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Messages - Don Rogers

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Once Upon A Time In America / Re: My problem with Eve's death
« on: August 28, 2008, 01:33:34 AM »
Thanks, Dave. It's good to know that there is someone else here who at least recognizes a plot hole. I mostly hear from fans who are blown away by the supposed "realism" of the film. Your frank admission that numerous portions of OUATIA strain credulity means you're not all crazy.

Maybe I am too much the linear rationalist to really enjoy this film. When I first saw the end of it, I felt baffled, then angry, as if the screenwriters had intentionally insulted the audience's -- that is to say my -- intelligence.  I can recall similar disappointments with the endings of the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and Donnie Darko, two other movies much loved by many, whose stories simply don't hold water for me.  I can appreciate the masterful production design that went into OUATIA, much as I appreciate the groundbreaking special effects in 2001. I can see that Donnie Darko is sincerely meant and well acted. But the endings to all three films are nonsensical, at least by my narrow, classical lights. (Some other, older films had endings I couldn't or wouldn't swallow at all, either: Random Harvest and Dark Victory are two that come to mind.)

If you can see that OUATIA is nonsense, but you still want to celebrate its mysterious, alchemical transmutation into "a higher form of nonsense," then... sure, I guess, go ahead, knock yourself out. Those aren't the standards I judge by, but, hey, "different strokes," etc. But I really don't see why, when most people here accept that Duck You Sucka is a storytelling mess, it's such apostasy to say the same thing about OUATIA. What does OUATIA have that Duck You Sucka does not? A great score, yes (Duck You Sucka's music is awful); and De Niro. Rod Steiger was  a very good actor, but he made too many bad movies to serve as any "proof of quality".

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: My problem with Eve's death
« on: August 27, 2008, 09:06:03 AM »

Yes, I know that Fat Moe is Deborah's brother.  And Noodles is Max's best (only?) friend. Max's actions (sparing his brother-in-law, while at the same time targeting his best friend for decades; completely and permanently abandoning his old identity, while at the same time publicly romancing a famous movie star from the old neighborhood) are entirely self-contradictory. Taken together, they make no sense.

I know we don't have full details of Max's life between 1933 - 1968.  But is there *any* remotely plausible scenario in which the Max of 1933 could become the Secretary Bailey of 1968, a highly prominent man whose face is never in the news? I'll answer that one myself: There isn't.

Now the audience is supposed to assume that  Mendy & Trigger Mike bring bullet-ridden bed-linens with them from one hit job to the next, in the hope that they'll be able to relive that wonderful prank they played on Jimmy (Treat Williams). The prank wherein, of course, Mendy & Trigger Mike performed the vaudeville feat of meatly outlining Jimmy with bullet holes, using their tommy guns (from above?), without injuring Jimmy (and without Jimmy's moving at all).

Yup. That makes sense. It's no wonder Mendy & Trigger Mike were so famous, in real life.

Yes, folks, that was sarcasm: used here as a device to start the audience thinking.

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: My problem with Eve's death
« on: August 26, 2008, 12:11:38 PM »
Noodles_Slowstir: "I believe that if Noodles hadn't saved Moe, he would have been executed after his brutal beating."

So why wouldn't Max have Moe killed, rather than allow him to survive for decades where he could at any time have linked Max to the Cabinet Secretary? Moe never went into hiding.

I think the whole Max-rises-to-the-Cabinet plot line is ludicrous, really. But thanks for your thoughtful responses.

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: anybody wanna have a go at this guy?
« on: October 02, 2007, 05:00:42 PM »
More than a year later, "this guy's" thread is still standing. The gauntlet has been thrown.

It is clear from the preceding discussion that there is insufficient preparation in the script for the surprise Act III Deborah-Max relationship. (Whatever that relationship is -- are they married, or not?)

After the 35-year hiatus, the screenwriters had a huge problem -- how to wrap up Noodles' story, within some time limit, with respect to each surviving character: Moe, Carol, Donnelly, Deborah and (surprise!) Max. It does this most successfully with Moe and Carol, though really both of them might have been expected to know more than they do (more than they tell, anyway) about Max's survival. There is never even any real attempt to resolve the Donnelly story -- we are shown he's still alive and a powerful union leader, but that's it.

