Thursday, 31 March 2011

Best Actor 1971: Topol in Fiddler on the Roof

Topol received his only Oscar nomination to date for portraying Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

Fiddler on the Roof is a musical that tells the story of Tevye the poor Jewish milkman and the marriages of his daughters that go further and further away from Jewish tradition. Fiddler on the Roof has some good moments and songs, but it goes on for a little too long.

Fiddler on the Roof is a musical, and certianly old fashioned in many ways, one way being the very obvious acting that often goes with a musical. After all it is pretty hard to break into song in any subtle fashion. Throughout the film there are several overacted performances, or underacted performances. I must say the overacted performances tend to work better for the musical, rather than some of the dull underacted ones. Topol portrays the center of all of these performances.

Tevye is a character that is hard to not portray in at least partially flamboyant fashion. After all he is a character who directly talks to God (the camera) in many scenes. Topol actually handles these particularly well. He is quite convincing in his character's constant questioning, telling or asking God about what is happening to him currently. Topol does in fact make this aspect of the film and Tevye's character aspect pretty natural.

Topol actually handles all the more flamboyant parts of Tevye well. Topol conveys well just the distinct enjoyment, and his distinct jovial attitude Tevye takes toward life. He really throws the right energy into the role that is perfect for Tevye, and do to the fact that he instantly sets up this manner of the character he actually makes breaking out into song for the character pretty natural, well as natural as it can be anyways.

Topol of course sings the songs well enough, but that really does not matter precisely, what I care more about is indeed how they perform the song. He always throws either the right heart or energy into his performances of the songs. I think "If I were a rich man" shows this quality the best, he just completely throws himself into the performance, which is terrific.

I won't say there is a lot of subtle moments in his performance, but he does show more of Tevye than just external colorfulness of the character. He does develop a core of the character showing his character's honest love for his family, sadness for the way the world treats him, and his reluctance to lose the Jewish tradition. It is not a lot but Topol makes sure it is there, and does weave it along with the more flamboyancy of the character. Overall Topol gives the best performance in the film because it appropriately expresses the usual aspects of a musical performance well, without being an excessively over the top performance.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Best Actor 1971

And the Nominees Were:

Peter Finch in Sunday Bloody Sunday

Walter Matthau in Kotch

Gene Hackman in The French Connection

George C. Scott in The Hospital

Topol in Fiddler on the Roof

Best Actor 1980: Results

5. Jack Lemmon in Tribute- Lemmon's whole performance seems like Oscar baiting at its worst. It is hammy all the way, which might be okay if it worked, but it does not.
4. Peter O'Toole in The Stunt Man- I actually upped O'Toole rating because I thought about my main criticism, that I wanted more of him, which is hardly a criticism. His performance is pretty much a supporting one, and a very funny and effective one as a crazed director.
3. Robert Duvall in The Great Santini- I genuinely liked Duvall portrait of the abusive Bull Meechum. He created an interesting family dynamic through his performance, and never turned his character into a one dimensional figure which it easily could have been.
2. Robert De Niro in Raging Bull- De Niro performance is quite a remarkable achievement. He creates a fascinating complex portrait of a man who at heart is simple thug. He takes this thug though a realizes a complete human being, who is made by De Niro to be both frighteningly effective in his exterior anger and jealousy, and subtly honest in Lamotta's hidden sensitivity and vulnerability.

1. John Hurt in The Elephant Man- I can easily see the philosophy behind giving Hurt the win here. He is by far the most pleasant of the characters here, which is funny since it shows how low the other characters are since Merrick is such a nice man despite being given such a hindering deformity. Also Hurt's performance is brilliant in how much emotion he conveys through only his eyes and his voice, and also how honestly human he is as John Merrick.
Deserving Performances:
Donald Sutherland in Ordinary People

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Best Actor 1980: Robert De Niro in Raging Bull

Robert De Niro won his second Oscar from his fourth nomination for portraying Jake Lamotta in Raging Bull.

Raging Bull tells the story of the degradation of professional boxer Jake Lamotta.

Here is a performance that I really do not need to say anything about that really has not already been said. It certainly a heavily praised performance. So perhaps I should examine this particular performance by how one could attempt to criticize the performance.

The main criticism of the performance, from the few instances I have seen of it criticize it generally state that it is a one note performance. Well this certainly could be misinterpreted as one note, but it is an incredibly complex performance. The other criticisms stem usually from the performance being not all sympathetic, this again is exactly as Lamotta should be portrayed. De Niro actually refuses to actually ever make him a charming guy, leaving him as the unintelligent, low life he should be portrayed as. I still though would not say he is entirely unsympathetic, but he only ever gains sympathy by being such a pathetic character.

So yes I disagree with the criticism, even though for awhile I never rated De Niro as one of my favorite winners. This time watching it though his performance really has grown on me, even more so, since I still believed it to be great. Watching this time around though I really began to notice the subtle, introverted aspects De Niro managed to weave with the exterior facade of Lamotta that he always presents often quite loudly.

Lamotta is presented as De Niro as certainly an angry man, constantly filled with jealousy. De Niro shows this as an anger that has developed with Lamotta his entire life, something that he really cannot lose. He presents it really as a defense mechanism for Lamotta to usually hide his own insecurities. The rapid fire, sometimes almost unexpected way he breaks out into his angry fits is especially well handled by De Niro, showing as almost an animalistic tendency.

