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.
While I have no more cowbell for you (pause for sighs and boos), I do have more awesome movie scenes. “My Favorite Scene” is the oldest column in the nearly five-year history of Killing Time. I’ve written over 240 of them, but I haven’t even scratched the surface of the movies I want to take a look at. For Tuesday’s column, I try to pick a movie that has some relevance to a star or a film coming out that weekend. This keeps the films pretty much in the 5-10 year past ballpark. That’s fine, but I never get to go back further and that’s what the Saturday installments will largely do: examine great scenes from films a little further back. I’ve already plotted out 2018’s entries, and I’m really excited about the line-up of films we’ll hopefully get some discussion started on. Some of these I’ve examined in my every-other-month IMDB TOP 250 columns, but those films can’t get enough revisiting. The first Saturday entry, The Shawshank Redemption,is already up!