Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Best Actor 1966: Michael Caine in Alfie

Michael Caine received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Alfie Elkins in Alfie.

Alfie tells about Alfie who is a perpetual womanizer, who through many events slowly reexamines himself. 

Michael Caine does indeed have a challenge to begin with in this role, since he must strive to make Alfie a likable character, likable enough to follow through the film, while making him charming enough to make his constant "conquests" believable. Alfie could have easily been one loathsome fellow in the wrong hands, oh he still certianly is loathsome but Caine manages to make him a likable loathsome fellow.

Caine has the perfect needed ease in the role. This a very much required for a role that frequently requires one the break the fourth wall and constantly address the audience. Caine stays natural even in these moments, which is very much necessary, since he makes it seems like taking to the viewer directly is just a natural thing for Alfie to do, there really is nothing strange about it and it ever helps develop Alfie relaxed way toward life quite well. 

Caine always has the right charm in the role that is never frankly overly charming, Alfie really shouldn't be being the low level player he is, but it still is a prevalent charisma to the right degree for Alfie, particularly in his scenes with women. He does not just constantly beaming with overwhelming charm, but there is a certianly low key charm that Caine uses to great effect.

Alfie is many times billed as a comedy, although I frankly feel there more drama than comedy to it, but nonetheless most of the comedy comes from the contradictory nature of the character. Where he says he is doing one thing, but really not doing it well. Caine excels at this showing that Alfie's irresponsibility is not just something he does but Alfie absolute nature something he really cannot really even help. Caine never shows Alfie trying to be this way, he simply is that way.

Caine best moments as Alfie really come from his more dramatic scenes where Alfie must really see the emptiness in his lifestyle as well as possibly change what he really wants in life. It is interesting because his scenes of charming various women are a more externally driven performance, but Caine balances these scenes extremely well with very subtle moments that suggest maybe Alfie is not as uncaring and irresponsible as he thinks he is or he wants to be.

Caine has some small moments at the beginning with one of his many girl friends. She has his child, and Caine carefully shows that Alfie puts on a facade really to show he views the child as nothing more than an inconvenience, but through little moments of reactions Caine shows that Alfie really does have underlying warmness, and honestly does love the boy, even though he tries to act like he doesn't. A particularly great scene comes later near the end of the film where he sees the family might have had, Caine reaction is entirely silent but shows the emptiness his character feels all to well.

A bit more external yet as powerful moments of reflection come in when a particularly inconvenient pregnancy occurs due to Alfie's irresponsibility. Caine is great through this whole scene of the dealing with this pregnancy as he begins showing Alfie putting only slight bit of care in the situation barely even recognizing his responsibility in what is occurring. Caine is absolutely heartbreaking though when he sees the result of special treatment of the pregnancy. Caine reaction is perfect and Caine brilliantly shows how Alfie's conscience suddenly catches up with him.

Caine after these events, and more that change Alfie's view of life does not show that Alfie is absolutely a different man. He still attempts to get through life the way he did before, with his same charm, yet Caine carefully does transition him to the right degree no longer seeing life as just a ride as he did at the beginning of the film, instead showing a great deal of sadness in the man, who finally started to see the emptiness in the life he made for himself.

This was a breakthrough star making role for Caine and it is very easy to see why. Caine is able to bring the right amount of charm and humor through his performance, while bringing the right depth and reflection to the part as well. Caine not only entertains with Alfie but he also manages to fully realize the character of Alfie becuase he excels both through his early more slight moments and even more so with his transition to deeper moments where he brings a great deal of power to them.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Best Actor 1966: Alan Arkin in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

Alan Arkin received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Lt. Rozanov in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians are Coming.

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians are Coming tells the story of a Soviet Submarine accidentally landing on a New England Island town, chaos ensues.

Alan Arkin plays one of the Russians in the odd situation. This is a performance that is rather hard to say all that much about because Arkin just does very little in this film.It is not due to a lack of screen time, but rather just the amount of what his character actually does is incredibly little. The main point of his character is he is one of the few level headed characters in the film as everyone else goes crazy.

All that Arkin does is basically run around say how he is looking for a boat to get the submarine out, as well as react in disbelief at the various crazy actions of the town. Arkin is perfectly fine in the role I suppose, his accent is entirely natural enough. His reactions to the various are fine, and slightly humorous I suppose, but not particularly funny still.

There is very little total that can be said about Arkin otherwise than he is fine with the small amounts of requirements in the part, but at the same there is nothing really required of him on a whole. I also do not really think he could have pulled more out of the part than he does, he really is about as good as he could be with so little material to deal with. Arkin is entirely fine, but this nomination really makes no sense.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Best Actor 1966: Steve McQueen in The Sand Pebbles

Steve McQueen received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles.

The Sand Pebbles tells the story of a U.S. gun ship's troubles during its time in the troubled 1920's China.

Steve McQueen received this as his only Oscar nomination, which is rarely ever considered to be his greatest or most notable role. It is also a rather different kind of character for McQueen because here he is considerably less in utter command of his situation as with many of his characters. With the character of Holman McQueen is required a far less of a character who is able to control his fate.

McQueen to me is a rather strange actor who sometime puts in odds tics, and mannerisms for absolutely no reason in his performances. In this performance he does not use these tics but there are still oddities to his performance, such as almost randomly through odd line readings that seem out of place with the rest of his performance.

I will say that the stilted line readings, or weird ones tend to come from two places in his performances one being early on when Holman is required to say things in a derogatory fashion about various Chinese, as well as his romantic scenes with Candice Bergen a school teacher at a missionary. McQueen never seems to have his heart in any of these moments leaving them quite empty.

