”I think he projects such power because of his total lack of egocentricity. A lot of actors want to be sexy, cute, adorable…do anything to win an audience to their side…cater to every cheap, trendy, obvious appeal that will make them laugh. Al couldn’t care less. He’s too honest, and he loves the characters he plays too deeply to go in for that sort of thing. That’s why he can turn acting into poetry.” —Jill Clayburgh
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALFREDO JAMES PACINO! | (April 25, 1940)
Alright, this is the moment I have been waiting for. After like two years of patiently waiting and always asking “when’s The Insider coming to Blu-ray?? When? When??” Last month, it was released. And right now, I am going to watch it. So excited!!!
Dog Day Afternoon. This is an absolute favourite. I never tire of this film and its electrifying, iconic performance from Al Pacino. A true classic from the legend, Sidney Lumet. Best picture nominee: 1975.
I’ve talked to a good number of people about Scent of a Woman and a surprising amount of viewers claimed to have had a theory when first watching it that maybe Col. Slade actually wasn’t blind. Completely preposterous but there are a few moments that may provoke such a suspicion. But nah he’s definitely blind. One of my favorurite parts, though, near the end, when Slade is sinking deeper and deeper into his depression, Charlie asks him, “Are you looking at me, Colonel Slade?” It really kind of looks like he is though…it’s a strange and intimate little moment but cut short with Slade simply replying, “I’m blind, Charlie.”
Anyway I really love this movie, it’s one of my all-time favourites. Maybe even in my top 10, actually. I know it’s a little strange considering Al Pacino’s thoroughly impressive resume but I don’t know, there’s something about this movie that I really respond to, and it’s my personal favourite of his work. It’s generally a pretty simple story, as a whole, but I think it has some slices of profound life lessons and has a nice moral compass to it. I’m a sucker for stories about unlikely friendships, especially in these kinds of movies where you have two different actors with different styles and even different ages and they play characters who under any normal circumstances wouldn’t share a story together. And what’s really interesting about Scent of a Woman in particular is that it doesn’t go the expected route with the wiser man from the older generation teaching the uptight kid how to relax and live life…there’s definitely ASPECTS of that, and strong ones, but if anyone’s learning anything it’s Slade learning from Charlie. As their relationship begins he’s very much trying to intimidate him and even in a weird way intentionally attempting to corrupt him, as if he believes he can bring anyone down to his jaded, pessimistic level. But Charlie is just such a good-willed, upstanding young idealist that unlike anyone else, he can tolerate Slade, and he can see the good in him that others may have missed out on because he’s just too outrageous and shocking of a human being. But Slade finds himself, at least by the end of the movie, after all his little tests and lessons, surprised at his admiration for Charlie and his unflinching integrity. It’s actually kind of beautiful, and very moving.
After watching it again today I was kind of taken off guard because I actually forgot how LONG this movie really is…it clocks at 2 hours and 36 minutes, which is insane, but like any truly great film it breezes by. And with this movie, and the time it takes…I mean, we’re talking about Return of the King-level endings on endings here. After their trip to New York and resolutions met there you’d figure the movie would be done with but there’s a good half hour left, because there’s this whole other subplot with Charlie in trouble at his school and the typical stuffy, humourless Dean character opening up a court room-like hearing investigating a humiliating prank on him to which Charlie was a witness. I really love how they set it up at the beginning, at that point of course Slade is not really a part of Charlie’s life so when he comes back and he and the Colonel say their goodbyes and part ways, you think he’s going to have to go through the hearing alone. But that moment when Slade comes into the hearing, sits by Charlie’s side. Ugh. I just applaud that. Not only kind of cheesy and heartwarming but also gives the movie a chance to let Pacino make that incredible, wholly impressive, beautiful, career-defining speech. One of the great speeches I’ve seen in movies, Pacino’s performance is pitch-perfect, it flows like intricately orchestrated music, like he has fully embodied the character, had all these emotions simmering inside him for the whole movie, and just lets loose. It’s really something.
Today was the first time I actually saw it on DVD…previously I had a VHS copy that I’ve likely worn out by now, as I must have watched this movie 20-30 times, easily. And this may be a semi-tangent but I was thinking…drama, a genre, is unique above most because unlike a horror or action or sci-fi or even comedy, for whatever reason, for whatever purposes a primarily “dramatic” film serves, it’s rare that studios would seek out to sully the original story with any kind of sequel, or attempt to set up a franchise. It’s interesting, and it’s not to say dramas are better than any other genres, because regardless of the type of movie, the good ones are good for just reasons and we become attached the characters in the same kind of ways. But more often than not dramas will just stay in these little bubbles, untouched by continuations. I’m really attached to these characters, Frank Slade and Charlie Simms, as if they are real people I’ll often wonder where they are now and what they’re doing, how they’re lives turned out, and if they ever saw each other again. I wonder that, but it seems impossible to imagine that maybe they became buddies who saw each other every weekend or on special occasions…how could they just settle into normality after such a dramatic and emotional catharsis that they experienced together in that span of a few days? I don’t know for sure and I suppose I never will but it feels like an obligation to revisit their little adventure every so often.
