Monday, 24 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998: Anthony Wong in Beast Cops

Anthony Wong did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tung in Beast Cops.

Beast Cops is a bit of an odd film to be sure. It's much more of an odd couple type of comedy about three very different cops living in the same apartment than it is about the power struggle of a local Triad. I rather enjoyed the film for its oddness actually even though it does have a very bland lead performance, and some pretty unintentionally funny sound effects.

The bland lead performance belongs to Michael Wong who plays the new officer of the group Michael Cheung. Wong's always slightly awkward performances, that involves some truly random moments where he speaks English, is not quite as detrimental to the film as it could have been because at least Cheung is suppose to be an extreme straight arrow, but this does leave the character wholly overshadowed by Officer Tung played by Anthony Wong the true star of the film. It's too bad there's no Lieutenant in the Hong Kong Police because Tung wouldn't fit too badly into the mold of a bad lieutenant, although closer to Nicolas Cage's version rather than Harvey Kietel's. Although he might be best described as lazy Lieutenant, as his corruption seems from mostly a lack of caring but Tung's life as a cop certainly involves drinking, using drugs, some prostitution, very casually taking bribes, and having far too comfortable of a relationship with the local Triad members.

Anthony Wong is in top form from the first scene by not being in particularly top form. Wong was apparently actually ill while filming the movie and this only contributes in making Tung the spent type of cop he is. In the opening scenes he's barely at all interested in doing what is required of a cop as Wong is very good in portraying Tung's manner of just basically going through the motions of being a cop. Wong is great though because he does not make Tung just a big nothing though and he's particularly good in portraying the sorta attempted manner to be the cop while failing to really fulfill his duties. Wong brings that certain boisterousness about Tung as if Tung is still the king of his neighborhood, and has any importance at all in his position even though he's basically nothing. Wong brings the right sort of wholly pathetic quality about Tung's routine as he feigns getting involved in a triad murder, but in fact just goes along and warns his friend in the Triad to get out of town. 

We are then introduced to the other Wong's character who first meets Tung at a nightclub. Wong, the better Wong that is, is actually quite funny in his scenes where Tung is doing his best to kinda maneuver around his new boss and make him feel comfortable in his own way. Tung's first attempt is to make him not notice his considerable corruption by trying to have him as good of a time as possible. Wong's quite the delight as he portrays Tung over enthusiastic manner as he brings so much energy in Tung's attempt at making everything just too good for his new boss. I particularly love the moment where Tung abruptly stops his crusade when he hears that Cheung needs a place to stay. Wong is hilarious as he so abruptly shifts to a more serious tone, of sorts, as Tung offers his own room to Cheung. This is only the beginning for their weird partnership, and I have to say I only wish the other Wong was a better straight man for Anthony Wong, since I think these scenes could have reached an even higher height.

The hijinks only continue in their scenes where Cheung and Tung go on patrol and Cheung expects a bit more discipline in his unit than they are used to. Wong again is great as he portrays the mostly brainless attempt by Tung to seem like he's doing something when randomly beats up someone to show his measure. The best moment though is when a real crime is occurring right near him and Wong's reaction is rather hilarious as Tung's first question is to ask if someone is filming around there. Wong continues to be quite entertaining though when we see Cheung and Tung in their apartment together, where Wong has to make occasional requests of his old bedroom in order to have his time with his prostitute relationship he's having. Wong always manages to make Tung's antics surprisingly endearing as brings such an earnestness to his foolishness, that is made only funnier because Tung is a cop.

The film shifts to a more serious tone though when Cheung stops actually doing his job trying to take down the local Triad. Although I don't think the other Wong gets along all the well with the tonal shift, the better Wong thrives along with it despite being the funniest performer in the humorous scenes. Wong has a terrific short moment where Tung threatens the under boss for an attack on Cheung which causes the under boss to remind Tung of his corruption. Wong's brings the intensity of the moment to life especially as he quickly reflects the guilt and forced hesitation as Tung basically recognizes what he is for a moment. Things only get worse though when the Triad boss, who had been on the run, is killed in a power struggle leaving Tung to finally take action. Tung pumps himself on all sorts of things and basically goes into kill the man making for one amazing scene for Anthony Wong.

