Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Wedding Singer (1998)

Holly: “Come on, there’s gotta be a little tongue.” Julia: “Well, maybe a little tongue. Not porno tongue. Church tongue.”

Title: The Wedding Singer
Genre: Romance Comedy
Year: 1998
Rated: PG-13

Adam Sandler as Robbie Hart
Drew Barrymore as Julia Sullivan
Matthew Glave as Glen Gulia
Christine Taylor as Holly Sullivan
After a wedding singer is left at the altar, he befriends an affianced waitress and unintentionally falls in love with her.
He’s gonna party like it’s 1985.
First Viewing:
6th Grade (a.k.a. 2000) on TNT or TBS. Added to The List: Always been there.

Comments As a movie romantic, I am thrilled to get to the first official romance comedy on my list. You’ll be surprised to learn that there’s only a few “official romance comedies” on the list. I think 5. We can debate about Shrek’s rom-com-ness if you’d like, but personally, I’d rather write about The Wedding Singer.

I first saw it in the 6th grade, smack dab in the middle of my “I only like and watch romantic movies or movies with strong romantic plotlines” phase. It’s a phase I’m thrilled to be out of, let me tell you. But while I was in it, clichés were all I ever needed.
The Wedding Singer is extremely simple, entirely cliché and absolutely predictable. There are no twists and turns that you don’t see coming. There are no characters you haven’t already met. Some of the dialogue can even be recited with a first time viewing. But none of that matters to me. I fucking love it and I know I’m not the only one. 

The story concerns Robbie Hart, a hopeless romantic, good guy, boy next door who left behind his rock ‘n’ roll aspirations to be a wedding singer. On the eve of his own wedding, he meets Julia Sullivan, a hopeless romantic, good girl, girl next door who’s been engaged to a stock broker for three years. On Robbie’s big day, his uber-skank fiancée Linda, leaves him at the altar. Robbie then falls into a deep depression, until Julia requests his help planning her wedding because it’s not her fiancée’s thing. You could guess that Robbie falls in love with Julia, but tries to deny his feelings because of her engagement to her fiancée Glen, Don Johnson’s number one fan. 

The Wedding Singer brings up many clichés, the most prevalent is that of the undeserving other man/woman. Both Glen and Linda are so materialistic, selfish, and asshole-ish/bitchy, that they’re easy to hate. We aren’t supposed to like them. We aren’t supposed to think Robbie should make up with Linda or that Julia should stop her emotional affair with Robbie. I half expected them to hook up in the end. 

Also, there’s Robbie and Julia’s best friends: Sammy, who models his life after Fonzie and Vinnie Barbarino, and Holly, the town tramp who models her life after Madonna. Both offer romantic advice and serve as foils for our leads. They actually do hook up in the end. 

This movie is set in the 80’s. Technically, 1985. But this date is fast and loose because many songs and references come before and after the aforementioned year. This doesn’t really bother me. It goes with the whole sloppiness of the movie. But as someone who cares deeply about costuming, I cannot forgive the clothes. For one, the costumer did a great job on Glen, Holly, and Sammy, plus many of the extra characters. But Robbie and Julia’s are straight from 1998. Nothing in Julia’s wardrobe slightly resembles anything from the 80’s or the early 90’s for that matter. I doubt this bothers anyone else but me and the few other costume fanatics out there. I mean come on, shoulder pads, big hair, and stretch pants. How hard is that? 

So far, it seems I’ve only ragged on The Wedding Singer's acute use of clichés and stock characters and its anachronistic costumes. Is there anything I like about this movie? Funny you should ask, because there is.

I really enjoy Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s performances in this movie. I like them both as actors anyway. Robbie and Julia aren’t the most complex characters but I don’t think they’re that card board cut-out either. Sure, they are both nice and easy to like. But there are subtleties in their performances that go beyond average rom-com characters.

Scenes that illustrate this:

1. While trying to find a singer for her own wedding, Robbie performs a song he wrote before and after Linda left him at the altar. The song is extremely sweet and then violent, which is played for laughs. But Julia’s reaction to the song is touching.

2. Robbie goes to tell Julia how he feels about her. As he walks up the street to her house, he practices his speech. He stops dead in his tracks and witnesses Julia happily laughing in her wedding gown. He watches her through the window for a moment and leaves. (Of course, she is pretending that she is at her and Robbie’s wedding, so this is all part of a Big Misunderstanding so often found in these kinds of movies).

