Thursday, March 4, 2010

Don't mind him, he used to be an Irishman

I had no desire to watch Gangs of New York when it first came out. By all rights, I should have wanted to. There are so many actors in the cast I have a deep respect and love for, it’s a historical piece, it’s a Martin Scorcese movie. By all my rules, I should’ve sought this movie out. But I didn’t. I couldn’t tell you why. Then I watched the Golden Globes, and saw the tribute to Scorcese, and made a mental list of the movies he’s done that I haven’t seen. I was seriously disturbed to realize there’s more movies of his I haven’t seen than ones I have. So I put this and The Departed on hold.

The gorgeous young actor who plays baby Leonardo Dicaprio has got the most breathtaking eyes. He is perfectly cast, because I’ve always loved Leo’s eyes. The little boy doesn’t have a lot of acting to do here, I don’t think he has more than 10 lines, and he’s only on screen for a short time, but he belongs there. His scenes one on one with Liam Neeson are especially touching. I’m a fan of Liam Neeson, he’s got a great regality to him, and he brings that to this movie in spades.

The battle scene is so freaking bloody. I understand that this is a battle between two groups of people who really do want the others to die a horrible death, but good grief. The part that really did me in was the fishhooking. I’ve never even heard this term, and to see the blood start...I didn’t need to see anymore. My imagination filled in what would’ve happened next, and I got a little queasy.

Daniel Day Lewis won my respect with his role in The Crucible. No matter how many times I watch that movie, his line “Give me my name!” always raises goosebumps. He’s a truly incredible actor, and his role here shocked me. I haven’t seen a lot of his roles, but I’ve never seen him like this, and his Bill Cutting was chilling. His New York accent was extremely off-putting, though. His line, delivered to the corrupt police officer, “Punish the man who murdered this poor rabbit!” had me sliding off the couch laughing. Great delivery.

Towards the end of the 90’s, it was extremely unfashionable to like Leonardo Dicaprio. People were on Leo overkill. Between Romeo and Juliet, Titanic, Man in the Iron Mask. He was on the cover of Teen Bop and all those vapid teen magazines. It was enough already. No one wanted to see his face anymore. And it’s a shame, because, as with most “Heart Throb” actors, the mob of screaming fangirls took away a lot of his credibility. It’s so easy to write off an actor or actress because they are the Newest Hottest Thing. It’s never fair, and it’s very rarely correct. Robert Pattinson is the notable exception. I’ll be happy when the rest of the world catches up to those of us who are tired of his greasy existence.
I asked Wikipedia what the Twilight saga was about, and it shot itself

I loved his acting. If there’s one thing to know about me, I do not like blondes. Everyone looks better non blonde, with the exception of a certain platinum blonde British vampire. But Leo’s eyes won me over, and I could ignore the damn blond mop. Even I was tired of his face. I haven’t watched Titanic in a good five or six years, and even then it was only small clips and bits. But I am always willing to watch a Leo movie, because his acting skills are top notch.

He has to carry this movie, which is around three hours long, and he does it effortlessly. It’s easy to watch him, and his emotions and actions run the gamut. He cries and breaks your heart. He fights and you want to throw your hat in the ring right alongside him. And he looks damn good with long hair. /shallow

I cannot stand Cameron Diaz. Her face, her voice, the way she carries herself. I’m perfectly happy not watching anything she’s ever done, and this includes her role in the god forsaken Shrek movies. We’ll call it The “There’s Something About Mary” Effect. This movie didn’t help me change my mind. She’s even worse with an accent. The less said about her role in this movie, the better for me.

Now that I’ve covered the main actors, let’s get to the story itself. Now, I loved the telling of the story of this battle between the “natives” (how ironic is that, anyway?) and the Irish. But it didn’t really feel like this story had a start, a beginning, and an end. The growth of Amsterdam’s character from Priest’s son to leader of the Dead Rabbits* was really wondrous to watch. Picking up where his father left off.

What hurt me most was seeing how he began developing almost a father/son relationship with Bill Cutting. He hates this man, but this man has taken him in, has given him a job and is teaching him the way of America. He dives in front of him to save him from the deadly bullet, then hides, crying. He is so obviously torn apart, and it’s truly painful to watch. It’s almost a relief when Johnny reveals him to be a traitor to Cutting. Despite the brutal torture he receives, the butcher also cuts away the mask. He is free to take back the Irish pride, bring back the Dead Rabbits and stand to fight Cutting and the other racist “Natives”.

Johnny’s death also hurt me. Not in that it broke my heart, but in an “OH MY GOD, he is IMPALED ON A FENCE!” way. Jesus Christ, that looked so painful. I mean, it’s a goddamn rod iron pointy fence, and it is STRAIGHT UP THROUGH HIM. I saw it when Amsterdam ran up to him, and when he touched him, I shrieked before Johnny did. I felt every movement up until the shot was fired, and ye gods, that was horrendous. Made more so by the fact that, dude, that’s Elliot from E.T.! You can’t kill Elliot!

I’m going to sound like a serious dumbass for saying this. But as someone who was born and raised and still lives in the deep South, I don’t think of racism as a nationwide/worldwide issue. This is the South. We fly confederate flags. Racial slurs are part of small children’s vocabularies from a young age. It’s been like that for over a century now. So to see such racial unrest in New York? It’s very offputting for me. Again, I sound like a dumbass. Racism is, very sadly, everywhere. And to see it in this movie makes me so sad. To attack blacks during the draft wars, solely because Lincoln had the nerve to free them. It’s just so horrifying, made more so by the fact that this actually happened.

This isn’t a movie I would yell from the rooftops it should be watched over and over again. But it is a damn good movie. I also wouldn’t call it inspirational. Because someone who screams from the rooftops that “these goddamn Mexicans need to go back to their own fucking country” wouldn’t see the parallels to this movie. And that’s just sad.

This movie just kind of makes me sad. Not a lot has changed in over 100 years, though the violence isn’t anywhere near as hardcore anymore. But that’s not to say it couldn’t be. I would love for those people to watch this movie and get a mental image of immigrants rising up against them. It’s truly a very scary thought.

I’d say this movie is damn worth watching.

Six Degrees of Whedon Separation: Sarah Michelle Gellar was originally cast as Jenny, however, due to scheduling conflicts with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, had to give up the role to Cameron Diaz. Shame. The casting would've been 100% without Diaz.

* WTF is up with the dead rabbits?! Couldn’t be dead dogs? Dead badgers? Dead possums? Come ON!!!**
** I am kidding. I watched the special features and understand the meaning behind the Dead Rabbits.

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