Scenes That People Love: The Al Pacino Locker Room Speech From Any Given Sunday


I once read an article where Al Pacino’s lock room speech in Oliver’s Stone 1999 football film, Any Given Sunday, was described as being the most inspirational locker room speech ever.

I don’t really know if I agree with that.

I mean, to be honest, Al Pacino’s Tony D’Amato kind of looks really beaten down in this scene.  It looks like, instead of spending the previous night studying game film and coming up with plays, the coach spent the previous night out drinking.  If I was one of his players, I would be wondering if the coach was hungover and I might reset that.  I might be like, “Hey, I’ve been staying off cocaine all week for this game and then coach shows up looking like he’s just killed Frank Lopez.  Someone get Aaron Eckhart in here — he’s the coach we need!”  Also, for the most part, his speech seems to be more about him than the team.  It’s like, “I’ve got failed marriages, I’ve got this, I’ve got that …. life is a game of inches!”  Well, that’s great, Tony, but how are we going to win the game?  “I got problems!”  Well, we’ve all got problems, coach!  I mean, he’s talking to a room full of people who probably can’t stand up without hearing a hundred different things going snap in their knees.

Do locker room speeches really make that much of a difference?  I’ve seen enough sports films that I often wondered this.  Is it a requirement that a coach give a speech?  If the coach refused to give a speech, the team would still be obligated to go out there and play hard, right?  As I’ve said many a time, I really don’t get the point of long speeches but some of that is because of the ADD.  There’s no way that I could listen to anyone talk about life being a game of inches for four minutes.  I would just zone out.

What if a coach filibustered and just kept going and going in his speech?  Would the team have to forfeit?

Would it have been more effective to show the team the Willie Beamon music video as opposed to forcing them to listen to a speech from hung over Tony D?  Well, probably not.  If I remember correctly, the team did win the big game and they did it even after Dennis Quaid got injured for like the 100th time.  So, I guess the speech did work.  That shows you everything I know about football.

Anyway, I know a lot of people love this speech.  I mean, there’s a reason why it showed up in that car commercial.  And, to be honest, it worked pretty well in that commercial.  Certainly, it made more sense to use Tony’s “life is a game of inches” speech as opposed to Robin Williams’s poetry speech from Dead Poets Society.  (Car commercials are weird.)  So, in honor of those people and Super Bowl Sunday, here is the Tony D’Amato Any Given Sunday locker room speech:

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Irishman (dir by Martin Scorsese)


Released by Netflix in 2019 and clocking in at close to 4 hours, the Martin Scorsese-directed Best Picture nominee, The Irishman, is a film about many different things.

At its simplest, it’s a film about a very old man named Frank Shearan (played by Robert De Niro).  Frank is an Irish-American from Philadelphia.  Frank is a veteran of World War II and a former truck driver who was briefly a fairly important figure in the Teamsters union.  He did a few years in prison.  At the start of the film, though, he’s just another elderly man living in a retirement community.  All of his friends are dead.  His wife passed away years ago.  His children never comes to visit.  In fact, the only people interested in talking to Frank are the FBI but Frank doesn’t have much to say to them.  That’s not to say that Frank isn’t talkative.  For the first time in his life, he wants to talk to people but there’s no one left to talk to.  The only people who listen are those who are required to do so.  A nurse politely nods along as as he tells her about his old friend Jimmy Hoffa.  (She’s never heard of him.)  A priest listens to the story of Frank’s life and offers him absolution.  At times, Frank looks straight at Scorsese’s camera and appears to be talking straight to the audience.  Frank has a lot of interesting stories but who knows how truthful he’s being or if his memory can be trusted.

The Irishman, though, is not just the story of Frank.  It is also a secret history of America during the latter half of the 20th Century.  Frank may look old and harmless in that nursing home but, to hear him tell it, he was once acquainted with some of the most powerful men in America.  He went from executing Italian POWs during World War II to executing hits for the Mafia in post-war America.  Along the way, he became close to crime bosses like Skinny Razor (Bobby Cannavale), Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel) and Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), men who may not have been household names but who still wielded a lot of power.  These are men who, Frank flatly states, fixed the presidential election of 1960 and who later quite possibly killed the man they had elected president.  Frank also became a close associate of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the labor leader who was reputed to have mob connections and who disappeared in 1975.

The Irishman is also a tribute to the modern gangster film, featuring role for nearly every living actor associated with the genre.  De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Domenick Lombardozzi, Gary Basaraba, they’ve all played their share of gangsters in films and television show that were both good and bad.  Having them all appear in one film together serves to remind the viewer of just how much of America’s popular entertainment has revolved around stories of organized crime.  Even as the old school Mafia has declined as a real-world power, it’s become a permanent part of pop culture.  Everyone loves a gangster, except for the people who actually have to deal with them on a daily basis.

