What Movie Have You Seen Today?

Understood. It is a difficult film to connect to/with, since all of the usual narrative entry points have been eschewed. I felt it was somewhat formless, and even with an extra viewing, am still not certain that Scorsese got it into its best form (usually automatic for him).

I do as well in my own way. I love his work from SHUTTER ISLAND on, excepting THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, which to me harks back to his earlier films, though Scorsese’s command of form is monumental in all of the later films.

With the earlier films, I am just not that invested in narratives about men who make bad choices. It is as simple as that. Whether it is Fast Eddie Felson or Jack LaMotta or Travis Bickle or Henry Hill, their redemption stories hold little appeal for me.

THE DEPARTED seems to represent a break/culmination–the most cynical movie ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and Scorsese’s most cynical effort. He did say that after that film, he only wanted to make films which held deep meaning for him, and Andrew Laeddis and Hugo and Father Rodrigues are a different kind of Scorsese protagonist in my view. I don’t feel as if their films are asking me to have great sympathy for/identification with a male character, whose redemption is not particularly interesting or resonant. I except THE WOLF OF WALL STREET from this group, since Jordan Belfort seems to me to hark back to earlier protagonists.

THE IRISHMAN, for me, is a great systems film. Scorsese pulls back, and you see the system that created and supported such men, but there is an attractive coolness to the work–a lessening of the visceral/visual panache that often accompanied Scorsese’s depictions of violence.

There is violence, but often Scorsese puts a character’s grisly fate on the screen with titles–never visualizing their end. And the violence that is there seems muted compared to earlier films.

He wasn’t, but I think that partly stems from his trying to make a movie outside of his usual wheelhouse. Scorsese films are not usually female-focused (which THE IRISHMAN makes explicit as part of its narrative). Even in KUNDUN, the confrontation between the Dalai Lama and Mao feels like a meeting with gangsters, and the Dalai Lama is portrayed in the mold of a Scorsese hero.

But I will add that just as there is the American expression “Only Nixon could go to China,” Scorsese is the only director who could have gotten that much money to make a movie centered on a story about the genocide of Indigenous people in American history.

“I’m a New Yorker, so for me to have made a picture in Oklahoma, the land and the light… For me an exterior shot is a long hallway with a lightbulb,” Scorsese said as the audience laughed. “Waayyy downtown.”

Full at:


Thank you for revealing even more of your perspective on Scorsese. Which makes me feel I should, too.

Curiously, the first Scorsese movie I saw was AFTER HOURS. And that, mainly so, because during those teenager times I had a massive crush on Rosanna Arquette after “Desperately Seeking Susan”. I loved AFTER HOURS because I always am drawn to stories taking place at night, when the real world turns weird and dangerous, and Griffin Dunne´s character was the perfect character for me to identify with. I also loved Scorsese’s tight filmmaking on that movie, and a documentary on Michael Ballhaus made me realize that (I had no training yet on filmmaking aspects, I was just responding like a teenager: “Do I have good time with this? Then it´s a good movie.”)

I then watched THE COLOR OF MONEY. Because of Tom Cruise. I liked it but did not leave the theatre wishing to see it again. It felt kind of bland, maybe because I did not really understand the Felson character wishing to go back to, um, pool billiard. (Years later, as an aging man, I understood perfectly.)

When I watched more Scorsese movies I was already in my early 20´s, film student and VERY serious about my ideas (pretentious and eager to get the approval of my also at times pretentious professor). GOOD FELLAS was my next Scorsese, I enjoyed its filmmaking… but I was secretly irritated by the violence and its nonchalance. Of course, I did not reveal that feeling. This was a much lauded Scorsese movie, and of course, I ADORED THE MASTER (had to).

I then checked out THE KING OF COMEDY - and this one I really liked, maybe because on my beginning quest to make it in the industry I did feel like Rupert Pupkin. I wouldn’t have kidnapped anyone, of course. I was and am too bourgeois for that. But also THE KING OF COMEDY left a bitter aftertaste. No one in that movie was really likeable. And I was already beginning to realize: yep, the real world has lots of those people. Did I want to be reminded of that?

