Martin Scorsese, super genius


OK, somehow in all this time I don't believe we've ever had a thread devoted specifically and exclusively to Marty Scorsese.

It's no secret I think he's THE best director around. For me, he hasn't made a "bad" film yet - excluding his Roger Corman entry to Hollywood. He's one of the few filmmakers you can say that about, and he's been making movies for thirty or so years. Some are better than others, of course, but it's remarkable how many are masterpieces of some order.

Personally, I'd rank his filmography thusly...

I know there are women, like my best friends,
who would have gotten out of there the minute
their boyfriend gave them a gun to hide. But I
didn't. I got to admit the truth: it turned me on.

1. GoodFellas (1990)

2. Taxi Driver (1976)

3. Raging Bull (1980)

4. After Hours (1985)

5. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

6. The Age of Innocence (1993)

7. The Irishman (2019)

8. The King of Comedy (1983)

9. Silence (2016)

10. The Last Waltz (1978)

11. Casino (1995)

12. Mean Streets (1973)

13. The Aviator (2004)
14. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
15. Cape Fear (1991)

16. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)

17. Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

18. Gangs of New York (2002)

19. Hugo (2011)
20. The Departed (2006)
21. Shutter Island (2010)
22. Kundun (1997)

23. New York, New York (1977)

24. Italianamerican (1974)

25. American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince (1978)

26. "Life Lessons" segment of New York Stories (1989)

27. The Color of Money (1986)

28. Boxcar Bertha (1972)

*updated to include The Irishman

I didn't include his student films, though I've seen them all too (except for the apparently vanished Street Scenes - not even Scorsese himself has a print). The student projects are certainly worth seeing, especially for budding filmmakers, as It's Not Just You, Murray and Who's That Knocking at My Door? definitely show the promise that was about to explode onto contemporary American cinema.

I think GoodFellas, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull are his three masterpieces among masterpieces. After Hours and The King of Comedy are his two best but least-known great works. Sadly more people know The Last Temptation of Christ for the "controversy" around it and haven't even bothered to see it for themselves. The Age of Innocence was somehow largely overlooked in the early '90s and richly deserves to be rediscovered. Kundun and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore also have the potential to reach so many people, but maybe all three of those movies are relatively ignored because they don't seem to fit into the Scorsese least as most people perceive it? The Last Waltz is the greatest concert film ever made, and weather you know or like the music of The Band and Dylan and Clapton and the rest of the guests or not, watch the film and you'll probably become and instant fan. Mean Streets has been a bit eclipsed by his later work, but it's a gem waiting to be uncovered, and an amazing "debut" film (not counting the Corman exploitation quickie Boxcar Bertha, which even manages to signal some of the visual strengths that would quickly become his trademark). New York, New York was bashed, I think unfairly, by critics upon release and never had a chance to find it's audience. Cape Fear is Scorsese's Touch of Evil, a master having so much fun playing with genre. The Color of Money for me is his least ambitious and ordinary movie, but that being said his stylistic touches are brilliant, the performances are a treat, and even the "least" of Scorsese's work is better than most directors' "best" stuff.

Anywho, what else to say? As a filmmaker I find him an expert craftsman, a complex and emotional storyteller, a master of mood and tone and music, a visual virtuoso who's style doesn't overwhelm the characters but magnifies them, he coaxes consistently flawless performances form the actors he works with, and all with an intensity and power that can still have surprising moments of humor - that's right, he's a clown...he amuses me.

Apart from his filmmaking, he's also the perfect ambassador for the craft and magic of the movies. He has been a tireless agent for the preservation and restoration of film since the '70s, a true champion of the medium. His passion for the art is palpable and contagious, one could say it even borders on mania. He has a depth and width of knowledge that is astounding, like an idiot savant of all things cinematic.

Put simply, he is The Man.

So that's my opening ramble. What are everybody's thoughts on Scorsese? Their likes and dislikes. Rate what you've seen, confess what you haven't. What were you blown away by, what made you scratch your head, what have you not even heard of?

*and for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the man, try your hand at my quiz on this site, HERE.

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"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

I think we could close this thread now and it would be perfect. I think the love letter that I just read is enough for any thread of Scorsese. None of us will outdo it. It covers everything. We don't need more posts in here. Know what I mean?

