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Crime Doesn't Pay: The Exception That Proves the Rule
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Criminal masterminds are rarer in real life than in movies like Michael Mann’s 1981 film Thief, in which James Caan plays an ultra-competent Chicago burglar always lit by the glow of neon off rain-slicked streets. If you are that prudent, thorough, and organized maybe you should get a job where they don’t put you in prison when you mess up, such as, say, directing movies about criminal masterminds. For example, Mann’s recent cyber-criminal movie Black Hat was a bigger net loss than just about any real life heist, but he’s still a free man.

Marginal Revolution reports on a study of thieves (or at least of thieves uncautious enough to admit they had been thieves to the National Longitudinal Study of Youth), which reveals that crime doesn’t pay.

But occasionally somebody makes a living at stealing valuable objects. I recall decades ago in Chicago seeing on the local news a bunch of suburban police chiefs crowing that they had finally caught the a prolific silverware thief, who I found a few days later was the brother of a very bright friend of mine. I’ve finally tracked down a news account after all these years, and my memory of the story wasn’t too far off. (I’ll XXX out the Flatware Burglar’s name due to my friend sharing it. And it’s a common name.)

318 Suburban Thefts Linked To City Man

October 30, 1994 |

By Lou Carlozo, Tribune Staff Writer.

To the scores of North Shore residents who have agonized over their stolen silverware and tea services, take heart-and call Evanston police.

Police have arrested a suspect in heists by the “flatware burglar” and have seized thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, dinnerware and decorative items stashed in his North Side residence.

Investigators have linked XXX to 318 burglaries over a two-year period in Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka, Kenilworth and Glencoe, Evanston Police Chief Gerald Cooper said Saturday.

In all, XXX may have been responsible for more than 1,000 home burglaries in the North Shore area, Cooper said.

“He boasted to us that he committed some 5,000 burglaries” over two decades, Cooper said. “There’s a little bit of (exaggeration) in that, but he’s done a substantial amount.”

Evanston Police Sgt. Chuck Wernick alleged that XXX was by far the most prolific home burglar he has encountered in 23 years of police work.

“Very clever, very catlike would be the best way to describe him,” Wernick said.

“Once we knew where he was,” Wernick said, “he was just as difficult to track down. He was just a shadow.” XXX’s total alleged take is believed to be in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” including $30,000 in merchandise taken from one night of activity in Wilmette, Wernick said.

XXX was arrested with the help of a task force made up of more than a dozen officers from the four suburbs that had been investigating the thefts over the past four months, Cooper said.

 
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  1. Whiskey says: • Website

    Cyber crime pays very well with little risk in places overseas. T Mobile just had 15 million accounts hacked with fulz, I.e. Sicial Security, name adress phone numbers etc compromised and downladed.

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  2. simeon says:

    He should get to work on the Beverly Hills Arabs.

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  3. AndrewR says:

    Ever talk to your friend about it? I’d love to hear details.

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  4. WhatEvvs [AKA "Anonymuss Annie"] says:

    OT, Obama announces that Malia will be attending a community college:

    One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college,” Mr. Obama told a group that included high school students in Des Moines last month. “Just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/us/politics/malia-obamas-college-pick-ivies-liberal-arts-or-public-university.html

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    • Replies: @snorlax
    Clever political calculation; if she went to Harvard/Yale/Princeton people would say it's just because she's the President's daughter, and/or bring up affirmative action. If she went to a lesser school people would say she must be a complete idiot (President's daughter/AA). It's faux "man of the people"-ish for her to go to community college.

    She'd of course land some seven-figure "consulting" gig even if she spent the next four years in prison.

    , @WhatEvvs
    I was joking. She will certainly go to an Ivy, or Stanford, or Duke. My money's on Stanford.
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  5. Berlitz says:

    Wasn’t that the “astounding counter-intuitive discovery” from the 1st Freakonomics book — that most of the crack dealers were living with their moms? Barriers to entry

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  6. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    The Exception That Proves the Rule

    I think that phrase does not mean what you think it means. Same with:

    Crime Doesn’t Pay

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  7. Pat Casey says:

    Something told me Black Mass would stir people to opine quite less than the occasion probably does merit.

    The 20th century of America had too many gangsters worth making movies out of to keep track of or probably count. And when you consider that the best of them mostly never did tell their story, well maybe that’s a tragedy to history in a way. “This is the life we chose, the life we lead, and there is only one certainty: none of us will see heaven.” Why go to the movies at all if you don’t go to see those? Gangsters owe us the truth as much as the government does. And the ones in the pantheon most of all owe us their side of story, since we put them there, like an inverted election to infamous office. Why pretend like your not there when you are? Consider the record.

    Name five gangsters real fast: Capone, Lansky, Gambino, Gotti. And Whitey Bulger. Who was the only one of among them to ever actually rip off the lottery—for 30 million in the 80s. The only to be on the FBI’s most wanted list— for 16 years. The only who ever put his foot on the neck of a Mafia family and took as much as he wanted. The second of them to know Alcatraz. The only one to know MK-Ultra. And the only one who gave his own guns to his roots when they needed them.

    The mystery remains. What did the document say, that would get them all fired, the one in the secret safe in the director of the Boston field office of FBI, where the secretary worked for forty years and remembers when the safe itself was disappeared? And Jeremiah O’Sullivan—the federal prosecutor who may or may not have given Bulger immunity, in return for taking care of the Italians who were out to kill him “my own way.” How much money did it cost to buy the city of Boston plus a few federal departments for twenty years? Why would a guy under cover of top-echlon need to buy the city? And so on.

    Well Black Mass doesn’t bother about any of that. But Johnny Depp deserves a nomination no doubt. And would have had a better chance of getting it had he not decided go off about James Whitey Bulger being so much of a human, the murderer he could afford to humanize, and personally celebrate for living on the run as long as he could. What a dumb soundbite to own. But nothing human is alien. Everyone has their reasons.

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    • Replies: @Lugash
    Black Mass has a throw away line towards the end where Bulger complains about the hundreds of thousands in payoffs he has made over the years.
    , @Lugash
    Black Mass has a throw away line towards the end where Bulger complains about the hundreds of thousands in payoffs he has made over the years.
    , @Brutusale
    Two points:

    The lottery win was $14 million.

    Whitey was immeasurably aided by the symbiotic relationship between his criminal career and that of his brother, long-time Senate president Billy, or the Corrupt Midget as he's know in these parts. More so than any governor during his tenure, Billy Bulger was the most powerful politician in the Commonwealth.
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  8. Berlitz says:

    For example, Mann’s recent cyber-criminal movie Black Hat was a bigger net loss than just about any real life heist, but he’s still a free man.

    A remarkably naive sentiment from someone who presents himself as a professional movie critic. Making money from exhibition is nice when can you do it but having any familiarity with the industry you’d realize the printed losses are not what they seem — a common fact of business which you blithely analogize to burglary (!) so, pray tell who exactly is fleecing whom? Are Mann, his tax-deducting backers, and minimal-exposure studio/holding company ripping off the proverbial “taxpayer?” Who was just sitting at home minding his own after a hard day at the Amazon.com processing center, while those Hollywood bigshot elitists failed to deliver “Titanic II” and thus close the national deficit… What ever happened to America! By the way, your swing-for-the-fences riches-or-death benchmark would disqualify the whole film careers of Mike Judge and Orson Welles, among others. I expect you’ve already cooked up some fiscal-conservative UFA-style scheme to ensure no greenlight on anything not about about golf or PISA cheating scandals, coupled with Christmas release of all-star animated “Malibu Chihuahuas in Space” to offset those tedious bombs

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    • Replies: @D. K.
    He did not compare making a failed movie to robbery per se; he compared the nature of the risks involved in directing Hollywood films and attempting to be a master criminal, which he assumed, not unreasonably, would require comparable levels of above-average intelligence.

    Yes, many films that do monster box office are declared money-losers by studio executives, through the abuse of allocating studio costs to their huge successes rather than to their many failures. Regardless, when a major film is known to have cost X to make (its published budget) and Y to promote (usually a less-publicized figure, but often discernible by the apparent scope of its advertising campaign), yet falls far short of X + Y at the box office (with a large portion of the gate going to the theater owners, of course, and not to the studio), it is obvious that such a film is an actual financial loss, no matter what studio executives later may try to do about allocating the studio's overall operating budget to their various film projects.

    "Ishtar" (1987) was not an infamous financial failure because of any accounting sleight-of-hand. "Cleopatra" (1963), on the other hand, took several years to get into the black, despite its being a box-office winner, only because the studio, being near bankruptcy, had had to shut down all of its other productions, causing all studio costs to be allocated to that infamously expensive picture. (Its producer reputedly told someone, during the late stages of its years-long production, something to the effect of: "Somewhere in Tokyo, a studio executive is taking two hookers to lunch at a three-star restaurant and charging it to my picture!")

    I do not even know who Mike Judge is ("Mea culpa!), but I am fairly well-read on George Orson Welles (named after a famous alumnus of my alma mater, Purdue, as is its football stadium, in part), who died on my birthday, thirty years ago this week (as did his friend Yul Brynner). Orson Welles, despite his self-regard, considered his film career, as an auteur, to have been a largely misbegotten quest for other people's money, which he would have been better off personally having done without altogether.
    , @Priss Factor
    "A remarkably naive sentiment from someone who presents himself as a professional movie critic... a common fact of business which you blithely analogize to burglary... What ever happened to America! By the way, your swing-for-the-fences riches-or-death benchmark would disqualify the whole film careers of Mike Judge and Orson Welles, among others."

    ROTFL. That's pretty hilarious rant.

    This analogy to burglary isn't as moralistic as you assume. Heist isn't just stealing stuff or committing a crime. The real pride comes from the masterly strategy over the caper. It is a game, a contest.
    If anything, plenty of writers/directors identify with criminal master-minds because the way they think is similar. And their outlooks on society are similar too. Consider Mamet and his films about con-men. He even made a film called HEIST where everyone tries to outwit everyone. In THIEF, what matters is not the stealing but the art of stealing. It's a job and it's about whether you do it right or not.

    So, saying that film-making is like a heist isn't necessarily a moral judgement. It is an appreciation of the wits and smarts involved in playing the game.
    In a way, Scorsese understood GOODFELLAS and CASINO -- and WOLF OF WALL STREET -- so well cuz he got in the business for much the same reason as people become gangsters or wall street crooks. He didn't want to be some boring 9 to 5 person working at some cruddy job. He wanted the lights, the action, the excitement.
    Entertainment has been a kind of legalized form of criminal-life for people too afraid or too smart to actually become crooks. Entertainment is what? It is selling dope of fantasy to the masses. And what are most films about? Good decent hardworking people? What are most songs about? Decent parents and tax-paying citizens? No, a lot of them are about crooks, thugs, gangsters, and etc. Films may morally condemn such characters or pretend to, but they are the main attraction.

    https://youtu.be/YmfPT47awUg?t=46s

    Peckinpah felt as a kind of outlaw himself. And films like BONNIE AND CLYDE thrilled a lot of people because of the fantasy of breaking all the 'bourgeois' rules and doing whatever you feel like. And there is even a heist-element in THE GRADUATE insofar as Ben literally steals the girl from the groom.

    And film-making is often like a heist in that it takes our money in exchange of fantasy that really does us no good. The world would be a better place without 99% of the films out there. Also, many people watch films as a fantasy of crime, just like lots of kids listen to rap as thug fantasy. It is a kind of drug. WOLF OF WALL STREET was a huge hit as a lifestyles of the rich, famous, and crooked. Sure, it was good to see the crook get his comeuppance but it was even more fun to see him having fun being crooked. Movies sell heist fantasies in the form of moral lessons.
    And given that most films lose money, the would-be-film-maker has to hustle to sell his idea. And since he is using other people's money, he walks away scot-free though he may no longer be bankable.

    Some film-makers' careers are over after a few flops, but some have been able to keep working despite so many failures. DePalma is a good example. He's had so many flops. But maybe because his hits have been so big and memorable that Hollywood has been willing to give him another chance. Also, his name has become somewhat prestigious, so maybe some studios just feel honored to be associated with a DePalma film.
    Mann may have a similar place in Hollywood. He's become a kind of legendary figure, so his flops are written off and he's given another chance. Besides, when he hit a home-run, he really hit big ones. Old filmmakers never die, they just fade away. Good to turn yourself into a brand.

    Stone is another one who's been able to weather huge losses. Alexander, what a total flop that was. But his is an established brand in Hollywood. A Stone Film means something.

    The box office failure of a film like Blackhat means more than a failure of a Welles or Judge film or even a Stone film. Welles wasn't making films to make lots of money, though, of course, money was nice. Welles usually favored personal vision over consideration of box office. And Judge likes to work small and quirky. Welles eventually couldn't get any financing.
    But Blackhat was obviously geared to be a big action hit. So, it is a bigger deal that it failed.

    When Woody Allen makes a film, no one expects it to make big bucks, though, on occasion, something like Blue Jasmine goes beyond all expectations.
    But when Mann hires one of the hottest action stars and makes an action film, people were obviously expecting something on the order of Bourne movies.
    Some movies are meant to be hits, some movies are not. A film like SLOW WEST is clearly an indie film, and it's low box office isn't seen as failure cuz it was a labor of love Maybe Mann really liked the idea of Blackhat but it was obviously pitched as the next big hit --- and Mann needed one cuz his films haven't been doing all that hot lately.

    Maybe one thing that didn't jibe well with audiences was Blackhat was like both a big production and a home movie. Mann, as if to be more hip and relevant, used lots of hand-held camera style, and some scenes look as if shot by smartphones, the kind you find in youtube all over. So the film at times seem overly polished, like HEAT, and at other times looks over haphazard, like BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. And the two modes never really came together in the film. (It worked better in Bourne movies.)
    The film has an element of spontaneity but with generally lackluster characters who only make sense in a very stylized film, but Blackhat goes online and offline with Mann's classic style, the secret of which is control even amidst chaos. There are some moments in Blackhat that are just chaotic.

    It was still much better than the recent Keanu Reeves gangster thriller JOHN PRICK. Incidentally, it has a small scene with John Leguzano who really could have been the actor of his age. He's in the film for just a little bit but he totally dominates the scene. He was Benny Blanco in CARLITO'S WAY and went toe to toe with a veteran like Pacino. Leguzano has one of the most natural instincts of an actor. He's fast. He gets a character and embodies him like no other. Streep is good but she's all technique. She acts. Leguzano just becomes. And he can play all kinds of characters so convincingly. A neglected talent, but I can see why. He doesn't have the looks to be a movie star and lead character. (But then, Johnny Depp is sort of odd-looking too, but he became a big star. The most unlikely big star in recent film history?)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbD1TZa8YII

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  9. Gongtao says:

    I remember reading about a similar criminal in a New Yorker article. He also stole flatware (very expensive antique stuff, which he was knowledgeable about). He must have been in the top .1% of thieves, but he was still living in cheap motels and sleeping with crackheads, and when he got arrested he would do dumb stuff like punching cops.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    The New Yorker article about another silverware thief is by Stephen J. Dubner, the Freakonomics co-author.

    When Dubner's subject did some stealing in the Chicago suburbs, the cops' first thought was: The Flatware Burglar is back in business. But when they checked, my friend's brother was still in prison.

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  10. gruff says:

    I like the way you changed “crowding” in your Marginal Revolution comment to “crowing” in this post. Attention to details like that is one thing that keeps me coming back.

    PS The original article with the perp’s real name in it is now easily googleable.

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    • Replies: @rustbeltreader
    You can always use Poople and search for crap.
    You'll find lots of it.
    Goldenstern's Rules:
    Always hire a rich attorney
    Never buy from a rich salesman.
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  11. Jack D says:

    I don’t understand the point of the XXX. Three seconds of googling gives the link to the Chicago Tribune article with the fellow’s name. This is public record and not any kind of confidential information.

    The exact name is not that common. The only other person by that name appears to be a doctor in S. Carolina whom I assume is not the same person. There doesn’t seem to be anything on the interwebs about what happened to the burglar after his arrest.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    "I don’t understand the point of the XXX. Three seconds of googling gives the link to the Chicago Tribune article with the fellow’s name."

    Not using names makes it harder for somebody to go the other direction using Google -- to start with the name and then find out information from my website about that individual or family. In this case, I don't care about protecting the identity of the criminal, but I'm just putting an extra layer of insulation between the criminal's innocent brother and anybody trying to snoop on him using Google.

    My general policy is, for reasons of privacy, not to spell out the name of individuals I've met through my personal life, even if I give away enough details for a dedicated researcher to figure out who I am talking about.

    For example, at least since a 2003 article in The American Conservative, I've often anonymously cited an old high school friend's statement to me in the early 1990s that "Jose Canseco is the Typhoid Mary of steroids" because his insight is important to understanding the history of baseball in the late 20th Century. (Canseco confirmed it in his 2005 autobiography.)

    To explain why I had confidence in this gossip before Caneco validated it, I've added that my friend was a baseball industry professional and that his younger brother won a top major league baseball honor. And I've given various other details that would allow anybody who cared to identify the family name with 15 minutes of Googling. But anybody who starts with my post and goes to all the work of doing that likely has a legitimate interest in the history of baseball. (If you are, say, writing a book on the history of steroids in sports, drop me an email.)

    In contrast, if somebody starts with that name and wants to dig up info on that family via Google, it would be hard to get to my posts. (Note that I'm just preserving privacy for the sake of preserving privacy: my friend of course deserves credit for accurately calling out the spread of a massive scandal a decade before the MSM would generally admit it. But he told me in private so I'm not going to make it easy for somebody to go the other direction.)

    Also, if a snooping individual did put all the pieces together, it would still be hard to publicize that information because it would take a lengthy explanation of various details to confirm the identity and most readers would lose track and not pay much attention.

    (By the way, this is why official government reports are so important to the media. Before the Rotherham report was issued in 2014, for example, it was clear there was a massive problem across England -- I wrote a Taki's column about it in 2013 -- but I had to put together a lot of evidence from a lot of different sources. Most people, however, just ignored the problem. But once the official Rotherham government report was issued, then it could be quoted authoritatively in the media.)

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  12. Lagertha says:

    i will miss you.

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  13. @Gongtao
    I remember reading about a similar criminal in a New Yorker article. He also stole flatware (very expensive antique stuff, which he was knowledgeable about). He must have been in the top .1% of thieves, but he was still living in cheap motels and sleeping with crackheads, and when he got arrested he would do dumb stuff like punching cops.

    The New Yorker article about another silverware thief is by Stephen J. Dubner, the Freakonomics co-author.

    When Dubner’s subject did some stealing in the Chicago suburbs, the cops’ first thought was: The Flatware Burglar is back in business. But when they checked, my friend’s brother was still in prison.

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  14. WillBest says:

    The problem with being a thief isn’t the acquiring. Its the moving. High profile items are easy to find even though you can get 35-50 cents on the dollar, and common stuff that is hard to find is only going to get you 10-20 cents on the dollar.

    You want to bring down a median household income of 50k, you are talking about having to lift 500k worth of stuff annually. And then good luck explaining that money to the IRS.

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    • Replies: @Doug
    That's exactly correct. The way to combat theft is to make sure that the goods can't be sold. Art theft has basically disappeared since INTERPOL started meticulously tracking a database of all stolen items. Car theft is also going the way of the Dodo, as modern cars are much more technically challenging to hotwire.

    Cybercrime is the future of theft. But it benefits a much smaller elite cadre of highly intelligent blackhat hackers. The days when a hardworking blue collar man from the wrong side of the tracks could feed his family with a life of property crime is disappearing. As Tyler Cowen says, even for crime average is over.
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  15. The sad thing is, crime does pay – if you aren’t of the scrupulous kind and don’t get caught.
    One had, I gather, a pretty good chance of not getting caught before centralized government, police and mass CCTV, which is to say, for most of human history. It’s only recently that violent crime became a thing for the most impulsive and conscience-proof of people. The most rewards are in white-collar crime.

    “A high level of education was economically harmful for cultural
    reasons also. One of the legacies of colonialism, in Tanzania as
    elsewhere in Africa, was that education was seen by the people
    as a means by which one might join the governmental service (…)
    This was the main, and often the only, reason that education was
    so highly valued. (…)
    Any child of ability got a job in government or a job paid by
    government. Reaching a position in the hierarchy from which it was
    possible to obstruct the efforts of others unless bribed was
    therefore the aim of almost every educated person. It means (…) the
    larger economic surplus had to be extracted from a smaller economic
    base.”
    –Dalrymple, “Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality”

    The way to be anti-social today is precisely this – to try and reach a position in the hierarchy where you can do stuff with impunity.

    Social determinism fosters crime:

    Another burglar demanded to know from me why he repeatedly broke into houses and stole VCRs. He asked the question aggressively, as if ‘the system’ so far let him down in not supplying him with the answer; as if it were my duty as a doctor to provide him with the buried psychological secret that, once revealed, would in and of itself lead him unfailingly on the path of virtue (…)
    When I refused to examine his past, he exclaimed, “But something must make me do it!”
    “How about greed, laziness, and a thirst for excitement?” I suggested.
    “What about my childhood?” he asked.
    “Nothing to do with it”, I replied firmly.
    He looked at me as if I had assaulted him. Actually, I thought the matter more complex than I was admitting, but I did not want him to misunderstand my main message: that he was the author of his own deeds.
    –Dalrymple, “Life at the Bottom”

    I’m non-religious, but one thing I like about Xtianity is the concept of original sin. I was thinking about it recently, esp. why they left in the loophole in the form of repentance (“I prayed for a bike. Then I realized that G’d does not work this way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness”).
    Then I realized how much psychological sense it makes. It wouldn’t work if the person was out of favor with God after the first transgression. It’s like buying a fitness machine and putting off using it until tomorrow (what’s another day?) – a tomorrow that never comes. The person, under the influence of the heap fallacy (how many sandcorns are a heap?) would get caught in a vicious circle of sin (what’s another murder?) It’s as if Christianity is saying – you can always stop and every new crime (or sin) is a conscious choice towards Evil.

    It’s somewhat unfortunate that, having chucked away Christianity, the West also chucked sin and evil, replaced the camera in the sky with real cameras, and instituted a system where it’s always one’s childhood, systemic racism and whatnot, never oneself. Sin and evil are real. The lure of evil is real, more to some, less so to others. People are capital-N nasty. It’s like we come from monkeys or something.

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    • Replies: @Lot

    One had, I gather, a pretty good chance of not getting caught before centralized government, police and mass CCTV, which is to say, for most of human history.
     
    Sure, but offsetting that is that your punishment quite often would be hanging for theft. Or you'd be attacked by your victim, who knows he could kill you with likely impunity.

    Regarding the UK:

    In 1688 there were 50 offences on the statute book punishable by death, but that number had almost quadrupled by 1776,[1] and it reached 220 by the end of the century.[2] Most of the new laws introduced during that period were concerned with the defence of property, which some commentators have interpreted as a form of class suppression of the poor by the rich.[3] George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax, expressed a contemporary view when he said that "Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen".[4] Grand larceny was one of the crimes that attracted the death penalty, despite the fact that it was defined as the theft of goods worth more than 12 pence, which was only about one-twentieth of the weekly wage for a skilled worker at the time.[5] As the 18th century wore on, jurors often deliberately under-assessed the value of stolen goods, in order to avoid making a sentence of death mandatory.[5]
     
    , @athEIst
    It’s like we come from monkeys or something.
    Best laugh of the day.
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  16. Grelb’s Commentary
    Likelihoods, however, are 90% against you.

    “Inhabiting These States today, George would be ineligible for any office of honor or profit. The Senate would never dare confirm him; the President would not think of nominating him. He would be on trial in all the yellow journals for belonging to the Invisible Government, the Hell Hounds of Plutocracy, the Money Power, the Interests. The Sherman Act would have him in its toils; he would be under indictment by every grand jury south of the Potomac; the triumphant prohibitionists of his native state would be denouncing him (he had a still at Mount Vernon) as a debaucher of youth, a recruiting officer for insane asylums, a poisoner of the home. The suffragettes would be on his trail, with sentinels posted all along the Accotink road. The initiators and referendors would be bawling for his blood. The young college men of the Nation and the New Republic would be lecturing him weekly. He would be used to scare children in Kansas and Arkansas. The chautauquas would shiver whenever his name was mentioned….

