Danny Aiello received his only Oscar nomination so far for portraying Salvatore "Sal" Frangione in Do The Right Thing.
Danny Aiello portrays the Italian American owner of a Pizzeria in a mainly non white neighborhood in Brooklyn. Danny Aiello has a difficult character in Sal becuase I feel that Spike Lee as a writer generally puts his themes before his characters in some ways. This is true for Sal, who as character is perhaps a bit exploited by Lee, but maybe I only feel this way because of how well Aiello realizes Sal as character when not forced by Lee to fulfill the needs of the plot.
Danny Aiello is perfectly natural in the part never trying to be more than Sal is. Sal is really just an average Italian man who owns a pizzeria. Aiello never forcefully attempts to make Sal more colorful than he should be, but keeps his performance always based in realism. Aiello makes Sal a far more true to life character, because he never overacts in the part instead usually portraying the feelings of his character in more understated fashion.
What is interesting about Aiello's performance is how he shows that what Sal's main concern really throughout the whole film really is for his business. Aiello shows that Sal really does not care about the race of his customers, and is annoyed by his sons constant bickering over such problems. The way Sal silences them is shown to be just wanting to get along with his business nothing else really matters all that much to him.
The moments in which Sal really opens up about his feeling about his business are his best scenes in the film. A particularly strong moment is when he quietly talks about why he won't move his business to his racist son (John Turturro). Aiello in this single scene is quite powerful showing that to him the Pizzeria is something more than just something he runs. For him it is something that is truly his something that he built and created allowing him some pride, which Aiello carefully suggests well that Sal has pride in few things.
Aiello even manages to be able to say consistent through the many scenes of overt anger required in the film. I think what makes these work, even if they can feel a little bit forced at times, becuase I think Aiello tries to show that Sal's anger really does not stem from racism, even though perhaps Lee wants some of it to, its hard to tell for sure. The way Aiello portrays Sal though he more effectively portrays it as anger coming because it threatens what took his whole life to build.
In his last scene Aiello manages to bring a great deal of power to his performance. It is an angry scene once again, but with a great deal of sadness penetrating throughout. He has an honest feeling of betrayal, that fixes with an enormous amount of sadness that comes from his the fact that he has lost the one thing he has built, the only thing he has really built his entire life. Aiello I think manages to give an even better character than as written leaving a very memorable impression.