3. The next morning, Julia realizes she must tell Robbie how she feels. But Linda, who’s changed her mind about Robbie (of course) answers the door in nothing but his Van Halen t-shirt (of course). Julia “understands” that her place is with Glen.

One thing I HATE in romance comedies, or any movie for that matter, is when a character chases another to the airport. This movie, unfortunately, has this plot device, but the whole climax takes place on the plane, so it can be forgiven.

I know a common theme in rom-com’s is opposites attracting. Or couples who playfully jab at each other in order to hide their true feelings. (Han and Leia anyone?) But Robbie and Julia get along. They’re friends. They have similar personalities. I think that their future, after the credits have rolled, will continue to be just as happy as it was in the end.
I don’t have any deep, soul-searching reason for putting The Wedding Singer on my list. It’s entertaining. It’s funny. Simple as that. I know that there are many others who agree with me. After all, it was made into a Broadway musical, an unsuccessful one, but that’s beside the point. The Wedding Singer is good for a laugh and those heart-warming moments only fiction can bring
Favorite Screencap
See the above screencap of Julia at Robbie's door. Don't judge me.
Next Film: The Great Mouse Detective

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Scream (1996)

Sidney: “But this is life. This isn’t a movie.”
Billy: “Yes it is, Sid. It’s all…it’s all a movie. It’s all one great big movie. Only you can’t pick your genre.”

Title: Scream
Genre: Horror
Year: 1996
Rated: R

Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis
Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers
David Arquette as Dewey Riley

Plot: A small town girl’s life is interrupted when a serial killer with a penchant for modeling his murders after scary movies begins stalking her.

Tagline: Someone has taken their love for scary movies too far.

First Viewing: 9th Grade (2003) on Encore.
Added to The List: 2003.

Generally, I don’t like horror movies. It’s not because I get scared (I don’t). It’s not because I’m sensitive to blood and gore (I’m not). And it’s certainly not because I have my nose up in the air about the genre. Mostly, it’s because in these typical teen slasher flicks, the villain/monster/ what-have-you doesn’t have a good enough motive to merit a series of creatively violent murders…at least in my humble opinion.

When I first saw Scream, I was kind of going through a horror movie phase. Actually, it was more of a phase-ette. Whatever you want to call it, I was “researching” the many, many sequels of the three most popular/famous teen horror movies: Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). I had recently seen the 7th Elm Street adventure, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (which is, in my opinion, the best one) when I discovered that the man behind this franchise also directed Scream, a movie that satirized the slasher movie genre.

One random night, I happened upon it. I figured that I would watch it until I grew bored and fell asleep like I’d done with the first Elm Street flick on three separate occasions (how’s that for irony?). But instead of silently drifting off as the killer waited anxiously just around the corner, I was wide awake and intensely concerned about Casey Becker and her boyfriend Steve.

I love Scream’s beginning. It doesn’t fuck around. It doesn’t bother with character development or establishing shots. The phone rings and Casey Becker promptly answers. The caller claims he has the wrong number but then begins flirting with her. She flirts back, until his already creepy questions tip the scale. Casey then finds herself in a dangerous game: answer a few movie trivia questions or her and her boyfriend get 86ed.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose any kind of trivia to answer while threatened with my life, I’d choose movie trivia. I guess that makes me kind of morbid. But I’m fairly confident with my extensive knowledge of film. To be honest, horror is not my forte, but I knew both of the answers to the killer’s questions. Casey Becker, sadly did not.

Incidentally, Casey wasn’t the main character or even a friend of the main character. Technically, she did sit next to the main character in English. We first meet Sidney Prescott shortly after Casey’s murder. She’s alone in her room, typing on her computer when her boyfriend, Billy Loomis (Johnny Depp’s clone) climbs through her bedroom window. He basically asks for sex, she makes out with him and then he leaves.

This brings up an important rule in horror films. A rule that is actually proclaimed by a character later in the film. All horror movie heroines are virgins and to have sex is a big, big no-no. (More on this later). Rarely are we given a reason why the heroine remains chaste. Of course, we can assume because it’s “the right thing to do.” But Sidney has a reason. A year ago, her mother was raped and murdered. Also rumors were flying about Mrs. Maureen Prescott being the town tramp and Sidney fears she will become her. Reasons…I love reasons.

