Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1938: Jean Gabin in Port of Shadows

Jean Gabin did not receive an Oscar nomination portraying Jean in Port of Shadows.

Port of Shadows is a rather effective early film noir following an army deserter who naturally finds himself in a world of deceit in a port city.

Well if one is speaking of actors with the most range of the period, one must speak the name of Jean Gabin within that context as well if one is speaking of early sound cinema. Gabin though is that notable, and always potent combination of the considerable actor, but also a proper star. The idea of his range is particularly well supported by his work in 1938 with this film and The Human Beast which share the similarity of a man being caught within a bad situation somewhat out of his control, yet very different within the characters in how that comes about. What is a most remarkable talent with a performer though also is even working within similarities there are key differences within the performances. Gabin is an actor with that talent here in that on the surface there are similarities, however the performances are properly dissimilar. This is seen from the outset as Gabin delivers a man of a wholly different burden in the opening scene. This is fascinating though just to watch Gabin play such subtle yet important differences, as his Jean hitches a ride with a truck driver. Gabin is burdened by a somber expression, however it is one that seems less to pertain to the man as his very being, but rather just the current state of his existence.

Gabin finds this balance within only his expression even of this sadness that essentially doesn't run too deep, as he reveals no pain within the man in terms of a truly burdened mental distress rather alluding to a more recent difficulty of his life. There is more within this though as Gabin delivers this natural soulfulness within his performance here that creates not only an inherent sympathy towards Jean as a character, but also so well alludes to the nature of the man even within his distressed state. This is as Gabin, even in this overarching somber state, doesn't portray even a hint of bitterness or hatred within his gaze. He presents a man well aware of his troubles, yet also not a man who seems to blame others for them. This is even further realized as Jean stops the truck driver, he's hitched a ride with, from hitting a stray dog, which leads the two to nearly come to blows. Now in the moment of the action, I love the unassuming morality that Gabin expresses, as the action is just of a man who simply has this need to do the right thing. When explaining his action Gabin delivers such an earnest conviction, yet so modestly within his delivery as again a man who just simply has to do that righteous act, yet in no way intends to boast of it.

That action though does lead to a near fight that Jean diffuses quickly in what is just a brilliant moment for Gabin, and the sheer unique magnetism he has in the role. Gabin again is very calm, very internalized in style as he plays it as Jean so calmly explaining that there is no reason to fight, while also asking for cigarette. Gabin is wholly convincing in this moment by bringing such an earnest goodness that he makes exude from the character through his meek expression, but also his wholly genuine while also unpretentious manner of speaking. Gabin uses this brief interaction to so successfully establish the nature of the man, that establishes Jean as such a congenial protagonist even within his current state. Jean moves on to become involved in a bit of the shadowy underground of the city merely by seeking refuge in the wrong place at a dive bar. Gabin in these moments is particularly interesting as this reactionary protagonist within the story, as he largely observes the others within the seedy world, however is never truly inactive. Gabin rather presents a man who essentially has come to be drawn within himself, which we see early as he expresses his hunger, while also noting his pride from having to do so earlier. Gabin in the moment presents so effectively this man who is burdened by his current situation, however most directly by his initial unwillingness to take the simple ways out of it.

Gabin realizes Jean as the soldier who had to desert long before we are given this information, by this natural reluctance in attitude of a man who has just escaped from something, which is currently defining his behavior however doesn't wholly define the man. Gabin portrays the state as purposefully thin, which we see more of as his place in the bar leads him to interacting with a low grade gangster Lucien (Pierre Brasseur), a wannabe runaway Nelly (Michele Morgan) and her creepy "protective" godfather Zabel (Michel Simon). In each of the interactions Gabin is able to allude to the state of mind of Jean where he essentially speaks and acts in a certain way as is fitting to his position. Within the interactions with the two men there is an initial lack of concern that Gabin presents through this exasperation fitting to a man on a run, who intends to run more by taking a ship to Venezuela. In turn these interactions Gabin delivers a lack of concern in both his blunt delivery in his less flattering attitudes towards them, but also in a certain indifference to their responses realizing a man who believes he will be gone from his current situation soon. The relationship with Nelly is quite different though where we technically we should have traditionally charming Gabin. Gabin to fall upon that type of charm though would be ill-fitting for the character, yet Gabin still realizes his usual charisma however in a way that is proper to the deserter Jean. When he initially speaks to her, he does so somewhat callously of a man who again is on his way out, however Gabin presents this as a facade in regards towards Nelly as even in his most negative statements Gabin grants an undercurrent of the disingenuous. He plays it in that moment of the charm naturally coming out, as he shows so effectively Jean's immediate infatuation with her, even as the man feels he should be the "bitter ex-soldier" in the current moment.

