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Tootsie  

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  1. 1. Should Tootsie be on the list?

    • Yes, but her name is ‘D-O-R-T-H-Y!’
      3
    • No, zap it in the ‘badubies.’
      15

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  • Poll closed on 05/10/19 at 07:00 AM

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Amy and Paul suit up for 1982’s gender-bending Dustin Hoffman comedy Tootsie! They ask whether Michael is really a great actor, praise Bill Murray’s scene-stealing performance, and compare the film to last year’s Best Picture winner. Plus: drag comedian Roz Drezfalez (“Ghosted” podcast) tells us why he loved Tootsie as a kid.

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I totally agree with them about Tootsie. It's totally screwed up my personal AFI ranking. I definitely don't think it belongs for the reasons they stated (i.e. pretty typical 80's comedy), but I probably enjoyed it more than some of the movies I think should absolutely be on the list. It kind of falls in with that category of films that I personally enjoy, but recognize aren't necessarily "the best" movies ever.  So while I think I'd be more likely to rewatch Tootsie over, say,  Taxi Driver, I feel like Taxi Driver deserves to be on the list more.   

Also, as I said in my Letterboxd review, for thematic similarities, I prefer 9 to 5 (w/ Dabney Coleman). As far as any other movie I might choice to replace it? I have no idea where to start. Just mentioned on the show, I would take League of Their Own, Roger Rabbit, and Back to the Future over Tootsie. Movies with Bill Murray? Groundhog Day. Movies with Teri Garr? Young Frankenstein. Hoffman's doing fine with The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy. He doesn't need anymore. Jessica Lange? Big Fish. Charles Durning? Dog Day Afternoon, The Sting, The Muppet Movie...

I mean, there are just so many other options. 

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Y'all know what I'm about to say... I'm still behind... Haven't even listened to Chinatown yet......

ANYWAY

I have seen this movie and I liked it but I definitely didn't love it, and I'm wondering if it's because when I saw it for the first time it was already too much in the modern era (but before we found out that Dustin is maybe not the greatest of dudes...) so I wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I maybe would have 20 or more years ago. However, I looove that they got Roz for the guest this week because I do think that a drag queen would be able to pinpoint their own interest in drag to movies like Tootsie. I even remember hearing a trans woman say that seeing something like Mrs. Doubtfire put it into her brain that dressing like a woman was actually possible, even if the character himself doesn't identify as a woman.

But I would even maybe argue that in terms of men dressing like women in a comedic movie there are better examples out there than Tootsie maybe, or at least ones I find more watchable. Cause unlike Cameron, I would say I am way more likely to rewatch Taxi Driver than Tootsie. In terms of just straight comedy movies I too would rather see Young Frankenstein on this list. That's still one of my favorite movies of all time and I think it's a movie that also still holds the fuck up. Also would absolutely +1 Groundhog Day's addition as well.

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Julie: I miss Dorothy. 

Michael Dorsey: You don't have to. She's right here. And she misses you. Look, you don't know me from Adam. But I was a better man with you, as a woman... than I ever was with a woman, as a man. You know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress. At this point, there might be an advantage to my wearing pants. The hard part's over, you know? We were already... good friends.

 One thing I really did appreciate about Tootsie was how the movie doesn’t pretend Michael is perfect at the end. I think most movies would have just had him learn his lesson and tell us that he’s been completely changed by his experience. I find Michael’s admission that he still has more to learn to be refreshing. It implies that progress often comes in degrees and not through sweeping, miraculous change. As long as we’re always moving forward, even if it doesn’t always feel like we’re getting very far, we’re still doing okay.

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I would vote this one off in a second. I saw this in the theaters in 1982, and there wasn't the ubiquitous love for the movie that night and I think the movie has only withered as the years have gone by. Michael Dorsey is not a sympathetic character and I just don't find Dorothy that funny. I find Bill Murray funny in any movie he's in, he's just in a different movie.  Dabney Coleman has always given me the creeps. Charles Durning is spectacular though. 

I'd rather see GARP, 48 HOURS or  FAST TIMES  on this list instead of this one. And those are just the 1982 comedies. There are far worthier ones. 

