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The Requested Miami Vice Thread
July 4, 2009 3:48 PM   Subscribe

September 16 1984, a television show like no other swept onto American screens via NBC. Yes, that is correct, 2009 marks the 25th anniversary of Miami Vice.

The thundering opening title music became a hit all its own, and along with Glen Frey's Smuggler's Blues helped propel the television soundtrack album to record sales, only recently knocked from the top spot by the High School Musical soundtrack.

But the series didn't simply promote music. It inhabited it, used it in nearly surrealist ways, overlaid the storyline with a sheen of postmodern irony. Music was used as emotional shorthand. But in finer moments, the blend of audio and visual was sublime.

The show's impact on men's fashion cannot be understated, and even now, some are trying to bring back the pastel sensibility.

Those with access to hulu can watch episodes on demand. Everyone else, I apologize for not finding resources available in your country. Perhaps others can post them here?
posted by hippybear (92 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
*ack* okay, it's impact on clothing cannot be overstated, either. gah.
posted by hippybear at 3:52 PM on July 4, 2009


Let me be the first to register what amounts to a big fat ... whatever.

I guess I was just old enough to see MV for the rather silly thing it was, all wrapped up in how deadly cocaine cool it was. And then came the episode (first season, I'm pretty sure) where some old buddy "gone wrong" of Crockett's gets killed ... and what song should rise strong and profound on the soundtrack:

Peter Gabriel's BIKO

Yeah, he wrote that about a cocaine dealer.
posted by philip-random at 3:59 PM on July 4, 2009


They sure did drive around alot on that show.
posted by empath at 4:00 PM on July 4, 2009


If nothing else, the show influenced GTA Vice City. That's good enough for me.

(I sure did drive around a lot in that game.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:05 PM on July 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


and found a lot of reasons to take boats places.

or am I confusing it with 'Knight Boat'?
posted by lodurr at 4:06 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


(hippybear, i admire how you actually found a way to make a passably relevant FPP so qickly!)
posted by lodurr at 4:08 PM on July 4, 2009


For a few years, Phil Collins had his fill of liquified brains and pastel suits.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:08 PM on July 4, 2009


If nothing else, the show influenced GTA Vice City.

Philip Michael Thomas was freaking hilarious in that game.
posted by rokusan at 4:09 PM on July 4, 2009


How quaint to see a character have to actually stop what he's doing and pull over to find a phone booth for his dramatic conversation with his wife. You don't get that much these days on TV.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:13 PM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Simply Red clip must be from a later season, after they blew up Sonny's "Daytona"*, since I see he's driving a Testarossa.

--
*i.e., the Corvette with the Daytona-like skin on it.
posted by lodurr at 4:16 PM on July 4, 2009


(hippybear, i admire how you actually found a way to make a passably relevant FPP so qickly![sic] )

Yes .. relevant as per having been brought up in the Sarah Palin thread derail very early this morning: "I think Sarah Palin is on the verge of becoming the Miami Vice of American politics..."
posted by ericb at 4:17 PM on July 4, 2009


My comment, imported from the I-won't-speak-her-name thread:

Furthermore, it was thanks to Miami Vice that I was able to look sharp by sporting a jacket with rolled-up sleeves and loafers for my date with Laura Bishop when I was twelve.


So thank you Miami Vice, you made 12 year old me a little slicker. Well you and the insane amount of hair gel I used.
posted by ob at 4:19 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the thread!
posted by ob at 4:19 PM on July 4, 2009


If nothing else, the show influenced GTA Vice City. That's good enough for me.

And they had Frank Zappa in one episode.
posted by stifford at 4:21 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


ericb: I did strive to make the thread a tad more relevant than simply the derail...
posted by hippybear at 4:22 PM on July 4, 2009


not just Frank Zappa, but Frank Zappa wearing Miami Vice fashion! It's a win-win!
posted by hippybear at 4:24 PM on July 4, 2009


I did the white shoes with no socks thing, but it had more to do with these guys (and this poster, in particular) than MV.

