Thursday, 30 June 2011

Best Actor 1957

And the Nominees Were:

Anthony Franciosa in A Hatful of Rain

Anthony Quinn in Wild is the Wind

Alec Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai 

Marlon Brando in Sayonara

Charles Laughton in Witness for the Prosecution

Best Actor 1973: Results

5. Robert Redford in The Sting- Redford doesn't do anything special in this film, but he does not really do anything bad either. He is just okay throughout.
4. Al Pacino in Serpico- Al Pacino's performance here always failed to impress me with his rather repetitive routine of quietly discouraged, than suddenly really loud and angry over his problems. He never is bad, but I always wanted more from this performance than I got.
3. Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris- Brando supposedly admitted to not understanding this film, and I do think that comes through in his performance a bit, since I never fully was able to understand what the deal was with his character, but despite this Brando still is interesting to watch with all of his various scenes of soul bearing acting.
2. Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail- Nicholson is terrific in this film, in a very interesting way. He fully develops a fascinating character who is very much reactive to another character in the film. Through his reactions though he creates fascinating original character, and just to add tot hat he is has some great classic 70's Nicholson moments.
1. Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger- This one was rather difficult for me to choose between the two but in the end I must choose one so I am going with Lemmon. Lemmon although in a complete Oscar baiting role never turns it into a Oscar baiting performance. He amazingly always stays realistic, and completely embedded in his character. It is strong powerful work that frankly overcame the material.

Best Actor 1973: Robert Redford in The Sting

Robert Redford received his only acting nomination for portraying Johnny Hooker in The Sting.

The Sting is about con men doing a con in the thirties against an Irish mobster.

Robert Redford's only Oscar nominated performance is one of those oddities, since one usually says Robert Redford was only nominated once, and for this film. It is most certainly a lightweight role, and not really the traditional type of role that one really is usually Oscar nominated for. Just due to the fact there is not bearing of soul to be found here, but rather just a leading man going through a plot.

That does not exactly mean his performance is bad though, since if someone is a great leading man, they deserve all the praise they can get, I can't really say Redford is a great leading man in this film though, not a bad though either. His performance just is not really all that charismatic just, or entertaining to watch, and frankly the show really is stolen right out from under him. It is not that he is not fine as Johnny Hooker, he is charming enough, and easy enough to follow through the plot, but really he never does more than enough. The problem really is that I feel the likes of Robert Shaw as the villain Lonnegan, and Paul Newman as the more experienced conman Henry Gondorff give far more interesting and effective performances with less overall screen time.

Redford is believable in the part as the young con man learning the ropes, and trying to pull off the big con, he realistic enough in his reactions to the various situations he finds himself in at the different phases of the con. Although he is never amazing or all that interesting, nor is he really ever boring or wooden either. This really is not a bad performance by any means, yes he could have been the scene stealer but he just wasn't. The film works fine really with the other characters around him being more entertaining and interesting frankly. I think he did not really need to be nominated though, especially since really if they wanted to nominate a performance from the film there were two much better choices than he. Its not great its not bad, its fine in the context of the film.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Best Actor 1973: Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger

Jack Lemmon won his second Oscar from his fifth nomination for portraying Harry Stoner in Save the Tiger.

Save the Tiger is not much of a film, more of just a display of Lemmon's acting talents as a businessman who is basically on the end of his rope.

This is an acting showcase for Lemmon, and it does seem that it was tailored made to give him that chance at his lead Oscar. I think you can sort of tell this by his jubilation at hearing his name called when he won this year, clearing wanting to win a whole lot. This though even though is Oscar bait, his performance luckily does not feel like it even though it seems like it should, because Lemmon really does indeed invest in his character.

I have been a little mixed on Lemmon's past dramatic performances, I loved him in the Days of Wine and Roses, but I really hated him in Tribute. What were the major differences between these performances, well a lot of things, but most importantly the obviousness of the performance. In Tribute Lemmon never stopped his Lemmonisms, and his overacting, where in Days he stayed on the mark and realistic, even in the sanatorium scenes luckily for Lemmon his performance here is far more like his Days performance than his one in Tribute.

Harry Stoner is a businessman who really is just barely getting through life clearly always having a hard struggle to make it through the day. Lemmon is quite effective early on in presenting the sheer horrible state of the character. After all his performance starts with him screaming with pain in bed, over what the film does not say, but I think one could easily say it is over his entire life. Lemmon is good because he does not overplay the state of his character as he easily could, but is better showing the persuading pain in Stoner in a realistic fashion.

Lemmon is interesting in that he does show that Harry goes through a whole manner of facades through his day, at rather different levels. He tries to to act like a competent businessman, around his workers, he tired to act happy, and be high energy, but Lemmon carefully shows the overarching dread that is always prevalent in some way in his character even when he is pretending to be happy, even though he is not at all.

Lemmon's performance is manic, and covers a lot of different emotional ground in his performances, whether it is regret, hatred, exhaustion, and desperation but Lemmon always stays consistent in his portrayal. It is always part of Harry Stoner. Stoner never really stops moving which works extremely well for his performance. He tries anything to make his businesses work, or his life work, and Lemmon is perfect in showing how painful his struggle and desperation is because he never seems off which is what makes his performance effective.

