One time a while back I had the audacity to suggest that BLOW starring Johnny Depp was better than SCARFACE starring Al Pacino. I believe it is, and that got me thinking about another heavyweight debate between two great movies: GODFATHER vs. GOODFELLAS. I cannot find a single TOP 100 Movie List where GODFATHER isn’t right at the top, if not #1, and in some cases GODFATHER II is #2. You need not look much further down the same list of Greatest Movies to find GOODFELLAS, the story of mobster turned rat Henry Hill. Both are brilliant flicks. But guess what? I think GOODFELLAS is better than both GODFATHERS.
The other night I watched GOODFELLAS formatted to fit my TV, and almost forgot how awesome every SINGLE scene in this movie is. And that was with the curse words and elicit activity edited out, but I know the movie word for word, so I filled in the blanks. I know GF is on TV all the time, and I always watch till the commercial break then move on. But the other night I watched from credit to credit, and WOW, every aspect of GF is off the wall. Can you imagine going to see GF in the movie theatre when it first came out? There are no words to describe how great that would've been. They don't make movies like that anymore. Everything is too dumbed down now.
Joe Pesci’s performance as Tommy DiSimone is not good, or great, it’s LEGENDARY. We sometimes forget how great it is because he bastardized that archetype by playing Nicky in CASINO a few years later. Same type of guy and Pesci killed it again, but for fear of the water-down effect, he should’ve left it alone at Tommy. Liotta’s best performance ever! Sorvino and Bracco! Amazing. DeNiro. Fugetaboutit. I know what you’re saying, 'DeNiro always plays that same thing.' Yes he does, but NEVER better than in GOODFELLAS. The scene when Karen tells Henry that she flushed all the drugs down the toilet when the cops were coming may be the greatest scene in movie history. As Liotta is screaming Karen’s name, ‘Karen! Karen!’ you are right in the room with them. It’s unbelievable. And the only reason people sleep on that scene is because we’ve seen the movie a million times, which leads me to my last point . . .
. . . You can see GOODFELLAS a million times and see something new with each viewing. Remember when Jimmy (DeNiro) and Henry (Liotta) find out that Tommy (Pesci) has been clipped for killing a made man and other things (a hit many believe was carried out by John Gotti personally), and DeNiro busts up the phone booth? Right after Jimmy tells Henry that Tommy’s dead, that he’d been murdered, Henry’s face fills with this look that says one thing: I’m next. And it’s in that moment that I believe he decides to sell out and go rat. I love acting without words, just an expression or gesture that tells you everything. There it is: Acting 101 all you young Hollywood hopefuls. Goodfellas may be the best movie ever made.
Don’t get me wrong GODFATHER I & II are absolutely brilliant, no doubt. In fact my grandfather used to say it’s GODFATHER and everything else. It’s quotable and the story is incredible. The cast is first rate, Francis Ford has never been better, and the Mario Puzo books are all great. I get it, believe me, but truthfully, the movies are long and at points kind of boring. If GODFATHER is on TNT, there’s no way I’m stopping the clicker and watching much of it. Watching GODFATHER feels like a chore to me, rather than simple, easy, exciting viewing, like it is with GOODFELLAS. I admit the last 30 minutes of GOODFELLAS can be exhausting to watch, but all of GODFATHER is a work out, and if that’s the case, how can it be the greatest movie ever?
Doesn’t a movie need to have re-watchability to be on cinema’s Mount Rushmore? DUMB & DUMBER, SHAWSHANK, PULP FICTION, A FEW GOOD MEN, hell even ROAD HOUSE. You can watch these flicks a million times and come back for more. Then there are movies like GODFATHER. First time you see it: Life changing. After that: Way too much work. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is like that. THERE WILL BE BLOOD is like that. No way you can endure those movies five, six, seven times. I have gotten through GODFATHER maybe twice in my entire life. Sometimes I still catch scenes and events in the movie that I have never seen before, it seems. It’s just too much work, there’s just too much slow-going action, and, honestly, it's more antiquated looking.
GOODFELLAS has a more-modern look, which I like. The neighborhoods, and houses, and clothes feel real world to me, like Henry Hill could’ve lived on my street, shopped at my grocery store. GODFATHER looks like something out of mythical lore. GOODFELLAS is the same way as the SOPRANOS in this regard. The appeal was that Tony wasn’t just the Don. He was also a father who had to drive his kids to soccer practice and see a therapist. Imagine bumping into Don Corleone at Hannaford. No way. Corelone was a cartoon character. Plus GODFATHER III may have soiled the franchise a bit. Part III is bad.
GOODFELLAS is better than GODFATHER. The story is better, the action is better, and it’s simply a more fun flick to watch, which, in my mind, makes a movie better. But, after all that is said, I feel like it’s a wasted debate, because the SOPRANOS is better than them both.
AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies ever made: http://www.afi.com/Docs/100Years/movies100.pdf
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