Taxi Driver

I hope you're sitting comfortably? Yes, well I shall begin......
 
I went to see two films this Friday and because I thought they were a waste of time, I thought I’d review some films you can get on DVD.
 
As I have constantly said before (ok, once before!) Film and life are intrinsically linked. Don't believe me? Let me attempt to prove my point.
 
Have you seen the film rated in the top 50 films of all time called Taxi Driver? No? Well let me give you my take on it. 
 
Taxi Driver is a film starring Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster. The plot briefly tells the story of a man who is a Vietnam Vet who takes a job as a taxi driver working 12 hour shifts due to the fact that he cannot sleep at night based on (I presume) what he has experienced in the war he has just returned from. His days are filled frequenting (great word!) porn theatres which is quite normal to him. 
 
Cybill works for the New York Senator as a volunteer and Niro sees her a few times from his taxi and likes what he sees, which leads to Niro applying to get a job as a volunteer just to get closer to Cybill. 
 
The senator is aiming to get into the Whitehouse on a "clean up the streets" campaign.
 
Niro asks her out on a date and she agrees, so he decides to take her to see a "foreign language film (capiche? You know what I’m talkin' ‘bout!!!).  Suffice to say porn isn't part of Cybill’s world so she walks out in disgust.....De Niro sends her flowers, bombards her with phone calls, all to no avail.
 
At the same time De Niro notices that the streets are too seedy with too many Pimps (Harvey Keitel) ‘n' prostitutes (a 12 year old Jodie Foster whom he likes on a platonic basis). "New York New York, so good they named it twice" (but good for what?) He also keeps a diary to collate his thoughts. 
 
So my brother De Niro becomes mentally darker and twisted and clearly he needs an outlet for his frustration which he finds in the form of the Senator, it's all his fault (obviously) so naturally he plots to assassinate the Senator.
 
The brother De Niro then gets some unlicensed guns, embarks on a fitness regime (De Niro being a method actor actually lost 35lbs for the role, me, I once lost 20p down the back of the sofa!!!) He then goes down to a rally that the Senator will be speaking at. 
 
He first shaves his head into a Mohawk style and gets ready to kill the Senator. Security sees "Mr not too bright who thinks he can blend in with a crowd as he aims to kill a very secure person while sporting that particular look!" (Are you still sitting comfortably?) Realising that he ain't no Jackal (remember the film of the legendary real life Assassin which starred Edward fox in the title role?) De Niro flees, just like a crafty Jackal (the cowardly creature not the bloke!)
 
Concluding the film now peeps & (slight) spoiler alert ....
De Niro goes out on the seedy streets as a "Lone Wolf" attacking a few peeps that he believes are "guilty" of the ills besetting his city and protecting those who he feels are vulnerable (Jodie).
 
The ending in the film isn't really concluded rather it's left to you to use your own imagination and I’m not going to spoil that mental process.
 
As Soul II Soul would say, "back to life, back to reality.....
 
Taxi Driver was influenced by the diaries of the "would be assassin" Arthur Bremer who shot Presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972. The film was also inspired by the writer of the film who had recently split up with his girlfriend and spent weeks living in his car.
 
De Niro's Mohawk haircut was influenced by an ex-soldier who plays a role in the film who explained that when during the Vietnam war, a soldier who had to go into the jungle would adopt a similar hairstyle which denoted that the mission was serious that they were facing (remember the hair cut of B.A Baracus in The A-Team and his explanation for the reason why he sported it?)
 
Also consider the man who went on a killing spree in Norway on July 23rd 2011.  He was also a loner (Lone Wolf) who also kept a diary. 
 
Pictures featuring Anders Behring Breivik in civilian clothes make him look just like a normal office worker who pays his taxes (the agent speaking to Mr Anderson in The Matrix) but other pictures emerging show the same man in battle fatigues with a severe haircut plus his logic in killing nearly 100 people does make sense if your crazy. For example, Behring felt that his nation's leaders were not doing enough to curb Muslim fundamentalism in Europe and his home country of Norway in particular so he felt he would send the leaders of the nation a lesson. 
 
He felt that the Government of his Country had made decisions that are affecting the strength of Christianity in Norway (so he attacked the Government building, also think about the Oklahoma bombers doing the same thing) then he attacked the children that were young party activists and the future of the current government. Both in his opinion was legitimate targets... .
 
Someone in defence of controversial films will say " worse case scenario, a film negatively affects only 1 in a million people", which can mean in extreme circumstances that if one person who has a gun out of 1million people, who then sees the said controversial film can feel validated in his thoughts if he sees his film hero repeat on the big screen his thoughts, make no mistake, "there will be blood".  If you're balanced then any film is just entertainment and maybe harmless escapism. 
 
If you're unbalanced then you may have problems sleeping, which in turn will affect your ability to escape.
 
Also remember that a large percentage of soldiers who are very highly trained killing machines who come back from war/s are given very little support, thus a large portion are either in prison, suicidal or dead.
 
