The Local Stigmatic: Fame is the First Sin

The Local Stigmatic is a pet project of Al Pacino’s, a one-act play he had performed in the 1960s and turned into a film during the late 80s. It was never released theatrically and finally saw the light of day in a 2007 DVD version. Written by an eloquent, young talent Heathcote Williams during the late 60s, The Local Stigmatic is a disturbing and acidly funny study of psychosis, fame, obsession and jealousy. In a way, it is a precursor to Scorcese’s The King of Comedy, which during the 1980s was already ahead of its time. Williams’ work  eerily foreshadows our modern culture’s hypnotic fascination with and envy of celebrities. The play is famous for its violent and harrowing climax, in which the lead characters deliver a severe beating on a man outside a pub.

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The film opens with Pacino’s character Graham monologuing in an epic angry tirade to his friend Ray (played by Paul Guilfoyle) about a supposedly bad tip he got for a greyhound dog race. Guilfoyle’s understated menace and Pacino’s manic energy clues the viewer in that something is very off-kilter about these men.  They share a symbiotic connection as their banter, laced with angry and dark humor, feels like a secret code that we are not wholly privy to. We watch them roam the London streets, playing mind games with passerby and spewing their unsettling doctrine to anyone who will listen. Director David F. Wheeler frequently uses dissolving cross-cuts during shot reverse shots to signify the strength and bond of their sociopathic behavior. They blur together, their two halves forming one dangerous whole.

Graham picks up a celebrity gossip paper,  taunting the newsstand seller by proclaiming “Fame is the first sin because God knows who you are,” incedientially the thesis of Williams’ piece. The pair are framed underneath an ad for The Elephant Man. Graham and Ray are the sick type to identify with the Elephant Man’s cruel taunters, getting pleasure in the abhorration and ridicule he endures. They are quick to view others as less than human, equating them to a lowly animal, much like the greyound dogs Graham loathed in his opening monologue. The Elephant Man also has concerns with the nature of fame and notoriety, Graham and Ray would likely condemn the film for lionizing a “disgusting” creature.

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Later at a pub, Graham recognizes a famous actor at the bar. The pair walk up to him and zealously stroke his ego. Pacino delivers yet another incredible monologue, filled with vigorous smiles and his trademark intense stare. Graham showers the actor with praise, buying him a drink, complimenting his films, and acting as if they were old friends. The actor, meanwhile, is so enraptured with this hungry seduction that he is blind to who they really are. He drinks in their compliments without seeing them as real live human beings., looking beyond them and not truly listening or responding to their exact words.

capture3 Graham and Ray loathe celebrities for acting this very way. In their eyes, celebrities pompously regard themselves as better than everyone else, modern day Greek gods occasionally forced to slum amongst the common folk. They turn to violence in order to reign supreme over these modern deities. The pair offer to walk the actor home, resulting in the famed terrifying climax. It is important to consider the

Graham and Ray loathe celebrities for acting this very way. In their eyes, celebrities pompously regard themselves as better than everyone else, modern day Greek gods occasionally forced to slum amongst the common folk. They turn to violence in order to reign supreme over these modern deities. The pair offer to walk the actor home, resulting in the famed terrifying climax. It is important to consider the filmic changes to this scene, as discussed by Pacino in the DVD commentary. Due to the theatrical setting of the play, the audience’s distanciation to the scene rendered a misconnection. The theatre audiences would often concentrate on the physical blocking of the fight as opposed to hearing or concentrating on Graham’s incredible monologue.

The film uses subjective POV shots, with Graham staring into the camera/the actor’s face, arresting the spectator with the victim’s tensions and fear. This submerges the film audience into the beating in a closely felt way simply not possible in theatre. The film spectator is overcome with the oppressiveness of this moment, as Pacino stares too close for comfort with the harsh sounds of Ray’s pummeling fists and kicks in the background. Through these close-ups, the viewer can also concentrate on the eloquent and poetic beauty of the monologue. Pacino’s delivery of this soliloquy is impeccable, the words trip fluidly off his tongue with dynamic and terrifying energy.

Pacino specifically made the decision to dilute the violence, removing excessive views of blood or bruises in order to concentrate on the words. However, I feel that seeing stronger visceral ramifications of the beating would render this sequence more horrifying than it already is.

