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    GoodFellas – “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”

    Careful what you wish for.

    STORIES & IDEAS

    Thu 03 Dec 2020

    GoodFellas – “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”

    EDIT LINEFILMPOP CULTURE

    Matt Millikan

    Senior Writer & Editor

    Careful what you wish for.

    Three mobsters charge down the highway in a Buick La Sabre. When they hear a thumping in the trunk, the worn-out mafiosos pull over. There’s talk about a flat, but they know it’s not. Billy Batts is still alive inside. Lit hellish red by the car’s taillights, Jimmy (Robert De Niro) nods for Henry (Ray Liotta) to open the trunk as Tommy (Joe Pesci) pulls a kitchen knife from his jacket. Once they’re sure Batts isn’t breathing, Liotta delivers one of the most iconic opening voice-overs in cinema.

    “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”

    Adapted by Martin Scorsese and reporter Nicholas Pileggi from the latter’s book, Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, Scorsese’s gangster epic GoodFellas (1990) tells the true story of mobster-turned-informant, Henry Hill. It’s an intimate and unvarnished look at the American mob, and “arguably the single most influential gangster film ever made after The Godfather” according to Rolling Stone. From the opening scene, it’s Liotta’s voice-over that guides the audience through Hill's rise and fall, detailing the extravagant and everyday aspects of being a wiseguy, including lavish nights at the Copacabana and the consequences of crime.

    Though it’s kind of Scorsese’s signature, a lot of people don’t like voice-over in film. Even Pileggi has commented that voice-over is often used to “patch a little crack in the script”, but it’s the pork in GoodFellas’ prison tomato sauce. In his original review, Roger Ebert begins by quoting the “always wanted to be a gangster” line and goes on to suggest that the voice-over is "crucial to the movie’s success" because it’s “not an outsider’s view”. Henry’s story is authentic, it’s not fiction but it’s perfect for cinema. This is something Scorsese’s hero, British filmmaker Michael Powell recognised when he read the script – a “masterpiece” he compared to Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity – and asked, somewhat astonished, “how have you managed to sustain the action and narration side by side?”

    For Scorsese, the voice-over is “the web that [Hill’s] spinning as a personality, he’s getting you to like him and that’s the danger of the character”. Judging by how iconic that line has become, and how often it's been celebrated and spat out, a lot of people didn’t get the ironic warning at the beginning of the film. In this YouTube supercut, it’s used as the frame to glorify Mob violence in film, TV and videogames, while it’s parodied in an iconic episode of Community called “Contemporary American Poultry” and is used as an example of GoodFellas’ quotability in this countdown on the 50 most quotable films of all time. Hell, we even put it on kids’ clothing and used it to exemplify Scorsese’s entire oeuvre in a commercial for our SCORSESE exhibition.

    But the line also tears down the myth of the Italian American gangster in cinema. By framing Henry’s story with this assertion, and beginning it at the moment these characters’ lives unravel, Scorsese resists the glamorisation that his own movie seems to be suggesting, much like he would later do in The Wolf of Wall St. GoodFellas is a warning shot at the head and the allure of criminality is dead by the time Henry, so slick and sharply dressed throughout the film, is reduced to a paranoid wreck sniffing away his soul and searching the sky for helicopters. The helicopters aren’t in his head though, the illusion is, and it all evaporates when he’s caught, turns on his friends and ends up living “like a schnook”, the one thing that he hoped to avoid by being a gangster.

    And while that line is iconic, GoodFellas as a whole is even more so. It’s considered a major influence on everyone from Quentin Tarantino to Paul Thomas Anderson, and is also lauded for helping kick off prestige TV via its impact on The Sopranos, not just because so many cast members appeared in David Chase’s groundbreaking show, but because it “punctured the whole family-and-honor myth... put forth by movies like The Godfather” that The Sopranos further deconstructed.

    As the opening shows, these mobsters are sociopaths. Henry wanting to be gangsters like them is his downfall.

    – Matt Millikan

    This essay was written for Edit Line

    Create your own iconic film and TV moments in real time with Edit Line, an interactive experience in The Story of the Moving Image exhibition at ACMI.

