Sunday, 31 October 2010

Best Actor 1991: Results

5. Warren Beatty in Bugsy- Simply a bad performance which fails at its core. He never finds the right tone for Bugsy, and never seems to be authentic, and many times comes off unintentionally funny in his worst scenes.
4. Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides- Nolte has a few scenes where he is okay, they are his quiet confession scenes, but everything else he does either comes off as completely false or just weird. He always plays his character artificially and never really gets down to the heart of him.
3. Robert De Niro in Cape Fear. De Niro has some good scenes early on despite his terrible accent, but as the film goes on he simply hams it up way too much.
2. Robin Williams in The Fisher King- Robin Williams at first over plays the role, and cannot stay in character, but as he goes on he gets a bit better in the crazy scenes, and he actually is fairly effective in his quiet scenes.
1. Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs- This ought to be a surprise to no one, but Hopkins by far gave the best lead actor performance nominated this year and he can even be argued as not a lead. Still Hopkins is brilliant in every minute of his relatively short performance. He creates a fascinating, memorable, and truly effective character from Hannibal Lecter. Every scene he handles with perfection, never going over the top, or even seeming calculated since all of his motions are brilliant.
Deserving Performances:
John Turturro in Barton Fink

Best Actor 1991: Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs

Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar from his first nomination for portraying psychotic cannibalistic killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.

The Silence of the Lambs is a very effective psychological thriller and certainly is far superior than the other films with nominees for best actor this year.

One question commonly asked about Hopkins' performance is whether it is lead or supporting. This performance is one that seems to defy these distinctions, because it is incredibly short in terms of screen time, and his character is not the focus of the film. He though is one of if not the most memorable part of the film, and still seems absolutely essential to the film, despite not even really being the villain of the film. His performance really is one that I am not sure which he is but due to the quality of the rest of the actor nominees I would most certainly put his performance in the lead category.

Hopkins performance is a short one for sure, and one that can actually easily be reviewed by each of his individual scenes. Hopkins' opening scene is actually one of incredible challenge, because of the huge build up to his appearance made as Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) makes her way to him. Hopkins certainly utilizes this to great effect, since he makes a big impression as the camera pans over him oddly standing in the middle of his cell. Hopkins performance is fascinating because I am sure the way he stands and moves, the way he looks with his eyes, and his voice were all very calculated, yet in the film his performance never comes off this way. Some how it is never artificial despite the nature of the character. His first scene Hopkins brilliantly controls the film, with the way he tries to manipulate Starling. Hopkins instantly shows us a man psychotic, without showing him doing any violence, and a man with complete control of his surrounding despite the fact that he is a prisoner in a glass cell.

Foster and Hopkins simply create fascinating scenes together. They play off each other perfectly in all of their scenes, developing a bizarre yet strangely interesting relationship. They play an odd game of sorts for Hannibal's enjoyment and for Starling need for information about another killer Buffalo Bill. The game they play together could not have been done any better or more effective they simply brilliant together. Hopkins is always fascinating because of how carefully and perfectly he displays Hannibal's mile a minute mind. He reacts and attack Starling, and Hopkins does this perfectly with his manner of speaking with that brilliant voice he uses, who knew a combination of Truman Capote and Katherine would be so viscerally effective,  and with his eyes which are always piercing through, like Hannibal sees everything at all times. He mixes his odd love for Starling but also his love for the game like competition of minds without fault.

Hopkins keeps Hannibal on the right note and tone in all of his brief scenes and always makes the most of his screen time. He never over acts even though it would be so easy too, he always knows exactly to play a scene and simply gives a truly great villainous performance. Every moment in his performance really is spot on. Especially the use of his face and eyes, and certainly makes the most of every close up he has. He always conveys the evilness, psychotics and genius of Hannibal in every scene. Hopkins properly never stops with him, every scene even when he is reacting you can always see he is looking for weakness, and his chances in every moment, simply a brilliant performance. Hopkins gives makes one of the most memorable characters all in a short amount of screen time. He never faults once in a performance that could have been full of them, and gives a truly unforgettable performance.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Best Actor 1991: Robin Williams in The Fisher King

Robin Williams received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Parry a mentally unstable homeless man in The Fisher King.

The Fisher King is better than Bugsy, and The Prince of Tides, since it does not fail completely and it attempts at something a little more original, but it does not succeed enough for me to say it was really a very good film.

Robin Williams plays Parry who actually does not show up too quickly in the film. It focuses largely on Jeff Bridges who plays a Howard Stern esque shock jock Jack Lucas. Parry shows up to save Jack after he is attacked by two hoodlums. When Williams first showed up I really was very annoyed. When he initially shows up, he goes for pure Williams Shtick. He does some voices that are suppose to be funny, and does a Williams seen to its most annoying. He does not create a character in these first scenes but instead tries just for comedy through his usual type of routine.

Williams though after these initial scenes does change his method of portraying the character a little bit differently. I felt he started to tone down the Williamsisms and tries harder to be a real character. He does not fully succeed at this but I am glad that he tries to create a person with Parry rather than just a routine. He is suppose to be a man who becomes mentally unstable after seeing the brutal murder of his wife, and he is suppose to be almost blocking those memories by creating another personality. At times his crazy acts seem forced crazy, and really do not hold any truth to them, a few times Williams pulls them off but most of the time he does not find the proper authenticity for Parry's madness.

