Saturday, 30 July 2011

Best Actor 2002

And the Nominees Were:

Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt

Nicolas Cage in Adaptation

Adrien Brody in The Pianist

Michael Caine in The Quiet American

Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York

Friday, 29 July 2011

Best Actor 1999: Results

5. Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown- Although I did not really see anything wrong with the performance precisely, it just never amounts to anything particularly compelling either.
4. Denzel Washington in The Hurricane- See the remarks about Penn.
3.Kevin Spacey in American Beauty- Although I like some of what Spacey does in the role, particularly in the setup of the character, I find he generally overacts, and seems unnatural, where realism would have served his character best.
2. Russell Crowe in The Insider- Crowe gives a restrained and effective performance, that never takes the easy route and to be too expressive, instead remaining properly with the nature of the character.
1. Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story- A very very easy win to give to Richard Farnsworth, as none other performance come close to Farnsworth's powerful performance. Farnsworth gives a completely natural, and authentic performance, that is one of the most moving and poignant portraits of a man ever given in a film.
Deserving Performances:
Jim Carrey in Man on the Moon

Best Actor 1999: Russell Crowe in The Insider

Russell Crowe received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider.

The Insider details the story of a former tobacco company executive's attempt to tell what he knows, despite many hindrances.

Crowe plays the corporate whistle blower, who is suppose to be a middle aged man. Crowe in terms of age was sort of miscast, and I can't say I entirely believed him as the middle aged executive, but I will say that it really is not the whole of the performance, because in the end it really is only a minor aspect of this performance. Crowe approaches the part in an interesting fashion, because he never really portrays Wigand as some of saintly figure, who is doing something he must do because of some sort of amazing passion for good or anything like that. Crowe instead more realistically always portrays Wigand as just a normal man, nothing more, a very normal man who certainly pains himself to do the right thing, not that he doesn't want to do the right thing, but hesitates due to the situation as any man would.

This is an interesting performance by Crowe because he really portrays it in a very withdrawn, and in a rather close to the bone fashion. He really acts out very little in this performance, and generally portrays Wingard's mental struggles in a rather inwardly drawn fashion. He certainly bursts out in emotions but Crowe appropriately shows that this is not really the natural way of Wingard, but is only really brought out under the extreme pressure of his situation. Every aspect of Wingard Crowe tenders to underplay, to actually greater effect, than he more overtly portrayed each of Wingard's emotions. Crowe properly suggests what he needs to about Wingard, Wingard is not perfect, but he certainly tries his best to be honest, even if he does struggle with the concept. Crowe portrays the struggle well, as long with the strain that slowly bears down on Wingard. Crowe because of his restrained fashion comes off realistically as well as effectively. Crowe performance is not an overly complex one as Wingard, but it is a fulfilling one. Crowe portrays everything he must quite well, whether it is the character's past or present state Crowe succeeds in easily portraying his pain, as well as his reluctance. The film spends little time on Wingard's whole personal life rather weaving it through in the main story line only from time to time, but Crowe successfully shows who Wingard is whenever he has a chance to. 

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Best Actor 1999: Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story

Richard Farnsworth received his second and last nomination for portraying Alvin Straight in The Straight Story.

The Straight Story details the story of the elderly Alvin Straight's journey across America on a lawn mower to see his estranged brother who suffered a stroke.

Richard Farnsworth is an actor I can't say that I have seen all of his work, but I can say when I see him usually as a character actor I usually think he adds something nicely to the film. Farnsworth has this certain simple charm that is just wonderful. He always has a certain degree of life in his performance, and there is just something about him that make him both unique and interesting as an actor. This charm, and his unique quality as a performer certianly comes out and shines spectacularly well in this lead performance that I am certainly glad that he got before he died. This simple charm fits perfectly with the role of Alvin Straight. It is an interesting way Farnsworth has, and it fits for Straight perfectly, because he is nice and charming in possibly a simple rural fashion, but Farnsworth never seems to be a simple man.

It could have been an easy task of making Alvin Straight an overly perfect old man, but Farnsworth, nor the film ever portray him in that simple of a fashion. They always show that although he certainly is a nice old man, that is not all he is. Farnsworth always properly suggests that it was a long history and a long life with many mistakes that got Alvin Straight to this point, he certainly was not always this way. Farnsworth is simply wonderful in every moment of this performance, because he never seems for a moment that he is actor in this performance. There is not a single scene that I felt I saw an actor going on this journey, instead I really honestly felt I saw a man going on this journey. Farnsworth performance only has honesty an conviction throughout, every small moment feels as real as possible, Farnsworth is that good here.

