Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1981: Wilford Brimley in Absence of Malice, Mickey Rourke in Body Heat, and Christopher Walken in Pennies From Heaven

Wilford Brimley did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Assistant U.S. Attorney General James A. Wells in Absence of Malice.

Wilford Brimley shows up late in this film for about fifteen minutes basically to clear up all the plot for everyone and complete the film. After watching Absence of Malice for the first time I remembered very little of it other than Wilford Brimley's one scene in the film where the plot finally seems to move forward. Brimley's character appears to get to the bottom of the various problematic acts the other characters performed by deriving the information, and then punish those who have done wrong. The whole character could seem a bit of a contrivance just to get things over with, but it does not feel that way because of Wilford Brimley's performance.

Brimley is completely on for his fifteen minutes of the film and completely steals the scene from everyone including the two leads. Brimley got a most unique style when it comes to be imposing, and boy does it work well here. Brimley rather then yelling or even getting what would seem vicious in the traditional fashion but rather has this down home calm about himself. Brimely is in absolute command of the room so to speak as he does not only make it obvious that his character of Wells would and could get right down to the truth, but Brimley also makes it obvious that he will completely own the scene.

Brimley flawlessly creates the method in which Wells takes to get to the bottom of what exactly happened. Brimley is able to be right out confrontational in that so purely Wilford Brimley way where he intimidates while never raising his voice past a certain point. Brimley does even more than that though as Wells also acts as the moral center of the film, and Brimley is rather poignant in the unpretentious way he expresses his disappointment with the actions of others. Brimley switches method perfectly in the scene particularly when he chews out to of his associates. The first one who Wells respects more Brimley quietly but firmly dismisses, the second though Brimley leaves no hesitations as Wells bluntly and coldly fires him.

Brimley does not simply steal that one scene, but steals the entire film with it. Absence of Malice is a film that I felt for the most part just lied there proceedings without any real spark, other than that one scene where Paul Newman remembers he's Paul Newman, that is until Brimley shows up who breaths life into the story with his astute performance. The part of Wells is just there to clear up the plot, but Brimley does more than just fulfill his role. Brimley makes Wells into a character that lives past that one scene though through his honest portrayal of an intelligent man who wants to do the right thing and to make sure that he confronts everyone else what they have done wrong. Brimley never makes Wells overly prideful or egotistical, but rather a man who knows he is in the right and does not mind saying so.
Mickey Rourke did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Teddy Lewis in Body Heat.

Body Heat is essentially a remake of Double Indemnity with one of its few major additions being the minor character of Teddy Lewis. Double Indemnity contained a great supporting performance by Edward G. Robinson, but the equivalent character in this film is severely weakened partly because Robinson's role Keyes's is broken into two characters. The strongest supporting performance in the film instead belongs to Mickey Rourke as one of Ned Racine(William Hurt)'s former clients who has a criminal past, which comes useful to Racine when he himself wants to break the law by murdering the rich husband of the lusty woman he is having an affair with.

Rourke's only in the movie for about four minutes but is able to make the strongest impression out of the entire cast. Teddy is arsonist who makes an explosive device for Racine, but also tries to add a few words of wisdom at the same time. Rourke is superb in finding his character of Teddy as he very coolly puts everything to Racine. Rourke in just his few minutes gives the whole history of his character in his attitude which shows that Teddy knows quite a few ways around the park by now. Teddy knows that getting involved in any crime is a pretty stupid thing to do, but he basically recognizes that he really is not quite smart enough himself not to be criminal.

Mickey Rourke shows exactly what made him a thing in the 80's. Rourke just owns his scenes with William Hurt, and does brings a weight to the proposed murder the way that Edward G. Robinson did in the original film. Rourke's second scene is equally strong as Teddy tries to warn Ned of a double cross, as Rourke delivers an emotionally intense performance that gets to the really heart of the matter of the film and strangely makes Teddy, probably was not meant to be, but Rourke is able to make him the moral center of the film, and pretty much, in just his few minutes of screen time, subverts the role Ted Danson and J.A. Preston were suppose to fill in terms of the scheme of the film.

Rourke, just like Wilford Brimely, pretty much steals the film although Rourke does it in even less time with even less to work with. Rourke just like Brimely doesn't reside to fulfilling just the limited plot device that Teddy is, and instead makes Teddy a man who there is clearly more to than what we allowed to see. I wish the film had been reworked with Rourke in mind to give the character of Teddy a greater presence in the film, past just the two short scenes he has because Rourke builds so much potential with the part that technically speaking could have been just a simple character that made no lasting impression on the film whatsoever.
Christopher Walken did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tom in Pennies From Heaven. 

Pennies From Heaven is an entertaining and rather stunning musical about the downward spiral that comes from a sheet music salesman's affair with an innocent schoolteacher, although I completely understand why Fred Astaire hated it.

If you were to cast the part of an unsavory pimp who can dance would you really say anyone besides Christopher Walken? Christopher Walken is yet another one scene wonder who shows up one scene of Pennies of Heaven to be a well dressed but bluntly cruel man. If there is someone who can make a strong impression with one scene Christopher Walken definitely works. There is just something so oddly fascinating about his screen presence, and this only becomes all the more fascinating when he starts breaking out into a most extraordinary dance number where he tap dances and strips his way while bouncing across a bar.

There really is not much to the "real" part of the performance as there frankly is not much of the character of Tom, but Walken knows how to be both charismatic and callous in basically the same breath Even more importantly though I suppose is that he also know how to be Christopher Walken and that is all that is really required here. I could only see Christopher Walken go from encouraging someone to try new things enthusiastically to threatening to cut their face as smoothly as Walken does it here. Frankly the fact that the pimp starts dancing seems like the natural progression actually because he is played by Christopher Walken.

This performance is all about the dance number though of course, and Walken most definitely delivers in this respect. The whole concept of the dancing pimp is bizarre enough but it becomes gloriously so with Walken at the helm of it. Walken embraces it all in his wonderful number that is just fantastic. Walken delivers the dance but only adds to its greatness through his premium Christopher Walken expressions and noises throughout. I do wish that Tom was in more than one scene actually because I could have easily seen more of an off the wall Walken. All that needs to be said really is that no one could have done this part as well or as memorable as Walken and that is all there is to it.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1981: John Lithgow in Blow Out

John Lithgow did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Burke in Blow Out.

Blow Out is an excellent thriller about a movie sound specialist Jack (John Travolta) who stumbles upon the careful murder of a politician. This film is pure 80's in the best kind of way.

John Lithgow portrays Burke the mystery hit man who causes the titular blow out to occur which kills a politician who threatened to take the party nomination from the current president. Burke is a strange man, and if you want someone strange well John Lithgow certainly can fit the bill. Burke is a most bizarre hit man who, like Frank in Once Upon a Time in the West, disobeys his bosses orders and kills feeling his bosses measures were not extreme enough to get the task done. Burke then goes on to take just as extreme of measures to cover up what happened the night the politician died, which actually goes beyond destroying the evidence and even killing the witnesses.

Burke, to make the cover up airtight, does not want to just kill the one of the main witnesses, but rather desires to create a serial killer to make it seem like she was merely one of the many people he murdered. This puts Burke as most oddly intriguing character which is a trained "sane" killer who pretends to be a more run of the mill psychopath. Lithgow plays this strange game very well with his performance that comes in out of the film as Burke basically builds his manufactured serial killer until he thinks it is time to finish the cover up. Lithgow is interesting because on the surface he makes Burke a man who is doing his job, and acts just as a man doing his job. He doesn't really take pleasures in the murders, but does them because he feels they are needed.