De Niro really shows these tendencies well in the boxing scenes. Boxing scenes usually are not really moments to allow for great acting. One really generally will not notice if the person is believable as a boxer, it only really is noticeable if they are not believable. De Niro is not only overwhelming believable in the boxing scenes, but more importantly it shows the nature of Lamotta. De Niro's has the full force of an animal in his boxing scenes, and properly conveys both the pleasure and the power that he has inside of the ring. The one place where Lamotta really can be in full command, and unleash his full emotional force.

It is interesting to note that De Niro is a domineering presence throughout the film, despite not really being charming or charismatic. De Niro though has the right ability to be interesting, very interesting, despite portraying the uncharismatic Lamotta. I think De Niro is particularly strong in his moments with Lamotta wife Vicki. It is strong acting by De Niro, in that I did not doubt his ability to pick her up, because of his certian presence, despite lacking an innate charm. It is interesting relationship, but De Niro conveys his uncharismatic sway that he does have over her at times entirely convincing.

To me the best part of De Niro's performance is when he actually does show the sensitivity Lamotta has, which he does try to hide behind his rage. It is the combination he has between these aspects of Lamotta that is so fascinating which De Niro pulls off magnificently. De Niro always has the right undercurrent of the sensitivity and a certian nervousness of Lamotta underneath his angry exterior.

His jealous fits over his wife, are shown through De Niro his inability to ever really think she could really be completely devoted to him. Even more interesting though is his sensitivity over his boxing achievement and ability. De Niro earnestly shows Lamotta want to achieve greatness, and how he becomes truly disheartened from his set backs, such as when he cries like a baby after throwing the fight. That scene could have been easily all wrong, but De Niro really show the true nature of Lamotta in that scene.

De Niro exceeds well in every aspect of Lamotta, fully realizing the man, finding depth always even when it seems like there is very little of it in the man. De Niro does not make Lamotta's slow descent a physical one, but also a mental and psychological one. He shows that Lamotta slowly becomes less and less able in his abilities as a boxer, but also grows even more desperate, and even more sensitive creating eventually his biggest jealous rages, and his loss of his title.

It is incredible to see De Niro at the end of the film. He no longer is a champ, or at all a special man. He has lost any talent he once had, but still attempts to keep his time in the sun through his terrible comedy routines. This complete loss of everything he ever had, is striking because De Niro slowly brought Lamotta to his end. It interesting to see though that he does show that has Lamotta has learned a little, a very little do to his free fall from the top. Overall De Niro is an intense performance as well as subtle and complex performance that is completely deserving of its reputation it has received.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Best Actor 1980: John Hurt in The Elephant Man

John Hurt received his second Oscar nomination for portraying John Merrick the titular character of The Elephant Man.

The Elephant man is the surprisingly touching story of a deformed man's journey to find human dignity in the 19th century.

John Hurt's performance as John Merrick is just about the pinnacle of the minimalistic acting. Hurt technically has many hindrances to give an effective performance. For example he basically cannot use his face, since it is almost entirely covered up with make up. He also cannot use his body really to do anything more than suggest the movements of the Merrick's disability.

I will say that the make up, and Hurt's manner as  Merrick made me never ever think I was really seeing an actor, but rather just the man himself. The way he walks and moves as Merrick always seem entirely natural, he never seemed like an actor ever doing any of this but just the authentic man himself. He never once overacts with a single mannerism which he could have easily. Although it must be said as well, that make up is incredible, and should have won a special award. Hurt though wears the make up in the right way, and does not let it do the performance for him.

The only assets Hurt really has at completely at his disposal overall, is his eyes and his voice. Hurt's eyes really are quite special here, because they always show the human, and humane quality of Merrick, which works to great effect. He is always able to convey the sad state of Merrick, but never as an entirely sad man. He display with only his eyes his fear of others early on, but also later he expresses the character's honest love and humanity especially well.  I believe his moment near the end of the film where he looks around in the theater, we see only through Hurt's eyes Merrick's true wonderment and happiness in that scene.

Equally special is Hurt's voice as Merrick. He is hindered as well in this aspect due to an imperfect mouth, and bronchitis, but Hurt gives Merrick and tender quiet voice from which he speaks. It is incredibly well used in the film as at first he struggles to speak words that seem meaningless to him. As he grows more comfortable with his surroundings he finally lets his voice out in a clear and meaningful fashion as he quotes his favorite passage from the bible. A striking scene and I think most of the credit, should come to Hurt subtle and moving delivery.

Hurt uses his eyes and his voice well throughout the film, even though still he remains a very withdrawn character, barring two scenes. One where he screams in horror from seeing himself, and another where he lashes out telling everyone that he is a man not an animal. Both well handled by Hurt, but I do believe his best moments, are his quiet tender, and heartbreaking moments. One scene in particular I think is his best, and most moving scene. It is when a theater actress Madge Kendal (Anne Bancroft) comes to visit him. It is a small, but moving scene as Merrick recites Shakespeare to her, and she recites back to him. It is a wonderful moment, and Hurt is perfectly honest, and loving in this moment, showing the real man behind his disfigurement.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Best Actor 1980: Robert Duvall in The Great Santini

Robert Duvall received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Lieutenant Colonel Bull Meechum in The Great Santini.

The Great Santini is an interesting and effective portrait of a family with a domineering and abusive father, at least for awhile it peters out at the end, also it has a sub plot involving a black local being harassed by racist whites which seems like it came from another movie.

Duvall portrays the father of a family Bull Meechum a hot shot, gung-ho, marine fighter pilot, who treats his family just like he would treat soldiers under his command. It the early moments or any scenes where he is around other Marines, Duvall is quite hilarious with how over the top of a character Meechum is. The character is over the top, but Duvall is a good enough actor though to be able to portray the flamboyant Meechum without ever over acting. Quite a challenge but Duvall pulls it off with ease and humor.

