In honor of his first Best Director win, this week's Movie Night is all about Scorsese. There are additional, equally worthy titles beyond the ones listed here (see also: Casino), and some you should avoid, such as Gangs of New York, but this will get you started. So check these out, and yes, I'm talkin' to you.
"As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster," says Henry Hill, the young Irish-Italian Broolynite at the center of this crime drama, which is based on a true story. Henry (Ray Liotta) and his two friends Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) climb their way up the mobster ladder, beginning with robbery and eventually working their way to violent crime. The film earned Scorsese kudos all around for his detailed character work, deft ability to create a specific mood, and sharp depiction of the criminal mind.
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If all you know of Taxi Driver is Travis Bickle's famous line "You talkin' to me?" then a viewing of this classic — possibly Scorsese's best work — is long overdue. DeNiro plays Bickle, whose distaste for urban detritus is slowly eating away at his sanity in a city too large for anyone to notice. Between botched dates and his attempt to rescue a young prostitute (wises-beyond-her years Jodie Foster), DeNiro puts forth a performance that is both thoughtful and tensely thrilling. Oh, and that mirror scene? It was supposedly ad-libbed entirely by DeNiro.
The Last Waltz
Believe it or not, this chronicle of The Band's self-imposed retirement and final concert was directed by Scorsese, proving he's just as adept at rockumentaries as well as gangster flicks. To my mind, The Last Waltz is one of the greatest rock docs ever made and enjoyable even if you aren't a fan of The Band. The concert features performances from a pantheon of artists who inspired the group, from Bob Dylan and Van Morrison to Neil Diamond and Muddy Waters. There's also quite a bit of backstage banter, which is alternately admirable and embarrassing enough to have provided some fodder for the parodies in This is Spinal Tap.