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Gangs of New York

 

I’d seen this before, but I just bought it so I watched it again.   A few notes: 

Martin Scorsese does the best director’s commentaries of anybody, anywhere.  It’s a real education – not just about film, also about history and sometimes religion – to hear him talk about his movies.  

One of the many great things about “Gangs of New York” is the way it always feels, from the first moments, like there’s an awful lot going on just offscreen.   When the bigger world finally intrudes in the final minutes, as the draft riots overwhelm the gang fights, it makes perfect sense — it feels inevitable.  

Daniel Day-Lewis really is the man.   What a performance — good enough for two movies.   Because really, the biggest problem with last year’s “There Will Be Blood” is that he was pretty much Bill the Butcher all over again.   And look at all the awards it won.  

It’s good, if kind of sad, to see John C. Reilly really act the heck out of a dramatic role here.   Reminds me what a good actor he is, or can be.   Makes me sad that his bread and butter now is stupid comedies alongside Will Ferrell.   He’s better than that, and was for years.   Unless he snaps out of it, he’s going to end up cursing Ferrell on his deathbed.  

Turns out Cameron Diaz can act as well.   Also made me think of her fine performance in “Being John Malkovich.”  Apparently, like John C. Reilly, these days she just choose not to.   Baffling.  

This really was the turning point in DiCaprio’s career.   His performances in “Romeo+Juliet” and “Titanic” were good, no doubt, but it was a little risky to say you liked him at that point, unless you were a fourteen year old girl.   But he’s great here, and gritty, intense, adult.   And then he followed this with “Catch Me If You Can,” “The Aviator,”  and “The Departed,”  and now I can call him one of the best actors of our generation without flinching or ducking.  

Other small parts worth mentioning: Johnny Scirocco (DiCaprio’s right hand man, who betrays him, then gets crucified) is Henry Thomas, ie Elliott from “E.T.”   Someday I’d like to a do a parallel piece on Thomas and Drew Barrymore.   Both are successful adult actors, but they’ve chosen vastly different paths.    Oh, and isn’t that D’Angelo Barksdale from “The Wire”  as Jimmy Spoils?   Sure enough.   Larry Gilliard, Jr. is the actor’s name.   Playing two different kinds of gangster in two different cities — and venues.   Better watch out for typecasting.

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