Meechum is a character that could have been portrayed incredibly one dimensional, since the way the character acts is suppose to be sort of a one dimensional meat head, and he could have been easily played that one, or as a one dimensional villain due to his abusive nature toward his family. Duvall never portrays the character either way. I think in particular the abusive nature of the character is well portrayed by Duvall.

Duvall could have easily been just hammering in the abuse, or always showing Meechum as ready to do it constantly. It could have become a performance only on the surface, but Duvall carefully shows that there's much more to Bull Meechum's abuse, than only anger. Duvall carefully shows that this is just the only way Meechum has really learned how to deal with his family, and does not really have the ability to show them love. I think it is interesting because much of his cruelty comes from his belief that he is doing his family a service to make them better people. Duvall shows it as a systematic process, to make them a stronger group.

It would have been easy to show Meechum as having no love for his family, but Duvall subtly shows small instances of love Bull has for his family even when he is acting quite not so. Duvall shows that Meechum does have a limit for himself, and can sense when he has gone to far. Duvall shows this but never says this since Bull would never actually admit it. He does show also that he tries to give his children a good life, and can even be charming in some scenes such as when he first shows off the house to his children. These little charming moments, Duvall realistically mixes them in with the angry ones incredibly.

Duvall possibly shines best though in portraying Bull's specific relationship with his son Ben (Micheal O'Keefe). Bull pressures his son the most, and fights with him the most as well. It is sometimes an intense relationship, and Duvall is especially domineering, and forceful. Also in a moment where Ben finally beats him at basketball Bull is quite the sore loser and attempts to get an emotional reaction from his son anyway he can. A terrific scene of Duvall's, because he is just a completely real honest jerk, no movie acting about, making the scene a lot more effective than if he tried to make Bull some sort of villain rather than a cruel actual human being.

Even better moments are his quiet ones where he does show a restrained fatherly love for his son. Duvall never really indicates it directly but shows it there, and he naturally mixes in a warmness with a coldness that is incredible. His personal best moment though may certainly be a moment where he finds out he is wrong and his son is right. It is an outstanding scene for Duvall when Bull sees he is wrong, and his change and reaction is simply amazing. Overall Duvall has many incredible moments in this performance that easily could have been a one note character. Duvall creates a real portrait of a man, and somehow even creates sympathy for a man who is anything but sympathetic.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Best Actor 1980: Peter O'Toole in The Stunt Man

Peter O'Toole received his sixth Oscar nomination for portraying film director Eli Cross in The Stunt Man.

The Stunt Man is a story of a man who hides from the police acting as the stunt man to a manipulative domineering director. The film is certainly an interesting effort as well as entertaining at times, but it sort of loses its way in the second half.

It is rather interesting that Timothy Hutton was nominated and won for his clearly leading role in the Supporting role for Ordinary People, yet Peter O'Toole here is really a supporting performance, although a domineering supporting performance. O'Toole's character knows the secret of the stunt man who is hiding from the police, and chooses to exploit him just as he exploits and manipulates the rest of his cast and crew.I really enjoyed O'Toole performance at first with the all knowing director, who always wants to get his shot, anyway he can get his shot. O'Toole really does command every moment with his domineering presence. He is very enjoyable in fact as he acts gleefully, and practically insanely around the movie set. O 'Toole always has the right demeanor, of brilliant but insane ambition.

O'Toole performance is also quite amusing early on, and certainly has the right amount of fun as well with his performance. I particularly like one moment when his crew is talking about how the film will end up being cut in the end by the studio. Eli Cross though says he knows they will not cut his film, or else he will kill him. O'Toole delivers this line with such insane glee, that is both hilarious and brilliant.

Unfortunately the performance takes a back seat to the rest of the film, and he only comes in and out, since it is a supporting performance. His scenes are the best but they are too few and far between to really allow his character to grow. His character also takes a down turn where the film decides to show him as the villain of the film which I think was a mistake. O'Toole is still entirely great as Cross becomes even more devious, and demented, but the film leaves him little to do besides this. I just really preferred when he was certainly devious and demented, but in an insane director sort of way rather than in an evil director sort of way. Still O'Toole performance is an effective, often amusing supporting performance, that is the best part of this film.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Best Actor 1980: Jack Lemmon in Tribute

Jack Lemmon received his seventh Oscar nomination for portraying Scottie Templeton in Tribute.

Tribute is an awful film about an estranged father and son finding each other again. It tries to be a character study, but it had nothing interesting to say. It tries to pull your heart strings, going at extreme manipulative lengths to do this, and fails. Also none of this is helped by a horrendous, and I mean horrendous performance by Robby Benson as Scottie's son Jud Templeton. The film was already hard to sit through, but Benson made it really unbearable.

Scottie Templeton is some character you know, oh he is one crazy character. He drinks, smokes, acts wacky, lusts after all sorts of women, constantly makes movie quotes, once was  a screen writer, now he is a Broadway press agent, has an estranged son with his divorced wife, oh and did I mention he is dying. Oh no, not Scottie. Now if you have not noticed I am being a little sarcastic, because I frankly could not stand this over written, obnoxious, Oscar baiting of the worst type, character.

Lemmon has played many times before and after this character these high energy, but on the edge characters.  He also has played these characters much much better before and after this performance. Apparently this is a reprise for Lemmon of his stage role as Scottie, and really he is overly theatrical in this performance. He does his full on Jack Lemmon routine this time around, with a lot of overacting really, although I will say he puts a lot of energy into his performance.

