Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1958

And the Nominees Were:

Theodore Bikel in The Defiant Ones

Lee J. Cobb in The Brothers Karamazov

Burl Ives in The Big Country

Gig Young in Teacher's Pet

Arthur Kennedy in Some Came Running

Best Supporting Actor 1945: Results

5. John Dall in The Corn is Green- Dall gives a boring performance that fits his rather dull film.
4. J. Carrol Naish in A Medal for Benny- Naish is the best part of his film, and does give some emotional weight to his performance, but it is still is not anything that special.
3. Robert Mitchum in The Story of G.I. Joe- Mitchum gives a good performance that creates an effective and realistic portrait of a soldier leading his troops.
2. Michael Chekhov in Spellbound-Michael Chekhov does not have too many scenes at his disposal but he makes the most of all of them giving a nice scene stealing performance.
1. James Dunn in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- James Dunn easily gives the best supporting performance of the year. Dunn gives a wonderful emotionally powerful performance that perfectly finds both the charm and the tragedy of his character.

Best Supporting Actor 1945: Michael Chekhov in Spellbound

Michael Chekhov received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Alexander Brulov in Spellbound.

Spellbound is a lesser Alfred Hitchcock thriller about an amnesiac (Gregory Peck) who may or may not be a murderer who is being helped by a psychoanalyst Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman).

Michael Chekhov was best known as a theater actor, as well as his philosophies on acting, but he did have a few film roles one of them being this film which earned him an Oscar nomination. Spellbound is not a great Hitchcock film with a lacking lead, and a great deal of dialogue that probably should have been rewritten. Michael Chekhov's Dr. Brulov does not appear until the second half of the film after Bergman's character has gone on the run with Peck's while trying to decipher what has caused his amnesia.  She brings him to her former mentor Dr. Brulov's house to hide out, believing Brulov won't notice the troubled state of Peck.

Chekhov makes Dr. Brulov a big breath of fresh air for the film which was becoming stale on Bergman's and Peck's exchanges. Chekhov instantly brings some much needed life into the picture as the devoted, and opinionated psychoanalyst.Chekhov exudes a certain charm in the role, and flawlessly establishes Dr. Brulov's "credentials" seemingly without effort. Although it most certainly is true that he almost seems to be Freud in all but name Chekhov still manages to not just be some cheap imitation and is capable of portraying intelligence of Dr. Brulov quite well.

He brings a great deal of life in his part as the intelligent insightful Dr. Brulov who is both charming as well as brings a certain weight to his words that realizes the idea of psychoanalysis in a far more fulfilling fashion than the rest of the film was able to do. Chekhov gives an enjoyable turn that livens up the film when it is very much needed. In fact Chekhov effective depiction of Dr. Brulov actually made me far more interested in Brulov than the rest of the characters in the film. In fact what Chekhov does do in the role made me wish the film had actually been more about him.

This actually quite achievement in its own way by Chekhov since he really only has a few scenes, but every moment he does have are very well spent. Even though his character is limited just like his time his performance is always the best part of the scenes he is in as well as really the best part of the film. It is really a great example of a great actor being able to do something special with a role no matter how simple and limited might be as written. It is not completely unforgettable performance by any means like say Claude Rains in Notorious, but it is a true scene stealer.

Best Supporting Actor 1945: James Dunn in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

James Dunn won his Oscar from his nomination for portraying Johnny Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a moving film that depicts the struggles of a poor family who lives in a Brooklyn tenement.

There are many types of Oscar winners particularly in the way their win seems to stand. There are those which it just stands as part of an already great career like Laurence Olivier, than there are those who only seem to go down from there like George Sanders, as well as those who it acted as just a nice near the end of their career tribute like Henry Fonda, as well as the sort like Haing S. Ngor who did not have great success as an actor afterward, but they weren't actors to begin with than there are those whose whole career highlight is summed up in their win like James Dunn.

James Dunn did not have too much of a career before or after his Oscar winning role here, and just like Johnny Nolan he suffered from alcoholism. Dunn though like Johnny clearly had some greatness in him even if it was muted by drink, and perhaps it is his similarity to his character that allowed Dunn to have this moment of greatness in his career suggests just who Dunn could have been just as Johnny Nolan's best moments suggest much of the same sort of greatness. It is perhaps this undeniable connection that allows Dunn to give as moving of a portrait of Johnny Nolan as James Dunn does.

Johnny Nolan is the father of the Brooklyn family who spends his time in small waiter jobs unable to support his family by himself even though he attempts to do so, as well has a sort of dream to become a singer as well.  Johnny Nolan only wishes the very best for his family, but is flawed in his troubles with alcoholism. Quite often during the film Johnny is talked about, in fact there is even a bit of a build up toward his eventually appearance, but James Dunn when he eventually appears makes Johnny well worth this.

James Dunn from his first scene makes Johnny one of the most genuinely heart warming fathers ever depicted on screen. Dunn has such an enthusiasm in the part that is absolutely endearing. He makes Nolan's kindness completely truthful there is not a moment where you doubt his love and affection for his family, Dunn simply could not be better. It is easy to turn a character such as this into just a falseness that feels faked, but Dunn makes it all made true to the heart with his endearing portrayal.

His chemistry with Peggy Ann Garner as Francie Johnny's daughter is perfect. There is an undeniable warmth toward one another that is only ever genuine. Their scenes together are an incredible combination of both being some of the most heartwarming moments in film as well as the most heartbreaking because of how honest their love is. Dunn makes Johnny's pride and affection for his daughter this way through the joy James Dunn in every second he is on screen with Garner.

Dunn is equally effective though in his sad moments as his happier. What works so well about Dunn's performance though is the way he never overplays an emotion as actors commonly do when portraying alcoholics. In all of his scenes, everyone Dunn infuses the same soft spirit into his performance even when Johnny faces his troubles directly, and is discouraged by his wife. Dunn even in these discouraging moments still always has that same glint of optimism of Johnny that is the heartbreaking tragedy of his character.

