Thursday, 4 April 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1991: John Goodman in Barton Fink

John Goodman did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Charlie Meadows or is it Karl Mundt in Barton Fink.

I suppose Barton Fink can be looked upon as a great case for the Academy's incompetence. If it was snubbed all together it would be easier to forgive actually since it is clear that the film was seen as it managed to be nominated for Costume Design, Art Direction and Supporting Actor. It lost both techs to Bugsy and it and Bugsy actually shared the same team for the art direction. I will say that their work was excellent in Bugsy in a more straight forward fashion but in Barton Fink the Art Direction is practically its own character. Barton Fink was their superior work and it should have won but of course Bugsy was nominated for Best Picture, for whatever reason, therefore Fink went unrewarded.

Now not giving Fink the win is for Art Direction is one thing, but the matter of who was nominated for supporting actor is another thing. Michael Lerner was nominated for his enjoyable work as the powerful movie mogul Jack Lipnick, but if they saw the film how could they possibly say that was the best supporting performance from the film when there was John Goodman there all along, and he did get the Globe nomination to show that he was in contention to some degree. The only thing I could think is maybe he was faulted for being mainly a television actor at that time, or perhaps they were too taken aback by his character's revelations, this is one where I would love to hear why a voter would have not voted for Goodman.

I should quickly say though that Goodman should not have replaced Lerner in the lineup, as Lerner was better than three of the five other nominees, but Fink should have had two Supporting nominations instead of Bugsy. I should also quickly say that this is a spoilers review as it is essential to discuss what happens to his character to really get into the strength of this performance. Although if you have not seen Barton Fink just go see it already it is a brilliant film. We first come upon Charlie Meadows as Barton Fink hears a grown man crying in another room in his Hotel leaving him to call and complain of the noise. The crying stops and we hear as he leaves the room and approaches Barton's room.

Goodman first shows up as Charlie is a man slightly taken aback and annoyed by the complaint but as soon as Barton offers the slightest apology Charlie seems like just the nicest man. Goodman is brilliant in creating Charlie as this likable charming insurance salesman. He has this warm slight accent he uses in the part that just is perfect in putting Charlie as man from this period but as well as an inviting man. It is not hard at all to see why Barton would want to speak with Charlie as Goodman makes Charlie seems such a nice man. Goodman does something interesting although he seems genuine in his manner he very much shows Charlie as a born salesman where he speaks just in a way that just makes it easy to listen to him.

Goodman is just so inviting as Charlie that he livens up all the scenes he is in and is quite good in offering some reprieve from the alienation that Barton faces everywhere else. Goodman adds a bit of natural humor in his performance, and along with Turturro that create such a great dynamic together. They are great together whether it is when Barton goes on and on about the stories of the common man yet keeps cutting off Charlie when Charlie is about to tell a story or when they speak more closely about the loneliness they both share. The two work as a comedic pair in the way Goodman is so straight forward and broad well Turturro keeps Barton fairly shy and retiring, but as well they create an honest friendship that actually is quite moving at the very same time.

Goodman on his own has such fascinating shades he brings to his characterization that are subtle and quite effective in indicating the eventual revelations of Charlie. These are nicely placed throughout his performance from the first scene before Barton apologizes but as well when they go to darker territory. When Charlie speaks of being made fun of, or when he talks about the doctor telling him exactly what he knew about his ear infection there is something more to Goodman's Charlie. Goodman portrays a sadness as he speaks about the treatment that was given to him but his good nature seems to still come through mostly as Goodman expresses as a disappointment with them for the most part, although even deeper there is the smallest suggestion of a deeper hate that Goodman suggest so brilliantly in such briefness but it is there.

Goodman is absolutely outstanding in his ability to show perhaps the hidden Charlie without giving it away, but having the right indicators. Goodman handles the scene where Barton goes to Charlie for help over finding that the woman he slept with has been brutally murdered particularly well. Goodman again makes Charlie concern seem entirely genuine and there is no reason to suspect him, but at the same time there is just a certain undercurrent in his performance to suggest that Charlie has a certain knowing quality as he acts at first a little too calm about Barton's stress then later maybe acts a little too expressive when seeing the body, yet regains his composure quite quickly. Goodman treads the line perfectly never giving it away by any means but establishing the right qualities in Charlie to allow the revelation to be believable.