But energy used for what, for nothing in my book. He uses it for an overly obnoxious performance, that gets old after about the first scene. Lemmon goes throughout the performance to get either an emotion, or a laugh out of the audience which becomes very, very tiresome. I'll give him a little credit for trying, heck he even dons a chicken suit to get something out of the audience, but I will not give him credit for succeeding because he doesn't, it is obnoxious obvious ACTING acting of the worst type.

Lemmon's performance is just a comic routine that goes nowhere, and certainly does not create any laughs, but it becomes from time to time dramatic, usually in him showing his sudden burst of grief, which again feels like him saying look I laugh, I cry, give me an award. I'll grant that Lemmon does not get any help in creating any effective or emotional scene since Robby Benson is so bad, and their father son relationship is suppose to be key to the film. Lemmon though even if he had a better actor playing his son, it would not stop Lemmon's overly flamboyant performance from becoming tiresome. Overall this is one of Lemmon's weakest efforts, certainly his weakest Oscar nomination. Lemmon's unique mannerisms, and style can be effective, but not here, certainly not here.

Best Actor 1980

And the Nominees Were:

Peter O'Toole in The Stunt Man

Robert Duvall in The Great Santini

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull

John Hurt in The Elephant Man

Jack Lemmon in Tribute

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Best Actor 1961: Results

5. Charles Boyer in Fanny- Boyer is fine enough but his role is too small and simple for him to accomplish all that much.
4. Spencer Tracy in Judgment At Nuremberg- Tracy is functionally fine in the part, but fails to really find any real depth in his underwritten part.
3. Maximilian Schell in Judgment At Nuremberg- Schell's performance is ACTING most certianly, he does not have too much of a character, but he is an energetic and effective presence in the film.
2. Paul Newman in The Hustler- An absolutely terrific performance, where Newman really creates a fascinating original character in Fast Eddie Felson. Newman never goes the easy way with his character, always going for instead a complex and creative character.
1. Stuart Whitman in The Mark- This one was extremely close for me, and much harder to choose than I expected it to be, before I watched the Mark. Whitman though completely threw me off with his extremely powerful complex performance of a deeply troubled man trying to change his life. I will say I do not think Whitman is better Newman, they are both equally great, but the nature of the award is choosing one, and for the moment I will choose Whitman. This is a year though where I am sure my choice could easily go back forth, because both create such memorable and powerful portraits of two incredibly unique characters.
Deserving Performances:
Open to Suggestions.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Best Actor 1961: Paul Newman in The Hustler

Paul Newman received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler.

The Hustler is a very interesting film that shows the underworld of sorts that the pool hustler lives in.

Fast Eddie first begins in the film with his mentor Charlie (Myron McCormick) in a quick hustle at a small bar. In this short early scene, Newman is good at putting the act of the hustle, and shows instantly that Fast Eddie is a pretty slick costumer who knows his trade. I really like this early scene. I like how he at first shows Eddie as the over reactive kid as he creates the condition for the hustle, than leads up to just his smile before he pulls the trick is perfect. That smile shows Eddie knows exactly what he is doing and Newman uses his trademark charisma to amplify Eddie joy of the hustle to perfect effect.

Eddie though goes to play pool with the ultimate pool player Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), for a prolonged night of gambling and playing. Newman's performance in this scene is excellent, because he starts out as the fully charismatic Newman who is eager to play against the great Fats. Newman perfectly displays his eagerness and passion he puts into this ultimate game and hustle. What is truly great about this scene though is his slow degradation over the night, and day of playing. Newman carefully drains himself of his charisma, and slowly loses his control over the game and himself into he basically becomes an emotional and physical mess until he loses the final game.

After he loses the hustle in the end Fast Eddie really falls flat, and Newman shows a loss in charisma which properly connects with Eddie's complete loss in confidence. Eddie down on his luck meets also a woman Sarah (Piper Laurie) who never has really had any luck. This relationship is pivotal to the film, and it is an interesting complex one. It is interesting because it is not a big lover affair, but rather a meeting of two troubled souls that is not actually always warm. Newman though and Laurie find the right charisma not of a loving relationship, but one that does have connection even if very cold at times.

Newman is strong in these scenes because he really shows that Eddie is not at all a perfect guy, in fact a very much troubled man. He is properly cold with Laurie, and his anger is well founded suggesting that Eddie really is not  a stable man, and that Hustling attempts to bring himself a respect of sorts. Now equally fantastic though is the love he does show to Laurie's Sarah. Newman projects this love, in the right the right almost cold and a somewhat resistant fashion that is always completely natural.

Eddie has a rough path to being himself up again, that is tortured. It is interesting because Newman shows Eddie's attempts than failures not as something that just happens but weaknesses in his personality. Eddie though learns from each of his failures, but Newman carefully displays that he does not learn everything or enough each time. For example his quiet talk with Laurie after being beaten for hustling, is a quiet poignant moment by Newman, but astutely portrayed because he still shows Eddie to not be entirely aware of himself.

Eddie's final tragic failure leads himself back to play Minnesota Fats once again. This is a spectacular scene. It is a quick change but an effective and believable one that Eddie has found his ground and confidence, not of true understanding himself, but brought about by passionate hatred and sadness. Now this is not really said, but I feel Newman does without fault show this change in Eddie. His final scene is outstanding as he finally does have control over himself, and over the pool table. This top he wins the hustle, and this was what the film was leading to, and Newman came to this conclusion brilliantly. Overall a very strong performance from Newman that creates a very interesting and incredibly memorable character.

Best Actor 1961: Charles Boyer in Fanny

Charles Boyer received his fourth and final Oscar nomination for portraying Cesar in Fanny.

