Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2011: Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In

Antonio Banderas did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Robert Ledgard in The Skin I Live In.

The Skin I Live In is a flawed though effective thriller about a plastic surgeon and the captive in his home.

Antonio Banderas is not commonly known best for his dramatic work, and in the past I'd say his best performance has been one that focused on an outgoing charm, which was in The Mask of Zorro. That is not the focus of his performance here, and apparently director Pedro Almodรณvar asked him to tone down his usual style for this role. Now to properly detail this role I will note that I must spoil the film's twist in order to see how effective Banderas's approach to the role is. Chronologically speaking Dr. Ledgard at this earliest point is a man inflicted with tragedy. This begins when his wife is permanently scarred by a car accident who then proceeds to commit suicide. This is only compounded later when he believes he sees his daughter being raped by a man Vicente (Jan Cornet). Banderas in these scenes is properly affecting as he realizes the way the man's heart is ripped from is body. Banderas portrays this though as a change for Legard as his sadness turns to palatable rage after his daughter also commits suicide.

The target of the rage becomes the man Vincente who he decides to enact a peculiar form of punishment. The early stages of this Banderas portrays directly as a fierce hatred in the doctor, and is quite piercing in showing the way Ledgard has been absorbed by his desire for vengeance. Ledgard though does not go about killing the man, or even torturing him in the normal way. In fact Ledgard seems to specifically use proper anesthetic when going about his form of torture. In his first act he gives Vincente a vaginoplasty. During this process Banderas still shows the single mindedness in Ledgard as the act seems solely driven by revenge. Ledgard does not stop there though despite Vincente repeated attempts to commit suicide, which Ledgard overrides simply by always repairing his wounds. Ledgard though continues to proceed which more operations as well as attempts to change Vincente wholly in body and mind a woman Vera (Elena Anaya). During this process though Ledgard also changes as Banderas gradually alters Ledgard's emotional state during the manipulations.

This is a natural transition made by Banderas's work as he shows the rage that originally propelled the doctor's first act against Vincente/Vera dissipates over time. Banderas portrays Ledgard interactions with Vincente/Vera change from violent hatred to a gentle love. The viciousness of his original reactions to his patient wain for something else entirely to replace them Banderas depicts such a tenderness at times as Ledgard goes about repairing whatever self inflicted wounds Vincente/Vera might have sustained, as he begins to suggest a warmth of the very least a loving caregiver if not a loving hussband. Banderas though goes further than that though as he also shows in these moments as Ledgard as a master craftsman going about his work. Banderas eyes fill with a genuine pride of man who believes he's creating his masterpiece, though he works with flesh rather than paints or clay. Banderas's approach is fascinating as he presents a most unique transformation of his own as a man who becomes a most unusual monster.

Banderas is compelling in the way he manages to subvert the usual expectation of such a role, in that he becomes far more disturbing the more affectionate he becomes. Banderas's performance realizes so well the chilling achievement in Ledgard's experiment, by presenting the joy the man gets from it. Again this is notable in that there's not a hint of sadism after a certain point, yet Banderas makes it all the more off-putting by revealing the acceptance in Ledgard that he is essentially personally creating a replacement for his wife out of another human being. Banderas by purging his usually far broader style enables a most unusual yet intriguing approach to such a role. Banderas successfully manifests the more traditionally positive emotions to create a repellent portrait of a man permanently altering another's existence in order to complete his own. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2011

And the Nominees Were Not:

Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In

Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus

Woody Harrelson in Rampart

Michael Smiley in Kill List  

Jakub Gierszal in Suicide Room

Predict Those Five, Or These Five, Or Both

Matthias Schoenaerts in Bullhead

Peter Mullan in Tyrannosaur  

Daniel Henshall in Snowtown

Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre

Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1985: Results

5. Ian Holm in Wetherby - Sorry about doing it again. Holm though has only a few minutes of screen time sprinkled throughout the film as one of the main character's friends. Holm does what he can in establishing a real pathos to his character's diatribes. He's good but there's almost no time for him to fully flesh out his character.

Best Scene: Stanley ponders about Thatcher. 
4. Roddy McDowall in Fright Night - McDowall gives a delightful performance as he brings just the right amount of humor as his vampire hunter actor turned vampire hunter.

Best Scene: Peter gives Jerry the vampire test.
3. John Lone in Year of the Dragon - Lone is the highlight of his film giving a complex and consistently compelling portrayal of an ambitious gangster.

