« Forward into the past | Main | An adorable honor »

February 13, 2010

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The Chevalier

TR- All of which he personally developed to his taste -- as opposed to taking on scripts that others have developed into a better story structure like The Aviator or The Departed -- or, even going back, After Hours, The King of Comedy or Taxi Driver.

He's pretty much on record as saying he does story but not plot. I simply think that when he oversees a project from scratch, a passion project, so to speak, his tendencies are bad tendencies. When he takes on an existing project, it's more like he's grafting his sensibilities to it -- which both is good for him and also good for the material.

Tom Russell

"Deluded" is indeed a nastier way to put it, though I don't think "rose-tinted" is really that much more polite; either description implies that you possess some kind of infallible truth as to whether a film "hits" or "misses" and not that, oh, I dunno, we simply have different tastes? I can't stand any of William Friedkin's films, not-a-one, but that doesn't mean the people who like his films are "deluded" or trying to "gloss" over his deficiencies. They see something that I don't. That's opinion. That's art.

In arguing about film and art, it's common to state one's opinion forcibly-- to say, "this film is bad" instead of "I think this film is bad", and that's much the way it should be. But if you say "these films are bad because of X" and I say "these films are great because of X", and X is the same thing in both cases, it means we have an honest difference in aesthetic values-- not that one of us is deluding themselves or wearing rose-tinted glasses.

So let me talk for a moment about those aesthetic values, about the things in those three Scorsese films-- KUNDUN, INNOCENCE, and CASINO-- that I find valuable and noteworthy.

-- All three films, first of all, have a very definite sense of place and atmosphere, from the exotic East of Kundun, to the supposedly polite society of 1800s New York, to the deadening glamour of Vegas. The latter two films use voice-over in remarkable and sometimes humourous ways to orient us; there's a definite sense of process, whether it's providing a how-to of running a Casino or the way a social ecosystem of the well-to-do operates.

-- All three films are visceral, alive, and intoxicated with the possibilities of cinema: the gorgeous and sometimes surreal cinematography of Kundun married with its absolutely thrilling score; Casino's use of title cards (BACK HOME, YEARS AGO) and the way Pesci's voice-over is interrupted by his own murder; INNOCENCE in particular is a stylist's bounty, containing the flicker-pan of opera glasses, the direct-to-camera letters, the overlapping dissolves that reveal the contents of a pocket and series of envelopes, the iris-in that occludes both picture and sound to gift us an intimate moment. This isn't just making cine-references or homages; this is being unafraid to use the language of cinema in expressive and entertaining ways.

-- CASINO and INNOCENCE are both incredibly romantic, in the burning embers of doomed passion meaning of the word, exploring and exploiting the fine line between love and bitterness. CASINO in particular is a moody film, and that moodiness certainly turned off the people who thought it was a longer GOODFELLAS. (There's a reason why CASINO used the theme from CONTEMPT.) GOODFELLAS is a fun ride, but CASINO is a deeper, better, more mature film.

-- KUNDUN and INNOCENCE are both complex and multi-variate in the ways they approach their protagonist: Newland Archer is both a good family man and the man who wishes his wife would die so that he could be free. The Dalai Lama is at once a blessed leader, an impossible naive child, and a tragic figure born at the wrong point in history. Those who call it a hagiography simply aren't paying attention.

-- The performances in all three films are incredibly strong. I'm not sure what's more impressive: that Scorsese got such great performances from the many non-actors who people KUNDUN, or that he got such amazing, subtle, and intelligent performances from Pfieffer in INNOCENCE and Stone in CASINO-- these being two women who are almost always abso-fucking-lutely god-awful in everything else they've ever done (though Pfieffer was admittedly pretty good in DANGEROUS LIAISONS).

Please, go ahead and disagree with me here; if this isn't the sort of thing that turns you on, then that's fine. But don't tell me that I'm being dishonest, that I'm somehow lying to myself because I love these films. Frankly, that's really fucking rude.

Tom Russell

Good points, Aaron.

Chevalier, I was writing my latest comment before you posted yours, which restates your thesis in a way that, while I still disagree with it, I can indeed see your point. If I had seen it before posting, I probably would've toned down some of the incivility in parts of my long comment.

