Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1993: Results

5. Anthony Wong in The Untold Story - Wong manages to stay just above the terrible film he's in by having just enough fun with the material while still managing to create a cohesive character. 

Best Scene: His confession.
4. Jesse Bradford in The King of the Hill - Bradford gives an unassuming yet moving performance, realizing a young boy's perspective through a tumultuous time.

Best Scene: At the party. 
3. Leslie Cheung in Farewell My Concubine - Cheung's silent work is a powerful portrait of internalized turmoil within a graceful performer.

Best Scene: Cheng recovers from his opium addiction. 
2. Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age Of Innocence - Daniel Day-Lewis gives his second brilliant performance from 93, this one being a heartbreaking portrayal of a deeply emotional man repressed by society.

Best Scene: The Ending.
1. Anthony Hopkins in Shadowlands - Good predictions Luke, Maciej, mcofra7, and Varun. Anthony Hopkins gives one of his best performances in his harrowing yet heart warming portrayal of not only of the creative spirit, but also a unique journey of a man coming to terms with both love and death. 

Best Scene: Lewis finally pledges his real love for Joy. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: Hmmm I might just wait, but I would also like to hear the suggestions for 1993 supporting, in order to see whether or not there is really a five to begin with.

Alternate Best Actor 1993: Leslie Cheung in Farewell My Concubine

Leslie Cheung did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Cheng Dieyi in Farewell My Concubine.

Farewell my Concubine is an intriguing film that follows two Chinese opera performers through social and political upheaval in China during the 20th century.

A point of order that must be quickly addressed is that well known Hong Kong performer Leslie Cheung was overdubbed by Beijing actor Yang Lixin in this film simply meaning that his vocal performance must be deemed inadmissible for the purposes of this review. Cheng though happens to be a character where the physical performance is more important than the verbal one. The character is often silent and when he is not he most often is merely reciting portions of an opera. The film follows Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi) throughout their lives starting with their time as beginners in the opera which consists of constant repetition and beatings in order to basically mold them into performers. This is accomplished and the two become friends through supporting each other through the brutality they endure. Their relationship early on is when it is perhaps most earnest, as the two merely care for each other, when they become adults is when the complications begin to ensue and when Fengyi and Cheung take over the roles.

Now there are several scenes throughout the film where we are given the performances which are very strict representations of the Chinese Operas. Now Cheung is very good in terms of portraying this sort of picturesque perfection in manner while still exuding this grace of the performer. His work shows how well Cheng has become in fulfilling the female roles of the opera, in that it has become second nature to him at this point. There is no hesitation or difficulty in Cheung's performance of the performance which is exactly as it should be. In the film the opera is essentially the constant though. The two men always come to perform the roles they learned as children and do so without issue, this is despite the changes in China going around them including the Japanese occupation and multiple revolutions. Early on it seems they can wholly ignore them as even when in public the two men exude the same type of grace as they travel around in their troupe, despite the fact that so many other Chinese disprove of this certain detachment.

In private the men are very much changed by life as they begin to grow apart due to Duan becoming involved with a prostitute Juxian (Gong Li). This proves to be difficult as Cheng's affection for Duan goes further than friendship. Cheung is excellent in his portrayal of this desire in Cheng given that it largely left silent and unsaid for most of the film. The understanding of it comes from Cheung's work as the very way he interacts with Fengyi is very particular. Cheung never suggests the glances of a friend, but rather conveys this connection that alludes to sexual attraction. Cheung though does not simplify this though to make it look as though Cheng is merely lusting after Duan. He makes it purer than that in a way, in that he suggests a real love in Cheung for the other man. A love that transcends even sexuality in a way as Cheung inhabits this history of the men as he looks upon. There is a history of mutual burden but also one of mutual warmth and affection.

Unfortunately for Cheng Duan's own affection only goes so far, and Duan's growing relationship with Juxian slowly creates a divide between the two men. Cheung manages to illustrate the wretched pain in Cheng so effectively, as he brings this intensity to the hatred against Juxian, which only grows the deeper her relationship with Duan, grows, and builds to the breaking point which seems to end the personal relationship between the two men. Cheung is very moving in portraying this decaying state of Cheng after this point, suggesting a man almost lost without the guidance Duan once offered him. This leads to him becoming addicted to opium which Cheung shows as almost his attempt to find a comfort of sorts due to having no one to turn to any longer. Eventually though his condition worsens to the point that Duan and Juxian return to nurse him back to health. Both Cheung and Fengyi are incredibly moving in the quiet reconciliation between the two. They make it convincing as it is all in their eyes that seem to reach an understanding by once again returning to that same warmth as they comforted each other as children.