Gabin uses this so well to grant an impact through the romance by quietly bringing a more overt charm and warmth within his performance. What is key though is he evokes this from the first interaction, and makes it a gradually growing revelation of what was already there. Gabin never just becomes charming in say the Pepe Le Moko way, but rather stays true to the character by still handling this with a great degree of modesty that not only is fitting towards how he established Jean in the opening scene, but also fitting to the man in his somewhat desperate circumstances. Gabin reveals that as Jean opens up it is perhaps a better man in creating a moving romance with Morgan's Nellie, while still even in these moments alluding to that weight on the man's mind due to his circumstances. Gabin carefully opens up though in allowing that greater warmth, and creating the right poignancy within the interactions between the two. Interactions that become more difficult through increasing suspicions of others particularly her godfather, which eventually leads to a confrontation. The confrontation that is a great scene by Gabin even as he reveals a more outgoing individual than the careful soldier of the opening of the film, he still shows the same nature of the act as he does what he believes is the right thing, just as when he saved the dog. Gabin in the moment brings similar almost instinct like manner to the act though with a greater intensity fitting that Jean is removing a problem rather than saving a life. Gabin is able to portray the transformation well of the closed off soldier, to a still modest, but now loving man, while carefully maintaining that nature of the man, which defines Jean's story from the opening to the final scene. Gabin delivers his second great performance from 38 that also realizes a man who becomes lost in a dark web, however through his powerful performance creates an alternative path, and a different man who becomes almost accidentally lost into shadow.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1938: Charles Laughton in Sidewalks of London

Charles Laughton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Charles Staggers in Sidewalks of London.

Sidewalks of London though a little tonally wonky, such as where it briefly devolves into The Great Ziegfeld, is somewhat unique for its time in its focus on working class Londoners. Although interesting in that sense it never quite mines deeply enough in terms of broaching what should be the heart of the material.

The film is about two Londoners in specific one being a Liberty "Libby" (Vivien Leigh) a pickpocket, later performer, and Charles Staggers a London street performer. Charles Laughton's performance style, particularly for his era, was remarkable given his approach. Laughton was an earlier instance of an actor attempting a more chameleon style approach, though certainly distinctly Laughton as well. Laughton though was clearly never pigeonholed by a role playing an affable timid butler, a forceful yet emotional Javert, and a tyrannical Captain Blight all in the same year after all. This idea is again further explored here where he is playing a man of no great historical note, rather is just playing a man. A cockney busker who appears on the street with a grand, yet low class, recitation for a random crowd. Now aside his cockney accent, which is hardly Laughton's greatest affectation though it is easy enough to get use to as the film progresses, however he makes up for it with his physicality in his performance which delivers the man's background and really personal style so effectively.

Laughton's approach on the whole finds the whole of the street style just in the openness of his physical movement. Whether this is just the way he bends his head, or even rubbing his nose is naturally not of a lord. It goes further than that though to realize the style of the man who mostly eases his way through life, at least that is what appears on the surface. This is further emphasized by Laughton when as a busker he compares himself to none other than John Gielgud in his recitation ability. The actual moment of performance is a bit of brilliance by Laughton as it is a bit of atypical charisma as he makes Charles more than sufficiently entertaining in the moment however in a rather specific way. There is something so wonderfully unassuming about the performance as Laughton delivers with such gusto the monologue as a man who just finds just a joy in the performance itself. Within that unassuming quality though Laughton also very realizes the somewhat haphazard, even if frequently recited, act very much fitting to a man of his ilk, as the energy Laughton brings is not only endearing but also somewhat wild natural to a man essentially improvising, not so much the words, rather the action itself.

The film shifts towards its intent when the street smart Charles spots the pickpocket Libby prying her trade rather literally, and confronts her over the matter. It is as Libby pleads her case, mostly over the pains of existence, where Laughton grants a different side to Charles that is rather well put. Charles does not try to hide any facts yet bluntly returns the difficulty of life, and Laughton in his delivery of this is strictly without sentiment. Laughton in the moment doesn't reveal that the performance as the busker is wholly an act, but very much the surface to the much more earthly man within. Laughton is brilliant in this moment by shedding any false bravado in his blunt approach to the words, and in his face so effectively revealing a man who has had a difficult life. There is an inspiration though in this through the calm that Laughton exudes showing that while Charles is aware of life burdens he is prepared to face them. After this Libby and Charles live together ostensibly as co-dependents in their pursuits towards the theater. Laughton carefully though alludes to the truth, while allowing the miscommunication in a sense by delivering so well again that charisma though with a certain timidness within it. For example when mentioning his age there is such a cheerfulness in creating the conversation, however a definite vulnerability Laughton brings when reinforcing that Charles is 39, not forty.

