Sunday, January 31, 2010

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #2

2. Goodfellas, 1990
Dir: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert Deniro, Joe Pesci

And then there were two. Goodfellas is one of the movies that is just an absolute pleasure to watch. You almost want to thank Martin Scorsese just for that fact. That it is a pleasure to watch and you are thankful that you got to watch it. Or, best yet, watch it three, four, five, twenty, thirty times. I don't know how many times I've watched Goodfellas, but each time I did, I had a great time watching it. Remember how I remarked during my write-up on Good Will Hunting that watching that movie was like listening to a band's greatest hits album? That's what Goodfellas is in a nutshell. It's a greatest hits collection of Martin Scorsese all wrapped up into one. He may have made more compelling films, more important films, but I'll be damned if he ever made one that is this entertaining, escapist, yet realistic and grounded.

Goodfellas technically has all the great elements that make a Scorsese movie. You have that great music, the constantly moving camera, the quick jump cuts, the long takes, the authentic set pieces, and just a combination of all these things together. You have the romantic scenes between Henry and Karen. That is, the scene where Henry takes Karen on their first date through the back end of a restaurant. You have scenes with extreme violence and terror. Basically, any scene with Tommy DeVito. You have some comedy, including Henry Hill's frank narration and a classic exchange between Tommy and Henry... ("you think I'm funny...?"). You have the extremely tense sequence toward the end which chronicles Henry's last day as a member of the mob. You have the brilliantly detailed sequence regarding the Lufthansa Heist. Yes, this movie has it all. It flies on by through a brisk 145 minutes and never looks back.

It all ends wonderfully with that beautiful piano-driven second part to Eric Clapton's "Layla" which kind of brings everything all together and instantly gives you nostalgia for what you just saw. You watched these guys grow up together, kill together, take drugs, do all kinds of illegal stuff together. They are not glorified, they are most definitely scum bags, but they were fun to watch.

Speaking on pure craft, this is perhaps Martin Scorsese's finest effort. I always have a tough time deciding if I like Raging Bull more than Goodfellas. I've always considered Raging Bull to be my personal favorite. But, objectively, I have to give all the credit in the world to Goodfellas. It gave a whole new spin to the gangster/mob film. It influenced a generation of filmmakers, including Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson. And, it's the ultimate crowd-pleaser. This is a film that will be regarded highly forever.

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