Thursday, 31 January 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973: Robert Shaw in The Sting

Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting.

Robert Shaw portrays the main villain of the film an Irish mobster who is chosen to be the mark by con artists Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), and Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) due to Lonnegan having ordered the murder of Hooker's mentor. Robert Shaw is one of my favorite actors and he shows exactly why with his performance here as Lonnegan. Lonnegan honestly is not that complex of the role as he  really does fall entirely for the con artists plan all the way. What is great about Shaw's work here is making Lonnegan a compelling villain when he easily could have been a one note and frankly boring performance.

Robert Shaw has a certain screen presence where he just tears into a scene. Shaw honestly has a lot of fun with the role while keeping his performance being entirely serious. Whether it is his Irish accent that only amplifies Lonnegan's characterizations as a hard Irish mobster. He also even incorporates his own personal injury into again suggesting a bit of history of the man by playing Lonnegan a man with a limp, he just adds so much with these smaller elements in his performance. Robert Shaw technically is doing a quite of lot of "acting" here but he has deadly conviction in the role making it so, just like all my favorite actors, it is a completely invisible.

Lonnegan is a fairly small role, and really does get have all that much to say, but Shaw makes the most every moments he has.  This particularly true in the scene where he plays cards with Gondorff as they both try to out cheat each other to win the game. Shaw is the master of the deadly stare, and he is brilliant in the way he shows just how much anger he is cooking up inside himself. When Gondorff repeatedly beats him Shaw conveys that level of disgust in Lonnegan in his steely eyes, and that violence is cooking right beneath his surface. When Lonnegan finally forcible corrects Gondorff on the correct pronunciation of his last name the intensity in Shaw's performance is incredible.

For a harsh villain one needs to look no further than to Robert Shaw for cold brutality never is portrayed by anyone more naturally than Robert Shaw. In one of the earliest scenes with Lonnegan he casually orders the murders of two people, as well as just as casually remarks to one of his men that if those two men are not killed he will have to kill far more people to retain his power. Shaw is brilliant in delivery such unabashed cruelty in Lonnegan. There is not even a second thought in his head about the situation he is just going to have them killed. Shaw shows this as just business as usual something that Lonnegan is very use to by now, and any hesitations would make things bad for business.

In the actual process of the Sting almost everyone around Lonnegan is playing some sort of game, acting out a part, or playing up some sort of angle to set up Lonnegan for the Sting. Shaw is right in the center of it all and he plays a very important role as the mark, because he stands as the man who is acting in a completely honest fashion oddly enough. Shaw therefore gives a very realistic performance here, and his reactions through the process are spot on. This is very important to the film as Shaw runs the fine line of showing Lonnegan going along with the Sting, but as well there is a incisive way in the way he looks that properly suggests at any moment the Sting could be kaput. 

This is a great performance by Robert Shaw, as the role of Lonnegan could have been easily eaten whole by the purposefully more flamboyant performances of the con artists. Shaw never allows this to happen instead he successfully steals scenes (from Redford) or perfectly shares scenes (with Newman) as the villain of the piece. Shaw simple sinks his teeth into this part in a way that most other actors would not have been able to do. If there is one reason more than any other why Robert Shaw is one of my five favorite actors is that he makes me just love to watch him act in a way that very few actors do. I love watching his performance here which absolutely makes Doyle Lonnegan a villain you love to hate.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973: Max von Sydow in The Exorcist

Max von Sydow did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Father Lankester Merrin in The Exorcist.

Max von Sydow actually opens the film as Roman Catholic priest who is the head of an archeological dig that unearths an artifact that represents an ancient demon. These early scenes are basically silent and set up the mood of the picture. Sydow helps sets up these scenes with his performance as Merrin. Despite not saying anything Sydow establishes Merrin quite well here  as we see his reactions to the demonic symbols. He portrays a certain fear in Merrin that set up his past knowledge of the demon. His haunted expression in Merrin creates the appropriate dread, but as well suggest that Merrin most likely has a personal history with this particular evil.

Max von Sydow does not appear again until late in the film when Merrin is called in to exorcize the demon that has possessed Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair). Sydow despite only showing up for a few scenes near the end of the film makes a considerable impact. What works well about his performance is the dynamic between his portrayal of Mirren and Jason Miller's portrayal of Father Karras. Where Miller portrays Karras as a hesitate priest filled with doubts, as well as being quite lost when it comes to dealing with the possession, Sydow portrays Merrin as man with a full grasp and command of the situation. When he first comes in telling Karras about the Demon Sydow makes Merrin a man with a clear understanding of the situation.

In the actual exorcism scenes Merrin goes directly at the demon. In the scenes Sydow is a constant of strength as he shows no hesitations as he fiercely goes against the demon. Sydow's performance is very effective portraying a passionate force for good against the demon. He brings the appropriate power to the situation from the front of the priests and stands as a man of conviction within the chaos of the demon. Within all the insanity of these scenes it would have been easy frankly to get lost within the craziness that is going around them and be completely forgotten in face of the possessed girl. He and Miller both stay in the scene and their realistic reactions add greatly to the film.

Sydow in his few scenes makes Mirren exactly what he should be which is almost a comforting factor in the film, to show someone who seems to be able to stand up against the evil of the demon. Sydow is moving in the way he is quietly reassuring in his scenes, particularly when he attempts to explain why the demon uses the girl to Karras. Sydow acts as the steadfast faith in the pivotal moments against Miller's doubting Karras. When Sydow leaves the film suddenly it has the proper disconcerting affect it should because of Max von Sydow's proper portrayal beforehand. In the title role he delivers the precise spiritual reinforcement required of him through his quiet but forceful performance.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973: Robert Ryan in The Iceman Cometh

Robert Ryan did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a few critic awards, for portraying Larry Slade in The Iceman Cometh.

The Iceman Cometh is a very long film, almost four hours long, but it certainly is a film with some powerful moments.

The film is notable in that it features the last film performances of both Robert Ryan and Fredric March. March though lived a few years after the release of the film, but Ryan was dying of cancer during production and the film was released posthumously. Ryan here portrays character who basically is waiting to die. A former anarchist activist who has long since given up the cause and has regulated himself to be part of the scenery in a bar filled with drunkards with their failed hopes, and dreams which they still try to hold onto in some way. Slade is different from the rest of them as there clearly is not any dream he is holding onto anymore.

Robert Ryan is best known for portraying rather low individuals, frankly evil characters from the sadistic Master d'Arms in Billy Budd, to the racist army soldier in his Oscar nominated role in Crossfire, as well as the murderous racist in A Bad Day Rock. As I said in my review of his performances in Crossfire Ryan definitely was good at playing these sorts of roles, but here in his last performance he has the chance to play a character far from his type casting. One thing that Ryan seemed to try his hardest to do, particularly in Billy Budd, was to avoid being just a one dimensional evil character. He would certianly play them as evil but he would always attempt to portray the more underlying emotions within the bad man.

In this role as Larry Slade is amazing to see Ryan take on a complex role, considering he was usually the one doing his best to add complexities to those who are not complex. Larry is a constant in the film as always a man in the bar as we see his tired worn face in the background. Ryan's expression is perfect there because it expresses the sorrow and hard life that this man has lived. It is not just a face of pain though as there is also anger there to in Larry that comes from his hatred for the world. It is the face of a cynical man who no longer can deal with any of the woes of society, instead he just sits back and observes instead just waiting for the point when he will die.

Something incredibly special about this performance is the way Ryan never allows Larry to devolve into a one note character. Early on the film he pierces through every scene he has with the harsh brutality of the statements that Larry makes. He is quite brutal with just how blunt Ryan is able to bring about the cynical edge of this character. What is equally special about his performance though is the way he still shows hints of the passion that once was in the man. It is not that he has any left over, he doesn't really, but Ryan is able to bring to life an intense passion that is in Larry. He still is a man with passion, but the problem with him is he has nothing to be passionate about other than his cynicism.

This is a film where one could argue it is seems like each actor is trying to make a bigger impression than another, and almost every actors is given such a chance in either a yelling or a breakdown scenes. There is no question though who gives the strongest performance in the film and it is clearly Robert Ryan. Ryan is terrific in every scene where he tears into to the other men. He is perfect in his performance because unlike some of the others there is no visible performance here. Ryan is brutally honest in his performance and it makes the moments where Larry espouses his disgust with the other particularly powerful. He always manages to go right for the throat with his portrayal making a strong impact whenever he can.