This is not to say all of McQueen does is bad in this performance at all, in fact it is quite the contrary. McQueen although strange sometimes as one is still an actor I like for some reason, a reason I cannot exactly explain why, but I just do. I certianly liked a good deal of what he did here as well, he is very easy to watch having a strong presence on screen almost throughout.

He also in his scenes with just he other men on the ship, and his scenes with the ship's captain (Richard Crenna) he has the right rebellious strength in his performance. McQueen manages to channel this attitude of Holman's well in a sort of quiet discontent and hatred of certian things, but with a certain bit of repression since Holman still does follow the majority of his orders.

These moments McQueen has the perfect rather quiet simple strength in his performance, in most of the scenes on the ship, or the scenes in the club where he helps another fellow crewman Frenchy (Richard Attenborough). McQueen in these moments where Holman is in charge in his own ways is quite effective, and strong showing Holman's resolve, even if a somewhat cynical resolve.

McQueen is never quite great, but he has moments of near greatness such as the difficult moment where Holman must mercy kill his friend. McQueen is very good in this moment realistically portraying Holman's rather heartbreaking struggle in this short scene almost silently. Scenes like that one, are not common in his performance, but they are there, but so are his strange moments as well. It is a mixed performance in many ways, and I would say in the end it does serve its purpose most of the time, sometimes it does far less, but sometimes it does more.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Best Actor 1966

Well here it is, finally the last year of my Best Actor reviews (well until this year's nominees anyway).

And the Nominees Were:

Michael Caine in Alfie

Richard Burton in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Paul Scofield in A Man for All Seasons

Steve McQueen in The Sand Pebbles 

Alan Arkin in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

Best Actor 1978: Results

5. Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait- Beatty does not give the most complicated performance in this film, but it is a properly charming, romantic, and sometimes funny performance.
4. Laurence Olivier in The Boys From Brazil- Olivier is in an odd film, and in some ways follow suit with his performance, but still he gives a entertaining performance as well as one with some power when it is required for the part.
3. Gary Busey in The Buddy Holly Story- Gary Busey gives an effective performance as Buddy Holly. He brings the appropriate life to his character, without ever forcing a needless impersonation, instead appropriately personifying the character particularly in his scenes where he is performing Holly's songs.
2. Jon Voight in Coming Home- Voight's performance is a strong one throughout the film showing a slow change over time of his character who slowly finds ways to deal with the pain he has suffered. It is in many ways a low key performance, that realistically portrays the troubles of his character.
1. Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter- Although I think Voight's work is quite strong, for me De Niro stands out as the best of the year with the incredible challenge he in portraying the rather withdrawn character he must portray. De Niro realistically portrays this introverted characterization in subtle fashion, that never fails to bring out the power of any scene in the film that requires it. De Niro simply is great throughout and is absolutely amazing in so many moments such as the Russian Roulette scenes.

Best Actor 1978: Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter

Robert De Niro received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Michael Vronsky in The Deer Hunter.

The Deer Hunter tells the story of a working class group of friends, and how their lives are changed by three of the friends experiences in Vietnam.

Robert De Niro adds to the trend of sorts this year in that he again plays sort of an average man who simply gets into a very much less than average situation.This is actually a very different character from every other nominated character for De Niro who are usually far more extroverted or far more on the edge of insanity like his characters in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

Michael in this film despite basically the leader of a group of friends tends to be the most reserved of them. De Niro actually has an incredible challenge throughout the film, and particularly at the beginning becuase Michael is not always front and center even though he is indeed the lead character of the film. De Niro must realize Micheal through smaller moments, which he does with a rather quiet performance.

De Niro begins as Michael in a very introverted fashion. He establishes Micheal as the leader easily as he is always the one who seemingly has the most command, in a situation where command is not really necessary. De Niro always suggests this an entirely subtle fashion, he does merely by his manner on screen in which he does with an absolute easy which is perfect for Michael semi form of leadership of the group.

De Niro creates Micheal whole personality in an always realistic fashion, which stays consistent throughout the film. Micheal really is not a guy who talks all that much, and does keep to himself in whole lot of ways. De Niro does not pain Michael though as some sort of outcast though, since he is in this group of friends he obviously isn't but rather pains him as normal man who just prefers to keep a lot of his life to himself.

What the deal with Michael, is carefully handled by De Niro in some key scenes early on, and always in rather subtle fashions. De Niro always expresses all of Michael almost silently much of the time, as Michael is not a man of many words. Michael likes his friends but is no nonsense in his treatment of them when he feels they are acting foolishly. De Niro has the appropriate rough and natural coldness that has the perfect natural quality that fits Michael.

Michael is not always entirely introverted and their are the small moments with his best friend Nick (Christopher Walken). The moments between Nick and Michael are essential to the film, and De Niro and Walken are completely up to the task creating an authentic and effective dynamic that realistically shows their deep friendship they have, in the way they both understand each other despite their differences in attitudes. It really is not the warmest of friendships, but yet it is one that is honest and appropriately creates a pivotal aspect of the film.

It should be noted really as much as possible how natural of a characterization De Niro keeps with Michael, he always makes everything he does within his character in a realistic way, never really taking the urge to act out more, in order to bring needless attention to himself. For example Michael is introverted in many ways but in the wedding scene he runs in the streets stripping, well one would say that is not introverted. De Niro manages to make it Michael nonetheless, explained by his drunkenness, De Niro is able to keep even something more flamboyant as this true to his character becuase he does not overact, despite a scene like this being extremely easy to overact in.

After the initial part of the film, there are the Vietnam scenes where De Niro naturally must give a less restrained performance, particularly when they are forced to play Russian Roulette by the Prison camp guards they are imprisoned in. The fact De Niro portrayed the earlier scenes quieter makes these scenes in fact more powerful, because the now less controlled Michael is quite clearly on edge because of the terrible situation they have become in.

