December 11, 2010

#109: Goodfellas(8/10)

I have a couple confessions to make. I had never seen Goodfellas until this last week. I still haven't seen any of the Godfather films, but I have all three on my DVR now. I am sure there are tons of other "classics" that I haven't seen, but I have trouble watching these films that were so influential. For example, I watched Annie Hall for the first time last month. I'd already seen all the shitty romantic comedies that took inspiration from the Woody Allen original, so when those moments came up in Annie Hall they seemed just as lame and cliche as all the rest. It is sad, but also an undeniable fact that I will never be able to appreciate those classics like somebody who saw them when they were first released. Undoubtedly Goodfellas would have been more effective, if only slightly, had I never seen De Niro in the Meet The Parents movies. Still, Goodfellas was an excellent film. I am glad I finally sat down and watched it. My arbitrary rating scale is even more irrelevant when trying to assign a number to a film that has been praised for 20 years. Even so, I will give it an 8 out of 10.

Most everybody has seen Goodfellas, so there is no point in encouraging you to check it out. I am sure there are a few people like me that somehow managed to avoid it all these years. If you like Scorsese's other work, and haven't seen Goodfellas, you definitely need to watch it.

Scorsese is a very talented story teller. He is so good at structuring the film and providing impressive visuals. I haven't seen his full library, but he is pretty consistent in providing an enjoyable movie watching experience. He is able to pull you into the world and get you invested in his characters. It might be blasphemy to say that Taxi Driver is one of the few Scorsese films that wasn't able to fully envelope me in its atmosphere and emotion. I still enjoyed the movie, I just didn't find it as amazing as most people do.

Ray Liotta was really great in Goodfellas. I like him as an actor, and I enjoyed his portrayal of Henry. He is a hard-core mobster, but still someone we can identify with. His ever-cool demeanor was something to aspire to. However, when things start to spin out of control it was difficult to watch him crack. Nothing against the movie, I just wanted his character to be able to rise above everything and become an awesome mobster again. I just felt like his drug use and erratic behavior didn't go along with what we had seen out of him for the rest of the film. Not really a complaint about the film, just the direction of his character arc.

One character that I really couldn't come around on was Henry Hill's wife. I don't know if it was the actress or the character she played. There didn't seem to be much chemistry between her and Liotta. Their romance from the beginning seemed superficial. I mean, it was probably supposed to be superficial, I just never believed that a powerful and important gangster like Henry would have fallen for her. She just seemed flat and vapid.

You can't talk about Goodfellas without mentioning Pesci's performance as Tommy. He drove me nuts, which proves how effective he was in the role. The scene at the card game made my jaw drop even though I somehow knew exactly what was going to happen. I was genuinely surprised by Tommy's eventual fate. I didn't see that coming at all. It is pretty great when you can stay completely unspoiled on a twenty year old movie. Pesci's role as the hot-headed small guy always trying to prove his toughness was probably the most cliche thing about the film. However, it didn't detract at all. It was probably the best depiction of that character I have ever seen.

I'm glad I watched Goodfellas. I've never regretted the time I've spent with a Scorsese film. I want to make my way through his entire library. There are a lot that I still haven't seen. As of now Goodfellas is right up there at the top with The Departed and Shutter Island. I want to work my way through some more of his films then revisit Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, and The Departed. I want to see if I like The Departed as much as I did when I first saw it.


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