The Godfather (1972)
”I spent my whole life trying not to be careless. Women and children can be careless. But not men.”
"I believe in America" -- and America embraced The Godfather, turning it into a landmark artistic triumph and blockbuster hit. The movie was initially planned as a low-budget adaptation of Mario Puzo's Mafia family best-seller, and young director Francis Ford Coppola was hired because Paramount thought he would be easy to control. Instead, he fought the studio to cast little-known Al Pacino as Michael Corleone and foundering Marlon Brando as Don Vito, and he turned The Godfather into an operatic period epic about family, honor, and American economic success (the word "Mafia" is never used); in return, he was almost fired during production. The finished film's narrative drive and imagery were astonishing. Beginning with the opening sequence intercutting Vito's sepulchral study with the bright wedding outside, Coppola renders the Corleones threatening in their business and appealing in their closeness as they negotiate the legacy of Vito's prosperity. Gordon Willis' shadowy cinematography infused the film with shades of black, brown, and gold, contrasting bleak Family dealings with warm family loyalty. The famously extreme violence, particularly the horse head and Sonny's tollbooth demise (echoing 1967's Bonnie and Clyde), revealed the cost of protecting the family honor; the baptism montage elevated Michael's corruption to diabolical proportions as he consolidates his business power. Highly anticipated and critically revered, The Godfather became one of the biggest box-office hits of all time, adding several catchphrases to the cultural lexicon, revitalizing the gangster genre, turning Pacino into a star, and reviving Brando's career. Nominated for 10 Oscars, The Godfather won Best Picture, but Brando snubbed his Best Actor prize and Coppola lost Best Director to Cabaret's Bob Fosse. Willis' cinematography wasn't even nominated, and although Nino Rota's memorable music did initially receive a nomination, the Academy rescinded it when they discovered that Rota included material in the score from one of his earlier compositions. In 1998, the American Film Institute named The Godfather one of the three greatest American films ever made, testifying to its enduring artistic legacy.
Point Blank (1967)
”Fairfax is dead. He just doesn't know it yet.”
John Boorman's Point Blank was one of the most interesting and quietly influential films of late 1960s American cinema. Unashamedly violent, void of morality, and full of "European" experimentation, the film ignored the conventions of typical Hollywood crime thrillers. Compared to the stark grimness of typical crime movies, Point Blank was downright phantasmagoric in its narrative structure, camera placement, color schemes, and sounds. Released just three weeks after the similarly revolutionary Bonnie and Clyde, the film was not an immediate hit with audiences; even though star Lee Marvin was coming off the successful The Dirty Dozen, the film got swept up in the "violence-in-movies" controversy. Where Warren Beatty's Clyde and Faye Dunaway's Bonnie were sympathetic and glamorous, Marvin seemed capable of "bashing somebody's brains out," to paraphrase his famous line from The Dirty Dozen. But the actor's icy menace and Boorman's artistic pretensions have gone on to influence filmmakers to come, most notably Paul Schrader, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, and Quentin Tarantino.