Martin Scorsese

Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Director

Best Director is a strange category, particularly because of its tenuous relationship to Best Picture. Does it refer to the best cohesive film, under the assumption that the director is responsible for overseeing nearly all aspects of how that film comes to be? Or does the award refer to a film’s most conspicuous control of visuals, tone, and style – the things that we most associate as evidence of a director’s guiding influence? The vague sense of what qualifies someone as worthy of honor in this category (we, of course, only assume what the director did by virtue of the finished product) is perfectly on display in one of this year’s most heated competitions: between Alfonso Cuarón’s enthralling real-time spectacle of a woman lost in orbit and Steve McQueen’s intricate, decade-long depiction of one man’s harrowing subjection. But let’s take a look at how the five nominees shake out, with my surprise predicted winner in red…

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Christian Bale;Jeremy Renner;Bradley Cooper

What makes a great director? Is it more about the technical visual achievement that we can see on screen? Is it about getting exceptional performances from the actors? For a great director, it’s both. For a Best Director of any given year, as so named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one or the other might do. This year, for instance, Alfonso Cuaron is the frontrunner for the Oscar, and his recognition is mostly based on the film being “an absolute technical marvel in every possible way,” as our own review from Kate Erbland puts it. Like James Cameron before him, Cuaron will be honored for work where the performances from the cast weren’t as much a priority as the performances from the camera and special effects. Yet also like Cameron, Cuaron has been paired with a Best Actress nomination for his leading lady. Sandra Bullock has won an Oscar in the past for her acting, but she still surprised many with her performance in Gravity. Do we have Cuaron to thank for that? It’s hard to tell. He’s never really gotten bad work from his actors before, but he’s certainly not thought of as an actor’s director in the way his four companions in the category are. This is his first instance of directing an Oscar nominated performance. Including this year’s additions, Martin Scorsese has 22 under his belt, David O. Russell has 11, Alexander Payne has 7 and Steve McQueen has 3 — of course, […]

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12 Years a Slave

The visuals of 12 Years a Slave are stunning, often unflinching, and this week we’ve invited cinematographer (and frequent Steve McQueen collaborator) Sean Bobbitt to explain how he challenged millions with his imagery. Plus, Geoff and I talk about The Wolf of Wall Street‘s capability to turn good people into quaalude-hungry maniacs and answer a hypothetical question about saving only one 2014 movie from destruction (by quaalude-hungry maniacs). You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. And, as always, if you like the show (or hate it with seething fervor), please help us out with a review. Download Episode #45 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Jupiter Ascending

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the wolf of wall street bottom line

The Wolf of Wall Street is a big, sprawling, tragi-comedy about very bad people doing very bad things. Some are legal and some aren’t, but they’re all guaranteed to offend someone somewhere. One viewer at the AMPAS screening in L.A. actually confronted director Martin Scorsese with a “Shame on you!” and a finger wag. Ornery octogenarians aside, the film has received a generally favorable response with praise for the film’s high energy and performances from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, and Matthew McConaughey. But in addition to the reviews, both positive and negative, there have also been a handful of specific (and occasionally accusatory) claims made against the movie and filmmakers that lack much in the way of critical thinking. For example, The Wolf of Wall Street…

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wows12

Martin Scorsese is one of the best directors to work for if you want an Oscar nomination for acting. Over the past 40 years, he has helped his stars earn a total of 20 nominations spread out over the performance categories, and you may be surprised to hear that half of those went to women. Yes, the filmmaker who has occasionally been accused of being a misogynist and who tends to make movies led by men (often undoubtedly misogynistic men), is pretty good at finding strong actresses for his leading ladies — or he’s good at making them appear to be very talented, whether they are or not. Margot Robbie, who plays the dynamic trophy wife of Leonardo DiCaprio’s scumbag stock broker in The Wolf of Wall Street, ought to be the next in line in this tradition, and yet she’s not being talked about for an Academy Award at all. Robbie’s performance in the movie is one of the standouts of the year for me, though I have to admit this is partly because I’d never heard of nor seen her before. The actress isn’t quite as out of nowhere as 12 Years a Slave breakout Lupita Nyong’o (pretty much a sure thing for the supporting actress win at this point), especially if you’re a fan of the Australian soap opera Neighbours or if you gave the American TV drama Pan Am a shot, but she is a fresh face in Hollywood, and between WoWS and About Time she’s […]

