Category Archives: 1990 Movie reviews

Two Evil Eyes-1990

Two Evil Eyes-1990

Director-George Romero, Dario Argento

Starring-Adrienne Barbeau, Harvey Keitel

Scott’s Review #1,239

Reviewed March 26, 2022

Grade: B+

Two legendary masters of horror, American director George Romero, famous for zombie films, and Italian director Dario Argento, famous for stylistic horror,  team up to create a thrilling double-bill horror feast.

For fans of the genre, the idea is titillating, to say the least, and the follow-through is a robust success. There is a gnawing television film feel to each of the films that are eventually usurped by the reminder that grand directors are at the helm.

Cleverly, they base their films on the works of the poet Edgar Allan Poe, famous for writing poems and short stories of the macabre and peculiar. ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ (1990) and ‘The Black Cat’ (1990) are the featured tales.

Having seen many Argento and Romero works with Suspiria (1977) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) being my respective favorites, the fun is seeing how each film contains familiar aspects of each with a sprinkling of the 1960 Hitchcock masterpiece, Psycho, thrown in for good measure.

Fun fact- Psycho star Martin Balsam appears in ‘The Black Cat’ story.

In the first feature, ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’, Adrienne Barbeau plays an ex-flight attendant named Jessica who plots with her lover Dr. Robert Hoffman (Ramy Zada) for her elderly husband’s money. While liquidating large amounts of cash, her husband’s lawyer grows suspicious and warns her there will be consequences should her husband die in the next three weeks.

Naturally, he does, and events grow weird and terrifying.

In the second film, ‘The Black Cat, Harvey Keitel plays an unlikeable man named Rod Usher who works as a crime scene photographer. He suffers the consequences when he viciously kills his girlfriend’s cat. In his attempts to rid himself of both his girlfriend and the cat, they continue to reappear, much to his chagrin. With two detectives on his tail, the finale is both grim and satisfying.

If forced to choose, I am more partial to ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ and this is mostly to do with the casting of Barbeau of whom I am a big fan. It’s also the winner of the two as far as the unexpected conclusion goes.

Barbeau carries the film, short at only an hour or so, and infuses likeability into a character who could easily be dismissed as a gold-digging bitch. Jessica feels some sensitivity and truly wants no harm done to her husband, she only desires some money. After all, in her mind, she deserves the payoff for having married an old man.

Romero’s influence is apparent but not as much as Argento’s is in ‘The Black Cat’. A gruesome scene at the conclusion when a character’s decomposing body lumbers forward immediately brought me back to the zombie delights of ‘Dawn of the Dead.

The music in the opening credits reminds me of Argento films in general. A mysterious high-pitched synthesizer sound peppers the experience with horrific beats that are highly effective.

I did not enjoy the prevalent cat torture scenes that appear in ‘The Black Cat’ and these are tough to sit through. I was somewhat encouraged by the knowledge that the dead cat does enact revenge on its torturer in the end.

I chuckled at the numerous references to ‘Psycho’ mostly when Balsam’s character of Mr. Pym appears. When the man climbs a flight of stairs who won’t immediately think of a similar scene in ‘Psycho’ with a deadlier result. Another scene of draining shower water immediately conjures up the legendary shower scene in ‘Psycho’.

Casting heavyweights like Barbeau, Keitel, Balsam, Tom Atkins, John Amos, and Kim Hunter provide credibility to a project that could easily have been dismissed as a throwaway horror double-feature.

The experience is much better than that as the compelling nature and thrills by the minute will keep the audience invested and longing to know what happens next.

‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ (1990) and ‘The Black Cat’ (1990) effectively team two of the best horror directors out there in dedication to the best horror poet.

Perhaps a longer duration for each film might have allowed time for more character exploration but the results are just fine.

Wild at Heart-1990

Wild at Heart-1990

Director-David Lynch

Starring-Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern

Scott’s Review #1,230

Reviewed February 19, 2022

Grade: B+

David Lynch has created some weird films. Blue Velvet (1986) and Mulholland Drive (1992) are masterpieces that skew the odd and peculiar facets of human behavior. But Wild at Heart (1990) takes the cake as the strangest in the lot.