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Kind of a tough choice for me. This truly is one of my favorite comedies of all time. I think the fact that a lot of its themes & plot points don't hold up as enlightened as they originally hoped to me makes it a far more interesting watch now because of it. Incidentally, I recently saw the Broadway musical adaptation of TOOTSIE and it only made me appreciate the movie more. The musical tries to simultaneously pay tribute to some of the classic scenes and characters from the film, while updating them for our modern age. A great effort is made to make the characters more likable, but it ends up undermining the characters and making them far less interesting. Michael no longer sleeps with Sandy, but she does seem to play it like they're in a romantic relationship that he ignores her in. Sandy (who is played very well by Sarah Stiles, but almost completely wasted in the role and only getting to reprise her only song twice in the show) ends up falling in love with Jeff, which seems to be a desperate move to have two characters end up together at the end of the show.

The Julie character is no longer in a relationship with the Dabney Coleman character, but rather flat out rejects his advances, which yes, makes her initially stronger as a woman, but it robs her of the growth that Lange goes through in the film and because of observing Dorothy, waking up to not how bad a guy Coleman is, but to her own self worth. I think what I like about the movie is that the characters are imperfect (at best), and in the case of Michael, he's a pretty horrible guy. The triumph at the end of the film is that he's become a little bit better and is able to empathize with women a bit more, but I don't believe that he and Julie end up together. I think their walk away at the end is a portrait of two friends, and Michael has kind of cursed himself that they can never be more than that because of his lies. But that is probably all he deserves and it's happy ending enough. The musical also transplants the setting from the world of poorly written but financially stable world of television soaps to the world of Broadway musicals, which provides a lot of little in jokes geared towards the Broadway audience and almost no one else, but also makes Michael's motivations a lot more muddled. It's hard to imagine Michael, who remains a pretentiously serious actor, wanting to be part of what is perceived in the play to be a horrible Broadway musical. His big gender reveal take place on opening night rather than near the end of a successful run in the role, which means he's never able to actually achieve the kind of fame and pop culture relevance that Dorothy does in the movie because most audiences have yet to discover him. The only ones who keep telling him how brilliant he is are a small handful of actors and producers associated with the play he's in. It just doesn't work.

But more than anything, I think comedy is so underrepresented on the list. There are so many great comedies that should be on the list that aren't, that I would happily replace for this, but I also am reticent to voting off one comedy with no guarantee that more would be put in its place. So I can concede to those who think that this film isn't as relevant or funny as it once was considered to be. I love this movie, but there's better comedies to have on the list. Certainly funnier ones (THE IN-LAWS deserves some love), but TOOTSIE has had a pretty lasting cultural impact, for better or worse.

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One thing I've been thinking about lately and really noticing is the sort of cinematic language that these films use. It's why I defended Chinatown in the face of a general indifference: I think it really has its own language in how it tells its story. 

Paul kept saying Tootsie was more than just Bosom Buddies, and that's sort of true in some regard: but also not so much. Take all the actions of the story: now he has to take care of a baby, oh now he is in some vaguely homophobic misunderstanding because a man is in love with him (his love interest's dad no less!), etc. These plot points are not any different than what you'd see on Bosom Buddies. So even if they're making a valid statement, or being funny!, it's just not done in a quality way with any sort of originality or creativity.

Oh and how about the numerous music montages? Great films don't get to use that shortcut so many times in one movie. By my count, there were five. That's ridiculous.

All the decisions they made to tell this story are not at all elevated from any old '80s drag comedy, even if maybe the acting is better. There's just not enough here for me to think it should be a classic to any level, and I'm totally baffled that it is.

I have it last on my list of the 47 movies we've seen. I may enjoy it a little more than some of the others down near the bottom, but that's not all we're looking at here. I can sort of accept the pioneering nature of it, but even there, I'm not sure it's enough. One thing I think would improve this is though Hoffman's character dresses as a woman, he never truly identifies as one, so the perspective offered seems very narrow to me. 

I think what Bill Murray said about Hoffman and Pollack was illuminating: they had no idea what they were making. They should have let Bill direct it and turn it into what he was seeing could be.

 

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1 hour ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Paul kept saying Tootsie was more than just Bosom Buddies, and that's sort of true in some regard: but also not so much. Take all the actions of the story: now he has to take care of a baby, oh now he is in some vaguely homophobic misunderstanding because a man is in love with him (his love interest's dad no less!), etc. These plot points are not any different than what you'd see on Bosom Buddies. So even if they're making a valid statement, or being funny!, it's just not done in a quality way with any sort of originality or creativity.

