Sunday, 23 September 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1975: Results

4. Charles Bronson in Hard Times - Bronson fulfills the tough guy needs of the role, yet once again reveals his greater talent to exhibit a more powerful emotional side subtly within his portrayal of a man in desperate circumstances. 

Best Scene: Before the first fight.
3. Robert Mitchum in Farewell, My Lovely - Mitchum elevates his entire film, despite being too old for the part, he captures the style of the genre so effectively through his earnest yet intelligent approach towards the material. 

Best Scene: Waking up next to a corpse.
2. Maxim Munzuk in Dersu Uzala - Munzuk gives a wonderfully idiosyncratic turn that captures both the history of hardship as a man of the wilderness, but also an optimistic spirit that defines the man's success within it. 

Best Scene: Death of a tiger.
1. Richard Dreyfuss in Inserts - Richard Dreyfuss gives one of his best performances that uses his unique presence well to create a very particular state of a man completely spent by life at such a young age. 

Best Scene: Boy wonder directs the first time.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1975 Supporting, Note: I decided to move Ugo Tognazzi's review over to supporting. I have also seen In Celebration and Smile, and consider both to be ensemble films.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1975: Richard Dreyfuss in Inserts

Richard Dreyfuss did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying The Boy Wonder in Inserts.

Inserts comes off a bit like a play that wasn't adapted all that well, even though it isn't based on a play, but it does hold some interest at the very least as one of those 70's films that would only ever have been made in that decade.

One of the most intriguing facets of the film is the central performance by Richard Dreyfuss during his heyday as a rather young leading man. He fittingly plays a boy wonder here as well though in a different profession in the film industry. Here we find him as a director already left behind by the film industry, due to the transition to sound, leaving him to resort to making pornographic films in his large isolating mansion. Immediately to his credit is Dreyfuss's ability to be convincing in creating the very idea of the character. This being this young man who is already spent and more or less done with life. This weariness is wholly captured in his worn eyes, and whole physical demeanor that feels like that of a man who has stayed up all night for the past 10 years. One can feel tired just looking at Dreyfuss here as he makes this man who has wholly burned out that exudes from his very being at every moments he is onscreen. Although we don't know the exact journey that lead him down this place, though we do get a few details, Dreyfuss immediately creates a vivid sense of a long painful history that brought this boy wonder to a rather dark place.

Dreyfuss is an interesting performer with a natural energetic talent, even if it isn't always used perfectly, but this is just right for the boy wonder here. Dreyfuss is fascinating in that he manages to create both a man at the end of his rope, but still realize this idea of the wunderkind of Hollywood who has wasted away. This is through his very specific sort of exasperation that Dreyfuss realizes in his work that manages to wield that energetic style of his in a rather unique fashion. There is this inherent intensity that Dreyfuss finds in the souse director that are this embers of the brilliant talent. A certain unpleasant frigidity quality he brings even in that exhaustion. There is a burden in this that Dreyfuss is able to play into the part that makes the man seem especially uncomfortable in his state. Dreyfuss doesn't make it wholly natural, but instead rather directly atypical. He is not a man who has settled into his state of life. He is writhing within it that allows Dreyfuss to deliver this viciousness of a personality deep within his eyes that are never only glazed rather still piercing in their own way. He creates the sense of the man who is almost in this state of a madness created by his descent towards nothingness. 

There is more to the boy wonder than a husk, though not too much, which we see particularly through the other supporting characters of the film. Now on one end we have his relationships with the other men including his male "star" Rex (Stephen Davies) or his producer Big Mac (Bob Hoskins). In his relationships with the men there is a more overt derision that Dreyfuss portrays in every venomous delivery towards them. In these moments he accentuates a most powerful callousness that shows so well the boy's disregard for fellow "users" of the same industry where he's now applying his trade. Dreyfuss differs this subtly within his two "starlets" one former in the heroin addict Harlene (Veronica Cartwright) and later the potential newcomer Cathy Cake (Jessica Harper). With the former Dreyfuss and Cartwright are simply excellent together. In just a few minutes we quickly see their rotting relationship through their performances. There is a certain tenderness even sweetness the two brings in their interaction, even as one drinks towards death, and the other shoots up her arm towards the same fate. They create a warmth though even in this that suggests an older friendship even within this certain grotesque state of their current mutual rot as people.

