Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Martin Scorsese – Will Oscar right past wrongs?

Martin Scorsese – Will Oscar right past wrongs?

It is hard to believe that one of the greatest directors of our time has never won the best director academy award (more popularly known as the Oscars). This year he has been nominated for a record sixth time. If he fails to win it this time as well it would make him the most nominated director without winning an Oscar. But then again, such acclaimed directors like Alfred Hitchcock (5 nominations), Robert Altman (5), Stanley Kubrick (4), Federico Fellini (4), Ingmar Bergman (3), David Lynch (3), George Lucas (2) have never won a best director Oscar before.

This time around Scorsese has been nominated for the movie ‘The Departed’, a remake of the hit Hong Kong crime thriller ‘Infernal Affairs’. The movie starring an all star cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin tells the age old story of cops and gangsters in Boston. One of the cops (DiCaprio) infiltrates the mob headed by Jack Nicholson. In the mean time the character played by Matt Damon infiltrates the Police Squad rising quickly through the ranks and even becoming a star officer, all the while reporting back to Jack Nicholson. What follows from then on is a game of cat and mouse with both infiltrators try to save their skin and also their cover with the whole thing culminating in a mind blowing climax.

Martin Scorsese went back to the very genre that made him such a legend in Hollywood, the gangster flick. His handling of the entire subject matter is with the kind of energy and vitality that made him a legend. He has extracted brilliant performance from all his actors in the film. His pacing of the narrative is excellent and has brilliantly added some great music which suits the situation to T.

Scorsese’s movies never won an award mainly because of its controversial subject and violent nature. His stories were always unconventional and his narrative realistic, maybe a bit too realistic for the academy member’s taste. The academy has always rooted for the underdog stories with a happy ending or inspirational true life stories. Scorsese’s heroes are mainly flawed, suffering from one form of guilt or other and definitely not guys whom you would invite over to your house for a family dinner.

Then there is the peculiar fact that he has the unfortunate knack of losing to actor turned directors. He has lost so far to Robert Redford, Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood. In the coming years he will have competition from some one he knows only too well. Robert De Niro, an actor who has collaborated with many of Scorsese’s movies, is not nominated this time for ‘The Good Shepherd'. It is to be remembered that most of De Niro’s memorable performances has been in Scorsese’s movies. From ‘The Taxi Driver’ to the ‘Goodfellas’. Who can forget De Niro’s “You talking to me” line from “Taxi Driver”. But lurking in the back is the threat Clint Eastwood for his movie “Letters From Iwo Jima”.

Another major issue with Scorsese is his apparent reluctance to do the necessary lobbying that is so essential to winning the Oscars. The academy members like the nominees to show that they care for the award. They want these guys to really sweat it out for the award. Here the shy and reluctant New Yorker is visibly uncomfortable to talk about himself. Add to all this is the fact that “The Departed” does not cut back on the violence front and you just wonder if he would lose the coveted prize this time as well.

The biggest hope for Scorsese however is the Director’s Guild award he has won recently. Only six times in 54 years has a winner at the DGA not won the Oscar for Best Director. So it would be the humongous surprise if he does not win it on February 25th. Above all there is the Academy’s tendency to right past wrongs and give the award to somebody whose previous better performances they had ignored. If Scorsese does not win it this time then he might give up on ever winning the award and start believing in stuff like destiny and fate.

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