Friday, 31 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1984: Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas

Harry Dean Stanton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Travis Henderson in Paris, Texas.

Paris, Texas is an excellent film about a drifter who comes out of the desert to rediscover the life he left behind.

Harry Dean Stanton, the always reliable character actor, is certainly a recognizable face in films. He moves across smaller characters in a large variety of genres with an incredible ease, it is fascinating though to see Stanton given the chance to take on a lead role such as this. Stanton certainly does not have any hesitations in his performance, and he shows here that his always fine shorter performance given before this film can translate to a further reaching leading role.

At the beginning of the film, in fact for a little of twenty minutes Stanton does not say single word in his performance. In fact he seems to mostly just walking, literally trying to just drift from one place to another. Stanton though certainly is not underwhelming even though he may be silent here. Stanton with his very particular world weary face captivates our attention nevertheless. He of course does not say it, but Stanton effectively conveys the mystery of this man through the haunted expression that seems sewn into him.

There is a sadness Stanton portrays perfectly that this is a lost man here who just keeps walking unable or unwilling to talk to anyone, he just keeps moving over again. Eventually though his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) shows up and tries to bring him home where Walt and his wife have been raising Travis's son. Stanton is very subtle and very effective as he portrays Travis's slow coming back from what ever the place his mind is. It certainly is not fast, but Stanton makes the moment in which Travis finally talks a powerful one even if a very quiet because he slowly earned Travis's return to the world.

Travis is brought to Walt's home, and Stanton is incredible in showing the shyness that is prevailing through him. He never forgets the fact that Travis had been in that walking trance for years, and seemed hard bent on staying that way. Once Travis can speak it is not an instance moment into finding himself. Instead Stanton beautifully portrays his returning senses. It is a tender performance by Stanton overwhelming in emotion as he so quietly has Travis start to finally recognize his past, portraying so well that difficulty that Travis clearly has to forget whatever it was in the past that had caused him to wander the desert.

Stanton is wonderful as he portrays Travis's hesitations in trying to bond with his son. Stanton delivers the pain in Travis over his past that keeps him from a certain distance from his son, and his son a certain distance from him. Stanton always stays effective though because he always stays absolutely realistic in his method of portraying Travis. He portrays an honest struggle for Travis to be able to overcome all of the restraints he feels in regard to connecting with his son. He though at the same time is able to convey the overwhelming feeling of love in Travis that does push him to actually confront his fears and bring himself to coming closer to his son.

What works so well in Stanton portrayal again though is the effort he consistently shows that Travis must do to try to retake his old life back. There is one scene in particular where he purposefully goes about dressing the part of a successful father to try and attempt to bring himself closer to his son. Stanton is absolutely amazing in this scene as he genuinely portrays a strange sense of discovery as Travis either is learning or relearning just very normal things. He really brings to life this slow but successful struggle against the almost comatose of a past that Travis once had, and Stanton's deliberate portrayal of Travis's transformation to becoming a once again lively man is stunning.

When Travis finally does start reconnecting with his son Stanton again makes it far more powerful but not rushing through this portrayal. It is not a sudden change to Travis becoming just a confidant competent father, rather Stanton successfully brings about the idea of Travis trying to become a great father even though he really is not. Stanton though because of the moments where he does show Travis being hesitate in his relationship with his son, he is able to make their journey together as they slowly come closer to one another far more resonate than it would have been otherwise.

Stanton very best scenes though may come when he goes to find his wife Jane (Nastassja Kinski). His scenes where he goes and finds her in a strip club where the customers can see the stripper but the strippers cannot see the customers in individual booths. Stanton is incredible in his subtle but very moving reaction to first seeing her alluding to his long complex history with her in a single outstanding reaction. It is one of love surely, but again there a deep seeded lack of assurance Stanton portrays in Travis over this relationship. The reason for this is told in a single scene that is the best of this great film. Travis tells her over the phone in the booth the story of the two revealing what lead him to the desert to begin with.

This pivotal scene is flawlessly portrayed by Stanton as well as Kinski. The two are absolutely stunning together as Kinski reacts to Stanton slow deliberate telling of the story. Again Stanton keeps it very much downplayed, but his quiet but firm voice is perfect in the scene. He does not show only to be a sort of an apology to his wife, but also he is able to convey that at this moment Travis finally understands himself. In his finally firm delivery of the story he brings about Travis as a man that is not longer the lost soul he was at the beginning. This is a spectacular performance by Harry Dean Stanton. Often a quiet one, but always a powerful. It is a truly stunning characterization that proves Stanton's abilities go far beyond what he is usually allowed.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1984: Steve Martin in All of Me

Steve Martin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Roger Cobb in All of Me.

All of Me is an enjoyable comedy about a lawyer Roger Cobb who finds suddenly that he is sharing his body with the soul of a deceased heiress and former client Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin).

I decided to review Steve Martin in his role here not only because Martin is an actor who has been consistently ignored by the Academy but as well because Martin actually won both the NSFC and the NYFCC for Best Actor. This means that he was given the award over F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus, which he means he must obviously have given a better performance than Abraham, well obviously not, but it is interesting that both critics groups awarded Martin for his almost entirely comedic performance with only really rather slight dramatic moments that are still comedic to a degree.

Steve Martin at the beginning of the film is very much a straight man at the beginning of his film. He is the lawyer Roger Cobb who acts a facilitator for Edwina's will to a young woman Terry Hoskins (Victoria Tennant) which she is making believing that after he impending death she will transfer her soul into Terry's body. Martin gives a very enjoyable performance here early on pretty much giving what would be any normal person's reaction to hearing the plans of these people. Technically speaking setting up the parts of the plot could have moved slowly, but it moves quiet quickly though through Martin's hilarious reactions to the absurdity of the situation.

Martin though gets into less of a straight man part when accidentally Edwina's soul goes into Cobb's body rather than the intended and must share his body with her. Cobb controlling one side Edwina controlling the other side. Martin antics with this body problem does make up most of the film, and most of his performance so it is a good thing that Martin makes the most of the idea. An important reason perhaps that Martin's portrayal of this works so well is that he does still play it straight technically speaking. Yes he is being controlled at times by a woman, but Martin still does always portray Cobb's reactions very much those of a down to earth person in this ridiculous situation.

Martin effectively portrays Cobb's bizarre situation both physically and really psychologically. His strange walk of the combination of the feminine side and the masculine side is both believably, as believably as it can be anyway, played as well as extremely amusing as well. All of the mannerisms he does to portray the tendencies half of his body develops from Edwina's control are all very funny becuase of Martin's portrayal. He has a wonderful combination here though of the more flamboyant moments in portraying her control, as well as straighter moments of Roger's frustrations of being in the situation. Always whatever aspect of Roger's predicament Martin turns into comedic gold here.

I suppose though what might of helped Martin secure those to prodigious critic awards though is the fact that Martin does manage to make the more dramatic aspects of his character come to life as well. These are mostly small moments mainly in portraying Roger standing up for his beliefs as well as slowly coming to like Edwina after awhile and wanting to help. Martin manages to portray this aspect naturally with the constant laughs that go along with the rest of his performance. He does actually make genuinely warm relationship develop with Tomlin's character which is pretty amazing considering most of the time he talks to her he is talking to himself.

