Friday, 4 April 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1986: Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors

Steve Martin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Orin Scrivello, DDS, in Little Shop of Horrors.

Little Shop of Horrors is a very enjoyable musical comedy about a sad sack Seymour (Ric Moranis) who discovers a most unusual plant that offers him fame and fortune but it wants human blood in return. I should note I actually prefer the good ending found in the theatrical cut. This is for several reasons. Firstly stage and screen are not the same and tonally things do not always transfer perfectly so changes need to be. Secondly having the lead be Moranis makes it so the happy end is the best because he is just so darn likable, even when he is making Faustian deals you can help but feel for him. Thirdly the whole "Don't Feed the Plants" scene may be impressive to look at, but it just goes on for way too long.

Steve Martin plays the abusive boyfriend of Seymour's love interest Audrey (Ellen Greene), that's not the important part of his character. The important part is that being a sadistic dentist which is portrayed in a hilarious song number as he describes his reasons for his profession which is simply because of his love of causing things pain. Martin is usually best known for his dead pan comedic performances but this one is a broadly comic portrayal which was probably unavoidable considering it involves a song sequence. Anyway Martin plays the role as basically a twisted Elvis impersonator as he tries to inflict as much pain as possible to other around which is best shown in his first and best scene his song.

Martin's performance is completely hilarious in the song as he delivers with the song particularly brilliantly. He changes from one moment to the next with whether it is emphasizing the impersonation, or at times kind of the big singing known in the fancier type of romantic musicals, and other times with a psychotically intense voice. Each switch is perfectly place to accentuate the hilarity of the sequence. To only add on top of that his physical performance is also comedic gold as he wields his arms almost as weapons of death constantly threatening all humans who may be nearby him. Martin pulls out every single possible ounce of humor in the scene and he successfully makes the whole dentist song scene one of the strongest in the film. 

Martin other great scene is when he has a patient played by Bill Murray who unfortunately for him is a masochist. The two comedians play off each perfectly with with Martin going as intense as possible in his the pleasure he gets out of his vicious attempts to cause the man discomfort, and Murray playing off it by showing the man to love every single moment of it to well an orgasmic extent. The best moment of the scene though easily comes when Martin's character throws him out and it is ridiculously funny just how much disgust Martin displays in the dentist, as it is quite obvious that the dentist only likes it when he is the one having fun. That also is a great scene, and Martin is only in about four scenes to begin with.

Well the other two are a little less funny, but then again that is a bit hard to match considering the quality of the other two. Don't get me wrong he is still quite enjoyable in these two other scenes particularly his expression when he realizes he's going to die from his laughing gas machine. They are not nearly as entertaining as the other two but that is far less Martin and much more caused by the limitations presented to him. Nevertheless Martin proves himself quite capable in the broader style of comedy and is still one of the best parts of the film. Although he's merely good in two of his scenes opposed to being great like he is in his other two scenes, but I suppose that's good enough.

18 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Did you hate Ellen Greene as much as I did? I get that's how she played it on stage, but jeez. But yeah, your thoughts are basically my thoughts on the performance. He did peak with his song, but DAMN what a song it was.

I mentioned before I didn't like the Director's Cut ending, and for the same reasons you did. Moranis is too likable to kill off so flippantly. Fun fact: I was scared of this movie until I was 18 because I didn't know it was comedy OR a musical. Fucking ironic titles.

Michael McCarthy said...

Miss this show already :/

I understand what you're saying about the Director's Cut ending, and I totally agree that the final sequence goes on for way too long in the movie. Also I can see why you wouldn't want Seymour to get killed off, but frankly that's one problem I always had with Moranis's performance, it's just too light. And btw Don't Feed the Plants can be AMAZING on stage.

luke higham said...

Louis: your ratings & thoughts on James Mason in:
Odd Man Out
The Reckless Moment
Pandora and the flying Dutchman
The Boys from Brazil

luke higham said...

Louis: Lastly, can I have your overall top 5s for lead & supporting actress from 2000-2012.
Ratings Included.

connorolen said...

When you're all done with filling out your alternate Best Actors and Best Supporting Actors, are you planning on moving on to Actress and Supporting Actress?

luke higham said...

Connorolen: There's no real point in doing so, since he's given ratings & thoughts on any female performance, that he's seen, also you can ask him for his ranking for any official lead or supporting actress year via comment.

I would like to see, Louis give full reviews on female performances, which were rated with 5's for any year, as well as summarise his other favourite performances from a year, which received a high 4 or 4.5 rating. For this, louis could create a post similar to any year which didn't have enough great performances like 1934 or 1945 supporting.

Louis Morgan said...

koook160: Yeah her voice she uses just comes off as annoying when it should have been comedic or at least somewhat endearing.