Each little moment in this performance is wonderfully handled by Farnsworth. Early in the film there is not a great deal said by Farnsworth about Straight. He insists on going on his journey, that is about here early on, yet he creates an undeniable man early on here through the smallest of reactions, whether it is toward his heath report to the doctors, or to his daughter's concern over his health, Farnsworth always brings out genuine emotion within Alvin Straight. On the journey Farnsworth gets a little more to say, through his many small and large scenes of interacting with the various people that he comes across. There are perhaps two types of meeting one where he shows his knowledge, and wisdom, and the others were he tells of his own history although they certainly intersect.

His scenes of wisdom are just about perfect in every instance whether it is convincing a runaway about the importance of family, or just using his knowledge and ability to reduce a bill for repairing his tractor Farnsworth always has the perfect manner that is always natural, he is not trying to be wise, he just is as that is who Alvin Straight is. I will say Farnsworth's scenes of wisdom and knowledge are perfect in their suggesting how Straight has gotten to this point in his life, but were those scenes are perfect his scenes of Alvin's history are somehow on an even greater level. Every single moment where he talks about his past, and his mistakes are truly outstanding. Every moment is filled with a true honest poignancy.

All of these scenes are amazing, but I will particularly note his long speech about his time in World War II. The screen focuses on Farnsworth as he slowly reflects on his experience and what he did in the war. Farnsworth is utterly heartbreaking here, because he shows the true experiences of a man who has gone through this, it always feels like the true confession of the man, never for a moment is it less, which is a great achievement. Farnsworth performance is an incredible performance, and one of the most moving performances every nominated. I think his performance can really be best summed by his final scene where he finally sees his brother (Harry Dean Stanton who is also amazing in a very very short role) they barely even talk, but both actors due to their completely honest reactions to one another, absolutely suggest the whole long history of the brothers in such a short moment. This scene shows the nature of Farnsworth performance, a quiet but brilliant performance, every moment is true, and honest, and he makes the journey of Alvin Straight one of the most powerful and poignant journeys ever put on film.

Best Actor 1999: Kevin Spacey in American Beauty

Kevin Spacey won his second Oscar from his second nomination for portraying Lester Burnham in American Beauty.

American Beauty details the lives of a family of suburbanites who are either shallow and materialistic, or harvest some sort of deep pain.

Kevin Spacey portrays Lester Burnham the suburban husband, who is considered pathetic by both his wife and his daughter. Spacey in these early moments is quite good in portraying these early moments. Spacey properly conveys his detrimental state in life, and his the way he is now basically sleepwalking through life. Spacey as well is quite good in showing his facade that he holds, he perhaps lays it on a bit thickly, but that works well for Lester, since it properly portrays how he has been doing this for so long, it is not really the most natural of facades, and it again it reinforces just the terrible condition he is in as a person.

Lester though soon enough begins to become more confidant, and begins to relive his youth, working at a fast food place, as well as pursue his lusts after his daughter's friend. This should be Spacey's moment to really shine as Lester Burnham but unfortunately for me the problems of his performance come out in these scenes. My major problem with the performance is much of Spacey's deliveries seems a bit forced, and unnatural in the role, a particularly grating example for me is when he pronounces that "I Rule!" after purchasing a car he always wanted. Now the problem here is he really should become more natural here, because he is getting rid of the facade, but he doesn't. 

I do not want to be too negative because Spacey certainly has his moments, his transition into the confidence, and a better view of himself, with small indicative reactions are very well handled. His unnaturalness though for most of his later performance, seems off to me though, and fails to have as much power as it should have. This performance actually for me has become like the film itself. Although there are certianly strengths and moments of power in the performance and the film, the overall effect of the performance and the film is hindered by the method used by the film and Spacey to portray it.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Best Actor 1999: Denzel Washington in The Hurricane

Denzel Washington received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in The Hurricane.

The Hurricane depicts in a rather fictionalized fashion the exploits of the convicted of murder Carter to be freed from prison.

Denzel Washington's performance as Rubin Carter certainly seems like Oscar fair. Carter as depicted in the film is a innocent man, had the chance for greatness but is denied it. He struggles for years but remains passionate in his resolve, even if his experience has left him hardened over the years. This sort of character just lines himself up for Oscar scenes really.

Washington certainly has plenty of standard Oscar scenes as Carter, but I must say that is part of the problem with this performance. In his youth scenes Washington gives in many ways a similar performance to his one in Malcolm X as an angry young man, but constantly tries to show a certain degree of coolness about himself.

