Friday, 29 April 2011

Best Actor 1983: Michael Caine in Educating Rita

Michael Caine received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Frank Bryant in Educating Rita.

Educating Rita is a somewhat enjoyable film about a working class woman Rita (Julie Walters) who tries to learn about literature with a tutor.

The tutor is Dr. Frank Bryant who is a tired drunkard of a professor, and former poet, the second drunkard poet this year after Tom Conti's Gowan McGland. The difference between Caine's and Conti's performance is that Frank Bryant does not hide his sadness behind a facade of joviality. Caine portrays Bryant's sadness and tiredness always completely at the forefront of his performance.

For about the first half of the entire performance Caine just is a completely tired, and uncaring mess basically. This is completely correct to the character of Bryant though, and does show the whole long past of his character in his face.  At the same time though it does not make for a particularly entertaining or interesting character, since for the first half I really found myself caring little about what Caine was doing but entirely what Walters was doing as Rita.

Caine though is allowed more to do although not that much more as his relationship grows with Rita. He slowly shows happiness grow in his face over the success of Rita, and Caine is quite good at doing this in a subtle fashion, but still Caine is not given that much to do to really make his performance into something really interesting unfortuantely.

Caine is allowed more when he shows Bryant sadness over losing his time with Rita, as she basically grows past what he can do for her. Caine is again very good in showing his sadness overwhelm him completely. Caine is good all the way through with his drunk scene as well as his final two talks with Rita showing his feelings. Caine is completely authentic, and these are his most effective scenes without seeming ever to visably "act".

Caine is an actor I will admit that I generally always like, he is the type of actor for me that has to really try to be bad, as I find he is good just normally. He is good all the way though with this performance, and I though he always stayed realistic and honest, I just wish really his character was subjected to mostly be an entirely reactive character. Still this is a good job, and I doubt anyone could have done better with how little he is given at times.

Best Actor 1983: Tom Conti in Reuben, Reuben

Tom Conti received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Gowan McGland in Reuben, Reuben.

Reuben, Reuben is not a particularly good, but not really an overly bad film about a famous drinking Scottish poet.

Tom Conti's performance is positioned a bit strangely to begin with. Firstly he is made up with his rather unique hair, as well as his unique, and than he is made up to look like a walking corpse. In his opening scene, which unfortunately for the film and his performance is his best scene where he is reading some of his poetry at a women's literary gathering. Conti makes his very unique look and manner work very well in this one scene, showing a slick charm of the poet, and his incredible ease in talking about his work and other literature as well as life.

Tom Conti's whole performance goes very much downhill from here, along with the film itself. He stops seeming like an actual poet and becomes much too much of a movie character poet. He starts living in a rural town and interacting with the various characters there, not quite colorful characters since it is a mostly dramatic film with small comedic elements, so they are not funny characters, but perhaps underwritten characters, played in an overdone manner.

The downturn of the film, and his performance create scene after seem of him being a colorful poet fellow who walks around the town, stealing tips from waiters, seducing women, and either befriending or making enemies with the local men of the town. Although I do think Conti is at all bad with being the always at least half drunk poet, but I do feel the film overuses  or wrongly uses his performance putting too much always in the forefront leading to his constant semi-comedic banter to become extremely tiresome fairly quickly.

Gowan though mostly uses his joking exterior to hide a deeply sad man on the inside. Well I know this anyways because well he does look like a corpse most of the time, and of course there is the cliched scene where after joking in public he goes into private and starts crying. Although Conti cries realistically technically his whole portrayal of the sadness of Gowan never really gets deep enough to be anything all that special. That is until his final scene where he thinks over his life quite effectively well that is until just before the end of the scene where he goes and becomes far too theatrical.

Overall this is a performance that shows some very strong moments, particularly in the opening scene and closing scene. Unfortunately in between is tiresome and repetitive. I did not say he was bad in the middle, but he most certainly could have been much better. His performance, besides the first scene, lacks the right charm, as well as the right power, except for in the last scene, to make an honestly compelling or effective performance.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Best Actor 1983

And the Nominees were:

