Goodfellas

Not Just You Murray

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. Like most filmmakers of his generation, Martin Scorsese went to film school (NYU in his case), and there he made a number of shorts during the course of his training and study. A few of these student films survive, including 1963’s What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?, which may be his earliest use of a narrator telling his life story in the first person. This is the structure he uses once again with his latest feature, The Wolf of Wall Street. But the protagonist of that 50-year-old 9-minute effort (which you can find all over YouTube) bears little similarity with the one Leonardo DiCaprio plays in the new movie. Scorsese’s following student film, 1964’s It’s Not Just You, Murray! (the young director clearly liked punctuated titles at the time), features a few more parallels and even seems like a template for a number of later works, including Goodfellas, Casino and now The Wolf of Wall Street. The fact that It’s Not Just You, Murray! is about gangsters aligns it more with the former two films. But I believe we’re supposed to think of The Wolf of Wall Street as a kind of gangster film — or at least a crime film, which is often the same thing. Where the early short and the very long new feature start off being alike […]

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goodfellastable

This week’s list of movies to watch is not inspired by a single new release, because there isn’t anything big enough out this weekend to warrant such a focus. Instead, I’ve got a year-end feature for you inspired by the entirety of 2013 in film. I can’t sum up every title released this year with only ten recommendations, but the movies I’ve selected are, I believe, the best representatives of the more notable titles and trends seen in the past dozen months. Most of the selections are familiar. Chances are you’ve seen more than a few. But obviously this edition has to involve more popular fare because they have to be influential movies to have informed so much of this year’s crop, even if unintentionally. Just take it as a call to watch them again, along with whatever you haven’t seen before, as a special sort of year in review of the most important movies of 2013 released before 2013.

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goodfellas scenes

Is anyone else surprised that Gangster Squad isn’t a comedy? First of all, the word ‘squad’ in the title reminds us of goofy material like Police Squad and The Monster Squad. Then there’s the fact director Ruben Fleischer‘s last two movies were darkly humorous. But his new feature is indeed a crime drama, based on true events and apparently serious and very violent. At least one review calls it “silly,” but that’s a negative criticism and surely not the intended tone of the filmmakers. Of course, a gangster drama can still have some humorous moments (see below), but even if there are any lighter scenes in Gangster Squad we may still be disappointed that Fleischer hasn’t done for the crime genre what he previously did with zombie horror. It’s been a while since we had a good, funny gangster movie in America — by which we mean not imported from foreign filmmakers like Guy Ritchie and Martin McDonagh. Not that we want Hollywood to try anymore spoofs like Jane Austen’s Mafia. So, given that a list of straight gangster scenes we love would be too long anyway, this week’s list of clips is narrowed down to funny moments, to make up for the presumed total lack of comedy in Gangster Squad. Watch these five scenes after the break.

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Sometimes you just have to punch a wall, or perhaps a car door, or a ceramic cat – really, it’s whatever is closest. Whether it is rage, retribution, or legitimate hatred, sometimes an inanimate object just has to go down. In the moving pictures this is especially fun to watch. Much like a movie death is often more dramatic than reality, a little inanimate destruction goes a long way.

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This post is probably not what you think. There are no LOLCats, no Rage Comic stick men bellowing about the superiority of The Dark Knight and Inception. It’s not really a love letter to modernity. But it’s also not Sight & Sound‘s decennial Top Ten List. That prestigious publication has done great work since even before polling critics in 1952 to name the best movies of all time. They’ve recreated the experiment every ten years since (with filmmakers included in 1992), and their 2012 list is due out soon. However, there is certainly overlap. The FSR poll includes only 37 critics (and 4 filmmakers), but we’re young and have moxy, and none of us were even asked by Sight & Sound for our considerable opinion. That’s what’s fascinating here. The films nominated by those invited by S&S have the air of critical and social importance to them. They are, almost all, serious works done by serious filmmakers attempting to make serious statements. This list, by contrast, is the temperature of the online movie community in regards to what movies are the “greatest.” The results might be what you expect. But probably not.

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In his review of Mean Streets, Roger Ebert claimed that Martin Scorsese had the potential to become the American Fellini in ten years. It probably didn’t really take that long. Scorsese is a living library of film, but he isn’t a dusty repository of knowledge. He’s a vibrant, imaginative creator who might know more about movies than anyone else on the planet, and that makes him uniquely qualified to be both prolific and proficient. Over the course of his career, he’s created indelible works bursting with anger, violence, fragility, care, and wonder. Never content to stick with one story mode, he’s run the gamut of styles and substance. So here’s a free bit of film school (for filmmakers and fans alike) from our American Fellini.

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Hunger is the reason mankind first decided to kill – one imagines. Surely, the first time someone domed a boar with a stick they didn’t do it just to be a dick about it. This is why when a movie does food right the result is extremely powerful; you can close your eyes and try to forget a sad or scary scene in a film, but if a scene makes you hungry there’s no going back from that. Here are some scenes that you’ll no doubt wish you didn’t watch – scenes that make you hungry, no matter your preference, because sometimes food just looks good.

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You’ve stumbled upon Circle of Jerks, our sporadically published, weekly feature in which we ask the questions that really matter to our writers and readers. It’s a time to take a break from our busy lives and revel in the one thing that we all share: a deep, passionate love of movies. If you have a question you’d like answered by the FSR readers and staff, send us an email at editors@filmschoolrejects.com. With cold and flu season coming up it seems vitally important to ask what movie you always watch whenever you get sick. What’s your “chicken soup movie”? – Denise S.

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Culture Warrior

The Social Network is nothing new, but that’s kind of the point. Its structure creates a story of uniquely American ingenuity, individualism, and capital that we’ve seen often, one that follows beat-for-beat the formula of young, ambitious, humble beginnings to meteoric rise toward contested success to the people that really mattered being inevitably pushed out of the way. It is in The Social Network’s belonging to that subgenre which draws apt comparison to films like Citizen Kane, Sweet Smell of Success, or There Will Be Blood – not qualitative comparisons, mind you (the very title of Citizen Kane has become an inescapable and meaningless form of hyperbole in that regard), but comparable in terms of basic narrative structure and genre play. Such narratives are perhaps more common in films depicting less legitimate business practices – gangster films – which also catalog the rise in stature but fall in character of an outcast who uses the system for their own advantage. From starry-eyed associations with questionable made men (Timberlake’s Sean Parker and the debaucheries of success associated with him) to the inevitable “hit” on one’s kin in the best interest of the business (Zuckerberg and Parker firing Eduardo Saverin), The Social Network is something of a Goodfellas for geeks. Why is it that the first major studio film about the phenomenon of social networking feels like such a familiar movie? Why does it resort to well-honed, expertly crafted but familiar cinematic territory instead of pioneering unexplored terrain analogous to the phenomenon […]

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Another week has gone by, and once again we find ourselves in a familiar situation with This Week in Blu-ray. After a lackluster week of titles last Tuesday, we get a week where there are at least eight films worth of renting, a good percentage of which are also worth buying. Everything from cinematic classics like The Ladykillers and Ran to modern indie winners like Black Dynamite and Women in Trouble, this week is stacked.

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cultwarrior-slow

Some movies are meant to be slow. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Slow can be beautiful.

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