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This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film 
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
New York, New York (1977) - 3.5 out of 4

Martin Scorsese tackles a romantic musical and still cannot make a bad film. I read up on New York, New York after watching it and saw the films' BO failure at the time being attributed to Scorsese's coke addiction during this film's shooting (Not sure about the truth in this statement.) And I thought, "If this is what a coke-addicted Scorsese who has lesser control over his direction can do, then it is still miles better than what fully sober directors with full control over their actions do over their entire careers."

New York, New York is a very good film by any stretch of imagination. It tackles the familiar subject of two stars of opposite genders who're attracted to each other, where the male star's ego and inferiority complex looms large over their careers and relationship. (This was most recently explored in The Artist, and I had a vague sense of deja vu while watching NY, NY about whether some scenes in the latter served as inspirations for the former.) The film's biggest problem arguably is its middle third which explores in great detail how Jimmy Doyle's selfishness, ego, and complex lead to a collapse of his career and his relationship. The reason this sequence suffers is largely because of the brio that is palpable in the first and last thirds of the film. However, even considering that, it does go on for too long, and I wished that at least one sequence showing Jimmy's breakdown had been left at the cutting table.

But I don't have a heart to give NY, NY any lower than a 3.5 because of how wonderful it's first and last acts are. I was riveted to my seat during both. It's been a long time since I've seen such an energetic opening to a film, filled with so much extras and of such scope in production. The same can be said of the closing sequences as well. The film's highlight is, of course, the Happy Endings film inside the film, which is played out like a short for us. It is arguably one of the best shorts Scorsese has directed and is so energetically taken that I would've liked to see it separate to the film itself. I also got to see the original ending and have an ambivalent feeling towards it. On the one hand, I wouldn't have minded a happily-ever-after ending like Alice Doesn't... but I also felt it would've felt false to the character arcs of both Jimmy and Francine.

Is there anything Bobby De Niro cannot do? I've always felt that one of the hardest parts for an actor to portray would be that of an instrumentalist. This is true of easier instruments but especially so of the harder ones. De Niro gets one of the hardest instruments and pulls it off with such ease that I was amazed. Not for a single moment did I not believe that he himself was playing the Sax; it comes across in his finger moments and the manner in which his neck veins come bursting out when he hits the high notes. Needless to say, he's at home in the domestic sequences showing his breakdown as well. Liza Minnelli's voice is put to good use and the film gets a marvelous soundtrack as a result of it. She also shares some great chemistry with De Niro.

Scorsese later explained in an interview that he took on the challenge of New York, New York because he wanted to take a break from the gritty realism that he'd become famous for and that the film was an homage to the classical Hollywood musicals. He said that not everyone was pleased with the result, but I certainly was. The artificial and over-the-top nature of the film's setting definitely gets across the point that it is an homage, and it is definitely very different from what came before and after from the Scorsese repertoire. I don't know how Marty feels, but to me New York, New York is a definitely a success and a good film in its own right.

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Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:02 pm
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
The Last Waltz (1978) - 4 out of 4

To begin with, I've not seen a lot of concert films, so I cannot judge this one by comparison. But I will say that I felt compelled to buy The Last Waltz album and check out The Band's entire discography after watching the film which is about as high a praise I can accord it. I'd not heard of The Band before I saw this film, nor had I listened to any of the songs played in the actual concert. Therefore watching the film turned out to be a wonderful musical journey for me. Scorsese intersperses the actual concert footage with interviews with each of the band members, which chart the band's progress through time. The interviews are enlightening because they reveal some facets of the musicians that fans might take for granted. For instance, Robbie Robertson says that 16 years of constant on-the-road lifestyle has taken its toll on the band members, and that is the reason for their swansong. In that way, I admired the effort taken by Scorsese to lend authenticity and detail to what is basically a concert film. (I later read that he was roommates with Robertson which obviously played a part.) Michael Chapman's camerawork was truly amazing in the way it captured the vivid lighting and staging that goes into getting the look of the concert right, and the energy of musicians when on-stage and in their zones. (It is interesting to note that the credits listed some well-known names such as Laszlo Kovacs, Vilmos Zsigmond etc. as Additional Directors of Photography, though I have no idea why.) However, when all is said and done, it comes down to the music. Nearly every song in the film is one I'd love to hear again. The guest musicians - including Bob Dylan (who is considered to have first brought The Band to national consciousness), Eric Clapton, and Ringo Starr to name a few - add a lot of color and stardom to the concert. Ultimately, The Last Waltz was a beautiful ode to an era of rock 'n' roll I never got to experience and really wish I had.

