Monday, 30 December 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1970: Albert Finney in Scrooge

Albert Finney did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a Golden Globe, for portraying Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge.

This is a musical version of A Christmas Carol which  is enjoyable and effective even if it longer than it needs to be, and not all the songs are exactly amazing.

When it comes to playing the miser Ebenezer Scrooge no one will top Alistair Sim for me. Sim plays the role perfectly capturing every part of his transformation and taking the right approach by making Scrooge an intelligent and shrewd businessman. Well that is not the way Albert Finney plays the part, but trying to simply copy Sim does not work as Jim Carrey's ineffective performance proved. George C. Scott did pretty well in the same realm of Sim's approach, but where the two differed Sim was stronger. Finney takes a completely different approach instead of playing Scrooge like a smart businessman, Finney plays Scrooge like a complete idiot, which is the way he is written here as well.

The casting of Albert Finney may seem a bit strange considering he was only in his thirties which is not the usual age of an elderly miser. Well they do capitalize on the fact that he can play the younger Scrooge in the flashbacks, although capitalize is probably too strong of a word as he has barely any lines as the younger Scrooge and can't barely make much of an impact there. His performance is all about his portrayal of the old Scrooge and he actually does a fine job of it. When I watch this performance I don't even think for a second about Finney's actual age as he completely becomes this rather strange character he makes out of Scrooge. Finney keeps every mannerism consist in his creation in this film.

Now to be sure this is not the most realistic portrayal of Scrooge, leave that to Sim and Scott, this is a much more colorful depiction which makes sense being that the film is a musical. Scrooge sings a lot in this version, unlike Michael Caine in the Muppets version who only sang a single song after Scrooge's redemption, including when he is miserly. It would be a bit hard for Scrooge to be taken completely seriously when he sings a song actually titled "I Hate People". This Scrooge also has no idea of his own behavior in anyway even at times stating how he really is good a man because of his penny pinching, so Finney's somewhat absurd performance is fitting for this film's depiction of the sinner.

As the evil Scrooge Finney has a hunched back, an askew mouth, and a bit of a trollish accent. In every regard Finney goes pretty far in making Scrooge a reprehensible and unsightly sort, but he stops short at the of just being a parody. Although I would not call Finney's Scrooge a real man, Finney does deliver some of his more important lines with the weight needed. He does not let the mannerisms just do the performance for him and remembers to bring the depth of character when needed. Now most of the time his performance is about the absurdity of this Scrooge, which leaves the question of whether or not Finney's mannerisms are unintentionally funny or just funny. I would go with the latter because again "I hate people" is the name of one of his songs.

The transition of Scrooge as he sees the past, present and future is rather different from other versions because this Scrooge is just so thick and even when it seems there is some leeway Scrooge returns back to his old ways. Finney is good in the emotional moments, and since he plays him as a bit of a dope it is believable enough that he would bargain away every step forward he makes. The only thing is this structure does not give his performance the power of Sim's and Scott's by any measure. He goes from A to B back to A back to B and repeat until he finally arrives at C. Finney's portrays A with all the miserly foolishness he should, and for the most part brings a poignancy as Scrooge sees his faults, but there is not much growth in his portrayal.

Well how about the singing since this is a musical. Well Finney is not one of the greatest singers who ever lived and not only that he sings in character, the character having a voice that would never be described as beautiful. It actually would have been quite wrong to have given a booming voice anyway though, and all I want from singing in a film is if they carry the meaning of the song through. Well Finney manages to do this quite well and it matches every stop of his performance as he changes his style of singing as Scrooge changes. He grumbles as the mean Scrooge, but brings a resonance when Scrooge remembers his mistakes. The highlight though of the musical side and performance side is Scrooge seeking redemption.

The redemption actually is summed up in a group of song reprises. Finney is very charming as he shows Scrooge drop any of his grumpiness and miserly behavior to fully embrace life. Finney goes all in and presents the happiness a man would most likely have if he came from literally seeing Hell. Even though the film hardly needs four songs for its ending, I don't even mind because Finney gives it his all with his extremely energetic performance. The joy of Scrooge's second chance is beautifully realized by Finney, and this is easily the best part of his performance. This end is not built to as well as in other adaptations for sure, but it's easy to buy because of what Scrooge sees before he returns to his room in this version.

Finney's performance isn't perfect as there are a few reaction just a little too odd, like when he barely reacts to a ghost carriage riding down the stairs of his house where most men would be looking for a new pair of pants (I apologize for the crudity). As I said this is not the best performance of Ebenezer Scrooge as his more flamboyant portrayal prevents his work from having the dramatic weight offered by Alistair Sim. I would put him in top five anyways, and I certainly appreciate a different take on the character. This is not the most compelling version of greedy man turned good, but looked at on its own Finney gives a fairly entertaining performance in this musical.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1970

And the Nominees Were Not:

Albert Finney in Scrooge

Alejandro Jodorowsky in El Topo

Gian Maria Volontè in Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Jean Louis Trintignant in The Conformist

Peter Boyle in Joe

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1955: Results

5. Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle- Poitier gives a nicely handled and surprisingly believable turn as a disrespectful student who is capable of improving himself, even if I do wish he had gotten a few more scenes to flesh out his character. 

Best Scene: Miller encourages Dadier to say the word.
4. Walter Brennan in Bad Day At Black Rock- Brennan gives an effective portrayal of a man filled pessimism but optimistic in heart.

Best Scene: The doc tries to convince the others to help Macreedy. 
3. Peter Sellers in The Ladykillers- Sellers gives a very amusing performance as slick criminal who find himself in over his head.

Best Scene: Harry tries to fetch Mrs. Wilberforce's bird.
2. Takashi Shimura in I Live in Fear- Shimura gives a moving performance as the quiet observer of a situation where there is not obvious solution.

Best Scene: Dr. Harada meets with Nakajima.
1. Raymond Massey in East of Eden- Massey's work is one I have grown to appreciate more with time. His unusual dynamic with Dean is perfect in creating the powerful rift between the father and Massey realizes Adam as man in terms of the good nature of his character, but as well his past before we meet him.