Dunn never wastes a moment in his performance always create a notable emotional impact in each scene he is in, and emotional impact so strong that you can't forget him even when he is off screen. Dunn creates such a beautiful portrait of Johnny that shows his history and his life struggle in his face. He establishes the whole history of Johnny in his portrayal of a potential great man unable to completely appear due to his place in society. Dunn always is able to realize both the strength and the weakness of Johnny flawlessly.

I would say what might be Dunn's best scene as Johnny, and I say might because Dunn only has great scenes is when he sings Annie Laurie on the piano. It never seems an achievement to simple be able to sing in a performance since it is acting not singing, but a musical moment can be something very special for an actor if they are capable of presenting more of the character's soul through song which Dunn most certainly does in this scene. Dunn in the single song shows the potential greatness in Johnny with how he is both wonderful and chilling in the moment showing exactly what Johnny is capable of but never able to forget the troubles in Johnny either.

This is just a amazing emotionally powerful performance from James Dunn which after he exits the film you really feel a genuine loss and heartbreak when he is gone. Dunn never tries to force us to feel for Johnny but brought it out naturally with his charming warmth, as well as with his realization of the tragedy of the character. Although Dunn career did not have a resurgence because of his Oscar win he most certainly proved with this exceedingly deserving performance that, just like when Johnny Nolan's sing Annie Laurie, the greatness was there.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1945: Robert Mitchum in The Story of G.I. Joe

Robert Mitchum received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Lieutenant later Captain Bill Walker in The Story of G.I. Joe.

The Story of G.I. Joe follows war correspondent Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith) as he follows a group of U.S. soldiers during World War II.

 Robert Mitchum despite a long successful film career only ever received a single Oscar nomination very early in his career for his supporting role in this film. This role of Mitchum's reminded very much of James Whitmore's character in Battleground. Both are films about World War II which are directed in a more realistic fashion for the time by the underrated William Wellman, both portray sympathetic but duty bound superiors to the army units portrayed in the film. Mitchum though does have a great deal more screentime at his disposal than Whitmore who only could do so much with his very limited role.

Robert Mitchum role is not a particularly actory sort of performance in that we rarely see Walker doing anything other than moving along through the war, and encouraging is men to do the same. Mitchum though certainly does make the most of his character with his performance though. He never attempts anysort of gimmicks with his performance, but throughout the film just attempts to portray Walker as any hard working Captain who cares for his men, and knows he must do his duty. Mitchum stay true to the part the whole film, and gives a realistic performance.

Mitchum gives an effective portrait of the Captain throughout the film with his distinct screen presence which Mitchum uses perfectly in this film. This allows Mitchum to hold the viewers attention when he is on screen without ever really seeming to strive for it in any obvious fashion. Mitchum makes simple and easy for us to follow the Captain particularly in the war scenes where he conveys the emotions of the moments wonderfully. He never overplays these scenes but rather creates a rather honest and realistic depiction of a man in his difficult situation.

Through most of the film Mitchum is there being as he should, but Mitchum like Whitmore in Battleground shows the degradation of the Captain as the war's difficulties weigh more and more upon him. Again Mitchum effectively and realistically portrays the toll it has on the Captain. Mitchum late in the film also has one scene where Walker can relay what he truly feels about his situation. It is a brief scene but an effective one where Mitchum honestly shows the tremendous hardship the Captain has from his duty through his simply and entirely honest delivery.

This is a strong performance that achieves a great deal despite the technical limitations due to the type of film it is. Mitchum moves along with the film from moment to moment, and gives a portrait of his soldier in war effectively. It may not be the greatest performance ever gave, and it is a bit strange that the prolific Mitchum only ever received this nomination despite his long career this is a deserving performance by Mitchum. He delivers a moving and interesting performance that manages to be noticed well among the ensemble of soldiers who in some cases have flashier parts than Mitchum.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1945: John Dall in The Corn is Green

John Dall received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Morgan Evans in The Corn is Green.

The Corn is Green is another film that seemed quite popular during this period about a small mining town, this time the central story consists Miss Moffatt (Bette Davis) who seeks to educate the people of the town.

John Dall who is best known for portraying the controlling killer in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope portrays one of the miners who Davis' character takes special interest in. It is funny that she takes an interest in him, seeing some sort of intelligence in him, the problem is though there really is not anything to see in him as portrayed by Dall. He is suppose to be an intelligent man who shows a great deal of promise despite his profession, and his grammar. The problem is Dall does not really present the man, he makes Morgan seem basically as much of a dope as any other of the men in town.

John Dall fails to present any sort of really energetic spark in Morgan that would cause Davis' character to become so devoted to him so quickly. Dall remains rather dull in the part never achieving anything special with his character even if the film wants us to believe otherwise.  He does not even subtly show there is some hidden element to the man that goes beyond his exterior the problem is he just is not. Dall whole portrayal fails to ever feel original or inspiring for a moment.

Dall certainly has plenty of screentime to attempt to realize Morgan as a character, after all you could probably argue him as the male lead of the film. Dall though keeps the same annoyed looking face almost throughout his performance, showing his character always being slightly discontented. What is he discontented about? Well that is a little hard to tell with Dall think characterization, maybe it is because he is a miner, or the way Davis' character wants to change him perhaps, but really Dall never really makes this annoyance have too much of a purpose.

Dall never makes Morgan into an interesting character he remains quite boring throughout his performance. I never really cared for a second about his character's future, because Dall never showed any promise in him in fact he came off as well plainly dull. He really doesn't have any chemistry with Bette Davis to make their scenes together have the emotional impact the film was seeking. He also lacks the romantic, or a lustful spark with Joan Lorring, the fact they have a relationship at all never seems even that believable despite the fact that it is only suppose to be superficial to begin with.

Dall never makes any aspect of his character particularly convincing, and certainly not compelling. It feels like an entirely standard performance that any actor could have given from the period, and there probably where many young actors from the time who could have given a far better performance. Dall simply never achieves anything remotely interesting with Morgan, and actually makes the film rather boring itself because Dall is given such attention. Dall in the role never for a moment makes the viewer believe he is deserving of such attention.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1945: J. Carrol Naish in A Medal for Benny

J. Carrol Naish received his second and final Oscar nomination for portraying Charley Martin in A Medal For Benny.

A Medal for Benny details a  boring love story between two people that seems basically pointless when the film suddenly changes to a satire on the idea of war time heroism as a former rouge Benny becomes a war hero leaving the town wishing to profit from the fame of the young man.

