Netflix Instant is getting more confusing to use, but at least their collection is growing steadily. This week, I bring you another one of my 20 favorite films of all time, Raging Bull. I kind of feel like there should be a colon after that title, and that it should read: Raging Bull: A Martin Scorcese Masterpiece. If Spike Lee gets to call his films “A Spike Lee Joint”, I think that Scorcese has earned the honor of being able to add “A Martin Scorcese Masterpiece” after just about any film he does.
Raging Bull was a Best Picture Nominee, but lost out to Ordinary People, which is a good film, but failed to have the staying power of Bull. The film follows the story of real-life boxer Jake LaMotta, whose success in the ring is balanced out with a personal life that is in shambles due to his inability to control his violent outbursts. Robert DeNiro won a Best Actor award for his dynamic and brutal portrayal of the complex boxer. LaMotta is a despicable person, but his charisma, anchored in DeNiro’s performance, compels the viewer to follow his downward spiral.
Scorcese chose to shoot the film in black and white, which really enhances the gritty feel of the film and simultaneously creates some beautiful imagery. The opening credits are stunning and really contrast the fall from grace contained in the opening monologue (which can also be found in My 100 Favorite Movie Quotes). It also mirrors how LaMotta might see the world, black and white (even if his interpretation of them are drastically different from everyone else’s), but he only thinks in extremes and can never seem to find a comfortable middle ground.
This film also launched the career of Joe Pesci, and set the stage for many other Pesci-DeNiro pairings in other Scorcese films. For a while, those two actors seemed inseparable, feeding off the energy of the other, and it also earned Pesci a Best Supporting Actor Nomination.
I cannot praise this film enough, everything about it is perfect and it is one of those films that sticks with you long after you are finished watching. While the film is just over two hours long, the time flies by as you get lost in LaMotta’s bouts in and out of the ring. This should’ve been another chance for the Academy to give Scorcese an Oscar for Best Director, but instead he was passed over. However, to make up for it a little bit, he did earn the #24 spot on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years….100 Movies, his second of three films to make the list (Taxi Driver and Goodfellas are the other two).
To add Raging Bull to your Netflix Instant Queue, click here.