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Pacino and Guilfolye are incredible as this pair of domestic terrorists. Their characters share a feral bond forged and sustained by ritualistic violence. One gets the sense that this is not the first-or last-time these characters will commit this kind of crime. I highly recommend this film if you are a fan of Al Pacino, it is possibly one of his greatest performances. Plus, it’s only 50 minutes. Heathcote Williams’ sharply written work is a dark manifesto on the toxicity of fame. He wrote this during the 1960s, and one can only imagine what his opinions would be of celebrity culture today. The film is actually available on YouTube, link below:

Scarface: Dream Doll Elvira

De Palma is often accused of misogynistic filmmaking, beautifully photographing violence against women and creating female characters that have little to do but scream and wear sexy clothes. While one could make convincing arguments both for and against that claim, one De Palma character that bears further analysis is Elvira Hancock from his 1983 Scarface. It is easy to overlook this role, overshadowed by Al Pacino’s bombastic Tony Montana and relatively small screen time, only 20 minutes altogether. If you viewed all of her scenes together, you may not feel the role had any importance and fell into misogynistic traps. Viewed in wider context against the film, there is more to Elvira than meets the eye. Michelle Pfeiffer brings aspects of the character to life that is not readily seen on paper. Her Elvira is wounded and hurt, yet wears a cool sheet of armor via wry humor. She is an ice princess whose cold words could cut glass. Yet a fiery anger burns through her that seems to suggest so much more beneath her surface, a depth that an actress who merely relied on looks would not have been able to reach. Elvira could have easily been cast as a va-va-voom object with no thoughts and feelings. Pfeiffer reveals that her brittle and freeze-dried exterior hides within a scared and lonely girl living in a man’s world.

To the men in that world, Elvira is an object. She is another prize that Tony will win by subjugating his boss- Tony wants to obtain Frank’s power, wealth, and woman. Elvira personifies Tony’s American Dream- a blonde and thin dream doll that is the perfect trophy to have on his arm. “She is a tiger; she belongs to me.” Tony declares, and he eventually cages her just like the tiger he chains to his estate. In a 1994 interview, Pfeiffer reflects on playing Elivra: “Sometimes, though, by playing an object you can actually say more about objectifying women than if you play somebody of strength. She was hood ornament, like another Rolls-Royce or something, for both of the men that she was with. I felt that by playing something that mirrors someone’s life in that way, I could make a kind of feminist statement. It depends on the way in which it’s presented. If you’re glamorizing or glorifying it, then I object to that.”

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Not all female characters have to be pillars of strength in order to be a feminist role. Pfieffer’s willingness to show Elvira’s vulnerability compensated by her humor creates a dynamic character and performance, one that doesn’t just rely on the jokes she spouts or the beauty of her looks.  Showing women who are objectified so heavily opens us up examine just how and why that happens. I do not feel that De Palma glamorizes the objectification of Elvira. The film does not even glamorize drug use, despite the film’s over-the-top lavishness and audience’s idolization of Tony Montana. At the heart of Scarface, there is a sadness and emptiness that is often overlooked, just as there is in Elvira. Pfeiffer taps into the depths of her character, who like the film itself, is only seen for what is on the outside. In turn, she reveals the film’s inner workings.

Our first look at Elvira epitomizes her objectification, she is seen with her back turned (in a gorgeous low-cut dress) in a glass elevator, like an angelic Barbie doll in her box. Her boyfriend and current top drug lord, Frank, introduces her to Tony and Manny. Frank complains that he is hungry and Elvira retorts, “You’re always hungry, you should try starving.” She continues prodding Frank by dryly adding that he goes to the same restaurant so much that if anyone wanted to assassinate him they would know where to find him. Through this dynamic, we can see that Elvira is not passive in any way. Elvira belittles Tony when he calls her his baby and says she looks like she hasn’t “been fucked good in a year.” She angrily replies that her lovemaking is none of his business and “I’m not your baby. Don’t call me baby.” Elvira is not afraid to make the cocksure men around her feel small, whether it’s her big boss boyfriend or Tony. She reduces Tony to a little boy, which fuels into his need to possess her. Taming the fiery woman will make Tony feel more like a man.

