Thursday, 31 October 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1999: Forest Whitaker in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Forest Whitaker did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ghost Dog in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is an interesting and enjoyable enough film about a mysterious hit man, who follows the code of the samurai, who finds himself the target of the mafia he works for.

Forest Whitaker certainly is not the first man you think of when you think of samurai or even a modern samurai, but Whitaker could not be more comfortable in the role of the stoic man who takes pride in the ideas found in a book that outlines the purpose of the samurai. Whitaker's performance is that of finding a consistent tone and sticking with it through the film. This is the nature of the character who is very firm in his belief of following the code of the Samurai to the letter, he is not one of those atypical ones played by Toshiro Mifune. Whitaker plays Ghost Dog who does not just talk about being a samurai he walks the walks right down to an undying loyalty to his retainer even if the retainer does not deserve it.

Whitaker gives a fully physical performance in his portrayal of Ghost Dog as there is a certain way he moves and walks that is very telling of his character. The samurai can be seen in his movements and Whitaker is quite effective in showing Ghost Dog as a man so utterly devoted to his ideals that he is one with them. There is such grace in his performance in every movement. There is not a wrong step he is always the samurai in every movement. Whitaker makes this an interesting performance just to watch, and he is especially good in the pivotal action scene late in the film. The way he uses his gun is not that of an action hero, or even gangster. Whitaker makes the movements that of artist at work much like a samurai with his sword. 

In his scenes of non-violence Whitaker gives a very unassuming performance that works well as he makes Ghost Dog just a man of quiet reflection. Whitaker has an innate likability as an actor to begin, but he is particularly splendid here in his portrayal of Ghost Dog who might have strange morals but morals that he does stick to. Whitaker stays with his character's nature the whole film through and this easily could have made him seem an uninteresting character but Whitaker makes it work. Whitaker brings to life the devotion of Ghost Dog to life in a gentle and even believable fashion. Whitaker makes it simple by being entirely genuine with the part. He makes the nature of Ghost Dog something very honest in the film.

Ghost Dog certainly is a most unusual film lead by a most unusual hero with a most unusual casting. Forest Whitaker does not seem strange in the part in the slightest though he makes it his own. This is a performance about the creation of the character and his creation of Ghost Dog is an endearing and strangely fascinating sort. Every action take by the Ghost Dog is realized by Whitaker's assured performance and even the final actions of Ghost Dog, which could have seemed completely absurd and frankly they are completely absurd, but Whitaker makes it work because he makes Ghost Dog a philosophy such a part of him. Whitaker makes him the samurai in every other way, from his manner in violence to his thoughts on every day things, therefore Ghost Dog would even have to stay with the fatal fault of the samurai code. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1999

And the Nominees Were Not:

Brad Pitt in Fight Club

Edward Norton in Fight Club

Jim Carrey in Man on the Moon

Forest Whitaker in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Guy Pearce in Ravenous

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971: Results

5. Bruce Dern in Drive, He Said- Dern does not have much of a part but he does make himself the best part of his film through his energetic performance.

Best Scene: The Coach reorganizes his team at half time.
4. Jack Albertson in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory- Albertson gives a nice warm supportive turn even if he is overshadowed by Gene Wilder for a large chunk of the film.

Best Scene: Grandpa Joe surprises Charlie with a Wonka bar.
3. Fernando Rey in The French Connection- Rey's is a minimalistic performance that realizes his French crime lord as an effective villain.

Best Scene: Frog one waves Popeye goodbye.
2. Andy Robinson in Dirty Harry- Robinson is a great villain by being both incredibly pathetic and exceptionally threatening.

Best Scene: Harry tortures Scorpio.
1. John Hurt in 10 Rillington Place- Good Predictions Mark, Moviefilm, and Michael McCarthy. This was a landslide victory for John Hurt as I did not have to think twice to give the win to him for his absolutely devastating performance as man who faces one tragedy after another that perfectly complements the terrifying lead performance by Richard Attenborough. I can sort of understand the academy's oversight of Attenborough because of their timidness for completely despicable characters, but there was no excuse for ignoring Hurt especially with the filler nominations given to Leonard Frey and Richard Jaeckel.

Best Scene: Timothy finds his wife after the murder.
Overall Rank:
  1. John Hurt in 10 Rillington Place 
  2. Donald Pleasence in Wake in Fright
  3. Andy Robinson in Dirty Harry
  4. Ben Johnson in The Last Picture Show
  5. Alain Delon in Red Sun
  6. Eddie Axberg in The Emigrants 
  7. Ian McShane in Villain
  8. Fernando Rey in The French Connection
  9. Jack Albertson in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 
  10. Jeff Bridges in The Last Picture Show
  11. Roy Scheider in The French Connection
  12. Tom Baker in Nicholas and Alexandra
  13. John Huston in Man in the Wilderness
  14. Max von Sydow in The Touch
  15. Bruce Dern in Drive, He Said
  16. Donald Pleasence in THX 1138
  17. Roy Kinnear in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 
  18. Jack MacGowran in King Lear
  19. Ian Hendry in Get Carter 
  20. Edward Fox in The Go-Between
  21. Hugh Millais in McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  22. Laurence Olivier in Nicholas and Alexandra
  23. Cyril Cusack in King Lear
  24. Patrick McGoohan in Mary, Queen of Scots
  25. Patrick Magee in A Clockwork Orange
  26. John Osborne in Get Carter
  27. Patrick Magee in King Lear 
  28. Percy Herbert in Man in the Wilderness
  29. Trevor Howard in Mary, Queen of Scots
  30. Michael Gothard in The Devils
  31. David Battley in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 
  32. Marcel Bozzuffi in The French Connection
  33. David Warner in Straw Dogs   
  34. David Gulpilil in Walkabout
  35. Ian Holm in Nicholas and Alexandra
  36. Nigel Davenport in Mary, Queen of Scots
  37. Murray Melvin in The Devils 
  38. Nigel Davenport in Villain 
  39. Michael Redgrave in The Go-Between
  40. David Warbeck in Duck, You Sucker!
  41. Reni Santoni in Dirty Harry 
  42. Alan Bates in The Go-Between
  43. Paul Mann in Fiddler on the Roof 
  44. Eddie Egan in The French Connection
  45. Chips Rafferty in Wake in Fright
  46. Bryan Mosley in Get Carter 
  47. Graham Armitage in The Devils
  48. Godfrey Quigley in A Clockwork Orange 
  49. Pierre Lindstedt in The Emigrants
  50. Bill Hickman in The French Connection
  51. John Vernon in Dirty Harry
  52. Aubrey Woods in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 
  53. John Stride in Macbeth
  54. Tony Lo Bianco in The French Connection
  55. Jack Thompson in Wake in Fright
  56. Charles Cioffi in Shaft
  57. Roy Scheider in Klute
  58. Peter Vaughan in Straw Dogs 
  59. Raul Julia in The Panic in Needle Park
  60. John McEnery in Nicholas and Alexandra 
  61. Timothy Dalton in Mary, Queen of Scots
  62. Frederic de Pasquale in The French Connection 
  63. Art Garfunkel in Carnal Knowledge
  64. Anthony Sharp in A Clockwork Orange  
  65. Jack Hawkins in Nicholas and Alexandra
  66. Richard Bright in The Panic in Needle Park 
  67. Charles Gray in Diamonds Are Forever
  68. John Larch in Dirty Harry 
  69. Michael Bates in A Clockwork Orange
  70. Charles Cioffi in Klute 
  71. Leonard Frey in Fiddler on the Roof
  72. Martin Shaw in Macbeth
  73. John Mitchum in Play Misty For Me 
  74. John Meillon in Wake in Fright
  75. Philip Stone in A Clockwork Orange
  76. John Mitchum in Dirty Harry
  77. Gunter Meisner in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  78. T.P. McKenna in Straw Dogs
  79. Robert Towne in Drive, He Said  
  80. Harry Guardino in Dirty Harry
  81. Rene Auberjonois in McCabe & Mrs. Miller 
  82. Moses Gunn in Shaft
  83. Romolo Valli in Duck, You Sucker!
  84. Paul Glaser in Fiddler on the Roof
  85. Clu Gulager in The Last Picture Show 
  86. Dudley Sutton in The Devils 
  87. Alan Vint in The Panic in Needle Park 
  88. David Prowse in A Clockwork Orange
  89. Paris Themmen in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  90. Warren Clarke in A Clockwork Orange
  91. Leonard Stone in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  92. Randy Quaid in The Last Picture Show
  93. Michael Bollner in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  94. Timothy West in Nicholas and Alexandra
  95. Charles Tyner in Harold and Maude
  96. Harry Andrews in Nicholas and Alexandra
  97. Barnard Hughes in The Hospital 
  98. Terence Bayler in Macbeth 
  99. Roderic Noble in Nicholas and Alexandra
  100. Murray Head in Sunday Bloody Sunday
  101. Charles Aidman in Kotch
  102. Josef Summer in Dirty Harry
  103. Michael Margotta in Drive, He Said
  104. Elliot Gould in The Touch
Next Year: 1999 lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971: Bruce Dern in Drive, He Said

Bruce Dern did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning NSFC, for portraying Coach Bullion in Drive, He Said.

