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.


Michael Patison said...

Totally agree. I enjoyed him but he wasn't anything nearly good enough to steal the movie. If tey wanted a performance like this they should've gone for Sacha Baron Cohen in Les Miserables as he came much closer to stealing his film. Then there's of course, Javier who pretty much stole his film, which is not a bad thing at all. I'd rather had a category like this:
Either Samuel L. or Leo

RatedRStar said...

I agree, 3 is the perfect score to give, he was fine, but nothing more.

dinasztie said...

I used to be fond of this performance but now I'm kind of indifferent. I agree with your review and rating.

Could you please write about Hoffman next? :)

Maciej said...

Totally agree with your review!

Can I ask you: what do you think of Affleck's performance?

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: Well any of the ones you named would have been a better choice than Arkin especially Bardem. I mean they gave Arkin a nomination for a role that was basically just a less complex version of his Oscar winning one, whereas Bardem despite playing a villain again, gave such a wildly different performance from his Oscar winning one.

dinasztie: I am going to wait on Hoffman only because everyone predicted that it is between Waltz and Hoffman so I might as well keep some suspense for my ranking. I could put Waltz last, but I already blabbed about him thinking he would not be nominated.

Maciej: I thought he was fine, but just like in his last film he probably should cast someone else in the lead. Again I did not think he was bad at all, just I'm sure someone else could have been better. I think he has the right idea with his first film.

Michael Patison said...

My thoughts exactly on Bardem. He's equally menacing as in his Oscar-winning performance and he does it so differently.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Absolutely nothing special. If anyone had to be nominated, I'd go with Cranston. To be fair, though this isn't really an actor's film.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

My Best Supporting Actor Ballot is iffy. I've seen Django twice, and I still can't decide if Waltz was Lead or Supporting. So, here's my ballot if I do consider him Supporting:

1. Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
2. Sam Rockwell in Seven Psychopaths
3. Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
4. Christopher Walken in Seven Psychopaths
5. Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained

If I push him up to lead, just push everyone else I listed up a notch and add Jason Clarke in Zero Dark Thirty as the fifth slot. Or Nate Parker in Arbitrage. Or Ben Whishaw in Cloud Atlas.


Anonymous said...

Relating to Ben Affleck, what are your thoughts on Gone Baby Gone, Louis?

JamDenTel said...

I don't get why they didn't nominate John Goodman. He was in FLIGHT (where he was great) and TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE, he's never had a nomination, he's actually in more of the film than Arkin and is better...I really don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Goodman's actually in less of the film than Arkin and does the same thing. The difference is, I at least kind of remember Arkin. I don't remember Goodman at all.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: I would agree Cranston is best, but I would also agree that it is not an actor's film.

Anonymous: I like all three of his films, although I think all are good but not quite great.

JamDenTel: I thought Goodman was fine here, but I preferred Arkin to him. I have not seen him in Trouble With the Curve. I thought he was one of the many problems with Flight though.

joe burns said...

Seems like this is shaping up to be a weak year for you. Haven't seen him, but I'll predict he'll do better then Jones.

Michael Patison said...

I think Affleck's films have become gradually better and better. I think Argo was great.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I thought Argo was forgetable. For my money, it's got nothing on The Town.