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After killing Frank, Tony goes to the bedroom and wakes the sleeping Elvira, tangled in champagne colored satin sheets. “Come on get your stuff. You’re coming with me.” Elvira is an object to Tony, a toy readily passed on to a new Barbie doll dream house. Tony’s pursuit of Elvira has paid off, and they marry. Although he espouses kind words to Elvira about wanting her to be the mother of his children, there is no love there. The most telling aspect of their relationship is that there is no sex scene between them. An interesting choice, since many of De Palma’s leading ladies have a sexual scene to accompany them. A sex scene would change the entire composition of Scarface. I believe it helps cement Elvira’s status as mere symbol or object. Tony’s possession of Elvira is not borne out of carnal desire, but the image of a trophy wife. As shown in the giant painting of the couple that adorns his mansion, Tony needs Elvira with him because it looks so good. Elvira is valued and objectified for her status, appearance, and what she represents. Her true relationship with Tony is cold, their union a mere strategic calculation for Tony’s rise to the top.

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Cut to the scenes of the unhappy Montana family. Elvira has broken one of Frank’s rules- she continually gets high off of her own supply- or the supply that Tony provides for her. Elvira is a junkie, destroyed by the use of drugs just as much as Tony is destroyed by purveying them. Tony’s rise to power has made him obsessive and paranoid, with an insatiable and endless desire for more. She is bored and tired of Tony talking about money, telling him that if someone had given him money he would be a nicer person. Tony accuses her of having nothing to do with her life, that she should get a job. “Anything beats lying around waiting for me to fuck you all the time.” Elvira, ever present with ice-cold witticisms, replies that he shouldn’t toot is own horn because his lovemaking isn’t that great.

In the famous dinner scene, Tony complains to Manny that Elvira cannot get pregnant because her womb is “polluted”, presumably from her drug use. Pfeiffer magnificently shows Elvira’s fury and hurt. Although Scarface never explores this, we get a sense of what pains Elvira the most, the lack of children and direction in life are sore spots for her. Although Elvira’s backstory is never explored- one could imagine that she had left home (which she mentions is Baltimore) with little schooling and a need to rely on the only thing she had- her good looks. Wielding her looks trapped her within the objectified lifestyle- coupled by her addiction and dependence on the drugs- and nowhere else to go. Perhaps this is why Elvira allows herself to be so easily passed from man to man, she has nothing else, no skills or means, to rely on.

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The stoned Tony Montana belittling her so cruelly is the final straw. “How dare you talk to me like that! You call yourself a man! What makes you so much better than me, what do you do? Deal drugs? Kill people? Oh that’s just wonderful Tony –a real contribution to human history.” This dialogue is almost speaking with the audience. Many young men- particularly rappers or of Italian descent (although Tony is Cuban, Pacino is Italian) idolize Tony. Although Tony climbs the ladder of success, achieving the American Dream and earning more wealth than he knows to do with, his extravagant life is a cold and lonely one.

This is epitomized in the shot after Tony’s argument with Elvira, the camera craning up to show Tony in his massive bathtub, unhappily alone and drowning in his abundant opulence, his greed swallowing him. Tony and Elvira share no human relationship or connection, they are alone and miserable despite being surrounded by everything and anything they could want. As she has done time and time again, Elvira makes the men around her feel small, exposing their male chauvinism as the mere playacting of little boys. Their “business”, where they wield guns freely like toys and take others lives’ without so much as a breath, brings nothing to the world and themselves but misery. Elvira sees this now, and gains the courage to leave.  She has earned the foresight of what this lifestyle has gained for them, they may be rich in gold but their life is empty of anything else. “Can’t you see what we’re becoming, Tony? We’re losers. We’re not winners, we’re losers.” While we are entertained by Tony’s climb to success (how could you not be, with De Palma’s exciting and operatic filmmaking?) we should not envy or idolize it. Tony Montana is not a winner in any sense. The depths that Tony plunged allowed her to see the light and escape the miserable cage of her existence. We can only hope that Elvira does not leave only to find herself as someone’s object yet again.

