Thursday, February 15, 2007
Poor Martin Scorcese. He's never won an Oscar for direction, and has been nominated a fifth time this year for The Departed. He was nominated for the masterpiece Raging Bull but that year's award went to the deservedly forgotten Ordinary People. The magnificent The Aviator was deemed unworthy in comparison to Clint Eastwood's euthanasia melodrama Million Dollar Baby. I have a feeling Clint might take the directing Oscar again this year, leaving Scorcese a perennially-nominated bridesmaid. A sad Susan Lucci. Frankly The Departed doesn't deserve to win a directing award, but neither did last year's Crash.
I like Scorcese's moral ambiguity and his interest in violence, the will to power, and mysticism. His films often explore the relationship between suffering and personal renewal, making them the cinematic equivalent of the Issenheim Retable. This time the gangsters are Boston Irish instead of New York/New Jersey Italians. Nicholson stands in for DeNiro. Two moles on opposing sides of the thin blue line try to find each other while trying to find themselves.
The Departed is a frenetic cartoon with a ludicrous plot, and like Scorcese's Cape Fear it's a zippy remake of an earlier film. The cast chews scenery at an alarming rate while serving up a big juicy buffet of ham, and it's a delight to watch them all try to outdo each other. I found it an exhilarating ride for 45 minutes but more fizzle than sizzle after that. Still, a flawed Scorcese is great fun, and is superior by leaps and bounds when compared to most of the tiresome dreck coming out of Hollywood. The Departed isn't as interesting as Bringing Out the Dead or as well-crafted as Kundun--two films which were seen by three or four dozen people, and which were nominated for nothing, and The Age of Innocence is far superior to his latest effort. But Marty's got more masterpieces in him, so long as he keeps plugging away. I'd rather he didn't win for this one, but will cheer if he finally gets the nod.