Sunday, June 27, 2010

No. 94: GoodFellas

GoodFellas (1990)

Starring: Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci

Director: Martin Scorsese

Awards: Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Pesci

I was at our local video store the other day, renting GoodFellas. While waiting, I had a conversation about the movie with the guy working the counter. His advice? “Take your vitamins before you watch it.”

That sounded super negative. But they were just cautionary words to make sure my brain was…prepared? After watching it, I can honestly say you do need a little moment of preparation. I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty profane and violent. But once you steel your mind to watching it, believe me - you’re going to like it.

Henry Hill (Liotta) has always wanted to be a gangster. The local mobsters take him under their protection, and Hill works his way up the mob chain, starting with petty theft and moving on to bigger heists with friends Jimmy Conway (DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Pesci). When a heist goes sour, Hill’s drug-dealing career starts catching up with him and eventually, Hill is captured in a massive narcotics bust. He stands trial, and when he commits the ultimate betrayal by ratting out his friends, he’s forced into witness protection with his family. Oh, such a happy ending.

So why is this movie good? Well, I could just say it’s a Scorsese movie, and not say another word. But I’d rather discuss all the details. One thing I love about the movie is how connected you feel to the characters. You root for the underdogs, you gasp when someone you like gets whacked…you feel like these people are your friends (albeit pretty scary friends).

Another thing Scorsese excels at is carving out a niche for each character. In the mobster movie genre, it’s all too easy to depict gangsters as pizza-eating, machine gun-toting caricatures. And you do see a bit of that in the movie. But the way that it’s done is unlike any other representation. The characters all have their own quirks and temperaments, and by the end of the movie, you’ll never be able to lump gangsters into one mold again.

In short, if you like:

* Martin Scorsese

* Lotsa oozing blood

* The most delicious-looking Italian food ever. Period.

* Multiple types of killing - if you’re into variety

* Really beautiful camera work - freeze frames, insanely long tracking shots, you name it!

* The soundtrack - it's brilliant how the music adapts and changes according to each decade, like the shift from Italian nightclub music to Eric Clapton.

* Shaving garlic with a razor (One of the best scenes in the film.)

…then you’ll love GoodFellas. And if you don’t, well, who needs you? Just kidding. Try it out!

Next up: No. 93, The Apartment (1960), a Billy Wilder film starring Jack Lemmon and Fred MacMurray. I’m really excited for this one - I love both the director and the stars’ other films, so stick around and read about it!


  1. I love that you are doing this! What a cool kid you are.

    You're going to love The Apartment. Hope Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard are also on your list.

    Goodfellas is such a great film. It's just perfection. Too bad Scorcese won the Oscar for the Departed instead of this one.

  2. I must note that after watching the prison dinner scene, where Paulie shaves garlic with a razor and the guys stir spicy tomato sauce, Josie said "I want to go to prison!"

  3. I absolutely couldn't wait to get here and see what movie I should re-watch this time! I LOVE GoodFellas -- in a I had to had my eyes through a lot of it way. Looking forward to watching it again!

  4. Josie, It is so cool that you do this!
    I love your blog and Your dog is adorable:) Keep on doing this. I am definitely going to have to watch something you recommend

  5. The long tracking shot where Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco walk through the Copacabana still holds up as downright thrilling. The second half is more of a downer - the drugs seem to replace the enthusiasm - but it's a fascinating film! The controversial question is: should Goodfellas have received the Best Picture Oscar instead of Dances With Wolves that year? Dances won and, at the time, it was a more popular and satisfying film. But others thought that artistically, and with the great ensemble work, Goodfellas should have won.

  6. YES: GoodFellas should have won. I still can't believe it didn't.

  7. I think what you are doing is, to put it simply, "outstanding." Although I have not seen most of the movies you rate in the "Top 100" because of your blog I now have a small bit of background information, and I intend to sit down with my family and watching THE APARTMENT.