Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Great (film) Debates vol. 36

There ain’t no such thing as the mob. But there are movies about the mob!

What is your favorite gangster film?



Panelist: ScottDS

The Godfather: Part II. Yes, I'm one of those people who thinks the second film is just a hair better than the first film. When my media department supervisor at Best Buy found out I had never seen these films (this was 2002), I rented them immediately and was hypnotized by this one: the acting, the dark cinematography, the parallel stories, and Michael's slow inevitable descent. The final shot is haunting, Nino Rota's score is beautifully melancholy, and this film has one of my favorite transitions, when we dissolve from Michael on frame left to young Vito on frame right. "...this is the business we've chosen."

Panelist: AndrewPrice

When I look back on it, I'm surprised how few good films there really are about the mob? Largely, The Godfather and Goodfellas are it. Though on television you also have The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. But I like to zag when others zig, so I'm going with Black Caesar. That's right, Blacksploitation at its best as Fred Williamson tries to muscle his way into power in Harlem.

Panelist: T-Rav

As much as I really like The Godfather and its sequel, I think GoodFellas may actually edge them out on my list. Not only is it probably the best directorial work Martin Scorsese ever did, in my opinion, with an excellent cast in every respect, I think it's actually better at showing the moral rot that set in within the Mafia over time. Whether or not it really was about family, protection, and respect at one time, by the time the movie ends, it's become a mere collection of criminals who show no qualms about killing one another to stay on top. The best gangster movies are the ones with a cautionary tale woven throughout them, and this one pulls it off beautifully.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

I hadn't even finished the question before my mind was typing in The Godfather. For me, the better question is which I like more, I or II. Hard to say, but my gut tells me the original. Probably because of Brando, and the way Michael emerges as the youngest ivy league son who has the force of personality to take care of all family business.


Comments? Thoughts?

100 comments:

Shawn said...

"Goodfellas" as a pure mob film. "Untouchables" as a mob related film.

Patriot said...

Have any of you seen the Starz series "Magic City?" The couple episodes I've seen show the mob, and the head mob boss, as pretty scary characters. It shows how the mob can destroy relationships just over the power it has to ask questions. When the mob boss asks a question, you never know what exactly it is he is asking. The wrong answer and you're toast. Great series so far!

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Different eras perhaps...

White Heat... Jimmy Cagney was mesmerizing...

Get Carter... the Michael Caine one. Unflinching... and who doesn't love a good British mob flick?

Godfather II is THE movie here of course....

More recent... I'd go with Road to Perdition over The Departed as the best gangster flick in the 21st c. thus far (though I could be persuaded about Sexy Beast)

Tennessee Jed said...

Goodfellas - slightly different era; certainly an epic. Pesci stands out.

Untouchables - highly romanticized. Quite good, but some of the scenes were almost too theatrical (the baby carriage.) Who knew Elliot Ness was a southern California surfer? "Never bring a knife to a gun fight."

Patriot: Never saw Magic City. Gave up my starz package. Looks intriguing.

Floyd: Road to perdition is underrated. Fantastic score; one of my favorites. I love Tom Newman's scoresThe kid did a remarkable job. Newman was just right. Had a little trouble with Tom Hanks in that role, but he didn't butcher

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Untouchables.... love it though DePalma did go all film school homage with his Odessa Steps baby carriage....

Joel Farnham said...

Road to Perdition. I love the part where all of the Irish Godfather's bodyguards go down with only music playing saving the Irish Godfather for last.

ScottDS said...

Gangster movies aren't really my thing so my frame of reference is unfortunately limited. Goodfellas is a modern classic though I've only seen it a couple of times and the last time was almost 10 years ago.

The Untouchables is fun to watch and "theatrical" is definitely the right word for it. De Palma goes all out on that one - it might be his most genuine "crowd-pleasing" movie, other than Mission: Impossible.

I've seen the TV ads for Magic City but it's not something I'm interested in watching right now. Maybe one day.

I've only seen Road to Perdition once and I barely remember any of it. It certainly looked great, but all of Sam Mendes' films do. :-)

I still haven't seen The Departed though I once had a co-worker who would always quote from it: "You better get organized!"

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I would also include Fritz Lang's "M" as a gangster movie of sorts... the criminal network certainly play a key role in the hum for Beckert.

