“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” The horse’s head under the bedsheets. “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” The toll-booth slaughter of Sonny. And the immortal “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” From the opening wedding to the climactic baptism of gunfire, The Godfather provides three hours of greatest hits, while certifying the killer machismo of the Mafia and, by extension, of American business. Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel had been a sensational best-seller, but making a movie about organized crime was no sure thing in 1971. Wunderkind Francis Coppola cast Marlon Brando, box-office poison at the time, as Vito Corleone (Laurence Olivier was too ill to take the part) and launched dozens of movie careers (starting with Al Pacino as the Godfather II). The director made sure that this grand opera of family values was also a photo album of the Coppola family: Francis’ sister played Connie, his daughter Sofia was the baptized baby, his father Carmine is briefly seen playing piano and his mother Italia doubled for Mama Corleone in the casket. Nominated for 11 Oscars, The Godfather won for Picture, Screenplay and Brando. It was also one of two ’70s movies that defined a generation of boys-t0-men, who were either Godfather kids or Star Wars kids.
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THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING
Few Oscar contenders have enjoyed the aura of inevitability that surrounded The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. Nominated for 11 awards, the Middle Earth epic scored a rare clean sweep: Best picture, director, adapted screenplay, original score, original song, visual effects, art direction, costume design, make-up, sound mixing and film editing. And long before director Peter Jackson took to the podium to a rousing ovation, there seemed to be a collective understanding that the night’s awards went far beyond the third Lord of the Rings installment, which found Frodo (Elijah Wood) ascending Mount Doom and overcoming his internal demons to destroy the Ring of Power once and for all. It was widely understood that this Oscar celebration was less about a singular achievement than the commemoration of one of the most audacious, and adept, trilogies in cinematic history. Filmed in one extensive shoot, commissioned by New Line Cinema in a colossal financial gamble and entrusted to a single filmmaker who was empowered to mold his singular and distinctive vision, the Lord of the Rings films were works of fantasy that transcended the genre, entrancing both mainstream audiences and Hollywood heavyweights.