Our Birthday Bashes put a nice spin on the whole gift-giving ritual. You walk in empty handed and leave with some of the greatest films on earth because, at our party, it's the honoree who's giving out the presents.
Over a thirty-year career, Al Pacino has made surprisingly few movies. The movies he has made, however, are among the greatest films in history. He has earned five Best Actor Oscar nominations and one win (for Scent of a Woman), two Best Supporting Actor Oscar nods, ten Golden Globe nominations and even a Razzie Award for Worst Actor in Revolution.
The sonorous actor celebrates his fiftieth birthday this year, and we celebrate with him by honoring five of his best.
The film that made audiences and critics sit up and take notice of Pacino’s prodigious talents and also Pacino’s first outing with legendary director Sidney Lumet, the actor’s work in Serpico earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination, a National Board of Review Award and a Golden Globe win. Written by the great Waldo Salt, Serpico is based on the true story of an honest cop who stands up against a corrupt department and pays dearly for his integrity.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
After earning mad accolades for his performance in The Godfather films, Pacino re-teamed with Sidney Lumet for this based-on-a-true-story film of a botched bank robbery by Sonny Wortzik, a desperate and confused New Yorker who attempts the heist to pay for his lover’s sex change operation. Scripted by Frank Pierson, Dog Day Afternoon is an amazingly compassionate film that neither vilifies nor makes a hero out of Sonny, thanks in part to Pacino’s sensitive portrayal, which earned him a Best Actor nomination at the Academy and the Golden Globes and a British Academy Award win.
…And Justice for All (1979)
Directed by Norman Jewison, scripted by Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin, …And Justice for All is the quintessential Al Pacino movie (again nominated for both the Oscars and Golden Globes). In it, he portrays Arthur Kirkland, a principled if not indignant young lawyer who is faced with the ethical dilemma of defending a corrupt judge in a rape and murder trial. The following exchange sums it all up:
ARTHUR KIRKLAND: THAT MAN IS GUILTY! THAT MAN, THERE, THAT MAN IS A SLIME! HE IS A SLIME! IF HE'S SUPPOSED TO GO FREE, THEN SOMETHING REALLY WRONG IS GOIN' ON HERE!
JUDGE RAYFORD: Mr. Kirkland, YOU ARE OUT OF ORDER!
ARTHUR KIRKLAND: YOU'RE out of order! YOU'RE out of order! THE WHOLE TRIAL is out of order! THEY'RE out of order! THAT man, that SICK, CRAZY, DEPRAVED man, RAPED and BEAT that woman there, and he'd LIKE to do it again! It's just a show! It's a show! It's "Let's Make A Deal! Let's Make A Deal!" Hey Frank, you wanna make a deal?! I got an insane judge who likes to beat the shit out of women! Whaddya wanna gimme Frank, 3 weeks probation?! (to Judge Fleming) You, you sonofabitch, you! You're supposed to STAND for somethin'! You're supposed to PROTECT people! But instead you RAPE AND MURDER THEM! (dragged out of court by bailiffs) You killed McCullough! You killed him! Hold it! Hold it! I JUST COMPLETED MY OPENING STATEMENT!
In this peculiar and unsettling film from writer/director William Friedkin, Pacino again plays a cop. This time around, Pacino portrays Steve Burns, an undercover detective sent into the gay S&M underground of San Francisco to lure out a serial-killer-at-large who is dismembering young gay men. As he infiltrates this substrata of society, he becomes more and more separated from his department, his girlfriend and life on the outside. Unfairly demonized on its release--William Friedkin was the press’ whipping boy du jour, Cruising is well worth the effort, for Pacino’s performance alone.
Sea of Love (1989)
Playing another cop on the trail of a serial killer, Pacino turns in one of his first roles as a romantic lead opposite Ellen Barkin, the prime suspect in the bizarre case of a black widow who finds her victims through the personal ads. A taut script from Richard Price, directed by Harold Becker, this steamy thriller features one of Pacino’s best and most-layered performances, as an alcoholic, out-of-control, middle-aged man hanging precariously on the edge.
Pacino, of course, is beloved for his magnificent performances in The Insider, Heat, Glengarry Glen Ross, Scarface and The Godfather, but these lesser-known and often forgotten films represent Pacino at his best.