Zach

AA beat me to all the really good punches in this civil little contretemps. I will only chime in to say that I agree (with Mr. Russell as well) - Scorsese is not only NOT a show-off, he's an incredibly talented storyteller, easily one of our best ("our" referring to American cinema culture). It's the mark of a poor critic indeed who misses the forest of Scorese's emotional richness (always rooted in story, even with the tone-poem-esque KUNDUN, which I recently re-watched - what a flippin' stunner of a movie, btw) for the trees of his rapid dolly movements, cuts, rock&roll cues, cross-fades and all the other bells and whistles. It might be most accurate to say that Scorsese's brand of storytelling emphasizes character over plot, and the expressive nature of his formal choices is informed by the inner lives of these characters.

Gangs is flawed, yes, but absolutely brilliant; the Aviator is one of my least favorite of his films (although I don't count agree with the Chris Doyle "he's sucking the academy's cock" thesis) precisely because of the hammy acting that robs the characters of their credibility. The Departed was a bit impersonal, but so much damn fun, and should be the final refutation to any claim that Scorsese isn't (or can't be) a plotsmith - it's one of the tightest contemporary films I know of. There is not ONE wrong beat in that whole movie (I mean in the rhythmic sense), and I should know since I've seen it three times.

So I'm very psyched - pun intended, oh yes - to see SHUTTER.

Glenn Kenny

Interesting argument going on here. For the record, I think "Casino" is a difficult (a very deliberately difficult) film, not a bad one. I watched "Age of Innocence" for the first time in a while the other night and was largely impressed. I had forgotten the degree of Powell-Pressburger-inflected irreality (as opposed to surreality or unreality) with which he transposes Wharton's tale, and found it rather beguiling. For whatever reason I have not been compelled to revisit "Kundun" at all.

The Chevalier will perhaps be mortified to learn that Jeffrey Wells is taking a similar tack to the subjects of Scorsese love (and Eastwood love) over at his own place. The Chevalier's points are more specific, and his arguments more eloquently articulated. But I still don't understand the resentment. It's one thing not to like a lot of Scorsese films but it's quite another to call his champions "deluded." I understand that one can get frustrated at what one sees as critical complacency or what have you but...I dunno. I despise Joe Swanberg's films but don't think that our friend Tom Russell, or the estimable Richard Brody, is an idiot for admiring them. Yes, if someone compares Swanberg to Pialat I'm gonna call foul, because I think the comparison is unwarranted and I believe that I can demonstrate that via specific detailed comparisons...but...

I'm reminded of what Orson Welles said when Peter Bogdanovich was goading him for seeming to change his opinions on filmmakers from interview to interview. "Why should I upset a strong Fellini man by telling him I think 'Satyricon' was firghtened at birth by Vogue magazine?" Welles protested...before ceding Bogdanovich's point. Film critics, surprisingly enough, are human beings too, and they want their pantheons to do good work. That may result in a review that The Chevalier would condemn as "dishonest" or "delusional" or what have you. I know what I saw in "Shutter Island," but what I saw was also affected by a number of circumstances, including my emotional state at the time of the screening. But that's always gonna be the case, if Robert Warshow and common sense are to be believed.

Jaime

People telling me they don't like film x or film y, is like telling me about their medical issues. And showing me. I. Don't. Care.

But everybody does it - it is what it is.

(It's more right, and therefore more difficult, to take a film for which you're a supporter, and **help me see it better**. For the film's exponent, it takes skill in communication - for me, it takes humility, and a desire to learn. Tough times all around, but worthwhile.)

However, when the "it sucks" tendency carries over to telling me that "it sucks and you're deluded"? I...I just...I can't. Mind boggles.

Jaime

Scorsese:  In putting my money where my mouth is, I will not say anything about Scorsese's '00s work.  I have to agree, however, with one of my friends who decided the rat in the final shot of THE DEPARTED was "beneath" an artist of his stature.  That said, I've seen every film since AGE OF INNOCENCE in the theater, and it is my determination that CASINO is an unqualified major work, excepting the dummy in the first explosion.  I love the shit out of GOODFELLAS, like any red-blooded cinephile, but over the years, while GOODFELLAS has become like close family, CASINO has ascended.

