If a list of accolades is any indication of how successful a person is in their chosen field, then Martin Scorsese is at the top of the heap. We’ll get to that in a little while. But first :
Martin Scorsese was born in Queens, New York on November 17, 1942. He parents had emigrated from Italy and found work in the Garment District in mid town Manhattan. They also both moonlighted as part time actors. When he was a child, Scorsese was diagnosed with asthma which prevented him from playing sports with the other kids in the neighborhood so in an attempt to keep him entertained, his parents and siblings took him to the movies.
Scorsese was reared in a strict Catholic family and his first aspiration were to enter the priesthood. After graduating high school he enrolled in NYU’s University College of Arts and Science and that’s when he first discovered his passion for cinema. He graduated in 1964 with a B.A. in English. After that he attended NYU’s film school made a couple of short films titled “What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?” and ”It’s Not Just You, Murray!”. He followed that up with another short film called ”The Big Shave” which addressed topic of the Viet Nam War.
During the early 1970’s while he was cutting his teeth he also became friends with other up and coming film directors such as Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Pretty good company if you ask me. It was also at this time that he met fellow New Yorker Robert De Niro that turned into a lifetime friendship. More on that to come.
Scorsese burst onto the scene when he directed the movie Mean Streets in 1973. This marked his first collaboration with the up and coming De Niro as well as with another lifelong friend and fellow New Yorker, Harvey Keitel.
He followed that up in 1974 with Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore for which Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar for Best Actress. What’s odd about this movie is that it marks one of the few times in Scorsese’s illustrious career that the central character was a female.
Next, up in 1976 was the film Taxi Driver which brought him to the elite status among directors. The movie starred Robert De Niro as a disaffected cab driver, a young Jodie Foster as a teenage hooker and Harvey Keitel as her pimp. A few years later it would also provide Scorsese a certain degree of infamy when one John Hinckley, Jr. pumped a few rounds into then President Ronald Reagan in an unsuccessful assassination attempt. He would later claim the reason for his failed attempt centered around his obsession with Jodie Foster portrayal of a young prostitute in the movie.
Later that year, he also found time to film the “last” concert performed by The Band and other guest performers. The movie, The Last Waltz, is still regarded as some of the best concert footage ever put to film.
Riding a wave of success, Scorsese tried to pay tribute to his hometown and tried his hand at a musical in 1977. It was called New York, New York with De Niro and Liza Minnelli. It was a box office flop and drove Scorsese into a bout of depression followed by a period of cocaine abuse.
In 1980 it took some convincing from De Niro to persuade Scorsese to make what many still consider to be his masterpiece. The film Raging Bull starred De Niro and Joe Pesci (from New Jersey) and chronicled the life and times of controversial boxer Jake Lamotta. It was filmed in black and white and received eight Oscar nominations. It marked the first time he was nominated as Best Director but he lost out to Robert Redford for the movie Ordinary People. I’m guessing the academy is still shaking their heads over that one.
In 1983 Scorsese and De Niro teamed up yet again to take a satirical look at the world of comedy. The movie was called The King of Comedy and even though it had many of the Scorsese trademarks, it failed at the box office.
1985 brought us the low budget film After Hours, a story about a chaotic night of mayhem regarding a meek word processor and his encounter with a mentally deranged woman in a SoHo coffe shop.
After teaming up with Michael Jackson to make the music video for the song Bad, Scorsese decided a sequel to the movie The Hustler was in order. The result was The Color of Money and an academy award for best actor for Paul Newman for his portrayal of “Fast Eddie Felson”.
Not one to shy away from controversial subjects, and maybe in defiance of his strict Catholic upbringing, in 1987 Scorsese directed The Last Temptation of Christ. The film was protested at many locations for its portrayal of, amongst other things, Jesus having sex with Mary Magdalene and later refusing the Cross. He was once again nominated for Best Director but this time lost to Barry Levinson for Rain Man.
