Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Night Flicks, Vol. 1--Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas

In need of a way to keep my sanity, I decided to set aside some time on Friday nights...for movies. You see, my Boy was born on June 2nd, and, you know, the littles take a bit out of you. Caught a couple blockbusters over the summer (Incredibles 2, Mission: Impossible Fallout). Then, GRAD SCHOOL started. It's big and scary. I've been out of the game too long.

Needless to say, it's all work and no play around here these day (well, except for I play with the Boy). But it's definitely no time for the movies. So, anyway, I decided to give myself a night, the classic night, Friday night...for movies.

I hope to post a reaction of the previous week's movie then watch another one every Friday night (give or take) until Gardner-Webb University hands me my M.A. in English (so good (and hard) so far). The thing is I fell asleep last Friday night before I could writing anything, so I'm writing about it this Friday night and next Friday night I'll really start. For real.

So, I watched Goodfellas. And then a couple days later I'm teaching my 1st period Advanced 8th Grade English class, and this kid keeps going on and on trying to make this girl at his table laugh and I'm all, like, "Hey, ________, we get it, you're a funny guy. Now, knock it off!" or something like that.

And then I went full Pesci, just to get the 13-year-olds who never even heard of Scorsese or this movie all riled up, laughing, "Whadda ya mean, I'm funny!? Like I'm a clown. Do I amuse you?"

And this girl is like, "Why are you talking like you're from New York?"

I proceeded to keep busting into that the rest of the week every time __________ got to his old tricks.

It's funny how Goodfellas somehow created its own cinematic language (the tell-and-show, pop song Scorsese thing) while creating a certain actual language. I sure can't think of a movie about the mafia that has come out since that doesn't only look like it but that also sounds like it, or tries to. Even crime stories outside of the mafia genre, if you will, emulate it (see: Ted Demme's Blow, David O. Russell's American Hustle, even Scorsese's own Casino and The Wolf of Wall Street to an extent). There's that voiceover, sometimes even shifting among the cast, the flashy pans and zooms and cuts. And there are simply the words that connect all who've cherished this movie...

I'm at a friend's house for the UT game on Saturday. His wife walks into the living room with an aggressive glass of red wine.

"Hey! Now, we can eat!" My friend laughed.

So, we talked about Goodfellas and how badass it is. And we laughed. And I probably talked about this:

And how it changed my life the first time I saw it, how it still does stand out as one of the greatest sequences ever put to film. I probably talked about the genius of Harry Nilsson and the genius of Scorsese and Co. for giving this infinite life to his "Jump Into the Fire." 

I'm weaving around the scattered books and binders on my classroom floor, likely talking about how we consider connections to other texts when we read something. We'd been working on a handout, some graphic organizers meant to connect an article we read about human "Herd Behavior" to the rumble scene in S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders

I stopped in my tracks and looked at this girl in my class and said, in my best New York Italian American Mafia accent, "I'm gonna go get the papers, get the papers." And I handed them to some kids to hand out. She laughed without knowing. She just thought I was some goofball English teacher. 

On Monday, I wrote a thing for one of my classes, in response to our weekly reading, about literary canon and traditionalism and who decided what was great and how the current generations of English majors (or college students, in general) fit into the literary traditions of the few previous generations.

It's funny. I listened to the same conversation in the movie podcast "Unspooled" as I did my usual Sunday kitchen cleaning and food prep for the week. Each week, the hosts, the comedian Paul Scheer and the film critic Amy Nicholson, take a deep dive into one film from the AFI Top 100 list. One of the objectives of their conversation is to decide its place on this list. Does it belong? Who decided it was "great"? Is it still relevant to the youthful generation coming-of-age in today's superhero landscape? They even mentioned Goodfellas when they talked about how many Scorsese/De Niro collaborations are on the list (Trivia Question!...Comment Below...Don't Cheat!) and posit that, perhaps, we could make way for something else in lieu of one or two.

They asked those questions also of Steven Spielberg's ET: The Extra-Terrestrial: Do kids even see it anymore? Would they connect? And this is a movie that is only 35 years old. (The answers, by the way, are: yes and yes, as long as there is a parent or teacher to expose them to it.)

Am I that teacher? It's probably irresponsible to basically pitch a hard R-rated gangster movie. But, you know, I watched Goodfellas when I was about 14. That was 9th Grade for me. It changed my life. I'd never seen anything so slickly brutal and perfect. It's like the way Paulie slices that garlic in prison, you know? "It used to liquify in the pan with just a little bit of oil." It's that good, this movie. It's as good as dinner in prison for a mobster. Everyone should know what that's like. 


  1. A classic from start to finish. I too saw it the first time when I was a teen. It was fucking cool. You just love those characters no matter how scary they are. I love that little moment of Paulie slicing the garlic with a razor. I bet the Mafia make the best Italian food.

    1. Yes. I want to eat that food. This movie is good at food.

  2. I would've loved having you as a teacher lol.

    I started watching this a few days ago but didn't get to finish. I've never actually seen it the whole way through. I'd like to finish it.

  3. I think I watched Goodfellas when I was 12, shortly after I watched The Departed. Thought it was great, but wasn’t in my top 25 or anything.

    Watched it again earlier this year (& probably saw bits & pieces of it on cable over the years), & man, did I love it. It looked amazing in 4K, & everything was just fantastic. The editing here is probably my favorite piece about this film (especially in the helicopter scene). This is frenetic editing done right: in-your-face, matching the crazed situation. Definitely a Top 25 film for me now. Everything about this film is perfect.

    As for the Scorsese/De Niro collaborations, there were:
    Mean Streets; Taxi Driver; New York, New York; Raging Bull; The King of Comedy; Goodfellas; Cape Fear; Casino; & (eventually) The Irishman.

    Also… I still haven’t seen E.T. Please don’t massacre me, man.

    1. Also… good luck on getting your M.A., & I hope everything is well with your boy!

    2. Oh yeah! Everything's great. Thanks, man.