Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Movie Review: "Raging Bull" (1980)

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Movie"Raging Bull"
Year Nominated: 1981
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

A look into the life and career of World Champion boxer Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro).

"Raging Bull" is directed by Martin Scorsese, the director of films like "Goodfellas," "Hugo," and "Casino." It is based on the biography of Jake LaMotta titled "Raging Bull: My Story" by LaMotta himself, along with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage. It stars Robert De Niro as the former world boxing champion. De Niro does a fantastic job as this rather unlikable protagonist. He manages to re-create what is a very complex character and makes him charming despite his many demons. He even took home an Oscar for best actor for his work in this film, which we totally agree is well deserved.

It is hard to get behind a character like LaMotta, someone who leaves his first wife for a 14-year-old girl named Vickie, played by Cathy Moriarty, and was known to slap them both around. Though he marries Vickie when she is 16 and everything seems to be all sunshine and roses (apart from the age difference), their marriage quickly dissolves into a controlling and abusive relationship, not only verbally, but physically as well. LaMotta's attitude also alienates him from his brother and former corner-man Joey, played by Joe Pesci, though having an anti-hero with so much drama in his life does make for a compelling story. Pesci is also excellent in the film, and he and De Niro have a wonderful working relationship with one another even when tensions are high between their characters.

Director Martin Scorsese does a really great job as per usual with his remarkable visuals, especially during the boxing segments. There is a beauty to the brutality in these scenes and the camera angles and lighting are all executed amazingly. The black and white color palette makes it feel that much more artistic and even that much more grim and depressing. The work between Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Champman is absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately, despite the film's beauty and remarkable performances, for some reason, it's a little hard for us to get fully invested in a character like LaMotta. There are times in "Raging Bull" when many of the technical aspects are exceptional, but everything else is overshadowed by its distressful premise regarding LaMotta. While this is clearly the point of the movie as he is a deeply layered character, it makes it feel that much slower overall, and it's not even that long. Still, this is a movie that must be seen for historical cinephile purposes.

Last Oscar season, we were watching: "An American in Paris"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings"

Three Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "Her"

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