Tennessee Jed said...

Taking it a step further, I think one of the greatest scenes in cinema history period is Don Vito Corleone's speech to the heads of the families in which he "makes peace" with the Tataglia family. It is the "how did things ever get this far" speech in which he offers a veiled threat that if an "accident" should befall Michael, he "would not forgive, and I would blame some of the people in this room." Absolutely chilling.

T-Rav said...

Well, that was kind of predictable. :-)

I think I've mentioned this before, but on my list, I think Part I just barely edges out Part II. What I like about it is it's more of an ensemble cast, and not entirely Michael-centric. And frankly, it's not quite as dark; violent and all, of course, but it shows the camaraderie among the gangsters as well. Much of Part II is just unremittingly bleak.

tryanmax said...

I'm gonna have to go with Road to Perdition, as well. I'm very intrigued by organized crime of non-Italian varieties. Let me also toss out Last Man Standing. It's not very long on story or intrigue, but it has a whole lot of Bruce Willis doing what he does best. I don't know if Yakuza films count, but Yojimbo is a classic.

Joel Farnham said...

tryanmax,

Try out The Yakuza by Sydney Pollack. Robert Mitchum, Brian Keith, a young Richard Jordan, Ken Takakura and Herb Edelman round out the cast. The final fight scene with Ken facing down twenty yakuza fighters is fantastic.

CrisD said...

I agree, Jed, and there are so many "quotables" from Godfather 1 and 2. I love: "It was between the brothers, Kay" (during trial in GF2). Also, agree Scott, the closing with Michael in the chair and the leaves blowing--awesome ending. I think the first was the best--remember when they went to the matresses??? Teaching Michael to make sauce?

Close second to Goodfellas. Hilarious and scary ride: Pesci shooting kid twice! and another "cooking" scene in jail.

It wasn't exactly gangster but I loved "Blow". Johnny Depp (and Ray Liotta again!)

Tennessee Jed said...

Floyd - I guess technically "M" would be a gangster movie. Peter Lorre. Now you are really doing time travel :)

Rav - I'm with you on part one vs. two and like your rationale, although I actually see them as the same movie with a couple year long intermission. Interestingly, I just viewed the entire three movies Coppola restoration Blu-Ray and was stunned. My wife brought up an interesting point. She actually like part 3 quite a bit, and I had to agree. I think it unfairly gets the "it sucked" label due to the blatant nepotism involved with Coppola's daughter landing that role, and the fact it has to be compared with the first two.

I picked up the Road to Perdition in Blu-Ray. Beautifully done, and I forgotten about Daniel Craig. The surround mix is incredible.

Tennessee Jed said...

Cris - "leave the gun . . . .take the canoli"

Tennessee Jed said...

Tryanmax - "Last Man Standing" is another film that gets underrated IMO

Tennessee Jed said...

Joel - I haven't seen the "Yazuka" sounds really good. Thanks for the tip :)

LawHawkRFD said...

I agree with those who have chosen Godfather II. But I have one other favorite, and that was the version they released which interwove Godfather I and II. It's only drawback was its length. As for oldies, Paul Muni's Scarface.

ScottDS said...

LawHawk -

I believe you're referring to The Godfather: A Novel for Television where Coppola re-edited the films so they'd portray events in chronological order. I've actually never seen that version - I think it was available on VHS and laserdisc but not on DVD or Blu-Ray.

It's no doubt fascinating to watch but in re-arranging the order of events, you lose the power of the parallel Vito/Michael stories.

Probably Andrew said...

Nice selections everyone! :)

Especially that Andrew guy, I'll bet a lot of people agree that's the best mob film ever! ;)

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, I haven't seen it. I see it advertised but I honestly couldn't tell you what it's about. I was under the impression it was just a family drama, so I avoided it.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Sexy Beast is a strange film. I find it painful to watch, but nevertheless a very compelling film. I'm not sure if I like it or not.

Speaking of British mob films, I enjoy Layer Cake very much.

And speaking of Kingsly, I like Lucky Number Slevin a lot as well.

Joel Farnham said...

