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Old 01-30-2019, 11:58 AM   #1
TravisPickle
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Default Casino

I was doing research on Voice-Over flicks (for my own project) and watched Casino again after many, many years.

HOLY VOICE-OVER.

It's like Marty and Pileggi sat down and said "it worked in Goodfellas, lets do it again, except for 3 hours and with 3 different narrators" (Ace, Nicky and even Frank Vincent who gets two lines)

some observations:

- the first scene in the movie is like 45 minutes in. by scene I mean "traditional" scene with dialogue as opposed to montage.

- the voice-over is split between Ace and Nicky (De Niro and Pesci) and sometimes they recount moments that they wouldn't necessarily have been present for.

- there is basically ZERO PLOT. yes there's the subplot with James Woods and the diamonds and the mafia etc. etc. but overall it's a beat-by-beat movie. it's a love story, a rise and fall tragedy, it's Othello, it's a love triangle, it's a mafia movie... it's all of these things.

- there are no act breaks. the movie starts and ends pretty much "in media res". it ends super abruptly.

I can't think of another movie like it. I don't think it's entirely successful: it's insanely long and the lack of dramatic thrust actually hurts it a lot. Unlike Goodfellas, it doesn't feel like a movie written to sound real: rather, it sounds like a bunch of anecdotes and details strung together. not sure if that makes sense.

but of course it being Scorsese the filmmaking is impeccable, the scenes are stunning and the whole thing is juicy as heck.

just a really, really weird screenplay. thoughts?!?
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Old 01-31-2019, 06:01 AM   #2
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Default Re: Casino

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Originally Posted by TravisPickle View Post
“. . . there is basically ZERO PLOT. . . .thoughts?!?
Are you certain that “there is basically ZERO PLOT”?
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Old 01-31-2019, 09:47 PM   #3
amandag
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Default Re: Casino

I love this movie! It seamlessly integrates three character arcs within a singular plot. The plot, in my mind, is the rise and fall of Ace in Vegas. At least in my memory, the main arc is De Niro’s. The other characters reflect him, and his shadow sides, back to the plot.

Admittedly, when I love I character I tend to love the movie. However, I’ve always had a special place for this one. I love how it organically spotlights each character’s weakness, and how each weakness plays off the other characters.

Thumbs up!
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Old 02-01-2019, 09:14 AM   #4
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Default Re: Casino

well, Marty himself said that The Departed is the only movie he's ever made with a plot.

without getting too technical about what constitutes plot, and focusing on Casino itself, I stand by my statement.

It is a movie about a world, and about the characters that inhabit it. It has a love triangle at the center of it which is possibly the closest thing to a plot there is.

But in terms of an "engine driving the story forward", or however you want to describe plot, it is all over the place. Someone else on here talked about the rise and fall of Ace Rothstein. Sure. Scarface is a rise and fall too, but there is plot. From A to B, B to C, C to D. No matter how you get there. That's plot. In Scarface you have a clear trajectory and events which take us there. Kill Revenga. **** Frank Lopez over. Team up with Sosa. It's super cause-and-effect.

Casino is not. It's a pastiche. I am not saying it's good or bad. Personally I adore Scorsese and I think it's a strange movie in his filmography- I admire it more than I love it. But in terms of screenplay construction, it feels like they took a memoir, converted it to Final Draft, then ran it through Scorsese's hyper stylized montage/voice-over motor.

It's telling that the screenplay is a whopping 280 pages.

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Are you certain that “there is basically ZERO PLOT”?
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Old 02-01-2019, 03:52 PM   #5
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Default Re: Casino

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It's telling that the screenplay is a whopping 280 pages.
That’s a lot of story, all right. My thought was that abstract characters might carry the plot: the impelling forces of the two faces of Las Vegas (daytime and nighttime) and invisible forces like “the mob.” But, hey... if Martin Scorsese says he only made one movie with a plot, then he oughtta know, right?

Of course, maybe those involved in the movie had stakes in a casino somewhere, and it might have been a great, big promo to get people to go out to casinos across the nation.
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Last edited by TigerFang : 02-01-2019 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 02-02-2019, 02:27 AM   #6
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Default Re: Casino

Marty must have been exaggerating. Not all of his movies are the meandering "slice of life" Goodfellas/Casino/Raging Bull style. Shutter Island is a pretty straightforward genre flick and I recall The King of Comedy having a fairly typical setup.

