Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Best Actor 1951

And the Nominees Were:

Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun

Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire

Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen

Arthur Kennedy in Bright Victory

Fredric March in Death of a Salesman

Best Actor 2008: Results

5. Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- Pitt's performance is a dull lifeless effort that does nothing to bring to life the strange premise of his character.
4. Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon- Langella relies far too heavily on the overt Nixon mannerisms throughout his performance. As with Anthony Hopkins's work as the man he always closer to caricature than man, unlike Philip Baker Hall's portrayal of the man.
3. Sean Penn in Milk- Penn delivers a strong performance that acts both as the inspirational character desired by the film and this interesting examination of the nature of an idiosyncratic politician.
2. Richard Jenkins in The Visitor- It is not a big performance, or an amazing achievement, but Jenkins is most certainly very good in his portrait of a man who slowly finds some joy, and passion in his life.
1. Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler- Rourke is deeply moving in his portrait of Randy The Ram Robinson. Rourke shows so much to his character both the positive and the negative, never playing a single moment falsely, despite taking many risks with his performance.
Deserving Performances:
Brendan Gleeson in In Bruges

Best Actor 2008: Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler.

The Wrestler tells the story of past his prime pro-wrestler, who tries to reform his life, after a severe heart attack.

Mickey Rourke's performance here most certainly has an extra quality due to his long troubled career before the Wrestler. Rourke has some detractors here for playing himself, which certianly is a blatant rather foolish statement because what Rourke does here, is anything but just simply act as himself. He may certainly channel himself, and his experiences but almost any actor does that, and rarely do actors ever do as well as Rourke in this film.

The Ram at the beginning of the film is not shown to be the best off fellow, in fact he lives pretty shabbily, and seems to not really have any meaningful relationships in his life. He was a big star in the professional wrestling world though at one time. Rourke is extremely good here, because he certainly shows just the tired aged demeanor of the man in his rather exasperated way of just doing his day to day tasks. Rourke is especially in good in showing that he his time really was the 80's and certainly seems a little lost, such as when he fails to understand a young local kid's description of a modern game.

Rourke though shows that The Ram is not entirely without his small pleasures in his life, he does have a little fun for example with the local kids, but that certianly does not overcome his age. What does overcome this more mentally, although not physically, is found in his wrestling experience, both at local little conventions, and matches at rather small venues.

Rourke here is especially good because he shows Randy's charisma, and presence he has in the ring. Rourke is natural in the ring, and he finds the right believable camaraderie with the other wrestler that works extremely well.  Rourke shows that in the ring Randy is in his own, and suggests his past as the wrestling superstar.

Randy though after a brutal extreme wrestling match and suffers his heart attack and has to quit wrestling. He decides to try to create a relationship with a local stripper Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). It is an interesting relationship because the stripper constantly rebukes him due to her defenses due to her profession. It is not cold, but sort of harsh, but Rourke is extremely good because of his earnestness in the relationship even if it not all shared. Rourke shows that Randy desperately needs the relationship, and it is the desperation that makes him keep trying.

At the same time he tries as well to try to once again create a relationship with his estranged daughter. Rourke shows quite clearly his torrid history with his daughter, and how he really does not know her well at all, due to his complete awkwardness talking about her earlier with Cassidy. Rourke as well shows that still shows his desperation makes him still try, and that he does have a love for his daughter even if he himself can't always remember that. This is of course shown best by his "piece of meat speech" which could have easily been overly melodramatic, but because of Rourke emotional honesty the scene is incredibly effective.

Randy also works more at his supermarket job by working behind a deli, which may be for me, the best part of his performance. Rourke's performance is amazing simply, when he once again finds the old Randy but this time as just a worker in the deli. He once again shows his charisma underneath that age once more, in a simply great scene. Rourke is outstanding in his performance, as he is humorous, a very entertaining and all that Randy is doing is working at a deli.

Randy life though never reforms as he wishes, despite his attempts, but that is due to his own destructive behavior. Rourke makes Randy's downfall believable because Randy is never portrayed as perfect, and Rourke always presents that his trying to fix his life, is always part of his desperation in life. Rourke's performance simply is outstanding becuase he perfectly mixes each part of his life so well, his mistakes, his tries, his success and his failure.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Best Actor 2008: Richard Jenkins in The Visitor

Richard Jenkins received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Walter Vale in The Visitor.

The Visitor is a somewhat contrived, although not entirely ineffective film about a man who finds a purpose again in life by befriending illegal immigrants.

Richard Jenkins is quite good at being just an average man in this film as Walter Vale. He plays a widowed economic professor. He seems to simply be drifting through life without much of a purpose, except the rather simple day to day tasks involving his job, and the piano lessons he takes basically because his wife memory. Jenkins simply, but effectively portrays his characters rather overt, yet at the same time subtle depression. He is not visibly crying constantly nor has he stopped his life completely, but Jenkins clearly suggests the profound effect the death of Walter's wife has had on him. It is not so much a sadness, but a lack of joy that Jenkins conveys wonderfully.

Walter soon meets a group of illegal immigrants that is the main focus of the film. Jenkins is again good in his confused apprehension at first as he encounters them in his apartment in New York City that he rarely uses. Walter comes around to them, and in fact befriends the illegal immigrant couple, particularly the man Tarek, who starts to teach him to play the drums. Jenkins' transition of Walter's relationship is not a huge jump by anyways, but it honestly portrayed by Jenkins, because he still shows that some awkwardness in his relation with the immigrants does stay, and that it is a very gradual transition of greater comfort with his very different from him, new friends.