This performance really honestly works which I find is amazing especially since there are scenes that are most certainly pure Oscar baiting scenes. One in particular is his speech at the beginning of a fashion show of his companies where he breaks out thinking of the dead men of war. This scene seems to come almost of nowhere, but Lemmon sells it anyways because he absoultely invests his heart and soul into the scene, to make it completely of Harry Stoner, and completely heartbreaking.

The same goes for many of his other Oscary moments as well, surprising as it is. When it slowly focuses on him an he talks to himself, I felt that was authentic and interesting because it showed into the rapid fire mind of Stoner, and how his mind refuses to stop, and really how on edge he is, or as well his looks and the way he walks in the film. As obvious of an actor thing it could have been, it again honestly intensely portrays the detrimental state of Stoner. 

This is really a fascinating performance because despite being in a purely Oscar baiting film, Lemmon manages a honest and effective performance. He never overacts in a performance that could have been only overacting. Lemmon is always makes every scene, no matter how strange or possibly over dramatic still part of the whole of desperation and isolation that is Harry Stoner.

Best Actor 1973: Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris

Marlon Brando received his seventh Oscar nomination for portraying Paul in Last Tango in Paris.

Last Tango in Paris is about an affair between a young Parisian and an older American who have a liaison with no names, and no conditions, for awhile at least.

Marlon Brando performance in this film certainly has a reputation that proceeds. I have heard from many sources touting this as not only Brando's best performance, but also one of if not the best performance ever. Well I must say that certainly does automatically effect your preconceptions but it should not define your conception of the performance, and it certainly does not define mine. It is a common criticism of various accolades given to the most of something rather than the actual best, well I think that can actually be allotted to this performance by Marlon Brando, since if there is one thing for sure this is one acting performance. The whole character is constantly doing something that is extremely dramatic psychological, crazy, whatever, this character never seems to stop baring his soul, and is almost the polar opposite of Jack Nicholson's nominated character from this year.

Brando most normal scenes, I think, come early in the film where he shows the grief over his wife's recent suicide. Brando I think is extremely good in this portrayal of grief, because he shows clearly that this has deeply wounded Paul that has pained him right into the emotional core, and his this portrayal of grief does a fairly well establish the mental state of his character, and partially explain his course of action in the film. Paul decides to start a liaison with a Parisian woman Jeanne (Maria Schneider), the relationship does not have much of a pick up scene though, since they really just begin the affair immediately with no strings attached, and not too much of an explanation either. They do, which means it is time for Brando to act, and act a lot, with deep soul searching not stop.

Now although I did see as fairly actory, I still feel he manages in the character of Paul somewhat, not just of Marlon Brando himself. My only real problem was though I think he does indeed portray an original character, I don't think he really completely understands who Paul is suppose to be precisely. Brando supposedly said he did not understand the point of the film, and I did feel some of that come through with his performance, in that I felt he had great scenes, but they did not fit into an amazing whole. I never truly understood, although I do not think I was really suppose to, why he would react to his grief in this specific and rather odd way. Nor did I understand where this man came from, and why frankly his behavior was as erratic as it was, particularly when he became sadistic. Now part of his character is suppose to be a mystery really, but what I did see I felt was many parts of a character, but still missing something that melded the whole of him as one.

This not to say Brando does not have some exceedingly fascinating scenes, and moments. Whether it is his scene where he talks dirty, his scene where he tells about how he learned to love nature, the butter scene, his crazed antics on the dance floor, his big scene next to his wife's dead body, Brando certainly is interesting to watch, and does make a great amount of interesting moments. But I always felt they were just that interesting, not amazing. The whole performance for me was most certainly a spectacle to watch, as Brando never stops doing something different in the role, but I must admit I did not feel it turned out to be a perfect performance, and I always far from the greatest performance of all time. In fact I did not even feel it was great, but rather just interesting. It is interesting to view, but not incredible to view, it just always feels as a performance that is less than the sum of its parts.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Best Actor 1973: Al Pacino in Serpico

Al Pacino received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Frank Serpico in Serpico.

Serpico tells the story of Frank Serpico who refused to adhere to police corruption despite it being all around him.

Frank Serpico as a character is one of some repetition that is sure. It is a lot of him coming into a new part of the police in New York City seeing some sort of corruption and responding to it publicly in a low key fashion, although becoming more upset by it in more private settings. In between being upset by corruption he usually gets upset by his current wife, and yells at her, or responds quietly to her. I don't know Pacino's performance here just never really amazes it me as it does seem to some. In the early scenes Pacino sets up how his character reacts with a quiet passion at first over the corruption he sees, and he keeps reacting in that same way throughout, thrown in with some angry disbelief over the ability of others to actually help him, and his feelings of danger by putting his neck out.

