Thursday, 31 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1951: Kevin McCarthy in Death of a Salesman

Kevin McCarthy received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman.

Kevin McCarthy portrays the son of the titular salesman Willy Loman (Fredric March). I will admit there is plenty against McCarthy here. The film is directed is an excessively dreary fashion, and is lead by a preposterous performance by March, and McCarthy himself shares many scenes with Mildred Dunnock as Biff's mother who gives an excessively overbearing performance. It also does not help that the structure of the picture certainly does not give McCarthy a great deal of focus to really showing the transition of  just exactly how Biff came into his current state. There is the initial cause that is shown, but the film never of course leaves his character out of somehow connected with his father.

Although McCarthy is surrounded by some excessively theatrical acting that wants to get there character's point across like they are trying to reach the back row of a theater rather than someone seeing every inch of their face right there on the film, McCarthy actually does stand apart from most of his co-stars by giving a far more realistic and a far less overblown of a performance. McCarthy manages to keep his performance dialed back, and does attempt to draw a believable character out of the material. This is in itself a challenge because the film always seems to be making the character's simply representative symbolic types, rather than a stand alone person, luckily McCarthy does actually try to be a real person as Biff.

Kevin McCarthy is good in the flashbacks scenes as the ideal son of the period. In these scenes McCarthy effectively has a carefree quality in his performance that shows that Biff is not having any sort of deep thinking about his father or his own future at this point in his life. McCarthy is believable as the happy son who gets along well with his father, and he makes the relationship properly ideal, even though March still seems off even in these scenes. Nevertheless McCarthy properly sets up the fall of his character after Biff loses all of the pride he had in regard to his father after he catches his father with a woman. McCarthy actually is great in this scene quietly bringing to life just how shattered Biff is over losing his respect he had.

McCarthy in that scene shows so well Biff's pain over his loss of his connection with his father that McCarthy effectively explains how Biff came to the point where he is during the scenes of the film that take place during the present. In most of his present scenes McCarthy does one of two things talk about Biff's own inability to make something of himself or fight with his father over his father's narrow minded views that have driven him mad. McCarthy actually again handles both of these types of scenes well, and does his very best to turn Biff's struggles to life despite being around March and Dunnock's theatrics.

McCarthy manages to bring to life the confused state Biff well. Biff is unable to keep a job one way or another, and has no idea what he wants to do with himself. McCarthy portrays this confusion well he never shows exactly what makes Biff the way he is, but rather there is always a lack of confidence he shows within Biff that defies him. McCarthy is equally effective in his scenes where he confronts Willy. McCarthy again is strong here because he shows that there is indeed love in Biff for his father, but rather his problems with his father almost come entirely from knowing his father's rigid philosophy leads to nothing worth while. Even in his more frustrated scenes McCarthy properly shows that there is no hatred for his father, but only disappointment and pain over what his father is. Kevin McCarthy is quite effective in the role, but I will say this effectiveness is quite muted by the mediocrity of the film on a whole. McCarthy has no equal here, and his scenes do not have the power they possibly could have had if the film had simply been better. Still McCarthy makes the most out of his part given the situation and deserves to recognized for doing so.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1951: Karl Malden in A Streetcar Named Desire

Karl Malden won his Oscar from his first nomination for portraying Harold "Mitch" Mitchum in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Karl Malden portrays one of Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando)'s Poker buddies who attempts to court Stanley seriously troubled sister in-law Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). Mitch is different than Stanley and his friends in that he dresses and acts much more properly and lives with his sick mother whom he takes care of. Malden is perfect in the role being an excellent foil against Marlon Brando's Stanley. Malden portrays Mitch as calmly, and as reserved just as Brando portrays Stanley as loud, and outrageous. Malden makes Mitch almost the opposite of Brando in his quiet portrayal, but he is always careful to show that Mitch still is from the same exact world as the other men as well.

Mitch certainly is proper, and dresses in fine clothing, and tries to treat women in a gentlemanly fashion as well. Malden though carefully portrays the idea of how much of a true gentleman Mitch is. Malden is effective because he does leave it just enough of a mystery of Mitch. Yes it does seem Mitch genuinely does want to try to be a better sort of man than his friends, but there is always a undercurrent that puts just the right degree of doubt on this as well. There is just the right indication in Malden performance to suggest that part of this might be a bit of a put on caused by his mother's influence. Malden though perfectly makes it so you can't call Mitch a true gentleman, nor just putting on a facade he is something in between.

The most important part of his character though is Mitch's relationship with Blanche DuBois. Malden of course needs to stand along with Vivien Leigh's towering performance, and he keeps up with her every step of the way. Malden though not only stays with Leigh he also avoid being just a supporting man to her. While Leigh has some of her biggest scenes in Malden's presence, Malden never lets himself or Mitch become overshadowed. Even in some of her most dramatic moments Malden still has a prescne in these scenes. He makes Mitch his own man, who never becomes simply just the possible suitor of Blanche DuBois but rather is in his own right an interesting character.

Malden has an interesting and unique chemistry with Leigh that works well in the film. Malden shows that Mitch is honestly quite taken with Blanche, but he also shows that he is almost out of his element when it comes to relating to the woman. Malden shows that Mitch is always trying to be the proper gentleman with her, as much of one as he possibly can be, but Malden always has a shade in his performance reflecting Mitch's inability to truly understand the woman. Malden does not portray it as if Mitch is stupid, but rather Mitch just in reality is simply not able to fully comprehend the past of Blanche, even though Malden shows that Mitch struggles hard to do so.

Karl Malden is excellent in his later scene where after Mitch had discovered the truth behind Blanche, and confronts her over the truth. Malden although is not as outwardly cruel as Brando, there is a certainly almost more painful cruelty employed by Malden in this scene. Malden shows that Mitch is not trying to purposefully destructive toward Blanche, but rather it is almost a gut reaction from Mitch. Malden has that Mitch still does not fully understand, and does not know how really to deal with it so he takes it out on Blanche. Malden is excellent here because he not only brings to life his blunt attack on Blanche, but that it all comes from his own pain and distress from his loss.

