All hail Scorsese

Martin Scorsese, a director who should be respected for his daring versatility.

When I began my venture into the world of great American films as a young adolescent, Martin Scorsese was an inevitable filmmaker of interest.

However, I remember watching Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and GoodFellas and finding them heartless and cold. Of course, I recognized they were very well-made films, but they lacked the warmth a 13 year old recognized as the merits of a fulfilling film.

Unlike his contemporaries–Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, to mention some of the best–Scorsese didn’t seem to care about being able to uplift or inspire. Say what you will, but Coppola made sure we felt the heartbreaking decay of Michael Corleone’s once-moral soul, especially in his final shot in The Godfather: Part II.

It took me a while to realize that Scorsese didn’t care too much about sentimentality. Well, it took me several viewings of Taxi Driver and GoodFellas on Sunday afternoons and rainy days to completely fall in love with Scorsese’s gritty, gunshot universe. It’s not about being the hero–it’s about the American dream gone wrong.

But what makes his films so brilliant was that you can feel his immense love for the art of film pulsing on the screen–and it happens to be dangerously contagious. That is a rare quality.

Which brings me to Hugo, Scorsese’s foray into the family genre.

I knew Scorsese was going to make Hugo, but I didn’t see the trailer until I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 a while ago. And the trailer moved me, not because it looks like a moving film (it does look like a moving film), but because I was so extremely happy that Scorsese, once again, was proving that he was an extraordinarily versatile director and of course, one of the best directors of his generation.

While his films about emotionally volatile individuals may top “best of” lists and is often what he is the most well-known for, Scorsese has shown that he is willing to try something different. Over the years, he has made Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (a well-acted, early Scorsese), The Age of Innocence (brilliant and one of my favorite films), and Kundun (admittedly, far from his best).

I like directors who are daring and unafraid to explore different genres. Scorsese is one of them. That’s why I’ve grown to love him.

So it frustrates me that certain people (namely those on the IMDb forums) seem to feel that Scorsese is selling out. Scorsese bought the rights to the novel Hugo was originally based on a few years ago. I highly doubt he would personally buy the rights to a novel that he didn’t care much for. I’m certain that, no matter how the film turns out, I do believe that Scorsese was passionate about the project and was not just making it to finance his other more serious an adult films.

Who said family films can’t be quality films? I’m not saying that I’m sure Hugo will be a wonderful film, considering I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but I find Scorsese undeserving of these criticisms.

Because he is Martin Scorsese, after all. Widely regarded as one of the greatest directors of all time. An Academy Award winning director with seven other nominations to his name. He can make whatever he wants at this point and still be considered one of the very best.

Here is the Hugo trailer:

In defense of blockbusters

I fell in love with Jurassic Park at a very young age and have seen it multiple times since.

Steven Spielberg introduced me to cinema in all its thundering, blockbuster glory. I can’t ever see how that is a bad thing. I grew to love Merchant-Ivory productions, anyway.

Every time a smaller, quieter film arrive in some art house theater, a critic would inevitably point it out as the superior, more intelligence preference, in contrast to those loud blockbusters that Hollywood shamelessly cranks out every summer. Which, frankly, is an insult to a genre that put the film industry on the map and is enjoyed by millions of of people around the world.

Knowing that I am an opinionated individual who consciously, unconsciously, and subconsciously stray from the mainstream, my father always warned me that, if something was beloved by millions, there must be a reason. And that reason is not merely because I’m smart and therefore, have better taste, and they are stupid, and thus they blow off their hard-earned money on Michael Bay-induced explosions and misogyny. That’s not how the world works. Understanding the concept of subjectivity is a bitter and painful process, but a process that must be reckoned with.

Which brings me to the unusual critical reverence of these smaller, quieter, maturer, more intelligent films that seems to bring out the very best of the cinematic experience. There are many of these films every year that show at film festivals around the world and the one that happens to land on a particular radar is praised as a wonderful rarity that should be cherished by anyone who knows anything about anything.

The problem is, there are almost as many small, quiet films as there are big, loud ones. It’s whether or not one is willing to look for them. Some are good, some are bad. That’s how most categories function. For every Junebug, there will be a Transformers, whether anyone likes it or not. Woody Allen and and James Cameron must peacefully coexist in a theater near you.

This brings me to the collected awe when an intelligent, well-made blockbuster hits theaters.

The summer of 2010 brought us Christopher Nolan’s imaginative mind-bender, Inception, raved by critics and audiences alike for being an entertaining film with some sort of blazing originality and intellectual merit.

But it’s not like smart summer blockbusters have never existed before Inception: Nolan’s previous (and much superior) tour-de-force, The Dark Knight, transcended the standards Spider-Man 2 set for the genre and perhaps, redefined the very foundation of the comic book movie.

What worries me the most is when teenagers talk about Inception like it’s the best thing since the invention of e-mail. Then I begin to wonder what kind of junk the film industry has been feeding these poor children that has led them to disregard the past century’s many submissions of intelligent, well-made, and original films and crown Inception as cinematic royalty. Not to say that I don’t like Inception, since I think I have made it very clear that I do, but because I wonder how limited young filmgoers often are.

The point of this post is that, I dearly hope, that filmgoers–especially young people–can be open-minded to all the many different kinds of films out there. I am tired of reading about the “dumb filmgoer” and the “mature filmgoer.” In the end, we have one thing common and that is, we love the movies, and genres and budgets should not be what divides us. May our tastes become seemingly eclectic, but truly reflect on who we are, instead of being cornered by silly preconceptions.