Friday, September 13, 2013

My Favorite Scene: Casino, Part II

The common movie maxim dictates that if we watch criminals rise to power, we’re almost certainly going to witness their downfall. Casino is no exception. Late in the film, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion BMV blasts over the soundtrack as a series of well-placed shots of contemporary Vegas flash on the screen. With these images, Martin Scorsese is ushering in the end of an era. By this point in the film, we’ve witnessed the fate of almost every character involved. But there’s still one left. Sin City itself. From birth, it lived a rather unique life, but now, like the gangsters who once owned it, the city itself must fall.

This sequence reminds me of similar scenes from two other films, Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Oliver Stone’s Nixon – masterful epics that chose to conclude their narratives with compelling documentary footage. Thing is, Casino’s finale isn’t real life. Sure, Scorsese uses archive material to reach his point, but he mixes it in with his own. Like the ingenious transition of an old school Vegas hotel being demolished as the MGM Grand’s massive Golden Lion slowly fades in to swallow it.
Or how about the scene’s most telling shot (which is featured at the beginning of this post), in which a crowd of senior citizens slowly stroll into a casino lobby, lit harshly and brilliantly by Robert Richardson’s overexposed white light. No amount of dialogue can speak as profoundly as that image does. With it, Scorsese is making it clear that the real players have gone, and the tourists have arrived for good.

Part of the allure of Casino is that it depicts one of the world’s most famous cities in a way few people have seen. I believe much of what is in Casino actually happened. Probably not word for word or crime for crime, but variations of Ace Rothstein and Nicky Santoro’s actions are inarguably accurate.
Here’s my point: I was 14 years old the first time I went to Vegas. I loved it. All of it. The next time I visited Sin City was on my 21st birthday. I loved it equally, but for entirely different reasons. Two weeks ago, I spent two insanely fun, somewhat hazy days in Vegas. And guess what? I loved it still, again, for very different reasons.

I’ll always love Vegas, because it will always offer something for me, no matter my age. But do I wonder what it was like back then? Back when dealers knew your name, what you drank, and what you played? Back when, if you ordered room service, it got there before Thursday? Back when the thugs owned the town and The Strip didn’t look like Disneyland?

You’re goddamn right I do.


14 comments:

  1. I've never been to Vegas and I probably never will. I'm sorry, I'm just not into that world of excess and such. The scene you mentioned is brilliant. It's as if the old that was once Las Vegas becomes something else and almost more extravagant but without a soul in some ways. I think the goddamn Hangover movies made not want to go to Las Vegas.

    Oh, and Miami fucking sucks too. I haven't been there in nearly 10 years and never will. It's a fucking shithole filled with bad crunk music, plastic ho's, bad driving, overpriced food, and bland hotels. It was fun in the mid-90s but it got lame in the 2000s. Fuck that place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cool thing about Vegas is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Which I guess is true of any place, but you can get as crazy as you want there. But you can also have a great time relaxing. Either way, I can totally see how it's not for everyone.

      Glad you dig the scene. I think it's amazing.

      Delete
  2. Awesome post, Alex! "Room service before Thursday..." Lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks :)

      I wish that line was mine. But credit there goes to Marty Scorsese himself.

      Delete
  3. Great post! I haven't watched Casino in years. I think it's time to change that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! It's such a great film. I can watch it anytime.

      Delete
  4. A breathtaking scene and one of my favorite climaxes. Great post man, Vegas seems pretty surreal, part of me would like to go someday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man! I love the hell out of this scene. Buries the old and rings in the new in a particularly entertaining (and scary) way.

      Glad you dig this scene as well.

      Delete
  5. So many amazing scenes in this movie. Love the shot of the seniors - it's such a telling image and it completely captures what Scorsese wanted to communicate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOVE this scene. That shot of the old timers is fucking dreadful, isn't it?

      Delete
  6. Interesting scene choice. I should rewatch this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man. I love this one too. Another epic I can watch on repeat.

      Delete
  7. Part of the allure of Casino is that it depicts one of the world’s most famous cities in a way few people have seen. I believe much of what is in Casino actually happened.
    http://www.canadianonlinecasinos.ca

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh me too. It's heavily based on fact.

      Delete