This similarity between the two performance, almost seemed like a repetition at times leaving me rather unimpressed by his entire depiction of Carter. Washington because of this similarity never really makes Carter into all that individual of a character as he really should be. Carter is shown to be angry yes, attempts to be charming when he needs to be, but I certainly wanted more than what Washington gives.

In his other scenes of anger, as well as a passion in desperation I felt basically the same. It is not that Washington poorly portrays Carter's anger or his passion, but it just never forms a truly compelling characterization. His performance is there, his emotions are not wrong, but they never create anything that makes Rubin Carter his own man leaving his performance underwhelming.

Washington although portrays the emotions of Carter in a realistic enough fashion his transitions and transformations are not sufficiently portrayed. His changes to the older, and older Carter are not horrible, but nor are they have profound or interesting. His portrayal of his transition in accepting the help the young black student, and his white mentors is particularly ineffective though.

This is not a bad performance by any means, but in the end this performance left me feeling the same as I felt about Sean Penn's nominated performance this same year. It is not bad, but it never has a single scene that ever stands out as an amazing moment. Washington's performance is there, it really never seems really off in terms of his emotions, but never does he make them come alive in any sort of a deeper level.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Best Actor 1999: Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown

Sean Penn received his second nomination for portraying Emmet Ray in Sweet and Lowdown.

Sweet and Lowdown tells of the life  fictional Jazz guitarist.

I can't say I am much of a fan of Sean Penn as I find his style usually overly calculated in his portrayals. Here I must say I did not find his performance to be all that calculating. I did not have any moments where I felt he tries to hard to show he is acting. This is quite interesting considering Emmet Ray is a very flamboyant eccentric character.

What Penn does in the role from his accent, to his odd mannerisms does not seem overly actory for him here, since what he does is rather underplayed, and never brings all that much attention to themselves.. I thought they actually seemed natural enough, and for the character of Emmet Ray they fit, since he is a rather strange character.

Now although I never had that distaste after seeing him overact in a far too hammy of a fashion in this performance, as he does in many of his roles, I failed to really see anything all that special in his performance either. Penn certainly is in the film a great deal, but throughout the film I never felt he really had a single scene that stood out as special.

He certainly is there, I do not find him obnoxious or annoying in any scenes, but everything he does never seems to be anything that really should be noted as great acting. I never felt what he does was bad either as Emmet Ray, just thoroughly unspectacular.

He is flamboyant enough as Ray, as well as pompous enough when he needs to be. He is happy when he should be, mad when he should be. He technically is the right emotion, but just right enough, enver anything more than that.  His relationship with the mute Hattie (Samantha Morton) is not poorly handled, but it does not factor into a single scene that is notable either.

This is a rather odd performance for me to review, becuase after watching it I really did not feel negatively toward it, and trust me it is easy for me to feel negatively about a Sean Penn performance. Although I did not really feel negatively I still failed to see a hint of a great performance. Emmet Ray is there, I watched him go through the plot, but than I really felt nothing about him other than he was flamboyant.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Best Actor 1999

And the Nominees Were:

Russell Crowe in The Insider

Denzel Washington in The Hurricane

Kevin Spacey in American Beauty

Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story

Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown

Best Actor 1942: Results

5. Gary Cooper in The Pride of the Yankees- Cooper gives a rather dull performance, that only has any sort of emotional power in his final speech.
4. Walter Pidgeon in Mrs. Miniver- Pidgeon is fine throughout his performance, but he does very little than support his on screen wife.
3. James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy- Cagney performance certainly has a unique style that is old fashioned but this style and high kinetic energy certainly work well in this role.
2. Ronald Colman in Random Harvest- Colman is perfect in the first half of his performance showing the right haunted quality of the man, as well shows a good transition, when he gets somewhat better from finding love. He is also good in his change when he gains his memory back, but unfortuantely the second half of his performance is a lot less interesting, but he certainly makes up for it in his final scene of the film.
1. Monty Woolley in The Pied Piper- Woolley actually fairly easily is my choice this year giving the most consistently entertaining and effective performance this year. Woolley gives a humorous performance, that manages to be powerful as well when it needs to be.

Best Actor 1942: James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy

James Cagney won his Oscar from his second nomination for portraying George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Yankee Doodle Dandy tells of the patriotic vaudevillian George M. Cohan.

