Showing posts with label Godfather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Godfather. Show all posts

Friday, May 18, 2018

History of Michael Cohen's Criminal Ties #RussianMafia

Michael Cohen, President Trump's long-time lawyer and personal "pit bull," was brought to heel when federal agents raided his office in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center. The U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, acting on a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is investigating Cohen for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations that stem, at least in part, from a $130,000 payment Trump's attorney made to hush up a porn star who says she slept with the president. ("I will always protect Mr. Trump," Cohen said.) Meanwhile, Mueller is investigating a $150,000 "donation" that Cohen arranged for Trump's foundation in 2015 from a Ukrainian billionaire named Victor Pinchuk. "Attorney-client privilege is dead!" Trump tweeted. It's not dead, but the raid on Cohen's home, office and swanky Park Avenue hotel room is an extraordinary step that underscores his decade-long role as Trump's heavy, fixer and connector.

Cohen joined the Trump Organization in 2006, and eventually became Trump's personal lawyer, a role once occupied by Roy Cohn, Senator Joseph McCarthy's heavy-lidded hatchet man during the Red Scare who advised Trump in the 1980s. Michael Cohen's bare-knuckled tactics earned him the nickname of "Tom," a reference to Tom Hagen, the consigliore to Mafia Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. He grew up on Long Island, the son of a physician who survived the Holocaust in Poland, and like Tom Hagen spent a childhood around organized crime, specifically the Russian Mafia. Cohen's uncle, Morton Levine, was a wealthy Brooklyn doctor who owned the El Caribe Country Club, a Brooklyn catering hall and event space that was a well-known hangout for Russian gangsters. Cohen and his siblings all had ownership stakes in the club, which rented for years to the first Mafiya boss of Brighton Beach, Evsei Agron, along with his successors, Marat Balagula and Boris Nayfeld. (Cohen's uncle said his nephew gave up his stake in the club after Trump's election.)

I spoke to two former federal investigators who told me Cohen was introduced to Donald Trump by his father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ukraine who arrived in the U.S. in 1975. Shusterman was in the garment business and owned a fleet of taxicabs with his partners, Shalva Botier and Edward Zubok – all three men were convicted of a money-laundering related offense in 1993. "Fima may have been a (possibly silent) business partner with Trump, perhaps even used as a conduit for Russian investors in Trump properties and other ventures," a former federal investigator told me. "Cohen, who married into the family, was given the job with the Trump Org as a favor to Shusterman." ("Untrue," Cohen told me. "Your source is creating fake news.")

Shusterman, who owned at least four New York taxi companies, also set his son-in-law up in the yellow cab business. Cohen once ran 260 yellow cabs with his Ukrainian-born partner, the "taxi king" Simon V. Garber, until their partnership ended acrimoniously in 2012. Glenn Simpson, the private investigator who was independently hired to examine Trump's Russia connections during the real estate mogul's presidential run, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Cohen "had a lot of connections to the former Soviet Union, and that he seemed to have associations with organized crime figures in New York and Florida – Russian organized crime figures," including Garber.

A curious episode in Cohen's life came in 1999 when he received a $350,000 check from a professional hockey player named Vladimir Malakhov, who was then playing for the NHL's Montreal Canadiens. According to Malakhov, the check was a loan to a friend. The friend, however, swore in an affidavit that she never received the money and never even knew the check had been written until it was discovered years later in a Florida lawsuit. So what happened to the money? One interesting lead was an incident involving Malakhov, who was approached in Brighton Beach and shaken down for money by a man who worked for the Russian crime boss, Vyacheslav Ivankov. "Malakhov spent the next months in fear, looking over his shoulder to see if he was being followed, avoiding restaurants and clubs where Russian criminals hang out," according to testimony an unnamed Russian criminal gave to the U.S. Senate in 1996. Cohen, who said he didn't know Malakhov or anyone else in the case, offered his own theories as to the origin and fate of the check in a 2007 deposition with Malakhov's attorneys.

Q. You don't recall why this check was written to you for $350,000 in 1999 and how these funds left your trust account in any way, shape or form?

A: Clearly Vladimir Malakhov had to have known somebody who I was affiliated to and the only person I can—and I mentioned my partner's name, Simon Garber, who happens also to be Russian.

Regardless of what he did or didn't know Cohen was able to purchase a $1 million condo at Trump World Tower in 2001, persuading his parents, his Ukrainian in-laws and Garber to do the same in other Trump buildings. Cohen's in-laws Fima and Ania Shusterman bought three units in Trump World Tower worth a combined $7.66 million (one of which was rented to Jocelyn Wildenstein, the socialite known as "Catwoman" for undergoing extreme facial plastic surgery to please her cat-loving husband). Cohen later purchased a nearly $5 million unit in Trump Park Avenue. In a five-year period, he and people connected to him would purchase Trump properties worth $17.3 million. All the frenzied buying by Cohen and his family caught the attention of the New York Post, often described as Trump's favorite newspaper. "Michael Cohen has a great insight into the real-estate market," Trump told a reporter in 2007. "He has invested in my buildings because he likes to make money – and he does." Trump added, "In short, he's a very smart person."

During Trump's presidential run, reporters noticed a curious thing about Cohen. Questions about Trump's business or his taxes went to his chief legal officer or another staffer, but Cohen handled questions about Russia. "One of the things that we learned that caught my interest," Simpson testified to Congress in November 2017, "serious questions about Donald Trump's activities in Russia and the former Soviet Union went to Michael Cohen, and that he was the only person who had information on that subject or was in a position to answer those questions."

In the 1990s, there was an informal group of federal and local law enforcement agents investigating the Russian Mafiya in New York that called themselves "Red Star." They shared information they learned from informants. It was well known among the members of Red Star that Cohen's father-in-law was funneling money into Trump ventures. Several sources have told me that Cohen was one of several attorneys who helped money launderers purchase apartments in a development in Sunny Isles Beach, a seaside Florida town just north of Miami. This was an informal arrangement passed word-of-mouth: "We have heard from Russian sources that … in Florida, Cohen and other lawyers acted as a conduit for money."

A year after Trump World Tower opened in 2002, Trump had agreed to let Miami father-and-son developers Gil and Michael Dezer use his name on what ultimately became six Sunny Isles Beach condominium towers, which drew in new moneyed Russians all too eager to pay millions. "Russians love the Trump brand," said Gil Dezer, who added that Russians and Russian-Americans bought some 200 of the 2,000 or so units in Trump buildings he built. A seventh Trump-branded hotel tower built up Sunny Isles into what ostensibly has become a South Florida Brighton Beach.

An investigation by Reuters found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in the seven Trump-branded luxury towers. And that was a conservative estimate. At least 703 – or about one-third – of the 2044 units were owned by limited liability companies, or LLCs, which could conceal the property's true owner. Executives from Gazprom and other Russian natural resource giants also owned units in Trump's Sunny Isles towers. In an observation that several people I spoke with echoed, Kenneth McCallion, a former prosecutor who tracked the flows of Russian criminal money into Trump's properties, told me, "Trump's genius – or evil genius – was, instead of Russian criminal money being passive, incidental income, it became a central part of his business plan." McCallion continued, "It's not called 'Little Moscow' for nothing. The street signs are in Russian. But his towers there were built specifically for the Russian middle-class criminal."

Cohen joined the Trump Organization around the time that the second Sunny Isles tower was being built. A few years earlier, he had invested $1.5 million in a short-lived Miami-based casino boat venture run by his two Ukrainian business partners, Arkady Vaygensberg and Leonid Tatarchuk. Only three months after its maiden voyage, it would become the subject of a large fraud investigation. But Cohen was saved from his bad investment by none other than Trump himself, who hired Cohen as an attorney just before his casino ship sank. A source who investigated Cohen's connections to Russia told me, "Say you want to get money into the country and maybe you're a bit suspect. The Trump organization used lawyers to allow people to get money into the country."