    And what a chance there would be for that ambitious young district attorney who thought to shadow him on his peregrinations—and grab him under the Mann Act!” Damn!, A book of Calumny by H. L. Mencken

    “The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes.” http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/20/why-innocent-people-plead-guilty/

    The system is full of people convinced that the solution to everything is more debt, guns and shackles.

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  17. @gruff
    I like the way you changed "crowding" in your Marginal Revolution comment to "crowing" in this post. Attention to details like that is one thing that keeps me coming back.

    PS The original article with the perp's real name in it is now easily googleable.

    You can always use Poople and search for crap.
    You’ll find lots of it.
    Goldenstern’s Rules:
    Always hire a rich attorney
    Never buy from a rich salesman.

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  18. Reading quite a few English mysteries this summer was pretty revealing in the differing perception of why people turn to crime. In British crime fiction an almost stock character is the intermittent, intelligent thief who steals because it’s a great way to make full time money out of a part time job. That perspective is entirely missing it seems from Ameican crime where cage criminals end up as criminals because they lacked the alternative of a “straight” career or else because they are evil.

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  19. Michael Mann’s film was such a flop that Steve doesn’t remember that is was titled Blackhat, not Black Hat. I didn’t bother seeing it–the trailer alone exceeded the number of movie cliches I consider forgivable.

    Mann is a strange director. He does action sequences and gunfights better than anyone else. (He used to compete in the Southwest Combat Pistol League.) On the other hand, there’s something flat about his characters and the interpersonal relationships often ring false. Also, it’s rare that someone his age can keep up with the style of the times. He doesn’t seem to realize it when he’s employing outdated or overused cinematic conventions.

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    • Disagree: Priss Factor
    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    It aint great but pretty solid stuff.

    Maybe too smart for fans of dumb movies and too loud for fans of smart movies.

    Memorable ending.

    (And plenty of good movies are flops while too many hits are crap.)

    PS. Finally saw W by Stone.

    Good movie. If anything, generous to dubya.

    , @Dave Pinsen

    Also, it’s rare that someone his age can keep up with the style of the times.
     
    He hasn't just kept up with the style of the times, but created it. The aesthetics of Miami Vice were hugely influential. Manhunter spawned a whole genre of crime profiler movies and TV shows, none that looked or sounded as cool as it. Heat still looks and sounds awesome. It's the last serious movie in which De Niro was a badass, and it came out two years before the real-life North Hollywood shootout. I haven't seen Blackhat yet, but I read in the tech press that it was screened for computer geeks in Silicon Valley and they thought the hacking scenes were well done. Even when Mann is off, like in the movie version of Miami Vice (with a horribly miscast Jamie Foxx).
    https://youtu.be/qaswBIpWtyU?list=PLE66750CCA74A73E0
    , @Steve Sailer
    The downside with Michael Mann is he'll also make bad movies that nobody else would have screwed up, like "Ali" with Will Smith as a depressing, unentertaining Muhammad Ali.
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  20. Wilkey says:

    Crime doesn’t pay for the kinds of people who want to be respected in their communities, who want intelligent, attractive wives and friends, and who don’t want to spend long months of their lives in jail with large numbers of dumbasses, etc., etc., etc.

    For people who don’t want to work, who don’t have even the lowest expectations or standards of the life they will live crime can pay splendidly, and it frees them of the need of going to work (except when they want to) and from ever having to please a boss or a customer, which their small-brained alpha-male minds won’t tolerate.

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  21. D. K. says:
    @Berlitz

    For example, Mann’s recent cyber-criminal movie Black Hat was a bigger net loss than just about any real life heist, but he’s still a free man.
     
    A remarkably naive sentiment from someone who presents himself as a professional movie critic. Making money from exhibition is nice when can you do it but having any familiarity with the industry you'd realize the printed losses are not what they seem -- a common fact of business which you blithely analogize to burglary (!) so, pray tell who exactly is fleecing whom? Are Mann, his tax-deducting backers, and minimal-exposure studio/holding company ripping off the proverbial "taxpayer?" Who was just sitting at home minding his own after a hard day at the Amazon.com processing center, while those Hollywood bigshot elitists failed to deliver "Titanic II" and thus close the national deficit... What ever happened to America! By the way, your swing-for-the-fences riches-or-death benchmark would disqualify the whole film careers of Mike Judge and Orson Welles, among others. I expect you've already cooked up some fiscal-conservative UFA-style scheme to ensure no greenlight on anything not about about golf or PISA cheating scandals, coupled with Christmas release of all-star animated "Malibu Chihuahuas in Space" to offset those tedious bombs

    He did not compare making a failed movie to robbery per se; he compared the nature of the risks involved in directing Hollywood films and attempting to be a master criminal, which he assumed, not unreasonably, would require comparable levels of above-average intelligence.

    Yes, many films that do monster box office are declared money-losers by studio executives, through the abuse of allocating studio costs to their huge successes rather than to their many failures. Regardless, when a major film is known to have cost X to make (its published budget) and Y to promote (usually a less-publicized figure, but often discernible by the apparent scope of its advertising campaign), yet falls far short of X + Y at the box office (with a large portion of the gate going to the theater owners, of course, and not to the studio), it is obvious that such a film is an actual financial loss, no matter what studio executives later may try to do about allocating the studio’s overall operating budget to their various film projects.

    “Ishtar” (1987) was not an infamous financial failure because of any accounting sleight-of-hand. “Cleopatra” (1963), on the other hand, took several years to get into the black, despite its being a box-office winner, only because the studio, being near bankruptcy, had had to shut down all of its other productions, causing all studio costs to be allocated to that infamously expensive picture. (Its producer reputedly told someone, during the late stages of its years-long production, something to the effect of: “Somewhere in Tokyo, a studio executive is taking two hookers to lunch at a three-star restaurant and charging it to my picture!”)

    I do not even know who Mike Judge is (“Mea culpa!), but I am fairly well-read on George Orson Welles (named after a famous alumnus of my alma mater, Purdue, as is its football stadium, in part), who died on my birthday, thirty years ago this week (as did his friend Yul Brynner). Orson Welles, despite his self-regard, considered his film career, as an auteur, to have been a largely misbegotten quest for other people’s money, which he would have been better off personally having done without altogether.

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    • Replies: @David
    Welles says he'd present Chimes at Midnight to St Peter as his best argument for being admitted to heaven. He several times argues against the image of himself as a irresponsible spender. If he said what you say he did, I'd be interested to know where and when.
    , @Priss Factor
    “'Ishtar' (1987) was not an infamous financial failure because of any accounting sleight-of-hand."

    Do you know that this film has been rehabilitated in many quarters?

    HEAVEN'S GATE, I sort of understand cuz it is at least a very impressive looking film if not much else.

    But ISHTAR that should be called ISHTARD?

    It's like someone falling off a bike and saying "I meant to do it." He aint fooling anyone.
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  22. @Jack D
    I don't understand the point of the XXX. Three seconds of googling gives the link to the Chicago Tribune article with the fellow's name. This is public record and not any kind of confidential information.

    The exact name is not that common. The only other person by that name appears to be a doctor in S. Carolina whom I assume is not the same person. There doesn't seem to be anything on the interwebs about what happened to the burglar after his arrest.

    “I don’t understand the point of the XXX. Three seconds of googling gives the link to the Chicago Tribune article with the fellow’s name.”

    Not using names makes it harder for somebody to go the other direction using Google — to start with the name and then find out information from my website about that individual or family. In this case, I don’t care about protecting the identity of the criminal, but I’m just putting an extra layer of insulation between the criminal’s innocent brother and anybody trying to snoop on him using Google.

    My general policy is, for reasons of privacy, not to spell out the name of individuals I’ve met through my personal life, even if I give away enough details for a dedicated researcher to figure out who I am talking about.

    For example, at least since a 2003 article in The American Conservative, I’ve often anonymously cited an old high school friend’s statement to me in the early 1990s that “Jose Canseco is the Typhoid Mary of steroids” because his insight is important to understanding the history of baseball in the late 20th Century. (Canseco confirmed it in his 2005 autobiography.)

    To explain why I had confidence in this gossip before Caneco validated it, I’ve added that my friend was a baseball industry professional and that his younger brother won a top major league baseball honor. And I’ve given various other details that would allow anybody who cared to identify the family name with 15 minutes of Googling. But anybody who starts with my post and goes to all the work of doing that likely has a legitimate interest in the history of baseball. (If you are, say, writing a book on the history of steroids in sports, drop me an email.)

    In contrast, if somebody starts with that name and wants to dig up info on that family via Google, it would be hard to get to my posts. (Note that I’m just preserving privacy for the sake of preserving privacy: my friend of course deserves credit for accurately calling out the spread of a massive scandal a decade before the MSM would generally admit it. But he told me in private so I’m not going to make it easy for somebody to go the other direction.)

    Also, if a snooping individual did put all the pieces together, it would still be hard to publicize that information because it would take a lengthy explanation of various details to confirm the identity and most readers would lose track and not pay much attention.

    (By the way, this is why official government reports are so important to the media. Before the Rotherham report was issued in 2014, for example, it was clear there was a massive problem across England — I wrote a Taki’s column about it in 2013 — but I had to put together a lot of evidence from a lot of different sources. Most people, however, just ignored the problem. But once the official Rotherham government report was issued, then it could be quoted authoritatively in the media.)

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    • Replies: @AndrewR
    And promptly put down the memory hole. The left acts like Rotherham never happened
    , @Jack D
    Since you know his brother, do you know what happened to Mr. X after this? His arrest was a one day story and the internet trail goes cold after that (from what I could find). How many years did he get? Did he go straight after that? Did he become a banker so he could steal people's silver in a legal way?
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  23. Mr. Anon says:

    Europe always seemed to have more interesting and clever thieves than the US had, like this guy:

    Albert Spaggiari

    Or, more recently, these guys:

    The Termites

    Although the US did have a pretty sophisticated extortionist, although he was actually a Hungarian:

    Harvey’s Hotel Bombing

    Even then, it should be noted that both Albert Spaggiari and John Birges Sr. were ultimately caught.

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  24. Lot says:
    @andy russia
    The sad thing is, crime does pay - if you aren't of the scrupulous kind and don't get caught.
    One had, I gather, a pretty good chance of not getting caught before centralized government, police and mass CCTV, which is to say, for most of human history. It's only recently that violent crime became a thing for the most impulsive and conscience-proof of people. The most rewards are in white-collar crime.

    "A high level of education was economically harmful for cultural
    reasons also. One of the legacies of colonialism, in Tanzania as
    elsewhere in Africa, was that education was seen by the people
    as a means by which one might join the governmental service (...)
    This was the main, and often the only, reason that education was
    so highly valued. (...)
    Any child of ability got a job in government or a job paid by
    government. Reaching a position in the hierarchy from which it was
    possible to obstruct the efforts of others unless bribed was
    therefore the aim of almost every educated person. It means (...) the
    larger economic surplus had to be extracted from a smaller economic
    base."
    --Dalrymple, "Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality"

     

    The way to be anti-social today is precisely this - to try and reach a position in the hierarchy where you can do stuff with impunity.
    ---
    Social determinism fosters crime:

    Another burglar demanded to know from me why he repeatedly broke into houses and stole VCRs. He asked the question aggressively, as if 'the system' so far let him down in not supplying him with the answer; as if it were my duty as a doctor to provide him with the buried psychological secret that, once revealed, would in and of itself lead him unfailingly on the path of virtue (...)
    When I refused to examine his past, he exclaimed, "But something must make me do it!"
    "How about greed, laziness, and a thirst for excitement?" I suggested.
    "What about my childhood?" he asked.
    "Nothing to do with it", I replied firmly.
    He looked at me as if I had assaulted him. Actually, I thought the matter more complex than I was admitting, but I did not want him to misunderstand my main message: that he was the author of his own deeds.
    --Dalrymple, "Life at the Bottom"
     

    I'm non-religious, but one thing I like about Xtianity is the concept of original sin. I was thinking about it recently, esp. why they left in the loophole in the form of repentance ("I prayed for a bike. Then I realized that G'd does not work this way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness").
    Then I realized how much psychological sense it makes. It wouldn't work if the person was out of favor with God after the first transgression. It's like buying a fitness machine and putting off using it until tomorrow (what's another day?) - a tomorrow that never comes. The person, under the influence of the heap fallacy (how many sandcorns are a heap?) would get caught in a vicious circle of sin (what's another murder?) It's as if Christianity is saying - you can always stop and every new crime (or sin) is a conscious choice towards Evil.

    It's somewhat unfortunate that, having chucked away Christianity, the West also chucked sin and evil, replaced the camera in the sky with real cameras, and instituted a system where it's always one's childhood, systemic racism and whatnot, never oneself. Sin and evil are real. The lure of evil is real, more to some, less so to others. People are capital-N nasty. It's like we come from monkeys or something.

    One had, I gather, a pretty good chance of not getting caught before centralized government, police and mass CCTV, which is to say, for most of human history.

    Sure, but offsetting that is that your punishment quite often would be hanging for theft. Or you’d be attacked by your victim, who knows he could kill you with likely impunity.

    Regarding the UK:

    In 1688 there were 50 offences on the statute book punishable by death, but that number had almost quadrupled by 1776,[1] and it reached 220 by the end of the century.[2] Most of the new laws introduced during that period were concerned with the defence of property, which some commentators have interpreted as a form of class suppression of the poor by the rich.[3] George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax, expressed a contemporary view when he said that “Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen”.[4] Grand larceny was one of the crimes that attracted the death penalty, despite the fact that it was defined as the theft of goods worth more than 12 pence, which was only about one-twentieth of the weekly wage for a skilled worker at the time.[5] As the 18th century wore on, jurors often deliberately under-assessed the value of stolen goods, in order to avoid making a sentence of death mandatory.[5]

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    • Replies: @andy russia

    Sure, but offsetting that is that your punishment quite often would be hanging for theft. Or you’d be attacked by your victim, who knows he could kill you with likely impunity.

     

    true. or his relatives.
    (offsetting this (a bit) is that, forensics being not as advanced, they probably oftentimes hanged the wrong guy. if they managed to find the real one at all (after he's lain low - I suppose the cities were every bit as anonymous as today's cities, but with no modern inventions like IDs and mugshots, fingerprints on file etc)
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  25. D. K. says:

    The bottom line is, this brother of your friend claims to have worked, in a high-stress and high-risk job, about 250 days (or nights) per year, for twenty years– which is about what a normal person works, over the course of about half a career– unless he was normally burgling multiple residences, on the days he was working!?! The cops’ claim of 318 burglaries in two years would be closer to what a teacher works– again, assuming only one burglary per day. His take is alleged to have been between $200,000.00 and $999,999.99– but, what the take was worth, and what the burglar could have gotten for his take are very different things! It is unclear whether that estimate was just for the two-year period, confirmed by the cops, or for the entire twenty-year period, claimed by the burglar!?! If the former, it might or might not have been a decent living– again, dependent upon what he realized when he fenced his swag. If the latter, he was essentially risking a long prison sentence– which he eventually earned– simply to acquire some decent pocket money, each year!?!

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  26. “How prevalent is the phenomenon of innocent people pleading guilty? The few criminologists who have thus far investigated the phenomenon estimate that the overall rate for convicted felons as a whole is between 2 percent and 8 percent. The size of that range suggests the imperfection of the data; but let us suppose that it is even lower, say, no more than 1 percent. When you recall that, of the 2.2 million Americans in prison, over 2 million are there because of plea bargains, we are then talking about an estimated 20,000 persons, or more, who are in prison for crimes to which they pleaded guilty but did not in fact commit.”

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/20/why-innocent-people-plead-guilty/

    The people are more secure there than in a college class. With the war on terror in full swing and every worthless pol looking for district jobs and votes we’ll have jails everywhere and close the schools to be converted into jails. They can turn out products too! Have cheap prison labor making stuff to run the post NAFTA America economy. With a productive prison labor economy and political donations, more people can afford to drive to downtown to do non-productive work and fill the skyscrapers from 9-5. Plus it’ll mean more courthouse jobs for useless brothers in laws that have county jobs! Run up more state debt to pay to play and have bigger state prisons to make shoes to compete with communist Chinese shoemakers. Work harder to generate dough to pay back the Bush Iraq debt and fund some other pile of crap government program. Build Syrian jails for pols! Have terrorists live in German camps! Send Iranians plans for “THE BOMB”! Have DC send everybody $4500 for new shoes to cut down on wear and tear on crumbling roads and bridges. Have convict road gangs patch things. Bring in Syrians to rebuild Detroit and open mosques.

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  27. Lagertha says:

    don’t get why it is a hassle to post anything lately here (anyone else?) but wanted you to know. It is really weird and scary. And, I am a nobody.

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    • Replies: @Blobby5
    Come on Lagertha...you ARE a 'somebody'.
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  28. snorlax says:
    @WhatEvvs
    OT, Obama announces that Malia will be attending a community college:

    One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college,” Mr. Obama told a group that included high school students in Des Moines last month. “Just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.”
     
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/us/politics/malia-obamas-college-pick-ivies-liberal-arts-or-public-university.html

    Clever political calculation; if she went to Harvard/Yale/Princeton people would say it’s just because she’s the President’s daughter, and/or bring up affirmative action. If she went to a lesser school people would say she must be a complete idiot (President’s daughter/AA). It’s faux “man of the people”-ish for her to go to community college.

    She’d of course land some seven-figure “consulting” gig even if she spent the next four years in prison.

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  29. Buzz Mohawk says: • Website

    I prefer this guy:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Thomas_Knight

    A thousand burglaries over 27 years uncaught, living unbothered by anyone.

    Now that’s an accomplishment.

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  30. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @Harry Baldwin
    Michael Mann's film was such a flop that Steve doesn't remember that is was titled Blackhat, not Black Hat. I didn't bother seeing it--the trailer alone exceeded the number of movie cliches I consider forgivable.

    Mann is a strange director. He does action sequences and gunfights better than anyone else. (He used to compete in the Southwest Combat Pistol League.) On the other hand, there's something flat about his characters and the interpersonal relationships often ring false. Also, it's rare that someone his age can keep up with the style of the times. He doesn't seem to realize it when he's employing outdated or overused cinematic conventions.

    It aint great but pretty solid stuff.

    Maybe too smart for fans of dumb movies and too loud for fans of smart movies.

    Memorable ending.

    (And plenty of good movies are flops while too many hits are crap.)

    PS. Finally saw W by Stone.

    Good movie. If anything, generous to dubya.

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  31. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:

    The guy was stealing spoons and forks?

    Sounds lame. Even idiotic.

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  32. TGGP says: • Website

    Decades ago when there were fewer & shorter convictions, perhaps crime paid. The film Thief was based on a book from 1975 by an actual criminal (using a pen-name), who consulted on the film despite having outstanding warrants. He was locked up in 95 (at roughly the age of 75). McCauley from Mann’s “Heat” was also based on a real person, though he didn’t get to consult since Chuck Adamson (the basis for Vincent Hanna) killed him back in the 60s. The Jon Voight character in that film is in turn based on Eddie Bunker (who also played himself in Straight Time, which Mann did an early rewrite for), who often farmed jobs out to others to actually take the risk, and eventually got old & smart enough that he wrote books and worked in movies rather than getting locked up repeatedly.

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    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Speaking of Jon Voight, for those who haven't seen it, he's been great in the Showtime series Ray Donovan.
    https://youtu.be/S8vYcB9vsww
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  33. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Harry Baldwin
    Michael Mann's film was such a flop that Steve doesn't remember that is was titled Blackhat, not Black Hat. I didn't bother seeing it--the trailer alone exceeded the number of movie cliches I consider forgivable.

    Mann is a strange director. He does action sequences and gunfights better than anyone else. (He used to compete in the Southwest Combat Pistol League.) On the other hand, there's something flat about his characters and the interpersonal relationships often ring false. Also, it's rare that someone his age can keep up with the style of the times. He doesn't seem to realize it when he's employing outdated or overused cinematic conventions.

    Also, it’s rare that someone his age can keep up with the style of the times.

    He hasn’t just kept up with the style of the times, but created it. The aesthetics of Miami Vice were hugely influential. Manhunter spawned a whole genre of crime profiler movies and TV shows, none that looked or sounded as cool as it. Heat still looks and sounds awesome. It’s the last serious movie in which De Niro was a badass, and it came out two years before the real-life North Hollywood shootout. I haven’t seen Blackhat yet, but I read in the tech press that it was screened for computer geeks in Silicon Valley and they thought the hacking scenes were well done. Even when Mann is off, like in the movie version of Miami Vice (with a horribly miscast Jamie Foxx).

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    You can see a lot of 1984's "Miami Vice" in Mann's 1981 "Thief," although some parts are really 1970s looking as well.

    You hear a lot about how awesome television dramas are these days, but mostly about screenwriting and acting. In contrast, "Miami Vice" was enormously influential visually, which is hard to do on the limited budgets of TV. Compare the 1984 TV show to De Palma's big budget 1983 "Scarface" in Miami, which is highly entertaining but not all that distinctive visually, and you can see why Miami Vice was a sensation for a TV show.

    Miami Vice wasn't wholly revolutionary in that a number of movies and music videos in 1983 were doing a lot of the same look, but now that I've finally seen Mann's 1981 "Thief," he seems to have been his own progenitor for his later "Miami Vice." So Mann perhaps is the single most important visual director of the 1980s.
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  34. Chuck says:

    Biggest thieves do it openly while proclaiming that they’re actually doing god’s work.

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  35. Twinkie says:

    Of course crime can pay. The trick with crime, though, is to get it to pay safely and consistently. That is VERY hard to do.

    If you become too successful with crime, the government tends to pay attention and the government usually gets its man. At the other end of the spectrum, there is constant competition from the bottom.

    The usual solution to this double-sided pressure is to 1) buy off the government (i.e. corruption; much easier in some countries than in others) and 2) enact high barriers to new entrants by forming cartels or commissions. But governments that are corrupt are often unstable or fickle, and enforcing rules on rule-breakers is a futile proposition in the long run.

    Also crime has a high barrier to exit. Even if criminals are in it for a short period of time and exercise only a moderate amount of greed and then “cash out,” they enjoy little to no protection for their gains and must be vigilant for those who would rob the robbers.

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  36. @Lot

    One had, I gather, a pretty good chance of not getting caught before centralized government, police and mass CCTV, which is to say, for most of human history.
     
    Sure, but offsetting that is that your punishment quite often would be hanging for theft. Or you'd be attacked by your victim, who knows he could kill you with likely impunity.

    Regarding the UK:

    In 1688 there were 50 offences on the statute book punishable by death, but that number had almost quadrupled by 1776,[1] and it reached 220 by the end of the century.[2] Most of the new laws introduced during that period were concerned with the defence of property, which some commentators have interpreted as a form of class suppression of the poor by the rich.[3] George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax, expressed a contemporary view when he said that "Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen".[4] Grand larceny was one of the crimes that attracted the death penalty, despite the fact that it was defined as the theft of goods worth more than 12 pence, which was only about one-twentieth of the weekly wage for a skilled worker at the time.[5] As the 18th century wore on, jurors often deliberately under-assessed the value of stolen goods, in order to avoid making a sentence of death mandatory.[5]
     

    Sure, but offsetting that is that your punishment quite often would be hanging for theft. Or you’d be attacked by your victim, who knows he could kill you with likely impunity.

    true. or his relatives.
    (offsetting this (a bit) is that, forensics being not as advanced, they probably oftentimes hanged the wrong guy. if they managed to find the real one at all (after he’s lain low – I suppose the cities were every bit as anonymous as today’s cities, but with no modern inventions like IDs and mugshots, fingerprints on file etc)

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  37. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @TGGP
    Decades ago when there were fewer & shorter convictions, perhaps crime paid. The film Thief was based on a book from 1975 by an actual criminal (using a pen-name), who consulted on the film despite having outstanding warrants. He was locked up in 95 (at roughly the age of 75). McCauley from Mann's "Heat" was also based on a real person, though he didn't get to consult since Chuck Adamson (the basis for Vincent Hanna) killed him back in the 60s. The Jon Voight character in that film is in turn based on Eddie Bunker (who also played himself in Straight Time, which Mann did an early rewrite for), who often farmed jobs out to others to actually take the risk, and eventually got old & smart enough that he wrote books and worked in movies rather than getting locked up repeatedly.