I'm not a fan of this movie, but I think you're pushing aside Paul's point in his comparison to Bosom Buddies: not that the plot points were vastly more refined, but that the laughs are directed in different places.  While I'll concede that the baby scene is just a useless shitty scene, I'll pushback a bit on the Les plotline.  I don't think it was at all played for a homophobic laugh.  It's barely played for a laugh at all, as the overriding emotion is pity for Les for struggling to get over his wife only to misplace his affection with someone who can't return it.  If there is any laugh at all, it's over the awkwardness of the situation formed by the love triangle, not the fact that it's two dudes.  The only moment where I was fearful of some homophobia was when George Gaynes kissed Dorothy on set, but his reaction was not a grossed-out one, played for cheap laughs.  He was indignant in a similar way as a woman would be in the same situation.  And to Paul's larger point, the fact that Dorothy is a man in drag is never the punchline.  I'm not saying this makes Tootsie a good movie, because I don't think it is, but I do think it elevates it over many (perhaps not all) drag comedies.  As I alluded to in my Letterboxd review, the biggest compliment I can give it is that it is charming enough to make me overlook almost all the problematic aspects in the moment, but the treatment of the drag is never one of those problematic aspects in my opinion.

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3 minutes ago, bleary said:

 think you're pushing aside Paul's point in his comparison to Bosom Buddies: not that the plot points were vastly more refined, but that the laughs are directed in different places.  

No I get it, and that's true. The point to me though isn't "is this funny enough?", it's "is it quality enough?" It's definitely sharper comedy than Bosom Buddies. It doesn't necessarily do anything better to get its points across though, except having a bunch of actors act as if it were a drama I guess. (That's the part I like about this.) Though looking at this through a lens of film genres, it's using screwball comedy situations, but I dunno, I still question these plot points as not being the best choices they could have made.

I definitely agree that it's good that his drag-ness isn't a punchline, but like Roz said on the pod, he's in drag for the purpose of work/conniving a job/stealing a role from a real woman; not a lifestyle choice. I find that limits its effectiveness.

Yea maybe Les is just more an awkward thing. But still, the end result is 'omg he actually fell for a guy' and whether that's for laughs or pity, it's still there. Also when Les finds out, his first reaction is to want to punch him. Doesn't he say something like "you're only alive because we never kissed"?

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19 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Doesn't he say something like "you're only alive because we never kissed"

Yes he does and I had a real problem with that! It annoyed me that the movie was constantly telling us, “OMG guys! Women are human too! Who’d a thunk? ...But not homosexuals. That’s too far” The threat of violence - even as a joke - is certainly a far cry from Some Like it Hot’s “Well nobody’s perfect.”

Yeah, I think I’m going to have to drop it on my list. As I said before, I’m wrestling with the light, frothy, 80’s-comedy watchability of the movie. It’s the first time I’ve really questioned what my personal AFI list is trying to do. Am I ranking the movies on personal enjoyment or overall worthiness? Up until Tootsie, for me anyway, they were pretty much one in the same, but now I have to rethink it (and maybe some other films)

ETA: Tootsie just took a massive tumble on my list. Not quite last, but close.

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I saw this movie once and I was really surprised at its reputation. Maybe it was from having seen too many notable clips before saying it proper but I'm pretty sure I didn't laugh once when I saw it.

It's kind of technically fine with good performances and maybe it felt really fresh in 1982. I can maybe appreciate it on that level but, as everyone here has said, there are a bunch of better movies that are similar to this. So, even if you need an 80s comedy, or a Bill Murray movie, or a Geena Davis movie, or a Dustin Hoffman movie, or a Sydney Pollack movie, or kind of any movie with any ties to Tootsie, there is a better example somewhere. I wouldn't say I hated this but I definitely don't need/want it on the list.

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9 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Doesn't he say something like "you're only alive because we never kissed"?

Oof, yeah, forgot about that.  Point taken.

It's interesting that I mostly glossed over that homophobia, but I was way less forgiving of the way Sandy was treated.  I understand why Michael wouldn't want to tell her that he tried out for the same part as her as Dorothy, but if he's such a brilliant improvisational actor (as he proves time and time again as Dorothy), why can't he riff a better explanation for why his clothes are off other than that he wants to bang her?  For one thing, why is stripping in your good friend's room while she's in the shower an acceptable way to handle romantic feelings?  For another thing, if they're actually friends who have known each other for 6 years, is Sandy really going to fly off the handle if you tell her you were wondering if her clothes would fit you?  It's neither logical nor funny that they present fucking her as the path of least resistance.

