Friday, September 26, 2014

8. Goodfellas (1990)

Code-name: Layla

Director/Writer (screenplay): Martin Scorsese
Writer (book/screenplay): Nicholas Pileggi
Type: mob movie, drama, based on true events


Henry Hill- Ray Liotta
Tommy DeVito- Joe Pesci
James "Jimmy" Conway- Robert DeNiro
Karen Hill- Lorraine Bracco
Paul "Paulie" Cicero- Paul Sorvino
[Honorable Mention]
Stacks Edwards- Samuel L. Jackson

Notable Awards and Nominations:

OSCAR- Best Supporting Actor- Joe Pesci
nomination-Oscar- Best Picture*
nomination-Oscar- Best Film Editing*
nomination-Oscar- Best Director- Martin Scorsese*
nomination-Oscar- Best Adapted Screenplay*
nomination-Oscar- Best Supporting Actress- Lorraine Bracco
nomination-Golden Globe- Best Picture (drama)*
nomination-Golden Globe- Best Director- Martin Scorsese*
nomination-Golden Globe- Best Screenplay*
nomination-Golden Globe- Best Supporting Actress- Lorraine Bracco
nomination-Golden Globe- Best Supporting Actor- Joe Pesci

*With two exceptions (Whoopi Goldberg won for "Ghost" and Bruce Davison for the Golden Globe), each of these awards went to "Dances with Wolves"

More ado about awardsKinda like the deal with "Forrest Gump" all over again, isn't it?

One of my friends suggested seeing "Dances with Wolves" and I figured after "Goodfellas," it wouldn't hurt to compare the two.
"Dances with Wolves" does deserve some credit. It's a respectable bit of filmmaking and my props go to Mr. Costner. I also get that Hollywood is generally hard on mob-oriented films (you know, those that aren't the beyond reproach "Godfather" series)...

"Dances with Wolves" is just too damn long a movie to get super excited about more than just the one time. Your typical Oscar fodder that takes on a humanitarian topic that needs to be addressed.
It also had me wondering for the millionth time, despite seeing and enjoying "The Hurt Locker," why "Avatar" didn't win Best Picture if it was practically the same story anyway.

...I honestly don't get it :shrug:

What I will say for the awards, though, Joe Pesci deserved THAT Oscar. This is Pesci at his finest. Tough-guy persona and all and he was freaking hilarious

and more to come...

too bad he had to get killed off :(

Writing and Directing and So On

In all honesty, this movie could be in a dead-heat tie with "Shawshank" at this point of my countdown because I enjoy them for most of the same reasons.
Namely, they showed me a culture I had zero experience with and felt as if I was really there. Everything was so realistic, so well-written... I couldn't help but admire the workmanship that went into them.

I'm not super familiar with Martin Scorsese's work, only that it was held in high regard and featured a lot of gang-related topics. A lot of R-rated stuff including bloodshed and high body counts (Tarantino probably corners that market, particularly the bloodshed), but most of all, the cursing. "Wolf of Wall Street" recently set a record for most f-bombs per minute in film.
"Goodfellas" and "Taxi Driver" are probably the two go-to Scorsese films recommended to uninitiated newbies. I'd seen both.
While "Taxi Driver" is more of a trippy (in good and bad ways) introspective drama, "Goodfellas" was a lot of good fun because you were one of the bad guys. These Italian gangsters from Brooklyn who were the rock stars in charge of the neighborhood.
Once we get through that shocking opening sequence (voted on a Reelz Channel Top 10 list as one of the best movie openings ever), we're introduced to "the life" as Henry Hill was. At age 11, he worked at the mob-ran cab company, which quickly became a full-time job. When his father got a letter about him skipping school, he got beat.

I'll never forget that following scene where the gangsters beat up the mailman and demanded he never send any more letters to the house. Was just in awe.

After maybe 15 minutes of back story, we're introduced to Ray Liotta as Henry Hill and Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito. What follows is a lengthy exposĂ© of what it was like to be in the mob between 1963 and 1980. We see the interaction between the guys and the guys with their neighborhood. We see Henry Hill's complicated relationship with his wife, Karen. Several jobs (including the infamous [and as of this year, closed] Lufthansa heist) and dead bodies later, disillusion starts to set in.
More or less, Henry Hill goes against the #1 rule Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) told him all those years ago: "Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut."
To keep from getting killed by his former brothers, he turns them in for Lufthansa and other crimes and goes into Witness Protection.

The interaction between the actors was great of course, but often times, the directing by Scorsese stole the show. He had an interesting case of OCD in that every little detail on set was precise and had meaning. This even included how everyone's dressed down to their ties.

This also includes the music. Every song fit in with the given time period of a scene.
The most infamous-- the "Layla" (by Derek and the Dominos) montage.
I do not know when I first heard the song or where. First off, one of the best guitar riffs EVER. Second, how it had two distinct parts. Third, that piano coda that takes up the remaining 4 minutes. Scorsese wrote this montage so that everything went in line with the song and vice versa. It dictated the pacing of the camera shots and so on.
The first time I saw the movie, I was so mesmerized by the music that I paid little attention to what was happening. After the guys started spending their Lufthansa money frivolously, the bodies started to pile up and everything led up to the pivotal scene where Tommy "gets made."
As a music lover, probably one of my favorite sounds on any song ever is the "bird call" at the end of "Layla." Amazingly, this was produced by Duane Allman on his slide guitar. It's so heartbreakingly beautifully perfect to me :P the song as a whole is amazing, but I always listen through it for this final moment (and subsequently get annoyed at radio stations that cut away before it can be heard). In the movie, the narration shuts up for a brief moment as Robert DeNiro goes into a phone booth, allowing us to hear it before the story resumes.

One thing in particular that sticks with me with these mob films: the depiction of women. Maybe deep down, I'm a feminist at heart, but it disturbs me how they're treated. "The Godfather, Part II" I enjoyed quite a bit (Robert DeNiro especially!!), but felt really unsettled by Al Pacino's treatment of his wife.
In "Goodfellas," it's a very loving relationship to begin with. Then things get convoluted. They fight all the time. Henry Hill has multiple girlfriends on the side, liaisons he doesn't stop even after she catches him. After Karen almost shoots him in bed, he physically threatens her back.
The only saving grace, if you can even call it that, is that they stay together for most of the movie. Times are hard and there's a lot of drama, but they stay together and appear to care for one another. Maybe that's to keep appearances or she'd grown used to the abuse, I don't know, but it doesn't come off as harsh to me. Still doesn't mean I condone it.

When the movie finishes, we get a few title screens that tell us what happened to the characters. My jaw dropped when I read that the Hills separated after 25 years of marriage because I just didn't expect it. But in retrospect, it's something I applaud.
The movie was made way back in 1990, so some of the other details are out of date.

  •  Jimmy died in prison of lung cancer 8 years before he'd be eligible for parole
  • Henry Hill revealed himself after this movie's release and was kicked out of the witness protection program (he died 6/12/12)
  • Tommy's body was never found

Coming Soon
One of many indie films starring Robert Downey Jr. that he claimed only a handful of people actually saw, but comes highly recommended from those who HAVE.

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