Thursday, January 21, 2010

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese received the Cecil B. de Mille award at the Golden Globes the other night. After Hitchcock, he is probably my favorite director of all time. He also formed the World Cinema Foundation, a non-profit organization that preserves and restores neglected films. Scorsese knows more about movies than probably anyone else alive today. He originally wanted to be a priest, but, thankfully for all of us, he so loved movies and became a filmmaker. I believe that most of Scorsese's movies are actually musicals, because the soundtrack he uses becomes a fully developed character, moving the story along, and pulling us in with his violent, troubling anti-heroes. His best movies are fast-paced, violent, and unsettling, but always with a touch of wry humor tossed in for good measure.

Mean Streets from 1973 was Marty's first big movie. It starred Harvey Keitel as a young Italian man, torn between Catholic morality and the mafia gangster life. Robert de Niro costarred as his wild and destructive friend, Johnny Boy, and de Niro is absolutely amazing in this movie. Interesting fact: Scorsese and writer Mardik Martin wrote the entire script in a car while driving around New York City, to get authentic sights and sounds into the picture.

Taxi Driver from 1976 is one of my favorite movies of all time, with Robert de Niro as troubled night shift cab driver Travis Bickel, who has a crush on Cybil Sheppard, an issue with petty crime, and a need to save pubescent prostitute Jodie Foster from her pimp, Harvey Keitel. He's a scary, asocial anti-hero who becomes a hero in society's eyes by the close of the film. This is de Niro at his best, and he worked as a cab driver while researching the film. It's violent, disturbing and utterly brilliant. 12 year old Jodie Foster almost out acts de Niro in the scenes that they share.

Goodfellas, ah, Goodfellas. I love Goodfellas (1990). If Goodfellas is on TV, I watch it, even though I own it on DVD, and you only get about a third of the movie on TV because everything else is either cut or bleeped. The movie is based on a book called Wiseguy, written by a fellow who was in the mob, ratted out a bunch of people to avoid going to jail, and then went into the witness protection program. The trinity of Ray Liotta, Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci works so well, and Scorsese allowed them the freedom to ad lib throughout the movie. They are utterly believable in their roles as suited gangsters. The F word is used approximately three hundred times in this movie, and quite a few people are shot, beaten and fed really yummy looking Italian food. It may say something about me that I find this to be a "comfort film." Also wonderful is Lorraine Bracco as the mafia wife. There are at least a hundred lines from this movie that I love and repeat, but it all starts with the first line of dialogue, "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster."
There are so many other Scorsese movies that I just adore--The Last Waltz, After Hours, Cape Fear, Casino, No Direction Home, The Departed. He's a visual genius who has a great way with his actors, and he's preserving an important part of our history that has been so overlooked for years. Quite deserving of a major award, wouldn't you say?

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