The next day at school, everyone is reeling from the death of their schoolmates. We are then introduced to Sidney’s other friends: Tatum, her best friend, Stu, Tatum’s dumbass boyfriend, and Randy, the secret admirer of Sidney and resident horror film expert…my personal favorite.

Shit really gets complicated later that night. Sidney is waiting for Tatum to come over. The killer calls her, harasses her, and tries to kill her, just like Casey. But Sidney survives and Billy shows up shortly after, as do the police who take him into custody. Sidney suspects him until she receives a call from the killer while Billy's in jail. He is later cleared of all charges, but their relationship is strained ever after.

Randy still suspects Billy. He explains it to Stu in the video store that there’s always some “stupid, bullshit reason to kill your girlfriend” and Billy’s is because Sidney wouldn’t have sex with him. As a horror movie fan, he thinks everything in this situation can be solved by watching Prom Night. There’s a formula to it. A very simple formula. Everybody’s a suspect!

Later that night, Stu has a huge party at his house (as all slasher flick teens do, even when a psycho killer is on the loose). There, Randy shares more of his infinite movie knowledge of how to survive a horror movie:

1. Never have sex.
2. Never drink or do drugs.
3. Never say “I’ll be right back.”

Meanwhile, Sidney is upstairs with Billy. She apologizes for her accusations and agrees to have sex with him.

You would think that this genre, which is disturbingly targeted towards teenage boys, would have a member of its audience as the main character. But if you look at most of them, the main protagonist is a teenage girl. Hundreds of articles and term papers have been written to explain this phenomenon. So here’s a really condensed version: boys like to see girls in peril and victimized.

I don’t know if this is actually true. Frankly, I don’t want to believe this unsettling theory. And unfortunately, I don’t have a theory of my own to counter it. I will say this though...I like that most horror movie protagonists are female. I can put myself into the heroine’s position, which is something I like to do with all movies. The “men-really-want-to-see-women-victimized-thing” seems very uber-feminist to me.

And this is what I don’t understand: in most cases, the heroine beats the villain! And she usually does it on her own because everyone else is dead! I suppose there would be something to complain about if, at the last minute, some big strapping man, deux es machina, saved the day ala the woodcutter in “Little Red Riding Hood.” But this is not what happens in Scream.

I guess you could complain about the virginity thing. For one thing, I believe all films of this nature are written, directed, and produced by men. And another, all of these films were made during or after the sexual revolution. So, you could gather that some men were annoyed at the sexual freedom women’s lib brought the average woman. The line between “good girls” and “bad girls” was forever blurred. And the only way these men could get their views across was to kill any sexually active young woman and let the sole survivor be the one who won’t let her boyfriend get past second base.

Of course, it’s not all teen girls that are killed in these movies. Plenty of boys skip down the prim rose path with these ladies. They also break the “no drinking or drugs” rule, which also doom them to a bloody end. So maybe it’s not a feminist issue. Maybe it’s adults/parents cracking down on their out of control children. A scarier, more fucked up version of the Boogeyman, if you will. Hmmmm…

Wow. I really digressed. I apologize. Let’s get back to Scream, shall we?

So, we last left Sidney in the bedroom with Billy. They have sex, and right on schedule, Billy is murdered. Sidney escapes. A few more deaths, red herrings, and chase scenes later, Sidney manages to get back in the house, finds out Billy is alive and then discovers…HE’S ALSO THE KILLER!!!


The main grievance I have with horror movies is the killer’s lack of motive. Michael Myers was insane (cop out). Jason Voorhees, also insane (another cop out). And Freddy Krueger wants revenge…on his murderer’s children…twelve years later. But Billy Loomis and Stu Macher? They have motives. Whether they’re good or not is up to the individual viewer, but they actually explain their reasons. A rarity.

Sure, it’s a little bit melodramatic. If you think about it, what psycho killer in their right mind (HA!) would take the time to explain all their planning to their victim? The smart thing would be to just off them. When the killer gets cocky, that’s where they fail. It's prevalent in action movies as well as horror.

At first, I thought Billy and Stu weren’t going to have a motive. I thought they were two twisted fucks bored with small town life. Like Randy said earlier in the film, “It’s the millennium. Motives are incidental.” But instead, Billy explains everything…that he was the one behind Sidney’s mother’s murder because she was having an affair with his father, which caused his mom to leave. Yeah, it’s kind of a pussy motive, but at least it’s a motive. And Stu? Turns out he’s really just a dumbfuck bored with small town life. Eh…can’t win ‘em all.

