Saturday, 31 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1978: Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter

Christopher Walken won his Oscar from his first Oscar nomination for portraying Nikonar 'Nick' Chevotarevich in The Deer Hunter.

Christopher Walken is an actor with an odd reputation as he is seen as a bit of an oddity with his distinct voice and sometimes very bizarre mannerisms that go in many of his performances. The only thing is if one sees a performance of his that is described as his best performance one will see a great actor simple as that. Christopher Walken at first seems to be the heart of the film of the Deer Hunter and although his performance is supporting in terms of screentime it is just as important as Robert De Niro's performance as Nick's friend Michael the sort of leader of the group of friends.

A very important of part in the film is the dynamic between the friends and Walken makes Nick role in the group rather distinct. He is separate from the rest of the guys because he does not fool around nearly as much as they do, and has the respect of Michael because of this. He though is different from Michael because he seems to stand as part of the group more than Michael, and tries to understand and frankly bring more warmth among the group than Michael ever does.  Walken realizes this understanding of Nick very well but not overplaying it. Walken achieves Nick point in the group realistically and honestly makes Nick a goodhearted man.

Walken also finds just the right tone in which to portray Nick's two pivotal relationships early within the film. Firstly Nick's relationship with his girlfriend Linda (Meryl Streep). The two actors are effective because they don't lay on the romantic elements two thickly. Instead they show a simpler but believable one between the two. There is clearly a love created between the characters by Walken and Streep. It is a quiet unassuming romance but there is no doubt left through the performances that through this quiet unassuming fashion they most certainly care for each other undoubtedly.

Interestingly enough the second relationship is even more important which is Nick's friendship with Michael. Again Walken and De Niro very much downplay the friendship it is not this overly warm display of love for one another, but there is clearly an unmistakable bond between the two nevertheless. The two show quietly a history between the two men one of understanding between the two and a great deal of mutual respect. There dynamic is realized perfectly by both actors as they are not only friends but also there is a just the right difference between the two shown through Nick's greater degree of empathy.

Walken though truly shines as with De Niro in the gut wrenching Russian Roulette scenes. I said De Niro was incredible in these scenes and Walken matches him every step of the way. When they finally play one on one in the prison camp Walken is absolutely amazing as Nick. He absolutely brings the fear and intensity of the situation to life it is chilling almost unbearable because De Niro and Walken never have a false moment in either of their performances. Walken in one single reaction probably has, and I mean this, one of the greatest single reactions in film.

The moment has him holding the gun to his head with a very good likeliness that it will kill him with a fatal. Walken before he fires shows us the horrible terror Nick has over his chances of death as well as just the sickness and anger over being in the horrendous situation. He has one of the most heartbreaking moments when he finally pulls the trigger, and his reaction of fear to an incredible relief as well as absolute joy could not have possibly have been more powerful. He brings right with Nick in that moment and it is both terrifying and absolutely wonderful moment.

After this scene and a separation from his friends Nick suffers a serious mental breakdown. This is actually in a very fast succession to his breakdown caused by the traumatic stress faced before. Walken though again turns it into a reality. His breakdown scene is terrific, Walken quietly shows the pain absolutely overwhelm Nick that he can't help but continuing to think of the horrors of what he faced and went through that causes him to fall apart an become almost a shell of a man as to avoid the pain of his memories. This is made especially disheartening when compared brighter Nick seen earlier, because Walken absolutely makes them the same person who has undergone far too much pain.

There is a great deal of time when we don't see Walken in the film but we feel his loss almost every moment he is not on screen because of his impact earlier in the film. When we finally do see Walken again Nick is only worse a true shell of a man completely lost, and Walken is absolutely chilling showing Nick's loss of fear of death. Their final scene together De Niro and Walken are again incredible. Walken in the scene stays almost the same throughout as Michael pleads to Nick. When Walken finally does react in just the slightest indication of the old Nick it is an absolutely perfect moment that ends Walken's pitch perfect performance. It really is a role that is only challenges yet Walken never fails to meet every one and turn Nick into an unforgettable tragic character that stays with you long after watching the film.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1978

And the Nominees Were:

Richard Farnsworth in Comes A Horseman

Bruce Dern in Coming Home

Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter

Jack Warden in Heaven Can Wait

John Hurt in Midnight Express 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1986: Results

5. Denholm Elliot in A Room With a View- Elliot is fine in his few scenes but he never makes much of an impact with his performance.
4. Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers- Hopper gives a moving and effective performance that might not be on the level of his work listed below, but it is still a good performance.
3. Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters- It it almost a scatter shot of emotions which Caine is able draw upon to realize his character while even finding some humor in the role as well.
2. Willem Dafoe in Platoon- Dafoe realizes his good sergeant character by never overplaying the part and turning his character into a believable descent man that is more than just a moral.
1. Tom Berenger in Platoon- I give the slight edge between the two Platoon men because he has the even greater challenge to avoid becoming just simple villain. He realizes the intensity and interestingly enough when he can the humanity of his character.

Best Supporting Actor 1986: Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters

Michael Caine won his first Oscar from his fourth nomination for portraying Elliot in Hannah and Her Sisters.

Hannah and Her Sisters tells of the various stories of Hannah and her sisters as well as the stories of her two husbands.

Michael Caine portrays Hannah's (Mia Farrow) second husband who from the opening scene is obsessed with and lusts after Hannah's sister Lee (Barbara Hershey). Many of the performances are quite withdrawn in this film as much of what the character comes in the form of their own narration over what their character is thinking and feeling. This is especially true of Caine's performance and character of Elliot since he not only has plenty of narration scenes but many of his scenes involve him trying to hide his feelings toward his wife sister, or keeping their later affair a secret.

