Author Topic: Goodfellas  (Read 5436 times)

oldkid

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Goodfellas
« on: May 24, 2016, 08:59:04 PM »
Discussion on Goodfellas via messages, staring Luke and oldkid:

Hey Oldkid!

Wasn't sure if I should post this on the actual thread since it was a while back, but I've been reading the survey results of various posters that I've enjoyed posts from since joining a few days ago (I really liked your contributions to the Meek's Cutoff discussion)....and when I read your survey, I saw you emphatically HATED Goodfellas, which I found fascinating. Have you written about that anywhere?  It's not in my personal top 10 or anything, but I think it's a great film and I don't think I've talked to anyone who hates it. I'd be interested to hear your take on it.

Thanks!

Luke

Oldkid:
I don't write much about films I hate and so I have never written a formal review of Goodfellas.  verbals and I have, however, had discussions on the subject, I just don't remember where.

First of all, I want to say that the film is excellent in all technical aspects-- script, cinematography, acting, ect, is all top-notch.  My problem has more to do with how I view people. 

I don't believe that anyone is all bad nor have I met anyone like that.  I have met people who have betrayed their friends, I have met criminals and drug dealers and people who have threatened my life and others.  But they all did it due to a mental weakness on their part or because they have a poor idea of what is good.  Goodfellas has no likable characters, no one who even has a portion of their personality that is pleasant.  Thus, watching this film, there is no entertainment value, just a bunch of fictional bad people doing bad things with no spark of hope or good qualities.  It just made me miserable, and I don't think people like this exist.

The Godfather films make a lot more sense to me.  There are bad people, but they do bad for good reasons, or reasons they like to think are good.  The motivations are mixed, and the morality is mixed, just like real life.  Goodfellas isn't realistic and it is two hours of misery.

That's my take.

Luke:
That's an interesting and thoroughly reasonable take. Obviously I'm not expecting you to change your mind, but I guess I would argue that 'mental weakness and a poor idea of what is good' definitely describes many of the characters, and I guess I would disagree they have no redeeming qualities....but I see what you're saying, especially in regards to, for example, DeNiro's character.

I also think it works in a broader way that I find very engaging. It examines why people join organizations like this, the dangers of group-think and pack mentality, as well as pointing out that the 'American Dream', self-starter, bootstraps narrative we're all fed in North America is inevitably adopted by the criminal element, and indeed is one of the few places where that dream can actually seem achievable (which something like The Wire is all about).

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to write back. Appreciate your insight.

Oldkid:
And The Wire is one of my favorite TV shows, but that is a prime example of everyone having mixed motivations.

I think I would have liked the film better if it had explored the idea of why the organization was attractive.  It's there, at the beginning, and then dropped as we see more and more how immoral the individuals of the organization are, until we find out that everyone betrayed everyone else at the end. 

I work with people who are criminals every day.  And no matter how horrible some of these folks are, there are standards that they will absolutely stand by, one of them being not to rat anyone out.  No one will do that, even if it benefits the community or themselves.  This organization gives lip service to that standard, and then the give it up in a way I've never seen the underground do.  And they ALL do it.  They can't even stand by their own weak principles, there is no loyalty, even by those who were raised in that loyalty.  It just makes no sense.


Luke:
I'm interested that you think seeing what was attractive about the organization was dropped early and that everyone betrays everyone.

My memory of the film is that you see both the financial/power benefits, and that even when people go to prison, they remain influential, and stick together as a family unit. I also am pretty sure it's only Henry Hill who betrays everyone. That's part of the interesting arc of his character in my opinion. He's presented to us as our de facto hero, as he is seemingly less violent and cruel than either DeNiro or Pesci...but in the end, he is portrayed as ratting out everyone who was once loyal to him, eliminating one of the only claims to some kind of morality he might have had. Am I wrong? Do they all rat each other out?  What you're talking about with the feeling of loyalty among the criminals you've worked with is the exact thing I always felt Henry Hill betrays, which is not painted as a heroic act, but a cowardly one.

