Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1966: Mako in The Sand Pebbles

Mako received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Po-han in The Sand Pebbles.

It is strange that Mako was the one who received the nomination for this film and not Richard Attenborough who gives a very memorable performance as a U.S. Navy mate who begins a tragic relationship with a native woman in China, and even won the golden globe for his performance. I suppose the academy just has never cared for Attenborough as an actor for some strange reason. Instead they chose to nominate Mako in his role as Po-han one of the Chinese who work in the engine room on the ship.

Po-han is just one of the Chinese who work on the ship until Steve McQueen's machinist Holman takes him under his wing. Mako is fine early on showing a sympathetic face to Holman. He just wants to help Holman unlike some of the other Chinese who like to do things their way. Most of his early scenes make of just small reactions of concern, and surprise while dealing with Holman. Mako is entirely realistic, but really he does not make too much of an impression either.

After Holman brings him under his wing Mako gets some more substantial scenes such as when Holman teaches him to run the ship's engine. Mako again is appropriately realistic, and is actually quite effective in showing Po-han's learning. He also has a low key charm in his performance that does make Po-han endearing in his own small way. This is still not incredible work by Mako but it is absolutely solid since it fulfills the role completely.

Mako continues his portrayal in the same fashion as Po-han boxes one of the racist men on the ship. He is again good, properly realistic, and we can easily sympathize with him through Mako's likable portrayal. Again it is not a whole lot but it also is all that the film asks of him. Po-han is not a tremendous role, but Mako really is perfect in the role.

 He does his very best to be a character not just a stereotype as he easily could have been, and we most certainly feel for him all too well in his final scene. It is a good supporting performance not the best in the film, and certainly not the most memorable. After all Mako gets cut off just as his character is really becoming interesting, nevertheless Mako does absolutely fulfill his role, and deserves credit for doing so.

4 comments:

rcocean said...

I thought he was pretty good in a very small role, but this is just another "diversity" AA.

I though Richard Crenna should have been nominated. Pretty strong performance for someone who played Luke McCoy

Louis Morgan said...

I agree Crenna was good and deserved a nomination more than Mako.

Groggy Dundee said...

I disagree with you here. I think Po-han is in a lot of ways the film's emotional core. He's the first man to hit it off with Jake and the only real success at bridging the gap between East and West. The scene where Jake teaches him how to run the engine is wonderful. I agree they kill him off too early (he died later in the novel if memory serves) but that doesn't detract from the impression Mako makes.

Richard Crenna was also excellent. However, I found Attenborough's character rather annoying and his subplot added little to the film.

Michael McCarthy said...

In my opinion, Mako's greatest role was Uncle Iroh in Avatar :)