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|Index||81 reviews in total|
67 out of 71 people found the following review useful:
Emotionally honest, 20 November 2006
Author: Paul Martin from Melbourne, Australia
What kind of writer reveals his troubled childhood, then directs a
semi-autobiographical film about it, using a character with his own
name? Bold, foolish or maybe both, that's exactly what Dito Montiel
Reminiscent of Larry Clark's Kids in Manhattan, it depicts adolescents growing up in a tough neighbourhood, in the borough of Queens. For some of these youth, the dangers lay not just on the streets, but also in their own homes. Dito only knew he had to get away.
At first the film is a little difficult to watch visually the editing and hand-held camera are abrupt. As the film develops, and the story shifts into the present, it becomes evident that this was a deliberate device to depict the nature of recollection. As Dito makes the journey across the continent to visit the ill father he hasn't seen in 15 years, a montage of childhood memories flood his mind.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints at times is not an easy film to watch but is more accessible than Kids. Both films depict the dangers faced by adolescents. While Kids depicted the consequences of those dangers, this film portrays how one boy escapes from them, but ultimately needs to confront and reconcile his past.
The performances in the film are strong. The actors are all very credible. The dialogue is saturated with authenticity. Melonie Diaz, who previously appeared in Raising Victor Vargas, beautifully portrayed Dito's childhood girlfriend Laurie. Rosario Dawson plays the grown up Laurie, and incidentally made her film debut in Kids.
Producer Robert Downey Jr. who encouraged Montiel to make the film, was excellent in an understated role as the adult Dito. The transition of actors between 1986 and the present was depicted effectively. Special mention to Chazz Palminteri, who always has a strong but unforced screen presence.
A film made with a small budget, it pays off with a strong, emotionally powerful and worthwhile story. I was surprised how the emotional impact crept up towards the end, as Dito dealt with his past as best he could.
This film is highly recommended for those who enjoy human drama in shades of grey. There's no good guy/bad guy thing happening here. It's people dealing with the hand that destiny has given them, and trying to find their way. It is full of emotional honesty and plausibility that you can buy into. And don't leave until after the final credits.
63 out of 80 people found the following review useful:
Powerful and heartfelt look at an often violent past, 29 August 2006
Author: James Sims from Los Angeles, CA
I recently saw a screening of "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" without any prior knowledge of the subject matter or cast, which I am beginning to believe might be the best idea before seeing many of the smaller films out there. Reminiscent of "Goodfellas" and "Kids," a gritty coming-of-age story that packs a powerful punch with star Shia LaBeouf delivering a heart- breaking performance. This film is not to be missed and should be a strong contender come awards season. Director and writer Dito Montiel obviously draws from the likes of Martin Scorsese as he paints Queens, New York in a light only familiar to those who grew up deep in the heart of it. "Saints" elicits both tears and laughter, often within moments of each other while keeping the audience on the edge of their seats the entire time. Topping off this walk down memory lane, Montiel incorporates a stellar soundtrack mostly from the 70's, which feels right even though most of the story takes place in the mid 80's.
47 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
"My name is Dito and I'm going to leave everyone in this film", 22 November 2006
Author: Flagrant-Baronessa from Sweden
In this autobiographical coming-of-age piece, director Dito Montiel
confronts his gritty past in Astoria, Queens. He tells the doomed story
of a teenage boy who spends his days in the seedy hot crime-infested
backstreets of 1980's New York City to the day when he leaves for
California and does not return until twenty years later, when his
father (Chazz Palminteri) is sick. The retelling is impressive and
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is bursting with the flair of a debut director, who is eager to employ a wide variety of techniques steadicams, punctured narrative, flashbacks, script interjections, dreamlike non-chronological editing and an uneven pace. The good news is that it channels Spike Lee's criminal Queens street style with fast-paced local jargon that recycles 'fuck' in every sentence and snaps and crackles like kindling in a fireplace between its many thug-like characters. Owing to its coming-of-age format, the story often stays wildly unfocused and you get the feeling many scenes do not serve a purpose other than to get us a feel for the venality with which things were run.
Nevertheless, the characters are all absorbing, especially the young versions of Robert Downey Jr, Eric Roberts and Rosario Dawson. One of these is Antonio a childhood friend of Dito's and local bully who does wonderful improvisation-like raw lines. The vast contingent of American preeteen fangirls who were lusting after Channing Tatum after his cheesy teen movies had put me off this actor at first, but it cannot be denied that he gives one of the most intense performances in the film as Antonio he is hard-edged, testosterone-fuelled and doomed. Robert Downey Jr. is remarkably toned down as the grown-up Dito, delivering sparse lines and abandoning his usual colourful style of acting.