Fascinatingly unhinged, yet hard to understand, it’s got the Lynch handprint from start to finish, but only a warm-up act as stacked against those other films.

Somehow the film is classified as a comedy. It’s got to be one of the darkest of dark comedies. Anyone who is not a Lynch fan will not appreciate or get this film- I am a Lynch fan and I’m not sure I even got it. I do appreciate it though.

It’s also the best role of Diane Ladd’s career in which she plays a fiendish, witchy mama. The graceful actress belts a home run in her storied performance.

A situation occurs during the opening sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the film. Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) serves prison time for a self-defense killing and reunites with girlfriend Lula Fortune (Laura Dern) when he is released.

Lula’s mother, Marietta (Diane Ladd), is desperate to keep them apart and hires a hitman to kill Sailor. But those are only the start of his troubles when he and Bobby Peru, played by Willem Dafoe, an old buddy who’s also out to get Sailor, try to rob a store.

When Sailor lands in jail again, he may be destined never to reunite with Lula ever again.

Wild at Heart deep down is a love story about Sailor and Lula and the many obstacles they must overcome to live happily ever after.

Cage and Dern are terrific though I fantasized while watching how nice it would have been to see Kyle MacLachlan in the role of Sailor. A Blue Velvet reunion would have been splendid since his chemistry with Dern in that film was top-notch. Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching Cage and Dern as the romantic leads.

The many references to The Wizard of Oz are delightful like when an image of Marietta flying through the air on a haggard broomstick appears just like the Wicked Witch of the West. When Lula desperately clicks her red heels three times to no avail we strangely wonder where the home she wants to return to is?

The film is one of those that is hard to take seriously or focus on the plot too much. This is evidenced by the inclusion of Twin Peaks (1990-1991; 2017) alumni Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn, and Grace Zabriskie. They play The Good Witch, Girl in Accident, and Juana Durango, respectively. Each character is indescribable in their strangeness.

The nuttiness continues with bizarre turns from Crispin Glover and Harry Dean Stanton.

Interesting is how Wild at Heart was released the same year as Twin Peaks was. The inclusion of a seedy bar named One-Eyed Jacks which appears in both productions is about all there is comparable with each other. The main events in Wild at Heart are in Texas and Washington for Twin Peaks.

Forgetting the storylines, the best part about Wild at Heart is the cinematography. Enough dark and dusty highway sequences emerge using glowing and moody lighting and foreboding cracks and crevices in other visceral scenes. Cigarette smoking has never looked as sexy or dangerous as it does in this film.

Despite there being admirable and perfectly Lynch-y elements to Wild at Heart (1990) the film is just too far overboard for me to fall in love with.

I’ll pull out my copies of Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive any day before Wild at Heart.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Diane Ladd

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Male-Willem Dafoe, Best Cinematography (won)

Edward Scissorhands-1990

Edward Scissorhands-1990

Director-Tim Burton

Starring Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest

Scott’s Review #1,198

Reviewed November 20, 2021

Grade: B+

Edward Scissorhands (1990) is a Tim Burton creation, given appropriate funding only after the smash success of his 1989 film Batman. A creative and romantic fantasy, it is an unconventional project made as charming and whimsical as its stars were at that time.

The film is part sad, part magical, with enough science fiction and romance sprinkled in to make it work across genres. The result was another box office hit for Burton, teen idol status for its lead stars, and an obvious Academy Award nomination for the deserving Makeup department.

As unconventional and original as it appears on the surface the film suffers slightly from being a bit mainstream. There is a safe, romantic comedy feel that takes the film away from a much darker tone it could (and should) have had.

Still, Edward Scissorhands is entertaining and fascinating.