Caine though effectively portrays the part despite the technical limitations that are put upon almost throughout his entire performance. From his very first scene Caine realizes Elliot's lust for his wife sister just perfectly. It is careful and subtle work by Caine that realizes his character's state quite well. Caine finds just the right line between being secretive of what Elliot wants in that unless you look closely you would not notice it. Caine has just the right simple, and subtle indications of Elliot desires for Lee. He shows it really as although he is holding back to such a degree he wants her so much that he comes through nevertheless.

Caine continues to find just the right path for his character as Elliot shyly tries to pursue the affair. Caine is quite good in the way he brings a slight comedic touch to his performance here as he could have portrayed the part completely straight. He just brings the right up amount of humor to his performance as he avoids every pushing to hard for any comedy, but makes it feel entirely natural within his performance. Caine just finds it within his character rather erratic behavior as he almost tries to woo her, without doing so, but trying to do so without being obvious about it. The funny thing is despite Elliot being erratic Caine never overplays a moment of it finding just the right tone for it all.

Caine is terrific in his moments when Elliot finally does reveal his precise feelings to Lee rather suddenly. Caine shows the transition of Elliot well as well still showing that he does not have a single emotion in the moment still showing some hesitation and embarrassment but more specifically in this one scene showing more joy over finally coming out with his true feelings finally. It is funny actually about Caine performance that there is never a single scene where he lets a single emotion override the rest Elliot is one confused fellow and Caine realizes this wonderfully. This particularly special scene for Elliot is the closest Elliot comes to feeling a single emotion which is happiness and Caine brings this out incredibly well.

Although the affair really seems to be given less and less time within the film along with Caine himself the glimpses given Caine continues to bring to life his character's unique situation. Still there is no set emotion Elliot feels about the affair, but Caine is good in showing that after Elliot has achieved the affair he has a lot less fun with it than before he actually even approached it directly, and appropriately the humor does disappear from his performance. Caine in his briefer moments shows the internal struggle that Elliot is facing almost silently. It is an effective portrait of this man who really has no idea of his path, and even in the end when it seems Elliot does seem to know what he wants still has the slightest glint of regret in his performance. It is a very strong performance by Caine that never fails to bring to life the emotional state of his character despite the complexity of it all as well as the subdued nature of the role.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1986: Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers

Dennis Hopper received his only acting Oscar for portraying Shooter in Hoosiers.

Hoosiers is about a basketball coach (Gene Hackman) with a troubled past trying to help a small town team win the state championship.

Dennis Hopper's Oscar nomination for this film is usually seen a bit of a head scratcher, not due to the quality of his performance in the film but rather because he was nominated for this film instead of his work in Blue Velvet from the same year. The problem with his Blue Velvet performance though is that the character of Frank Booth is not only evil but downright depraved in the most extreme fashion. The academy does not mind brutal villains, they nominated Berenger for this year, but Hopper's Frank was maybe just a little too sick for their tastes.

Perhaps Hopper could have been nominated for Blue Velvet if there was not the rather stupid rule that actors can only be nominated once in a single category but because of that it still gave voters the ability to vote for Hopper, but instead of voting for his portraying of a drug using, murderous sex fiend they could nominate him for the goodhearted town drunk in this film. It is remarkable actually the extreme difference in his two characters although they are both substance abusers one is a good man inside who seems to have the ability to be an even better man inside him.

Disregarding his other performance entirely though Hopper's performance here still does hold merit as the town drunk with a son on the basketball team who finds a second chance through Hackman's character offering him the chance to be his assistant coach. Hopper has plenty of drunk scenes and moments of his character being rather pathetic. Hopper doesn't overdue these scenes. Shooter is disruptive when drunk, and Hopper captures that while not ever making it seem like time for acting which these sorts of scenes commonly let themselves become.

Even though he really is not given much time to develop his character's past other than just a few passing remarks Hopper is effective in actually establishing his character's troubled history. He shows both a pride and a pain in his past over his own success and failures that he had in the past. Hopper's portrayal of this is actually quite remarkable as it is difficult to show both of these feelings without one clearly overwhelming the other or at least failing to convey either well. Hopper though succeeds in showing an honest past of both trouble and accomplishment.

Later as the film when Shooter gets his second chance Hopper is quite effective because he really does not show that Shooter changes but rather through his weaknesses there always was a stronger man inside. Hopper is careful to show that he never completely forgets his problems in his scenes on the basketball court, but rather he is able to pull himself just enough to bring out the best of him. It is a very moving portrait of this man that realizes his character's struggle and strength authentically without a moment of seeming to force Shooter's better moments. Hopper frankly could not be better in the role and does create a moving portrait of this man without ever making his more emotional moments feel in anyway manipulative. Although it might not be his most memorable performance of the year it certainly is a good one and stands as one of the better supporting performances of the year.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1986: Denholm Elliot in A Room With A View

Denholm Elliot received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Mr. Emerson in A Room With A View.

A Room With A View describes the troubles a young woman faces (Helena Bonham Carter) due the repression involved with Edwardian society.

After winning three Baftas in a role for a supporting actor Elliot finally received an Oscar nomination for his role in this film. I imagine this possibly helped give Elliot the edge with voters over Daniel Day-Lewis from the same film for portraying the stiffest of all Edwardians. Elliot portrays quite a different character in Mr. Emerson who does not abide by many of the Edwardian requirements for proper living and of course behavior. He is a bit more emotional and flamboyant that the ideal Edwardian person, as is his free spirited son George (Julian Sands).

