Thursday, 29 August 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1966

And the Nominees Were Not:

James Mason in The Deadly Affair

Eli Wallach in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Tatsuya Nakadai in The Sword of Doom

David Hemmings in Blow-Up

Oskar Werner in Fahrenheit 451

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1950: Results

5. Louis Calhern in The Asphalt Jungle- I hate to put Calhern fifth as I really liked everyone in this line up. Calhern gives an effective performance bringing a nice complexity to his role as an amoral lawyer.

Best Scene: Emmerich tries to double cross the Doc.
4. Alastair Sim in Stage Fright-Sim gives an entertaining performance that up shows the entire film around him.

Best Scene: Eve Gill brings Johnathan to Commodore Gill's home.
3. Takashi Shimura in Rashomon- Shimura performance gives an interesting and moving performance as a seemingly moralistic woodcutter who might be hiding something himself.

Best Scene: The woodcutter is called out by the commoner.
2. Richard Attenborough in Morning Departure- Richard Attenborough gives a very strong turn being appropriately intense as a man who goes to extremes due to fear, but as well quite tender as the very same man who finds courage within himself.

Best Scene: The remaining crew play a game of cards.
1. Masayuki Mori in Rashomon- Good Prediction Psifonian feel free to name another year and performance to go with it. Mori gives an incredible performance giving four different perceptions of the same doomed man. He is able to be chilling then heartbreaking, brave then cowardly, and his reserved style here works perfectly in creating a very memorable dynamic with Toshiro Mifune's flamboyant turn. I will keep Sanders as the winner for the moment but I will say he is on thin ice. I will have to get around to watching All About Eve again as that will make or break his placement over Mori.

Best Scene: The samurai tells his version of the story.
Overall Rank:
  1. George Sanders in All About Eve
  2. Masayuki Mori in Rashomon
  3. Sam Jaffe in The Asphalt Jungle
  4. Richard Attenborough in Morning Departure
  5. Takashi Shimura in Rashomon
  6. Alastair Sim in Stage Fright
  7. Louis Calhern in The Asphalt Jungle
  8. Minoru Chiaki in Rashomon
  9. Sessue Hayakawa in Three Came Home
  10. Luis Van Rooten in Cinderella 
  11. James Whitmore in The Asphalt Jungle
  12. Erich von Stroheim in Sunset Blvd.
  13. Kichijiro Ueda in Rashomon
  14. George Cole in Morning Departure
  15. Cecil B. DeMille in Sunset Blvd. 
  16. Michael Brennan in Morning Departure
  17. Marc Lawrence in The Asphalt Jungle
  18. Nigel Patrick in Morning Departure
  19. Jack Webb in The Men 
  20. Everett Sloane in The Men
  21. Edmund Gwenn in Mister 880
  22. Richard Erdman in The Men
  23. Stephen McNally in Winchester '73
  24. Millard Mitchell in The Gunfighter
  25. Jack Palance in Panic in the Streets
  26. Cecil Kellaway in Harvey 
  27. John McIntire in Winchester 73'
  28. Anthony Caruso in The Asphalt Jungle
  29. Miles Malleson in Stage Fright
  30. Jack Hawkins in Morning Departure
  31. Zero Mostel in Panic in the Streets
  32. Stephen McNally in No Way Out
  33. Brad Dexter in The Asphalt Jungle
  34. Wallace Ford in Harvey
  35. Karl Malden in The Gunfighter
  36. Barry Kelley in The Asphalt Jungle
  37. Will Geer in Winchester '73
  38. Paul Douglas in Panic in The Streets
  39. Millard Mitchell in Winchester '73
  40. Luther Adler in D.O.A
  41. Michael Wilding in Stage Fright
  42. Patric Knowles in Three Came Home
  43. Jeff Chandler in Broken Arrow 
  44. William Prince in Cyrano de Bergerac
  45. Hugh Marlowe in All About Eve
  46. Charles Drake in Harvey
  47. Skip Homeier in The Gunfighter
  48. Gary Merrill in All About Eve
  49. Charles Drake in Winchester '73
  50. John McIntire in The Asphalt Jungle
  51. Neville Brand in D.O.A.
  52. Gregory Ratoff in All About Eve
Next Year: 1966 lead

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1950: Alastair Sim in Stage Fright

Alastair Sim did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Commodore Gill in Stage Fright.

Stage Fright is most certainly lesser Hitchcock but it still is an enjoyable enough thriller about an inspiring actress Eve (Jane Wyman) who wants to try to prove the innocence of her friend Johnathan (Richard Todd) who is accused of murdering the husband of a famous entertainer Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich).

Alastair Sim plays Eve's father who she first takes the despondent Johnathan to so he can hideout and avoid being arrested. Sim is just a delight in the role of Commodore Gill who takes on the mystery with his daughter. Sim's performance has a natural low key charm here that really adds a great deal to the early scenes of the film. Sim has Gill play a little game almost as he takes part in the mystery as well as suspects what his daughter's exact reasons are for trying to help the man out. Sim sets the tone for his part quite effectively by mixing in a bit of concern for his daughter, interest in the events, and even a bit of bemusement at the strangeness of the mystery. Sim doesn't let one emotion overwhelm the character bringing a nice balance to the part.

Honestly the early scenes in this film could have been completely lifeless if it were not for Sim's presence who is immensely likable in the role, and quite able at lightening things up a bit while still keeping the dramatic weight of the situation perfectly intact. Sim really doesn't even have funny lines at his disposal but rather is able just to bring a certain humor often just through his facial expressions as he goes through the exploration of the mystery with Wyman. Even though he is actually the supporting character I found myself far more interested in the scenes where Sim investigates then the ones where Wyman's does as Sim is able to find that tone found in the best Hitchcock films where we are allowed to have fun with the investigation even though it is technically a serious situation.

Not all scenes with Gill are his investigations into the central murder mystery and sometimes he stands as a background player in several scenes. These scenes still belong to Sim livening each of them in the traditional scene stealer style. Sim in every moment just adds a jolt of energy through his various reactions during the scenes with just the right type of flamboyance to it. Sim never goes over the top in his portrayal of Gill's behavior who is trying to help his daughter but also is clearly having a good time playing around with lies they are trying to pull off. Sim gets the most out of each of these scenes taking them for himself without any question and making them far more entertaining simply due to his enthusiastic though enjoyably dry presence. 

Alastair Sim is not able to make this essential Hitchcock by any means, but he does make far more worthwhile than it would have been without his very entertaining performance. Sim's work is a great example of an actor making the most out of a role even if it is fairly limited in nature. Sim takes what could have just blended in the fairly unexceptional background of the film but he stands out in the a memorable fashion leaving Commodore Gill as the best character of the film. I only wish that the film actually had been reworked to include even more of Sim as he acts as the Michael Redgrave in the Lady Vanishes, or Robert Donat in 39 Steps of this film bringing that comic relief needed without ever forgetting to keep the necessary emotional weight to the proceedings as well.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1950: Richard Attenborough in Morning Departure

Richard Attenborough did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Stoker Snipe in Morning Departure.

Morning Departure is an fairly effective film about a group of British men stuck on a submarine after a sea mine has exploded.

Richard Attenborough has always been underrated as an actor, and that is not because he is an actor who also directs either although the academy for whatever reason only ever recognized him in that field. I imagine his underrated status mostly comes from the fact that a large part of his career, particularly early in his career, he starred mainly in very British productions. This film is no exception which is a shame considering there is some strong acting to be found in this almost completely forgotten film. Attenborough plays one of the men stuck on the submarine who we briefly meet before the accident involving the sea mine. Attenborough sets his character up perfectly showing Snipe to be a man quietly at unease with the idea of boarding a submarine as well as his wife's rather questionable behavior.