Best Scene: Adam reveals the truth about Cal's mother.
Overall Rank:
  1. Raymond Massey in East of Eden
  2. Takashi Shimura in I live in Fear
  3. Jack Lemmon in Mister Roberts
  4. Peter Sellers in The Ladykillers
  5. Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause 
  6. Walter Brennan in Bad Day At Black Rock
  7. Cecil Parker in The Ladykillers
  8. Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle
  9. Ralph Richardson in Richard III
  10. Herbert Lom in The Ladykillers
  11. Paul Meurisse in Les Diaboliques
  12. Vic Morrow in Blackboard Jungle
  13. Robert Ryan in Bad Day At Black Rock
  14. Charles Vanel in Les Diaboliques
  15. James Cagney in Mister Roberts
  16. Ernest Borgnine in Bad Day At Black Rock
  17. Danny Green in The Ladykillers
  18. Bill Thompson in Lady and the Tramp
  19. Lee Marvin Bad Day At Black Rock
  20. Donald Crisp in The Man from Laramie
  21. Robert Middleton in The Desperate Hours
  22. Arthur Kennedy in The Man from Laramie
  23. William Powell in Mister Roberts
  24. Burl Ives in East of Eden 
  25. John Gielgud in Richard III
  26. Louis Calhern in Blackboard Jungle
  27. Minoru Chiaki in I Live in Fear
  28. Darren McGavin in The Man With the Golden Arm
  29. Arthur Kennedy in Trial 
  30. Arthur O'Connell in Picnic
  31. Jim Backus in Rebel Without a Cause
  32. Robert Strauss in The Man With the Golden Arm
  33. John Ericson in Bad Day At Black Rock
  34. James Gleason in The Night of the Hunter 
  35. Wallace Ford in The Man From Laramie
  36. Stanley Baker in Richard III
  37. Frank Sutton in Marty
  38. Timothy Carey in East of Eden 
  39. Dean Jagger in Bad Day At Black Rock
  40. Gig Young in The Desperate Hours
  41. Richard Davalos in East of Eden
  42. Ward Bond in Mister Roberts 
  43. Wilfrid Lawson in The Prisoner
  44. Dewey Martin in The Desperate Hours
  45. Koji Tsuruta in Samurai II
  46. Peter Graves in The Night of the Hunter 
  47. Joe Mantell in Marty
  48. Royal Dano in The Trouble With Harry
  49. Don Beddoe in The Night of the Hunter
  50. Cliff Robertson in Picnic
  51. John Hoyt in Blackboard Jungle
  52. Alex Nicol in The Man from Laramie
  53. Corey Allen in Rebel Without a Cause
  54. Arthur Kennedy in The Desperate Hours
  55. Arnold Stang in The Man with the Golden Arm
  56. Dan Terranova in Blackboard Jungle
  57. Jerry Mathers in The Trouble With Harry
  58. Cameron Mitchell in Love Me Or Leave Me
  59. Ronald Lewis in The Prisoner
  60. Tor Johnson in Bride of the Monster
  61. Rafael Campos in Blackboard Jungle
  62. Rafael Campos in Trial
  63. Harvey P Dunn in Bride of the Monster
Next Year: 1970 lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1955: Walter Brennan in Bad Day At Black Rock

Walter Brennan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Doc Velie in Bad Day At Black Rock.

Bad Day with Black Rock has quite the cast especially in terms of Oscar winners with two time winner Spencer Tracy as the lead John J. Macreedy investigating the whereabouts of a Japanese man, winner Dean Jagger as a hapless sheriff, and the future winners of Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin as two of the local thugs. One time Oscar nominee Robert Ryan has perhaps the meatiest supporting role as the main heavy who basically commands the town. Although Ryan is good, as usual in such roles, I chose not to review him for two reasons one being that it is not his very best work in a part of this sort, I have yet to get to that performance, and as well because my favorite performance belongs to the three time Oscar winner in the cast, Walter Brennan.

Brennan plays the doctor of the secluded town with a secret and is one of the few decent men in the town. Brennan is probably best known for his more wily and colorful performances, but when he needed to give a more subtle performance he was more than able to dial down his more common on screen persona. That is the case here as Brennan gives a pretty quiet performance that very much fits the setting of the rather grim town where a horrible deed has take placed that wishes to be covered up by most of the populace, but wants to be dug up by the outsider Macreedy. Brennan is probably the brightest face in town, but to be honest Brennan is not exactly beaming either.

Brennan is very effective in his portrayal of the doctor finding the right tone of apathetic pessimism with only the slightest hint of optimism at the beginning of the film. It is very remarkable to see the usually cherry Brennan play a character who is depressed by his surroundings especially since Brennan handles the part so well. There is the idea of a once warm and caring man in Brennan portrayal of the doc, something that comes natural to Brennan's onscreen personality, but there is something quite powerful in the sad state Brennan shows the doc to be in. There is no sugar coating that Brennan gives any of his lines being quite blunt in his performance that effectively reinforces the tension of the film.

As the film progresses the doc slowly finds a greater courage to confront the town's past, and try his very best to help Macreedy. Brennan is very strong in the moment where the doc speaks his mind as he has the right convincing passion in the scenes. Brennan is excels in these moments not only in portraying the doc's conviction but showing just the right little bit of hesitation. The doc speaking out the way he is does makes it seem very likely that he will be killed along Macreedy and Brennan rightfully shows that the doc knows this. By suggesting this fear the doc's speech about no longer sitting idly by has the emotional punch it should, and actually makes another one of the conspirators breakdown believable.

Walter Brennan's performance stands out well in this fairly strong ensemble and he has a nice subtle chemistry with Spencer Tracy in their scenes together. They show an underlying understanding between two good men who have compromised more than their own moral compass will allow. He supports Tracy wonderfully and nicely adds to the power of the film thorough his somber portrayal of the doc. Brennan's work here is strong example of his talent and proves that he was as capable of a realistically drawn man like the doc here as he was in his performances as the colorful characters he is best known for.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1955: Raymond Massey in East of Eden

Raymond Massey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Adam Trask in East of Eden.

East of Eden is known best as the film debut of James Dean introducing his style of performance to the silver screen. Dean's performance, which works incredibly well for the role of Cal Trask, is almost the antithesis of the style of Raymond Massey who plays the father of Cal. Where James Dean murmurs his lines, constantly looks in any direction that is not the natural direction, and slouches in every way imaginable whereas Raymond Massey stands up straight, looks directly where he should, and speaks all his lines firmly with proper diction. Their styles are dramatically opposed and this seems like something that might be rather distracting, but it absolutely works perfectly in creating that rift between the father and son.

Massey and Dean are technically both theatrical actors but Massey is of the old way and Dean the new. In their scenes together there is always a rift with Massey putting everything directly as he can in terms of emotions and getting across the emotional point of a scene, and Dean doing his side stepping method that seems almost random at times. There is always a disconnection between the two's performances and it is fitting in showing the way the father and son are dramatically opposed in nature. Adam is a man who is always trying to be good and Massey's passionate straight forward portrayal expresses this well, but Cal is a troubled son, taking after his mother, which Dean expresses in his performance.

I don't want it to seem though that I am praising Massey for not having chemistry with Dean, as Massey portrays the part that goes deeper than the broad strokes. Adam is meant to be a good man and Massey portrays this honestly in his dignified manner he gives him, but as good men go he is not necessarily the easiest to like. Massey, unlike say Anthony Hopkins in The Elephant Man or Ian Charleson in Chariots of Fire who played genuinely good men, does not have that welcoming or warmth filled quality in his performance as Adam. This might seem a negative, but actually it is the right way to play Adam. The way Massey presents Adam's attitude keeps a distance making it understandable why Cal would act the way he does without compromising the nature of his character.

Massey brings the right complexity to his performance in the important moments particularly when Adam confesses the truth about their mother. It is easily Massey's best scene as he does his very best to make up for the fact that this film version cuts out the entirety of Adam's story before the birth of his sons. Massey has to tell a great deal of story in just a few sentences therefore it is all in his performance. Massey stays very understated in telling the story, which makes sense as Adam does not wish to delve too much into his past, and convey the complex emotions that Adam has with the situation. Massey has the idea of nostalgia and a past love as he speak of his wife, but as well the pain of the situation as he seems haunted by his relationship from a woman who was so unlike himself.

It seems a bit strange that the Academy chose to ignore Massey's work despite recognizing Dean's and Jo Van Fleet as Cal's mother, perhaps it is because Massey's role is a bit thankless. The finale of the film is of course for Dean and Adam's stroke and forgiveness of Cal is rather swift. Massey does well in portraying the disabled and damaged state of Adam, but he can only do so much in the scene as the focus is squarely on Dean. Massey does very well in the part, and it's performance that has really grown on me with time.I do wish that Massey had a few more scenes devoted to Adam's past because the one he does have is  exceptional scene in Massey's portrayal. The dynamic he and Dean share is a very striking one though, likely aided by their off set tensions which director Elia Kazan apparently encouraged, that very effectively creates the central conflict of the film.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1955: Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle

Sidney Poitier did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gregory Miller in Blackboard Jungle.