There is a potential problem in the film that arises as Leigh and Laughton really don't have chemistry, evidently having a poor relationship while making the film, however in a way this doesn't wholly matter as Laughton portrays his side effectively as a difficult state of unrequited love. He portrays the interactions well with that friendly glee as Laughton presents Charles certainly trying to win her over, however without a clear revelation of affection for her beyond just friendship. This in turn naturally delivers the moment in which Charles does reveal his real love for her which Laughton presents so well as a moment of a particularly quiet and modest Charles. Laughton reveals the man just barely airing out the message being very much against his nature to do so, but so earnest in his delivery of that truth. She rejects him bluntly, and the film essentially fumbles around a bit as it follows her rise to stardom and Charles's fall into despair and jealousy. Now Laughton is again on point performance wise however the film never quite finds the right approach in terms of its focus within these scenes to illicit the power possible from at least the concept of the material. This in turn leaves Charles's switch, from a wreck to letting Libby go, rather rushed. Laughton at the very least delivers in each of these moments in first having the man almost wholly losing that joy, having just the faintest twinkle in his spirit, such as his slight performance while being arranged, that makes it all the more terrible of state. These moments are moving in parts due to Laughton, however never build to something wholly remarkable. When the moment comes of his choice Laughton again delivers in bringing back the old sprightly Charles, however it doesn't quite deliver the impact it should due to the shortcomings of the film. Even with that though this is another strong performance by Charles Laughton who amplifies the strengths of the film, and avoids the majority of its shortcomings with yet another unique characterization.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1938: Raimu in The Baker's Wife

Raimu did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Aimable, the baker in The Baker's Wife.

The Baker's Wife is an enjoyable film about the fallout of a small town when the town's baker's wife runs off with another man.

Raimu stands as one of the character's indirectly, though the actual wife of the baker is a rarely seen character given her disappearance relatively early on in the film. Raimu's performance here is a rather interesting one in that he is almost playing the part, initially, as what would be a side character within the film. Of course here he is the main character, or at the very least the core character within the film. Raimu though initially very much paints Aimable as the baker you are suppose to laugh at a little bit. This is not within playing too overtly, or without sympathy, but just granting his role this certain inherent joviality. Raimu exudes a natural energy of just a more simple man initially who is living out his life as he should be as this town baker, and with a cheerfulness towards his wife, even if she seems a touch disinterested in him. Raimu though colors the excitement with enough of this shade in his momentary reactions that suggest a certain underlying sensitivity towards this relationship, though he shows this seemingly to only encourage the character's overarching outgoing style that pushes the baker as the village's most happy man, though in a blissfully unaware sort to fashion.

That set up is pivotal within the film as Raimu makes the viewer like this baker well enough, even if he does encourage a little bit of laughing towards the man's own style though again in a rather low key fashion. Raimu's performance establishes the state of the man that he is going to essentially tear down through the rest of the film once it is discovered that his wife has run away. The switch is not immediate and this is where the power of Raimu's performance lies, even as the film's perspective frequently wavers from him towards the various townspeople reacting towards the situation. Raimu very much initially keeps that more positive energy in his work even as the baker reacts towards the news as well as some of the less encouraging words of the townspeople towards him. Raimu initially delivers these reactions though with enough of a humor in his surprise at becoming cuckold. He very much stays as that affable baker though Raimu even in his more joyful deliveries begins to exude more of that underlying desperation that alludes to a far less blissful state of ignorance than he partially suggests to be experiencing.