An eccentric scientist, deliciously played by Vincent Price, builds an animated human being, the gentle and soft-spoken Edward (Johnny Depp). He dies before he can finish assembling Edward, leaving the poor young man with a freakish appearance accentuated by the scissor blades he has instead of hands.

Friendly suburban saleswoman Peg (Dianne Wiest) discovers Edward and takes him home, where he falls for Peg’s teen daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). However, despite his kindness and artistic talent, Edward’s hands make him an outcast. This is a challenge for all of them.

By 1990 Johnny Depp was becoming a huge Hollywood star and so was Winona Ryder. As the ‘it’ actors, this helps Edward Scissorhands tremendously by not only adding ticket sales but a fascination with them as a couple. The chemistry is palpable and so is the classic good girl helping boy reform. Depp’s Edward is a sympathetic hero and is instantly mysterious and likable.

Wiest, then in her prime, is a hoot as the comical Avon lady who introduces Edward to the joys and pains of suburban Americana. Particularly enjoyable are the perfectly manicured landscapes in Peg’s neighborhood where she goes door to door selling her products. As one can easily predict, the beautiful plants and bushes suffer from Edwards’s dangerous hands.

The Gothic mansion where Peg discovers Edward is a deliciously creative set-piece that has the classic Burton stamp. The director is so defined by his artistic sets and art design that half the fun with the film is discovering and noticing these fabulous creations.

The mainstream part comes with the story and a smattering of 1982’s E.T. sentimentality included to win over middle-American audiences. This isn’t bad but it does lighten the heavy drama and sinister approach that Burton could have honed in on.

Much of the credit must go to Depp because on paper the premise could easily be dismissed as silly, trivial, or outlandish. The actor brings pathos to the role and makes the audience believe in and fall in love with the character.

He makes Edward even more rootable by adding some obvious cliches- Kim’s jealous boyfriend Jim, played by Anthony Michael Hall, and the eccentric religious fanatic who believes that Edward is evil incarnate, played by O-Lan Jones.

The addition of these villains and most of the rest of the neighborhood as either clueless or misunderstanding townsfolk adds to the reduction of most of the supporting cast to standard stock characters.

Burton, along with Depp, Ryder, and Wiest, gives Edward Scissorhands (1990) heart. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that feels magical and adventurous save for some mediocre storytelling. It’s an above-average film that won over the masses at the time of release.

Oscar Nominations: Best Makeup

Dances with Wolves-1990

Dances with Wolves-1990

Director-Kevin Costner

Starring-Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell

Scott’s Review #1,091

Reviewed December 14, 2020

Grade: A

A western epic of grand proportions, Dances with Wolves (1990) is a quiet, yet the bombastic story of one man’s yearning to understand and appreciate a different culture. The liberal-leaning story is of dire importance in American history, which is my main love of it. This project matters and it has sincerity and truth. The content and the gorgeous, sweeping cinematography make this a must-see on the big screen for full appreciation. Sort of like Lawrence of Arabia (1962), western style.

The lovely musical score is well-paced and simply gorgeous, only enhancing the experience and appreciation of the film.

The directorial debut of a then inexperienced and up-and-coming star, Kevin Costner, success catapulted him into the big leagues, garnering tremendous respect among the Hollywood community. He also produced the film and used his own money when the budget ran over. The accolades were justified, leading him to become an A-list star. He never achieved anything comparable to Dances with Wolves again.

The time is 1863, the United States embroiled in the Civil War. Union soldier John Dunbar (Kevin Costner), depressed and suicidal, is injured in battle and receives a hero’s praise. He requests to be transferred to the western frontier, where he lives in solitude. He slowly befriends the local Sioux tribe and eventually becomes an honorary member, falling in love with a white woman, Stands with a Fist, (Mary McDonnell), who was raised by the tribe. They name him Dances with Wolves. Chaos erupts when the Union Army arrives to snatch the land at any cost.

Never the greatest actor in the world, but certainly competent, this is the role of a lifetime for Costner. That Dances with Wolves is Costner’s project is crucial. He had a vision and saw that vision to fulfillment. To my knowledge, the studio didn’t interfere and strive for control, but gave Costner the freedom to do whatever he wanted. It shows in the final product.

