Sunday, 22 May 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971: Alain Delon in Red Sun

Alain Delon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gauche in Red Sun.

Yojimbo, Le Samourai, and Harmonica walk into a film and you get a pretty entertaining western about a Samurai, Kuroda, and a bandit, Link, teaming up to track down the bandit's treacherous partner.

The film is notable already through its pairing of Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune. The film ups the ante all the more by throwing in Alain Delon as the main antagonist for the film. Delon plays Gauche who begins as Link's partner in crime, and thankfully it is not long for us to see these three onscreen definitions of cool interact with one another. The three are perfectly in tune in that each take a different approach in portraying their characters so there's no override. Mifune takes an intense stoic determination, Bronson takes a sardonic approach, while Delon goes for being a personification of one word, smooth. Now all three are very physical actors, in that they can say a whole lot without speaking. This was already for Delon when he played a modern gunslinger of sorts in his most famous role. What's fascinating in potentially a similair role, Delon manages a unique approach even in this quality. Where Delon portrayed his movements in that role as very exact, almost ritualistic, Delon here instead does something that seems far more relaxed. Delon finds this innate confidence in the character of Gauche from the first scene we see him, because of how at ease Delon is in the frame. There is never a question that Gauche is in danger in the opening robbery, as Delon shows a man in his element. The most remarkable part of this is that, even as the villain, Delon earn this overconfidence.

In the robbery Gauche sets himself up as the chief villain by taking two actions. The first by killing Kuroda's friend in order to steal a gold encrusted samurai sword the second by trying to literally blow up his partner in crime Link in order to steal the bounty from the robbery for himself. What I love about Delon's approach here is in the moment where he kills Kuroda friend is that he does not play it as pleasurable for Gauche, nor is it an exact psychotic detachment. Delon instead keeps with the calm cool of the character as Delon shows that Gauche kills since they happen to be in his way in some way. Delon though creates the right sense of danger in this by portraying not even a second thought in the character, creating an effective sense of a selfish view that best defines the man. Delon is excellent by being just so despicable, yet doing it in such cool way somehow, that he leaves the right impression. This impression being pivotal to the film since Gauche only infrequently appears after this point, but remains as the objective for our two leads for the rest of the film. Delon is often missing but never forgotten as he does not waste an instance of his screen time in the first act.

The film proceeds with a very enjoyable road trip between Bronson and Mifune to try to find Gauche. Delon occasionally appears though only in brief cutaways in order for the film to remind us of what a badass he is, which Delon delivers with every time, it must be said. Eventually though Kuroda and Link come across him,  Delon's entrance in the final act is pretty amazing thanks to again that ridiculous confidence that Delon projects so well, which only is multiplied by Gauche's casual twirling of his pocket watch. Another party though interrupts the three's showdown, leaving the three to team up against a common foe. Delon's performance makes this action particularly convincing since the self-absorption was always at the center of the character, which would of course include self-preservation. Delon's little asides to his two opponents throughout the scene are great since there is such a lack of concern in his expression. Once again this should not work, yet Delon realizes Gauche's personality so well that this in the end should be his only reaction. This is terrific villainous turn from Delon as he earns his place as a worthy opponent for Bronson and Mifune, which is already quite an achievement, and crafts a memorable villain out of a role that in the wrong hands, considering the character is rather thin as written, would have been forgettable.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971: Ian McShane in Villain

Ian McShane did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Wolfe Lissner in Villain.

Villain tells the story of a violent cockney gangster Vic Dakin (Richard Burton), it probably would be a decent enough crime film if it were not for its rather atrocious central performance.

Well even though the film stands as yet another example of the cinematic law of the more performances you see from Richard Burton the worse actor he becomes. This is one horrible example of this as any scene with Burton is tainted despite there being a saving grace often around him in the form of one Ian McShane. McShane is one of those actors whose been around for a long time while only having a pseudo breakout later in his career via the television series Deadwood (which I've yet to see). McShane's abilities as an actor though were evident early on such as here where he plays Wolfe Lissner one of the members of Vic's criminal organization. Wolfe's unique within the organization though not only in terms of his actual activities, which involves handling a prostitution ring which he also uses to garner blackmail material against powerful officials, but also in terms of his relationship with Vic, since he just happens to be his lover as well.

