Thursday, 30 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Dirk Bogarde in The Servant

Dirk Bogarde did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a Bafta and placing second for NYFCC, for portraying Barrett in The Servant.

The Servant is an intriguing film about the relationship between a young rich man Tony (James Fox) and his butler although I do not think the ending is the weakest part of the film.

Dirk Bogarde plays the butler and his performance is what makes the film. This is not a simple butler in any respect as we from the first scene where he walks in on his new prospective employer. As he walks in his face is that of a harder man with a bitterness and a definite attitude toward the man and his surroundings. When Tony though notices Barrett there is an immediate change in Barrett as Bogarde portrays Barrett the butler. In just this subtle change in manner we see almost tow different men in this one man. Bogarde sets up this dynamic instantly and with just the way he walks in the room sets the stage for his character's path which is a fascinating one to watch.

As the butler Bogarde turns Barrett into a gentleman's gentleman. His face is that of kindness and consideration. When asked if he enjoys the work he says with a nice smile that he does and Bogarde portrays Barrett's manner is being something that Tony would entirely believe. His posture and his face is that of the servant who loves to do his job in his own meek way. He will come in and out of rooms with his eyes in a most pleasant stare as he observes and takes care of his employer. Everything about Bogarde's performance is that of the type of man who seems perfect for his job, he is always modest and humble.

Bogarde's Barrett is not only that of the butler though and although in his performance he makes it entirely believable that Tony would accept him there is that underlying feeling that there is more to Barrett that it might seem there should be. When he is not in the eyes of Tony or when he is out Bogarde portrays a very different Barrett. This Barrett is almost the opposite of the other man. Bogarde makes him a harsh fellow with unsavory eyes and expression. He is even quite vulgar in his harsh manner that does not mind telling someone exactly what he thinks. He is forceful and rather frank and this Barrett shares almost nothing in common with the other.

The genius of Bogarde's performance is that he does make this all in one man. It does not seem unnatural or unbelievable at any point. He creation of the facade is something special that Bogarde uses as something that shows the nature of Barrett. He is a man putting on just a show when he is the butler who puts it on with his kind face, but the real man is nothing like the kind butler. This dynamic that Bogarde is rather disconcerting if only because he does it so well. It would be one thing if there was not the connection, but Bogarde makes the connection. The unnatural change in the man is made completely natural in Bogarde's portrayal which is what makes it so striking.

As the film proceeds though the true nature of Barrett is revealed to Tony and Bogarde is quite powerful in the way he adjusts his performance when this occurs. There is no holding back in any way when it comes to the less savory qualities of Barrett and any notion of the kind servant is lost. Borgarde is fierce and uncompromising in his portrayal of Barrett finally unleashes his discontent with his employer that he has only bottled up until now. The moment is given the punch it needs due to the extreme nature of the change that Bogarde portrays in Barrett, but as well due to that Bogarde does entirely succeed in showing this as the truth revealed more than anything else.

Interesting enough after he is fired Barrett quickly asks for his job again and this is a short but pivotal scene for Bogarde. Bogarde places the facade again of sorts as that kind face returns as he grovels for his return, but it is not exactly the same man. He is not nearly as well put together in his butler style, and shows it as a mix of trying to put it on through desperation but within that desperation is an inability to really be the butler we saw the beginning. It is an effective scene due to Bogarde as he portrays both Barrett's inability to really maintain his original act that he had created, but as well he shows the movement toward a Barrett who is more truthful pulling back from the extremes he forced himself in at the beginning.

Anything left of the facade is gone by the next scenes which are a strange set of scenes where the relationship between Tony and Barrett quite dramatically. They become more like two bickering buddies rather than master and servant, but more importantly than that Barrett is the dominate buddy. Bogarde's work here is remarkable as he shows the true Barrett who is much more casual than before. He is no longer the nice faced servant or the bitter man filled with repression. He refutes both into just a far more normalized man that absolutely works and makes sense to be the result for Barrett. Bogarde's performance is that of man who just pretty much does not care any more and just might as well get along in his own way.

The whole set up of the servant and the master changing roles could easily have seemed rather forced, but it does not feel this way at all due to Bogarde's performance. What Bogarde shows to be the main reason for this change in relationship is merely his greater force in personality. They both appear as very different versions of their earlier selves both being far more emotionally charged. Bogarde shows this as the strength of Barrett's personality is able to win out but importantly also portrays this personality as something else from the original embittered man. He is able to say anything he wants therefore he can do anything he wants and Barrett makes him in the end have the emotions as before but it a way both much more muted since he can express them whenever he wishes.

This is a great performance by Dirk Bogarde that creates a fascinating character out of the servant. The transition of his character in both his relationship to the master but as well his own personal transition is intriguing in the unique fashion that Borgarde portrays it. This is an amazing characterization by Bogarde, the way Bogarde's reveals the layers of his character as well as rids himself of them is outstanding. He always remains believable in the role despite the long leap his character takes from his entrance to the end. There is not a skipping point but rather a full realization of not only what the servant becomes but as well why he was the way he was from the beginning.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Toshiro Mifune in High and Low

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying King Gondo in High and Low.

High and Low is an amazing film about a wealthy shoe executive who must deal with a kidnapper who claims to have abducted his son.

Toshiro Mifune this time appears as King Gondo the wealthy shoe executive who we first meet as he speaks to his fellow executives about the path for their company. Although he plays a rich man who could be seen as a lager than life sort Mifune actually gives one of his most downplayed performances. In his first scene Mifune makes an important impact as Gondo listens to the idea of his fellow executives which stresses cheating the consumer and making an inferior product. In the scene Gondo at first simply just listens to their plan but then quickly refutes their ideas as wrong. Mifune is very good in portraying the quiet but very forceful passion in the man. Although it may seem a silly even for a man to be so passionate over something as simple as shoes Mifune's earnest portrayal not only makes this believable but sets up Gondo as man who stands up for what he believes in.

Mifune is an actor who seems to consider the body language of a man when creating a character. This is something so natural in his performances that you might not even notice it but it does wonders in telling use both who this man is as well as where it is that he comes from. This is the calmest of all the characters that I have looked at so far, as even the good doctor in The Quiet Duel had a ferocity within his emotional repression, but even in this calmer performance it still reflects the nature of this man. In this time he plays a man who is able to be calm and peace of himself so he can sit still and think and listen very easily. At the same time in this manner though there is a power of personality in King Gondo. Mifune in the way he sits and observes as well as speaks his mine shows an astute and intelligent man ready to fight for what he wants.

Gondo after laying about his plan to seize the show company out from his rival executives though suddenly learns from a phone call that his son has been kidnapped. Mifune's performance in this moment is exactly what it should be. He is nothing but raw emotions as he tries to deal with this sudden turn of events. Mifune doesn't hold back and properly shows that Gondo is absolutely turn about about his son and honestly will do anything to get him back no matter what it takes from him. There is not any thinking or calculation shown in Mifune here instead it is purely the gut reaction of the man as he can think of nothing other than the safety of his son leaving him a nervous emotional wreck who will do just anything he can to try and save his son from harm.

The early twist of the film though occurs in which is that his son has not been kidnapped but instead by accident the son of his chauffeur. Mifune is excellent in his depiction of the change in Gondo as he gains back his composure. Mifune is very good in portraying the change of gears in the man who is relieved almost completely although with still a small seed of concern as he realizes that his chauffeur's son is still in danger. There is quite the change though back to his old manner. Mifune is careful though to show that although Gondo has regained his composure but that it is not that he is not caring about the situation still. Mifune properly sets up the beginning of Gondo's personal struggle with the situation as the kidnapper still demands the same payment even though he has the wrong child.