Jenkins also does not become instantly happy at all, but shows that his life has simply found something new, and has again given more of some joy, that the utter devoid he had before. A passion also grows even more fully actually when Terek is imprisoned due to his illegal status. Walter once again finds a passion within himself to help Terek the best he can, and Jenkins suggests it as not something new to Walter, but rather this part of himself being risen once more. This is particularly shown well in his angry speech scene at the prison, where Jenkins is effective because he shows that he really does care for what is being done to Terek, and how his relationship with him has moved quite deeply.

With the imprisonment of Terek he also meets and befriends as well Terek's mother Mouna. Again Jenkins is good in creating and honest natural relationship with her, but this time he seems to make an even deeper connection with her, so much that he reveals and reflects more about himself. Jenkins comes full circle very well in showing how Walter had been sleepwalking through life, but finally has grown enough to find a purpose as well as see how he had been previously. I think I have probably sounded rather positive throughout this whole review, no doubt coming at least partially from the rather lackluster performances I have just gone through. I will say I am positive this is a good performance, and Jenkins shows his ability as a leading man as he did more commonly as a supporting actor.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Best Actor 2008: Sean Penn in Milk

Sean Penn won his second Oscar from his fourth nomination for portraying Harvey Milk in Milk.

Milk is a rather standard biography film that essentially is a retelling of the documentary about Harvey Milk, The Times of Harvey Milk, making its original screenplay win rather ridiculous.

Well after giving the film another viewing after many years I will say my view has changed a bit. Not so much on the film, which I still think is a decent fairly straight forward biopic. Watching it again though I will say though that Sean Penn actually gives a performance very much fitting to such a biopic. This is to the point, that despite some surface elements, it is very dissimilar to a lot of Penn's work. Penn is noted for his flamboyant, usually hammy, performances however interestingly that actually is not what he does with the role of Harvey Milk, who was a reasonably flamboyant guy when seen in the public eye. Penn actually uses this to give one of his more subdued performances as he actually sets up a certain personal style within the character of Milk that offers sort of an insight into the idea of a politician. This is specifically though into the idea of insight as the first openly elected homosexual politician in the United States. In that Penn develops multiple sides of the character in his work there being the man we meet in his session with his other social activists in his store, the man on the world's stage, and also quietly recording a final testament in his belief that he will eventually be assassinated.

Penn embodies every side of the man fully within his work from his particular timbre of voice and physical mannerisms. These are very much opposed to Penn's typical mannerisms, and he uses these effectively in order to convey the different states of Milk as the political operator in a way. Now in the most open public spaces we get Penn at his most flamboyant. He is actually rather effective in the way he plays these scenes basically as Harvey playing them up a bit for the crowd. Penn actually changes dependent on the situation showing that Harvey in a way purposefully portrays himself as whatever he feels he needs to show the crowd. The one facet of this being that he in a way camps it up, where he amplifies those mannerisms, which Penn projects directly into when Harvey is directly interacting with mostly straight crowds. Penn uses this in a way to show Harvey essentially creating the visibility fitting to a man who wishes to be known as gay in the public eye. He does this even in two ways which is interesting. One being in crowds he wishes to win over he projects a warmth within their overtness like he's Paul Lynde as a way to endear the crowd to them. When working with a directly hostile crowd or person though Penn delivers this as overt though now with a confrontational hostility, as he is trying to directly invade their personal space, and force them to directly face who he is and what he represents.

That is opposed to when Milk is with his inner circle of supporters and activists or even with crowds of other homosexuals. Penn again sets his performance differently depending on the crowd and the situation once again realizing the nature of the politician. He's particularly good with this through his scenes with the inner circle where he creates this variation. One hand he in part fulfills the idea of Milk as the first out politician in terms of his emphasis on Milk playing up certain behaviors. He tempers this much of the time though in the more serious minded discussions however Penn plays with the idea effectively dependent on this mood. When he speaks to them less as individuals and more of the group as supporters, such as when he requests they all out themselves to their families, Penn puts on a certain show. He does not make it the same level as with sort of the "general" audience, but he does put on the idea of Harvey Milk as this representative, and not just at a government level. This is even more evident in his scenes with the crowds of homosexuals. He brings in these moments sort of the grandeur of a proper politician and leader. Again Penn paints this with touches of flamboyance though he uses that as undercurrent with the more powerful sentiment being the passion he delivers in every one of his speeches. He reveals the man playing to the crowd as this force of personality, and as man very much created an image people can believe and follow.

This is against however the man that Harvey Milk is beneath all the requirements of the politician. We don't see this Harvey too often. Penn reveals him in the taping of the testament, and in his later scenes with Dan White (Josh Brolin) and Milk's lovers Scott (James Franco) and Jack (Diego Luna). Now in these scenes Penn is at his most subtle and quiet. He still exudes certain mannerisms however it is here where they seem most natural and worn within the man when he has essentially now one to persuade or confront. This is just the man as himself and Penn delivers an effectively subdued look at very much the man without any needs to be anyone other than himself. This quite honestly at Penn at some of his most subdued in general and is quite good in these moments in revealing a more direct wear of the life in his certain haggard delivery of his testament, but also offers a real poignancy within these moments of reflection revealing a genuine pride in his accomplishment. The scenes between Harvey and Scott and Jack are bit different though. In that each Penn reveals sort of the ways of a man who had been long in the closet in each of his interactions with each man when they initially meet. In that in each Penn very much puts his attentions forth in a very obvious way, however this is fitting to someone who once had to make his intentions known quickly and somewhat non-verbally. Over time though Penn reveals again that quieter self as he shows off the man's own vulnerabilities which are far more open in these relationships than anywhere else in his life. His most fascinating relationship though is perhaps with the man who would eventually kill him in Josh Brolin's Dan White. In that in these singular interactions Penn realizes this idea of the interaction between essentially the politician and the man throughout. In that early on Penn shows Milk starting out strong to make himself very much known to White. This is somewhat of surface interaction however as they keep going, where they come to conflict several times, Penn is interesting as he shows a growing sympathy within Milk for the man who is increasingly becoming unhinged. This is especially interesting in the later scenes in that we see even this interesting mix in the quieter personal moments Penn emphasizes this concern for White, while in the politician moments he reaffirms an even stronger stance against the man's continued career. This is a very good performance by Sean Penn as he tempers his usual excesses, and actually succeeds in giving a more personalized work that goes beyond even the requirements within the film as he offers both the inspirational figure desired by the film and this examination of what it means to be a politician..

