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.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1985

And the Nominees Were Not:

Ian Holm in Dreamchild

Ian Holm in Wetherby

Daniel Day-Lewis in My Beautiful Laundrette


Roddy McDowall in Fright Night

John Lone in Year of the Dragon

Alternate Best Actor 1985: Results

5. James Mason in The Shooting Party - James Mason delivers an affecting portrayal of an elderly aristocrat watching time pass him by, worthy to be his final leading cinematic turn.

Best Scene: A final prayer.
4. Aleksei Kravchenko in Come and See - Kravchenko gives a powerful portrayal of the loss of innocence and devastation of a young boy through the horrors of war.

Best Scene: Witnessing the massacre.
3. Griffin Dunne in After Hours - Dunne gives an often hilarious and always effective portrayal of a sane man dealing with insanity of a single night.

Best Scene: Paul's breakdown.
2. Eric Stoltz in Mask - Stoltz manages to not be overshadowed by the appearance of character, giving a moving yet never simplistic portrayal of the honest person behind the mask.

Best Scene: Fighting with his mother. 
1. Tatsuya Nakadai in Ran - Tatsuya Nakadai gives a masterful portrayal of his version of a formerly strong ruler, so powerfully realizing the man's descent into madness as his world fall apart around him.

Best Scene: The siege of the third castle. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1985 Supporting

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1985: Tatsuya Nakadai in Ran

Tatsuya Nakadai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hidetora Ichimonji in Ran.

Ran is a masterful loose adaptation of King Lear by Akira Kurosawa about the fallout from a warlord dividing his lands among his family.

Ran marks Tatsuya Nakadai's sixth collaboration with Akira Kurosawa, and his second in a leading role after Kagemusha. As with Kagemusha it is a role where it is easy to envision Kurosawa's former collaborator Toshiro Mifune in the part, Mifune supposedly was even the basis for the description of the character in the original script. Although it is easy to imagine Mifune in the film, which would have been a perfect sendoff for he and Kurosawa's samurai epics, the two apparently were not even on speaking terms at the time leaving us with Tatsuya Nakadai to take up the reigns once more. Luckily Tatsuya Nakadai is a rather talented chap himself. Nakadai was far younger than the character of the elderly Hidetora Ichimonji, leaving him to be heavily made up in the role, though judging by recent images of Nakadai that would still be necessary even if the film had been made to today in order to visualize a man worn away by time. The make up is there for more than to reflect the age of the character to begin with though, as it is reminiscent of the emotive masks of Japanese Noh theater, which makes the very image of Nakadai rather notable throughout the film.

Nakadai's own performance embraces the style of his appearance in the very exact movements of his character, that not only reflect the proper age of Hidetora, but also the Noh influence of his appearance.  There is a certain style within Nakadai's physical manner that carries the certain elegant movement as though it is a dance of sorts. Nakadai though utilizes this well as it feels natural within his performance yet it makes Ichimonji stand out at all times in the film. Nakadai through it creates just the right kind of detachment from his surroundings that he still seems fitting to them, yet is never engulfed by them, fitting for the man Hidetora who at the beginning of the film shaped the land around him. The early scenes are of course in "good times" as he hunts with his sons and two other warlords. Nakadai is effective in that he projects an innate warmth that seems to reflect a proper leader, but even in these early moments he reflects something just a bit off within this. This is not something overt but rather very subtle that Nakadai brings to his performance. This is pivotal to the development of the story and Hidetora as a character, as he leaves an early indication of where his mental state will go later in the film, but also that the man is not exactly the wise old loving father he projects to be.

Hidetora decides to break up his kingdom among his three sons, each granting them a castle, while he believes they will hold his realm together, and work as one. Nakadai delivers the speech with an affirm sentimental touch that shows Hidetora's narrow minded vision of the future, that could only be perfection given that he has envisioned it. His first two sons are more than accepting of the plan and their father's logic, but his third son, Saburo, defies his father by questioning this logic. Saburo reminds Hidetora that his own accomplishments have only come from personal brutality and mercilessness.  Hidetora's reaction is to exile Saburo and disown him, and Nakadai portrays the scene as an instinctual reaction from Hidetora. A moment Nakadai delivers as blunt anger as emotions rather than any sort of rational thought persuade him in his actions since his son not only questioned his wisdom, but also shattered his fantasy of what he's created with his life. Saburo though is sent off and Hidetora believes he will be fine in his retirement by dividing his time with his remaining two sons. Of course complications quickly develop from this as he stays with his elder son Taro.

The first complication stemming from Hidetora still believing him to be living in different world than he actually is. Nakadai is excellent by playing just a hint of insanity in Hidetora as he still behaves as the Lord supreme without a care in the world in what is now his son's castle, and does nothing to discourage his own men from mocking his son. The second complication comes from Taro's wife Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada) who seeks vengeance against Hidetora, since he destroyed and massacred her family. This leads to Taro attempting to inflict his own power over Hidetora and essentially set his father straight who now is in charge. Nakadai is once again brilliant in bringing out the intensity in Hidetora as his own view is once again broken, and all he is forced to do is lash out against it once more. Nakadai does not portray this as the same as against Saburo though, as Nakadai brings just a bit more vulnerability in this rage as he realizes that Taro never loved him. Hidetora is forced to leave and decides to go to his next son Jiro's castle. While Jiro's wife Lady Sue is forgiving for Hidetora's massacre of her family, which leaves a moving moment in Nakadai's performance as he eases out more weakness in the sadness he reveals as he sees her happiness despite what he has done, but Jiro is as ungrateful as Taro sending his father away once more.
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This leaves Hidetora to go to his third and final castle, which had been intended for Saburo, but his stay is short lived as Taro and Jiro's forces attack to evict him. The attack which involves the deaths of almost all of Hidetora's men, and the suicides as well as murders of the castle's concubines, is one of the greatest scenes ever crafted by Kurosawa. Nakadai is essential to the power of the sequence remaining finding the human loss at the center of it all, as Hidetora can only witness the death and destruction that he has inadvertently caused by his poor decisions. Nakadai is devastating in the sequence as his face seems to absorb all of violence and the strength the man once possessed fades. Nakadai is haunting as he realizes the pain that overwhelms Hidetora to the point that he has now found a new detachment in madness due to reality being too hard to bare. For much of the rest of the film Nakadai's performance is set though it carries no less of an impact in his portrayal of the shell Hidetora has become as a man lost in his own mind. This is opposed by other portrayals of King Lear's madness, however Nakadai's approach is incredibly affecting as his depiction of Hidetora is that of man barely holding on to the bit of life he has left. Hidetora stays in this state until he is finally reunited with Saburo, and Nakadai bring such a somber beauty as the old man finally can appreciate what he had. This too is dashed in a matter of seconds and Nakadai's final reaction is heartbreaking as he shows a man's soul vanish in an instance. This is a masterful portrait by Nakadai as a man as his own domain. The strength in the beginning, with faults hidden by bluster, to being torn from within to a husk of its former self, to finally being quietly snuffed out like a candle rather than a great blaze.