J. Carrol Naish portrays Charley a man of Mexican descent who is the father of the rouge and hero Benny. I must say that as with his performance in Sahara Naish actually does disappear into the role fairly well in that I did not recognize him instantly. He did not just seem like an actor doing an accent like the two romantic leads of the film did. He does manage to be a character rather just a bad actor attempting to portray a part, something that commonly is not the case when doing an accent.

As with Sahara Naish's accent for his character does not really avoid the stereotype of accent for said particular nationality or ethic group, but as with Sahara Naish has the right sort of conviction with his accent, and his character to make it work. Naish does not lose his accent ever or his manner as the poor rather meek man. It does not falter or flee, and he makes Charley a believable character. Also his accent seems absolutely genuine compared to the strained accents of some of his co-stars.

Although he still given a rather limited character he does have a bit more to do then in Sahara which he was barely in. In the first half of the film he is just a kindly, but poor man in the neighborhood who keeps losing money to constantly borrowing Joe. Naish just makes Charley into a nice old man that is very easy to empathize with. Even though Charley is not given much screentime early on Naish does make Charley the most likable character, even all he does it get told about his money troubles for most of his early scenes.

Naish though never turns Charley into a depressing sort of character though, as he shows an enthusiastic optimism, Naish succeeds in making Charley a fairly endearing character. Later in the film he is given a little more to do when he finds out his son Benny has become a hero posthumously. Naash is good in showing the pride and grief in Charley over the news of his son, and does bring some genuine emotion to these moments which otherwise are rather lacking.

Near the end of the film Naish almost seems to become the  main character as the town tries to use Charley as a means to bring interest into the small town in rather shameless ways. Naish's is good in these final few scenes as he shows the continuing sadness and pride in Charley, that forces Charley to finally stand up to the town pitiful attempts to make money off his son. He has a nice moving moment at the end showing exactly what he felt for his son, even though that relationship was less than it could have been since we never see Benny, and the whole aspect of Charley's character almost comes out of nowhere in the script.

This is a good performance by Naish though despite his extremely limited material at his disposal. Although I won't say it is a great accomplishment, he does manage to make Charley the most interesting part of the film, and the only character you really care about. Naish really never has a great moment in his performance, but he is fine throughout the film, even though given the times his character could have been basically just an accent nothing more, but Naish instead finds some genuine emotion in the part.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1945

And the Nominees Were:

Michael Chekhov in Spellbound

J. Carrol Naish in A Medal for Benny

James Dunn in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 

John Dall in The Corn is Green

Robert Mitchum in The Story of G.I. Joe

Best Supporting Actor 2011: Results

5. Jonah Hill in Moneyball- Jonah Hill's performance is functional enough, but it never really stands out as anything that needed to be awarded.
4. Nick Nolte in Warrior- Nolte tries hard and gives a descent performance, but as with all of his performances, he never completely realizes the potential of his part.
3. Christopher Plummer in Beginners- Plummer's performance almost seems misused in the course of the film muting his emotional impact, when Plummer is on screen though he gives an effective enough of a performance.
2. Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Although he is in a very bad film, and must support an awful actor in the lead, Sydow's performance is the best part of the film creating a moving and mysterious portrait of a man who refuses to speak due to his past.
1. Kenneth Branagh in My Week With Marilyn- Branagh tops this weak year, although there were plenty of not nominated supporting performances. Interesting enough the order of the nominees is almost the reverse order of how I would rank the films the nominees, something that rarely happens I must say. Branagh stands as my choice with his good but not perfect impersonation of Laurence Olivier. What really gives him the win though is his ability to actually turn Olivier into a compelling character despite the sever limitations of the script, as well as have the potential problem of getting caught trying to make just an impression.
Deserving Performances:
Albert Brooks in Drive
Bryan Cranston in Drive
Mark Strong in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life

Best Supporting Actor 2011: Kenneth Branagh in My Week With Marilyn

Kenneth Branagh received his second acting Oscar nomination for portraying Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn.

My Week With Marilyn tells of the story of the troubles of the production of the Prince and the Showgirl, and Marilyn Monroe relationship with one of the assistant directors the rather dull Colin Clark. The film takes too much of a scatter shot approach to the subject matter, and the director never has a distinct statement or opinion on the subject matter really to make the film work.

This performance is one that I really have to almost take a step back to examine for a moment as Branagh attempts to portray Laurence Olivier who is one of the greatest actors ever in my opinion with his performance, after all I think he deserved six acting Oscar victories. Kenneth Branagh and I would probably have something to discuss though as it is pretty clear that he probably likes Olivier as much as I do, since his early career seemed almost to try to replicate Olivier's, and now he in fact gets to portray Laurence Olivier.

Kenneth Branagh portrays Olivier and does try to imitate Olivier's distinct mannerisms both when he is a just being Olivier, as well as Olivier's acting style. I must say unlike some imitation where I have not seen a great deal of the person Branagh is at a disadvantage as I have a great deal of Olivier's films, as well as some his interviews. Branagh although maybe thinks he looks just like a Olivier he honestly does not look all that much like him. Kenneth Branagh again has just a natural disadvantage in this case once again.

Branagh certainly tries extremely hard to attempt to be Olivier, but he just cannot do it even if he gives his honest best shot. The truth is though I do not know if anyone could really completely be Olivier, for me, so again I really don't think I should be too hard on him for this alone. I will say I still did like his mannerisms he used and really they were very much like Olivier from his soft tender voice when quietly whispering, but still keeping the fineness of it even when he is angry and yelling. It is not a perfect realization of Olivier's voice but it is a very good one.

Branagh is as well competent at portraying the classic Olivier sort of glances, and expressions of both joy and annoyance. He even does do a technically fine job of replicating the sort of accents Olivier would use in the film, although I must admit The Prince and the Showgirl is one Olivier film I have not seen surprising enough, but still Branagh most certainly is satisfactory. He never achieves what is the purpose to become Olivier but to be honest few performances of this sort can really do that. One example is Martin Landau in Ed Wood, but than again that is also the best performance ever nominated in this category.

