Saturday, 20 September 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1983: Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone

Christopher Walken did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone.

The Dead Zone is a rather great film about a man who wakes from a coma with the ability to see into the future and the past.

I've covered Christopher Walken for his memorable supporting performances before, but this is the first time I've looked at him in the leading role. The Dead Zone is yet another film by David Cronenberg who made some fairly weird films in the 80's and Walken seems like a fit who is often described as having a somewhat off-beat screen presence. Well the funny thing is here is this is probably David Cronenberg's least odd film from the 80's, despite the psychic aspect, and Walken actually plays a particularly normal guy here. Johnny Smith, which is a particularly simple name, is just a pretty average high school English teacher. One up from that though he seems to be in general just an all around decent guy. Walken in the earliest scenes has a very nice understated charm in the role. In terms of Johnny's romance with his fellow teacher Sarah (Brooke Adams) Walken brings such a nice sweetness to the part, and even though there are only a couple of scenes he makes Johnny a very likable guy who you care about before he gets into his unfortunate automobile accident.

The accident puts Johnny into a coma which he stays in for five years. The film is very effective in the scene where he awakens as it plays it in such a straight forward fashion as it simply shows Johnny needing to deal with the results of having been gone from the world for so long. Walken is incredibly moving in the first scene where Johnny comes out of the coma. Walken is so good in portraying the physical problems of the situation as he portrays Johnny very weakened state in a way that never feels fashioned but rather wholly honest. Walken is great though in bringing such an authenticity to when Johnny is visited by his family who unfortunately must inform him that Sarah moved on and got married to someone else. Walken is heartbreaking showing so quietly the devastation as Johnny hears this unfortunate news. Walken's performance is terrific here because he so bluntly just brings to life the hear break of this man, and absolutely makes Johnny such a man one can empathize with.

The film takes a sudden turn though when Johnny accidentally finds out he has psychic powers that are able to tell him the past or the future in regards to someone simply by touching them. Walken is fantastic in these scenes which are quite tricky as it would be easy to make them seem rather silly. Walken always manages to give them the needed gravity to the power. Walken firstly doesn't overact the physical reaction making it seem as something of a nervous twitch, I mean just compare his manner here compared to say the way Stephen Lack's manner in Scanners. Walken makes it seem real and never acts as though he is in a science fiction type film. He treats it as if it were The Deer Hunter. This can be seen with even further in the early moments of using his power. Walken brings such an intensity of emotions as he creates the visions as something truly forceful. Walken does not simply show Johnny as seeing the things he sees but rather completely feeling what is going on.

What is so special though is it is not as if Walken just makes Johnny become his power. Walken never forgets the man, and incredible how well Walken realizes the emotional complexity of the man's situation. He's exceptionally good in really bringing the life the positive moments of Johnny life such as when he is actually visited by his old girlfriend. It's very quiet but Walken realizes these moments of happiness so wonderfully. They are just the right amount of tenderness with the fairly frigid atmosphere that the film exists in. Walken is completely convincing in showing just how in love Johnny is with Sarah, and even overcomes the fact that Adams doesn't really give a particularly special of a performance. The way Walken gets that across though makes a later scene, where Johnny inadvertently meets the man she forget him for as well as had a child with, absolutely harrowing. It's such a powerful moment for Walken and one that he competently earns through his performance.

The story is technically fairly episodic, but I never saw this as a problem with the film because Walken just simply keeps it together. Walken's very effective in portraying the slow degradation of Johnny throughout the story because of his visions. Walken delicately portrays this pain in Johnny as he seems to become a more and more haunted man as though every vision seems to leave something in him while taking part of his life away. Really what is so good about this performance is everything about it. There is not a single reaction wasted by Walken here. Walken gives every emotional reaction he has a certain power or poignancy. It's fascinating how never does the moment where Johnny has the vision seems the same. It's different fitting how a normal guy would react to the very different horrors he sees. Even a very short moment such as when Johnny sees the mother of serial killer knew her son's actions, Walken makes his reaction stand out by how genuine it feels.

