Raging Bull: Instant Classic

         The film that I chose to write my first film essay on is Martin Scorsese's 1980 classic Raging Bull. I chose this film because I am a huge Scorsese fan, and this film is different from the movies he usually directs. I also am a huge fan of Robert DeNiro, and the same can be said about his performance in this film because it is different for him. Both were very deserving of an academy award, but only DeNiro won.

         Raging Bull is a movie about the rise and fall of boxing legend Jake LaMotta. It was different for its time because an actor actually played a real life person. True this had been done before with films like Citizen Kane, but it was still a different type of performance for films before 1980, compared to today's films, were several movies come out a year based on real people. A good example is how the Oscar winners for both male and female actors in a leading role this past year portrayed real people. I also liked this film because it was filmed in black and white during a decade in which hardly any films were released in this original color format.

         It is hard to pick a favorite Scorsese film because they are all so good, but Raging Bull is mine. His close-up shots of the actual fighting scenes in the movie are fantastic because they seem so real. He even used chocolate for blood because it showed up better in black and white. This film has one of my favorite opening sequences of all time, when DeNiro is dancing around the boxing ring, because it sets the entire film up beautifully.

         Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty both did really great job acting in this movie, but it is clear to see after watching it that the star performance goes to Robert DeNiro. It is easy to tell how much DeNiro deeply respected Jake LaMotta because he put his heart into his performance by gaining over fifty pounds to play LaMotta in his older years. To this day DeNiro has only won one Oscar for best male in a leading performance, and it was for this movie. He also won an Oscar for his supporting role in The Godfather Part Two, but I still think he should have won more Oscars in general for some of his classical performances through out the years by now.

         Unlike DeNiro, Scorsese has never won an Oscar in his career, which I think is completely bogus. Robert Redford, who is known more as an actor, won the Oscar for best director over Scorsese for his film Ordinary People in 1980, which is the year Raging Bull came out. It makes me extremely mad that one of the greatest director's of all time has not won an Oscar, but every time a movie star directs a movie they seem to win best director. Not always but often, which was also the case for Scorsese ten years later in 1990 when Kevin Costner won the award for directing Dances with Wolves, over Scorsese's classic directing performance in Goodfellas. It just goes to show why I think the Oscars are totally overrated, but to Scorsese's defense Kubrick never won an Oscar for best director either, and he is simply the greatest of all time.

         But overall I love Raging Bull, and it is an instant classic because it presents a different performance from both Scorsese and DeNiro from their usual roles. In my opinion, it tops even Rocky as the best boxing film ever made.

Chad Cooper

Table of Contents