I've seen this movie 10+ times, probably more, so no big surprises here. Goodfellas is without a doubt one of my favourite movies of all time. It's probably in my top 15 or so, and no matter how many times I watch it, I'm still entertained. It's got everything: good story, good dialogue, good acting, and it's pretty much technically perfect. In fact, I can't really think of anything to criticize it about.I'm actually not a big fan of Martin Scorsese. He's a pretty solid director technically, but I'd say he's pretty overrated, in my opinion. I've seen almost all of his movies, and I really only like 3: Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and Casino, but I really, really like them. Casino would probably crack my top 30, and Cape Fear would squeeze in somewhere in the 150-200 range. Coincidentally, all 3 movies star Robert DeNiro. Actually, that's not a coincidence. He's one of the best actors of all time, and without him these movies wouldn't be near as good. It's worth pointing out too that he plays 3 different characters in these movies. At first glance, you'd say that he plays a gangster/criminal type in all of them, but each one is quite a bit different. In Goodfellas, he's a likeable badass-type gangster, but in Casino he's more of a smart, straight-up business type of guy. In Cape Fear, he's got a darker, creepier, intimidating kind of persona.My point is that Scorsese has been very fortunate to land really talented actors, and that's the main reason he's been so successful. You could argue that his directing makes the actors' performances better... and we'll never really know... but I like DeNiro in most movies he's in... and I only like a few of Scorsese's movies. I still can't really figure out why people are so high on Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Wolf of Wall Street. A bunch of his other movies have gotten a lot of acclaim too. I just find most of his movies pretty boring. Like I said before, he's a technically solid director, but I think most of the time he plays it too safe. Cape Fear is probably his most stylish and daring movie, and it shows of what he's capable of doing when his creative juices are flowing. It has lots of cool camera and editing effects, and really creates the necessary feelings I'm supposed to have to bring me into the movie. Goodfellas and Casino give me those feelings too, but it's more due to the really interesting story and characters. They don't have a whole lot of stand-out style, but still more than a lot of his other movies.Anyway, this was supposed to be about Goodfellas, so I'll go into that a little bit. He gets a little creative at a few points with the editing. Like when he freezes the frame while Ray Liotta narrates, or the couple of long takes, most notably the scene where he walks through the bar kitchen. This movie tells the story of a real guy's life though, which is interesting enough that you don't have to get super artsy and creative. Scorsese's editing style fits well with that. There's a few scenes that break into slow motion with music that work really well too.This movie is more about the acting and the dialogue though. All 3 main actors totally nail it, especially Joe Pesci, who won the best supporting actor oscar for it. The supporting actors are all good too. Also, the screenplay should be considered among the best of all time. Pretty much every scene has brilliant, memorable dialogue. It's adapted from a book almost perfectly too. The story of the guy's life from event to event is timed out just right. I've never read the book, so I wouldn't know what was omitted, but everything that was left in is pure gold.To conclude, Scorsese most be a pretty good director to create this gem, but let's not go crazy and start putting him in the same category as Kubrick, Lynch, Cronenberg, Fincher, Tarantino, De Palma, Spielberg, or Cameron.
