By Mikhail Karadimov August 12th, 2015
Gather ‘round! Gather ‘round! Leo and Marty are at it again!
This is how I imagine it: Martin Scorsese in a hotel. Somewhere that’s not New York, nor California—nor Boston. Nowhere stateside. He’s somewhere abroad. Cut off from his normal means of communication, his normal flow of TV and movies. Maybe he’s over in Japan still working on his Silence movie, maybe not, maybe he’s somewhere more approximate, maybe he’s with HBO, maybe I’m wrong, maybe he is stateside, working on one of several pilots he’s got in development. But it’s also possible that those pilots are products forged by the power of his name, rather than his hands and eye, so maybe he’s nowhere near HBO. Either way: Marty’s in a hotel, away from his home—as people typically are when they’ve rented out a hotel—and on comes a commercial, or a trailer on his laptop: it’s Leo’s latest movie: The Revenant.
“Leo’s in a movie?”
Marty sees the beard, the girth, the blubber meant for protection against the Canadian tundra, and he thinks to himself: “That’s why Leo’s looked so terrible, so fat and so terrible, and scraggily for the last year.” But once the shallow reaction abandons him, leaves him in front of the television or laptop or iPad, full of thought, a charging cavalcade of neuroses swarms Marty with self-effacing concern—maybe valid, maybe not : “Am I still brutal? Can I bring the drudgery, too? Can I look into death like that? Like Iñárritu?”
Perhaps: for a split second—and this isn’t a split second of profound insight, nothing so perceptive nor probing—but in the briefest of flashes: Marty thinks of his coke days, of the pain, of the torrential pour of vitriol that came while shooting New York, New York. And after that: he thought about his time in the hospital, when he had to flush all that bad juju from his system, he thought about those days afterward when he decided to finally listen to his boy Bobby DeNiro and check out that property he’d been clamoring about: Raging Bull.
In the hotel room: Marty remembers the lump in his throat, the one he had felt in the hospital; he remembers the surge of fear he used to battle with every morning while filming Raging Bull; he remembers his former ballsiness, the same ballsiness that made a brief and memorable—and all too sporadic—cameo appearance in 2013’s Wolf of Wall Street.
Marty remembers this and he panics and calls Leo and tells him:
“Lets do it. Lets do Devil in the White City. Lets make you a serial killer.”
And that’s how it happened, that’s how Leo and Marty signed on for a sixth collaboration—or rather: that’s how it went down in my mind’s eye.
Without further ado, here’s an obligatory ranking of Leo and Marty’s past duets:
5. Shutter Island (10)
Watching Leo and Marty chart out Teddy Daniels’ slow descent into delusion reminds me of the horrifying sensation one feels when slipping from a pleasant dream to a scrotum-shriveling nightmare. The transition rarely registers consciously, as is the case with Shutter Island. Although, I think the subtle shift is more indebted to Leo’s wily performance than Marty’s direction, which oftentimes hobbles the film’s thrust with an overly ascetic reverence to the art of homage filmmaking.
4. Gangs of New York (02)
An imperfect blend of equal proportions: ½ perfection and ½ so-so. The first half of the film runs smoothly, impeccably, and it introduces us to an unyielding smattering of characters and social realities, it introduces us to the bloody context of New York City circa 1863, and it does so with entertaining aplomb.
Not so much the case with the film’s second half:
An unfortunate—but unavoidable—turn in the plot separates Leo’s Amsterdam Vallon from Daniel-Day Lewis’s scene-stealing Bill the Butcher, nixing their undeniable chemistry and invariably smothering the film’s “anything goes” spirit.
3. The Departed (06)
Many people have long lambasted the Academy for its lack of a funny bone. That may be so—comedies aren’t typically high on the Academy’s agenda list—but the 2007 ceremony would like to beg to differ.
Their exception to the rule?
Leo and Marty’s 2006 “so out of leftfield you don’t even know it’s out of leftfield” comedy, The Departed.
Given the film’s high body count and puzzling love triangle, I can see why some would mistake The Departed as Marty’s melodramatic foray into Boston crime. But please! the film is so over-the-top, so gratuitous, so manic, so “wink-wink, nudge-nudge,” that it’s difficult to take any of the bloodshed and tragedy, the ménage-a-trois killings, seriously.
The film judders gleefully, and ironically, revealing its comedic hand at the very last moment when a rat—as if on cue—scurries across Colin’s (Matt Damon’s) porch railing, cutting in front of the Massachusetts State Building—the ultimate symbol for upper class democracy gone unattained.
2. Wolf of Wall Street (13)
Objectively-speaking—(because…you know…objectivity is totally doable)—this is Leo and Marty’s masterpiece. It’s also both of their funniest movies to date. Leo demonstrates, once and for all, that he can do funny. The country club/Quaalude scene alone proves Leo’s physical dexterity and timing to be immaculate.
Some would argue that this scene is where the movie starts to slog and try the audience’s patience. And I don’t disagree. It’s a long movie. Nearly three-hours long. And there’s barely a plot. But it is worth mentioning that the running time does invariably work in the film’s ultimate favor. So does the exhaustion. Imagine living like Jordan Belforte. Not just for three-hours, but for your whole life. That would wear on any person’s soul, on their physical condition, on their fragile psyche. The movie’s tiring because Jordan’s life is tiring and pointless and insubstantial.
With Marty’s relentless camerawork and Leo’s gonzo performance—both of which blast at an eleven due to Thelma Schoonmaker’s ferocious editing—Wolf of Wall Street swings mindlessly, like a double-edged sword, mowing down everything in its path.
1. The Aviator (04)
Now: SUBJECTIVELY-speaking: this is the Leo and Marty collaboration that does it for me the most.
Who the fuck knows!
Most of the love—if I may try and shoot this sucker in the dark—comes from Leo’s performance. It’s whacky, it’s zany, and totally uncompromised. The voice, the affectations, the twitches and ticks and displays of megalomania and sheer obsessiveness suck me right in. I rarely flip through channels on a TV anymore (since I’m a motherflippin’ millennial, y’all!), but whenever I’m at my parents’ place or my brother’s or someone else’s older family member’s place—like a friend (or nemesis)—and I’m at their TV searching through their legally purchased cable channels: if, in my wanderings, I so happen to experience some cosmic thrust from the gods and stumble upon Leo and Marty’s The Aviator: no matter where the movie is—no matter if it’s the two-second mark or two-hour—I’m finishing that damn movie.
Perhaps it’s the motor-mouthed breath of it, maybe its Scorsese’s own frantic pacing, his whiz kid compulsions compounded with Howard Hughes’s own brand of insanity—Leo’s performance acting as a super-powered jetpack, launching the film into dizzying heights—but I don’t know.
I just love it. Ineffably so.