Harvey Keitel and Ellen Burstyn in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (1974) dir. Martin Scorsese

This is an incredibly intense scene from Martin Scorsese’s 1974 follow-up to “Mean Streets,” the proto-feminist “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”  The recently widowed Alice, portrayed by Ellen Burstyn, discovers that the man she has hooked up with (played by Harvey Keitel) is married with a child.  Keitel’s character then appears and unleashes a very scary side to his personality that Alice has not seen before.  Even though there’s not a lot of bad language per se, the intensity of this scene is shocking for a then PG-rated film.  Seriously, this entire scene is extraordinarily weird and disturbing for a mainstream film, but then again, that was Hollywood in the 1970s.  Burstyn earned an Oscar for her performance in “Alice,” which while well-deserved, probably should have earned it for “The Exorcist” or “Requiem for a Dream.” Still, a great performance and an amazing look at how ballsy mainstream American cinema once was.

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“The Weight” (from Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz”) – The Band with the Staple Singers

I have mixed feelings about Martin Scorsese’s classic “rockumentary” “The Last Waltz” which chronicles … at least at that point …  the last concert of The Band at Winterland in 1976.   But this moment from “Waltz” … for me … is the film’s finest moment and the best version of “The Weight” ever recorded in my opinion.  I’ve always felt I was supposed to like this song more than I did, given its prominence on classic rock radio and in several seminal films from “Easy Rider” to “The Big Chill.”  However, this version featured in “Waltz” is transcendent and beautiful.  I love the interplay between the Band and the Staple Singers on this version.

“Jump Into the Fire” – Harry Nilsson

Harry Nilsson’s hard rock showstopper from 1971’s “Nilsson Schmillson” album.  “Fire’s” most famous appearance was as the main musical piece during the extended paranoid climax of Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster-film classic “Goodfellas.”  Apparently Scorsese’s first choice for this scene was the Rolling Stones’ 1983 rocker “She Was Hot,” but since Scorsese has a strict policy of only using music that was recorded during the period he’s depicting or earlier (the scene in question took place in 1980), he went with Nilsson’s song instead.  I have to say this is a much better choice as it is a lot more ominous sounding.  And seriously, could you imagine that final climactic scene with any other music than “Fire”?  A great song for being paranoid.  And as they say, paranoia is just reality on a finer scale.

“Milius” (2013) dir. Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson

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Today, John Milius is probably most famous for being the inspiration for John Goodman’s character Walter Sobchak in the Coen Brothers’ 1998 cult classic “The Big Lebowski.” But Milius was arguably the first of the so-called “Hollywood Brats” of the 1970s to score big in Hollywood. Milius went to USC film school at the same time George Lucas (“Star Wars”) and Randall Kleiser (“Grease”) did and became one of the most in-demand screenwriters during the 1970s. His larger-than-life, gun-toting, right-leaning persona startled, but also fascinated many aspiring talents of the period, including Steven Spielberg, Paul Schrader, and Martin Scorsese. Milius has been credited for creating the “Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?” line from “Dirty Harry.” But he’s probably most famous for penning the script for Francis Ford Coppla’s legendary 1979 Vietnam epic “Apocalypse Now.”

Milius also became famous for directing the cult surfing film “Big Wednesday” as well as the box-office hits “Conan the Barbarian” and “Red Dawn.” However, despite the box-office success of “Red Dawn,” the film arguably also led to a reversal of fortune in Hollywood due to “Dawn’s” right-wing political leanings (the film’s political stigma alienated many in Hollywood). Coupled with an accountant friend who looted Milius’s vast earnings, Milius was eventually reduced to asking for a staff writing position on the HBO show “Deadwood” in order to pay for his son’s law school. “Deadwood” producer David Milch gave Milius the money and was shocked when Milius paid the entire amount back. Milius had a comeback of sorts creating the HBO series “Rome,” but then had another setback in 2010 when he suffered a stroke. Milius has fought valiantly back and was able to regain his mind and his writing abilities which he hopes to realize with his long-gestating “Genghis Khan” project.

