The Color of Money
The Color of Money served as my formal introduction to the work of Martin Scorsese -- though I was hardly aware of that when I first saw this serpentine 1986 tale, about an aging pool hustler’s slippery mentorship of a brash young upstart, as a thirteen-year-old boy awake far past his bedtime. Long before I knew what a “Scorsese film” was, before I knew exactly what a director’s job entailed, before I even bothered to glance at the small print on a movie poster, I knew that what I was watching was different in a way that I couldn’t yet articulate. And that old dude with the mustache was pretty badass.
It seems odd to affix the “under-appreciated” label to a film that received four Oscar nominations, but The Color of Money has always gotten short thrift from Scorsese acolytes, many of whom dismiss the film, his first overtly “mainstream” release, as a commercial compromise fashioned mainly as a showcase for its star, Paul Newman. (Newman won a 1987 Oscar, his first in seven tries, for his portrayal of the aforementioned old dude, “Fast Eddie” Felson.) While it most certainly qualified as a “one for them” project for Scorsese -- he agreed to make it in part to help secure backing for his passion project, The Last Temptation of Christ -- and while it lacked the violence and viscera of more celebrated works like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, it still ranks among the best movies of the ‘80s, “mainstream” or otherwise.
Hollywood.com Movies Editor
Gangs of New York
When most people think of Scorsese, they think of his modern crime classics – gritty, raw, exposed nerve films with larger than life anti-heroes wrapped up in the wrong side of the law. My favorite is his period crime classic; his gritty, raw, exposed nerve film with larger than life anti-heroes wrapped up in the wrong side of the law set during the civil war. Gangs of New York. Not only was this Scorsese in top form, doing everything he does best, but this time around he did it while shining a light on an oft-neglected period in our history – the kind they don’t teach in school. More importantly, this is the film Scorsese dug up Daniel Day-Lewis for, bringing him back to us, even if on a very limited basis nowadays. Day-Lewis + DiCaprio + Neeson = more bada**es than you can handle.
-C. Robert Cargill
You can read Cargill's weekly Counterpoint column every Thursday
Not only is The Aviator my favorite Martin Scorsese film due to its deft blend of comedy and history, it also happens to be my favorite fantasy film of the last decade. Oh, sure, it's a biopic based on the real life of the world's most notorious OCD suffering billionaire, but the marriage of Howard Hughes' improbable life and legacy with Scorsese's most complicated film to date makes for one hell of a seductive glimpse into a now-extinct era of Hollywood. Even though it's sourcing real people, places, and events, Scorsese's infatuation with the world in orbit of the eccentric tycoon is arguably the most romantic work he's ever done.
I've no doubt that Scorsese likes each and every story he's captured on the big screen, but nothing matches his love for the oddly vivacious nightlife of Hollywood's elite, the nuance of post-WWII politics, and the quest to change not only the film industry, but the entire world. Hughes' level of passion for all the world had to offer burns with such intensity that not only did it destroy him, but such drive come across as positively antiquated now. Except as seen through the lens of Scorsese, however, whose infectious passion for the material drove a cast (a career high for DiCaprio, I think) and crew (Robert Richardson's cinematography is lush beyond belief) to deliver the best film of 2004.
- Peter Hall
You can read Peter Hall's Sci-Fi column, MindFood, every Tuesday
My favorite Scorsese is a weird choice, but I do believe the master filmmaker would agree that a movie fan must go with what hits them in a personal way. So while my pick might not be the rock-solid classic on par with Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, or Goodfellas -- I still think it's pretty special.
My favorite Scorsese film is the dark, bizarre, and fascinating 1985 comedy After Hours, in which a hapless Griffin Dunne plays Alice, with one of New York's crazier Soho neighborhoods acting as his inescapable rabbit hole. The poor schlub heads downtown just to meet up with a pretty girl (Rosanna Arquette), but that plan goes sour real fast, which leads to a circuitous series of painful misadventures.
It seems pretty clear that Scorsese is having some fun with Joseph Minion's comically torturous story, some of the master's trademark style is (of course) present around most corners, the supporting cast is a huge and eclectic one, and (even though it's a comedy), After Hours actually does have a little something to say about A) the way we treat each other, and B) why it's sometimes better to be grateful for what you have ... and simply spend a night at home.
Scott is a movie beast and Managing Editor of Cinematical.com
When you’re considering the work of Martin Scorsese the first film that jumps out for most people is Raging Bull. Deservedly so, for Raging Bull is the luminary director’s most intimate work. Set in a smoky black and white, infused with a subtlety it doesn’t get nearly enough credit for, the shot of a boxer’s hands soaked in ice, the menacing Jake La Motta snarling and stalking, ready to dispatch another hapless opponent.
Beaten out at the box office in 1980 by films like Smokey and the Bandit II, time has shown us that it was Raging Bull that featured the most potent De Niro – Scorsese combo. It was De Niro’s second (and last) Academy Award. It was Martin Scorsese’s first nomination for Best Director, the film that set Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, and The Aviator in motion.
De Niro’s Jake La Motta is the best and worst of us all. Brimming with potential but beset by demons, angry and suspicious of a world that is indeed trying to take advantage of him, his choices are a young man’s choices, his bad beats are an old man’s burden. Jake works with the mob only after trying to stand on his own two feet, and only as a last resort. But he’s still made to pay for his sins, punished for his inability to trust. Raging Bull represents the awful bargain you’re forced into making and in Jake’s compromise we see the seeds of his eventual defeat sewn.Still, for just a moment, reconsider De Niro’s La Motta right before he enters the ring. He’s bouncing on his toes, practicing his jab, ready to unleash his fury upon the world. His cheating wife isn’t there, his scheming brother is out of his mind, and the man across from him doesn’t really exist. It’s just Jake fighting himself; seeking to inflict as much damage as possible.
Laremy Legel is the lead critic and senior producer for Film.com. You also can read Laremy Legel's Movie Musings right here every Friday