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February 26, 2012 12:22 PM   Subscribe

"Fast Company’s four-hour interview with [Martin Scorsese] for their December-January cover story: How to Lead A Creative Life, was ostensibly about his career, and how he had been able to stay so creative through years of battling studios. But the Hugo director punctuated everything he said with references to movies: 85 of them, in fact." Welcome to Martin Scorsese’s Film School: The 85 Films You Need To See To Know Anything About Film

Also: What Makes A Great Edit? Scorsese’s Legendary Editor Thelma Schoonmaker Dissects “Hugo” Via “Goodfellas”

The last two links are part of Fast Co.CREATE's Oscar coverage special.
posted by zarq (37 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's a pretty great list. I'm ashamed to say I've only actually sat through about a quarter of the films mentioned, and there are several on the list I've never even heard of.

I guess I have something to work toward now!
posted by hippybear at 12:33 PM on February 26, 2012


I would say that these are the 85 films you must see if you want to know anything about a certain kind of film - noir-inspired, heavily stylized, in short, Martin Scorcese-style film. It's great, but it's not the only thing out there.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 12:46 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


85 vital films and not a single Kurosawa title? Marty, Marty, Marty...
posted by Thorzdad at 12:47 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Scene from the greatest Scorsese movie than never was.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:58 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dear Mr Scorsese. No amount of wishful thinking will make Leonardo DiCaprio the Robert DiNiro of his generation. I hope you find the magic again, but it has to be there in the first place, you can't conjure it out of a department store mannequin. Please try again so I can enjoy seeing your films once more. Lots of love.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:02 PM on February 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


I would say that these are the 85 films you must see if you want to know anything about a certain kind of film - noir-inspired, heavily stylized, in short, Martin Scorcese-style film.

Hard to imagine how Martin Scorcese, of all people, would wind up composing a list like that.

Also, not that it'll likely make any difference to the picking of nits this thread will likely become, but Scorsese did not sit and compose this list thinking he was making a definitive list of the 85 essential cinematic masterspieces of all time now and forever amen. He was riffing off the top of his head to a Fast Company writer for several hours, the writer was taken with just how many and varied Scorsese's cinematic references were, and Fast Company decided to list every one he made in the interview as a separate sidebar-ish web feature.

I REPEAT: SCORSESE DID NOT INTEND TO COMPOSE A LIST OF THE 85 BEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME WHEN HE MADE REFERENCE TO THESE PARTICULAR 85 MOVIES.
posted by gompa at 1:06 PM on February 26, 2012 [25 favorites]


Do I have to see them before I die, or can any of them be deferred until after?
posted by thelonius at 1:09 PM on February 26, 2012


I'm not a huge fan of Westerns but now I want to see Forty Guns.
posted by NorthernLite at 1:15 PM on February 26, 2012


Thanks gompa. The article is poorly titled.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 1:27 PM on February 26, 2012


Interesting list. Wouldn't have picked him as such a big Altman fan.
posted by octothorpe at 1:32 PM on February 26, 2012


> that changed the whole business of film finance. 1980

I may have missed a couple but it looked to me like the only movies post 1980 were two by Altman, Kansas City and The Player. I am bookmarking this list.
posted by bukvich at 1:37 PM on February 26, 2012


On further review there were also Mishima, Do the Right Thing, and Born on the Fourth of July.
posted by bukvich at 1:40 PM on February 26, 2012


At the bottom of the page is a link to this amusing clip of Peter Greenaway sniffily dismissing Scorsese, looking all the while like a cross between an owl, a tortoise, and one of those electric fans which rotate back and forth.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:43 PM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't have picked him as such a big Altman fan.

Every Altman fan should be forced to sit through "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," starring Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black, and Kathy Bates. At gunpoint if necessary (it may be necessary).
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:11 PM on February 26, 2012


Cool stuff.

I have no idea what Hugo is doing in the Oscars, it's basically an enjoyable but ultimatly generic kids film wrapped around some nods to film history buffs that themselves contain some really annoying inaccuracies.
posted by Artw at 2:18 PM on February 26, 2012


(also if I had the time I'd do the opposite of picking of nits, because it's a bunch of great films. I could spend half an hour singing the praises of Ace in the Hole, and that's just the first one!)
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on February 26, 2012


I like that he mentions Ace in the Hole. Billy Wilder -- now that's filmmaking.
posted by chavenet at 2:35 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


For Thorzdad and George Spiggot:

1. He mentions Kurosawa in the interview transcript which is almost as interesting as the list.

2. He has to use DiCaprio (or similar) to get the money to make the movie. And a hundreds of other compromises that sound like they drive him kind of nuts.
posted by bukvich at 2:44 PM on February 26, 2012


No Last Tango in Paris?
posted by nzero at 3:35 PM on February 26, 2012


Julius Caesar: “This is another example of Orson Welles’ risktaking, with Caesar’s crew as out-and-out gangsters.” 1953

I hate to quibble, but is this actually the Joseph L. Mankiewicz version?