Williams' best scenes are though when he tones it down and acts much more quiet. He actually is pretty good in the scene where he tells of the Fisher King. He suggests more about Parry with his brief quiet scenes than his over the top loud scenes. He has a few scenes like this besides that one where he is effective, he also is effective do to that reason with his romantic interest played by Amanda Plummer. He is never perfect in the role but when he is quiet he fines a subtler strand of the character that works well. Unfortunately he really does not have enough scenes that really on this better technique. Most of the time he does the obvious crazy that just never is that well done. Overall an okay performance, that is weakened especially by the beginning where he does not really stay in character. 

Friday, 29 October 2010

Best Actor 1991: Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides

Nick Nolte received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Tom Wingo in The Prince of Tides.

The Prince of Tides as a movie is.... wait I erased it from my memory, I'll watch one more time, I'll be right back.......................the horror, the horror.

Anyways Nick Nolte is an actor I will admit, is not a favorite of mine. I just not seen a performance of his that really is all that amazing. It is strange to me that he was a leading man, because he seems to especially have problems with these, and seems like an actor who seems like he would be better as a character actor than a lead actor.

Nolte plays Tom Wingo one of the three children of a very troubled family. He has all sorts of repressed memories from his childhood that leads to troubles in with his own immediate family. Nolte's early indications of the character are just odd, and seem very unnatural. He tries to show Tom as a guy who seems a little off kilter, and has repression, but Nolte failed to do either of these things very well. His mannerisms to show his off kilter problems are weird smiles and such which do not really seem to be correct, and he really he let the movie explain around him that he had repression issues, opposed to Nolte actually showing them in his acting.

Nolte shares many scenes with Barbra Streisand who plays his suicidal sister's and eventually his psychiatrist called Lowenstein. He shares many scenes with Streisand, they are either the dramatic scenes or the romantic scenes together. In the dramatic scenes Nolte offers a very mixed bag of emotions. Many of his scenes where he yells all the time do not really work that well I mean he certainly yells a lot but he does not do all much more than yelling, he plainly adds no substance to his yelling. It just never adds up to emotionally effective scenes, because Nolte simply never seems that distressed about what he is yelling which includes frustrations of his own childhood, and his sisters attempted suicide.  He never seems to be that honestly troubled, keeping Wingo as only really a character as only really emotionally troubled on the surface, and seems fairly artificial.

He does have a few scenes that are better when he quiets down a little bit. I will give him a little credit, his quiet confessions are fairly well done, even if not amazing. His final big confession Nolte does do a fine job with it, but it certainly is wasted since in this movie a person instantly gets over their emotional troubles from talking about them only once, therefore any authenticity from Nolte's confession is automatically wasted. This confession leads to the terrible romantic moments with Streisand. These moments are strange, and absolutely false. Their chemistry is bizarre, and makes little sense, since the relationship makes so little sense. They do not do anything with it and their scenes together are rather cringeworthy at times. He also shares a few scenes with Streisand's real son who plays Lowenstein's son, these scenes are unbearably cheesy, but go along well with the terrible film, and I guess Nolte needed terrible scenes with two generations of Striesands. His overall performance has a few scenes with something to it, but overall he lacks conviction and has some extra bad scenes to make things even worse.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Best Actor 1991: Warren Beatty in Bugsy

Warren Beatty received his fourth acting Oscar nomination for portraying Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel in Bugsy.

I will admit to being a sucker for fact based period pieces, but even that fact cannot save this film for me. It is simply poorly directed in many ways, its story seems poorly focused at times,and its tonal shifts are terrible.

Warren Beatty is an almost always an actor for me who does not seem to ever get that deep into his roles and almost always seems to rely on his charisma. This is particularly ineffective in this performance because he is portraying a real person, and he simply never ever seems to be Bugsy Malone. I never once for a moment believed he was the really person at all. There were times that I believed he was Clyde in Bonnie and Clyde but not here at all. He just seems wrong for the part, and clearly is because he never personifies the real man, which is a huge problem, but unfortunately not the biggest problem with this performance.

Warren Beatty though has even bigger problems because he does not seem to know how to even start to portray Bugsy. I do not know what he was going for in this performance. Some of the time it seemed he wanted to be the real deal gangster but I felt at other times he wanted to almost parody the gangster style character. That does not work either but it seems that he wants to almost mock the over the top personality of someone like Siegel. I am not sure if he was but it comes off as that way, and really just makes for a very poor performance. He also has his bizarre "romance" scenes with Annette Bening. The movie did not seem to know what to do precisely with their performance, and neither do Beatty and Bening. It simply is another factor that does not work.

Finally the work part of his performance is his scenes where he is suppose to show the darker, and more sensitive side of Bugsy. When Beatty goes for these scenes he seems to shoot high and miss completely. He never is convincing at all in these sides, and just comes off as weird at times. He at times gets unintentionally funny in scenes where he is suppose to be menacing. Nothing really works in this performance, it just starts out poorly, and goes no where from there. This is a performance that fails from its simplest technique. Beatty does not give a good performance, I am sure some of what made it so bad came from the film being so strange in its tone, but Beatty is never better than the film itself.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Best Actor 1991: Robert De Niro in Cape Fear

Robert De Niro received his sixth Oscar nomination for portraying psychopathic rapist Max Cady in Cape Fear.

