MOVIE DIARY 2018: HE'S JUST A MAN. BE MORE A MAN THAN HIM.

Ok! Back again! MOVIE DIARY 2018! Wow, can you believe we’re almost done with 2018, and by extension, MOVIE DIARY 2018? I think we’ve got 2, maybe 3 MOVIE DIARY 2018 posts left. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do for an end of the year post, to be honest! I feel like those are all so corny, but like, I should probably do one, right? I’ve been doing this blog for pretty much the entire year, so I have to do one, I think. Anyway, that’s the future, this is the now, and today I’ve got my pal Matt Lubchansky on GOTTI. Lubchansky x Gotti! You’re in for a treat! A real cannoli of a post!

POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ALL OF THESE MOVIES DUH OF COURSE YOU KNOW HOW THIS WORKS

Gotti (2018)
SPECIAL GUEST WRITER:
MATT LUBCHANSKY

“Queens.
Brooklyn.
Manhattan.
Staten Island.
The Bronx.
Grah!
That’s a fist.”
-Stacey Keach as Neil Dellacroce, on what the five boroughs of New York freakin’ city are, and also what five fingers make when you count the boroughs out on your hand

Here is a list of stuff about GOTTI (2018):

-This is a movie starring John Travolta in old age makeup. John Travolta is currently 64 and was probably 63 while they filmed the movie. John Gotti died at age 61.

-This movie is directed by the guy who played “E” on HBO’s ENTOURAGE (2004-2011)

-Much of the music is by Mr. Worldwide himself, Pitbull. You can hear “Don’t Stop the Party” playing at a party (duh), but one that takes place in the 1980s.

-This movie took 7 years to make and by my count has FIFTY-EIGHT producers attached to it. I counted twice.

-I am in not one, but TWO group texts about this movie (GOTTI GANG and GOTTI GAB)

-At one point, Travolta tries to say “ya sure?” but instead says “ya shorp?”

Primarily, GOTTI (2018) is a film about how the RICO act is the worst thing the United States Federal Government has ever inflicted upon its most immiserated and marginalized population, Italian Criminals. Secondarily, semiotically, accidentally, GOTTI (2018) is a film about how we all live in hell now. It’s a movie about how John Gotti, a melted wax sculpture who talks like prison mike, did nothing wrong, if you really think about it.

This movie is a failure on almost every level from both a filmmaking perspective and a moral one. The writing is awful – it’is framed three different ways, Inception-style (The ghost of John Travolta standing in Gantry State Park, some voiceover, and also Gotti dying in prison). The movie jumps around incomprehensibly, and it’s impossible to tell when anything is. They occasionally make John Jr. wear glasses to show that time has passed.

The acting is atrocious – at one point, Travolta’s young son dies suddenly tragically and his reactions are to 1) Bite his fist and make a “tastes weird” kind of face and 2) Tell his mafia pals that he “didn’t even have hair on his prick!”

The costumes are bad. The lighting (!) is bad! The sound design, the thing a schmuck like me never notices, is bad. Ethically, it’s a catastrophe: it’s based on a memoir by John Gotti’s son John A. Gotti, and was made with his input. And unlike say, GOODFELLAS, this wasn’t written by a guy who’s cut ties and is offering an honest recounting of what happened - this movie shows all the murder and mayhem and concludes hey, what a ride!

GOTTI (2018) is procedurally generated, a “hey, you won’t believe this movie script this AI wrote after we fed it every Scorcese film!” blog post. It’s hilariously inept in its attempts to create iconic moments and music cues that ape the Scorcese oeuvre, completely lacking any self-awareness. Nominally, a mob movie is a romp as our guy climbs the crime ladder, showing all The Life could give a guy. But as the house of cards falls down around them in the third act, the viewer is left to wonder why they found these monsters so fun in the first place.

GOTTI isn’t concerned with the moral gray area and just wants to show The Life, but doesn’t accomplish it - the fun the guys are having consists of: Hanging out in a dingy basement in what looks like Cincinatti (because it is), and going to a bar exactly once and complaining about a guy there whom he immediately hires. The only things done to make John a likeable charming neighborhood hero include telling his guys to help an old lady carry something, and telling a guy he’s going to help him out with his dad’s closed boxing gym (never mentioned again). These moments happen within 15 seconds of each other. During the downfall portion of the movie, both for Gotti and his son John Jr, the only viewpoint given any credibility is that the feds are harassing them, the poor mafia dons.

The thing to know is, GOTTI is the perfect film for the year of our lord 2018.

The movie is punishingly, relentlessly, endlessly stupid. You know that they are in the mafia in this movie because they say “the cosa nostra” like 45 times. People are constantly saying stuff like “wow it sure is nice to be….in this mafia murder club!” It’s a movie by idiots, glorifying idiots. Watching it, you quickly settle into a dream state where everything is barely explained and half-remembered. You can’t extricate yourself from it, nor explain to a third party what’s happening or who anyone is.

It’s made with no technical skill and powered through development hell by an ever-increasing number of producers, shedding proven talent and picking up any jamoke willing to be involved. It failed upward into a (limited) theatrical release on the back of MoviePass, owners of an equity stake in the film, who themselves were deep into their own venture capital shell game, propped up by investors. Upon release, (allegedly) troll accounts flooded Rotten Tomatoes, inflating the film’s “audience score,” enabling the producers to run an anti-elitist ad campaign proclaiming “Audiences loved Gotti but critics don’t want you to see it… The question is why??? Trust the people and see it for yourself!” At the end of the movie, the “where are they now” segment takes one last time to really stick it to rats, complaining that John was put away based on the word of murderers.

Dumb, petty criminals and scams all the way down. And hey, now you can watch it on Amazon!