The succeeding scenes involve Gondo dealing with the idea of whether he will still pay for the life of a child even though it is not his own son and as well giving up the money will ruin his deal with the shoe company and could cost him his lifetime of accomplishments. Mifune is perfect here because of how well he realizes this struggle. How he got to this point was essential though in that Mifune always keeps Gondo as a respectful and decent human being. When speaking of his deal he never seemed to be ruthless businessman, but rather an honest man who both wanted to do what he thought was right but as well gain something he has rightfully worked to his whole life. Mifune creates the utmost sympathy for Gondo without ever seeming to plead for it and while still completely making him the shrewd business man he should be.

The sympathy that Mifune creates for Gondo is essential as he really brings us right into this personal struggle that he is facing. It never feels easy just to throw the money away or just to simply pay off the kidnapper. Mifune allows us to see exactly where Gondo is coming from with what this pay off will mean and he makes the difficult decision that it should be. Gondo if played poorly could have seemed just selfish, but Mifune in his very humanistic turn here powerfully brings to life the emotions going on inside the man's head. Mifune never makes it easy and his portrayal of this conflict within himself is truly something special to behold. The set of scenes are basically a showcase of Mifune's performance and he never once disappoints in bringing the power to the proceedings.

There is not a moment in the very intense scenes of negotiation with the kidnapper or his own deliberations that Mifune does not bring the great weight of the situation. He is absolutely brilliant as Gondo as he calculates every path and honestly looks at the situation. At first he keeps pressing that he cannot use his money no matter what and Mifune never makes this seem like selfishness. In eyes and his pained delivery we see that this is a real loss for Gondo and it is something that goes far beyond monetary loss for him. The fear in Gondo is made truthful and never self absorbed. He makes this decision which Gondo is making as hard as it would be. Even as he states his decision firmly and states his position well, Mifune is terrific in creating the poignancy as the empathy in Gondo for his chauffeur is harder to forget than what losing the money will do to him.

Mifune's portrayal of Gondo's good nature slowly coming through and making him do the right thing is masterful. Mifune does not rush it instead quietly portraying his conscious pulling him the right direction. Mifune's depiction of it is outstanding as he honestly shows the whole struggle in the man and that even when he makes this choice he brings across the true consequences of it all in the man. Not an element of the situation is lost in Mifune's performance. The thoughts of his business and his dream, his future from paying the ransom as well his thoughts for his chauffeur's son are all there at once. The tremendous burden is all there in Mifune's performance, when he finally gives the go ahead to pay we feel just how much Gondo had to go through to reach this point.

This is rather unique for an actor/director collaboration as this film is almost structured as the first half being Mifune's showcase then the second half being Kurosawa's showcase as Mifune becomes almost a ghost for the second half of the film. He is a ghost in that he goes missing for long passages as the film goes about finding the kidnapper leaving King Gondo nothing to do other than wait. He is also a ghost in that when we do see him Mifune powerfully portrays him as a shattered man who can only watch as his life's accomplishments fall apart. Mifune may not appear much but it is actually a testament to the strength of his performance that we do not forget him. Due to his flawless portrayal of Gondo's internal battle he fuels the motivation to see through the external battle to get the criminal.

Mifune does not appear much at all in the second half but we remember him. He comes back for the very important final scene where he finally comes face to face with the kidnapper. Mifune leaves King Gondo as a different man we saw from the beginning as well as the one we saw in the middle. Mifune makes him a combination of the two showing that the experience will not be something he ever forgets, but in the sadness there is the return of that pride in himself that gives hope for his future. His final talk with the kidnapper is a extraordinary scene for both actors with the kidnapper (Tsutomu Yamazaki) positing a searing hate and discontent toward the man which Mifune counteracts through his subtle expression that suggests Gondo's confusion as well as sympathy for a man he never did any harm to. It is a spectacular end to Mifune's performance that drives this great film even through the long periods when he is not even in it. This poignant turn may in fact be my favorite performance by the legendary Toshiro Mifune.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1963

And the Nominees Were Not:

Toshiro Mifune in High and Low

Dirk Bogarde in The Servant

Steve McQueen in The Great Escape

Tom Courtenay in Billy Liar

Marcello Mastroianni in 8 1/2

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Alternate Best Supporting 1948: Results

5. Lionel Barrymore in Key Largo- Barrymore gives a good performance who brings appropriate weight to the situations of his film.

Best Scene: Temple literally stands up to Rocco. 
4. Robert Ryan in Act of Violence- A limited but effective turn of man filled with hate but also haunted by horrors.

Best Scene: Joe tells about his connection with Frank. 
3. James Stewart in Rope- Although he was miscast Stewart though still gives it his all and manages to still deliver an effective turn.

Best Scene: Cadell sees what his theories has created. 
2. Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo- The role fits like a glove and Robinson properly delivers as the villainous gangster.

Best Scene: Rocco tries to ignore the hurricane. 
1. Alec Guinness in Oliver Twist- Guinness is almost invisible in his role as Fagin through his natural depiction of the character's age and particular manner. He only adds to through his ability to be warm and charming while being an evil schemer.

Best Scene: Fagin catches Oliver looking at his treasure chest. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  2. Alec Guinness in Oliver Twist
  3. Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo
  4. James Stewart in Rope
  5. Robert Ryan in Act of Violence
  6. Lionel Barrymore in Key Largo
  7. Ward Bond in Fort Apache
  8. Enzo Staiola in Bicycle Thieves
  9. Richard Conte in Call Northside 777
  10. Lon Chaney Jr. in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
  11. Bela Lugosi in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein 
  12. Cecil Kellaway in The Luck of the Irish
  13. Richard Haydn in Sitting Pretty
  14. Dan O'Herlihy in Macbeth
  15. Denis O'Dea in The Fallen Idol
  16. Jack Hawkins in The Fallen Idol
  17. Basil Sydney in Hamlet 
  18. Leo Genn in The Snake Pit  
  19. Reisaburo Yamamoto in Drunken Angel
  20. Charles Bickford in Johnny Belinda
  21. Walter Brennan in Red River
  22. Henry Stephenson in Oliver Twist
  23. Stanley Holloway in Hamlet
  24. Thomas Gomez in Key Largo  
  25. Bruce Bennett in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  26. Marius Goring in The Red Shoes
  27. Victor McLaglen in Fort Apache
  28. Lee J. Cobb in Call Northside 777
  29. Cedric Hardwicke in Rope 
  30. Terence Morgan in Hamlet
  31. Anthony Newley in Oliver Twist
  32. Burt Lancaster in Sorry Wrong Number
  33. Robert Newton in Oliver Twist
  34. Felix Aylmer in Hamlet
  35. Walter Burke in The Naked City
  36. Francis L. Sullivan in Oliver Twist
  37. Roddy McDowall in Macbeth
  38. Norman Wooland in Hamlet
  39. Berry Kroeger in Act of Violence
  40. Stephen McNally in Johnny Belinda 
  41. Harry Lewis in Key Largo
  42. Alfonso Bodoya in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  43. Alan Napier in Johnny Belinda
  44. John Rodney in Key Largo
  45. Ed Begley in Sorry Wrong Number
  46. Barton MacLane in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  47. John Ireland in Red River
  48. Monte Blue in Key Largo
  49. Oskar Homolka in I Remember Mama
  50. Jose Ferrer in Joan of Arc
  51. John Agar in Fort Apache
  52. Mark Stevens in The Snake Pit
  53. Glenn Strange in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
  54. Douglas Dick in Rope
  55. Frank Ferguson in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Next Year: 1963 lead

Friday, 24 May 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1948: Alec Guinness in Oliver Twist

Alec Guinness did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Fagin in Oliver Twist.

This is a well made film version of Dicken's novel about the child orphan taken in by a ring of pick pockets. 

This version received no Oscar nominations despite that the academy later gave a best picture win and a best actor nomination to the 1968 musical version. The best actor nomination went to Ron Moody for his version of Fagin, but the academy perhaps should have retroactively given an Oscar nomination to Guinness though as Moody clearly takes quite a bit of inspiration from Guinness's performance. There are differences though as Moody's role is considerably larger with his solo musical numbers and all as well as the musical version of Fagin is a much more lighthearted sort of fellow.

