Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TV 50 Years Ago

Was 1964 the greatest year in television history? Well, no. I'm not going to argue that. But I will suggest that it was pretty darn special. Take a look at the following shows that made their debuts in the fall of 1964 right around the same time I made *my* initial curtain call and tell me you don't recognize more than a few of these shows.

NEW in 1964:
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
The Munsters
Daniel Boone
Jonny Quest
The Addams Family
Gomer Pyle
Gilligan's Island

And of course there are these shows which were not brand new that year but were still on the air with first-run episodes:
Wagon Train
My Favorite Martian
Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
The Fugitive
The Red Skelton Show
The Alfred Hitchcock Show
Peyton Place
The Andy Griffith Show
The Lucy Show
Petticoat Junction
The Beverly Hillbillies
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Patty Duke Show
The Flintstones
The Donna Reed Show
My Three Sons
Perry Mason
The Jack Benny Show
The Lawrence Welk Show
Outer Limits
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

So...yeah...the fall of 1964 seems like it was a pretty good time. A bit on the black and white side, but Color TV was just around the corner...! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Oh, Pretty Woman

Fifty years ago this week, the number one song in the United States was Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman."

When I was a freshman in college I got my first credit card. My father co-signed for it, and then told me to buy something relatively cheap with it and then pay it off on the first bill. That way I would start to create a good credit record. I bought the book The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits by Fred Bronson. And this is where I found out that the week I was born, Roy Orbison was at the top of the chart.The week before the Number One song had been "The House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals.

Here is the actual chart:
1. Oh, Pretty Woman
2. Bread & Butter by The Newbeats
3. House of the Rising Sun
4. (Little) GTO by Ronny & the Daytonas
5. Remember (Walkin' In The Sand) by The Shangri-Las

You can find all of these on youtube if you are interested. If you are a fan of music from this era you will recognize all of them. The point of this post, however, is that every time I hear "Oh, Pretty Woman" I think, "That Number One song is as old as I am!" (I think that about "House of the Rising Sun," too, but that song has less of a pop cultural carbon foot-print than Roy's classic does.)

So to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roy Orbison's last number one song, here is "Oh, Pretty Woman" written by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees.  Hopefully from now on, every time you hear it you'll think of me....well, me and your own pretty woman.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Annie Hall (Best Picture 1977)

There's nothing like watching a great comedian at his prime. He makes you laugh while making you think, and be fore you kno wit, his set is over and you're on your way home, recounting his best bits.

Annie Hall is nothing like a great comedy, and Woody Allen is nothing like a great comedian. The film is 90 minutes but it feels like three hours. As they say, "death is easy, comedy is hard." 
The film tells the story of Alvy Singer, a comedian and writer, but jumps around chronologically and also breaks the Fourth Wall, as Allen begins the film by talking to the audience. This is a contrivance he does several times during the film. In my opinion this is a mistake, because this *firmly* plants the story as being told BY Allen, and we obviously can not trust this narrator. Plus, it was annoying in the sense that I want to watch a movie, not a filmed monologue. Allen couldn't decide what to do with the material. 
Diane Keaton as the title character is adorable and a joy to watch. She was always pleasant to watch, as her naivete morphs into cynicism which morphs into independence. Keaton won Best Actress for her role. However, Allen plays the annoying, self-centered selfish neurotic Jewish comedy writer who is in a relationship with her. Please, someone, can you explain the appeal of Woody Allen? If he were at a party with you, would you find him amusing? For me it was painful to watch this film. There is one scene where he and Keaton are on-line for a film and the man behind them is going on and on about how he doesn't like Federico Fellini films. This annoys Allen, but as I was watching this I nearly yelled at the screen, "You're the same way! How is what he doing anything different that what YOU'RE doing?" So is this the point? Are we supposed to all see something that Allen's character himself doesn't see? Is this supposed to make him somehow "nicer"? Frankly, I could not wait for this film to end.
Woody Allen in line = me watching this film
There is a famous scene where Allen and Keaton are trying to boil lobsters, and the creatures cause a bit of chaos for them. It is a cute scene, and with Allen actually laughing it seems like it was a bit of an improvised situation. Later, after Allen and Keaton have broken up, Allen tries the exact same "schtick" with another woman. This woman's reaction to Allen's actions and indulgence were the same as mine. "Are you joking? What's the matter with you? I don't get it."