Kubrick:  EYES WIDE SHUT is his greatest film, although from time to time it's battled with BARRY LYNDON and THE SHINING for that spot.  I've written about it several times...there's an essay by Lee Siegel that I think says a lot of what I've wanted to say, better:

http://www.indelibleinc.com/kubrick/films/ews/reviews/harpers.html

Eastwood:  A very unusual convergence, in that he seems to be earning "official" designations (starting with two Oscars for directing) that, artistically, for me, are well-deserved.  Most recently (I haven't seen the Mandela pic), while I admired and enjoyed GRAN TORINO, the real surprise to me was CHANGELING, which seems to have been largely shrugged off.  To me CHANGELING is a very special and strongly-made film - I should disclose that I lost my gag reflex for melodramatic nonsense many years ago (it got in the way of appreciating works of art by McCarey, Borzage, Ford, to name a few), so there was a lot that I didn't simply "not mind," but that floored me.  I think about intersecting lines in movie narratives, and what filmmakers do to emphasize or de-emphasize them as the frames go by, and I thought one of the neatest bits of business in CHANGELING had to do with Christine's boss, who carries a wee torch for her through the years.  In the end he doesn't matter - at all - but he gets a little space in the film, regardless.  Also the execution of Gordon Northcott is brilliantly done.

christian

"EYES WIDE SHUT is his greatest film"

That just beggars reality. It's like saying TOPAZ is Hitchcock's greatest film.

Jaime

No, it's closer to MARNIE.

Zach

Jaime -

Thanks for posting that essay - I'd come across it on the web some time ago, and as I've recently been on a bit of Kubrick kick, it was nice to check it out again. Kubrick has always been the most mysterious and fascinating American director; he's one that I can never come to any lasting conclusions about, other than that I'm consistently amazed by his work...Seigel does a good job pleading the case for EWS as a masterwork.

On paper, I think I'd have to agree that EWS is his greatest, but my gut tells me otherwise...for me, it's part of the paradox of Kubrick that his most enjoyable films are not as rich (thematically, emotionally, etc.) as his more obviously flawed ones - CLOCKWORK will always be closest to my heart, not least because I saw it first. LYNDON is exhilarating because so much of it seems to be K outside his comfort zone; its his most "humane" picture, but I do think it's his dullest, and there are some frankly ridiculous moments of overacting (which shouldn't obscure the moments of stellar acting)...somehow that special variety of Kubrick-orchestrated ham-and-cheesiness works for Nicholson, Scott, MacDowell, and not so well for Cruise, Vitali.

Tom Russell

Obviously Hitchcock's best film was FAMILY PLOT.

Tom Russell

What? Why is everybody looking at me like that? It's structurally audacious, rollicklingly funny, with William Devane centering a lighthearted but still dangerous study in chilling sociopathy. Plus, it has Barbara Harris, who is a special effect in and of herself.

lazarus

I'm pretty close to agreeing with EWS being Kubrick's best. I've found it the most rewarding on subsequent viewings, other than the laughter Dr. Strangelove is always able to generate.

And Jamie is right in that Topaz is considered a relative failure even by those who admire parts of it. A lot to admire there but it's hard to argue that it "works" like most Hitchcock films. Of course, Topaz showed Hitch working WITHOUT movie stars for the first time in a while, so not a great analogy. Connery and Hedren are of course two actors arguably not up to the challenge of Marnie, something which has been said of Cruise and Kidman (a criticism I don't agree with).

Also, Marnie has become an oft-defended late work by Hitch that really features some of his best visual work, even if it's not matched at times by the script in the psychosexual exploration of its characters, and I think Eyes Wide Shut could be described the same way.

Arnie's Zilla

"I think Scorsese adoration is no different than Eastwood adoration."

Except that Eastwood is a much better filmmaker than Scorsese. Better, more versatile with genre, & - unlike poor Marty - an instinctive storyteller.

Anyway truth be told Shutter Island has never looked like anything more than a lousy B movie with top notch values & a vastly bloated runtime, & DiCaprio STILL looks miscast in these adult roles.

