(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
Crime • dir. Martin Scorsese • 1990 • USA
I started my day today by doing one of my absolute favorite things. On the train into work, I read some hyperbole about the snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan. In the Guardian, this: “O’Sullivan is a product solely of his skill, his only weakness the inability to cope with his ability.” And this: “he is able to match the best in every aspect of the game whether technical or tactical, a machine with a soul.” And, finally, this: “The way he plays is so natural as to be moving, so visceral as to be disturbing, and so loaded as to be exhilarating; like all the most affecting art, its attraction extends beyond the aesthetic.” You know what, the hyperbole is so satisfying because it also happens to be true. Hands down, Ronnie the Rocket is my favorite sportsman. Why? Because few things in life are more captivating than watching the best be the best. (If snooker’s not your bag, take Zinedine Zidane instead. He always seemed to have a surer touch, more space, and more time than every other sucker.)
Well, maybe Martin Scorsese is not quite as good at making films as O’Sullivan is at playing snooker, but at the top of his game it’s a close call. You only have to hear the man being interviewed for all of about eight seconds to know how much cinema means to him. He’s steeped in it, and clearly couldn’t ever get enough of watching films before he started making them. It might just be what makes Scorsese so formidable: as blessed as he is with great natural talent, he also learned his craft inside and out. No one tells stories more cinematically. As long ago as Mean Streets in 1973, he started to perfect the use of music: live wire Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) is aligned with the electric Jumping Jack Flash and its abrasiveness, distortion and feedback. In Taxi Driver, voiceover narration comes to the fore. And countless other times, Scorsese uses freeze frames, slow motion sequences, and long tracking shots to shorten the distance between us and the story. In Goodfellas, especially, we’re not near or next to the story, we’re slap-bang in the middle of it. It’s electrifying – or, to borrow that old Rolling Stones lyric, a gas, gas, gas.