Friday, October 24, 2008

Gracias for Garcia

Mojitos, cigars, and Andy Garcia. I thank Cuba for all these wonderful things. When it comes to choosing one movie to thank for showcasing him better than any other, that's not as easy to pin down. Luckily, I have literally days on end to do nothing but watch movies until I settle on a favorite. Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead was definitely a contender. But it's just a wee bit melancholy. Internal Affairs gave it a good run, but I'm not all that mad about Richard Gere. Night Falls on Manhattan is not a movie I have problems with. (James Gandolfini double bonus points!) And it's not shocking that Sidney Lumet picked Garcia as a leading man, considering how Lumet favored Al Pacino when he was younger as a leading man, given their strong facial resemblance. (again, both of them exactly my type.) But Manhattan, it's just not really a knockout of a flick.

Speaking of the Pacino-Garcia resemblance, and knockout flicks, it's easy to peg what should've been Garcia's immortal role -- Vincent Mancini-Corleone in The Godfather III. This film had the pedigree and star power, but, unfortunately, unlike its predecessors, it didn't have the tight script in its arsenal. As Sonny Corleone's illegitimate son Vincent, Garcia got to pull the best qualities from all three Corleone brothers. He had Michael's machinations, Sonny's temper, and Fredo's lovable sweetness.

And he looked smashing in a tux. But it's perhaps because of this mishmash of qualities that Vincent lacked focus. This lack of shaping wasn't a shortcoming of Garcia's performance, which earned him an Oscar nomination, as he managed to be both smoldering and romantic, alternately threatening and endearing, all while looking like the very definition of a movie star. It's just that this movie had some fundamental problems. So although it's still more than watchable and a worthwhile entry into Coppola's canon, if for nothing else than the beautiful look of the film, it's really not worthy of the first two installments and it can't be considered the apex of Garcia's career, because he, unfortunately, has some major screen time devoted to the structural problems. And that's all I have to say about that, since I'm being nice and not scathing.

So instead, for me, it's a much more simple character -- in an equally visually stunning movie -- that finally gave Garcia an iconic turn. Littered with enough stars at its disposal to make even Ari Gold blush, it was 2001's Ocean's Eleven where Garcia got to turn up his wattage, and, for my money, outshine everyone else. Why? Simple. It's a fun movie, and no one, no one on that screen was having more fun than Andy.

As the classy-but-nasty casino owner Terry Benedict, Andy got to condescend to Clooney and romance Roberts with a coldly calculating elan. He wasn't one of these sympathetic villains. He was a good, old-fashioned villain, snide and sly, finally getting his comeuppance.

I will admit that I have very fond personal memories of this flick, as I actually lived in Vegas when it was filming. And, being young and mostly drunk, I spent a lot of time stalking the Ocean's cast, generally to little success. But one day at the Bellagio, I happened to luck out, and, from a roped off area at the Fontana Bar, I got to watch as Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts filmed a re-shoot of their kiss-off elevator scene. It was awesome. Dazzling.

And even as the charm of this Ocean's franchise sort of faded, Andy's Terry Benedict kept the funny coming, along with the snarky laughs. And so it's fitting that Al Pacino joined him as a nemesis for the final installment in Thirteen. In The Godfather, it was still ultimately all about Al Pacino's Michael Corleone, not Andy's Vincent. But this time around, in the Ocean's world, Andy's Terry Benedict, he may have gotten the shaft from Danny Ocean once again> But Andy, in this movie, I think he finally got the best of old Al Pacino.

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