This is a particularly interesting performance by Christopher Walken, and one that shows just how talented he really is as Johnny just isn't that complex a character. That never matters, and he never feels less than he should be because of Walken's performance. I have never seen Christopher Walken fail with a challenging part. It never seems as though Johnny isn't complex enough or is somehow boring because of his simple nature. Firstly Walken brings the needed low key charm for the part, and succeeds in making Johnny someone we want to succeed. What Walken also does is take the idea of an average guy with this strange ability and makes that real as well. This is a challenging role in a most unique way as it is fairly easy to see how this part could have gone off the wall in terms of the psychic scenes, and on paper there isn't that much t this John Smith. The name is basically a blank slate and that's all he may have been, but Christopher Walken gives a fantastic portrait of pure emotional honesty.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1983: Al Pacino in Scarface

Al Pacino did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Tony Montana in Scarface.

Scarface depicts the rise of one man from a Cuban immigrant to the head of a drug cartel. Obviously meant to be the most subtle picture ever made by having two masters of subtly behind the film with Brian De Palma as the director and Oliver Stone as the writer. As a gangster film it fails to have the intimacy or complexity of The Godfather, or Goodfellas, but nor is it entertaining enough just to be a film of stylistic bombast. I did not hate it, but I found the film actually overlong as well as often boring. I do find it rather telling though that there is only ever really a single moment people mention when talking about the film.

Al Pacino after finding such great success throughout the 70's had a very different career in terms of film in the 80's. He only made five films during the 80's and only one of those films has a great deal of notoriety. That of course being Scarface which is one of the most iconic film of the 80's and has arguably  either Pacino's second most or most iconic role in Tony Montana. Iconic though does not necessarily mean good, although it becomes abundantly clear why this is such a notable performance from Pacino from his very first scene where Montana is being interrogated by U.S. customs. Pacino's Cuban accent is something to behold all in itself as it seems purposefully extroverted. This goes really for most the cast as the accents seem more of out of a movie of the 40's, which possibly was a purposeful idea by De Palma. To Pacino's credit he goes with accent all the way as it does help to establish Tony, plus he actually keeps it pretty consistent unlike Robert Loggia who has a wave like accent that comes in and out at random.

It's not just the accent though is so flamboyant and distinct but Pacino's whole manner here. His almost constant grimace, and his way of always holding his body tight does make Tony Montana stand out. The film has kind of a weird tale of the rise to power in that it kinda wants to show the corruption of it, but not really since Tony is a criminal the moment he comes on the scene. When the first things Tony does is actually murder a man in the refugee camp in Florida. Pacino's performance in the early scenes is the most extreme perhaps of his career to this point. His work in The Godfather films, and Dog Day Afternoon had moment of emotional intensity but that was the overarching quality of the performance. That is the case here, and the more quiet moments can be counted on one hand. Pacino's technique here wouldn't have worked in those films, but Scarface intends to thrive on the bombast therefore Pacino's technique is in line with that vision.

Pacino's performance does work in creating a mobster who is a far cry from the cold calculating Michael Corleone in fact he actually makes Sonny look like a calm guy at times. Pacino's good at having that violent intensity in the early scenes that portrays Montana as a guy who quite enjoys killing. In the early scene Pacino even though he's never not intense here actually has a warmth of sorts as he hangs out with his friend and right hand man Manny (Steven Bauer), and does convey the simply friendship between the two even if little time is spent on it. Technically that's one of the major problems of the film is the thin way most of Montana's relationships are portrayed. The one with Manny works but that is not the case for all the performance. The one with Loggia's mob boss never comes to life as a mentor, or a much a rivalry.  The relationship with Michelle Pfeiffer's trophy wife also is thin. It goes from Pacino showing an ever so slightly charming side, to instantly passive aggressive towards, then she just kinda disappears.

The limited nature of the relationships aren't Pacino's fault he actually doesn't do a bad job of showing the small emotional shifts in these moments. Pacino's best scenes in this regard are the ones where Tony is with his sister. These are absurdly brief but Pacino manages to naturally bring a little bit of emotional depth in Tony Montana. The main drive of the film is the corruption of Tony Montana which is technically relatively simply played by Pacino. He frankly just shows Tony to frankly just lose his joy in his crimes and take on some general malaise once he gets everything he wants. Again Pacino plays this well but it seems like there should have been possibly a more to this transition than there is. Again the film's nature never allows much of a development in this way. For example after he makes the decisive action to make it to the top the film just instantly jumps to him already being tired with the top, again it just isn't Pacino's fault.

