The High Life: What weed does to 'The Godfather'

For the most part, the weed hasn't been working this summer. Even endless eighths of A.K. 47, an alarmingly pleasant strain with a sour, plain yogurt-like flavor and a high that really encourages lots of darting around, deep thinking and chatting, can't quite quell my ennui. Mostly this has to do with the mordant state of the country (Trump) and Baltimore and its police, a shining beacon of "wow, y'all aren't even trying": the summer began with BPD bringing riot gear out to a vigil for Lor Scoota and is wrapping up with the damning DOJ report and, um, the recently uncovered existence of a secret surveillance program which records Baltimoreans. (Of course, some police are totally trying).

But still, last Sunday night I was smoking a bowl of Hawaiian Purple Kush—a murky mellow strain with a strangely delicious damp basement taste and a blurry underwater-ness to its high—for the umpteenth time this year and watching "The Godfather" for the umpteenth time in my life. The caustic, radically pragmatic cynicism of the 1972 American classic helped this high. Plus the movie has a distracted quality—it totally allows tangents and ugly mug-charming character actors (John Marley! Joe Spinnell! Abe Vigoda! Lenny Montana!) to steal it away for a few moments. It is convivial in that way.

The movie also has a stoney glow to it during its daytime shots and this Rembrandt-y void-gazing darkness to it elsewhere—nice for watching while weeded. And Marlon Brando as extrasensory old-ass Vito Corleone, handling a cat like it's a slinky in the first scene and shuffling around like a mumbling, messy-haired weirdo in chill-out clothes up until he croaks makes him a kind of unofficial, unflappable hero of the high, don't it?

And with some help from the high, the movie got me giggling. There's a moment where a slow dissolve takes us from a close-up of Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone in bed, post-assassination attempt, to a wide shot of the Sicilian countryside, where Al Pacino's Michael Corleone is hiding out for a while after icing Sollozzo and McCluskey (a cop!) in retaliation for his pops getting popped. The dissolve is a one-quarter clever matching of two images: the pillows behind the Don loosely line up with the mountains of the landscape and a tree lines up closely with the Don's mustache and for a second they all occupy the same space, and so, Brando's a silly face in the sky and his mustache a bunch of greenery. I rewound it a few times and watched it happen again and again, lol-ing.

Then, I took a screenshot of it. Then I tweeted the screenshot with the comment, "my fave part of 'the godfather' is when his mustache turns into a tree." I didn't think much of it. A few hours later, it had scooped up about 200 retweets and nearly 400 likes. About a week later, it's at nearly 3,000 retweets and over 7,000 likes. I don't entirely understand why this happened. I try real hard not to think about why people enjoy the things I put on the internet and just appreciate that they appreciate things. This line of thinking, where we take the internet very seriously until it's inconvenient or it rewards us with a cheap rush of approval we don't totally dig and then hold it at a distance like some data-cruncher, is a bummer if you ask me. It's a byproduct of deciding the internet isn't "real" or that, as Virginia Heffernan writes in "Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art," the internet's "glorious illusion" is that it "is life." I disagree with Heffernan here even if I understand her argument, because, jeez louise, everything is life, everything is real.

Still, I certainly had more interesting things to point out about "The Godfather" while I was high than "yo dawg, tree mustache lmao." But I also get a kick out of kicking at the canon, even when it's a movie I like quite a bit and find deeply moving like this one (Luca Brasi speaking to Vito at the beginning makes me tear up every time), so I tweeted that out, I guess. If any movie could afford to get zinged, it is "The Godfather," right?

Most people got the joke: "#OnePerfectShot," someone tweeted with a smirk; another responded with, "ITS THE CIRCLE OF LIFE," invoking "The Lion King"; another quipped, "directed by david lynch"; City Paper contributor Adam Katzman texted me, "I think that photo captures the liminal space where the tree reflects both the Don's mortality and his role as the Corleone family's roots so maybe the entirety of Twitter was responding to the idea of death and family in Trump's America," then in another text, joked, "I Vox'd it."

Others didn't get the joke. The internet is where all the people that don't get it gather and get loud. Many thought I was making some far less entertaining and way more predictable point about how well-conceived this movie is down to every shot, even a dissolve. "Pure genius filmmaking, directors are gods, no other way around it I'm afraid" to quote film culture parodist Kentucker Adler mocking this line of thinking in a vicious video essay on "Powder." 

And ayo, one dude totally Vox'd me even. He (of course it was a he) tweeted, "Perfect example of the Match Cut" along with a link to the Wikipedia entry for "Match Cut." This match dissolve however, is very, very dumb. It might literally be the only poor aesthetic decision in the whole movie. It signifies very little and even if it "says" this or that about tradition and blah blah blah, it is so silly. The sole misstep in an otherwise rather perfect piece of pop cinema. Jonathan Rosenbaum—who wrote seminal stoner cinema essay, 'What Dope Does To The Movies' by the way—says "The Godfather" is "a generic gangster film with arthouse trimmings" which he intends to be a sick burn I guess, but something that's a little smart and a little dumb is ideal if you ask me, a grown man who reviews pot for money.

Anyways, here is a dump of some of the a-little-smart, "The Godfather"-on-weed observations I had last weekend: Namely, how exactly has America fallen in love with this movie yet loathed and perpetually misunderstood street gang culture which operates under the same kind of Sturm und Drang strategy surrounding retaliatory violence? The answer is obvious—the dual American traditions of racism and cognitive dissonance—but you get my point.

I also appreciate how "The Godfather": challenges dedication to family (over country, even) but also finds solace in domesticity and, tied to that, is always subtly, sympathetically nodding at its women characters, forgotten, ignored, or dismissed as "crazy"; hints that it is Michael's time in World War II that prepares him for the role of cruel mafia boss; acknowledges that the mob targeted black neighborhoods when it came to selling narcotics; explores "whiteness" and unpacks how European-Americans get to be white and in its own way, is a savvy, sometimes very funny critique of WASPs that works nicely with "Watermelon Man" released two years earlier; it's, essentially, a tragic investigation of the immigrant experience and what immigrants give up to come here—very important as we continue enduring Donald Trump's ethnonationalist hollering; and suggests that the only difference between the mafia and established above-ground clusters of power such as the state/federal government or the police is how differently they do the same dirt.

I guess the weed worked that night.

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