McShane owns the role in a way that is very much needed for the film. McShane carries himself with a certain style, which while realistic gives Wolfe's the right flair as a character. McShane is rather smooth in the role in that he so well realizes the distinct sort of charm that Wolfe's possesses. McShane utilizes this to portray Wolfe's methods particularly well at every front. This includes convincing women to do "favors" for him, which McShane carries this quiet elegant warmth in his statement that makes his way of swaying them to sell themselves believable. The same is true for Wolfe as he paints the men of power into a corner as well. McShane so delicately plays these scenes as he always makes Wolfe seem so earnest as he tells the women, or the men that the arrangement that he has made is mutually beneficial for all. McShane's approach is to project this innocence of sorts that understandably puts all at ease, despite the fact that Wolfe is anything but.

Now the main crux of the film probably should be the relationship between Vic and Wolfe. The film always comes back to them, and it is quite possible that this is properly set up on the directing and writing fronts. The problem is found in Burton's performance which is so hammy in the worst possible way that Vic never is more than a one dimensional caricature. Again though McShane comes in to pick up the slack left by Burton. McShane is brilliant in his depiction of the various scenes where Wolfe interacts with Vic, since he never leaves it as simple as it could have been. McShane instead finds a definite complexity in this relationship. On the surface McShane expresses the certain manipulative side of Wolfe in his interactions towards Vic, as he does not shy away of showing the blunt pleasure he seems to get from colluding in Vic's schemes. He still conveys certain limits to this as Vic becomes more possessive. McShane's excellent as he presents Wolfe as not having the same singular obsession, especially in one moment where the bi-sexual Wolfe is interrupted with his girlfriend by a desperate Vic. However McShane does not leave it a wholly shallow relationship despite some questionable elements within it. McShane subtly alludes in pivotal moments a genuine side to Wolfe, that is particularly striking against his false earnest side, when Wolfe shows actual concern for Vic's mental state. McShane finds this never to be a contradiction, instead even allowing a real complexity in the relationship between Wolfe and Vic. This is wasted in terms of the film due to Burton, but on McShane's end it's there. McShane's performance is rather wonderful here as any scene in which he appears has at the very least a spark of energy to them. In the scenes without Burton, McShane only excels all the more, and there was quite possibly a great film if it had been all from Wolfe's perspective or at the very least Vic had been played well.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971: David Gulpilil in Walkabout

David Gulpilil did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the boy in Walkabout.

Walkabout is at the very least an interesting film about a sister (Jenny Agutter) and her younger brother (Luc Roeg) who become stranded in the outback after their father commits suicide.

David Gulpilil plays an Aboriginal boy the two come across, who is roaming the outback on his Walkabout in which he fends for himself. The boy though takes the two along with him, or at least he allows them to follow him. Gulpili speaks his own native language throughout the film, and the film purposefully eliminates the possibility of understanding him. No subtitles are ever granted to him, and there are very few moments in which the siblings manage to create a direct understanding with him. We are placed in the view of the siblings in this respect as even when the boy does speak it rarely focuses upon in a way in which would even allow one to decipher the words. Of course the film itself does not focus on any of the actors in really the traditional sense. The film seems to care more about the atmosphere of the location and the behavior of those within it more than precisely who they are as people, to the point that it feels like the siblings are supporting as well even though they technically are not in terms of traditional definitions.

Gulpilil therefore has an unusual challenge in that he's not silent, but he's also left without much in terms of verbal communication with the other characters or even the audience. The challenge only becomes more severe due to the nature of the director Nicolas Roeg's approach throughout the film. Gulpilil's performance works well within this structure though as he act natural to be as blunt about it as possible. He never seems to be pantomiming the role of the native, nor does his performance ever seem to be that clich├ęd restricted view of the native despite the fact there is only a rare occasion that we are given the chance to even know what it is that he is saying. Gulpilil succeeds in being what he should be in that the boy very much becomes sort of the natural expression of the nature around him. This is helped by Gulpilil having a natural charisma of sorts as he manages to have a certain magnetism about him even though this is never a forced intention by his performance. Gulpilil is able to produce this quality without ever seeming to try, which is essential for the role and the film.

