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JulyDiaz

Taxi Driver

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This week Paul & Amy cruise through 1976's terrifying character study Taxi Driver. They ask whether the film is anti-misogynist or simply misogynist, debate whether the ending is real or fake, and discover a surprising source of inspiration for another film on the AFI 100. Plus: actor and writer Curt Neill tells us about his experiences driving for Uber, and how it helped him empathize with Travis Bickle.

 

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Finding out Tarantino loves this movie is not a surprise at all. When I watched it again this week, the scene with Martin Scorsese cameo made me think this of Tarantino because it's a director giving himself a cameo so he can use racist language and fetishize misogynist violence.

Of the three Scorsese/De Niro movies, I'd definitely keep this on here. If I had to choose one to remove, I might remove Goodfellas.

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So just a few days ago, I saw this thing go around twitter:

DmOFVElXoAAdhwN.jpg

Taxi Driver is exactly this as well, looking to be about one thing, but actually the exact opposite, which is a really tough thing to pull off.  

It felt like a lot of Amy's criticism was due to the people behind it, or the fans who misinterpret it, and not the film itself.  The film itself, maybe it had misogynist origins, but the end result is a critique of this mindset.  Which totally saves it, imo.  That subversion makes this movie.  Without it?  Ugh.  Imagine if Cybil Shepherd wasn't some whipsmart political woman, and instead just some undefined stock female character?   

I do get where Amy is coming from though, I don't want to think this is so great or hold it out as a favorite, because of who the people are who put Bickle posters on their walls, or look at the concession lady and think she's a bitch for turning him down.  (It's similar to my feelings for the Grateful Dead haha - I like them but don't tell anybody.)

But in the end, I side with Paul that there's so much going on here, levels on levels on levels, that I think this is pretty great filmmaking.

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2 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

axi Driver is exactly this as well, looking to be about one thing, but actually the exact opposite, which is a really tough thing to pull off.  

It felt like a lot of Amy's criticism was due to the people behind it, or the fans who misinterpret it, and not the film itself.  The film itself, maybe it had misogynist origins, but the end result is a critique of this mindset.  Which totally saves it, imo.  That subversion makes this movie.  Without it?  Ugh.  Imagine if Cybil Shepherd wasn't some whipsmart political woman, and instead just some undefined stock female character?   

I do get where Amy is coming from though, I don't want to think this is so great or hold it out as a favorite, because of who the people are who put Bickle posters on their walls, or look at the concession lady and think she's a bitch for turning him down.  (It's similar to my feelings for the Grateful Dead haha - I like them but don't tell anybody.)

But in the end, I side with Paul that there's so much going on here, levels on levels on levels, that I think this is pretty great filmmaking.

I completely agree! Fans of these movies (and I would put Goodfellas in here as well) make the movies themselves unbearable. I hate mentioning that I love Taxi Driver or Fight Club to any dude if I don't already know them really well because I'm afraid of who that person might be and how they might misinterpret why it is I love these movies. David Fincher himself even said he would never let any man that said his favorite movie was Fight Club anywhere near his daughter lol.

But these are still excellent films, and Taxi Driver still blew my mind the first time I saw it.

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I loved the episode but their were a couple points that I would disagree with. In terms of Bickle possibly suffering from PTSD, I think it's very likely that he was in the military in some capacity. The war would have just been ending as this movie was filmed and Bickle, at 26, would have been the right age for service. Now, here's the tricky part - did he actually see action? I don't think so, but I do have a theory. In the scene where Bickle is doing push-ups, we see a nasty scar on his left shoulder blade. This is, as far as I remember, the only time we see his bare back and it is never commented upon. While this could just be a manifestation of self-flagellation, I think, like Charlie Sheen's character in Platoon, there's an argument to be made that maybe Bickle was a soldier that got injured right out of the gate and was sent home. It would definitely be a traumatic experience and might account for his insomnia. I can't understand why you would show that scar if it doesn't tell us something about Bickle.

I also strongly disagree with Amy and Paul in regard to why Bickle chooses the guns he does. Yes, they were guns used by fictional characters, but there is absolutely no indication that Bickle would even know or register this. Amy and Paul actually called Dirty Harry and James Bond Bickle's "heroes," but if the movie makes anything abundantly clear, it is that Bickle is completely pop culture blind. He doesn't know popular music or movies, he doesn't seem to read, and when he tries to watch television, he kicks it over. His lack of pop culture awareness is part of what fuels Bickle's disconnect.

However, I absolutely do believe that those are the guns being sold because of their pop culture relevance. I just think that connection would be completely lost on Bickle. 

 

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I Tweeted this out to them, but do you think it's a coincidence that Travis Bickle's initials are "TB?" I feel like the film is definitely making a case that Bickle is the actual disease plaguing the city.

 

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3 hours ago, taylorannephoto said:

I completely agree! Fans of these movies (and I would put Goodfellas in here as well) make the movies themselves unbearable. I hate mentioning that I love Taxi Driver or Fight Club to any dude if I don't already know them really well because I'm afraid of who that person might be and how they might misinterpret why it is I love these movies. David Fincher himself even said he would never let any man that said his favorite movie was Fight Club anywhere near his daughter lol.

But these are still excellent films, and Taxi Driver still blew my mind the first time I saw it.

This so much. I don't know what to do with bros who so aggressively misinterpret these movies. Some people have the impulse to blame the filmmakers for making a movie that so many people didn't "get," but on the other hand I have little doubt that if they made a movie that aggressively celebrates the positive experiences of women or non-white people, those same bros wouldn't see the value in that either. Some people only see what they want to see -- just like Travis Bickle.

