In “Goodfellas,” One Dog Goes One Way, One Dog Goes the Other Way, and I’m Watching Them Both

goodfellas dog

It’s possible I’ve seen Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” more than any other film in my last twenty or so years. And when I come upon it — on AMC, Spike, etc. — I have to watch it. It makes no difference to me whether it is edited for TV or not. Sure, it’s nice to hear Pesci’s poetic profanity, but I’ll take it either way.

So I was thrilled to recently write about a new Blu-ray box set that includes “Goodfellas,” “Heat,” “Mean Streets,” “The Departed,” and “The Untouchables” for buffalospree.com. Since it’s a rather busy day, I thought I’d post that piece, which also looks at some other cool recent releases. It’s all part of my occasional “Mondays With Schobie” segment for the Spree site.

Incidentally, a few years ago, my best friend Anthony surprised me with one of Henry Hill’s paintings, and a print of the famous “One dog goes one way, one dog goes the other way” painting pictured above. They adorned the walls of my Spree office for years.

Take it away, me (note that on the Spree site, titles are italicized; since I’m lazy, I generally put them in quotes here):

There are certain movies that I simply have to watch any time I stumble upon them on TV, and while the roster has changed periodically since I was a younger man (I’d no longer include the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, although I still love them dearly), there are a few that have sat there comfortably for the last few years.

  • Interestingly, five of them have been put together in a new Blu-ray set from Warner Home Video, and it’s almost as if they asked me what I’d like to see in a set called “Ultimate Gangster Collection.” There are actually two sets—“Contemporary” features Mean Streets, The Untouchables, Goodfellas, Heat, and The Departed, while “Classic” is comprised of Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, The Petrified Forest, and White Heat. And while I’m referring specifically to the former as my repeat viewing favorites, these are both must-owns (and smartly timed for release just before Father’s Day). The “Contemporary” set is ideal for a viewer like me who owns all of these films on DVD, but is ready to trade up for remastered Blu-ray versions. There are a number of special features for each film, but in each case, the movies themselves are what truly excite. The three Martin Scorsese crime classics — Mean Streets, Goodfellas, and The Departed—are fascinating to view together, coming at three distinct periods in the filmmaker’s career. Meanwhile, The Untouchables is both Brian De Palma’s most commercially successful and purely enjoyable film, and Heat is the quintessential Michael Mann epic. The films of the “Classic” set are, of course, legendary, with two of James Cagney’s finest performances (Public Enemy and White Heat), Edward G. Robinson’s immortal “Rico” (in Little Caesar), and Petrified Forest’s stunning trio of Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Leslie Howard. The subject matter might be tough, and the violence brutal, but both sets represent the peak of cop-robber-and-gangster cinema. (Warner Home Video, 2013)
  • Now for something completely different: Another of those if-it’s-on-I-gotta-watch-it is National Lampoon’s Vacation, and a new thirtieth anniversary Blu-ray of the Chevy Chase-starrer offers a chance to revisit the film minus the commercials and TV edits. (Until watching this new edition, I’m not sure I’d ever seen the film uncut.) What stands out most about the film today is how grounded in reality it was; even Randy Quaid’s immortal cousin Eddie is pretty darn believable. And it captures the often overwhelming stress of the family road trip in a way I’m not sure any other film has. Vacation looks better than it ever has, and the disc also features a well-made documentary. (Warner Home Video, 2013)
  • Several other recently released DVD/Blu-rays that benefit from a second viewing include: Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects (Open Road Films, 2013), featuring award-worthy performances from Rooney Mara and Jude Law; Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color (ERBP, 2013), a mind-F of a film that, literally, I watched twice in one sitting — this one demands it; and two recent Criterion releases, Godard’s Band of Outsiders and Alex Cox’s punk-sci-fi cult hit, Repo Man (Criterion Collection, 2013).

I also want to give a quick mention to a few books I’ve read since last I wrote this columns that fit here, sort of. When I finished all three, I had to dive back in to re-read some favorite parts, so there you go.