The young Attenborough, as he also showed in Brighton Rock, has such an intensity in his big youthful eyes. He uses this particularly well to amplify the freighting nature of the men's situation as Attenborough shows Snipe as a man who is deeply afraid in the disabled submarine. Snipe's early actions in the film are that of a cowardly man who suffers from claustrophobia, and it is revealed that he only took the position on the submarine for the extra pay it offered. Attenborough is excellent because he doesn't play Snipe as a villain as he explores the weaknesses of the man even though he makes these flaws quite vivid. Attenborough portrayal of the fear is quite powerful as we see it drive him to foolish and selfish actions. Attenborough is always honest in making the fear of a normal man not some sort of monster.

Instead of making Snipe some sort of enemy to the crew when he eventually breaks down and attempts to make some sort of foolish escape Attenborough is able to actually be rather sympathetic in his portrayal of the selfish Snipe. Attenborough always brings an authenticity to this and Snipe's breakdown is rather remarkable because Attenborough while being appropriately intense in the temporary insanity in Snipe he at the same time allows us to see the very human emotions driving Snipe in his actions. Attenborough is able to show us where this man is coming from and even though we probably won't agree with Snipe's actions he does allow us to understand why he is tries his escape. This understanding though is particularly important though as Snipe changes as the film proceeds to a selfless man who stays on the submarine and tries his best to help the other three men still on board.

Attenborough makes this transition completely natural despite just how quick it is by setting up Snipe's actions earlier as those of a man in a truly terrible situation. Attenborough doesn't force it in the least being quite moving performance as he reveals a caring Snipe underneath his fear. Attenborough doesn't just brush off the fear though keeping internalized in his performance for the rest of the film as he should, but Attenborough shows that Snipe is able to remove his minds to the needs of the rest of the crew instead. Attenborough keeps Snipe the same making his change in the film believable when it very easily could have been a severe failing of the film considering that Snipe's discovery of his sense of duty is such a rapid one. Attenborough serves this film especially well bringing a needed friction earlier to the film as the troubled Snipe as well as giving a heartfelt portrayal when Snipe finds his courage.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1950: Louis Calhern in The Asphalt Jungle

Louis Calhern did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alonzo D. Emmerich in The Asphalt Jungle.

Louis Calhern was nominated for his performance as Oliver Wendell Holmes for lead actor in 1950 but his performance that year was actually his supporting turn in this year although it is not surprising that he was nominated for the dignified portrait of a supreme court justice rather his portrayal of a rather sleazy lawyer who dabbles in crime on the side. Calhern essentially plays the money man for the big operation to steal a fortune worth of jewels from a bank vault. Emmerich though is not nearly as trust worthy as the other men in the plan would like to be as he decides upon a double cross early on as one way to escape his own financial problems. One of the strengths of this film is that Emmerich's character is given far more depth than the usual greedy wealthy man often found in heist films.

Louis Calhern, who often played authority figures, deserves a great deal of credit for going about fleshing out his character beyond simply what his actions are. Calhern is of course very good in being the bluntest part of the role which is the rich lawyer who would like to be a hot shot criminal. Calhern has the right sort of pompousness in his performance. He seems like the rich man in front of the criminals and is very good in putting an extra emphasis to his rich man demeanor which is fitting as Emmerich is putting on a bit of a show for his associates benefits as he does want to trick them into believing that he will go through with the plan all the way without any tricks up his sleeve. Calhern maneuvers through the act effectively making it easy to see why the criminals would agree to work with him at first, but not agree to trust him later.

Calhern brings more to the role though than just being the seedy man who messes up the money end of the heist. Calhern very good in bringing depth into every facet of Emmerich's life. His affair with a young woman played Marilyn Monroe is particularly well handled by Calhern. When he speaks to her Calhern expresses an interesting combination of emotions in Emmerich as he seems to lust after her while seeming to be disgusted by his behavior at the very same time. Calhern also brings this complexity in his brief scenes where Emmerich spends time with his invalid wife. Calhern portrays the mixed feelings of Emmerich very well once gain although this time it is shame in him for being unfaithful for his wife although along with a boredom of her, although importantly Calhern does bring a subtle warmth in his performance that shows Emmerich still loves his wife despite his own behavior.

Like Sam Jaffe's performance and pretty much every performance in the film there is a certain style to Calhern's work that very much adds to the film as whole. There is something so particular about his manner especially the way that he smokes his cigarette that has a memorable style to it well always feeling authentic. One of the things this film does though is break apart the image of the men in the film with the tough Dix really begin a man just wanting to go home, the mechanical mastermind Doc really being just a lustful old man, and Emmerich although wanting to be the big boss man is really just a pathetic small man. One of Calhern's best scenes is when Emmerich tries to trick Doc and Dix to give him the money but things turn south causing Emmerich's henchmen to be killed by Dix. Calhern is excellent in the scene as he shows Emmerich lose his usual assured manner and become a scared wreck almost driven to tears revealing the truly pathetic Emmerich underneath his fancy suits. Calhern realizes Emmerich as a complex portrait of a man who tries to think big but is in fact a very small man inside.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1950: Masayuki Mori in Rashomon

Masayuki Mori did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Takehiro Kanazawa in Rashomon.

Akira Kurosawa's films are not always known for their ensembles. This is not a problem as I never believe this causes any actual problems for the film, but they are usually driven by one or two performances. Rashomon though is an exception. Yes, as usual, it contains a great performance by Toshiro Mifune but almost every actor in the film has a moment to shine. Out of the supporting characters the man who shines the most is Masayuki Mori as the samurai Takehiro Kanazawa whose fate is the constant of the four different stories of the same event. The samurai's fate being that he is killed one of the many things that are disputed though is who killed him not to mention how he was murdered and why exactly he was killed.

Mori like Toshiro Mifune gives four different sides of apparently the same man. The samurai though is a little different though from his wife and the bandit because we never see the samurai as himself in the court we only know him through the perspectives of the story tellers. Mori's work is very different form Mifune's almost the polar opposite particularly in terms of how little he says as well as the fact he very much downplays the emotions of his character whereas Mifune revels in them. As Mifune's fiery performance reflected the free spirited nature of his character Tajomaru the infamous bandit, Mori's icy turn reflects his role as the controlled samurai who at first is just very normally moving one place to another through a forest with his wife.

Tajomaru's version of the events is told like an adventure despite the results of it therefore the samurai is pictured as an adversary although importantly a worthy adversary. Mori in this version is just about silent in his portrayal of the samurai. Every action he takes seems to be deducing what the bandit wants to do and attempting to thwart him the best that he can. Even when he is tied to the tree in defeat Mori portrays the samurai with a strong willed defiance like even though he is defeat he will not lay down, the perfect enemy to say that the bandit eventually defeats. When they do finally fight Mori once again portrays the samurai as a worthy foe who is brave, tough, and someone that makes it so the bandit can be very proud of his victory within his story.

In the wife's story Mori brings a subtle variation on the first story's version. Where Mori portrayed the samurai as most certainly unhappy in the first story the focus of the second his his intense disgust not at the bandit but at his wife for succumbing to the bandits advances. Mori portrayal of this disgust is particularly effective because of just how cold he is yet still forceful in the emotional intensity of his hatred. Mori barely says anything again yet there is such power in his stare without any remorse as he condemns his wife in his eyes. This version of the samurai is killed by his wife leaving her an emotional wreck and Mori makes both the wife's actions as well as her emotional state in the court believable through his bitter scowl.

I will skip over his version as that is the strongest point of his entire performance and go to the woodcutter's version. The woodcutter's version seems the most pathetic and perhaps the most realistic as the whole event leaves a terrible taste in the mouth. Mori's work is particularly interesting here as the samurai once again denounces his wife yet Mori plays it in a completely different fashion yet somehow it seems like it still could have come from the same man. Mori's plays this denouncement in a far more open and to the point manner probably far more like how most men would turn from their wives. Mori is still very harsh but it is fascinating the way in this version how he portrays the same action in such a different fashion yet still seems as though he is portraying the same character.