Not surprisingly, considering the stars and the director, it’s a film full of smart, detailed performances.  When the film was originally released, Pacino and Pesci got the lion’s share of the praise and they certainly deserved it.  Pacino gets the best lines and brings some unexpected wit to his performance as Jimmy Hoffa.  Pesci, meanwhile, finally gets to play a gangster who is not psychotic and shows that he can be just as compelling when he’s not raising his voice as when he is.  Still, some of my favorite performances came from actors who one wouldn’t necessarily associate with a Scorsese gangster film.  I liked the nervous humor that Ray Romano brought to the role of a corrupt union lawyer.  I liked the seething resentment that Stephen Graham brought to the role of Jimmy Hoffa’s main rival in the union.  (The scene where Graham and Pacino argue over who is more owed an apology for all of their past disagreements is both funny and, due to the people involved, somewhat frightening.)  Jesse Plemons is poignantly dumb in his brief role as Hoffa’s stepson.  Louis Cancelmi doesn’t get a lot of screen time but he steals every scene in which he appears as a paranoid hitman.  (Cancelmi plays a character named Sally Bugs, proving that not everyone in the Mafia gets a cool nickname.)

And then there’s Anna Paquin, who provides the film with its moral center.  When the film was first released, many Twitter critics complained that Paquin, who played Frank’s daughter Peggy, only a had a handful of lines.  It was one of the stupidest controversies of 2019, which is saying something when you consider how much time Film Twitter devotes to generating stupid controversies.  Peggy doesn’t say much because she’s decided that she doesn’t want to be a part of her father’s life.  From the moment that she first sees Frank beating up a store owner, Peggy knows that her father and his associates are violent men.  She not only fears them but she resents the damage that Frank does to not only her family but to the families as other as well.  The only one of her father’s associates who she likes is Jimmy Hoffa, because Hoffa cares about helping others.  When Hoffa disappears, Peggy makes a decision to disappear from Frank’s life and Paquin’s withering stare says more than any lengthy monologue could.  Peggy doesn’t say much because she knows that her words would be wasted on a man who she knows is a liar.  The scene where she silently walks away from her now elderly father tells us everything we need to know about the emotional consequences of the life that Frank has chosen to live.  Regardless of how many lines she did or didn’t have, Paquin gave one of the best performances of 2019.

Famously (or, depending on which critics you read, infamously), de-aging technology was used so that De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Keitel could play both the younger and the older version of their characters.  At first, it can be a bit jarring.  The de-aging works fine with Pesci and Keitel, both of whom are already supposed to be middle-aged when they first meet Frank.  (Admittedly, Keitel only has a few minutes of screen time.)  With De Niro and Pacino, it’s a bit less successful.  Even when they’re playing younger versions of themselves, De Niro and Pacino still move and stand like old men.  Fortunately, in the case of Pacino, his natural movie star charisma wins out over his obvious age.  In the end, we believe that he’s Hoffa because we want to believe that all of our important historical figures were as interesting and entertaining as Al Pacino is in The Irishman.

And yet, ultimately, even the awkward de-aging works to the film’s advantage because it reminds us that we’re not necessarily seeing what happened.  Instead, we’re seeing what Frank says happened.  We’re seeing his memories, or at least what he claims to remember.  It makes sense that, when Frank thinks about himself as a young truck driver in 1956, he would picture himself not as he was but instead as just a slightly less weathered version of who he would eventually become.  Throughout the film, there are hints that Frank’s memory should not be trusted.  Some of his stories are incredibly detailed while others — like when he transports weapons for the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs — are a bit more vaguely presented.  Is Frank lying or is he misremembering or are we just expecting too much detail from a man who is now essentially waiting to die?  The film leaves that up for us to determine.

The Irishman is Scorsese at his most reflective.  Compared to Goodfellas and Casino, The Irishman is certainly one of Scorsese’s less “flashy” films.  But, on repeat viewings, it becomes cleat that The Irishman is the perfect conclusion to the gangster trilogy that began with Goodfellas and continued with Casino.  All three of these films deal with someone who rises up the ranks in the mob while remaining, as a result of their ethnicity, an outsider.  (Henry Hill and Frank Shearan are both Irish.  Ace Rothstein was Jewish.)  All three of them are briefly on top of the world and all three of them are left wondering how they’re going to continue their lives after their days at the top are over.  In Goodfellas, Henry Hill makes no secret of his disgust at having to live in the bland anonymity of the suburbs.  In Casino, Ace Rothstein ends the film with a mournful acceptance the fact that he will never return to his beloved Vegas.  (“And that’s that.”)  In The Irishman, Frank finally realizes that he has comes to the end of it all, alone and with nothing but death in his future.  All three of them made their decisions and, in the end, all three of them are left to deal with the consequences.  The trilogy goes from Henry’s anger to Ace’s depression to Frank’s acceptance.

