Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Irishman (dir by Martin Scorsese)


Released by Netflix in 2019 and clocking in at close to 4 hours, the Martin Scorsese-directed Best Picture nominee, The Irishman, is a film about many different things.

At its simplest, it’s a film about a very old man named Frank Shearan (played by Robert De Niro).  Frank is an Irish-American from Philadelphia.  Frank is a veteran of World War II and a former truck driver who was briefly a fairly important figure in the Teamsters union.  He did a few years in prison.  At the start of the film, though, he’s just another elderly man living in a retirement community.  All of his friends are dead.  His wife passed away years ago.  His children never comes to visit.  In fact, the only people interested in talking to Frank are the FBI but Frank doesn’t have much to say to them.  That’s not to say that Frank isn’t talkative.  For the first time in his life, he wants to talk to people but there’s no one left to talk to.  The only people who listen are those who are required to do so.  A nurse politely nods along as as he tells her about his old friend Jimmy Hoffa.  (She’s never heard of him.)  A priest listens to the story of Frank’s life and offers him absolution.  At times, Frank looks straight at Scorsese’s camera and appears to be talking straight to the audience.  Frank has a lot of interesting stories but who knows how truthful he’s being or if his memory can be trusted.

The Irishman, though, is not just the story of Frank.  It is also a secret history of America during the latter half of the 20th Century.  Frank may look old and harmless in that nursing home but, to hear him tell it, he was once acquainted with some of the most powerful men in America.  He went from executing Italian POWs during World War II to executing hits for the Mafia in post-war America.  Along the way, he became close to crime bosses like Skinny Razor (Bobby Cannavale), Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel) and Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), men who may not have been household names but who still wielded a lot of power.  These are men who, Frank flatly states, fixed the presidential election of 1960 and who later quite possibly killed the man they had elected president.  Frank also became a close associate of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the labor leader who was reputed to have mob connections and who disappeared in 1975.

The Irishman is also a tribute to the modern gangster film, featuring role for nearly every living actor associated with the genre.  De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Domenick Lombardozzi, Gary Basaraba, they’ve all played their share of gangsters in films and television show that were both good and bad.  Having them all appear in one film together serves to remind the viewer of just how much of America’s popular entertainment has revolved around stories of organized crime.  Even as the old school Mafia has declined as a real-world power, it’s become a permanent part of pop culture.  Everyone loves a gangster, except for the people who actually have to deal with them on a daily basis.

Not surprisingly, considering the stars and the director, it’s a film full of smart, detailed performances.  When the film was originally released, Pacino and Pesci got the lion’s share of the praise and they certainly deserved it.  Pacino gets the best lines and brings some unexpected wit to his performance as Jimmy Hoffa.  Pesci, meanwhile, finally gets to play a gangster who is not psychotic and shows that he can be just as compelling when he’s not raising his voice as when he is.  Still, some of my favorite performances came from actors who one wouldn’t necessarily associate with a Scorsese gangster film.  I liked the nervous humor that Ray Romano brought to the role of a corrupt union lawyer.  I liked the seething resentment that Stephen Graham brought to the role of Jimmy Hoffa’s main rival in the union.  (The scene where Graham and Pacino argue over who is more owed an apology for all of their past disagreements is both funny and, due to the people involved, somewhat frightening.)  Jesse Plemons is poignantly dumb in his brief role as Hoffa’s stepson.  Louis Cancelmi doesn’t get a lot of screen time but he steals every scene in which he appears as a paranoid hitman.  (Cancelmi plays a character named Sally Bugs, proving that not everyone in the Mafia gets a cool nickname.)

And then there’s Anna Paquin, who provides the film with its moral center.  When the film was first released, many Twitter critics complained that Paquin, who played Frank’s daughter Peggy, only a had a handful of lines.  It was one of the stupidest controversies of 2019, which is saying something when you consider how much time Film Twitter devotes to generating stupid controversies.  Peggy doesn’t say much because she’s decided that she doesn’t want to be a part of her father’s life.  From the moment that she first sees Frank beating up a store owner, Peggy knows that her father and his associates are violent men.  She not only fears them but she resents the damage that Frank does to not only her family but to the families as other as well.  The only one of her father’s associates who she likes is Jimmy Hoffa, because Hoffa cares about helping others.  When Hoffa disappears, Peggy makes a decision to disappear from Frank’s life and Paquin’s withering stare says more than any lengthy monologue could.  Peggy doesn’t say much because she knows that her words would be wasted on a man who she knows is a liar.  The scene where she silently walks away from her now elderly father tells us everything we need to know about the emotional consequences of the life that Frank has chosen to live.  Regardless of how many lines she did or didn’t have, Paquin gave one of the best performances of 2019.