Dreyfuss has one great moment early on with Cartwright where the boy wonder warns her about the drugs she's taking. Dreyfuss's tired delivery on the surface still shows the man beaten down by life, but deep within it is still an earnestness that reflects an honest concern still somewhere in the man. When she rather suddenly exits the picture Dreyfuss is again remarkable in creating the state of the man. Dreyfuss finds a callousness in his delivery as the boy wonder makes an obscene suggestion in regards to the news, yet again he underlays it with a quiet yet still palatable sadness deep within that reveals itself as this piercing anguish internalized in Dreyfuss's beaten down face. Now this a little bit different from his relationship with Cathy who is initially introduced to him as the girlfriend of Mac, and seems to have a strange interest in the concept of inserts. Dreyfuss initially brings the same disdain towards her initially until she begins to challenge him beyond what he expects. When her interest in him grows, and she begins to encourage his inspiration, in more ways than one, Dreyfuss slowly moves to this genuine interest along with almost a hint of hope at times. Of course this is a little separate, though effectively so, from when we see the boy wonder direct his "films". Dreyfuss is brilliant in these scenes where he does show a spark in the man, though specifically related to the act of directing. This is as he essentially embodies that ambition of a great director as Dreyfuss switches it on suggesting the man the boy once was. This too is unpleasant in its own, mostly due to the end result, though he is amazing as he one moment becomes the tender lover and another the vile sadist. In each though Dreyfuss is absolutely convincing in the success of the man, and in revealing the man in his purest state as a director. Dreyfuss though depicts these as only minor relapses though never wholly bringing the man out of his decay, powerfully showing the man is perhaps beyond recovery. Dreyfuss's work is consistently captivating as he makes use of his best qualities as a performer to craft quite the unique character as this man both bursting at the seams and dying inside.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1975: Maxim Munzuk in Dersu Uzala

Maxim Munzuk did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of Dersu Uzala.

Dersu Uzala follows the leader of a Russian army expedition, Arsenev, into the wilderness where he befriends a local hunter.

Dersu Uzala marks a little bit of a strange period for Akira Kurosawa. It is certainly was a period of rejuvenation after his unfortunate suicide attempt after the commercial failure of his previous post-Mifune endeavor. A strange circumstance though as Kurosawa collaborated with the Soviet government to develop this film which would eventually go on to win best foreign language film at the Oscars. A film not in Kurosawa's native Japanese but rather Russian. The film is rarely spoken of perhaps as it pre-dates his return to the epic of the masterworks of his 80's period, though perhaps better known than his quietly contemplative "retirement" films of the 90's. The film though is almost a mix of the two periods in a certain sense. In that the scale is very much of a grand filmmaker with gorgeous outdoor cinematography and remarkable sequences within that. The story, despite that scale, though is particularly intimate and rather relaxed, despite some tragic underpinnings. This is realized through the central characters of the expedition leader Arseney, and the man he meets in the expedition, of course the titular man played by Maxim Munzuk.

The role Dersu Uzala was intended for Toshiro Mifune by the Soviet film company, however it is said they were deterred from that pursuit as Mifune would likely have refused due to the nature of the shoot. I have a feeling though it may have run deeper due to the rift between the two former collaborators. Although it is easy to imagine Mifune in the role, we are given a very atypical lead then in Maxim Munzuk instead. He's a very curious man just in stature and appearance. The type of man you might find just randomly in Siberia, which is what happens in the film. Munzuk's performance very much embraces the idea by in no way trying to project some other style with his work. He instead works very much with the atypical nature of Dersu with his whole manner as a performer. There is a certain scurrying way he walks, his excessively energetic, though wholly earnest, delivery that creates this funny little man. A funny little man that is wholly endearing and honestly Munzuk makes us take to Dersu just as Arseney takes to him. Munzuk just creates such a wonderfully genuine quality within this manner, and just feels the truth of the man in every moment of this behavior. A behavior that evokes a varied, and perhaps harsh life though this is punctuated by an inherit optimism which makes Dersu so likable.