Wong is outstanding in this scene as he becomes almost a personification of vengeance as Tung finally decides to try to make things right. Wong though still makes him the same Tung, and in this he shows it as a bit of a madness in Tung which is only additionally made worse by the drugs and alcohol in his system. What makes Wong so effective is how he shows the substances as part of Tung's madness as he becomes almost like a terminator as he shrugs off various stabbings to try to corner the man he's after. It's a brilliant scene for Wong since he makes the insanity of the scene so absolutely the Tung he created for the rest of the film, and he successfully bridges the character to this point. Wong I would say is easily the highlight of the entire film as he just goes with the material in a way that any of the actors are not able to compete with. Wong makes Tung quite the memorable and rather likable dirty cop to follow through the film and he's especially good due to the way he manages to mediate between the humor and the drama of the material so well.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998

And the Nominees Were Not:

Anthony Wong in Beast Cops

Tony Leung Chiu Wai in The Longest Nite

Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski 

Brendan Gleeson in The General

Ian McKellen in Apt Pupil

Friday, 21 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor and Supporting Actor 1932: Results

Paul Muni in Scarface - The same year where Muni gave, at least from what I have seen, his best performance in I Am Fugitive From A Chain Gang he also played perhaps one of his best known roles as Tony Camonte best known as Scarface. It's funny in that both this performance and Al Pacino's performance in the remake where perhaps turning points for both actors as they often went for more
over the top characterizations after playing the role of Scarface. Like Pacino, Muni does not give a very subtle or subdued performance here, but it does fit the role of an over the top gangster. Muni's goes big it doesn't ever quite sit right for me, but I did feel it worked better here as it fit in creating the flamboyant nature of the role. He also bothers to bring some subtly in terms of his reactions creating the right intensity, and at least bringing some poignancy to the scenes where Tony is being overprotective of his sister. 3.5/5

Best Actor Ranking:
  1. Paul Muni in I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang
  2. Oliver Hardy in Pack Up Your Troubles
  3. Stan Laurel in Pack Up Your Troubles
  4. William Powell in Jewel Robbery
  5. Paul Muni in Scarface
  6. Boris Karloff in The Mummy
  7. John Barrymore in State's Attorney
  8. Herbert Marshall in Trouble in Paradise
  9. Gary Cooper in A Farewell to Arms
  10. John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement
  11. Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers
  12. Joel McCrea in The Most Dangerous Game
  13. Bela Lugosi in White Zombie
  14. Junior Durkin in Hell's House
  15. William Gargan in Rain
  16. Harry Earles in Freaks
  17. Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan The Ape Man
  18. David Manners in The Mummy
  19. John Harron in White Zombie
John Barrymore in Grand Hotel - Barrymore is rather good here in creating the outward suaveness of the Baron as he he charms his way into seemingly everyone's heart around him. Barrymore carries himself with a great deal of that old Hollywood style of charisma which works quite well here. Barrymore also does well in portraying the desperate elements found in the Baron, which easily could lead to some ACTING, but actually Barrymore is quite effective by staying fairly toned down in this respect. Instead of showing the Baron constantly having to deal with the thoughts of his financial troubles, Barrymore is quite good instead by subtly showing the slight hesitations and secondary glances of the man that suggest the man's predicament. It's fine work and rather easily my supporting win for the year. 4/5

Best Supporting Actor Top Ten:
  1. John Barrymore in Grand Hotel
  2. Charles Laughton in The Old Dark House
  3. Lionel Barrymore in Grand Hotel 
  4. Boris Karloff in The Old Dark House
  5. Leslie Banks in The Most Dangerous Game
  6. Pat O'Brien in Hell's House
  7. Walter Huston in Rain 
  8. Melvyn Douglas in The Old Dark House
  9. Edward Ellis in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
  10. Raymond Massey in The Old Dark House
Next Year: 1998 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: Results

5. Finlay Currie in Great Expectations- Currie brings the right roughness and heart to the role but still never makes that much an impression.

Best Scene: Magwitch comes back.
4. William Bendix in The Blue Dahlia- Bendix, despite the writing messing up his ending, gives an affecting portrayal of a man driven to moments of insanity due to his war experiences.

Best Scene: Buzz is bothered by the music. 
3. Roger Livesey in A Matter of Life and Death- Livesey steals the film right out from David Niven and manages to give weight to the central romance of the film than the two performers portraying it do.

Best Scene: The doctor fights for Peter's life in the Heavenly court.

2. Henry Travers in It's A Wonderful Life- Travers gives a funny and quite wonderful realization of the pure goodness of his character.

Best Scene: George after visiting his mother.
1. Lionel Barrymore in It's a Wonderful Life- Good Predictions Kevin, Maciej, moviefilm, koook160, and  Jackiboyz. The year itself came down to one of my favorite depictions of a villain of all time against Claude Rains who manages to make the villain the most sympathetic character in his film. Both I think are equally good in their roles and I don't see how either could be better. In a way to cheat out of really choosing I'll just base it on their second films of the year. Rains was also great in Angel on my Shoulder whereas Barrymore was quite forgettable in Duel in the Sun.

