Why Course: I Wanted to Teach Scorsese. He, and You, Are My Two Heroes in Life

Why Course: I Wanted to Teach Scorsese. He, and You, Are My Two Heroes in Life



Why course: I wanted to teach Scorsese. He, and you, are my two heroes in life.

What: A general conception of his thesis on filmmaking.

Films: seen 90% of them

Fav: Goodfellas, Departed

Thoughts: genius, complex, but much more IMR than Fellini

Common: a demystification of an idea.

Same editors, frequent collaborators

Don’t like: Color of Money

Boxcar Bertha

Gender dominance

Movie Poster: Man who could make women do things


Leads up to Alice

Wizard of OZ reference

Dolls at dinner table-girl, baby, and a bear

Wears black gloves when their hands are intertwined

Crucified him

The prophet and his whore!!

Bill and Bertha first meet when he’s speaking to the masses


Post-Assignments will have to be changed to reflect 11:59 pm due time

Thursday is the day. We seen the movie, we’ve read the readings, and we’ll discuss our thesis.

Length of posts: 400-500 words don’t go over 1000

Sources/Citations are required in the posts. Use the texts, IMDB, Wiki, reviews etc. Do parenthetical citations after the item, and then lists all sources at the bottom.

Lost 2 (out of 10) if you have no citations.

Questions in your posts are desirable if they’re sincere and thoughtful, but aren’t required if you have nothing intelligent to ask.

Give BL context in your questions so they’re not just shots in the dark to him.

If he questions are part of your argument, work them into your writing, but also put the questions at the end of the post so BL can compile them.

Posts grades will be used as a mathematical average to protect us, not ding us. If we show improvement, BL will take that into consideration come grade time.

Boxcar Bertha

Bolshevik: party led by Lenin, hardcore dictatorship of the proletariat. They were a minority, but took over.

Say Big Bill is a Bolshevik because he believes in a union

Film is fairly realistic in its depiction of the upper-class capitalists. They used police, army, and violence, to keep the workers down.

Easier to deprive someone of their civil rights if you attach a label, i.e. terrorists, Bolsheviks

Extraordinary Rendition: forced deportation of a person, i.e. CIA pulling a guy from Italy and taking him to Egypt for torture

In that time, Police were after hobos and vagrants

Film might take place during prohibition (1922-1933)

Why were there so many empty buildings?

What was the significance of the Ace of Hearts:

Brad says it was a symbol of Bertha’s dedication to Bill

Chad: Trains were examples of modernization, but contrasting that image with old-school crucifixion

Railroad represents the capitalists

Scorsese originally wanted to be priest, quit because he liked women

Debate on if Rich can get into heaven

Rich are the bad guys in the film

The crucifixion of Big Bill is an intertextual reference to the crucifixion in the bible.

Hershey plays Mary in Last Temptation of Christ

Actor who owns the railroad is God, and Bill is the actor’s son, and God like crucifies his son

Film shot in 24 days, had to add car chase

Church they hide in is Protestant, with pictures of Jesus and Mary on the wall

Have to really watch a movie 3 or 4 times to pick up on all the references and explain things

Picture on Railroad office: Jackson, Washington, and Grant

(Boxcar Bertha on IMDB)

Movie is made in 1972, End of Vietnam era

Check out the “How to Think about a Film” document

Hegemony: no physical troops, but our culture dominates, i.e. Mexico and US

Not all categories apply in the "How to Think about a film" to all movies, but some of them really stick









New Kid:


Chris Moorman

Mean Streets

1. Scorsese shows the camera in the opening credits, foregrounding the medium. Scorsese also briefly appears in the super-8 footage, leaving the viewer to wonder if what they're seeing is supposed to be footage of the world of the film, or if the footage is merely the actors as themselves, not playing a part. Is it real or fantasy? Regardless, it establishes the tone of questioning what the viewer is shown for the course of the film.

2. Scorsese does the voice over for all of Charlie’s internal monologue

3. All the scenes in the bar are shot in an intense red light, similar to the shoot out in the end of Taxi Driver and the scenes burying the corpse in Goodfellas

4. Much of the cast is similar in physical appearance to the cast of I Vitelloni

5. They tell stories of priests lying to them, condemning the Catholic Church in Fellinian fashion

6. Charlie says he’s going to call his restaurant “Season of the Witch” which was the original title for Mean Streets. He says that his restaurant there will “always be something happening.” This could be reflexive on Scorsese and a comment on his personal idea of filmmaking. Scorsese could be saying when he makes his own movies (restaurant) there will always be something happening, e.g. he won’t make mindless entertainment for the sake of making it.

7. Blending of diegetic music. When David Caradine is shot in the bathroom, someone yells to kill the lights. They turn the lights off and the soundtrack stops, leading the viewer to believe they also pulled the power on the juke box, which would mean the soundtrack (previously thought non-diegetic) was actually diegetic. Again, Fellinian influence.