This is an example of a performance that is very much defined by its consistency. Munzuk does not veer off much from his general demeanor however this approach works in terms of creating a sense of who this man is. Munzuk shows that even in the most arduous of times, such as bearing a life-threatening blizzard, carries that endearing attitude. Munzuk holds the consistency as the manner of a man who has come to experience life his certain way. This is taking hardship in stride, and portraying only the utmost sincerity of appreciation towards friendship as an alleviation of that. We see this in his consistent relationship with Arseney as Munzuk only portrays this overarching gratitude and respect to the man. Munzuk delivers a warmth in every interaction making the friendship this purity that in part stems from the nature of the man. Munzuk brings enough of a vividness within this consistency that he makes Dersu not only likable but compelling in this state. He creates this sense of understanding of his surroundings as a man who has come to terms with his life very much through experience. This leads him to greatly help the expedition, but just thrive in the wilderness in general. The only element within the film that changes Dersu, which when this life experience is challenged in some way.

The first instance comes from this when Arseney scares away a Siberian tiger by shooting at it, unknowingly killing it as Dersu explains the tiger runs to its death once it is scared off. It is a fantastic moment in Munzuk's performance as he portrays his reaction as less of a direct anger towards Arseney but rather this palatable anguish withdrawn towards himself. An anguish he depicts as deeply emphatic as Munzuk says the words there is this almost fear in his eyes representing the man essentially seeing himself within the tiger and its strict attachment to nature, something he shares. This becomes all the more evident when the expedition ends and Arseney invites Dersu to stay with his family in the city. Where Munzuk portrayed that consistency of a man in his element, though certainly in his own unique way, in the wilderness, in the confines of a house he presents this inherent discomfort. I love though the warmth in interactions with Arseney and his family. He shows in his weary eyes a clear affection for the people around him, but as a man made ill by the city that forces him to live against his very nature. Munzuk effectively keeps this from seeming a negative by having so well established the particular nature of the man that is of, well...nature. The story in the end is tragic though the tragedy is founded by the accidental destruction of nature by a man with good intentions, as seen in the tiger and eventually Dersu. Again though this is no direct fault, and in turn Dersu's final scenes are bittersweet. They reflect a man just again being true to his self, that self that it is so wonderfully realized by this performance by Maxim Munzuk. Although I wouldn't place within the upper echelon of Kurosawa directed performances, it still stands as a memorable part of this charming curiosity.  

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1975: Robert Mitchum in Farewell, My Lovely

Robert Mitchum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely.

Farewell, My Lovely is a somewhat tepid, though not terrible, take on the Philip Marlowe mystery.

This film is a little strange within its period. It is a noir, but during the time of neo noirs. Unlike the other earlier Marlowe adaptation in the 70's, The Long Goodbye, which featured a subversion of the character and the whole idea of noir, this film plays it straight. Perhaps too straight in attempting to make the film as it probably would've been in the 40's or 50's, only with colored cinematography and the allowance of a bit more graphic content. The overall style though is that of a classic noir, which is a little strange for a 70's film. I would say this approach could have even lead to abject failure if not for one man. Well that brings me to my continued exploration into the career of the great Robert Mitchum. Now I specifically noted in my previous reviews of his memorable turns in the decade, Mitchum embraced his age and found success within that. This turn would seem contradiction in that path given the role is typically played by a much younger man, and probably would have made more sense if he had played the part in the 40's or 50's, when Mitchum was often the lead of a noir. Although the film might not quite know this, Mitchum actually does. His performance is particularly astute as he again wears his age into the role, that is just one of the most obvious intelligent choices he makes in his approach as the film opens.