Then CAPE FEAR. Which up to the finale was entertaining for me because it was muscular and forceful (maybe too forceful) filmmaking, and the story was typical for thrillers of that time (the outsider threatening the family unit). The finale left me puzzled, with Cody becoming a bible-babbling monster. Another weird impression that Scorsese left on me.

Then THE AGE OF INNOCENCE. Which again was lauded as high art. And I certainly saw the artful attention to the production design, and the performances, and the cinematography, yadda yadda yadda. In the end I thought: all those achievements don’t leave a lasting impression. It´s a case of diminishing returns. Hype with no real follow-up. I had seen NEW YORK, NEW YORK before on video and had not liked it at all. But the end of INNOCENCE was almost a copy of that film´s ending. An homage, as I readily thought, an intricate strategy for the director´s perspective on his own work. (These days I think: he didn’t know how else to end it and just winged it.)

So maybe that’s what I often get watching a Scorsese movie. I recognize his filmmaking techniques, and his encyclopedic knowledge of movie history will always surpass my own small view on that.

But while I see and partly enjoy his important films like TAXI DRIVER or RAGING BULL, I rarely get the feeling that I absolutely love any films of his. Maybe it´s these men in his films, always appearing to be insufferable macho drama queens, maybe it´s his lack of interest in telling a more straightforward story with an uplifting ending.

Yes, I am a softie at heart. And the older I get the more I crave for a hopeful ending. That one should be earned, of course, I’m not the Hallmark guy (yet). But I am beginning to think that if a film does not give me pleasure I should not give it my time.

And thankfully I don’t need to get approval for my taste from my professor anymore :wink:


Interesting viewpoints on Scorsese. I enjoyed reading that. Sorry about the rant before. Like all artists, Scorsese does have recurring themes. To paraphrase @MrKiddWint it’s just another white male failing. I enjoyed it, but I feel Scorsese has DEFINITELY done better. I still think Goodfellas is my favorite of his, but cable TV overplays it censored WAY too much. I like Scorsese, but I think you’re criticisms are fair and insightful points, that he’s not perfect. Your opinions on him are very similar to mine on James Cameron. Once again, I apologize for the rant, it’s just I have gotten in some arguments about KOTFM with people who view it as Scorsese’s best. That’s their opinion and that’s fine. It was a one and done movie for me.


Don’t get me started on Cameron.

Okay, here’s my take:

TERMINATOR 1 and 2: fantastic movies.
THE ABYSS: his best movie

Everything after that: shameless populist drivel.


And perhaps those movies are good in spite of Cameron.
They are driven by the performances, that actors have said they created themselves

From Ed Harris
“We were guinea pigs, in a way, Jim wasn’t quite sure how this was all gonna go down… [in the drowning scene I was] screaming at her to come back and wake up, and I was slapping her across the face and I see that they’ve run out of film in the camera — there’s a light on the camera — and nobody had said anything. And Mary Elizabeth stood up and said, ‘We are not animals!” and walked off the set. They were going to let me just keep slapping her around!”.

I love the Abyss, Terminator 1 and 2 are good but no longer shock in the way that say, RoboCop still does.


This is from another website’s thread that I wrote on a couple of years ago.

We have truly underrated Richard Donner as a director in the movie-going public. He took risks, tried new genres, and learned from his career and mistakes. He’s got classics in action, epic, comedy, and horror. How many other people can say that? Had he not been fired from Superman, he could have helped him and his world go further than where he is now. Enough with Lex Luthor, General Zod and made up villains WB!
Meanwhile, we over praised James Cameron. Other than special effects, what has he honestly pushed forward? He rips off more in his writing than Quentin Tarantino, and no where more creative when he does. He’s mean and self centered. Talks a lot, and never amounts to anything. Had Titanic or Avatar bombed, he would be the modern day Michael Cimino. Richard Donner is always worth your time, James Cameron isn’t. Cameron is a dictator first, and a director second. He’ll tell you how to live your life. Called James Bond movies rotten to the core. He needs to look in a mirror, before calling other things rotten to their core.


