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Posts Tagged ‘ Martin Scorsese ’

Oscars 2014: The Verdict

This Sunday marks the most prestigious night in the Hollywood calendar; the 86th Annual Academy Awards. Now many people are chiming in with their guesses for the big prizes however I have found myself conflicted on a number of categories with who I think will win and who I want win and so I have decided to acknowledge both. You can find a full list of those nominated here . Now not to ramble on like so many of the speeches this Sunday will.

Best Actor

ImageThis years Best Actor category is the most stacked category of the year. In my opinion any one of the five men nominated put in better performances than any and of the nominees from last year’s awards, Daniel Day Lewis included. We have been treated to five top class and diverse performances from five of the best actors working today. A lot of people have picked Mattew McConaughey as their pick for the winner which is perfectly understandable. In my opinion the best actor over the last 12 months is without a shred of doubt is McConaughey. Not only in Dallas Buyers Club but he also gave Academy Award nomination worthy performances in Mud and The Wolf Of Wall Street, not to mention his haunting stint on True Detective. However Best Actor is awarded to the best single performance of the year not the best Actor of the year overall. Chiwetel Ejiofor delivered that for me. 12 Years A Slave was a completely different animal of a movie which brought its cast to places rarely explored in Hollywood cinema. Ejiofor plays the protagonist with a combination of power and weakness that has stayed with me for months now. Another factor towards my favoritism of Ejiofor is that I feel this will be the best performance of his life while McConaughey has had several stunning performances, which is a testament to the man’s ridiculous talent. Continue reading

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Late To The Party: Raging Bull

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Biopics are a huge source of internal conflict for me. While a large proportion of them are great films (at least comparative to other genres), I still don’t consider myself a fan. Firstly when the person is so iconic, such as Abraham Lincoln, it’s hard for me to remain invested in a plot I know the outcome of. I was never on the edge of my seat waiting to see if slavery was abolished or not when I went to see Lincoln. Also, some bio-pics are guilty of glorifying their namesakes and fail in giving a sufficiently unbiased portrayal. So, for me at least, biopics work best when they feature less iconic people (Oskar Schindler for example) and/or when they present their protagonist in as honest a light as possible (Billy Hayes from Midnight Express). With that being said, Raging Bull, the tragic life story of the vicious middle-weight boxer Jake La Motta, is undoubtedly my favourite biopic of all time.

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Late To The Party: Mean Streets

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First off, some clarity for those confused by the title. Even though I am a huge film fan there are many great, iconic and cult films I just have not gotten around to seeing. So I thought it would be interesting to start reviewing them as I tick them off my bucket list. These are all going to be movies I have just seen but would not be considered recent movies and I feel the added factor of the movie’s reputation affecting my expectations should make for some interesting results. The first film I’m reviewing is Mean Streets (1973) which is a Martin Scorsese crime drama and his first foray into the subject matter he would soon be the king of. It also stars two Hollywood legends in Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel during the very early stages of their careers. Continue reading

Irish-American Gangster Henry Hill Dies Aged 69

Henry Hill, the Irish-American mobster who became the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s film ‘Goodfellas’ has died, peacefully in bed in a Los Angeles hospital, the day after his 69th birthday, finally succumbing to years of heavy smoking and Italian food.

Born on June 11, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York, Hill was an associate of New York City’s Lucchese crime family from the 1960s into the 1980s. As his father was Irish, he couldn’t become a fully- fledged wiseguy but that didn’t stop his life of crime and violence.

He participated in the 1967 Air France robbery in which $420,000 was stolen from the airline’s terminal at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport, and later spent six years in prison for extortion although he continued his criminal activities while behind bars.

In December 1978, months after he was released from prison, along with James Burke, Thomas Anthony DeSimone and others stole $5m from Lufthansa Airlines at JFK airport which at the time was the largest robbery on American soil.

Following the robbery, Burke became paranoid about the publicity surrounding the crime, and murdered several of those who took part.

Two years later Hill was arrested drug trafficking, and fearing for his life from Burke, he decided to become an FBI informant. Along with his wife Karen, and their children Gregg and Gina, he entered the government’s witness protection programme and later testified against his former associates and crime bosses, including Burke and Paulie Vario, the head of the Lucchese crime family.

In 1986, Nicholas Pileggi wrote Wiseguy, the book which became the basis for Goodfellas – starring Liotta, Robert De Niro, as Jimmy ‘The Gent’  Conway, based on Burke,  Joe Pesci  as ‘Two Gun Tommy’ based on DeSimone and Paul Sorvino, based on Vario.

Hill and his wife were expelled from the programme in the early 1990s after he was arrested on drugs charges, and he went back to living under his own name. The couple divorced in 1989.

In the book and the film Hill talks about how hard it was to lead an ordinary life after years steeped in gangster glamour.

“I had paper bags filled with jewellery stashed in the kitchen. I had a sugar bowl full of coke next to the bed. Anything I wanted was a phone call away,” Hill says in the film.

“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.”

Instead of being a ‘schnook’ however, Hill spent the remainder of his life as a celebrity mobster in California, selling paintings, giving lectures and appearing as an occasional host of an Italian cooking show. He also released ‘The WiseGuy Cookbook’ with a signature brand of pasta sauce.

The rest of the Goodfellas didn’t have that luxury as Vario died in 1988 in Fort Worth Federal Prison in Texas whilst serving a 10-12 year sentence after being convicted mainly on the evidence of Hill. Burke died in prison of cancer in 1996 whilst DeSimone went missing in January 1979. He was believed to have been executed in revenge for the murder of William ‘Billy Batts’ Devino which featured in the opening scene of the film.

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