Al Pacino's birthday: My gift for him includes Oscars for 'Godfather,' 'Serpico,' 'Dog Day Afternoon'...


Image Credit: Everett Collection

To celebrate Al Pacino’s 71st birthday today, I’d like to suggest something drastic. I’d like the Academy to exchange his Oscar for Scent of a Woman for another honoring his role as Michael Corleone in either of the first two Godfather films. No need to steal trophies back from other deserving actors, like Joel Grey (Cabaret) or the late Art Carney (Harry and Tonto) — this isn’t about them. This is about Pacino, whose magnificent film work in the 1970s has aged like a fine wine. Nominated for an Oscar for four straight years — for the two Godfather movies, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon — Pacino simply breathed life into characters that no one else could play, then or now.

It’s not my intent to disparage Scent of a Woman or Pacino’s award-winning performance as the blind Lt. Col. Frank Slade. It’s a decent movie and a fine role, but it also epitomizes the hooah-type characters that Pacino made a habit of playing to diminishing returns in the 20 years since Scent came out. Some 50 years from now, some curious young cinephile who’s yet to see a Pacino film might start with Scent of a Woman. After all, that was his Academy Award-winning role. But that’s not the Pacino that blew everyone away like the chilling, stone-eyed mafioso’s son or the unhinged bank robber who can’t do anything right. It’s not even the one who reminded us of his early brilliance, in later films like Donnie Brasco. In a perfect world, his Oscar would have a different title engraved on it.

Maybe the Academy can make an unwritten rule, designed special for the greats: For every five nominations, winners earn the right to trade an Oscar in for the performance of their choosing. For example, Paul Newman could have swapped his Best Acting Oscar from The Color of Money for another for The Verdict. Martin Scorsese could trade-in The Departed for Taxi Driver or Raging Bull.

Where would you rank Pacino’s performance in Scent of a Woman among his best roles? What other actors or directors would you like to see trade-in their Academy Awards for greater yet uncrowned performances?

Read more:
Al Pacino remembers Sidney Lumet: ‘The kindest man I have ever known.’
Al Pacino and Martin Scorsese have never worked together. What?!
Gallery: 10 Deserving Winners (Who Should Have Won Sooner)

Comments (38 total) Add your comment
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  • Susan Wolter

    Thank you for saying Al Pacino should win a retroactive Oscar for “Dog Day Afternoon”, my favorite Pacino role. I always thought “Dog Day Afternoon” was wildly underrated.

    • Maggie25

      Wildly underrated? What about the fact that it is 36 years later and people still have heard of it and talk about it? I know it’s not necessarily the most famous movie of all time, but I think to call it wildly underrated is an overstatement.

      • so true

        Yep. DDA is a classic. Everyone knows that.

    • mark

      He is so great in that movie but you can’t beat Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest

      • Cate

        YES, you can. Pacino should have won that year.

    • stu

      Scar Face=best role…after Frankie & Johnny=NOT!

    • Janene

      Pacino has a vast repitoire. He can do it all. Shakespeare to Frankie and Johnnie, to Dog Day.

  • Radzinsky

    Surely Paul Newman would trade it in for “The Hustler,” no?

    And you would seriously give Pacino the Oscar in ’73 over Marlon Brando in “Last Tango in Paris?” No matter how good Pacino is, there’s no freakin’ way.

    • brando

      you don’t win an oscar for a role. that’s pretext. you win it to win it and to be an oscar winner. who cares which movie he won it for? it the cinephile doesn’t know pacino was in the godfather, then he’s a pretty sh*tty cinephile. just sayin.

      • Pittner

        You should win an Oscar for the role, not the career.

      • brando

        people should be honest. what of it?

    • Bradley Richman

      The academy passed over both Pacino and Brando that year… Jack Lemmon won for Save the Tiger.

  • Sina

    You totally forgot about one of his best performances in Heat!

    “She got a great a**, and you got your head all up in it!”

    Great great line.

    • rjh90

      Forgot all about ‘Heat’. Definitely a great Pacino role! And have DeNiro and Pacino to make the movie great.

    • marg

      Al caught himself in that line, stupid, and corrected it quickly – he did the same in Scent—.

