Welcome to the Pile of Shame. Throughout my years of ceaseless debauchery and frankly worrying video game addiction, I missed out on movies that many consider classics. If you’ve ever asked someone if they watched a certain movie and gasped when they said they never did, you know what type of guy I am. I figured that it’s pretty silly that someone like me who lacks the appropriate historical movie education is allowed to write on such an esteemed movie website as ours, and have since created a pile of classic movies that I will work through in order to achieve true enlightenment. This series will be my chronicle through it and you’re more than welcome to tag along. Also, expect some spoilers in there, if you haven’t watched these films already.
I mean, it was fate that I was going to watch this movie eventually. The 3-hour long mobster epic has been in the top spot of the classic movies that I’ve missed out on for the simple reason that everyone who has ever seen it has told me that I should watch it. I can clearly see why, since The Godfather is a trendsetting triumph of cinema, creating its own paradigm that is often imitated but could never be replicated. It’s a mobster movie that was less about the guns, hookers and opulence that is usually inherent in movies of this genre. I strapped in for the marathon and found myself being captivated by the stories that transpired during the journey through the underground.
The Godfather is a constantly referenced film that I nearly knew all about just from the sheer amount of times I’ve heard about it in my life. Additionally, I played the video game extensively that was surely not an accurate representation of the movie, but it featured all of the characters and the overarching lore of the film. There were even clips in the game from the movie itself where the particularly violent hits took place and I found myself remembering them when they appeared on the screen. But the context was what ultimately mattered and even while I’ve seen the scenes before, I now knew why they happened. The result is a fantastic cinematic epic that is unique to its time and also a masterwork of writing and cinematography.
Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, was a charismatic and quietly powerful presence throughout the film, always being a figure that warranted respect whenever he appeared on the screen. His growly mumbling seemed almost comedic to me since I’ve heard it in impressions and references so many times in the past, but I was trying to watch this movie from a clean perspective and his quietly imposing voice really lent true weight to the character. The other Corleone boys were also masterfully crafted. Tom Hagen with his calm reasoning, Sonny with his temper and of course, Michael, who the movie started revolving around later on in the film and whom I expect to see in the sequels.
It was so strange to see the genesis of many things that have become idioms or analogies in our culture. Sleeping with the fishes was just something I knew, even as a child, but seeing it used in the movie that made it popular was a different experience. The horse head in the bed thing also confused me in the past, but once again, the context coloured it in for me beautifully. The Godfather is a movie that excels in most everything it does. Character development, cinematography, narrative, pacing, everything is on point. It’s obviously a little slow because of how monstrously long the movie is, but even during the slower parts, you’re getting valuable information and memorable scenes.
Let me gush about the narrative for a second. I love it so much that they stuck with representing the true happenings of a 1950s era crime family and instead of resorting to cheap shock tactics, they made it political, methodical and most importantly, meaningful. This is a story that isn’t afraid to take its time and really develop into something special. An interwoven tale of power, greed, honour, family and the unending search for dominance. Some things also weren’t immediately apparent and took some time for you to really grasp but the movie did a great job of illuminating everything you needed.
What The Godfather gets right is drama. Not the sterile kind of artificial strife that usually plagues movies of this genre, but actual palpable tension and stakes that get placed right on your shoulders. This creates that sense of “what will happen next” that this movie gets so right that it almost hurts. One story onto the next, it just hits you time and time again until the final satisfying conclusion of a man plagued by the honour of his family and the desire for power.
Visually, musically and thematically, The Godfather also takes things to the next step. The now extremely famous theme song pops up continuously throughout the movie and the gentle violin and classical Italian orchestration lend real atmosphere to the scenes. An atmosphere that demands respect, much like the mob bosses we get to tango with. The costumes and set designs are so good that they set trends, even to this day. That Italian elite tailoring, the set designs that make the aesthetic an unforgettable one.
The Godfather is so long and dense with memorable scenes that doing a full analysis of it would take an actual full day. I didn’t delve too much into specific events since if I talk about one, I’m more or less obligated to talk about the rest and that will translate into a multiple thousand word article. But even though I want to do that, I’ll spare you from reading a novella and just say that everything that encompasses the mob movie makes it a bonafide classic that will be admired for even more decades to come. There simply isn’t anything like it and if there was, it would just be imitating it.
And this was the first one. There’s still a whole trilogy waiting for me. So the Pile of Shame is taking a little different trajectory since I haven’t really done trilogies in the past, but I at least want to watch The Godfather Part II since I’ve heard it’s the best one and I also want to know what happens to Michael Corleone moving forward.
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