The Many Saints Of Newark

(Spoiler alert: Yes, some plot points of “The Many Saints of Newark” are revealed below, but they’re not super-significant and if you bother to watch this turkey you won’t care. As for “The Squid Game,” I haven’t finished so don’t be a jerk and e-mail me about it, STAY SILENT!)

It’s terrible.

The hottest show on television today is “The Squid Game.” Netflix expects it to be the most viewed show on the service ever! But I didn’t see an iota of advance publicity, there was no hype, its popularity is being driven by word of mouth, unlike “The Many Saints Of Newark.”

I’ve watched some Korean TV. It’s different. It’s slower, the characters can be stylized, and if you asked me if it had international appeal, that Americans would be tuning in to see this dystopian drama in a foreign language, I would have said NO WAY! And to tell you the truth, I’m only halfway through and I still don’t get the mania, but I’m going to finish it, because I want to be part of the discussion, in a world where the only communal touchpoints are generated by politics, it’s good to have something available to all that we all watch and talk about.

No one will be talking about “The Many Saints of Newark,” unless to remark how bad it is, if that.

So for over a year, we’ve been subjected to hype on this prequel to “The Sopranos.” Did we need it, did we want it? No. But we were certainly intrigued. The hype centered over the casting of Michael Gandolfini as his father, Tony Soprano, at a young age, and contrary to the sledgehammer of publicity his role is pretty small, he pulls it off somewhat believably, better than most of the scene chewers in this two hour waste of time.

It’s almost a comedy. NONE of the performances ring true. Oh, they did a good job of casting people who look like their elder selves, but they’d have been better off focusing on their acting ability. Especially laughable is the young Silvio Dante, who has got all of Little Steven’s mannerisms down, but ends up looking like a cartoon.

As for Ray Liotta… His plastic surgery has settled in and he no longer looks like a goon and he’s okay, but really as the brother, not as “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti. And Liotta’s performance is better than every other one except for Vera Farmiga’s as Livia Soprano, but even she has scenes that ring completely untrue, like when she’s speaking with the guidance counselor.

So the film begins with Hollywood Dick returning from Italy with his new bride and you’re already confused, WHO IS WHO? It takes half an hour or more to realize Hollywood Dick is Christopher’s grandfather. And Christopher’s father “Dickie” not only doesn’t ring true, you can’t understand what is going on in his life, he’s got Giuseppina in an apartment but is he still married and then when Johnny Soprano comes home from prison he’s talking about a new baby as if it’s his and if you’re not confused, you wrote the damn script.

And the focus is on imagery rather than script or performance. Then again, it doesn’t always ring true. There’s a cab ride where the meter stick is so worn out it couldn’t possibly be contemporary, it looks like the relic it is.

And we don’t even know what year we’re in!

Sure, it starts off in 1967, but then Tony is a teenager and there’s no mention of year and you’re really not sure, not that you care.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano had an inner anger that was always visible. And he was rarely over the top, unlike Big Dick and Little Dick. As for Junior… I love Corey Stoll, he was great in “House of Cards,” but he looks like a Jewish accountant here, not a member of the Mafia.

And they all hang out but the context, what they’re doing, is never really explained. The other Mafia families, the Blacks moving in on their territory. Actually, the only performance that rings true most of the time is Leslie Odom, Jr.’s, after he’s back from down south, he’s got that edge, that inner anger. As for Little Dick, aka “Dickie,” killing people… He looks like a guy who’d confess instantly, weary of a nervous breakdown, he’s not a cold-blooded killer.

So what we see here is David Chase is not the genius.

I was always surprised that the guy who took over “Northern Exposure,” which resulted in a step down in quality, could generate something as good as “The Sopranos.” Obviously it was the peripheral people, like Terence Winter, who was not involved in this abomination.

I never would have gone to a theatre to see this. Covid or no, especially with the bad reviews. This is just an expensive TV movie. That no one really wants to see. A curio. You truly can’t go home anymore. Thank god James Gandolfini is dead and couldn’t participate in this piece of crap, it would stain his legacy. It remains intact. Unfortunately, James is still dead.

Big Pussy, Paulie Walnuts, Christopher… All the original characters had a core of evil. It might be wrapped in niceness when out in public, but there was no doubt these people would do what it took to protect their business, to survive. And they were a family, and Tony was quite obviously the boss. Who exactly is the boss here? Dickie doesn’t live up to the role, certainly not hothead Johnny, who seems to be modeling his role on James Caan’s in “The Godfather.”

This movie was promoted in a positively old school way. And the old school is dead. Word was out on this turd long before the average citizen could see it. The hype didn’t matter, it was instantly disregarded, you can’t pull the wool over the audience’s eyes today. You’ve got to focus on the product. TV is still not like music. Sure, there’s a lot of product, but nowhere near the amount there is in music, where 60,000 tracks are uploaded to Spotify every week. So if you’re on the big platform people will give you a chance and if the show is any good they’ll tell others and you’ll have a viral hit. This is what has happened again and again and again, from “Stranger Things” to “Tiger King”…

It’s hysterical to watch old Hollywood burn right in front of our eyes. They’re gonna blame it on Covid, but the truth is everybody is accessible online, and it turns out two-dimensional actors are not that interesting, we don’t want to model our behavior after them. And then the Silicon Valley titans disrupted the old industry, built on fraud, not paying investors and profit participants, and not investing in the future either. The old Hollywood moguls were crooks, playing a game of street ball. It wasn’t about education, it was sharp elbows, how else does a hairdresser like Jon Peters get to run a studio and ultimately lose billions?

So now the studio heads are faceless. And when they try to move forward, the rest of old Hollywood freaks out. Yes, your product has to be on the flat screen, day and date, wake up to the present. As for the agencies bitching… Their money doesn’t come from movies and music anymore anyway, it comes from sports and other non-Hollywood elements of their behemoth operations. Sure, they prepared for the future, give them credit, but the glamour of the movie business does not pay the bills. As for the leverage of the stars… For years they’ve been unable to open pictures. Scarlett Johansson was lucky she was in a superhero movie, and did you see that Disney settled with her? They don’t want a precedent.

The action is in series, not movies, and it’s all on the flat screen. “The Many Saints of Newark” even leaves us hanging in the end. What we really needed was a series, thank god we didn’t get one.

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