Once again the nature of the film and the role does place upon a few severe restrictions on all the performers, since again we mostly witness their behavior with only some emphasis placed on the actual growth of the trio as characters. The major transition is given to Gulpili though in the final interactions between the boy and the siblings, well in this case more of just the sister. This is when the boy decides upon the sister as being more than a travel companion. Gulpilil is quite effective in this scene as he portrays the gradual change in the boy from a mere curiosity in the sister to something far more intense. This leads to the eventual point in which the boy tries to take her as his mate by performing a ritualistic dance after he stumbles upon her half naked. Gulpili is terrific in this scene in that he portrays the moment as more than a primal dance, but also a breakdown of sorts for the boy as the sister outright rejects his advances. Now even this breakdown is still muted in a way by Roeg's choices, despite being well played by Gulpilil. This is a good performance by Gulpili that stands well within the film, even if it does not exactly standout all that much beyond it.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971

And the Nominees Were Not:

Alain Delon in Red Sun

Edward Fox in The Go-Between

Elliott Gould in The Touch

Ian McShane in Villain

David Gulpilil in Walkabout

Monday, 2 May 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1971: Results

5. Jon Finch in Macbeth - The film purposefully restricts his ability to explore the character, but Finch still manages to give an effective portrayal of the transformation of Macbeth particularly in the way he suggests his misdeeds age him.

Best Scene: Learning about the Lady
4. Al Pacino in The Panic in Needle Park - Pacino, unlike the film itself, creates an understanding in his character's disjointed nature effectively showing the different sides of such a man whether he's revealing an abundance of charm, or simply wasting away.

Best Scene: Bobby asks Helen to score for him.
3. Max von Sydow in The Emigrants -I apologize as I did not mean to shortchange this great actor, but I chose not to review the performance only because I felt I could not add anything to what I wrote about his work in the sequel where I felt he had a more dynamic character arc to realize since everything that's great in this performance can be seen there as well he only gets to explore the character further. This is also a very strong performance though that once again works through the sheer simple honesty he brings to the role, along with his marvelous chemistry with Liv Ullmann(who once again is perfection by the way) that works so in tandem with the wonderful vision realized by the film.

Best Scene: Watching over his sick wife.
2. Oliver Reed in The Devils - Reed gives a great performance as he stands as a needed straight man for the film, but also creates an affecting portrait of a priest devoted to his specific ideals.

Best Scene: Defending himself in court.
1. Paul Scofield in King Lear - Good Predictions RatedRStar, Michael Patison and Luke. Scofield more than proves his ability with the words of the bard, through his daring and truly powerful portrayal of the tragic king.

Best Scene: The storm.
Updated Overall (with a few extras):

Next Year: 1971 Supporting

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1971: Paul Scofield in King Lear

Paul Scofield did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character in King Lear.

King Lear is Shakespeare's tragedy about the fallout after an elderly monarch foolishly divides his Kingdom among his daughters. King Lear, despite being often hailed as one of Shakespeare's greatest works, is not noted in terms of its cinematic adaptations, well other than the  Japanese version, that I hear is quite good. This is perhaps the most noted adaptation in the English language, that bears the original title, and it is a rather forgotten film. This version of King Lear was not especially well received when it was released, and it is apparently much too obscure today for a reappraisal. It is understandable why though director Peter Brook has a personal vision for the material. That vision though is that of an overwhelming gloom as the film is more of filmed in black and grey than black and white. It's a dark world this Lear lives in to begin with and the progression of the story simply allows the people to more closely fit in with the mood of their surroundings.

This adaptation of  King Lear stands as Paul Scofield's only major Shakespearean role on film, he had minor roles in Branagh's Henry V and Zeffirelli's Hamlet, despite being one of the most highly regarded Shakespearean actors of all time. Well as his one major cinematic performance utilizing the bard's work it is certainly an interesting one. Now it should be no surprise to anyone whose ever seen any performance by Paul Scofield that he thrives with Shakespeare's words. Scofield frankly does this with any writers' work with his precise and so eloquent manner of speaking that helps to create that rather unique cinematic presence of his. Scofield excels in this regard as he's particularly effective in the way he manages to find the beauty in the words while still always making them grounded in a definite reality. Scofield's approach is flawless in this regard since his delivery seems effortless to the point that it is entirely natural while in no way lacking a certain style all the same. Again though this should be no surprise for one familiar with Scofield's work, however what might be more surprising is in his approach to the old King Lear.