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Pfeiffer’s performance allows Elvira to transcend as more than just object, more than a witty ice queen or vapid trophy wife, as a lesser skilled actress could have easily made her. The credit goes more to Pfeiffer than De Palma, but his choice to portray a sexless relationship between Tony and Elvira echoes the impotence of Tony Montana as a whole. For all the power that he does gain, it ultimately leaves him with nothing. De Palma ultimately- though it’s hard to see- deglamorizes the lavish lifestyle that Tony covets. Elvira is the beating heart of Scarface, working to expose the true meanings that is hidden beneath her and the film’s shiny Rolls Royce exterior.

Scarecrow: Make ‘Em Laugh

(spoiler alert for discussing ending scenes)

Scarecrow is an underrated gem from 1973 starring Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. The film starts out as an on-the-road buddy comedy, the two actors playing hobos travelling across the country for different reasons. Gene Hackman plays Maxx, who is the central focus for much of the beginning, a cankerous man who is trying to get back to Pittsburgh to start a car wash business. Al Pacino plays Francis, later nicknamed Lion, who has been at sea for five years. He needs to go to Detroit to see his child, who’s birth caused him to flee. Carrying a lamp as a present (he is unsure of the gender) he plans to meet his family and become real father after all. Lion serves as his jovial sidekick, but there is more than meets the eye to his story. By the end of Scarecrow, we realize that the story has been very much about Lion after all.

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In one of the beginning scenes we learn that Lion has a certain creed, a way of life that helps get him through. He tells Max that scarecrows do not actually scare crows, but instead makes them laugh.

Lion: That’s right, the crows are laughin’. Look, the farmer puts out a scarecrow, right, with a funny hat on it, got a funny face. The crows fly by, they see that, it strikes ‘em funny, makes ‘em laugh.

Max: The god damn crows are laughin’?

Lion: That’s right, they’re laughin’ their asses off. And then they say, “Well that ol’ farmer Joe down there, he’s a pretty good guy. He made us laugh, so we won’t bother him any more.

By imparting this to the hotheaded Max, he is suggesting that the he mellow his enemy with humor. Using clowning as opposed to hostility will lessen the chances of Max always ending up with a black eye.

­Throughout much of the film, Lion is the funny side man, there to diffuse awkward situations with his child-like humor. Always smiling and lighthearted, Lion seems amazingly free of any angst or anxiety. We see Lion using his joking as ways to cover for Max many times throughout the film, trying to stop him from getting into fights or throwing off tense situations. Lion feels that his advice and worldview will work in Max’s favor, since it has seemingly worked for him. In one important scene, we see how his jesting is truly a defense mechanism for Lion. One that will not always work out in his favor.

Max and Lion have ended up in jail. Max has been in jail before, he knows the ropes and is not there to make friends. But the goodnatured Lion quickly gains a friend, who ends up wanting him for malicious intentions. Lion and Riley end up alone in a room, where Riley starts cornering and attempting to sexually assault him. At first Lion laughs it it off and makes a Frankenstein reference “Get back, Igor”. But the audience can see the horror behind Lion’s smile. Riley is infuriated, thinking Lion is laughing at him. Lion ends up getting severely beaten by his “friend.”

One scene is the climax for Lion’s arc, where the audience sees that there is so much more brewing beneath Lion’s joyful exterior. It begins where a drunk Max has started a fight with yet another guy in a bar. Lion again attempts to diffuse the situation by turning a famous striptease song on the jukebox. But instead of Lion putting on a show it is now Max, who willingly stops himself from engaging in another fight. Lion is then forced to confront the realities of his worldview, when his pupil has put his principle into practice. It is now Max’s turn to make ‘em laugh. The camera focuses on Lion in a long shot, we study his reaction. The long shot conveys that Lion’s humor has just been a mask, which is slowly fading away. Lion has been hiding his true self underneath this clown’s mask all along, and the film’s ending scenes hits this home even further.

Max and Lion finally arrive in Detroit. Instead of showing up at his ex-girlfriend’s home unannounced, Leon decides to call her. But his phone call is not welcomed. Annie tells Lion that she miscarried due to her turbulent emotions after his abandonment. The film cuts to Annie in her home, where we see a young boy, five years old, who looks EXACTLY like Al Pacino. Clearly, Annie is lying. She then preys on Lion’s Catholic guilt by reminding him that since the unborn child was not baptized, he live in purgatory for eternity. (Lion’s Catholicism was touched upon in earlier scenes, already establishing that his faith was important to the character.) After they hang up, Lion is clearly devastated. But he turns and cheerfully makes up an excuse to Max that he doesn’t need to see his child after all.