Michael Caine in Educating Rita

Tom Conti in Reuben, Reuben

Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies

Albert Finney in The Dresser

Tom Courtenay in The Dresser

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Best Actor 1959: Results

5. Paul Muni in The Last Angry Man- Paul Muni's performance is frustrating because he shows some honest moments in his performance, but what perpetuates throughout most of his performance is a lot of overacting.
4. Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot- Jack Lemmon's performance is one loved by many, I find he is good myself infusing a lot of energy into his part, but I just did not like him as much as most people seem to.
3. Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur- Charlton Heston's performance is not at all perfect, but it works incredibly well for the film. His strong presence carries this epic the whole way through. 
2. Laurence Harvey in Room at the Top- Besides some very small nitpicks this is an almost perfect performance by Laurence Harvey. He shows a fascinating portrait of man filled with hate, and ambitious, but as well as something underneath the rough surface.
1. James Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder- Good prediction Dinasztie. The only reason Stewart really tops Harvey for me is that Harvey had almost unnoticeable flaws, where Stewart is flawless. The reason Stewart is the best of the year though is because of how brilliant, entertaining, funny, effective he is in this role. Paul Biegler really could have been a lackluster role in lesser hands but Stewart shows what how an old pro can truly bring the absolute best out of a role.
Deserving Performance:
Cary Grant in North by Northwest

Best Actor 1959: Laurence Harvey in Room at the Top

Laurence Harvey received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Joe Lampton in Room at the Top.

Room at the Top is an intelligent film about a working class man who will do what ever he can to reach the top.

Laurence Harvey of course portrays this young man, and if there is one emotion that is featured throughout his performance is just the incredible anger of Joe due to his position in life, and the way he is treated by the upper class as well. Laurence Harvey shows throughout his performance a seething intense anger that has clearly grown throughout Joe's entire life. It is a vicious anger that Harvey shows the cut throat nature of the character.

The other primary feature of Joe is his incredibly ambition. Harvey is extremely good at portraying this aspect of Joe. I find in particular the early scenes of the film where he almost entirely non verbally portrays this aspect of the character. Harvey has just about perfect reactions, and looks at possibly ways or fashions he will be able to "improve" his current condition, showing a completely unshakable desire to reach the top.

The most important part of his performance though is his affair with an unhappily married woman Alice (Simone Signoret). Their chemistry is something else, it has this almost mysterious quality to it that it astonishing. Their relationship grows from a mutual desperation at first which first springs in an incredible scene due to brilliant direction of the film, and as well as both actors pitch perfect connection in that moment.

Their relationship certainly is a tragic one but it is incredibly the way they develop a love relationship with one another despite the nature of their relationship. It is not an external loving relationship but rather one of a deeper connection between the two, that goes very deeply too deeply due to the situation they are in. Both actors create such an authentic relationship that makes the film as haunting as it is.

Laurence Harvey makes Joe's transition work fantastically as he gives up his actual love for material awards. Firstly through his seduction of a rich young man, which Harvey portrays in a very cruel, and brutally honest fashion. Secondly through Joe's negotiation to a position which Harvey's shows Joe's entire ambitious, and finally with his final dealings with Alice. Their final scene is heartbreaking due to Singoret's complete emotional honesty, and Harvey's cold brutal facade Joe uses to hide his true feelings for her.
 
Harvey's performance is just about perfect particularly his he shows the incredible grief of Joe, as well as his acceptance of finding his Room at the Top at such a price. I hate to do this, but there are just a few minor squabbles I have with his performance. Firstly his accent he uses is a bit inconsistent although, not ever in a distracting manner, and just one brief scene where Joe violently reacts to Alice telling him about a nude photo she had taken in her younger years. Although I believe it is in Joe's character Harvey's performance just seems slightly forced in this brief scene. Still these are incredibly minor details of the performance that certainly do not at all hinder the incredible strength and power of this complex performance.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Best Actor 1959: James Stewart in Anatomy of A Murder

James Stewart received his fifth and final Oscar nomination for portraying lawyer Paul Biegler in Anatomy of a Murder.

Anatomy of a Murder is a fascinating court room drama since it investigates the interesting psychology of the court room incredibly effectively.

James Stewart is an interesting actor in his transition from the aw shucks passionate young man, which continued his pre-war years, and partially into It's A Wonderful Life, parts of It's a Wonderful Life showed a darker Stewart which continued later into his career especially in Vertigo and certainly in this film. His Paul Biegler is fascinating because he is not fighting for good, or necessarily justice. He is instead only fighting the case of an army soldier who murdered a man who possibly raped his wife, just because it basically is the case he is trying.

It is interesting because he portrays Paul Biegler as a very passionate, and extraordinarily hard working, and not really cynical, but instead Stewart shows Biegler as a man who is doing a job is likes and is incredibly good at. There is not a whole lot of scenes that show the personal life of Biegler, since all the people he interacts with are either witnesses or his colleagues, yet Stewart still makes Biegler an entirely vivid character.

