apocalypse chelsea: day six

this first run of queue de grâce is nearing its end but that doesn't mean it's getting any less bizarre...

day six:

rodney dangerfield makes his second apocalypse chelsea appearance this week in ladybugs (1992).

i loved this picture so much i thought i would run it out there again.

rodney, who the hell is this movie for? i thought rover dangerfield (1991) was confusing but this thing blows past that like it was standing still. the basic plot is simple - in order to impress the boss and get a promotion at work, which will also allow him to get married to his long-suffering girlfriend, rodney takes the job as coach of the girls soccer team that the company sponsors. wholesome enough set-up, right? you know what this needs, though? how about a healthy dose of leering awkwardness and underage crossdressing?

he enlists the help of his girlfriend's son, a whiz on the soccer pitch, to ensure the success of the team which, in turn, will ensure the success of all of rodney's machinations. the obvious answer? pass the kid off as a girl. this allows for some delightful misunderstandings. for instance, once their scheme gets busted and his girlfriend gives him the gate, rodney is drowning his sorrows at the local watering hole where he tells the bartender by way of explanation "i took her son and dressed him up like a girl and talked him into playing with me".

my sentiments exactly. what's a family comedy without a few incest and pedophilia jokes? the other material is only marginally better. it's still fraught with near-constant crude/sexual humor. i have no idea what possible audience they thought this was going to work for - ten year old girls who love to play soccer when they're not busy being longshoremen? honorable mention for the most uncomfortable moment in the film goes to the rodney/jackée duet on "great balls of fire". nothing like picturing his sweating face and bulging eyes singing "i wanna love you like a lover should" to a minivan full of ten year old girls. no respect, indeed.

so we go from rodney dangerfield's career going down in flames to robert de niro going up in them in martin scorsese's casino (1995).

i remember when i walked out of the theater after having seen this in 1995 thinking that it was good but it was no goodfellas (1990). had i known i was watching scorsese's last great film, i would have paid closer attention. i took it, and him, for granted. in retrospect, he brought all of his considerable powers to bear for one last time on this film. it is virtuoso work. even at 178 minutes it feels lean, sleek. it takes nicholas pileggi's true crime source material and elevates it to grand opera. it is beautifully lit and impeccably edited. the camera work is lithe. strong performances all the way down the line, especially the rabid joe pesci and surprisingly good sharon stone. it really made me wish i could go back to that day in 1995 and watch it in that same theater knowing what i know now. i would look harder at everything. i would stay in my seat until the lights came up. i would thoroughly enjoy a really great day at the movies, having a good time with old pals.

i am learning, or being reminded of, all kinds of things from this experiment. even with a film like this, that i have seen a number of times, this approach is offering me a fresh perspective. it makes me grateful that i was there the first time around for this, especially now that it seems scorsese's best work as a director is behind him. i saw a lot of great things during that part of my life and my film education was at a point that everything still felt extremely new and exciting. i still get those feelings but i have to work a lot harder for them. it takes a great deal more to surprise me these days. revisiting this movie for this project has reminded me to be open to the possibility of greatness in everything i go to see. when i sit in the lovely cold and dark, and those images begin to flicker, i may be seeing a future favorite's first tentative steps or i may be going around one last time with a master at the height of his powers. you just never know. man, i love the movies.

p.s. even if his recent output has not been on par with these earlier efforts, scorsese's time lately has been well spent. his work in support of the restoration and preservation of neglected films from around the globe via his world cinema foundation has been of incalculable value to filmmakers and cineastes. if you ever bump into him, please tell him i said thanks.

one more day to go. let's make it a good one.

until then.

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