Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My review of The Godfather

I know this is a stereotypical thing to say, but The Godfather is my favorite movie of all time, plain and simple. It earned that though. It isn't something that I say lightly. I'm sure anyone who reads my reviews can attest to that.

Acting/Characters: I stand by the fact that Anthony Hopkins' performance as Hannibal Lecter is the single greatest performance ever. The performance is, to me, why Hannibal Lecter is the greatest fictional character ever. Film or paper. However, The Godfather has the single greatest collection of fantastic performances ever. James Caan as Sonny, Robert DuVall as Tom, Diane Keaton as Kay, Talia Shire as Connie, John Cazale as Fredo, Al Pacino as Michael, and of course, the biggest performance of all, Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone. I gotta tell you, The Godfather should have won more than one acting award. Heck, it should have won more than 3 Oscars overall. I will not dispute Brando's Oscar (nor should anyone) But I do feel that Al Pacino should have won over Joel Gray. I can only hope that the academy does too. I feel that Al Pacino's character development is the best I have seen. He goes from sweet naive college boy, to ""I gotta do this for the family", to "I am gonna butcher anyone who gets in my way." He does this flawlessly. Brando also does excellent in his role as the aging Don of the powerful Corleone crime family. I enjoyed seeing how his character transformed over the course of the movie as well from the ruthless calculating Don to the old withered man saddened by the goings on around him. It is just all flawless. 10/10

Plot: I have read the book so I can say with certainty that the movie improves on the book. Usually the book is better than the movie but I enjoy the movie a lot more than I enjoyed the book. But frankly, the book is still excellent. The movie could not have been done without the book and I am glad that Puzo worked on the movie with Coppola. It helped the movie become what it is simply because you don't have an author who resents it. Few things can hurt a movie based on a popular book more than an author who is against the movie every step of the way. In this case the author helped refine the movie. I feel that the plot of the movie is one of the best I have seen. It held my attention throughout the entire movie (quite a feat considering the 3 hour running time). I won't go into more detail because i don't give away plot details and it is better that you don't know anything going in, but I will say this quote from my father: most movies these days just dump the plot on your lap and say "here you go enjoy" The Godfather simply whispers it in your ear. I fully agree. 10/10

Screenplay: "Well let me tell you something my Kraut Mick friend, I'm gonna make so much trouble for you, you won t know what hit you!"

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse"

"Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter... 's wedding... on the day of your daughter's wedding. And I hope their first child be a masculine child. I pledge my ever-ending loyalty."

"Oh, Godfather, I don't know what to do, I don't know what to do..."
"YOU CAN ACT LIKE A MAN! What's the matter with you? Is this what you've become, a Hollywood finocchio who cries like a woman? "Oh, what do I do? What do I do?" What is that nonsense? Ridiculous!"

"Leave the gun. Take the Cannoli."

as you can probably guess, I hold the screenplay of this film in higher regard than I do the screenplay of Casablanca. I know that the screenplay is one of the reasons that the characters are so good. the actors of this film had so much to work with with the screenplay that it was impossible for actors of that caliber to fail. 10/10

Likableness: I don't feel that I need to say anything more about why I feel that this film is the best film ever. I just urge those of you who haven't seen it to do so ASAP. 10/10

Final Score: 40/40 100% (P) (Stamp of perfection)

TRIVIA TIME: 1. Some people considered for the role of Vito Corleone: Ernest Borgnine, Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles, Danny Thomas, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, George C. Scott, Burt Lancaster, Carlo Ponte, Frank Sinatra and Laurence Olivier.

2. According to an August 1971 article by Nicholas Pileggi in The New York Times, a supporting cast member became so committed to his role that he accompanied a group of Mafia enforcers on a trip to beat up strike breakers during a labor dispute. But the enforcers had the wrong address and were unable to find the strike breakers. The actor's name was not revealed.

3. Mafia crime boss Joe Colombo and his organization The Italian-American Civil Rights League started a campaign to stop the film from being made. According to Robert Evans in his autobiography, Colombo called his home and threatened him and his family. Paramount received many letters during pre-production from Italian-Americans - including politicians - decrying the film as anti-Italian. They threatened to protest and disrupt filming. Producer Albert S. Ruddy met with Colombo who demanded that the terms "Mafia" and "Cosa Nostra" not be used in the film. Ruddy gave them the right to review the script and make changes. He also agreed to hire League members (read: mobsters) as extras and advisers. The angry letters ceased after this agreement was made. Paramount owner Charlie Bluhdorn read about the agreement in The New York Times and was so outraged that he fired Ruddy and shut down production. But Evans convinced Bluhdorn that the agreement was beneficial for the film and Ruddy was rehired.