This is a biography from the 40's so George M. Cohan has very few flaws. The only flaw one could really say he has at all is a lack of modesty about his talents as a performer, and a writer. This is only shown as all that negative of a thing when he is a kid, so really there is barely anything negatively said about George M. Cohan. James Cagney really does not really portray all that complex of a character in George M. Cohan. Who is Cohan, well he is a nice enough guy, who loves his family, loves his wife, loves his country, and most certainly loves show business. There really is not all that much there in terms of Cohan as a man, but what there is Cagney does realize, he really suggests everything he needs to about Cohan.

When there are somewhat more dramatic scenes required Cagney is up to the task, such as the dramatic death scene of George's father, sure it is perhaps a bit hokey, but Cagney certianly is good anyways. There are not really many more dramatic scenes besides that one, but he is also charming enough in his scenes with Joan Leslie as his wife. The focus of this performance though are the almost endless dance, and singing scenes that he is in, in his many reenactment of Cohan's actual songs, and plays. Cagney certainly is not a great singer, or even a great dancer, but this is not opera, or ballet, it is vaudevillian in style so what Cagney does do fits for the part.

In all of these scenes Cagney always has a very high level of energy which he infuses into the part in every single one of these scenes that certainly is notable. Cagney completely throws himself in the part in every scene and every single different song, or dance number of the Cohan repertoire. James Cagney performance is really not a complex one, and most of his scenes do consist of his various songs and dances, but everything in the part that there is Cagney does well in context of the film. Cagney certainly has a particular style in this film that certainly is old fashioned, but in its old fashioned way this performance most certainly works.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Best Actor 1942: Monty Woolley in The Pied Piper

Monty Woolley received his first Oscar nomination for portraying John Sidney Howard in The Pied Piper.

The Pied Piper details the story of an vacationing elderly Englishmen who ends up trying to help a group of children escape from Nazi occupied France.

Monty Woolley portrays that Englishman, and he is an actor with a terrific scene stealing character actor type presence, who given the unusual role for a character actor, and especially an elderly character actor which is a lead role. He begins the film, as a an Englishmen of no great importance, just fishing with another English family, and being annoyed by their no it all son Ronnie (Roddy McDowall).

I really liked Woolley in these opening scenes having a very likable style, even if he is a bit stubborn. Woolley is very good because he manages to turn what could have been a rather unlikeable man, have a certain humorous quality that comes from his proper Englishmen ways, as well as his stubbornness. Woolley whole voice, and physical presence makes it so he really does not have a dull moment in his whole performance.

Soon the war strikes and this family in France must face their duties as part of the allies. Woolley is quite good in his early scene showing a just a small bit of sadness over no longer being useful to the country he loves so much, as well as still showing the right pride in himself, and his country, that perfectly expresses the inner strength of his character hidden as it might be at times.

The parents of Ronnie, as well as Shelia (Peggy Ann Garner) ask for Howard to bring them to the safety of London, which he begrudgingly accepts, even though he does not care all that much for the children particularly not Ronnie. I must say his scenes with the two very talented  child actors are so good that I wish the movie had been longer, just so Woolley could have had more scene with Garner and McDowall.

They are absolutely terrific together, with their sweetness being the perfect offset to his stubbornness. Woolley rather unsympathetic reactions to their cuteness makes for the perfect combination. I really love his small little moments with McDowall together they have just the perfect chemistry together that make their scenes quite amusing, as well as being rather sweet in their own natural way as well.

Woolley does an excellent job in showing his deeper devotion to the two initial children, and the more he slowly gains along the way. Although he certianly keeps his stubbornness as he should, Woolley lets on to just the right amount of caring he does have for the children, and also through small little perfectly timed reactions how the plight of the children does honestly effect him.

As the film proceeds Woolley gains the help of a young french woman Nicole (Anne Baxter) who he had previously known. There scenes are not as enjoyable as the ones with children but they most certainly do allow Woolley to even further develop Howard as a character, explaining that his son, who Nicole loved, had died in the war already, Woolley effective but quickly shows his history with Nicole and his son, who Woolley certianly suggests a loss, an underlying love, and pride in his late son.

Howard's devotion to his noble cause is truly tested in the later scenes of the film were he and his group are captured by a Nazi commandant (Otto Preminger). In these scenes the true inner strength, and resolve are perfectly shown by Woolley, showing that Howard will give up anything even his life to get the children to safety. Woolley simply but perfectly conveys Howard's will and resolve making it the natural part of his sense of duty.

This is not the most complex of parts, but every challenge there is in the role Woolley is more than up for it. Woolley effectively makes John Howard an enjoyable, as well as memorable character. He brilliantly conveys the noble intentions of this man, without making his character ever for a moment seem sanctimonious or false. Instead throughout Woolley gives an enjoyable, and when it needs to be a powerful performance.