I don't know his whole plight never became as interesting as it seems it should have, because Pacino I feel should have done even more to show how the problems really stacked on Serpico in a better fashion, rather than just that tired face, along with the occasional scene of yelling. It always seemed to be less than Serpico really could have been in this film. I think the whole incredible honesty of Serpico really needed to be better explored by both the film, and Pacino's performance. Was all what he did because of his nature, or because of of something else, I really felt Pacino really needed to more heavily develop what about Serpico made him want to be so honest, since it was not just to be a decent guy since frankly he does not seem to be always one.

Also another problem I had with his performance was his relationships with his two major wives. I will admit they are not helped by the two rather stilted performances by the actresses playing his wives, but Pacino himself does not create a very interesting relationship either. The relationships in the film feel rather cold, by the lack of energy Pacino puts in them, nor are they made into another type of relationship, like say mutual desperation or something like that, none of the three actors develops the relationship into anything the least bit interesting.

Pacino has yet another problem I feel and that is Serpico whole odd policeman persona, when he slowly seems to become more and more unlike a cop as the film progresses with his growing beard, and continually more hippie like clothing. Why does Serpico do this other than for cover, and one would think it would be more than just for cover, never is realized, is it because he is really a hippie, or anti establishment or something, I don't know the film, and Pacino just do not develop it well enough.Although I have been very negative I think up until this point, I do not think this is really a bad performance, but just a lacking one that could have been a lot more. Pacino certainly has good moments throughout, and he is believable as well as technically realistic, I just never felt what he did amounted to any sort of an interesting characterization or performance. 

Monday, 27 June 2011

Best Actor 1973: Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail

Jack Nicholson received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Signalman 1st Class Billy L. "Bad Ass" Buddusky in The Last Detail.

The Last Detail tells the story of two naval petty officers Badass, and Mule (Otis Young) who have to transfer a very small time thief Seaman Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid) to the brig, but at the same time they try to provide a little bit of adventure and life experiences for the soon to be imprisoned young man.

Jack Nicholson has a rather interesting role in the film, since although he is the main character he really is not exactly the focus of the film precisely. It instead interestingly focuses on how he reacts to the naive Larry. It is a interesting dynamic, that might seem not seem conducive to developing a fully realized character, by Nicholson does this without fault, and it is fascinating that he does through his role that never really stops to tell specifically about Buddusky.

Nicholson though portrays this role with absolute ease, and charisma, it is another seventies Nicholson performance which really does mean a whole lot. In this decade Nicholson just has something else that no other actor ever hard is going to have. He is this unique presence and technique that is simply unforgettable in his nominated performances of this decade including this performance.

Nicholson develops a rather fascinating character in Buddusky because he is a career naval man, who does most certainly does his job thoroughly, and despite having problems with it he does not obviously hate it, yet still has an air of anti-establishment sentiment at the same time. It is an incredibly interesting mix of a character that Nicholson pulls off without a fault.

Nicholson is great in this part because he portrays it in an especially dead on realistic fashion throughout. Due to this fact, his somewhat reactionary performance is simply amazing at times. I think in particularly strong moments are when it shows how much he really pity and feels for Larry. Two extremely powerful moments of this aspect are probably his reaction to seeing the inside of Larry's home, or when he really contemplates what will happen to Larry.

This performance is not all reactionary though, and since it is a 70's Nicholson performance this of course has some classic Nicholson moments. The best of is of course when he confronts the racist bar tender who won't serve Larry, and right after that scene where he proclaims his badassery. Nicholson just has an amazing visceral energy, that is incomparable, and just incredible to watch. It also always works in these performances though because each scene in these performances although distinctly Nicholson, also always makes them distinctly the character he is playing, because Nicholson most certianly is a complete bad ass as bad ass.

Nicholson performance is just an amazing piece of acting, because I felt I really did meet Bad Ass Budusky in this film, and spent time with him as he did this job, and attempted to teach, or show Larry something. It is a strong piece of work becuase he develops Budusky so smoothly, and never does he ever seem like he is acting, even in his scenes that only Jack Nicholson could possibly do. It amazing to see how Nicholson truly develops a unique characterization and manages to create an outstanding memorable character without ever having a single scene that is obviously written just to develop his character. This is a great achievement by Nicholson that is all there is to it.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Best Actor 1973

And the Nominees Were:

Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris

Al Pacino in Serpico

Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger

Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail

Robert Redford in The Sting

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Best Actor 2009: Results

5. George Clooney in Up in The Air- Clooney tries to ride almost his whole performance on his charm, I myself don't see any charm, but either way because he fails to bring any real conviction to the role.
4. Morgan Freeman in Invictus- When one hears Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela one probably would say, perfect casting. Unfortunately Freeman's mannerisms, and voice he uses for the role are inconsistent, and weigh down the entire performance.
3. Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart- Bridges is certainly good and believable as the country star most of the time, but certain aspects of his performance do not really work. His relationships with Colin Farrell's character is a bit overdone, and his relationship with Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in many ways feels like a plot contrivance.
2. Colin Firth in A Single Man- Firth's performance is one that strikes me in a different way than every other performance on this line up. I most certainly though it was a strong effective piece of acting, with some amazing moments, but at the same time the performance always left me wanting more, I never felt it lackluster, but many moments I always felt he could have gone even further in his performance than he did.
1. Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker- A performance that one first glance may not seem the most, but that is part of what makes this performance so special. Renner never seems to act in his performance, and despite the fact that he really is given few moments solely devoted to character development Renner still creates a three dimensional complex character. Renner always stays very understated in his approach to his character, and because of that he gives a truly fascinating portrait of a man addicted to his very dangerous job.

