The Irishman: Netflix’s Costly Nomination

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By: Jordan Oliver

What happens when Netflix gives legendary director, Martin Scorsese, a blank check to make a film? You get a three-and-a-half hour epic full of masterful shots and all the big name actors from his past crime dramas like Goodfellas and Casino. From the start of The Irishman, you are hit by a blanket of nostalgia. The Doo Wop music, a long tracking shot that Scorsese has become known for, and that old familiar voice over from a hardened mobster recalling the past. Once you start the film, you will find it hard to turn off because of these factors, despite being such a marathon of a movie. The Irishman is based on a true story that follows truck driver, Frank Sheeran, as he becomes entwined with Russell Bufalino and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hit man, he also becomes the right hand man to Jimmy Hoffa, a powerful Teamster tied to organized crime. The all-star cast includes Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino, Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino, Bobby Cannavale as Felix “Skinny Razor” Ditullio, and Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno. Streaming on Netflix since last November, you may have missed it in theatres as it was only in a select few for award considerations, but now as the awards season is tapering off. you will see it popping up in select theatres once again. 

Though only grossing $8 million with an over $140 million dollar budget, The Irishman may be looked at as the most expensive art house film ever made, but it is much more than that. The film’s huge budget was mostly spent on booking the director, the cast and on CGI effects, making these old actors look younger so that Netflix could gain legitimacy in the industry. Popular and award winning series are great, but an Academy Award nominated and, possibly, winning movie would bring a new prestige to the pioneering streaming service. So even taking a loss with the film on the financial side will most likely be an investment that pays off for the future of Netflix originals. With themes of PTSD, guilt, sin, family, and redemption, The Irishman, has all the feel of an award-winning Martin Scorsese film. The only problems I had with the film is it length and distracting special effects, which seems to be a common issue as Andrea Peyser of the New York Post wrote, “…weighing in at an obscene 209 minutes, every one of them boring, ill-acted, poorly written and amateurishly directed, with CGI effects so demented, big-mouth De Niro, who is 76, looks 90 rather than the intended blue-eyed 35.” A bit harsh, but a popular opinion of the film that I feel is a valid point. It is just as hard to sit through the lengthy film in one shot as it is to actually see past the actors as the people they are portraying. It feels like you are just watching De Niro, Pesci and Pacino playing themselves. Unless you are bedridden with the flu, watching the film in chunks is how most people consumed it and it takes you out of the cinematic world you worked so hard to slip into. Overall a great film, but not deserving of winning Best Motion Picture this year, considering the other nominees are much more original and took more chances with their poetic licenses.

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