Best Actor 1942: Ronald Colman in Random Harvest

Ronald Colman received his third Oscar nomination for portraying John Smith/ Charles Rainier in Random Harvest.

Random Harvest tells of a traumatized World War I soldier who has lost his memory, but he finds love with kindly showgirl Paula (Greer Garson), but than he gains his own memory back, but forgets about his wife.

Ronald Colman's performance is quite interesting at the beginning of the film, as the very haunted man only known as John Smith. Colman has the perfect haunted quality in his performance that works well with his amnesiac of a character. Colman appropriately portrays how the war clearly had a profound effect on him, and the entire withdrawn nature of his performance is very well handled. Colman realistically portrays the entire condition of the man very well, his hesitation in his speech is naturally portrayed by Colman, and correctly portrays the condition of the troubled man. Colman is effective in his early scenes with Greer Garson. he has the right reluctance in their relationship together, making the relationship rather unusual.

The relationship is well handled by both actors, and their unique chemistry does work well together, it is subtle relationship, mostly because of Colman way of underplaying Smith's love for Paula. This fits well with the nature of Smith as a character, and it really makes their relationship a memorable and poignant one which works well for the film. Smith though by an accident gains his old memory back, and remembers he is Charles Rainier but forgets about ever being John Smith. Colman is very good in his portrayal of Charles Rainier, showing a great difference in character, showing him now full of confidence, and inner strength. It is a successful change in character, that still seems like that is who Smith was before the war.

Although the transition is very well handled, I must say as soon as he becomes Charles Rainier his performance just becomes a lot less interesting, because the wealthy Charles just is a bit of a dull man. This leaves Colman very little to do, except in brief moments where he has moments suggesting him remembering his forgotten past. These are well handled, by Colman, but most of his performance just is not all that interesting as Rainier. This is not really Colman's fault it is just the second half of the film gives him little to do, but be the very proper Rainier who really does not love anything all that well. That is until near end of the film, and yes Colman's final reaction is incredible finding the right emotional climax for the film, but still the overall effect of the second half his performance just is never that interesting. It still is a very good performance, I just wish the second half of the performance had been as good as the first half. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Best Actor 1942: Gary Cooper in The Pride of the Yankees

Gary Cooper received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees.

The Pride of the Yankees tells the tragic story of baseball legend Lou Gehrig.

Gary Cooper is not one of the classic actors, that I feel particularly strong about. I unfortuantely find that he can be quite dull in roles, showing very little investment into his characters. This is not always true of his performances, I liked him in both High Noon, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, but it is unfortunately true for many of his performances, including his performance here. Gary Cooper's performance consists mostly of very underacted emotions, and a small total range of emotions. Cooper usually has a rather standard smile through most of the film, but at times he is required to have a bit of a grimace, or a frown. There is not really all that much in between these three faces for Cooper.

Cooper has a similar body type to Gehrig but otherwise than that they have few similarities in appearance, and due to that as well Cooper's total lack of investment in the character, I really did not see him as Lou Gehrig in the film at any point, I did not even see him as a fictionalized Lou Gehrig. Now this also comes from the fact that Cooper seems to say nothing about who Lou Gehrig was. He was a nice guy, who was good at baseball, and than died from a disease. That is all that I got out of Cooper's portrayal, I just never saw for a moment, that he was trying anything more with Lou Gehrig than just to go through the motions of the plot.

His romantic scenes with Teresa Wright as Gehrig's wife are not particularly special. They both portray sweet people, as sweet people, but it still does not make for much of a romance. Any heavier emotions involved at all with the relationship are always given to Wright's character, giving Cooper even less to do. I do not hate this performance, I just cannot find very much to praise in it. The only thing I suppose I could praise, is his final speech which is well enough handled to be properly heartbreaking, but I think that comes more from the speech itself, and the situation than it really does from Cooper. I do not find this performance incredibly terrible, it certainly is harmless, but there just is not anything special in it.

Best Actor 1942: Walter Pidgeon in Mrs. Miniver

Walter Pidgeon received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Clem Miniver in Mrs. Miniver.

Mrs. Miniver tells of a family in London who must deal with the realities of World War II.

Walter Pidgeon only ever received two Oscar nominations and both were for portraying the husband of Greer Garson's titular character. The second film it could have possibly been called the Curies, instead of Madame Curie, but there is most certainly a reason why this film is called Mrs. Miniver rather than the Minivers, or Mr. Miniver.