Blackboard Jungle is mostly effective film, unfortunately it becomes a bit preachy and too melodramatic at times, about a teacher Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) trying to teach in a troubled inner city school.

Sidney Poitier plays one of Dadier's students even though Poitier had been playing adult characters before this film. Poitier was indeed much older than his character, but he and Vic Morrow, as one of the other students, are surprisingly believable despite their age. Poitier and Morrow don't really look younger than they really, but it is rather the way in which they portray their parts. They both convey in their physical manner the right sense of irresponsibility and immaturity. They bring the right type of slouching posture really that always reinforces their casual ways toward life, and the whole idea that they just don't seem to really care about much of anything.

Poitier's Gregory Miller is a troubled teen but not a bad one. He does not really have a lot of respect for adults as shown in his attitude toward Dadier for most of the film, but he is not a criminal like Artie West played by Morrow. Poitier is very good in playing indignation and he does it well here when Miller has quite the bad attitude in regards to Dadier. Poitier brings a calm and cool smugness to Miller, especially when he refers to Dadier as "chief" in a derogatory fashion. Poitier treads carefully not to go too far with Miller's treatment of Dadier. Poitier gets across the disrespect of a teenager and shows that he does not care much for Dadier, but properly stops short of hating him.

It is revealed that Miller is a decent enough guy really as the film progresses, but the film does not really stop to show this transition. The film pretty much leaves it up just to Poitier's performance to turn Miller from Dadier's enemy to his ally by the last scene of the film. Poitier is one actor who can do a whole lot with very little and he is able to do that here through his considerable natural charm. Poitier brings out his charm more fully as the film progresses and Miller begins to respect Dadier, and makes an effective transition by the end. Poitier makes it work by having not overplayed Miller's negative qualities at the beginning, but still keeping just the right edge to him even by the end.

The only problem with Poitier's work here are the limitations set upon him. I would have really liked to have seen more scenes involving Miller, and less of the melodramatic ones that involved Dadier's wife. It would have been more interesting for the film itself it did get into a little more detail with both Gregory Miller and Vic Morrow's character since their scenes tend to be the best in the film. Poitier never has quite enough material to turn this into a great supporting performance, but with what he does have Poitier gives a good one. Poitier makes his own impression throughout with his magnetic presence, and often out shines star Glenn Ford when they share the screen together.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1955: Takashi Shimura in I Live in Fear

Takashi Shimura did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Harada in I Live in Fear.

Akira Kurosawa's other frequent collaborator Takashi Shimura often played the wiser man to Toshiro Mifune's brasher individual, at least until the thankless roles Shimura was given in Kurosawa's later films, but there is perhaps a bit of a twist on that idea here. Shimura plays Dr. Harada who is almost a co-lead to Mifune's elderly Kiichi Nakajima who is spending his decedents inheritance to protect himself from a nuclear holocaust he views as inevitable. Dr. Harada acts as a Domestic court counselor, which means he basically decides the case against Nakajima, along with two other men. The film follows his story too, although Shimura is not given a substantial amount of screen time, and his story is always firmly connected to Nakajima's.

The twist on the usual dynamic found between Shimura and Mifune in the film is that Dr. Harada really does not know who exactly to take away from Nakajima's fears. Dr. Harada acts as the impartial observer throughout the film as he merely must witness the story play out and his only technical action that changes the course of the film is that he decides, along with the two other court officials, to remove Nakajima's ability to spend his own money. Dr. Harada is a very quiet character because of this as he personally investigates the situation and deeply ponders the complex situation. Dr. Harada is a reactionary man, and thankfully Shimura plays him who must be one of the greatest actors in terms of finding the power in the unsaid.

Shimura is very important to the film in structuring the film really as showing the one good man in the whole affair, as both Nakajima and his children are flawed. Shimura never once wastes his presence in the film in his performance that is able to convey the right confusion in terms of the situation. It is not a confusion as if that Dr. Harada does not understand the situation, but rather the confusion of not knowing truly to do react to it because Nakajima's fears do have basis but his method of running from society is far from a logical solution. Shimura finds the right place to put Harada in every scene in terms of both personal attachment but as well as the detachment of the observer. Shimura in a way is the stand in for the audience of the film who also must decipher the complex issue at the center of the film.

Shimura plays his part incredibly well by never overplaying his hand. He shows Harada as a man who connects with the Nakajima's plight but never allows it to overwhelm either. Shimura finds just the right tone with his performance to add to every scene but never try steal the attention wrongly in his direction. Harada simply is not the focus of the film, but Shimura amplifies the impact of every scene that he is in his portrayal of Harada very realistic and down to earth reactions. Shimura brings a true poignancy in his short moments in the film honestly showing the struggle in Harada. Shimura is moving because he finds the truth in his character as Harada is troubled by the case, but there is always that underlying idea that he just does not know exactly what to do either.

Akira Kurosawa had one of the greatest acting duos at his disposal in Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura as shown in Stray Dog, Seven Samurai, and in this film. In this film Mifune's performance goes down an insane path which is fitting considering that Nakajima believes he has left the earth by the end of the film, Shimura does a terrific balancing act in his portrayal of the grounded Dr. Harada. Mifune's final scene is a powerful one on his own but Shimura adds so much though through his silent performance as Dr. Harada can only watch a man's full descent into madness. It is a great testament to Shimura's strength as an actor in summing up the finale of the film through his simple physical reaction that realizes the disheartening quality of the end, but as well the sense that there was no real solution to Nakajima's dilemma. Takashi Shimura's work here is memorable performance by being the soul of the picture in such an unassuming yet remarkable fashion.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1955: Peter Sellers in The Ladykillers

Peter Sellers did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harry Robinson in The Ladykillers.

The entire cast of The Ladykillers is uniformly solid and all of the actors playing the robbers posing as musicians are worth mentioning. There is Alec Guinness as the ghoulish Professor Marcus of course, the usually dull Cecil Parker is rather winning here as the most hapless of the crooks Major Courtney, Danny Green is rather likable as the softhearted brute known as 'One-Round', a particularly youthful looking Herbert Lom is effective as the most serious minded of the criminals Louis, but my favorite of the supporting crew is the man who matches Alec Guinness's ability to play multiple characters in the same film and that is of course Peter Sellers as Harry Robinson. Harry Robinson oddly enough might be the most normal among the rather strange gang that he associates with.

Sellers is possibly best known for his multiple characters in Dr. Strangelove, but Sellers in many of his performances tried to do something unique in terms of his voice and appearance. Sellers plays Harry Robinson is a cockney spiv which means he does not have the most refined accent but does have a technically refined manner and appearance. The cockney is one accent that is most often overblown in performances, and even though this is a comedic performance Sellers actually gives a rather restrained accent. Sellers creates his very own cockney accent here, it never is typical although he rightly suggests the type  Sellers is excellent though because he never actually appears to be performing and turns Harry into his own man surprisingly well.