Isn't it great when you watch a movie that you have absolutely no expectations for, and don't know anything about, and it ends up being fantastic? I dedicate a lot of time to finding these gems, and I only come across something like Dreamscape 1 in around 20 times. This is a very underrated, and forgotten movie, and I feel a little embarrassed that I'm just discovering it now.I came across this movie during one of my routine rummages through Wikipedia, looking at movies that were nominated for Saturn awards. This one was nominated for best horror movie. When I looked at it closer, it's got a competent director, a competent writer, some really great actors, it got good reviews, and made money at the box office. Those are all good signs, so I gave it a try.This movie more than surprised me. Usually when I watch a movie that I've never heard of, it's because it's not very good. There might be some good things about it, like maybe it has some good scenes mixed in with boring ones, but this one was good all the way through. I was expecting it to completely fall apart in the last 20 minutes, which usually explains why the movie hasn't held up over time, but it didn't. Is it possible that other people know about this movie but somehow I've just never come across it?It had great dialogue. The characters were smart, and real. The movie didn't rely on easy, predictable scenarios, and kept me wanting more. It was an interesting premise, and took the premise in interesting directions. It's written for a smart audience.The pacing of the movie was also really spot on. Each scene took just long enough to make it's point, then it moved on. It was a fairly short movie, so obviously they had plenty of footage to work with and they cut it efficiently.Look at the actors in this line-up, they're all beauties. Dennis Quaid is hit and miss sometimes, but he plays a really cocky character here so it works. Christopher Plummer plays the rich asshole, which we all know works perfectly. This is a little obscure, but the bad guy is the weasel-y guy from Commando that Arnold eventually drops off the cliff. He's been in a few things and he's awesome. Max von Sydow is the wise-old professor type guy, which is the same role that he plays in everything. Perfect casting.The special effects are kinda weak at some parts, but it doesn't ruin the scene. A lot of the dream sequences are actually really cool. It's nice when a good director gets a chance to do something really surreal in a realistic movie. I've seen a few movies that this guy directed, and they're pretty solid, but this has to be his best. There's a bunch I haven't seen so I can't say for sure though. Maybe I'll check out some others. I've seen The Good Son though, and it's a beauty too. It's cheezy as hell, but it's pretty sweet.Anyway, this definitely isn't a horror movie, more like a science fiction-thriller, but it's good. It satisfied me completely. This is a grade-A hidden gem.
I first learned about shaky cam during my short tenure as a camera department intern on the set of Fear Itself, an awful horror television series which was shot in Edmonton. During one scene, I noticed that the first camera assistant was constantly unlocking and locking the tripod while the operator was shooting. I asked him during the break why he was doing that, and he said it was a technique to make the shot look more stylish. For argument's sake, I'll assume the director, who was Brad Anderson on that episode, instructed the camera department to use the technique. At the time, I couldn't figure out why any director would want the camera to be constantly moving during a simple scene where two people are talking. I now have a theory.I believe that the director was a little confused. I'm betting that he had seen this technique employed in such big hits as Saving Private Ryan and The Blair Witch Project, and thought it worked really well, so decided to try it out. Besides, a whole crapload of other directors in Hollywood were using it too for so many years, so it must be effective, right? I mean, directors in Hollywood are pretty smart, so they wouldn't just adopt a technique that could possibly ruin the look of their film unless it was really good.I'm sure the person reading this is smart enough to understand why shaky cam works only in specific situations, so I'm not going to bother explaining that. So congratulations, apparently you're smarter than a whole bunch of dumbass directors in Hollywood today. If you made a movie, at least we wouldn't get motion sickness from it. But there's a much bigger issue here. It has to do with Hollywood's tendency for filmmakers to follow suit on any gimmicky new thing that comes up if it was involved in any way with a film that made a lot of money.I'm not a big Spielberg fan, in fact I think he's kinda overrated, but you can't deny his ability to make films that make money. He's broke the film box office earnings record three times in his career. First with Jaws, then E.T., then Jurassic Park. Of course, those movies have all spawned copycats. I'm not just talking about concepts or storylines that are similar; those are obvious. I'm talking about movies that copy the artistic techniques, like in camera, editing, special effects, etc. For example, Jurassic Park started a huge wave of movies that used CGI (computer-generated imagery) in all kinds of crazy ways. If Jurassic park would've bombed, directors would have been afraid to integrate CGI for at least a few years down the road, if at all.The use of shaky cam in Saving Private Ryan (and The Blair Witch Project, and some other stuff too) created the same situation. The problem is, there's not that many Spielbergs out there that have the talent to recognize when a technique is necessary, and when it's not. Just like with CGI, the shaky cam technique was way overused, and used in situations that have no place for it at all. I've seen movies where every shot uses shaky cam (well actually, I can't be sure because I've turned the movie off before I've gotten to the end of it). Anyway, my point is that unless you're trying to create the look of a documentary, or the shot is a point of view of someone running, or there's an explosion happening right beside the characters, keep the camera still. And get some of your own techniques that would actually work for what you're trying to do. Film is an art form. Remember? Be an artist already.
