Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shutter Island + Street Fight

Shutter Island. Martin Scorsese is better than messes like his 2010 release Shutter Island. I finally got to see it on blu-ray and now see why it was delayed from a theatrical release: it's not any good! In fact, this is my least favorite film by Scorsese since Kundun in 1997. That's a long ways back to go to find something that didn't totally work for the legendary director. Even though I wasn't overtly swooning at recent films such as The Aviator or Gangs of New York, those are at least big, epic films fascinating to watch. Shutter Island? It is just a bad movie. Period.

Technically well-made, it is Scorsese after all, but the story of Shutter Island is an endless series of ridiculous, overwrought scenes of psychological fantasy that lead to twists that I didn't care about. I had no interest in resolving any of the mysteries the characters are trying to get to the bottom of. Not a single one. This delving in the make-believe world of real v. unreal doesn't suit Scorsese's style. There's no intimacy and virtually everything on the screen is overblown--from the pounding score to the knock you on the skull acting of the cast.

Scorsese's got a bunch of films he's producing or directing in the next couple of years. He's 68 years old--is he feeling the pressure to create more to help build on his cinematic legacy? I sure hope not. The Departed (2006) was a tense throwback, but Shutter Island feels completely off and you'd never guess who the director was. It could have been any hack young Hollywood director delving into the current style of loud filmmaking with no subtlety or nuance. As I said earlier, Scorsese is much, much better than this junk.

Street Fight. A week into January and I've already got a contender for favorite documentary of the year. Street Fight is a 2005 film from director Marshall Curry that attempts to follow the 2002 mayoral election of Newark, New Jersey while a brash upstart named Cory Booker attempts to unseat long-term incumbent Sharpe James. I generally try to avoid the purely political documentaries as they tend to fill me with disgust at our increasingly messed up government, but Street Fight is a riveting examination of all that is right and wrong with our broken system.

Plagued by violence, poverty, corruption and hopelessness, Newark is a city that has seen better days. Booker is a 32 year old lawyer, who went to Stanford and Oxford, and is outspoken, idealistic and likes to lay the blame at the feet of Sharpe and his political machine. Sharpe will not be voted out without a fight and uses every means at his disposal including police intimidation, manipulation of mass media, blatant lies, threats of violence, fraud and pretty much every dirty trick his team can come up with. Down and dirty politics ain't a pretty picture and this race for mayor is as vile as a local election can get. Street Fight is a terrific documentary that will make you angry as much as it will entertain.


Guy Gadbois said...

Sharpe James was & probably still is a sleezeball.

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

Based on what I saw in STREET FIGHT, he's a total scuzzball!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved Street Fight, although knowing that Corey Booker did eventually stick it to 'em and win years later made me less furious than I would of been had I watched this when it first came out.