    • marg

      You’re an idiot. You don’t even have the quote correct, STUPID!!!!

  • Kat Jennings

    Al Pacino has played an Armenian in two different films:
    Author! Author! (1982)
    You Don’t Know Jack (2010)

    • Maggie25

      Ummm… and?

  • HooYah

    His performance in Serpico was way better than Scent. He was Michael Corleone. Totally hypnotizing. Hated Scent.

    • Radzinsky

      He was Michael Corleone in “The Godfather”…

      • rosemary drainey

        I agree.

    • marg

      You’re an idiot.



    – –

    Appreciating that you were most likely comparing Pacino’s efforts themselves notwithstanding, I watched four of *five films of which actors were nominated for BEST ACTOR in the Scent of a Woman’s year, and IMO, he was the best of them.

    – –

    Dog Day Afternoon is a great film; so is his performance.

    – –

    *The one I missed was MALCOLM X (Denzel Washington).

    – –

    [Side note: A famous one or the lesser known networks alike for that matter not only need to double-check their sources, etc., but to free themselves as the professional from including their opinions, etc., into the piece of NEWS and reports, etc., as well. Just because a famous network is as renowned as we know they are, does not mean at all that they always get it all right; not to mention post-double-check errors possibly incurred. I’m referring to the case (the thread by another EW staff writer) in re CHINA’s allegedly new rules concerning media, etc.; and I think you were referring to CNN or so, in another supposedly irrelevant thread – except the sarcasm(?).]

    • Le HIROSHI

      [In re side note, I’m not saying professional reporters should not include their opinions at any rate. Sometimes, opinions should be included.]

      • StickFigurehead

        That year he was up against Denzel Washington, Stephen Rea for the Crying Game, Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven, and….I forget. Dirty Harry for the win, especially considering his economy in the face of Pacino’s hamminess.

      • rjh90

        Denzel should’ve won that year instead of Pacino. It was his best role but Spike Lee ruined it for him by calling the Oscar committee racist.

  • Elbyem

    Yes – please TAKE BACK that Oscar for Scent of a Woman, and give it to Denzel Washington – by any means necessary (for Malcolm X).

    • Pittner

      Denzel bored me in that movie. Dog Day Afternoon is one of my favorites and I say give it to him for that but then I remember that Jack Nicholson won for Cuckoo’s Nest which is another one of my favorites and both of them deserve it.Later movies of Pacino’s that I thought were great were Heat, Donnie Brasco, The Insider and Scent of a Woman.

      • tg

        He was great in The Insider and also Insomnia. Directing has a lot to do with it. He needs someone who can help him control his tendency to head for the top and keep going straight over it.

  • Yermama

    Attica! Attica! Attica!

  • Tiffany

    Agree with all on Dog Day Afternoon, also where was the love for John Cazele as well. Everyone on that one got screwed that was involved in that one. I did not know that the film was based on a Life story so when his wife showed up I was all, ‘SAY WHAT!!!’, but still fantastic movie.

  • tracy bluth

    Can’t they just make him four Oscars for Godfather I, II, Dog Day Afternoon, and Serpico? He deserves one for each!
    I agree, don’t take the Oscar away from Joel Gray. But…if you wanted to take away Kevin Costner’s Oscars for Dancing with Wolves and give them to Scorsese for Goodfellas I would support it all the way.

  • Leather Bear

    Let’s not forget his spin as the immortal Detective Steve Burns in Cruising. Pacino singlehandedly made assless chaps cool for a time.

  • Cate

    I wouldn’t trade the Scent of a Woman Oscar, because although the movie was fine, his performance was BRILLIANT and unforgettable. However, I DO AGREE that he should get retrospective Oscars for Godfather I & II and Dog Day Afternoon, because it was a SIN that he wasn’t awarded them in the first place. Pacino IS, without a doubt THE finest actor in the world. Period.

  • Beto

    …and the Insider, Al was great in that movie and he wasnt nominated.
    Thank you Al and Happy Birthday, to the greatest actor in the world !

  • rosemary drainey

    I feel Al Pacino is the greatest actor in the world, with his best work being Michael Corleone.

  • KMHudson

    He is certainly a phenominal actor.

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