 Sellers oddly enough could be looked upon as the straight man of the film. The old lady Mrs.Wilberforce (Katie Johnson) is a little too aloof to be the straight man, and Lom's Louis is technically a bit too vicious of a fellow to really be the straight man. This leaves Sellers as the criminal whose head is on straight yet does not quite know what he is doing in this plot conducted by Professor Marcus. The performances in The Ladykillers really are about two things. The first being the creation of the characters, which all the actors go about in rather unique ways, and Sellers handles this end splendidly of course. The second thing is taking these characters that they have realized and having them appropriately react throughout all the mischief that is involved with the bank robbery.

Sellers in the reactionary regard competes with Guinness for getting the most laughs throughout the course of the film. Sellers is consistently funny as Harry is forced into one awkward situation after another in an attempt to make it out of Mrs.Wilberforce's house with a considerable amount of cash. My favorite moments of his performance are in one very amusing scene as the old lady's bird reeks havoc. Poor Harry faces the worst brunt of the bird finding his face quite badly scratched. Sellers's reaction is hilarious as he shows Robinson as obviously quite ticked off, but just keeps it within himself for the sake of the job. Sellers also has great moments before his exit as Harry finds himself picking the wrong lot, and attempting to handle things his way, every troubled reaction from Sellers is pure gold.

The Ladykillers's ensemble is indeed terrific and in all likelihood is the best ensemble of 1955 with the whole cast coming together especially well, Sellers's supporting work though is the best support in the film. His performances works particularly well because his depiction of Harry Robinson who can be looked as the opposite of Guinness's Marcus in several ways. Unlike the bizarre Marcus, Robinson does look relatively normal, but as well where Marcus seems to know exactly what's going on and what to do Harry tends to be a little more lost at times. Sellers plays the opposite end to Guinness in this film with the great comic precision one would expect from him, and with the quality of his performance here it is a little surprising that took as many years to truly breakout as an actor.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1955

And the Nominees Were Not:

Walter Brennan in Bad Day At Black Rock

Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle

Raymond Massey in East of Eden

Takashi Shimura in I Live in Fear

Peter Sellers in The Ladykillers

Friday, 20 December 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1955: Results

5. James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause- Despite his overacted first scene Dean gives an effective performance relying on his unique charisma.

Best Scene: Jim tries to save Plato.
4. Alec Guinness in The Prisoner- This a disjointed work, but Guinness gives a powerful turn nevertheless.

Best Scene: The Cardinal breaks down.
3. Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers- Guinness gives a very enjoyable performance in his peculiar creation. 

Best Scene: Professor Marcus double crosses Louie.
2. Toshiro Mifune in I live in Fear- Mifune, despite being quite miscast as a seventy year old, gives a powerful portrayal of a debilitating fear.

Best Scene: Nakajima looks on as another man states facts about nuclear fallout.
1. Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter- Good predictions Mark, Maciej, Kevin. Robert Mitchum gives perhaps his best performance. Mitchum gives a brilliantly stylistic turn in his creation of the charming, passionate and sadistic Harry Powell. The year overall came right down to the evil preacher and the good butcher. I'll give Mitchum the win for the moment, but a re-watch of Marty could possibly swing things Borgnine's way as they both give great performances.

Best Scene: Powell prepares for a murder.
Overall Rank:
  1. Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter
  2. Ernest Borgnine in Marty
  3. Laurence Olivier in Richard III
  4. Spencer Tracy in Bad Day At Black Rock
  5. James Dean in East of Eden
  6. Toshiro Mifune in I Live in Fear
  7. Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers
  8. Alec Guinness in The Prisoner
  9. Fredric March in The Desperate Hours
  10. James Stewart in The Man From Laramie
  11. Toshiro Mifune in Samurai II
  12. Henry Fonda in Mister Roberts
  13. James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause
  14. Richard Todd in The Dam Busters
  15. Jack Hawkins in The Prisoner
  16. Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief
  17. Humphrey Bogart in The Desperate Hours
  18. Michael Redgrave in The Dam Busters
  19. Glenn Ford in Blackboard Jungle
  20. Ralph Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly
  21. James Cagney in Love Me or Leave Me
  22. Glenn Ford in Trial
  23. Edmund Gwenn in The Trouble With Harry
  24. John Forsythe in The Trouble With Harry
  25. William Holden in Picnic
  26. Larry Roberts in Lady and the Tramp
  27. Frank Sinatra in The Man with the Golden Arm
  28. William Holden in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
  29. Bela Lugosi in Bride of the Monster
  30. Billy Chapin in The Night of the Hunter
  31. Tony McCoy in Bride of the Monster
Next Year: 1955 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1955: James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause

James Dean did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause.

Rebel Without a Cause is the only one of Dean's three performances for which he did not receive an Oscar nomination, but he was of course was nominated for East of Eden which means he was barred from being nominated for this performance no matter what. Although I am not a fan of the foolish rule that an actor can only be nominated once in a category in a year Dean was nominated for his best performance of the year as well as his entire film career. Rebel Without a Cause is without question Dean's most iconic role, it's pretty hard to even picture Dean without that red jacket. Rebel Without a Case is not his greatest performance though as it is probably his most self-indulgent turn.

In East of Eden Dean's methods worked well in creating the odd creature that Cal Trask was meant to be, in Giant he was a great maverick man, and even though I did not believe him as a old man Dean definitely tried to become his character in that film. Dean's worst acted scene of his short career is found in the opening minutes of the film. The opening scene is where Jim is suppose to be drunk and finds himself in a police station where his parents have to come to pick him up. Dean doesn't seem drunk rather seems like man trying to use every acting tic he came up with all at once. His delivery of "you're tearing me apart" does not seem the cry of a confused teenager rather the attempt of an actor to make himself known.

To be fair to Dean though he let's up on his ACTING after that opening scene and begins to actually try to find his character rather than try to simply show of his acting chops. Stark is probably Dean's least complex role actually because he does not have the biblical level conflicts of East of Eden, or the transformation from a young man with great ambition to an lusty old man filled with hate in Giant. Instead we have Jim whose biggest problem at the beginning of the film is that his warmer father is dominated by his cold mother. Even as the film continues the film really is more about the extreme actions and problems of others and less about Jim Stark's problems which seem much more minor by comparison.

James Dean actually most of the time gives a fairly relaxed performance as Jim. Jim often is one of the calmer characters in the film, and for most of the film Dean relies on his most natural aspect of his onscreen persona. That is of course his charisma and Dean personal charm, which is all his own, is rather endearing in its own. In more scenes his performance really does work when he is just normally interacting with the other teenagers in his fairly off beat fashion. Dean makes it easy to see why some of bullies would take offense to him because of his style that is anything but conformity but in this style there is such a magnetic quality that it is very believable why Natalie Wood's and Sal Mineo's characters would be attracted to him.

The interesting thing is that there are some later scenes in the film where Jim is troubled emotionally like the opening scene of the film, but Dean actually delivers in these scenes. Dean tones it down considerably and his reactions to his parents is far more believable as his more subtle discontent seems more fitting for a someone who lives with them day after day than the over top business at the beginning. Dean stays with his character and in doing so gives the emotional breakdown of Jim at the end of the film the power it deserves, since he does not distract with random mannerisms. Even though I find his first scene of the film to be the worst scene of his short career, I actually do like this performance overall as he does give an effective performance once he gets past his indulgences.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1955: Alec Guinness in The Prisoner and The Ladykillers

Alec Guinness did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying the Cardinal in The Prisoner.

The Prisoner depicts the interrogation of a Cardinal by a communist regime in attempt to derive a confession of treason from him. The film itself is problematic as it is never as strong as it could be as the process of the interrogation is never given the right detail, it wastes time with an unnecessary romantic subplot, and relies too much on its lead performance.

