The Godfather

Mario Puzo’s novel, The Godfather, has sold over 21 million copies and spent 67 weeks on the bestseller list. The novel about New York’s most powerful organized crime family, the Corleones, is eternally greeted with open arms and enthusiasm; it’s impact still deeply entrenched in pop culture.

For the most part, reviews of the novel were positive and ranged from “fun fiction” to “shockingly believable.” Hal Burton of The Saturday Review wrote “…a staggering triumph…the definitive novel about a sinister fraternity of crime.”

And while most did hail the quality of the novel, some criticized Puzo’s glorification and romanticisation of the criminal characters, stating that he them too likeable. In a 1996 interview with the Associated Press, Mario Puzo addressed his portrayal of the Corleones, admitting that “with their emphasis on honor and family, I made the Mafia more romantic than the thuggery or buffoonery of the real thing.” 

The film version of The Godfather was released in 1972 and was an astounding success. In fact, a negative review is difficult to find. Vincent Canby, in his New York Times review from 1972, wrote that “Coppola has made one of the most brutal and moving chronicles of American life designed within the limits of popular entertainment.” That review was one of the least enthusiastic I’ve come across. Most were along the lines of “From the ‘I believe in America’ speech to the final shot…this is near flawless film-making. ‘The Godfather’ is one of the greatest American movies” (Kevin A. Laforest, Montreal Film Journal). Even all the reviews submitted to commemorate the film’s re-release for its 25th Anniversary in 1997 showed the film had not lost any of its appeal. These were all equally positive, and often even more so. Somewhat ironic that perhaps like revenge, The Godfather may be a dish better served cold for all its heat and passion – it never seems to go out of style.

Now, perhaps I may be biased considering that The Godfather is my personal favourite trilogy of all time, thus meaning that I may overlook negative comments and reviews… But… Nah. It’s just timeless. 

The Godfather Part II was released two years after the original and the reviews for the second instalment actually paint a different picture than those of the original. Although mostly very positive, hailing this film as the greatest sequel ever made, in general they tended to be mixed. Roger Ebert (one of my personal foes, although he knows nothing of my existence) of the Chicago Sun Times wrote in his review in 1975, “The stunning text of ‘The Godfather’ is replaced in ‘Part II’ with prologues, epilogues, footnotes, and good intentions.” Ebert gave the film 3 stars. SO rude. However, Ebert later added the film to his “Great Movies” list, stating that in conjunction with the original, it is a must see.

There was one review – by Dan Jardine of the Appollo Movie Guide – that I think perfectly illustrates the feeling The Godfather Part II evoked in many people. He wrote “The mother of all sequels: a film at once both greater and lesser than its predecessor.” Many know exactly what Mr. Jardine means – feeling a deep connection with the first installment of this trilogy, its characters, its music, its mood, one can only deepen the feeling by revisiting these people and those places.

And then there was The Godfather Part III. Yes, it is the least-looked upon of the trilogy and many thought it a huge disappointment, including myself. However, my least favourite reviewer Roger Ebert gave this film 3 1/2 stars and found it to be superior to Part II. He makes the very valid point that in comparison to Part I and II, Part III is mediocre. On its own merit, however, The Godfather Part III is far from a bad film.

Positive and negative reviews aside, the trilogy holds an impressive legacy. Together they received 28 Academy Award nominations and won 9, including the Best Picture Oscar for the first two films. The Godfather was the top grossing film of all time for three years running. Part II was the first sequel to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture and the first picture ever to receive 5 Oscar nominations for acting. Parts I & II are both on the American Film Institute’s list of “100 Greatest American Movies of All Time,” listed at #2 and # 32, respectively. Both I and II are on Roger Ebert’s list of Great Movies and was voted #7 on TV Guide Magazine’s list of “50 Greatest Movies on TV and Video” (August 8-14, 1998), The Godfather, Part II took top honors on that list, ranking #1. The Godfather was voted the “Greatest Film of All Time” by the readers of Entertainment Weekly; its sequel placed 6 rankings behind at #7. Both Parts I & II are on Time Magazine’s “All-Time 100 Best Films” and IGN FilmForce lists The Godfather as the #1 “Top Drama of All Time” with Part II as #7 on that list. And on and on – it is, in fact, difficult to see any “great films” list, whether by a fan or an established “expert” where one or both of these films is not listed or mentioned.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll be aware of how much I like to make lists of my favourite films and therefore how much of a #saddo I am. But fun lists aside, you cannot deny the legacy and greatness of this trilogy. 

