Thursday, 28 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1951: James Mason in The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel

James Mason did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Field Marshall Erwin Rommel in The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel.

The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel is a film with strong moment thanks mostly due to a certain performance in the film, but it probably would have benefited from a more personal approach to the subject matter at times as well as a more convincing actor in the role of Adolf Hitler.

James Mason gave another performance this year in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman as a man cursed to live forever. In that film Mason was quite good at being charming while still being haunting as well in the role. Just like Kirk Douglas Mason did not settle with one good performance, but as well appeared in this film as Nazi strategist Erwin Rommel. Mason does not do a German accent, no one does in this film which was the style at the time, and it hardly matters much to his performance. This obviously is not a one hundred percent accurate depiction of Rommel in any way, but that does not stop Mason from making Rommel a compelling character.

Although Mason doesn't do an accent he does adjust his presence that is fitting to Rommel. Where in many films Mason is able to be both informal, and formal at the same time he is very strict in his style. He makes Rommel a firm man accentuating this through his up right posture, and straight forward demeanor. Mason is really very different here as Rommel, but he still has that same strong presence although properly reworked to show the man's roots as a true soldier. Mason portrays Rommel as above all else a very firm man, who you would know is a soldier even when he is not in uniform. He makes Rommel the career soldier this man should be.

Early in the film Rommel is very much the loyal officer as he openly defends Hitler's military choices. Mason does this quite well in an entirely direct fashion. Mason makes Rommel first and foremost a man who must follow his orders. Mason handles this well by up front about it and showing it is something just right within his training as a professional soldier. Mason succeeds in pressing this professionalism in every aspect whether it is following an order by Hitler, or setting out his own strategy to fight. Mason makes Rommel an efficient man, and believable as the sort of adversary that would not only be feared by the Allies but would even respect him to a certain degree.

The process of most of the film is that Rommel slowly realizes that Hitler would rather all Germans die than ever surrender. Mason is excellent in this because he never rushes this aspect. Mason moves through the process well because he takes his time. He begins with his only questioning Hitler's insanity, and at first he is more of saddened by them than angry over them. Mason builds to a more hostile opposition well that he infuses properly with feelings of disbelief over the absurdity of the orders, as well as a great deal of sadness in seeing the way Hitler insists on going about the end of the war. Mason portrays this strongly by showing it as an honest collapse of the faith of a man who has always been loyal before.

Mason builds powerfully to the end of the film where Hitler decides that Rommel is a traitor and must either commit suicide or be killed. Mason is very moving in his last scenes as he brings out quietly the passionate determination in Rommel to refute these charges, and always supporitng that he loves his country. This film has quite a few short comings one being that Rommel deserved far more personal moments with a lesser actor than Mason this ending could have really fallen flat. Mason manages to bring the weight to the scene anyway, and great deal of poignancy which is a true testament to his talent as an actor. This role honestly does not do Mason a lot of favors, but he manages to give strong assured performance nevertheless.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1951: Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole

Kirk Douglas did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Chuck Tatum in Ace in the Hole.

Ace in the Hole is a brilliant film about a former big time journalist who tries to make it big again by exploiting a man who has found himself stuck in a cave.

Kirk Douglas is a great actor and delivered not one but two performances worth mentioning in 1951. He was probably closer to being Oscar nominated for his performance in Detective Story as a hardworking but perhaps over zealous detective who goes off the deep end. He portrays the part very well, and even manages to sell the somewhat melodramatic breakdown his character suffers at the end of the film. His even more remarkable performance though comes in Ace in a Hole as Chuck Tatum a news paper man who is rather unscrupulous in his efforts to get a big story.

Douglas early on the film knows how to make Chuck a reporter with a lot of intense ambition in him that probably does not have too many positive aspects to it. Douglas from the start shows Chuck to be a restless man, and clearly some sort of axe to grin and it is clear from the start he will not have too many scrupulous feelings when it comes to desire to make it big again. It would be easy for Chuck Tatum to be just far too unlikable in the way he seems to be so uncomfortable in fairly reasonable surroundings, but Douglas just has so much charisma and energy in the part that he pretty much overrides the inherit problems within Chuck's personality.

Chuck finds his story of a man named Leo who has accidentally gotten stuck in a cave. Chuck seizes this opportunity to its fullest making a literal circus of the tragic event in every way possible and along with Leo's wife tries to take every single profit he can possible take from Leo's poor predicament. Chuck even goes so far as to bribe the local sheriff, and force the rescue effort to take a slow approach to saving Leo to make it so the story lasts even longer. Douglas takes on this immorality with a big smile on his face, and absolutely sells this idea of his careless drive in Chuck that makes him think of only his own profit despite a man's life being in danger.

Douglas is perfectly unabashed in his delivery of Chuck's ambition, and he knows exactly how to do it that he throws himself so much into this that he even brings the audience along in his tireless escapade. Douglas makes just how far Chuck goes believable so far that he even forces Leo's flirtatious wife to play the part of the caring spouse. Douglas just has the right forceful intensity, and joy that shows just how much Chuck loves to build the story up that sets the course of going too far. Importantly Kirk Douglas in the scenes where Chuck talks to Leo has subtle moments of morality which Douglas brings to his performance to just the right degree to build to the conclusion of his performance properly.

Near the end of the film when appears Leo may die due to Chuck forcing the delayed rescue Chuck has a moral revelation. Douglas is quite powerful as Chuck quickly breaks down at seeing just what he has created, and sees how low he has fallen. He loses the joy but the intensity stays now in a hatred. A hatred not only of those others who have profited from it like Leo's wife, but as well a hatred of himself due to his behavior. He absolutely delivers in these pivotal scenes showing just how much Leo's fate really does weight on Chuck by the end. It would have been easy to make Chuck to sanctimonious here, or seem out of character. Douglas finds just the right way to play this end to Chuck by never forgetting the self loathing as well as brilliantly building to this point through his subtle moments beforehand. This a strong slick performance by Douglas which knows exactly how to bring the most out of Billy Wilder's script.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1951

And the Nominees Were Not:

Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole

James Mason in The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel 

Alastair Sim in Scrooge

Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train

Farley Granger in Strangers on a Train

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968

5. Oliver Reed in Oliver!- Reed despite not singing actually gives the best performance in his film never failing to bring the menace with his performance.

Best Scene: Bill returns to Fagin after the murder. 
4. Michael York in Romeo and Juliet- York plays Tybalt as well as he really could be through his portrayal of the role with his pompous flamboyant delivery, and his success in bringing more weight to the role than one would expect.

Best Scene: Tybalt and Mercutio sword fight. 
3. Timothy Dalton in The Lion in Winter- Dalton despite having possibly the least screen time of the important characters in the film has one of the strongest impacts giving a powerful portrayal of the vengeful French King.

Best Scene: Henry is shown his children's secrets by Philip. 
2. Anthony Hopkins in The Lion in Winter- The hardest part of this ranking was determining between the two Lion in Winter supporting men who should have been nominated over Jack Wild and especially Daniel Massey. Hopkins is terrific in his role as Richard bringing across the power of the King in the man, but also being very powerful in his depiction of his vulnerabilities as well.

Best Scene: Philip manipulates Richard.
1. Jason Robards in Once Upon A Time in The West- Good Prediction Koook160. Robards gives a great performance in his very important supporting role in this film. He manages to be a humorous presence, an imposing one with some mystery, and even a tender one.