I've always considered Scorsese a genius hard to access. That said, it isn't because he is hard to access at all, but because it has been very difficult for a younger person to get a hold of, especially in a town like this. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't become a film buff when I was about twenty, and living somewhere other than here. That way I would have instant access to films that I can't get now, and I wouldn't have the painful, painful wait that is a result of knowing that these films do indeed exist. Do you know, again, what I mean?

Seeing Il Mio Viaggio In Italia opened my eyes to the utter, as Holden puts it, mania of the man, and it was probably the most refreshing thing I've ever seen, just in terms of realising that even the greatest living filmmaker wants to learn more, see more, and feel more. He has no misconceptions about his greatness. He really just loves movies. Film buffs usually make very good film directors. So maybe I have a chance. Down here, at least, my love for cinema is unparalled.

I rate what I have seen as following:

01. GoodFellas
02. Raging Bull
03. Il Mio Viaggio In Italia
04. Gangs Of New York
05. A Personal Journey

How disgusting is that? Honestly. That is so bad. But I am trying to redeem myself, I've got Taxi Driver on order, and I'm going to rent Casino this Friday. But to find The King Of Comedy or Mean Streets in a place like this, that's nearly impossible. I can wait, but I really don't want to.

Ultimately, I am glad that Scorsese didn't win the Academy Award for Gangs Of New York. He was without a doubt the best director, but there was something wrong about him winning it for Gangs, and in my opinion, winning it all. I felt that in winning, he might be lowered to the level of, well, other Oscar award winning directors. This was he stays a living legend. In a league with Hitch, and Kubrick, and Kurosawa. And I like that.

Mmmmm, that's what I forgot to rate as well, the two documentaries he made more recently: My Voyage to Italy (2001) and A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies (1995). The second of those Martin takes co-directorial credit, but even so, it surely counts.

I'd grade them both as A's. My Voyage to Italy hasn't been released on video yet, but I saw it last year theatrically as part of the D.C. Film Festival. It's a terrific companion to Italianamerican (1974), the film where he interviews his parents in their home. A Personal Journey... is a treat too, having a film buff wonderfully ramble, tracing and interpreting his own love of movies, from Duel in the Sun to Unforgiven, from Ford to Kubrick, from Melodrama to Noir. Yeah, good stuff, and an interesting idea. It never attempts to be comprehensive, rather exactly as the title states, his personal experience with the magic of American cinema.

Yeah, I'd be frustrated as all Hell if I had only seen three of Scorsese's narrative films. At least you've seen two of his very best in GoodFellas and Raging Bull. I have 'em all on video naturally (excluding Gangs of New York and My Voyage to Italy), and all letterboxed now too, except for "Life Lesons", and the early documentaries and student films that were not shot in widescreen of any kind. Heck, I even have "Mirror, Mirror", Marty's episode of Spielberg's anthology TV series "Amazing Stories" (1985-1987), on LD - a horror story of a Stephen King-type author being stalked by a phantom, starring Sam Waterston, Helen Shaver and Tim Robbins.

I've seen pieces of Taxi Driver and Cape Feare on television, but it's commercial television, and they've watered them down for Saturday movie prime time slots, and so I refuse to watch them. Which sounds, well, crazy, but the way I see it, they deserve to be seen untouched.

I've got Raging Bull on DVD, and I'm waiting for GoodFellas to come out with a better edition, some time this year, I believe.

I am having a nervous breakdance
Great thread. I love nerd-talk like this.

Personally I think my favourite three Scorsese films are:

1. Raging Bull
2. Goodfellas
3. King of Comedy

I think, like Holden said, that King of Comedy is probably Scorsese's most overlooked movie. But to me it is more a triumph for De Niro than for Scorsese. Here I think De Niro shows exactly why he's one of the best actors that has ever lived. To play a guy that annoying and yet in the end winning the sympathy of the audience. And Scorsese bringing it all together so nicely.

Taxi Driver is of course a very very cool film and a milestone in film history. But it's too much of a classic for me to have a personal relationship to it. I think I've seen it ten times since I was a kid or something and when I had developed the kind of interest for film that I have today, the film was just not interesting on that "analyzing level" anymore. I guess I knew the film too well. But it's supercool and De Niro is so awesome.