The story progresses actually closer to the larger scope of the fallout of the baker's wife departure than specifically the baker, given that he stops baking which effects the whole town. Although the film grants focuses to those various reactions, the through line though remains the baker's own connection to the loss, and his slowly fading mental state. Raimu's performance then brings upon this particularly potent emotional impact of the baker's predicament even as others somewhat glibly deal with it, and even the baker attempted to find some humor in the situation. When that fades Raimu's performance becomes a deeply moving exploration of the really depression within the baker. Raimu's work is particularly impactful in the way though is how he eschews that earlier joviality into this nearly grotesque state of the man who others still view as a joke, however the man is clearly deeply pained by the experienced. When some of the town's cruelty to persists the baker resorts to an attempted suicide. Raimu is honestly rather heartbreaking by so naturally realizing this point within the baker's horribly depressed state and showing to be the same kindly man we met in the opening. Of course this also makes his reprieve feel as natural as the baker decides to keep living in hopes of seeing his wife again, and the smallest glimpse of hope in Raimu's eyes as he speaks this desire poignantly refer to that greater joy from the opening scenes. Eventually the town does succeed in bringing back the wife, which leaves Raimu one final scene where the baker both must accept the return, but also deal with the idea of her betrayal of him. Raimu is fantastic in the scene though as it fully embodies the experience that has changed the baker. Raimu at no point simplifies it bringing out that singular joy though far more tempered in his rather blunt delivery of his more critical words towards his wife. Raimu though successfully portrays this moment as reconciliation, however as a reconciliation which doesn't bring things back to they were, but to a different point. Raimu in the end depicts a both the old and new baker, as he does now have a joyful spirit though a far more somber one that defines the man in his bittersweet end.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1938: Claude Rains in White Banners

Claude Rains did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Paul Ward in White Banners.

White Banners is a fairly standard drama of the period about family finding more than to be expected from a homeless woman who becomes their housekeeper.

The film is technically positioned around the various influence of the somewhat mysterious housekeeper Hannah (Fay Bainter), who in particular endeavors to help the family patriarch/teacher/inventor Paul Ward by Claude Rains. Rains is firmly in non-villainous mode here, which he can ease into as easily as when playing a fiend. Rains making for a rather charming lead to be expected with his refined manner that feels just right for this certain type of intellectual. As usual Rains goes further though than is quite required by the role as he has a bit of fun with the idea of the professor as being slightly a bit eccentric within his inventions. Rains doesn't overplay this but rather brings this certain flourishes, particularly charming flourishes, of a bit of a cheeky style. This nicely grants a bit more towards the character who overall is what one can refer to as a "great guy", who just wants to help those around him for the most part while also making his inventions. The "worst" thing about the man is that he is slightly frustrated that no one takes his inventions seriously, although Rains even portrays this as the man taking it all with rather good humor suggesting that perhaps he doesn't even take it as seriously as he could.

The main thrust of the story then is essentially the housekeeper Hannah pushing those in and around the household to be their best selves including encouraging Mr. Ward's inventions. This leads only a pretty minor arc to work with for Rains as he goes from a quietly passionate charming generous man, to a more openly passionate charming generous man. Rains does this well to be sure but there isn't too much asked of him other than to be his charming self. Now that is sort of more than enough for Rains to make an impact as Rains is rather delightful in these sort of roles bringing such a joyous energy that he works so naturally within his usual refined manner. The only hiccup within the arc is when his protege inventor Peter (Jackie Cooper) lies to him and gives up the secrets to their inventions which other steal. Rains even portrays his moment of anger as wholly reasonable and within character for Ward. Rains is actually particularly good since he conveys the anger of such a man so well by creating as this very internalized direct intensity for the moment that is very reserved fitting for a man who tries never to be angry. This is quickly fixed though leaving only Ward to take over Hannah's role by encouraging her back in the end, and this Rains excels with since he already stood as such a warm figure from the outset. In the pantheon of Rains's performances this is not an overly notable one, but it is a good one to be sure, as to be expected.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1938

And the Nominees Were Not:

Jean Gabin in Port of Shadows

Raimu in The Baker's Wife

Charles Laughton in Sidewalks of London 

Claude Rains in White Banners

Erich von Stroheim in Les Disparus de Saint-Agil

Friday, 22 June 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1991: Results

5. William Sadler in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey - Sadler offers a particularly unique and rather enjoyable presence by appropriating the right amount of both goofiness and gravitas for his death.

Best Scene: "Yes, way."
4. Patrick Swayze in Point Break - Swayze truly owns his role as a zen bank robber by bringing so much conviction and charisma that somehow makes sense  of his illogical role.

Best Scene: Bank robbery gone wrong. 
3. Robert Patrick in Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Patrick gives a brilliant progression of the unstoppable android performance by representing a different type of machine, as well as his facade, and just a bit more.

Best Scene: Finger wag.
2. Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - Rickman essentially trolls his own film, for the better, in his wildly over the top, yet absurdly enjoyable performance that seeks to entertain the audience knowing his own film is struggling to do so.