The part is actually rather limited and simplistic though. All Mr. Emerson does is act a little flamboyant, as well as shows his caring for his son who he wants the best for. He is only in a few scenes actually and his impact on the film is not all that great. Denholm Elliot though does his best to infuse life into his part in small ways in his short scenes. He most certainly has an energy in his scenes showing how he is not at all repressed like many of the other people who bend to the rules of society. As well as showing a quiet passion and love for his son showing that Mr. Emerson wants what is best for his son.

Denholm Elliot certainly does fulfill his role. I would in fact say he fulfills it as about any other actor could have. He is a nice enough presence in the film really, but he really is not a particularly memorable one either. I won't say this is his fault in the least he just is not given enough to do. It is never a bad performance in any shape or form. It is an entirely suitable performance for the film, and he does not waste his screen time as he very well could have. In the end though it just is not a remarkable performance, and his nomination for this film was not needed.

Best Supporting Actor 1986: Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger in Platoon

 Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger received both of their first Oscar nominations Dafoe for portraying Sgt. Elias Grodin and Berenger for portraying Sgt. Bob Barnes.

Platoon depicts the tour of duty of Pvt. Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) in Vietnam who struggles with the war as well as the morality of men within it.

I usually do not review performances together even when they are part of the same film unless reviewing one performance naturally causes me to mention the other constantly and this is the cause of Dafoe and Berenger. As the two men portray the beacons of morality within the film Berenger's Barnes representing evil well Dafoe's Elias represents the good. With Oliver Stone an actor must be careful when Stone's heavy handed black and white writing and direction is around, since it can easily lead to very over the top performance, luckily though Berenger and Dafoe are competent enough not to be swept up into the over the topness Stone can often cause in performances.

Neither of the actors overplay their part and both do attempt to turn them into real people, even if Stone's writing tries to keep them both a little simpler than they really needed to be to even convey his theme he wanted out of the two of them. Berenger as the bad Sergeant is the rougher of the two scarred from the war, but also dominate over the the men even over their lieutenant. Berenger early in the film is effective because he does not try to be the eventual point of Stone's early but rather just shows a tough Sergeant leading his men along and doing his job the way he sees he must do it. Dafoe actually counters him in much the same way he doesn't try to make Elias a man of good, but as well just a Sergeant doing his job although in a kinder more humane fashion and interestingly enough early on their differences don't seem that extreme.

The two show two very different fashions in which the two Sergeants cope with the war but both actors handle it effectively so. Berenger shows Barnes to basically internalize most of his feelings toward the war and only seems to realize it in his acts of violence. Although Berenger is great in a few short moments where he shows the emotions quietly coming out of Barnes over the death of soldiers that is very well handled considering such a moment could have been completely forgotten with the path his character eventually takes. Dafoe on the other hand more of show an exasperation in Elias over his years in the war finding them tiring him, and losing faith in the effort. Dafoe conveys this carefully because he does not show it as if Elias has given up but rather there is a still a passion to keep his men alive, but still he sees much of his efforts being futile.

There paths though converge quickly as Barnes murders civilians and Elias fights with Barnes because of this. The two performances than assume their roles of the good and the evil. Berenger is appropriately intense and chilling as Barnes when he goes over the edge and starts killing. He acts though not quite as some sort of soulless villain but rather a man who has just gone over the edge. Berenger does not turn Barnes into the most memorable of villains but that really is not a problem as Berenger plays down his evil enough to be far more realistic as Barnes actually. Dafoe as well does not overdo the goodness of the character for a moment. Elias simply is just a good man effortlessly so because of Dafoe. There is no visible effort in his performance to portray the kindness in Elias he is just honestly a good man.

Both actors achieve in developing the central conflict of the film without hammering it in as much as lesser actors would have even though there director probably would not have minded either way. Just as if not more importantly though both are effective in making their characters human beings first before being representatives of dark and the lighter side of mankind. There performances are strong efforts throughout and each have individual moments that do stand out. Dafoe of course has his big dramatic final scenes which is terrifically acted by him. Berenger best moment comes in his moment we he challenges all of Elias' men on their death threats toward. Berenger is great in the way he absolutely controls the moment and the men as Barnes. Both give strong performances that serve their film probably as well as they possibly could.
(Same Rating for Both)

Monday, 26 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1986

And the Nominees Were:

Tom Berenger in Platoon

Willem Dafoe in Platoon

Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters

Denholm Elliott in A Room With A View

Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1999: Results

5. Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules- Caine with a strange accent gives a dull sometimes almost lifeless performance that never seems to bring the genuine emotions one would for a part that seems like it is only ever trying to be emotional.
4. Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile-Duncan achieves this well with his performance by finding just the right sort of characterization for Coffey all the way through the film.
3. Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley-  Law gives an performance effective because he never only seizes one note with his performance and realistically portrays both Dickie's cruel and charming side equally well.
2. Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense- It would have been very easy to lose the human element to the horror that comes into the film, but Osment always is able to keep the humanity in his character alive throughout the film in his performance.
1. Tom Cruise in Magnolia- Cruise might not be my favorite actor, but he is absolutely brilliant here absolutely succeeding with a character that could have gone wrong in a great number of ways but never does. He turns his bizarre guru in a memorable and very intriguing character.
Deserving Performances:
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Magnolia
Alan Rickman in Galaxy Quest

Best Supporting Actor 1999: Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense

Haley Joel Osment received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense.

The Sixth Sense details a psychiatrist Dr. Malcolm Crowe's (Bruce Willis) attempts to help a boy who claims he sees dead people.

