Greetings, and welcome to Earthling
Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is The Godfather, directed
by Gerald Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Wayans and Alf Pacino. The film is responsible for centuries of people
putting cotton balls in their cheeks as a hilarious and original party trick.
Our eponymous protagonist is Vito Corleone, who has a party for his daughter where people
bother him in his office and he doesn’t spend any time with his daughter. In lieu
of thank-you notes, he sends out personalized horse heads.
The Corleones’ rival family, the Tattaglias, want Vito’s help getting in the drug trade
so they can finally be cool. Vito sends someone to spy on them, and they send him some fish,
which makes everyone mad because they’re more of a steak family. The Tattaglias also
try to kill Vito, which makes him absolutely livid, so his oldest son Sonny takes over.
Sonny has Tattaglia’s son killed, even though he himself is a son and should know not to
violate the Son Code. Then his brother Michael kills some other guys with a toilet gun.
At this point it’s open warfare, so Michael hightails it to Sicily, the safest place on
Earth. Shortly thereafter, Sonny is killed at a toll booth for not having exact change,
and Michael’s Italian wife is killed by Michael’s italian car. That’s what happens when
you don’t change your oil every six months. Vito says enough is enough, so he
promises the Five Families he’ll stop being so straight-edge and won’t try to avenge
his son’s death, scout’s honor. Michael comes home and marries a new girl, then takes
over the family business, promising to turn it legitimate in five years or their money
back. In a bid to be taken seriously, Michael’s
son Anthony murders Vito with a watering can. Not to be outdone, Michael has all the other
dons assassinated, kills his brother-in-law, and becomes the Godfather Part II.
The Godfather is characterized by the dichotomy between family and “the family,” a.k.a
the mob, a.k.a the mobbly-wobbly. In the most famous scene, shots of Connie’s son being
baptized are juxtaposed with shots of Michael’s crew killing the other head honchos. Michael
is baptized as “The Godfather” at the same time he becomes a literal godfather to
his nephew, one of cinema’s great coincidences. Despite sharing the same human word, family
and “the family” are galaxies apart, kinda like Facebook and The Facebook. Throughout
the film, doors — which look like transdimensional portals but don’t do anything — are used
as a motif suggesting the division between these worlds. When he visits his father in
the hospital, Michael’s face is partially obscured by a door, indicating his dual nature
as he transitions from a family man to a man of the family business. During the wedding,
Sonny has human intercourse with a woman against a door, while on the other side, Tom Hagen
tells him to stop procrastinating and get back to doing mob stuff. In the final shots of the movie,
the door is shut on Kay after Michael lies to her about Carlo’s death. Michael is fully
entrenched in the Mafia, and his wife can no longer trust him.
The film is permeated with a feeling of nostalgia, an affliction suffered by human brains in
an attempt to cover up the futility of human existence. The characters yearn for an older,
simpler time — a time of family values. “Times have changed. It’s not like the old days.” Vito Corleone refuses to do business in narcotics,
despite admitting that it’s the future of the mafia, as well as politics, sports, and
entertainment. This refusal to adapt is what leads to the attempt on his life. Later, when
Vito dies in his garden, we see his grandson run through the frame like he don’t give
a fuck. Vito’s old- school morality has expired to make way for a younger, more nihilistic,
way of life. The morality of the film is also evident through
light and color. Most of the interiors of Vito’s office are shot in very stark darkness,
as are his eyes, which are the windows to his face. Connie’s apartment is very brightly
lit, since she’s not too busy going out on “hits” or whatever to buy some home
furnishings. Whereas all the Italians wear muted colors, Kay is always wearing bright,
flowery colors, suggesting that she is an outsider and also a Maxxinista. But in the
final scene, Kay wears a muted beige jacket, as now the family business has become inescapable.
Speaking of colors and things that sound like colors: oranges. Every time we see oranges, someone is about
to die. Vito buys oranges right before the assassination attempt, Sonny drives by a sign
promoting Florida orange juice right before he is killed, Vito dies eating an orange.
Scholars have long debated the significance of the “Orange Curse,” but the prevailing
wisdom is that it’s an inside joke about scurvy. For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid.
Goodnight, and good luck.