The Forgotten Genius of Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola. Legend of Filmmaking. Creator and producer. Maker of fine wines.

He’s managed to make headlines again with several projects revisiting past works, from The Cotton Club to The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. (The theatrical cut of The Godfather Coda was simply known as The Godfather Part III.) He’s re-edited his epic Apocalypse Now for a third time as the Apocalypse Now Final Cut.

And it’s that last one that’s somewhat moved me to write this blog.

As anyone who’s read this blog for any amount of time knows, I like to podcast. It’s the HAM Radio exercise of modern times, with a lower cost to entry point. I don’t make money at it, but I love doing it. So long as I love doing it, I’ll keep at it.

I’ve retired more shows than most people have attempted. I still do “guest appearances” but I don’t count them as regular obligations. At the zenith, I think I was appearing on four shows running simultaneously. Maybe it was five? Oh, I miss having the free time for that much of a hobby.

Anyway, one of the current shows is called Houselights. It gets broken out into sub-shows in the “House of…” series since it started life as a short-run show called House of Fincher. As I write this we’re covering Francis Ford Coppola’s work in the 1970s. Something I’ve realized as we revisit these films is that Coppola has become something of a forgotten genius.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean I think the guy is any less brilliant today. Whether I like his later works as much as his works from the 1970s is irrelevant to the conversation. What matters is his innate talent, passion and, in this case, his intellect.

While names like Spielberg and Lucas still command the attention of the general public in their own way – even as their own auteur status fades into the history books – and Scorsese is the de rigeur target of rage for comic book movie fans, Coppola seems to have slid more into the comfortable slot of Filmmaker Emeritus.

Also, I wish I could grow beards as awesome as he does.

And, frankly, I think that’s unfortunate. I know that the 1970s are distant memory or ancient history to most who accidentally choose to read my ramblings, but it’s hard to overstate what a remarkable achievement his body of work is from that time.

In the span of 2 years, he released The Godfather, The Conversation, and The Godfather Part II. Then after a ridiculously long production schedule filled with drama and setback and massive budget overruns – though James Cameron is presently putting him to shame on all those points – he unleashed Apocalypse Now on the world.

It’s stunning to think that someone produced not just one amazing filmmaking achievement in their lifetime but four inside of ten years! It’s the reason that, no matter what, I’m always interested to know what Coppola is planning. I desperately hope his passion project, Megalopolis, gets made.

But while that is potentially happening, people would rather sling barbs about which comic franchise is their favorite or harass strangers on social media about their opinions on the latest comic book franchise movie. It’s not even about movies anymore, it’s about tribal allegiance to a product. It makes honest criticism a lightning rod for accusation as a wrong-thinker.

It pushes someone like Francis Ford Coppola to the margins.

It’s frustrating because even Coppola’s misfires are at least interesting misfires. I’d rather have 1000 interesting failures than a sustained decade of successful mediocrities designed to sell toys. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good collectible as much as the next person, but with rare exceptions those things are simply earmarked for future landfills after I punch out.

Yes, I’m completely aware that the film business is a business and they want to make money. That’s fine.

This isn’t about the proceeds of Avengers: Endgame providing seed money for some Coppolas and a Scorsese. Although that would be a good use of it, and please toss in a new Kathryn Bigelow film, too.

This is about remembering Coppola as an important part of the conversation. I hope people do.