Best Scene: Cheyenne talks about his mother. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Jason Robards in Once Upon a Time in The West
  2. Anthony Hopkins in The Lion in Winter
  3. Timothy Dalton in The Lion in Winter
  4. Seymour Cassel in Faces
  5. Gabriele Ferzetti in Once Upon a Time in The West
  6. John McEnery in Romeo and Juliet 
  7. Oliver Reed in Oliver!
  8. Michael York in Romeo and Juliet
  9. Dirk Bogarde in The Fixer 
  10. Milo O'Shea in Romeo and Juliet
  11. Patrick Wymark in Where Eagles Dare
  12. Percy Rodriguez in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter 
  13. Ian Holm in The Fixer
  14. Douglas Rain in 2001: A Space Odyssey
  15. John Castle in The Lion in Winter
  16. Derren Nesbitt in Where Eagles Dare
  17. Woody Strode in Once Upon a Time in The West
  18. Maurice Evans in Planet of the Apes
  19. Jack Elam in Once Upon a Time in The West
  20. Robert Vaughn in Bullitt
  21. Stacy Keach in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  22. Michael Hordern in Where Eagles Dare
  23. Harry Secombe in Oliver! 
  24. Roddy McDowall in Planet of the Apes
  25. Anton Diffring in Where Eagles Dare
  26. Jack Wild in Oliver!
  27. Gary Lockwood in 2001: A Space Odyssey 
  28. Keenan Wynn in Once Upon a Time in The West
  29. Herb Edelman in The Odd Couple
  30. Karl Hardman in Night of The Living Dead
  31. Robert Beatty in Where Eagles Dare
  32. John Fiedler in The Odd Couple
  33. Donald Houston in Where Eagles Dare 
  34. Hugh Griffith in Oliver!
  35. Frank Wolff in Once Upon a Time in The West
  36. Paolo Stoppa in Once Upon A Time in The West
  37. Daniel Massey in Star
  38. Lionel Stander in Once Upon a Time in The West
  39. Joseph O'Conor in Oliver!
  40. Peter Bogdanovich in Targets
  41. Nigel Terry in The Lion in Winter
Next Year: 1951 Leading

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968: Timothy Dalton in The Lion in Winter

Timothy Dalton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying King Philip II in The Lion in Winter.

In Becket John Gielgud was nominated for portraying Louis VII the King of France who dealt with King Henry earlier also played by Peter O'Toole. This film is not a sequel to Becket, even though due to O'Toole's presence, and the few mentions of Thomas Becket it definitely feels connected. In Becket we saw Louis as a man mistreated by Henry, who only got his revenge in small measured ways. Here we pick up in this particular struggle with Louis's son Philip as played by a young Timothy Dalton, who is visiting Henry to discuss matters of importance to the two countries particularly over who owns what land.

Dalton actually might have the least screen time out of the main players, but that really does not matter because he tears into every scene he has with an incredible ferocity. We first see him in his public greeting with Henry where they both warmly greet one another. Dalton just like O'Toole suggests that in his eyes warmth is the last thing that comes to his mind when it comes to the other King. The public pleasantries soon go away when they retreat to a private quarters to discuss their problems much more openly than before. Dalton knows exactly how to set up his character in this scene to ensure he sets up Philip properly.

Dalton in the first personal scene between Henry and Philip portrays Philip well as a young inexperienced man who wishes to make something for himself. Dalton has a great intensity in his performance that portrays well a passion in Philip to be more than just a pawn to Henry. Dalton is strong here because he shows that Philip is attempting very much is to try to stand on firm ground with Henry, but his inexperience in the matters keeps him from doing so. He is effective in showing that Philip's distaste is obviously far deeper than just on their current negotiations, but there is a powerful hatred in him for Henry that clearly stands for their two countries history but as well from the way Henry does not treat him seriously.

Philip is absent for a great period of time until each of Henry's sons come to negotiate with him to try to steal the crown. Dalton is perfect here as he portrays Philip finally finding away to gain ground. Dalton presents a bit of an inner King come out of himself, that in at least one way is equal to Henry. When Henry's sons Geoffrey, and John try to convince him to go to war in an alliance. Dalton is great in his the ambition he creates within Philip that makes the King instantly seize on the opportunity. Dalton has a forcefulness in his confidence that would fool the brothers that he will agree to the alliance, but Dalton still shows that Philip clearly taking into account what he can do to Henry with the betrayal of his sons.

The scene is his pivotal scene, and it continues when Richard also goes to meet him, and Dalton is brilliant as he shows Philip unfold more of his plan. Dalton is terrific as Philip eases into a tenderness, and Dalton brings this warmth about suddenly but effectively. He makes entirely believable the way Richard breaks down, although again Dalton leaves just the right indication that he is still planning something by having Richard open up in this way. His plans are finally revealed when Henry appears unknowing that his sons are all in the room. Dalton's portrayal of Philip in this scene is excellent as he goes completely on the offensive against Henry and the inexperience has seemed to left.

Dalton makes Philip on the same field as Henry here particularly through his hate he expresses incisively. His hatred not only for his own treatment, but as well a hatred that stems from Henry's treatment of Philip's father. Dalton is very powerful in this scene particularly when he reveals all of the betrayals around him showing that he was only leading on everyone to exact vengeance against Henry. Dalton absolutely nails the moment as Philip reveals his full level of cruelty against everyone, as well as the very important pleasure he takes in hurting all of the men. That is Dalton's last scene but he unquestionably makes the impression he needs to with his performance standing toe to toe with Peter O'Toole, and delivering a great supporting performance.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968: Anthony Hopkins in The Lion in Winter

Anthony Hopkins did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Bafta, for portraying Richard The Lionhearted in The Lion in Winter.

Anthony Hopkins in his film debut takes on the role of the future king of England Richard The Lionhearted. The Lion in Winter is very much a film about its acting with the towering lead performances by Peter O'Toole (who certainly maintains his win for me) as King Henry II and Katharine Hepburn as Queen Eleanor. Than there are the supporting group of younger people including the three surviving sons of the King and Queen, Henry's mistress, and The young King of France Philip. They are the supporting characters, but each of them get their chances to at least attempt to shine on their own.

The performances as the younger two sons are a bit on the one note side. John Castle is descent if a bit uninspired as Geoffrey the son who no one considers for King, but constantly tries to scheme to be able to take the power for himself anyway. Nigel Terry as John is honestly quite terrible. Yes John should be spineless disgusting weasel, but Terry just goes too far to try to portray John. There is no depth to his portrayal and he is entirely one note. Many of Terry's expressions in the role are ridiculously over the top and he is pretty much eaten whole by the rest of the cast in every scene he is in despite his overacting.

Out of the three actors portraying the sons Hopkins is so easily the best. Early on in the film Hopkins makes his presence known as Richard. Where John is the favorite son of Henry, Geoffrey is the best schemer, Richard honestly seems to be the best candidate for King. Where the other two actors are very forceful to get these traits out of their characters it is amazing to see how Hopkins so effortlessly brings Richard's qualities out. Hopkins makes Richard the naturally born King out of the three. He has a certain strength and command in his demeanor, and his voice that creates the type of authority one would expect from a future King.

Hopkins makes Richard seem like the only one of the sons to take the important traits from his father. He does not have the same power that Peter O'Toole as Henry, which makes since as Henry is a man of far greater experience. Hopkins though is able to show that Richard is the man most capable of becoming like Henry, and there are elements of that power within Richard. He has that greater force in his presence and the way he even goes about attempting to win the crown to suggest that this is the Richard who will go on to be the notable King who succeeded Henry.