Well past the imitation Branagh has other challenges though. As I said the film takes a scatter shot approach to the material, which is especially true when it comes to Laurence Olivier's role in the film. There are times where he seems to be an important part of the film, and than he is quickly forgotten as well. He also unfortunately is strapped with poorly handled subplot such as wanting to have an affair with Marilyn himself, which they might well not have had considering how it is so quickly forgotten, his relationship with his troubled wife Vivien Leigh, and his supposed animosity toward method acting.

I won't argue with the film on specific points about Olivier's history even if it is all far too simplified or just inaccurate, but the problem is nothing is focused upon to really be very well developed. This though is all the more reason to give Branagh just credit in his role, for actually developing a character within the mess of one he is actually is given. He does manage to bring life to Olivier's struggle with the whole production of the film. He realizes the frustrations of Olivier's well as it slowly increases in each scene, and that part of his response almost is to find anyway to deter the problems of  his co-star.

Branagh's Olivier is going through every sort of emotion in each scene, while still having to jump into acting character from time to time as well. Branagh actually is convincing in portraying the constant downpour of emotions that Olivier must deal with, and even though the script offers little help Branagh manages to move from each emotion with a great deal of clarity and realism. In fact in his final scene Branagh really is terrific as he shows exactly what Olivier's learned from the experience in a fairly poignant moment, where he feels the most truly Olivier.

This performance is not perfect as the script, and the feat of being Olivier makes that quite difficult. It turned out to me though quite an enjoyable one, as Branagh managed to bring what he could to life despite the limitations and challenges of the part. Also I will admit freely I enjoyed seeing an Olivier depiction, and my ability to spot a few subtle moments in the script, even if anachronistic. As Olivier in the film quotes the Entertainer, the line about dead behind theses eyes, before he apparently even read the play. Although Branagh rendition of that line is good it is of course, it is not the absolute astonishing moment as it is in Olivier's performance in The Entertainer. That really sums up this performance for me Branagh managed to be good in the part of Olivier, but never able to truly become the acting greatness of Olivier.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2011: Albert Brooks in Drive

Albert Brooks should have received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Bernie Rose in Drive. (Well since it might be a bit before I get a chance to see Branagh, I am reviewing him here anyway)

Drive is a great thriller about an unnamed stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who also moonlights as a getaway driver for criminals which inadvertently causes him serious problems.

Albert Brooks really should have gone down with the likes of Robert Montgomery for portraying the most different of character between his first and second nomination, since his great performance as Aaron Altman in Broadcast News has basically nothing in common with his performance here. Bernie and Aaron basically have nothing in common other than the fact that it shows off that Albert Brooks is an incredible actor if given the chance to be. From beginning to end Brooks gives a completely uncompromising performance as Bernie Rose that proves just what he is capable of.

Albert Brooks makes the absolute most out of Bernie Rose who is a mobster who is not exactly on the top of the heap, but still he does not answer to anyone. He has his specific place, and specific spot in the crime world that he is relatively happy in. Brooks is terrific from his first moment on screen as he establishes Bernie. In his earlier scenes he does not seem to be an entirely unreasonable man, there is always the sense that you definitely do not want to tick him off, but there is a certain degree of a strange sort of friendliness.

Brooks has a perfect matter of fact quality in Bernie that he uses effectively throughout. Brooks shows that is almost is that Bernie reached this place in his life by cutting through the crap and always saying things are exactly how sees them. There is a dominance Brooks has that suggests exactly where Bernie came from, and how he became exactly the way he is now. Brooks is excellent though because he never shows Bernie as a bad man exactly rather a man firstly, who does bad things only when he is forced to.

When Bernie's violent side finally appears Brooks is terrifying aided greatly by the fact that he didn't overplay Rose's negative side early on. Brooks makes Bernie moments of violence especially disconcerting and intense because of the way he brings it out. What I love about his two killing scene is how he actually shows a great deal of who Bernie is when he does this. Brooks does not simple kill them as a completely dissociative reaction that he has no emotional attachment to.

Brooks shows that Rose kills because of business entirely, but it is a very personal thing when he does it. The first person he kills he clearly has not respect for in the least, and does basically consider it pretty much taking out the trash, yet Brooks still shows Bernie disgusted to so almost blaming the his cause for disgust on the man he is killing. Brooks creates a fascinating killer who doesn't like to do it, but will do it when he needs to even though he doesn't mind blaming the victim for why he must do it.

The second person he kills though Brooks again shows a very different side of Rose, although it still reflects the idea that Rose only does it when needed and takes no joy in it. The second person he kills though is different because he actually likes the man, and really never had any desire to murder the man. It is of course a brutal violent moment, but Brooks inserts a degree of humanity in the scene. During the killing and afterwards he actually makes it sad necessity for Bernie that he most certainly feels very regretful and guilty of. The killing itself even Brooks portrays it as Bernie trying to kill a man in the nicest way he knows how.

Brooks is absolutely brilliant in his ability to suggest Bernie's small humane side while still staying absolutely imposing as well. Brooks is amazing in his final threatening speech to the Driver. It actually is very easy to overact a scene like this, or simply seem just nonthreatening as well, but Brooks is outstanding. Albert Brooks doesn't overplay the scene but lays it out on the line in the scene in a realistic and fierce manner. It is an incredible performance that turns what could have been a forgettable part, into a powerful memorable villain.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2011: Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Max von Sydow received his second Oscar nomination for portraying The Renter in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close about a boy Oskar trying to find the purpose of a key his father had after his father died in the September 11 attacks maybe could have been okay if it were not the way the lead character is written, directed, and portrayed. Thomas Horn gives an obnoxious inconsistent characterization that pretty much sinks the film. He just gives an awful performance that does not make you care about this kid or his journey in the least in fact you wish something bad would happen to him he is that intolerable. Now some have defended this performance saying his character is suppose to have aspergers, and that is why he is insufferable.

