We’ve spent the past week discussing The ABCs of Scorsese in celebration of a director who has contributed more to film than perhaps any working director. Today, we celebrate Martin Scorsese’s birthday and his contributions to film by listing and discussing some of our personal favorites.
David Shreve- Bringing Out the Dead
I’d be foolish to try to convince anyone that this is Scorsese’s best film. Clearly, it’s not. I know many people forget that it even is a Scorsese film or that it is a film at all. But I’ve always been drawn to the way it illustrates the edges of descent, skirting around the nightmarish and psychotic abyss. Bringing out the Dead is sleek and visceral, a breakdown that feels more energetic than any I can remember from an era full of film breakdowns. The movie presents one of my favorite Nic Cage performances, proving my theory that great directors can make Cage perhaps the best leading actor in the business. But I think what I appreciate most about the movie is that, even if it fails by certain measure, it was the last Scorsese film to have that boldness, freshness, and freshness that was trademark of the director’s more experimental 70s features.
Richard Newby – The Departed
The Departed was the first Martin Scorsese movie I ever saw. It was also the film that helped me transition from being primarily interested in only science-fiction, superhero, and horror films to the broader range of cinematic tastes I have today. The experience of seeing The Departed for the first time was electric, and by the end I’d never felt so emotionally gutted by a film before. At 16, I left the theatre thrilled, angry, a little scarred, and ready to make my way through the director’s filmography. Scorsese’s film not only allowed me to hear some of the most colorful language I’d ever heard at the time, but also witness some of the best performances by acting legends. Seriously, is there any ensemble cast within the past decade that match the sheer acting power of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone, Martin Sheen and Jack Nicholson? The film’s story is impressively engaging at every turn, and the most gripping of all Scorsese’s films. It’s hard to think of a more thrilling sequence than DiCaprio’s Costigan chasing Damon’s Sullivan through Chinatown. The film not only serves as a stunning exploration into identity, but also a damn fine reminder that remakes aren’t always unnecessary. If Goodfellas is rock n’ roll to The Godfather’s classical orchestra, then The Departed is surely the punk rock star of gangster films.
Sara Grasberg – The King of Comedy (1982)
I have 5 favorite Scorsese movies, really; in no particular order, I love Taxi Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street, Mean Streets and Goodfellas. But, I wanted to honor Scorsese’s birthday by thinking slightly outside the box. So, this brings me to The King of Comedy, his underappreciated 1982 film that is no less about men driven to the brink of insanity for the sake of admiration and success. But, for Rupert Pupkin, unlike many of De Niro’s other Scorsese characters, admiration and success are within the realm of show business, not the mob or the streets of Little Italy. He stalks his idol, a late-night talk show host played by Jerry Lewis, with a chilling amount of conviction. I love this film because Scorsese’s use of dark comedy is just as vicious as any of his more violent treatments of similar themes, as Rupert goes to disturbing lengths just to stake out his own place, achieving fame in just as skewed and unforgivable a fashion as many of Scorsese’s other masculine characters achieve their glory.
Sean Fallon- Goodfellas
If you haven’t seen Goodfellas then you are just wasting my time. It is the perfect modern gangster film (if you have to ask what the best historical gangster film is then you are the worst) and…Y’know what? I’m sorry, this paragraph has started pretty angrily but that’s what this movie does to me. The emotions and moods in this movie are infectious, and that is because it is an acting masterclass. You feel Ray Liotta’s joy at being a gangster and then later his paranoia, anger, defeat, and mania. De Niro’s presence calms you down and scares you at the same time like a mug of hot chocolate full of ghosts. Paul Sorvino’s eyes make you want to never tell a lie again and you sympathise with Lorraine Bracco fully as she sinks deeper and deeper into a life of crime. And finally, Joe Pesci makes you afraid. Afraid that there are people like that in the world. He is the reminder that crime, while looking lucrative and fun, is filled with awful human beings who will turn on you faster than you can say, ‘It’s a good story, it’s funny, you’re a funny guy.’
Jillian Huffman – Yep, Goodfellas
Goodfellas is a classic gangster film, and with a cast headed by Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta, it’s hard to beat. This film will take you through every emotion you could possibly feel (and maybe even some you never knew existed), and you’ll probably settle somewhere in between exhausted and content when it ends. The viewer gets to watch these gangsters go from their beginning days, to their “I’m on top of the world days” and gets to crawl with them through their hell. Goodfellas quite literally has it all: grit, drama, some comedic relief, and a deep look into the brutality of human nature
Feel free to use our comments section to sound off about your favorite Scorsese movie.
Feature Image: Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount Pictures)