As for Casino, I've seen it a few times. I watched it again this past summer. The story was ripped from real life. Ace is based on a guy named Lefty Rosenthal while the Pesci character is based on a thug named Anthony Spilotro.

It's a "rise and fall" story in the vein of Goodfellas and Boogie Nights (which PTA admits was basically ripping off Goodfellas). I think part of the reason why it doesn't work quite as well is because the characters are so joyless and disgusting.

The cast in Goodfellas is full of psychopaths, but Pesci is at least an entertaining psychopath and Henry Hill as played by Liotta has a certain rogue charm despite being a big POS himself. Boogie Nights has some very dark moments, but it's full of humor. People like Buck Swope and Reed Rothchild are effective comic relief, and Dirk Diggler is unintentionally hilarious throughout much of the movie.

Then you look at the cast in Casino. Who from that bunch is fun to watch? De Niro's character is the closest thing to a protagonist and while we can sympathize with him wanting to make good on the American dream, the character is utterly devoid of charisma and charm. That's why he basically has to bribe Ginger to become his wife. He's not a man who inspires affection. Ginger is a total piece of trash, and Lester Diamond is worse. Some of their scenes are funny in a gallows humor sort of way, but generally it just makes you feel bad watching them live their lives. The Pesci character is like a more violent, debased version of his Goodfellas character. He's pure malice and there's no "Funny how?" levity to him whatsoever. Add it all up and the movie is equivalent to rolling in dirt for three hours. It just makes you feel dirty and gross.

I wouldn't say it's a tightly-plotted affair, but there is a loose rise-and-fall narrative. De Niro gets control of the casino and tries to build the ideal American life with the money, trophy wife, and family. It all comes crashing down because of greed, vice, depravity, and Uncle Sam. In the end, he falls pretty hard from his peak, but goes back to his roots and finds a niche.

Marty basically told the exact same story in The Wolf of Wall Street, except he remembered to lace it with humor. Those guys are scum too, but the difference is that they're amusing scum.
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Old 02-02-2019, 04:38 AM   #7
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Default Re: Casino

Quote:
Originally Posted by amandag View Post
I love this movie! It seamlessly integrates three character arcs within a singular plot. The plot, in my mind, is the rise and fall of Ace in Vegas. At least in my memory, the main arc is De Niro’s. The other characters reflect him, and his shadow sides, back to the plot.

Admittedly, when I love I character I tend to love the movie. However, I’ve always had a special place for this one. I love how it organically spotlights each character’s weakness, and how each weakness plays off the other characters.

Thumbs up!
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaltWisney View Post
Marty must have been exaggerating. Not all of his movies are the meandering "slice of life" Goodfellas/Casino/Raging Bull style. Shutter Island is a pretty straightforward genre flick and I recall The King of Comedy having a fairly typical setup.

As for Casino, I've seen it a few times. I watched it again this past summer. The story was ripped from real life. Ace is based on a guy named Lefty Rosenthal while the Pesci character is based on a thug named Anthony Spilotro.

It's a "rise and fall" story in the vein of Goodfellas and Boogie Nights (which PTA admits was basically ripping off Goodfellas). I think part of the reason why it doesn't work quite as well is because the characters are so joyless and disgusting.

The cast in Goodfellas is full of psychopaths, but Pesci is at least an entertaining psychopath and Henry Hill as played by Liotta has a certain rogue charm despite being a big POS himself. Boogie Nights has some very dark moments, but it's full of humor. People like Buck Swope and Reed Rothchild are effective comic relief, and Dirk Diggler is unintentionally hilarious throughout much of the movie.

Then you look at the cast in Casino. Who from that bunch is fun to watch? De Niro's character is the closest thing to a protagonist and while we can sympathize with him wanting to make good on the American dream, the character is utterly devoid of charisma and charm. That's why he basically has to bribe Ginger to become his wife. He's not a man who inspires affection. Ginger is a total piece of trash, and Lester Diamond is worse. Some of their scenes are funny in a gallows humor sort of way, but generally it just makes you feel bad watching them live their lives. The Pesci character is like a more violent, debased version of his Goodfellas character. He's pure malice and there's no "Funny how?" levity to him whatsoever. Add it all up and the movie is equivalent to rolling in dirt for three hours. It just makes you feel dirty and gross.