Their reconciliation only lasts for so long before the Chinese Cultural Revolution takes place which forces out the worst of both men as they are interrogated by Red Guards and prodded to betray each other. Duan does so by accusing Cheng of having performed for the Japanese invaders while Cheng returns the "favor" by revealing Juxian's former profession to the mob. Although this is one of the few heavy speaking scenes for Cheng in the film, outside of the performances, Cheung's work in no way should be hand waved. In his face Cheung brings out this madness brought upon a rage, an old pent up jealous rage built up over years for Duan's preference for Juxian over him that is light to even further by Duan's betrayal. The fallout of the revolution still leads them once again back to the opera for one more performance. Cheung is rather heartbreaking though as he reveals the very end of Cheng after so many years of physical and psychological torment. In that Cheung reveals a man almost captured into insanity in the moment as he seems to technically embrace his role more than ever, but in his eyes there is the sense of a man who has lost touch with the very reality of his existence. Cheung through his powerful silent portrait creates makes Cheng's final act an inevitability, as his performance has shown the path to this final act where essentially his real life finally crosses over with the static life of the opera.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1993: Anthony Hopkins in Shadowlands

Anthony Hopkins did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying "Jack" C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands.

Shadowlands I found to be a surprisingly effective film detailing the tragic romantic relationship between famed writer C.S. Lewis and American divorcee Joy Davidman (Debra Winger).

Anthony Hopkins was nominated for leading actor for his turn as the very repressed butler in The Remains of the Day, therefore he could not be recognized for this film. I have to admit coming into the film I pondered if this was going to be a similar performance to The Remains of the Day, which is good a performance by the way, due to the fact that he is playing another Englishman around the same general time period. Well that is not the case in the least in this, his fifth collaboration with Richard Attenborough as a director. I suppose the idea of playing such a famous writer one might expect something a bit stuffy, that's not the case. Even from his earliest scenes Hopkins brings such a life to his portrayal of C.S. Lewis, known to his friends as Jack. This is not just some literary figure in Hopkins's hands as he so effortlessly engages the role. Hopkins's performance has this real energy about it, which is rather fascinating since it still entirely fits in the way he realizes Lewis's character. Rather interestingly Hopkins gives us a man who is very happy in his life, even before we get into the central romance, portraying Lewis as someone who at least believes himself to be where he wants to be, more or less.

This performance I'll admit surprised me quite a bit just by how enthusiastic Hopkins is as Lewis. Now Hopkins never only played villains particularly in The Elephant Man where he played the very good hearted Dr. Treves, but that was in a more internalized fashion. Hopkins here is far more extroverted in bringing out Lewis's good nature while keeping in the right confines for a dignified university professor. There is actually one moment I rather love early on in the film when speaking with his fellow professors at the pub. As Lewis turns the conversation to speak of his dream world Hopkins is brimming, almost bursting, with this certain remarkable cheer of man who, in a way, truly believes in what he speaks of. Hopkins shows a different kind of creative spark than is often the case where we deal with the tortured artist. Hopkins is careful to show there is nothing tortured about Lewis. Hopkins instead finds such an endearing passion connected to his own creativity. Hopkins plays these moments as a man almost trying to share the joy he receives from these dreams of sorts with others and brings a real sense of the beauty in this act. Even though it is technically just someone going on about their ideas, that enthusiasm Hopkins brings creates such a sense of purity about it.

Hopkins manages to be equally compelling though even when we see Lewis working directly as a professor. In these lecture scenes Hopkins is rather effective in portraying the charisma of a great teacher. There is this grace that Hopkins brings to his these scenes suggesting the right ease Lewis has in such a setting. Now this is whether he is delivering a larger speech or merely just giving some quieter instruction. The eloquence Hopkins finds is rather perfect actually, aided of course by his very notable voice. Hopkins in no way uses this as some sort of crutch though and I love the nuance he even brings in these moments. There is a running subplot with Lewis attempting to deal with one of his students who doesn't seem to make the right sort of effort in his, non mandatory, classroom. There is a great moment where Lewis uses the man's sleeping in his classroom to explain Aristotle theory on character as defined by action. Now I quite honestly could listen to Hopkins break down such theories all day, but that's not all there is to Hopkins's work. Within that still Hopkins portrays the right fascination in even the difficult student. In that Hopkins is able to accentuate the idea that Lewis very much has a drive to share his own knowledge though he does it in very much his own way.