De Niro probably gives one the greatest moments in his career as an actor actually in the pivotal Russian roulette scene where Nick and Michael are forced to play. De Niro is simply incredible in this scene, where he gives a performance that simply must be watched. He flawlessly, combines the various emotions of the scene to make it unbearably realistic. De Niro has the perfect intensity of emotions from sadness to anger, and even happiness. The reaction of both Walken and De Niro when they achieve their goal is simply incredible, it is one of the best moments in acting period.

After the Vietnam scenes Michael comes home, and De Niro carefully portrays how the war has changed him. There is not this overwhelming difference, that has made Michael a different man completely, instead De Niro portrays Michael as still Michael certainly but now with this haunted quality about him, a haunted quality that shows that Michael certainly was deeply wounded by experiences, as well as changed in his views toward life interestingly enough losing that little bit of coldness he had before. It is subtle transition that works finely with De Niro consistently true to life performance.

There is not a single moment I can fault De Niro in the entire film. He never fails to bring Michael fully to life, and bring out the power of various scenes in the film in usually underplayed fashions. I think this particularly true when he visits his other friend Steven (John Savage) in the hospital, as well as his final climatic moment in Vietnam. De Niro always brings out the strength in these moments, in the hospital scene through his quiet heartfelt reaction to seeing his friend, and to his final scene where his pleading creates one of the most heartbreaking moments in film. This is simply a great performance from De Niro that is subtle characterization, which meets every challenge he meets throughout his very difficult part.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Best Actor 1978: Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil

Laurence Olivier received his tenth and final acting nomination for portraying Ezra Lieberman in The Boys from Brazil.

The Boys from Brazil is a rather odd thriller than depicts the Nazi scientist's Josef Mengele's (Gregory Peck) attempt to bring out the rise one again of the Nazism through an odd method, with an aging Nazi Hunter attempting to stop him.

Laurence Olivier portrays the aging Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman who receives a small amount of information on the plan, but very little, leaving him to try and investigate the plan himself. It is interesting to see Laurence Oliver portray a Jewish Nazi hunter after his previous nomination for Marathon Man where he portrayed so well a Nazi doctor clearly based on Josef Mengele.

I would say few actor could believably play both roles, but Laurence Olivier is certianly one of them, although I will say he certainly was more effective at playing the Nazi doctor than the Nazi hunter. This certainly is a later Olivier performance where he seems to insist on doing an accent rather than letting everyone hear his own beautiful tenor voice.

The accent he uses certainly is a very accent accent and it is hard not to note it. It is far more obvious of an accent than the one he used in Marathon Man, but than again Ezra Lieberman is a far different character than Dr. Szell. It certianly is a Jewish accent to an extreme, and I could easily see how one could easily find it rather distracting, for me though I enjoyed it actually, and although I do think it could have been toned down it does work in establishing Lieberman as a character.

Well enough of the accent, how about the actual performance, which the accent should not distract from too much I think. Well Olivier is not given one of his greatest challenges here. This is not one of his complex Shakespearean portrayals, and Lieberman is certianly one of Olivier's simpler roles. All Lieberman wants to do is stop the Nazis, nothing more. He not overly obsessed but just rightfully concerned leaving Lieberman as an entirely heroic character, which I am certainly fine with.

Olivier though is not given a great deal to do, otherwise than be rather confused for much, but slowly determining what is honestly going as Lieberman.Well I will give credit to Olivier, as I always do, becuase I certainly found it easy to watch Olivier as the very very unorthodox protagonist of a this odd thriller. I found his at ease, and somewhat humorous manner as Lieberman certianly enjoyable in its own way, but still with the right level intelligence behind showing that Lieberman does know what he is doing.

Olivier when challenged more greatly in the role, I find does succeed. Although there are few of them, his small moments where he reacts in disgust over the crimes of Nazis, or their current plan of the appropriate strength due to Olivier having still appropriate conviction in the role even with some of his mannerisms, and accent. I find in particular his scene where he confront a female Nazi in prison, he is particularly strong in reinforcing how strong Lieberman's conviction to his cause is, as well as how great his disgust is to the evil of the Nazis.

This is certainly far from Olivier's best work that is most certianly for sure It is an odd one in many ways, since this performance is probably in one of the oddest scenes to ever contain an best actor Oscar nominated performance in it. The scene consists of Laurence Olivier than in his 70's and Gregory Peck than in his 60's fighting almost to the death, it is quite the sight to see I must say. With all this oddity I must say I thought Olivier still gave a consistent, as well as in short moments when he can be powerful performance, even if odd, but that goes in line with the film itself.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Best Actor 1978: Gary Busey in The Buddy Holly Story

Gary Busey received his only Oscar nomination so far for portraying Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story.

The Buddy Holly Story depicts the career and life of rock musician Buddy Holly.

Gary Busey these days is not really best known for his acting prowess. These days he is better known for his personal life than his professional one, this fact causes many younger people to be quite surprised when they see the Oscar nomination line up from this year, usually exclaiming Gary Busey was nominated for an Oscar!, when did that happen.Well it did happen, and interestingly enough if I did not know Gary Busey was playing Buddy Holly I probably would not even think about the fact that he plays him.

The reason for this is he is quite effective in being rather invisible in the role. I really never saw Gary Busey playing a role for a single second of this entire performance. I don't know if I exactly saw the real Buddy Holly but a certainly saw a young man who did the same things as Buddy Holly, which  is about as close one probably could get to being Holly.

