By Dan Skip Allen
Martin Scorsese has been known as the gangster film director during his fifty years as a filmmaker. His first gangster film was Mean Streets where he started his long term relationship with collaborator Robert De Niro. As Johnny Boy, De Niro would be the kind of actor Scorsese would create time and again in future films. Goodfellas was littered with these types of wiseguys. They would come quite frequently in other films such as Casino, Gangs of New York, The Departed, and most recently The Irishman. Goodfellas, though, would stand out decades later as one of the most groundbreaking achievements in film history and among Scorsese's filmography.
When talking about great films such as Goodfellas one has to point to the things that Scorsese does that are now commonplace in the business of movie-making. One thing that comes to mind that is a terrific achievement is the tracking shot where Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and Karen (Lorraine Bracco) are walking through the Copacabana nightclub to the music of The Crystals, "And Then He Kissed Me". This was a scene unheard of before but now everybody does this with a crane looking down over the actors. The crane shot was groundbreaking in 1990 when this film came out.
Scorsese always attracts a great cast to work with him. Even his little film's he gets great performers to line up to appear. Goodfellas was no different. Of course, his usual cast of characters would be cast in the starring roles. Such as Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Frank Vincent. The stand out in this great film was Ray Liotta though. He embodied Henry Hill in this film. The scene where he is high on cocaine and he is going back and forth getting the bag of guns and he noticed the helicopter was following him. He was "Shoeless" Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams but Goodfellas was his breakout role — the role he'll be remembered for the rest of his life. Scorsese always can get the most out of his actors.
Scorsese likes to take real events and make them into fantastic films. Goodfellas adapts a very famous heist in history. The Lufthansa Plane heist was a real event that happened. Adapting the book from Nick Pileggi ("Wiseguy") Scorsese brought this story to life. Whereas other gangster films were fictional takes on the life, Goodfellas was ripped right from history. Of course, the names are changed for this film. The real Henry Hill was sent into the witness protection program because he turned state's evidence on his childhood and adult friends. They were like his family, as seen in a prison scene where he helped the don Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) make pasta.
As mentioned earlier De Niro has a great history with Scorsese, but Joe Pesci has a great working relationship with him as well. As Tommy Devito, he gives a great performance and delivers one of the best scenes in film history. When he jokes with Hill and says what's so funny and then shoots Spider played by Michael Imperioli. It's no coincidence that the creators of The Sopranos scooped up a bunch of the cast of Goodfellas for their terrific show on HBO. Bracco is great alongside Liotta as well, getting an Oscar nomination. Pesce was the only win though for the film.
Obviously, The Godfather films are considered the creme de la creme of gangster films. Goodfellas is a top three gangster film though. It has groundbreaking filmmaking by Martin Scorsese, great acting by a stellar cast of actors, and a very well adapted screenplay from Scorsese and Pileggi of a true heist in American history. Thirty years ago this film was considered one of the best of the year. It stands up as one of the best ever and one of Scorsese's best as well. The realistic nature of the story and frantic filmmaking at times make for an exciting and very entertaining film. In another thirty years, people will still be talking about Goodfellas, Scorsese, DeNiro, and Pesci alongside the greatest films, directors, and actors of all time. This genre never gets old for me so I can watch this film over and over again. Goodfellas is as great now as it was then in 1990.
By Sean Boelman
As part of the “new normal”, disappointment media has been providing coverage of virtual and hybrid film festivals and the films that are a part of their official lineup. While we would love to be on the ground in Toronto covering films for the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, we also realize that the U.S. is in much worse shape than Canada, so it wouldn’t be fair of us to our Northern neighbors to travel at this time.
Still, disappointment media was honored to be selected to participate in remote coverage of the festival as a part of the Media Inclusion Initiative. That means we will be getting to watch some great films and access exciting conference events (from the safety of our home) and report back to you about what you should keep an eye out for.
Although the Official Selection for this year’s TIFF was reduced to just fifty films, a fraction of what it would be in normal circumstances, those films that were selected are sure to be exciting! Presented with a combination of in-person traditional, open-air, drive-in, and virtual screenings (geoblocked to Canada), this is sure to be a unique year for the festival. BUT it also means that there are more opportunities than ever to check out these intriguing films and more! Here are five movies that we personally can’t wait to see!
Thomas Vinterberg is arguably one of, if not the most versatile directors working today, directing everything from intense dramas (The Hunt) to war movies (Kursk) and almost everything in-between, and his newest film Another Round, a dark comedy, has all the signs of another hit. Starring Mads Mikkelsen as a teacher who sets out with his friends on a social experiment to remain slightly drunk throughout the day while maintaining their daily lives. If the Vinterberg-Mikkelsen reunion isn’t enough to excite the cinephile in you, it sounds absolutely hilarious, but knowing Vinterberg’s past work, it is sure to have more layers than the average drinking comedy.
Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds
Speaking of directors with eclectic filmographies, prolific filmmaker Werner Herzog’s newest film (and his third that will be released in the U.S. this year) Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds sounds like an absolute treat for anyone who is an astronomy buff. Offering an intimate portrait of scientists hunting meteors, Herzog’s distinctive style will make this an undeniably cinematic watch even if you don’t find your interest piqued by the material. And given what we’ve seen of Herzog’s documentary, we can expect some absolutely breathtaking cinematography to come out of it.
Summer of 85
The lower-profile of the two seaside LGBTQ+ romances set to debut at this year’s festival and arguably the one that looks more interesting, acclaimed French filmmaker François Ozon’s newest work, Summer of 85, explores a relationship between two teen boys that soon turns into tragedy. From the images and trailer, it looks like it is going to be one of the most gorgeous films of the festival, at least in terms of the cinematography and the scenery it depicts. And Ozon’s previous work gained a lot of notice for being so personal, so let’s hope that this one follows that trend.
