Saturday, 25 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Robert Mitchum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular Eddie "Fingers" Coyle in The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a terrific film, finding the tone Killing Them Softly failed to find in adapting this film's source material's followup, about an intersecting group of criminals centering around an old small time crook

Robert Mitchum plays the lead role of Eddie Coyle, though this is technically a smaller leading role, he's lead but the film spends ample time with the other people within the crime world Eddie is associated with. Mitchum though is the center point for a reason in his depiction of Eddie Coyle, which is a performance that must be stated that it is brilliant from the get go then dissect why. Again Robert Mitchum is not constantly front and center in the film, and what he does is so much within his performance it is something truly remarkable. Now in Mitchum first scene we have him meet one of his first associates and it's incredibly what Mitchum does here. Mitchum very much embraces his age in the role, and never tries to hide it. In fact he quite embraces, amplifying it even by wearing these hard years within himself. He doesn't create a falsehood in this regard, as he does not attempt to try to show this old timer whose really tougher than all these young ins, which I'm sure Mitchum could have pulled off. Mitchum though instead far more effectively reveals who Eddie is, which is an old manstill in the criminal life.

Mitchum just is this old Boston crook, with a great Boston accent by the way, and takes it so much further from there. In that initial scene, although his face says the truth, now Mitchum shows Eddie's attempt to be more than he is but it is only an attempt. As he describes where his little moniker comes from there is this strained attempt at being some man he may have been in the past, or might not have been in reality. There's a real sadness hidden within Mitchum's work as he attempts to express this confidence of real tough within a man who has lived a hard life yet that is still meaningless within the world he lives in. Mitchum never focuses upon a single emotion and that is part of the incredible nuance in his performance though. As even in this exchange with one of his associates, even as he's trying to act tough in a way, Mitchum though even conveys just the right bit of history with still the right kind of comfort speaking to someone who he's known for awhile, he realizes this aspect so well throughout the film with every one of Eddie's "friends".

Mitchum creating the actual sense of any camaraderie to the other criminals he associates with is pivotal since it makes the story all the crueler for Eddie. The reason for that being that Eddie is an informant, aiding ATF agent Dave Foley (Richard Jordan) in taking down his various friends in an attempt to try to avoid his prison sentence of at least two years. Mitchum is amazing in the role though in every one of his scenes with Jordan because of how much he reveals about in Eddie in these scenes. As when it seems like Foley might be able to help him Mitchum projects a pride in Eddie, putting up again a certain front to try to be more than he is. Mitchum though again creates a duality in this as there is a weakness in this pride, the effort behind that can be felt which is purposeful in Mitchum's work. As Mitchum shows Eddie basically trying to convince himself he's doing the right thing by giving these bits of information out, Mitchum manages to create empathy within Eddie despite his actions seeming largely selfish in nature.

We are given a glimpse of Eddie at home with his wife and kids. Mitchum actually very good in these scenes by just being so straight forward in presenting Eddie as just a nice father and husband no more, no less. Mitchum though importantly does show exactly that Eddie does have something he cares about. Furthermore Mitchum, when Foley demands more information or fails to really provide any real benefit for the information that Eddie provides him. Mitchum again is excellent in never simplifying the emotional reaction which further helps to explain the man. Mitchum grants the expected frustrations towards Foley as he gets nothing in return but he also does reveal a real pain in Eddie as he speaks about giving up his friends who trust him. There's an outstanding moment late in the film where Eddie approaches Foley with an additional bit of information that will lead to the arrest of more of his friends. In the approach Mitchum presents the struggle and sense of self-loathing in his hesitant delivery. This makes it all the more torturous when Foley coldly reveals that the information is useless since the men have already been arrested. 

