Friday, May 29, 2009

An Offer I Couldn't Refuse

A while ago one of my internet friends from the Simply Syndicated forums, a young lad named Kumar, informed me that he had never seen any Star Trek. After I got over my shock and dismay that such a brilliant and insightful lad could make it to fifteen without boldly going where no one had gone before, I decided that this situation could not stand. So I, along with a few others, began to apply the peer pressure. Finally he reached a breaking point and issued a challenge to yours truly. He promised to watch one season of The Original Series if I would watch The Godfather. Now some of you may be thinking 'no big deal', but I had never seen The Godfather, nor did I ever intend to see it. It's just not my kind of film. But when I made it clear last year that I had never seen the 'greatest movie ever made' there was a great hue and cry. Numerous people tried to convince me to watch it, but it took a chance to bring a new person into the Federation to finally make it happen. Kumar devoured The Original Series, and the six movies, so I, reluctantly, rented and watched The Godfather today.


I can see why people like it so much. It is a very well done, and for the most part well acted film. And who knew Abe Vigoda was ever sort of young? I can see why regular folks enjoy watching powerful people who do as they please with little or no fear of the laws and rules of society. It's much the same way I react to vampires or superheroes. I guess we all dream of being above the law. But ultimately these are despicable people doing unconscionable things in a reprehensible way. About 2/3rds of the way through the film I thought what a shame that the only 'good' person in the family, Michael, is corrupted and pulled into the business. But then I realized that his life outside the family was the sham. He wasn't a good man driven bad by circumstance. He was a bad man trying to play good and failing. And there wasn't a single killing in the movie that inspired even the tiniest shred of sympathy. On the contrary, I rather enjoyed watching the bottom feeders feed on each other.

And then there's Brando. Call it blasphemy, call it heresy, but I've never been that impressed with Brando, and least of all with his performance as Don Corleone. So he stuffed cotton in his cheeks and mumbled a lot. Lon Chaney did a hell of a lot more with less recognition. His performance was one note and bored the crap out of me. And the voice he affected, that monotonous whine drove me crazy. I was quite glad when he was in the hospital since he didn't talk for 15 minutes. Actually the stand out performance, in my opinion, was Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi. His portrayal of the hulking Corleone torpedo as he nervously rehearsed his thank you for being invited to the wedding at the beginning of the picture was a heart breaking counterpoint to the rest of his compatriots. He was the only person to not ask the Don for a favor. He just wanted to say thank you. It was the only touching moment in this hard, cold blooded film.

I don't know if this is an accurate depiction of mob life, and I really don't care. It was a good movie, and I'm glad I've seen it if for no other reason than to get everyone off my back about seeing it, but I doubt I'll ever watch it again...and don't even think about trying to get me to watch The Godfather II.

Ciao, bella.


C.L.J. said...

Abe Vigoda wasn't younger; he just wasn't AS old.

He was born middle-aged.

Mary said...

Thw footage of Brasi rehearsing his speech is reputed to be the actor actually rehearsing his lines. Coppola shot it and put it into the film as Brasi's nerves before his interview with the Don.

Horses for courses, as they say. I love this film, it's probably my 2nd favourite to date. I think my favourite thing about it is the performances. I see exactly where you're coming from with Brando, I'm not a huge fan either. Although this is my favourite performance of his. De Niro's playing of the young Vito is probably a much better performance which gives a much greater insight into the character.

flurrious said...

I think The Godfather II was a better film, but I won't try to convince you to see it.

I would like to see a baby picture of Abe Vigoda. I have to know.

Alysoun said...

Ah well, dear Marius....I must count myself among the throng who adore the Godfather movies (Except the 3rd....feh). I promise I will never use the phrase "wartime consligieri" in your hearing, or hum the ominous music that presages betrayal.

I think it's completely cool that you kept your end of the bargain, though. I will not pretend to understand how a person *cannot* love this movie, but will defend to the death your right to not do so.

L. F. Chaney said...

Although you are more than entitled to your opinions, I think you need to have a better understanding and appreciation of the art and craft of acting and storytelling before attempting to weigh-in on a picture like, "The Godfather." These are not Disney characters and they're not meant to be likable. They are intended to be multifaceted and that they are, while living in the tale as prey and predator under the deeply flawed, corrupt and inescapable code and rule of the mob.