The worst Scorsese film according to me (I honestly have to say that there's a few I haven't seen yet) is Bringing Out the Dead. I really don't like that film at all. I saw it one time and didn't like it. I tried to watch it again to give it another shot a year later or so but couldn't even manage fo finish it. I think it's a b-version of Taxi Driver, but maybe I should try one more time to see it. I've heard a rumour saying that it's really not Scorsese that's directed it - which I don't know what to do with. But it certainly doesn't show his virtousity seen in his other work.

I haven't seen Gangs of New York yet, but I will as soon as I get the opportunity.

Once again, great thread, Holden. And thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
The novelist does not long to see the lion eat grass. He realizes that one and the same God created the wolf and the lamb, then smiled, "seeing that his work was good".


They had temporarily escaped the factories, the warehouses, the slaughterhouses, the car washes - they'd be back in captivity the next day but
now they were out - they were wild with freedom. They weren't thinking about the slavery of poverty. Or the slavery of welfare and food stamps. The rest of us would be all right until the poor learned how to make atom bombs in their basements.

I really enjoyed Bringing Out The Dead [what a moron I am; I've seen Bringing Out The Dead too. It's my number three on the list]. This is what I wrote after seeing it for the first time:

In the lead up to the release of the long anticipated Scorsese picture Gangs of New York I have decided that I will go through each of the Scorsese pictures [the ones I can get my hands upon at least] and devour them. I have started with a film that I have been waiting to see since I read the Ebert review of it [a four out of four].

Bringing Out The Dead is a terribly sad, haunting, chilling and at times extremely funny, but not always in an uplifting way, film. The three characters that Nicolas Cage rides with [played by John Goodman, Vhing Rhames and Tom Sizemore, in that order] are brilliantly crafted characters that at once bear testament to the madness of the city of New York and strike the viewer with a near lethal amount of comic relief. It is hard to describe. Some moments are light hearted, yes, some of the characters are caricatures and not real people, sure. But if the audience laughs it laughs uncomfortably and nearly unwillingly. Scorsese’s bright lights fry at the mind and hurt the eyes. The film, at times, plays as much like a music video as a Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, or Baz Luhrmann film would. But underneath all the glamour and cartoon character comedy is something frighteningly real and desperate screaming at the top of its lungs.

The screenplay reminded me, quite a lot, actually, of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut; we experience a certain world [in this case the world of death and dying on the late night/early morning streets of New York] through the eyes of a man who may not be the most reliable narrator [Cage is plagued by reoccurring visions of a girl who he failed to save; a technique that at times grated and at other times touched, but most of all, seemed just slightly tacked on by Schrader. I didn’t see why [a] failure was necessary to Cage's character; surely having seen so much death would have been reason enough to have been as emotional torn up as he was?]

The episodic nature of Bringing Out The Dead is what Roger Ebert picked up upon in his review mainly [the review that I can remember anyhow]. Aside from that it is brilliantly executed, crafted, edited and scored [all trademarks of Uncle Marty, yes], but indeed the episodic nature of the piece, aided with its ultimate lack of plot [there are reoccurring threads including experiences with an apartment named the Oasis, with the daughter of a man who is in a coma, and the run ins with a violent and delusional young man, but these are not plots, just experiences, loosely related happenings in the eyes of a man who walks the same road every day of his life] that make the picture what, for me, it was.

Scorsese is probably the best American director to have ever lived. Most everyone who has a true knowledge of film would without a doubt call him the most consistent [his track record far out ways that of, perhaps, his closest rivals, Francis Ford Coppola who has churned out crap for the latter part of his career, and Robert Altman, who has his ups and downs], and so calling him best may not be that far behind.

I did not hear much about Bringing Out The Dead when it was released in theatres, or on video, or on DVD. And it is a shame, because the film is an amazing cinematic experience [and a brilliant way to experience the mastery of Scorsese. It all the films that I have seen it perhaps most like his opus GoodFellas in terms of having a unique style].