Cape Fear is not a great thriller. There are some scenes that are effective, but many are poorly done or do not hold up under any simple logic. It's point of having almost all characters negative does not really work, and Martin Scorsese who usually can direct a film almost perfectly, here does many visual things that are simply poorly done. There are many problems in this film, and it is not helped by the perfect parody Simpsons episode of the same name. I would note one thing I did like was Robert Mitchum who played Cady in the original version, gives a great performance in just a simple role as a police detective.

I mention Mitchum for two reasons the first being I feel his cameo performance deserves some recognition, and secondly that Mitchum's original performance is a useful source to show the problems of De Niro's performance. One of the first and most obvious problems with his performance is the accent he uses for Cady. Like Mitchum he uses a southern accent for Cady, but where Mitchum's accent was subdued and well done, De Niro's is unfortunately over the top like the type people use to make fun of people with a southern accent. An accent usually does not ruin a performance, but it is incredibly harmful for his performance, because he is suppose to be scary and frightening, and his accent really harms his ability to do this.

Now there are some strengths that he and Mitchum share in their performance as Cady. Mitchum all the time and De Niro some of the time show Cady as a man who seems calm and oddly cool on the outside, but suggests the psychopath brilliantly below the surface. De Niro does this very well in his scene with Juliette Lewis, his scene where he picks up Nick Nolte's co-worker, and when he talks to Nolte in his car, and discusses what Nolte really owes him for what he did. De Niro is very effective here showing his charm and hatred very well subtly. I think Mitchum trumps De Niro when the psychopath comes out though. De Niro does it well enough in two thirds of the film even if it is in a more obvious way, but Mitchum seems to be really truly psychotic, and less movie psychotic.

De Niro does have strength in his performance but all the good parts of his performance become drained out in my opinion in the last segment of the film, maybe drained by all the rain I do not know. De Niro simply goes way too over the top in the final struggle, where Mitchum on the other hand perfectly nailed it. De Niro starts over the top with all his screaming but just gets worse and worse as the struggle goes on. He really goes way too far after his face gets burned, he starts yelling and screaming, and it is way too unrealistic and really not scary at all. Finally his performance comes to a terrible close when he starts rambling and joking at the very end. He was unintentionally funny, if it was suppose to be funny that it simply made no sense tonally either, and was especially unrealistic. De Niro is certainly a good actor and gives a fairly effective performance at first, but his performance ends up as just wrong.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Best Actor 1991

And the Nominees Were:

Robert De Niro in Cape Fear

Warren Beatty in Bugsy

Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs

Robin Williams in The Fisher King

Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides

Here is the special Halloween edition of Best Actor, since there is not anything scarier than Bugsy, The Fisher King, and the Prince of Tides.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Best Actor 2006: Results

5. Will Smith  in The Pursuit of Happyness- Smith simply is not very good here, he simply never is authentic as the person he is suppose to be playing, he always stays as just Will Smith, rather than Chris Gardner.
4. Peter O'Toole in Venus- Peter O'Toole is very strong showing the life, and lust of a washed up actor. The film is not particularly good, but O'Toole always stands out well despite this.
3. Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson- Gosling gives a brilliant understated performance, as a drug addict teacher. He never overplays single scene, and stays subtle almost throughout, except a few key scenes where he stands out incredibly well.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond- DiCaprio despite some weakness of the film's script, is incredibly strong here, in both a sense of creating interesting character and dealing with the changes of the character very well, and giving a strong leading man performance, which few actors could do as well.
1. Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland- Forest Whitaker is absolutely brilliant in every single scene in his film. He shows a man who is both absolutely insane, but also incredibly charismatic. It is an incredible challenge, and Whitaker achieves completely despite every challenge he must accomplish.
Deserving Performances:
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed
Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

Best Actor 2006: Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson

Ryan Gosling received his first Oscar nomination for portraying crack addicted high school history teacher Dan Dunne.

Half Nelson I will freely admit simply is not my kind of film, and I never get that into films that try a little too hard in my opinion to be "realistic". Nonetheless it still has some good scenes, and is interesting at times.

Ryan Gosling's performance here is in a whole many ways not a very "performing" performance. He has few scenes where his character really "acts" out all that much. He usually acts a very much a normal person would. He generally does not get too emotional in any sort of bombastic way. His emotions are never really ever shown in that way because Gosling always plays Dunne at a very subtle emotional level. Which well, and especially goes along with the tone of the rest of the film.

Dunne is a history teacher who tries to teach his inner city students, by getting them to really think about history for themselves. Gosling is very good in the school scenes, he shows how Dunne actually sort of puts on a little bit of a performance when he is teaching. How he moves along a lot faster in the class room than in his normal life, and that he has more energy when he there. Gosling shows how Dunne really is almost like another person because he is teaching, in the way he handles his students, and his class as well as he does.

