There are certain films that hold a unique place in history… and
Hollywood had better keep their grubby, remaking mitts off of them!
While the trend to “re-imagine” or “re-envision” everything around them
has been going on for some time, these films have so far managed to
escape the fate of some of their less fortunate compatriots. I speak of
course of…

SACRED COWS
The 25 Movies They’d Better Never Remake.

DAY TWENTY-FOUR
THE GODFATHER (1972)



DIRECTED BY: Francis Ford Coppola
WRITTEN BY: Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola
STARRING:  Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Abe Vidoda

THE SACRED RUNDOWN

So here we are, nearing the end of our little list, and I’ve picked the biggest, most sacred cow of them all, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Having already tackled The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, I’ve circled around with a Coppola hat-trick that is honestly a complete coincidence. I had no intention of linking my picks, much less around a specific director. How I arrived at these choices is pretty clear to me though… I’m actually not the guy to go to when it comes to poo pooing the idea of remakes- perhaps it’s my brief time in theater or just a general naivete, but I feel that almost any concept, title, character, or theme can be re-examined by a visionary filmmaker for some interesting purpose. Obviously some remakes are telegraphed as shallow cash-grabs immediately, but in principle the vast majority of films can have the baggage their titles carry reexamined or manipulated in such a way to be interesting. So when faced with writing about films that I believe it would unarguably be a mistake to remake, I settled on films that were distinctly of their time and place, and whose very titles are linked to the core of what they are. Which brings us to The Godfather- what is probably second only to Citizen Kane as the most commonly accepted “greatest American film of all time.”



Adapted from Mario Puzo’s novel that would be called “pulpy” at best
(“trashy” if we’re being more honest), Coppola and Puzo himself took the
opportunity that the book’s unexpected success granted them and crafted
one of the most well-structured dramatic epics ever filmed. Telling a
classic story of the shift in Italian family dynamics that came with
their assimilation into capitalistic American society, it is all wrapped
up in an entertaining and alluring Mafia package. Something beautiful
and miraculous happened when the unpolished coal of the novel was put
under the pressure of public expectation, studio hyper-oversight, and
Coppola’s vision- what happened was a cinematic diamond was born.



THE REASON IT’S SACRED

Roger Ebert wisely notes in his “Great Movies” critique of The Godfather that the film functions so well because it takes place in a mafia universe that is entirely closed off from the street-level effects of the characters lifestyles. Virtually everyone who is harmed in the film are all playing the same game, tacitly accepting the stakes, not to mention most of the violence done by the main characters is in response to great wrongs done on them. We enter the story with the Corleone family on the defensive, putting us in their corner, comforted by the Godfather’s rational, grandfatherly way of doing business. We’re not seeing the crying, hungry children of degenerate gamblers, or the more subtle social corruption that comes when judges and politicians become indebted to a gangster. It is the gangster story as self-contained, theatrical romance. It’s also a bygone approach, one that has been so thoroughly deconstructed by the many wonderful gangster films that have followed it, that it would be nearly impossible to reproduce the same effect. We just don’t look at mafioso the same way anymore.




ICONIC MOMENTS
  • “Now you listen to me, you smooth-talking son-of-a-bitch, let me lay it on the line for you and your boss, whoever he is! Johnny Fontane will never get that movie! I don’t care how many dago guinea wop greaseball goombahs come out of the woodwork!”
  • “Never tell anyone outside of the family what you’re thinking again.”
  • “The gun’ll be there.”
  • “Come on, you think I’d make my sister a widow? I’m Godfather to your son.”
  • “This one time I’ll let you ask me about my affairs.”
  • “Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again, ever.”

    Not to mention every other classic line that’s been quoted a million times.
WHY A REMAKE WOULD MAKE ME RUN OFF SCREAMING

Because it would be trying to remake the gold-standard in a genre that has already processed every element and piece of imagery from the film several times over. We’ve seen that wall of self-containment and isolation broken down in a film as recently as American Gangster, which made extremely explicit the pain and suffering of Frank Lucas’ customers. We’ve also seen the unnatural grace of the mafioso and the majestic almost Biblical implementations of mob boss power broken down by the grittier and grimier (and ultimately more realistic) mob flicks of late, the best of which is of course Goodfellas. Equally epic, equally sprawling, and equally intricate, Goodfellas shoves our noses in the armpit of the mob, and sells it as a paranoia-inducing, nasty, bloody world that will ultimately stab you in the back, family or not. Finally, the other elephant in the room is The Sopranos, which systematically ripped apart the psychology of the sociopath gangster across +80 hours of television that single-handedly changed the American relationship with its beloved gangster myth. 

None of this would have been possible without The Godfather, and even the deconstructions function using the shorthand that Coppola’s film helped produce. To try and replicate that, would be to try and rewrite the very language with which modern gangster films are written and still evolving from. God help whoever ends up trying.





WHAT WOULD PLATINUM DUNES DO (WWPDD)?

Michael Bay’s been producing remakes all over town, using his Platinum
Dunes company as a front. So naturally he’d be the logical choice to
spearhead any attempt at remaking this classic. How would it pan out,
you ask?
  • They convince a single-episode Sopranos director like Lee Tamahori to direct the film, so they can slap a “From Sopranos director…” on the trailers, unless Bogdanovich is really hard up for cash and can be convinced to do the movie this time around, that is.
  • This story is modernized, and just kind of ignores the extinction of the 40s-era gangster
  • Iconic story beats are integrated with as much respect as…


REBUTTAL: No way.



Week One:
The Man Who Would Be KingRaiders of the Lost Ark

The Third ManSerpicoBlazing Saddles


Week Two:
The ConversationAuditionGone with the Wind
JawsBlade Runner

Week Three:
RockyNorth by NorthwestThe Outlaw Josey Wales
GreaseApocalypse Now

Week Four:
PhantasmChinatownThe Princess Bride
2001: A Space odysseyIt’s A Wonderful Life

Week Five:
It Happened One NightThe African Queen
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestThe Godfather