Lithgow is very effective in showing the way Burke creates the killer as an act. Up to the killing he portrays the stalker psychopath after his prey, but actually doing the killing itself Lithgow almost looks like he taking out the trash, as for Burke it is just part of his plan. After the murders Lithgow plays a part upon a part as Burke calls the police to fake a serial killer identity, making his serial killer some sort of deranged hill billy. Lithgow has the right efficiency in his portrayal of this with him being a completely believable psychopath as he informs the police, but as soon as he is ending the call Lithgow instantly returns to what Burke is which is trained fixer who does not have the emotional attachments like his false serial personality he has manufactured.

This is a very well handled turn by John Lithgow. Lithgow in a way is kind of a secondary lead, only kind of as it definitely is not Burke's story, because the film does allow us to see the whole implementation of Burke's plan to cover up the murder that coincides with Travolta's character's attempt to try to uncover it. Lithgow slowly builds up the menace of Burke slowly in his scenes that come in and out of the film until the point in which he finally decides to proceed with the target. The end of the film is an incredible tense sequence only made more so because of the way Lithgow has made Burke a properly chilling figure that makes his mere appearance something to fear.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1981: Paul Freeman in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Paul Freeman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. René Belloc in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The only acting nomination Raiders of the Lost Ark received, outside of the genre based Saturn Awards, was a BAFTA nomination for Denholm Elliot. All I can say about that nomination is that, boy did the BAFTA voters love Denholm Elliot as his turn as Marcus Brody in this film consists very little more than him knocking on a door and giving just a little bit of exposition, he actually got to do something with his reprisal of the role in The Last Crusade. If BAFTA was going to nominate someone from the film they should have nominated Paul Freeman in the largest and most important performance out of the supporting actors in the film.

Belloc is the main villain of the film and essentially an anti Indiana Jones. Like Indiana he is archeologist who is looking for rare artifacts, but unlike Jones he takes basically a passive approach where basically lets Jones do all the work then stealing it afterwards. Also instead of doing everything himself, Belloc likes to use various allies he wants to exploit in someway including joining up with the Nazis since they meet his needs. Even his moral alignment is a bit like Jones, Belloc is evil but not purely evil just as Jones is good but has some rough qualities in his personality.

Paul Freeman in turn plays the role in a manner that again reinforces Belloc as a shadow to the heroic Jones. Freeman plays the role with a nicely placed ease, and general smugness as Belloc. In the opening scene of the film when Belloc steals the artifact from Jones Freeman adds vinegar to the wounds by showing just how much joy Belloc gets out of screwing over Jones. It is not just about getting the artifact for Belloc as Freeman makes a nice ego in Belloc that not only wants to gain the reward from theft, but the idea that proving himself the smarter of the two seems to be the even greater prize for Belloc.

Freeman makes Belloc easy going and even slightly detached at times as he lets others do the work, which is the much the opposite of Ford's very driven and sometimes rather emotionally intense performance. Belloc and Jones do share a few traits although even these they share at opposing ends. Freeman makes Belloc actually a charming fellow when he attempts to seduce Marion (Karen Allen), but unlike the down to earth charisma of Ford, Freeman brings a more refined style to Belloc's charms. Their other shared trait is their love of archaeology but again even though it is their shared profession they still have differing attitudes when it comes to the subject.

Indiana Jones in a few important scenes has a wonderment of the ancient treasures, Freeman shows that Belloc shares this although in a strangely selfish fashion. Freeman's best scene is when he calls Jones's bluff to destroy the Ark of the Covenant, but adds the importance of it as he encourages him. Freeman's delivery is terrific as we see that wonderment that Jones had in Belloc, although Freeman adds just the right hint of an elitist indulgence to it, to reinforce the idea that all important mysterious should be found and discovered by him and no one else. Freeman foil of Ford's work is nicely handled right down the line and provides the film with a good dignified villain, even if his demise is decidedly most undignified.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1981

And the Nominees Were Not:

Robert Prosky in Thief

Wilford Brimley in Absence of Malice

Bill Hunter in Gallipoli

John Lithgow in Blow Out

Paul Freeman in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1981: Results

5. William Hurt in Body Heat- Hurt is good when he allowed to be, but much of the time it seems the filmmakers were more interested in his physical form than his acting ability.

Best Scene: Ned Racine looks over Matty's yearbook.
4. Klaus Maria Brandauer- Brandauer gives a very daring performance in his portrayal of the growing compromises of an artist that oddly brings out a greater humanity.

Best Scene: Hendrik Hoefgan tries to plead for one of his fellow artists.
3. Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark- Ford gives a great performance creating his most iconic role with his funny, thrilling and all together entertaining portrayal of Indiana Jones.

Best Scene: The opening quest.
2. Jürgen Prochnow in Das Boot- Prochnow's performance is a spectacular based on being a gritty face of reality aboard submarine on the wrong side of a war. 

Best Scene: The Captain watches the helpless men drown.
1. Mel Gibson in Gallipoli- Good Predictions Koook160, Psifonian, and RatedRStar. All I can say is my top four is an extraordinary group, but I'm going with the performance that I got the strongest emotional reaction from, which is really saying something considering I reacted pretty strongly to all of them. Gibson's performance though is an amazing piece acting, the early part of his performance being Gibson at his charismatic best in his depiction of the cynical Frank, and the end being such a heartbreaking portrayal of such a man having to face the harsh realities of World War I trench warfare.  

Best Scene: Frank and Archy both fail to complete their final run.
Overall Rank:
  1. Mel Gibson in Gallipoli
  2. Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday
  3. Jürgen Prochnow in Das Boot
  4. Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark 
  5. Klaus Maria Brandauer in Mephisto
  6. Dudley Moore in Arthur
  7. Ian Charleson in Chariots of Fire
  8. Ben Cross in Chariots of Fire
  9. Mark Lee in Gallipoli
  10. John Travolta in Blow Out
  11.  James Caan in Thief
  12. Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond
  13. Andre Gregory in My Dinner With Andre
  14. Mel Gibson in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
  15. Steve Martin in Pennies From Heaven
  16. Kurt Russell in Escape from New York
  17. Timothy Hutton in Taps 
  18. William Hurt in Body Heat
  19. Donald Sutherland in Eye of the Needle
  20. David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London 
  21. Craig Warnock in Time Bandits
  22. Treat Williams in Prince of the City  
  23. Mickey Rooney in The Fox and the Hound
  24. Wallace Shawn in My Dinner With Andre
  25. Mel Brooks in History of the World Part I
  26. Kurt Russell in The Fox and the Hound
  27. Harold Ramis in Stripes
  28. Bill Murray in Stripes
  29. Paul Newman in Absence of Malice 
  30. Harry Hamlin in Clash of the Titans 
  31. Warren Beatty in Reds 
  32. Richard Benjamin in Saturday the 14th 
  33. Stephen Lack in Scanners 
Next Year: 1981 Supporting 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1981: Ian Charleson and Ben Cross in Chariots of Fire

Ian Charleson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Eric Liddell, and Ben Cross did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harold Abrahams in Chariots of Fire.

I was originally going to review William Hurt for Body Heat but his performance, which is essentially his own take on Fred MacMurray's character from Double Indemnity, would have been the weakest of his works that I have reviewed. I still liked him, particularly his final scenes where his character realizes he's been had where I would say he was quite great, but for most of the film I did not think he was really used for his acting ability. Hurt is just about a piece of meat for much of the film, and seeing this and Altered States, where he was also frequently without clothes, I can see actually that Kiss of the Spider Woman was actually quite a departure for him.