ScottDS,

What I got out of viewing The Godfather: A Novel for Television was a deeper understanding of the Corleone Family. The power is still there but muted a bit. I also figured out who the man in the wheelchair was in Godfather III. He was the friend who helped Vito Corleone make vengeance on the man who killed his father, brother and mother. Until that point, I didn't realize the significance.

AndrewPrice said...

A couple people mention The Departed, I have to say I did not like it. It felt like every other generic "Boston thug" film to me. That's a genre which has lost me.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Predictable? So you predicted Black Caesar? ;)

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I should have thought of that! Last Man Standing is awesome in every way!

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I have not see or heard of Yakuza. I'll have to check that out! Thanks.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Miller's Crossing is good too.

And The Warriors for good campy street gang/Xenophon crossover. CAN YOU DIG IT?!?

AndrewPrice said...

And let me off this little bit of fun, Goodfellas Part II:

My Blue Heaven


Any love?

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, The Warriors is awful in every ways and yet I watch it every single time it comes on television. LOL! Fun film! :)

Doc Whoa said...

Andrew, You zagged all right! LOL! I do enjoy the film though.

I agree with everyone about Untouchables being a little too theatrical. My favorite is Goodfellas. It's got everything.

Doc Whoa said...

Jed, Last Man Standing is fantastic!

"I can tolerate one gang in this town because a certain amount of corruption is to be expected. But if I come back and there are two gangs, then there aren't going to be any gangs."

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Agreed on Last Man Standing...

Get Shorty is my favorite funny gangster film especially over My Blue Heaven.

I also give big ups to Netflix's Lilyhammer if you haven't seen it yet. Great 8 ep. first season on Netflix Streaming.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, I was confident in my zagging and I was pretty sure more people would have agreed! ;)

Actually, I really do enjoy that film a lot.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Get Shorty is hilarious! And yeah, that's a good deal funnier than My Blue Heaven.

I've heard really good things about Lilyhammer, but haven't seen it (I don't have Netflix at the moment).

Ed said...

Great lists of some great movies. Nice additions in the comments too, especially Road to Perdition.

I find it interesting no one mention the Johnny Depp film Public Enemies. I wanted to like that one and I just didn't.

DUQ said...

Floyd, I love Cagney! And Edward G. Robbinson. How about "Little Caesar"?

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Good call! And that brings to mind a sort of mob film -- Key Largo with Bogart and Robinson. I know it's not really a mob film, but it feels like one.

tryanmax said...

I really like Brit mob films in general, but none really stand out to me. It's not a bad thing, rather, it's a testament to how good the sub-genre is overall.

Ed said...

tryanmax, I like most of them, but not all. I like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels a lot.

Tennessee Jed said...

did I miss it or is there a noticable lack of love for Casino? The baseball bat execution is one disturbing scene. Loved the Talking Heads cover of "Satisfaction"

Tennessee Jed said...

Ed - Public Enemies was a little slow moving. I actually enjoyed it a lot, but I think what happens is this: Johnny Depp playing Dilinger = impossible to live up to one's expectations.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I have to say that I'm not a fan of Casino. I wanted to be, but it didn't work for me. Maybe I was expecting too much after Goodfellas?

I haven't seen Public Enemies. I'm not sure why, but I just never got around to watching it.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax and Ed, I generally like those, except when I can't understand the dialog.

Tennessee Jed said...

Here is a very strange British gang film. "Performance" starring a young Edward Fox and Mick Jagger. pretty slow, but the peyote dream Fox has where he sees Jagger as a mob boss and sings "Memo From Turner" is a classic. This film helped propel Ry Cooder to musical stardom.

And then there is "In Bruges." Since I reviewed that film at this site, I won't go into detail other than to say it was a great film about the British mob. Pulp Fiction , of course, right up there as well.

Tennessee Jed said...

Don't know, Andrew. I am going to go out on a limb and say, yes, that is exactly why. Same point I was making about Godfather 3. Not a rotten film, but cast in an impossible situation akin to succeeding John Wooden or Pat Summit as a coach, if you will.

Tennessee Jed said...

I always enjoyed as a comedy "Some Like It Hot" although the last time I viewed it, it suddenly fell flat and none of the laugh lines worked. Sometimes that happens.

George Raft is another great actor from the earlier era.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Jules Dassin's Rififi is a great French addition to the genre....

Eastern Promises also for Russian mob.

