Welcome to The Klash, a new feature designed to pit actor versus actor, actress versus actress, director versus director. Throughout Hollywood’s past, we’ve seen thousands and thousands of personalities come and go, but only a small percentage of them leave impressions that last lifetimes and continue to impress today. The Klash is our attempt to pit these legends against one another on a microcosmic level. Each week, one of our writers at The Cinematic Katzenjammer will go up against another writer and present his/her case as to why so-and-so is an excellent addition to the world of Film. The writers will be “blind” in the sense that they will not know anything but the name of the individual they themselves are assigned. They will be required to name the best three performances of that individual, as well as to write a brief explanation as to why their persona is the best at what they do. The verdict will be decided by you.
In return, we want you to vote on who you believe presents a better case and which three performances are stronger. Do not look at their entire filmography, but the three movies the writer decides are best.
Al Pacino is the Godfather of Godfathers, second only to Marlon Brando in terms of mobster presence. He’s a threatening personality, sharp, hoarse, growling, yet cunning behind dark eyes and capable of being as refined as anyone else. His portrayal of Michael in the Godfather series is perhaps his finest role, challenged for screen presence only by Brando himself. Seven oscar nominations and a win for Scent of a Woman, Pacino was actually nominated for two Oscars in one year. Being typecast is in some ways a blessing and in some a curse, but Pacino has over time come to accept his role as the face of the mobster in the American imagination.
Yet his single Oscar win does not come from a typecast role. His job as a blind and irascible Army Lieutenant in Scent of a Woman is one for the ages, one that exposes his characteristic flinty strength while at the same time showing his vulnerability. Though the movie was lackluster, his portrayal of a football coach in Any Given Sunday is truly inspiring. This versatility is remarkable, which is the hallmark of a great actor. Yet Pacino has done something more than be versatile. He has pushed beyond versatility, past typecast, and into the realm of definition.
Much like Bogart perfected and more or less invented the hardboiled cynic in his era, Pacino both won an Oscar for a dramatic role and invented the contemporary mobster of American cinema. Tony Montoya and Michael Corleone live on in our collective imagination as the definitive mobsters of the movies. It is to Pacino that we owe both.
Three Best Performances:
Michael Corelone in The Godfather
Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman
Tony Montana in Scarface
Robert De Niro is one of the greatest actors working today. With an intensity about him we rarely ever see in actors De Niro has given us performance after performance that is never short of extraordinary. When you think of gangster, you think of De Niro. When you think of New York, you think of De Niro. When you think Scorsese, you think De Niro. Together, De Niro and Scorsese created a new breed of film, with an unhinged emotion and an added level of realism, the two teamed up for some of the greatest films in modern cinematic history. Starting with his rise to power in The Godfather Part II and continuing into this past years’ Silver Linings Playbook, the man has proven to be one of the most talented actors of the past forty years.
In Taxi Driver, De Niro plays Travis Bickle, a man who slowly loses his grip on the world around him and acts out in the most violent ways. Showing the under belly of New York City and driven by his performance, Taxi Driver became an instant classic. Quotable, memorable, and all the more disturbing once you realize what’s going on, the film led way to a partnership with Scorsese that may never be matched in terms of director/actor relationships. They’ve worked together eight times, and three of those outings saw De Niro walk away with an Oscar nomination and a win for his performance as the down-and-out boxer, Jake La Motta, in Raging Bull.
It’s hard to bottle down his career to just three stand out performances, as every moment he’s on the screen he steals your attention as well as the scene, and brings his level of intensity through the fourth wall and right into your face. Rivaled by no one, De Niro is the epitome of a living legend, a true gangster, a war veteran, a criminal, a lover, and a hero. With class and grit, De Niro stands alone.
Three Best Performances:
Vito Corelone in The Godfather Part II
Jake La Motta in Raging Bull
Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver