This Week in 1972: 'The Godfather'
It's the Corleones' world; we just live in it.
It's hard to overstate the impact of 'The Godfather' (released 39 years ago this week, on March 15, 1972) on pop culture. Francis Ford Coppola's epic (and its sequels) finally made the gangster drama respectable as art, offered an alternative history of immigration and assimilation in America, and spawned a mob vogue that continues to this day in movies, TV, books, music and video games. It spawned catchphrases ("I'll make him an offer he can't refuse"), inspired businesses (the Godfather's Pizza chain) and launched or jump-started countless Hollywood careers. Its influence is so far-flung that there are even some movies that have nothing to do with the Mafia or Italian-American life that nonetheless wear their 'Godfather' homages on their sleeves.
Here are the Five Unlikeliest Beneficiaries of the 'Godfather' Legacy.
1. 'The Freshman' (1990). It's a comedy involving Matthew Broderick as a film student involved in a conspiracy to turn nearly-extinct Komodo dragons into haute cuisine, but the film's heart is Marlon Brando's surprisingly game willingness to spoof his most celebrated role. His Vito Corleone–esque crime lord / family man / gourmand turns out to be unexpectedly sweet and graceful -- and hilarious.
2. 'Boyz N the Hood' (1991). Coppola didn't invent cross-cutting, but he perfected it in the famous climactic sequence of 'The Godfather,' which intercuts the baptism of Connie's child with the assassinations of Michael's rivals. John Singleton's debut film is about gangstas, not gangsters, but it copies Coppola's editing moves during the pivotal sequence where jock Ricky is murdered on the street.
3. 'You've Got Mail' (1998). As Tom Hanks explains to chat-room pal Meg Ryan, 'The Godfather' is like the I Ching -- its dialogue contains the answers to all questions. (In the case of Ryan's war against a rival merchant, the mob movie's advice is, "Go to the mattresses.") According to 'You've Got Mail,' all men seem to consider 'The Godfather' (which is an awfully macho movie, after all, with only three or four prominent female characters) to be not just a film but a how-to guide to life. Then again, this romantic comedy was written by Nora Ephron, whose husband is Mafia expert and 'GoodFellas' scribe Nick Pileggi, so maybe she's dealing with a skewed sample.
4. 'Elizabeth' (1998). The genius of Shekhar Kapur's period drama about Queen Elizabeth I's rise to power is to treat it as a 'Godfather'-type story of a hesitant heiress coming into her own by ruthlessly eliminating her enemies. Her consigliere Walsingham dispatches them all at once in a cross-cut sequence much like the one near the end of Coppola's movie, followed by a sequence where Elizabeth (like Michael Corleone, as Kay shuts the door on him) seals her power and her fate while symbolically cutting herself off from the rest of humanity.
5. 'Lost in Translation' (2003). Okay, Sofia Coppola's Japanese travelogue doesn't have any overt references to her father's film, but it exists as an indirect consequence of 'The Godfather,' in which Sofia made her acting debut as the baptized infant. Eighteen years later, in 'The Godfather Part III,' she played Michael's daughter, in a much-panned performance. No wonder she decided to move behind the camera. The results have been movies like 'Translation,' 'Marie Antoinette,' and last winter's 'Somewhere,' all about the way wealth, privilege, and power tend to isolate you from the rest of the world. Sound like anyone we know?
1953 (March 19): The Academy Awards are televised for the first time. Bob Hope hosts and Fredric March hands out the prizes, including a Best Picture Oscar for 'The Greatest Show on Earth.'
2000 (March 17): The release of Julia Roberts' 'Erin Brockovich' marks the first $20 million payday for an actress. She goes on to win the Best Actress Oscar for the film.
2005 (March 16): In the climax to one of the most notorious Hollywood criminal cases in recent years, 'In Cold Blood' star Robert Blake is acquitted of the 2001 murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Later, however, he'll be found guilty in a civil trial and ordered to pay $30 million to her children.
