Fier Thy Words

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Say Hello To…An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

1/28/08

vito.jpg                                         scarface.jpg

Can you believe how quickly January has flown by? I guess as the saying goes time flies when you’re wasting your life away…

…But seriously, this past weekend was spent primarily indoors as I guess somewhere between the sub-zero temperatures and the number of friends abroad there just wasn’t a lot to do Friday and Saturday night.

However, not going out didn’t mean not having a productive weekend- no, I didn’t open a notebook or textbook (or my book bag for that matter)- but productive in the sense that I finally took the time to watch two of the most recognizable films- arguably of all time- in the Godfather and Scarface.

I had always been under the assumption that the two films were a lot alike (and not because Al Pacino happens to play a main character in both) but because of the mafia/drug world/crime theme going on.

Before I get into both films, I’ll give a warning right now that if like me prior to this weekend, you have not seen either film, go watch them and come back because there will be some spoilers along the way. If you don’t care, then lets dive right in…

godfather-poster.jpg

Ill start first with The Godfather. Mentioning the Godfather generally is accompanied with the phrase “greatest movie ever made”, and according to the American Film Institute, it ranks second only to Citizen Kane (a film I also HIGHLY recommend for anybody who appreciates cinematography), and IMDB has it ranked numero uno on it’s list of the top 250 movies of all time, as voted on by movie goers.

I am somewhat surprised at myself for taking so long to see The Godfather, not only because I love movies and this one is supposedly among the greatest ever made, but because one of my favorite TV shows ever is The Sopranos, a drama based on the life of members of La Cosa Nostra (the Mafia).

The Godfather, starring the mega famous Marlon Brando as Don (Boss, Tony Soprano character of the film) Vito Corleone, a very young (and at the time relatively unknown) Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, youngest son of Vito, Diana Keaton as Michael’s girlfriend and eventual second wife, and Robert Duvall as family Consigliere (counselor or adviser to the boss, Silvio from Sopranos was Tony’s consigliere).

Aside from having a star studded cast, the film itself did not disappoint.

Beginning with the Wedding of Vito’s daughter, Connie, you are taken into the world of “The Godfather” (Brando) and you watch as he balances celebrating his daughter’s wedding while also conducting business inside at the same time. The power and respect he has gives you an idea as to how commanding a character he is.

The majority of the first part of the film is to show how things work in the Corleone family, as the principle rules are that the Family always comes first, whether it’s a personal matter or a business matter.

The best early example of this is when The Don is asked a favor by his Godson, Jonny Fontain (a fictional celebrity Singer/Actor), to land a role in an upcoming film which has been denied by the studio head. The Don sends Tom (Duvall) out to California to take care of things. After being initially threatened and turned down, he is invited to dinner with the studio exec, whom once again declines to work with Jonny. Tom leaves in the middle of the meal, telling the exec that The Don likes to be immediately notified of bad news.

The next scene cuts to the exec waking up from his sleep, covered in blood, but not his own. In one of the most famous scenes in movie history, the exec removes his sheets to reveal the severed head of a horse he owned, which he had shown off and bragged about to Tom prior to their meal. The scene shows just how bad an of an idea it is to turn down a request of Don Vito Corleone. Consequently, Jonny receives the part in the film, as we later see an enormous bouquet of flowers delivered from Jonny to Vito, thanking him.

The real meat of the film revolves around the rise of Michael, who following the shooting of Vito in a fruit market, is visiting the hospital one night to check up on his father, and realizes that nobody is on guard to protect him. Upon realizing this, Michael shows the first real signs that he is ready to step out from the quiet, polite war solider he is introduced to us as, and hides his father while convincing a group of assassins that the hospital is in fact being protected. When Michael encounters an officer who we later learn to be corrupt, the officers breaks Michael’s jaw after refusing to leave the hospital, where he was not supposed to be.

What was really well done in this movie, among other things, was the way in which you see the rise of Michael, from this very reserved, almost under appreciated member of this big crime family, to eventually succeeding his father and taking over the family. Among the other notable parts of the movie are when Michael takes it upon himself to deal with some of the issues on his own, much to his family’s surprise. Another very famous scene is in the Italian restuarant, when Michael retrieves a gun from the bathroom and executes (figuratively and literally) the plan of taking out the corrupt cop and Mafioso behind the hit on Vito.

Michael goes into hiding in Italy, falls in love with a local girl and marries her, only to be discovered and narrowly avoid a hit on his life, which results in the death of his new bride. Upon returning home, he reconnects with Kay (Diane Keaton) and marries her. Following the death of his older brother, an apparent heir to the thrown, Sonny, Michael continues his rise to the top after he is handpicked by his recovering father to lead the family.

After Vito dies of a heart attack playing with one of his Grandsons, Michael is able to (with the advice of his father) figure out who within his own family has betrayed them, and also succeeds in taking out the heads of the 5 major crime families, flexing his muscle and earning newfound respect.

As the movie ends, Michael officially takes over as Godfather, ringing in the dawn of a new era in the Corleone family.

All in all, While I would probably stop short of considering it the greatest movie ever made, I have no issues with anybody making the case that it is such.  The movie, while very long, was cinematic art at it’s best, with a dynamic cast and memorable performances all around.

scarface-poster.jpg

In the interest of not turning a review into another summary, Scarface has also received it’s fair amount of hype, and I was equally as excited to  see Scarface, the movie about Tony Montana, Cuban defector arriving in Miami in 1980.

The film takes place in Miami and similarly to The Godfather, centers on the rise and fall of an Al Pacino played character.

In Scarface, Tony Montana starts out running favors for a drug boss and works his way up the ladder, using his fearlessness and reckless abandon to stop at nothing to achieve his goal of getting to the top.

I thought the film was good but hardly great.  Michelle Pfeiffer plays the female lead as the girlfriend of the the boss Tony starts to work for, and eventually marries Tony during his rise.  Her character was sort of useless in my mind, as Tony initially becomes completely obsessed with getting her to fall for him.  Once he gets the power and the money he seems to lose interest in her, as she continues to waste away her days sitting by a pool snorting coke all day.

Some of the better aspects of the film were the overall performance of Pacino who proved that his best years were clearly before the turn of the century, as he actually sounded convincing as a cuban drug lord, hell bent on taking over.

You also have to appreciate that 1980’s backdrop, because nothing beats 80’s music in Miami, which seems to stuck in time should you visit.  From what I hear parts of Miami are still living in the 80’s, and good for them.  They were better times then these.

Back to the movie, Pacino takes command of the movie from start to finish, and even when he shows compassion by refusing to kill a member of the media who is traveling to the UN with his family, about to expose the underworld Tony was being asked to protect by his business associate. Not wanting to kill a wife and their children, Tony aborts the mission, sealing his own fate in the process.

Although the plot is pretty predictable, hearing the word fuck over 200 times never got old, and the movie was entertaining.  It was also long, and unlike Godfather, the movie had a few parts where things sort of dragged out and stalled.

All in all, The Godfather was the better movie, but both were very entertaining and worth watching.

John Elway finally won that elusive Super Bowl at the end of his career, while last year director Martin Scorsese finally won an Oscar after years of being snubbed.

And after years and years of being embarassed to admit I had never seen them, I can finally say that yes, I have seen The Godfather and I have seen Scarface.

And neither movie disappointed.   If you for some reason have yet to see either, you should probably get on that.

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January 29, 2008 - Posted by | Movies

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