What is especially outstanding about Ryan's depiction Larry though is despite the harshness of his lines, Ryan somehow does manage to infuse some warmth within his performance. There are the smallest glimpses of the past in his face of happier times. In his scenes with Jeff Bridges as Don the son of Larry's former girlfriend Ryan is masterful. Ryan is able to portray that past love that is long gone in these scene in the smallest of smiles without ever losing the edge of Larry. He is fantastic in the way he weaves in the anger and disgust Larry feels toward Don for selling out his mother who was a fellow anarchist, along right with that hidden humanity that Larry still holds onto to some degree.

In this four hour film it would be easy to lose track of the character's stories, and even more easily each story could lose their strength, some of them do. One that definitely does not is Robert Ryan's. He absolutely steals the film with his heartbreaking turn as Larry Slade. All the loses of these people, and broken dreams are brought the appropriate weight through Ryan's uncompromising turn as Larry Slade. His portrayal is fantastic as he succeeds in making him the man who cuts through all the falseness of the others, but equally great in showing the man's own demons that never stop haunting him. Ryan's always finds the truth of his character and this is one of the greatest final performances ever given.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973

And the Nominees Were Not:

Robert De Niro in Mean Streets

Robert Ryan in The Iceman Cometh

Robert Shaw in The Sting

Max von Sydow in The Exorcist

Edward G. Robinson in Soylent Green

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Results

5. James Coburn in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid- Coburn does an excellent job of mixing in the weightier elements of his performance along with just being the bad ass that Pat Garrett should be.

Best Scene: Garrett kills the Kid. 
4. Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal- Fox's performance is a true accomplishment in making such a unique reality driven characterization of the type of character that is often portrayed in the exact opposite fashion.

Best Scene:  The Jackal makes love to and kills a woman.
3. Steve McQueen in Papillon- This tremendous work by McQueen not only puts on display once again McQueen unique screen presence, but here he also is able to show how powerful of an actor he really could be.

Best Scene:  Papillon stands "trial"
2. Martin Sheen in Badlands-This is a great performance by Martin Sheen who goes out on a limb with his portrayal and never stops for a moment in this outstanding performance.

Best Scene: Kit's press conference.
1. Gene Hackman in Scarecrow- This was certainly a difficult year to choose out of the top four, but as well as with the overall. This is just an incredible year for lead performances. Gene Hackman's is my second favorite of the year though through his powerful unique portrayal in his film.

Best Scene: Max tries to snap Lionel out of it. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger
  2. Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man
  3. Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye
  4. Gene Hackman in Scarecrow
  5. Al Pacino in Scarecrow
  6. Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle
  7. Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now
  8. Steve McQueen in Papillon
  9. Jason Miller in The Exorcist
  10. Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail
  11. Robert Shaw in The Hireling 
  12. Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal
  13. Sean Connery in The Offence
  14. Carl Anderson in Jesus Christ Superstar
  15. Paul Newman in The Sting
  16. Ian Holm in The Homecoming
  17. James Coburn in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid 
  18. Robert Blake in Electra Glide in Blue
  19. Harvey Keitel in Mean Streets
  20. Ted Neeley in Jesus Christ Superstar
  21. Walter Matthau in Charley Varrick  
  22. Paul Rogers in The Homecoming
  23. Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon
  24. Alec Guinness in Hitler The Last Ten Days
  25. Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter
  26. James Caan in Cinderella Liberty 
  27. Lee Marvin in Emperor of the North Pole
  28. Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force
  29. Bruce Dern in The Laughing Policeman
  30. Marcello Mastroianni in Massacre in Rome
  31. Dustin Hoffman in Papillon
  32. Kris Kristofferson in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid 
  33. Al Pacino in Serpico
  34. Keith Carradine in Emperor of the North Pole
  35. Fernando Fernan Gomez in The Spirit of the Beehive
  36. Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon 
  37. Walter Matthau in The Laughing Policeman
  38. Robert Redford in The Way We Were
  39. Michael Moriarty in Bang the Drum Slowly
  40. Charlton Heston in Soylent Green 
  41. Brian Bedford in Robin Hood
  42. Robert Redford in The Sting
  43. George Segal in A Touch of Class
  44. Roy Scheider in The Seven Ups  
  45. Richard Burton in Massacre in Rome 
  46. Alejandro Jodorowky in The Holy Mountain
  47. Paul Newman in The Mackintosh Man
  48. Timothy Bottoms in The Paper Chase 
  49. Richard Benjamin in West World
  50. Roger Moore in Live and Let Die
Next Year: 1973 supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1973: James Coburn in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid

James Coburn did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Pat Garrett in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid.

Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid is a fairly effective western about sheriff Pat Garrett tracking down outlaw Billy The Kid. It is not great though as some of the seventies qualities become tiresome after awhile particularly the soundtrack.

James Coburn portrays the Sheriff Pat Garrett who in this film is portrayed as a former outlaw of sorts himself who was friends with Billy the Kid before becoming a sheriff. In that the film treats him as a man troubled with his conscious over becoming a law man as many look at him as a sell out. Coburn is really the perfect actor for this role for many reasons. One being of course that Coburn just fits in a western. He has just the perfect gruff commanding presence that wears the clothes of the period without any sort of visible effort. Another being is his style of performance which in his best roles is a very low key manner that is great in a way to show his emotions within a character who tries to avoid showing anything.

Coburn of course does something here which what only a select group actors can be which is being a badass without even trying. Coburn has such a natural command here that works particularly well for the formidable Garrett. He makes Pat Garrett a self assured man of the west who knows how to stay alive by killing those he comes across on his path to finding Billy The Kid. One scene in particular shows Coburn's skills is one he alone keeps four potentially dangerous men in check. Coburn is excellent in the moment as he has such a cool calm control of the scene without a doubt. He makes Garrett the imposing figure he should be as well as the fact that the Kid will be caught a inevitability in the end.

Coburn has a certain style that really works particularly well for the character of Pat Garrett here who is suppose to be Billy the Kid's friend and is on somewhat casual terms with most of the people he encounters even the ones he ends up shooting. The Coburn style that does this is his somewhat humorous element he is able to bring in this role, despite not really being a humorous role in any way. Coburn though in his very particular grin though is able to bring this certain history of Garrett without all these people he is hunting down. By being almost friendly with them he honestly creates the history of this Garrett which was once as the ally of those he is now hunting.

What Coburn also does so well though is showing the guilt Garrett feels over his sort of betrayal of his old friends. Coburn is excellent at this because he portrays it so well without ever being obvious about it in a single scene. It would be wrong for a character like Pat Garrett to show a lot of overt emotions of regret particularly when his aim is to seem like a formidable foe. Coburn is perfect at doing this because he leaves it as an underlying element within him usually expressed with the utmost subtly by James Coburn in his expression. He does this particularly well in the last scene when he kills the Kid and Coburn powerfully expresses Garrett's regret and shame despite saying nothing in the moment.

This is a very good performance by James Coburn as he portrays Pat Garrett in a very effective fashion. Coburn uses his distinct screen presence perfectly here to emphasize his role. James Coburn as well though succeeds in giving a compelling portrayal of Garrett's underlying emotions throughout the film. He does an excellent job of mixing in the weightier elements of his performance along with just being the badass that Pat Garrett should be as well. There is no disconnect between the two aspects of his characterization and he effectively melds together these facets of Garrett into one single portrayal.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal

Edward Fox did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying The Jackal in The Day of the Jackal. 

The Day of the Jackal is a very effective thriller about an assassin's preparations to kill French president Charles de Gaulle while the authorities try to track him down to stop him.

Edward Fox portrays the titular assassin who is the villainous lead of the film. One of the reasons The Day of the Jackal is so unique and effective of a thriller is the almost day to day way it shows in how the Jackal goes about his task. Edward Fox contributes this in his performance that takes a decidedly non flamboyant approach in portraying the assassin. Assassins commonly in film are portrayed in sort of a larger than life fashion, which can be fine if it works in context with the film, but Fox interestingly plays the Jackal as a very down to earth man. Fox goes for an intensely realistic performance as the Jackal.