Fanny is an odd one, because it seems like it should be a musical but it isn't. I mean colorful locale, a rather simple story with various colorful characters, and Maurice Chevalier, one would think that would equal to a musical, but it is not, even though apparently it was on stage.

I guess the Academy did not value many lead performances from this year since Maximilian Schell was really supporting, as is Charles Boyer in Fanny, especially in the first half of the film. Cesar is the father of the young man Marius (Horst Buchholz) who impregnates Fanny (Leslie Caron), but hops on a ship to get adventure in his life. Fanny to not be disgraced marries another older man Panisse (Maurice Chevalier).

Boyer's Cesar is one of the colorful characters, a nice bar owner, who loves his son, even though he does get very much disappointed by some of his decisions. Boyer is nice and colorful, enough, and is good at portraying an over the top character without being too over the top. Boyer early on is likable enough, but I really do not think he would stick out all that well, if not for the fact that I was always looking for him.

Boyer really does not do all that much, but show love for his son I guess, and and act happy or surprised I guess, and occasionally saddened as the situation involving his son changes. Cesar always wants to do the right thing, always even if that means stopping his son from breaking up the marriage between Panisse and Fanny. I suppose he is properly strict, and saddened by his son, but still it never is anything all that special, or anything that really needs to be noted.

Overall Boyer's performance really fulfills his role as well as it probably could be filled, but the role just demands far too little from him. He needs to be nice, somewhat charming, and also a good figure in the film, and he does all of these well enough, but the film gives him no time to do anything more than this. Boyer is perfectly fine throughout his performance I do believe that, but even for a supporting performance it is a very limited character.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Best Actor 1961: Spencer Tracy in Judgment At Nuremberg

Spencer Tracy received his eighth nomination for portraying Judge Dan Haywood in Judgment at Nuremberg.

Judge Dan Haywood is an American Judge who is set as the chief justice of the tribunal who sits to judge the Judges of the Nazi regime. Tracy is the actual lead of the film, although he does not get to do all that pointing and yelling that co-nominee Schell gets to do (you can watch Inherit the Wind if you want to see Tracy do that) instead Tracy gives a quieter performance as the presiding Judge.

The film follows him through his time in the trial, and his path reaching basically to his verdict. It is rather interesting because most of the performances have the biggest moments inside the courtroom but Tracy is almost entirely reactive in the court room sequences. He really does very little sequences and mostly gives the same slightly tired expression throughout these moments.  He has to also stop the trial here and there, reestablish order on occasion with raising his voice, but not all more than this up until his final verdict. In regards to being the judge at the trial Tracy is wholly functional but nothing more.

Most of Tracy's actual moments come from his time outside of the courtroom. He still though is very reactive even then. I would think, and maybe the films wants Dan Haywood to slowly change and finally bring himself to his conclusion in the court through moments outside of it, but Tracy shows little change in the character in any of these scenes. He walks around the destroyed city, and again keeps mostly his slightly tired expression. Now the only thing about showing change, is he also really does not give very much insight into who Haywood is exactly. Tracy nor the film really describe his feelings well before he gets there, or during the trial so much so when asked about it he says he doesn't know what to think.

Politically the character lacks proper change, or even definition, and this is basically true for his character's personality. All I learned from Tracy's performance, and even more so the script was that he was a nice enough old fellow, does not like anything too fancy, but believes in justice. Although even the justice part is only really gotten to in the final moments of the film.

So what does his character come to, well he comes to that the men are guilty of their horrible crimes. He says it in a verdict strongly depicted by Tracy, and then reassured once again by Tracy directly to the reptetant of the Judge Ernest Janning (Burt Lancaster). Tracy does have the right forcefulness in showing the character's belief in justice, but this really just is what occurs at the end, and it really is not lead to in any special fashion. Also it really does not make perfect sense as Haywood's plan the entire time, since he let the defense attorney for the Nazis Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell) almost free reign of the courtroom so much that he allowed victims of the Nazi's to persecuted all over again.

Overall his performance really is only really functional, and actually I do think that it really is mostly the fault of the film which severely underwrites Haywood as a character. His character should have had some sort of transformation and really should have been the moral center of the film, but Tracy and the film barely even realism the personality of the character. Tracy is never bad, and does have a charm but never adds anything to his already underwritten role.

Best Actor 1961: Maximilian Schell in Judgment At Nuremberg

Maximilian Schell won an Oscar from his first nomination for portraying defense lawyer Hans Rolfe in Judgment At Nuremberg.

This seems a bit of a strange win in that Schell was only in a few films before his win here, and was hardly really a well known actor at the time. It seems even odder that he defeated his veteran actor co-star Spencer Tracy. Also his role of Hans Rolfe is a firmly supporting one, and not the actual lead which is Spencer Tracy. Now perhaps his win is not that odd though just look at the acting winners, the academy that year had no interest in rewarding veterans even long overdue ones like Montgomery Clift for this film in the Supporting Actor category for this same film, and they really just wanted to award newcomers, since all winners were first time nominees.

Another reason though that helped him win is although his role is supporting, it is a very showy performance with still a good amount of screen time. Hans Rolfe is a very passionate lawyer who fights to find the accused judge Ernest Janning (Burt Lancaster) innocent on the charges of crimes committed against humanity due his work for the Nazis. Rolfe basis his case that they were just acting within the law of their country, therefore did not do something technically wrong.