Residents at Sunny Isles included people like Vladimir Popovyan, who paid $1.17 million for a three-bedroom condo in 2013. Forbes Russia described Popovyan as a friend and associate of Rafael Samurgashev, a former championship wrestler who ran a criminal group in Rostov-on-Don in southeastern Russia. Peter Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian businessman arrested on fraud charges in San Francisco in 1999, and his daughter owned two units at Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach worth $2.56 million. (Kiritchenko testified against a corrupt former Ukrainian prime minister who was convicted in 2004 of money laundering.) Other owners of Trump condos in Sunny Isles include members of a Russian-American organized crime group that ran a sports betting ring out of Trump Tower, which catered to wealthy oligarchs from the former Soviet Union. Michael Barukhin, who was convicted in a massive scheme to defraud auto insurers with phony claims, lived out of a Trump condo that was registered to a limited liability corporation.

Selling units from the lobby of the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles was Baronoff Realty. Elena Baronoff, who died of cancer in 2015, was the exclusive sales agent for three Trump-branded towers. Glenn Simpson, who spent a year investigating Trump's background during the campaign, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Baronoff was a "suspected organized crime figure."

An Uzbek immigrant who arrived in the United States as a cultural attaché in public diplomacy from the Soviet Union, Baronoff became such a well-known figure in Sunny Isles Beach that she was named the international ambassador for the community. Baronoff accompanied Trump's children on a trip to Russia in the winter of 2007–2008, posing for a photo in Moscow with Ivanka and Eric Trump and developer Michael Dezer. Also in the photo, curiously, was a man named Michael Babel, a former senior executive of a property firm owned by Oleg Deripaska, the Russian metals tycoon Paul Manafort allegedly offered personal updates on Trump's presidential campaign. Babel later fled Russia to evade fraud charges.

Baronoff had interesting connections to Sicily. She reportedly met her friend, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, there. Baronoff was also close with Dino Papale, a local businessman, who described himself to The New York Times as "president of Trump's Sicilian fan club," while sporting a red "Make America Great Again" cap. Days after Trump's election in November, the local newspaper, La Sicilia, quoted Papale at length describing Trump's secret visit to the island in 2013. Papale hinted that he organized meetings between Trump and Russians.

Michael Cohen's in-laws, the Shustermans, also bought real estate in Sunny Isles. The development was paying off. Trump's oldest son, Don Jr., would later note, "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." There is no question Trump owed his comeback in large part to wealthy Russian expatriates.

Cohen and Felix Sater have known each other for nearly 30 years. They met in Brighton Beach when Cohen started dating his future wife, Shusterman's daughter, Laura, who Sater says he knew from the neighborhood. When Cohen joined the Trump organization, Sater had become a fixture in the office. Sater was developing Trump SoHo, a hotel-condo in lower Manhattan that later would be consumed by scandal, and had earned Trump's trust. Trump asked him to look after his children, Ivanka and Don Jr., on a 2006 visit to Moscow. (It was during the Moscow trip that Sater used his Kremlin connections to impress Trump's daughter. Sater would later boast: "I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin's private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin.") When Sater's criminal past was exposed in The New York Times, Trump suddenly looked and acted like a man with something to hide. Despite laying claim to "one of the great memories of all time," he seemed to be having trouble recollecting who Sater was. "Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it," Trump told The Associated Press in 2015. "I'm not that familiar with him." Sater flatly contradicted Trump's version of their relationship. In a little-noticed interview with a Russian publication, Snob, Sater was asked if his criminal past was a problem for Trump. "No, it was not. He makes his own decision regarding each and every individual."

In the midst of Trump's presidential run, Sater was shopping a deal to build a Trump World Tower Moscow. Between September 2015 and January 2016, Sater tried to broker a deal for a Moscow company called IC Expert Investment Company. (Sater worked for IC Expert's owner, Andrei Rozov, after he left Bayrock.) Trump signed a letter of intent in October with IC Expert Investment for a Moscow hotel-condo with the option for a "Spa by Ivanka Trump." Providing financing was VTB, a Russian bank subject to U.S. sanctions. Sater's contact at the Trump Organization was his old friend, Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen. In mid-January, Sater urged Cohen to send an email to Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's press secretary, "since the proposal would require approvals within the Russian government that had not been issued." Cohen sent the email, got no reply, and said he abandoned the proposal two weeks later.

What Cohen called his old friend's "colorful language" attracted attention from congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office: "Michael I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin," Sater emailed Cohen in November 2015. "I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected. We both know no one else knows how to pull this off without stupidity or greed getting in the way. I know how to play it and we will get this done. Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this."

Sater gave an unsatisfactory answer to BuzzFeed about why he wrote this email. "If a deal can get done and I could make money and he could look like a statesman, what the fuck is the downside, right?"

Shortly after Trump took office, Sater teamed up with Cohen to submit a Ukrainian peace plan to then national security advisor Michael Flynn that would have opened the door to lifting sanctions on Russia. What happened to the plan? The lawyer at first told The New York Times that he left the plan in Flynn's office. Then, after the story became an embarrassment, he called the Times story "fake news" and claimed he pitched the plan into the trash.

Cohen has always acted to protect Trump, and he likely believed that he could always rely on the impenetrable shield of attorney-client privilege. Arguably, no one who has worked with Trump over the past decade knows more about the president's past business dealings in Russia and elsewhere abroad than Cohen. Now that prosecutors have him in their sights, here's the question: Will Cohen's shield, now broken, become a sword?

Thanks to Seth Hettena.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate

Bada-bing. For some people, The Godfather is no mere movie but a manual – a guide to living the gangster's life. They lap up all that stuff about going to the mattresses and sleeping with the fishes. The famous scene in which a mafia refusenik wakes up next to a horse's head may be macabre make-believe, but in some quarters it's treated like a tutorial.

So who are these apparent innocents taking their cues from Hollywood? None other than the mafia themselves, writes Diego Gambetta in his new book, Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate. The Oxford sociologist offers example upon example of gangsters apeing Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece – or what he calls "lowlife imitating art".

There's the Don who took over a Sicilian aristocrat's villa for his daughter's wedding – with 500 guests revelling to the film's soundtrack; the building contractors of Palermo who receive severed horse's heads if they get in the mob's way; and John Gotti's former lieutenant, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, who confessed that plagiarism ranked among his (lesser) crimes: "I would always tell people, just like in The Godfather, 'If you have an enemy, that enemy becomes my enemy.'"

Yet Mario Puzo, The Godfather's inventor, admitted that he "never met a real honest-to-God gangster", while many of the film's most quotable lines (remember "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli"?) were improvised. So what accounts for its influence not just among the mafia but with Hong Kong triads, Japanese yakuza and Russian mobsters?

Well, strip away the mystique and organised crime is a business – one with big handicaps. It may be called "the Firm", but managing a poorly educated, violent workforce is a challenge, advertising job vacancies only attracts the law, and appraisals for underperforming staff can err on the brusque side. The Godfather and other gangster movies plug those holes, says Gambetta. They give criminals an easy-to-follow protocol and a glamour that serves as both corporate feelgood and marketing tool. Uncomfortable though it may be to acknowledge, the underworld is not above taking its cues from the upperworld.

Thanks to Aditya Chakrabortty

Friday, February 10, 2017

Mobile Gamers Can Join the Mafia with "The Godfather: Family Dynasty" App

In a world where respect must be earned, power means everything, and family rules above all else, The Godfather: Family Dynasty allows mobile gamers to enter the seedy life of a mobster. And this is one hit mobster fans won't be disappointed about.

Get ready to whack the enemy, build your estate and establish yourself as the ultimate crime Family. Mobile games publisher Hitcents, in partnership with Feelingtouch Games and with licensing from Paramount released The Godfather: Family Dynasty mobile game.

At its core The Godfather: Family Dynasty is all about money, power and respect—and don't be surprised that this means the player has to sometimes get their hands dirty and take out the rivals.
Set in the criminal underworld of 1945, player starts off as a foot solider for Don Vito Corleone while making a name for themselves as they build an empire to help The Godfather run the most powerful family in New York City.

When it comes to the gameplay, The Godfather: Family Dynasty is a real-time RPG strategy title. The player is instructed to built and expand the Corleone empire including constructing the Mansion and other buildings, training thugs to use when a hit needs to be made, and making business deals to keep collecting money.

Keep developing the Mansion and "leave the gun, take the cannoli" or complete tasks in order to unlock more doors in the world and earn rewards. The player must make upgrades to buildings and weapons to improve skills and weapons, while defending their territories by mobilizing their crews of Capos and Soliders. The player needs to make profitable investments and provide help to allies in order to succeed and earn respect.