We get a long, static, dialog-heavy backstage scene with Deborah, who has rather too conveniently become a stage actress. Somehow the "Max-survives" secret itself survives that over-written, generality-laden conversation, but for the untimely arrival of Max Jr.

Suddenly we find that long chat was pointless -- it resolved nothing. (At least Deborah -- unlike, say, Carol, or the TV news -- has a plausible reason for wanting to maintain the secret.) Does Noodles turn around, and go back to ask Deborah for some sort of clarification? No. In a 4-hour movie, no time for that, apparently.

We get one more short scene with Deborah at the party, wherein Deborah does little more than greet Noodles anxiously, and still nothing about her relationship with Max is resolved. (Couldn't Noodles have arrived at the party early?) Then Noodles is whisked off to the Study (not the Conservatory, or the Billiard Room) for his final briefing with the outgoing Secretary of Commerce.

So in the end, the answer to the question "Why would Deborah ever take up with a lizard like Max?" is pretty unsatisfying. The only real answer is, "It was convenient for the screenwriters."

This would clean up some loose ends in the existing story -- mainly by answering the question, Where the heck did that Eve character come from?

On the other hand, it appears to do nothing at all to the loose end represented by Frankie Minaldi. We see him in a hospital lobby, and then -- nothing.

On the whole, I wouldn't classify most of these additions as in any way essential to the story, and it's an open question whether Leone would have wanted them 'restored' at this point.

You're quite right, Dave. My mistake.

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: My problem with Eve's death
« on: January 19, 2007, 07:45:38 PM »
It's a fair point, but is it any less elaborate than breaking into a stable, killing a horse, cutting off it's head, sneaking into a guy's bedroom with it and placing it under his bed clothes, re-arranging then to look like nothing is out of place, and doing ALL this at night in such silence that you are never detected and there is even a guy sleeping in the bed?

Sometimes the dramatic effects a director is looking for don't bear too much scrutiny. And anyway, the images of menace that the bullet outline creates is not only aimed at the character of Eve, it is actually aimed at us the viewer.

On Eve it is there to make her scared enough to answer the first line of dialogue in the film without hesitation. "Where is he?"

On us it is there as yet another of the slightly surreal images Leone so often enjoyed using to disorient his audience, and I for one so often enjoy watching.
Fair enough, although in The Godfather's defense, the human prank victim was presumably drugged first. And I sense a mild double standard -- when Coppola does it, it's elaborate and therefore phony; when Leone does it, it's surreal and therefore artistic.

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: Does Fat Moe know...
« on: January 04, 2007, 08:39:07 AM »
Plus don't forget -- he's a barkeeper. Like a hairdresser, part of his livelihood is to schmooze with customers, including casual acquaintances, who would no doubt want to hear or tell the latest hot tidbit about his famously successful sister (and her mysterious wealthy beau). If Moe wanted to be out of the loop, he'd have had to sell the family business.

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: Does Fat Moe know...
« on: January 03, 2007, 12:02:33 PM »
At one point in the film, Moe and Noodles both watch a TV news report about Senator Bailey don't they? Moe doesn't say anything, so I take from that that he doesn't know Bailey is Deborah's partner. I can believe that - siblings can grow apart quite a lot, it seemed like he hadn't spoken to her in years, so he might not know who she's connected with, and even if he has some idea she has a partner, might not know it is Bailey/Max.
No, sorry. I don't buy that.

If you have a celebrity sister, people are going to ask you about her. Moe still works right there in the old neighborhood; the movie gossip magazine goes back well before 1968. Friend of a friend, the word gets around. The people in a neighborhood like that like nothing better than to talk about the famous people who used to live in their midst, and by posting nostalgic pictures of Deborah and the old gang at his bar, Moe certainly does nothing to discourage this. A Cabinet Secretary shacking up with a movie star would still be newsworthy today (remember Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and Linda Ronstadt?) -- it would have been scandalous in the 50's and 60's.