Ah, the 80s.
posted by elfgirl at 4:26 PM on July 4, 2009


You haters are crazy. Miami Vice is AWESOME! Seriously, it's one of the few shows where it has actually made sense to own the DVDs.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:32 PM on July 4, 2009


Let us not forget, too, that MV marked the glorious end of the golden age of Don Johnson's lofty appearance on the Darkstar Hunkometric Scale, an era that began auspiciously with his 1972 appearance in Kung Fu.
posted by darkstar at 4:32 PM on July 4, 2009


ericb: I did strive to make the thread a tad more relevant than simply the derail...

True. I agree. Inspiration comes from many places.

My comment, imported from the I-won't-speak-her-name thread:

Mine, too: "Cars and Boats in Miami Vice."
posted by ericb at 4:32 PM on July 4, 2009


I wore black in the 80s. Come to think of it, I don't even remember seeing the sun in the 80s.
posted by philip-random at 4:33 PM on July 4, 2009


I had forgotten how bad the acting was on that show.

Even you, Admiral Adama. Even you.
posted by rokusan at 4:34 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can we have a separate Miami Vice thread?

OIC -- his wish has been fulfilled! Carry on.
posted by ericb at 4:36 PM on July 4, 2009


I was always struck by the similarities in the opening of “Miami Vice” and “Hawaii 5-0”: fast-paced music, lots & lots of reminders of location, a few seconds of girl woman babe-jiggle…

Oh, there was also an interesting plot characteristic -- there seemed to be only one brain in the department, which usually belonged to the key character in that particular episoide (note: this counts as innovation: in most shows, only one character has the brain, and they have it in every episoide)
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 4:37 PM on July 4, 2009


ericb: Ah, yes. Having that bit of information makes this thread make more sense.
posted by hippybear at 4:38 PM on July 4, 2009


Frank Zappa in one episode

That's what got me into the weaseldust business - so that one day, I too, could have a yacht-mounted potatogun.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:39 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


My parents would always have this show on during Game Night on Fridays. We'd play Monopoly, eat Chef Boyardee Pizza-from-a-Kit, drink Coke and watch Miami Vice. When Sledge Hammer! moved opposite Miami Vice, we watched that instead. Still, for a while, nothing was more exciting than watching Crockett and Tubbs tool around in cool cars and pastels while getting bubbles up my nose.

Oh yeah, and my mom had the soundtrack on cassette (we did not get a CD player until 1988). Jan Hammer and Glenn Frey, eat your heart out. (If you confronted her with that fact now, I bet she'd deny it.)

I think my favorite episode was the one where an ice cream truck driver was a drug dealer and used his public address to warn one of his confederates about police or robbers or something. That was also the point in life where I realized that just because a show was a grown-up drama didn't mean it wasn't silly.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:40 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had forgotten, until just now, that Power Station, the Duran Duran spin off band, was on Miami Vice. It was awesome, as you can see in this video. That's John Taylor and Michael Des Barres, right?

I think this was the first episode of Miami Vice my mom let me watch. It was my older sister's favorite show, for sure. I went and saw Power Station on tour later that year. My dad took my sister and me to see them at Alpine Valley. I don't think I would've gone if not for Miami Vice.
posted by elmer benson at 4:46 PM on July 4, 2009


While on the subject of Miami Vice, etc. I recommend the documentary Cocaine Cowboys which chronicles the development of the drug trade in Miami during the 1970s and 1980s.
posted by ericb at 4:47 PM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


That Zappa clip is just embarrassing to watch.
posted by lodurr at 4:49 PM on July 4, 2009


Nicely parried from the Palin-a-thon, hippybear, but you forgot the most baroque detail, the true signifier of '80s excess: the obligatory MTV crossover.

Some might claim that the best example of this was Philip Michael Thomas' Living the Book of My Life, which nearly takes the cake on title alone. (Pop it in the ole CD changer with Kirk Van Houten's "Can I Borrow a Feeling?" and then skip 'em both and watch PMT do what he does best - over-emote - in the incomparably hyperbolic movie-of-the-week Death Drug.)

No, the true pinnacle of Miami Vice's cross-platform cultural influence was Don Johnson's synth-pop hit "Heartbeat." In my memory, it was immediately replaced on the charts by Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time," or vice versa, but I'm sure there was a Wham! or Huey Lewis single in between as a sort of aural palate cleanser.
posted by gompa at 4:51 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget Helena Bonham Carter's guest appearances as Theresa.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:01 PM on July 4, 2009


I came back to top that Helena Bonham Carter Miami Vice guest star drop-in... but I couldn't choose between Julia Roberts and freakin' Leonard Cohen.