University Survival Guide

So, you’ve done the hard part: you’ve conquered your A-Levels and got into the university of your choice – congratulations! Now, what on earth do you take with you?! Don’t fret, super Chloe is here…

First, a quick few boring tips:

  1. Aim to travel light! Don’t make the same mistake I did and overpack.  You’re moving into a small room with very limited storage space. Take a suitcase of clothes, a quilt, pillows, all the essentials.
  2.  Don’t splash out on expensive stuff. You’ll find perfectly decent quilts, pillows and stationery at the likes of Home and Bargain.
  3. Also, this may seem obvious but make sure you’ve checked what the uni will be providing you with before you go out and splash the cash on things you’ll end up with two of.

Now, young grasshopper, here’s a few tips for surviving your lectures and seminars:

  1. Sit where you’re comfortable in lecture theatres and seminar rooms. You don’t want to sit right near the front, especially if you’ve been graced with a haughty, arrogant (possibly verbally abusive) professor. My suggestion is the mid-back. Optimum seatage.
  2. Don’t write everything down! Writing down every word your lecturer says will give you hand cramps and brain cramps. Also, it’s actually really unimportant. You want to get down main points, key info and a few sub-points. Viola! If you write down irrelevant information about how Churchill proposed to his wife, Clemmy, in the Blenheim Palace gardens you will hate yourself and your modules.
  3. Pay attention to important themes. This really applies more to humanities, social sciences and the arts. For example, I study History and Politics, so I found that a lot of things overlapped like revolutions, ideologies and war.
  4. Learning the skill of avoiding difficult questions in seminars is a skill of mine. It’s one you should try to master ASAP. First, not making eye contact is key. Look engrossed in your notes; this is where a laptop comes in. So handy. But if you’ve only got a pad and pen with you, just look around the room and look someone in the eyes – they’ll soon speak up, before you’re asked.

When it comes to living in halls…

  1. Build a support system. Your flatmates are your family away from home; the people who you will need to turn to for advice at 2 in the morning, and to rant to about how much that goddamn annoying ‘Making History’ module is. NOONE CARES ABOUT THE ‘HISTORY OF SPACE’!! WHAT EVEN IS THAT?? WHO CARES ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AGES AND THEIR VIEW OF HOW MANY CONTINENTS THERE ARE?? WHO!! CARES!!
  2. Try to put off washing your clothes for as long as possible when you’re living in halls. It costed me a fiver to do a wash and tumble dry this year. Once you reach second year and you have the beauty of a washing machine in your house, you can use it to your heart’s content.
  3. Make simple food. Your essentials should include pasta, pasta sauces and frozen food from Iceland (the shop, dummy). Cheap and easy. Love it.
  4. If you’re crossing the North-South divide like I did, the cost of a night out will really shock you. To keep the cost down, I suggest getting some cheap ale in – £3.40 wine from Tesco, The Straw Hat, is a personal fave of mine – and then just get yourself a couple of cheapo shots when you’re out.

The most important thing about First Year, though, is that you have fun. That’s what your first year is for! Yes, studying is important, but it’s all about the personal experience. Now, down it FRESHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Mona Lisa Smile

”You can bake your cake and eat it too!” says the reassuring slogan that distills the comfy revisionist feminism of the film and is repeated empathically enough to qualify as the defining mantra of the film. Mona Lisa Smile preaches both disruptive female self-empowerment and the dream of being swept up and away by Prince Charming.

Julia Roberts plays Katherine Watson, a free-spirited UCLA graduate who goes to teach Art History at the snooty all female Wellesley College in 1953, shaking up the place enough to be deemed subversive by the Wellesley thought police. The insistence with which she presses her mildly progressive agenda makes her a kind of academic Hillary Clinton. And in her art history classes, she challenges her students to do more than simply identify paintings shown in slides.

Why is an original van Gogh a work of art and reproduction is not? she asks. And where does a do-it-yourself, paint-by-numbers van Gogh fit into the scheme of things? The appearance of a Jackson Pollock canvas of abstract expressionism on campus stirs up ripples of controversy.

But Katherine’s biggest mistake has nothing to do with notions of arty aesthetics. Arriving at Wellesley, she is appalled to discover that almost all of her students have no ambitions beyond settling down with Mr. Right. Her rebellion culminates with an indignant slide show of vintage magazine ads displaying perky wives reigning like queens in their immaculate kitchens.