It may seem strange to describe a film like The Irishman as being underrated, seeing as how it was nominated for 10 Oscars and got a Criterion release in record time.  And yet, when the film first came out, there was a vague sense of disappointment to found in even some of the positive reviews.  It was a Scorsese film that was so eagerly awaited and arrived with so much hype that there was no way it could live up to some of the expectations that had been set for it.  (And, of course, there’s also a whole set of people who were predestined to dislike the film precisely because it was a Scorsese film and it was so anticipated.)  It’s a long film and, while Netflix should be praised for allowing Scorsese the freedom to make his epic, it’s also not a film that should be viewed in bits and pieces on a tiny screen.  The Irishman is a film that should be watched in one sitting and it’s definitely a film that most viewers should watch more than once.  It takes more than one viewing to truly grasp the the world that Scorsese has recreated.

The Irishman was nominated for Best Picture.  It lost to a worthy competitor, Parasite.  Still, regardless of who took him the Oscars, The Irishman is a film that will live forever.

What Could Have Been: The Godfather, Part II


Years ago, I wrote a post called What Could Have Been: The Godfather, in which I discussed all of the actors and the directors who were considered for The Godfather. 

It remains one of the most widely viewed posts that we’ve ever had on this site.  I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise.  People love The Godfather and they love playing What If?  Would The Godfather still have been a classic if it had been directed by Otto Preminger with George C. Scott, Michael Parks, Burt Reynolds, and Robert Vaughn in the lead roles?  Hmmm …. probably not.  But, in theory, it could have happened.  All of them were considered at one point or another.

However, in the end, it was Francis Ford Coppola who directed The Godfather and it was Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Cann, and Robert Duvall who brought the Corleone family to life.  The Godfather, as everyone knows, was a huge hit and it went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture of the year.  As the film ended with the future of the Corleone family still up in the air, there was obviously room for a sequel.

When Paramount Pictures first approached Coppola about writing and directing a sequel, he turned them down.  He said he was done with The Godfather and didn’t see any way that he could improve on the story.  It’s debatable whether or not Coppola truly felt like this or if he was just holding out for more money.  It is known that Coppola did suggest to Paramount a possible director for Part II and that director’s name was Martin Scorsese.

What would Martin Scorsese’s The Godfather Part II have looked like?  It’s an intriguing thought.  At the time, Scorsese was best-known for Mean Streets and it’s probable that Scorsese’s film would have been a bit messier and grittier than Coppola’s version.  If Coppola made films about the upper echelons of the Mafia, Scorsese’s interest would probably have been with the soldiers carrying out Michael’s orders.  While Scorsese has certainly proven that he can handle a huge productions today, he was considerably younger and much more inexperienced in the early 70s.  To be honest, it’s easy to imagine Scorsese’s Godfather Part II being critically and commercially rejected because it would have been so different from Coppola’s.  A failure of that magnitude would have set back Scorsese’s career and perhaps even led to him returning to Roger Corman’s production company.  As such, it’s for probably for the best that Coppola did eventually agree to shoot the sequel, on the condition that Coppola be given creative control and Paramount exec Robert Evans not be allowed on the set.  While Coppola was busy with Godfather Part II, Scorsese was proving his versatility with Alice Doesn’t Live Her Anymore.

After Coppola was signed to direct, the next best question was whether or not Marlon Brando would return to play the role of Vito Corleone.  The film’s flashback structure would ensure that Vito would remain an important character, despite his death in the first film.  Coppola reportedly considered offering Brando the chance to play the younger version of Vito but he changed his mind after he saw Robert De Niro in Scorsese’s Mean Streets.  Still, it was felt that Brando might be willing to show up in a cameo during the film’s final flashback, in which Michael tells his family that he’s enlisted in the army.  Frustrated by Brando’s refusal to commit to doing the cameo, Coppola told him to show up on the day of shooting if he wanted to do the film.  When Brando didn’t show, the Don’s lines were instead rewritten and given to Tom Hagen.  It’s hard not to feel that this worked to the film’s advantage.  A last-minute appearance by Brando would have thrown off the film’s delicate balance and probably would have devalued De Niro’s own performance as the younger version of the character.

Brando wasn’t the only member of the original cast who was hesitant about returning.  Al Pacino held out for more money, which makes sense since he was literally the only cast member who could not, in some way, be replaced.  Richard Castellano, who played Clemenza in the first film, however learned that he that hard way that he was not quite as indispensable as Al Pacino.  In Part II, Clemenza was originally meant to have a large role in both the flashbacks and the present-day scenes.  However, when Castellano demanded more money and the right to rewrite his own lines, the older Clemenza was written out the film and replaced by the character of Frankie Petangeli (played by Michael V. Gazzo).

It’s impossible to find fault with Gazzo’s performance but it’s still hard not to regret that Castellano didn’t return.  Imagine how even more poignant the film’s final moments would have been if it had been the previously loyal Clemenza who nearly betrayed Michael as opposed to Frankie?  Indeed, even after the part was rewritten, many of Frankie’s lines deliberately harken back to things that Clemenza said and did during the first film.  Because Clemenza is a very prominent character during the film’s flashbacks, his absence in the “modern” scenes is all the more obvious.

