Has an entire decade passed since Martin Scorsese’s massive and flawed, and massively flawed Gangs of New York (2002) thundered onto screens for the first time? It seems like yesterday that I was reading the film’s release date being delayed a full year in light of 9/11, which also permitted Scorsese to film further scenes and edit the film down to a reasonable length, all to the anger of Weinstein.
A dream project of Scorsese’s, he was invited to make the film for Miramax, which meant working with Harvey Weinstein, perhaps the only man in the industry with a temper as volatile as the director. Of course, Weinstein had an agenda, bringing an important director such as Scorsese to Miramax made his company all the more impressive, and Weinstein believed for the film, Scorsese would finally win that long elusive Academy Award. Why? Because he said so.
In fact Weinstein all but promised the Oscar to Scorsese!
When the film finally made it to screens, it was not at all the masterpiece audiences and critics had hoped for, a decent enough film, but wildly erratic, stunning to look at, with an astounding Daniel Day-Lewis performance, but not in the league of Scorsese’s best work. That said, Scorsese had half as good as anyone else is still among the best of the year. No matter, Weinstein had after all won an Oscar for Best Picture for Shakespeare in Love (1998) when everyone, myself included believed Saving Private Ryan (1998) would and should win. The campaign he launched to win Martin Scorsese an Oscar as Best Director was relentlessly shameless, and simply became more shameful with each passing day leading to the Oscars. I remember reading a quote that stated (I am paraphrasing), “Weinstein has reduced the Academy Awards to a contest in which Marty Scorsese, one of the greatest living directors, will all but wash your car for your vote as Best Director”. Never before had Weinstein looked more like an Oscar huckster, a bully who wanted the prize with no regard for whether it was deserved.
And then something very strange happened.
Chicago (2002), another Miramax release opened to excellent reviews and strong box office and suddenly Weinstein saw Oscars all but promised, not for Scorsese or his film, but for Chicago (2002)! All of a sudden, Miramax was pushing Chicago (2002) for Best Film, much harder than Gangs of New York (2002) because Harvey, wise Oscar man he is, could smell a win. He sat proudly with the cast at the Golden Globe Awards where they won Best Film (Comedy/ Musical), Best Actor (Richard Gere) and Best Actress (Renee Zellweger). Scorsese won Best Director, which must have given Weinstein some relief, having sort of dumped his prize directors film for what he perceived was the coming on of Chicago (2002) as a sure thing. Imagine how Scorsese must have felt?? Suddenly his film is dumped, very publicly dumped by the Miramax honcho because he could see Oscars for Chicago (2002).
Miramax received an incredible forty Academy Award nominations in 2002 for their films. In one way or another they held ties to four of the five nominees for Best Picture, though Chicago (2002) and Gangs of New York (2002) were their major releases. The Hours (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) were certainly less Miramax, but through shrewd dealings had the Weinstein brothers names attached. By the time Rob Marshall won the Directors Guild of America Award as Best Director for Chicago (2002) over Scorsese, it was over for the legendary director and his latest quest for Oscar gold. By that point even Scorsese knew it. Had he won, I am not sure he would have been proud of the award as Weinstein had pulled some disgusting promoting for Scorsese that landed the company in some hot water. A letter supposedly written by two-time Oscar winner Robert Wise was published stating Scorsese should finally win his Oscar, and drew the wrath of the Hollywood community for one, taking advantage of Wise and his weak mental state at that point (he was 88) and two, for seeming to believe Scorsese could win Best Director just because Harvey wanted him to do so. In the end he did not win, nor did Rob Marshall though Marshall’s film Chicago (2002) did win six Academy Awards including Best Picture. Both Marshall and Scorsese sat watching, as controversial Polish director Roman Polanski won the Oscar as Best Director for his Holocaust masterpiece, The Pianist (2002). Many in the business believe had the voting for the awards been a couple of weeks later than it had been, Chicago (2002) would not have won, in fact The Pianist (2002) would have taken Best Film.
What I found disturbing about the Gangs of New York (2002) mess was that the film seemed to be forgotten as Miramax and Weinstein fought to win Scorsese his Oscar. Never before was it so blatant that it did not matter whether he deserved it, the company, more specifically Harvey Weinstein, wanted him to have it. More than any other film year, even more so than Shakespeare in Love (1998) besting Saving Private Ryan (1998), the Oscars were tainted, not for who had won, or even who had been nominated, but for the way the campaigning seemed to make the whole thing, just silly, just terribly sad. It was as though Weinstein believed the Oscars were his to control, that he had elevated himself to the position of King of Hollywood.
Two years later Scorsese was in the race again, this time for The Aviator (2004), his excellent Howard Hughes biography which focused on the early days in Hollywood of the famed billionaire. Long considered a favorite for the Oscars, it suffered a loss to Clint Eastwood and Million Dollar Baby (2004), a last minute smash with audiences and film critics. This time, Scorsese was not afforded the indignities of a Miramax campaign and lost the Oscar to a good friend.
Scorsese would win his Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture four years later, deservedly so, for The Departed (2006) his Boston crime epic with Leonardo di Caprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin. No under handed campaigning necessary, he simply deserved it giving audiences a wildly entertaining cops and bad guys film with superb performances from the incredible cast.
And Gangs of New York (2002)? The same flaws within the film remain, the same weak performances from Cameron Diaz and Di Caprio (not bad, merely weak), that muddled screenplay, the fact the film never really recovers from the stunning opening sequence, and that Daniel Day-Lewis performance towers over even the film itself. Had Scorsese won an Oscar for this, it would have been as shameful to the Academy as them not giving him awards for Raging Bull (1980) and Goodfellas (1990).
Tags: Chicago, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York, Goodfellas, Leonardo di Caprio, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Miramax Films, Oscar, Oscars, Raging Bull, Rob Marshall, Roman Polanski, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, The Departed, the Golden Globe Awards, The Pianist
Leave a Comment
No comments yet.