While we should always question quotes from the entertainment press, I agree: Cameron is a technical innovator, and his instinct to tell a story for the lowest common denominator rewarded him with tons of fu-money so he keeps doing what he wants.

A position, by the way, I do envy.

Don’t get me started on Tarantino.


  • Reservoir Dogs, well, back then it was shocking for the ear scene and the other violence. But watching it years later those endlessly yapping repulsive machos provide the real shock: why was this film hyped and applauded? Tells you a lot about the zeitgeist of that time. Also, it is a ripoff of another film, probably also terrible.

  • Pulp Fiction was fresh and surprising (but the Tarantino hype made many people forget that he only co-wrote that script).

  • Jackie Brown I did like for the Grier-Forster relationship and the Michael Keaton scene. The rest is padding out with cheap stoner and blaxploitation jokes. Also - overlong.

  • Kill Bill: well done fight scenes (stunt coordinator work), the rest a weird greatest hits of other movies, revealing the one trick pony nature of QT.

  • Death Proof: so much talking, without saying anything. Even Russell is badly directed.

  • Inglorious Bastards: Convoluted, therefore overlong storytelling, turning Nazi-terror into smashing fun and entertainment. If only the world could have seen that this is what haunts us now.

  • Once upon a time in Hollywood: On first viewing I liked it. On second thought: all the usual tricks and traps. Film quotes are more important than a real story, and without charismatic actors the characters would remain flat and mostly chauvinistic daydreams. Women are still either beautiful victims or sluts. And again, the terrible overlength (compensating maybe?) is not working in its favor either.

The last scene, however, is a nice bittersweet fantasy of what should have been. But as with Bastards, Tarantino‘s casual use of atrocious killers, turning them into buffoons shows his arrogant lack of understanding of history.


Once again, some interesting and enjoyable viewpoints, @secretagentfan fair criticism.



Mine was RAGING BULL–the Sutton Theater on the northside of 57th Street just off the corner of Third Avenue. Opening day–came into Manhattan from college, and caught the mid-afternoon screening. Had the theatre almost to myself, and sat against the left wall of the auditorium (the Sutton had a balcony). I still remember how cool the wall felt to my touch. I also remember being overwhelmed by emotion when LaMotta/De Niro tells Sugar Ray “You never knocked me down Ray. You never knocked me down.”

As you can see, Scorsese films embedded early in my cinephile life, and deeply.

And here we converge: the violence is done with such bravura, it becomes enjoyable, and part of me resists the enjoyment. I think it is clear that this is something Scorsese is exploring: the allure/pull/attraction of violence, and the releasing of rage. But I am still left with the question: were these characters and their violent exploits worth all this lavish aesthetic attention? I have a similar question with a film such as John Cassavetes’ HUSBANDS (1970). Why spend 142 minutes with these self-absorbed, often misogynistic men? (Though Peter Bogdanovich makes a good case that the length and the longueurs are part of the aesthetic experience of the film).

I also will admit that Scorsese’s presentation of these characters is more interrogating/critical than previous cinematic depictions. He, along with other directors, was questioning the tropes even as he presented them. But I have come to the conclusion that what was once exciting questioning has worn thin over time. No one, not even Scorsese, could have predicted this. When he did it, it was new and revolutionary. He took glimmers of critical representation that had appeared in John Ford, Anthony Mann, and Nicholas Ray movies (to name three auteurs), and ran with them. But the focus on the dark/problematic aspects of masculinity still left men at the center of his movies.

