339. Taxi Driver

Movie: Taxi Driver

Release Date: February 8, 1976

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle, Cybill Shepherd.

Tag Lines: “On every street in every city in this country, there’s a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.”

“On every street in every city, there’s a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.”

“He’s a lonely forgotten man desperate to prove that he’s alive.”

Relevance: I didn’t see ‘Taxi Driver’ until late 1991. I was aware of it, I knew who starred in it and of course I knew all of the “pop culture” references regarding it. I mean, “You talkin’ to me?” is pretty iconic even to the non-movie fan. It wasn’t until I watched ‘Goodfellas’ (see 348. Goodfellas) did I search out the movie and finally watch it. I was so impressed with ‘Goodfellas’ and Martin Scorsese, I wanted to see other films by both him and the actors that were in it. So why not kill two birds with one stone. ‘Taxi Driver’ directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro. It was a no-brainer.

I was impressed by Scorsese once again. It was such a gritty, urban drama and unlike anything I had seen before. Not only was Robert De Niro incredible in his role, Jodi Foster was absolutely outstanding. I had already seen her on the big screen twice that year in ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ a film that will be showing up on this list later in the year. To think that at the beginning of her career she was just as good was astounding to me. I had seen her in theaters in ‘Freaky Friday’ (see 365. Freaky Friday) as a kid. Little did I know that same year she was starring as a twelve year old prostitute that would garner her first Academy Award nomination. Acting can be studied, but you are only born with talent like that.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Martin Scorsese is hit or miss with me as far as liking his films. (There is one more Scorsese film on my list that I will be watching much later this year. Can you guess which one?) ‘Taxi Driver’ just happens to be one that I loved from the first time that I saw it. I have watched it a few times since and am always in awe of its gritty, raw take on New York, a city that I visited often (even as a child) and a city that I love.

Today’s Thoughts: A movie set in New York city during the early seventies post-Vietnam could seem outdated and more of a nostalgic, historical film than a film of current day relevancy. Not so much with ‘Taxi Driver.’ It’s true that New York City isn’t in as much decay or morally bankrupt as portrayed in the film (or was at that time), but the story of the lonely taxi driver as vigilante hero taking matters into his own hands is still quite topical.

Travis Bickle, iconically portrayed by Robert De Niro, is such an interesting character. The audience both feels for him and fears him. He is a depressed insomniac struggling with finding meaning to his life. He is disgusted by the state of the city he lives in and wants to change it. Unfortunately, it is through violence that he attempts, and arguably succeeds, to make that change. De Niro is perfection as Bickle. The “You talkin’ to me?” scene is still so fun to watch. (Although this time around I couldn’t help but hear Robin Williams’ voice as the Genie in ‘Aladdin’ saying that line.)

It was also still great to watch Jodie Foster, in her controversial role, as well as Harvey Keitel (his hair alone deserves a viewing), Albert Brooks, a creepy, racist Martin Scorsese cameo and Cybill Shepherd. And my goodness, Cybill Shepherd looks absolutely beautiful in this movie.

Watching it today, as much as I do not condone violence in any way, shape or form, I can’t help but feel even more empathy towards Travis Bickle. With the state of the world (especially America) that it’s in today, we all at one time or another have thrown our hands up in the air in disgust thinking, “What can I do?” We want the “bad guys” to go away, people to be held accountable for their words and actions and justice for all that deserve it. We feel sometimes that our protests or rallies or votes just aren’t good enough. We want change. But how do we get that change? What else can we do? Thankfully for most of us, not what Travis Bickle does and take violent measures. What we do is realize that we have to keep on doing what we were doing and hope that someday soon, change will come.

The film was considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant by the US Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1994.

And in 2020 it still is.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Robert De Niro (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Jodie Foster (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, Bernard Herrmann, Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Robert De Niro (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, Paul Schrader (nomination), BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, Jodie Foster (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress, Jodie Foster (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, Bernard Herrmann (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Martin Scorsese (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actor, Robert De Niro (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Editing, Marcia Lucas, Tom Rolf, Melvin Shapiro (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Martin Scorsese (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Robert De Niro (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music, Bernard Herrmann (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for New Generation Award, Jodie Foster, Martin Scorsese (winner), Nation Film Preservation Award (1994) (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director, Martin Scorsese (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor, Robert De Niro (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for best Supporting Actress, Jodie Foster (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor, Harvey Keitel (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography, Michael Chapman (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, Robert De Niro (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for best director, Martin Scorsese (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress, Jodie Foster (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor, Harvey Keitel (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen, Paul Schrader (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Crackle, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, DVD Availability.

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