Mori is particularly effective in showing not only how their fatal battle starts but also how it ends. In this version it is being emasculated by the wife that leads both men to fight. Instead of being the stoic worthy adversary of the first story Mori's portrays the samurai much more as a normal man who is forced by pride to try and fight like a man. As I said in Mifune's review he and Mori are terrific in the portrayal of the battle particularly when compared to the bandit's version. Where the first was made a rousing affair by the actors in this version it is a particularly unpleasant sight to watch as both are frightened as they attempt to kill one another. Mori is very powerful as in the end does not portray the finale of the fight as a worthy opponent accepting defeat but rather just a very scared man pleading for his life.

Mori's greatest moment though is when the samurai himself tells the story through a medium, a person who speaks for the dead. Mori says the most as we hear his voice but do not see him. Mori's voice is extremely haunting and it is as it should be the voice of a dead man suffering in darkness. Through his voice we hear the samurai's version of the events. Mori is incredible because where the other scenes his performance properly acts as a man closed off from us, in this one he opens up to us as we see samurai as he sees himself. Mori still stays reserved in his performance but although there is not warmth precisely there is not that same coldness instead we are allowed see the basic human feelings in this man.

In this version of the story the samurai does not hate his wife for letting the bandit have his way with her but rather because she insists that the bandit murder him. Mori is actually quite heartbreaking in this version as he so honestly portrays how this tears the samurai inside. There is not anger that Mori portrays in this version but only sadness in the samurai due to all that he has lost from the event. It is especially moving because of the difference in this quietly emotional depiction in contrast to the cold version as he is seen by the other observers. That is the achievement of this performance by Masayuki Mori as he is able to create four different sides of the samurai yet never making it an entirely different character. His performance just like Mifune's is compelling complex portrait of the four perceptions of a man which Mori makes a particularly effective counterpart through his far more restrained portrayal to Mifune's flamboyant work.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1950: Takashi Shimura in Rashomon

Takashi Shimura did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the woodcutter in Rashomon.

Takashi Shimura plays the woodcutter the only person to tell a version of the story where the samurai dies and his wife is raped who does not appear in the story himself. The woodcutter, along with a priest and a commoner discuss a story while waiting for a rainstorm to stop underneath the city gate. The woodcutter claims at first to have been the one to come upon the corpse of the samurai and report the crime to the police. Where the priest laments the situation and the commoner just seems to mostly enjoy hearing the story, the woodcutter though for some reason consistently decries each of the stories as lies made by the storyteller and not the truth.

Takashi Shimura's role is a limited role and Shimura plays his role in a seemingly simple fashion at first as the film cuts back to the three men before and after each of the stories. He and Minoru Chiaki as the priest accent each of the stories by portraying the men's reactions to hearing each version of the story. Minoru Chiaki effectively shows the great distress over the nature of the story as he sees people acting morally bankrupt. Shimura portrays a similar reaction which adds to the impact to each story by showing what it means to them. Shimura though is careful in that he portrays the woodcutter's reaction which is not the same as there seems to be some sort of outrage he has under that haunted expression as he reflects on the stories he has heard.

Takashi Shimura in his performance carefully sets up the secret the woodcutter has as he tears down each of the stories by calling the three storytellers liars, and Shimura gives the sense that this there is more to what the woodcutter knows which is revealed later. The woodcutter claims to have seen the whole event himself and depicts the story in a particularly unromantic light, and paints all of the three participants rather poorly. Shimura handles the scenes before and after the woodcutter's story just right as it is impossible to tell if he is lying or if he telling the truth yet Shimura never makes this seem lacking in distinction. Shimura portrays that the woodcutter is most definitely haunted for a reason and hates what has happened but he leaves the viewer to decide from where this outrage comes.

The scenes of the three men discussing the crime build up to the point in which they find an abandoned baby and the commoner steals a kimono that was with it, the woodcutter calls him on it leaving the commoner to reveal that perhaps the woodcutter was also acting in self-interest with his story as he was the one who took the expensive knife left after the crime. Shimura is very moving using mostly his expressive face as the woodcutter must face his own guilt. Shimura shows the weakness that exists in the man as well and powerfully expresses the shame the man feels for his actions. Shimura is actually able to retain the mystery of the story as he again leaves it open where exactly the shame lies in that man whether it is for stealing the knife or perhaps for making up his version of the story.

The film leaves Shimura and Chiaki a difficult scene to end on as they must make an optimistic ending from the often pessimistic narrative. The optimism comes from the woodcutter's willingness to take the baby and takes care of it as one of his own acting no longer in self interest. The scene comes out of the blue and it is easy to see how it might not have worked but it ends up being a terrific ending to the film due to the performances of Shimura and Chiaki. Shimura is only genuine in his depiction of the woodcutter's moral redemption as he is willing to do a purely selfless act. Shimura's and Chiaki's scene has such honest warmth and feeling and gives hope at the end of the film that does not feel forced or sanctimonious in the least.

Shimura's screen time is limited and his scenes are decidedly not the showy ones of the film as we only see the woodcutter in the strictest terms. Shimura despite this still gives a complex performance within the woodcutter who seems simple at first yet he and the film reveal this to not be the case in a most effective fashion. It is a most intriguing portrait that he creates of the observer as we see both his own reactions to the three other stories but as well what makes up actually why a man might take the selfish route and create his own perspective in the film place. His work makes the stories out of the realm of the rashomon effect hold their own power as well as amplify the power of the stories, and as well his portrayal of the morality of the woodcutter acts as the natural and very poignant personification of one of the major themes of this film.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1950

And the Nominees Were Not:

Masayuki Mori in Rashomon

Takashi Shimura in Rashomon

Louis Calhern in The Asphalt Jungle

Alastair Sim in Stage Fright

Richard Attenborough in Morning Departure

Alternate Best Actor 1950: Results

5. Marlon Brando in The Men- Brando gives a solid turn but he always seems a bit restricted due to the role.

Best Scene: Ken's emotional outburst at the other Men
4. Toshiro Mifune in Scandal- Far from Mifune's best work but it is a nice charming performance as a fulfills the role a traditional leading man.

Best Scene: Ichiro makes his plea to the court.
3. Edmond O'Brien in D.O.A.- O'Brien is easily the best part of his film as he gives a convincing performance as a man forced to solve his own murder while he is dying.

Best Scene: Bigelow finishes telling his story.
2. Sterling Hayden in The Asphalt Jungle- Hayden doesn't give a hoot style doesn't always work but it certainly does here as the hoodlum Dix particularly due to the modicum of humanity he does bring to the part.

Best Scene:  Dix dreams of the farm as he tries to make it back to it one more time.
1. Toshiro Mifune in Rashomon- Good Prediction Psifonian. Feel free to name a year and a performance of your choice. My favorite this year is without a doubt Mifune's amazing performance here that may be his finest. He goes all out and is absolutely magnetic every second he is onscreen and gives a compelling portrayal of a man through four very different perceptions.

Best Scene:  (Hard to say as I love every minute of it but I'll have to say) The bandit's version of the story.
Overall Rank:
  1. Toshiro Mifune in Rashomon
  2. James Stewart in Harvey
  3. William Holden in Sunset Blvd.
  4. Jose Ferrer in Cyrano De Bergerac
  5. Sterling Hayden in The Asphalt Jungle
  6. Edmond O'Brien in D.O.A.
  7. Sidney Poitier in No Way Out
  8. Toshiro Mifune in Scandal
  9. James Stewart in Winchester '73 
  10. John Mills in Morning Departure
  11. Marlon Brando in The Men
  12. John Wayne in Rio Grande
  13. Richard Widmark in No Way Out
  14. James Stewart in Broken Arrow
  15. Richard Widmark in Panic in the Streets 
  16. Takashi Shimura in Scandal
  17. Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter
  18. Spencer Tracy in Father of the Bride
  19. Clifton Webb in Cheaper by the Dozen
  20. Richard Todd in Stage Fright
  21. Louis Calhern in The Magnificent Yankee
  22. Broderick Crawford in Born Yesterday
  23. William Holden in Born Yesterday
  24. Burt Lancaster in Mister 880
  25. Humphrey Bogart in In a Lonely Place  
  26. Jackie Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story
Next Year: 1950 Supporting

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1950: Marlon Brando in The Men

Marlon Brando did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ken in The Men.

