The 2019 New York Film Festival Kicks Off With The Academy Award Contender “The Irishman”


Yesterday, the cinematic landscape was finally altered by Martin Scorsese’s long brewing gangster epic The Irishman. Opening up the 57th New York Film Festival, the movie partners Scorsese with Netflix for their most ambitious work yet. Buzz had been huge for months, but until early Friday morning no one knew if it was truly any good. Well, I can state firsthand that it’s one of the year’s best films and a surefire awards contender. Scorsese and company knocked this one out of the park, yet again.

In case you’re not aware, the film is a truly epic mob drama and an adaptation of the book I Heard You Paint Houses. Here is how NYFF describes the movie: “The Irishman is a richly textured epic of American crime, a dense, complex story told with astonishing fluidity. Based on Charles Brandt’s nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses, it is a film about friendship and loyalty between men who commit unspeakable acts and turn on a dime against each other, and the possibility of redemption in a world where it seems as distant as the moon. The roster of talent behind and in front of the camera is astonishing, and at the core of The Irishman are four great artists collectively hitting a new peak: Joe Pesci as Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino, Al Pacino as Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, and Robert De Niro as their right-hand man, Frank Sheeran, each working in the closest harmony imaginable with the film’s incomparable creator, Martin Scorsese.” The summary does set things up nicely. In part, it centers on Sheeran’s potential involvement in the disappearance of Hoffa, though it’s as much as anything about the weight this sort of life puts on you, as Sheeran forms lifelong bonds with Bufalino, Hoffa, and others. Scorsese directs a script by Steven Zaillian. In addition to the big three of De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci, the massive cast includes Bobby Cannavale, Stephen Graham, Jack Huston, Harvey Keitel, Domenick Lombardozzi, Sebastian Maniscalco, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Ray Romano, and more. Thelma Schoonmaker once again edits, while Robbie Robertson handles the music and the cinematography is by Rodrigo Prieto. Each are firing on all cylinders.

Right after the festival screening yesterday morning, this is what I fired off on social media: “The Irishman is a modern American crime epic and one of Martin Scorsese’s most sprawling works. Seeing Robert De Niro and Al Pacino back at the tops of their games, together no less, is a gift, while Joe Pesci is just tremendous as well. The running time flew by. It’s terrific, with a ton of gallows humor and surprising emotional heft at the end. ‪Also, since I know folks are curious, the CGI is impeccable. You’re fully immersed‬.” In short, I loved it and think we have a major Academy Award contender on our hands.

Speaking of Oscars, The Irishman is going to clean up, at least when it comes to nominations. Look for Netflix to go all out to try and lead the field, with major efforts in Best Picture, Best Director (for Scorsese), Best Actor (for De Niro), Best Supporting Actor (for Pacino and Pesci), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Zaillian), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. That’s an astonishing fifteen nominations potentially on the table, which would set the Academy record. It’s not the likely outcome, but double digit nominations are certainly well within reach.

There will be more on this movie when I put up an official review tied to its release in November, but know that this is a truly beautiful and epic effort from Scorsese. In a way, every gangster flick he’s made to date has been leading up to this. It’s wonderful. Sit tight for fuller thoughts in about a month…

Stay tuned for much more on The Irishman throughout the season!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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