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The Good, The Bad and the Badass: Martin Scorsese

Dec. 24, 2013by:

Last week we took a look at the career of legendary funnyman Will Ferrell to coincide with the release of ANCHORMAN 2. This week, in anticipation of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, we look at the incredible career of one of the greatest directors of all time...

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese is arguably the world's greatest living director. Just think of the guy's filmography. MEAN STREETS, ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, TAXI DRIVER, THE LAST WALTZ, RAGING BULL, THE KING OF COMEDY, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, and hell- those are just over the first fifteen years of his career. At seventy, Scorsese is still at the peak of his ability. At an age where many directors slow down, Scorsese's work is as vital as ever, thanks in part to an excellent working relationship he's developed with Leonardo DiCaprio, who seems to have inherited Robert De Niro's former role as Scorsese's on-screen alter-ego. Actors love working with Scorsese because they know he'll always get the absolute best out of them.

His Best Work

For me, this one has to be GOODFELLAS, although strong cases could also be made for TAXI DRIVER or RAGING BULL. I'd wager those are as good as GOODFELLAS but there's something about Scorsese's ode to the work-a-day Mafioso thug that makes it particularly special. It's one of the few movies I make sure to watch every year. The sheer passion Scorsese brings to this violent saga is astonishing. Everything about this movie is masterful, from the soundtrack, to the brilliant cast (De Niro as Jimmy Conway, Joe Pesci in his career-defining role as Tommy DeVito, as Ray Liotta as the real-life Henry Hill), it's just a perfect film in every way.

His Most Underrated Film

One of Scorsese's often under-looked masterpieces is THE KING OF COMEDY. This 1983 ultra-black comedy pairs Scorsese with De Niro in an atypical role as Rupert Pupkin, a wanna-be comedian who kidnaps his TV host idol Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis- in a brilliant performance satirizing himself). This one didn’t make much of an impact with audiences in 1983, who were likely expecting another RAGING BULL, but years later it started to pick up a cult following and is now considered not only one of Scorsese’s best, but also one of DeNiro’s most brilliant performances.

However, with so many people now acknowledging it as a masterpiece, in THE KING OF COMEDY still underrated? If not, there are other movies in Scorsese’s oeuvre that fit the bill, like AFTER HOURS, THE COLOR OF MONEY (a movie I was obsessed with as a Tom Cruise-worshipping fan as a child) and a really unheralded gem, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD. Reuniting Scorsese with Paul Schrader, this was tipped as a sort-of companion piece to TAXI DRIVER upon its release in 1999, with Nicolas Cage as a lonely paramedic working the streets of NYC during the early nineties. What makes the films different is that if Travis Bickle was full of hate, Cage’s Frank Pierce is full of compassion, with his turmoil coming from the fact that he’s gone months without having been able to save a patient, and the guilt is eating him up. Like a lot of Scorsese’s work, it’s full of Catholic undertones, from the guilt Cage feels, to what might even be a virgin birth that he witnesses later in the film. It’s one of Cage’s better performances, and a real overlooked gem in Scorsese’s canon.

His Most Overrated Film

Now here’s one that’s going to raise some ire among Marty’s fans. My choice here is THE DEPARTED- the film that finally netted Scorsese the best director Oscar he so richly deserved for TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL and GOODFELLAS. Don’t get me wrong- I really like THE DEPARTED. It’s a fantastically entertaining movie, but as a Scorsese opus, one shouldn’t forget that it’s a remake. A lot of the movie’s most arresting imagery comes from the brilliant Hong Kong trilogy, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, that inspired it, and while it’s one of the very best remakes I’ve ever seen, it still can’t compare to his all-out classics. Maybe the Academy just wanted to reward him for having such a brilliant body of work, but Scorsese- even at seventy- is far from done, with THE WOLF OF WALL STREET being another career highlight that could (and should) win him another richly deserved Oscar. One thing- it just goes to show you how even an "overrated" Scorsese film would still probably get an 8 or a 9 on 10 from him if I was reviewing it today.

His Most Memorable Scene

This is a tough category, with Scorsese being masterful in his construction of set-pieces. There are so many that could have been put in here, from “are you talking to me” from TAXI DRIVER, to the closing shootout in the same movie, to the “did you f-ck my wife?” bit in RAGING BULL, and on and on. For me, the best of the best is the infamous “Layla” montage from GOODFELLAS, as it really illustrates all that’s perfect about Marty’s work, from the imagery, to the dark humor, to the brilliant use of contemporary music.