I decided instead to look at the leads to the film that was the best picture winner for 1981. Chariots of Fire is often derided among best picture winners, even the nominees of that year, but it's one best picture winner that I will defend to my last breath. I love pretty much everything about the film actually, and I really like the two performances that lead the film. Unlike most films about two men, the two men actually don't interact that much as they have only one scene where they even talk to each other which actually is only a slightly awkward greeting. They are united though by their passion for running, which brings them to the Olympics, and the way their faiths drive them.

One half of the duo is Harold Abraham's played by Ben Cross, who is technically the more driven runner. Cross has what seems like the more challenging role in that Abrahams's is the much more flawed character. The Jewish Abrahams is a man with a chip on his shoulder as he feels he is constantly being judged by so many for his religion, the thing is though he is not really wrong about it. Cross portrayal of Abrahams is a smartly handled one. There is a difficulty in the character which is not to make him entirely unlikable in his performance considering that his character is not the easiest to get along with. Cross is able to find where the man's personality comes from, therefore allowing sympathy for the man's plight.

Cross is rather intense in his performance by he is able to show the nature of the intensity. Cross makes this intensity as something that Abrahams has devised through his experience through life. He is often mocked in someway, Abrahams never outright reacts to this rather Cross keeps Abrahams slightly belligerent most of the time, even some of the time when he is not he is quick to become so if he thinks he is being threatened. Cross expresses this as his defense mechanism to frankly always show his distaste for his treatment at all times, but this is not the man which is important to his character. When Abrahams is with his good friend Aubrey or his future wife, Cross reveals a much more tender calmer man behind that shield he uses to protect against the discrimination.

Ian Charleson plays the other runner a Scotsman who is also a Christian missionary. Eric Liddell is a plainly good man whose major crises is that he must stand by his beliefs even if that interferes with the Olympics itself.  Charleson's performance is the much more unassuming work of the two but he deserves so much credit for what he does with Liddell. The purity of Liddell could have seemed to much, he could have sanctimonious, or just an unbelievable character, that is never the result of Charleson's portrayal which turns Liddell into a genuine man. Much like Mark Lee in Gallipoli, Charleson gives an honest portrait of a good man with an incredibly strong personal conviction in his principals.

Charleson's two best scenes in the film are his two sermons one from the bible, and one that Charleson actually wrote himself. Both of the speeches are flawlessly delivered by Charleson as he brings out such a power in the words. Charleson firstly brings such devotion in his delivery which always stress the deep belief that Liddell had, and just how much following the Lord's word meant to him. Charleson never overplays the moment to make the seems overly grand in nature, but instead gently tells the speeches. Charleson does not portray Liddell as a man who is trying to force anyone to believe, but rather a man who humbly asks them to because the strength he finds in his faith.

Both men are very fast, although their running style vastly differ and Charleson and Cross even make the style of running as part of their character. Cross is very straight forward and determined as Cross wishes to use his running as a way to override people's view of him. Cross, therefore runs straight with this purpose as the running is the only thing he thinks about it. Charleson is rather different though as Liddell believes showing off his God given talent brings glory to him. Charleson in turn plays the running as a joyous experience for Liddell who seems almost one with the heavens as he almost seems to float across the track in his most unorthodox running style.

Both actors realizes their characters, and realize the unique dynamic between the two in a marvelous fashion. Charleson and Cross both gives the story of two men who can run fast, and manage to create two distinctly different drives and passions in the men who come from very different places but end up technically reaching the same goals in the end. Although even their success still does not bridge the gap as Liddell is overjoyed by the experience and Abrahams actually is a bit perplexed, that result is really the only natural for these two men who Charleson and Cross realize so well in their performances that drive this great picture, that's right great picture you wanna make something out of it?

Alternate Best Actor 1981: Jürgen Prochnow in Das Boot

Jürgen Prochnow did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Captain in Das Boot. 

Das Boot is a great film that depicts that life of the crew of a German U-boat during World War II. 

This film seems quite strange in conception in that it actually takes the perspective of German soldiers fighting the war against the allies, and even more than that it shows them in a sympathetic light. The film is able to do this by firstly very sharply making it clear that there is a separation between the standard soldiers, and Nazi superiors. What really makes it work above that though is found in the character of the Captain played by Jürgen Prochnow. The Captain is the oldest most experienced man on the submarine even though he technically isn't even that old himself, and  unlike some of the men he has been around long enough to know that there is nothing grand about the Nazi cause. 

Prochnow is terrific in setting up the Captain in the early scenes of the film which establish the nature of the Captain. Although the film really does not delve into the past of the Captain it does not need to. Prochnow presents the past of the Captain right in his face as he is a war weary man. Prochnow is careful though to still show the Captain who is fully in control of his facilities, which is the case for one of his other fellow veterans. Prochnow performance has the right striking cynicism with the Captain and this is very important in frankly allowing us to go along with Captain and his crew as we the audience think the whole Nazi movement is a crock of (four letter expletive), and Prochnow shows that the Captain feels pretty much the same way. 

The Captain is an interesting character in the film as for a leader of men he is a fairly quiet man. This actually makes sense though due to the nature of the particular form of combat they are participating in which seems most of the time is finding ways to pass the time getting to the war than fighting in the war itself. Prochnow's handles his role brilliantly in finding the very distinct role he has on the ship. In the scenes of boredom Prochnow makes the Captain a properly reserved man. He never makes his own frustrations known, rather he keeps as a calm figure in the crew. Prochnow finds the right underlying strength in his performance, and it is easy to see him as a man the men will look up to and respect. 

Prochnow's performance is actually largely a reactionary one, as the film does leave much of the Captain's character unsaid. Prochnow has a challenge to bring everything between the lines so to speak, and Prochnow does this pretty much flawlessly with his performance. There is such strength to Prochnow's work in the way he always let's us in on the Captain's mindset all while not being overly emotional which would be inappropriate for such a man. Prochnow is able to show why exactly the Captain is even bothering to try to fight the way. The Captain does not believe in the cause, and Prochnow's shows no blood lust in the Captain for this. What drives the Captain is survival for his men, which Prochnow always brings this in his devoted performance. 

Without a doubt the greatest scenes of Prochnow performance are the intense scenes where the submarine fights in the battle and must deal with the damage the U-boat suffers from the sea battles. Prochnow is amazing in every one of these scenes as he internalizes the internal pressure so powerfully in every one of the scenes. Where the other men are often scared, the Captain cannot and Prochnow is exceptional the way he expresses the Captain firm grasp of his command while bringing to life the very human fears that the Captain must bottle up for the sake of the ship and his crew. The weight of every scene is built up to extraordinary levels in the film and Prochnow deserves a great deal of his credit for his uncompromising depiction of the horror of the situation. 

Prochnow's performance is extremely fascinating because he is so withdrawn at times yet always magnetic in his presence. Prochnow does so much with mostly just his facial expressions with his performance to show the silent conflicts of the Captain. One of his best moments in the film is when the Captain watches a decimated allied destroyer that still has live crewmen who have not been rescued and attempt to swim to the U-Boat. The Captain has no choice but to move away from the men. Prochnow is outstanding in the scene because again the Captain stays calm as the Captain should, but behind that Prochnow shows that the Captain is truly torn apart inside as he is forced to watch men slowly dying in the ocean. 

 Prochnow is able to make journey of the Captain much like the journey of the ship itself. Through all the trials of it the ship it seems as though it just is able to just pull through by the end, Prochnow reflects this in the Captain in a natural fashion. Every trail Prochnow portrays as getting under the Captain's skin deeply, but through it all there is always a strong resilience even within the decay. The connection between the two never seems even the slightly melodramatic or forced in anyway because Prochnow is able to deliver the dynamic with such a honest passion and the utmost conviction to make the ending of the film something very special. Prochnow's work throughout the film is a thoughtful and moving portrait of a commander trying to bring his men through a war he does not believe in.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1981: Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Harrison Ford did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great adventure film about the search for the Ark of Covenant which is said to hold the ten commandments as well as a great power.