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Best Actor 2008: Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon

Frank Langella received his first Oscar nomination for portraying former president Richard M. Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

Frost/Nixon while far less interesting than the actual interviews, offers a semi-decent examination of the story even if it attempts to ingrain a far greater importance to the story than actually existed.

Frank Langella's performance is what should be described as a mannerism filled performance from his face, to his voice to the way he walks. All in an attempt to imitate the real Richard Nixon. Now Langella claims in interviews that he was not trying to imitate, yet he was still using a voice not of his own, as well as mannerisms, so its a little hard to believe his statement. I guess he was just trying to excuse the fact that he fails to get Nixon down, who real is not really nearly as mannered as Langella's performance makes him out to be. Frank Langella whole mannered performance is a severe hindrance to his entire performance. He looks almost like a cartoon character at times, because he looks so strange, in not only the way he is made up but also because of the way he walks, and talks, which simply does not work well for Nixon as a character. Langella's whole performance feels out of place because of this, he just never seems natural in his characterization of Nixon, he simply should have cut back on the mannerisms.

Langella performance after his mannerisms seems to have three sets of acting scenes in this film. One is he awkwardly tries to talk to people normally, again Langella mannerisms made Nixon's inability to connect with other people rather unnatural, now that might make it seem like I am saying the right type of unnatural, but I would say unrealistic type of unnatural, not proper to a real person type of unnatural. Another is his yelling scenes or at least loudly pitched scenes, which has too many of. There are great numbers when he loses it, and frankly again it never felt particularly natural, instead it always came off as excessive ACTING to me. I never felt it was ever really effective, in conveying emotion, but rather just trying to override all other emotions with his angered yelling, which also is completely incorrect to how Nixon acted on the actual tapes, if Langella had been more like how he actual was that could have been a great performance. He also has his token quiet scenes, where the filmmaker show their belief to create some sympathy for the character just put in some obvious scenes that basically come off as the "sympathy creation scenes".  Langella and his mannerisms again undermine any potential emotion that could have possibly been made in these rather forced moments. Langella never finds the right depth of emotion to really create anything in these scenes either. This is a performance that fails to be a good imitation, and it puts so much of its effort into its imitation causes to never be much more than a caricature of the man.

Best Actor 2008: Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Brad Pitt received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Benjamin Button in the Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an overly long, often boring film about a man who ages backwards.

Brad Pitt's performance here cannot be mentioned without mentioning all of the special effects in the various scenes of the film. It is many times difficult to tell how much of the actual character is Pitt in these early scenes, which even seems to include the face partially at times. The one thing that seems to Pitt's own most of the time seems to just be his voice, except for of course at the very end of the film.

I think a major problem, one of the major problems with this performance, is that much of it is special effects, or makeup. Pitt's I never felt really did all that much to do all that much himself to indicate the age as well as deaging of the character. Pitt' always seems to just let the special effects handle most every thing, and I geuss he alters his voice a little bit but not all too much, or all that interestingly.

Another problem comes from the fact that Pitt's portrays his part in an extremely uninteresting fashion. He has a distinct lack of charm in the role, and he again seems to want the special effects to do everything, including in trying to make him an interesting character. Pitt is just deadly dull because he does this, perhaps one could say well the special effects were hindering, I say no, watch John Hurt in The Elephant Man to see a performance, that technically could have been hindered by makeup but never for single moment was.

Pitt's whole performance shows what makes other performances good actually, because when there is a close up to Pitt's face, what does one see nothing. He shows absolutely no reflection on the character's life, or frankly much of a realization that his character is even aging backwards. Pitt always keeps the part at this same level of passiveness, that is quite boring to watch.

Pitt in fact does try to give a performance similar to that of Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. He tries to be a likable guy to follow through his adventures, and misadventures through time. Although I believe this to be a faulty way in portraying a character that seems like he should have deeper reflection, even though he never does. Still as even trying to be like Hanks he fails, because Hanks still was able to be likable and carrying his film, Pitt never does this, making the story of Benjamin Button, quite a dull one.