Documentarian Frederick Wismean is ninety years old and yet is still going strong. His last film, Ex Libris, was considered by many to be a significant Oscar snub this year, but maybe his newest work, City Hall, which seems much more political, will finally get him the love he deserves from the Academy. Its four-and-a-half hour length is admittedly a bit intimidating, but Wiseman’s exploration of civil service is sure to be a fascinating watch if his previous work is any indication. This will be an endurance test for even the most committed of festival-goers, but one that promises to be rewarding.
Shadow in the Cloud
One of the most exciting things about festivals are the midnight movie sections, and while TIFF’s Midnight Madness isn’t running at full steam this year, there are three selections, and all of them sound great. The most exciting of them, Shadow in the Cloud, sounds like a uniquely feminist take on WWII action-horror. The program’s description doesn’t reveal a whole lot about the story, meaning that it probably contains plenty of unexpected twists and turns, but one thing we can anticipate is a typically excellent performance from Chloë Grace Moretz, who seems to be playing against type here but will surely be fun to watch nevertheless.
And these are just a few of the films we are excited for in this year’s festival! Unfortunately, with the festival only lasting ten days, it would be impossible for someone to get to everything showing in the lineup, but there truly is something for everyone. So for those in Canada, it’s not too late to look through the schedule and buy your tickets now, because there are some films you’re not going to want to miss!
The 2020 Toronto International Film Festival runs September 10-19.
By Adam Donato
1990’s Darkman stars Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand, two all-time talents, and is written/directed by Sam Raimi. Raimi is one of the greatest horror and superhero directors of all time. Darkman brings both of these elements together and nobody talks about it. This was a year after Burton did Batman in 1989. The film did turn its $16 million budget into $33 million at the box-office but isn’t brought up when people talk about underrated comic book movies. Is it just not that good or are people not aware that Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy was not his first superhero project?
Darkman is the story of a scientist who seeks revenge against the goons who physically mangled him while trying to find his way back to his old life with his girlfriend. Neeson carries the movie as the titular character and is so much fun to watch on screen. In interviews, he’s spoken about how the character’s inner turmoil and overall self-hatred is what attracted him to the role. Raimi speaks of how the character started out as a normal dude, then seeks revenge, and has to face the monster he feels he has become. Darkman is an anti-hero as he spends the majority of the movie murdering people, but then again, those people are bad people. He also lies to his girlfriend, which prohibits them from moving forward together. References to The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera are big influences on Darkman. His inner conflict is a sympathetic one, while his external conflict is a formidable opponent.
Robert G. Durant, played by Larry Drake, and his goons are fun villains to watch. The opening sequence of the movie shows an even larger gang of thugs being taken out by Durant’s group thanks to a fake leg that is a gun and a cigar cutter that is used to cut off the fingers of his enemies. One of the goons is played by Ted Raimi, who is popular for working at the Daily Bugle in the Raimi Spider-Man movies (“It’s hip, it’s now, and how?”), and it’s always a joy to see him pop up in his brother’s movies. The complaint, if any, about this movie is that the action sequences are lackluster due to the villains just being goons. Darkman can’t feel pain and has the ability to change his appearance, so while a movie about him fighting just goons is a good starting point, it would be interesting to see him fight a villain with a more interesting skillset. That being said, the action scenes are not bad by any means. There’s balancing on steel beams and even Darkman hanging from a helicopter. It’s a wild ride for such a small scale hero.
The love interest is Julie Hastings played by soon-to-be Oscar winner McDormand, who is a step above the rest when it comes to superhero love interests. Not only is she extremely likable, but she’s also an active part of the plot apart from her relationship status. Her noticing of the memorandum is what puts the wheels in motion as Strack has to cover up his misdoings by taking her out. The relationship between Peyton, Darkman’s alter ego, and Julie is compelling in the sense that you want them to be together, but you understand why they can’t. There’s a beautiful scene where Julie is visiting Peyton’s grave when Peyton confronts her. The cavalcade of emotions in this scene is touching as we see her go from shock to horror to sadness to relief in his embrace. You want Peyton to get the girl, but you see the monster that he has become in his actions. This point is hammered home when Darkman chooses to leave Julie at the end of the movie, proving that nobody will ever judge us more than ourselves.
The special effects are great, but that’s no surprise as Raimi is known for it ever since The Evil Dead. Darkman looks terrifying, but you can still identify the man under the gauze. Neeson talked about how he struggled to speak as he wanted the fake teeth to move as little as possible. Part of the fun of this kind of movie is where special effects weren’t used. When Darkman is wearing a mask of one of the goons, their performance as Darkman wearing the goons as a mask is fun to watch. The holograms in the movie look good considering that this movie came out in 1990.
Anytime Danny Elfman does a score for a movie, it deserves to be brought up. The film is given life thanks to Elfman. He not only heightens every single action scene, but he also makes the credits fun to watch, which is an accomplishment. It was very cool to see that Elfman worked on this movie in hindsight due to his future works with Raimi on the first two Spider-Man movies.
So it’s a forgotten gem of a movie. It still has that Raimi cheesiness to it that makes such a dark movie so enjoyable to watch. The whole cast knocks it out of the park. The movie pulls everything off from special effects to score to characters and themes. The ending is the icing on the cake for any Raimi fan. As Julie chases after him, Darkman gets lost in the crowd. His mask, an unknown man played by Bruce Campbell himself. Not only that but left with the tragic feeling of losing oneself as Darkman embraces who he has become. Please do yourself a favor and check this one out.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.