It is fascinating to see Stewart as Biegler, since he shows that Biegler will do about anything within the law to win the case. In particular his early scenes where Stewart brilliantly shows Paul's creation of the case and his defense in his mind. Stewart perfectly shows the intelligence and simply the craftiness of Paul almost entirely non verbally through his perfect indicative glances. Stewart is especially good in show Paul way of coaxing  an excuse for the killing by the killer, that will please the jury. Stewart makes it clear that Paul knows there really was not an excuse, but almost had one made to show his ability. 

Stewart best scenes of course are the court room scenes, in which he is simply astonishing in every moment. Stewart is perfect in showing how Paul basically puts on a three ring circus since he really practically does not even have a case to speak of. Stewart is outstanding in his complete mastery of these courtroom, and the scenes himself. He holds the attention of scene throughout every single moment, even when not focused on.

Stewart is firstly is completely believable as the lawyer he never loses a beat in his court room performance. He is also incredibly entertaining to watch, as he is simply fun to watch all of these scenes, and I never felt he was "acting" but always showing that this is Biegler's method in winning the trial. It is fascinating how Stewart can be funny in one moment with his perfect delivery of Biegler's one liners, such as when he says he is just an old country lawyer, and the next moment incredibly powerful in his passionate speeches to the court. Stewart makes all these transition it entirely realistic.

Stewart does not have a wrong moment in this performance, and it is one performance I just love to watch because of how incredibly effective it is. Stewart is essential to the film in making every court room scene as good as it is, as well as making Biegler a fascinating and well drawn character despite the little there is about him in the film. Overall this performance shows how an old pro like Stewart could simply do wonders with what could have been a stock or unmemorable role. Stewart though clearly shows everything he had learned over the years into this terrific, and somehow effortless performance.

Best Actor 1959: Paul Muni in The Last Angry Man

Paul Muni received his fifth and final Oscar nomination for portraying Doctor Sam Ableman in The Last Angry Man.

The Last Angry Man is partially about a hard working doctor in a working class neighborhood who wants to do the right thing for his patients no matter what, but it is mostly about actually a television producer who wants to make a story about the doctor.

Paul Muni as the doctor really is only sort of the main character, as most of the attention is given to the television producer played by David Wayne who also is the character with an arc of sorts. Muni though received his last nomination though for his last film performance.

Muni's performance here is much like many of his performances. Muni is an actor I get annoyed at because he shows certainly a talent, and does create a potentially interesting characterization, but constantly overacts though.

Paul Muni does create the doctor well by not making him an overly goody good sort of a character. He does show that he really does not do what he does to seem or act like a nice person, but simply that it is what it required of him as a good doctor. He has some honestly good moments as the doctor where he shows the honest ethic of the character who hates freeloaders but refuses to turn the needy away.

Although he does have a good honest emotional moment now and again like his tough dealing with an ill street punk, but he is terribly inconsistent due to Paul Muni's tendency to overact. It would not be so distracting but Muni overacts almost randomly in this performance. There will be a scene where he realistically underplays most of a scene than suddenly sometime mid sentence he starts his overemphasized facial expressions or a very labored sounding line reading. 

Muni goes back and forth through his entire performance like this sometimes some scenes are better than others for him entirely on how much he chooses to overact in a particular scene. Muni certainly again shows a talent since there is an honest depiction of this doctor in his performance, but unfortuantely it is always offset by Muni giving a far too self-aware performance.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Best Actor 1959: Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot

Jack Lemmon received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Jerry as well as being disguised as Daphne in Some Like it Hot. 

Some Like It Hot is of course the film of craziness about two who dress up as women to run away from murderous gangster, by hiding in an all woman's band.

Some Like it Hot is usually called one of the best comedies ever, in fact it is called simply just the best comedy ever sometimes. Now I think it is wholly fine, and certainly enjoyable, but I just did not find it all that funny for it to be really considered the best comedy ever. Jack Lemmon's performance here is also commonly referred to as his best, or at least his best comedic work. Again I must disagree on both parts, finding a better performances by him overall, and I greatly prefer his performance in the Apartment to this film.

The reason I prefer his turn in the Apartment is that I felt he really toned down much of his Lemmonisms and turned in a much better performance. In this film though his Lemmonisms are probably at his highest in any film. He does not stop with them for a moment in the film. His whole performance is basically used for a comedy machine, and his whole purpose in the film is just to generate as many laughs as possibly, since he really lacks any dramatic scenes, where his co-star Tony Curtis as fellow cross dressing does have a few brief ones.

The the most important aspect of his performance is how funny one thinks he is in this. Well his brief moments as Jerry he does his nervous manic Lemmon, and when he is Daphne he acts almost downright insane with his energy. His performance I most certianly will give credit to for always trying to get a laugh, or something out of the audience. He never becomes really annoying with his constant comedic acting, like he did to an unbearable extent in Tribute, although he came a little close at times.

