Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Life Lessons from Al Pacino

It's easy to lose your way in this workaday world. The path to spiritual fulfillment is often obstructed by the stress of modern living. Bills. Obligations. Family. Great asses which we've got our heads all the way up. Fortunately, there are those who have dedicated their lives to clearing away those obstacles with the metaphorical gun hidden behind a public toilet. For nigh on half a century, Al Pacino has served as such a guide. Some would call him a hero. Others, a prophet. From whatever celestial realm he was sent to us, it matters not. What matters is that the Pacino burns with such a passion that he cannot help but yell out his gospel as loud as he can, as often as he can, to as many people as he can, with as many obscenities as he can.

Through the sacred texts he has passed down to us in film, Al Pacino has presented a path to enlightenment laden with as much wisdom as there is profanity, so in other words, quite a bit. Though his wisdom is not always for the faint of heart, it is as undeniable as a straight-laced cop on a corrupt force that the Pacino is right. And when he's right, he's right, and he is right. And just like his fellow prophets who have gone before him, Al Pacino asks nothing in return for the gifts he bestows upon us. Just know that in this life, Al Pacino will be there to believe in you even when you don't believe in yourself. And the Pacino is a scary judge of talent...

#1: No, You Ain't Gonna Take It, and You Definitely Ain't Gotta Take It at Work

Listen, we all have to work in order to make money to do the things we really want to do. You know it. I know it. And Al Pacino certainly knows it. In Glengarry Glen Ross, Al Pacino portrays crack real estate salesman Ricky Roma who, at one point, is put in a difficult situation when his boss, John Williamson (Kevin Spacey), fucks up the sale that would have put him at the top of the leader board for the month. We've all been in a similar situation. You find yourself working in the service of lesser men who have dick-sucked their way to the top. It's all but inevitable that at some point while under the direction of some ass clown who's been promoted to a position of authority over you, that shit will eventually come to a head.

Now, there are times in life when it's necessary to keep a cool head. There are certain tense situations that can only be solved through constructive dialogue while maintaining composure an an even temper to help defuse these situation by disarming your antagonist with grace and poise. And then there are situations where you have to tear the other guy a new asshole. Times when the other guy needs to get an accurate gauge as to the totality of his buffoonery. Times where the other guy's buffoonery costs you a $6,000 and a Cadillac, or at the very least a relaxing weekend, or a sandwich in the fridge which clearly had your fucking name written on it.

Whatever the case, the Pacino knows that in these instances, eviscerating your boss, manager, CEO, or other company man with an angry diatribe is not only justifiable but required by fine, morally upstanding citizens. Don't worry about your job; after all, your boss didn't get to the point where he can afford watches that cost more than your car by being a nice guy. In the urban jungle, if there's anything that's respected it's the ability to verbally disarm and publicly shame your opponent. Your boss got to his position by

#2: Know Thine Enemy But Don't Fear Him

It's human tendency to want to maximize happiness. In social situations, we tend to do this by prioritizing interactions with people that stimulate the happy centres of our brains, but Al Pacino has shown us a better way. In The Godfather II, Al Pacino plays Michael Corleone, heir and ruler to a vast mafia empire, complete with all of the risks that go along with such an enterprise, any number of which could result in a prolonged nap with some aquatic friends. Perhaps one of the most iconic of pearls that Corleone utters menacingly to a crony is the now infamous line:

"Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

There's always got to be that one kid who pees in the Kool-Aid and ruins the party for everybody else. The first instinct for a lot of people might be to keep Timmy at arm's length until the time as right for some sweet, sweet vengeance. But the problem is that if left to their own devices, there's no telling what the urine content of your beverages being. If you wrap these ne'er do wells up into the fold, you can keep tabs on them, and even manipulate them in whatever power hungry schemes you have on the go. Plus, it's a lot easier to slip that knife into his back with your arm around his shoulder.

#3: Life is Short. Enjoy the Little Things

Through Michael Corleone, Al Pacino also taught us about how special life is and how precious every moment is. This is because that at any time, people like Michael Corleone might have you killed for whatever paranoid reason grips them that day, or you might just get caught in the crossfire. As the Pacino put it so eloquently:

"If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone."