    Speaking of Jon Voight, for those who haven’t seen it, he’s been great in the Showtime series Ray Donovan.

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  38. Lugash says:
    @Pat Casey
    Something told me Black Mass would stir people to opine quite less than the occasion probably does merit.

    The 20th century of America had too many gangsters worth making movies out of to keep track of or probably count. And when you consider that the best of them mostly never did tell their story, well maybe that's a tragedy to history in a way. "This is the life we chose, the life we lead, and there is only one certainty: none of us will see heaven." Why go to the movies at all if you don't go to see those? Gangsters owe us the truth as much as the government does. And the ones in the pantheon most of all owe us their side of story, since we put them there, like an inverted election to infamous office. Why pretend like your not there when you are? Consider the record.

    Name five gangsters real fast: Capone, Lansky, Gambino, Gotti. And Whitey Bulger. Who was the only one of among them to ever actually rip off the lottery---for 30 million in the 80s. The only to be on the FBI's most wanted list--- for 16 years. The only who ever put his foot on the neck of a Mafia family and took as much as he wanted. The second of them to know Alcatraz. The only one to know MK-Ultra. And the only one who gave his own guns to his roots when they needed them.

    The mystery remains. What did the document say, that would get them all fired, the one in the secret safe in the director of the Boston field office of FBI, where the secretary worked for forty years and remembers when the safe itself was disappeared? And Jeremiah O'Sullivan---the federal prosecutor who may or may not have given Bulger immunity, in return for taking care of the Italians who were out to kill him "my own way." How much money did it cost to buy the city of Boston plus a few federal departments for twenty years? Why would a guy under cover of top-echlon need to buy the city? And so on.

    Well Black Mass doesn't bother about any of that. But Johnny Depp deserves a nomination no doubt. And would have had a better chance of getting it had he not decided go off about James Whitey Bulger being so much of a human, the murderer he could afford to humanize, and personally celebrate for living on the run as long as he could. What a dumb soundbite to own. But nothing human is alien. Everyone has their reasons.

    Black Mass has a throw away line towards the end where Bulger complains about the hundreds of thousands in payoffs he has made over the years.

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  39. Lugash says:
    @Pat Casey
    Something told me Black Mass would stir people to opine quite less than the occasion probably does merit.

    The 20th century of America had too many gangsters worth making movies out of to keep track of or probably count. And when you consider that the best of them mostly never did tell their story, well maybe that's a tragedy to history in a way. "This is the life we chose, the life we lead, and there is only one certainty: none of us will see heaven." Why go to the movies at all if you don't go to see those? Gangsters owe us the truth as much as the government does. And the ones in the pantheon most of all owe us their side of story, since we put them there, like an inverted election to infamous office. Why pretend like your not there when you are? Consider the record.

    Name five gangsters real fast: Capone, Lansky, Gambino, Gotti. And Whitey Bulger. Who was the only one of among them to ever actually rip off the lottery---for 30 million in the 80s. The only to be on the FBI's most wanted list--- for 16 years. The only who ever put his foot on the neck of a Mafia family and took as much as he wanted. The second of them to know Alcatraz. The only one to know MK-Ultra. And the only one who gave his own guns to his roots when they needed them.

    The mystery remains. What did the document say, that would get them all fired, the one in the secret safe in the director of the Boston field office of FBI, where the secretary worked for forty years and remembers when the safe itself was disappeared? And Jeremiah O'Sullivan---the federal prosecutor who may or may not have given Bulger immunity, in return for taking care of the Italians who were out to kill him "my own way." How much money did it cost to buy the city of Boston plus a few federal departments for twenty years? Why would a guy under cover of top-echlon need to buy the city? And so on.

    Well Black Mass doesn't bother about any of that. But Johnny Depp deserves a nomination no doubt. And would have had a better chance of getting it had he not decided go off about James Whitey Bulger being so much of a human, the murderer he could afford to humanize, and personally celebrate for living on the run as long as he could. What a dumb soundbite to own. But nothing human is alien. Everyone has their reasons.

    Black Mass has a throw away line towards the end where Bulger complains about the hundreds of thousands in payoffs he has made over the years.

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  40. David says:
    @D. K.
    He did not compare making a failed movie to robbery per se; he compared the nature of the risks involved in directing Hollywood films and attempting to be a master criminal, which he assumed, not unreasonably, would require comparable levels of above-average intelligence.

    Yes, many films that do monster box office are declared money-losers by studio executives, through the abuse of allocating studio costs to their huge successes rather than to their many failures. Regardless, when a major film is known to have cost X to make (its published budget) and Y to promote (usually a less-publicized figure, but often discernible by the apparent scope of its advertising campaign), yet falls far short of X + Y at the box office (with a large portion of the gate going to the theater owners, of course, and not to the studio), it is obvious that such a film is an actual financial loss, no matter what studio executives later may try to do about allocating the studio's overall operating budget to their various film projects.

    "Ishtar" (1987) was not an infamous financial failure because of any accounting sleight-of-hand. "Cleopatra" (1963), on the other hand, took several years to get into the black, despite its being a box-office winner, only because the studio, being near bankruptcy, had had to shut down all of its other productions, causing all studio costs to be allocated to that infamously expensive picture. (Its producer reputedly told someone, during the late stages of its years-long production, something to the effect of: "Somewhere in Tokyo, a studio executive is taking two hookers to lunch at a three-star restaurant and charging it to my picture!")

    I do not even know who Mike Judge is ("Mea culpa!), but I am fairly well-read on George Orson Welles (named after a famous alumnus of my alma mater, Purdue, as is its football stadium, in part), who died on my birthday, thirty years ago this week (as did his friend Yul Brynner). Orson Welles, despite his self-regard, considered his film career, as an auteur, to have been a largely misbegotten quest for other people's money, which he would have been better off personally having done without altogether.

    Welles says he’d present Chimes at Midnight to St Peter as his best argument for being admitted to heaven. He several times argues against the image of himself as a irresponsible spender. If he said what you say he did, I’d be interested to know where and when.

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    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "He several times argues against the image of himself as a irresponsible spender. If he said what you say he did, I’d be interested to know where and when."

    I think a lot of the budget went to food.
    , @D. K.
    I am not saying that he was not proud of the several films that he produced as a film auteur; I am saying that he came to see making films-- which required either begging other people for money, or else earning enough by accepting work as an actor in things that were beneath his talents and his own artistic sensibilities-- as no way for a man to spend his life. He said as much, in at least one interview, which I am pretty sure that I have in my own DVD collection (on "The Dick Cavett Show" perhaps!?!). If I come across it, in celebrating my own birthday and commemorating his death (this past May 6 was also the centenary of his birth, of course), during the coming week or so, I will post an update, alerting you to the source of my recollection.

    As for Heaven, I am not currently a believer ("Mea maxima culpa!"); but, if I were, I certainly would hope that it takes a huge and thoroughly genuine act of contrition to get in, for those ex-husbands of the lovely Rita Hayworth who beat the hell out of her!?!?!
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  41. anan says:

    I agree with Chuck. If I had no morals and wanted easy money, I would just start a borderline not-for-profit, ask lots of people for money to “save the children” or whatever, and pay myself a large but not crazy salary. As long as you don’t get too greedy, what can the authorities do about it? After all, even a lot of reputable not-for-profits are pretty much ineffective and self-serving.

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    • Agree: Clyde
    • Replies: @Former Darfur
    By definition, the only truly successful criminals are those who never get caught, and so would usually take their stories to their graves. Only when the crime is discovered by accident and the criminal decides to talk would one learn anything at all about the crime.

    I seem to remember reading about a guy out East that stole a parking meter, and had someone out of town make a key for it. After that, he went around for years stealing _half_ of the money out of each one. There were stories of people who did similar things with pay phones, often people with connections to the phone company. They would have had to have a legitimate business connection to deal with all the coinage, though.
    , @Dave Pinsen
    A simpler, though similar path to a lucrative career: start working for a charity or political organization in fund raising, then get a job on Wall Street selling to those contacts. My sister's friend's brother did that.
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  42. @anan
    I agree with Chuck. If I had no morals and wanted easy money, I would just start a borderline not-for-profit, ask lots of people for money to "save the children" or whatever, and pay myself a large but not crazy salary. As long as you don't get too greedy, what can the authorities do about it? After all, even a lot of reputable not-for-profits are pretty much ineffective and self-serving.

    By definition, the only truly successful criminals are those who never get caught, and so would usually take their stories to their graves. Only when the crime is discovered by accident and the criminal decides to talk would one learn anything at all about the crime.

    I seem to remember reading about a guy out East that stole a parking meter, and had someone out of town make a key for it. After that, he went around for years stealing _half_ of the money out of each one. There were stories of people who did similar things with pay phones, often people with connections to the phone company. They would have had to have a legitimate business connection to deal with all the coinage, though.

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    • Replies: @anan
    If we are talking about crimes involving stealing physical objects, I agree that there must be successful criminals out there, but even if you are smart about it, it seems to me there is a good deal of risk required just to make a decent middle class living.

    Taking the parking meter example, it would take some time, perhaps at least 30 seconds, to steal half the money in a meter since there is usually a lockbox within the meter which must be opened in addition to the meter itself. If a cop (or even a yahoo private citizen) drives by during those 30 seconds, there is a pretty good chance you will get busted. Assuming each parking meter yields $20 or $30 in change, the risk would seem to add up quite a lot over time. There is also the risk that the municipality will notice a drop in revenue; that an associate blows the whistle on you, etc.

    Perhaps a better example would be the church employee who skims money from the collection box. The risk from this is probably pretty low, but I can't see this yielding $50 or $100k a a year.
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  43. LondonBob says:

    Kennedy, Bronfman…

    Back in the day when Hoover, Presidents, Police Chiefs were in the pay, RICO did not exist, the CIA were business partners etc., then crime could pay.

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    • Replies: @rustbeltreader
    "John J. O’Connor, former detective, chief of the St. Paul Police Department and then mayor of the city, had much to do with that record. Under pressure to rid the city of crime, he reorganized the police force and, in 1900, had hatched a bizarre, but apparently effective plan that quickly reduced major crime … at least temporarily.

    He spread the word throughout the Midwest that criminals were welcome to use St. Paul as a safe refuge without being arrested if they committed no major crimes within the city limits. They had merely to check in when they arrived and pay required bribes. The plan was referred to as the O’Connor Layover Agreement. It brought an almost immediate end to serious crimes within St. Paul. In one of his autobiographies, gangster, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, stated, “If you were looking for a guy you hadn’t seen for a few months, you usually thought of two places. — prison or St. Paul. If he wasn’t locked up in one, he was probably hanging out in the other.” So, some of the newspaper readers’ sightings that looked like infamous criminals might well have been sightings of the real infamous criminals." http://www.storytellersunplugged.com/2015/02/19/robert-c-jones-forensics-185-practicality-or-criminality/

    Syria is exporting criminals instead of importing them. Now Putin is in on it. They don't have an effective plan. We don't have a plan at all. We got a game.
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  44. @Dave Pinsen

    Also, it’s rare that someone his age can keep up with the style of the times.
     
    He hasn't just kept up with the style of the times, but created it. The aesthetics of Miami Vice were hugely influential. Manhunter spawned a whole genre of crime profiler movies and TV shows, none that looked or sounded as cool as it. Heat still looks and sounds awesome. It's the last serious movie in which De Niro was a badass, and it came out two years before the real-life North Hollywood shootout. I haven't seen Blackhat yet, but I read in the tech press that it was screened for computer geeks in Silicon Valley and they thought the hacking scenes were well done. Even when Mann is off, like in the movie version of Miami Vice (with a horribly miscast Jamie Foxx).
    https://youtu.be/qaswBIpWtyU?list=PLE66750CCA74A73E0

    You can see a lot of 1984′s “Miami Vice” in Mann’s 1981 “Thief,” although some parts are really 1970s looking as well.

    You hear a lot about how awesome television dramas are these days, but mostly about screenwriting and acting. In contrast, “Miami Vice” was enormously influential visually, which is hard to do on the limited budgets of TV. Compare the 1984 TV show to De Palma’s big budget 1983 “Scarface” in Miami, which is highly entertaining but not all that distinctive visually, and you can see why Miami Vice was a sensation for a TV show.

    Miami Vice wasn’t wholly revolutionary in that a number of movies and music videos in 1983 were doing a lot of the same look, but now that I’ve finally seen Mann’s 1981 “Thief,” he seems to have been his own progenitor for his later “Miami Vice.” So Mann perhaps is the single most important visual director of the 1980s.

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    • Agree: Dave Pinsen
    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "'Miami Vice' was enormously influential visually, which is hard to do on the limited budgets of TV. Compare the 1984 TV show to De Palma’s big budget 1983 'Scarface' in Miami, which is highly entertaining but not all that distinctive visually, and you can see why Miami Vice was a sensation for a TV show."

    Mann was to TV and movies what MTV was to music. He made it ultra-slick, plastic, and soulless. I have a soft spot for MANHUNTER(cuz I saw it at a special time) and Mann is certainly a capable film-maker, but his is a soulless vision. It's all posturing and strutting. All motion, no emotion.

    Throughout MANHUNTER, I was thinking the filmmaker is as soulless as the sociopaths in the movie. But William Peterson has such a strong presence that he makes us care.

    Mann's other films are sometimes good to look at, but there isn't a single memorable character. Take LAST OF MOHICANS which has some of the most rousing action scenes, but they don't really resonate cuz the characters are zero, even with actors as talented as Daniel Day Lewis who is just a badass killing machine and not much else.
    (Mann's influence may also be in the cold and efficient NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, a very engaging film that just vanishes after it's over, unless one is prone to having weird dreams.)
    In this, Mann is like Cameron, another soulless director. Of course, Camoron is worse cuz his vision has just gotten more and more inflated. AVATAR was just one big dumb ugly pompous childish mess.

    Mann also sort of reminds me of Walter Hill who once declared that he has no use for psychology. And in films like WARRIORS and LONG RIDERS, it's mostly about men with stuff they need to do, and that's that. (Hill moved toward psychology in WILD BILL and GERONIMO however, and they are more interesting for it.) But what I like about Hill is a Hemingway-like code of what it means to be a man. It's not a matter of style but outlook. In contrast, Mann's films are mostly about style, and style alone doesn't make films interesting.
    Take PUBLIC ENEMIES, a very slick and impressive piece of film-making. Depp as Dillinger is so empty and vapid that I don't remember anything except a few cool action scenes. (I don't remember much of MOHICANS either other than the action scenes). A lot of people were impressed by HEAT and I guess it's a well-tailored action movie, but movies shouldn't be made by fashionistas.

    MIAMI VICE also favored preening self-conscious narcissism over story and character. It was the BAYWATCH of cop shows. There was more grit and substance to 70s shows like COLUMBO, KOJACK, BARETTA, ROCKFORD FLIES, etc.
    MV was a vamped-up version of CHARLIE'S ANGELS, a dumb show that was only a hit cuz it had three babes running around. (For some reason, Kate Jackson got the least respect though she was the most attractive.)

    TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. was great cuz it adopted but then threw Mann-isms into the grinder. Friedkin went Popeye Doyle on the Mann-ish glibness. Though I sort of like MANHUNTER, it can't hold a candle to TLADILA. It's the difference between blood-and-sweat and men's cologne. Stories need to reek of sweat.

    Mann did sort of start out in 70s realist mode with JERICHO MILE but he became Mr. Slick soon after. Some people admire his vision as a paean to the cold zen of professionalism. But I prefer cinema as a live fish than as sushi. Mann's cold fish characters are all about control. They represent not so much a code as a manual. COLLATERAL was like a how-to-manual of professional killer. Cruise did a good job of going thru the instructions, but that's all they were.

    Also, Mann's characters tend to be untroubled. They believe they gotta do what they gotta do, and there's almost no inner conflict. That makes them so less interesting than a character of inner-contradiction like Harrison in BLADE RUNNER or the characters of Peckinpah films.
    Mann's characters are like Burt Reynolds in DELIVERANCE. But Dickey and Boorman fleshed out the tension between a man's sense of self and the ruthless power of reality. It's painful and disturbing to see a man so masterful be rendered so helpless and pathetic.
    But even death in Mann's films are sooooooo cool. No one really breaks a sweat. The ending of HEAT was like a GQ magazine's idea of the 'art of dying'. It was impressive but so bogus.
    Compare that to the ending of DOG DAY AFTERNOON.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEsZK8pvveU

    And nothing Mann has ever done has the emotional richness of CARLITO'S WAY.
    Mann isn't a romantic but a romechanic or romachninist.

    , @Dave Pinsen
    For another look at what Michael Mann could do on a TV budget, see LA Takedown (1989), the shelved TV pilot that he expanded into Heat several years later:

    https://youtu.be/iFsPDzSbgts
    , @Boomstick
    Mann's use of Tangerine Dream in the Thief soundtrack was well ahead of its time, and also foreshadows his Miami Vice work.
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  45. “Listen carefully. I am about to take you in to see — no, for you to be seen by — an Entity who is to me, and to my brother your god Yahweh, as Yahweh is to you. Understand me? … To this Entity your lord god Jehovah is equivalent to a child building sand castles at a beach, then destroying them in childish tantrums. To Him, I am a child, too. I look up to Him as you look up to your triple deity — father, son, and holy ghost. I don’t worship this Entity as God; He does not demand, does not expect, does not want, that sort of bootlicking. Yahweh may be the only god who ever thought up that curious vice — at least I do not know of another planet or place in any universe where god-worship is practiced. But I am young and not much traveled.” JACOJ
    Lucifer to Alex, Ch. 28
    Firsts: Attraction in Dutch city comprises one room built inside large structure complete with turrets and drawbridge http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/04/welcome-to-oss-home-of-the-worlds-first-sandcastle-hotel

    If people had more vices to keep them occupied we’d have fewer shootings. Pack a sweater Alex!

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  46. @Harry Baldwin
    Michael Mann's film was such a flop that Steve doesn't remember that is was titled Blackhat, not Black Hat. I didn't bother seeing it--the trailer alone exceeded the number of movie cliches I consider forgivable.

    Mann is a strange director. He does action sequences and gunfights better than anyone else. (He used to compete in the Southwest Combat Pistol League.) On the other hand, there's something flat about his characters and the interpersonal relationships often ring false. Also, it's rare that someone his age can keep up with the style of the times. He doesn't seem to realize it when he's employing outdated or overused cinematic conventions.

    The downside with Michael Mann is he’ll also make bad movies that nobody else would have screwed up, like “Ali” with Will Smith as a depressing, unentertaining Muhammad Ali.

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    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "The downside with Michael Mann is he’ll also make bad movies that nobody else would have screwed up, like 'Ali' with Will Smith as a depressing, unentertaining Muhammad Ali."

    I don't think so. I think it would have been very difficult for anyone to do an interesting film on Ali.

    Why? He's too much of a sacred icon and treated with kid gloves. He is a boomer Hero.
    Someone like Oliver Stone might do an interesting take on Ali cuz Stone likes to look in the underbelly of society and psychology, which is why he can be dark about even people he admires and empathetic about people he despises(like W).

    But the subject of Ali would have been treated in kumbaya style by most directors. I didn't see Mann's Ali -- Smith as Ali sounds ludicrous -- , but hagiography isn't interesting. But that's what you're gonna get about historically significant characters.

    Also, Ali was one-of-a-kind and inimitable. The performance would fail to match Ali's colorfulness or it would be parodic mimicry.
    THE GREATEST was no great shakes as a movie, but it did have Ali playing Ali, and that was surely entertaining, especially when he was badgering Liston.
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  47. @LondonBob
    Kennedy, Bronfman...

    Back in the day when Hoover, Presidents, Police Chiefs were in the pay, RICO did not exist, the CIA were business partners etc., then crime could pay.

    “John J. O’Connor, former detective, chief of the St. Paul Police Department and then mayor of the city, had much to do with that record. Under pressure to rid the city of crime, he reorganized the police force and, in 1900, had hatched a bizarre, but apparently effective plan that quickly reduced major crime … at least temporarily.

    He spread the word throughout the Midwest that criminals were welcome to use St. Paul as a safe refuge without being arrested if they committed no major crimes within the city limits. They had merely to check in when they arrived and pay required bribes. The plan was referred to as the O’Connor Layover Agreement. It brought an almost immediate end to serious crimes within St. Paul. In one of his autobiographies, gangster, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, stated, “If you were looking for a guy you hadn’t seen for a few months, you usually thought of two places. — prison or St. Paul. If he wasn’t locked up in one, he was probably hanging out in the other.” So, some of the newspaper readers’ sightings that looked like infamous criminals might well have been sightings of the real infamous criminals.” http://www.storytellersunplugged.com/2015/02/19/robert-c-jones-forensics-185-practicality-or-criminality/

    Syria is exporting criminals instead of importing them. Now Putin is in on it. They don’t have an effective plan. We don’t have a plan at all. We got a game.

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  48. anan says:
    @Former Darfur
    By definition, the only truly successful criminals are those who never get caught, and so would usually take their stories to their graves. Only when the crime is discovered by accident and the criminal decides to talk would one learn anything at all about the crime.

    I seem to remember reading about a guy out East that stole a parking meter, and had someone out of town make a key for it. After that, he went around for years stealing _half_ of the money out of each one. There were stories of people who did similar things with pay phones, often people with connections to the phone company. They would have had to have a legitimate business connection to deal with all the coinage, though.

    If we are talking about crimes involving stealing physical objects, I agree that there must be successful criminals out there, but even if you are smart about it, it seems to me there is a good deal of risk required just to make a decent middle class living.

    Taking the parking meter example, it would take some time, perhaps at least 30 seconds, to steal half the money in a meter since there is usually a lockbox within the meter which must be opened in addition to the meter itself. If a cop (or even a yahoo private citizen) drives by during those 30 seconds, there is a pretty good chance you will get busted. Assuming each parking meter yields $20 or $30 in change, the risk would seem to add up quite a lot over time. There is also the risk that the municipality will notice a drop in revenue; that an associate blows the whistle on you, etc.

    Perhaps a better example would be the church employee who skims money from the collection box. The risk from this is probably pretty low, but I can’t see this yielding $50 or $100k a a year.

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  49. AndrewR says:
    @Steve Sailer
    "I don’t understand the point of the XXX. Three seconds of googling gives the link to the Chicago Tribune article with the fellow’s name."

    Not using names makes it harder for somebody to go the other direction using Google -- to start with the name and then find out information from my website about that individual or family. In this case, I don't care about protecting the identity of the criminal, but I'm just putting an extra layer of insulation between the criminal's innocent brother and anybody trying to snoop on him using Google.

    My general policy is, for reasons of privacy, not to spell out the name of individuals I've met through my personal life, even if I give away enough details for a dedicated researcher to figure out who I am talking about.

    For example, at least since a 2003 article in The American Conservative, I've often anonymously cited an old high school friend's statement to me in the early 1990s that "Jose Canseco is the Typhoid Mary of steroids" because his insight is important to understanding the history of baseball in the late 20th Century. (Canseco confirmed it in his 2005 autobiography.)