In the end, Sidney defeats Billy and Stu, sans virginity…which I believe must be some kind of record or first. There’s a whole other subplot concerning reporter Gale Weathers and Deputy Dewey Riley, but to me, it’s not worth writing about even if it does add some much needed sexual tension and comic relief. I think I’ve written enough already.

To close this blog, I would also like to state that I love how often this movie makes fun of itself and references how much films change and shape our lives. Much of my behavior is modeled after movies, as depressing as that sounds. As seen in Scream, this methodology can have some disastrous consequences. But lucky for you, I was raised on Disney.

Favorite Screencap
You much as I love this movie, it's not very visually stimulating. So, sorry folks. No screencaps this time.

Next Film: The Wedding Singer

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Brave Little Toaster (1987)

Kirby: “Why don't you just shut off?"
Air Conditioner: “Oh, I'm really scared there, Kirby. What are you gonna do, suck me to death?"

Title: The Brave Little Toaster
Genre: Animation
Year: 1987
Rated: Technically NR, but I’m guessing G in ‘87…PG by today’s standards.

Deanna Oliver as Toaster
Thurl Ravenscroft as Kirby
Jon Lovitz as Radio
Timothy Stack as Lampy
Timothy E. Day as Blanky

Plot: A toaster, a lamp, a radio, a vacuum cleaner, and an electric blanket set out on a journey to find their original owner.

Tagline: Imagine if your toaster went on a journey of its own!

First Viewing: Preschool? Kindergarten?
Added to The List: Always been there.

So far in this Epic Grand Ranking Attempt, I have reviewed one crime drama, one fantasy, one family film, one comedy, and one animated feature. Film #6 is a combination of the last four. My apologies to those looking for animated crime thriller, but truly, The Brave Little Toaster is full enough without adding gang wars and drug smuggling.

Although most people consider The Brave Little Toaster to be a Disney movie (as they do with all animated movies), they are wrong, wrong, WRONG. “What!?” you say, “But my Video/DVD cases says it’s Disney!”

Sigh… This is kind of a long story, so get comfortable…

First of all, The Brave Little Toaster is based on a novella by Thomas M. Disch. Some time in the mid 80’s, it was adapted into the animated film we know and love today. In the summer of 1987, it debuted on the Disney Channel. The following January, Toaster was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, and was the first and only (until 2001’s Waking Life) animated film to be entered. It was considered for Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize, nominated for the “Outstanding Animated Program” Emmy, and recognized with a Parents’ Choice Award. Despite all this hoopla, Toaster never had a nationwide theatrical release. Finally, sometime between July of 1988 and September of 1991, Disney acquired the rights to the film and distributed it on home video.

So, to make a long story short…someone else made The Brave Little Toaster, but Disney owns it.

It’s not your average origin story for a film, especially for an animated film. But you must remember, The Brave Little Toaster is not your average 80’s animated film. Drawn in an era of “animal movies” (The Secret of NIMH, An American Tale, Oliver & Company), this film sets itself aside and was the only one of its kind until Toy Story came along.

The film begins in a quaint little cottage in the middle of a forest. Five appliances (six, if you include the pessimistic Air Conditioner) are left to their own devices, and continually clean and take care of the cottage and await the day when their beloved Master (a ten-year-old boy) returns. But after years of waiting, the group is growing ever more edgy. When the cottage is put up for sale, the group decides to seek out their Master, certain that he still needs them. And so, the journey begins…

Basically, Toaster’s trek consists of four sections. The first one, the longest and most boring, takes place in the woods while our faithful friends first start traveling to The City. On the way, they encounter a group of dancing frogs, who enjoy making faces in Toaster’s reflection. Blanky is captured by mice. The whole sequence goes on for too long. Even Toaster gets bored.

Still, this sequence has one of the saddest, albeit unnecessary, moments in the history of animation. It’s even listed on Filmsite’s Greatest Tearjerker Films, Scenes, and Movie Moments of All-Time. Here’s the link. Anywho, Toaster is running from the narcissistic frogs and accidentally bumps into a yellow flower who immediately falls in love with its own likeness, unaware it’s just a reflection. Toaster explains this, but the flower will not be convinced otherwise. Toaster then leaves and looks back to see the flower withering and dying.