We follow closely the plan of the Jackal as he sets up everything he needs to to be able to proceed with his plan, as well as every little hurdle that comes up due to the efforts of the government. Fox is amazing in his creation of the the Jackal who we know almost nothing of. He makes him a man of few words and few emotions as he goes about his task. In the way he is so matter of fact in his method he shows that this really is not anything special for him he is a career assassin and the casual manner he takes if very effective in showing this. Fox is brilliant in the way he makes something like planning of the killing of a world leader something so casual, but Fox is able to do it in a wholly believable fashion.

Edward Fox is excellent in portraying the far too great intelligence within The Jackal as he moves about doing what he has to do to achieve his goal. It is fascinating the way Fox plays the Jackal as basically a soulless man, but this is not a one note performance because he shows almost everything else is a put upon facade. It is incredible the way Fox portrays the ease in which the Jackal is able to through on one facade to the next. It is amazing the way he so believably switches from accents to even manners like when he pretends to be a world weary soldier. He even shows the Jackal having the ability to click on a charm when necessary that is so effectively used by Fox as it makes just basically a switch for him to becoming  a charming.

Fox is just incredible the way he is able to create this man who has such skills, which he does in such a natural fashion despite it being something that is entirely unnatural technically speaking. There is such an efficiency in the way he portrays the Jackal that makes him an imposing force, and is able to create the dire feeling that he will succeed despite the fact that the person he is planning on killing definitely was not killed. Fox makes The Jackal a man who never seems to stop or hesitate even for a moment as he goes about his plan of action, Fox gets across so well the flow of this man's sinister intelligence that always makes him at least few steps past the government agencies who attempt to capture and stop him.

Something that really is difficult in many thrillers of this sort is that either the villain or the heroes make foolish mistakes along the way. This film though is incredibly good though in showing that both forces are working at the very top of their game. Fox contributes to this greatly with his performance as the Jackal who we never doubt for a second in his abilities. He makes the Jackal the master assassin he should be and honestly succeeds in creating the threat that he should be to make the film work. There never seems to be luck in play here or anything else that is just by chance for the Jackal, he earns all his successes and Fox is brilliant in the way he fully realizes this.

The most chilling moments of his performance though are whenever he clears all facades off his face and just goes about his job in the purest fashion which is killing people. Fox is fantastic the way his face changes to that cold brutality. One scene in particular is especially disturbing where he is acting very casual with a man like a normal person, but a message on the television alerts the man that the Jackal is wanted by the police. The way Fox shows his demeanor change on the dime to the calculated murderer makes the scene especially chilling. Every one of these scenes are particularly effective due to the cold almost lifeless manner he takes when committing murder.

This is a great performance by Edward Fox and he succeeds in his portrayal of the Jackal which could have easily gone wrong so many ways. The Jackal could have easily been over the top in his style that would not have fit the character, or he could have been one note considering the soulless nature of the role. Fox though finds just the right tone for the Jackal making him a compelling character to follow through the film, and manages to make a fascinating depiction of this assassin. Fox's performance is a true accomplishment in making such a unique reality driven characterization of the type of character that is often portrayed in the exact opposite fashion.
(This is just an amazing year for lead performances)

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Martin Sheen in Badlands

Martin Sheen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Kit Carruthers in Badlands.

Badlands is an excellent film about two lovers who go on a crime spree after one murders the other's father.

Martin Sheen is the murderer Kit who kills the father of Holly (Sissy Spacek). Martin Sheen plays the role as rouge who has quite taken to the idea of being James Dean. This is something even mentioned directly in the film. The idea of the main character in a realistic drama like this playing the character as partially a James Dean imitator is very tricky. Sheen though is absolutely brilliant in this aspect of the performance. He finds just the right way to have the Dean's mannerisms that seem to be natural to the way Kit has made himself to be. Yes, it is an imitation to a certain degree, but still feels effortless as part of Kit as if it was not hard for Kit to identify with Dean to begin with.

One of the main focuses of the film is Holly's view of Kit which is that of an almost pure romantic despite where their romance gets them. Most of what is traded between the two are looks to on anther. They speak to one another of course, but really most of what they say to each other seems to be about simple unsubstantial things. The substantial moments of their relationships are displayed through their silent glances between them which are quite powerfully portrayed by both Spacek and Sheen. Their relationship honestly seems on another level past attraction or anything else, there just seems to be a mutual understanding between the two that is so beautifully portrayed by the actors with such ease.

It really is an astonishing achievement from both actors the way they create this unique relationship between the film that anchors the film along beautifully. Sheen and Spacek honestly could not be better together in creating this bizarre pair that go along the film. As the two move along through the film when they come close to even when they break apart later on in the film the two are able to show their relationship so brilliantly. They never take the easy route in portraying any aspect of their relationship and go for the bombastic route instead they stay so intensely subtle that it incredible how well they allow us to see every aspect of their relationship as it changes. The two create a connection on screen that few other onscreen couples are able to bring to life.

Of course though a big part of what happens in the film is Kit's killing spree that he goes on mercilessly through many places within the United States. Sheen is particularly compelling in these murder scenes without how matter of fact Kit is in his method especially after his first murder. The first murder which is of Holly's father is quick and instinctively. Sheen is subtle in his reaction of knowing he has killed someone, which is not really guilt but some recognition that he probably should not have done it. Sheen though set up here that although Kit shows a certain regret for his actions, but that these regrets are in no way making him think twice about continuing murdering more people along the way.

When he starts killing more people there is not even a semblance of regret and there is an especially disturbing quality in these scenes because of how little weight there is to his shooting. Kit just does it, and Sheen does not show Kit even second guess himself. He does not show sadism either or desperation even in his method he just kind of goes about doing this and Kit keeps his James Dean cool even when murderer unarmed onlookers. Sheen through his performance honestly creates a particular sort of killer in all too believable of fashion. Killing is just something he can do so easily there isn't anything special about what he does, and Sheen creates a chilling portrait of such a killer.

Now what might be the oddest but most fascinating part of his performance though is late in the film after he is caught and he takes a most peculiar way with his captors. He again stays his James Dean self even in these scenes and it is fascinating. He becomes extremely charming in these scenes and is basically a celebrity with his captors. Sheen absolutely pulls this off with such charisma and style while staying entirely realistic in his performance. He makes the killer a man that is easy to like which is quite bizarre but incredibly effective in showing exactly why everyone would seem to take so well to him.

Performances in the films of Terrence Malick sometimes become part of the cinematography, this is one that stands out on his own, more so than even Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life. Sheen gives passionate performance that creates such a particular but compelling character in Kit Carruthers. He doesn't play anything safe about his performance from the James Dean influence in his character, to the almost silent creation of the central relationship with Sissy Spacek. Every risk he takes with this performance pays up to make this a very memorable chilling characterization of this killer. This is a great performance by Martin Sheen who goes out on a limb with his portrayal and never stops for a moment in this outstanding performance.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Best Actor 2012: Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook

Bradley Cooper received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Patrick "Pat Jr." Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook.

Silver Linings Playbook is an enjoyable film about a man recently released from a mental institution who moves back in with his parents and attempts to reconcile his marriage even things get complicated by a troubled young widow Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who he befriends.

Bradley Cooper here portrays the troubled man Pat Jr. whose life is in shambles after a violent break down from finding out his wife was cheating on him. This is apparently a change of pace for Cooper whose previous films tended to be lighter weight or "dumber" comedies, I say apparently because I really have not seen these films. Anyway this is indeed a comedy, but with serious elements to it. The most serious element of the film really lies within Bradley Cooper's portrayal of Pat. Playing a mentally troubled individual is place where an actor certainly can go over the top or unrealistic in their portrayal though this is definitely not a problem for Bradley Cooper here.

Cooper takes on the mental disturbance part of his performance with a surprising degree of assurance in his portrayal of this. Cooper begins the film showing him to be a man who has not fully recovered from his breakdown but there has been some recovery from him. Bradley Cooper is very effective by internalizes so well in these scenes that show him to be on edge and which affect his overall behavior. Cooper is very good in portraying the deep seeded rage that is within his eyes that has not gone away from his original violent reaction to the traumatic moment in his life. Cooper creates just the right amount of uneasiness in his performance that allows Pat to be both man trying to remake himself, but as well could easily fall back.

