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2018 TCM Classic Film Festival Celebrates Scorsese, Brooks
April 27, 2018  | By David Bianculli  | 5 comments

HOLLYWOOD, CA – Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mel Brooks all were on hand Thursday night to kick off the ninth annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Brooks unveiled a newly restored print of his 1967 comedy classic The Producers, DiCaprio presented TCM’s inaugural Robert Osborne Award to Scorsese – and Scorsese delivered an impromptu Mega-Endorsement of the TCM network…

“I love TCM,” Scorsese announced, noting that he has it playing constantly on various TV sets around his house, as well as in his editing suites when he’s working on films. Better yet, he added, “I won’t stay in a hotel that doesn’t have TCM.”

Scorsese isn’t exaggerating about his love of cinema, or his passion for both preserving and embracing old movies. The Robert Osborne Award, honoring the founding host and central spirit of TCM, is envisioned as an annual honor given to someone working to maintain the cultural heritage of classic films – and Scorsese is the perfect inaugural recipient.

Not only has he directed some damned great classic films himself (so familiar they’re not even necessary to list), but one of his movies, Hugo, was a virtual love letter to the earliest days of cinema. More than 20 years ago, in 1995, Scorsese produced and hosted a fabulous documentary series called A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies.

And way back in 1990, after he and his friends watched a disappointingly washed-out print of The Seven Year Itch, Scorsese established The Film Foundation, which has funded the restoration of more than 800 movies, including more than 30 foreign films from 21 other countries. And what’s perhaps most impressive of all is that Scorsese understands, better than most of his filmmaking peers, the need in this new universe of streaming sites and DVDs to remember what’s come before – and to separate the wheat from the chaff. And the classics from the trash.

“Film history is now instantly available,” Scorsese said Thursday night at the TCL Chinese Theatre Imax, preaching to a crowd of the already converted. “This is something we always dreamed of.” But Scorsese added that with that increased availability comes a new responsibility – the type embodied by TCM’s curatorial excellence.

“Without a sense of history and value,” he asked, referring to today’s barraged entertainment consumers, “how can they make their way through all that content?”

It’s a question we here at TVWW ask, and tackle, every day, and there’s no better champion of the cause than the man whose personal history and artistic achievements include such gems as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Aviator.

Released in 2004, The Aviator, Scorsese noted, marked the last time he and DeCaprio were in the Chinese Theatre – filming a scene there, with Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow, recreating the movie premiere of Howard Hughes’ 1930 movie, Hell’s Angels.

“It’s one of the very few films of mine they can show on TCM,” Scorsese said, laughing. DiCaprio, noting that his professional and personal relationship with Scorsese covers not just The Aviator, but a total of five projects over almost 20 years, called the director “my collaborator, my mentor, my friend.”

Another friend of Scorsese’s in attendance Thursday night was Mel Brooks, who claimed Scorsese called him for filmmaking advice when preparing to work on one of his earliest features, 1973’s Mean Streets (“He didn’t know shit!,” Brooks joked). And as Scorsese was honored, in part, for his fierce commitment to preserving classic films, Brooks presented the premiere of a restored classic of his own: 1967’s The Producers.

Brooks, interviewed and encouraged by genial and winningly casual TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, preceded the screening with a barrage of backstage stories about the film, his friendship with Scorsese, and his courtship of Anne Bancroft. Then came The Producers, and a gorgeously colorful and clear presentation of “Springtime for Hitler,” and, in the end, a warm and affirming night of cinema history.


Quick footnote: Martin Scorsese, though he didn’t mention it at the TCM Classic Film Festival, is working on a new documentary about the SCTV classic comedy series. This is great news: Scorsese’s documentary work on such influential artists as Bob Dylan and George Harrison have been flawless and fascinating, and having Scorsese focus his energies on what began in the Seventies as the syndicated series Second City TV – which I reviewed, and raved about, as a fledgling TV critic back then – is a truly exciting project.

SCTV ended up doing some of smartest, as well as funniest, film parodies ever made. (For starters, look up “Play It Again, Bob,” a deliriously brilliant mash-up of Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam and Annie Hall and the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby Road pictures.) And if anyone can appreciate those parodies, and put them into the context they deserve, it’s Martin Scorsese.

He’s already instilled his impeccable sense of “history and value” on the cinema, and popular music. Why not television?


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May 12, 2018   |  Reply
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