His Top-Five Films

5. MEAN STREETS
4. THE KING OF COMEDY
3. RAGING BULL
2. TAXI DRIVER
1. GOODFELLAS

Up Next

Even though Scorsese’s gone on record saying that at seventy, he may only have a few films left in him, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. His next movie is his long gestating Jesuit priests in Japan period epic SILENCE. Following that, he’s been teasing a reunion with his favorite leading men Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, with maybe even Al Pacino (and maybe Leo???) along for the ride in THE IRISHMAN. I’d also love to see Marty take a crack as the long-gestating SINATRA biopic (if anyone could do “old blue eyes” justice it’s Marty. No matter what he does you can be 100% sure it’ll be excellent.

Source: JoBlo.com

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11:01AM on 12/26/2013

Bringing Out the Dead

By far his most underrated film, and probably my favorite.
By far his most underrated film, and probably my favorite.
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9:32AM on 12/26/2013
My father gave his life, making this country what it is. Murdered by the British with all of his men on the twenty-fifth of July, anno domini, 1814. Do you think I'm going to help you befoul his legacy, by giving this country over to them what's had no hand in the fighting for it? Why, because they come off a boat crawling with lice and begging you for soup?
My father gave his life, making this country what it is. Murdered by the British with all of his men on the twenty-fifth of July, anno domini, 1814. Do you think I'm going to help you befoul his legacy, by giving this country over to them what's had no hand in the fighting for it? Why, because they come off a boat crawling with lice and begging you for soup?
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4:46AM on 12/25/2013
Glad "King of Comedy" is on your top 5 list, very underated film and De Niro is trying to do something different for once at the time.
Glad "King of Comedy" is on your top 5 list, very underated film and De Niro is trying to do something different for once at the time.
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10:36PM on 12/24/2013
I'd anyone fit this article it's Scorsese. He's "good" in that he has a strong passion for filmmaming and preserving and highlighting little known or nearly lost works of film art. He's "badass" in that his movies are clearly his movies-to hell with what studio heads wants and what audiences think they want. Keep it up Marty!
1. Bringing Out The Dead
2. Gangs of New York
3. Taxi Driver
4. The Aviator
5. Shine A Light
I'd anyone fit this article it's Scorsese. He's "good" in that he has a strong passion for filmmaming and preserving and highlighting little known or nearly lost works of film art. He's "badass" in that his movies are clearly his movies-to hell with what studio heads wants and what audiences think they want. Keep it up Marty!
1. Bringing Out The Dead
2. Gangs of New York
3. Taxi Driver
4. The Aviator
5. Shine A Light
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9:59PM on 12/24/2013
Where tha faaak is Casino?
Where tha faaak is Casino?
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9:29PM on 12/24/2013
Very badass indeed. I love his style. Gangs of New York and The Aviator are underrated, in my opinion.
Very badass indeed. I love his style. Gangs of New York and The Aviator are underrated, in my opinion.
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7:17PM on 12/24/2013
The Aviator is one of my favourite biopics; I don't think it gets quite enough love.
The Aviator is one of my favourite biopics; I don't think it gets quite enough love.
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+3
3:54PM on 12/24/2013
I would also add Last Temptation of Christ as one of his most underrated work. People need to watch that movie at any age.

Another note I would love to see him work with Chrstian Bale
I would also add Last Temptation of Christ as one of his most underrated work. People need to watch that movie at any age.

Another note I would love to see him work with Chrstian Bale
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2:59PM on 12/24/2013
Very good entry, and I definitely agree with the top three for sure. Just wait for Wolf. I think it challenges his critically cherished breakout Mean Streets and the ahead-of-its-time King of Comedy as one of Scorsese's best. It's most likely his funniest and craziest film yet, with some instantly iconic sequences (you'll know the standout when you see it). At first glance, the movie might seem crass for its own sake and without a deeper point, but it definitely has a satirical edge. Sometimes
Very good entry, and I definitely agree with the top three for sure. Just wait for Wolf. I think it challenges his critically cherished breakout Mean Streets and the ahead-of-its-time King of Comedy as one of Scorsese's best. It's most likely his funniest and craziest film yet, with some instantly iconic sequences (you'll know the standout when you see it). At first glance, the movie might seem crass for its own sake and without a deeper point, but it definitely has a satirical edge. Sometimes the more simple the point the more effective it can be, even if it's a bit bloated and straightforward at times.

