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January 18, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-01-18
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A Film Saga You Can't Refuse

Testing the Limits of Peda

By Tony Silber
"Every family has bad
Very true in most cases, but
quite an understatement when it
comes to the Corleones. Although
many of us may have some bad
blood in our families, the
Corleones never hesitate to spill
that blood in ruthless and
symbolic ways. But despite their
ruthless nature, we have become
endeared to these cold-blooded
killers ever since Mario Puzo told
us of those "offers" no one could
Francis Ford Coppola is the
cinematic visionary who took
Puzo's 1969 best seller and
brought it to the screen as one of
the most acclaimed motion
pictures of the last twenty years.
The question of a sequel two years
after the original had Paramount
executives giddy, but probably
had most critics very skeptical, to
say the least. After the sequel's
premiere during Thanksgiving,
1974, the doubters were silenced
and Paramount was rewarded
with a very merry Christmas.
"It's not personal, just
The Godfather and The
Godfather, Part II are now
institutions in the American
cinematic repertoire. The two
films received 21 Academy
Award nominations between
them-and won nine, including
Best Picture for both.
But there is much more to
these two films besides the prizes
they garnered. Important,
breathtaking films that shroud
all other films in an aura of
inferiority are exceptionally rare.
It is no wonder, then, that a third
installment in the saga would
stop the presses and tax the
imaginations of Godfather junkies
Christmas Day, 1990,
presented film critics everywhere
with a troubling dilemma when
The Godfather, Part III was finally
released. How does one judge such
a film-as an installment of a
legendary trilogy, or as an
independent film? Of course, it
would be ideal to judge any film
based on its own merits (or
demerits), but The Godfather isn't
just "any" film, is it?
Do you remember Connie's
wedding on Long Island in the
first scene of The Godfather? It
didn't take but a few minutes to
be completely taken with this
fascinating family of Italian-
Americans living the American
dream in the wake of World War

"Keep your friends
close, but keep your
enemies closer."
What did we know about the
Corleones then? We knew they
were a wealthy, established,
motley group, led by Don Vito
Corleone (Marlon Brando), the
street-wise, calculating patriarch
of a powerful crime family. As
his daughter celebrated her
wedding outside with all the
judges, senators, and highbrows
on Long Island, he received a long
line of favor-seekers in his dark
study, observing the tradition
that "No Sicilian can refuse a
request on his daughter's wedding
Thus the Godfather formula
takes shape. It begins with a
lavish family gathering. The
wedding in Part I, Anthony
Corleone's Lake Tahoe
Communion in Part II, and
Michael Corelone's Manhattan
reception to celebrate his
receiving the Order of Saint
'Sebastian from the Roman
Catholic Church in Part III.
Although everyone appears to be
enjoying themselves at these

affairs, they are actually
orchestrated opportunities for the
Don to conduct sensitive back-
room negotiations.
"If history has taught us
anything, it's that you can
kill anyone."
The evolution of the Corleone
family as we know it begins with
young Vito Andolini, forced to
flee the Mafia-crossfire of Sicily
for America. The scene in Part II
when the immigrants crowd the
side of the ship to catch a glimpse
of the Statue of Liberty is a
moving and mesmerizing
moment. He leads his pauper,
immigrant life on the Lower East
Side until he is drawn into the
world of crime. The grooming of
the future crime boss becomes the
next prevalent theme in the
Godfather formula.
In Part I, the development of
Michael (Al Pacino) as a killer in
the great restaurant scene when
he guns down both a corrupt
police chief and a drug lord serves
as his induction into the dark
profession of his family. When
young Vito Corleone (Robert

One of Coppola's most sacred penchants is family. The Godtather
films emphasize this theme very clearly. Vincent Mancini (Andy
Garcia) represents the third generation of Corleones, the future of
the family. Here he is blessed by Connie Corleone (Talia Shire),
who, like her brother Michael (Al Pacino), has traveled the long
road since the original film.