When the role of Young Clemenza was cast, it was still believed that Richard Castellano would be appearing in that film.  One of the main reasons that Bruno Kirby was selected for the role of Young Clemenza was because Kirby had previously played Castellano’s son in a television show.  Also considered for the role was Joe Pesci, who was working as a singer and a comedian at the time.  (His partner in his comedy act was Frank Vincnet.)  If Pesci had been cast, he would not only have made his film debut in The Godfather Part II but the film also would have been his first pairing with Robert De Niro.  (Interestingly enough, Frank Sivero — who played Pesci and De Niro’s henchman, Frankie Carbone, in Goodfellas, also had a small role in Godfather Part II, playing Vito’s friend, Genco.)

As for the film’s other new major character, there were several interesting names mentioned for the role of gangster Hyman Roth.  Director Sam Fuller read for the role and Coppola also considered Elia Kazan.  Perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned as a possible Roth was that of James Cagney.  (Cagney, however, made it clear that he was content to remain retired.)  In the end, the role was offered to Al Pacino’s former acting teacher, Lee Strasberg.  Like Gazzo, Strasberg made his film debut in The Godfather Part II and, like Gazzo, he received his only Oscar nomination as a result.

The legendary character actor Timothy Carey (who was courted to play Luca Brasi in the first film) met with Coppola to discuss playing Don Fanucci, the gangster who is assassinated by Vito.  A favorite of Stanley Kubrick’s, Carey reportedly lost the role when he pulled out a gun in the middle of the meeting.

Originally, the film was supposed to end in the mid-60s, with a now teenage Anthony Corleone telling Michael that he wanted nothing to do with him because he knew that Michael had Fredo murdered.  (That famous scene of Michael bowing his head was originally supposed to be in response to Anthony walking out on him as opposed to the sound of Fredo being shot.)  Cast in the role of teenage Anthony was actor Robby Benson so perhaps it’s for the best that the scene was ultimately not included in the film.

Some of the smaller roles in Part II were played by actors who were considered for larger roles in the first film.  The young Tessio was played by John Aprea, who was also considered for the role of Michael.  Peter Donat, who played the lead Senate counsel in Part II, was considered for the role of Tom Hagen.  The rather tall Carmine Caridi, who played Camine Rosato in Part II, was originally cast as Sonny until it was discovered that he towered over everyone else in the cast.  And, of course, Robert De Niro famously read for the role of Sonny and was cast in the small role of Paule Gatto before he left The Godfather to replace Al Pacino in The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  (Of course, the whole reason that Pacino left The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight was so he could play the role of Michael in The Godfather.  In the end, it all worked out for the best.)

Finally, former teen idol Troy Donahue played Connie Corleone’s second husband, Merle Johnson.  Merle Johnson was Troy Donahue’s real name.

Personally, I think The Godfather Part II is one of the few films that can be described as perfect. Still, it’s always fun to play what if.

Scene That I Love: A New Year In Cuba From The Godfather, Part II


Happy New Year!

Well, the clock has now struck midnight on the West Coast and that officially means that it is 2022 in the United States!  It’s a new year, which means that we have another chance to get things right or, at the very least, not repeat the mistakes of the previous year.

I’m looking forward to 2022 for a number of reasons.  We’ve got a lot planned here at Through the Shattered Lens.  So, what better way to start things off than by sharing a scene that I love from one of the greatest and most important films of all time, 1974’s The Godfather Part II?

The scene below takes place on New Year’s Eve.  The scene starts in 1958 and it ends in 1959.  Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his brother Fredo (John Cazale) are in Havana at the invitation of Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg).  Roth know that Cuba could be a gold mine for the American mob but Michael, from the start, realizes that the country’s corrupt government is on the verge of collapse.  Tragically, it’s also in Havana that Michael realizes that Fredo betrayed him to his enemies.

On December 31st, 1958, as the corrupt and wealthy celebrate a new year in Havana, the communist rebels ride into the city.  While the President of Cuba prepares to announce that he will be fleeing the country, Michael confronts his brother and tells him that he knows the truth.  Later, as they both attempt to flee the country, Michael and Fredo see each other on the streets.  Fredo runs from Michael, refusing his offer to help.  Though Fredo would eventually return to the family, the film’s ending revealed Fredo’s first instinct was the correct one.

Much of the scene below is based on fact.  The Cuban government did fall on New Year’s Eve and Fidel Castro and his rebels did triumphantly ride into Havana on January 1st.  Before Castro came to power, the Mafia did have a major stake in Cuba and reportedly quite a few mobsters were in Havana when Castro took over.  Meyer Lansky (on whom the film’s Hyman Roth was based) was one of the many mob officials who were rumored to have caught the last flight off of the island.  Seeking to be the only mob boss in his country, Castro did force the Mafia out of Cuba, which led to an alliance between organized crime and the CIA to try to overthrow Castro.  At the time that The Godfather Part II was released, the details of the CIA and the Mafia’s attempts to assassinate Castro were just starting to be revealed to the public.  As powerful as the scene below is today, it probably resonated even more with audiences in 1974.  In 1974, this was all still recent history and it undoubtedly brought to mind the still-fresh national trauma of the assassination of the Kennedy brothers.

