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February 23, 2009

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Aaron Aradillas

Rupert Pupkin's routine on The Jerry Langford Show is hilarious becuase it is so mediocre. He's exactly the kind comic made for television. He's a laugh-track comic that doesn't offend.

MR. Pupkin, meet Dane Cook.

Tom Russell

Loved Kundun. Loved Casino. Loved King of Comedy.

Bringing out the dead, eh, not so much...

John M.

I grew up in the suburbs of north Dallas, and I could always relate to the characters of RAGING BULL just fine. If you've ever known a fuck-up, you can relate. I will admit it never had the effect on me that TAXI DRIVER had--there's an angry magic in that film that the grinding, elegiac realism of RAGING BULL just doesn't tolerate. But it is a movie that reveals new things with each viewing. And it's almost perfectly made.

GANGS OF NEW YORK is probably still his most disappointing film to me. Well crafted with love, to be sure, but the narrative is unruly, the scope has Marfan syndrome, and even the aesthetics seem to get away from him at times (some of that music is inexcusable)--I find THE AVIATOR a much more complete experience...it feels less compromised, and indeed less choppy. (Its script, alas, is by far the weakest element...taking the tortured celebrity angle on Howard Hughes seems misplaced and dumb.)

Now, which would I rather watch again, GANGS or AVIATOR? Yeah, huh, probably GANGS.

I for one would love to see Scorsese work with Daniel Day Lewis again. That's a match made in heaven.

bill

John M. - Supposedly, Day-Lewis is going to be in Scorsese's "Silence", based on the Shusaku Endo novel. Another passion project for Scorsese that's been simmering at this point for about as long as "Gangs" had been by the time that one got made. So we'll see if it actually happens...

larry aydlette

I always thought the movie was about the final title card of "being blind, but now I see." It's all a play inside Scorsese's head, with Jake being Scorsese's fear of what he's becoming if he keeps wasting his life and his talent stuffing coke up his nose. Finally, when Scorsese almost died from it, he turned away from the abyss, and essentially the movie ended. Jake is the symbol of the abyss. That's why the lack of sympathy for the characters (who I never saw as completely real) or the so-called no-ending ending never bothered me. It's not really about the characters, it's Scorsese's head saying: I can't do this anymore. Enough of that guy. I've seen the light and I'm going to walk out of this nightmare. I'm not going to pound my creative fists into hamburger against a jail cell anymore. And that's just what he did. He must have, at that moment, had some amazing kind of clarity to have seen how to make this boxing story into a parable of his own troubles, and to have made it so unflinchingly. It's not surprising he's never made a movie this emotionally pulverizing since. Who the hell could?

Nelson

Another RAGING BULL line that never fails to make me laugh: in the hit-me-in-the-face scene, when Jake tells Joey, "You trow [sic] a punch like you take it in the ass."

Am I the only one who thinks DiCaprio is somewhat overrated in THE DEPARTED? He's better than he is in GANGS, he's believably intense throughout -- but it seems to me like that's all he is, the performance never varies from its single note of being seriously stressed out. (I much prefer his work in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN -- I can't imagine another actor in his age range doing a better job.) In comparison, Matt Damon reveals far more shadings and depths and emotional registers to his character.

And since no one's mentioned it yet, I'll put in a word for THE AGE OF INNOCENCE. Yeah, a lot of it seems lifted from Ophuls, Visconti, and Welles, but it's so beautifully crafted, the period detail is wonderful, and I get the feeling he was more emotionally invested in the story than in almost anything else he's done since RAGING BULL.

Dan

@Nelson

My dad argues, and I happen to agree with him, that "Age of Innocence" is such a perfect fit that it's amazing Scorese didn't do it earlier.

For my money, "Bringing Out the Dead" is underrated. It died for a very specific reason; people were expecting "Martin Scorese's ER" and didn't get it. But there's a lot to love in that film.

Mike De Luca

Dan

Yeah, movie life doesn't get much better than New York City, and a bug-eyed Nic Cage in non-hammy mode hitting the streets to Johnny Thunders singing "You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory". Major Tom and Cyrus, Janie Jones, the flashing red lights. Scorsese got exactly what he was going for, and I ate it up like candy. "Casino" is underrated, as well. DeNiro, meet Joe Bob Briggs. Crazy stuff. The Fleetwood Mac desert scene is a classic. And I don't think DiCaprio is overrated in "The Departed". When he beat the snot out of those two clowns from Providence, he more than earned his keep.