Mitchum's performance is something of a wonder in how he seeks to make the film work despite its shortcomings at every turn. The film itself really is lacking in terms of capturing a proper noir style to grant the vibrancy one would want out of such a mystery. Mitchum though seeks to provide this style within his performance as Marlowe that beautifully embodies the genre. Mitchum physically plays the part with that smooth yet still haggard stature. A man very much bearing through long nights, and just has that iconic look about him to truly be Marlowe, even if a few years above the actual age of the character. This is further amplified by the obligatory narration that leads us through the various twists and turns of the plot, and a bit of insight into Marlowe's mindset throughout. A old trope, but so well realized not really by again how the film uses it rather by Mitchum's delivery of it. Frankly one could just listen to the film wholly as radio play by how much character Mitchum brings to every word. He creates the intrigue of the mystery, and captures the exasperation of the man so well. Again he does it with style, but also a real emotion within every twist and turn. Such narrations can quickly become ridiculous, particularly in a noir out of time and place, Mitchum nearly sets things right through his wonderfully nuanced take.

Of course Marlowe has to work the case and get into every little cliche in the noir book, well since the source material helped to define them, but again the film does it so earnestly it could become comical. Mitchum though again salvages it all through his approach that just so embodies the part that it doesn't matter that the film has absolutely nothing new to say within the genre. Mitchum takes us along in almost every part. This is whether he making his close calls with gunfire, a tense physical confrontation, the occasional drugging, being harassed by the police, or of course occasionally dealing with a few lustful women. Mitchum never lost or forgot the ways of the noir, in fact he sort of refines it here to an art form all of his own. The way Mitchum goes about any scene he brings you into his orbit that makes this point of the film that is compelling even if other things around him are a little clunky. Mitchum just commands these moments with this purity of the noir lead. That is in bringing just that certain sarcasm in his police interrogations, that daze in his eyes as he witnesses one double cross after enough though with just enough of glint to represent his own determination, and of course with all that overarching gritty suave manner behind it all needed to be such a hero. He even can lose that all in the drugging scene where Mitchum realizes the effects of the drugs, and the desperation of that moment brilliantly as well.

The one place that there is a bit of struggle though is in the lusty women. Well specifically Charlotte Rampling's femme fatale Helen Grayle, now don't get wrong Mitchum's easy going charm is as prevalent as ever when Helen tries to work her wiles on him, but his age does find one problem here. The problem being Mitchum, again, uses it to his advantage except for in these scenes where it makes the older man seem far too naive as the duplicitous woman seduces him, especially given the life one would assume he had lived. Mitchum is a better fit for the scenes he shares with the more age appropriate Sylvia Miles as the desperate Jessie Halstead Florian. Here Mitchum truly thrives in his knowing reactions where he brings a certain distance but also playfulness as interacts with her. He finds the right balance as sort of presenting his professional needs for the interaction, but with the right understanding of her not so hidden ulterior motives. Those are just examples of Mitchum's whole approach which is to be the first rate noir lead, for sort of a second rate noir film. What works about the film is Mitchum, but he actually sort of makes the film work. As I found it is easy to stay invested just by how pitch perfect Mitchum is as Marlowe. Although all the circumstances of the casting might not be ideal, Mitchum still proves himself to be a ideal as Philip Marlowe. It is a terrific performance as Robert Mitchum frankly elevates the film entirely to be worthy of the genre it is exists in.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1975: Charles Bronson in Hard Times

Charles Bronson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Chaney in Hard Times.

Hard Times is an entertaining enough film about a street brawler and gambler during the great depression.

