Robert De Niro honors late gay father with HBO documentary

Robert_De_Niro_KVIFF_portrait

Robert De Niro

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Creativity runs in the De Niro family.

Robert De Niro’s father, Robert De Niro Sr., was an abstract expressionist painter, part of the post-WWII art scene, which produced such talent as Jackson Pollock. He was even endorsed by the famed art collector and socialite, Peggy Guggenheim. But while he was successful when he started out in the 1940s and ’50s, De Niro Sr.’s work went out of style as pop art became the trend in the ’60s.

He died in 1993 at 71, but his story is now being told by his Oscar-winning son. De Niro has made a documentary about his father called Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro Sr., which premiered at Sundance Film Festival and will air on HBO in June. He also put some of his father’s work on display at the Julie Nestor Gallery in Park City.

While attending a reception at the gallery on Sunday, De Niro said the intention was to make the documentary for his family.

“[I] wanted to make a documentary about my father with footage, whatever footage we had; people, whoever was around that were still with us, [I] wanted to have them interviewed and talk about him and have it for the family, for my kids, the grandkids,” he said. “And then it went this way that HBO picked it up which is really great.”

Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro Sr. made its debut at Sundance with the actor in attendance. The film examines the life of the late painter through the eyes of the actor. De Niro discusses watching his father paint and even reads passages from his father’s journals, which reveals he left De Niro’s mother when he realized he was gay.

When asked what he thought his father would think of the film about him, De Niro joked that he would probably be uncomfortable by the attention.

“He would be flattered on the one hand and say, ‘Well, I don’t know, that’s not accurate’ or this or that,” he said.

De Niro says he tried to feature his father’s art in his own work, like at his restaurant the Tribeca Grill in New York.

“I asked him if he would let me hang some of his paintings there and I thought for sure he’s not gonna, not gonna like that, but he actually went along with it. He hung them himself, especially the three big paintings in the back of the grill and I was told he’d bring friends from time to time like once a week or every 10 days or so to have dinners there,” De Niro said. “And then I asked him if he’d do the menu and he did the menu, which is still there. … It will be there as long as the place exists.”

De Niro is in town for the 30th anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival. The actor said he hopes his own film festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, which he co-founded with producing partner Jane Rosenthal after Sept. 11, will be just as successful. This year marks its 13th anniversary.

“I hope we do as well as Sundance in 30 years, on our 30th anniversary.”

—  Steve Ramos

Movie Monday: “New Year’s Eve” in wide release

A very sappy New Year’s Eve… but still fun

In New Year’s Eve, the wattage is high: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron (pictured), Halle Berry, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer join more than a dozen of their Hollywood colleagues in this quasi-sequel to director Garry Marshall’s previous celebfest, Valentine’s Day.

Like VD, NYE involves multiple story lines that converge in some way or another by the end of the movie — in this case, culminating around the stroke of midnight. Predictable themes of fresh starts and the letdown of holidays populate the various love stories and there are moments of genuine emotion and heartfelt humor.

For the entire review, click here.

DEETS: Rated PG-13. In wide release.

—  Rich Lopez

Auld lang sigh

A very sappy New Year’s Eve… but still fun

screen-01
There’s a long history of uniting big stars in a jam-packed ensemble cast. Sure, typically C-list celebrities met their fates in capsized ships and burning buildings, but there’s something about the combined star power of multiple marquee names that are irresistible draws.

In New Year’s Eve, the wattage is high: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron (pictured), Halle Berry, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer join more than a dozen of their Hollywood colleagues in this quasi-sequel to director Garry Marshall’s previous celebfest, Valentine’s Day. (By the time he gets to Cinco de Mayo, there’s gonna be nobody left but Charo, Justin Bieber and Cheech Marin.)

Like VD, NYE involves multiple story lines that converge in some way or another by the end of the movie — in this case, culminating around the stroke of midnight. Predictable themes of fresh starts and the letdown of holidays populate the various love stories and there are moments of genuine emotion and heartfelt humor.

There’s nothing blatantly gay about the film, but plenty of gay-by-association appeal thanks to LGBT faves Swank, Parker, Michele, Efron and too-hot-for-TV Josh Duhamel. Sofia Vergara, the buxom star of Modern Family, is a great foil to the increasingly unlikable Katherine Heigl, whose character never really clicks with the audience.

What’s great about New Year’s Eve is Marshall’s way of leveling the playing field among his regular stars and mega-stars. Everybody gets equal billing, equal screen time, and for the most part, equally fun roles. That any holiday film delivers cloyingly sweet dramedy should be anticipated from the moment you plop a twenty down at the ticket window, but it sure would be nice to be caught off-guard with just a single moment that is completely organic and unexpected.

Alas, most of the stories’ conclusions could be predicted by a 10-year-old, but there’s such an earnestness and joy in the actors’ performances paired with their gosh-darn eye twinkles and larger-than-life charisma that make this movie worth at least a Prosecco toast, if not a half-glass of real champagne.

— Steven Lindsey

Three and a half stars.
Now playing in wide release.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas