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DanEngler

The Godfather Pt. II

The Godfather Pt. II  

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  1. 1. Does "The Godfather Pt. II" belong on the AFI list?

    • I trust this film with my life, Senator. To ask it to leave would be an insult.
      9
    • If history has taught us anything, it's that you can kill any movie.
      1

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  • Poll closed on 11/01/19 at 07:00 AM

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Paul & Amy say buona sera to 1974’s epic mobster sequel The Godfather Pt. II! They analyze Robert De Niro’s Sicilian, learn which US president loved the film, and ask if this sequel really covers territory not covered by the first film. Plus: Tom Santopietro, author of The Godfather Effect, talk about how the Godfather films have affected the Italian-American community.

For The Grapes Of Wrath week, tell us about your experience with unions! Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer. Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Photo credit: Kim Troxall

This episode is brought to you by Villains (www.parcast.com/VILLAINS).

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I think Paul's take on the Marvel movies that Jon Favreau found the special formula ignores the biggest thing in that, starting with Iron Man, Marvel decided to make an interconnected universe. Iron Man is fine but it wasn't until Avengers brought them together that the truly separated themselves from other superhero movies.

As for Godfather II, I really hope the Solo thing isn't a nod to it. The scene was bad enough on its own but doing that as an homage is oof, not good.

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2 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

I think Paul's take on the Marvel movies that Jon Favreau found the special formula ignores the biggest thing in that, starting with Iron Man, Marvel decided to make an interconnected universe. Iron Man is fine but it wasn't until Avengers brought them together that the truly separated themselves from other superhero movies.

Kind of true, but the idea of even making more MCU movies was entirely dependent on Iron Man being a hit. At the time, Iron Man was not household name even among comics fans, and Robert Downey Jr.'s career was . . . fine, but not really superstar-level.

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I have some things to say about the Godfather movies and I don't want to fill up the thread w/ Marvel talk, but FFC did kinda bring this on, so let me say this 1st...

I agree w/ Paul as far as Favreau finding key ingredients in the Marvel formula w/ the humor and the light touch, semi-improv character moments that Downey specializes in.

To the point of Coppola, I also agree w/ Amy & Paul that the arguments are old. It was Spielberg & Lucas who really started the  blockbuster theme-park trend in cinema (although they're not the first; think of old disaster movies & even some of Hitchcock's bigger set-pieces).

I was at my snobbiest in the '90s and felt the same way about movies like Twister, Volcano, Armageddon, Deep Impact, and Independence Day that these old directors feel about Marvel movies. I thought they were designed to simulate big events w/ crappy CGI, and they didn't care about story or character.

The other thing I have in common w/ these old directors is that I watched NONE of those movies, so I was talking out my ass just like they are. I thought they looked too "despicable" to see.

These old directors obviously didn't grow up reading Marvel comics or they'd know they're all about character and relationships, and that's what set them apart from the "Distinguished Competition." For anyone who understands that, the MCU is better than words.

There are so many crappy action movies being made these days, terrible stories and non-characters wasting the artistry and skill of stunt teams and CGI painters. THOSE are the movies the old directors really think they're complaining about IMO, and they're just showing how out of touch they are to pick on Marvel of all studios making action movies! I mean, really! Marvel is actually applying the theme-park techniques to stories & characters people really care about. 

It's just jealousy of Marvel's success, and anger that Hollywood doesn't want to make their types of movies anymore. I don't blame them and I agree w/ Favreau they've earned the right to their opinions.

 

P.S. Marvel took a $500M loan to make Iron Man and Incredible Hulk (IMDB says $140M-$150M/each, but that doesn't include all the marketing). Hulk made $263M globally. Say Marvel gets half that take after theaters get their cut...If Iron Man had earned a similar amount, Marvel Studios is over. Of course, they didn't know Hulk was going to break even at best (probably lost money), but the reality is their future did depend on IM becoming a hit. They needed at least one of those movies to be a hit. They had nothing else in the pipeline. All the chips were on the table. If they made 2 movies like the Hulk out of the gate, it would've been over. If they make Hulk and Thor first, it's over. If they make Hulk and Captain America first, it's over. They had to make Iron Man in the first batch of movies, or it was over. If they don't cast Downey, it's over. Maybe if they don't hire Favreau, it's over, b/c what other director gives him the freedom to re-invent Tony Stark for the world? Part of the reason Thor and Cap did OK at the box office was two Iron Man movies primed the pump and got people excited for the Avengers, but neither of those movies did nearly as well as IM1 or 2. They did just well enough to keep the train on the tracks. Hulk, Thor, and Cap were all very shaky movies in the grand scheme. Only Iron Man was really leading the way. It was a brilliant idea Marvel had, build up the Avengers individually or no one will care when/if they come together. But I don't think any of that is possible w/o IM breaking through out of the bunch. Cap movies didn't start getting good until the Russo Bros, and Marvel didn't make a good Thor movie until Ragnarok. No, Marvel didn't plan for their success to be dependent on IM, but it's hard to argue that didn't turn out to be the truth.