An early effective moment of Cooper's is when he first goes to visit his therapist after leaving the institution and hears the same song from his wedding as well as when he found out about his wife's adultery. This is tricky moment in which Pat gets set off by the music which is a trigger of his. Cooper is extremely good in this scene as he portrays the quick breakdown honestly. He shows the attempts to resist his reaction, but as well just the savage intensity that comes from bringing back the memories of his trauma. Bradley Cooper plays the scene very well through the whole breakdown and he handles his attempt to put himself back together quickly in a moving fashion.

In all of the scenes early in the film where Pat has serious problems coping with his issues Cooper always resists any urge to overact in the least. He is extremely effective in both of his early breakdowns getting across the emotional stress his character is feeling beautifully. He not plays it up, instead he finds the emotional truth within his character, rather than letting just be an excuse for him to "act". A particularly great moment is when he pushed around and could become violent again. Cooper is just fantastic in this scene as he silently shows exactly what Pat is going through right in his face as he tries to keep himself in check even as he is pained to do so.

One of the big aspects of his character though is the way he seems to say just about anything that comes in his head no matter how unfitting it might be to a particular situation. Again Cooper does this in a surprisingly natural fashion that does not feel like some sort of wacky character trait, but rather just the approach that Pat must take to be able to deal with his life. He makes this unabashed quality to Pat really work in favor of his characterization, and that it is just one of his ways he is trying to cope with his problems. Although I would not necessarily say that it is quite an endearing part of him, but he is able to make it appropriately natural aspect of the character which works well.

Cooper is the one and only true lead in the film. I say this because although Pat's relationship to Tiffany is central to the film, so is Pat's relationship with his family. Cooper is the absolute center of the film and as so he is the one who really must work all the other different character's together, which he does do. He plays well with both Jacki Weaver as his mother which is a purely warmth filled relationship as well as with his father played by Robert De Niro. With De Niro he shapes a more complex relationship but manages to realizes both the highs and lows of their father son relationship in equal measure. When they are fighting and when they are showing their love for one another he and De Niro hit just the right notes.

With all the other character who pop in and out of the film some who are perhaps a little too expressive at times could easily become problematic but they don't and I think the reason why it doesn't become a problem is due to Bradley Cooper. He is in pretty much every scene and almost everyone has to act against him. Cooper though acts always as a sort of a balancing act to all and does it incredibly well making the various character's do their things in their humorous fashion, and Cooper either adds to it through the bluntness of Pat he brings out so well at times. Cooper as well through his surprisingly down to earth portrayal, surprising because he is playing a character who is bi-polar, honestly allows some of those other flamboyant portrayals.

Of course the central relationship is Pat's relationship with Tiffany. Cooper and Lawrence are quite good together and just have some natural chemistry works very well. There is technically speaking the usual romantic comedy staple of the two clearly being for each other, but certain things keeping them apart. Well in far lesser romantic comedy it is usually not character based, and is always that contrived lie device. This film is much better and instead creates the hesitations from the characters particularly due to Pat. One thing that Pat believes for most of the film is that he can get back with his wife. Cooper is very good in showing that this feeling is what really keeps Pat on a purely friend basis with Tiffany, and he believably shows this persistent foolish belief Pat holds.  

Rather than show it as this big romance it is shown as more of growing friendship between the two with subtle indications by Cooper of it growing into more. This handle almost silently by Cooper and he does it especially well. For example in the last scenes of the film we see Pat's reaction to seeing his wife again but as well as he sees Tiffany. Cooper is outstanding the way he reflects the change in Pat in this scene and how he finally lost his hopeless faith for his wife moving instead to realizes his love for Tiffany. When he finally does admit his love for Tiffany, it really works effectively because of how much it was earned beforehand by Cooper's subtle depiction of these feeling.

This is an excellent performance by Bradley Cooper and shows a great deal of ability from the actor. In a part that so easily could have been overacted, Cooper stays believable throughout even when being humorous. With a character that could have been easy to hate, Cooper makes Pat very likable man even with his troubles. In a film where there could be very serious problems involving the tone of the films considering the tricky subject of mental illness along with the fact that it uses it in context with a romantic comedy it is astonishing that it does not all go very wrong, and one of the biggest reasons it works is Cooper's great performance in the center film that takes just the right approach and finds the perfect tone for the film.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Best Actor 2012: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis won his third Oscar from his fifth Oscar nomination for portraying president Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln.

Lincoln is a very good film about Lincoln's struggle to pass the 13th amendment. It is not perfect, several scenes could have been taken out easily, but it is definitely an effective piece.

With the likely hood of Daniel Day-Lewis winning his third Oscar being quite high I feel I should address the idea of him breaking the record of two lead Oscars held by Day-Lewis, Spencer Tracy, Sean Penn, Tom Hanks, Marlon Brando, Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Dustin Hoffman, and Jack Nicholson. I have heard saying Day-Lewis is not worthy of breaking the record, well lets actually look at it the way it should be looked at which is the performances each one for. Tracy, Hanks, and Penn gave fairly unimpressive performances for both their wins. Gary Cooper won for one fine performance and one bad one. Nicholson won for one great performance and one where he coasted on his screen persona.

Dustin Hoffman and Fredric March won one for a good performance and an okay performance although Hoffman took what should have been Gene Hackman's second lead Oscar, and Fredric March took away what should have been either Laurence Olivier's or James Stewart's second Oscar. The only two actors who really gave two impressive and deserving performances are Marlon Brando who won for one incredible performance, and one very good performance, and Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel Day-Lewis deserved both of his wins which could not be more different. One for his amazing turn as Christy Brown in My Left Foot as a physically disabled man with a great mind, and the other an ambitious turn as a greedy oil man in There Will Be Blood.

Daniel Day-Lewis is the only one of two actors to have deserved both his wins, and since he Brando had his "I don't give an expletive" for more or less after Last Tango in Paris, I for one think Day-Lewis is more than worthy of breaking the record (although Laurence Olivier obviously should hold the record with at least four but what can you do). Day-Lewis is particularly worthy though in again he takes on a wildly different role than his Oscar winning performances this time as Abraham Lincoln often described as the greatest man to ever have held that office. Lincoln has been portrayed before by many different actors, Raymond Massey was in fact nominated for portraying Lincoln back in the 40's.

Day-Lewis, like Massey, is not American born and both actors adopt an accent for the role. Massey was unusual sounding, as is Day-Lewis's. There is a key difference though which is Massey still in all the speeches in his film speaks loudly in a brazen manner, something that Day-Lewis never does. Day-Lewis's accent he uses here is just flawless. It tells us where Lincoln is coming from and it is fascinating the way he commands attention with his voice without just about never speaking in a commanding fashion. It is a masterstroke of acting by Day-Lewis here as it just sets up his character so well just from his first scene where he quietly talks to a couple of soldiers. Day-Lewis makes Lincoln as a man who pulls you in without ever forcing you in.

One of the main aspects of Day-Lewis's performance here is warmth. Day-Lewis plays a lot of different characters but not many of them would one describe them as a warm fellow. Even when he plays a positive character warm is not the first thing that would come to mind. Day-Lewis here though is incredible the way he shows such a different side of his abilities through his performance as Lincoln. Day-Lewis like his accent brings it to the part so effortlessly in his portrayal. Day-Lewis beautifully realizes this quality so well, something lacking in Massey's portrayal, that honestly works as well as it possibly could in showing why Lincoln would be so popular not only to the populace but to those around him as well.

Day-Lewis does everything he can to establish just that loving quality in Lincoln, and how easy it is to pay attention to him even though he is not trying to force you to. Day-Lewis really is giving it all not only through his voice, his welcoming facial expressions and even his physical manner. The way Lincoln sits or stands so unassumingly as well as the way he holds people's hands. Day-Lewis just welcomes basically all here as Lincoln, and he creates the man one would imagine he would be. Some of the other Lincoln portrays seem almost inhuman due to the way Day-Lewis so brilliantly makes Lincoln an actual man, but an actual man with such a special and unique manner that makes him such an easy man to like.

