Throughout his long, wandering, often distinguished career Francis Ford Coppola has made many films that are good and fine, many more that are flawed but undeniably interesting, and a handful of duds that are worth viewing if only because his personality is so flagrantly absent. Yet he is and always shall be known as the man who directed the Godfather films, a series that has dominated and defined their creator in a way perhaps no other director can understand. Coppola has never been able to leave them alone, whether returning after 15 years to make a trilogy of the diptych, or re-editing the first two films into chronological order for a separate video release as The Godfather Saga. The films are our very own Shakespearean cycle: they tell a tale of a vicious mobster and his extended personal and professional families (once the stuff of righteous moral comeuppance), and they dared to present themselves with an epic sweep and an unapologetically tragic tone. Murder, it turned out, was a serious business. The first film remains a towering achievement, brilliantly cast and conceived. The entry of Michael Corleone into the family business, the transition of power from his father, the ruthless dispatch of his enemies--all this is told with an assurance that is breathtaking to behold. And it turned out to be merely prologue; two years later The Godfather, Part II balanced Michael's ever-greater acquisition of power and influence during the fall of Cuba with the story of his father's own youthful rise from immigrant slums. The stakes were higher, the story's construction more elaborate, and the isolated despair at the end wholly earned. (Has there ever been a cinematic performance greater than Al Pacino's Michael, so smart and ambitious, marching through the years into what he knows is his own doom with eyes open and hungry?) The Godfather, Part III was mostly written off as an attempted cash-in, but it is a wholly worthy conclusion, less slow than autumnally patient and almost merciless in the way it brings Michael's past sins crashing down around him even as he tries to redeem himself. --Bruce Reid
To tell the truth, our only really profitable enterprise was the 'fun & freak museum' we conducted in the woodshed two summers ago. The 'fun' was a stereopticon with slide views of Washington and New York, lent us by a relative who had BEEN to those places. The 'freak' was a three-legged biddy chicken hatched by one of our own hens. Everybody hereabouts wanted to see that biddy. We charged grown-ups a nickel, kids two cents, and took in a good twenty dollars before the museum shut down--due to the decease of the main attraction.
In addition to never having seen a movie, she has never eaten in a restaurant, traveled more than five miles from home, received or sent a telegram, read anything except the funny papers and the Bible, worn cosmetics, cursed, wished someone harm, told a lie on purpose, let a hungry dog go hungry.
Who are our cakes for? Friends. Not necessarily neighbor friends: indeed, the larger share are intended for persons we've met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who've struck our fancy. Like President Roosevelt. Like the Reverend and Mrs. J.C. Lucey, Baptist missionaries to Borneo who lectured here last winter. Or the little knife grinder who comes through town twice a year. Or Abner Packer, the driver of the six o'clock bus from Mobile, who exchanges waves with us every day as he passes in a dust-cloud whoosh. Or the young Wistons, a California couple whose car one afternoon broke down outside the house and who spent a pleasant hour chatting with us on the porch. Young Mr. Wiston snapped our picture, the only one we've ever had taken. Is it because my friend is shy with everyone except strangers that these strangers, and merest acquaintances, seem to us our truest friends? I think yes.
Oh, my...how foolish I am! You know what I always thought? I always thought a body had to be sick and dyin' before they saw the Lord. I imagined that when He came it would be like lookin' at a Baptist window...prettiest colored glass and the sun pouring through...such a shine you wouldn't know it was gettin' dark. S'been a comfort to me...that shine...takin' away all the spooky feelin'. But I'll wager it isn't like that. I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager, at the very end, a body realizes that the Lord has already shone Himself...as things as they ARE. Just what they have always seen we're seein' HIM. Mm, mm. As for me...I could leave the world with TODAY in my eyes!
This is our last Christmas together. Life separates us. Those Who Know Best decide that I belong in a military school. And so follows a miserable succession of bugle-blowing prisons, grim reveille-ridden summer camps. I have a new home, too. But it doesn't count. Home is where my friend is, and there I never go. And there she remains, puttering around the kitchen. Alone with Queenie. Then alone.
A morning arrives in November, a leafless, birdless coming of winter morning, when she cannot rouse herself to exclaim:...'Oh my, it's fruitcake weather!'...and when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string. That is why, on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.