Malden does not have a false moment during the film. It is an excellent portrait of this man, and even though Mitch never is the exact focus of any scene Malden nevertheless realizes a complex characterization. There is not a wasted moment in his performance. Mitch frankly could have been little more than just part of the background, but Malden never lets himself to be forgotten. In just the smallest glances, or reactions he says so much. His small little look over the mention of his mother is perfectly amazing in that single expression shows that Mitch in fact hates his mother. Moments like that perpetuate through his performance, and creates a powerful depiction that does far more than simply help Vivien Leigh's performance. Malden makes his work stand alone as well as truly great work from a great actor.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1951: Peter Ustinov in Quo Vadis

Peter Ustinov received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Roman Emperor Nero in Quo Vadis.

Peter Ustinov portrays the mad Emperor Nero, and this is not a moment in his performance where he tries to underplay the role for a moment. This approach certainly makes sense for the deranged Nero, but also because it is best to avoid the blandness of much of the rest of the film. Ustinov actually seems like he is from an entirely different movie than the rest of Quo Vadis, which is a good thing since it seems like Ustinov is from a much better movie. No one else in the film is on the same wavelength here as Peter Ustinov who is out on his own limb for the entire film.

Ustinov plays up just how absurd of a ruler Nero is the entire film, he is always just one big man child who wants his ways and his whims, and wants everyone to appreciate how great he is. Ustinov is very entertaining in the role, always sitting in some off kilter fashion, always making broad gestures and making very distinct facial expressions. It is one big broad portrait of a complete lunatic, that really works well. He performance could easily be characterized as insane, and it is. This style absolutely works for Nero, and even though insanity can be played in a subtle fashion that probably would not have been the right approach for Nero.

The reason that this broad portrayal is perfect for Nero is because Nero is not only insane, but he is the ruler of a whole country who is completely off his rocker. Ustinov does not hesitate to show that not only is this many crazy by nature but his power he has from his position only serves to amplify it all the more greatly. After all Nero is the man who killed his own mother, and even sets the whole city of Rome on fire. He sets his own capital on fire for nothing more than just to fulfill his own pipe dream of a greater palace. Ustinov brings to life the absolutely deranged man who could have done these almost unbelievable actions.

Ustinov is an excellent villain here, and does absolutely control every scene he is in, in fact even when he is not on screen his whole character is the driving force of the film. Ustinov is terrific here because he both has fun with his portrayal of Nero, while still does keep him threatening as a villain as well. Ustinov shows that Nero is not overly smart in fact in many he ways he is quite a bumbler, and is actually quite amusing in showing just how much of a spoiled brat he is. He certainly plays these as "big" but never overplays them these too much and does bring the humor out of the scenes whether he is complaining about his people, or singing one of his terrible songs.

Ustinov though also manages to be an appropriately chilling villain, and he is particularly amazing though because he always shows it as one and the same as in his more humorous moments. Ustinov effectively shows that although Nero can be entertaining in his behavior he can be equally a dangerous one because the exact same tendencies can bring death. In his scenes where he watches people being brutally murdered, or orders the death of many it is all in the same exact way. Ustinov shows that Nero is so deranged and has been so in that way his whole life he really cannot understand even that he is being immoral.

Ustinov gives a great performance here, and is without question the best part of the film. I frankly think it would have been a far far better film if it had only been solely about Nero since really Ustinov's performance is the only performance that is at all interesting. I would say that in fact Ustinov almost makes the film worth watching, but he is not quite in this three hour film enough to make the film enjoyable. Nevertheless when ever he is on screen he instantly makes those scenes worth watching. This is certainly not a subtle turn for Ustinov but it is an incredibly effective performance that made me wish the film actually had been about his character.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1951: Leo Genn in Quo Vadis

Leo Genn received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Petronius in Quo Vadis.

Quo Vadis is an overly long biblical epic about the persecution of Christians in Rome.

Leo Genn portrays one of the advisers of the depraved Roman Emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov). Although he always stays by Nero he is very critical of him, but rather than outright show it he only indicates it through small critiques and suggestion he gives the Emperor. Here is a performance that I almost felt like I should go easy on as if the character just is not that complicated, but really this is in all actuality a wasted opportunity. To say how this is a wasted opportunity I suppose I should say how Genn plays the part, and than say how someone else could have portrayed the part.

Leo Genn plays the part as quite a dull supporting turn as a man who is just basically part of the background most of the time. In his scenes when he is advising Nero there is not a moment where you taken attention away from Ustinov and give it to him. There really is not a passion in his performance, and he most just seems to be going through the motions. The same is true in his scenes with Robert Taylor's Roman soldier who is having a clash of conscience. Genn again just plays in a far too standard of a fashion he says his lines he needs to say in his intellectual, but boring intellectual sort of way, and that is it.

His character is suppose to have a transition of sorts but even this is all one scene, and Genn keeps it quite underwhelming. When he comes to his realization that he must do something he merely, comes to realization there is not a struggle that Genn brings to life. His character eventually commits suicide in a scene that is so nonchalant it almost feels like a scene from a black comedy, but not quite so I still can't even give it credit for that. There certainly is no emotions that really come from this scene even though not just one but two people kill themselves slowly. Genn just is plainly dull in the scene which is quite amazing.

I could put this all up that this is just a simple character or something like that, but no I think this could have been a great character. Reportedly Claude Rains was considered for this part, and I must say I would have loved to see him in this role. Really the constantly criticizing Petronius could have been a wonderful sardonic scene stealing presence. If the actor had really fun in the role in just showing how much Petronius is the smartest man in the room he perhaps could have tried to be as interesting as Nero in their scenes together. He could have sly comedic touch that really could have brought life to the part.

