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My knowledge of mid-19th-century Manhattan is something approaching zero. I had absolutely no idea about the gang wars of the 1840s (likewise Five Points), nor Blackwell's Island, nor the nefarious activity that occurred during the 1860s (some of it also at Five Points), and in this regard, "Gangs of New York" does a good job at teaching this important, yet little known, part of American History. I can't sit here and claim it's faithful to the truth, when I don't even know what the truth is, but it seems like it's at least trying to be.

Yes, Martin Scorsese is going to throw in some drama, but that doesn't mean the history lesson is worthless; just embellished.

Let me warn you, before writing any spoilers, that this is a very long and difficult film to follow - you'll be doing yourself a favor to write down names, positions, actors, or have the Wikipedia window open if you're watching it on your computer - otherwise, you might easily get confused. I did all this and *still* got confused, so be mindful. If you get lost (and don't be ashamed if you do), there's a very thorough synopsis on IMDB.com.

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

It's surprising that Liam Neeson ("Priest" Vallon, Amsterdam Vallon's (Leonardo DiCaprio's) father) is killed off so early in the film, but that does set the stage for the rest of the movie. Plus with other major stars such as William Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), and Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz), this might have saved some on what must have been substantial salary costs (*)

Speaking of history, I find it both fascinating and timely that Abraham Lincoln's Conscription Act of 1863 - the first-ever mandatory draft for American men - could be circumvented either by paying $300, or by finding a suitable substitute (this is both in the film, but also occurred in real-life). Needless to say, this caused a great deal of civil unrest, as accusations were made that wealthier people could avoid the draft, whereas poorer people were stuck with it - the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It's amazing to me how Amsterdam had the wits about him to sell the recently killed corpse to medical science (it's even more amazing to me how that ended up in the papers, considering the transaction was made in complete secrecy). Notice the tribute paid to Nosferatu in the newspaper article - the drawing of the man second-from-the-right - even the man on the far-right has similar ears:

Screenshot 2017-04-05 at 19.46.26.png

My goodness - I just realized I'm only forty minutes into this film, and I have over two hours remaining.

Ha! I knew when they were talking about Jenny (Cameron Diaz) being a "turtledove," that it was Martin Scorsese making a cameo as a wealthy homeowner.

Screenshot 2017-04-05 at 21.12.42.png

(*) Interesting - when I was confirming that about Scorsese, I also read that both DiCaprio and Scorsese both took salary reductions to preserve the budget.

Huh! And shortly afterwards, Horace Greeley (Michael Byrne) makes a formidable appearance. Here's an interesting piece of information about the 1872 Presidential Election (it's too important to be called "trivia."). Likewise, P.T. Barnum (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) makes a significant appearance in the movie.

Wikipedia describes "Gangs of New York" as an "epic period drama," and that it certainly is. Who would know that the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 were the largest civil and racial insurrection in American history, aside from the Civil War - I certainly didn't, and wouldn't have if I hadn't watched this film. For this reason alone, the film is worth watching - I'm not even sure I knew this film even existed (it was released four months after Karen died, and I only have a vague recollection of the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion - I mean, I have a memory of noticing the headlines when it happened, but I didn't care, and know almost nothing about it (contrast to the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, which was one of the few incidents during my lifetime that I remember where I was when I heard the news (some others being the O.J. Simpson Trial, the World Trade Center attacks, the Apollo 11 moon landing, and Martin Luther King's assassination).

"Gangs of New York" may not be to everyone's taste, but there's no denying that it's an important, historical film, and one which I will remember for a long time. It's so long (2'45") that you *must* be dragged into its atmosphere if you're going to watch it, and you're unlikely to forget it for that reason alone. To show how out of touch I was with life during that time period, I've never even heard of "Chicago," which won the Best Picture Academy Award that year.

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On 4/6/2017 at 5:46 PM, DonRocks said:

"Gangs of New York" may not be to everyone's taste, but there's no denying that it's an important, historical film, and one which I will remember for a long time. It's so long (2'45") that you *must* be dragged into its atmosphere if you're going to watch it, and you're unlikely to forget it for that reason alone. To show how out of touch I was with life during that time period, I've never even heard of "Chicago," which won the Best Picture Academy Award that year.

This film was not to my taste when I watched it 15 years ago. I remember it being quite violent, and not being able to watch much of it. Of course, I still look away when zombies are taken out on "The Walking Dead," so I might just be oversensitive. I did, however, enjoy "Pulp Fiction," and that was probably just as violent, if not more so. I appreciated the historical elements of "Gangs of New York,"even as I was averting my eyes from the screen.

As for "Chicago," it is a fun film that I thoroughly enjoyed, I was a Velma Kelly-inspired flapper for Halloween that year, and I enjoyed singing along to the soundtrack in the car with my then 8-year-old daughter.

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Prior to its release I looked forward to this film.  Along with the usual movie publicity there were fairly recently written histories about that period, place. and events. The movie drew from them.  What struck me was that the history had been "buried" so to speak.  Whether through deep deliberate efforts or not these events escaped our awareness.

As to the film it's been 15 years. My recollections are a bit vague.  Daniel Day-Lewis was terrific and memorable as an over the top personality and character.  He I recall vividly.  Scenery was fascinating, the fight scenes certainly contributed to the sense of epicness and damn that population lived in miserable squalor.  Overall while a challenging watch I appreciated it, if didn't love it.  Much of that has to do with the history.

On 4/6/2017 at 5:46 PM, DonRocks said:

Speaking of history, I find it both fascinating and timely that Abraham Lincoln's Conscription Act of 1863 - the first-ever mandatory draft for American men - could be circumvented either by paying $300, or by finding a suitable substitute (this is both in the film, but also occurred in real-life). Needless to say, this caused a great deal of civil unrest, as accusations were made that wealthier people could avoid the draft, whereas poorer people were stuck with it - the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wikipedia describes "Gangs of New York" as an "epic period drama," and that it certainly is. Who would know that the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 were the largest civil and racial insurrection in American history, aside from the Civil War - I certainly didn't, and wouldn't have if I hadn't watched this film. For this reason alone, the film is worth watching - 

"Who would know?"  It turns out virtually no one.  The events were carried in the news of the day.  Then there was some process most likely from "the powers at the top" to bury these events.

Makes sense. What nation wants its population to know that wide spread draft resistance and violent riots are a part of its real history. Who wants the public to know that a portion of the Union Army fresh off the significant battle at Gettysburg had to race up to NYC to put down an out of control insurrection.

Why this grabbed me was that fast forward a little more than 100 years later I was an active participant in the Anti Vietnam War movement as a then college kid and oh btw facing a draft once my college deferments ended. (Had no idea what I was going to do)

The way I was most active was in becoming a "very well educated and knowledgeable advocate against the war" then engaging in petition drives to get citizens to demand we end our involvement.  (It was the in the system non-violent kind of approach)

What astounded me in the run up news about Gangs of New York was the history of that draft resistance, the "players" (Irish immigrants) and the amazing level of violence.

in 1969/1970 nobody knew about this.  The historians and deep researched thought leaders that were educating the "movement foot soldiers" like me, didn't know about these events and never mentioned them.  It was buried history.

Fascinating!  "Who would know?" Evidently not us Americans.

For history, the drama, the scenes, I'd call it a worthwhile movie.

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