Tag Archives: Martin Scorsese

2013’s Top Nine

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So here they are, my best of 2013. I’ll allow my two-month demurral and the list’s incompleteness (who does a top nine?) to speak for the sort of year I had in the theaters. Still, I saw enough to have an opinion and I’m going to share it with you.

Enjoy.

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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This is what success looks like now: 24-hour cocaine use, stripper parades, helicopters on yachts, quaaludes quaaludes quaaludes, tiers of high-priced prostitutes, European families flying your millions in their carry-ons to stash in Swiss banks, and other general excesses. Or more accurately, these are the accoutrement of a successful person. And the mantra of success is simple: “I deserve everything and I go first.” Jordan Belfort (played with contagious glee by Leonardo DiCaprio) articulated this in his autobiographical The Wolf of Wall Street, and Martin Scorsese has verified it in his three-hour epic of the same name.

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Hugo (2011)

This might be an adventure!” exclaims Chloë Moretz’s earnest Isabelle, shortly after meeting the titular Hugo in Martin Scorsese’s latest. And it’s true, Hugo certainly holds an adventure for its two lead characters. But that moment holds a deeper truth: the awareness that, for children, the world is still a magical place, capable of anything. There’s a kinetic excitement to being young and away from your parents, because possibility has an unknowable depth, and you haven’t yet been infected by the rot of cynicism. Scorsese, like many directors before him, plainly adores this moment in time, because for him it is connected unequivocally with the magic of the cinema.

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Taxi Driver (1976)

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro are New York City guys, through and through. Born there, raised there, and like a couple of Gangster Woody Allens, treating the city as their muse and making their best films there. It’s with this unyielding connection in mind that I found myself struck by Taxi Drivers portrayal of the Apple. New York City is a hellhole, covered in sweat and grime, its streets trafficked by hookers and killers. It is a truly miserable place. This could mean a number of things from the Director’s point of view: it could be the truth of the city’s underworld in the 1970’s, or just the way the city looks to Travis Bickle, or, most probably, it is simply the way Scorsese sees the world. Dark and dirty, with the occasional intimation that people aren’t entirely hopeless.

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Shutter Island (2010)

There are a number of themes present in Martin Scorsese‘s Shutter Island, but the one most significant to the experience of the film is uncertainty.  From the first moment we meet U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), we’re thrust into a world of pure pandemonium, where it’s not just the chaos of the criminally insane that keeps us intensely uneasy, but also the aloof and decidedly dubious men in charge of the facility on the island.  There’s nothing here to hold on to, and no technique sets an audience on edge quite so effectively.  At one point in the film Teddy comes upon the cell of George Noyce (Jackie Earle Haley), one of the more lucid inmates and a man Teddy has been searching for.  The two men bicker, canvassing their situation while keeping us firmly in the fog, then Noyce comes face to face with the Marshal, “Don’t you get it…?  You’re a rat in a maze.”  He may as well be looking right through the lens, into the audience.

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