Thursday, 26 March 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1969: Michael Caine in The Italian Job

Michael Caine did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.

The Italian Job is an enjoyable enough heist film, although I do feel it could have more fun with the colorful gang aspect. I mean why even have Benny Hill if you're going to barely use him?

Michael Caine plays cockney crook Croker who's just after being released from prison looks to find a new heist. He finds that in the form of the message of a dead man who gives him the plans on how to rip off an armored car in Italy. After some difficulty in convincing the powerful incarcerated mobster Mr. Bridger (Noël Coward) he heads the plan, with a fairly large team, to go through with the complicated plan while avoiding the Italian mafia who are very much opposed to it. This is not exactly the most complex part Michael has ever played as Charlie is just a carefree crook not at all like the ruthless crook he would play just two years later in Get Carter. Caine's performance is really just all about his charm. He's certainly likable enough in his happy go lucky manner as Croker goes about the early steps of the job, and even smiles his way through a beating at the hands of Mr. Bridger's men after he dared to interrupt his time in the bathroom.

Caine has some down moment of sorts when he's just going through the plan which he handles just fine I suppose. There are also the few moments where he interacts with the mafia boss. Caine is commanding enough in these scenes to deliver some intensity to the standoff and in turn deliver a bit gravity though this almost seems like a pointless effort since the mafia ends up factoring very little into the final conclusion of the film. Most of Caine's performance is strictly based around his charisma, and it is not like he even has really a comic presence here so to speak it's more lighthearted than anything else. Caine is charming here though in his usual slight smile Michael Caine sort of way. As charming Caine performances go I would not necessarily call it his best, as I found him more charming in The Man Who Would Be King just for one example, and that film also bothered to give him more to do than this film does. 

The whole third act of the film barely features Caine actually in that the actors barely factor in when the film depicts the heist. It keeps everything really about the images associated with it and there really are not any character moments for most of the final act. Something finally does happen though in the film's literal cliffhanger ending. It's still pretty limited stuff though but Caine certainly delivers his "great idea" line quite enjoyably. It's a fun little moment to end things on and is rather fitting for his performance which is a fun little performance. Considering the film decides to limited Croker's as a character about as much as it can he still manages to to make something out of almost nothing in terms of material. Caine is entertaining with what he does have, and what he does do works for the film's breezy tone. This is a great distance from his best work as an actor though it is a decent enough showcase for his movie star sort of appeal.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1969: William Holden in The Wild Bunch

William Holden did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Pike Bishop in The Wild Bunch.

The Wild Bunch is an effective film about a group of violent outlaws attempting to find a big score while being hounded by railroad men and losing their place in the increasingly civilized nature of the west.

William Holden is perhaps best known for his portrayals of endearing yet usually somewhat morally questionable or at least sardonic protagonists in films like Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. As the head of the group named the Wild Bunch it may seem Pike Bishop might be in a similar vein for Holden. The opening scene though bluntly corrects that false notion as the opening credits are listed as Pike and his crew make their way through a town dressed as soldiers to carefully approach the town's bank. Holden presents Pike as obviously quite determined as his plan seems to being going on through his head as he approaches the target. When he and his men make their move into the bank Holden ends the credits and really opens the film with his vicious delivery of "if they move kill em!" towards one of his men referring to the unlucky individuals stuck in the bank. Holden carries himself with a brutal intensity as in his voice there is the sense of the lack of mercy in the man, and Holden expresses the fact that Pike does not care one iota for the lives of the innocent bystanders.

Holden does not hold back in the opening scene realizing that Pike really is not that rather lovable outlaw that could have been the lead in a western, even in a western of 1969 with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid being very much in that vein. Pike is a hard man and Holden plays him as such. When all hell breaks loose due to an ambush of railroad men accompanied by a former member of the Wild Bunch Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan), the bunch themselves in no way seem concerned about collateral damage. Holden portrays Pike only as a professional in the moment keeping his head with a fierce determination, while in no way expressing much sympathy for all the random people being gun downed in the carnage. Holden brings the remorselessness of a true killer in his performance. Holden does not just simply go along in the action scene but instead always reinforces the nature of Pike through his uncompromising manner. Holden's work matches the violence of director Sam Peckinpah's vision, as he creates Pike Bishop as a man formed by this violence, and as a man who could possibly exist within such a world.

