“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States.”
A tragedy script: first half of the film builds the MC up, the second half tears him down. The second half fall is usually dictated by the hero’s flaw, which can be anything, but is most often greed. When you start out with the audience liking the MC, they will go down the dark path with him/her. Scorsese and Pileggi used one of the most common tools available to make us fall in love with Henry – they made him an underdog – the little nobody kid from the streets who worked his way up the system.
Paired with a pop/rock soundtrack, to evoke a visceral reaction in the audience. Scorsese abided by a set of rules when picking songs: They had to at least vaguely comment on the scene or characters, and they had to be chronologically appropriate to the time the scenes were set in.
“Fuck” is used over 300 times, largely because much of the dialog was improvised.
An extensive voice over only works if the subject matter is fascinating, if you’ve researched the shit out of it, and if you’re telling the audience stuff we don’t already know. Because we’re in his head, he’s able to justify his bad decisions/actions.
Incorporation of stills (there wasn’t enough footage for the voice-over, or a stylistic choice?)
The movie was edited by Thelma Schoonmaker (a woman, yay!), who is the second-most nominated editor in Academy Awards history. She also holds the (tied) record for wins in the Best Editing category. When asked how it was that such a nice lady could edit Scorsese’s violent gangster pictures, Thelma replied with a smile, “Ah, but they aren’t violent until I’ve edited them.”
The scene entering the Copacabana is one of the most famous tracking shots in cinema history. In three minutes it shows you an entire universe of privilege, and payoff, and relationships, and power.
Twenty-five years on, Goodfellas is viewed as a real masterpiece, among the best pictures of the 1990s and possibly the best movie Martin Scorsese has ever made.