Haley Joel Osment portrays the boy who sees dead people. Child actors can be a lot of things one is under actors who seem sometimes to be reading their lines right off cue cards for the very first time, or they can be the overactive sort who rely on the worst type of antics possible just to try to convey some sort of attitude. Osment though does not fall into either of these categories and completely avoids any sort of the troubles or bad acting that can easily result from a bad child actor.

It has been said this performance is a bit of category fraud but it is not that bad of a case of it since at least there is another lead, and he is missing from several scenes that focus on Bruce Willis' character. Nevertheless though this is a strong performance whether it is truly supporting or leading because Haley Joel Osment doesn't just avoid any of the flaws of a child performance but instead actually gives a great performance no matter what the age of the performer.

Osment's Cole is troubled from his first scene and Osment is excellent in these moments rather quietly portraying the fear in the boy over his terrible ability. He honestly realizes this piercing fear that sits within him Osment internalizes this within Cole exceedingly well. There is no question of Cole's troubles Osment shows it through his eyes. Before we even know there is a terror that exists for the boy Osment shows us the extreme weight the terror holds over him in these early quiet moments.

That is not to say he does not have a few technically louder moments, but Osment realistically portrays these moments as he does his other ones. What works about this performance is because Osment never tries to act as if Cole is some kid wise beyond his years, rather he is always a child in the end. His scenes where he verbally attacks his teacher for looking at him the wrong way. Osment is very intense in his portrayal of that but it always is still in a manner a child would attack, a very troubled child, but still a child.

Later on in the film as his horror becomes far more apparent to the audience themselves we are able to follow along right with Osment as he faces the horror and we see exactly what he sees. He brings us right along with him in his troubling state. Osment brings the horror truly to life though because he does not ever act as some sort of throw away character but actually turns Cole in a honest person going through this making terror much more real than it would have been otherwise.

What though is especially strong about his performance though is his slow change he shows in Cole over his experience. He slowly comes to eventually face his fears, and eventually tries help the dead ones he sees. Osment is very moving as Cole slowly brightens up and the pain begins to go away. It is an effective change that Osment never overplays this change it instead a slow gradual but in a strange way heartwarming as Cole comes to terms with his strange problem.

This is actually an excellent performance that never fails to bring the appropriate life to his part. He makes Cole in a real child facing what he is facing in the film. It would have been very easy to lose this human element to the horror that comes into the film, but Osment always is able to keep the humanity in his character alive throughout the film. This is a great performance by Osment that always manages to exceed what the role could have been in lesser hands.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1999: Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile

Michael Clarke Duncan received his first Oscar nomination for portraying John Coffey in The Green Mile.

The Green Mile details the events in the death row section of prison which one very unusual prisoner.

Michael Clarke Duncan portrays the unusual prisoner and his initials being J.C. surely is not by accident. John Coffey is on the death row for being found holding two girl who were brutally murdered. This is a rather unique role for Duncan who before and after this performance mainly portrays either hulking heavies or big guys who are rather goofy in some way. This one is a little different as the gigantic John Coffey who has some supernatural healing powers that can even bring things back from the dead.

This is not a performance that is suppose to have that much grey area. You would never really believe that he actually murdered anyone with Duncan's gentle giant portrayal of John Coffey. This is a fairly cut and dry performance in that regard as it should have been actually. He is suppose to be the man who has been wrong accused and convicted and is honestly a gentle soul with a special ability. With that in mind does turn John Coffey into the exact character the film would want.

Duncan makes Coffey a simple man but not a stupid man. He sees thing clearly quite simply, and says everyone in a straight fashion. Duncan actually makes this an endearing quality in Coffey. There is not anything he trying to hide he is genuinely the kind man he appears to be. Duncan makes it obvious that there is not a single hidden motive within Coffey he is exactly as he should be. Duncan turns Coffey into the purely good character Coffey should be.

Coffey though is not without pain as he is a modest man who does indeed detest evil men. Duncan is again effective in a mostly quite fashion as he again shows the simplicity in the way Coffey sees evil man and their actions. There again is not hesitations in Duncan performance that shows the strength and strong will inside the mostly modest man. Duncan is carefully to show that it is not really hatred toward the men Coffey has but rather he simply inflicts a righteous judgment against them instead.

Coffey really could have been portrayed very poorly if the actor failed to convey the simply goodness of the character without seeming absolutely genuine or ever being boring. Duncan achieves this well with his performance by finding just the right sort of characterization for Coffey all the way through the film. He turns Coffey into a likable and appropriately tragic figure in the end. We don't want anything bad to happen to Coffey, and it is heartbreaking when it does because of Duncan's realization of him.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1999: Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley

Jude Law received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

The Talented Mr. Ripley details Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) a strange young man who sent to Europe return a rich man's son, but does far differently than what was planned.

Jude Law portray Dickie Greenleaf the rich man's son who is a rather shallow character. The whole point of his character though is this fact as he is not a very depth filled man in the least. Dickie is far more of just a spoiled rich brat who wants to just sort of live his way no matter what the consequences may be to others, or how he treats some of the various people around him. Portraying a shallow character actually can be more difficult that it might seems because one must avoid only giving an entirely shallow performance as well. Law though avoids this portraying the rather shallow Dickie creating a realistic portrait of a shallow man.