Drive, He Said is about a star basketball player Hector who deals with problems with an affair he is having and his protestor friend who is in fear of the draft. The film was Jack Nicholson's directorial debut and it is obvious in the film, much like Sean Penn directing for the Indian Runner although he had a better script to fall on, that he was trying far too hard to show himself to be director with a distinct style and vision. It is no surprise that Clint Eastwood continued his directing career and Nicholson rarely returned as Eastwood's debut film from the same year, Play Misty For Me, is a far more assured work.

Drive, He Said is a film with many ineffectual performances that often come off as obnoxious, dull or just simply not very cinematic. The great exception to this is Bruce Dern in the role as the Coach of the Basketball team Hector plays with. Bullion is not to much of a character he is just always trying to push Hector to fly straight and push his team to win the game. Dern's performance just has a presence no one else has in the film. When he is on screen the film does come alive in a certain way because he brings a certain energy to the part sorely missing from most other places in the film. Although the point of his character is simple Dern does bring this point alive effectively.

Dern does well in showing the differences in the Coach's approach. When in practice or on a game Dern reflects the intensity of the situation as he portrays the Coach as being particularly direct to get his points across as quickly and firmly as possible. Dern makes Coach Bullion like a military strategist positioning his troops and motivating him his way so they get the job done. When they are not on the court Dern tones down Bullion to make him a believable character. Dern still makes him forceful in his attempts to shape up Hector but shows him to be much quieter yet still persistent figure. Dern instead of having the piercing criticisms of the court, he makes Bullion criticisms in the form of a restrained disappointment.

Unfortunately for Dern as well as the film itself Coach Bullion is not featured all that often and really the character is almost entirely made by Dern's performance. Dern tends to be a reliable character actor and certainly is reliable here. There is just only so much he can do with his underused and underwritten character, but hey he did make me wish the film had been about his character's story to bring his team to the championship. This is not a great performance by Bruce Dern but it certainly is a solid one which does manage to steal the film even though there really is not all that much of a film to steal.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971: Andy Robinson in Dirty Harry

Andy Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Scorpio killer in Dirty Harry.

Dirty Harry went on to have four sequels none which came close to the strength of the original film. Although all of the films, besides The Dead Pool, had a devoted Clint Eastwood they always lacked a personal arc for Harry and something even more important which was a good villain. The only film that even came close to a good villain was the first sequel Magnum Force although that was not in the main villains who were rather silly looking traffic patrol death squad but rather the last minute reveal villain played by Hal Holbrook. The only film which has a great main villain is the very first film and a great deal of the credit for this needs to go to Andy Robinson's performance as the serial killer who calls himself Scorpio.

For the first third of the film or so we mostly see the actions of Scorpio as he murders people and leaves ransom notes demanding money to be paid or else he will commit more murders. The first murder we barely see him but the second attempted murder we see Scorpio make his preparations. Robinson is exceptional in the scene as we see Scorpio mark his target. Robinson is quite chilling in the scene as he loses his mark then he finds his potential victim again. Robinson is great as he brings the most eerie smile over his face as Scorpio sees his chance to murder has returned, in his expression he shows the sick sadism of Scorpio very effectively. We don't learn why he does this, but from here we can see he certainly enjoys it.

Once we see more of Scorpio Robinson makes a most unusual but remarkable dynamic for his character. Robinson makes Scorpio a very pathetic and very threatening character all at the same time. Through his meek posture and his squeal Robinson makes Scorpio clearly a weak and very lowly individual. In this though Robinson brings an unpredictability of the man through the viciousness of his psychotic behavior. He mixes in the violence with his overall lowly state to make this a very visceral performance. Due to his more pathetic qualities when Robinson brings out the violence it is all the more jarring and Robinson makes every scene with Scorpio have an underlying intensity as you don't know what he is going to do.

Scorpio is a most interesting adversary for Dirty Harry as the only quality they share is their ability they share is their ability to kill fairly efficiently. Where Eastwood stands tall, Robinson well stands short, Eastwood's voice is firm and forceful, Robinson is fluttery and whiny, where Eastwood makes Harry emotions rather self contained that although can be intense are always in control, Robinson shows Scorpio become an emotional mess very easily. This juxtaposition absolutely works as Eastwood and Robinson complement each other's performance marvelously. Their scenes together have a raw power as both go all their way in their differing characters making for some very memorable moments particularly the torture scenes with Eastwood being so controlled and Robinson being such a wreck.

Robinson's turn as Scorpio is a bit underrated as villain turn goes and his influence is rarely mentioned as I think you can see some of Scorpio in Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker. The crazed psychopath is easily a part that an actor can go too far with, but Robinson handles it incredibly well by showing the way the extreme craziness comes out at certain times. Robinson builds to it as it becomes time for violence that is when Scorpio begins to well lose his composure a bit. Robinson handles the progression in natural fashion even though this is not a case of the evil coming out, and even when Scorpio seems come Robinson plays him in a particularly slimy way. This might not seem like a large leap but Robinson makes an art of going from slime to psycho.

Robinson makes Scorpio a most despicable and completely unsympathetic villain, and that is completely the right approach. He never takes a step back showing Scorpio revel in everyone of heinous acts, Harry says Scorpio likes to kill and Robinson supports this point. This is the best approach in the film as we want Harry to torture Scorpio, and we want him to kill him at the end with that build up to the 6 shots or only 5 scene at the end of the film. Robinson is great in making Scorpio the lowest of the low. He is creepy, one scene where he walks through a park is especially off putting as he looks so happy around children, he is threatening, he is  just all together deplorable. Robinson makes a great villain you hate, and takes an interesting approach that absolutely works where he is not the equal to Harry but rather a brilliant subversion.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971: Jack Albertson in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Jack Albertson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Jack Albertson plays Grandpa Joe a man bedridden for twenty years and one of the four grandparents of the poor Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) who hopes to be one of the lucky children to find a golden ticket that will give him a tour of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Albertson is the very traditional sort of supporting performance here in that Grandpa Joe is always supporting Charlie with moral support any way he can. Albertson is very charming the role just having a genuine warmth needed for the part. He has just the right sweetness without becoming saccharine, and serves the film well with his bright personality in the early scenes of the film where Charlie faces some big disappointments.

Albertson handles his scenes very well being the kindly encouraging grandfather to Charlie, and does well because they are not all happy moments. Albertson's best scene is when he surprises Charlie with a bar and they open it together to find nothing. Albertson brings such genuine emotion to the moment as Grandpa Joe first shares Charlie's excitement but then sadly has to tenderly comfort his grandson after their disappointment. Another scene that causes some complaints is when Grandpa Joe gets out of bed because he sings a song to do it. I really don't mind because Albertson really does deliver with the song, not necessarily with how good or bad his singing voice is, but rather with an energy and brightness to bring the joy of the situation out quite splendidly.

Once the film steps in the Chocolate Factory Albertson takes a back seat, in fact everyone does, to Gene Wilder's performance as Willy Wonka. Gene Wilder owns the film without question and for most the tour the most everyone can get out is a surprised reaction or two. No one for a moment steals Wilder's thunder during these scenes and as the reactionary cast goes I would probably say Roy Kinnear as Mr. Salt probably does the best. Albertson is not bad in these scenes, he handles all the little moments he has well enough, but they don't leave too much of an impression with Gene Wilder around. This is not a criticism against Albertson though, but rather just praise for Wilder.