No one noted my Get Carter mention earlier and I will NOT be ignored. ;-) It's a great British mob film.

Ed said...

Jed, That could be the problem. I was expecting something a little larger than life somehow and it just didn't feel that me. I guess I was expecting more of a Bonnie and Clyde?

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Also big yes to "In Bruges"....

Enter the Dragon is a triad film also... as are a lot of the great Hong Kong films Hard Boiled, The Killer (John Woo) and a lot of others...

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I noted it, I just didn't mention it! :) Seriously, I liked that a lot. Michael Caine is, as always, excellent.

Easten Promises was good too. Despite his insane opinions, I like Mortenson and he did a really excellent job in that.

Enter the Dragon is one of my favorite films!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think that's often a problem, when you follow something great, it's hard to live up to the reputation. I think the biggest problem with the film was that it came across as being in the style of Goodfellas but without the pithy script. It's not a bad film, it just doesn't attract me.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Are you talking about My Blue Heaven with Steve Martin? I used to watch it a lot when it aired on HBO but I haven't seen it in years. However, I am fond of Martin's line when he's telling the bicycle story: "Do you mind? I'm in the middle of an anecdote!"

And this scene.

BevfromNYC said...

What is up with men and their fascination with The Godfather trilogy?? I have yet to meet any man who could not quote from these movies from beginning to end! ;-)

btw loved My Blue Heaven and Get Shorty...

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I will admit that I am not a fan of The Godfather. I like parts of it, but overall it has too much of a 1970's television miniseries feel to it.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That is exactly what I'm talking about. It's like the comedic version of what would be Part II of Goodfellas... the witness protection years.

tryanmax said...

Has anyone seen Find Me Guilty? It stars Vin Diesel in a completely different role for him. I'd call it a dramady that's leaning heavily toward the comedy side.

Outlaw13 said...

Bev I couldn't quote a single line from those movies.

Generally don't care too much for gangster movies, but out of the ones I've seen I enjoyed The Untouchables the most.

BevfromNYC said...

Okay, okay, maybe it's just the men I know who can quote the Godfather...LOL! Sorry.

ScottDS said...

Truthfully, I can't exactly quote the films verbatim. Sure, I can do all the major lines we've seen parodied countless times before but I'm no expert. In fact, I should probably watch the films again one day soon since the plots can get a bit confusing for me and I'm sure I'll understand things better now than when I first saw the films 10 years ago.

Speaking of parodies, aside from Star Trek and Star Wars, I don't think there's been a series of films parodied more than The Godfather trilogy.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - "70's television mini-series" well even people who's opinion I highly respect occasionally reall miss one altogether :)

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - in the Coppola restoration, one of the special features deals with the untold parodies that have been made over the years.

T-Rav said...

Jed, I agree with you about Godfather III being underrated. It definitely doesn't live up to the first two's standards--and did we really need to have that subplot with Andy Garcia's character wooing his cousin?--but if you're determined to put an ending on your saga, you could definitely do worse. I think the ending scenes with Michael being an absolutely broken man are very moving.

Scott--the chronological version you're referring to was on AMC a couple months ago. I didn't like it. It seemed gimmicky, and messing with the original layout like that was kind of jarring.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, answering with Black Caesar was a total cop-out, and you know it. ;-)

ScottDS said...

Jed -

Yeah, I've seen that extra but I imagine time and legal restrictions prevented them from including every parody ever made (though they got the major ones). :-)


T-Rav -

I kept that version on in the background. I find it fascinating as an editing exercise but not as a complete work in and of itself.

Backthrow said...

Heck, this is like the 'Favorite Comedy?' topic a few Sundays ago... I can't pick just one!

Probably the gangster film I've seen the most times is POINT BLANK (1967), since it's lean and mean at a bit over 90 mins, unlike a lot of the popular mob epics. Lee Marvin, left for dead (a monumentally *STUPID* thing to do!) on Alcatraz Island by two-timing Dean Wormer (er, John Vernon), works his way up the 'Organization' to get the (stolen) loot what's owed him. I like the remake, PAYBACK (1999, with Mel Gibson), a lot, too, especially because it has a completely different tone/look to it --though it still isn't a patch on the original.