I can't trust critics any more when it comes to Scorsese. They're far too willing to carry water for the guy - as the reviews for his mediocre post-2000 work demonstrate. The supposed critical consensus around a piece of junk like The Departed is going to prove a source of embarrassment for those reviewers for years to come.

bill

I'm already embarrassed that I still love THE DEPARTED. I can't even look myself in the mirror.

christian

I thought THE DEPARTED was fairly awful and the critical huzzahs mystified me. Especially for Wahlberg's always-yelling cop.

lazarus

"Except that Eastwood is a much better filmmaker than Scorsese. Better, more versatile with genre, & - unlike poor Marty - an instinctive storyteller."

I don't even know where to begin here, so I think I'll just shake my head and leave. Or maybe just laugh and leave.


christian

Saying Eastwood is a better filmmaker than Scorcese is like picking EYES WIDE SHUT as the greatest Kubrick...or CASINO as a good movie.

Tom Russell

Some scatter-shot responses to some of the above:

I personally prefer BARRY LYNDON to all other Kubricks, but there's not a single weak link from THE KILLING on (save LOLITA, which still has it merits). I wouldn't necessarily pick EYES WIDE SHUT as the master's best, but it's not a bad or even merely good picture by any stretch of the imagination.

I like Eastwood and Scorsese both, but I wouldn't say one is necessarily better than the other, as they're doing two different things. It's like saying Blake Edwards is better than Kubrick or vice-versa. The things I expect from and enjoy in one's work are completely different than the other's.

As for "the supposed critical consensus" of post-2000 Scorsese, supposed is right, because I don't see a critical consensus there at all. I seem to remember a lot of bad reviews for THE DEPARTED-- but maybe I'm just reading the wrong critics? I'm not being facetious, here; I had a coworker tell me she had seen 500 DAYS OF SUMMER because "all the critics loved it", which surprised the hell out of me, because pretty much all the critics I read thought it was garbage.

And, finally, I really still don't understand the hate for CASINO. Could one of its opponents please give us a few details to grapple with besides "it's bad"?

bill

"Saying Eastwood is a better filmmaker than Scorcese is like picking EYES WIDE SHUT as the greatest Kubrick...or CASINO as a good movie."

Or like spelling "Scorsese" wrong. Boy, post-GOODFELLAS Scorsese sure makes people turn up their noses and get all sniffy, doesn't it? CASINO is a flawed movie, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what people hate about it. I think it's pretty great. I've long felt that it's the dramatic (in the classical sense) flipside of GOODFELLAS -- it's the tragedy to GOODFELLAS' comedy.

christian

Yeah, a spelling mistake is the same as picking EWS over STRANGELOVE or 2001 or...

And what makes you think I love GOODFELAS? I think that's as over-rated as THE DEPARTED, though I like it much more. CASINO is a mess, and sometimes unintentionally funny -- that explosion for one. Great to see Don Rickles in there, but otherwise I didn't buy DeNiro not figuring out Stone for one second. I wondered why I was supposed to give a shit about anybody. Same as in GOODFELLAS.

bill

"but otherwise I didn't buy DeNiro not figuring out Stone for one second."

Why not?

Tony Dayoub

As much as I like GOODFELLAS, CASINO is a superior revision of the earlier film. Great opening titles by Saul Bass, beautiful location work, fantastic cinematography by Robert Richardson, a horrific death scene for Joe Pesci, one of De Niro's finest performances just before his drought began, a movie full of memorable turns by Sharon Stone, James Woods, Alan King, L.Q. Jones, Dick Smothers, and Joe Bob Briggs. And of course, Don Rickles.

Film snobbery aside, this is the one I always reach for when asked to choose between the two.

Arnie's Zilla

"As for "the supposed critical consensus" of post-2000 Scorsese, supposed is right, because I don't see a critical consensus there at all. I seem to remember a lot of bad reviews for THE DEPARTED-- but maybe I'm just reading the wrong critics?"