The romance between Dances with Wolves and Stands with a Fist is tender, alive, and without standard obstacles. No silly misunderstandings or drama. Theirs doesn’t need any trimmings. The chemistry between Costner and McDonnell is strong. At over three hours in length, the film has time to carefully pace these brilliant moments.

The film is clearly a political vehicle to teach the audience of the ravages and unfairness that Native Americans suffered at the hands of the White Man, and that is huge. Too often the issue is skimmed over or diminished in school textbooks so it’s nice to see the truth given its due. Dances with Wolves serves as an educational tool and no happy ending is provided. How great would it be if the film were shown in high schools and colleges around the United States?

I love how the film, a western, avoids the stereotypes always included in that genre. No good guys are wearing white or bad guys wearing black, no shoot ’em ups at local saloons, and no cowboys to save the day. Dances with Wolves provides a character study with pivotal thoughts and motivations from the three central characters. Graham Greene must be mentioned as an integral part of the supporting cast. His authenticity is illuminating.

Over the years Dances with Wolves (1990) doesn’t hold up as well as other films- Silence of the Lambs (1990) and Goodfellas (1991) are legendary contemporaries that everyone remembers better. Dances may suffer from an “of its time” label, justifiably so, but the film is a masterpiece. Recommended is to dust this one off and give it a whirl, if even for old time’s sake.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture (won), Best Director-Kevin Costner (won), Best Actor-Kevin Costner, Best Supporting Actor-Graham Greene, Best Supporting Actress-Mary McDonnell, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (won), Best Original Score (won), Best Sound (won), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography (won), Best Film Editing (won)

The Grifters-1990

The Grifters-1990

Director-Stephen Frears

Starring-John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening

Scott’s Review #597

Reviewed January 9, 2017

Grade: B-

The Grifters is a film that has witty writing and has an overall appeal to it- the film is very unique and quirky and is in the style of a charismatic film noir from one of the golden ages of film, the 1930s, and the 1940s. Additionally, the film has a very sharp, clean look to it.

The performances, especially Anjelica Houston, are excellent. In fact, all three principles, (John Cusack and Annette Bening) give fantastic performances and feed off each other so well that the chemistry works quite well.

Cusack plays a small-time crook named Roy Dillon, inept in ways, and estranged from his mother (Huston). When she returns to town, she along with his girlfriend (Bening), all attempt to con and outmaneuver each other for their own personal gain. The film is set in sunny Los Angeles.

As compelling as the film sounds on paper, I did not find myself completely captured by it. It took me a while to get into the film and by the time I finally did, it had ended. Overall, well made, and respectable, and I can see how some people would love it, but for me there remained something missing.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Stephen Frears, Best Actress-Anjelica Huston, Best Supporting Actress-Annette Bening, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature (won), Best Female Lead-Anjelica Huston (won)

The Godfather: Part III-1990

The Godfather: Part III-1990

Director-Francis Ford Coppola

Starring-Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia

Scott’s Review #533

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Reviewed December 3, 2016

Grade: B+

The Godfather: Part III, released in 1990, has traditionally been met with unwavering criticisms for not being as great as the two preceding epics. Sofia Coppola, who plays Mary- daughter of Michael Corleone, in particular, has bared the brunt of the attacks. No, The Godfather: Part III is not on the level of the others, but is actually pretty damned good based on its own merits and is a capable mob epic to conclude the franchise satisfyingly. The central theme is Michael’s continued desire to leave the mafia and religion, and the Catholic Church are central themes of the film.

Some backstory to the making of the film; Coppola had a non-expiring offer to create a third installment to the saga ever since 1974 when Part II was released. Having had a financial crisis, 1990 was the time Coppola agreed to do the follow-up. The ever crucial role of Mary (now a coming of age young lady) was to be played by Julia Roberts, who dropped out. Winona Ryder was then cast and bailed at the very last minute. Out of necessity, Coppola’s daughter Sofia was cast and had little time to prepare or much acting experience (she would later become an acclaimed director, which better suited her talents).