This is a very good comedic performance by Martin as he never once fails to bring life to this odd role. Frankly this could have been a performance that could have easily been way too over the top, and frankly just obnoxious. Martin though is consistently strong in the role never going to far with character driven approach with his performance. He not only succeeds in bringing laughs from scene to scene through his portrayal, but as well is able to be as about a realities as one could be in this role while the film still being a comedy.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1984

And The Nominees Were Not:

Steve Martin in All of Me

Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop

Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas

Robert De Niro in Once Upon a Time in America

Philip Baker Hall in Secret Honor

Friday, 24 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Results

5. Tim Robbins in The Player- Robbins gives a good performance in a somewhat limited role effectively bringing along with him through the great satire that is the Player.
4. Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs- Keitel gives a good performance here portraying both the professionalism as well as the humanity within his career criminal.
3. Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula- A mixed bag from Oldman here with his somewhat uninteresting although adequate scenes as the younger looking Dracula, but he has as well extremely entertaining moments as the older looking Dracula. 
2. Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross- Lemmon is amazing in the role he is always believable as the salesman past his prime, and completely heartbreaking in his realization of this tragic character.
1. Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant- A difficult year to choose both the winner between Kietel and Lemmon and Eastwood. All three are amazing in their roles, but I will have to settle for one and at the moment Keitel is my choice. Kietel gives an incredible performance here as the titular dirty cop. Keitel portrays him in an effective down to earth fashion showing there is nothing special about this man, leading to an powerful ending where the Lieutenant must face his flaws.
Overall Rank:
  1. Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven
  2. Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant
  3. Stephen Rea in The Crying Game
  4. Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross
  5. Robert Downey Jr. in Chaplin
  6. Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny
  7. Willem Dafoe in Light Sleeper 
  8. Peter Coyote in Bitter Moon
  9. Joe Pesci in The Public Eye
  10. Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol 
  11. Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper 
  12. Daniel Day-Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans
  13. BenoƮt Poelvoorde in Man Bites Dog
  14. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in Hardboiled
  15. Chow Yun-Fat in Hardboiled
  16. Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula
  17. Jeremy Irons in Damage
  18. Denzel Washington in Malcolm X
  19. Eric Stoltz in The Waterdance 
  20. Tim Robbins in Bob Roberts
  21. Daniel Auteuil in A Heart in Winter
  22. Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men 
  23. Woody Harrelson in White Men Can't Jump
  24. Wesley Snipes in White Men Can't Jump
  25. Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs
  26. Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs
  27. Gary Sinise in Of Mice and Men 
  28. Anthony Hopkins in Howard's End 
  29. Bill Paxton in One False Move
  30. Tim Robbins in The Player 
  31. Edward James Olmos in American Me
  32. Laurence Fishburne in Deep Cover
  33. John Lithgown in Raising Cain
  34. Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman
  35. Harrison Ford in Patriot Games
  36. John Malkovich in Of Mice and Men 
  37. Campbell Scott in Singles
  38. Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness
  39. Daniel Pollock in Romper Stomper
  40. Mike Myers in Wayne's World
  41. Charles Grodin in Beethoven 
  42. Robert Redford in Sneakers
  43. Michael Keaton in Batman Returns 
  44. Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It 
  45. Val Kilmer in Thunderheart
  46. Timothy Balme in Dead Alive 
  47. Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct  
  48. Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2  
  49. Emilio Estevez in The Mighty Ducks
  50. Danny DeVito in Hoffa 
  51. Bruce Willis in Death Becomes Her
  52. Matt Dillon in Singles
  53. Dennis Haysbert in Love Field 
  54. Gerard Depardieu in 1492 Conquest of Paradise
  55. Tom Cruise in Far and Away   
  56. Chris O'Donnell in Scent of a Woman  
  57. Jack Nicholson in Hoffa 
  58. Rick Moranis in Honey I Blew Up the Kid
  59. Kurt Russell in Captain Ron 
  60. Sean Astin in Encino Man
  61. Martin Short in Captain Ron
  62. Jonathan Brandis in Sidekicks
  63. Scott Weinger in Aladdin 
  64. Brendan Frasier in Encino Man
  65. Rodney Dangerfield in Ladybugs
  66. Luke Perry in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  67. Craig Sheffer in A River Runs Through It
  68. Nick Nolte in Lorenzo's Oil
  69. Hugh Grant in Bitter Moon
  70. Billy Crystal in Mr. Saturday Night
Next Year: 1984

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs

Harvey Keitel did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Larry Dimmick mainly known as Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs.

Reservoir Dogs is about a group of men performing a jewel heist that goes wrong due to an inside man. Reservoir Dogs like most of Quentin Tarantino films I like even though he can be self indulgent with his dialogue at times.

Harvey Kietel is not an actor known for his accents, or emphasis on any sort of mannerisms in his performances. He tends to be a rather straight to the point sort of actor, but that does not mean he can not create a variety of memorable characters. In 1992 he not only gave his absolutely incredible performance as the titular Bad Lieutenant, but as well gave this performance here as one of six criminals who do the heist that goes wrong. Mr. White seems to be one of the more experienced ones as well as one of the more professional.

Keitel is appropriately convincing in the role as the career criminal Mr. White. He portrays him as a clam  headed man who knows exactly how to do what to do with a great deal of ease. Whether it it setting up the plan, spending some time with the other criminals, or killing a couple of police officers in a car moving on him, Kietel portrays it with the same cool method. He makes it obvious that Mr. White is without a doubt a career criminal who has participated in his fair share of jobs, and is able to do them efficiently without every losing his head during the situation when done right. 

Kietel here is careful though in that he does not ever try to make Mr. White into some cold calculating killer or psychopath. Yes Mr. White does kill people in the film, but Kietel does always show this to be about his his survival rather than any sort of sadistic urge. This is the reason why Mr. White takes very little liking to Mr. Blond (Michael Madsen) who goes on a sadistic killing spree during the heist. Keitel is strong in his scenes because he always puts to the forefront that it is not only the lack of professionalism that offends him about Blond's reaction, but it is in fact underneath his moral code which is above murdering bystanders.

What really is the crux of his performance though is Mr. White's friendship with the younger heist member Mr. Orange (Tim Roth). Keitel is good in his scenes before and after the heist. Before he acts quite warmly as a mentor to him, just being once again very professional as he teaches the new man the ropes. Later on though after Mr. Orange is shot in the stomach, Keitel is effective in showing the guilt in Mr. White believing that he let the younger man down. Keitel makes Mr. White's eventual choice to stand by Mr. Orange almost to the end realizing White's warmth as a mentor toward Mr. Orange believably.

Keitel is strong throughout the film even though his role is some limited, as the film does try to spread out the time each character gets to shine, although the amount of time Mr. White and Orange are given would put them in lead. What he does have to work with though Keitel does make the most out of giving a believable portrait of this career criminal. His performance here never is even close to the power of his incredible performance in Bad Lieutenant, but this performance though still stands as a testament to Kietel's considerable strength as an actor.   

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross

Jack Lemmon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Shelley "The Machine" Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Glengarry Glen Ross is a terrific film about a group of real estate salesman made by the great script and the ensemble of great actors in top form.

Jack Lemmon portrays Shelley Levene who is a real estate salesman who seems to be now on one long losing streak when it comes to making a single sale. Lemmon is one giant mess in all the right ways with his performance here as Shelley. Lemmon makes Shelley a man represented by his constant desperation. This is not some simple desperation that has come overnight, rather Lemmon is able to convey the history of failing that has befallen Shelley leaving him in this state.

Lemmon is excellent though because he does not show Shelley's desperation to really be a depression. Shelley never stops during the film he is always trying to finally break his losing streak at any times. Lemmon's basis his performance well around the spark of life that still is in Shelley as he tries hard to do anything to alleviate his terrible situation he has fallen into. It would have been easy to make Shelley a far more downer of a man, but Lemmon effectively shows more about Shelley's past by not doing this.

Jack Lemmon is able to bring to life the past of Shelley to life by subtly suggesting his successes were once great. Lemmon never has Shelley really did lose that life in Shelley that shows that he was not always a failure in his job. Lemmon of course does not have this as something that is always apparent in Shelley, as he most certainly is downtrodden but he handles it extremely well by having it an underlying factor throughout. He does have a glint of his strength that he once had.