Mr. Miniver here is just not the focus of the film by any means, it is distinctly focused on Mrs. Miniver, there are large stretches that completely avoid Mr. Miniver such as when he goes to help in the Dunkirk evacuation, you see basically nothing of what he does, because it stays home with Mrs. Miniver, and away from Clem. Due to this reason Walter Pidgeon is given very, very little to do in the film, almost all of the big emotional moments of the film, are either away from him, or he is very much in the background of the scene. The film never really gives him much focus unless he is interacting with his wife, therefore the main matter really is how is his chemistry with Garson.

Well their chemistry together is fine I guess, it is far from any sort of movie magic that is for sure, it is even far from a good paring that one would really want to see again and again. They really are just fine together. I believed them as husband, and wife, well enough, and they were good enough, but there is not a single scene together that I would really say constitutes anything special. After his chemistry there is very little to say about Pidgeon performance, besides he plays a nice enough father and husband. He is there, his reactions, the little there is of them, are fine enough I guess, he never is ever bad in the role, but nor is there anytime where I say now that is a great performance, or even now that is a good performance. It is a performance though that is suitable to the role, I suppose he could have made himself stand out more, but that really was not the point of the part or the film.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Best Actor 1942

And the Nominees Were:

Walter Pidgeon in Mrs. Miniver

Ronald Colman in Random Harvest

James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy

Monty Woolley in The Pied Piper

Gary Cooper in The Pride of the Yankees

Best Actor 2010: Results

5. Javier Bardem in Biutiful- Bardem despite the emotionally charged nature of his role, gives a oddly dull, and ineffective performance.
4. Jeff Bridges in True Grit- Bridges' performance is an odd over the top performance, as well as inconsistent in his own odd style, that does not work as well as he certianly wants it to.
3. Colin Firth in The King's Speech- Firth's performance is a somewhat redundant performance in the way he repeatedly conveys the same emotion. His performance lacks proper consistency, as well as his portrayal of the stammer is a bit forced. To his credit though, he does have a few good moments.
2. James Franco in 127 Hours- Franco performance is charming and entertaining when he need to be, as well as effective in portraying his character's physical degradation, as well as his emotional state. On a whole though he is actually overshadowed by the direction of the film.
1. Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network- Eisenberg's performance is the only nominated performance this year that I can really say is a truly strong effort. Eisenberg although limited fits perfectly in this role as the manipulative calculating Mark Zuckerberg. His properly portrays the cold calculating nature of the character, along with subtle suggestions of what lies beneath his cold exterior as well.

Best Actor 2010: Javier Bardem in Biutiful

Javier Bardem received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Uxbal in Biutiful.

Biutiful attempts to tell the story of a man diagnosed with terminal cancer, who tries to deal with his family, as well as the underworld he is involved with.

Before watching this film, I must say I have heard  some very positive things about this performance, not only being the best of the year, but as well one of the best performances in a long time. I must say I wasn't exactly completely surprised to find, that I could not find any of this brilliance so many seemed to see in this performance.

In fact I only really noticed one thing that Javier Bardem seemed to do in this performance, was make a sad face, basically the same sad face throughout his entire performance. Now I can see how some might think I am simplifying what he does in this performance, but I do not believe so. All I really saw in Bardem was the repetition of the same emotional state almost throughout the film.

There are slight alteration through the performance, but never are they particularly notable. At times Bardem may get a little angry, or even sadder, but he never does very much that results in any sort of complex or interesting performance. It really just remains a bizarrely simple, and frankly quite a boring performance from Bardem.

There was not a single scene, where I really felt he really brought Uxbal alive as a real person going through what he is going through. I always saw just Bardem, sort of, acting with his repetition of his almost perpetual sad face. I am not saying an actor can't have a sad face, Uxbal should be sad, but Bardem needed show a little more going on inside Uxbal than he does.

I failed to find anything interesting out of Bardem's performance as Uxbal. Everything, and I mean everything failed to impress me even with all the overly emotional things occurring around Uxbal, whether it is violence, or his messed up wife, or his relationship with his children, despite how emotionally charged these scenes are suppose to be Bardem goes through them with just that same dull expression almost throughout.

With a film like this, with its overly emotional tone, and its want to be something "important" I would think that Bardem could at least have a moment or two of emotional power, but for me he never for a moment has an effective scene as Uxbal despite the nature of the part, and the nature of the film. I now many have seen this performance as one of utter brilliance, but I only saw dullness and underacting. 

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Best Actor 2010: James Franco in 127 Hours

James Franco received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Aron Ralston in 127 Hours.