What Moody did take from Guinness is the physical and vocal manner in which he uses in the part. Moody's voice is very similar in that grumbled growl that Fagin has, and his hunched over manner of walking is almost the same. The only major difference in between them is that Moody is much more flamboyant in his method with all his dancing and such that he does, and Guinness goes for a much more down to earth sort of Fagin. That approach though is where the strength lies in Guinness's portrayal of the character who he tries to make a man of the Victorian London even if he is a most peculiar sort of man.

As shown a year later in Kind Hearts and Coronets Guinness is a master of playing roles that are suppose to much older than he is. Honestly if I did know this was Guinness I would not have known Alec Guinness was even in the film considering how much he fades into the role. It is not just the make up either, his voice, his posture and his whole style is entirely something else that suggests both the age and life of the old quirky criminal Fagin. Whenever he was on screen I did not see Alec Guinness playing the part I merely saw the character that Charles Dickens had written right there on the screen.

Guinness is terrific in all of his scenes he has with Fagin really creating a character that enlivens the film marvelously. Guinness is great because he able to show both the age of the character while still bringing a great deal of energy to the part. Guinness is very entertaining in the scene where he shows off how to pick pocket to Oliver, and even though he doesn't have "Gotta Pick a Pocket or Two" to sing to while he does it Guinness is actually just as enjoyable as Moody in the same scene. He keeps the right tone showing Fagin playing up a little because he is doing for a child, but Guinness always stays very believable in this Fagin never going too far with him while staying eccentric.

Where Guinness really diverges from Moody though is playing the true nature of Fagin. Where Moody's was a lovable old coot who just happened to be a criminal, Guinness's Fagin is considerably more complex. Guinness's is very good in finding a balancing between the savory and the darker aspects of his character. Guinness is great in his one early scene alone with Oliver as he comes off as genuinely sweet and with some warmth there. Although he still seems far from perfect Guinness does suggest some honest affection in the old man toward the young boy, and his delivery of his fatherly "wisdom" is earnest and makes Fagin quite likable actually.

Guinness successfully shows that Fagin is a worse criminal than his nicer qualities might suggest. Guinness is very effective as he portrays the grim side to the character. He conveys the eyes of a man with desperation as well as the possibility of a great evil in the man. Guinness is able to be just as conniving as he was gentle in his earlier scenes. He brings out the villainous role well showing it all still in Fagin's eccentric style but with a certain vile touch to it all. Guinness is excellent because he is able to merge both aspects of the man into a believable whole. The sides of the man might seem contradictory in nature but Guinness allows each to side of him to flow naturally with the other.

The only unfortunate thing about Guinness's Fagin is that he is supporting. He takes a while to appear in the film and he really does not have that many scenes to himself unlike the later musical rendition. I wish he had actually had more time and less to Robert Newton as Bill Sykes who can't hold a candle to Oliver Reed's portrayal of the character. Guinness in his limited screen time though creates an intriguing character with his Fagin. Guinness becomes the role and brings the character of the novel to screen in his own way that. Guinness is able to realize Fagin as character bringing out the complexities of the role and never just riding on the flamboyance of the character as a lesser actor very well might have.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1948: Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo

Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Johnny Rocco in Key Largo.

Edward G. Robinson plays the main villain of the film who is the boss hiding out in a hotel along with his small crew of thugs. Robinson is best remembered in these sort of mobster roles his breakout role being in Little Caesar. It is not wonder though that Robinson found himself so commonly cast as a gangster as he certainly knows his way around in the part. Despite being of short stature Robinson knows how to own a scene and dominate it even though he is the shortest person in a scene almost even when every else is sitting. He has a way about himself with his squinting eyes and firm demeanor that creates an intensity all around in him that even though all his thugs might be bigger it is not surprise that he is in charge.

Robinson's performance here is of the purest vein of evil gangster. There is not any redeeming features about Johnny Rocco. Robinson plays up just the harshness of his evil as a day to day sort of thing being a career gangster and all. He doesn't mind being called evil in fact Robinson plays it that Johnny relishes being looked at with fear. Robinson has a force about him that really creates a strong menace within the film. It is clear that Johnny would not think two thoughts about having to kill any of them if he would be able to escape. Robinson makes him cold and without sympathy that fits perfectly for Rocco. Rocco is nothing but scum and Robinson plays him exactly as such.

Robinson is great at being the villain of the piece who takes over the film for a great long while. Although Rocco is just evil Robinson illustrates the various facets of this evil quite effectively. On one hand there is a man there, not a good man, but a man. One scene Robinson delivers particularly well is when Rocco claims that he is coming back since he no longer is nearly as powerful of a man as he once was. Robinson is very good there showing a false sense of pride as well as a shattered pride in the same breath. He wants them to all hear loudly that he is Rocco once one of the biggest men in the country, but Robinson subtly brings a sensitivity in this issue that suggest Rocco deep down knows he will never be that powerful again.

Robinson is never shy about Rocco's brutality but shows two main kinds of it. One is the direct and indirect violence he is able to inflict. Robinson is very good in these scenes because in the case of this sort of violence business is the only way he handles it. When he kills a man or gives out information that causes the deaths of more men he just does it quickly without spending too much time debating it. Robinson does not show that Rocco enjoys it exactly, but he does shows it that this is something Rocco has done and will do without questioning himself. He does this just like a profession a professional requirement as technically speaking he only does kill when he finds it necessary to save face or himself.

Robinson though is not so calm in his depiction of the psychological torture that he inflicts on those held captive as well as his alcoholic girlfriend Gaye (Claire Trevor). Robinson actually seems more vicious in these moments than when he is actually committing the violence as he is unabashed in the manner in which abuses all around him. Robinson shows a great joy in Rocco as he mocks all of his "guests" in one way or another whether it is their seeming cowardice or just their physical aliments. Robinson makes Rocco a man without shame fully willing to go to the lowest level in his attempts to humiliate and harm the others.

The worst though comes in his treatment of Gaye because Robinson plays these scenes in the coldest manner of all. Robinson portrays really the long troubled history between the two in his manner he takes with her. Robinson does not have Rocco smile or take any joy in mocking her, forcing her to sing, or refusing her a drink despite her alcoholism. Rocco still mistreats her without hesitation but Robinson portrays it something that Rocco does not get anything out of it anymore even. These moments Robinson makes the harshest of all by showing that Rocco at this point is just really going through the motions with her leaving both in the most sorrowful of state.

Robinson's performance as Rocco is a nicely complex and compelling characterization. Whenever he has a chance he illustrates more of his character. The scenes of the hurricane are particularly well handled by Robinson showing Rocco holding back the fear and trying his very best to try to keep his dominant personality even when it becomes rather difficult to do so. Unlike James Stewart in Rope which was a case of an actor being very miscast in a role but still giving his very best to make up for it, this is a case of an actor being perfectly cast in the role. Robinson fits into the role like a glove and it shows through his always confidant and forceful portrayal of Johnny Rocco.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1948: Lionel Barrymore in Key Largo

Lionel Barrymore did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying James Temple in Key Largo.

Key Largo is an effective thriller about a group of people being held captive by a small group of gangsters inside a hotel while a hurricane rages outside.

Lionel Barrymore is probably best known for his portrayal of the town miser Mr. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life, but throughout his career he played both warm and cold characters. In Key Largo as the handicapped hotel owner he stands as the moral good of the film. He is the man who only wishes to do right and wants to see the evil men punished. At first we me just meet him as he greets his late son's old army superior Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart). In these relatively brief scenes Barrymore establishes James as a man with a warm heart as he expresses the appropriate sadness over his son's death but as well a honest sense of the love he had for his son as he hears the stories from Frank.

The good times do not last and all the people are left to be terrorized by the gangster and his crew of thugs. Barrymore serves two roles and serves them very well in these scenes. Even though he mostly has only quick reactionary moments he makes an impact with each. On one side he brings the weight of the situation to life through showing that James takes every evil that the gangsters commit to heart, and it is only made worse when he is blamed for some of the gangsters actions. His somber expression for these scenes and he shows that the accusations and the evil caused hurts James on a personal level.

