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

 

 

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The Talented Mr Ripley

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Tagline:  How far would you go to become someone else?

Let me start off by saying, this is my favourite movie.  I love everything about it.  It has all the elements of what constitutes a good film to me.

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, which, incidentally, I’ve read, The Talented Mr Ripley is in the unusual position of bettering the book.  Most book adaptations are not as good or just as good.

I still clearly remember watching The Talented Mr Ripley at the cinema, back in 1999, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the film, specifically the ending when I left.  A good film has you thinking about it afterwards.

Set in the late 1950’s, billionaire, Greenleaf, approaches Tom Ripley at a social event in New York.  He is under the impression that Tom went to Princeton with his son, Dickie, as Tom is wearing a Princeton blazer (which he borrowed).  Tom does not correct this assumption and Mr Greenleaf proposes to Tom that for $1,000, Tom goes to Italy to find Dickie and bring him back to America.  Mr Greenleaf is sick of funding Dickie’s playboy lifestyle and wants him to work in the family shipping business.

Tom, although poor and working as a bathroom attendant, is clearly intelligent and cultured.  He jumps at the chance and sees a way of bettering himself and his life.

When Tom arrives in Mongibello (fictional town, in real life, it is Ischia), where Dickie is living.  You can feel his thoughts and emotions as he takes in the beauty surrounding him.  To anybody who has visited, or is living in Italy, it truely does this.

Dickie, when we meet him, is an arrogant, over-indulged, spoilt and selfish playboy who does not appreciate his lifestyle.  It makes it very easy to be on the side of Tom after the future events of the film.

Marge Sherwood, Dickie’s fiancee, played by Gywneth Paltrow, is a more sympathetic character.  She is perfect in this role.  She looks and plays the part of Marge like a latter day Grace Kelly and her wardrobe is to die for.

Philip Seymour Hoffman (a sad loss to the movie industry, RiP), shines brightly in his small, but important role of the odious Freddie Miles, Dickie’s best friend.

Cate Blanchett’s character, Meredith Logue, is not in the book.  Anthony Mingella wanted Cate in the movie so the part was written in especially for her.  She makes Meredith very vulnerable and likeable and the character adds a special something, rather than being there for the sake of it.

The locations, music (I have the soundtrack) and costumes are perfection.  I really believe the cast would have happily acted in this film for free.

Back to the plot, without ruining it for newbies.  Everything is shiny, new, romantic and wonderful to Tom when he arrives in this world.  Tom is desperate to shed his old life and fit in, instead of being on the outside, looking in.  Then the ugly side of Dickie’s character and the consequences of his playboy actions are shown.  Things descend into chaos from one moment of anger. Tom finds himself in a situation where he is able to steal Dickie’s identity.

If I say too much more, I really will spoil this film for you.  It is a credit to Matt Damon’s acting that he manages to bring the audience on side.  Jude Law was born to play the role of Dickie.  I have not seen him excel in any other movie quite so well and he won a BAFTA, deservedly.

This film is for lovers of Italy, thrillers, great acting and stunning cinematogrophy.  Anthony Minghella lovingly shows Rome, Venice and Southern Italy in a wonderful light.  If you have never been to Italy, you will want to go after viewing this.

Trivia:

Matt Damon learned to play the piano and Jude Law learned to play the saxophone for their respective characters

Leonardo di Caprio was considered for the part of Tom Ripley.  He is probably the only other actor I can think of in the role, other than Matt Damon.  Christian Bale and Tom Cruise were also considered!

Images: courtesy of IMDb