The Men is a sometimes moving although far from perfect film about paralyzed WW II vets trying to adjust to their lot.

The Men is a mostly forgotten film even though it is Marlon Brando's first film his only film before he broke out to stardom through the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire. This may be because Brando isn't really himself for the most part it does not have the same screen presence he became noted for nor does it have that self indulgence that often came with his later work. This film is notable though as it is probably Marlon Brando at his most unassuming, and for my money even more notable as it contains a performance by Jack Webb where he is not playing Joe Friday but I digress.

I ought to get the negatives out of the way first which is the casting of Brando's love interest in the film who is played by Teresa Wright. I think Wright is a terrific actress and has such a natural charm, but she was miscast in the film. She plainly just doesn't seem to fit with Marlon Brando whether it be that she was about six years older then he was or that they just don't fit together. I really hate to say this as they both really try in their romantic scenes together but the chemistry needed just is not there. They do not fail in the usual way I refer to actors with bad chemistry because they both do go for it, but they just never seem compatible and at best come off as brother and sister or best friends.

The romantic aspect is one big fly in the ointment for sure as Ken relationship with his fiancee is unfortunately the focus of the film. There are also problems because Ken's journey is a little too simple. He starts very sad and down on himself then builds himself up again then he becomes sad again builds himself up again becomes sad again becomes happy finally and the film ends. It does feel a bit repetitive and there is not enough variation given to the character of Ken and his character arc feels oddly fixed like a graph where the line goes up and down in the same exact way three times without any changes in between. This is not Brando's fault as all of the transitions are spelled out by more than just his performance.

Well with that all out of the way there is some good to be said about Brando and that he is effective in portraying each of the phases of his character even though he is in this rigid structure of emotions that the film forces on him. The anguish is felt through Brando as is the happiness through some nice charm that Brando brings in the role. There is even a great moment where we see what made Brando such an unforgettable actor as that intensity he would carry in his later roles comes out in one of the scenes where Ken anger over his situation comes out. It is a great moment and you can really see that quality that made him the star he soon became although scenes like that are not seen often enough through the film unfortunately.

This is a solid performance by Marlon Brando but Brando really needed more breathing room in this part as he often seems held back, and he is left too often to watch as Fred Zinnemann handles the transitions of Ken for him. It also would have helped if his love interest had been maybe Kim Hunter for example as Wright just wasn't right for the part. This role did indicate two things about Marlon Brando. Firstly he needed to be allowed to really let loose in way this role never allowed him to do but A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront eventually did do. The other thing it did indicate though was the considerable talent that he did have including that emotionally searing quality, that eventually became his trademark of sorts, even though the film did not let him show it off as much as it could have.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1950: Edmond O'Brien in D.O.A.

Edmond O'Brien did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Frank Bigelow in D.O.A.

D.O.A. is a solid enough thriller about a man who tries to solve his own murder after he has ingested a fatal but slow acting poison.

O'Brien the king of thankless roles really gets another here even though he is the one and only lead this time. O'Brien though does still have a thankless role as Frank Bigelow who is the man trying to find out who poisoned him and for what reason. Before he is poisoned he is just a very average man and notary. O'Brien is just fine at being normal guy being normal. He is likable enough even though he is hampered a bit by his love interest who stands as a sore spot throughout the film as she just is not an interesting character, and she is rather poorly played by Pamela Britton. The normal man though is quickly thrown into a film noir plot by finding out he only has a few days to live.

The soon to die aspect again is rather thankless as it is not something that he gets to dwell on for long he has to go head first into the investigation while feeling to anguish of the fact that he is going to die very soon. O'Brien though is very good in what he is able to get out the role despite the rather extreme limitations of the set up. O'Brien is quite intense as he portrays Bigelow basically freak out as he tries to figure out how he so suddenly has gotten himself in a situation. The intensity is absolutely earned considering the situation and it really would have been very wrong for an average guy like O'Brien to treat this development in a quiet or even moderate fashion, the extreme method O'Brien takes fits the extreme situation his character is in.

O'Brien is effective as after the initial anger and confusion he expresses he shifts to a man who always has a directive within him. O'Brien has a determination in his portrayal that reflects the way Bigelow's death sentence has actually made this conviction in him. The transformation from just a normal guy to the hero of this thriller is made entirely believable by O'Brien because he always reminds us in his eyes the fact that Bigelow knows he is going to do die in his eyes which makes it that he is able to have a passion and daring that he would never have had if he had been if this fate had not befallen him. O'Brien is a compelling presence through the story by always keeping the central concept of the story alive in his performance as Bigelow.

O'Brien also deserves credit in the two bookend scenes where Bigelow can finally stop and tell his story to the police. O'Brien properly adjusts his performance here to show that because Bigelow has finally found justice by figuring out his killer that what has happened to him can truly sink in. O'Brien is very affecting as he expresses sadness in Bigelow over his fate particularly due to the rather random nature of why he was killed. There is something very powerful about O'Brien's portrayal of this because he shows that without Bigelow's mission of figuring out who killed him he is only left with his far more somber thoughts that he is doomed man, and his time is just about up.

The only problem I would say with this performance is the limitations put upon him by the film. The film itself really is not nearly as interesting as just the basis for its plot which easily could have made a better film from particularly due to that love story. O'Brien still is solid in these scenes but he just can't find any chemistry with Britton, but to O'Brien's credit he really does try even though there just isn't anything he can do to make these scenes seem more then a waste of time. Even with the limitations though O'Brien's performance is easily the best part of the film. The film could have done more with the brilliant man solving his own murder concept nevertheless O'Brien is very successful in properly humanizes the that concept through his devoted performance.

Alternate Best Actor 1950: Sterling Hayden in The Asphalt Jungle

Sterling Hayden did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dix Handley in The Asphalt Jungle.

The Asphalt Jungle is a film all about the gritty and rough nature of its characters there are thieves, corrupt cops, lecherous old men no one seems clean in this film. One of the roughest faces though has to belong to Sterling Hayden as the hoodlum Dix who mostly does armed robbery, but soon joins up with a really large scheme conceived by "Doc" Erwin Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe). Hayden does not really have to do all that much to be convincing as the rough customer that Dix should be with his grizzled face and oppressive stature as he is perfectly cast in this role. There is never a question that Dix isn't someone who should be messed with and at least on the surface seems to be the type of hoodlum all the criminals talk about which is a man without humanity.

Hayden is very effective in being the opposing force that you can't ignore and his mere presence seems to add to the grimy nature of the film. Hayden might very well have been the only leading man of the time who could have really fit the character as well as Hayden does as there isn't any glamor that Hayden tries to add the part and lets himself be the thug that Dix should be. Hayden no nonsense approach works perfectly for the film as Dix never becomes a hero that we follow but rather another one of the crooks who we observe as they attempt their plan. Hayden really doesn't try to be likable but in a way being straight forward in the portrayal still makes him an easy character to follow and effectively reinforces the style the film is going for.

Although the hoodlums are looked at men without a humanity there is a little bit in Dix which mostly pertains to his memories of his days on a horse farm, and his dream to return there someday. The film nor Hayden dwell on these moments for very long, but they are very nicely handled by Hayden as they are just a short genuine glimpse into his humanity. The fact that he doesn't lighten up in any of the other scenes actually makes these brief gentle moments quite poignant as Hayden gives just a bit of tenderness in an otherwise stony hide. This also sets up the climax in an efficient fashion as Dix is almost forced to dream about a better life it actually comes off as quite moving because of the honesty Hayden gave to those earlier bits that contradicted what seems to be the nature of Dix.