In many ways this character is very similar to Charles Laughton's character in Spartacus who is another character carefully working around a crazed dictator, and how Laughton was in that film shows exactly how another actor like Claude Rains could have been in this film. As it is Genn depiction of Pertronius adds nothing to the film there is not a single moment in his performance that is even interesting. He does nothing with the role past just read his lines in a technically acceptable, but also quite boring fashion. His whole performance is just a dull portrayal which is a real shame since the role could have been a true scene stealer in better hands.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1951

And the Nominees Were:

Gig Young in Come Fill the Cup 

Kevin McCarthy in Death of a Salesman

Karl Malden in A Streetcar Named Desire 

Peter Ustinov in Quo Vadis

Leo Genn in Quo Vadis

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1983: Results

5. John Lithgow in Terms of Endearment- Lithgow although hindered by the fact he has few scenes and the film doesn't really care about him gives a good performance showing the simple love expressed by his character well.
4. Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment- This is probably a bit of a surprise, but I did actually prefer the two above. Nicholson is inconsistent and some ineffective in his performance at first relying far too much on his trade marks that never meld with his character. He though becomes much better later on capturing the joyous energy of his boisterous character well, as well as creating an interesting relationship with Shirley MacLaine.
3. Charles Durning in To Be or Not Be- Durning only needs to do one thing here and that is for him to be funny. He is funny in all of his scenes and his scenes with co-star Christopher Lloyd are the highlights of the film for me.
2. Rip Torn in Cross Creek- Rip Torn's succeeds in every way Gregory Peck failed to in the role of the real person who inspired Peck's character in the Yearling. Torn creates a unique vivid portrait of his backwoods character and he especially brings great degree of emotional weight to his final scenes.
1. Sam Shepard in The Right Stuff- Shepard win this year giving a great performance in The Right Stuff. Shepard absolutely becomes test pilot Chuck Yeager flawlessly bringing to life the uninhibited confidence and strength of the man. He speaks few words but he holds every moment he appears on the screen.
Deserving Performances:
Darren McGavin in A Christmas Story
Ed Harris in The Right Stuff

Best Supporting Actor 1983: Charles Durning in To Be Or Not To Be

Charles Durning received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Colonel Erhardt in To Be Or Not To Be.

To Be Or Not To Be is the Mel Brooks remake of the comedy about a group of actors who try to foil a Nazi plot in Warsaw Poland.

Charles Durning I must say must have been a popular, or very well liked guy during 82 and 83, since both times he was nominated for films in which he was the sole nomination. Also both films were unsuccessful in some way Whorehouse critically, this film commercially. Also just like his first nomination his role is quite small and only in a few scenes. It would seem there had to be some other reason he was nominated these two times, like people were not sure who to put in a blank spot and said I like Charles Durning I'll vote for him. I suppose why not as Durning is always a competent character actor, and at least this time he was nominated for the right performance unlike in 1982.

Durning portrays one of the many bumbling Nazis in To Be Or Not To Be who are fooled by the actors. I must say I enjoyed the three main Nazi villains who all are amusing in their own. Jose Ferrer was pretty good as a treacherous professor, and Christopher Lloyd has some very enjoyable scenes with Durning as an S.S. Captain and S.S. Colonel respectively. Lloyd being an absolutely no nonsense Captain following order and always claiming not knowing anything, whereas Durning is the more casual superior who is constantly blaming others for any problems or even sometimes even making a joke at Hitler's expense.

Durning is not particularly threatening, only Ferrer has any sort of menace as a villain, but that is really the point of his character. The Colonel is just suppose to be a comical character. Durning is enjoyable enough particularly in his exchanges with Christopher Lloyd with Durning being the more explosively comical one and Lloyd acting as the strange man. They both have a fun dynamic as the two act surprised at their failures with Lloyd being taken aback, and Durning always yelling at Lloyd to always try to remove any blame from himself.

Durning is also enjoyable when he is being constantly surprised by the various impersonations the actors do to fool him. Although most of what he does is make a surprised look, or plead not to have his Hitler jokes revealed Durning still manages not to be repetitive and I certainly did continually get a chuckle out of his antics. Also I will give Durning credit he really does not go over the top with his performance, and is probably funnier because of it. He is always a Nazi officer who is bumbler acting this way not just an actor doing crazy things as characters very often become.

I must say this is an entertaining performance from Charles Durning even though it is quite simple, but hey he stays funny in all of his scenes even if he only has a few of them. I would say though that he is not the best part of the film, combined with Christopher Lloyd he is the best part of the film, and alone he is just one of the most enjoyable films. I probably should say this is not the greatest comedy ever but I laughed enough to say it was still a good one and to his credit most of the laughs in the film came from Durning. This is not the most complex of performances but Durning certainly puts his all into being funny, and he is, so mission accomplished.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1983: Sam Shepard in The Right Stuff

Sam Shepard received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.

The Right Stuff tells of test pilots who later become astronauts due to the space race. 

The Right Stuff is an ensemble film but at the very beginning of the film Sam Shepard is the lead of the film as test pilot Chuck Yeager who is the first pilot to break the sound barrier. Sam Shepard takes quite a low key approach to his performance which certainly makes sense for Yeager who is a man of a very few words. Yeager although is in many ways an unassuming man, he at the same time is a man of great presence. Shepard does hold the screen as Yeager showing always that Yeager although quiet is an unmistakably strong willed man. Shepard makes Yeager a man who says more in one word than many would in a speech.

Yeager is always sure of himself, and ready for anything. Shepard makes Yeager's reaction to being challenged by the idea of breaking the sound barrier barely something that even phases him. Shepard is excellent here because he never makes Yeager seem like some sort of pompous man at all, even though he is shrugging off doing something that seemed impossible as almost nothing. Shepard brings a certain somewhat almost otherworldly quality to Yeager. He is a man who is simply completely true to himself he understands his own abilities, and knows there is no reason to ever sell himself short.