Making some interesting appearances are Marcia Gay Harden as the world’s prissiest (and weepiest) teacher of elocution and poise, Juliet Stevenson as the discreetly lesbian school nurse with progressive ideas about birth control, and that empress of hauteur, Marian Seldes, playing the intransigently starchy college president. Dominic West, as a carnivorous-eyed professor of Italian who sleeps with his students, gives the movie a shot of testosterone.

But the main girls are Kirsten Dunst, Juliw Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ginnifer Goodwin. Each plays a specific type:

  1. Kirsten Dunst plays Betty Warren, a vicious, overprivileged archtraditionalist hellbent on marriage, who attacks Katherine in the college newspaper.
  2. Julia Stiles plays Joan Brandwyn, Katherine’s protage who finds herself torn between marriage and Yale Law School. 
  3. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Giselle Levy, a wised-up rebel who sleeps around and almost loses her bearings. 
  4. Ginnifer Goodwin plays Connie Baker, the house wallflower who can’t believe it when a boy asks her out. 

These women bring life to perhaps one of the most underrepresented minorities in film: the intelligent woman. However, the screenwriters ensure that the film is left open to interpretation by the audience as their writing ensures that both sides of the plot are made to appear right: there is no shame in being a wife, just as there is no shame in being a self-empowered woman, just as long as your intellectual potential is fulfilled. 

On This Day: August 14th

On this day in 1941, the Atlantic Charter was a joint declaration by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, defining the Allied goals for the post war world. 

The Charter stated the ideal goals of the war as follows: 

  • no territorial aggrandizement; no territorial changes made against the wishes of the people
  • self-determination; restoration of self-government to those deprived of it
  • reduction of trade restrictions; global cooperation to secure better economic and social conditions for all
  • freedom from fear and want
  • freedom of the seas
  • abandonment of the use of force
  • disarmament of aggressor nations. 

Best Chick Flicks Part 5

50 First Dates

Adam Sandler sets his heart on romancing Drew Barrymore, but she has short-term memory loss so can’t remember anything that happened the day before. So every morning, he has to woo her again. (Rob Schneider antics make an appearance).


Notting Hill

Hugh Grant is a  bookstore owner in Notting Hill, London, whose mediocre existence is thrown into quite the romantic turmoil when famous American actress Julia Roberts appears in his shop. Long story short: they attempt to reconcile their different lifestyles in the name of love.


Bride Wars

Since they were little girls, Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway have been planning every aspect of their future weddings.When a clerical error causes a clash in wedding dates, they discover their inner demons and their lifelong friendship is a possible casualty.


Mona Lisa Smile

Julia Roberts plays a UCLA graduate hired to teach art history at  all-female Wellesley College in 1953. Determined to confront the outdated mores of society and the institution that embraces them, she inspires her students to challenge the lives they are expected to lead.


The Princess Diaries

Anne Hathaway finds out that she is the heir apparent to the throne of the small European principality of Genovia. The film follows her journey towards the throne with her strict grandmother Julie Andrews giving her “princess lessons”.

Best Chick Flicks Part 4

She’s The Man

Any fan of the Bard will love She’s The Man, which was based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Duke wants Olivia who likes Sebastian who is really Viola whose brother is dating Monique and she hates Olivia who is with Duke to make Sebastian jealous who is really Viola who fancies Duke who thinks that she is Sebastian…Confused? Never fear, Channing Tatum will cure that.


Bridget Jones Diary

At the start of the New Year, Renee Zellweger decides it’s time to take control of her life and start keeping a diary. Attempting to improve herself, she’s torn between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. (Meanwhile, us normal people are just sat here in bed dreaming about being stuck between those two).


First Wives Club

Reunited by the suicide of a college friend, three divorced women seek revenge on their husbands who all left them for younger women. Featuring Goldie Hawn in a white leather pant suit, Maggie Smith as what can only be described as the social queen of NYC, and a cameo from a young Sarah Jessica Parker, what more could you possibly want?


13 Going On 30

A 13 year old girl sick of the social strictures of school transforms into a grownup overnight. But adulthood  isn’t as easy as it looks. Jennifer Garner plays a fantastic 13 year old in a 30 year old body/life. It also features hunky Mark Ruffalo, if you needed more reasons to watch it.


Love Actually

Nine interconnected stories all examine the complexities of love. Featuring Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Martine McCutcheon and Martin Freeman (amongst many others), this is the ultimate Christmas film.

On This Day: August 4th

On this day in 1914, Britain declared war on Germany following the German invasion of Belgium. The invasion of Belgium (to get to France in order to execute the Schlieffen Plan) tipped the balance due to the 1839 agreement by Britain to guarantee both Belgium’s neutrality and independence. It was a decision that is seen as the start of World War One.