Best Scene: George goes to Potter for help.
Overall Rank:
  1. Claude Rains in Notorious
  2. Lionel Barrymore in It's A Wonderful Life
  3. Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives
  4. Henry Travers in It's A Wonderful Life
  5. Roger Livesey in A Matter of Life and Death
  6. Thomas Mitchell in It's A Wonderful Life 
  7. Claude Rains in Angel on My Shoulder
  8. William Bendix in The Blue Dahlia
  9. Charles Coburn in The Green Years
  10. Raymond Massey in A Matter of Life and Death
  11. Samuel S. Hinds in It's A Wonderful Life
  12. William Conrad in The Killers
  13. Hume Cronyn in The Postman Always Rings Twice 
  14. Finlay Currie in Great Expectations
  15. Marius Goring in A Matter of Life and Death
  16. Kirk Douglas in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
  17. Victor Mature in My Darling Clementine
  18. Alec Guinness in Great Expectations
  19. H.B. Warner in It's A Wonderful Life
  20. Francis L. Sullivan in Great Expectations
  21. Sheldon Leonard in It's A Wonderful Life
  22. Richard Attenborough in A Matter of Life and Death
  23. Walter Brennan in my Darling Clementine
  24. Frank Faylen in It's A Wonderful Life
  25. Roman Bohnen in The Best Years of Our Lives
  26. Bobby Anderson in It's A Wonderful Life 
  27. Bernard Miles in Great Expectations
  28. Ward Bond in It's A Wonderful Life 
  29. Walter Baldwin in The Best Years of Our Lives
  30. Howard da Silva in The Blue Dahlia 
  31. Robert Coote in A Matter of Life and Death
  32. Elisha Cook Jr. in The Big Sleep
  33. Nigel Bruce in Terror By Night
  34. Albert Dekker in The Killers
  35. William Edmunds in It's A Wonderful Life
  36. Anthony Wager in Great Expectations
  37. Henry Travers in The Yearling
  38. Charles MacGraw in The Killers
  39. Clifton Webb in The Razor's Edge
  40. Marcel Andre in Beauty and the Beast
  41. Hoagy Carmicheal in The Best Years of Our Lives
  42. Walter Huston in Duel in the Sun
  43. Reinhold Schunzel in Notorious
  44. Hardie Albright in Angel on My Shoulder
  45. Todd Karns in It's A Wonderful Life
  46. Lionel Barrymore in Duel in the Sun
  47. Will Wright in The Blue Dahlia
  48. Richard Haydn in The Green Years
  49. Herbert Marshall in The Razor's Edge
  50. Michel Auclair in Beauty and the Beast
  51. William Demarest in The Jolson Story
  52. Ward Bond in My Darling Clementine
  53. Louis Calhern in Notorious
  54. Charles Waldron in The Big Sleep
  55. Cecil Kellaway in The Postman Always Rings Twice
  56. Jess Barker in The Time of Our Lives
  57. Joseph Calleia in Gilda
  58. John Payne in The Razor's Edge
  59. Leon Ames in The Postman Always Rings Twice
  60. Hume Cronyn in The Green Years
  61. Philip Mervale in The Stranger
  62. Hugh Beaumont in The Blue Dahlia 
  63. Chill Wills in The Yearling
  64. Richard Long in The Stranger
  65. Philip Terry in To Each His Own
  66. George Macready in Gilda
  67. Bill Goodwin in To Each His Own
  68. Edwin Maxwell in The Jolson Story
  69. Bill Goodwin in The Jolson Story 
  70. John Lund in To Each His Own
Next Year: 1932 Lead might as well suggest any Supporting ideas as well.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: Finlay Currie in Great Expectations

Finlay Currie did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations.

Great Expectations is a well directed adaptation of Charles Dickens's book about a meek orphan Pip's coming of age story which includes meeting some unusual characters.

One of these unusual characters appears rather early on in the film as the boy Pip finds an escaped convict who he is played by Currie. Currie is appropriately rough in his depiction of the convict's manner not sugar coating him at all at the beginning, and suggesting the hard life that the man his lead. Currie moment here is quite brief but he makes Magwitch memorable enough before he is taken away again by the police. Eventually Pip finds himself rich through a mysterious benefactor, who Pip assumes is the wrong person, but eventually he is surprised to see Magwitch in his house once again which is quite the surprise. Currie's is quite good in his reappearance by know portraying Magwitch as a much more jovial sort certainly made happy by his far better life, although Currie still carries the right roughness around the edges to still show that Magwitch never could quite lose his criminal past completely. 