In similar fashion to the other epics, a big event launches the film, as Michael (Pacino) is named Commander of the Order of Saint Sebastian in a lavish ceremony at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. It is revealed that Michael is approaching age sixty and semi-retired, leaving his business dealings mainly to Joey Zasa in New York, who has ravaged what the Corleone family had once built.

Many characters- Kay, Mary, Tony, and Connie, are re-introduced, and new characters such as Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) and Don Altobello (Eli Wallach) are introduced, in a flurry of new storylines. It is like a big, grand, soap opera, with wonderful, rich, writing.

I was immediately impressed by the neat cinematography- the camera captures wind-swept leaves and an artistic introduction to the film, as well as either mentioned or appearing in cameo roles, small characters from the first two films- a great touch in continuity and history.

Coppola does a fantastic job of providing little updates of these characters during a party. For example, we learn that Vincent is the deceased, illegitimate son of Sonny, his mother being Lucy Mancini, who appears in a scene. (Clever viewers will remember Sonny and Lucy’s torrent affair in the bathroom during The Godfather-it is suggested that this produced Vincent).

It is mentioned that Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) has died, though his wife and son appear, and Coppola treats us to a myriad of flashbacks (Apollonia, a young Michael, and Kaye). These nuances make The Godfather: Part III filled with cool little aspects that fill the loyal viewer with warmth.

The main story- Michael takes Vincent under his wing- and strives to steer the family clear of criminal ties- is interesting, if not spectacular. Connie rises from a battered mafia wife, raising kids, to a major player in the family, just as women progressed from the 1940s to the 1980s when the story takes place.

She even feeds her godfather a poisoned cannoli! Michael, Vincent, and Connie involve themselves with the Catholic Church, bailing them out (the real-life Papal banking scandal is linked to the story) and making a deal with them for major shares of a real estate company, Immobiliare. In-fighting between the major crime mob bosses lead to several bloody massacres throughout the film, on the streets, in Atlantic City, and finally, in the Sicilian Opera house.

The pairing of cousins and lovers, Vincent and Mary, never really work, nor does Bridget Fonda’s one or two scenes appearance as Grace Hamilton, a brief dalliance for Vincent. Also, the exclusion of the character of loyal family attorney Tom is a glaring omission. So the film does contain a few negatives.

In a nutshell, The Godfather: Part III is a very good, epic, crime drama even without the Godfather name. To measure up to the glory of Parts I and II are impossible. With the bonus of having the rich Corleone family history and the intricate relationships between the characters, this makes for a treat for fans. There has not been a Part IV, nor should there ever need to be as the conclusion of the film is a satisfying wrap-up to the saga.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Francis Ford Coppola, Best Supporting Actor-Andy Garcia, Best Original Song-“Promise Me You’ll Remember”, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

The Witches-1990

The Witches-1990

Director-Nicolas Roeg

Starring-Angelica Huston

Scott’s Review #483

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Reviewed September 20, 2016

Grade: B-

The Witches is a G-rated family film with a slightly dark tone that is done softly as the film is really targeted at children. However, it is a film that adults may love too. I found the film to be entertaining, with impressive special effects, and a dazzling comedic performance by Angelica Huston, but ultimately The Witches has a silly quality, though admittedly not trite, that does not completely make it a success in my book.

The film is based on a Roald Dahl children’s book – with predictably a child as the central character- similar to other Dahl novels that became films like James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I cannot help but wonder if my mediocre rating of The Witches has to do with the fact that I have not read the novel, as I have the other aforementioned novels in his collection.

Our hero in the story is Luke- a  kindly, innocent young boy living in Norway with his parents and grandmother- Helga. When his folks are tragically killed, his grandmother takes him to London to begin a new life for themselves.

