Scarface is perhaps the most overrated movie in the past thirty years. I realize that this one statement will put me on the virtual stake of thousands of hip-hop heads and young/older boys/men who can recite nearly every line of Brian De Palma’s 1983 gangster epic. I too was one of them but the budding cinephile in me has resisted the urge to praise this, albeit relatively well-written, large scale B-movie of a Cuban refugee’s rise to glory as the head of a cocaine empire. You see, authenticity is of the essence and well let’s just say Al wasn’t a very convincing Cuban.
One of the terrifyingly powerful things about a movie is that it can both entertain and strongly influence a societal mindset. Much like the Godfather (another flick starring the Great Al Pacino) did with Italian Americans, Scarface didn’t perpetuate stereotypes as much as it created one. First of all, Al Pacino sounds like an old Jewish man more than a 40-something Cuban. Try listening to a few scenes with your eyes closed. It works. What about his Spanish? It was almost as bad as Carlito’s Way. Holy hasas Frank, yet another De Palma/Pacino collaboration.
There are numerous examples of the Anglo-Latino switch-a-roo in American film. Alan Arkin’s portrayal of a single Puerto Rican father in Popi, Natalie Wood and George Ckakiris as Boricua siblings Maria and Bernardo is West Side Story, every badass student in a Teacher in the ‘hood flick, and Charlton Heston as a Mexican Detective in Alfred Hitchcok’s 1958 piece Touch of Evil, are just a few. Charlton Heston? Really? Wasn’t Ricardo Montalban doing his thing around this time?
Now I am certainly not against Non-Latino actors playing Latinos if the performance is convincing. It is acting after all. When I see a movie I want to see good actors who might happen to be Latino not just Latino actors. Pero come on Hollywood! There are far too may talented Latino thespians that deserve a break. Sure we can add a little sabor to the silver screen, but ultimately it’s the raw artistic talent that’s going untapped. You know what my answer is to this unfair treatment? John Leguizamo in Summer of Sam, Andy Garcia in almost everything, and the Monk Guy. He is Latino right?
I think I’m going to pop in a few DVD’s today, maybe Dog Day Afternoon followed by American Me.
By guest contributor, Mark A. Virella.