It’s a concept, man. It’s a dream. It’s my time now–and God is an absentee landlord!

This is a blog about movies, inspired by what what was once the most unstoppable force in modern cinema.

Al Pacino is more than an actor with a, let’s say, tendency toward the dramatic. He’s an icon. He’s timeless. And his hair. That’s even more timeless.

It all stemmed from a barroom conversation several years ago, when it was realized that with Big Al, there is no middle ground. It’s either Good Pacino or Bad Pacino. He doesn’t play it safe. He makes. A choice.

Good Pacino? Easy. Start with The Godfather. Al’s understated, restrained, almost somber.

Bad Pacino? Easy in some sense. Does the exclamation “ooh-wah!” mean anything to you?

The Oak Room! He’s blind. He drives a Ferrari.

That’s Bad Pacino.

Then there are the tougher calls. Scarface, anyone? Because you are a famous Italian actor from New York means you can play a Cuban refugee who rises to the top of the Miami underworld. But that doesn’t mean you should do it.

But the way we see it, Bad Pacino is more than a concept confined to a famous actor occasionally cashing the paycheck or chasing Oscar. Its all about going over the top. About seeing those limitations and pushing. Right past them!

It means somehow being a cook who somehow seduces a waitress who somehow looks like Michelle Pfeiffer. It means playing Jamie Foxx over Dennis Quaid. It means that when the producers come to you and say “It’s a law firm run by the devil,” you say, “Great. Where do I sign?

It means never having to apologize, even if you come out with something like 88 Minutes, which opened on a Friday and came out on DVD, I believe, on the following Tuesday. (Metacritic average score: 17, which is a number usually reserved for Paris Hilton cameos.)

It’s a state of mind, friend. No apologies. And not much subtlety either.

So this is a blog about movies, but let’s be clear. It’s about movies in all their untidy, sometimes horribly commercial serves. Speaking only for myself, I am no cineaste. To borrow a line from John Cusack in High Fidelity, sure I’ve seen The Seven Samurai and The 400 Blows and I think I understand them. They were about girls, right? It’s about what we like, what we love, and what we love to hate.

Al inspired a meandering, annotated journey through my Netflix queue, one that has now taken several years. I write when I can, and when I feel like I have something to say. Which is to say, it’s likely no one needs to know what I think of Citizen Kane— or The Seven Samurai for that matter.

Somewhere along the line, appreciation has turned into a full-blown passion, and I like to think my cinema IQ has shot up to somewhere beyond vegetable stage. To quote another well-known, but critically panned movie, we’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.

I work on this blog in between my everyday job, writing for the Los Angeles Times. You can email me at jamesoliphant@gmail.com.

James Oliphant

Twitter: @jamesoliphant