Still the pivotal question is, is he funny? Well most people say he most certainly is, one of the funniest performances ever. Well I can't agree I just never found him laugh out loud funny, since I specifically never laughed out loud at a single moment in his performance. That is the why comedy works though, you either find it funny or not, you cannot convince someone something is funny. I did smile at his performance, and I still did like him well enough. Overall this is a hard working performance, that did not entirely work for me, but I certianly can see how others might love it so much.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Best Actor 1959: Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur

Charlton Heston won his Oscar from his only nomination for portraying Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur tells of a Jewish prince who becomes a slave due to be being betrayed by his old friend Marcella (Stephen Boyd) who has become a Roman centurion.

Charlton Heston performance in Ben-Hur certainly received criticism which certainly expands to Heston himself. Heston is an actor it would be hard for anyone to say he ever really disappears into a role. I would not say that is not automatically a problem with an actor, as due to the actor's style that may be impossible, and an actor who is good at playing in their own style can have a unique appeal which only he has. Heston does certainly have an appeal, with his distinct voice, and commanding stature. He is not that of an appealing actor to me though, but I will just say I do not automatically dislike him, and I will say he does have something that others actors could not imitate exactly. Heston was not the only choice for Ben-Hur, and it is interesting to examine two who stick out of the potentials. Burt Lancaster who probably would have given his straight man style performance and perhaps a bit boring, and Paul Newman who as he said probably would not have looked good in a Tunic, and also he failed to carry an epic well, in my opinion, in Exodus a year later.

My point though is although Heston does have less range than those actors he probably was the better choice for Judah Ben-Hur. I will say he most certianly does carry the picture. He carries the entire epic on his shoulders, and I did not find his performance to be overly empathetic but his strong command and presence in the role of Ben-Hur just worked for the epic, and that is all there is to it. Is it amazing acting? no, but it is an effective leading performance. Heston made me want to follow Ben-Hur through his journey, and his ultimate revenge. Now this is not a flawless performance obviously, that's why I said it was not great acting. Some of his line readings can be a be stilted at times, it is pretty obvious he was unable to cry on camera since he always turns away when he is going to, but I still felt most of the time what he did as Ben-Hur worked.  It is a strong and passionate lead performance, that fully services the film it is in. Hardly perfect, and perhaps a little overshadowed by the film itself but it is not a bad performance.

Best Actor 1959

And the Nominees Were:

James Stewart in Anatomy of A Murder

Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot

Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur

Paul Muni in The Last Angry Man

Laurence Harvey in Room at the Top

I suppose this is my special Easter edition of best actor thanks to the actual winner Ben-Hur.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Best Actor 1940: Results

5. James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story- Although I usually like Stewart a whole lot, here his performance always seemed to lack the right comfort and joy to work for this romantic comedy.
4. Raymond Massey in Abe Lincoln in Illinois- Massey is not always completely believable as Abe Lincoln such as in his early scenes, but he always gives a nice charming, and passionate performance as Lincoln.
3. Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath- Fonda gives a very strong performance showing Tom Joad as a normal man, who slowly grows a strong passion and realization to fight against the injustices brought against his family and other struggling people.
2. Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator- I will not say Chaplin is entirely consistent, but almost always enjoyable. His comedic timing as both the Barber, and the Dictator are spot on with his direction. Also his final speech although out of character, has tremendous power due to his passionate delivery.
1. Laurence Olivier in Rebecca- Olivier once again was an easy choice for me. Olivier simply does wonders with his role as Maxim de Winter. In the somewhat sparse time he is given early in the film, he creates a wonderful interesting character, with the mysterious haunted quality, and when he finally can reveal the whole truth of his character it simply leads to an outstanding performance by Olivier.
Deserving Performances:
Cary Grant in His Girl Friday

Best Actor 1940: James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story

James Stewart won an Oscar from his second nomination for portraying tabloid journalist Macaulay 'Mike' Connor in The Philadelphia Story.

The Philadelphia Story is of course a film of romantic hijinks about a divorced couple (Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn), her impending marriage to someone else, some snooping tabloid journalists, as well as some crazy family members.

James Stewart is an actor that I usually enjoy very much, as he can be a both a very charming screen presence, and a powerful one as well. Here as Macaulay Connor I really just could not really enjoy his performance very much. In particular his opening scenes in the film where he questions the degrading job of snooping in on people's private lives.

In these early moments I really felt Stewart was simply just unpleasant. He seemed to have no joy at all in his performance, as he shows Connor being annoyed by his job and the Socialites' way of life. Now he obviously did need to show some consternation in his performance, but he could have had a little bit fun with being annoyed, but instead I felt like Stewart himself did not want to be playing the part.

Stewart stops being perpetually annoyed though when Mike becomes quickly in love with the soon to be married Tracy Lord(Katharine Hepburn). Frankly I did not entirely believe his instant infatuation on his part, yes Hepburn has the right hard to resist charm but Stewart just did no make me believe his entirely head over heals fall for her.

Stewart in the romantic scenes does finally get to show some of his Stewart charm, but frankly it does not seem to be as charming as he usual is. He still is charming and makes the scenes with Hepburn nice enough, but he never really reaches his level of charm he does in his best roles such as in It's A Wonderful Life, or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Also in his screwball scenes, particularly his big one with Cary Grant, Stewart shows a certian lack of comfort in his performance. I will give credit to Stewart for trying, trying very hard, and possibly succeeding a little bit, but everything he tries to do to make the scene seem crazy, seem a little bit forced, since he never becomes comfortable enough in his performance or the scene. That is how I really felt about his whole performance. Overall he is fine, but lacking especially for Stewart who can usually be great. This is one of the best examples of the right actor winning an Oscar but for the wrong role.

Best Actor 1940: Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath

Henry Fonda received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath.

The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the former sharecropping Joad family who struggle to find a living during the Great Depression.

The film opens with Tom Joad coming home after being in prison for a few years for manslaughter. Fonda as soon as he is on screen refuses to give a sympathetic performance as Tom Joad, instead he instantly shows Tom Joad as an angry man who refuses to be pushed around and also does not have any regrets over what he has done in his past either.

As Tom Joad, Fonda does not always stick out among the family, and nor should he. In many of the scenes he shows himself to simply be part of the family, and not the main point of the film, but rather an aspect of it. Fonda has the right believability in the family and creates a particularly effective relationship with Jane Darwell as Ma Joad. The have the right attitude and feeling with one another that honestly suggests the loving relationship between the two people.

Much of the film Fonda's performance is quite reactionary as he deals with the problems he and his family face as migrant workers. Fonda is quietly effective as Tom Joad though always being completely honest in displaying the struggle, and pain his character goes through in his story. Fonda performance has the right restrained passion of sorts in the film. He shows Joad quite interestingly because he never makes him a hero, or even a man who understand what is against him, but just a normal man who wants a decent life for decent people.

The actions Tom takes during his travels are well portrayed by Fonda, because he never does make Joad look like a hero, but just an honest man who is trying to do what is right, even when it results in even greater troubles for him. Fonda carefully only shows a subtle growth, and understanding Joad gains for himself, and for the plight of his people, which finally is revealed in his powerful and effective "I'll be there" speech.

Overall Fonda's performance is a strong subtle performance which never goes to easy route of what could have been an overly sympathetic or heroic portrayal, but rather is a far more memorable portrayal of a honest troubled man in a troubled situation. It is not always a performance that is constantly visible or at all actory but it is most certianly an effective portrait of this angry troubled man.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Best Actor 1940: Laurence Olivier in Rebecca

Laurence Olivier received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Maxim de Winter in Rebecca.

Rebecca tells the story of a young bride of a wealthy man who finds out the dark secrets of his home Manderley, and of his relationship with his deceased wife Rebecca.

Laurence Olivier is an actor, who at his best, I am always amazed by his ability create very unique characterization, and his ability never to really seem to portray himself, but always his character. This quality is true of how work in Rebecca as it is in his best work. He finds a unique way to present Maxim de Winter that is entirely his own, without ever seeming to be acting to create these unique characters of Maxim de Winter.

Laurence Olivier early in the film creates an interesting and mysterious portrait of Maxim de Winter from his at first brief interactions with the young woman (Joan Fontaine). In these early moments he comes in and out, and Olivier simply is terrific, in doing just about everything he can do with the time that he has. He suggests a charming man, in a quiet fashion, but also suggests the perfect subtle haunted quality deep with Maxim which is incredibly fascinating.

Olivier romantic scenes with Joan Fontaine are quite interesting, because it is not an extremely warm or overly lovely relationship. Yet with the little time in which they are given I do believe both actors make the relationship work. They show an interesting dynamic between the two, that makes the romance understandable, and even still romantic in an internal fashion.

After they marry, Olivier comes in and out of the film as the new Mrs. de Winter deals this mysterious place. Olivier although he is not always on the screen, he still finds his ways into creating a fascinating character, that one does think of even when he is absent. Olivier when on screen though further displays something that is eating away at Maxim on the inside. It is something he covers up with anger and avoidance, and Olivier is brilliant creating the mystery behind the character without giving away what he really means.