Up until now one of the most influential pieces of inspiration in the writing of my own new screenplay was in fact not Bringing Out The Dead, but Roger Ebert's review of Bringing Out The Dead. The basic rundown by Ebert of the structure of the film supplied me with a wealth of ideas. Seeing the film I realise that, perhaps, the film is not structurally what Ebert set it up to be [the three nights; Thursday, Friday and Saturday, are not as stylistically defined as I thought they may be, bar the title cards and Cage's acting partner for the evening]. But what did strike me was the theatricality of it, something that I desperately want to capture. Something overacted or a little heightened that by all logical reasoning should be funny, but isn’t. Something humorous that is eaten alive by the desperation of everything that surrounds it.

Perhaps my "favorite" Scorsese movie, or at least the one I've watched the most times, is After Hours (1985). It's also one of his lesser-known.

After Hours is an extremely dark comedy, a Kafkaesque nightmare of guilt and big city paranoia. The story centers on Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), a bored computer programmer in some nondescript Mid-town NYC office. His apartment is as drab and empty as the rest of his life. One evening while reading alone at a coffee shop, Paul meets Marci (Rosanna Arquette), a sexy blond. They have a breezy, flirty talk about Henry Miller and art and whatever. She makes mention of a friend's loft in SoHo where she's staying, finds an excuse to drop the phone number into the conversation, and then she's gone. On a whim and the whiff of possible romance, Paul calls her as soon as he gets home. She invites him out into the night, and though it's late and a weeknight, he accepts, and so begins his odyssey.

What follows is a dark, twisted, hilarious series of misadventures, as things spin further and further out of Paul's control and he seems stuck in the Hell of downtown after midnight and before sunrise. The movie is populated with a multitude of intriguingly bizarre characters, played to the hilt by an eclectic cast. Griffin Dunne (An American Werewolf in London) is the perfect protagonist to put through this kind of urban torture, a neurotic version of the everyman. Rosanna Arquette (Desperately Seeing Susan) simply is Marci, the hot-and-cold, always weird, but extremely sexy girl that coaxes him into this whole mess. Among the other odd denizens of the night are Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein, Mr. Mom) as a bee-hived waitress ("Do you like the Monkees?"), Cheech & Chong as a couple of roaming burglars, John Heard (Big, Home Alone) as a friendly bartender, Will Patton (No Way Out, The Postman) as a leather-bound tough guy, Catherine O'Hara ("SCTV", Best in Show) as an ice cream truck driver, and Linda Fiorentino (Men in Black, The Last Seduction) as the moody, half-dressed sculptress of Plaster-of-Paris bagel & cream cheese paperweights. Every role, no matter how small, is perfectly cast, from the cab driver to the bouncer outside the club to the token seller in the subway. The cab driver shoots a look of anger and annoyance that is so genuine, I cringe and laugh everytime I see it - a look I recognize instantly and all too well from personal experience.

Every situation, every character, every line, every camera move is so nuanced that you MUST watch the flick multiple times to begin to take it all in. The tone is patently unnerving. Scorsese is a master of...well, many things, including editing a film so that the audience becomes emotionally locked into what is happening on screen. In After Hours, that means you are empathetic witness to a nightmare. It's a really amazing movie, and a whole lot of fun. As Paul gets stuck deeper and deeper into he Hellish quagmire of the SoHo district, you can't help but feel for the guy - and laugh at him too. The entire plot is patently unlikely, but that's not the point. This is the stuff that surreal nightmares are made of, not pithy anecdotes. As the night rolls on and the tension builds, it becomes more and more hilarious. Well, it's hilarious if you find suicide and blood-thirsty mobs to be breeding grounds for comedy. Did I mention the mob is being led by a Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck playing a tinkling jingle? This is grotesque dark humor at its finest.

It's a wonderful script by Joseph Minion (Vampire's Kiss), who was an NYU student at the time. Longtime Marty collaborators Thelma Schoonmaker and Michael Ballhaus are along for the editing and cinematography chores, and Howard Shore (The Silence of the Lambs, SE7EN, The Lord of the Rings) adds a playfully haunting score. This is some of Schoonmaker's best work, right up there with Raging Bull and GoodFellas. Scorsese and Ballhaus really have some fun with stylized, exaggerated camera movement, so much so that you may want to take a Dramamine before you watch.