Interestingly though there are even moments where there is even a pompous quality that Lemmon does bring in with Shelley in just a few moments. He does not overdue do it, and it is only shown in his scenes with Kevin Spacey's Williamson. There is an anger in few times where Shelley tries to basically tell off Williamson by telling him about his former power within their organization. Lemmon is great in these scenes because it is a genuinely portrayed moment of anger in Shelley, anger in that he has fallen so far and can get as much disrespect from his organization. 

A great deal of the performance comes in with his scenes where Shelley is trying to get that one sale that will turn things around for him. Lemmon is excellent in everyone of these scenes. In his earliest ones where he is calling someone over the phone Lemmon shows Shelley's style perfectly being a calm and charismatic salesman pushing forward the sale carefully through simple tricks. Lemmon though off sets this wonderfully though by conveying in his face that there still is that same nervous desperation, even when he is so calm and professional in sales trickery.

Lemmon very best moment might come in one very disheartening scene where Shelley tries to get a sale out a man who clearly does not have the slightest interest in one. Lemmon is wonderful as he brings to life the struggle Shelley has to try to keep going, and trying anything he can do to do to convince this man to buy something from him, even though clearly the man does not have the slightest interest. It is a heartbreaking scene because Lemmon completely brings to life the fact that Shelley is giving everything, everything that he has and knows as a salesman and can't get anything out of the man.

Lemmon though is equally outstanding though in the second half of the film after Shelley has apparently successfully made big sale. Lemmon is amazing here as he really brings about that underlying spark fully out as Shelley becomes his old self again. Lemmon portrays Shelley as completely being rejuvenated the desperation is gone and he is joyous over his success after so long. Lemmon before showed us Shelley always trying to be his old self, but here Lemmon shows us the old salesman. A man completely sure of his self , his prowess and absolutely proud as one can be over his achievement.

His scenes are great here, particularly his reactions with Pacino's Ricky Roma as he describes with the utmost energy his method of selling the property. This continues on to him helping Roma try to finish securing his sale with a jittery man (Jonathan Pryce). Pacino and Lemmon are perfect in their scene together as the two men put on a ruse over the man to try to keep Roma's sale despite the man's reservations over it. They bring to life the abilities of the two men in a highly entertaining fashion after as they play off each other to attempt to keep the man in on the deal. Lemmon again shows us Shelley's old self secure and confidant although maybe too confidant.

Lemmon shows that Shelley not only completely loses his desperation but too much believes himself once again the infallible machine. Lemmon portrays an insistent pride in his accomplishments and abilities that pushes Shelley basically to say too much and go too far that leads him into trouble. Lemmon is just incredible in his final scene as Shelley tries basically one last desperate sale. In this moment when he sees the odds are against him Lemmon effectively portrays that Shelley loses all that pride and confidence before and returns to the same desperation from the beginning. It is a heartbreaking scene as Lemmon shows one last failure in his moving portrait of this tragic man.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula

Gary Oldman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Bram Stoker's Dracula is certainly a film of style over substance in its wildly over the top depiction of the story of the undead vampire but it is also quite an entertaining film probably because of that reason.

Although one could argue that this film is not being intentionally over the top I would say that would be incorrect when referring to Francis Ford Coppola's direction since for example the circle wipe after Dracula's maniacal laugh was obviously no accident and shows that his style was very purposeful. There is more of problem I suppose by the variations in the performances. There is the insanely dull Keanu Reeves, the mostly ineffective Winona Ryder, the I suppose adequate enough Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, and Billy Campbell who still might not know the film they are in quite enough to be all that interesting, but than there is Gary Oldman who knows how to have fun with the material.

Gary Oldman certainly is not the first actor to portray Dracula but he is probably the actor to portray him in the most variations of form of the monster. Oldman really has a different fashion in which he portrays every version. When he is in any of the monster forms Oldman is all only about intensity in his eyes and his voice. There is not a great deal to play with in these scenes as he is covered in head to toe with the various monsters such as the grotesque bat, and the werewolf, but Oldman does his very best given the limitations of the role in these scenes. He is an appropriately threatening villain in these moments, and certainly does not falter here.

Oldman's best scenes though come early in the film as Dracula first appears welcoming his guest Johnathan Harker (Reeves) who is making a real estate business deal for him. Oldman here is especially entertaining as he portrays every inch of the strangeness that is the old man version of Dracula with his bizarre hairstyle and flowing robes. Oldman is best described as deliciously evil in these scenes and Oldman portrays it like he is going to out Dracula every other Dracula. This is especially noticeable when he says the lines best known from Bela Lugosi's portrayal such as "I never drink wine". Oldman seems to put extra emphasis here, but to the point it is enjoyable just by how he says them with so much delight.

Every movement he makes in this early scenes are quite broad from the way he slinks about around Reeves to the way he furiously licks the blood off Harker's razor after he has accidentally cut himself. They are brilliantly over the top though in Oldman's depiction. He furiously devoted to the role but does have a great degree of fun in the roles while avoiding being a threatening and horrible presence as well. Here the villainy is what Oldman emphasizes and he does it with jovial aplomb. His final devilish laugh moment pretty much sums up these scenes for Oldman in which he pushes forward the evil of Dracula to the forefront of his portrayal effectively by just having so much fun with it.

I must say this is not the case of a performance that gets better and better though. His best scenes are when he has his grandmother haircut. When he becomes the younger looking Dracula his performance just does not have the same entertainment to be had which is a shame. This is not to say these scenes are bad though his style just changes greatly, and actually it makes sense enough for him to do this. In his Transylvania scenes it basically is just Dracula at his technical worst just being evil because that he is, in England though he changes a bit in his motivation since he must find his past love apparently reincarnated into Johnathan Harker's fiancee Mina (Winona Ryder).

The love last forever portion of the film I must say is not the particularly interesting part of the film. One major problem is that Ryder and Oldman do not share any chemistry in their scenes, and their love frankly just does not come through in either a subtle fashion and particularly not in a larger than life fashion. Due to this reason these scenes fall flat. I will give Oldman credit for trying his best to make the Count or bit more human in these scenes. When he is trying to woo Mina as a seemingly normal man Oldman tries to put on some charm but unfortuantely he comes off as more of some European gigolo than a man trying to find the love of his life.

I must say really I am a bit torn on this performance, as there is the young half, and the old half, the monsters really do not factor in much. Also his old and young self seem to be in the film almost equally as he vanishes for a great long periods in the third act of the film. Oldman has passion in the youthful scenes to make something meaningful out of them but that never comes to mean very much. On the other hand he is extremely entertaining as the old Dracula and creates very memorable villain in those scenes. This really is a mixed bag which makes sense for the role of the man with so many different forms. I would say though this is most certainly a good performance since his best scenes are amazing and his lesser scenes are still entirely fine.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Tim Robbins in The Player

Tim Robbins did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Griffin Mill in The Player.

The Player is an excellent satire on Hollywood about an executive who murders a writer he believes was sending him death threats.

Tim Robbins portrays the executive who does the murdering and I must say watching this film the very first time I frankly expected a bit more of a sleazy portrayal than the one that Robbins provides. Robbins actually pretty much at first shows Griffin Mill to be pretty much just in the role of the Hollywood executive. Robbins does not really show him to be really evil just a Hollywood executive always thinking about the money involved in the process of course, but really he never is obviously implying that Griffin only cares about that.

Robbins plays Griffin basically how a character actor would portray a studio executive in a different movie. Robbins is in many simple in his approach and the only major difference is that he does convey Griffin's sense of paranoia over the death threats quite well. He doesn't overplay this as they are not driving him crazy but rather they are something just pressing on his mind and making him slightly nervous and Robbins portrays this fairly effectively by still keeping it downplayed.