4. The early buzz on the film was so positive that a sequel was planned before the film was finished filming.

5. Gianni Russo used his organized crime connections to secure the role of Carlo Rizzi, going so far as to get a camera crew to film his own audition and send it to the producers. However, Marlon Brando was initially against having Russo, who had never acted before, in the film; this made Russo furious and he went to threaten Brando. However, this reckless act proved to be a blessing in disguise: Brando thought Russo was acting and was convinced he would be good for the role.

6. Marlon Brando wanted to make Don Corleone "look "like a bulldog," so he stuffed his cheeks with cotton wool for the audition. For actual filming, he wore a mouthpiece made by a dentist; this appliance is on display in the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.

7. The cat held by Marlon Brando in the opening scene was a stray the actor found while on the lot at Paramount, and was not originally called for in the script. So content was the cat that its purring muffled some of Brando's dialogue, and, as a result, most of his lines had to be looped.

8. During an early shot of the scene where Vito Corleone returns home and his people carry him up the stairs, Marlon Brando put weights under his body on the bed as a prank, to make it harder to lift him.

9. Marlon Brando did not memorize most of his lines and read from cue cards during most of the film.

10. Director Francis Ford Coppola worked with relatives in this film, (making it a family film in many contexts). In chronological order of appearance:
- his sister Talia Shire portrayed Connie Corleone throughout the trilogy
- his mother Italia Coppola serves as an extra in the restaurant meeting
- his father Carmine Coppola is the piano player in the Mattress sequence
- his sons Gian-Carlo Coppola and Roman Coppola can be seen as extras in the scene where Sonny beats up Carlo, and at the funeral
- and his daughter Sofia Coppola is the baby Michael Rizzi in the baptism (she was three weeks old at the time of shooting).

11. Don Vito Corleone's distinctive voice was based on real-life mobster Frank Costello. Marlon Brando had seen him on TV during the Kefauver hearings in 1951 and imitated his husky whisper in the film.

12. The film makes use of a variety of Italian words:
- Paulie says "sfortunato", which in Italian means "What a unlucky guy!" (ironic), referring to Carlo (wedding scene).
- Michael explains that Tom is a "consigliere," or a counselor;
- Vito calls Johnny Fontane a "finocchio," an offensive term for a homosexual
- Sonny refers to Paulie as a "stronzo," a term equivalent to "asshole"
- Carlo and Connie both say "vaffanculo" during their fight, which means "fuck you"
- Don Zaluchi calls the sale of drugs to children as an "infamita," or an infamy
- and both the Dons Corleone use the word "pezzonovante," which means ".95 caliber," or more accurately meaning "big shot".

13. George Lucas put together the "Mattress Sequence" (the montage of crime scene photos and headlines about the war between the five families) as a favor to Francis Ford Coppola for helping him fund American Graffiti. He asked not to be credited. George Lucas used photos from real crime scenes in the Mattress Sequence. One of the most prominent photos shows two cops kneeling beside what looks like a man sleeping on the ground with his head propped up against a fence. That man is Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti, Al Capone's right-hand man who had, in fact, committed suicide with a gunshot to the head.

14. The actor playing Luca Brasi, Lenny Montana, was so nervous about working with Marlon Brando that, in the first take of their scene together, he flubbed some lines. Francis Ford Coppola liked the genuine nervousness and used it in the final cut. The scenes of Brasi practicing his speech were added later.

15. At the meeting in the restaurant, Sollozzo speaks to Michael in Sicilian so rapid subtitles could not be used. He begins with: "I am sorry. What happened to your father was business. I have much respect for your father. But your father, his thinking is old-fashioned. You must understand why I had to do that. Now let's work through where we go from here." When Michael returns from the bathroom, he continues in Sicilian with: "Everything all right? I respect myself, understand, and cannot allow another man to hold me back. What happened was unavoidable. I had the unspoken support of the other Family dons. If your father were in better health, without his eldest son running things, no disrespect intended, we wouldn't have this nonsense. We will stop fighting until your father is well and can resume bargaining. No vengeance will be taken. We will have peace. But your Family should interfere no longer."

16. Al Pacino's maternal grandparents emigrated to America from Corleone, Sicily, just as Vito Corleone had.

17. During filming, James Caan and Gianni Russo did not get along and were frequently at loggerheads. During filming Sonny's beating on Carlo, Caan nearly hit Russo with the stick he threw at him, and actually broke two of Russo's ribs and chipped his elbow.

18. Jewish actors James Caan and Abe Vigoda portray Italian characters (Santino Corleone, Salvatore Tessio), while Italian Alex Rocco, portrays a Jewish character (Moe Greene).

19. The only comment Robert Duvall will make about his performance is that he wished "they would have made a better hairpiece" for his character.