I enjoy watching comic book movies in cinemas way too much. I don’t rate them highly on later viewings at home, but the first time theatrical experience is thrilling. It’s a tradition for me to treat my best friends to a movie on my birthday. Naturally, the enthusiasm is doubled when a comic book film releases around my birthday weekend. I was stoked that Joker was going to be that movie in 2019.
In the long hype train journey to Joker, I came across interviews by the film’s director, Todd Phillips. He stated that old films such as Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1982), both directed by Martin Scorsese, served as inspirations to Joker. My unproductive self gave them a go.
Skip to the end of my first Taxi Driver viewing. Confused. Curious. Cue the generic Googling of “Taxi Driver Ending Explained”. Smitten. Totally smitten. What had I just witnessed?! This film is phenomenal. It took one whole month to get Bernard Herrmann’s staggering score out of my head. Overnight, this film bloated my self-esteem regarding the kind of films I like. Now, every viewing of Taxi Driver is exponentially better and revealing than the last.
Next, the satirical The King of Comedy. Another masterpiece which took some Google searches for me to wholly appreciate. Goodfellas (1990), though, really sealed the deal for me. A perfect movie with no flaws. The Copa Shot in Goodfellas is like a movie within a movie. That 3 minute long take is a pinnacle of technical achievement and storytelling. This one Steadicam shot alone is better than all other 1990 movies. It has become a ritual for me to watch Joe Pesci’s “Funny Guy” scene at least once every two weeks. It’s like I got made into a Scorsese man after watching Goodfellas. You’re a legend if you got that reference.
Recently, Marty made headlines by titling the widely beloved Marvel movies as “theme park films” which are “not cinema.” His status instantaneously turned from the G.O.A.T. to a disgruntled boomer. It was infuriating to see Scorsese’s legacy being dragged through the mud just because he didn’t like your favourite movie franchise.
If you look at the audience reactions of first day Avengers: Endgame theatre screenings, you would probably know what Marty is talking about. Robert Downey Jr., who is (or was, sorry not sorry) literally the face of Marvel, puts it best by posing this rhetoric question. “Do you seriously think Martin Scorsese is upset about Marvel movies?”
At Oscars 2020, Marty received a standing ovation while Bong Joon-Ho was giving his winning speech for Best Director for Parasite. Scorsese is probably the only living human being who can and has pulled that off. So the answer to RDJ’s question is a deafening NO.
Keyboard warriors will make you pick sides when it comes to Marvel and Scorsese. Their movies are poles apart. Personally, I like to consume McDonald’s regularly as well as relish an occasional fine dining experience. Which is which in this metaphor? Decide it for yourself. I consume McDonald’s multiple times. I watched Black Panther in cinemas 5 times. Since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I’ve watched every comic book movie in theatres at least twice. So yes, to me, these movies are a lot like the roller coasters at theme parks. Whereas, I haven’t watched The Irishman, my favorite Scorsese film again because I’m saving the second viewing experience of this bewitching masterpiece for a later date.
It might be cool to publicly hate legendary artists for a few likes or retweets. Marvel doesn’t necessarily need defending as they probably can’t hear the chatter over the billions of dollars they make. Scorsese, on the other hand, struggled and sacrificed quite a lot to fund The Irishman and his upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon while holding steadfast to his artistic vision.
What I love most about the guy that is all of his movies are highly personal to him. The Irishman was Scorsese’s inner conflict with mortality. Hugo was his love letter to cinema. Raging Bull was Marty’s redemption and way out of his crack addiction as he was contemplating to give up moviemaking forever. Thank God he didn’t. Scorsese’s love for New York is witnessed across a myriad of his works, and gave birth to Frank Sinatra’s celebrated New York, New York (1979) in Marty’s musical of the same name. Marty doesn’t seem to care whether you like him or not. He’s highly concerned to cast his personal vision onto the big screen. He’s not the guy who answers the suits and gets pushed over in the cutting room.
Any other filmmaker would probably go underground post the revolt surrounding the extravagantly controversial The Last Temptation of Christ. An extremely young and new to showbiz Scorsese dared to call out the overlooking of American blood shed during the Vietnam War in his short film The Big Shave. Marty has questioned his own religious faith in various films and celebrated his youth’s surroundings in some of his gangster movies. Scorsese is the bridge between independent and commercial filmmaking. An anomaly. A legend. Therefore, it is essential for me to reiterate that Martin Scorsese’s films are cinema of the highest form.
Honorable Martin Scorsese films not mentioned above:
Shutter Island: Leonardo DiCaprio investigating around with Mark Ruffalo. Need I say more?
The Departed: Best Picture winning film for which Scorsese won Best Director. And do you really want to miss out on Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg sharing the same screen?
Silence: A scandalously underrated gem which unfortunately bombed at the box office.
The Wolf of Wall Street: Doesn’t require convincing. Just watch it if you haven’t already.