Shepard brings to life Yeager's complete self efficacy flawlessly. In short Shepard never lies in his performance. All of Yeager's complete self assurance, and confidence never seems forced for a moment. Shepard is the man in total control of his situation, and without a hint of hesitation or fear for situation despite the very likely chance of dying faced by all test pilots. When Yeager decides to proceed with his considered by some impossible task without a second thought despite having broken two of his ribs in a horse riding and needing a broom handle to properly secure that his jet's door is closed, we do not give it a second thought because brings to life this uninhibited confidence and drive perfectly.

After achieving his mission Yeager no longer is the main character as the film focuses on the first astronauts while Yeager rebukes the whole idea of being one believing the pilot is not an important facet of the whole thing. Yeager does not completely disappear as it shows the stories of the astronauts rather it comes back to him every so often to show how the attention has gone away from the original pilots, as well as Yeager's own changes in view toward the concept of being an astronaut. These scenes are short and of course with few spoken words, but again Shepard is flawless in his conveying of how Yeager sees the astronauts as more than spam in a can.

This is a good performance by Sam Shepard and he creates a vivid portrait of this remarkable man. Shepard manages to do this despite the fact he really does not have a single scene in which delves deep into his character. This is a performance that is constantly on the move, and is a performance that is very much in the moment. Shepard though makes the most of each and every one of these moments. Shepard always keeps us interested in Yeager even in just those short later scenes. He does not have a single wasted second in his performance, and makes Chuck Yeager the exact sort of man the title of the film refers to.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1983: Rip Torn in Cross Creek

Rip Torn received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Marsh Turner in Cross Creek.

Cross Creek tells the true story Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Mary Steenburgen) attempting to find inspiration to right by moving to a backwoods Florida town.

Rip Torn portrays one of the residents of the town Marsh Turner, and something interesting about Torn's nomination is that Torn is portraying a character who was the inspiration for an earlier Oscar nominated character. The character portrayed by Gregory Peck in The Yearling who was nominated in the lead role. It almost two actors playing the same character though since they were really both are supporting characters in their films, Peck's lead position most likely came from merely his leading man status. Both portray a farming father in the backwoods of Florida, and both are forced to separate their child from their pet Doe who after growing up threatens the family's livelihood.

In every way, and I mean every way Torn's performance is better than Gregory Peck's. Where Peck downright struggled to find an accent to fits his character's very specific dialect. Torn is actually quite natural though with accent that fits his character well and shows us where he is from. A southern style accent really is one of the most easily distracting accents, especially when done poorly. Peck for example tried to avoid kind of, but instead just sounded unnatural reciting the dialect of the region. Torn handles it especially well that only succeeds in amplifying his character, and certainly making his dialect seem like just part of the man as a whole.

A great deal of his performance is just creating this somewhat unusual man with his very distinct lifestyle. Torn is effective in doing this in a rather simple fashion by not trying to ever make his character overly colorful. Torn plays it straight and just wants to show Marsh as a the man he is. Torn effectively conveys the whole history of not only this man but also the state of the people in Cross Creek. In his manner, the way he talks the way he walks he shows the experience of this man's hard life that is very specific to his land, he shows the whole sometimes very difficult life of this man in his performance.

Marsh Tuner in the film is a man who is very much rough around the edges. He is uncouth, and not always careful particularly with his pigs. He never quite seems to be fully able to express himself perfectly, or understand the manners others go by. Nevertheless he has a distinct moral code, and is a gentleman in heart. Torn again brings this to life well. He subtly shows that inside his rather crude exterior is a good man, it is not in a way in which he actively tries to be good. Torn rather that there is an inherit morality in the man, that when he is forced to he can't help but express it. He presents it as just the natural reaction of Marsh no matter the situation.

The pivotal moments of his performance do come when he kills his daughter doe. The Yearling biggest problem was the lack of weight brought by Peck in these scenes where the death of his son only friend seemed to barely phase him. Torn on the other hand brings the true weight of the scene through his performance. Torn rather brings to life the incredible pain and sorrow that Marsh feels for doing this to his daughter, whom he loves, even though it is what he has to do. His final scenes are heartbreaking as he brings us into Marsh's drunken despair he feels for what he has done.

This is a good performance by Rip Torn that realizes his unique character effectively. It is also interesting to see how Rip Torn succeeds with his character in the ways in which Gregory Peck failed in his portrayal of almost the same one. I would say it is not an incredible performance as it is held back a little just by the time the film devotes to him, at times his character seems a little too much like an after thought, and his interactions with the Steenburgen's character frankly could have been more fleshed out sense I think the film could have used more of his character. Still this is a good performance that fulfills his role well.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1983: Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment

Jack Nicholson won his second Oscar from his seventh nomination for portraying Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment.

Jack Nicholson is an actor who I think highly of, as he had one of the greatest strings of performances of any actor during the 70's. Nicholson though is an actor whose qualities did downturn a bit from the 80's on though. This mostly seemed to result from Nicholson almost being too aware that he is a great actor that he wasn't nearly as great. Don't get me wrong Nicholson still gave great performances such as with the three performances in which I give him the win Ironweed, Reds, and About Schmidt. The thing is all three of those performances have something in common all three of them are very non Nicholson style performances.

Now it is true that I loved all of Nicholson's nominated work in the seventies all four of those performances are oustanding. It is also true that some of those performances particularly One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Chinatown are completely filled with Nicholson's unique style. The only thing was in the seventies Nicholson used his unique styles always within in characterizations creating remarkable portraits of the men he portrayed. Later on Nicholson started doing his mannerism as a separation thing that he just has to do, and he stopped using them as effectively because of this reason. In fact this is a problem I have with many of his later performance, particularly his work in The Departed because that was just one long over the top Nicholson mannerism fest.