Raiders of the Lost Ark actually was extremely well received by the academy winning 5 Oscars and being nominated for four more including best director and best picture. Harrison Ford despite leading the film was ignored completely, and the academy would not recognize him for leading a picture until Witness. Witness, although is a fine performance by Ford, is not the the very best Ford had to offer. Ford already broke out in a big way through his performances as Hans Solo in the Star Wars film. Ford avoided being stuck as that role in the public mindset though, unlike his Star Wars co-stars, by his next major role being a character even more iconic than Hans Solo.

As Hans Solo Ford actually technically was secondary to the main story that involved Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker. Ford would show up and do Solo's routine but he would only come in and out of the film. Ford as Indiana Jones must lead the film rather than being a side hero in the piece, Ford is more than up to the task as he brings his very best qualities as an actor to life in the role of Jones. Although when you sum them up in a fairly simple way Solo and Indiana Jones seem like Ford would just be repeating himself. It never feels that way at all as Ford makes Jones very much his own man, even if many of the ideas behind the character are shared in terms of conception.

One of the major differences between Solo and Jones comes in the idea of Ford taking on the role of guiding the audience through the adventure exclusively. Ford shows a growth in maturity as an actor. Although he definitely was good in the Empire Strikes Back, Ford brings another level of confidence here as Jones and takes a different approach with the character. As Solo there was a certain slight pompousness to him, yes he was good but not quite as good as he thought. Indiana Jones also thinks he is pretty good at what he does, but really he is as good as he is. There is a humble quality actually within the character that Ford plays very nicely, as there is never an off putting ego even with the great assurance of his own ability.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a wonderful adventure to go on in the film, and Ford deserves a great deal of the credit for making the great film it is for his portrayal of Indiana Jones. He is a great guide to follow through the film as he so perfectly goes along with any action scene. Ford is superb because he never turns Jones into a super hero in the action scenes, even though some of his feats are rather extraordinary, because there is always an effort shown. Ford shows that Jones is often an inch from failure and he really has to push himself to fight the villains. There is a humility and humanity in his performance by making Jones a man who gets tired through all the mayhem, and doing so makes every victory harder earned and much sweeter.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is thrilling, but there is more to it than just that. It is also a very funny movie with some brilliantly placed gags throughout. Ford does not lose any footing with his performance as he handles the quick comedic moments with as much ease as he does the intense scenes. Ford really knows how to sell the moments and makes them hit their mark all the better. The best comic moment in the whole film is of course the gun sword duel where Jones, instead of getting into a likely drawn out fight, just shoots a man who is brandishing a sword. The idea is funny in itself, but Ford makes it pure gold through his deadpan shrug as Jones dispatches the man with barely a second thought.

There is one other element of the film that is not as often mentioned which is the grandeur of the mystery behind the Ark of the Covenant. The film makes it more than just something to be found and there is something appropriately otherworldly about it. Ford once again adds so much with his performance as he is also creates an investment in the mystery. Ford would later falter in his later performances by seeming so disinterested in his films frankly, but here he brings such an investment into the film. Ford is fantastic in bringing the power of every part of the unfolding story and in this he also shows more in Indiana Jones than the action hero. Jones is an archeologist, and Ford brings the sense of discovery in his performance showing that Jones is absolutely fascinated by the idea of the Ark.

This is Harrison Ford's greatest performance, and there is no question to why the film propelled him to super stardom. All the best qualities of Harrison Ford as a leading man are present here, his incredible physical presence, his charm, his confidence, and even an unassuming humorous side. Ford is a perfect fit for the film. Every tone the film takes Ford matches and only amplifies whatever the scene is going for. If the scene wants to funny, Ford makes it funnier, if it needs to be exciting Ford makes the scenes burst with energy. The Academy made a very foolish mistake in ignoring Harrison Ford's work here, especially since they seem to have loved the film otherwise, as Ford was essential to the film's success and he managed to make Indiana Jones one of the unforgettable characters of cinema.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1981: Klaus Maria Brandauer in Mephisto

Klaus Maria Brandauer did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hendrik Hoefgen in Mephisto.

Mephisto is an interesting character study of the career of an actor that grows along with the Nazi movement in Germany, although it is a film with a very steep decline in the quality of the characters from the main character to the next largest supporting role.

Klaus Maria Brandauer takes a most unusual stance with his performance which all begins when Hendrik Hoefgan is an actor doing his own form of revolutionary theater. The growing evil force in Germany is yet to be that prevalent and Hoefgan is allowed to be a true artist so to speak. Brandauer takes this as to be actually pretty hammy, although knowingly so. What Brandauer does here is show that since he can do whatever he wants on stage at the moment he basically carries this personality around with him no matter where he goes. Brandauer makes Hoefgen pretty much always performing because there is not a single thing he has to worry about otherwise.

Brandauer hams it up in the right way in these early scenes as Hoefgan carries on in his personal affairs the same way he does on stage. Although certainly theatrical in his style Brandauer never goes overboard because he shows it as flamboyant stage actor being a flamboyant stage actor. Hoefgan is not suppose to be untalented though, in fact he is suppose to be quite the opposite. Brandauer makes Hoefgen a bit of a Charles Laughton style figure, yes he is not exactly perfectly realistic in his style of performance but there is an energy and charisma in his rather extreme actions that makes it entirely believable why Hoefgan would grow in popularity on the stage.

Brandauer is equally believable in playing Hoefgan's personality off the stage. Brandauer is good because he does not make it as though Hoefgan only is his stage personality by any measure. Brandauer rather very effectively shows Hoefgan's behavior to be the indulgence of an artist without any holds on him. This is the most unusual stance that I was referring to at the beginning, as it is actually the beginning of the film when he is doing his revolutionary work that Brandauer makes Heofgan the least of a man. Brandauer keeps just a man of surface behavior who is so into himself that he barely even notices that some very big changes are going on around him.

Once the Nazis take over Hoefgan does not leave the country despite his communist past, the fact that his wife is a fervent Anti-Nazi, and that he has black mistress. Hoefgan decision is easily believed because of that indulgence that Brandauer has shown in the earlier scenes. Hoefgan simply demands to be seen on stage, and refuses to let anyone hold back this dream. Hoefgan does continue to perform having great success, particularly of the role of Mephisto in Faust. Hoefgan's indulgence cannot continue though as he meets the Nazi officer who oversees the stage. The Nazi officer, although impressed with his performance, is not overly impressed by Hoefgan himself.

The Nazi officer gives Hoefgan some light criticism regarding Hoefgan's handshake, this enough though for Hoefgan to lose his indulgence and start to notice the world does not revolve around him. Brandauer is effective in his depiction of the changing nature of Hoefgan. Firstly there is no longer that flamboyance off the stage as Brandauer shows the officers remarks act as almost a blunt trauma to Hoefgan that snaps him out of his world of the actor. Brandauer is rather interesting in that being forced to work around the Nazis actually seems to make Hoefgan a far more responsible man than he had been when he was allowed to perform with complete freedom.

Brandauer's performance excels as he shows Hoefgan changing his overall attitude as he brings a thoughtfulness to his performance that was not there before. Although Hoefgan basically does what the Nazis command him to do, and consistently follows the orders they give him to allow his advancement in the world of the theater, he as well does try to help others that the Nazis would otherwise have discriminated against or even killed. Brandauer is rather moving in his portrayal of a real conscience in the man as opposed to the social conscience he merely claimed to have in a very Barton Fink sort of way. Brandauer loses the presumption creating a much more honest man.