(Actually, there are several films in this list that I haven't seen which I would love to check out).
posted by ovvl at 3:38 PM on February 26, 2012


I was hoping there would be one utterly WTF choice in here like Razorback or Petey Wheatstraw or something, but this is a very good list of sensible choices, I'm sorry to say.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:42 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"A giant pig, how great is that? Pure cinema."
posted by Artw at 3:53 PM on February 26, 2012


Stromboli: “This too was a very important film of Rossellini’s second period. Very beautiful.” [During the shooting of Stromboli, the star, Ingrid Bergman, who was married to an American dentist, got pregnant with Rossellini’s child. She divorced the dentist, and became persona non grata in America]

Thanks Fast Company, a summary of a 60 year old scandal was an important detail for you to append there.

I was hoping there would be one utterly WTF choice in here like Razorback or Petey Wheatstraw or something


"The thing I love abut Gummo is all of those ugly kids. And the dead cats. Man, those dead cats are great."
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:58 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I bet he's a big fan of the Crank films.
posted by Artw at 4:03 PM on February 26, 2012


That makes two of us then. The Crank films are delightfully stupid and bonkers, but they also never stop being entertaining. I have no idea why, but I've been talking both of them up recently, and I think I'll be able to get some friends to watch them with me, even if it falls under the auspices of "Bad Movie Night".

Okay, I'll stop threadshitting now. Back to the list of good movies.
posted by X-Himy at 4:36 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Macbeth: “This was the first Welles movie I saw, on television. He shot it in 27 days. The look of it, the Celtic barbarism, the Druid priest, this was all very different from other Macbeth productions I’d seen. The use of superimpositions, the effigies at the beginning of the film—it was more like cinema than theatre. Anything Welles did, given his background in radio, was a big risk. Macbeth is an audacious film, set in Haiti of all places.” 1948

Roman Polanski's Macbeth is the best film adaptation of any Shakespeare play that I have ever seen.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor really wanted to do a film version of Macbeth, but they couldn't get financing, because their odd 1967 version of Marlow's Doctor Faustus didn't make any money. Which is a shame, because Liz would have made a totally super-intense Lady Macbeth.

More digression: speaking of film adaptations of Shakespeare, please ignore the lukewarm-critics & rotted-tomators on this one: the Julie Taymor/Helen Mirren 2010 version of The Tempest is really quite stunning. (Also, I'm not really a fan of Russell Brand, but his unhinged audition rant in the DVD extras is worth the price of admission.)
posted by ovvl at 5:06 PM on February 26, 2012


Really, the only thing he could say about "Do the Right Thing" is that it made him want to work with the studio that produced such "a risky film"?
(quoted because it's from the article, not out of sarcasm)
posted by smirkette at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2012


Bet if a guy with a beard punctuated everything he said with references to Dungeons & Dragons and/or comics books, he'd be laughed into a puddle on Metafilter, commenting regularly.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:25 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, I've seen sixteen of those!

/film school dropout
posted by Sys Rq at 8:23 PM on February 26, 2012


85 films but not one by Fellini? Really?

8 1/2
La Strada
La Dolce Vita

FTFY

Don't even get me started on Bergman and Kurasowa
posted by j03 at 10:12 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Martin Scorsese Started the Fire: Hugo and The Bad Thing

/breathing a a sigh of relief that Scorcese didn't take home a Best Picture.

Yeah, that feels odd.
posted by Artw at 9:31 AM on February 27, 2012


Fascinating list, and I see the fact that it's not intended as a Best Ever list doesn't stop people from carping about it. Oh well. This is for you kiddies who think it's OK to watch movies on your computers (or, God help us, your fucking phones):
It Happened One Night: “I didn’t think much of this Frank Capra film, until I saw it recently on the big screen. And I discovered it was a masterpiece!"
You haven't actually seen a movie unless you've seen it on a big screen, just as you haven't seen a painting unless you've seen the original hanging somewhere. Reproductions don't cut it.
posted by languagehat at 11:08 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You haven't actually seen a movie unless you've seen it on a big screen, just as you haven't seen a painting unless you've seen the original hanging somewhere.

So how big does the screen have to be to qualify as having "seen" a movie?
posted by chavenet at 1:07 PM on February 27, 2012


When you consider the history of film, and the total amount of films watched by people worldwide - even before the advent of the Internet or cellphones - the percentage of those films watched in 'proper' theatres with big screens is, I'm betting, surprisingly small.

Does anyone really think that if Scorcese (or Lynch or any other director of note you'd care to name) had the opportunity forty years ago to watch some film they'd never seen on a little B&W TV late at night, they'd have said, "No thanks. Unless it's on a big screen, I'm not interested"? Don't think so. They might never have another chance to see that film, so far as they knew.