Then I realized that the Willie Nelson / Steve Buscemi combo was probably the holy grail.
posted by rokusan at 5:20 PM on July 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


But in finer moments, the blend of audio and visual was sublime.

The song in the background of Hello Earth is a lovely Georgian folk song called Zinskaro, btw.
posted by homunculus at 5:20 PM on July 4, 2009


Can we have a separate Sarah Palin thread?
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:22 PM on July 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


If nothing else, the show influenced GTA Vice City.

It also launched Don Johnson's "music career."

(With some extra Zappa-lite goodness.)
posted by Cyrano at 5:42 PM on July 4, 2009


A couple of years ago I was channel surfing and stumbled on an episode in which a young Liam Neeson plays a member of the IRA. The spectacularly cheesy title of the episode was When Irish Eyes are Crying.

I didn't stick around for long enough to see it, but apparently they used the Pogues' "Wildcats of Kilkenny" in the episode, which is actually kind of awesome.
posted by craichead at 5:45 PM on July 4, 2009


Before Miami Vice, Phillip Michael Thomas starred a 1978 film called Death Drug. Here is a clip of Phillip Michael Tomas freaking out on a drug called "Whack" - "This is whack baby, the stick with the kick, you'll get so high you'll need a parachute to come down"

The movie was unfinished and was never able to be completed UNTIL Mr. Thomas got famous from Miami Vice. Then the director added his solo video, and worked it into the storyline of the movie. The movie is insane. The last 20 minutes of the film is a news report telling you about everything you just saw in the movie.

I highly recommend it. You won't believe what you're watching.
posted by chambers at 5:45 PM on July 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


So from the "Boats of Miami Vice" I learn that Don Johnson was a world class motorboat racer. Woah.

Also, to repeat myself from the other thread: Don made it OK for me not to shave every day. For this, I thank him.
posted by rodgerd at 6:49 PM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


My parents would always have this show on during Game Night on Fridays. We'd play Monopoly, eat Chef Boyardee Pizza-from-a-Kit, drink Coke and watch Miami Vice.

Awwww... can I move in with you, infinitewindow?
posted by The Deej at 7:00 PM on July 4, 2009


Even you, Admiral Adama. Even you.

Edward James Olmos looks younger there but at the same time he still looks old... it's like he was born old or something.
posted by GuyZero at 7:18 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Miles Davis also appeared in an MV episode, entitled "Junk Love" (1985).
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:20 PM on July 4, 2009


The show's impact: on men's fashion cannot be understated

much better
posted by Sparx at 8:36 PM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great post but christ it makes me feel old.

...and twenty-five years later, the eighties still suck.
posted by octothorpe at 9:16 PM on July 4, 2009


Jan was the man.

And this if you get through all of that.
posted by DonnyMac at 9:22 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just want to commend the poster and commenters in this thread for pretending the movie was never made. As cheesy as the series was, they could have kept the sensibility -- and the music.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:53 PM on July 4, 2009


Final scene. The song is Tell Me, sung by the late, great Terry Kath, and written by James William Guercio. It also closed out Guercio's movie, Electra Glide in Blue.

The violence on that show was groundbreaking for television. I recall that a shooting in an episode very shortly (like, four days) after the Bernie Goetz incident incorporated Goetz's reported comment, "You don't look too bad, here's another. The producers apparently whipped the scene up, shot it and incorporated it into that week's episode, to exploit "Subway Vigilante" fever.
posted by stargell at 10:19 PM on July 4, 2009


I kind of liked Miami Vice but damn it made the boys and men around me silly. I couldn't STAND those damned unbuttoned shirts, especially on skinny teenagers trying to be impressive.

It bled over into my grandmother's novellas, too. I swear, there was one fellow who kept undoing buttons so that finally about midseason he'd be walking around, even in fancy sit-down restaurants, with a completely unbuttoned shirt.

Now the short shorts were something I approved of. Especially on basketball players. Not these skirts they wear today.