The best moments of Pacino's performance actually the broad ones since the film also works best when it embraces the bombastic nature of the story. Pacino thrives in these scenes completely embracing the madness and giving quite the entertaining portrayal of Montana's vicious intensity. Pacino is wise to tone down enough in key moments, such as when he executes a superior, to be a little chilling, but he's actually at his highpoint when he's loud. The strongest moment of the film is the one the film is known for which is "say hello to my little friend". Pacino goes full force and it is something to behold as the film finally just let's him go. Pacino allows it to be quite the rousing conclusion to a film that is not always otherwise. This is a risk taking performance to be sure, and possible a love or hate although I personally don't fall in either category. I don't hate it but Pacino never able to wholly overcome the film's shortcoming. I do find his performance fits the nature of the film well though, and is enjoyable particularly when the film hits the right stride in terms of the style it seems to be going for.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1983: James Woods in Videodrome

James Woods did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Max Renn in Videodrome.

Videodrome is bizarre yet rather brilliant film about a TV programmer who while looking for more extreme content gets far more than he bargained for.

The first film in David Cronenberg's output as a director for the 1980's was Scanners. It certainly had effective elements within it but it was almost crippled by the terrible leading performance by Stephen Lack whose performance was so lacking that it is okay to make as many puns about it as you want. Cronenberg never made that mistake again for the rest of his 80's output casting a procession of great actors to lead his films starting with James Woods in this film. James Woods is perfectly cast as the TV programmer Max Renn who in his desire for ratings goes for the lowest common denominator which is the most extreme sex and violence he can find. Woods is a genius at this very particular type of sleaze needed for a part like this. It oozes from him yet Woods never makes this innately unlikable though either, it's neat trick which Woods manages to pull off.

James Woods is one of those great actors who can energize a film merely by his presence. That is certainly the case here as even when Max is technically progressing through the early parts of the plot, that have yet to really change him in anyway. In the early scenes Woods establishes Max as definitely sleazy particularly in his intent, but mostly he's a fairly normal guy technically speaking. Woods has such energy as a performer that he's great to watch even when he's going through the motions of kick starting the plot. Woods even has this certain comedic edge he can call upon whenever he likes that can lighten certain scenes ever so slightly, without it ever compromising the purpose of the scene, or even though there technically is nothing inherently funny going on. Woods brings the right spark that is very much needed for the film that could have been too dour otherwise.

The weirdness begins though once Max watched a Videodrome tape which consists of sexual torture and murder. After watching the tape much weirder things begin to happen as he begins to hallucinate all sorts of bizarre imagery that is in some associated with television or video tape. Woods is a match for the weirdness like few actors can be. It would be extremely easy for a Stephen Lack type to be swallowed whole by the bizarre imagery but Woods knows exactly how to play into it. Woods never is overshadowed by it but rather stands with it in portraying Max's reaction with the weird things going on in front of him. Woods creates this awe and fascination in Max as he is having the hallucinations as if he is almost becoming one in the reality. What Woods does so well is make this unreality seem like a reality by his reactions that always give a grounding to the oddity.

What is particularly interesting about Woods's performance though is outside of the hallucinations, therefore out of control of the Videodrome, Woods portrays Max as really just a normal guy who wants to get to the bottom of what is being done to him. Woods is excellent in portraying rightfully the difference in reactions when Max is being directly influenced by the Videodrome, and when he is at least somewhat in control of his own faculties. Woods is very good in these scenes by really playing them close to the chest and just showing directly the pain he is suffering. All of Woods reactions are very realistic and is incredibly effective by showing Max acting as one would expect from a man who has learned that he has basically received a particularly strange death sentence. Woods is able to elicit sympathy for the sleazy Max by portraying his emotional devastation so honestly.

Things only get worse when Max discovers that he is not just some random victim of Videodrome but has been selectively targeted for a greater purpose. This leads to Max being programmed like a type by the men behind Videodrome to perform some sinister tasks of their design. Woods is fantastic here as these scenes could have easily lead to some seriously corny type of acting as Max becomes a slave to the Videodrome. They don't because of Woods's performance which never fails to ground in his own particular way. Firstly he established the build by portraying the hallucinatory scenes with the needed bizarre devotion. Woods once again brings such a severe intensity that he absolutely makes the control of the Videodrome completely convincing. No matter how weird it gets Woods always stays completely convincing in the role.