The first of Guinness's performance is that of his serious minded work as he portrays a Cardinal who finds himself public enemy number one in a new communist regime, even though he allies with them when they fought against the Nazis together. At the beginning of the film Guinness portrays the Cardinal as a man of lordly dignity. He is a quiet yet concise man who speaks clearly and his eyes alone suggest a man of great intelligence. Guinness in the dignity gives the man a certain strength of mind. This is of course something that will be taken away from him for through the course of the film. Guinness in his few early scenes though establishes a man of great strength flawlessly and does his very best to set up the disheartening story of the film where the Cardinal will lose his grace.

The interrogation itself is problematic because it really is not directed with a sure enough hand by Peter Glenville. The interrogation jumps too often without the right clarity in the process itself. The film leaves it to Guinness to show the psychological and physical effects of it without really showing enough of how and why he reaches each point. Guinness is handicapped because it does not feel as though we take this descent with him instead we basically are forced to see updates to his story. This has nothing to do with Guinness's work though which actually mostly overcomes the weaknesses of the film's script and direction with his performance. Guinness's portrayal though no doubt would be far more remarkable if the film was less disjointed.

There are definite holes in degradation of the Cardinal but Guinness is very effective in the portrayal of where we meet him at each time. Guinness is quite moving because we see the man of former dignity reduced into a lesser man by his interrogation. Guinness is not allowed to move to the note but at instantly being there he hits them with great precision. Guinness loses that reserved quality as the Cardinal breaks down into a very sad man who seems to be constantly struggling to stay awake and keep his mind set in the right place. His interrogator (Jack Hawkins) discovers that the Cardinal's weakness is that he hates his less than saintly mother using this to drive him to confession.

The late scenes of the film Guinness makes the situation almost believable, the writing needed to be a little stronger to make them wholly believable, as the Cardinal breaks. Guinness shows the loss of that internal strength well even in the way the film forces him to do it. Guinness is able to realize the change actually as more of a revelation within the Cardinal, as an internal pain that was always there within him. It was not that he was not the dignified man before, but rather Guinness shows that there simply was more to the man that could not be seen when he had been in his earlier position. As a man who has lost his circumstance though Guinness is terrific in revealing this weakness as something forced out by the unavoidable pain caused by his interrogation.

It is compelling to see Guinness go from a restrained man of determination to the emotional mess to at the very man a deeply ashamed man once again regaining his restraint but now without that same dignity and power that he had before. This is a very strong performance by Alec Guinness and it is a shame that the only thing that holds him back is the film itself. There are indications within Guinness's work here that there is a truly great performance waiting to get out. What Alec Guinness manages to do is realizes the brutality of the situation even though film never quite grasps the situation well enough. Where the film fails, Guinness still brings a quiet power in his portrait of a great man whose greatness is sucked out of him by the inhuman treatment of such a regime.
Alec Guinness also did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Professor Marcus in The Ladykillers.

The Ladykillers is an enjoyable comedy about a group criminals, pretending to musicians, who rent a room from an old lady while they pull a bank job.

Well one can forget about Guinness in The Prisoner when watching Guinness in the film, since Ladykillers is a comedy, and because Guinness goes about making a very peculiar character out of the brain of the operation Professor Marcus. This role harkens back to the way he began his career opposed to the more dramatic work that he delved into more often in his later career. Not too many actors would seem the natural choice for a wacky villain in a comedy as the lead in a harrowing drama, but then again there is only one Alec Guinness. Guinness fits this part just as well as he does in The Prisoner, and when watching this film I did not even think about his performance in the Prisoner once because of his great skill to disappear into his roles.

Guinness is helped far more by this film than in The Prisoner, as Ladykiller succeeds far more in what it is trying to do but as well by giving Guinness a hilarious hairdo and some magnificently absurd teeth. Guinness wears them brilliantly but never let's them do all the work in creating professor Marcus. Supposedly Guinness partially based his performance on Alistair Sim and that is not hard to see the way Guinness contorts his own face to create that ghoulish expression that Sim naturally had. Guinness, one of the masters of ACTING that does not seem like a ACTING, is excellent in turning all these bizarre little attributes into the single figure of Professor Marcus who stands easily as the strangest of the group of five rather odd criminals who plot the crime together.

Alec Guinness plays Professor Marcus as a deviant among deviant. He's a scoundrel without question and his behavior is only reinforced by his look. Guinness goes all in and marks his mark splendidly by doing so. The five men are all given ample screen time actually but Guinness cleverly undercuts them in scenes because of his physical portrayal of Marcus. It is always fun to watch him and he often draws the attention to him because of the he interacts with any given scene. A simple gesture is never simple with Guinness's portrayal of Marcus. There is always an extra something Guinness brings to every scene whether it is the way he slinks up and down the stairs as if he was Count Orlok, or even simply the way he leans back after drawing straws, Guinness always brings something more.

Technically speaking there is not a character arc to Professor Marcus he stays the same throughout, what there is Guinness's creation of him and then simply the exploration of the way Marcus interacts with his associates and proceeds through the plot. Guinness, as he showed earlier in The Lavender Hill Mob, has expert comic timing and knows how to sell any gag for all it's worth. In this case Guinness sells the gag for all their worth with the very entertaining twist of being an untrustworthy criminal mastermind. Guinness has such great glee throughout showing that Marcus absolutely loves proceeding with his plan and I particularly love his expression when it appears he'll be double crossing his partners in crime.

This is a very good performance by Guinness, although perhaps less of challenge than his work in The Prisoner, and not because one is a drama and one is a comedy. This performance is his far more consistent work though. Guinness's work here is all in the conception and Guinness makes one memorable and very funny character with Professor Marcus. Honestly one thing the film could have used is more focus on the oddball Professor, really I could have even gone for seeing one his earlier endeavors in a prequel. Both performances show Guinness's tremendous talent and how great his range truly was. Guinness is just as comfortable as a reserved wise man suffering a terrible fate as he is as a crazed "wise" man who eventually suffers a terrible fate. Hmm perhaps these roles aren't so different after all.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1955: Toshiro Mifune in I Live in Fear

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Kiichi Nakajima in I Live in Fear.

I Live in Fear tells the story of a man who attempts to spend his fortune to assuage his fears of nuclear war, but his family take him to court to prevent this. This is lesser Kurosawa, as it is not a masterpiece like Kurosawa's earlier film with somewhat similar subject matter Ikiru, but it is still a strong film on its own terms. 

Toshiro Mifune plays the part of the seventy year old man Kiichi Nakajima when he was only thirty five himself. Mifune gave a performance as a character more expected of him in his solid reprise as Musashi Miyamoto in Samurai II in 1955, but this film without a doubt contains his riskiest performance. It is rather surprising that Kurosawa cast Mifune in the main role rather than Takashi Shimura who usually specialized in playing the old men in Kurosawa's films. Takashi Shimura even has the second largest part in the film as a domestic court counselor who becomes personally invested in the case of Nakajima. My only guess would be that Mifune was the star, or perhaps Kurosawa wanted to avoid the very obvious comparisons this film would have to Ikiru.

