Best Actor – 1973

Official Nominations: Jack Lemmon. Marlon Brando. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Robert Redford.

This is one of the few years in this category where I can’t argue against any of the choices. I mean, I won’t be picking Lemmon as winner but it’s still a terrific performance. Save The Tiger isn’t the best movie but it’s still a good find for anyone catching up on their 70s cinema and it’s difficult to picture anyone other than Lemmon in the role, thanks to his pathos and world weary everyman persona.

Even though Brando pissed off the Academy with his incident surrounding The Godfather win, he was nominated again 12 months later. Again, it’s difficult to argue against his brutal powerhouse showing in Las Tango In Paris. Nicholson continues his incredible 70s run with a film you feel doesn’t get enough attention now – The Last Detail runs the gamut from hilarious to tragic and Nicholson is alarmingly good. In the same boat is Al Pacino for Serpico – a good cop who is exposed to city wide corruption and tries to expose it all without getting cast out or hurt. Expect a lot of sudden shouts and energetic speeches, though his performance here is nowhere near top of the full Pacino volume scale as he reach later. Finally, another iconic performance by Redford in The Sting as a charming grifter who wants to learn and earn one big job, getting himself into trouble with cops and crooks along the way. Again you feel like Redford was made for the part.

My Winner: Al Pacino

My Nominations: Jack Lemmon. Marlon Brando. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Robert Redford. Martin Sheen. Donald Sutherland. Harvey Keitel. Ryan O’Neal. Steve McQueen. Gene Hackman.

I copy all five official nominees over with the additional caveat that Pacino gets additional nomination for Scarecrow. He plays alongside Gene Hackman, who I also nominate – both are strong as drifters intent on starting a car wash. They meet on the road, strike up a friendship and decide upon the business venture but get into various scrapes along the way. It’s a classic cult road movie where we just watch the characters riff on each other and try to get on in the face of tragedy and hardship.

Hardship and tragedy are a common theme in the category this year – Donald Sutherland giving a convincing portrayal of grief and obsession in Don’t Look Now and Martin Sheen as the increasingly unstable, violent, and charismatic Kit in Badlands. Harvey Keitel tries to avoid violence and protect an increasingly unstable friend while hoping to be noticed by Mafia superiors – it’s a nice counter-balance to De Niro’s ‘not quite there yet’ performance. Steve McQueen gives one of his last great performances in Papillon as a wrongly convicted man planning escape from a tough prison – McQueen showing more than the mere ‘cool’ he was typically known for. Finally, a more lighter-hearted effort with Ryan O’Neal in Paper Moon. His real life daughter got the official plaudits, but O’Neal is rarely better as the con man who agrees to take an orphan to her auntie – their relationship works because it feels genuine and both show great charm.

My Winner: Al Pacino.

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actor of 1973!

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Best Supporting Actor – 1972

Official Nominations: Joel Grey. Eddie Albert. James Caan. Robert Duvall. Al Pacino.

Part of me is glad that Joel Grey won here – the Buffy part. Buffy fans will know what I’m talking about. However, he’s going up against The Godfather cast so good luck. I’m not sure Robert Duvall does enough here to warrant a nomination, especially when some others from the movie didn’t make it. He’s great, no doubt, but I’d take a few others over him. James Caan is more obviously notable over the understated Duvall, starring as the hot-headed Sonny. Al Pacino is the star of the show, still a little odd that he didn’t get the main actor nod but he’s my winner here regardless in a role that grows and grows from reluctant first scene to crushing last. Finally, Eddie Albert gets his second nomination, this time for The Heartbreak Kid. It’s funny, he’s great, but he has no chance against Pacino here.

My Winner: Al Pacino

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My Nominations: Joel Grey. Eddie Albert. James Caan. Robert Duvall. Al Pacino. Jon Voight.

I don’t have any issue with any of the nominations this year. There’s a case for Voight being a lead in Deliverance, but due to the ensemble nature of the film I’m happy to have him here. Out of the four central characters in the movie I feel he gives the most committed and varied performance. There are plenty of other great performances this year, but I don’t think any compete with those above and certainly won’t impact my choice of winner.

My Winner: Al Pacino

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Supporting Actor of 1972!

Top Ten Tuesdays – Al Pacino

download   Greetings, Glancers! It’s Tuesday again, and that means it’s time to publish another Top Ten list. Today we look at one of the best actors of all time, one whose performances and films are always ranked right at the top of any critic’s lists – Al Pacino. I can’t remember what the first Pacino film I ever saw was, but I believe I came to start watching his movies quite late – at some point in my early teens. The first films I guess I would have seen him in would have been Dick Tracy or Scent Of A Woman – neither of which are featured in my list. The ten films I’ve selected will be fairly generic in that I imagine most other people would pick almost a similar list. That’s not to say of course that he has only had ten stand out performances – there’s quite a few other films, both from his 1970s peak, and more recently that could have made the cut. Lets do this.