Beyond the historical significance of the scene below, it also features brilliant work from two actors who will forever be linked together, Al Pacino and the late John Cazale.  Cazale and Pacino first met while they were both working off-Broadway, years before Mario Puzo even started writing the novel that would become The Godfather.  They were close friends and, along with co-starring in The Godfather films, they also played bank-robbing partners in Dog Day Afternoon.  Tragically, John Cazale died of cancer at the age of 42.  He only appeared in five films, every one of which was nominated for Best Picture and one could argue that the Academy’s failure to nominate Cazale for either Dog Day Afternoon or Godfather Part II is one of the most unforgivable oversights in Oscar history.

That said, it’s a new year.  Save the arguing for later.  Here’s a scene that I love:

Lisa Reviews a Palme d’Or Winner: Scarecrow (dir by Jerry Schatzberg)


With the 2021 Cannes Film Festival underway in France, I thought this would be a good opportunity to spend the next few days looking at some of the films that have won the Palme d’Or in the past.  As of this writing, 100 films have won either the Palme d’Or or an earlier version of the award like the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film.  Some of those films — like Parasite, The Tree of Life, The Piano, Pulp Fiction — went on to huge box office success and Oscar renown.  Others, like 1973’s Scarecrow, did not.

Scarecrow is an example of a type of film that was very popular in the 70s.  It’s a road film, one in which two or more people take a journey across the country and discover something about themselves and, depending upon how ambitious the film was, perhaps something about America as well.  Scarecrow centers on two drifters, who just happen to meet on a dusty road while they’re trying to hitch a ride.  Max (Gene Hackman, fresh off of winning an Oscar for The French Connection) is an ex-convict with a bad temper and a huge chip on his shoulder.  Lion (a young Al Pacino, fresh off of The Godfather) is an ex-sailor who views the world with optimism and who appears to be sweet-natured but simple-minded.  To be honest, it’s a little bit hard to believe that the perpetually resentful Max and the always hopeful Lion would ever become friends but they do.  They travel around the country, talking about their dreams of opening a car wash together.  They meet up with ex-girlfriends and ex-wives.  Eventually, they even end up in a prison farm together, where Lion, temporarily estranged from Max, is taken advantage of by a sadistic prisoner named Riley (Richard Lynch).

Scarecrow is an episodic film, one that moves at its own deliberate pace.  (If that sounds like a polite way of saying that the film is slow-moving …. well, it is.)  Director Jerry Schatzberg was a photographer-turned-director and, as a result, there’s several striking shots of Max and Lion standing against the countryside, waiting for someone to pick them up and give them a ride.  Whenever Max and Lion end up in a bar, the scene is always lit perfectly.  At the same time, Schatzberg also attempts to give the film a spontaneous, naturalistic feel by letting scenes run longer than one would normally expect.  There’s several scenes of Hackman and Pacino just talking while walking down a country road or a city street.  On the one hand, you have to appreciate Schatzberg’s attempt to convince us that Max and Lion are just two guys with big dreams, as opposed to two Oscar-nominated actors pretending to be societal drop-outs.  On the other hand, Schatzberg’s approach also leads to an interminably long scene of Gene Hackman eating a piece of chicken and if you think that Gene Hackman was the type of actor who wasn’t going to act the Hell out of gnawing on and gesturing with a chicken bone, you obviously haven’t seen many Gene Hackman films.

The main appeal of the film, for most people, will probably be to see Gene Hackman and Al Pacino, two of the top actors of the 70s, acting opposite of each other.  Reportedly, both Hackman and Pacino went full method for the film and spent their prep time on the streets of San Francisco, begging for spare change.  The end result is a mixed bag.  There are a few scenes — like when they first meet or when they’re in prison — in which Hackman and Pacino are believable in their roles and you buy them as two lost souls who were lucky enough to find each other.  There are other scenes where they both seem to be competing to see who can chew up the most scenery.   Sometimes, Pacino and Hackman are compelling acting opposite each other.  Other times, it feels like we’re just watching an Actors’ Studio improv class that someone happened to film.  Too often, Hackman and Pacino seem to be so occupied with showing off their technique that the film’s reality seems to get lost under all of the method showiness.  In the end, neither one of the film’s stars makes as much of an impression as Richard Lynch, who is genuinely frightening in his small but key role.

Scarecrow is an uneven film, one that is occasionally effective but also a bit too studied for its own good.  It wears it influences — Of Mice and Men, Midnight Cowboy, Five Easy Pieces — on its sleeve but it also fails to exceed or match any of those previous works.  That said, the film does have its fans.  (Schatzberg has been working on a sequel for a while.)  Certainly, the 1973 Cannes Jury (headed by none other than Ingrid Bergman) liked it enough to give it the Palme.