In his early scenes when he first meets Ripley there the right sort of welcoming quality in Law's performance. I would not say a warmth but most certainly there is a great deal of charm Law has as Dickie. He effectively does make us like him even if he really is lacking in likable qualities simply because of this charm that is present in Law's performance as Dickie. He makes it entirely believable that everyone around him is basically swept up by him whether it be Tom, his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), or his other friend Freddie (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Dickie though is in a way just a charm though that can only last for so long as he still is a shallow man who most certainly uses whatever he wants out of other just like Tom Ripley. The difference though between he and Tom though is that Law shows Dickie manipulations of still a man rather than the calculated villain that is Ripley. What makes the the cold side so effective though is the way Law's completely authentic fashion in which he portrays this coldness. He shows it as just a part of the spoiled brat that is Dickie it is just something he does and barely even thinks about.

Law effectively portrays this cruelty he is just as believable in causing Ripley's alienation as he was in bringing him in with his charm. Law is effective because he never only seizes one note with his performance and realistically portrays Dickie many sides of his personality well. He can go from absolutely charming to absolutely cruel in just a few moments believably because of Law. Dickie is indeed a shallow individual, but Law never portrays him in shallow way. He realizes a fully fledged character in his own right that fulfills his role in the film.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1999: Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules

Michael Caine won his second Oscar from his fifth nomination for portraying Dr. Wilbur Larch in The Cider House Rules.

The Cider House Rules details a young man Homer (Tobey Maguire) raised in a orphanage and trained by the doctor there to replace him decides to see the world.

Michael Caine won his second Oscar over a child actor, one star, one up and comer and Michael Clarke Duncan. It should have not been a surprise for him to win against these four despite winning before as he had veteran status, but more importantly his role  is pure Oscar bait. A devoted doctor at an orphanage who also is a drug addict and an abortionist in a film that seeks some sort of big emotional response in every scene. Caine even does an accent far from his own accent in the film that is not some derivative of his own accent, but a full fledged attempt at a New England accent.

This is the first flaw in the performance though that hinders the rest of the performance. Accents really don't matter that much to me except if they really add to a performance or are extremely distracting. Caine's accent unfortunately is the latter. His accent sounds like the inspector accent he used in Sleuth but without the Britishness, also that accent was an act within an act, this is suppose to be an entirely natural voice of Dr. Wilbur Larch. The accent though always sounds like something Caine is forcing out of his mouth rather than part of his character which is unfortunate.

Strangely enough though this is not my only problem with this performance which is unusual for me as I tend to always like Caine, but this performance is an exception. Caine is suppose to play a fatherly figure to the orphanage as Dr. Larch who is a kindhearted man who wants to what he believes is the right thing to do to help people. The problem there is strange lack of genuine warmth in Caine's performance in this film. He seems often cold in the role oddly enough, even though that really is not suppose to be the intent of his character.

This is especially true with his scenes with Tobey Maguire. They are suppose to be practically father and son in their scenes. They are suppose to be so close, and Dr. Larch is suppose to hold Homer so dear that he is absolutely heartbroken over Homer's decision to leave the orphanage. There seems to be no connection at all between the actors. I will say this is not helped by Maguire who is close to becoming blandness incarnate in this film, but still the relationship is never more than just a rather artificial one at best.

His character also does have his darker side as well involving his ether using as well as his affairs with his nurses. Neither of these aspects really come alive either. There really is nothing in Caine's performance that makes these scenes mean anything more than just something that Larch does. Why is he a ether addict, who knows, who cares frankly it doesn't serve to make his character anymore compelling and only seems to exist to make his character more unsavory. These aspects just are not given the needed attention to make them important nor does Caine bring the importance to them though.

I must say I actually was amazed how little this performance did for me. I was not moved once by his performance despite all of the sad stares given by Caine throughout the film with the sentimental film score along with it. This performance by Caine left me completely cold which was the opposite of the intent of the film. This is not a completely terrible performance I suppose as it is still performance by Michael Caine who usually avoids giving a completely incompetent performance, but it is a very uninteresting and ineffective performance that for the most part fails to fulfill the needs of the role.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1999: Tom Cruise in Magnolia

Tom Cruise received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia.

Magnolia depicts a multitude of intersecting stories involving people searching or dealing with many very different problems.

Magnolia is a large ensemble film with many intersecting stories but the only performer nominated from the entire cast was Tom Cruise as the sex self help male domination guru. Cruise certainly gives an audacious performance here that he very different from anything he did before this performance. This is not say Cruise does not use some of the same methods in terms of his acting as some of his earlier performances, but never in support of a character quite like Frank T.J. Mackey the seduce and destroy guru. Cruise though uses some of these common techniques in a vastly different fashion.

Cruise never lets the fact that he is Tom Cruise get in the way of his performance as Frank Mackey. He never apologizes for a moment for his character's beliefs or actions. He absolutely becomes Mackey with the utmost conviction never once winking to the audience otherwise or even acting like underneath the performance he thinks poorly of Mackey, through his whole performance Cruise is utterly devoted with the character and does not waver for even a moment. This devotion of Mackey is shown in every scene particularly in his opening seminar scene.

In his first seminar scene Cruise effectively exudes the confidence in Mackey, and his undying to devotion to his ideas and his cause. Cruise finds the perfect way to portray the methods of Mackey, and just the sort of parody, without ever being a parody, of a self guru with a rather insane concept for what he completely believes in. Cruise is properly magnetic as well as energetic in these moments, and honestly sells the whole rather bizarre concept of Mackey's seminars through his performance. Cruise honestly is the guru and makes the character believable.

The meat of his scenes involve his interview with a female reporter though. Cruise stays effective as he shows even on a one on one interview Mackey still keeps the same style acting like some sort of aggressive animal at all times. In these scenes though Cruise also effectively shows the weaknesses behind his seemingly overflowing confidence. Cruise is terrific here because he does not overdo the weaknesses in Mackey and makes his character's revelations over his past subtle. The small little moments in his performance that suggest the pain and vulnerability of Mackey Cruise infuses well with his far more extroverted moments.

