Life in the Slow Lane

August 27, 2008

Pacino and Deniro – the best of our time?

Filed under: Movies — pauljlane @ 2:33 pm

“Righteous Kill” comes to theaters Sept. 12, but the film may be destined to become one of those movies that people remember even as they can’t place the name of it to save their lives.

That’s because it will be the first film to have Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino prominently act together, playing police detectives in pursuit of a serial killer; they appeared together in “The Godfather II” together but had no scenes together, and the two men shared one scene in “Heat.”

Pacino may have become a hoo-hawing parody of himself in recent years and DeNiro may never be forgiven for “Meet the Fockers,” but all in all both men have to still be considered among the greatest living actors still actively pursuing their careers.

Who’s better? Let’s discuss. And please share your thoughts on the subject below.

• Denzel Washington: Pluses – He’s the best part of nearly every film he’s in, whether the movie is great (“Training Day”) or otherwise (“Remember the Titans”); has two Academy Awards to his credit, for “Glory” and “Training Day,” and three other nominations for “Cry Freedom,” “Malcolm X” and “The Hurricane”; looking over his resume, it’s very hard to say that you hate any of his films, even if you don’t love all of them.

Minuses – He was in “Virtuosity.”

Verdict: Probably not quite at the DeNiro level, but he’s as consistently good as anyone out there.

• Russell Crowe: Pluses – He was involved in “Gladiator,” for which he won an Academy and which along with “The Patriot” and “The Shawshank Redemption” might be the most rewatchable movie of my lifetime; received two other Academy Award nominations for “The Insider” and “A Beautiful Mind”; whether down on his luck like in “Cinderella Man” or in total control like in “American Gangster,” he’s completely believable; lives in a town called Woolloomooloo; owns a rugby team in his native Australia, and who wouldn’t want to own a rugby team?

Minuses – Did “Mystery, Alaska”; temper issues make him unlikable by some (must be all the Foster’s).

Verdict – Not up there, although he deserves to be in anyone’s top 10.

• Morgan Freeman: Pluses – Won an Academy Award for “Million Dollar Baby” although he deserved several more, having been nominated for “Street Smart,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and “The Shawshank Redemption”; he played God in “Bruce Almighty,” winning double points because so few people ge to be God and because the film was based in Buffalo; was a star in “Se7en,” which may be the best horror film of the past 25 years; usually plays a good guy, but he’s great even when he’s a bad guy such as in “Wanted”; can take a role as small as inventor Lucius Fox in the “batman” series and make it memorable; he could read the Chinese dictionary and sound appealing.

Cons – Recent revelation about his marital troubles could turn some people off; helped kick the unfortunate penguin craze a few years ago when he narrated “March of the Penguins”

Verdict – If you don’t consider Pacino or DeNiro to be the top actor, either Freeman occupies your No. 1 spot or you’re on crack.

Jack Nicholson: Pluses – He’s been at it for 50 years but keeps delivering strong performances such as “About Schmidt” and  “The Departed”; he made the phrase “Here’s Johnny!” more popular than Ed McMahon did when introducing Johnny Carson on the old talk show; Academy Awards for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Terms of Endearment” and “As Good as It Gets”; before Heath Ledger came along; his was the seminal performance upon which all other Jokers should be based in the “Batman” series; it was because of his performance in “A Few Good men” that I got to shout out “You can’t handle the truth!” during a skit in 11th-grade English class.

Minuses – He did “Anger Management” and “Mars Attacks”; if you’ve read any recent interviews, he seems be losing his marbles a bit; he roots for the Yankees.

Verdict – Maybe a bit past his prime – MAYBE – but the prize would have been his 30 years ago.

• Tom Hanks: Pluses – He might be Hollywood’s most bankable star, as he’s recognized and loved by everyone and hasn’t made a movie that grossed less than $100 million since “Joe Versus the Volcano” in 1990; few have him beat when it comes to diversity, as he’s been a social pariah in “Philadelphia,” a wooden cowboy in “Toy Story,” a volleyball-loving madman in “Cast Away” and killer in “Road to Perdition”; won Academy Awards for “Philadephia” and “Forrest Gump” and was nominated for “Big,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Cast Away”; always delivered when hosting “Saturday Night Live,” which really doesn’t mean anything but he was always good for a laugh.

Minuses – Did I mention he was in “Joe Versus the Volcano?”; he also helped keep Rosie O’Donnell’s career going by starring with her in “A League of Their Own”

Verdict – He’s always been underrated, but that still doesn’t warrant him cracking the top three.

Click here for an excellent column by Bill Simmons on who would win a Pacino vs. DeNiro showdown. And we’ll end with a few DeNiro and Pacino clips.

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