The Player though I feel is very much a directors and writers films as the actors are just players in the story, and many of them are used for a quick satirical puns, particularly the numerous cameos by various actors. Robbins is many ways is just the figure we follow thorough to enjoy the satire, which does not have a great deal to with his performance. Really what makes The Player the great satire it is is almost in entirely in writing and the direction most of the performance really do just play it straight.

Robbins though is perfectly fine in the role as the executive though, and certainly allows all the satire to occur by not overplaying the part. There is a bit more to his character though in that the film does partially cause him to become in a way more ruthless, but as well as slowly more disheveled over murdering the writer. This though is less overarching than one might think, and it all goes along at natural enough pace as portrayed by Robbins but it also never is really made all that substantial in terms of the film overall.

This is a good performance by Tim Robbins but I can't quite say it is an amazing one. There is not anything wrong at all with his performance, but it never really is a powerhouse tour de force though. The slow decay into being a worse person that Griffin is by the end of the film is well enough handled, but frankly the impact just is not there. At the same time I must say Robbins certainly still fulfills the role as the man we follow through the great satire that is the Player.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant

Harvey Kietel did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character in Bad Lieutenant.

Bad Lieutenant is a character study of a Catholic police Lieutenant who investigates the rape of a nun by two men.

Harvey Kietel was of course not nominated for this role as the bad Lieutenant despite receiving plenty of rave reviews for his performance. Well the most obvious reason for his snub was that his performance was in a NC-17 rated film, which is not a rating you want if you want an Oscar nomination. This is especially true for a man as the academy just does not seem to like men naked, so it is easy to see Kietel get snubbed as he is one actor in particular who does not mind showing everything he's got. The only time Kietel was nominated was his multilayer work in Bugsy, multilayer in clothes not in characterization, I think Michael Fassbender might need to take note of this if he ever wishes to obtain a nomination.

I think what really did not help is the nature of the bad Lieutenant as a character, and the uncompromising fashion in which Kietel portrays him. The bad before the Lieutenant is entirely required for the description of this cop. The Lieutenant is not at all good in his workaday life from the very opening scene where he is checking out an accident. Kietel approaches the role from this early scene without any special style to his performance. He is not like Denzel Washington in Training Day showboating his way through his role as a corrupt cop, instead Kietel is far more effective and realistic through how down to earth he portrays the part. In his scene here with nothing more than a glance Kietel portrays that the Lieutenant is only interested in checking out the deceased female victim of the crime scene, rather than having any concern for the actual crime.

Kietel never tries to portray the part as some cool man of the streets who knows just how to be a dirty cop. No instead Kietel shows there to be nothing special in what the Lieutenant does no matter what it does. When the Lieutenant is taking drugs constantly and very casually throughout the film, there is not a hint of pleasure in Kietel's performance. He rather just is doing it, since for the Lieutenant cynical morality he has no reason not to do it. There is no belief there it seems as Kietel moves from corrupt action to action. He doesn't play it up like an even knowing act of corruption he handles it all so naturally. Due to the fact that Kietel is so blunt in his portrayal it makes the scene have all the more of a punch to them, because it all seems such an average day for the Bad Lieutenant.

Kietel always portrays the Lieutenant as a man not even as even a special corrupt cop, just simply a corrupt cop. An interesting act though Kietel pulls off is that the Lieutenant to some degree pretends to be a whole lot more than he really is. When ever he calls the baseball game in the film with very large and foolish bets that always end up the opposite of the way he plans, Kietel though brings in a certain pompous quality with the Lieutenant. Kietel does not portray this as a pompousness in the way of say John Gielgud would, but in fact shows the Lieutenant trying to be the big man of the streets who can simply just sense things. The fact is he can't though and there is always a weakness shown by Kietel, and he always makes the point that as much as the Lieutenant wants to act like he knows the score, he knows nothing.

The Lieutenant's behavior though can become actually even more severe than his drug taking, money pilfering, prostitution soliciting, particularly in his scene where he forces two women to perform in front of him while he pleasures himself. Kietel in this scene is particularly effective in portraying just how blunt the Lieutenant is in his cruelty. Kietel is especially to the point in this scene in that the Lieutenant is simply going to get what he wants, and he is brutally intense in portraying the Lieutenant's depravity. Kietel does not makes excuses for the Lieutenant here just portraying the Lieutenant as a man constantly looking for quick satisfaction and using his power as a cop to do so.

The Lieutenant as depraved as he is, and as much as he doesn't at times, he does have a very hidden sense of morality that is strongly associated with his background as a Catholic. The crux of the film comes in the nun rape and a very important moments as he looks at the nun after the rape. Throughout the rest he breezed through every horrible act he committed, but here Kietel subtly suggests that this is something that deeply affects him. Although Kietel does portray this as something passing over him it continues as he continues with the case  and listens in to the nun in a confessional who refuses to name the rapists and even says she forgives them. Kietel is absolutely amazing in portraying just how this throws of the Lieutenant's whole cyncial view of the world.

The very end of the film is simply one astonishing scene after another by Kietel as he first tries to convince the Nun the vengeance is a good thing. Kietel is brilliant, as he makes the Lieutenant pained to try to bring the woman to some sort of lower level of human emotion, since he simply cannot face the fact that everything is not as horrendous as he is. This is followed by the Lieutenant breaking down and seeming to see Jesus in the church asking for forgiveness. Even with all of what he has done before Kietel is absolutely heartbreaking as he brings to life just how this revelation in the Lieutenant has shattered him, and forced him to face the fact that he is a bad man. Kietel brings about the man that was always below all the depravity that cannot bear the fact of what he has become.

Soon afterwards though the Lieutenant is able to track down the two rapists, and the following is a truly set of bizarre circumstance. Kietel though is absolutely amazing the Lieutenant is constantly struggling with himself in what to do. He is able to truly convey the confusion in the man that knows that he is the worst. This is not a simple rejection of his past though as the Lieutenant still uses his drugs and still threatens to kill both the men at gun point. The difference though comes in his attitude. Before everything the Lieutenant did he took in basically stride from one moment to the next here though Kietel shows that the Lieutenant is absolutely devoted to the moment. It is simply a stunning scene by Kietel as he brings about the complete emotional breakdown. This is an incredible performance by Harvey Kietel unforgiving in any aspect of his portrayal making this final face down with morality an unforgettable ending to this uncompromising characterization.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1992

And the Nominees Were Not:

Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant 

Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs

Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross

Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula

Tim Robbins in The Player

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Results

5. Charles Bronson in Death Wish- Although the role probably could have been far more complex, Bronson still is consistently effective in his portrayal of one man's revenge even if it is in a relatively simple fashion.

Best Scene: Paul's final "duel" with the criminals. 
4. Peter Falk in A Woman Under the Influence- Falk is good in his role always giving effective reactions throughout the film, that appropriately supports Gene Rowlands's great performance.

Best Scene: Nick fails as a father. 
3. Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein- Wilder is always very funny in his role, but really makes it work is his conviction in his portrayal of the insanity of his character.

Best Scene: Frankenstein tries to make his monster live.
2. Walter Matthau in The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three- Matthau is terrific here easily bringing a great deal of humor to his role without ever compromising any of his more dramatic moments.

Best Scene: The final shot of the film. 
1. Gene Hackman in The Conversation- Hackman stands easily as my choice in his incredible performance in this film. He is simply outstanding in his complex portrayal of this man's paranoia and guilt. There is not a single moment wasted in Hackman's unique and always fascinating characterization.

