Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Best Supporting Actor 1988: Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda

Kevin Kline won his Oscar from his only nomination so far for portraying Otto West in A Fish Called Wanda.

A Fish Called Wanda is crime caper comedy about various jewel thieves, and an English Barrister trying to get the best of each other.

Although one criticism of the Oscars that usually comes up is that they do not reward enough comedies, and comedic performance. This really is not at all true for the supporting actor category where many of the winners are either comic relief characters  in some way, have a lot of humor in a dramatic performance sort of characters, and even characters who are full completely just about completely comedic such as Charles Coburn in The More the Merrier, and Kevin Kline in this film.

Kevin Kline plays one of the jewel thieves Otto who is a weapon specialist who claims to be the brother of the female thief Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), even though he is actually not her brother but rather her lover. This is a completely insane by Kline that does not have an ounce of subtly in it, every reactions is very broad, and makes itself known. Although I do not usually go for performances like this this one is just about perfect because Kline is in a broad comedy, not a drama or even dramedy.

Although in broad comedy one could still blunder with the wrong material, for taking the material in the wrong way. Luckily for Kline the material is quite good, and to Kline's own credit he knows exactly how to play it. Kline simply makes the moment of every line and every moment he has. Kline never lets his performance for a moment slow down and is always putting a little humor in every sly smile, broad physical gesture, or look. 

Kline is just hilarious whenever he can be. A comedic performance like this really is one of the hardest type of performance to say why it is so funny. Kline simply gets it right from his spot on timing, to his perfect expressions. He makes Otto the perfect pompous idiot who thinks he is a genius just because he happens to read a lot of different philosophers. It is just a hilarious unique characterization that absolutely works.

I suppose my favorite two scenes though are scenes with Micheal Palin (whose performance is my favorite in the film) as Ken the animal loving, inept hitman, and stuttering fellow thief. First Otto's interrogation of Ken is just perfect, than only topped for me by their final face off against each other at the end. I cannot help but laugh as the two play off each other so well. This is simply a great comic performance from Kevin Kline that makes the most of everything he has and does not falter once as a performance like this can so easily.


Fritz said...

I really need to see this movie...

dinasztie said...

I agree: he's fantastic but Michael Palin is the best. Or Jamie Lee Curtis, I can't decide between them.

Tom said...

The ending scene is classic. One of the all time great comedies.

Michael Patison said...

I'm assuming you love or at least really like this movie. It's one of my favorites. You said that the Academy is somewhat unfairly accused of prejudice against comedic performances. I agree with that especially as you said in the supporting categories, but Best Picture is a totally different story. In such a weak year as 1988, this should have been a shoo-in for at least a nominee if not a winner especially in comparison to the comedy that can be assumed took its place, Working Girl.

Louis Morgan said...

I do love the film. I would agree with you on your point though, they rarely nominate pure comedies for best picture. This definitely deserved a nomination, but I imagine it must have been close since it did get into director.