There are some directors who have a few great movies that define their career but don’t end up making enough films to carry that prestige any further. Francis Ford Coppola just happens to be one of those directors. The films he is most well known for were all created in the 1970s, and that’s more or less where his influence stayed. Now, what I have just said might seem like it’s a bad thing, but it’s not. I think it’s actually better for a director to make a few quality movies than a lot of mediocre ones. Most critics will agree that he has created some high-quality movies. Not only have three of his films made the American Film Institute’s list of Top 100 films (in both iterations of the list), but these movies were also nominated for Best Picture (two of which won). In fact, The Godfather: Part II (1974) is the only sequel to win an Oscar for Best Picture. This week’s two movies are timeless classics from Francis Ford Coppola.
Length: 153 minutes / 2.55 hours
While Francis Ford Coppola has only won an Oscar for Best Director for The Godfather, Part II, he was nominated for the award three more times during his career. Two of those instances were for The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather, Part III (1990). If you haven’t guessed already, the third instance was for Apocalypse Now! (1979). Resting in the top third of AFI’s Top 100 lists, Apocalypse Now! is one of the few Francis Ford Coppola films that are well known outside of the Godfather trilogy. It’s no wonder that this film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, considering that the source material of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was not actually set during the Vietnam War.
Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) has become disillusioned by the war and has been given a mission that technically doesn’t exist. The reason for the intense secrecy is that the mission is to take out Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). The Army believes Kurtz has gone crazy and has been launching guerrilla attacks from Cambodia. Of course, to get to Colonel Kurtz, Captain Willard must head upstream on a river that will lead him to what could only be described as “the horror.” Along the way, Capt. Willard’s crew meets some interesting individuals, but also meet a lot of resistance; an inherent danger of the jungle. Will Captain Willard survive long enough to see his mission through, or will the mission consume him?
Length: 175 minutes / 2.92 hours
With the exception of Citizen Kane (1941), many consider The Godfather to be the greatest movie ever made. In fact, when AFI re-made their Top 100 list for a 10-year anniversary, this film moved up from #3 to #2: right behind the aforementioned Orson Welles masterpiece. The Godfather also won Best Picture for 1972, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay, the latter of which Francis Ford Coppola shared with Mario Puzo, the author of the book the film was based upon. With an iconic score and multitudes of famous scenes and quotes, there’s a good chance that if you haven’t seen The Godfather, you’ve at least seen it referenced somewhere.
The Godfather is perhaps the most quintessential mobster movie ever made. Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando, who won the Best Actor Oscar for this film), is the head of a New York mafia family. His youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino) comes back from the war and does not want anything to do with the business his father runs. As the times change, Vito’s ideals end up motivating the rest of the mafia families to plan his demise. Once Vito has been compromised, Michael must step in to keep the family together. However, in order to control the family, Michael must eliminate some of his competitors and distance himself from the ones he loves.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Coppola gems
Bacon #: 2 (Apocalypse Now! / Lawrence Fishburne -> Mystic River / Kevin Bacon)