What's more, he helps bring out career performances from Leo and Jonah, and a great ensemble as a whole. Also, Terrence Winter knocks the screenplay out of the park.

However, this is also one of his more polarizing films. It will divide audiences.
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2:57PM on 12/24/2013
I'm also SO glad somebody gave Bring Out the Dead it's due. I adore that film and rank among his very best.

Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Bringing Out the Dead and King of Comedy are my favorites. When I first saw King of Comedy I didn't now it was a Scorsese film as I didn't catch the very beginning. When I learned it was his film I was like "waaaaah?!"
I'm also SO glad somebody gave Bring Out the Dead it's due. I adore that film and rank among his very best.

Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Bringing Out the Dead and King of Comedy are my favorites. When I first saw King of Comedy I didn't now it was a Scorsese film as I didn't catch the very beginning. When I learned it was his film I was like "waaaaah?!"
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2:54PM on 12/24/2013
Finally someone has the balls to say The Departed is overrated. It really, really is. Except you still like it while I think it's a fucking terrible movie. The editing is awkward and the tone of it feels like someone trying desperately to emulate Marty instead of Marty himself. Everything about it-the acting, the violence, the vulgarity-feels so forced and strained. It is easily one of the most overrated films of the decade and it's a travesty that it was the film that got Marty the win. I
Finally someone has the balls to say The Departed is overrated. It really, really is. Except you still like it while I think it's a fucking terrible movie. The editing is awkward and the tone of it feels like someone trying desperately to emulate Marty instead of Marty himself. Everything about it-the acting, the violence, the vulgarity-feels so forced and strained. It is easily one of the most overrated films of the decade and it's a travesty that it was the film that got Marty the win. I can't help but get a little snooty when people say it's his best/their favorite. I don't want to feel that way, but thats how bad I think the movie is.
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2:31PM on 12/24/2013
My top three favorite Scorsese films are The Departed, Gangs of New York, and Taxi Driver (not necessarily in that order).

Gangs of New York was the first time that I really started to take DiCaprio serious as an actor and realized how great he was and would become.
My top three favorite Scorsese films are The Departed, Gangs of New York, and Taxi Driver (not necessarily in that order).

Gangs of New York was the first time that I really started to take DiCaprio serious as an actor and realized how great he was and would become.
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1:46PM on 12/24/2013

o:

I'm not a big fan of The Departed either. It has it's moments, but all in all DiCaprio's accent was horrible. Gangs of New York was also over rated. I love Scorsese though. Taxi Driver is my favorite.
I'm not a big fan of The Departed either. It has it's moments, but all in all DiCaprio's accent was horrible. Gangs of New York was also over rated. I love Scorsese though. Taxi Driver is my favorite.
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1:15PM on 12/24/2013

Solid choices..

My favorite picture from Scorsese though is Casino. I can watch it over and over and still love every second. I've wanted to see bringing out the dead forever now.
My favorite picture from Scorsese though is Casino. I can watch it over and over and still love every second. I've wanted to see bringing out the dead forever now.
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1:01PM on 12/24/2013
While I always agree with your picks on this list as being worthy of the title, this is, I think, the first time I feel like you nailed every category on the guy. The Departed, while fantastic, is definitely overrated (and I still prefer Infernal Affairs). King of Comedy and Bringing Out the Dead are both underrated gems. And even though my personal favorite of his is Taxi Driver, if I were writing this up Goodfellas would take the top spot, too (kind of like my favorite Tarantino movie is
While I always agree with your picks on this list as being worthy of the title, this is, I think, the first time I feel like you nailed every category on the guy. The Departed, while fantastic, is definitely overrated (and I still prefer Infernal Affairs). King of Comedy and Bringing Out the Dead are both underrated gems. And even though my personal favorite of his is Taxi Driver, if I were writing this up Goodfellas would take the top spot, too (kind of like my favorite Tarantino movie is Jackie Brown, but damn if I'm not going to put Pulp Fiction at the top of his filmography).
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