10. The Devil’s Advocate

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Pacino is known for being… passionate.. in his performances, with sudden, fierce outbursts of emotion a release of untapped aggression. In The Devils Advocate he gives one of his most bravado, shouting, performances, usurping the smooth Gordon Gecko and creating an unholy union of Patrick Bateman, Rupert Murdoch, Holland Manners, and The Devil Itself. The film is an interesting mix of religious scares, post modern paranoia, and one percenter ambition and revelry, but Pacino steals the show and looks like he’s having impish fun throughout.

9. Serpico

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Riding high on the success of The Godfather, Pacino set his sights on a more heroic figure, that of NY Cop Frank Serpico, who wants to avoid being pulled into Police corruption and expose the many cops and officials who are abusing their powers. What could have just been another drama about dirty cops becomes one of the most impactful and hopeful versions of the trope, and Pacino creates his second iconic character. Along with Scarecrow and Needle Park, Pacino had already proven with his opening handful of films that he was a force to be reckoned with, bringing a vulnerability, power, and wild array of talents to the table.

8. Glengarry Glen Ross

As good a satire on the pointlessness of working for a living as Office Space, this one features a powerhouse cast delivering quotable dialogue and memorable performances – Pacino, Lemmon, Baldwin, Spacey. Taking all of the wit and cynicism from Mamet’s great lines, each cast member seems to enjoy chomping on each word with ferocity, Pacino delivering monologues and devising underhanded schemes with relish.

7. Carlito’s Way

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I’ve always seen this one, perhaps unfairly, as a mishmash of a few of Pacino’s more successful films. It has the temperate flavor of earlier gangster hits and the cool of his more noirish 90s thrillers, but it does have a life of its own with De Palma creating his trademark dread, and with Penn and Leguizamo backing up a brilliantly tired, reluctant Pacino. It’s a more thrilling tale than most mainstream gangster dramas, with less of an artistic nuance but who needs that when you have violence, action and plenty of one-liners?

6. Heat

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Michael Mann’s best film pairs (finally) Pacino with De Niro as the pair embark in a game of cops and robbers. We only see the two greats together for a couple of scenes, but both scenes are vital and electric. Brilliantly though, Mann packs the rest of the cast with some of the best actors of their generation, producing possibly the finest cast of the decade – with Voight, Kilmer, Judd, Portman, Sizemore, Noonan, Azaria and many many others each leaving an impact. Mann completely masters the film, giving each character space to breathe and we get a true sense of each person’s life – their desperation and fears. We don’t even notice that the story is a fairly unoriginal piece with Pacino’s world-weary cop trying to track down De Niro’s ‘one-final heist’ criminal. Beautifully shot and littered with iconic moments from the opening shoot-out to the diner scene, Heat is a ‘modern’ classic.

5. Donnie Brasco.

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Continuing the world-weary themes, Pacino again delivers a performance where we feel a jug full of sympathy for him. This time he is paired with undercover Johnny Depp. While Pacino wants out of the criminal life, Depp becomes more embroiled in its seductive ways blurring the line cleverly between good guy, bad guy, and circumstance. Much of the film shows Pacino’s Lefty introducing Depp’s Brasco to the mafia, its rules, its key players, and eventually its crimes – it is in these scenes that we can’t fail but fall a little for Pacino – a man who kept just missing his chance at the big time, only to be pushed around by younger thugs. Depp is also very good in one of the increasingly smaller straight roles of his career, and like Heat we get more than glimpses into the home life of each character, meaning the neatly wrapped-up ending has a double ache for the viewer.

4. The Godfather

Screen grab of The Scene video 'Why The Godfather’s Michael Corleone Is a Psychopath' Web to Watch - Why The Godfather’s Michael Corleone Is a Psychopath Channel: The Scene The Don has a certified psychopath on his hands. FBI vet Candice Delong explains why Michael Corleone represents the textbook example of a psychopath. thescene.com/vanityfair [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

The one that started it all. An epic in every sense of the word, I can’t say much more about this classic so I’ll just say that it contains some of the finest performances you’d ever hope to see, and prime among them is Pacino’s as Michael Corleone. We witness him change from a humble war hero who has sought to distance himself from the family business, his romantic tendencies, his growing anger at attacks on his family, and his eventual first kill in the name of vengeance. From there it is a dark descent into becoming what he never wanted to be, closing out the outside world in the interest of maintaining the family, and wiping out anyone who dares interfere. Once we see the struggle within during the cop assassination scene, and once he watches Apollonia’s murder he gives one of the cruelest, coldest, commanding performances ever.