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The next scene shows Lion playing around with neighborhood children, doing imitations of the pirate Long John. The film is explicitly conveying just how much humor serves as a way of coping and glossing over his pain. Soon the joking stops, and something in Lion snaps. He carries a child further into the fountain. This can be seen as Lion’s way of baptizing his son, making up for the loss in this abstract way. A scene follows at the hospital where we learn that Lion has suffered from a catatonic breakdown, he lays on the bed unmoving and dead-eyed.

But Scarecrow does not end on an entirely somber note, for Max leaves for Pittsburgh promising to return to Lion with money to pay for his hospital stay.

Scarecrow begins as a slightly typical buddy comedy, with one lead and a supporting jester. But the jester turns out to be a sad clown, making for an introspective look at the way we all play roles in our life, and how humor can often be used as a Band-Aid for our pain. Scarecrow is commendable for turning the tables on the audience by taking the story in an unexpected direction.

(Also,  I’d like to NOT thank the DVD for having this picture on the back and fooling me into thinking that he would meet his adorable son.)

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Dog Day Afternoon: LGBT Characters in 1970s Film

Dog Day Afternoon was released in 1975; the real life events of the film took place in 1972. It is primarily a film about the death of the 1960s movement, with themes that touch upon the political anti-establishment, or disenfranchised Vietnam veterans. Sonny is challenging the system, the police and FBI, and becomes a symbol of anti-establishment for the crowd. (See the infamous “Attica!” scene) But Dog Day Afternoon also stands in film history for being one of the first films to openly portray queer characters. Between the real robbery and the release date of Dog Day Afternoon, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Homosexuality (or any sexuality or gender identity outside of the norm) was rarely portrayed in film. If so, it was with a tragic ending, or diluted and merely hinted upon. (See The Children’s Hour. Also Midnight Cowboy, which was rated X at the time for “homosexual frame of reference” which is much more undertones than outright pronouncement)

The film really starts out as a comedy. Sonny is a fumbling and crazed bank robber that doesn’t really know what he’s doing. What was supposed to take thirty minutes takes over eight hours as Sonny, his partner Sal, and the hostages are in an eight-hour standoff with the police. Sonny is friendly to the hostages, doesn’t want to kill or hurt anyone but refuses to give up. Over the course of the movie we learn more about Sonny through his conversations with the police and hostages, and eventually meet his family and unconventional love life. This draws a rich and sympathetic portrait of who Sonny is. The tension boils into a simmering drama as Sonny’s background unfolds.

Sonny gives the police his wife’s address to have them bring her down. There’s another scene where we meet Angie, who the audience believes to be the wife they were called to collect. Angie is an overbearing, overweight, and overly frenetic woman. We learn she has two kids with Sonny. But then, about an hour into the film, we see an effeminate looking man in a hospital robe escorted by the police. It is Leon, and we learn that he (correct pronoun would be she, but it is improperly used in the film. Again, given the times) is a transwoman currently living as a man unable to afford sex-reassignment surgery. This surgery is the reasoning for Sonny’s attempted robbery.

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The police explain that Leon was located where Sonny asked them to find his wife. We eventually, through TV broadcasts, learn that Leon indeed married Sonny in a white dress and proper church ceremony. Although Sonny is referred to as homosexual by the news outlets, he is really bisexual. Here we have a 1975 film representing not only a bisexual character, but a transgender one as well. Also, technically, a polygamist! Sonny not only maintained his gay relationship but is also presented as being, at the same time, a ‘family man,’ with a wife and children.

At the time, Al Pacino was a huge star. He was hot off the heels of his debut in The Godfather, the hit Serpico also with Sidney Lumet, and The Godfather sequel. It was controversial and risky for someone of his stardom to take this role. Sidney Lumet says in the DVD interview “No major star that I knew of had ever played a gay man.” It was unheard of for a straight man to “lower” himself by playing that kind of character. Also, Al Pacino’s claim to fame was Michael Corleone, the epitome of masculinity and male power. A homosexual character (or rather, the idea of a stereotypical homosexual character) was the complete opposite of the imperious Corleone leader.