He far different out of his classroom though, and acts far more passive, as he seems to almost simply wander through his life while taking drugs throughout. Gosling is very good in showing how Dunne clearly does not have any exact direction just more of going along. Gosling keeps in line with the film with the realism of his performance which seems rather simple at times, but is always appropriate for the film, and its tone. He plays Dunne as a tired man in some ways, but Gosling never makes his performance boring, and always has a certain charm that work very well in his performance.Despite his performance that is rather quiet at times, but always suggests more about Dunne despite the outward simplicity of his performance.

Dunne though finds a little more direction when he befriends one of his students (Shareeka Epps) who saw him well he was taking drugs. They get along very well, and have an interesting friendship. Gosling and Epps work very well together both, creating together a realisticand interesting relationship together. He also begins to attempt to help her in attempt to keep her out of the life of her drug dealing brother. Well doing this, he begins to become more frustrated and a little more emotional rather in his somewhat tired state in the beginning of the film. This does give him a little more chances to shine with a little more overtly emotional scenes. Gosling is consistently effective in these scenes, and is especially effective when he finally directly confronts the brother. Gosling shows how confused and frustrated Dunne is since he wants to help her stay away from the drugs despite taking the drugs himself. Gosling Mixes the emotions of Dunne perfectly in the scene and it is the strongest scene of a very good performance. Gosling is perfectly consist, realistic, and effective in his role. His performance is non traditional in many ways, but it always works in tune with film.

Best Actor 2006: Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond

Leonardo DiCaprio received his third Oscar nomination for portraying a white mercenary born in Rhodesia in Blood Diamond.

I am not sure what to make out of Blood Diamond, like many of Edward Zwick films, it certainly has a story that moves along, and good action scenes, yet his morals many times seem heavy handed, forced, or inappropriate simply due to how most of the film is directed.

Leonardo DiCaprio in this plays a diamond smuggling opportunist mercenary, who is a White Africa, therefore he has a white African accent. I will say his accent was a little distracting the first time I watched the film, but I felt it worked well enough this time, so I really I just needed to get use to it. In many ways this performance type of performance is the type of leading man performance that is nominated less and less these days. Although there is much of the past, and conflict in his performance, much of the purpose of his performance is to be able to follow through Africa during a very extreme and brutal conflict. As that sort of performance in its simplest form Leonardo DiCaprio excel greatly with his performance. He is certainly a man who easy to follow throughout the film. His screen presence is always strong in the same vein as the best leading men of the big screen. This ability to be almost a perfect tour guide through the film for the audience is usually underrated but to do it truly well as DiCaprio does here is an achievement.

This not a simple leading man performance though, since Archer is not all that simple of character.  He is not exactly a "good guy" at the beginning and at first mostly aims all his actions for his own benefit. Archer though soon to get a rare diamond, partners with a black African Solomon (Djmon Honsou) who is searching for his family amidst the violent civil war. DiCaprio does a very good job in showing Archer as a man who is very much energized to get the diamond, and possibly get out of Africa, but at the same time he shows a little bit different side of the character. He also shows a man who is tired of doing this, but that does not at all discourage his search for the diamond. He establishes Archer's history, his history with Africa, and the life he lives, perfectly, but incredibly carefully, never fully pushing Archer's history to the forefront but always carefully suggesting it. As the two men journey Archer does grow as a better person, and DiCaprio handles this transition well without over doing it. He leads it to his final scene where Archer becomes a truly noble man. This works incredibly well because in his last scene DiCaprio simply is fantastic, and gives an absolutely brilliant end to his performance.

DiCaprio's performance is not perfect but that almost entirely comes from the problems in the script. DiCaprio just plainly has some very poorly written lines to say, such lines as in America its bling, bling, but here it is bling, bang. I mean what are you suppose to do with a line like that anyways. DiCaprio does his best but it certainly hinders his performance a little bit. Also there are lines that are strange for the character that just seem wrong for the character such as when Archer calls Solomon a "Kaffir". It just seemed wrong in more ways than one for Archer to say that, DiCaprio tries his best to work, but it is impossible to fully compensate for such a poorly written scene. Another weakness caused by the film is the romance with the American Photojournalist (Jennifer Connelly). The romance always seems a little forced and again DiCaprio tries his best, but cannot fully get around the weakness of the script. Despite these flaws resulting from the script, DiCaprio still gives a strong leading man performance, that smartly adds complexity when it can and when it makes sense to.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Best Actor 2006: Peter O'Toole in Venus

Peter O'Toole received his eight Oscar nomination for portraying Maurice in Venus.

Venus is not a particularly good film, it is directed quite poorly, and the relationship between the main characters comes off as far too creepy on the old man's side, and cruel and the young woman's side. A relationship like this could possibly work if was written or done very well, but that simply is not the case here.

Peter O'Toole plays an actor here, a rather washed up an tired actor suffering from colon cancer, and his old age. In the opening of the film O'Toole plays the washed up actor as a man basically drifting through his old age, along with his other aged actor friends. He is reduced to basically taking roles as corpses, talking about various depressing topic with his friends, and occasionally visiting with his estranged wife (Vanessa Redgrave). Peter O'Toole is very strong in showing this weary man, who is not completely dead but obviously very tired. O'Toole is a perfect choice for the role, utilizing his own image, to add to Maurice. He really just is Maurice from the get go, completely believable as a more obscure actor. He could have made Maurice a completely depressed individual and it could have been a little too heavy, but O'Toole does show it in the right amount, but always giving a old glimpse of the character and his own original charm of his youth.

