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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nineties Madness: GoodFellas vs My Own Private Idaho

What's the best movie of the Nineties? How I'm deciding: a twenty-four film single elimination tournament, with the winner facing my current favourite, Princess Mononoke, for the title.

This week: Martin Scorsese's gangsters' paradise GoodFellas (1990) against Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991) and its narcoleptic dreamboat.

Compare and contrast! They're both visions of "America", expressed through the stories of outsiders. By "America" I mean "American men", although Scorsese's film is more conventionally masculine. Giving Lorraine Bracco a turn on the voiceover doesn't change the fact that GoodFellas is a tough guy film -- all she gets to do is suffer outlandishly. Van Sant's drifters don't have real families, so they don't take their perpetually unstable pseudo-family for granted. While the moral codes in GoodFellas result in behaviour most would consider immoral, the rent boys and guttersnipes in Idaho do right by each other -- though even that only goes so far.

The decision: GoodFellas' "Then He Kissed Me" shot is perhaps the best of the decade; even more than the "Be My Baby" intro of Mean Streets, it's the peak of Scorsese's quest to inject pop energy into the movies (and it sure beats Rudy Vallee). In this shot, Ray Liotta's role is well-defined; when he doesn't have such clear direction, he's pretty bad, and DeNiro and Pesci are too busy doing their own thing to help him out. Keanu Reeves is less of an actor than Liotta, but he gives his best performance here because River Phoenix wills him to. Maybe Pesci's unpredictability frightens you. Phoenix's neediness scares me more.

Winner: My Own Private Idaho

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1 Comments:

  • At 12:00 PM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said…

    Wow .. that was a tough one ... I think I would have gone with Goodfellas, but just by a nose .. and I don't think anything will knock out Princess Mononoke

     

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