8. Carradines in Films:

Boxcar Bertha: father (John) kills the son (David)

Mean Streets: brother (Robert) kills brother (David)

Supposedly Robert’s character kills the drunk (David) because he insulted a made-man and was defending his honor. Charlie explains Robert’s character (simply credited as “Drunk’s Killer”) did this to get respect. Could this be a commentary on violence within the mafia? Men supposedly call each other brothers, but will kill each other to get ahead of the game, so Scorsese shows two real-life brothers killing each other. Charlie also goes on for several minutes talking about how shocked he was to see David’s character (credited as “Drunk”) just keep going after Robert after he was shot. This idea of pure-rage could be showing the animosity between the two “brothers” (literally by blood, by mafia-connection in the film) and how the organization has turned them into animals.

As I type this, David Caradine is on a TV commercial.

9. When Charlie is in the bed after he and Theresa have made love, he’s sitting in this awkward Christ-like pose, appearing crucified. Bringing in the Madonna/whore complex, Charlie says he could never love Theresa and then proceeds to maul her in the bed. Theresa is Charlie’s whore and in this pose, he’s almost seen as the Christ-like figure, making her his Mary. Later when she has a seizure, he leaves her in her time of need (Christ’s death?) and then later picks her up to take her to the lake with her (resurrection?)

10. The actress who plays Theresa goes on to produce Scorsese films including After Hours

11. In the scene in the restaurant when Charlie meets with his uncle and Giovanni tells him about the man who shot himself, the music from the band is nearly spot on, if not directly the same, as the main theme from I Vitelloni.

12. The end of Mean Streets is just like the end to I Vitelloni, in that the camera takes on a supernatural-power and visits all the other characters within the film. Unlike Vitelloni they’re all awake doing different things, and in the end, Charlie doesn’t leave. I have a few theories with this.

a. In Vitelloni the Fellini-character leaves the small town to go to the city, but in Mean Streets he’s already in the city. Could his non-leaving at the end signify he has no place left to go?

b. In the end we see Scorsese shooting these characters before fading back into the shadows of the car-backseat. This could be the reflexivity of the medium where Scorsese himself is shooting-down the ideas of mafia life. Unlike I Vitelloni, there is no escape; you just end up getting shot by your “friends” and bleeding to death in an alley.











Girl in scarf






Girl in sweater


Guy with hair









Other Note-taker (Chris)

Sarah Brubaker


Girl in Bouree (checked)

Blond girl (Chandra)



Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

1940s opening homage to traditional-era film. The audience is expecting another love story, and Scorsese it setting them up to take a fall.

Opening is homage to Wizard of Oz, but this film is in color, while Oz was in sepia.

Everything in the opening part of the film looks exaggeratedly fake.

Character sings the soundtrack (intro-credits music) after it ends.

In the beginning, they’re again in strong orange/red light

Weird vignette at the beginning with the footage from the past. It zooms away. Perhaps another reference to the end of I Vitelloni? There are similar camera zooms.

Jodie Foster plays Audrey in this movie, later a lead in Taxi Driver (Iris)

Soundtrack is actually diegetic (Tommy is actually listening to the music)

Whenever we see Alice’s husband, he’s wearing his coca-cola uniform and is both viciously mean and devoutly religious. Could this be a condemnation of big companies as cruel and devoted to their own traditions?

When we see Alice as a child, her dress when she’s first on screen is white

Shows boxcars then cranes over to the dead guy/car crash. Perhaps Scorsese is saying Bertha was a wreck of a movie and the man that directed that film is dead.

When Alice is playing the piano the music doesn’t match what she’s playing, or it might just be a vocal score and she’s playing piano from memory

Switching the sugar with the salt: What you’re expecting from a movie (sweet), but Scorsese gives you something else (salty)

In car, soundtrack is again diegetic (from the car’s radio and every time the camera is outside, all we hear is the sounds of the car traveling)

In the first scene where Alice is looking for work, she looks at the club, and goes the other way. There’s a street sign behind her saying, “One Way” and pointing to club, but she goes the opposite direction.

On the TV in the hotel, we can’t hear Johnny Carson talk, but the laugh track is ridiculously loud.

Tommy sits in the hotel watching a movie where a woman is forced to whore-up and sing

Keitel makes the gun gesture at Alice when she walks into the hotel. This could be a reference to Mean Streets? Also same thing Travis does t himself at the end of Taxi Driver.

In the hotel there’s a domestic dispute next door, Alice shields Tommy’s ears, and then the next scene the domestic dispute has come to her, but she only worries about herself and when it’s all over, the first thing she says is, “I’m ok”, not asking if Tommy is.