Day-Lewis gets so much out of his style he takes with performance, and because of Day-Lewis I loved every moment in which he spoke to anyone in his unique style. Day-Lewis works it in so well and how his personality allows him to maneuver through his many difficult situations as president. Day-Lewis tells each of Lincoln stories so beautifully as a seasoned story teller who entrances the uninitiated even if it frustrates those who have heard just one too many story. Day-Lewis gets across two things in these moments partially that is a strategy from Lincoln to diffuse situations and get his points across, but as well is entirely in earnest there is not the slightest hint of falseness in his method.

In every aspect of Lincoln's abilities to sway those he needs to sway Day-Lewis absolutely nails it. He never tries to make him a forceful man pursing against others staying most of the film intensely quiet in his performance. He makes it work all so well  he adjusts magnificently from one situation to another and is absolutely convincing in doing this throughout the film. Day-Lewis is just perfect the way he conveys the intelligence of Lincoln through the slightest glances and reactions. They are always small very subtle and amazing the way he brings to life the more calculating aspects of his mind that is very much required for Lincoln to be an effective president.

Even when Lincoln is more confrontational like when he meets with the confederate delegation, or when he speaks to radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) Day-Lewis still underplays it to great effect. Day-Lewis is impeccable the way he able to make Lincoln almost seem somewhat besides himself at times during these scenes that would make the potentially troublesome situation already lose much of their tension. At the very same time though he always portrays that Lincoln is never thought of as a fool, and that his manner still very much always get right down to the point of the issue at the same time. Day-Lewis makes Lincoln a quick efficient political operative all the while still being very pleasant about it all. 

Due to the way Day-Lewis stays so reserved for most of these scenes it makes it far more powerful when Lincoln finally does raise his voice in one pivotal scene where he finally speaks out loudly showing how much disgust he has over slavery, but as well as the inane politics involved with getting it passed. Day-Lewis is excellent to it and entirely earns the moment by showing firstly that Lincoln only does it here do to the urgency of the situation, but as well he builds to it in a terrific fashion as he hears the complains around him till he finally squishes all of them in a instant by finally putting out exactly how he feels about what is going on around. It is a spectacular moment, and Day-Lewis delivers completely in the moment.

Of course his character does not stop even there, and there is another whole aspect to his portrayal of Lincoln though only deepens his characterization. Although this indeed a performance filled with life in his portrayal of Lincoln, Day-Lewis nevertheless portrays an underlying feelings of melancholy due to having to suffer through the losses of the civil war as well as the death of his own son. Day-Lewis is spectacular the way he can so well infuses this as simply the state of Lincoln as man due to his life. It is not that he is always depressed, but instead Day-Lewis properly portrays it is being something deep within his bones that he cannot escape from.

In his moments with Lincon's living sons Day-Lewis is so good in the way, without ever really even emphasizing it, that his relationship with them is very much haunted by his deceased sons. Day-Lewis shows the fatherly love and guidance well, but there is an unmistakable sadness in him that seems to reflect the idea that there that his sons constantly remind him of his losses, as well as the possibility that he could even lose more before the end of his life. It is amazing the way he can have Lincoln be an entirely warm friendly character who at the very same time being a very sad man without one ever over taking the other, as well as always making it entirely believable that he would function in this way.

This grief also clearly is shown to affect his relationship with his wife Mary Todd (Sally Field). The two together are excellent in creating the long marriage between the two where there has been too many hardships. The love seems for the most part to be long gone, and there is a coldness in their scenes together that both actors are effective by showing it comes from their mutual pains shared. At the same time though they do have a familiarity that does show they do understand it each other well.

Day-Lewis is good here because besides a few small moments of tenderness, which are well place, he shows with her are harsher side to Lincoln. Day-Lewis is particularly great in their scene where they fight over their son's decision to join the army. In the scene Day-Lewis is excellent in creating Lincoln's honest exhaustion, and bitterness brought on by his wife's descent into insanity, and shows that even a man as patient as Lincoln has a breaking point. It is a terrific moment that properly humanizes Lincoln making him to be a great man, but still a man.

This simply is phenomenal work by Daniel Day-Lewis. With a figure who sometimes is taken as such a larger than life man Day-Lewis not only finds the down to earth humanity of the man, but as well still creates his Lincoln as such a man that would lead many to see him in such a glorious manner. This is a outstanding achievement by Daniel Day-Lewis as he has such an assured approach that absolutely creates Abraham Lincoln so vividly in a way many other actors were not able to do. Day-Lewis succeeds in every aspect of the man creating a complex portrait of the president, that is something wonderful to behold.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Best Actor 2012: Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables

Hugh Jackman received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

Les Miserables is a film with that pointless slight shaky cam for no good reason, dutch angels that are unnecessary, and close ups. Well really I thought the close ups worked for the most part, after all one of my favorite director Sergio Leone loved the close ups. The new song Suddenly seems like Oscar baiting since it is rather unremarkable, and it possibly displaced two superior songs. One being "Drink With Me" being truncated which is unfortunate considering the way the song so brilliantly shows the kinship between the students attempting a revolution but as well builds their despair as they see that their cause most likely will be lost. The other being "Dog Eats the Dog" which adds a very dark edge to Thernadier making him more than just comic relief, and I would have liked to see Sasha Baron Cohen perform it.

Also the editing of the film certainly is questionable at times for example it definitely should have shown Marius witness the aftermath of the revolution outside before "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables". Some of the singing could be question like Russell Crowe as Javert. I got use to his voice quickly though, as I am not a singing snob, and honestly I really liked his performance of the character's two major solos. With its flaws that certainly are there at most I could only think it is descent right? Wrong. I loved it and I have to say it. There are not many musicals I like but this one just hits me the right way. I loved the musical and I loved the film. The final emotional impact the film had on me the moment I finished overrode any of its issues for me, and none of the power of the musical was lost for me.

Well getting that out of the way, I suppose I should address how the leading man of the film is. An interesting fact is the last actor to win the best leading actor Oscar for a traditional musical, Rex Harrison for my Fair Lady, sang his songs live which is the same for Hugh Jackman in this film. This is a decision by Tom Hooper that was a intelligent one and for a musical as emotional as Les Miserables it allows the actors to properly punctuate the emotions of each song through their performances. Hugh Jackman has a many different songs through the film where Valjean is at vastly different emotional and physical states in the film, and this different style of singing gives Jackman the ability to voice Valjean differently which properly suggest the various states of Valjean.

Hugh Jackman singing voice is not nearly as full as the two other Valjean's in the concert versions of the musicals who are Alfie Boe, and Colm Wilkinson who is also in this film as the Bishop of Digne. Jackman's voice thought still fits his character, and perhaps even more so early on in the film when Valjean is first released from prison as an embittered man filled with disgust over his treatment by the world. Jackman is effective early on by intensely portraying this with Valjean in these moments, and properly shows Valjean as a man very much at the end of his rope. There is a lacking of humanity here no warmth, but instead Jackman properly reflects the pain of his character here, something the other two Valjeans did not do as much.

This performance really is one of fairly broad emotions by Jackman which makes since after all his character early on the film sings out loud about what his character is feeling. When Valjean is saved from prison once more by the Bishop of Digne's kindness and Jackman delivers the "soliloquy". One can't really be Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy when singing a song to the screen well battling a orchestra to be noticed. Jackman manages with this song, as well as most of the other songs in the film, as he gets across the broad gestures that are the emotions of the song a through as they should be, but it does not feel like he is going over the top. Jackman manages still to be as realistic as one could be when singing in such a way, and conveys the conflict both through the power of the song and his face.

After Valjean period of being an embittered man and finds success staying a purely good character throughout the rest of the film only being troubled by his past and a policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) who will not stop hounding him. Jackman is very much on the nose here in terms of his emotions and his way of playing the character. He really plays him straight as there are not a lot of surprises to be seen but nor are there surprises in the character of Valjean after the opening scenes. In many ways he is very much almost a straight man within the story always firmly there to be this positive moral center in the story. Jackman does this well though by being so very enthusiastic in the part. He properly does not have any play within Valjean, Valjean is a good man and he is right in just reinforcing this conviction with his performance.

