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Meanwhile, the blogger CineMama, disappointed with Wonder Woman 1984, picks three movies to watch instead: Mike Nichols' Working Girl, Christopher Landon's Happy Death Day 2U, and Brian De Palma's Scarface. "Like many viewers impressed by Wonder Woman 1984‘s marketing campaign," CineMama begins, "the actual film disappointed me. Potential for both an ’80s working comedy (the kind with big hair and sexist bosses) and an epic tearjerker fell by the wayside and left me craving movies with a clearer vision. These three movies each include plot or style elements similar to WW84‘s, but where WW84 stumbles, these movies soar."
CineMama adds, "A side note: I enjoy the 'before/after/instead of' format because instead of focusing negative energy on just tearing a film apart or writing a 'review' that solely compares a movie to other movies, I focus on the parts that most resonate with me and build upon that by lifting up other films."
Regarding Scarface, then, CineMama writes:
In WW84, the lead villain, Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) trades his physical well-being to a “Dreamstone” for the ability to grant wishes. He announces to Wonder Woman at one point in his wish-fulfilling frenzy, “The world belongs to me!” which reminded me of the words that encourage and eventually taunt Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in Scarface: The world is yours.
A Cuban refugee working at a restaurant in Miami, Scarface‘s Tony Montana believes that he’s meant for more than his blue-collar existence and gets heavily involved in drug trafficking. He builds an empire of riches, but unsurprisingly, like a Faustian tale, he pays the bloody price for his success. The world is yours, but at what cost?
Similarly, Max Lord in WW84, born Maxwell Lorenzano, came from a poor background and wanted an immensely better life for himself and his son. Though he finds power through the Dreamstone, the abilities bequeathed to him cause massive chaos both personally and on a wider scale. Lord’s physical health deteriorates and the world descends into madness as he instructs anyone who will listen: “You can have it all; you just have to want it!”
BadTaste: When you were here presenting A Bigger Splash, we talked about Suspiria. You told me about what you saw in Dario Argento's movie, and your movie actually mirrored that vision. So: what do you see in Brian De Palma's Scarface?
Luca: But why are you deciding that my reference is De Palma's movie?
BadTaste: Well, I'm curious about it.
BadTaste: More than what you see in Hawks' movie.
Luca: Well. Brian De Palma's movie left a mark on me. So it's an important movie in my imagination. The truth is that I'm interested in the character of Tony Montana. He's a symptom of the American Dream. And I think that these movies are made for their ages. My own Scarface will arrive 40 years after the previous one. I think the important thing about these movies is not the fact that they are lush and fundamental like the Brian De Palma one. The important thing is knowing that Tony Montana is an archetypal character. We won't consider the problem of the existence of a great movie before this one. I'm talking about, for example, The King Of Kings and The Last Temptation Of Christ, if we were conceiving a movie about Jesus Christ. It's an archetypal human figure. We don't have inferiority complexes about great movies made by great filmmakers. I think that Tony Montana is an extraordinary symptom of the American Dream. I think that Tony Montana righteously took from Howard Hawks' age (and remember, when that movie opened, it was accompanied by titles that said, "The filmmakers do not endorse criminal behavior"). That movie was sensational, hugely popular, probably more than De Palma's movie, in proportion. It's almost 100 years that Tony Montana affects the imagination of the audience. And this happens in part because we are attracted by what is capable of producing evil. And in part because we want to make something bigger than ourselves. It's about the dream of fulfilling, of success. This is something way bigger than Brian De Palma's direction. It's something bigger than Brian De Palma, Howard Hawks, and myself. The important things are: A) It has to be well done, the script has to be great. And it is. B) Our Tony Montana has to be current-- I don't want to imitate anything. C) This movie has to be shocking. So: I told you about Suspiria, and I kept the promise I made to you. Then I think I will surprise you with this movie, too. Brian De Palma's movie was rated R, so I want a big R on my movie, too.
Cordova, who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York, had a long association with Al Pacino, the two having worked on stage together in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? "The play marked the Broadway debut of the little-known Pacino," notes Deadline's Greg Evans.
A little more than a decade later, the pair appeared together on film in Brian De Palma's Scarface, in which Cordova played the cook at El Paraiso, a Cuban sandwich stand directly across the street from the high-class Little Havana Restaurante. Another ten years later, Cordova appeared with Pacino once again as he played the barber in De Palma's Carlito's Way.