Regardless of where you stand politically, “Milius” is one hell of a documentary about a true Hollywood character and survivor. The fact that so many famous people agreed to be interviewed for this documentary (including Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, Coppola, Schrader, Oliver Stone, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Charlie Sheen, George Hamilton, and many others) only demonstrates how much love and respect he has generated over the years. The one common denominator everyone praises is Milius’s gift for storytelling, which apparently hasn’t been destroyed by his stroke. Directors Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson do a splendid job of telling one of the most fascinating true Hollywood stories you’ll ever see. It’s now available for viewing on Amazon Prime.

You can also hear an interview with Figueroa on the excellent “Projection Booth” podcast:

http://www.projection-booth.com/audio/Epx31-Milius.mp3

“Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) dir. Martin Scorsese

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Finally finished “Wolf of Wall Street.” Yes, watching a film over 4 days is not the ideal way to experience cinematic art, but when you have two kids, work overtime on a regular basis, have a hobby as a media mogul, and you’re trying to watch an extremely depraved 3-hour film while said kids aren’t in the room (had this film not cost $100 million by a major Hollywood studio, it would’ve easily gotten an NC-99) … well, I’m not going to beat myself up too much.

My verdict? Totally f–king awesome! As much as I enjoyed it, I can’t help but worry about Martin Scorsese. He’s 71-years old and this film is more insanely alive than 99% of most movies being made these days. It’s like someone hooked the man up to jumper cables while he directed this. If you liked that 20-minute sequence in “Goodfellas” where the coked-out Ray Liotta character believes helicopters are following him, well … this is a 3-hour version of that scene.

Leonardo DiCaprio delivers one of the most ferocious performances in movie history. The only performances that come close in terms of energy and intensity are Andy Griffith in “A Face in the Crowd,” Eric Bogosian in “Talk Radio,” Ryan Gosling in “The Believer,” Brad Dourif in “Wise Blood,” Timothy Hutton in “Ordinary People,” Josh Lucas in “Wonderland,” and Eric Roberts in “Star 80.” Apparently, DiCaprio modeled his performance on Malcolm McDowell’s turn in “Caligula.” Jonah Hill nearly matches DiCaprio in terms of insanity and high comedy.

This is the film Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” should’ve been, but wasn’t. “Wall Street” was a good movie, but suffered from too much Stanley Kramer-style moralizing on Stone’s part. Yes, greed/drugs/infidelity/etc. are bad. We all know that. But you don’t have to have characters articulate this ad nauseum. The characters in “Wolf of Wall Street” are all creeps and lowlifes, but Scorsese has the balls and intelligence to let the bastards hang themselves with their own behavior. None of these people likely had too many dark nights of the soul when committing said behavior and it would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

Of course, Scorsese runs the risk of some knuckle-dragging simps thinking said behavior is cool because someone isn’t beating them over the head with a moral message. And yes, some idiots will likely flock to Wall Street as a result of this film. But these souls are already too far gone and will either drop dead or wind up indicted if they try to live their life like this movie.

I’m just curious why some people love “Goodfellas,” but despise “Wolf of Wall Street” on moral grounds. There’s no difference between the mobsters in “Goodfellas” and the brokers in “Wolf of Wall Street,” but maybe the fact that the criminals in “Wolf” are white collar criminals maybe hits too close to home. Who knows? Who cares? “Wolf of Wall Street” is a modern classic, nonetheless.

“Sloop John B” – Me First and The Gimme Gimmes

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Just heard this in the kick-ass Martin Scorsese film “Wolf of Wall Street” during the scene where Leonardo Di Caprio’s character freaks out on drugs and starts acting out. Yes, I realize that’s pretty much the entire three hour film, but this particular freak-out was very memorable, especially due to this amazing cover by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. If you’ve been paying attention to Dave’s Strange World, I posted their punk cover of the Dixie Chick’s “Goodbye Earl” earlier this year, which is equally killer. Love the nod to the Ramones’ “Teenage Lobotomy” at the beginning.

