Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Critics and film scholars have called him the "greatest living American director," and several of his movies occupy spots on the American Film Institute's list of "greatest movies" and the Internet Movie Database's list of the "top 250 movies". Although he has much admiration and one of the most recognizable names in the film industry, he has never won an Academy Award.
Scorsese originally planned to become a priest, and many of his movies bear the stamp of Catholic upbringing. He was bitten by the movie bug at a young age, and has admitted to being "obsessed" with movies, an obsession apparent in the three hour and 45 minute long 1995 documentary film A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies. A sickly child, he spent a lot of time recovering at home, watching the goings-on in the streets from his upstairs bedroom window. A great deal of his childhood was spent in movie theaters, and he resolved to become a filmmaker when he grew older.
Career: 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s
Martin Scorsese came from a working class family; his father was a pants presser in New York's garment district. He struggled to earn enough money to attend university, but has shown enormous gratitude to his parents for helping him realize his dreams. His parents were the subject of Scorsese's documentary Italianamerican and made numerous cameo appearances in his films before their deaths. For years, his mother worked as the official caterer for all of Scorsese's films and his father helped in the wardrobe department. Scorsese said of his father's work in Goodfellas that no one was able to press a collar as well as he could. Scorsese is often seen wearing impeccably tailored Armani suits, a taste probably stemming from his father's intricate knowledge of the elements of fine men's clothing.
Scorsese attended New York University's film school (B.A., English, 1964; M.A., film, 1966) making short films including a famous short entitled The Big Shave. He made his first feature-length film, Who's That Knocking At My Door? with fellow student Harvey Keitel, and from there he became a friend and acquaintance of the so-called "movie brats" of the 1970s: Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Brian De Palma. It was De Palma who introduced him to Robert De Niro, and the two figures have become close friends, working together in many projects. Scorsese during this period also worked as one of the editors of the movie Woodstock.
In 1972 Scorsese directed Boxcar Bertha for famed B-movie producer Roger Corman, who had also given directors like Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron and John Sayles, their starts. Bertha taught Scorsese how to make films cheaply and quickly, preparing him for his first film with De Niro, Mean Streets. Championed by influential movie critic Pauline Kael, Mean Streets was a breakthrough for Scorsese and De Niro. Actress Ellen Burstyn chose Scorsese to direct her in the 1974 movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress.
Returning to Little Italy in New York City to explore his ethnic roots, Scorsese came up with a rich documentary featuring his parents Charles and Catherine Scorsese, both of whom made cameo appearances in most of his movies. The documentary was entitled Italianamerican.
Two years later, in 1976, Scorsese stunned the cinema world with Taxi Driver. The film starred Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster in brilliant performances in one of the most violent and grim depictions of life in New York City committed to celluloid. It also marked the start of a series of collaborations with Paul Schrader. Five years after the film was released, in 1981, President Ronald Reagan was nearly assassinated by a young man who blamed his obsession with Foster's character for his act. Taxi Driver won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival and also received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, although it earned none. One of the things that made the film unique is Scorsese's use of point of view shots, which have become a trademark of many Scorsese films.
The critical success of Taxi Driver encouraged Scorsese to move ahead with his first big-budget project: New York, New York. This musical tribute to Scorsese's home town was a box-office failure, and the disappointing reception drove Scorsese into depression. By this stage he was also a heavy user of cocaine. However, Scorsese did find the creative drive to make what is probably the finest film about rock and roll, The Last Waltz (1978), a beautifully photographed documentary of the final concert by The Band. Another Scorsese-directed documentary entitled American Boy also appeared in 1978. A period of wild partying followed, damaging Scorsese's fragile health. Convinced that he would never make another movie, he poured his energies into the making of Raging Bull, which he thought would be his final project. Raging Bull (released in 1980) is widely viewed as a masterpiece and was voted the greatest film of the 1980s by Britain's prestigious Sight and Sound magazine. The film received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Robert De Niro, and Scorsese's first for Best Director. De Niro won but Scorsese lost to first-time director Robert Redford. It kept Scorsese in the world of the movies, though without a box office smash he had to struggle to continue to make films.
Scorsese made three "minor" movies during the early-to-mid 1980s: The King of Comedy, After Hours, and The Color of Money. The latter of the three starred Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, and it won Newman an Oscar, as well as giving Scorsese the clout to secure backing for a project that had been a longtime goal for him: The Last Temptation of Christ.