Well then I think that is a very selective memory on your part. The Departed was generally well reviewed, far more than it deserved to be. Go take a look at its Metacritic score. It was a similar situation for The Aviator & GoNY yet all four movies for me veer between being a complete mess & 'merely' mediocre. They also suffer from the perennial faults of Scorsese; clumsy storytelling, inconsistent direction & that hallmark of practically every Martin Scorsese picture - a protagonist that the director can't make you care about or even summon up that much interest in.

Few things are more revealing about the stunted quality of contemporary film criticism - the running with the herd mentality, the unwillingness to step out of line & venture an unpopular view - than the pass Scorsese invariably gets for movies that, had they any other director's name on them, would be MUCH more harshly dealt with. No disrespect to Glenn, who I've no reason to think is being anything other than completely honest in his review, but that really is why, as I said above, I don't really trust critics when it comes to Scorsese.

Tom Russell

You're right about the overall consensus, then; I just hang out with the wrong critical crowd and so I withdraw my earlier comment.

I do want to ask you about "trusting" critics when it comes to Scorsese-- surely you don't look up a film's metacritic score and say, well, all the critics say this is good, as if all the critics were one big amorphous body? I mean, I know that's basically the point you're making w/r/t consensus, that everyone's just cowed by the name Scorsese into lying about his films, but you can't possibly believe it-- you're probably just afraid to step out of line and stop running with the herd with the ever-popular "film criticism is dying" commentator shtick.

In all seriousness-- you're right about consensus but I don't think consensus=state of criticism. I mean, most of the movies that come out are crap, but that doesn't mean that the art of film is dead or dying or even in a state of grievous disrepair. Generally, I read and follow critics whose aesthetic values mirror my own and/or whose aesthetic values differ from mine in ways I understand, expect, and count on-- kinda like when Sam Jackson said in Jackie Brown that he couldn't trust Melanie, but he could trust Melanie to be Melanie.

"clumsy storytelling, inconsistent direction & that hallmark of practically every Martin Scorsese picture - a protagonist that the director can't make you care about or even summon up that much interest in."

Different strokes; THE DEPARTED and BRINGING OUT THE DEAD aside, I almost always find the protagonists (including in GANGS and AVIATOR) compelling and the direction consistently intelligent & visceral. And the most remarked-upon example of "clumsy" storytelling in a Scorsese film, the way the draft riots come out nowhere in GANGS, isn't really clumsy at all since it's very much by design: the characters are so caught up in their internecine war that they're oblivious to the history happening around them. That's not bad filmmaking, it's ballsy filmmaking, taking a structural chance that might not work for you but works for me.

It could be, again, that those critics actually like THE DEPARTED, just like my relatives for some reason beyond my comprehension like GREASE, just like I, for some reason beyond my wife's comprehension, love HUDSON HAWK. Different strokes, as I said-- honesty or dishonesty has nothing to do with it.

Zach

"De Niro not figuring out Stone" - I'm not sure what the hell this is supposed to mean, but let me take a guess - that he didn't realize she couldn't be trusted? In which case, he did "figure her out," from very early on. In case his behavior wasn't obvious enough, he pretty much spells it out in the VO. Missing this kind of thing - that he knew she didn't love him and could never be loyal, but went ahead and married her anyway (and then stayed with her to the bitter end) - goes a long way in explaining why you don't like Casino, or care much for Scorsese, and don't see his ability as a storyteller.

As for the critics "giving him a pass" - that would be a problem if his films weren't worth praise or discussion, which they consistently are. Scorsese, among his other strengths, is one of the very few filmmakers who can reliably produce excellent genre pictures - movies that, despite their flaws, are complex, compelling, and entertaining, even when they aren't very deep. So he may never make another Raging Bull. So what - as long as he keeps making pictures worth watching and talking about, I'll keep seeing them. Who else from the heyday of the 70s has maintained such an output, in terms of quality and quantity? If you don't care for Scorsese's movies, well, that's your loss. But this whole idea that he's way past his prime and the critics either can't tell or don't want to is a load of crap.

And as for Eastwood - I've made my disdain known around these parts before, and I'm willing to agree to disagree, but saying things like he's a far better filmmaker than Scorsese is just plain dumb. In almost every area that matters - camera, editing, music, character, humor - they couldn't be more dissimilar. I happen to think Eastwood is an occasionally competent director who has a heavy hand and a tin ear, and Scorsese is a visionary, but do dismiss one at the expense of the other is, again, dumb.