Rolfe to illustrate his points make many passionate speeches before the court. Schell excels in all these moments and does realize the want for German respect for Rolfe very well. His speeches are thrilling because Schell infuses them with great command and energy. Schell is very charismatic in his performance and does control the screen whenever he is speaking. It could be easy for the viewer to shrug off all of his points that make excuses for horrendous crimes of the Nazis, but Schell does avoid this because he just simply states Rolfe's views exceedingly well.

Now does that mean I was convinced by his points, no, but Schell performance allows for a thoughtful discussion because of his earnest portrayal as Rolfe. Now Rolfe has many scenes where he must show how someone was "justly" convicted because they did fit into guilt of Nazi laws. If these scenes he breaks apart the witnesses of the Nazis, or victims of them. Schell is exceptional again , in his cold demeanor, and it is realistic in his calculative method of finding what he wants. Now although Schell is terrific in these moments, I must say they are a bit of plot contrivance because frankly do not believe the Tribunal would let them go on, especially in the scene where Rolfe verbally attack the victim played by Judy Garland, badgering the witness anyone? I mention this though because if Schell was not nearly as strong they could have been terrible frankly, but I still will say even with Schell they are not entirely believable.

Schell performance has a lot of yelling, which I will say does fit for Rolfe, because he has to get his point across, but it is mostly an external performance. The viewer actually only finds out a little of who Hans Rolfe really is. Now much what is written about this character today calls him a Nazi lawyer. That could be correct by the way he treats Montgomery Clift's and Garland's characters but from the other little mentioned about him is that he just is young German lawyer who wants to savor a little respect for his people.

It is hard to say Schell is given few scenes that show the true nature of his character. He is given total three scenes outside the courtroom. Two he speaks to Lancaster's character and shows his respect for him, and claims he did not like doing what he had to do in the courtroom. Schell is given little dialogue, and I really find he more of suggests with this for the German respect side of this character's interpretation. I think one other scene actually in court further supports this side, and that is his face when he must react to the concentration camp footage. Schell does show quite well show that Rolfe really was very emotionally affected by the footage. I think does more of support him as just the young lawyer seeking for some respect. This should be mentioned because Schell is able to suggest this aspect of his character with little to no material.

Schell gives a good performance, that effectively makes the courtroom scenes interesting and far more effective than they probably would have been without him. Still though his role is a little too limited, and much of his performance is repetitive, articulate effective repetition, but repetition nonetheless. That is fine though since it is a supporting performance, and his character does not  need to be anything more than it is. As is his performance is a strong supporting performance, probably the second strongest in the film, but still his performance always remains for me quite good instead of quite great.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Best Actor 1961: Stuart Whitman in The Mark

Stuart Whitman received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Jim Fontaine/Fuller in The Mark.

The Mark is a rather difficult film to track down, so I was actually glad when I found out it is a fairly good film. It must not be well seen film since many quick mentions of the film I have found misidentify the main character as a pedophile. It is true he comes very close to being one, but he stops himself. The film is frank and effective discussion of this topic through a character study. Having watched this and A Patch of Blue I am starting see Guy Green as a talented and very sensitive filmmaker that is quite under appreciated.

The Mark is rather strange in that it is rather obscure despite taking on a very controversial and unusual subject matter for its time which usually gain films a notoriety of some sort. Perhaps it would have been with the original casting Richard Burton in the lead role, but I must say it is perhaps better for the quality of the film itself that Whitman was the one eventually cast. I say this is that Burton is perhaps to individualistic looking, whereas Stuart Whitman could be just about anyone which works very well for the role. He does not look like a sexual deviant, and it really works because of this.

Whitman is an actor I will admit, I have actually seen films with him in it, like the Longest Day, but I never noticed him in these films. I do not think this was really his fault he just really did not have any parts that would or could create any notoriety, well here he has a very complex and interesting role. Jim Fontaine at the beginning of the film has just been released from prison, with a new name of Jim Fuller and another chance at life. Whitman is really effective early on, as he is clearly off kilter, and very nervous to re-enter society. He shows that he is always trying to be calm, but is a little naturally awkward, as well as it hiding a secret about himself.

Whitman does what is perfect and needed is that he creates sympathy for Fuller here. He shows him to be basically a normal guy who has a sad past, which we don't know yet, but Whitman is able to really create the right sympathy for his character to stop the audience from outright rejecting him later on as more of who he is revealed. Whitman does not overplay his character at all to gain sympathy, and does have an outburst here and there, when people ask too much about his past. Whitman though shows these outbursts as a natural reaction that the character must hide his past, and is just as natural, in his apologies quickly afterward.

The truth of the character is slowly revealed in that he had a troubled sexual past triggered by his relationship with his parents. He is unable to connect with older women, and goes to exceedingly younger women, and eventually girls. These scenes  of his are revealed through sessions with his Psychiatrist effectively portrayed by Rod Steiger, in both in the present and flashbacks with the not all recovered Jim. Whitman effectively shows the differences between Fontaine and Fulller though as he is angry, very confused, overly frustrated in the past, but just as effective showing a very much changed Fuller, even if still strained he shows him to be a now quieter calmer man, with a greater understanding of himself.

Whitman has an incredible challenge to really show this as a serious problem that has developed in his character's psyche over his childhood, but he manages showing that it really was a complex problem for this man. A particular challenge for Whitman is the pivotal scene where his character does almost commit the horrendous act. A challenge for any actor, but Whitman is superb in presenting the sheer unsuitability of the character in this scene, as the thoughts of his character are rushing through his head. It is a scene that could have been completely unwatchable, if Jim was at all portrayed wrongly, but Whitman utterly delivers.