Like Jeff Goldblum's performance in The Fly, which was also directed by David Cronenberg and very special effects driven film, Woods's performance also proves that bringing honest human emotion into such a far out concept is quite possible. A lesser actor potentially could have been lost in the imagery, completely overshadowed by it, or just failed to sell it. The imagery never becomes too much because Woods always pulls it into his genuine portrait of Max. Woods matches the imagery with his own driven performance that never fails to keep the film compelling in both in terms of Max's mental degradation as well as the increasingly odd world that Cronenberg creates. Woods keeps the film on a personal understandable turn and not just some sort of freak show where this is happening just to some nameless individual. Woods turns Max Renn into a real man giving the film a much stronger emotional impact and in turn making the film far more disturbing as well.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1983: Ken Ogata in The Ballad of Narayama

Ken Ogata did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tatsuhei in The Ballad of Narayama.

The Ballad of Narajama depicts the harsh day to day life of a small Japanese village where all elderly go to a mountain to die when they turn 70. I have to admit I was allowed a particularly interesting view of this film as I accidentally watched the original 1958 version first. I will admit I took longer to catch my mistake than I should have, curse you restoration, I caught wise a few minutes in when a Kurosawa regular showed up but by then I thought I ought to finish it anyway. It was interesting though to see the original which was done in a stylized Kabuki fashion, beautifully shot at that, and the remake which is shot on location taking a bit of grimier more realistic approach to the same material.

Both versions tell the story of the son and the mother as the mother becomes very accepting of the final trip to Narayama whereas the son is hesitate. That is only the center point of the film though as it also tells various other stories involving the hardship of the village life before the time comes for the mother's trip. The 83 version has even more side characters including Tatsuhei's loutish brother who takes up considerable time in this version in his attempts to get laid even if it involves doing it with animals. The son's role is somewhat limited in the first half of the film, although Ogata is give a bit more to do than Teiji Takahashi who played the role in the original film. Both actors take a fairly similair approach though which is portraying Tatsuhei as a rather stoic figure. For most of the film Tatsuhei is a very subdued to presence as he's just a man trying to go day to day to care for his family in difficult circumstances.

There certainly are many problems for poor Tatsuhei as he has an obnoxious son, his aforementioned brothers, the impending fate of his mother, and just the problems of being a poor peasant to deal with. Ogata handles his part certainly well within its fairly tense limitations. Whenever we see Ogata we understand what the man is going through, and Ogata even makes Tatsuhei humble way of dealing with things wholly understandable. Ogata portrays Tatsuhei as honestly just a man who bears the difficulty of his life, Ogata presents the face of a man who knows how things are just as he knows that there really is not anything he can really do to change it. Ogata makes Tatsuhei the man of the world he should be, and although I don't think Ogata's performance always makes the greatest impact in these scenes, I do find he stands out just should.

Even when something more dire occurs such as retribution when one family steals from the others, which involves burying the family alive. Ogata suggests the severity of this punishment in his expression yet still stays reserved which fits Tatsuhei's character. Ogata strikes up the right balance since he's not a meek man really more of a dutiful one. There is a internal strength that Ogata properly exudes from Tatsuhei even though he never does speak out against various things, and not because he's a coward rather because he finds it to simply be the way things are. The brief moments of stronger emotions are well quite brief for most of the film. Ogata always makes them completely honest and wholly poignant by showing them almost having to pierce through the armor contentment he tends to wear otherwise. These moments though are rather few and far between and Tatsuhei is not truly focused upon as lead until the last act of the film.

The final act is when Ogata has to deliver his mother to her resting place with her silently riding on his back for a long journey. This is highlight for Ogata's performance as he does do an exceptional job of reflecting the intense emotions going through Tatsuhei as he must understand that he is bringing his mother to die. Ogata begins keeping the modesty of Tatsuhei intact although always subtly suggesting how this is tearing Ogata apart. Ogata is particularly affecting in one moment where Tatsuhei takes a break and loses his mother thinking she has gone home. Ogata is quite wonderful in so naturally suggesting the happiness of  a son who loves his mother, only to have it dashed when he finds her ready to continue her journey moments later. Ogata manages to be so moving by being so delicate in his transition from the moment of hope to once again facing the inevitable his mother seems to support.