Buddy Holly as portrayed in this film is a rather simple guy who has a talent. This does not at all try to be any sort of tell all story or anything like that. It mostly focuses on his music career, with just some small moments devoted to his personal life, but usually because they override with his professional life.

Busey gives an interesting performance he never attempts to show Holly as some sort of larger than life figure, instead he portrays him always in rather down to earth fashion which works for the film's portrayal of Holly. Off stage Holly just wants to do his music his way, he actually is not overly passionate about it, which Busey does not show as him not caring, but just as how realistically someone like Holly would react to opposition of his music.

He cares he wants his own way, but he shows how he cares always in a quiet rather honest realistic fashion. For example when he has his first chance to record a record with a country music record player, they want it their way he wants it as he wrote it. Busey does not yell and scream as Holly, rather more realistically he quietly rejects them and merely insists in calm authentic manner.

One of the most important parts of Busey's performance though are his various musical acts as they are a great deal of the film. Busey performs all of the songs himself, therefore he certainly has a challenge to be a believable Buddy Holly. Not so much in the way he sings, and plays, it certainly is a good thing when the actor can sing, and play well as Busey does here, but this nomination is about acting not about singing or playing the guitar.

Busey manages though to more importantly act out these scenes in the perfect fashion. He does not merely sing the songs, but fully performs them. Busey has the right charismatic stage presence in these scenes as he plays the songs with all the right energy, and passion both in the way in which he sings the songs, as well as the way he physically portrays Holly physically move on stage.

What there is of Holly's personal family life, Busey also portrays quite well even if the scenes are small and simple. The film gives a little focus, although not much to Holly's marriage to a secretary Maria. Although their romance is not a long one, or the most complex of one Busey makes it properly nice and sweet since he just portrays Holly as honestly falling in love with her in a realistic fashion. Due to how simple he portrays it though I found the romance actually quite moving in its simplicity, and found their least together to be especially heartbreaking due to this fact, and the knowledge of Holly's fate.

Although you certianly can say what you want about Busey today, I will say that in this film Busey gives an honestly effective performance as Buddy Holly. He never overplays the part which could have easily been done that way instead he gives a consistently realistic as well as convincing portrayal of Buddy Holly which works in perfect harmony with the film's depiction of Holly.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Best Actor 1978: Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait

Warren Beatty received his second acting nomination for portraying Joe Pendleton in Heaven Can Wait.

Heaven can Wait is a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan this time a football player finds himself taken to the afterlife to early, and is put in the body of a rich man.

Warren Beatty is not an actor that I can say has fared especially well in my reviews so far. I did like him in Bonnie and Clyde, but in his other two nominated performances have been lacking in confidant characterizations. Here with Joe Pendleton Beatty technically has his least complicated, and in some ways least challenging character. This though may be the reason that Beatty actually gives one of his better performances here.

Pendleton does not require much from Beatty actually, just as it required little from Robert Montgomery although even less for Montgomery because of the way the plot basically rammed through as fast as possible. Beatty is given a little more time to develop Pendleton but in the end Joe Pendleton is just an average decent guy who wants to do the right thing, as well as achieve his life dream in this case be the quarterback for a football team in the Super Bowl. 

What is required of Beatty as Pendleton is just to give a charming, nicely handled performance, and well Beatty most certianly does do that. He is not all that complex of a character, and Beatty knows that making it so he just focuses on giving a charismatic romantic lead performance. Beatty honestly does give one too, he never tries to make Joe Pendleton what he is but what he is is nice enough to watch due to Beatty.

When Beatty needs to be romantic he is well enough, although I won't say the romance in this film is amazing by any means since both characters are rather simple but it still works at being just a nice romance. Julie Christie and Beatty are not the greatest of on screen couples but what they do together is properly sweet, and it certianly works well enough for the film.

Beatty, although does not do a great deal as Pendleton what he does do is enjoyable enough. He is funny when he needs to be particularly in his reactions to his rather bizarre situation. He certainly is charming, and is just an easy person to watch through every moment, and the entire strange journey of Joe Pendleton. What Beatty does here is not the greatest characterization ever seen on film, but it is an entirely likable performance, and exactly as it should be.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Best Actor 1978: Jon Voight in Coming Home

Jon Voight won his Oscar from his second nomination for portraying handicapped war veteran Luke Martin in Coming Home.

Coming Home depicts the various effects the Vietnam war has on people's lives after they have returned home.

Jon Voight portrays the either bed bound or wheel chair bound Vietnam veteran Luke Martin.Voight initially portrays Luke in rather despondent fashion. He at first shows Luke as a man filled with a lot of anger, and sadness because of his conditions, and his feelings about the war as well. Although in these early moments Voight easily could have been a one note angry man as the troubled Luke but he never is.

In these scenes Voight appropriately stresses the pained history Luke has, even though it does not precisely show it here other wise than the fact that he clearly is handicapped. Voight though perfectly establishes Luke's troubled history through his performance. Voight stresses Luke's really violent anger over his situation that it is not at all precise, but random which perfectly shows how Luke has yet to come fully to grips with what has happened to him.

Voight is careful though never to overdo the anger this is still a person as Voight shows that has had a life before the war and other than the war. He tries to have moments of calmer interactions nice little moments where Voight naturally reacts without being angry, although always permeating underneath is his anger and pain that he cannot fully rid from himself no matter what.

Voight though does not stay angry throughout as Luke as he changes slowly due to his relationship with a volunteer at the veterans hospital Sally Bender (Jane Fonda) who was his former classmate back in high school. There relationship is at the center of the film, and exceedingly important in the way Voight develops Luke over the course of the film. 

Fonda and Voight are good together, I would not quite put their chemistry together as amazing but they are indeed effective together. Voight is interesting as at first they have very conflicting moments with one another early on but slowly they come together. Voight is natural both when they conflict and when they have the more tender moments.