Pinch Kurt Russell; he turns 60 on St. Patrick's Day. Other veteran stars with birthdays this week: Original Bond girl Ursula Andress turns 75 on March 19; Michael Caine was 78 on the 14th; and King of Comedy Jerry Lewis hit 85 on March 16. At the other end of the spectrum, Jamie Bell (currently on the screen in both 'Jane Eyre' and 'The Eagle') was 25 on March 14, and 'Twilight' vampire Kellan Lutz turned 26 on the 15th.
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Sigourney Weaver
Directed By: Greg Mottola
What's It About? Two comic-book-loving slackers (Pegg and Frost, who also wrote the screenplay) rescue a homesick, wisecracking alien (voiced by Rogen) from Area 51.
Why Should You See It? The pedigrees of the cast, writers and director suggest a cross between 'Shaun of the Dead,' 'Superbad,' and 'Galaxy Quest.' Sounds like fanboy/stoner comedy heaven.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Men in Black,' 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,' 'Alf'
Unscripted: Video interview with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
10 Funniest Movie Aliens | Awesome Aliens to Hang Out With
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Tomas Arana
Directed By: Neil Burger
What's It About? Cooper plays a man who becomes a successful overachiever when he stumbles across a pill that allows him access to 100 percent of his brain, only to find himself targeted by enemies, including tycoon De Niro.
Why Should You See It? Burger made one of the smartest thrillers of recent years, 'The Illusionist,' and advance word is that this is similarly clever and thoughtful, with a charismatic turn by Cooper and a performance by De Niro that suggests (for the first time in ages) some of his old fire.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Inception,' 'The Adjustment Bureau,' 'Phenomenon'
Robert De Niro interview | Trailers & Clips
'The Lincoln Lawyer' (R)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Michael Peña
Directed By: Brad Furman
What's It About? A slick defense attorney (McConaughey) who runs his practice out of his sedan gets in over his head when he defends a playboy (Phillippe) against an attempted murder charge.
Why Should You See It? McConaughey is an old hand at legal thrillers, of which this one, based on a Michael Connelly novel, is reported to be an especially well-crafted example.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'A Time to Kill,' 'Primal Fear,' 'Presumed Innocent'
The Top 25 Courtroom Dramas Ever | Trailers & Clips
'The Music Never Stopped,' a drama fresh from Sundance is about a young man with a brain tumor who can't form new memories and the father who can bond with him only through music. J.K. Simmons and Lou Taylor Pucci star.
Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
Still in Theaters, Still Awesome
•'Battle: Los Angeles' - Not all aliens are as funny and friendly as Paul. That's why we have Marines. And nukes. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
•'Red Riding Hood' - Oh, Amanda Seyfried, what big eyes you have. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
•'Jane Eyre' - Oh, Mr, Rochester, what big eyes you have. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
New on DVD: Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, you can take home 'The Fighter' and spend an evening not just with "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) but his whole sprawling, brawling family, including fire-breathing mom Alice (Oscar winner Melissa Leo), seven scary sisters, and crackhead big brother/trainer Dicky (Oscar winner Christian Bale). It's a boxing movie for people who don't like boxing movies; it's as much about how Micky makes good due to (and often in spite of) the support of his formidable family. Buy or rent the DVD | More new DVD releases
On Our Netflix Queue: As the earthquake/tsunami disaster continues to unfold in Japan, is it too soon to watch 'Hereafter,' Clint Eastwood's 2010 spiritual drama about near-death experiences, in which a devastating tsunami is a major plot point? Well, here's some incentive: Warner Bros. is sending some of the proceeds from the newly-released DVD to the Japanese Red Cross Society's relief efforts. Buy or rent the DVD
On TV: Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, but Uma can borrow it for a few hours. Whether you're a big fan of Quentin Tarantino's cartoonishly bloodthirsty 'Kill Bill Vol. 1' or the more thoughtful and contemplative 'Kill Bill Vol. 2,' it's rare you see both movies screened back to back. But that's what TNT is doing Saturday night (starting at 11PM), after the evening's college basketball games. Check your local listings
•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman.