The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

"...and then, I started paintin' houses myself."

I'm rewatching my three favorite narrative Oscar nominees -- I ranked them all here -- before the big show this Sunday. Tonight it starts with Martin Scorsese's epic The Irishman, which blew me away on the big screen back on November.

A second viewing tempers my rampant enthusiasm a bit. Maybe that's just what happens with epics in the theatre then translated to TV later on. But I do mean just a bit, as I'm not sure I understand the rapidly diminishing ratings for this film and why it's now plummeted off the Letterboxd 250 list, unlikely to ever return. I guess it has to leave room for lame anime and sadistic horror movies.


This time, as I said, this contemplative picture is still a magnificent one but I can begin to see why some aren't enamored with it, despite its very exciting scene in Delaware. The much-discussed role of Anna Paquin and her nearly wordless performance, which is a powerful and important one, is easy to see on the surface as a slight to a brilliant actress. I get it. I also understand the criticisms of Scorsese's/Zaillian's drawn-out story, which repeats a beat now and again. I like long movies, a lot, and I don't mind it when storytellers take time and have to replay themes to build their narrative. Finally of course there's the CGI/de-aging technology, which I thought worked excellently but surely a few didn't see it that way. Looking very closely tonight on television, again, I can see it but it's so slight and not in any way distracting. I dunno. If it bothered you, you must have exhausted yourself looking for it, predisposed to be annoyed.

But it's hard to argue with anything else. Pacino and Pesci are magnificent, as good as anything they've ever done on screen. Pesci in particular is just off the charts, and it's almost a shame that Pacino also earned a nomination as well in the same category, because it's going to draw votes from his peer. Thelma Schoonmaker's editing is so on point, as the legend pieces together another masterstroke. And, to me, the story is very moving, a nuanced take of the gangster life where the bad guys are bad and the goods guys are bad too, and when Frank somehow stands alone looking back on this existence… he's just that, alone.

I still really love The Irishman. I'll take the rating down a half notch, with hesitation, but I'm convinced it's still one of the year's best pictures.

Added to The Best Narrative Films of 2019.
Added to Delaware in Cinema.
Added to 2020 Academy Awards nominees, ranked.
Added to Martin Scorsese ranked.
Added to My Subjective List of the Best Narrative Films.

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