Robert De Niro

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Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, the Bernie Goetz as a business mogul, may not be merely ignorant, immoral and bigoted, but perhaps he’s also seriously mentally ill. Who knows? He certainly behaves that way, in a manner that goes beyond just a deeply narcissistic person long sealed inside an ugly-as-sin echo chamber. 

At Deadline Hollywood, Greg Evans reports on Robert De Niro comparing Trump to another unhinged New Yorker, the fictional Travis Bickle:

“What (Trump) has been saying is totally crazy, ridiculous, stuff that shouldn’t be even… he is totally nuts,” De Niro said. “One of the things to me was just the irony at the end [of Taxi Driver],” De Niro said about the moment in the film when Bickle “is back driving a cab, celebrated, which is kind of relevant in some way today too…People like Donald Trump who shouldn’t be where he is so… God help us.”

One of the odder things about this Baba Booey of an election season is Republicans clinging to the belief that Trump can hit some sort of magical reset button, making not only his heretofore disgusting behavior vanish but also disappearing all his horrid character traits, as if what might be remedied through decades of therapy could be cured in a campaign war room in minutes.

In a New York Times article, Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman, who’ve done brilliant work throughout the election, write of the hideous hotelier’s foundering efforts at reinvention. An excerpt:

Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals. 

In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change.

He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories. Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter. 

But in interviews with more than 20 Republicans who are close to Mr. Trump or in communication with his campaign, many of whom insisted on anonymity to avoid clashing with him, they described their nominee as exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering.•

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Awkward and private, Robert De Niro was never a fan of the talk-show circuit, especially in his prime when he was turning out one indelible performance after another. But he relented for Merv Griffin in 1981, the year he won Best Actor for Raging Bull. De Niro also discuses the next movie he and Martin Scorsese were collaborating on, The King of Comedy.

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The baseball season, which began last week with a pair of games in Japan, gets going in earnest this week. Welcome back.


Robert De Niro and the “Singing Mammoths” rock out on the set of the Mets’ erstwhile postgame show, Kiner’s Korner, 1972:

Don’t look back, Satchel–something might be gaining on you, 1971:

“I threw the piss out of the ball the last part of the year,” 1981:

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“But seriously, you should’ve seen my mother. She was wonderful. Blonde, beautiful, intelligent, alcoholic. Once they picked her up for speeding. They clocked her doing 55. All right, but in our garage?”

“The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor,” groaned Leonard Cohen not so long ago, decrying the way the powerful could cajole and pacify the masses when communications was in the hands of the few. But that was before the democratization of the media, before everyone had a channel or two hundred, before Survivors, Idols and Bachelors. Back when the playing field was still uneven and a lack of discernible talent was considered a detriment, there was a simple man named Rupert Pupkin who dreamed of storming the gates.

Pupkin (Robert De Niro), an obsessed, delusional fan of New York talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), lives in his mother’s basement and ekes out a tiny existence while thinking big. He’s a peasant who sees himself as a king—the king of comedy, to be precise. Rupert hones his stand-up material in his dank apartment during the night, chatting with cardboard cut-outs of Liza and the like and working on his one-liners. He spends the rest of the time with the stalkerish autograph hound, Marcia (Sandra Bernhard), who makes him seem relatively balanced by comparison.

An awkward meeting with Jerry leads Rupert to believe that he will soon be sharing couch space with the legendary host. But it only brings the aspiring comic rejection and humiliation. Desperate, Rupert schemes with Marcia to kidnap Jerry and keep him until he gets his ransom–the chance to do the monologue on Langford’s show. But will his moment in the spotlight transform Rupert’s life or only confirm his failure? After all, democracy guarantees neither greatness nor meritocracy, only opportunity.•

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A little knowledge is a dangerous thing for Robert De Niro in Brian De Palma's "Hi, Mom!"

Travis Bickle wasn’t the first volatile Vietnam veteran that Robert De Niro portrayed. Years before the blistering violence of Taxi Driver, the great actor twice played Jon Rubin, a Peeping Tom/former soldier trying to make his way in a New York City that had gone to seed. De Niro handled the role in a pair of dark comedies for Brian De Palma: 1968’s Greetings, which was largely forgettable, and 1970’s Hi, Mom!, a raucous if scattershot machine gun of a satire that fired at everything from urban decay to the sexual revolution to guerilla theater to Black Power to white liberals.

Rubin, a demolitions expert in Vietnam, is discharged into a crappy, crime-ridden New York during the start of the city’s slide into economic malaise. After renting a rat trap for forty bucks a month from a disgusting landlord (Charles Durning), the peeper tries to parlay his voyeuristic tendencies into a career as an erotic filmmaker. Rubin talks a blowhard porn producer (Allen Garfield) into giving him two grand so that he can record the sexual exploits of his neighbors using a telescopic lens. When the residents across the way turn out to be bores, the auteur tries to spice things up by seducing his comely neighbor Judy Bishop (Jennifer Salt). But a camera malfunction messes up the big scene, and the veteran decides to turn his attention to an extreme guerrilla theater company that hopes to expose the Caucasian silent majority to Black Power. The film really takes off at this point, not only mocking the excesses of the theater troupe but sort of sympathizing with them.

“You know, tragedy is a funny thing,” Rubin says at one point, and sometimes it is in this intentionally crude movie that matched the madness of its time and place with a craziness all its own.•

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