Jerry Della Femina
I cried like a baby the first time I saw a movie.
Maybe it was because I was a baby. I was three years old.
The movie was “Jessie James” starring Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda and Randolph (“The Queen of the Cowboys”) Scott. My parents took me to see this movie at what was known as “Feltman’s Open Air Frankfurter Theater” in Coney Island. That’s where for 10 cents you got a frankfurter and admission to the movie.
My parents got in for a total of 20 cents and I got in free because I was only three. The horses came on the screen and I thought I was going to be trampled. I screamed and was hysterical until they carried me out. They missed the movie. Twenty cents was a lot of money to them those days. Plus, they had paid a nickel apiece for the subway.
They never forgave me and reminded me about it for years. I’ve hated horses ever since.
But I’ve grown to love movies over the years.
A few weeks ago I was excited about “The Irishman,” a movie I was about to see previewed at the Hamptons International Film Festival, which, by the way, has turned into a great event for Long Island and gets better and better every year.
So there I was, thinking I’m going to love “The Irishman.”
I haven’t been this excited since the first night of my first honeymoon.
Where will it fall on my all-time favorite movies list?
How could it miss? “The Irishman” is a movie about the Mafia, and I love movies about the Mafia.
Older Italian men secretly love movies about the Mafia. It’s that “respect” thing.
Italian men who are harmless love to look dark and dangerous and Mafia-like, especially when all it takes is a vowel at the end of their last name.
“The Irishman” is directed by Martin Scorsese – not your run-of-the-mill Hollywood genius. This is a guy with an important body of work. His “Goodfellas” is one of the all-time best Mafia movies, right up there with “The Godfather” 1 and 2.
And “The Irishman” stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, perhaps the two best actors around. They’ve starred in a million Mafia movies. Heck, they’ve played so many Mafia guys that if the real Mafia had a pension plan, these two guys would be eligible.
Who can forget De Niro scaring the panties off of the lovely Lorraine Bracco (Mrs. Henry Hill) in “Goodfellas.” And Al Pacino played Michael Corleone in one of the greatest performances in the history of movies in “The Godfather Part II.”
What could go wrong?
Then, unfortunately, with the excited Hamptons audience staring at each other and staring at the screen in the beloved Guild Hall, the movie began.
Maybe it was just me.
Maybe it was something I ate that didn’t agree with me.
And let me say that very few people agree with what I’m about to write. Don’t forget, I’m the guy who hated “The English Patient” and that turkey won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
The first thing that struck me was the bold bright color in “The Irishman.”
This wasn’t the right color for a Mafia movie. This was the color of the MGM musicals of the 1940s.
With that fake MGM color I expected that when De Niro shot his 67th victim Betty Hutton, an old-time musical comedy star, would jump out and sing “Murder, He Says,” a song she became famous for in 1945.
After an hour of De Niro mugging and shooting people in the face, he looked like he was starring in “Meet the Fockers.” What kind of direction was Martin Scorsese providing? Everyone knows De Niro has only four expressions. His best is when he looks menacing. All Scorsese had to do was to say to De Niro, “Robert, I want you to have a look on your face that you would have if you came upon Donald Trump walking alone in a dark alley.”
I realized that the movie was turning into a contest as to who could chew up the most scenery.
Al Pacino, who, given the opportunity, can over-act with the best of them, was playing Jimmy Hoffa. At one point he looked like he was building up to his out-of-control loudest. Would he shout “Hoo-ah!” at the top of his lungs like he kept screaming in “Scent of a Woman?”
The only actor who was great in his role was Joe Pesci as Mafia strongman Russell Bufalino. He never raised his voice. He never even looked angry. Pesci was brilliant and stole the acting honors from De Niro and Pacino.
Then came another problem. Two and a half hours and 90 murders into the “The Irishman,” the Hamptons audience of movers and shakers started to fidget.
Every scene brought in another murder. Joey Gallo? Joey Gallo?
The Irishman didn’t kill Joey Gallo.
Every Italian kid over six years old in Little Italy can tell you that “Matty the Horse” Ianniello was behind the killing at Umberto’s Clam House.
Now, with an hour to go in “The Irishman,” I – along with over 100 other old guys watching the movie – realized we had to pee.
Every man in the theater was fidgeting.
Could I get up and go? Impossible.
I could hear my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, who is on the board of the Hamptons International Film Festival, saying, “You disgraced me, getting up in the middle of this wonderful picture to go to the bathroom.
“You’ve insulted the board of the film festival.”
So anyway, I didn’t get up to go.
I sat there and suffered. I prayed.
At one point I decided the movie was never going to end. This was “No Exit” and we would all spend eternity watching “The Irishman.”
Then I started pulling the hair out of my arms to take my mind off the fact that I had to pee.
Finally it was over.
I rushed to men’s room, which was packed with men desperate to go.
One older man said out loud, “That was wonderful.”
Someone said, “Did you like the movie?”
The older man smiled and said, “No, not the movie. It was wonderful to finally pee.”
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