 Tatsuhei finally does break down when he's finished the journey and brings his mother to her final resting place. Ogata very much has earned Tatsuhei's emotional devastation by this point and quite powerfully shows just how much the man loved his mother, and is being torn apart by this love and his perceived duty. This is an interesting performance to examine as what Ogata achieves so well is creating the essence of this sort of man completely. You never need to guess about his Tatsuhei you always understand him no matter what the situation. It's an excellent portrayal of a pure naturalism as he makes Tatsuhei so honest in every element of the film, and even though the film focuses so rarely directly on him Ogata still completely Tatsuhei as a character. There is never a moment that seems false or untrue for the man straight to his final scene. Tatsuhei after leaving his mother goes home. Ogata shows no outrage over it, but instead he is so heartbreaking by portraying Tatsuhei as accepting the horrible reality of his life. This is not a performance really about big moments but rather creating a man true to life.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1983

And the Nominees Were Not:

Peter Billingsley in A Christmas Story

Ken Ogata in The Ballad of Narayama

Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone

James Woods in Videodrome

Al Pacino in Scarface

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2004: Results

5.  Alex Fong in One Nite in Mongkok- Fong's performance is forced to be very much to the point but he manages to create his character along way quite effectively.

Best Scene: Milo covers up the shooting.
4. David Carradine in Kill Bill Vol. 2- I know I may suffer the same fate as Bill for this, but I have to admit that I don't love this performance. I just like it quite a bit.

Best Scene: The end of Bill and The Bride's duel.
3. Michael Madsen in Kill Bill Vol. 2 - My favorite of the assassins actually as Madsen brings so much heart to his performance.

Best Scene: Budd "wins"
2. Willem Dafoe in the Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou- Dafoe is absolutely endearing and incredibly funny as the Steve Zissou's most loyal man.

Best Scene: "Thanks for not picking me"
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly - Well this might come as a surprise to all. Hoffman does not have the great directors behind him that Dafoe, Madsen, and Carradine do. He just has himself, and I loved him the most.

