Scorsese Marathon (1995 – 2013)

See also:
Scorsese Marathon (1963 – 1978)
Scorsese Marathon (1980 – 1995)

We did it!

Casino” (1995)

Loses points for being way too fucking long and not giving Don Rickles anything good to do. (3 out of 5 stars)

Movies. They’re magic, man. I love the personal approach Marty takes with this documentary. He talks about the movies that mean the most to him, not just the ones we usually hear about in these kinds of retrospectives. (4 stars.)

"Kundun" (1997)

Kundun” (1997)

With Roger Deakins working the camera you’re certain to get some beautiful imagery, but even he can’t make this film interesting. (2.5 stars)

Perfect. Like “After Hours,” this one doesn’t span decades but plays out over just a few nights, which I tend to enjoy a lot more, since it gives the actors a chance to portray a more fully formed character, not just reel off the greatest hits moments. (5)

"My Voyage to Italy" (1999)

My Voyage to Italy” (1999)

The one thing from Scorsese I still need to see is also his longest, by far. Coincidence?

"Gangs of New York" (2002)

Gangs of New York” (2002)

Pretty great! Too long (obviously), but very enjoyable. (4)

As Scorsese’s music documentaries go, this one left me pretty cold. Not my favorite musical genre, either.

Directed by Martin Scorsese

The Aviator” (2004)

A somewhat messy biopic with a wonderful Cate Blanchett. I would have liked to see more of her, even if it meant stretching the already excessive running time for another couple of minutes. (3)

I never paid a lot of attention to Dylan’s music or person, so this portrait and history of both was a big, positive surprise for me. Not at all the recluse I had imagined him to be, Bob Dylan charms his way through the – only slightly too long – documentary, featuring new and archival interviews and clips with him and his contemporaries. (4)

The Departed” (2006)

Highly enjoyable, especially the performances. Having seen the original as part of the marathon, too, The Departed is a pretty great example of a remake that both honors the source but very much is its own thing, as well. (4.5)

“The Key to Reserva” (2007)

It’s a commercial, yes, but it also gives us a glimpse of what Alfred Hitchcock by way of Martin Scorsese would look like, and that’s pretty cool. Bonus points for the Thelma appearance! (4.5)

Shine a Light” (2008)

About as entertaining as a Rolling Stones concert. (That’s a lot!) (4)

Boardwalk Empire: “Boardwalk Empire” (2010)

Haven’t watched any more episodes, yet, but I liked the pilot. Even Michael Pitt, whom I usually can’t stand, did some good acting here, and the setting and characters are promising. (4)

Public Speaking” (2010)

A twenty year old clip from Late Night with Conan O’Brien (that I actually remember watching when it first aired) aside, the highlight of this documentary is when Marty recreated the opening of Taxi Driver with Fran Lebowitz in the DeNiro role.

Made me want to watch Taxi Driver again.

Shutter Island” (2010)

This film is all about atmosphere, and if you’re able to concentrate on that and not get distracted by some of the thinner plot elements, you’ll get the most out of it. I had seen it before but I think it benefited from a second viewing, where you don’t have to try to “solve the mystery.” (4.5)

American Masters: “A Letter to Elia” (2010)

I’ve not seen a single picture by Kazan, but after seeing this I’m eager to redeem that. This documentary suffered a bit by the constraints of being a PBS production and only being co-directed by Scorsese, so I don’t really know how to compare it to his other works.

A masterfully crafted documentary about an extraordinary man.

(On a technical note: Of course the audio is brilliant – do yourself a favor and listen to the uncompressed, remastered Beatles records on a decent system at least once in your life – but I was also very impressed by the quality of all those archival television clips. They must have scanned and restored the master tapes to achieve that, and it all looks gorgeous projected from the blu-ray.) (5)

Hugo” (2011)

After I watched “Hugo” for the first time two years ago, I had these things to say, and I stand by them:

  • Terrible acting all around. My guess is that Scorsese was distracted by all the 3D and CGI work.
  • The movie is much too loud and shiny for the sake of being loud and shiny, not to serve the plot in any way.
  • Unmotivated actors, a weak script and emphasis on effects instead of characters make “Hugo” feel like a second trilogy George Lucas movie.