Best Scene: Joey Tai meets with the soldiers.
2. Ian Holm in Dreamchild - Holm gives a downright brilliant performance as he makes his Lewis Carroll a fascinating enigma that allows for the needed interpret while never seeming vague in his portrayal either.

Best Scene: Dodgson asks Alice about marriage.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis in My Beautiful Laundrette - Day-Lewis gives a great performance as per usual, as less per usual for him here he shows off his ability to be quite charming and crafts a truly endearing and sympathetic character.

Best Scene: Johnny and Omar meet up again.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2011 Lead

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1985: Daniel Day-Lewis in My Beautiful Laundrette

Daniel Day-Lewis did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Johnny Burfoot in My Beautiful Laundrette.

My Beautiful Laundrette is a fairly interesting film essentially about the intersecting lives of Pakistani immigrants living in London, and a few locals all around a single laundromat.

Daniel Day-Lewis made his international breakout as a potentially one a kind talent when A Room With a View and My Beautiful Laundrette both premiered on the exact same day in New York. Day-Lewis despite not being a clear lead in either film, with Laundrette there's an argument that can be made but the film's wavering perspective makes it difficult to say precisely either way, was noted heavily by critics at the time. The reason being the roles could not be more different. In Room with the View he gave a brilliant depiction of a repressed wealthy man in Edwardian England, here he plays a homosexual working class punk in Thatcher's England.We first meet Johnny Burfoot played by Day-Lewis here as an aimless guy who squats in empty houses, and most commonly hangs around street corners with his pseudo gang of equally disengaged friends. I suppose at this point it almost seems pointless that Day-Lewis disappears into the role, but eh I'll do it anyway. Day-Lewis succeeds in disappearing into the role of Johnny Burfoot just as he did Cecil Vyse in A Room With A View.

Daniel Day-Lewis despite being held up often as possibly the greatest living actor currently, which is only further encouraged by his leading actor Oscar record, is all the same still criticized by some for being too clinical of a performer. This performance is yet Day-Lewis showing another side to his capabilities. Yes there are a few tenets of a classic Day-Lewis performance, that being a flawless and always consistent accent. A fairly light one in this case however effective in illustrating Johnny's working class background. Day-Lewis also does employ certain mannerisms in his performance yet in such a naturalistic fashion that are particularly subdued. Day-Lewis's approach is quite remarkable here in the way he almost internalizes the flamboyancy in Johnny. He never acts out in this big way, something Day-Lewis quite adept at anyway, however what he does really works for the part. Day-Lewis gives this sense of possibly a more flamboyant past with the character through his method of portraying Johnny doing things in his own style, yet this style never insists upon itself either. Day-Lewis carries himself as a man at ease with himself as a gay man, and does not need to announce this to others constantly either.

Although Johnny is seen in a few brief moments beforehand his role grows substantially in the story once he meets up with the son of one of the Pakistani immigrants named Omar(Gordon Warnecke). The two have a history which becomes largely known through the chemistry between Warnecke and Day-Lewis. The two just have the spark from the very beginning and from the way they both look at each other one can see that it is not one of only friendship. Now in these scenes Day-Lewis successfully calls upon something that is not always expected him given the often violent or deeply troubled he plays,  that something being charm. Day-Lewis though is exceptional here in making Johnny an extremely likable presence in the film. He brings this low key and very natural type of cool to the role. Day-Lewis is endearing rather than cloying as he so honestly presents Johnny as a guy who tends to do things his way, but this does not allude to any stubbornness on his part. Day-Lewis brings always this undercurrent of warmth about Johnny that shows so well the intended good nature of the man despite the nature of the rest of the crowd around him as well as his past.

Now the progression of the main story comes in as Omar brings in Johnny to help him run a laundromat that is owned by Omar's family. The two go about renovating the place to turn it into truly a beautiful laundrette. Within that setup the two's relationship progresses more, and again the two's chemistry is notable. There is a playfulness at times, and just something so inherent about the love the two have for each other that works so well. I love that Day-Lewis and Warnecke are able to keep it an often unspoken yet always understandable relationship between the two. Although the two have that connection not everything is easy due to the complications of the past and present around them. Johnny's own past is complicated due to certain fascist leanings of the past, and Day-Lewis is very moving as he so subtly reveals the remorse in Johnny as he apologizes for his old mistakes. Day-Lewis also excels in his still quiet yet rather powerful depiction of Johnny's personal struggle in terms of dealing with his old gang and the rest of Omar's family. Day-Lewis adds so much in this aspect to the character largely through just small reactions. In terms of the relationships with the rest of Omar's family Day-Lewis brings the right distance, but also eagerness in manner to be a man who wants to do right by them despite not being one of them. One scene I love in particular is when Johnny interacts with Omar's father, and we instantly see through their interactions that the two also have shared history as Day-Lewis exudes a sense of respect. Respect does not define all the relationships especially with Omar's cousin Salim, a drug dealing criminal with little care for anyone besides himself. This forces Johnny to consider his place between his old friends, and Omar and the other Pakistanis. Day-Lewis conveys wholly the complexity of Johnny's difficulty in dealing with his separate loyalties, and again very little of it is said bluntly. However when Johnny goes about helping the obnoxious Salim it is absolutely convincing as Day-Lewis has only made the gradual transition of the character a genuine one. As Day-Lewis performances and characters go this is rather unassuming yet no less remarkable. Day-Lewis gives understated yet magnetic performance. I found that even when the film stumbled a bit Day-Lewis kept me engaged through his always compelling work here.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1985: Ian Holm in Dreamchild