American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince (1978) - 3.5 out of 4

Both of Scorsese's personal documentaries so far have been great watches because the subjects he chose for them are really interesting personalities on their own. All he has to do is ask the right questions and poke and prod them till he gets the responses that please him. American Boy is the perfect example of this. Steven Prince is a wonderful raconteur and his stories range from the weird to the downright outrageous, and Scorsese gets him to be candid in front of camera. Each of Prince's stories is so vividly narrated that you are basically in his thrall, just like those around him in this documentary. One tale where he and his friend save a girl from ODing is supposed to have served as direct inspiration for QT in Pulp Fiction. There is not one uninteresting story in here and when taken as a collection of individual episodes, it amounts to entertainment of the highest order.

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Sat Mar 16, 2013 2:53 pm
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
These days, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" seems like one of the more unsung '70s gems. Ellen Burstyn totally deserved her Oscar here. I was also quite surprised to learn that the TV series Alice was actually based on the Mel's Diner section of this film, making it quite possibly the most unlikely TV spinoff ever.

There's not much more I can add about "Taxi Driver" that hasn't already been said. It's still my favorite Scorsese film, and I don't think it will ever be dethroned.

As far as "New York, New York" goes, I've always kind of had a problem with the final act, where the film more or less turns into a Liza Minnelli vehicle. :? Of course, my general indifference with musicals might be to blame, but everything before that is solid. The end is as well, where, after the two of them decide to meet for coffee somewhere after not seeing each other for many years, they almost telepathically tell each other it's probably best that they simply go their separate ways once more.

As a fan of The Band (and a good portion of its guest artists), I'll probably like "The Last Waltz" more than others (it's still in my personal Scorsese Top 10). It's ultimately not as significant as other '70s rock concert documentaries like "Woodstock" or "Gimme Shelter," but is still one of the best of its kind. BTW, Bob Dylan was responsible for bringing The Band to (inter)national consciousness, as they were his backing band during his '65/'66 world tours and he recorded the infamous "Basement Tapes" sessions with them the following year before they finally struck out on their own a year after that.


Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:09 pm
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
This will be the only deviation I make from the chronological order in which I am watching Scorsese's filmography. My 30th Anniversary Edition of Raging Bull is on its way from Amazon and I want that to be my preferred viewing of the film. So I guess it'll be the last film I watch.

The King of Comedy (1983) - 3 out of 4

This was definitely a departure for Scorsese, even when taking into consideration that he'd made New York, New York before. Of all the movies I've seen so far, this is probably the one where I felt quite a number of scenes, especially towards the end, went over-the-top, maybe that was intended but I ended up shifting uncomfortably in my seat nonetheless. Or maybe that is just a by-product of how much I disliked every single character in the film. I am not sure. I mostly agree with Ebert on this one. Some reviews have called De Niro's Rupert a sympathetic character. Heck, I even read somewhere that this was an extension of Taxi Driver. I personally find both those claims confusing because I don't have any sympathy for him. I had a lot for Travis but none for Rupert. In fact, I was more or less infuriated by him wanting an easy shot at stardom. Having said that, I am a sucker for anything Robert De Niro does, and his work here is proof, if more was needed, that he can make any part memorable by his mere presence. And the Scorsese/De Niro combination is never anything less than interesting which was certainly the case with The King of Comedy. Who knows? I might have to give this one a go some time later like Ebert did to see whether my first time impression was true or whether there is more to be gained from this on subsequent viewings.

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Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:05 pm
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
I love The King of Comedy. If anything, it's probably more relevant today than it was then, with its portrayal of a guy just wanting a one-way ticket to Easy Street without doing anything to deserve it. Isn't that the most accurate portrait of the American Dream? I could be wrong, but Nicki Minaj, Honey Boo Boo, Sarah Palin and a thousand reality TV stars might say otherwise.

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Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:33 pm
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
I love The King of Comedy. If anything, it's probably more relevant today than it was then, with its portrayal of a guy just wanting a one-way ticket to Easy Street without doing anything to deserve it. Isn't that the most accurate portrait of the American Dream? I could be wrong, but Nicki Minaj, Honey Boo Boo, Sarah Palin and a thousand reality TV stars might say otherwise.

Nicki Minaj can at least sing, though she definitely does not belong on American Idol.


Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:53 pm
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
Nicky Manaj belongs in the world of adult entertainment, and not much else.

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Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:17 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
If her music or the sickly, brownish-grey hue of her skin doesn't turn you off, I can only hope that the fact that she looks like a doll come to life will. :|


Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:07 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
Oh God, I hadn't heard of her before and Googled her name. Thanks for ruining my life. :(

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Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:33 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
Vexer wrote:
Nicki Minaj can at least sing


No...no, she can't.

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Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:16 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
Vexer wrote:
Nicki Minaj can at least sing


No...no, she can't.

Ok, she can rap then :lol:


Thu Mar 21, 2013 1:00 pm
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
Vexer wrote:
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
Vexer wrote:
Nicki Minaj can at least sing


No...no, she can't.

Ok, she can rap then :lol:


She kinda sucks at that too.