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2 hours ago, bleary said:

I understand why Michael wouldn't want to tell her that he tried out for the same part as her as Dorothy, but if he's such a brilliant improvisational actor (as he proves time and time again as Dorothy), why can't he riff a better explanation for why his clothes are off other than that he wants to bang her? 

Oh my God, the thing that bothered me was the “soap in my eyes” excuse. I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a runner or if it was just lazy writing. Either way, it wasn’t funny enough to be used more than once.

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Another aspect of Tootsie that fails for me is its resolution - or its lack thereof. The movie ends with Michael trying to make up with Julie, but pretty much ignores or glosses over all the other lingering plot threads. In doing so, at literally the last minute, the movie seems to want to shift its focus on their relationship, making that the central theme of the movie, rather than what seemed to be its central focus from the beginning. Namely, watching a chauvinistic man grow as a person after experiencing the challenges of being a woman firsthand. If the whole point of the movie had just been about them getting together, then I would expect the movie to start with that being the goal. For example, it could have started with him watching the generic Hospital Soap and admiring Julie from afar, and then taking on the role of Dorothy specifically to get closer to her. Granted, this doesn't make Michael a very likable guy (not that he is anyway), but it makes for a clear narrative thread. (I like this person > I'll do what it takes to be close to this person > through my misdeeds, I inadvertently learn a valuable lesson that makes me a better person > being a better person makes me worthy of the person of my affection) Before Michael meets Julie, love doesn't even seem to be something that's his radar one way or another. For example, there's not a scene with Jeff or somebody telling him he needs to settle down and him saying, "Acting is my passion. I don't have time for a relationship." There's just nothing. I'm not saying that it can't be a part of the narrative, but it's a really strange decision to think that after everything else that has happened over the course of the movie, that's the thing they felt needed the most closure.   

Honestly, what I think what might have improved Tootsie is if he had been exposed as Dorothy earlier in the film. We needed to see the fallout beyond, "the person I'm attracted to hates me now." How do all the women who looked up to "Dorothy" as a role model feel? She was popular because she seemed to be "just like them." An inspiration for millions has turned out to be a fraud, how does that play out? How does the soap opera handle the situation? Do they keep Michael on or is he fired? Is he sued? Do people protest Jeff's play? Is it more successful then it might have been because it stars the man who pretended to be "Dorothy?" And most of all, how does Michael's experience as "Dorothy" help him navigate the fallout? What has he really learned?  

  

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The structure of this movie is baffling. "Tootsie" appears out of nowhere, there is no setup at all. And what happens with Sandy? She is cast aside for Julie at the end.

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On 5/3/2019 at 12:15 AM, grudlian. said:

It's kind of technically fine with good performances

I haven't listened to the episode yet, but all I could think of was in the All the President's Men and the part about the director complaining about Hoffman over-acting.  As Michael, Hoffman is fine, but as Dorothy, all I could think was he's going full-on Chickenlady with his mannerisms and tics.

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As a movie, my thoughts were, "it was alright, I guess.  Some funny lines here and there.  It felt like it was setting up some topic to be re-examined later (namely Sandy), which, well, it didn't." Which doesn't really stick out in my mind as great.

This was a movie that I think I was only vaguely aware of its existence (didn't even know the basic premise) prior to the Criterion release.  And when it did, I was like, "huh.  I didn't realize/think there was anything that really set this 80's comedy apart any other movie of that era.  It doesn't feel like I hear it get referenced that much."  After watching it, I'm still feeling the same way.  Not entirely sure what put it on Criterion's radar.  Maybe Sydney Pollack being the director?

I guess I'm just not getting the strong appeal of this one.

Just checked, weirdly, Kenneth Brannaugh really likes it.

https://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/sightandsoundpoll2012/voter/1020

 

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On 5/4/2019 at 11:08 AM, Cameron H. said:

Before Michael meets Julie, love doesn't even seem to be something that's his radar one way or another. For example, there's not a scene with Jeff or somebody telling him he needs to settle down and him saying, "Acting is my passion. I don't have time for a relationship." There's just nothing. I'm not saying that it can't be a part of the narrative, but it's a really strange decision to think that after everything else that has happened over the course of the movie, that's the thing they felt needed the most closure.   