Together the four Queens teens harass girls, beat up rival gangs, shoplift and give attitude to on-lookers and this is undoubtedly when it feels the most like Spike Lee Lite. Saints patiently crafts tension at several points in the story, and it prefers climaxes to continuity as bad events snowball into criminal messes, deaths and the final abandonment by Dito. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is an interesting and compelling story, recreated with deft strokes by local Dito Montiel.
Sting and Trudi Styler loved the script so much they went to great lengths to support the production, and Chazz Palminteri delayed the shooting of another film of his with money out of his own pocket just to be able to play the bruised father in the film. These should serve as marks of its success and most of all the commitment with which its cast approached the film.
7.5 out of 10
53 out of 69 people found the following review useful:
Powerful and affecting... amazing debut, 29 August 2006
Author: cuchelo1 from Los Angeles
I liked the direction and acting better than the screenplay, although Dito Montiel has written a very moving story. His use of different styles and techniques- most of which came from him just experimenting or not really knowing what "to do"- are at first somewhat jarring, but grow to fit the fractured lives of his characters perfectly. This movie is not for everybody, but should be seen by anyone who is despairing of the state of American Independent movies. And the cast- truly brilliant. Pros like Dianne Weist (she can truly do no wrong, and her character would be so weak in a lesser actor's hands) and Chazz Palminteri are mixed with relative newcomers and complete unknowns that Montiel picked up in casting sessions out in Queens. For me, the whole movie was worth seeing Channing Tatum, however. He is heartbreaking and scary and full of explosive energy. The screen can barely contain him. One of the best movies I've seen in quite awhile.
39 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
A Guide to Recognizing YOURSELF..., 20 October 2006
Author: Maximillian Hope from United States
An authentically heartfelt, and truly inspiring film, by a first-time
filmmaker, Recognizing Your Saints, bellows deep in the heart and soul
of everyone that is privileged to see it. Written and directed by Dito
Montiel, from his autobiographical novel of the same title, Recognizing
Your Saints is a sincerely brave effort, by a shy and yet outspoken
filmmaker. Rehashing his hellish childhood in 1980's Astoria, Queens,
Montiel brings a brilliant cast together to portray the misery of the
youth growing up around him at the time.
Starring Robert Downey Jr. as the adult version of Montiel and Shia LaBeouf as the angst teenager, there is an almost perfect synergy between the two portrayals of Montiel at two different spectrum's of his life. Being called back to a Queens that Montiel left with his life and the clothes on his back, he is called back to take his dying father to the hospital.
Questions of fatherly love and compassion are brought out throughout the film, only to be answered by the gently grim, unyielding hand of Montiel's father played by native New Yorker, Chaz Palmintieri. Comparisons to Mean Streets, Kids and Raising Victor Vargas can be made to this New York drama on the whole. But, every scene, individually is so undeniably real that Montiel's film surpasses its comparisons and resonates as an entirely different type of film.
This film, about a group of kids can be told anywhere and that is what is unique about it, that it does not limit itself to the city it subsequently takes place on. It was a great surprise after the screening of the film, to have a nice personal Q & A, with the director himself. Being a very shy man, Montiel answered a few questions about the characters in the film, and where they are now. He also explained how much he loved working with the young cast, and breaking the rules of film making, he did not know existed. Overall this is a great film, filled with amazing performances, no one should miss.
40 out of 49 people found the following review useful:
One of my favs of the year, 27 October 2006
Author: Henryhill51 from United States
First time director Dito Montiel's "A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints" is a harsh autobiographical look back at his youth on the mean streets of Astoria, Queens in the mid 1980's. From the film's opening moments, Montiel introduces us to an intimate world of family and friendship that totally blindsided me by its greatness. There are moments in "A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints" that roll along with such force and emotion, that Montiel feels like a natural born filmmaker, infusing his personal heartache into strong characters breathing within a vivid time and place. Montiel's handling of edits, sound, and music are also powerful, such as a scene in Dito's kitchen between his father and group of friends that explodes into stark images and quick cuts to black. Montiel also handles the return home of Downey Jr. with care and vulnerability, searching for small answers that come in revelatory conversations with his mother (Dianne Weist) and grown up girlfriend Dianne (played by Rosario Dawson). And while such personal material can be hard to translate without lapsing into melancholy, Montiel finds a way to craft a clear eyed version of his life, allowing strong acting and electric film-making to take over the balance of the experience. I love finding unheralded gems such as this. The name of Robert Downey Jr. brought me to the theater and I discovered a true talent in Dito Montiel who has crafted one of the finest directing debuts in several years
40 out of 56 people found the following review useful:
Check out the Guide, 18 September 2006
Author: Clayton Davis (Claytondavis@awardscircuit.com) from New Jersey
A Guide to Recognizing your Saints There comes a time when motion
pictures take an extraordinary turn, when and where that happens is
irrelevant, although recently I've experienced a breathtaking turn in
film making. The name of the experience is "A Guide to Recognizing your
Saints." First time director Dito Montiel created, based on own
occurrences and adapted from his book, a personal picture engulfed in
beautiful undertones of love, regret and forgiveness.
