I have been writing this blog for over ten years now, and I have resisted putting up a list of my favorite films for that whole time. As the Borg say "Resistance is Futile!"
This year I am marking another year in my sixth decade of life. I did several birthday posts in the past and enjoyed them immensely. The last two years my heart has just not been into it. This year however, I am trying to push my way back into normalcy, but I don't have the energy to generate 63 things for a list. So what I am going to do is a ten day countdown of my favorite films.
Every year when I have posted a top ten list, I always point out that it is a combination of quality and subjective enjoyment that creates that list. Those are the guiding principles here as well. I will not claim that these are the ten greatest movies ever made, although I know several of them would be deserving of a spot on such a list. Instead, these are my ten favorite films as it stands at the moment. In a month, I could reconsider or remember something that I have tragically left off the list, but for this moment here is how they rank.
#4 The Godfather/The Godfather Part II
I freely admit that I have cheated here. This is two films not just one. They are inextricably linked to one another however, and the idea of separating them from each other and elevating one above the other is abhorrent to me. A little bit like Alien and Aliens, the question of which one of these two films I think is better, depends entirely on which one I have seen most recently.
Art is a bit subjective. and as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet these two films transcend the subjective. I believe they objectively are two of the finest motion pictures ever to come out of Hollywood. The original Godfather, takes what could have been a simple mob movie and turns it into a family tragedy that will haunt our memory. Captain Michael Corleone, a war hero, has returned to the family he is holding at arms length, with the intention of declaring his independence from them by marrying the Waspish Kay. Yet, when his father is gunned down, the family loyalty takes over and he is drawn into the business that he wished to avoid.
As the reluctant savior of his family, Michael has to reject the life he was planning and put his emotions under control. The problem is that every time he gets emotional, the tragedy gets deeper. The more he tries to grip his passion and hold it down, the greater the sacrifices he makes. Not only does he murder his enemies, he takes out family loyalists who have betrayed him, including his brother in law, and ultimately his own brother. Vito Corleone was a man who followed a code of honor, ruthless as it was, to achieve family security. Michael however becomes a monster of dispassionate violence, who wants to remain all business but like his brother Sonny, can be influenced by his emotions. When Michael feels betrayal from anyone, it leads to further destruction.
The construction of the second film as both prequel and sequel simultaneously, is an amazing innovation that allows the second film to be part and parcel of the first while still standing on it's own as a piece of art. The production design between the films shows a progression not only of the family but of America in the 20th Century. The critique of soulless capitalism is complete as a metaphor when the corporations cut up the cake with the image of Cuba on it. The question of what cost comes from success is answered by the hollow posture of power that closes the second chapter of this story.
My personal history with the film includes one of my favorite stories about dating my wife. I took her to a double feature playing the two films, and when the first one ended, we began to stand to take a break and use the facilities, but instead of an intermission, the lights went down immediately and the second film began. We both sat back down immediately and waited another three hours and twenty minute to relieve ourselves. The fact that she was willing to do that, sealed her fate, I had to marry that woman.