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Face-Off: Godfather vs. Godfather Part II

02.23.2012by: Paul Huffman
Last week in the battle between Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Ryan Gosling, it was tough to "choose" the better man. But that's the job and Gosling emerged victorious. However when the masses spoke Joseph Gordon-Levitt staged a comeback with our readers winning the vote 10-7. Consider all that love and admiration our belated birthday gift to you, sucka. This week's showdown will prove to be just as difficult for fans of these two films.

With the Oscars creeping up on us I've selected two classics that have received the honor of Best Picture in the past. The Godfather hit the scene, caught the world by surprise and won an Oscar for it in 1972. Then in 1974 came what many consider one of the only sequels to surpass it's predecessor in The Godfather Part II which was also awarded with Best Picture. We will focus on what has made these films so great. The Quotes & Kills, the two legendary actors who have portrayed Vito Corleone and won Oscars for it, the accolades these films have received, and the awesome endings these films give us. Let's jump in to it.
Vito vs. Vito
Marlon Brando had a rough journey in landing the part of the Corleone patriarch in Godfather I. The studio was adamant about him not getting the role and threatened to fire Francis Ford Coppola if he mentioned the name again. Then young Brando knocked his screen test out of the park and the rest is history. Vito in this first film is powerful, menacing in a subtle way, at peace with the man he became, and can shed a tear when the situation calls for it. Brando ended up winning the award for best actor for his portrayal but boycotted the awards by not showing up, his reason being distaste for the way American Indians had been portrayed in Hollywood films.
Robert De Niro was able to approach Vito Corleone in a much different way. The young Vito was subdued, humble, trying to survive, and on the verge of realizing his destiny. Something the character of Vito firmly believed in. It was fascinating to see Vito Corleone go from low level grocery worker to someone the whole neighborhood feared and respected. It mirrored Michael Corleone's transformation with tragically different results. Plus, Bobby D gets plenty of extra bonus points for portraying his whole role speaking Italian. De Niro also won the academy award for Best Actor for portraying the role.
Quotes
-"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

-"You spend time with your family? Good, because a man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."

-"YOU CAN ACT LIKE A MAN!"

-"Leave the gun, take the canoli."

-"Alright listen, I want someone good and I mean very good to plant that gun, I don't want my brother coming out of that toilet with just his dick in his hand."

-"I know it was you Fredo, you broke my heart. You broke my heart!"

-"I make him an offer he don' refuse."

-"Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

-"If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, is that you can kill anyone."

-"This is the business we've chosen."

Kills
There are a total of 17 kills in Godfather I. Including the bug eyed strangling of Luca Brasi, the murder of Solozzo & the Police Captain (a scene that when shown to executives kept Al Pacino from being fired from the film), the massive gun down of Sonny Corleone, and my favorite the shot in the eye to Moe Greene. There are plenty more and they were brutal, for a director who detests violence Francis sure delivered the goods.
The stand out murder of Godfather Part II is the murder of Don Fanucci that solidified Vito Corleone's position at the top of the underworld in his neighborhood. I mean that sh*t was mean, don't mess with a grocer. The rest of the kills in this film were tamed compared to the original or completely suggested by, but that did not make them any less effective.
Deleted Scenes
There are plenty of memorable scenes left on the cutting room floor in the first film. Most of them belong to Sonny after hearing his father has been shot, a very effective scene is when he went to his fathers office to make some calls and reluctantly glanced at his fathers chair and opted to pull up a chair beside the desk (this illustrates his reluctance to take over the mantle, improvised by James Caan.) There is also a heart warming scene between Michael and Kay in a hotel room that represents a stress free time in the relationship. Also a scene showcasing Sonny, Michael, and Tessio discussing whether or not Clemenza is a traitor. Good stuff.
The deleted scenes in Godfather II are mostly just extensions of scenes already seen in the film. Two memorable deleted scenes however are of when Vito is back in Italy and slaughtering the bodyguards that searched high and low in the village for him before killing the Don who ordered his mother killed. Showed the more ruthless side of Vito.
Endings
Michael has wiped out all his families enemies. Including his own brother in law, before he can officially be crowned Don his wife confronts him on what he's done. Here is where we find out what a good liar Michael will be come. It is chilling seeing the culmination of who Michael has become in this final scene, the caring man who wanted nothing to do with his family business is not recognizable. It was a great performance for Al Pacino and Diane Keaton. The final shot of Kay realizing she's been deceived is legendary.
The final flashback in Godfather II is maybe my favorite scene in the whole movie, we get to see all the faces we've missed, Marlon Brando's no show for filming made the scene more effective and chilling, and most of all we are reminded of the man Michael Corleone used to be. While alienated from his family he still had the principles that carried him through that part of his life. The fact that Fredo is the only member of the family who supports his military aspirations is tragic. The final two shots of Michael's isolation from his family bring his character full circle. Bravo.
Overall Story
The family dynamic in the first film is part of what made it such a classic. The memorable performances put forth by the whole cast and seeing the evolution of Michael Corleone was amazing to witness. I did not get bored for a single second watching this film as some have that I've spoken to. The kills were brutal, the emotion was felt, I still quote lines from the movie to this day. It's a classic you can't refuse.
Some found the plot of this film to hard to follow. Is it the inter-cutting between Vito's story and Michael's story? The contrast between the man that Vito became and the fall from grace that Michael is going through is what put this sequel on a whole other level. We cared about Michael in the first film and his evolution to tragic hero is sad to see, especially the result at the end of the film. It featured a great cast with great performances, and an amazing continuation of what the first film set up which is still rare even today. They don't make em like Godfather II anymore.
Godfather Part II
I had to let the tally speak for itself in this Face-Off. Both films are beloved, but it's true if pushed The Godfather II is grander in scale, the story is more mesmerizing, the continued fall (so to speak of Michael Corleone is more interesting to watch). As great as the first Godfather is, the fact that many people hold it's sequel in higher regard is no fluke, folks! But I know for a fact that this opinion is not shared by all so...

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