best films: #19: THE GODFATHER, PART II (1974)
Cornering the market (at least at the time) on stellar sequels, The Godfather, Part II doesn’t quite outdo its predecessor, but it comes awfully close. Perhaps its one detractor is the absence of the iconic Don Vito Corleone (played brilliantly, of course, by Marlon Brando in the original). But with son Michael (Al Pacino) front and center, the now semi-lost Pacino (what has happened to his career?!) shows the reason he was dubbed one of the tops of his generation. Continuing the saga of that lovable mafia family we grew to cherish in the 1972 original, Part II tells us two stories – one of Pacino’s Michael dealing with family drama (Connie’s got an abusive fiance who’s kind of a tattletale, to say the least, and Fredo, well… you know all about that, right?) and the other of Vito’s beginning as a mafia man (this time played by Oscar-winner for the role, Robert de Niro). Thanks to some expert storytelling by director Francis Ford Coppola and author/screenwriter Mario Puzo, this sequel is a must-see. Pacino is in top form (probably his best moments of the trilogy are in this film), and Diane Keaton, as Kay Corleone, gets a real chance to show her prowess (I need not mention her memorable freak-out moment do I?). Perhaps the real star of the show, though, is John Cazale. As the troubled, sniveling Fredo Corleone, Cazale is both sympathetically pathetic and disturbing in his priorities. And that kissing scene is top-notch, obviously. He, in fact, broke all of our hearts.