The Best Picture Nominees: The Irishman

| February 1, 2020
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The 92nd Academy Awards are just days away, so this week I am taking a look at each of the nominees individually. Are they worth it? Let’s take a look.

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It has been 30 years since Martin Scorsese made Goodfellas and it is curious to now arrive at a movie like The Irishman which bookends a very interesting gulf of time for the world’s most admired director. The two films live and breathe in the same territory – Italian-American mobsters in New York City – but the difference is the approach. If Goodfellas had an outlaw, wild-west spirit, then The Irishman shows the work of an older director, more patient, more thoughtful. As I have stated before, no one under the age of 60 could have made this film.

Based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” it follows the recollections of a former truck driver turned mob hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert de Niro) who, by course of circumstance, got himself entangled in the inner-workings of the mob and the teamsters as the two converged and then split over disagreements with the bombastic union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Supporting nominee Al Pacino).

But if The Irishman were just a story of mobster shenanigans it would be accused of trodding the same ground as Goodfellas and Casino.  Instead, this is a movie about the long passage of time, circumstance, interpersonal relationships within the old-world system of gangsters, and of codes of honor and conduct.  Plus there is a bittersweet statement about the process of aging and the long stretch of one’s final years, leading to one of the saddest third acts that Scorsese has yet devised.

This is a movie for the ages. It’s so full, so complete, such an artistic statement that it could only come from Martin Scorsese now, not ten or twenty years ago. It says so much about the evil that men do but also about the consequence and penance for a life spent doing evil things. This is a movie that will be remembered when many of 2019’s other films have been forgotten.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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