Finally to get to the point is that his use of his mannerisms always seem to be Nicholson performing them rather than actually being part of the character in this performance. This is especially true early in his performance as he almost wants to make an impact in his short scenes by doing his trademark shtick. It just never seems completely true to his character, in fact it is actually a bit distracting. Luckily though Nicholson after his somewhat shaky early scenes does settle down, and actually delves into becoming his character. I don't want to be mistaken though Nicholson is not bad in these scenes, just more of a little too self indulgent and obvious for his own good.

Later on in the film when his character of the womanizing, thrill seeking former astronaut starts a relationship with Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) Nicholson certainly comes into the role quickly. He certainly is appropriately boisterous and energetic in his role. His character just wants to enjoy life to its fullest, as almost compensate for the fact that he will never have his biggest thrill again which was to go into outer space. Nicholson has a great joy of performance here that works perfectly for his character who only wants to enjoy himself. Nicholson's smile is constantly on display here, and it certainly fits for his sometimes devious character.

Although Nicholson somewhat became typecast as the love interest for a reserved as well as strong willed woman as seen in As Good As It Gets, and Something's Gotta Give his dynamic with Shirley MacLaine certainly does work here, and it shows why Nicholson probably found him self cast in films with rather similar situations. Nicholson always shows the womanizing Garrett early on trying every trick he knows to try to get his way with Aurora, but is rather flabbergasted by the response he gets. Nicholson plays this well finding a great deal of humor in the Garrett's attempts, as well as his reactions to Aurora's sometimes quite stern responses.

Even though their relationship at first is mostly a series of comedic exchanges caused by their personalities a love relationship eventually does develop. This is not a long precise one, but the actors portray it convincingly. Nicholson carefully but effectively shows the deepening of the relationship almost by Garrett letting loose just a bit, and showing Garrett turns off the part of him that wants just instant gratification. It is a subtle transition but very well handled by Nicholson.

Later on in the film though Garrett becomes hesitant to pursue the relationship due the commitment he is feeling toward something the  freewheeling astronaut wants to avoid. Nicholson is good in these later scenes showing Garrett a very much confused man who wants to be there for Aurora to some extent yet at the same time does not want to become too involved either. It is certainly a strange combination of emotion, but Nicholson brings to life wonderfully. He shows him as a man who is always contemplating his situation at almost all times, although Nicholson even in the most serious scenes keeps just the right glint of Garrett's more mischievous side.

All things considered this is a good performance from Nicholson. Creating an entertaining presence for the film and an effective foil for MacLaine's Aurora. I will say that I do not put it as a great performance, or as one of Nicholson's very best. It never achieves the greatness of his earlier work, and part of the reason I would say is his overuse of his trademark mannerisms early in the film, when he could have shown as more of Garrett at that point. Instead too many of his early scenes feel like Nicholson just doing his thing rather than a full fledged character. Nevertheless he does find his character as the film progresses that I would still say this is an enjoyable somewhat standard performance by a great actor.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1983: John Lithgow in Terms of Endearment

John Lithgow received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Sam Burns in Terms of Endearment.

Terms of Endearment is about the complex relationship between the strong willed Aurora Greenway (Shirley Maclaine) and her daughter Emma (Debra Winger).

Lithgow's nomination here might be a bit of a head scratch due to his very limited screen time, and the face that perhaps he would nominated over Jeff Daniels. I would say though he probably was held I think by the success of the film, possibly some residual love for his first nomination, and the fact that Jeff Daniels maybe suffered from category confusion, even though he is indeed supporting, and I would say Daniels probably was not favored since he plays a character that is truly despicable yet he has not style in being so.

John Lithgow portrays a small town banker who eventually becomes the lover of Emma largely due to her troubled relationship with her adulterer of a husband Flap (Jeff Daniels). Even though it is a small role Lithgow is actually quite good in it, as the simple man Sam, who has a good heart. Lithgow's performance is fitting as he has a really quiet charm in the role as the descent Sam who wants to try to help out Emma. Lithgow shows that really the idea of having an affair with her is not the first thing in Sam's mind, he genuinely does want to try to be a good man first.

Lithgow has a low key chemistry with Debra Winger that works quite well. It is not that these two are finding the loves of their lives, but rather both are finding someone to bring that some happiness instead. Lithgow is very likable in the role even though his character is an adulterer. Lithgow makes it work though because he has a certain hesitation in his performance that appropriately establishes that Sam has not take the issue like, as well as the fact that Lithgow only ever portrays that Sam honestly has fallen in love with Emma.

Lithgow is good in all of his scenes bringing both heart and humor to his performance. His character's stay in the film is incredibly short, and even his longest scene I would say still is short. I wish Lithgow had  been given more time actually, because I liked him in all of his scenes. I especially wish he had been given a more fulfilling final scene than the one he has in the film, the scene is so brief before watching the film again I had entirely forgotten about the scene. This is a good performance by Lithgow, but unfortunately it is limited by the fact the film really is not at all interested in his character.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1983

And the Nominees Were:

Sam Shepard in The Right Stuff

John Lithgow in Terms of Endearment

Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment

Charles Durning in To Be or Not To Be

Rip Torn in Cross Creek

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1963: Results

5. Nick Adams in Twilight of Honor- Adams is effective enough at being pathetic and confused in the trial scenes, but they don't come together all that well with his scenes of being a potentially violent loner.
4. John Huston in The Cardinal- Even though his part is barely anything Huston does everything he can with and more given some weight to a picture, as well as stealing all of the scenes he is in.
3. Hugh Griffith in Tom Jones- Griffith in fact might have been drunk during much of his performance but nevertheless he gives a entertaining and very enjoyable performance that only adds to his film.
2. Bobby Darin in Captain Newman, M.D.- Darin's performance is indeed pure Oscar bait, and his big Oscar scene is far too long. This does not take away the fact that he does give an moving portrayal of a traumatized soldier nevertheless.
1. Melvyn Douglas in Hud- In a year that turned out to be stronger than I actually expected it to be, Douglas still stands tall above his fellow nominees. Douglas gives a poignant and powerful performance that absolutely creates a heartbreaking portrait of a dying breed of man.
Deserving Performances:
Brandon deWilde in Hud
Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love

Best Supporting Actor 1963: Nick Adams in Twilight of Honor

Nick Adams received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Ben Brown in Twilight of Honor.