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Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:13 pm
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
After Hours (1985) - 4 out of 4

One word. Wow! Of all the films I've seen so far, this is easily Scorsese's best outside of the Holy Trinity of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. I'd probably put The Departed alongside After Hours but I am not too sure; plus I have a soft corner for his 2006 film. I've seen the film listed as a black comedy and am not sure whether I agree with that classification. Yes, there were moments in After Hours where I did laugh, but I felt this was the kind of film that cannot be easily pigeonholed into one genre. On the one hand, it worked as a thriller in the sense of unease it created for Paul's character as well as the audience. But then there were moments that was thrown out of the window. I honestly don't know what to make of it. I just found it to be a singularly unique motion picture.

However, the sheer craftsmanship on display from Scorsese quite simply floored me. The usage of phones as a motif to signify the domino effect of Paul's night with the stakes of both the film and his life being escalated with each phone call, signified by the closeup of the first phone which didn't make sense at first. Howard Shore's background music was also immeasurable in setting the film's mood as indeed was Michael Ballhaus' cinematography, both of which were vaguely reminiscent of Hitchcock films.

As I was trying to take it all in, I read Ebert's review of the film in his Great Movies section where he cites Scorsese calling the film, "An exercise completely in style." I agree with that statement, and I think the film warrants multiple viewings for that reason alone. Yes, there is a lot of style on display, but it is not style just for the sake of being stylish which is what most modern filmmakers resort to. I felt that everything used in this film from a stylistic standpoint served a purpose, maybe not in terms of story because there isn't any but definitely in terms of enhancing the viewing experience. That is why I know I will be returning to it a lot of times just to understand what exactly Scorsese did right with it that made it such a compelling watch.

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Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:32 pm
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
Style or not, After Hours is straight up funny. I'm not sure if Scorsese has made a film quite as funny as that one. It's a refreshing change of scenery for him.

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Sun Mar 24, 2013 1:39 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
After Hours is really interesting, not just in itself, but for its place in the Scorsese catalog. Prior to this movie, he tended toward subjective, highly structured character studies. This movie is so different--an experiment in seeing just how unrelenting and cruel a storyteller can be to one of the least-offensive characters he ever cooked up.

I think that's the essential nature of the comedy. It's hard to wring humor out of some hapless dope being tormented for no particular reason. It's very easy to mess it up. But if you spin it a certain way, it works, because there is something in the human spirit that wants to laugh in the face of utter hopelessness. When things are that bad, what else can you do?

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Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:18 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
After Hours is one of my favorite Scorsese films. The genre you're looking for is "shaggy dog story." (Or Cock and Bull Story.) It's close to perfect.

Ken: There was a reason. He was cruel to the girl he went to Soho to date.

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Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:21 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
That is sufficiently bad karma for maybe one bad thing to happen to him. The complete downward spiral of his life over the course of one night is a little beyond that.

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Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:23 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
Syd, Thanks for that. This is the first time I've heard of "shaggy dog story," and it does seem like the perfect fit for After Hours.

There's also the original negative ending which Scorsese was thinking about wherein the camera just follows the car leaving and the film cuts to black. What does it say about Scorsese feelings for the character? I don't know. It was only after suggestions from both his father and Michael Powell that Scorsese chose the ending shown in the film. I found this interesting because as I was watching it, I hoped it wouldn't be one of those dark and cynical endings. And when Paul is put in that car, that is exactly what I thought it was going to be. I would've liked the film a lot less if that had been the case. This ending takes the film a full circle and provides some semblance of closure which I actually enjoyed.

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Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:49 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
The Color of Money (1986) - 3 out of 4 (Full Disclosure: I have not yet seen The Hustler.)

Was that a Scorsese film? Of all the films I've seen so far, this is the only one that made me ask that question. I was constantly trying to see where Scorsese was; where he had left his handprint; how he had made this a singularly Martin Scorsese motion picture. Unfortunately I couldn't find any of those unique qualities we associate with the man. I still enjoyed the film a lot because I am a sucker for 9-Ball Pool, but this film could've been handed over to any other director and it wouldn't have made a whole lot of difference as far as the end product is concerned. The best thing about the film, as has been mentioned countless times, was Paul Newman's performance. This was old-school acting at its finest with every emotion being conveyed through eyes, facial expressions, and subtle changes in body language, never once resorting to histrionics. It was a truly terrific portrayal which was rewarded justly with the Academy Award.

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Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:13 am
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Post Re: This month...I am watching every Martin Scorsese film
I've only seen The Color Of Money once, but my reaction was about the same as yours. Seeing The Hustler beforehand fills in the backstory of Newman's Fast Eddie Felson, and all the emotional baggage that character brings with him, which is important. But then again, if you see The Hustler beforehand, you just end up using it as a benchmark, and Scorcese's film doesn't come close to the same heights. The only big memory I have from it is Tom Cruise dancing around to Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London.

I guess the important thing here is you definitely need to see The Hustler now.

Great thread, by the way; I've enjoyed reading your posts.

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