Barrymore is given that of the moral high ground as James Temple and he uses it quite well. As seen in It's A Wonderful Life as well Barrymore is very adept at confrontational moments. He terrific here giving the snide but earnest remarks throughout their situation that basically tells the gangsters just how low they are. Barrymore gives each line a strong punch and he makes that despite being confined to his wheel chair he is able to a more harm to the gangsters than some of the able bodied men they face against. Also an actor being brave is a word too often used but one does have to give some respect to Barrymore for the one scene he stands which made especially powerful knowing Barrymore was actually confined to his wheel chair.

Barrymore's performance is not the most complex of the male supporting performances in this film, I will be getting to that performance very soon, but he still makes his mark on the film. Honestly James Temple could have been a very big throwaway part of just the old man who is a doormat for the gangsters and nothing else. I could easily have seen some of the character actors from the period giving such a performance.  Barrymore though makes the most of what he is given and succeeds in being the moral outrage of the film. He is both the face of the real agony caused by the gangsters as well as the voice of reason against the gangster's selfishness and cruelty.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1948: Robert Ryan in Act of Violence

Robert Ryan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Joe Parkson in Act of Violence.

Act of Violence is an effective film noir about an apparent war hero, former P.O.W, and popular family man Frank (Van Heflin) who is being stalked by one other P.O.W who has a vendetta to fulfill.

Robert Ryan plays the other pow who is trying to track down Frank clearly to kill him. At first we know nothing about Joe other than he is a man with a limp and he clearly has a great determination in him. Ryan was the perfect choice for this role particularly for these early scenes and his knack for playing villains. Ryan with ease conveys a menace in him and is the dark specter Joe should be who haunts Frank. There is a strength just in his determined yet pained face. It is not something you might expect from a killer, he is haunted but his dark purpose is just as clear. This is not one of Ryan's usual heavy roles though and there is an honest strong motivation to the man's hate for the "war hero".

The truth behind Joe's hate is that Frank betrayed all of the other men in the prisoner of war camp including Joe which ended up with all of them being killed and Joe being injured. Ryan is very good in the scene where he reveals this to Frank's wife because it is less of revelation and more of allowing us to understand what haunts the man. Ryan has a strong intensity here and establishes that his intention is almost something more than personal for him but is rather a justice for all of the men whose deaths were caused by Frank. Ryan is very good because although he never seems to be the "good guy" in the film he very much shows the moral outrage that Joe feels from the situation.

This is a fairly short performance and one that is very much to the point, but it is a well handled. Ryan is very good in being almost just a ghost in a film one that both haunts and is haunted. I would say the biggest weakness not with Ryan's performance but with the character is the sub plot involving Joe's own romantic interest who tries to pull him from his vendetta. I just think it all would have been more powerful if it was clear that Joe was all alone and his revenge was all he had left in life after his tragic past. Nevertheless Ryan's performance strikes up the right balance between the hate Joe intends to inflict and the pain he feels from the past so that the last minute change in Joe is both believable and is rather moving. Although I do think the character could have been even better Ryan does do the best he can with the material he has.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1948: James Stewart in Rope

James Stewart did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Rupert Cadell in Rope.

Rope is about two young men (John Dall and Farley Granger) who kill a man they deem inferior and hold a dinner party with the body still in their room to prove the "perfection" of their crime. Rope is an interesting enough film but it is definitely lesser Hitchcock, and the "one shot" gimmick adds nothing to the film.

Apparently James Stewart thought himself miscast in this film as a intellectual who does not mind telling people about his idea that murder should be acceptable by certain people. Now I will get to Stewart in a moment, but I will say who would have been perfectly cast in the part would have been James Mason. Yes this might be a bit of a conflict since Mason is mentioned by name in the film, but he would have been perfect in creating that pompous entitlement, but as well would have been articulate as well as properly sardonic when he is required to espouse about his various theories. To see Mason deal with the crisis of conscience really would have been something to see.

Well Mason was clearly not cast and Stewart was given the part which is quite a change from his previous roles. He usually played the passionate man fighting against something or the ah shucks romantic. The end of Its A Wonderful Life suggested a darker side to Stewart though which was something that he tapped into for much of the rest of his career after World War II. Stewart perhaps was miscast though as he is definitely not someone you think of as a this type of teacher with some delusions of grandeur. Of course it is a testament to Stewart as an actor that he does try to compensate for the fact that he really does not fit the part all that well particularly early on. 

Cadell at first is very much the intellectual who does not mind flaunting his intelligence purely for fun. Stewart actually does something very well here which he dials back on his usual vocal manner. He takes away the warmer qualities of his voice that make you feel welcome instead having a much colder style here that is fitting for Cadell. Stewart is not exactly how you might picture the pompous type but he is still able to get across the nature of Cadell nevertheless, in fact Stewart's natural likability probably helps with his characterization. Cadell quietly makes fun of people but no one really takes offense and Stewart makes this work through his style of smugness.

Stewart is actually rather subtle about Cadell's sense of superiority. He makes there is his sometimes aloof manner and sometimes sarcastic delivery, but he never is overt about it. He kind of eases into it even when he describes his ideas about murder it just something he can talk about calm and coolly. This is not how I would exactly envision this type of man, but Stewart's approach actually does work getting across the nature of the character quite effectively. In fact Stewart's style shows a bit of a lack of thought in what Cadell says. This is not to say he has not thought out what he says well, but Stewart has it is something he has really thought the full implications of what he says.

Cadell role outside of being an inspiration of sorts for the two murderers is being the man who figures out what they have done. Stewart is excellent in portraying this aspect and does well to show Cadell slowly figuring out the scheme. His reactions are terrific throughout as he conveys the thought process in Cadell which is slowly pulling back the layers of the plan. Stewart is particularly strong when he interrogates the men in the way he seems still seems somewhat dispassionate but there is that incisive undercurrent as he keeps questioning them and seeing that there is clearly something that they are both hiding.

This leads to the point where Cadell finds out what they did and the last thing he feels is pride from his accomplishment. Instead Cadell has to face the shame of someone finally murdering based on his ideas of superiority. Stewart is a master of the passionate speech denouncing an evil and his speech in this film is no exception. He has a tremendous force about it and is perfect to finally slap the smug look off of the mastermind of the two killers. Stewart adds a little more though as Cadell's disgust is not only for what the killers have done but also due to his own guilt from his past words. Stewart makes the moment very powerful because he get across the hate Cadell feels for their actions in his words, but as well the shame he feels in his face.

This is a strong performance from Jimmy Stewart and it is a great example of an actor still performing well despite the role not being right for him. I would say that James Mason would have been much more fitting for the part, and if he had been the one with the role he very well could have been all time great. Stewart does not fit the role of the smug professor by any means Stewart just by his nature does not come off as that sort of guy. To his credit though Stewart tries his best to overcome the fact that he was miscast in the role. He still succeeds in the part by adapting it best he can to his on screen persona. It is not an absolutely perfect characterization because the right casting is necessary, but nevertheless Stewart still gives an impressive performance.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1948

And the Nominees Were Not:

Robert Ryan in Act of Violence

Alec Guinness in Oliver Twist

James Stewart in Rope

Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo

Lionel Barrymore in Key Largo

Alternate Best Actor 1948: Results

5. Orson Welles in Macbeth- Although there may be a little more to be desired from his vocal portrayal, Welles's silent portrayal of Macbeth is good.

Best Scene: Macbeth finally understands the prophecy. 
4. Lamberto Maggiorani in Bicycle Thieves- Maggiorani gives a simple but effective performance that serves the purpose of his film well.

Best Scene: Antonio becomes a thief himself. 
3. Ralph Richardson in The Fallen Idol-Richardson gives a strong performance showing both the idol a child would see, but as well the lonely sad man an adult would see.