After their bloody escape they have lost more than one man, with one of the men having escaped with them though having been shot in the face while being unable to see. This leaves Pike having to mercy kill the man.  In the moment Holden does not portray it as a great emotional toll on Pike to do this exactly at least in the way one would think. Holden is incredibly effective in the scene as he does not show this as Pike being some sort of psychopath, but rather as very much hardened by his life of doing such things for so long. This is not to say that Holden plays Pike as strictly unemotional in this regard. Holden is excellent in this scene portraying such a searing exasperation in Pike as he has to kill the man. Holden exudes the wear his time as an outlaw on Pike brilliantly as you see in his face years of bloodshed without really anything to show for it. There is a remarkable moment when Pike fails to mount his horse the first time and as he is insulted by his men briefly. Holden's reaction is a perfect as he shows Pike's moment of resignation to frankly being past his prime and having to live with it.

Holden is terrific because he is able to find Pike's particular place in his life as an outlaw. This is essentially summed up after the opening heist where they successfully take the loot and make their escape, though not with rather severe casualties and finding out that all they stole were washers planted in the place of the gold. Holden's performance presents Pike in very much the same way in that his best days are behind him though he's not done yet, after all he still has not been caught. Holden still has the presence and the command in the part making it absolutely believable that Pike is still the leader of the group, and still capable of pulling off a difficult job. At the same time though Holden does bring a whole certain desperation about Pike. He's somewhat pained and Holden suggests that the life is much harder for him than it ever was before. Holden's especially good in his portrayal of the enthusiasm Pike has for the job. Where some of the other members clearly revel in it, there is only ever a temporary glimpse of happiness in Pike, showing that Pike does not necessarily even get much of a thrill out of life anymore. 

Although Pike is an outlaw and really a coldblooded killer technically speaking he is not without a certain code. That code being for his fellow members. There's an honest warmth in the quiet scenes between Pike and his right hand man Dutch (Ernest Borgnine), as they realize the understanding between the two which is even though they live rough lives they are loyal to each other. This creates one thing that does bother Pike in his failures is leaving men behind which is how his old ally Thornton went to jail and came to work for the railroad. Holden brings a surprising poignancy to his silent moments where remembers Thornton and the other people he has left in the past. In the moment Holden brings a genuine sadness in Pike as Holden expresses the way Pike is haunted by these mistakes of the past. Holden finds this as a powerful guilt in Pike throughout, and carefully shows that is something that pains him to his very core since he really is not living up to his personal beliefs. There is one particularly strong moments where Pike defends Thornton which Holden delivers with a considerable passion that seems fueled by his past.

It is really up to Holden to give sense to the final act of the Wild Bunch. They finally have a successful score by helping out a questionable Mexican general, although it leaves one of their own captured although that's entirely his own fault. Holden first is perfect in the scene where they try to celebrate at a brothel nearby and Holden is rather moving actually by showing that Pike still can't find happiness within his accomplishment or even himself. Holden through this makes the final actions of the group convincing as their walk to save their last man is Pike finally truly fulfilling his sense of honor. Holden in the scene shows Pike perhaps at his most determined, and his most assured as he is being a man of his word. Holden really has a very tricky part here given that it would be easy enough to make Pike so despicable that he is too off-putting to watch. What is so compelling about Holden's work is that he no way sugarcoats Pike's character. In portraying his more vicious moments Holden does not compromise showing Pike as the final man he is. Holden is perhaps all the more intriguing in that he is able to create sympathy for Pike through his honest portrait of the man's personal code.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1969: Lino Ventura in Army of Shadows

Lino Ventura did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Philippe Gerbier in Army of Shadows.

