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In the spotlight: Al Pacino

Having done the first ‘In the spotlight’ about Ed Norton, I felt I couldn’t move on with anyone other than Pacino for the second article.

The only problem is that Pacino has probably done about 15+ roles that are all worthy of being watched multiple times.
My friend Victor DeLeon recently did his top 5 of Pacino movies so I can’t be called original as well on this one, but never the less I feel that I need to highlight my personal favorites.

Hopefully I’ll convince some of you to either rewatch or discover his great body of work.
So without further ado: It’s Al Pacino time!

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Scent of a Woman)
This 1992 drama about a kid from college who agrees to babysit a blind man has become somewhat of a hidden pearl amongst those who love Pacino. His performance in this movie has won him a best actor oscar, and what a performance it is. Playing a blind man seems like an achievable thing to do, yet the extensive preparation that goes into it, as well as the amount of charisma that Pacino brings with him makes this a very memorable performance. Pacino has been a source for comedy because of a few trademarks he picked up over the course of his career. His screams as well as his change in tone when talking has been the ideal way for beginning stand up comedians to get some laughs. As Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade he’s unrecognisable. His way of talking, walking, looking and even sitting are all a far cry from what we’ve known from Al.
If you take the time to listen to the commentary track or watch a documentary on the making of the movie, you’ll quickly find a growing appreciation for his total submersion into the world of a blind man.
If there’s ever a great place to start your day of Pacino, this is it.

John Milton (The Devil’s Advocate)
Where do I begin on this performance without coming across as a huge fanboy?
The Devil’s Advocate is such a gem amongst all the movies he’s made, and it holds up surprisingly well almost 15 years later. Al plays John Milton, and here’s a spoiler for the uninitiated, John Milton is the devil. I briefly touched upon the fact that Al is known for having certain traits, and most certainly the devil himself is a character who is very well known for certain traits as well. It would have been easy to over act this part.
 But fortunately that’s not the case. His performance can be appreciated immensely when watching it the first time around and even the time after. You won’t know he’s the devil the first time around but you get clues, which makes him all the more interesting as a character. John Milton is loveable, likeable and ultimately he’s not even wrong in a lot of things. In a monologue that’s easily the best part of the movie, John (Al Pacino) screams: Can anybody deny that this has been MY century? He plays the devil with a great complexity, charm and down to earth vibe. He’s never evil in a classic sense, and he’s much more dependant on the choices that people will have to make for themselves. He’s just that guy who spurs you on when you’re having doubts to try and run across the freeway to impress your friends. I found it mesmerizing to see the devil portrayed so real and charismatic. This comes highly recommended.

Lefty Ruggiero (Donnie Brasco)
Jup, this is my top 3 and people will cry over it. No Scarface, Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon or even Serpico or Carlito’s Way. No Sea of Love, Godfather Part II, Frankie and Johnny or ..And Justice for All.
What a testament it is to an actor that his list of great performances is so varied and long. When all is said and done, I think his performance in Donnie Brasco is the best one he ever did.
Playing Lefty Ruggiero (who exists in real life as well), a down on his luck gambling mafia member, is a performance I could watch for days on end. Having Johnny Depp as your partner in crime doesn’t hurt either. Donnie Brasco is a great movie in itself,and it’s elevated to bigger heights because of the epic performances that Pacino and Depp put into it.
The biggest achievement of it all is that you’ll forget you are watching Al Pacino and you see Lefty. His mannerisms, his speech and his physical appereance are all so incredibly spot on.
Watching Pacino work to me, is the same as listening to a classical piece of music. It makes me appreciate acting so much more and the artistry of it all is just mesmerizing.
Pacino is probably, along with Bobby De Niro, one of the last true greats of acting that is still alive and kicking today, and you owe it to yourself to see his body of work sooner rather than later.



7 thoughts on “In the spotlight: Al Pacino

  1. Pacino’s The Man! I just grabbed the unrated copy of The Devil’s Advocate. Can’t wait to see it! Great post!

    Posted by Victor De Leon | September 12, 2012, 16:18
  2. Here are five films of his that people often forget he was in and he was brilliant in or films that he was in that just don’t get enough attention:

    1. Dog Day Afternoon
    2. Revolution
    3. Glengarry Glen Ross
    4. Two Bits
    5. Serpico

    I highly recommend all of these films and screw the critics who panned Two Bits and Revolution. Hmmmm… I think I just got an idea for a post on my blog. 😉

    Posted by Shawn P. O'Halloran | September 13, 2012, 20:14

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