Best Actor 2008

And the Nominees Were:

Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon

Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Sean Penn in Milk

Richard Jenkins in The Visitor

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Friday, 27 May 2011

Best Actor 1944: Results

5. Cary Grant in None But the Lonely Heart- Grant is not able to rise above, or even compensate for his miscasting in this role. Grant should have been nominated many more times than he was but this is not one of them.
4. Bing Crosby in Going My Way- Crosby role is not much of a challenge, it requires him to sing, and to be  charming, which he is, but he really does not do anything in his role that needed to be rewarded.
3. Alexander Knox in Wilson- Knox gives a strong passionate performance as Woodrow Wilson. He makes Wilson a likable and interesting character well keeping with the film's just about portrayal of Wilson as  just about perfect.
2. Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way- Barry Fitzgerald's performance is indeed a supporting performance, but a great supporting performance. His performance, is an honest deeply effective piece of work. I do not mind not giving him the award here since he has his own proper category to win.
1. Charles Boyer in Gaslight- Charles Boyer gives an effectively mysterious performance in Gaslight. Boyer reveals carefully about his character, and his brutal control in the film is brilliantly done by Boyer, as is his terrific final scene where the tables finally turn on his character.
Deserving Performances:
Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity

Best Actor 1944: Charles Boyer in Gaslight

Charles Boyer received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Gregory Anton in Gaslight.

Gaslight is a quite effective film about a woman who is does not know if she is going, or if there really is something nefarious going on around her.

Like most films which are thrillers like this film, spoilers must be mentioned to be able to really speak of the details of Charles Boyer's performance in this film. Charles Boyer's performance is in the line of the many mysterious man roles, which not that much is known of the past, but he is certainly is hiding something. This type of role honestly can make cause an actor to turn out some great performances example including my personal winner of 37 Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall, as well as the unnominated Joseph Cotton in Shadow of a Doubt.

Charles Boyer was cast apparently cast against his usual type which is interesting because Boyer, always has a certain coldness to all his performances even his romantic ones. His coldness comes well into play in this film, that is most certian. The film begins though as Gregory Anton is the mysterious suitor of Ingrid Bergman's Paula. Boyer in these earliest of scenes just suggest the more usual Boyer performance, of the commanding , and not all the lovey French romantic.Boyer as usual though is fully believable in his romantic prowess as he had also been in Algiers.

There is more to be revealed of Gregory though when he marries Paula and they move into her old home where her famous Aunt had been murdered. It is here that Gregory shows a much darker side to himself. I think Boyer is properly effective in just these earliest of the scenes, by suggesting that Gregory certainly is hiding something, but still keeps a good enough of his romantic facade so that Paula does not possibly catch on to his true motives.

I think one key moment Boyer has is one of the few scenes after he and Paula get married where they actually go out which is to the tower of London. Boyer again is good in always showing how Gregory always is hiding something, and has the proper anxiousness when he slips up. Also important is when he looks at the crown jewels, and he shows a true lust in his body over the special jewelry, this is an important character trait to the story that Boyer establishes quite well and with believability, without bringing two much attention to it.

Soon though more of Gregory comes out as he starts controlling Paula in rather brutal, and extremely cold fashions. He never allows her to go out of there home, and constantly tells here that she is losing her mind. Boyer is quite chilling in these scenes, and I think it is not only what he does to her but how he does it. Boyer always is perfect here because he makes Gregory always act like what he is doing for her own good, and tries to act like he still is being warm to her, even though he is in fact being terribly cruel to her.

These scenes are rather difficult to watch because of his terrible cruelty he has to her, but they as well strangely fascinating because Boyer shows that he has almost absolute sway over her due to his constant manipulations of her. Boyer holds so much power over her it certainly is striking to watch. His very best scene though probably comes with Ingrid Bergman's best scene at the very end of the film where their roles are reversed. It is amazing to see Boyer completely lose his grasp on the situation, and finally reveal the cowardly pathetic man behind his cruel exterior. Boyer whole performance is strong effective layered performance, that works exceedingly well with Ingrid Bergman's performance.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Best Actor 1944: Alexander Knox in Wilson

Alexander Knox received his only Oscar nomination for portraying President Woodrow Wilson in Wilson.

Wilson is a very old fashioned biography, where the subject of the biography is just about perfect, and this certainly is an enjoyable film of this type.

Alexander Knox must portray the just about perfect Wilson. Wilson is probably not the greatest character, or least displayed in this movie to have to portray. It automatically reduces the actors ability at portraying range, sense Wilson is shown to almost always as a calm controlled man, in fact when he becomes the least like himself it is only stated as such off screen.

Knox therefore has quite a challenge lined out for himself, since it is required to portray Wilson in a fairly restrained fashion, but at the same time he must also make him a compelling character nonetheless. The fascinating thing is Knox does indeed manage to be interesting as Wilson, and finds a colorful way to portray Wilson's properness, to make it actually rather endearing, while still making Wilson a rather upright citizen.

Knox manages to make Wilson a very likable character, when he could have been easily an overly stuffy character. Knox though manages to find the right charm within Wilson, even if it is a rather proper charm for this proper man. Knox always finds the humanity within the character, he never portrays him as just an espouser of principals, but instead a man first of all, but a man with principals.

Knox is able to delve into Wilson's personal life, and he carefully handles these scenes without comprises the whole of the character, but adding the right amount of heart into his performance. He shows Wilson's softer sides in two scenes especially one where he talks about his early days with his first days, where Knox has the perfect honest emotion to make the scene quite heartbreaking. Later Knox once again is able to show Wilson's more personal life with Wilson's courting of his second wife. A lot of time is not devoted to their relationship, but Knox takes what he has and always shows the right underlying warmness he has for his second wife, that really works well.

The most important aspect of his performance though is whether or not he can come off as presidential material, which Knox does with ease. Knox has a whole slew of scenes of speeches, and with each one he holds absolute attention with his precise, and passionate delivery. Knox does a great job in showing how Wilson has to adjust for every different situation, and finds the right tone for each scene, showing the right charisma and passion whether it is a huge crowd, in front of just his cabinet, or facing against the German ambassador.