Best Scene: Baines tells Phillipe about his African adventure. 
2. Toshiro Mifune in Drunken Angel- Mifune gives a great early performance by accentuating the foolishness in pride but as well suggesting the underlying possibility of redemption.

Best Scene: Matsunaga finds out about the real "honor" of the Yakuza.
1. Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre- Good Prediction Psifonian feel free to name a year and a performance. Bogart in this film gives his very best performance powerfully and believably portraying the slow descent of a somewhat decent drifter to a pathetic gold obsessed mad man.

Best Scene: Dobbs tries to find Curtin.
Overall Rank:
  1. Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  2. Laurence Olivier in Hamlet
  3. Toshiro Mifune in Drunken Angel
  4. Ralph Richardson in The Fallen Idol
  5. Takashi Shimura in Drunken Angel
  6. Van Heflin in Act of Violence 
  7. James Stewart in Call Northside 777
  8. Lamberto Maggiorani in Bicycle Thieves
  9. Montgomery Clift in The Search
  10. Orson Welles in Macbeth
  11. John Wayne in Red River
  12. Montgomery Clift in Red River
  13. Barry Fitzgerald in The Naked City
  14. Anton Walbrook in The Red Shoes
  15. Tim Holt in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 
  16. Henry Fonda in Fort Apache 
  17. Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty
  18. Ivan Jandl in The Search 
  19. Lew Ayres in Johnny Belinda
  20. John Wayne in Fort Apache
  21. Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo
  22. Tyrone Power in Luck of the Irish
  23. John Dall in Rope
  24. Farley Granger in Rope
  25. Bobby Henrey in The Fallen Idol
  26. John Howard Davies in Oliver Twist
  27. Don Taylor in The Naked City
  28. Bud Abbott in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
  29. Robert Young in Sitting Pretty
  30. Dan Dailey in When My Baby Smiles At Me
  31. Lou Costello in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Next Year: 48 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1948: Lamberto Maggiorani in Bicycle Thieves

Lamberto Maggiorani did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Antonio Ricci in Bicycle Thieves.

The Bicycle Thieves is a beautiful and very moving film about a man and his son who search for his stolen bicycle which he needs to keep his job which he desperately needs.

Although Lamberto Maggiorani is plays the man Antonio who is looking for bicycle the true star of the film is director Vittorio De Sica. It is a film that creates almost a breathable atmosphere through the images and sounds that De Sica brings to the screen. Among those images is Lambert Maggiorani's performance and to a certain degree he is simply one of those images. What seems to be the most important facet of Maggiorani throughout the film is his face which tends to be photographed like a portrait to accentuate every emotion he has. De Sica uses him as part of the tapestry that is this film.

Antonio is a simple character. He is a simple man who just wants his good job to feed his family and then just wants his bicycle back simply to keep that job. There is not a great complexity here, but nor should there be. He is suppose to be just an average man. Maggiorani's performance never challenges this notion which he plays as to the point as possible. There is not any hidden shadows in him he just is a man who wants to do best for his wife and son. Maggiorani portrays this in a very earnest fashion. There is not any doubt that is what the man wants through that honest expression Maggiorani has.

Maggiorani actually tends to keep basically the same expression with the part depending what he is doing whether it is the happy passion found at the beginning or that desperate need shown when he is looking for it later. It is a consistent expression that fits the nature of the film as that face is part of the whole portrait that De Sica paints. At times he is the focus but other times the background seems almost as important as he is.. This is not anything against Maggiorani as keeping the expressions the same works as well as are fitting of the simple man that Antonio is suppose to be.

There is perhaps a little more to Antonio in terms of his relationship with his son Bruno. There is not all that much though as it mostly is a relationship of trading quiet glances. It does absolutely work though with Maggiorani definitely showing that he cares about his son and very much loves him. Maggiorani though at the same time when Antonio gets a little fed up with his son he makes the believable to as just a simple reaction from Antionio's increasing desperation. Even when he yells at his son though Maggiorani keeps it simple but effective as just the guy emotional reaction from Antonio.

This is not an especially complex performance as a great deal of time he does maintain the same expression. This performance is one that works very well though within the film scenes and events. By staying just the simple man with his simple but emotional reactions he does allow the film to achieve the power it has. Maggiorani's portrayal is part of the film as a whole, it is not a performance that exactly stands out all on its own. It is a performance though that very much works within the framework of the film. Maggiorani never goes off his own but he succeeds in going along to be part of the beauty contained in this film.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1948: Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Humphrey Bogart did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Humphrey Bogart was an actor who would usually play characters who were consistent throughout the film. Usually his character might change slightly but in terms of his manner he would still be a man in control of his situation. His performance in this film though is in a completely different style from Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs ends up as a very different character at the end of the film than the one we meet from the beginning. At the beginning of the film we first meet Dobbs as a down and outer in Mexico who seems to be looking for some sort of fortune even if he doesn't exactly know what of. Bogart does not give his performance the usual confidence one finds in many of his performances. This is not the movie star Humphrey Bogart here in any way, and here he very much stresses the character above else.

It is quite remarkable to see Bogart downplay his screen presence actually in his portrayal of Dobbs. Of course Bogart carefully does not reject all of his other performances entirely at first. There are some qualities in his performance early on that reflect that more known Bogart style. He does have a certain likability in his portrayal, and Bogart does well in making Dobbs just seem just like an average sort of guy. Although he may not be a perfect guy but he seems decent enough, and Bogart importantly sets this up as the beginning for Dobbs. Dobbs is not perfect or even close to being so but Bogart does make him rightfully an average sort of guy that we can first follow along. Bogart is believable in Dobbs's proposed honesty at first as he puts in the most money for the gold expedition along with fellow drifter Curtin (Tim Holt) and Howard (Walter Huston).

Bogart importantly though does show the signs of weakness and plants the seeds in the man. When he espouses how he will be able to easily just take enough gold as well as will easily be able to share it there is a great enthusiasm in Bogart's delivery. Bogart though actually handles it brilliantly though as he shows almost too much enthusiasm in that it feels superficial to at least some degree. Now Bogart does not show Dobbs to be putting on a facade when speaking about this in anyway, but he conveys almost a lack of thought as Dobbs says it. It is almost too forceful suggesting that it really is not something that goes right down to the soul of the man by any means, and Bogart properly suggests that there is quite a great possibility for Dobbs to do the exact opposite of what he proclaims he will do.

As the three of them proceed Bogart is excellent in being the novice prospector. Bogart stays very believable as he and others try and attempt to find the gold. He's very good in expressing the passion as they keep going but slowly the exasperation and anger that builds up as he reaches his wits end. What is perfect though is when they finally do find the gold and the expression that forms in Dobbs. Humphrey Bogart is terrific in the face that he shows when he finally sees the real gold and knows what it means for him as well. Bogart does not just have Dobbs get excited by the idea of the gold he absolutely is entranced by it. Bogart expresses what this is to him as Dobbs almost salivates over the prospect showing that the gold is having a profound affect on him.

From this point on Bogart's performance is an absolutely brilliant portrayal of a man being swallowed whole by gold fever. He is terrific as he goes from moment to moment slowly showing the insanity growing within him. Bogart's deliberate pace in his portrayal of the change is particularly effective because he doesn't rush any phase of it. At first Bogart inserts little moments where Dobbs becomes agitated, but only moments. He is able to step back from it well enough and he does make it seem like there is some hope that he could possibly get over the fever. He never does get over it only become worse and worse as they go, and Bogart is outstanding in these scenes. It is not just his attitude but his whole physical manner that changes as he becomes paranoid over his gold.

Although Bogart suggests there is some hope for Dobbs at first but as they find more gold and have more confrontations between the three it soon becomes clear there is not going back for Dobbs. Bogart's terrific in his moments of anxiety as Dobbs just keeps voicing his concerns to himself thinking no one can hear him. Importantly he is never one note. He maybe down and suspicious for a moment but he will come back from that. Bogart though never shows him become that same old Dobbs again though. Now even when he comes back from the brink he still always has this intensity in him. It is startling intensity that Bogart brings to his performance from the way he stares to his nervous and the way that everything he says is quick and sharp as to attack anything anyone says.