First of all Thomas Horn seems to have confused aspergers with HAMbergers (Yes I know that pun was worthy of Fozzie Bear). Secondly just because is suppose to be annoying doesn't mean that makes the character a good character, or any less intolerable to spend the film with. Thirdly there are performances that can make likable characters even if they are suppose to be insufferable, Albert Brooks in Broadcast News for example (See I didn't mention his film this year), but Thomas Horn is just an awful far too self aware actor to accomplish something like that.

Now I should probably get off Horn as this review is about Max von Sydow who is the mystery renter who rents a room from Oskar's grandmother, but Horn comes into play with Sydow's performance, not since Tom Cruise annoyed Paul Newman in The Color of Money, has a Oscar nominated performance had to deal with such a cloying obnoxious one. Max von Sydow deserves all the credit he can get though for putting up with this lesser performer, and actually managing to come out on top despite his lackluster co-star.

As the mysterious renter Max von Sydow never speaks a single word, and simply refuses to speak. He rather chooses to communicate with a note pad and a yes and a no that is written upon his hands. Sydow performance than relies completely in the aged actor's face, which Sydow certainly makes the most of. Sydow effectively creates a mysterious portrait of the man, carefully letting us in on some knowledge of his past. Sydow is able to show a rather sad man who clearly has had a troubling past solely through physical reactions.

Sydow who comes into the film about an hour in actually acts as a breath of fresh air, and the film which was becoming intolerable in Horn's hands at least finally has something good in it. Sydow actually brings emotional weight to his role, therefore bringing a little bit of emotional weight to the journey at the center of the film. Sydow interactions throughout his journey actually are quite moving realizing the joy and sadness in his performance, something the film on a whole is unable to achieve almost anywhere besides with Sydow's performance.

The film mostly made me cringe mofd than anything else, but Sydow's few moments in the film actually made something for to enjoy. He created a warm presence very much needed for the film, and he has some very strong moments even though they are shared with Horn. I think particularly in one scene where Horn's character plays the messages left by his father to the renter. The scene is very poorly directed, and played by Horn since it seems like the kid is trying to torture the renter frankly, but Sydow stays above the problems of the scene giving honestly devastating reaction to what he hears.

I liked the entirety of what Sydow did in the film actually creating an emotionally convincing performance of this sad man. Although it is true he has to deal with a frankly terrible co-star Sydow overcomes those problems with his honestly moving performance. He makes the Renter likable as well as as one of the few character's whose point isn't bashed over your head. Sydow instead uses subtly to actually make the renter into the right sort of enigma who is also quite endearing in the end. Although considering Sydow's filmography this is not his greatest performance it is a good one even if the film is not.

Best Supporting Actor 2011: Christopher Plummer in Beginners

Christopher Plummer won his Oscar from his second Oscar nomination for portraying Hal Fields in Beginners.

Beginners tells of Oliver (Ewan McGregor) who deals with his current relationship with woman, and remembering his deceased mother, and father the latter who came out as gay after the death of his wife.

Christopher Plummer has been described often as overdue surrounding his awards potential for this Oscar year, although I personally would call that a bit of an overstatement. He was only nominated once before for his unremarkable work in The Last Station, and really how many performances has he been snubbed for. He certainly was not for the Sound of Music, in fact besides that his earlier work is rarely ever mentioned. His only performance anyone really considers to be is his fine work in the Insider, but even that performance does not come up with the greatest performances not nominated for an Oscar.

This is not to say Plummer isn't a fine character actor, and a great narrator, but he is not Peter O'Toole when it comes to being overdue. In the end though the Oscar should go to the actual best performance, so how is he actually in Beginners. Plummer certainly has an especially Oscar baiting role here portraying a man who comes out as gay as well as you see through the course of the film dying from cancer, as well as it is very much against Plummer's usual type. This as well does not mean this is a good or bad performance, but it most certainly is a very different type of role for Plummer.

Plummer's has the initial challenge in this role for portraying a gay man which can easily be trouble for any actor, since overacting can certainly be the first option taken. Plummer actually handles his character very well in this respect since he doesn't devolve into obvious mannerisms. That is not to say he does not use mannerisms, but Plummer actually shows that his character of Hal actually tries to sort of create these mannerisms to join in with the gay community. Plummer is actually pretty good in showing a subtle awkwardness Hal has in trying to become part of this group.

Plummer certainly establishes his character well, but I must say the way the film is setup hinders the strength of his performance. It never simply tell his story, but rather the way McGregor's character reacts to him. Plummer does not even get his part of the film all at once but rather drifts in and out of that tale that really mutes emotional impact of the performance. We only are elements of the man, and the full portrait is not establishes as well as it really could have been.

Due to the way Hal is used in the film much of Plummer's performance is unfortunately a repetitive. We see him with his sort of mannerisms as well as a genuine joy that isn't as moving as it could be due the film's editing. We also see plenty of moments of him being tired, and sickly looking, these expressions and reactions are also repeated throughout the film. They are well enough portrayed by Plummer once again, but done in a fashion that never becomes much more than that.

Christopher Plummer performance also rides on two key relationships in the film. One with Hal's boyfriend played rather oddly by Goran Visnjic. This relationship never quite works because of bizarre nature of Visnjic's performance. Plummer tries to make something out of it, but again it never amounts to much. His other pivotal relationship stands with Ewan McGregor's as his son. This is also limited by the film more than it should be, but their few pivotal moments together are Plummer's standout moments in his performance.

Plummer portrays these moments well as he does not make it into an overly warm performance as although they have a good enough relationship, they are not that close. The two actors create just the right amount of distance between each other to make a believable relationship that also establishes their history, since McGregor's Oliver was suppose to have been closer to his mother than his father. Plummer is quite strong though in a single scene where he tells about Hal's the difficult relationship to his wife. It is a moving moment where Plummer shows the pain from Hal's situation very well, and he almost creates this into a great moment, if even this moment seems a little cut short.