Klaus Maria Brandauer gives a very strong performance that is brilliant in his risky conception of the character of Hoefgan. It is very easy to see how the character could have been played the complete opposite with the true man being in the beginning and then losing himself in the end. Brandauer gives a far more complex and much more fascinating performance by taking the approach in which he slowly reveals a greater humanity in his character as human decency seems to fade around him. Brandauer takes a daring approach all the way through from Hendrik's rather hammy beginnings to his much more somber end, every risk he takes pays off giving a most powerful depiction of the way a man changes to be allowed to continue his craft.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1981: Mel Gibson in Gallipoli

Mel Gibson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Frank Dunne in Gallipoli.

Gallipoli is a masterful film by Peter Weir about the journey of two men who make their way to the Gallipoli front during World War One. On a side note the Australians really can't get much of a break with the academy, since they are ignored even when they turn out masterpieces like this, Breaker Morant and The Proposition, and since the film are in English they can't even find the recognition that films from non-English speaking countries receive in the foreign language category.

This my first time covering a performance by Mel Gibson as the academy has only ever recognized his work behind the camera despite Gibson being most famous for his onscreen. Gibson was in his prime in 1981 appearing in this film as well as in perhaps his most iconic role as Mad Max in The Road Warrior. Although Gibson's performance as the road warrior is a very solid performance his greatest challenge of the year was found in the role of Frank Dunne in Gallipoli. Frank Dunne early on is just a man going place to place with no real aspirations other than to make some money where he can and find an easier place to live than wherever he may be at his current point. Frank stands at the opposite end of our other lead character Archy (Mark Lee) who is a man with a passion.

Gibson is top form here as Frank, and the very best qualities of his style of acting are seen here. Gibson often takes a bit of a joker, and wise guy type attitude to his roles which works perfectly for Frank who is a rather the sarcastic sort. Gibson is terrific in making Frank the right type of worldly sort right from an early scene when a few of his friends are taking about joining the army. Where the other men buy into the idea of fighting for one's country Frank though does not. Gibson tears into the scene and establishing Frank cynicism flawlessly. Gibson is very much to the point which let's us see Frank as a guy whose always got some sort of plan to try to do things his way. Gibson has the right type of sly attitude in the role in his characterization of Frank.

The sarcastic attitude of Frank could have easily made him an unlikable character, but this does not happen with Gibson, who usually has plenty of charm as an actor, but Gibson is incredibly charismatic here as Frank. Why anyone would put up with him, or why Archy would be rather taken for him is not even a question because Gibson is extremely endearing here. Gibson let's us in on the fun that Frank has during the film. Frank is a cynical guy to be sure, but Gibson does not take this as a reason to be cold which would have been problematic in establishing the central friendship of the film. Gibson brings a nicely handled warmth with his performance, even when Frank is being sarcastic Gibson still is a welcoming presence that we can follow through his adventure.

This film is one of the two great films about two men who have a common bond in running. In both films it features to very different men who are also very fast, and in both it is the more amiable fellow who is slightly faster one. In Chariots of Fire the two men never became truly friends, but in this film the two men's friendship is central to the film. Mark Lee plays the faster man Archy who is a more straight forward younger man. Archy always seems to be looking for the best of things, and takes a very optimistic view when it comes to joining the war to fight for Australia. This is of course the opposite of Frank and Gibson's performance. The two form a very effective dynamic between the man who might know the world a little too well, and one who does not know enough.

Gibson and Lee are great together and create an honest friendship between the differing men. This is not a case of the two constantly expressing their brotherly type of love for another, rather Gibson and Lee create the friendship in a most realistic way. It is an underlying thing, the men don't have to talk about it rather there is just a certain ease among them as they interact. Gibson and Lee really find something special, something remarkable because they bring to life the connection so well yet keep such a subtle factor in the film. Gibson and Lee's approach to this only adds to the film as it slowly just becomes an established fact that the two guys really like each other's company which adds to much to the film, not only when they are having the good times together but even more importantly as the film moves toward its darker end.

Where Lee's performance is a straight line with some slight waves, there is a different story to Frank as Frank slowly moves to joining the army despite his rather obvious objections in his first scene. Mel Gibson is excellent in this character arc which he carefully plays through the course of the film. With Frank's interactions with Archy, we see Frank still keep up his pessimistic attitude despite Archy's insistence that joining the army is the right thing to do. Gibson is terrific as he still shows Frank sticking by his guns, and really as something he believes, but indicates in the right measure how Archy's words do slowly get to him. When Frank does change his mind it is wholly believable, especially though as Gibson shows Frank fooling himself into thinking that joining the army is just another scheme.

When Frank and Archy find themselves in the army Gibson still keeps Frank as a man on an adventure, an adventure that he really does make an enjoyable one. Gibson's performance treads lightly in just the right way and portrays the way that Frank is treating the army as just another opportunity for his type of advancement. One of Gibson's great moments comes when he gets to join the cavalry to get out of the infantry and join up with Archy again. Gibson is appropriately amusing when Frank comes to show his other buddies his new uniform. Gibson plays the scene brilliantly showing that Frank has a great pride in his new more stylish uniform. Gibson once again keeps Frank his good old self as it is not a pride in the army, but rather a pride in himself for once again getting advancement without really doing much.

The fun and games end when Archy and Frank finally arrive to the front at Gallipoli. It becomes clear that there is no adventure or glory to be found on this battlefield like Archy thought and there is no scheme to be played as Frank thought. Gibson is amazing in these scenes as Frank observes as he sees the true nature of the war. Gibson up to these scenes already gave a great leading performance just to follow through the lighter adventure of the film, but he goes onto another level when they meet the wall at the end of it. He is extremely powerful in his reactionary moments when he listens to other men tell their stories of loss. Gibson allows us to see any cynicism leave Frank as he forced to feel the blunt reality of the situation. He is incredibly moving as he reflects the horror in his eyes and expresses the growing fear for his own life.

Gibson is electrifying in his physical performance throughout but never is this more true when Frank avoids combat by acting as the running messenger for the commander. Gibson is outstanding in this sequence as he builds the intensity of the situation with his performance, as Frank gets more and more exasperated, and more and more affected by the rows of men being mowed down only a few inches past the trench. Gibson builds to the end of the film in his portrayal of Frank slowly getting beaten down and is emotionally overcome by the situation. Gibson is haunting as the once so sarcastic Frank cannot ignore what is going on around him and pleads to end the massacre. The final moments of the film are heartbreaking in a combination of Mark Lee performance which personifies a certain persistence, and Gibson's performance which leads Frank to a different end. Gibson final moments is but a scream which is short but unforgettable. In just a few seconds Gibson brings out the full extent of the anguish and pain of the unbearably tragic finale of this film.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1981

And the Nominees Were Not:

Jürgen Prochnow in Das Boot

Klaus Maria Brandauer in Mephisto

Mel Gibson in Gallipoli

William Hurt in Body Heat

Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Friday, 15 November 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2000: Results

5. Billy Crudup in Almost Famous- Crudup gives a good performance by showing both the good and the bad qualities which make a rock star.

Best Scene: Russell takes William to a party.
4. Joe Pantoliano in Memento- Pantoliano unfortunately overacts a bit, but he makes up for much of it by giving a complex portrayal of a man who knows much more than what he says he knows.

Best Scene: Teddy tells Leonard the truth.
3. Oliver Reed in Gladiator- Reed gives a compelling performance as a former gladiator champion although his performance is weakened by the fact that it remains an unfinished work.

Best Scene: Proximo tells Maximus how he achieved his freedom.
2. Takeshi Kitano in Battle Royale- Takeshi Kitano gives an effective turn by being the evil teacher he should be, but as well by showing why this man has come to be this way.

