‘The Irishman’ predicted to win Best Picture Oscar Award

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Hannah Gonzalez

"The Irishman" portrays a "remarkably tight and laser-focused" plot, considering the duration of the movie.

Riley O'Donnell, Staff Writer

Ever since Iron Man hit theaters in April 2008 and launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, popular movie culture has been largely dominated by comic book movies, with five out of the 10 highest earning films of the 2010s being Marvel movies.

Movies like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy have already developed cult-like followings on social media, and Avengers: Endgame, the final culmination of the decade-long MCU, had fans in tears and box office records in tatters.

While many movie-goers saw the wild success of the MCU as the fun and compelling arc of movies, legendary director Martin Scorsese saw the situation quite differently. In Sep. 2019, a New York Times op-ed from Scorsese set movie Twitter on fire, claiming that Marvel movies, “seem to me to be closer to theme parks than they are to movies as I’ve known and loved them throughout my life.”

Scorsese’s comments on the beloved film franchise did not go over well with a large number fans across the internet, and they sparked discussions on whether old-school mafia films like Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Gangs of New York have any place in today’s fast paced and superhero-driven popular movie culture.

Whether or not you agree with Scorsese’s take on comic book movies, his 2019 Academy Award nominated film The Irishman puts any doubt towards the director’s style of filmmaking to rest.

The Irishman is nothing short of a modern movie masterpiece, a three-and-a-half hour gangster epic with impeccable pacing, an immersive atmosphere, and possibly Scorsese’s tightest narrative to date. It is the most artistically impressive film of 2019, and deserves to take home the Best Picture Award at the Oscars this Sunday.

The Irishman tells the story of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a labor union official and high-ranking Teamster in the mid-1900s, with strong ties to the Bufalino crime family of northeastern Pennsylvania. It details Sheeran’s many confessed murders and crimes carried out as a hitman for the Bufalino mob, as well as his close relationship with Jimmy Hoffa, the infamous Teamsters President of the 1960s. 

De Niro’s performance as the emotionally distant Frank Sheeran is his most impressive since 1976’s Taxi Driver. He perfectly displays the combination of the ruthlessness, guilt, and anxiety of a mafia hitman. In one scene he might assassinate a man in the middle of a crowded restaurant and drive back home without hardly breaking a sweat or showing emotion, while in the next he struggles to hold any sort of meaningful conversation with his young daughter and wife.

By the end of the movie, when Sheeran is at least 70 years old and in a nursing home after serving a lengthy prison sentence, De Niro portrays a lonely, regretful, slowly dying man who has been cut off completely by his daughters and has no more friends from the crime syndicate or the Teamsters, as they have all either been killed or sent to prison.  

This leads into the next exceptional aspect of The Irishman, which is the movie’s portrayal of the mob life. Unlike some famous mafia movies which might romanticize the life of organized crime with gentlemen’s codes and loyalty among thieves, The Irishman portrays organized crime for what it really is – a ruthless, vengeful class of men who prey on the disadvantaged and would much sooner put a hit out on their closest friends and allies than lose out on a few thousand dollars. 

In his work for the Bufalino crime family, Frank Sheeran is never happy or satisfied with his life. He comes off as a man with hardly any principles or values, and seems to be driven by pure greed and fear of his higher-ups in the mafia. His daughters learn to fear him and what he is capable of, and his wife hardly speaks to him at all. 

The narrative development of The Irishman is remarkably tight and laser-focused for an over 3 hour long movie. No matter what tangent or side story the plot goes off on, it always comes back to the theme of the negative impact of organized crime. This becomes fully clear to the viewer at the end of the movie, when Frank is hobbling around by himself, picking out his casket, and reminiscing over long gone friends like Russell Bufalino, Jimmy Hoffa, and Bill Bufalino, who all were either killed or imprisoned as a result of their involvement with the mafia.

Some respect should be given to the other Best Picture nominees of 2019. Quentin Tarantino’s whimsical 60s throw back in Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood is a very fun movie with great performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. 1917 tells a captivating war story with impressively innovative cinematography. Little Women puts a timeless and important story in a beautiful modern setting. The other five nominated films are also great in some capacity.

However, what sets The Irishman apart is that it is not just a normal movie with a conventional beginning, middle, and end. It’s a three-hour engrossing examination of not only an individual man’s life story, but the story of the savagery of organized crime, the benefits and corruption of labor unions, and the larger contradictions of 1960s America itself. 

The Irishman is a Netflix Original movie, and after showing for a short time in theaters, it became exclusively available on Netflix. It’s really quite fitting for the last Best Picture winner of the streaming service dominated 2010s to be a such stark combination of old school, Scorcese/De Niro style filmmaking and modern day Netflix Original marketing.

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