Saturday, 15 March 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1996: Steve Buscemi in Fargo

Steve Buscemi did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Carl Showalter in Fargo.

Steve Buscemi actually did manage to get himself a few citations on the awards season for 1996, but all chances for a nomination were probably squashed when the male lead of the film William H. Macy was put in the supporting category. Buscemi plays one of the two men that Jerry Lundegaard (Macy) hires to kidnap his own wife to allow him to extort money from his rich father-in-law. The last time I reviewed Buscemi was his portrayal of the criminal who put professionalism above all others in Reservoir Dogs as the unfortunately titled Mr. Pink. Carl Showalter is no Mr. Pink although he probably would like to be evidenced by his very first scene where Jerry comes to give them their advanced in the form of a stolen car from the used car dealership where Jerry works.

In his very first scene Buscemi is excellent as he plays Carl as coming on very strong against Jerry trying to be the tough criminal he is suppose to be as he inquire what the logic is behind Jerry's plan exactly. Buscemi in this scene shows Carl as a man very trying to put up the front that he is quite hardened and much more of a man than he actually is in his treatment of Jerry. Buscemi though nicely brings that underlying weakness to Carl from the first scene as you never feel a strong confidence here, nor any of the suggested intelligence that was in his earlier performance. One of my favorite moments in his first scene is how he ends the scene as Carl tries to keep on pushing Jerry but then suddenly stops and just suggest taking a look at the car. Buscemi transition is perfect in showing just how easily Carl loses his tough guy act.

After that point we get a series of scenes between Carl and his other criminal associate Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare). Buscemi and Stormare's chemistry is one of the greatest aspects of the film with Stormare playing it ridiculously dead pan and Buscemi playing up Carl as more talkative and animated sort of guy. They are hilarious together with Buscemi playing up Carl trying basically to carry on as a man would on a business trip or something with Grimsrud who clearly is not the same type of man. Every bit of dialogue is handled perfectly by Buscemi because he handles it so casually even though the men are on track to commit crime. They're especially hilarious together though in the back and forth between the two. Buscemi is great in showing Carl trying to make some sort of conversation but always being taken aback by Grimsrud's stoic demeanor.

One of the best scenes in the film takes place after the kidnapping has taken place and the two men find themselves in an awkward situation when they are pulled over for a foolish mistake on Carl's part. Buscemi is extremely entertaining in the scene as it begins particularly in his threat to their victim where he tells her to be quiet or they'll have to shoot her. The reason that particularly moment is so funny is all in Buscemi's delivery. He does not make it like a psychotic or even a hardened crook even, but rather Buscemi has Carl say it like he's just some normal guy handling a situation he obviously does not have much sense for. This only continues for the men though as Carl bungles his attempt to speak to the police officer. Buscemi makes Carl's incompetence completely believable, but also so very amusing because of just how he handles every moment of it with his performance.  

As he showed in Reservoir Dogs, Buscemi is great in bringing a very visceral power in his reactions to intense situation. Well he apps that up to another level as Carl who must undergo many intense situations throughout his time in dealing with Jerry's foolish plan. Buscemi is absolutely on fire in every scene because he plays every scene with such expert precision which is always works as such an interesting portrayal of a man who is in way over his head but tries to act like he's not. Another terrific scene Buscemi comes in with the exchange of money which becomes problematic when Jerry's father-in-law handles it. Buscemi's actually makes it pretty easy to sympathize Carl a bit in the moment as his exasperation, and complete bewilderment of the moment is just so brilliantly played by him. Of course things only get worse for Carl as things proceed.

Carl of course takes a gunshot to the face, although he does manage to survive, his face obviously won't quite be the scene. Although the makeup in the scene is more than solid Buscemi's whole physical reaction in the moment really sells the moment in such a brutal way. The way he changes his speech from the wound, and every one of his cries of pain are handled so well that it becomes pretty hard to watch his performance. This is the case throughout the film for Buscemi and it is treat to watch him in any scene he is in because it is always true to his honest depiction of such a foolish criminal. Buscemi can even make a gem out of a scene where Carl argues about the cost of a parking ticket because every reaction every delivery on Buscemi's part just rather flawless. Buscemi gives a great performance in a role that in the wrong hands could have fallen pretty flat as the humor of the moment is often in the delivery, or maybe they might have tried to hard on the humor and undercut the criminal part. Buscemi has such a tight grasp on the character and the material that he makes Carl one of the best parts of this film.


koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

LOVE this performance. He's such a close runner-up to Norton that year for me that I'm half-tempted to have a tie.