The character gets a bit of a strange new lease on his life when he meets the niece (Jodie Whittaker) of his friend(Leslie Phillips). He instantly becomes very attracted to the young woman, despite her being very hostile to him from the start. O'Toole really is incredibly good here, in his attempt to woo the young woman despite his old age. He really is fascinating in the way O'Toole shows the old man using all of his potential charm in his attempts with her. He recites every seeming intelligent in his head, and quote he knows, and O'Toole properly displays the true lust the old man feels, and how he tries to be even more than he is. O'Toole though unfortunately is hindered a bit by the script, and by his co-star Whittaker. The script leaves their relationship far too artificial, and based mostly on physical favors. Whittaker does not help since she makes her part a complete prude, which makes it so the only feasible reason he likes her is her body. She also for most of the film only suggests that she is not even more creeped out by him is the fact that he does favors for him, but even once when she does not get exactly what she wanted she attacks him.

O'Toole despite these problems still stays very strong. He still makes Maurice interesting to follow, even if the relationship he seeks is rather shallow due to the script. O'Toole conveys the old man's lust for his life, as his relationship grows, but also his remaining sorrow of sorts, very well with a real truth to his performance. He is particular effective in the end of his performance where the two characters finally meet at a little fuller of a relationship even though I felt that the change was rather forced, and not really earned. Still O'Toole shows the changes of his character, from his frustration with her near the end, then their final affection is well earned by O'Toole, and does make for as good of conclusion by himself, without help from the film itself. All in all O'Toole gives an effective performance, and if he had one his long deserved Oscar for it, I certainly would not have minded.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Best Actor 2006: Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness.

The Pursuit of Happyness I actually did not mind watching, actually since it was actually upbeat, unlike so many films of this era. I am not saying that many films need to be positive, but not all should be negative as they are these days. I am not saying that it really is all that good of a film, but I liked the change of pace from the other movies with the other nominated performances.

The real Chris Gardner who went from homelessness to millionaire apparently believed that Will Smith was actually a bit of miscasting. I am inclined to agree with the real man for a few reasons. Number one is the role does not really seem to be the right type of role for Smith. Smith an actor who does mostly use his natural charisma for his roles, which does work okay for lighter types of roles. There are a few times he does not really even use that, such as Ali which results in basically a complete failure. His natural charisma is rated differently by many, I think he does certainly have charisma, but it is not anything astonishing.

In this role he actually should have tried to avoid his Will Smithisms. He does not exactly do this for most of his performance and I think that is a bit of a problem in this performance. I feel he usually simply plays the character in more of a superficial way most of the film. I find he mostly just acts it as a Will Smith performance, and I find he does not really get into the heart of the character for most of the time. I think this is particularly in any scene where he is doing something involving the stock broker firm. For some reason I always saw every scene as a little bit false, as Will Smith working hard at his job opposed to Chris Gardener. I just never could see him as the real man, I always saw him as Will Smith. He never was able to override this, fact especially in these scenes stopping his performance from ringing true.

He has some slightly better scenes involving when he is not working toward his prospective job. Still though in scenes where he is yelling at people who cause him trouble, I still felt there was a certain falseness, and I simply never believed him in the role. I want to address that this is not because he is Will Smith, great actors with great personal charisma, can avoid this, but Smith does not do this effectively here.  The part just demands more realism which Smith does not bring to the role most of the time. He is not awful, just simply does not meet the needs of the role.

There are a few scenes where he is a bit better. These are almost all scenes with Chris's son played by Smith's real son. They actually do work well together and obviously do have a natural chemistry. Still I felt I was seeing Smith, and his son, but these worked better for the film overall. His two big scenes involving tear jerking on Smith's part which he does, well enough I guess, but never in any sort of amazing way. I would say he does a good reaction when he learns he has earned his job, his slight display of tears of happiness is well handled. But call be harsh, but for some reason it seemed just a adequate technical feat opposed to a truly emotional reaction. As I said he is not terrible, just simply he never seems to be right in the role.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Best Actor 2006: Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland

Forest Whitaker won an Oscar from his first nomination for portraying African dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

The Last King of Scotland is a film I find rather fascinating, and I really enjoy its story since it is not a biography picture of Idi Amin, but rather the story of a doctor and his interactions with Idi Amin.

Forest Whitaker sometimes has been called a supporting performance to James McAvoy's lead as the doctor who becomes the dictators personal doctor and adviser of sorts. I disagree, they are both lead to me, both are essential to the film's story, and both hold great sway in terms of control of the film. McAvoy has more scenes, but Whitaker has the same if not more important.

Forest Whitaker's performance here is particularly fascinating if you compare it to his actual personality. In actuality you would be hard pressed to find someone less soft spoken that Whitaker, but here he is almost unrecognizable. He absolutely brilliant as Amin who is a challenging role, since he is both a mad man, and an extremely charismatic man. Whitaker properly makes this very peculiar individual properly his larger than life self, without ever going over the top. His insanity he slowly shows throughout the film is perfect. He shows it as something that effects the man who simply has a position of power that has more than gone to his head. Whitaker use of his face is particularly compelling, in the way faces of the insanity of the man who claims he knows when exactly he is going to die, and believes people are always conspiring around him. His faces are extreme yet always natural, and effective.