Whitman is just as effective as he works naturally with developing the character's actual growth in understanding other women, and properly develops Jim's romantic relationship with Maria Schell's character and the daughter of her character. The relationship with the daughter is key, because yes there is awkwardness, but Whitman has worked this out not to show Jim as a man who fully understands how to behave, but is doing with earnest his best to create a proper honest relationship with this little girl.

The whole concept of this film and this character really could have been just evil, just disgusting, or just bad, but thanks to Whitman and Guy Green's delicate direction it works. Whitman did make me care for this man throughout his journey, especially when everyone takes him for a complete pedophile at the end and his life falls apart. Whitman performance works because he never portrayed him as just a creep, but actually an honestly disturbed man, who has now changed after much needed help. Whitman's work his subtle, and very effective work that creates an effective honest, complex portrait of this man.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Best Actor 1961

And the Nominees Were:

Paul Newman in The Hustler

Stuart Whitman in The Mark

Maximilian Schell in Judgment At Nuremberg

Spencer Tracy in Judgment At Nuremberg

Charles Boyer in Fanny

 Well here it is the most requested year. I frankly do not know how almost everyone was so interested in this year exactly, but I guess I'll see how it is.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Best Supporting Actor 1952: Results

5. Richard Burton in My Cousin Rachel- Although I thought his performance was effective, but I think part of why this was because of a clear inexperience in his acting that happened to work well for his inexperienced character. That is the only real reason he is at the bottom of my list.
4. Arthur Hunnicutt in The Big Sky- Hunnicutt places fourth mostly because had had the least emotional reaction to his performance out of the nominees. He still was very good, and manged to turn a stock role into a warm and effective performance.
3. Jack Palance in Sudden Fear- An effective performance by Palance which requires him to be both charming, and deceitful. His performance is required for the believability of the film, and since he succeeds he enables the film to actually be realistic for a thriller of course.
2. Anthony Quinn in Viva Zapata!- Quinn brings much needed realism and authenticity to his role, and the film he is in. He gives an effective performance throughout, and although I did not think his conclusive was completely earned in terms of the film's structure I thought his performance in that scene was indeed terrific.
1. Victor McLaglen in The Quiet Man- Topping what is indeed a strong year of supporting actors is Victor McLaglen. I will say this was not easy at all to decide my choice unlike so many a supporting year. I really had a tough choice this year, Palance perhaps had the biggest challenge, Quinn the most realistic perhaps, but McLaglen for me was the most enjoyable. I think he gives an amusing performance. Yes it is over the top in ways, but in a manner completely fitting of his character. A close call, but I will just with the one I enjoy watching the most.
Deserving Performances:
Barry Fitzgerald in The Quiet Man
Stanley Holloway in The Lavender Hill Mob

Best Supporting Actor 1952: Jack Palance in Sudden Fear

Jack Palance received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Lester Blaine in Sudden Fear.

I should say this is a spoiler review since it is needed to really properly describe the performance of Palance. Sudden Fear is an effective thriller about a playwright Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford) who begins to suspect her new husband Lester might have some ill intents for her. It is a good thriller although there is a plot hole in that she never calls the police, but hey in a modern thriller she likely would and it would lead to either the scene with the cops are useless and believe she's just crazy, or the cop would walk in and quickly be killed, but this is a low body count thriller like all older thrillers, and much more effective because of that reason.

Lester Blaine first crosses paths with Myra when she refuses to cast him in her play because he lacks stage presence. Anyways he meets her later, and charms her off her feet basically. This is quite a challenge that Palance must fulfill to make this romance believable. Palance though is actually charming enough in these early scenes to make this aspect of the film believable. He is not charming in say a Clark Gable sense, or more appropriately a Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall sense, but really an average Joe charm that works well.

Palance is also quite commanding in the beginning of the film. His control he takes over Crawford is made quite believable by both actors. This command is necessary to make the actions of Crawford's character believable suggesting as giving him a great place in her will. I will say Palance does make his control over her properly realistic. I almost felt he was the male lead because of the first half of the film. In the second half of the film though his role does become limiting quite considerably, when the film does almost completely focus on Joan Crawford's character.

Palance though suggests that underneath his charm there is a selfish motive underneath all what he is doing. It turns out that he actually only romanced and married Myra to get her fortune. He intends to, along with his ex-girlfriend Irene Neves. I think Palance did a fairly good job at the beginning of the film hiding Lester's true attentions, but nonetheless subtlety suggesting them at the same time. His revelation is well handled, his whole facade is very believable, and I think he did not make his evil intentions completely obvious at the beginning of the film making it more effective when he did.

Palance at the end of the film is properly chilling when he finally undergoes his plan of action. I liked it that he did not turn Lester into a complete psychopath precisely, but clearly a man who is a bit nervous himself. I liked at the end that he really goes over the edge, and becomes incredibly nervous and frantic at the end in his attempt to fulfill his plan and not get caught. Overall a strong effective performance from Jack Palance.

Best Supporting Actor 1952: Victor McLaglen in The Quiet Man

Victor McLaglen received his second and final Oscar nomination for portraying 'Red' Will Danaher in The Quiet Man.

Well this perfect timing to review this performance on St. Patrick's day, a film all about Ireland. Anyways this is one of my favorite films ever, about  an Irish born, but American ex-boxer Sean Thorton (John Wayne) who runs from his past in America to go back and settle in Ireland in the cottage he was born in.

Victor McLaglen portrays a character certianly in his type that have a large brutish fellow, unlike in his Oscar winning performance in the Informer, where he was a brutish fellow but a modest one as well, this one he is a very loud obnoxious man. Danaher is basically a friend of no one and particularly dislikes the Yank Sean Thorton from the first time he sees him. This comes to quite a problem when Thorton wants to marry his sister Mary Kate (Maureen O'hara), which he objects to quite quickly and quite stubbornly which due to tradition means they cannot even date.