After Hours received very mixed reviews back in 1985, but it did nab Scorsese the Best Director at Cannes, a nomination for Dunne at the Golden Globes, and it won Best Feature at the very first Independent Spirit Awards. This is a brilliant movie that too-few people seem to know very well today, but it's one I force upon folks constantly. Usually whenever I do so, they are blown away, and even want to watch it again immediately.

*Newly released on DVD as of 2004, it's one of my very favorite movies, and actually makes a nifty double feature with another NYC odyssey of sexual guilt and paranoia, Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

Nicely said Holden. After Hours is up there with Mean Streets as the Scorsese film I most anxiously await to see, and has been for nearly a year.

The King of Comedy was pretty badly trashed by critics and audiences alike upon its release back in 1983. This is one of the many instances where both groups missed the boat.

Perhaps it was sold incorrectly, giving the impression that it was supposed to be a "comedy", which it really isn't - though it cetrainaly has hysterical moments. But then, so do Taxi Driver and GoodFellas. Maybe Rupert Pupkin was just too bizarre a character, and DeNiro's performance too unfamiliar? And maybe the very topic and tone seemed too far-fetched and surreal at that time? Whatever the reasons, folks were seeing a classic movie unfold before their eyes, but weren't able to process it as such yet.

The King of Comedy is the story of Rupert Pupkin (DeNiro), a sorry would-be stand-up comedian who longs for his big break into the business. He doesn't have the courage or desire to actually play clubs, pay his dues, learn his craft by trial and error. Rather Rupert wants success and fame today, fully-formed, a megastar in one shot. He believes he could achieve this by appearing on "The Jerry Langford Show", a Johnny Carson "Tonight Show"-type program that films in New York City (just as Carson's show did before the move to L.A. in the early '70s). As the movie opens, Rupert creates a chance encounter with Langford, who is played extremely well by Jerry Lewis. He awkwardly fumbles through his wish to be a comedy star, and Jerry actually responds with fairly good advice. It's clear to us he just wants to get rid of this creep, but he also does so in a helpful if measured way. However, rather than shine some reality onto Pupkin's dream, this encounter sends him hurtling further down the path of fantasy and obsession.

What follows is a mixture of fantasy and reality as Rupert's subsequent attempts to interact with Jerry and appear on his show become more and more sad and dangerous, eventually boiling into a kidnapping plot where extortion may be Rupert's passport to television stardom. The rest of the cast includes Diahanne Abbott (DeNiro's real-life wife at the time, and already a smaller supporting player in Taxi Driver and New York, New York) as a girl from High School he always had a crush on and who he involves unwittingly in his schemes, Sandra Bernhard in her first screen role as another obsessed fan of Langford's - though hers is centered on delusional romantic desires and not showbiz ones, and Fred DeCordova (Johnny Carson's real-life producer) as the fictional show's producer. All the performances fit perfectly, including surprisingly good and textured work by Jerry Lewis, in the first real attempt at drama in his mostly clownish career. Scorsese cast and uses him expertly, drawing on his known persona and somehow intuiting he would be able to go toe-to-toe with Bobby DeNiro on screen in dramatic scenes. But this is a really showcase for DeNiro, and with this character he shows another more pathetic side of a Travis Bickle type.

The tone and the mixture of realities is perfectly done by Scorsese and company. The climate in 1983 should have been ripe for this satire, for the social trends that were being explored, but the effort was judged as a failure then. Remember this was only a few years after Mark David Chapman gunned down John Lennon outside his Manhattan apartment, and two years after John Hinkley shot President Reagan in Washington, D.C. - to which the clearly insane and disturbed Hinkley tried to explain by his own obsession with Jodie Foster and Scorsese's Taxi Driver. DeNiro was already a double-Oscar winner by now and a huge and respected movie star, so he understood the darker side of fame quite well. It was DeNiro who was keen on the project initially, in the late '70s, but Scorsese didn't see a way into it for himself. But after Raging Bull and a continued accumulation of fame of his own, Scorsese "got it" and it went into production.

One of the many sticking points for audiences, then and even now, is the ending. Without going into much detail for those who haven't seen it, let me just say that if after watching The King of Comedy your main response is "Was it real or a fatasy?", then you have COMPLETELY missed the entire point of the film. The point is that it could just as easily be either, that in American society as the filmmakers saw it, either was equally likely - which is a scary and sobering conclusion.