Scarecrow 2

Lisa Marie’s Early Oscar Predictions For May


It’s that time of the month again! It’s time for me to go out on a limb and attempt to predict what will be nominated for the Oscars. Of course, trying to do this early in the year is a fool’s errand. We all know that. That’s actually part of the fun.

As of right now, the list below is full of familiar names, a few films that were acclaimed at Sundance, and a few random guesses. A lot of the predicted nominees are films that were expected to be Oscar contenders last year but which were delayed due to the pandemic. (Looking at you, West Side Story.) Some of them are contenders that I personally would just like to see nominated, even though it probably won’t happen. (I’m not going to jinx anything by pointing out which nomination about which I’m specifically thinking. You’ll probably be able to guess for yourself.) Over the next few months, the Oscar picture will become a bit clearer. Many of the contenders listed below will be forgotten about. Meanwhile, new contenders will emerge. My point is, take it all with a grain of salt and don’t put down any money just yet.

Two big developments to keep in mind:

First off, the Academy is officially going back to having a set a number of nominees. Next year, ten films will be nominated for best picture. Not seven. Not nine. Ten. Personally, I’m thrilled by this development. Nothing irritated me more than when they used to announce those weird, seven-picture lineups. (As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like odd numbers.)

Secondly, the Academy is going back to the old eligibility dates. Yay! What that means is that only films that are released between March and the end of this year will be eligible to compete for the Oscars. More importantly, it means that the best film of 2021 will not be released in 2022.

Anyway, here are my predictions for this month! Don’t take them too seriously. If you want to see how my thinking has evolved, check out my predictions for March and April.

Best Picture

CODA

The Duke

The French Dispatch

House of Gucci

A Journal for Jordan

Nightmare Alley

Passing

Soggy Bottom

The Tragedy of Macbeth

West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson for Soggy Bottom

Guillermo Del Toro for Nightmare Alley

Ridley Scott for House of Gucci

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Denzel Washington for A Journal For Jordan

Best Actor

Jim Broadbent in The Duke

Clifton Collins, Jr. in Jockey

Peter Dinklage in Cyrano

Michael B. Jordan in A Journal For Jordan

Will Smith in King Richard

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Ana de Armas in Blonde

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Nicole Kidman in Being the Ricardos

Tessa Thompson in Passing

Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Bradley Cooper in Soggy Bottom

Adam Driver in The Last Duel

Al Pacino in House of Gucci

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Best Supporting Actress

Ariana DeBose in West Side Story

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Marlee Matlin in CODA

Frances McDormand in The Tragedy of MacBeth

Ruth Negga in Passing

6 Shots From 6 Films: Special Al Pacino Edition


4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films is just what it says it is, 4 (or more) shots from 4 (or more) of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films lets the visuals do the talking.

With all the excitement (or not) surrounding the Oscars, it might be easy to overlook the fact that today is also the birthdays of one of the greatest and most iconic American actors of all time!  We cannot let this day end without wishing a happy birthday to the one and only Al Pacino!

In others words, it’s time for….

6 Shots From 6 Al Pacino Films

The Godfather (1972, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, DP: Gordon Willis)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975, dir by Sidney Lumet, DP: Victor J. Kemper)

Scarface (1983, dir by Brian DePalma, DP: John A. Alonzo)

Heat (1995, dir by Michael Mann, DP: Dante Spinotti)

The Devil’s Advocate (1997, dir by Taylor Hackford, DP: Andrzej Bartkowiak)

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019, dir by Quentin Tarantino, DP: Robert Richardson)

 

 

Lisa’s Way Too Early 2022 Oscar Predictions for March!


Yes, it’s time to start this again.

The Oscar nominations for 2020-2021 were finally revealed earlier this month. They weren’t particularly surprising. To be honest, they were kind of boring. But, with those nominations now revealed and the Oscars sets to be awarded at the end of April, that means it’s time to start looking forward to next year!

Of course, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen next year. Most of the films that are scheduled to come out later in 2021 were originally scheduled to come out in 2020. (And they were made in 2018 and 2019, which means the first big releases of 2021 are already dated.) Right now, most of the probable nominees are films that I originally expected to be contenders last year, like Spielberg’s West Side Story and Dune. Needless to say, new contenders will emerge over the next few months. Quite frankly, I’m skeptical of West Side Story because it sounds like the type of project that will bring out all of Spielberg’s worst instincts as a filmmaker. But, until it’s released, it’ll be a contender because he’s Spielberg.

As of right now, we don’t even know what the eligibility window is going to be for the next set of Oscar contenders. Is the Academy going to go back to a December cut-off or are they going to continue to extend the eligibility window. Are we predicting the 2021 Oscars or are we predicting the 2021-2022 Oscars? Again, as of now, we just don’t know. Personally, I’m hoping they return to a December cut-off but I have a feeling that the Academy will disagree.