Scent of a Woman fun fact: one of the Pay Per View movies available in Colonel Slade’s hotel room is clearly Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
Insomnia is an excellent film- but since Nolan is one of my favourite directors and Al Pacino and Robin Williams are two of my favourite actors it’s pretty much a perfect recipe for bias.
I just finished watching The Godfather, Part III this morning. It was great to revisit the trilogy after all this time and while I’d love to just write paragraph after paragraph sucking the first two films’ dicks, I don’t think you need me to tell you how great they are. It’s pretty much undisputed how incredible and classic they are and how they’re among the best films ever made, but of course, the third part is definitely the black sheep of the family and I had some thoughts on it.
I kind of feel the same way about the Godfather Part III compared to the first two as I do when comparing the Star Wars prequels to the original trilogy. It’s good, and I feel it’s unjustly put down, and I’ll admit it has more than its fair share of flaws, but I definitely like it, it’s just that it’s simply just not as good as its predecessors and there’s really no comparison to them. Strange though, how if you look at the general reaction to Part III, it’s not really met with pure boiling hatred, just more disappointment, and I guess that’s fair enough.
I do think though there may be some hypocrisy on our part as the audience as to why the movie doesn’t quite click. In the first two, we’re willing to follow Michael Corleone as the anti-hero. He is a flawed human being and he has people killed and even if he’s not exactly likable, he’s at least an interesting and engaging character. But here in Part III, he’s actively and desperately seeking redemption for his acts, and there is something very offputting about his vulnerability. He feels like a weaker version of Vito Corleone from the first film, as if this late in life he’s finally trying to emulate his morals- but with the character, as well as the movie itself, it’s almost a case of too little too late. Instead of accepting and following a character despite his flaws, we’re left pitying him, and that’s a very uncomfortable place to be.
But there are things I really like about the movie, things I truly adore. The scenes of Michael trying to reconnect with Kay are excellent, and Andy Garcia was great in his role as Vincent…he felt to me like a combination of Michael and Sonny. He was a great character. There were some very memorable scenes and while I can’t compare it to the earlier movies I’d say “Once I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” is just as iconic of a line as any of the other memorable keyphrases throughout the series.
But it’s the overall plot is just strange. I didn’t find the whole aspect of Vatican politics all too interesting. Religion has always been a big theme in these movies but taking place right in the heart of it seemed like an interesting idea that misfired in its execution. And the incest plotline? Just so unnecessary. Why? Why include that? And furthermore, why have all the surronding characters react to a love affair between first cousins with such a mild disapproval? Also, I felt the movie could have used some Robert Duvall. His character Tom Hagen is missing from the movie, I think they wrote him off as having died at some point, but boy, his presence is missed. Hagen as a character and Duvall as an actor always felt to me like the glue that held everything together. He was missed.
And Sofia Coppola. Like…okay, I really don’t want to jump on the “let’s hate Sofia Coppola” bandwagon, but it’s completely true that the performance just isn’t good at all. I can’t even really blame her, she was only 20 at the time, I don’t even think she ever acted before (most certainly not in such an important role at least) and Winona Ryder was supposed to be in the role but backed out last minute, and I’m sure Francis Coppola was extremely encouraging and put a good amount of pressure for her to do it, but the result was not good. It really, really, really hurts the movie. Her performance is distracting and it takes away from any emotional connection we should have between her character and Michael. The biggest problem with that is that it’s the foundation of the entire movie. If the performance doesn’t work, the character doesn’t work, if the character doesn’t work, there’s absolutely no emotional impact, and the entire movie falls down like a house of cards.
But anyway, I don’t hate the movie, I really don’t, and it’s a lot easier to focus on its flaws, but it’s just not as good as the first two movies. It has its worth but compared to the landmark cinematic achievements that came before it, falling short was inevitable.
Considering its criticisms and its faults, and the issues still brought up to day, I feel it appropriate to close these thoughts in an excerpt from Francis Ford Coppola’s commentary track to the film:
"Sofia came in for tremendous criticism because she was plunged into an important role without really having the credentials, but mainly because I had seen the story that way, and at this point I was making the movie out of characters who were, in fact, my sister or my father or my mother, or my daughter. And since I meant Sofia to be the vulnerable one who would ultimately express the great tragedy of Michael Corleone, I chose to give my own. And indeed, just as in the story, it was Sofia that they shot the bullets at, but they were really shooting them at me and I knew that."
What I bought today:
Commando on DVD, because I’ve always been ashamed of not owning it.
Team America: World Police on DVD, because America- FUCK YEAH.
Captain America on Blu-ray/DVD Combo (see above)
Dog Day Afternoon on Blu-ray, because after watching the first two Godfathers I guess I was just in the mood for more Al Pacino/John Cazale greatness
Sherlock season one on DVD, because it is a huge deal here on tumblr and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Plus it was on sale and it was the last one so I JUST HAD TO.
Paper Mario for the Wii, because it’s fucking Mario dude.