"Better to be king for a night, than schmuck for a lifetime."

It's a movie that is way ahead of its time in many ways. The script was written before celebrity stalking and fame at any price had become as minstream, and even though the film's production was certainly colored by the shootings of Lennon and Reagan and therefore of it's time, reading old reviews and juding by the complete lack of box office interest, it would seem the level of obsession explored in The King of Comedy was deemed too abstract and impossibly silly. In today's climate, it seems quite common and understandable, and like Sidney Lumet's Network (1977), it's an over-the-top satire that has been eclipsed decades later by our bizarre reality.

The King of Comedy is another of Marty's masterworks, but like After Hours too little known (though the presence of DeNiro makes it a little more high profile than the megastar-less After Hours). It was thankfully released on R1 DVD in December of 2002, finally letterboxed (even the old LD was full frame) and with a few extras: unfortunately no audio commentary track this time (Scorsese was much too busy readying Gangs of New York), but it does include two deleted scenes, a brief but good 15-minute new retrosepctive documentary, and the theatrical trailer.

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My dream packaging for a deluxe LD, well now a DVD, would be an After Hours Special Edition, with an audio commentary track featuring Scorsese and Dunne, at least a 45-minute-long documentary featuring interviews of cast and crew, and a limited edition Plaster-of-Paris bagel & cream cheese paperweight.

I can dream, can't I?

A novel adaptation.
Unforunately so.
I quite enjoy Scorcese's work, and I'd really like to see you take on most of his films this way. While it would be a large investment of time on your part, just remember that I am not you, and therefore have very little interest in how you spend your time as long as I get to enjoy reading your views on film.
After Hours was a film I rented on a whim long before I was mature enough to understand or appreciate it, but uponrepeat viewings, I view it as one of the most intentionally awkwardly funny movies of all time. Espescially in the strangely reminiscent (of Dudley Moore at his best, I believe) performance of GriffinDunne, who stumbles and wanders his way through this city only to realize that the obstacles presented to him impossible to escape.
As for The King of Comedy, one scene always comes to mind that encompasses the finer points of the film for myself. Rupert is in his bedroom conducting an interview of himself with a cardboard cut-out of Jerry Langford. Rupert even included another celebrity guest who sat next to him as he traded jokes with the cardboard Jerry.

Super genius? Most certainly.
"We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glow-worm."
--Winston Churchill

Yeah, the bits of Rupert Pupkin in his basement "practicing" his talkshow banter are so awkward and pathetic, they're absolutely brilliant. The best of them is as he tries to make his tape for Jerry, and he keeps getting interrupted by his nebbish Mother pestering him from upstairs: "What are you doing down there?....Lower it!". Priceless.

And of course Mrs. Pupkin, who is only heard as a voice in the movie, is played by Scorsese's own mother, Catherine Scorsese. She and/or his father, Charles, appeared in many of his movies. Rupert's nagging mother was her best role up to that time (not counting the documentary "Italianamerican" where he interviews his folks), but of course her shining moment comes years later in GoodFellas, as the Joe Pesci character's mother ("Why don't you settle down, find yourself a nice girl?"). Charles wan't used as prominently, his most visible part coming in Raging Bull and GoodFellas as always present Mobster sidemen. One or both have at least cameos in the majority of the flicks, until Mr. Scorsese died after The Age of Innocence, and Mrs. Scorsese after Casino. Catherine famously cooked large authentic Italian dinners on just about all of his sets for cast and crew. A number of her recipes were even printed in a book.

Marty himself has cameos in many of his movies, especially up to The Color of Money. His most sizeable part with dialogue is the jealous husband in Travis' cab in the middle of Taxi Driver (he also has a true Hitchcockian cameo earlier in that movie), but he shows up quite a bit. Others include The King of Comedy, where he plays the director of the television show interacting with guest host Tony Randall before the taping. In After Hours he's only there for a blink, operating the spotlight in the rafters of The Club Berlin, after Paul is "mohawked". More recently he was the voice of one of the dispatchers in Bringing Out the Dead, and the wealthy home owner Amsterdam catches Jenny pulling the maid scam on in Gangs of New York.