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Al Pacino had reservations for playing Sonny. (Pacino will go on to push the envelope even further in 1980s Cruising, which amps up the controversial content. He plays an undercover cop who has to find a serial killer in the gay S&M underworld. See picture below)

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In the DVD special features, Pacino talks about a moment that was in the script that didn’t get filmed. There’s a scene where Leon (escorted by the police) and Sonny meet in front of the bank, and after they talk they kiss. Pacino did not want to include this in the film, his reasoning that “When a relationship comes to an end, how often does sex come into it?” In the real-life event, there was no kiss. So yes, it is true to the facts that they did not kiss. Perhaps Pacino felt it would be disingenuous to their crumbling relationship. (After all, Leon is in the hospital because he tried to get away from Sonny by trying to kill himself).

Pacino continues by saying that the audience didn’t need to keep being reminded by pushing the gay issue in the audiences’ face. This sounds a bit ignorant, as if Pacino was covering up the fact that he wasn’t comfortable with- or even wanting to do, a gay kiss. But Sidney Lumet says that Pacino wanted to show “Two people who love each other and cannot find a way to live with each other.” Pacino finishes his reasoning by saying that he wanted to portray “the human conflict and the human cry for connection, and a kiss seemed to be exploitative.”

One has to wonder the kind of media reaction of the time if this kiss was included. For one, I don’t feel that we should sensor the physicality of gay relationships on screen for fear of “pushing it on the audience” or “rubbing it in their faces.” But in terms of how the relationship of Leon and Sonny plays out in the film, perhaps it was a good choice to not keep it in, even if Pacino is not wording it in the best way. He did want to show the humanity of these characters. It seems that he felt the connection they had should be shown as a bond of the soul. We can see the love Sonny has (at times misguided, but still strong) for Leon. Just look at his face after he wishes him happy birthday, you can see the joy he feels and how much he cares for Leon shining through.

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The phone call scene with Leon is one of the best scenes captured on film, thanks to Pacino and Chris Sarandon’s brilliant performances. Pacino and Sarandon’s performances are devoid of gay stereotypes and physical and vocal clichés.

There’s a scene where Sonny dictates his will to a bank teller. Actor Chris Sarandon remarked that at a screening he was afraid that audiences would laugh at the line “Leon…whom I love as no other man has loved another man in all eternity.” But the theatre was silent, enraptured in the performance. This is a testament to the believability of the performances and the writing of the characters, as well as a great leap for the 1970s filmgoers. There’s no mocking of these people, for they feel as we feel, despite being lovers of the same sex.

Sarandon said in an interview “This wasn’t about the relationship of a drag queen and his boyfriend. This was a relationship about two people trying to come to grips about what is wrong with their relationship.” They’re not erasing the sexual identities of these characters. But by showing that they are just two people that care about each other, that breaks down the barriers and preconceived notions of homosexuals. (Or bisexuals, transgendered, etc.) Remember, it was considered a mental illness at the time. They were looked upon as people with something severely wrong with them. But here they are shown for what they really are- human beings just like everyone else.

Dog Day Afternoon is a pivotal film in 1970s film making, an exciting and captivating piece of cinema that portrays one of the most engaging characters of all time, and sensitively portrays his sexuality and relationships.

(Please note that I am not saying we should overly applaud straight actors for playing gay, bisexual, or transgendered characters. (Etc. “it’s so brave of you!”) I just admire the filmmakers for giving them an honest portrayal. The actors do deliver fine performances. I know that proper representation by actors is important in today’s film making world, but this piece is framed with the 1970s film goers and filmmakers in mind.)

Top 10: Feel-Good Movies

If you’re having a bad day, or are sick beyond belief, nothing feels better than snuggling up with a feel-good movie. A movie that never fails to make you smile or lift your spirits. Everyone has those certain special ones, and here’s a few of mine.

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1. My Neighbor Totoro

If this movie doesn’t make you smile, you’re basically not human. Hayao Miyazaki is a master storyteller, and Totoro is no different from his other woks that capture the simple magic of childhood. Totoro is a playful mystical creature that brightens the lives of two little girls, taking them on a magical adventure while also teaching them about the realities of life. It can’t get any cuter than this. With gorgeous animation and adorable magical creatures, My Neighbor Totoro is guaranteed to lift your spirits.