    To explain why I had confidence in this gossip before Caneco validated it, I've added that my friend was a baseball industry professional and that his younger brother won a top major league baseball honor. And I've given various other details that would allow anybody who cared to identify the family name with 15 minutes of Googling. But anybody who starts with my post and goes to all the work of doing that likely has a legitimate interest in the history of baseball. (If you are, say, writing a book on the history of steroids in sports, drop me an email.)

    In contrast, if somebody starts with that name and wants to dig up info on that family via Google, it would be hard to get to my posts. (Note that I'm just preserving privacy for the sake of preserving privacy: my friend of course deserves credit for accurately calling out the spread of a massive scandal a decade before the MSM would generally admit it. But he told me in private so I'm not going to make it easy for somebody to go the other direction.)

    Also, if a snooping individual did put all the pieces together, it would still be hard to publicize that information because it would take a lengthy explanation of various details to confirm the identity and most readers would lose track and not pay much attention.

    (By the way, this is why official government reports are so important to the media. Before the Rotherham report was issued in 2014, for example, it was clear there was a massive problem across England -- I wrote a Taki's column about it in 2013 -- but I had to put together a lot of evidence from a lot of different sources. Most people, however, just ignored the problem. But once the official Rotherham government report was issued, then it could be quoted authoritatively in the media.)

    And promptly put down the memory hole. The left acts like Rotherham never happened

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  50. Michael Mann hasnt made a good film since Collateral (2004) . I didnt bother with Miami Vice and utterly loathed Public Enemies. Will avoid Black Hat as well.

    My favorite cyber(proto cyber I suppose) film remains Sneakers with Robert Redford. Even if Redford snuck his nauseating radical leftist talking points here and there, it is still enjoyable.

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    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Miami Vice (2006) was good. Would have been better without the horribly miscast Jamie Foxx (who was better in Collateral), but it was good.

    Michael Mann makes Miami and Los Angeles look more interesting than any other director does.
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  51. Not really fair to say Michael Mann glamorizes criminals. Perhaps he does but he also glamorizes cops ,even borderline unpleasant ones like Vincent Hanna. As per imdb, he goes out of his way to ensure the actors playing cops get proper weapons training. Real life cops even make cameo appearances. The bank shootout scene in Heat is used as a training film by SWATs of certain cities. Or so it is claimed.

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  52. Blobby5 says:
    @Lagertha
    don't get why it is a hassle to post anything lately here (anyone else?) but wanted you to know. It is really weird and scary. And, I am a nobody.

    Come on Lagertha…you ARE a ‘somebody’.

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  53. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    If a person is going to steal it’s best to do it legally. That’s why people become lawyers. It’s safer and pays much better. Michelle’s salary jumped to over $300k when her husband became Senator, an obvious but legal payoff to him to do good things for her employer. Or start up a non-profit to supposedly combat your favorite disease and have all the feel-good nitwits pay to engage in walks or runs in return for a t-shirt in fundraisers. The CEOs of some of them pay themselves really healthy salaries in addition to their expense account credit cards. Do well by doing good, as they say, even if the actual impact on the disease is nonexistent. The person in the story seems like an adrenaline junkie addicted to the thrill of the chase as the risk to renumeration ratio seems rather poor so the money itself doesn’t seem to justify the effort.

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  54. The underlying principle of American politics is graft. The business model of Wall Street is fraud. Crime pays very well indeed.

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  55. Read More
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  56. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @Steve Sailer
    The downside with Michael Mann is he'll also make bad movies that nobody else would have screwed up, like "Ali" with Will Smith as a depressing, unentertaining Muhammad Ali.

    “The downside with Michael Mann is he’ll also make bad movies that nobody else would have screwed up, like ‘Ali’ with Will Smith as a depressing, unentertaining Muhammad Ali.”

    I don’t think so. I think it would have been very difficult for anyone to do an interesting film on Ali.

    Why? He’s too much of a sacred icon and treated with kid gloves. He is a boomer Hero.
    Someone like Oliver Stone might do an interesting take on Ali cuz Stone likes to look in the underbelly of society and psychology, which is why he can be dark about even people he admires and empathetic about people he despises(like W).

    But the subject of Ali would have been treated in kumbaya style by most directors. I didn’t see Mann’s Ali — Smith as Ali sounds ludicrous — , but hagiography isn’t interesting. But that’s what you’re gonna get about historically significant characters.

    Also, Ali was one-of-a-kind and inimitable. The performance would fail to match Ali’s colorfulness or it would be parodic mimicry.
    THE GREATEST was no great shakes as a movie, but it did have Ali playing Ali, and that was surely entertaining, especially when he was badgering Liston.

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    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Yeah, I think the issue with Mann and Ali is that he had the typical liberal boomer reverence toward Ali as an African American icon. Tom Wolfe could write an irreverent biopic of Ali, but it would survive Hollywood as well as Bonfire did.
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  57. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @Steve Sailer
    You can see a lot of 1984's "Miami Vice" in Mann's 1981 "Thief," although some parts are really 1970s looking as well.

    You hear a lot about how awesome television dramas are these days, but mostly about screenwriting and acting. In contrast, "Miami Vice" was enormously influential visually, which is hard to do on the limited budgets of TV. Compare the 1984 TV show to De Palma's big budget 1983 "Scarface" in Miami, which is highly entertaining but not all that distinctive visually, and you can see why Miami Vice was a sensation for a TV show.

    Miami Vice wasn't wholly revolutionary in that a number of movies and music videos in 1983 were doing a lot of the same look, but now that I've finally seen Mann's 1981 "Thief," he seems to have been his own progenitor for his later "Miami Vice." So Mann perhaps is the single most important visual director of the 1980s.

    “‘Miami Vice’ was enormously influential visually, which is hard to do on the limited budgets of TV. Compare the 1984 TV show to De Palma’s big budget 1983 ‘Scarface’ in Miami, which is highly entertaining but not all that distinctive visually, and you can see why Miami Vice was a sensation for a TV show.”

    Mann was to TV and movies what MTV was to music. He made it ultra-slick, plastic, and soulless. I have a soft spot for MANHUNTER(cuz I saw it at a special time) and Mann is certainly a capable film-maker, but his is a soulless vision. It’s all posturing and strutting. All motion, no emotion.

    Throughout MANHUNTER, I was thinking the filmmaker is as soulless as the sociopaths in the movie. But William Peterson has such a strong presence that he makes us care.

    Mann’s other films are sometimes good to look at, but there isn’t a single memorable character. Take LAST OF MOHICANS which has some of the most rousing action scenes, but they don’t really resonate cuz the characters are zero, even with actors as talented as Daniel Day Lewis who is just a badass killing machine and not much else.
    (Mann’s influence may also be in the cold and efficient NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, a very engaging film that just vanishes after it’s over, unless one is prone to having weird dreams.)
    In this, Mann is like Cameron, another soulless director. Of course, Camoron is worse cuz his vision has just gotten more and more inflated. AVATAR was just one big dumb ugly pompous childish mess.

    Mann also sort of reminds me of Walter Hill who once declared that he has no use for psychology. And in films like WARRIORS and LONG RIDERS, it’s mostly about men with stuff they need to do, and that’s that. (Hill moved toward psychology in WILD BILL and GERONIMO however, and they are more interesting for it.) But what I like about Hill is a Hemingway-like code of what it means to be a man. It’s not a matter of style but outlook. In contrast, Mann’s films are mostly about style, and style alone doesn’t make films interesting.
    Take PUBLIC ENEMIES, a very slick and impressive piece of film-making. Depp as Dillinger is so empty and vapid that I don’t remember anything except a few cool action scenes. (I don’t remember much of MOHICANS either other than the action scenes). A lot of people were impressed by HEAT and I guess it’s a well-tailored action movie, but movies shouldn’t be made by fashionistas.

    MIAMI VICE also favored preening self-conscious narcissism over story and character. It was the BAYWATCH of cop shows. There was more grit and substance to 70s shows like COLUMBO, KOJACK, BARETTA, ROCKFORD FLIES, etc.
    MV was a vamped-up version of CHARLIE’S ANGELS, a dumb show that was only a hit cuz it had three babes running around. (For some reason, Kate Jackson got the least respect though she was the most attractive.)

    TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. was great cuz it adopted but then threw Mann-isms into the grinder. Friedkin went Popeye Doyle on the Mann-ish glibness. Though I sort of like MANHUNTER, it can’t hold a candle to TLADILA. It’s the difference between blood-and-sweat and men’s cologne. Stories need to reek of sweat.

    Mann did sort of start out in 70s realist mode with JERICHO MILE but he became Mr. Slick soon after. Some people admire his vision as a paean to the cold zen of professionalism. But I prefer cinema as a live fish than as sushi. Mann’s cold fish characters are all about control. They represent not so much a code as a manual. COLLATERAL was like a how-to-manual of professional killer. Cruise did a good job of going thru the instructions, but that’s all they were.

    Also, Mann’s characters tend to be untroubled. They believe they gotta do what they gotta do, and there’s almost no inner conflict. That makes them so less interesting than a character of inner-contradiction like Harrison in BLADE RUNNER or the characters of Peckinpah films.
    Mann’s characters are like Burt Reynolds in DELIVERANCE. But Dickey and Boorman fleshed out the tension between a man’s sense of self and the ruthless power of reality. It’s painful and disturbing to see a man so masterful be rendered so helpless and pathetic.
    But even death in Mann’s films are sooooooo cool. No one really breaks a sweat. The ending of HEAT was like a GQ magazine’s idea of the ‘art of dying’. It was impressive but so bogus.
    Compare that to the ending of DOG DAY AFTERNOON.

    And nothing Mann has ever done has the emotional richness of CARLITO’S WAY.
    Mann isn’t a romantic but a romechanic or romachninist.

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    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    There was conflict in Heat - between Hanna's obsession with catching McCauley, and his attention to his wife; between his admiration for McCauley and his need to hunt him down. There was also McCauley's conflict between his need for vengeance and his desire to get away (portrayed by De Niro in that great scene on the drive to LAX), and between his desire to be with his graphic artist girlfriend and his code of having nothing in his life he couldn't walk away from in 30 seconds flat.

    As for the lack of sweating: it was Los Angeles at night. Kind of cool out.
    , @Harry Baldwin
    You've described perfectly what's wrong with Michael Mann as a film maker.
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  58. Doug says:
    @WillBest
    The problem with being a thief isn't the acquiring. Its the moving. High profile items are easy to find even though you can get 35-50 cents on the dollar, and common stuff that is hard to find is only going to get you 10-20 cents on the dollar.

    You want to bring down a median household income of 50k, you are talking about having to lift 500k worth of stuff annually. And then good luck explaining that money to the IRS.

    That’s exactly correct. The way to combat theft is to make sure that the goods can’t be sold. Art theft has basically disappeared since INTERPOL started meticulously tracking a database of all stolen items. Car theft is also going the way of the Dodo, as modern cars are much more technically challenging to hotwire.

    Cybercrime is the future of theft. But it benefits a much smaller elite cadre of highly intelligent blackhat hackers. The days when a hardworking blue collar man from the wrong side of the tracks could feed his family with a life of property crime is disappearing. As Tyler Cowen says, even for crime average is over.

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    • Replies: @Jimi

    Art theft has basically disappeared since INTERPOL started meticulously tracking a database of all stolen items.
     
    Art collection has become a financial activity where people buy and sale art like stocks in order to make a profit. Stolen artwork has little value as you cannot resale it. You also cannot impress your friends with it as someone will rat you out for having stolen property.

    The eccentric millionaire who would buy stolen art to admire privately in his study no longer exists (if he ever did).

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  59. re Ali

    THE GREATEST was no great shakes
    ^^^^^^

    Haha, very droll.

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    • Replies: @Dr Van Nostrand
    @skiapolemistis

    re Ali

    THE GREATEST was no great shakes


    Haha, very droll.
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  60. @Dr Van Nostrand
    re Ali

    THE GREATEST was no great shakes
    ^^^^^^

    Haha, very droll.

    @skiapolemistis

    re Ali

    THE GREATEST was no great shakes

    Haha, very droll.

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  61. I know a career thief, he’s in his mid-30′s now and in and out of prison. He was a criminal by age 10, hardly knew his father, and had an alcoholic mother. Juvie Hall was his education; he dropped out of high school, continuation school, whatever they tried to put him in. He smoked, drank, did drugs, fought, stole, bullied, betrayed, lied. There was no sin that he didn’t commit with absolute freedom of conscience. His childhood was tough so nothing that happened in his adult life was his fault.

    Now he shaves his head, is tatted up, lifts weights, and steals constantly when not locked up. Identity theft, cars, bikes, mailbox contents, unlocked homes, stores (which are getting harder to steal from). His favorite tactic is to work a few days at a business to discover their weak points and where the money is kept. Then he goes in at night and burgles the place. The last time he did this he was caught and the business owner pressed hard on the police to finally get him off the street. You wouldn’t believe what it takes to finally get a thief in prison for a long time! He made everyone around him miserable and could single-handedly ruin a neighborhood.

    I don’t know if he’s in prison currently or not (haven’t heard about him in a couple years) but smart or successful he is not. He’s just brazen and cruel and an excellent liar. If he’s at all representative of thieves then we need to just lock these creeps up and lose the key.

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  62. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @Berlitz

    For example, Mann’s recent cyber-criminal movie Black Hat was a bigger net loss than just about any real life heist, but he’s still a free man.
     
    A remarkably naive sentiment from someone who presents himself as a professional movie critic. Making money from exhibition is nice when can you do it but having any familiarity with the industry you'd realize the printed losses are not what they seem -- a common fact of business which you blithely analogize to burglary (!) so, pray tell who exactly is fleecing whom? Are Mann, his tax-deducting backers, and minimal-exposure studio/holding company ripping off the proverbial "taxpayer?" Who was just sitting at home minding his own after a hard day at the Amazon.com processing center, while those Hollywood bigshot elitists failed to deliver "Titanic II" and thus close the national deficit... What ever happened to America! By the way, your swing-for-the-fences riches-or-death benchmark would disqualify the whole film careers of Mike Judge and Orson Welles, among others. I expect you've already cooked up some fiscal-conservative UFA-style scheme to ensure no greenlight on anything not about about golf or PISA cheating scandals, coupled with Christmas release of all-star animated "Malibu Chihuahuas in Space" to offset those tedious bombs

    “A remarkably naive sentiment from someone who presents himself as a professional movie critic… a common fact of business which you blithely analogize to burglary… What ever happened to America! By the way, your swing-for-the-fences riches-or-death benchmark would disqualify the whole film careers of Mike Judge and Orson Welles, among others.”

    ROTFL. That’s pretty hilarious rant.

    This analogy to burglary isn’t as moralistic as you assume. Heist isn’t just stealing stuff or committing a crime. The real pride comes from the masterly strategy over the caper. It is a game, a contest.
    If anything, plenty of writers/directors identify with criminal master-minds because the way they think is similar. And their outlooks on society are similar too. Consider Mamet and his films about con-men. He even made a film called HEIST where everyone tries to outwit everyone. In THIEF, what matters is not the stealing but the art of stealing. It’s a job and it’s about whether you do it right or not.

    So, saying that film-making is like a heist isn’t necessarily a moral judgement. It is an appreciation of the wits and smarts involved in playing the game.
    In a way, Scorsese understood GOODFELLAS and CASINO — and WOLF OF WALL STREET — so well cuz he got in the business for much the same reason as people become gangsters or wall street crooks. He didn’t want to be some boring 9 to 5 person working at some cruddy job. He wanted the lights, the action, the excitement.
    Entertainment has been a kind of legalized form of criminal-life for people too afraid or too smart to actually become crooks. Entertainment is what? It is selling dope of fantasy to the masses. And what are most films about? Good decent hardworking people? What are most songs about? Decent parents and tax-paying citizens? No, a lot of them are about crooks, thugs, gangsters, and etc. Films may morally condemn such characters or pretend to, but they are the main attraction.

    Peckinpah felt as a kind of outlaw himself. And films like BONNIE AND CLYDE thrilled a lot of people because of the fantasy of breaking all the ‘bourgeois’ rules and doing whatever you feel like. And there is even a heist-element in THE GRADUATE insofar as Ben literally steals the girl from the groom.

    And film-making is often like a heist in that it takes our money in exchange of fantasy that really does us no good. The world would be a better place without 99% of the films out there. Also, many people watch films as a fantasy of crime, just like lots of kids listen to rap as thug fantasy. It is a kind of drug. WOLF OF WALL STREET was a huge hit as a lifestyles of the rich, famous, and crooked. Sure, it was good to see the crook get his comeuppance but it was even more fun to see him having fun being crooked. Movies sell heist fantasies in the form of moral lessons.
    And given that most films lose money, the would-be-film-maker has to hustle to sell his idea. And since he is using other people’s money, he walks away scot-free though he may no longer be bankable.

    Some film-makers’ careers are over after a few flops, but some have been able to keep working despite so many failures. DePalma is a good example. He’s had so many flops. But maybe because his hits have been so big and memorable that Hollywood has been willing to give him another chance. Also, his name has become somewhat prestigious, so maybe some studios just feel honored to be associated with a DePalma film.
    Mann may have a similar place in Hollywood. He’s become a kind of legendary figure, so his flops are written off and he’s given another chance. Besides, when he hit a home-run, he really hit big ones. Old filmmakers never die, they just fade away. Good to turn yourself into a brand.

    Stone is another one who’s been able to weather huge losses. Alexander, what a total flop that was. But his is an established brand in Hollywood. A Stone Film means something.

    The box office failure of a film like Blackhat means more than a failure of a Welles or Judge film or even a Stone film. Welles wasn’t making films to make lots of money, though, of course, money was nice. Welles usually favored personal vision over consideration of box office. And Judge likes to work small and quirky. Welles eventually couldn’t get any financing.
    But Blackhat was obviously geared to be a big action hit. So, it is a bigger deal that it failed.

    When Woody Allen makes a film, no one expects it to make big bucks, though, on occasion, something like Blue Jasmine goes beyond all expectations.
    But when Mann hires one of the hottest action stars and makes an action film, people were obviously expecting something on the order of Bourne movies.
    Some movies are meant to be hits, some movies are not. A film like SLOW WEST is clearly an indie film, and it’s low box office isn’t seen as failure cuz it was a labor of love Maybe Mann really liked the idea of Blackhat but it was obviously pitched as the next big hit — and Mann needed one cuz his films haven’t been doing all that hot lately.

    Maybe one thing that didn’t jibe well with audiences was Blackhat was like both a big production and a home movie. Mann, as if to be more hip and relevant, used lots of hand-held camera style, and some scenes look as if shot by smartphones, the kind you find in youtube all over. So the film at times seem overly polished, like HEAT, and at other times looks over haphazard, like BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. And the two modes never really came together in the film. (It worked better in Bourne movies.)
    The film has an element of spontaneity but with generally lackluster characters who only make sense in a very stylized film, but Blackhat goes online and offline with Mann’s classic style, the secret of which is control even amidst chaos. There are some moments in Blackhat that are just chaotic.

    It was still much better than the recent Keanu Reeves gangster thriller JOHN PRICK. Incidentally, it has a small scene with John Leguzano who really could have been the actor of his age. He’s in the film for just a little bit but he totally dominates the scene. He was Benny Blanco in CARLITO’S WAY and went toe to toe with a veteran like Pacino. Leguzano has one of the most natural instincts of an actor. He’s fast. He gets a character and embodies him like no other. Streep is good but she’s all technique. She acts. Leguzano just becomes. And he can play all kinds of characters so convincingly. A neglected talent, but I can see why. He doesn’t have the looks to be a movie star and lead character. (But then, Johnny Depp is sort of odd-looking too, but he became a big star. The most unlikely big star in recent film history?)

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    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Oliver Stone's Alexander wasn't perfect, but it was the best film about Alexander the Great ever made.
    , @Jim Don Bob
    I like Keanu Reeves but John Wick was just dumb. He must have killed 80+ people.
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  63. Jimi says:
    @Doug
    That's exactly correct. The way to combat theft is to make sure that the goods can't be sold. Art theft has basically disappeared since INTERPOL started meticulously tracking a database of all stolen items. Car theft is also going the way of the Dodo, as modern cars are much more technically challenging to hotwire.

    Cybercrime is the future of theft. But it benefits a much smaller elite cadre of highly intelligent blackhat hackers. The days when a hardworking blue collar man from the wrong side of the tracks could feed his family with a life of property crime is disappearing. As Tyler Cowen says, even for crime average is over.

    Art theft has basically disappeared since INTERPOL started meticulously tracking a database of all stolen items.

    Art collection has become a financial activity where people buy and sale art like stocks in order to make a profit. Stolen artwork has little value as you cannot resale it. You also cannot impress your friends with it as someone will rat you out for having stolen property.

    The eccentric millionaire who would buy stolen art to admire privately in his study no longer exists (if he ever did).

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  64. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @D. K.
    He did not compare making a failed movie to robbery per se; he compared the nature of the risks involved in directing Hollywood films and attempting to be a master criminal, which he assumed, not unreasonably, would require comparable levels of above-average intelligence.

    Yes, many films that do monster box office are declared money-losers by studio executives, through the abuse of allocating studio costs to their huge successes rather than to their many failures. Regardless, when a major film is known to have cost X to make (its published budget) and Y to promote (usually a less-publicized figure, but often discernible by the apparent scope of its advertising campaign), yet falls far short of X + Y at the box office (with a large portion of the gate going to the theater owners, of course, and not to the studio), it is obvious that such a film is an actual financial loss, no matter what studio executives later may try to do about allocating the studio's overall operating budget to their various film projects.

    "Ishtar" (1987) was not an infamous financial failure because of any accounting sleight-of-hand. "Cleopatra" (1963), on the other hand, took several years to get into the black, despite its being a box-office winner, only because the studio, being near bankruptcy, had had to shut down all of its other productions, causing all studio costs to be allocated to that infamously expensive picture. (Its producer reputedly told someone, during the late stages of its years-long production, something to the effect of: "Somewhere in Tokyo, a studio executive is taking two hookers to lunch at a three-star restaurant and charging it to my picture!")

    I do not even know who Mike Judge is ("Mea culpa!), but I am fairly well-read on George Orson Welles (named after a famous alumnus of my alma mater, Purdue, as is its football stadium, in part), who died on my birthday, thirty years ago this week (as did his friend Yul Brynner). Orson Welles, despite his self-regard, considered his film career, as an auteur, to have been a largely misbegotten quest for other people's money, which he would have been better off personally having done without altogether.

    “’Ishtar’ (1987) was not an infamous financial failure because of any accounting sleight-of-hand.”

    Do you know that this film has been rehabilitated in many quarters?

    HEAVEN’S GATE, I sort of understand cuz it is at least a very impressive looking film if not much else.

    But ISHTAR that should be called ISHTARD?

    It’s like someone falling off a bike and saying “I meant to do it.” He aint fooling anyone.

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    • Replies: @flyingtiger
    I saw Heaven gate when it was first released. It was visually impressive, but the story made no sense. It seem like a foreign movie. Has anyone determined what Ballywood movie was the inspiration for this?
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  65. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @David
    Welles says he'd present Chimes at Midnight to St Peter as his best argument for being admitted to heaven. He several times argues against the image of himself as a irresponsible spender. If he said what you say he did, I'd be interested to know where and when.

    “He several times argues against the image of himself as a irresponsible spender. If he said what you say he did, I’d be interested to know where and when.”

    I think a lot of the budget went to food.

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  66. Cybercrime is the future of theft. But it benefits a much smaller elite cadre of highly intelligent blackhat hackers.

    So why is Nigeria such a big player?

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  67. D. K. says:
    @David
    Welles says he'd present Chimes at Midnight to St Peter as his best argument for being admitted to heaven. He several times argues against the image of himself as a irresponsible spender. If he said what you say he did, I'd be interested to know where and when.