Scorsese's daughter Cathy, from his first marriage, has a cameo in The King of Comedy, as the fan who wants Rupert's autograph at The Friar's Club. Good Lordy, I may know too much about the man's movies: thus, the restraining order! Well played, Mr. Marty, well played. For now....

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My shot.

I have a very suprising affection [suprising in terms of not expecting to feel so affectionate] for Raging Bull (1980), and it is a film that I can watch again and again over a short period of time, and still find new things to be amazed with every time.

I bought Raging Bull on DVD without having ever seen it. All I knew was that it was a Scorsese picture, that it was there, that I could buy it, and so I did. At first I was unimpressed. It is a hard film. Hard to take at first. Jake La Motta [Bobby DeNiro] is one of the most obnoxious jerks in cinematic history. The first time I watched the film I found it hard to sympathise with him, and I wondered if my money had been wasted. Of course, it hadn't. Not by a long shot.

The second time I watched it I noticed a Hell of a lot more [and I sympathised a lot more; the prison scene kill me now]. The fact that Raging Bull is extremely funny, for example [that is something about most Scorsese films that you don't pick up in one viewing. These things are tragic, sure, but they're hilarious too]. There is no funnier lines in the film than when Jake tells his wife that in burning the steak "it defeats its own purpose" and Joey lamenting [after having punched Jake in the face per request], "Your cuts are opening up and everything." It is laugh out loud. You don't feel it that first time 'round, because the film is so overwhelming.

I don't think there is a better scene from the 80s than the scene in which Joey tells Jake how to tune the TV. There is so much about that scene that cements the genius of Scorsese for me [more so than even the fight sequences]. You've got two brilliant actors going at each other, you've got Cathy Moriarty in her near perfect performance, you've got some amazing editing from Thelma [so very subtle]. You've got that shot that lingers on the staircase before slowly panning back to Jake, who actually looks like a the raging bull that he is. Then you've got the dialogue exchange, "D'you f_ck my wife?" which results in the best reaction in the entire film, the result of Marty telling DeNiro to say, "D'you f_ck my mother" without letting Pesci know. It is just a masterpiece of a scene. It transcends film direction for me. It is just there. Perfectly formed.

I don't really need to discuss the fight scenes because enough people have already spoken for them, and they don't need me to add redundant praise. All I feel about the fight scenes is summed up when I mention the shot of the referee [you know the shot], as he passes through a hellish and almost liquid whisp of smoke. They lit a fire underneath the camera for that. And that one shot sums up the technical genius of the film, more than one of the best opening credit sequences in history, more than the drop of blood on the ropes. As the referee passes through that mirage you just know that Scorsese had seen this thing in his mind so long before [the story of his reasons for making the film are well known; the book, the hospital bed, the salvation] , how innovative he is, and how [to put it simply] passionate he is. To go to the lengths of lighting a fire under the camera. It doesn't sound like much, but it is. To want to do that. To think, "I'm going to light a fire under the camera for this one shot". That says something to me. For me, Raging Bull is the masterpiece. GoodFellas is the favourite, but Raging Bull is the masterpiece.

Raging Bull is a difficult movie to take in. The level of uncomfortability and even disgust in watching such a repugnant man abuse the people around him on the spiral downward as he loses it all, it's overwhelmingly powerful, especially on initial viewing, so much so that I'm sure many an audience member has sat there thinking 'why should I care about this scumbag for two hours?'. Even though the highlights (and lowlights) of Jake's professional boxing career are hit, it doesn't play like a typical biopic, and certainly not a typical sports biopic. The level of brutality and honesty in Raging Bull is jarring, but it's also refreshing and amazing...once you allow yourself to become interested in a wholly unsympathetic character.

And talk about the tour de force performance of his generation, DeNiro as LaMotta is revelatory! The massive weight gain gets so much of the attention, but while it is an odd and impressive feat, it's only the physical manifestation of the complete transformation Bobby D. went through to play this role. It's a scary all-out performance that could have easily been overwhelmed by the technical bag of adjustments in lesser hands.

And all the acting, including DeNiro's masterwork, is so full of nuance and small moments revealing character and truth, it's easy to miss the texture and depth of it on first viewing. But the movie is so much ABOUT those seemingly small things, and the moment where Jake and Joey break from each other while fiddling with TV reception is a pefect example (as editor Schonmaker explained in a documentary for the UK DVD, perhaps the example...and one she can't even watch without laughing aloud at). Cathy Moriarty was only 19-years-old when this movie was made (nineteen!!!!), and Pesci had already given up on a stalled acting career after years of frustration. Both are so perfect, it's astounding at times to watch.