The central aspect of the film though is Lewis's relationship with the American Joy who comes to see him, basically as a fan, along with her son Douglas (Joseph Mazzello). It is here in which lies Hopkins's greatest challenge in the film in that there is Lewis's arc which has steps to it in the script, yet they are very light and likely would have felt vague without the proper guidance. Hopkins's performance brings this guidance through the way he realizes change in Lewis in his interactions with Joy. Now in their initial meetings Hopkins portrays a real warmth, a rather charming side of him that one does not often see from him. Hopkins shows Lewis in these scenes as a gracious host. He brings a real gentlemanly quality as he complies with any requests though Hopkins still keeps in mind a certain awkwardness in the interaction. An awkwardness that Hopkins makes rather natural in that it actually really is in no way unpleasant rather just something one would expect from an author who is dealing with a fan. Hopkins importantly though shows that the warmth he portrays is in no way a put on at any point, and subtly plants the seeds to the central relationship.

Some time goes on though and by chance Lewis and Joy meet again at one of Lewis's public readings. Hopkins is excellent in the pleasure he expresses in Lewis at seeing Joy again, and there is something truly brilliant how elegantly Hopkins presents this. The happiness Hopkins shows is automatic in a way, and creates the sense that even Lewis isn't quite fully aware of how much he seems to get out of her company. Their encounters no longer become chance though after she moves to England, after abandoning her abusive husband, and Lewis becomes a frequent visitor. In a way to "legitimize" her societal standing she even marries her in the court of law. Now the initial marriage ceremony is a key moment actually in which Hopkins establishes where they are in their relationship. In the moment Lewis gets marries and basically leaves as though all they were doing was taking care of some paperwork. This could be seen as the actions of a cold man, and in fact the more expected way to play this whole thing could have been to have Lewis begin as cold. Hopkins doesn't take this approach, portraying instead something a bit more complex. Hopkins again carries a real affection, but also suggests a certain uncertainty in knowing how to interact with Joy entirely past that. Hopkins though is careful to show this does not come from being uncaring, but rather effectively illustrates Lewis as inexperienced with such matters.

Hopkins's work is very intriguing in the way he connects that ease of his life into Lewis's certain disconnection with Joy at first. In that Hopkins shows a man who is content with his life therefore almost fails to consider properly the idea of changing it in any real way. When Joy calls Lewis out on his behavior not to exactly challenge himself, Hopkins's performance earns the sentiment since he so honestly presented Lewis's peculiar form of creating a personal distance. Things turn for a worse though when Joy collapses revealing she has an advanced form of cancer that will no doubt be fatal. Hopkins is incredibly moving by showing that in this moment is when Lewis fully realizes that he is love, which had already been there but he had trouble seeing it clearly. Hopkins poignantly finds tragedy in the way he expresses the combination of anguish in Lewis at the same time as he expresses his true feelings for Joy. It is pivotal that Hopkins does not make it just some sympathy for her pain as the cause though, as Hopkins brings this heaviness in Lewis's very being as though the lateness of the realization weighs on him deeply. Hopkins is devastating as he brings so much raw emotion in the second marriage ceremony, in the church, as he makes it as though Lewis is trying so hard to keep Joy with him to make up for lost time. They are given a small reprieve to spend time together, and Hopkins finds the bittersweet tone of these scenes so perfectly through his performance. There is such tenderness and adoration in every word through Hopkins's delivery. Again he brings this curious yet powerful portrayal of a painful elation as Lewis spends the time as well as he can even though the underlying thoughts of a difficult future remain. Eventually the future comes to pass and Joy dies. The story lingers to follow Lewis dealing with the grief. Hopkins's work is downright outstanding as he completely loses that ease of life from before. Hopkins shows even an intense anger at the world and God, as he stresses the difficulty in Lewis attempting to understand why Joy was taken away. The only solace he finds is in trying to comfort her son, though they end comforting each other, and Hopkins is utterly heartbreaking as he depicts Lewis's breakdown as he admits to how much he misses her. Hopkins doesn't provide an easy solution to the grief though as even at the end of the film Hopkins gives us a man changed by this forever, a man having lived through something that finally challenged his life of comfort. I love this performance. Hopkins not only gives an effective depiction of this famous author, but goes so much further in his incredible portrait of so much a man goes through with love, life and death.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1993: Jesse Bradford in King of the Hill

Jesse Bradford did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Aaron Kurlander in King of the Hill.

