The Films of Martin Scorsese

Shutter Island has received some mixed reviews from critics and friends who have seen it, but it has still been generating blockbuster numbers at the box office. Martin Scorsese fans are delighted to see another cinematic tale created by the master auteur.  His films have depicted violence like no other, yet they have also portrayed incredibly nuanced characters in raw tales exploring his heritage, as a New Yorker, as an Italian American, and as a Catholic. He finally won the Academy Award for Best Director for The Departed.

Let's take a look at his filmography.  Scorsese has made documentaries, short films, and music videos, but I'll just look as some of the feature length movies on his resume.

Mean Streets - Martin Scorsese made his first film with actor Robert DeNiro about a wiseguy from Little Italy in New York. Edgy and poignant, it's one of Scorsese's best.

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Don't be confused by the TV adaptation.  The hit sitcom starring Linda Lavin, Polly Holliday, Beth Howland, Philip McKeon, and Vic Tayback (who also played Mel the diner owner in the film) was fun, but the movie version was had drama and romance, with great performances by Ellen Burstyn, Harvey Keitel, Diane Ladd, and others.

Taxi Driver - One of Scrosese's all-time classics, the story follows a disturbed Vietnam War veteran played brilliantly by Robert DeNiro, trying to save an underage prostitute, in a groundbreaking role by one of my favorite actresses Jodie Foster.

Raging Bull - Scorsese works with DeNiro again in another classic, this time following the life of a boxer.  Whereas other boxing movies are often cliched and hokey, this one is gritty and realistic.  Hey, I love the Rocky movies, but Raging Bull is a character study like no other.

King of Comedy - Robert DeNiro plays a stand-up comic who stalks his hero, a late night comedy host, played impressively by Jerry Lewis. 

After Hours - This is one of Scorsese's underrated films, but it's a gripping bit of cinema about an average guy who has the most horrible night imaginable.  The cast, as usual in a Scorsese film, is stellar -- Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, and others.

The Color of Money - Scorsese tackles a sequel, but this follow-up to The Hustler (the lengendary movie with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason) is a movie that stands on its own. Newman reprises his role as Fast Eddie Felson, but now he's the veteran pool player and Tom Cruise is the young protege.

The Last Temptation of Christ - I have mixed feelings about this movie.  It has moments of brilliance and it is completely misunderstood by many of the film's critics who, in my opinion, miss the whole point of the narrative, but at the same time the movie has many serious storytelling flaws.  My primary fault with the film is the portrayal of Jesus by Willem Dafoe -- he is depicted as such a weak character, I just couldn't see anyone following this guy.

New York Stories - This was a cool experiment -- three short films set in the Big Apple, directed by Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese.  Scorsese's segment, written by Richard Price, is titled "Life Lessons" and stars Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette.

GoodFellas - Ladies and gentlemen, this is arguably Martin Scorsese's masterpiece.  One of the iconic gangster movies of all time, it stars Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, and many others.

Cape Fear - Scorsese tackles a remake, and does a fine job.  This thriller is one of the best, with Robert DeNiro as the crazed, convicted rapist out for revenge, with an awesome cast that includes Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, and even Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck who starred in the original.

The Age of Innocence - While Scorsese's period films aren't my favorites compared to his more contemporary flicks, they are still very good movies.  This one stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder.

Casino - Scorsese gives us another gangster film and it's brilliant, but the extreme violence in this one made even me squeamish.  Scorsese is anything but subtle. His realistic depiction of brutality, while admirable in a society that continues to glorify violence, is hard to watch.

Kundun - A biopic about the Dalai Lama might seem out of place among the rest of Scorsese's motion pictures, but it's a well-made movie that you should check out if you haven't already.

Bringing Out the Dead - Nicolas Cage stars as a paramedic in Hell's Kitchen. This movie isn't perfect but it has its great Scorsese moments.

Gangs of New York - A period gangster movie!  An amazing cast, as usual, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, John C. Reilly, Liam Neeson, and Henry Thomas.

The Aviator - Another biopic, this time with Leonardo DiCaprio as the young Howard Hughes.

The Departed - The movie that finally earned Scorsese an Oscar is worthy of the praise.  Check out this all-star cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and on and on.

Shutter Island - Leonard DiCaprio has become Scorsese's new favorite actor, and he stars in this adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel.  I still haven't seen it so I can't judge its merits or flaws.

That's an impressive list of movies.  Which one is your favorite?  He's still going strong, with a bunch of projects in the works, including a dramatization of the life of Frank Sinatra and documentaries about Teddy Roosevelt and Elia Kazan, among others. The best is probably still to come.

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