Film makers tend to do their best work early in their career. It comes from a mindset of being too young to understand how things work and their talent being at it’s most raw. As their careers move on and their names get bigger, they almost try too hard to make brilliant movies like when they were broke and had nothing to lose. This may have appeared to be the case with Martin Scorsese at first glance of the first 15 years of his career.
In 1973 he made a truly terrifying look at life on the streets of New York that hadn’t been seen before with Mean Streets which began a brilliant longtime working relationship with Robert De Niro, which will go down as one of the greatest teams in Hollywood history. He then took the cinematic world by storm with movies like Taxi Driver and brought De Niro a second Oscar with Raging Bull.
The 80’s would not prove to be the greatest decade for Scorsese despite a few bright spots like teaming up with Paul Newman to revive the character of Fast Eddie Felson in the still under appreciated The Color Of Money and he also made what might be the most controversial movie of the decade with The Last Temptation Of Christ.
Despite having established himself as one of the most original and raw directors in Hollywood it wasn’t until 1990 that he reached his pinnacle, 17 years after he blew the doors off with Mean Streets. Goodfellas attacked the movie going public and turned the entire mafia/gangster genre on it’s ear. Never before had there been a movie about mid-level wiseguys within the mafia and certainly there had never been a more real and honest telling of the life inside.
Scorsese masterfully crafted the true story of wiseguy and eventual wittness protection informant Henry Hill. Based on the book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi it was the account of his time inside the life and his love of being a wiseguy. Marty instantly had a classic masterpiece on his hands and it was widely recognized as such immediately upon release.
With a script that flowed perfectly, Scorsese trusted every film making instinct he had. He set shots exactly as he wanted and his use of the soundtrack helped the film flow over the decades of time it covered with flawless seams. Scenes and camera angles took on iconic status instantly. The stedi-cam shot through the Copacabana is still considered one of the finest in film history.
With brilliant performances from every main principle in the picture and most notably, Joe Pesci who would be awarded with that years Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Goodfellas, every character was perfectly cast to point that they almost all had career defining roles.
It turned out to be a generations perfect movie and the film that got movie making in the 90’s off to a roaring start and would make an indelible impression on movie fans and define a career of one of America’s finest film makers who continues to dazzle audiences.