Best Actor 2009: Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

Jeremy Renner received his first Oscar nomination for portraying SFC William James in The Hurt Locker.

The Hurt Locker tells of a explosives disposal unit during the Iraq War.

Jeremy Renner performance is a different type of performance that seems to be nominated a lot of times these days, I feel, because it is an action based performance in many ways, and he really is not given many scenes where he is suppose to give a big Oscary performance scene. Instead he has to show his character development largely well the film moves forward quite rapidly.

In this respect Renner succeeds quite well. In his early moments we do not stop and see who exactly he is, or where he has come from precisely but Renner manages to indicate what sort of man he is with ease. It is rather fascinating in the way Renner goes about the first bomb disposal, he shows a command most certianly in the situation, suggesting his long history of a bomb disposing.

As well Renner effectively brings the audience in to the disposal incredibly, his performance conveys the risk of the job, and interestingly suggests the joy and kick he gets out of the job. He shows that James loves to do his job, loves to do it well, and does not exactly mind the risk because of a certain need that it provides for him. This whole drive for risk is suggested more than said, but it is abundantly clear due to Renner understated and realistic portrayal of it.

Renner whole performance is effective work because he manages to be a truly compelling lead, in what is in many ways a director's film, in terms of style. He also manages to be a compelling and in his own unique way charismatic. He gives a leading man performance really, in an entirely unorthodox fashion, which works wonders for his characterization.

Renner's few moments that more directly let him expand his character, are terrific scenes for him. One for example is when he shows the rest of his squad his box of thinks that almost killed him. His fascination with death the death causing instruments is almost chilling because Renner portrays James' feelings in an understated  fashion. 

Also Renner carefully in this same scene tells about his home life with his son, and wife, who he seems to admire in a fashion, but clearly has his deep routed troubles. The best part of Renner's whole portrayal is that he does not tell everything about William James, he instead more realistically, shows only part of a very complicated man.

This a strong performance that knows that just because he does not have constant scenes devoted specifically to character development, that does not mean it can't be a fully developed character anyways. Renner is tremendous from each scene, in his small subtle revelations about his character.

Renner's performance is filled with realistic understated reactions which is why his performance is so effective. Renner always brings out the most out of each scene because of this, particularly in the disturbing bombs that are used with people attached scenes.

He never overplays his performance, trying instead to meld his more off the wall leanings, mixed in with his duties which never seem forced or off the mark. This is perfectly attuned performance which brilliantly makes use of restraint, making his more emotional moments all the more effective.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Best Actor 2009: Colin Firth in A Single Man

Colin Firth received his first Oscar nomination for portraying George Falconer in A Single Man.

A Single man tells of George a homosexual whose lover Jim (Matthew Goode) has recently died, so he decides to commit suicide. 

Colin Firth's is the type of performance that the Oscars do seem to enjoy now more than ever. A problem I most certianly have with film these days is the way so many seem tailored for awards, rather than being films first. But I digress. Well not quite yet because in this film he voice over narrates the fact that he must hide his homosexuality through a facade, where back in 1971 Peter Finch was able to tell us this without having to voice over narrate it in Sunday Bloody Sunday, but I even further digress I must separate this performance from some of the problems I have with modern films.

Colin Firth is an actor who has developed over the last two years a sudden reputation that he is one of the greatest actors, for some reason. I can't quite say I share such enthusiasm about him as an actor, certianly he is not a bad actor I will grant that, but I cannot say he is by nature an amazing one. In fact I would say he falls under the group of actors whose performances can feel just a little bit calculated in nature.

I think that is the case for many of performances, and perhaps here too, but luckily for him it does work in favor of the calculated man George Falconer is suppose to be. George is always suppose to be calculating his approach to each day, creating the George he wants to show to the outside world, and hide the George that is actually on the inside.

Firth is interesting in the way he displays the two George's the one at home, and the one in the outside world. They are not completely different men actually but rather two shades of the same man. On the outside he seems to be rather proper English expatriate, who teaches his college course with a restrained but a strong passion, on the inside he is still an English expatriate but a more relaxed, and in some ways more lively of a fellow.

Both incarnations of George are well handled by Firth although not quite as different as his voice over might want you to believe. The largest part of Firth's performance is George's grief over the death Jim. Unfortunately I never felt in this aspect Firth was as strong as I wanted him to be, he is good in these scenes but there were a few issues I always felt with the performance.

For example when he first hearts about the death Firth slowly shows George's emotional devastation over hearing this. It is well done technically, but still I felt the whole action was a tad calculated on Firth's part, making it seem like a great display of acting, rather a completely genuine human reaction.