Hopkins is strong in making the King, but also showing the more personal elements to Richard in relation to his family. Hopkins is quite good in his scenes with Katherine Hepburn as in his eyes he shows that Richard very much does love and care for his mother, but there is still a certain coldness he expresses that is always put first to keep her at distance to fully understand her own scheming. Hopkins is also effective in showing a lack of any of this in his scenes with O'Toole. There he suggests there very cold history together through the way he never seems to let go of his guard down in front of his father.

The one scene where Richard does let his guard down is when he goes to speak with his friend and apparent lover Philip. In this scene Hopkins is excellent as he eases into the way Richard loses his strength, and he powerfully shows the emotions that Richard tries to keep quiet. He is just perfect in a single reaction of heartbreak when Philip tells Henry of the whole affair for only a political prospect. It is a brilliant scene as Hopkins portrays this breakdown in Richard, and he is very moving as Hopkins shows that it even forces Richard to express his own feelings of abandonment toward Henry. It is a great scene because it shows what Richard must hide, but does not compromise his performance either.

Anthony Hopkins gives a great supporting performance here, and honestly one could not ask for a better screen debut. Most of the supporting players in the film are easy to forget in face of the lead but Hopkins (as well as another co-star that I will be getting to soon) absolutely holds his own with his performance. He able to find the complexities of his role in an effortlessly fashion and brings out both the strength of Richard and the weaknesses of him in equal ability. He makes Richard a compelling presence in the film, and realizes him in such a way that I honestly would have liked to follow where Hopkins's Richard would go after this point in his life.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968: Jason Robards in Once Upon a Time in The West

Jason Robards did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Cheyenne in Once Upon a Time in The West.

Sergio Leone's characters in his westerns are usually left with a great deal of mystery, and many of his characters are a man of few words. This is true for that of the drifter Harmonica (Charles Bronson), and the brutal assassin Frank (Henry Fonda) in this film, but here (as he also did in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) has one character a man who does not mind speaking his mind. In this case it is portrayed by Jason Robards a outlaw whose whole character arc seems to be revealing exactly who he is, this also represented by his musical theme which starts out cold and slowly becomes more lively throughout the film as we learn more about Cheyenne.

This film is filled with four classic entrances for the characters that are all just perfect for each character. Cheyenne's first appearance is at a trading post where we hear a gun fight clearly go on outside, and the victor of the gunfight walks in covered in shadow who turns out to be Cheyenne clearly having just escaped from his captors. Robards establishes Cheyenne perfectly in this scene as a very certain type of man. The way he handles the room of somewhat nervous patrons, despite being hand cuffed, is perfect in the way he sets up Cheyenne as a very particular sort of an imposing figure. Robards instantly makes his own particular stamp on the film.

His first scene shows his terrific ability to seem like a dangerous man in the way he quickly moves, and incisively spots any potential threats. Robards is particularly great is when he only points to freeze a man reaching for a gun, and then later uses that man's gun to shoot out his own handcuffs. Robards is excellent having just the right playfulness along with conveying the right sort of threat with Cheyenne as well. It is really brilliant way he sets up Cheyenne here as he makes it possible that he could be hero in the nice bits of humor he puts in his performance, but as well as through his more menacing demeanor he conveys as well.

His next scene he appears to the recently married as well as widowed Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) at her secluded farmhouse to inquire about why her family was murdered, since he and his gang were framed for the killings. His scenes with Cardinale shows much more to Cheyenne, and Robards is great in the way he opens up the outlaw and showing the true nature of the man. The scenes between Robards and Cardinale are quite effectively played particularly by Robards who almost makes them romantic in a way. In these scenes Robards shows Cheyenne to be essentially a good man, despite being a bandit, by just having a great deal warmth in his portrayal of Cheyenne treatment of the very mistreated woman.

Robards's performance here is one of the reasons why this film is as good as it is. As Cheyenne he really brings his all and gives a consistently entertaining performance. The scene where he saves Harmonica well being held by Frank's men is absolutely incredible thanks to each of Robards's reactions as he dispatches each of the men in an efficient as well as comedic fashion. Robards is just very enjoyable throughout, and his scenes with Bronson are great. The two work together brilliantly and they bring out the best of the dialogue through Bronson's more dead pan delivery against Robards's more acerbic method of speaking.

It would have been easy enough to be a scene stealing comic relief, or a weightier more tender depiction of an outlaw with a heart of gold. Robards takes neither approach and instead just goes about doing both. He is amazing in every scene whether it is hilarious back and forth with Bronson about the amount of money Judas got for Jesus, or if it is one of his poignant moments at the end of the film where he brings a great deal of weight to the themes of the film about the end of a certain kind of man in the west, that is particularly powerful why Cheyenne is being so reflective in that moments at the very end of the film.

Jason Robards here knows exactly when and how to make his impact on the film and does it wonderfully well. Where Frank, Harmonica, and Jill we see most of what they do Cheyenne is really the supporting facet of the film because there are many instances where he does something entirely off screen. Robards makes the most of his character in every second he does have, and along with the way his musical theme unfolds Robards unfolds Cheyenne in an equally effective fashion. Robards has the talkative character of the film, and he never wastes that fact. He is always an energetic presence, always a humorous presence, and even one that makes a surprising emotional impact. This is a great performance by Jason Robards that is fitting of his incredible film.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968: Oliver Reed in Oliver!

Oliver Reed did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bill Sikes in Oliver!.

Oliver Reed plays Bill Sikes in this musical version of Oliver Twist, and although the film won best picture he was never going to be nominated as he plays what might be the least favorite type of Oscar character. Bill Sikes is just a despicable character, but without any "redeeming" style in the way he goes about being despicable. Although this is a musical adaptation and many of the characters are fairly lightened up through this adaption particularly Fagin and Artful Dodger, Oliver Reed's portrayal of Sikes makes no concessions for the fact that there is all sorts of singing and dancing around him.

Sikes actually had a song in the original musical, but it was removed from the film. This might have been done because Reed could not sing, but it was probably a good idea to remove Sikes singing making him stand out as a character who does not have a song in his heart. Reed plays Sikes insanely straight, and his portrayal of Sikes would have worked in a down and dirty adaptation of Oliver Twist. He goes for playing the character as Charles Dickens envisioned him. Reed portrayal of him does not ever try to avoid creating the extreme brutality that lies right within the character.

Oliver Reed is quite effective in his performance as Sikes as he brings a quite menace to the part that works for two reasons. One is that he shows the great possibility of violence that Sikes is capable of, and does indeed act upon later in the film. The silence also works because although the menace is there Reed manages to make it believable that the good hearted Nancy (Shani Wallis) would stay with him at all. The reason is in his silence it seems that very well she could easily accept him, and even believes that she loves him as the vicious criminal is not always rapidly apparent.

Reed though carries his menace well into when he talks as well and we see the full extent of the killer inside. He is particularly chilling in the scene where he threatens Fagin by telling what chickens do when their necks are rung off. Reed delivery of this scene is incredibly good, and shows exactly what there is to Sikes. Reed is good in the role because how base evil he is as Sikes who is just a criminal thug, not a mastermind, but capable of horrible deeds anyway. Reed is great as Sikes in the quiet scenes, but he also succeeds at the end of the film when Sikes is a man on the run after having murdered someone.

