Jan 20th ~ Movie Monday

This week Phil has continued with Joe Pesci /gangster movies and we did Goodfellas (1990). Another Martin Scorsese movie and another movie based on a true story, this time of Henry Hill, and his rise and fall as a mob associate. Ray Liotta plays the part, and is joined by Robert De Niro, who suggested Liotta to Scorsese for the role. The movie is based on a book, ‘Wiseguy’ by Nicholas Pileggi, with whom Scorsese wrote the screenplay.

De Niro plays James “Jimmy the Gent” Conway, an Irish-American truck hijacker and gangster; whilst Liotta and Joe Pesci start out as juvenile delinquents doing minor jobs for the mob and working their way up to more senior positions. The cast is spectacular, with Paul Sorvino as Paul “Paulie” Cicero, the head man, and Lorraine Bracco as Henry’s long suffering wife Karen.

Pesci won a best supporting role Oscar, and the movie was nominated for 6 awards, and also won 5 awards from the BAFTA’s including best film and director. The movie is widely regarded as one of the best movies in the gangster genre, and in 2000, it was deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Register by the United States Library of Congress.

We so enjoyed this movie, such a different feel to The Irishman, which of course it is impossible not to compare it with. The Irishman I feel really went in depth into the characters and had a more serious vibe to it, and a slower pace. I really felt the emotion of the characters, especially Pesci and De Niro,whereas Goodfellas, had a lot of laugh out loud moments that offset the appalling violence that went on. (Hmm, maybe we weren’t supposed to laugh!?)

With The Irishman, Scorsese took his time with the characters and their scenes, in Goodfellas we are jumping about with quick cuts and fast changes to different locations with lots of detail, which is what Scorsese wanted to give the audience – the feel of ‘punk attitude’. He stated ~ “I wanted lots of movement and I wanted it to be throughout the whole picture, and I wanted the style to kind of break down by the end, so that by Henry’s last day as a wiseguy, it’s as if the whole picture would be out of control, give the impression he’s just going to spin off the edge and fly out.” That worked really well and Liotta did a cracking job of going down the pan.

Goodfellas gives no quarter, there is no emotional attachment to any of the characters, which is how Scorsese wanted it, but in the Irishman, I found a warmth in the relationship between Peschi & DeNiro, which I hadn’t expected. Both movies have very many merits.

Our Saturday night movie continues the run of Marvel movies, and this week we did Black Panther (2018) directed by Ryan Coogler, who also helped write the screenplay. What I like most about Marvel movies is the calibre of actors who star in them, and Black Panther is no exception. Chadwick Boseman takes the title role, with a supporting cast including Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett. Sure the CGI is awesome, but it’s how these actors bring depth and nuance to their characters that really pulls me in, and to me it seems a shame that those attributes are dismissed by ‘serious’ movie people who like to slag off Marvel & DC movies as being silly or meaningless. But each to his own, I’m quite disparaging of horror movies, which are, of course, really stupid. 🙂

Black Panther is an origin movie, and shows how Boseman as King of Wakanda becomes the Black Panther. We learn that over centuries, the Wakandans use a special material called vibranium to develop advanced technology and isolate themselves from the world by posing as a Third World country. Andy Serkis plays the baddie who finds and steals vibranium and opens up the secret of Wakanda’s location to the CIA (Martin Freeman). No spoilers so I’ll leave that there and say we thought the director really excelled in this movie, it moved along at a good pace, the choreography of the fight scenes was excellent and fun to watch, and in this particular movie no ‘hammy acting’ going on, everyone played their part so convincingly, and it was all the better for that. The costumes were gorgeous and the designer Ruth E Carter referenced several south African tribes, as well as Issi Miyake, Donna Karan & Yves Saint Laurent. The all female special forces of the movie were dressed in Massai inspired warrior costumes.