As Mackey when asked about his past Cruise carefully only suggest that he is hiding something. Cruise is interesting here because he basically just goes through his past quickly, but when questioned about Cruise shows that Mackey almost attempts to charm his way through it. Cruise probably has never used that smile of his in a film better than he does here. He shows it as basically almost an attack in Mackey's disposal for both his method, and to avoid facing his past which the interviewer wants him to do. Cruise continues to succeed as Mackey becomes more and more pressured to face what he doesn't want to.

Cruise is interesting as he tones down the charm of Mackey who starts his tactics, and Cruise shows a predator looking for a single weakness while making the smallest attacks. Cruise's smallest facial gestures in the scene are absolutely brilliant as he shows in full view Mackey's rather lowly method that really loses any charm it might of had when he feels attacked. Cruise effectively portrays Mackey's loss of confidence well particularly in his second seminar where he loses any magnetic quality he had before, and just seems much more lost and overly emotional.

His pivotal moments come in his final scene where he finally does face what he was trying to avoid, and that is seeing his dying estranged father (Jason Robards). Cruise does make the most of these final moments as all of Mackey's defenses go away and he talks to his dying father. Cruise is effective in his portrayal of the hatred he feels for his father due to his treatment of his mother. Cruise shows a vulnerability and sadness in Mackey that honestly quite moving despite Mackey previous actions in the film. When also suffering the grief over his father though again Cruise is terrific in his almost silent portrayal near the end effectively realizes the long troubles and issues with his father in a single scene. Cruise might not be my favorite actor, but he is absolutely brilliant here absolutely succeeding with a character that could have gone wrong in a great number of ways but never does.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1999

And the Nominees Were:

Tom Cruise in Magnolia

Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley

Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules

Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile

Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense

Best Supporting Actor 2008: Results

5. Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road- Shannon gives an intense performance that serves the film the way it wants him to, I only wish his depiction of the mentally instability man could have been a little less obvious display of acting.
4. Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt- Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives an effective performance that succeeds in treading the fine line to keep the mystery of his character intact without making his performance seem lacking.
3. Josh Brolin in Milk- Josh Brolin although has a very limited screen time that realizes the standard politician on the outside as well as the lonely unhappy man on the inside.
2. Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder- Robert Downey Jr. gives a very enjoyable and entertaining performance by portraying a character who is entirely there to be funny by portraying him with the utmost conviction and devotion.
1. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight- Excellent prediction Eddie. Heath Ledger simply gives an outstanding performance. Ledger never tries for a moment to portray the Joker in a safe fashion. Every risk that he takes with the performance that absolutely succeeds in creating a chilling entertaining and very memorable villain.
Deserving Performances:
Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges
Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading
Gary Oldman in The Dark Knight

Monday, 19 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2008: Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder

Robert Downey Jr. received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder.

Tropic Thunder is a comedy about a group of actors trying to film a war movie about a rescue effort, but find they must actually must do a rescue much like in the film.

Although a comedic or at least a performance with comedic elements is not too rare in this particular category a completely absurd sort of comedic performance is uncommon, although this sort of performance gave Kevin Kline a deserved Oscar win. Robert Downey Jr. performance certainly is a strange one as he portrays 5 time academy award winner Kirk Lazarus who is portraying African American Sgt. Osiris being a devoted method actor he delves into the role by darkening his skin as well as staying in character at all times even after a death that certainly would put the production on hold. 

Although this performance is rather complex in many ways by Robert Downey Jr. it also is rather simple in its intent. The only real point behind the whole character's setup is to be funny more than anything else. Downey most certainly does this through each facet of his character. From firstly his portrayal of Lazarus's portrayal of Sgt. Osiris which is a gruff no nonsense sounding somewhat like the leads in some blaxploitation films. What really makes Downey funny as Osiris is just how serious he is actually in the role. Although the idea of his character is absurd Downey never treats it as such.

Downey's dead seriousness with his character is hilarious as he says every single line no matter how stupid it may sound, or strange with the same deadpan conviction. As the point of view his character makes sense though as well as Lazarus is suppose to take every role as seriously as possible, and with as much dedication as possible so no matter what he is saying it should be with this certainty. Really this sort of seriousness is perfect for the character and frankly if he tried to clearly make every line funny and every tried to obviously poke fun at the portrayal it would not have worked. This performance works because Downey shows at all times Lazarus sees nothing funny at all about what he is doing.

Downey is though remains funny though even in his character's pivotal moment near the end of the film where he confronts his whole idea of being playing all sorts of dudes. Again Downey is funny as well as being effective becoming the Australian actor who reminds me of Mel Gibson circa The Road Warrior. He again makes the over dramatics of his transformation, as well as the transformation itself both believable and funny because Downey always stays absolutely committed and invested into the role. The whole role of Kirk Lazarus frankly could have been quite a big failure in a great number of ways luckily though Downey is up to the task. Everything Downey does only amplifies the effect of his roles and the roles of Kirk Lazarus because he plays this entirely comedic performance just as he would a dramatic one.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2008: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger won his Oscar from his second and final nomination for portraying The Joker in The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight details the struggle for the morals and fate of Gotham City between Batman (Christian Bale) and the Joker.

