The Irishman. After a limited run in select theaters, Martin Scorsese’s big screen adaptation of Charles Brandt’s book, I Heard You Paint Houses, is out on Netflix. It tells the story of Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro), a World War II combat veteran who went from driving delivery trucks to being a hit man for Philly mob capo Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). His connection to Buffino gets the attention of mob boss Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel), who, in turn, makes him the right hand man to Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). With Sheenan as mob-backed muscle, Hoffa transforms the Teamsters into the nation’s most formidable union, with over a million members. But it also puts him in the crosshairs of the Kennedys – particularly new Attorney General Bobby Kennedy – and rival mob and union factions. All these issues come to a head, leading to a number of betrayals that would have long standing effects for everyone involved. Everyone brings their A game this project: Scorsese – working with his long time editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and re-teaming with recent collaborators Rodrigo Prieto (cinematography) and screenwriter Steven Zaillian – shows how the American labor movement of the 50s and 60s, Kennedy’s election, the failed The Bay Of Pigs invasion, JFK’s assassination, and even the Watergate break in, directly and indirectly was Mafia connected. It also puts to rest that Scorsese’s previous mob films (Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino) glorified their lifestyle. There’s a price to be paid and we see it all in painstaking detail. It re-contextualizes the gangster movie the same way Unforgivendid for the American Western. The three principal characters – DeNiro, Pesci and Pacino – all put in career capping, if not, career defining performances. Special attention has to be paid to Pesci, who, after putting in broad, outwardly expressive performances in Goodfellas and Casino, brings a subtle, almost hushed tone as Bufalino. By dialing it all the way down, Pesci makes his portrayal of Bufalino, the most dangerous character he’s ever played. Don’t let the 3 and a half hour running time deter you – this film pulls you in from jump and you don’t want it to end. If this doesn’t dominate the awards season, something is really wrong with the state of cinema. Far and away the year’s best film. The Irishman is available now on Netflix.
Thanks For The Dance by Leonard Cohen. Despite a significant number of health issues, Leonard Cohen kept writing and recording, with his final album, You Want It Darker being released just a month before he passed away in 2016. He left behind a number of song sketches from those sessions and instructed his son Adam, a musician and producer in his own right, to help flesh the material out once he was gone. Over the next few years, Adam Cohen worked ‘in a garage near his father’s old house’ to help bring Leonard Cohen’s final words to sonic fruition. He then called on long time collaborators Jennifer Warnes and Javier Mas, fellow Canadians Daniel Lanois and Feist, and Cohen fan Beck to add music to Cohen’s observations on spirituality, fidelity and, yes, death. There’s as much spoken word elements then actual singing, but it also completes the circle that displays Leonard Cohen the poet as much the songwriter. As Bowie did with his final album Blackstar, Cohen gets to write his own musical eulogy, and it’s everything you would expect from him. One of the year’s best. Thanks For The Dance by Leonard Cohen is available now through Amazon, Apple Music and all major streaming outlets.
Losst and Founnd by Harry Nilsson. After surviving a near fatal heart attack in 1993, singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson recorded a number of tracks with close friend Mark Hudson that he hoped would become his last album. When Nilsson passed away in 1994, his estate held onto the tapes, with no clear path of a formal release. But after the success of the documentary, Who Is Harry Nilsson, two tribute albums featuring an array of artists spanning two generations, and Nilsson songs being prominently featured in films by Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas), Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha)and the hit Netflix series Russian Doll, there was a renewed interest in the project. Hudson decided to use only Nilsson’s vocals from those sessions and then enlisted long time friends Jim Keltner, Jimmy Webb, Van Dyke Parks and Nilsson’s son Kiefo to build new instrumental tracks. The results find Nilsson and Co bridging the sounds of Aerial Ballet, Nilsson Schmilsson and Kninillssonn with a pop/rock sheen that best tailored his older, wiser, and yes, weathered voice. Breezy, orchestral, melodic, and whimsical, Hudson has crafted a fitting epitaph to one of rock’s most beloved artists. Losst and Founnd by Harry Nilsson is available now through Amazon, Apple Music and all major streaming outlets.
New York City: Family F(r)ictions: Dysfunction for the Holidays. For some, the holiday season is a chance to reconnect with the people we love. For others, it’s the time of the year where people are forced to deal with the long stemming family issues. Quad Cinema will use the extended weekend to present a retrospective of films highlighting fractured family dynamics at their worst. It will include Buffalo ‘66, written and directed by Vincent Gallo; John Waters’ Pink Flamingos; the first Back To The Future movie starring Michael J. Fox; and Autumn Sonata, directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring, in what would be her final feature film role, Ingrid Bergman. With movies ranging from dramatic to camp, this is a great way to spend a weekend (FIX THIS). Family F(r)ictions: Dysfunction For The Holidays will be at Quad Cinema through December 1st. You can also go to www.quadcinema.com for more information.
NEW YORK CITY: Dead Astronauts: Jeff VanderMeer with Vernon Reid. Award winning novelist, editor and ‘King Of Weird Fiction’ writer Jeff VanderMeer will sit down with Grammy Award winning guitarist Vernon Reid to discuss his latest novel Dead Astronauts, the future of science fiction as a whole and all points in between. Reid wears his love of sci-fi, comic books and its overall culture on his sleeve, so it has all the makings of a stimulating and informative conversation. If you like your rock n roll mixed with some science fiction, this event is for you. Dead Astronauts: Jeff VanderMeer with Vernon Reid will be at McNally-Jackson Bookstore at the South Street Seaport on Tuesday, December 3rd at 7pm. You can also go to www.mcnallyjackson.com for more information.