While The Michigan Daily Film Beat is full of film lovers and film reviewers, our actual taste in movies can often vary quite a bit. And every once in a while, we need to encourage each other to step out of our comfort zones and try something new. The Movie Swap series does just that: It gets writers to watch movies they otherwise wouldn’t and explore these new genres and flicks with one another.
“The Godfather” (1972)
When Mitchel and I decided to do these movie swaps — he picks a movie for me to watch and I pick one for him — I knew that I would end up watching a lot of classic, award-winning films that I probably should have seen by now but never made the time for. So it was no surprise when he chose “The Godfather” as the first movie for me to watch.
I forced myself to read the book first — I admit, I am a total nerd. I probably shouldn’t have. The book was sexist and misogynistic and problematic and a waste of three days. But I came out victorious and ready to see what is considered one of the best films of all time.
I was surprised to actually enjoy the movie. Older movies don’t typically appeal to me. The quality of the movies always feels grainy and dark, and there’s usually something problematic that I can’t convince myself to overlook. Admittedly, “The Godfather” was grainy and dark and not without problems, but I found myself swept up in Francis Ford Coppola’s (“Apocalypse Now”) storytelling, which allowed me to see more than just the problems I knew existed. Everyone involved in the film seemed so committed — the lighting always had a purpose (usually to show the dark nature of the Corleone family), the characters felt three-dimensional and the story was all-encompassing. It was thought out and elaborate, capturing my attention seamlessly. That doesn’t exempt the issues that exist in the film, of course, but it did allow me to understand how “The Godfather” has achieved its acclaim in popular culture.
Of course, Marlon Brando’s (“A Streetcar Named Desire”) Don Vito Corleone stole the show. Never mind the fact that he had less than an hour of screen time — it was assuredly the Don’s story we were watching. His voice, his mannerisms, his quiet but commanding voice all contributed to the character that has rightfully gone down in film history.
It wasn’t the greatest film I have ever seen. That said, I understand why after all these years, people still praise “The Godfather” as a critical piece of film history. Brando’s delivery of the iconic line “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” alone makes this movie deserve its spot.
Daily Arts Writer Sabriya Imami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Sabriya picked “Anastasia” for our movie swap, my tepid expectations of the film came from the couple of Don Bluth (“The Land Before Time”) animated features I had seen, none of which were among my favorites growing up, and a few of the film’s songs that I’d heard during production nights at The Michigan Daily last semester.
I did not anticipate enjoying “Anastasia” much given nostalgia would not play a role and animated children’s films not being my taste. However, I found myself appreciating things about it that I wouldn’t have noticed had I seen it for the first time as a child.
I found the integration of 2D and 3D animation quite impressive and relatively seamless. I was surprised by how well the 3D animation held up given the novelty of the technology in 1997, and it added a great deal to the film’s tension. When Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd, “Back to the Future”) sends demons to destroy the train taking Anya (Meg Ryan, “When Harry Met Sally…”) and Dimitri (John Cusack, “High Fidelity”) out of Russia, the 3D animation of the train gives it a speed and dynamism that 2D likely wouldn’t have allowed and makes the sequence far more exciting. In the film’s climax, Rasputin tries to attack Anya by enchanting a Black Pegasus statue, which is animated in 3D. The 3D contrasted against the rest of the scene’s 2D animation creates a sense of otherworldliness that makes for a more menacing foe.
But, for all my appreciation of the film’s technical aspects, the storytelling in “Anastasia” is too simplistic, formulaic and empty for my taste. I probably shouldn’t have expected this children’s film to dive deeply into Russian political history, but I wanted that. Where is Vladimir Lenin in all of this? Can we get some Soviet film history in here? I want to see Eisenstein trying to film “Strike,” but being interrupted by Rasputin’s dastardly plans.
Some of the film’s early scenes take place in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, and as I was taking in some of the beauty of the ballroom dance sequences, I couldn’t help being reminded of the film “Russian Ark,” a film that traverses the Palace in one take and explores centuries of Russian history — also including some stellar ballroom dancing. I think “Anastasia” would make for an interesting double feature with “Russian Ark,” creating a fascinating, dreamlike tapestry of Russian fantasy and reality.
Daily Arts Writer Mitchel Green can be reached at email@example.com.