Voight weaves both tender and pain especially well, and shows how the two are balanced as well as overwhelm one another, the angry and pain at first overwhelms their nice moments with one another, but through her persistence Voight slowly shows the tender outweighs the anger, he slowly grows, and soon is able to use his pain and anger into more constructive ways.

Voight does this transition simply but effectively. Voight never overacts a moment of his performance. He in fact underplays each to great effect showing Luke as a man who wants to stop others form going through the same troubles as his not through big outbursts but instead through a quieter but completely honest passion that he refuses to let go of.

There is not an aspect of this performance that Voight does not portray in a honest and natural fashion. The romance is portrayed with ease by Voight and he brings it in brilliantly into his creation of Luke' anti war efforts, slowly making Luke into a man more fully aware of himself, and what he believes in a slow and but deeply powerful fashion. This is an incredibly strong performance by Voight that does not have a single misused moment.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Best Actor 1978

And the Nominees Were:

Gary Busey in The Buddy Holly Story

Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait

Jon Voight in Coming Home

Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil

Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Best Actor 1953: Results

5. Richard Burton in The Robe- Although I found much of his performance hilarious it was not for the right reasons, also whenever he is not unintentionally funny he is rather dull.
4. Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity- Although lacking in ways in his big romantic scenes with Deborah Kerr, he makes up quite a bit of it in his expert command of the character infusing both a dominating presence with an underlying warmness especially well.
3. Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar- Brando really on a whole is not given much to do, but what he has he makes the most of it. His major speech is made a pivotal moment in the film becuase of Brando's utterly stunning performance.
2. Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity-  Clift is outstanding throughout his performance perfectly bringing to life the struggle of Prewitt. In fact his performance is so effective that he actually brings more out of characters he does not even portray.
1. William Holden in Stalag 17- I will admit this is probably my favorite of these performances in terms of how much I enjoy watching them. I could watch Holden brilliantly sardonic turn over and over again that simply could not bring out more in his character.
Deserving Performances:
James Mason in Julius Caesar

Best Actor 1953: William Holden in Stalag 17

William Holden won his Oscar from his second nomination for portraying Sgt. J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17.

Stalag 17 tells the story of a informer inside the barracks of a P.O.W. camp during World War II.

I guess I should say there will be some more obvious spoilers in this review as they are really required for me to appropriately and fully describe what I see in this performance. The second thing I should say is that I find it quite amusing that William Holden apparently found the part too unlikable and cynical, and did not want to play it. I find this quite amusing becuase William Holden probably ties with William Powell for best portraying a multitude of the most cynical and sardonic characters in film history.

This performance as Sefton certainly is one of Holden's most cynical character, and really is perfectly cast in the role. What I really like about this performance though is how it changes during the initial viewing of the film, and the subsequent viewings of the film.  In the first viewing, my first viewing anyway, I did not know who the traitor was and it very well could have been Sefton since I did not know what manner the film was going to go in.

William Holden for me has the perfect mystery and intrigue in about the first half of the film where it seems all to likely that Sefton may in fact be the informer only to be able to get a slightly nicer time in the prison camp. Holden perfectly expresses Sefton's cynical nature at all times being that this is simply who Sefton is, and it will exploit or bet on anything to get ahead in some way. Holden tunes Sefton's nature well as having the right degree of mystery as whether he would go so far to sell out his fellow countrymen, or not.

Well here is the spoiler, Sefton is not the traitor someone else in the camp is therefore, Holden is required to do something quite difficult. He must become the man you are suppose to completely hate and instead become the man you are suppose to at least like and somewhat sympathize with in his troublesome position int he prison camp being the only person who knows for sure he is not the traitor after all. Holden manages to to do this with a great ease merely by creating an urgency and honesty out of Sefton, not out of nowhere, but something he merely hid with his sardonic humor the rest of the time.

On my second viewing I found Holden this time simply entertaining as well as effective throughout the film. I just love his whole delivery throughout every single moment he has. Holden just does the whole sardonic cyncial nature of Sefton absolutely perfectly making him just an enjoyable character to watch even when he is being quite the jerk, I still found him likable as well due to Holden still finding a creating deal of charisma with his cyncial character nonetheless. I found myself enjoying every moment of his performance from beginning to end largely becuase of the incredible ease he has throughout the film. This is not the most complex performance of all time, but it is a character that Holden brings out to its fullest in a most enjoyable fashion.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Best Actor 1953: Montgomery Clift in From Here To Eternity

Montgomery Clift received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Pvt. Robert E. Lee 'Prew' Prewitt in From Here To Eternity.

Montgomery Clift portrays the very much mistreated Private Prewitt. He is mistreated because he refuses to box on the corrupt Captain's boxing team. Prewitt is a hard case who refuses to comply to the Captain's whims, but also refuses to report the abuse by the Captain's officers, as well refuses to quit the army despite the way that he is constantly mistreated.

Montgomery Clift gives a magnetic performance as the troubled Prewitt, and despite the sometimes withdrawn nature of Prewitt as a character he easily brings you into his world, and the troubles he faces with an incredible ease. Clift without ever pandering manages to gain a great deal of empathy. Clift never visibly tries to do this but gains it nonetheless because of his entirely honest method of portraying Prewitt's Struggle. 

Clift never really tries to show that Prewitt is in the end not all that much more than an average career soldier, or at least shows that Prewitt really does not desire to be anything more than a career soldier. Clift really has a rather tricky character in Prewitt, despite how poorly treated he is by the army Prewitt still loves it. It seems almost a contradiction or impossible idea yet Clift portrays it entirely realistically.