As we move into the 1990’s Scorsese directed what many consider one of the best mob movies of all time, Goodfellas. Once again it reunited him with De Niro and Joe Pesci and for his efforts he was nominated once again for Best Director. By this time, I’m guessing Scorsese must have been thinking that the third time’s a charm but he lost out to Kevin Costner who, in his first stab at directing, made Dances with Wolves.
Next up was a remake of the movie Cape Fear fear and once again it saw him collaborate with Robert De Niro. It also featured cameo appearances from Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and Martin Balsam, all of whom starred in the original movie made back in 1962.
In 1993 Scorsese tried his hand at romance when he made an adaptation of the novel The Age of Innocence. Even though critics loved it, the viewing public didn’t and it bombed at the box office.
I’m guessing he decided that it’s better to stick with what you know and Scorsese returned to familiar stomping grounds when he directed Casino starring, you guessed it, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. This was one was a box office hit but was panned by many critics for what they considered excessive violence. It also marked his last collaboration, (at least up until now) with De Niro.
In 1997 Scorsese once again changed course and directed something called Kundun. It’s one of the few films by him that I never heard of so I’ll withhold comment. If you’re so inclined, you can read about it by clicking on the link.
Two years later in 1999, Scorsese brought us Bringing Out the Dead which featured Nicholas Cage and John Goodman (an interesting pairing if you ask me) about a couple of paramedics trying to cope with the stress of the their job.
In 2002 Scorsese returned to his New York roots and brought us Gangs of New York. It portrayed the city during the Civil War and was replete with its depiction of prejudice, poverty and corruption and how it affected the lives of Irish immigrants and gang life in a section of town known as the Five Points. The movie was nominated for an astounding 10 Academy Award. Even more astounding, it didn’t win single one. It also marked his first collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio.
2004 saw Scorsese and DiCaprio hit the screen with The Aviator which told the story of the life and times of Howard Hughes before he totally went off the rails. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won five. In his quest for the Best Director award, this time Scorsese lost out to Clint Eastwood for his film Million Dollar Baby.
In 2005 Scorsese turned his talents into making a documentary film about the early part of Bob Dylan’s career. It was called No Direction Home and is well worth watching if you’re a fan of Dylan and his early music.
2006 saw Scorsese return to the underworld and the life of crime when he brought us The Departed. It marked yet another collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio and the first time he paired up with Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen. It also broke his “losing streak” for the Best Director Award. When the envelope was opened and his name was announced by comrades Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Scorsese quipped “Could you please double check it?”.
2008 saw him return to the world of music when he released footage of The Rolling Stones in concert in a film called Shine a Light.
In 2010 Scorsese made Shutter Island. This marked the fourth time he paired up with DiCaprio and the plot centered around a hospital for the criminally insane. It also marks his highest grossing film to date.
Later that same year Scorsese turned his talents to the small screen when he directed the first episode of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. The setting for the series is Atlantic City, New Jersey during the Prohibition Era.
In 2011 Scorsese set his sights on the word of 3D and made the movie Hugo. It was centered on Paris in the 1930’s and told the story about a boy who loses his father in a fire and his life living behind the walls in a train station repairing clocks.
His latest effort in 2014 brought us The Wolf of Wall Street. It tells the true life story of one Jordan Belfort who rose from the world of penny stocks into forming his own brokerage house and the various manipulations of both clients and stock which eventually led to his downfall and conviction for securities fraud and money laundering.
As I mentioned in the first part of this write up, Scorsese has received his fair share of accolades during his career. Up to now, he has either written, co-written or directed 18 films but the impact they have had on the industry has been huge. Here’s some numbers to validate that statement.
All in all the movies that Scorsese has had a hand in have been nominated for 80 Academy Awards and have won 20 of them. When it comes to the Golden Globe Awards, his films have garnered 56 nominations with 11 wins. As far as BAFTA is concerned, his movies have been nominated 84 times and have won 23.
He has already won a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute and in 2007 was the recipient at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony for career excellence and cultural influence.
From the looks of it, he still has some new things up his sleeve for the coming years. I, for one, can’t wait.