He not only is mad man but a very charismatic man at the same exact time, even when he raves like a lunatic he remains an incredibly magnetic presence. He is especially strong in any scenes in which he makes a speech whether it is to his guests, the people of Uganda or the foreign press, Whitaker simply lights of the screen. Which is rather odd since his character is a cruel dictator, but Whitaker makes you believe Amin ability to control and manipulate others. He allows one to understand how he could sway others from not knowing who he really was. Every one of these scenes are simply amazing to watch since you can see how he hides the true evil of the man, with his warm smile, strong presence and humor and they alone make his performance deserving of his win, but he has yet scenes that are surprisingly scenes where he is even stronger.

These scenes are every scene in which he and McAvoy heavily interact. They simply are brilliant together, they work off each other incredibly well. I like how their relationship grows and changes throughout the film. From their very first scene where they interact, in which Amin is intrigued by the doctor, and comes to like him. I like how Whitaker shows pure excitement at the doctor at first, and how he shows an actual liking of the man, even though Whitaker always still suggests Amin's suspicious with Amin's odd outbursts at times. Also I like how Whitaker shows the way Amin uses the doctor, particularly in one scene where he convinces the doctor to tell him suspicious information about one of Amin's ministers. This is scene is astounding because he convinces the doctor almost without words to do this. Both actors make this scene believable despite the challenge of it. Their strongest scene together is their final one. Their final conversation is incredible, Whitaker is extremely chilling and McAvoy is properly defiant both actors make the relationship's pivotal moment, especially powerful. Whitaker's role is an incredible challenge and he meets and surpasses the challenge. His performance is one of tremendous power, and at the same time is an incredibly entertaining performance too, simply a great performance.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Best Actor 2006

And the Nominees Were:

Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond

Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson

Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland

Peter O'Toole in Venus

Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness

So who do you pick, or predict? The mercenary, the teacher who has some problems, the Dictator with very severe problems, the old Actor, or the man who goes from rags to riches.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Best Actor 1943: Results

5. Walter Pidgeon in Madame Curie- I think Pidgeon does a fine job with the role, but the role is just a bit too simple for anything amazing to come from it.
4. Gary Cooper in For Whom The Bell Tolls- Cooper gives a okay performance since he relies on his strengths in terms of his silent abilities, rather than his weaknesses.
3. Mickey Rooney in The Human Comedy- Rooney is actually surprisingly good, toning down his star persona to give an honest and very effective portrayal of a young man, who must deal with certain aspects of his life including the sad losses of World War II.
2. Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca- Bogart gives a completely iconic performance, and everything he does as Rick Blaine seems to be perfectly Rick Blaine, that's all I can really say about his performance. Maybe it really is as perfect as some claim, or perhaps it is a weaker performance protected by its own iconic nature, very hard to tell for me.

1. Paul Lukas in Watch on The Rhine- Bogart's performance may be more iconic but Lukas's is the greater achievement in pure acting. I read one article that described Lukas's win as bad because any descent actor could have given the same performance, I must say that reviewer is completely wrong. Lukas's performance is brilliantly fleshed out by Lukas in scenes when he is not talking suggesting everything without words, and equally powerful showing the conflicting emotions involved with the character's fight with fascism. This was not a run of the mill performance, any actor could have done, Lukas went beyond that creating a fascinating portrait of man struggling with the world.
Deserving Performances:
Joseph Cotton in Shadow of A Doubt

Monday, 18 October 2010

Best Actor 1943: Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca

Humphrey Bogart received his first Oscar Nomination for portraying Rick Blaine in Casablanca.

Casablanca is a film that routinely bored me, and disappointed me the first time I watched it, when I watched it again I will say it has grown on me a bit. I still think it far from one of the greatest films of all time, but I did certainly find it to be good this time around.

Humphrey Bogart's performance is one of the most iconic performance in film history, usually when thinking of Bogart or the film, the though is of Bogart in that white suit, and in that iconic Cafe. Still being iconic does not automatically mean a high quality performance. I actually really like his second most iconic role, that of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, and think that is a perfect display of him excelling completely in his comfort zone but anyways. Bogart's performance is interesting in that most people would say no one else could have played Rick better. Now today that is most certainly true, if anyone else tried the part, it would seem that they just could not be the same iconic character as Bogart. But perhaps someone else had played Rick originally, perhaps a better performance could possibly be given. But because he did play the role it now seems no one else could have ever played it well as he does.

Now does he play the role perfectly. That is an interesting question because Rick and Bogart seem one and the same when it comes to this role, and that whatever he does is purely Rick.  He just is the type of man Rick is the way he stands, smokes his cigarette and carries himself. Who else could be like that but Bogart. Perhaps someone but the iconic nature of the Rick prevents me from seeing this, and Bogart seems to still be correct.  This performance does vex me because for me it is hard to critically examine, because of the conflict between the actual performance and the Iconic Bogart/Rick. I suppose whatever he did must of worked, because even the suit, and the club were important to make Rick, the film could not have technically be done without Bogart.