I have to say that this actually is a very good performance by Hayden as his style of not really seeming to care works exceedingly well especially with those sprinkled in moments where he does. I doubt anyone could have been better in this role since Hayden's very unique screen presence seemed practically tailor made for this role, and he makes the atmosphere all the more vivid in the part of Dix who if he had been played in a more romantic manner could have easily upset this facet of the film. I do have to say Hayden is not the most interesting part of the film that is Sam Jaffe without a doubt and I do have to give a great deal of credit to the academy for recognizing that performance. Hayden though does make a very important impact on the film as well and achieves something rather special by finding poignancy in such a hard man.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1950: Toshiro Mifune in Rashomon

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tajomaru in Rashomon.

Rashomon is another masterpiece by Akira Kurosawa that tells four different versions of the same story that consists of a bandit raping a woman, and then her samurai husband is killed.

Mifune plays Tajomaru an infamous Bandit and the one who holds a key role in the story. The bandit is a man we see in four different variations, but first we see the Bandit as he is as he tells his story in front of the court and his version of how the events play out. This version of the Bandit is Mifune unleashed as he portrays the boisterous Tajomaru who revels in the crime as he tells the court about it. This is Mifune at his purest as his daring style fits the Tajomaru who is a man known for doing things when he wants it the way that he wants to do it. Mifune shows no hesitation and goes in this performance with his all even perhaps more so than his work later in the Seven Samurai, it is the full force of his unique style and it is glorious.

As the Bandit tells the story to the court with his arms bound and a defiant glare as he refuses to give even the slightest credit to anyone other than himself. Even as he is tied we see that he still is very much a free man in terms of spirit as he seems to be trying to break from the rope even though it makes no difference as he won't be escaping. It is an terrific display of Mifune's physical presence as it is as alive and thrilling even when he is held in place like this. This is just an indication of what Mifune will do in his performance once we see even more of him as the Tajomaru begins to tell his side of the story that only seems to support his attitude in trail setting which is being the Bandit with a very particular reputation that he is known for.

Toshiro Mifune is just amazing in the bandit's versions of the events which basically makes himself as almost a fantasy character as he tells what happened in the forest. Tajomaru's version of the tale is basically made to be high adventure, and just a fun scheme which Mifune's performance lets us in on the fun even though the fun includes murder and rape. This is a virtuoso turn by Toshiro Mifune every action he takes through the scenes is something to behold all in itself. Mifune basically becomes a wild animal as the wild man that is Tajomaru, and Mifune has such high energy as well as an incredible glee as we follow along Tajomaru as he tricks the samurai into a trap and later seduces his wife.

The bandit's version makes the rape look far more romantic and Mifune plays this version of it as a broad romantic gesture more than anything else as it would appear at least in the head of Tajomaru. What else happens though is the murder in this version he and the samurai duel. Each man stands with pride and they fight in a display of courage and bravery for the woman they each apparently love. Everything seems to be enjoyable in this version and Mifune's performance is immensely entertaining as the events unfold. Everything just seems to be part of his plan. Mifune plays Tajomaru as a man without scruples and at least partially crazy, but in this version there is such cunning there to as Tajomaru seems to get everything he wants.

The woman though tells a very different story and one that paints the whole affair in a far less flattering fashion for Tajomaru. Mifune appearance in this version of the story is very brief but very important in showing the different. Tajomaru technically has a similar style as it should still be at least mostly the same man, but this version is different in the rape was definitely a rape. Tajomaru seemed to play just a cruel game in this version rather then some adventure like the other. In this one Mifune is very effective as we see a similar glee as to the last story but with a distinct difference. In this version we can't enjoy it with Tajomaru in slightest as there is such maliciousness in his smile, and in this one Mifune makes him the true villain doing the act merely for his own horrible pleasure.

We get yet another look into Tajomaru in the dead man's story which is told through a medium. Mifune once again shifts his performance to wonderful affect. This time Tajomaru seems almost to have the moral high ground and Mifune changes his demeanor ever so slightly to suggest this. He is very interesting in his change in this version as Tajomaru's insanity is limited here and there is such reasonable sense in this revision. What is amazing is Mifune's still has this feel as part of the character and is very good in his portrayal of the Tajomaru who seems to have at least some sense of honor in this version. In his expression rather than joy there is oddly an understanding in his eyes as he seems to view the samurai and his wife almost on a higher level as an authority figure there to deal some form of justice.

Then we have the woodcutter's story which is very powerful thanks in part to the performances of the actors. In this version any sentiment is stripped away not one is shown a hero or a villain at least in a traditional sense. Instead we see three pathetic souls brought together. Mifune's portrayal is revised again and in a most dramatic way. In all three of the other stories Tajomaru's had a forceful personality this time though that is diminished in Mifune's portrayal. In this version Mifune portrays the bandit as scared of his implications of what the wife of the samurai wants and when he and the samurai fight it is very different from his own account. The other version of the fight is a particularly striking scene thanks to the set up and the performances.

Both actors are outstanding as we see two men change themselves so much from the first version of the fight where they were two warriors fighting in a true battle here they are two frightened men who try to kill on another in a difficult attempt to protect their pride in front of the woman. The scene comes off as very brutal because we see the fear in each of their eyes as they try to strike the other. They do it not with dramatic lunges and parries but nervous swings and shake as they cower from each other. When the final blow does come Mifune shows it as a pitiful action where Tajomaru seems as afraid as the samurai. After the victory there is nothing but anguish. Mifune makes the wretched nature of the situation reverberate as he ends it not with a indulgent sneer but rather in a fearful anguish.

None of these stories are necessarily the truth but each are possibly a part of the truth. The only truth is when we see the actual bandit. Mifune of course plays it most like the first story, but that makes perfect sense as Tajomaru would of course try to prove his side true by acting accordingly therefore the other stories could be just as true. Mifune's work is astonishing as he is every version of the man even while each contradicts the other. By being believable in every version of it, and suggesting each story as a possible it makes the power of the film all the more palatable. Through his depiction we are allowed to see the variations f the same man the possibilities of who and what he could be, and are allowed to witness the fascinating dynamic that is created through the contradictions of the four versions of the same man.

Toshiro Mifune is one of my favorite actors because he is someone who is able to perform in a film in what is without a doubt a performance particularly how it seems in writing yet he is able to make it completely natural to his character. This is one of those performances that is just a joy to watch act through its course Mifune uses his physical style flawlessly making something special from his gritted teeth, his twitches and every little movement.Tajomaru is made such a memorable character  by Mifune as well as a brilliant personification of the different shades of a man that can come from different perceptions. All I can say is I love this performance, and even though I did like his restrained work in Scandal, his off the wall work here was his finest on screen achievement of 1950.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1950: Toshiro Mifune in Scandal

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ichiro Aoye in Scandal.

Scandal is lesser Kurosawa about the fallout after a tabloid reports an untrue affair between a singer and a painter. I say lesser Kurosawa as it is not up there with his best work by any means, but with that said I still thought it was pretty good.

Toshiro Mifune actually plays almost against type here as the semi-famous painter who accidentally finds himself in a scandal. The reason I say against type is that Ichiro Aoye is just pretty much a normal decent kind of guy which is a rarity for Mifune to play as even in the Quiet Duel and High and Low the man had to deal with some very serious problems. Here he has to deal with a problem but it definitively is not nearly as serious in nature. It is also a rarity in that Mifune plays the wiser and smarter character and Takashi Shimura plays the foolish character which is usually the exact opposite when they are both cast as the leads to a Kurosawa film.

Mifune actually kind of has a role someone like James Stewart or Henry Fonda might take in that his character is always in the right throughout the whole film. It is interesting to see Mifune in this type of role particularly since he makes quite a few adjustments when playing the part of Ichiro the painter. Mifune seems to almost soften his face of the edge that it usually carries in his portrayal of the honest man, who only wants to take down the tabloid due to its dishonesty. Mifune doesn't really have of his trademark style here as he goes about just kind of playing Ichiro like a bit of an every man who just wants to make sure that everyone does the right thing.