Charlie leaves due to trouble in "The head office" Barton learns that Charlie is in fact a serial killer known as Karl "Madman" Mundt. There is quite a build up to seeing Charlie again and when we do Goodman does not disappoint creating the most memorable scene in a very memorable film. The first thing Karl does is brutally murders two detectives, and the original image of Charlie is brutally shattered by Goodman. What is so amazing about Goodman here is that he not only shows the completely deranged Karl in chilling detail but he shows this as simply the coming from that same old Charlie. His final scene is flawlessly acted as Charlie goes to talk to his old friend one more time this time though to admonish for not listening.

Goodman is absolutely frightening as Charlie speaks to Barton about how he just wants to offer people some reprieve from their pain, yet Goodman is as well strangely moving as Charlie espouses that he only wishes someone would relieve him of his own pain. Goodman's and Turturro's final exchange is just incredible as the two show a completely exchanged dynamic as finally Charlie forces Barton to shut up and listen. It is such a strange moment but so brilliantly played by Goodman as he both refutes their earlier friendship in portraying Charlie's anger and hatred over Barton's ignorance yet at the same time he supports it as he still conveys that old camaraderie between the two although it comes off quite differently here. This moment where he turns his earlier characterization on its head it is completely earned making it as insanely powerful as it is. This such an unforgettable performance by Goodman and he absolutely succeeds in every aspect of his very complicated character.

11 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

It looks like something up my alley. On a weirdness scale of "David Lynch's Mulholland Drive" to "David Lynch's The Straight Story", how would it rank?

Also, are you in mourning like me over Ebert? I feel like a relative died.

Louis Morgan said...

Hmm much closer to Mulholland Drive.

As for Ebert I always enjoyed and still do enjoy watching the old videos with him and Gene Siskel. I can't say I always agreed with either of them, like Ebert on Blue Velvet and Siskel on Unforgiven, but their talking and arguing about film was always compelling to watch.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Ebert was my hero, even though I disagreed with him a lot (Fight Club, Blue Velvet, The Master, his infamous dismissal of video games as art). His reviews inspired me to even want to become a critic. That, and every now and again he'd come around and "see the light" on an old movie, like The Big Lebowski.

Anonymous said...

Agreed absolutely amazing performance.

RatedRStar said...

I dont really no what to say, um ive never seen Barton Fink (im only a kid I aint some big movie goer lol)

As for Ebert, again im only a kid so I never really watched him on tv and stuff (I wasnt born when he was with Siskel) so I dont really no what to say.

Michael Patison said...

You can find a number of episodes of At the Movies just on the Internet. While I obviously didn't agree with him on everything, I agreed with him more often than not. The combined loss of Siskel and Ebert, though, is something I think the field of film criticism is going to take a while to recover from. Roeper and Travers are fine, but they're just not Siskel and Ebert. They were the Bosley Crowthers of the post-studio era and they brought such attention to film. Ebert (and Siskel, though he's been gone awhile) will be missed greatly for a long while to come.

moviefilm said...

I really liked Goodman in this. He's an extremely underrated actor...

Lezlie said...

I've never seen Ebert, but I did read a lot of his articles reviews. He was a great, no, he was The Best. He will be missed for sure. Fuckin cancer :( Sorry. R.I.P.
As for Goodman, I always liked him, he is one of those underrated actors who should have been much bigger stars, like Steve Buscemi ("Shut the f**k up, Donnie!" - just came to my mind). Maybe if you're not the average hot guy then you're reduced to play villains or comic relief, fortunately there are intelligent directors and producers who know how to utilize these people's talents.

Michael Patison said...

No need to apologize about the cancer comment, Lezlie. I feel the exact same way. My grandmother passed away about 2 months ago due to lung cancer at like 67 or 68, so far too young, just like Ebert. I feel like your comment is somehow not vindictive enough.

As for Goodman and Buscemi, I feel like they got or are now getting the recognition they deserved on the small screen (Goodman with Roseanne and Buscemi with Boardwalk Empire), but I completely agree that they never received the big screen parts their talents deserve. If you think about it, the one role for each of them often considered to be their best (this one for Goodman and Fargo for Buscemi) are both Coen Bros. films.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@ Lezlie: Michael's right, don't apologize. My grandmother passed away three years ago from liver cancer.

Lezlie said...

Robert, Michael, I'm sorry for both of your losses :(
My grandfather passed away from pancreatic cancer before I was born, I never got to know him. I hope medical sciences find some kind of cure in the near future.