Heat

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.

30 Things We Learned from the ‘Thief’ Commentary | Film School Rejects

Caan comments on Frank’s manner of speaking and how he never uses contractions. He and Mann determined Frank was a man who was trying to make up for lost time, and his way of speaking slowly, methodically, and clear makes it such that he never has to repeat himself. […] “You knew he didn’t say anything he didn’t mean”.

Awesome.

30 Things We Learned from the ‘Thief’ Commentary | Film School Rejects

Heat

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.

The Keep

The Keep. I’m sure there’s a cult following for it somewhere. Some of the photography and the Tangerine Dream soundtrack are worthwhile. Otherwise, it’s not quite Michael Mann’s best work. That said, if you want to see gothic-scifi-horror with Nazis set in 1940s Romania, it’s your best bet. This is what I get for being a Michael Mann completist. The only ones I haven’t seen yet are Ali and The Insider. Here’s how I rank the rest:

  1. Heat
  2. Thief
  3. The Last of the Mohicans
  4. Public Enemies
  5. Manhunter
  6. Miami Vice
  7. Collateral
  8. The Keep

Public Enemies

Public Enemies. It’s a good ride, and it’s greatest charm and greatest flaw is that it doesn’t have a big arc to it. It’s not dramatic. Fine by me. This is a movie about a single-minded, short-sighted guy, told directly. I’d love to see Johnny Depp in more movies like this (i.e. non-comedy, non-Burton). Not sure about the very last scene, but I’ll give it to him.

Time for updated Michael Mann rankings. The top 3 are set, for sure. The others fluctuate day to day:

  1. Heat
  2. Thief
  3. The Last of the Mohicans
  4. Public Enemies
  5. Manhunter
  6. Miami Vice
  7. Collateral

Directors of the Decade No. 9: The sensualists – Salon.com

On Michael Mann, Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Wong Kar-wai and Hou Hsiao-hsien, etc.:

The sensualists are bored with dramatic housekeeping. They’re interested in sensations and emotions, occurrences and memories of occurrences. If their films could be said to have a literary voice, it would fall somewhere between third person and first — perhaps as close to first person as the film can get without having the camera directly represent what a character sees.

Yet at the same time sensualist directors have a respect for privacy and mystery. They are attuned to tiny fluctuations in mood (the character’s and the scene’s). But they’d rather drink lye than tell you what a character is thinking or feeling – or, God forbid, have a character tell you what he’s thinking or feeling. The point is to inspire associations, realizations, epiphanies — not in the character, although that sometimes happens, but in the moviegoer.

You can tell by watching the sensualists’ films, with their startling cuts, lyrical transitions, off-kilter compositions and judicious use of slow motion as emotional italics, that they believe we experience life not as dramatic arcs or plot points or in-the-moment revelations, but as moments that cohere and define themselves in hindsight — as markers that don’t seem like markers when they happen.

Directors of the Decade No. 9: The sensualists – Salon.com

Miami Vice

Miami Vice. It’s not nearly as good as his best, but it’s good corny fun. I mean, it’s Miami Vice. Visually, it’s also the most Michael Mann-ish thing I’ve seen (see Pinnland Empire on Mann’s motifs). It’s also got the typical cop/criminal dynamic he loves. Best analogy I read somewhere was this movie would happen if Malick decided to make a cop film (from the general reverie to the looser, drifty handycam shooting). Sadly, the score is merely functional, but Mann knows when to turn the music down and let it ride. I feel like if I watched it again, I’d like it even more. I really, really like this dude’s movies. Updated Michael Mann rankings:

  1. Heat
  2. Thief
  3. The Last of the Mohicans
  4. Manhunter
  5. Miami Vice
  6. Collateral

The Last of the Mohicans

The Last of the Mohicans. I might have seen this more times than I should have, but it’s mighty fine dramatic Hollywood entertainment. Such a great pace and you really feel like you’ve been on a story, y’know? Frontier love fantasy! Majestic scenery! An outsider caught between two worlds (seems to be a recurring Mann theme)! A strong, noble woman who won’t be brought down by the savagery around her! DDL with long, flowing hair! Scalpings! Gun fu, but with muskets! As much as I bitch about the main melody’s omnipresence throughout the score, I’d totally forgotten about the vocal tune at the climax. I like that the movie bookends with those mountain running scenes. I think I have to re-sort my Michael Mann rankings:

  1. Heat
  2. Thief
  3. The Last of the Mohicans
  4. Manhunter
  5. Collateral

Thief

Thief. Hell yeah. Fun stuff. Some good writing here and a great Tangerine Dream soundtrack. I love how the camera kind of zones out every now and then and the movie is all form (like the welding climax). I also like that this thief isn’t an MI-style sneaky ninja techno-athlete (or some kind of capoeira breakdancer coughOcean’sTwelvecough). He’s an old man. He’s got a limp. He wants to have a wife and kid. He uses power saws and hammers and welding torches. I forget how cool James Caan is. And Willie Nelson is in it! You can definitely see the influence on Drive.

Here’s my rankings for Michael Mann films I’ve seen so far. Strong, strong work:

  1. Heat
  2. Thief (not far behind)
  3. Manhunter
  4. The Last of the Mohicans
  5. Collateral

Heat

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.

Manhunter

Manhunter. Awesome. Slow-burning Miami-synth-moods thriller. I love the pre-cellphone detective work, cops running evidence from office to office. The sitting and pondering. The prison scene in Atlanta is actually in the High Museum! I now have to see everything Michael Mann has done.