This article came out of my local newspaper last night and I thought I'd post it here. Suffice to say I don't agree with every sentiment but will add a few of my own at the end. The article has no name attached so I have no idea who wrote it except that it came from AP. So read on!
There has been no shortage of movies made about mobsters over the years. Their power and brazenness hold a fascination for Hollywood and filmgoers. One of the most infamous is James "Whitey" Bulger, the New England mob boss captured after 16 years as a fugitive, and who inspired Jack Nicholson's character in Martin Scorsese's 2006 Oscar winner, The Departed.
He is our inspiration to take a look at five of the most formidable movie mobsters.
Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather ( 1972 ).
Of course we have to start here, but what can we say that hasn't been said before? Brando's quietly intimidating performance in Francis Ford Coppola's trilogy as the aging patriarch of a crime family set the standard for portrayals of Mafia leaders.
Al Pacino's Michael Corleone is also frightening, but Brando's shadow looms large over everything. He's been endlessly worshipped, quoted and parodied, and deservedly so. Brando's work is nothing short of iconic and it earned him and Academy Award for best actor, which he turned down as protest based on his objection to the depiction over the years of American Indians by Hollywood and television.
See, the Academy made him an offer he could refuse. Ba-dum-bum.
Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas ( 1990 ).
Scorsese was robbed. Dances With Wolves should never have won the best-picture Oscar over Goodfellas, which is one of the director's masterpieces. All his stylistic signatures are there : the fluid movement and the rock soundtrack, the colourful characters and the visceral violence.
But at the centre of it all is Liotta, doing the best work of his career as a resourceful up-and-comer who rises to the top of the mob heap only to find he's in over his head. He's just as dangerous as he is boyishly handsome and charming - resourceful and clever but capable of volatility.
James Cagney in multiple roles.
The controversial grapefruit scene from The Public Enemy.
Playing a tough guy was one of Cagney's strong suits, and that persona was indelibly on display in several classic gangster movies. In 1931's The Public Enemy he plays Tom Powers, a volatile Chicago gangster on the rise. In 1938's Angels With Dirty Faces he plays Rocky Sullivan, who grew up in a tough part of New York and returns as a career criminal, only to cross paths with the priest who was his childhood best friend.
Michael Curtiz' film features plenty of stereotypes and a moral undercurrent, but Cagney is at his brash best and the performance earned him the first of his three Academy Award nominations for best actor.
Ben Kingsley as Don Logan in Sexy Beast ( 2001 ).
Part of the allure of this performance is that it's so vastly different from the kind of quiet, dignified work we ordinarily associate with Kingsley. He's anti-Gandhi. he's just tremendous here, and the role earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. As a foul-mouthed, gun-toting, butt-kicking British thug, Kingsley is unpredictable and impossible to stop watching.
His performance alone would make Sexy Beast worth seeing, but it punctuates a stylish noir thriller that's totally addictive.
William Hurt as Richie Cusack in A History of Violence ( 2005 ).
Hurt earned a supporting - actor Oscar nomination for his performance as a passively threatening Philadelphia mob boss. He shows up towards the end of the movie and has only a single scene, one that's unlike any other in the film with its dark sense of humour.
Parading around an ostentatious castle of a home, he plays the role with a mix of affection, menace, paranoia and regret, laying on the most charming guilt trip with just a touch of insanity. Even though he barely appears in director David Cronenberg's twisty thriller he nearly steals the whole movie.
What say you??!
I must admit I haven't seen Sexy Beast but the others I have. It is difficult to argue with Brando's performance being the best ever filmed. I was very lucky to see James Cagney's The Public Enemy on the big screen several years ago. It is more moralistic as it was made to show the American public the 'virus' of organized crime invading society at the time. It was a brutal movie for its day and Cagney was chilling.
I dis-agree though that Dances With Wolves should never have won best picture. That is the whole point of awards and at least that year there was two great films vying off against one another. Of course other opinions will differ but for me Coster's epic masterpiece is one of the greatest films ever made, and whilst I love Godfellas I like Wolves more.
Jack Nicholson's role in The Departed is mentioned and it is a pity it wasn't added as it was a superb performance which switched me onto him as I'd never really like him before.
Certainly an interesting article and food for thought!