    I am not saying that he was not proud of the several films that he produced as a film auteur; I am saying that he came to see making films– which required either begging other people for money, or else earning enough by accepting work as an actor in things that were beneath his talents and his own artistic sensibilities– as no way for a man to spend his life. He said as much, in at least one interview, which I am pretty sure that I have in my own DVD collection (on “The Dick Cavett Show” perhaps!?!). If I come across it, in celebrating my own birthday and commemorating his death (this past May 6 was also the centenary of his birth, of course), during the coming week or so, I will post an update, alerting you to the source of my recollection.

    As for Heaven, I am not currently a believer (“Mea maxima culpa!”); but, if I were, I certainly would hope that it takes a huge and thoroughly genuine act of contrition to get in, for those ex-husbands of the lovely Rita Hayworth who beat the hell out of her!?!?!

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  68. MQ says:

    Michael Mann did a really magnificent job with Last of the Mohicans. His visual bag of tricks for urban crime movies stood him very well for 18th century indians in the forest, and the subject matter seemed to loosen him up a bit and move him away from formulas. Daniel Day Lewis was terrific as well, of course. Really good movie for what it was.

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  69. Jack D says:
    @Steve Sailer
    "I don’t understand the point of the XXX. Three seconds of googling gives the link to the Chicago Tribune article with the fellow’s name."

    Not using names makes it harder for somebody to go the other direction using Google -- to start with the name and then find out information from my website about that individual or family. In this case, I don't care about protecting the identity of the criminal, but I'm just putting an extra layer of insulation between the criminal's innocent brother and anybody trying to snoop on him using Google.

    My general policy is, for reasons of privacy, not to spell out the name of individuals I've met through my personal life, even if I give away enough details for a dedicated researcher to figure out who I am talking about.

    For example, at least since a 2003 article in The American Conservative, I've often anonymously cited an old high school friend's statement to me in the early 1990s that "Jose Canseco is the Typhoid Mary of steroids" because his insight is important to understanding the history of baseball in the late 20th Century. (Canseco confirmed it in his 2005 autobiography.)

    To explain why I had confidence in this gossip before Caneco validated it, I've added that my friend was a baseball industry professional and that his younger brother won a top major league baseball honor. And I've given various other details that would allow anybody who cared to identify the family name with 15 minutes of Googling. But anybody who starts with my post and goes to all the work of doing that likely has a legitimate interest in the history of baseball. (If you are, say, writing a book on the history of steroids in sports, drop me an email.)

    In contrast, if somebody starts with that name and wants to dig up info on that family via Google, it would be hard to get to my posts. (Note that I'm just preserving privacy for the sake of preserving privacy: my friend of course deserves credit for accurately calling out the spread of a massive scandal a decade before the MSM would generally admit it. But he told me in private so I'm not going to make it easy for somebody to go the other direction.)

    Also, if a snooping individual did put all the pieces together, it would still be hard to publicize that information because it would take a lengthy explanation of various details to confirm the identity and most readers would lose track and not pay much attention.

    (By the way, this is why official government reports are so important to the media. Before the Rotherham report was issued in 2014, for example, it was clear there was a massive problem across England -- I wrote a Taki's column about it in 2013 -- but I had to put together a lot of evidence from a lot of different sources. Most people, however, just ignored the problem. But once the official Rotherham government report was issued, then it could be quoted authoritatively in the media.)

    Since you know his brother, do you know what happened to Mr. X after this? His arrest was a one day story and the internet trail goes cold after that (from what I could find). How many years did he get? Did he go straight after that? Did he become a banker so he could steal people’s silver in a legal way?

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    There's an article from a few years later in the late 1990s when a silver thief is working in the same neighborhoods on the North Shore, so the local cops' first assumption is that the Flatware Burglar they busted in 1990s is back on the streets. But, no, he was still locked up downstate. It turned out to be another silver thief, an East Coast specialist making a rare jaunt to Chicago, the one profiled by Dubner in the New Yorker in 2004. (When I first read Dubner's article, I thought it would be about my old friend's brother, but it was set about a decade later. It could be that the second thief was somehow inspired or trained by the first one, since both me and the local cops initially assumed they were the same guy. Or it could be just convergent professional evolution.

    So, the Flatware Burglar did several years in prison at least.
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  70. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @anan
    I agree with Chuck. If I had no morals and wanted easy money, I would just start a borderline not-for-profit, ask lots of people for money to "save the children" or whatever, and pay myself a large but not crazy salary. As long as you don't get too greedy, what can the authorities do about it? After all, even a lot of reputable not-for-profits are pretty much ineffective and self-serving.

    A simpler, though similar path to a lucrative career: start working for a charity or political organization in fund raising, then get a job on Wall Street selling to those contacts. My sister’s friend’s brother did that.

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  71. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Dr Van Nostrand
    Michael Mann hasnt made a good film since Collateral (2004) . I didnt bother with Miami Vice and utterly loathed Public Enemies. Will avoid Black Hat as well.

    My favorite cyber(proto cyber I suppose) film remains Sneakers with Robert Redford. Even if Redford snuck his nauseating radical leftist talking points here and there, it is still enjoyable.

    Miami Vice (2006) was good. Would have been better without the horribly miscast Jamie Foxx (who was better in Collateral), but it was good.

    Michael Mann makes Miami and Los Angeles look more interesting than any other director does.

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  72. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Priss Factor
    "The downside with Michael Mann is he’ll also make bad movies that nobody else would have screwed up, like 'Ali' with Will Smith as a depressing, unentertaining Muhammad Ali."

    I don't think so. I think it would have been very difficult for anyone to do an interesting film on Ali.

    Why? He's too much of a sacred icon and treated with kid gloves. He is a boomer Hero.
    Someone like Oliver Stone might do an interesting take on Ali cuz Stone likes to look in the underbelly of society and psychology, which is why he can be dark about even people he admires and empathetic about people he despises(like W).

    But the subject of Ali would have been treated in kumbaya style by most directors. I didn't see Mann's Ali -- Smith as Ali sounds ludicrous -- , but hagiography isn't interesting. But that's what you're gonna get about historically significant characters.

    Also, Ali was one-of-a-kind and inimitable. The performance would fail to match Ali's colorfulness or it would be parodic mimicry.
    THE GREATEST was no great shakes as a movie, but it did have Ali playing Ali, and that was surely entertaining, especially when he was badgering Liston.

    Yeah, I think the issue with Mann and Ali is that he had the typical liberal boomer reverence toward Ali as an African American icon. Tom Wolfe could write an irreverent biopic of Ali, but it would survive Hollywood as well as Bonfire did.

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    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "Yeah, I think the issue with Mann and Ali is that he had the typical liberal boomer reverence toward Ali as an African American icon."

    Mann is a sort of strange case. Outwardly, he is the liberal boomer type.

    Yet, the subtext of some of his films seems rather conservative-ish, right-wing, even 'racist-fascist'.

    Not for nothing did Armand Hammer point out that the last scene of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS recalled THE BIRTH OF A NATION. When I first saw the film, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite!!!!
    Movies about Indians usually showed noble white men easily shooting bad Indians for target practice or evil white men killing tragic Indians who died all too nobly.

    But in MOHICANS, the Indians were some of the most fearsome frightening sons of bitches you ever did see. In the first battle, we see Indians mow down a bunch of British troops, and it is harrowing. No lib naivete about the 'savages' here.
    Later, when the Indians are closing in on British troops after being betrayed the French, one can't help but feel sorry for the poor whites being massacred by the frightening reds.
    And when the Indians are going off with the white woman, we root for the handsome white-looking Indian to kill the bad Indians and save the white ho.
    And when the bad ugly Indian Mogwai kills the white-looking handsome Indian, it's like watching a negro beat up a white guy. And even though there is a kind of peace between the white hero and Negroes in JERICHO MILE, there is a sense of racial tension.
    And when Lewis and his good Indian 'father' to kill the bad Indians, it is a shiiiiiiiiiite moment. Kill the sumfabitch!! And the triumphant music.
    There were some 'right-wing-ish' white male fantasies in Rocky movies and stuff, but they were cartoonish and silly. But LAST MOHICANS stirred up something primal. You could taste the blood in your mouth. When I told my Lib sister that it had fascist-like subtext, she couldn't help agree.. and love it even more. Goes to show that if you scratch a Lib, there is a hidden fascist somewhere. Ultimately, it didn't bother her that the movie piled up with lots of innocent bodies. It was just so cool to see handsome and tough studs duke it out for the girl. It was like American Siegfried.

    And then, what do you do about a movie like COLLATERAL? Tom Cruise is supposed to be the villain, a cold killer. But he is cool and you can't help being impressed by his prowess. And what does he come across as? The Last White Warrior cutting down people of all color in L.A. It's like slick Nietzschean take on FALLING DOWN but without the speeches and half-baked justifications. I'm watching this movie and wondering what other racial-ethnic group is this white guy gonna blast or beat up next?

    The consciously political side of Mann makes stuff like INSIDER and ALI.
    But the subconscious side is a white warrior who wants to go around kicking butt with ruthless precision and remorseless efficiency.

    But all said and done, Mann is no match for Hawks, Peckinpah, Boorman, Friedkin, and Hill. I think he tries at times to be like the American Jean-Pierre Melville, but no way will Mann make anything as beautiful as LE SAMOURAI or anything as dark & layered as ARMY OF SHADOWS. Melville wasn't just about style.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cIuOKWwz0s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on38oTESbHU

    , @Harry Baldwin
    I was just watching some of the video of the pre-"Thrilla in Manilla" jousting between Ali and Frazier. Ali has a real mean streak--he's not that funny, lovable guy we remember. He called Frazier ignorant, slow-speaking, dumb, ugly, an Uncle Tom, and said he looked like a gorilla. He even held up a little gorilla toy and bopped it around. Frazier comes off as courteous and dignified and Ali as cruel and infantile.
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  73. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Priss Factor
    "'Miami Vice' was enormously influential visually, which is hard to do on the limited budgets of TV. Compare the 1984 TV show to De Palma’s big budget 1983 'Scarface' in Miami, which is highly entertaining but not all that distinctive visually, and you can see why Miami Vice was a sensation for a TV show."

    Mann was to TV and movies what MTV was to music. He made it ultra-slick, plastic, and soulless. I have a soft spot for MANHUNTER(cuz I saw it at a special time) and Mann is certainly a capable film-maker, but his is a soulless vision. It's all posturing and strutting. All motion, no emotion.

    Throughout MANHUNTER, I was thinking the filmmaker is as soulless as the sociopaths in the movie. But William Peterson has such a strong presence that he makes us care.

    Mann's other films are sometimes good to look at, but there isn't a single memorable character. Take LAST OF MOHICANS which has some of the most rousing action scenes, but they don't really resonate cuz the characters are zero, even with actors as talented as Daniel Day Lewis who is just a badass killing machine and not much else.
    (Mann's influence may also be in the cold and efficient NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, a very engaging film that just vanishes after it's over, unless one is prone to having weird dreams.)
    In this, Mann is like Cameron, another soulless director. Of course, Camoron is worse cuz his vision has just gotten more and more inflated. AVATAR was just one big dumb ugly pompous childish mess.

    Mann also sort of reminds me of Walter Hill who once declared that he has no use for psychology. And in films like WARRIORS and LONG RIDERS, it's mostly about men with stuff they need to do, and that's that. (Hill moved toward psychology in WILD BILL and GERONIMO however, and they are more interesting for it.) But what I like about Hill is a Hemingway-like code of what it means to be a man. It's not a matter of style but outlook. In contrast, Mann's films are mostly about style, and style alone doesn't make films interesting.
    Take PUBLIC ENEMIES, a very slick and impressive piece of film-making. Depp as Dillinger is so empty and vapid that I don't remember anything except a few cool action scenes. (I don't remember much of MOHICANS either other than the action scenes). A lot of people were impressed by HEAT and I guess it's a well-tailored action movie, but movies shouldn't be made by fashionistas.

    MIAMI VICE also favored preening self-conscious narcissism over story and character. It was the BAYWATCH of cop shows. There was more grit and substance to 70s shows like COLUMBO, KOJACK, BARETTA, ROCKFORD FLIES, etc.
    MV was a vamped-up version of CHARLIE'S ANGELS, a dumb show that was only a hit cuz it had three babes running around. (For some reason, Kate Jackson got the least respect though she was the most attractive.)

    TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. was great cuz it adopted but then threw Mann-isms into the grinder. Friedkin went Popeye Doyle on the Mann-ish glibness. Though I sort of like MANHUNTER, it can't hold a candle to TLADILA. It's the difference between blood-and-sweat and men's cologne. Stories need to reek of sweat.

    Mann did sort of start out in 70s realist mode with JERICHO MILE but he became Mr. Slick soon after. Some people admire his vision as a paean to the cold zen of professionalism. But I prefer cinema as a live fish than as sushi. Mann's cold fish characters are all about control. They represent not so much a code as a manual. COLLATERAL was like a how-to-manual of professional killer. Cruise did a good job of going thru the instructions, but that's all they were.

    Also, Mann's characters tend to be untroubled. They believe they gotta do what they gotta do, and there's almost no inner conflict. That makes them so less interesting than a character of inner-contradiction like Harrison in BLADE RUNNER or the characters of Peckinpah films.
    Mann's characters are like Burt Reynolds in DELIVERANCE. But Dickey and Boorman fleshed out the tension between a man's sense of self and the ruthless power of reality. It's painful and disturbing to see a man so masterful be rendered so helpless and pathetic.
    But even death in Mann's films are sooooooo cool. No one really breaks a sweat. The ending of HEAT was like a GQ magazine's idea of the 'art of dying'. It was impressive but so bogus.
    Compare that to the ending of DOG DAY AFTERNOON.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEsZK8pvveU

    And nothing Mann has ever done has the emotional richness of CARLITO'S WAY.
    Mann isn't a romantic but a romechanic or romachninist.

    There was conflict in Heat – between Hanna’s obsession with catching McCauley, and his attention to his wife; between his admiration for McCauley and his need to hunt him down. There was also McCauley’s conflict between his need for vengeance and his desire to get away (portrayed by De Niro in that great scene on the drive to LAX), and between his desire to be with his graphic artist girlfriend and his code of having nothing in his life he couldn’t walk away from in 30 seconds flat.

    As for the lack of sweating: it was Los Angeles at night. Kind of cool out.

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  74. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Priss Factor
    "A remarkably naive sentiment from someone who presents himself as a professional movie critic... a common fact of business which you blithely analogize to burglary... What ever happened to America! By the way, your swing-for-the-fences riches-or-death benchmark would disqualify the whole film careers of Mike Judge and Orson Welles, among others."

    ROTFL. That's pretty hilarious rant.

    This analogy to burglary isn't as moralistic as you assume. Heist isn't just stealing stuff or committing a crime. The real pride comes from the masterly strategy over the caper. It is a game, a contest.
    If anything, plenty of writers/directors identify with criminal master-minds because the way they think is similar. And their outlooks on society are similar too. Consider Mamet and his films about con-men. He even made a film called HEIST where everyone tries to outwit everyone. In THIEF, what matters is not the stealing but the art of stealing. It's a job and it's about whether you do it right or not.

    So, saying that film-making is like a heist isn't necessarily a moral judgement. It is an appreciation of the wits and smarts involved in playing the game.
    In a way, Scorsese understood GOODFELLAS and CASINO -- and WOLF OF WALL STREET -- so well cuz he got in the business for much the same reason as people become gangsters or wall street crooks. He didn't want to be some boring 9 to 5 person working at some cruddy job. He wanted the lights, the action, the excitement.
    Entertainment has been a kind of legalized form of criminal-life for people too afraid or too smart to actually become crooks. Entertainment is what? It is selling dope of fantasy to the masses. And what are most films about? Good decent hardworking people? What are most songs about? Decent parents and tax-paying citizens? No, a lot of them are about crooks, thugs, gangsters, and etc. Films may morally condemn such characters or pretend to, but they are the main attraction.

    https://youtu.be/YmfPT47awUg?t=46s

    Peckinpah felt as a kind of outlaw himself. And films like BONNIE AND CLYDE thrilled a lot of people because of the fantasy of breaking all the 'bourgeois' rules and doing whatever you feel like. And there is even a heist-element in THE GRADUATE insofar as Ben literally steals the girl from the groom.

    And film-making is often like a heist in that it takes our money in exchange of fantasy that really does us no good. The world would be a better place without 99% of the films out there. Also, many people watch films as a fantasy of crime, just like lots of kids listen to rap as thug fantasy. It is a kind of drug. WOLF OF WALL STREET was a huge hit as a lifestyles of the rich, famous, and crooked. Sure, it was good to see the crook get his comeuppance but it was even more fun to see him having fun being crooked. Movies sell heist fantasies in the form of moral lessons.
    And given that most films lose money, the would-be-film-maker has to hustle to sell his idea. And since he is using other people's money, he walks away scot-free though he may no longer be bankable.

    Some film-makers' careers are over after a few flops, but some have been able to keep working despite so many failures. DePalma is a good example. He's had so many flops. But maybe because his hits have been so big and memorable that Hollywood has been willing to give him another chance. Also, his name has become somewhat prestigious, so maybe some studios just feel honored to be associated with a DePalma film.
    Mann may have a similar place in Hollywood. He's become a kind of legendary figure, so his flops are written off and he's given another chance. Besides, when he hit a home-run, he really hit big ones. Old filmmakers never die, they just fade away. Good to turn yourself into a brand.

    Stone is another one who's been able to weather huge losses. Alexander, what a total flop that was. But his is an established brand in Hollywood. A Stone Film means something.

    The box office failure of a film like Blackhat means more than a failure of a Welles or Judge film or even a Stone film. Welles wasn't making films to make lots of money, though, of course, money was nice. Welles usually favored personal vision over consideration of box office. And Judge likes to work small and quirky. Welles eventually couldn't get any financing.
    But Blackhat was obviously geared to be a big action hit. So, it is a bigger deal that it failed.

    When Woody Allen makes a film, no one expects it to make big bucks, though, on occasion, something like Blue Jasmine goes beyond all expectations.
    But when Mann hires one of the hottest action stars and makes an action film, people were obviously expecting something on the order of Bourne movies.
    Some movies are meant to be hits, some movies are not. A film like SLOW WEST is clearly an indie film, and it's low box office isn't seen as failure cuz it was a labor of love Maybe Mann really liked the idea of Blackhat but it was obviously pitched as the next big hit --- and Mann needed one cuz his films haven't been doing all that hot lately.

    Maybe one thing that didn't jibe well with audiences was Blackhat was like both a big production and a home movie. Mann, as if to be more hip and relevant, used lots of hand-held camera style, and some scenes look as if shot by smartphones, the kind you find in youtube all over. So the film at times seem overly polished, like HEAT, and at other times looks over haphazard, like BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. And the two modes never really came together in the film. (It worked better in Bourne movies.)
    The film has an element of spontaneity but with generally lackluster characters who only make sense in a very stylized film, but Blackhat goes online and offline with Mann's classic style, the secret of which is control even amidst chaos. There are some moments in Blackhat that are just chaotic.

    It was still much better than the recent Keanu Reeves gangster thriller JOHN PRICK. Incidentally, it has a small scene with John Leguzano who really could have been the actor of his age. He's in the film for just a little bit but he totally dominates the scene. He was Benny Blanco in CARLITO'S WAY and went toe to toe with a veteran like Pacino. Leguzano has one of the most natural instincts of an actor. He's fast. He gets a character and embodies him like no other. Streep is good but she's all technique. She acts. Leguzano just becomes. And he can play all kinds of characters so convincingly. A neglected talent, but I can see why. He doesn't have the looks to be a movie star and lead character. (But then, Johnny Depp is sort of odd-looking too, but he became a big star. The most unlikely big star in recent film history?)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbD1TZa8YII

    Oliver Stone’s Alexander wasn’t perfect, but it was the best film about Alexander the Great ever made.

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    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "Oliver Stone’s Alexander wasn’t perfect, but it was the best film about Alexander the Great ever made."

    It was certainly ambitious and I wanted to like it -- and I did like a few scenes -- but what a sprawling mess. I understand it was difficult to capture the contradiction at the core of Alexander. He was so eccentric, self-absorbed and self-indulgent, like a rock star. But he had to impersonally commandeer a huge army across vast spaces with tremendous discipline and leadership.
    Maybe another director could have pulled it off, but Stone identified too closely with the craziness to create any useful distance between himself and the subject. So, Alexander just becomes Stone's own ego trip.

    How different from how Lean treated Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence too was a very self-obsessed figure who had to play a big grand strategic role. We got to see the fragility of his poetic nature against the brunt of ruthless reality.
    And PATTON captured the contradiction beautifully too. The guy was nuts and obsessive, believing in reincarnation and destiny and all that stuff. But he had to be tough as nails, man of supreme self-discipline and control of vast troops.

    But Stone, who is steeped in boomer 60s culture, makes it seem like Alexander could conquer so much just by acting like Jim Morrison. I just couldn't buy it. One scene Alexander is freaking out and in the next scene, he's conquered another giant chunk of territory. Using such logic, Brian Wilson lying in his bed could have conquered Russia.
    Stone himself was a stoner-boomer and a warrior-soldier, so he must know about the contradiction between the dreamer and the fighter. And as Alexander was his lifelong project, you'd think he would have put more thought into the project.
    But the result looks like he just winged it, as if he threw out all his earlier plans and did whatever came to his mind at the moment. There's the theatrical cut, director's cut, and another longer cut, but they are all wobbly.

    Stone is a weirdo. A kind of anti-imperialist imperialist. He reveres Alexander as the spreader of Greek culture and ideals even though he was ruthless and all. But Stone rails against US foreign policy for having been expansionist and imperialist. Wait a minute... but can't one make the Alexandrian case that US spread a lot of good things around the world? It's telling that Alexander came out during the War on Terror. It was almost as if a part of Stone was like a closet-Christopher-Hitchens egging on the war even as his public leftist self was condemning it. In the end, Stone isn't a humble isolationist like Buchanan. He's angry with America because it stands in the way of the revolutionary imperialism that appeals to Stone, at least in his fantasy mind as I don't think he would really want to live under someone like Chavez.

    And even the movie W is weird cuz there is so much of Stone in the character of W. Even as W is a mild object of mockery, Stone projected a lot of himself into the character. Stone too grew up under the shadow of a successful father. He too tried to prove his worth by doing something big: going to Vietnam and fighting for America and Apple Pie. Stone later turned against America, but even his leftism was so simpleminded and cartoonish, rather like Bush's War on Terror.
    JFK the movie is like a conspiracy cartoon. Stone's view of Latin America and romanticization of its leftist dictators are as simple as the Bush's view of the Middle East. It's good guys vs bad guys. Stone is a fan of Howard Zinn whose history of America is pure caricature.

    So, on some subconscious level, Stone must have identified with W. They are both such true-believers and newborn converts of The Cause. W the confused and indulgent son of the president decided to clean up his act, see the light, find his true calling, and become president. Stone who lost his innocence in the Vietnam War and was filled with doubt for a time eventually found salvation in the baptism of the cult of revolution and JFK theories, something he's been peddling ever since.

    And yet, here's the funny thing. As ridiculous as Stone can be, his films can also be very nuanced, empathetic, and sensitive in tuning into the hearts and minds of the kind of people he reviles and despises most. Stone often goes for cartoonishness but he can also rise above that and, at the very least, understand where the other side is coming from. He can hear the heartbeats, catch the brainwaves of all sides.
    Because of when W came out and what I heard about it, I thought it was just a hatchet job. Instead, as political films go, it is one of the most empathetic if not sympathetic. And Stone didn't outright vilify anyone into a cartoon even though Cheney comes across as an especially dark figure.

    But I wish Stone had written the script instead of working on someone else's.
    What the film completely misses is it sees power as something that happens only within the walls of politics.
    JFK(terrible as it was) and NIXON(Stone's best film) went a bit further in teasing out the interconnections between government, media, business, and other forces.
    There is some talk of Oil in W, but there's no way Iraq War can be understood without taking Jewish power in account. GOP's last hope was to win over the Jews, and Bush's middle east plan was supposed to be the plan that made neocon-ism into the dominant Jewish-American ideology. It failed big time on that score.

