Pushing Tin  (1999) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's thoughts in white:

Pushing Tin (1999) is billed as a comedy at IMDB, which surprised me. I would have called it a drama.

Nick Falzone (John Cusack) is the hottest air traffic controller at Newark Terminal Approach until Russell Bell (Billy Bob Thornton) reports for work. Bell is half Indian, a loner, has a reputation for being strange, and is married to Angelina Jolie. It was inevitable that Falzone and Bell get into a pecker contest, first at work, and then in their personal lives. Things escalate when Falzone beds Jolie, and suspects that Bell in turn is trying to nail his wife.

Roger Ebert awards 3 stars, praising the character development, and the look inside air traffic control, which are the very reasons I loved this film. Berardinelli awards two stars, blaming a lame, cliched script. For me, it is a character driven drama with a lot of humor about a fascinating occupation, and I like this film very much.


Female: Angelina Jolie shows her breasts.

Scoop's thoughts in yellow:

This is an average film with a below-average ending. As Tuna points out, it was inexplicably marketed as a comedy. I thought it was OK, but it was hamstrung by a very strange casting decision. The Russell Bell character has to be cool, so cool that he intimidates the cock of the walk in the air traffic controller world, so cool that if you met him you'd make plans not to introduce him to your wife. Billy Bob Thornton is not cool. He is possibly the best character actor in the business today, but it is not possible to "act" cool. You either are or you aren't.

  • George Clooney and Dean Martin and Cary Grant and JFK and Bogart are cool. Mr Rogers and Dick Cheney and Mr Garrison and Wally Cox are not.
  • Football is cool. Bowling is not.
  • Chemin-de-fer is cool. Slapjack is not.
  • A dueling scar is cool. A mosquito bite is not.

It doesn't work every time as a measurement of "cool", but a good rule of thumb is the "James Bond rule". If it is a guy, he's cool if he could he play James Bond. If a woman, she's cool if James Bond would try to seduce her, or consider her a worthy adversary. If it is an activity, it is cool if James Bond would do it. James Bond doesn't bowl. Fred MacMurray doesn't play James Bond. James Bond doesn't hit on Tonya Harding.

Nothing can change all of that that. Kenneth Branagh is not cool, despite the best acting skills on the earth. Same with BB. Billy Bob is a little skinny geek who is afraid of old furniture, and who used to be a little fat geek. If you were a high school bully in Billy Bob's school, you would not beat him up, because you would never notice him. Years later, he would come up to you at your reunion and say, "remember me, I was in your Chem class?", but you would not.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen letterbox 1.85:1.

He is a nobody. That is precisely what makes him so effective as a character actor. He is a genius at being a nobody.

In this film, in order to demonstrate the fact that he is really cool, and has a big penis, he sings "Muskrat Love" on a karaoke machine.

I think that pretty much says it all.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2/4. (filmcritic.com 2.5/5, Apollo 76/100, efilmcritic.com 3/5, Film Threat 1/5)

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: a notorious loser. Budgeted at $33 million, it grossed $8 million.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, the film is a C (both reviewers).

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