"Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man."
And for my last blog post, I've chosen to watch Taxi Driver, starring another acting great, Robert De Niro. Not only that, but this movie was directed by Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, The Departed, Raging Bull). So I have high hopes.
While De Niro is the main character and is highly regarded for this role, a shorter onscreen appearance is affecting as well. Jodie Foster's role (which I will describe later) required her to meet with a child-welfare worker, and Foster wasn't allowed on set when certain scenes were being filmed. And yet, Foster's acting was uncomfortably adult. This is one of those instances where an actor/actress's performance is impressive because of the sheer nature of the role.
To look back on this whole project, I'm thankful that I chose to watch movies. It served as a de-stresser, because I could sit down and just enjoy a movie for about 2 hours. And the fact that I had to do this as a project made me a more attentive movie watcher as well. When it came time to review the movie in a blog post, I was able to think about why I did or didn't like the movie, and relate it to my own personal experiences. I actually discovered some things about myself through what characters I related to and what genres I had an affinity for.
Click HERE for Taxi Driver Summary
Robert De Niro said, "One of the things about acting is it allows you to live other people's lives without having to pay the price." And this applies perfectly to his role in Taxi Driver. Because Travis Bickle is an unsettling mix of hero and villain, crazy and charitable, laid back and obsessive.
Oh yeah, this movie's pretty violent too.
Travis, a former U.S. Marine, becomes a Manhattan taxi driver working the night shift because he's lonely, and he can't sleep at night. The transitions of the film are short, dream-like clips of his nighttime drives, with jazz sounding music playing over the clips. Travis's initial endeavor seems normal enough. He constantly sees a beautiful woman named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), and wants to ask her out. And he does just that, by marching into her place of work (a campaign office for presidential candidate Charles Palantine) and asking her out on a date that same day. A little creepy, but still okay. ish. While on the date, Travis says he doesn't like Betsy's co-worker. Okay, already being a bit controlling but still within normal circumstances. Then, on their next date, Travis takes Betsy to see a Swedish sex education film. And around this point is when it becomes glaringly obvious that Travis Bickle is just a bittt off. He genuinely doesn't understand why Betsy is upset, and he gets upset when Betsy doesn't return any of his calls. We see Travis buy guns and create ways to conceal his weapons. We see him at the shooting range/practicing combat, and delivering that iconic "You talkin to me?" line to a mirror. Travis had a run in earlier in the movie with a child prostitute named Iris, played by Jodie Foster. She got into his cab, only to be dragged away by a man named Matthew "Sport" Higgins (who turns out to be her boyfriend [?] and pimp). Travis buys 15 minutes with Iris, but he only tries to convince her that she should stop doing what she's doing and go back home. So at least he's not a complete creep right? Travis then has an awkward conversation with a secret service agent at one of Palantine's rallies, and consequently tries to shoot Palantine at the next rally, only to be seen by the secret service men and chased after. Travis gets away and later goes to kill some a mobster, Sport, and a bouncer. Travis is severely injured from the fight. Iris witnesses the violence, and is shown cowering. In a sort of epilogue, we hear a letter from Iris's parents, and the audience learns she is back home with her family, Travis survived his multiple wounds and is regarded as a hero, and he's still working as a taxi driver.
The whole movie, I didn't know how to feel about Travis. One second he would do something insane and wrong, seemingly without reason, and then he would do something equally as crazy but actually pretty cool the next second. His motives are blurred, and his state of mind is obviously unstable. He's pretty much a psychopath. His mental state declines throughout the movie, and the scenes get creepier and more violent to reflect that. Travis is often silent, and his silence is never overdone or awkward. It's the perfect amount of eerie and intimidating. Even though Travis Bickle is like this, I still connected to his character. He made me constantly uneasy, but I tried to sympathize with him. I think a lot of this is because of all the heart and effort De Niro put into the role. He made it so convincing that Bickle wasn't just a character on a screen, he was a real person that had real problems and feelings. Many say that this is De NIro's defining role, and it's hard to argue with that.
"Were Mr. De Niro less an actor, the character [Travis Bickle] would be a sideshow freak. The screenplay, of course, gives him plenty to work with. Until the final sequences, Taxi Driver has a kind of manic aimlessness that is a direct reflection of Travis's mind, capable of spurts of common sense and discipline that are isolated in his general confusion." - Vincent Canby
Travis is a lonely guy, aimlessly spurting through life.
Travis's short lived romance with Betsy.
Jodie Foster as Iris.
Travis talking to himself in the mirror, practicing for some sort of imaginary confrontation.
The night time driving scenes set the tone of the movie. They also looked really cool.
The aftermath of the final gory scene.
"I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd."
That's 4/4, and with a more recent movie as well. Quentin Tarantino directs this movie, and he's one of the directors I was most excited about watching a movie from. I felt like I haven't really pinpointed my focus on directors so far, because I've been kind of confused on what their role is still. So I've decided to mention Tarantino as much as possible in this analysis, to try and connect decisions that he made with the story, actors, etc.
As a reminder of what a director does, here's a list of director's roles from creativeskillset.org:
"Directors are responsible for creatively translating the film's written script into actual images and sounds on the screen. They are ultimately responsible for a film's artistic and commercial success or failure.Directors may write the film's script or commission it to be written, or they may be hired after an early draft of the script is complete. They must then develop a vision for the finished film and work out how to achieve it.During pre-production, Directors make crucial decisions, such as selecting the right cast, crew and locations for the film. They then direct rehearsals and the performances of the actors once the film is in production. They also manage the technical aspects of filming including the camera, sound, lighting, design and special effects departments. During post production, Directors work closely with Editors through the many technical processes of editing, to reach the final cut or version of the film. At all stages, Directors are responsible for motivating the team to produce the best possible results. Directors must also always be aware of the constraints of the film's budget and schedule and manage the expectations of the film's financiers."
Click HERE for Pulp Fiction Summary
Before I start, I feel an obligation to warn anyone reading this about Pulp Fiction, because it is a pretty gory movie. There's also some other things that someone might not want to see, but I won't get too much into that.
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 black comedy crime film. The plot consists of three main storylines, which is split up into 7 parts. It has a "circular narrative" format, meaning we start at end, and make our way back there by the end of the movie. Out of order narratives are always engrossing, because the audience wants to put everything together. That's just one of the many things this movie does well.
The movie starts right off with a conversation between a man and a woman who are presumably in a relationship. They're arguing about robbing the restaurant that they're currently having a meal in. What I love is that we have absolutely no background surrounding these characters, and yet I'm fine just listening to their conversation. The same thing happens when the movie introduces Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta). They're having a conversation about McDonald's in Paris, and I was embarrassingly riveted by this conversation, and paid weirdly close attention to the "Royale" and "Le Big Mac". So first point: the dialogue in this movie is spectacular. Tarantino can make the most mundane conversations seem like masterpieces. For example, Jules and Vincent then transition into a conversation about their boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), and his wife Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman). Someone apparently gave Mia Wallace a foot massage, and Marsellus threw him out a window. Jules and Vincent argue about the intimacy of a foot massage, as they walk through corridors and are framed by tan walls, and seen at inventive angles. By this point, I'm already invested in Jules and Vincent, both separately and together. They seem like two cool characters with a great friendship. Then, when they break into the apartment and Jules gives his whole Ezekiel speech, you really realize just what kind of a movie this film is gonna be, and you settle in for the ride. Next, we see Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) in a bar, staring right at the camera, as Marsellus gives him an iconic speech. Butch looks just about done, and takes the money Marsellus offers him to lose a fight. Vincent and Jules walk into the bar, and there's some collision between Vincent and Butch, but nothing too major. Vincent accompanies Mia to a diner, where they particpate in a twist contest (and win). Then, Vincent and Mia go back to the Wallace house, Mia mistakes Vincent's drugs for another drug, and overdoses. Vincent has to deliver an adrenaline shot right to her heart to revive her, in one of the most cringey yet hilarious scenes of the movie. Next, there's a scene with Christoper Walken, telling a young Butch about how he hid Butch's father's watch in his rectum for two years, just so that he could deliver it to him. This scene needs no words and no explanation, in my honest opinion. Transition to Butch waking up before his fight that he's supposed to lose. But does he lose it? Of course not! He wins the fight, and actually kills the person he fought against. Butch then takes his girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Madeiros) to a motel where they hide from Marsellus's men. But Butch discovers that Fabienne left his watch at the apartment, which sends Butch into a rage. He goes back into the apartment and gets his watch, but sees a gun on the kitchen counter. He hears a toilet flush, and Vincent comes out of the bathroom. Butch shoots him dead. Marsellus sees Butch in the street. Marsellus chases after Butch into a pawn shop, and this is where things get very questionable and I won't really mention what happens, but it's pretty graphic. But Marsellus takes blame off of Butch, and Butch flees Los Angeles with Fabienne. There's another whole sequence with Tarantino in it (who is pretty funny as Jimmie), but I won't really describe it because it wasn't super memorable, compared to the other scenes in the film. It was more of a transition to get back to the beginning/end in the diner. The couple attempts to rob the restaurant, but are half stopped by Jules.
I didn't want to explain every little thing in the movie, or else I would go on for ages. But believe me, this movie is filled with so many cool moments, and surprisingly nice camera work. The acting is amazing, all the jokes hit, and the action is gross but cool. I actually really really liked Pulp Fiction, and I think it's a new favorite.
"If the situations are inventive and original, so is the dialogue. A lot of movies these days use flat, functional speech: The characters say only enough to advance the plot. But the people in "Pulp Fiction" are in love with words for their own sake. The dialogue by Tarantino and Avary is off the wall sometimes, but that's the fun. It also means that the characters don't all sound the same: Travolta is laconic, Jackson is exact, Plummer and Roth are dopey lovey-doveys, Keitel uses the shorthand of the busy professional, Thurman learned how to be a moll by studying soap operas." - Roger Ebert
"Royale with cheese" - Awesome first conversation between Travolta and Jackson.
(Jules trying to convince Vincent that a foot massage means nothing)
VINCENT:Have you ever given a foot massage?
JULES: Don't be tellin' me about foot massages – I'm the foot ***** master.
VINCENT: Given a lot of 'em?
JULES: **** yeah. I got my technique down man, I don't tickle or nothin'.
VINCENT: Have you ever given a guy a foot massage?
JULES: **** you.
Jules (Jackson) giving the insanely famous Ezekiel bible speech before shooting an unreliable associate of Marsellus's dead.
Butch listening to Marsellus in the bar.
Mia and Vincent participating in a twist competition. Got intense John Travolta Grease vibes in this shot.
Vincent administering the adrenaline shot to Mia's heart.
Butch with a katana.
Ending scene of Pulp Fiction.
"There's a passage I got memorized, seems appropriate for this situation: Ezekiel 25:17. 'The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.'"
This should go without saying.
Kelby Custodio, Junior at Pacifica High School.