Beside that, better to just list some of the mob and gangster films I especially like (in no particular order):

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA
THE GODFATHER
THE GODFATHER, PART II
GOODFELLAS
MILLER'S CROSSING
DINNER RUSH (2000, actually an ensemble dramedy about a hot Italian eatery in NYC, but the Mob is a crucial background element to it, and has a good turn by Danny Aiello)
THE BAD SLEEP WELL
THE SICILIAN CLAN (1970)
GET CARTER (1971)
THE HIT (1984)
THE OUTFIT (1973)
CHARLEY VARRICK
WHITE HEAT
PULP FICTION
THE COOLER
KEY LARGO
HIGH SIERRA
THIEVES' HIGHWAY
NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950)
DILLINGER (1973)
PRIME CUT
JOHNNY COOL
THE UNTOUCHABLES
THE PHENIX CITY STORY
UNDERWORLD U.S.A.
THE BIG COMBO
FOXY BROWN
VIOLENT CITY (1970, a.k.a. THE FAMILY)
THE KILLERS (1946)
THE KILLERS (1964)
THE MECHANIC (1972)
BLAST OF SILENCE
THE YAKUZA
ENTER THE DRAGON
SYMPATHY FOR THE UNDERDOG (and countless other Japanese-made yakuza flicks)
CASINO (not nearly as good as GOODFELLAS, but I still like it)

--and don't forget about Mob comedies:

MIDNIGHT RUN
THE FRESHMAN (1990)
PRIZZI'S HONOR
THINGS CHANGE
YOU KILL ME

*whew!*

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Puleeez. Perhaps you just don't recognize the brilliance of the pick! ;)


Jed, I know it's a minority opinion, but something about the film just doesn't work for me. It feels too much like Winds of War or Shogun which were ok, but just never felt like "movie"-movies to me. It's hard to explain.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I have not seen that and I thought I had seen all of his films? Hmm. He's actually a much better actor than he gets credit for.


Outlaw, I like gangster films, I just don't like some of the generic conventions that now populate them... like telling us how to make spaghetti or the "I have a brother who is a cop" subplots.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I saw Point Blank for the first time about a year ago and really liked it. (Also, not to be confused with Grosse Point Blank! ;) )

Midnight Run is truly a fantastic film. I watched that again about a month ago and I was amazed how well it's put together and just how solid the film is at all points.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - let me try this on for size, because I suspect it is at the heart of the "Godfather vs. Goodfellas" question. The Godfather is, at heart, a romantic view of the mafia. Certainly Godfather 1 harks back to the era of the "moustache Pete's. The storyline does contain essentially every elelment one looks for in good drama. Conversely, Goodfellas is based on a novelization of a real individual and real event. It is more modern. Thus it scores it's points for realism. By being more modern, there is more of the thug world of Don Gotti than the "romantic" world of Don Gambino/Corleone. It too has a compelling story with the elements of good drama. One can argue that the earlier film makes murderous criminals "likable." Thus, those that favor Goodfellas probably like the fact that it is indeed grittier and more realistic (less romanticized.) Hey, it's a theory. ;)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, It is indeed true that Goodfellas is a grittier, more modern telling and I prefer the style -- with the integration of the music and the more "up" dialog. Goodfellas seems to revel in it's action whereas Godfather dreads it.

But my complaints are actually a little different.

Godfather was filmed in a period where I simply do not love the style. You see this same thing in films like The Sting or in miniseries like Winds of War. The film itself is cloudy (as seems to have been the style), the pace is slow, and it relies very much on the actors bringing meaning which isn't conveyed in the dialog. Moreover, the films of this era are devoid of cleverness (in the direction or the writing) because this was a very "straight-up" storytelling period. In other words, these films move relentlessly from A to B to C to D with a minimal amount of effort -- no attempt is made to do anything unexpected, surprising or complicated. All in all, to me, this makes for a somewhat dull presentation.

Then you add in a ton of actors I recognized as television actors like "Fish" from Barney Miller and I just had a hard time seeing this film as anything more than the other films of the era.

Goodfellas, by comparison, blew me away. It was the first movie I recall that really integrated the soundtrack. It had style. It was ultra-fast paced. It had intensely clever director's tricks (like the single shot when they walk through the bar). It constantly had surprising moments -- and the violence seemed to come out of nowhere.