 

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46 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Kind of true, but the idea of even making more MCU movies was entirely dependent on Iron Man being a hit. At the time, Iron Man was not household name even among comics fans, and Robert Downey Jr.'s career was . . . fine, but not really superstar-level.

I don't think it was entirely dependent on Iron Man's success since Incredible Hulk came out the next month.

It was another two years until the next one which was Iron Man 2. So, it was definitely relying on Iron Man's success. I don't know if we would have gotten Thor and Captain America so quickly if there hadn't been a tease of an Avengers Initiative and the conversation that sparked.

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Yeah, we may as well talk about the Coppola/Scorsese comments about superhero movies.

I think they're kind of right and kind of wrong. They're right that there is a problem and that Marvel movies are the most obvious example of it, but I think they're wrong in diagnosing the problem (or at least how they phrased it, which may have something to do with the kinds of questions they were asked in interviews). The superhero genre itself is not the problem. It's a genre like any other, including those Coppola and Scorsese themselves have worked in, and even more so those that their contemporaries like Spielberg and Lucas worked in. Some of the movies are good and some are bad. People will try to replicate the hits, to varying degrees of success. That's no different than westerns or musicals or gangster movies or sci-fi or horror or anything else. I think to say the genre itself is the problem and somehow "not cinema" is a reductive argument that hurts dialogue about the art form.

The problem is more about franchising, and franchises being almost the only thing studios want to pay for these days. Franchising is nothing new either, of course, but the degree to which it dominates has certainly changed in the last couple of decades.

https://www.filmsite.org/boxoffice2.html

If you look at the top hits from 2000 onward they tend to be dominated by franchise entries, in a way that they were not in the previous decades (more of a mix of original stuff and sequels). That is a genuine concern about the health of the art form, if original work can no longer break through and we're just recycling the same material for higher profits. Marvel isn't even necessarily the worst example of this, just the most visible. I would hope that someone like Scorsese would probably acknowledge this if you could have a real back-and-forth dialogue about it, because his history of supporting a wide variety of cinema would not suggest a person with a reductive viewpoint about what great art can be.

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Thinking about the interview w/ Tom Santopietro about his book The Godfather Effect, the lack of true Italian-American representation before these Coppola movies.

I think Frank Sinatra is one of the first big movie stars allowed to keep his Italian name, and to kind of show that kind brash swagger we associate with Italian-Americans. Both Dean Martin and Tony Bennett were Italian-American singers who changed their to something WASPier.

If you take a look at this list of Italian-American actors, the bigger stars born before 1930 mostly had to change their names: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Italian-American_actors

Seems like it was OK to have an Italian name if you were more of a character actor or villain, like Cesar Romero for example. There was a certain demand for the Latin lover type or antagonistic historical figures, so his name was sort of an exotic calling card for this niche.

Ernest Borgnine, Vince Edwards, Aldo Ray, Guy Williams, and Don Amiche are all Italian-Americans who changed their names to seem less ethnic. Victor Mature is a rare example who didn't, but I suppose Mature is simply a name that doesn't look Italian even though the actor does.

Marlon Brando, for the record, is not Italian.

Sinatra is an absolute outlier of a star who was empowered to be ethnic. Maybe it was OK for him to be Italian b/c he had blue eyes.

This all leads me to James Caan (not Italian either) being credited w/ "bada-bing." I'll repost this again for Part II, but in the original Godfather thread I posted a link to the Oxford English Dictionary giving the credit in 1965 to Italian-American comedian Pat Cooper (given name Pasquale Caputo). "1965   P. Cooper Italian Wedding in Our Hero (transcription of sound recording of comedy routine) (O.E.D. Archive)    'They never let go the envelopes. Ya gotta pull—bada-bing-a-bada-bang-a-bada-bing!'"  https://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/257595

After listening to Santopietro's interview, I'm guessing Caan picked that expression up hanging out w/ the Mafia preparing for his role as Sonny Corleone and just dropped it in. The fact the phrase didn't make it into mainstream media until 1972, and that it took a Jewish actor to do it, just says a lot about the lack representation in Hollywood everyone is talking about. If not for the tape recorder that caught Pat Cooper's act, there'd be no proof Caan didn't just make it up.

I'm in favor of keeping both Godfather films on the list, but I'd like to add Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973) b/c it introduced a much realer, down & dirty look at the Mafia. For all of the authentic Italian touches Coppola brings to the pictures, the world of saga is cast in the nostalgia of that rich, warm & cozy "mahogany" feel Paul refers to in the previous episode. Scorsese has just as much if not more authentic Italian touches as FFC, but it just seems a lot more like real life and normal experience...plus that role is probably what nailed DeNiro getting cast in Part II.

