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Gangs of New York


Finally saw Gangs of New York last night. Some good stuff in it—particularly in connection with Nick's Northern Gothic, the only other piece of fiction I've seen that deals with that particularly turbulent period of NYC history—but overall I didn't think it was all that great; I certainly wouldn't have nominated it for all those Oscars.

Thought the acting was fine, though Daniel Day-Lewis sounded a little too much like an Englishman trying to put on an American accent (I'm sure the accent was just supposed to represent the way the character would've actually talked, but it sounded a little fake to me), and the voiceovers by Leonardo DiCaprio nearly drove me nuts, partly because he didn't use the accent that the character used to speak. (But he did have one great line in the voiceovers: "It's a funny feeling, being took under the wing of a dragon. It's warmer than you think.") Cameron Diaz was fine (and I kept forgetting it was her, which is a compliment), though I wish her character had stayed as interesting as she started out.

The movie was long and bloody. The first half was okay; not bad, but not great. The third quarter or so did some really interesting things, with a couple of plot twists that worked really well and that I totally didn't expect. (And the plot twists that I did expect didn't happen, which also pleased me.) The dramatic tension got lost, alas, in the final quarter; overall, I'd say it was an okay movie with moments of being excellent.

Nitpick: isn't it really bad for edged weapons to leave blood on them? Or is that just a fantasy-novel genre convention?


It’s really bad for edged weapons to leave blood on them. (Which is why iaido and iaijutsu, the Japanese sword arts concerned with the quick draw, always include shaking or wiping the blood off the sword as part of the technique, albeit in a fairly stylized manner.)

My favorite moment in Gangs of New York: Brendan Gleeson telling Leonardo di Caprio that Shakespeare was the man who wrote the King James Bible. A movie about Brendan Gleeson’s character would have been a much better movie.

Gangs (the movie, not the non-fiction book) sucked. Here's why.

Paradise Alley was a good book from late last year about the CWDR. I'm surprised you've not heard of it, as it was the front page review in the New York Times and everything.

Most riotheads think Banished Children Of Eve from 1993 is the best CWDR novel though.

Thanks, Nick! Btw, I should've made clear that by "in connection with" your book, I meant something like "various things about the movie made a little more sense than they might have otherwise 'cause I had some sense of the real history from reading Northern Gothic."

The only earlier stuff I'd seen about the gangs of Five Points came, I think, from Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, and I have no idea how fictionalized the Short Tails and Pearly Soames et al. are; I'm guessing they're entirely fictional characters based loosely on the ideas of real people, but maybe not.

I've never heard of Paradise Alley; I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't read NYT book reviews, and that I'm pretty insulated from the publishing world in general.

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