Tribeca Film Festival 2015 – “Goodfellas,” 25th Anniversary Screening

The Unpaid Film Critic with brother Howard (who snagged the tickets) at the 25th Anniversary screening of "Goodfellas," on 4/15/15, outside the Beacon Theatre.

The Unpaid Film Critic (left) with brother Howard at the 25th Anniversary screening of “Goodfellas,” on 4/25/15, outside the Beacon Theatre.

On April 25 the Tribeca Film Festival nearly blew the roof off of the Beacon Theater with its closing night event, a 25th anniversary screening of director Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film “Goodfellas,” presented in a stunning, digital restoration. Following the screening, moderator Jon Stewart conducted an interview with “Goodfellas” cast members Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco and “Goodfellas” screenwriter Nick Pileggi, who also wrote the book “Wiseguy,” upon which “Goodfellas” is based. Conspicuously absent from the event was Scorsese, who is on location in Taiwan, shooting a movie. Scorsese shot an video introduction to the evening, which was shown before the film. Irwin Winkler, the film’s producer, also shot a video introduction.

I have seen “Goodfellas” many times, but seeing it in the packed Beacon Theatre with an audience that truly loved and appreciated the film was tremendous fun. I think we get too used to seeing movies at home, on computers and on phones. I am as guilty of that as anyone. So, seeing “Goodfellas” on a big screen with this audience reminded me of what a truly well shot, edited and funny movie it is. I have always appreciated the film’s wonderful balancing of horrific violence and humor. However, hearing the Tribeca audience get, and react to, each and every nuance and applaud the film’s many memorable lines revitalized the movie for me. At the same time it reminded me of the importance of the group experience at the movies (as long as the group remembers to turn off its cell phones).

Goodfellas” is also one of the great voice over films. Voice over in a film can be tricky. On the low end of the spectrum, voice over can seem like an “add on,” an indication that the film’s story is not clear and that someone needs to explain what is going on to the audience. Not so here. In “Goodfellas” the voice overs are an integral part of the story. The film’s main character, Henry Hill (Liotta) tells his story about his life as a gangster with the absolute conviction that he has a great story to tell us…and he does. Henry Hill narrates events, interspersed with voice overs from his wife Karen (Bracco), and the brilliantly structured film moves ahead with the speed of a locomotive. The movie’s two-and-a-half hour running time flies by at a dizzying pace. There is not a wasted frame in this film.

Much of the post screening interview, with the cast and Pileggi, revolved around the film’s characters, how the actors related to them and how they were able to make these characters (crooks, killers, philanderers) so likable. Stewart pointed out, correctly, that all the characters have a relatability and authenticity to them.

Sorvino said he could not be more different, in real life, from the mob boss, Paul Cicero, who he plays in the movie. He explained that, as a result, he could not find his character’s inner life, the spine from which the character emerges. At one point he said that he actually asked his manager to get him off the film. Then one day, Sorvino explained, he looked in the mirror and saw the character.

Stewart asked Bracco if she drew on her real life experiences in creating the character of Karen. Bracco said that she learned about being Italian from her father and that her family lived in a Jewish neighborhood (Bracco’s character, in the film, is Jewish). When Stewart asked her how she had the confidence to work on a film with so many heavy hitters, Bracco replied, “I just did my homework and being surrounded by a fantastic director, an unbelievable crew and Ray. It was great. It was easy. It was exciting to go to work.”

”Stewart asked Liotta how he was able to land the part of Henry Hill since, up to that point, Liotta had only done three movies. “I begged,” Liotta said, to much laughter from the audience.

Liotta talked about meeting the real life Henry Hill who said to him, “Thanks for not making me look like a scumbag,” to which Liotta said he replied incredulously, “Did you see the movie!?”

Perhaps Stewart summarized the appeal of the movie’s characters, as well as the film’s strong direction and acting best when he said to De Niro, “I know you’re bad guys, but all I want to do is hang out with you guys.”

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on April 29, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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