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In the season 4 finale of the Family Guy, Peter is locked in a safe room with his family, and facing the possibility of death, reveals the many deep dark secrets of the Griffinís past. Darker than the ancestor who was sold into slavery, darker than the relative who was buddies with Hitler, was the fact that Peter did not care for The Godfather.
And if you think about it, the idea that someone might actually dislike the 1972 Oscar winner for best picture is pretty far-fetched. The movie combines beautiful cinematography with wonderful acting from most of the eraís heavyweights and great dialogue from start to finish. Most people are going to focus on three scenes, the first, where the undertaker comes to Vito Corleone for justice, the scene where Michael kills Sollazzo and McCluskey, and the climactic scene where the baptism of Michael's nephew (played by Sofia Coppola) is interspersed with the destruction of the familyís enemies. All of those are wonderful scenes, especially the finale, but there are many other great ones as well. Take Sonny beating the crap out of his brother-in-law, or Sonnyís death, or the scene where Vito advises Michael on how their enemies will come after him. All are well written. All are brilliantly acted. All are simply perfect.
Over the past 362 days Iíve seen a lot of best picture winners that simply bit off more than they could chew. They tried to be several different things at once and failed at being anything. But think of everything The Godfather accomplishes. Itís a movie about Michael's decent from war hero with no criminal background to organized crime boss. Itís a movie that contrasts the leadership styles of the cautious, honor bound Vito, the hotheaded Sonny, and Michael, who combines the best, and in some cases the worst, aspects of both. And itís a movie about how family, even in the crime world, is more important than anything. And despite juggling all those themes, everything works. There is not a flat note in the movie, no plot lines that seem less developed than the rest, no plot points that leave you scratching your head.
A lot of the little details are wonderful too. The little things like "leave the gun, take the cannolis" and the way everyone who gets killed is taken completely by surprise except Sal make this world complete. I especially love the way that leading up to the killing of Sollazzo and McCluskey, Michael is told to not make eye contact and quietly drop the gun on the way out so as to make people think he still had it, yet when the time comes he forgets both of these pieces of advice, looking two other patrons straight in the eye and dropping the gun with a loud thud. These are things you may not notice on the first viewing, and things a lesser filmmaker might not bother to include, but here they are. A movie that gets itís details right goes a long way toward being a truly great movie.
Iím a little hesitant to mention other nominees and the notable movies from 1972 that werenít nominated, because quite frankly none of them are in the same league. In almost every year, you can find somebody who can make a case for a different movie winning, but not here. John Boormanís movie about squealing like a pig, Deliverance, got a nomination. The Robert Redford movie about politics, The Candidate, did not. Does it really matter? Neither of them was going to win. The Godfather is simply a once in a generation achievement in not just film making, but art, and there was no movie released in 1972 that comes close. Few movies released in any year come close.
I haven't seen The Godfather in many years, but the image that has stuck in my mind is the horse's head on the mattress.