This performance is amazing the whole film through yet it only gets better by the end of the film when Bogart is able to show that the greed paranoid Dobbs is not the lowest the man can go. The final set of scenes consists of Dobbs and Curtin being left alone with the gold and Dobbs's greed and insanity is only becoming worse as they go along. Bogart is downright frightening as the greed consumes him to being nothing more than man of suspicion and hatred. Bogart's face suggests nothing of any of the possible goodness there was to the man only showing a thieving hateful man in that maniacal grin. Of course Bogart manages to have him go even lower than that in Dobbs's final moments.

What is particularly special about them is the fact that Bogart's does not leave any redemption in him. In the end he becomes a pathetic wreck. Bogart shows still humanity and that is the part that makes the end of Dobbs so powerful. After Dobbs believes he has done something truly terrible Bogart does not portrait it as you might think. There might be a little honest regret for his actions in his scared face but for the most part the fear that Bogart suggests most is in Dobbs is that he might not have done it. Bogart leaves him as no more than a whimpering mess now only overwhelmed by what the gold has done to him. Bogart makes him a hollow shell of man with that always haunted expression leaving Dobbs in a state of paranoia that he never escapes.

The transformation of Dobbs from the somewhat average man wanting to make his way to a despicable man willing to kill just for gold is one of the strongest aspects of this great film. The reason this part of the story works so well though is that Humphrey Bogart is flawless in his depiction of the transformation. There is not an aspect that seems rushed or forced. Also knowing that he usually plays rather controlled men there is an extra thrill to see him play a man without any self control so effectively. He takes his time and makes it a profound and believable change that brings to life the central theme of the film in a marvelous fashion. It seems like it was quite a shame that Bogart mostly played parts that were well into his comfort zone because this performance, where he is out on a limb pretty much the entire time, he absolutely delivers.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1948: Orson Welles in Macbeth

Orson Welles did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of Macbeth.

Welles's Macbeth is not the definitive version of Shakespeare's tragedy, but it is a version with some merit found in its visual style.

A Shakespearean performance is always something interesting to examine as you can see how an actor not only delivers the language but as well as their interpretation of a character who has been played countless times before and since. Macbeth the Scottish Thane who becomes a murderer to gain the throne of the king is a character open for unique interpretations particularly in the how much hesitation and how much guilt he feels for his crimes, as well as how much of a villain Macbeth becomes later on in the story. It is interesting to see how exactly the actor will play each of the famous scenes and soliloquies as Macbeth descends into darkness.

Welles as a Shakespearean actor is very competent with the language itself, and it is clear that he has a strong grasp of it. The only problem in terms of the vocalization of the language is the accent that Welles uses. Now this is a somewhat difficult point to talk about as supposedly there are two versions of this film one where Welles does a Scottish accent and a different one. I believe the one I watched was the Scottish accent version, but I have not watched the other version so I cannot be sure what the exact difference is or if the two versions really do exist. Having said that the accent takes a little getting used to, and because the thickness of it the speeches never quite have that poetic quality.

As a director Welles simply has the soliloquies thought out loud rather than the way Olivier interwove them through narration and speaking that gave them almost a mystical quality. One could try to argue that Welles is trying a rougher approach it being Macbeth and all, but really this isn't the case. Now I probably should stop comparing Welles unfavorably to my favorite actor as Welles himself wanted to avoid comparisons to Olivier's Hamlet. Welles to his credit though still finds power in the language even with the accent, and the somewhat more standard method of handling the words on screen. None of the soliloquy fall flat, and they all fit their function in the story.

Where the strength lies in Welles's performance though really is in his facial reactions. This would have been an incredible silent Macbeth performance because Welles's conveys a great deal with his expressions throughout the film, and in the expressions is where we see the path of Macbeth. Welles takes a fairly traditional approach in terms of the character in that he begins as a decent enough man but with great temptation he soon finds himself a murderer. Welles at every step changes his appearance quite effectively. At the beginning a stern straight face nothing to note, but when he hears the prophecy the perfect amount of confusion and concern sets in changing him to a less assured man suddenly.

As Macbeth goes along with his wife and begins the killing Welles shows the ambition but along with it the hesitation. When he first commits the act Welles powerfully expresses the regret in his eyes showing that Macbeth barely can believe what he has done. As the story proceeds though any hesitations quickly move aside as everything seems to be going his way in terms of both his power growing as well as the witches prophecy that seems to show Macbeth a path to unbeatable glory. At this point Welles makes Macbeth the true villain in his face. He is a man of sin now and it is quite remarkable how any goodness in the man is wiped away within him leaving him only as an evil villian.

This is an interesting performance to examine as physically Welles is outstanding in the part. His last scene is incredible as Welles portrays a modicum of humanity emerge in Macbeth as he is faced with death showing a very human fear as he realizes that he will die after all. In terms of his vocal performance though he does not make as much of an impact. I was always fascinated by what he was doing silently but when he spoke he does not carry nearly as much power. Of course this is more of because how good he is silently, and he isn't really bad at all in his verbal performance. The lack of synergy between the two parts keeps him from being the greatest Macbeth on film, that would be Toshiro Mifune, but the greatness there is in aspects of his performance still leaves this as a memorable portrayal of the treacherous Thane.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1948: Ralph Richardson in The Fallen Idol

Ralph Richardson did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning NBR and getting second place for NYFCC, for portraying Baines in The Fallen Idol.

The Fallen Idol is an excellent film about an impressionable young boy and son of a diplomat named Phillipe's relationship with his butler.

Ralph Richardson plays the boys butler who also takes care of the boy along with his cold wife due to the boy's parents frequently being away. Butler's are often characters that are either just someone in the background, an overly repressed man, or a witting supporting player. Richardson as Baines is nothing like any of the standard butler as he plays him him as much more of a man first a butler second whereas with most do emphasize the butler mannerisms Richardson certainly is a butler in the role in terms of his proper but he does not have it something that is a constant. Richardson portrays it far more as the job Baines does opposed to the job he was born to do as butler's usually are portrayed.

Richardson's character is a man seen through the perspective of Phillipe who sees him as some sort of great man due to the stories that Baines tells of adventures he had in Africa. Richardson is very good in these moments where Baines tells the stories. Richardson is good because he really shows that Baines is not really taking this all that seriously. It is not that he is telling a joke but as through the view of an adult perspective we see that he is simply telling stories to amuse himself as well as to hold the attention of the easily distracted little boy. Richardson shows that this intention is through subtle nuances that any clear thinking adult would easily see, but at the same time how they are really something a boy like Phillipe would not really be able to notice or understand.

Richardson is very good in realizing the two sides of Baines the one shown to Phillipe and the one that everyone else would be able to see. Importantly Richardson does not portray it as a ruse really, but rather just a simple way for him to keep the boy interested and entertained. Richardson in the forward projection of Baines is that of a likable confidant sort he speaks with a pleasant authority and it is easy to see how Phillipe takes to Baines as much as he does. Richardson does not have this as a facade in the traditional sense because when we see more of Baines it is not a reveal in the same way as we simply see him when he is not playing with the boy and just being himself.

Richardson is rather moving when we see the real Baines much more clearly as he is really just a quiet but sad man who is attempting to move away from his wife and to a far more caring woman named Julie. Richardson's performance is good because he portrays the scenes between Julie and Baines with a great deal of earnestness. Yes he does show a the deliberate method that Baines takes to keep Phillipe from spoiling his secret but Richardson is effective in the just the calm way he speaks to her. Richardson is very good in conveying both the sadness in Baines over the difficulty he is clearly having with his wife, but as well we see in his eyes a man with a woman he very much loves something we never see when he is with his wife.