At the Coronet, just up Third Avenue from the Sutton (both long gone…le sigh). I thought I could walk in just before the movie began. It was the opening Friday matinee, and I thought it would be as empty as RAGING BULL had been. Wrong. The theatre was packed, and I had to sit in the top sections of seats. De Niro brought Scorsese the property, and it is one of his best editing jobs: intercutting two different actions of varying durations and timing, and making them seem simultaneous.

Where he shifts Wharton’s ending/emphasis to make Newland Archer less of a dope. But he usually Scorsese-fies his sources. He does something similar with SILENCE.

Again, we converge. For me, Scorsese is an exemplar of personal cinema done on both a studio scale, and a smaller one. He made studio films-- CAPE FEAR; THE AVIATOR; THE DEPARTED–with stars and big budgets, and then mixed-in more personal films–THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST; KUNDUN; BRINGING OUT THE DEAD. He adopted and lived the John Ford mantra of “One for them; one for me.”

After THE DEPARTED, he said he decided that the films he made were going to be the ones he wanted to make, since even with the stature he had acquired, he still had to deal with interference and meddling, and it felt like a case of diminishing returns.

And that is (was?) his great subject: self-absorbed men who haven’t a clue, and spend the movie searching for one. But over the course of his career, I see Scorsese becoming increasingly critical of such men, and less sympathetic, with his sympathy (and narrative interest) now moving toward the people who must deal with the consequences of male self-absorption. The excision of female voices from THE IRISHMAN makes them the most powerful ones in the film (this conversation inspired me to re-watch the film the other night. I had avoided doing so, since though I had adored in the cinema [three times], I had not seen it since. Fortunately, the movie holds up wonderfully, and sucked me in, even as 11:00 p.m. became midnight, and then slid towards 1:00 a.m. Thanks to you all for inspiring me to re-watch it).

Andrew Laeddis, Fr. Rodrigues, and Frank Sheeran all understand the injustices they have committed, and repent (in varying ways) at the end of their films. We are a long way from Travis in his cab or Jake in his dressing room at the end of their films. Also, Scorsese’s style has become more Viscontian to match this new critical perspective.

And what is next for Scorsese: an adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s “Life of Jesus,” of which Endo himself has said:

The religious mentality of the Japanese is --just as it was at the time when the people accepted Buddhism–responsive to one who “suffers with us” and who “allows for our weakness,” but their mentality has little tolerance for any kind of transcendent being who judges humans harshly, then punishes them. In brief, the Japanese tend to seek in their gods and buddhas a warm-hearted mother rather than a stern father. With this fact always in mind I tried not so much to depict God in the father-image that tends to characterize Christianity, but rather to depict the kind-hearted maternal aspect of God revealed to us in the personality of Jesus.

Scorsese has also said the film will be 90 minutes long.


Thank you again for a wonderfully honest and thoughtful discussion.

I did forget that I liked BRINGING OUT THE DEAD and SILENCE. I should watch THE IRISHMAN again (but distrust my ability to stay awake into the night in general :wink:)

As for the violent men in Scorsese‘s movies - I still get the feeling that Scorsese cannot help but adore them, despite seeing their flaws. But he is certainly lightyears away from a Tarantino glorification.


I agree that he does in the early movies. With these films, I always felt that I was watching a movie about the men whom the asthmatic, housebound young Marty Scorsese wished he could be playing/running with, but it was not to be.

But as his career progressed, the regard becomes cooler, just as the mise en scene calms down. The tranquility of SILENCE and THE IRISHMAN is nothing like the kinetic energy of GOODFELLAS or KUNDUN.

Of SILENCE, he has said that if he had made the film when first introduced to the book, he would have most identified with Fr. Rodrigues, but that with time and maturity, he now most identifies with Kichijirō, whose struggles are central to the film.

Each in his own way, Laeddis, Rodrigues, and Sheeran all apostatize their understanding of masculinity. Ernest doesn’t (Howard Hughes goes nuts and Jordan Belfort never abandons his old ways), which makes Ernest one of the most extreme of Scorsese males (and also a ripe metaphor for masculinity as it has played out in American history). His unchangingness also makes for a lumpy narrative, since Scorsese centers the Osage viewpoint only fitfully.