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Not Just You Murray

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. Like most filmmakers of his generation, Martin Scorsese went to film school (NYU in his case), and there he made a number of shorts during the course of his training and study. A few of these student films survive, including 1963′s What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?, which may be his earliest use of a narrator telling his life story in the first person. This is the structure he uses once again with his latest feature, The Wolf of Wall Street. But the protagonist of that 50-year-old 9-minute effort (which you can find all over YouTube) bears little similarity with the one Leonardo DiCaprio plays in the new movie. Scorsese’s following student film, 1964′s It’s Not Just You, Murray! (the young director clearly liked punctuated titles at the time), features a few more parallels and even seems like a template for a number of later works, including Goodfellas, Casino and now The Wolf of Wall Street. The fact that It’s Not Just You, Murray! is about gangsters aligns it more with the former two films. But I believe we’re supposed to think of The Wolf of Wall Street as a kind of gangster film — or at least a crime film, which is often the same thing. Where the early short and the very long new feature start off being alike […]

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review wolf of wall street

Common wisdom says that money can’t buy happiness, but common wisdom never spooned cocaine into a flexible young woman’s anus. Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) knows better than that, and he also knows that power, expensive things, drugs, women, and drugs inserted in women are all for the taking when you have money. He heads to Wall Street, and after a quick business lunch with a mentor (Matthew McConaughey) he sets about building an investment firm complete with a team of driven, egotistical but slavish pricks shaped in his own image. His best and brightest employee is Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), and together they build an empire built on penny stock commissions, ersatz testosterone, and the broken dreams of lower to middle class Americans. Despite affectations of friendship, simulations of love, and words of confidence from the man’s own mouth, Belfort cares for no one but himself. His climb to the top (or just as correct, to the bottom) comes with hundreds of willing and thousands of unknowing Sherpas, but only he knows it’s a one-man venture. Welcome to one of the year’s best comedies. Welcome to Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street.

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cc gangs of new york

Gangs of New York was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and yet, I still can’t shake the feeling that Martin Scorsese‘s revenge epic has been overlooked. With a filmograpyy as refined as Scorsese’s, a few gems are bound to go unnoticed, but even at the time of its release many were split by the film. It wasn’t a domestic box-office hit, scored a modest 75% on Rottentomatoes, and, from what I can recall, most people I knew weren’t a fan Scorsese’s impressionistic period piece. That’s a pity, because this fictional tale of Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeking revenge on the man who killed his father, Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), is one of Scorsese’s most thrilling and hypnotic films. Even if you found the acclaimed director’s untraditional approach to period distancing, you can’t dismiss it has one of the finest pieces of acting ever put on film courtesy of Day-Lewis. He was so magnificent in a supporting role that the Academy instead nominated him for best actor, but it’s well earned since he is Gangs of New York. Technically speaking the movie is stunning, from the sets to the editing to the you name it, but when Gangs of New York fans start talking, it’s Day-Lewis’ towering performance that usually dominates the conversation.

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The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug

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The Wolf of Wall Street

Perhaps you’ve heard by now that Martin Scorsese‘s highly anticipated The Wolf of Wall Street is (finally) set to hit theaters on Christmas Day after persistent chatter that the film could be pushed all the way until sometime next year, making it the most gaudy and bonkers gift most of us are likely to recieve this holiday season. But the film’s official new release date also comes with word on the film’s runtime – an intersting bit of trivia, considering its delays were reportedly rooted in the studio’s need for Scorsese to chop down its original 180-minute cut – that now clocks in at a heady 165 minutes. The film’s fresh runtime is already getting plenty of buzz on the Internet – most people seem jazzed about so much madness and Leonardo DiCaprio dancing and toasting to enjoy, but a few people are already blowing raspberries about such length (what’s wrong with you?!), so we felt it was time to investigate how the true-life tale stacks up against both other Scorsese films and some other 2013 releases. The answer may surprise you (hint: it’s in our headline).

