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The Godfather Part II
The movie follows the original Godfather film by alternating the story of a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro), with his son Michael's (Al Pacino) rise to control the Mob in Las Vegas. The movie also stars Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Michael V. Gazzo, John Cazale, Talia Shire and Lee Strasberg. Many critics consider the sequel to be equal to (if not superior to) the original film in quality.
The film was written by Francis Ford Coppola from the original work by Mario Puzo, and was directed by Coppola. Coppola stated that he was not in favor of directing a sequel to The Godfather, because he had waged a number of battles with the studio (and at one point was even danger of being fired from his position). He initially suggested to Paramount that Martin Scorsese (who was still an up-and-coming director at the time, as well as a friend of Coppola) direct the sequel, but the studio refused. Coppola then insisted upon complete creative control of the film and a minumum of studio interference, plus a sizable salary; Paramount Pictures agreed to these conditions, and Coppola committed himself to directing the sequel.
The plot consists of two parallel storylines, and the film switches back and forth between them. One storyline is the continuing story involving Michael Corleone in the 1950s; the other is a flashback sequence following his father, Vito, from his youth in Sicily up through the founding of the Corleone crime family in New York and the births of Michael and his siblings. This version of Vito is played by different actors at different ages, but the adult Vito is played by Robert DeNiro, who won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for a role in which, interestingly, he speaks almost no English-language dialogue.
In a meticulous recreation of the Italian section of New York City at the beginning of the 20th Century, the audience experiences the early life of Vito Corleone, and his experiences with the Mafia: the murder of his father (first), brother (second) and mother (third) by a Sicilian crimelord; his flight to America, where he finds the mob in control of the Italian neighborhood of his new home; his beginnings as a petty thief, and his eventual rise to power as the new "Don." As in The Godfather, Vito Corleone portrays the mythical Mafia Don as a man of respect, someone who appears to be out to help his fellow men (despite the acts of murder and violence he commits).
The "modern day" portion of the film takes place several years after Vito Corleone's death, and his son Michael Corleone's ascension to the role of the new Don. Unlike his father, Michael finds himself in a changed world, where the Corleone family finds itself falling apart, even as Michael reaches to make the Corleone business more powerful than ever before. By the time the film's climax is reached, in a montage of death and murder that mirrors the climax of the first film, Michael has committed unforgivable sins and destroyed the heart of the family -- and his own soul.
Some discussions and minor complaints from fans and film buffs focus upon one apparent plot hole in the story, involving an assassination attempt upon the Corleone family lieutenant in New York City, Frank Pentangeli (played by Michael Gazzo). The person responsible for this "mob hit" is never truly revealed, and some have said it is a weakness in the plot; however, audience members have generally chosen to overlook this plot point in favor of the overall story. Francis Coppola has suggested (perhaps retroactively) that the ambiguity of this plot reflects the double-dealings and betrayals of the underworld, in which no one can really trust anyone (despite the emphasis on "family" and "business" that is repeatedly stated throughout the series).
In the director's commentary on the DVD edition of the film (released in 2002), Coppola states that this film was the first major motion picture to use "Part II" as the title. Paramount Pictures was initially opposed to his decision to name the movie The Godfather Part II. According to Coppola, the studio's objection stemmed from the belief that audiences would be reluctant to see a film with such a title, as the audience would supposedly believe that, having already seen The Godfather, there was little reason to see an addition to the original story. The success of The Godfather Part II began the Hollywood tradition of numbered sequels, as with Rocky III, Halloween 2, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and many others.
It is one of only two sequels ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (the other being The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). The Godfather series remains the only series to win two awards for Best Picture award, however.
In between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Coppola directed The Conversation, a story of a paranoid wiretapping and surveillance expert (played by Gene Hackman) who finds himself caught up in a possible murder plot. The Conversation was released to theaters in 1974 and was also nominated for Best Picture, resulting in Coppola being the only director in Hollywood history to have two films released in the same year nominated for Best Picture and competing for the same prize at the Academy Awards.
In addition to Best Picture, The Godfather Part II won Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert De Niro), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola), Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola ) and Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material. It was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Al Pacino), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael V. Gazzo), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Lee Strasberg), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Talia Shire) and Best Costume Design. The film has also been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
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