I'll stop now. It's late, I'm sunburned, the fireworks are over, and teh wtfbbq was damn good.
posted by lysdexic at 10:22 PM on July 4, 2009


Oh man, such memories. I used to watch this show with my dad, and we had the soundtrack album as an LP. I should see if that LP's still floating around the old homestead.
posted by mogget at 10:33 PM on July 4, 2009


And then there was the Don Johnson/Cheech Marin/San Francisco redux. That one didn't take itself too seriously, which was a bonus. Don't recall the name of the series, though...
posted by five fresh fish at 10:57 PM on July 4, 2009


I wore black in the 80s. Come to think of it, I don't even remember seeing the sun in the 80s.

Is that because you wore your sunglasses at night?
posted by nave at 11:02 PM on July 4, 2009


I like Miami Vice. I rewatched the first couple seasons (I couldn't handle anything past season 3) about 3 years ago and I was surprised at what a cynical, leftist, and generally anti-capitalist show it was. Previously I had remembered all the bling and therefore remembered it as having a greed-is-good philosophy.

Anyway, I recommend watching a couple of seasons if you haven't watched it in 20 years. Definite cheese but culturally illuminating nonetheless. The weakest episodes were the ones that tried to have a message- painfully After School Special but that wasn't most of them.

It feels modern enough that things like 5" floppies, cassette decks, and phone booths are jarring, which makes it an especially good window in that era in a timewarp sort of way. It was before crack got a good grip, but things were heading that way. Vietnam was more recent for the main characters than Desert Storm is to my peers. Even the cheesy IRA episode- when I was a kid in the 1980s I though the Troubles were going to last decades more. (There are enough Irish in San Francisco that it was something I heard a lot about.) Something that seemed hopeless in the 1980s got better! And most got worse.

When I was a kid Miami Vice was all about the cool factor and now that I'm older it's all about corrosion, corruption and cynicism. And yet it still seems naive in some ways.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:08 PM on July 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Michael Mann.
posted by sleslie at 11:43 PM on July 4, 2009


I couldn't choose between Julia Roberts and freakin' Leonard Cohen .

Holy shit. I'm a huge motherfucking Cohen fan & I'd never seen that.
posted by item at 12:00 AM on July 5, 2009


And then there was the Don Johnson/Cheech Marin/San Francisco redux. That one didn't take itself too seriously, which was a bonus. Don't recall the name of the series, though...

Nash Bridges. There's a cable channel - CI? - that, instead of having commercials, shows clips from the other shows they air. The same clips. Over and over and over and over. They air Twin Peaks, which I watch, and they air Nash Bridges, a series that I've see the same 3 minute scene from maybe 70 times.
posted by item at 12:05 AM on July 5, 2009


"Furthermore, the thrill of boat racing would lead Johnson to startup his own Offshore powerboat racing team, called Team USA. Joining him were other Hollywood stars like Kurt Russell and Chuck Norris, and eventually Johnson would win the Offshore World Cup in 1988 and continue racing into the 1990s."

Heady fucking times, man.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 3:26 AM on July 5, 2009


Oh I was so goddamned young. Sonny Crockett... I grew up to become a straight guy, but I half remember Don Johnson making me all kinds of bothered for a while there. I thought he was so fucking hot. As I recall were most/all of the women on the show, but all I seem to remember about them now is big, really really big hair. And shoulder pads out to here.

Miami was a totally alien, scary, exotic, sexy grown-up fairytale world to my kid self half a world away. And hip 80's Miami summer fashion really wasn't working in the Swedish winter, but goddamn we tried our best.
posted by Glee at 3:44 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Michael Mann has lots of technical advisors that make all of his films look ridiculously realistic and I bless him for this - Mick Gould made Tom Cruise look and move like a professional. Even Jamie Foxx didn't look shit despite him bottling it when they were filming in the Dominican Republic in Miami Vice.

He hires cops when he needs to and criminals to make sure he gets the look and kit right (i.e. the thermic lance from Thief and Crime Story) and this means his shows/movies are always great to watch for folks like myself who appreciate realism in film. The final shootout in Miami Vice (the movie) is fantastic. The audio alone is worth it, it's about the first film that actually captures how loud a gunfight is.