Nelson

Dan -- it IS a perfect fit, isn't it? He really had a great feel for Wharton's world. I once had the pleasure of meeting Gore Vidal, and he mentioned having written a screenplay about Justinian and Theodora that Scorsese was interested in directing at one point. Vidal much admired AGE OF INNOCENCE, and said it proved that Scorsese is along with everything else a great anthropologist -- he's interested in manners and social customs, whether of Italian American wiseguys or Gilded Age aristos.

Nelson

Mike, we'll agree to disagree on DiCaprio in DEPARTED, but I'll co-sign on CASINO, esp. the desert scene. When I first saw the film I was disappointed -- it struck me at the time as a retread of GOODFELLAS material -- but of course I see now that he was after something very different.

S.F. Hunger

I love Bringing Out The Dead, those flashing red lights are permanently burned into my brain, as indelible an image of New York as those in Taxi Driver. And Scorsese's best use of a rock soundtrack ever, or at least ever since Mean Streets. But I can't get on board with the Casino defenders. Still think that's Scorsese's worst. Even the relatively cold, impersonal The Departed is more alive than the curiously inert Casino. I think a good deal of that has to do with DeNiro's completely bland, uninteresting, artless performance (it's the moment where he started going downhill). You know your movie's in trouble when DeNiro and Pesci are both upstaged by James Woods.

swhitty

I didn't care for "Casino" at first, but I find it growing on me, and whenever it's on television I'll start watching.

Definitely a high point -- perhaps the last one -- for Woods, and the best thing Stone ever did.

And although it's not my favorite mob movie of Scorsese's, I do think it's a wonderful -- and not very well disguised -- attack on the corporatization of Hollywood.

Or is it just a coincidence that De Niro's character ends up looking exactly like Lew Wasserman?

Tom Russell

Casino is epic and tragic, anchored by a fine subtle performance on the part of DeNiro, a great performance (!) from Sharon Stone, and the scenery-chewing of Woods, Pesci, et al. While Goodfellas took us inside the reality and the glamour both of mob life, Casino shows us how the mob _works_ -- the nitty-gritty details of casino operation.

And like a lot of great Scorsese protagonists, the mobsters of Casino are brought down by their own character flaws-- their inability to controls themselves and others.

It's also a poisonous and rapturous portrait of love-- no wonder, then, that the theme from Contempt is continually washing over us.

Also, like Raging Bull: really really funny in parts. I still laugh when Pesci says "Back home, years ago..." and one of those place-locator titles reads "BACK HOME, YEARS AGO".

It, like Age of Innocence and Kundun, is a freakin' masterpiece. And-- here I realize I'm being a wee bit blasphemous-- a far greater gangster film than Goodfellas.

The Chevalier

The Aviator is a good movie. The reason a lot of Scorsese fans don't like it is because it's not really a "Scorsese film." But that's why I think it's good. For me, Scorsese's problem as a filmmaker has always been that he keeps stepping on his own toes -- his movies always have to be about himself. He's always imposing shots and editing schemes on the movies that have nothing to really do with the storytelling; it's as if he has to keep reminding the audience that he's there: Look at his fast dolly, look at this montage, look at this zoom added onto a dolly, etc.

But The Aviator is, along with maybe The King of Comedy, the one time where he didn't ruthlessly impose himself upon the material. He did what a storyteller is supposed to do: Tell the story. And I think that's why a lot of fans look at it as an impersonal work. To me, however, that's what makes it strong.

Campaspe

@Tom, I was totally with you until I got to the "greater than Goodfellas" clincher. :) Casino is a fine, fine film though.

bill

I think "Casino" is great, and I absolutely don't think it's when De Niro started going down. In fact, I think that's his last truly great performance. He's so natural and at ease, even in torment. He's marvelous in the scene where Rothstein says that love can grow over time.