I stuffed cotton in my mouth, layered collodion on my face and carried plaster on my back; and I was hailed, in my day, as the greatest actor of my time. I dug deep within myself for my portrayals, giving my characters realistic life, depth and soul in a medium that did not afford me the luxury of dialogue.

Until later in his life, when he got lazy, Marlon Brando approached his roles with equal passion and attention to detail. His performance as Don Corleone is retrained, not flat. The real story lurks below his skin and in his eyes — and the tension, pain, pride, anger and heartache depicted there are palpable.

Nothing moves in drama except through conflict, and there are varying degrees of struggle and realism, depending on the genre and desired result. Art imitates life and vice-versa — and neither is black or white, as you seem to wish to judge it as being. In life and art, there is the mask of comedy, the mask of tragedy and all of the expressions in between. And even these varying degrees have their subtle hues.

If I may recommend a film or four, I suggest viewing, "Mystic River," "The Man Who Wasn't There," "A Simple Plan" and "No Country For Old Men."

L. F. Chaney said...

Oh, dear! I just read your short bio.

You're a thespian and you wrote this assessment of "The Godfather"?


Marius said...

Greetings, Mr. Chaney, and welcome to the corner. Yes, I have devoted nearly two-thirds of my life to the stage, and so I do have a deep understanding of the nuances of story telling, which is why I said that this is an excellent movie that simply wasn't my cup of tea. Film, more than Theatre, creates an intimate bond with the audience, almost forcing them to empathize with what they see on the screen. I felt no empathy for any of the characters in this film, not through any fault of the actors, nor, I believe, through any inability on my part to appreciate a well told tale. I simply could not relate on any level to these people, and therefore the story had little effect on me. I don't fault anyone for enjoying this film any more than I fault anyone for enjoying Brecht, though I do not. At its most basic the Thespian's craft is one of subjectivity and opinion. I tried to be as objective as I could be and appreciate the film from a technical aspect, as this is my field, and could find no flaw. But if I watch a play that is technically flawless, yet fails to garner my empathy, say for example when I saw a production of Night, Mother many years ago, then I must declare my lack of such. I do not seek to denigrate The Godfather, nor would I attempt to dissuade others from watching it, but it simply did not speak to me, did not touch me, and therefore did not entertain me.

Please come by again. I welcome dissenting opinions with open arms, and thank you for taking a moment to share yours with me.

L. F. Chaney said...

Well, I see that you have not lost your flair for fun and suspension of disbelief! For that, as well as your kind hospitality, I thank you.

: )

L. C.

rosebuckle said...

Marius, I am in your corner. I am you before the challenge. I have never seen any of the GF films. For the same reasons you gave, and after reading this I don't believe ANYTHING could compel me to watch.

I believe I will have to send your "review" to David London. It is his favorite movie & when the topic comes up he never fails to try and persuade me to watch it.

So thanks for speaking up for the rest of us!

P.S. L.C., I am also a Thespian (for longer than our friend Marius)

celebhith said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! We can be heretics together. I never really got what people thought was so great about Brando either.

As for The Godfather, I think I saw the first two (heaven only knows why, probably peer pressure) and never saw another. I felt the same way about them that you do . . .meh. Probably the best thing about those films is Al Pacino, then and now.

celebhith said...

BTW, Dear L.C., I too am a Thespian, also for many more years than Marius.

I will give you this one point. . .Godfather was probably one of Brando's best, though I was very partial to him in "Sayonara", which was one of the few times I could even understand him.

But differing opinions are truly what makes the world go 'round, so I hope you will continue to visit Marius and pipe up from time to time.

Kumar said...

The thing with The Godfather is that while it is very good as a standalone film, it doesn't become the masterpiece until you join it with its natural partner, The Godfather Part II. Simultaneously being both sequel and prequel, Part II infuses story back into Don Corleone, and completes the tragedy of Michael. To me, The Godfather trilogy is two tales of tragedy - one of a man caught within the traps of his own crime-ridden family, and another of a man that tries in vain at one last redemption. I can understand why this film might not work so well for you, but I think that if you give Part II a go, you might find yourself liking them more. If the Godfather and the Godfather Part II were considered one film, I would put it in second place on my favourite films list behind Seven Samurai.

Glad you watched it, but it seems I got the better end of this deal =P