So, we went to see a movie the other day (we’re trying to see as many Oscar contenders as we can before the awards go out. As of yet we’ve seen The Aviator and Finding Neverland, both of which get two big thumbs up but for very different reasons. I’ll try and blog this later) and as all movies do nowadays it began with ten minutes of commercials.
Do you know how much I hate that? As if the price of movie tickets, a popcorn, and a drink weren’t enough, now I’ve got to watch the same commercials I mute when I’m at home? I understand that theaters and studios are trying to make a buck (I worked in a theater for a while, so I know theaters make most of their money from concessions, etc.) but enough is enough! Before long they’ll stop running those tacky slideshows and just run nonstop commercials until the movie starts. Because that makes it fun to have a pre-movie conversation.
At any rate, one of the commercials was for American Express, with Robert De Niro. You know the one “My east side. My west side. My blah blah blah.” Can I just say that I hate this commercial? Well maybe that’s not accurate. I love visuals. It’s got a really interesting style, and the pictures are pretty moving, particularly when combined with the dramatic music behind it. What I hate is that Robert De Niro is in it. Can an actor himself jump the shark? Now don’t get me wrong. De Niro still entertains me. He’s really funny in Meet the Parents, and I know that part of that funny is trading on the fact that while I watch I’m thinking “Hey, that’s Robert De Niro up there! That’s funny!” But be honest. Would the great De Niro of the 70s be caught dead in a movie like that, let alone in an American Express commercial? Now, before you argue, I admit that he’s had a few stinkers and comedic roles all through his career, so maybe nothing’s changed. But look at his filmography on IMDB. When was the last time he had a great, meaty role to sink his teeth into—the kind where you say, “Only De Niro could pull that off”? Analyze That? Shark Tale? Rocky and Bullwinkle? I’ve seen The Score and Fifteen Minutes, and the man was sleep-walking through them. I’d say his last “great” role may have been in Casino. That’s not to say that CopLand and Ronin and Jackie Brown and a few others weren’t good films, but De Niro’s Rothstein in Casino is just on a different level than those other guys. Lately it’s gone from bad to worse, with films like Godsend becoming the norm rather than the exception and De Niro just playing a parody of himself in just about everything else.
Maybe the man gets a pass for all the incredible roles he played in the past, but I think he’s starting to tarnish that image. Maybe, like an old soldier, De Niro shouldn’t die, he should just fade away. All I know is, though I still enjoy watching him, I don’t enjoy him in the way I did during films like The Godfather, Part II or Raging Bull or even more commercial roles like The Untouchables and Backdraft. I’d rather keep the memory of that De Niro in my mind. If you ask me, the man should take a few years off. Let the memory of this commercial (pun intended) De Niro fade away, wait for another really great script (which would mean passing on quite a few pretty good scripts), and then show up like gangbusters again. I don’t think there’ll ever be a time when De Niro can’t get work. He just needs to hold out for the really good work again.
That’s my two cents, anyway.