The game starts with an in-depth tutorial to get the player used how to the play the game. And since the game switches from the Corleone empire map to the city map with many things going on in each, it helps that prompts continue to pop up even as the player advances to remind them of tasks and how to complete them.

It's a plus that there are no building times during some of the building, making it easy to advance in the game a bit before taking a break and returning later.

Besides building, the another major part of the gameplay is its battle rounds where the player must take out enemy foot soldiers and their Boss. While the player doesn't have to do anything physically in these battles, it takes strategic planning to come out the winner based on the power and skill of the men from the player's army they use.

There is also a Story Book mode that includes new challenges and provides a way to advance. These include Godfather-themed chapters like "Connie's Wedding" and "Sicilian Oranges." Complete these Story Book challenges in order to "enhance" Capos characters to equip them with various items that make them more powerful.

There is enough going on in this game to keep a player entertained without being too overwhelming with its features. Once the player gets the hang of it, navigating through the game because a piece of cake.

Perfect for those who like a title where they need to rise to the top, and those who enjoy mob movies, The Godfather mobile game delivers on living up to its name.

The chance to play The Godfather: Family Dynasty for free is an offer a mobile gamer can't refuse. Be a wise guy and download the game that is now available for iOS, Android, and Amazon devices today.

Thanks to Lauren Keating.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Godfather and Game Theory

An example of commitment using third party contracts is found in Mario Puzo's classic novel The Godfather. Those who may have only seen the film and not read the book might remember a few references to "the hostages" prior to any meetings between the heads of the families. In the book, this is described in much greater detail.

"The Bocchicchio Family was unique in thatThe Godfather, once a particularly ferocious branch of the Mafia in Sicily, it had become an instrument of peace in America." The Bocchicchio Family is described as most ruthless and completely unamenable to logic and reason. Their simple code of vengeance did not make exception - if you harmed a member of their family, revenge would always follow. This irrationality become a limitation in America and the Bocchicchio family "knew they could not compete with their Mafia families in the struggle to organize and control more sophisticated business structures like prostitution, gambling, dope and public fraud." However, searching for an occupation in the new land of America, "the Bocchicchio Family became negotiators and hostages in the peace efforts of warring Mafia families."

Here is the basic idea. Say that Michael Corleone, the head of one Mafia family wishes to meet with Don Tessio, the head of another in order to discuss a deal for mutual advantage. The invited guest has no way of knowing if he will be safe during the visit, and Michael's promises that he will not hurt the guest cannot be believed. There is a problem of commitment here, and without some commitment, the two will not meet.

Enter the Bocchicchio Family. When Michael invites Don Tessio, he not only promises not to harm him, but also hires a member of the Bocchicchio Family to go to Tessio's house. There, the "hostage" will be guarded by Tessio's men. If Don Tessio does not return safely, Tessio's men will kill the hostage. The Bocchicchio Family, seeking revenge, will blame Michael Corleone for the death, since he made the promise that Don Tessio will not be harmed.

Now here is where the Bocchicchio Family's ruthlessness and irrationality is important. They have a reputation for revenge. They can't be bargained with. They can't be bribed. This way, Michael Corleone recognizes that breaking his promise to keep Tessio safe will result, eventually, in his own death. So, he commits to Tessio not through "cheap talk" or empty promises, but through a contract with a third party which is both credible and a strong enough commitment to guarantee that the meeting will take place.

Thanks to Mike Shor

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Godfather Original Movie Poster With Linen Back - 1972 - Only One Available!

The Godfather Original Movie Poster With Linen Back - 1972.

All serious movie fans search to find this classic popular poster. The Godfather" is often considered one of the greatest movies of all time and certainly the most influential gangster movie. It starred Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a New York crime family. The movie also featured stars like James Caan, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton. It was a huge success at the box offices as it is still ranked among the Top 25 highest-grossing films in America. The movie was also critically acclaimed. The Godfather" won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. In 1990, the movie was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.

This is an authentic, original poster not a reprint or a reproduction. It was distributed by the studio when the film was released and was intended for theatrical display. This is a fully original 1972 one-sheet poster that features the original movie logo. This poster is in excellent condition and it has been professionally linen backed to 30" x 44" in order to preserve the condition. A great piece of movie memorabilia. Only one available. Ships rolled. Comes with a certificate of authenticity from Brigandi Coins & Collectibles of New York, a leader in collectibles since 1959.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Italian-Americans' Love/Hate Affair with the Mafia Mystique

Years ago, writing about the legacy of Mario Puzo, I said, "If there is a God and he is indeed Catholic, then Puzo is burning in hell." Before The Godfather was published in 1969, historians of organized crime in the 20th century told us that some major stars of the modern mob had names like Arnold Rothstein, Owney Madden, and Logan and Fred Billingsley.

After The Godfather, the only major crime figures who got any attention were the ones whose names ended in vowels.

Thanks to this myth-mongering hack, Frank Sinatra will forever be remembered as the man who, through his fictional counterpart, Johnny Fontaine, crooned "I Have But One Heart" at his godfather's daughter's wedding. It is now taken for fact that Sinatra owed his comeback and hence his success not to his talent but to the Mafia; apparently they held guns to the heads of people, forcing them to buy all those Sinatra albums.

The provocative and lively An Offer We Can't Refuse: The Mafia in the Mind of America by George De Stefano, a journalist and cultural critic whose work can be most often read in The Nation, has convinced me that I've been too tough on Puzo. The Godfather, the book and the movie, did, after all, succeed in reviving interest in Italian-American culture at a time when it appeared to be fading into the suburban landscape. I can only speak for members of my father's family, who rather enjoyed the attention and even reveled in the idea that they might actually be a bit feared because of their name.

For De Stefano, as for many of our generation, Francis Ford Coppola's film was an epiphany. The gay baby boomer son of a Neapolitan auto mechanic and a Sicilian housewife, De Stefano, by the time he was in college, had drifted far from his parents' world: "The Stones' Sticky Fingers was on my stereo and a Black Panther poster adorned my dorm room wall. My identity was radical hippie freak. ... My ethnic background was just that, background."

An Offer We Can't Refuse invites Italian-Americans of all backgrounds to the family table to discuss the issues of how mob-related movies and television shows have affected the notion of what their heritage still means in the 21st century.

It's a big table. At the head is Richard Gambino, whose 1974 book Blood of My Blood - The Dilemma of Italian-Americans was the first serious work of nonfiction written on the subject; sitting in the middle are Gay Talese, Nicholas Gage, and nearly every other prominent, second-generation Italian-American journalist; and fighting for attention down at the end of the table are third-generation would-be personas importante such as Maria Laurino, Maria Russo, Bill Tonelli and, in the interests of full disclosure, me (I am quoted twice by De Stefano). As you can imagine, it's one heck of a noisy table.

The principal topic of discussion is not so much the Mafia, whose power most experts seem to feel is dwindling, as the Mafia's mystique. But as journalist Anthony Mancini puts it, "It's just too good a myth to abandon."

The best movies and shows about mobsters and their families - Coppola's The Godfather DVD Collection movies, Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (Special Edition), The Sopranos, the late, lamented cult TV series Wiseguy - were never really about the mob anyway; they were always about the vicissitudes of Italian-American family life and the perils of maintaining tradition in the face of assimilation, a metaphor for the American immigrant experience.

As a Russian neighbor of mine put it, "I never really thought The Godfather was about crime. I thought it was about the part where Don Corleone tells Michael he wanted something better for him than he had had."

These shows provide an answer to why the people who gave the world Dante, da Vinci, Boccaccio, Verdi and Rossini have produced so few literary artists in this country. Their grandparents might have come here without being able to write in their own language, much less English, but Coppola, Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Quentin Tarantino and several others have used their experiences to give the world the poetry that their ancestors couldn't. Don Corleone gave Michael something better after all. But, says De Stefano, "Consider another possibility. Italian Americans owe their high visibility in American popular culture in large measure to the very gangster image so many deplore. If the mafioso as cultural archetype were to become extinct, might Italian Americans themselves drop off the radar screen?"

In other words, if the Mafia myth peters out, does that mean the end of the Italian-American as a protagonist in our popular culture?

