Monday, June 23, 2008

Time For A Re-Appraisal - GODFATHER PART III Is The Best Of The Series

This is definitely NOT my contribution to the BIZARRO BLOG-A-THON (June 23-25th) hosted by LazyEyeTheater or EnergeticEyeTheater or whatever:

We all can admit now that both GODFATHER PART I & PART II were just overrated populist mock epics that got overwhelming acclaim because of early 70’s pop politics and they got Oscars because producer Robert Evans scored a deal with the Devil that would make Joseph Kennedy proud. 

The series was only redeemed when GODFATHER PART III arrived in 1990. It featured re-casting of the highest order and a script that out has Mario Puzo out-Shakespeare-ing Shakespeare mounting in a grand sweeping sense of neccessary closure. 

When we last saw Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) it was the late 50’s and he was left all alone by those who once loved him sitting on a bench at his Lake Tahoe estate – with dead eyes and a cold withdrawn demeanor. 

If you’re like me, and I know I am, you’d want to see more of the decline of this guy, right?

Made to order, GODFATHER III picks up 20 years later as Michael tries to finally go legit with a deal with the Vatican, harasses his ex-wife, destroys his children’s dreams (or maybe just his children), and ends up yet again on a bench now much older and still alone but this time we get to see him die! 

Yep, all necessary events that solidify once and all Michael Corleone into the classic character we all love and make us completely forget the first 2 films.Michael’s snazzy new look - the spiky bleached hair-do and more stylish attire show that the man has gotten hipper - see how he puts down Sinatra stand-in Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) with this crack: “I’m just gonna go into the kitchen and listen to some Tony Bennett records.” Snap! 

His voice is gravely to the extreme and his arm motions are more flailing - while the old Michael was stoic and subtle, new Michael is in your face with his bug eyes and exclaimations: “Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!” 

 Then there's the case of the recasting of one of the main members of Michael’s posse - previously D-lister Robert DuVall barely registered as lawyer Tom Hagen so it’s a major improvement to bring in the grand gentleman actor George Hamilton to be the consigilere. 

Hamilton, with his ultra-tan and slick lovable posing, alone provides a gravitas that the early entries were sorely missing. It only gets better - when Winona Ryder was too ill to participate, director and co-writer Francis Ford Coppola drafted his daughter Sophia to take on the role of Michael’s daughter Mary. 

Sophia Coppola’s performance was originally derided but in recent years it has been re-evaluated to be considered one of the best in all cinema. Her death scene (sorry Spoilers!) when she realizes after a few seconds that she has been shot and says “Dad?” in an unaffected blank manner is as heartbreaking as it gets. I get choked up just blogging about it.

It’s well known that Joe Mantegna as a Armani suitted John Gotti-esque competitor of the Corleone’s parlayed his role into the beloved long-running character Fat Tony on The Simpsons but how many know that Andy Garcia parlayed his role into playing a bunch of other likewise thug but still charming parts in a bunch of other notable films I’m too lazy to look up right now. 

Oh, wait - the OCEAN’S 11 movies - see, pretty much the same type guy, right? We've got GODFATHER III to thank for that. The involving plot with the Pope dying and a montage of murders, which the other GODFATHER films concluding murder montages hold nothing on, also rule. 

Diane Keaton returns as Kay to do some more much needed finger waging at Pacino and reportedly they resumed the set romance they had during the first 2 flicks - good for them. 

For comic relief we’ve got Don Novello who while he never says anything funny is still amusing to see because we can say ‘hey it's Father Guido Sarducci!’ 

So disregard what everyone says about I and II being ‘all that’ and savour this saga statement that is up there with SON OF THE PINK PANTHER, LICENCE TO KILL, STAR TREK V, and THE PHANTOM MENACE as being the undeniable best of their respective series. Just when you think you’re out, GODFATHER III pulls you back in - again and again.

More later...


Dan said...

I didn't realize 'til after posting this that elgringo at

was ahead of me in praising Godfather III as the best in the series. Nice to see I'm not alone.

Graham said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

You know what else is great? Casino.

It makes Goodfellas and Mean Streets look so terrible, mostly because Sharon Stone is such a great actor.

Marilyn said...

I think it had one incredible innovation that has set a standard for films afterward: twin men. Yes, we've had Bette Davis play her own evil twin and herself (though I can't really tell the difference) before. But when have we had such an effective use of twin men before? I know one great film that owes a debt to this great film: Twins.

Evan Derrick said...

The Bizarro blog-a-thon keeps effing with my mind. I keep checking my RSS reader, seeing the titles of some of these posts, and having constant WTF? moments where I wonder what has happened to my favorite film commentators.

Great contribution here, Dan.

Anonymous said...

I always think that Godfather III is the best movies of the series. It is nice to know that I am not alone. Andy Garcia is so under-rated. He should have won an Oscar for this role. By the way, he plays a lots of other characters but they all seemed to have overlooked and everyone only remember his gangster roles. Go and see the movie Modigliani. Andy Garcia is brilliant as a painter in this movie.

JohnstonCoArts said...

Ok, I'm trying to figure out if this is all tongue-in-cheek or are you being serious. I mean, I agree that Godfather III gets a bad rap and is completely disregarded by most critics - It wasn't THAT bad, but, um...its not that good either...(there is a reason Sofia Coppola is BEHIND the camera-she SUCKS as an actress)

Godard said...

View to a Kill and Goldeneye are much greater than Licence to Kill, but other than that, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment... assuming I understand what the hell you're doing. Meesa likey bizarro days!

elgringo said...

Dan, you and I are on the same page!

People need to realize that this is the best of the trilogy. Hands down, THE best.

I've heard way too many praises for Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro... silly amateurs. The first Godfather is the Love Guru of mafia films. Not worth your time.