This stands as a good performance surely, but not quite a great one. It lacks enough moments where Plummer really stands out with a truly emotionally powerful moment. He has a few strong moments, but overall the effect of his performance is less than it should have been. Plummer is fine throughout of course, but the performance is used in a repetitive fashion that makes even his stronger moments seem less than could have been. Plummer is of course never bad, and does realize Hal's character quite well, but there is not the drive that really brings us right into his character's life.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2011: Nick Nolte in Warrior

Nick Nolte received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Paddy Conlon in Warrior.

Warrior details a winner take all mixed martial art tournament whose two main combatants are estranged brothers (Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton) fighting for their own difficult reasons.

Nolte is not an actor I can ever finding myself really liking. His performances usually can be functional but for me he is always lacking that extra quality that really brings you into his character making his performance into something special. Nick Nolte here portrays the formally drunken father of the two brothers, who has a strained relationship with both of them. I suppose his role sort of has Oscar all written over it, as well as seems to have Nolte all written over it as seems certainly cast correctly for the former drunk Paddy Conlon.

Nick Nolte certainly fits the haggard history of his character with his aged face, and his raspy voice that you can almost barely hear at times. Nolte though shows mostly a man who trying to be a reformed man, and is trying to get back what he lost in his bad years. This certainly could have been an extremely flashy role, but for the most part Nolte actually downplays his performance for the most part. He shows mostly his pain rather quietly, but in way to show that Paddy has in a way accepted what he has done.

A great deal of Paddy's character though is shown in his attempts to reconnect with his sons, which he never fully does throughout the course of the film. In scenes with both sons he is always at a distance in their scenes together. Nolte is good in these scenes but I am hard pressed to say he is amazing. He puts a great deal of effort into his performance, but as always with his performances his emotions are right but his performance never becomes as heartbreaking as it should be frankly.

Nolte simply never quite has the emotional impact one would want from a performance like this even in what should be the moving scenes such as when he wants to see his grand children. In this scene Nolte is good enough in that he realistic in his depiction of the scene, but it just never has the extra quality that would have made the scene something truly special. This is really how I felt about the performance as a whole, not bad, even good , but never special.

The film also throws in an Oscar scene unfortunately where Paddy gets drunk again after a troubling scene with his son. Firstly Nolte really did not show Paddy to be that upset after his talk with his son to cause him to have such a break down, secondly the break down seemed unneeded really in the end, and almost seemed to be there to let Nolte show off. Again Nolte isn't bad in this scene though, but it rather just satisfactory enough, but not more than that.

Nolte tries to be the heart of the film, and does give a great deal of effort in his attempt at this, but in the end it he just never comes alive to the extent I would want from a performance like this. It is an entirely descent performance from Nolte, he never has a bad scene or even really bad moment. His performance never really had an especially memorable scene or moment either though.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2011: Jonah Hill in Moneyball

Jonah Hill received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Peter Brand in Moneyball.

Jonah Hill's nomination as the meek numbers cruncher who works for Brad Pitt's General Manger Billy Beane in Moneyball is one of those confusing sort of nominations. It could be looked upon as simply a bonus nomination for the film which was nominated for Best Picture as well as Hill sort of tagged along with Brad Pitt's lead nomination. The only problem is somehow he was recognized multiple places and ended being nominated over the far superior performance by Albert Brooks in Drive. All I can say is simply what do they see in this performance that is so special? Well all I can say is there isn't anything special about it.

This is not to say he is bad though, but it is not a particularly remarkable performance. He plays the number cruncher as one would expect the number cruncher he has rather unimpressive presence all throughout and Pitt dominates every scene they are in together. Hill basically keeps Peter Brand as the fairly unassuming individual of the two who tells Beane what he needs to know, but never really does more than that. Hill remains functional most certainly, and is as Brand should be what that is is not anything notable. He only ever offers ammunition to the overall plot, and to Pitt, but never really takes a shot himself.

I suppose most of the performance really is what his chemistry with Pitt is but really their relationship is not really two sided in the film. As I said Pitt dominates every scene, Hill just does as he needs to for Brand nothing more. His scenes with Pitt I never found to be the standout in the scene, and if they were effective scenes that was really all do to Pitt. Hill performance simply is pretty much repetition of Peter Brand's simple manner of telling what he knows and nothing more. Really though I think Peter Brand actually could have been more under different hands than Hill's, as he could have stood out more if he actually took a scene from the film's leading actor but Hill never does.

Hill does have two scenes where he is suppose could have been used to show a different side other than the solely number crunching side of Brand. One he makes a deal over the phone for Beane and has a reaction when he succeeds. I have to say Hill again is very standard with this moment, and reacts as one would expect but he really does not show any particularly special joy, or passion in this scene to make it of note. His other scene is his final scene where he basically tries to cheer up Beane, but again Hill does not do anything special here. It might have been a little more meaningful if he showed Brand to be more supportive, of a character throughout, or perhaps showed growth of some really passion for Beane's cause, but the simple truth is Hill never does this.

In the end I really did not feel like Hill's performance ever gave Peter Brand much of a purpose other than to just set up the plot of the film. I suppose Peter Brand could have been a far more humorous and frankly more interesting if he had been portrayed by a stronger performer, but as is it just a standard standard part as portrayed by Hill. I still won't say that Hill is awful really, but this is not a strong performance by any means in anyway. I am just amazed really that anyone could find this performance to be something substantial, and something that just has to be awarded over far superior from far better actors, particularly one funnier comedian who also is a far more talented actor. Also I should note I promise not to bring up Brooks' snub in any more of my reviews of the other performances.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2011

And the Nominees Are:

Max Von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Kenneth Branagh in My Week With Marilyn

Christopher Plummer in Beginners

Jonah Hill in Moneyball

Nick Nolte in Warrior

Friday, 10 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1970: Results

5. Richard S. Catellano in Lovers and Other Strangers- Castellano is good even though his role is needlessly gimmicky at first, and rarely focused upon as a whole.
4. John Marley in Love Story- Marley has few scenes but he makes the most of everyone. It is a moving and warm performance that fulfills its purpose.
3. Chief Dan George in Little Big Man- Chief Dan George gives an appropriately wise, humorous, and dignified performance as the Chief who is all three of those things. He does not do much more than that though.
2. John Mills in Ryan's Daughter- John Mills creates a unique character that also has an emotional pull without seeming unnatural as he easily could have been.
1. Gene Hackman in I Never Sang For My Father- Good Prediction Dinasztie, and RatedRStar. Gene Hackman gives an incredible performance from beginning to end. He completely realizes the terrible struggle, and relationship his character has with his father. It is truly memorable and wonderful work from a great actor.
Deserving Performances:
Karl Malden in Patton
Alec Guinness in Scrooge
Trevor Howard in Ryan's Daughter

Best Supporting Actor 1970: John Mills in Ryan's Daughter

John Mills won his Oscar from his only nomination for portraying Michael in Ryan's Daughter.