Best Scene: Kitano reveals his dream.
1. Jason Isaacs in The Patriot- This part asks one thing of Isaacs which is to be evil, and boy is he. Isaacs gives a striking performance by being unrelenting in his portrayal of the sadism of his character, while never once using the nature of his character as an excuse to overact.

Best Scene: Gabriel's attack on the dragoons.
Overall Rank:
  1. Malcolm McDowell in Gangster No. 1
  2. Jason Isaacs in The Patriot
  3. Takeshi Kitano in Battle Royale
  4. Oliver Reed in Gladiator
  5. Stephen Tobolowsky in Memento 
  6. Benicio Del Toro in Traffic
  7. Tim Blake Nelson in O Brother Where Art Thou?
  8. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous
  9. Michael Douglas in Traffic 
  10. Joe Pantoliano in Memento
  11. Billy Crudup in Almost Famous
  12. Taro Yamamoto in Battle Royale
  13. Eddie Marsan in Gangster No. 1
  14. Don Cheadle in Traffic
  15. David Thewlis in Gangster No. 1
  16. Sousuke Takaoka in Battle Royale 
  17. Larry Holden in Memento
  18. John Turturro in O Brother Where Art Thou?
  19. Jeffrey Wright in Shaft
  20. Heath Ledger in The Patriot
  21. Gary Oldman in The Contender 
  22. John Goodman in O Brother Where Art Thou?
  23. Chris Cooper in The Patriot
  24. Takashi Tsukamoto in Battle Royale
  25. Richard Harris in Gladiator
  26. Michael Badalucco in O Brother Where Art Thou?
  27. Christian Bale in Shaft
  28. Charles Durning in O Brother Where Art Thou?
  29. Michael Caine in Quills
  30. Robert Downey Jr. in Wonder Boys
  31. Steven Culp in Thirteen Days
  32. Daniel Van Bargen in O Brother Where Art Thou?
  33. Masnobu Ando in Battle Royale 
  34. Tom Wilkinson in The Patriot 
  35. Gary Lewis in Billy Elliot
  36. Kevin Conway in Thirteen Days
  37. Miguel Ferrer in Traffic
  38. Frank Wood in Thirteen Days
  39. Gene Hackman in The Replacements
  40. Robert Duvall in The 6th Day
  41. René Auberjonois in The Patriot
  42. Dylan Baker in Thirteen Days 
  43. Don Cheadle in Mission to Mars 
  44. Bruce Davison in X-Men
  45. Willem Dafoe in American Psycho
  46. David Hemmings in Gladiator
  47. Ian McKellen in X-Men
  48. Tchéky Karyo in The Patriot
  49. Ray Park in X-Men 
  50. Dennis Quaid in Traffic 
  51. Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator
  52. Udo Kier in Shadow of the Vampire
  53. Patrick Stewart in X-Men
  54. Terence Stamp in Red Planet
  55. Will Patton in Remember the Titans
  56. Albert Finney in Erin Brockovich
  57. Luis Guzman in Traffic
  58. Djimon Honsou in Gladiator 
  59. Leon Rippy in The Patriot
  60. Jeff Bridges in The Contender
  61. Noah Taylor in Almost Famous 
  62. Giovanni Ribsi in Gone in 60 Seconds
  63. Derek Jacobi in Gladiator 
  64. James Brolin in Traffic
  65. Jack Lemmon in The Legend of Beggar Vance 
  66. David Paymer in Bait
  67. Mark Boone Junior in Memento
  68. Paul Giamatti in Big Momma's House
  69. Peter Woodward in The Patriot
  70. Xander Berkeley in Shanghai Noon
  71. Albert Finney in Traffic
  72. David Morse in Bait 
  73. Owen Wilson in Meet the Parents
  74. Eddie Izzard in Shadow of the Vampire
  75. Donnie Yen in Highlander Endgame 
  76. James Mardsen in X-Men
  77. Sam Elliot in The Contender
  78. Michael Clarke Duncan in The Whole Nine Yards
  79. Roger Yuan in Shanghai Noon
  80. Change Chen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  81. James Rebhorn in Meet the Parents 
  82. Adam Baldwin in The Patriot 
  83. Kevin Pollak in The Whole Nine Yards
  84. Carey Elwes in Shadow of the Vampire
  85. Topher Grace in Traffic
  86. Joey D. Vieira in The Patriot 
  87. Christian Slater in The Contender
  88. Jay Arlen Jones in The Patriot
  89. Tom Sizemore in Red Planet 
  90. Tobey Maguire in Wonder Boys
  91. Johnny Depp in Before Night Falls 
  92. Donal Logue in The Patriot 
  93. Johnny Depp in Chocolat
  94. Aaron Eckhart in Erin Brockovich
  95. Jason Lee in Almost Famous
  96. Doug Hutchison in Bait
  97. Gregory Smith in The Patriot
  98. Orland Jones in Bedazzled
  99. Christopher Eccleston in Gone in 60 Seconds
  100. Jerry O'Connell in Mission to Mars
  101. Rainn Wilson in Almost Famous
  102. Toby Huss in Bedazzled
  103. Will Smith in The Legend of Beggar Vance
  104. Shawn Ashmore in X-Men
  105. The Cast of The Grinch
  106. Larry Miller in The Nutty Professor II
  107. John Ales in The Nutty Professor II
  108. Cast of Little Nicky
  109. Cast of Road Trip
  110. Tyler Mane in X-Men 
  111. Forest Whitaker in Battlefield Earth
  112. Bruce Payne in Highlander Endgame
Next Year: 1981 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2000: Billy Crudup in Almost Famous

Billy Crudup did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Russell Hammond in Almost Famous.

Almost Famous is an enjoyable, if a bit overlong, film about a very young rock journalist William (Patrick Fugit) who follows an up and coming band on tour.

Billy Crudup plays one of the band members Russell, the member of the band William most gets to know somewhat due to Russell's involvement with a groupie who calls herself Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). Crudup technically plays Russell as the most down to earth member of the band, although that really is not saying a lot as one never speaks, another seems completely out of it, and the lead singer has an ego that outweighs his talent. Crudup deserves credit though as he is the only one of the actors playing members of the band who really gets much of anything out of his role, Jason Lee plays his role a little too broadly throughout the film and is not able to make much of an impression.

The whole character of Russell Hammond is a mix of things as he often is changing attitudes, and personal style often. This is rather fitting though because of the nature of the rock star life where there seems to be a non-stop energy and mind altering substances are plentiful. Through most of the scenes where he is interacting with William the journalist, or his fans whether it be a somewhat somber affair, or a very non sober affair Crudup brings an effective low key charisma with his performance. He brings that rock star quality into the role of Russell and makes it very believable why so many would be enamored with him, and why the lead singer of the band would find him to be such a threat.

One of the aspects of the film is basically revealing the problematic nature of the rockers life styles. Crudup is equally good in the bring down scenes because he loses the charm in the right sort of way. Crudup does not portray it as Russell stops putting on a show or anything like that, instead he just very realistically reveals the negative qualities as something always there as well that can come out almost as easily as the charm. In this moments Crudup is quite good by just being an average jerk frankly. When the nature of Russell really does come out, Crudup does not make it anything notable but rather the average off putting tendencies of a human being who gets more than he really deserves.

Out of the supporting actors in the film my favorite was easily Philip Seymour Hoffman in his short appearances as a rock critiic who hates egos while seeming to have a rather large one himself. Hoffman in his few short scenes left a stronger impression on me overall, but Billy Crudup does give a pretty strong performance as well and is easily the best performance in the many scenes featuring the antics of the band. His character is very important to the film as he basically sets up the many steps the plot of the film takes. Crudup fulfills his part nicely and brings to life properly the mix impressive and problematic elements found in the personality of a rock star.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2000: Oliver Reed in Gladiator

Oliver Reed did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for BAFTA, for portraying Proximo in Gladiator.