Arnie's Zilla

"I know that's basically the point you're making w/r/t consensus, that everyone's just cowed by the name Scorsese into lying about his films, but you can't possibly believe it-"

I don't think they're lying, I think they're just being lazy.

"As for the critics "giving him a pass" - that would be a problem if his films weren't worth praise or discussion, which they consistently are.

They consistently AREN'T though, THAT'S the problem.

"Scorsese, among his other strengths, is one of the very few filmmakers who can reliably produce excellent genre pictures - movies that, despite their flaws, are complex, compelling, and entertaining, even when they aren't very deep.

Scorsese, almost EVERY TIME he steps outside of the Italian-American context of his best known work seems hopelessly lost. New York, New York is a deeply mediocre piece of work. The very idea that Scorsese could combine the urban characters/sensibility of his own movies with a musical (a musical for god's sake), the most unrealistic genre known to man(!), was so fundamentally misconceived you kind of wonder how it ever got off the ground.

DeNiro & Minelli have zero chemistry in that movie & the two characters are tiresome & unlikable company. It doesn't even have a coherent focussed story because Scorsese can't make up his mind whose tale this is; is it his or is it hers? I think it's vastly inferior to Eastwood's musical Bird, which is infinitely more coherent, both thematically & narratively, & emotionally (in the shape of Forrest Whitaker) engaging in a way that Scorsese's film can't even begin to reach. Plus it's stylistically adventurous in its time-hopping & flashback within flashback structure. It's just an all round superior film.

Cape Fear was another Scorsese misfire; crude, vulgar & with an American family at the centre that Scorsese had absolutely no feel or understanding for. Same for The Age of Innocence. Oh sure, it's a great guide if you're interested in the intricacies of 19th century etiquette but the main characters are a pair of stiffs. Scorsese fails to communicate the passion of their attraction to the audience. The characters don't even seem convinced themselves. You contrast that with the storytelling skill & emotional involvement between audience & character of an Eastwood period piece romance like The Bridges of Madison County. Again, it's the Eastwood version that'll be remembered by audiences, not the Scorsese one.

Eastwood is a chameleon, able to adapt to any genre with ease whereas Scorsese struggles &, boy, does it ever show! When he's on his home turf, dealing with a religious theme that goes to the heart of his upbringing, or riffing on the New York that he grew up in - like The Last Temptation of Christ or After Hours (also, not coincidentally, by some way his best work) - fine, he's usually comfortable, assured & the results are fairly terrific. But away from that & it's one disappointing misfire after another. Looking back over his career I think Scorsese, far from his reputation, is actually a rather limited filmmaker. He hasn't shown much growth over the course of his career & his work over the last decade typifies the trajectory of so many famous & acclaimed American filmmakers in that they do their best work when young & produce unremarkable, toothless work in the autumn of their careers. Eastwood of course being the notable exception to this rule.

"So he may never make another Raging Bull."

Well then thank goodness since the only title that movie deserves is 'Most Overrated American Movie Of The 80's.' The same faults of clumsy storytelling, thematic incoherence, the same obvious point being made over & over & over & over & over again, & a character that you have no interest in or sympathy for. As a character study it's a disaster, as storytelling it's a disaster. I agree the pictures are very pretty. You could take any frame out of that film, blow it up & hang it on the wall, that's how arty it looks. But the film is still nothing more than a hollow, pretentious exercise in technique. I'm entirely with The NY Post's film critic Kyle Smith on this, who wrote a devastating critique of the film. You think that Scorsese's inability to create characters we care about & get interested in, his clumsy storytelling & all his other flaws are examples of how 'daring' & 'bold' he is. Frankly I think that sounds more like immature, intellectually dishonest film student posturing. Without plot, story & theme film is mere technique. It's WITH plot, story & theme that technique becomes art.