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    Source : www.acmi.net.au

    Goodfellas

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    As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.

    is a 1990 film about the rise and fall of three gangsters, spanning three decades.

    Three Decades of Life in the Mafia.taglines

    Contents

    1 Henry Hill 2 Karen Hill 3 Dialogue 4 Taglines 5 Cast 6 External links

    Henry Hill[edit]

    You got out of line, you got whacked. Everybody knew the rules. But sometimes, even if people didn't get out of line, they got whacked.

    Today, everything is different. There's no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can't even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.

    As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States. Even before I first wandered into the cabstand for an after-school job, I knew I wanted to be a part of them. It was there that I knew that I belonged. To me, it meant being somebody in a neighborhood that was full of nobodies. They weren't like anybody else. I mean, they did whatever they wanted. They double-parked in front of a hydrant and nobody ever gave them a ticket. In the summer when they played cards all night, nobody ever called the cops.

    Paulie might've moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn't have to move for anybody.

    He knew what went on at that cab stand, and every once in a while I'd have to take a beating. But by then I didn't care. The way I saw it everybody takes a beating sometime.

    Hundreds of guys depended on Paulie and he got a piece of everything they made. And it was tribute, just like in the old country, except they were doing it here in America. And all they got from Paulie was protection from other guys looking to rip them off. And that's what it's all about. That's what the FBI could never understand. That what Paulie and the organization does is offer protection for people who can't go to the cops. That's it. That's all. They're like the police department for wiseguys.

    One day some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother's groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.

    For us to live any other way was nuts. Uh, to us, those goody-good people who worked shitty jobs for bum paychecks and took the subway to work every day and worried about their bills were dead. I mean they were suckers. They had no balls. If we wanted something, we just took it. If anyone complained twice they got hit so bad, believe me, they never complained again.

    Now the guy's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy's gotta come up with Paulie's money every week, no matter what. Business bad? "Fuck you, pay me." Oh, you had a fire? "Fuck you, pay me." Place got hit by lightning, huh? "Fuck you, pay me." Also, Paulie could do anything. Especially run up bills on the joint's credit. And why not? Nobody's gonna pay for it anyway. And as soon as the deliveries are made in the front door, you move the stuff out the back and sell it at a discount. You take a two hundred dollar case of booze and you sell it for a hundred. It doesn't matter. It's all profit. And then finally, when there's nothing left, when you can't borrow another buck from the bank or buy another case of booze, you bust the joint out. You light a match.

    For most of the guys, killings got to be accepted. Murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line. You got out of line, you got whacked. Everybody knew the rules. But sometimes, even if people didn't get out of line, they got whacked. I mean, hits just became a habit for some of the guys. Guys would get into arguments over nothing and before you knew it, one of them was dead. And they were shooting each other all the time. Shooting people was a normal thing. It was no big deal. We had a serious problem with Billy Batts. This was really a touchy thing. Tommy'd killed a made guy. Batts was part of the Gambino crew and was considered untouchable. Before you could touch a made guy, you had to have a good reason. You had to have a sitdown, and you better get an okay, or you'd be the one who got whacked.

    Saturday night was for wives, but Friday night at the Copa was always for the girlfriends.

    See, you know when you think of prison, you get pictures in your mind of all those old movies with rows and rows of guys behind bars...But it wasn't like that for wiseguys. It really wasn't that bad. Excepting that I missed Jimmy. He was doing his time in Atlanta...I mean, everybody else in the joint was doing real time, all mixed together, living like pigs. But we lived alone. And we owned the joint.

    It made him sick to have to turn money over to the guys who stole it. He'd rather whack 'em. Anyway, what did I care? I wasn't asking for anything and besides, Jimmy was making nice money with me through my Pittsburgh connections. But still, months after the robbery they were finding bodies all over. When they found Carbone in the meat truck, he was frozen so stiff it took them two days to thaw him out for the autopsy.

    Source : en.wikiquote.org

    As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being president of the United States.

    Oct 26, 2013 - For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster. To me that was better than being president of the United States.

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