Oliver Reed plays Proximo the man who buys Maximus Decimus (Russell Crowe) after he has had his family murdered by the evil Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Proximo is a gladiator manager and owner, although he is a bit different in that he himself was a former Gladiator. Reed was an excellent choice to play the part having played many tough guy roles throughout his career and here he brings that sort of presence to this role. Although Proximo is aged, and most certainly past his prime, with Reed we can see what made him the great warrior he once was, and possibly how exactly how he once came to be the true champion of the Colosseum.

Reed plays both sides of the role very well. As the outer side, Reed shows Proximo to be a shrewd businessman. Reed brings the right sly attitude with a certain strong force of personality as Proximo showing him to be a man well versed in the nature of his trade. Proximo though does have the deeper connection with Gladiator's then just the money. Reed has one great scene where he tries to inspire his men to victory giving a hint of his own mastery of the arena. Reed is terrific as he thrusts with a knife portraying the powerful technique in Proximo, and suggesting exactly who Proximo once was when he had to save his life by ending another simply for entertainment purposes.

Oliver Reed's best scene though is when he encourages Maximus to be more than a killer, and be a showman who the crowd adores. In the scene Proximo describes when he was made free by the former emperor after becoming the champion of the arena. Reed handles the scene beautifully because it is not like he is just giving a lecture to Maximus. Reed instills the moment with a tremendous nostalgic pride and shows Proximo almost relive the moment as he gives the sense of the joy Proximo held when he finally achieved freedom so many years ago. It is a wonderfully acted scene by Reed, and it also properly alludes to why Proximo would be willing to give up his own livelihood to help Maximus late in the film.

This film was Reed's last one, and unfortunately he actually died during filming. All of Proximo's scenes were not completed and this is noticeable in the film. When everyone is captured in Proximo's compound the Roman guards for whatever reason kill Proximo even though they don't do the same to the slaves even the ones who have fought back. Of course this is a pretty obvious rewrite to compensate for Reed's untimely end. The required changes cuts Proximo short really. If Reed had lived it is pretty easy to see that Proximo probably would have had one more scene that would have given a more fitting end to his character, rather than the very quick exit his character receives in the film.

In my view Oliver Reed once again gives the best performance in a best picture winning film, even though once again his character is far from being even the most important supporting character in the film. Reed even with the fact that he really did not get to portray the actual conclusion of the character before his death makes Proximo a compelling character. I only wish there had been more of Proximo in the film as Reed makes him a fascinating part of the film even though the character could very well have made absolutely no impact on the film whatsoever. Oliver Reed brings out the complexities of the part incredibly well, and creates an interesting portrait of a gladiator after he has put away his sword.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2000: Jason Isaacs in The Patriot

Jason Isaacs did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot.

The Patriot is not a brilliant or accurate film about the revolutionary war, and really it's too long, but hey its fun seeing Mel Gibson once again take out his revenge on some British.

This film takes a rather extreme view of the British particularly in the character of Colonel William Tavington based loosely upon the actual Banastre Tarleton who was not a nice chap to be sure but also often was the subject of propaganda pieces that purposefully made his exploits more extreme in nature. Tavington is the villain of the piece and his whole point is being the man you want Gibson to kill. Tavington not only is a brutal officer to begin with as he burns Gibson's character house and barn but he also murders one of his sons just after condemning another one of his sons to death just before he pointed his weapon at everyone of his family members just to make a threat. Tavington is unrelentingly evil in his personal style and actions throughout the film.

Jason Isaacs with this film set himself to play many more evil British men in his career but it all started here. As with many instances of type casting the first time is the best time. Isaacs plays up Tavington's evil not by going over the top, at least not in the traditional sense, but staying very British in his sensibilities. Isaacs has Tavington always keep his cool proper demeanor even when he is making threats or murdering innocents. He is actually quite brilliant in this respect creating a withdrawn but very visceral intensity in his performance. Isaacs carefully always keeps him in a soldier in the King's army as he should while still making him one of the most cruel and vicious soldiers imaginable.

The whole point of Isaacs is a build a great deal of hate for his character as he goes from place to place being despicable while leaving many dead in his wake. Isaacs of course meets this most general requirement but adds to by suggesting a little more to his character given the brief moments he is allowed. One of aspect Isaacs handles especially well is the sadistic tendencies in Tavington. It would have been much easier to just have these broad gestures in regards to portraying this, but Isaacs is far more effective portraying this aspect of Tavington in a subtle fashion. One great scene in particular is when Tavington kills someone with a sword and Isaacs is very chilling in just showing a slight change in his expression as you can see him indulging in the pleasure of the moment.

There is one scene that suggests that Tavington's brutality also comes from wanting to make a name for himself as he had his inheritance wasted by his father. It is a scene that it does not dwell upon, and frankly the film forgets about shortly after mentioning it. Isaacs makes the scene for all its worth and he gives a sense of the mindset of Tavington even beyond the evil. Isaacs suggests well, in the very brief moment he is given, the pain he hides for his misfortune and where his very extreme aggressiveness comes from. The film really does not follow up on this point too much preferring to keep Tavington as a pretty to the point baddie, but Isaacs makes the most of it and shows that he very well could have made even more to Tavington if the film had allowed him to.

The meat of this performance is Isaacs making Tavington the villain of the piece and he does that really well. He is imposing throughout giving a real sense of danger whenever he is onscreen. Isaacs even more importantly perhaps, due to the revenge nature of this film, makes Tavington the man you want to see Mel Gibson kill before the war is over. Isaacs performance really raises the ante for the final duel because he so effectively makes you want to see Tavington dead. The first time I watched the film back in 2000 I yelled a mighty "Yes" when Tavington finally lost his upper hand. Isaacs by realizing the evil in Tavington so vividly allows the finale of the film to be truly satisfying. Isaacs gives a very strong performance dong what he can with Tavington somewhat limited character, and absolutely thriving when it comes to serving his purpose in the plot.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2000: Takeshi Kitano in Battle Royale

Takeshi Kitano did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Kitano in Battle Royale.

Battle Royale is a gruesome and effective film about a class of Japanese students pit against each other in a game of death until only one student is left living.

Takeshi Kitano plays the only major character in the film who is not a student. He plays one of the two villains of the piece, the other is a psychotic special student sent in as a ringer of sorts to the game. Kitano plays the most dangerous villain since the guy from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey because there is nothing worse than an evil gym teacher, yes Kitano is not technically a gym teacher but the way he dresses makes him look like one. Kitano plays well Kitano the class's former teacher who disappeared after being assaulted by one of the students, he returns though to be their new instructor, the instructor to tell them that they will be playing a most unusual game as a group.

Kitano makes a strong impression in his early scene as he welcomes the class back. Kitano, although does hide a secret with his performance which I will get to, takes a brilliant approach of playing his namesake still as a teacher even with what he does as he introduces the game. Kitano brings a disturbing ease in his performance as he seems to treat this class as any other day of schooling. He is that of the teacher casually fielding questions just like a normal teacher would, trying to call the kids attention to the educational video by acting interested in it himself, and even distributing punishment like a teacher. When someone speaks out of turn or something, Kitano does not stress the fact, but quickly raises then quiets his voice ending the problem swiftly, although he murders the kids unlike a normal teacher.

