- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has taken many a controversial stand — repealing Obamacare, deporting illegal immigrants. But he may have outdone himself Wednesday night at a CNN town hall meeting.

He mentioned “The Godfather, Part III” among his all-time favorite films.

Host Anderson Cooper asked Mr. Cruz to name some of his favorite movies, besides his oft-repeated answer that he most loves “The Princess Bride.”

He gave the common response — also mentioned by rival Donald Trump and previous candidates Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and President Obama — of the popular and iconic “Godfather” films.

But then the heresy struck: He specified “actually all three” films in Francis Coppola’s gangster trilogy.

A disbelieving Mr. Cooper replied that “I’ve never met anyone” who thinks that, which Mr. Cruz acknowledged in a self-deprecating way. 

The third “Godfather” film hit theaters in 1990, long after the 1972 and 1974 releases of the first two films, but to a much-cooler critical and commercial reception.

While “The Godfather, Part III” grossed $137 million and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, there was considerable derision at such elements of the film as the absence of Robert Duvall as the Sicilian family’s consigliere, the tangled plot involving Vatican finance, and the performance of Mr. Coppola’s daughter Sofia in a role intended for Winona Ryder. star Al Pacino reportedly told Miss Coppola that if she ever thought about acting again, she should lie down and try to forget about it.

Even critic Gene Siskel, who named it among his 10 Best for the year, said on the famous TV show he co-hosted with Roger Ebert that “no, it’s not in the same league as the first two films. But then, how many movies are?”

But Mr. Cruz apparently goes even beyond that heterodox judgment, calling the third film a “wonderful culmination” of the tragedy of Michael Corleone. In describing that tragedy, the Texan, as he is wont to do, went into an imitation of Mr. Pacino delivering the best-known line in the film, about how he’s every time he tries to escape the gangster life, “they pull me back in.”

At the CNN town hall meeting Wednesday with his wife and daughters, Mr. Cruz also spread the love out a bit, boosting a small film about Christian social reformers and God’s hand in history.

The 2006 film “Amazing Grace” is a biography of William Wilberforce, the 18th century British Christian crusader against the slave trade and an inspirational and uniting figure among evangelicals to this day.

At the time in the late-18th century, Britain dominated the international trade in slaves, yet “a young member of Parliament” stood up and said this can’t morally continue, Mr. Cruz said.

“That’d be like someone in Texas saying, ‘We gotta shut down the oil industry,’ ” Mr. Cruz said.

Mr. Cruz also noted that “Amazing Grace” includes the origin story for the title it shares with the famed Gospel hymn, which he said he didn’t know before seeing the film.

The song was written by John Newton, portrayed in the film by Albert Finney and whom the film portrays as an influence on Wilberforce.

“The person who wrote [the hymn] had been the captain of a slave ship. He repented and became a friar” in atonement for the killing and torturing he had committed in that trade, Mr. Cruz said, going on to recite some of its famous lyrics: “I once was lost, but now I’m found / Was blind, but now I see.”

The movie ends — spoiler alert — with the passage of a bill banning the slave trade, the senator noted, calling the film “an inspirational film about the power of justice and truth.”

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