Scorsese’s downturn

The more Martin Scorsese‘s stock as a great American auteur has plummeted, the more he’s focused his energies on celebrating cinema culture by doing interviews and providing commentaries for DVDs. I realize, of course, that Marty is one of this country’s most devoted, impassioned and knowledgable cineastes, and that he’s probably done more than any other working director to preserve and restore great films and hail to that…seriously.
But deep down I think he’s investing in his cinematic-historian thing as compensation for the lack of genuine electric current in his strivings as a narrative filmmaker.
Let’s face it — the two best films Scorsese has made since Goodfellas have been docs — My Voyage in Italy and No Direction Home: Bob Dylan. When I think these days of the Marty I love and truly respect, I think of the guy who directed the great old ’70s and ’80s stuff (i.e., Goodfellas being the last high-water mark), and who edited and assembled these two fine docs. And I certainly don’t think of the guy who directed The Aviator and Gangs of New York and The Age of Innocence and the godawful Kundun.
It’s therefore all part of a downward-spiralling career trend that Scorsese has been hired as a Direct TV film critic “after complaining about Direct TV’s movie review system,” according to this story. This is strictly an elder-statesman emeritus busywork activity. The Departed director will write a monthly column for On DirecTV, a magazine and program guide for people who subscribe to the service. Scorsese’s focus will be on overlooked films (i.e., get ready for torrents of prose about Samuel Fuller, Budd Boetticher, Nicholas Ray, etc.).

25 thoughts on “Scorsese’s downturn

  1. NYCBusybody on said:

    I hope he also turns Direct-TV’ers on to Powell-Pressburger, whose films I saw primarily because I heard Scorcese praise them, and I’ve loved them myself ever since.
    Even if his films aren’t as good anymore (an opinion I concur with), I think his tireless support for spreading the idea that film can be art more than makes up for not contributing to that as deeply as he once did.

  2. The guy seems happy nowadays. It’s probably true that most artists do their best work on the nitty gritty when they’re hungry and still young. However I think The Aviator and Gangs of New York were overall successful films. They could of been complete disasters in the wrong, less experienced hands.
    Anyway, I don’t see why you’re really dissing on him. He’s moved onto another plateau in his career and for most filmmakers a very enviable one. He could of just disappeared.

  3. Why you hating on Martin Jeff? The Aviator and Gangs of New York were great films, not as good as his previous work, but good nonetheless. And The Departed looks great.

  4. Jeff, you might be the first person I know to call The Age of Innocence godawful…I think that, along with After Hours and Taxi Driver is one of his finest achievements and the perhaps the greatest period drama ever made. It is rich and subtle and nuanced, so I guess that’s what you didn’t like it. I’m sorry it didn’t blow you away like Miami Vice did.

  5. Scorsese’s doing just fine. He’s doing his best to work within the system, which is what he’s always done. But it’s not getting any easier.

  6. I wouldn’t say plummeted. He’s no longer at your boy Neil LaBute’s level, but hey, who is?
    I still love his movies since Good Fellas, but i can’t tell whether it’s his work or the work of the Robert Richardson’s and Dante Ferretti’s that work for him. Few movies ever have filled the screen like Casino and The Aviator, and i think you’ll be surprised at how well they aged after 20 to 40 years.

  7. I should post this in the ‘underappreciated’ thread as well, but Bringing Out The Dead is a brilliant films, and one of the best Scorsese has ever made, IMHO.
    And yeah, Age of Innocence is pretty great as well.

  8. Jeff, that’s an interesting observation. Maybe Scorsese’s real legacy will be in the realm of film preservation and the celebration of film culture. Even at his supposed greatness during the 70′s I’ve always found Scorsese a desperately uneven filmmaker with a very poor grasp of story. Maybe one day he will make a movie with a coherent and satisfying third act but I’ll tell you one thing – Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas sure as hell ain’t it. I quite liked After Hours so it isn’t all bad but the less said about the movies he’s been turning out in the last 20 years – most of which fall in the disappointing/awful range – the better. I also agree that his documentaries are far more interesting than anything else he’s been doing and I’d like to see him pursue more of them. But he probably won’t. At 60-whatever he’s in his comfort zone – seemingly happy to coast on his (overpraised) reputation while gentrifying himself into mediocrity. Hmm, now where have I heard that before?