King of the Hill is an interesting film, when Steven Soderberg had a lighter more effective touch as a director besides a montage near the end of the film, about a boy living by himself in a motel just before the summer begins during the great depression.

A funny thing about King of the Hill is for me it almost came off as a companion piece, well we'll say a much darker cousin to A Christmas story, to explain. Well both films are based on the semi autobiographical writings of a man recounting their childhood who were both born in the early twenties. A major difference though is A Christmas Story's basis was written by a humorist while King of the Hill's was based on a memoir. Either way though both focus upon a boy in the 30's and the various events going around his life. This film though technically demands more from its child lead, as there is no adult narrator to buttress the character a bit. It is all on Bradford. The idea of focusing on a child actor actually in itself is a bit of a gamble as it is easy enough to get the two typical sorts of bad child actors. The bland type that just kind of is there and recites their lines with no meaning behind them, or the chronic overacting type that seeks to be cute rather than convincing. Bradford is neither of these thankfully, but this performance is even a bit atypical from of the few other child performances I've praised in the past.

The film opens simply enough with the young Aaron reciting his story about Charles Lindberg though he has written in a way as though he is a personal friend of the man. This just seems to be a method to frame the story though. Now what Bradford does so well is that he makes this like any other kid just delivery a homework assignment, though with just a bit of apprehension as he gives the details to notice most of the other students are bored by his story. Bradford is equally natural, and endearing in a very naturalistic way as Aaron takes his seat and receives more than just a glance from one of the girls in class. Bradford realizes such an honest confusion as he looks around rather sure that he's not the one he's admiring. Now after that point we get the essential set up for the film where the boy is first separated from his younger brother, then his mother due to her illness, and eventually his father while he goes on the road as a salesman. This eventually leaves him all alone at a hotel with some strange characters in and around it. From here on in the film we get more of scenes and moments then a plot line, which actually something I rather like about the film.

This structure works particularly well in tandem with Bradford's unassuming but not underwhelming approach to the part. Bradford is careful to show that Aaron isn't this deeply troubled boy really as a person, and in a way is not quite aware of just what his situation might be given the time and place. Bradford is careful to still have a general undercurrent of childhood enthusiasm within his performance, very utilized by him. In that Bradford conveys a definite sense of fear with the unknown at times yet he links it well to suggest a certain interest in the various new people he's discovering and getting to know. Bradford doesn't inflict Aaron with an inherent damage still exemplifying that he is still a kid in this situation, and importantly interacts with his situation as a kid not an adult. This can even be in rather simple, yet very effective ways, such as his relationship with a girl, Ella, also in the hotel who suffers from seizures. It isn't a romance that Bradford depicts, as he so well shows a shyness in Aaron of a boy who just wouldn't quite know how to react even when it obvious a girl likes him. What Bradford instead gives a warmth of a real friend instead, and brings such a delicate sweetness in these scenes suggesting the right gentle concern as her condition worsens.

