John and I are spending the weekend in Dallas with my sister and brother-in-law. They have an in-home theatre, and last night we ate Italian food and watched The Godfather.
I have only watched it start-to-finish once, I believe, and that was twenty years ago. Now that I knew what was going to happen, I was able to appreciate the nuances of the film, particularly the ground-breaking portrayal of gangsters as complex characters who love their families and look upon what they do as “just business.”
In that spirit I offer you five life lessons from The Godfather.
1. “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
Vito Corleone backs this statement up. He works part of the time from his home office so that he can be with his family as much as possible. Children and grandchildren overrun the family compound, sometimes even darting into his workspace. When he comes home from the hospital, family surrounds him as he lifts a hand in blessing. He dies playing in the backyard with his grandson.
2. “Don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family.”
The family bond is sacred. Internal disagreement is one thing; Don Corleone encourages the input and listens to the counsel of his sons before making his decisions. But once that decision is made, a united front should be presented to outsiders at all times.
3. “We don’t discuss business at the table.”
There’s work time, and there’s family time. When you are with your family, you should be with them.
4. “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
Priorities are important, and so are the promises we make to the people we love. Don’t let work responsibilities stand in the way of family obligations.
5. “I’ll take care of you now. I’m with you now. I’m with you.”
We owe something to the people who raised us. Someday we may be called upon to care for them as they cared for us.
What lessons have you learned from the movies?
Okay, y’all, this is essentially an irrelevant fluff post, because I lost an hour of sleep this weekend and it took extreme heroism for me not to just go straight back to bed after John and Lorelei left this morning.
So, John was reading Time Magazine the other day while we were driving somewhere (aren’t we ALWAYS driving somewhere?) and he informed me that Time readers had selected the two top Best Picture Oscar winners. And the Oscars go to . . . (Why can’t they just say, “And the winner is”? Who do they thing they are kidding?) The Godfather and The Lord of the Rings (well, you know, really it’s The Return of the King, even though they said The Lord of the Rings).
I first saw The Godfather when Teddy was a baby. I can remember hearing about it when I was a child–you couldn’t escape hearing about the horrific horse head scene, probably one of the most shocking scenes in any movie, ever.
As for The Lord of The Rings, I saw all three films at the theatre as they came out. I rarely go to movies but these were a must-see for me. I’ve read the books more times than I can count, and while no movie adaptation is ever perfect, this one comes very close.
As far as pinning “The Best” label on one or the other, I think that’s silly. They are both masterpieces. And at first glance they seem too different to even invite comparison. But consider the following:
They are both myths, in a way. J.R.R. Tolkien created his own mythology in a secondary world he imbues with such reality that we believe it. Mario Puzo fictionalized and romanticized something from the real world. And they are both journeys, with unlikely protagonists who are forced into roles they never really wanted to assume.
What is strikingly different, of course, is how those journeys end. Frodo single-mindedly seeks the Ring’s destruction, even though he expects it will mean his own death. He wears ultimate power on a chain around his neck, but he only wants to be rid of it. That he does in the end put on the Ring and requires a little accidental help from Gollum to complete his quest doesn’t reflect on him because the Ring’s own supernatural powers would have overcome someone less pure of heart long before.
On the other hand, Michael Corleone, the good son who was supposed to do things right and stay out of the family business, quickly loses his purity of heart when he chooses revenge. At the movie’s end he has willingly taken up the corrupting mantle of absolute power. Certainly there were events that pushed Michael along the path, but the choices were his to make, and to quote another favorite movie: “He chose poorly.”
Do I have a point here? Not really. I just think it’s interesting that the top two movies present such opposing world views. And as cynical as I sometimes feel, I am going to put my faith in Tolkien’s view.
What do you think? Do you like movies better if they reflect your own worldview? Does it even matter? Which of these two do you prefer and why?