When Helga falls ill, they stay at a seaside resort where they stumble upon a convention of witches disguised as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Luke and his plump friend Bruno become victims of the witch’s plot to turn children into mice. The witch group is led by the Grand High Witch (Huston), who the other witches fawn over with grandiose praise.

Huston is fantastic as she overacts the part she plays- this is not a bad thing, but makes the role quite fun and energetic. When she transforms from a glamorous woman to a shriveled monster, the transformation is interesting to watch and an impressive part of the film. Furthermore, the way that Luke and Bruno interact when they are mice is also cute and a positive to the film.

I enjoyed the aspect that, if watched closely, can be seen involving the reveal that numerous witches are really men with female wigs on. This successfully gives the witches a grotesque, obviously mannish quality and emits a chuckle of pleasure at the same time.

Still, there is something slightly childish or juvenile about the offering- while the film appears dark on the surface. The subject is rather played for laughs instead of going full steam ahead as a dark film. Undoubtedly this is due to the target audience that the film is going for. For instance, the hotel manager and his affair with a hotel maid seem slightly unnecessary.

The Witches is a decent offering due to respect for the creative aspects that it elicits- I just felt the story might have been done a bit more seriously. Additionally, the ending feels slightly forced and abrupt- a Hollywood intended ending perhaps?

Miller’s Crossing-1990

Miller’s Crossing-1990

Director-Joel Coen

Starring-Ethan Coen, Gabriel Byrne

Scott’s Review #394

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Reviewed April 13, 2016

Grade: B+

Containing a mixture of The Godfather Part III, Goodfellas, and The Grifters- ironically all released in the same year-1990- Miller’s Crossing is an old-fashioned gangster film made fresh thanks to the direction of  Joel Coen, who brings a quirky edge to the film, throwing in a blend of film noir, black humor, and edgy characters, that make the films story-line feel fresh and alive in present time, though it has a definite late 1980’s era cinematic look (not a compliment).

I could immediately tell in which decade it was made. Miller’s Crossing begins slowly, but during the second act gains steam and is the best part of the film.

The film is set somewhere in New York during the 1920’s Prohibition period- it is assumed New York City, but this is never stated.

The general story involves Tom Reagan, a handsome Irish gangster, and right-hand man of Leo O’Bannon (Albert Finney), who becomes involved in conflict with Leo, his lover Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), and her brother Bernie (John Turturro), who is wanted dead by rival Italian mobster, Johnny Caspar. Johnny’s right-hand man “Dane” comes into play, as does another gangster, Mink, played by Steve Buscemi. Tom changes allegiances and plays one mob boss against the other as a web of deceit, tested loyalty, and murder ensues.

As the first half concluded I was not completely sold on the film. How many times have I seen a gangster film with all the stereotypical elements, the tough-guy shtick, and the contrivances? I was afraid I was watching a retread of similar films.

I wondered what the point of the film really was- the relationship between Tom and Leo’s struggle for power and control? A triangle between Tom, Verna, and Leo?

I noticed little chemistry among any of them and could not help but wonder if a female presence was required in the film, but really not all that necessary. Regardless, I was quickly bored with the character of Verna. But then the elements of the film started to come together and some rather left-of-center nuances presented themselves leaving me more engrossed.

A homosexual triangle (seldom seen in traditional, crime/mob films) took shape between Mink, Dane, and Bernie. Certainly, all vicious killers had no stereotypes often seen in the film, which is refreshing. Dane was even arguably the most brutal of all the characters, and the bloodletting was plenty. I found this reveal completely refreshing not to mention unexpected. However, the intricacies of the triangle were left unexplored. They simply bedded each other.

A pivotal scene set in the woods (Miller’s Crossing) is as gorgeous as it is character-driven. Tom must choose between killing Bernie and proving his loyalty to mobsters awaiting, or secretly let him live, fake his death, all in the name of his love of Verna. But will his decision come back to haunt him?  Is Tom, at his core, a good man or a bad man?

