Oscar Justice: Al Pacino

Welcome to Oscar Justice, a new weekly feature at Ice Creams for Freaks.  It’s a simple concept: I give an Oscar to someone who rightfully deserved it, then I follow the repercussions down the line until I am satisfied.

This week on Oscar Justice: Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II


1972 Best Supporting Actor, The Godfather – Lost to Joel Grey, Cabaret
1973 Best Actor, Serpico – Lost to Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger
1974 Best Actor, The Godfather Part II – Lost to Art Carney, Harry & Tonto
1975 Best Actor, Dog Day Afternoon – Lost to Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
1979 Best Actor, …and Justice for All – Lost to Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer
1990 Best Supporting Actor, Dick Tracy – Lost to Joe Pesci, Goodfellas
1992 Best Actor, Scent of a Woman – WINNER1992 Best Supporting Actor, Glengarry Glen Ross – Lost to Gene Hackman, Unforgiven
2019 Best Supporting Actor, The Irishman – Lost to Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood


Al Pacino burst on the scene in 1972 with The Godfather.  From 1972 to 1975, he received four Oscar nominations in four years for four classic movie performances.  But, each time, he went home empty-handed.

In the early 90s, with five nominations and a long history of successful films, Pacino was viewed as overdue.  After receiving dual nominations in 1992, Pacino finally won his Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Scent of a Woman.  The win was considered a make-up victory.


Al Pacino defeats Art Carney in 1974 Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.


Just as Peter O’Toole kept losing Oscars to all-time performances, Pacino’s losses come against stiff competition.  Grey, Nicholson, Lemmon, Hoffman, Pesci, Hackman and Pitt were winning no matter who was going against them.

The notable exception came in 1974.  Not only did Art Carney take an Oscar from Pacino, he also defeated Nicholson in Chinatown, Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express, and Hoffman for Lenny.  You could make an argument that Carney is the weakest of the five nominees.  Meanwhile, Pacino’s performance as Michael Corleone has endured generations and only gets better as the years go along.

For reference, look at the masterclass Pacino gives in the scene with Diane Keaton.  Pacino goes from gentle and concerned (but always in control) husband to bewildered to psychopathic anger in a matter of seconds without ever saying a word.  It’s his best performance and in the upper echelons of male performances ever put to film.


With Pacino winning his Oscar in 1974, Art Carney is left Oscar-less. Carney is never again nominated for an Oscar and never comes close, though he has six Emmy Awards to fall back on for his long-running partnership with Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show.

The fallout becomes much more interesting if you take Pacino’s 1992 Oscar away.  Of the other four 1992 nominees, Denzel Washington’s powerhouse in Malcolm X slots in as the victor.  Washington would have two Oscars in four years at that span.  As much as I love Denzel, let’s not give him a third Oscar in 2001 for Training Day.

When it comes to Best Actor at this time, the topic turns to Russell Crowe.  Following his Hollywood breakthrough in LA Confidential in 1997, Crowe went three-in-a-row for Best Actor nominations with The Insider in 1999, Gladiator in 2000 (which he won) and A Beautiful Mind in 2001.  With Denzel not winning in 2001, who takes his place?  I’ll come back to that.

As for Crowe, his best performance of the three is in Michael Mann’s The Insider, so let’s take away one of Kevin Spacey’s Oscars and give it to Crowe in 1999.  If Crowe wins there, he doesn’t win in 2000, so how about we award another overdue performer while we are at it?  That’s right…we now have Oscar winner Ed Harris for Pollock, becoming the third ever Oscar winner to be self-directed.  In 2001, with Crowe and Denzel out of the way, let’s honor another biopic and give Will Smith the honors he deserved for another Michael Mann film, Ali.  It was a neck-and-neck race for Smith with competition from Tom Wilkinson for In the Bedroom, but the movie star narrative prevailed.


Al Pacino wins Best Actor in 1974 over Art Carney
Denzel Washington wins Best Actor in 1992 over Al Pacino
Russell Crowe wins Best Actor in 1999 over Kevin Spacey
Ed Harris wins Best Actor in 2000 over Russell Crowe
Will Smith win Best Actor in 2001 over Denzel Washington

Next time on Oscar Justice…Kate Winslet gets an Oscar for her best performance, which ends up getting an Academy Award for another Oscar bridesmaid. 

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