The supporting category more recently has been known as the villains, although one can find villains throughout the category as both nominees, and winners like Walter Brennan, Gig Young, and Gene Hackman was never opposed to rewarding villains in the category. In the years of 07, 08 and 09 though they simply made a habit of it. 08 certainly felt like a villains year though as two of the nominees were undoubted villains, and two of the other nominees could easily been argued as antagonist characters. The winner therefore makes sense to have been the biggest villain of them all.

The Joker has been portrayed several times actually two times previously in live form with Caesar Romero camping it up with his portrayal in the 60's, and Jack Nicholson handling the character in a somewhat similar fashion in 80's Batman film. Ledger with his posthumous Oscar winning performance though although does not reject those previous portrayals he never for a moment tries to just copy these earlier renditions, and makes the Joker of this film something very much of his own creation. He doesn't exactly reject these earlier portrayals, but it clear that Ledger's version of the Joker always belongs to Ledger.

Ledger does this with an extremely risky performance that never tries to play it safe. Ledger's entire performance is on a ledge (no pun intended) the entire time seeming to try something new in every scene he has. A performance like this is all one really a huge chance, since it never for moment feels like standard performance and is a completely different from anything Heath Ledger ever did before in this film. Because of this Ledger's performance does face reactions all around the spectrum really because of this risks since his performance either works for you or it doesn't there really is not a great deal of middle ground.

For me personally all of Ledger's risks he takes with the Joker all pay off completely. The voice he uses with the strange accent works perfectly for the Joker. He both sounds completely insane with it, yet he as well still is commanding and chilling at the same time. His hunched over posture, and his whole bizarre mannerisms all work in favor of making Joker an unforgettable creation. The amazing part of it all though is despite every little thing he does to create this Joker it never for a moment felt like a performance to me. Ledger always simply becomes the Joker from his first scene to his last he is the character, every little mannerism is only more of what the Joker is.

Ledger's Joker is a terrific villain because of how much he does accomplish with the part. He never is one note in the part oddly enough even though the Joker is a character who doesn't change in throughout the course of the film and his only objective is technically to create chaos with what he does. Ledger in each and every scene gives a chilling villain who has a overwhelming presence every time he is on screen. You really cannot help but look at Ledger in this performance. Ledger shows here that the Joker takes almost everything in stride, and almost never ceases to have fun no matter how much evil he is committing with his actions. Ledger shows a great joy in the Joker. His joker simply loves being the Joker there is never a question that he could be anything else.

Ledger never goes about a scene in a single fashion of being just an imposing villain, even though he is always effective with that. What it interesting is his different levels of insanity and his different attitudes depending on who is dealing with. Frankly one can see in Ledger's performance is his differing attitudes to his adversaries. When it is someone he frankly seems to see as a more worthy foe he honestly seems to have more fun with them and takes what seems like a more lighthearted approach. When it is someone though the Joker would have very little respect for someone he sees more of a tool than anything else he treats them with far less respect which means for the Joker not being as funny. In this moments Ledger really makes Joker the most chilling because when he has no respect he is especially swift and cruel with his violence.

What is truly terrific about this performance and it is probably the same element that helped give his fellow most recent villainous winners their wins frankly is their ability to be quite entertaining and funny despite being terrible characters. Ledger probably has even more of it than Bardem and Waltz even though and constantly adds an energetic dark humor to every scene with the Joker through even the smallest reactions. Ledger could not have been better in the role. He keeps the Joker the enigma quite effectively without seeming like a well realizes the character since nothing is really told about the Joker's the one thing he does tell he contradicts himself. He keeps the Joker as a mystery yet he realizes Joker as a truly insane individual who certainly came from somewhere but it is probably better off not know where he came from.This type of risky performance by Ledger could have easily gone all wrong, but Ledger only ever succeeds with his great performance.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2008: Josh Brolin in Milk

Josh Brolin received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Dan White in Milk.

Josh Brolin portrays the eventual assassin of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) who is also his fellow San Francisco city supervisor. Watching Milk again I must say I was a little surprised to see just how little screen time Brolin actually has in the film. Yes he is a perpetual character almost throughout the film, but he only comes in and out for brief periods. Whenever Brolin is on screen though he makes a substantial impact even in the briefest moments. Brolin despite his technically limited screen time avoids ever making Dan White into just into an obvious villain for the film, or an inevitable plot development for the film, Brolin instead succeeds making Dan White into a fascinating character in his own right.

We see Dan White only really on the outside we never see him at his home, or in his personal life, and Brolin must convey everything about White in the smallest of ways. The amazing part about Brolin's performance is his success with the part, I never felt for a moment White was underdeveloped by him despite his limitations within the context of the film. Brolin performance firstly is quite successful in his representation of White for the most part such as in his public appearances. In just his public appearances Brolin just suggests Dan White as just a man passionate about his specific beliefs. He does not try to make him an evil man just a fairly typical politician, at first.

His early scenes are actually pivotal to his performance as he actually tries to be friends with the man he eventually murders. Brolin here is excellent in that he shows Dan White as a man looking for some sort of friendship, a strange man who has some sort of separation from others for whatever reason Brolin is careful not to disclose. There is a sadness though in Brolin's performance creating strangely enough a great deal of sympathy for White. He is able to keep this degree of sympathy even when he is fighting with Milk over there eventual divergences. Brolin shows White to honestly feel betrayed actually no so much for Milk not doing what he wanted, but rather clearly not being his friend that he believed he might have been.