That is one of his experiences though as Aaron attempts to find some other source of income, all the while trying to avoid a sinister bellboy attempting to change the locks on his room. Bradford is again incredibly good at portraying this so honestly as a boy attempting to gain money, whether it is hatching bird eggs or attempting to be a golf caddy. In both circumstances his attempts do no go particularly well. Again Bradford does not portray any sort of emotional collapse in Aaron in these failures, portraying instead a resilience within the boy to keep going. It is not to say Bradford doesn't portray anything though instead he very subtly wears these defeats in his performance, very quiet yet very moving all the same. This method of Bradford's alludes well to Aaron's nature, which is to try to take things in stride since that's really the only way he can take them given his situation. Bradford by doing this no seems underwhelming by internalizing every moment so well, whether is the genuine happiness at seeing his mother again, or the horror at discovering one of his neighbors has committed suicide. That is all except one aspect of his life that comes back to Aaron's story of Charles Lindberg at the beginning of the film. The first person perspective of the story ends up connecting to the frequent lies that Aaron tells his classmates and even his teacher in order to avoid revealing the truth about his difficult circumstances at home. Bradford portrays these lies as something that come so easily from him, yet within his words there is an unease not of the lie but rather for his peers to learn the truth about his home life. This nervousness about his situation grows until he attends a party where he finally hears that so many of the students are well aware of what he has been trying to hide. Bradford is rather heartbreaking by so effectively realizing Aaron's pain. He perhaps loses his composure most at this scene, yet Bradford still wears much of it within his work to show the anguish in his silence. Aaron never gives up despite his hardship and that is the key of Bradford's performance. His work is poignant as it conveys the experiences of this boy, as it makes it through his life. Bradford is convincing in showing the difficulty of it as well as the joys that can be found, and most importantly the ability to keep going.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1993: Jeff Daniels in Gettysburg

Jeff Daniels did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in Gettysburg.

Gettysburg divides its time between the Union and Confederate forces during the battle of Gettysburg. The southern forces focal character is sort of General James Longstreet played by Tom Berenger, one of the leading generals on that side. That character is more passive in a way, and his story is in way dealing with the various personalities of his fellow southern leaders. On the northern side though the focus is given to a lower ranked colonel, but one who ends up playing an essential role in the titular battle. This focus is one of the strongest elements of the film, and a great deal for that being the performance of Jeff Daniels as that Colonel. We get a very narrow perspective in his scenes as we are given a man who must deal with everything as they are, and what comes to him. Now what comes from these scenes goes beyond I feel than even just the events of his portion of the battle. Chamberlain story begins when his unit receives a group of soldiers, considered deserters by their refusal to fight, where he is given the choice to deal with the men as he wishes, which includes the possibility of having them shot. At this time we are also introduced to Laurence brother Thomas (C. Thomas Howell) a lieutenant under his command, and his more battle worn Sergeant Buster Kilrain (Kevin Conway).

Daniels instantly establishes something that contributes so much to his work, which is his approach to portraying Chamberlain. He does not present him as this man of the military, which is fitting having been a college professor before the war, but even more so seems so much of a man than a period figure. He never seems to be that to merely represent something, as Daniels performance feels so lived in and authentic even with that overgrown mustache needed to match the historical portrait of the man. Daniels in the early scenes brings this lightness to his performance, that does not stem from a lack of understanding for the material, but rather an effective realization of the state of the person. Daniels shows a man technically living his life, though his life is an unorthodox circumstance. Now in this approach Daniels adds so much more to the role by this. Daniels brings these nice touches that he delivers in such a casual yet wholly authentic way, such as his humorous attempts to get his brother not to refer to him as Laurence. Daniels is great in this moment as he does no show the unease in him stemming from trying to be some tough guy soldier, but rather just so earnestly presents a guy attempting to fulfill his position properly.

In his first scenes we see him deal with the problem of the deserters, and I love how Daniels handles the scene. As he speaks with the man Daniels actually doesn't express the utmost command as he deals with the man, instead portraying a man of a different nature trying to gently get through the situation. In the scene where Laurence speaks with the deserters' spokesman, who names his amount of engagements as well asking Chamberlain his own amount, the humble way Daniels delivers the admission of "less" so effectively realizes the Laurence's modesty. In order to deal with the deserters though Laurence attempts to encourage the men to continue fighting essentially by telling them his own purpose in the war. This is an essential moment not only for Daniels's performance but for the overall film as it gives life to pivotal element in the civil war that is virtually left out due to the constrictions of the narrative. That element being slavery. Daniels in the scene so beautifully renders Laurence argument for the cause to end slavery. It is actually a very quiet and calm yet powerful speech that Daniels gives, so eloquently verbalizing not only his distress towards the institution but also his passion for ending it in order to free men. The majority of the deserters end up joining with Chamberlain, and it is Daniels's performance that makes that result absolutely convincing.

