Martin Scorsese is, I would argue, the greatest director in the history of cinema. Even if you exclude his best three movies, the work that has had the greatest effect on cinema (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas), his remaining oeuvre is still perhaps the greatest. Then you add in three of the greatest films of all-time? Come on now.
Strangely, this greatness has gone unappreciated by a very noted body–the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Scorsese’s films are quite frequently overlooked, under appreciated, and shut out at the Oscars. One need not look further than this year’s ceremony in which The Irishman, after receiving 10 nominations, did not take home a single statue.
So I decided to go back and highlight my Top 5 biggest snubs of Scorsese’s career. Some of these will be snubbing of Scorsese specifically while others are for other participants in Scorsese’s films. Let’s begin…
5.) Silence‘s lack of nominations: I can understand why Silence did not resonate with a wide audience the way, say, Wolf of Wall Street or The Irishman did. A stark, Ingmar Bergman-esque meditation on faith and doubt is not likely to be a hit with a mass audience. But that the film only received one Academy Award nomination (Rodrigo Prieto for Best Cinematography) is absurd. Scorsese certainly warranted a Best Director nomination over Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge or even, I would argue, Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester By The Sea. The script was the real standout for Manchester (rightfully earning Lonergan a Best Original Screenplay win) rather than the direction. Scorsese deserved to be included in that group and should have been a favorite to win. Also, no Best Supporting Actor nomination for Issey Ogata? And Andrew Garfield gets a Best Actor nomination for… Hacksaw Ridge? It just didn’t make any sense.
4.) Cinematography (no win for Raging Bull, no nominations for Goodfellas or Wolf of Wall Street): Scorsese’s cinematographers have not received enough acclaim in the form of little golden men. Prieto did not receive a nomination for his work on Wolf of Wall Street while Michael Ballhaus went unnominated for his work on Goodfellas. But, in my mind, the greatest snub is Michael Chapman not winning for his work on Raging Bull while Ghislain Cloquet and Geoffrey Unsworth won for their work on Roman Polanski’s Tess. I’ve not seen that film but what I can say is the camera work in Raging Bull is perhaps some of the greatest I’ve ever seen and thus was certainly worthy of an award.
3.) Best Editing for Thelma Schoonmaker in Goodfellas: If you ask someone to name a film editor, Themla Schoonmaker is probably the first that comes to mind. Schoonmaker is tied for for most nominations and wins for Best Film Editing (9 nominations and 3 wins to date). Watching Scorsese’s films and the perfect way they are put together and you can see her skill in action, and it has been recognized with the Academy Award for her work on Raging Bull, The Aviator, and The Departed. Yet probably her greatest work, the editing she did on Goodfellas, went unrecognized. In particular, think of the final section of the film and how much of the feeling of paranoia is created by the way the film is edited together. If that film wasn’t worthy of a Best Film Editing Oscar, I don’t know what is… (not getting nominated for her work on Wolf of Wall Street is also pretty ridiculous).
2.) Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street: Until he finally won for The Revenant, there was a lot of consternation as to the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio had been shut out at the Oscars. DiCaprio had been nominated four times before he finally won for his performance in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film. While his performance in that film was impressive, his depiction of Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street was perhaps his best.
1.) Best Director for Raging Bull and/or Goodfellas: Scorsese has been nominated for Best Director 9 times, second only to Billy Wilder. And in just about every one of those years (save for when he did win in 2006 with The Departed) you could make a compelling case that he deserved to win (look, I will make the argument that his direction of Last Temptation of Christ was more deserving of accolades than Barry Levinson’s Rain Man). But the two times that stand out, and the two that are the most egregious, were his snubs for Raging Bull (losing to Robert Redford’s Ordinary People) and Goodfellas (losing to Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves). Both times, Scorsese’s decade-defining masterpieces lost to the directorial debuts by actors. While those films are certainly good and important films, Scorsese’s direction was a cut above and deserved the recognition and honor.