Also every one of his flashback scenes with Matthew Goode always left wanting more. They fine enough together. They seem to like each other well enough, and all that, but there seems to be something missing. I just never felt either of the actors, particularly Firth brought about the deeper connection that one would think they should have, since Jim's death is suppose to leave George suicidally depressed.

Also his whole depressing over the death, also always left me wanting a little more, it is fairly well handled by Firth, but I wanted just a little more. For example I wish Firth showed a bit more of struggle to hide his grief well trying to get through the day. I never always sensed the grief was there, yes at some moments but really not enough, since after all it probably should since he is suicidally depressed.

Firth though certainly has  some great moments anyways, despite some of my problems with some of his performance. For example his scene where he talks to the little girl next door is a brilliant moment for Firth, contain a certian warmness of his exterior in that scene which reflects quite interestingly off of his grieving interior.

Also Firth's whole scene with Julianne Moore as Charley is terrific. The two actors together create a fascinating relationship together, becuase together they certainly have a love for each other but rather restrained and very specific one. Firth is interesting in that he shows a different side of George in the way he really shows his bitterness about his loss, and how the relationship with her was just who he was.

His final scenes should be stronger than they are, and I think they are indeed weakened by an overacted, and dull performance by Nicholas Hoult as one of George's students. Their scenes do not have as much power as they should, as George finally truly reflects on his life, and on Jim's death. Firth though still manages a powerful moment or two with proper poignancy to the situation, but unfortunately the overall effect of these final moments aren't as good as they could be.

Firth's performance is most certainly an interesting performance that cannot be denied, after all I usually do not write this much about a boring performance. The only problem was I always felt it was parts of a great performance, but never quite simply a great performance. It is never really obviously lacking, but rather I always though he could have done more with the part. This is a good performance, I have to stress that most assuredly, but it is one I never found myself loving as many do.

Best Actor 2009: Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges won his Oscar from his fifth nomination for portraying 'Bad' Blake in Crazy Heart.

Crazy Heart is about a broken down country singer who has a chance for redemption due to the love of a woman, wait a minute did I not already review the exact same film Tender Mercies. Oh wait Tender Mercies has poignancy, brilliantly understated moments, a true sense of place, Crazy Heart has some sex scenes, some vomiting, and some pretty obvious moments attempting to be dramatic, my mistake.

Jeff Bridges is that old broken down country singer in this one, although not as broken down as he really could be he still gets plenty of jobs, although in rather small venues, but still gets to open for his old protege . His major problem is his constant drinking that is slowly destroying him. Bridges is good in portraying his broken down, he most certianly looks haggard, and warned down from his troubled life.

I think this performance is almost limited in a ways because so much focus is put on the troubles of his life, requiring Bridges to do a lot of falling down, as well as vomiting, and as well as looking sick for awhile. He is always good in his portrayal of the condition of his character, but it is not exactly a fascinating thing to watch that is for sure.

Bridges though is required to present how he got there, and his whole relationships he had beforehand particularly his relationship with Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), which I think Bridges perhaps overplays a little bit. I always felt that Bridges suggested that Sweet had done something that really wronged Bad, but in fact when he finally meets him it is clear he did not. Bridges really makes it seem something major, rather than just hurt pride because he is opening for his former student.

His most important relationship is with Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) a reporter whom he falls in love with. This whole relationship is not all that believable. They frankly jump too quickly in it, and the two performers frankly needed more chemistry to make it fully believable. She decides to sleep with him just a little too quickly for it to be fully believed, especially how she acts defensive later on in the film.

I really feel they do lack chemistry, but Bridges is not bad in these scenes, because he still has ample charisma, and charm in them even if it does not amount to as much as it could if the film was better written and directed. Bridges can't quite make the connection with Gyllenhaal, leaving it lacking, I really think it is mostly the script, and actually Gyllenhaal as well who seem to be the problem.

Jeff Bridges performance though is good in showing Bad's troubles as he desperately tries to improve himself but is just unable to make the leap completely. He is successful in portraying the pain that has been with him for a long time, particularly in the scene where he calls his son, or in his scene where he tries to ask Jean for forgiveness.

It should also be noted that Bridges is convincing as a country singer, he sings well, has the right look and manner as well. He is not amazing as a singer but properly realistic. He mostly just sings the songs competently until at the end of the film where he sings the weary kind, and in that scene he really infuses his soul and that does work quite effectively.

I can't say I was ever amazed by this performance. Some of it comes from the weaknesses of the film, which there are plenty of. This film hinders him in creating a truly memorable characterization, as well there are few missteps in his performance. Bridges' strong presence certainly shines through, and what he does get right, he really gets right. Never an amazing performance, but certainly a good performance.

Best Actor 2009: Morgan Freeman in Invictus

Morgan Freeman received his fifth Oscar nomination for portraying Nelson Mandela in Invictus.

Invictus tells the story of the winning season of the South African Rugby team, and how it aligned with race relations in a post apartheid South Africa.

