So a lot of people who are older than me go around talking about what a great movie The Godfather is. I don't buy it. Never did, never will. That's because my generation was given a gangster movie that knocks The Godfather's brains out sideways. Goodfellas is the greatest gangster movie ever made and it is damn near impossible to argue otherwise.
The Godfather is long and tedious. It's dressed up like the fanciest turkey at Sunday brunch with your rich cousins and speaks a language that resembles nothing you hear on the streets. The bigger sham is The Godfather part II, which people clammer on and on about being "the greatest sequel ever" and insist it's a better movie than even the almighyt first Godfather movie. Whatever...
Goodfellas is the real deal. It comes from a first-hand account of an Irish-Italian-American who, while never "made," was close enough to see the inner-workings of the mob. The film has a documentary style that successfully puts the audience right in the middle of the action, showing what the lives of these "wise guys" were like when they weren't doing "business." The language is real. The settings are real. Scorsese drives home the point that, despite these men having a lot of money, they were still blue collar. The use of music to put the movie in its time and place is the best since American Graffiti.
When I was a kid and I first started making movies with a big, clumsy VHS camera and editing by hooking up two VCR's, the film I studied most to learn camera techniques and tricks was Goodfellas. It's textbook. Every camera gag (with the exception of the Spike Lee gag, which he stole from Scorsese's earlier movie, Mean Streets) is in the book. And who can deny the audacity of the Copacabana entrance-- four minutes through the back entrance, down the stairs, through the hallway, through the kitchen, into the dining area, to the table with Henry Hill and his date, from the table to the stage... Scorsese demonstrated at that point that King Kong and Steven Spielberg didn't have shit on him!
Hard to believe this movie is twenty years old now. It makes me feel old until I catch it on cable tv (and please, folks, watch the uncut version-- What the fuck is a "mother-scratcher"?.,) and feel twenty all over again, seeing just how amazing the craft of motion picture storytelling can be.
Alec Cizak is a writer and filmmaker. His work has appeared in several journals and anthologies. His most recent novel, Breaking Glass, is available from ABC Group Documentation. He is the editor of the fiction journal, Pulp Modern.
Follow Chelsea Farmer's journey out of hell!
DOWN ON THE STREET
Mr. Cizak's tender novella about a cabbie who decides to become a pimp
The most prophetic book ever written!
Mr. Cizak's classic collection of crime stories from the Golden Age of the online pulp fiction movement
Between Juarez and El Paso
Mr. Cizak's contribution to the Drifter Detective series.
The very BEST pulp fiction by the very BEST contemporary writers.