Random Thoughts on “The Godfather, Part 2”

Yes, we’re back to this. Again and again, I keep examining these movies. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Well, I’ll try to surprise you. Mostly because these are almost entirely nitpicks and complaints. Anyway… 

1. Cazale Got Stepped Ova! No disrespect to DiNiro for winning Supporting Actor, but with hindsight it seems INSANE that Cazale didn’t win. He wasn’t even nominated! Given the legacy of this particular film, and of the Fredo character, and the scenes involving Cazale — hinging on his performance — it’s very surprising that it wasn’t recognized sooner. This seems like a year when they should have bent the rules and had 2 award for the category. 

2. The Slow Kill. When Michael told his assassin on how to kill Hyman Roth, I think he told him, “Make sure you move really slower. Hey… SLOWER!” On the other hand…

3. The Black Hand. When Coppola directed Don Fanucci actor Gastone Moschin, I think he told him, “Make sure you go bigger. Hey… BIGGER!”

Both of these decisions are clearly done for specific reasons. Choices were made, one to draw out the tension, the other to build a character to a certain status. It all works in the moment, but whenever I think of those moments independent from each other, they stick out as weird. 

4. Swapped Dialog? The scene where Michael is describing the suicide rebel (aka “The Cake Scene”) has a moment that has always felt off to me. It goes like this, paraphrased: 

MICHAEL

…It occured to me: the soldiers are paid to fight. The rebels aren’t. 

ROTH

What does that tell you?

MICHAEL

They can win.

ROTH

This country has had rebels for the last fifty years. It’s in their blood, believe me, I know. I’ve been coming here since the 20’s. We were running molasses out of Havana when you were a baby — the trucks, owned by your father…

And so on. 

The weird line is Roth asking “What does that tell you?” As though he and Michael agree that the unpaid, passionate rebels could actually win their battle and overthrow the government. The next lines are Roth convincing him otherwise (the Roth version of “Don’t worry about it”). But that one line — that “What does that tell you?” — seems like Roth, too, knows the rebels could win. 

5. Vito attends the worst play ever. I know it’s movies, and I know we don’t want to spend time watching 2 hours of stage play, but seriously, what could the story even be of this little drama attended by Vito and “Frankie Carbone?” Maybe the idea was that this was just a scene, but if that’s the case then A.) where are the other actors for the other little dramas? Because one tiny play isn’t going to draw this big a crowd. And B.) why is the actress only in one part? She only has one line — “A letter for you” or something equally as memorable. On this occasion, I’m with Don Fanucci: I’d get up and leave early, too. 

6. Hyman Roth: the Complex Kill. Hyman Roth’s plan to kill Michael was to send people to his home, right? They got access through Fredo somehow and tried to shoot him through the window. But when that failed, Roth had those people killed, too? And left them to be found? I’ve never quite understood this. On one hand, it fits the momentum of the scene, where the Corleone’s are finding information that only leads to more questions. But on the other hand… why were those dead bodies left? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to kill them someplace else? Or leave their bodies someplace else? 

Furthermore, was it Roth’s plan to have the Risotto brothers attack and nearly kill Frankie, complete with the line, “Michael Corleone sends his regards?” Why did they do that at all? Was getting interrupted by the cop part of Roth’s plan? I’ve never quite understood any of this. 

7. Hyman Roth: the “Simplest” Kill. It’s always bugged me that — after all the OVERLY complex planning mentioned above — the way in which they kill Roth is rather simple. There’s a build up with Michael’s speech about how “You can kill anybody,” but what was the planning of this attack like? “The plan is you’re gonna go up and shoot him. And then the plan is done.” Sure, it’s a long movie already and you likely don’t want to slow it down near the end with a big planning scene, but a little planning might have been nice. 

I suppose it could also be a decision to downplay the actually killing and focus more on the results of those killings. The consolidation of Michael’s power along with his continued descent into darkness. It’s just that the Roth thing always stuck out as such a… I’m just going to say it: a “meh” moment. 

8. How NOT To Do a Prequel. No I’m not talking about the Old New York scenes, because those parts are magical. I’m talking about a tiny moment later in the movie, during that timeline, and it represents by far the lamest bit of trivia, if that’s even what it can be called: the origin of Don Tommasino’s limp. I never thought much about it in the first movie (he was an older guy, and sometimes older guys have trouble walking), but apparently the filmmakers DID think about it, because they put its origin in “Part 2,” during the attack of the Ciccio compound. I can’t even wrap my head around how useless this is. It’s actually so small that most people would miss it or not care, and maybe that’s to the filmmaker’s credit. But I fear students of the film will learn the wrong lessons from this move. Probably not, but I have to worry about something. 

I’ve done enough. If anyone can explain some of these answers, I’d love to hear about it.

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