Best Scene: Proxy Insurance speech.
Overall Rank:
  1. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly
  2. Willem Dafoe in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
  3. Michael Madsen in Kill Bill Vol. 2
  4. David Carradine in Kill Bill Vol. 2
  5. Thomas Haden Church in Sideways
  6. Peter O'Toole in Troy
  7. Bud Cort in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
  8. Javier Bardem in Collateral 
  9. Rip Torn in Dodgeball 
  10. Barry Shabaka Henley in Collateral 
  11. Ben Stiller in Dodgeball
  12. Jeff Goldblum in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
  13. Colm Meaney in Layer Cake
  14. Paul Rudd in Anchorman
  15. Toby Kebbell in Dead Man's Shoes
  16. Mark Wahlberg in I Heart Huckabees
  17. Alex Fong in One Nite in Mongkok
  18. David Thewlis in The Prisoner of Azkaban
  19. Michael Gambon in Layer Cake
  20. Dylan Moran in Shaun of the Dead
  21. Stuart Wolfenden in Dead Man's Shoes
  22. Nick Frost in Shaun of the Dead
  23. J.K. Simmons in Spider-Man 2
  24. Jason Bateman in Dodgeball
  25. Gary Cole in Dodgeball
  26. Bill Nighy in Shaun of the Dead
  27. Ulrich Matthes in Downfall
  28. Fana Mokoena in Hotel Rwanda
  29. Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man 2 
  30. Thomas Kretschmann in Downfall
  31. Alan Tudyk in Dodgeball
  32. Tom Wilkinson in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  33. David Koechner in Anchorman
  34. Gordon Liu in Kill Bill Vol. 2
  35. Brian Cox in Troy
  36. Christian Berkel in Downfall
  37. Alfred Molina in Spider-Man 2
  38. Peter Serafinowicz in Shaun of the Dead
  39. George Harris in Layer Cake
  40. Alan Rickman in The Prisoner of Azkaban
  41. John Hurt in Hellboy
  42. John Turturro in Secret Window
  43. Gary Stretch in Dead Man's Shoes
  44. Burn Gorman in Layer Cake
  45. Joan Dalmau in The Sea Inside
  46. Stephen Root in Dodgeball
  47. Ben Whishaw in Layer Cake
  48. Nick Nolte in Hotel Rwanda
  49. Tim Robbins in Anchorman
  50. Mark Ruffalo in Collateral
  51. Chris Parnell in Anchorman
  52. Celso Bugallo in The Sea Inside
  53. Luke Wilson in Anchorman
  54. John C. Reilly in The Aviator
  55. Charles S. Dutton in Secret Window
  56. Tony Curran in Flight of the Phoenix
  57. Alan Alda in The Aviator
  58. Ben Stiller in Anchorman
  59. Dustin Hoffman in I Heart Huckabees
  60. Chin Ka-lok in One Nite in Mongkok
  61. Hank Azaria in Dodgeball
  62. Joaquin Phoenix in Hotel Rwanda
  63. Len Cariou in Secret Window
  64. Sean Bean in Troy 
  65. Timothy Hutton in Secret Window
  66. Jeffrey Tambor in Hellboy
  67. Brad Bird in The Incredibles
  68. Anson Leung in One Nite in Mongkok
  69. Justin Long in Dodgeball
  70. Jason Lee in The Incredibles
  71. Nick Roud in Finding Neverland
  72. Bruno Ganz in The Manchurian Candidate
  73. Michael Parks in Kill Bill Vol. 2
  74. Elijah Wood in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  75. Ben Foster in The Punisher
  76. Bruce McGill in Collateral
  77. Mos Def in The Woodsman
  78. Mark Ruffalo in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  79. Samuel L. Jackson in Kill Bill Vol. 2
  80. Giovanni Ribsi in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  81. Gary Oldman in The Prisoner of Azkaban
  82. Ben Kingsley in Thunderbirds
  83. Peter Sarsgaard in Kinsey
  84. Billy Connolly in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
  85. Tim Meadows in Mean Girls
  86. David Hyde Pierce in Hellboy
  87. Dylan Baker in Kinsey
  88. Timothy Spall in The Prisoner of Azkaban
  89. Dustin Hoffman in Finding Neverland
  90. Will Patton in The Punisher
  91. Michael Gambon in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  92. Timothy Spall in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events 
  93. Owen Wilson in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
  94. Brendan Gleeson in Troy 
  95. Michael Shannon in The Woodsman
  96. Jon Voight in The Manchurian Candidate
  97. Steve Carell in Anchorman
  98. Rupert Grint in The Prisoner of Azkaban
  99. Dean Stockwell in The Manchurian Candidate
  100. Ian Holm in The Day After Tomorrow
  101. Alec Baldwin in The Aviator
  102. Giovanni Ribsi in Flight of the Phoenix
  103. Michael Gambon in The Prisoner of Azkaban
  104. Roy Scheider in The Punisher 
  105. Patrick Wilson in The Phantom of the Opera
  106. Christopher Walken in The Stepford Wives
  107. Jon Gries in Napoleon Dynamite
  108. Bokeem Woodbine in Ray
  109. Jon Lovitz in The Stepford Wives
  110. Bill Paxton in Thunderbirds
  111. Alec Baldwin in Along Came Polly
  112. James Franco in Spider-Man 2
  113. Karl Urban in The Chronicles of Riddick
  114. Karel Roden in Hellboy
  115. Warwick Davis in Ray
  116. Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby
  117. Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland
  118. John Travolta in The Punisher
  119. Bryan Brown in Along Came Polly
  120. Colm Feore in The Chronicles of Riddick
  121. Kevin Pollack in The Whole Ten Yards
  122. David Wenham in Van Helsing
  123. Linus Roache in The Chronicles of Riddick
  124. Efren Ramirez in Napoleon Dynamite
  125. Roger Bart in The Stepford Wives
  126. Frank Collison in The Whole Ten Yards
  127. Garrett Hedlund in Troy
  128. Hank Azaria in Along Came Polly
  129. Hal Sparks in Spider-Man 2
  130. Aaron Ruell in Napoleon Dynamite
  131. Kevin J. O'Connor in Van Helsing
  132. Richard Roxburgh in Van Helsing
  133. Jay Baruchel in Million Dollar Baby
Next Year: 1983 lead

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2004: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly

Philip Seymour Hoffman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sandy Lyle in Along Came Polly.

Along Came Polly is a comedy about a guy Reuben (Ben Stiller) whose wife cheats on him on their honeymoon, but finds a new romantic potential in a very different woman Polly (Jennifer Aniston). I won't lie found most of Along Came Polly very disposable as a comedy as a whole, and sometimes slightly grating.