Speaking of the lobster scenes, the first scene is a good example of the lackluster direction. All through this scene the camera stays set squarely on...you guessed it...Allen. In a scene that was inherently funny, it was staged as just another time for the character to shout, "Look at me!"
So if you are  Woody Allen fan, you'll be like Allen and Keaton in the first lobster scene. If you're like me, you'll react like the woman in the second lobster scene.

Perhaps I didn't like this film because I can not disentangle this film from the information I know about Allen and Mia Farrow and their adopted children. That might be part of the reason I think Allen's character is unpleasant here, but I doubt it. I remember how the first Woody Allen film I ever liked was Radio Days, which was partly because he/his character was not in it! 
Annie Hall
*Academy Award Best Picture of 1977*
Produced by Charles H. Joffe
Directed  by Woody Allen
Screenplay by Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman

Another Harold Heckuba All-Star Spectacle

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
The Goodbye Girl
Star Wars
The Turning Point
This was another one of those well-known Oscar years. What self-respecting film fan doesn't know about The Turning Point, the Anne Bancroft-Shirley MacLaine drama that had eleven nominations but won none? Do you remember or have you read about the acceptance speech by Vanessa Redgrave for Best Supporting Actress in Julia, who famously called her detractors "Zionist hoodlums"? Julia,  starring Jane Fonda, was about Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman. It also boasted Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards, his second win in two years (his first was All The Presidents' Men). The Goodbye Girl is a cute little Neil Simon romantic comedy that earned Richard Dreyfuss a Best Actor Oscar, at 29 the youngest actor to win (up to that point). And Star Wars was some little film that made a bit of a splash and then quietly faded away. How it, or really any of these, were not judged to be better than Annie Hall, I have no idea.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rocky (Best Picture 1976)

Rocky is the perfect example of a film that deserved to win the Academy Award. The story is of a beaten-down guy in Philadelphia who had dreams of being a prize fighter. Unfortunately, life got in the way; he turns out to be a collector for a local loan shark. Then one day the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Apollo Creed, is in need of a sparring partner for a fight that has already been scheduled in Philadelphia. Desperate for an opponent, he picks Rocky Balboa, "the Italian Stallion," out of a list of possibilities. They like his "style," and believe he has no chance of winning. However, Rocky doesn't want to embarrass himself. At first, he refuses the offer. Then faced with the great cash offer, Rocky reluctantly accepts. Where Apollo and his staff see a promotion, though, Rocky sees a chance to prove himself. He trains hard for the fight, and gets support from people he didn't know cared. By the time of the fight, he thinks he will lose, but he knows he is also going to do his best. He wants to "go the distance." Apollo believes he will knock Rocky out in three rounds, but miraculously, Rocky DOES go the distance, lasting all fifteen rounds. He is a bloody mess, but he is still standing.
This is exactly what the film Rocky did, too. The clear underdog against high-profile films Network and All The President's Men, Rocky won only Film Editing, losing all other nominations, until the very end....when it scored with its knock out one-two punch, Best Director and Best Picture.
Sylvester Stallone wrote this screenplay, and would not sell the script to any studio that would not let him play the title role. Although film critics have had a field day with some of his later roles, he is truly magnificent as Rocky, the "big lug" with a heart of gold. Burgess Meredith, most famous today as "The Penguin" on TV's BATMAN series, plays the equally rough and mean Mickey, almost as  desperate for a chance at success than Rocky. 
Talia Shire plays Rocky's shy love interest, Adrian. Watching them together at the beginning of the film is painful, as they are both so shy and afraid of getting hurt. Their scenes reminded me of another Best Picture, Marty, starring Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair. Their love for each other allows both to blossom, and by the end they make a very cute couple indeed. Burt Young plays Rocky's friend Paulie, Adrian's brother. His character is the most difficult to warm up to, as he is consistently self-centered, drunk, and feeling sorry for himself. All four of these actors were nominated for Academy Awards, but none won.