This movie isn’t just ‘another superhero movie’ though, and seems almost secondary as it deals with issues about what it means to be black in both America and Africa—and, more broadly, in the world.  I’m caucasian so really not entitled to spout off about this, so I looked up what has been said about it by black writers and movie critics. Jamil Smith in Time magazine – “This is not just a movie about a black superhero; it’s very much a black movie. It carries a weight that neither Thor nor Captain America could lift: serving a black audience that has long gone under­represented. For so long, films that depict a reality where whiteness isn’t the default have been ghettoized, marketed largely to audiences of color as niche entertainment, instead of as part of the mainstream. ” Jamelle Bouie of Slate – “is fair to say that Black Panther is the most political movie ever produced by Marvel Studios, both in its very existence… and in the questions its story raises. Black Panther could have been just another Marvel romp [but] Coogler and company had the power, and perhaps the responsibility, to do much more. And they did”

Not all were positive though, and Patrick Gathara of The Washington Post wrote the film portrays a “regressive, neocolonial vision of Africa”, which – rather than a “redemptive counter-mythology” – offers “the same destructive myths”. Gathara highlighted the Africa that is portrayed, still essentially a European creation, as being divided and tribalized, with Wakanda run by a wealthy and feuding elite that despite its advanced technical abilities does not have a means of succession beyond lethal combat. 

In the awards season the movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture,the first superhero film ever to be so, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Original score, Best Original Song (for “All the Stars”),Best sound editing and Best sound mixing.

The deeper meanings for black people didn’t really affect me, and Phil and I enjoyed the movie just as a part of the marvel universe continuum, it is though, one of the best they have done.

worth a read https://time.com/black-panther/

17 Comments

      1. I did actually. (so there! 🙂 )
        I read a lot of reviews about it when it came out, and watched the Mark Kermode review on on the BBC. Some of the guff written about it by critics is so pretentiously political, it makes me roar with laughter. Can’t they just enjoy a super-hero blockbuster with black people in it, without having to search for hidden meanings, and racial motives?
        I suppose they have to write something, to justify their jobs. 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I am not black (although one of my grand-grandparents was black, a Catholic priest from Panama) but I am not Caucasian and decided to not see Black Panther. I don’t like this trend in which if we are not whites we are treated in Hollywood like saints that fell victim of whites, as if we were not responsible for our acts, and also if you don’t like these movies automatically one is labeled as white a racist. In some cases I have been told, what to me is extremely offensive, that I am not allowed to like my favorite character, Superman, because I only should like a character red-skinned as me… I don’t identify with superficial traits as skin color but ideals as being loyal or curious or to want to explore.

    My best friend in Peru is black. And he didn’t went to see it. He thinks pandering a movie towards him not in terms of quality plot but in terms of race is offensive. In a part you write “with issues about what it means to be black in both America and Africa—and, more broadly, in the world” I can tell you that this would be like saying the issues of Irish white men are the same as the issues of Uruguay white men (the whitest country in the whole Americas). Black men in Peru adopted Spanish culture, they have in our history more notable persons than we the natives, not for hate or discrimination, only they had ways to express themselves closer to the ruling class so they gave us saints, doctors, musicians and inventors, we as natives had to pay taxes for being natives. And as so we cannot reduce persons from different cultures to just their skin color. Each of them has their own particularities and complexities. I think the problem is that the world is a cultural colony of the U.S., and we imitate them in everything, even their cultural issues (alienation) Salman Rushdie in his novel The Satanic Verses wrote about his puzzlement about black British making demands as if they were U.S. black citizens, when they did not endure slavery but actually have contributed to Britain’s history since Roman times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry for the long comment, I pressed enter and it shown a long testament x.x
      In any case thanks for your cine commentary. Is clear to see you truly enjoyed them and when I can I will give them a chance. Kind regards, fragglerocking : )

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Both great films which I thoroughly enjoyed. Who knew that they where so political, I seem to remember that there was quite a strong environmental message in Black Panther, maybe we just see what we want to see in films 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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