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Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans


10 years later: ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans’ Soul is Still Dancing



Even ten years on, it’s strange to contemplate just how weird a project 2009’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was. 

The film shares a title and a bare-bones plot similarity with Bad Lieutenant, Abel Ferrera’s acclaimed 1992 drama about a troubled, drug-addled New York City cop. But it’s not a sequel, nor really a remake, nor was it authorized by the Ferrara who, somewhat understandably, trashed the idea in multiple interviews. The director of the 2009 film, the German master Werner Herzog, even claimed to have not seen the Ferrara version. 

While Herzog’s film bared a superficial similarity to Ferrara’s, there are several key differences (the films share a producer, Ed Pressman, who presumably owned the rights.) It moves the action from New York to post-Katrina New Orleans. Rather than cocaine and gambling – though he indulges in both – its main character’s primary vice of choice is prescription painkillers. It excises most of the first film’s explicit references to Catholicism, as the first film’s inciting incident was the rape of a nun. Also, the ending is much happier, with everything, somewhat comically, working out in spite of it all.  

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

And most notably, Port of Call New Orleans replaced Harvey Keitel’s more naturalistic acting with that of Nicolas Cage, giving one of the greatest of his explosive, bug-eyed performances. Yes, this movie is exceptionally dark and perverse, but when I watched it back in 2009, thanks to Cage’s performance, I couldn’t get the smile off my face. Watching it again recently, I felt the same way. 

While the Keitel character was unnamed, Cage plays Terence McDonagh, a decorated New Orleans police detective who, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, saved a man’s life, but in the process suffered a serious back injury that left him with a massive addiction to painkillers, as well as other drugs. 

Six months after the storm, McDonagh is juggling his time between investigating the murder of five Senegalese immigrants, dealing with various parties to whom he owes money, and taking frequent extreme and illegal measures to score drugs. Yet despite all the corruption and distraction, McDonagh shows that he’s still pretty well-functioning when it comes to being a detective. 

The plot also avails itself of a plot arc from a year earlier on the influential cop show The Shield: A corrupt cop has two different groups of criminals who want to kill him, and the cop ultimately solves the problem by pitting the criminals against each other instead. 

It all plays out in this scene, which is the best use of yodeling-and-harmonica music in a Cage film other than Raising Arizona: 

Throughout Cage, wearing a bewildered expression, bad haircut, an ill-fitting suit, gives one of his more enjoyable performances. He refers to crack cocaine as “the kibble” and later speaks of his “lucky crack pipe.” In the film’s most famous scene, he sees iguanas at a crime scene, in a drug-fueled hallucination. It’s two hours of Cage absolutely going for broke, in a way only he can:

Shot on location, it’s very much a New Orleans film, one that captures that city post-Katrina much the way Spike Lee’s 25th Hour portrayed New York immediately in the aftermath of 9/11. But it makes no effort to make its city look glamorous amid the desolation, the way David Simon’s Treme would a few years later. There’s very little jazz music, no traditional New Orleans food, and I don’t think the French Quarter is even glimpsed. 

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans came out during a time when Herzog was making a lot of feature films, as opposed to documentaries. It arrived three years after Rescue Dawn and was released the same year as My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, and it showed Herzog is the perfect director for this sort of over-the-top material. The only drawback was that the director didn’t deign to appear in the film as an actor. That, and he and Cage never worked together again. 

While Cage’s performance, predictably, takes up a lot of the oxygen, the supporting cast is strong too. An uncharacteristically understated Val Kilmer is Cage’s partner and sidekick, Eva Mendes plays his sex worker girlfriend and showing up in smaller roles are Xhibit, Denzel Whitaker, Michael Shannon, Shea Wigham, and Jennifer Coolidge. 

Bad Lieutenant isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a durable franchise, yet somehow the concept has been made into two wildly different movies from two very different filmmakers, 17 years apart. And while Ferrera’s version, great as it is, isn’t the sort of thing I’ve ever felt the need to rewatch, Herzog and Cage’s is endlessly rewatchable. 