Lastly, Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed owns every scene he is in. You really get to feel some affection for his character, a Mohammed Ali-type self-promoting fighter who realizes too late that "the show" to him is "the fight" to Rocky.

*Academy Award Best Picture of 1976*
Produced by Irwin Winkler & Robert Chartoff
Directed  by John G. Avildsen
Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
All The President's Men
Bound For Glory
Taxi Driver
This year's nominees is a list of Best Movies of The Seventies. All The President's Men is Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal. If you don't know what that is, go watch this movie. It's one of the best "newspaper" movies ever made. Bound For Glory is the biographical film about Woody Guthrie starring David Carradine. Network is the satirical take on network television that was 40 years prescient. If you haven't seen it or haven't seen it lately, watch it. It will remind you of what is going on in television right now. And Taxi Driver is Martin Scorcese's creepy film about Robert DeNiro and Jodie Foster. In this company, it really was a surprise for Rocky to win! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

JL #36: "The Polaris Gambit: Part II End-Game!" Afterward

Don't read this Afterward until you have read the story!

So...how many of you guessed that this story was going to bring Hawkman and Hawkwoman back into the ranks of the Justice League? I mean, similar to THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, could you imagine this story happening and then Thanagar sending the JLA back to Earth *without* their two favorites? I suppose it is possible, but as the writer I knew the whole point of this story was to get Katar and Shayera back on Earth. Hopefully there was enough suspense about it so at the very least when you got to the end you smiled and thought, "I hoped so!"

So what else is there to say about this story? First of all, I hereby declare that I will *never* write another alien invasion story! This story with the lizards and purple brutes, and the earlier story with the Queen Bee and her bee-men...let's stick to super-villains and their ilk for awhile, shall we?

Speaking of which, this is the first issue that somebody new came and played in my sand-box. Another hearty THANK YOU to cyber-pal Luke Daab for providing such a great cover to this story. I loved being the editor to his freelance artist...although the hardest decision I ever had to make was to CUT Aquaman to make space for the Hawks!! Now that Luke has broken the ice, so to speak, I am happy to announce that next issue will be a story drawn by me but written originally by another friend, Rick Duncan! And the issue after that is a collaborative "Marvel Style" story by me and Andy Kapellusch. I am having so much fun!

And now a few random thoughts about what I think I did well this issue and what I think I could have done better...

I did extensive research on Thanagar and the Hawks to write this story. I borrowed the HAWKMAN ARCHIVES from the library and also read up on the characters on Wikipedia and Being Carter Hall . So I *think* I got all the main facts right, atleast as they relate to the Silver Age Thanagar. For example, the Veil of Valmorra really (?) is a waterfall resort. It's where Katar and Shayera met for the first time and began to fall in love.

There are a few different versions of Despero out there, and when I investigated which "look" I liked best, I was actually surprised to find that the number of "fins" on his head kept switching between five and seven! I finally went with five, but I had to be conscious of this or I would accidentally give him seven! I ended up liking my take on Despero, too....creepy, strong, and dangerous, but not a Hulk-ing mess.

However, drawing him and his fins in profile *was* a pain in the ass. 

You know what else was a pain in the ass? The damn chess board. I had to be careful when drawing it to keep track of where the chess pieces were, and how many spaces there were in each direction. Because I do the art piece-meal, a few pages or even a page at a time, this was a huge bother. When I was nearly complete with everything I suddenly realized that the board was not consistent in-between "shots," so I pulled each page that featured it and re-drew most of them. So like my alien invasions embargo mentioned above, I hereby announce that I will never feature a chess-board in a story again!

