Goodfellas - A Monument of American FIlm?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jason_Els, Jun 21, 2002.

  1. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    The "Layla" thread got me thinking....
    A year or two ago in SGHT I read an interview with Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese's editor. She is very deferential to Scorsese yet I'm trying to figure her influence on his editing process.
    Every time I go back to Goodfellas I see more and more to like. Right after I got the DVD I kept going over the long stedicam "introductions" shot in the Bamboo Lounge and the corollary "Avon party introductions" shot. Why do they seem so similar when the filming process in each is so different? I considered the theme of each shot yet there was something very similar visually. I also keep going over the Jimmy Conway "clearances" section where the results of his greed are measured in bodies (sorry for the wordiness, didn't want to make a spoiler here).
    This led to a whole bunch of Metz-like semiotical notions which rather frightened me because I realized the French might be right; the film might just be the message. yet narrative in each of these scenes is strongly enforced by the voice-overs. I tend to think of this kind of thing as an uniquely American device (strong montage mated with strong narrative quality). Boy I hope I'm describing this correctly. [​IMG]
    I keep looking for flaws in Goodfellas and I keep looking for lack of balance. Short of the questionable denouement, which I'm not sure is questionable because it works in some ways though isn't quite satisfying, I'm not seeing any bad choices; any drop in narrative or expressive strength.
    And this kind of frightens me because I think I've found a van Gogh in the attic. Goodfellas is recognized as a good film, but not a great one. Though its status seems to be slowly increasing I'm willing to put it on a pedestal with other truly great films right now. I might even say that this film will be recognized in the future as one of the best films of all time; if not necessarily for the subject matter then certainly for its (pardon the pun) execution. The jewel in the crown of Goodfellas is certainly its editing.
    Which brings me back to Thelma. So much of Scorsese's work has been done with Schoonmaker it makes me wonder just where she fits. I know they work collaboratively and I know he loves editing. If it's all him then why bother with an editor at all? Unions? Good form? She has to bring something to the mix. She is not a formally-trained film editor and got her first job by answering an ad in a newspaper-- Woodstock nonetheless!
    I want to talk about what makes this film tick and why I have this suspicion it might be a whole lot better than most critics give it credit for and what role editing, and Schoonmaker, and narrative, have in it.
    P.S. - Sorry about the HTML in the title. If a mod reads this could you fix it plz?
     
  2. BrandonL

    BrandonL Stunt Coordinator

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    You know that was an interesting read. I love Goodfellas and never even have thought deeply into the movie. Now the next time I watch it I will be thinking a little more.
     
  3. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    87 views and only one person wants to talk about this? [​IMG]
     
  4. Shana

    Shana Stunt Coordinator

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    Good stuff, Jason! I have always loved the way Goodfellas was made. Funny how you never see some of your fav movies on pay movie channels like HBO. I am just now seeing for the first time Silence of the Lambs on them, after all these years. Otherwise you would see Goodfellas and SOTL on those edited cable channels like USA.
     
  5. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

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    I absolutely LOVE Goodfellas. It's definitely one of my top ten all-time films, and I've only seen it once! Despite that, I need you all to do me a favor and talk me out of buying the current DVD release. See, I just got $300 from my parents for various good things I've done and I really want to see this movie again, but I know the SE will blow the original out of the water and it will be a waste of $20, so please tell me not to buy it!

    edit: Oh yeah, you can also tell me why I SHOULD buy it if you think I should.
     
  6. steve jaros

    steve jaros Second Unit

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    Jason, i agree with your assessment of Goodfellas as a masterpiece, but disagree with your claim that most critics view it as a good, but not great, film.

    Goodfellas has been praised as a classic film from day one. Everyone knows it was the best film of 1990.
     
  7. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    Andrew: Buy a used copy. Amazon has one for $13.00.
    Steve: Every time I hear tell of Goodfellas I hear about it being one of the best mob movies of all time. Rarely does it get elevated into one of the best of all time. Nor do I hear much about it technically. I search the internet and film books but Goodfellas rarely gets so much as a mention while The Godfather sometimes gets as much as a few pages. That bothers me because it tells me Goodfellas is given a lot of kudos by critics but little respect by film theoreticians and educators; it's pretty but insubstantial.
     
  8. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

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    Jason, I think that the Godfather and Goodfellas are really on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as mob movies are concerned. Whereas the Godfather deals more with family, loyalty, and honor, Goodfellas is more about what happens when those things go away and the lives built around them start to crumble. Personally, I prefer Goodfellas by just a bit over Godfather, but even though they're in the same genre per se, they're two very dissimilar films, IMO.

