104. Goodfellas


Martin Scorsese could make a 10-hour-long movie and it would still be exciting. We’d all be sitting there watching intently, with no concept of any passage of time, only pausing to get up to use the restroom or get a refill on soda. The fact of Scorsese’s talent as an immensely entertaining filmmaker is most present in Goodfellas, not necessarily his best movie (AFI says that one is Raging Bull), but without question, his most Scorsese-iest.

Goodfellas chronicles the rise, semi-fall, semi-rise, and ultimate fall of wannabe-turned-full-time gangster Henry Hill. While his peers in middle and high school dreamed of earning a degree in Law or Business, Henry instead was focused on getting an MBA in roadside theft and petty larceny. He’s a gangster who fully embodies and embraces the lifestyle, wearing $1,000 suits to casual occasions, always making sure his hair is slicked back, save for when he’s binging on coke.

To Henry’s left and right are Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci also as gangsters. If
you’ve ever seen a movie where it seems like De Niro and Pesci are acting like themselves, you’re kind of right in your presumption. But, in however many years when De Niro and Pesci pass away, there will be countless articles written about their greatest roles in film, and Goodfellas will undoubtedly be at the top of the list for most of them. This movie is their shining star, their final act, the ultimate showcase of their talent and sheer ferocity. And to think, they’re only supporting characters!
Strangely, Goodfellas is a movie that proceeds briskly but feels like it encapsulates two decades worth of story. We’re introduced to characters but never waste too much time learning about them, and then when we encounter them later, they seem like family friends who’ve we’ve known our entire lives, already prepared for whatever debauchery and mayhem they’ll likely bring to the table. It’s a movie where the story itself doesn’t really matter that much. To be honest, its not so much a story at all as much as a chronicle of a man’s life and the characters he’s met along the way. But Goodfellas knows how to make its characters shine, brighter than any movie shinebox we’ve ever seen.

I remember once I got in an argument with a former roommate about which movie was better, Goodfellas or The Godfather. My roommate argued that Goodfellas was just more entertaining, and he’s right! And, turns out, he never actually saw The Godfather, he just thought it’d be boring. He’s semi-right on that last part, that The Godfather, while not boring, is certainly slower than Goodfellas. They’re just two different movies in that sense. If you had to pick only one movie that could live forever in the AFI or Academy vault out of the two, it’d likely be The Godfather. But if you could only pick one movie that’d live on your DVD shelf or survive for however long as a taped cable viewing on your DVR box, ready to watch whenever you had 3 or 4 hours to spare, you’d better go with Goodfellas. And if not, well, whatsamatterwithyou?

(Apologies for formatting, still haven’t figured out this new laptop yet.)

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