Morgan Freeman's performance as Nelson Mandela is really a far too calculated one in many ways. The way he shakes his hand, the way he stands, and walks, the way he talks is all calculated to make him seem like the real Nelson Mandela. The problem is a lot of the time it just seems to be a bit too much, he just seems to be trying to hard most of the time, making it seem a tad unnatural.

It is not helped by that Freeman is not always entirely consistent either, he fails to always be the Mandela he is in one scene as he is in another scene. This is quite disappointing, and unfortuantely true. In some scenes his mannerisms, and voice completely fall by the way side making his performance even more lacking. This is unfortunate because Freeman seems like he should be perfect for the part, but he just is not, frankly sometimes it seems director Clint Eastwood should had few takes to always ensure the voice and mannerisms were consistent.

Freeman performance unfortuantely mostly consists of these mannerisms, since Mandela really is not investigated all that much in the film, or at least as one would think. Mandela really is only dealt with in relation to the Rugby team. There are minor scenes that attempt to tell more about him, such as when asked about his family, but really it can't be said his Mandela does much more than make passionate speeches about the need to unify the country behind the rugby team.

Freeman is properly passionate I suppose though in his speeches, as well as Freeman does have his natural charisma that shines through here as it usually does in his performances. Also the breif moments that show his past while in prison are well handled by Freeman as he does have some weight in his single look he gives showing the struggles Mandela is going through and will continue to be going through. Still though the mannerisms almost completely sink the performance, they are just far too broad, and overarching to be ignored. This performance is a bit of a missed opportunity, not all bad, but most certianly lackluster.

Best Actor 2009: George Clooney in Up in the Air

George Clooney received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air.

Up in The Air tells about about who fires people, and loves his never stopping life style, although has to take a look back at his life due to what seems like a more serious relationship, and due to changes in his job.

George Clooney's performance in this film fails to ever interest or intrigue me. Why because he fails to realize anything past himself in terms of his characterization, especially in this performance as Ryan Bingham, which would be described as coasting to its fullest extent. Now one could argue, no that is because he has so much ease in the part as to look like he is coasting, but they would be wrong. Clooney does not show an ease with the part because he is not playing a part, but just being himself and reading lines for most of the film, although not all of it.

When Clooney was doing anything as Bingham, whether it was giving his stupid speeches about back packs or when he is doing one of his firing speeches, I really just see Clooney making these speeches, I sense no character along with him, just Clooney reciting. Now I again would could criticize me due to my liking of performances from people like Clark Gable, or Sidney Poitier who many accuse of just playing themselves in certain roles. I would say no they take their self and utilize it for the performance, but Clooney just plays himself, there is a big difference, due to a lack of conviction in the actual character.

The scenes that require Clooney to come out of his comfort zone such as when he talks about his big frequent flyer mileage build up. Now this should be a distinct feature of Ryan Bingham but one will notice that Clooney really fails to really convey the excitement Bingham probably should have over this achievement of his lifetime. Instead in this scene he frankly seems rather uninterested in the prospect himself, because he just seems to be saying it with a little emphasis, but a phony feeling emphasis, because he still is just being Clooney.

Clooney fails there and many similar moments, and his big changes in the character are not ones I find he is able to pull off either, because again he fails to develop Bingham into a human being keeping him instead always on the surface lacking any real depth to really portray a conviction to make Bingham a believable person. Clooney is challenged more near the end where he must evaluate his life, Clooney self evaluation part is as uninteresting as the rest of his performance, and really he changes gives rather telegraphed glances to portray everything such as feelings of being betrayed by who he thought was a kindred spirit, or when he loses his belief in his back pack speech. It still never becomes internalized in any fashion, it always stays as an external performance, that relies too heavily on his supposed charisma, which frankly I just have never found to be that charming.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Best Actor 2009

And the Nominees Were:

Colin Firth in A Single Man

Morgan Freeman in Invictus

Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart

Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

George Clooney in Up in The Air

Best Actor 1948

5. Dan Dailey in When My Baby Smiles At Me- Dailey's performance is okay but unimpressive when he is just trying to be charming, but when he tries to present the character's self destructive behavior he becomes quite bad.
4. Lew Ayres in Johnny Belinda- Ayres gives a nice pleasant performance as a really nice guy, it is not anything much more than that, but it is properly pleasant and warm.
3. Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty- Webb gives a completely deadpan performance, which is quite amusing,effective and properly consistent.
2. Montgomery Clift in The Search- Clift's performance is much like Ayres, but I found it even more effective, in a really nice guy role. Clift portrays his part completely realistically, and has some very warm and honest moments throughout the film.
1. Laurence Olivier in Hamlet- Good prediction Dinasztie Laurence Olivier's performance is the only performance of these nominees that truly dominates his film, and his win really is the only option for me. Olivier is amazing from beginning to end as Hamlet, finding all the nuance, and complexity in the part. He never ever simplifies the part, even when he simplifies the play. This is a great performance by Olivier, and may just be his best.

Best Actor 1948: Montgomery Clift in The Search

Montgomery Clift received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Ralph "Steve" Stevenson in The Search.