And yeah, it's funny. Pescie and Vincent, covering their mouths to thwart FBI lip-readers, and an old guy comes walking by: "Who's this guy, who's this guy..."

lazarus

Re: DiCaprio in The Departed, he may not have has as interesting or layered a role/performance as Damon, but I haven't seen someone play frayed nerves and panic as well in recent memory as D-Cap did here. It really is uncomfortable to watch him squirm as the walls are closing in. That scene in the car with Sheen and Wahlberg, the one in the airport...the jumpiness never feels anything less than organic to me.

Also, count me in as big a fan of Kundun and The Age of Innocence. I'm really looking forward to seeing Marty get this Silence project to production, and hopefully it will have a better fate commercially and critically than those two. Not only is Daniel Day-Lewis slated to work on it, but Benicio del Toro as well. That's going to be fun to watch.

Watch Movies Free Online

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Tony Dayoub

I agree that of his latter-day films (post-Goodfellas), his greatest are Age of Innocence, Bringing Out the Dead and Casino.

@Tom,
I second your assertion that Casino is superior to Goodfellas... sort of like Goodfellas was a dry run for the much more stylized and aesthetically formal Casino.

Ryan Kelly

Glenn:

Long time Fort Lee resident here; if you don't mind me asking, what part of town did you live in? I'd imagine it's probably unrecognizable from your childhood. It's practically unrecognizable from my childhood, and I was born in '88.

If Fort Lee was a suburb of the Bronx when you lived here, it's really just a suburb of Manhattan now. Though, in terms of wannabe Manhattan's, it doesn't have anything on West New York.

Glenn Kenny

@Ryan:

From the ages of zero to about five, I lived on Hudson Street, right off the bridge. If you go to the Food Emporium and stand at the bagging section of checkout aisle 8, that' pretty much the terrace of my grandparents' house. I was born in '59, well past the heyday of, say, Bill Miller's Riviera on the Palisades, but my dad parked cars at Hing's Chinese Restaurant in nearby Englewood, a hot spot for celebs in the tri-state area (Paul Anka was a regular). I don't know that I've ever had better Chicken Chow Mein than what that place served up. Fort Lee was a fabulous Italian enclave; the yearly feast of St. Rocco pretty much took over the town. There was a wonderful large movie theater on the main drag, where I remember seeing 'Mary Poppins' for the first time. In subsequent years Korean and Japanese investment turned it into an almost entirely Asian burg. Haven't been back in a few years; I ought to go visit my grandparents' graves in St. Mary's—the last Italian enclave left!—when the weather gets a little better. Legend has it, by the way, that the vicinity around Hudson St. was where NYC mobsters would dump the bodies of the guys they'd offed, so the corpses would be in the jurisdiction of the Jersey police and thus throw a little of the scent off their trails.

Ryan Kelly

Ahh, good ol' Aisle 8. Though it's an A & P now, not a Food Emporium (that's about two blocks away from where I currently reside). Good to know I buy my food on a little piece of your childhood.

Yeah, it's mostly little Asia now. The bad running joke around here is that they were drawn to the surnames Fort LEE and Palisades PARK and Cliffside PARK. There are seriously three pages of "Kim"'s in all of my yearbooks.

And as a fun fact, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the term "Cliffhanger" comes from your and my home town. Biograph, Goldwyn, Metro, Fox are just some of the big production names that started in Fort Lee, and Micheaux, Griffith, and Melies, and Mary Pickford got are just some examples of those who got there start around here. Only recently has Fort Lee started embracing the fact that it was the first ever movie capital of the world, they even renamed a road off Main Street "Theda Bara Way", and have pictures of the town from the silent era plastered in certain parts. It's a nice little piece of folk-lore.

Perhaps the town's rich history in film is where you and I got 'the bug' from, Mr. Kenny?

Pedro Canhenha

Being one of Martin Scorsese's big fans, it's with great joy I see "Raging Bull" getting all the recognition it currently has. What I find so intriguing is that from his 80s output, so many people forget the fantastically underrated King of Comedy, After Hours and The Last Temptation of Christ (I'm sidestepping Color of Money). If something, those films always showed what a great director Scorsese is, no matter what kind of means he has available. And though from his latest output I found Gangs of New York underwhelming, his films always breathe a cinematic genius that a lot of so called filmmakers these days can only aspire to. "Raging Bull" continues to be a testimony of his talent, and of all the people who worked in it, namely the great cinematographer that is Michael Chapman and the editing of Thelma Schoonmaker.

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