Again though so much of the strength of Daniels's work comes in the quieter moments, and something I love is the way he crafts the relationships with both Howell's and Conway's characters. With Howell, Daniels is terrific in that awkwardness he brings of the older brothers attempting to look out for his younger brother, while trying to be his commander at the same time. Daniels is great in realizing the difficulty in that and helps to suggest how their relationship was before the war, with Thomas perhaps expecting too much from his older brother with Laurence possibly giving his younger brother a bit too much leeway, yet behind it all there is a very assumed love of such a relationship.A different relationship though is with the hardened vet Kilrain. Daniels and Conway's chemistry is even stronger in a way than with Howell, as the two actors convey so honestly this mutual respect the two have one another. It is often stated yet so perfectly assumed in the way Daniels shows just the way he listens in their scenes together. Daniels shows the way that Chamberlain is really taking in what the man has to say and so values not only his experience but also their friendship. It is all so effortless though as you can see the two have spent some time serving together in their ease and warmth in their interactions.

The middle section of the film ends up being the pivotal part that Chamberlain plays in the battle, which is on the second day where he must defend a hill known as Little Round top. The hill is essential to preventing the South from flanking the Union army. This engagement is the strongest sequence in the film, and Daniels's work is one of the major reasons why. Daniels throughout the scenes always so effectively continues to show this man, this professor of etiquette, in this dire situation as he must lead against the onslaught of southern soldiers attempting to take the hill from the Union army. There is nothing taken lightly in this situation as Daniels brilliantly realizes the wear of the battle not only in terms of the physical degradation but also the mental degradation of the fight. Again though he's also a brother in the situation, and one of the most moving moments in the film for me is the anguish Daniels brings in Laurence, brief as it must be given the battle, as he has his brother plug a hole in the defense. Daniels is incredible as he completely shows a commander trying to keep his troops together, a soldier trying to keep himself alive, and an older brother's terrible concern for his sibling he cares dearly for. Daniels makes the distress feel so real, especially in his harrowing scream of "Tom!" when it appears his brother is about to be shot. So much of the intensity in the sequence comes from Daniels's devoted performance, that never allows a single moment to lay flat. He internalizes all of it into his performance. It doesn't end there as Laurence must make a daring decision to lead a charge in order to defeat the southern forces after he runs out of ammunition. Daniels is downright amazing in the scene as he makes it more than simply a man taking the charge when he most needs to. Daniels realizes that of course, but throughout the moment he also keeps alive a real fear of a man who's not entirely sure of  his action but has no other choice. Daniels makes it a particularly rousing moment though because he earns it so much be finding Laurence's inexperience in the moment making the victory all the greater. Daniels only brings this home all the more in the relief and just the right amount of joy Daniels expresses in this success. The pain of the battle is completely embodied by Daniels work yet he makes the triumph all the greater, as this is just a normal man accomplishing something he perhaps wasn't even aware that he could do. Again the whole sequence is made something truly remarkable through Daniels's portrayal of a real man going through every second of the attack. 

Now that sequence is when Daniels leads the film, but he continues to appear in the final day of the battle which focuses upon the South's last effort to advance. Daniels has a few key moments, that have a great impact through everything else in his performance that already helped to establish. Daniels in these scenes again wears the battle, not only in his direct leg injury, but also in the haunting way he presents the horrible experience of it all even now that he is given a "break". The loss of that attack technically is not finished though as evidenced when his brother reports on Killrain's condition, who was shot twice during the battle, which is to reveal that the man died. Although the death is off screen it is the most heartbreaking one in the film, Daniels devastating in his reaction, showing just how torn up Laurence is by the news, and conveys just how much Laurence cared for his friend. His simple delivery of "yeah" to acknowledge his friend is all that is needed, as Daniels infuses it with such honest emotion. In the end Laurence's final scenes in the film are simple yet fitting entirely to the character, and does not feel underwhelming due to all that Daniels brought beforehand. The final sendoff being but an embrace between the Chamberlain brothers after they have survived the events of the entire battle. It is poignant and all that is needed. This is an exceptional turn by Jeff Daniels. I love the performance as it is such nuanced and powerful depiction of one man within a great war.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Another Year And Another Official Lineup