Matt Mustin said...

Brilliant performance. What rating would you give McDormand and Stormare, and your thoughts on McDormand?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Buscemi is terrific in this. What rating would you give him in The Big Lebowski?

Also, please could we have thoughts/ratings on:

Clive Owen in Sin City

Robert Duvall in To Kill a Mockingbird

Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent in Beginners (seems like a sort of film you'd like I loved it myself)

luke higham said...

Louis: thoughts on Stormare.

Michael Patison said...

Ratings and thoughts on:
Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, and Network (Duvall and Straight too)

Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer

Elizabeth Berringer in Amadeus

Holly Hunter in Broadcast News

Jamie Lee Curtis in A Fish Called Wanda

Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Throw in Robby Benson in Beauty and the Beast and Ben Foster in Alpha Dog.

Michael Patison said...

Some others for ratings and thoughts:
Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally...

Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham

John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda

Robin Wright and Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride

Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People

Anne Bancroft in The Graduate

Lee Remick in Anatomy of a Murder

the females in All About Eve

Elizabeth Taylor in Giant

Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen in Singin' in the Rain (I'm almost positive you'll hate Hagen but I'll ask nevertheless)

Katy Jurado in High Noon

Linda Darnell in A Letter to Three Wives

Ingrid Bergman in Notorious and Casablanca

Teresa Wright in Shadow of a Doubt

Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz

Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth

Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey

Ruth Chatterton in Dodsworth

I know that's a ton of performances, but I tried to get as many out of the way as I could all at once instead of asking about them periodically as I thought about them.

Michael Patison said...

Also, what rating would you give to Tatsuya Nakadai in Kill!

luke higham said...

Michael Patison: since the fourth season of Game of Thrones is starting in three weeks, I'd like to know what season & episode you are at now, as well as your thoughts on each season so far. Including your thoughts on Dinklage, Clarke, Coster-Waldau & Charles Dance.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: 5 for both.

McDormand(I know some that blast her work for being too light, but I think she's great. She gives such a genuinely endearing work but with the appropriate depth to her performance. She succeeds extremely well in bringing the detective within the rest of her brilliantly that it completely works with the rest of her performance)


I'd probably give Buscemi a 3 for that film, he's good but just does not have a lot to do there.

Owen - 3(Does not reach the heights of Rourke but he does a fine enough job at being the noir lead type)

Duvall's not completely out of the question for 62 so I'll wait.

McGregor - 4(It's rare that I don't like him so he was good here in being an appropriately sympathetic and charming lead)

Laurent - 3.5(Needed to mostly just be a bit charming and have chemistry with McGregor she meets both these requirements)


Stormare - (A hilarious dead pan performance while being completely chilling as well. His performance during the highway massacre scene is amazing)


Bonnie and Clyde - 5(A very strong performance in her portrayal of the evolution of her character from naivety to hard bitten criminal. Her chemistry with Beatty works particularly well, and she builds the intensity of any of the actions scenes with her performance)

Chinatown - 5(Heartbreaking work in the end and before that such a beautifully alluring performance)

Network - 5(A great work as a completely hollow shell, and basically every part of her performance is fake yet so incredibly effective in getting to the point of her character)

Straight - 4.5(Brilliantly done scene as she brings, for once in the film, such a powerful display of emotion in a film purposefully lacking it in the rest)

Duvall's not out of the question once again.

Streep - 4(Heresy again perhaps although again I do believe she's good in the part, but again I'm not sure they all perfectly connect)

Berridge - 4(She slammed sometimes I think it's because of her accent, but I do think her performance works in being the person out of her element to a certain extent in the world of the film)

Hunter - 4.5(Dunaway's performance in Network, but this time with a soul. She handles that dynamic nicely and has great chemistry with both of her co-stars)

Curtis - 3.5(I think's she's fine but just fine. She fulfills being the femme fatale well enough, but not nearly as entertaining as any of the men in the film)

Tandy - 5(Wonderful work form her as she makes her film. She makes her transition work never cheating once, and as well just is terrific with Freeman in the film)


Have not seen Alpha Dog although Foster is a good enough reason for me to give it a watch.

Benson - 4(Extremely solid voice work perfectly personifying both the beast and the man in his character)

End of Part 1.

luke higham said...

Louis: I said to you once before on what were your top 5 actors under the age of 40, so I would like to ask on who are top 5 actresses under the age of 40, as well as their career best performances so far in your opinion.