It's a dicey question, but after careful consideration De Stefano answers with a resounding "no." The Mafia myth, he steadfastly maintains, cannot be the last word: "Ethnicity remains a riveting, complicated drama of American life, and popular art that illuminates its workings still is needed ... Italian America still has many more stories to tell."

Thanks to Allen Barra

Monday, July 20, 2015

Francis Ford Coppola Gift Basket from The Director of The Godfather



Francis Ford Coppola Loves Food and Wine - Gourmet Gift Basket

Oscar-winning director, writer and producer, Francis Ford Coppola, loves creating. Not only are the wines produced under his direction, but as an avid cook, he has created "Mammarella," a line of authentic organic pastas and sauces honoring his mother, Italia Pennino Coppola. Included in this package are the Diamond Series Claret and Cabernet Sauvignon, two types of artisan pasta, classic tomato/basil pasta sauce, red pepper packets and a "Mammarella" kitchen towel. Delicioso!

Mobster and Las Vegas Casino Owner Moe Greene Actor from The Godfather, Alex Rocco, Has Died

Alex Rocco, the veteran tough-guy character actor with the gravelly voice best known for playing mobster and Las Vegas casino owner Moe Greene in The Godfather, has died. He was 79.

Rocco died Saturday, his daughter, Jennifer, announced on Facebook.

No other details of his death were immediately available. Rocco, who studied acting with the late Leonard Nimoy, a fellow Boston-area transplant, also was the voice of Roger Meyers Jr., the cigar-smoking chairman of the studio behind “Itchy and Scratchy” on The Simpsons, and he played Arthur Evans, the father of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character, on the stylish Starz series Magic City.

Rocco starred as a white Detroit detective who is reluctantly paired with a black detective (Hari Rhodes) in Arthur Marks’ Detroit 9000 (1973) and voiced an ant in A Bug’s Life (1998). “That was my greatest prize ever in life, because I did about eight lines as an ant, and I think I made over a million dollars,” he said in a 2012 interview.

Rocco won an Emmy Award in 1990 for best supporting actor in a comedy for playing sneaky Hollywood talent agent Al Floss on the short-lived CBS series The Famous Teddy Z, starring Jon Cryer.

He also had regular roles on The Facts of Life (as Charlie Polniaczek, the father of Nancy McKeon’s character, Jo), The George Carlin Show, Three for the Road, Sibs and The Division.

In the 2012 interview, Rocco said that landing the role of Jewish mobster Moe in The Godfather (1972) was “without a doubt, my biggest ticket anywhere. I mean that literally.” “When I got the part, I went in to Francis Ford Coppola, and in those days, the word was, ‘Read [Mazio Puzo’s] book,’ which I already did, and then the actor would suggest to him which part they would like. Well, I went for … I dunno, one of the Italian parts. Maybe the Richard Bright part [Al Neri]. But Coppola goes, ‘I got my Jew!’ And I went, ‘Oh no, Mr. Coppola, I’m Italian. I wouldn’t know how to play a Jew.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, shut up.’ [Laughs.] He says, ‘The Italians do this,’ and he punches his fingers up. ‘And the Jews do this,’ and his hand’s extended, the palm flat. Greatest piece of direction I ever got. I’ve been playing Jews ever since."

"And people on the golf course will say, ‘Hey, Alex, would you call my dad and leave a line from The Godfather?’ I say, ‘OK. “I buy you out, you don’t buy me out!” “He was bangin’ cocktail waitresses two at a time …” “Don’t you know who I am?” ’ [Laughs.] But I enjoy doing it. It’s fun. I’ve been leaving Moe Greene messages for 40 years.”

Born Alexander Federico Petricone in Cambridge, Mass., Rocco came to L.A. in the early 1960s and made his movie debut in Motorpsycho! (1965), directed by Russ Meyer, and he was a henchman on Batman in 1967 in the episodes in which the Dynamic Duo meet up with the Green Hornet and Kato. Rocco worked frequently with Alan Arkin, being paired with him on such films as Freebie and the Bean (1974), Hearts of The West (1975), Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins (1975) and Fire Sale (1977).

His film résumé also includes The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), Joan Rivers’ Rabbit Test (1978), The Stunt Man (1980), Herbie Goes Bananas (1980), The Pope Must Diet (1991), Get Shorty (1995), That Thing You Do! (1996), The Wedding Planner (2001), Smokin’ Aces (2006) and Find Me Guilty (2006). He recently showed up on Episodes and Maron, where he played another agent.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Mob Mentality that Tried to Shut Down the Filming of The Godfather

Death threats, shootings, strikes and bomb-scares ... John Patterson explains how - and why - the mafia tried to shut down the filming of The Godfather

On June 28, 1971, Francis Ford Coppola was putting certain finishing touches to his costly, controversial adaptation of Mario Puzo's million-seller The Godfather.

That day Coppola was shooting parts of the film's famous climactic massacre, in which Michael Corleone takes power of the New York mob by executing his rivals in a blizzard of machine gun-fire and Eisensteinian cross-cutting.

As Joe Spinell, playing one of Michael's button-men, pumped six slugs into a fictional New York mob boss trapped in a midtown hotel's revolving door, a for-real, blood-on-his-hands New York mob boss called Joe Colombo Sr, was being gunned down at an Italian-American rally in Columbus Circle, not four blocks away from Coppola's location.

The hit was the opening salvo in a vicious gang war declared by a newly released mafia upstart and criminal visionary named Joey Gallo. But it was the end of the strange connection between Colombo (who lingered in a coma until his death in 1978) and The Godfather, a movie that couldn't have been made without Colombo's say-so.

As detailed in C4's documentary The Godfather And The Mob (which borrows heavily from Harlan Lebo's The Godfather Legacy), Colombo had insinuated himself between the producer of The Godfather, Al Ruddy, and his own home turf of Little Italy, promising that the mob would take tribute from the movie, or not a frame of celluloid would be shot. Knowing that the movie would lose all its authenticity if shot on studio backlots, Ruddy had no option but to acquiesce, and once the media got hold of the story - a sit-down, handshake deal with the devil - they flayed him with it for months.

All this was, of course, great grist for the movie's publicity mill, and some commentators like Carlos Clarens, in his landmark 1980 study Crime Movies, recalled certain time-tested publicity-agent gambits: "the filmed-under-threat routine had worked wonders back in the days of Doorway To Hell (1930: Jimmy Cagney's second movie)." If nothing else, Lebo's book and The Godfather And The Mob prove beyond a doubt that none of this strange tale was concocted by press agents.

The details are toothsome and delectable. The Godfather was written by Puzo, an Italian-American who grew up in Hell's Kitchen but who had never met a bona-fide mafiosi. Puzo learned his mob folklore mainly from croupiers in the golden age, 1960s Las Vegas of Moe Dalitz and the Rat Pack. That didn't prevent him from achieving such an impressive degree of authenticity that by the time the movie was a runaway hit, many real-life mafiosi had begun comporting themselves according to the rituals solemnised by Puzo and Coppola - the cheek-to-cheek kisses, the quasi-papal pledging of fealty to the Godfather's ring.

The total-immersion experience of the movie - achieved by the goldfish-bowl effect of keeping the audience emotionally intimate only with mobsters, by the subterranean browns and golds of its colour scheme, and by its period, ethnic and socioanthropological authenticity - traps us in 1945, and even now it is hard to imagine that a block away from the border of the set, it was 1971 and the real New York mob was undergoing the same upheavals as everyone else in those Martian times. Although The Godfather And The Mob hints at much of this, it has no real grasp of the richness and complexity of this period in mafia history.

Colombo was the head of what had earlier been the Profaci crime family, which he had inherited in the mid-1960s only because Joey Gallo was in prison for 10 years.

In Goodfellas' famous circularshot of teenage Henry Hill's "introduction to the world" in 1955, Hill's narration says, "It was a glorious time, before Appalachin and before Crazy Joe started a war with his boss ..." Appalachin referred to a famous FBI raid of the upstate New York estate of a leading crime boss in 1957. A mob summit was taking place and agents chased dozens of top mafiosi through the snow as they dumped guns, jewels and thousands of dollars in cash (the incident is alluded to in the final episode of season five of The Sopranos, as Tony escapes the Feds, but New York boss Johnny "Sack" Sacrimone does not).

