Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Richard Castellano, Diane Keaton, John Cazale (his film debut), Talia Shire, Al Lettieri, Abe Vigoda, Alex Rocco
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Summary: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son
Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Brando)*, Supporting Actor (Pacino), Supporting Actor (Caan), Supporting Actor (Duvall), Adapted Screenplay*, Costume Design, Sound Mixing, Film Editing
-The arcs of Michael & Vito Corleone are some of the best in film history. Michael’s journey from normal guy who happens to be from a powerful mafia family to ruthless and extremely competent head of the family is both thrilling and tragic, as you can imagine a world where he didn’t have to let out his inner demons (which is what his father wanted for him), or have to make the choices he did in the sequel; if he had been his biological son, Tom Hagen would have been a perfect head of the family, but alas fate said no. Vito represented the old way of doing things: still brutal when need be, but wisened, measured, knowing where to stop; he is sadly a man passed by a younger and greedier generation who doesn’t appreciate how easy it is to lose it all. He also unfortunately had great plans for his dynasty that didn’t go to plan, even if the best possible choice did end up taking over
-This is one of the best casts assembled, especially considering only Brando was a name at that time. Pacino has a star-making turn here, and very deservedly so-his body language and expressions are so key to the audience buying his metamorphosis, and he absolutely crushes those aspects of his performance. Somehow, 1) he was nominated for Supporting Actor despite getting the most screentime of anybody in the movie and 2) didn’t win for Supporting Actor (probably because he boycotted the Oscars over not getting a Best Actor nom, although boycotting didn’t hurt George C. Scott in 1970 or Marlon Brando this very year. Duvall is also fantastic and will continue to be one of my favorites throughout the rest of the decade. I actually think Brando is only very good and is overshadowed by some of the other performances; his Best Actor award (despite not getting THAT much screen time relative to others) is more of a testament to this being his comeback movie.
-The score is one of the best and most distinctive in film- it sets the tone, period and setting perfectly. It was not nominated because it re-used some elements from a previous score by the same composer but otherwise should have easily won.
-While this is a great movie (and I liked it more the second time watching it), it’s never going to be one of my absolute favorites like it is for so many people. The first hour does a good job of setting up the characters and world they live it, but it had me waiting for the second and third hours which are more compelling and sees the story ramp up.
-One cool thing about this project is that I will see John Cazale’s entire filmography-he was only in 5 movies (6 if you count archive footage) before his tragic death from lung cancer at age 42 in 1978, and all of them (including the one where he’s in archive footage) were nominated for Best Picture (with 3 of them winning). He’s a great supporting actor, even if The Godfather is his smallest role and his skills aren’t really reflected in it.
-This movie was amazingly enough not nominated for the BAFTA for Best Picture-instead, they only had 4 nominees: Cabaret (the winner), The Last Picture Show, A Clockwork Orange and The French Connection (all of which were in the 1972 ceremony for the BAFTAs and not 1971).
Even if I don’t agree with its reputation as maybe the greatest movie ever made, this is still an excellent movie with some of the best character arcs in film and an incredible cast. I look forward to watching its sequel again in two years time.