  9. I still think he’s a great filmmaker and thought THE AVIATOR was excellent; GANGS less so.
    But no matter how much you try to tear him down, he’ll always be Martin Scorsese, and anything he does merits attention.
    By your standards, Jeff, Oliver Stone has lost it, since none of his recent work is up to PLATOON. So?
    But filmmakers of their stature are about their BODY of work, not “what have you done lately”?
    You too often sometimes exhibit the mentality of a ADD’d fanboy…too bad.

  10. At 60-whatever he’s in his comfort zone – seemingly happy to coast on his (overpraised) reputation while gentrifying himself into mediocrity.
    Wow. Whether he succeeded or not, please name 5 more ambitious films this century than Gangs and Aviator. He hasn’t exactly turned into Francis Coppola, sipping vino rosso with one hand and directing Jack with the other.

  11. On DirecTV is nearly impossible to use as a guide to movies. Anything Little Marty can do to call attention to the handful of older films shown outside TCM will benefit everyone.

  12. mr. wells, you need to make a movie…….., mr. wells.
    hahahha ha ha ha hahaaaaaahhhhhhhaaaaaahhhhha., instead of dissing the greats like MS, sofia coppola and others.

  13. ‘The Age of Innocence’ is my favorite Scorcese film and one of my favorite films, period. What a lovely, sad, elegant, beautifully acted masterpiece that movie is…as for recent Scorcese, I agree with the poster who pointed out the sheer ambition of ‘Gangs’ and ‘Aviator.’ Going gently into that good night Marty most certainly is not. I hope he does the Teddy Roosevelt movie. He was also attached to Deniro’s ‘The Winter of Frankie Machine’ at one point.

  14. Okay, since Goodfellas…
    Cape Fear
    The Age of Innocence
    Bringing Out the Dead
    Gangs of New York
    The Aviator was mediocre and Kundun was pretty dull… and the documentaries were good, if not really comparable to his features… all things considered, how many other contemporary filmmakers have an output like that? A Wells favorite like James Mangold? Give me a fucking break.

  15. Wait a second, Jeffrey! ‘Kundun’ was spectacular
    and won my Best Picture award in ’97. ‘The Age of
    Innocence’ is Scorsese’s third best film! I’ve
    always thought ‘GoodFellas’ was EXTREMELY overrated!
    ‘Casino’ is vastly superior and his second best
    film in my opinion!
    Now, ‘The Aviator,’ ‘Bringing Out the Dead,’ and
    ‘Gangs of New York’ have been average (at best)
    money grabs for Marty and have left a very sour
    taste in my mouth considering he’s my second
    favorite director. His best film since ‘Kundun’
    was the documentary on Italian cinema. ‘The
    Departed’ looks like another studio-hack job to
    my eyes. Scorsese is clearly in love with money
    and not art at this point. I’d also like to add
    that I HATE ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Mean Streets’

  16. I don’t know. He’s never struck me as someone motivated by money. I think he goes all out on every project. You just can’t always count on the full creative spark to strike every time (especially when you’ve taken a liking to limiting cast members). But I can’t say that I’ve seen many of his movies that didn’t contain his usual sense of passion. It’s just that a lot of the latter ones have lacked the creativity or the script strength.
    Even so, I’ll take a limited, lesser Scorsese film over a fully-invested Fuqua, Howard, or Wayne Kramer at the top of their games any day.

