Why is there always a casino scene in gangster movies?

There are lots of elements which are common to virtually all gangster movies – including guns, violence, bonding and rivalry, but most of the also seem to feature a scene set in a casino at some point. One of the reasons why this is the case is that so many of the gangster films are set in Las Vegas – including Casino by Martin Scorsese and the Bugsy Siegel biopic starring Warren Beatty. Gangsters and organised crime are central to the story of Las Vegas, and therefore of casino gambling, making the two a natural fit in movie terms.

It should be remembered that Siegel actually created Las Vegas, thus the mob ties to the resort – although now purely historical – are extremely strong, and this naturally makes an interesting subject for filmmakers. Realistically you can’t have a film in Las Vegas which doesn’t feature at least one casino scene, but even those which don’t take place in Sin City usually have one. Again the reason for this is partly because in other cities gangsters have often competed over running the casino gambling industry – while of course casinos also provide a glamorous and exciting backdrop, as well as a metaphor for the risk involved in crime. Part of the enduring popularity of casino gambling is that it provides the law abiding amongst us with a taste of that risk.

It was widely predicted at one point that the rising success of online casinos would lead to the death of land-based ones, but in fact the two coexist very comfortably. After all both allow for classic games such as roulette. However in terms of movies, the land based casino is always going to be king, with the great casinos in cities like Vegas still having that Hollywood magic.

  

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Turner Classic Film Fest: A history of violence

I know, pretty dark headline for  a post about a really fun, glamor heavy film fest. All the more so because, at least for me, TCM  Fest is the kind of event that  can put you in a kind of steel bubble which the daily news can barely pierce. If another Cuban Missile Crisis happened during Comic-Con, what would happen? Maybe if it ended differently this time.

Indeed, even a momentous event  like the death of Osama Bin Laden could just barely penetrate TCM’s  mix of Hollywood fantasy and scholarship. For me, the news first came as I overheard another filmgoer during an intermission of “West Side Story,” which I had popped in on just to see how good the 70mm print was, say to another. “No, he’s really dead.” I figured it was another classic film star gone forever. George Chakiris, who played Sharks leader Bernardo, had introduced the screening, but how were Jets Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn doing?

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Red Carpet Chatter: Mike Nichols Gets His AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

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Born in 1931 in what was very soon to become Hitler’s Germany, young Michael Peschkowsky was living in Manhattan by 1939. It was great luck both for the future Mike Nichols and for the country that accepted him.

Nichols is, of course, one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, and for good reason. He’s the original, craftsmanlike, and emotionally astute directorial voice responsible for such sixties and seventies classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,”  “Carnal Knowledge” and, of course, “The Graduate” (the source of his only directorial Oscar so far) as well as such eighties, nineties, and oughts successes as “Silkwood,” “Working Girl,” “The Birdcage,” and “Closer.” Even if some of the later films are not on the same level of quality as his earlier films — and several, especially his 1988 box office hit, “Working Girl,” stray into mediocrity — it’s still one of the most impressive and diverse careers of any living director in Hollywood.

That’s just on the big screen. On television, Nichols has rebounded in the eyes of many critics, directing two of the most acclaimed television productions of the last decade, 2001’s “Wit” with Emma Thompson, and the outstanding 2005 miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner’s brilliant and mammoth epic play, “Angels in America.” With his 80th birthday just a year and a half away, he’s still working hard with two thrillers movies planned, including an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low” currently being rewritten by the decidedly counter-intuitive choice of Chris Rock.

Before he directed his first foot of film, Mike Nichols was a noted theater director. That in itself is not so unusual a root for directors to travel. What is different is that, before he was a noted theater director, he was half of one of the most influential comedy teams in show business history, Nichols and May. (His comedy partner, Elaine May, went on to become an important, if less commercially successful, writer and director in her own right.)

Still, from the moment he directed his first major play, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” Nichols mostly abandoned performing. Today, his highly regarded early work is mostly known only to fairly hardcore comedy aficionados.

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“I ain’t much of a lover boy.”

