”The fuck is that?”
Seventeen years after revising the book on gangster movies in his breakthrough Mean Streets, Martin Scorsese returned to the netherworld of Italian-American organized crime with this stunningly ambitious, ferociously entertaining look at one man's rise and fall in a Mafia family. Shot and edited with a propulsive sense of rhythm that Gene Krupa would envy (this may be the fastest 150 minutes in film history), Goodfellas explores the 30-year career of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) as a "mechanic" working for mob boss Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino). While most films about gangsters attribute their characters' criminal lives to greed or sociopathic behavior, Scorsese makes it clear Henry and his friends Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) are gangsters because they enjoy it: they like to steal, they enjoy violence, and their "work" allows them to profit from these qualities, which would be a hindrance in nearly any other career. However, while the film offers a point-blank look at New York's criminal underworld from the '50s to the '80s, Scorsese also uses this story as a unusual but clear moral fable. In the first few reels, Henry and his partners follow a strict code of honor and make sure to obey Cicero's wishes: you pay tribute to the boss, you stay away from dealing drugs, and you don't kill anyone unless it's absolutely necessary. By the mid-'70s, these guidelines have been forgotten, and as Henry, Jimmy, and Tommy slip away from Paulie's corrupt but strictly ordered ethical universe, it leads only to death and betrayal. Scorsese has long been fascinated with the actions of men searching for a moral compass in a faithless land, but he's rarely told the story with such kinetic force and audacious skill.
The Godfather (1972)
”I spent my whole life trying not to be careless. Women and children can be careless. But not men.”
"I believe in America" -- and America embraced The Godfather, turning it into a landmark artistic triumph and blockbuster hit. The movie was initially planned as a low-budget adaptation of Mario Puzo's Mafia family best-seller, and young director Francis Ford Coppola was hired because Paramount thought he would be easy to control. Instead, he fought the studio to cast little-known Al Pacino as Michael Corleone and foundering Marlon Brando as Don Vito, and he turned The Godfather into an operatic period epic about family, honor, and American economic success (the word "Mafia" is never used); in return, he was almost fired during production. The finished film's narrative drive and imagery were astonishing. Beginning with the opening sequence intercutting Vito's sepulchral study with the bright wedding outside, Coppola renders the Corleones threatening in their business and appealing in their closeness as they negotiate the legacy of Vito's prosperity. Gordon Willis' shadowy cinematography infused the film with shades of black, brown, and gold, contrasting bleak Family dealings with warm family loyalty. The famously extreme violence, particularly the horse head and Sonny's tollbooth demise (echoing 1967's Bonnie and Clyde), revealed the cost of protecting the family honor; the baptism montage elevated Michael's corruption to diabolical proportions as he consolidates his business power. Highly anticipated and critically revered, The Godfather became one of the biggest box-office hits of all time, adding several catchphrases to the cultural lexicon, revitalizing the gangster genre, turning Pacino into a star, and reviving Brando's career. Nominated for 10 Oscars, The Godfather won Best Picture, but Brando snubbed his Best Actor prize and Coppola lost Best Director to Cabaret's Bob Fosse. Willis' cinematography wasn't even nominated, and although Nino Rota's memorable music did initially receive a nomination, the Academy rescinded it when they discovered that Rota included material in the score from one of his earlier compositions. In 1998, the American Film Institute named The Godfather one of the three greatest American films ever made, testifying to its enduring artistic legacy.
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