Category Archives: Biography

No. 92 GOODFELLAS (1990)

As far back as I can remember; I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.

All you need to know about this movie is the following two words: Martin Scorsese. This on its own should make you want to watch Goodfellas. I must admit that this was my first time seeing this particular Scorsese movie – I have seen more recent ones like The Departed, Shutter Island, Gangs of New York and The Aviator. All great movies, but a tad bit violent. Though the thing about Scorsese and violence is that even though violence goes hand in hand with almost all of his movies, yet he does not glorify violence by any means. Scorsese’s violence is always messy, ugly and well – violent. He portrays violence how it is – an unthinkably horrible act.

Goodfellas is based on a book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi also co-wrote the screenplay with Martin Scorsese. “Wiseguy” is a true rise-and-fall story of a real-life mobster, Henry Hill. As Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) says in the beginning of the movie – he always wanted to be a gangster. So from a young age Henry starts hanging out and running errands for the neighbourhood’s mob boss, Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino). He then starts pulling jobs with Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), who are part of the same mob crowd. There are several milestones in Hill’s life: first arrest, wedding to Karen (Lorraine Bracco), mistress number one, mistress number two, jail term and running around behind the mob boss’ back dealing cocaine. But the most profound moment is the murder of Billy Batts (Frank Vincent), when everything changes for Henry. From there begins the fall that concludes on one cocaine-fuelled day in 1980.

Anything I wanted was a phone call away.

Goodfellas is not your ordinary gangster film. This does not make you want to be a gangster and unlike in The Godfather, you do not see the gangsters living in big mansions. You see them fighting for survival every day and night. As the real Henry Hill puts it – it was anything but the American Dream.

                 Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.

I don’t think I even need to address the issue that Scorsese is probably the most genius director of our century. The greatness of Goodfellas comes down to Scorsese’s brilliance as a director. And also to his advice to actors who according to Scorsese should not act like the people they are portraying – instead they should behave like them. This gives the movie that magic intensity and sense of reality.

                                                       I don’t mean no disrespect!

The use of voice-over narrative in Goodfellas is just genius. It increases the level of the relationship between Henry and the audience by giving it more intimacy. The casting is perfect. All fantastic performances – Liotta, Pesci – who won an Oscar for his performance -, De Niro, Sorvino… I could go on and on. One of the interesting performances comes from Scorsese’s mum, who plays Tommy DeVito’s mum in that famous dinner scene. Martin Scorsese’s own roots are deep in the Italian-American community in New York – not that different from the neighbourhood is Goodfellas.

Sure, mom, I settle down with a nice girl every night, then I’m free the next morning.

There are many excellent scenes. One is the nightclub scene between Pesci’s and Liotta’s characters. Scorsese shot it with a medium shot (no close-ups), so that the audience is able to see how the people around Tommy and Henry behave. You can see the expressions on their faces changing from laughter into alarm.

                                            Funny how? What’s funny about it?

The 3rd act in the movie is basically Henry paranoid running around and going home to stir pasta sauce; and then the same again and again – all the time with the same intensity level. Brilliant! Another talent of Scorsese is to take a small detail and blossom it into art – like in the prison sequence the most memorable thing is how thin Paulie cuts the garlic.

Now take me to jail

So has Goodfellas earned its number 92 spot on the list? Absolutely! It’s also a movie, which should be watched more than once to truly appreciate its brilliance.

Today everything is different; there’s no action… have to wait around like everyone else.

THE KING’S SPEECH (2010)

Why are you here then – Because I bloody well stammer!

The must-see-movie of this year and I have finally managed to view it. And it sure did live up to all the expectations. The whole movie just reeks of quality – from the beginning to the end. No wonder it won 4 Oscars including screenplay, leading actor and directing.

          What’s he saying? – I don’t know but… he seems to be saying it rather well

The King’s Speech tells a story of King George VI (Colin Firth), who reluctantly becomes the King of England after his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicates due to a scandalous marriage to American divorcée Wallis Simpson. King George VI or Bertie – to his friends – has been suffering from stammer all his life. At that day and age stammer was regarded as a weakness – a king with a stammer was considered to be an unfit leader for a nation. After trying every kind of treatment Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) finds an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Suspicious Bertie meets with Logue and after a couple of turbulent meetings starts Logue’s unorthodox treatment course. During that course of treatment Bertie and Logue develop a strong bond that becomes a lifelong friendship. England is facing war and its people are desperate for a strong leader. Thankfully Logue’s treatments are working and the whole country gathers around their radios to witness the King’s speech, which will unite them in battle and inspire them through the inevitable war.