And some thoughts on the film as I watched it again this time:

  • It’s an all-showy adaptation of a script that doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “show don’t tell.” (Hear the Clunkiest Dialogue… IN 3D!)
  • You know how some films have certain scenes that bring the narrative to a shrieking halt? HUGO is two hours of that.
  • If Scorsese wanted to tell Georges Méliès’ story, he should have done a biopic or, better yet, a documentary.


All the excitement of Kundun!
All the humor of New York, New York!
All the characters from Casino, but without the mob connections!
For everyone who watched The Last Temptation of Christ and thought, man, I wish this was 15 minutes longer!

I expected such a polarizing film to at least be interesting. In the end, the only offensive part was how bland, how unfunny, how unsexy it is.

That said: the things I liked – and in a film this long there are bound to be a few of those – I really liked. There’s a great film somewhere in here, but it’s not the one they sent out to theaters. (2.5)

[Top 5] Movies Watched January 2014

(Words are hard. Lists are easy. Images, too. So there.)

Out of all the films I’ve watched this January, here are my favorite five:

  1. La passion de Jeanne d’Arc” (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)
    Renée Jeanne Falconetti as Jeanne d'Arc
  2. The Gradute” (Mike Nichols, 1967)
    Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me.
  3. George Harrison: Living in the Material World” (Martin Scorsese, 2011)
    George Harrison self-portrait
  4. Cool Hand Luke” (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967)Reflecting sunglasses
  5. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
    (Chantal Akerman, 1975)Delphine Seyrig

“Fear and Desire” and other Kubrick films online

A few films by and about Stanley Kubrick have appeared online recently. You never know how long these things survive, so watch (or download) them while you can.

First, there’s “Fear and Desire,” Kubrick’s first feature film from 1953, newly restored:


Then, “Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes,” a 2008 documentary by Jon Ronson:


Finally, “Staircases to Nowhere” (2013) offers an in-depth oral history of the making of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece “The Shining,” including interviews with Christiane Kubrick, Jan Harlan, and Brian Cook.

The Algorithm

After looking at my movie stats for 2012, I vowed to try to watch more older films, more non-English films, and more films directed by women.

How did I do? Let’s look at the numbers.

Average release year: 1995
Non-English: 57 out of 255 (22%)
Female directors: 21 out of 273 (7.7%)

Average release year: 1995
Non-English: 30 out of 203 (15%)
Female directors: 11 out of 227 (4.8%)

So I failed. But I want to try again. And this time, I’m using science!

I’ve concocted an algorithm (maybe that’s not the right word, but I like it, so I’m using it) to score and sort the movies on my Netflix, Hulu Plus and LoveFilm queues, as well as those I’ve got lying around at home.

It starts off with the average of the film’s IMDb and Rotten Tomato scores (the latter divided by 10, and if the audience score is higher than the critics’ I’ll take that one). If we take “Declaration of War,” for example, the scores 7.1 and 86% would give us an average of 7.85.

Next, 0.1 points are added for every seven years since the film’s release. (Approximately, anyway, as the values get rounded up. So 0.1 points for a film that’s 4-10 years old, 0.2 for 11-17 years, and so on.) “Declaration of War” is from 2011, so it doesn’t get any extra points here.

It is both non-English (+0.5 points) and directed by a woman (+1.5), though. So it now stands at 9.85 points.

I also deduct half a point off of movies that I have already seen, to keep things fresh.

I’ve already started using the algorithm to tell me what to watch, and I’m very happy with it so far. Right now I’m in the middle of adding all of the over 500 Criterion titles on Hulu Plus to my spreadsheet.

Top of the list right now: a 3h 21min drama. Hooray!