Joey Gallo, meanwhile, saw drugs as the coming bonanza for organised crime and in the teeth of stiff opposition from the abstemious old "Moustache Petes" of the Corleone/Lucky Luciano generation, he had no compunction about forging distribution partnerships with black criminals in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant and shipping major product.

The war that ensued in the late 1950s (obliquely alluded to in Godfather II - "Not here, Carmine!"), tore the mob apart, grabbed headlines, and encouraged new Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to prosecute the mob unmercifully after 1960 - focusing on such figures as Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and the mafia bosses of Chicago, Tampa and New Orleans (who may later have helped assassinate his brother John). So it was an exhausted, much harried New York criminal fraternity that greeted Coppola and Ruddy in 1971.

It was also a community that had little taste for publicity. At the movies, the words "mafia" and "cosa nostra" were rarely ever heard before The Brotherhood in 1968 (which sank faster than Johnny Rosselli in his concrete-filled oil-drum). Even J Edgar Hoover downplayed the importance of the mafia throughout the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s - while exaggerating the moribund red menace - probably because the mob's financial genius Meyer Lansky (Hyman Roth in Godfather II) had, presciently, blackmailed Hoover over his homosexuality as early as 1935.

Still, in an era highly conscious of matters racial and ethnic, Italians like Joe Colombo found a way to express their sense of ethnic grievance, too. Although the Italian community was well served by social groups like the Knights Of Columbus and the Order Of The Sons Of Italy, Colombo became involved in a new outfit, heavily mob-influenced and called, in the spirit of the times, the Italian-American Civil Rights League. And The Godfather's arrival in Manhattan gave the group a chance to raise its profile.

The league demanded consultation rights and got them from Ruddy in exchange for access to locations. Frank Sinatra - probably not pleased at Puzo's oblique references to the manner in which he secured his comeback role in From Here To Eternity - headlined a league fundraiser at Madison Square Garden, and local politicians attended the league's first rally in 1970, decrying anti-Italian prejudice (one hears the echo of Joe Pesci's plaintive wail in Goodfellas: "She's prejudiced against Italians. Imagine that - a Jew broad!").

They had a point - up to a point: Gangsters in the movies before 1970 were redolent of grotesque and venerable stereotypes about unwashed Italian immigrants pouring off Ellis Island. On the other hand - tell it to Sidney Poitier.

Or consider a contemporary figure like Anthony Imperiale, "the White Knight of Newark", namechecked by Tony Soprano in series four. Imperiale rose in the aftermath of the 1967 Newark riots as a streetcorner agitator exploiting Italian-American fears about black encroachment on hitherto white neighbourhoods - which he patrolled after dark with carloads of excitable, albeit unarmed young men.

Imperiale disavowed any racist intent, indeed he merrily hijacked the language of the real civil rights movement, despite talking of "Martin Luther Coon" and invoking a feral, spectral "them" whenever he mentioned blacks. You can breathe this toxic atmosphere of neighbourhood insularity and racism throughout Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale, also set in those years.

A hunger for headlines and flashbulbs seemed to be part of Joe Colombo's motivation in entangling himself with the league and the Godfather shoot. It was to be his undoing. His secretive, camera-phobic criminal cohorts got fed up with him. Working in partnership with capo di tutti i capi Carlo Gambino, Joey Gallo, free again and no less crazy, had a black criminal associate, one Jerome Johnson, gun Colombo down at the Italian-American League's second annual rally at Columbus Circle.

A black triggerman in a mob hit was then unheard of, and totally alien to the mafia's modus operandi, but no one was fooled. Johnson was gunned down in seconds by an assailant who immediately vanished, but everyone suspected Gallo because of his Harlem connections.

By the time Gallo himself was killed a year later - gunned down in a Mulberry Street clam house while celebrating his 43rd birthday - he had acquired his own taste for publicity: he was feted by writers (he'd read Camus and Sartre in the can), and was pimping his own memoir, A-Block. After Joe Colombo's fatal experience with The Godfather, you'd think Gallo might have learned his lesson. As it turned out, he died the same way as Virgil "The Turk" Sollozo at the hands of newly-minted murderer Michael Corleone, in an explosion of blood and clam sauce - just like in the movies.

Thanks to The Guardian

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Godfather Returns

Forty-three years ago, Mario Puzo’s great American tale, The Godfather, was published, and popular culture was indelibly changed.

In The Godfather Returns, acclaimed novelist Mark Winegardner continues the story–the years not covered in Puzo’s bestselling book or in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic films.

It is 1955. Michael Corleone has won a bloody victory in the war among New York’s crime families. Now he wants to consolidate his power, save his marriage, and take his family into legitimate businesses. To do so, he must confront his most dangerous adversary yet, Nick Geraci, a former boxer who worked his way through law school as a Corleone street enforcer, and who is every bit as deadly and cunning as Michael. Their personal cold war will run from 1955 to 1962, exerting immense influence on the lives of America’s most powerful criminals and their loved ones, including


  • Tom Hagen, the Corleone Family’s lawyer and consigliere, who embarks on a political career in Nevada while trying to protect his brother;
  • Francesca Corleone, daughter of Michael’s late brother Sonny, who is suddenly learning her family’s true history and faces a difficult choice;
  • Don Louie Russo, head of the Chicago mob, who plays dumb but has wily ambitions for muscling in on the Corleones’ territory;
  • Peter Clemenza, the stalwart Corleone underboss, who knows more Family secrets than almost anyone;
  • Ambassador M. Corbett Shea, a former Prohibition-era bootlegger and business ally of the Corleones’, who wants to get his son elected to the presidency–and needs some help from his old friends;
  • Johnny Fontane, the world’s greatest saloon singer, who ascends to new heights as a recording artist, cozying up to Washington’s power elite and maintaining a precarious relationship with notorious underworld figures;
  • Kay Adams Corleone, who finally discovers the truth about her husband, Michael–and must decide what it means for their marriage and their children and
  • Fredo Corleone, whose death has never been fully explained until now, and whose betrayal of the Family was part of a larger and more sinister chain of events.


Sweeping from New York and Washington to Las Vegas and Cuba, The Godfather Returns is the spellbinding story of America’s criminal underworld at mid-century and its intersection with the political, legal, and entertainment empires. Mark Winegardner brings an original voice and vision to Mario Puzo’s mythic characters while creating several equally unforgettable characters of his own. The Godfather Returns stands on its own as a triumph–in a tale about what we love, yearn for, and sometimes have reason to fear . . . family.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Vito Corleone's Home from "The Godfather" is for Sale.

The Staten Island movie home of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather” is for sale.

The Staten Island movie home of Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather' is for sale.


Rated as one of the best movies of all time, “The Godfather,” the blockbuster crime film produced in 1972, ran away with the Oscars winning Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. The portrayals of an extended New York crime family by its cast of Marlon Brando, then unknown Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton showed the personal lives of the Mafia during their heyday years of the 1940s and 50s. Most of the movie’s scenes were filmed in New York City locations including Bellevue Hospital, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Calvary Cemetery and a 1930 Tudor that was the stately home of Vito Corleone.

The movie home chosen for Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, was the longtime family home of Edward and Mary Norton in the Todt Hill neighborhood of Staten Island. It was recommended by Gianni Russo who grew up in the area and played the role of Vito’s traitor son-in-law, Carlos Rizzi. The Norton home was large, but unpretentious enough to blend in seamlessly with five neighboring homes to look like one big compound on movie screens during the 18 months of the film's production. “Godfather” fans will probably remember the home best for the movie’s opening garden party wedding reception for Vito’s daughter, Connie Corleone, while bobby-sox pop singer Johnny Fontane pleaded for the Godfather’s help to land a coveted Hollywood movie role. The home was also a good place for the Corleone family and associates to hunker down during the Mafia Wars.

Now for sale after a complete renovation in 2012, the 6,248-square-foot natural stone Tudor is sited on over a half acre of lawns, mature trees and landscaping that invites any size garden party and now enhanced further with an in-ground saltwater pool and infrared grill. No longer is the kitchen the small 1940’s-style where the cauldron of “Sunday gravy” simmered, but is now a modern day cook’s kitchen and breakfast room where friends and family gather in comfort. With five bedrooms and seven baths, the house is perfect for a large family and their guests with entertaining made easy in the formal rooms. There are also two offices, gym, playroom and two fireplaces. The basement features an English pub and man cave area with a game room, storage room with bath and four-car garage. Also a sound system, intercom, radiant heat, natural gas generator and, of course, a state-of-the-art security system.

