Tuesday, January 18, 2005

DVD: Goodfellas (1990)

The two-disc edition of this movie was one of the only things I wanted for Christmas. In a supplemental feature, actor/director Jon Favreau says that if you stumble onto GOODFELLAS while you’re flipping channels, you leave it on until it’s over.

That’s always been the case with me. Every time I watch it, I’m struck by the fact that it isn’t a film so much as a simulation. The director John Boorman wrote that it “was not about what happens to gangster characters, it was about what it is like to be a gangster.” All the skill in this movie – Scorsese’s flair behind the camera, Thelma Schoonmaker’s fluid editing – isn’t in service of a story but a mood. This is what it feels like to swagger into a room and own it. It remains a staggering achievement.

It’s also one of those movies I’ve developed a personal relationship with, and not just from seeing it so many times. I read the books written by Henry Hill and his children that relay events a little differently, and tell you what happened after the film’s story ended. After I read them, I found out that a friend of mine had been in a local art show with Henry. Who has taken up watercolors since leaving Witness Protection, and by all accounts is a nice guy.

Much of the film’s criminal action is set in and around New York’s Kennedy Airport. My father worked there during that time, and back in 1990 I asked him about it. He said that he often went to the diner where Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro have their sitdowns, and then told a few stories about some guys he knew, one of whom was eventually murdered.

I was flabbergasted. He’d never spun any colorful tales before. Of course, I’d never thought to ask. He topped himself two years later when HOFFA came out. I asked my father, a staunch member of the Machinists union, what he thought of the film. He told me that whenever Hoffa was taking a flight he’d make a point of talking to the airline workers. Hoffa had shaken his hand twice.

He saw Howard Hughes and met Jimmy Hoffa. It’s amazing the things you learn about your parents when you start thinking of them as people.

Miscellaneous: Link

Meet Edith and Joseph Jefferson. She was Judy Garland’s stunt double. He played a heavy on SPACE PATROL. Now they’re taking show business by storm ... again.