His best speech though is his closing speech where he is exhausted from trying to promote accepting the league of nations. It is an incredible scene where he struggles to get through to with his ideal he holds so high, and eventually is unable to continue. It is an extremely powerful moment, and probably his best scene. His whole performance is good, Knox shows here that even though a character can be just about perfect, it can most certainly still be an interesting character.

Best Actor 1944: Cary Grant in None But the Lonely Heart

Cary Grant received his second and final Oscar nomination for portraying Ernie Mott in None but the Lonely Heart.

None but the Lonely heart is a film about aimless young cockney on the streets of London before World War II.

Cary Grant is of course a wrongly nominated as well as under-nominated performer, who despite excelling best as romantic comedy lead, he was never nominated for a role in that genre. Instead he was nominated in a romance Penny Serenade, but also unfortunately for this film which should be an intense character study of the aimless Ernie Mott.

The filmmakers really severely miscast Grant as Ernie Mott. Firstly the character is suppose to be in his teens in the film, but Grant was already 40 at the time of the films release. It is incredibly noticeable not only because characters mention Mott's age, and it just comes off a laughable when Grant is mentioned as going to be 17. His age though is further problematic, becuase it throws the whole story off, since the film is written as a young man being aimless not as an almost middle aged man being aimless.

Another reason Grant is miscast is because the character is cockney. The usually suave Grant is just not very believable as a cockney. Archie Leach really had become Cary Grant by this time, and really he just is not convincing as a cockney. He does not make it anymore convincing through his cockney accent he attempts. A rather inconsistent, and distracting accent. It is easy to tell that Grant is always trying to cover up his suave refined voice, and it just doesn't work.

Being severely miscast does not automatically mean a performance will be bad, in fact some actors show a great range when being miscast, but Cary Grant does not do this in this role. His whole performance is a misplaced effort to begin with, it is not much of an effort to begin with. Grant is most certainly quite handicapped in the role. He is not able to use any of his ample charm, or comedic power in this extremely serious role, but still that is not all that is wrong with his performance.

The character of Ernie Mott should be that of a pained angry, but still an exuberant young man. Grant is none of these things, His aimlessness seems like it would come more from laziness in Grant's Mott than due to his anger with society or anything like that. Grant's whole performance just lacks any sort of passion that one would think should be in the character of Mott. Mott should have some sort of raw quality in the character, but Grant shows none of this.

Grant fails to ever give a compelling characterization because the character really is just out of his range at this time in Grant's career, he really is just too old for any part of the performance. He is not anything special in this film, his romances seem a little forced, because he lacks the energy the part probably needed. His whole struggle on the streets comes off as uninteresting, because of his entire lack of command in this performance.

Grant is miscast in this role, and he never invests very much into the role. This is made abundantly clear by the way some of his line readings are extremely stilted. I will say that I do think he does have a few good reactions here, and there, and I do give him credit for attempting at least attempting to be a convincing street cockney, but still this just is a lackluster performance, that shows little to none of Grant's considerable charisma and screen presence. This performance stands as a reminder to one the academy most obvious mistreatment of an actor.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Best Actor 1944: Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way

Barry Fitzgerald received his only lead actor nomination, the same year he won his supporting Oscar, he received both of the nominations for portraying Father Fitzgibbon in the same film Going My Way.

Barry Fitzgerald's dual nomination most certainly is an Oscar oddity, the academy must have really liked this performance to nominate him in both categories, but apparently they were confused as well as whether or not he was co-lead with Bing Crosby or was supporting to him. Fitzgerald's character certainly is important to the story, and he does have a good amount of screen time. He still has considerable less screen time than Bing Crosby though. There are many scenes, and storyline that involve him only a little or not at all. Fitzgerald in fact only really interacts with Crosby, although he has some very minor moments with a few other characters, but not very long moments.

Barry Fitzgerald I would say is a supporting actor in the film, despite being a very important supporting player. His part of the story, I also feel is the best part of the film, and his story is most certainly the most interesting, and most effective part of the film. His story concerns the fact that Father Fitzgibbon is getting on in years, he is not as sharp as he use to be, and is having trouble being able to keep his church going due to the church's financial debt. Barry Fitzgerald actually creates quite an interesting and vivid portrait of this nice old priest. This performance may seem less than it is if you have not seen other performances by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald actually has a whole distinct manner as the modest, quiet priest, that is very distinctly original, and different from Fitzgerald's other performances. Fitzgerald has the manner in the way he walks and talks that really feels like just an authentic old Irish priest.

Fitzgerald's whole performance feels quite natural, in a film that certainly has some artificial feeling sentimentality. This is despite the fact that Fitzgerald "acts" more than one may think in the role, but you can't notice it because Fitzgerald does all of it in such a subtle and honest fashion. He never seems to be acting out in any way, but rather finds just the actual humanity of the character. Fitzgerald's story is the most effective because of Fitzgerald. He makes Fitzgibbon such a likable character, even when he is fighting with Crosby's character, because Fitzgerald portrays the part in his honest way, his whole portrait of Fitzgibbon is just hard to resist not liking.He has his own distinct charm, a quiet charm, but hard to resist one that Fitzgerald perfectly utilizes as Fitzgibbon.

Fitzgerald's story in the film is the most deeply moving in showing how much his character has given up for his parish, and how he feels his betrayal by being replaced by Father O'Malley. Fitzgerald does not show Fitzgibbon's feelings of disappointment in anger, but rather in a just a subtle disappointment, and sadness that shows a deeper effect on Fitzgibbon than if he was more external about his feelings. Fitzgerald though just as well, displays Fitzgibbon's slow coming around to O'Malley quite well. It is not an incredible transformation by any means, but one handled well by Fitzgerald nonetheless. Fitzgerald presents his his eventual friendship with Crosby, well, and Fitzgerald shows it not as a change in character, but more of just an acceptance, and understanding of the situation.