In a story like this the "little moments" in the original script are the ones that have to disappear first. Still, I managed to keep a few in....such as the "wink" moment between Katar and Shayera as they agree to challenge Despero to his deadly game. I liked how that turned out. Another scene was this one below: it appears simple, but with a touch and a quick comment, it conveys the trust and friendship of these characters. I specifically didn't draw a background in this panel because I didn't want to take anything away from the two women and their moment.
As for Aquaman and his Thanagarian Finny Friends...I love how I colored this scene. Like the shark in JAWS, you never see anything, but you are still very conscious that *something* is in the water. So you had better listen to Aquaman, fellas!
I'm sure I've said this before, but I'll say it again. It seems like every time I draw the Flash, I have to draw him a dozen times. Here he is once, but in fact i had to draw him FOUR times! Sheesh. Is that why I'm happy about the next issue, when he loses his super-speed? Well...yes, yes it is! 

My favorite bits in this story are the ending and the scenes with Green Arrow and Green Lantern fighting to free the Thanagarian Hawk Guards. When I did my research on Thanagar and tried to find three or four places that Despero would want to take over, it made sense that one of them would be the police headquarters. And then as soon as I decided on that location, I *knew* I had to assign Green Arrow to help free it. His comment about "isn't it ironic?" made me laugh out loud as I was writing it. And John's statement about having enough arrows in his quiver is something I always thought when I read GA adventures...
As for the ending, I think Green Arrow and Hawkman have enough of an antagonistic relationship to constantly tease each other, but it made sense to me that Hawkman, with all the stress he had to have endured over the last two issues, would cut through Ollie's crap and give him a big hug. No?

I like the following panel. This is something I think Batman would *always* think as he attacks armed bad guys, whether he shouts it or not, it's his mantra....

When I started plotting this story I originally considered following the DC history of The Shadow War of Thanagar, where the planet becomes more militant under the control of a minor super-villain named Hyathis. However, I abandoned this idea pretty quickly because I didn't want a military Thanagar plot hanging over my characters. In the end I decided that the best way to over-rule the command to the Hawks to return (shown in #31) would be for the king to over-rule the bureaucrat(s) who had ordered them back in the first place. So now the Hawks can come and go as much as I may need them to...!
Hope you enjoyed this story and I hope you like that Hawkman and Hawkwoman are now back in "my" Justice League! Next issue, they play a pivotal role in their first adventure back. And in what seems to be a trend for me, the story is one that was written waaay before anything you have already seen!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

JL #36 "The Polaris Gambit: Part II" The Cover

Enough teasing, I'm not going to make you wait any more....! Here it is in all its glory....!
Click on it to get the total effect!

Great, isn't it?

I don't remember why I asked cyber-buddy Luke Daab to do my cover for me. Maybe because I read on his page that he was taking commissions. Maybe because I read that Hawkman and Hawkwoman were two of his favorites? Maybe it was because I loved his stuff so much. Maybe it was me wanting to support professional amateur artists. Or maybe it was just me wanting to see Luke Daab's great work on one of MY stories...! 

Regardless of the reason, I did ask him, and now we are all winners for me having done so!  

First, I asked him if he was interested and if he could meet my budget. Graciously, he said yes and yes. I sent him a black and white version of #35, Part One of the story, for background. He sent me the following sketch:  

As much as I loved this (and I DO LOVE it!) I had to tell him that the focus of Part Two would be the JLA going to Thanagar and helping out guest-stars Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Therefore, it would make sense to switch out Superman and Mera (on the left) for Katar and Shayera. Luke said that would not be a problem. As much as I wanted to use this drawing as sketched, I basically told him to include the Hawks and whichever other characters would fit. As an aside, it never occurred to me to include Mera in Part Two until I saw this sketch. I really should have, I guess. Sorry, Mera...and sorry, Luke! (I am currently plotting another guest-shot of Mera, and this time she won't just show up and leave, I promise!)

