This year marks the 25th anniversary of Martin Scorcese’s New York mafia masterpiece Goodfellas. Film critic Sonny Bunch over at the Free Beacon writes about the iconic film and points out, rightly so, the obsession with the shot.
The tracking shots have been discussed to death—I defy you to find a listicle celebrating the “long shot” that doesn’t include Goodfellas’ Copacabana entrance, along with Touch of Evil’s first crane shot and Altman’s work on The Player—but Scorsese isn’t just showing off. These shots serve a purpose. My favorite is early on, when we track through a restaurant and are introduced to the guys in the crew, Jimmy Two Times and the rest. These new characters, several of whom we never see again, make eye contact with the camera (that is, the viewer), welcoming you into their world, insinuating you into their scams.
For me, the best thing about Goodfellas was always Paul Sorvino as Pauly. Sorvino recently gave an interview to Will Cain in which he tells the story of being ready to back out of the role as the mafia boss Pauly because he couldn’t find it in himself to pull off the acting job of portraying such a heavy. He was distraught and the night before that decision was to be enacted, Sorvino looks up in the mirror while putting on a tie and is scared by what is staring back at him – Pauly. He found him! He quickly called his agent and the rest is histroy (The link above is not for this particular story, it’s only found in the full-length interview behind a pay wall.)
You can read the rest of Bunch’s article here.