Matt Mustin said...

In terms of McDormand, I thought she was great too. I thought she brought the appropriate charm, and her scene where she's talking to Stormare's character ("it's a beautiful day") is brilliant.

That scene you mentioned in Stormare's performance is extraordinary.

Mark said...

Louis, you're not a huge Meryl Streep fan, I'm assuming? Anything in particular that she does that's irritating?

Michael Patison said...

You also seem not to be a huge fan of Kate Winslet. What don't you like about her?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Alpha Dog is total shit, but Foster pulls a Raul Julia and makes it sort of watchable.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert: That's good enough for me.

Matt Mustin said...

Also, Louis, what are your ratings and thoughts on the cast of Death and the Maiden?

Louis Morgan said...

Meg Ryan - 3.5(She's good enough I suppose, although I thought her performance was still a fairly average romantic comedy lead)

Sarandon - 4.5(A very funny yet also appropriately salacious in style that works well in being the figure that actually holds the film together)

Cleese - 4(He's not quite up there with Kline and Palin when it comes to the level of hilarity, but he's still pretty funny as well particularly in his apology to Kline or when he distracts him at the end of the film)

Wright - 3(She's fine at being the object of desire but there is not a lot for her to do)

Elwes - 4(Yeah he's overshadowed by much of the supporting cast but he brings the right charm and confidence to Wesley)

Moore - 5(Rather disconcerting performance to watch in comparison to her usual work. It goes further than that as she creates a particularly cruel portrait of coldness yet always in a purely realistic way)

Bancroft - 5(She's not even in the film that much but she still completely owns it. Her character could have been one note but she brings such depth past just the scandalous elements of her performance. Her Mrs. Robinson is not just a lusty old lady, but rather a wounded human being)

Remick - 4.5(An extremely seductive performance and she's fantastic in never giving away the truth of the case but convincing in showing that there is more there than what is being said)

Baxter - 3.5(I thought she did ambition better in the Ten Commandments. Here she's good enough in playing the devious qualities but I always wanted more from her in portraying that drive that takes her to the top)

Ritter - 3(As usual she's enjoyable but she really doesn't do a whole lot here)

Holm - 3.5(An effective enough performance in portraying basically an acceptance of her mediocrity)

Davis - 4.5(One I don't quite love as most, but I like her a lot. She's great in playing up the endearing star qualities, but undercut with that innate bratty qualities from her treatment)

Taylor - 2.5(I really can't say much about her here. She's definitely not bad, but I don't even remember really what she did in it)

Reynolds - 2.5(Kinda like Kelly. I can see why people like her, but I personally don't)

Hagen - 2.5(A performance so many love, but really it's just the voice which I don't really find all that funny)

Jurado - 3(She's good in that she reflects what should be reflected, but she never made me understand why her character should even be in the film)

Darnell - 4(The best of the three and she does a good job in playing the wife who finally cares about her husband really. She creates an unusual but effective dynamic with Paul Douglas that pays of in spades in the finale)

Bergman - Notorious - 5(It's best when she underplays her roles and that is the case her. She does a terrific job of bringing in the internal struggle of her character)

Bergman - Casablanca - 4.5(Again a performance she keeps closer to her chest, and she basically gives the promise of Notorious here. I don't love it quite as much as some but she gives a tender and poignant performance)

Wright - 5(I won't lie I find her the most naturally charming actress from the period, I find that she uses this charm impeccably well in the naive half making her slow decent into cynicism quite striking)

Garland - 4.5(Technically simple work but all of her sweetness is only ever endearing)

Dunne - 5(A brilliant comic performance that meets Grant ever step of the way and even tops him at some points)

Lombard - 3.5(Enjoyable enough but I felt she was mostly overshadowed by Powell)

Chatterton - 4(Sometimes slightly overwrought but still an interesting portrayal of such a flighty person)

I don't have any problems with Winslet in a basic fashion I just think she does better sometimes more than others.

Nakadai would get a 4.5 for Kill!.

Mark: No I'm not a huge fan but I do like her. Really what she's known best for, her chameleon like qualities, I find less impressive than most.

Michael McCarthy said...

Haaaaaaaaaaaaated Berridge in Amadeus. It wasn't her accent that bothered me as the fact that she constantly said "Volfie" instead of "Wolfie" even though otherwise she didn't even try the accent. Even disregarding that, I thought a lot of her line readings were pretty terrible.