I wouldn't say it's a tightly-plotted affair, but there is a loose rise-and-fall narrative. De Niro gets control of the casino and tries to build the ideal American life with the money, trophy wife, and family. It all comes crashing down because of greed, vice, depravity, and Uncle Sam. In the end, he falls pretty hard from his peak, but goes back to his roots and finds a niche.

Marty basically told the exact same story in The Wolf of Wall Street, except he remembered to lace it with humor. Those guys are scum too, but the difference is that they're amusing scum.
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Old 02-02-2019, 09:20 AM   #8
TravisPickle
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Default Re: Casino

Brilliant analysis my friend. You NAILED it.


Do you think there is a difference in how the Voice-Over is employed in Casino vs Goodfellas? Or any other "successful" Voice-Over movie, for that matter?

On one hand I loved the ambition and irreverence of the Voice-Over. 2 narrators (3 if you count Frank Vincent) and a real sense of jazziness to it - it often blends seamlessly with what we're watching, sometimes the voice-overs switch POVs just as the camera switches also. it's virtuosistic.

but it also left me feeling a bit... cold. bored even. not sure if it's the V/O itself that was the problem or what you pointed out re: the characters.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DaltWisney View Post
Marty must have been exaggerating. Not all of his movies are the meandering "slice of life" Goodfellas/Casino/Raging Bull style. Shutter Island is a pretty straightforward genre flick and I recall The King of Comedy having a fairly typical setup.

As for Casino, I've seen it a few times. I watched it again this past summer. The story was ripped from real life. Ace is based on a guy named Lefty Rosenthal while the Pesci character is based on a thug named Anthony Spilotro.

It's a "rise and fall" story in the vein of Goodfellas and Boogie Nights (which PTA admits was basically ripping off Goodfellas). I think part of the reason why it doesn't work quite as well is because the characters are so joyless and disgusting.

The cast in Goodfellas is full of psychopaths, but Pesci is at least an entertaining psychopath and Henry Hill as played by Liotta has a certain rogue charm despite being a big POS himself. Boogie Nights has some very dark moments, but it's full of humor. People like Buck Swope and Reed Rothchild are effective comic relief, and Dirk Diggler is unintentionally hilarious throughout much of the movie.

Then you look at the cast in Casino. Who from that bunch is fun to watch? De Niro's character is the closest thing to a protagonist and while we can sympathize with him wanting to make good on the American dream, the character is utterly devoid of charisma and charm. That's why he basically has to bribe Ginger to become his wife. He's not a man who inspires affection. Ginger is a total piece of trash, and Lester Diamond is worse. Some of their scenes are funny in a gallows humor sort of way, but generally it just makes you feel bad watching them live their lives. The Pesci character is like a more violent, debased version of his Goodfellas character. He's pure malice and there's no "Funny how?" levity to him whatsoever. Add it all up and the movie is equivalent to rolling in dirt for three hours. It just makes you feel dirty and gross.

I wouldn't say it's a tightly-plotted affair, but there is a loose rise-and-fall narrative. De Niro gets control of the casino and tries to build the ideal American life with the money, trophy wife, and family. It all comes crashing down because of greed, vice, depravity, and Uncle Sam. In the end, he falls pretty hard from his peak, but goes back to his roots and finds a niche.

Marty basically told the exact same story in The Wolf of Wall Street, except he remembered to lace it with humor. Those guys are scum too, but the difference is that they're amusing scum.
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Old 02-02-2019, 03:40 PM   #9
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Default Re: Casino

Honestly, I haven't specifically thought about the use of VO. I don't often use VO in my own stuff and haven't given it much consideration, though what it seems to provide is another way to connect with the characters and to give a sense of their thoughts as in a novel.
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:46 PM   #10
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Default Re: Casino

I hate Voice Over in 99% of films and TV shows. When they work, it's beautiful. Most of the time it's an easy crutch.

GOODFELLAS is my top choice for perfect voice over. Without the VO we would not understand the world. It would not be as good.

CASINO is a top choice for terrible voice over that we don't need. We need a plot and maybe a real ending... but we get 3 hours of great actors running around Vegas and trying to f*ck Sharon Stone.

SCRUBS TV Show -- Voice Over is great and it's the show.

I really hate the movies that use Voice Over in the beginning and ending of the movie that has zero connection to the rest of the movie and it just throws the whole thing off.

Often it's there to fix plot points, but when it's just thrown in for no reason I can think of... man it's annoying.
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