Category Archives: movies

Wall Street, the Other Mob

Wallstreet-BullI loved the passage in Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy where Henry Hill talks about how the Wall Street bankers took the mob to the cleaners.

When stolen securities got big, we used to have Wall Street types all over the place buying up bearer bonds. They would send them overseas, where the banks didn’t know they were stolen, and then they’d use the hot bonds as collateral on loans in this country. Once the stolen bonds were accepted as collateral, nobody ever checked their serial numbers again. We’re talking about millions of dollars in collateral forever. We got robbed on those jobs. At that time we didn’t have any idea about collateralizing foreign loans. The bankers took us to the cleaners. We got pennies for the dollar. (128)

This bit struck me as prescient. In the mid-1990s the mob was deeply involved in Wall Street, with boiler room stock hustlers that would sell phony stocks and ultimately cash in on millions they missed out on, according to Hill, in the 60s and 70s. I love the idea of Wall Street bankers and brokers as the original gangsters, the true mobsters cleaning up on untraceable bonds (which are all the rage again) of which your average wiseguy couldn’t fully comprehend the value. What’s also interesting in the context of this book is that Wall Street is framed for what it is: the most lucrative hustle going. A fact that has never been more apparent when the global depth of the junk bond fiasco became apparent in 2008.

Paul and I talked about doing a larger segment of this course on corporate crime. One possibility was including the documentary Enron: The Smartest Man in the Room which is an examination of one of the largest business scandals in U.S. History. We passed cause it was somewhat late in the planning, but if we do this one again I think we could and should do a whole section on corporate crime.

And as fate and luck would have it, Martin Scorsese is coming out with a film this Christmas titled The Wolf of Wall Street, which is based on a memoir of pennystock boiler room broker from the 1990s Jordan Belfort. Interesting enough, there was a film made in 1929 with the same title—coincidence? I think not. Is this an update of Goodfellas for the Wall Street era? Probably not, this will probably be a lot more like the mediocre film on the topic Boiler Room (2000).

Anyway, here is the trailer for the film. And you can be sure the tale of unmitigated criminal greed on Wall Street has only just begun to be told in popular media—looks like the mob angle could be next with  Mob Street.

Goodfellas: I’m Here to Amuse You

Cinephilia and Beyond Screenshot

Cinephilia and Beyond Tumblr

I’ve written before about love of Tumblr before on this blog, and one of the most consistently brilliant Tumblr blogs I follow is the all-things-film tumblr Cinephilia and Beyond. If you love movies, this is an amazing resource.

Anyway, over a year ago the Cinephilia blog, doing what it does so well, posted an all but comprehensive article filled with resources about the 1991 film GoodfellasIt has the original film script, images from set, a documentary about the making of the film, a documentary about Henry Hill, an article about Henry Hill’s experience in the Witness Protection Program, Scorsese and his mom on Letterman, and much more. It’s an example of just how amazing this blog is, it understands that at its best blogging is an aggregation of awesome resources that leads the visitor on to further explorations and discoveries.

At the time I filed this post away because I knew I was already thinking about teaching a course on true crime, and both Nicholas Pileggi‘s 1985 book Wiseguy and Scorsese’s film were strong candidates. Lo and behold, a year later I am happy to share this amazing post for the True Crime class (and anyone else that loves Goodfellas—who doesn’t?) so that you have no shortage of material to amuse yourself after watching the movie.


Now the Cinephilia and Beyond blog is an open educational repository I can get behind!



“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” What a genius script looks like. Read, learn, and absorb: Goodfellas [the screenplay] by Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese [pdf1, pdf2]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)



The 30-minute documentary Getting Made: The Making of Goodfellas, also included on the Blu-ray release, has recently been put online for your viewing pleasure. Going through the pre-production, shooting, release and more, a few of the film’s iconic scenes (including Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci‘s dinner exchange, as well as the extended steadicam shot) are discussed — all with the insight from editor Thelma Schoonmaker. It’s a fascinating inside look at the making of a masterpiece and one can check out the documentary below, then head over to Amazon to stream the film for free and pick it up for cheap on Blu-ray, if you don’t own it yet. [thanks to A Bittersweet Life & The Film Stage]

The legendary Steadicam shot in Goodfellas through the nightclub kitchen was a happy accident — Scorsese had been denied permission to go in the front way and had to improvise an alternative.




By now you’ve heard the news that former gangster-turned-mob informant Henry Hill passed away last Tuesday, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of moviegoers who’ve watched Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (itself based on the life of Henry Hill) and often wondered just how the guy managed to survive long enough to die at the age of 69 without being whacked by those he turned against. Clues to that mystery may be found in this documentary, called The Real Goodfella, which is one of the more fascinating docs on the real-life man behind the character Ray Liotta so memorably portrayed on screen. Featuring in-depth interviews with Hill, FBI agents, Martin Scorsese and more, the 47-minute doc uses dramatized reenactments to piece together what really happened versus what Scorsese chose to use for his film. You can watch the entire doc below, which dates back to 2006. —Erik Davis

  • Interview with the real gangster behind Goodfellas, Henry Hill [pdf]
  • A recipe for the mouthwatering prison dinner from Goodfellas:

6 onions peeled and finely diced
75g Cotswold gold rapeseed oil or olive oil
A teaspoon of salt
300g minced beef
300g minced pork shoulder
300g diced English rose veal flank
30g Cotswold gold rapeseed oil or olive oil
250g beef or brown chicken stock
10 cloves garlic peeled
100ml white wine
150g tomato puree
750g ripe vine tomatoes (chopped) or equivalent weight of quality chopped tinned tomatoes
A pinch of salt
Good grind of black pepper

Just like the guys in Goodfellas, I like to serve this with a char grilled 34 day aged hanger steak cooked medium rare, a bottle of Chianti and good crunchy country bread (to soak up all those wonderful juices and flavours).

Yes, indeed, The Godfather is masterful. The Sopranos? We never missed an episode. But you want to talk about a movie that leaves a mark? Twenty years after the release of Goodfellas, the good people behind it—Scorsese, Liotta, De Niro!—re-create the making of the truest, bloodiest, greatest gangster film of all time.Getting Made The Scorsese Way