I'd like to spank the Academy

The Godfather (1972)

godfatherDirected by Francis Ford Coppola

Even though I’m a library person, and librarians have a reputation for having Views about reading being the only worthwhile activity, I’m not like that. I like reading, but I also really like movies. However, when it comes to books based on movies, I almost always like the book better. Books can just get into characters’ heads in a way that movies can’t. I can list dozens of books that I like better than the movies that are based on them. The Godfather is not on that list. I read Mario Puzo’s novel five or six years ago, and I was not impressed. Before I read the book, I had really wanted to see the movie, but after I read the novel, I was a little bit worried. I wondered if a movie based on such a mediocre book could really be all it is hyped up to be. After I watched The Godfather, I found that yes, it can.

So what’s the story? Michael Corleone, son of Mafia Don Vito Corleone, resists joining the family business until an attempt on his father’s life leaves Michael in charge.

The Good: I’m gonna mix things up today and go with cinematography first. The cinematography was awesome. Whatever the cinematographer did, he made me feel like I was peering over someone’s shoulder and peeking into the lives of the Corleones. The scene that this stood out to me most was in the hospital when Michael realizes that there’s about to be another assassination attempt. It was so good.

The acting! What can I say about the acting that hasn’t been said before? Not much, I think, but I’m still going to talk about it. Watching Al Pacino take Michael Corleone from a straight-arrow war hero to a cold, calculating Mafia Don was amazing. He was just fantastic. James Caan as hot-headed brother Sonny Corleone was excellent, as was Robert Duvall as adopted brother Tom Hagen. Richard S. Castellano did a fantastic job as the high-up mob man Clemenza, and Lenny Montana made his short role as Luca Brasi very memorable. It was all great. I love it when a movie has not only great leads, but also a great supporting cast.

The music is beautiful. It captures the moods and the culture and the action very well. It wasn’t eligible for an Oscar because it was basically reworked from another movie’s soundtrack, but it is lovely and poignant and memorable.

The Bad: I had a hard time with Marlon Brando. I don’t necessarily think he did a bad job, but I was really distracted by whatever the makeup artists put in his cheeks to make them puffy at the bottom. It doesn’t look real, and so every time there was a close up on Brando’s face, that was all I could think about.

Diane Keaton also did not do a bad job, but after watching Reds, I realized I don’t really care for her as an actress. I was kind of bummed when I realized she was in The Godfather. And yes, I realize I will have to watch three more movies with her before I’m done. Oh, well. Life is like that sometimes.

The Ugly: It’s a movie about the Mafia, so it’s violent. It’s somehow not as shockingly violent to me as No Country for Old Men, but it’s still got some strong violence. It never felt gratuitous, though, except possibly for the amount of blood in the infamous horse head scene (which, by the way, is much more dramatic to see on the screen than to read in a book).

Oscars Won: Best picture; best actor in a leading role (Marlon Brando); best writing, screenplay based on material from another medium.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best actor in a supporting role (James Caan); best actor in a supporting role (Robert Duvall); best actor in a supporting role (Al Pacino); best director; best costume design; best sound; best film editing.The Godfather

Comments on: "The Godfather (1972)" (2)

  1. Jonathan said:

    The Godfather is a great movie. It’s so great that it’s hard to tell other people why it’s so great. When someone first explained the movie to me, all I thought was “Eh, over hyped”. It’s not. You did well in explaining the movie.

    Acting: yeah, it’s packed with great acting. The characterization and development is excellent. I agree with you that the hospital scene is excellent. Seeing Michael Corleone segue from a son desperately trying to save his father from (other) mobsters into the Don is awesome.

    I did like Marlon Brando, cotton balls notwithstanding. That first scene (“Your daughter lives!”) is another classic. The scene of his death serves as a reminder of the way of all men, just like Michael’s death in the third movie does the same thing.

    As for violence? It’s rated R for a reason, but I found the horse-head scene to be more funny than horrifying.

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    • And for me, the horse-head scene made me think of Macbeth: “Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” Just waaaay more blood than I had imagined when I read the book. But I think I always under-imagine blood when I’m reading.

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