The glimpses we see of Baines Richardson creates the right sympathy for the man through the genuine quality he gives the man in despite the lies he tells the boy as well as his wife. The sympathy he creates is very much needed in the last act of the film after an accidental death which the boy believes was caused by Baines but we as the audience know he is innocent. Richardson allows us to care for Baines is plight thereby amplifying the intensity of the scenes late in the film as he comes under suspicion for the death that he had not caused. Richardson is very good in these expressing the fears in Baines well in an internalized fashion as he tries to both tell the police the truth about what happened, but lie to try to keep the police away from the affair he is hiding at the same time.

Richardson's performance here works well really because he gives the character of Baines just the right complexity. For example when he is being interrogated Richardson is effective in showing all that's going on through Baines's head as he tries to deal with the troublesome interrogation, but when he is questioned about the tales he told Phillipe he dismisses them quickly. Richardson doesn't have it be life scattering for Baines in the least to say his tales with false because they merely something for him to say to keep the boy interested. Richardson gives a strong performance that finds just the right path for Baines making it so that he is sympathetic as just a normal human being but as well properly creates that image that Phillipe would not be able to see through although every else might not even notice.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1948: Toshiro Mifune in Drunken Angel

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Matsunaga in Drunken Angel.

Drunken Angel is an interesting film by Akira Kurosawa about a drunk but goodhearted slum doctor Sanada (Takashi Shimura) who tries to help various residents of the slum including a gangster with a deadly disease.

This is Toshiro Mifune's first collaboration with Kurosawa which apparently came about when Kurosawa saw an audition of his. Kurosawa not only cast Mifune in this part but he actually expanded the part due to Mifune's portrayal. Mifune plays the young gangster who we first meet while he has a bullet taken out of his hand by the good doctor. Mifune here has his trademark intensity once again though this time handled rather differently from when it was insanity fueled in Seven Samurai, anger filled in Throne of Blood, or held up inside as it was in the quiet duel. Mifune here takes a different approach and this time it comes off as sometimes misplaced and inconsistent intensity fitting for the young Matsunaga.

Early on in the film Matsunaga jumps in and out as Sanada keeps trying to tell him that he should take the fact that he has tuberculosis far more seriously than he is. Mifune is excellent in his somewhat brief scenes in portraying the style of Matsunaga. Mifune in one moment is able to be the true gangster you would imagine a man like Matsunaga would have to be to be the boss of any area even a slum. Mifune has the perfect cocky stride and pompous demeanor that shows the assurance of the young man in his somewhat powerful position. In the next moment though Mifune effectively turns him into an angry violent man. Mifune though is great because it is not anger of hate, but anger of fear that he conveys in his performance as all that Matsunaga wants to do is deny his illness. 

Mifune is terrific the way he makes Matsunaga such a mess of emotions. He portrays the struggle in Matsunaga merely to heed Sanada's warning. Mifune is excellent in portraying the fierceness in the sudden emotional bursts that comes from Matsunaga, and he creates an interesting portrait of the gangster who cannot get over himself to help himself. Mifune though creates sympathy because every time Matsunaga fails to listen to the doctor Mifune is very believable in portraying this and is able to convey why exactly he keeps falling back on his vices. Mifune importantly allows us to see the struggle in his eyes and that there always is considerable resistance in Matsunaga even when he falls once again.

Like most of Mifune's performances he has a great physicality in the role. Here it is particularly notable and important to his performance as it not only tells of the unpredictable nature of the young gangster but as well portrays his physical degradation. Mifune is something just to watch in the way he changes in his physical manner that reflects the emotional state of Matsunaga. When he is trying to keep it together he plays it with a sturdy forceful posture fitting of his man in his power. In his drunken or angry rages he reduces down almost to animal like quality that is quite electrifying to watch Mifune's sheer unrelenting power of his performance. Mifune is fascinating to watch him simply in the act of his performance.

A great deal of the sympathy we are allowed to feel comes from Mifune's portrayal of Matsunaga tuberculosis that slowly becomes worse throughout the film. Mifune delivers this quite effectively throughout the course of his character and makes it a slow but very natural process as that strength we see of him early on quickly becomes to dissipate. Mifune properly does not rush through any part of it instead showing almost the entire process in its entirety showing properly the sadness of the situation as Mifune moves from a young physically fit man who seems entirely sure of himself to eventually nothing more than a physical wreck by the end who can barely stand on his own.

Although at first Matsunaga seems no more than a foolish young man. As we proceed though Mifune gives a complex portrait of the man whose disease thrives from his personal circumstance. Mifune shows above else the one thing that Matsunaga holds on to is a pride and honor of the Yakuza. Although the truth seems quite the otherwise, Mifune makes it believable that Matsunaga would hold this view through the conviction of his performance. It is a foolish conviction one that Mifune shows through the lens of a youthful inexperience. It isn't something he thinks too much about but Mifune's passionate portrayal shows that he definitely believes in it.

That conviction that Mifune brings to the role is what makes this a tragic portrayal. Mifune's very best scene comes when Matsunaga goes to the head boss to clear things up thinking he will be on his side. Mifune is perfect as he waits with a foolish smile, and that pride so filled in his face. As he listens though Matsunaga finds that not only does the boss not take his side but in fact seems to care nothing about Matsunaga's possible death. Mifune is terrific seeing the lost of the pride all at once a great sadness, and Mifune expression suggests that of a man who sees that so much of his life has been a lie. It is an absolutely brilliant scene by Mifune that honestly shows how much this revelation tears him apart. 

This is a great performance by Toshiro Mifune and despite being one of his earliest roles Mifune already establishes himself as incredible screen actor. It is no wonder that Kurosawa expanded the role after seeing Mifune as Mifune presence is truly remarkable. There is such an enthusiasm and energy in his performances that it is hard not to watch him on screen. Of course this performance is not only about screen presence, like his performances I have reviewed before he uses that screen presence to create a compelling character. Mifune turns Matsunaga into a memorable tragic portrait by emphasizing the foolishness in his pride but as well suggesting so poignantly that underlying potential for redemption.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1948

And the Nominees Were Not:

Toshiro Mifune in Drunken Angel

Ralph Richardson in The Fallen Idol

Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Orson Welles in Macbeth

Lamberto Maggiorani in Bicycle Theives

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1975: Results

5. Gene Hackman in Night Moves- Gene Hackman as usual gives a solid performance as a footballer turned private detective who is out of his element, but his best work this year was his heartbreaking reprise of Popeye Doyle in French Connection II.

Best Scene for the French Connection II: Doyle suffers withdrawal.  
4. Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show- Curry gives a delightful entertaining strange performance that is by far the highlight of his film.

Best Scene: "Sweet Transvestite" 
3. Roy Scheider in Jaws- Scheider gives a great reactive performance that amplifies the intensity of his film by being a very human guide and who we can relate to.

Best Scene: Chief Brody sees the Shark attack. 
1. Michael Caine and Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King- I find it almost impossible to separate these performances as they both amplify each other through their impeccable chemistry and together they create two marvelous characters that end up both being very entertaining as well as rather heartbreaking as well. As for the year itself I feel like kicking myself for my placement for any one of the top seven performances because I love all of them. I hate putting Hackman as low as he is because I love that performance. This is just a tremendous year and all seven of my top seven would be a worthy winners.

Best Scene: Danny apologizes to Peachy. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
  2. Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon
  3. Gene Hackman in French Connection II  
  4. Michael Caine and Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King
  5. Roy Scheider in Jaws  
  6. Giancarlo Giannini in Seven Beauties
  7. Maximilian Schell in The Man in The Glass Booth
  8. Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor
  9. Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  10. Gene Hackman in Night Moves
  11. Jack Nicholson in The Passenger
  12. William Atherton in The Day of the Locust
  13. Warren Beatty in Shampoo
  14. James Caan in Rollerball
  15. Walter Matthau in The Sunshine Boys
  16. James Whitmore in Give 'Em Hell Harry
  17. Ryan O'Neal in Barry Lyndon
  18. John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn
  19. Barry Bostwick in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Next Year: 1948 lead

Alternate Best Actor 1975: Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Tim Curry did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

The Rocky Horror Picture is a musical about an unassuming couple who find themselves in a strange castle with even stranger residents. Despite its cult following I found the film to be a mostly hollow exercise that I did not find particularly compelling or entertaining, even its "edgy" elements I did not find all that memorable, and the songs felt redundant rather quickly.