Ryan's Daughter is an underrated film about a small Isolated Irish village that details an affair between a British Soldier and one of the local women Rosy.

Ryan's Daughter contains more than one supporting performance of note from the town's domineering Priest played by Trevor Howard, to the titular Ryan,  the father of Rosy portrayed by Leo McLern, and Rosy's faithful and kind husband portrayed by Robert Mitchum. The only man who ended up being nominated though should not have been too much of a surprise I suppose since John Mills has the most Oscary role playing a mentally handicapped man who is considered to be the "village idiot".

This type of role is popular with the Oscars although I can't say they are particular popular with me. Although there are few I do like, many times they can be examples of needless overacting, or frankly just bad acting. The simply truth about these performances in many ways though are you either like them or you don't, there is not really that much middle ground when it comes to these performances, because the actors go out on such a limb, and the actor's whole performance depends just on that limb.

Well I must admit I do like Mills's performance here I can easily see why many wouldn't but I must say what he does in the role works for me. Although perhaps this can be partially attributed to the fact that I have not seen a great deal of Mills besides his Oscar winning role here therefore perhaps that helps him, for me anyways, slip completely into the character of Michael. I have to admit I really do not see him acting the role, like the way many of these performances are he simply is Michael.

I think his mannerisms do work from his almost constant grin, and his look of interest or inquiry. His limp and the way he walks never felt forced, but within Mills's creation of Michael that feels  perfectly natural within his creation. Something that is usually stated although untrue is that Mills' performance is entirely mute, well in fact Michael does make some grunts actually from time to time. These grunts work well with the rest of the performance and again actually do realize Michael very well.

This performance is not only about character creation though as Michael has one very important aspect of his performance which is that he is clearly in love with Rosy even though she finds him revolting. Mills is again good in just giving an earnest performance in this regard showing that Michael loves in a very simple, but a very genuine fashion. He succeeds in making Michael a bit heartbreaking actually because he shows that Michael simply loves her unconditionally, and for her to be simply to be disgusted by him is a tragedy.

It is true that Mills' whole character could be seen as a bit of a contrivance in that even though looked upon as the "village idiot" he is far more descent than the rest of the villagers making the others the real idiots. I actually think Mills makes this work because he keeps his characterization throughout he never makes any concessions, he as well still brings an emotional impact with his performance as well just through his small little scenes showing Michael's love of Rosy. This performance might not be for everyone but for me it absolutely succeeds.

Best Supporting Actor 1970: Gene Hackman in I Never Sang for My Father

Gene Hackman received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Gene Garrison in I Never Sang for My Father.

Gene Hackman received three of his Oscar nominations for portraying a lawman of some sort, his first for portraying an outlaw, but this is the only time he received it for portraying a relatively average man. A Man who must deal with the relationship of his Father (Melvyn Douglas) after the death of his mother. Although Douglas was nominated in the lead category, Hackman is just as much the lead of the film, even more so in many ways. In fact one could argue that if they reversed categories than than would have been in more appropriate categories than the actual way they were both nominated, but they both really belonged in the lead category.

Gene Hackman shows a very different side here, but shows that he can excel as well with a relatively meeker character than his rather domineering characters found in most of his other nominations. This is a very quiet performance by Hackman for much of the film. A great deal of his performance actually relies on short reactionary moments, which Hackman uses to their fullest potential from beginning to end. Much of his performance depends on these reactions as they establish Gene's relationship with his mother and especially his father.

Hackman is simply excellent early on as Gene interacts with both his parents. Through every early moment they are on screen their is already a clear family dynamic and history developed. Hackman is great every moment though as Gene listens to his father's various orders, and deals with his overall controlling nature Hackman always perfectly portrays an underlying pain, and hatred frankly that Gene is constantly hiding toward his father. Hackman makes though so this is something Gene has long had to do, even if it clear troubles him every time his father makes a rather discouraging or controlling remark to him.

Hackman always has an emotional impact in his performance, and his early scenes with Gene's mother and father really bring us into his difficult situation with his mother and father. Hackman almost shows a tiring situation with Gene's situation with his father, as he reacts with a knowing but expected difficultly when dealing with his father. Both Douglas and Hackman do very well in establishing this difficult relationship where both do not seem exactly cold to each other, or even overly distant but the two actors create just the right emotional disconnection through the father's stubbornness and possessiveness.

Hackman is also equally strong in the few early scenes Gene has with his mother. Their relationship together is the basically the polar opposite of Gene's relationship with his father. There is a clear warmth and love in their scenes together they look at each other talk to one another with ease, unlike the way it is between the son and the father. Hackman here shows a clear and obvious love toward his mother, and an openness, there is not that restraint as he shows in his scenes with Douglas. What is terrific about Hackman's performance though is he does not show that Gene simply hates his father but loves his mother rather, but rather the difference is in his ability to be open to both of them.

Soon in the film his mother dies, and both the son and father must deal with the grief involved with it. Hackman realizes Gene own grief showing a clear loss, but even more importantly he shows a transition within Gene 's relationship with his father. There is still the lack of connection, but Hackman shows that Gene first changes from hiding to hatred to instead begins hiding a bit of a disbelief by the way his father shows his grief only really by talking about himself and his own troubles rather than talking about his wife.

After the death of the mother the end of the film focuses almost entirely on Gene and his father's relationship together, and Gene decision to leave his father completely by moving away, or staying with him. Hackman in these later scenes loses that hidden sort of distaste for his father, as Hackman shows that really he has lost it after the death of his mother. Hackman with ease instead shows it as Gene actually searching instead for some way to finally connect with Father, something that the death of his mother has forced him to confront the issue.