3. The Godfather II

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I can’t say whether the sequel is the stronger film – they are both exquisite. Pacino is once again superb, now an established household name, and a much more ruthless figure than in Part One, though balanced with his attempts at being a father and husband. The film juxtaposes the breakdown of the Corleone family and Business with its inception decades earlier – De Niro playing a younger Vito, and Pacino struggling to maintain both facets of his life. It’s an incredibly intricate, tragic, violent tale with no winners.

2. Dog Day Afternoon

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While much of The Godfather trilogy sees Pacino in a relatively restrained fashion, Dog Day Afternoon allows him to give masterclass in energy, with the actor frantic, visceral, and always veering between total breakdown and the convincing sting of a politician. Ably backed-up by the always flawless John Cazale, Pacino is like a tornado, twirling and blasting his way through the bank, making all the wrong decisions, stirring up a media frenzy and getting the public on his side even as he holds numerous hostages at gunpoint. As the film progresses we are forced to sympathize or empathize with him, and more and more excellent side performances are given. By the time the tragic ending passes by, we are breathless and in awe.

1. Scarface

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The film which fully let Pacino off the reins; one of the most ludicrous, audacious, and entirely brilliant performances in movie history. Inexplicably despised upon release by most critics, the film is now rightly viewed as a classic, one which doesn’t shy away from the extreme violence and debauchery which is prevalent in the drug running business. Pacino again gives a wonderful portrayal of a man changing over time – from his early almost harmless ambition, to his violent, ruthless, power-hungry newcomer, and finally to his cocaine soaked, invincibility cloak wielding boss. Filled with memorable, quotable dialogue and timeless moments, Scarface is one that I’ll continue to watch and love till I’m facedown in a pool riddled with bullet-holes.

Let us know in the comments section what your favourite Al Pacino performances and/or films are!

Donnie Brasco

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At times more like Heat in style rather than Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco is a mix of many gangster films that have gone before, drawing parallels between mob life, and the real family life of each character, and showing the blurring of boundaries which can often occur. The style, the dialogue, the wit, the violence, everything we would expect to see is here, but there are enough good moments to keep the movie unique, and there are some good performances from typically very good actors. The film does not dwell on the scenes of murder, but rather focuses on characterisation, and the relationship between Donnie Brasco, the undercover agent who succumbs to the mafia way, and Lefty, an aging mobster who, in spite of his dedication and respected work has little to show for it, and never seems to rise through the ranks.

Johnny Depp plays Joe, an FBI agent, married with kids. He goes undercover as Donnie Brasco, an orphan from Florida to try and infiltrate the New York mafia. When Lefty, a member of the mob takes interest in him, Donnie becomes part of the gang. Lefty teaches him everything and acts like a father, and they become close as Donnie sees how Lefty wishes he could get away with his family, and hates the fact that he is always ‘passed over’. Madsen plays Sonny Black, a member who is rising ahead of Lefty even though he is younger and has done less. They move to Florida as Black tries to set up on his own, but the FBI raid his new club. They believe there is a rat, and kill one of their own thinking it was him. Lefty and Donnie know he was not a rat though. Black decides to kill Sonny Red and the other bosses so that he can have New York, and by this time Donnie is respected in the group and may one day become a ‘made man’. His family have been deserted, and the FBI do not know what he is doing. Brasco says he is trying to get Lefty out of the group before he is killed, as when Brasco is uncovered, Lefty will undoubtedly die. Brasco is becoming just like the men he was supposed to be putting away, and getting deeper into trouble with each day.

Overall it is the acting which keeps the film running at a steady, watchable pace. Depp is very good as Brasco, convincing in his dual roles and in his portrayal of how easy it can be to be seduced by power. Pacino is on familiar territory, and again is intense and thoughtful when he needs to be, giving another strong performance. Madsen is also good as the short-fused Sonny Black, and everyone else does what they have to do. The script is nothing we haven’t seen before, and although it sometimes seems like it is trying to too easily explain the ways and words of the mob, it still has a few refreshing moments. The life seems less glitzy than in other gangster films, and there are few shows of extravagance. These men seem to be low on the ladder, and not as good at what they do as other characters from other movies. We are left feeling great sympathy towards Lefty, even though he has been in the game for so long, he seems naive and in need of a real son or someone to connect with. He never gets a break, and is always the man given the smaller jobs. He has been in the business for so long that he knows little else though, and we sense from the start that he will never get away. Even though Joe completes his job, he knows blood will be forever on his hands and after having a taste of the high life, it will be difficult for him to return to normality.

The DVD has a short making of and trailer. The skant extras should not sway you from picking up this great film.

As always, feel free to leave any comments on the movie- how does this rank against the other Mafia/mob movies? Would you like to see Depp take on more ‘serious’ roles like he does here?