Reed succeeds well in his last scenes showing Sikes lose his more restrained demeanor at the end, as he becomes almost like an animal in corner as he is chased. Reed is quite good in this scene because after he does the murder it would have been easy enough to show Sikes just keep his demeanor from before. Reed does much more by showing that Sikes definitely knows what he has done.  He might not show remorse exactly for his action he expresses that Sikes understands there is no turning back from what he is done. Reed gives this moment a lot more weight by doing this, and does far more here than was honestly required of Sikes as character. It is a good performance, and despite being the one character who does not sing in this musical he honestly gives the best performance in the film.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968: Michael York in Romeo and Juliet

Michael York did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet.

Michael York is an actor with a very distinct voice that is both posh and pompous sounding to begin with.  This helps in portraying the pompous Tybalt one of the leading men in Capulet clan. Where the other men might go about with various insults to one another, and build to the antagonism Tybalt throws himself full force in it. Tybalt is easy to be just a bully, but York takes this role and makes a most of it from his first scene by showing that Tybalt just completely revels in the idea of conflict. York does not this to portray Tybalt is just evil or anything close to it though, which is how he gets so much out of his role.

York is very energetic in the role with a big smile and a broad manner that really characterizes Tybalt brilliantly for this film. One thing this version of the play really does well is show that the tragedies that occur in the film were not an inevitability by any means. York contributes to this idea well by not portraying Tybalt as sadist in regards to enthusiasm to fight, or even call out his enemy like when he wants to kick Romeo out of a party. Instead York makes him almost a wannabe romantic hero, he wants to brash and big with his fight even if he does not have the slightest idea what he really is fighting for.

Tybalt's manner of course leads him to his fateful duel with Romeo's friend Mercutio (John McEnery). This scene is the highlight of a good film, and a lot of the credit for this deserves to go to York and McEnery. They are terrific as the two go up each other in a duel that is more about theatrical antics and showing up one another in public more than trying to kill each other. The two have a lot of fun in the scene as they both try to show up the other in their technique and style they use. It is a particularly strong scene because both actors show the men are having genuine fun in their act there is no malice making the tragedy all the greater when Tybalt accidentally stabs Mercutio.

York single short reaction to seeing the blood and the blade is absolutely perfect. We see the remorse that Tybalt has for this action, and he makes it clear that murdering Mercutio was never his intention. It actually is a very moving moment despite being a very short one. When Romeo demands vengeance for the death of his friend York is excellent because we see his rage match Romeo yet York subtly infuses a bit of confusion and angst over the whole matter that came about so accidentally. Of course York's performance ends quite quickly after this point, but York has made his impact on the film. His take on Tybalt is unique and quite effective. Although Tybalt still is not the most complex character around York actually manages to get even more than there is out of the character.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968

And the Nominees Were Not:

Anthony Hopkins in The Lion in Winter

Timothy Dalton in The Lion in Winter

Jason Robards in Once Upon a Time in The West

Oliver Reed in Oliver!

Michael York in Romeo and Juliet

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Results

5. Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet- Whiting gives an earnest performance even though he is overshadowed by most of the cast around him.

Best Scene: Romeo sees Juliet for the first time. 
4. Boris Karloff in Targets- Karloff gives an entertaining performance that is a very nice reflection on his entire career.

Best Scene: The old monster stands up to the new one. 
3. Zero Mostel in The Producers- Mostel gives an enjoyable performance that leads his film well being a comedic as well as likable con man.

Best Scene: Max and Leo first meet. 
2. Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple- Matthau gives an entertaining performance which succeeds in creating a memorable dynamic with his co-star Jack Lemmon.

Best Scene: Oscar is finally pushed too far by Felix's behavior.
1. Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in The West- Fonda easily wins from this line up, but I am not sure about the entire year yet. As I will probably be watching the Lion in Winter again soon I'll be able to be sure then. Anyway Fonda is at least gives one of the greatest performances of 1968 by turning his usual screen persona into a very memorable and chilling villianous turn that helps makes his film as great as it is.

Best Scene:  Frank and Harmonica's duel.
  1. Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in The West 
  2. Peter O'Toole in The Lion in Winter
  3. Jack Albertson in The Subject Was Roses
  4. Tatsuya Nakadai in Kill!
  5. Charles Bronson in Once Upon A Time in The West
  6. Alan Bates in The Fixer
  7. Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple
  8. Martin Sheen in The Subject Was Roses
  9. Boris Karloff in Targets
  10. Richard Burton in Where Eagles Dare 
  11. Jack Lemmon in The Odd Couple
  12. Steve McQueen in Bullitt
  13. Cliff Robertson in Charly
  14. Etsushi Takahasi in Kill!
  15. Ron Moody in Oliver!
  16. Alan Arkin in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  17. Duane Jones in Night of the Living Dead 
  18. John Marley in Faces
  19. Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet
  20. Clint Eastwood in Where Eagles Dare
  21. Keir Dullae in 2001: A Space Odyssey
  22. Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes
  23. Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair
  24. Tim O'Kelly in Targets
  25. William Sylvester in 2001: A Space Odyssey
  26. Mark Lester in Oliver!
Next Year: 1968 Supporting 

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet

Leonard Whiting did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Romeo Montague in Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet is a very well made adaptation of the Shakespearean play which has some very inspired moments particularly the Tybalt Mercutio duel. I would say the only weakness of the film is that Romeo and Juliet, despite being probably his most famous, is far from Shakespeare's greatest work.

Romeo like the play itself is far from Shakespeare's most compelling work. He is fairly simple in comparison to the likes of Hamlet, Macbeth or Othello. This at least partially comes from the fact that Romeo and Juliet starts out lightly enough, at least compared to his other tragedies, and Romeo initial problems seem quite small. His problem at the beginning is not that his father has been murdered, but just that he is searching for romance. This is not exactly on the same level of other Shakespearean protagonists.  His troubles really are not at all pressing, unlike those of someone like Hamlet, but Romeo certainly treats as pressing even if it does not deserve to be.

Really the main aim of the actor in these early scenes is not to make Romeo come off as a complete twit. There is no reason to really sympathize with Romeo's want of love as he is very young, and there is obviously plenty of time for the man. Leonard Whiting though avoids making his lonely heart seem to be much by just giving a genuine performance as Romeo. It is not that he really makes Romeo's want for love any less of a bit of foolish endeavor particularly the way he goes about it, but he is genuine in bring to life this youthful exuberance that makes his love make sense in that he plays Romeo as he should be a foolish teenager.

Whiting is earnest in his role that works for Romeo as he goes head first into a love affair with Juliet Capulet despite that their families are feuding. He and Olivia Hussey as Juliet have an effective chemistry together on the level of a foolish love that certainly is full of life, although not overly complex. This works though and does succeed in creating the relationship that leads the two to rush right into marriage after only knowing each other for such a brief period, but as well the sort of relationship that leads them to such tragic circumstance. The two create the proper passion that is overwhelming between the two, but as well the lack of maturity that causes such a tragic path.

Whiting's performance is fairly simple but fitting to Romeo. He has a low key a  charm in the role, and he has the right amount of energy in his portrayal of this youth lost to love. Whiting though is overshadowed though anyway by almost everyone else he comes across whether it is Michael York as Tybalt, John McEnery as Mercutio, or particularly Milo O'Shea as Friar Lawrence. They really have the more interesting characters though, and in a way it is not Romeo's place to stand out in some scenes particularly during the duel of Tybalt and Mercutio where he trying to get between them the entire time. I'm not excusing Whiting for being overshadowed but the film does work just fine with Romeo handled in such a way.