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Travis Bickle

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they compare Travis Bickle to Don Quixote and try to understand the many contradictions of Martin Scorsese’s angry masterpiece. In the #31 (tied with The Godfather: Part II) movie on the list, Robert De Niro shaves his head, fights with a mirror and tries to rights society’s wrongs with a bullet. But why is it one of the best movies of all time?

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dujour

I understand that not a lot of FSR readers are even marginal One Direction fans, let alone “directioners,” so bear with me this week as I offer this list to any who find their way here. Also, if you’re not into 1D and don’t plan to see their new documentary One Direction: This Is Us — even if you normally like Morgan Spurlock‘s films or are a Martin Scorsese completist (he has a cameo) or think it could be a good place to pick up chicks (and not just tweens, as my screening had a number of adult women fans in attendance) — you may discover something of actual value among the selection of films below. The easiest and even most logical way to go with this week’s hottest new movie is to just offer a basic list of the best concert films and tour docs of the past. But really there’s not much there to connect Gimme Shelter (nobody dies at any of the 1D shows) or Woodstock, even though the latter involved Scorsese. There are mostly music movies picked for this list, but they’re specifically relevant and they’re joined by other kinds of films.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

While the trailer for Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street painted a wild world of excess and debauchery, the new stills from the film are only showing a tame little piece of the bigger puzzle. Granted, you’ve still got Leonardo DiCaprio living it up, white guy stockbroker style, but the cash-flinging, womanizing, partying, and domination seen in the trailer (which our own Scott Beggs wrote about here) are replaced by images that depict the business side of the affair. Wall Street before wolfishness? But come on – you know as soon as DiCaprio finishes raising his glass on that classy-as-hell yacht, he’s about to either A) have sex with Margot Robbie B) fling cash at poor people C) snort coke? That’s what rich people do on yachts, right? or D) get into classy fisticuffs. It’s like it’s all just out of reach for us. Hopefully, more stills will appear soon that will better match the tone of the trailer so I can look as excited as Jonah Hill does in that second shot. Take a look:

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marion dougherty casting by

One of the best anecdotes in the documentary Casting By, which premieres tonight on HBO, relates the start of Warren Beatty’s screen career on a 1957 episode of Kraft Television Theatre. We’re told that like many young actors of the time he modeled himself way too much on Marlon Brando. Then we actually see a clip, and sure enough the future movie star looks and sounds like he’s doing a comical impersonation. Fortunately, within the next five years he would find his own comfortable style and manage to break out in Hollywood in order to become one of his generation’s finest. And apparently we have casting director Marion Dougherty to thank for giving him his first shot. There are a lot of first- and second-hand stories in the film about a lot of actors and actresses’ beginnings. And a lot of rare clips to prove just how terrible or terrific they really were. There’s Jon Voight‘s embarrassing performance on Naked City in 1963, which actually kind of foreshadows most of his later work (personally, I’ve always thought him to be one of the worst in the business). Jeff Bridges talks about how he witnessed audiences literally laughing at his tearful work in 1970′s Hall of Anger. Bette Midler thanks Dougherty for allowing her to hide her Jewishness and play a missionary in Hawaii and earn a paycheck that would finally get her to New York. And then there’s a claim that Michael Eisner, while President and CEO of Paramount Pictures, kept trying to […]

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79th Awards Rehearsals Saturday

Ellen DeGeneres has been named as the host of the 2014 Academy Awards, proving that if you want to be asked back to host for a second time, don’t title your big musical number “We Saw Your Boobs.” Got that, Seth MacFarlane? This will be Ellen’s own second time hosting the Oscars, the first time being in 2007, which if memory serves went off without a hitch. Granted, that was the year that Scorsese finally won his Best Director award for The Departed, and that didn’t have much to do with Ellen but the rest of the show was fun and not a disaster. So much so that she won the Emmy for “Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program” for her hosting abilities. This time around, I guarantee there will be at least one instance where the bubbly talk show host dances down the aisle and tries to get a dour-faced actor like Clint Eastwood to boogie down with her. It will happen. Just let it happen.

