Best Picture This: The 1973 Academy Awards- The Godfather

The Godfather opening title card.

As our Best Picture This continues on, we’re taking a look at one of the, if not the, greatest American movie ever made- The Godfather.

The Godfather

It’s 1972, but it feels more like the late Forties. Gravy is simmering on the stove. Garlic and gunpowder linger in the air. Luca Brasi is sleeping with the fishes and Don Corleone is making an offer you can’t refuse. It’s all going down at the 1973 Academy Awards where the Best Picture nominees were:


The Emigrants



and The Godfather.

Here’s the trailer (I used the 50th Anniversary trailer because it looks so much better than the original).

 The Farley Award

How do you give a Farley Award to a film that has one iconic moment after another. Do you give it to the opening scene, “I believe in America,” that sets up the entire movie? What about giving it to Luca Brasi “sleeps with fishes?” There’s the classic Sonny being machine gunned down at the tollbooth. Michael shooting Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey at the restaurant? Then it has to be the baptism scene where Michael cleans house. It’s arguably some of the finest editing in cinema history.

Kissing Don Corleone's ring
From left to right, Salvatore Corsitto as Bonasera, James Caan as Santino ‘Sonny’ Corleone and Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in ‘The Godfather’.

My first instinct was to cheat the system, combining the first scene of Nazorine, the cake maker, kissing Don Vito Corleone’s hand with the last scene of Clemenza kissing Michael Corleone’s hand. The transfer of power is complete. The college boy who told his girlfriend, “That’s my family, Kay. That’s not me” has become the head of the family. It’s when the door to Michael’s office closes and the camera sits on Kay’s face that she knows the college boy she fell in love with is no more.

But we’re going to think outside the cinema box to find our Farley Award. The Farley Award for The Godfather goes to the young boy playing Michael’s son Anthony. His isn’t necessarily a “performance.” I don’t know for a fact, but it feels like the boy was never told what was happening was all make believe. He’s genuinely frightened when Marlon Brando growls with the orange rind in his mouth. He’s full of joy when he and Brando are playing in the garden. His reactions and tears when Vito dies is pure.

Young Anthony looks at his dead grandfather and is very scared.

The Golden Take

As an Italian-American there are certain traditions that are followed generation after generation. Sunday dinners with more pasta, sauce, and bread than a family can eat. Your nana telling you that you’re too skinny and you need to get meat on your bones. Big weddings that last way too long and big funerals. During the Holidays the older-older generations would still celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes, though that practice seems few and far between as the older generations pass away. Every Sunday, whether you liked it or not, you were going to mass. In addition, you were going to every day of obligation. If it’s a Wednesday, you’re going. If it’s a Thursday, you’re going.

The one thing that is a constant in Italian-American families is the strong bond which extends out to the Italian-American community. This is not to say that all Italian-American families are tight. Families will be families no matter what their nationality or ethnic backgrounds. Families argue and get in fights. No one argues quite like an Italian mother and father. Generally speaking, Italian-American families are tight knit.

Sonny's car riddled with machine gun fire.

The Godfather may be the most famous mafia movie of its kind. In the more than fifty years since its release it has been copied, stolen from, and has inspired more movies than I can count. However, it’s more than just a mafia movie. The Godfather, more than anything, is about family. The Corleone family is like any other family in America, for the most part. The family experiences ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, and heartbreak. They just handle their problems a little different than other families. Through it all one mantra they live by is “Don’t ever go against the family.” Damn, right. Don’t ever go against the family.

Kick It or Keep It

I’m biased when it comes to The Godfather. Growing up we would watch it at least once a year. As a kid, it was something to watch. I didn’t really understand or realize what was going on in the film. As we got older the family viewings became fewer and fewer until they stopped altogether.

Kissing Don Michael Corleone's ring.

It wasn’t until I was older I could appreciate Gordon Willis’s cinematography. Listening to Nino Rota’s iconic score now brings the movie flooding into my head. Back then I couldn’t appreciate the book ends of the movie. As an older view I can say those book endings are a masterclass in storytelling. There’s not a wasted scene in the movie.

If there is a negative in the movie it’s the character of Connie. Talia Shire, Connie, spends about ninety percent of her time crying. There’s no character there to cling to or even be interested in. It’s only the fallout of her husband beating her that moves her story along to the inevitable conclusion of her husband, Carlo, being killed by Michael.

Even with that one negative is The Godfather a Keeper? Yes, The Godfather is a 100% KEEP.