When he finally does get to reveal the truth behind what haunts him, which is not what was to be expected. This is Olivier's showcase scene where he finally gets to show all of his hidden emotions completely upfront. It is simply a marvelous scene, which Olivier brilliantly indicated to through the rest of performance. It is a fascinating scene because of the rawness of Olivier performance in comparison to how his character had been before this scene. Olivier handles this pivotal scene perfectly showing every haunted and repressed emotion completely in a incredibly powerful scene.

After this scene Olivier once again does finally gain the focus of the film on him rather than on Fontaine as the rest of the film had been. Olivier once again shines as his character faces to lose all that he has due to the past with his deceased wife. Olivier is once again subtle and excellent in showing his hidden fear, pain, but as well as an outward strength to fight against his deceased wife's past, as well as her former lover. I really found his ending scene particularly fascinating where he finally shows a relief and a final loss of his haunted quality at last. Overall Olivier's performance is a strong, subtle, minimalistic performance, that is exceedingly effective.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Best Actor 1940: Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator

Charlie Chaplin received his second, or only acting nomination (depending how one looks at his nomination of sorts for the Circus) for portraying the dictator Adenoid Hynkel, and a Jewish barber in  The Great Dictator.

The Great Dictator is a comedy  which satirizes Adolf Hitler,  and was made back when Adolf Hitler was still around.

Charlie Chaplin portrays a dual role of course so it is best to examine the two performances separately. Firstly Adenoid Hynkel clearly a parody of Adolf Hitler, especially since Chaplin's on screen persona strongly resembled Hitler. He plays this half his performance entirely for laughs. I would say he does succeed in doing this, although the question is how much of the humor comes from his direction and how much does it come from his actual performance.

For example his Hynkel speech that opens his scenes as Hynkel is certainly enjoyable. He is certainly good at being satirical in his over the top speeches that do satirize Hitler's speeches quite well. I will say though that the funniest part of this scene though is the translators quiet responses to Hynkel's overly emotional statements, which certianly are not part of Chaplin's performance but rather his script and direction.

I will say his performance does go back and forth to the matter of the comedy of Hynkel. It is always in part with many of the crazy things Hynkel does, but I will give Chaplin most certianly credit for his physical movements, and comedic timing which are both strong. I will say also though that Hynkel is not a particularly consistent character since after all shouldn't he have the Hitler voice all the time, and not revert to Chaplin's voice, but hey its a comedy so it really is fine anyways.

Now how about his performance as the Jewish Barber. Well I will say he does contrast the two characters well, showing Hynkel to be forceful but the Barber to be very restrained and quiet. The Barber is made certianly a nice little character by Chaplin. He is a charming nice man who really wants nothing more than to have a quiet life.

With the Jewish Barber I would again say the comedy that comes from his performance does come from both from his direction, but also most certainly his comedic reactions. I would say this is shown best with the scene where the five men are going to be chose for a suicidal mission by which one finds a coin in their pudding, but the problem is there is a coin in each of their puddings. The set up is funny, the music Chaplin uses is funny, as well is the reaction of the other men, but Chaplin's reactions are great as well, so his performance does compliment, or complete much of the comedy from Chaplin's direction.

The Barber is not a particularly complicated character though, he is just a nice little man with a nice little barbershop and a nice little lover interest. Chaplin though is good at being nice though. He is only really required to do more than be funny and nice, in his final scene. The final scene being a big dramatic speech not only to end the film, but also gives a message to the viewing audience basically to fight against the way of the Nazis. Chaplin's performance of the speech is intense, passionate, and powerful. I must say it really is technically out of character, but hey it does work, and he was doing it for a good cause so I really cannot fault him too much.

Overall this is a performance I admire very much, as well as enjoy. The only question is how much great acting does Chaplin technically do. Well that it hard to say, but being funny should not be overlooked I think, and I felt he was funny here. He did not make too really complex characters, but rather two effective ones still. He is not always consistent with either characters, but I feel these inconsistencies do work in his favor. I will say I am not completely sure of this rating but I will stay with it nonetheless, because although I might not let other actors get away with some of what he does, I also do not think any other actor really could have given a performance as effective as him in either part.

Best Actor 1940: Raymond Massey in Abe Lincoln in Illinois

Raymond Massey received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Abraham Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

Abe Lincoln is a standard 40's biography film about Lincoln's early life to his success as a passionate politician.

Raymond Massey's portrayal of Lincoln is certainly aided by Massey's physique. He is quite believable as Lincoln, since he does resemble him quite well, which certainly does add to his portrayal. I will say though that this believability is not throughout his performance because at the beginning of the film he must portray the pretty young Lincoln. His early scene in the home is a bit silly, and Lincoln performance can't really be entirely realistic.