Fitzgerald's best moments come from his reflections about his mother though. Fitzgerald is able to convey a true honest love that Fitzgibbons has for his mother beautifully. He attaches this along with Tura lura Lural, which although the film does not say it, Fitzgerald makes it quite clear that Fitzgibbons attaches the song with his mother who he holds so dear, but has not seen in a very long time. It this honest love that makes his story the only part of the film that is honestly effecting, as that Fitzgerald's final reaction at the end of the film gets me every single time. This is indeed a supporting performance, but that does not all take away from the strength of the performance. It is a delightful performance nonetheless filled with genuine emotion, that succeeds in being a natural authentic performance. This is all despite being amidst some rather forced and sometimes artificial emotion. Fitzgerald manages to rise high above the rest of the film in his wonderful performance.

Best Actor 1944: Bing Crosby in Going My Way

Bing Crosby won his Oscar from his first nomination for portraying Father Chuck O'Malley in Going My Way.

Going My Way is a rather sugary film, and I do sort of like it in its bits and pieces. Not  really so much for some of its plot lines like the runaway girl, the mean banker, the rowdy local boys, the opera singer, or even so much  about saving the church, but rather more  of for just the songs, and the story of the aging priest Father Fitzgibbon (but I will get to that in my next review).

Bing Crosby was twice nominated for portraying Father O'Malley. This being this first time, and I must say one can defend this performance just a little by comparing it to his reprise in Bells of St. Mary's. In Bells he was exceedingly dull, and his character acted quite strangely. In Going My Way he is indeed a little better, because he is not nearly as dull, since he does infuse a bit of energy in this performance, and O'Malley is basically perfect in this film which suits Crosby better than the bizarrely written O'Malley of Bells.

Crosby though still does not do all that much with old O'Malley. O'Malley basically just needs to be a charming guy, who does not go any actual emotional changes throughout the film. O'Malley instead just stays a nice guy throughout the film. Crosby is indeed fine enough as being O'Malley, having a nice enough charm, as well as being a nice singer of course. After just being charming enough though, although not exceedingly so. Crosby is nor required to much of anything, leaving his performance I suppose a nice enough display of charm, but nothing that ever needed to be rewarded acting wise.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Best Actor 1944

And the Nominees Were:

Alexander Knox in Wilson

Charles Boyer in Gaslight

Bing Crosby in Going My Way

Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way

Cary Grant in None But the Lonely Heart

Best Actor 1987

5. Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam- Williams is given the right part that allows him to show his comedic ability in this film, it is not anything great, but it still is an effective enough performance.
4. Marcello Mastroianni in Dark Eyes- Mastroianni puts a whole lot of effort in his big romantic performance, some of his performance does not entirely pay off, but enough does for this to be overall a charming as well as tragic performance.
3. Michael Douglas in Wall Street- Douglas' Gordon Gekko is not the most three dimensional character, but Douglas is properly commanding and convincing in his entirely villainous role.
2. William Hurt in Broadcast News- Hurt's performance is not all that interesting, but it does fulfill the requirement of his role as the rather shallow newscaster. 
1. Jack Nicholson in Ironweed- Nicholson for me this year stands far and above the rest of the performances. His performance as the homeless alcoholic Francis Phelan is a sad, haunting, memorable performance, that easily is my choice.
Deserving Performances:
John Lone in The Last Emperor

Best Actor 1987: Marcello Mastroianni in Dark Eyes

Marcello Mastroianni received his third and final Oscar nomination for portraying Romano in Dark Eyes.

Dark Eyes is a romantic, tragic, comedy, that has its moments I suppose.

Dark Eyes concerns Mastroianni's character Romano who is married to a wealthy Italian woman who he does not love, but instantly falls in love with a Russian woman he meets, and than later seeks in Russian to love. This means basically that Mastroianni whole performance is going to be a big romantic performance in his scenes of the past, as well as a tragic performance in his scenes in the present where he reflects on his past relationship.

If there is one thing I have noticed in all of his past nominated performances, Mastroianni always plays at least in some way a rather romantic character, as well as I notice Mastroianni is always a very physical performance. He always tends to act out in his performances in some way, and usually infuses at least some sort of playful quality in his performances.

Here Romano is always a rather playful fellow in the past scenes anyways, always doing some sort of special walk or dance that certianly is colorful. Mastroianni is very good at this because he is quite effective in displaying all of this playful parts of his performance as simply the flamboyant way Romano is, and makes even his walking like a bird chirping, seem natural to the character.

One of the most important aspects of Mastroianni performance is how charming he is in this film, and he is extremely charming. His face just simply glows in this film, and that work perfectly for the story. Due to the fact that he is exceedingly likable, it makes it far easier to follow him and enjoy with him through his romantic adventures.

Mastroianni is always constantly being charming as Romano, on this journey, which results in a large amount of scenes devoted to either his romantic gestures, or his actions needed to get his romantic ends. Not all of these scenes work completely, but Mastroianni is always trying hard to make each scene work anyway.

Some of the scenes most certainly do though like when he attempts to convince various rich Russians to sign his pass, to get to the woman he desires. He has to do it by showing his glass, off, which he does in various theatrical fashions, and each Mastroianni, is very entertaining, and most of all incredibly charming.