Twilight of Honor is about a young defense attorney (Richard Chamberlain) defending a man accused of murdering a man considered to be a great man.

Twilight of Honor is a not so cheap rip off of Anatomy of a Murder. It is about the defense of a murderer, that really is not trying to prove the man innocent but rather trying merely to show that the victim was not all that much of a victim instead. The only problem is the film is no Anatomy of a Murder. The court rooms do not have the same showmanship and power. The story does not have the same interesting degree of moral ambiguity as that earlier film did due to the fact this film shows the earlier events unlike Anatomy of A Murder.

Most important though is Chamberlain is no James Stewart as an inexperienced defense attorney, James Gregory is no George C. Scott as the prosecutor, Joey Heatherton is no Lee Remick as the the not particularly trustworthy wife of the accused, Claude Rains is not Arthur O'Con... oh wait actually Rains is quite good, though underused, in this as the older mentor with an ailment, but even though he was indeed nominated for an Oscar for his performance Nick Adams is also no Ben Gazzara as the accused.

It is interesting that many people were gunning for that Oscar this year as Bobby Darin was supposedly quite upset about losing, and Adams supposedly also spent quite a bit of money on a campaign to win as well. I think both probably should have seen Hud, and Adams could have saved his money. Adams portrays the accused murderer rather simply, maybe a little too simply for the part, where is Ben Gazzara in the similar role had a certain complexity in the role in which you never quite knew was going on in the mind of his character.

Adams actually for the most part in the trial scenes just attempts to show that his character is one confused man unable to understand the fallout surrounding the crime he is accused of, and unable to deal with his own wife's unfaithfulness, and the town's want for his death. He is pretty much just confused and pathetic here as Ben Brown, which actually does fit the part. He does allow us to sympathize him within his difficult his situation, and he as well does bring to life his inability to understand how he has come to his situation.

Adams shows a very very different man though in his scenes before he became accused of murder with his own life on the line. Adams plays his part very differently as a strange loner of sorts, James Deanish in a way actually. Although a more violent loner. He still is many ways an unassuming character at times, but he tries to bring a more threatening quality to his performance here that just does not meld as well with the rest of his performance during the trial.

I suppose his character is in a vastly different situation than before, but the transition change is not well established, and the difference in his performance may be just a little too great. It is not made entirely convincing that the potinetially violent loner is the same as the very confused and pathetic man accused of murder. I will say his trial scenes are effective enough that this is not a bad performance, the scenes set before the trial though could have great, but Adams never fulfills their potential.

Best Supporting Actor 1963: Hugh Griffith in Tom Jones

Hugh Griffith received his second and final Oscar nomination for portraying Squire Western in Tom Jones.

Hugh Griffith portrays Squire Western the father of Tom Jones's (Albert Finney) love interest Sophie Western (Susannah York). Although he is a Squire is a very uncouth man. He stands as a jovial fellow who likes Tom Jones, but refuses Jones as a proper husband for Sophie due to the societal problems in the match up constantly told to the squire by his very very proper sister (Edith Evans). Griffith's whole point here is just to be funny as was his basically his point in his Oscar winning turn in Ben-Hur. The difference here is Griffith appears throughout with his comedic antics, unlike Ben-Hur where he just appeared in a group of scenes almost entirely together to put some humor in that film.

It makes sense though for Griffith to perpetuate throughout this film though as this is wholly a comedy unlike Ben-Hur where Griffith stood as the only comic relief in the film. Due to the fact that he is just one of the acts in an entire comedy show he has less of an impact than he had in Ben-Hur, but he still is an enjoyable part of the film which is Tom Jones. Tom Jones certainly is an interesting sort of film that is a comedy, but Griffith and every other actor never plays it like they are in a comedy, except maybe the few fourth wall breaks. Griffith the entire time of his routine that comes in and out of the film but it is always in the character of Squire Western.

I suppose it should be noted that Griffith apparently was drunk during filming, best shown when he actually fell right off his horse after mounting it. Even though I would say his drunkenness to shine through his performance, but I would also say it works for Squire Western. He has a manic, uncontrollable energy that works for Squire Western who is suppose to be a bit of his rocker at all times. It is an enjoyable performance that doesn't have a boring moment, and does bring life to all of his scenes. His character is suppose to be a basically insane presence Griffith certainly is that presence.

Hugh Griffith best moments though come with Edith Evans. Griffith as the Squire is as uncouth as the Squire's sister is proper. The two have an enjoyable dynamic and both actors play off of each other extremely well. None of their scenes are wasted, and their scenes of chasing after Sophie are some of the most enjoyable moments in the film. Griffith stands as just an enjoyable part of an enjoyable film. I would not quite put his work up with his Ben-Hur work since I love the idea of Griffith playing the smartest man in the room, but there certainly is nothing wrong, in fact is very enjoyable, though with Griffith playing the drunkest man in the room instead.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1963: John Huston in The Cardinal

John Huston received his only acting Oscar nomination for portraying Cardinal Glennon in The Cardinal.

The Cardinal tells of the rise as well as the troubles of a catholic priest Stephen (Tom Tryon) through his many years in the church.

