The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone

Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.

—-Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III

A terrible Blackberry photo of my folding Xootr Swift parked next to a Yuba cargo bike (set up to carry a whole family) outside the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Two different philosophies on urban bicycling.

On the last two Saturdays Candy and I went to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to watch special showings of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. So today, the third Saturday in a row, we went to see The Godfather Part III. I was very interested because they were screening the re-cut version The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. I’m not sure if I was ever able to sit through the original Godfather III – it wasn’t up to the standards of the first two – and I found it ponderous and boring, especially on television. I have read that the new version, although it leaves most of the center of the film the same, changes the beginning and end – leading to a version that is much improved. So we’ll see.

I enjoyed it – I think the key is to realize that it is a very different movie, both in style and in message, than the previous two. If you can take it on its own, it’s a good, enjoyable film – though not as epic as the other chapters in the saga. Seeing it in a theater helped – the film mostly made sense, though I still don’t completely understand all the financial issues with the Vatican.

Oh, and I’m afraid its still true – Sophia Coppola may be a great director – but she is terrible in this movie.

And its fun to spot actors that you’ve seen somewhere else that you never thought would be in a Godfather epic (for example Harry Dean Stanton in Godfather Pert II). In this one it would have to be Don Novello (he has a big part) – better known as Father Guido Sarducci.

I Know It Was You, Fredo

“Hey, what’s with the food around here? A kid comes up to me in a white jacket, gives me a Ritz cracker, and uh, chopped liver, he says, ‘Canapes.’ I said, uh, ‘can of peas, my ass, that’s a Ritz cracker and chopped liver!’”

—- The Godfather Part 2

A week ago, Candy and I went to see the Godfather at The Alamo Drafthouse. This week is The Godfather Part II. Some people consider this to be a better movie than the first – it is one of those rare cases where the sequel is equal, if not superior to the original. Both won best picture Oscars – and every other accolade possible.

I was really looking forward to seeing it. Unlike Part 1 – which I saw in a theater in high school, I never saw the sequel on the big screen – I was in college by then and not able to get out to theaters because of time and money restraints. It would be years until I was able to see it on television – and it’s so long – it was impossible to carve out enough of a block to sit there uninterrupted. So I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen the whole thing in one sitting – though I’ve watched it in bits more than once, all told.

It is hard to compare to the first movie. Even though it has the same people, more or less, it is structured quite differently. It covers a huge amount of time and space – much told through flashbacks – two separate stories, really. The whole Cuba deal is complicated – and has the aspect of international politics, big news stories, and revolution. In that section, and in the congressional hearings, it feels like the outside world has finally started to intrude on the Corleone empire… which I guess is the point.

So I do think the second is the more subtle, complex, and possibly better film, but it doesn’t have the epic personalities of the first.

John Cazale (who plays Fredo) passed away in 1978 and I saw a short doc about his short acting career. He was only in five feature films – but what a collection – Godfathers 1 and 2, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter. Five classic films. I think his performance of the tragic, flawed Fredo is a high point of the film.

Oh, and I didn’t realize that Harry Dean Stanton is in the film (a fairly small part). He is truly in every movie.

So, next week is the third. I’m excited because the Alamo is screening the re-edit of Godfather Part III – The Godfather Coda: The Death of Micheal Corleone. It is supposed to be a big improvement. We have our tickets… and the Alamo is such a great place to see a film.

Just don’t talk or text.

An Offer He Can’t Refuse

“The lawyer with the briefcase can steal more money than the man with the gun.”
― Mario Puzo, The Godfather

My bike in front of the Alamo Drafthouse, Richardson. Cool bike racks.

Last Saturday Candy and I went to a special showing of The Godfather at the Alamo Drafthouse cinema in Lake Highlands (it was sold out in Richardson – the closest to our house). We very seldom see movies anywhere other than the Alamo – it is just too cool.

This is the fiftieth anniversary of the film – which makes the math easy – I was fifteen when I first saw it. I was living in Managua – the arrival of the film in country was a big deal. I remember seeing it in a theater in town – pre-earthquake – so I did see it in 1972 (sometimes it took films a while to get to Central America).

The theater where I saw it was packed. Sometimes it was tough to get into R rated films in Managua (I couldn’t get in to see Cabaret, for example) but this one was considered highbrow and I was let in with my friends.

There was this kid at school that had mastered a loud, booming, evil-sounding laugh and would let loose with it at any inappropriate moment if he could shock everyone. In the movie, after the wedding, when Michael and Apollonia were in the bedroom and she dropped her nightgown… the crowd was silent and tense… and the guy, from somewhere in the theater (I didn’t know he was there) let out his loudest laugh. It was awful and hilarious.

Decades later, when we all got together in North Carolina, I asked him if he remembered that and he said, “Of course I do!”

At any rate, it was good to see it again, and nobody laughed at that scene. I have seen it many times over the years and was able to concentrate on details – like looking for oranges. I have to admit, over the years, I wasn’t sure what was going on all the time (like who exactly were getting shot there at the end) and I think I’ve got most of it figured out now – the internet helps.

At any rate, we’ve already got our tickets for Godfather part two, showing one week later – and the Alamo is also going to screen The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone – the re-edited version of The Godfather Part III – that is supposed to be much, much better. I haven’t seen it – have to buy my tickets.