Society shouldn't only celebrate the lives of the returning dead from war, we should also support living ex-soldiers to integrate them back into society and find ways of utilising their transferable skills...... 
 
Art imitating life or is it life imitating art? You decide........
 

Brooklyn's Finest

I've been a big fan of the music video specialist turned major film director Antoine Fuqua since seeing Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in the amazing movie called "Training day". The film gave Denzel his first and long over due Oscar award. I remember that was the first year ever that the Oscars had given their top male and female awards to people of colour (remember Hallie Berry's speech at the awards ceremony and more alarmingly how much naked flesh she had to show in the film Monsters Ball in order to win the award!!!)
 
If my Lady exposed herself to that level to get an award then I would have to congratulate her on her new life as a “single” Pole dancer and with her new found wealth she can buy some "clear heels to help her in her new career!"
 
Is it a coincidence that after Monsters Ball the main actors in the film who did simply too much on screen without first buying each other a drink, both separated from their (up to that precise moment) stable partners (Angelina Jolie and Eric Benet) and Hallie's career has never recovered (but I’m sure Larry Flint would give her a role if she needed the $). 
 
I also met Antoine's mentor on a flight (who also said he had dated Condoleezza Rice but that's another story), he also told me good things about Antoine. I'd even go as far as to say (clearing my throat) that he's my favourite Director. Period. Why do I say this? Well his first major film gave Denzel an Oscar without Denz’ having to show us, the world, his bottom (yes he played a negative role model but with such great ability wouldn't you agree?)
 
Anyway, from one Antoine film to another, Brooklyn's Finest.  How good is this film? Come closer, there's more..... 
 
Ok, the main characters are (in no particular order) Ethan Hawke as a broke Brooklyn Cop bringing up a family of ‘nuff in a small house (I know that one) and a wife who has a bronchial problem and is also expecting imminently.
 
He's desperate, so desperate measures are called for, which involves him looking at different ways he can relieve criminals of a bit of their wealth so he can use the money for a deposit for a new house.
 
Then we have newly released from Pen Wesley Snipes doing his last film before he was sentenced to Pen (life imitating art again eh!).  He plays a gang leader in Brooklyn who has to do one more transaction before he can afford to get out. He's also a resident of Brooklyn.
 
Mr "Versatile himself" Don Cheadle plays an undercover cop who's the Lieutenant to Wes but is going through domestic problems and can’t sort it out due to being deep undercover.
 
Then finally we have an officer but certainly no gentleman Richard Gere playing a cop who only has days to go before he can retire after doing 23years in the service. 
 
Watching this film made me for the first time realise on a deeper level that the lines between the Police and the Crim’s can be so blurred I know it sounds like the British "Hacking enquiry". 
 
Take all the characters I have mentioned above. All their actions have a logic based on their own basic needs. 
 
All of the above are burnt out from doing what they do and all are looking for a way out, but how do you leave the gang where honour and respect is the number one requirement? (This statement applies to all the characters mentioned above and others that I haven't mentioned yet).
 
The film isn't just all about the boys though because I have to say that the women featured in this film don't come out of it looking good. For example, of the three main women featured, one has a male dominated career that has helped this particular person to develop into a demanding foul mouthed bovine, the second prominent female is portrayed as stressed out, heavily pregnant, over worked mother then the final "major" female role is a good looking mixed raced girl whose milkshake is loved by all the boys in the yard!
 
It could be argued that Antoine could have used Strong, positive role models but I think he wanted to make a film that showed us the underbelly of society that in this instance is called "Brooklyn" but could have easily have been made in any major city in the world.
 
This film shows you desperate positions that force the actors to make choices that, let's be honest, they would prefer not to (but again, we are imagining Utopia when in reality we live on Earth with flawed but trying to strive Humans).
 
Some people I know who aren't from "downtown" but rather live "upstate" said that they found the language by most of the Black Characters "too urban" (me nuh no wha dem ah tark bout!)
 
The final 15mins of the film is full of twists and turns and will leave you on the edge of your seat but equally do listen carefully to the story told by a crim’ talking to Ethan about "wronger and righter" (which makes a lot of sense when you watch the scene).
There's plenty of "Life imitating Art" in this film (or is it Art imitating Life? You decide).
 
One critic said Brooklyn's Finest was "trying to merge Crash with Training Day but failed". I strongly disagree and put down his criticism by turning it into a compliment because by virtue, he the critic mentioned the obvious homilies, this means "Crash/Training Day can be seen in his work if not, why then mention what cannot be seen? He could have easily have compared it to some random film (My dad is right, I’m wasted but not in an illegal narcotics sort of way).
 
This is a fine film that I felt should have been a massive commercial hit but wasn't.
 
It wasn't awarded or nominated for an Oscar but to me it was the best film that was released in 2010. Period.... 
 

Article by @gmanzen / 29th May 2012

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