    One thing I've always wondered about is why Ray Liotta isn't given more credit for his performance. Any time Goodfellas is discussed, it's always Pesci and Deniro that come up; sure, they're both great, but Liotta really carries the movie and is, IMHO, equally as good as his other, more highly touted counterparts.
     
  9. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

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    BTW, thanks for the tip, but with shipping I'd only need to pay about five bucks more to get it new, so I might just have cave and go that route. I can always sell it off when the new one comes out.
     
  10. Johnny wilson

    Johnny wilson Stunt Coordinator

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    Goodfellas is one of the top 10 films ever made. period.
     
  11. Ray Suarez

    Ray Suarez Stunt Coordinator

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    Jason,

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of this film. I also think it is a perfect balance of story telling, film editing and acting.

    The use of stedicam in this movie is outstanding. You mentioned the "introductions" shot in the Bamboo Lounge and I would like to add that my favorite is the first Copacabana scene where Henry and Karen meander their way from the street through the back entrance, kitchen and crowded club to the first row of seats to see Henny Youngman...brilliant! In addition to the technical merits of these scenes they also serve as important tools in character introduction and character development.

    Goodfellas is the best film of Scorsese's impressive body of work and I would love to see it mentioned when we discuss the best films of all time.

    Ray
     
  12. steve jaros

    steve jaros Second Unit

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    Jason - Goodfellas did make AFI's list of the 100 best films ever, though i would have placed it a bit higher than the #94 ranking it received. Still 94 out of the tens of thousands of films made in the past 100 years is a pretty high ranking...
     
  13. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Goodfellas = Great F***in' Movie

    It really does have everything: comedy, drama, Italians... it's perfect!

    You'd be hard pressed hearing me say anything bad about Scorsese, though. He's my second-favorite director of all time.

    And yes, Ray Liotta was great. While we're giving credit to actors, Loraine Braco (sp?) was wonderful as well.


    If you want to see the movie without buying the DVD, why don't you just rent it?
     
  14. Paul Bartlet

    Paul Bartlet Stunt Coordinator

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    Andrew_Sch put it together very well ..
     
  15. Butch C

    Butch C Second Unit

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    19 yr old Italian kid from the Bronx when the film came out...


    Needless to say we did and still do think that Goodfellas was sent to us from heaven.
     
  16. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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  17. steve jaros

    steve jaros Second Unit

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    Jason, i guess in a strict sense i agree with you - i'd put Goodfellas in at least the top 50, so like you a ranking of 94 is not "giving it the respect it deserves".

    But IMO that's kind of like saying "i deserved to get $10 million from the jury and they -only- awarded me $9.7 million, so i didn't get what i deserved". That's technically true, but you *almost* got what you deserved - there just wasn't that big a gap between the two.

    Analogously, you originally said that while goodfellas is considered to be a great gangster movie it's not considered to be a great movie. IMO, any movie that made the top 100 has to be regarded by all involved as a great movie.

    So while i agree that goodfellas isn't as highly regarded as it should be, i don't think the critics/experts in general are very far off about it, whereas you seem to think they are. Fair enough.
     
  18. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    Goodfellas is one of the greatest movies ever made in my opinion. Ashame it didn't win Best Picture. I can't think of a movie which had better characterization and style as this one, besides phenomenal acting.

    When is Warner going to release the SE?!
     
  19. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

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  20. Jason Boucher

    Jason Boucher Stunt Coordinator

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    Goodfellas remains strong in my top ten list--maybe 4 or 5. First, critics almost universally recognize the genius of The Sopranos, which is derivative of GF. Second, if you go back and watch Scorsese's earlier films (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, New York New York, etc.), you realize that he was honing his skills and techniques and they were all building towards the culmination of his masterpiece, GF (although I would be open to the argument that GF was the final step to his masterpiece Casino, even though I prefer GF). I much more appreciate this progression and development of an artist's technique than say, Coppola who could never improve on the genius of his earlier work (although again, I will accept the argument that Godfather was simply the test run for the better GFII, and maybe Apocalypse). I particularly like Scorsese's use of contemporary music rather than an orchestral score--again a technique that has been duplicated successfully in Sopranos. GF is great. Scorsese is a god and has contributed much more to our rich film heritage than he has ever realized in box office gains.
     

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