I will say that the first time I viewed the film, I found him to be rather dull at times, but this time, his performance did grow on me like the film. His acting as Rick just seemed to be technically correct. He now never seemed dull, if he was not emotional it was because Rick was simply too calm and collected to be so. Bogart must deserve credit I say since his performance I truly thrown off my ability to criticize. I do not think his chemistry with Ingrid Bergman is actually perfect in a technical sense, but for someone reason it deservedly earns to be a romance of cinematic legend. I do not know how but for some reason it all works, is it Bogart's acting, or Michael Curtiz's directing, I am not sure, but Bogart can technically do no wrong as Rick. Is this performance perfect as some say, I hesitate to agree, because I can name many greater performance in terms of acting. Is it something unique and something somehow impossible to replicate since no one else can could really be Bogart's Rick.

I  must admit when I was planning on doing this year I was full and ready to let Bogart's heavily praised performance have it  so to speak, due to the first time I saw it. I thought it was dull and boring, and I do think others could easily see it the same way. I no longer really do and I could also see how others could see it as underacting. I would partially agree with that, but not entirely because this time around his performance simply did work despite such potential flaws. I will say frankly this performance was incredibly difficult to review due to its overly iconic nature, and I will stop here for my own sanity, and just give Bogart:

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Best Actor 1943: Paul Lukas in Watch on the Rhine

Paul Lukas won an Oscar from his only nomination for portraying fascist fighter Kurt Muller in Watch on the Rhine.

Watch on the Rhine is not a very good film. It is another World War II support and moral film from this year, and seems far too heavy handed in its approach to the matter, far more than The Human Comedy. Many scenes are very boring, and it has three horrendous performances, by the actors who player Lukas, and Bette Davis's Children. Especially the youngest boy who is atrocious, they are suppose to have some sort of emotional power but they fail completely. The film itself does have some strength but all of that comes from Paul Lukas.

Paul Lukas is the only interesting part of the film, because he makes every scene he is in interesting because he is in. His character is actually the best written too, and Lukas makes more than the most of him.  No other actor comes close to him at all in this performance, not Bette Davis who is always emotional as Muller's wife, but she is all emotion without real substance. For most of the film, Lukas as Muller shows some emotions brief at times, but always suggest more than the obvious emotions on display. He is always doing something in a scene, where others may be overacting, or just dull, he is routinely excellent, always showing that his character is constantly thinking, and understanding his situation. Lukas shows the most, without ever seeming to do anything in certain scenes. 

I like the charm, and passion he always displays as Muller. He shows him to be a loving father and husband, very devoted, but even more concerned with the troubled way of the world, and how he must do what he can to make the world a better place. He really shows an incredible want and need to do this, and I find the scenes where he tells of his fascist fighting to be particularly powerful due to Lukas's powerful portrayal. I think Lukas really is superb with the intensity in his voice, and the memories he presents, when he speaks about his efforts against fascist. He is exceptionally spectacular in his scene where he plays the piano and sings about his efforts. He shows a hatred for Fascism, that really give the sense of a true hatred, but also a love and energy for his fight, that really gives a spectacular display of combining emotions to create an incredibly effective scene.

Lukas still even when he is talking about fascism, he keeps his emotions mostly conveyed in a restrained but brilliantly way through his face and only somewhat through his voice. He greatest scene though involves when he must deal with a Nazi sympathizer who threatens to prevent him from potentially saving other Anti-Facist friends of his. What is so interesting, and perfect about Lukas here is how he stays almost completely quiet at first. In the way he just listens and comprehends the situation while the sympathizer tells of want for money to keep quiet. Though eventually Muller takes matters into his own hands, and deals with the situation, after allowing the man to think he has had his way. Lukas in his final scenes is absolutely compelling and chilling in his own way. It is an astounding scene because Lukas is so incredibly powerful. He commands the scene, and finally shows absolute truth of the character and his true extent in terms of his devotion to the cause. This final scene actually stands far above the rest of his scenes simply due to how great it is, and I would say is one of the best scenes of any Oscar winner performance. Still though his whole performance is brilliant, and almost makes the film worth watching simply because of its power.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Best Actor 1943: Mickey Rooney in The Human Comedy

Mickey Rooney received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Homer Macauley in The Human Comedy.

The Human Comedy is a film that certainly has an intro that grabs you from the very beginning. I will admit its hold does not stay throughout the film, but it has a truly great introduction. After that it tells the story of people effected by World War II, and people in the town of Ithaca. Not every story was effective but some were, and I will admit to having my heart tugged a bit at the end.

Mickey Rooney as Homer is the center of the film, the person in which the other stories interact with. He plays a young man, whose father has died and his brother is in the Army. To support his family he must go to work for a telegram service, delivery singing telegrams, and sometimes telegrams that deliver cryptic news. I must say that Rooney usually can be looked at as a chronic over actor. Usually going too much with his manic energy, but that is not the case in this film, and I was really glad to see he tones it down here. He tries to really be this young man who does what he can during war time.

