Life and Death in L.A.: April 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sopranos Mystery Solved -- Tony's Fate Now Clear

June 10 marks the fifth anniversary of the controversial "Sopranos" episode, "Made in America," and fans of the show are still grousing about how it ended -- or didn't end.

Tony and family eat onion rings in a New Jersey diner. For once, no one seated at the Soprano family table is driving the action forward -- they're just making small talk as any family would. It's soothing at first, but the scene slowly becomes unsettling. We get a nagging suspicion that an outside force is about to rain terror upon the clan.

The family is waiting for daughter Meadow to show up, and the camera shifts to the street outside. Meadow struggles to parallel park, bumping into the curb time and time again. Tension mounts.

Back inside, a thuggish looking guy in a Members Only jacket hovers around the Soprano table. The camera shifts to Tony's point of view. We expect to see Meadow coming through the door as Tony would see her. We see one more shot from a third-person point of view of Tony looking up, and the scene goes black and deathly silent. Credits roll.

Let the screaming begin.

Many people called it a cheat -- myself included. But after thinking it over I believe I know the answer.

It's obvious that this is a subtle way of showing that Tony got whacked, without actually showing it. There are some good solid pieces of evidence to support this. First, there's the technical stuff about how the all-important scene was set up. Throughout the series the camera seldom shifted to Tony's point of view. This was an exceptional directorial decision that puts us inside of Tony's head. The shift in point of view is a bit unnerving, and signals that a major event is imminent -- we're seeing the last sight that Tony will ever take in.

Another piece of evidence is a scene in an episode earlier of the finale season, "Soprano Home Movies" (#6.13) in which Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri and Tony discuss what it's like to get whacked."You probably don't even hear it when it happens," says Bobby.

And that's just what happens to Tony. Silence ... and then blackness.

Remember, too, that one of Tony's henchmen whacked rival Phil Leotardo in front of his family -- an organized crime no-no. It makes sense that Leotardo's crew would return the favor and bump Tony in front of his brood.

So there you have it. Tony got whacked in the New Jersey diner before he could finish his onion rings. Case closed. I hate to say it, but there will never be a sequel. Let's just move on, shall we?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Night of Noir in City of Angels

The Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood is a cool place to visit, with it's huge assortment of film books, posters and memorabilia. There's a heavy emphasis on vintage cinema throughout the store, so you'll want to stop in sometime and browse the racks.

The shop is going to be the epicenter of film noir cool April 28, when it plays host to authors Alain Silver and James Ursini, who have written some indispensable books on film noir, including their latest, "Film Noir: The Directors." Show up at 5 p.m. on that day and they'll autograph copies of their newest tome.

Then, all you hard-core noir junkies will want to saunter down Hollywood Blvd. to the Egyptian Theater, where a noir double bill will be hitting the screen so hard it might bruise.

1956, Universal, 103 min, USA, Dir: Arnold Laven

This stepson to ON THE WATERFRONT packs a wallop of its own. An upstart district attorney (Richard Egan) tries to crack the New York waterfront’s mob-enforced code of silence and mete out justice for a murdered whistleblower. Jan Sterling is terrific as the victim’s widow, heading a dynamite supporting cast of familiar and fantastic character actors, including Dan Duryea, Charles McGraw, Sam Levene and Walter Matthau. Lawrence Roman’s fact-based script is vigorously directed by Arnold Laven. NOT ON DVD

1957, Warner Bros., 85 min, USA, Dir: Martin Ritt

Another gritty exploration of life on the Manhattan docks that’s also a powerful look at 1950s race relations. Sidney Poitier and John Cassavetes play working-class pals driven apart by ignorance and racism (exemplified by a virulent thug, played brilliantly by Jack Warden). Martin Ritt’s stunning directorial debut, based on Robert Alan Aurthur’s 1955 teleplay “A Man Is Ten Feet Tall.” Not entirely noir, but a smart and suspenseful drama overdue for rediscovery!