Best Scene: Harry snoops in on the hotel room next to his. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Gene Hackman in The Conversation
  2. Warren Oates in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
  3. Art Carney in Harry and Tonto
  4. Jack Nicholson in Chinatown
  5. Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II
  6. John Hurt in Little Malcolm
  7. Walter Matthau in The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three
  8. Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein
  9. Jeff Bridges in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot 
  10. Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza
  11. James Caan in The Gambler
  12. Clint Eastwood in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
  13. Peter Falk in A Woman Under The Influence
  14. Dustin Hoffman in Lenny 
  15. Burt Reynolds in The Longest Yard
  16. Charles Bronson in Death Wish
  17. Bruno S. in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
  18. Keith Carradine in Thieves Like Us
  19. Elliott Gould in California Split
  20. Giancarlo Giannini in Swept Away
  21. James Earl Jones in Claudine 
  22. Walter Matthau in The Front Page
  23. Elliott Gould in Busting 
  24. Anthony Perkins in Lovin' Molly
  25. Warren Beatty in The Parallax View
  26. Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein 
  27. Jack Lemmon in The Front Page
  28. George Segal in California Split 
  29. Beau Bridges in Lovin' Molly
  30. Dirk Bogarde in The Night Porter 
  31. Paul Newman in The Towering Inferno
  32. Steve McQueen in The Towering Inferno 
  33. William Atherton in The Sugarland Express
  34. Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles
  35. Sam Waterston in The Great Gatsby
  36. Pierre Blaise in Lacombe, Lucien
  37. Robert Blake in Busting
  38. Albert Finney in Murder on The Orient Express
  39. Bill Cosby in Uptown Saturday Night
  40. Michael Sacks in The Sugarland Express 
  41. William Finley in Phantom of the Paradise 
  42. Charlton Heston in Earthquake
  43. Richard Dreyfus in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
  44. Sidney Poitier in Uptown Saturday Night
  45. El Hedi ben Salem in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
  46. Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby 
  47. James Caan in Freebie and the Bean
  48. Roger Moore in The Man With the Golden Gun
  49. Dan O'Bannon in Dark Star
  50. Alan Arkin in Freebie and the Bean
Next Year: 1992

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Walter Matthau in The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three

Walter Matthau did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lieutenant Zachary Garber in The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three.

The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three is an  thrilling and entertaining film about four men who hijack a subway train threatening to kill a hostage a minute if 1,000,000 dollars is not delivered in an hour.

One of the many aspects of The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three that makes it as great of a thriller as it is, and it is ample amount of humor it brings to the entire proceedings. Someone who helps in this throughout is Walter Matthau as transit policeman Garber who ends up being the one trying to negotiate for with head hostage taker Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw) who is quite firm about his timeline. Garber's a very unique hero for the film who spends much of the time behind a microphone until close to the end of the film.

Garber's role of trying to figure out the criminal's escape plan while trying to keep all of the hostages alive is technically speaking relatively simple. Matthau though never makes Garber any less than he should be though, and is always good in bringing to life any moment in terms of the severity of the situation. He also stands as frankly just a likable character to follow along through the proceedings through Matthau rather unusual charm. Matthau uses this charm well though in the role, to brings us right into the story.

Matthau makes the most out of his role through his abilities as a natural comedian though. Matthau though finds the right tone throughout his performance. He knows exactly how to combine humor in his role equally well with his more dramatic moments. He is able to find the precise tone for the entirety of his performance. He aids well in bringing a lot of lighter moments to keep the film funny the whole way through. Matthau never lays on too thick or too think, and gives delightful spin on what could have been a far less memorable role.

Matthau is just hilarious throughout through the smallest quick gestures. He has excellent comedic timing in the role with his quick sharp asides throughout the process of the negotiation. His moments with Robert Shaw are particular highlights in the film. Robert Shaw is absolutely cold as ice in his portrayal of Blue's negotiation, and Matthau creates an very enjoyable dynamic by being the lighter sides to things as Garber cracks jokes along the way. He is able to make every one of them really work well as both being funny, but as well still keeping the scenes properly dramatically compelling as well by not overdoing it.

It is actually quite amazing how well Matthau maneuvers through his role since he never runs short on being a believable man in this situation as well as always very amusing one as well. He simply never falters from one scene to next making through the film with ease. Matthau as well though does actually make Garber believable as a mind to match with Shaw's blue. He of course is never nearly as intense as Shaw in the role, but Matthau is good in showing that Garber is always taking a moment in his deciphering of their plan. Through these small moments of subtly Matthau is able to make Garber's success at the end of the film realistic.

Matthau was the perfect choice for this role of the film, since he is able to be so casual in the role while being entirely invested as well. This is just a great work by Matthau because really Garber could have sunk the film in the wrong hands, and really it would have been easy, very very easy, to allow Robert Shaw run away with the entire picture. Matthau though stands as a worthy opponent to Shaw throughout the film. He does not quite have the raw power of course as Shaw's work, but Matthau more than fulfills his particular role in the film. Matthau simply never fails to succeed in his unique role both being a hilarious and worthy protagonist for the film.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein

Gene Wilder did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, although he did get one for writing it.

Young Frankenstein is an enjoyable comedy film about a descendant of Victor Frankenstein trying to make his own monster. Although to be fair like most Mel Brooks comedies it does mix in a few groans with the laughs due to the fact he constantly is going for laughs. I will say one of the best parts of this film though is the recreation of the art direction and cinematography found in the original Frankenstein film. 

Gene Wilder portrays the descendant of Victor Frankenstein who at first wishes to not be associated with his ancestor in any way even insisting that his last name is pronounced differently. Of course after inheriting the old castle, and finding his grandfather's old notes he soon decides to make his own monster by reanimating the dead. Wilder is an actor who particularly suits the role of the Frankenstein, the biggest reason I would say why is the propensity Frankenstein have to yell wildly. If there is one actor who knows how to yell so it does not seem like overacting but in fact comic brilliance it is Gene Wilder. Wilder knows how to yell in just a way that it is a full body experience of an energetic emotion of some sort. Whether it is crying in terror over his creature, or glee over his success, or anger over his failure. Wilder is able to be as equally humorous as he is intense in screams. Wilder never overacts because he always absolutely believes in his loud cries.

Wilder always has a certain conviction in the role that works in an interesting trick he manages to pull with his performance. Wilder in a way does portray his role seriously in that he does not really act like he is in a parody of Frankenstein. This is not to say Wilder plays it straight though, after all he does play the part like a maniac. Wilder though is both a Frankenstein who shows passion in his experiments as well as with ease goes for as many laughs as possible. Now I am not trying to say that Wilder gives a dramatically compelling performance, as that is not the intention of the film, which is an extremely comic style comedy this is Mel Brooks after all not Woody Allen. Wilder though is able to really bring the comedy though through by being as devoted to possibly in bringing the insanity of his character alive in his insane performance.

Wilder simply knows how to effectively give a comedic performance without falling into the excessive overacting of some performances in comedies.Wilder with ease is entertaining in every one of his scenes with his expert timing. Wilder goes on the edge with every moment with his craziness, and always manages to succeed in bringing the laughs with his performance.Wilder punctuates well every moment of his performance to simply gives an extremely enjoyable performance. It might not quite have as great or as wide of an effect as his earlier work in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but nevertheless he succeeds well in creating a very funny performance which was very much the main goal of his work here.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Charles Bronson in Death Wish

Charles Bronson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Paul Kersey in Death Wish.

Death Wish is a somewhat effective film about a man who becomes a vigilante after his wife is brutally murdered, and his daughter is raped by street thugs.

It is interesting that apparently Sidney Lumet was going adapt the novel Death Wish with Jack Lemmon in the lead. I must say I think Lemmon possibly could have given a great performance and he certainly would have been much more of an everyman since vigilante is not something that quickly comes to your mind with Lemmon. Charles Bronson on the other hand it might be one of the first things you might think of. I will admit that is probably helped greatly by the film series of Death Wish, but Bronson even before this film was usually an on screen tough guy.