127 Hours tells of mountain climber and all around thrill seeker Ralton who finds himself trapped under boulder with no help in sight.

This could easily be said a one man show for Franco, for almost the entirety of the film. I would say this is actually more of a two man show, Franco for one, Danny Boyle the director the other, since this a very much a director's picture in the way, Ralton's situation is portrayed with the many directorial flairs, such as constant cuts, and many fantasy sequences.

The camera certainly does not just sit on Franco and stay there, instead it moves about many times anywhere but just on him. Franco at the beginning properly sets up the thrill seeking way of his character, showing a lot of life in Ralston. Also in his early scenes were he helps out to female hikers, Franco has a great deal of chemistry that works well in the role.

Soon enough though he finds himself trapped behind the rock, leaving his physical movements rather restrained for the rest of the performance. He is required to show Ralston's slow physical disintegration from being trapped. Franco is fine in this aspect, but it is not anything that I found to be truly stunning.

As a sort of one man show I think Franco does do  a good job, of keeping your attention on him, and with him, as he goes through his dreadful experience. I won't say you feel what he feels, but Franco does express Ralton's painful situation quite well, also Franco does manage to stay interesting despite being completely stuck on the rock. 

In much of what the film shows about Ralton's life, and his feelings I do feel are expressed heavily by Boyle's direction, which sometimes even overpowers what Franco is trying to do in the role. When Franco is given the spotlight though Franco certainly handles what he has well, even if in a rather simple fashion in some regards.

When he must express regret over his life he does, pretty well in fact, but I always had the feeling that it was always the build of the direction around him that brought the emotional payoff than Franco himself. Franco most major scene I think is his moment where he interviews himself, Franco is entertaining in that scene, and he is good in it, but again the scene works more do to the direction that because of Franco.

 At the end of the journey of Ralton's I will admit I felt an emotional rush, but in the end it was only partially due to Franco, in the end it really did come from the direction precision in bringing this moment more than Franco's performance reaching this moment. Do not get me wrong, Franco is good, and acts well as the emotional beacon used by the director, but I cannot say his performance was amazing or the best thing in the film.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Best Actor 2010: Jeff Bridges in True Grit

Jeff Bridges received his sixth Oscar nomination for portraying Reuben "Rooster" J. Cogburn in True Grit.

True Grit tells of Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) who wants to avenge her murdered father and employs the help of a U.S. Marshall.

Jeff Bridges is the second person to be nominated to play the one eyed Rooster, John Wayne won his Oscar for the same role. Wayne oddly portrayed the part with the mannerisms of Wallace Beery, and Bridges also portrays the part with different mannerisms from his usual performance, portraying them with an accent, and quite the slurred speech.

As with Wayne these mannerisms do not really work all to well for the part, and frankly just seem odd, I think though that these mannerisms are even more distracting that Wayne's were. The whole speech pattern really seems unneeded in the performance. It is a very obvious actory thing to do in the role to attempt to stand out, but frankly the whole portrayal because this seems off.

Jeff Bridges because of this way of portraying Rooster basically ruins any chance of a great performance. All of these mannerisms just failed to work for me, and just felt distracting all of the time, and I really did not think that they achieved making Rooster even all that unique, or original of creation either, I honestly preferred the way Wayne portrayed him.

The mannerisms actually would not be as bad, but he is rather inconsistent with them. At times, and I mean random times, his speech is thicker than at other times, therefore making these mannerisms that were already a bad idea even worse, because they are not even consistent bad mannerisms.

I think one other problem is that Bridges fails to really have a grasp on the western dialect on the film, which is a common problem in the film, since few of the actors seem all that natural with the dialect, basically out of the main players Barry Pepper seems to be the one who is the best grasp on it. Much of what Bridges says is unnatural sounding because of this further adding to the overall lacking quality of his performance.

In terms of the emotions of the character, I really felt Bridges’ performance was lacking as well. Rooster tells much of his back story in the 1969 version in one scene, in this version though Bridges constantly tells it as they ride along, and the way Bridges handled the entire thing seems odd, because Bridges puts so little emotion behind the words that made me question why Rooster was even telling any of this to Mattie.

There is nothing that Bridges does with the character of Rooster, that really works. His alcoholism, felt more just like a mannerisms, I also felt there is nothing special that he does with his relationship with Mattie, because of the lack of emotion Bridges has in so many scenes, and line readings. I think frankly I should like this performance even less than I do. I certianly it is not good, but I guess he does still have certain screen presence, but that is all I really can say positive about this performance. 