The film is sculpted by a powerful screenplay by Montiel and an incredible cast who captured the best ensemble award from the coveted Sundance Film Festival. The film stars Academy Award nominees Robert Downey, Jr. and Chazz Palminteri, Oscar winner, Dianne Weist and a slew of incredible and upcoming talent coming from Shia LeBeouf, Rosario Dawson, Channing Tatum and Melonie Diaz. The movie parallels us through a downward spiral of daily entities and a burrow of absolution and adversity.
The movie cuts in and out of the years 2005 and 1986 and both center around Dito Montiel, a young Queens-born Italian trying to cope with the everyday hard streets of crime, prejudice and premature passion. In 2005 Dito lives away from his family and is contacted by his mother to return home to care for his ill and medically stubborn father. Robert Downey, Jr. plays the multi-layered character who carries the weight of the world on his heart. Dito's pain is so deep that he can't even believe or conceive a start to come to terms with it. Downey, Jr. has been making a strong comeback for his career and when he pulls in outstanding performances like this it reestablishes his talent. Shia LeBeouf portrays the young "Dito" in 1986 and pulls in one of the most riveting performances ever performed by a younger actor. LeBeouf shows you what it means not only to play a role but to inhabit it. "Dito" may seem flawless at times as he grows up and surrounds himself by his compatriots, but when he falls into temptation and wants the escape into an unrestrained humanity we see a true idol emerge.
Dito's humanity is threatened by local thugs such as the Puerto Rican, Reefer and his relationship with his adverse father played by Palminteri. Throughout the film you see Dito trying to self-improve his life by conversations about relocating, expanding his friends with the new foreign student Mike and learning more about himself than he intends at his age. His circle of friends include the three "free-spirited" teenage girls from the neighborhood, his abused and violent friend Antonio, (Channing Tatum) the little man, Nerf, and Antonio's dazed younger brother Giuseppe. Dito searches for it including love with one of the ladies (Melonie Diaz (young) Rosario Dawson (old)) who captures the essence of innocence lost in between adolescence and the alleyway.
Dito Montiel's life is the ultimate example of baggage accumulated over decades and inevitable recognition of it and eventual confrontation of it. The movie is "Kids" meets "The Basketball Diaries" told in a "Sleepers" like narrative. The "21 Grams" like cinematography is captivating and crisp editing makes a wonderful, enjoyable and imperative film to a generation lost in its own indulgence. Unfortunately, the film is far too "small" to be recognized by the Academy. If it were up to me this would be a definite contender in the Adapted Screenplay category and LeBeouf would be joining a very crowded Best Actor race. Downey, Jr. would also enhance his chances in the supporting category along with "Fur." This personal portrait of culture and life exists primarily in the mind and suffering of Dito Montiel who painted this amazing representation. All who see the film will be yearning to recognize their saints .and love.
33 out of 43 people found the following review useful:
Raw, Gritty, and Stunning., 8 January 2007
Author: surferchicky92 from United States
I was lucky enough to catch the last showing of "A Guide to Recognizing
Your Saints" at my local theater, and man, was I surprised. I haven't
seen a film with such an accurate and heart wrenching portraits of
troubled youths since "Kids".
"A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" gives us a glimpse into the life of Dito Montiel (Shia Labouf, with Robert Downey Jr. as the older version) growing up on the streets of Astoria, Queens in 1986. When he leaves for California, he leaves behind his best friend and resident tough guy Antonio (Channing Tatum, with Eric Roberts playing the older version), his caring mother (Diane Wiest) and tough love father (Chazz Palminteri), his girlfriend Laurie (Melonie Diaz, with Rosario Dawson as the older version), and pretty much everyone else he knew.
