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July 12, 2012

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bill

Fair enough, though I've always considered it the tragedy to GOODFELLA's comedy. Which, granted, makes it sound like it IS something of a retread, but I mean that broadly, simply in terms of Mafia films by the same filmmaker.

Bettencourt

Since we're quizzing Tom Carson on old columns, I remember one from over a decade ago comparing the careers of Denzel Washington and Taye Diggs, and how Diggs seemed to be having more fun as an actor. How do you feel about Washington's work in the less-Oscar-seeking, Out of Time/Inside Man/Deja Vu era, and do you think he read your piece and took your advice to heart?

That Fuzzy Bastard

I love CASINO so much that I'd say it's *better* than GOODFELLAS: sharper about money, a vastly richer female lead, a more propulsive narrative, and a unique use of voiceover (not to mention one of Saul Bass' best credit sequences). The only weak link is DeNiro, who's very good but completely miscast as Abe Rosenthal. So much of the story is about the tension between the chilly Jew who understands the system and the brutal Italian who gets shit done (with both admiring and loathing each others' defining characteristics) that casting the brothers from RAGING BULL kinda deflates it. Put Albert Brooks in the Rosenthal role and you have an undeniable masterpiece.

And hey, Tom, is there any way we can read your Monticello column? I still remember that one fondly, especially the line that confronted with homosexuality, Thomas Jefferson would have found a way to make it more ingenious.

Gordon Cameron

>@bettencourt: Yes, the "cat" as in "dude" versus the actual feline cat is pretty confusing even by my own eccentric standards. Will correct.

Aww, the play off the double meaning of 'cat' was my favorite part of that sentence...

Petey

"I've always considered (CASINO) the tragedy to GOODFELLAS' comedy"

Yup. Part of it is definitely that. While being similar in material and approach, Casino totally de-glams the glamor of Goodfellas. It's the genuinely rare gangster movie that doesn't make you wish you were a gangster.

But it's also a way to give Frank Vincent, at long last, a chance to get payback on Joe Pesci...

Krillian

"I'll never forgive him for wrecking two generations -- so far -- of (mostly) male movie acting thanks to his influence."

Trying to make sense of this comment, which on the surface is like saying "Hitchcock was a hack!" Maybe it's because few male movie actors have been able to reach the same level of Prime DeNiro and therefore suffer by comparison? In which case DeNiro should be forgiven that others can't pull it off? To throw away Prime DeNiro, one might as well toss Prime Brando in the dustbin.

Tom Carson

Um. I can't help being flattered that people remember my old stuff, but it's GK's blog, not mine, so forgive me for feeling a mite sheepish. Anyway, 1) Joel, I did indeed review that godawful Patrick Stewart Moby-Dick in the Voice, but the line you recall still mystifies me. I can only guess -- or hope -- that I was being tongue-in-cheek or deliberately buffoonish. 2) Bettencourt, my take on Denzel these days is that he's awesomely cynical, and given his options, cynical may be the smart way to go. 3) TFB, no, you can't find the Monticello piece (which I was fond of myself) online. The Voice's web archives just suck. And to go back on topic, I like CASINO better than GOODFELLAS, too.

Joe Badalamente

Excellent list, though I would have placed Midnight Run closer to the top. But totally agree with the top 3. Good work. As far as Tom's comment about intensity being easy, etc.; I think Midnight Run and King of Comedy prove Mr. DeNiro is/was capable of relaxing but chose what he wanted to do at the time. Tom who?

Savannah

Loved the pictures - but I just can't imagine a best of deNiro that does not include Stardust. He rocks as a gay pirate, one of the best characters in a truly fun film. ♥

Josh Z

Stardust belongs at the bottom of De Niro's resume, next to Rocky & Bullwinkle. His performance in that in an embarrassment. He might have been able to get away with such an offensive swishy gay stereotype in a three-minute SNL sketch, but to carry it on for an entire feature film is akin to a hate crime.

bill

"Tom who?"

Carson.

Jaime N. Christley

Maybe it was embarrassing (I like STARDUST a lot), but he throws himself into it. Compare that to KILLER ELITE, which is easily the paycheckiest of De Niro's last 10 years' worth of ill-advised roles, in a walk.

Partisan

For what it's worth, if I had to choose a three hour film from 1995 starring a great Scorcese actor, I'd choose HEAT or ULYSSES' GAZE. CASINO is certainly a seductive and enjoyable film and if you had to have a sequel to GOODFELLAS, who better to direct it than Martin Scorsese? But in tone, musical score, themes and actors it is ultimately a sequel, and unlike other sequels, it's one that does nothing to advance the themes of the original movie. If GOODFELLAS emphasis on the sadism and cruelty of the criminal world was subtly undercut by the charisma of its actors and Scorsese's own style, CASINO has the same problem, only with a more sympathetic protagonist. Henry Hill was a parasite whose corruption morally compromised the woman who loved him, who glibly ignored the murder of people who thought he was their friend, and who only broke with the Mob because his greed led him to violate their one not utterly unreasonable demand. Ace Rothstein by contrast has a genuine talent, in perhaps the most tolerable of organized crime's activities, and who falls because his wife and best friend are unworthy of his trust. Definitely more sinned against than sinning, his employers try to kill him and he's victimized by corrupt hypocritical Nevada politicians.

Mark Slutsky

Ronin, so often overlooked, is one of my favourite DeNiro performances and his work in it needs to be celebrated more. He's so restrained, so alert, projecting so much cagy situational awareness and skepticism. God, I love everything about that movie.

Stephen Whitty

Personally, I like "Casino" more and more with time. If "Mean Streets" was about mob wannabes, "GoodFellas" about the earners, "Casino" is about the upper echelon.

More than that, though, it's about Hollywood.

Honestly, substitute LA for Vegas, the movies for gambling, and what Scorsese is saying about how greed and corporate cowardice can ruin a pretty good thing is, I think, very clear.

Plus if De Niro at the end isn't meant to be a dead ringer for Lew Wasserman... (Actually, I asked the director about that once. He just laughed.)

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