Mean Streets

I went off to work and went through a tiring shift. We had a break in the rain, so I went out to the laundromat to wash my clothes and get some clean socks. I needed to take a nap, too. I watched the Martin Scorsese movie “Mean Streets” on Blu-ray. It did look better than it looked on the screen thirty years ago with a bad print. The songs on the soundtrack that I really took note of were “Be My Baby,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “It’s in His Kiss,” “Rubber Biscuit,” and “Mickey’s Monkey.” I wonder what Scorsese’s record collection looks like these 43 years later. I had to wonder about the mailbox that Johnny Boy destroys at the beginning of the movie. In some ways, Robert De Niro would play the same character over and over through the rest of Scorsese’s movies, meaning someone who can’t avoid trouble. This time he avoids paying the loan shark, which eventually leads to terrible consequences. Harvey Keitel is Charlie, a small time crook trying to work his way up like Ray Liotta in “Good Fellas.” He tries to hang onto respectable appearances and a redeeming code of behavior. He fusses over his clothes and tries to help out irresponsible Johnny Boy because no one else will. His dealings with women are influenced by his career aspirations and his racial attitudes. The funny thing is that this is a New York movie that was largely filmed in Los Angeles. I had to think about that during a beach scene. There are instances of going out to the movies, too, namely “The Searchers” and “Tomb of Ligeia.” We would see the pair of De Niro and Keitel again in “Taxi Driver,” and there would be another instance of a character getting shot in the neck. If I were evading a dangerous loan shark, I wouldn’t linger around a movie theatre. I would try to hide in the crowd. This is a warped world in which Johnny Boy seems to deserve his punishment. One of his crimes is his lack of humility. For all his attitude, though, he shows fear at the end. I had to think about Martin Scorsese’s Catholic upbringing and his future movie “The Last Temptation of Christ.” I could help comparing “Mean Streets” with “Badlands,” since they were released at the same time. I would rather see “Badlands” again over the long run, since it has the open spaces and sense of eternity. The violence in “Badlands” ends in death. In “Mean Streets,” the violent ending is ambiguous. I wondered what trouble Johnny Boy and Charlie would be in afterwards. Johnny Boy didn’t get his legs broken, as was threatened, but he might survive to face more trouble. Maybe the survival instincts kick in and he does what he must to save himself. Charlie borrowed the car that he crashes in the end. I wonder what it takes to run over a fire hydrant like that. I imagine that Charlie would continue to have trouble with women. He’s been going in contradictory directions, and he can’t go on forever. He has as much to learn as Johnny Boy, only he’s been denying everything. David Carradine makes an appearance in the film as a drunk. Scorsese’s mother also shows up, as she would again in “The King of Comedy.” I think I first saw “Mean Streets” on television. I never had the strong feeling for it that I would have for “Taxi Driver” or “Raging Bull.” I thought that there should have been more to it than one person owing another person some money, at least for the part of the story with the tension. Some of the people who died on March 8 include Hector Berlioz (1869), Millard Fillmore (1874), William Howard Taft (1930), Sherwood Anderson (1941), Harold Lloyd (1971), William Walton (1983), Billy Eckstine (1993), Peggy Cass (1999), and Joe DiMaggio (1999). Today is a birthday for Lester Holt (57), Aidan Quinn (57), and Micky Dolenz (71). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for March 8, Bob Dylan recorded the song “Just Like a Woman” for his “Blonde on Blonde” album in 1966. In 1978, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” debuted on BBC Radio. In 1985, the Peter Bogdanovich film “Mask” was released. In 1996, the Coen Brothers film “Fargo” was released.

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