In the primary lead role you have Charles Bronson in a role that was written with a younger man in mind, as this drifter who goes around just scraping by through fights. This is an interesting casting choice, but really an essential element in granting the film a bit more of an emotional impact than it might have had otherwise. On the surface Bronson certainly proves worthy of the role as he is wholly convincing as a fighter even at his age at the time of filming. In addition to that he is quite simply one of the great stoic badasses from the period. This is to the point that he makes a fellow stoic badass James Coburn look properly weak as the gambler, Speed, who bankrolls Bronson's Chaney. Bronson simply commands the screen as to be expected both in terms of offering that sort of physical intimidation needed for the character, but also just the power of the spirits embodied within that. Bronson is this force of a man that the film needs, of a man driven within the fight, which Bronson realizes so effectively without even raising his voice. He rather creates that calm cool that makes Chaney both appealing and intimidating.

Of course the film as written by Walter Hill is pretty bare bones, however that isn't not explicitly a negative value in film, or this film. It is rather an approach and what matters is what is within this approach. The script is already elevated to be sure by Hill's own direction which creates a vibrancy in the period through the aesthetic he realizes. According to Hill's own design for the film though there is not suppose to be a moral to this story. It is rather just a story that is engaging. Now if one inflicts just that much style one can overcome the lack of a thematic weight, however it is still a bit of a challenge. Bronson helps to alleviate this problem through his performance that creates within itself a certain substance that likely would've been completely absent with a bland performer in the role. Bronson can be stoic, however he is not bland as there is more than a shallow fighter within his eyes. It is in those eyes that define his best work, this performance included. It is interesting in that the tough Bronson, when relying on this quality becomes a deeply emotional performer.

We see this in his first scene where he approaches Speed and the fighting den. In Bronson's eyes we see the weight of a life of hardship in his eyes, and in this conveys that with his age has come much experience. An experience that is never illustrated in dialogue however is sensed through Bronson's performance which carries this weight. A weight that makes the fight as much of a life line for the man, well beyond the monetary compensation within it. Although Chaney is never a vulnerable character, Bronson creates a certain vulnerability surrounded by the defense of his might as fighter. A vulnerability that alludes to a desperation again within his eyes that create such a potency in terms of a life he seems to try to avoid. This is also shown in his scenes with local woman, that don't wholly work only because Jill Ireland in the role, despite being Bronson's real life wife, is a bit stiff in the part. Bronson does not falter in his side though by bringing out a definite charm but with this certain emotional distance. A distance he portrays as a reluctance though, as again he shows the honest fear at what the relationship would brings out of him in the most expressive part of his face, yet still overall maintain a near facade of a man who simply toughens everything out. Although Chaney in the end does not change, Bronson's performance does take the character and the film further by hinting at the potential to do so, while also creating a stronger sense of the man's motivation throughout the film.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1975

And the Nominees Were Not:

Maxim Munzuk in Dersu Uzala

Richard Dreyfuss in Inserts

Charles Bronson in Hard Times

Robert Mitchum in Farewell, My Lovely 

Ugo Tognazzi in My Friends

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Alternate Best Actor and Supporting Actor 1948: Results

5. John Garfield in Force of Evil - Garfield gives one of his better performances in his nearly uncompromising portrayal of a sleazy lawyer. 

Best Scene: Falling from comfort.
4. Rex Harrison in Unfaithfully Yours - Harrison gives an appropriately entertaining and irreverent portrayal of a romantic falling into madness.

Best Scene: Failing to murder.
3. Ray Milland in The Big Clock - Milland gives a terrific wrong man performance that is particularly effective in realizing the film's tricky tone throughout.

Best Scene: Confrontation.
2. Robert Donat in The Winslow Boy - Donat delivers on the promise of playing a barrister, by delivering a powerful portrayal of a man capable of weaponizing his passions.

Best Scene: Interrogating the boy.
1. Takashi Shimura in Drunken Angel - Good Predictions Anonymous, Robert, Bryan and RatedRStar. Shimura gives one of his greatest turns against type, before he had his type, in delivering the mess of  man that covers the noble spirit of the titular angel.

Best Scene: Pondering the Yakuza.
Updated Overall

Updated Supporting Overall 

Next Year: 1975 Lead