John Huston joins others directors Vittorio De Sica, John Cassavetes, Eric Von Stroheim, as also an actor nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Luckily unlike De Sica, and Stroheim he was nominated plenty of times for his writing and his directing, and properly won for both. Huston though received this nomination from his very first credited performance as an actor. Although it should be noted that Huston continued as an actor and certainly would have been very deserving of a nomination and even a win for his performance in Chinatown. Huston instead though was only nominated for this film.

This does not mean that Huston was undeserving of a nomination here, since seeing him here does make it a little surprising that Huston did not act sooner in his career. Huston's personality, and especially his voice just command a certain undeniable presence. Although I can't say it is particularly difficult to steal a scene from Tom Tryon, Huston still deserves credit for doing so. Huston absolutely does control every scene he is as the superior to Tryon's priest. Huston commands the screen with absolute sway which certainly works well for his character who is suppose to be a domineering man.

Huston does bring some life to the picture as the Cardinal in charge of Stephen. This is a time where I think I do need to give most of the credit to John Huston. There is not anything especially special about what he says to Tryon's character early on other than question some of his rebellious behavior, and accuse him of being overly ambitious. His character is a rather typical authority figure here, and his lines are pretty much the same. Huston though has a certain energy, and even a charm the livens up the scene greatly. Huston really handles the whole powerful Cardinal with ease, and even a certain joy that seems effortless.

He also has two more dramatic scenes one where he is attending to a sick priest played by Burgess Meredith, and another where he tries to convince Stephen to really think about whether or not he wants to continue to be a priest or not. Huston is very effective in both of these scene really bringing a weight to the scenes that Tryon just is not able to do. Huston though is not in the film nearly enough or given enough to do for this to be a great performance, which is unfortunate since he is the best part of the film. I wish it had been about him because Huston gives a strong effective performance he makes something out of a character that really could have been nothing.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1963: Melvyn Douglas in Hud

Melvyn Douglas won his first Oscar for portraying Homer Bannon in Hud.

Melvyn Douglas after portraying dashing and suave early in his career had a successful second coming, particularly in terms of Oscar success, in his portrayal of wise old men. Melvyn Douglas portrays Homer Bannon an old Fashioned cattle rancher faced with possibly losing his entire head of cattle to a disease. He is the grandfather of Lon (Brandon deWilde) and the father of Lon's Uncle Hud (Paul Newman). The conflict between Homer and Hud and how their influences affect Lon is the main theme of the film. Homer representing the old ways of honesty, against Hud who almost only cares about himself and his own instant gratification.

Douglas is simply terrific in the role and instantly embodies Homer seemingly without effort. Douglas simply is this aged rancher there is not a single doubt of this due to Douglas's performance. He never once let's us question this man, in his face, his way, Douglas shows us a long history of not only this man, but a history of a certain way of life. Douglas as Homer represents his old fashioned way, all while still being a man. He never just becomes a simple symbol he always makes Homer a real man, but still is able to be this embodiment of the old west nevertheless at the same time.

Douglas is incredible in the role the goodness of Homer, and his love of his land, his cattle and his moral way life is always made absolutely clear by Douglas. Even though Homer is a purely good character, Douglas never turns him into a simple man. This goodness that Douglas conveys that is within Homer is wonderfully portrayed by Douglas. It is simple part of Homer than cannot be swayed in any way, Douglas simply makes Homer the great old rancher he should be. Although a usually calm and collected man Douglas brings to life the way Homer feels everything around him brilliantly.

In every scene where Homer sees what seems that everything will be taken from him that he has spent his whole life working for, there is a quiet sadness that Douglas conveys. He never shows Homer to be a man who becomes depressed from a single challenge, but as his problems mount and the fate of his ranch become more and more obvious Douglas shows quietly the sheer weight of these problems as they lie in Homer. Douglas subtly conveys this pain in Homer than prevails through him, and Douglas shows that he is no so concerned over the fact he is losing his livelihood, but rather losing his way of life he has always held dear.

Douglas creates a heartbreaking portrait of this rancher because of how well he internalizes the entire loss of Homer. Douglas never for a moment overplays this but brings it to life flawlessly. His great moment comes in when he watches his whole life's work literally killed in front him. Douglas is face keeps within the man who is Homer and does not show some overblown agony. Douglas rather is far more effective by truly conveying this man's agony as a man like Homer who show it. Homer does not breakdown, but instead he quietly shows the horrible loss he feels through his world worn face in smallest but truly moving expression.

The most pivotal aspect of his performance though is probably his depiction of Homer's relationship with his son Hud. What is amazing about this is they don't exactly hate each other, after all they work with each other, and Hud times shows genuine concern for Homer. Douglas and Newman are incredible by making such a complex relationship between the two. Hud more often attacks the man and his principals rather loudly at times, but most of the time Homer stays silent as Hud stays loud. Douglas though is just as powerful as Newman in Homer's portrayal of his silence. He shows the experience Homer has with Hud, and Douglas always conveys the complete disappointment in his son.

Douglas is far more effectively throughout by almost staying silent in regards to Homer's feelings to Hud. He shows that this problem between the two has gone on long, and therefore his reactions to Hud always with a  great deal of knowing. When he finally does speak directly against Hud it is an exceedingly powerful moment that Douglas built to with the silence marvelously. Homer does not speak out against any of Hud's insults toward him but rather his attempts to influence and in a way corrupt Lon. Douglas is amazing as he shows Homer's convictions against Hud's ways, he shows that for Homer it is not just a personal fight between the two, but one of principals.

This is an absolutely great performance by Melvyn Douglas. He is Homer simply in this performance and creates an incredible, memorable, and heartbreaking portrait of this man. Douglas absolutely does make the film as I find he realizes his side of the old, perhaps even better than Newman realizes the side of new. It is a great portrayal by Douglas there is not a wasted moment in this performance. There is not a single reaction, expression or line that Douglas does not put his absolute most into. This is a flawless portrayal and one of the most deserving Oscar wins period.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1963: Bobby Darin in Captain Newman M.D.

