Wednesday, February 23, 2011

30 Days of Oscar Day 27: Taxi Driver

Movie: Taxi Driver
Year: 1977
Nominations: Best Actor (Robert DeNiro), Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster - Age 15), Original Score, Best Picture
Wins/Snubs: No wins for this movie either, but many nominations across the board and of course the immortal line, "You talkin' to me?" came from this.  Not sure Foster really deserved her nomination, but it was still an interesting performance.  Network (tomorrow's Day of Oscar movie) took almost everything that year, though The Omen took Best Score

I honestly don't know where to start to describe what I thought of Taxi Driver.  Scorsese's directing is evident and wonderfully mysterious.  I guess he's sworn in interviews that the movie can be taken literally, that there are no dreams or fantasies going on, but it's not hard to reimagine the movie in many different incarnations of what's reality.  Set just after the Vietnam war, Travis Bickle (DeNiro) drives a cab because he can't sleep. He starts volunteering on a political campaign when he gets interested in Cybil Shepherd.  However, when he outs himself as a bit off by trying to take her to a porno on their first date, she bolts.  This seems to loosen a few more screws in Travis' head.  Enter Act II where Travis decides to attempt to assassinate the focus of Cybil's campaigning.  He shaves his head into a mohawk, buys a gun, and meets Iris (Jodie Foster), a young prostitute he thinks is worth saving from a life of misery.  They hang out a bit, have breakfast, etc.  Climax - Travis kills Iris' pimp (Harvey Keitel) and a bunch of others and is deemed a hero.  Some of the screws seem to tighten, but given how crazy we saw him get, we know it's only a matter of time before he loses it again.  The Coda - he's back to his original haircut, driving a cab and Cybil gets in and they chat.

I think it would be awesome if everything in Act II was actually just a fantasy Travis had while he was driving around, but it doesn't quite work with some of the dialogue in the coda.  Instead, if we take it as a literal chronologically correct film, it's more about what makes someone a hero vs a psychopath?  I suppose the survivors are the only ones to anoint the heroes and villains, so it's a pretty selfish process.  DeNiro's acting is amazing, you can feel he's ready to snap at almost any moment, but then he becomes calm and simmering.  His attempts at relating to women (or a child) and a letter he sends his parents, show that at some point he had a normal life, but perhaps serving in Vietnam perverted his world view, or maybe he was always going to be screwed up.  Foster shows a ton of potential, but her role is so small, it's not really Oscar worthy.  Still a great movie overall, though hard to rewatch, I'd imagine.


Nick said...

Yeah, I watched Taxi Driver a couple years ago. It had a slight over-hype to it that made me not see how awesome it was, but I still really liked it.

Also, I reviewed Network as a 60/60 Extra about a week ago. If you haven't already, check it out once you've seen the movie!

Jess said...

Yeah, you inspired me to watch it myself and I'll definitely link to your review with mine. Check back tomorrow for that.

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite Scorsese, but I'd be hard pressed to put why into words. I think he evokes a time and emotion very well, building a growing social unrest into the character of Travis.

Also, it's amazing to look at and the Hermann score is among the greatest scores ever.