A few months later I was working on Part Two when I got a request for more background information. This time, Luke wanted to know specifically how I intended to portray Despero. As you may know, Despero has had various different "looks." So I sent Luke a profile page with coloring notes, and he said that was exactly the information that he needed.

A few weeks later, I received this wonderful piece of Luke Daab originality. The only part of this that I didn't like was having to "sit on it" for several months until this new issue was ready to drop! I've been enjoying it by myself for several months, and now I can share it!

Wait, I did have one more problem. I had to try to fit the JLA logo and title over it. I ended up just shrinking it a bit and formatting it to fit. Here's a black and white version of what will appear tomorrow.

And one more time.....
Thanks, Luke!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

JL #36 "The Polaris Gambit: Part II" Forward

The last panel from JL #31, with the Hawks flying out of "my" universe...
 As I mentioned last time, THIS is the story that I wanted to write when I decided to start back at doing my own comic book stories. When I stopped doing my original JUSTICE LEAGUE stories because I was leaving Japan, I decided to mirror *my* leaving Japan in real life with Hawkman and Hawkwoman leaving Earth in the series. It is still one of my favorite stories. If you haven't read it, please use the link on the right for Issue 31, "Going Home."

Flash forward twenty plus years and me having an incurable itch to get back into storytelling. I had a few JLA story ideas in my head, and I couldn't wait to get to them. However, the Hawks were still out there on Thanagar. Could I bring them back as guests? Should I? I pretty quickly decided I wanted to follow-up on them and update their status somehow....and thus, THIS story was written.

I don't want to say more yet....just read the story and then I'll be back with an Afterward to explain more.
The last panel from last issue, as we head into NEXT ISSUE on Wednesday....!

Friday, September 12, 2014

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Best Picture 1975)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest may be called a great film, but it is definitely not a pleasant film. It is a sad and depressing story of a man named McMurphy and his experiences at a mental institution in 1963. Jack Nicholson won Best Actor for this role, and I'm pointing this out now before getting into the story because Nicholson has always struck me as being one of thoes actors that you can't disengage from his role. Have you ever seen The Shining or Batman with Michael Keaton? In every Jack Nicholson film I've seen he always seems to be playing Jack Nicholson. Granted, I haven't seen a lot of them. Still, as I was watching One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, I never *forgot* that I was watching Jack Nicholson. On the other hand, Louise Fletcher won Best Actress for her role as Nurse Ratched, McMurphy's arch-nemesis. Because she was a relative unknown at the time, and because the role of Nurse Ratched requires less theatrics than the role of McMurphy, it's easier to see the character and not the actress.
McMurphy is escorted to the mental institution by police officers. We are then told that he is a prisoner of the State, but that the State thinks he might be "faking" being crazy in order to get out of work details. He was arrested and charged with assault and statutory rape. The State has McMurphy  committed for a psychiatric review. He appears relatively normal, and promises the other patients that he is going to have as much fun as he can under the circumstances. He tried to get a vote on watching the World Series on television. He watches how the other patients get a free trip into town once a week, so he manages to hijack the bus and takes them all fishing. He becomes friends with all the other inmates, but especially a large quiet Native American everyone calls Big Chief. We aren't sure if he is just trying to use the guy, or entertain himself, but eventually they hit it off and become good friends. He is also a leader slash father figure to Billy, a shy, stuttering young man played by Brad Dourif. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work, but he lost to George Burns in The Sunshine Boys. Also in his "gang" are future TV stars Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd.
With all of his antics, however, McMurphy is eventually judged "mentally unfit" and he is permanently assigned to the institution until the staff judges that he is "well." Of course, this doesn't sit well with him, and he ratchets up his anti-social behavior. The symbol of his unhappiness is Nurse Ratched, a calm, quiet, and endlessly annoying Head Nurse who seems to exist to make McMurphy's stay as unpleasant as possible. OR....she is the calm in the storm of the institution, and her unwavering demeanor is a beacon of reason in a sea of unevenness. Which vision of her do *you* subscribe to?
McMurphy decides he has had enough and is going to escape. On his last night he invites two girls over and begs them to bring alcohol. It's Christmas time, and the whole wing has a party. Unfortunately, everyone drinks a bit too much, and they all end up passing out. When the staff arrives the next morning, the entire wing is put on lock-down. Billy is found sleeping with one of the women, and everyone knows that they had had sex. Nurse Ratched shames him for having sex, and he is so traumatized that he tries to kill himself. McMurphy is busy plotting his next escape attempt, but he is so incensed at her treatment of Billy that he attacks her.
The next scene is McMurphy being escorted back to the wing. He has been given a frontal lobotomy. Big Chief can't stand to see his friend this way, so suffocates him with a pillow and then escapes on his own.