Army of Shadows is a most intriguing film depicting the inner workings of the French resistance during World War II.

Army of Shadows, which incidentally took until 2006 to find a U.S. release even finding itself high up on many critics' top tens that year, takes the approach of narrowly following a few members of the French resistance that operated in the darkness. The primary figure focused upon, although not the only one, is Philippe Gerbier played Ventura. The film opens as he is being sent off to an internment camp for problematic French although a camp that seems almost a safety measure to stop them from being further along to Nazis control. The film at first even seems as though it may be about Phillipe's life in the camp. Ventura plays his role as particularly unassuming as he portrays Phillipe as very much a calculated man who in no way seems fearful of what the camp has to offer. Ventura presents basically Philippe as a man in wait just examining his surroundings and waiting for his chance to escape. Ventura supports properly what his character does as eventually Phillipe takes action which involves fatally stabbing a guard then proceeding to run as fast he can back into the city to hide.

After his successful escape Phillipe first course of action is to work with a few of his fellow resistance members to execute a traitor in their midst. Ventura keeps essentially the same reserve for much of his performance which works in creating the way Phillipe operates as a man. Ventura's whole approach works in that he establishes the manner in which Phillipe deals with the fact that they must resort to rather extreme and shadowy methods to maintain their organization. Ventura expresses through Phillipe as a man who is always somewhat aloof in his manner. It is not that he does not care, but rather Ventura shows that he is basically trained himself to not care. This gives sense to the essentially heartless way he goes about the killing of the man as he and his associates openly discuss the manner in which to kill the man who is well in earshot. Ventura's performance realizes the nature of the man that likely he has realized over some time which is that he never has too much of a connection to anything, which allows him to make the tough decisions required to maintain their resistance.

Although I don't hesitate in anyway to name Ventura as lead, the film does focus on several individuals in the organization sometimes moving with them instead of Phillipe as it examines the various tasks each person must take, and how they react to their responsibility as well as deal with the constant threat of death and torture. The film always comes back to Ventura's Phillipe who acts as a steadfast individual within the group. Ventura always keeps a certain level of cold detachment. It is not even though he acts inhuman, but rather he presents him as a man who very much knows his duty following it without much hesitation. Even when he stays over in London briefly for supplies Ventura still presents Phillipe as determined and staying very much heavy with responsibility. Ventura's quite good though in portraying as the method of still essentially a normal man in a particularly intense situation. Ventura still has some very well handled subtle moments such as his quiet fear when he must reluctantly jump out of a plane to return to France. All of these moments are well momentary as Ventura presents him as fixed in his path.

Ventura's emotional moments are sparse and even then they are all that emotional. Some of the more emotional moments Ventura allows is when he reacts with a great deal of happiness from a surprise visit from the head of the organization, or when he portrays a blunt dismay when one of the most brilliant operators has made a foolish mistake that leaves them all potentially compromised. Ventura snaps in and out even in these cases he still keeps Phillipe only just barely losing his manner. It is interesting in that technically his most volatile scene is when captured and set up with others prisoners to run from gunfire by guards as a sick game, the scene ends up about being unemotional. Ventura stays steadfast, and convincingly so as he almost botches a rescue attempt by bothering to maintain his reserve as he at first refuses to run from the guards. It's an intriguing approach and he allows to be rather believable that Phillipe would barely bat an eye as he organizes the plan to kill one of their very best. It's a good performance which stays strictly with the nature of his constrained character almost wholly without a moment of compromise.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1969: Jean Louis Trintignant in Z

Jean Louis Trintignant did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes, for portraying the examining magistrate Christos Sartzetakis.

Z is an excellent political thriller depicting the assassination and investigation into said assassination of a popular leftist.