Famously (or, depending on which critics you read, infamously), de-aging technology was used so that De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Keitel could play both the younger and the older version of their characters.  At first, it can be a bit jarring.  The de-aging works fine with Pesci and Keitel, both of whom are already supposed to be middle-aged when they first meet Frank.  (Admittedly, Keitel only has a few minutes of screen time.)  With De Niro and Pacino, it’s a bit less successful.  Even when they’re playing younger versions of themselves, De Niro and Pacino still move and stand like old men.  Fortunately, in the case of Pacino, his natural movie star charisma wins out over his obvious age.  In the end, we believe that he’s Hoffa because we want to believe that all of our important historical figures were as interesting and entertaining as Al Pacino is in The Irishman.

And yet, ultimately, even the awkward de-aging works to the film’s advantage because it reminds us that we’re not necessarily seeing what happened.  Instead, we’re seeing what Frank says happened.  We’re seeing his memories, or at least what he claims to remember.  It makes sense that, when Frank thinks about himself as a young truck driver in 1956, he would picture himself not as he was but instead as just a slightly less weathered version of who he would eventually become.  Throughout the film, there are hints that Frank’s memory should not be trusted.  Some of his stories are incredibly detailed while others — like when he transports weapons for the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs — are a bit more vaguely presented.  Is Frank lying or is he misremembering or are we just expecting too much detail from a man who is now essentially waiting to die?  The film leaves that up for us to determine.

The Irishman is Scorsese at his most reflective.  Compared to Goodfellas and Casino, The Irishman is certainly one of Scorsese’s less “flashy” films.  But, on repeat viewings, it becomes cleat that The Irishman is the perfect conclusion to the gangster trilogy that began with Goodfellas and continued with Casino.  All three of these films deal with someone who rises up the ranks in the mob while remaining, as a result of their ethnicity, an outsider.  (Henry Hill and Frank Shearan are both Irish.  Ace Rothstein was Jewish.)  All three of them are briefly on top of the world and all three of them are left wondering how they’re going to continue their lives after their days at the top are over.  In Goodfellas, Henry Hill makes no secret of his disgust at having to live in the bland anonymity of the suburbs.  In Casino, Ace Rothstein ends the film with a mournful acceptance the fact that he will never return to his beloved Vegas.  (“And that’s that.”)  In The Irishman, Frank finally realizes that he has comes to the end of it all, alone and with nothing but death in his future.  All three of them made their decisions and, in the end, all three of them are left to deal with the consequences.  The trilogy goes from Henry’s anger to Ace’s depression to Frank’s acceptance.

It may seem strange to describe a film like The Irishman as being underrated, seeing as how it was nominated for 10 Oscars and got a Criterion release in record time.  And yet, when the film first came out, there was a vague sense of disappointment to found in even some of the positive reviews.  It was a Scorsese film that was so eagerly awaited and arrived with so much hype that there was no way it could live up to some of the expectations that had been set for it.  (And, of course, there’s also a whole set of people who were predestined to dislike the film precisely because it was a Scorsese film and it was so anticipated.)  It’s a long film and, while Netflix should be praised for allowing Scorsese the freedom to make his epic, it’s also not a film that should be viewed in bits and pieces on a tiny screen.  The Irishman is a film that should be watched in one sitting and it’s definitely a film that most viewers should watch more than once.  It takes more than one viewing to truly grasp the the world that Scorsese has recreated.

The Irishman was nominated for Best Picture.  It lost to a worthy competitor, Parasite.  Still, regardless of who took him the Oscars, The Irishman is a film that will live forever.

26 Shots From 26 Films: Special Martin Scorsese Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, the TSL wishes a happy birthday to one of the greatest director working today, the one and only Martin Scorsese!  And that means that it’s time for….

26 Shots From 26 Martin Scorsese Films

(That’s right.  We usually do 4.  Scorsese gets 26.  He deserves a hundred.)

Who’s That Knocking On My Door (1967, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Boxcar Bertha (1972, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Mean Streets (1973, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Taxi Driver (1976, dir by Martin Scorsese)

New York New York (1977, dir by Martin Scorsese)

The Last Waltz (1978, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Raging Bull (1980, dir by Martin Scorsese)

King of Comedy (1982, dir by Martin Scorsese)

After Hours (1985, dir by Martin Scorsese)

The Color of Money (1986, dir by Martin Scorsese)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Goodfellas (1990, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Cape Fear (1991, dir by Martin Scorsese)

The Age of Innocence (1993, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Casino (1995, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Kundun (1997, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Bringing out the Dead (1999, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Gangs of New York (2002, dir by Martin Scorsese)

The Aviator (2004, dir by Martin Scorsese)

The Departed (2006, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Shutter Island (2010, directed by Martin Scorsese)

Hugo (2011, dir by Martin Scorsese)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Silence (2016, dir by Martin Scorsese)

The Irishman (2019, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Here’s What Lisa Wants To Win At The Oscars


Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019, dir by Quentin Tarantino)

Yesterday, I posted my list of the film and performers that I believe will win Oscars tonight.