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I haven't listened to the whole ep yet, so I'm sure I'll have more thoughts later (and maybe they mentioned it?), but I've just got to say that by the end of this one, I couldn't stop wondering if Taxi Driver is what inspired John Hinkley, Jr., and why he thought trying to shoot Reagan would get Jodie Foster's attention. 

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36 minutes ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

I haven't listened to the whole ep yet, so I'm sure I'll have more thoughts later (and maybe they mentioned it?), but I've just got to say that by the end of this one, I couldn't stop wondering if Taxi Driver is what inspired John Hinkley, Jr., and why he thought trying to shoot Reagan would get Jodie Foster's attention. 

If I'm not mistaken, yes this movie did inspire him

update: looked it up.  Hinckley's lawyers actually brought up Taxi Driver in court

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Lots of deserved praise for how good the performances and musical score are (boy are they). I'd also like to highlight the brilliance of the editing, by the great Marcia Lucas.

This will also come up with Star Wars, as she was George Lucas' wife at the time and basically saved that movie in the editing room, but I also took note of what she did on Taxi Driver. The editing is pretty astonishing. The movie keeps "bleeding" scenes into each other, playing dialogue from the previous scene while the new one starts visually, layering images on top of each other, to really put you in Travis' headspace at all times. This approach also makes it feel propulsive, like it's always hurtling forward to the inevitable climax, even when it seems like nothing is really "happening." It's pretty brilliant.

I'm sure a lot of this is Scorsese too (his other movies also feature interesting editing choices), but given what you can find about Marcia I bet she had a lot of influence here too. Seems like she had a huge influence on that whole New Hollywood generation: Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola.

http://fd.noneinc.com/secrethistoryofstarwarscom/secrethistoryofstarwars.com/marcialucas.html

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Why am I not surprised that RC Cola is the drink of choice of skeevy, 1970's porn theaters?

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8 minutes ago, CameronH said:

Why am I not surprised that RC Cola is the drink of choice of skeevy, 1970's porn theaters?

At my high school there was one vending machine that had RC Cola. I used to buy it because I kind of felt bad for the brand.

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Amy mentioned that Scorsese seemed to make a lot of movies in the "same" mold, but IMO that's only true if you look at his movies that have become the most famous. Those are usually violent movies, often involving gangsters (or at least loud Italian Americans). But if you go into the "deep cuts," his career is more varied than he gets credit for:

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
The Last Waltz 
New York, New York 
The King of Comedy
After Hours 
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Age of Innocence
Kundun
The Aviator
Hugo 
Silence

Seems like a lot of different stuff tackled there: small character studies, a concert film, movies about religion, a musical, a television satire, period costume dramas, a tribute to classic silent cinema. He's not always doing the same thing.

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1 hour ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

At my high school there was one vending machine that had RC Cola. I used to buy it because I kind of felt bad for the brand.

My old job used to take me down to Columbus, GA from time to time and I’ve been by the RC Cola plant. It’s a sad little building. Royal Crown is the Travis Bickle of colas.

Incidentally, with the same job, I actually got to go *in* to the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Atlanta. That place is impressive. Super clean. Coca-Cola is the Don Lockwood of sodas.

Now ask me who Dr. Pepper is... ;)

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I'm impressed that only three of the callers (that they played, anyway) used the popular 2013 joke format of saying that something smells like [actual thing that smells] and [negative concept].

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2 hours ago, CameronH said:

My old job used to take me down to Columbus, GA from time to time and I’ve been by the RC Cola plant. It’s a sad little building. Royal Crown is the Travis Bickle of colas.

Incidentally, with the same job, I actually got to go *in* to the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Atlanta. That place is impressive. Super clean. Coca-Cola is the Don Lockwood of sodas.

Now ask me who Dr. Pepper is... ;)

Who is Dr Pepper?

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4 minutes ago, Cam Bert said:

Who is Dr Pepper?

Eve.

Harrington.

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10 minutes ago, CameronH said:

Eve.

Harrington.

Mind blown.

Now who is 7 Up the uncola?

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8 minutes ago, Cam Bert said:

Mind blown.

Now who is 7 Up the uncola?

The poster of Rita Hayworth in Shawshank.

Are we going to do Crystal Clear Pepsi?

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23 minutes ago, CameronH said:

The poster of Rita Hayworth in Shawshank.

Are we going to do Crystal Clear Pepsi?

Yes. I feel like we owe it to Paul and his Human Giant days.

Walter Neft for some reason gives me Crystal Pepsi vibes

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41 minutes ago, CameronH said:

The poster of Rita Hayworth in Shawshank.

Are we going to do Crystal Clear Pepsi?

So long as regular Pepsi is Joan Crawford, we're all good.

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14 minutes ago, Cam Bert said:

 

Walter Neft for some reason gives me Crystal Pepsi vibes

tumblr_mwy1hzyg7H1s5e8b9o6_250.gif

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15 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

It felt like a lot of Amy's criticism was due to the people behind it, or the fans who misinterpret it, and not the film itself.  The film itself, maybe it had misogynist origins, but the end result is a critique of this mindset.  Which totally saves it, imo.  That subversion makes this movie.  Without it?  Ugh.

I have to confess that I don't get the praise heaped upon Taxi Driver at all. It's a story about an isolated and psychologically unwell man who, in his alienation, becomes increasingly angry about his lot in life/the perceived failings of women and minorities/the state of the world until he concludes that the only way he can make his mark and right society's wrongs is through violence. And (overlooking Paul's alternate interpretation of the ending) Bickle is ultimately vindicated: he murders a bunch of "filth" to "rescue" an innocent, is hailed as a hero in the press, and even gains the grudging respect of the woman who once rejected him. Viewed for the first time in 2018, it reads more like Elliot Rodger apologia than a critique of misogyny.

What am I missing? I am genuinely perplexed.

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