Jean Louis Trintignant could easily be argued as supporting in the film, and I would not argue that point long considering her only has a brief appearance for about the first third of the film where he is very awkwardly introduced to entourage of the politician. I'll argue for his placement though simply for the second half where the investigation takes place as it fairly closely stays with the magistrate as he attempts to decipher the facts. Trintignant's role is unique in the film in that he is in no way politically charged unlike the doomed politician and his supporters who are constantly charged with their outrage and philosophy, or the men setting up the assassination who are consistently charged by their passionate hate for what the politician stands for. The magistrate on the other hand has different concerns. This shown early on in the awkward meeting which Trintignant plays as well as he no way expresses support to their anguish, nor does he suggest any malice towards. Trintignant actually does well by showing that the magistrate hardly feels anything towards them.

The magistrate does not pop back in until after the assassination and he is called upon to investigate what the authorities want at first to be deemed an accident. I must say I cared very little for Trintignant's turn as basically the quite observant lead in The Conformist just one year later, although here Trintigant is far more effective in this understated sort of role. Trintignant manages to make himself compelling by conveying the magistrate as someone taking in the information to decipher what exactly happened. Trintignant does well with a strong incisive glare towards everyone who speaks as it is clear the magistrate is not there to take sides but find truths. Trintignant is technically the one character who has an arc in the film although not in the usual manner still. This is not a personal emotional arc that Trintignant presents rather a strictly professional one. Trintignant never shows the magistrate lose his reserve exactly. He keeps himself consistent as a professional above else as the magistrate wants to find out what happened because it is the right thing to do as well as his job, nothing else is needed for him.

The magistrate even begins taking it as an accident, and adjusting statements that claim it otherwise since there is on hard evidence of the assassination at first. Trintignant does well to keep a certain reserve as he expresses both the magistrate particular method of deriving information as well as his personal distance from the case. Trintignant carefully portrays the actual arc of the magistrate because it is technically a somewhat detached transition. What Trintignant does well is create the calculation within the magistrate and is convincing in the gradual way he realizes the magistrate figuring out what happened. When the magistrate starts allowing to be called a murder Trintignant earns it through his subtle though quite honest reactions to every bit of information that is known. Of course it is not merely about deciphering information but also about deriving it himself through his interrogation of some of the culprits. Trintignant is very effective in these scenes as he plays the magistrate always quietly in control of the situation watching for any misstep, and delivers his more incisive remarks with the utmost precision.

Although Tritignant never wholly loses his reserve in the parts he does have a few great moments where he shows what the magistrate is feeling. Of course again Trintignant does not play these again as a political thing, but rather just wholly involving what is right. In fact that is the way the character must be since it is alluded to that the magistrate's personal political views technically skew closer to the villains, and that is what leaves him protected from scrutiny by the officials. One of my favorite moments in his performance is when he gets the brains behind the operation to say the exact same line that all the conspirators say when describing part of the assassination. His slight smile is just perfect as the magistrate does take some satisfaction in knowing he's gotten the one responsible. Trintignant technically had quite a challenge with this part because the magistrate is technically on a whole different wavelength from every other character in the film. Trintignant uses that to his advantage as his work stands out through his intriguing depiction of a man who's sole motivation is justice.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1969

And the Nominees Were Not:

Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider

Lino Ventura in Army of Shadows

William Holden in The Wild Bunch

Michael Caine in The Italian Job

Jean Louis Trintignant in Z

Alternate Best Actor and Supporting Actor 1929: Results

 Erich von Stroheim in The Great Gabbo - GABBO! GABBO! GABBO! for you Simpsons fans out there. This is perhaps one of the earliest examples of the story of the ventriloquist who becomes a little too convinced that his dummy is real, although this is a bit more low key in that regard than the two Twilight Zone episodes that cover that material or say Magic with Anthony Hopkins. Of course it is Gabbo who is the ventriloquist and the dummy's name is Otto. Although Gabbo is not forced into murdering anyone he just kinda makes some bad decisions that get him into trouble personally and professionally. The film does not have too much to offer really on its own past Erich von Stroheim's performance. von Stroheim just is an enjoyable performer to watch and he has some fun here. Whether it is doing his actual act with such confidence and precision or on the other end of things as he goes a bit nuts confining in Otto about his various insecurities. von Stroheim manages to be fairly entertaining and elevates the film probably as much as he can with his loony performance. 4/5

