CATCHING UP #2.2 – “Scarface”

Catching Up Season 2 Number 2: Scarface

WHY AM I WATCHING SCARFACE?

Go to Facebook. Go to the profile of one of your friends in college, or someone who has pictures of their time in college. Find something set in a dorm room. Look at the walls.

Nine times out of ten, you will see one of two (or both) posters: Bob Marley and “Scarface”. Somehow, most college kids feel that these two things speak to their character, their attitude, and these wall ornaments say quite a bit, although I’m sure it’s all things their owners don’t believe about themselves.

I was not one of those kids.

My dorm posters were Jim Morrison of the Doors (a five-foot tall poster purchased at a church yardsale for 25¢) and Ziggy Stardust (pulled from a pile of “Scarface” and Bob Marley posters at a campus vendor).

Had I seen Scarface by that point I…well, no, I wouldn’t have bought the poster, but the point is, I still haven’t seen that movie.

The oft-quoted “Say hello to my leetle friend!” has popped up at various points in my life. It’s origin was a complete mystery to me up until I saw some pointless time-filler countdown on some cable network that produces pointless time-filler countdowns. Al Pacino. Machine gun. Cocaine everywhere. And the line. Until then, my only lead as to the origin was a movie trailer I saw as a kid. I don’t remember the movie I was seeing or the movie the trailer was promoting.

It opened at a funeral. There were brief glances of some of the stars. Then, a shot of a man I later came to know as the Father Guido Sarducci* looks at someone off-camera and says, “Say hello to my little friend”. The camera pans down the front of his vestments, only for a midget in matching vestments to pop out.**

With a machine gun.

I was somewhere between six and twelve at the time, and it made absolute sense that this line originated from a priest talking about a midget hiding in his robes. His little friend. Who had a machine gun.

So now, finally, after all these years, I finally get the context for that scene. It’s about time.

*Check YouTube. You’ll know who it is. He pops up more than the Impossible Man. Although, after digging around IMDB, I can’t seem to find the movie. Maybe it was some knockoff?

**…got your Catholic priest pedophile jokes out of your system? Good. Let’s move on.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS

This synopsis is based on whatever limited knowledge I have going into the movie. I did not look up anything on the Internets.

It’s the story of Al Capone. Except he’s from Cuba. And it’s the eighties. Totally the same thing.

AFTER THE FACT

This movie is goddamn horrifying for so many different reasons.

First, the title sequence. The 80s synthesizer music over top of scrolling white text felt very much like a nineties arcade game. Part of me hoped for a mecha Castro, ala the weird Nazi spaceships in arcade classic “1946”. Alas, we were treated stock footage of the Cuban immigrants in Florida intercut with title cards set to to more bad synth music.

Then there’s Al Pachino’s dead gaze. I…don’t have the words to properly articulate how frightening it truly is. It’s slightly akin to the pulled promotional poster for “Yogi Bear”.

Now imagine REAL bears with that look. And they’re ten feet away from you.

Yes. That’s how Tony Montana’s gaze affected me.

I think the most frightening part of “Scarface”, however, is Michelle Pfeiffer. In the first half of the movie she looks fragile, like an egg the second before it hits the floor. The second half? She’s all over that goddamn floor. The shots of her at her vanity inhaling cocaine with the dark circles under her eyes, in some ways, disturbed me more than some of the ultraviolence in the film. Regardless of whether or not it was acting and makeup or subconscious scarring brought about by Catwoman in “Batman Returns” frightening the shit out of me as a kid, I think…I think I want to sleep with the lights on now.

Overall, I don’t think this movie holds up as well as everyone thinks it does. Mostly due to the music and the 1980s sheen to everything, it’s incredibly dated.

This doesn’t necessarily mean I hated the movie; I actually really enjoyed it, albeit mostly from a technical standpoint. It’s a very well-written story courtesy of Oliver Stone. The cinematography was also worth noting. I know I’ve mentioned it in columns past, but I’ve got a nerd boner for old-school camera work. All this shaky camera nonsense that attempts to capture the “real” and “gritty” winds up pulling me out of anything I’m watching. Good cinematography utilizes the film medium to guide the viewer’s eye, not make them want to vomit.

Jesus, why did I watch “Scarface” right before bed?

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