Thursday, March 15, 2012

An Offer They Couldn't Refuse

As I've mentioned in all three of my blogs, I am an adjunct journalism professor on one of the campuses in the Dallas community college system.

I spend most of my weekday afternoons in the newsroom of the student newspaper, advising the student journalists as they work on their articles for the next edition. One of those students writes about movies for the paper, and one of his recent topics has been a limited theatrical re–release of "The Godfather," which was originally released to the theaters 40 years ago today.

He and I were talking about that movie in the newsroom before spring break began. I never saw it at the theater — I was much too young to be admitted by myself, and my parents thought I was much too young to see it, anyway, so neither would take me.

At the time, I didn't like that. No surprise there, right? I mean, does anyone ever like being restricted?

In hindsight, though, I must concede that they were right about that. I finally saw it for the first time about eight years later, when I was mature enough to understand the story — and not be traumatized by the violence.

But I still haven't seen it at a theater, and the prospect of finally seeing it the way audiences did 40 years ago was tempting.

I've seen "The Godfather" on television, of course. Several times. I even have it on home video so I have seen both the edited version that has been shown on commercial TV and the original, unedited version. I've just never seen it on the big screen.

I must admit, this student made a compelling argument for seeing the movie at the theater — and I would have done so except that it was only showing at one location in this metropolitan area, a location that is quite a distance from my apartment (and distance is a prohibitive factor for me, given the level of current gas prices), and the theater was charging more than $12 for tickets to this special showing (which may be in line with prices being charged for new releases but seems excessive to me for admission to a 40–year–old movie).

So I allowed that opportunity to slip past me, which may well mean that I will never have another chance to see "The Godfather" on the silver screen. Well, I've lived this long without that experience. I suppose I can live the rest of my life without it.

I guess the main thing, though, is that I have seen the movie — on the smaller television screen, to be sure — and, for someone who admires great stories and great acting, that's important because "The Godfather" had both and was recognized for both at the Academy Awards.

The theatrical experience might have enhanced my appreciation for the Oscar–nominated costumes and sound, but maybe not as much as you might think. I already appreciated both a lot. I didn't see much room for improvement.

I mean, how high is up?

Still, that theater sound — which is far greater than what I have in my humble home — would have been tough to beat. I may regret that from time to time — because ordinary, everyday sounds often seem enhanced on TV.

I recall watching "The Godfather" on commercial TV once and thinking to myself that, in an earlier scene in which Don Corleone slapped his godson, it sounded like a car door being slammed in an echo chamber.

Oh, well, no use fretting about it now. The limited engagement is over.

But, thanks to home video, "The Godfather" can be experienced by anyone anywhere at any time.

And it should be experienced by everyone, at least once. So should its sequel, "The Godfather: Part II," which was released two years later and was the rarest of all movies — a sequel that not only matched the original but actually surpassed it.

The American Film Institute named "The Godfather" the second–best film of the last century — second only to "Citizen Kane" — and deservedly so.

Of course, "The Godfather" also produced AFI's second–most memorable quote — "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse" — which is still recognized as a subtle but highly efficient way of telling people that their, ahem, cooperation is expected — and will be obtained, one way or another.

Taken out of context, the line means nothing, really, but within the context of the violent universe occupied by the characters, it had considerable meaning.

"The Godfather" also earned recognition from AFI for being the 11th–most thrilling movie of the last century. (FYI: The term thrill "crossed many genres," according to AFI, "including Action–Adventure, Silent, Film Noir, Horror, Science Fiction, Suspense, War and Western.")

"The Godfather" breathed new life into the gangster genre — even as its stars took the on–screen lives of the more modest characters.

It often did so without having to resort to graphic imagery. The infamous scene in which the movie mogul wakes to find the severed head of his prized horse in his bed is the ideal example.

But it was graphic at times, such as the scene in which Sonny was ambushed at the tollbooth.

Make no mistake about it. "The Godfather" richly deserved the R rating it received.

So, on this 40th anniversary of the release of what AFI apparently has concluded is the greatest film to be made since the end of World War II, let me offer a word of caution.

If you have never seen "The Godfather," but you would like to on this anniversary, and if you have children who have said they would like to see it, too, watch it first and then make an honest assessment of whether your child(ren) can handle it.

It is a powerful movie experience, and those who are not ready for it should not be subjected to it.