Monday, February 5, 2007

Baaad movie, Baaad director. Awards are next

"The Departed" is well-named. I left the theatre about three quarters of the way through.

"So who kills whom?" I asked movie maven friends a month later. "Everybody," was the simple answer. Sort of 'splains why I left.

What can't be explained is why anyone in his right mind continues to think of the film's director, Martin Scorsese, as anything more than a very good craftsman of very bad junk.

A few months ago, I rented "The Aviator," Scorsese's 2004 biopic of Howard Hughes. Like "The Departed," I left it before it left me. Marvelous, spectacular, beautifully managed, boring pointless drek.

There is no question that Mr. Scorsese can set up a shot, make a cut, blow up a building, cut off a guy's hand or head. He just has trouble telling a story about people we can care about for longer than 40 minutes.

"Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" were two of the director's very best films, both early and both starring Robert De Niro. Yes, both had the director's signature violence. But Taxi Driver was almost iconic in its presentation of the monstrously disaffected Travis Bickle. "You talkin' to me?" And Mr. De Niro's fat and skinny pugilist, stand-up comedian, Jake laMotta was an unforgettable sad thug.

Similarly, "The King of Comedy," again with De Niro, this time as the hapless would-be comedian utterly devoid of talent and social skills, Rupert Pupkin, has become an all-time cult favorite - as it should be.

But the string of ultra-violent Tarantino-esque freak shows that include "Goodfellas," "Casino," and "Gangs of New York" is a hideous testament to a talent gone mad, a talent gone astray and how much money Hollywood can happily spend on nothing.

"The Departed," like so many of Martin Scorsese's movies is all about "Mine is bigger than yours, and if I can't win, I'll just cut yours off - as graphically as possible, of course." Please tell me which character you could possible fret about in this film. There isn't one. After they've all taken turns screaming "Fuck you," and shooting each other, you realize the carousel is simply coming round again.

The Associated press release this morning described him as "the self-deprecating Scorsese." Huh? Have you ever seen a man more desperate to win the prize? Well, he can stop worrying. He will win the Oscar this year, when Stephen Frears should win it for "The Queen" and when Afonso Cuaron wasn't even nominated for "Children of Men."

Heck, maybe there will be some small Hollywood delight and Clint will win it for "Letters from Iwo Jima." Let's keep our pistols crossed.