The youthful Mifune is tasked with playing a man double his age with only some fairly light makeup to aid him, the rest is up to him. Mifune actually does fairly well to overcome his miscasting being that he is always a very physical performer to begin with. In this case he heavily adjusts just about everything about himself to try to be convincing as Nakajima. He turns his mouth, almost to look like Shimura's honestly, he has an arched posture and slow deliberate movement to reflect Nakajima's age, and carries a generally haggard expression in his face. Mifune even cuts back on his growl, except when Nakajima's yells early on in the film, to a less robust voice. The makeup itself is never very convincing and a bit distracting at times, but Mifune made it so I did believe him in this role through his physical changes.

The story is essentially of two halves the first half being Nakajima and his children fighting over the use of his wealth. Kurosawa does not make this a black and white tale. Nakajima is not a saint having an overabundance of illegitimate children and his plan to run from the world is not a practical one. Nakajima also is technically very self absorbed in his problem not really seeing things clearly. His children though are not shown to be right though because rather than being concerned with their father's well being they tend to only care about the money. Kurosawa allows the story to play out and the viewer to take from it what they will. Mifune in turn does not play Nakajima as an especially sympathetic figure, but rather makes him into a case study of the fear of Nuclear war and paranoia.

The first half though is technically the more complex, although less powerful, part of Mifune's work. A great deal of the time is spent showing Nakajima frustrations at his family. Mifune does this well showing the disgust in his face, his voice, even right down to his bones as he constantly fans himself. Mifune portrays it as bothering Nakajima as an intolerable nuisance that he wants out of the way, as what Nakajima wants is to survive the nuclear holocaust he believes is inevitable. When he is not arguing with his family Nakajima is trying to find his relief by moving to Brazil. In one scene Nakajima sees his "refuge" and Mifune portrays Nakajima's reaction well as the man basically finding peace seeing a place he believes will protect him, and at this moment Nakajima seems truly without fear.

After the court case is closed and Nakajima loses his money Nakajima takes a turn for the worse. In a brief moment when planes are heard Mifune shows Nakajima's fear, but he carefully plays the part as a man who could set his mind on other things most of the time. After all he did believe he was doing something to save himself and his family. After he can no longer do something though Mifune shows the fear overcome Nakajima turning him into an emotional wreck, suggesting that his plans of before was the only thing that could allow him to function. Mifune is rather moving by losing the outward energy he had before into an internal intensity. There is nothing but fear that Mifune portrays in Nakajima's eyes. It is not a casual fear, but a crippling one that seems almost as if it is killing him.

Toshiro Mifune meets the challenge he is faced giving a compelling performance throughout the film particularly his final scene of the film that is quite startling. It begins with Mifune as a statue of a man who has lost his mind. Nakajima rather than dying from the fear has instead removed himself from reality to be able to allow himself to live. Mifune is amazing because he makes happiness something more disturbing than fear as he shows Nakajima as a man who has lost his mind. This is a terrific performance by Mifune even if he is helped back by the structure of the film. This film actually spends less time on the individual than is usually the case for a Kurosawa  film. Nakajima's personal struggle is often overshadowed by the broader portrait that Kurosawa paints, when Mifune has his chance to he shines, but not as often as with most of his other collaborations with Kurosawa.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1955: Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter

Robert Mitchum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying "Reverend" Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter.

The Night of the Hunter is a horror film by Charles Laughton which tells the story of two children who try to hide the money made by their late criminal father, but are stalked by an odd man who marries their mother. The Night of the Hunter is a masterful film, the rather weak child actors aside, and it's a shame that Laughton never directed another film as this was his first and only effort as a film director.

 Robert Mitchum's performance as Harry Powell is actually rather against type for Mitchum who specialized as hard but usually decent down to earth protagonists. That is not the case for Harry Powell and Mitchum possibly gives his most stylized performance. Mitchum does not suggest for a moment his earlier and later performances as world weary heroes as this pure evil villain. Harry Powell is a strange man who dresses as a preacher, he has the words love and hate tattooed to each of his hands, and he claims to do God's work. In Powell's mind though God's work mostly is brutally murdering women and stealing whatever necessary to continue his "good works", which causes him to try to find the fortune of a condemned man. 

Mitchum goes about making Harry Powell a very unique screen villain and absolutely succeeds in doing so in portraying the different sides to Powell method. On the surface there is that of the preacher which Mitchum to a certain extent portrays as a genuine quality in Powell's character which is part of the brilliance of his performance as Powell. When Powell acts as though he is speaking to the lord Mitchum shows the utmost devotion in his words and is believable very believable as the Preacher. There is the power of belief in Mitchum's performance that shows how deeply his perverse ideas mean to him. Every word that he speaks in his Preacher's voice is that of a true devoted man in every word that he speaks and every hymn that he sings.

Mitchum is even quite charming in his performance when Powell tries to ingratiate himself with the mother (Shelley Winters) of the children and the entire community. There is nothing questionable about this for even a moment because Robert Mitchum projects the false warmth so effectively. Mitchum gives Powell a gentle smile at times and a bright deposition that would likely fool anyone not looking hard enough into thinking that not only is Powell a likable man, but also one who can be believed as the man of God he claims to be. Mitchum is excellent with this because he never goes too far with any quality there is to Powell that it overwhelms the entire creation ever instead bringing every facet of Powell both the truth and the lies vividly to life on the screen.

Underneath the preacher though is actually a very basic psychopath and even the ends of his grand plan is simply to steal money. Mitchum within the preacher is quite chilling in portraying the true nature of the man mostly through his eyes. There is nothing but hate in any scene where he bares witness to any woman giving the slightest hint of sexuality. Although Mitchum makes Powell a colorful man in pretty much every other regard but in this regard Mitchum allows Powell's murderous side to be technically nothing special. There is not anything grand about just the simple evil of a man filled with a personal disgust that propels him to do the most despicable actions which he attempts to defend through his belief that it his duty to commit these murders.

The three layers of the man is what makes this a truly compelling work though by Mitchum as you are always aware of the whole Powell no matter what he may be doing which gives the film a general unease. Whenever Powell is preaching or singing, or being a charming gentleman we know there is that cold unapologetic murderer beneath it all. Mitchum realizes each part so well that the combination is where the horror lies in the film because the killer exits in tandem with charmer and the so proclaimed prophet. He's all at once to use the viewer making every scene have a certain underlying dread. There technically should be nothing scary about Robert Mitchum singing about Jesus but because of the way he establishes Powell it is absolutely frightening.

As I said this is possibly Mitchum's most stylized performance as he does things in this performance that are contrary to the way one usually visualizes a Mitchum performance. Robert Mitchum usually is a fairly restrained performer physically but here he takes a fairly approach with his performance. Every gesture makes as Powell is rather grand in his approach and Mitchum makes it completely work. Firstly the manner matches Powell who has his head in clouds and believes himself an otherworldly crusader, and Mitchum reflects through this manner he takes. More important though Mitchum is incredibly compelling his portrayal of Powell's method, especially the great moment where Powell prepares his knife for a murder and Mitchum shows it as if Powell is finding his inspiration from the heavens above.

The Night of the Hunter is essentially a fairy tale, a very Grimm fairy tale no doubt, with the unassuming two children on the run, the fairy grandmother type figure played by Lillian Gish, and the big bad wolf chasing the children. Robert Mitchum is the big bad wolf, and one could not ask for a better wolf on the prowl. Mitchum has every quality of the wolf from hiding his true nature in his disguise as a good preacher, his dark stature with his eyes that reflect his true purpose, and even the way he screams at the end of the film when himself caught. Mitchum is brilliant in making the wolf for this fairy story in his portrayal of Harry Powell. Robert Mitchum is fascinating every second he is on screen and makes such a strong impact then that his presence never leaves the film making even his silhouette something to be feared.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Friday, 13 December 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1955

And the Nominees Were Not:

Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter

Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers


James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause

Toshiro Mifune in I Live in Fear

Alec Guinness in The Prisoner

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1964: Results

5. Frank Overton in Fail-Safe- Overton gives a moving performance as a General who must deal with a Nuclear crises as well as a hostile room of men.