I have to say I quite enjoyed Mifune take on such a lighter role when compared to the usual characters he plays since he handles the role quite well. This is pretty much just a role for Mifune to show off his charm which he definitely has plenty of even in the more traditional sense. He also gets to be just a gentle warm character pretty much throughout, and again Mifune can be surprisingly heartwarming too. It might seem a little out of place for Mifune to drive a motorcycle with a Christmas tree while "Jingle Bells" plays and proclaiming that he is Santa Clause but Mifune pulls it off quite naturally and has just a genuine sweetness throughout this film.

He is in the vein of James Stewart sort of role as well though because he also has to be the passionate voice of reason and justice during the film. Mifune handles this with his always strong presence which Mifune adjusts effectively here to really take it back in the right way to put it in a fairly normal man, but a man who does have a strong conviction to do what is right. Mifune is very good in portraying just the quiet strength of Ichiro as he confronts the unscrupulous editor of the tabloid magazine and as well one particularly great moment near the end of the film where he pleads his case in front of the court.

Mifune is terrific in the scene through just finding the simple power in Ichiro stance which merely is pleading to the jury that he is not a man who would lie. Mifune is also very good in being the support to the amoral lawyer played by Shimura who is trying to change his ways. Mifune is very unassuming in these scenes but he brings just a strong assertion of Ichiro's own sense of morality and makes it believable that Ichiro would be able to help the lawyer find the right path for himself in the end. Mifune is always righteous in an honest fashion in this performance there is not even a moment of sanctimony, but what would you expect from Mifune considering the type of characters he usually takes on.

This might not be Toshiro Mifune's greatest work in fact it is far from it, but since this is Toshiro Mifune I'm talking about that really is not saying anything against this performance. This is a lighter simpler turn from what we usually see from Mifune collaboration with Akira Kurosawa. It still is a good performance from the great actor and suggests that he could have just as easily been a more traditional leading man (although I am certainly glad Mifune did not go this route with his career) evidenced by his assured and very charming performance which stands as just another example of what Mifune was capable of.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1950

And the Nominees Were Not:

Toshiro Mifune in Rashomon

Toshiro Mifune in Scandal

Edmond O'Brien in D.O.A

Marlon Brando in The Men

Sterling Hayden in The Asphalt Jungle

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2002: Results

5. Richard Gere in Chicago- Gere throws himself completely into the role which certainly offers some entertainment even if he over does it at some points.

Best Scene: Give em the old razzle dazzle.
4. Dennis Quiad in Far From Heaven- Quiad is somewhat restricted by the writing of his character but he excels in his portrayal of a very repressed man.

Best Scene: Frank tells his wife about his early vacation.
3. Andy Serkis in The Two Towers- Serkis creates a unique and very interesting character through his portrayal Gollum and his multiple personalities.

Best Scene: Smeagol and Gollum face off.
2. Robin Williams in Insomnia- Robin Williams gives probably his best performance giving a chilling performance as a killer who seems absolutely genuine in his innocence even while admitting he is completely guilty.

Best Scene: Walter Finch tells why he murdered the girl. 
1. Bernard Hill in The Two Towers- This is another very personal choice but I love Bernard Hill's work in the Two Towers. He takes a character that could have been a complete throwaway but instead brings such humanity and power into his role of King Théoden.

Best Scene: King Théoden mourns his son.
Overall Rank:
  1. Bernard Hill in The Two Towers
  2. Christopher Walken in Catch Me If You Can
  3. Robin Williams in Insomnia
  4. Paul Newman in Road to Perdition
  5. Brendan Gleeson in 28 Days Later 
  6. Andy Serkis in The Two Towers
  7. Jude Law in Road to Perdition
  8. Daniel Craig in Road to Perdition 
  9. Brendan Gleeson in Gangs of New York 
  10. Chris Cooper in Adaptation
  11. Thomas Kretschmann in The Pianist
  12. Sean Astin in The Two Towers
  13. Tom Hanks in Catch Me If You Can
  14. Dennis Quiad in Far From Heaven
  15. Barry Pepper in 25th Hour
  16. Christopher Lee in The Two Towers
  17. John C. Reilly in Gangs of New York
  18. Stephen Dillane in The Hours
  19. Eric Tsang in Infernal Affairs
  20. Brian Cox in 25th Hour
  21. J.K. Simmons in Spider-Man
  22. Philip Seymour Hoffman in 25th Hour
  23. Cliff Robertson in Spider-Man 
  24. Anthony Wong in Infernal Affairs
  25. Brian Cox in Adaptation
  26. Liev Schreiber in The Sum of All Fears
  27. Brad Dourif in The Two Towers 
  28. George Clooney in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
  29. Ian McKellen in The Two Towers 
  30. Sean Bean in The Two Towers
  31. Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man
  32. John C. Reilly in Chicago
  33. Dennis Haysbert in Far From Heaven
  34. Max von Sydow in Minority Report
  35. Joaquin Phoenix in Signs
  36. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Punch-Drunk Love 
  37. Denzel Washington in Antwone Fisher
  38. Liam Neeson in Gangs of New York 
  39. Michael Byrne in The Sum of All Fears
  40. Stanley Tucci in Road to Perdition 
  41. Richard Harris in The Count of Monte Cristo
  42. Ciarian Hinds in The Sum of All Fears
  43. Jim Broadbent in Gangs of New York 
  44. Billy Boyd in The Two Towers
  45. Richard Harris in The Chamber of Secrets
  46. Frank Finlay in The Pianist
  47. Noah Huntley in 28 Days Later
  48. Kenneth Branagh in The Chamber of Secrets
  49. Rutger Hauer in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
  50. Christopher Lee in Attack of the Clones
  51. Richard Gere in Chicago
  52. Luiz Guzman in Punch-Drunk Love
  53. Michael Wincott in The Count of Monte Cristo
  54. Jason Isaacs in The Chamber of Secrets 
  55. Colin Farrell in Minority Report 
  56. Alfred Molina in Frida
  57. James Cromwell in The Sum of All Fears
  58. John C. Reilly in The Hours
  59. David Wenham in The Two Towers 
  60. Rupert Grint in The Chamber of Secrets
  61. Morgan Freeman in The Sum of All FEars
  62. John Rhys-Davies in The Two Towers
  63. Jeremy Irons in The Time Machine
  64. Peter Stormare in Minority Report
  65. Alan Bates in Sum of All Fears 
  66. Orland Bloom in The Two Towers 
  67. Dominic Monaghan in The Two Towers
  68. Karl Urban in The Two Towers
  69. Tom Wilkinson in The Importance of Being Earnest
  70. Guy Pearce in The Count of Monte Cristo
  71. Gary Cole in One Hour Photo
  72. Tim Blake Nelson in Minority Report 
  73. Henry Cavill in The Count of Monte Cristo
  74. Christopher Eccleston in 28 Days Later
  75. James Franco in Spider-Man
  76. Henry Thomas in Gangs of New York 
  77. Luis Guzman in the Count of Monte Cristo
  78. Rory Culkin in Signs
  79. Orlando Jones in The Time Machine
  80. Martin Sheen in Catch Me If You Can
  81. John Noble in The Two Towers
  82. Geoffrey Rush in Frida 
  83. Ed Harris in The Hours
  84. Rip Torn in Men in Black 2
  85. Tony Siragusa in 25th Hour
  86. Dermot Mulroney in About Schmidt
  87. Dylan Smith in One Hour Photo
  88. Michael Madsen in Die Another Day
  89. Howard Hesseman in About Schmidt
  90. Toby Stephens in Die Another Day
  91. Eric Lloyd in The Santa Clause 2
  92. Johnny Knoxville in Men in Black 2
  93. Rick Yune in Die Another Day
  94. Rob Schneider in Mr. Deeds
Next Year: 1950 lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2002: Richard Gere in Chicago

Richard Gere did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning the Golden Globe and being nominated for Sag, for portraying Billy Flynn in Chicago. 