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, in great detail, shows the methods of the criminals as they undergo long lengths to commit their crimes in almost a French Connection style and also reveals that there is no honor among anyone in the organization. In turn Eddie's story is not one about redemption, or overcoming the odds to get out. It's about the last days of crook who never really made it anywhere, and no one truly cares about all that much. This sad truth is within the entirety of Mitchum's performance though again with only the weak attempts to create some sort of rationalization that he's more than he is, and will have an actual future. At the end of the film though Eddie run out of options, since he doesn't really have anyone else to turn in, and Mitchum reveals the palatable despair in Eddie as he no longer can create any delusions. What I love again though is the film never stops exactly to tells us about Eddie's state it so effortlessly within Mitchum's work. There is one particularly powerful moment near the end of the film where Eddie ponders about the promise in the future of a young Hockey player. Eddie does not speak about himself yet Mitchum is heartbreaking by in his face expressing that self-reflection of a man who knows he's essentially wasted his life.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now

Donald Sutherland did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying John Baxter in Don't Look Now.

Don't Look Now is an effective horror film about a husband and wife dealing with strange events after the drowning of their young daughter.

Well once again returning to Donald Sutherland in a leading role and once again curiously dealing with a role in which his character is dealing with the death of his child due to drowning. Sutherland, despite his character dealing with a very similar tragedy as his work in Ordinary People, did not simply give a repetition of this performance in that later film. A pivotal reason for this is where we come into the tragedy. In Ordinary People much time has past and the focus is upon dealing with this surviving son. That's not the intention of Don't Look Now as the film opens with drowning where Sutherland's John Baxter senses something is wrong, but fails to rescue his daughter in time. Now that scene alone is a harrowing moment in Sutherland's performance as he reflects the intensity and rawness of grief first realized. The film though then switches to the couple in Vienna a short time later where John is working to help restore an old Church.

Sutherland's approach in the succeeding scenes is particularly effective in the way he presents the grief of John. Sutherland often times on the most exterior surface of his performance will deliver his lines as though there is nothing wrong, and when doing his work in particular Sutherland offers a man attempting to go forward with his life. What makes this remarkable though is the way Sutherland in no way hides the grief in that he is able to portray a man trying to get along with life best he can. Of course Sutherland does show that is not really the truth in his own performance. That intensity even found in the first scene, though no longer overt is still apparent as Sutherland instead internalizes as part of what John is. Although Sutherland does not always direct the sorrow, the sorrow is always apparent. Sutherland shows that John does not wear it particularly well. John does not say what is wrong, even tries to act like there isn't anything wrong at times, but Sutherland keeps that loss alive within his performance even when it is not focused upon.

Sutherland shows that John is acting as though he is attempting move on in some way which is against his wife Laura (Julie Christie) who becomes easily fascinated when a blind woman who claims to be able to see their a daughter. Sutherland excels in these moments as he finds the right complexity within John's state and further shows that it is less a state of attempting to move on but rather a state of denial. The way Sutherland works this is very natural in it difficulty, in that he even makes John's occasional humorous moments a little difficult to take as there is still this innate sadness in even these moments. When he is forced to more directly relive this tragedy due to the "psychic's" communications with his wife. Sutherland is excellent in his realization of the man's pain through the mix of emotion he shows. There's the moment where he tries to move his wife past it and in that moment Sutherland brings that attempt to sort of close himself off from the problem. When she keeps engaging with the blind woman though Sutherland grants a passive aggression in his performance suggesting an anger in John at being reminded of his loss so directly.

In this we also see John's relationship with his wife. Sutherland and Christie are interesting together as they bring this right sort of detached chemistry. In that the two do suggest there was a clear loving relationship between the two as there are a few moments of warmth of two old lovers, as well as that sex scene, which seems even more famous than the film itself, and there's a reason for that. In those moments though they bring the right connection at times, but so often that is not their relationship. At the other times, particularly when Laura listens to the medium, they do well to provide that contrast in view and reaction to their mutual loss. They in turn manage to effectively realize that towards their interactions which are not always loving. The regrets and problems stemming from their loss particularly on Sutherland's end when his delivery or reaction can often be short if not wholly cold towards Christie. Sutherland again excels so much in terms of truly defining the way the grief defines John's state in the film. Sutherland's brilliant because he gives that man who is trying so hard to keep it together yet this only results in a certain self-inflicted torture. 