Best Scene: General Bogan speaks with his Russian counterpart.
4. Nigel Green in Zulu- Green gives a strong performance as a career soldier who has the utmost conviction in his code.

Best Scene: Sergeant Bourne calls out the roster.
3. Fredric March in Seven Days in May- March gives possibly the best performance of his career in his assured and remarkable depiction of the President of the United States who must prevent a coup.

Best Scene: President Lyman confronts General Scott.
2. George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove- Scott's performance is pure comedic gold as an off the wall General who he appropriately plays in an off the wall fashion. Scott's whole performance is one great risk that completely pays off.

Best Scene: Turgidson gives his own thoughts on what they should do.
1. Sterling Hayden in Dr. Strangelove - Sterling Hayden gives a hilarious performance where he does not exactly play it straight nor does he play it funny, but whatever he does do it's perfect. My win is Hayden as I enjoyed his performance the most on this watch although if I watched it again I might switch over to Scott.

Best Scene: Ripper asks Mandrake about being tortured. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Sterling Hayden in Dr. Strangelove
  2. George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove
  3. Fredric March in Seven Days in May
  4. Nigel Green in Zulu
  5. Frank Overton in Fail-Safe
  6. Keenan Wynn in Dr. Strangelove 
  7. Gian Maria Volonté in A Fistful of Dollars
  8. Jack Hawkins in Zulu 
  9. Burt Lancaster in Seven Days in May  
  10. Dan O'Herlihy in Fail-Safe
  11. Patrick Magee in Zulu
  12. Wilfrid Brambell in A Hard Day's Night
  13. John Gielgud in Becket
  14. Stanley Holloway in My Fair Lady
  15. Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove 
  16. James Booth in Zulu 
  17. Walter Matthau in Fail-Safe
  18. Lee Tracy in The Best Man
  19. Gert Fröbe in Goldfinger
  20. Robert Morley in Topkapi
  21. Edmond O'Brien in Seven Days in May
  22. Larry Hagman in Fail-Safe
  23. Peter Bull in Dr. Strangelove
  24. David Tomlinson in Mary Poppins  
  25. Martin Balsam in Seven Days in May
  26. Paul Scofield in The Train  
  27. Leo McKern in King & Country
  28. Gert van den Bergh in Zulu  
  29. Percy Herbert in Guns at Batasi
  30. Cecil Kellaway in Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte
  31. Ed Wynn in Mary Poppins
  32. Herbert Lom in A Shot in the Dark
  33. John Junkin in A Hard Day's Night
  34. José Calvo in A Fistful of Dollars
  35. Jack Hawkins in Guns at Batasi
  36. Errol John in Guns at Batasi
  37. John Houseman in Seven Days in May
  38. John Leyton in Guns at Batasi
  39. Norman Rossington in A Hard Day's Night
  40. Victor Buono in Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte
  41. Ivor Emmanuel in Zulu
  42. Donald Wolfit in Becket
  43. Andrew Duggan in Seven Days in May
  44. Akim Tamiroff in Topkapi
  45. Glynn Edwards in Zulu
  46. Desmond Llewelyn in Goldfinger
  47. Patrick Magee in Seance on a Wet Afternoon 
  48. Dom Deluise in Fail-Safe
  49. James Mason in The Pumpkin Eater 
  50. Eli Wallach in Kisses for My President
  51. James Earl Jones in Dr. Strangelove
  52. Joseph Cotten in Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte
  53. George Sanders in A Shot in the Dark
  54. Sotiris Moustakas in Zorba the Greek
  55. Kevin McCarthy in The Best Man
  56. David Kernan in Zulu
  57. James Ward in The Night of the Iguana
  58. Jack Weston in The Incredible Mr. Limpet 
  59. Shelley Berman in The Best Man
  60. Bernard Lee in Goldfinger
  61. Martin Gabel in Marnie
  62. David Weston in Becket
  63. Bruce Dern in Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte
  64. Mark Eden in Seance on a Wet Afternoon
  65. Bruce Dern in Marnie
  66. Giacomo Rossi-Stuart in The Last Man on Earth
  67. John Henry Falk in The Best Man
  68. Harold Sakata in Goldfinger 
  69. Wilfrid Hyde-White in My Fair Lady
  70. Leon Ames in The Misadventures of Merlin Jones 
  71. Joseph Egger in A Fistful of Dollars
  72. Hugh Marlowe in Seven Days in May
  73. Norm Grabowski in The Misadventure of Merlin Jones 
  74. Matthew Garber in Mary Poppins 
  75. Fritz Weaver in Fail-Safe 
  76. Paolo Stoppa in Becket
  77. Jeremy Brett in My Fair Lady
  78. Vincent Beck in Santa Clause Conquers the Martians
  79. Bill McCutcheon in Santa Clause Conquers the Martians
  80. Carl Don in Santa Clause Conquers the Martians
Next Year: 1955 lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1964: Nigel Green in Zulu

Nigel Green did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne in Zulu.

Zulu has a pretty strong ensemble that does nicely to distinguish most of the smaller characters from one another. There are plenty of good performances to be found from some of the random soldiers with brief yet pivotal moments, then there are the larger parts some with personal characters arcs like Jack Hawkins's drunkard pastor, James Booth's cowardly soldier who finds courage due to the battle, Patrick Magee's overworked surgeon. Although most of these performances are worth mentioning my favorite of them all is very easily Nigel Green's performance as the one man who does not seem the slightest bit afraid of the upcoming battle that seems will result in their deaths.

Nigel Green's performance is being the ideal British soldier who stands by his beliefs with an unending courage. This courage though is something quite unassuming in Green performance yet always something quite strong and noticeable. Green is terrific in portraying the convictions of career soldier in a believable fashion that shows a true spirit of determination. One of Green's best moments is when he faces down Hawkin's pacifist pastor. The Sergeant defends the actions of all the men through a psalm he knows quite well. Green brings a certain delight as the Sergeant defends his chosen profession, but also importantly reinforces the idea that Bourne absolutely has a fervent belief in his duty as a soldier.

One of the great aspects of Zulu is it does allow the audience to take the tale in a variety of ways. This comes to play greatly in the character of Sergeant Bourne. Bourne is by the books down the line even getting a man to button his jacket properly before the battle is about the begin. The film, and Green's performance derives some nicely placed humor with the extreme nature of the character at times to alleviate the tension in just the right way. The best moment in this regard is Green's delivery when Bourne is calling off the names of the soldiers to find out who's alive. One of the men does not respond but Bourne insists that he is alive, Green is so serious in his delivery that the makes the moment hilarious.

Green never goes too far nor does he ever make Sergeant Bourne a laughingstock. Green is easily just as good at showing the fierce conviction of the soldier. Green is sort of comforting here as well by being believable man who can stare death right in the face and not blink an eye. Bourne is not an emotionless husk even if he is a man of his code though. Right in the same roster scene that has a very funny moment it is also a somber scene as Bourne's calls names that lack a response. When there is no response Green is rather poignant in the subtle way that you can see that Bourne is affected by the loss, but he simply it would be against his code of conduct to break his purposefully strict demeanor.