McLaglen is loud most certianly in this role. He always is taking up the screen in more ways than one, which I must say is the perfect style for the role of Danaher. I really think Danaher could have been played all wrong, in that he could have seemed too threatening, and without a comedic edge to the performance, but McLaglen finds precisely the right tone for his performance I think. He certainly is loud, and obnoxious and is properly over asserting, but McLaglen makes his boorish behavior actually fairly effective, and at the same time entertaining. He manages to create a good amount of humor due to some his reactions when he loses about something, or gets insulted in some way.

An interesting part about Danaher is that usually palooka characters like these are generally written incredibly simply. Danaher is a little different in that they actually write in that he himself wishes for love with a local rich widow. Now he makes rather amusing indications of this when he attempts his non too subtle come ons to her. He is in fact tricked because of this desire by locals to allow Sean Thorton and his sister date and marry by making him think that if he does the widow will marry him. On the wedding night of Mary Kate and Sean Thorton though he realizes the trick when the widow rejects him. I think McLaglen was actually quite good because he managed to make me actually a little sorry for Danaher as he pleads, and questions the others what went wrong before he figures out the trick.

Well anyways he denies the married couple the dowry causing marriage trouble between the Thorton's which leads to him and Danaher duking it out in one of the best fights in film. It is not because it is a dramatic fight, but rather because it is a hilarious rousing fight. I think actually even here McLaglen actually does still excel, because he could just fight, but some of his reactions in the fight I find are just gold. The best part of the fight is the end where he and Sean share a cold drink become friends. This would seem like an utterly impossible notion, but McLaglen makes it utterly believable showing his boisterous nature was a bit of a facade all along. Overall a performance a like very much, that could very well have been nothing, and just adds to a film, I already adore.

Best Supporting Actor 1952: Richard Burton in My Cousin Rachel

Richard Burton received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Philip Ashley in My Cousin Rachel.

My Cousin Rachel is an effective film, although somewhat lacking about a young man who falls in love with Rachel the widow of his favorite cousin. He also though is unsure if she did or did not have something to do with his death.

Richard Burton is no question the lead in this film not supporting. He is in a greater percentage of the scenes in this film than he is in some of his lead nominations. He is also the focus of every scene, it is about his character and his perceptions of Rachel (Olivia de Havilland). This was either the first leading performance by Richard Burton or at least his first prominent one. It is quite interesting to see the young Richard Burton with the exuberance of youth, something quite absence from say his final Oscar nomination for Equus.

Philip Ashley is a rather interesting character actually because it is a character where the age of the character matters. The very key part of his character is his age, and his urgency as a youthful young man who really does not want to ever be considered unable to completely understand something or be able to take something because of his youth. Burton's youth and somewhat inexperienced performance actually works quite well for the character of Ashley. Burton does not have a fully comfort on screen yet quite clearly, he never commands as he was able to easily later on in his future performances.

Now this might sound strange praising something technically lacking from the actor, but it work well for Philip who is inexperienced in his understanding of life. Burton lack of command completely compliments the lack of Philip's command in the film. It is strange to say this but a more experienced Burton perhaps would have given a lesser performance. He really shows the mixed passion, and lack of complete understanding well in his performance. You never know what Philip is quite feeling except for brief moments, since Philip himself does not know, and Burton stays properly mixed up in his performance which works incredibly well.

I thought Burton fulfilled his role incredibly well, and made his love of Rachel, and his paranoia around her all work, because of the lack of precision of his performance. Now part of me wants to give a higher rating, but another part wants lower because technically what I like about the performance may be technically Burton's lack of inexperience as a film actor. Well I don't know maybe that is just Burton wanted me to believe. I must say I am not quite sure so I will have to settle for a good, but safe rating for Burton's performance.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Best Supporting Actor 1952: Arthur Hunnicutt in The Big Sky

Arthur Hunnicutt received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Zeb Calloway in The Big Sky. 

The Big Sky is an okay but very standard western about a group of men going a dangerous expedition to trade with Natives.

I must say I expected little of this nomination beforehand. I have watched many performances of character actors, who received an Oscar nomination seemingly for nothing more than their consistent career. I was very happily to see that Arthur Hunnicutt actually gives a pretty good performance. He portrays Zeb Calloway an old fashioned trapper sort of guy. Zeb is actually a pretty smart guy though, more than I expected him to be, who leads and sort of teaches two youthful men on the expedition.

Calloway acts as a guide for the two younger men, and the audience. Hunnicutt makes the knowledge of old Calloway a natural, old timer intelligence, rather effective in the film actually. I really enjoyed his performance, and the rather relaxed fashion he teaches these men the ropes, as well as help them grow as men as well. He really shows the history of the character's knowledge of his field, through just his natural performance. Hunnicutt never really pushes this aspect of the character but it really comes natural through his intelligent, but at the same time simple performance.

This sort of character is sort of common in westerns but really they tend to be dumber than Hunnicutt's character, or at least his portrayal of Calloway. They are usually used as comic relief, and can be rather hokey characters to say the least. I will say the film does use him in the comic respect, but Hunnicutt manages to avoid a lot of the hokiness that usually comes with a character. Yeah he has some comedic aspects but Hunnicutt manages them well enough to be an actual part of the character rather than an artificiality that can be involved with over acting of similar characters like say Chill Wills in the Alamo. Overall Hunnicutt gives a good honest, and warm performance, that I was, pleasantly and thoroughly surprised by.