Miami Vice. I love this movie. The pathos was stronger this time around, the resignation. On each watch I also become a little more resentful that Foxx doesn’t have a bigger role. His relationship with Crockett has something to offer the story, but we don’t see it much. I’d be up for another 12 minutes with the two of them on screen. Filed under: Michael Mann.

Public Enemies. I love how so many people get to “lead” in this movie, though Depp is still at the heart of it. Forgot about the brief Channing Tatum scene. The arrest/trasnport/imprisonment scenes have some nice echoes of Kit Carruthers, the charisma and confidence. “We’re having too good of a time today; we’re not thinking about tomorrow.”

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).

Codes, chaos, and the world of Heat / The Dissolve

Neil and Vincent are orderly men, and Mann harmonizes their activities beautifully, but being human isn’t an orderly business. Opening up to other people means opening up to chaos and disorder.

And from the later forum discussion of Heat:

It struck me that, for all the ways Heat questions the macho code of non-attachment that McCauley and Hanna live by, it has a very old-fashioned view of the uses of violence. Both McCauley and Hanna deploy it very precisely. What’s wrong with Waingro is that he can’t control himself.

Codes, chaos, and the world of Heat / The Dissolve

Blackhat. I really liked it, if my tweet binge is any indication. If you like Michael Mannerisms, you probably will, too. I like how the hacking here wasn’t just people tapping away at a keyboard, but also more general deceptive/intrusive behaviors like social engineering and burglary, and how technology is subverted for purposes good and bad. (Note how our hero goes into final battle with improvised body armor and weapons that reflect prison ingenuity.) I love that the big battle scenes have some geographical/tactical brains behind them, and the hand-to-hand fights are swiftly decided. It’s a movie willing to let its stars lounge in bed, or enjoy a nice view, and get you inside their head a bit. Filed under: Michael Mann

Thief. So great. This was the first time I’d noticed a couple cameos from Manhunter stars: Dennis Farina (Manhunter’s Jack Crawford) as a henchman and William Petersen (profiler Will Graham) as a bouncer at the bar where Caan is late for his date. A few other nice camera/editing odds and ends I appreciated this time around:

  • During the diamond exchange in the diner, I like how he starts unwrapping one of the packages, then pauses, and the camera cuts away when the waitress arrives.
  • After Caan barges into the office, the blocking follows the shifting of power. Caan moves from the visitor’s chair in the owner’s office, then parallel to the desk, then moves behind the desk and forces the owner into the guest’s chair.
  • When using a tracking device to misdirect the cops, the camera tells the story as it zooms past three or four cars, then fixes on the bus.
  • The wide shots of the monolithic safe at the big heist me of similar shots at the El Paso bank in For a Few Dollars More.
  • Just about 99% of the movie is urban, but the final setting is in comfortable suburbia (the sort of life that Caan has been working toward). The climactic scene at the mob boss’s house is nearly silent up until the last moments, and then there’s a crane up into the trees…

One last bit of awesomeness is Willie Nelson’s character, Okla, dispensing some perfect life advice:

Lie to no one. If there’s somebody close to you, you’ll ruin it with a lie. If they’re a stranger, who the fuck are they you gotta lie to them?

Collateral. My third viewing. (Ignore my comments after the second.) It feels like every time I watch a Michael Mann movie it becomes my new favorite of his.

This movie is seriously in love with LA, too. You almost never get this much richness in setting. The surfaces, the light, daytime and night. Passing scenes and shots of a Hispanic gas station, a Korean (?) newspaper, murals, traffic, strip malls, modest neighborhoods, airport boulevards. Crucial scenes in Latino and (mostly Asian) nightclubs.

This sense of place fits with one of the movie’s themes – presence. Our protagonists are Vincent (Cruise’s cool, decisive, efficient professional) and Max (Foxx’s daydreaming perfectionist). Max is dreaming miles into the future, but too hesitant or cautious (“It’s gotta be perfect.”) to do anything to get there. Vincent is skimming along the moment, zipping through assignments. (“We gotta make the best of it, improvise, adapt to the environment, Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, whatever man, we gotta roll with it.”)

Two early soundtrack moments underscore the contrast, too. Early on, Max enjoys the nostalgic, old-school vibes of Groove Armada’s Hands of Time as he cruises through the city. Soon after, we see some of Vincent’s subway/disconnection speech (foreshadowing!) backgrounded with a cool blues-y rendition of Bach’s Air on the G String. Pure sophistication. It’s not until (after the missed-opportunity soliloquy in the jazz club scene) Max is forced into impersonating Vincent that he starts to show some real agency.

On this viewing the humor came through much more for me, thanks to Cruise. Lines like “Promise not to tell anybody, right?” and “Don’t let me cornered. You don’t have the trunk space.” and “What? I should only kill people after I get to know them?”. I could go on. What a damn great movie.