Of course Don't Look Know is a horror film, and Sutherland's work is also essential to the film's success in this regard, as he becomes the sole lead for the last third of the film after Christie's Laura apparently goes home to England.  John though believes he sees her still in Venice attending a funeral, and he goes off to try to find her. Now the pivotal part of Sutherland's performance is that he does not allow these scenes not to only be a showcase for Nicholas Roeg's atmospheric direction. Sutherland is never lost within these scenes and is particularly moving in portraying the intensity of fear in John as he searches for her. The unease and anxiety is palatable through Sutherland as he helps create this sense of dread through his honesty of his performance. Sutherland also plays the role as a man truly going through these strange events which makes these scenes all the more off-putting. Sutherland internalizes the instability of being in the strange place and that haunted quality as John struggles to find an answer to his question. Sutherland never forgets the crux of his character which is the loss of his daughter, which becomes all the more prevalent as John keeps seeing a strange figure in the same rain coat that his daughter died in. Sutherland portrays the unexpressed sorrow revealing itself as he looks upon the figure, and is heart wrenching by gradually revealing the extent of his suffering as John attempts to learn the nature of figure. Donald Sutherland's work here is key to the success of the film which slowly gets under your skin. Sutherland is never in a "genre" film so to speak. He gives an intimate and powerfully honest performance that makes the horror within the film all the more chilling.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye

Elliott Gould did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye.

The Long Goodbye is a terrific neo noir by Robert Altman that modernizes private detective Philip Marlowe.

Elliot Gould after his breakout in the late 60's found himself in a career slump due to his behavior on the set of the film that eventually became What's Up Doc, and I would imagine his performance in Ingmar Bergman's The Touch did not help matters. Robert Altman though cast him here as Philip Marlowe which seems like a rather curious casting choice on paper. The role of Philip Malowe is usually reserved for tough guy actors like Humphrey Bogart, James Garner, James Caan, and even later on in the seventies Robert Mitchum. This is not a traditional representation of the role though, and not simply because it was given a contemporary setting. The film opens not with Marlowe taking care of a case but rather dealing with his cat who has gotten hungry in the middle of the night. This Marlowe lives in a lonely apartment but with a group of frequently nude hippie women live across the way from him. Don't take that as a glamorous setting because it's really not.

Marlowe, after attempting and failing to find the right cat food, still doesn't get a case just request to drive his friend Terry, who claims to have fought with his wife, to Tijuana. Gould casting suddenly starts to make sense as this is not the Marlowe of Bogart, and I'd say may have influenced Doc Sportello of Inherent Vice. Gould does not seem like a fit for a tough guy, and his performance isn't as a tough guy. The thing is he isn't separate entirely from the character either, he is Philip Marlowe but entirely Elliott Gould's Philip Marlowe. To explain, Gould's performance is not without the traits of Marlowe, and what is set up around the character. As required of a P.I. in the forties he smokes in basically every scene, and he always wears a suit. Again those features of Marlowe though not exactly Gould's performance per se. Gould's performance feels as though he is a Marlowe though is perhaps more of as an actual private detective rather than the hero of a detective novel.

That is not to say that this what one would charge as a "realistic" performance, not that it is fantastical though. Gould gives us perhaps the Marlowe of being in the life as he is and would be in as a private detective. Gould's delivery often is curious yet intriguing to the character in as he drifts out of conversations with those who really are not interested in him all that much. It's something brilliant though in this and the way Gould plays it. In that maybe the tough guy Marlowe might say similair things and seem "cool", the way Gould suggests perhaps a certain loneliness in this act as thought he man's life is made of these cursory interactions. Of course Marlowe has his time when he does get a bit more attention, where he fits in the role as the protagonist of a film noir. That begins as the cops come by the question Marlowe about the disappearance of his friend who asked for the ride, and the brutal death of that man's wife.

