Last week, in various syndicated tv markets, movie buffs and list collectors alike thrilled to the announcement of two new movie lists on the tv show Roger Ebert & the Movies. And first of all I gotta say, what is up with this “and the movies.” I mean what kind of a name is that, it sounds weird. Second of all, I gotta say what the lists were. Roger and his guest Martin Scorsese gave their lists of the ten best movies of the 1990s.
Now these were some pretty fuckin good lists I’m sure, I never even heard of most of these pictures but what the hell I mean I’m sure these motherfuckers know what they’re talkin about as much as the next guy. They got Fargo on there, I haven’t seen that one yet but I got about six people writing to me trying to get me to see it so it is next on my list.
But there was one problem with Martin Scorsese in my opinion. It was cool to see him on the show because he says alot of interesting shit about the techniquery or cinematics of a picture that most of the other Roger guests never have the brains for. But on the other hand the guy was really pushin it with this list. First of all he has a tie for #10, which is a bunch of bullshit in my opinion because it really makes it the top 11 list. If Roger knew that was allowed I’m sure he would’ve made a top 11 too. I mean I’m sure he would’ve liked to fit another movie on there, but he showed a little restraint, etiquette and common decency and narrowed it down to ten. And this is the thanks he gets. I mean jesus.
But it gets worse. Marty put a movie for #1 movie of the ’90s, The Horse Thief, that by his own admission was from 1986. Now you notice anything strange about that number? That’s right, 1986 is a year from the ’80s. Not the ’90s. I mean even I could’ve seen that one, I wasn’t even locked up yet. The mid ’80s don’t count as part of the ’90s in my opinion, personally I think of the entire ’80s as a whole separate decade from the ’90s and I don’t think it really works to mix and match.
Now I don’t want to be a dick about this, I break the law as much as the next guy and even my own highly respected awards, Vern’s motherfuckin Outlaw Awards 1999, are kind of pushin it because they say 1999 but they really are only since I got out of prison. But I mean jesus Marty, do I look like a motherfuckin role model? Do as I say, not as I do. I believe it was either Nietschze or Mark Twain that said that.
You see Marty, this is a top ten list of the ’90s. A top ten list of the ’90s. There are certain things that are implied by that, certain things that are expected and I think it shows contempt for the list making tradition, for the people of America, and most of all for the Cinema, when you pull this kind of garbage.
As soon as you start putting a 1986 film in the ’90s, then where do you draw the line. 1982? 1971? 1937? 2031? I mean where is Thunderbolt and Lightfoot on your list, that is one of the best movies of the ’90s. Or Once Upon a Time in the West, an American epic, one of the best american epics of the ’90s. You see what you have done is the first step towards anarchy. As soon as you do it, Roger can do it, Jeffrey Craig can do it, Harvey S. Karten can do it, god knows Rex Reed is probaly doing it already anyway he’s gonna go nuts now that he knows what you’re up to. Suddenly it is out of control and there is no going back.
So because of these facts, I believe I have proven beyond the shadow of no doubt that Martin Scorsese is not an individual who knows what he is talking about, not someone who is trustworthy when it comes to what constitutes a good film of the ’90s. Don’t go writing me a bunch of hate mail for this, I don’t care if you believe the hype that he’s “the king of comedy” or “the last incarnation of christ” and all this, in my opinion Martin Scorsese doesn’t know jack fuck about good movies. That is why I decided to pay more attention to Roger’s list, and I went out and rented one of his picks, Goodfellas by Martin Scorsese.
Now I can see why this is considered one of the top picks of the ’90s although I don’t think it’s my favorite of Mr. Scorsese’s pictures. This is what Marty would call “an American epic” about an individual who grows up with the only dream of becoming a mobster. It goes from about the ’50s to 1980 (which, I might add, is not part of the ’90s in my opinion) to tell this story of the rise and fall of Ray Liotta.
This is a movie where the characterization is not as important as the details. I’m not saying the characterization is weak. Joe Pesci has a pretty memorable character for one example. But let’s be honest fellas this is not one of Robbie Deniro’s top roles, not even one of his best collaborations with Marty Scorsese. I mean we got Travis Bickle, we got the fat boxer, and my personal favorite we got Rupert Pupkin from the one where he is a comedian named Rupert Pupkin. I mean what the fuck is this goodfella character compared to that. Nothing.
But what we got here, like I said, is details by the assload. This is based on a true book by Nicolas Pilleggi about a real life Ray Liotta so it is crammed full of the little facts about the way this kind of crime is accomplished, the mob traditions, etc. I mean even I didn’t know what goes on with these guys when they’re in prison. I mean jesus christ talk about some lucky motherfuckers. What I wouldn’t give to be slicing garlic all day instead of desperately trying to keep up with the latest shanking technology. Anyway when you see all these details and you start to feel like you’re really living inside their world and not just watching a movie, it puts a human face to these motherfuckers even though you don’t really like any of them.
But what this movie is really about in my opinion is food. It is about how important food is to these motherfuckers and their culture and even more important than killing people. There are so many scenes about family dinners, cooking in the kitchen, walking through the kitchen to get to the restaraunt, trying to open the restaraunt, delivering the food, buying the food. And like I said even when they’re in the joint, all they do all day long is try to get different kinds of sausage and cheese from the screws and then argue about how many onions to put in their home made tomato sauce. It is similar to my famous theory of the Badass Juxtaposition. You give a badass a harmonica or a guitar and that makes him two times as badass. This is the same thing, these guys are cold blooded motherfuckers but they are passionate about their cuisine and that makes them two times as bad. But also in this case it makes them more three dimensional which I suppose is okay in this type of picture.
Since I was out of the picture for so long it is difficult for an individual such as myself, who was out of the picture for so long, to tell just how influential Goodfellas was. But there is definitely some brutal violence with some black humor, starting with the opening scene of stabbing a guy in a trunk. And this was a pretty well known picture from what I’ve seen so I don’t know why they’re giving Pulp Fiction credit for that one.
Anyway there have been some other pictures influenced by this, I heard that Donnie Brasco and Boogie Nights and Casino were heavily based on this type of Goodfellas feel. But really we have not seen all that many gangster stories lately. I know The Sopranos on TV is supposed to be good, but I don’t get HBO. (Otherwise don’t you think I’d be talking about Oz all the time?) I thought about renting The Sopornos to get more of an idea what all the fuss is about, but I don’t know, you don’t always get the jokes for a porn parody if you haven’t seen what it’s based on. If I have a choice between a porn parody where I haven’t seen the original, or a standalone, nine times out of ten I’m gonna go with the standalone. Or I mean even a sequel, in general I’m going with Facesitter 2 or Ultimate Squirting Machines 2. I’m not saying I’m right, that’s just how I do it personally.
Anyway, to sum up, if you have been out of the picture like I have I feel it is important to see Goodfellas, which in my opinion is one of the best films of the entire ’90s according to Roger Ebert.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.