Best Scene: "Call off Christmas"
1. Joe Pesci in JFK - Good predictions Omar, Tahmeed, Calvin, Luke, Jackiboyz, Charles, and Emi Grant. Joe Pesci gives an endlessly fascinating performance worthy of his fascinating and mysterious figure. Pesci realizes the complexity of the man's within the conspiracy but takes this even further by offering a heartbreaking portrait of a man swallowed by the very conspiracy he helped to create.

Best Scene: "All I wanted in the world"
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1938 Lead, not sure if I'll do a full lineup so please just give me any recommendations for both lead and supporting.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1991: Patrick Swayze in Point Break

Patrick Swayze did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bodhi in Point Break.

Point Break tells the story of FBI Agent/Former star quarterback Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) attempting to infiltrate a group of renegade surfers/bank robbers.

Now describing the plot of the film makes Point Break sound very stupid, and well it is. The thing is the film is very entertaining once again proving that often times with films it isn't so much the story, but just how you execute it. This idea needs a bit more appreciation I feel and Point Break is great example of such an approach. The pinnacle acting wise of this being 80's/early 90's heartthrob Patrick Swayze. Where Keanu Reeves is particularly out to sea in this film, his delivery of "I am a F......B.......I......Agent" being legendary in its stilted quality, he carefully surrounded by one form of madness or another in order to facilitate the film's peeling tone bro. One form of that is found in Gary Busey as his FBI partner, the other half by Swayze as half zen-master half bank robber mastermind. This is interesting casting for Swayze who typically played the romantic lead, which is somewhat in Bodhi's vein however Bodhi is distinctly a villain in terms of his actions throughout the film which offers quite an unusual presence for the character as well as just for any typical action film. In a way what Swayze does in the role was pivotal in terms of what helped to ensure Point Break was set apart from other action fair from the time.

Now Swayze is already a charismatic dude, however what he does here is to essentially to weaponize this as this absurd embodiment of a wild man charm. This evident from his first unmasked scene in less problematic circumstances where he meets up with Johnny just seemingly as a "totally tubular" surfer. Swayze though is indeed the most tubular of all surfers though just with how brimming he is with this certain indescribable ability to make the most banal philosophical lines seem absolutely poetic in some sense of the word. This is perhaps much of how the film itself is effective as Swayze's turn "owns" the ridiculousness of the concept of the character not by winking to the audience that this is stupid, but rather playing it to the deepest level of conviction. Swayze never blinks and never laughs at his character. The way he so confidently projects Bodhi's philosophy he accomplishes two things that are actually quite remarkable. One is he makes the friendship between Johnny and Bodhi wholly convincing, but he takes it a step more by honestly not coming off as a full on, well douche for the lack of a better word, as this guy who rationalizes his criminal behavior by trying to be a man who is truly "free" from it all by committing his bank robberies.

The overarching success though is form Swayze's conviction within the role to create the most intensely mellow man you will ever meet. That contradiction somehow forms this foundation that makes Bodhi far more likable than he ever had right to be. It also some creates any logic within the man's personal style which should be some antithesis. This isn't to say though that this conviction disallows variation in his performance. In fact I think Swayze's conviction adds to it greatly in moments particularly in the third act where he tries to control Johnny by kidnapping his former girlfriend/Johnny's current girlfriend to make the agent comply with him as he goes bank robbing. The actual threat moment is a great one for Swayze as he delivers his lines with that certain mellowness still even as he is threatening Johnny, however Swayze subtle realizes some uncertainty within Bodhi's eyes not in the plan but rather reflecting the man's sense that he isn't wholly comfortable in taking this path. Swayze from that point forward is effective in then showing the man attempting to maintain his sense of righteousness even as things quickly fall apart. Swayze is surprisingly astute the role in finding logic within essentially an illogical part. I especially love his performance when Bodhi goes too far in a bank robbery and finally truly gets blood on his hands. That moment Swayze is terrific in as again he maintains that delusion of being above it all yet carries enough of a doubt just in his eyes just before he goes beyond the pale. After that point though Swayze is quite good in portraying Bodhi as doubling down on his delusions, and is very good by amplifying every facet except the doubt. His interactions with Reeves are particularly, and one could argue might have certain undertones, as reveals a certain madness in Bodhi by expressing a man so full of self certainty that it becomes dangerous. He however never loses that sense of zen that he someone grants a truth to even as his actions suggests quite the opposite, to the point Swayze earns the extended epilogue in granting Bodhi his desired demise since he's made come to understand his ways as odd as they are. Swayze's work is weird to be sure, and strange performance in many ways, honestly it is hard to see how anyone else could have made Bodhi work as well as he does other than Swayze who has just the right menace, swagger, and style needed for the role in this film.