Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Godfather II, Star Wars, and the Bachelor

No, they're not related, but there's not much sports news to report, especially since I haven't watched any of the NBA Playoffs so far, and thus, I'm reduced to cultural criticism.

I finally convinced the wife to watch it with me on Sunday night and she, of course, loved it. (If she would just listen to me more...) As always, I learned something new from watching the movie. I had always thought that Pentangeli was involved in the assassination attempt on Michael and that that was why he was told to commit suicide at the end, but after watching the movie again, it finally dawned on me that he had nothing to do with the attempt, but he was advised to open his veins because he had decided to testify against the Corleone family. I also thought that Senator Geary was a violent sex freak and that's how the family managed to blackmail him, but now, after reading IMDB, it turns out that he was slipped a mickey and set up. This should have occurred to me before, but the lesson as always is that I'm not smart.

The final scene, where Michael is having a flashback to having dinner with his siblings, brought home to me that the first two Godfather movies are a tale about the fall of Michael Corleone, not unlike Star Wars I-III, although with better dialogue and less CGI. In the dinner scene, which takes place before Godfather I, Michael is a college-educated man who is so patriotic that he volunteers to fight on the day that the U.S. is attacked by the Japanese. By the end of Godfather II, he has alienated his wife to the point that she aborts his son and he's murdered his brother. The fact that Carlo Rizzi and Tessio are at the dinner flashback is important because they are both people who betray Michael, forcing him to off them and contributing to his disillusionment as a person.

Michael's downfall is illustrated by his statement early in Godfather II that everyone working for him is a businessman looking out for his own interest. He's a selfless guy who's happy to fight for something other than himself (his country) at the outset, but being betrayed by everyone around him, including his own family, jades him into a person who thinks selfishly.

There are some good Anakin Skywalker parallels there. Anakin's downfall isn't so much betrayal (we wouldn't want any moral ambiguities that might make us sympathetic to him; those ambiguities don't exist in the Galaxy Far Far Away) as it is his anger about being a slave, losing his mother, and then losing (or contemplating the possibility of losing) his wife. Michael's downfall is similar, but distinct in that he doesn't just lose his father and brother; he loses them because he's betrayed by his own family because they are corrupted by greed.

In juxtaposition to Sunday night's high-brown entertainment, Monday night brought another viewing of The Bachelor and more evidence of my devolution, not simply because I watch and enjoy that show, but because I'm better at picking the results of that show than I am at picking sports events. It was fun watching a contestant melt down last night and claim, in a fit of unbelievable narcissism, that her beauty was a curse because resentment of it led her to be voted off, but at this stage, I need my balls reattached. Hopefully, I'll get to the Braves game tonight and will be back tomorrow to talking about Furcal's lousy plate discipline as opposed to insane women fighting with other insane women.


peacedog said...

Episode III is not going to be good (though this is Lucas' best shot; my expectations couldn't be any lower. In fact, I'mnot sure I have any expectations out side of "typical of the new trilogy".

Theyt haven't taken one credible step towards setting Anakin up for a fall from grace. They pointed at him and said He Is The Chosen One(tm). And the Jedi Council said But There Is a Twist(tm) - He Is Too Dangerous. And dangerous chosen ones can become evil - heaven forbid that happen.

Everyone seems to excited about Ep3 and Anakin going to the darkside, but everything has been developed so badly at this point I fail to see how the movie can be good. I hate George Lucas.

Michael said...

I agree that Lucas has left himself a long way to go. He should have bagged Episode I and started with Hayden Christiansen as Anakin. That said, they did set up his potential decline by showing his reaction to his mother's death and his fear of losing Amidala. I prefer a more compex explanation for why someone would go from good to evil than "I love the women in my life," but the groundwork is at least there.

I'm mostly excited about the emotional payoff from this movie. I've been waiting to see Vader's origins for decades now, so it'll be neat to finally see it on the screen.

peacedog said...

I really don't think he set up the decline. He essentially laid out a very basic and shallow story, put up a couple of signs that said "WARNING, MOMENT THAT CONTRIBUTES TO CHARACTER DECLINE LOOMING", and that is that.

Anakin needed one foot in the darkside by the end of ep 2, and he didn't have that. We got *1* seen where the chancellor was pimping him, talking about forseeing him as the greatest jedi, blah blah blah. We needed to see the Chancellor touching base with him numerous times, first as he initially ecomes a recruit, later as he starts to grow, and even after he is basically taking on the role of a full jedi (which we needed to be taking place in episode 2. He should have gone from more to padawan to jedi during this movie at the latest).

Foreshadowing is good. But Lucas hasn't really done a good job with it. It's funny because he certainly has capable actors and actresses. I've seen Mcgregor be good. Anakin is very good in the movie Shattered Glass (I recommend it), about former New Republic journalist Stephen Glass who lied his way through his career. I've seen Portman be good. The lesser characters (like Smits and Terrance Stamps) aren't oging to get alot of room to show off their acting chops, but they should have been able to provide some solid moments in their limited screen time.

Thanks to Lucas, even that wasn't possible. He fails both in story and in execution, IMO, and I think ep3 is doomed to fall flat.

I'd love a gargatuan space battle, and some nice action scenes. But I suspect we'll get mediocre versions of both wrapped around an awful plot. And fans will love it, because Lucas is the single greatest marketer on the planet. If Lucas Arts sold shit in a box, it'd make billions.