DeNiro) guns down Fanucci, the
neighborhood extortioner, in a
tense moment from Part II, his
conversion to crime is complete.
And in the latest chapter of the
Corleones, bastard son Vincent
Mancini (Andy Garcia) kills rival
boss Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) in
a. nearly identical seen as in Part
II when young Vito shoots down
Fanucci. Both occur during
Italian street festivals.
"Finance is a gun;
politics is knowing when to
pull the trigger."
Family business ventures
provide the next key to the
Godfather formula followed by all
three films. The business course
chosen by the Don usually
becomes a point of conflict
among certain family members,
leading to tragedy. In Part I,
when Vito Corleone made the
decision not to enter the drug
business, his son Sonny (James
Caan) disagreed. That inter-
family dissension led to a bloody
mafia war in New York in which
Sonny was a gruesome casualty.
In The Godfather, Part II, Michael
Corleone sought to consolidate his
control over Las Vegas gambling
by attempting a hostile takeover
of two casinos, but his timid
brother Freddie (John Gazale)
objected. This led to another
conflict between the families, but
Michael eliminates all his enemies
in the end, including Freddie, who
had turned on his brother.
Part III presents a different
kind of conflict over business
philosophy within the family.
The aging Don Michael, his
health weak and his mind
shrouded in guilt over past sins,
insists that all family operations.
must be legitimate. This leads to
his attempt to acquire the

Vatican-owned Immobiliare real
estate conglomerate. The loan
dissenter to this course of action is
his nephew, Vincent, who feels
that the family must regain its
lost status in the crime world.
Despite Michael's efforts to bring
about a clean future, the seedy
past overpowers him and he must
turn to Vincent and his methods.
"Never hate your
enemies-it affects your
The final element in the
Godfather formula is responsible
for the most famous scenes in
these brilliant motion pictures.
Faced with enemies on all fronts,
the Godfather orders all enemies
be "rubbed out" so that the
family can retain its position on
top. In Part I, during the baptism
of Connie's (Talia Shire) baby,
Corleone hit men murder rival
New York family godfathers and
consolidate their power. In Part
II, Michael orders the
assassinations of family enemies
as he waits pensively at his Lake
Tahoe estate. The current
installment follows true to form
in a dramatic massacre during the
final sequence as the Corleones
celebrate the operatic debut of
Michael's son, Anthony.
Aside from the plot formula,
other common characteristics
can be found in the Godfather
films. Francis Coppola's
imaginative style and flair for
detail shine especially brightlin
these films. His imagination is
apparent in the fantastic
characters he has given us over
the course of the three films.
Treacherous, creepy, colorful,
and often comedic, Godfather
characters reflect the mastery in
Please turntopgA3

By Steven Cohen
X-Clan is the next generation in
black consciousness rap. Their mission
is to educate. They are confident in
their heritage as African descendents.
X-Clan is the rebirth of the cool.
Rebirth is the language of the cool
and these language manipulators
The members-Grand Verbalizer
Funkin-Lesson Brother J. (MC),
Rhythm Provider Sugar Shaft (DJ),
and the Architect Paradise (co-
producer)-are not rappers but
'messengers,' carrying the word of
Blackwatch, a Brooklyn-based
activist organization led by X-Clan
member ProfessorX the Overseer.
'We call our music
VANGLORIOUS, not rap. Not to
separate it, but to note the difference,
as we are not entertainers,'states
Professor X. VANGLORIOUS is the
celebration of the one-blood unity of
Black people from Egypt to New
York, from B.C. to the 21st century...
- Island Records
Sitting in the hotel lobby at
3:30 a.m. in late November, I
asked myself, "Why am I here?"
I had arranged to meet and
interview the Brooklyn-based hip
hop group X-Clan the night
before when they came to the
Power Center through the efforts
of the cultural arts group
Kuumba. So here I was, in the
lobby of the Ann Arbor
Sheraton, in the wee hours of the
morning. The lone white person
among about 15 Black people
sitting in the lobby. I sat
defensively, a mild victim of
skepticism, jibes, mistrust, and
my own conscience.
Though my experience at the
Daily had been limited to writing
about sports, I had been intrigued
enough by X-Clan's debut album,
To the East, Blackwards, to want to
learn more about the group.
I don't think I was cavalier
about interviewing this group-I
went through great efforts to
secure the meeting-but I do
realize that I underestimated the
commitment and sincerity of X-
Clan. I had merely wanted to
listen to their thoughts and write
about it for the newspaper.
It wasn't so simple.
Hindsight tells me if it had
been, it wouldn't have been
nearly as rewarding as it turned
out to be.
I learned that in contrast to
hordes of other entertainers who
claim to be concerned with Black
people, X-Clan is truly passionate
about their people and their ideals.
rebel of authority,

