Killers of the Flower Moon

The long-awaited new Martin Scorsese film is in theaters.

For the past 5 decades, acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese has done some of the most extensive character studies about people ever put on film. Though we associate it with gangsters, he’s also done war veterans, white-collar Wall Street criminals, yuppies who are lost at SOHO, and Jesus Christ himself. Some of these films are epic long films about the rise and fall of these negative individuals. Except for Jesus (though there are reasons that the movie is so infuriating to Christians), these unlikeable characters fulfill the American Dream in a harmful way. 

Scorsese’s new film, Killers of the Flower Moon, has been lauded by critics and the general public. The movie is about the killings of the Osage Nation through the perspective of Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), who returns from World War I to Oklahoma where his uncle William “King” Hale (Robert De Niro) serves as benefactor to the Osage people but secretly has a sinister plot to kill them and inherit their oil money. As a taxi driver, he pays special attention to Molly Kyle (Lily Gladstone), whose Osage family owns most of the oil land outrights. Things get complicated when he develops legitimate affection for her and forms a family. 

A Masterpiece

To say this movie is a Scorsese masterpiece would be an understatement. It’s everything we love about Marty’s in-depth stories about despicable characters. The three hours+ runtime is worth every minute in this journey as the typical Scorsese character that never has enough and never stops until getting in trouble.

By the way, can we give all the awards available early next year to Lily Gladstone? Wow! I left the theater after Wolf of Wall Street, thinking Margot Robbie was a new movie star, now I left the theater this evening thinking the same about Lily. A performance that makes me wonder, what if the plot was told from her perspective? 

The Filmmaker’s Controversies

Scorsese is no stranger to controversy. His filmmaking style often shows his nefarious characters having a good time in a glorified way. Not too long ago, people questioned his intentions when he filmed all the drugs, sex, and degradation of other humans in The Wolf Of Wall Street. And that’s just an example of too many dubious things we’ve seen in his movies. 

This begs the question, is Martin Scorsese a godawful person himself? If you know enough of his filmography to see his short film Italianamerican, you’ll understand his not. He is a film geek who grew up discovering world cinema and was heavily influenced by the Italian neorealism of Rossellini, De Sica, and Fellini. 

Like he did portraying his parents in Italianamerican, he presents all his characters with the same realism as his heroes at home. Similarly, Killers of the Flower Moon is concrete in a shocking and almost misanthropic way while taking creative liberties when showing some actual events like silent movies of the time this film takes place. 

In contrast to certain silent films such as DW Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” which celebrates the Ku Klux Klan, and Buster Keaton’s “The General,” which glorifies The Confederacy, those scenes in Killers of the Flower Moon condemn racism and show in those years films style that white supremacy was (and still is) an issue in this country. While the movie does not focus on the Tulsa Race Massacre, it serves as a reminder that similar events occurred in Oklahoma, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging and remembering them.

In Conclusion

At the end of this hard-to-watch film, we are rewarded with one of the most heartfelt conclusions ever. A love letter to both storytelling and the Osage people. Almost as if 80-year-old Scorsese is telling us, “This is it.” If this is Scorsese’s Swan song, he left us with some of the best nihilistic, thought-provoking, and creative works he ever made.

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