Due to Bronson's previous screen credits his eventually becoming a vigilante does not seem like much of stretch, in fact Bronson seeming the happy family man seems more unnatural than being the killer. This is not against Bronson's performance as he believable enough in his family scenes. He has a strong enough warmth and what not, but rather it has to do with Bronson's type which always comes across as tough guy, not a former conscientious objector. Bronson is really an actor who showed mostly this very specific range in his performances.

This is not say that Bronson might or might not have been able to tackle a more complex form of this character, but it seems that the director really cast him more on his reputation as a badass than an actor. In fact there are many scenes where the direction in the film takes an approach for us to feel what Paul is going through by the the film rather than specifically by Bronson's performance. Two scenes in particular express this one being Paul's grief over his wife it cuts away from Bronson so fast you barely even know he is going through his heartbreak.

That first scene I write of more of shows all the aftermath such as her funeral, and we only see a small glimpse of Paul's reaction. Bronson is fine in his quick expression of Paul's disbelief and sadness but it is too short to be particularly powerful. His other scene is when Paul goes home after killing a man. Again we briefly get a glance at Bronson's expression but only for a second as he quickly goes and vomits. The film shows us the emotional consequence through the noise far more than with Bronson's performance, although again the brief moment is handled well enough by Bronson.

Bronson more fully comes into his own in his scenes what were the reasons why he was probably cast. The scenes being where Paul kills every mugger he happens to run into. Bronson in these scenes shows his particular skills as a performer well in these fast but intense moments. Bronson make Paul an incisive killer and he has a strong control over the moments. He makes Paul's killing something that is very much to the point. He shows that Paul does not intend to play around only kill those who he believes deserve to die for their criminal actions.

Of course the whole vigilantism aspect seems like a bit of a missed opportunity since being Charles Bronson there is not a learning curve. He instantly becomes a completely confidant killer, and is instantly imposing. He also instantly shows Paul to think himself quite cool in a way from the idolization the mysterious vigilante receives from some people. An actor like Jack Lemmon might have been able to bring about a slower, but more powerful portrait of an average man transforming into a far less ordinary killer. With Bronson it is less of a transition and more of just a realization.

I should say I never do feel that Bronson is bad in the role. He is consistently confidant, and when required he shows the appropriate emotions. My only problem comes in that the character of Paul Kersey could have been so much more, and could have been a fascinating delve into the psyche behind a vigilante. Instead Bronson settles with just making Paul into a watchable action hero who went on to appear in a total of four more films after this one. I really could give Bronson less but really this is an entirely effective performance that does use the strengths of Bronson's onscreen persona well, even though I can't help but wonder if Paul could have lead to a truly amazing performance in another set of hands.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Peter Falk in A Woman Under the Influence

Peter Falk did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Nick Longhetti in A Woman Under the Influence.

A Woman Under the Influence is a film about the madness of a mother Mabel (Gena Rowlands) that causes difficulty in her marriage with her construction worker husband Nick. This is a very effective film, but it certainly is hard to say it is all that enjoyable to watch.

This film received some recognition for its direction by John Cassavetes, but what the film was most recognized for was the lead performance by Gena Rowlands as the mad housewife Mabel. I should say that this very deserving recognition that Rowlands received. Her performance is indeed an amazing achievement in that she stays on the very edge for her entire performance yet she never falls off giving an incredibly memorable portrayal of her strange character. It is easy to see how Falk could have been overshadowed by her performance.

Peter Falk's performance here is very reactive actually. Nick appears to be the normal one, and much of his screen time is spent dealing with his wife's erratic behavior. There are a few solo scenes early on in his performance but these moments are fairly standard with Nick just hanging out with his co-workers wishing to get home to spend time with his wife. Of course Falk does portray these well enough making it clear that Nick is concerned about his wife, and does love her, although at the same time shows that at least for the moment is not overly frustrated by the idea of not being able to see her.

Falk is good in his reactive moments though in his scenes with Rowlands as Mabel. The moments are of course tense as Mabel changes moods so easily and can easily  become very excited from the smallest moments. Falk is good in showing Nick's method of dealing with his wife. Falk portrays the role rather naturally in that he is able to show that Nick's understands his wife only to a degree. He good in being quiet when Nick does just try to talk to her in a calm fashion to bring her down from some of her more insane moods, but at the same time Falk is effective in the way he brings about the quick angry moments where he just tries to shut down his wife's behavior quickly.

Falk pretty much stay consistent with his performance and does a fine job bringing to life the situation of the film. He in a way grounds the film by having his more down to earth portrayal reflect off her off the wall one in a strange harmony. The best part of Falk's performance is his realization of Nick's motivations involving dealing with his wife. Falk does make it clear that Nick does love Mabel, as he always does try be as gentle with her as possible at first, and his later pain over having her committed are certainly brought to life by Falk powerfully. Falk shows that really in his anger that does come at times toward Mabel is not hating her, but brought upon by his inability to fully understand the odd behavior of his wife.

Falk's whole performance is not just reacting to his wife though as after sends her away Nick is forced to take care of the children himself, and has his own severe problems in this regard. Falk is very effective in these scenes as Nick's fails to relate to his children. He shows that Nick wants desperately to treat them in a fatherly fashion, but the attempts at warmth and wisdom always are shown to be forced by Falk. Falk is able to convey the fact that Nick is simply out of his element and is trying something he really is not used to. When Nick gives his children beer Falk portrays it not as purposeful child negligence, but rather as just a lack of awareness in Nick to the way of fulfilling his role as a father. 

This is a strong performance by Peter Falk even if his particular role in the film is very distinct. Even though he is the lead, and his solo scenes prove that to be the case, his performance for the most part very much is supporting Rowlands's tremendous performance. I am not really saying anything against Falk that Rowlands is the performance you remember after watching the film, even though that is the case. His performance is not nearly as striking and powerful, but it really did not have to be. Falk should be given his credit though in that he creates a realistic portrait of this man's difficult relationship to his very hard to understand wife, and successfully compliments Gena Rowlands's magnificent performance throughout the film. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Gene Hackman in The Conversation

Gene Hackman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harry Caul in The Conversation.

The Conversation is an excellent film about a surveillance expert who is paranoid over his most recent recording.

I must say Gene Hackman's lack of a nomination is a bit surprising in retrospect. As he was nominated in the other awards of the year as well as successfully won the National Board of Review. Also more importantly to the Oscars themselves was that the Conversation was nominated for Best Picture. Although Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and Jack Nicholson all followed along with their pictures to nominations, but oddly enough Hackman was pushed to the side for Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express, which is especially strange since The Conversation depends so greatly on Gene Hackman's performance.

Gene Hackman shows a different side to his considerable talent than in his far more flamboyant Oscar winning turn as detective Popeye Doyle. In his performance as Harry Caul Hackman gives a very tightly wound performance. Aided by a clear rain coat, those glasses, and that mustache Hackman creates a very unique character in Harry Caul. His manner is very distinct here as he portrays the very withdrawn Caul. Hackman who succeeds so well in overpowering characters who constantly are seeking to make themselves known, is equally apt at being this man who wants to be invisible at times.

Hackman is outstanding in the opening scenes as we see Caul move through his task of tracing to people who are having the titular conversation. Here we see Caul very much in his world as he goes about being hidden and watches his plan unfold. Hackman shows that Caul proceeds in a very workmanlike fashion as he goes through the process of finding the information that is required for him. Hackman portrays distinctly here a certain lack of investment in what exactly he is dealing with at the moment. Caul does not care about what his task at hand really means, but is simply being a professional in going through what needs to be done.

