downfall (oliver hirschbiegel, 2004)
music friday: david johansen

geezer cinema: killers of the flower moon (martin scorsese, 2023)

I have seen 26 movies directed by Martin Scorsese, which I believe is more than I've seen of any other director. (Admittedly, there are a couple I barely remember, and I'm counting The Big Shave, which is only 6 minutes long). Scorsese is in his 80s, and it's quite a feat that he's still making such strong, demanding movies. There's always a chance that he'll get extra praise just because he's old, which in this case would be unfair ... Killers of the Flower Moon is not flawless, but it's very good. I'm someone who thinks Scorsese did his best work in the 1970s (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Last Waltz), but other than Casino and Gangs of New York, which really didn't work for me, I'm glad he's been making movies since the 70s.

So, Killers of the Flower Moon. The theater we saw it in stuck a brief "hello" by Scorsese himself at the beginning, thanking us for coming to see his movie at the theater. Of course, Apple was involved in the production, and they'll be streaming the movie sooner rather than later, I'd guess. In any event, it certainly does benefit from the big screen. And Scorsese is after bigness in more ways than just "production values" ... the damn movie runs 3 hours and 26 minutes, and Scorsese is proud of that fact. (It is the longest movie in the history of Geezer Cinema.) I was prepared to be upset by this, but the truth is, I don't know what should be cut, and the movie is never boring. I'm just glad I had my RunPee app to tell me an advantageous time to take a leak (I may not be as old as Scorsese, but I'm old enough to know I'm not watching a 3 1/2 hour movie without peeing at least once). Killers of the Flower Moon is actually 3 minutes shorter than The Irishman, the last feature Scorsese made. (My faves from the 70s all managed to get in under 2 hours.)

Apparently, the film was originally going to focus on the budding "Bureau of Investigation", with Leonardo DiCaprio as the agent who comes to town and solves the mystery of the murders of Osage people. DiCaprio seems to have had something to do with a shift in focus from the agent to the character he eventually played, Ernest Burkhart. It's a movie "about" the Osage, but it's really about Ernest, his uncle, and his Osage wife Mollie. This is always evident ... Scorsese worked with the Osage Nation, made a movie that is sympathetic to the plight of the Osage, but the Osage in Killers of the Flower Moon are there to create a background for the story of Ernest, his uncle, and the white man's attempt to steal the Osage riches. The characters played by DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are the most complex in the film. Lily Gladstone, who plays Ernest's wife, is rightly receiving praise for her performance in the film ... she gives the movie its soul. But hers is a secondary character.

What's left is a 3 1/2 hour movie about a messed-up guy who does terrible things but occasionally demonstrates that he's not all bad. Scorsese gives his film an epic feel, and it looks like an epic, but it falls short, as an epic. It's a fine film, better than some real epics, but it's a bit sneaky in how it presents itself.


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