Luke:

Odd Man Out - 5(Excellent work by Mason even though he is technically out of commission often in the film. Nevertheless he very effectively shows the slow decay of his character's physical and mental state throughout the film. As lead performances go his screen time is very limited but every scene he is in Mason brings a strong emotional punch)

The Reckless Moment - 4.5(The films isn't particularly good and again I fail to understand why Joan Bennett was such a success, but Mason brings some energy to the proceedings to his efficient and believable portrait of a con man who slowly grows a conscience.)

Pandora and the flying Dutchman - 4(Fine portrayal of the supernatural romantic. Mason brings the right mystery for most of it, and in the key moments of the film brings the dramatic weight with such an effortlessness)

The Boys from Brazil - 4(Mason offers a very fine balancing act for Peck's rather extreme portrayal. He brings the right underplayed menace and a ice cold reserve that is perfect for the part)

Actress:

1. Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive
2. Charlize Theron - Monster
3. Nicole Kidman - Dogville
4. Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone
5. Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol 2

Supporting Actresses:

1. Jackie Weaver in Animal Kingdom
2. MoNique in Precious
3. Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There
4. Emily Watson in The Proposition
5. Miranda Richardson in Spider

I would not say actresses would be totally wasted idea simply because I do feel there are many great performances still to be seen. Also one of my old hesitations was because there were many reviewers of performances by Actresses which isn't really the case now. Nevertheless I think after I'm done with the years I'll probably go with Robert's idea about the bonus rounds.

Michael Patison said...

I love Robert's idea of bonus rounds, but I'd also love to see a short (relatively speaking of course) set of posts giving ratings and thoughts for 4s, 4.5s, and 5s like Robert just said he'd like to see.

Michael Patison said...

Also, I'm getting antsy because I'm an impatient person. Could I get all of the female performances you'd give 5s from the beginning of time (so like the 1910s) thru the 1970s?

Michael Patison said...

Last question for this thread (I hope): do you consider Kinski leading or supporting in Paris, Texas?

luke higham said...

Louis: With the overall top 5s Question, I actually meant by per year:
E.g. 2001: Supporting
1.Paltrow
2.
3.
4.
5.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: Okay then:

Claudette Colbert - It Happened One Night
Irene Dunne - The Awful Truth
Vivien Leigh - Gone With The Wind
Joan Fontaine - Rebecca
Judith Anderson - Rebecca
Jane Darwell - Grapes of Wraith
Rosalind Russell - His Girl Friday
Teresa Wright - Shadow of a Doubt
Katina Paxinou - For Whom the Bell Tolls
Barbara Stanwyck - Double Indemnity
Tallulah Bankhead - Lifeboat
Celia Johnson - Celia Johnson
Ingrid Bergman - Notorious
Kathleen Byron - Black Narcissus
Claire Trevor - Key Largo
Olivia De Havilland - The Snake Pit
Olivia De Havilland - The Heiress
Mercedes McCambridge - All The King's Men
Machiko Kyo - Rashomon
Gloria Swanson - Sunset Boulevard
Shelly Winters - A Place in The Sun
Vivien Leigh - A Streetcar Named Desire
Kim Hunter - A Streetcar Named Desire
Eva Marie Saint - On the Waterfront
Simone Signoret - Diabolique
Isuzu Yamada - Throne of Blood
Simone Signoret - Room at the Top
Jean Simmons - Elmer Gantry
Janet Leigh - Psycho
Patty Duke - The Miracle Worker
Anne Bancroft - The Miracle Worker
Angela Lansbury - The Manchurian Candidate
Geraldine Page - Sweet Bird of Youth
Lee Remick - The Days of Wine And Roses
Patricia Neal - Hud
Lula Kedrova - Zorba the Greek
Elizabeth Hartman - A Patch of Blue
Samantha Eggar - The Collector
Ingrid Thulin - The Silence
Bibi Andersson - Persona
Liv Ullmann - Persona
Faye Dunaway - Bonnie and Clyde
Anne Bancroft - The Graduate
Katherine Hepburn - The Lion in Winter
Lynn Carlin - Faces
Ruth Gordon - Rosemary's Baby
Geraldine Page - The Beguiled
Jessica Walters - Play Misty For Me
Cloris Leachman - The Last Picture Show
Liza Minnelli - Cabaret
Sissy Spacek - Badlands
Faye Dunaway - Chinatown
Gena Rowlands - A Woman Under the Influence
Faye Dunaway - Network
Veronica Cartwright - Alien

Whoo.. there although I probably forgot a few.

Luke: Well I'm still not satisfied with some of my fives and I really need to see some of the film that supposedly have the great performances, but I'll try to compile lists and I'll list the years where I have a top five I'm confidant in.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: Oh and Kinski is supporting.

Michael Patison said...

As far as I can recall, the only one you missed that I've asked about before was Lansbury in Death on the Nile, but I could be remembering incorrectly.

Michael Patison said...

What would you give Garland in A Star Is Born?

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: Yes Lansbury would be a five, and I think I'd give Garland a 4.5.

luke higham said...

Louis: when's the review up.

Louis Morgan said...

I'm working on it presently.