Martin Scorsese‘s brief discussion last night of New York, New York (“I tried, I tried”) reminds me of a January 2010 post called “Honest Failure,” to wit: “Very few people feel much affection for New York, New York. It has one terrific scene — i.e., when Robert De Niro is thrown out of a club that Liza Minelli is performing in, and he kicks out several light bulbs adorning the entrance way as he’s manhandled out by the manager and a bouncer — but otherwise I’ve never wanted to re-watch it on DVD.
“But I’ve always liked Pauline Kael‘s line about New York, New York being ‘an honest failure,’ and I’m wondering what other films could be so described?”
Films that didn’t sell many tickets, I mean, and perhaps were critically dumped on besides, but which had a certain unmistakable integrity and stuck to their guns and did what they did without any crapping around. Movies that gave it to you straight and clean.
Here’s my idea of an honest failure: Freddy Got Fingered. The script, at least, was really up to something. The movie captured about 75% or 80% of what was on the page, but the idea and the current were exceptional. I laughed out loud at portions of it, and I almost never do that.
We all run into films every so often that seem exceptional in a deep-down way. Not just in a particular-personal vein but smacking of some kind of profound life-lesson and/or greatness of theme that seems to reach out and strike a universal chord. Or they deliver an emotional connection that seems to reflect our commonality in some rich and resonant fashion. And yet — here’s the rub and the shock — much or most of the world doesn’t agree. Almost everyone you know and nearly every other critic seems bored, unmoved, mocking, snide.