If you were a dedicated fan of cinema and wanted to see rare, foreign or other generally unscreened films, you saw them however you could, full stop. Film societies would have been your best bet outside of major cities and they showed films in much the same conditions as many of us watched educational shorts in school, projected on a small portable screen in 16mm.

Of course films look better on a large screen, presented in the manner in which they're intended - but that doesn't mean that, presented in less than ideal conditions, the viewing doesn't count. Most of the films mentioned in the linked 'list' - most of the greatest films ever made, for that matter - were edited (that is to say, watched) on a Moviola or a Steenbeck, tiny machines which displayed an image maybe a quarter of the size of a normal computer screen.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2012


> Does anyone really think that if Scorcese (or Lynch or any other director of note you'd care to name) had the opportunity forty years ago to watch some film they'd never seen on a little B&W TV late at night, they'd have said, "No thanks. Unless it's on a big screen, I'm not interested"?

Of course not, and neither would I. There are lots of movies I've only seen on a TV (or, god help me, on my computer). For that matter, there are lots and lots of paintings that I've only seen in reproduction. My point is not that anything but perfection is EVIL and must be avoided but that, while of course we want to expose ourselves to works of art we think we'll like (or are somehow important) in whatever way we can, we must remember to qualify any pronouncements about those works (if only to ourselves, to keep ourselves honest) with the caveat that we haven't truly experienced the work, just an unsatisfactory version of it. Similarly, unless you've read poetry in the original you haven't really read it. Doesn't mean you can't get something out of it, doesn't mean it can't play a vital role in your life, but you have to bear in mind that that wonderful (say) Li Po poem you read in (say) Waley's translation bears only a faint resemblance to the poem as experienced by a reader of Classical Chinese.

And just a big screen may not be enough. My heart was broken a decade or so ago when I saw a screening of one of my favorite movies, Godard's Two or Three Things I Know About Her (which should really be translated "A Thing or Two I Know About Her," because deux ou trois choses is an idiom in French in a way that "two or three things" isn't in English), in a crappy beat-up 16 mm. print at AMMI; instead of that luminous black coffee with the galaxies of swirling cream, there was a sort of brownish-gray crud with scratchy unintelligible voiceover. And what was worse, the presenter said that it was being shown because there were no longer any 32 mm. prints available for showing. How could such a fate befall one of the artistic masterpieces of the 1960s? Truly cinema is the least respected of the arts.
posted by languagehat at 4:25 PM on February 27, 2012


So how big does the screen have to be to qualify as having "seen" a movie?

If you're a purist, the answer would be that it should be film running through a projector at 24fps shining onto one of those big movie screens which has an old-fashioned reflective coating and is projected across the top of an auditorium which seats a few hundred people.

The experience (not to mention the color balance and the kinds of blacks and whites you see) under these circumstances are entirely different from seeing a film on a glowing television screen, no matter what the resolution or size.

I don't necessarily buy this argument 100%, but I'm probably not classified as a true cinephile.

I will say, there are a lot of movies I've seen for years on video of various sorts but which never truly spring to life with the kind of detail and viewing experience which I had once I finally saw them in a theater via a projector.

I bought tickets recently for the TCM digital theater broadcast event of Casablanca, which I'm quite looking forward to. I've never seen this movie in a theater before, and especially not with a group of like-minded strangers who want to see it together. Whether or not it will actually be the "film experience" or not, I'm not that concerned with. But getting to really see it on a big screen with all the details blown up large and in a crowd of others who love it... that will be wonderful.
posted by hippybear at 6:20 PM on February 27, 2012


As has been noted, the title of that list is a bit of a misnomer. "85 films that are important to Martin Scorsese" might be more apt. Fine films, no argument. For those keeping score, most of the films on that list are British, American, with a few Italians and a couple bones given to Melies (I'm cynically assuming that they are there to plug Hugo). So hardly the totality of cinema there but that's not what he's going for.

Aside from maybe the later Rosellini's (which aren't too much of a surprise on the list) and the Altman (Health? Really? Ok... to each his own I guess) most of these films or references to those directors appear in his A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies which I think is a fine place to build your film knowledge if you're looking to expand your horizons beyond the Modern Hollywood Machine and the European Art House.

Funny to see how some movies never seem to leave him though. He mentions the usual suspects in every in-depth film nerd conversation I've ever read or heard him give. Some of those choices continually confuse though. Sorry Mr. S, I just don't see the appeal of Minnelli but then again I didn't marry his daughter. I shouldn't talk as I remain haunted by the Son of Hercules vs. Venus, Night of the Howling Beast and Horror High from my preschool age viewings so I suppose it's true of all of us that films linger and dog despite not being masterpieces. A testament to our impressionable brains and volatility of cinema, I suppose.

To those in awe of / blown away / overwhelmed by the list, for what it's worth, I've seen all but a couple on the list but I don't feel particularly closer to understanding cinema. A fine way to spend some evenings though.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:22 PM on February 27, 2012


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