Archive for March, 2013

RAIN MAN (1988)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2013 by cdascher


I had forgotten how much I adore this movie. It’s by far my favorite we’ve watched so far. Dustin Hoffman plays Raymond, the autistic savant brother that cocky, wheeler-dealer Charlie (Tom Cruise) never knew he had. Through the course of the movie, the two form a seemingly impossible bond on a road trip. The film begins when Charlie learns his father has passed away. This interrupts his life in Los Angeles, where he dates a beautiful Italian woman, deals luxury cars, and shoots off his mouth. He travels back to his hometown of Cincinnati for the funeral and the reading of his father’s will. The two were estranged, and Charlie is only given the classic car that ultimately led to their undoing – he borrowed it as a teen expressly against the will of his father.  He becomes determined to find out who is getting access to his father’s millions, and the search leads him to an institution and a brother he never knew – Raymond. He decides to take Raymond with him back to Los Angeles – in the hopes of leveraging him to get some of his father’s estate. He soon realizes that Raymond will challenge him in ways he never imagined, and will help him to recover parts of himself lost long ago.

I’d seen this before, but only as a youngster. This time around I caught a lot more of the subtlety, particularly in the interactions between Charlie and Raymond. Charlie is the true 80’s Guy, high strung and materialistic. Remember those tacky “he who dies with the most toys” bumper stickers? I didn’t see one on Charlie’s car, but probably just because he was concerned about it’s resale value. At the point he meets his brother, he is juggling the details of a high stakes deal that will make or break his business. Raymond is his foil in seemingly every way. Unable to understand or engage the world outside his own mind, his life is built on routine and repetition, resting on his remarkable abilities of memory and mathematical calculation. He can sit at a casino table and win hand after hand of blackjack by keeping track of the cards in his head without ever comprehending that he is playing for money. He recites Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s On First” routine verbatim with no realization that it was intended to be funny. He watches the same television shows as a daily ritual and knows exactly what to expect on his table at any given meal.

Susanna, Charlie’s girlfriend, plays an important role in the film by critiquing Charlie’s initial interactions and motivations with Raymond. However, it’s also extremely important to the development of the relationship between the two brothers that she leaves them for a time. In this period, Charlie finally learns that the magical childhood friend he remembers vaguely – “Rain Man” – was actually Raymond. The two connect in several touching scenes, and Charlie gets insight along the way about the gifts that his brother possesses in addition to his deficits. We’ve touched on the counting that Raymond is able to do – interestingly, though, this film is known for promulgating the myth that counting cards is illegal. It actually is not. There are crucial moments in which Charlie’s emotional deficits loom as large as Raymond’s – and underscore the reality that their burgeoning relationship is symbiotic, that in the absence of their father they both desperately need one another. The unerringly human portrayal of Continue reading

ROCKY (1976)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2013 by cdascher

rockyI love living in Philadelphia. There’s so much to love here. Cultural districts like the Avenue of the Arts are the pride of the city, connected to neighborhoods by a network of bike lanes. And then there is that Center City skyline. Open the City Paper any given week and you’ll see how much is going on. It’s no wonder movies and TV are regularly filmed in Philly. From The Sixth Sense to Cold Case to Silver Linings Playbook, Hollywood can’t get enough of this town.  The Kimmel Center. The Gayborhood. The Barnes. What makes me appreciate it all the more is that the city I come from had none of this. Now, I certainly have a deep and abiding love for the town I was born in, but it was a place known more for post-War blight and depopulation than anything else. It was a place you move out of, not move to. And just where was this place I grew up in? That would be Philadelphia, of course!

As a native Philadelphian, I’ve tried to explain to my transplant friends is how different the city feels from when I was a lad, when it was the ne’er do well middle child of the I-95 corridor. Even in an outlying middle class neighborhood like where my family lived, there was always a certain ambivalence to our civic outlook. Sure, we loved this place (especially when the Phillies won), but then we looked around and wondered if our best days were behind us. To communicate this to the folks who weren’t around at the time, I always recommend they watch the quintessential Philadelphia Movie: Rocky. In case you’ve never had basic cable, or you’re confusing it with the sequels, the story goes like this. Rocky Balboa, AKA The Italian Stallion, is a nobody boxer who supplements his meager income working as a goon for the neighborhood loan shark; a job where he gets in trouble because he’s too nice to break thumbs. About the only bright spot in his dismal life is a nascent romance with his friend’s excruciatingly shy sister Adrian. When the flamboyant world champion Apollo Creed, decides to give an unknown fighter a shot at the title, essentially as a publicity stunt, guess who he picks. Yes, Rocky, primarily because he likes his name. The odds are so lopsided that no one outside of Balboa’s camp even considers it a real fight. To Rocky this is the one-time chance to earn the respect of everyone, including himself. With Adrian’s support he trains for his big shot.

We were thrilled when we drew this film – me, because I had never seen it, and Mouse, well – see above. I was not expecting a beautiful, shudder-worthy love story though. Fraught, complex, uncomfortable at times – to see two extremely shy, bumbling people begin to get close to one another was absolutely the best part of this movie for me. I also like seeing a film depict a character like Rocky as complex. Sure, he is simple in a lot of ways – but there are moments, these ACHING moments, when you can tell there is a lot going on inside. From

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