Vice-obsessed film writer Peter Biskind, best known for the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock ‘N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, has a new biography coming out of Warren Beatty.  The most interesting thing to me about Beatty is how an actor who could have easily done just fine on his good looks,  charisma, and acting ability also became one of the most important filmmakers of the later 20th century. But that’s me and I’m weird.

True to form for Biskind, he has grabbed headlines with an estimate that Beatty, who in his prime was definitely noted for being one of the world’s most avid heterosexuals, might have slept with as many as 12,775 women, a number inflated to “almost 13,000” by caption writers. This was all presumably between losing his virginity at 20 in 1957 (kind of late for a future mega-multi-stud, even in the fifties) and settling down with Annette Bening to start a family in the early nineties.

Now, if we simply multiply 365 days by 33 years, the number we get is 12,045. That means that Beatty would have had to sleep with at least an average of a different woman every day, plus add in a good number of various menages or multi-partner days while also managing to help redefine Hollywood movies during the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Not impossible, I suppose but a guy’s gotta sleep and work and eat and stuff.

Naturally, the Beatty camp has shot back and everyone has clarified that, while  Beatty allowed himself to be interviewed by Biskind, the book it is in no way an authorized biography, as some outlets had wrongly stated.

Anne Thompson writes that “Beatty works in mysterious ways.” Absolutely. Anyone who’s seen one of his Barbara Walters interviews can see that the extremely intelligent Beatty is a remarkably cagey fellow in dealing with the gossip-loving press and, based on his reputation, it’s easy to assume that Beatty did sleep with a number of women most of us would regard as enormous, even if this particularly number seems a bit absurd. This, my friends, is not news. Absent moral qualms and given the ability to easily bed innumerable beauties, so, perhaps, would most of us males.

But, what’s really interesting to me is that Beatty’s career-defining role which presumably upped his already massive sexual stock into the stratosphere, was playing a guy who loved exactly one woman and couldn’t even make love to her — not physically, anyhow.  That’s how it works sometimes.

  

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A buncha movie stuff….

When in doubt, lead with Disney, even if you’re not sure what the story actually means….

* Mark Zoradi, the Big D’s head of worldwide marketing and distribution for movies, is stepping down. This surely has something to do with the arrival of Rich Ross and the departure of Dick Cook some weeks back.

* As per Company Town, Lions Gate is doing better right now from TV than movies. Could “Mad Men” have been their biggest money maker the last quarter? I’d like to think so.

* Self-appointed protector of Catholicism from the scourge of Hollywood Bill Donoghue has found a new source of “anti-Catholic bigotry” (i.e., not conforming 100% to his highly particular and extremely reactionary view of how all things Catholic should be treated in the media): “2012.” Chris Kelly at the Huffington Post mocks accordingly and appropriately.

Here’s a fascinating quote from idiot boy Donoghue on his life’s work:

Every time I say Hollywood hates Christianity, especially Catholicism, my critics cringe. But they never offer evidence that I’m wrong.

I’m not cringing and I’ve got evidence. Skipping around the decades and off the top of the my head: “Going My Way,” “The Bells of Saint Mary’s,” “Cabin in the Sky,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Lilies of the Field,” “The Trouble with Angels,” “Dead Man Walking,” “The Sound of Music,” “Sister Act,” “Signs,” “Gran Torino,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Brideshead Revisited,” “City of Angels,” “The Apostle,” “Tender Mercies,” “Ben Hur,” “Shadowlands,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “The Shoes of the Fishermen,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “King of Kings,” “The Exorcist,” (who saves the day there?) and on and an on and on. In fact, it’s much easier to find a pro-Christian or Catholic Hollywood film than to find one that even features an openly Jewish, Islamic, or, heaven forfend, openly atheist or agnostic, character. Even the movies Donoghue attacks, like “Dogma” or “Saved” or most especially “The Last Temptation of Christ” are actually highly pro-Christian films, though espousing a more liberal version of the religion than he personally cares for. If there is a bigger idiot on this planet than Donoghue, I doubt he has the brain function enough to breathe. Every time the guy opens his mouth, he makes a new atheist.

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