    PS. Alexander movie with Richard Burton isn't bad.

    , @Steve Sailer
    What about the TV movie with William Shatner as Alexander the Great? I saw it around 1967.
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  75. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @Dave Pinsen
    Oliver Stone's Alexander wasn't perfect, but it was the best film about Alexander the Great ever made.

    “Oliver Stone’s Alexander wasn’t perfect, but it was the best film about Alexander the Great ever made.”

    It was certainly ambitious and I wanted to like it — and I did like a few scenes — but what a sprawling mess. I understand it was difficult to capture the contradiction at the core of Alexander. He was so eccentric, self-absorbed and self-indulgent, like a rock star. But he had to impersonally commandeer a huge army across vast spaces with tremendous discipline and leadership.
    Maybe another director could have pulled it off, but Stone identified too closely with the craziness to create any useful distance between himself and the subject. So, Alexander just becomes Stone’s own ego trip.

    How different from how Lean treated Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence too was a very self-obsessed figure who had to play a big grand strategic role. We got to see the fragility of his poetic nature against the brunt of ruthless reality.
    And PATTON captured the contradiction beautifully too. The guy was nuts and obsessive, believing in reincarnation and destiny and all that stuff. But he had to be tough as nails, man of supreme self-discipline and control of vast troops.

    But Stone, who is steeped in boomer 60s culture, makes it seem like Alexander could conquer so much just by acting like Jim Morrison. I just couldn’t buy it. One scene Alexander is freaking out and in the next scene, he’s conquered another giant chunk of territory. Using such logic, Brian Wilson lying in his bed could have conquered Russia.
    Stone himself was a stoner-boomer and a warrior-soldier, so he must know about the contradiction between the dreamer and the fighter. And as Alexander was his lifelong project, you’d think he would have put more thought into the project.
    But the result looks like he just winged it, as if he threw out all his earlier plans and did whatever came to his mind at the moment. There’s the theatrical cut, director’s cut, and another longer cut, but they are all wobbly.

    Stone is a weirdo. A kind of anti-imperialist imperialist. He reveres Alexander as the spreader of Greek culture and ideals even though he was ruthless and all. But Stone rails against US foreign policy for having been expansionist and imperialist. Wait a minute… but can’t one make the Alexandrian case that US spread a lot of good things around the world? It’s telling that Alexander came out during the War on Terror. It was almost as if a part of Stone was like a closet-Christopher-Hitchens egging on the war even as his public leftist self was condemning it. In the end, Stone isn’t a humble isolationist like Buchanan. He’s angry with America because it stands in the way of the revolutionary imperialism that appeals to Stone, at least in his fantasy mind as I don’t think he would really want to live under someone like Chavez.

    And even the movie W is weird cuz there is so much of Stone in the character of W. Even as W is a mild object of mockery, Stone projected a lot of himself into the character. Stone too grew up under the shadow of a successful father. He too tried to prove his worth by doing something big: going to Vietnam and fighting for America and Apple Pie. Stone later turned against America, but even his leftism was so simpleminded and cartoonish, rather like Bush’s War on Terror.
    JFK the movie is like a conspiracy cartoon. Stone’s view of Latin America and romanticization of its leftist dictators are as simple as the Bush’s view of the Middle East. It’s good guys vs bad guys. Stone is a fan of Howard Zinn whose history of America is pure caricature.

    So, on some subconscious level, Stone must have identified with W. They are both such true-believers and newborn converts of The Cause. W the confused and indulgent son of the president decided to clean up his act, see the light, find his true calling, and become president. Stone who lost his innocence in the Vietnam War and was filled with doubt for a time eventually found salvation in the baptism of the cult of revolution and JFK theories, something he’s been peddling ever since.

    And yet, here’s the funny thing. As ridiculous as Stone can be, his films can also be very nuanced, empathetic, and sensitive in tuning into the hearts and minds of the kind of people he reviles and despises most. Stone often goes for cartoonishness but he can also rise above that and, at the very least, understand where the other side is coming from. He can hear the heartbeats, catch the brainwaves of all sides.
    Because of when W came out and what I heard about it, I thought it was just a hatchet job. Instead, as political films go, it is one of the most empathetic if not sympathetic. And Stone didn’t outright vilify anyone into a cartoon even though Cheney comes across as an especially dark figure.

    But I wish Stone had written the script instead of working on someone else’s.
    What the film completely misses is it sees power as something that happens only within the walls of politics.
    JFK(terrible as it was) and NIXON(Stone’s best film) went a bit further in teasing out the interconnections between government, media, business, and other forces.
    There is some talk of Oil in W, but there’s no way Iraq War can be understood without taking Jewish power in account. GOP’s last hope was to win over the Jews, and Bush’s middle east plan was supposed to be the plan that made neocon-ism into the dominant Jewish-American ideology. It failed big time on that score.

    PS. Alexander movie with Richard Burton isn’t bad.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Well said. Stone "contains multitudes" as David Thomson said of him. He's French and Catholic and American and Jewish and a hippie and a soldier. His talent isn't quite up to his Alexandrine ambitions, but there's a lot of talent. He's not quite smart enough for what he wants to pull off, especially after all the drugs, but, still ... As he's fallen increasingly out of fashion, I've come to emphasize the part full nature of his glass.

    The Eighties directors like Stone and Michael Mann tend to get less historical respect than the Seventies directors, kind of like Led Zeppelin gets less critical consideration than the Beatles or Stones. But they were remarkable talents.

    , @Dave Pinsen
    I agree that the Alexander movie didn't deal enough with the strategy, tactics and other military details of Alexander the Great's conquests. But the Burton movie, which was good, didn't either*. There's still an opportunity to make a great movie about Alexander the Great.

    One thing Stone got right was the scene before the battle of Granicus (I think) where Alexander calls out several of his troops by name, notes their accomplishments, or those of their families, and exhorts them to glory. But he mostly flubbed the battle of Hydaspes, which included an impressive feat of military engineering, and a novel solution of a tactical problem.

    The scenes with Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy dictating the history in Egypt were well done.

    *Although the Burton movie did include a line that addressed this point of yours: "He reveres Alexander as the spreader of Greek culture and ideals even though he was ruthless and all. "

    , @Ed
    I've seen JFK and Nixon, but not Stone's movies about Dubya and Alexander. I agree that Nixon is a great movie and JFK is terrible, though watchable.

    W sounds pretty good, but it probably would have been better if Stone had waited until we all had some perspective on his presidency. And Bush's life after he left the White House has been fairly interesting (he took up painting, and seems pretty good at it). Alexander sounds like a mess.

    I think a better subject for movies than the life of Alexander the Great is the unification of Greece by his father, Philip, who also built the army that Alexander led. Another better subject for a movie would be the wars between Alexander's generals after he died.

    The reason both would be better subjects is that they both feature obvious conflicts. In the case of Philip, you have which is a better model for Greece, the Macedonian monarchy or the city states it suppressed. Demosthenes could be a major character and a rival to Philip (Aristotle, who was pro-Macedonian, could also be a major character). You also have the obvious conflict between Philip and his wife. A movie about the Successors would have the conflict between the successors, who themselves had larger in life personalities, and still feature the Macedonian's attempt to carve Greek kingdoms out of Asian and African territory. Both situations have obvious drama.

    The problem with the life of Alexander the Great itself is that the Persians collapsed too quickly, so the conflict winds up being essentially Alexander against himself. He actually spent most of his reign fighting against tribal confederations in Afghanistan.
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  76. @Priss Factor
    “'Ishtar' (1987) was not an infamous financial failure because of any accounting sleight-of-hand."

    Do you know that this film has been rehabilitated in many quarters?

    HEAVEN'S GATE, I sort of understand cuz it is at least a very impressive looking film if not much else.

    But ISHTAR that should be called ISHTARD?

    It's like someone falling off a bike and saying "I meant to do it." He aint fooling anyone.

    I saw Heaven gate when it was first released. It was visually impressive, but the story made no sense. It seem like a foreign movie. Has anyone determined what Ballywood movie was the inspiration for this?

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  77. @Dave Pinsen
    Oliver Stone's Alexander wasn't perfect, but it was the best film about Alexander the Great ever made.

    What about the TV movie with William Shatner as Alexander the Great? I saw it around 1967.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    I've never heard of that. Will have to look it up. I've also been meaning to watch Thief - worth a viewing?
    , @D. K.
    I remember watching it, with great interest, when I was in the sixth grade! According to IMDb, it was originally filmed as a television pilot, and was eventually broadcast on January 26, 1968, as part of a series called "Off to See the Wizard":

    ***

    This was actually shot in 1964, but it was deemed to be not fit for airing and was subsequently shelved. Four years later, when stars Adam West and William Shatner had each reached a certain level of fame to get respectable ratings for the show - West was in the throes of Batman-mania from the success of his Batman (1966) series and Shatner was the star of Star Trek (1966) - it was released as a made-for-TV movie.

    ***

    I wonder if it has ever been seen anywhere since!?!?!
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  78. WhatEvvs [AKA "Anonymuss Annie"] says:
    @WhatEvvs
    OT, Obama announces that Malia will be attending a community college:

    One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college,” Mr. Obama told a group that included high school students in Des Moines last month. “Just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.”
     
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/us/politics/malia-obamas-college-pick-ivies-liberal-arts-or-public-university.html

    I was joking. She will certainly go to an Ivy, or Stanford, or Duke. My money’s on Stanford.

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    • Replies: @snorlax
    Ah. Need to skim less.
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  79. @Jack D
    Since you know his brother, do you know what happened to Mr. X after this? His arrest was a one day story and the internet trail goes cold after that (from what I could find). How many years did he get? Did he go straight after that? Did he become a banker so he could steal people's silver in a legal way?

    There’s an article from a few years later in the late 1990s when a silver thief is working in the same neighborhoods on the North Shore, so the local cops’ first assumption is that the Flatware Burglar they busted in 1990s is back on the streets. But, no, he was still locked up downstate. It turned out to be another silver thief, an East Coast specialist making a rare jaunt to Chicago, the one profiled by Dubner in the New Yorker in 2004. (When I first read Dubner’s article, I thought it would be about my old friend’s brother, but it was set about a decade later. It could be that the second thief was somehow inspired or trained by the first one, since both me and the local cops initially assumed they were the same guy. Or it could be just convergent professional evolution.

    So, the Flatware Burglar did several years in prison at least.

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  80. @Priss Factor
    "Oliver Stone’s Alexander wasn’t perfect, but it was the best film about Alexander the Great ever made."

    It was certainly ambitious and I wanted to like it -- and I did like a few scenes -- but what a sprawling mess. I understand it was difficult to capture the contradiction at the core of Alexander. He was so eccentric, self-absorbed and self-indulgent, like a rock star. But he had to impersonally commandeer a huge army across vast spaces with tremendous discipline and leadership.
    Maybe another director could have pulled it off, but Stone identified too closely with the craziness to create any useful distance between himself and the subject. So, Alexander just becomes Stone's own ego trip.

    How different from how Lean treated Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence too was a very self-obsessed figure who had to play a big grand strategic role. We got to see the fragility of his poetic nature against the brunt of ruthless reality.
    And PATTON captured the contradiction beautifully too. The guy was nuts and obsessive, believing in reincarnation and destiny and all that stuff. But he had to be tough as nails, man of supreme self-discipline and control of vast troops.

    But Stone, who is steeped in boomer 60s culture, makes it seem like Alexander could conquer so much just by acting like Jim Morrison. I just couldn't buy it. One scene Alexander is freaking out and in the next scene, he's conquered another giant chunk of territory. Using such logic, Brian Wilson lying in his bed could have conquered Russia.
    Stone himself was a stoner-boomer and a warrior-soldier, so he must know about the contradiction between the dreamer and the fighter. And as Alexander was his lifelong project, you'd think he would have put more thought into the project.
    But the result looks like he just winged it, as if he threw out all his earlier plans and did whatever came to his mind at the moment. There's the theatrical cut, director's cut, and another longer cut, but they are all wobbly.

    Stone is a weirdo. A kind of anti-imperialist imperialist. He reveres Alexander as the spreader of Greek culture and ideals even though he was ruthless and all. But Stone rails against US foreign policy for having been expansionist and imperialist. Wait a minute... but can't one make the Alexandrian case that US spread a lot of good things around the world? It's telling that Alexander came out during the War on Terror. It was almost as if a part of Stone was like a closet-Christopher-Hitchens egging on the war even as his public leftist self was condemning it. In the end, Stone isn't a humble isolationist like Buchanan. He's angry with America because it stands in the way of the revolutionary imperialism that appeals to Stone, at least in his fantasy mind as I don't think he would really want to live under someone like Chavez.

    And even the movie W is weird cuz there is so much of Stone in the character of W. Even as W is a mild object of mockery, Stone projected a lot of himself into the character. Stone too grew up under the shadow of a successful father. He too tried to prove his worth by doing something big: going to Vietnam and fighting for America and Apple Pie. Stone later turned against America, but even his leftism was so simpleminded and cartoonish, rather like Bush's War on Terror.
    JFK the movie is like a conspiracy cartoon. Stone's view of Latin America and romanticization of its leftist dictators are as simple as the Bush's view of the Middle East. It's good guys vs bad guys. Stone is a fan of Howard Zinn whose history of America is pure caricature.

    So, on some subconscious level, Stone must have identified with W. They are both such true-believers and newborn converts of The Cause. W the confused and indulgent son of the president decided to clean up his act, see the light, find his true calling, and become president. Stone who lost his innocence in the Vietnam War and was filled with doubt for a time eventually found salvation in the baptism of the cult of revolution and JFK theories, something he's been peddling ever since.

    And yet, here's the funny thing. As ridiculous as Stone can be, his films can also be very nuanced, empathetic, and sensitive in tuning into the hearts and minds of the kind of people he reviles and despises most. Stone often goes for cartoonishness but he can also rise above that and, at the very least, understand where the other side is coming from. He can hear the heartbeats, catch the brainwaves of all sides.
    Because of when W came out and what I heard about it, I thought it was just a hatchet job. Instead, as political films go, it is one of the most empathetic if not sympathetic. And Stone didn't outright vilify anyone into a cartoon even though Cheney comes across as an especially dark figure.

    But I wish Stone had written the script instead of working on someone else's.
    What the film completely misses is it sees power as something that happens only within the walls of politics.
    JFK(terrible as it was) and NIXON(Stone's best film) went a bit further in teasing out the interconnections between government, media, business, and other forces.
    There is some talk of Oil in W, but there's no way Iraq War can be understood without taking Jewish power in account. GOP's last hope was to win over the Jews, and Bush's middle east plan was supposed to be the plan that made neocon-ism into the dominant Jewish-American ideology. It failed big time on that score.

    PS. Alexander movie with Richard Burton isn't bad.

    Well said. Stone “contains multitudes” as David Thomson said of him. He’s French and Catholic and American and Jewish and a hippie and a soldier. His talent isn’t quite up to his Alexandrine ambitions, but there’s a lot of talent. He’s not quite smart enough for what he wants to pull off, especially after all the drugs, but, still … As he’s fallen increasingly out of fashion, I’ve come to emphasize the part full nature of his glass.

    The Eighties directors like Stone and Michael Mann tend to get less historical respect than the Seventies directors, kind of like Led Zeppelin gets less critical consideration than the Beatles or Stones. But they were remarkable talents.

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    • Agree: Dave Pinsen
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  81. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @Dave Pinsen
    Yeah, I think the issue with Mann and Ali is that he had the typical liberal boomer reverence toward Ali as an African American icon. Tom Wolfe could write an irreverent biopic of Ali, but it would survive Hollywood as well as Bonfire did.

    “Yeah, I think the issue with Mann and Ali is that he had the typical liberal boomer reverence toward Ali as an African American icon.”

    Mann is a sort of strange case. Outwardly, he is the liberal boomer type.

    Yet, the subtext of some of his films seems rather conservative-ish, right-wing, even ‘racist-fascist’.

    Not for nothing did Armand Hammer point out that the last scene of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS recalled THE BIRTH OF A NATION. When I first saw the film, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite!!!!
    Movies about Indians usually showed noble white men easily shooting bad Indians for target practice or evil white men killing tragic Indians who died all too nobly.

    But in MOHICANS, the Indians were some of the most fearsome frightening sons of bitches you ever did see. In the first battle, we see Indians mow down a bunch of British troops, and it is harrowing. No lib naivete about the ‘savages’ here.
    Later, when the Indians are closing in on British troops after being betrayed the French, one can’t help but feel sorry for the poor whites being massacred by the frightening reds.
    And when the Indians are going off with the white woman, we root for the handsome white-looking Indian to kill the bad Indians and save the white ho.
    And when the bad ugly Indian Mogwai kills the white-looking handsome Indian, it’s like watching a negro beat up a white guy. And even though there is a kind of peace between the white hero and Negroes in JERICHO MILE, there is a sense of racial tension.
    And when Lewis and his good Indian ‘father’ to kill the bad Indians, it is a shiiiiiiiiiite moment. Kill the sumfabitch!! And the triumphant music.
    There were some ‘right-wing-ish’ white male fantasies in Rocky movies and stuff, but they were cartoonish and silly. But LAST MOHICANS stirred up something primal. You could taste the blood in your mouth. When I told my Lib sister that it had fascist-like subtext, she couldn’t help agree.. and love it even more. Goes to show that if you scratch a Lib, there is a hidden fascist somewhere. Ultimately, it didn’t bother her that the movie piled up with lots of innocent bodies. It was just so cool to see handsome and tough studs duke it out for the girl. It was like American Siegfried.

    And then, what do you do about a movie like COLLATERAL? Tom Cruise is supposed to be the villain, a cold killer. But he is cool and you can’t help being impressed by his prowess. And what does he come across as? The Last White Warrior cutting down people of all color in L.A. It’s like slick Nietzschean take on FALLING DOWN but without the speeches and half-baked justifications. I’m watching this movie and wondering what other racial-ethnic group is this white guy gonna blast or beat up next?

    The consciously political side of Mann makes stuff like INSIDER and ALI.
    But the subconscious side is a white warrior who wants to go around kicking butt with ruthless precision and remorseless efficiency.

    But all said and done, Mann is no match for Hawks, Peckinpah, Boorman, Friedkin, and Hill. I think he tries at times to be like the American Jean-Pierre Melville, but no way will Mann make anything as beautiful as LE SAMOURAI or anything as dark & layered as ARMY OF SHADOWS. Melville wasn’t just about style.

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    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    armond white, not hammer.
    , @Dave Pinsen
    I thought his Last of the Mohicans was great too. The best movies about that time period capture the cruelty of Indian culture. LOTM does that, as does The Black Robe. LOTM also captures the terror of being attacked by them. In the scene with the retreating British + colonists, the Indians send a few lone tomohawk-wielders on suicide charges before their main ambush, to terrorize their prey. Interesting idea you have about the two Michael Manns. I guess you can see a bit of that in LOTM.

    On the one hand, Magua and most of the non-Mohican Indians are portrayed as savages. On the other hand, Hawkeye has that speech to the sachem where he blames their behavior on them imitating the white man. And the British and French generals are portrayed as douches too.

    Interestingly, the release version of LOTM is better than Mann's director's cut, which includes a silly, much longer, soliloquy by the last Mohican at the end.

    As far as race goes, though, Mann has a multiracial crew of robbers take on a multiracial crew of cops in Heat (and one of those cops is played by the actor who played Magua in LOTM). And in Collateral, he's got Jamie Foxx playing a hardworking African American (not even Caribbean) cabbie, who later summons the courage to take on a hit man. Also, some of the bad guys in Miami Vice were white supremacist dirt bags.
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  82. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Priss Factor
    "Oliver Stone’s Alexander wasn’t perfect, but it was the best film about Alexander the Great ever made."

    It was certainly ambitious and I wanted to like it -- and I did like a few scenes -- but what a sprawling mess. I understand it was difficult to capture the contradiction at the core of Alexander. He was so eccentric, self-absorbed and self-indulgent, like a rock star. But he had to impersonally commandeer a huge army across vast spaces with tremendous discipline and leadership.
    Maybe another director could have pulled it off, but Stone identified too closely with the craziness to create any useful distance between himself and the subject. So, Alexander just becomes Stone's own ego trip.

    How different from how Lean treated Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence too was a very self-obsessed figure who had to play a big grand strategic role. We got to see the fragility of his poetic nature against the brunt of ruthless reality.
    And PATTON captured the contradiction beautifully too. The guy was nuts and obsessive, believing in reincarnation and destiny and all that stuff. But he had to be tough as nails, man of supreme self-discipline and control of vast troops.

    But Stone, who is steeped in boomer 60s culture, makes it seem like Alexander could conquer so much just by acting like Jim Morrison. I just couldn't buy it. One scene Alexander is freaking out and in the next scene, he's conquered another giant chunk of territory. Using such logic, Brian Wilson lying in his bed could have conquered Russia.
    Stone himself was a stoner-boomer and a warrior-soldier, so he must know about the contradiction between the dreamer and the fighter. And as Alexander was his lifelong project, you'd think he would have put more thought into the project.
    But the result looks like he just winged it, as if he threw out all his earlier plans and did whatever came to his mind at the moment. There's the theatrical cut, director's cut, and another longer cut, but they are all wobbly.

    Stone is a weirdo. A kind of anti-imperialist imperialist. He reveres Alexander as the spreader of Greek culture and ideals even though he was ruthless and all. But Stone rails against US foreign policy for having been expansionist and imperialist. Wait a minute... but can't one make the Alexandrian case that US spread a lot of good things around the world? It's telling that Alexander came out during the War on Terror. It was almost as if a part of Stone was like a closet-Christopher-Hitchens egging on the war even as his public leftist self was condemning it. In the end, Stone isn't a humble isolationist like Buchanan. He's angry with America because it stands in the way of the revolutionary imperialism that appeals to Stone, at least in his fantasy mind as I don't think he would really want to live under someone like Chavez.

    And even the movie W is weird cuz there is so much of Stone in the character of W. Even as W is a mild object of mockery, Stone projected a lot of himself into the character. Stone too grew up under the shadow of a successful father. He too tried to prove his worth by doing something big: going to Vietnam and fighting for America and Apple Pie. Stone later turned against America, but even his leftism was so simpleminded and cartoonish, rather like Bush's War on Terror.
    JFK the movie is like a conspiracy cartoon. Stone's view of Latin America and romanticization of its leftist dictators are as simple as the Bush's view of the Middle East. It's good guys vs bad guys. Stone is a fan of Howard Zinn whose history of America is pure caricature.

    So, on some subconscious level, Stone must have identified with W. They are both such true-believers and newborn converts of The Cause. W the confused and indulgent son of the president decided to clean up his act, see the light, find his true calling, and become president. Stone who lost his innocence in the Vietnam War and was filled with doubt for a time eventually found salvation in the baptism of the cult of revolution and JFK theories, something he's been peddling ever since.

    And yet, here's the funny thing. As ridiculous as Stone can be, his films can also be very nuanced, empathetic, and sensitive in tuning into the hearts and minds of the kind of people he reviles and despises most. Stone often goes for cartoonishness but he can also rise above that and, at the very least, understand where the other side is coming from. He can hear the heartbeats, catch the brainwaves of all sides.
    Because of when W came out and what I heard about it, I thought it was just a hatchet job. Instead, as political films go, it is one of the most empathetic if not sympathetic. And Stone didn't outright vilify anyone into a cartoon even though Cheney comes across as an especially dark figure.

    But I wish Stone had written the script instead of working on someone else's.
    What the film completely misses is it sees power as something that happens only within the walls of politics.
    JFK(terrible as it was) and NIXON(Stone's best film) went a bit further in teasing out the interconnections between government, media, business, and other forces.
    There is some talk of Oil in W, but there's no way Iraq War can be understood without taking Jewish power in account. GOP's last hope was to win over the Jews, and Bush's middle east plan was supposed to be the plan that made neocon-ism into the dominant Jewish-American ideology. It failed big time on that score.

