The Godfather: first of three movies based on Mario Puzo’s tale of the Sicilian Mafia in New York, circa 1945-1955. There’s no denying that certain aspects of the film are great: it’s littered with original, shocking, powerful, and iconic scenes; there’s page after page of beautifully written dialogue (monologues and large conversations); the cast is truly monumental, and almost everyone is outstanding in their character’s portrayal. My biggest problem with The Godfather is that the sound mix is atrocious and – worse still – some character’s accents are so thick and/or non-enunciated that I watched the entire film with subtitles, in order to make any sense of some characters. Another flaw in the movie is that it could have been edited down, a lot; there’s entire sections of the film that have minimal impact on the story, but drag on and refuse to end (wedding, Sicily…). The direction’s OK – although editing is fairly rough – and the score really adds a punch to the movie. Perhaps this suffers from the ‘Chinatown Effect’ in that a mixture of lifelong hype, and the movie’s impact being far greater when it was released, that modern audiences are left a little cold and short-changed after seeing it. The Godfather feels like a great film diluted down into a good film, but ‘best film of all time’… sit your guinea-wop ass down in front of the tube, put on Godfellas, and tell me this is better – if ya do, ya’ll be sleeping with the fishes, see?
New York, I Love You: a collection of short stories all about New York and New Yoykers – loosely labelled under the umbrella ‘romance’. The vignette setup just doesn’t do it for me, far too many characters, and differing themes / tones / styles / storylines – all mashed together, tediously linked through the location. The second problem is the quality control, or lack of – a few of the shorts were really good; prom night, pickpockets, old couple – but the rest were all varyingly pretentious and dull stories featuring varyingly pretentious and dull artisan characters – some of whom are beyond absurd – Ethan Hawke, I’m talking to you. Despite being all about NY, and the ‘love of the city’ there’s not that much iconic scenery; it’s mostly grimy side streets, greasy spoons, apartments, bars, yellow cabs, ect, which doesn’t really capture the vibes of the big apple – although someone could probably argue that this captures ‘THE REAL NEW YORK, BRO’. Given the massive list of A-list actors (and them some) New York, I Love You is massively disappointing – parts are good, but overall it’s collectively dull. Give City Island a bash instead!
Henry’s Crime: Henry takes the blame for a robbery he knew nothing about, does three years in prison, and upon release hatches a plan to actually rob the bank: he’s done the time, why not commit the crime? My biggest issue with this is that, as a protagonist, Henry is one of the most uninteresting characters to lead a film – the personification of tedium and aimless. Vera Farmiga – playing an unpolished actress – does a really good job, where as Reeves has had a whole career being 2nd rate and seeing him ‘poorly read’ from a play-script actually blew up my irony-o-meter. James Caan steals the show as the loveable ‘confidence man’ – easily with the best character, best lines and all-round best performance. For an indie-rom-com-robbery-caper there were only 2-3 laughs, and it just felt like a really, really basic ‘bank job’ that wanted to be well grounded [like The Lookout] but was heavily laced with absurdity. Also, of all the plays to use in this type of film a high-brow Chekhov tragedy just didn’t fit the bill – and all the readings/scenes from that script really brought the tone down. There are a some elements that are good ideas; such as the prisoner that doesn’t want to leave prison, unlikely friendships, a bank robber being forced to take up acting, and changing the ending of an established play – however, the final scenes are a cinematic train wreck that you have to watch through your fingers. It’s all somewhat unfortunate because concept is great, and with this cast it definitely looks worth a punt, but having seen the film I realise why the distributors buried it in a busy month.