Prewitt's love for the army is not some sort of masochism, but Clift rather portrays it as something entirely genuine, something that Prewitt cannot shake, something from his history. There are not too many moments in which Clift is able to express this love, but the few moments he has Clift makes it truly an honest dimension of Prewitt that no cruelty could expunge.

Clift's portrayal of Prewitt's struggle is certainly a strong effective work, that holds the screen throughout every moment. He present Prewitt as a average man in some ways, but he never does this in an average fashion. Clift always manages to give a charismatic performance, that always brings out every interesting facet of Private Prewitt fully to life. 

I think what aspect of Clift's performance is most effective is the fact that he really works as the pivotal facet of the film, which is quite amazing. Although I like Lancaster to a degree, as well as some of the smaller supporting roles from actors like Jack Warden, and particularly Ernest Borgnine, the actors with some of the heavier lifting like Donna Reed, and Frank Sinatra are quite lacking.

What Clift does is amazing though because despite the lacking performance of Donna Reed, and Frank Sinatra the storyline involving their characters still work quite well because of the involvement of Montgomery Clift in their scenes. For example the whole Maggio storyline really could have been an utter waste, but it is not due to Montgomery Clift.

Maggio and Prewitt are friends, but Maggio is a hot head who quickly gets into trouble resulting eventually in a tragedy befalling. Frankly this tragedy could have easily been forgotten if up to Frank Sinatra who overacts Maggio needlessly. Clift though manages to make Maggio's fate through just his heartbreaking reaction to the events, and his final playing of taps something very much moving in spite of Sinatra.

The same goes for Prewitt's relationship with the hostess/prostitute Elma played by Donna Reed. Although Reed both overacts, and underacts her part Clift manages to still turn their relationship into something special despite Reed's lacking performance. Clift again manages more expressing not a wholly love relationship even, at first, but a sort earnest desperation that eventually forms into love.

Clift simply gives an outstanding performance from beginning to end in the film. He takes a integral portrait of  rather tragic man that is fascinating, as well as very moving to watch. Clift never overacts for a moment giving always a completely honest and moving performance. What I do find most outstanding his ability to take the lacking nature of some of his rather important co-stars, and still make their moments and storylines unforgettable.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Best Actor 1953: Richard Burton in The Robe

Richard Burton received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Marcellus Gallio in The Robe.

The Robe is a biblical epic depicting the early beginnings of Christianity by telling the story of the Roman tribune who crucified Christ.

Richard Burton is an actor I find completely hard to hate even when he is giving very lackluster performnaces. I just never completely loath a performance he is given for whatever reason. This does not mean that I cannot see fault when he gives a lacking performance though which is most certainly the truth in his performance in this film.

Richard Burton really at first does not have a whole lot to work with. He is just a standard roman tribune, and there really is not anything interesting about him. Burton does not try to add anything interesting about the tribune either. He basically just says the lines, and really does give a rather uncharismatic, and at many times a wooden performance.

The great moments in Burton's performance though after he is touched by the robe of Christ, and becomes deeply effected by it. These scenes are not great becuase they are great acting far far from it, they are great because they are pretty unintentionally hilarious. Burton overacts Marcellus' crazed reactions of guilt and uncertainty so much I almost burst every time he made a crazed look in his eyes and yelled out.

One would think there would actually be a transition shown from Roman tribune to devote Christian, but there is not. The film instead has him be basically stuck up Roman, crazed lunatic, than great Christian. The changes are immediate because they are all done by the touching of the Robe. Burton adds nothing only going from boring and wooden to really over the top back down to boring and wooden.

Burton has a moment here or there, very very brief moments of some sort of honest earnestness or something akin to that, but never anything that really should even be noted. He never makes anything out of Marcellus becuase frankly a better performance could have sold the insanity, maybe done something with the romance with Jean Simmons, or really carried this biblical epic. Burton does none of these, and frankly after watching this performance, and Rex Harrison in Cleopatra, I think I am growing a little more respect for Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Best Actor 1953: Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity

Burt Lancaster received his first Oscar nomination for portraying 1st Sgt. Milton Warden in From Here to Eternity.

From Here To Eternity tells of the troubled lives of soldiers on a military base in Hawaii just before the time of the Pearl Harbor invasion.

Burt Lancaster plays the tough no nonsense 1st Sergeant who basically does all the actual work for the corrupt Captain Holmes. Although tough he is good at heart and attempts to help the very much mistreated Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift). The other major element of his character is his secret romance with Captain Holmes' wife Karen (Deborah Kerr).

The romantic part of Lancaster's performance I actually feel is the weaker half. Lancaster frankly seems overly enthusiastic about the whole thing instantly, and he does not show any sort of transition, he just goes basically right for it. There is only reluctance in him thinking he is just another one of the affairs which she has had before. Lancaster even portrays this aspect of the romance, as more of a technical problem, that a complete major issue, a major issue that they get over quickly. The actual romance of the two is never that special otherwise than the terrifically directed, not so much acted, moment on the beach that certainly is exceedingly memorable, but actually has little to do with either of the two actors' performances.

Kerr and Lancaster are not bad together really, but at the same time their chemistry never is anything that seems all that interesting. They are there, I do not doubt that they would be together, there is a certain degree of naturalism between the two, but it never seems to be a real larger than life love affair which the story seems to act like it is but Kerr and Lancaster do not fully deliver on. Luckily the romance is not the only part of his performance, and he does have his scenes with the men on the army base, these scenes Lancaster is far more effective. Lancaster always has the right command in his scenes reinforcing his position as a strong resilient man. He makes it clear that the Sergeant is a perfectly effective man, always on the ball, and ready for action as he should be.

