Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Director Talk: Martin Scorsese

A new director talk, and this time we’re pulling out the big guns.  We are talking about the highly acclaimed Martin Scorsese.  And of course, I stir up the pot again.

The round table discussion is being held over at Fog’s Movie Reviews along with Fogs, PG Cooper, and myself.

Follow the link to read it here:

Director Talk – Martin Scorsese

Ian:  Welcome back to another Director’s Talk with Ian, Fogs, and Cooper.  This time we will be discussing one of the most widely acclaimed directors, well, ever: Martin Scorsese.  This is going to be a little annoying for me, since I always spell his name wrong,  So get ready spell-check!  Scorsese came onto the film scene in the early 70’s and has had a steady career ever since.  Yet he only won his first Oscar in 2006.  So I’m going to start us off with this question:  when should Scorsese really have won his first Oscar?

Fogs: Pulling no punches! Wow. Right to the heart of it. LOL.

I think one of the issues with Scorsese movies is that they have a tendency to be dark. It’s a handicap come voting-time. Not that dark films can’t win, or haven’t won, but when all things are considered equal, voters will turn away from the depressing and turn towards the uplifting. Which is how I always defend “Rocky” beating out “Taxi Driver”. But did you guys know, Scorsese didn’t get nominated for Best Director for Taxi Driver? Taxi Driver got nominated for Best Picture, but no nom for Scorsese there. LOL. Seriously. So in a year he didn’t even get nominated, it’s hard to say he should have won.

In ’81 he gets nominated for “Raging Bull”. But he’s up against Robert Redford. I mean, people love Robert Redford… plus, “Ordinary People” is a great flick, people sell it short because it only gets remembered for robbing “Raging Bull”. It may not have had a ton of technical directing involved, like “Bull” did, but it is full of awesome performances… “Raging Bull” wasnt the only film  that had good acting in it that year. LOL And again, “Raging Bull” – GREAT, GREAT movie. But depressing as hell. And “Ordinary People” is no picnic either… but by comparison? So maybe here, but again, at least here I understand why he didn’t.

Thus, my answer is 1991, for “Goodfellas”. Costner? Seriously? And “Dances with Wolves” – although it’s a great flick and a huge hit – is a self-indulgent bloated spectacle. Do you know I’ve never owned that movie on DVD or Blu because all I’ve ever seen available is the “Director’s Cut” with an hour of additional footage? WHO WANTS TO ADD ANOTHER HOUR TO DANCES WITH WOLVES? WTF? Seriously.

Meanwhile, “Goodfellas” is a tour de force. An all time classic, and a remarkable, remarkable job from the directors chair. I mean, the pacing, the editing, those long camera shots, the music choices. God damn, I love “Goodfellas”.

’91. ’91 is my answer. Although I wont argue too hard with PG when he answers ’81. LOL

Ian: Don’t even get me started on the theatrical cut of Dances With wolves not being available.  It angers me…

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Cooper: He should have won for “Taxi Driver” in 77, “Raging Bull” in 81, and “Goodfellas” in 91. He also should have been nominated in 74 for “Mean Streets”.

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Fogs: Heh heh heh heh!! That’s what I wanted to hear from you, PG. 😀 Glad you don’t disappoint.

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Cooper: Lol, yeah, in case it isn’t obvious already, I love Scorsese. Though admittedly, I wouldn’t have given him the Oscar for The Departed. Nothing against “The Departed”, it’s a great film, but there are ones from 2006 I like more.

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Ian: I would have liked him to win for “Taxi Driver”.  But like Fogs said, I can see why “Rocky” was chosen instead.  Still…

But you know what? Hitchcock didn’t win an Oscar at all, and he’s one of the most fondly remembered directors of his time.  Scorsese’s “time” has spanned pretty much 40 years of film.  So what do you think his legacy will be.  What was his stamp of movies, so to speak?

Cooper: Hitchcock never winning is bullshit.