Hugh Jackman through every scene he is does exactly what he needs to with the part, and every time succeeds in being exactly as Valjean should be. Whether it is his look of fear and surprise for seeing Javert again, to later being deeply saddened to fine the lowly state his former worker Fantine (Anne Hathaway) has fallen into, his resilience to do the right thing despite having some hesitations due to his fate when he sings "Who am I", to even being slightly comic in the scene where Valjean is not fooled a moment by the con man innkeeper Thernadier, Jackman always consistently gives the passion to the part. Every moment of the film he portrays the emotions directly and to the point that goes in line with Valjean perfectly. Through of the varying tones, and styles of the scenes Jackman weaves through all of them well never faulting in the wrong direction instead bringing the proper weight to each and every scene.

I would say the only lull in his performance is when the story jumps ahead again to Valjean taking care of the daughter of Fantine, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), and fleeing with her to Paris to avoid Javert. Now really is not Jackman's fault as the story shifts mostly to the revolutionaries and the romance between Cosette and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) a young revolutionary. Valjean is mostly pushed into the background but to be fair Jackman is still good in that he portrays the appropriate warmth in his scenes with Seyfried but as well the fear and hesitations within Valjean over his troublesome past. The only time I really has any problem with his performance was in the song "One Day More". Valjean's voice is the back bone of the song and in the song Jackman's voice simply does not support the rest of the voices as Valjean's is suppose to do. This is though is a minor point, and made up by the later scenes of his performance.

What I think really does work in his performance here is his ability to succeed in "Who am I". The number actually is quite problematic in that Valjean basically instantly cares about Marius's and desperately wants him to live. The suddenness of it is a problem surely, but Jackman completely unabashed manner is what makes it work. Yes it is sudden but Jackman sings his heart and is emotionally convincing in the moment despite how instant it all is. Jackman is even more effective though in the final scenes as Valjean falls into grief due his own self imposed exile from his adopted daughter to protect her from his past, and eventually dies. I absolutely love Jackman's last scene as he honestly is convincing in his dying by grief, and he beautifully portrays the happiness that appears back again in his face as he sees his adopted daughter one more time. Valjean's death at the end of the scene is meant to be sad, poignant, and inspiring all in the same breath and Jackman does it once again through his uncompromising devotion to the part.

To be perfectly honest Hugh Jackman is not one of my very favorite actors. I don't dislike him as he has certain charm and screen presence. This performance though absolutely works for me though, and is easily his best. The only time I have any issue with his performance with One Day More, but that honestly is almost a nitpick. Jackman handles the singing well and always with the song conveys the emotions right along with it. Now really if you don't go along with the film you definitely will not being going along with his performance. As someone who did go along right with the film Jackman served as a perfect anchor for the film. Hugh Jackman stands firm delivery a consistent powerful performance that goes straight ahead forward with the film, and if you are ready to go along with him he takes you right with him through every emotional step of the film.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Best Actor 2012: Denzel Washington in Flight

Denzel Washington received his sixth Oscar nomination for portraying William "Whip" Whitaker in Flight.

Flight is not a particularly good film about a pilot after successfully saving a plane from a nose dive has to face his alcohol problems due to a criminal investigation. The film despite handling the crash scene well tries too many subplot, bizarre attempts at humor, and just fails to bring it together.

Denzel Washington is an actor that I have never found to be that great of one. He is not one that I actively dislike, I think he can be just fine, but for me he tends to be an actor who never really gets to the heart of his character. In this film he portrays one of the very favorite characters of the Oscar voters which is the alcoholic. Now there are many great performances as the alcoholics such as the Oscar winning turns by Ray Milland, and Nicolas Cage, or the Oscar nominated turn by Jack Lemmon in the Days of Wine and Roses. Although they all play alcoholics there character's are very different particularly the way alcohol factors into their life Washington's Whip certainly is a bit different from his predecessors. 

In the opening of the film we see Whip casually drinking and doing drugs without anything special in the way that he is doing it. Washington portrays it as just standard procedures and Whip as a tired individual but not a man without ability to do what he needs to do. Honestly Washington could have pressed these moments a little more to show Whip more down trodden due to his history as an alcoholic that would have made his moments on the air plane more powerful, but than again it works just fine the way he plays the part anyway. His earlier moments though lead him to the scene where he must deal with the plane that is likely to crash.

Just like the film, the crash is the highlight of his performance. Washington is quite good in this scene as he shows Whip basically kick into action by his instincts as a pilot. In this scene he portrays Whip as a man in command of his faculties completely in the moment. Before he portrayed a certain aloofness about Whip, but here he makes Whip able to do what he needs to do. Washington does well by not really making Whip any sort of a different person in this scene, nor is it a revelation in the moment. Instead he does effectively create a history within Whip in this moment through the conviction he gives to Whip when he does display his abilities as a pilot that the events forced him to display.

After the crash though the film goes down hill as does Washington's performance. He has a good scene that is mostly expressed through one eye as he hears the tragic news of the few people who did die in the crash. The scene is very well handled by Washington as he expresses the pain quite well, without overdoing it, nor undergoing  it two things that become a problem later on in the film. Right here though Washington expresses the loss at the moment very well and effectively brings the weight of the moment to life. It is a very well handled scenes by Washington here and really it portrays just what might have been if the film was a better made film, but as well if Washington had given a better performance.

One problem with the performance, that is as well as problem with Washington's performance is the way Whip goes back and forth in using alcohol in the film. In his scene where he stops, or the scene where he jumps back on Washington portrays barely even a thought to doing this action. The film takes a similar approach by rushing through it, but Washington does not make up for it failing to really make it seem even a hard decision for him whether he is going to start drinking or stop. Washington just seems lacking in these moments that should be absolutely pivotal moments in the film, but they fail to have the power one imagine they should have because of how nonchalant his actions seem.

This is not to say Washington completely fails in portraying the alcoholism. There is one very good moment where Whip explains how he just accepts his drinking as part of himself. This moment of self denial is handled bluntly and to the point that works in explaining Whip's mind state much more than those scenes where he decides to stay on or get off the wagon. Washington's overall portrayal though never has the punch it should have in this regard particularly in the scene where Whip goes on a binge near the end of the film. Again this is really the director's fault as we really do not see his decay in this scene instead we only really see him after it is over making so Washington does not even have the chance to show how detrimental his drinking problem is.

Further problems created by the film those involve Whip's relationship with the other character's in the film. In the scenes where the people talk about religion to him, are done in such a bizarre fashion that they seem to want to be taken seriously yet they're done in a comedic fashion. Washington who is mostly reactionary in these scenes certainly can't make anything out of them as his expressions do not hold any power. We can't make anything out of these scenes, nor does Washington make anything out of them. I want to say though I can't blame him too much in this regard as I don't know if any actor could make the scene where Whip meets his co-pilot work since it was done in such an absurd inept fashion.

Another problem from the good film comes by the way of Whip's relationship with a fellow addict Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship seems like it should be based on mutual dependence or something, but Washington and Reilly just kind of are together without really making much out of it. Washington has one good moment with her which is the moment when he says how he drinks which I mentioned earlier. Otherwise than that scene though nothing comes from their scenes together. The only thing that makes this worse is the film just basically seems to forget about Reilly's character at one point making their whole relationship pointless, so there is no wonder that it is as ineffectual as it is.

Most of these problems I speak of are mostly the film's problem well there is one scene where Washington and the film are terrible in equal measure. This scene is when Whip goes to visit his ex-wife and his son. This scene is rushed over the top, with his son being played as poorly as possible, and Washington tries to make something out of it which is a serious problem. He starts going over the top right back with his Training Day evil smile right on his face. It is a terrible scene and Washington only makes it worse by trying to interact the scene which was not salvageable. Due to his attempt to do something here though this stands as one very bad scene in his portrayal that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Now after this scene where get the breakdown we do not see than we get the scene where he is on trial. The trial scene is problematic as Washington does not really show the scene like he just is barely holding together like one would imagine he should be doing. When he is pushed to damn the name of a deceased crew member he does reveal the truth. In this moment Washington is okay, but the moment of revelation does not have nearly enough passion behind it. Washington does not handle downright poorly, but it frankly seems like a missed opportunity. A stronger moment really was warranted as it should have been the moment he was going to stop lying to himself, but Washington leaves it fairly mundane.