Of course, you have to give it up to The Godfather for coming the year before and being such a massive hit, while Mean Streets was a total flop ($41k global box office against a $500k budget). On that level, it's hard to compare the movies in their affect on Italian-American culture and its place in the mainstream. The podcast mentions the Godfather Saga TV cut, and just think of how often the movies have consistently played on television over the years. The movies are a part of our lives and I think the interview showed how proud it makes Italian-Americans and how much it defines their sense of nobility. Meanwhile, most people haven't seen or maybe even heard of Mean Streets, aside from Scorsese and DeNiro fans, and that's kind of a shame considering how big Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and GoodFellas are in the collective consciousness.

For good or bad, I think the AFI 100 is really about deep culture penetration. That's why the Simpsons is such a good litmus test. The list is a greatest hits collection. It's not the best movies you've never seen. If you haven't heard of a movie on the list, it's probably b/c you're young. Every movie on the list was huge at some point, even if the movie had to fall into the public domain and become a hit on TV or something. It's a hall of fame, not a hall of justice.

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I'm much more with Amy on this one, as I gain nothing from watching Godfather Part II that I didn't have from watching Godfather: that's no enlightenment, no knowledge, no inspiration, Mr. Coppola.  And while I would be sad to kick a great John Cazale performance off the list, this film is honestly my least favorite of all his films, and I'd be happy to throw on both The Conversation and especially Dog Day Afternoon in place of this.

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A little disappointed that they didn’t talk more about the third one and what did and didn’t work about it. I have a lot of thoughts on it, but then again, it’s not the featured one.

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I'm in the same situation as with the first one: it's October; didn't have time to watch; plan to catch up with it in November; when I made my top 25 of 100 AFI films it made the cut - admittedly based on a very vague memory of it.

I guess a few things I'll toss out there:
Paul's suggestion of combining them into one movie - the BFI did that for the 2002 version of their list.  In the 2012 version, they chose not to combine them  (dropping them both down below Apocalypse Now.  People can't seem to agree on Coppola's best.)  I'm not sure what caused them to combine them in 2002 and then to split them apart for 2012.  I think I saw a line that the BFI asked everyone to "count each individual film separately".  I guess it does get you into complicated situations with narrative trilogies (the Apu trilogy also comes to mind where people could make the reasonable argument they belong together).

Amy's dig at Scorsese - yeah, he returns to mob/crime movies a lot, but he also does a lot of other movies.  I still regret never watching Silence - though it was on sale recently, so I guess in buying it, I'm committing it to my end of year movie watching when in vacation.

The whole Scorsese/Coppola internet outrage reminds me of how the internet got really mad when Ethan Hawke said, "Logan - enjoyable.  Not remotely as great as people talked it up to be."  "Talked it up as if it were Bresson," was closer to his choice of words, IIRC.

I haven't seen Logan.  I wonder Scorsese's opinion would be of it.  Or TDK.  He was only asked about the MCU movies.  I wonder how much the formula needs to vary for him to think... well that there's something slightly more there-there.  I say this as someone who hasn't seen Logan and is mostly ambivalent to current wave of superhero movies (honestly, I get second-hand fatigue hearing critics talk about how much fatigue they get from watching all of these superhero movies, most of which they seem to enjoy individually).  But in his criticism (and in contrast to the Hawke outrage), it leaves me wondering how much of what we currently mean by "superhero" movies has really been defined by the MCU (and DC's attempt to replicate its success).  But that's really a passing pondering for me.  Mostly I don't really care.  Like the Ethan Hawke instance, I am kind of amazed at how defensive it appears people get about other people dissing the culture they enjoy (or maybe it's just something about the internet that just amplifies the scope of the response?).

I feel like I saw a larger context of Coppola's quote, still not sure what he meant by (or how he got to) "despicable" though.  It just seemed like a random assertion.  Maybe it's a word he falls to easily?

Random thought - a big knock against Gravity was that it became a bumper car/pinball type of amusement park ride and did a poor job conveying human emotion (not that it didn't attempt it, it just did it in a poor, trite, cliched manner).  I feel like that's relevant to the discussion somehow, but I guess it would be, "what are Scorsese's thoughts on that in terms of compare/contrast" - but he's not here.

 

 

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17 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Amy's dig at Scorsese - yeah, he returns to mob/crime movies a lot, but he also does a lot of other movies.  I still regret never watching Silence - though it was on sale recently, so I guess in buying it, I'm committing it to my end of year movie watching when in vacation.

Yeah, we talked about this with Taxi Driver, that people think of Scorsese that way but really he has an extremely varied filmography. Only roughly one quarter of his movies are mob or mob-adjacent.

They mentioned it in the Grapes of Wrath episode that Coppola did expand on his statements and said something closer to what I said above (that his problem is with franchises crowding out everything else), so good on him for that.

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