while I'm so-called minority
Sometimes they ask me: 'Why are
you the rebel?
Is that the way you choose to tame
the bass and treble?'
'Brother, don't get deep'
That's what they're telling me, just
like a sell-out
While society gets stronger and

towards me because of my
presence there as a member of the
Daily, an organization she
considered racist due to its
treatment of Louis Farrakhan
and Steve Cokely, Black leaders
whom some believe to be anti-
Semitic. Others, it seemed, viewed
me as a sort of party-crasher, an
interloper obstructing their
attempts to develop Black unity.

"Pedagogy has its limits."

We of the Blackwatch now arrest
the demonic mind state of mortals for
the following crimes: Religion, art,
sciences, government, writing,
mathematics, astrology, philosophy,
inventions, culture, sense of reality,
speech techniques, not to mention the
tolerance of ignorance, raping of a
people, subjecting Blackness to an

of I
it n
as I

-, J p

my race gets weaker and weaker.
Maybe I can make a difference
through a mike and a speaker.
So my lyrics flow different than a
hip hop, be-bop mike-controller
who turns out to be the fop.
-X-Clan, "Earthbound"

There were very few white
people among the surprisingly
sparse crowd at the Power
Center, and I felt unwelcome and
out of place among the students
who helped to bring X-Clan to
Ann Arbor, people who deeply
believe in X-Clan's message.
Furthermore, X-Clan's targeted
audience is unquestionably a
Black one.
One member of Kuumba
directed a great deal of hostility

"I don't really deserve this kind
of treatment," I thought. After
all, here I am waiting ten hours to
speak with this group, trying to
give this group a chance to spread
its word. "I'm trying to do
something positive," I thought.
Their skepticism did not deter
me, however. I figured if I were in
their shoes, I probably would
have wondered why I was there
as well.
The session turned out vastly
different from what I had
anticipated. The interview
became my indoctrination into
their beliefs. During my
initiation, the members of X-Clan
laughed as they recalled a weary
New York writer's
characterization of their method:

inhumane system, changing offacts,
claiming the divine, disgracing a
nation, production of a white
kryptonite trespassing on most sacred
ground, trying to replace the flag of
power with the symbols of slavery and
the hardships of hundreds of years. By
the way, VANGLORIOUS, this is
protected by the red, the black, and the
green, at the crossroad,with a KEY.
-X-Clan, "Verbs of Power"
Professor X, though good-
natured, made sure I measured my
words carefully and showed me
time and time again that what I
said-or how I said it-could be
interpreted as disrespectful. Often
when he interpreted a comment I
made as being insensitive, he

The Genius at work. Aside from the numerous Academy Awards
and other prizes Francis Ford Coppola has won, he has proven
himself to be an artist who strives for perfection in all his
motion pictures. He has come closest with his Godfather films by
Ifollowing a plot formula and insisting on only the most superior
'production values.


I 1 1 11111111 1 Ir11 II IIYI I e I 1 1 PII I

JANUARY 18, 1991







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