Laurence Olivier and Ian McKellen, both great Shakespearean actors in their own right, would later play King Lear. In both of their performances they approach the role of Lear as really a kindly old man at heart, which seems to be the most common approach to the part. Scofield though completely rejects such an approach evidenced from his first scene where Lear decides on the division of his Kingdom based upon his how his daughters express their love for him. From the start of it Scofield takes even an unorthodox approach to his physical depiction of the man's age. Instead of having the grace of a nice old white haired man, Scofield instead plays it as though Lear is a man fighting against his years in a way. Scofield expresses the wear in his face yet he never shows Lear to embrace it, as there is this certain tension about it as though Lear is attempting to keep his features that of younger man. However the age cannot not be hidden, from his grey hair, to his sunken features, and his quivering lip, which is a particularly brilliant touch by Scofield, and there is a certain unease to be found by Scofield portraying Lear as a man not fully comfortable with himself.

Scofield's daring approach continues though as he makes Lear a rather harsh man from the beginning. In the opening scene as he concerns himself with his daughters' gifts, his question to each of them of how much they love him does not seem that of just a old man looking for some comfort, but rather that of ruler demanding a concise answer to resolve the current matter of his Kingdom. Scofield places an emphasis on the idea of this King with his performance. In Scofield's portrayal there is that gravitas of a proper monarch, and the forcefulness of a man who has truly made an impact on his country. Scofield projects the power of the man's personality in the scene as there seems to be a great leader and perhaps warrior in his Lear. The only problem is that this is still made something of the past by Scofield, as he shows the scorn of age in his work, as the strength of such a many has slowly left him, though he certainly tries to hold onto it. Now with this approach Scofield actually is a particularly cold Lear, especially in the opening scene of the film where he rejects his daughter Cordelia because she refuses to play his little game to claim her inheritance. Scofield makes this work incredibly well as he importantly is able to suggest that this coldness is not that of an unloving person, but rather of a strict ruler.

King Lear's choice to reject Cordelia, while rewarding his elder daughters Goneril and Regan, quickly results in a chaos of a power struggle since his others daughters were not nearly as loyal as they proclaimed. Scofield utilizes his initial setup for Lear's in a fascinating fashion as now he goes a step further than a man slowly discovering the turmoil caused by his decision, but also explores the life of the King as he tries to be a man no longer as true King. Scofield displays well this definite awkwardness in Lear as he struggles to no longer be King in a way, and plays this almost gentle curiosity as he tries to go about his day at first as a man seemingly no longer burdened by his status. There is as well though an early sense of disbelief that Scofield conveys in Lear as shows the King to be genuinely surprised by the results of his actions. This only becomes worse though when he attempts to deal with his daughters and is treated as though he was nothing. Scofield is marvelous in the moment by making this betrayal particularly painful, as the sense of his once great standing as King seems to begin to fade from the man, and he becomes just the old man that his daughters view him as.

Scofield's work is amazing as he delivers the rage in the storm truly with the force of a man of such, former, power. Scofield turns this to not only a man who seems to raging as against his daughters treatment of him but also as a man turning his anger on fate itself as he must bear witness to the loss of all that he had. Scofield is fantastic the way he portrays this madness of the moment in Lear since he does not portray it as a detached psychosis, but rather a man specifically losing his mind due to having lost control of his realm. It is not a simple anger that Scofield reveals but also a terrible sadness within it as Lear falls apart along with his Kingdom. Scofield earns the moment wholly as all the seeds of weakness, his age, his daughters, his loss of power, weigh on him in the single moment reducing him to almost nothing. Lear though seems to have a chance at redemption as he finds that his daughter Cordelia has returned, and recognizes that she was the only one who loved him all along. Scofield is heartbreaking in the moment of realization in Lear, as he finally finds some warmth in the old man as he sees what he has done. What I love about Scofield's take though is he finds an even greater impact in this, as he makes the realization of more than just one mistake. Scofield instead finds a man understanding that being lost in his position caused him to be blind to his family. Scofield utilizing all that came before in making the strongest impact, as he loses that awkwardness as he becomes his age, and finally allows his own love for his daughter to fully reveal itself. Scofield's is truly affecting as he portrays the final scenes of the tragedy as a man recognizing his failures, and oh so briefly appreciating what he ignored. Scofield is perfection in Lear's final agonizing moments as he somberly accepts everything he ever cared for crumble around him in surprisingly quiet yet undeniably effective way. It is a shame Scofield's cinematic Shakespearean efforts were so limited, as this is a masterful portrayal by Scofield. He not only finds a unique approach to the character but from that finds an even greater depth to the tragedy of this King.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1971: Al Pacino in The Panic in Needle Park

Al Pacino did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bobby in The Panic in Needle Park.