Having said that, I'm really happy to see that you gave straight 5's to Faye Dunaway's performances, she's one of my favorites. Bergman's another one; she put so much more depth into her character in Casablanca than most actresses would have.

Louis Morgan said...


1. Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone, although like Ryan Gosling she needs a new course in her career)

2. Marion Cotillard (Public Enemies, still haven't watched La Vie En Rose)

3. Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter)

4. Amy Adams (Enchanted)

5. Rooney Mara (Ain't Them Bodies Saints)


Wilson - 3(He's decent enough with some very solid moments but too often he seemed a little stale in his delivery)

Weaver - 2.5(I usually love her, but here she just seems off, and not in character off either. The effort of her performance always felt visible, which seems dramatically opposed to the way she usually is)

Kingsley - 4.5(He is the film and successfully keeps the cat in the bag. He makes himself sympathetic yet he keeps you cautious about his true nature, and his final monologue is dynamite)

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: I used to feel that way about Berridge and I don't completely disagree as I think the role allowed for a five, but I do think she succeeds well with certain elements of the part.

Michael McCarthy said...

I see. Also in All About Eve I'd give both Baxter AND Davis fives, and I'm not typically that impressed with Davis. But to each his own.

Michael Patison said...

Luke: I'm currently on season 3, episode 7, and I will be watching that episode later tonight, which will leave me with 3 more episodes to have caught up. So here's some thoughts.

Season 1: A great season, Dinklage is always the most entertaining, though I personally felt Sean Bean added the most to his character. Despite it mostly acting as set up for the subsequent seasons, it is never boring or tedious.

Season 2: This is a terrific season. Every single scene builds perfectly to Blackwater. Once again, Dinklage is once again the MVP. Headey is also terrific at playing the manipulative queen mother who does almost everything for her children. She plays great counterpoint to Michelle Fairley's first season performance (not to mention Fairley's tremendously different 3rd season performance).

Season 3: This season is quite good thus far, but is often too slow, especially when compared to the other seasons. That may be a bi-product of my having read the first two books and not the third, but I'm going to assume not for the sake of argument. The acting is across the board slightly above average because none of the characters have a ton to do. Sure, Dany does some cool stuff, but the extent of what she does is limited, as shown by her not being in several episodes.
The be honest, perhaps my favorite scenes of the season were the banter between Varys and Littlefinger and every scene involving Diana Rigg.

Dinklage: He's certainly the MVP of the entire show, and season 2 is his time to shine.

Clarke: Season 3 has been her best despite her relatively little screentime. And Now His Watch Is Ended is obviously her best. I find her character to be far too one note on the whole, though, and I don't find Clarke does all that much to alleviate that problem.

Coster-Waldau: My thoughts here are essentially the same as Clarke, except that I find Clarke annoying eventually and Coster-Waldau does such a magnificent job of making his arrogance enjoyable.

Dance: I really like Charles Dance as an actor, and I think he actually does quite a good job of showing not just his evil qualities, but also the pains in his past that have made him so calloused. That being said, I think the best work of his I've seen (Alien 3 unseen) is the Bleak House miniseries. His Mr. Tulkinghorn is gloriously manipulative and cold-blooded but anchored in duty and business and not in hate.

Season Rankings:
1. season 2
2. season 1
3. season 3

Best Episode by Season:
Season 1: You Win or You Die (Baelor would be too easy)
Season 2: Blackwater
Season 3: And Now His Watch Is Ended (though I'm sure Rains of Castermere will win once I get there)

I want Theon's storyline to go somewhere and for him to stop being so pathetic. I'm also disappointed with how little Arya has had to do after the 1st season.

I also find it fascinating how they tend to make the 9th episode the big event episode and not the finale.

Michael Patison said...

I have several more performances, this time more supporting in nature:
-Renée Zellweger in Jerry Maguire
-Kate Winslet in Sense and Sensibility
-Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day
-Helena Bonham Carter in Howards End
-Brenda Fricker in My Left Foot
-Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark
-Jane Alexander in Kramer vs. Kramer
-Angela Lansbury in Death on the Nile
-Madeline Kahn in Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles
-Ellen Burstyn, Cybill Shepherd, and Cloris Leachman in The Last Picture Show
-Jo Van Fleet in Cool Hand Luke
-Patricia Neal in Hud (you may have done this one before, I can't remember)
-Kim Novak in Vertigo
-Jane Greer in Out of the Past
-Agnes Moorehead in The Magnificent Ambersons
-Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon
-Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind
-Jean Arthur in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
-Olivia de Havilland in The Adventures of Robin Hood

Once again I know that's a ton. I promise not to create some huge list like this again. From now on it will only be one or two performances at a time.

luke higham said...

