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Guest Blogger: Gorging on Gotti

Monday, October 1, 2012

I was set up on a blind date over the Labor Day weekend and believe it or not, it actually worked out!  (See Tinsel & Tine facebook page for more details).

His name is James Bradford, and best of all he loves my two favorite things - We've had many of dining experiences together (posts forthcoming). And he's also a film buff and good writer.  Here's his first guest post, comparing and contrasting the 4 movies based on the life of John Gotti:

On December 16, 1985, John Joseph Gotti, a capo (a high ranking made member of a crime family who heads a "crew" of soldiers), holding membership in the Gambino Crime Family orchestrated one of the boldest moves in mafia history by killing his then boss, Paul Castellano. After it was discovered that members of Gotti's crew were arrested for narcotics' trafficking, the then boss of the Gambino Crime family, Paul Castellano was believed to have begun plans to kill Gotti and those responsible in his crew for dealing drugs and "break up" the remaining members. In a believed pre-emptive strike, Gotti, along with co-conspirators Sammy "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, Frank "Frankie D" DeCicco, Robert "D-B" DiBernardo and Joseph "Joe Piney" Armone ordered the assassination of the Gambino Crime family boss.

Since that time, four biographical movies have been produced detailing the characters and events surrounding this conflict.

The first movie, Getting Gotti was made in 1994 for CBS and starred Anthony John Denison as John J. Gotti. This first accounting focused on Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney, Diane Giacalone, played by Lorraine Bracco (Goodfellas, Sopranos), and her attempts to build a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case against John Gotti and the Gambino crime family. This film, which also starred Ron Gabriel as Sammy Gravano and Peter Boreski as Aniello Dellacroce did not enjoy the success of subsequent films.

The second film, Gotti was released in 1996 by Home Box Office (HBO) and starred Armand Assante as John Gotti. This film production was written from the perspective of crime boss John Gotti and concentrated on his criminal activities from 1973 through his ascension to boss of the Gambinos. It details some of his early crimes, including his role in the killing of John McBratney (the alleged killer of Carlo Gambino's nephew) and subsequent time in prison for this murder, the conspiracy to assassinate his boss Paul Castellano (played by Richard C. Sarafian) and a series of other murders of both Gambino Crime family members and associates. In the end, it depicts the eventual betrayal by his underboss (second in command), Sammy Gravano (played by William Forsythe). Although this film has several historical inaccuracies, it is still a film which "mafia movie buffs" will enjoy. Armand Assante does an excellent job of portraying Gotti. Despite knowing what the real life Gotti looked like, I was convinced at times that I was watching the actual man on screen. The dialogue in the movie is at times hard to understand as it utilizes "street lingo", however it is true to life in its form and content. All in all, this Gotti movie (as of this date) is my favorite.

The third film also shown as a two-part miniseries was titled Witness to the Mob and released in May of 1998. This film is centered on the criminal rise of Gambino Crime family underboss Sammy "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, and details the rise and eventual betrayal of one of the highest ranking mafia members. Sammy Gravano is played by Nicholas Turturro, while Gotti is portrayed by Tom Sizemore and Castellano is portrayed by Abe Vigoda. Witness to the Mob relays this crime story from Gravano's perspective and highlights his entrance into the world of crime from becoming an associate to made member to capo to consigliere (advisor) to underboss to informant for the government. This film is very informative and reveals a more in depth story of Gravano's personal life, including his marriage to his wife Deborah, his friendships with fellow mafia members, the murder of his brother-in-law along with several business partners and associates. It must be noted that out of the four films highlighted in this review, it is the only story related directly from one of the criminals involved, Sammy Gravano. Turturro's performance as Sammy Gravano was convincing, though as actors go, he probably wouldn't have been my first choice to portray him.

The fourth film, Boss of Bosses was released in 2001 by Turner Network Television (TNT). This film is told from the perspective of Gambino crime boss, Paul "Big Paul" Castellano, potrayed by Chazz Palminteri. It details his early entrance into the world of Cosa Nostra (mafia) through his cousin Carlo Gambino and ultimate rise to power as the "boss of bosses." Boss of Bosses, like Witness to the Mob goes into greater detail about the personal life of its main character and explores his initial meeting of his wife Nina and his promise to her to keep their sons out of the "family business" and his affair with his maid, Gloria Olarte. This film, though similar to the others in plot and story, details in-depth his relationship with Aniello "Mr. Neil" Dellacroce (played by Dayton Callie) and his conflict with up and coming mafia member John Gotti (played by Sonny Marinelli). Witness to the Mob shows a different side to the once boss of the Gambino family like none of the other films do. This film shows him not as a greedy dictator as in Gotti and Witness to the Mob, but more as a reluctant mafia member who took the reigns of leadership as part of his loyalty to his boss Carlo Gambino. Although Palminteri is an excellent actor, casting him as Paul Castellano was a stretch. As a movie viewer, particularly with films which portray actual historical figures, I prefer an actor who resembles the character he or she is portraying. Castellano was nicknamed "Big Paul" due to his height and physical size. Palminteri just wasn't convincing in this aspect, though he did a stellar job with his acting ability.

All four movies cast a list of good actors to portray key characters in the relating of this account. Several of the same actors starred in these various films, playing different characters. These actors included Vincent Pastore (Sopranos, This Thing of Ours), Frank Vincent (Goodfellas, Sopranos, Casino, Chicago Overcoat) and Tony Sirico (Goodfellas, Sopranos). Other notable actors starring in these films are Debi Mazar (Goodfellas), Frankie Valli (singer), Michael Imperioli (Sopranos, Goodfellas), Anthony Quinn (Zorba the Greek) and Dominic Chianese (Sopranos, Godfather 2).

A fifth biographical movie,  titled Gotti:In the Shadow of My Father is in pre-production to be released in 2013. This movie directed by Barry Levinson will star actor John Travolta as the father of John Gotti and Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston as Victoria Gotti, wife of John Gotti. Al Pacino will portray Gambino underboss Aniello “Mr. Neil” Dellacroce.

The movie Sinatra Club also tells the story of John Gotti. Here Gotti is portrayed by Danny Nucci and tells the Gotti story prior to his becoming a made member of the Gambino Crime family.

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?
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