Albertson does get one scene at the end of the film when Grandpa Joe confronts Wonka after Wonka has said that Charlie will not receive the lifetime supply of chocolate due to a violation of contract. Albertson is very good in the scene as Grandpa Joe angrily denounces Wonka's actions and even suggests they go to Wonka's competitor with information. The moment does not pain Grandpa Joe in a bad light at all though because Albertson shows that where the anger comes from is his disbelief that Wonka would honestly treat a child that way opposed to having any actual malice. It's a good moment for Albertson as it lets him fulfill the important role Grandpa Joe had in the film's opening act. Albertson does not steal that scene or the film, but he adds very nicely to the film as a whole by being the tender support Grandpa Joe should be.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1971: Richard Attenborough in 10 Rillington Place

Richard Attenborough did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Reginald Christie in 10 Rillington Place.

I think this is probably the best time to cover Attenborough's performance in 10 Rillington place since he is my win in the extremely strong leading category of 1971.

Serial killers are often portrayed characters on screen often portrayed through fairly flamboyant often theatrical performances. This is not necessarily a bad thing as many good to great performances have come from this approach, but this is not the approach taken by Richard Attenborough as John Reginald Christie. Attenborough approaches his part in tune with the film which goes for a bluntly realistic look into the events surrounding the murderer. Richard Attenborough seeks to make John Reginald Christie a real man who is doing what Christie does in this film. Attenborough doing so lets us into a very dark place as he simply shows this man for exactly who he is in all of his horrible detail.

Attenborough sets out to make Christie entirely his own man with his accent he uses and an off putting thin voice he uses in the role. Also Attenborough has a very unique body language that always seems to keep Christie away form others. Attenborough makes the man who in his natural state a man without any warmth in his body or spirit. There is just an air to him that is unnerving which Attenbrough brings out in an entirely natural fashion. Attenborough never alludes to a performance as he never over steps the role. This only adds to absolutely frightening quality to his performance as it feels as though we simply are just watching a killer on screen. There is no actor acting up the part of a serial killer, no Attenborough instead lets us simply observe the natural behavior of Christie.

Attenborough makes Christie a man you can't trust or maybe you can trust to be who he is making watching him a very chilling affair. The simple way Christie checks to see who has arrived at 10 Rillington place is nerve racking as that small man peers out the window examining whoever it may be, a normal reaction for Christie it seems, as played by Attenborough, as though he always checked first to see whether they might be a potential victim or perhaps even the police finally making an inquiry on his behavior. There are many constants that Attenborough brings to the part of Christie and all of his behavior that would be that of a serial killer, such as looking for victims or checking on his garden of corpses, is all part of his day in the way Attenborough portrays it.

Although the film depicts more then one of his murders the film focuses mostly on giving all the details on Christie's murder of Beryl Evans, who along with her husband Timothy (John Hurt) has moved in the top floor of the same house where Christie lives. Attenborough is terrifying as Christie interacts with the Evans family with at first an annoyance as their constant fighting bores him, but there is just a moment though when the Evans first arrive. The Evans family is walking up and Attenborough has Christie take a quick glance at Beryl as she walks up the stance. A most inappropriate glance only a momentary for sure but such an uneasy moment as in Attenborough eyes do we see the beginning of a lust in Christie which is sexual but for him a sexual lust means murder.

A way to commit the murder comes to Christie when Beryl wishes to have an abortion, as she as Timothy have very little money, and suddenly Christie seems to like them so much more. Attenborough is absolutely devious in the part as he shows Christie lying through his nose as he tells both husband and wife of his so called experience with medicine that would allow him to perform the abortion. Although Christie is now lying Attenborough still stays perfectly natural and at ease as this is the way Christie operates, as we see a murder before and set up for another murder after where Christie also tells his victim about his false medical credentials. Attenborough in these scenes brings out the welcoming, even tender side of Christie and is convincing that Christie could bring the women into his "care".

When Christie finally sets about giving Beryl an "abortion" the scene is given great detail as we follow Christie through every single step in his process. This is a horror scenes like few horror scenes are. There are dramatic cuts, or a pounding soundtrack rather it leaves Richard Attenborough merely to bring the horror of the scene through his matter of fact portrayal of Christie's method. Attenborough brings us right into Christie's mind as he tasks himself with murder and we see him proceed in an unbearably believable fashion. Attenborough portrays Christie as almost a workmen who is just going about his task as he grabs all of his equipment and material, making sure everything is just right when he goes to commit a murder once again.

The murder itself is particularly disconcerting as Attenborough makes Christie like a gentle doctor as he talks Beryl into breathing in poisonous gas which he says will be safe because it is going through a special liquid. The murder is shown in unflinching detail as Christie kills her and Attenborough brings out the full psychopath. Attenborough shows the killing as relatively quick and to the point and his expressions are especially disturbing as Attenborough shows a determination and pleasure as he makes sure Beryl is dead with a rope. It does not end there as we see that lust come from Christie again and Attenborough is does not hold anything back in showing the unbridled depravity as Christie embraces and passionately kisses her dead corpse.

What is so striking about all of it though is that Attenborough never makes Christie a monster, but rather a man committing monstrous actions. A very effective moment comes just as he has finished with the murder and his "fun" with Beryl as someone comes to the door. Attenborough shows the man in Christie in the fear in his face as he tries his most to hold back the door with all of his strength. This humanity that Attenborough gives to Christie though does not make us sympathize with him but rather makes these scenes all the harder to watch. Christie is not some creature that is from another world, or even a man who lacks any connections with emotions. No, Attenborough makes John Christie an actual man who knows exactly what he is doing and does it anyway.

The evil of Christie does not end with that murder though and it continues as Timothy comes home to find his wife dead. Attenborough brings such sadism to every line as Christie offers no condolences to Timothy's loss but only very coolly manipulates Timothy into doing what he wants. Attenborough makes Christie almost as vicious as he was in the murder scene through the very calmly yet so incisively directs Timothy into doing exactly what Christie wants him to do. He and Hurt are terrific together as Hurt's makes Timothy such a heartbreaking emotional wreck at the time well Attenborough plays against that in a perfectly jarring fashion by keeping Christie always in control of the situation making Timothy even agree to Christie to tending to Timothy's daughter.

After Christie gets Timothy to leave comes the scariest moment in the whole film where Timothy's daughter is crying and it soon becomes clear that Christie had no intention of sending her to a loving family. The face Attenborough has as he tightens the tie, and prepares to deal with something as though it were a nuance rather then a human being is spine chilling. Of course we do get a reprieve of sorts when Timothy nuisance is put on trial for his wife's murder, and Christie is called in to testify. Attenborough finds the right balance in his performance to give the sense of worry in the man from being found out, but leaving that as an underlying factor which is outmatched by his ability to keep calm and stay with his lie. He only becomes emotional when Timothy's verdict is read. It is a remarkable moment for Attenborough as Christie almost seems to cry for it. I like that Attenborough and the film keep the moment open to interpretation whether it was a cry of relief or a cry of regret. 

The closing scenes of the film depict Christie getting on with his life which is not a good thing as that means continuing on with his routine of murdering. These scenes are still gruesomely fascinating because of Attenborough's portrait of Christie. Like Hurt's work, Attenborough does not make one facet of this man completely define him and particularly in the closing scenes of the film we see normal problems for Christie as he suffers from a bad back and poverty. Attenborough shows Christie bears these things like any man would and in doing this only serves in making his continued murders all the more distressing. Christie is a man when you get right down to it but a man whose hobby is to murder women in the most unpleasant, and really the only reason he stops is because he runs out of money which also contributes to why he is finally caught. This is astonishing uncompromising turn by Richard Attenborough that is one of the horrifying performances ever given. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971: Fernando Rey in The French Connection

Fernando Rey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alain Charnier in The French Connection.

