Martin Scorsese’s gripping 2002 Best Picture nominee Gangs of New York is the next feature in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ “Great To Be Nominated” series. The period drama will be screened on Monday, July 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. (The Academy press release makes no mention of either guest speakers or a post-screening discussion.)
Admired by some, reviled by others, Gangs of New York, despite its not inconsiderable flaws, is in my invariably humble opinion the second-best Martin Scorsese flick. (My favorite Scorsese effort is the largely forgotten – and utterly un-Scorseseish – 1985 dark comedy After Hours.) Set in 19th-century Manhattan, where poverty abounds, gangs rule whole neighborhoods, strict geographic class lines separate the Edith Wharton wealthy types from the rabble, and both the elite and the government are corrupt all the way to their rotting core (some things never change), Jay Cocks’ screenplay mainly focuses on a father-son drama of betrayal featuring two actors in top form, Daniel Day-Lewis (whose penchant for scenery-chewing is actually quite effective this time around) and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Also in the cast: a laughably miscast Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, Liam Neeson, Henry Thomas, John C. Reilly, and Brendan Gleeson. Scorsese himself has a bit part as a rich man having dinner with his family.
Gangs of New York earned 10 Academy Award nominations (but failed to win a single Oscar): Best Picture (Alberto Grimaldi and Harvey Weinstein, producers), Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Day-Lewis), Art Direction (Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo), Cinematography (Michael Ballhaus), Costume Design (Sandy Powell), Directing (Martin Scorsese), Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker), Music – Original Song (“The Hands That Built America,” Music and Lyric by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen), Sound (Tom Fleischman, Eugene Gearty, Ivan Sharrock) and Writing – Original Screenplay (Jay Cocks, Steve Zaillian, Kenneth Lonergan; story by Cocks).
Perhaps the chief reason for the film’s lack of love at the Academy Awards ceremony was that, as I mention on this site’s Gangs of New York page, “during the run-up to the Oscars in early 2003, Miramax and former Academy president and two-time Oscar-winning director Robert Wise … were heavily criticized for an opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Daily News and the Long Beach Press-Telegram in which Wise endorsed Martin Scorsese for an Academy Award. It was later revealed that the article had been written by publicist Murray Weissman, then working for Miramax’s Oscar campaign.”
Other awards season wins include Best Actor honors for Daniel Day-Lewis from the British Academy Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Chris Stenner, Arvid Uibel, and Heidi Wittlinger’s Oscar-nominated animated short Das Rad will be screened prior to the feature.
Passes for part five of “Great To Be Nominated” are $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Including Gangs of New York, there are seven films remaining in the series. A $5 discount is available for those who wish to renew their passes from parts one, two, three or four of the series. Individual tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Passes and tickets may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.
Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library