As for Scorsese’s legacy? I don’t mean to be general, but he’s gonna go down as one of the greatest directors of all time. Film buffs consider him one of the best, and he has tremendous respect from the directors that inspired him, the directors who were his peers, and he’s gone on to influence subsequent generations of filmmakers. He’s the man, straight up.

I think he’ll also go down as a director who lasted. A lot of Scorsese’s peers, talented though they may be, eventually fell to the wayside. Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin, Brian De Palma, hell even George Lucas. All very talented people (well…maybe not Lucas) who eventually stopped being relevant. Scorsese on the other hand has constantly been a strong force in filmmaking. That’s not to say every movie he’s made has been a critical darling, but he still puts out great work consistently. Last year for example, he give us “Hugo”. I know you two weren’t crazy about it, but a lot of critics, myself included, think it’s brilliant.

So to summarize, he’ll go down as one of the best directors of all time, and one of the few to remain relevant.

Fogs: Absolutely one of the best of all time. And the movies he gave us, you can feel the art in them. You know? It’s not just a decent piece of entertainment or whatever, you can see how he’s using the medium to convey a story. Or an emotion. Or a thought. And Dan’s right, he definitely still does have his fastball. I wasn’t that fond of “Hugo” personally, but it’s still obviously a highly crafted movie, and most critics DO love it. Plus it wound up earning him ANOTHER Best Director nomination.

As to a stamp on movies, I’m not sure, aside from having inspired so many filmmakers. I’m not sure what innovations he’s going to be credited with, particularly… But you know he’s inspired legions of films. You can feel it when you watch them that they’re almost the descendants of Scorsese’s movies.

Fogs: Plus, right before “Hugo” you had “The Departed” and “Shutter Island”, both of which I AM a big fan of.

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Cooper: Yeah, “The Departed” and “Shutter Island” were great.

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Fogs: So here’s a question for you Dan. Has there ever been a Scorsese flick you DIDNT like? 😀

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Cooper: Nope, the only one I’ve seen that I didn’t love was “Casino”, and even that was good.

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Fogs: OHH Man! I LOVE “Casino”! That’s one of his best! LOL

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Cooper: I like it, but I don’t love it.

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Ian:  Cooper, I like that you mentioned how he’s a director who lasts, and you are certainly right.  He hasn’t really dropped off that much.  And eve though he’s known for tough crime dramas, he has been doing some genre experimentation too, with “Hugo” and “Shutter Island”, which I think is neat.

And although Cooper seems to be enamoured of Scorsese’s filmography, I have a confession to make: I don’t have a single Scorsese film in my movie collection.

Cooper: Really? Why not?

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Fogs: LOL. There’s one of these ” … ” moments in all our conversations, it seems.

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Ian:  Yeah, and it usually has to do with some dissension from me.  lol.

I admire Scorsese as a master film-maker and a true force in the industry.  But personally, his movies just don’t speak to me.  I’m just not a big fan of the movies themselves, and honestly I have trouble pinpointing just what it is.  I want to say it’s because they’re darker, but I do still like other dark movies.  So… I’m not sure what it is.

That’s not to say I dislike his films per se.  I enjoyed both “Goodfellas” and “The Departed”, maybe because the energy was higher, I’m not sure.  I can’t make up my mind about “Taxi Driver”, and “Raging Bull” I just dislike altogether.

Fogs: Uh oh. (Fogs whistles, quickly sidestepping out of the way from between Ian and PG)

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Cooper: Well…I already knew Ian wasn’t the biggest Scorsese fan, so this isn’t really a surprise for me. To be honest, I can understand why Ian feels the way he does. There is something very inaccessible about a lot of Scorsese’s films. So even though “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” are both films in my top twenty, I can understand why others don’t like it.