I like his youthful exuberance here because he never does over do it this time around. He really seemed like a young high school kid here, and I felt he did a good job in being authentically the part, especially since there are so many times were he plays the same age group in a completely different way. I really liked him here and I felt he properly fleshed out Homer very well, rather than doing the standard Rooney character. For he really showed the relationships between his character and everyone else very well. He always seemed natural when Homer was with his brother, his mother, his sister, in school, or his two employers. He always seemed like a really young man in these different scenes, which worked well. He still enabled himself to have a particular charm in his performance, but keeps as part of the performance rather than overtaking in it.

Mickey Rooney actually shows a very moving side of his acting abilities in certain scenes of the films. The scenes where he must deal with the death involved with the war. Rooney makes this scenes as powerful as they are because of his spot on performance. He really conveys the truest emotions possible in these scenes, when he reads the sad news on the telegraph, his face really makes these scenes of the emotional edge needed. All of the scenes where he must deal with the death, every single one, Rooney does as well with them, and they always hit the right emotional note. Especially when he sees the final telegram, and meets his brother's army friend. Rooney absolutely makes these scene honest, and they became truly emotionally effective moments in the film, and the best moments of the film. The performance was another pleasant surprise for me, and Rooney shows at least something of what must of contributed to Laurence Olivier calling him the greatest actor ever.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Best Actor 1943: Gary Cooper in For Whom The Bell Tolls

Gary Cooper received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Robert Jordan who helps the Republic side during the Spanish Civil war.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, is a semi epic war film that is much too long, and has many problems, even though I must admit I was not entirely bored well watching it.

Robert Jordan is an American who has come over to help the republic side in the Spanish Civil War. He is a man in command of his situation and fully aware of what he has to do. I will say that Gary Cooper is an actor I have a minor problem with automatically is that his voice can simply be too soft at times. It is just his voice, but I fell it does not always command as much presence as it should. In this performance Cooper is suppose to be rather commanding as Jordan, and his voice usually keeps me from fully believing his command in some of his other performance. Still though this is not automatically true for this performance.

I said it before and I will say it a second time Gary Cooper is an actor who is best when he is not talking. This not meant to be really a negative remark, I just find that he really is truly silent actor in many ways, since he conveys the most with his face and his eyes. Jordan is a man of few words and this work very well for Cooper. I do believe his command completely actually when he is just showing it through the way he stands and the way he looks at others. His ability to show this through his fully makes up for his voice completely for me. His voice still seems a little too soft, but I feel Cooper this time uses his physical command very well.

Most of the film Jordan is just trying to get the job done despite having to deal with an odd group of guerrillas and their odd former leader Pablo (Akim Tamirof). Cooper keeps Jordan in command at all times and that works out just fine for the performance, Jordan is a man who simply never really loses his cool. His romantic scenes with Maria(Ingrid Bergman) are rather odd though because Bergman and Cooper take such widely different approaches in these scenes. Cooper keeps it subtle and calm, while Bergman gives one of her needy emotional type performance. I think Cooper is actually more effective in these scenes because he remains far more subtle conveying truer emotions than Bergman with her obvious display of emotion. I think Cooper is actually weakened a little bit by her performance actually, but I think he still stays very effective.

Cooper's performance I expected not to really like at all, partially due to his huge failure as Sergeant York, but here I was pleasantly surprised actually. He stays a strong presence throughout the film, and he has some truly great scenes because of the power of his silent facial abilities. He really shows much more than I expected because of this, and made his character a little more complicated than I expected. Cooper is weakened by the other actors and the film itself, but he still has good scenes.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Best Actor 1943: Walter Pidgeon in Madame Curie

Walter Pidgeon received his second and final Oscar nomination for portraying scientist Pierre Curie in Madame Curie.

Madame Curie I found to be a biography picture which at times was good, but also rather boring, such as the actual scenes of discovering radium seemed like they needed something more visually.

Walter Pidgeon plays the french scientist Pierre Curie, without a french accent which is fine with me, since it just fits with how things were done most of the time back then. Walter Pidgeon performance and character here is somewhat similar to Paul Muni's performance in The Story of Louis Pasteur. He plays a scientist who is right in his thinking and only wants to improve the knowledge of mankind. He just is around a smart and decent guy, and I feel there is nothing wrong with such a portrayal. His portrayal is similar acceptable, suitable, and enjoyable at times, nothing less and it really does not have to be all that more. He has one difference and that is his partner in science is also his wife Marie Curie.

His scenes with Marie (Greer Garson) are not of the big romantic scene style, but rather far more simple scenes of showing affection for one another. There is not all that romantic tension, but I feel both of the actors do a very good job of showing just a more subtle love for one another that is simpler but properly sweet when it needs to be. I particularly thought he was strong in his final scene of the film where he shows his true love for Marie incredibly well. Besides that he was just good never all that great with Garson.

There are a few flaws that hold back his performance. I could see how many could see Pidgeon as dull, or to bland. I never thought he really was, and almost always thought his performance worked well enough in the film it was in even if it was never amazing. There was one scene I felt his performance was a little lacking, and that was in a scene where he was fighting to support the research of the Curies, and then defending his wife as a scientist. I felt he just needed a little more passion in his performance, not that much more, but a little more. I never felt his performacne truly failed and was just suitable fine performance that I enjoyed.