Incidentally, that TV news report about Secretary (not Senator) Bailey would at least have featured a stock photo of the man.

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: Does Fat Moe know...
« on: December 26, 2006, 09:55:21 PM »
I'd also like to know whether Moe knows his sister is in a long-term relationship with Max. If he does, he sure doesn't say anything to Noodles about it. However, given that both Deborah and Secretary Bailey are celebrities, I find it hard to imagine that Moe would not have at least heard about them.

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: The garbage truck
« on: December 13, 2006, 10:50:12 AM »
Sorry, Joe, my bad. It was Juan Miranda, not you.

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: The garbage truck
« on: December 13, 2006, 01:40:29 AM »
Yes, and we all know, more or less, what an 'anthem' is. Although I confess I am dubious about the "in English" part of your definition -- what, one can't write an anthem in, say, French? Nevermind.

What Fistfull-of-Marks said was "As first, this sounds are homologous to the american anthem. As second, I think that the director made deliberate homologous." I failed to see whatever point he may have been driving at by this, beyond 'God Bless America is an American patriotic song,' which I think no one is disputing -- it's not exactly news. (Maybe someone will now cut-and-paste a definition of 'homologous' -- then we might learn something.)

Fistfull-of-Marks went on to say, "I think directors message is clear: 'The biggest garbage truck on the world is the 'state of the democracy, justice and liberty'. The perfidious mafioso Max mounted in between the more perfidious mafioses which govern with the 'state of the democracy, justice and liberty'. We them see not in the film, but feel theirs attendance."

If we look for a meaning in these rather Yodaesque locutions, we actually find the germ of one. It is, roughly: "America bad; America very, very bad." (Or as he would probably prefer, "America perfidious; America so perfidious.") As near as I can tell, Fistfull-of-Marks endorses that thesis. I do not endorse it, but I agree that seems to be close enough to what Leone was suggesting.

I think "Cigar Joe" got his chronology slightly askew -- we see the garbage truck's taillights fade into the distance, and only after this do the kids in 30's cars drive by. Does this affect the symbolism of "God Bless America"? You got me.

General Discussion / Re: The greatest director
« on: December 12, 2006, 05:20:48 PM »
Best (i.e., my favorite) director nominees:

Howard Hawks -- for his chameleon-like ability to succeed in many genres (The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Red River,    Scarface [1932], The Thing from Another World, To Have and Have Not, Bringing Up Baby)

Alfred Hitchcock -- for virtually inventing the screen mystery-thriller (The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Rebecca) and then taking it to unexpected deeper levels (Notorious, Rear Window, Vertigo)

Akira Kurosawa -- for combining low and high culture over a long career (Seven samurai, Rashômon, Ran, Yojimbo, Ikiru)

David Lean -- for his consistently sensitive, intelligent treatment of stories small (Brief Encounter, Hobson's Choice) and large (Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia)

Steven Spielberg -- for having, over a 30+ year career, a steady finger on the pulse of popular culture (Schindler's List, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, Jaws,  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Minority Report, Jurassic Park)

Billy Wilder -- for virtually patenting American cynicism (Sunset Blvd., Double Indemnity, The Apartment, Some Like It Hot,  Ace in the Hole, The Lost Weekend, Witness for the Prosecution, Stalag 17)

William Wyler -- For consistently good handling of intelligent material; the nearest thing to an American David Lean (The Best Years of Our Lives, Counsellor at Law, Dodsworth, The Heiress, Roman Holiday, The Little Foxes, Wuthering Heights)


And the winner is...

Why choose?

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: The garbage truck
« on: December 12, 2006, 04:21:20 PM »
Yes, no one is disputing you, "God Bless America" is a patriotic song.

 The CITATION from The Wikipedia:
"God Bless America" is an American patriotic song originally written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and revised by him in 1938. It is sometimes considered an unofficial national anthem of the United States.

Yes, so what is your point?

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