The Staten Island home of the fabled Vito Corleone, seen around the world in the film “The Godfather” that grossed $245 million, is for sale after a complete renovation priced at $2.895 million. The listing agent is Connie Profaci of Profaci Realty in Staten Island, New York.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mario Puzo's Family Settles Lawsuit with Paramount Over New Godfather Book

The studio that made "The Godfather" movies has settled a lawsuit with the estate of author Mario Puzo, who created the Mafia family saga. Paramount Pictures Corp sued in February in an attempt to block a new book in the "Godfather" series, which it said was being published without its permission and in violation of copyright agreements.

Notice of the settlement was filed in the U.S. District Court in New York, but terms were not disclosed as the "parties have agreed that the terms of the settlement are confidential," said Richard Kendall, a lawyer for Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc.

"We're very pleased with the settlement," said Bertram Fields, a lawyer for the Puzo estate.

Puzo, who died in 1999, was the author of the 1969 bestseller "The Godfather" and other novels on the same theme.

Paramount sued Puzo's estate in February, saying it had approved sequels without the movie studio's permission and in violation of its copyrights. The family had received Paramount's permission for the publication of only one sequel, "The Godfather Returns," by Mark Winegardner, in 2004.

The Puzo family moved ahead with a second sequel, "The Godfather's Revenge," by Winegardner in 2006, without Paramount's permission, the lawsuit said.

A third book, a prequel called "The Family Corleone" by Ed Falco, was released by Grand Central Publishing in May. An interim settlement agreement provided that funds earned from the book would go into escrow, according to a September court decision.

In the lawsuit, Paramount also claimed its agreements with Pu zo a utomatically gave it motion picture rights to "The Family Corleone" and any other sequels.

The estate filed a counterclaim in March seeking $10 million and accusing the studio of breaching a 1969 agreement with Puzo. It also asked the court to cancel Paramount's rights to the original "The Godfather" book.

In September, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan denied a motion by Paramount to dismiss the estate's counterclaim, but dismissed the attempt to cancel the book rights.

The case is Paramount Pictures Corporation v. Anthony Puzo, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-1268.

Friday, March 30, 2012

5 West Coast Mob Travel Spots

With a roster of names like Jimmy the Weasel, Tony the Ant, and Flipper Milano, you might think of characters from a kids cartoon. Well, fuhgeddaboudit. They're all West Coast mobsters. And, while cement shoes and "made men" are typically associated with New Jersey, New York and Chicago, plenty of Cosa Nostra action went down in the West. Here are five hideouts where you can get a piece of the "family" business.

1. The Mob Museum, Las Vegas
Located in the former federal courthouse where mobsters such as Tony Spilotro and Lefty Rosenthal were prosecuted, this museum tells the story of organized crime and the authorities who tried to shut it down. Listen to wire-taps of mobsters, join a police lineup and wince at graphic photos of mob hits. 300 Stewart Ave., (702) 229-2734, www.themobmuseum.org.

2. Romolo's Cannoli, San Mateo
After icing Paulie in "The Godfather," Peter Clemenza turns to Rocco and says, "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." Drop in and bump off a couple of these rich Sicilian pastries. Filled with bourbon vanilla bean ice cream, or ricotta cream blended with sugar and spice, this is an offer you can't refuse. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 81 37th Ave., (650) 574-0625, www.romolosfactory.com.

3. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood
When Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was suspected of skimming money from the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, his East Coast pals gave him the Moe Green Special - death by bullet in the eye - at his girlfriend's Beverly Hills home. Come pay your respects at the tomb where Bugsy is taking a permanent "dirt nap"; the inscription reads "In loving memory from the family." 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., (323) 469-1181, www.hollywoodforever.com.

4. Capo's, Las Vegas
Knock on the door; a peephole pops open, and a heavy Italian accent asks if "You gotta reservashun?" With blood-red booths, chandeliers dripping crystals, and live Sinatra music daily, this "luxury mafia-chic" restaurant is the perfect spot for a couple of goodfellas and their molls to grab a bite. 5675 W. Sahara Ave., (702) 364-2276, www.caposrestaurant.com.

5. Cal Neva Resort, Crystal Bay, Nevada
Looking to hide out? Head for the tunnels below Cal Neva, the first legal casino in the United States. When Frank Sinatra owned this pad in the '60s, he dug tunnels from the casino to private cottages, so he and his favorite guys and dolls - including Marilyn Monroe, Joe Kennedy and Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana - could move about discreetly. Tour the tunnels Tue.-Sun. 2 Stateline Road, (800) 233-5551, www.calnevaresort.com.

Thanks to Diane Susan Petty

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hollywood's Love Affair with Gangsters Continues to Grow

What is it about the gangster that has always captivated our public imagination?

In America, since the very first black- and-white silent films, we’ve been mesmerized by the fedoras, the guns, the women and the nightlife. These were the men who broke all the rules - when they weren’t writing their own rules - and lived the good life as a result.

In this way, they aren’t just criminals but also a certain special sort of capitalist. Take away the nasty, back-alley murders and they are living the American dream: building up mini corporate empires and reaping the profits.

We’re less than a week away from the next gangster movie epic: "Public Enemies," which opens in theaters Wednesday. Attracting the talents of such considerable film artists as director Michael Mann and actors Johnny Depp and Christian Bale it’s clear that gangsters remain as fascinating a force today as they were for the authors and filmmakers of a century ago.

What’s different this time around, however, is that "Public Enemies" focuses on not just one, but two emerging power structures. Less a claustrophobic view of the mafia power structure ("The Godfather"), "Public Enemies" is about a clash of two titans in the public sphere: bank robber John Dillinger (Depp) who wanted to be the renegade celebrity of his time, and J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), who brought all his forces to bear in his hunt for Dillinger because he was convinced that this was the case that could legitimize and nationalize the FBI.

It’s a face-off of epic proportions, but hardly the first. Here’s a quick look back at the evolution of the movie gangster:

Scarface
(1932)

More people are familiar with the 1983 remake starring Al Pacino, but the very first "Scarface," released in 1928, was a bleak affair. So, too, was the Howard Hawks remake in 1932, which viewed the gangster life as an apocalyptic one - a sure-fire path to the grave. Made back in the day when gangs and mafia kingpins really did rule with an iron fist, this was a movie that reflected its era.

The Public Enemy
(1931)

It’s truly shocking to go back and rent "The Public Enemy" some 77 years after it was first released. This is an intense, vicious, fierce movie - and it comes as a surprise how very little about this old-time movie seems soft or dated. It stars James Cagney as an up-and-comer in Chicago, working his way through the ranks of gangsters even as a murder threatens to unleash havoc amid those in the underground community. Cagney is cool and calculating, and downright nefarious when he needs to be. We can smell the smoke, and feel the ferocity of the time period.

Kiss Me Deadly
(1955)

One of my personal favorites, "Kiss Me Deadly" brought gangsters and the film noir genre into the nuclear age. Mike Hammer was a firebrand of a private eye, quick to fire off the first punch or the first bullet. And in "Kiss Me Deadly," a mysterious hitchhiker draws him into a web of violence and mystery, as everyone seems determined to take possession of a mysterious suitcase that glows whenever you open it (it was the inspiration behind the golden glowing suitcase in Quentin Tarantino’s "Pulp Fiction.")

The Godfather Part II - The Coppola Restoration
(1974)

Francis Ford Coppola was brilliant in the way he structured this sequel to "The Godfather," paralleling a modern-day story starring Al Pacino with a turn-of-the-century subplot involving Robert De Niro (playing Pacino’s father when still a young man). Establishing friendships with local businessmen, stocking up favors and slowly starting to exert his influence among the establishment, we come to see the way that thughood can be a grass-roots affair. Forget tyrant, De Niro is almost a populist in the way he helps the community and earns their undying allegiance in the process.