Although Billy Flynn is the largest male role in Chicago I don't consider him lead and watching it again only supported my thoughts why. Flynn is almost always viewed through Roxie(Renee Zellweger)'s perspective and even in the one scene where he is not interestingly John C. Reilly actually gets the focus. Gere though does have a very showy part though because of this, and the whole idea is we only ever see Flynn as the hot shot lawyer who is much more of showman than a proper legal consultant. This pretty much means that Gere's point throughout the film is pretty much just to be on the entire time and try to be entertaining as possible while Flynn goes about making Roxie a media darling as well as get her off her murder rap.

 I will start with what I think Gere does do right which is that he seems to be enjoying himself a great deal throughout the film, and particularly all of his musical numbers. This is a very nice variation of things when compared to the oddly grim faces often displayed by Catherin Zeta-Jones and Zellweger. Gere always does bring a nice light touch and a lot of energy into all of scenes. His singing voice not be amazing, but even so he always still seems to bring everything he has to every number anyway. He is always definitely trying to be entertaining though of course how much enjoyment your going to get from the performance does depend a great deal of how much you like Richard Gere as an actor to begin with.

Well I personally I'm just not that crazy about Gere to being with. He is an actor with charisma, but he does not always use the charisma in the very best of ways. He often just kind of has rather than really infusing it into a role to do something really special. More than that though I do feel that Billy Flynn simply could have been a more entertaining character, and I do think maybe the character could have made the film far more enjoyable than it ended up being. He could have been more than just a scene stealer and maybe could have  made scenes work purely from his presence. I will admit that is a tall order, and Gere doesn't quite meet, this challenge sometimes falling quite short even bordering a little on being a bit hammy.

Richard Gere's work does not reach the heights that he potentially could have in the role of Billy Flynn as it does seem the type part is ripe to steal the whole film with which he does not do. I don't think that Gere fails though in his role either. He does offer some entertainment through his method of just throwing himself into every scene for better or worse. This technique is a two edged sword as it does mean he is one of the bright spots of the film as he does go in all or nothing, but this also is what makes him maybe go just step too much in various moments during the course of the film when his face might just seem a little too knowing for his own good. A mixed bag for sure but I will credit Gere for giving his all even if that might not have been quite enough and just a little too much at same time. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2002: Robin Williams in Insomnia

Robin Williams did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Walter Finch in Insomnia.

Insomnia is about a homicide detective under investigation by internal affairs Will Dormer (Al Pacino) who is sent to Alaska to investigate the murder of a local teen while he plagued by guilt and the inability to sleep due to the midnight sun. It's an effective thriller even though it unfortunately has Hillary Swank in it who should only be cast in very rare circumstances. 

In 2002 Robin Williams rejected his standard on screen persona with his startling but sympathetic turn in One Hour Photo and in Insomnia. Williams again is playing against his usual type once again, and like One Hour Photo he does not even give a hint of his comedic work. As with many films where the killer is a mystery at least at first, and a famous actor has yet to make his appearance it is fairly safe to assume that he is going to be the killer. Insomnia actually pretty much takes this as a given as the first we even know of Williams it is hearing his voice revealing that he is the killer to Pacino's character. This actually is a pretty interesting way to introduce the character that might have not worked if it wasn't Williams's familiar voice over the phone.

Even though it is only his voice Williams makes a strong impact to begin with with his eerily calm delivery as he speaks. Finch isn't calling Dormer to turn himself in nor is he calling in the often used villain calling the hero routine but rather to make a deal as Finch was a witness to Dormer shooting and killing his partner. William's performance is very interesting in that even his voice is strangely calm there is nothing overtly evil about it either. He finds such startling tone for just his manner in which Finch talks that instantly makes him a fascinating character before we have even met him as Williams opens up with a mystery of this man only leaving us to what to know exactly what is behind the man who speaks in such a gentle way about his murder.

When Dormer finally meets Finch face to face Williams does not disappoint. His Finch is very different from his Sy in One Hour Photo even though it might seem like Williams might tread a little water in his performance but he does not. As Finch there is not anything that would make you instantly pinpoint him as a murderer at least in his style. He is again technically a lonely man, but in this case a very different sort of lonely man. Unlike in his leading work from this year Williams portrays the man who is all alone with a great degree of contentment most of the time. Williams doesn't make Finch seem desperate in any way, and part of what makes this performance so effective is that Williams does not plays Finch as the aggressive killer instead creates a more complex portrait.

When Finch lays out his plans to Dormer which involve framing somewhat else for the murder there is something so strange yet absolutely brilliant about Williams's performance. Everything that Finch lays out he words so nicely and puts it together like a set of plot points they both need to follow to make sure that they both escape any judgment. Why this is brilliant is that Finch himself is a mystery writer and Williams does two things by taking this approach. Firstly he shows that Finch has a certain ego in his writing so much that he will even keep using the writer's lingo and keep a distance even though he is the killer. Secondly though he suggests the way Finch has become since the murder and although it is his very first and now that he can view himself away from it that he could very easily become a serial killer due to his changed nature.

A particularly interesting thing that Williams does here is dominate his scenes with Pacino even though Dormer is the far more volatile one of the two. What Williams does though is basically create the dominance through an odd complacency. As they set up the plan Finch always urges on Dormer one way or another to follow his plan exactly. Williams does this with this odd charisma as even when he is insulted he barely bats an eye always gently pushing his ideas over Dormer's objections. There is also something else there as Finch consistently praises Dormer and his profession as well as trying to convince Dormer to go along with him as a way to do the right thing. Williams is amazing because it is impossible to tell whether he is being genuine in this praise and it comes off as just the easiest way for Finch to control Dormer all the more.

Williams's very best scene is when he tells Dormer about what exactly happened when he killed the girl. Williams lets go ever so slightly of the writer making his own story in this scene, although only ever so slightly. It is a very strange scene but testament to how good Williams is here as he makes you actually sympathize with Finch even though all he is doing is admitting he killed the girl. Again there is something else though as Williams brings just the smallest hint of a seething emotion under neath Finch's almost cherub like smile, and lets onto to where the extreme hatred came from that came when he killed the girl. This scene is incredible moment for Williams because even as he makes Finch seem like a man who did kill by accident what he actually is doing at the same time is showing how Finch is truly reprehensible as he has become a man who can completely rationalize his brutal murder. 

I think Robin Williams probably should contractually obligated to play a potential psychopath as he quite good at it, and it is quite an achievement that he doesn't repeat himself at all in his two portrayals of that sort from 2002. Williams pretty much makes every move you would not expect from Robin Williams playing a psychopathic murderer. In that he downplays everything evil about his character even though it is something that always within his characterization nevertheless. One of my favorite scenes that I think sums up the effectiveness of Williams's performance is late in the film as he and Dormer seem to have fixed everything up just right for themselves. Finch once again plays the nice man saying everything Dormer did was the right thing to do, and Williams is able to be honest with this sentiment even while he actually is not. That dynamic though makes Walter Finch such a chilling character though when he says that he will wrap everything up. Williams in his face gives the face of a man just giving a little bit of comfort, but in his eyes he is man who leaves the possibility that this wrap up probably will mean at least writing just one more murder in to end his story.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2002: Dennis Quaid in Far From Heaven

Dennis Quaid did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, a Sag, and being nominated for and winning several critic awards including the NYFCC, for portraying Frank Whitaker in Far From Heaven.

Far From Heaven is an interesting experiment at recreating the look and feel of a 50's melodrama although it deals directly with its topics rather than alluding to them. The only problem with this for me is that I never really cared for 50's melodramas, and as well I think it missteps somewhat in its partial attempt to replicate the style of the performances in that era.