After the fatal duel between Mercutio and Tybalt there are scenes for Whiting to shine a little more on his own. He is good in the duel against Tybalt as he shows it just to be blind rage again that causes him to launch his attack which supports the situation. His scene right after though is his weakest as O'Shea completely owns the scene over Whiting, and Whiting comes off a little weak as he espouses Romeo's insanity. His insanity is only temporary which leads him to the point where he thinks Juliet is dead leading to his own suicide. Whiting handles the suicide scene in an appropriate fashion for Romeo by delivering his final despair in a moving but unassuming matter for the immature Romeo. On a whole this really is a fitting performance for the Romeo written by Shakespeare. There are shaky moments in his performance, he is outshone by most of the cast, but for the most part this performance works for the film.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple

Walter Matthau did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple.

The Odd Couple is probably the best film made out of a Neil Simon play. It tells the story of a recently divorced clean freak Felix (Jack Lemmon) who moves in with his messy friend who also is divorced.

Walter Matthau plays Oscar Felix's messy friend. Matthau apparently wanted to play Felix as the character was far less like his own personality, but Neil Simon forced him to play Oscar. Although it certainly would have been interesting to see Matthau attempt to play a tightly wound guy like Felix, but Matthau simply fits the role of Oscar like a glove. From his first scene he just gets the style down of Oscar who really can't help but be a bit of a slob. In the moment there is not anything about what he does that seems to be reaching in Oscar's messiness Matthau makes Oscar a genuine slob.

Matthau takes a slight comedic pitch throughout his performance that he know how to handle in just the right way. Where Jack Lemmon (Who bests Matthau most of the time when it comes to dramatic roles) sometimes goes a little too far to be funny which he does in just a few moments in this film, particularly in the scene where he tries to clear his head, where is Matthau takes a more natural approach with Oscar. Where Felix is insanely active with his behavior that is fairly extreme whether it is his emotional troubles or his tendency to want to clean everything. Matthau is excellent by taking the easy approach and having Oscar just a laid back sort of guy.

In their first team up, which was The Fortune Cookie, I found that Matthau basically stole the whole movie from Lemmon. In this team up the pairing makes more sense. Although I still feel that Matthau is the one who is crowned best in show they both play off each other well. Where Lemmon takes the more manic approach Matthau knows exactly how to play around this to be effective himself but in a way allow Lemmon's performance to be the way he is. The two set up the dynamic between the two marvelously by showing what makes the two the odd couple in the film in both the way that they are the complete opposites in their manner but as well why exactly they stay together as well.

Where Lemmon makes Felix go on about his own way which fits as Felix is a self-indulgent sort, Matthau really is the glue of the Odd Couple. Matthau finds just the right tone for Oscar throughout the film. He puts just the right amount of heart in his performance to show why Oscar would bother with Felix at all, it is very subtle, but Matthau very nicely adds this important facet to Oscar. Of course he keeps this in line well as this is a mainly comedic performance and in the comedic sense Matthau is terrific in the way he knows exactly when to underplay his role as Oscar but as well he knows when he needs to get a little more flamboyant in the role he knows exactly how to deliver in the role depending on the situation.

Matthau is hilarious in both styles whether it is in his exasperated reactions to Felix or his very well earned moments when he more directly confronts Felix for his antics. Matthau is consistently funny in this role being very likable in his role well still bringing about the uncouthness properly. He fulfills the main function of this role, which is to be humorous, very well yet he does manage even more with his role. He easily inserts the weightier moments well into his portrayal of Oscar without compromising the fact that this is mainly a comic role. This is an entertaining work by Matthau that shows his comedic abilities particularly well and makes the film really work on his shoulders. This is not only in the sense that he brings the material alive in a terrific fashion, but I just can't see how Lemmon could have gone without Matthau in this film.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time In The West

Henry Fonda did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Frank in Once Upon a Time in The West.

Once Upon A Time In The West is in my opinion the greatest western ever made narrowly defeating Sergio Leone's previous film for that title. Anyway the film tells of a mysterious drifter named Harmonica (Charles Bronson) who with a bandit Cheyenne (Jason Robards) try to protect a widow (Claudia Cardinale) from a ruthless assassin who works for a railroad baron (Gabriele Ferzetti).

Henry Fonda who spent his long career usually playing the noble hero of films participates in one of the most extreme casting against types ever used in a film. Fonda not only plays a villain but he plays one of the lowest committed to film. In his first scene we initially witness three members of a family murdered by a mysterious gunmen leaving only the youngest boy of the family alive who is slowly approached by the men and it slowly pans around to reveal the face of their leader which is the face of Henry Fonda as Frank. Frank after seeing that the boy has heard his name only gives a slight smile before murdering the boy too.

This first scene of Frank is just incredible and leaves an undeniable impression. It of course is absolutely brilliant casting and direction to begin with, but Henry Fonda does more than merely being Henry Fonda. In this first scene which basically only shows his face Fonda changes his blue eyes and seasoned face from the man of warmth and love that we usually know to that of an uncompromising evil. His icy blue eyes are particularly striking here because Fonda shows not even the slightest remorse in them from his actions, and he only adds to this pure immorality by having that frightening smile that ever so slightly forms as he slowly about killing the last of the family he has massacred.

Henry Fonda does not reappear for quite some time and it is a testament to the power of his performance that he is not forgotten. He not only forgotten but through relatively limited screen time he actually makes Frank feel like he is one of the leading characters of the film. He makes his stamp in every one of his scenes no matter how much or how little he is in each one. Fonda is brilliant because of how straight arrowed he is in his approach as Frank. He keeps his voice and even his leading man style to a certain degree as Frank yet with all of the humanity removed. It is a truly compelling approach the way he does not reject his earlier performances really. Fonda instead he brings similar facets to his performance, but as a man without a soul.

The manner that he does everything brings to life the brutality of Frank marvelously. The way he goes about ordering deaths without a second the notice. He has moments that are just classic villain moments. He is excellent when Frank disposes of an informant by the way Frank moves almost like a machine as he does this. The absolute lack of hesitations in his portrayal is perfect for the role. One of my favorite moments of his has to be when we first see Frank after the massacre of the family and the rail road baron says it was not necessary. The casual manner that he sits the way he seems to be enjoying himself, and of course his delivery of the line "People scare better when they're dying" makes Frank an absolutely chilling character.

Of course Fonda does not just stop at being an unforgettable villain as Frank as he easily could have he gives even more texture to the part in a fascinating way. One particularly powerful moment that comes from this is when Frank asks what's Harmonica's name, but Harmonica only answers with the names of men Frank has killed. Fonda's reactions as Frank is brilliant because he again does not show remorse about the names but instead as he hears them it is almost like he is being haunted by the men as bring confronted with his crimes is not something Frank is usual to. Fonda shows it as something Frank barely knows what to do with as he leaves almost a confusion in his face that only adds to what Frank is.

Frank is given the chance to be more than a murderer in the film, and Fonda is given the chance to show Frank as more than just that. What is so special about his turn here is that Fonda's revelation about Frank is being brutal assassin is all he can be. Whether it is trying to be a business man with the rail road baron, or even trying to be romantic with the widow of the man he killed Fonda portrays it as entirely out of his element. Where the killing is something Fonda makes as second nature, but doing something a normal man would do is there is a general discomfort shown by Fonda. It is incredible the way that Fonda makes this absolutely work, and shows that the only thing Frank honestly knows is evil.