Like DeNiro's massive weight gain, the brilliant fight sequences do tend to get too much of the attention at times. They are spectacularly stylized, painstakingly created and each one unique, but to focus much on them does lose sight of the extraordinary body of and arc of the movie. It also toys with potential audience's expectations. Anyone either consciously or subconsciously expecting to see some varitaion on Rocky (1976) going in will be stunned and probably even outright bored by Raging Bull.

To that point in his career, Scorsese's love of the Italian neo-Realist cinema hadn't crept in so completely to the fabric and tone of one of his projects. Mean Streets overtly owes more to Cassavetes, and Taxi Driver to Film Noir, but Raging Bull is clearly more aligned with Visconti. This is yet another stumbling block in mass audiences accepting the film (especially in America), that it unfolds so slowly in comparison to regular Hollywood fare, and is almost completely about character rather than plot. And an unappealing character at that.

There's a nice R2 Special Edition 20th Anniversay DVD that includes a thirty-minute retrospective documentary. DeNiro isn't interviewed, which is a shame, but it does have the real Jake LaMotta, and some good insights by a couple critics and Thelma Schoonmaker in particular. The Criterion LaserDisc has an audio commentary track with Scorsese and Schoonmaker that is probably my favorite of all such recordings. Unfortunately nothing approaching a special edition has yet been made for U.S. DVD or VHS.

And to drag up the subject of Oscar snubs for just a moment, it is exasperating to think that Robert Redford and Ordinary People were given top honors over Marty and Raging Bull. I like Ordinary People just fine, it has some really terrific work by Hutton and Moore especially, but as good as it is, it still plays like the best made-for-TV weeper ever made, and to have it elevated by the Academy over a movie as complex and difficult and as masterfully created and artistically true on every level as Raging's just depressing (in the awards injustice sense, of course).

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This is such a geek thread for geeks. I'm loving it.

The Special Edition 20th Anniversary DVD is that which I own, and yes, it is a shame that neither Scorsese nor DeNiro is interviewed in the documentary [entitled The Bronx Bull], but Thelma Shoonmaker, as you say, is worth the price of admission alone. It is interesting also [though not as interesting as the two men who made this picture would have been] to hear the critics reflect on the film; the initial poor reception and, of course, the Oscar snubs, which are some of the more obviously and blatantly unjustified snubs in Academy Award history in my opinion.

I love DeNiro as LaMotta ["Honey, let's be friends!" gets me every time], though in the same manner one can focus too heavily on the fight scenes, I find that the other performances can often be lost when compared to his. That is not to say that DeNiro does not deliver one of the best performances in history [and let's face it, to deny such a thing would be ludicrous], but that the overall impeccable cast is just that; one of the most impeccable ensembles ever thrown together [I smile for a moment as I consider Joe Pesci attacking Frank Vincent in the restaurant...]

This film is technically astounding, and along with Lawrence Of Arabia I consider it one of the most overall emotionally and aesthetically satisfying films I have ever seen. This is even more of an inspiration to an aspiring filmmaker when you consider the fact that Raging Bull is very traditional in terms of technique; Scorsese really doesn't rely on flashy tricks to create interest, but to aid the story; something that is lacking amongst the MTV fodder films of today. Raging Bull is just so perfectly, and [if you know what I mean] honorably, crafted, and for me there is nothing better.

So. Holden. I think it is time for GoodFellas.

A novel adaptation.
We can't ignore Travis Bickle...

A novel adaptation.
I never said you did...

My favs...........he is just total class..........

Gangs of New York
Taxi Driver
Cape Fear
The Age of Innocence
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
New York, New York
The Color of Money
~ Nikki ~

"I'm your hell, I'm your dream.......I'm nothing in between.......You know you wouldn't want it any other way".........

"Listen, when I slap you, you'll take it and like it"..........Humphrey Bogart..........Maltese Falcon.......

Graze on my lips and if those hills be dry, stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie...........William Shakespeare.......