First time director Dito Montiel does a stellar job of establishing characters and their relationships. He also does a great job directing scenes that seem so real (thnks to some superb acting by the cast), it almost seems like a documentary. A huge round of applause goes to the cast for their performances.
The ending wasn't really cohesive with the script. I didn't leave knowing what happened with Dito and his family and friends. Other than that, there's not a single bad moment.
"A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" is raw, gritty, and stunning. There's not a single disappointing scene in the movie.
32 out of 44 people found the following review useful:
<3, 27 November 2006
Author: Clemhop from United States
My favorite movie of the year, thus far. While it might not leave any
long-lasting impact on society or even win an Academy Award, it is one
of the most impressive character-driven films that I have ever seen.
Granted, there are a number of films in the same "coming of age" genre
and some have done an even better job than this one, but such are rare
and have probably come once in a generation. This one is ours.
Set in Brooklyn, New York, the story is about one man, Dito (Robert Downey Jr.), reflecting on his adolescence (Shia LeBouf) through a personal memoir. It continuously shifts between past and present as one moment we see an adult Dito paying a visit to his old neighborhood and the next we are in that very same place during his younger years with his friends, a group of rough teens with nothing better to do than cause trouble for everyone around them. It strikes at you emotionally, as you grow to like each of the characters only to see the majority of their lives worsen with every scene. It is a depressing movie.
It has the darker 80's feel to it. Like "The Warriors" kind of a backdrop. Grimy. I like those stupid old movies a lot, so this was just perfect.
I don't want to give anything away, because I don't want to ruin such a good movie for anyone that might want to see it. It originally came out for the Sundance Film Festival and was finally released in Washington nearly six months later. As far as I know, it's only playing at Lincoln Square, but without a doubt it's worth the trip and the extra dollar or so.
14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
One of the True Sleepers of the Year, 27 February 2007
Author: gradyharp from United States
A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS may not be on everyone's list of
great films of 2006 but it most assuredly should be. In a time when the
bulk of films that come across the marquis are empty headed fluff (with
of course notable exceptions), little films like this autobiographical
coming of age story in Queens in the 1980s by the accomplished yet very
humble Dito Montiel make an initial impact on the viewer, then hang
around the psyche with memories of cinematic moments as well as fresh
looks at our own lives like few other films can achieve.
Dito Montiel wrote his memoir, adapted it for the screen and directed it, each step being a first one for this very talented young man. His story on the surface is simple: a childhood and coming of age of Dito and his friends as they face the crime and drugs and love affairs and deaths of living in the line of poverty. Dito (an astonishingly fine Shia LaBeouf) has a cadre of friends that include Scottish Mike (Martin Compston), crazy Nerf (Peter Anthony Tambakis), firebrand Antonio (Channing Tatum in yet another fiery and sensitive performance), Antonio's unfortunate brother Giuseppe (Adam Scarimbolo), and girls Laurie (Melonie Diaz) and Diane (Julia Garro). The boys face gang trouble with the Puerto Rican gang Reapers, parental abuse as in Antonio's father (Federico Castelluccio), parental love as with Dito's parents Monty (Chazz Palminteri) and Flori (Dianne Wiest).
As their world in Queens comes tumbling down with tragic consequences Dito decides to leave for California. And leave he does, not returning for twenty years to the place where he successfully survived a childhood due to the 'saints' he didn't recognize until the father with whom he has not communicated in the interim has reached his end. The past and the present are woven together throughout the film with the flash forward, flash back sequences: the older successful writer Dito is played by Robert Downey, Jr.; Antonio (imprisoned for his beating death of the head of the Reapers) is Eric Roberts; Laurie now married is Rosario Dawson; Nerf now is Scott Michael Campbell: and Dito's parents remain makeup-aged Palminteri and Wiest. It is this blend of the past as revealed by the present that makes Montiel's film work so well. They manner in which he creates the magic of near extemporaneous speech with this amazing cast creates a sense of grit, verismo, and profound love and loss. Conversations such as the ones between little Dito and Monty, between the mature Dito and Flori and Lauri and Antonio - all are minor miracles of writing and acting. Montiel may be a first time director but he has drawn some of the finest work ever from Palminteri, Wiest, Downey, Dawson, Tatum, Roberts and LaBoeuf.
For those who have read Montiel's book by the same name, the time Dito spent in East Village and his fame as a Calvin Klein underwear model will seem painfully missing. But Montiel has extracted the essence of a boy growing out of his environment with the help of his unknown saints, condensed the action, and told the story in a magical way - a way that is sure to drive into the gut and heart of every sensitive viewer. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
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