He also has the right subtle camaraderie with the other enlisted men showing a common bond. Lancaster does this quite well becuase he never goes out and says he really cares for them, but he certainly indicates it through very small but intelligently played reactions which indicate that Warden really does care honestly about the men he trains and commands. Lancaster is never quite amazing in the role, but he certainly is always good in this aspect of the character particularly at the end with the Pearl Harbor attack where Lancaster takes complete command of those scenes showing the true skills of the Sergeant despite being faced with a difficult surprise attack. Lancaster becomes the perfectly steadfast military man completely showing the full ability of Warden at the end of the film. Lancaster is never perfect in the role the whole romance part of his storyline really is underwhelming in the end. Also from time to time Lancaster gives some odd line readings for example when he stats he hates officers, the way Lancaster says that line seems oddly childish and out of character for Warden. Lancaster still through his scenes on the base gives an appropriately commanding and strong performance.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Best Actor 1953: Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar

Marlon Brando received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Marc Antony in Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar depicts the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar than the aftermath following the assassination.

Brando is not the lead in the film, and really his part is a supporting one. The true lead is James Mason as Brutus one of the lead conspirators, not Mark Antony. Marc Antony actually only comes in and out of the film, but whenever he appears it is important because he the chief defender of Julius Caesar, and desires revenge after the death of Caesar. Brando briefly appears at the beginning of the film, and does very little. Brando's performance mainly consists of three scenes that give him focus.

 He has first a small scene where he comes in after the assassination. Brando is properly repressed in this first scene, as Antony acts as the assassination as almost some sort of proper lawful act, because that is the way the conspirators say it is. Brando though suggests that Antony is holding back his true emotions in the event by subtly showing that he is keeping down the honest pain he does feel over Caesar's death. After the conspirators leave though Brando lets out the emotions in a short powerful moment really showing how much Caesar's death has devastated him.

Brando's major scene of performance than is his speech to the Roman people over the death of Caesar. They censure him by telling him that he can not use his speech to condemn them. The speech than is incredible well written and Brando performance is up to the quality of the speech itself. Brando brilliantly mixes in Antony's greif, and pain, along with his hatred, as well as love for the deceased Caesar flawlessly. He also infuses a great deal of power into every word that completely holds the screen for his entire speech. There is no question to Antony ability to turn the people against the conspirators, because Brando's performance creates such a powerful and finely tuned argument.

Brando brings his essential speech to fullest life it could possibly have, and appropriately makes it the turning point against the plot of the conspirators. Brando only has a few minor moments from than until near the end of the film where he shows remorse over the death of Brutus, becuase he believed Brutus was the conspirator's who honestly believed Caesar had to die for the good of Rome. Brando again is very strong in his short heartfelt speech that gives the film a strong effective end, becuase of Brando once again. This is most certainly a supporting performance, but an important one particularly in his two speeches which Brando knocks out of park. He might not have the most screen time but this is still a very strong performance that certainly is superior to all five of nominated supporting performance from this year.

Best Actor 1953

And the Nominees Were:

Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity

Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity

William Holden in Stalag 17

Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar

Richard Burton in The Robe

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Best Actor 1986: Results

5. Dexter Gordon in 'Round Midnight- Dexter Gordon most likely was only nominated for being Dexter Gordon, as he gives a entirely uncharismatic performance, that has not a single powerful or poignant moment.
4. Paul Newman in The Color of Money- Newman is actually fine enough, and has one pretty good scene that almost seems to hearken back to his amazing performance in The Hustler, but unfortuantely he is never amazing most certainly at least in part due to his obnoxious co-stars as well as having a rather poorly conceived character.
3. William Hurt in Children of a Lesser God- Hurt does not have the most complex of characters, but still manages to give a very good performance. This is because of his outstanding charisma here, as well as his terrific chemistry with his leading lady Marlee Matlin.
2. Bob James Woods in Salvador- giving a very memorable as well a manic performance that works surprisingly well considering the type of film that he is in. Woods manages to both be a real man in a horrible situation, but also manages to give a fascinating portrait of a very original character as well.
1. Hoskins in Mona Lisa- Hoskins gives a very powerful performance that certainly overcomes some of the weaker material in the film. Hoskins turns his character into an interesting man, that slowly delves deeper into the truth of the man, well falling deeper into a situation. It is a complex portrait that Hoskins pulls off very well.
Deserving Performances:
(I have seen the Mosquito Coast, Sid and Nancy, as well as the Fly, more than ten years ago each so I really need to rewatch each before I can put them here.)

Best Actor 1986: Bob Hoskins in Mona Lisa

Bob Hoskins received his only Oscar nomination at the moment for portraying George in Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa depicts the story of a recently released from prison small time criminal who takes a job as a driver for a higher class prostitute.

Bob Hoskins portrays the criminal, and he is possibly even more than small time. He frankly seems to be barely be a criminal. The film really does not tell what George was exactly before he got of prison other than he went to prison for a crime, and apparently it was covering in some way for his crime boss Mortwell (Michael Caine). Hoskins is terrific in the setup which really is not explained by the film, because just from his performance I felt that George was never entirely cut out to be a criminal really lacking the hard edge, which is an important note for the rest of his performance.

Hoskins suggests as George that he has more of an interest in crime, than he really is a true criminal. I think this is shown well by his attempt to get back in the business of crime, which Hoskins plays in a rather rushed manner, showing quite well that George really does not put all that much thought into his entire idea of being criminal, and he suggests perfectly that George is more of a criminal because of circumstance, than at heart being a man who wishes to do bad.

