NEW YORK—Director Martin Scorsese, long praised as one of the greatest modern American filmmakers for his works Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation Of Christ, and Goodfellas, is following up his recent string of critically acclaimed triumphs with The Entitled, a three-hour, unabashed plea for a Best Director Oscar that opens nationwide Friday.
Scorsese has lost to almost every major American filmmaker in his career, including actor–director Kevin Costner, who went on to create Waterworld and The Postman.
"I've been making pictures for 40 years," said the intense, fast-talking Scorsese in an excerpt from The Entitled, during which the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" can be heard in the background. "For 40 years, I've been making pictures. And I've always been fascinated with the struggles a man must endure when people don't appreciate him. People say I'm the best. I didn't say it, they did. I just do my work. But for years they've been talking and you know it. You do. I deserve that award, is all I'm saying."
The film, produced, directed, and independently released by the five-time Academy Award nominee, is a bold departure from his signature style of rapid editing, kinetic camera movement, and intricately choreographed tracking shots, instead employing only a single camera on a stationary tripod, with virtually no editing besides brief opening and closing credits. Captivating narratives of moral decay and violent machismo were notably absent, as Scorsese focused on a a simple message of redemption and gratification he hoped would be "real easy for everyone to understand."
"For years I did the little pictures about the types of people I grew up with," said a passionately gesturing Scorsese in another Entitled scene. "Then I did the prestige-y, historical stuff like Last Temptation and The Age Of Innocence because I related to the characters, you know, outsiders in repressive environments making fateful choices. Then I started making the big sweeping epics, like Kundun and The Aviator. I've made comedies and documentaries, even concert films. Ever heard of The Last Waltz? No? Okay. You should."
Continued Scorsese, "What happens? Nothing. Nothing for the versatile visionary who lives and breathes pictures."
Scorsese goes on to describe in meticulous detail individual scenes "that alone should have won the Oscar," including Travis Bickle posing with his guns in front of a mirror in Taxi Driver, the close-up of coffee cups at the Debonair Social Club in Raging Bull, and the pool-hall fight scene in Mean Streets. "Remember my scene in the back of the cab in Taxi Driver?" Scorsese said. "That was me. I was that guy. That was me. Everyone remembers that."
"You already should have done right by me with Gangs Of New York," he said. "I handed you guys that one on a silver platter."
Although Scorsese does away with his traditional ensemble cast in The Entitled, several of his past associates make brief appearances, including director and screenwriter Paul Schrader, friend and collaborator Jay Cocks, and film editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
"There's Paul," said Scorsese as Schrader briefly tilted his head into the frame and waved. "He has his own directorial career and he still says I should get an Oscar. He should, too. None of us are above wanting a little recognition. We're not stuck up."
"You want feel-good and heartwarming, right?" Scorsese said. "I can do that. Or I can do casual violence with no strings attached. You know I can. What else you want? Kung-fu wire-work? Mentally disabled guy? Boring Robert Redford-style fishing movie? Just tell me what to do, I'll do it. Done. End of story. Give me my Oscar and I'm out of here. Poof."
Newsweek movie critic David Ansen called The Entitled Scorsese's "best shot" at a directing Oscar since his most recent loss to Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby. "Filming in a soundstage in Burbank instead of on the streets of New York was a risk, but it will pay off," Ansen said. "As long as Spielberg doesn't come out with anything, I'd say this is Scorsese's year."
Film-industry insiders said that The Entitled was already being talked about as the frontrunner for the Golden Globes, the Palme d'Or, Cannes, and Tribeca Film Festival honors, and an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.