Philip Seymour Hoffman technically plays a very standard role that being the wacky best friend of our straight man lead. This is an absurdly common character in comedies of this sort and often they can be extremely obnoxious cases of an actor trying their hardest to be funny while falling flat on their faces. In those cases though the best friend role is usually played by some chronic over actor, but that is certainly not the case here where the role is played by the renown actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is not usually the case that a great actor is in this sort of part so one must merely see how Hoffman handles it. Well Hoffman first enters the film proudly as Sandy is performing as the best man at Reuben's wedding only to hilariously slip and fall. Prat falling may not be the best approach for a performance to come in on especially if the actor just let's the fall act as the joke, but boy I gotta hand it to Hoffman for some flawless execution. From the overjoy pride, to the intensity of the fall, and of course that face of disappointment beautifully done sir.

Hoffman simply does not stop with that entrance though as we are given a little information about his past as it turns out Sandy was once the star of a Breakfast Club type film where he played the bag pipes. Although he obviously has done nothing of note recently he still acts like he is an actor who should hold the status of perhaps an actor like Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman brilliant because he does not simply have Sandy stroking an ego about his so called acting prowess. Hoffman's better than that in that in this aspect of the performance he's really quite subtle about it. Sandy is of course has a huge ego about it but the way Hoffman plays it is not something that Sandy needs to boast about because it obviously should be so well known for anyone to see. It's both understated yet overstated by Hoffman in the most perfect of fashions. Although actually this even brings to one of the few semi serious scenes for Hoffman where he tells Reuben that his wife was acting the whole time. Again Hoffman is great as he fulfills the supportive role as he shows Sandy to be in utter command as he points out her lying.

But enough of that semi-serious stuff by Hoffman no matter how well handled it might have been I want some more hilarity. Well look no further than when we see Sandy practicing for a community theater version of Jesus Christ Superstar where Sandy tears it up on stage during "What's The Buzz" giving that Judas sneer as the chorus goes on awaiting Jesus's response which of course Sandy also decides to take for himself. Hoffman is a wonderful ham with his over accentuation of stage gesture possible showboating to its fullest and being absolutely hilarious while doing it. Of course Hoffman pivots flawlessly from the ham playing Jesus and Judas at apparently the same time to being the over indulgent ARTIST whose understanding of all just can't be comprehended by mere mortals. After seeing that relatively brief scene though I frankly would not have minded seeing the entirety of Jesus Christ Superstar entirely played by Hoffman as Sandy. Of course tearing it up on stage made be nothing compared to when Sandy is tearing it up on court.

That of course I mean the basketball court where plays with Reuben. Every shot basically Sandy misses as he always takes the shot no matter how many times he misses, or even though he is nowhere in position to make it into the basket. This of course may be technically speaking an incredibly repetitive joke, but I found it a consistently funny one because of Hoffman's delivery once again. Hoffman could not be better in the intensity he gives to every physical movement of Sandy on the court, and could not be more amusing in his non-stop barrage of various completely ridiculous words he says that in no way reflect his skills on the court. I find it extremely easy to see a non-Philip Seymour Hoffman type actor completely falling flat in this scene but Hoffman finds just the right tone for his absurdity to make really work. This even goes for jokes I don't think work otherwise, like the gross out jokes, such as when Sandy defecates in his pants. Although the way the film went about the set up was not very funny at all, the sad expression that dawns on Hoffman's face is pure gold.

Hoffman's two best scenes though come at the very end. The first being when Sandy is finally told the truth about his fame and skills by Reuben's father. Hoffman's reaction is terrific as he expresses the realization of this fool so wonderfully, and manages to will out this dramatic change in what is otherwise a pretty absurdest caricature. This though leaves Hoffman with one more scene where Sandy must deliver Reuben's insurance pitch for him. Hoffman is best described as awesome in this scene as strikes up the perfect balance of the ridiculous of Sandy with a needed conviction to make the pitch believable. Well Hoffman does both of these things at the same time and suggests some of his more serious performances, through drive he gives to the word, despite still being consistently funny in the scenes as well. You could not ask for a better end to this gem of a performance. I have to say though the film does foolishly fail to be as good as Hoffman is around him, and even more foolishly has him absent for about 20 minutes in a row. None of that matters because Hoffman is great in every scene he is in, and although I doubt I'll be watching the film as a whole again I won't watching his scenes over and over again.
(yeah that just happened)