Louis: Ratings & thoughts on Jessica Chastain in:
Tree of Life
The Help
Take Shelter
Zero Dark thirty

& Amy Adams in Enchanted

Louis Morgan said...

Zellweger - 3.5(She's sweet enough and her chemistry with Cruise is good enough)

Kate Winslet - 4.5(

Andie MacDowell - 3(Probably her best performance since she is not annoying really and is fine enough throughout. Still very much overshadowed by Murray in every step)

Carter - 3(Perhaps I was little too quick with my earlier rating although not by much. I mean she is fine being there, but I was always far more interested in the characters that were not her)

Fricker - 4.5(A lovely loving performance with such an abundance of warmth needed for a mother of such a large family as well as Christy Brown himself)

Allen - 4.5 (Indy's best sidekick, other than his old man. Even though she is a damsel Allen keeps a right confidence and energy in role to make her seem far from useless)

Alexander - 3(Almost as short as her other supporting nomination although this time she actually seems to have some life in her. Not a lot but perfectly serviceable)

Lansbury - 5(A absolutely brilliant daffy turn that is one of the most memorable parts of the film. Every scene she has is a highlight in the film)

Kahn - Young Frankenstein - 3.5(A funny and entertaining work, although I actually prefer Leachman in the film itself)

Blazing Saddles - 3(One note joke character and she's fine, but eh)

Burstyn - 4(She's solid but just sorta there for the most of it, but she delivers in her one scene where she reflects on Ben Johnson's character)

Shepherd - 3(I have yet to see something where she is not at least a little vapid in her work. That is the case here too, although I do think that does work for the part)

Leachman - 5(Excellent, inspired work that gives such a raw emotional power to her character's painful state)

Van Fleet - 4(Solid one scene wonder and she and Newman do very well in creating the mother son relationship even though it is only for one scene)

Neal - 5(for supporting)(She does not carry the film but she's not meant to. She's has such a terrific and complicated chemistry with Newman that it makes any of their scenes together compelling)

Novak - 4.5(There is something very interesting about the two leads of the film, but I'll get to that later. Novak by herself is very good at being such an alluring figure in the first half, but then bringing down to a more earthly performance in the second half)

Greer - 4.5(A rather fascinating work in that at first she appears to be just a somewhat standard type desperate woman character from the period but when the snake reveals itself Greer makes it a very effective change indeed)

I have not seen Moorehead.

Astor - 4.5(Apparently she would run around set in between takes, and that definitely worked wonders for her character. Her desperation is palatable, but she off sets it nicely with her own underlying quality of desire)

de Havilland - Gone With the Wind - 4.5(She might have seemed overly nice or just boring in the wrong hands but de Havilland really makes Melanie's goodness and perhaps naivety really come to life)

McDaniel - (Could have been pure stereotype like another performance in the film is, but McDaniel never allows that. She gives a surprisingly strong willed performance yet still with a substantial amount of heart)

Arthur - 3.5(She's sweet enough and enthusiastic enough, but it's Rains and Stewart whom I remember from the film)

Olivia de Havilland - 4(Simple work but she's glowing here with some great chemistry with Flynn to boot)

Louis Morgan said...


Tree of Life - 4.5(Although does not completely break out on her own like Pitt, she still is her own marvel in bringing the essence of her character so beautifully to life)

The Help - 3(Leave it to the academy to nominate her for a lesser performance. Anyway she's kinda funny, but really not particularly substantial work)

Take Shelter - 4.5(If I watched it again she may advance higher. Anyway pitch perfect work in creating a particularly effective dynamic with Shannon in the film. Her portrayal of her loss of faith in her husband is both powerful and poignant)

Zero Dark thirty - 4.5(There are a few moments where she tries a little too hard to seem tough, but for the most part she gives a striking depiction of determination and her final scene is exceptional)

Adams - 4.5(Adams best foray into the over enthusiastic, and it is easy to see why this was her star making role. She's all sugar, but it is all truly sweet without becoming cumbersome)

luke higham said...

Louis: You forgot Mcdaniel's rating, as well as your thoughts on Winslet in Sense & Sensibility.

Louis Morgan said...

Kate Winslet - 4.5(The best part of the film for me as found myself invested in her character and I greatly preferred her more emotional work over the previous onscreen sister to Thompson in a somewhat similar role)

4.5 for McDaniel.