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2. When Harry Met Sally

Harry and Sally are pretty much my #relationshipgoals. Sure, they didn’t really like each other at first and it took 10 years for them to finally get together… but they end up fitting together perfectly. These are smartly written and all around great characters. Sharply played by the actors, Billy Crystal’s cynical Harry and Meg Ryan’s cheery Sally have fantastic interplay with an infectious wit. And that monologue at the end always gets me. “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Don’t we all want to hear that? When Harry Met Sally set the standard for romantic comedies that very few have ever reached.

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3. Clue 

Clue is a zany physical comedy that will leave you in stitches from side-splitting laughter. Tim Curry is a huge standout, leading the wacky gang in pratfalls and mishaps throughout the sprawling mansion. Madeline Khan is also deviously funny as Mrs. White, particularly her hilarious monologue on her loathing of Yvette “Flames…on the side of my face!” It is frantic and silly, and feels more like a stage farce than anything. I’ve always thought it would be an excellent play. If I ever need a laugh, all I have to do is pop Clue in the DVD player.

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4. Adventures in Babysitting

Adventures in Babysitting starts out with a fun bang in a magnetic opening. (which I wrote about here) Is it silly and unbelievable at times? Yes. But it’s a lot of fun. The kids singing ‘The Babysitting Blues’ at a downtown Chicago blues club, encountering a Thor-esque mechanic, running into the mob, and so on. Also, the 80s was a time where kids and family movies could get away with a lot more, such as a sub plot where the babysitter looks strikingly similar and keeps getting mistaken for a Playboy model. Adventures in Babysitting is fun and absolutely lovable.

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5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This is a John Hughes classic, sold by Matthew Broderick as the charming lead character. It’s about being young and having fun, with a touch of serious moments as well. Jennifer Grey is hilarious as Ferris’ jealous younger sister. Jeffery Jones nearly steals the show as Ed Rooney, determined to catch Ferris Bueller in the act of skipping school. From the sing-along at the parade, to crashing a fancy restaurant, to a joyride in the Ferrari, there are so many memorable moments. Ferris and his friends have the best day of skipping school ever. And as Ferris says, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Why not have fun while you can? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off makes you feel like you are a part of that ride.

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6. The Emperor’s New Groove

This is Disney’s funniest film, hands down. An all-star hilarious voice cast, David Spade, Eartha Kitt, John Goodman and Patrick Warburton bring to life the colorful characters. Kronk’s spy song and when he olds the one note leaves me in stitches EVERY time. There are too many knee-slapping moments in this. The Emperor’s New Groove is a whimsical and funky Disney feature that warms your heart and never lets you stop laughing.

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7. Back to the Future

How can you not love Back to the Future? It’s one of film’s most inventive, rousing, and all around entertaining adventures. Michael J. Fox is beyond charming as Marty McFly, and Christopher Lloyd will always be remembered as the zany time-travel inventor Doc Brown. One particular moment that will always leave you smiling is Marty’s “Johnny B. Goode” solo.  Despite being set in the 80s, it really is a timeless classic.

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8. About A Boy

About A Boy is not only wickedly funny, but also very touching. Hugh Grant stars as the jaded Will silver-tongued sleaze with a hidden inner decency. He loves living life with no strings attached. He manages to get involved with a young boy and his depressed mom. Along the way, he learns that you shouldn’t seal yourself off from the world, or as he says in his mantra, be an island. One of the best parts is when he plays with Will at his school concert, “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. About A Boy is a tender and charming British comedy that reminds you the importance of human connection and relationships,

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9. Frankie and Johnny

I just love this movie so much, it’s vastly underrated. It’s emotional and all-around delightful romantic comedy. Frankie and Johnny has fantastic performances by the two leads, played by Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. They have incredible chemistry and really sell the intricacies of the two characters. Frankie and Johnny deals with the complications of life, how it can beat you down, yet there is still the hope of connecting with truly good people. It’s a simple but beautiful little story.

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10. Down With Love

Down With Love is a stylish romp that homages 1960s classics such as Pillow Talk. It’s basically like a chocolate bar, (pretty much like the one Ewan McGregor seductively unwraps in one scene) deliciously light and sweet and guaranteed to make you feel good. It’s unabashedly silly, cute and charming movie fluff.