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

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70 Best Movie Posters of 2019



Best Movie Posters of 2019

Deciding the best movie posters is no easy task…

I remember when I was younger, I used to head to the video store and rent movies I’d never heard of based solely on the movie poster art. This was, of course, a different time— sure, the internet was a thing, but we didn’t have countless websites, not to mention social media platforms, promoting new movies online with news stories, movie stills, featurettes, teasers, trailers and so on. Not to say that sort of marketing didn’t exist in the past, because it did, but it wasn’t always in your face. For better or for worse, the internet changed the way studios market movies, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the use of a poster to help build excitement and anticipation for an upcoming film. Most posters continue to be an important marketing tool for filmmakers worldwide and so once again, we’ve decided to collect images of our favourite movie posters revealed over the past twelve months. If you checked out our list of the best movie posters of 2018, you’ll remember it included posters for indie gems, thrillers, horror movies, foreign language films, Hollywood blockbusters and everything in between. This year is no different, although it should be said that some marketing campaigns were so good, we’ve decided to include more than one poster for a few select films. Also worth noting, we didn’t include any fan-made poster art below. That out of the way, here are the best movie posters of 2019.

Click on any one of the images to enlarge the posters.

The Best Movie Posters of 2019

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The Piercing ‘Marriage Story’ Is Noah Baumbach’s Best Film to Date

TIFF 2019



Marriage Story

In 2010, director Noah Baumbach began divorce proceedings with his now ex-wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh. The divorce was finalized three years later, and since then Baumbach has been in a relationship with actor and director (and occasional collaborator) Greta Gerwig. It’s impossible to view his newest film, Marriage Story, without taking into account his own dissolved marriage; this is a searching, seething work of recriminations and longing that pits two all–too–human parents against each other, and invites the audience to not only imagine which bits of psychic trauma are his own, but also to consider our own relationships, successful or not.

Marriage Story stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as Nicole and Charlie, a married couple living in New York City with their young son Henry. The film opens with a montage as Nicole recites the things she most loves about her husband, from the way he can cook and doesn’t mind waking up with their son, to his skill as a theater director. In turn, Charlie narrates his favorite aspects of Nicole, his regular lead actor. There are plenty of opportunities for tears here, but the unguarded emotions of these confessions might get them started right from the beginning. But just as they finish reciting these traits, we’re brought back to reality; these confessions were things that they had written down to read to each other as a kind of peace offering at the start of their mediation following a separation that has led up to their divorce. But Nicole doesn’t like what she has written — or at least doesn’t want Charlie to hear it. And if she won’t go, then it’s not really fair for him to read his. So neither tells each other what they most admire in the other, and instead stop seeing the mediator.

It’s the first strike in Nicole and Charlie’s mutually assured destruction agreement. Though they initially plan on avoiding using lawyers, Nicole gets tipped off to a well-regarded attorney (a funny and ice-cold Laura Dern) who advises her to take a maximalist position in order to ensure she gets half of everything she wants — at the very least. Once she has a lawyer, Charlie tries out a variety of legal counsels (a soothing Alan Alda and a fiery Ray Liotta), but the real conflict comes down to location; Nicole has taken Henry to Los Angeles while she films a pilot, and wants to stay even after it’s finished. Charlie, however, thought they would move back to New York. Each escalation in the feud necessitates an opposing reaction, and the two are driven further and further apart, even as they try to stay close for the sake of their son.

Marriage Story

Baumbach has admitted that some details of the film are based on his own divorce, but he’s also said he interviewed many of his friends who divorced around the same time, as well as lawyers and judges involved in divorce cases. In some ways, Marriage Story isn’t just a portrait of a couple separating, but a primer on divorce court that far surpasses something like Kramer vs. Kramer, which was out of date even in 1979. The film is also an opportunity to observe two of the best living actors at the top of their game. Johansson and Driver have a knack for finding the sweet spot between un-actorly naturalism and the stylistic ticks that we recognize as compelling acting. It gives us a sense that these people were actually a family, and really cared for each other. Baumbach’s script helps; it’s maybe his best writing ever, filled with so many painfully open moments, yet leavened with just the right amount of humor. He’s also as fair as he could be, and neither parent comes off as too saintly or self-centered.