Cordova's first film role came at the age of 19, during time off from the U.S. Air Force. Having been stationed in Germany during the Korean War, Cordova was granted a 30-day leave of absence, during which he went back to New York and managed to get a small part in Richard Brooks' Blackboard Jungle. Cordova also had roles in Don Siegel's Crime In The Streets, Art Linson's Where The Buffalo Roam, Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way, and Bruce Malmuth's Nighthawks, among many others.
"The film would live on strangely in my life, an inside-the-park home run, an entrée to a certain wild, transgressive sector of our society. For years, people would congratulate me and quote me lines from it. Gangsters and their ilk would buy me drinks, champagne, in such faraway places as Egypt, Russia, Cambodia. I could’ve made a great deal of money by accepting a sequel, but my 'gangster' thoughts were ready to explode into the new milieu of Wall Street.
"Scarface was not The Godfather. It lacked the family and the sense of a tragic arc. But it was a juicy, crude opera of a drug dealer’s life set across a slimeball American materialism flowering in South Florida, the madness of a dream that always wants “more … more … and even more.” Greed was indeed good. The ’80s had arrived."
The above is only the last part of the excerpt-- read the full excerpt at MovieMaker. Here's the MovieMaker intro:
Before Scarface launched a boatload of T-shirts, posters, memes, and dubious imitations of Al Pacino’s cocainized Tony Montana, the film, written by Oliver Stone, was just a movie in trouble.
In this excerpt from his new memoir Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and The Movie Game, Oliver Stone recalls how he found himself caught between Pacino, Scarface director Brian De Palma, and Scarface producer Marty Bregman after a rough-cut screening of the movie that would soon become beloved as a classic of ’80s excess. Everything would work out, of course—in just a few years, Oliver Stone won the Academy Award for Best Director for Platoon, which also won Best Picture. Pacino and Bregman continued their long professional collaboration with Sea of Love and another De Palma film, Carlito’s Way.
De Palma’s next film after Scarface was Body Double, another very ’80s, freakishly watchable film that wasn’t an immediate success but has earned a ravenous cult following. And soon after he made another Al Capone-indebted gangster epic (one that got more initial respect than Scarface), The Untouchables. Stone eventually reunited with Pacino, this time as a director, in the adrenalized but surprisingly affectionate Any Given Sunday, another Miami-set tale of machismo, greed, and desperation.
Meanwhile, Bregman went painstakingly through the script with me, with Pacino separately making incisive suggestions. We never discussed the Born on the Fourth of July debacle, but as I grew to know Al better, I found him surprisingly humorous, coming up with one-liners to fit Tony Montana, whom he was evolving into with a broad Cuban accent and all. It surprised me that Al had never snorted cocaine or known anything about drugs. According to Marty, he’d had a serious problem with alcohol when younger but was now completely dry. Yet he had no problem behaving onscreen like the ultimate coke addict. Al definitely belonged to the “Method” school of acting, worshiping the aloof Lee Strasberg, who with his wife seemed to be making a rather good living teaching theater to a new generation. Al also kept a respected acting coach, Charlie Laughton, close to him, which greatly irritated Marty, who still wanted to“manage” Al in all ways, particularly his “warped” thinking. Al, to my mind, always had one goal — the play. Nothing else seemed to exist.
I continued to refine the script, and without much delay, Ned Tanen at Universal, Bregman’s friendly studio, agreed to make the movie for some $14 to $15 million, which was quite good for a violent gangster film that, even on paper, was gathering a reputation for being “over the top” — another Midnight Express type of extravaganza from Oliver Stone, now paired with the excessive and violent Brian De Palma, who’d made Dressed to Kill and Carrie. Bregman asked me to take DePalma down to see the locations and meet the figures I’d come to know while researching. Brian was a cold man, like Alan Parker — it comes with the territory — but he wasn’t threatened by me and seemed to want me around. So did Bregman, who stayed very much in control of the film, sitting with Brian through every casting call. At one session I attended, I fought hard for Glenn Close to play the role of Al’s mistress in Scarface, as she’d been great in the reading. I’d written the original Elvira role as an upper-class New York girl whom I knew, slumming in South Beach with a gangster boss when Tony meets her. Marty dismissed my idea as nuts — “She’s got a face like a horse!” He was married to a beautiful actress, Cornelia Sharpe, a blond, and generally had a big thing going for blonds. Marty and De Palma ultimately chose a twenty-four-year-old newcomer, Michelle Pfeiffer, who scored hugely in the film and went on to a distinguished career. But at the time, I had to grudgingly rewrite Elvira’s part down to make the role more of a materialistic South Beach bimbo.