    PS. Alexander movie with Richard Burton isn't bad.

    I agree that the Alexander movie didn’t deal enough with the strategy, tactics and other military details of Alexander the Great’s conquests. But the Burton movie, which was good, didn’t either*. There’s still an opportunity to make a great movie about Alexander the Great.

    One thing Stone got right was the scene before the battle of Granicus (I think) where Alexander calls out several of his troops by name, notes their accomplishments, or those of their families, and exhorts them to glory. But he mostly flubbed the battle of Hydaspes, which included an impressive feat of military engineering, and a novel solution of a tactical problem.

    The scenes with Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy dictating the history in Egypt were well done.

    *Although the Burton movie did include a line that addressed this point of yours: “He reveres Alexander as the spreader of Greek culture and ideals even though he was ruthless and all. “

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    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    Paradox at the heart of Stone is his gripe about the dangers of power(US as the most powerful nation abuses its power all over the world) yet his conviction that the great man deserves supreme power to achieve awesome things(and who cares about the broken eggs necessary for the omelet?).

    In a way, it's the would-be tyrant-visionary in Stone that is so frustrated with the American system and all its institutions(and hidden power structures) that restrain the man of vision from gaining total power to do what is necessary.
    His gripe about America is it has too many little guys and shadowy guys in the institutions and cabals who get in the way of the man of boldness and the big dream.
    It's like the complaint of the 'auteur' director about the nickels-and-dimes suits who undermine his vision by getting in the way with excessive concern for budgets and profits.

    Stone's films seem to say the System gets in the way of the truly great individual. The concern is less with the little guy than with the rare great guy. A kind of Ayn-Randian fixation. If the little guy figures into the equation, it's because the great guy needs to justify his bold vision in the name of fighting for the little guy. Rand + Zinn = Stone.

    Even when Stone loathes the actions of powerful men --- like the bombing of Cambodia --- , he at least admires the boldness, the willingness to rise above timidity and excessive caution.
    It's Nixon's Tony Montana moment. Visionary madman who is bold.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC967nZArQM

    Even in JFK, the gripe is that the assassination was the conspiracy of rats and weasels against the mythologized Kennedy as the bold lion among men. And Hopkins in ALEXANDER admits that they had conspired to kill Alex cuz he was just to great for them, the little people who couldn't dream so big.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYpZEboOSlU

    So, what the world needs is the man with the supreme god-like power to save humanity from the conventionality of petty materialism and the conspiracy of petty power-for-power's-sake.
    The visionary deserves all the power, and the reactionary must be crushed.
    It's the classic war between Howard Roark and Toohey.

    The tragedy of Nixon, in this view, is that he aspired for boldness and greatness(in Kennedy's shadow like Ptolemy under Alexander's shadow) but ultimately for the greedy upper classes, smug bigots, the impersonal war industry, the secret government(embodied by CIA and Hoover), and the silent majority of Archie Bunkers. In his own way, he tried to be a Kennedy but not to fulfill the great dream of what Americans could be but to pander to the petty realism of the Americans.

    Some people are allergic to all concentrations of power. With Stone, democratic power is better than reactionary power but democratic power is worse than revolutionary power.
    Stone may see himself as a Roarkian-Alexandrian but he is actually like Toohey in a way because he invokes the People and Justice to rationalize his power lust. For a man to be truly visionary, he must be above the people than for the people.
    This is why electric Dylan blows protest Dylan, why Hendrix was many times greater than Pete Seeger and his Zinn-like sermons. Personalism above populism.

    But then, Stone is aware of the paradox that most people are revolutionary only to serve their reactionary hankerings: the have-nots will follow the revolution only to the point when they have something; and then they would rather stop the revolution to keep what they got.
    It's like Alexander's men gladly follow him cuz they win lots of prizes, but they don't wanna go further since they wanna enjoy what they got. Going further could jeopardize what they got.
    And boomer Stone's view is that once middle America 'got it so good' after WWII, they became a force of reaction. No longer the New Deal coalition but the 'silent majority' for the status quo.

    As in Rand's scheme, there is the dream fired by sunny confidence(Roark) and the counter-dream fueled by dark resentment(Toohey). Kennedy was the natural winner(at least in Stone's mythology): handsome, likable, bold, far-seeing, youthful, vigorous. Nixon was a natural loser(though smart) who didn't have the easy confidence to win. So, his ambition was driven by dark envy and resentment. It's like the difference between the friends in SEPARATE PEACE. One has 'it', the other doesn't.

    https://youtu.be/wdq7YxGhMhs?t=1h22m57s

    W and AMERICAN SNIPER would make a great double-bill. Similar mindsets, one seen from top, the other seen from bottom. The man who would be king, the man who would be hero. Both too simpleminded or too childish to see the forces that are really manipulating and nudging them. They see themselves as bold men of action but have no idea of how others are 'working' on them.
    W thinks he's leading everyone when he's being led by the sly Cheney and others.
    At the very least, Nixon knew about the forces around him. This awareness made him 'paranoid' but maybe that was better than W's total trust in the men around him.
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  83. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    What about the TV movie with William Shatner as Alexander the Great? I saw it around 1967.

    I’ve never heard of that. Will have to look it up. I’ve also been meaning to watch Thief – worth a viewing?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    It's pretty good. It was influential so it can seem either fresh or tired depending on the historical angle you view it from.
    , @Boomstick
    Yes. It's not a great film, but it's a solid film, and you can see the start of the directions Mann was taking the industry visually and aurally. He's outstanding at action sequences and the gun play was state of the art for the era. James Cann spent time at Gunsite with Jeff Cooper to learn pistol techniques and he's convincing. Mann's a detail oriented guy and was a competitive combat action shooter.

    Heat has what is often considered the best shootout scene in film:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZL9fnVtz_lc

    The sound design of that scene was groundbreaking for the era.

    , @D. K.
    According to a comment at IMDb, which I belatedly noticed, it is actually available as part of a fifty-film DVD package called "The Sensational Sixties" from a company called Mill Creek!?! That comment was left just under a year ago. There is also a comment, left almost a decade ago, from a woman named Antoinette, who was looking to get ahold of a copy-- because she had appeared in the film as the main bellydancer! Apparently, Adam West is none-too-proud of that particular piece of work: according to the person who noted its availability, last October, Adam West wrote in his autobiography that it might be the worst hour of television ever made!?! I loved that sort of thing, back in the '60s; "The 300 Spartans" (1962) was still one of my favorite movies, back then.
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  84. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    You can see a lot of 1984's "Miami Vice" in Mann's 1981 "Thief," although some parts are really 1970s looking as well.

    You hear a lot about how awesome television dramas are these days, but mostly about screenwriting and acting. In contrast, "Miami Vice" was enormously influential visually, which is hard to do on the limited budgets of TV. Compare the 1984 TV show to De Palma's big budget 1983 "Scarface" in Miami, which is highly entertaining but not all that distinctive visually, and you can see why Miami Vice was a sensation for a TV show.

    Miami Vice wasn't wholly revolutionary in that a number of movies and music videos in 1983 were doing a lot of the same look, but now that I've finally seen Mann's 1981 "Thief," he seems to have been his own progenitor for his later "Miami Vice." So Mann perhaps is the single most important visual director of the 1980s.

    For another look at what Michael Mann could do on a TV budget, see LA Takedown (1989), the shelved TV pilot that he expanded into Heat several years later:

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  85. Boomstick says:
    @Steve Sailer
    You can see a lot of 1984's "Miami Vice" in Mann's 1981 "Thief," although some parts are really 1970s looking as well.

    You hear a lot about how awesome television dramas are these days, but mostly about screenwriting and acting. In contrast, "Miami Vice" was enormously influential visually, which is hard to do on the limited budgets of TV. Compare the 1984 TV show to De Palma's big budget 1983 "Scarface" in Miami, which is highly entertaining but not all that distinctive visually, and you can see why Miami Vice was a sensation for a TV show.

    Miami Vice wasn't wholly revolutionary in that a number of movies and music videos in 1983 were doing a lot of the same look, but now that I've finally seen Mann's 1981 "Thief," he seems to have been his own progenitor for his later "Miami Vice." So Mann perhaps is the single most important visual director of the 1980s.

    Mann’s use of Tangerine Dream in the Thief soundtrack was well ahead of its time, and also foreshadows his Miami Vice work.

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    He used Tangerine Dream on the Manhunter soundtrack as well.
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  86. @Dave Pinsen
    I've never heard of that. Will have to look it up. I've also been meaning to watch Thief - worth a viewing?

    It’s pretty good. It was influential so it can seem either fresh or tired depending on the historical angle you view it from.

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    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Thanks, I'll check it out. That's a good point about the historical angle. An old friend emailed me a while back, saying he'd finally watched Manhunter and thought it was cliched. But I wrote him back that it only seems that way because it's been so influential.
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  87. Boomstick says:
    @Dave Pinsen
    I've never heard of that. Will have to look it up. I've also been meaning to watch Thief - worth a viewing?

    Yes. It’s not a great film, but it’s a solid film, and you can see the start of the directions Mann was taking the industry visually and aurally. He’s outstanding at action sequences and the gun play was state of the art for the era. James Cann spent time at Gunsite with Jeff Cooper to learn pistol techniques and he’s convincing. Mann’s a detail oriented guy and was a competitive combat action shooter.

    Heat has what is often considered the best shootout scene in film:

    The sound design of that scene was groundbreaking for the era.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    I've seen Heat 20+ times. One of my favorite movies. I'll check out Thief.

    Interestingly, Heat doesn't look dated today. I think that's mainly because the '90s were a fairly subdued decade stylistically. If you watch the video I embedded elsewhere in this thread of Mann's pre-Heat TV movie LA Takedown, you can tell from the hairstyles and cars that it was shot in the '80s. But there are no glaring stylistic cues like that in Heat, particularly since the big change in car aesthetics (from square to what Neal Stephenson called "lozenge" shaped) had happened already, sparked by the breakout Taurus design of the late '80s.
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  88. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @Priss Factor
    "Yeah, I think the issue with Mann and Ali is that he had the typical liberal boomer reverence toward Ali as an African American icon."

    Mann is a sort of strange case. Outwardly, he is the liberal boomer type.

    Yet, the subtext of some of his films seems rather conservative-ish, right-wing, even 'racist-fascist'.

    Not for nothing did Armand Hammer point out that the last scene of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS recalled THE BIRTH OF A NATION. When I first saw the film, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite!!!!
    Movies about Indians usually showed noble white men easily shooting bad Indians for target practice or evil white men killing tragic Indians who died all too nobly.

    But in MOHICANS, the Indians were some of the most fearsome frightening sons of bitches you ever did see. In the first battle, we see Indians mow down a bunch of British troops, and it is harrowing. No lib naivete about the 'savages' here.
    Later, when the Indians are closing in on British troops after being betrayed the French, one can't help but feel sorry for the poor whites being massacred by the frightening reds.
    And when the Indians are going off with the white woman, we root for the handsome white-looking Indian to kill the bad Indians and save the white ho.
    And when the bad ugly Indian Mogwai kills the white-looking handsome Indian, it's like watching a negro beat up a white guy. And even though there is a kind of peace between the white hero and Negroes in JERICHO MILE, there is a sense of racial tension.
    And when Lewis and his good Indian 'father' to kill the bad Indians, it is a shiiiiiiiiiite moment. Kill the sumfabitch!! And the triumphant music.
    There were some 'right-wing-ish' white male fantasies in Rocky movies and stuff, but they were cartoonish and silly. But LAST MOHICANS stirred up something primal. You could taste the blood in your mouth. When I told my Lib sister that it had fascist-like subtext, she couldn't help agree.. and love it even more. Goes to show that if you scratch a Lib, there is a hidden fascist somewhere. Ultimately, it didn't bother her that the movie piled up with lots of innocent bodies. It was just so cool to see handsome and tough studs duke it out for the girl. It was like American Siegfried.

    And then, what do you do about a movie like COLLATERAL? Tom Cruise is supposed to be the villain, a cold killer. But he is cool and you can't help being impressed by his prowess. And what does he come across as? The Last White Warrior cutting down people of all color in L.A. It's like slick Nietzschean take on FALLING DOWN but without the speeches and half-baked justifications. I'm watching this movie and wondering what other racial-ethnic group is this white guy gonna blast or beat up next?

    The consciously political side of Mann makes stuff like INSIDER and ALI.
    But the subconscious side is a white warrior who wants to go around kicking butt with ruthless precision and remorseless efficiency.

    But all said and done, Mann is no match for Hawks, Peckinpah, Boorman, Friedkin, and Hill. I think he tries at times to be like the American Jean-Pierre Melville, but no way will Mann make anything as beautiful as LE SAMOURAI or anything as dark & layered as ARMY OF SHADOWS. Melville wasn't just about style.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cIuOKWwz0s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on38oTESbHU

    armond white, not hammer.

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  89. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Boomstick
    Mann's use of Tangerine Dream in the Thief soundtrack was well ahead of its time, and also foreshadows his Miami Vice work.

    He used Tangerine Dream on the Manhunter soundtrack as well.

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  90. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    It's pretty good. It was influential so it can seem either fresh or tired depending on the historical angle you view it from.

    Thanks, I’ll check it out. That’s a good point about the historical angle. An old friend emailed me a while back, saying he’d finally watched Manhunter and thought it was cliched. But I wrote him back that it only seems that way because it’s been so influential.

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  91. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Boomstick
    Yes. It's not a great film, but it's a solid film, and you can see the start of the directions Mann was taking the industry visually and aurally. He's outstanding at action sequences and the gun play was state of the art for the era. James Cann spent time at Gunsite with Jeff Cooper to learn pistol techniques and he's convincing. Mann's a detail oriented guy and was a competitive combat action shooter.

    Heat has what is often considered the best shootout scene in film:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZL9fnVtz_lc

    The sound design of that scene was groundbreaking for the era.

    I’ve seen Heat 20+ times. One of my favorite movies. I’ll check out Thief.

    Interestingly, Heat doesn’t look dated today. I think that’s mainly because the ’90s were a fairly subdued decade stylistically. If you watch the video I embedded elsewhere in this thread of Mann’s pre-Heat TV movie LA Takedown, you can tell from the hairstyles and cars that it was shot in the ’80s. But there are no glaring stylistic cues like that in Heat, particularly since the big change in car aesthetics (from square to what Neal Stephenson called “lozenge” shaped) had happened already, sparked by the breakout Taurus design of the late ’80s.

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  92. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Priss Factor
    "Yeah, I think the issue with Mann and Ali is that he had the typical liberal boomer reverence toward Ali as an African American icon."

    Mann is a sort of strange case. Outwardly, he is the liberal boomer type.

    Yet, the subtext of some of his films seems rather conservative-ish, right-wing, even 'racist-fascist'.

    Not for nothing did Armand Hammer point out that the last scene of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS recalled THE BIRTH OF A NATION. When I first saw the film, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite!!!!
    Movies about Indians usually showed noble white men easily shooting bad Indians for target practice or evil white men killing tragic Indians who died all too nobly.

    But in MOHICANS, the Indians were some of the most fearsome frightening sons of bitches you ever did see. In the first battle, we see Indians mow down a bunch of British troops, and it is harrowing. No lib naivete about the 'savages' here.
    Later, when the Indians are closing in on British troops after being betrayed the French, one can't help but feel sorry for the poor whites being massacred by the frightening reds.
    And when the Indians are going off with the white woman, we root for the handsome white-looking Indian to kill the bad Indians and save the white ho.
    And when the bad ugly Indian Mogwai kills the white-looking handsome Indian, it's like watching a negro beat up a white guy. And even though there is a kind of peace between the white hero and Negroes in JERICHO MILE, there is a sense of racial tension.
    And when Lewis and his good Indian 'father' to kill the bad Indians, it is a shiiiiiiiiiite moment. Kill the sumfabitch!! And the triumphant music.
    There were some 'right-wing-ish' white male fantasies in Rocky movies and stuff, but they were cartoonish and silly. But LAST MOHICANS stirred up something primal. You could taste the blood in your mouth. When I told my Lib sister that it had fascist-like subtext, she couldn't help agree.. and love it even more. Goes to show that if you scratch a Lib, there is a hidden fascist somewhere. Ultimately, it didn't bother her that the movie piled up with lots of innocent bodies. It was just so cool to see handsome and tough studs duke it out for the girl. It was like American Siegfried.

    And then, what do you do about a movie like COLLATERAL? Tom Cruise is supposed to be the villain, a cold killer. But he is cool and you can't help being impressed by his prowess. And what does he come across as? The Last White Warrior cutting down people of all color in L.A. It's like slick Nietzschean take on FALLING DOWN but without the speeches and half-baked justifications. I'm watching this movie and wondering what other racial-ethnic group is this white guy gonna blast or beat up next?

    The consciously political side of Mann makes stuff like INSIDER and ALI.
    But the subconscious side is a white warrior who wants to go around kicking butt with ruthless precision and remorseless efficiency.

    But all said and done, Mann is no match for Hawks, Peckinpah, Boorman, Friedkin, and Hill. I think he tries at times to be like the American Jean-Pierre Melville, but no way will Mann make anything as beautiful as LE SAMOURAI or anything as dark & layered as ARMY OF SHADOWS. Melville wasn't just about style.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cIuOKWwz0s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on38oTESbHU

    I thought his Last of the Mohicans was great too. The best movies about that time period capture the cruelty of Indian culture. LOTM does that, as does The Black Robe. LOTM also captures the terror of being attacked by them. In the scene with the retreating British + colonists, the Indians send a few lone tomohawk-wielders on suicide charges before their main ambush, to terrorize their prey. Interesting idea you have about the two Michael Manns. I guess you can see a bit of that in LOTM.

    On the one hand, Magua and most of the non-Mohican Indians are portrayed as savages. On the other hand, Hawkeye has that speech to the sachem where he blames their behavior on them imitating the white man. And the British and French generals are portrayed as douches too.

    Interestingly, the release version of LOTM is better than Mann’s director’s cut, which includes a silly, much longer, soliloquy by the last Mohican at the end.

    As far as race goes, though, Mann has a multiracial crew of robbers take on a multiracial crew of cops in Heat (and one of those cops is played by the actor who played Magua in LOTM). And in Collateral, he’s got Jamie Foxx playing a hardworking African American (not even Caribbean) cabbie, who later summons the courage to take on a hit man. Also, some of the bad guys in Miami Vice were white supremacist dirt bags.

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  93. D. K. says:
    @Steve Sailer
    What about the TV movie with William Shatner as Alexander the Great? I saw it around 1967.

    I remember watching it, with great interest, when I was in the sixth grade! According to IMDb, it was originally filmed as a television pilot, and was eventually broadcast on January 26, 1968, as part of a series called “Off to See the Wizard”:

    ***

    This was actually shot in 1964, but it was deemed to be not fit for airing and was subsequently shelved. Four years later, when stars Adam West and William Shatner had each reached a certain level of fame to get respectable ratings for the show – West was in the throes of Batman-mania from the success of his Batman (1966) series and Shatner was the star of Star Trek (1966) – it was released as a made-for-TV movie.

    ***

    I wonder if it has ever been seen anywhere since!?!?!

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  94. D. K. says:
    @Dave Pinsen
    I've never heard of that. Will have to look it up. I've also been meaning to watch Thief - worth a viewing?

    According to a comment at IMDb, which I belatedly noticed, it is actually available as part of a fifty-film DVD package called “The Sensational Sixties” from a company called Mill Creek!?! That comment was left just under a year ago. There is also a comment, left almost a decade ago, from a woman named Antoinette, who was looking to get ahold of a copy– because she had appeared in the film as the main bellydancer! Apparently, Adam West is none-too-proud of that particular piece of work: according to the person who noted its availability, last October, Adam West wrote in his autobiography that it might be the worst hour of television ever made!?! I loved that sort of thing, back in the ’60s; “The 300 Spartans” (1962) was still one of my favorite movies, back then.

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  95. Priss Factor [AKA "skiapolemistis"] says:
    @Dave Pinsen
    I agree that the Alexander movie didn't deal enough with the strategy, tactics and other military details of Alexander the Great's conquests. But the Burton movie, which was good, didn't either*. There's still an opportunity to make a great movie about Alexander the Great.

    One thing Stone got right was the scene before the battle of Granicus (I think) where Alexander calls out several of his troops by name, notes their accomplishments, or those of their families, and exhorts them to glory. But he mostly flubbed the battle of Hydaspes, which included an impressive feat of military engineering, and a novel solution of a tactical problem.

    The scenes with Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy dictating the history in Egypt were well done.

    *Although the Burton movie did include a line that addressed this point of yours: "He reveres Alexander as the spreader of Greek culture and ideals even though he was ruthless and all. "

    Paradox at the heart of Stone is his gripe about the dangers of power(US as the most powerful nation abuses its power all over the world) yet his conviction that the great man deserves supreme power to achieve awesome things(and who cares about the broken eggs necessary for the omelet?).

    In a way, it’s the would-be tyrant-visionary in Stone that is so frustrated with the American system and all its institutions(and hidden power structures) that restrain the man of vision from gaining total power to do what is necessary.
    His gripe about America is it has too many little guys and shadowy guys in the institutions and cabals who get in the way of the man of boldness and the big dream.
    It’s like the complaint of the ‘auteur’ director about the nickels-and-dimes suits who undermine his vision by getting in the way with excessive concern for budgets and profits.

    Stone’s films seem to say the System gets in the way of the truly great individual. The concern is less with the little guy than with the rare great guy. A kind of Ayn-Randian fixation. If the little guy figures into the equation, it’s because the great guy needs to justify his bold vision in the name of fighting for the little guy. Rand + Zinn = Stone.

    Even when Stone loathes the actions of powerful men — like the bombing of Cambodia — , he at least admires the boldness, the willingness to rise above timidity and excessive caution.
    It’s Nixon’s Tony Montana moment. Visionary madman who is bold.

    Even in JFK, the gripe is that the assassination was the conspiracy of rats and weasels against the mythologized Kennedy as the bold lion among men. And Hopkins in ALEXANDER admits that they had conspired to kill Alex cuz he was just to great for them, the little people who couldn’t dream so big.

    So, what the world needs is the man with the supreme god-like power to save humanity from the conventionality of petty materialism and the conspiracy of petty power-for-power’s-sake.
    The visionary deserves all the power, and the reactionary must be crushed.
    It’s the classic war between Howard Roark and Toohey.

    The tragedy of Nixon, in this view, is that he aspired for boldness and greatness(in Kennedy’s shadow like Ptolemy under Alexander’s shadow) but ultimately for the greedy upper classes, smug bigots, the impersonal war industry, the secret government(embodied by CIA and Hoover), and the silent majority of Archie Bunkers. In his own way, he tried to be a Kennedy but not to fulfill the great dream of what Americans could be but to pander to the petty realism of the Americans.

    Some people are allergic to all concentrations of power. With Stone, democratic power is better than reactionary power but democratic power is worse than revolutionary power.
    Stone may see himself as a Roarkian-Alexandrian but he is actually like Toohey in a way because he invokes the People and Justice to rationalize his power lust. For a man to be truly visionary, he must be above the people than for the people.
    This is why electric Dylan blows protest Dylan, why Hendrix was many times greater than Pete Seeger and his Zinn-like sermons. Personalism above populism.

    But then, Stone is aware of the paradox that most people are revolutionary only to serve their reactionary hankerings: the have-nots will follow the revolution only to the point when they have something; and then they would rather stop the revolution to keep what they got.
    It’s like Alexander’s men gladly follow him cuz they win lots of prizes, but they don’t wanna go further since they wanna enjoy what they got. Going further could jeopardize what they got.
    And boomer Stone’s view is that once middle America ‘got it so good’ after WWII, they became a force of reaction. No longer the New Deal coalition but the ‘silent majority’ for the status quo.

