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.


mrripley said...

I think you got him spot on and it is the rest of the cast who let him and the film down only sadie frost and tom waits get the tone.

RatedRStar said...

Keanus english accent was so bad lol haha.

dshultz said...

Oh I loved him. 4.5 at the least from me. I totally agree, he was deliriously entertaining. I really have to blame every other actor save Tom Waits (who I love) and Anthony Hopkins, who also has fun with it.

Who would you have cast as Jonathan Harker, Louis? I think I may have used Kenneth Branagh, he was young enough, quite popular at the time and he's a damn fine actor as well.

Louis Morgan said...

Reeves was so bad I would almost say anyone else. Branagh though certainly would have been a much better choice.

Lezlie said...

Well, Keanu Reeves is just not a good actor. I thought you would give Oldman less points, don't know why. 4 is perfect for his performance.

Michael Patison said...

I've never seen the film, but sight unseen I can undoubtedly say that Keanu Reaves was bad. I have never seen a film in which he has been anything more than mediocre. He is an overused actor (thankfully that has become less the case as of late) and has absolutely no ability to act well at all.

joe burns said...

Seems like a strong rating for him! Never seen him myself!

What actor of these nominees do you think came the closest to be nominated?

Louis Morgan said...

Keitel was only in contention for Bad Lieutenant and the fact he bared it all probably prevented recognition. Oldman was in far too much of genre film to be recognized. I would say the sixth spot was held by either Lemmon or Robbins. In the end it was probably Robbins since on a whole he was more widely recognized other places than Lemmon, and his film received more support overall from the academy.

RatedRStar said...

the only film I thought Reeves was average in was My Own Private Idaho with River Phoenix, everything else he does is wooden.

RatedRStar said...

Gary Oldman I hope gets another Oscar Nomination someday and wins it because he is the greatest British actor working today (Fassbenders German otherwise it would be a tie).