Due to the mundane fashion he handles that scene his last months later scene seems more like the ending to a PSA than really where Whip would end up at the end. The final moment of his performance just seems like an anticlimax for the character, and it all seemed a little too easy in the end. Washington does have a few very good moment like the crash scene and some of his reactions like his face of fear and disbelief when he first hears of the criminal charges. The film though stops him from really giving anything more than middling, and unfortunately Washington also fails in key moments where he possibly could have made up for the problems of the film. Unfortunately this is a performance where the bad very much outweighs the good. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Best Actor 2012

And the Nominees Are:

Denzel Washington in Flight

Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables

Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook

Joaquin Phoenix in The Master 

Well do to the fact that I have no way of watching the Master at the moment, but I still am itching to review the performances nominated this year so I will continue on to Best Actor.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Best Supporting Actor 2012: Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook

Robert De Niro received his seventh Oscar nomination for portraying Patrizio "Pat Sr." Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook.

Robert De Niro has spent over ten years being in random films many of very poor quality, and he himself giving performances of no note. If De Niro had given more decent performances recently he very well might not have been nominated for this film which has been considered a return to form, although this seems to be to soon as his upcoming films in no way suggests he is going to stop being in mediocre to terrible films. Anyway though this being his best performance in years really does not say a lot considering the sort of performances he has been giving lately.

In this film Robert De Niro gives a very supporting performance in this, in that he is mostly there for support. He portrays Pat Sr. the father of the troubled Pat Jr. (Bradley Cooper). The main aspect of Pat Sr.'s character is his constant attention to football games and his favorite team the Philadelphia Eagles. He is always very concerned about things that create the necessary Karma for a game victory, especially since he is always gambling on the games as well. De Niro honestly does not really get any scenes to himself, and his moments are always at least someone else especially Bradley Cooper who is almost in every scene of the film.

De Niro is weaved throughout the film in the scenes as both a helpful and hurtful factor for Pat Jr. in basically equal measure. De Niro really just takes a realistic approach with his part. He combines well the various factors that weigh on Pat Sr. when it comes to his interactions with Pat Sr.. Importantly De Niro does show the proper warmth and love in their scenes together. De Niro is very understated about it, but he does successfully portray it with a great deal of effectiveness. When Pat Sr. fights with Pat Jr. for Jr's sometime very violent behavior, De Niro does not portray it with any hatred just rather as a gut reaction from Pat Sr..

Where Jennifer Lawrence as troubled young widow Tiffany who befriend Pat Jr., and Bradley Cooper as Pat Jr. are quite diagnosed about their mental problems De Niro's Pat Sr. play really an not identified obsessive compulsive. De Niro takes mostly downplays this even partially playing it for a little bit of humor. It is not that De Niro portrays it in any sort of parody actually, instead he just sort of plays in a lighter fashion which shows it as something that most certainly affects him, but in a manner that does not seem problematic for the most part. De Niro handles it well by having it just natural part of Pat Sr. than it almost hidden as him just being too intense of a football fan.

De Niro moves through the film well in the variations of Pat Sr. caused by his problems with his son or his problems with his gambling. He is very good by hitting the randomness of it all, and realistically conveys how quickly how Pat Sr. can be trying to be friendly to his son and the next moment be chewing him out. The two biggest moments of his performance are these two pulls one being when he lashes out at Pat Jr. for supposedly messing with his Karma, and later encouraging Pat Jr. to do the right thing. Both times De Niro plays them well, they are short moment, but De Niro makes them sweet through his honest depiction of Pat Sr.

This performance by De Niro is not on the same level of his work in the 70's by any measure. It is really a lesser work from an actor that can make far more of an impact in a film than he does here. That being said though he does fulfill the role of Pat Sr. the best he can. This is not a performance that steals scenes but instead it appropriately adds to them. He is likable when he needs to be, he is unlikable when he needs to be, he is charming when he needs to be, he is mean when he needs to be. He absolutely succeeds in all aspects of the character even if that is not all that much overall it definitely is a performance I liked that adds nicely to his film.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Best Supporting Actor 2012: Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Christoph Waltz won his second Oscar from his second nomination for portraying Doctor King Schultz in Django Unchained.

Django Unchained is an entertaining, although overlong film, about a German bounty hunter who teams up to to bounty hunt with a slave Django (Jamie Foxx), and later to rescue Django's wife who is in possession of a wealthy plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

It certainly is questionable if Christoph Waltz really is supporting here. This is not a completely closed case that he is either though in that there is a clear lead of Jamie Foxx as Django, there are many scenes without Schultz, and he clearly ends up not being the main character by the end of the film. That being said though he still has considerable screen time, he is in most scenes for a great deal of the film, as well as he pretty much commands most scenes that he is in though that really has a lot to with the quality of Waltz's performance. I would say that really I would not complain all that much if he were placed in either category.

There is a criticism of Waltz here that could be made, although I have not heard it or read it so far, that he is playing too much of a similar character to that of Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds also directed by Quentin Tarantino. Both are intelligent and very suave Germans, but the key difference between the two is Hans Landa is quite evil and King Schultz is actually the hero of the film. Also Waltz playing a similar character does not diminish this performance in the least as who else could give this performance other than Waltz? The effort of Waltz in each role is equal and the simple truth is Waltz could have played this role first therefore such an argument never would be made.

Waltz is just brilliant from his first scene where he procures Django from two slavers first in attempted negotiation. Waltz's way with words is just fabulous and it perfectly accentuates the superiority of his character's intelligence in such an easy fashion. He also did this as Hans Landa, but where as Hans Landa he portrayed it as just one of his methods of attack on the psyche of his opponent, as Schultz he portrays with a lighter touch showing it to be merely the way Schultz is without any malice attached. Waltz shows that with Schultz his manner and style really is just the way he is, and that it doesn't have anything to do with any greater scheme like it would be with Landa.

Waltz is terrific in his creation of the style of Schultz though which is both very easy going in the way he speaks each and every word in a meticulous fashion, but at the same time Waltz brings across the quick incisive method that Schultz also does use when it comes to killing. In the first scene he brilliantly goes along in his way of speaking way above the slavers head, which Waltz does with style that is both entertaining but effective in creating Schultz as a character. When the slavers finally have had enough of him though he quickly dispatches them. Waltz is excellent because he barely shows Schultz as that violent, despite killing a man, because he still goes back to being so civil right after the fact.

In this performance Waltz absolutely makes the style of Schultz work completely without it seeming bizarre, nor stopping him from being a heroic character within the film. In every scene he is in Waltz makes it work through a great deal of charm he has, that this time does not have a hint of slime this time his smile tends to be genuine. Even when Schultz kills Waltz does this well by making it clear that Schultz has no hesitations really knowing that who is killing are bad men, therefore does not need to second guess himself, and his portrayal of his stance is properly honest so we do not second guess him either.

Unlike with Hans Landa who the audience were really kept at a distance from in any part of his plan fearing them more than anything, Waltz here is outstanding in the way he loses that coldness found in Landa instead creating a warmth within Schultz that allows us to be really in on his plans instead. Waltz makes it so when Schultz wins over on the slavers we can easily enjoy the victory right with through his welcoming performance here. Every one of his scenes where he talks himself out of a problem early on in the film is just terrific, and despite doing it several times Waltz makes each and everyone of these scenes very entertaining without feeling repetitive in the slightest.

Another reason I love this performance is how Waltz works with Jamie Foxx in the film. Jamie Foxx goes for basically a man with no name attempt in the vein of Clint Eastwood or Lee Van Cleef, or maybe that is what Quentin Tarantino wanted from the character, either way though it does not quite work because Foxx is not Eastwood or Van Cleef. The weakness of the leading man does not matter though because Christoph Waltz is there to save the day. Whenever Foxx could allow the film to falter due to his not nearly compelling enough performance, Waltz steps in and instantly energizes the scene with his wonderful presence. Not a single scene while Waltz is around falters because Waltz simply through his extremely entertaining performance stops them from doing so.

Waltz's domination of the scenes between Django and Schultz might sound like it would not work as Django is suppose to be lead. It works though because Waltz creates the relationship between the two as a bit of a mentor apprentice sort of relationship. In their scenes together Waltz is very good in making Schultz a gentle teacher to Django as both a technical advisory in the ways of the Bounty hunter, but also an encouraging factor that works quite well that creates a certain friendship that works well. Foxx's performance style of basically of being a modern action hero in this period is saved, for the most part, because Waltz lightens up as well as energizes everyone one of their scenes together that really saves the film.

