Other films in this marathon: Goodfellas, Casino, and Bullitt.
Building off the characters and pathos of The Godfather, Part II picks up after Michael becomes well established as the head of the Corleone family and shows his downfall. Suffice it to say, The Godfather Part II is brilliant.
The brilliance is a method that Lost also uses so well--using past events to inform the present story. The main story is about the fall of the Corleones, but the past vignettes interspersed throughout the film track the rise of the family with Vito, the Godfather, as the main character. The juxtaposition of the rise and of the fall makes the whole thing more tragic. The most apparent similarity drawn from the two story lines is the vicious cycle of violence and vengeance. Examples from both storylines are eerily similar, but an act in the early days draws benefits while an act in the current story line only shows desperation. By the time the past story line catches up to Michael as a young man, we immediately see what a huge change has taken place from who he was then to who is is now, and it's heartbreaking.
One of the things I appreciate most in TGP2 is that Michael's wife Kay disapproves, tells him, and actually takes action. After watching the victim and beaten wives in Goodfellas and Casino, it's a relief to see a woman with some backbone. Also, the fact that Kay is played by Diane Keaton blows my mind. I know her mostly from her fluffy recent movies, so to see her in such a serious film is a little jarring, but I love her in this.
But the best part about TGP2 is that it looks and sounds timeless. Nothing flashy goes on. It uses slow, methodical cinematography that doesn't distract from the characters on screen. And the score is heartbreaking and nostalgic with deep roots in Italian music. Again, in contrast to the frenetic and pop culturally aware Goodfellas and Casino, it's a relief to watch a film that's relying mostly on its own, insular world.
I know I'm not even beginning to touch on all the reasons The Godfather Part II is a great film, but it's a solid piece of cinema. I clocks in at around 200 minutes, but it's not a slow 200 minutes. Suspense is built in from curiosity about how the Corleones became the Corleones and how they're going to stop being the Corleones. Every scene is in there for a reason, and the pace never slacked. Basically, this is a perfect film.