And so, going back to the beginning of this review, the reason I can't agree that this is a great film is because it is too much of a Jack Nicholson film. Victim of his own success? We never learn if McMurphy is crazy or not; we want to believe that Nicholson is being "anti-social" so we go along with him, never stopping to consider that McMurphy really could be sick. Is McMurphy really just a belligerent anti-social misfit, or does he really "see" a baseball game on a television that isn't on? Because it's Nicholson we are inclined to believe the former, but Nurse Ratched is inclined to believe the latter. We never get a clue as to who is right, and that is why Nurse Ratched is remembered most fondly as a villain. Next time watch it and pay special attention to her actions, though. You'll see that  she never does anything remotely "villainous." Sure, she makes some moral choices that we would consider dubious, most obviously her judgment of Billy, but it is 1963 and she is not totally out of line. I don't think she was doing it vindictively, she was only trying to get him to realize the severity of his actions (in her eyes). I have read that in the larger social situation, Ratched represents The Establishment and McMurphy represents The Free Thinkers or Baby Boomers. In this scenario, obviously, everyone is going to identify with Jack Nicholson.

Anyway, it's definitely a film worth seeing. It won Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, only the second film to win all of the so-called Top Five awards (the first was It Happened One Night in 1934).
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
*Academy Award Best Picture of 1975*
Produced by Saul Zaetz and Michael Douglas
Directed  by Milos Forman
Screenplay by Lawrence Hauben & Bo Goldman
Based on the book by Ken Kesey

the trailer selling Jack Nicholson...

...and as an extra bonus, one of the best acceptance speeches EVER.

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
Barry Lyndon
Dog Day Afternoon
Well I have seen Dog Day Afternoon and it is a great film, no doubt about it. Al Pacino and Chris Sarandon were both nominated for their roles, but neither won. Jaws is of course one of the greatest thrillers ever made. Nashville I tried to watch but gave up after about an hour. Sorry, Robert Altman fans! And Barry Lyndon is sort of a Tom Jones-wannabe by Stanley Kubrick. I've never been a big fan of Stanley Kubrick except for Dr. Strangelove, and I'm not a big fan of Ryan O'Neal, either.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Godfather Part II (Best Picture 1974)

I totally understand and agree with calling The Godfather one of the greatest films of all time. The Godfather, Part II, the only sequel to a Best Picture film to also be named Best Picture, I have a little more trouble appreciating.

