Friday, October 7, 2011

Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco

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Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco

Good Fellas (realist film) by Martin Sorcese and Donnie Brasco (realist film) by Mike Newell are two films based on actual events and people that existed. Both are stereotypical Italian gangster films and I intend to compare and contrast these two films, which differ in narrative style, tone, and acting. In turn, each of these aspects creates two distinct films and evokes two separate moods in each movie.

Martin Scorseses film Goodfellas details the rise and fall of character Henry Hills life within the Italian mob (150s throughout the late 170s). This story is told from the main character, Henry Hills perspective. The path of the young Hill is outlined from his formative years through adulthood.

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Scorsese makes great use of voice-overs to guide the audience through the story and help the audience gain depth�past what is being shown on film. Scorsese switches voiceovers between Henry and his wife, Karen. Voice overs invades the characters personal thoughts and ideas while learning their thought pattern to understand why the character says or does certain things. In addition, voice-overs allow the audience to feel comfortable with the characters.

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. Scorsese utilizes flashbacks to help tell the story. The opening scene begins with The Goodfellas driving on a dark highway in a car. Immediately after this scene, the audience is taken through a series of flash backs from Hills childhood, coming of age in the mob, and then story switches to the present. All of the flashbacks the colors were faded to represent the past.

Martin Scorsese brilliantly uses freeze frames as snapshots as transition from one scene to the next. What I found interesting was the fact that each snap shot were memories of great times shared at childrens birthday parties, baby showers, births, weddings, and vacations shared by Hill and his family. At times, Scorsece uses a grainy texture as though it was shot using a video camera. This effect attaches the audience to the story, because you are sharing the some of the most intimate moments with a close knit family.

The tone of the movie contributes to the audiences perception of Goodfellas Henry Hill, Jimmy Tommy. Powerful men, parties, huge rolls of money, expensive cars and suits, music, witty remarks and plenty of dinner scenes contributed to the comedic tone of the movie. Constantly flashing of materialistic items makes mob life appear very attractive. The beginning of the movie celebrated good times, glamour, and violence.

Frequent dinner scenes took the edge off the Goodfellas violent lifestyle, and bought the audience into their homes. One of the most memorable dinner scenes was when the Goodfellas beat a man to a bloody pulp and stored him the trunk and when to Tommys mothers house to have dinner. After dinner, Tommy borrows his mothers kitchen knife. The Goodfellas leave the house to complete the murder.

The tone of film shifts after Hill is released from jail, and starts to sell and use drugs and an intense confrontation (with a knife) from his wife about his ongoing affair. This signifies the reality and the consequence of ones actions. Henry Hills (and the Goodfellas) downfall.

Goodfellas Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), Jimmy (Robert DeNiro), Tommy (Joe Pesci) are well suited for their roles. They were extremely convincing. Henry Hill was wore many hats. He was a loving husband, caring boyfriend, father, and gangster yet he had a deep dark violent side that reared its ugly head when he became angry. He was always on the edge. His downfall occurred once he started to sell and use drugs.

Tommy was an energetic, colorful character driven by pride and ego. Or one could easily label him as psychotic. The audience could never tell when he was going to take a situation too far. He shot a bartender in the foot and eventually killed a bartender for serving his drinks too slow. Tommy killed a made man because he mentioned Tommys former profession (shoe shiner).

His downfall occurred after he killed the made man.

Jimmy (Roberto DeNiro) was the reserved quiet, controlled type. He wasnt as neurotic as Henry or psychotic as Tommy. Everything was well thought and planned out. He was very level headed and enjoyed danger. His personality flaw was that he was paranoid. After the Goodfellas got away with the biggest heist in history, Jimmy became extremely paranoid and killed of the immediate members of his family.

Each of these actors played their roles to the best of their ability. Their mannerisms and slang (made becoming a boss, whacked murdered) that they used was very realistic.

Mike Newells Donnie Brasco is also based on a true story. The story takes place in the late 170s. Narrated from the point of view, of agent Joe Pistone alias Donnie Brasco, and typewriter documenting the progress of Donnie Brasco creates feelings of detachment towards the characters. This film documents the strategic plan Joe Pistone took in order to be taken in by well-known gangster Lefty (alias Lefty Guns) in hopes of becoming a wise guy. He assumes the name Donnie Brasco and begins life in the mob. Brascos wife wasn’t pleased with her husband being an absentee father. He was getting too involved in the case. After the officials got the information to destroy the mob, Brasco was taken off of the case and his identity was revealed to the mob. In fear of being ratted out, double crossed and humiliated, Lefty was sent for (murdered) because he vouched for the wrong guy (an undercover cop).

The atmosphere of this film was very somber and drab- almost depressing. Photography was used to spy on the characters, but the phots were taken with black and white film. The photos were also taken from a distance� adding to the dettachment of the characters. Throughout the moive, time is expressed as progress and documented by a typwirtter. The photos taken and typed documents eventually build a file of evidence against the mob.

I believe that helps the audience to understand the severity of the movie and eventually leading to the death of Lefty Guns. Lefty wasn’t as rich like the gangsters in Goodfellas. He was borderline bankrupt Just a spoke on a wheel. He was frustrated and depressed because he had a sun that was a junkie, and he didn’t get upped (promoted) after all of the hard work that he has put into the organization.

There were few dinner scenes in Donnie Brasco and the most memorable one was during Christmas. Lefty, dressed in a sweatsuit, invited Donnie Brasco to stay for dinner. The only ones at the table were Lefty and Brasco and the dinner conversation was kept to a minimum, not to mention solemn. This was indicative of the entire movie! Lighter moments of the film were diplayed as actors when Al Pacino (Lefty) was being a good father figure while teaching Donnie Brasco the necessary survival skills and proper etiquette of mobsters. He uses word like Fogazie (fake), stand up guy, and shows his humorous side when he explains the many meanings of fagedabout it (forget about it) friend of mine and a friend of ours. He also instructs Brasco how to dress (no jeans) and present himself (shave the mustache) Johnny Dep (Joe Pistone alias Donnie Brasco) plays a do good cop who gets in too deep.

Unfortunately, after Brasco befriends Lefty, he gains compassion, tries, and fails to save Lefty from getting whacked (murdered).

In short, both movies show the strong traditions of Italian American families and the hierarchy in the mob. Although Good Fellas and Donnie Brasco are both realist films, Goodfellas lives up to the glamour and glitz of a gangsters life, while Donnie does not. Goodfellas used flashbacks to give us the history and a greater understanding the cause and effect. Goodfellas was an exciting action packed movie filled with suspense. This was made possible by the upbeat and colorful cast, in addition to the numerous party scenes and comedic dialogue between characters. I really enjoyed the funny voice-overs because they were personal with access to the characters private thoughts. My favorite character was Tommy, the funniest of the Goodfellas, because he was so unpredictable. After all, of the crime family was arrested, and Hill was placed in the witness protection his sense of humor remained,

That’s the hardest part, Today everything is different. There is no action. I have to wait around for the paper like everyone else. Cant even get decent food. Right after I got here I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I am the average nobody. I get to live my life like a schnook.

On the other hand, Donnie Brasco did not use flashbacks, and dark colors. I disliked the narration and the tone of Donnie Brasco because it didn’t glamorize the materialistic aspects, making the movie enjoyable and fun to watch. I have learned that narration and tone can help or hurt a movie. I had a hard time paying attention to Donnie Brasco because of the lack of color and somewhat boring style of excuting the plot.

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