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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Oscar Review: The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Ranked #32 on AFI's top 100 list, the first of only two movie sequels to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture - the other being The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - along with 5 others out of their 11 nominations, The Godfather: Part II has been argued to be better than the original and claims its rightful place in film history as one of the greats.

Picking up where the original left off, Part II follows the Corleone family after their move to Las Vegas. Intercut with flashbacks contained in the original novel, we also see the becoming of Vito (played by Robert De Niro who, with Marlon Brando, became to the first two people to win Academy Awards for playing the same character and one of 4 actors to ever win an Oscar for a role primarily spoken in a language other than English) from his childhood to his rise to prominence in the New York City underworld.

Placed in the context of history, the we find Michael setting up shop in Havana on the eve of Castro's revolution and in the midst of Senate hearings on organized crime. By now Michael has grown in power and influence and only more diabolical in his dealings and in search for revenge. The coldness of his character is revealed as he discovers who has been betraying the family. We find that Michael is clearly no longer the college boy war hero that he was as a young man. No one will stand in his way and he will not be beaten, no matter what the cost.
There's something about The Godfather that makes it one of my favorite movies. That said, however, I certainly agree with many that Part II is perhaps the better film. The scope of the story, the darkness of the plot, and the more complex relationships make this film worthy of all its honors.

Reserving its place in American cinematic history, The Godfather: Part II was the last film printed in the US using Technocolor. Al Pacino's Oscar nominated reprisal of his role as Michael Corleone won him a spot as the #11 film villain of all time. Like the original, Part II made it onto the list of greatest movie quotes with #58: "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

One of the great moments on film takes place during a flashback sequence when Vito (de Niro) is following Don Fanucci on the rooftop during a festival. Tired of Fanucci's role in bringing down the neighborhood, Vito vows to kill him. As Fanucci makes his way through the crowds on the street, we see Vito alone overhead. It's just brilliant.

All in all, Part II is a wonderful piece. Being more psychological drama than simply a violent "shoot-em-up" movie makes this film all the more compelling. And worth watching.