Marriage Story ends in a circle of sorts with the discovery of Nicole’s notes about Charlie’s best qualities. Their marriage was effectively over before the film even started, but I kept thinking back to that lovely introductory scene. How might their journey to divorce progressed if they had the courage to speak openly to each other in that one moment? Perhaps something might have been better. Marriage Story doesn’t harbor any of those romantic illusions, however; once it’s over, it’s over.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 12, 2019, as part of our coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival.

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Don’t Be Sad ‘A Rainy Day in New York’ Never Made it to Manhattan

Spend this rainy day playing a board game or something



Rainy Day in New York

You do not come to late-era Woody Allen for anything resembling true originality. He is the drunken piano man, riffing off the same old hits in the same old bar, hoping that nostalgia will hit a chord with somebody. As in Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine, or even Irrational Man, his output over the last decade can still bring up moments of true inspiration and fresh-feeling angles on the same old tales, even if the plot-lines feel somewhat familiar. In the best humanist cinema, like that of Rohmer or Ozu, this repetition can make you see the same thing in a slightly different way. The same cannot be said of A Rainy Day in New York, a film so derivative it feels like it came out of an auto-generator, making me feel nothing but contempt for the waste of so much talent. If you are an American Woody Allen fan sad that this movie never made it to Manhattan, there’s honestly no need to be.

Timotheé Chalamet stars and narrates in a performance so poor that he must be happy this film hasn’t released back in the States. He plays Gatsby Wells, a student at upstate Yardley College, a place he detests yet tolerates because his beloved girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) — heiress to a rich banking empire in Tucson — also studies there. As a writer for the University paper, she gets the chance to interview famous director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber), giving them the possibility to explore New York together. Yet when they arrive there, a series of misunderstandings, mishaps, and fear of missed opportunities keeps them perpetually apart, handing them the chance to explore romance with others — including old flames, movie stars and, of course, high-priced escorts. 

Although his first name is Gatsby, Wells better resembles the other great male of 20th century American literature: Holden Caulfield. Like the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, he is born of massive privilege, shunning his supposedly phoney origins while still visiting the fanciest hotels and drinking in the fanciest bars. There is perhaps some kind of interesting modern portrait of New York privilege in here, but Woody Allen is simply not the right director for the material. It’s like asking a jazz pianist to bash out a techno tune. 

And just as Allen’s blinkered view of New York blinds him to the real world and its contemporary concerns, Chalamet’s nostalgia act cannot find a way to escape Woody’s wooden writing. The sensitive, pretentious, sensual young man who turned in such a deeply felt performance in Call Me By Your Name could be a natural fit for a Woody Allen character, if only he actually leaned into what makes him a great actor instead of trying his best Woody Allen imitation. While some actors can do Woody Allen well (Kenneth Branagh is uncanny in Celebrity, while Larry David is great in Whatever Works), Timotheé Chalamet has neither the studied talent to impersonate well, nor the arrogance to put his own distinctive stamp on it. Elle Fanning is similarly dire; playing both an intrepid, impetuous journalist and a thick floozy, she carries neither the charm nor the wit to make her a compelling co-lead.  

A Rainy Day in New York

I don’t blame either actor; they’re young, and there’s a feeling that they weren’t given much direction. In fact, almost every aspect of A Rainy Day in New York feels underdeveloped, underwritten, and under-thought. This is a film so lazy that it even recycles the ending of Midnight in Paris, perhaps hoping that the audience developed amnesia since 2011. Even Allen’s trademark eye for Manhattan is missing. Filming here properly for the first time since 2009, the city no longer seems like much of a character by itself, and instead comes off as it would in a generic TV Christmas Movie. 

While Allen’s early 00s work — easily his worst period — is characterised by its TV-movie lighting, his collaborations over the past ten years with cinematographers such as Darius Khondji (Midnight in Paris, To Rome With Love), Javier Aguirresarobe (Blue Jasmine), and Vittorio Stororo (Cafe Society, Wonder Wheel) elevated his films’ look considerably, even when the writing may have been lacking. Sadly here, the legendary cinematographer behind Apocalypse Now and The Conformist — despite what seems like his best efforts to light generic hotel rooms with warmth and vibrancy — cannot save A Rainy Day in New York at all, which feels even more rushed and cut-to-pieces than usual. This is really only for die-hard Woody Allen completists; casual minds need not bother.

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