“Patience” – Guns n’ Roses

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When “Patience” was released as a single in the spring of 1989, I remember more than a few people snickering about how Guns n’ Roses were jumping on the metal ballad bandwagon with “a little something for the ladies.”  And I remember being really pissed off at that assumption.   Yes, “Patience” is in many ways a departure from the onslaught of “Appetite for Destruction” and it is a lovely ballad.  But the song always struck me as really, really dark.  Not so much for the lyrics, but for the stark way in which the song is recorded.  The acoustic guitars slash (no pun intended) and sting at times and the echoey production sounds like it was recorded in a prison cell.  Coupled with the very public knowledge about lead singer Axl Rose’s often troubled relationships with women, the song becomes less a reassurance to an insecure lover and more about the singer reassuring himself that everything will be OK, to ride out the fears and insecurity he is facing with someone he loves.   Though I should point out the fallacy in making this assumption, since the song was composed by band guitarist Izzy Stradlin.  Still, In my opinion, the song is the best thing the band ever did.

Brilliantly used in Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake of “Cape Fear,” during a heated domestic argument between Nick Nolte’s and Jessica Lange’s characters that is straight out of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

“Cape Fear” (1991) dir. Martin Scorsese

When director Martin Scorsese signed a deal with Universal Pictures in the late 1980s to release his passion project “The Last Temptation of Christ,” I’m fairly certain he was required to deliver a commercial film in exchange for Universal releasing such a polarizing personal film. Well, in 1991, Scorsese delivered in spades.

Forget “Boxcar Bertha” (the exploitation film Scorsese made for Roger Corman in the early 1970s), “Cape Fear” is Scorsese’s ultimate balls-to-the-wall exploitation film. Granted, it wasn’t seen that way given the large budget and stellar acting cast (Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis), but make no mistake, Scorsese’s remake of the 1962 shocker with Robert Mitchum is the ultimate Freddy-Jason stalker/slasher film.

Many Scorsese purists detest this film. To whom I say, f–k you! Scorsese loves ALL films, including the sleazy ones that used to play Forty Deuce. Legend has it that he got into a fight with one of his girlfriends, studio executive Dawn Steel, over the merits of the classic 1982 exploitation film “Vice Squad” (Scorsese angrily argued that it should have been up for Best Picture at that year’s Oscars).

Despite its disreputable pedigree, it did win Oscar nominations for DeNiro and Lewis. And it was Scorsese’s biggest box-office success until the release of “The Aviator” in 2004. I’m docking the accompanying trailer MAJOR points for NOT including the music from “Cape Fear” and substituting generic music instead. The music from Cape Fear (originally composed by Bernard Herrmann, but adapted for the remake by Elmer Bernstein) is one of the scariest scores ever composed for a motion picture. I’ve included a link to this score here:

Scorsese has always used music … especially pop music … effectively in his films. I wish I had a clip I could link to, but the use of Guns N’ Roses “Patience” during a vicious verbal fight between Nolte and Lange, while their daughter played by Lewis tearfully locks herself into her room, is brilliantly edited and shot.

“My Way” – Sid Vicious

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Sid Vicious’s biggest musical moment … this is Sid’s infamous punk cover of the Frank Sinatra warhorse, with new filthy lyrics. The video, originally at the end of Julien Temple’s Sex Pistols documentary “The Great Rock n Roll Swindle,” is equally as infamous, with a graphically violent climax that must be seen to be believed. Not safe for work.

Perhaps the best use of this song was over the end credits of Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic “Goodfellas,” a perfect choice that sums up the entire picture.

And … as a bonus … here’s the version of the scene from the 1986 Alex Cox-directed biopic “Sid and Nancy” with Gary Oldman dynamically taking the mic as Sid. While this is not Oldman’s first big performance, it was the one that made him famous.

“Little Wing” – Derek and the Dominos

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“Layla” may be the best-known song from Eric Clapton’s and Duane Allman’s pseudonymous 1970 band Derek and the Domino’s “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” album. While it’s a great song, unfortunately, it’s power has been greatly diminished (at least for me) over the years due to endless replays on classic rock radio and other places.  Though, Martin Scorsese did redeem it somewhat through its use in “Goodfellas” but I digress …

For my money, their cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” is the highlight of the album. I’ve never heard hard rock sound so damn sad, but not in a grandiose “Pink Floyd The Wall” type way. This may be just the blues … but it’s played with such incredible power and sorrow. Clapton was in a bad way (emotionally and healthwise) when he recorded this and you can feel it.