About the only thing we do know for sure, right now, is that the Academy is going to go back to a set number of nominees. 10 films will be nominated. No more of this maybe 7 or maybe 8 nominees. It’s about time.

Anyway, the list below is based on the assumption that the Academy’s going to go back to the old eligibility window, which means that only films released between the start of March and the end of December will be eligible for Oscar consideration.

It’s also based on the presumption that the Oscars can be predicted this far out. They can’t. But I enjoy making lists and I love the Oscars. Doing these predictions has become a part of my monthly ritual. You know how much I love a good ritual.

So, here are my potentially worthless predictions for what will be nominated next year!

Best Picture

CODA

Dune

The French Dispatch

House of Gucci

In the Heights

The Last Duel

Nightmare Alley

Passing

Respect

West Side Story

Best Director

Guillermo Del Toro for Nightmare Alley

Rebecca Hall for Passing

Ridley Scott for House of Gucci

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Denis Villeneuve for Dune

Best Actor

Clifton Collins, Jr. in Jockey

Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley

Matt Damon in The Last Duel

Adam Driver in The Last Duel

Will Smith in King Richard

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Tessa Thompson in Passing

Rachel Zegler in West Side Story

Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Daniel Durant in CODA

Jeremy Irons in House of Gucci

Al Pacino in House of Gucci

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett in Nightmare Alley

Ariana DeBose in West Side Story

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Marlee Matlin in CODA

Ruth Negga in Passing

Here Are The 78th Annual Golden Globe Nominations!


I’m totally turned off by the self-importance of the Golden Globes and I resent every time that I have to write about them.

That said, despite the fact that no one is quite sure who actually votes for the damn things and stories of corruption in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have been rampant for years, the Golden Globes have still emerged as one of the main Oscar precursors.  So, you kind of have to pay attention to them.  Bleh.

There really aren’t any huge shocks in the list of nominees below, with the exception of maybe Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor and James Corden’s Prom nomination.  I mean, if you’re that determined to nominate someone for The Prom, why would you go for James Corden as opposed to Meryl Streep?  That’s just odd.

Anyway, here are the nominations:

Best Motion Picture, Drama
“The Father”
“Mank”
“Nomadland”
“Promising Young Woman”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
“Hamilton”
“Music”
“Palm Springs”
“The Prom”

Best Director, Motion Picture
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
David Fincher, “Mank”
Regina King, “One Night In Miami”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Kate Hudson, “Music”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “French Exit”
Rosamund Pike, “I Care a Lot”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “Emma”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”
Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian”
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
Helena Zengel, “News of the World”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Gary Oldman, “Mank”
Tahar Rahim, “The Mauritanian”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Sacha Baron Cohen, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
James Corden, “The Prom”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton”
Dev Patel, “The Personal History of David Copperfield”
Andy Samberg, “Palm Springs”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Jared Leto, “The Little Things”
Billy Murray, “On the Rocks”
Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night In Miami”

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
Jack Fincher, “Mank”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton, “The Father”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Original Score, Motion Picture
Alexandre Desplat, “The Midnight Sky”
Ludwig Göransson, “Tenet”
James Newton Howard, “News of the World”
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Mank”
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, “Soul”

Best Original Song, Motion Picture
“Fight For You,” Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Hear My Voice,” The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Io Sì (Seen),” The Life Ahead”
“Speak Now,” One Night In Miami”
“Tigress & Tweed,” The United States Vs. Billie Holiday”

Best Motion Picture, Animated
“The Croods: A New Age”
“Onward”
“Over the Moon”
“Soul”
“Wolfwalkers”

Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language
“Another Round”
“La Llorona”
“The Life Ahead”
“Minari”
“Two Of Us”

Best Television Series, Drama
“The Crown”
“Lovecraft Country”
“The Mandalorian”
“Ozark”
“Ratched”

Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy
“Emily in Paris”
“The Flight Attendant”
“The Great”
“Schitt’s Creek”
“Ted Lasso”

Best Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television
“Normal People”
“The Queen’s Gambit”
“Small Axe”
“The Undoing”
“Unorthodox”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Drama
Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
Emma Corrin, “The Crown”
Laura Linney, “Ozark”
Sarah Paulson, “Ratched”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy
Lily Collins, “Emily In Paris”
Kaley Cuoco, “The Flight Attendant”
Elle Fanning, “The Great”
Jane Levy, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”
Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America”
Daisy Edgar Jones, “Normal People”
Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”
Nicole Kidman, “The Undoing”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Supporting Role
Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
Julia Garner, “Ozark”
Annie Murphy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Cynthia Nixon, “Ratched”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Drama
Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Al Pacino, “Hunters”
Matthew Rhys, “Perry Mason”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy
Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”
Nicholas Hoult, “The Great”
Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Bryan Cranston, “Your Honor”
Jeff Daniels, “The Comey Rule”
Hugh Grant, “The Undoing”
Ethan Hawke, “The Good Lord Bird”
Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much is True”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Supporting Role
John Boyega, “Small Axe”
Brendan Gleeson, “The Comey Rule”
Daniel Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Jim Parsons, “Hollywood”
Donald Sutherland, “The Undoing”