The French Connection did receive a supporting actor nomination for Roy Scheider's fine work as the partner of Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman). Fernando Rey though was not nominated for his performance as the film's villain the Frenchman Alain Charnier who intends to smuggle a large amount of heroine and sell to a New York criminal. Fernando Rey though is given a small story of his own as the film depicts Charnier set up his plan to exchange the heroine. These scenes are relatively short but uses them well to allude to Charnier's nature. Rey carries himself well and in doing so creates Charnier as an astute, seasoned, and above all high class sort of criminal who wears his profession below the surface unlike his New York counterpart.

Aside from the scenes of him setting up the deal this is mostly a silent performance by Alan Charnier in all of the scenes where Popeye is trying to follow him and keep him in sight. In this part of his performance Fernando Rey is excellent in being the adversary to Hackman's Doyle. In Hackman's performance all the frustrations and the effort of a hard boiled cop, Rey acts as the perfect foil to Hackman's performance as he shows Charnier doing everything to escape Doyle's pursuit while he stays completely calm cool and collected. When the two play the game on the cat and mouse is a great scene but it is made even more memorable by Rey and Hackman's performance. The scene's end is unforgettable as we see the angry Doyle lose Charnier, and Rey's brilliantly smug face as Charnier waves goodbye to Popeye.

Rey is pretty consistent in his performance until the very end of the film when Charnier himself has to deliver the drugs rather then use his patsy friend. Rey is again silent in these scenes and is very good in showing the manner in Charnier change to reflect his grievousness and indicate that handling the deal is clearly the last thing that he ever wanted to do. The best moment comes when the tables have turned with Popeye and Charnier changing places from the subway scene with now Popeye being the one giving the wave. Rey makes the moment extremely satisfying because he shows all the confidence drain right out Charnier face. This is a relatively simple role but one that Fernando Rey handles well with his very assured performance. Rey without much screen time hints at who this man is but more importantly to the film as whole makes Frog one the elusive mystery that you do want to see Popeye catch.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971: John Hurt in 10 Rillington Place

John Hurt did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Timothy John Evans in 10 Rillington Place.

10 Rillington Place is an extremely effective film about the serial killer John Reginald Christie (Richard Attenborough in a scary as (four letter expletive) performance).

John Hurt plays Timothy Evans who with his wife and infant daughter move into the top room of a house which they rent unfortunately from John Christie. One of the great strengths of the film is its strive for a realism throughout the film including depiction of Timothy Evans's relationship with his wife Beryl. Their marriage is made out to be far from ideal as both find themselves rather troubled by their poor financial state and the fact that Beryl finds herself once again pregnant. John Hurt plays Timothy as a fairly average man, with somewhat below average education and intelligence perhaps, and give one of the most authentic performances ever given in playing just a rather undistinguished sort.

Hurt is great in making the relationship between Timothy and Beryl very real and making Timothy a man who is clearly far from perfect. Hurt, in the some relatively brief moments gives a very vivid look into the married life of Timothy Evans. Hurt brings us the lovely moments of when they are just starting out in their new place or when he is on a romantic date with his wife. These scenes are key to Hurt's portrayal as Hurt does show that Timothy does love his wife and does have some good times with her. In the scenes of their fighting though Hurt lets us look into any key hole of a man fighting with his wife with all the anger, screaming and bitterness played so naturally by him. Hurt importantly makes Tim's frustrations just as ordinary as they come.

One of the qualities of Timothy is simply that he is not all that bright. As I've said before playing a not overly intelligent character is challenge as they simply can seem to give a stupid performance that does not realize the character, or base the character solely on the mannerisms to prove the character's lack of intelligence. John Hurt of course does neither of things and he makes Timothy's level of intelligence a subtle but important facet in his character. He is not dumb in that he acts stupid as played by Hurt, he acts like a normal person most of the time, but what Hurt shows so well is that Timothy has to take time to really understand things in an entirely concrete fashion. Hurt's exceptional portrayal of this quality becomes especially important late in the film.

Timothy's nature though comes earlier into plays as well in a few very important moments all of which Hurt knocks out of the part. In one scene we see Timothy telling a tall tale at a pub although he is acting like it is an authentic one. Timothy is lying but Hurt plays it well by making the story as a simple joy for Timothy nothing more than that. He might even believe it in a way, but it is all just a bit of an escape for him. Timothy's nature comes into play again when his wife wants an abortion which Christie says he will be able to do. Hurt does well in showing the mixed frustrations in Timothy as he can't support it as he sees as wrong at a very base level. When Timothy agrees to it though, Hurt makes it believable as again his change is a simple agreement with Hurt showing, once again, that Timothy has not thought it threw completely.

After Timothy agrees, things take a turn for a worse as Christie murders Beryl although he lies to Timothy telling him it was due to the one in ten chance that the abortion could cause his wife to die. John Hurt is so good in these scenes it becomes rather hard to watch the film. The moment in which Timothy examines his wife is especially heartbreaking due to Hurt as he only suddenly notices that she is in fact dead rather then merely being injured. Hurt so naturally portrays the progression of grief and confusion as Timothy can barely understand what is happened. This is such emotionally draining performance to watch because Hurt is so honest in these scenes because the grief he portrays in Timothy stays there right with him as something he obviously could never forget.

Timothy has no time to grieve, so to speak, as Christie tries to instruct him that something must be done to cover their tracks. Hurt continues to be outstanding in his portrayal of the complexities that come to Timothy. Timothy is not to bright and Hurt shows Timothy is simply overwhelmed by the events to the point that he cannot even comprehend the situation. Hurt brings to life the complete scatter of emotions that Timothy is. There is confusion, extreme sadness, guilt, and disbelief all there in Hurt's performance. The way Christie is able to convince Timothy not to call the police, and to even to leave his daughter in the hands of Christie is made entirely believable by Hurt. Hurt shows that Timothy s not able to see anything clearly in his state and that is what leads him to follow Christie's orders.

Timothy, after following Christie's suggestions briefly, does give himself to police although attempts to lie to keep Christie out of it at first. Again Hurt makes Timothy's actions wholly believable as a result of both his simple nature and his troubled mental state. They are also made so powerful because of again how genuine he is as Timothy deals with his own shame and condition and tries to confess to the police what has happened. These scenes are truly disheartening by John Hurt's performance because he does convincingly destroy Timothy's credibility to the police, all the while though he is exceedingly moving in the investigation scenes because we know he is telling the truth. The moment Timothy hears of his daughters fate is absolutely heart wrenching with Hurt's perfect reaction that realizes the horrible sorrow in Timothy but also his final understanding that it was Christie who did it.

Timothy John Evans must be one of the most unfortunate men ever depicted onscreen as not only is his family murdered he is put on trial for their murder with the sentence being death by hanging. All of the final scenes with Hurt are terrific in creating the tragedy of Timothy Evans. Hurt still leaves Timothy a simple man he is even as he is pleading in his life. Hurt is incredibly powerful as he keeps Timothy of his nature as tries just to tell everyone that it was Christie who did it not him in his very plan way, as he is man who does not know how to plead his innocence. 10 Rillington Place is brutal in its keeping with the facts of the real life story and because of that the end of Timothy is quick and vicious, and only made more more painful by Hurt still showing the disbelief and sadness still in Timothy. This is an outstanding achievement by John Hurt as he gives a flawless portrait of a real man who was the victim of evil.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1971

And the Nominees Were Not:

John Hurt in 10 Rillington Place

Andy Robinson in Dirty Harry

Fernando Rey in The French Connection

Jack Albertson in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Bruce Dern in Drive, He Said

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1944: Results

5. Sydney Greenstreet in The Mask of Dimitrios- Greenstreet does his master of exposition quite well here and does explore the little depth in his character well.

Best Scene: Mr. Peters searches Cornelius's room.
4. William Demarest in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek- Demarest gives a hilarious portrayal as the reactive face of exasperation at the absurd events during the film.

Best Scene: The constable tries to get Norval to escape from the jail.
3. Peter Lorre in Arsenic and Old Lace- Lorre gives a very funny comedic turn that steals his film in almost a weasel like fashion.

Best Scene: Dr. Einstein tries to warn Mortimer.
2. William Bendix in Lifeboat-William Bendix gives a heartbreaking portrayal of the degradation of his character in both body and soul.