“This life ends one of two ways, dead or in jail. I got bot’.”
-John Travolta, as John Gotti


Matt Lubchansky is a cartoonist and illustrator who lives in Queens. They are the associate editor of The Nib. Hey check out this cool shirt

Creed II (2018)

All in all an unfortunate disappointment but I wasn’t really coming into it with very high hopes anyway, so it ended up being just fine. I didn’t really think there was a whole lot going on with this movie, like really Creed’s whole arc could have been wrapped up in about an hour, and half of that could have been done in training montage? If anything it could have used more of Drago and son. I thought that was actually the more compelling plot. On the one hand you’ve got our boy Creed, who’s spending most of the movie just kind of brooding and unsure about why he’s doing anything, then on the other hand you have Drago and his son, two guys with the biggest chips on their shoulders. Drago is raging at losing everything after Rocky beat him in Rocky IV, Drago’s son is raging at learning about the hypocrisy in the boxing world when he sees his father having to suck up to all the assholes that ruined his life after he lost that fight. That’s some pretty high drama stuff, and I wish there’d been more of that and less of Creed trying to figure out why he’s even fighting in the first place. Also, while I’m at it there should have been more of Stallone just kind of mumbling to himself, give the people what they came here for! I will say though, I thought that was the perfect amount of Brigitte Nielsen. Very cool to roll her out as a surprise cameo, but also that in both the scenes she’s in she’s able to completely devastate her son without even speaking to him. Her getting up to leave during the final fight ends up being the real knockout punch of the movie, and it was a perfect little glimpse into a great moment in the Drago movie that this should have been.

The Night Comes For Us (2018)

In a way this kind of reminded me of those old superhero crossover comics. The ones where like Batman meets the Hulk and you’re a kid so you don’t really give a shit how this all comes together, all you want to see is what it looks like when Batman tries to fight the Hulk. The Night Comes For Us has that kind of energy where really all you’re waiting for is Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais, two great stars of violent Indonesian action movies, to destroy each other, but it does you one better by filling the rest of the movie with fight after fight after fight, each more brutal than the last. It’s wonderfully paced, giving you enough down time between fights for you to catch your breath and take in some useful and naked exposition before ramping back up again in a frenzy. We don’t even get to the fight between Taslim and Uwais til the very end, and by that point I was foolishly thinking there’s no way this fight is going to be able to top everything that we’d seen up to this point — the previous fight had an assassin literally holding in her guts as she tried to get in one last blow. But I was wrong! The headlining fight sequence is an exercise in topping yourself, giving it more of a feeling of brutal DIY backyard wrestling, but with the quick and dirty styling and frantic pacing of The Raid: Redemption and Headshot. My only problem with the movie is that I feel like they could have given Uwais a bit more to do. He gets a good scene in the beginning to show that he’s ruthless and tough, but for the majority of the rest of the movie up until that last fight he’s kind of lurking in the wings while all the heavy lifting goes to Taslim. Though, watching Taslim straight up dismantle fools is not the worst way to spend time in a movie, so I’m fine with it.

The Princess Switch (2018)

Two Vanessa Hudgenses?? It’s like I’m seeing double! But not really! They’re twins! But also again not really! They’re distant cousins who look exactly alike because genetics is funny like that! One is a Princess from a made up country! The other is a baker from Chicago! They switch places for some reason (not important) and end up falling in love with each other’s boyfriend! When they finally reveal the truth behind this horrible trick they’ve played on their loved ones, everybody is surprisingly cool about it, completely willing to leave their entire lives behind to live a new life with this person they hit it off with after like a weekend together under dubious circumstances! A really great fun movie that is perfect for when you want to get in the holiday spirit and feel like you’re experiencing a minor stroke!

The Favourite (2018)

It’s very good! The Favourite is held up by three incredible performances from Rachel Weisz (duh), Olivia Colman (unsurprising), and Emma Stone (finally bringing her talents to a good movie, no I didn’t see Easy A sorry). It’s a period piece showing off how dirty and awful and garish and funny the past was, which is always fun for me at least, and it looks really great. I don’t know a whole lot about lighting, so I apologize if I’m like showing my entire ass right now, but The Favourite looks like it was shot with just natural light? I think it really added to the murkiness of the setting and, if you want to “go there,” the thematic murkiness of the characters’ actions. 

I think a cool thing in this movie is in the fact that all of the three characters are motivated by survival, but their methods are all somewhat limited by their different stations. The fun is in seeing how they work with their roles to reach beyond what their station allows them. Abigail (Stone) is the boldest one because she’s also the hungriest one. The satisfaction of watching her climb from the dirt and cleverly insinuate herself with Queen Anne (Colman) is matched only by the thrill of watching her getting drunk with power. Sarah (Weisz) plays it steady, a real cold blooded B throughout, but I think she’s able to do that because she’s been at the top for so long. She has no need to change how people see her at this point, she’s in too deep with the Queen for anyone to make a move against her. I think she’s interesting because she never changes her approach and that keeps her in power, but the second she does have a change of heart and she decides to burn the letters that she was going to use to blackmail Queen Anne, it’s over for her (though maybe that speaks more to Queen Anne’s character than Sarah’s). She has that line where she’s looking at Abigail and she says, “You really think you’ve won.” In terms of position and power, it’s probably true that Abigail’s won, but ultimately what has she really won? The end seems to suggest to me this recognition in Abigail that she’s got her safety and security but at the cost of another life of servitude and constantly watching out for the next hungry young thing after her. I don’t know, it’s lame to speculate about what things mean when it’s all so clearly stated in the text, sorry. You don’t need me explaining this movie to you, you’ll watch it and you’ll get it, and we’ll all be on the same page, it’s not hard.