Once again my annual predictions for Lead and Supporting Actor at the Oscars.
With lead, as with last year, I'm going with the SAG line up. Which gave me 4 out of the five correctly. This could be a year where they line up perfectly since there is no reason not to believe it, since all of their films have been performing well essentially to back them up. The two obvious alternatives of Tom Hanks, and Joel Edgerton came from films which already had their moment. In both cases it seemed like SAG should have been their boost to keep their momentum going, and it was not. BAFTA should be kept in mind but no one seems like an obvious alternative for the Brits. It is notable that Denzel Washington has never received a BAFTA nomination so him missing out technically should not be a surprise if it happens again. The man I predict will take that spot then would be Andrew Garfield for his other film Silence since you can be double nominated at BAFTA, and Garfield is the only Englishman in contention. Of course barring some random contender like when Andy Serkis got nominated for a film that got released the following year, or they might move Hugh Grant to lead or even Dev Patel. Even in those cases I highly doubt any of those scenarios will transfer to the Oscars, in Garfield's case it is literally impossible. That leaves only one late hitter hanging around, old Michael Keaton for the Founder. I don't see it happening but it could. Everything seems to be right for the main five though, even Mortensen with his film also over performing.
For supporting I cannot choose the SAG five, it just doesn't work that way. This is not 2014 in terms of the amount of supporting contenders, where everything seemed settled with a set five. I actually think this could get shaken up more than even my predictions given that last year seven of the SAG nominees did not carry over, though 2014 there were only three that did not carry over, but still there is likely to be some wiggle room. One of those misses can already be found in Best Actress, but how about the rest? There is no reason to doubt Bridges or Ali, so that leaves the rest. I talked myself into dropping Dev Patel, since I thought at first "hey if they love Lion they ought to include Patel", but there is no reason to assume that. The reason being Patel missed out for Slumdog Millionaire, the clear number one contender that year which Lion is not this year, despite the fact he received both a SAG and a BAFTA nomination. My replacement is early front runner Liam Neeson despite the odd anti-nomination propaganda which is strangely worded around his screentime, which he has more than enough as supporting actor nominees go, rather than the actual quality of his performance. As long as Silence makes its impact with the Academy, as Wolf of Wall Street did so late, I think Neeson could get in. After all Lucas Hedges isn't safe either though, since SAG will embrace younger actors often more frequently than Oscars. Grant also could fall to his film losing steam, but doesn't seem like it will be the case. There are problems though with the other actors hovering around the five. The Nocturnal Animals boys not only are fighting among themselves but their film isn't exactly Academy catnip. Issey Ogata and Ben Foster both have internal competition, though the lack of double nominees could be broken this year, it just is very hard to bet on.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1993: Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age of Innocence

Daniel Day-Lewis did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence.

Age of Innocence is a fairly remarkable film about the very proper romantic entanglements in upper class 18th century New York.

1993 offered yet another banner year for Day-Lewis, much like in his breakout year in 1985, through his vastly different characters he portrayed. His Oscar nominated turn as a seemingly aimless Irish youth wrongly accused of a bombing in In the Name of the Father, a performance I feel I underrated in my initial assessment, and as Newland Archer in this film a repressed American in the late 1800's. The characters could not be more different in not only the backgrounds of the characters, their stature in society in their stories, but especially in their emotional nature. It is interesting in that Newland Archer's story is not one of hardship or tragedy in the more straight forward way. He's a consistently well off individual financially yet this is an interesting story of a man being held prisoner by society in a most particular sort of fashion.  It is essential then that he must be a man of the society and it must be said that if all of humanity depended on one man being sent back in time in order to complete some mission that requires integrating into the peoples of the past, the only man for the mission would be Daniel Day-Lewis.

Daniel Day-Lewis seems to walk right into any time period he wishes to inhabit. There is something so eloquent about this incredible ability in Day-Lewis. As, despite the evidence otherwise, it feels so effortless within his performance. Day-Lewis here seems like a man you'd see within a picture from the period. In that no facet of his very presence that feels in authentic to his setting. This of course begins with Day-Lewis's refined American accent that is stilted though in a way that alludes to a man who always seeks to conduct himself properly in society and in business. The accent though is so nicely gentle about it realizing a man of Newland's life and background with such ease. His physical manner is all part of this as again there is something in a man who is very much set within his place in society. He's strict in his manner so to speak yet there is not an inherent discomfort that Day-Lewis portrays in this either. He instead shows a man very much right where he should be merely in terms of being a man in his place in New York at this time. As usual, which what makes Day-Lewis synonymous with great acting, he makes it all so natural as it only ever serves his character.

