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Because We Never Give Up

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Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee burst onto the film scene, two decades apart, each defining his own era of gritty New York cinema. Mean Streets and She’s Gotta Have It, Taxi Driver and Do the Right Thing—these weren’t just the works of NYU hotshots but of instantly recognizable superstars. Instead of cashing in, both turned down paychecks and battled to make wild, personal projects. Lately, people began to talk: They were driven by their obsessions. They couldn’t make a hit. They had lost it. Some of the criticism was fair (She Hate Me). Some of it was not (Kundun). But Marty and Spike are New Yorkers—they didn’t crumble. They came out swinging like Jake LaMotta with The Departed and Inside Man. Neither picture was either director’s best, but that’s an absurd standard. With Inside Man, Lee took a script that could have been just another Hollywood heist flick and made it unmistakably his own. Scorsese’s Departed? The best gangster pic in a decade. Recently, Scorsese and Lee also released documentaries (No Direction Home and When the Levees Broke) that, alone, would have made most filmmakers’ careers. Give them their due, not just for the quality of the films they made this year but also for their perseverance. And give Scorsese his Oscar, already.


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