Oldkid:
From the code of loyalty they discussed early in the film, they all, not just Henry, betrayed it, some of them simultaneously.   They were ready to give up on the community, it was just too hard, too dangerous. They were all cowards as well as criminals, in my book.
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colonel_mexico

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Re: Goodfellas
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2016, 09:14:41 PM »
I don't do the work you do OK, but I certainly have been around and recognize how you feel that even the bad people have mixed emotions, but didn't you feel some of that with Henry and Karen?  Also, it's funny you say it isn't realistic, but isn't this essentially the real story of Henry Hill and from what I've seen in the 30 for 30 he's appeared in, he seems to be that exact guy, unrepentant, jokingly happy about having had a hand in influencing college basketball.  There are people like Henry Hill and Jimmy Conway that lived and breathed.  I'm guessing you didn't like THE DEPARTED either, especially the fictional Frank Costello who hates rats and will do anything to destroy them, despite employing many himself.  I've never met anyone from the mafia or having lived that life, but when it comes down to it most people will do anything to survive and in Henry's situation he knew that his only hope for survival was to rat.  And that is the reality of what happened, and back to Karen and Henry, he certainly treated her badly, but that they stayed together for as long as they did, even going into witness protection felt like there was a strange, awkward, ugly love that was compelling.  THE GODFATHER is interesting because there is conflicting feelings by Michael until the survival of his father comes into play and he has no problem turning from the war hero/good guy who isn't like his family, into a murdering gangster. 
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oldkid

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Re: Goodfellas
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2016, 10:09:20 PM »
Yes, there are people like that.  But not everyone in a whole film.  Every one of them are betrayers or something else unlikable.

I'm not asking anyone else to hold to my opinion, but I was offended by every action of every person in the film, which made me not like it.
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verbALs

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Re: Goodfellas
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2016, 12:33:12 AM »
My understanding of being offended is that some personal insult was implied or inferred as intended. Can you expand on how you mean "offended" in terms of a film. I can think that sexism or racism could cause offence (Faulkner's continual use of the "n" word in The Sound and the Fury has worn me down trying to intellectualise the use) but bad guys being bad wouldn't appear to affect one personally. One might not like them of course but that's different from reaching the point of offence, in my opinion.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2016, 12:35:48 AM by verbALs »
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Junior

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Re: Goodfellas
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2016, 01:22:12 AM »
I'm offended that this is supposed to be entertainment but instead what we get is assholes being idiots and idolizing other assholes being idiots.
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colonel_mexico

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Re: Goodfellas
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2016, 08:13:41 AM »
I'm not sure what the intent of your comment is JR, if I've offended anyone I certainly did not mean to.  I was curious about the line of discussion OK had posted and wanted to chime in as I assumed was the intention of posting the dialogue in a thread.  Are we not meant to have frank open discussions about differing opinions?  OK's opinion is certainly valid and I opened by stating I understood where he was coming from, I meant nothing more than to further the discussion.  He then said he didn't like it because everyone was bad, no one was likeable, and I didn't comment further because it made perfect sense to me, there are things I don't like because I can't relate to them or the characters on any level.  If I offended you oldkid I sincerely apologize, but I think knowing a little bit of where each of us have come from/are (without being too public) that I never meant to be offensive.  If I've offended you JR I offer the same apology, but feel disappointed if your comment was directed at me because I feel like name calling isn't really appropriate when I was just attempting to continue a conversation/discussion. 
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MartinTeller

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Re: Goodfellas
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2016, 10:07:27 AM »
CM, I'm 99% sure when Junior is talking about assholes and idiots, he's talking about the people in GoodFellas.

verbALs, I would guess that oldkid is offended by the lack of humanity in these characters. It's not racism or sexism... it's peopleism.

GoodFellas is one of my favorite movies. But I can't refute oldkid's take on it. These guys have no good in them, or whatever they good they do have is ultimately self-serving. But I don't find these to be unreasonable portrayals. I think if you learn from an early age that you should take what you want, that nice guys finish last and only suckers play by the rules, you could easily end up like any of these characters.

Junior

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Re: Goodfellas
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2016, 10:13:21 AM »
Oh, I'm so sorry about that. The only assholes here are in the movie. "Ever since I could remember I wanted to be a gangster" is what I was referring to. I hate Goodfellas, if that isn't clear from my post, and it is because I find it offensive that it asks me to go along with these characters as they do what I said they do in my original post. Sorry about the mix-up there, I'll never call anyone here an asshole. Maybe in my head, but certainly not out loud.
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colonel_mexico

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Re: Goodfellas
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2016, 10:15:37 AM »
Ah!  Ok!  I apologize for my confusion!  Lol you have a point they are all a-holes!

I'm under a bunch of stress for a major life-event/school thing and I think I'm oversensitive and overreacting to anything!  Sorry JR!
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Junior

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Re: Goodfellas
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2016, 10:19:48 AM »
No problem, friendo. I really didn't do that original post very well.
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