He is lucky to work with actors who are willing to go through stupid amounts of training - Tom Cruise, despite all his scientology crap genuinely learned to pull the H & K USP Compact, double tap, failure drill another guy in less than a second that you see in Collateral. That's incredibly impressive firearms handling. Daniel Day Lewis ended up living in a hide shelter, skinning and butchering animals for Last Of The Mohicans.

Despite all of this, Mann's films just feel really empty to me. There is always a father/mentor-son/pupil conflict that needs to be resolved but otherwise they seem to be adverts for whichever particular aspect of the police/criminal world that Mann happens to be interested in that week. I love his movies on an intellectual level and the digital HD of Collateral and Miami Vice are stunning, I love the soundtracks and he has access to some great Hollywood talent but still there is an emptiness to his films that just makes me go "Oh...."

Also - Crime Story (season one) and Thief were his best work.
posted by longbaugh at 3:57 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always liked Crockett's Theme...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:00 AM on July 5, 2009


lognbaugh -- in the terms you're talking about, I agree with you about Crime Story (don't know thief): It's one of the few Mann films that feels to me like it's about something.

For that reason, I offer for your consideration Heat. Especially the last (? -- i think it's the very last, might be penultimate) scene, where Pacino's detective stays by the side of the man he's just killed, so he won't be alone when he dies.
posted by lodurr at 5:25 AM on July 5, 2009


Jan Hammer looks a little like Frank Sobotka.
posted by box at 6:14 AM on July 5, 2009


I had forgotten, until just now, that Power Station, the Duran Duran spin off band, was on Miami Vice. It was awesome, as you can see in this video. That's John Taylor and Michael Des Barres, right?

Unfortunately, yes. They were better with Robert Palmer.
posted by pracowity at 7:39 AM on July 5, 2009


Many many moons ago, I was attending the NAB show in Las Vegas as an intern for Sony Broadcast Division. Three booths down from us, Jan Hammer (I believe it was the Yamaha booth) is there, with his weird stick synth thing cutting the soundtrack for an episode LIVE in front of an audience of about 50ppl. You could sit down, put headphones on and hear him work his magic as the cuts were played on a big screen. It was pretty friggin awesome!
posted by HappyHippo at 8:11 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always found that the thesis in Mann's movies to be professionalism. In Collateral, when Max slows down for the wolves that "always appear at this time of night" despite Vincent's insistence to keep going, it's a moment where Vincent realizes that the taxi driver is really the best at what he does, and he finds some degree of respect towards Max. It's a dual protagonist plot and it is here where the transference occurs between the two -- and it's based on people who know their shit.

So for me, this is something that isn't really filmed or wrote about in the movies of the last 20-30 years, and I find his movies far from empty because of this.
posted by sleslie at 10:21 AM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let's not forget my personal favorite two films by Michael Mann: Manhunter and Last Of The Mohicans.

Manhunter was the first of the Hannibal Lector films, and has my favorite portrayal of him -- cold, analytical, personable, and completely normal until he veers off. The use of color as a motif, the manipulation of sound, the driving rock-n-roll... it is all here wrapped up in a very effective package. I obsessed on this film in my late teens, and wore out my VHS copy.

Last Of The Mohicans is another masterwork of composition. At times, the frame is used to create a living reproduction of early New England art. At other times, again, color is used to nearly abstract effect. (The scene where the Redcoat English are marching through an emerald green forest, which then erupts with brown-and-white painted Natives... stands my arm hairs on end just typing about it.) The lengthy sequences without dialogue, also very trademark Mann, and executed here with perfection.
posted by hippybear at 11:38 AM on July 5, 2009


hippybear: seconded - that ambush scene is astonishingly beautifully framed.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 12:58 PM on July 5, 2009


Mann is really good with actors (in his films -- MV is a lapse, htere, I think), and Last of the Mohicans is a great example for me. Wes Studi in that movie in particular just blew me away. (Russell means did great for an amateur, but Studi -- man, that was powerful shit.) (I don't mention Day Lewis only because I tend to take a good performance from him for granted.)

(Aside: I told somebody about seeing that and he said, "Oh, yea? Check out this old Mark Twain essay about James Fenimore Cooper." Which I did. And it's funny as hell, and totally true -- about Cooper. Mann took really crappy material and made a kickass movie out of it, with real characters and real motivations, and an amazing sound track.)