The Search tells the story of orphaned children in Europe after World War II, it also tells a specific case of one boy Karel Malik (Ivan Jandl) who runs away from a U.S. camp for children but is befriended and helped by an army engineer.

Maybe I spoke to soon when I said Lew Ayres' character was the nicest ever to be nominated, because boy oh boy Steve the army engineer played by Clift is pretty darn nice as well. Clift actually does not appear until about thirty minutes into the film, and when he shows up all he wants to do is help the runaway and troubled Karel as much as he can. It is rather interesting to see Clift in an entirely nice guy sort of role not being troubled by his past, or his future prospects, as in his other nominated performances. Clift instead here plays a pretty at ease with himself sort of guy, who only really wants to be a good guy.

Steve's only real struggle in the film is to first convince that he is honestly trying to help Karel, and than to try to ensure that Karel is able to have a good life later on. Clift actually is quite good as the entirely decent guy, he plays him as just an entirely average guy in the situation. Clift portrays the part in a nice enough fashion, he does not make him boring despite the fact the character is rather simple in terms of his action. Clift never portrays Steve in a one dimensional fashion, rather he is just honestly portraying Steve in a realistic fashion all the way through which works well for the film.

The most important part of his performance though is his chemistry with Karel. It at first is a bit of struggle, and Clift is good in showing how Steve honestly wants Karel to understand he is not trying to hurt him. They slowly develop a friendly relationship, that is quite warm and honestly portrayed by Clift. Clift has some really nice, scenes with Ivan Jandl, they are movingly and effectively portrayed by Clift, because Clift always shows how earnestly and passionately that Steve really just wants to help the boy, there is not a false moment in all of Clift's performance. Clift's entire performance works because of that reason, sure it is not a complicated characterization by any means but it is an effective one.

Best Actor 1948: Dan Dailey in When My Baby Smiles At Me

Dan Dailey received his only Oscar nomination for portraying 'Skid' Johnson in When My Baby Smiles At Me.

When My Baby Smiles At Me is a not very special musical about two vaudevillians Dailey and Betty Grable who start having problems due to one of them being an alcoholic.

Dan Dailey is an actor I can't say I have seen very much of but apparently he made a whole lot of film with Betty Grable, and this one only seems to have any special distinction among their collaborations other than the fact than Dailey was nominated for this performance. Dan Dailey plays a comic who also has a drinking problem, and is married to his partner Bonny. Together Grable and Dailey, really never seem all that special, I guess they are fine technically but nothing to make see why they made so many films together.

Dailey for about half of a film give a pretty light weight slightly comedic, musical and romantic performance. He has a little bit of a charm, but not overwhelming so. He is never that funny, that romantic, or that charismatic in this performance. He is not bad, but just not really special. About half way through though his character's self destructive behavior comes to the forefront. He loses his wife because he goes out with other women and his alcoholism. Dailey is required to make a rather extreme change from happy go lucky fellow to on his last line one.

I really can't say he makes this transition as he would need to. In fact his big breakdown scene where he goes crazy over the fact that his wife is getting remarried. It is just overacted by Dailey, and it is the type of drunken breakdown one might find in a bad melodrama. Dailey is better in his later scenes involving the alcohols toll, because he really does not overact so much, showing rather a slightly more subtly the change drinking has on him. He still is not particularly good, just better. This is not an entirely bad performance, but it certainly has one really bad scene, and never one great scene to make up for it either.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Best Actor 1948: Lew Ayres in Johnny Belinda

Lew Ayres received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Doctor Robert Richardson in Johnny Belinda.

Johnny Belinda is a film about a young deaf mute Belinda (Jane Wyman) who is taught to communicate by a kind doctor, but is threatened by a cruel local, and as well as the gossip of the locals.

Lew Ayres may play the nicest character ever to be nominated for this award. I really cannot think of any direct competition off hand.  Robert Richardson is kind, nice, likable, and even when others are acting cruelly to him he still behaves in a polite manner to them. I guess one could say Richardson is one all around swell guy. Due to this fact though, it can't really be said that Ayres gives a particularly complex performance. He does not have to though, as the requirements of his part are really to be the supportive man to Belinda, to help her in the world, not much more than that.

There is not really much more to his performance, the only two problems with his character one could possibly see is that he is still nice, when he probably should not be, and also that some of his selfless plans are not always fully thought out such as his plan to marry Belinda even though he does not truly love her. Ayres does a good job though I think in the simplicity of his character, he plays the part with a nice pleasant ease. I never felt he was forcing his kindness, but rather it was actually the nature of his character simply to be this kind. Ayres also I felt avoided being dull despite the part being the way it is, he still brought the right joy into his performance that makes being around the doctor a wholly pleasant experience.

Ayres never really has all that much to do as he said, he is either being very nice to Belinda, or helping her learn, or defending her quite calmly from the forces against her. He really barely even raises his voice, even at the end of the film where he passionately defends Belinda. His defense though still is restrained, which I did not mind because I felt that his character was honestly just a soft spoken fellow. This really is an entirely fulfilling performance I think. He is suppose to be really nice, and he is. He is never bad, and keeps a consistent character, that he would have really undermined it if he tried to show any darker side of the character. He was meant to be nice and supportive, and he is nice and supportive. I simply cannot say anything bad about his performance, it is performance that entirely serves its purpose.