Fogs: It is a dark film. Very depressing. Kind of like the anti-Rocky. LOL. One of the things that’s such a testament to its greatness – to me – is that I’ve never been able to get past that. A lot of movies that are painful and dark to watch at first, “Scarface”, “Apocalypse Now”, “The Godfather”, even “Taxi Driver”… eventually the pain in them fades for me, and I just watch them. With “Raging Bull” there’s something there that hurts every time.

Great movie. Great, great movie.

Cooper: The first time I watched “Raging Bull”, the only thing I knew was that it was a boxing film people compared to “Rocky”. Because of this, I thought it would be like “Rocky”. I had no idea what I was in for, lol.

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Fogs: 😀 That’s awesome. LOL

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Ian: My problem with “Raging Bull” is that the story is not appealing and the characters are simply despicable.  I commend those involved for their involvement.  I mean, De Niro went all out for the role, and its probably his best performance.  And I truly love the cinematography of the boxing scenes.  But I still hate the movie.

Cooper: I like the story a lot. As far as the characters being despicable, they’re supposed to be. But I do see your point, it can be hard to love a movie when you hate all the characters.

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Fogs: The story is supposed to be a kind of a greek tragedy… The warrior with the fatal flaw, it’s classic.

As to the characters being despicable, I can see that, but like Dan says, that’s a bit of the point. And one of the things that makes Scorsese great. He likes to revolve his stories around the lowlifes of the world. Gotta love it.

Ian: I know that’s the point, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.  You know, there are only a handful of the “great” movies that I really don’t like, and somehow in these talks we manage to touch on all of them!  Our readers must think that I’m always of the minority opinion, which I swear isn’t true!  So lets move on to Scorsese in the new millennium.  How do you think his newer films of the last ten or so years hold up with all the rest?

Fogs: Just to quickly touch on the “We seem to be hitting them all” – we ARE covering the biggest directors, so it’s bound to result in a discussion of the biggest movies, you know? 😉

I haven’t seen any appreciable drop off in quality at all. “Hugo” and “Shutter Island” are completely worthy entries to his filmography… I hope he keeps throwing heat. He’s got a couple of interesting projects going on right now, I hope they kick ass.

Cooper: I love “The Aviator”, I love “The Departed”, I love “Hugo”, and I really, really like Shutter Island. His new movies, while I may not like them quite as much as I do his classics, are still excellent. And like Fogs mentioned, Scorsese has some interesting projects lined up. I can’t wait to see what he does with them.

Fogs: I know Ian’s answer already, probably, but PG, have you checked off his entire filmography? I have to confess I’ve never seen these: “Boxcar Bertha”, “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and “After Hours” out of his full length features. I’ve even seen most of his concert films/music documentaries.

I’m asking I guess because I’m wondering what you think about his “Less Popular” films… “King of Comedy”, “Last Temptation of Christ”, “Kundun”, etc…

Cooper: List of Scorsese films I haven’t seen:

-Who’s That Knocking at my Door?
-Boxcar Bertha
-Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
-New York, New York
-The King of Comedy
-After Hours
-The Color of Money
-The Last Temptation of Christ
-Cape Fear
-The Age of Innocence
-Bringing out the Dead
-Gangs of New York

So no, I haven’t checked off his entire filmography, but I’m working on it. Out of the less popular films you mentioned, the only one I’ve seen is “Kundun”, which I quite enjoy. I don’t think the character himself is very interesting, but the history going on plus Scorsese’s direction makes for an interesting film. I’ve also heard very good things about “The King of Comedy” and “The Last Temptation of Christ”.

Fogs: “Kundun”‘s great, so is the “King of Comedy”, that’s why I bring them up, I wanted to show off my Scorsese love.