Brolin's performance builds over every little scene showing a pressure building on him in each moment he is on screen up until the murders. Brolin is absolutely brilliant in his final scenes as he goes about the killing because of how matter of fact he is. He never shows it to be some sort of act of a lunatic for a single moment, but rather far more chilling by the act of a man who has simply gone off the edge that just seemed what he had to do. This is a terrific performance by Brolin that realizes his character fully despite his limited screen time. I only wish he frankly was given more time since what he does with White is incredible, and left me only wanting to actually see more of his character.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2008: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt

Philip Seymour Hoffman received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Father Brendan Flynn in Doubt.

Doubt details the strict Sister Aloysius' (Meryl Streep) suspicions about her parish and school's priest around his relationship with one of the students.

Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays the priest who may or may not be a child molester it is never made absolutely clear either way. Hoffman is careful to portray Father Flynn as just an average priest early on in the film. There is an innate friendliness in his performance that is fitting of his priest who wants to make the church come off that way to outsiders as well as the parents of the children in the school. In addition to this in his sermon scenes Hoffman has a confidence as well an understated passion that is a perfect fit for his priest.

Hoffman early though leaves his character open to interpretation just enough without ever seeming like an obvious problem in anyway. There does always seem to be something else about Father Flynn in Hoffman's portrayal that never leaves him as a black or white figure but a man of grey. Hoffman carefully conveys this in just his early moments such as when he is talking to the boys about dating or even just teaching them about basketball. Hoffman finds just the right approach here because he technically does not seem to say anything precisely, but yet he still conveys the idea that there is something more to Father Flynn.

Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance greatest challenge comes when he may or may not have committed a crime. Hoffman neither confirms or denies his crime at any moment in his performance. This is something very difficult to be able to do without falling one way the other, the best portrayal of this is obviously Jeremy Irons in Reversal of Fortune, Hoffman here is not quite on Irons level yet his portrayal of Flynn's possible guilt is well handled. Hoffman does carefully suggests guilt in a way but not necessarily guilt in terms of what he is being accused of, but possibly guilt because of some feeling for the crime not because he actually did it. Hoffman leaves Flynn properly open to interpretation.

Many of Hoffman's pivotal scenes though come in his confrontational moments with Meryl Streep's Sister Aloysius. These scenes are really are as much of their character's conflict as the actors conflict over their styles in the scene. Meryl Streep here has the accent and the greater degree of theatrics which makes sense for her character who always wants her presence to be known as well as wants things done her way, Hoffman on the other hand downplays his half of the conflict. Hoffman makes Flynn almost trying to avoid the conflict with the sister, and constantly trying just to calm the situation more than outright attack the sister back on her terms.

It is a very effective approach that works well in contrast to Streep's approach that creates an interesting dynamic between the two. Hoffman with ease shows the great emotional range that Father Flynn goes through in just a single scene. From his early moments of trying to be just dismissive, to soon becoming more frustrated and angry while showing an underlying guilt of some sort at the same time. Hoffman is extremely effective because he moves through this emotions with absolute realism. There is no disconnect in his performance but rather every emotion is all part of Father Flynn's troubled reaction to the accusations made against him.

Hoffman is able to handle all of the difficulties of the role in strive never falling into any sort of obvious trap one way or another in terms of his character. He completely fulfills the challenges of the role and achieves precisely what he needs to with the role of Father Flynn. If I were to complain about the performance, and really I do not need to as he he gives a very strong performance, is I could not help feeling it could have perhaps been even better of one than it already is. It is not to say there is a single problem with his performance, there really isn't, only could not help but feel with such a character it could have been an absolutely stunning performance instead of just a very good one. I can't even identify really what exactly stops him from going further I really can't, but in the end I can't shake the feeling that perhaps he could have. Nevertheless this is a fine performance from Hoffman and should be recognized as such.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2008: Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road

Michael Shannon received his first Oscar nomination for portraying John Givings in Revolutionary Road.

Revolutionary Road is one of those films about the soullessness of suburbanites this time about the Wheelers played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

Michael Shannon portrays a plot contrivance the son of one the Wheelers friends who has been in an institution and is mentally unbalanced. The whole point of his character seems to be the Oscar nominated character for the film, since John acts as the only one who will tell those suburbanites that they are the soulless individuals they are. This is not to say that Michael Shannon performance is bad, but his character's whole existence is a little questionable.

Shannon shows up in three scene to chew the scenery a bit particularly in his first and last scenes. Again this does not mean its bad, after all the performance and character seemed setup just to be the Oscar nominated supporting performance for the film. It is true that since his character is suppose to be intrusive as well as mentally unbalanced it would be technically wrong for his performance to be quiet but I don't think the part of John has to be quite actory fashion Shannon chooses to portray him.

All three scenes he wants to steal with his performance which makes John seem frankly more intrusive than he some ways should be, because he seems intrusive through what feels like a performance more than what feels like actually human behavior but than again the character in itself is just a plot device to be used therefore I suppose Shannon's method is supportive of that fact. I do think though John would have been more interesting if he had been portrayed more realistic and in a less purposefully showy manner.

I should not be mistaken though because Shannon still is effective in the role. He is intense and certainly entertaining as he acts out his part. He never came alive as a mentally disturbed man exactly but he did act well as the plot device he was written as has. The doubt and hatred John fires up is most certainly understandable through Shannon's striking performance. He does control his scenes without question and certainly makes it so cannot avoid John's observations.

Shannon performance does work in context for the film which I highly doubted really wanted a more realistic and depth filled approach, which I think perhaps Shannon could have pulled off to, but the film does not care about who John really is it just wants him to cause conflict within the film when it needs him to. It really is a missed opportunity for both Shannon and a character for his character to less than he frankly could have been. John easily could have been a great very memorable character, but as it is Shannon gives a strong enough performance but not one that stays with you too long after watching the film.