Sunday, February 27, 2005

Oscar Blogging - The Best of Scorsese

At the 2003 ceremonies, Martin Scorsese's much-anticipated but not-so-much celebrated Gangs of New York went 0 for 10 in a near-record display of futility. Scorsese's The Aviator is up for several biggies tonight, including Best Picture and Best Director (thought it will lose both to Clint Eastwood's Million Dollary Baby). Scorsese is that rare bird who truly is worthy of the praise heeped upon him; stylistically, he has no peer. Here for your amusement are my favorite Scorsese pictures:
  1. Goodfellas - Scorsese's masterpiece is flawless; gripping, original, technically outstanding, wonderfully acted, and a treat even after multiple viewings. The moment when the kids find the newly executed gangster and his wife in their new pink Cadillac as the coda to Layla plays is sublime, as is the justly famous scene with Joe Pesci and his cronies in the restaurant: 'What am I, some kind of clown, Henry? Am I here to amuse you?' 8 stars out of 5.
  2. Casino - Unjustly overlooked by many (perhaps because of its similarities to Goodfellas (it's about gangsters, stars De Niro and Pesci, who once again plays a lunatic)), this movie contains Sharon Stone's best performance and a gem of a small role for Don Rickles. Again, Scorsese's technical skill is evident in almost every frame.
  3. Raging Bull - stars (who else) De Niro and Pesci, but this one couldn't be more different than the others. The tale of sad sack boxer Jake LaMotta is bruising and brutal, much like the sport of boxing itself. The harshness of the stark black-and-white film matches the subject. "So give me a stage, where this bull can rage..."
  4. Taxi Driver - It's no mistake that Robert De Niro is the star of all five of my picks; at his peak, he is our finest living actor. Travis Bickle has become a cultural touchstone; the disaffected, lonely city dweller who slowly becomes unmoored from reality and discovers the sociopath within is such a potent image that one John Hinckley, Jr., aped it all the way to the attempted assassination of a major political figure. A young Jodi Foster and the amazing Harvey Keitel are equally impressive.
  5. Mean Streets - Mean Streets is an art film in the best sense of the word; an early Scorsese picture with virtually no budget, it starred the then-unknown Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in the story of a two-bit hood trying to make something of himself, and his wayward loser of a cousin, who ultimately drags hims down in the muck where he dwells. Funny, innovative, charming, and memorable, it laid the groundwork for the films that followed.

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