Well Mastroianni certainly makes us care for his romance, and romantic intentions, but he as well creates the right amount of sadness in his scenes during the present as well. Mastroianni shows his sad history in his face, where he was never able to finalize his love really. Mastroianni shows a distinct loss in Romano at the end, which is quite saddening due to the difference in that sad face, and the glowing face of before. I think this whole performance depends on if you find Mastroianni charming, I do so I therefore like this performance, it is not his best (I prefer when he is trying to murder for his romances) but it is most certainly a good performance of his.

Best Actor 1987: Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam

Robin Williams received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam.

Good Morning Vietnam tells the story of a anti-establishment army radio show host, who annoys many of the authorities, well being liked by basically everyone else.

Robin Williams has not had the best Oscar record with me, having been under 3 for every single of his nominations so far. Well what do I criticize, well his breaking of character to do his comic routine every so often in his other performance. I also criticize as well just a lack of dramatically convincing portrayal of a character.

What about this time though, well firstly the breaking out of character to do his comic routine is not a problem this time, since the character is a comedian who does a comedy routine just like Williams' own routine. Williams is constantly making his jokes, with his various voices he does, and well as mannerisms, but they are all in that of the character of Adrian Cronauer.

I think how much one enjoys this performance than all depends on how much one likes Williams' comedy routine on a whole, and in particular his material in this film. Well I have never been a huge fan of Robin Williams' comedy, I find some of his work his more enjoyable than others. In this film I would say all his routines are enjoyable, but I never really laughed out loud about them either.

The whole comedy of the character is shown to be a bit of a defense mechanism for Cronauer, as instead of every facing anything completely he tries to change the subject, or defuse a situation with a joke. Now this is displayed, but I did not think the film presented or Williams as some sort of deep pathological problem of Cronauer, but I guess it was still shown. It could have been far more interesting though if Williams had presented his constant use of comedy as something deeper.

The film attempts to become deeper, in the relationship between Williams' character and a young Vietnam man, as well a young Vietnam woman. Williams though still is not really required to show all that much dramatic weight, except for two key scenes. One after a bar he was in was bombed, and Williams is good in showing his struggle to keep up with his good humor on the radio, well clearly thinking of what happened. The other scene concerns him finding out that his Vietnamese friend was the one who bombed the bar. Williams is again good in the confrontation scene but not amazing.

This is not a great performance, but it is well attuned for Williams. Williams mostly uses his comedy, which is his forte, making it so his performance is actually effective enough. His whole character though technically is not a giant challenge for Williams, but at the same Williams is probably the only actor who could have really portrayed the part with his particular amount of energy, and constant comedic attempts. This is not an amazing performance, but it is technically a good displays of Williams' abilities.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Best Actor 1987: Michael Douglas in Wall Street

Michael Douglas won his only acting Oscar from his only acting nomination at the moment for portraying Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.

Like Broadcast News Wall Street is a pure 80's film, about an ambitious stock broker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) who tries to make it big through working with the rich corporate raider Gordon Gekko, and finds that he has to compromise a few morals trying to make it to the top.

Michael Douglas is not the true lead in this film, Charlie Sheen is, but he is the most dominating presence of the film, and I would still consider him lead because of that reason. Douglas' performance is a rather influential to his own career, in that he would afterward be cast in many similar how powered business man roles, despite apparently being suggested as being wrong for the part, by some before he was cast.

This performance's influence creates an interesting effect I think because for one I think on viewing this performance after seeing some of his later similar performance, unfortunately takes away the fact that this was an actual a leap of sorts for Douglas in portraying Gekko, and that he does succeed incredibly well in the role, and he is in fact instantly believable as the very powerful businessman Gekko.

Michael Douglas from his first scene he appears as completely in control of his whole business, and Douglas shows that there never is a question of Gekko's sway and power because of Douglas. He personifies the fast moving, quick acting, never stopping corporate manipulator without fault. Douglas simply is the part, Douglas simply is Gekko.

Douglas has the perfect sway in the role, and his basic seduction of Bud into performing illegal deeds for him is convincing, because Douglas has the right charisma, even if a slimy charisma, a perfectly used slimy charisma. Douglas shows his charisma best though in his big "Greed is good" speech, which Douglas has that perfect confidence and dominance, that makes his speech so completely effective.

Stone is not a particularly subtle director or writer, and tends to make his points very obvious, and well to the point, therefore Gekko is pretty simply just evil, doing anything possible to get more money, and make every corporate deal go just his way. Douglas therefore is not allowed all that more development from Gekko besides his evil ways and methods.

Douglas nonetheless gives an effective villainous performance. He makes Gekko's abilities clear, and makes him someone easy to hate. Gekko's eventual defeat near end of the film, is made all the more satisfying because of this though. Douglas portrays Gekko fall well enough, and shows his loss of his control and confidence just as well as he showed it. This is technically a good portrayal of the character, although a performance I more of admit that it is good, than one I really love.

Best Actor 1987: William Hurt in Broadcast News

William Hurt received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Tom Grunick in Broadcast News.

Broadcast News is a rather 80's film about hard working news producers Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), and two television reporters who are also her potential suitors the good reporter, but lacking in charisma Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), and the less able reporter but charismatic Tom.

William Hurt second two nominations seem to be those of the more traditional leading man especially compared to his greatest work in Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Hurt's performance as wannabe major news anchor though is actually a performance as the false leading man. The falseness is something lead to in quite a brilliant fashion by William Hurt though and not at all the simple portrayal it might seem on the surface. When we first meet Tom though he seems nice enough as he genuinely asks Jane what he really could do to do something that really meant something in the world of televised journalism.