Anyway, actors: I feel like Manhunter is one of the better things Wm Peterson's ever done. Crowe was fantastic in The Insider, Kilmer did an excellent job in Heat (and even Ashley Judd, who I normally have a hard time tolerating, turned in a good job in Heat). I liked the ensemble work in "Crime Story" a lot. (MV, not so much. But I figure he was probably not as directly involved in a lot of stuff.)

So, yeah, Mann's serious; I do get the criticism of an "empty" feeling about his movies, though. You can say they're "about professionaonalism", but doesn't that feel a little "empty", too? As in, might that not be what the "emptiness" is about?

The scenes where I feel as though Mann is really wanting to show us something is when his characters reach that point where they realise that professionalism just isn't going to be enough. The less of that there is, the more empty the film feels for me. Manhunter feels a little barren for me for that reason. Not because it's not there -- it's in the script -- but I feel he doesn't really bring that ambivalence alive in Will for me the way that Harris did in the novel or even as well as Ed Norton did it in that other adaptation.
posted by lodurr at 1:55 PM on July 5, 2009


Little Miss Dangerous
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 2:05 PM on July 5, 2009


I know this is about the show and not the movie, but I've watched the movie several times and it just gets better. Not many people, aside from Michael Mann fans (I am one, for sure), seemed to appreciate it. I think it did exactly what it was supposed to. It was one long episode of the show, complete with some necessary female/male melodrama. That was a huge part of the TV show; to have left it out of the movie would have made it feel insincere.

This has been said over again about his films, even in this thread, but he is at his best when he shows his characters being the professionals they're required to be. To that end, I felt like he took a whole bunch of people revolving around each other in that movie and gave you a window into their work. And not just the main actors. Everyone, down to the doctors working on Trudy after she is in injured, is shown as a to-the-detail professional.

I've resolved that the one major misstep in the movie was Gong Li. I think that he was going for a more multi-national feel (as a representation of the global nature of the new crime business, one of the movie's central themes), but she is all kinds of wrong for the part. Her line readings are distracting, I think the chemistry between her and Farell is weak, and it essentially drags down what is supposed to be a large piece of the plot; an undercover cop who lets personal interfere with professional. Foxx hams it up a ton, but I think Philip Michael Thomas did too. It always looked like he was channeling him to play Tubbs instead of actually playing Tubbs.

But it does one Michael Mann trick very well.. the powerful emotional pairing of music with the images on screen to really put you right there in it. Just like the TV show did. It's near the end of this clip (about 6:00), but when they're on a powerboat heading to Cuba.. you're there too.

But the fast cars, the faster boats, the planes (sadly not being piloted by Glenn Frey), the guns, the music, the drama... all there. It's my favorite Michael Mann movie.
posted by ninjew at 3:48 PM on July 5, 2009


It'd be interesting to see the Michael Mann production Crime Story again, to see how well it's held up.
posted by gimonca at 5:10 PM on July 5, 2009


The movie: Mumble, mumble, mumble. Waste of Foxx. Mumble, mumble. Shootout. Highly stylized, but not-so-erotic fucking-in-the-shower scene. Mumble. Shootout. Sleek highway scene. Stylized fucking scene. Mumble mumble mumble. Boat scene, which did look great, even though by this point I was not caring. Mumble. Mumble mumble. Moody, sleek photography, depressed looking people all around. Mumble. Film ends.

Liked this discussion, though!
posted by raysmj at 5:11 PM on July 5, 2009


Reading this thread is fascinating. I wasn't even close to being born when Miami Vice was originally on television, and all I knew about it was that it reflected the Miami of Scarface and the GTA: Vice City videogame. I'm now curious as to whether it's something worth watching without nostalgia attached. I've seen most of the Miami Vice movie (wasn't paying attention when I watched it), and I hated it, but ninjew's comments have me wondering whether I've missed something. The grittiness of the picture was a minor but significant part of it being quite a jarring visual experience, and I found the overemphasis on realism (the shaky camerawork, for instance) to make it feel almost like a documentary rather than an immersive work of cinema. Add to that the fact that I think Jamie Foxx is a terrible actor…

The thing is, I really enjoyed Heat, and that was realistic without rubbing it in the audience's face and particularly memorable visually in a specifically cinematic way. Is the film worth rewatching, and, I guess, is the TV series worth a first look?
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 5:25 PM on July 5, 2009


I've always found that the thesis in Mann's movies to be professionalism.

