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Non-Review Review: The Irishman

“Time goes by so fast,” Frank Sheeran reflects to a young nurse late in the movie. He adds, “You’ll understand when you get there.”

Of course, the nurse doesn’t quite understand the passage of time in the way that Frank does. “You’re young,” he explains. “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.” In contrast, Frank Sheeran’s entire life seems to be left behind him. When The Irishman introduces the audience to its central character, he is already well past his prime. He is resting in a retirement community. He begins to narrate his story through internal monologue, but then decides to directly address the camera. After all, there is nobody left who might be exposed or shamed by his reminiscences. They are all long gone.

The end is DeNiro.

The audience really feels the passage of time in The Irishman. It is revealing that Frank’s most prized possession appears to be his watch. The watch itself changes as Frank’s situation does, becoming more ostentatious has his stock rises, but there is always a watch on the bedside table and it is always fixed first thing every morning. Even more than the ring that signifies his acceptance into the underground criminal fraternity, Frank holds tight to that watch. It measures the seconds that make up the minutes, the minutes that make up the hours, the hours that make up a life.

It is a critical cliché to praise a long film by saying that it doesn’t feel long, that the time spent watching a story unfold “flies by.” In some cases, that is true. Of this year’s hyper-extended offerings, both Avengers: Endgame and Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood move breezily enough that they never feel their length. In contrast, The Irishman does feel every minute of its three-and-a-half hour runtime. That’s part of the movie’s power. By the time that the audience has reached that conversation between Frank and his nurse, they have some small understanding of what he is saying. They have lived that life with him.

Get Hoffa his case.

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Non-Review Review: Casino

You didn’t see the scam? You didn’t see what was goin’ on?

Well, there’s no way to determine that, Sam.

Yes, there is. An infallible way! They won!

Sam explains how Las Vegas works to Ward

If you ask a bunch of people to name their favourite Scorsese film, you’ll get a bunch of different answers. Some will go for his iconic gangster tale, Goodfellas. Others will go for the superb drama of Raging Bull. Some might even opt for the unforgettable Taxi Driver. I, on the other hand, am probably the only guy in the room who is going to opt for Casino. Conventional wisdom would argue that Casino is merely a bloated and over-loaded attempt to re-tread ground Scorsese already covered in Goodfellas, but I can’t bring myself to agree with that. While Goodfellas feels like a personal tale of greed and corruption, and the implosion that inevitably followed, there’s something grander to Casino. Offering the social history of Las Vegas, the rise and fall of the mob’s empire, it feels like large-scale tragedy. There’s just such an impressively epic scale to Scorsese’s film that I can’t help but admire it.

No dice...

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Start Spreadin’ the News…

It appears that Martin Scorsese’s on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again, on-again biopic of Frank Sinatra is back on again. I’ve been following the project during it’s languished history in, if not development hell, at least development limbo.

To be honest, I was most excited about the Robert deNiro iteration of the project. That supporting cast sounded fantastic. Now it’s been confirmed, how do I feel? Well, good, to be honest.
It’s odd that the end of a director’s career would show more breadth than the early years, but the last decade has seen an astonishing broadening of Scrocese’s pallete. We’ve had a Hollywood biopic (The Aviator), a historical epic (Gangs of New York), spiritual drama (Silence), a conventional thriller (Shutter Island) and even an old-style mob yarn (The Departed). Sure he’s experimented before – the seemingly anomolous Age of Innocence now makes sense as a precursor to Gangs of New York, The Doors still stands out as an odd choice in his career – but that string of wildly-variable-in-genre films seems unprecedented. Even the most conventional choice in that lineup (The Departed) seems oddly out of sync with his early mob exploits (Goodfellas, Casino). So, why is this relevant?

After so much variety, I look forward to a bit of vintage Scorsese. A biography of a Los Vegas lounge singer with ties to the mob seems to be relatively familiar ground. This doesn’t mean I’m writing off any of his impressive slate of Oscar-buzz-generating releases already on the horizon – the release of any Scorsese film is cause to celebrate – but this film has been discussed and talked about for so long that it’s hard not to especially anticipate it. Sure, his last “dream project” was Gangs of New York that met with a somewhat muted critical reception, but I felt the director’s love with the material in every frame.

The casting rumours have begun again with many media outlets suggesting Johnny Depp or Leonardo diCarpio. I’m happy with either – I trust Scorcese on this. Both are incredibly competent actors who would do the material proud. I think diCaprio has done his best work with Scorsese – though he did deserve an Oscar nod for Revolutionary Road – and I think that Depp and Scorsese would make a fantastic team. Hell, I’d even trust the director with John Travolta.

It is Scorsese’s dream project after all. I’m just tagging along for the ride.