Film Review: WHERE’S MY ROY COHN? (USA 2019) ***1/2

Where's My Roy Cohn? Poster
Trailer

Roy Cohn personified the dark arts of American politics, turning empty vessels into dangerous demagogues – from Joseph McCarthy to his final project, Donald J. Trump. This thriller-like … See full summary »

Director:

Matt Tyrnauer

Before the film title WHERE’S MY ROY COHN? first appears on the screen, the audience is given a quick introduction of the infamous lawyer.  He loves to fight power, he is a caged animal, he loves a good fight etc.  But director Tynmauer ensures that his audience knows of the evil that Cohn has amassed in his career.  Great villains usually make for good movies,
and Matt Tyrnauer certainly has a doozy in Roy Cohn.  The question is whether Tynmauer will create some sympathy for this supposedly evil person.

In Cohn’s own word as captured unarchive footage: “I would do anything to get my client to win.”  And the voiceover goes on to say that he did not care what the law is, but who the judge would be.

The doc unfolds in (almost) chronological order from the time he was born in the U.S. to his rise to fame as counsel to McCarthy and to become the all-powerful lawyer.  Firstly, director Tynmauer makes it interesting by starting on Cohn’s mother.   She was the ugliest girl on the block who no man wanted to marry.  From a clever boy at school, Roy Cohn is shown to grow to become the ruthless lawyer/political power broker whose 28-year career ranged from serving as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunt to molding the career a young real estate developer named Donald Trump.

  In the ’50s, Cohn formulated his playbook, ushering in a paranoid style of American politics.  Today it’s resurfaced – with scare tactics, divisive rhetoric, and aggressions against the vulnerable.
Cohn had many celebrity friends like Andy Warhol, Aristotle Onassis and George Steinbrenner.  He was a regular at Studio 54, often accompanied by his male lovers, while adamantly denying his homosexuality to everyone.  The portion of the film revealing Cohn’s homosexuality is the most intriguing and entertaining.  It is as if God made him gay to punish him.  To make matters worse, Cohn was ugly and widely believed to have undergone plastic surgery to  having sex with a different boy every day, often with someone poor.  But he had a good slim body, doing his regimental 200 sit-ups daily.

  Some of Cohn’s best-known exploits include: spearheading J. Edgar Hoover and McCarthy’s crusade against homosexuals, helping pave Ronald Reagan’s path to the oval office, torpedoing Geraldine Ferraro’s historic bid for the vice presidency, keeping many American
mafiosos out of jail and looting the bank accounts of his legal clients.

  Mixing archival footage (including journalist Ken Auletta’s ’70s audio interview with Cohn, never heard by the public before) and contemporary interviews (cousins, an ex-boyfriend, gossip columnist Liz Smith, now fallen politico Roger Stone et al.), the film also offers clues to his behaviour (a doting mother, insecurities about his looks).  

The film ends with the climax of Cohn going out fighting to the very end.  Disbarred in 1986, he went out defiantly, dying five weeks later at age 59, never admitting that he had AIDS.  Cohn is the true real life villain everyone loves to hate.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTrHL7Vo_SQ

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Film Review: STUDIO 54 (USA 2018) ***

Studio 54 Poster
Trailer

Studio 54 was the epicenter of 70s hedonism–a place that not only redefined the nightclub, but also came to symbolize an entire era. Its co-owners, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, two …See full summary »

Director:

Matt Tyrnauer

Everyone has heard of STUDIO 54, arguably the most famous of all the dance clubs in the world.  Studio 54 is now closed and is currently a Broadway theatre, located at 254 West 54th Street, between Eighth Avenue and Broadway in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The building, originally built as the Gallo Opera House, opened in 1927, after which it changed names several times, eventually becoming CBS radio and television Studio 52.

The doc is set in the late 1970s, at the peak of the disco dancing and music trend when the building was renamed after its location and became a world-famous nightclub and discotheque.

But director Matt Tyrnauer’s doc centres more on the nightclub founders than on the club itself.  The founders Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional lighting design and kept many of the former TV and theatrical sets, in the process creating a unique dance club that became famous for its celebrity guest lists, restrictive (and subjective) entry policies (based on one’s appearance and style), and open club drug use. Founded in 1977, the club was final sold in 1980 to Mark Fleischman who reopened the club after it had been shut down following the conviction of Rubell and Schrager on charges of tax evasion. In 1984, Fleischman sold the club, which continued to operate until 1986.  Long history, here, provided with credit to Wikipedia for the invaluable information.