This is a performance by Fonda that is amazing in the way he turns everything on its head. He is Henry Fonda but as one of the most despicable possible. The affect of this is outstanding to say the least and he has such a visceral in his performance. Fonda being a traditional leading man usually has that charm that pops off the screen so is incredible to see him twist it to be used in such a manner as it is with Frank. He once again has something that pops of the screen but it is not charm this time. Fonda instead brings across the slick cruelty of Frank so easily. He oozes menace with such ease here that is something to watch. He makes Frank such an imposing villain with such an effortlessness, that is really the epitome of his talent.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Zero Mostel in The Producers

Zero Mostel did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, portraying Max Bialystock in The Producers.

Zero Mostel plays the has been theatrical producer who comes with a hair brained scheme, along with his accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), to make a fortune off a flop by overselling a play. Mostel clearly very much has stage routes as he gives a very theatrical performance here with his fairly over the top expressions and wide eyes throughout. This might be a problem for film like say Fiddler on the Roof, yes I do think Topol was the better choice, but this is a comedy after all a rather broad comedy at that. That means that Mostel's manner in this performance is not exactly out of style, and really is fitting of the film's style.

Mostel certainly puts a lot of energy and expression into his performance. This usually fits the various absurd situations he is in whether it is is trying to get finances by wooing old women, or going through the process of making the worst musical imaginable in the form of Springtime For Hitler. Mostel reactions are usually quite enjoyable in his manic delivery. Whether it is the face of surprise or the face of disgust he plays them well deriving the appropriate humor from each and every moment. In fact he even manages to amplify some of the performances in the film through his portrayal of Max's false supportive grins, as well Max's more honest moments of disbelief.

Mostel has a lot of fun with his portrayal of all the scheming that he participate in. He puts a lot of joy and enthusiasm of his performance that makes it pretty easy to follow old Max and Leo through their scheme that is cheating old ladies out of their money. With his flint in his eye and his endearing smile Mostel makes Max an appropriately likable schemer. A schemer that despite the nature of his scheme being quite despicable to say the least we as the audience can go along with quite easily, than we can somehow even feel sorry for when his scheme ends up failing in the end. He handles both the happy and the sad with the appropriate humor for Max.

Throughout the film he has excellent chemistry with Gene Wilder as Bloom. Mostel does well actually though by toning down his performance ever so slightly when going toe to toe with Wilder, as it is impossible to out manic the master of manic, Gene Wilder. They play well off of each other in both the scenes where they are working together as they create a fairly genuine friendship between the two, and the scenes where they fight. These scenes are particularly hilarious as each insults each with Wilder doing his insanity like a master, and Mostel going against him with somewhat downplayed insanity quite well as well.

Mostel gives an entertaining lead performance here I will say though he is not my very favorite part of the film just one of the aspects within it that I quite enjoy. Wilder really does hold a better command of film as a medium and I will say that he does get a little more comedy out of his role. Nevertheless this should not suggest that I have any problems with Mostel at all, he really is very good in his role that is fitting for the sort of comedy that the Producers is. To be up shown a by Wilder is not really a criticism against Mostel, as Mostel definitely gives a very enjoyable performance on his own, and not being quite the funniest in this film isn't a problem.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Boris Karloff in Targets

Boris Karloff did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Byron Orlok in Targets.

Targets tells the coinciding stories about an aging Horror film icon who sees himself as a relic, and that of a normal looking man who goes on a killing spree. It's an intriguing and effective film, although it ironically is rather dated, and I would say a better film definitely could be made based on the same idea.

This is what most would consider Boris Karloff's swan song performance. He actually was in a handful more film after this one, but this was definitely a significant one as it really allowed him to reflect on his whole career. Where Bela Lugosi ended his career with Plan 9 from Outer Space as a has been who had faded in obscurity leaving Martin Landau to give the performance of self reflection in Ed Wood. The interesting thing is Karloff got to do it himself as he never became a has been having a career very much to the end of his life. He might not have held the same popularity like the start of his career but he never went the way of Lugosi.

Karloff as Byron Orlok, who is Karloff in every way except for the fact that Karloff was never fed up with the film industry the way Orlok is, of course has a credibility and weight no other actor could have held at the time. Karloff as the film star, who still is playing the heavies of old, is quite an interesting performance that utilizes the whole idea of Karloff as a monster well. One of the interesting parts of Karloff is that despite playing monsters throughout his career he had such a nice and tender voice. Karloff shows very much the man who created the monsters a man, who does not have a monster in him at all.

This film creates the dynamic of going back and forth between the very brutal scenes of the psychotic killer than showing the fairly lighthearted scenes of Orlok. Karloff plays these very well because he really doesn't stress the whole negativity to the film industry too much, and he doesn't show it as something Orlok is in despair about either. Karloff stays fairly light, and very likable as Orlok. In regards to his retirement Karloff portrays it more of Orlok as just not seeing the point of making his types of films. He is very gentle in reflecting this discontent, as it is not something that is constantly troubling him, but he is very firm about this sentiment.

Karloff instead of focusing on just the depressing qualities of the character, actually is pretty good at showing a fonder memories of film career in key moments that show he most certainly does have a love his work, its just the general change in the world that has left him with his feelings of pointlessness. There is a nice comedic touch to his performance as well that lightens up the film a bit from the humorless murder scenes. He has a nice bit of fun in his scenes with Peter Bogdanovich as a young writer whose film Orlok has decided not to do. In their scenes together Karloff has a some good moments just poking at his persona without ever going too far with it either keeping the right tone for his part of the film.

Karloff mostly does this likable work as the slightly tired, but still charming Orlok for most of the film, but there are two scenes where we see him perform. One is in an interview where to make things interesting he tells a scary story, it is a lot of fun to see Karloff in a seconds notice on the scary voice and we see him perform. The other time he does this is when the two stories meet and Orlok directly confronts the sniper. It is a bit of an absurd scene, but Karloff sells it through his portrayal of Orlok once again by bringing out the performance as the monster of old. This really is not an especially complex performance by Karloff but it is a very nicely handled enjoyable performance that acts as interesting reflection on his career.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1968

And the Nominees Were Not:

Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple

Zero Mostel in The Producers

Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in The West

Boris Karloff in Targets

Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Results

5. Jack Black in Bernie- Black gives a very different performance here going head first into creating a unique character who is believable as both the nicest man but also a murderer.
4. Liam Neeson in The Grey- Neeson gives a strong performance capitalizing well on his physical, but as well giving a powerful emotional portrayal as well.
3. Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe- McConaughey proves himself more than capable as an actor through his oddly charming and at the same time freighting performance as a cop who does not mind killing for money on the side.
2. Denis Lavant in Holy Motors- Lavant gives a very different type of performance switching breathlessly from one character never stopping for a moment. It is a striking performance that is absolutely fascinating to watch.
1. Jean Louis Trintignant in Amour-Trintignant gives a quiet very restrained performance that is very moving and poignant while having a perfect chemistry with his co-star Emmanuelle Riva. A strong year for leading performances, and the academy did a pretty good job of selecting them too they nominated six deserving leading performances even if two were in the supporting category.
Overall Rank:
  1. Joaquin Phoenix in The Master and Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt (TIE)
  2. Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
  3. Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
  4. Jean Louis Trintignant in Amour
  5. Denis Lavant in Holy Motors
  6. Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
  7. Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone
  8. Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe
  9. Liam Neeson in The Grey
  10. Mad Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair
  11. Choi Min-sik in Nameless Gangster   
  12. Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio
  13. Jack Black in Bernie
  14. John Hawkes in The Sessions
  15. Tom Holland in The Impossible
  16. Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi  
  17. Martin Freeman in The Hobbit  
  18. Mel Gibson in Get the Gringo 
  19. Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook 
  20. Jake Gyllenhaal in End of Watch
  21. Michael Pena in End of Watch
  22. Richard Gere in Arbitrage
  23. Frank Langella in Robot and Frank 
  24. Mikkel Følsgaard in A Royal Affair
  25. Daniel Craig in Skyfall 
  26. Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables   
  27. Tom Courtenay in Quartet
  28. Jack Reynor in What Richard Did
  29. Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street 
  30. Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street 
  31. Charlie Creed-Miles in Wild Bill 
  32. Dane DeHaan in Chronicle
  33. Colin Farrell in Seven Psychopaths
  34. Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly
  35. Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises
  36. Tom Hardy in Lawless
  37. Karl Urban in Dredd  
  38. Gael Garcia Bernal in NO
  39. Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers
  40. Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers 
  41. Seann William Scott in Goon
  42. Ben Affleck in Argo
  43. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper 
  44. Chris Evans in The Avengers 
  45. Jared Gilman in Moonrise Kingdom
  46. Christopher Walken in Stand Up Guys 
  47. Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower   
  48. Will Poulter in Wild Bill
  49. Emile Hirsch in Killer Joe
  50. Chris Hemsworth in The Avengers 
  51. Clive Owen in Shadow Dancer
  52. Zach Galifianakis in The Campaign
  53. Will Farrell in The Campaign  
  54. Paul Brannigan in The Angels' Share
  55. Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher
  56. Denzel Washington in Flight
  57. Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock
  58. Al Pacino in Stand Up Guys
  59. Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained
  60. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush
  61. Robert Pattison in Cosmopolis 
  62. Sacha Baron Cohen in The Dictator 
  63. Steve Oram in The Sightseers
  64. Alex Russell in Chronicle
  65. Mark Duplass in Safety Not Guaranteed
  66. Bill Murray in Hyde Park On Hudson
  67. Shia LaBeouf in Lawless
  68. Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables 2
  69. Will Smith in Men in Black 3 
  70. Chapman To in Vulgaria
  71. Zac Efron in The Paper Boy
Next Year: 1968 lead

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Liam Neeson in The Grey

Liam Neeson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Ottway in The Grey.

The Grey is a bleak film about a group of men who attempt to survive after a plan crash in Alaska, all the while being hunted by a group of vicious wolves. Hardly a perfect film, but I thought it was pretty effective survival/disaster film, a genre that I am not a big fan of.

Liam Neeson is an actor who definitely has had a most unusual career path. His earliest claims to fame where his leading performances in very dramatic pictures like Schindler's List, and Michael Collins. He drifted briefly into the role of the go to mentor in films like Gangs of New York, and the Phantom Menace among many others. Than suddenly he became a badass action hero despite being over fifty years old. The Grey represents this transition well as very much physical work is required of him here, but in this case his performances of old are harkened back by the dramatic core found in his character here as well.

Neeson portrays John Ottway who works as a wolf hunter to protect oil drillers. This is a rather unique lead to have in a survival film as usually the leads of such films slowly become pessimistic in some way through the failures and deaths during their attempts to survive. Ottway on the other hand starts out as suicidal and early on considers suicide to the point that he even sticks his rifle into his mouth, but he stops just before doing so. It is an odd place to start with Ottway, but Neeson knows how to handle it by internalizing this dread in Ottway in fashion that it is right in the man's bones. 

The depression Ottway is facing as well as his heartbreak over the death of his wife is only portrayed just about silently by Neeson. He does this really quite well by showing it very much as state of that Ottway is in. He is not necessarily depressed in the way an average man would be but Neeson shows Ottway to be a very hard man from the get go. It would be wrong for him to be excessively emotional in this moment, particularly since Ottway seems to be clearly a loner, but Neeson still conveys the pain that creates this depression in a way that is perfectly fitting for Ottway.

After the plane crash though Ottway sort of gets a sense of purpose which is just basic survival. Neeson has a certain type of presence here that few actors these days are able to deliver on. What that is is being a real man's man. Neeson makes Ottway as such and he just oozes in strength of will in his portrayal as a man who is willing to fight wolves with only a stick and a shotgun shell. He makes Ottway's ability to press on and even suggest fighting the wolves something that is entirely believable. Neeson simply has the conviction in his performance to make Ottway the survivalist he should be.

One of the best indications of Neeson unique presence is the way that he sets up Ottway as the defacto leader of the surviving men. Neeson does not leave it as something that can even be questioned he has just such a great command with his performance, that even though he is older than the others he easily is the one who stands the strongest in the situation. Neeson absolutely delivers in this way, and his scenes where he puts one of the other survivors in his place who is acting particularly rebellious. Neeson has such an assurance in his performance that he makes it abundantly clear that Ottway will stay absolutely in charge.

Neeson knows how to be both an imposing figure as Ottway, but also with just the right amount of vulnerability to allow us to sympathize with his plight as well. Neeson though is very good because he never compromises for either. When he does let us in on his internal emotions he still very much keeps the strengths of Ottway in view. In the more philosophical moments of the film Neeson is strong because he marvelously balances both cynicism and optimism in Ottway. Yes a great deal of what he says is gloom filled, but Neeson is terrific in showing that there is a spark of hope in Ottway that hope that really is what keeps him going during the film.

This is a performance that very much has the challenge of realizing the personal struggle of Ottway while moving along with the pressing physical struggle. Neeson is quite good in doing this as he gives the short moments throughout to realize this part of Ottway. It does not come out fully until near the end of the film where Ottway is the last man standing. There are two scenes in a row where Neeson breaks the conviction to survival that Ottway expressed earlier. By building quietly to this point Neeson is quite powerful when Ottway breaks down asking God for help. It is a powerful scene with Neeson showing in this moment that Ottway despite holding to this point is almost at his end.

That louder moment by Neeson though is trumped by his very last scene which is almost silent. The scene depicts Ottway examining and piling the wallets of the fallen. It is a moving scene in which Neeson brings all the poignancy the moment needs. The film has many deaths, and Neeson in this moment gives them the weight they deserve. This quickly leads to the moment in which Ottway is face with the Alpha Wolf. Neeson is terrific as he portrays that spark of hope at the end fuels him to make Ottway make at least one more stand. Although the ending is sudden Neeson honestly is the one who earns through his performance as it powerfully finishes Ottway's journey from a suicidal man to one who stands and fights even when death seems like an inevitability. Neeson gives a strong performance creating a portrait of great confidence, and a certain weakness leading this film in an entirely convincing manner that fits the film's tone perfectly.

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Denis Lavant in Holy Motors

Denis Lavant did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a few critic awards, for portraying Mr. Oscar in Holy Motors.

Holy Motors is a very strange film about a man who goes around to different appointments where he performs some sort of scene. A bizarre film at concept level but one that I found fairly intriguing and entertaining.

Denis Lavant's performance here is really the most performance orientated performance of the year. The closest performance I can really think of that is similar to it is Joel Grey in Cabaret. That is to say there really is not really a character arc with his character, because most of what Mr. Oscar does is dress up and turn himself into other characters to fill his appointments. Mr. Oscar is himself a character, but his time is limited and even when there seems to be something that is his it only turns out to be another appointment after all. The strength of this work is really very much the performing he puts into each of these various appointments.