As Marlowe is arrested, on a trumped up charge, we are given a Marlowe perhaps more in his element as he deals with the police. Gould is rather hilarious in this scene as he kind of talks around the cops and makes fun of them for their severe attitude. Again though there something genius in how Gould approaches this in again he is the film noir hero, but he's also not at all. This is also apparent in his scenes where he deals with a strange vicious criminal Augustine (Mark Rydell) and his gang who wants money that was being kept by Terry which Augustine thinks was given to Marlowe. Gould seems to fulfill kind of the typical way of acting above those interrogating him and trying to menace him. As typical he's pretty calm and collected, kind of above it all while showing a certain disdain towards them. Gould even fulfills the requirement in that he's indeed rather enjoyable to watch in these scenes, but all of it is not truly in the normal way. Instead of being the master of the room, Gould plays it somewhat adrift as someone really would come across as who is not taking such a situation seriously. It is so different yet it still absolutely works.

That also is again not how Gould plays every scene as the detective, he carefully only plays scenes that way when technically the situation is a waste of time for Marlowe. We are also given scenes where we actually see him in action such as when he is hired to find a writer, Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden), by the man's wife Eileen Wade. Marlowe quickly finds the husband at a shady detox center, and even sneaks in to help the man escape. These scenes are actually a brilliant bit of directing by Altman, though Gould is important within them. Altman though directs them in this purposefully kind of low key way while Gould portrays more of that assertiveness of behavior that would be more fitting to more of closeups with some more pronounced edits. Marlowe saves the man and it soon becomes as though there is no mystery to anyone besides Marlowe. Here's kind of a part of the key of Gould's whole performance that makes it take a step further than it might have been as this approach could've been parody but it's not. It's something truly fascinating.

Gould again is adrift in those meaningless, to him, interrogation scenes but he's not that way towards the mystery that involves people that Marlowe does care about. Gould does bring this palatable undercurrent of an emotional connection there. When he quizzes Wade's wife on knowing more than she acts as though she does, there is a severity in his voice, and Gould makes Marlowe as someone who cares. There is something even more to this as again he's being the film noir hero, but this takes on yet another purpose that is surprisingly poignant. In that Gould again shows that Marlowe does care and the way he does, while no one else seems to, is made rather moving even. The performance in a way I found to be covert in its emotional impact. Now it was already an entertaining engaging work, but it's more. There's an incredible scene that closes the film where Marlowe finally "solves his problem". It is very cathartic moment as Gould attaches the emotion within that goes beyond just getting the villain so to speak. Gould reflects a further attachment of the personal betrayal involved but also the satisfaction of essentially being truly "Philip Marlowe". What Gould does here is this remarkable contradiction of a characterization. In that Gould has the features of that noir detective, Philip Marlowe. He's in the seventies though, and he's not exactly as everyone else should be yet he feels entirely natural to himself because of Gould's work. Gould never falls into caricature, but makes sense of this contradiction of character. This is such daring work that absolutely succeeds in terms of creating something completely new out of something old. I loved this performance.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973

And the Nominees Were Not:

Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now

Robert Shaw in The Hireling

Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye

Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1947: Louis Jouvet in Quai des Orfèvres

Louis Jouvet did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Inspector Antoine in Quai des Orfèvres.

Quai des Orfèvres is a very effective mystery film, though in actuality it is more a comedy of errors than a thriller.

The veteran French actor Louis Jouvet does not enter the film until about halfway through. That first half focuses on the difficult relationship between an incredibly flirtatious singer Jenny (Suzy Delair) and her jealous husband Maurice (Bernard Blier). We see the two going back and forth as Maurice constantly threatens the men Jenny is flirting with them though she is completely devoted to him. Complications ensue though when one of the men, a sleazy photographer, turns up dead. This is made more complex by the married couple having separately visited the murdered man's house, and made even more complicated by Jenny's photographer friend Dora (Simone Renant), with an obvious crush on her, also visiting the crime scene. This leads Inspector Antoine to come in to attempt clear everything up despite the three doing their best to cover their tracks. Jouvet appears and this is great example of an old pro just going to town with some great material. That is to say Jouvet wastes no time in stealing the show.