    As in Rand’s scheme, there is the dream fired by sunny confidence(Roark) and the counter-dream fueled by dark resentment(Toohey). Kennedy was the natural winner(at least in Stone’s mythology): handsome, likable, bold, far-seeing, youthful, vigorous. Nixon was a natural loser(though smart) who didn’t have the easy confidence to win. So, his ambition was driven by dark envy and resentment. It’s like the difference between the friends in SEPARATE PEACE. One has ‘it’, the other doesn’t.

    W and AMERICAN SNIPER would make a great double-bill. Similar mindsets, one seen from top, the other seen from bottom. The man who would be king, the man who would be hero. Both too simpleminded or too childish to see the forces that are really manipulating and nudging them. They see themselves as bold men of action but have no idea of how others are ‘working’ on them.
    W thinks he’s leading everyone when he’s being led by the sly Cheney and others.
    At the very least, Nixon knew about the forces around him. This awareness made him ‘paranoid’ but maybe that was better than W’s total trust in the men around him.

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  96. Ed says:
    @Priss Factor
    "Oliver Stone’s Alexander wasn’t perfect, but it was the best film about Alexander the Great ever made."

    It was certainly ambitious and I wanted to like it -- and I did like a few scenes -- but what a sprawling mess. I understand it was difficult to capture the contradiction at the core of Alexander. He was so eccentric, self-absorbed and self-indulgent, like a rock star. But he had to impersonally commandeer a huge army across vast spaces with tremendous discipline and leadership.
    Maybe another director could have pulled it off, but Stone identified too closely with the craziness to create any useful distance between himself and the subject. So, Alexander just becomes Stone's own ego trip.

    How different from how Lean treated Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence too was a very self-obsessed figure who had to play a big grand strategic role. We got to see the fragility of his poetic nature against the brunt of ruthless reality.
    And PATTON captured the contradiction beautifully too. The guy was nuts and obsessive, believing in reincarnation and destiny and all that stuff. But he had to be tough as nails, man of supreme self-discipline and control of vast troops.

    But Stone, who is steeped in boomer 60s culture, makes it seem like Alexander could conquer so much just by acting like Jim Morrison. I just couldn't buy it. One scene Alexander is freaking out and in the next scene, he's conquered another giant chunk of territory. Using such logic, Brian Wilson lying in his bed could have conquered Russia.
    Stone himself was a stoner-boomer and a warrior-soldier, so he must know about the contradiction between the dreamer and the fighter. And as Alexander was his lifelong project, you'd think he would have put more thought into the project.
    But the result looks like he just winged it, as if he threw out all his earlier plans and did whatever came to his mind at the moment. There's the theatrical cut, director's cut, and another longer cut, but they are all wobbly.

    Stone is a weirdo. A kind of anti-imperialist imperialist. He reveres Alexander as the spreader of Greek culture and ideals even though he was ruthless and all. But Stone rails against US foreign policy for having been expansionist and imperialist. Wait a minute... but can't one make the Alexandrian case that US spread a lot of good things around the world? It's telling that Alexander came out during the War on Terror. It was almost as if a part of Stone was like a closet-Christopher-Hitchens egging on the war even as his public leftist self was condemning it. In the end, Stone isn't a humble isolationist like Buchanan. He's angry with America because it stands in the way of the revolutionary imperialism that appeals to Stone, at least in his fantasy mind as I don't think he would really want to live under someone like Chavez.

    And even the movie W is weird cuz there is so much of Stone in the character of W. Even as W is a mild object of mockery, Stone projected a lot of himself into the character. Stone too grew up under the shadow of a successful father. He too tried to prove his worth by doing something big: going to Vietnam and fighting for America and Apple Pie. Stone later turned against America, but even his leftism was so simpleminded and cartoonish, rather like Bush's War on Terror.
    JFK the movie is like a conspiracy cartoon. Stone's view of Latin America and romanticization of its leftist dictators are as simple as the Bush's view of the Middle East. It's good guys vs bad guys. Stone is a fan of Howard Zinn whose history of America is pure caricature.

    So, on some subconscious level, Stone must have identified with W. They are both such true-believers and newborn converts of The Cause. W the confused and indulgent son of the president decided to clean up his act, see the light, find his true calling, and become president. Stone who lost his innocence in the Vietnam War and was filled with doubt for a time eventually found salvation in the baptism of the cult of revolution and JFK theories, something he's been peddling ever since.

    And yet, here's the funny thing. As ridiculous as Stone can be, his films can also be very nuanced, empathetic, and sensitive in tuning into the hearts and minds of the kind of people he reviles and despises most. Stone often goes for cartoonishness but he can also rise above that and, at the very least, understand where the other side is coming from. He can hear the heartbeats, catch the brainwaves of all sides.
    Because of when W came out and what I heard about it, I thought it was just a hatchet job. Instead, as political films go, it is one of the most empathetic if not sympathetic. And Stone didn't outright vilify anyone into a cartoon even though Cheney comes across as an especially dark figure.

    But I wish Stone had written the script instead of working on someone else's.
    What the film completely misses is it sees power as something that happens only within the walls of politics.
    JFK(terrible as it was) and NIXON(Stone's best film) went a bit further in teasing out the interconnections between government, media, business, and other forces.
    There is some talk of Oil in W, but there's no way Iraq War can be understood without taking Jewish power in account. GOP's last hope was to win over the Jews, and Bush's middle east plan was supposed to be the plan that made neocon-ism into the dominant Jewish-American ideology. It failed big time on that score.

    PS. Alexander movie with Richard Burton isn't bad.

    I’ve seen JFK and Nixon, but not Stone’s movies about Dubya and Alexander. I agree that Nixon is a great movie and JFK is terrible, though watchable.

    W sounds pretty good, but it probably would have been better if Stone had waited until we all had some perspective on his presidency. And Bush’s life after he left the White House has been fairly interesting (he took up painting, and seems pretty good at it). Alexander sounds like a mess.

    I think a better subject for movies than the life of Alexander the Great is the unification of Greece by his father, Philip, who also built the army that Alexander led. Another better subject for a movie would be the wars between Alexander’s generals after he died.

    The reason both would be better subjects is that they both feature obvious conflicts. In the case of Philip, you have which is a better model for Greece, the Macedonian monarchy or the city states it suppressed. Demosthenes could be a major character and a rival to Philip (Aristotle, who was pro-Macedonian, could also be a major character). You also have the obvious conflict between Philip and his wife. A movie about the Successors would have the conflict between the successors, who themselves had larger in life personalities, and still feature the Macedonian’s attempt to carve Greek kingdoms out of Asian and African territory. Both situations have obvious drama.

    The problem with the life of Alexander the Great itself is that the Persians collapsed too quickly, so the conflict winds up being essentially Alexander against himself. He actually spent most of his reign fighting against tribal confederations in Afghanistan.

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  97. @Priss Factor
    "A remarkably naive sentiment from someone who presents himself as a professional movie critic... a common fact of business which you blithely analogize to burglary... What ever happened to America! By the way, your swing-for-the-fences riches-or-death benchmark would disqualify the whole film careers of Mike Judge and Orson Welles, among others."

    ROTFL. That's pretty hilarious rant.

    This analogy to burglary isn't as moralistic as you assume. Heist isn't just stealing stuff or committing a crime. The real pride comes from the masterly strategy over the caper. It is a game, a contest.
    If anything, plenty of writers/directors identify with criminal master-minds because the way they think is similar. And their outlooks on society are similar too. Consider Mamet and his films about con-men. He even made a film called HEIST where everyone tries to outwit everyone. In THIEF, what matters is not the stealing but the art of stealing. It's a job and it's about whether you do it right or not.

    So, saying that film-making is like a heist isn't necessarily a moral judgement. It is an appreciation of the wits and smarts involved in playing the game.
    In a way, Scorsese understood GOODFELLAS and CASINO -- and WOLF OF WALL STREET -- so well cuz he got in the business for much the same reason as people become gangsters or wall street crooks. He didn't want to be some boring 9 to 5 person working at some cruddy job. He wanted the lights, the action, the excitement.
    Entertainment has been a kind of legalized form of criminal-life for people too afraid or too smart to actually become crooks. Entertainment is what? It is selling dope of fantasy to the masses. And what are most films about? Good decent hardworking people? What are most songs about? Decent parents and tax-paying citizens? No, a lot of them are about crooks, thugs, gangsters, and etc. Films may morally condemn such characters or pretend to, but they are the main attraction.

    https://youtu.be/YmfPT47awUg?t=46s

    Peckinpah felt as a kind of outlaw himself. And films like BONNIE AND CLYDE thrilled a lot of people because of the fantasy of breaking all the 'bourgeois' rules and doing whatever you feel like. And there is even a heist-element in THE GRADUATE insofar as Ben literally steals the girl from the groom.

    And film-making is often like a heist in that it takes our money in exchange of fantasy that really does us no good. The world would be a better place without 99% of the films out there. Also, many people watch films as a fantasy of crime, just like lots of kids listen to rap as thug fantasy. It is a kind of drug. WOLF OF WALL STREET was a huge hit as a lifestyles of the rich, famous, and crooked. Sure, it was good to see the crook get his comeuppance but it was even more fun to see him having fun being crooked. Movies sell heist fantasies in the form of moral lessons.
    And given that most films lose money, the would-be-film-maker has to hustle to sell his idea. And since he is using other people's money, he walks away scot-free though he may no longer be bankable.

    Some film-makers' careers are over after a few flops, but some have been able to keep working despite so many failures. DePalma is a good example. He's had so many flops. But maybe because his hits have been so big and memorable that Hollywood has been willing to give him another chance. Also, his name has become somewhat prestigious, so maybe some studios just feel honored to be associated with a DePalma film.
    Mann may have a similar place in Hollywood. He's become a kind of legendary figure, so his flops are written off and he's given another chance. Besides, when he hit a home-run, he really hit big ones. Old filmmakers never die, they just fade away. Good to turn yourself into a brand.

    Stone is another one who's been able to weather huge losses. Alexander, what a total flop that was. But his is an established brand in Hollywood. A Stone Film means something.

    The box office failure of a film like Blackhat means more than a failure of a Welles or Judge film or even a Stone film. Welles wasn't making films to make lots of money, though, of course, money was nice. Welles usually favored personal vision over consideration of box office. And Judge likes to work small and quirky. Welles eventually couldn't get any financing.
    But Blackhat was obviously geared to be a big action hit. So, it is a bigger deal that it failed.

    When Woody Allen makes a film, no one expects it to make big bucks, though, on occasion, something like Blue Jasmine goes beyond all expectations.
    But when Mann hires one of the hottest action stars and makes an action film, people were obviously expecting something on the order of Bourne movies.
    Some movies are meant to be hits, some movies are not. A film like SLOW WEST is clearly an indie film, and it's low box office isn't seen as failure cuz it was a labor of love Maybe Mann really liked the idea of Blackhat but it was obviously pitched as the next big hit --- and Mann needed one cuz his films haven't been doing all that hot lately.

    Maybe one thing that didn't jibe well with audiences was Blackhat was like both a big production and a home movie. Mann, as if to be more hip and relevant, used lots of hand-held camera style, and some scenes look as if shot by smartphones, the kind you find in youtube all over. So the film at times seem overly polished, like HEAT, and at other times looks over haphazard, like BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. And the two modes never really came together in the film. (It worked better in Bourne movies.)
    The film has an element of spontaneity but with generally lackluster characters who only make sense in a very stylized film, but Blackhat goes online and offline with Mann's classic style, the secret of which is control even amidst chaos. There are some moments in Blackhat that are just chaotic.

    It was still much better than the recent Keanu Reeves gangster thriller JOHN PRICK. Incidentally, it has a small scene with John Leguzano who really could have been the actor of his age. He's in the film for just a little bit but he totally dominates the scene. He was Benny Blanco in CARLITO'S WAY and went toe to toe with a veteran like Pacino. Leguzano has one of the most natural instincts of an actor. He's fast. He gets a character and embodies him like no other. Streep is good but she's all technique. She acts. Leguzano just becomes. And he can play all kinds of characters so convincingly. A neglected talent, but I can see why. He doesn't have the looks to be a movie star and lead character. (But then, Johnny Depp is sort of odd-looking too, but he became a big star. The most unlikely big star in recent film history?)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbD1TZa8YII

    I like Keanu Reeves but John Wick was just dumb. He must have killed 80+ people.

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    John Wick was just dumb. He must have killed 80+ people.

    He killed more Russian gangsters than there actually are in the Ne York area. In the sequel, are they goign to explain how they replenished the supply?

    It really wasa dumb movie from beginning to end, but I have to admit it held my attention even as I LOLed a few times, like at this:

    Viggo Tarasov: That fucking nobody is John Wick. He once was an associate of ours. They call him Baba Yaga. Well John wasn't exactly the Boogeyman, he was the one you send to kill the fucking Boogeyman. John is a man of focus, commitment and sheer will, something you know very little about. I once saw him kill three men in a bar, with a pencil. With a fucking... pencil.
     
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  98. Dude, you’ve seen a lot o’ movies.

    In capital letters, too.

    I’m updating my Netflix queue.

    Trav

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  99. snorlax says:
    @WhatEvvs
    I was joking. She will certainly go to an Ivy, or Stanford, or Duke. My money's on Stanford.

    Ah. Need to skim less.

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  100. athEIst says:
    @andy russia
    The sad thing is, crime does pay - if you aren't of the scrupulous kind and don't get caught.
    One had, I gather, a pretty good chance of not getting caught before centralized government, police and mass CCTV, which is to say, for most of human history. It's only recently that violent crime became a thing for the most impulsive and conscience-proof of people. The most rewards are in white-collar crime.

    "A high level of education was economically harmful for cultural
    reasons also. One of the legacies of colonialism, in Tanzania as
    elsewhere in Africa, was that education was seen by the people
    as a means by which one might join the governmental service (...)
    This was the main, and often the only, reason that education was
    so highly valued. (...)
    Any child of ability got a job in government or a job paid by
    government. Reaching a position in the hierarchy from which it was
    possible to obstruct the efforts of others unless bribed was
    therefore the aim of almost every educated person. It means (...) the
    larger economic surplus had to be extracted from a smaller economic
    base."
    --Dalrymple, "Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality"

     

    The way to be anti-social today is precisely this - to try and reach a position in the hierarchy where you can do stuff with impunity.
    ---
    Social determinism fosters crime:

    Another burglar demanded to know from me why he repeatedly broke into houses and stole VCRs. He asked the question aggressively, as if 'the system' so far let him down in not supplying him with the answer; as if it were my duty as a doctor to provide him with the buried psychological secret that, once revealed, would in and of itself lead him unfailingly on the path of virtue (...)
    When I refused to examine his past, he exclaimed, "But something must make me do it!"
    "How about greed, laziness, and a thirst for excitement?" I suggested.
    "What about my childhood?" he asked.
    "Nothing to do with it", I replied firmly.
    He looked at me as if I had assaulted him. Actually, I thought the matter more complex than I was admitting, but I did not want him to misunderstand my main message: that he was the author of his own deeds.
    --Dalrymple, "Life at the Bottom"
     

    I'm non-religious, but one thing I like about Xtianity is the concept of original sin. I was thinking about it recently, esp. why they left in the loophole in the form of repentance ("I prayed for a bike. Then I realized that G'd does not work this way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness").
    Then I realized how much psychological sense it makes. It wouldn't work if the person was out of favor with God after the first transgression. It's like buying a fitness machine and putting off using it until tomorrow (what's another day?) - a tomorrow that never comes. The person, under the influence of the heap fallacy (how many sandcorns are a heap?) would get caught in a vicious circle of sin (what's another murder?) It's as if Christianity is saying - you can always stop and every new crime (or sin) is a conscious choice towards Evil.

    It's somewhat unfortunate that, having chucked away Christianity, the West also chucked sin and evil, replaced the camera in the sky with real cameras, and instituted a system where it's always one's childhood, systemic racism and whatnot, never oneself. Sin and evil are real. The lure of evil is real, more to some, less so to others. People are capital-N nasty. It's like we come from monkeys or something.

    It’s like we come from monkeys or something.
    Best laugh of the day.

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  101. Brutusale says:
    @Pat Casey
    Something told me Black Mass would stir people to opine quite less than the occasion probably does merit.

    The 20th century of America had too many gangsters worth making movies out of to keep track of or probably count. And when you consider that the best of them mostly never did tell their story, well maybe that's a tragedy to history in a way. "This is the life we chose, the life we lead, and there is only one certainty: none of us will see heaven." Why go to the movies at all if you don't go to see those? Gangsters owe us the truth as much as the government does. And the ones in the pantheon most of all owe us their side of story, since we put them there, like an inverted election to infamous office. Why pretend like your not there when you are? Consider the record.

    Name five gangsters real fast: Capone, Lansky, Gambino, Gotti. And Whitey Bulger. Who was the only one of among them to ever actually rip off the lottery---for 30 million in the 80s. The only to be on the FBI's most wanted list--- for 16 years. The only who ever put his foot on the neck of a Mafia family and took as much as he wanted. The second of them to know Alcatraz. The only one to know MK-Ultra. And the only one who gave his own guns to his roots when they needed them.

    The mystery remains. What did the document say, that would get them all fired, the one in the secret safe in the director of the Boston field office of FBI, where the secretary worked for forty years and remembers when the safe itself was disappeared? And Jeremiah O'Sullivan---the federal prosecutor who may or may not have given Bulger immunity, in return for taking care of the Italians who were out to kill him "my own way." How much money did it cost to buy the city of Boston plus a few federal departments for twenty years? Why would a guy under cover of top-echlon need to buy the city? And so on.

    Well Black Mass doesn't bother about any of that. But Johnny Depp deserves a nomination no doubt. And would have had a better chance of getting it had he not decided go off about James Whitey Bulger being so much of a human, the murderer he could afford to humanize, and personally celebrate for living on the run as long as he could. What a dumb soundbite to own. But nothing human is alien. Everyone has their reasons.

    Two points:

    The lottery win was $14 million.

    Whitey was immeasurably aided by the symbiotic relationship between his criminal career and that of his brother, long-time Senate president Billy, or the Corrupt Midget as he’s know in these parts. More so than any governor during his tenure, Billy Bulger was the most powerful politician in the Commonwealth.

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  102. Garden and Gun had an interesting article about a prolific silver thief who worked his way through the northeast and south. Apparently a different guy, but it seems that silver is the top item for good thieves.

    http://gardenandgun.com/article/trail-silver-thief

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  103. @Priss Factor
    "'Miami Vice' was enormously influential visually, which is hard to do on the limited budgets of TV. Compare the 1984 TV show to De Palma’s big budget 1983 'Scarface' in Miami, which is highly entertaining but not all that distinctive visually, and you can see why Miami Vice was a sensation for a TV show."

    Mann was to TV and movies what MTV was to music. He made it ultra-slick, plastic, and soulless. I have a soft spot for MANHUNTER(cuz I saw it at a special time) and Mann is certainly a capable film-maker, but his is a soulless vision. It's all posturing and strutting. All motion, no emotion.

    Throughout MANHUNTER, I was thinking the filmmaker is as soulless as the sociopaths in the movie. But William Peterson has such a strong presence that he makes us care.

    Mann's other films are sometimes good to look at, but there isn't a single memorable character. Take LAST OF MOHICANS which has some of the most rousing action scenes, but they don't really resonate cuz the characters are zero, even with actors as talented as Daniel Day Lewis who is just a badass killing machine and not much else.
    (Mann's influence may also be in the cold and efficient NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, a very engaging film that just vanishes after it's over, unless one is prone to having weird dreams.)
    In this, Mann is like Cameron, another soulless director. Of course, Camoron is worse cuz his vision has just gotten more and more inflated. AVATAR was just one big dumb ugly pompous childish mess.

    Mann also sort of reminds me of Walter Hill who once declared that he has no use for psychology. And in films like WARRIORS and LONG RIDERS, it's mostly about men with stuff they need to do, and that's that. (Hill moved toward psychology in WILD BILL and GERONIMO however, and they are more interesting for it.) But what I like about Hill is a Hemingway-like code of what it means to be a man. It's not a matter of style but outlook. In contrast, Mann's films are mostly about style, and style alone doesn't make films interesting.
    Take PUBLIC ENEMIES, a very slick and impressive piece of film-making. Depp as Dillinger is so empty and vapid that I don't remember anything except a few cool action scenes. (I don't remember much of MOHICANS either other than the action scenes). A lot of people were impressed by HEAT and I guess it's a well-tailored action movie, but movies shouldn't be made by fashionistas.

    MIAMI VICE also favored preening self-conscious narcissism over story and character. It was the BAYWATCH of cop shows. There was more grit and substance to 70s shows like COLUMBO, KOJACK, BARETTA, ROCKFORD FLIES, etc.
    MV was a vamped-up version of CHARLIE'S ANGELS, a dumb show that was only a hit cuz it had three babes running around. (For some reason, Kate Jackson got the least respect though she was the most attractive.)

    TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. was great cuz it adopted but then threw Mann-isms into the grinder. Friedkin went Popeye Doyle on the Mann-ish glibness. Though I sort of like MANHUNTER, it can't hold a candle to TLADILA. It's the difference between blood-and-sweat and men's cologne. Stories need to reek of sweat.

    Mann did sort of start out in 70s realist mode with JERICHO MILE but he became Mr. Slick soon after. Some people admire his vision as a paean to the cold zen of professionalism. But I prefer cinema as a live fish than as sushi. Mann's cold fish characters are all about control. They represent not so much a code as a manual. COLLATERAL was like a how-to-manual of professional killer. Cruise did a good job of going thru the instructions, but that's all they were.

    Also, Mann's characters tend to be untroubled. They believe they gotta do what they gotta do, and there's almost no inner conflict. That makes them so less interesting than a character of inner-contradiction like Harrison in BLADE RUNNER or the characters of Peckinpah films.
    Mann's characters are like Burt Reynolds in DELIVERANCE. But Dickey and Boorman fleshed out the tension between a man's sense of self and the ruthless power of reality. It's painful and disturbing to see a man so masterful be rendered so helpless and pathetic.
    But even death in Mann's films are sooooooo cool. No one really breaks a sweat. The ending of HEAT was like a GQ magazine's idea of the 'art of dying'. It was impressive but so bogus.
    Compare that to the ending of DOG DAY AFTERNOON.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEsZK8pvveU

    And nothing Mann has ever done has the emotional richness of CARLITO'S WAY.
    Mann isn't a romantic but a romechanic or romachninist.

    You’ve described perfectly what’s wrong with Michael Mann as a film maker.

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  104. @Dave Pinsen
    Yeah, I think the issue with Mann and Ali is that he had the typical liberal boomer reverence toward Ali as an African American icon. Tom Wolfe could write an irreverent biopic of Ali, but it would survive Hollywood as well as Bonfire did.

    I was just watching some of the video of the pre-”Thrilla in Manilla” jousting between Ali and Frazier. Ali has a real mean streak–he’s not that funny, lovable guy we remember. He called Frazier ignorant, slow-speaking, dumb, ugly, an Uncle Tom, and said he looked like a gorilla. He even held up a little gorilla toy and bopped it around. Frazier comes off as courteous and dignified and Ali as cruel and infantile.

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  105. @Jim Don Bob
    I like Keanu Reeves but John Wick was just dumb. He must have killed 80+ people.

    John Wick was just dumb. He must have killed 80+ people.

    He killed more Russian gangsters than there actually are in the Ne York area. In the sequel, are they goign to explain how they replenished the supply?

    It really wasa dumb movie from beginning to end, but I have to admit it held my attention even as I LOLed a few times, like at this:

    Viggo Tarasov: That fucking nobody is John Wick. He once was an associate of ours. They call him Baba Yaga. Well John wasn’t exactly the Boogeyman, he was the one you send to kill the fucking Boogeyman. John is a man of focus, commitment and sheer will, something you know very little about. I once saw him kill three men in a bar, with a pencil. With a fucking… pencil.

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  106. […] Uncle Steve looks at when crime does pay. […]

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