#2: The Godfather (1972)

When and how did I watch this?

July 2nd, 2017, on Amazon.

Had I seen this film already?

Nope.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

“What is it about men and the Godfather?” In the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed references to this film in The OfficeZootopia, and Gilmore Girls. It’s plastered all over You’ve Got Mail, almost to the point of plagiarism.  Every major sitcom since 1972 has parodied or mimicked The Godfather on some level.  Marlon Brando as Don Vito is a cultural icon. I knew this movie before giving it a look.

What do I know about it now?

The film starts out with a wedding, but something is “off”: dad isn’t out there with his daughter.  Instead, he’s upstairs in an office.  It’s dark. There’s a body guard. And dad talks like he’s trying to calm down the walls, but would issue his hitmen to take them down if necessary.  Folks are coming in and asking him for “favors”, some of which he accepts, and others he dismisses with indignation. Presumably this is the “godfather” himself.  He’s the patriarch of a family that extends beyond blood — his family is everyone under his influence, certainly all beloved, but all have earned his trust through these exchanges of favors, and those who cross him are naturally enemies. Don Vito Corleone jumps off the screen. He’s gentle, yet has violent underlings.  This theme is set early on at the wedding in a confrontation between Sonny and a photographer who has arrived unannounced. Sonny asks him to leave, and then shatters the camera and intimdates the man. I’ve only scratched the surface here — the film is long and complicated, full of colorful characters and elongated pregnant dialogue divided up with . A lot of people die, most of which “deserve” it. Duvall, Caan, and Pacino play roles that serve as giant pillars, unquestionably Oscar-worthy performances of their own. Ironically, this might be the fundamental problem with The Godfather for me — there are too many strong performances for one film, and it feels like they aren’t working in harmony, but struggling to tell stories of their own.  Michael Corleone gets a lot of screen time, but the splicing back and forth became distracting and occasionally confusing for me. In the end, I wanted more of everything, which is probably why they made a second film.

What are some themes in the film?

Pride, justice, revenge, betrayal, family (marriage and blood), violence, the mob, crime juxtaposed with morality

Did this affect me personally?

The characters have grown on me since I finished the film, so there’s that.  Besides the more violent scenes, nothing else specific affected me.

Why is this ranked #2?

Because everyone knows about it, and because it’s so pervasive.  Even if you haven’t seen The Godfather, you know about it and you love it, for whatever reason.  It’s highly influential in the crime/mob genre — I’m not sure if this is the first of its kind, but there have been numerous copycats since. Brando, Caan, Pacino, and Duvall all play memorable career-defining roles.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She didn’t care much for it.  I’ve talked with her and given some compelling arguments for its greatness, but I don’t think she’s having it.

Would I watch it again?

Initially, I told myself I wouldn’t, but I would love another viewing now.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

I approached The Godfather as a can’t-miss film, ranked at #2 on the IMDb, and I had huge expectations.  This perspectively likely ruined it for me. Come at it with a blank slate, and you’ll appreciate it more.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

It’s The Godfather, as they say.  If something is great, we call it “the godfather of ____”.  Whether that expression came from this film isn’t well documented, but we understand it now, even though the actual title has nothing to do with being a particular authority. Don Vito Corleone and his family is definitely in charge, though, and The Godfather as a film looms large as a monument of greatness in cinema, regardless of your particular opinion of it.  It is an offering of film you cannot refuse.

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