Everyone loves a trip down nostalgic memory lane – especially when one is older and memories involve their youth.  Rubell is now deceased, having passed away from the AIDs epidemic while Schager is now an old man.  But it is good to see these two hard working individuals during their height of their powers and youth giving everything to their baby, STUDIO 54.

Director Tyrnauer is fortunate to be able to obtain old footage of the club, since there are lots as the club was ultra famous.  There are many clips of past interviews with both Rubell and Schrager including them with many celebrities.  Tyrnauer begins with a recent interview with Schager.  In the words of Schrager, this is a story that needs to be told as it is, and after 40 years, Schrager is now comfortable to have his say to the camera.

STUDIO 54 is as much a story about the club (or studio) as it is about Rubell and Schrager.  The film documents the two boys from Brooklyn who met in college and became fast friends like a husband and wife, in the words of Schrager.  

The film’s first 50 minutes show the club’s upside.  The pair can do no wrong, but make lots of money with their club.  The approval of a liquor license seems a minor problem.  They had to turn down hundreds of partygoers who could not get into the club.  There are lots of shots of the celebrities who celebrated at STUDIO 54 including the Rolling Stones, Liza Minnelli, Paul Newman with a list of countless other celebs.  But all good things have a turning point.  The film also documents the jail sentences served by the pair due to tax evasion and drugs.

STUDIO 54 will probably not be cater to the non-partying crowd.  But for the majority who love to have a good time forgetting all their troubles while dancing in a club, STUDIO 54 brings back fine memories and serves as a worthy tribute showing immense trouble comes hand in hand with the success of any huge club venue.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w99oGMwbTy4

Film Review: SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD (USA 2018) ***

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Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood Poster
Trailer

2:30 | Trailer
A portrait of unsung Hollywood legend Scotty Bowers, whose bestselling memoir chronicled his decades spent as sexual procurer to the stars.

Director:

Matt Tyrnauer

 

Many have not heard of Scotty Bowers.  Who is this man and why is it that important for a whole documentary be devoted to him?

Director Matt Tyrnauer’s (VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR) begins his doc with a grand introduction of Scotty Bowers.  He is celebrating his 90th birthday.  His rise to fame is attributed to the gas station he operated that served escorts to a host of Hollywood stars.  Everyone loves a scandal.  Stephen Fry interviewed admits:  “Scotty only made these Hollywood stars real by giving them what they want.”  But then a more valid argument is whether Scotty had the right to out anyone gay in Hollywood.  The doc then flashes dozens of gay stars on the screen to whet audiences appetite on the secret history of Hollywood.  Randolph Scott had an affair with Cary Grant and the list goes on….

It is fortunate that Scotty Bowers is till alive at the time of making the doc as he appears in most of the film, talking about himself and about what he has done as well as life in the old days.  The film contains a lot of black and white archive footage, especially of the area whee the infamous gas station stood.  When footage is unavailable, re-enactments are done, often without  faces but with the images of bodies.  For instance, when an escort is ivied from the gas station to bathe his beautiful body in the star’s swimming pool, the audience sees a nude body (no face) swimming in the pool.  In a way, the image looks even more erotic.

The goings-on, the audience are told are well planned and orchestrated.  In the business world, Scotty could have been the C.E.O.of General Motors, says a close friend.  The goings-on are indeed shocking, like a hill drilled in a wall in the nearby motel so that voyeurs can peep at the sex happening in the next room.  It all feels like a dirty red-light district given a make-over for the Hollywood stars.

Just when you think that the film will run out of material, something saucier comes around.  More famous star names are revealed, more intimate details of the sex parties revealed or secrets in the closet uncovered.  The restricted era of 1950’s is also highlighted in the film – a time where cops witched hunted gays in parks and bars.  And there is Scotty’s life that in itself is quite interesting.  Returning home from WWII as a pretty boy, he was gay before settling down into marriage with Lois, who hereof is interviewed in the film.  Their family home is also on display.  Scotty is revealed as a hoarder.  His house contains piles and piles of junk, such as every issue of Playboy Magazine

Scott claims to be the perfect host.  He says he provided an introduction service not a pimp service, emphasizing the fact that he never took any money for the  introductions.  The only money he made was at the parties as a bartender.

The film emphasizes that Scott’s philosophy on life was to make people happy as there is already so much unhappiness in the world.  But director Tyrnauer includes some sadness in Scotty’s life – the lost of his daughter, his friend Beach, his pet dog and the arrival of A.I.D.s.

Tyrnauer always inserts enough of the details to keep his film interesting – like the truth on Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  His film ends up a good mix of the life of Scotty, his contribution to the secret History of Hollywood and revealing ‘Enquirer’ type material.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qn6HxTJp0k

 

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