Later on in the film when they go to save Django's wife Schultz takes a little bit of a back seat to the craziness of Calvin Candie and his head slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) as the chief villains of the film. This is not Waltz's fault by any means but in certain scenes like one where Calvin orders a slave to be torn apart by dogs Schultz is regulated to the background. Still Waltz is very good and every chance he does have to to chime in he again infuses life into the picture, and he certainly makes sure that we do not forget him for a moment. Also very important through his short reactions Waltz very much shows a certain disgust brewing over the horrible behavior of the slave holder that is extremely well handled by Waltz that sets up Schultz's later actions.

Also when I say Waltz takes a back seat it is only brief, basically just on their way to Candieland. Waltz has a very good scene with Django's wife Broomhilda that is very amusing thanks to Waltz's expert delivery. Even better though is the scene where they all have dinner. DiCaprio, Jackson, and Waltz are just terrific here as they all play together. They are hilarious the way they trade the barbs with DiCaprio portraying Calvin's attempted sophistication, Jackson portraying Stephen purposeful lack of sophistication, and Waltz portraying honest sophistication. They work together just perfectly and make the scene work extremely well the way they just make entertaining but also the way Waltz sets up the ruse Schultz is playing all the while Stephen is detecting the ruse.

I will say this paragraph covers the severe SPOILERS of the film. After the ruse is detected and Schultz is forced to do things Calvin's way Waltz is terrific in subtle showing the slow moral anger that builds in Schultz. Waltz is outstanding in his last scene as Waltz finally shows Schultz let lose with his disgust against what he was repressing beforehand, and it is a powerful moment for the end of his performance. He though still ends his performance so brilliantly by showing his charm just one more time before he exits the film. I must say how good he is makes the last part of the film much harder to get through than it should have been. I have never missed a character more in a film this year than Schultz and the credit needs to go to Waltz for doing so.

Christoph Waltz is amazing because he not only made his character exceedingly entertaining but as well even towed along Jamie Foxx to make his performance tolerable. He honestly is the man who makes the entire film work. Without him the film could easily could have devolved into just an abundance of violence lacking the charm and fun necessary for the film. I would say this is particularly true as I do feel that the ending of the film does devolve into that a bit, and Waltz is absent from the conclusion. All I can say is this is just a brilliant performance as Christoph Waltz pulls such a terrific character that does not feel for a moment like he is just coasting on his previous work. All I can really say that lead or supporting this just a great performance either way, and simply is either one of the best lead or supporting performances of the year.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Best Supporting Actor 2012: Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln

Tommy Lee Jones received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying congressman Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln.

Thaddeus Stevens is bit of a controversial figure when it comes to historical representation. Some wish to see him as a villain for his want to harshly punish the south for succession and slavery. Others though take him as a hero for his fervent hatred of slavery, and his intense efforts to end it. The film Lincoln most certainly takes the latter approach. It briefly gives a little indication of the other view in his scene with Lincoln, but for the most part it treats him as very positive character. Tommy Lee Jones in turn in his portrayal of the man portrays him as a crusty old man, who has a lot of one liners, just like another nominee this year.

There is something strange I noticed well watching this performance though was how it was set up in the film to be a best supporting actor winner. In his first scene the camera takes his point of view, until a dramatic ease in on him, almost just to add to the importance of his character in the film. Similarly the film always gives him his little reactions constantly much more than any other character in the film, just to always remind you of his existence. Then he gets all his scenes where he gets to talk down to the various pro-slavery congressmen, or spineless ones that seem to be there for his Oscar scenes.

To top it all off he gets a final scene that seems to forced in its sentimentality just for this performance again, which is unfortunate because that is the only scene where Spielberg indulged in his problems as a filmmaker.  Well this whole character seemed to be created to give Tommy Lee Jones an Oscar, as Thaddeus Stevens should have had important scenes but the film really overdid it to a certain extent. Putting that aside though for a moment, how really is his performance? Well if I would have to say it is a tad one note for the most part. Tommy Lee Jones note is the note of an impassioned crusty, of course, crusader.

Jones is good in being his note of angry passion, and he delivers all of his lines with a certain intensity that works for the character. He is passionate as Stevens and that works particularly in his yelling scenes in the middle of congress. In his quieter scenes with Lincoln Jones still plays Jones in the same fashion just quieter. He is still impassioned still crusty, still saying little one liners, just at a lower volume. Jones is certainly entertaining in all of these scenes to a certain degree becuase Jones does throw himself full force into every line, but still there is nothing incredible about what he does.

There are of course his scenes where he has his little reactions which are either little smiles, or looks of understanding toward Mary Todd Lincoln. There is not anything special about the moments, but he handles them well enough. He hits a slightly different note when Stevens is basically being interrogated about his views which are considered radical, and he is forced to hold himself back. Jones is good in this scene by being quiet and loud at the same time in his usual passionate crusty method. He does this scene properly, but still it does not amount to anything absolutely incredible.

Eventually though there is the scene where he takes the written amendment home to show to his biracial housekeeper Lydia Smith (S. Epatha Merkenson) who clearly is more than that as they share a bed, and he addresses her as "my love". This scene is terrible frankly, and I liked the film, there are two reasons why. One is Jones seems lost in this scene which is the only time he takes away the anger from Stevens, but he does not make it work because he has no chemistry with Merkenson, the two do not suggest any history between the two. They seem forced together, and the scene fails. It fails even more because than Smith reads the amendment which just hammers in the point to an unnecessary degree. 

That scene which is his worst scene is not a great way to end his performance, even though the scene seemed tailored made to be all poignant and moving. The problem is the scene was too tailored to be all poignant and moving and came off as ham-fisted due to that. This is the showiest performance in the film but it is not the best. David Strathairn is more interesting by creating William Seward as a caring friend for Lincoln, but also very forceful in questioning some of his friends methods. James Spader is a lot of fun and very entertaining in his creation of a sweaty but intelligent political operative. Both create more compelling characters than Tommy Lee Jones and his portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens which is entertaining but never as substantial as it should be.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Best Supporting Actor 2012: Alan Arkin in Argo

Alan Arkin received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Lester Siegel in Argo.

Argo is an entertaining thriller, even if the facts of the true story are played and many times in a typical movie sort of way, about the CIA using a fake film project as a cover story to get six embassy workers out of Iran. 

Alan Arkin portrays a veteran film producer who CIA operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), and make up artist John Chambers go to help create the fake film production. Where the scenes in Iran with the hostages are played very much with a strict uncompromising intensity the scenes that take place in Hollywood are played up for comedic value. Much of the humor comes in form of Alan Arkin as the crusty old producer, and his interactions with various Hollywood types as the three of them try to make the cover story seem strong. Most of Arkin's moments really come in his delivery of the various one liners he is given.

Arkin won his Oscar for playing a crusty old man in Little Miss Sunshine, who also had quite a few one liners. In both films Arkin delivers them in the same way which is always in a unabashed manner. I would say the difference though is in Little Miss Sunshine he always felt a bit cruder, and frankly due to that his deliveries there held a little more of a punch. His line delivery here though is still good as well as he does them in his crusty dead pan fashion. I will not fault Arkin here giving a similar performance to his performance in Little Miss Sunshine since it is completely fitting of the character of Lester Siegel.

What separates Lester Siegel in this film from Edwin Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine is there is considerably less heart here as Lester. There is a very brief scene where he talks about his family to Mendez that is fairly simplistic. Arkin is earnest in the scene, but still it does not make much of an impact unlike Arkin's scenes with Abigail Breslin Little Miss Sunshine. In his Oscar winning turn Arkin made so there was a character who said one liners, whereas here it is more of Alan Arkin showing up to say a few one liners Siegel never really becomes a compelling character on his lonesome.

Now I will say this is a good performance in that when he is on screen he is enjoyable, and lightens up the film nicely. He, Affleck and Goodman have a certain chemistry that works in their scenes together that allows the scenes in making up the phony film appropriately entertaining. Arkin though doesn't steal the film or anything near that. When he is off screen, which is quite often especially in the third act of the film, he really is not missed all that much. Arkin in his performance offers a little bit of humor, and fun, but there is not anything here that is substantial enough to warrant this being recognized as one of the best performances of the year.