Robert here, with a new series on the filmmakers who've shaped the past ten years. We'll feature new directors who've lent their voice to the cinematic landscape as well as veterans. First up: Martin Scorsese
Number of Films: Six.
Modern Masterpieces: None.
Total Disasters: None
Better than you remember: Gangs of New York
Awards: 9 Oscars for his films (including 1 Best Director and 1 Best Picture)
Box Office: The Departed is his highest grossing at $132 million (though no film he directs makes as much as the A Shark Tale for which he lends his voice talents.)
Critical Consensus: High praise for all. Highest praise for No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
Favorite Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in three films.
Let's talk about:
Oscar. It seems pretty obvious that the great Martin Scorsese started off this decade with a clear goal for himself: win an Oscar. Can you blame him? The man was considered by many, America's greatest living director. If I were Martin Scorsese I'd have wanted an Oscar. Not only that, but I'd have been upset that at no time during three decades of masterpieces had the Academy seen fit to give me one. For Scorsese, things weren't looking promising. Coming off of two of his weakest pictures (sorry Kundun fans) it seemed as if he'd join the ranks of Kubrick and Hitchcock. Yes, Martin Scorsese was on his way to becoming one more symbol of how unfortunate The Oscars were.
Martin Scorsese's films during the past decade have been uneven but never uninteresting. And they've demonstrated that Scorsese the man is still committed to exploring the same topics he's always been (namely New York City and the minds of single, conflicted, often desperate men). It seems unfortunate to want to view them primarily through the prism of Oscar, but more than any other filmmaker, it's inevitable. This was Martin Scorsese's Oscar decade. First up, anything but a sure thing: Scorsese directed a period piece about the violent symbolic birth of New York starring that kid from Titanic we were still tired of hearing our little sisters swoon over and Daniel Day Lewis, who himself was coming off two of his weakest pictures (sorry Crucible fans). Gangs of New York ended up a little unfocused and took too much flack. It's surprisingly easy to watch (thanks primarily to Day Lewis) even if it failed to win a single Oscar.
Next attempt: a lavish biopic about one of Hollywood's most interesting characters. The Aviator was a biopic only as Scorsese could make one... big, exhuberant, unexpectedly dark. Howard Hughes easily fit into Scorsese's world of Travis Bickles, Henry Hills and Rupert Pupkins. The film also established Leonardo DiCaprio as the real deal and Scorsese's most solid acting collaborator since Robert DeNiro.
Finally, of course it was Scorsese's least Oscar ready film that eventually won him the prize. The Departed was a modern celebration of crime cinema (more specifically Hong Kong crime cinema) and won, in part thanks to the changing tastes of the Academy (I said, changing, not improving).
A lot of watchers suggested that the lesson here was: "stop trying so hard to win an Oscar" (tell that to Clint Eastwood). And maybe it was. Scorsese heads into the next ten years, unencumbered by any need to win an Oscar. Who knows, maybe he'll win another one.