Happy Birthday, Marty

This week marked Martin Scorsese’s 69th birthday; next week, his 22nd feature film and first 3-D movie, Hugo, will open for the holiday movie season. If 22 doesn’t seem like a lot of films for someone who is generally considered Hollywood’s most accomplished director, it’s because this tally does not include his documentaries, shorts, or other projects as a hands-on producer. Fortunately for Scorsese fans, there are no signs that he plans to retire. According to the IMDB, he has three films in production as either producer or director, including the much-anticipated Sinatra, plus nine projects in development.


            A few years back, Scorsese ordered several movies from Facets released on our own DVD Label. When my marketing cohorts and I learned this from customer service, we put together an additional package of our best releases, including the documentary series Private Century, and sent it to him on our own. It was our way of giving back to an artist who has dedicated his life to promoting film as art form via his own work as a director, his role as a film historian, and his help in the preservation of classic films. To say that Scorsese is highly regarded around Facets is an understatement. Staff members aren’t the only cinephiles who revere Scorsese: The director’s films are regularly checked out of Rentals. For the curious, the top Scorsese rentals are:  Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed, Gangs of New York, After Hours, and The King of Comedy.
            To celebrate the big man’s birthday, I asked our dedicated staff  to recommend one or two Scorsese films to our patrons. I wanted everyone’s favorite Scorsese movie, that is, one they felt a personal connection to, not necessarily the director’s best. Personally, I prefer recommendations that come from the heart or gut.  All recommendations are available at Facets Rentals, where you can actually come into the store and  talk movies with the staff. What a concept!
1. Susan Doll (Marketing): “Over the summer, I saw a new 35mm print of The Last Waltz at the Music Box. Seeing it on the big screen reminded me that the best rockumentaries are about preserving the myth of the band as a prologue to establishing its legacy. (In this case, it was literally The Band.) This is not done through interviews with experts, gushing testimonials from drunken fans, or filming the group in 3-D (see U2 3D, or rather, don’t see it). It’s done through stellar camerawork and graceful editing from a director who understands the power of basic film techniques to enhance his subject.”
2. Phil Morehart (Rentals): “One of my favorite Scorsese films is one that he produced and narrated: Val Lewton: Man in the Shadows. It’s one of many projects that he has lent his talents (or his name) to in order to educate folks about a segment of film history that has been overlooked. He’s the ultimate champion of film education.”
3. Brian Elza (Marketing): “Of all the movies that boast groundbreaking night-for-night cinematography, a sleazy saxophone score from Bernard Herrmann, an unlikable hero, an unreliable narrator, an ambiguous ending, and Cybill Shepherd being taken to a porno film on the first date, Taxi Driver is the best.”
4. Kathleen Beckman (Facets Children’s Programs): “I recommend King of Comedy, which is a brilliant commentary on fame and fortune, loneliness, and obsession, with a disturbing yet poetic climax. Also, there are stunning performances by all. I also suggest Goodfellas, primarily because of the edge-of-your-seat narrative, fantastic cinematography and art direction, and unforgettable characters–it’s a culmination of his talents. In my opinion, it’s his best film.”
5. Miguel Martinez (Rentals): Casino stands as Scorsese’s finest achievement in every sense of the word. His camera pans left, pauses, zooms in, zooms out, and shots dissolve into other shots. He even uses the great Robert Richardson (DP) as a jumping off point in his quest to tell a tale of revenge, sadness, hysteria, friendship, and retribution in an age of excess and violence. 
My favorite scene  is where Ginger (Sharon Stone) comes back to Ace (Robert De Niro), promising a new start. She sneaks in a conversation with her ex-pimp on the phone before Ace bursts in, demanding her love. He grabs Ginger and proceeds to drag her throughout the house. Scorsese’s camera glides along the floor (homage to The Shining) as we see the love on his face turn into anger as he witnesses his wife becoming a junkie. This segment is shot all in one take. Scorsese adds depth to the scene by adding a few inserts as they argue inside of her closet. As they leave, Scorsese continues the one take tracking shot by following Ginger as she angrily leaves the house. The tracking shot ends as Ace, having just kicked out his wife, walks past the camera and into the darkness.”
Miguel’s own tribute to Martin Scorsese can be seen in the Mash-Up below.

It’s always enlightening to watch the work of an acclaimed director just before his latest release, so I hope these suggestions inspire all of you to do your own Martin Scorsese retrospective in the comfort of your living room. We are also curious about everyone else’s favorite Scorsese flick, and we wonder if your choices will run toward his classics from the 1960s and 1970s, or his later, more commercial work. Please add a comment below to let us know your favorite and why.            –Susan Doll
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2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Marty

  1. My personal top 5:<br /><br />5. Casino<br />4. Shutter Island<br />3. Taxi Driver<br />2. Raging Bull<br />1. Goodfellas

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