(Background on The Cinematherapy Oscars Project can be found here. The following post may contain spoilers! Oooo!)
Welcome to the 1970s and the "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" films (per Peske and West).
From 1972: The Godfather
Summary: Based on the fiction novel by Mario Puzo, this film follows the events that unfold after WWII as a mafia don (Vito Corleone, portrayed by Marlon Brando, Best Actor winner) begins his decline and the next generation in his family "business" comes to power after an attempt is made on Vito's life by a rival mafia leader. In the end, the most reluctant son, Michael (Al Pacino) fails to escape the family legacy and in fact falls into it, hard. You can put a guy into the New World, but you can't take the Old World out of him, I guess. The movie has made a lot of "greatest films" lists and often appears especially on lists of men's favorites. Some lines of dialogue are quoted on a regular basis (e.g. "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse").
You know, for being termed an "epic" film so frequently, and even despite its run time of 175 minutes, this didn't feel horribly long. (O.K., I did fast-forward through a couple of grisly scenes. I knew about the toll booth scene from my college film class, and some of the other nasty stuff gets referenced and/or parodied enough for me to predict when to get the FF button on the remote ready.)
What I liked:
--Good casting, good staging, authenticity in the setting/costumes/props. This film won Best Picture for a reason.
--There are definitely some powerful scenes. One of the other sequences I already knew from film class was the baptism sequence, which is juxtaposed with murders. Michael, as a new godfather (in a double sense of the word) stands in church, answering baptismal vows for his infant godson, while the men who work for Corleones perform what basically amounts to the an-eye-for-an-eye justice that Michael has ordered. It very well could be that in his mind, eliminating those who double-crossed the Corleones is a rejection of what he perceives as "real" evil.
--I admit it, I was transfixed by Kay (Diane Keaton)'s big hair. (That's from a great article on the cast, BTW.)
What I didn't like:
--You already know what I'm going to say: too graphically violent for my taste.
--While I'm at it, I didn't care much for the open sexism and racism (whether by or towards Italians). I know, I know, it's part of the era and culture in which the movie is set, but. . . still. Not fun.
There are a lot of bad things done in the name of semi-vigilanteism and looking after one's own in this narrative. But there's something that, like many of the people who come to the Godfather looking for favors, makes one feel comfortable with him and his code--perhaps that "old-fashioned fatherly shoulder to lean on" that makes one O.K. with "overlook[ing some questionable moves] in exchange for that kind of questionable security" (p. 91).
Overall, though, it's a movie that belongs in your mental cinema catalogue, if not on your video shelf.
Next up: Fiddler on the Roof