After this initial scene though we see Harry Caul go home, and here we see that Caul's attempt at being unnoticed is not something he does for his work, but is in fact his way of life. Hackman's body language here is brilliantly used as he portrays Caul's every movement as one of caution. The way he walks, the way he even unlocks and opens a door, Hackman always shows a certain uncertainy within Caul that causes him to act in his unique and rather peculiar fashion. One big part Hackman always brings across is that Caul never seems to be able to relax. Even when he goes to visit his girlfriend Hackman shows the same distance, and lack of comfort.

Hackman is brilliant in his portrayal of the paranoia that constantly is pressing on Caul's mind. What is so effective about Hackman's performance is how quiet he is in conveying the paranoid Caul. There is not single scene where he burst out in emotions over his fears once. Instead Hackman is far more convincing in portraying this man's mindset by never making this as any sort of obvious insanity, but rather a constant underlying pressure upon Caul that forces him to act in his particular way. Hackman shows that it is not that Caul wants to be paranoid, but as a surveillance expert he can't really not be paranoid.

Hackman portrayal of Caul's behavior is something truly striking because he shows Caul effectively keeps his distance at all times. Whenever he talks to anyone even colleague or his girlfriend on casual terms Hackman's is terrific in bringing to life always a disconnect between Caul and the people around. The most interesting part of Hackman's performance in this regard is that there is a certain desperation behind his apparent coldness, the desperation being that he really does not want to be this way but he can't help it. Hackman shows that Caul does want warmer relationships, but this only comes out at pivotal moments.

Hackman does not make the moments where Caul lets his guard down as being worn down in the least, but rather as Caul is not nearly as cold as he seems to think he needs to be they are at times some of the natural moments for the Caul the person. In particular one scene where Caul is pushed to say how he did one very difficult assignment. Hackman perfectly downplays Caul's usual distance here as he shows Caul actively show a little more warmth as he boasts a little and smiles just slightly at his achievement. Caul quickly finds that his guard being down has left him open to an attack on his privacy, and Hackman's Caul's anger being both toward the man who pulled the prank on him, but as well at himself for not being protective enough.

Gene Hackman's performance as great as it is does not only focus on just the paranoia, but as well as a prevailing guilt in Harry after one of his jobs lead to murder, and he believes that this new one may lead to the same. Hackman in this performance knows how to make the slightest absolutely compelling as he repeatedly goes over the recording over and over again trying to figure out what exactly it means. Hackman brings us into Caul's mindset as he carefully listens over and over again to every facet of the recording. Although Caul claims that he only wants to make the recording clear for his client, Hackman conveys in his intense pondering over the conversation that Caul cannot separate himself from what might be the results of the recording.

Hackman is simple fascinating as he brings to life the guilt that Caul cannot shake and follows him through. Hackman shows that as cold and distant Caul wants to be he is fact a man who becomes far too deeply invested considering what his work entails. It is something truly outstanding as we follow Caul through finding out exactly what the conversation did mean after all. Hackman brings us right into the horror of knowing the truth as Caul sees the results of work. It is an astonishing scene as Hackman's portrays the sheer terror, and pain he goes through as all of his fears come true. An incredible scene to begin with but Hackman makes it as powerful as possible through his flawless portrayal of Caul's haunting reaction.

This is simply an amazing performance by Gene Hackman that may be his personal best, and considering his filmography that is really saying something. He never wastes a single moment in his performance utilizing every second of his performance to realize this very unique characterization. Hackman makes his Harry Caul into a truly fascinating man, very peculiar, yet there is not a hint of acting in this performance. This is an incredible achievement by Gene Hackman as he simply becomes Harry Caul, who he makes into a unforgettable and always fascinating character.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1974

And the Nominees Were Not:

Peter Falk in A Woman Under The Influence

Charles Bronson in Death Wish

Gene Hackman in The Conversation

Walter Matthau in The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three

Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Results

5. Claude Rains in They Won't Forget- Rains does his best and puts a great deal of effort in his performance, but his character unfortunately is paper thin.

 Best Scene: Griffin rabble rouses the courtroom.
4. Victor Moore in Make Way For Tomorrow- Moore gives a moving quiet performance of a man who witnesses society pass him by.

Best Scene: "Husband and Wife say goodbye for the last time".
2 . Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in Way Out West- There is no reason to separate them as together they create the greatest comedy duo ever, and show well there unique talent together in this film. ( In the overall rank I merely put them in alphabetical order.)

Best Scene: "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine".
1. Cary Grant in The Awful Truth- Grant gives an entertaining and enjoyable performance that is a terrific example of his abilities as the lead of a romantic comedy.

Best Scene: Jerry finds the other man Lucy is hiding. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall
  2. Jean Gabin in Pepe Le Moko
  3. Ronald Colman in The Prisoner of Zenda
  4. Cary Grant in The Awful Truth
  5. Oliver Hardy in Way Out West
  6. Stan Laurel in Way Out West
  7. Jean Gabin in Grand Illusion
  8. Fredric March in A Star is Born
  9. Ronald Colman in Lost Horizon
  10. Victor Moore in Make Way For Tomorrow
  11. Robert Donat in Knight Without Armour
  12. Edward G. Robinson in Kid Galahad 
  13. Henry Fonda in You Only Live Once
  14. Laurence Olivier in Fire Over England
  15. Charles Boyer in Conquest
  16. Paul Muni in The Life Emile Zola
  17. James Stewart in Seventh Heaven
  18. Freddie Bartholomew in Captains Courageous  
  19. Claude Rains in They Won't Forget
  20. Paul Muni in The Good Earth
  21. Fred Astaire in Shall We Dance
  22. Claude Rains in Stolen Holiday
  23. Groucho Marx in A Day At the Races
  24. Peter Lorre in Think Fast Mr. Moto
  25. Peter Lorre in Thank You Mr. Moto
  26. Fredric March in Nothing Sacred
  27. Roland Young in Topper
  28. Wayne Morris in Kid Galahad
  29. Billy Mauch in The Prince and the Pauper
  30. Bobby Mauch in The Prince and the Pauper
  31. Cary Grant in Topper
  32. Edward Norris in They Won't Forget
  33. Spencer Tracy in Captains Courageous 
  34. Jon Hall in The Hurricane
Next Year: 1974

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Cary Grant in The Awful Truth

Cary Grant did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jerry Warriner in The Awful Truth.

Cary Grant never received an Oscar nomination for a comedy role not even for this role in this film which won Best Director, and both his leading lady Irene Dunne, and his supporting foil Ralph Bellamy were nominated, but he was not. Interestingly enough when they teamed up again for the weepie Penny Serenade Cary Grant was nominated and Irene Dunne was not. For whatever reason even when the film was as popular with the academy as this one, they never cared for Grant in a comedic role. They only could accept him as a nominee when he was being serious which certainly is too bad.

Cary Grant here is in prime form as the husband of a soon to be divorced couple. It is not that Jerry and Lucy (Irene Dunne) hate each other that brings them to this point but rather odd behavior from both of them leads both to believe there is infidelity going on. They get the divorce that will take place after a grace period during in such the two seek other romantic interests, and the film is pretty much set up as first Jerry sabotaging Lucy's attempt with the simple southerner Dan (Bellamy), than afterwards Lucy sabotages Jerry's attempt with an heiress.

Grant has quite a bit of fun with his role in his half of the sabotage, as he purposefully moves against her rather simple beau. He does this with simple jabs at him, and rather small gestures that always seem to say that Dan simply is not in the same league as Jerry. Grant is extremely good in just being the being the most cunning one in the room as he constantly does his best to humiliate Lucy, and ruin her chances away from him. His timing is always terrific, and his energetic never falls short of bringing to life the humor of any scene.