Best Scene: Gus prepares for his amputation.
1. Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity- Good prediction Psifonian, Mark and koook160. Well this year was no contest for me and I love William Bendix's and Barry Fitzgerald's performances as well really like plenty of other performances this year too. There is just no question for me that Edward G. Robinson gives the best supporting performance of 1944. He is on every second he is on screen giving an extremely entertaining and even rather moving portrayal of a claims adjuster who can see everything except what is directly in front of him.

Best Scene: All of his scenes.
Overall Rank:
  1. Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity
  2. Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way
  3. William Bendix in Lifeboat
  4. Peter Lorre in Arsenic and Old Lace
  5. Clifton Webb in Laura
  6. Hume Cronyn in The Seventh Cross
  7. Sydney Greenstreet in The Mask of Dimitrios
  8. Walter Slezak in Lifeboat
  9. Vincent Price in Laura
  10. William Demarest in Hail the Conquering Hero
  11. Henry Hull in Lifeboat 
  12. Monty Woolley in Since You Went Away
  13. Dan Duryea in Ministry of Fear
  14. Walter Brennan in To Have and Have Not
  15. Barry Fitzgerald in None but the Lonely Heart 
  16. Thomas Mitchell in The Keys to the Kingdom
  17. Raymond Massey in Arsenic and Old Lace
  18. Donald Crisp in The Uninvited
  19. Dan Duryea in The Woman in the Window 
  20. Dan Seymour in To Have and Have Not
  21. Frank McHugh in Going My Way
  22. Joseph Cotten in Gaslight 
  23. Thomas Mitchell in Wilson
  24. Hume Cronyn in Lifeboat
  25. Robert Mitchum in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
  26. John Hodiak in Lifeboat  
  27. John Alexander in Arsenic and Old Lace 
  28. Canada Lee in Lifeboat
  29. Edward Everett Horton in Arsenic and Old Lace
  30. Charles Coburn in Wilson 
  31. Robert Walker in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
  32. Alan Napier in The Uninvited
  33. Spencer Tracy in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
  34. Robert Walker in Since You Went Away 
  35. Erskine Sanford in Ministry of Fear
  36. Porter Hall in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek 
  37. Ray Collins in The Seventh Cross
  38. William Frawley in Going My Way 
  39. Joseph Cotten in Since You Went Away
  40. Raymond Massey in The Woman in the Window
  41. James Gleason in Arsenic and Old Lace
  42. Alan Napier in Ministry of Fear
  43. Vincent Price in The Keys to the Kingdom
  44. Gene Lockhart in Going My Way
  45. Felix Alymer in Henry V
  46. Vincent Price in Wilson
  47. Porter Hall in Double Indemnity
  48. Stanley Clements in Going My Way
  49. Cedric Hardwicke in The Lodger
  50. Porter Hall in Going My Way
  51. Jack Carson in Arsenic and Old Lace
  52. Hoagy Carmichael in To Have and Have Not
  53. Walter Abel in Mr. Skeffington 
  54. Tom Powers in Double Indemnity
  55. James Brown in Going My Way
  56. Bill Edwards in Hail the Conquering Hero
  57. Bryon Barr in Double Indemnity
  58. Richard Waring in Mr. Skeffington
Next Year: 1971 Supporting

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1944: William Bendix in Lifeboat

William Bendix did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gus Smith in Lifeboat.

Lifeboat is a very effective film about a group of survivors who take refuge on a life boat during world war two after the ships they were on were destroyed.

Lifeboat has a rather strong ensemble and I easily could have chosen Walter Slezak who gives a strong performance as a charismatic but still treacherous German. William Bendix though is the beating heart of the film as Gus who comes aboard the ship with a badly wounded leg. Bendix takes a remarkable approach to the part of Gus in that he plays him as an up beat sort of guy by nature who is fending off depression from his wounded leg and the whole predicament of being on the life boat. Bendix gives a wonderfully natural performance as Gus and every moment that brings him into focus Bendix brings a strong emotional impact.

Among the men and women of the crew Bendix stands outs through his performance as goodhearted Gus. He brings an innate likability and even his hatred of the Germans is shown by Bendix to come from a well meaning man. Bendix lightens the boat up in a most particular, and wonderful way through his presence. Even as Gus has to face the truth that he will probably lose his leg, and face the idea of losing his girlfriend whose favorite thing is dancing, Bendix still keeps a positive nature behind it all. The fears, the grief, and the pain is all there in Bendix's performance all the time, but he always keeps it within the context of Gus who in his heart is an optimistic man even if his current situation suggests he should be otherwise.

When Gus's leg needs to amputated Bendix has an amazing scene when Gus tries to prepare himself by drinking a bottle of whiskey. This probably could be used for one of the best drunk scenes ever given both on a technical and emotional level. On the technical level Bendix is extremely smart in the way he eases into Gus's is drunkenness when he drinks away the bottle. He doesn't skip a step in it and Bendix is believable the whole time. William Bendix is great as well on an emotional level as he shows a man reaching to have some final tender moments while he still has his leg. Bendix gives is outstanding through the simple emotional honesty he brings to Gus as he becomes inebriated.

William Bendix's after that spectacular scene takes his place in the boat as a rather quiet figure who just is slowly dying from thirst, starvation and his injury. Bendix's role is reduced but he is hardly forgotten. Every time the camera turn to Bendix, Bendix is quite moving in portraying the spirited Gus frankly slowly lose his spirit. Almost all of the actors are quite excellent in showing the exhaustion, but Bendix is the most effective because of how well he suggested the bright nature of Gus at the beginning of the film. Bendix's does not make Gus change his nature, he is always good-natured even to the very end of the film, he is far more heartbreaking by showing it though instead diminish in strength.

Bendix builds perfectly to the point in which Gus is at his rope end when he spots that the German has been hiding drinkable water the entire time. Bendix makes Gus's final scene a truly haunting end to his character as we see Gus, without any strength left as well as being disoriented, attempt to question the German's selfish actions. Bendix's performance is absolutely heartbreaking particularly with the final desperate cries for help as Gus meets his end. The fact that there is nothing especially notable about Gus's demise only adds to the sadness of the scene. Bendix does not have the most screen time in the film, and his character is far from the most flamboyant but Bendix stands out strongly among the ensemble by giving just a quiet genuine portrayal of the tragic story of a failed survivor.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1944: Peter Lorre in Arsenic and Old Lace

Peter Lorre did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Herman Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Arsenic and Old Lace is an enjoyable dark screwball comedy about a recently wed drama critic Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) who finds that his aunts are murderers at the same time his murderer brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) comes home to hide from the police.

Peter Lorre role is that of the drunkard surgeon and partner in crime of Jonathan Brewster who is the one who caused him to look like Boris Karloff. In the theater production of the play Boris Karloff himself played the man who looked like Boris Karloff, it seems perhaps to act as a replacement of sorts, as Massey simply could not replace Karloff as Karloff, when they got another horror icon to play Brewster's partner. Although I have no idea if there was even a thought behind this but having Peter Lorre play the inappropriately named Dr. Einstein was quite a stroke of genius for this film as he fills in the gap that seems might have been created by the lack of Karloff.

Peter Lorre went on to be one of the most often parodied actors particularly in various Warner Brothers cartoons. Peter Lorre here gives basically the Peter Lorre parody before the Peter Lorre parodies, and the simple truth is who better to give a comedic version of a Peter Lorre performance then Peter Lorre himself. Peter Lorre here goes all out Peter Lorre so to speak with the way he is always slinking around screen, always making these slight gestures, having that always slightly nervous quality about him, and of course not in any way trying to adjust his accent here, letting his voice be the Lorre voice of his cartoon iterations.

Of course this type of performance can easily spell doom as it did in 1944 for Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington, except the differences are that Arsenic and Old Lace is meant to be a comedy and Peter Lorre knows what he is doing. Lorre is terrific in adapting himself to a purely comic performance and is the highlight of the film with his performance. Lorre steals every scene he is in even when he is just in the background through the gestures of unease the makes as the situation slowly becomes more absurd through the film. Even when he is not the focus Lorre still steals the spotlight, as he finds just the perfect tone for his performance.

Lorre work is quite clever in the way he steals each scene he is in by doing what the film itself says he is doing which is underplaying. One of Lorre's best scenes is when Grant's character is going off about how dumb characters won't notice that the killer is coming behind them. Well Grant does a rather big display of acting the best part of the scene is Lorre's perfect comic timing as he shows Einstein's disbelief that Mortimer could be so thick headed. He also is the one who makes Massey work just fine as Jonathan because again what Massey is doing usually is usually rather straight, but what is so funny are the nervous interjections brought by Lorre.