Hackman is terrific as he shows the multitude of emotions that Gene must go threw when thinking of his decision to stay with his father or not. Hackman is great here because he never lets just one facet of the relationship stay as what is pressing Gene the most. Hackman realistically conveys all of what is pressing him at once. There is not a single emotion that overrides the rest in Hackman's portrayal. He is able to show that he clearly loves his father, but that still he never forgets the troubles he has with his father as well. Hackman realizes Gene's troubles perfectly, creating the difficult conflict within himself brilliantly.

Hackman is great throughout but what makes his performance is his final scene with Melvyn Douglas which is simply incredible. The first half of the scene they finally really come together as father and son, and both actors show a genuine warmth to one another. It is a poignant moment where the two come together not only around their pleasant memories, but even their regrets as well. Hackman has a great reaction where he shows a regreat in Gene that suggest that he does also feel partially responsible for his strained relationship with his father. The two actors though simply create a beautiful scene together.

The scene though quickly, but effectively changes tone when the conflict between them comes about. This scenes is especially strong because of their warmth together suddenly changes so harshly. Hackman again is absolutely amazing because he comes back at Douglas with the same intensity and Gene finally completely breaks out and stands up to his father. Hackman makes the scene heartbreaking though because with the frustration and the intense fighting Hackman manages to show the sadness in the fact that through all of this Gene only merely wanted to be able to love his father. The film leaves a haunted quality at the end of the film because of this last scene, which was brought upon by Hackman's truly great performance.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1970: Richard S. Castellano in Lovers and Other Strangers

Richard S. Castellano received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Frank Vecchio in Lovers and Other Strangers.

Lovers and Other Strangers is a rather forgotten relationship based comedy of sorts.

Richard S. Castellano received his only nomination for reprising his stage role, but to most people I would say that he is best known for portraying Clemenza in the Godfather which he was mostly quite good in. Here though he reprises his stage role in a film that is quite stagy. He portrays an older couple in the film who is Italian and Catholic. His wife is portrayed by Bea Arthur and their whole shtick in the film is that they are always pestering everyone else about the importance of marriage yet they constantly are bickering or describing problems within their and other people's marriages.

Their first scene together is set up in a fashion where he says something and than she says something both supporting their main theme but at the same time they are always contradicting each other at the same time. Their first scenes actually feel a bit off as they are trying to have a comedic dynamic but the direction, the writing, and even the performances do not find the right tone to really make these work. Instead they more of just feel like a scene wants to be performed in colorful comedic fashion, more than one that truly is comedic and colorful. They are not really bad, but the film clearly wanted for the two to do something really special that doesn't work.

Later on in the film they separate their conversions stopping the gimmick from contiguity which is most certainly a good thing for Castellano's performance which picks up a bit in the last part of the film when Frank talks to his son about why he should stay married. The dialogue itself really remains almost the same shtick, but now without the gimmick of the two talking together Castellano is able to bring out a greater degree of realism, even if his performance still is always at least partially comedic.

Castellano has basically one long talk to his son that is constantly broken up by the rest of the stories near the end of the film. Castellano carries on the same course he set previously in the film. All I can really say is he is fine really, just fine as he constantly repeats the same thing over and over again, in basically the same fashion over and over again, which makes sense since he is suppose to be a bit redundant there is only two brief moments that really let him shine in any sort of fashion although they are still only seen within the mix of the repetition.

In a few brief moments Castellano also suggests a sadder quality in his character that he went after the wrong woman in the end and shows some small signs of regret that are well handled by Castellano as he goes on his string of repetition. Aside from those brief moments though this is a repetitive character that Castellano really can only do so much with, but to his credit he does basically all he can with it. Although it really is not saying much of anything he and Arthur are the best part of the film. Really in the end this is a good performance, just not all that memorable of one though.

Best Supporting Actor 1970: Chief Dan George in Little Big Man

Chief Dan George received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Chief Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man.

Little Big Man portrays Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) a white man raised by Natives who goes through many misadventures in the old west during the Indian Wars.

Native American Chief Dan George portrays Chief Old Lodge Skins another Native American Chief in Little Big Man who is humorous, dignified, and wise. An interesting thing about changing attitudes is it can cause one cliche to go away such as the brutal evil Native American chief, and they then can be simply be replaced by another which is the wise humorous chief. Well I cannot actually say how many not evil chiefs appeared before Dan George's portrayal, there were some before like Jeff Chandler in Broken Arrow, but later on the friendly wise funny chief is a very common character now.

The point is Chief Dan George portrays the part in a fashion I expected to be as the Chief character, and Dan George being a Chief himself it certainly fits. His early scenes he is simply just somewhat humorous charming to a degree, and of course dignified. He is rather quiet, but he conveys the wisdom of his character well, but never builds his character too much into something otherworldly having the occasional comical reaction that are not overplayed but effective in giving a lighter quality to the part.

Later in the film though another aspect required is to give dramatic speeches about the evils of the White man, which actually are the most heavy handed moments in the film that are the most obvious moments in the film really just in the way they are written. Now do not get me wrong in my statement by problem is in that the film was already get the point across visually quite well without having to hammer it in with speeches. To his credit though Chief Dan George is actually very strong in his delivery of his speeches bringing a passion to them that although does not rid them of their heavy handed nature are far more effective due to his performance.

Eventually in the film he seems to become philosophical soul searcher of sorts after he becomes blind. Dan George does not change that much with this part of his performance he more of simply becomes less lively in his performance, and a little more sad and wily instead. Chief Dan George doesn't make Old Lodge Skins dreary as he still shows a charming spirit in his performance, but he certainly shows a lesser degree of heart in Old Lodge Skins from what has happened to him.

I want to make this clear that I do believe this to be a good performance, but I can't see the great performance some seem to. In the end it is mostly just a standard  kindly chief performance and much of the time there isn't anything particularly special about his performance. It is always good though, but I just not see any moment where he really sets his Native American Chief from other similar characters. He is one of the best of the type, but he still feels more like a type than a completely unique character.