But forget those. You should address your “Gangs of New York” and “Color of Money” related deficiencies asap, they’re two of his best films. They’re both incredible. “Color of Money” is one of my top 50 films of all time, one of my favorite Scorsese flicks. It’s a much better movie than people give it credit for… all pop culture gives it credit for is Tom Cruise whooping around with a pool cue (The Balabushka!! 😀 ) but in reality, it probably is one of Scorsese’s showiest films from a technical standpoint, it has an awesome performance by Paul Newman (his only Academy Award), and has some really great themes about aging and mentoring. I love that flick, you guys should get me off of this topic or I’m gonna do my MTESS “The Color of Money” right here and now.

“Gangs of New York”, too… Bill the Butcher! Damn, man, one of the sickest Scorsese characters ever.

Ian, have you seen these two at all?

And I don’t know that DeNiro has ever chewed scenery the way he does in “Cape Fear”, LOL. That movie to me is remarkable for the fact that DeNiro can hack it up and climb the walls and people think it’s a great performance because… well, he never did that, so it has to be a “Character”. I mean, which it was, but good grief. “Counselor…”

Ian: I enjoyed Gangs of New York.  Bill the Butcher is a great character.  But somehow I think people seem to forget that it’s a Scorsese flick.  Same with Color of Money for that matter.
So lets see if we can do a top 3 then.  my top 3 looks like this:
1. Goodfellas
2. The Departed
3. Umm…. Taxi Driver?

Fogs: Oh wowwwww… top Three? Geez.

1) Goodfellas
2) Taxi Driver
3) Raging Bull

I would say are his three greatest but I’d have to go

1) Goodfellas
2) Casino
3) Color of Money

If we were picking favorites.

Cooper: 1.Taxi Driver (my favourite movie of all time…at least for now)
2.Goodfellas
3.Raging Bull
(and just for fun)
4.The Departed
5.The Aviator
6.Hugo
7.Mean Streets
8.Shutter Island
9.Kundun
10.Casino

Ian: Well, we will have to wrap things up soon, so I will throw out a couple of things here.  First, Cooper, what about “Taxi Driver” makes it your favourite of all time.  And also, as per usual, what do you consider to be Scorsese’s signature film?

Cooper: It’s hard to put into words what exactly makes “Taxi Driver” my favourite film. Honestly though, it’s just perfect filmmaking on every level, to me anyway. From the acting, to the writing, to the score, and of course the masterful direction from Martin Scorsese. I know these are very general answers, but it’s hard for me to pinpoint why it’s my favourite, I just sort of know it is.

As for his signature film. In the public’s eyes, it’s “Goodfellas”, no question. It’s become a staple of pulp culture and even casual moviegoers are fans. Scorsese also has this reputation for making a lot of gangster films (even though he made tons of other films) and “Goodfellas” is his ultimate gangster film. Plus it features a lot of the rock music his movies are known for and it stars Robert De Niro.

But if we’re talking what captures him as a filmmaker, I’d say “Taxi Driver”. It deals with a lot of the themes his movies tend to, such as guilt, redemption, paranoia, violence, the dark side of society, etc. I also would say it was with “Taxi Driver” that Marty really developed his skills and style.

Fogs: I think his signature film has got to be “Goodfellas”. It’s his most popular, one of his most accessible, I think if you were going to play word association with people and asked them for the first movie that pops into their minds when you say Martin Scorsese, the answer would be “Goodfellas” like 7 out of 10 times. It may not be his best film artistically, it may more commercial than some of his others, but it’s still masterfully done, and features fantastic acting. That’s one that’s going to be remembered by Pop Culture a long, long time.

Ian:  Hmm, I was going to say “Taxi Driver” actually, but perhaps I’m off base on that one.  I just think it shows more of what he is about, with the darker subject matter and so on.

Well, that wraps up another Director’s Talk.  Now we want to know what you, the reader, thinks.  Do you connect to Scorsese’s films, or find them hard to embrace?  Which are your favourites?  We’ll see you in the comments!

 

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One Response to “Director Talk: Martin Scorsese”

  1. He’s perhaps my favorite director of all time, and has made many spectacular films, like Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and Goodfellas. Nice post.


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