11 May 2010

41. Goodfellas

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is just about flawless in the way it examines a theme, the way it uses extreme mastery of film technique and language to express mood and emotion, the way it uses genre to explore a personal story near to the director's heart. This is a masterpiece.

Opening scene -- looks up, smart, ironic, action -- leaves us wanting more

first scene -- EYES -- he's watching what's happening in the neighborhood -- he covets what he sees -- parallel to scorsese's life

opening scenes -- teaching us about how the mob works on a LOW level, on a street level -- this is a big change from the old mob movies, which were larger than life and about the men at the top, not the middle men guys. and in teaching us how this works, so much information is packed in -- VO contrasting with visuals. RICH visual world, hitchcockian. parallel to beginning of jules et jim.

examination of POWER, RESPECT, being SPECIAL -- usually through violence.

guy getting shot -- henry is different because he offers HELP.

never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut. -- SET UP is finished.

new thing/new job -- heist. we see the preparation and the aftermath, but no set piece. why? because it isn't needed here.

joe pesci am i a comedian story -- why is it so good? he's charming, turns on a dime. he's a sociopath. creates tension with very little, and then diffuses.

30-40 -- subplot -- lorraine bracco. she takes over the VO -- he likes her spunk.

famous tracking shot -- apex of his power, and he gets to show it off -- he's bypassing a normal existence, and the world unfolds before him, and he's showing that off.

air france -- we walked out with 400,000 without using a gun -- this is big for him -- he's not a violent guy. that separates him from the others.

set-up for a big payoff a few scenes later -- ray liotta CAN get pissed and fuck shit up. shown so well -- we see the gun, we think: uh oh. the tension builds as he walks over. at the end, we see her WATCHING the whole thing, thus implicating her. she's in on it now. that's also their connection -- she's a watcher too.

billy bats scene -- midpoint -- where the good times start to unravel. again, it's about power, respect, status, being special. joe pesci has used violence to be special, to be somebody, and billy bats tries to take that away. pesci can't take it, so: murder.

domestic scene -- dramatic irony -- the irony of what we know vs. what the characters know, and the contrast of how plain and NICE it is from what we saw them just do. plus, we already knew about the knife, and now we see where it came from -- his sweet old mother.

billy bats murder is a set-up to a later payoff of tommy getting killed.

further characterization -- henry is the one who pukes when digging up bats...he's the less violent one.

classic second act stuff: things continue to go bad -- spider situation, karen knowing about cheating.

karen waking him up with gun scene -- TENSION -- what will happen next? -- rhythm and release

then: jail.

IRONY -- showing us how mobster do prison -- MUCH different than we usually see with prison

getting involved in drug trade -- paulie warns him. but he's too far into it. again, shown visually. and then he's getting way too into the coke himself -- repeat of scene with his wife where she gives him BJ, but this time with a mistress.

new score -- morrie's thing. EVERYONE is involved. lufthansa = huge hiest. EVERYONE is spending money left and right, which is an indicator of the heist -- again, we don't see the heist. WHY? because henry isn't involved, that's why. so: no set piece. and the point isn't the heist, but what happens afterward -- the fallout. DON"T BUY ANYTHING, but greed is too powerful and people start fucking up and getting sloppy, so everyone has to die.

samuel l. scene -- surprise -- we don't see it coming that he kills him, it starts like a normal scene and then twists. we see why.

"there's weird moments of tension and negative space where the viewer's wondering what's going on, what's going to happen next." -- conan.

morrie's murder -- "it's off" and then it's a regular scene -- talking about going to get coffee and danish, etc. and then kill him as a surprise. THEN: everyone's dead.

again, a surprise -- we're set up to expect a certain result and the worst possible opposite happens -- they set up to make tommy, and instead kill him. the rug is pulled out from under us, and we love that. OH SHIT moments.

3rd act: almost all of it in one day. the shit is hitting the fan.

aftermath: the last thing we would ever do is rat on these people, but he's completely alone, they won't have anything to do with him and he's proabbly going to get killed. it's not real until karen almost gets killed in a visual, subtextual scene (storefront thing).

He did the opposite of what Jimmy said when he first got pinched: ratted them out. And his reward is suburban mediocrity -- he is no longer special, no longer respected.

so much rhythm and release throughout. tension built up and dispersed, then brought back to surprise us.

here's why joe pesci won the oscar: he's the worse piece of murdering psychopathic shit, and yet, when he dies, we are left breathless because he's also charasmatic.

In the end:
It's about using violence as a way to be special, to be respected, to have power.

It's about showing the mafia world on a ground level for the regular guys and how they lived, not the bosses.

It's about showing how, in this world, violence is so commonplace that it co-mingles with domestic scenes like having your mother cook you a midnight meal.

It's about being able to go in the backdoor of a popular nightclub and having them put a table out for you right away. It's about the singer in the nightclub buying you champagne.

And it's about having it all taken away.


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