“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” was also the title of a Brady Bunch episode

Kris Kristopherson plays David, he also recorded singing albums and Travis buys one for Cybil Shepard in Taxi Driver.

“The curse” is slang for female menstruation

Kennedy’s on the wall again, then a window, and then a nature painting (replacing Jesus). David is a farmer, so this could represent nature as his higher power instead of Jesus.

All My Children-Jeff: Charles Frank....Dr. Jeff Martin (#2) (1970-1975, 1988, 1995) (unknown episodes)

Tommy quick draws gun into mirror, like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver

Audrey is very man-ish. She could represent Tommy’s desires for a dominant-man he feels comfortable with

Alice is just as subservient to her son than she was to her husband. It’s easy to see Scorsese struggling with his own upbringing and his relationship with his mother as he attempts to direct a film with a strong female lead.

Tommy says he likes David, but not his music. This could be Scorsese taking a stab at Krisopherson’s singing career.






Quick lecture on film stock on Tuesday









Lots of people


Chris moorman

Taxi Driver

There’s a jazzy trumpet theme played throughout the film, this might be Scorsese adding an American/New York take on the theme from La Strada

When Travis first exits the cab company there’s a cross-dissolve to a jump cut and Travis is drinking. This is supposedly homage to French New Wave.

Travis effortlessly drives through the fire-hydrant water, this could reference how he feels a flood/rain is going to home and wash the streets clean, but he’ll survive just fine

Coca Cola theme: Travis is always drinking it in the beginning and asks for it at the porno theatre from the attendant (also his future wife)

Scorsese sitting on the street staring at Betsy when she first appears in the white

Lack of communication between Albert Brooks’ character and Betsy:

“Look over there”

“I love you”

I don’t understand the Erroll Flynn bathtub reference, although he was charged with statutory rape in 1942, which is a prevalent theme in Taxi Driver

Albert Brooks: “Mob does that a lot of times.” Scorsese showing how the ignorant propagate stereotypes?

I still think cheese on pie is absolutely disgusting and that has to be a reflection Travis’ character

Random trivia:

In an interview on Inside the Actor's Studio in 1999, Robert De Niro stated that he and Martin Scorsese had discussed the possibility of making a sequel to this film. According to De Niro, the two agreed that it would be interesting to see where Travis Bickle ended up 30 years later. But during Scorsese's interview on the show in 2002, the director stated that he would never make a sequel to any of his films.

In May 2005 Majesco announced that it was going to publish a video game sequel to Taxi Driver, developed by Papaya Studios. [1] In January 2006 the game was canceled due to financial problems. [2]

In the scene where Travis is on the phone with Betsy, the camera pans over to a hallway, supposedly to show distance between then. Supposedly Scorsese’s favorite shot in the film. Also holds characteristics of New Wave and Post-Modernism (camera exists on its own and is not dependent on the narrative)

In the scene with Scorsese as the upset husband, he tells Travis what to do, he’s playing a character, but he’s also directing and the viewer can’t ignore this, if only based on how long Scorsese drags out the scene. If I understand the concept correctly, this would be an example of paradigmatic progression

Charlie T does the gun finger gesture

Travis is in the red light outside the restaurant

When Travis is gun shopping, he seems like a kid playing with toys…yet he was in Vietnam, supposedly

There is a large yellow arrow on the floor of Travis’ apartment. During his monologue about moving forward, he is doing pushups running parallel with this arrow.

Sticks his hand in the flame like Charlie from Mean Streets, except unlike Charlie, Travis can take the heat

Travis taps the marks into the bullets to make them explode and do more damage, but they’re also crosses.

The convenience-store owner is wearing a “Tulane” shirt. Could this be another political candidate? If so, what does this imply?

Iris’ glasses change in the diner scene. At first she’s green (jealousy/envy?) and then when Travis starts to convince her to leave, she’s not wearing any glasses (exposing herself to his message?), then at the end she’s wearing purple glasses (royal-color, he’s boosted her up from being a whore?)

Iris is a prostitute, by definition she opens and closes herself on demand, and the iris is the part of the camera that open and closes, letting light in. It’s also called an “Aperture” which you say means “to be open.”

In the end, the police come and see Travis who mimics shooting himself in the head with 3 shots…would he really get the second and third shots off?

At the end of the shoot-out, the camera again takes on life of its own and checks in with all the characters in the final scene (ala Mean Streets/I Vitelloni)

Sport is dead and camera goes over him, the gun is positioned between his legs in a phallic nature

When Travis is driving Betsy the camera focuses on Betsy in the rearview mirror, everything in the background is moving. Could this be Scorsese showing the audience how much they’re missing when they only focus on one thing? This applies to the demystification of the hero-story (Travis is a “hero” but look at all the rest of his story, look at what’s behind the hero) and it also refers to the filmmaking process (we see Betsy, but in order for us to see her, look at everything going on behind her to make it happen)