The Godfather Part II is a divided narrative. Half of the film is about Michale Corleone (an absolutely fantastic Al Pacino) and his efforts to cement his control over the various factions of his "family," those in Las Vegas and those in New York City. He is negotiating with Jewish businessman Hyman Roth for a cut of the gambling operations in Cuba, and getting criticized for dealing with someone outside "the family." In New York a gang calling itself "The Black Hand" is trying to squeeze out Corleone interests. Michael is trying to bribe crooked politicians at the same time a Congressional committee is trying to "get tough" on organized crime. And to top it all off, Michael and his wife are having difficulties. 
Now if the film was only about the trials and tribulations of Michael and his family, it would be a poignant and moving film. However, interspersed with Michael's drama is the story of Michael's father, Vito. It starts with his childhood in Sicily, goes through his arrival at Ellis Island, then presents his young adulthood and how he established himself as "the don" of "the family" in New York City. This, too, is a story worth telling, but I failed to see how it had any bearing on Michael's troubles whatsoever. What's more, all of this back-story is filmed in Italian, so the audience has to read the sub-titled English to follow along. Now, I don't mind reading sub-titles, I do it all the time, but here having the dialogue in Italian just seems a bit off-putting and pretentious. Likewise, juxta-positioning Michael's story with Vito's story seems a bit too "artsy" for me. Was the intent to show some sort of genetic trait where the father and son were both prone to violence? Was cutting away from one story supposed to build suspense in the other story? They just seemed like two completely separate stories that were intruding on each other, rather than supporting each other. Maybe I missed something, but I didn't appreciate the structure of the film at all. 
That being said, the scenes with Michael are what I wanted to see. As the story progresses it becomes harder to follow who is doing what to whom (and the cut-aways to Vito's past doesn't make it any easier to follow the main narrative). Is Roth cheating Michael? If he is, does Michael know about it, and also using Roth in return? Frankie, a representative of the "family" still in New York, is going to testify at the Congressional committee because he thinks the Corleones tried to have him killed. Fredo, Michael's older brother, is jealous of Michael and does something incredibly stupid, showing everyone except himself that he simply was not "Godfather" material. At the end Michael is triumphant, but he has managed to kill everyone around him, either emotionally or physically. The film ends with Michael, alone, contemplating his future. 
The movie is full of wonderfully filmed scenes. Vito's stalking of Fanucci, shot parallel to the Italian Festival going on in the neighborhood, is one of the best. The emotional confrontation between Michael and his wife, Kay (a stunning Diane Keaton) is also riveting. Later, too, when he catches her visiting their children, the cold-dead expression on his face as he shuts the door on her is just pathetic. You feel that she has hurt him in a way that no one else has. Similarly, when Michael confronts his older brother Fredo (the late, great John Cazale) it's another heart-breaking scene. So there were plenty of things going for this film. I just didn't like it as much as I liked the first one.

 Although The Godfather won Best Picture, it did not earn Francis Ford Coppola Best Director. With The Godfthaer, Part II, Coppola finally got his Oscar. He and Mario Puzo also got a second Best Screenplay Academy Award. Although Pacino, Talia Shire as Michael's sister, Lee Strassberg as Roth, and Michael V. Gazzo as Frankie were also nominated, the only actor to win was Robert DeNiro, who won Best Supporting Actor as Vito Corleone. This is noteworthy because, as I already mentioned, all of the dialogue was in Italian, and also because this was the first time two actors won Academy Awards for portraying the same character (obviously, Marlon Brando won Best Actor for playing Vito in The Godfather).

The Godfather Part II
*Academy Award Best Picture of 1974*
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola
Directed  by Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay by Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola
Based on the book by Mario Puzo

Skip the first minute if you don't want to hear
all the Academy Award winners....
Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
The Conversation
The Towering Inferno
The Towering Inferno is a fun amusement ride of a film, but should not have been nominated as Best Picture. Fred Astaire had his only Academy Award nomination for his role in this film. Lenny is not available at my local library so I have never seen it. It is the sad story of comedian Lenny Bruce, as portrayed by Dustin Hoffman (who was nominated for Best Actor for this role). Chinatown is a stylish film noir about murder and extortion in post-WWII Los Angeles. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway were both nominated for this film, but this was not to be their year. And The Conversation is a small-scale psychological thriller starring Gene Hackman as an eavesdropper who thinks he hears a murder being planned. It's a very good film, written and directed by some guy named...Francis Ford Coppola.