Below is a different list.  This is what I wish would win tonight.  These are the nominees that I would vote for if I was a member of the Academy.  Now, to be honest, there were a lot of films and performances that I liked that were not nominated.  My favorite film of 2019 was The Souvenir.  It received zero Oscar nominations.  But, for the purposes of this list, I’ve limited my choice to the actual nominees.

So, here we go:

Best Picture — 1) Once Upon A Time In Hollywood 2) The Irishman 3) Parasite 4) 1917 5) Joker 6) JoJo Rabbit 7) Little Women 8) Ford v Ferrari 9) Marriage Story

Best Director — Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Actress — Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Best Supporting Actor — Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Original Screenplay — Parasite

Best Adapted Screenplay — The Irishman

Best Animated Feature Film — I Lost My Body

Best International Feature Film — Parasite

Best Documentary Feature Film — The Edge of Democracy (which I didn’t even really like, it’s just the only nominee that I’ve seen)

Best Documentary Short Subject — Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (If you’re a girl)

Best Live Action Short Subject — Nefta Football Club (that’s for you, Jason)

Best Animated Short Film — Sister

Best Original Score — 1917

Best Original Song — I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away from Toy Story 4

Best Sound Editing — 1917

Best Sound Mixing — 1917

Best Production Design — Parasite

Best Cinematography — The Lighthouse

Best Makeup and Hairstyling — Judy

Best Costume Design — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Editing — The Irishman

Best Visual Effects — Avengers: Endgame

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For Sunday Night


The Oscars are tomorrow and I guess that means that it’s time for me to post my predictions for what will win at the big ceremony on Sunday night!

So, without further ado:

Best Picture — 1917

Best Director — Sam Mendes for 1917

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Best Actress — Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor — Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Best Original Screenplay — Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Adapted Screenplay — Taika Waititi , JoJo Rabbit

Best Animated Feature Film — Klaus

Best International Feature Film — Parasite

Best Documentary Feature — American Factory

Best Live Action Short Film — Nefta Football Club

Best Animated Short Film — Sister

Best Documentary Short Subject — Learning To Skateboard In A War Zone (If You’re A Girl)

Best Original Score — 1917

Best Original Song — (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again from Rocketman

Best Sound Editing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Production Design — Parasite

Best Cinematography — 1917

Best Makeup and Hair Styling — Joker

Best Costume Design — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Editing — Parasite

Best Visual Effects — The Irishman

Lisa’s Marie’s Top 26 Films of 2019


And now, without further ado, I conclude my look back at 2019 with my 26 favorite films of the years.  Why 26?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers!

(Want to see my previous picks?  Click here for 2018, 2017, 20162015, 2014201320122011, and 2010!)

1. The Souvenir
2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
3. Uncut Gems
4. Luce
5. The Irishman
6. Parasite
7. The Lighthouse
8. Crawl
9. Dragged Across Concrete
10. Doletmite Is My Name
11. Avengers: Endgame
12. 1917
13. Joker
14. The Two Popes
15. The Aeronauts
16. Hustlers
17. The Report
18. Brittany Runs A Marathon
19. Rocketman
20. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
21. Apollo 11
22. I Lost My Body
23. The Farewell
24. Us
25. Midsommar
26. Spider-Man: Far From Home

Here Are The DGA Nominations!


Todd Phillips did not pick up a DGA nomination but fear not Joker fans.  The film did pick a nomination from the PGA.

Uncut Gems has now been snubbed by the SAG, the DGA, and the PGA so I’m going to assume that it’s Oscar chances are pretty much dead.  It was one of my favorite films of the year but, at the same time, I can also understand why some people might not share my feelings.

JoJo Rabbit, on the other hand, has been nominated by the DGA, PGA, and the SAG so it’s definitely a stronger contender than some have been giving it credit for being.

Anyway, here are the 2019 Director’s Guild nominations!

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film

Bong Joon Ho, Parasite
Sam Mendes, 1917
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director

Mati Diop, Atlantics
Alma Har’el, Honey Boy
Melina Matsoukas, Queen & Slim
Joe Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, The Peanut Butter Falcon

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions For December


Well, here we go!

