Damson - What we're watching... #8
With the highly anticipated release of "The Irishman" to Netflix nearly upon us, we thought we'd revisit the movies from one of the greatest directors of all time, Martin Scorsese, and give you our top five. Let's face it, everyone loves a list...
Disclaimer time: This is the top 5 based on what we enjoyed here at Damson IQ, not how movies were critically acclaimed or rated in "all-time great" lists. There are plenty of people that won't agree, but we could only fit five in. So apologies to fans of Raging Bull, The Departed and Casino, your favourites won't be appearing here. When you look at Scorsese's movie history, there's definitely two camps: The De Niro years and the Di Caprio years.
5 - The King of Comedy
This movie has seemingly come back into the public consciousness with the release of Joker. There are definitely similarities there for sure, and considering Marty's involvement in Joker, it's hardly surprising. The King of Comedy has a lot more gallows humour in it than Joker does. At the time this was quite a change of pace from anything Scorsese had done before, but it worked. He cast his ever-reliable muse Robert De Niro as an aspiring, yet deranged and dangerously obsessive wannabe stand-up comedian, who in our opinion is never better. The movie got a bit of a critical kicking on release, but we really can't understand why at all. Maybe because it was so different from anything he had made before, but why that is a bad thing we'll never understand. If you have not seen this movie, it deserves your time, and then some. You won't regret it at all. This is perfectly pitched between satire and comedy, and if it was released today it wouldn't seem out of place or dated in the slightest. Add stand-up comedian to another thing that De Niro could probably quite convincingly be if he weren't an actor, along with Boxer and Gangster (Probably best not to include being a Taxi driver in that...)
4 - The Wolf of Wall Street
This movie is absolutely nuts. Even more so than anything, Scorsese had done before, and that's saying something. Based on Jordan Belfort's autobiography, and sheds a light on his debaucherous lifestyle where he made a fortune by shady stock market deals and spent a fortune on drugs, sex, and other extreme self-indulgencies. Let's make one thing very clear. This is the movie that Leonardo Di Caprio should have won the Best Actor Academy Award for, hands down. WoWS clocks in at around a healthy three hours, but we wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Leo is ably supported by a supporting cast that is unlikely to be bettered, from Margot Robbie to Jon Bernthal to Matthew McConaughey, who all excel. Special mention though to a superstar turn from Jonah Hill, who showed there is much, much more to him that gross our comedies. With Belfort's real-life actions having such a huge effect on a lot of people over the years, there was a concern that WoWS would glamorise the story and make paint him in a favourable light. Thankfully, Scorsese never once asks you to have sympathy for him and never tried to justify his behaviour. Unlike a lot of movies around the three-hour mark, this is extremely easy to watch again and again, and you always seem to get a bit more out of it each time.
3 - Taxi Driver
If this was a list of the most quoted movies of all time, this would very possibly be number one. Back to Robert De Niro, this 1976 classic is just as affecting now as it would have been when it was first released. De Niro plays a young Vietnam Veteran that has recently been discharged and follows his struggles to reintegrate back into normal life in New York, whilst also keeping his PTSD and "urges" in check. On the face of it, it's really not that complex of a storyline, but it is the performances that make Taxi Driver as revered as it is. Alongside De Niro, there are incredible turns from Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel and an at the time 12-year-old Jodie Foster. I watched this movie a lot when I was younger and remember it being pretty bleak, but after watching it recently, there are definitely some lighter tones to it. Don't get us wrong, it's not exactly uplifting, and the grimy New York setting does make you feel a little grubby watching it, but there are moments of sentiment and heart which make this a truly great movie.
2 - Gangs of New York
Ignoring the fact that Cameron Diaz's accent is horrific, this is a truly fantastic, infinitely watchable movie. Starring Leonardo Di Caprio (again) and an unbelievable performance from the ever intense Daniel Day-Lewis, GoNY is based on numerous stories of gang warfare between Catholics and Protestants in 1846. While a lot of the historical characters and gangs existed, the storyline itself is mostly fictional. This huge scale, brash, chaotic picture is quite simply one of the most enjoyable movies ever made, in our opinion. There are gripes-a-plenty that people can have with this, from historical inaccuracies to the depiction of women, and while this is a flawed masterpiece, it's still a masterpiece. As good as the cast is, this is Day-Lewis' movie. He is a terrifically evil presence, but also at times charismatic and likable. All this, despite the glass eye and his penchant for gutting people with knives. He won the BAFTA for his portrayal of "Bill The Butcher", but criminally missed out on the Academy Award. Leo more than holds up his own too. In the grand spectrum of Scorsese movies, this stands out as it is so very different (or at least was until WoWS came along), but it makes it no less of a brilliant piece of work.
1 - Goodfellas
Was it ever in doubt?? It seems appropriate that we talk about this as number one, with De Niro and Joe Pesci finally being reunited this month in "The Irishman" after all these years. This intense, fast-paced and often hilarious movie is based on crime Wiseguy, which tells the story of Henry Hill, a Mobster who became an FBI Informant. Ray Liotta has never been better as the livewire Hill, who along with De Niro and Pesci is one of the three lead characters. While there are certain parts of being a Gangster that are glamorised, the main theme is that being one isn't as great as it used to be. There isn't any sort of the usual movie structure to be found here, but that's one of the things that makes Goodfellas stand out. You are just bombarded with horrible, fascinating and terrible anecdotes one after another, as you can see Liotta's Henry slowly going from wannabe to wiseguy to cocaine-addicted loose cannon. While De Niro is always amazing, and this was Liotta's breakout role, arguably the most memorable character is Joe Pesci's Tommy. The very definition of small man syndrome, Tommy is a bundle of menace and fury, and you are never quite sure which side his loyalties are going to fall. For us, Joe Pesci's performance is one of the truly greatest in Cinema history. Goodfellas is a timeless, black-comic nightmare of a movie, and we wouldn't have it any other way. The fact that it has inspired numerous Italian restaurants and takeaways is a bonus too.
November 9, 2019