The 90’s: The Shawshank Redemption

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The Shawshank Redemption regularly tops favourite and greatest film movie polls.  The film was only released in 1994, but it feels like it’s been around forever.  It didn’t perform well initially, although it only opened as a limited release.  When it was rereleased in 1995 because the film was nominated for seven Oscars (which, the film should have won IMO) the film performed much better at the box office.  Like many other brilliant films though (The Bourne Identity being a good example), The Shawshank Redemption came into it’s own when it was released on vhs, fast becoming a much loved movie.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

A story by Stephen King, adapted into a screenplay and directed by Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption is a modern classic.  Set in 1947, it tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is imprisoned in the notorious Shawshank Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover.  Andy maintains he is innocent, much to the bemusement of other inmates. The story is about this, but mainly about the improbable friendship that develops between Andy and Red, a ‘lifer’, played delightfully by Morgan Freeman.  Shawshank also focuses on the rather grim side of prison life and how Andy copes with it.

There are so many memorable moments in this movie, like when gentle prison librarian, Brooks, gets parole, but on returning to the outside world, he cannot cope with it.  Memorable moments in films are not always happy.  We need to remember that prisoners are human beings too.

Brooks

Then there is the quote below from my favourite scene in the movie, where Andy plays the Marriage of Figaro through the PA so the whole prison hears it.

Red: [narrating] I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.

Red and the other inmates

Why do fans (including myself) love this film so much?  Shawshank makes you feel sad, happy, angry, uplifted…..so many emotions throughout.  It’s an old-fashioned story about finding hope in a hopeless place.  The cast are fabulous and, for those who have seen it, you’ll know what I mean when I say, what an ending! To describe the ending in any way for anybody who has not watched Shawshank, would ruin it.  You need to watch this film with an open mind and enjoy it……

Andy: Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Andy and Red

Trivia:

Of all the brilliant work he has done, this is Morgan Freeman’s favourite film

Rob Reiner wanted to direct, with Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise as Red and Andy.  Thankfully Frank Darabont decided he would direct.  I don’t feel the movie would have been the same without Tim and Morgan in those roles.  You believe this friendship is real and that is the heart of this film.

Images: IMDb

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The Godfather 2

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“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

The Godfather 2.  Where do I start?  I love, love, love this film!  It is one of my favourite movies.  If I had to choose only five films, it would be in my top five.  Sweeping, epic, beautiful, thrilling, operatic, emotional….

The Godfather is a fantastic film, but The Godfather 2 has the rare talent of bettering its predecessor (like The Empire Strikes Back).  Francis Ford Coppola made a beautiful film that has stood the test of time and repeatedly sits in top ten movies charts.

Iconic Emblem

I wasn’t even born, in 1974, when The Godfather 2 was in the cinemas.  I first watched The Godfather films when I was a teenager and I was hooked.

Telling the story of the Corleone family, the trilogy could be watched individually by somebody who hasn’t seen any of the films before and be enjoyed.  However, if you have the time, definitely watch all the films.  It is in three ‘acts’ like an opera and like an opera, it’s protagonist, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has his fair share of highs and lows.

If you can only watch one film, make it part 2.

Beginning in 1901, in Corleone, Sicily, we follow Vito Andolini (who will become Vito Corleone) and find out how he came to be in America and how he became head of a crime family.

We then switch back to the ‘present’ day of 1958, where Michael Corleone (Vito’s youngest son) is throwing a communion party for his own son, Anthony, whilst holding meetings in his new role as Don of the family.

Michael, Kay, Anthony and Mary Corleone

The film sweeps easily back and forth between the young Vito as a boy and a young man (a role played to perfection by Robert de Niro) and his life in Little Italy in New York to Michael Corleone and his own family in the 50’s in Lake Tahoe.

Vito Corleone

Vito: [in Italian] “Do me this favour.  I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighbourhood about me.  They’ll tell you I know how to return a favour.”

Michael started off as a ‘good guy’ in the first film.  He wanted to make his own way and did not want to be involved in the family business.  Something changes this, eventually leading to him becoming Head of the Family.  We see the change in him in part 2.  He becomes the man he always said he would never be.

The supporting cast around De Niro and Pacino are flawless.  My particular favourites are Diane Keaton as Michael’s wife, Kay, who is fantastic.  She tries to be the supportive wife, but can’t bear seeing the man she loves turn into a monster.  Talia Shire is also wonderful as Michael’s sister, Connie.  John Cazale is a delight as Fredo, Michael’s older brother.  He portrays him beautifully and his character is key to Michael’s descent into a cold, unlikeable man.

Fredo with Michael

Senator Pat Geary: “I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself.  You and your whole fucking family.”

Michael: “We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, senator, but never think it applies to my family.”

 

Little Italy and Sicily are great in their supporting role too.  Coppola lovingly films these places and somehow, even amidst the violence, keeps the beauty intact.

vito

The Godfather 2, won 6 Academy Awards including; Best Picture, Best Director and Best  Supporting Actor (Robert de Niro).

If you like really meaty stories with strong characters, beautiful music and epic cinematography, then you will love this film.

Trivia:

The Godfather 2 is the first sequel to win an Academy Award

It took 104 days to film

In the flashbacks, the language spoken is a combination of [mostly sicilian] southern italian dialects

Method actor Robert de Niro lived in Sicily to prepare for his role of Vito

Young Vito is marked with an ‘X’ when he arrives at Ellis Island as an immigrant.  Apparently, immigrants were marked with this if the inspector thought the person was mentally ill

Images: IMDb