Though some might interpret this as a menacing threat meant to elucidate just how much power some men have over others and a general callousness towards the sanctity of human life, those listening with the right ears can hear the passionate call to life behind it all. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you might get garotted, ambushed at a toll booth, or coerced into committing suicide by a once-trusted friend. Never take a single moment of your life for granted because at any moment Al Pacino might have you shot and dumped in a nearby body of water.

#4: Embrace the Tenets of Humanism and Look out for Your Fellow Hu-man 

In The Devil's Advocate, Al Pacino portrays one John Milton, literally the devil in lawyer's clothing who is trying to implement some elaborate plan to stick it to The Almighty and deal with Keanu Reeves' attempt (*shudder*) at a southern accent. Even though Milton's goal is to have his two children fuck and give birth to the Antichrist and bring about a reign of never ending darkness, he's clearly motivated by his devotion to nurturing humankind's potential, and most importantly their propensity for depraved sexual acts, the acceptance of which is the true metric of progress for any civilized society.

Despite being the Prince of Darkness, he also defines himself as "the last humanist." He will defend to the very end humanity's right to look, touch, taste, and swallow. The Pacino is the ultimate fan of man. He advocates a worldview built on a foundation of non-judgmental acceptance of people for who they are despite their imperfections and a dedication to agency and self-determination in total defiance of oppressive forces the likes of conformity and tyranny. And also fucking everywhere. 

#5: Get Your Eight Hours of Sleep

This one seems a bit obvious, and even a little mundane, but getting your daily recommended dose of sleep is a necessary part of your mental health. Al Pacino knows from personal experience how a lack of sleep can dull the senses and impair cognitive function. In Insomnia, he shows how interruptions in the sleep cycle can have dire consequences, like accidentally killing a friend and then not having the moral fortitude to come clean about it right away. In real life, Al Pacino perpetrated an even greater crime due to lack of sleep, playing a part in the cinematic atrocity known as Jack and Jill, in which Adam Sandler plays his own twin sister and Al Pacino plays himself who becomes smitten with fem-Sandler. Let that be a lesson to you and your children: get your daily recommended dose of sleep, or you could find yourself starring alongside in a movie with Adam Sandler (which once would have been an honour, but now is where Russia sends its most hardened criminals when a Siberian gulag is deemed "too humane a punishment"). There are special circles of hell reserved for transgressions of that magnitude.

#6: Don't Let Nobody Tell You How to Live Your Life

In Scarface, Al Pacino takes on one of his most iconic roles, Tony Montana, the cocaine-sniffing, sister-loving, hard-nosed gangster who builds and violently defends a drug empire that would put Walter White to shame. One of Tony Montana's defining characteristics is his seeming inability to take zero shit from anybody at any time, even if they're about to dismember him in a bathtub with a chainsaw. Sure, he could have worked hard at a legitimate job, but he had a dream, and that dream included running drugs, killing indiscriminately, and becoming richer than a Texas oil baron. And he never let anybody or anything deter him: not law enforcement, not family or friends, not basic human dignity. Tony Montana forged his own path and built a legacy all his own.

Like Mr. Montana, you should never let anything stop you from living your life your way. No matter how many people you have to step over, no matter how many sisters you have to have creepy incestuous relationships with, no matter how much biology tells us the maximum non-lethal dose of cocaine within a 24-hour period, never say never.

#7: Never Say Never Again. Ever. Again. Never.

Heat is an epic crime thriller that featured career-defining performances from Al Pacino and fellow guru, Robert De Niro, that culminated in a tension-filled showdown in a diner and also an airport chase lifted right from Bullitt, but fuck it, it was still cool as all shit. It left audiences clamouring for more from this pair of cinematic icons, a dream that was finally fulfilled some thirteen years later in the lukewarm cop thriller Righteous Kill that mildly distracted audiences the world over. It was a promise to audiences that by the time it was delivered on was met with a collective "Meh." But the Pacino is not so easily deterred. For him, there is no debt to small to be overlooked, no obstacle too insurmountable, no odds too outlandish, and no time table too long. Never tell Al Pacino the odds, because he will shoot, stab, and strangle the shit out of those odds and dump their body in the nearest body of water. Al Pacino never gives up, and never gives up on the possibilities that life offers.

Here endeth today's reading. Thanks and praise be unto the Pacino.    


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