  • The Man from Primrose Lane: I came upon James Renner’s sci-fi-ish stunner when news broke that Bradley Cooper would star in a film adaptation. Considering Cooper’s ascension to the Hollywood A-list, that’s a good indicator a book could make some waves, and if Primose has not yet, it will, and soon. It’s the strange story of an old man (“the Man from Primrose Lane”), a sudden murder, a best-selling author whose wife has committed suicide, and an obsessive quest to discover the truth. It’s a book that, like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, is at times difficult, but always compulsively readable. (Macmillan/Sarah Crichton Books, 2012)
  • The Interestings: Meg Wolitzer is the author of nine novels, and her latest, The Interestings, is her most acclaimed yet. It’s a sprawling tale of five creative teenagers and their tangled adult lives, and I found it a story that seems ready-made for an HBO series. It’s sad, funny, and, for anyone who ever thought their destiny might lie in the art world, unmissable. (Penguin Publishing/Riverhead, 2013)
  • The Friedkin Connection—A Memoir: William Friedkin is one of those filmmakers whose highs could not be higher (Oscar wins for The French Connection, box-office glory for The Exorcist) and lows could not be lower (the flop of Sorcerer, the controversial Cruising, and, well, pretty much every movie he made between To Live and Die in L.A. and last year’s Killer Joe). His memoir is an honest, remarkably candid look at almost every one of his movies, and at his own failings as a person and filmmaker. It is especially insightful to hear him discuss Cruising, the gay serial killer film that ranks among the most fascinating, wildly flawed studio pictures of the last thirty years. (Harper, 2013)

All of these films and books have something common: I could sit down with them now and be just as contented as I was the first time I watched or read them.

“Blue” Draws Raves and Criticism (But Mostly Raves), Warner Bros. Gangster Classics, and More

chi-cannes-2013-winners-001

A few quick hits on this Memorial Day.

  • Todd McCarthy breaks down the Cannes winners for the Hollywood Reporter: “Whether it had won or not, this was already destined to be the year of ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color,’ given how everyone had to see it just for the unprecedented and protracted realistic sex scenes between Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux in Abdellatif Kechiche’s close-up, three-hour portrait of a female love affair.”
  • Manohla Dargis takes issue with “Blue,” and it will be interesting to see if her opinion will be shared my other major critics as “Blue” heads to the States: “‘It’s disappointing that Mr. Kechiche, whose movies include ‘The Secret of the Grain’ and ‘Black Venus’ (another voyeuristic exercise), seems so unaware or maybe just uninterested in the tough questions about the representation of the female body that feminists have engaged for decades. However sympathetic are the characters and Ms. Exarchopoulos, who produces prodigious amounts of tears and phlegm along with some poignant moments, Mr. Kechiche registers as oblivious to real women.”
  • However, reports Michael Phillips, “Spielberg and his fellow jurors took the unusual step of awarding the top prize not simply to director and co-writer Kechiche, but to the film’s two lead actresses. The jury, he said, felt ‘privileged’ to watch this three-hour film of ‘deep love, deep heartbreak’ evolve at its own pace and rhythm.”
  • I take a look at Warner Bros. new “Ultimate Gangster Collections” today on buffalospree.com. The sets, divided into “classic” and “contemporary,” are pretty stunning; perhaps the film I’m most looking forward to watching again is Michael Mann’s “Heat.” It’s sad to think that De Niro and Pacino have made only a handful (if that) of relevant films since then. But my goodness, that L.A.-set crime epic is pretty special.
  • Speaking of Michael Mann, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky recently penned an interesting short analysis of the director’s “Miami Vice” film, a movie that was received with a collective shrug upon release but now, he says, “has emerged as a major touchstone for my generation of critics. If you’re young and you’re writing seriously about the medium, there’s a good chance that you’re a ‘Miami Vice’ fan.”
  • The “Much Ado About Nothing” hype machine will soon go into overdrive, which kind of thrills me, since I’m hoping to see my name continue popping up. It is NOT mentioned in this NY Times piece, but it’s a good read all the same.

It’s a lovely, sunny Memorial Day in Buffalo — time to get away from the computer and enjoy it.

Image of Cannes winners Abdellatif Kechiche, Léa Seydoux, and Adéle Exarchopoulos, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune