May 24, 2014

The List: The Godfather Edition, Part II

Continuing with The List, Godfather Edition, Part II. In this four part column, we've been looking at my Top 20 favorite scenes from The Godfather Trilogy, with commentary. Here is #14-#10:

#14. Motivations (The Godfather, Part II)

Why It's Cool: Francis Ford Coppola plays the motivations behind the many players of The Godfather, Part II mysteriously. Even if you have seen the first film, the much more labyrinthine second part can test your patience. Villain Hyman Roth's motivations aren't exactly known either for some time ... you just know he doesn't like the Corleones when Michael isn't around.

This speech, acted with sadness, passive anger and menace by Roth (played by Lee Strasberg, who was given an Oscar nomination for his role), who WE all know is a bad dude and has tried, on multiple fronts, to destroy the Corleones (including using Fredo against Michael), you still can't help but feel that, maybe, the motivations aren't so bad.

Best Line: "That kid's name was Moe Greene ... " --Roth

#13. Brotherly Love (The Godfather, Part II)

Why It's Cool: Fredo was a poor, unfortunate soul. Seemingly in the business because of his blood but constantly out of it because he was kind of a doofus, Fredo betrayed the family but was given a reprieve ... at least while his mother lived. Soon after his mother died, Michael waited for Fredo to put himself in a position where he would die pretty easily without suspicion. Naturally, like every other time Fredo got in trouble, he didn't see the bigger picture and put himself in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time.

Michael looking on at his brother's death ... a very personal death ... is haunting, even as Michael's machinations see family friends and enemies die in multiple places at the same time.

Best Line: None. It's all in Michael's look when he hears the gunshot.

#12. Innocent Victims (The Godfather)

Why It's Cool: Cool might be a tough word ... in the world of thugs and murderers, it's easy to play favorites and root for one crime family over the other. However, the tragedy behind The Godfather Trilogy is the innocent victims who get entangled in the web of deceit, constant betrayal and death.

The first Godfather is primarily about the death of 'civilian' Mikey and his birth as Don Michael Corleone. And parts of his 'growth' from civilian to mob boss is watching all he has that is good be destroyed. In the long term sense, there is Kay. But in the short term, and part of Michael's acceleration to cold blooded lord of crime, is the death of his truly innocent first wife, Appolonia.

Of all the victims in the Godfather films, she is likely one of the most innocent and least deserving to die.

Best Line: Again, not really a good line here. Just more brilliant Pacino acting (and not a bad assist from his once faithful bodyguard).

#11. A Not So Innocent Victim (The Godfather)

Why It's Cool: The Godfather is not quite as violent and run-and-gun as people think. There is a lot of drama and many moments of reflection and quiet. And that's what makes Sonny's demise so shocking. He isn't just murdered, he's slaughtered.

But Sonny kind of had it coming. The overkill is kind of representative of Sonny's actions ... always quick, always violent and, ultimately, deadly. Sonny might have been the most loyal of the family, but he was certainly the least intelligent.

Best Line: None again. Just that quiet after the onslaught of bullets.

#10. No One Fucks With Michael Corleone. No one. (The Godfather, Part II)

Why It's Cool: You know you've made it in the world when instead of lowly police chiefs and slimy 2nd-tier criminals you've got members of the government trying to shake you down. You also know you've made it when, in response to those shakedowns, you put a big middle finger in the air.

Pacino is menacing in one of the opening sequences of The Godfather, Part II, the first time we've seen him since his murderous rise to power at the end of the first film. The Michael in the first film had an emotional arc but by the beginning of Godfather II, Coppola is showing us that Michael is already beyond redemption and ... no one, NO ONE, fucks with him.

Best Line: "My offer is this. Nothing". -- Michael

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