In doing those things, it really set new trends. I just don't see that with Godfather.

I'm not saying Godfather is bad, I just honestly don't see it as anything special.

T-Rav said...

Jed and Andrew, I think both Godfather and Goodfellas are good, just in different ways. (And don't get on my case for taking the easy way out or I'll put a horse's head in your bed, and then blow it up while you sleep.)

Part of the difference here is that Godfather focuses on the people running the whole kit and kaboodle, while Goodfellas focuses on the capos and soldiers at the bottom. You're necessarily going to get different viewpoints as a result. The Sicilian crime lords still have vague memories of their homeland and the "protection" deal that at one time actually meant something; so all this violence and double-dealing actually has a higher purpose to them. For the people actually doing the dirty work, not so much; they're involved because they're immoral, violent types. In that respect, I guess Goodfellas is the stronger movie because it makes no bones about the fact that this is, after all, criminal activity. But we shouldn't neglect Godfather either, because it does make an effort to show why the string pullers do what they do.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That's true too. They focus on different aspects, so they actually are hard to compare in that way.

But let me clarify, I'm not saying Godfather stinks or anything like that. I just don't see it as a special movie, whereas I do think Goodfellas is a truly special film.

Tennessee Jed said...

Rav - my main purpose in my last comment was to try and get Andrew to verbalize what he was thinking, and he did! I happen to disagree with his analysis, but that is why we have debates like these. The Godfather has a stronger more complex plot is what I see as the main difference. Goodfellas is a good movie, Godfather is a great movie. Goodfellas is pop music, Godfather is classical

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, We can agree to disagree! :)

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I don't know all I hear is "Andrew's taste is all in his mouth" and "Jed is a stuffy snob." But that could just be me being a trouble maker. :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

Floyd, the funny thing is, in however many years this site has been going, Andrew and I agree on so much it's scary, (probably 99.7% of things cinema) so actually it's nice once in a while to be this far apart on something.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed and Floyd, We're cool with disagreement here... this isn't Huffpo. We don't require groupthink.

tryanmax said...

Backthrow, great list. I feel bad for forgetting Once Upon a Time in America except I've only seen it once a long time ago.

I know it's not a mob movie, but for some reason it seems like My Cousin Vinnie needs to be brought into the conversation.

Outlaw13 said...

Well I guess growing up in Texas, movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas etc were so out of place and different, not to mention the fact that I feel they tend to glorify crime...I was just never interested.

I also find it interesting when movies and TV make joke about all things Jewish, like those of us who aren't around the culture even understand the joke...but then again we're all dumbass rednecks to them anyway...so there you go.

I admit as a child that I refused to make model airplanes of the axis powers because they represented the bad guys, so I'm kind of special in that respect. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, That's actually a really good point. Growing up in Colorado (and a few other non-New York City) places, I didn't give a crap about New York City/Boston. Yet so many television shows and films acted like everyone cared about the ethnic garbage in NYC/Boston -- Jews, Italians, Irish, jokes about New Jersey, etc.

All of that left me cold, just as I suspect New Yorkers wouldn't care about shows about my neighborhood.

Tennessee Jed said...

we are defintely cool with disagreement at Commentarama. It's what makes it special. Another thing to keep in mind is that the question posed is favorite gangster movie which can bring a lot of things to the table beyond the objective aspects of the quality of a film (technical and otherwise).

I just happened to think of another film I really enjoyed, although hardly at the top of my "favorites" category. That was Donnie Brasco and it was one of the first films where I remember seeing young Johnny Depp.

The New York, L.A. Boston thing has gotten to me as well, particularly in regards to television. They tend to be go to cities, but I find myself more interested in checking out something new if it is shot elsewhere.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Lots of great choices!

Lilyhammer is definitely the best mob film I have seen recently (and very funny).
It's too bad they haven't made it available on dvd. It's only Netflix streaming at the moment.

Hmm...trying to list something no one mentioned yet...
Okay, here's one that features the Mexican drug cartel: Clear And Present Danger.

Not too bad a film but far better if you read the book first, which fills in a lot of the gaps.
Also, the book has more of the Cartel in it.
Sure would be nice to seen our Specops guys going after them in real life to the extent shown in the book.