It is pretty easy to say that Tim Curry is the best part of the film in his feature film debut as Dr. Frank N. Furter a mad scientist transvestite who hails from the planet of transsexual in the galaxy Transylvania. There is not a great deal to Frank N. Furter other than his overt strangeness and the way he things interested in all things sexual, although is also capable of a great deal of violence when brought to it usually in fits of jealousy. Frank N. Furter is the bizarre sexuailzed version of both doctor Frankenstein as well as the monster itself. I suppose there was probably only one way to play the part, and that is the approach Curry takes which is to go head first with his character and to be completely unabashed with his character's style.

This performance is rather in the same vein as Joel Grey's performance as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret where it is more about how the performance is performed than what is being performed. Yes there is various strands to this character the lustful transvestite, the evil scientist, the alien with some plan, or just the homicidal maniac, but they don't exactly make a cohesive whole. I am not saying against Curry nor am I really saying anything against the part as this really is the intention of the part. Frank N. Furter is simply there to freak you out well entertain you at the same time, he is not there to create an in depth look at the nature of an evil alien scientist. Frank N. Furter is simply suppose to be strange and entertaining so it is good that Curry's performance is strange and entertaining.

Curry doesn't hold back, that is for sure, playing the part with a devilish glee almost like Frank N. Furter is filled with orgasmic ecstasy simply from talking. This certainly works in creating the sexual creature that is Frank N Furter, and he only adds to that through his delivery of the songs which are done in such a forceful as well as rather slithery fashion. Curry not only fascinates with his style but as well threatens as well. Curry has such strange menace even well he is singing. It is most unusual but Curry pulls it off quite marvelously as being a pure evil but also quite magical in the musical sense. It is an interesting trick and one that Curry pulls off without any visible effort in his outrageous delivery.

Curry jumps around in the styles from a seductive force with his sly smile and piercing eyes, to the mad scientist with a maniacal glee, and to the jealous psychopath with his a ferocious stare. Curry does this all well and is something fascinating to watch every moment he is given something to do. He is just filled with energy and the fact that he is clearly having so much fun does rub off. The only problem with his part really is the fact that sometimes Frank N Furter is forced to just kind of stand there, and that is part of the problem with the film as a whole when it seems to be trying something but takes too long to do anything and ends up going nowhere. To his credit though Curry would be the reason to see the film since whenever he does get the chance to do something he gives it his all and then some.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1975: Sean Connery and Michael Caine in The Man Who Would Be King

Sean Connery and Michael Caine did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Daniel "Danny" Dravot and Peachy Carnehan respectively in The Man Who Would Be King.

The Man Who Would Be King is an extremely enjoyable adventure film about two former British soldiers in India who wish to set on a journey that would make them Kings in an even more secluded land.

It is interesting to note that its director John Huston intended to make it for some time originally planning for Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable to play the lead roles. Although that probably also would have made a pretty good film the performances probably would not have been nearly as fitting for the parts of Danny and Peachy. The reason I am reviewing both of them together is that it is hard to separate them, there are a few differences in their performances which I will get to, but a great deal of the success comes from their work together as one. One aspect that the two share that makes both Danny and Peachy great characters is the past of the two men that we learn from both Caine and Connery's performances.

Danny and Peachy are adventurers and con men to say the least who intend to find some fortune by out scheming one of the natives out of a fortune of some sort. These two are a mischievous sort and the duo play this marvelously. The both have wink and sly grin to go along with their scheme. They handle this just right bringing us into the scheme right along with them through their mutual charms, and never seeming self indulgent as they could have easily been. Caine and Connery are both of the time and are always within in their story with their scheming. They have a certain knowing in their style but this always feels natural to the pair while still naturally bringing out the humor of the situations they get into quite effectively.

One of the ways they do this is although they are mischievous con men they are mischievous con men who are former proper British soldiers as well. Both of their styles are a brilliant combination of both of the rather low with the oh so proper. Connery and Caine both play them with a great firmness in style and step. They were soldiers their is no doubt about that and they absolutely sell the idea that the two men would write up a proper contract about their insane expedition before starting it. They play this type of style both with the utmost conviction, but as well with the utmost wit about it too. They are able to make their march not only the march of soldiers but as well easily finds the humor in making it part of the dynamic between their actions and method.

The two act as the best type of guides as they take us through their adventure through this strange mix of proper British conviction along with their more technically low brow scheming. Connery and Caine take such an unique approach for the leads of an adventure film and it absolutely pays off. It is interesting in the way that Caine and Connery bring out the pride of individualism as men in the manner in which they go about their task even teaching the natives how to fight and die like "real" soldiers, while they have this sharp edge still as they still show a sarcasm in their delivery. Connery and Caine find such an enjoyably dichotomy that makes this such a particularly fun ride.

Caine and Connery as a duo are perfect for one another. Caine and Connery are two of the most charming and charismatic actors around, and the fact that neither out charms the other it only makes the charm of the two only amplified with the two. Caine and Connery play off each other with expert timing never seeming to lose their place as one never does for a moment overwhelm the other performance together they are just an extremely entertaining pair. What is so special though is they are able to each stand out on their own when necessary as well. When they do stand out it does not seem like they are trying to one up the other instead they each allow one another great individual moments while never losing the terrific chemistry they have together.

There is a splitting point for each though as Danny is accidentally declared a god by the natives taking a role as a King. Connery changes his style a little bit when he starts portraying Danny who is swept up into the whole idea of being a god and begins to believe it himself. Connery nicely changes from the slightly sarcastic soldier to a man of lordly dignity who wants to rule his dignity as a king and a god should. Connery is excellent as he eases into this delusion and shows that the con man starts to leave him and the over confidence of his delusions begins to rise in him. Connery makes Danny become exactly what he believes him to be, and effective shows how the former con man could so easily forget his purpose and be enveloped by the delusion.

Caine's performance moves in the other direction as Peachy's cynical edge only becomes stronger as Danny becomes more and more earnest. Caine is equally good as he moves Peachy in the opposite direction of Danny in his portrayal of Peachy's reactions to Danny. He shows Peachy almost in complete disbelief to the point that he just finds it all very amusing. Caine is very good as he moves Peachy's reaction from a cynical bemusement to the situation to a much sadder disappointment in his comrade. Caine is a very to the point as Peachy bluntly expresses this disappointment and does well to stand as basically the call for reality to Danny which is made particularly incisive because Caine expresses that the humor in Peachy is now gone from this matter.

Thanks to the schism between Danny and Peachy is believably portrayed it really makes the finale of the film all the more powerful. After Danny's godhood is shown to be nothing more than a falsehood. This revelation leads them both two a bitter end and a quick reconciliation as they find themselves surrounded by angry natives. When Danny apologizes to Peachy it is a great  moment because it not only is it very funny in the way they still do things in their proper British fashion, but it is also very sweet in that it shows how genuine the friendship between the two has been all along. This also contributes incredible final scene between the two of them as Danny goes to meet his maker. It is a beautiful scene as they both sing "The Son Of God Goes Forth to War" and we see just how much Danny and Peachy really meant to each other as well as how much we as the audience have grown to love the rascals.

These are great performances all on their own and truly something special when considered together. Sometimes with two leads there is a duel to see who conquers the picture, but in this case Caine and Connery rule the picture as Kings together. Neither shines brighter than the other they together instead are almost symbiotic in their characterizations of these peculiar yet very endearing pair of adventurers. The two together are both in top form throughout the picture, they are brilliant as a team and stay brilliant even when they slide apart. These are wonderful turns from both actors and rank as some of the very best work from each of the actor's cannon, and they just might create two of the very best characters you have ever been able to go on an adventure like this with.