I meant to thank you earlier for your rant MZ. It was most helpful in forcing me to make sense of my Scorsese ideas/feelings. It also spurred me to watch THE IRISHMAN again, and realize that Sheeran does confess at the end (we hear only the priest’s words of absolution):

…through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Much appreciated.


I have to include ALIENS as one of Cameron‘s best films as well.

Strange, I had forgotten that he had done that.

Is that what Avatar can do to one’s memory?


… and then, thinking about Cameron (yes, no better things to do - or lots of better things to do, but still using my time for that)…

THE TERMINATOR - great original concept… except Harlan Ellison sued him and got paid for having that idea years before him

ALIENS - terrific filmmaking, he definitely knows how to create nailbiting tension and extremely muscular action. But he also knows how to use the zeitgeist, and during that time Vietnam movies were popular at the multiplex. So… combine Vietnam with Alien = box office success.

TERMINATOR 2 - basically a remake with better and innovative special effects, also the new idea of making the Schwarzenger android a good (?) guy… except Cameron used that “new Idea” already in ALIENS with the Lance Henrikson android.

THE ABYSS - enclosed space, a ragtag group like, you know, in ALIEN, mixed with a military guy like, well, the guys in ALIENS. And then, culminating in a close encounter with a benevolent alien (you know who did that twice before). Except, this is set under water, and that is new. Although the actors probably could have done without that.

TRUE LIES - c´mon, spy in tuxedo, action sequences, only more misogynism (much, much, much more) and ridiculous use of a nuclear explosion (as the backdrop for a kiss; good luck, Arnie and Jamie Lee, feeling nauseous already, say goodbye to your hair next - but the facts of fallout are ignored by so many these days, so…

TITANIC - torturing Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio apparently made for a great learning curve. Financially.

AVATAR - Ferngully meets Dances with Wolves.

AVATAR 2 - remaking the first one with more water torture

And still, people applaud him as an original filmmaker.


That’s the international version. The German version: “Winnetou” (and elements from other Karl-May-movies). :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


Old Shatterhand: “Hände hoch, du Kojote!” :roll_eyes:



It‘s been ages since I last saw Scott‘s original.

Unfortunately, I have never seen it on the big screen. When it was released I was 10 years old, and the film poster with the cracking alien egg creeped me out already. Then I read in the German movie magazine Cinema about audiences who were so terrified by Alien that they almost had heart attacks. Of course, when I saw the comic book adaptation in a shop I had to get it.

And even looking at the comic book depiction of the famous horrific sequence in the middle of the film (and every other bloody scene as well), I was shocked and could not get the images out of my mind.

I still can’t. Alien hits me on such a primal fear level that even at 54, knowing what will happen, I am tense and grossed out. I decided to watch the original cut, and its long silences, just featuring the crew interacting at the beginning, build up so much tension that nothing in today’s instant gratification style can achieve that kind of atmosphere and horror.

Also, Scott is taking Hitchcock‘s lesson and shows extremely little of the creature and its terror. But this is enough. One tends to think one saw more, but this is really just the power of suggestion. (The comic book showed so much more, especially what happens to Lambert; oh, my, now I remember that, too).

I have recently read the BFI classic book on Alien, and it opened up the theme of the movie so well that I just had to rewatch it. Highly recommended, by the way.

The film itself - one of the most effective horror films ever.


To this day I cannot fathom why Scott returned to this. None of the sequels added to the perfection of his classic - they interpreted its theme in different stylistic iterations - and to me Scott’s own prequels even took away from the original.


Money, the hope to regain relevance, the urge to reclaim the series for himself, the strong persuasion to have a great idea…


well, the basic idea of the first prequel was interesting, they just forgot along the way that it still should have been an alien movie…