Finnegan On Films: Winners, Almost Winners and Notable Mentions

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Our movie guy, James Finnegan, recommends Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece (well, one of them anyway!) and a modern musical classic…

THE one film that regularly appears in the ‘Greatest of All Time’ lists is Raging Bull (TG4 Saturday 9.35pm).

If you were to give the one line summary, it is the story of boxer Jake La Motta, played in an Oscar-winning role by Robert de Niro, who became Middleweight Champion of the World.

However, that does not begin to describe the powerful wealth of detail and performances in this epic film – and I do not use that word lightly.

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De Niro goes full method in this role, which has almost obscured the brilliance of the depiction of the role.  This is truly a warts and all performance of a man who is, at best, unsympathetic.

Robert de Niro as Jake La Motta.

La Motta was a man with serious anger management issues, who would take out his frustrations on his family.  It is a forensic character study, based on La Motta’s 1970 memoir so there can be no complaints about the accuracy of the story.

There are also stunning performances form Joe Pesci as Joey LaMotta, Jake’s brother and manager, who tries to help, and Cathy Moriarty as Vickie, Jake’s wife.

Most of all, it is director Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus, with a monochrome vision that transcends a simple biopic to a majestic cinematic powerhouse.  Do not miss it!

Ironically, there is a time clash with a film that won and lost the Best Picture Oscar in minutes.  You may remember envelope mix up that had La La Land (RTE 1 Saturday 9.40pm) named Best Picture before the error was noted.

The difference in tone, colour and style with Raging Bull could not be more pronounced with a realisation that Damien Chazelle’s musical proof, if proof were needed, that they really can make film musicals like they used to do.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land.

Emma Stone stars as Mia, an aspiring actress who goes to Los Angeles hoping to get her big break.  She meets up with a moody jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling in another fine performance).

They don’t get on at first, in true musical fashion, but it is not long before that changes, otherwise this would be a rather shorter film.  The musical numbers are bright, effervescent and toe-tappingly good.

The conflict comes when they have to decide if their dreams of stardom are worth the sacrifices they will have to make to achieve them.

Stone, who won the Best Actress Oscar and Gosling, have a great chemistry as they showed elsewhere together in Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad.  Their singing, dancing and musicianship skills may have been more of a surprise.

Two more films to bring to your attention are Lady Bird (RTE1 Sunday 9.30pm) Saoirse Ronan’s best modern film performance, and in case you had forgotten him, Clint Eastwood in a gem of a western High Plains Drifter (TG4 Friday 9.05pm).

Here he plays a mysterious stranger hired to defend a town, but who knows more about the citizens than they realise.  Enjoy and stay safe!

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