The Panic in Needle Park though effective in parts is a disjointed film that follows the relationship between two drug addicts, Helen (Kitty Winn) and Bobby.

This stands as Al Pacino's "The Men" in that it is his only leading turn which predates his major breakout with The Godfather. The earliest scenes of his performance in the film call upon something Pacino rarely ever called upon in the seventies or even later in his career that being a natural charm. As also shown in the Scarecrow a couple years later, also directed by Jerry Schatzberg, Pacino is more than capable in this regard and it is always interesting to see the actor, best known for the brooding Michael Corleone, to be able to relax a little bit. Pacino is indeed very charming here as he shows Bobby, in his best moments, to have this certain lust for existence itself as he goes about his random days in any way he wishes. Pacino brings the right exuberance to these moments, and most importantly realizes the appeal of Bobby as his relationship with Kitty initially begins. In the early scenes the drugs are more of in the background and Pacino has some very strong chemistry with Winn. They have the right ease with each other, and this is pivotal to the way they develop in the film. They are terrific in the way they create the initial basis of the co-dependence as they find the initial basis in a genuine affection, which Pacino makes particularly convincing by how engaging of a personality he is.

The central relationship though begins to find its rough patches right away though given that they are both drug addicts, and Bobby only encourages the use of harder drugs to Helen. Pacino quickly reveals that the charming side, though earnest in its own right, is not all there is to Bobby. Pacino is very good in developing Bobby's whole attachment to drugs which he does in an effectively casual fashion. That is when he uses heroine and encourages Helen to use it as well Pacino does not portray Bobby really giving anything a second thought. Pacino creates the sense of a true addict, who has been an addict for some time, in the way he does not suggest really even a moments hesitation at any point. Pacino instead portrays this as naturally as he does Bobby's charm. Pacino allows to be simply part of the life, and getting high is almost the same as breathing for him. There is a great moment early on for Pacino when Bobby asks Helen to score for him. Pacino is excellent in this scene as he bridges the charmer with the addict, and not even in a sinister way. Instead Pacino manages the connection in Bobby words as he makes it sound like a good step in their relationship, and what's remarkable is that Pacino makes sense of it, at least in terms of Bobby's view. Pacino finds an honesty in the request as he makes it of the genuine lover, rather than of a seedy user.

Now as the film progresses, and focuses far more closely on Helen than Bobby, though Pacino is still lead, it becomes far less concise and rather aimless. The point behind this is understandable, which I will get to in a moment, but it falters in that it fails to makes itself compelling enough within this aimlessness. Pacino's performance also becomes aimless though again understandably so. This is as Bobby begins to become all over the place, this is in part due to the greater focus on Helen, as we never witness a transition period, not even a brief one. In one scene Bobby will be raging against Helen for being a prostitute, the next he'll be loving her, the next he'll be high and lost, others he'll be overdosing and almost dying, the next still he'll be back to his charming self that wins Helen over once again. This not exactly as much of a problem as it might sound, and it certainly is not a problem with Pacino's performance. The reason being the film's goal as well as Pacino's is to capture the mess that the pair of co-dependent junkies becomes. The film's mess again is unfortunately not quite compelling enough, but Pacino should not be faulted. Pacino manages to capture any side of Bobby we might see at a given point and is convincing on that side. Whether that is bringing back the charm, or bringing a far uglier side in the intense anger that comes about in the worst moments of the relationship. The same goes in drifting from a seemingly functioning drug addict, to Pacino becoming a physical wreck whenever Bobby is suffering from too much or too little heroine. Pacino's work makes a cohesive whole out of the mess that Bobby is. I do have to admit though that the film's own weaknesses hinder Pacino a bit. However Pacino's performance on its own still stands as strong early indication of his talent as an actor.