Lorre gives the funniest performance in the film by finding the right balance with his performance unlike Cary Grant who overplays a tad and Raymond Massey who frankly could be a bit more humorous. Lorre though finds a more measured approach and is the funniest person in the film because of it. Lorre knows how to sell the material the best in that he gets all the comedic worth out of Dr. Einstein's actions through the film whether it be his unease at his partner's violent tendencies, his nervous drinking or his futile attempts to quietly warn Mortimer about Jonathan's attentions. Lorre sells every moment just enough to be funny without going over the top.

The role of Dr. Einstein really is not poised to necessarily do all that much in fact he easily could have been overshadowed by the characters who he is usually standing in the shadow of. Lorre never lets that happen though giving a thoroughly enjoyable supporting performance which is quite an interesting performance to from Peter Lorre as he goes for a fully comic performance since often there were light comic touches in his more dramatic performances anyways. Lorre with the chance to go all the way comic proves himself more then capable of taking the next step since he knows how to stay grounded with his character while being very amusing.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1944: Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity

Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Barton Keyes in Double Indemnity.

There are supporting performances that leave no impression, there are those that serve their purpose, there are those that make their mark, there are those that really make a mark, but even past that there is Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity. Edward G. Robinson plays Barton Keyes the lead insurance claims adjuster who works at the same company as Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) the man who plans to ripoff the company by killing the heavily insured husband of the femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck). Keyes and Neff are friends and Keyes often discusses the insurance game with Neff or at least in Neff's presence.

Edward G. Robinson pops in and out of the picture as the deliverer of wisdom Keyes who has a "little man" inside himself to let himself know when something is not quite right. Robinson from his first scene, where Keyes quickly handles a fraudulent claim, shows exactly how he will be for the rest of the picture which in a word is amazing. Robinson gives a highly energetic and enthusiastic performance as Barton Keyes and makes every frame he is in something special. Everything that Robinson does just adds something to the proceedings of the film. Robinson is simply on as Keyes, and I mean on as he sets out to give a supporting performance one won't forget.

On one level this is the type of performance that is just wonderful to watch plain and simple. Robinson glows in the role like few actors ever do on screen as Barton Keyes. Every time he is on screen there is something worth watching. Robinson's part by nature did not even necessarily need to be entertaining, but Robinson is incredibly entertaining simply through his non-stop style he brings to Keyes. Robinson is often always talking and even more often moving. He is always making some gesture as his arms never seem to sit still as he is either pointing something out, searching for a match, or preparing to smoke his cigar.

The manner Robinson takes never feels mannered in the least but instead it shows part of the brilliance of this performance where he implements all sorts techniques that are fun to watch. They are not only fun to watch though as Robinson's performance is always natural and they do wonders in creating the portrait of Keyes. Robinson settles down indicating the way Keyes never settles down, and the way that he is a man whose always thinking of some different angle in the insurance game. The great intelligence of Keyes is a given as Robinson's performance so adeptly brings it to life through the way Keyes just seems always at least slightly impatient as he is always on the verge of figuring something out.

Naming a best scene for Edward G. Robinson in this film is a foolish task to partake in. The life that Robinson brings to every one of his scenes is stunning and really I could listen to Robinson talk about insurance all day. One of his great scenes is when Keyes completely rejects down the idea that a man died by committing suicide via a train. Robinson delivers the monologue about Keyes's knowledge of the possibilities of suicide in what seems like a single breath. Robinson does not stop and it is fascinating how Robinson does not lose a single step during the whole speech. It is a beautiful moment just to watch and listen to and once again Robinson is just terrific in portraying that unshakable confidence of Keyes.

There are few instances where the writing and the actor come together as perfectly as the way Robinson handles every word of Billy Wilder's and Raymond Chandler's script. All of the insurance talk in the film just seems like some of the most interesting information one could ever hear because of Robinson's exuberant delivery. It is not just that he says every word with such precision while saying it all so quickly but the way Robinson just owns the screen through his physical movements as well. He does not just say a line he put his while body into the delivery. When Barton Keyes says he is having a problem because his little man has a problem, we really see the little man because how just how good Robinson is here.

Of course flourishing in every scene just is not enough for Robinson and he just has to make himself the heart of the film too. The only relationship with any warmth in the film is found in the friendship between Keyes and Walter Neff. Robinson is excellent in making the friendship always an underlying factor even when Neff is actively trying to deceive Keyes. Robinson is able to make us believe the always astute Keyes would not suspect Neff by showing the certain ease that Keyes always has when talking to Neff. Robinson never says it out loud but always so effectively indicates the respect Keyes has for Neff. One of Robinson's best moments is when Keyes starts to go on a theory that suspects Neff, and Robinson shows Keyes force himself to shrug it off as an impossibility.

The ending of Double Indemnity is remarkable in that we have the bad end to a murderer, but it is not a cold ending. Instead we get the surprisingly poignant last words traded between Keyes and Neff as Keyes finally sees why he could not solve this one case. Robinson is outstanding in this scene as he shows Keyes as a man finally without that same pep, and Robinson subtly shows that really Keyes is heartbroken to see that it was his friend all along. Robinson is quite moving in his portrayal of Keyes's simple disappointment with Neff. Robinson brings such heart when Keyes responds to Neff statement that Keyes could not see it because the man was only right across desk with the simple "Closer than that Walter".

Edward G. Robinson does not steal the film so to speak, as Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are in top form too, but what he does do is pretty much anything he can do to further the strength of the film. There is not a wasted glance, a gesture, a word in Robinson's performance. Robinson was a great actor but this just might be his very best performance. With the wrong actor Barton Keyes and all his insurance talk could have been easily ignored when compared to the intrigue of fraud and murder, but Robinson never lets that happen with his all or nothing performance. All I can say is Edward G. Robinson gives it his all and delivers in being perfect example of a perfect supporting performance that only ever adds to the greatness of this great film.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1944: Sydney Greenstreet in The Mask of Dimitrios

Sydney Greenstreet did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the man who calls himself Mr. Peters in The Mask of Dimitrios.

Sydney Greenstreet is probably best known for playing the shady Gutman in The Maltese Falcon. Greenstreet in this film once again plays a somewhat similar role with some key differences. As Gutman Greenstreet played a smooth but evil man, here he plays a shady character but one who technically is trying to ruin things for a genuinely evil character. Greenstreet plays the mysterious Mr. Peters who the writer Cornelius (Peter Lorre) comes across while tracking down the truth about a rather fierce criminal by the name of Dimitrios. Another difference is Greenstreet's take with the character of Mr. Peters which he certainly portrays in a rather different fashion from the way he played Gutman.

Where Greenstreet played Gutman as an excessively astute figure who knew absolutely everything or at least acted as if he did. Greenstreet downplays the suaveness a bit in his performance as Mr. Peters who may know quite a bit but is more then anything else trying to figure out what he does not know. Greenstreet still has plenty of magnetism in this role though too and really his downplaying of it is a better for for the role of Mr. Peters who at first is only after some money through blackmail. Mr. Peters is a smart guy and Greenstreet plays him as such but as a smart guy with a rather simplistic plan without any grand schemes involved like old Caspar Gutman had.

The Mask of Dimitrios is a missed opportunity because the film comes in and out of Greenstreet and Lorre's investigation, instead choosing to focus on a series of flashbacks about Dimitrios which unfortunately don't even include Greenstreet when they very easily could have. As I said in my review of Peter Lorre in this film, Lorre and Greenstreet are great together. It is something particularly special just to hear these two guys talk to one another. Greenstreet is quite the master of exposition of any kind. No matter what the information may be, whether it really is interesting or not, Greenstreet is able to make something easy to listen do to his special voice and diction. 

Peter Lorre in this film ended up being held back by the fact that he really had absolutely no character and really it was a good thing that Peter Lorre is such a character all by himself. Greenstreet actually has something to work with when it comes to Mr. Peters who has a bit of a journey as character while he takes a journey in tracking down Dimitrios. The character arc is relatively simple in that Mr. Peters is a first doing it for money then at the end does it for revenge, but Greenstreet is very effective in portraying this and finds why Mr. Peters would have the change of heart in the final scenes of the film where they find Dimitrios and his money.