Nigel Green apparently specialized in these sorts of roles and that is not much of a surprise considering the way he looked anyway, but also he is very good at it. Green is excellent here for a variety of reasons. One being that among the large ensemble he knows how to stand out whenever he has a chance, without feeling out of place within the picture itself. The greatest strength of his performance is that he makes Sergeant Bourne into a real man here opposed to a caricature which was a serious danger for this character considering that he does indulged in a little bit of comedy. Green does not falter once giving an effective portrayal of a career soldier and succeeds in giving the best performance of the film.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1964: George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove

George C. Scott did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove.

The apparent story behind George C. Scott's performance in this film is a rather interesting one. Scott apparently wanted to play the role straight, but Kubrick wanted Turgidson to be an absurd character. Scott supposedly refused, but Kubrick would have him do just one wild take then Kubrick proceeded to only use those takes in the final film. It's a story that certainly shows the importance of a director hand in performances, but the reason I don't usually mention this in reviews is two fold. One being it is impossible to tell exactly who came up with the way to play a character in every single film, and more importantly no matter what the basis may be for the character George C. Scott is the one still making or not making this idea work through his performance.

Anyway with that out of the way how about what Scott does with the approach of making Buck Turgidson perhaps the wackiest character in the film. This is rather a departure for Scott particularly from his Oscar nominated works in The Hustler and the Anatomy of the Murder, and is really something to see Scott, who often plays rather controlled and strict characters, go completely off the wall in his performance. Scott never stops with his performance always moving in some way and gives a completely insane performance to go along with his rather insane character the entire time. It is so easy to see how this whole approach could have seriously failed because Scott makes Turgidson so big and it all could exploded but this never happens and there is a reason for that.

The reason being he's George C. Scott. Scott is on top of it every step of the way and makes his performance one absurdly entertaining moment after another. Buck Turgidson is a General called in by the President to find out why bomber planes have been launched by General Ripper (Sterling Hayden), and then proceeds to act as one of the advisers during the crisis. Scott is great playing Turgidson as a man who is far too pumped up for his own good so, unlike everyone else who sits nicely in their sits around the large table, whenever we Turgidson he can't seem to relax always moving slightly in his chair or chewing gum. Frankly Scott is always doing something and it all simply works in one building up his boisterous character, but as well being just plain funny.

Where Sterling Hayden wore his character's insanity in an icy stare, Scott wears Buck Turgidson's in just one big smile. Scott with his boundless energy portrays Turgidson as a man who believes in practically everything he says and some of the most extreme things he says is all the funnier because of the personal conviction Scott shows it as. When Buck Turgidson tells one of his ideas he does not just like his idea Scott plays it as he is deeply in love the with idea. Scott's hilarity never ceases as he brings the utmost enthusiasm to every single word that Turgidson spews out no matter how crazy it seems and well is. Scott never misses his mark once and makes every scene more enjoyable with his mere presence.

Scott is magnificent and never feels stale in this turn nicely avoiding this by not making Turgidson one note even if the character, and his performance are rather extreme. One of Scott's best moments is when Turgidson is reading off information to the President presenting a less assured Turgidson and being rather amusing by showing Turgidson as a man who really does not know all that much. Another great moment is while in the war room he gets the call from the secretary he is having an affair with who wants to talk about their relationship. Scott again brings the very best out of the comedic possibilities of the character by making the man who is so comfortable talking about the deaths of millions, but instantly appears to be queasy when faced with talking to his girlfriend.

It is strange to learn about the behind the scene story because Scott is the clown needed for the war room scenes with his constant physical antics that Scott pulls off so flawlessly, heck apparently Scott actually did fall in the role but Scott just went with making it classic moment that fits Turgidson so well since he never stops moving anyways. This is a case of Scott pretty much going all in as this performance is an all or nothing characterization, and taking home the pot. This performance simply works that is all there is to it, and Scott turns in one of the all time great comic performances. He is incredibly loud, extremely flamboyant and downright crazy, and you know what, I would not want Buck Turgidson any other way.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1964: Sterling Hayden in Dr. Strangelove

Sterling Hayden did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying General Jack Ripper in Dr. Strangelove.

It could easily appear to some that Sterling Hayden really did not care about acting, and his personal comments would seem to support that statement, nevertheless he had a tremendous screen presence, and it did seem like he could fit into the tough guy roles like no other. That does not seem entirely fair to Hayden though because, for example, in his role in the Asphalt Jungle most of the type he just needed to be the hard man yet when more was asked of him he actually did succeed in being more than just the thug. Hayden in Dr. Strangelove again seems to be properly cast as the hard nosed General who decides to have his bombers, which are armed with nuclear weapons, to attack Russia completely based only his own authority and not the president's.

In the most base sense Hayden fits the role perfectly with his deep voice and simply his size of the man that this would be guy who would not mind intiating such a plan on his own personal authority. Hayden makes Ripper the obvious example of military might and the thinking of a man who believes himself to be in complete command of the situation. In the most serious sort of way Hayden fulfills the purpose of General Ripper, by being a man who is clearly determined in his plan no matter what the consequences will be in the end. Of course this role and Hayden's performance has much more to offer than simply being a determined military general, as the true nature of this role is not dramatic but in actuality it is comedic.

Hayden is brilliant in regard to making this a hilarious performance. The great part about Hayden's performance is he doesn't play it straight nor does he seem like he is playing it as funny either. Hayden does so much within the structure of Ripper it is amazing. As Ripper he is always chomping hard on his large cigar throughout his performance, and he has a most crazy eyed look on his face. There is something so intense about his look that it is both hilarious yet as well works in portraying the insanity of Ripper. This goes for almost everything he does as Hayden is so extreme about it that he makes what he does amusing yet he is strangely believable at just being a purely crazed war hungry General as well.

The best part of Hayden's performance though his his bizarre yet so perfect chemistry with Peter Sellers as Ripper's sane second in command Lionel Mandrake. Although Mandrake the whole time is trying to stop Ripper, Ripper never figures this out revealing much of his plan to Mandrake. Hayden is rather warm and almost fatherly toward Mandrake throughout the event making a real camaraderie there even though Mandrake is trying to undermine him the entire time. Hayden having Ripper seem so comfortable rather than hostile when talking to Mandrake makes the situation all the funnier as Mandrake tries to find something out while Ripper is in a world of his own.

The reason for Ripper's plan is the most ridiculous part of his character as he reveals that he believes the communists are after his precious bodily fluids because he apparently knows nothing about the way the human body works. Hayden brings so much conviction to this lunacy with his stone cold delivery that he makes the scene as memorable as it is, and makes it seem perfect sense to General Ripper anyway. Although I am sure that is many a fan's favorite scene for Ripper, my personal favorite is when Ripper asks Mandrake about torture. Hayden's performance is extremely funny as he keeps that psychotic look, but within that look you can see him basically wimping out at the idea of any physical torture. 

Hayden proves himself far more capable actor than one who is just good at fulfilling a certain physical type of character with his performance in Dr. Strangelove. It is quite true that Hayden successfully fulfills General Ripper in the basic description of an imposing General, but more than that he turns his depiction of a General out of his gourd into a comedic gold. Hayden gives a great performance that pulls off a most interesting trick which is to not pigeonhole himself as really playing it exactly one way or another. Sterling Hayden by taking this most unique path gives a completely fitting portrait of a man who very much has created his own form of reality within his deranged mind.