Rating: 20/20 (Jen: 18/20)
Plot: A powerful mafia family makes the transition from one Don to another Don, interesting since nobody in the family actually seems to be named Don. After Vito refuses to help out a rival family involved in the drug trade, violence and eventually a war break out. Youngest son Michael who had distanced himself from his family's criminal activities is drawn into the family business.
I apologize for this being several months late, but that sort of thing happens when you're going through a mid-life crisis. Actually, I was just waiting for somebody to make me an offer that I could not refuse or at least spice up my mornings by putting a horse's head in my bed. At the end of August, I did wake up, look under my covers, and start screaming, but it was for different reasons.
I would like to see a retelling of this story from the perspective of that decapitated horse, by the way. This makes two animal decapitations in a row for me, at least according to the order I'm writing about things on the blog. But hear me out on this retelling/remake. The film starts with the horse, probably played by Adrian Brody, talking to Babe the pig from the movie Babe. The horse is talking about how he may have to leave the farm because some old rich guy wants to buy him and use him to breed racehorses. Babe, a little naive, says, "You mean, some rich guy is going to mount you?" and the horse says, "No, I'd be having relations with other horses--girl ones." Babe would say, "Lucky you! That sounds pretty hot!" and the horse will answer, "No, Babe. You're forgetting that I'm a gay horse." Then, they have an off-screen sexual encounter. That's plot twist #1. Later, Brody is at his new home. He's daydreaming, and the audience gets to enjoy a montage of the horse and Babe having gay old times--including some on-screen sexual encounters--while an original song that I wrote called "Horsey Porking [Love in B-Minor]" plays. The daydreaming is interrupted when Woltz, played by either a CGI-John Marley or an animatronic one, comes in and says, "Get ready for action, horse!" He brings in a girl horse played by Sarah Jessica Parker. She whinnies, and Adrian Brody Horse has to pretend that he's sick to avoid an unwanted sexual encounter. Tom Hagen shows up, and the horse gets an idea. He chops off his own head and throws it in Woltz's bed--with the help a scarecrow, some dancing and singing mice (because I want this to be something that children can also enjoy), and Johnny Fontane. That's right--he chopped off his own head! That's plot twist #2 and possibly the reason why I'm on my way to an original screenplay Oscar. The head is discarded, but in yet another plot twist, the horse is still alive and, with the help of his pig lover Babe, flees to Sicily where he befriends--you guessed it--Michael Corleone and gives him advice on stuff. This is after his head is fused to the body of (Plot twist #4!) a unicorn. I'm not sure if there's a horse seen during the wedding scene in Sicily in this The Godfather movie, but Coppola's pal George Lucas can help him digitally insert one in there.
Anyway, I need to work on an ending.
I'm amazed at how simply such a complicated story is told. There are gaps in the storytelling, but what's missing isn't exactly vital anyway, and the whole thing is structured like a Shakespearean tragedy. The dynamics between the characters are never spelled out but become clear as the characters grow right on the screen. The acting must be good in this thing because those characters become so real, their intentions so clear, and their inner conflicts so rich without the help of anything we're told in the movie. Pacino and Caan are both great playing two very different sons. Pacino does inner conflict so well that you can almost see the inner monologue bleeding through his eyes. And Caan plays unhinged in such a way that you almost worry about the real James Caan. Everybody's just so good in this movie. Duvall's as good as I've seen him as Hagen, Abe Vigoda begging for his character's life with Duvall might be the former's finest acting moment. Loved the aforementioned non-animatronic Marley as Woltz, and his horse was pretty good, too. And no, I'm not ignoring the very best acting performance in this movie--Sofia Coppola as the baby. God, I hope Sofia Coppola's in the sequels!
What about female characters? My wife was a little bored with this. It was the first time she had seen it. I speculated that it's a "boy movie" because the women are mostly in the background, but my father assured me that it was not a "boy movie" at all. There is a little romance with Michael and the gal with the nipples in Sicily but it's only developed to the point where its conclusion will matter. Diane Keaton is really good as his love interest in America, and Rocky's wife is fine whenever she's on the screen, but I wouldn't call them important characters. No, this movie's more of a proverbial sausage fest. The most notable lack of screen time would be Vito's wife. How many lines does she get in this movie? Anyway, do females like this movie?
This movie opens with a considerable amount of black screen before the slow pull back shot with Bonasera talking about how much he believes in America. Is that where the makers of The Sopranos got the idea to end their series with a black screen? Probably! I like this semi-soliloquy to start the film, by the way. It forces you to consider the American dream in the context of the whole story. I don't have the energy to flesh out those details exactly, but there's got to be something there. And then you meet Vito for the first time, Brando acting with nothing more than a right hand. And then you see Brando for the first time and he's manhandling a kitty.
My question: What happens to that cat? It's not in the movie anymore after this first scene. Why give the Godfather a cat for only one scene in the entire movie? Does the cat do something wrong and is dispatched? Brando's character is a criminal, but he's also clearly a loving family man. Is the cat an easy visual way to show the two sides of this complex character?
I love how much you learn about Vito in the early wedding scenes. You see him dealing with people, and the respect they have for him is obvious. Love watching Luca Brasi practicing his interaction with Vito in a simple scene that shows you so much. Lenny Montana is really good, probably the best performance by a former wrestler if you take Tor Johnson's work in Plan 9 from Outer Space or The Beast of Yucca Flats out of the picture.
What can you say about this nearly-perfect movie? There are so many memorable scenes--Sonny getting it at the toll booth and Brando's reaction to seeing his son's bullet-riddled body, the horse head in the bed, the brilliant montage with the juxtaposition of the hits being carried out and Michael renouncing Satan at the baptism where he literally becomes the Godfather, Michael's retaliation in the restaurant where Pacino does so much with his eyes, Brando's ability to gyrate his forehead, that final shot of Michael in the doorway after his life leaves. I think the simple matter-of-fact style of the movie enhances the moments. Really, it's such a simple style. The cinematography is very dark at times which seems intentional at times, but there's almost no flash to the direction and nothing that stands out as a stylistic touch. This film seems old school because it's the storytelling and characters created by great acting that make it all work so perfectly.
My favorite piece of trivia from this: Mario Puzo had an issue with a part in the script that called for a character to "brown some sausage" and crossed out "brown" to replace it with "fries," adding "Gangsters don't brown" in the margins. That's just great.
My favorite character: Enzo.
A question: Was there ever a board game based on The Godfather? Kind of like a Candyland thing but with more Italians and violence and less color and candy? If not, why? I mean, if they made a Welcome Back, Kotter board game, why not a Godfather one?