When first they just find the money Greenstreet is quite amusingly blunt in showing the rather hollow moment of greedy lust as Peters almost seems to sniff the money. He quickly becomes moralistic when they find Dimitrios though. Greenstreet meets the extreme challenge though and alludes that the swing is caused by a strong hatred that comes from seeing the man who double crossed him face to face again. Greenstreet really carries the ending especially well particularly his expression of righteous indignation as he stares down Dimitrios with Dimitrios not having the upper hand for once.

Where Peter Lorre's performance in this film was an actor making something out of absolutely nothing Greenstreet makes even a little more by having just a bit more to work with. Again Mr. Peters is not an especially complex character and much of what makes him an interesting character is that Sydney Greenstreet is simply an interesting actor, but the little depth that there is to the role Greenstreet brings to life quite well. Greenstreet and Lorre both are always trailing the main plot in this film and technically they should be secondary in interest. The two actors' chemistry carries their half and actually steals the film as their simple final goodbye has more emotional power to it then any of the scenes depicting Demitrios's double dealings.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1944: William Demarest in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

William Demarest did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Constable Kockenlocker in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

Well leave it to the academy to nominate William Demarest for a film that is neither a comedy nor made by Preston Sturges. Only seeing his nominated performance one would see Demarest as only a fairly likable character actor, but when watching a Preston Sturges film one sees he has much more to offer then some light likability. William Demarest plays Constable Kockenlocker the, rightfully, overprotective father of Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) who gets herself pregnant and married by a soldier that she can't remember. This was caused all of course that she went out to a dance for the soldiers going off to war against the very specific instructions of her father.

William Demarest role is being the righteous face of frustration through the course of the film. Although Kockenlocker might not always do the right thing, he is trying to do the right thing. Demarest plays Constable Kockenlocker as a rather cynical fellow whose concerns comes from the fact of knowing about the world all too well. Demarest's is especially blunt portrayal is incredibly enjoyable at the beginning of the film as the Constable has to witness the events that unfold from his daughter failing to listen to him. Each of Demarest's scenes are a little comedic gem and one particularly enjoyable scene comes when the Constable confronts Trudy's wannabe suitor Norval (Eddie Bracken).

In the scene the Constable demands Norval marry his daughter while he naturally brandishes multiple handguns at the same time. William Demarest is very intense in the scene yet always very amusing. Demarest in that scene and every scene he is in gets across the all the anger in the father that would be apparent in such a situation but he adjusts just ever so slightly for maximum comedic effect. Demarest knows exactly how to make rather unfunny types of emotions in a normal situation naturally quite funny while still bringing those emotions to his performance. He treads the lines without falling off once just always being the proper voice of exasperation although always a hilarious voice of exasperation.

William Demarest is a terrific balancing factor for the film. With so many wacky characters and completely absurd situations the film easily could become overbearing if not held back in some way. Demarest acts as the slap in face for the film by acting extremely ticked off from every problem that arises from his daughter's rather stupid decisions. Being extremely ticked off though is something that can be done poorly as the actor can easily just seem like they don't want to be in the film. Demarest though hits the right mark though by finding that lighter touch to make every hateful stare and annoyed grimace into the comedic gold it should be to fit the film.

Near the end of the film Demarest is actually given somewhat serious moments. Even though Demarest was very funny in the earlier scenes he did always show brings an underlying warmth even if it was very underlying it was there. Because Demarest had the slight bit of warmth the transition to a completely caring Constable Kockenlocker is a natural one. Demarest delivers with heartfelt speeches at the end and gives them an honest poignancy. It is no surprise that Demarest worked with Preston Sturges so many times as he is a perfect fit for Sturges's style. Demarest is able to effortlessly play in the arena of screwball situation while always having just the right bearing to never go off the deep end still able to bring the right dramatic weight if necessary.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1944

And the Nominees Were Not:

Peter Lorre in Arsenic and Old Lace

Sydney Greenstreet in The Mask of Dimitrios

Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity

William Bendix in Lifeboat

William Demarest in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

Alternate Best Actor 1944: Results

5. Eddie Bracken in Hail the Conquering Hero-Bracken gives an enjoyable performance and handles his final dramatic speech well, but his best performance of the year was in the other Preston Sturges comedy he starred in.

Best Scene: The "hero" tells the truth.
4. Peter Lorre in The Mask of Dimitrios- Lorre really does not have a character so it is to his testament that he still gives an effective and enjoyable performance.

Best Scene: Cornelius finds the smuggler in his room.
3. Ray Milland in Ministry of Fear- Milland leads this thriller effectively throughout and delivers when needing to delve in his character's dark background.

Best Scene: Stephen tells about how he murdered his wife.
2. Edward G. Robinson in The Woman in the Window- Robinson gives a subdued and effective performance as the lead in a noir who is frankly to old for a noir.

Best Scene: The professor tries to come up with a way to kill a blackmailer.
1. Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity- Good Prediction Michael Patison, JackiBoyz, RatedRStar and moviefilm. (I should note I allowed the correct prediction apply in terms of Milland whether your prediction correctly placed him for The Uninvited or Ministry of Fear) MacMurray wins this year without a second thought as his portrayal of the insurance salesman whose lusts get the better for him stands easily as the strongest leading performance of the year.

Best Scene: Keyes lights the match of Neff.
Overall Rank:
  1. Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity
  2. Laurence Olivier in Henry V
  3. Charles Boyer in Gaslight
  4. Laird Cregar in The Lodger
  5. Alexander Knox in Wilson
  6. Edward G. Robinson in The Woman in the Window
  7. Ray Milland in Ministry of Fear
  8. Claude Rains in Mr. Skeffington
  9. Gregory Peck in The Keys to the Kingdom
  10. Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not
  11. Van Johnson in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
  12. Peter Lorre in The Mask of Dimitrios
  13. Ray Milland in The Uninvited
  14. Eddie Bracken in Hail the Conquering Hero
  15. Dana Andrews in Laura
  16. Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace
  17. George Sanders in The Lodger
  18. Spencer Tracy in The Seventh Cross
  19. Bing Crosby in Going My Way
  20. Cary Grant in None but the Lonely Heart
  21. Zachary Scott in The Mask of Dimitrios
Next Year: 1944 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1944: Eddie Bracken in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

Eddie Bracken did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying either Woodrow Truesmith in Hail The Conquering Hero or Norval Jones in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

Both of the Preston Sturges comedies of 1944 are both very entertaining films with Hail the Conquering Hero about a man who could not get into the marines being made a false hero by a group of real marines, and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek about a small town girl who finds herself married and pregnant to a man she can't even remember the father's name.

Eddie Bracken plays the lead to both films and in both films he plays a sad sack who is unable to make it in the military due to failing the physical examine. The performances are similar in nature but differ in that his performance as Woodrow Truesmith is a bit more serious as Woodrow is a smarter sad sack, and his performance as Norval Jones is more directly comedic as Norval is a not particularly bright sad sack. Both find themselves in absurdest situations who don't really know how to handle them although, except for the ending to Hail the Conquering Hero, Norval is allowed just a little more control in them giving frankly some more space for comedic moments.

Out of the two performances I would say I prefer The Miracle of Morgan's Creek because of the nature of the performance being just simply funnier. Bracken is good in Hail the Conquering Hero though as well and does deliver particularly well with the dramatic final speech in the film. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek simply gives Bracken more opportunities to be funny in the film. Eddie Bracken plays the role of the somewhat whiny rather wimpy semi-romantic lead. This sorta part can often be a rather obnoxious character to say the last, but frankly Eddie Bracken is quite a master of this type of role as shown in Hail and even more so in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. 

Bracken is an easy charm as Norval and rather then the less then positive qualities of Norval being obnoxious in anyway they actually are all made rather endearing by Bracken energetic performance. Eddie Bracken manages never to go overboard with his portrayal of Norval even if the character behavior is rather absurdest to say the least. Bracken fits the screwball atmosphere perfectly and makes the most of every single comedic moment he has in the film. His physical timing could not be timing and every pratfall and slapstick moment is carried quite beautifully by Bracken throughout the film.

