Rent Free – A Martin Scorsese Story

It has been three years since the benign opinion heard around the world.

“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

~ Martin Scorsese on the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel and its rambunctious online fanbase has been knocked out and down for the count ever since. Scorsese still owns so much real estate in their heads in 2022. Ever since these comments, they want to be taken seriously just as their movies continue to get worse and look like the worst amusement park in the area. Since that fateful day on October 4th, 2019, we have been blessed with many unhinged takes and think-pieces from Twitter users and professional columnists. I wanted to take valuable time to break down the summation of what we have been dealing with for three years. 

Introducing: “Martin Scorsese: rinse and repeat self-indulgence”, written by Sean Egan of The Critic.

“The result is a debasing of his talent: new Scorsese films are routinely an hour too long. The truth, though, is that his directorial talent has never been as great as occasional masterpieces like Goodfellas (1990) tricked us into believing it was.”

I don’t appreciate that someone like Sean Egan likes Goodfellas. This complaint is a broken record. Runtime, runtime, runtime. As James Cameorn said in a recent interview, go take a fucking piss if you have to. While almost every film released nowadays has a long runtime that is noticeable, Scorsese films are so tight and economical that you are just along for the ride.

Taxi Driver made Scorsese’s name in 1976, but lacks momentum or moral, relying for its gritty power on the shock value of Jodie Foster’s child-prostitute character and on it constituting by simple happenstance a snapshot of a Big Apple that then seemed on an unstoppable ride to dystopia.”

This feels like someone who didn’t watch Taxi Driver and instead went off of a Gen Z influencer’s ten tweet thread about the problematic nature of the film. If Travis Bickle’s arch isn’t an unstoppable ride to dystopia, then what is?

New York, New York (1977) is curiously soap opera-like if reasonably entertaining

This guy thinks Mean Streets is poorly directed but enjoys watching New York, New York, which I am fond of but is maybe his least enjoyable film to watch? I can’t help but admire Mr. Egan. His thoughts on Raging Bull are just more of the greatest hits. I’m sorry Jake LaMotta never puts down his gloves and says, “wait a second, your name is SUGAR RAY?!?!” like he’s Ant-Man. (Marvel has yet to get sick of that joke)

It turns out The King of Comedy, After Hours, and Goodfellas get the Egan stamp of approval, which again is concerning. They’re only three of my thirty favorite movies ever. After his 1990 masterpiece, however, it all goes downhill for Scorsese according to the writer who has Avengers: Endgame as his favorite film on Letterboxd.

“Since then, though, Scorsese has lazily settled on Mafia-Picture Director as a main calling.”

Did you not go to school for counting? I’ll fill it in for you. He’s done two since then, Casino and The Irishman, (I’ll give you The Departed but I don’t count it). He’s directed nearly fifteen feature films following Goodfellas. It really is like the closing lines of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the legend has become the real story behind Scorsese’s variety of films. I try not to get too defensive about this fallacy. Let’s pretend this notion is actually true and he’s only directed films in crime underworld, it would still be way more interesting than the shit that this guy consumes.

Casino (1995) and The Irishman (2019) contain broadly the same milieu, set pieces and morality lessons. Scorsese is simply moving the furniture around. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that he, in another act of laziness, uses the same actors over and over: seeing Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel in a Scorsese mobster movie for the umpteenth time makes for a bizarre feeling of déjà vu-cum-musical chairs.”

There’s nothing worse than when Casino is viewed as the direct-to-video sequel to Goodfellas. Even when spoken neutrally about it, I wish the ‘95 film could ever get its due without having the title Goodfellas mentioned. The two films heavily vary in visual style. Goodfellas is more contained as a personal tale of rags to riches while Casino is going for something larger about the state of capitalism in America. Why do people dumb themselves down so much for Scorsese, one of the smartest directors to ever live? I know people aren’t this dumb. Or are you all way too caught up in the fact that they share similar casts and feature narration thus causing your brain to shut down?

The Irishman and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) are achingly slow, the momentum of what could be great narratives dragged down by longueurs just begging for the application of a brave editor’s scissors.”

The Irishman is slow” takes, fine, I give up that fight (but many people I see online lost their film buff badge over their awful takes on the film three years ago), but The Wolf of Wall Street is too slow now? I’m becoming more convinced this piece is all a bit.

“Whisper it lightly, but Scorsese doesn’t really believe in cinema. He has consistently refused to work within the art form’s natural parameters, whether it be by using voiceovers…or by whimsically breaking the fourth wall”

And…there’s the money shot. I read these previous takes in my sleep, but this was the new mountain that needed to be climbed. Someone who would painstakingly lay the groundwork for Scorsese being a detriment to the art of cinema is probably going to invoke the artistic value of a certain long running franchise, aren’t they?

“Scorsese recently slammed the Marvel Cinematic Universe, asserting that its component films are sensationalist and empty. In fact, thoughtfulness and rationalism suffuse every single one of them. In Captain America: Civil War, the vigilante nature of superheroes and costumed crime fighters is subject to profound questioning.”

I want “In Captain America: Civil War, the vigilante nature of superheroes and costumed crime fighters is subject to profound questioning.” to be memefied. Thank you Sean Egan for being a real king with this piece. I can see the light now. He watched Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ and, out loud, asked, “where is the profound questioning?” I bet you he was so upset he turned off the T.V halfway through each and stormed out of his apartment.

The level of vitriol towards Martin Scorsese is borderline concerning. Just watch any interview with him. He’s a sweet and gentle old man who loves cinema as art and not commercial property. I think because of the kinds of films he’s most famous for and the demographic of people who are most passionate about them, his naysayers think he is this toxic gatekeeper filled with aggressive male rage. In an age of sellouts and the real mafia of this story, intellectual property, he continues to preserve classic and international cinema. You know what, though, I get how the game is played. A nuanced story about Scorsese’s contribution to saving lost films Michael Powell doesn’t draw the same amount of clicks as “Despite claims from old cretin Martin Scorsese, Thor: Love and Thunder is great art.”

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