It was awesome back in the '80's when we went after Noriega and Escobar!
Fortunately our ship (USS Camden) had an opportunity to help in a very very small way.
It was nice to see substantial wins in the war on drugs during those times. :^)

If the Presidents after Reagan had waged the war on drugs at the level he did we wouldn't have nearly the amount of problems we have now (with the Mexican cartel in particular).

Tragically, we now have a President that has literally helped the Cartel. Grr!

Clear And Present Danger would've been a great flick if they had used the book more as a guide rather than a suggestion.
I bet someone of Nolan's caliber could pull it off.
Still, as I said, not a bad film.

Tennessee Jed said...

Ben - I must admit I have not seen or even heard much about Lilyhammer until this thread. Maybe it will end up on DVD eventually. As far as Clear & Present Danger goes, it is an interesting addition to the list in that I certainly would not have included it as a gangster movie off the top of my head, and yet, the cartels from Columbia and now Mexico certainly are nothing if not organized crime. I was always a fan of the Jack Ryan series Tom Clancey books (love those independent insurance agents.) When they started making them into films, I thought they did o.k. until they tried Patriot Games without using Prince Charles and Lady Diana. That seemed like a major change. It's been a long while since I read Clear and Present Danger. My recollection was that they greatly expanded Ryan's role in the covert action. I wish they would do Red Storm Rising" or maybe not.

ScottDS said...

Andrew, et al -

I can't entirely disagree with the NYC/LA/Boston thing. For instance, an otherwise open-minded friend of mine hates when SNL does a NY-specific joke on Weekend Update. (On the other hand, SNL recently did a soap opera parody about people in SoCal and it was hilarious.)

I think ethnic jokes are a little different. I'm Jewish so I naturally gravitate towards Jewish jokes whereas I couldn't give the slightest s--- about Irish/Boston jokes. (No offense.)

On the other hand, someone once said that the more specific a work is, the more universal it becomes. You may not like Jewish jokes but you can appreciate them even if you're not Jewish because every ethnicity and religion has those jokes.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I agree, the fact we can all disagree without anyone getting upset makes everything much more interesting around here.

What's even worse about the Boston/NYC/LA thing is that even when they venture into flyover country, it's still largely NYC only without the buildings. It's amazing how the same characters with the same personalities so often show up in places where they don't live in real life.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Here's the problem with that thought. The same way you don't care about Irish/Boston jokes is the same way I feel about Jewish jokes. I cannot relate and I don't really want to. So when shows fill themselves with Jewish jokes (like Seinfeld often did) or jokes about specific neighborhoods in New York City, it simply loses me. Once in a while something clever about a particular subculture is fine, but when you see it all the time in every sitcom, it just become annoying.

ScottDS said...

Andrew, re: it's still largely NYC only without the buildings.

You pretty much hit the nail on the head with that one!

On one hand, you'll encounter the usual character archetypes everywhere you go, but on the other hand, I have no doubt certain types of people live in some places but not others. That just seems like common sense.

Of course, coming from South Florida, we've got a pretty good cross-section of people and if I wrote a story that took place here, at the end of the day it probably would look like NYC without the buildings. (SoFla might be a bad example.)

Even I tend to gravitate towards NY/LA whenever I come up with an idea. I think my thought process sums it up as: "If I'm gonna have the story take place in, say, Peoria or Des Moines, I'd better have a good reason for doing that. Otherwise, what would be the point?"

Take that Guggenheim art heist movie pitch I told you about the other day. That could easily be another art museum in the middle of the country... but why bother? After all, everyone's already familiar with the Guggenheim.

tryanmax said...

I just hate the fact that, in films, it doesn't matter where you are in the world, construction workers all come from the Bronx.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

Ha!!

Here's another one... My friend and I are watching Bruce Almighty and on his way to work, as he walks through this idyllic town square, Bruce gets accosted by these token Latino gang bangers. My friend (who is of Hispanic descent) yells at the TV, "Where the f--- did these guys come from?!"