The perceived strength of an artistic medium is sometimes completely equal to the strength of the content that its artists contribute. 3D filmmaking is one such example. It’s a very new medium, and although very similar to 2D filmmaking, it has its own distinctions. Most filmmakers either haven’t figured out how to exploit those distinctions properly, or haven’t bothered to try.The function of 3D is to create a greater sense of immersion for the audience. When the viewer feels immersed in the film, it offers a unique experience, and results in enjoyment. This is best accomplished with 1. a large screen, 2. shots with lots of depth, 3. minimal edits., and 4. minimal movement, both by the camera and the objects in the shot. Firstly, a larger screen encompasses more of your vision, and therefore can trick your mind into thinking that you’re involved in the picture. In other words, seeing a 3D movie on the IMAX screen is a lot different from a TV in your living room. However, a skilled filmmaker can still create an immersive effect on a small screen using the right techniques. Constant use of depth shots (shots composed of objects close in the foreground, and far in the background) is essential. The 3D effect is virtually nonexistent if the shot is flat. When it comes to editing, the least amount of cuts, the better. It takes a few seconds for the audience to adapt to a new shot, and to develop the sense of immersion in the scene. Unnecessary cuts will reset the viewer’s focus.Possibly the biggest factor is the amount of movement in the frame. 3D technology works by splitting the image on the screen, and going back and forth between the two on every frame. The 3D glasses only allow the corresponding eye to see the frame that it’s supposed to. Being that there are typically 30 frames per second, it goes to fast for the human brain to perceive, and it creates the 3D effect. However, each eye only sees half the frames. The result is that the film can seem choppy sometimes. The most obvious example is when an object moves across the frame very fast. It appears choppy because the perceived frame rate can’t support the speed of its movement. These instances are not only aesthetically displeasing, but contribute to remove the audience from their sense of immersion.Another small problem with 3D is that the glasses make the screen seem dimmer, so filmmakers would be wise to turn up the brightness slightly on their 3D version.I believe that some filmmakers in Hollywood may understand how to properly film in 3D, but probably don’t bother applying their knowledge, for various reasons. The most obvious one is that they are still primarily focused on making films that are enjoyable in 2D. The majority of the viewings of a film are probably still in home media, which is mostly 2D. Also, most films are released in theatres in both 3D and 2D, because a lot of people prefer 2D, or they have some physical reason for avoiding 3D, such as a viewing impairment. If a filmmaker’s intention is to make a film enjoyable in 2D, then they’d want to use faster editing and movement in the the composition so that the film has a better pace. They might use a 3D camera so that the audience still has the choice of 3D or 2D, and it can be marketed to take advantage of the 3D technology hype.One filmmaker that I’ve come across that clearly understands how to make use of 3D, and actually puts it into practice, is Robert Zemeckis. I saw A Christmas Carol in 3D on the IMAX screen, and the feeling of immersion was overwhelming. I also saw The Walk, but on my own 3D TV at home, and was surprised to have the same feeling, even though it was on a small screen. Both films include content that is suited for the 3D medium as well, especially The Walk. I have no doubt that Zemeckis selected the subject of tight rope walking specifically because it would make excellent use of 3D.To conclude, I don’t believe that 3D itself is a failed medium, because I’ve witnessed it being effective. It’s a shame though that 3D has been tainted in the eyes of the public because of so many failed attempts at it. I saw the newest Star Wars movie in the theatre twice, both in 3D and in 2D. i found that I enjoyed the 2D version more, because the film was clearly intended to be viewed that way. I found that for most of the 3D viewing I had completely forgot that I was even watching 3D. I also found a lot of the movie to be visually dark in a lot of scenes, so 2D was more practical. Perhaps filmmakers should include in their marketing which medium the film was intended for.