Ian Holm did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Charles Dodgson more famously known as Lewis Carroll in Dreamchild.

Dreamchild is a curious film that covers parts of the early and later life of Alice Liddell, the girl who was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland.

Dreamchild tells its story in a jumbled fashion as it jumps around from the younger Alice, the older Alice, a reporter hoping to get a good story out of her, and a few fantasy moments depicting sequences from Alice in Wonderland itself. We are given glimpses of Ian Holm's portrayal of the author of that novel, Charles Dodgson, who was more famously known by his pen name Lewis Carroll. We never see through Dodgson's eyes throughout the story, and the film seems to purposefully keep a distance from the man. He has few spoken line, as Holm is often silent. There are  times where it seems a pivotal line is coming in terms of explaining the character, yet the film stops just before verbalizing an exact understanding of Dodgson. The character seems left in Ian Holm's hands, and much of the film relies on what he is able to do within the confines set against him which are quite extreme. Dodgson is a ghost in the film, not literally but rather the memories of himself always haunt Alice in the future as she ponders the past. This idea is how we first see Dodgson as he is in and around Alice's life due to Dodgson being one of the lecturers at Christ Church, where Alice's father was the dean.

Holm is a performer who can indicate a great deal without directly revealing himself either as seen formerly in Alien. The brilliance of Holm's work begins with the very image he crafts of Dodgson as a man. The manner Holm takes is striking as there is something inherently withdrawn about his work. Even when he is not trying to communicate Holm effortlessly realize a difficulty in this regard through through the often closed off spirit that Holm exudes in the man. Holm alludes to a painful life in Dodgson as a man who is almost forced into an inherent awkwardness due to the standards of society. Holm is a naturally compelling performer, and that is readily apparent in these glimpses of Dodgson we are given. There is something truly fascinating about Holm's work as he succeeds in creating this sense of unease when we see him, and even by the notion of him. This is not to say this is some sort of horror based performance, it's not, but rather Holm is able to wordlessly inflict the anxiety within the unknown. This unknown being connected to the way the elderly Alice views the man, but also the way we view him since we can only ever see him through her eyes.

The complexity of this relationship is never simplified by Holm's performance, and that sense of discontent does not define Holm's work. Quite the opposite as early on there is a scene where Dodgson entertains Alice and her sisters by regaling one of his stories that would eventually become Alice in Wonderland. Holm in the moments of storytelling reveals an abundance of warmth and a sense of Dodgson calling upon something rather special within him to tell these stories. There is a tenderness about the man Holm brings to these words, but also a comfort in one's self. When Holm speaks these words there is this firm belief in them, and in the moment that unease about the man fades. Holm conveys this through the way he depicts Dodgson living through the stories in his mind while he regales them to the children. What would make Dodgson, Lewis Carroll,  a world renowned figure is realized so gently by Holm. That inspiration that created Wonderland seems something fluid in Holm's performance, which gives understanding to the eventual perspective of the man in the greater public eye.