Best Actor 1948: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty

Clifton Webb received his third and final Oscar nomination for portraying Lynn Belvedere in Sitting Pretty.

Sitting pretty tells the story about a husband and wife (Robert Young, Maureen O'Hara) who have trouble with their three rowdy kids. No one will be a nanny until they find one Belvedere, and it turns out he's a man, oh boy hi jinks ought to ensue especially with the gossipy town they live in.

Clifton Webb plays the male nanny Lynn Belvedere who only takes the job because he sees it as a challenge, and he is up for it being professional genius after all. It turns out Belvedere is the perfect nanny whipping those children into shape just about as soon as he gets there.Webb's performance is technically one note, a one note of a complete deadpan performance. And I will say I most certainly liked his performance because he stuck to his note so well. Webb never lets up with Belvedere always portraying as a none too modest fellow, who takes joy in the fact that he is a genius and no one else in town is.

Webb's performance is really thoroughly enjoyable and I got a kick out of several moments of his performance. This came mostly from some his reactions and eye gestures, with his bemusement over the more panicky attitudes of everyone else in town. I like the fact that Webb never lets up with his characterization, having Belvedere always look down upon everyone else, and having the perfect restrained delight well doing it. I never got bored, or annoyed by characterization, but instead I felt Webb really managed the a bit too into himself way of Belvedere in just the right fashion. I can't say this is all that complicated performance, since it is a dead pan performance. I think it was the perfect way to play the character though, in showing that Belvedere stays exactly the same no matter what. Certainly not an amazing piece of acting but an appropriately enjoyable one.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Best Actor 1948: Laurence Olivier in Hamlet

Laurence Olivier won his only acting Oscar from his fourth acting nomination for portraying Hamlet the Prince of Denmark in Hamlet.

Hamlet is Olivier's second film of Shakespeare trilogy, I would say it is his weakest effort, as I view the other two as quite strong. I think it is a bit of a mixed film, with some moments of tedium, but still there are several very strong scenes.

It should be noted that Laurence Olivier actually portrays two roles in the film. In addition to Hamlet he also portrays the voice  of the ghost of Hamlet's father. His voice is darkly brooding, and haunting, and fits the part quite well. This portion of his performance unlikely got him any votes from the academy though. Olivier as Hamlet shows once again his command of the Shakespearean language. If you have read my other reviews of Olivier's Shakespearean performances you might find this repetitive, but it most certainly deserves repetition. Olivier just always shows that he knows the words by heart, and brings the words a natural life they desperately need.

The language of Shakespearean is only part of the challenge of Hamlet though, since Hamlet is a notoriously complex character. He is strange seeming noble in some ways, brash, aggressive, almost bipolar as well, his actions are diverse in the play, from his main drive for revenge, which he is never sure of to his cruel treatment of Ophelia. Hamlet most certainly is not a character that can played on one note, or two notes for that matter. Olivier though is up to this challenge, despite it being a large one indeed. Each soliloquy by Hamlet, Olivier turns into a masterpiece moment. Olivier knows how exactly to film himself, and these scenes are brilliantly handled, in the way they change from his haunted voice over, from his more expressive at the moment reactions, it is astounding. 

Olivier's face conveys Hamlet's deep psychological struggle without fault. To merely say the words is not good enough, and Olivier never leaves it to the word. He punctuates every moment with true authentic emotion. It is the perfect combination of director and actor really, Olivier always knows when to stay on his face, and when to move, it really is amazing. A great challenge of Hamlet is his interactions with the other characters in the play, since they are as diverse as Hamlet's own psychology. In his moments with Claudius, as well as with Polonius Olivier has the proper restrained discontent, and hatred presented as well as a certain degree of sardonic humor which works splendidly.

Olivier greater challenges, I think, come from his relationship with his mother Gertrude, and Ophelia. His moments with his Mother, are strange indeed, in that they seem to suggest almost an incestuous relationship, which Olivier utilizes well actually to more thoroughly present that Hamlet feels truly betrayed by Gertrude, displaying the greater destruction to his psyche. Olivier though mixes in Hamlet's feelings his betrayal, as well as love for her carefully and effectively. Olivier contrasts this relationship brilliantly though with his treatment of Ophelia. He again mixes in emotions, but in more of oddity that deeply confuses and harms Ophelia. He suggests he loves with tenderness at moments, but Olivier is able to properly portray his coldness and cruelty overarching his behavior, which makes Ophelia's downfall believable.

This is a great Shakespearean performance by Olivier. He is able to bring alive the psychological complexities, and emotional complexities without fault. He simply has stunning moments in his performance in his ability to convey all of what Hamlet is through his use of film. I never felt Olivier overacted or underacted this most difficult of parts, instead giving one of his best performances, which to me is saying a quite a lot.