George gets back into the criminal job with a small job he barely understands, which is being a drive for a prostitute Simone (Cathy Tyson). Their relationship makes up much of his performance. Hoskins rightfully portrays George as rather naive about the whole process of being a driver, acting completely unaware of what to do, as well as asking far to many questions to Simone, that clearly seem to be not the way a driver really should act.

There relationship though although continually strained because well she's a prostitute actually does grow, becuase George shows himself to be a descent man actually. I find their relationship has a rather natural progression actually which is important, because in the hands of the wrong actor it could have seemed quite contrived, but Hoskins always alludes well that George genuinely at heart just wants to do the right thing, despite his attempts at a more rough outward exterior, Hoskins always subtly suggests that George really is a bit of a softie after all.

George though becomes even deeper into the relationship when she asks him to attempt to find an old prostitute friend of hers in the lowest of places. Hoskins is interesting here, as this goes against George's job, and his life up until now to really break the whole criminal underground to find her. Hoskins though manages to do it because honestly shows that George does slowly fall in love in Simone, certainly misguided, and Hoskins never overtly says it, but it clearly develops in just the right fashion.

Hoskins gives realistic depiction of George's attempts to find the prostitute, because he always conveys the genuine disbelief, and disgust as he sees the treatment of the women, and girls, and Hoskins shows quite well that George really hates this reality, which basically does add to his drive to do what is descent. Hoskins frankly could made these scenes are bore, if he just went through them, but instead Hoskins always adds to them honest human reaction to the horrible sights he sees.

Well all hell basically breaks loose for George, and Hoskins is downright brilliant in the entire climax of the film. George is finally pressed to deal with it all, both face his not too happy boss, as well as finally face about his relationship with Simone. Hoskins is incredibly powerful every moment as George goes through an abundance of emotions, from hatred to heartbreak Hoskins spot on. Hoskins is particular is amazing in his small heartbreaking reaction to finally seeing the full extent of Simone's relationship with the other prostitute, as well as his devastating walk down the beach.

Hoskins' performance certainly peaks at the end of the film, but Hoskins is great throughout leading to this end wonderfully well. Hoskins makes what could have been a very standard performance in what sort of is a standard thriller, a strong effective performance, with scenes of true power. He manages to make George a likable, as well as memorable character.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Best Actor 1986: James Woods in Salvador

James Woods received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Richard Boyle in Salvador.

Salvador depicts the civil war in El Salvador.

James Woods portrays Richard Boyle who is a photo journalist of sorts. He goes for the most dangerous of places to cover, and gets rather far too involved. Boyle though is not particularly successful as a journalist, but seems to get on by taking drugs, drinking a lot, as well as being a womanizer, well he attempts to find something in the rather unstable areas that he inhabits.

James Woods was probably the perfect choice for the almost out of control Richard Boyle, since Woods is an actor who by nature as an incredibly high energy level in almost all of his performances. Woods' kinetic style works extremely well for Boyle right from the start of his performance. Woods does not stop for a moment perfectly amplifying the never stopping nature of Richard in this film, which Woods sets up instantly which really is needed for the film.

The setup of the film has Boyle rush basically down to Salvador to cover the civil war that almost seems like a whim on his part considering he drives right down there right into it. Woods whole creation of Boyle is perfect for this because he constantly shows Boyle as a guy with excess energy who never stops, never stops to even think for a second what he is that he is about to get himself into.

Woods is quite effective in Salvador as he readily tries to deal with the various troubles he faces well there, Woods basically never stops being at least to some degree hectic in his performance.This works perfectly with Boyle who is constantly trying to cover the story in Salvador, fight with various officials about the horrors there, deal with seeing the horrors, as well attempting to save a few people who are threatened because they are there.

Woods' reactions to the various horrors as Boyle sees them in Salvador is interestingly handled by Woods, because Woods rarely freaks out despite what he sees. It is not that Boyle is unaffected by what he sees, but rather Woods shows more restrained reactions that properly Boyle simply throughout his life has seen horrors, although Woods still certainly shows that Boyle is effected but less because of his history as a photojournalist.

Boyle becomes slowly even more ingrained in the situation, and stops seeing it as just an opportunity to drink, get high, and get a story, and instead starts to see it as somewhere where he can finally possibly do a little good.  Boyle attempts to try to persuade the U.S. not to be involved anymore with current government in Salvador due to its use of death squads.

Throughout the second half of the film Boyle has several speeches in which he espouses what he believes about the rights of humanity, and his belief in justice. Although these probably could be written a tad better by Oliver Stone who never is afraid to be heavy handed or extremely obvious, they still are effective because Woods always puts an earnest truth in his performance as Boyle. Woods here shows a more caring side of Boyle that comes out extremely well, and it seems this side was always there, he just happens to not always shows.

Interestingly Woods actually has another transformation in this film as Boyle, as Boyle actually morally changes a bit, and actually feels he must change his behavior in his attempt to save a local woman whom he loves. Woods is excellent in this aspect because Woods lets on that early he more of does see her as one of his women, but slowly as the truth of the situation dwells on his Woods carefully shows that this particularly woman maybe does mean more to Boyle after all.

Boyle's moral transition is powerfully played by Woods, and he surprisingly is able to make it seem rather natural despite how deeply into his amoral lifestyle he was at the beginning. His whole change is best summed by his confession to the priest where he tells the priest his honest desire to change. Woods plays this authentically as he does not show Boyle is a completely different man, but a man who has actually learned more about himself, and finally feels responsibility weigh on him.

This is a surprisingly in depth performance, since many times film's like this do not bother to give that much attention to the reporter in the center of it, usually using them as a reactionary individual. Woods though succeeds at both being someone you can follow through the entire painful affair he goes through, as well as gives an interesting portrait of a man who finds more about himself in the strangest of times.