The film stays closer in the private eye of Alice though as she spends time going over her memories in an apparent attempt to decipher the man. Holm is flawless in crafting this difficult perception of the man as he interacts with the little girl. Holm does not falter in terms of maneuvering the conflicting view of the character. The unease of the man seems to come with the man being potentially a pedophile, who is lusting after Alice. Holm glares towards her reflect a definite desire yet he does not allow one to condemn the man so easily, since he does explicitly note the desire. In those sames eyes Holm is able to suggest a certain enchantment of man who only sees a kindred spirit within the child's innocence. When one watches Holm one can also see the somberness of a lonely man, who cannot be exactly who he is. Again this could be a man hiding from society because what he hides is something disturbing, or a man of a purer nature than what society allows for. Holm enablesthis duplicity of view yet he never enforces it precisely. It's fascinating work since Holm doesn't just switch his performance in a Rashomon sort of way, he presents one man exactly as he is, and leaves it to us to see who he is. At the same time this never feels an inarticulate or vague performance, Holm knows who the man is and only ever shows us that man. It's astonishing what he is able to do since he is able to be off putting while we are still able to emphasize with the man. There is an incredible scene for Holm when Dodgson asks Alice about marriage. He doesn't finish his question. Holm in this is a lusty old man propositioning a girl, but also heartbreaking as man wishing a girl to hold on to the innocence he found so special. There are few scenes where Alice lashing against Dodgson since he never explains his intentions clearly to her either. Holm allows you to see it as a creepy man getting his comeuppance in a second, then again he seems like a broken boy who just bullied by one of his few friends. This is outstanding work by Ian Holm as he matches the challenge of the role, by making a challenging character for the audience.  Holm realizes an enigmatic yet profound portrait fitting to the mystery of the man that Lewis Carroll was.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1985: Roddy McDowall in Fright Night

Roddy McDowall did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Peter Vincent in Fright Night.

Fright Night is rather enjoyable horror film about a teenager Charley (William Ragsdale) suspecting that his new neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire.

Fright Night is not a by the numbers vampire movie due to the sense of humor it has about the subject with the characters in the film having seen other vampire movies. This element is perhaps best represented by Roddy McDowall who plays Peter Vincent, his names stemming from horror actors Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, a former horror movie actor turned horror TV host. Of course Peter Vincent unlike his namesakes isn't a very good actor as shown in the brief clips we see of his films shown on TV, as Roddy McDowall does some extreme slices of ham fitting for a terrible actor in the genre. We do not meet Peter Vincent in person until later in the film when Charley seeks some sort of expert in the field vampires in order to expose Jerry. Unfortunately that expert is Peter Vincent, who has just been fired from being host of the show. McDowall sets the tone well for his performance from his first scene as Peter outside of the television, so to speak. McDowall is rather entertaining as he plays Peter in a bit of a self loathing daze as he first assumes Charley is just a fan wanting an autograph, until his hilarious break in his mindset when Charley states he's interested in something else.

McDowall just adjusts throughout the scene so well as he portrays Peter's inability to exactly decipher how to interact with Charley. First as McDowall brings all the fluster of a proper actor's ego as he states that he's been fired due to low ratings. This suddenly changes when Charley pledges his belief in vampires, and McDowall's face light up so wonderfully as Peter believes he knows a true fan. McDowall has this dissolve into the best sort of confusion and fear as Charley makes it known that his belief is real. Despite Peter's hasty exit he is brought back into the situation by Charley's friends Amy (Amanda Bearse) and "Evil" Ed (Stephen Geoffreys), who want to use Peter as a method to prove to Charley that Jerry isn't a vampire. McDowall is once again a joy as Peter tries to put on the act of the true actor who just wants to move on from his experience, making it all the funnier in his snap delivery in accepting the assignment when offered a 500 dollar saving bond for his trouble. This leads Peter to go with the trio to set things "straight", with Peter going full costumed as a true vampire hunter.

This leads to a very enjoyable scene for McDowall as he plays it with such pride with Peter Vincent as a man finally in his element. McDowall is quite charming in the scene as he has Peter giving a bit of a show, for the money he has been payed, as Peter goes about "proving" Jerry is not a bloodsucker through a test. After the test though, Peter accidentally discovers Jerry's true nature through a mirror, and McDowall's surprised reaction is pure gold as the confidence of before disintegrates in an instance. After this point the film proceeds to its final somewhat darker act, and a bit of a challenge is presented to McDowall in terms of maintaining the right tone with his performance. McDowall succeeds in seeding in a few of the dramatic moments into his performance in a natural fashion. McDowall is rather affecting before the final battle, as the full extent of Peter's self loathing appears as refuses to help Charley.

That makes when he finally comes to Charley's aid all the more powerful, as McDowall earns the change through the way he shows Peter trying to build up his confidence. I love the way McDowall approaches this as an actor striving hard to stay in character as he even keeps reminding himself that he's a vampire hunter. The most remarkable moment for McDowall though is when he watches the death of one of the monsters. McDowall is surprisingly moving in the moment as reveals the empathy in Peter for the poor creature as it writhes in pain. Now the rest of his work is less serious minded in the finale.  McDowall never undercuts the intensity of the situation yet still manages to earn plenty of laughs through his very amusing reactions throughout the fight. I love how McDowall is constantly playing with Peter's act occasionally being the killer he needs to be, but more often a scaredy-cat just barely making it through. I must admit I really enjoyed this performance by Roddy McDowall. McDowall finds just the right touch for the movie and never slips in terms of treading the fine line of the dark yet humorous material.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1985: John Lone in Year of the Dragon

John Lone did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Joey Tai in Year of the Dragon.