Road to Perdition (Widescreen Edition)
(2002)

A modern and moody spin on the standard gangster thriller, "Road to Perdition" went beyond the blood and the testosterone to offer us a wave of sincere emotion beneath the surface. Paul Newman plays the Chicago mob boss in 1931, and Tom Hanks works for him directly. Hanks’ world is flipped upside down when his son follows him one night and witnesses what daddy does for a living. More than just about a gangster ruling with an iron fist, "Road to Perdition" poses the question of whether violence is truly manly, or if it’s a weak man’s attempt to provide for a family. And as Hanks shares his trade with his son, we see the way that bad traditions are passed down through the generations, a cycle of dark despair.

Heat
(1995)

It’s also worth taking a moment to acknowledge the last gangster movie that was made by "Public Enemies" director Michael Mann. "Heat" viewed the gangster and the cop as equals, with Al Pacino in the part of the detective and Robert De Niro in the part of the master criminal. Sitting down to coffee as they try to intimidate - and relate to - one another, "Heat" is less about good and evil, crime and justice, than about seeing the men of the law and the men of the shadows as two personas cut from the same cloth. Both are obsessed, vigilant, and cut-throat; "Heat" is truly one of the great thrillers.

Thanks to Steven Snyder

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Would You Help Michael Corleone?

A couple of years ago, EA took on the ambitious task of creating a video game based around the iconic film, The Godfather. While video games based off of films generally turn out to be real stinkers, the developers had some interesting concepts that eventually made the video game adaptation a hit. One major aspect of the first game that was missing was the feeling of actually being a Don and controlling your crime family. EA thought this through, and due to the overwhelming request for a follow up, it was one aspect they couldn’t refuse for the sequel.

The Godfather II takes place during the eve of the Cuban revolution. In the midst of a major mob meeting in Havana, the Don of your family is killed and you take control of your battered organization. Once Michael Corleone is investigated by the Senate Committee on Organized Crime, he calls upon you to gain control and reestablish the New York operation and make an expansion into Miami. To succeed you must hire men, gain loyalty, extort businesses, and if need be, take out a made man or two. As they say, it’s only business.

Admittedly the concepts behind this new game made my mouth water with anticipation. I mean finally I get to be the Don of my own family and take siege of territories. With that said, the actual strategies of the game fare very well. You get to recruit your own members one by one, taking in consideration what strategies will be best suited for each operation. You get to have conversations with each new recruit to see if their lifestyle and goals mesh with your own. Once you have your crew established, it’s time to make some money. You can start off by taking over one business at a time, but most businesses are linked which allow you to quickly organize your own crime ring. To take over businesses you have to intimidate the owners. You don’t wanna go in guns a blazing, that does no one any good, not to mention who wants to own a bullet riddled burlesque house? Each owner can be manipulated by a series of measures, physically, destroying property, it is up to you to find the owner’s weak spot and exploit it to take over a business, and maybe even earn a little extra scratch if you take your time with such actions.

Of course just taking over business isn’t as easy as going in and roughing up the place. You will have rival families to deal with, and not just the ones who own the rackets, but other families who are just as eager to make a name for themselves. You can set up guards to hold down any businesses you control, and if need be, send one of your own family to take care of the business and increase that man’s loyalty to the family. If you find that a particular family is getting too greedy, you can take out a made guy and show that family who is boss. There will be certain circumstances where the made man is too strong to just walk in and execute, so it is up to you to find out the right way to take them out as if not to have the entire family gunning for you.

Here you can find key individuals on the street from civilians who need a favor or even corrupt officials who are on the take. They will not only tell you the location of the made guy in question, but provide clues on how to properly perform the execution.

All these factors can be controlled by looking at the “Don’s View” menu that shows you the entire map and the specific locales and people involved. It is here where you can manage your affairs such as money, how many guards to control areas, where made men hide out, etc. This all sounds good right? Well indeed the whole Don control aspects are the meat of the game and will keep anyone interested from beginning to end. I do have a few certain gripes about the way the A.I. plays out in this portion of the game, such as territories being taken over too quickly, or even retaken over once controlled. So there are a few setbacks that hamper exploration in the game.

Where The Godfather II hurts in implementation is the actual gameplay itself. With a little more polish on visuals, controls, and A.I. The Godfather II could have been something special. Not that the game is unplayable or has major problems, but little things like floaty controls, the inability to jump unless prompted, the less than next generation visuals, and extremely dumb and erratic A.I. keep the game from living up to the expectations of many gamers. All my little nitpicks are vague and if you really enjoy the strategies and aspects of the Godfather II, then you will soon forget about the issues and appreciate what it does best; allows you to finally be the Don. There are many gamers out there who will let the action portions of the game intrude on their enjoyment, which is a shame as the core of the game is very addictive.

The Godfather II offers online play, but at the time of this review (before the game’s official release), it wasn’t yet implemented, so I was unable to be apart of the game’s online experience. You can however, join up and have an all out crew battle with 16 players by taking members of your own family online, raising their ranks, and even transfer cash into the single player campaign.

I for one love what ideas the developers had in store with The Godfather II. The strategy elements were well thought out, implemented nicely, and the game really gives players the feeling of controlling your own family. If a bit more polish and time were given to the game’s action portion, The Godfather II would indeed be one you couldn’t refuse. As is, I can only suggest playing it first to see if you are the kind of gamer who appreciates the game enough to endure the subtle flaws. If you are, you can rest assured you will have a great time going to the mattresses.

Thanks to Brian Peterson

Friday, April 10, 2009

EA Makes an Offer That Can’t Be Refused – The Godfather II Video Game is Now in Stores

Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) and Paramount Digital Entertainment announced the arrival of The Godfather® II videogame in stores now in North America for the Xbox 360® videogame and entertainment system, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system, and PC. The game will be available on April 10th in Europe.

Godfather IIGodfather II


The Godfather II is the sequel to the multi-platinum hit The Godfather The Game and has earned a perfect 5 out of 5 from GamePro magazine. GamePro calls the game “…criminally addictive” and “...the experience by which other crime games must be judged."

“The Godfather II offers players the ultimate fantasy of being a Don - of finally being the guy who calls all the shots for the family,” says Executive Producer Hunter Smith. “By combining the strategic gameplay of thinking like a Don through the 'Don's View', with our intense, visceral 'Blackhand' combat, we are focusing on the game at the root of the Godfather franchise, the game of organized crime. In essence, we're creating a new niche in the open-world genre and are really excited to see how players will build their families and customize their own experience in both the single player campaign and multiplayer battles.”

The Godfather II takes all of the drama, action and family values from the classic Godfather films and brings them into an interactive experience. This means that players have to build and invest in their family, manage their rackets, takeover crime rings and even reach out to corrupt officials – all through the revolutionary Don’s View. The Don’s View is a 3D display of the player’s criminal empire and family tree, offering a birds-eye view of all three cities to better coordinate their take-down strategies, plan hits on rival made men, attack enemy compounds, and much more. As a Don in the Corleone family, The Godfather II puts the control in the players’ hands and allows them to live in the Godfather universe while creating their own story of deception, betrayal, and conquest in a 1960’s organized crime world.

Developed at the EA Redwood Stores studio, The Godfather II is rated M for Mature by the ESRB and 18+ for PEGI.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Comparing Dick Cheney to a Mafia Godfather

The Mafia has its methods in politics and its role in economy. Its minds (agents) are planted in the State's essential institutions. They form lobbies. They are active in the media, cultural, and leisure fields (British historian Eric Hobsbawm). The reference of all the agents, employees and lawyers is the greater godfather. The godfather is the arbitrator of conflicts. He gives orders. He protects those who need protection. He mediates for the promotion or the dismissal of this or that person. Dick Cheney was the godfather during President George Bush's term. He planted neocons in his office, in the State Department, at the Department of Defense, in the judicial power, in newspapers, in research centers. At the time, mafia behavior came together with cowboy behavior.

Because a godfather would die rather than resign, Cheney - after taking his walking stick and leaving the White House - is acting like a governor in Africa or the Middle East; or like Marlon Brando in the famous movie, or like Al Pacino and Robert de Niro in its second part.

After former US Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Cheney is waging a campaign against President Barack Obama and his efforts towards a dialogue with America's enemies, and the 'axis of evil'; against his choosing Christopher Hill as US Ambassador to Iraq because of his lack of Middle East experience, as he said - and also because he was able to reach an agreement with North Korea to stop its nuclear activities. The godfather fears that he will repeat the same experience with Iran. He assures that he pressured Bush to adopt a more stringent stance against Tehran and Pyongyang.