Hmm. Although that fails in Heat when they SPOILER let Chris get away. What, you couldn't give the guys in cars a picture of the dude? Or is cutting of your ponytail and bleaching your hair an infallible disguise the LAPD can't see though?
posted by rodgerd at 5:26 PM on July 5, 2009


Miami Vice discussion in that other thread starts here, ends somewhere around here.
posted by box at 5:40 PM on July 5, 2009


Glee sez:

Miami was a totally alien, scary, exotic, sexy grown-up fairytale world to my kid self half a world away. And hip 80's Miami summer fashion really wasn't working in the Swedish winter, but goddamn we tried our best.

In my dark, dark childhood clime of Cleveland -- home of six-month winters and not even a little bit like Miami -- this was pretty much how I felt about the show, too. I was (omigod) eleven when this show debuted, and my dad and I would watch it every Friday night, and I was fucking entranced. Dad frequently laughed at some of the show's more ridiculous excesses (at some point when it seriously began to run out of gas it was revealed that Olmos's character had a secret former life as a ninja [!!!], which was a bridge too far even for me), but I really wanted to believe that this was somehow something like documentary realism, and that being an adult would be a great deal like it. (Yeah, sadly, no.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:42 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since i think noone has yet mentioned it, Matt Zoller Seitz is doing a very nice video essay (5 parts) on Michael Mann's work; Zen Pulp. The first part covering Miami Vice.

(Part 2, rest will come online this month). I also recommend his mini essay Right hand/Left hand on Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing
posted by Leon Backwards at 7:29 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never really watched the series back in the day. I was just a bit too young to "get it". I'm one of the few (perhaps very few) who really quite liked the movie. The dialogue is so complex and jargon-heavy, which is what I'm sure turned a lot of people off, but I liked it. Hollywood movies rarely have that these days; the dialogue is watered down to the lowest common denominator. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are fine, if completely undistinguished, but I think that's what Mann was aiming for. He's wasn't trying to make the cops as bigshot heroes, necessarily, but the focus is more on The Job and the professionalism needed to do The Job. For both cops and criminals alike. Which is a thread that runs through all of Mann's work.
posted by zardoz at 7:37 PM on July 5, 2009


gimonca, Crime Story holds up to a certain extent, but it suffers a bit too much from "supporting actors have personal life issues that come to a head and get resolved all in one episode" syndrome. Hey, it was the kinda the infancy of serial drama, I guess.

Be warned, the episodes on DVD have most of the original music cues replaced by generic 80s action music, and the elements are in horrible condition (the worst is the episode that has poorly-concealed time code in the middle of the screen).
posted by infinitewindow at 8:10 PM on July 5, 2009


Also I miss Michael Mann's gone-before-its-time series Robbery Homicide Division, starring Tom Sizemore and featuring incredible, well, music supervision, I suppose.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:12 PM on July 5, 2009


Let us not forget the use of PIL's "Order of Death" in the aforementioned Little Miss Dangerous ("This is what you want, this is what you get"). That one blew me away.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:44 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Any discussion involving Philip Michael Thomas is incomplete without a link to Black Fist (IMDb).
posted by anthom at 8:20 AM on July 6, 2009


rogerd, it's been a while, but isn't Chris's wife (Ashley Judd) being held by feds, not by Pacino's Major Crimes squad? If so, I think that pretty much makes that scene about professionalism.

(That said, I think the whole Chris thing in Heat is about the limits of professionalism as an ethos. I'd argue that's what that whole film is about. And I'm deciding as I write this that's what Mann's whole "thing" is: The limits of professionalism. In that, he's a lot like Hammett.)
posted by lodurr at 10:46 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


lodurr, that would make sense. In the TV series a constant source of tension was the black-and-white, by-the-book thinking of the Edward James Olmos character vs the on-the-ground, shades-of-grey decisions the cops on the ground had to make.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:35 AM on July 6, 2009


Or you could look at The Insider: As a "professional", he's morally compromised; as an ethical man, he's physically compromised. Which then leads naturally into discussions of what "professionalism" means (partial answer: "it depends").