Bobby Darin received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Corporal Jim Tompkins in Captain Newman, M.D.

Captain Newman M.D. tells various stories of a soldiers psychiatric ward head by Captain Newman (Gregory Peck).

Bobby Darin best known as a singer apparently tried to pull a Frank Sinatra by attempting to break into dramatic acting through a supporting turn in a film about the military. This film is ripe for Oscar baiting with several of the performances being very broad particularly by Eddie Albert, and by Bobby Darin. The only person who tries to downplay his character's mental instability is Robert Duvall. Darin though was nominated though and I have a feeling this was largely due to his name, and fame as a singer, as well as just how baiting this role was.

Darin has several scenes of Corporal Tompkins either when he is refusing to tell about his traumatic experience in the war or his big Oscar scene where he does tell his story during the war. Darin is full on ACTING in these scenes. He actually is not bad, and does have a great deal of conviction in the role. His big confession scene is especially indulgent to Darin who just acts up a storm. A big storm that does have a certain effectiveness, even if it is quite a scatter shot approach, he wants something to stick, and I can't say he fails in this regard.

His huge Oscar scene though really does go on for way way way too long. It just keeps going and going, and considering how Darin desperately wanted to win the Oscar, I would not be surprised if it was Darin who pushed for his scene to go long as long as it does. As if Darin just desperately wanted to prove he had acting chops, and just wanted that Oscar really really badly. Again Darin is actually fine in the scene but I think it would have been a far more effective and memorable scene if it had been shorter. As it is it becomes far too self indulgent, and forced by nature muting Darin's performance.

Another flaw though comes in the film itself which is too episodic. The three main cases just do not meld perfectly and the film could have used tighter editing. Darin whole character placement in the film is far from perfect making his transitions and transformations once again muted. When we do see Darin though he does his best to bring Topkins along his way. Firstly showing a man avoiding his problems, than conflicting over revealing his pain, showing his pain, than finally dealing with it. Darin does his best in all of these phases but the film does not bring it together well enough.

Darin does well throughout the film giving an effectively natural enough performance throughout. I won't say it ever becomes an amazing performance, but than again the weaknesses of the film perhaps prevented it from doing so. Darin does certainly not go for the underplaying route he leaves that to Robert Duvall, which is perfectly fine actually since he does succeeds in bringing some of the pain of this soldier to life. This is far from a perfect performance, and yes it is an early example of Oscar bait to the extreme, but I would still say this is a good performance.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1963

And The Nominees Were:

Bobby Darin Captain Newman, M.D.

John Huston in The Cardinal

Melvyn Douglas in Hud

Hugh Griffith in Tom Jones

Nick Adams in Twilight of Honor

Monday, 14 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2006: Results

5. Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls- Murphy throws a great deal of energy into his role, but for me I could never separate this from his earlier comedic performances.
4. Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond- Hounsou is only ever really loud or really quiet, which is acceptable for much of his performance, but when his limits are noticeable they are very noticeable.
3. Mark Wahlberg in The Departed- Wahlberg is enjoyable enough as the loud abrasive police officer, it is not a complex performance but it serves its purpose.
2. Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine- Arkin gives a strong performance that is both consistently humorous, but Arkin also effectively brings a great deal of his heart to his performance.
1. Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children- In a part that could have portrayed in an overly cinematic or stylized fashion, Haley always keeps his portrayal far more effective by playing it truthfully to his character.
Deserving Performances:
Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland
Michael Caine in Children of Men

Best Supporting Actor 2006: Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children

Jackie Earle Haley received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Ronald "Ronnie" James McGorvey.

Little Children is another film about the various stories of troubled suburbanites.

Jackie Earle Haley was originally a child actor in film like Breaking Away and Bad News Bears and its many sequels. He like so many child actors though soon disappeared after growing up, after appearing in less and less films of any sort of note. Haley though came back almost out of nowhere with  All the King's Men and then he fully made a come back by not only appearing in this role in a fairly prominent film, but also being nominated for an Academy award for his performance. Haley was nominated for, which actually is not a particularly popular Oscar character, portraying a man described as a child molester who served time for indecent exposure to a minor.

Ronnie is naturally ostracized by the community and constantly harassed by a former Police Officer, and the only person who offers him any sympathy is his mother. Jackie Earle Haley portrays this role, which very well could be portrayed in a numerous ways many which could be very over the top, for an entirely realistic fashion. Haley never for a moment tries to throw any sort of flash into his performance, like say Stanley Tucci did in the Lovely Bones. Haley instead tries to play the part as close to the bone as possible, much like in the same way Stuart Whitman portrayed a similar but also very different character in the Mark.

Haley never overplays or underplays any aspect of Ronnie in the film. He never tries to make him into an overly creepy character, even though Ronnie certainly guilty of acts deserving of such creepiness. He also does not ever try to make him into an overly sympathetic character even though he faces such harassment and only has a single person who cares for him. Haley does not try to make him either just a sympathetic or just a creepy man, instead he tries to show him as just a man with a serious dysfunction. Throughout the film, and every act of Ronnie's Haley only ever tries to show it as the natural actions of this man no matter what.

Ronnie actually is not used all that much in the film it takes him a great deal of time to appear in the film, and even after this he only has a few scenes of length that are devoted to his character. No matter what the scene is though Haley stays true to his portrayal of Ronnie. Whether it is one of his scenes that are to be more sympathetic with his mother, or one of his creepier scenes such as the end of his date. Haley always shows the same man either way. He always shows that whatever does this is just Ronnie as the complex man he is whether he is doing something horrible, or just being the son of a loving mother. Haley is consistently good in the role because he never tries to portray his character incorrectly to be more sympathetic or creepier. He never tries to make him a villain or a victim, and instead consistently is completely believable in the role and finds the truth of the troubled Ronnie. Haley is always believable in the role playing his role in the right fashion.