The One Where I Want To Watch Goodfellas Back-To-Back
Evening kids, AT here. Lets bang that Scorsese drum, shall we? I want to take you back. Way back. Back in time.....*
*... to 1990
I always get the same feeling watching the last five minutes of Goodfellas. It’s almost like a pang of the heart that it’s finishing, but also a more sinister and disturbing thought… That’s right, I think about watching it again. Immediately. Every time. And so I wonder… will I ever lose that feeling?
When Henry Hill breaks the forth wall in the courtroom, I punch the air. Scorsese has played it straight all along, with a few visual flashes. This? This is him signing off so you never forget it. But there is more. Just as you recover from the fact he has addressed you face to face, (which shouldn’t be the surprise it is, considering he’s narrated the majority of the film), BANG. Several in fact. Henry Hill smirking at the camera, cut to the ghost (?) of Tommy, shooting us in the face. It’s positively breathtaking.
A fair bit goes before that, to be fair. So much so it’s difficult to know where to start. Goodfellas feels most like my Scorsese film. Maybe I should start there. Having already given my thoughts on Raging Bull, and Taxi Driver, I realize there is a distance between me and those films. I love them, and appreciate them, but I was alive when Goodfellas was made. That immediately means I remember having a sneak peak of Empire when Dad wasn’t looking to have a quick read. I new even then that the film was given stunning reviews. I also knew that another of Dads favorites Dances With Wolves won the Best Oscar that year. I won’t pass comment on that here, as I am a Wolves apologist. I think it’s a brilliant film. But beating Goodfellas to the Oscar? It’s everything that is wrong about the Academy, succinctly described far better than I could HERE.
I’m not sure what I love most about the film. The music? The use of voice over, only bettered by Casino for me? (Controversial, I know, but I’ll come to that). The performances? It’s hard to remember De Niro being more in control. Ageing effortlessly on screen until he gets what is for me, his greatest ever scene. Every time he kicks that phone box over, and looks surprised, whilst making that awkward yelping sound? It gets me. It makes me realize I have invested in him, and his role as mentor to the two young leads. When he learns of the “betrayal”, De Niro encapsulates numerous feelings. He’s angry. He’s concerned. (That he’s next). He’s surprised that it’s maybe taken this long. It’s a brilliant scene, and Scorsese manages to make you realize the whole world is caving in on then. Henry, stood next to him, doesn’t know where to look. You can see the cogs turning as to where he goes next. What his next move is going to be.
Before any of this even happens we have that opening. It’s become the stuff of Hollywood legend. Almost like a Horror film, bathed in the red brake lights, (later replayed as they dig up the body, Henry sick at the stench), Scorsese tells us all we need to know. The bit that most people remember is the graphic knifing, then shooting. What they miss is the way that plays out before, like a demented black comedy, as each of the three leads pulls out their weapon. When it gets to Tommy, and the biggest kitchen knife you’ve ever seen, it’s hard not to laugh, even though you know what is coming.
Ray Liotta is the find of the movie. I would struggle to name five films he went on to make that I’d have in my collection, (*cough*Turbulence*cough*WTF*cough), which is crazy. How is that possible? He should have given up acting after this. It was lightning in a bottle. I do love Unlawful Entry, though. And Cop Land.
Pesci literally sticks his finger up at his critics here. Personally, I can’t stand him. But here? He’s towering. Casino and this mean I’ll always find time to watch him. Throw Raging Bull in, and Scorsese has given him a career.
When I get that feeling I mentioned at the start, I always resist the urge. As of this day, I have never watched it back to back. The reason I always come up with is that it wouldn’t be fair on the other films I watch that day/week/month.
Scorsese made this just after Last Temptation Of Christ, which I famously paid £30 for on DVD. I say famously, it was famous for me. Or infamous. That was a lot of money for a DVD, but I had to see what the fuss was about. Not a lot, it seems. Goodfellas then seems like a retort – a way to get back on track. I love the idea that after being vilified by large amounts of people for Temptation, his way of catharsis is to make an ultra violent mob flick. Like that is less controversial.
Afterwards, we got Cape Fear. A comic book movie, although I love it for that, again it was Scorsese taking a break. Almost on autopilot. I guess that is the effect Goodfellas would have on you. I think it is indisputably his masterpiece, and when you look at the contenders that is a pretty big statement.