Jouvet is exceptional as he sets up his whole character in his first scene as Antoine is informed of the crime. Antoine takes a moment to check on his adopted son before leaving. Jouvet's brilliant in just this slight interaction we are given with his son throughout these scenes as he grants such a rich history of the inspector with his son. Jouvet captures this sense of haplessness with his son, as well as this attempt at any sort of discipline in these interactions as he talks about his son's trouble with geography. Jouvet shows this perfect sort of appreciation if what he has, even though he also shows the inspector being perhaps slightly out of his element in this regard. Beneath all of it is such this sweet warmth that Jouvet exudes in almost this indirect way. This is the major personal element we are given on the inspector and Antoine makes the most of it. He humanizes the inspector far past the confines of the case or the confines of this supporting role. Jouvet makes this whole aspect of his character so very endearing while adding an extra layer to his character.

Of course the primary role of the Inspector is to solve the case and in this way Jouvet is again brilliant. Jouvet here reminded of the very best turns of this nature like say Morgan Freeman in Seven, Jouvet is just fascinating to watch as he works the case. The way Jouvet maneuvers every scene he is in is something in itself. I just love the physical presence of his work here as he dominates by almost being exactly where he shouldn't be. I have particular affection for Jouvet's stone face whenever Antoine appears from behind a doorway as though he's Frankenstein's monster. As the Inspector works the case though we are also granted a bit of his philosophy towards his profession. Jouvet delivers this certain acerbic tone even rather humorous as he ponders about the long list of costs to solve the murder for basically who was seen as an undesirable by most. What's best though is the way Jouvet shows that Antoine uses it to manipulate the situation, as Jouvet excels in his reactions in these moments as though he's watching to see guilt by supporting his own cynicism.

Jouvet is so good as he illustrates the technique of the Inspector in every scene as he goes about interrogating each of the principals to get to the bottom of the murder. Jouvet brings this elegance to his method as he shows the Inspector always switching things up so carefully. Jouvet often delivers a comedic moment, and plays it as though Antoine is speaking to a innocent person to get them to open up a bit more. Jouvet though makes it almost a dance of sorts the way he so seems to be playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. Jouvet's delivery and reactions are truly remarkable in the way they do establish the incisiveness of Antoine. Jouvet portrays that Antoine does need to figure things out himself, but in front of the suspects he is always the one in charge. As he'll make a joke then suddenly switch to speaking of the severity of crimes actually, and Jouvet makes his intensity particularly effective by the way he springs it on the suspects as well as we the viewers. His work is excellent in the way he actually becomes a more than a little menacing by realizing this technique so effortlessly. I find Jouvet outdoes any Poirot of any kind in the final scenes of the film as Antoine fixes everything. Jouvet again tears through the scenes making it absolutely convincing that Antoine will get his man/woman in the end. Jouvet though goes even further to offer this touch of a philosophy though presenting again just the right hint of warmth. Jouvet's absolutely charming, in his own unusual way of course, as he makes final interrogation though this time offering such a genuine sympathy as he finally gets the truth. This is an amazing performance by Louis Jouvet as he steals the film wholesale though with such ease and grace as his atypical Inspector Antoine.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1973 Lead

Friday, 17 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Results

5. Orson Welles in The Lady From Shanghai - Welles's accent is more than a little problematic but he's good when he's silent.

Best Scene: Hall of mirrors.
4. Claude Rains in The Unsuspected - Rains is an easy highlight of the film giving an effectively diabolical performance explaining his villain even as the film fails to do.