Al asked Marty to keep me on the set to help him, presumably with a director he wasn’t quite sure of. At first I was glad to stay on, although I was being paid only in per diem to cover my expenses, but I regarded it as a learning experience. Al was still, at this time, quicksilver of nature, turning on a dime, very sensitive to his environment, eyes, ears, skin on fire. If he saw a new face on the set, he’d react. He was just that way. At all costs I’d avoid his line of sight when he was in acting motion lest my concentration disrupt his own — somewhat like particle waves. Billy Wilder described this sensitivity in recounting how Greta Garbo banned him from Ninotchka for appearing in her sightline. It wouldn’t be easy to direct Al, but De Palma seemed indifferent to that; he was never really an actor’s director like Lumet, whom Pacino had wanted. De Palma, it seemed to me, was more interested in the “big picture,” and in that vision actors were more or less an important part of the scenery.
You have about a half-dozen projects listed as in development on your IMDB. What’s behind that?
I am a relentless workaholic. I’m someone who has never tried any drugs, because I’m too scared for my own health. But I feel like when I was born, I fell on a “Scarface” mountain of cocaine, because I work 13 hours a day.
Are you working on a sequel to “Call Me By Your Name”?
I call it a second chapter, a new chapter, a part two or something like that. I love those characters. I love those actors. The legacy of the movie and its reception made me feel I should continue walking the path with everybody. I’ve come up with a story and hopefully we will be able to put it on the page soon.
You’re also attached to a remake of “Scarface.” What attracted you to that project?
People claim that I do only remakes [ed. note: Guadagnino previously remade “Suspiria” and his film “A Bigger Splash” was inspired by “La Piscine”] , but the truth of the matter is cinema has been remaking itself throughout its existence. It’s not because it’s a lazy way of not being able to find original stories. It’s alway about looking at what certain stories say about our times. The first “Scarface” from Howard Hawkes was all about the prohibition era. Fifty years later, Oliver Stone and Brian De Palma make their version, which is so different from the Hawkes film. Both can stand on the shelf as two wonderful pieces of sculpture. Hopefully ours, forty-plus years later, will be another worthy reflection on a character who is a paradigm for our own compulsions for excess and ambition. I think my version will be very timely.
What have you been watching during lockdown?
I watched again “Comizi d’amore” (Love Meetings) by Pasolini. I saw a great movie called “The Vast of Night,” and I watched for the second or third time “Doctor Sleep,” which is a movie I admire greatly.
First of all a disclaimer: despite being a teenager for much of the 1980s, I didn’t see my favourite film of the 1980s in the 1980s. Instead, I needed Quentin Tarantino to tip me the wink in the wake of the release of Reservoir Dogs in 1992, when he deliriously sang the praises of the film’s director and his gangster epic. “When Brian De Palma would come out with a new movie, the whole first two weeks before the movie opened, I would count down the days,” said QT. “That week before Scarface opened, that was Scarface Week.”
My own Scarface week came soon after, when I eventually tracked down a secondhand VHS tape of the movie and I could finally say hello to my little Cuban friend. And I must have watched it nearly half a dozen times (I took Sunday off). Al Pacino’s hammy performance as Tony Montana – “You fuck with me, you fuckin’ with the best” – is a glorious over-the-top riot of violence, Hawaiian shirts, Giorgio Moroder synth sounds and piles and piles and piles of cocaine. Oliver Stone, who wrote the script that included 207 uses of the word “fuck”, admitted he had been a coke addict for two years before sitting down to write the story (“Scarface was me taking my revenge on that drug,” Stone said) of a Marielito who arrives in Miami from the gutters of Havana with the intention of going “right to the top”.
In its depiction of 1980s pop culture, inelegantly wasted lives and hardcore excess, it is untouchable (if De Palma fans can pardon the pun). Plus, it had one of the best movie posters ever. If I could order you to watch this film, I would… but as Tony Montana would say: “The only thing in this world that gives orders is balls.” Preach.
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