March 11, 2008

Old Fools

If age doesn't really have anything to do with genius then why is it that brilliance starts to look jaded as time goes by?

The kind of work that a Robert De Niro or an Al Pacino do today is hardly a pale reflection of the kind of work these two did in the '70's? Taxi Driver, Godfather, Godfather -II, Mean Streets, The Deer Hunter, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarecrow, Panic in the Needle Park are some of the best films if you look at acting. Al Pacino's last decent film before he hit a rough patch in the 1980's would be ...And Justice For All whereas De Niro started the 1980's on a high note with Raging Bull but it was all downhill for him after that! De Niro had it better in the '80's where he worked mostly as a character actor and it wasn't until Casino (1995) and Analyze This (1999) that he briefly returned as a leading man.

The only real fireworks that one saw were in one's mind when these two came together for Michael Mann's Heat. I love Heat and its one of the very few films that I regularly revisit every now and then but it was still a let down in many senses.

So what went wrong?

Maybe it's all the hype attached to their names that did them in. If you start off at the top then the only way is to come down! Look at Amjad Khan and his life post Sholay. Every day can't be a Sunday and even when these two play smaller parts, they usually end up looking like fools (Pacino in Gigli) or cheating us (De Niro in Jackie Brown).

Both these actors have often been considered the greatest living actors and barring the very dead duo of Marlon Brando and Sir Laurence Olivier, I think they don't really have any competition. I hear Dustin Hoffman's name but I think these two are way above Hoffman. Dustin Hoffman plays Hoffman in every role and to me it's always like Hoffman looking at us less mortals and saying, "Hello I'm Dustin Hoffman and I'll be playing so and so character. Hope you enjoy watching!"

The funny thing is that even though I really like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, I'd not want my life to play like either. Someone like Jack Nicholson or Clint Eastwood seems like a better option. An overnight star after working for fifteen years, Jack Nicholson's resume might not boast of 'great' films but his oeuvre looks far more exciting than De Niro, Hoffman and Pacino's put together. Always considered a bigger star than actor, Nicholson's just done 11 films in the last 13 years but all the films are 'his' films.

Clint Eastwood's life is even better. One of the biggest stars of his time, he started producing his films and was laughed at when he decided to become a director. Following the tradition of Don Siegel and Sergio Leone, Eastwood started off with safe propositions such as Play Misty For Me, Bronco Billy and Pale Rider before graduating to films like Bird, Unforgiven, Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. When Steven Speilberg asked him if there was something he wanted more than directing Flags of Our Father, Eastwood cooly said that he wanted to make a Japanese version of the battle for Iwo Jima as well and ended up making two films. No one would have thought that Clint Eastwood would become one of the most revered directors in the world but look how it turned out for him. First Oscar nomination as an Actor at the age of 63 and first Oscar for direction at the age of 63. Second Oscar nomination as an actor at the age of 75 and second Oscar for Direction at the age of 75!

So while I await the next Eastwood film or Nicholson performance, I can hardly contain my excitement, for old times' sakes, at the prospect of watching De Niro and Pacino double team yet again in The Righteous Kill (click here for the trailer). Considering their last few outings, here's hoping that they don't hash it up!

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