An Offer You Can Do Whatever You Want With #21: Carlito’s Way (dir by Brian De Palma)


It’s been a week so I guess it’s time for me to get back to reviewing mob movies, right?  Usually, I do my best not to take such a long break in-between reviewing films — especially when it’s a themed-series of reviews — but I just got busy this week.  It happens.  Luckily, even when we get busy, the movie’s remain ready to be watched and reviewed.

Last week, I reviewed Scarface and The Untouchables, two gangster films from Brian De Palma.  It only seems right to return to my look at the gangster genre by considering another Brian De Palma film.  Released in 1993, Carlito’s Way reunites De Palma with Scarface’s Al Pacino.  In Scarface, Pacino played a Cuban named Tony who was determined to get into the drug trade.  In Carlito’s Way, Pacino plays a Puerto Rican named Carlito who is desperate to escape the drug trade.

Carlito’s Way opens with Carlito getting released from prison in 1975.  He’s spent the past five years serving time on a drug conviction.  Originally, Carlito was sentenced to 30 years but his friend and attorney, David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn), managed to get the conviction thrown out on a technicality.  Now a free man, Carlito finds himself torn between two options.  He can either get involved, once again, in the drug trade or he can go straight.  Returning to his life of crime will mean once again doing something that he’s good at but it will also require him to deal with people who he can’t stand, like the sleazy Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo).  Going straight will mean escaping from New York with his girlfriend, a dancer named Gail (Penelope Ann Miller).  The problem is that it takes money to start a new life and there are people in New York who have no intention of allowing Carlito to leave.

Of the three De Palma-directed gangster films that I’ve recently watched, Carlito’s Way is probably the weakest.  De Palma has always been a frustratingly uneven director and Carlito’s Way contains some of his worst work and some of his best.  For instance, there’s a brilliant sequence where Carlito goes to a hospital to get revenge on someone who betrayed him and it is perhaps one of DePalma’s best set pieces.  But then there’s other scenes where DePalma’s trademark style feels rather empty and counterproductive.  Just when you’re starting to sympathize with Carlito’s predicament, DePalma will suddenly toss in a fancy camera trick and remind you that you’re just watching a film and that Carlito Brigante is just a character in that film.  That technique worked well in the satiric Scarface and the mythological Untouchables but it often feels unnecessary in Carlito’s Way.  

Al Pacino plays Carlito and, like DePalma’s direction, the end result is a bit uneven.  On the one hand, Pacino and Penelope Ann Miller have a likable chemistry, even if Carlito and Gail don’t really make sense as a couple.  On the other hand, this is one of those films where Pacino does a lot of yelling.  Sometimes it works and sometimes, it’s just too theatrical to be effective.  It’s hard not to compare Pacino’s performance here with his slyly humorous work in Scarface.  Tony Montana yelled because he genuinely enjoyed getting on people’s nerves.  The way that Tony expressed himself told us everything that we needed to know about the character.  Carlito yells because that was Al Pacino’s trademark at the time the film was made.

The best thing about the film is Sean Penn’s performance as David Kleinfeld.  Kleinfeld is one of the sleaziest character to ever appear in a movie and Penn seems to be having a good time playing him.  (Watching the film, I found myself wishing that Penn was willing to have that much fun with all of his roles.)  Penn doesn’t make Kleinfeld into a straight-out villain.  Instead, he portrays Kleinfeld as being a somewhat nerdy guy who thought it would be fun to pretend to be a gangster and who has snorted too much cocaine to understand the amount of trouble that he’s brought upon himself.  Just check out Penn in the scene where he’s dancing at a disco.  There’s a joy to Penn’s performance in Carlito’s Way that you typically don’t see from him as an actor.  He’s actually fun to watch in Carlito’s Way.

It’s a flawed film but fortunately, the movie’s good moments are strong enough to help carry the audience over the weaker moments.  The movie often threatens to collapse under the weight of its own style but it seems like whenever you’re on the verge of giving up on the film, De Palma’s kinetic camerawork will calm down enough to allow you to get at least mildly invested in Carlito’s predicament or Sean Penn’s amoral dorkiness will create an amusing moment and you’ll think to yourself, “Okay, let’s keep giving this a chance.”  Carlito’s Way may not be an offer that you can’t refuse but it’s still fairly diverting.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface (1932)
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House
  11. Race Street
  12. Racket Girls
  13. Hoffa
  14. Contraband
  15. Bugsy Malone
  16. Love Me or Leave Me
  17. Murder, Inc.
  18. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
  19. Scarface (1983)
  20. The Untouchables