Eddie Bracken performance is simply a great fit for Preston Sturges's brand of comedy and in both of those films Bracken makes a most unusual but rather enjoyable protagonist to follow through the insanity of the story. Bracken performance goes along with every beat of the story and through his reactions adds greatly to the comedic value of every scene. I just found Bracken performance to be a very funny performance that leads both The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero splendidly. Although even more splendidly when it comes to The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1944: Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity

Fred MacMurray did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Walter Neff in Double Indemnity.

Double Indemnity is a masterful film noir by Billy Wilder about an insurance salesman who conspires with a femme fatale to murder her husband for the insurance money.

1944 is one year I would like to know who exactly was sixth place in the voting and whose spot was taken for Barry Fitzgerald's extra nomination. I would have to imagine it was MacMurray as, in terms of nominations, Double Indemnity was quite popular with the academy and the leading actor of every other best picture nominee was represented with Going My Way being represented twice. Also the academy did nominated Charles Boyer for playing a somewhat similar character, although maybe they preferred him over MacMurray because Boyer played an eloquent murderer rather then an average sorta guy one.

Fred MacMurray, although really is best known for this role today, was an actor who mostly played the lead in lighthearted comedies. Of course something rather interesting is, other then Alice Adams, every time he was in a film which was nominated for best picture he played a dark villainous roles. This role is the most notable of all of his as he plays the lead to Double Indemnity as Walter Neff an everyday insurance salesman who happens upon a most unusual woman in Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), who seems a bit too interested in a life insurance policy for her uncaring husband. There is nothing special about Neff other then he notices the indications Phyllis is making.

Fred MacMurray is perfectly cast in this role and acts well as perhaps the any man who might find himself with such a temptation. MacMurray is great in the scene where Neff and Phyllis first meet as we see the instant charge in Neff's eyes as he first lays them upon her. MacMurray is terrific in playing ow smitten Neff is and the obvious lust in him that only becomes more extreme as he spends more time with her. The believability of Neff's rather swift descent into the dark depths of a murder plot are made wholly believable by MacMurray performance as he shows Neff to be almost entranced by Phyllis and portrays incredibly well the strong urges in Neff.

One of the great aspects of this film is the rather peculiar chemistry that MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck have in this film. Each take on a different style that creates a rather fascinating dynamic between the two characters. MacMurray, although playing a murdering, does play Neff as a man with a soul even if that soul is up for grabs. Stanwyck on the other hand plays Phyllis Dietrichson as soulless monster although one capable of a false affection if it serves her nefarious purposes. MacMurray gets played well Stanwyck does the playing and it their performance get down to the plain and simple depths of the relationship where Neff is blinded by her worldly wiles.

A rather funny thing about the film, and part of its greatness, is that the only relationship with any warmth is actually between Walter Neff and his co-worker and insurance investigator Barton Keyes played by Edward G. Robinson. Their banter is oddly enough the heart of the film as their friendship is the only purely honest one, in terms of emotions, in the film. MacMurray is great in all of his scenes with Robinson showing Neff as how he really should have been in his friendly banter with Robinson. The person Neff says "I love you too" to isn't Phyllis but rather Keyes, and that sound all ready for a bad joke but it absolutely works especially their final poignant moments together where they both show just how much their friendship really did mean.

MacMurray plays Neff rather effectively as an intelligent fool. Although Neff does go through with the scheme of murdering the husband and foolishly thinks that he can one get away with it and two trust the duplicitous Phyllis, he does have a plan and how to attempt to handle everything. MacMurray finds this contradiction quite well by mixing in the sides of Neff. On one side there is the far more calculating Neff who thinks about the plan and MacMurray suggests Neff's intimate knowledge of the insurance game well. On the other side though MacMurray also presents a more emotional Neff that is underlying at all times whether it be showing his conscience or simply his desire for Phyllis Dietrichson.

MacMurray is outstanding in any of the scenes where Neff has to intimate part of the plan or deal with any of the accusations from Keyes. MacMurray is terrific in showing all the anxiousness in the man, all the fear and unpleasantness of it all. MacMurray is so good because he plays all of these scenes so straight and in doing so represents how an average man would react through the film. The intensity of every scene is amplified by MacMurray direct approach. Every little moment is given the emphasis needed and something as simple as a car failing to start has an overwhelming tension because of MacMurray's exceptional portrayal of Neff's anxiety.

It is ridiculous that Fred MacMurray was not nominated for one thing Barry Fitzgerald did not need to have two nominations for literally the same exact performance and even more so MacMurray work is essential to the greatness of Double Indemnity. Although one can easily point out one of the two other most important roles as the standouts in this, it is MacMurray's great work that holds it all together. MacMurray is the driving force throughout the film. MacMurray matches brilliantly both the technically showier work of Stanwyck and Robinson and his delivery of the narration helps to set the perfect tone of the film. Even more so then all that MacMurray simply gives a compelling and very powerful portrait of one man's moral decline all the way to the bitter end.

Alternate Best Actor 1944: Edward G. Robinson in The Woman in the Window

Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Professor Richard Wanley in The Woman in the Window.

The Woman in the Window is a pretty effective film noir although it certainly has a take or leave it ending twist. 

Edward G. Robinson plays a rather different role from his best known performances as gangster like his great work in Little Caesar, as well as this is just a very different role in terms of leading a film noir. Robinson plays a rather low key lead as an aging college professor who we meet when he is having a quiet mid life crises. It is interesting to see Robinson in such a humble role after seeing him succeed so well in the very intense and flamboyant roles in film like Little Caesar and Key Largo. It is no surprise though to see Robinson take on this role which he plays with a great sensitivity particularly early on as he sets up the character of Professor Wanley.

Robinson does not overplay the state Wanley's in too much, and at the beginning of the film plays him as a man very quietly going through this crisis. Robinson portrays it as something Wanley thinks about and is somewhat dreary about but not something that making him obsessive or manic in anyway. Robinson is very good in showing a rather reasonable man being a bit somber about things. Wanley's life is just fine as Robinson plays it but there is just the right amount of boredom suggested by Robinson that gives Wanley the little bit of motivation needed for him to take the path that brings him down the film noir.

Wanley by chance meets a woman used as a model for the portrait and he goes to have drinks with her. Robinson still stays fairly unassuming even as Wanley is going out of his element. What Robinson does do is show Wanley lose that bit of boredom in his voice as he speaks with the young lady. Things quickly go out of hand though when another man appears who quickly attacks Wanley leaving Wanley no other choice but to kill the man in self defense. Wanley know is firmly in the film noir plot with no where to go but deeper into things and here Robinson makes for a very different lead for such a tale. 

Robinson is really quite interesting and original in his performance because rather then show a whole new level of excitement as Wanley gets involved in a murder investigation and blackmail, which is often the case with noir leads, Robinson portrays Wanley plain and simply as a man who is too old to be involved in such things. Early on Robinson is very good showing the sheer disbelief at the situation in Wanley over what just happened. Robinson internalizes the crises in Wanley effectively portraying basically how a level headed wiser man would handle such a situation, well a wise man who is not wise enough to call the police and just explain things of course.

What Robinson does more then anything in this role is stay believable as this seasoned professor. This makes for a most unusual protagonist for this plot but quite a compelling one in the different take on the proceedings that we get from it. When Wanley keeps tripping up in front of investigators Robinson makes it the simple very natural mistakes of a man who can't live such life. The best part comes when Wanley needs to dispose of a black mailer. Robinson is actually quite moving in his portrayal of Wanley honestly just trying his best to fix things but he always makes it abundantly clear that this life fits him so poorly that even coming up with the murder method causes him great exhaustion and grief.

The film does not end with Wanley end rather instead with a completely out of left field development that certainly messes with the tone of the picture. It is quite the unnecessary absurdest twist much like the one later seen in 1987's No Way Out, since just like that later film this one easily could have just ended without the twist. To the great great credit of Robinson he plays along with the twist quite smoothly which is quite something considering how extreme the twist is. Robinson plays it well though giving the ending a nice comedic edge as he portrays rather simply but to the point how the plot of the film has basically made Wanley learn his lesson about staring too long at the Woman in the Window.