What’s the point of this scene? Countless times, I’ve seen this movie and still, I do not know. Is Thomas M. Disch saying something about technology’s relation to nature? Is this scene even in the book? Or did the animators think the story was lagging a little on the depressing storyline venue? As if being abandoned by the one person who loves them isn’t enough, now they have to break our hearts with this poor, wilting flower.

In many ways, The Brave Little Toaster is a very uneven film. First off, family friendly animation would have you believe that this is a sweet children’s story about finding your way home ala Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. And it is. But once you get into to it, you see that there’s more there than the colorful video cover would have you believe.

Besides having one of the saddest moments ever, it also has one of the most terrifying. While still in the “forest phase,” Toaster peacefully dreams of his happy days gone by with The Master, as he makes toasts and faces in his chrome. But suddenly, black smoke emits from Toasters slots. And a black hand grabs The Master away.

And then this scary firefighter clown shows up.

And then forks chase Toaster.

And then he’s hanging helplessly above a bathtub full of water.

Rest easy, my good readers, ‘tis only a dream. But still…what the fuck? How many kids started bawling after this sequence? How many turned off the VCR and never found out what happened to Toaster and his pals? And just what is the director trying to say here? Appliances have fears? And feelings? Pshaw! Nonsense!

Another scene worth noting in the forest phase (I told you it took up most of the movie!), concerns Toaster and Blanky. Lampy very plainly asks Toaster, “So, what’s this thing with you and the blanket?” From there, Toaster explains he feels he should be nice to Blanky from now on and that he gets a warm toasty feeling inside from being nice.

Many, to this day, consider this scene as some kind of rallying cry for homosexual appliances. With Toaster and Blanky both officially being male (a.k.a. being referred to as “he”), and supposing you had the mindset of a 5th grade boy, it could be taken this way. But I prefer to think Toaster and Blanky have more of a father/son relationship as opposed to a romantic one. (I mean, come on people, Blanky has got to be at least emotionally 6 years old!) It’s just another facet in this gem of a movie.

A little more than halfway through the movie, some serious shit starts happening to our group of weary travelers. They are rescued by Elmo St. Peters, a rotund appliance store owner who spends his free time creating his own electrical devices from the pieces of others. Our travelers seemed to be doomed to become one of Mr. St. Peters’ monsters, as explained in the song “B Movie Show” by his many innovations. But the group manages to outwit him and escape to The City.

Little does the group know as they make their way to The Master’s apartment, that he is recently graduated and towards college. And he needs a few cheap, old appliances. You know, the ones from the cottage. Oh, irony. If only they had waited a few more days, all this danger could easily be avoided. So The Master (now officially known as Rob) drives to the cottage and believes it’s been robbed.

At this same time, Toaster and the gang arrive at Rob’s apartment and are met by his newer, fancier appliances. Among them is a computer, even! Through song (“Cutting Edge) our friends slowly realize that The Master has no use for them anymore and silently head to Ernie’s Disposal.

Irony strikes again when Rob decides he wants old stuff to take to the dorm. So he ends up going to Ernie’s Disposal (advertised as “Crazy Ernie’s Amazing Emporium of Total Bargain Madness, by Toaster’s old friend, the T.V.) to look for just that.

While at “Crazy Ernie’s” our electrical friends accept their fate as scrap metal. Around them, old cars of all kinds sing their sob stories through the song “Worthless” as they are dropped on a conveyor belt and crushed into cubes. This is kind of like a precursor to Pixar’s Cars…but way more morbid.

Anywho, the scary magnet who collects these cars seems to have it in for Toaster and his pals and relentlessly chases them around the junkyard. All seems lost, but hark! Thy Master comes along, recognizes his appliances from childhood and collects them. Mr. Evil Magnet doesn’t like this one bit and dumps the Master on the Conveyor Belt of Doom along with some other junk that traps him and destines him for Cubesville.

Then the toaster, oh, that brave little toaster, selflessly throws himself into the gears of the cube maker, which saves his master’s life. And then somehow, Rob discovers what stopped the trash compactor. And that it was a toaster. And that it was his toaster from the cottage. Yeah…it’s all so realistic. But how else are we supposed to get to the happy ending?

So, Rob repairs Toaster, who still manages to make some damn fine toast, despite all those gears mangling his inside mechanisms. And all the appliances to college. And they all live happily ever after…until the sequels. DUN, DUN, DUN!