The film itself is such an interesting period piece in the way it differs from the usual period piece given that it is directed by Martin Scorsese, a director known for his stories with more naturally volatile characters. I have to say I love Scorsese's direction here actually in that it acts as a brilliant companion to Day-Lewis's performance. The two's collaboration here is something to behold as they both in tandem realize a very particular state of being. In that both are constricted seemingly by the laws of the society of the story, yet I don't mean this is a negative sense in any way. In fact quite contrary. I love the way Scorsese's usual vibrancy is apparent yet it springs in bursts in moments where it pierces through the fabric of the tightly wound society. Day-Lewis's performance follows the same idea. Now Day-Lewis previously played what could seem like a similair character in A Room With A View. In that film he played a repressed Edwardian man. The thing is there, which was a supporting part, Day-Lewis cleverly gave a comedic performance by so effectively illustrating such intense repression. Day-Lewis's intentions here are quite different in that Newland is suppose to be the figure with emphasize within the film, which could be challenge given the state of the character.

This is Day-Lewis of course that I am writing about and his greatness as an actor, is something I cannot dispute further proven by his performance here. This turn is so beautifully rendered that it is rather astonishing at times. There is never a breakdown moment in the entirety of this performance, not once. Day-Lewis stays true to the man whose greatest failing comes from the fact that he can only speak from the heart at the wrong times, and even then perhaps not with enough passion for it to matter. Day-Lewis work here is yet deeply emotional in the end. This is an intensely subtle performance as he always works within the proper confines of Newland Archer, a distant man in ways to those around him, yet he is never quite distance to us who can  see his deepest thoughts through Day-Lewis's performance and some brilliant touches on Scorsese's part. Newland Archer's problems stem from his relationship with a married woman Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) and later the woman cousin May Welland (Winona Ryder). The problem being that Newland truly loves Ellen, with just a hope granted through her troubled marriage, while society expects him to marry and stay with May despite a lack of genuine affection.

I have to admit I found Day-Lewis's performance often painful watch do to so how effectively he realizes the tension of this conflict within Newland throughout the film. He makes it such a sympathetic plight through the honesty in which he presents his scenes with Pfeiffer. Day-Lewis does not present lust, rather a true longing for who seems to be his intended soul mate. One moment in particular I find especially heartbreaking is a brief fantasy of Ellen coming to embrace him, one of those small bursts of emotion given in both Scorsese's and Day-Lewis work. There is a purity that Day-Lewis brings to the moment, that is defined by love in the moment, of a few seconds. Throughout his performance Day-Lewis always maintains that truth in Newland, which is unfortunately contained by the demands of society. Day-Lewis is incredibly moving as he realizing the difficulty of essentially the act of Newland's life as he is forced to refrain his true hearts desire in order to basically please others. Day-Lewis's work is fascinating as he expresses the real emotion of the man at the end of sentences in these lapses of his refinement. The lapses being unnoticeable by others, yet we can see them through the screen. There is such a poignancy as he makes the emotions so palatable within the edges of his performance. Day-Lewis technically maintains the man of a proper stature, yet we are allowed to see the real devastation in the man as happiness is denied for one reason or another, again and again. Day-Lewis never breaks once again, yet the torture of this life is understood through those margins, of a man crying out with a stern face and sometimes even a smile. Day-Lewis so cleverly infuses these scenes with the truth, even as Newland "lies". There is a scene late where Newland is attempting to work something out to be with Ellen, yet his now wife May gives him news that forces him to abandon his dream forever. Day-Lewis never yells out, yet the loss is all in his eyes, the anguish lies within him, yet never fully breaks outwardly. The most poignant moment in the film though comes for me in the last act, that takes place many years later where Newland is technically free to see Ellen, prodded to do so by his own son yet decides not to. This is said in but a few unimportant words. All that it means to Newland is made readily apparent in Day-Lewis's work. The sadness is persuasive in his gentle looks to Ellen's balcony, suggesting the years wasted and the despair of man recognizing that his dream was just that, only a dream. I found this to be such a powerful piece of work by Daniel Day-Lewis that proves not only his ability to craft this representation of a person from any period, to also more importantly give them real a humanity and life.