We’re likely to agree on many of the most memorable car chase classics. But we’re just likely to disagree as to where they should rank.
That said, my number one pick will probably come as a surprise. My choice for the best car chase ever isn’t typically included in a discussion of the classics. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that my number one is the best car chase scene ever filmed.
Vincent MacKenna is the combustible cinematic fusion of every lovable slob Bill Murray has played over the past four decades.
Aged 60-plus years in life’s whiskey barrel, his latest film character has been fermented with bad breaks and hard living, ultimately reduced to the type of hopeless but helpless deadbeat you couldn’t stand to look at more than five seconds in real life, but also the intriguing human track wreck you can’t peel your eyes from while he’s self-destructing upon the big screen.
On the surface, there’s nothing we like let alone admire about this horrible man who lives alone in a lower-middle class neighborhood of Brooklyn, except for a pampered pet cat named Felix, who receives constant royal treatment. Vincent is repulsive. He’s loathsome. He hates people, and everyone hates him back.
He’s rude. He’s classless. He commits petty thefts. He frequently drinks to excess. He curses. He chain smokes. He gambles money he doesn’t have. He goes off to strip clubs. He regularly uses the services of a hooker. He doesn’t have a job nor any means of support. He owes money all over town. And, he appears to have not showed in months. All that’s missing are lines of cocaine, and Vincent would probably be doing that too, if he could afford it. Other than those shortcomings, he’s a real catch.
Desperate for money, Vincent agrees to watch a young boy after school who just moved into the house next door with his single mother, who is in the midst of a bitter divorce and custody dispute. Oliver, the undersized boy suddenly lacking a father figure, is played by to perfection by newcomer to the screen, Jaeden Lieberher. Just as solid in her role is stand-up comedian/actor Melissa McCarthy, this time in a far more serious role playing the sympathetic mother, who is every bit the equal of Murray when she’s onscreen. That’s no small feat to pull off, since this is Murray’s vehicle from start to finish, and he’s clearly in the driver’s seat. Murray’s performance seems a lock for a “Best Actor” nomination at next year’s Oscars.
Street-smart Vincent tutors Oliver on life’s practical necessities — like learning how to fistfight, making various types of exotic wagers at the racetrack, how to sit at a bar and order a straight bourbon, and let’s just say “other” hedonistic pursuits. Naturally, Vincent’s aloof attitude and self-centeredness combined with his scandalous personal habits become the movie’s focal point, pitting the weirdest babysitter in human history against everyone else in the film — from the mother to his bookie.
But along the way, we discover some things about Vincent we didn’t expect. Moreover, as this odd couple begin spending more time together — Vincent the moocher and Oliver the Catholic schoolboy — an emotional bond forms. Vincent teaches Oliver a few things. But in turn it’s really Vincent who needs this relationship more.
Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, everyone in the audience sees where “St. Vincent” is headed. It’s obvious about midway through the film. What starts off as a curmudgeon-centered comedy gradually evolves into a far more serious movie that’s heartwarming, and even emotionally stirring, at times. Some minor credibility lapses and predictability can be forgiven however, since the performances by everyone are so strong. We end up rooting for each character, who has very different needs, in their own way.
Without giving away too much of the plot or ending, when the credits roll at the conclusion of the film, Murray is seen sitting outside alone in his back yard, singing badly off-key to Bob Dylan’s acoustical classic “Shelter From the Storm.”
There’s a certain poignancy to this final moment. Watching Murray as Vincent light up yet another smoke, watering a dead plant starved from neglect becomes oddly mesmerizing. Dead plants need love, too. And there’s no deader soul in this movie than St. Vincent. Oblivious to anything that goes on outside of his chain-link fence, the closing scene seals our affection because it reveals something we don’t expect to find in a man so horribly flawed.
In 1964, the first segment of the highly-acclaimed “Up Series” was released in England.
Indisputably the most ambitious documentary project ever attempted, director Michael Apted filmed a dozen or so average people with vastly different backgrounds at various stages of their lives. Every seven years, he returned with his cameras, applying a cinematic stethoscope which examined what had happened since the previous intrusion. Call it a sort of voyeuristic check up.
The latest edition of the “Up Series” — called “56 Up” — was released last year (airing on PBS in the U.S.). It showed what remained of those dozen or so film subjects, all now at age 56. Some of those lives we saw and envied years earlier are now a mess. Others took time to blossom. One supposes the prevailing theme throughout of all this is — people change. My review of this extraordinary film series can be read here: “56 Up” — The Greatest Documentary Series of Our Time
Now, imagine a fictionalized film version of this same concept, applied to the childhood of a boy. That’s the basis of the equally ambitious new film “Boyhood,” which is receiving rave reviews and is now playing in theaters nationwide.
But first, let me tell you a bit more about the famous Hollywood actress and avid poker player who recently graced the green felt in the latest edition of Poker Night in America, filmed at Turning Stone Casino in Upstate New York.
The first thing about Jennifer that’s something of a surprise is learning she actually grew up in Canada. She’s been working in movies for more than 30 years. I remember seeing Jennifer on screen the very first time in a fun horse racing caper called Let It Ride, starring Richard Dreyfuss. Those who saw that movie will never forget that amazing red dress.
Writer’s Note: This is the latest press release from “Poker Night in America,” now appearing weekly on CBS Sports Network. I’ve also included some personal thoughts about the exciting activities taking place this coming weekend at Turning Stone Casino in Upstate New York.
Noted Film Critic Richard Roeper to Appear on “Poker Night in America”
Latest High-Stakes Cash Game Attracts All-Star Lineup to Turning Stone Casino in New York
One of America’s most-respected film critics will soon be taking a seat in front of the camera.