Heat. A half-dozen screenings and it keeps on delivering. One thing that really stood out this time was the use of the color blue with McCauley’s character.

For example, early on, there’s the famous shot at his house, echoing Colville’s “Pacific” painting, but saturated in a moody blue. This is McCauley as the cool, remote professional. During a following celebration dinner with his team, you see his appreciation and envy of his crew’s families. He goes to call Eadie. The shot of him on the phone has the frame split in half. He’s on the left against a cool blue background, the right side is warmer. In the course of conversation with her he steps from left to right. Later in the movie, McCauley is on his way to escape, home-free. He gets a farewell call from Nate, who also tells him where Waingro is. He dismisses the idea of going back, and keeps driving, content. The camera stays on him at the wheel, and we can see through the rear window. As he enters a tunnel the lighting is a bright wash… that transitions to blue. He turns grim and decides on revenge before escape.

Speaking of Waingro, interesting how his actions play up the appetites. In his introduction, he’s looking for more coffee before the score. After the heist, he’s smugly enjoying some pie while the main crew stares at him in disdainful silence. Later we see him with cigarettes, booze, women.

Last little clever bit: in the course of the famous diner meeting, McCauley mentions, “There is a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down?” At the final climax, we see McCauley escaping into the airfield, making his last stand behind a shed, backgrounded with its large checkerboard pattern. Boxed in, the chess match coming to its endgame.


Filed under: Heat.

The Insider

The Insider. It’s awesome, like all the rest of Michael Mann’s stuff. He’s got such a great handle on momentum within and across scenes. Great cast across the board. Love the mini-breaks just to gaze and reflect and get in their heads a bit. (Filed under: Michael Mann).


Heat. My third viewing (first, second). This is officially my second favorite movie after Out of the Past.

It seems like (Pacino’s) Hanna has more fun than (De Niro’s) McCauley does. Maybe I’m projecting, and he’s just more fun to watch because he’s more exasperated and has the power to say whatever he wants. He definitely smiles more. His stakes are lower in a way. He’s got a day job, a sense of purpose, even if home life is a wreck. Note the close of the hospital scene, when he’s paged back into action, he gives his wife a smile before an almost gleeful run down the stairs, back to the chase. Compare to the ending, where there’s no triumph on his face. More like disappointment.

McCauley is always more restrained, as he always has less room for error. (Hanna asks him, “What are you, some kind of monk?”). After two really upsetting phone calls (one with adversary Van Zandt, one with his partner Trejo at the breakfast joint), he doesn’t slam the phone or toss it, but seems to pause, gather himself, and return the phone to rest.

At the diner with Hanna, McCauley mentions that recurring dream of running out of time. Note how, towards the end, when he’s looking to find Waingro, Eady and Nate mention/ask him about the time he has left before he catches his flight out of the country. A guy who does things like to wrap his glasses in paper napkins loses his usual discipline, and things go haywire.

One last thing: I love how the music is so supportive. It’s there in subtle ways like in the drive-in money exchange, where much of the tension rides on the music, but it’s not until the fade-out that you realize the music is even there. It’s present in more obvious ways like in the nighttime balcony romance, with that noodly jazz guitar playing behind soft, gauzy synth curtains. Lord, I love that.

Other movies I re-watched this year include Winter’s Bone, Melancholia, Mission Impossible, Days of Heaven, Blade Runner, Bloodsport, The Last of the Mohicans, The Godfather, Drive, Mean Girls, The Shawshank Redemption, Raging Bull, and Aliens.

I’ve really been itching for another viewing of Warrior. Update: done.


Serpico. I like how Pacino embodies the role here, and how you can pick up on the passage of time from the way his look and behavior changes. Also, 1970s hospitals are TERRIFYING.


Heat. Michael Mann, man. This still blows my mind on second viewing. (The first). I love (Pacino’s) Vincent Hanna so much in this one. He truly does not give a shit. And he drives like a cop. I also finally realized that Hanna’s sidekick Cassals (Wes Studi) is so familiar because he also plays Magua.


Heat. Yeah, this is definitely going on my list of movies that are 1) more than 2.5 hours long, and 2) worth watching 3x or more. At the center are two guys who are both in lines of work that keep them from being normal people with normal relationships. And they know it. (Pacino’s Vincent Hanna would probably be jealous of Ford’s Dave Bannion). The female leads help round them out. Such a great cast. Nice action sequences, but thankfully not every confrontation is noisy or fast-paced or even violent. Although some, of course, are. But Michael Mann knows how to use silence, too. The end reminded me of Hanna with its perfect use of environmental light and sound. And I can’t forget to mention the L.A. synth-mood breaks a la Mann’s Manhunter, which I also loved (same cinematographer, too). Great, great film.


Insomnia. Starts well, but I’d tighten it up a bit. I’d rank this is my 4th favorite Christopher Nolan movie. We need more old, aching heroes. I love seeing old man Pacino tired and cranky, running around trying to not to screw up even more. Kind of like a Harrison Ford hero. My biggest struggle with the movie? Hilary Swank has too much natural toughness and smarts for the role here. I don’t buy her as the aww-shucks/awestruck/wet-behind-the-ears type. Apparently this is a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film.