And a truly great filmmaker can bring his characters to life & make us empathize with them to the point that we are wholly in their corner no matter what actions they take. I don't think Scorsese has ever managed that. It's not a quality I find in his movies. However brilliantly made they may be the characters are invariably alienating or cold figures that audiences lean away from when they should be embracing them & that is Scorsese's failure, not ours. Other filmmakers can do it even with the most repulsive protagonist. Look what Fritz Lang managed with Peter Lorre's child killer in M. But then perhaps it's an unfair comparison because of course Scorese is nowhere near as great a filmmaker as Fritz Lang.

I think Scorsese is a talented but flawed filmmaker, capable of good - even great individual shots & scenes - but he is not one who can sustain that level for the length of a movie. Time & again he has demonstrated that he has no real feel for narrative storytelling & his movies are always littered with protagonists that you just don't give a toss about. I used to think it was because he was always dealing with criminal types but he fared equally badly with the PG fare of Age of Innocence & The Aviator. That latter movie was nearly THREE HOURS long & yet Scorsese still couldn't get under the skin of billionaire Howard Hughes. Couldn't get us to care about the guy even with a 100 million budget at his disposal. That same year Eastwood pulled audiences so deeply into the lives of three blue collar characters that they sat in their seats with tears running down their faces at what was going on in Million Dollar Baby, a film made for a tenth of the budget of The Aviator.

I could forgive the lousy storytelling of the average Scorsese pic IF the characters were terrifically involving. Or I could forgive the distant characters IF the storytelling went like gangbusters. But to achieve such consistently disappointing results at BOTH, & with only intermittently flashy shots or scenes that make you think 'Oh yeah, nice use of the camera, Marty', you know, IT'S NOT ENOUGH!

"So what - as long as he keeps making pictures worth watching and talking about, I'll keep seeing them. Who else from the heyday of the 70s has maintained such an output, in terms of quality and quantity?

Again, Scorsese's track record does not justify the breathless hyperbole you employ. But to answer your question, Clint Eastwood, & you're going to REALLY struggle to find anyone with any credibility who thinks Scorsese's post-2000 work is better than Eastwood's.

bill

"And a truly great filmmaker can bring his characters to life & make us empathize with them to the point that we are wholly in their corner no matter what actions they take."

This is a very bizarre thing to want from every movie you see, let alone think it is essential to good storytelling.

Jaime

@ Christian - Thank you for continuing to support my point.  Yes, the movies are truly lousy, it's all a lie and you see the truth.  Here's a medal.
 
@ Tom, re: "Could one of its opponents please give us a few details to grapple with besides "it's bad"?"  Tom, here's the problem.  People who don't like a movie - with few, few exceptions, are unreliable sources for what's going on in it.  It's appropriate that this conversation has touched on EYES WIDE SHUT, whose title can be taken as cleverly punned in Scorsese's latest (give it a second), because that's what happens to most critics - armchair and subsidized alike - when they don't like a film.  They watch it with their eyes.  wide.  shut.
 
Exceptions:  Manny Farber, first and foremost.  Whether he liked or disliked a movie was the 129th priority in his writing.  What he did instead, what I would love to see more of, is that his reviews "re-saw" the films in terms of space, acting, painting, etc.
 
Most people will never in a million years accept this, but we can all improve the WAY WE SEE.
 
By and large, though, bad reviews are not helpful in the slightest, because they lack the excitement of good reviews.
 
To take a safe example, I think MULHOLLAND DR. is a masterpiece.  If I happen to find someone at work who's also seen it, I'll bet you a thousand dollars he or she will have hated it, and will have no problem talking a blue streak about who, what, where, why, and how he/she hated it.  Question:  did I get any closer to understanding the film?  Nope.  Would that change if he/she had some journo credibility (**scoff**) and wrote for the New York Post?  Trick question, it's nope again.

Arnie's Zilla

"This is a very bizarre thing to want from every movie you see, let alone think it is essential to good storytelling."

But I don't think it is essential. Of course it isn't. What I said was that it was a characteristic of all the truly great filmmakers & I think that is true. I find it 'bizarre' that you express puzzlement over such an observation. After all, the more engaged we are with the protagonist, the more we identify with them, the more rewarding & powerful the viewing experience. What on earth is 'bizarre' about that?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar
Blog powered by Typepad

Categories