Kinging can take a lot of time…

This film has such an impressive cast. Colin Firth is marvellous as the troubled King George VI. He sounds like his has been stammering all his life. Mr. Darcy is all grown up! Funnily enough Jennifer Ehle, who plays Mrs. Logue, was Elizabeth Bennett to Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995). Mini-series with that famous lake scene of wet Colin Firth…

                                 Is the nation ready for two minutes of radio silence?

Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter give equally impressive performances. Costumes are spot on – like everything in this movie.

Ham; not palm

David Seidler, who wrote the screenplay, wrote a letter to Queen Mother a several years ago asking for permission to make a movie out of King George VI’s story. Queen Mother asked him not to do so during her lifetime, as the memories were too painful for her. Seidler respected her wish and the movie was made after Queen Mother passed away. David Seidler also got very lucky as private journals of Lionel Logue were found a short time before the movie started filming, thus they could be incorporated into the script and give valuable insight into the private relationship between Bertie and Logue.

                                 Do you know any jokes?

At the end of the day this is a bromance story. As Colin Firth recaps the movie: Boy meets therapist – boy looses therapist – boy gets therapist.

If you have somehow missed The King’s Speech you must watch it and enjoy moviemaking at it’s best.

Waiting for me to… commence a conversation, one can wait rather a long wait.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

You know, you really don’t need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this. If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.

During last weekend I finally got around watching The Social Network, which scooped a couple of Oscars last night. It was just released on DVD in the UK for people like me who missed it in the movies; who then had to listen to everybody talking and writing about how brilliant it is. And yes – they were right – it is a brilliant movie.

                                                                In the beginning there was a Man with a Computer

It could have easily been a boring documentary about the birth of Facebook and how it revolutionized the way people connect. But because of Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant rapid-firing screenplay there is no time to be bored – you have to keep up with the dialogue which is like a Nadal – Federer tennis match on speed. If you blink – you missed it! Sorkin who created such TV favorites as The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (the latter maybe only my favorite) has turned Ben Mezrich’s book (The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal) into a captivating movie. It lets you decide yourself if Mark Zuckerberg is a ruthless, disloyal asshole or a übermotivated computer genius, who did not let anybody get in the way of his vision. The New York Times investigated how this movie divides the audiences generationally. The older audiences see Zuckerberg as a tragic, unsocial figure; while younger people applaud him for being a go-getter who does what he needs to do to protect his creation.

You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount

If you are not aware of the story and lawsuits behind Facebook’s rise to a phenomenon, you must have been living under a rock. Most of the movie takes place around the time when the idea is born and is put into action by Mark Zuckerberg, who is so brilliantly played by Jesse Eisenberg. If you ever had the question in your mind about Eisenberg being a secondary Michael Ceraish nerd, you have been proven wrong. Later the movie shifts between the early years and the two lawsuits launched against Zuckerberg by the Winkelevii (Winklevoss twins played by Josh Pence with a little help from CGI) and Eduardo Saverin (fantastically acted by Andrew Garfield). In to the mix enters the Napster co-founder Sean Parker and things really take off. Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker is a revelation. Inspirational casting, which really pays off. There is so much betrayal, envy and resentment in this movie. It also has a lot of innovative visions, outside-of-the-box thinking, ambition and just pure computer geniuses. And of course there is a girl.

                                                           Soon The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher, who has given us gems like Seven and Fight Club, has directed another gripping movie. You can’t find any fault in the directing and editing of The Social Network. But what really shines is the screenplay and the acting.

                                                     Safety first – nobody is stealing my briefcase

At the end of the day, nobody knows what really happened in real life. But who cares? The fact remains that Facebook affects each one of us on a daily basis. It now has over 600million members and is valued at more than $ 50billion. I for one have to thank Mr. Zuckerberg for getting me back in touch with my childhood best friend.

We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!