Thursday, 26 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 2011: Michael Shannon in Take Shelter

Michael Shannon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Curtis LaForche in Take Shelter.

Take Shelter is an effective film about a man who sees strange visions which may be indicating some sort of terrible future, or they may be caused by a developing paranoid schizophrenia.

Shannon did not receive an Oscar nomination here as the film, and his performance never gained enough traction for the Oscar nomination. He very well could have been close though. Shannon did receive an Oscar nomination earlier for his supporting role in Revolutionary Road which was quite over the top needlessly so depiction of a mentally disturbed man. I did not think he was terrible in that role as I do believe he showed some quality in the performance that suggested that he could have been given a far greater performance if he merely toned down the performance slightly.

Shannon seriously dials back his performance this time as a man with a possible mental problem, or a man who is having prophetic visions. What they are technically does not matter to Shannon's performance as Curtis is deeply disturbed by what he sees either way. Shannon portrays the disturbance in a low key fashion for a great while during the film. He shows the constant internal uncertainty within Curtis as he sees one horrible event after another with very little idea of what they mean. Shannon effectively brings to life all of the pain Curtis faces over his visions and how they bring out the worst fears in him.

The focus on the film is how the visions persist and how they slowly worsen his own mental state as well as his relationship with his wife (Jessica Chastain) and the local community as well. Shannon is quite effective as he builds the disturbance that grows slowly in Curtis as his visions become more frequent as well as more disturbing. At first Shannon portrays a struggle within Curtis to fight against the feelings of anxiety, and he tries to express some sort of sense of normalcy on his face although, Shannon shows it is very very difficult for him to do so for long.

In his more strained moments Shannon is quite good as he has fierce short moments of intensity where he tries to quickly cut off his paranoia, but as well Shannon keeps the same intensity in the scenes where his wife questions his behavior. Shannon again presents as a rather brutal anger to keep his wife from finding out more about what is affecting him. Shannon does not portray this as a cruelty, even if it is blunt, from Curtis but rather his way of trying to keep his wife from really finding out the truth of what really is going on with his behavior exactly.

He cannot shake the visions though, and his condition only becomes worse when he makes the connection that his mother became a schizophrenic at the same age he is now. Shannon importantly keeps us with him through this battle going on in his mind though as he does always manage to humanize Curtis. Shannon always manages to bring to life the idea that really part of what haunts Curtis is his own care for his family. Shannon always makes it very clear that he has a genuine love for his family, and great deal of his fear comes from that he is either alienating them do to his condition or being concerned for them due to the disaster in his visions.

Shannon is excellent in the slow decay of Curtis's mental state. Shannon is careful in this as he always shows that Curtis is trying his very best to not fall into what he believes to be a mental condition, and Shannon properly stresses the resistance Curtis has to the visions. The visions never do leave though, and Shannon falls deeply into believing everything that he sees in the vision. Shannon is able to reflect the conflicting emotions that result from falling into his state of urgency he is forced to feel do to what Curtis sees. Shannon never makes it so Curtis is ever one way, but always stresses the unbalances nature the visions have caused in him. Shannon is convincing by showing an incredible drive in Curtis in his scenes where he thinks he is being prophetic, but as well is just as believable when he shows Curtis's intense sadness and pain when he believes himself to be falling apart.

Shannon effectively leads to his final scenes which include his more Oscary scene, and his actual best scenes. His more oscary scene where he confronts the town people and espouses loudly about his apocalyptic visions. This is certain more like his Revolutionary Road performance, but really he earns it here. Shannon manages to make it work because throughout the film he has been building the anxiety growing up until this point, and it is earned that Curtis would finally burst out as he does. Shannon turns it into a strong scene because he shows really the full extent to what the visions have been doing to him.

 His very best moments though come when he and his family going until the shelter during the storm. Shannon once again dials it down but he frankly more intense here than he was in the scene with the town people. Shannon is chilling here because he realizes his paranoia so quietly. He is truly off putting here as shows just how intense his fears have become. Michael Shannon though is equally strong as he portrays Curtis finally facing his fears. Shannon is absolutely heartbreaking as he shows the terror in his eyes as he finally confronts what is outside the shelter. Shannon gives an excellent performance here and as he is able to really allow the ending occur through his ability to maneuver through the complex state of his character. Shannon here shows exactly what his earlier Oscar nominated performance could have been with this powerful work.


Lezlie said...

I'm sooo happy, I thought you would hate him. I loved his performance, and I was rooting for him to get a nom but sadly that didn't happen, although he won a few critics' prizes, but the Academy apparently didn't give a **** about him. However, at least, the actual nominess gave great performances as well, except Clooney. My nominees would have been : Demián Bichir, Jean Dujardin, Michael Fassbender, Gary Oldman and Michael Shannon, with probably Oldman winning. Ah, sorry for the lenghty comment :P

Lezlie said...

Ah, sorry for posting again, but I have two questions.
When will you start the alternate best supporting actor reviews? You'll do all the leads first and after that, or mixed?
The other one, could you please make a year list for the alternate performances like you already have for the real nominees? It would be easier to just click on links for later rereads.

Michael Patison said...

I second lezlie's request for an alternate year list for convenience.

Louis Morgan said...

Lezlie: Post as long as you want, all you want. Anyway I think I might mix it up between the two categories. Also I will have to get on making the lists.

dinasztie said...

Great review! I think you're going to pick him. :)

It would have been nice to see you review Leo's J. Edgar so that we can see (I presume) a very negative review as well. :)

Anonymous said...

He was brilliant and also far better than Fassbender!! I hope he wins!!! And I also hope you review his performance in "Bug" when you do the alternates of 2006. And if you ever think about doing 2007, please do Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl.

dshultz said...

Ahhhhhhhhhhrrryggghhhh!!!!! I thought you would hate him too! Louis, one of the more pleasant surprises I have had on your blog ruins my first prediction!!! Oh well, I suppose I should revel in the fact that one of my favorite bloggers was truly impressed by one of my favorite performances of 2011, but still!

But honestly, I am so psyched thy you liked him.

RatedRStar said...

Michael Shannon always has one of them emo eyed sad looks on their face whenever they do anything lol

Michael Patison said...

I guess I liked him a little less thanks everybody else. I guess that may have been a result of the fact that, while I liked the film and thought that Shannon and Chastain were great, I thought the film lagged toward the middle, especially in the psychiatrist meetings, though I understand that those scenes were necessary for the complete picture of the film in establishing his issue with actual prophet vs. just a schizophrenic.

Michael Patison said...

I meant to say than everybody else.