Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Trip To Cuba

There aren't too many movies that have ever been made that are better than "The Godfather."

Maybe none, actually.

One that comes close and in some ways surpasses "The Godfather,"though, is "The Godfather Part II."

If the original is a perfectly told story with exquisitely developed characters, then the sequel is just sheer genius, a blend of the evolution of the next generation of the family business with intermingled flashbacks to how the business started. And it tells that backstory in Italian, which makes it even better.

TigerBlog feels like he can watch the flashbacks to how Vito Corleone rose to become the godfather without understanding a word of Italian and without having to read the subtitles, just because of how well acted and presented those scenes are. It is, as TB said, genius.

In fact, after seeing both movies upwards of, well, a lot of times each, TigerBlog still isn't sure which one he likes best. For that matter, he's not sure whether he likes the flashbacks to Vito or the story of Michael's reign better.

He does know that there are a few scenes in "The Godfather Part II" that are up there with any he's ever seen in any movie.

Like when Michael tells Frank Pentageli to "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Or when he tells Senator Geary that the rules don't apply to his family.

In the flashbacks part? How about when Vito first says he's going to "make him an offer he can't refuse." Or when he tells baby Michael how much he loves him. Or when he avenges his own parent's deaths. Or when he, Clemenza and Tessio are having dinner in his small apartment.

Still, there are two moments that rise above.

One is when Michael figures out that it's Fredo who betrayed him to Johnny Ola (who was played by the same actor who would play Uncle Junior on "The Sopranos," Dominic Chianese). Michael kisses his brother, pulls away, and says "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart."

And then, there was how Hyman Roth answered Michael about who gave the order to have Pentageli killed (which didn't quite work out at first). From IMBD's quotes from the movie:

There was this kid I grew up with; he was younger than me. Sorta looked up to me, you know. We did our first work together, worked our way out of the street. Things were good, we made the most of it. During Prohibition, we ran molasses into Canada... made a fortune, your father, too. As much as anyone, I loved him and trusted him. Later on he had an idea to build a city out of a desert stop-over for GI's on the way to the West Coast. That kid's name was Moe Greene, and the city he invented was Las Vegas. This was a great man, a man of vision and guts. And there isn't even a plaque, or a signpost or a statue of him in that town! Someone put a bullet through his eye. No one knows who gave the order. When I heard it, I wasn't angry; I knew Moe, I knew he was head-strong, talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we've chosen; I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business! 

Ah, Moe Greene. He shouldn't have tried to bully Michael, and leave it at that.

Anyway, why bring this up? The two scenes that TigerBlog just quoted took place where?

C'mon, this is easy for you "Godfather" fans. Don't know it? TigerBlog will give you a hint.

The Princeton track and field teams are currently there.

Right, Cuba.

The scenes in "The Godfather Part II" were in the moments leading up to the revolution, which ended when Castro took power on New Year's Day in 1959. Since then, very few Americans have been able to go to the small island not far from Florida.

Princeton's track and field programs went there yesterday morning, as part of an educational venture, which made it permissible.

Actually, for the members of the Princeton travel party who were in Oregon for the NCAA championships last week, the trip to Cuba was a rather arduous one. The group left Oregon Sunday and flew to Newark through San Francisco. Then it was up first thing Monday to head to Miami, and then first thing Tuesday to Cuba. First thing, as in pre-dawn both days.

Princeton is there for more than a week.

There will be two track meets, as well as educational ad service initiatives. And sightseeing.

The story about the trip on says that updates will be given regularly during the trip, depending on internet availability. And at on a small communist island, that's not quite a sure thing.

It's an extraordinary opportunity for the athletes, coaches and staff attending. After all, how many people get to go to Cuba, to see what goes on there first hand?

It's incredible to think about how few Americans have gone to a country that is so geographically close, especially when you consider how many flock to the other islands in the area. To do so with their teammates and to compete against athletes from Cuba - which does have a great track and field tradition - is even better.

And so that's where Princeton track and field will be for the next several days.

You know, where Michael completely scared away Fredo and where Hyman Roth stood up to Michael, largely because Michael was calling him out on something he had done.

All that, and now Princeton track and field. 


Anonymous said...

The anticlimactic resolution of the NBA finals made me think about, of all seemingly random things, Bill Tierney.

It seemed that, as the Cavaliers became a legitimate threat to win the series after going up 2-1 in games, whenever they faced pressure situations late in games 4 through 6, the more timid and ineffective became their role players. When the bright lights shone with greatest intensity, players like Smith, Thompson and Dellavedova -- who had each played well at times early in the finals -- became scared to take big shots or otherwise played less aggressively. It seemed as if they feared that they would be judged harshly if any late game miss were taken by anybody other than LeBron.

One of the many remarkable aspects of Tierney's tenure at Princeton is that, while the offense was built around possession and disciplined play, individual Tigers always seemed to step up in pressure NCAA games, most remarkably role players who had not made big contributions during the regular season.

There's something about Tierney's incessant drilling of and yelling at players which still left the door open for less heralded shooters to fire away or go to the cage in tournament games. Conversely, when it was crunch time for the Cavaliers, the role players took a step back and deferred entirely to LeBron to single-handedly win or lose the game.

Glenn Adams said...

As further proof of Bill Tierney's uncanny ability to get his players to withstand pressure, in 4 of the 6 National Championship wins by Tierney's Tigers, the game went at least to one overtime - and the Tigers won all four of those OT games! Reminding me of this this year were Tierney's two OT wins with Denver over Notre Dame (by identical 11-10 scores), one in the NCAA semifinals before the Pioneers won the National Championship more easily over Maryland. And in these big NCAA Final Four games this year, as with earlier Tiger national championship teams, goal scorers for the Pioneers included less-heralded players such as Colin Woolford, Sean Cannizzaro, Tyler Pace, Mike Riis, and Jack Bobzien. Only fitting that Tierney is the first coach in DIV I to win men's lacrosse national championships with two schools. Kudos to Coach Tierney! Glenn Adams '63