Overall Leading Rank:
  1. Ronald Colman in Bulldog Drummond
  2. Ronald Colman in Condemned
  3. Eric von Stroheim in The Great Gabbo
  4. Oliver Hardy in Big Business 
  5. Stan Laurel in Big Business
  6. Willy Fritsch in Woman in the Moon
  7. Maurice Chevalier in The Love Parade
  8. William Powell in The Canary Murder Case
  9. Groucho Marx in The Cocoanuts
  10. Paul Muni in The Valiant
  11. William Powell in The Greene Murder Case
  12. Douglas Fairbanks in The Iron Mask
  13. Warner Baxter in Behind That Curtain
  14. Douglas Fairbanks in The Taming of the Shrew
  15. Lars Hanson in The Informer
  16. George Arliss in Disraeli
  17. Gary Cooper in The Virginian
  18. Ricardo Cortez in The Phantom in the House
  19. Harry Stubbs in Alibi
  20. Daniel L. Haynes in Hallelujah
  21. Chester Morris in Alibi
  22. Fuller Mellish Jr. in Applause
  23. Johnny Mack Brown in Coquette
  24. Harry Bannister in Her Private Affair
  25. Matt Moore in Coquette
  26. John Loder in Her Private Affair
  27. Henry Wadsworth in Applause
Louis Wolheim in Condemned -  To be perfectly honest Louis Wolheim does not have too much of a character here as Jacques. He essentially just is Ronald Colman's prisoner buddy who replaces him as the Warden's wife's assistant. Well one could not ask for a better pair at the time with Colman as the lead and Wolheim as the support as both actors successfully transitioned from Silence to Sound since they not only knew how to present themselves towards the camera they also knew how to speak naturally. Wolheim does some good work here merely by just giving some life to a part that under most of the supporting actors from the period would have been as bland as everyone else, or over accentuated everything while being bland. Well Wolheim has a grand presence even in a role like this adding a nice bit of character to a nothing part as he always brings something to every line or action he has no matter how standard they might be. Wolheim manages to make Jacques an endearing sidekick in just a few moments, not really even scenes, and successfully makes his sacrifice at the end mean something even though the film doesn't really even work for it. 4/5
Top Ten Supporting:
  1. Louis Wolheim in Condemned
  2. Walter Huston in The Virginian
  3. Lupino Lane in The Love Parade
  4. Klaus Pohl in Woman in the Moon
  5. Eugene Pallette in The Canary Murder Case 
  6. Fritz Rasp in Woman in the Moon
  7. James Finlayson in Big Business
  8. Gustav von Wangenheim in Woman in the Moon
  9. Eugene Pallette in The Greene Murder Case
  10. Boris Karloff in Behind That Curtain
Next Year: 1969 Lead

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1972: Results

5. Ian Bannen in The Offence - Bannen gives an effective portrayal  of the character's damaged state even if he can't fully realize what the writing demands from the character.

Best Scene: The beginning of the interrogation. 
4. Ned Beatty in Deliverance - Beatty has a particularly thankless role that could have easily been a caricature, but realizes a genuine victim through his performance.

Best Scene: Squeal like a Pig
3. Robert Shaw in Young Winston - Shaw, as usual, gives a striking performance first in realizing the quiet command of his character then later his tragic decay.

Best Scene: Lord Randolph fails to deliver his speech in parliament.
2. Eddie Axberg in The New Land - Axberg matches the naturalism of his co-stars and gives a moving depiction of his character's doomed journey.