So if Mann's work is mostly about the limits of professionalism as a ethos, I don't think he has many answers. That's OK, of course; questions are usually more important than answers when you're trying to make progress.
posted by lodurr at 11:42 AM on July 6, 2009


I loved Miami Vice when it was on - I was the perfect age for it, didn't see the cheese, just loved it. I can't watch it now for the cheese, but I still remember and love the music of the show.

I think I still have my cassette of the soundtrack from the TV series. Gonna have to dig it out and listen to it again. Perhaps while wearing my white sport coat and shoes with no socks.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:49 AM on July 6, 2009


Leon Backwards: Thank you SO much for linking to that documentary. It gets a bit precious at times, but I'm really looking forward to the other installments, and maybe one of us will remember to link them here when they are posted.
posted by hippybear at 3:02 PM on July 6, 2009


To me, Michael Mann's take on professionalism is that being a complete, total professional means that you have to sacrifice everything else: family, friends, whatever, then examining the human and moral costs. This is explicitly one of the things that Heat is about.

I'm a big Michael Mann fan, and I saw the Miami Vice movie with two other fans, and we were all incredibly disappointed. Heat was a layered, in-depth look at the group dynamics of the cops and robbers. Collateral was a detailed examination of the two main characters. Miami Vice failed on both counts. Someone got shot during a raid and it was difficult to tell if they were a cop or a bad guy, and impossible to care because Mann hadn't given us any reason to. Jamie Foxx was disappointing after his very strong turn in Collateral, and, while I'm not a big fan, Colin Farrell's performance was disappointing compared to his work in Minority Report, Phone Booth, and In Bruges
posted by kirkaracha at 4:16 PM on July 6, 2009


rogerd, it's been a while, but isn't Chris's wife (Ashley Judd) being held by feds, not by Pacino's Major Crimes squad? If so, I think that pretty much makes that scene about professionalism.

I watched it the other weekend, and I'm pretty sure it's Pacino's squad - it's the boyfriend that Pacino turns who gets them into Judd's apartment, and I'm pretty sure it's one of Pacino's sidekicks running that part of the operation.

(That said, I think the whole Chris thing in Heat is about the limits of professionalism as an ethos. I'd argue that's what that whole film is about.

Absolutely; De Niro, after all, dies because he can't walk away from his revenge.
posted by rodgerd at 1:35 AM on July 8, 2009


It's Pacino's squad. Mikelti Williamson convinces Ashley Judd to turn Chris in.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:33 AM on July 8, 2009


kirkarcha, my faulty memory aside, I think we're talking about more or less the same thing from a different angle. (And again, he reminds me of Hammett in this regard. though Hammett doesn't question the ethos nearly as much.)

FWIW, wasn't he only producing on the MV movie? So if it's a vapid style-fest "in the style of" Michael Mann, I'd only blame him for making it possible, not for actually doing it.
posted by lodurr at 6:28 AM on July 10, 2009


(Totally forgot Mikelti Williamson in that movie. Which is strange, he's very hard to forget.)
posted by lodurr at 6:29 AM on July 10, 2009


Yeah, his speech to Ashley Judd is great and he's strong throughout. (Trivia: Williamson was married to Miami Vice actress Olivia Brown in the early '80s.)

I think Hammett sometimes questions the ethos, but it's between the lines and done with tone and nuance.

Related: Lifetime subscriptions: Michael Mann's honor-bound individualists, part two of Moving Image Source's Zen Pulp series on Mann. (Bonus: the video uses the theme from Deadwood; Part 1 is Vice precedent: Michael Mann's existential TV drama; part 2 is I’m looking at you, Miss: The women of Mann.) Watching it I just now realized that in Thief James Caan uses photos as inspiration of the future he's working towards the same way Jamie Foxx does in Collateral, and there are thematic parallels between Thief and The Hustler.

Mann directed Miami Vice, I'm afraid. I see good reviews and hear people saying it's one of the best movies of the decade and wonder what I could have missed, but Farrell and Foxx's hair and facial hair just say "bad movie" to me. It's not disappointment over the movie not being like the TV show, either, since I didn't watch the show or care for it too much. A reboot with more of a connection would've been interesting, though.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:06 PM on July 10, 2009


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