Dennis Quaid actually has nothing really to do with the style found in some of the other performances in the film and pretty much tries for a realistic approach in his character. Quaid plays Frank the husband of Julianne Moore's Cathy Whitaker and the father of the children. They seem the ideal enough suburban household of the fifties except there is a severe problem in that Frank is a repressed homosexual who early on the film secretly attempts to find liaisons for himself which most often result in him being caught. Unlike many portrayals of gay characters Quaid in no way uses any mannerisms in his portrayal which makes absolute sense because he is playing someone who on the surface should at least seem just like any normal family man from the period. 

Although I know many love this performance I do not have quite the same appreciation for it as I feel Quaid's role is used as more of a plot point to Moore's central storyline muting the impact of Quaid's work somewhat. This is not at all Quaid's fault but it does set some limitations to his portrayal making his character not nearly as interesting as he could have been. What we see of Frank are really glimpses of his moments. We never really see the details, and no I don't mean the sex scenes. What I mean is we see the beginning and the end only of each part of his story. We see him look for liaisons, but then instantly only see the result of them. We see him hear about the therapy but we see none of it. We see him go back to his old ways at the end, but then we instantly see him having accepted himself fully.

What Quaid is left with are the glimpses of the man rather than the whole, but to Quiad's credit I did want to see the whole instead. Quaid is effective in the glimpses. In any of his scenes seeking liaisons they are almost entirely silent which Quaid works well with. Quaid always supports that Frank is a man of the time still no matter what, and even as he is doing something looked very much down upon he will still fulfill his role. Quaid is very good in this as Frank does keep himself within his structures even as he is breaking them, and Quaid leaves the desires in Frank subtle but known. Quaid brings across the repression with the right internalized intensity. Even when Frank seems the ideal man Quaid has the other element always present, but often only there if you look closely.

Quaid's work ends up being really episodic because we don't get the transitions instead we get the results.  Credit goes to Quaid though for realizing each of these moments the best he can and firmly in the character of Frank. Even when he laments his existence where he fights his repression with alcohol Quaid even as he breaks down still keeps that repression even within the scene. It is an interesting scenes as Quaid portrays Frank fighting against himself during the whole time, and leaving himself as nothing more than a bit of a confused mess. Due keeping the character always in this framework it is utterly fitting in the scene where Frank becomes angry over the rumors of Cathy's relationship with the black gardener as again Quaid shows Frank always keeping his role even if he hates that role.

This is a strong piece of work by Dennis Quaid in his creation of Frank, and it only helps that he doesn't go for any of the over the top moments so often in equivalent characters from the 50's. I do have my reservations in that I do think this could have been something absolutely incredible even Frank received much more focus and his arc consisted of more than just the base and then the peak in terms of every point of his story. I won't blame Quaid as that has absolutely nothing to do with him, instead I will credit him in giving striking portrait of Frank even within the sometimes extreme limitations put upon him, and I do believe that Quaid only would have been better if there was more material for him as he excels with what he has.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2002: Bernard Hill in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Bernard Hill did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying King Théoden in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

I found when re-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy that the first two films have one character each whose performance I really took for granted the first time I watched the films, but I have come to really appreciate for the depth they bring to their parts. The first film had Sean Bean as Boromir who turned what could have been just a one note bully to a tragic portrait of patriot brought down by his own devotion to his country. The third film perhaps could have had a performance like this in John Noble's Denethor, but the writing of the character and Noble's performance really leave a lot to be desired. I have to admit now that I made a mistake listing Noble far too high in my ranking for the supporting actors of 2003 as I wrongfully blamed only the writing, but really Noble is all over the place in his characterization and really overplays his role.

Now how about the second film though. The second film follows the very strings of the story, but the one that actually gets the most focus depicts Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) as they attempt to help the human kingdom of Rohan fight against the evil hordes of Orcs brought down upon them by the evil wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee). A central figure in this story is that of the King of Rohan Théoden. Although to be sure he isn't at first when he is a slightly moving corpse who basically just gives out orders to make it so his own kingdom will fail since he is under the control of Saruman. Hill does not have much to do in these brief scenes for sure, but he certainly gets his chance to shine once Théoden regains control of himself.

When a King is a supporting character in a film they often are rather simplistic characters either being just kind of simple higher up good guys or bad guys. Bernard Hill deserve a great deal of credit for really making an honest character out of Théoden not just a place holder for power. Hill's work is one that I only appreciate more on additional viewings of this film as he brings so much to this part. What Hill does in the part is create the King as a real man, and what really what there is to the King as whole. When he regains his power it is a great scene for Hill as he goes from the living corpse to the King once more. It is a great scene because Hill naturally infuses into the part the inner strength and really the majesty there should be within a great King.

Of course immediately after that scene where Hill set up the strength of the King the tone quickly changes when Théoden asks to see his son who has recently been killed. Hill has a difficult scene as we did not know the son in any way and we just met Théoden so it very well could have fallen flat, but Hill absolutely delivers in the scene importantly bringing a great humanity to his role. It is a incredible scene not only due to Hill's heartbreaking reaction as he grieves over the death of his son, but as well in this brings a great deal of emotional weight to what will come through Hill's portrayal of Théoden feelings toward the conflict as the whole. There is such a haunting quality Hill brings as he regrets being the one who lives as the young dies and the world around him seems to be turning to darkness.

Hill continues to excel in the role by bringing depth to the part that very easily could have been overlooked. When Théoden makes his decision for his people to whole in the fortification of Helm's Deep this is not a decision that is just there to make the plot move forward rather Hill offers far more in the part realizing the duties of the King in his portrayal. These are not just skimmed over in an improper fashion by Hill he brings a great deal of heart in his performance and Hill always shows the devotion in Théoden to the welfare of his people. There is never a moment where the idea of being the King is that of just being a man of power to have power, what Hill really brings to life is the idea of the responsibility of the power, and Hill expresses this through his portrayal which is commanding yet always carries a certain empathy as well.

When Hill is the most important is in the central set piece of the film which is the battle of Helm's deep. With Mortensen needing to play the role of pretty much the leading action star and Bloom and Rhys-Davies being the killing machine comic reliefs it leaves Hill to be the one to to express what the battle really means throughout its course. Where as soon as the battle begins the others stay fairly consistent in manner Hill is excellent as he portrays the experience of the King in his battle that will either save or destroy his Kingdom. Hill is spellbinding in a scene just before the battle as Théoden asks one of his men if he will follow him to whatever end the battle might bring. Hill's expression conveys the heavy burden responsibility in Théoden, a doubt if he is worthy of such loyalty, and the fear of what may come from his leadership.

As the battle proceeds Hill acts as the face of the reality of the situation and is very effective as his honest portrayal of what the King goes through the experience of the decisive battle. At first with the hesitations but he moves toward confidence as it seems the battle is in his favor. This does not last long though as the battle continues. Hill in every act of battle allows us to see the seriousness of the situation even as the others are jumping head first into crowds of enemies or surf boarding shields. Hill makes Théoden always brings the power alive and makes it more than just a series of action scenes. He always brings the meaning to the moments and is especially powerful at the end of the battle as Hill shows the way the length of the fight has worn down Théoden. This makes it all the more inspiring as Théoden makes one last charge against the enemy. It is an amazing scene for Hill as he brings out the final strength of the King as he makes one final attempt to personally save his people.

I suppose I am committing some serious blasphemy when I say that Andy Serkis's performance as Gollum is not my favorite performance in this film, but even though I like that performance my favorite performance in that film and my favorite of the whole trilogy actually is Hill's portrayal of King Théoden. I just love this portrayal of a character that could have been so easily just brushed aside or been just a pretty unremarkable character. Bernard Hill gives a great performance that doesn't simply any aspect of his performance making Théoden a fully fleshed character and a remarkable look into the mind of this King. Hill brings a true poignancy in his performance giving the gravitas needed for each of his scenes, and his delivery of Théoden's speeches are some of the best moments in the film.