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.