Grant though is equally good though in the scenes where he forced to be the one who gets the shorter end of the stick, when Lucy gives him an ample taste of his own medicine. His reaction to her behavior that is quite a bit similar to his earlier behavior to her is excellent as the two of them switch places. His reaction of a sort of bemusement as well as sometimes complete surprise at the extent she goes to prevent him. Grant's reactions are always quite amusing as Jerry is taken aback by Lucy's behavior which is only mirroring his own.

I would say though most important aspect of his performance as well as Dunne is of course there chemistry. In that they both bring to life their relationship in just the right fashion. Firstly their divorce, and their game of ruining each other's romantic affairs are always kept lightly comedic by both actors, never in any way making it seem unpleasant. Equally to their credit though they always manage to put just the right degree of weight in their performance. 

This is not that either actor makes the situation at all serious but the two bring about the idea that the two are a married couple that do actually love each other. Both show their reactions to properly betrayal and neither make it as so they are completely heartbroken, but the two do stress the idea that they do care even behind all the humor. It is rather subtly portrayed by both behind their more comedic reactions, the two have just the right emphasis in the scenes together that the two still have a connection with one another.

This connection is the reason why both of their best moments really come in their silent looks they give to one another. They are both terrific in conveying that the two absolutely do know each other far too well, and when one or the other are pulling a trick the two actually are quite genuine in their response, even though they can be quite funny as well. Grant and Dunne simply make the most about the relationship between the two, and really they are able to make the ending properly a forgone conclusion.

I should say Cary Grant's performance on its own is a charming performance that is very enjoyable to watch, but what does make it special is his chemistry with Irene Dunne's terrific performance. The two together make this film the delight that it is because of how well the play off each other in every one of their scenes. Alone though this is not Cary Grant's very best performance in this genre but it is still an entertaining one that shows his great abilities as a romantic comedy leading man.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Claude Rains in They Won't Forget

Claude Rains did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Andy Griffin in They Won't Forget.

They Won't Forget is a sometimes effective although also very flawed film about a college professor from the North who is put on the trial for the murder of one of his students in the South.

Claude Rains portrays the district attorney who takes the case, and wants to make it big important conviction for himself to further his political career. Rains although in a way portrays the villain in that Griffin is always very concerned about his career rather than seeking justice. Although to be entirely fair to his character the evidence does not suggest that the professor was obviously innocent or obviously guilty. The sentiment that is created by the atmosphere within the town though makes it clear that innocent or guilty the professor will not really be given a fair trial.

Claude Rains as usual is efficient in the role as the attorney making it clear that Griffin will win the case, and meet his ambition no matter what. Rains at first shows Griffin more than anything is being professional as he handles various town people who want him to do certain things. Rains shows a constant assurance that no matter what Griffin will be doing things his way, even if it does meet someone else's end, it is all still is all part of his own ambition. Rains makes it obvious that Griffin is a powerful force that will see the man found guilty through his skill as an attorney.

A great deal of screen time comes in when he is handling the courtroom scenes. Rains again is effective here as he shows the statesman aspect of Griffin leaves as he purposefully becomes a firebrand to keep passions high to ensure conviction. Rains is energetic here as he portrays the fierce nature of Griffin as an attorney as he cuts to the throat every moment in court. Rains is strong here although I would say that he is never quite as amazing in this way as he was in similar moments in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

I have to say that Rains does his very best but unfortunately the film sort of lets his portrayal down. Rains really wants to make the character complex more than the film wants to. Rains tries his best to show Andy Griffin as a man with an ambition but not an evil man, the film pretty much does want him to be a one dimensional villain. Rains deserves credit though for trying to convey some sort of internal struggle at the end in Griffin over his actions, but the film frankly does not care as it suggest through the script that Griffin does not really care in the end.

Claude Rains really has to deal with a character that is less complex than he should be considering Rains takes every attempt to bring more to the character, but the film never allows him to go off on any of these complexities he tries to bring to life. Due to this problem Rains does not give a performance that is in line with his later greater work. Rains though still does try to make the most out of his performance, and gives an fairly effective performance even if it is not all that memorable of one.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel in Way Out West

Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Ollie and Stan in Way Out West.

Way Out West is a very enjoyable comedy in the Laurel and Hardy cannon as the two attempt to bring a deed to a successful mine to its rightful owner.

I am not reviewing these separately because it never for a moment crossed my mind and it is impossible for me to talk about one performance without talking about the other. They are through and through a team so much so that after Hardy died Laurel refused to ever be in a film again because he could not share the screen with Hardy. They are the greatest comedic duo of all time as far as I am concerned, and they are easily my favorite of the early film comedians. There is something though I should note that in all of the performances together as the pair Laurel and Hardy, or at least all that I have seen so far, they always play the same characters Ollie and Stan.

Although their films can result in many different situations and sometimes result in the death of at least one of them, they are always ready for another go in the very next film. They always a pair of seemingly downtrodden fellows who are always more than happy to help others even if it can be quite detrimental to themselves, or as well they can find an opponent they must deal with. In any situation craziness is sure to ensue as well as hilarity. I will only review them here together only because their roles are rather consistent, as they should since their comedy never gets old, and I chose this film simply because it is one of the very best examples of their talents.

This time they head into an old west town to get a deed to its proper owner and of course run into plenty of trouble a hilarious slapstick humor on their way their. I should say one thing that makes the two's humor work so marvelously is how gentle they are well suffering all sorts of physical pain. Both Laurel and Hardy never stop being soft spoken in any situation and their gentlemanly manner that both carry so well is just hilarious. They take every fall just so well that makes it as easy as possible through and through, and their resolve to push through in a completely pleasant fashion makes them just so likable.

I should take each of them at a time and I might as well start with the simpler (dumber) of the two Stan. Laurel face is absolutely priceless in just his simple expression of the lack of thought inside of his head at times. Laurel has a certain matter of fact quality to his performance that every thing that Stan does whether it is taking joy in eating a hat, nonchalantly lighting his thumb on fire, or seeing his friend fall mysteriously into water that seemed shallow a second ago Laurel always shows it to be nothing at all out of the ordinary for Stan despite how strange his abilities might at time.

As for Ollie Hardy shows Ollie to have quite a bit more of a sense about what is going on although he takes pretty much everything in stride, and at worst gives Stan a little push. Hardy is equally terrific in being the man taken aback though by everything happening whether it is with a loud yell from a fall, a quick polite hand gesture in an awkward situation, or his hilarious stares toward the camera when reacting to Stan. Hardy just delivers one great reaction after another with his performance always playing off Laurel in perfect harmony resulting in comedic greatness.

These two never fail to bring a smile to my face in any situation. Their comedic timing has few rivals and they always amplify every physical gag through their spot on facial or physical reactions. They are equally strong though in their kindly banter between the two with Hardy's displaying Ollie's more proper manner in speaking that plays off well against Laurel's depiction of Stan's rather more blunt method at times. They are both hilarious and equals in almost every way but one which is that Hardy is a far more talented singer, but still though both wonderful in their entertaining rendition of "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine".

These two are simply a joy to watch throughout the film. The only problem is how I could possibly rate their performances. They are both perfect in their depiction of Stan and Ollie. Sure their performances are not technically original in that they are playing parts, their performances never get old. These two are giving their very best, which they consistently did through every performance, although I would say this film is an especially strong example of their talent.  I am a bit torn as giving them a five might seem unfair to actors portraying completely different characters and portraying more of an arc, but giving them less for being so good at exactly what they should be good at seems unfair as well. I am going to have think more about this I must say and right now for the moment I will just say I love both of these performances. (Updated I will settle for 4.5 great performances but technically speaking not ground breaking).