Tag Archives: Al Pacino

You don’t know what it’s like being male, middle-class and white.

38. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

I have a theory that there is a list of about 7 or so movies that every angry or disaffected white teenage male loves, and cherishes into adulthood. These movies typically involve white people who are fed up or somehow alienated from the world around them, and act out in violent ways. Sometimes these movies are set in war-time, sometimes they are gangster films, and sometimes they involve just plain murder and random violence.

I think the key is that each film has a character that the angry white teenager can identify with, and that the character is able to offer pseudo-philosophical insights about the world. Another hallmark of these films is that they make up the core of the angry white teenagers DVD(or VHS) collection, and end up appearing en masse at your local Cash Converters(cause teenagers and later young adults are poor, and will need to hock something to pay their rent at least one time in their life). A third hallmark is they are directed by a reputed great director, or they a have someone like Al Pacino, or Robert De Niro as the star. Finally these films often have famous quotes and iconic scenes which the angry white teenager wears like a badge of honor, wishing they could somehow be so clever.

So here is my official list of 10 movies that angry white teenagers love and view as the greatest films ever made(in no particular order:

  1. Taxi Driver -Travis Bickle is the quintessential disaffected white male, eminently quotable, charismatic, and a vigilante. Plus he shoots people, and has a moral code that makes sense to young impressionable minds. Also has “are you talking to me?”
  2. Full Metal Jacket – Private Joker is the dichotomy of war of peace. He’s funny, witty, sharp, and loses it in the end. The kids love the blood the gore, the killing, and Private Pyle’s going crazy, they also like the “me so horny” scene.
  3. The Godfather – More violence, and a twisted moral code. Angry white teenagers identify with Michael Corleone. Also has “I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse”.
  4. Goodfellas – More violence, and a twisted moral code. Angry white teenagers love the “do I amuse you scene” with Tommy DeVito, and wish they could go around beating the shit out of people.
  5. Apocalypse Now – The spiritual predecessor to Full Metal Jacket. Mayhem, craziness, and nihilism are central to the angry white teenagers worldview, and this film has it all. Plus it has Brando in it, and the famous line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”.
  6. Natural Born Killers – Because serial killers are the ultimate representation of nihilism, and are utterly fascinating to angry white teenagers. The more sprawling the film is the more likely the angry white teenager can fill in the blanks. The kids love the line “I’ll make ya famous”.
  7. Reservoir Dogs – This spot really represents all of Tarantino’s work(save for Jackie Brown, which no one cares about). The angry white teenager loves Tarantino above all else. Mindless killing, clever dialogue, blatant criminality. “The royale with cheese” scene from Pulp Fiction, and the “stuck in the middle with you” scene from Reservoir Dogs are representative of the things the kids love.

Honorable mentions include David Lynch films, Silence of the Lambs, The Living Dead series, and the occasional Hitchcock film like Psycho, and other Scorsese and Kubrick films(particularly Clockwork Orange).

Now I enjoy most of the films I have mentioned, save for Natural Born Killers which has no redeeming qualities save for Robert Downey Jr., and Rodney Dangerfield. Enjoyment of these films does not inherently mean you are an angry white teenager. The function of this post is simply to point out the films that angry white teenagers deem as classic, and what often represents classic cinema in their minds.

On filmaffinity.com I gave the film 8/10. It’s been ages since I have seen it, but I remember it well. It is something I want to revisit, but I haven’t really felt like doing so lately.

Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.

6. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)

I find gangster movies in general cause a conflict within me. As a critical thinking person I realize that the violence and mayhem inherent in these films is supposed to be negative. The viewer is supposed to be repulsed. But as a man who wishes he were gangsta I invariably find myself rooting for the hero(anti-hero). I end up saying things like “that’s what he gets for fuckin with his shit”, and “fuck him up”. I end up feeling the same way when I watch westerns too. Dudes shooting each other is just plain cool.

I am not sure what to do with these feelings. I mean I have only been in one fight in my life(in grade 4), and that ended with being run over with a bike. I am generally non-violent, and have some pacifist tendencies. Sometimes I want to punch people in the face, but the key thing is I don’t. So why am I so enthralled by Tony Carmonte, Tom Powers, and Michael Corleone? I think it has to do with their ambition. They see what they want, and they go for it. It’s Horatio Alger with gunplay. I contrast that with my general meekness and insecurity and I am inspired to maybe do the same thing, although with fewer gunshots.

What we have in Michael Corleone is a character ascending(or descending) to the top of underworld. We see him firstly as a straight arrow who just come out of the army and wants to stay out of the family business. He is devoted to his wife. But as circumstances around him change, namely the hit attempt on Don Corleone, he is drawn in. His rise to power is swift and violent but we sympathize and even envy him because he is badass. His relationship with his wife is strained by the challenges of running a criminal empire but we still see him as a “good” guy. I am not sure if it’s even possible to make a gangster movie like this without these feelings coming up. Michael’s a compelling and complex dude, but because he is the focus we see the escalating gang war through his eyes, he is the one who is being done wrong. Even though he is a criminal we see him as virtuous.

The only point really in the entire film where I find myself appalled by Michael is the final scene when he lies to his wife about killing Carlo. The fact that the film ends with him having just lied to his wife, and her believing him is kind of shattering of trust. Just like he broke his wife’s trust, he breaks our trust. I don’t fully understand why I responded so much to that scene.

I guess the simple answer is that shooting people and protecting your “shit” so-to-speak is “gangsta” and inspirational, but lying to your wife is wrong. I would make a great husband and/or mob boss. I watch the movie good.

On filmaffinity.com I gave the film 9/10. I swore at the t.v. which signifies an emotional response, and it made me feel (and talk) “gangsta”. The only thing holding it from being a 10 is that I haven’t re-watched it(I purposely under-rate films I have only watched once, just so I don’t look stupid upon further reflection).