Hurt makes a interesting dynamic within Tom early in the film as a man who is one thing but wants to be something else. On one hand Hurt gets the the look and the style of a new anchor perfectly. He is exactly how he should be in deliver and stature. Hurt has that great false yet all too believable style in which he seems invested in every single news story even though he may not really understand much of anything when it comes to the details of what any of the stories mean. Tom's lack of knowledge and perhaps intelligence is all well handled by Hurt because he makes it a genuine inability of Tom.

Hurt doesn't mind showing that Tom just is not that smart but is willing to try to be more then he is. Hurt is just so earnest when Tom is trying to find substance in what he does with the help of either Jane or Aaron his romantic rival for Jane. Hurt has Tom intent to try something but what is always underlying in these scenes is that Tom just doesn't have more to find. Hurt brings it to just a point every time which portrays the weakness of Tom to make that extra step. Hurt's is a great portrayal of just a man simply not getting it even though he does desperately desperately try.

Tom being photogenic but unable to understand the finer details actually works into to the romantic angle of the film even though Hurt makes this one a bit different. Hurt again makes Tom charming as when he woos Jane and again there is the same earnestness to make it all work that is even greater then his wishes in the newsroom game. Hurt does have the substance as Tom here in that the wish for a real relationship with Jane is apparent. Where Hurt shows the weakness comes from this time is again his inability to connect with the professional life and make the understanding that Jane's job is very close to being her life.

Hurt really has a thankless role but one that should not be taken for granted as Hurt gives a enjoyably measured performance as a man of very little substance. Hurt doesn't fall in with the low substance of his character finding the right humor, the right personality and even the right charm to make Tom Grunick really work as character. The whole time Hurt plays just the right fine line in his performance because he is likable, he even allows sympathy for Tom but he still makes Tom well just a little dumb and far less then the way he appears on television. He achieves just the right balance giving a very enjoyable performance that also fulfills the place Tom should represent within the news and love triangle of Aaron, Jane and Tom.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Best Actor 1987: Jack Nicholson in Ironweed

Jack Nicholson received his ninth Oscar nomination for portraying Francis Phelan in Ironweed.

Ironweed is an effective haunting film about an alcoholic homeless man during the depression drifting through life, as well as remembering his past.

Jack Nicholson's performance in the film, is one of his quietest performances really. He never uses any of his Nicholson trademarks in this film, instead portrays Francis as a truly downtrodden character, who Nicholson always shows to really have the good life taken out him completely from his hardships he has faced in his life as a homeless man.

Francis though was not always a homeless man, and only became one due to his incredible guilt he faced after accidentally dropping his infant son, causing his son to die. This is all learned in a single scene where Francis visits his sons grave, and Nicholson makes this scene one of the best scenes in his entire career. As Francis talks to his son, he shows all his guilt, he has had over his son, and his complete sense of loss, Nicholson in this one scene is  heartbreaking, with his entirely honest portrayal of Francis' grief.

Francis spends much of the film simply drifting from place to place, doing small jobs to get money, and get another drink. Nicholson is extremely good in showing just how long Francis has been in this state, of going from meal to meal, drink to drink, from shabby place to sleep to shabby place to sleep. Nicholson shows the complete truthful history of the man, in just the way he walks, and acts that clearly shows the weight on Francis' shoulders brought on by the past.

Nicholson portrays Francis' alcoholism brilliantly, in that he does not show it that he merely has to drink, but rather he has to drink to hide the real emotions, and reality of his life. Nicholson is very good because he never tries for a moment to show off with this aspect of Francis, instead he shows it as a distinct facet of what Francis who he is currently, but not the only aspect of Francis. Nicholson who portrays the alcoholism any manner of its effect on Francis, is so incredibly subtle, it simply is outstanding the way Nicholson presents it.

Francis is forced to face his past even more completely when ghosts from his past are walking and talking on the streets to him just like the normal people. The ghosts work surprisingly well in the film, and feel completely natural to the entire tone of the film, and I think part of the reason why they work so well, is because of Nicholson's performance. Nicholson makes them believable because he shows that they are deeply part of his mind. Nicholson presents them as a deep pain within Francis, that he cannot forget.

His relationship with Meryl Streep's character Helen is rather interesting, because it is not much of a love relationship, although there is perhaps a little of that, but more of a mutual partnership due to their mutual desperation. It most certianly is not a loving relationship, but the little tenderness infused by both actors makes that all the special. It is fascinating though because Nicholson  shows the right anger in Francis toward her for trying to cling to her high class background, but still shows compassion of sorts with her, as it is his duty. Nicholson finds the perfect tone in the relationship to make true to life.

His real love relationship though is shown when he goes and sees his wife Annie (Carroll Baker), and family after so many years. Their relationship is one that is just incredible to watch, because Annie does not blame Francis, nor is she better towards him, instead she is incredibly warm to him. Nicholson contrasts her forgiving nature by showing that Francis just is unable to get over his own past, to even be able to except her forgiveness, although he still clearly loves her, as she loves him, but Nicholson shows that Francis is much to haunted to be able to stay with her for a happy life.

The manner in which he reaches his final moments though, where perhaps Francis finally is able to truly face his past, is flawlessly portrayed by Nicholson. This is simply one of Jack Nicholson's best performance his journey as Francis is an incredible one to follow because of Nicholson pitch perfect manner. Nicholson never visibly seeks to gain empathy, yet he gains a enormous amount in his portrayal. It is an incredible heartbreaking performance, a true honest portrait of a broken down man that is very hard to forget.