Best Scene: Robert goes to the brothel.
1. Bruce Dern in The Cowboys - Dern actually gives a my favorite supporting of 1972 as he creates such a memorable pathetic scoundrel as the man who shot the man who shot Liberty Valance.

Best Scene: Asa Watts does the unthinkable. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Bruce Dern in The Cowboys
  2. Joel Grey in Cabaret
  3. James Caan in The Godfather
  4. Eddie Axberg in The New Land
  5. Robert Shaw in Young Winston
  6. Robert Duvall in The Godfather
  7. Ned Beatty in Deliverance
  8. John Cazale in The Godfather
  9. Ian Bannen in The Offence
  10. Richard S. Castellano in The Godfather
  11. Gene Hackman in Prime Cut
  12. Ronny Cox  in Deliverance
  13. Alistar Sim in The Ruling Class
  14. Clive Revill in Avanti!
  15. Nigel Green in The Ruling Class 
  16. Barry Foster in Frenzy
  17. Eddie Albert in The Heartbreak Kid
  18. Alec McCowen in Frenzy
  19. Arthur Lowe in The Ruling Class
  20. Stacy Keach in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
  21. Abe Vigoda in The Godfather
  22. Roscoe Lee Browne in The Cowboys
  23. Peter Boyle in The Candidate
  24. Trevor Howard in The Offence
  25. Sterling Hayden in The Godfather
  26. Nicholas Colasanto in Fat City
  27. Robert Duvall in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid
  28. Howard da Silva in 1776 
  29. Fernando Rey in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie  
  30. Tony Roberts in Play It Again, Sam
  31. Julien Bertheau in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
  32. Ned Beatty in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
  33. Edward Andrews in Avanti!
  34. Robert Duvall in Joe Kidd 
  35. Helmut Griem in Cabaret
  36. Alex Rocco in The Godfather
  37. Kenneth Mars in What's Up, Doc?
  38. Donald Madden in 1776 
  39. Paul Winfield in Sounder
  40. Jack Albertson in The Poseidon Adventure
  41. Melvyn Douglas in The Candidate
  42. Gianni Russo in The Godfather
  43. Roddy McDowall in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
  44. John Marley in The Godfather
  45. Anthony Hopkins in Young Winston 
  46. Fritz Wepper in Cabaret
  47. Anthony Perkins in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
  48. Slim Pickens in The Getaway
  49. Bill McKinney in Deliverance
  50. Red Buttons in The Poseidon Adventure 
  51. Jerry Lacy in Play It Again, Sam
  52. Ben Johnson in The Getaway
  53. Ron Holgate in 1776
  54. Arthur O'Connell in The Poseidon Adventure
  55. Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward in Deliverance
  56. Gregory Walcott in Prime Cut
  57. Michael Bryant in The Ruling Class
  58. Micheal Murphy in What's Up, Doc?
  59. Bernard Bribbins in Frenzy
  60. Roddy McDowall in The Poseidon Adventure
  61. Ian Holm in Young Winston
  62. A Martinez in The Cowboys
  63. Harry Andrews in The Ruling Class
  64. Al Martino in The Godfather
  65. Ruy Guerra in Aguirre, the Wrath of God
  66. Peter Bowels in The Offence
  67. Ernest Borgnine in The Poseidon Adventure
  68. Del Negro in Aguirre, the Wrath of God
  69. Don Stroud in Joe Kidd
  70. Donald Moffat in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid
  71. Paul Frankeur in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
  72. Jean-Pierre Leaud in Last Tango in Paris
  73. William Mervyn in The Ruling Class
  74. Roy Poole in 1776
  75. James Best in Sounder
  76. Ron Rifkin in Silent Running
  77. Ken Howard in 1776
  78. Cliff Potts in Silent Running
  79. John Saxon in Joe Kidd
  80. Don Porter in The Candidate
Next Year: 1929 Lead/Supporting