The Brave Little Toaster is, quite obviously, a prototype for Toy Story/Toy Story 2/Probably Toy Story 3, just by having inanimate objects come to life. As adults, it’s easy to look back fondly of playing with our toys. So, it’s just as easy to believe toys come to life in an animated feature, because they seemed so real back then. But how many of you played with your toaster? When was the last time you patted your desk lamp on the head? Or appreciated your vacuum? Creating sympathy for ordinary household objects is quite a feat, and this film manages to do it perfectly.

I’ve done you a disservice by not talking about the other characters, so I’ll do it now, as this blog comes to a much needed end. The characters are truly what drives the film. Each of them is likable in their own way…even the annoying, babyish blanket. Lampy, with is naïve optimism, is my favorite. And unlike the title would have you believe, each of the characters acts bravely and sacrifices something to be reunited with their master.

Favorite Screencap
A shot of Toaster just before he sacrifices himself for The Master.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Departed (2006)

Frank: “You do well in school?”
Colin: “Yeah.”
Frank: “Good. So did I. They call that a paradox.”

Title: The Departed
Genre: Crime Drama
Year: 2006
Rated: R

Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan
Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan
Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello
Mark Wahlberg as Sean Dignam
Plot: Two men, on opposite sides of the law, go undercover within the Massachusetts State Police and the Irish Mafia.

Tagline: Cops or criminals. When you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

First Viewing: Theater, October 13, 2006.
Added to The List: Some time shortly there after…November?

Comments Yeah, I know. It doesn’t make much sense to me either. If you skimmed down my list of favorites, there are some definite patterns: romances, period films, animation…but nothing that would lead you to believe I would ever like a movie like The Departed. So far in this Epic, Grand Movie Ranking Attempt, the closest thing to a “man movie” would be Son-In-Law. I’ll admit that I probably will never appreciate man movie elements as much as my male counterparts, or even some women, but believe me when I say, I fucking love this movie.

I seriously considered typing one sentence in the comments section of this blog: It’s fucking awesome. But then I decided my oh-so-many readers would be clamoring for the reason why a person who's favorite movie is Beauty and the Beast likes this testosterone driven mob movie. So here it is...

Let’s begin with the reason why I saw it in the first place: it was Oscar Season. As you may not know yet, I love the Oscars. I have been following it since 2004. So I knew my Academy Awards history. I knew that 5 of Martin Scorsese’s films had been nominated for Best Picture. And since a new one was coming out in the fall of 2006, one with all his traditional masculine, violent elements and a starstudded cast, I decided to see it. Plus, it had Leonardo DiCaprio, so even if it sucked, I could spend the two and half hours staring at him.

Indeed, I did stare at him, but only because I was in complete and utter awe of his acting ability. I always knew he was more than just “that pretty face from Titanic,” but until The Departed, I had nothing to point and at and snidely say, “See?” A friend of mine once said, “Leonardo DiCaprio out acts everyone in this film.” And he was absolutely right. Even though Leo is up against seasoned actors such as Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen, and even more contemporary peers like Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg, he manages to hold his own and then some.

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of my favorite actors and this film is his best…so far. He plays Billy Costigan, a state trooper working undercover as one of Frank Costello’s many minions. And because he plays such a conflicted character, not knowing who he is and having to pretend to be someone he’s not, Leo has a lot on his plate. In fact, I only think Billy smiles about three times in the movie. Most of the time he looks like he’s either going to cry or kill somebody.


I don’t really want to get into the plot of The Departed. It’s very complex and would take me about an hour to sum up every important detail. So I’ll just leave you with my convenient one sentence plot summary at the top of the page. Besides if you haven’t seen it, my synopsis would hardly do it justice.

The acting is superb. I’m really surprised there weren’t more acting nominations, actually. The lone Oscar nod went to Mark Wahlberg who I thoroughly enjoyed as the foul mouthed Sgt. Dignam. I wanted him to win, but instead the Oscar went to Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine. Hey, at least he didn’t lose to this guy…

Let’s face it, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t discuss the main romantic plotline. By no means is it the most important part of the film, and I don’t mean to portray it as so. It’s not even my favorite. But since I’m better at nitpicking a love story, I'll start with what I know and then work my way to the more serious stuff.