  17. Marty, but what have you done for US LATELY? Ha, what silliness. History will judge differently. Buster Keaton, that deadpan genius, descended into drunkenness and mediocre sound films with Jimmy Durante. Truly godawful stuff. But now all forgotten and forgiven. The true treasures continue to shine through. Same with Chaplin, same with Welles, same with Hitchcock, same with Huston, same with Powell, same with Kubrick, same with Woody Allen, and so on.
    When filmmakers exhaust their dreams and visions, should they stop? Perhaps. On the other hand, should someone have begged Eastwood after his orangutan movies: “Please, dear god, Clint, just STOP NOW. RETIRE.”

  18. Yeah right, Jeff rips on Scorsese but gushes over tripe like RUNNING SCARED. Same with that overheated phony David Thomson.

  19. The writing was on the wall that Scorcese’s reach was beyond his grasp when GANGS OF THE NEW YORK turned out to be most expensive NYU student film ever produced: impressive production design but a thin story and uneven perfomances. Hell, even the photography was mediocre.
    It took 10 years to come up with that story? This is how he rendered a dream project harbored for that long???
    The problem is, that it took him too long to realize that the environment of the 70′s studio era that had made his career possible came crashing down and to still make those kinds of movies required the type of one-for-you-one-for-me forays into popcorn films he was too slow to embrace. No one wants to make serious films for even the cache of Oscars anymore.
    Now, THE DEPARTED seems to be return to a milieu that Scorcese knows well and hasn’t prevailed in to both public & critical acclaim since GOODFELLAS. I would love to eat my words that MS won’t produce any more Criterion Collection worthy films and his next time on the stage at the Kodak Theater will be to collect one of those Sorry-Here’s-A-Gold-Star-Version-Of-An-Oscar statues to honor “lifetime achievement.”
    I would love to, but GANGS should give anyone pause that he can still pull it off.

  20. “He was also attached to Deniro’s ‘The Winter of Frankie Machine’ at one point.”
    No he wasn’t. A wishful thinking De Niro fanboy got Scorsese’s name attached on IMDb and Jeff lazily put it in his column as fact.
    BTW, if Jeff thinks GONY was a downturn in Scorsese’s career, he shouldn’t have put it on his top ten list.

  21. The “problem” isn’t that Martin Scorsese was “slow to embrace” popcorn films. That’s like saying the reason Michael Bay isn’t Orson Welles is because Bay has been “slow to embrace” the art house film noir. It’s not a problem of intention or ambition. Scorsese, by his own admission, just isn’t very good at them.
    His remake of CAPE FEAR bears the eccentricities and grotesques of LADY FROM SHANGHAI, and it’s mostly fun to watch, but it’s not something that fits neatly into the “thriller” genre. It is its own thing.
    Despite his best efforts to break out and make money for the studios, Scorsese is a personal filmmaker. Indeed, one of his best documentaries is “Martin Scorsese’s Personal Journey Through American Films.” His films tend to succeed to the extent that they touch upon this personal vision: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Last Temptation of Christ all do. Cape Fear, Bringing Out the Dead, The Aviator do not. The Age of Innocence is somewhere in between; it’s Scorsese channeling, in a loving way, The Magnificent Ambersons and The Heiress.
    Scorsese has two primary gears. Either he approaches his film as a passion project which he’ll complete or die trying. OR, he considers the prospective movie to be a math problem. The first is art; the latter, craft.
    THE DEPARTED looks like a product of craft. Who knows if he has another passion project in him? Perhaps, as yet, he doesn’t even know himself.

  22. There has yet to be a Scorsese film I haven’t enjoyed. Both Gangs and Aviator get better with repeated viewings.
    Kundun is beautiful but boring … I think. So is Age.
    Bringing Out the Dead is his worst. But I love the ending.

  23. I think it’s great that MS is working to keep the legacy of film history alive.
    That said, he may have lost some mojo when he did the Amex ads. Embarrassing to see him treated like a prop in that stupid ad. “My card, my life.” My ass.

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