That is Kitano's major scene and he delivers exceptionally well by just delivering the scene as if Kitano was a proper instructor except one who uses a particularly twisted method to handle his class. Throughout the rest of the film Kitano comes in and out mostly to announce which students have been killed. These moments he continues his method of being the mentor of sorts in his announcements as he sometimes derides their behavior, or encourages them in some understated way. Kitano still has his secret he is holding though that slowly comes out as the film progresses as we see how he spends some of his time as the games go on around him. The secret being that his blase attitude is not from him being evil, but rather Kitano's attitude comes from being depressed.

Kitano is very interesting the whole way he plays this depression, because he honestly plays it a down to earth fashion and it somehow fits in with his absurdest nature of his character. Kitano shows it very bluntly that he has had his spirit destroyed not only by the way the class treated him, but as well because his own daughter hates him as well. Kitano is even strangely moving because he is very genuine in these moments and goes about playing this part of Kitano in a realistic fashion. Kitano though tries to deal with his depression though by clinging onto one idea that remains hidden for most of the film, until it is finally revealed near the end of the film when Takeshi Kitano once more becomes the star of the movie.

Takeshi Kitano is excellent in this scene in combining the conflicting nature of his role into one brilliant finale for his character. On one side we see that Kitano has been wanting one of the girls to win the game. Kitano carefully portrays this not as a creepy lust, although it is creepy, but rather a much more pure love as she is the only young person who has shown him any love including his own daughter. In the same scene we get his twisted sensibility too especially in his great exit to the film. He makes the absurd exit have a great impact because he plays so perfectly straight. He manages to make Kitano more than just an evil teacher, although he does do that too, giving a oddly complex and powerful portrayal of a man who has lost his connection to the next generation.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2000: Joe Pantoliano in Memento

Joe Pantoliano did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Teddy in Memento.

The character of Teddy is a bit like the Samurai played by Masayuki Mori in Rashomon, in that the one thing definite about the man is that he is dead. This is not a spoiler as the very first image of the film features Teddy's corpse shortly followed by Teddy being shot in the head by Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) a man with anterograde amnesia. What lead to Teddy's demise is the basis for the reverse progression of the story. It was a rather brilliant piece of casting to choose Pantoliano in this role. Pantoliano is best known for playing slimy unlikable, not especially complex, characters which actually sets up Teddy in a certain way which makes the developments of the film all the more effective.

With Teddy dead at the very beginning of this mystery, apparently as the villain, being played by Pantoliano only reinforces this concept suggesting that at the beginning that Leonard was absolutely right, and there is not anything complex about Teddy at all. The truth though is Teddy is a far more complex character and it is surprising to see Pantoliano's portrayal which slowly reveals more to Teddy with every scene we see in reverse. In the first, last, scene of Teddy though Pantoliano is fitting his usual role of the somewhat obnoxious, somewhat overbearing personality. It is interesting though as the film reveals that this is not just a standard Pantoliano character.

Teddy keeps showing up for some reason, either at Leonard's beckon call or just showing up to see him for some reason. Pontaliano is good in suggesting that Teddy seems to know more then he claims toward Leonard. Pantoliano plays Teddy in an interesting way as he sort of plays Leonard while protecting him as well. Pantoliano isn't warm but there is a certain concern he conveys in Teddy as he constantly seems to keep helping him and offering him advice. At the same time Pantoliano gives the sense of a trick he is playing as Teddy so often changes his greeting method to Leonard, sometime acting like an old friend, and at other times a bit of a stranger.

Pantoliano's performance is a good one because his way of being the the untrustworthy friend properly indicates the truth behind Teddy that is revealed in the end. The truth being that he has manipulated Leonard in a despicable way, but that was after and still being the one person who seems to care for him. Pantoliano is very strong in the last scene frankly opening up completely with Teddy revealing the strange mix of mostly despicable but just slightly honorable nature of Teddy. He is not a villain exactly, and certainly not the villain one would assume he was at the beginning, as Pantoliano brings the complexity of Teddy to life. Pantoliano does falter a bit with a bit too much of his usual overacting, nevertheless he does make Teddy a compelling facet of this great film.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2000

And the Nominees Were Not:

Billy Crudup in Almost Famous

Takeshi Kitano in Battle Royale

Oliver Reed in Gladiator

Jason Isaacs in The Patriot

Joe Pantoliano in Memento

Alternate Best Actor 2000: Results

5. George Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou?- Clooney gives a fun and endearing performance, which is fun to follow through this adventure.

Best Scene: The boys are about to be hanged.
4. Chow Yun-Fat in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon- Yun-Fat succeeds well in a role tailored made for his particular screen presence.

Best Scene: His last scene.
3. Eric Bana in Chopper- Bana is a lot of fun with a bonkers performance that somehow makes his character believable.

Best Scene: Chopper kills the Turk.
2. Christian Bale in American Psycho- Bale performance gives a comedic phony performance that actually suits his character far better then if he played it straight.

Best Scene: Bateman kills Paul Allen.
1. Guy Pearce in Memento- Good Prediction Koook160. This was an easy choice for me. Guy Pearce gives a great performance brilliantly realizing his character's most unusual disability while flawlessly taking his character down a many differing paths, and never becoming dull for a moment even though his character does repeat himself often.

Best Scene: Leonard confronts John G. or at least he thinks he does.
Overall Rank:
  1. Guy Pearce in Memento
  2. Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire
  3. Tom Hanks in Castaway
  4. Christian Bale in American Psycho
  5. Eric Bana in Chopper
  6. Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys
  7. Russell Crowe in Gladiator
  8. Tony Leung Chiu Wai in The Mood For Love
  9. Chow Yun-Fat in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  10. George Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou?
  11. Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot 
  12. Dennis Hopper in The Spreading Ground
  13. Paul Bettany in Gangster No. 1
  14. Bruce Greenwood in Thirteen Days 
  15. Mel Gibson in The Patriot
  16. Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable 
  17. Dennis Quaid in Frequency
  18. Bruce Willis in Unbreakable
  19. Joaquin Phoenix in Quills
  20. Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans 
  21. Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon
  22. Samuel L. Jackson in Shaft 
  23. Haley Joel Osment in Pay It Forward
  24. Jim Caviezel in Frequency 
  25. Kevin Spacey in Pat It Forward
  26. Samuel L. Jackson in Rules of Engagement
  27. Hugh Jackman in X-Men
  28. Matthew McConaughey in U-571
  29. Tommy Lee Jones in Rules of Engagement
  30. Gary Sinise in Mission to Mars
  31. Tatsuya Fujimara in Battle Royale 
  32. Ed Harris in Pollock
  33. Geoffrey Rush in Quills
  34. Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls
  35. Nicolas Cage in Gone in Sixty Seconds
  36. Jackie Chan in Shanghai Noon
  37. Matt Damon in The Legend of Bagger Vance
  38. Val Kilmer in Red Planet 
  39. Arnold Schwarzenegger in The 6th Day 
  40. Brendan Fraser in Bedazzled
  41. John Malkovich in Shadow of the Vampire
  42. Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents 
  43. Matthew Perry in Whole Nine Yards
  44. Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents
  45. Bruce Willis in The Whole Nine Yards
  46. Keanu Reeves in The Replacements
  47. Sylvester Stallone in Get Carter
  48. Kevin Costner in Thirteen Days
  49. Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous
  50. Jim Carrey in The Grinch
  51. Eddie Murphy in Nutty Professor II
  52. Jamie Foxx in Bait
  53. Christopher Lambert in Highlander Endgame 
  54. Barry Pepper in Battlefield Earth
  55. Martin Lawrence in Big Momma's House
  56. Breckin Meyer in Road Trip
  57. Adrian Paul in Highlander Endgame
  58. Adam Sandler in Little Nicky
  59. John Travolta in Battlefield Earth
Next Year: 2000 Supporting