He's chasing after a number of women at his birthday party (the point of the film, somewhat aggressively).  I think the journey isn't supposed to be love, but rather the ability to empathize from her perspective and not just an object of desire or an abstract notion of love without a real concept of what's inside.

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17 minutes ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

He's chasing after a number of women at his birthday party (the point of the film, somewhat aggressively).  I think the journey isn't supposed to be love, but rather the ability to empathize from her perspective and not just an object of desire or an abstract notion of love without a real concept of what's inside.

I suppose so, but I still think that message could have been made more apparent. Even on the episode, Paul and Amy has to pause for a moment to confirm, “Oh yeah, he was kind of a dick at the party.” That’s really the only scene where he behaves that way toward women, so if we want to make that “the point” then it needed to have been better woven into the picture.

And I still think the that “ability to empathize” would have been more interesting, and more appropriately directed, with him having to confront Dorothy's legion of admirers than with the one woman he clearly wanted to sleep with. There’s too much space for ulterior motives with Julie. Has he really changed or is he just saying these things because he thinks she’s pretty? It’s obvious what the movie wants us to believe, but I think it that point could have been hit harder. If he had to open up to the woman who look like and looked up to Dorothy, that would have been a statement. Saying “I’ve changed” to Julie, means nothing to me.

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I agree with the general consensus here: it's a good movie, competently made and well-acted (Teri Garr really is terrific), but I'm not seeing where it's good enough or important enough to remain on the Top 100. Some Like It Hot is absolutely the better cross-dressing rom-com and it's already on the list. Dustin Hoffman is already represented. I don't think Sydney Pollack is an important enough director to require inclusion, but if he were I'd rather have They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

I'm with @Cameron H. in thinking that the ending is a problem. It doesn't really tie up the storyline very well, and to me more importantly it feels like a cop-out. Whether or not the Jessica Lange character is romantically interested in our leading man or they are just friends, I think it happens way too fast that she forgives him for his lying. It feels to me like the filmmakers think that because the movie must be classified as a "Comedy," they have to manufacture a happy ending. How about grappling with the larger implications of your premise first?

This is also where the movie really feels like a "feminist" film entirely coming from the perspective of straight men. The "resolution" is just about how one straight dude learned to be a bit less selfish, even after putting a whole lot of people's careers at risk with a self-interested stunt. I would cut it some slack for this, but as was mentioned, 9 to 5 was already out and clearly has a more female-centered slant to it. I don't even think that's necessarily a better movie (the direction is pretty weak IMO), but as a historical artifact it's more interesting.

Anyway, that all sounds like I'm really negative on the movie, but I'm not. It was an enjoyable watch, just not Top 100 material.

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10 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Just checked, weirdly, Kenneth Brannaugh really likes it.

https://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/sightandsoundpoll2012/voter/1020

 

Brannaugh's description is wild:

"Tootsie is a superb comedy of deceptive simplicity. It at once parodies satirises and glorifies art, acting, cinema, TV and modernity at large. Hoffman is magnificent, Murray is sublime, and Jessica Lange's radiance is heart-stopping."

It's like the feminist parts of it don't exist. He loves it for spoofing television! Out of all of Tootsie's points, "look how crazy soap operas are" is pretty far down the list.

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I'm definitely for kicking this one off the list. Oddly, I'd support The Sixth Sense being on the list over this one, only because it actually did something for the genre. Here, I think it's fine. But for a movie about empathizing with women, there are so. many. dudes. All the main characters in the film are men; jessica Lange and Teri Garr are both just there for Hoffman to have his big "ah hah" moment. The female executive who hires Dorothy is definitely a character I'd like to have seen more of. It's not really about women at all, and I definitely don't see it as a "Feminist" movie. No, Hoffman in a dress isn't the joke itself, but the fact the homophobia from Julie's dad when Hoffman gives the ring back really bothered me. As far as dudes in drag for work, I'd much prefer Some Like it Hot. That did it so much better, and was so much funnier and warmer. 

None of this is to take away any inspiration this movie may have played in people's lives in opening up their minds to non-traditional gender expressions. I just don't find this movie holds up so well, and I don't understand at all why it's considered one of the top 100.

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