Friday, 30 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1961: Tatsuya Nakadai in Yojimbo

Tatsuya Nakadai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Unosuke in Yojimbo.

Yojimbo is a film filled with scoundrels as almost all the speaking parts of the film are villains. There are only a few exceptions such as the fed up inn owner, the coffin maker, and of course the samurai played by Toshiro Mifune. Mifune has such strong presence that almost all these villains are overwhelmed and overshadowed unless they know how to play off him. Takashi Shimura certainly knows how, but is unable to do so here since he never directly interacts with Mifune. Luckily though there is another actor with a star quality of his own and that of course is Tatsuya Nakadai. Nakadai is actually the final villain to make an appearance as Unosuke who is the second in command to one of the crime lords, and appears after coming back from his travels along with a gun.

Although the appearance of the gun of course establishes Unosuke as a threat, as everyone else is fighting with only swords, he is truly established as such by Nakadai's performance. Tatsuya Nakadai a very interesting actor as he has such almost breezy manner in his performances yet his presence is always clearly felt. Nakadai's way about the screen is pretty much a perfect match for Mifune, and it is easy to see why Kurosawa cast Nakadai as the villain against Mifune once again in the sequel to Yojimbo, Sanjuro. With all the other villains it is obvious that Mifune/the samurai seems to command over all, but once Nakadai shows up the samurai plan seems like it may not be so easy anymore. Nakadai as Unosuke makes a worthy adversary for Mifune as the samurai.

Apparently Kurosawa told Mifune to play the samurai as a wolf which helped him create that distinctive twitch, and he also gave Nakadai an animal in mind but for him it was a snake. Mifune made brilliant use of the idea and so does Nakadai. Nakadai also is a very physical performer and the way he infuses the "snake"  in to his performance is remarkable. Where Mifune had the broader movement of a wolf, Nakadai is very withdrawn as he slinks around so smoothly making Unosuke stand out very well among the group of slovenly criminals around him. One of my favorite movements Nakadai employs is the way he pulls out the pistol he moves his arm very much like a Snake preparing to strike. It is later said that Unosuke feels the pistol is an extension on himself and Nakadai realizes this quality quite beautifully.

Unosuke technically speaking is not even the main villain since he actually is not even the head of his own gang. Nakadai thoroughly commands in his scenes with his substantial charisma and he most importantly challenges Mifune in every scene they share together that further emphasizes that Unosuke is perhaps a match for the samurai. One of the best scenes in the film is when Unosuke confronts the samurai over the disappearance of a woman who was being held captive by his gang. Nakadai's reaction are terrific in the scenes as he has that piercing and so very sly of a stare as Nakadai suggests that Unosuke is constantly taking apart the samurai lies. Mifune and Nakadai play off each other exceptionally well with Mifune and Nakadai trading the right knowing glances as Unosuke and the samurai try to outsmart one another.

Nakadai like Mifune is quite entertaining by really having so much fun with the role. Nakadai is rather cleverly entertaining in his depiction of Unosuke who he gives this terrific smugness. One of the most memorable qualities of this performance is that absolutely perfect smile that comes to his face whenever something happens to be going his way, or if he ever is challenged by someone. Nakadai's smile honestly almost looks like a cartoon snake, and it is just so good in portraying the extreme deviousness of Unosuke. The pistol of course gives Unosuke a terrific advantage over all the other fighters. Nakadai's sleazy pompousness is so great because Nakadai shows that Unosuke knows of this advantage, and just loves the fact that no one seems to have a chance against him.

Tatsuya Nakadai gives a great supporting performance and serves the film wonderfully by making a villain worthy for Mifune's nameless samurai. Nakadai's performance feels effortless in creating the substantial menace he carries with his performance. Like Mifune he as well makes the most out of the animal basis for the physical elements of his performance. Like Mifune once again all of the animal manner seems completely natural to his character, and only makes Unosuke stand out all the more as a character in the film. When the final duel comes Nakadai creates the needed threat for the scene, and when Unosuke is defeated its all the sweeter just to take that smug look off his face. Nakadai particularly strong in this scene as he portrays that Unosuke is completely lost without his gun and obviously defeated. There is a wonderful moment though where the samurai gives him his gun and Unosuke thinks he has a chance to kill the samurai. Nakadai brings that smile back one more time to show Unosuke confidence is the pistol. Nakadai  is extremely effective and makes a memorable demise as he makes the loss of the smile equate to the loss of Unosuke's life. One more time I must say like Mifune's performance in this film, I love this performance.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1961: Burt Lancaster in Judgment At Nuremberg

Burt Lancaster did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Ernst Janning in Judgment At Nuremberg.