Currie is effective in turning Magwitch into a likable figure in these few short moments and realizes his whole character best he can. We do want to indeed see Pip help him out as Currie brings an earnest charm into the role. After his first introduction he disappears for a long time and then after his second introduction he placed firmly into the background as the film focuses on Pip basically coming up with a way and the preparing his eventual devised way to smuggle Magwitch out of England. Currie has one more scene where talks about the pain of his past which he makes fairly poignant by honestly portraying the sentiment within the general roughness of Magwitch's character. This is a solid enough performance by Currie as he probably does as much as one could do with how the role Magwitch is used in this version at least. He does not make that much an impact, but his work certainly is more than satisfactory.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: Lionel Barrymore in It's A Wonderful Life

Lionel Barrymore did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Henry F. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life.

The previous collaboration before It's Wonderful Life between director Frank Capra and Lionel Barrymore was in You Can't Take It With You where Barrymore played the role of the jovial patriarch of a free spirited family. Well in this their next collaboration Barrymore's character could not be more different. Barrymore plays the antagonist of the film Mr. Potter who is a banker who owns half the town of Bedford Falls to begin with as the film opens. Although Barrymore was certainly quite believable as a lovable old man he's even better here as Mr. Potter who is introduced as being the meanest man in the county. We first introduced to Potter as he is chewing out George Bailey's father for not foreclosing on homes. Even though Barrymore is confined to a wheel-chair he has a considerable presence as Potter, and is actually quite imposing figure despite needing to be wheeled around by a lurch like figure at all times. His brief introduction though is really a warm up though for the rest of Barrymore's performance.

The greatness of Barrymore's performance actually comes most into play as a most worthy opponent for James Stewart as George. There first face off, and Barrymore's second scene, is after George's father has died and the share holders of his father's company the Bailey Building and Loan are there to determine its fate. Potter wants it to be dissolved as it poses a threat to his control of the town, although he has a backhanded praise of George's father. Barrymore is brilliant in how he does this as he stats that Bailey was a man of so called ideals. The way he looks to the side in discontent and pauses with the so called is time so perfectly by Barrymore that gives such an a callousness to his statement. Barrymore continues to excel and is a great counterpoint to Stewart's performance as George makes his passionate rebuttal against Potter's view of the people of the town. Barrymore's reaction is perfect in showing just how little Potter thinks of George's words. What's particularly great is the way he does the yawn, where he kinda tries to hide but in a way to bring more attention to it.

I don't know if I can name a performance where someone makes there face as expressive as Barrymore more does here as Potter. It never feels strange or awkward or any way and in fact Barrymore uses that as well as his hands as an effective way to make up for the fact that he obviously has some physical constraints. Barrymore is great just to watch here with all that he does in his various facial movements and hand gestures. They never feel like too much but only aid in making his Potter all the more memorable as a character. These certainly come into play in one of Barrymore's best scenes when Potter calls in George to his office in an attempt to get George to accept a high paying  job in order to rid himself of his rival. Barrymore is amazing in this scene because he does shed the true nature of the character ever so much as Potter makes his offer. For a moment Barrymore is terrific as he brings a false kindness to Potter as such a sweet offer to George, and makes it so very tempting. My favorite moment is that final smile where he thinks he has George, since there is such deviousness within it.

Well his offer to George is Potter at his most "kind" later on we get Potter at his worst and Barrymore is once again outstanding. George comes to Potter for help due to a misplacement of funds, which actually accidentally fell into Potter's hands, hoping that Potter will help him. Barrymore does not hold back at just how despicable Potter is in this scene as Barrymore begins with Potter almost confused and concerned by George's predicament. As Potter asks about embezzlement or possibly an affair George is thought to be, incorrectly, having Barrymore has almost a fatherly tone as if Potter is trying to mentor the young man on proper business practices, even though he knows the truth. When Potter sees that George has nothing financially to offer him Barrymore brings out the full sinister nature of Potter, and he gives basically a sickly inverted of George's earlier speech against him. Barrymore's is incredible as he matches Stewart's passion from that earlier scene but is quite chilling by making the passion serve such a horrible notion and purpose.

Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers don't share any scenes together and whereas Barrymore has a some scenes throughout Travers's are all one after other, but they fulfill two polar opposites. Where Travers was such a wonderful personification of good, Barrymore is such a personification of evil. Lionel Barrymore succeeds in making Mr. Potter one of the all time great villains of cinema, and Potter does not even need to physically harm a soul. Barrymore's performance makes Potter such a vile sort by realizing the man's cruel ideology. It is interesting to note that Barrymore was originally going to play Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, but was unable to do to his legs. It is easy to see him, due to his role here as Potter, to play the unreformed Scrooge, but actually Barrymore does not make Potter just the unreformed Scrooge. Barrymore makes Potter a darker sort, a man incapable of seeing the error of his ways. I love this performance, which is even very entertaining due to Barrymore's energetic style, yet that never takes away even an ounce of the viciousness of his characterization.  

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: Henry Travers in It's A Wonderful Life

Henry Travers did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Clarence Odbody, angel second class, in It's A Wonderful Life.

Henry Travers first speaks rather early in the film as he is called upon by God and Joseph to be the one to go down to Earth to help George Bailey (James Stewart) before he takes his life. Before Clarence can go help him though he is first given George's back story which is about the first two thirds of the film. During this time Clarence makes the occasional comment, and you could not ask a better voice for an angel. There is such a genuine warmth and goodness to Travers voice that is hard to imagine anything but kindness coming from him, making his casting as a mean old man in The Bells of Saint Mary's all the more ridiculous I mention this mostly because it's the movie on the marquee in Bedford Falls. Anyway, although we get the very short comments Travers does not appear in the flesh until very late in the film when it takes its last act turn, and Travers's appearance is what indicates this turn in the film.

George is about to commit suicide, due to a lost large sum of money, by jumping off a bridge. In this darkest of moments for the film we suddenly and unexpectedly get a bright beam of light in the face of Henry Travers as Clarence when he makes his first onscreen appearance. Travers could not have a more kindly smile instantly offering some hope to the situation of a possible suicide, which alleviated all the more when Clarence jumps in himself forcing George's good nature to kick causing him to jump in as well to save Clarence. What follows is one of my favorite scenes in the film, although I'll admit I have a lot of favorite scenes in this film, as George and Clarence dry off giving Clarence a chance to introduce himself as his guardian angel.Travers is pitch perfect in the role and he makes his first substantial scene wonderful to watch. Travers establishes such a sweetness in his performance, which never feels too much or forced, but rather is truly angelic.

Travers also manages to bring a certain kookiness to the role that he also so carefully portrays as it could easily become cloying but Travers is only ever endearing in his portrayal of it. Travers has a very sly comic timing and manner in his performance. He never distracts too much away from the importance of the emotions concerning George's story and brings these humorous moments flawlessly into these scenes. Travers is actually quite unassumingly hilarious as Clarence as he makes the character's naivety and somewhat absentmindedness both funny yet just so very charming at the same time. This is one of those performances where you could almost take any line delivery from Travers and find something special in it. Two moments perhaps are my favorite, on the comic side of things, the first being his oh so friendly goodbye of "Cheerio my good man" after scaring a man away in disbelief after giving out what AS2 stands for, and my second is his rather futile attempt to name a drink for himself at a bar.

Travers's work is not just merely funny and sweet even if it is both those things as well because Clarence is sent there with a mission which is to convince George that his life is worthwhile. Travers excels in this regard as well as he carries himself with this otherworldly wisdom that he manages to make a natural part of the daffy angel. Travers is outstanding in the moments where he shows Clarence to merely quietly prod George with the information. There is something so powerful about the way Travers delivers his lines in these scenes as he speaks the blunt truth with such a severity but always with a warmth. Travers brings such a poignancy in every lines he speaks particularly "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?". Travers is excellent as he portrays Clarence as having such an inspiring soulfulness about him that George would have to take notice of Clarence's message.

It is interesting in that the exact final moment of Clarence's exit of the film is not particularly climatic, but it strangely ends up not mattering. Travers makes such a grand impression in the screen time he does have that it doesn't feel like Clarence is shortchanged by the end of the film. The reason being that it feels though Clarence's presence is still with George to the very last frame of the film. Travers accomplishes this by just how good he is in the role. This is an incredibly entertaining performance by Travers to say the least as he's consistently funny and makes Clarence so likable as well. It is more than just a likable characterization by Travers though as he makes Clarence serve an even greater purpose. George going from the worst to finding the will to live is of course beautifully brought to life by Stewart's amazing performance, but Travers also contributes greatly to making the transformation as powerful as it is through his realization of Clarence as a entity of pure goodness.