Despite The Departed being a man movie through and through, there actually is a female character. One…but she’s there. Madolyn Madden is played by Vera Farmiga, an actress I haven’t seen in anything else. Her part in this grand picture is as an occupational psychiatrist who Colin meets in an elevator and begins dating. Their relationship becomes more and more serious throughout the film.

At first, it seems as if Madolyn will be the “dumb girlfriend” who later discovers her boyfriend is a two-faced liar and corrupt detective. But the plot thickens when Billy is forced to see her due to his fake “probation.” (All part of the undercover gig.) After this scene, Madolyn begins casually seeing Billy, despite dating Colin and moving in with him. Just before Madolyn makes the big move, Billy comes over to her house and they have sex.

Billy’s relationship with Madolyn is very important. After all, the only people he has contact with is his Undercover Unit commanders and Frank’s group. All of his family is dead and those who aren’t, are also a part of the mafia. Madolyn is his only friend throughout the entire ordeal. And even she leaves him, knowing she must be loyal to Colin.

Towards the end of the movie, Madolyn tells Colin that she’s pregnant. Personally, I like to believe the kid is Billy’s. But there’s no way of knowing for sure. Take these clues for example:

1. Colin had impotency issues. It’s quite possible that Madolyn and him weren’t even having sex for long stretches of time.
2. When Billy brings Madolyn the envelope, she tries to tell him something. He tells her to think about whatever she has to say and if she still wants to tell him in two weeks, to call him. Hmmm…

I realize stuff like this doesn’t seem relevant to the movie. But it is. In most, if not all of Martin Scorsese’s films, masculinity is often explored. What makes a man? From a biological standpoint, a man’s purpose is to fertilize an egg. And for that to happen, one needs to have an erection and ejaculate, to get scientifically graphic. This proves to be impossible (at times) for Colin. So is Martin Scorsese saying that he’s not really a man?

Fatherhood is definitely at the heart of The Departed. On one side we have Detective Queenen (Martin Sheen), the commander of the Undercover Unit. He acts as an ideal father figure for Billy and Dignam, by being a hardworking, honest, respectable man. There’s also George Ellerby, (Alec Baldwin) the commander of Special Investigations Unit, who acts as an equally positive father figure for Colin.

But then on the other side, there’s Frank Costello, who portrays the negative end of the spectrum for both Billy and Colin. In all respects, he’s the villain of the story. It’s he who takes Colin under his wing as a boy and basically corrupts him.

Billy, coincidentally, serves as another surrogate son for Costello. But since he is at a less impressionable age than Colin was, Costello never causes any permanent damage to Billy. This is one of the reasons I love this movie. The good guys never turn to the dark side...with the exception of a minor character. It must be noted that Billy had a strong father figure growing up, which probably adds to it.

This whole theme comes to a fever pitch at the end of the film. One of Costello’s operations has gone terribly awry. Colin has figured out that Costello is an FBI informant and asks about his own neck. The dialogue goes like this:

Colin: “Do they know about me?” Frank: “I know about you, Collie. You know I’d never give you up. You’re like a—” Colin: “What? Like a son? To you? Is that what this is about? All that murdering and fucking, and no sons.”

At this point, Frank fires his gun at Colin and misses. In turn, Colin shoots and kills Frank. Obviously, Costello’s inability to have children is a touchy subject, one that probably isn’t brought up often. And if it is, no one probably lives long enough to spread the truth. Fatherhood is important most of the men in this film. The fact that Costello, a man who spends most of his free time fucking supermodels, can't have children is a sign that, at least in this film, that evil=sterility. This is why I think Billy is the father of Madolyn's baby.

The Departed was my choice for Best Picture in the 2006 Oscar race. It became the first movie for which Martin Scorsese won an Academy Award. And rightly so. I’ve read in several articles that Martin Scorsese’s Oscar was an award for his body of work instead of just The Departed. Many believe he should have won earlier in 1980 or 1990 for Raging Bull or Goodfellas, respectively. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen either of them. (I know, shame on me). And maybe if I had, I would feel differently. To me, The Departed is one of the greatest films of all time and deserved to be rewarded.

As you can see, The Departed is a very complex film with many facets. I’m sure someone could write a thesis on this bitch. Looking over all I have written, it seems like I have. Since it’s nearly midnight, and since I’ve been working on this blog for three days, I will end it now with no clever or interesting conclusion.

Favorite Screencap

Don't judge me.

P.S. I like how sweaty Alec Baldwin gets in this scene.

Next Film: The Brave Little Toaster