Best Scene: A final broadcast.
3. Isao Numasaki in One Wonderful Sunday - Numasaki gives a moving and very honest depiction of just a man going through the ups and downs of a normal day.

Best Scene: At home breakdown.
2. Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley - Power proves himself quite the capable actor in a far more daring role than usual creating the right captivating presence as the performer then the right amoral hollowness as the man.

Best Scene: Cold reading a hobo. 
1. Pierre Fresnay in Monsieur Vincent - Fresnay gives a brilliant performance as he manages to humanize yet still embodies a saint.

Best Scene: Vincent thinks on his faults. 
Updated Overall

Next: Review of Louis Jouvet in Quai des Orfèvres which is when I'll update supporting as well.

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Orson Welles in The Lady From Shanghai

Orson Welles did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Michael O'Hara in The Lady From Shanghai.

The Lady From Shanghai is an effective and visually stunning film noir, though like Citizen Kane Welles could've told some of his actors to tone it down a bit, about an Irishman who falls into a strange web of corrupt people by taking a job from a rich lawyer due to his fascination with the man's wife.

After watching Welles's version of Macbeth and now this film I've come to conclusion that Welles and foreign accents aren't exactly chocolate and peanut butter. As with his Shakespearean adaptation he takes upon a thick brogue this time an Irish one. As was his Scottish accent in Macbeth, the accent itself is a bit much, but what is worse is the way it attempts to hide Welles's naturally impressive voice. It creates this odd squishy sound of sorts as he tries to plug his normal voice with his attempt at an Irish accent. You know I always write that I don't mind accent too much unless they are so bad that they are distracting. Well, here an example of that. It's is made worse that Welles also narrates the film with his Irish brogue and it doesn't sound good. The reason being Welles always sounds as though he is putting on this curiously broad accent and unfortunately it is a sour point that it is the first thing we experience from his performance.

This is not a terrible performance though despite his  accent. O'Hara, despite narrating the film, is often a reactionary character within it. We follow him as he enters into this dark world of corrupt men by taking the job on the rich lawyer Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane)'s boat, due to having previously saved his wife Elsa (Rita Hayworth) from attackers. O'Hara most often observes the rich man, his wife, and the other strange people hanging around. Welles now non-verbally is very good in the role. Welles does well as he internalizes basically this strangeness in his performance through O'Hara as he watches these people. Welles speaks far more effectively when ,well, he does not speak. In this way Welles works well with himself as director in that he is careful to capture O'Hara's state within the pivotal moments which resonate far more than when he goes around speaking in his unnatural voice. Welles expresses the right unease as he interacts with or merely watches the very sleazy Bannister, but does equally well to convey the fascination O'Hara has with his enigmatic wife.

Welles does grant an understanding to O'Hara in mainly only his face and body language to the point that his narration perhaps was not even needed. Welles manages to create this sense of dismay towards basically the amorality presented by the situation, while giving  motivation to O'Hara staying where he is through the entrancement he reflects, rather understandably, to Hayworth's Elsa. Of course the creeps do not end at Bannister as he also meets the man's strange private detective George Grisby who comes to the man with a truly bizarre proposal to fake murder him. Again Welles's work, when he's not speaking, amplifies the atmosphere by offering O'Hara as possibly the only genuine person and portraying such honest confusion as he attempts to grasp the situation he is in. We are also given just a bit background where O'hara has killed before, in a war though, but Welles reflects the discomfort to being spoken of as a murderer when he felt the killing had been his duty. Everything eventually spins out of control when O'Hara finds himself caught in a plot he barely understands, and the final scenes are perhaps Welles's best work in the film. I suppose it helps that he doesn't say much, but he manages to make the ending resonate emotionally by powerfully revealing the sense of betrayal all within still a confused entrancement. Welles excels most in portraying the central "romance" since he realizes the complexity of the attraction to this woman who  This is a good performance, especially well used by Welles himself as the director, but with a less distracting accent I think it could have been a great one.