Wednesday, September 29, 2010

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster - Goodfellas

How do you even begin to write about something, anything that you love? It’s almost impossible, with the fear that you won't be able to express your true appreciation for it. But since it’s been 20 years since Goodfellas was released, I feel I have to at least pay homage to my favourite movie of all time. Directed by the genius 'Marty' Scorsese, it's hands-down my favourite gangster film, changing the genre into what we know it as today.

To commemorate the anniversary, GQ put together a feature interviewing 60 of the film's castmembers. Michael Imperioli who played Christopher on The Sopranos, got his start in Goodfellas, as 'Spider' in the memorable scene where he gets shot in the foot by the lunatic Joe Pesci ("..It happens"). He said it perfectly, that there would have been no Sopranos (or Boardwalk Empire for that matter) if Goodfellas hadn't come first.

Goodfellas did an amazing job showing the gritty, brutality of the lives of wiseguys. Although extremely glorified at times, it wasn’t about the Godfather-like grandeur of being up at the top, but about the low-level guys working the streets just trying to make it. Showing the anti-hero that you identify with even though he’s a killer, Henry Hill made way for characters like Tony Soprano and of course Dexter. You somehow want the bad guy to end up scot-free in the end.

Without going on a 10-page rant that ends up making no sense, let me just highlight my favourite scene of the film. Henry takes Karen (lovely and talented Lorraine Bracco, aka Dr. Melfi) for a night out at the Copacabana. First of all, the way Scorsese plays this scene out is intoxicating, in a long, uncut shot following them into the Copa. Who cares that there’s a mile-long line up to get in, Henry takes her in the back door, through the busy kitchen, and a table is set up for them right up front. All because people want to show him respect. It’s a great scene that not only conveys the glamour and style of the early 60s, but the authority and power that even a mid-level gangster carried at that time. It also explains why women are always flocking to guys like Tony and Henry on-screen, who aren't that good-looking, but possess a certain smooth power that women are attracted to. Whether it’s out of fear, loyalty or because he’s got money, it’s all the same that he has the ability to make stuff happen.

Watch this scene

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