James Gandolfini (9/18/1961-6/19/2013)

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James Gandolfini passed away today. I’m not one for empty platitudes when actors and actresses die, but it’s hard not to feel something for Gandolfini, whose work has given me hours and hours of entertainment. He was universally beloved by his peers and by his fans. Everyone knows about his role as Tony Soprano, where he willed premium cable programming to a higher plane of existence. But he also had notable roles in In the Loop, True Romance, Zero Dark Thirty, Killing Them Softly, Cinema Verite, The Last Castle, and… you know what? He was notable in all of his roles. Instead of me listing them, just go check out his filmography on IMDb and watch some of those movies in the next few days. In his honor, here are some of my favorite Gandolfini scenes. It’s Soprano-heavy, as it should be, but that should take nothing away from what he achieved as an actor in other roles. Rest in peace, James Gandolfini. You’re eating braciola in heaven now.

I’ve always loved this scene because of the context. Tony had just cleaned up Janice’s mess (Richie), and had generally been a thankless superhero the entire episode. But the cracks in his domestic life were showing. The look on Gandolfini’s face as Carmela gives him a “go to hell” at the end of his thankless day is priceless.

It was pretty tough to beat the humor in The Sopranos. Tony’s barbs at Bobby Bacala were some of the most underrated moments in the series.

The best part of this next scene was later in the episode when Tony is in a psychologist’s office and notices that one of the dislodged teeth founds its way into the cuff of his pants.

The last role I saw Gandolfini in was Killing Them Softly, and he had a few great scenes as “Mickey”. The clip is embedding disabled, but you can find it here.

In this scene from In the Loop, Gandolfini learns a valuable lesson about European geography.

Tony Soprano’s rage, often misguided, was an integral part of the series. Never was it more apparent than when mistreatment of a horse led him to get rid of one of his top earners.

It’s technically not a specific scene, but Gandolfini’s work in Cinema Verité on HBO was exemplary. Here’s the trailer, wherein you can hear Gandolfini employing a non-Jersey accent to great effect:

Here’s Gandolfini as the loudmouthed “Big Dave” in the Coen brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There. The marriage of the Coens with Gandolfini’s skills seemed a match made in heaven, two entities masterful at dark humor. The end of the clip includes some great behind the scenes stuff with Gandolfini discussing his role.

Tony and Christopher’s relationship on The Sopranos was contentious, and a great source of tension throughout. The final scene with the pair was brilliant. You can see the exact moment that Tony comes to the chilling conclusion of what he must do.

This could go on forever, but I’ll end it here. You get the idea. James Gandolfini was a tremendous actor. He will be missed.

10 Comments

Filed under Movies, Television, TV Shows

10 responses to “James Gandolfini (9/18/1961-6/19/2013)

  1. Nice post, John. It was surprising and saddening news. :(

  2. I was SHOCKED to hear he passed last night. What’s weird is that I had referenced the whole Vesuvio arson thing from Season 1 just a few minutes before hearing the news (context withheld to protect the not so innocent). While I thought The Sopranos was a bit uneven during the last couple seasons, Gandolfini was always worth watching. He kept me there to the bitter end (and Edie Falco too. They were the heart and soul of the show). As far as his non Soprano work, I loved him most in True Romance (pure sadistic menace) and Get Shorty (a big teddy bear of an enforcer). He will be missed!

    • He completely changed premium cable programming. Without Gandolfini, there’s no Wire, no Boardwalk Empire, no Mad Men… I think even Bryan Cranston (on Twitter) pointed out that without Tony Soprano and Gandolfini, there’s no Walter White, and he’s dead right.

  3. I am not trying to be smarmy here at all, but his small role in Burt Wonderstone was pretty damn good. Loved him as Panetta in ZD30. Also, I was lucky enough to be in his physical presence during the height of the Sopranos.

    • That sounds like a story. Where’d you run into him?

      • I used to live in NYC and one evening after a long night of tending bar, I was in my favorite watering hole and he just came in. The bar was crowded but he found a spot at the bar, ordered a drink and just seemed to relax. My co-worker, Rob, was determined to say hello and he went over and did so. This is at the height of the Sopranos and Rob is a Jersey, Italian guy so meeting Gandolfini was a BIG deal. I eventually found the gumption to walk and introduce myself and he was very gracious. He wasn’t there much longer than 20 minutes or so. He came in alone and left alone. He had never stopped in before and we never saw him again. Who knows? It was just my time to meet Jim Gandolfini.

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