disagree with him for fear that people think they don't 'get it'. I on the other hand am not a lemming. I go see the film, art, read the book and if it is crap, I say so.

I don't care how 'profound' you think a pile of sweetner packets are, its not art, its just a stupid way to make money.

I didn't see Raging Bull, I knew I wouldn't like it from the clips. So I can't say if it was a bad film. But if you truely want to see a bad film, try The Order with Jean Claud VanDame. That's a stinker.