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Wolf of Wall Street

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a stockbroker.” Leonardo DiCaprio might as well be laying out that line in Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street, where he plays real-life multi-millionaire stockbroker/swindler Jordan Belfort. In the new trailer, gleeful immorality, fat stacks of cash and a self-aware voice-over from a man who wants too much all feel like a sequel to Goodfellas. Or maybe a modern adaptation of “Bonfire of the Vanities” (The Wolfe of Wall Street?). Or maybe the Gatsby For 2013 that’s really for 2013. Comparisons aside, it looks ridiculously cool. Belfort’s trick was artificially inflating a stock price before dumping the lion’s shares and screwing over clients. He made a crazy amount of money that fueled some very profound drug and control problems — and it looks like DiCaprio is having the time of his life here. It’s almost like Django loosened the lid for him, and Wolf has opened the pickle jar. Plus, the script comes from Terence Winter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire), and it’s about time he teamed with Scorsese. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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seduced and abandoned 01

James Toback and Alec Baldwin‘s fascinating documentary Seduced and Abandoned opens with a quote from Orson Welles, which attests that 95% of the time and energy expended making a film is actually devoted to securing funds rather than, you know, actually making the film. Toback and Baldwin aim to put this to the test here in a film detailing their visit to last year’s Cannes Film Festival to try and sell a Last Tango in Paris-esque jaunt starring Baldwin (ostensibly, in the Brando role) and Neve Campbell. Toback and Baldwin both attest that what we’re watching is neither a full-out documentary or narrative feature, but rather a crude amalgam of the two. What is certain, however, is that it’s a downright hilarious subversion of the act of filmmaking itself. Toback was smart to choose Baldwin as his brother in arms, because the 30 Rock star consistently steals the show here, trading witticisms and razor-sharp, self-deprecating jibes with the acclaimed director.

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benicio

What is Casting Couch? Today it’s headlined by news of three big actors working with three well-respected directors, but it also has news about new jobs for ladies like Keira Knightley, Reese Witherspoon, and the Dowager Countess. Benicio Del Toro is the talented and unique sort of actor who manages to be interesting to watch even when he’s in a project that isn’t that great. The dude was fun in Savages. Basically, you can set your watch to him. But pair him with a director who’s good at working with actors, and you’re likely to get pure magic. That’s why The Wrap’s news that Del Toro is in talks to join Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is basically the best thing that’s happened all day. Big actors often times give their best performances when working with Anderson, Del Toro is a big actor—it’s perfect. Also, he’s supposed to be playing a lawyer in the film, which, if you’ve seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you know can get pretty entertaining. Zang.

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Oscar Statue

You know how sometimes your favorite series will do a clip show, or how a popular radio broadcast might replay old segments that tie-in thematically in order to take a vacation? Well, I’m using the occasion of the Academy Awards to do pretty much the same thing. It’s sort of obvious that several of the directors featured in this column are also Oscar winners. It’s a veritable Hall of Fame. Doing an Oscar-themed entry is a little bizarre because several weeks feature a gold-owning alum anyway (so this isn’t a complete list of the Best Directors featured on 6 Filmmaking Tips), but it’s still worth packaging their advice as a kind of collective knowledge set held by people who have statues on their mantel. Which means, depressingly, an excerpt from our most popular entry won’t be featured here. Not to mention others like Kubrick, Cronenberg or PTA. Fortunately, there are some truly immense talents who have hoisted Oscar on high even if some towering talents never had that particular honor. So here are some filmmaking tips (for fans and filmmakers alike) from an incredibly elite club of Best Director winners.

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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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