The calm of the forest mixed with the brutality of the film is perfect. I was reminded of the 1970 Italian masterpiece The Conformist as I viewed this beautiful scene. Tom’s conflict between good and evil and his earlier premonition of a tumbling hat comes into play. His character conflict reminded me of Michael Corleone in The Godfather films.

Look quickly and you will see Frances McDormand, soon to be a fixture in Coen films, as a slinky, well-dressed secretary. We are reminded of great things to come by this then-unknown talent.

A nice thing that I always look forward to in Coen films are the quirky, weird, fun, minor characters, and Miller’s Crossing is no different- Johnny Caspar’s overweight wife and son- an Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory lookalike- give comedy to the potentially too dark film. From Bryan to Tic-Tac, to the fat lady with the purse, all give amusing and meaningful turns that give the film a richness with an unusual cast of characters.

Miller’s Crossing proves to be a nice little film once it picks up steam and the intertwining of stories, characters, and a bit of classic film noir mixed in, makes it a refreshing take on an age-old genre of film.

Goodfellas-1990

Goodfellas-1990

Director-Martin Scorsese

Starring-Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci

Top 100 Films-#89

Scott’s Review #349

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Director Martin Scorsese adapts Goodfellas, a crime-mob film, from the 1986 non-fiction book written by Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi helped Scorsese write the screenplay.

The film is a more matter-of-fact telling than the purely dramatic The Godfather, with more wit and humor thrown in and great editing.

Featuring powerful acting by Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci, it is a classic mob film that is memorable and can be enjoyed via repeated viewings.  Largely ad-libbed, the film is rich in good dialogue and holds the distinction of containing one of the highest totals of curse words in film history.

The film is told from the first-person narrative of the lead character, Henry Hill. Henry, now in the Witness Protection Program, recounts his years affiliated with the mob, spanning the years 1955-1980.

We meet Henry as a youngster in Brooklyn, New York, half-Italian, half-Sicilian, he idolizes the “wise guys” on the streets and has every intention of one day joining their ranks. From there, the film describes the trials and tribulations of Henry’s group of miscreants. Henry meets and falls in love with Karen (Lorraine Bracco) and their tumultuous love story is explored, through tender moments and affairs.

What I love most about Goodfellas is the love of the characters and the sense that you are part of the action. The film is really a highly stylized family drama- gritty nonetheless, but the viewer feels like they are part of things and a member of the family- milestones are celebrated and meals are shared. We see Henry grow from a teenaged gullible boy- idolizing the neighborhood men, to actually being part of the group.

The other characters, such as vicious and volatile Tommy DeVito (Pesci) and Jimmy “The Gent” Conway (De Niro), age and mature.

Bracco’s character is an interesting one- she, unlike most of the female characters in The Godfather films, is not content to merely sit on the sidelines and look past her husband’s shenanigans and torrid affairs with floozies. She is a more modern, determined woman and Bracco plays her with intelligence and a calm demeanor. She wants to be Henry’s equal instead of just some trophy wife.

Pesci, who deservedly won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role, is brutal and filthy, but so mesmerizing a character. During a memorable scene, his character of Tommy jokingly teases Henry, but when Henry responds in a way that displeases Tommy, the scene grows tense and Tommy becomes increasingly disturbing. His famous line “What am I a clown- do I amuse you?” is both clever and haunting in its repercussions.

I adore the soundtrack that Scorsese chooses for the film- spanning decades, he chooses songs true to the times such as “Layla” (1970) or “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” (1964) are just perfect. Worth noting is when a scene plays, sometimes the song is mixed in with the narrative so that it actually enhances the scene altogether- becoming a part of it rather than simply background music.

If one is looking for the perfect mob film, that contains music, wit, charm, and fantastic writing, Goodfellas is among the best that there is. My preference is for The Godfather and The Godfather II, but while Goodfellas has similarities to these films it is also completely different and stands on its own merits.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Martin Scorsese, Best Supporting Actor-Joe Pesci (won), Best Supporting Actress-Lorraine Bracco, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Film Editing