Scorsese filmed The Last Temptation of Christ on a low budget, knowing that the film would be controversial and it would not rake in record box-office revenues. However, he did not anticipate the furor his movie would create. Nationwide protests against (and some in favor of) the film made it a textbook case for public protest against a film. The movie had a number of staunch supporters, including Scorsese's friend Roger Ebert. Scorsese also received his second nomination for Best Director, although the award would go to Barry Levinson. The backing of the movie by important political figures kept Scorsese from becoming an outcast in Hollywood, and it gave him the impetus to film Goodfellas, which would become his most widely-seen movie (if not his biggest box-office hit).
Career: 1990 to present
With Goodfellas, Scorsese returned to his native New York and reunited with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (whom he had previously directed in Raging Bull). This motion picture of life as a gangster has been called the greatest "Mob movie" since The Godfather, and it secured Scorsese a place among the greatest motion picture directors of all time. He earned his third Best Director nomination but again lost to a first-time director, Kevin Costner.
Scorsese went on to direct a remake of the 1963 thriller Cape Fear, which proved to Hollywood that he could make a box-office hit. However, Scorsese's projects have continued to cast him as a figure who can make critically acclaimed pictures (The Age of Innocence, Kundun) that only turn in modest box-office revenues. He continued to be intimately involved in filmmaking through the 1990s, making cameo appearances in movies like Quiz Show and Search and Destroy and working to help up-and-coming filmmakers (Mad Dog and Glory, Clockers). He re-visited the world of Taxi Driver in 1999 with Bringing Out The Dead, while critics said that his 1995 movie Casino looked and felt like a re-hash of Goodfellas.
In 1990, Martin Scorsese acted in a cameo role as Vincent Van Gogh in the legendary Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa's Dreams. In 1999 he produced a documentary on Italian filmakers entitled Il Mio Viaggio in Italia (my trip into Italy). The documentary was produced by Giuliana Del Punta and Bruno Restuccia. Editing and printing has been made in Cinecitta Studios (Rome), color timer was Paolo Verrucci.
Scorsese's 2002 production of Gangs of New York was seen as his biggest and most risk-taking venture to date. Originally filmed for a release in the winter of 2001 (to qualify for Academy Award nominations), Scorsese delayed the final production of the film until after the beginning of 2002; the studio consequently delayed the film for nearly a year until its release in the Oscar season of late 2002. With a production budget said to be in excess of $100 million, this was Scorsese's most expensive work. Critical reaction to the film was moderately positive (movie critics familiar with Scorsese's work felt it was flawed), and while the movie wasn't a smashing box-office blockbuster, it wasn't a dismal failure in theatrical revenue. In February of 2003, Gangs of New York received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis. This being his fourth Best Director nomination, many thought it was finally his year to win, but the award went instead to Roman Polanski.
Scorsese's latest film The Aviator, is a biopic of legendary director, multi-millionaire and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes. It was released in December 2004 and has been met with mostly critical acclaim. The film was nominated for six Golden Globe awards, including Best Picture - Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor - Drama for Leonardo DiCaprio. It won three, including Best Picture - Drama. In January of 2005, The Aviator became the most-nominated film of the 77th Academy Award nominations, nominated in 11 categories including Best Picture. The film has also garnered nominations in nearly all of the other major categories, including Best Picture, Best Director for Martin Scorsese, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett), and a surprise nod for Alan Alda for Best Supporting Actor. The film ended up with five Oscars: Best Supporting Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing and Cinematography. Scorsese lost out to director Clint Eastwood. Scorsese has said he is convinced that he will never win an Academy Award for best director.
Scorsese is currently in pre-production of an action thriller set in Boston, based upon Infernal Affairs, a trio of Hong Kong action pictures centered upon battles between the Asian police and the gangs in the area. The film is tentatively entitled The Departed. The film will once again unite Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor he has now been working with for three consecutive films. 'The Departed' will also bring Scorsese together with Jack Nicholson, whom he has never worked with before.
Many have brought attention to the fact that Scorsese, widely recognized as one of the greatest directors to ever live, has never won an Oscar for his directing despite being nominated 5 times. Many people think that he should have been awarded by now. However there are some that think that it is a compliment, and not an insult that he has not won an Oscar saying that now he is in the same company with Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, two directors that never won a directing Oscar who are also considered to be two of the greatest directors to ever live.
Selected filmography (as director)
- The Aviator (2004)
- Gangs of New York (2002)
- Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
- Kundun (1997)
- Casino (1995)
- The Age of Innocence (1993)
- Cape Fear (1991)
- Goodfellas (1990)
- The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
- After Hours (1985)
- The King of Comedy (1983)
- Raging Bull (1980)
- The Last Waltz (1978)
- Taxi Driver (1976)
- Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
- Mean Streets (1973)
- Who's That Knocking at My Door? (1967)
Selected filmography (as actor)
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