Year of the Dragon tells the story of a police Captain Stanley White (Mickey Rourke) trying to take down the organized crime within Chinatown in New York.

Year of the Dragon does not work as a film, though it is not a standard failure. Its problems largely stem from the parts of the film focusing on our "hero" played by Rourke. The set up is already strange because it seems the character was suppose to be far older than Rourke was, judging by the grey hair they gave him. This side of the story fails, aside from a few directorial touches by Michael Cimino. This in part in its inability to tell one story, or at the very least balance its various facets well. It seems like it might be a Scarface style gangster film, then others possibly a more serious minded one. At others it seems like it might be trying to be a straight one man's revenge type thriller. It also throws in a misguided romance which could never have succeeded due to the atrocious performance by Ariane Koizumi as the Asian reporter Stanley gets involved with. It also includes in there one man dealing with his racism which seems like just a footnote put into the end of the film in an attempt to balance some of the remarks made by Stanley. There is yet another portion of the film though which is the best part of the film, which stars John Lone.

Now I wish I could say that John Lone borders on being co-lead since the film would be better if that were the case. Actually I wish I could say that John Lone merely was the sole lead to the film as it could have potentially been a great film that focused on the rise of power of this criminal in the Chinese underworld. Instead we get glimpses of this story, which more often than not seem oddly detached from the police Captain's story, yet these glimpses are still the high points of the film. John Lone plays Joey Tai who we meet early on when Stanley goes to try to intimidate those in power in Chinatown. Lone brings the needed intensity to the moment as he eyes daggers back at Stanley as he makes his accusations which the men deflect. Lone finds nuance in this moment and is very effective in the way he portrays Tai analyzing Stanley in the moment seemingly determining whether or not he will be a threat to him. Lone is terrific in this scene as he manages to give Joey Tai a definite presence this early on even before he does much of anything, but makes it clear he will have an impact as the film proceeds forward.

After that scene Lone is rarely in scenes that directly engage with the main story, which is a good thing for Lone. These scenes focus upon Tai as he attempts to ensure deals go down, as well as increase his control over Chinatown. These things theoretically could have been more simplistic as basically a villain setting up his villainy so to speak, but that's not what happens due to Lone. A lot of these scenes showcase just how good of an actor Lone is, especially in the scenes of negotiating with other criminal elements. Lone carries himself so well again because he never forces Tai to just be a standard gangster stereotype. Lone exudes the confidence needed for the role as Tai goes face to face with various other dangerous men, and the power of the man is made into a fact by Lone's assured work. Lone never defines these scenes one way such as when he speaks with the Italian mob. Lone is subtly able to give the sense of Tai considering his actions before he takes them alluding to just a hint of apprehension before going for the throat to get what he desires. Lone earns the confidence of the character by building to it in these scenes, and portraying a growth in Tai to a "better" criminal in these scenes.

Lone never wastes his screentime, I particularly love sequence where he meets with a military group in Asia. In the scene the men try to force him to kill someone who he he shares a history with. Lone says a great deal in the silence of the moment brilliantly suggesting the past between the two men as he avoids the murder. The most remarkable element of this scene is that Lone manages to pivot in the scene to Tai revealing he had another man decapitated who was one of is competitors. Lone shows this side of Tai as the cutthroat businessman who will do what it takes to secure his interests. Lone is quite menacing through this approach in any of the scenes where Tai orders violence to be carried out. Lone does not portray it as a maniacal villain, but rather is quite chilling by presenting him as a man just meticulously removing obstacles out of his path. When Tai orders a murder, Lone does not yell the order, he calmly orders it as though it is a standard transaction. The film technically undercuts all that Lone is doing by having him just be a straight villain to be defeated by ending the film in a gunfight between Tai and Stanley. To Lone's credit he does not compromise avoiding going over the top even as he gets into a duel on a train track. Lone even goes out on a high note by finding a modicum of actual humanity in the character as Tai somberly asks Stanley for an easier way out. Lone delivers beyond the call of duty by giving a compelling portrait of an ambitious gangster, when it seems the film would have probably settled for just a one note bad guy.