Lavant is a very physical performer here as he creates each of these character per appointment. Lavant makes most of the Cloud Atlas performers seem like rank amateurs compared to his portrayals here. Although in this case it is clear that Oscar is playing each and every one of these characters as he clearly puts on makeup, takes it off, changes his clothes, uses different props to become these various characters, Lavant is seamless in the exchanges. Whenever he goes about becoming a different character no matter what or who it may be he doesn't seem to even blink as he changes one character for the next in a matter of seconds.

Lavant really does it all here in each face and body that he dons. The incredible thing about his performance is he does not just change his make up he himself changes for every single depiction. He changes his way of speaking to illustrate each character, each character that speak that is. He is well changes the body language for each, rarely do any of them quite stand or move the same way. It is remarkable the ease and natural quality he is able to bring to each character, which is quite necessary to pull off each and every character as some of them sort of throw you off guard when it turns out one that seemed so truthful was yet just another character for Mr. Oscar.

It is amazing the way he can go from the stone faced Oscar to any one of these characters. I would say one of the most effective transformations probably is that he goes from basically a monster like man that Lavant gives all the creepiness it deserves along with the unpredictability, but than his next assignment is that of a father trying to deal with his daughter. Lavant starts with a profound intensity as the monster that he creates vividly with his mannered walk, and deranged face. Than he becomes a father with all the warmth required of the man, but he as well reflects the struggle the father has to try to deal with his daughter properly after she lies to him.

It is incredible the way Lavant can be equally effective in both absurdest creation like the monster as he is in the far more down to earth character of the father. Of course it does not end there he can quickly go from even one type of gangster to another, and seem like two entirely different characters. He is able to be the cold brutal gangster mercilessly stabbing a man than setting up the corpse as himself, just as easily as a totally manic one who goes out randomly on the street shooting man. Again he portrays each with the same efficiency same, energy, and a great deal of style that is certainly something fascinating to watch.

Lavant just keeps going with this performance, and no matter what the situation he nails whatever he is required for whether it a song number, a bizarre motion capture performance the last moments of a dying man, or even a man who lives with monkeys. There never is a flop for him he just gives every single character its own unique style fitting to the situation. This film is a cluster of things, and the only overlying thing is the general oddity of it all. Lavant acts as the most strange type of anchor, as we can hardly identify with a man who is constantly changing his personality, but what Lavant does is he meets each tone no matter how much it may switch.

There is a sort of a more of a traditional anchor which is when Lavant is in the base form as Mr. Oscar who is a pretty simple character, yet Lavant plays him exactly as he should. That is he is the dead pan center who seems somewhat exasperated and all around weary of the whole concept which pretty much reflects the tireless efforts of Oscar's performances. He makes Oscar the base point he should be on which all the other things he becomes are layers upon this man. It is pretty brilliant because Lavant is able to portray both the other characters as entirely characters on their own, yet still show the way that Oscar does go in and out of these characters.

This is certainly a performance to behold as he absolutely throws himself into every second of this film. Lavant never plays it safe here and takes the risk of never exactly being the same. He in so many moments is a brilliantly silent actor throwing himself into a character telling so much simply through the way his body moves across a scene. In another scene though he will internalize and express the more hidden struggles of one of his characters. It is striking the way he can accomplish both these style, and many more styles in between without any hesitations in the matter. For Lavant here there is never a emotion too small express or an act too big to give it his all.

This is definitely not the type of performance I am usually accustomed to reviewing, as Lavant really never is a single thing here. He is funny, he is sad, he is entertaining, he is scary, he is everything that he needs to be and more as Mr. Oscar and the characters that Mr. Oscar portrays. This is a performance that is something quite unique, and one performance that is fascinating just to watch and see him go through his procession of acts from the strange to the realistic. This is a great performance that fearlessly dives right in never limiting himself going off on a limb with this work and staying there without ever even risking falling off.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Jack Black in Bernie

Jack Black did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a golden globe, for portraying Bernie Tiede in Bernie.

Bernie is a enjoyable dark comedy about a small Texas town's "nicest" man who befriends the town meanest woman and eventually murders her.

Jack Black as a an actor, being comedian, usually gives the same time of performance that is rather over the top, and usually to some degree excessive. That's why its quite interesting to him in this role as Bernie Tiede a friendly mortician who is the type of guy who seems to be on good terms with just everybody in town. Jack Black gives an extremely restrained performance here, and where many of his other films he plays basically the same character in a Woody Allen type of way. In this film he goes about making very unique characterization as Bernie Tiede. From the beginning of the film it is clearly a very different by Jack Black.

Black takes on Bernie with the utmost conviction, and sets about being Bernie from his first scene to his last. Black does an interesting thing here which is he gives both a flamboyant performance in one respect, but as well gives a very realistic performance as Tiede. With his very specific high pitched pleasant accent, and his modest manner of walking and standing he makes a very particular sort of man. Black makes Bernie perhaps a man you see often but you do not know personally. He makes Bernie a genuinely pleasant sort, unassuming in his pleasantness, energetic yet never seems to be forcing himself on you with his enthusiasm.

What works about this performance so much is how fully he goes about as Bernie everything that he does is fully in the Bernie fashion, which is with this almost strange grace and pleasantness that is almost always persistent. Black is great the way he pierces right through with this characterization always staying true to it, and never breaking it when it would be possible for some sort of cheap laugh. In a way, which is interesting for Black, and rather strange that he is Bernie, is the straight man. Where the Greek chorus of town's people will humorously comment on a situation Black always has Bernie being Bernie no matter what the situation may be.

Black makes Bernie very much a man you would see often but you do not know him completely and Black is excellent the way he creates and keeps the mystery of Bernie. Black lets us meet Bernie but just like the community come to very much like him, but he the truth of this man is kept as quite a secret. Such things as whether or not he is gay, and why exactly he spends so much time with the rich widow Mrs. Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) are given suggested answers by Black, but it would be wrong to give definitive answers. As he makes Bernie very much a man who always stays as the self contained Bernie should be. 

The core of his performance though comes down to his portrayal of Bernie's relationship with Nugent which ends with her death. At first Black portrays it as Bernie being friendly with her as he would just about anyone. Time goes on and it becomes something deeper. Bernie stays consistently friendly yet Black is excellent as he slowly builds an apparent bitterness in Bernie. He keeps this all incredibly subtle yet he slowly and properly builds to the point when Bernie finally murders her. What is particularly effective of ti all is that Bernie still tries to keep a happy face right up until the murder, and even after it.

Black is very good in the murder scene as his delivery and expression suggests that of almost that of an impulse especially evidenced by his immediate breakdown. Black's portrayal of the scene is the only way it would really fit Bernie. He does not change Bernie after this event, and the way the murder takes place supports this lack of change. Black shows that Bernie basically just lost himself so to speak, so much so that he came to murder her. It is really a perfectly handled scene by Black, and absolutely succeeds in showing how a man who seems as pleasant as Bernie does could go about and murder someone so suddenly.

After the pivotal scene Black is excellent in portraying Bernie trying his very best to go on his merry way, but handles the guilt that lies within him well. When Bernie is finally caught and is faced with his crimes Black is very moving particularly in his scene where Bernie confesses revealing his pain and anger toward Mrs. Nugent very effectively. Importantly again though Black has Bernie attempt to stay his way which he does for the most part, even when being grilled in court which Black handles with the utmost delicacy showing Bernie go very closely to breaking but still able to keep it together. Black makes this character entirely believable. He is both the nicest man in town and the murderer. He is able to be funny while being an entirely serious portrayal of the man. This is very strong work from Black, and hopefully like Matthew McConaughey, it is only an indication of things to come from the actor.