This is my last set of Oscar predictions for the year.  With the critics groups and some of the guilds having now announced their picks for the best of 2019, the Oscar picture is now a lot more clear.  Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Parasite, The Irishman, 1917, and Marriage Story all seem to be guaranteed to pick up a nomination.    

I am going to go out on a limb and predict that, despite being ignored at SAG and by the Golden Globes, Uncut Gems will get some nominations as well.  Right now, the film just seems to have momentum on its side.  Realistically, I’m not a 100% convinced that it’ll be nominated, not the way I am with some other films.  It’s divisive film and I’m sure that some people think that rewarding Adam Sandler will just lead to him using his newfound respect to get a theatrical release for the next Grown Ups sequel.  But I’m going to take a chance and go with it.

(Of course, Nightcrawler and Jake Gyllenhaal also had a lot of momentum a few years ago and ended up getting totally shut out of the Oscars.)

Below are my predictions for December.  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November!

Best Picture

1917

Bombshell

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Parasite

Uncut Gems

Best Director

Bong Joon-ho for Parasite

Sam Mendes for 1917

The Safdie Brothers for Uncut Gems

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Adam Driver for Marriage Story

Taron Egerton for Rocketman

Joaquin Phoenix for Joker

Adam Sandler for Uncut Gems

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story

Luptia Nyong’o for Us

Saoirse Ronan for Little Women

Charlize Theron for Bombshell

Renee Zellweger for Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Lighthouse

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Al Pacino for The Irishman

Joe Pesci for The Irishman

Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson in JoJo Rabbit

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Florence Pugh in Little Women

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

 

The Oscar nominations will be announced on January 13th!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Oscar, in happier times

The Black Film Critic Circle Select Dolemite Is My Name As The Best of 2019!


On Sunday, the Black Film Critics Circle announced their picks for the best of 2019!

And here they are:

Best Film: Dolemite Is My Name
Best Director: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman) and Kasi Lemmons (Harriet)
Best Actor: Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)
Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (Us)
Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood)
Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name)
Best Original Screenplay: Lena Waithe (Queen & Slim)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Steven Zaillian (The Irishman)
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (1917)
Best Foreign Film: Parasite
Best Documentary: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
Best Animated Film: I Lost My Body
Best Ensemble: Dolemite Is My Name
Pioneer Award: Ruth E Carter
Rising Star: Kelvin J. Harrison
Special Mention: Lloyd ‘Kam’ Williams

The Nevada Film Critics Society Name Marriage Story As The Best of 2019!


Here’s a full list of the winners in Nevada:

Best Film: Marriage Story

Best Director: Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story

Best Actor: Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Best Actress (tie): Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story & Charlize Theron – Bombshell
Best Supporting Actor: Joe Pesci – The Irishman
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Adapted Screenplay: Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

Best Animated Movie: Toy Story 4
Best Documentary: Apollo 11

Best Production Design: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Cinematography: 1917
Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Endgame

 

The Utah Film Critics Association honors Parasite and 1917!


On Sunday, the Utah Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2019 and it was another good showing for Parasite!  The film picked up awards for best picture, best screenplay, and best non-English language film.  Meanwhile, 1917 took awards for direction and cinematography while Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson took home the acting awards for Rise of Skywalker and Avengers: Endgame …. just kidding!  They both won for Marriage Story.

Here are the winners!

Best Picture: Parasite. Runner-up: Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.

Best Achievement in Directing: Sam Mendes, 1917. Runner-up: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.

Best Lead Performance, Male: Adam Driver, Marriage Story. Runner-up: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker.

Best Lead Performance, Female: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story. Runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o, Us.

Best Supporting Performance, Female: Florence Pugh, Little Women. Runner-up: Rebecca Ferguson, Doctor Sleep.

Best Supporting Performance, Male: Joe Pesci, The Irishman. Runner-up: Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse.

Vice/Martin Award for Performance in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy or Horror Film: Robert Downey, Jr., Avengers: Endgame. Runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o, Us.

Best Original Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite. Runner-up: Rian Johnson, Knives Out.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Greta Gerwig, Little Women. Runner-up: Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit.

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, 1917. Runner-up: Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse.

Best Original Score: Matt Morton, Apollo 11. Runner-up: Dan Levy, I Lost My Body.

Best Film Editing: Todd Douglas Miller, Apollo 11. Runner-up: Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker and Dirk Westervelt, Ford v Ferrari.

Best Documentary Feature: Apollo 11. Runner-up: Hail Satan?

Best Animated Feature: I Lost My Body. Runners-up: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Toy Story 4.

Best Non-English Language Feature: Parasite. Runner-up: Portrait of a Lady on Fire.