Best Actor 2010: Colin Firth in The King's Speech

Colin Firth won his Oscar from his second nomination for portraying King George VI "Bertie"/ Prince Albert, Duke of York in The King's Speech.

The King's Speech tells of the story of King George VI's attempt to overcome his stammer, and fulfills his duties on the eve of World War II.

Colin Firth's performance here certainly feels like Oscar baiting, with his playing a famous person who must overcome a disability, during a time of troubles, the only thing really missing was for him to be an alcoholic as well. Being an Oscar baiting role does not make a performance bad though, Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger proves that one can give a great performance in an Oscar baiting role, unfortunately Colin Firth is not Jack Lemmon.

Colin Firth does one thing a whole lot in this performance, something that becomes more and more noticeable after each viewing is how he makes this almost constant hang dog expression through many if not most of his scenes. It just seems like laziness on Firth's part to have the King having this constant sadness apparently prevailing at all times. Yes sadness should be part of the character, but Firth simply overdoes it.

Firth's entire portrayal of the King's disability feels a bit actory as well. I particularly do not think it helps by the way the film is directed. In these scenes it always goes right up to Firth's face, where he really overly express the stammer, yes a stammer should be obvious, but Firth's way of portraying looks far more like a actors fake stammer than a genuine one unfortuantely.

Almost all of Firth's performance seems a bit overacted constantly, as he always seems to be trying to hard to portray his emotions to the full front, where frankly the King should be just a little more withdrawn than the way Firth likes to portray him. Also Firth fails to appropriately portray any inner strength of the King early on making it so when he has his more confronting scenes, like with his brother, they seem a tad discontinuous with the rest of the character. 

I won't say Firth is horrible, by I will say he could have been a whole lot better than he is. Firth most certainly does have screen presence. I did not feel he completely failed to convey the emotions, but rather he just tried to hard to convey them. He does have some nice scenes, his final speech for example is well handled, as is his nice little scene where he tells a story to his daughter, but the overall effect of his performance is far less than it could have been.

Firth could have been amazing if he had been more willing to portray a wider array of emotions, as well as attempt to convey some of these emotions of the King in a little more subtle fashions than he does in this film. If he created a fuller creation in the King, the different separated emotional states of the King could have had a clearer connection but instead his anger, his sadness, his strength, and his weakness, feel disconnected. This is not a completely bad performance, but it could have been much better.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Best Actor 2010: Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network

Jesse Eisenberg received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.

The Social Network tells of the development of FaceBook and the controversies around its creation.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg who is portrayed in the film as a rather selfish, pompous, individual with quite a superiority complex. Eisenberg is an actor I will admit is not a favorite of mine, finding he gives a little too similar of performances in his various performances. Many of what he does seems frankly too calculated, and his whole style I really find he is just annoyingly self aware.

Luckily this works for this part quite well. Zuckerberg here really is an excessively calculating person, making everything he does has some sort of plan behind him. Everything that is, and Eisenberg's style fits perfectly for this calculated nature. One can see in Eisenberg the constant process that is going through Zuckerberg head at every moment never going away for a single second.

It is interesting the way Eisenberg shows each plan for each moment, that are constantly swarming in his head. Whether it is his face book plan, or a small insulting remark, there is always the same calculation behind it. With this calculation though there is also a certain ease Eisenberg portrays in Zuckerberg making every move by Zuckerburg has this odd casual feeling to them them that is quite strangely effective.

Eisenberg has a perfect amount of icy determination in the role that fits the selfishness of Zuckerberg. Eisenberg manages to do this without overdoing it, even though it is another constant of his character, he shows it to be the nature of Zuckerberg, and it explains his abilities to do what he accomplishes in the story.

This is perhaps a fascade that he is trying to pull constantly though, in that he is always trying to act crueler than he is, meaner than he is, as well as smarter than he is. Eisenberg's constant forcefulness of his performance fits exceedingly well in suggesting the facade, making one properly wonder, is this guy completely for real?

The most important aspect of his performance though are his more subtle moments of his performance, where he shows that perhaps he is not nearly as cold as he tries to portray. They have a small but powerful moments by Eisenberg. They are usually done in small little reactions, that are spot on by Eisenberg, and add the right amount of depth to his character without overriding the rest of the portrayal.

Eisenberg's performance here is an interesting work that really requires multiple viewing in order to be able to  completely appreciate what he does in the role. It is an interesting performance because he has a consistent outward personality almost throughout, but Eisenberg very intelligently shows holes in his outward personality to great effect.