Take a Drink: whenever Fredo does something craven
Take a Drink: whenever Sonny does something hot-headed
Take a Drink: whenever Michael gets drawn even deeper
Take a Drink: for name character deaths (hint: save some stamina for the end)
Take a Drink: for oranges
They’re bad for your health.
Do a Shot: for Sicilian messages
Do a Shot: “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”
By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
What’s new to be said about The Godfather? Nothing, probably, but hey, look- there’s a drinking game above this you can play! Okay, how about this- The Godfather may be the only masterpiece to emerge precisely because enough people gave up on it. First off, Sergio Leone and Peter Bogdanovich passed on directing it, leaving the film in the hands of some rookie director named Francis Ford Coppola whose principal mentor was Roger Corman.
This Roger Corman.
Then the A-list role necessary to anchor it, Don Vito Corleone, was turned down by Laurence Olivier, and given to the notoriously difficult Marlon Brando only on condition that he receive no salary at all- only a percentage. Perhaps these cost savings coupled with his influence helped convince Paramount to up Coppola’s budget to a still quite stingy 6.5 million, and relent on their desire to set the film in Kansas City and shoot it on Hollywood backlots instead of shooting it in New York City like was right and proper.
When it came to the central role of Michael Corleone, they gave in to Coppola’s insistence on a brash newcomer, Al Pacino, maybe because Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson said no. James Caan, originally up for Michael, slid into Sonny’s role instead of Burt Reynolds, and at some point the studio just said fuck it and let him cast some unknowns named Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, James Cazale, and Talia Shire among others. Probably by the time it wrapped, Paramount would have been happy just making its money back (the three month-delayed, March release date is another clue). Instead, young Coppola gave them a bona fide cultural phenomenon, as lucrative as it was critically adored, with a pop cultural footprint beyond compare.
What’s it about, you ask? Go watch it, now.
Okay, so where to start? Why don’t we begin by playing Nino Rota’s instantly recognizable and mood setting “Speak Softly Love”, perhaps the single most famous film score cut ever made. Go ahead, hit play.
The studio didn’t like this, either- they deemed it too “operatic”. Well, that’s precisely what Coppola was going for- an opera of the American dream and the ways it can be perverted and corrupt those who pursue it. The result is a film whose every.single.scene registers as iconic, thanks to Coppola and author/screenwriter Mario Puzo’s dense, efficient plotting, which neatly balances those operatic urges and a procedural manner that immerses us in this immensely detailed world, Coppola’s remarkably assured directorial hand, which allows scenes to breathe and mature like fine wine and infuses the film with subtle and rich symbolism, and its across the board top of the line technical achievements.
Gordon Willis’s masterfully dark and saturated cinematography leaps from the screen, impeccably framed, and he paints with shadows to reflect mood and theme like Rembrandt. The production design recreates 1940s-era New York with lived-in grit and atmosphere, and the sound design, editing, and grisly practical effects lend a visceral, almost too realistic air to the sudden, shocking violence that pervades the film.
We’ve made it this far, somehow, without talking about a single performance. Stanley Kubrick, who perhaps knows what he’s talking about, called it the best cast film ever, and from Brando’s almost single-handed creation of one of the two or three most recognizable characters in film history, to Pacino’s intense, but modulated (we’re talking about Pacino here- not his strong suit) and heart-breaking arc of American hero to cold-blooded Don, to fellow Oscar nominees Caan, Duvall, and the rest of the long list, not a single actor rings false.
When somebody utters the words “Great Film” how many more likely candidates than this spring to mind? Thought so.