Either you’re a huge fan of Oliver Stone, or you likely can’t stand anything about Oliver Stone: the man’s polarizing. Personally, I’m not a fan. Any Given Sunday is, to me, one of Stone’s best films. It’s overlong and hackneyed at points, but it also was a prophetic and revealing portrait of the real culture of professional football and its consequences to those who play it long before the issues it raises became mainstream sports conversation. The centerpiece of the film is, without a doubt, another great monologue from Al Pacino.
Is there another actor who has more memorable career monologues than Pacino? The most iconic is, obviously, Scent of a Woman, but there’s Dog Day Afternoon, And Justice for All, a couple from the Godfather films, Heat, and on and on. “A Game of Inches” has to be counted right up there. As pre-game speeches go, they don’t come better. As the best sports-related motivational speeches do, it also translates to life as a whole, and whatever else you may take away from Any Given Sunday.…this scene makes the career portfolio of one of the greatest actors of all-time.
Just as The Godfather Part II was a pioneer in showing what a sequel could do in terms of equalling (in some minds surpassing) the original film, The Godfather Part III is one of the first instances of what is all-too-common now: an unnecessary franchise film. Made 16 years after the second installment, the ground The Godfather Part III treads is unnecessary to fleshing out Michael’s character. If you take the trilogy as a whole, I think it diminishes Michael’s story arc to see him in his dotage trying to avoid damnation while being dragged back to his true nature. The second film showed the consequences of his choices without having to check back in on him as a senior citizen.
Making the film in the first place was a misstep, but Coppola made an even bigger one when in the most famous case of film nepotism he cast his daughter Sofia as Michael’s daughter when Winona Ryder had to drop out of the film. Though she’s proven to be a chip off the block in the directing department, Sofia is not an actress and her painful inability to act robs the plodding film of what should be its most poignant moment. What IS unforgettable and iconic about the film is Al Pacino’s monologue about being dragged back into the real family business. Pacino’s made a career out of iconic monologues, and whatever your other problems with the third Godfather, no one can deny the greatness of this scene.
I prefer The Godfather to The Godfather Part II, but both won Best Picture, and for most people it’s a toss-up as to which is the better film. I prefer the first film’s narrative about Michael’s descent into Hell rather than the sequel’s about the price of reigning there. I actually enjoy Robert DeNiro’s part of the dual storyline as a young, rising Vito Corleone more than I do Al Pacino’s expansion of his empire into Cuba amidst the crumbling of the family that was his base.
Whichever of the two films you prefer, both are flawless (and would that Coppola had just let that lie). My favorite scene in the epic isn’t long; not even a minute. It is, though, I believe the most powerful and enduring moment in the film. Fredo, Fredo, Fredo. Michael warned you, man. You don’t take sides against the family. This is like Mob 101! When Michael finds out that Fredo’s been betraying him, the moment he’s dead isn’t when he actually has him killed on a lonely lake. Mirroring Jesus’s identification of Judas as His traitor, Michael embraces him, kisses him, and then chills him to his soul with a quote that’s as legendary as any in cinema: “I know it was you, Fredo.”
Picking a single scene from The Godfather is a matter of personal choice, because it is-without a doubt-a perfect motion picture. There are 40 scenes you could make an argument for, and I’ve written an article where I picked the five best (and it was still impossible to choose). The film chronicles Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) descent from the one good son in a mafia family to a cunning monster.
There are lots of moments when you can say Michael crossed the Rubicon, but the moment you realize the depths of evil to which he can sinks is when he has every threat to his mob ascendency assassinated during the baptism of his godson (whose father he also has killed). The scene is a disturbing juxtaposition of the rite of baptism in a holy setting with the unholy tide of murders, edited with intensity and brilliance. The scene is one of the best edited sequences in film history and The Godfather’s culmination of Michael’s Luciferian fall from grace.