Hill might not be any better than his predecessor Ryan Crocker in Iraq or Jeffrey Feltman in Lebanon, for in the end, he does nothing but represent his administration's policy. But the godfather does not like this policy. He is against the ambassador because he will supervise the liquidation of Bush's legacy (his own, in fact) in that country and the area surrounding it. Doesn't the Mafia try to preserve its legacy, unheeding of social, historic, or political developments? Isn't this what the US Mafia did in the 1920s when agrarian society turned into a society of industry and consumption? Isn't this what happened in Iraq after the State and society were disassembled? Isn't the demand for the privatization of the army and turning it into a security guard against the theft of the companies supervised by small godfathers similar to Mafia actions?

Domestically, the godfather did not pass over the defense of his legacy. He considered all the measures that violate the US Constitution such as torture in prison, phone tapping, and arrest without trial to be "necessary for collecting information that allowed us to foil attack attempts against the United States". He said that this is the law, despite the opposition of opponents. But Cheney still blames Bush for accepting a judgment that indicted his Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby for perjury and disclosing secret intelligence information - although the sentence was commuted two and a half years. Bush refused to issue a pardon for Libby before he left the White House.

The godfather is disgruntled. He was not able to protect one of his men. He has nothing to console him in his isolation except memories and futile interference in the affairs of the administration. He is awaiting the time of revenge that might not come while he is alive.

Thanks to Mostafa Zein

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Be the Don and Build Your Crime Family on April 7, 2009

"The Godfather II is taking the open-world genre in an entirely new direction by combining the furious combat of acting like a mobster, with the strategic gameplay of thinking like a Don," says Hunter Smith, Executive Producer for The Godfather II.

"As game makers, when we looked at what lies at the heart of the Godfather universe, we discovered a game focused around organized crime. The Corleones and all the other families schemed and fought to gain access and control of different territories, so that they could control the flow of money in those areas.

This underlying battle cloaked secrecy is what The Godfather II and mafia life is all about, and we wanted players to be in control as a Don and make those strategic decisions to lead their families to success."

As a Don in the Corleone family, The Godfather II allows players to carve out their own story of deception, betrayal, and conquest in a 1960's organized crime world. Interacting closely with major characters, your story will interweave with many of the key events From The film, such as the meeting of the Don's in Cuba, blackmailing Senator Geary, and the Senate investigation of organized crime.

Players will have to invest in their family, manage their business, and reach out to corrupt officials - all of which is done through the revolutionary Don's View. The Don's View is a 3D representation of the player's criminal empire; it allows them to coordinate their strategy, plan hits on rival made men, attack enemy rackets, and much more. By letting players call the shots, The Godfather II delivers the ultimate organized crime experience.

Developed at the EA Redwood Stores studio, The Godfather II will be coming to the Xbox 360 videogame and entertainment system, PLAYSTATION 3 computer entertainment system, and PC.

Players who pre-order The Godfather II at participating retailers worldwide will receive an exclusive crew member, named Tommy Cipolla, to hire into their family. The Godfather II has been rated M for Mature by the ESRB and 18+ for PEGI.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to Build Your Own Organized Crime Family

Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) and Paramount Digital Entertainment announced that The Godfather® II videogame will be shipping on February 24th in North America and on February 27th in Europe. The Godfather II allows players to both act like a mobster and think like a Don, by immersing them in a 1960’s organized crime world. As a Don, players can build a crew and grow their family in an effort to become the most powerful mob syndicate in America. Players will be able to choose how and when to use their Made men, either by commanding them directly in battle as part of their crew, or by sending them to do a job in another part of the world – bombing rival family rackets, attacking their businesses, or defending your own.

Players who pre-order The Godfather II at participating retailers worldwide will receive an exclusive crew member, named Tommy Cipolla, to hire into their family. While the other soldiers at the start of the game come equipped with one specialty and level-one firearms, Tommy will be the only crew member to possess two specialties – arsonist and medic – as well as carry a level-two double-barreled shotgun. With Tommy in your family, players will have a strategic advantage in the game, using his advanced skills either directly in battle, or sending him to take over and defend rackets on his own.

The Godfather II takes the open-world genre in an entirely new direction. Part of the fascination with The Godfather fiction is the feeling of power that comes with being the Don of an organized crime family – and The Godfather II game puts the control in your hands. While at its heart The Godfather II remains an action game, it also features deep new strategic gameplay mechanics never before seen in an open-world game. The strategic elements to the game allow you to extend the fantasy of building and running your own organized crime family. This means that you have to build and invest in your family, manage your businesses, and reach out to corrupt officials – all of which is done through the revolutionary Don’s View. The Don’s View is a 3D representation of your criminal empire in all three cities; it allows you to coordinate your strategy, plan hits on rival Made men, attack enemy rackets, and much more. The Godfather II delivers the ultimate organized crime experience by allowing you to call the shots.

Developed at the EA Redwood Stores studio, The Godfather II will be coming to the Xbox 360® videogame and entertainment system, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system, and PC. The Godfather II has been rated M for Mature by the ESRB and 18+ for PEGI.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Godfather is Restored to Its Glory

The Godfather is remembered as a dark picture. But over the years it has become less dark than intended.

The opening scene of the best-picture Oscar winner is the ultimate example. Emerging from shadow is the face of Bonasera (Salvatore Corsitto), the father who asks Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) for a favor on the day of the Don's daughter's wedding. But when director Francis Ford Coppola saw the 1972 film on a screen for its 25th anniversary, he thought, "Gee, the picture doesn't look like I remember it looking. This very, very beautiful photography of (cinematographer) Gordon Willis over the years had faded."

The movie is back to its inky finest — thanks to an assist from Steven Spielberg — on The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration, available today on a new five-disc DVD collection with all three Godfather films and two discs of bonus features, as well as a four-disc Blu-ray set ($73 and $120, respectively; each film on individual DVDs, $20).

The Godfather was a victim of its own success. It earned $135 million in the USA, which in modern terms would make the film the No. 21 box-office earner of all time, according to boxofficemojo.com.

To meet demand, Paramount quickly made large numbers of copies to ship to theaters. As a result, "the negative was ultimately destroyed through the practice of printing it so much," Coppola says from Buenos Aires while editing the film Tetro.

A decade ago, Paramount stored all its Godfather film elements in a cold vault to help preserve them until a full digital makeover was possible. "No matter how seriously the studio wished to solve the problems at that time, it would not be possible until digital technology provided the tools," says Robert Harris of The Film Preserve, which eventually handled the restoration of both The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II (1974).

Fast-forward to 2005: Coppola, looking to renew the preservation effort, wrote to Spielberg when DreamWorks was acquired by Paramount. Could Spielberg, who had been involved in restoring Lawrence of Arabia, spur on the project? It was an offer Spielberg could not refuse. He took the request to studio chairman Brad Grey, who set into motion the two-year process, overseen by Paramount post-production executive Marty Cohen and done at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging in Burbank, Calif.

No single usable Godfather negative remained that was suitable as a source. In the end, Harris and the preservation team gathered a bunch of backup film elements and an Italian-subtitled print used as a color reference.

Over months, the restoration technicians carefully scanned the material and then began cleaning up the footage in its digital form, 4K files (meaning the video is made up of 4,000 lines of horizontal resolution, more than four times the quality of HDTV).

In addition to digitally removing scratches and repairing damage — more than 1,000 man-hours of dirt removal was performed on The Godfather— the technicians were able to fix errors that were more than three decades old. The restaurant scene in which Michael (Al Pacino) shoots Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) and Capt. McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) had been filmed over two nights. But one night's footage had been incorrectly processed, resulting in less detail and a washed-out look — an error that has been corrected digitally.

"Without those innovations, we would not have been able to move forward with the same results," Cohen says. "This is about rebuilding to some degree and putting new paint on the house."

Coppola and Willis consulted on every step of the restoration, which is detailed in a documentary on the new collections. Thanks to the restoration, Willis has regained his title "Prince of Darkness," Coppola says.

"So much of his art was to have the blackness of the black be so vividly black that everything else stood out from it," he says. "The restoration achieved that again."

Thanks to Mike Snider

Crime Family Index