What you don't realise about directors like Coppola, Bogdanovich, Scorcese, and Demme is that they started out making bad or routine stuff and only got good later on.
I think what you mean to say is that they learned their craft working in low budget exploitation cinema for producers such as Roger Corman. As routine and run of the mill as some of their early films are all showed a directorial style and vision which would marked them out as something more than a journey man director.
William Freidkin is another example. He made an early movie called Good times which was inept but a few years later did those classics. John Boorman started off the same way with the silly Catch us if you can, before going on to do much better movies.
Sadly David Cronenberg has been disappearing up his own backside
in recent times.
Scorsese. The man who brought us Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull, and wound up making snoozefests like Bringing Out the Dead and The Aviator; crap like The Departed (bad remake of bad HK movie); and most recently, the boring-but-for-some-nice-3D Hugo.
All went downhill after the fantastic 3 men and a baby.
Scorsese is still banging out some good films. Hugo was one of the more enjoyable cinema experiences I had last year - the guy clearly still loves the art of filmmaking and it shows. Shutter Island is another one that has been quickly forgotten about but will resurface in about ten years time and people will go 'oh yeah, that was actually a pretty damn good film'. Thought the pacing was a little off in it but the atmosphere he creates is fantastic.
So no, I don't think Scorsese belongs in this thread.
Anytime Scorsese comes up in this context people always list the same four or five films as examples of his previous work: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino. You'd never think that he made 15-20 films during the same period, most of which weren't gangster films.
Of those listed, three (Mean Streets, Casino and Goodfellas) are what I'd consider gangster films, though I'm not sure of the relevance of that?
He directed thirteen pictures from Mean Streets in 1973 to 1995's Casino, including concert film The Last Waltz (Out of thirteen, is it surprising that five keep coming up? How many would be representative? Ten? Fourteen?)The five films you list just happen to be his most famous - the ones which spring to mind readily - but he made plenty of other interesting, challenging and diverse movies in that period, from the superb King of Comedy to The Last Temptation of Christ.
Nothing I've seen from him in the last fifteen years suggests he's anything other than a spent force. The likes of Hugo and Aviator were okay, Gangs of New York was pretty silly, and his big Oscar moment, The Departed, is a dreadful film.
Raging Bull and Taxi Driver aren't gangster films, no, but they take place in the same kind of violent underworld of Italian American street life that Scorsese became famous for. I just feel most of the criticism (though not necessarily in your case) that gets directed at Scorsese now days is based on the idea that violent gangster films are all that he can do.
He’s still making interesting and diverse films, maybe not as challenging, but not all his earlier work was that challenging and he is working within an industry that has become totally averse to such films. He’s had to adapt and become more mainstream, but has managed to do so without sacrificing his artistic integrity or enthusiasm for filmmaking. Hugo and The Aviator were a great deal better than okay and have a lot more depth than, say, The Colour of Money. And while GONY, The Departed and Shutter Island might not be on the level of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, that’s no basis for dismissing him as a spent force. He remains one of America's finest and most important filmmakers.
His next film should be Silence which he's been trying to get made for some time now and unless he's interfered with I see no reason why it shouldn't be another Scorsese masterpiece.
I listened to a short interview Scorsese did on Five Live a couple months ago, the sheer passion and love of film he has is unbelievable.
He's had his hand in so many fantastic projects that rarely get mentioned lately - documentaries like Shine a Light and Public Speaking, being a producer on Boardwalk Empire, directing the feature length first episode of that show and setting its visual palette and themes starkly and beautifully - that to say he's a spent force reeks of iconoclastic thinking.
I’m sceptical anyway about the idea that a director can just “lose it” at a certain point in the their career. I mean, it’s undoubtedly applicable to Coppola, among others, but in those cases it can usually be attributed to personal and financial factors. Scorsese and Spielberg are still extremely vibrant filmmakers and it’s ridiculous to dismiss their recent output because it doesn’t match their previous work, especially when those earlier films are considered among the greatest films ever made. No director, no matter how talented, can be expected to live up to that, not when they are at the mercy of Hollywood financiers who only care about money. Scorsese can’t just wake up in the morning and decide to make a film about Portuguese Jesuits in 17th century Japan. He has to get somebody to put the money up first and that can take years. Another thing is that a great film needs a great story and great stories don’t grow on trees. Why do you think Kubrick made so few films? Because it took him that long to find a story he thought was worthy of his attention. Scorsese and Spielberg aren’t perfectionists like Kubrick. They’d rather be making films than sitting around trying to find the idea for their next masterpiece.
Well, they might be better than Color of Money or After Hours, but I didn't care for either. As a piece of filmmaking, I'll concede that Hugo is highly-accomplished, but as a piece of drama, I thought it was weak.
It's the most interesting project he's mentioned in recent years, but as someone who's enthusiastic about Japanese culture (especially its literature and cinema), I would think that! And it could just as easily turn out to be mediocre...
Drifting a little OT, but does anyone (outside the pages of Empire magazine) really think Spielberg has made any of "the greatest films ever"?
Some of us don't give a **** about television!
And that refutes the idea he isn't a spent force how exactly?
Oh, and for the record, Shine a Light was a theater release and Public Speaking was an independently produced film that HBO aired in November 2010.