After this initial scene though Massey is able to come back well enough still, even though he does use a very particular voice as Lincoln. It is a bit unusual most certainly, but Lincoln was an unusual man, so I did feel it worked in that aspect. Although again as the younger exuberant Lincoln the over 40 Massey is not entirely believable but he still is fine and better than his first scene.

This is a 40's biography film so one thing that must be remembered is that there really is not too much negative material to found about Lincoln in the film. He is portrayed almost as an entirely great guy especially in the early scene of the film where he tries to find his place in the world. Lincoln is portrayed as properly nice by Massey and charming in a down home sort of way without laying on the niceness of Lincoln too much.

As the film goes on the believability of Massey certianly does grow. Massey is particularly good at showing the passion and strength behind Lincoln as he fights for the causes he believes in. He is particularly good in certian moments such as the debate scene with Stephen Douglas for Senator. Massey as Lincoln puts the right strong by respectful passion into his speech, which has the proper, power and strength.

Surprisingly enough there is just a little bit of a darker side shown involving Lincoln in the film which is his romantic life. He first has his loving but tragic relationship with Ann Rutledge , where Massey is properly charming, as well as properly saddened when tragedy hits. Lincoln though marries the cold Mary Todd. Massey shows actually shows a colder side of Lincoln in regards to this relationship that does work quite well without overriding the more heroic aspects of the character.

Overall I found this to be a fairly good performance as Abraham Lincoln. Not always completely believable in every aspect of Lincoln, but manages to be very strong in others. I will say it is a mixed performance that is I think more good, despite some lacking qualities. Massey does manage to still make an interesting portrait of Lincoln, that I would have actually liked to seen his Lincoln's journey during the civil war to his eventual death.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Best Actor 1940

And the Nominees Were

Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath

Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator

James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story

Laurence Olivier in Rebecca

Raymond Massey in Abe Lincoln in Illinois

Best Actor 1960: Results


5. Trevor Howard in Sons and Lovers- I like that Trevor Howard tries to get something out of his fairly simplistic character, but he just is simply not given enough to do.
4. Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind- Tracy does a lot of big acting court room scenes, as well as believable mannerisms, he does both well, but not that well. And yes that's 9 losses to 0 wins for Tracy.
3. Jack Lemmon in The Apartment- Jack Lemmon gives a charming, and humorous performance, that simply is enjoyable to watch. He creates a character and performance that is just great to follow through on his corporate misadventures.
2. Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry- Lancaster's performance is a terrific one because of his fascinating creation of Elmer Gantry. His wild energy is just perfect for the wild Gantry. Lancaster completely throws himself into his role creating a compelling character, with a fascinating combination of sarcasm, and earnestness.
1. Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer- I will admit this one really was pretty easy for me to choose. Olivier stood out for me as the best with his outstanding portrait of the on his last legs Vaudevillian Archie Rice. Olivier portrait of Rice's facades he puts on to hide the truth are perfectly handled by Olivier, and his moments where he shows the real honest Rice are incredible.
Deserving Performances:
Anthony Perkins in Psycho

Friday, 15 April 2011

Best Actor 1960: Jack Lemmon in The Apartment

Jack Lemmon received his third Oscar nomination for portraying C.C. "Bud" Baxter in The Apartment.

The Apartment is the enjoyable story of an office worker who lends out his apartment for his superiors extramarital affairs in the hope of promotions. 

Jack Lemmon is an actor who I do believe can go over the top, and get quite obnoxious particularly in some of his comedic performance. In the Apartment Jack Lemmon though finds the right tone for his performance throughout, never taking it too far, but keeping at the right pitch. I certainly liked his C.C. Baxter, and simply found him to be a nice fellow to follow through his rather unusual method of corporate success. Lemmon makes Baxter story a nice one we can follow and can empathize with. Lemmon does a good job of bringing us into his story, and simply enjoy what he does, and has done to him. 

Lemmon has the right charm in this performance, and has the right comedic timing to be fully enjoyable. He never overstates a line, or emphasizes the wrong moment in his performance. He handles everything quite well and does his best to extract as the right amount of humor from each scene. Lemmon also finds the right tone to bring the more dramatic aspects of the film in with the comedic ones, so they naturally coincide. Thinking about it, it would be rather difficult subject matter to have an attempted suicide in the film but Lemmon knows how to play the scene to put the right gravitas to it without making it become too serious throwing off the comedy.