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Having lived in places like Colorado, West Virginia, and Tennessee, I can assure you that you do not find the same stereotypes everywhere. You will find almost nothing like the people in NYC in West Virginia, and I never saw anything like the people of WVa in DC. Colorado again is different with an entirely different set of characters. Growing up, we had one kid in high school who came from Phili and he was the closest we got to "ethnic" and he didn't even have the Phili cadence or accent. One of my best friends in high school was Jewish and he was more like Tom Cruise than Jerry Seinfeld. (The kids in The Breakfast Club were very representative of Colorado.)

A Jewish friend of mine moved from DC to Ohio and you should have seen his e-mail about not finding anyone like the people he knew in Maryland. He said that even the Jews he met were "hicks."

The Hollywood view, where the whole country is a lot like NYC/LA just isn't true once you leave the coasts.

tryanmax said...

Does Chicago go along with the NYC/LA thing? Portrayals of Chi-town are largely accurate, IMO. And my city has a very similar makeup and culture, so I always feel at-home with Chicago movies.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Chicago is like "the other big city" when they want to do something in fly over country. They use DC for political stories, Miami for drugs stories, Chicago for "heartland America" stories, Boston for Irish mob stories, and NYC/LA for the rest.

And when they set something in some fake small town, it tends to look like Vermont and be full of New Yorkers.

EricP said...

Married to the Mob
Kill the Irishman.

rlaWTX said...

not a big gangster movie fan (glad Outlaw already said this)... I have seen pieces (without enjoyment) of Godfather (#?), Goodfellas, Casino (was Heat mobsters? if so, add to this list), & Untouchables.
The closest I get to the rest of your lists is the remake of The Mechanic (Statham) and Clear & Present Danger. C&PD was an awesome book, a decent standalone movie, and a failure as a movie that was supposed to reflect a book.

I'm glad the rest of you are enjoying the heck out of this topic... ;)

Anonymous said...

Off the top of my head.

Reservoir Dogs,
Pulp Fiction,
Goodfellas,
Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels,
Snatch,
The Long Good Friday,
The Untouchables,
Hard Boiled,
Police Story,
Mr. Canton and Lady Rose (Black Dragon in the USA).

Scott.

Anonymous said...

Well talking about the LA/NY thing, I'm not in fly over country, I'm in fly to country. Most successful movies made about Australia are chock full of stereo types (Crocodile Dundee anyone?), war movies or post apocalypse movies.

Then there are the quirky movies that no one, even here bothers to watch. Virtually ever Australian movie that has been made about the suburbs doesn't represent anything I know and depresses the hell out of me. One John Hughes movies spoke to me as a teenage more than any Australian teenage movie ever.

But yes, watching American movies and TV you could be mistaken for thinking that the US is composed of two coasts filled with people and not much else.

Scott.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Good list!

Stereotypes of Australian? Why, whatever do you mean? LOL! Yeah, it's pretty bad. By the way, my favorite Australian film is Breaker Morant followed closely by Strictly Ballroom. :)

I have relatives in Germany and the view they have of the US is truly skewed by our films. Every time I've been over there I've been asked questions about the Indians and if I lived near a fort and if people really walk around carrying guns. They seem to think half the population is gang-bangers and that the whole country looks like either LA/NY or Deliverance. They're shocked when they come to visit a place like Colorado.

Anonymous said...

Anderw, that German POV is a bit weird, I'd put a lot of that down to the language differences. We grow up watching some British, some American and some Australian TV and a lot of American Movies. And in some schools they used to teach American history and of course we share a common language.

So I would say that we generally have a better idea about American then Americans do about Australia. Though of course, we get a lot of things wrong and misunderstand a lot too. Though in this day and age with the internet you should be able to find out a lot more then you used to just 15 odd years ago.

Scott.

Chris said...

For my money, nothing beats the old gangster films from Cagney and company. Angels with Dirty Faces is my absolute favorite, followed by The Public Enemy (and the famous grapefruit scene), and White Heat, along with many others from that era.

As for more recent offerings, Road to Perdition is excellent and vastly underrated. Miller's Crossing is also quite good, and I enjoyed Public Enemies (though it is a tad on the long side). Bonnie and Clyde, as well as The Untouchables, are a couple other faves.

I never really got into The Godfather movies, though. I appreciate them (at least the first two) as terrific films, but they're just not among my favorites. I prefer Prohibition and Depression-era gangster flicks, and period films in general, for the most part over "mob" movies or modern-day crime dramas.

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