His chemistry with Shirley Maclaine is good, but I think the romance really mostly works because of Lemmon. He never really becomes an overly romantic figure in the film, instead he just shows the right sweetness and charm that works far better. Baxter's own internal revelation of how much he likes Maclaine's Fran, is subtly handled by Lemmon leading to his rejection of his bosses offer natural and satisfying. Lemmon could easily have gone too far with any part of his performance, but he always is enjoyable and charming. Lemmon just makes it a delight to be with him in this film, which in turn makes the film a delight to watch, it is a humorous very enjoyable performance, and possibly my favorite comedic performance from Lemmon.

Best Actor 1960: Trevor Howard in Sons and Lovers

Trevor Howard received his first Oscar nomination for portraying coal miner Walter Morel in Sons and Lovers.

The film tells the story of a young man Paul Morel (Dean Stockwell) who is an aspiring artist who comes from a poor mining town.

It is quite strange that Trevor Howard was nominated for this film since Howard actually does not portray the lead role of the film, but is rather a supporting role as the father of Paul. It is not even a domineering supporting role, the father really on a whole is not given very much time at all, and scenes that he is in tend to focus away from him. Howard though is an actor I tend to like almost whenever I see him, due to his unique screen presence. Howard though is given very little in terms of character since Walter is a typical cliched father who does not support his sons artistic aspirations. He drinks, and he yells with his wife (Wendy Hiller) about what he sees, believing it was her fault his sons turned out the way they did.

Howard though does try his best to make something out of his lacking character. He does not make his typical character one dimensional. In the little time he is given Howard shows that he really does care for his family, but shows a sadness which he covers with anger, that not only does his son not want to follow in his footsteps, but also that there is something wrong about his footsteps. Howard is only really given one scene that focuses on him all that much which is very early in the film,  when his only son who actually followed in his footsteps dies in the mines. Howard is good in showing the honest grief for his only son who wished to continue on his work.

Howard I think with Hiller are good in showing the long history of their characters' marriage despite barely given anytime to develop it. They properly showed that there fights are almost routine. This does allow Howard a brief good scene, near the end of the film where he does show his love for his wife once more, but Howard does not forget the character still showing their poor history at the same time. He has one more good scene where he tells his son not to let his mother down, like he did. He again shows honest emotion, and a little more to his character. Howard I did like when he was on screen, and I did like that he tried to show more to his simple character. Unfortunately the film refused to give him more of a character which possibly could have enabled a great performance.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Best Actor 1960: Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry

Burt Lancaster won his Oscar from his second nomination for portraying the titular role in Elmer Gantry.

Elmer Gantry has significantly grown on me on this viewing, and it certainly is interesting, and a much better film that Inherit the Wind which deals with some similar subject matter.

Lancaster has quite the challenge in this role, because the film, I believe, never portrays Gantry as either a good or a bad man entirely. Instead it more of simply portrays him, requiring what the audience thinks of him mostly to Lancaster himself. Lancaster as Gantry takes his wild man Lancaster approach rather than his straight man Lancaster approach, which works quite well for Elmer Gantry. Gantry begins in the film as a complete rapscallion to say the least, a womanizing drinker, moving from town to town. Gantry wild man energetic performance works quite well for the fast moving Gantry, and he perfectly shows the unstable nature of Elmer. He shows the right amount of sheer fun in his performance that of course works as well as possibly for the joy seeking Gantry.

Gantry goes and joins up with a Evangelical religious group in an apparent lust after their leader Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons, who should have been nominated). Now what I do find fascinating is the film says very little about Gantry motives early on in these moments, but Lancaster is completely able to fully show without words what is going on in Elmer's head. To get deeper in, and closer to Sharon, Gantry starts preaching as well right alongside here, bringing the fire and brimstone to the sermons. All of the sermon scenes really are incredible moments for Lancaster as Gantry. He is simply incredible and believable in his forceful preachings. Lancaster is terrific because he completely throws himself into the sermons both mentally, and physically. Each sermon by themselves are masterful moments by Lancaster.

The validity and truthfulness of Gantry and his organization is quickly questioned though, and he must defeat a critical journalist. Lancaster is terrific in this scene, as he slowly picks apart the writer, to bring him to Gantry's point. Lancaster makes Gantry ability to completely manipulate and control every problem that comes his way is completely convincing due to Lancaster quick concise manner. What is most outstanding about Lancaster's performance though is his portrayal of the change or lack of change in Elmer Gantry. I would say he most definetly changes through how much is left a little to interpretation, which is so great about Lancaster's performance. He mostly internalizes this change through his performance, showing subtle changes  throughout the film, which is truly incredible. Lancaster creates the perfect portrait of Elmer Gantry, of both earnestness, and sarcasm, and the way they interweave, and over take one another. Overall Lancaster's performance is simply great, and frankly his preaching scenes alone made his Oscar deserved.