Burt Lancaster plays the role of one of the judges who worked under the Nazi regime and are now on trial for their alleged crimes. Lancaster actually only has a few lines for the majority of this almost three hour long film. Lancaster for most of the film is only seen sitting in place within the courtroom watching as the trial progresses. Lancaster is effective even in these early scenes as he sits silently as the trial goes on. Lancaster is always building to the point in which he speaks by showing Janning as a man of constant despair. Lancaster's expressions throughout reflect the past of the man as Lancaster suggests Janning to almost be a shell of his former self. There is a truly resigned quality that Lancaster suggests showing that when Janning went along with the evils of the Nazis he basically lost himself in the process.

When Janning finally does speak to silence his defense Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell) Lancaster certainly does not waste the opportunity given to him. Lancaster has a very forceful screen presence and he utilizes that well to quickly take command of the film in his single most important scene. All of the speeches in the film really could go either way as they are definitely not written to be subtle, but that in no means that they are bad. This being a Stanley Kramer film the points are perhaps made too clear, but that can easily be compensated for honestly by the delivery of them. Lancaster delivers his incredibly well by bringing out the power of the words as he should but always doing so through the character of Ernst Janning. The speech has the intensity needed for the condemnation it is stating, but what Lancaster does importantly is never forgetting to suggest that self-hatred of his own action is what fuels this passion in Janning the most.

After the speech Lancaster has one more important scene where Janning meets with the chief judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy). Lancaster is very good in this scene by showing some contentment in Janning for the moment as it seems he has made some peace with himself as it seemed he in part made his own sentence. Janning takes the chance to try to, in a way, defend his actions now that he is technically suffering for them to Haywood, which leaves Haywood to quickly remind Janning of his severe crimes. The scene could be more powerful simply because Tracy's characterization of Haywood is a little too muddled throughout, but it still stands as an effective scene because of Lancaster. Lancaster at the beginning of the scene shows Janning content in someway, but when Haywood calls him out on it Lancaster's reaction is great by showing that despair once again engulfs the man.

In the whole scheme of the three hour film Lancaster's screen time is brief and only briefer if you were not to count many of the moments of him merely sitting in the courtroom. Lancaster though does make use of those minimalistic moments as well as the few times in which he is given the spotlight. I would say even with his highlight scenes that when you come right down to his performance is not quite as memorable as Maximilian Schell's purposeful showboating as the firebrand defense attorney or as memorable as Montgomery Clift's heartbreaking portrayal of one of the Nazis's victims. Nevertheless Lancaster still gives the third strongest performance in the film with his fairly remarkable portrait of a man pained by his crimes which he will never be able to forget.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporitng Actor 1961: Eli Wallach in The Misfits

Eli Wallach did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Guido in The Misfits.

Well this is my first time not reviewing Eli Wallach in the role as a outlaw in the old west. This time we meet in the opening of the picture as an average guy who works for a car garage. Wallach even though he's not touting a gun still has just a screen presence that's all his own. There just something about him that's interesting even when he's just undergoing a routine inspection of a car. Guido while doing this happens to catch a glance of the alluring divorcee Roslyn (Marilyn Monroe), who he tells his cowboy friend Gay (Clark Gable) about later. Wallach on paper has a pretty thankless role and almost might seem like in a throwaway role in lesser hands, but Wallach makes the most of it. In these early scenes of just really establishing the story Wallach realizes Guido personality incredibly well by just by playing so authentically this average guy.

Wallach is very good in just adding this extra layer of character to any scene he is in just through his interactions with the other characters. It does not even need to be important stuff even he could just be hanging out with Gay or looking at Roslyn from a distance. Wallach does not allow Guido just to be some side show that can easily be forgotten or ignored. The interesting thing is that Guido technically speaking is suppose to be a rather average hollow man, but Wallach just gets so much out of being this guy. Wallach so naturally really bridges the whole cast together by being this technically standard guy among the strong willed Gay and the rather damaged Roslyn and Perce (Montgomery Clift). Wallach just brings the most of the character and just makes Guido an interesting character to watch even though he technically isn't in conception.

Wallach manages to stick out even though his character is often pushed to the side, but there a few very short moments where Wallach is given his moments to shine. Wallach is excellent in these scenes as he very effectively shows the self-absorbed nature of Guido. Wallach is incredibly good here in the moments where Guido tries to show his "depth" to Roslyn by describing the fact that his wife died. Wallach here is terrific by being genuine in the moment as Guido talks about that troubled past, but only in that instance does Wallach show Guido being truly emotional. When not alone with Roslyn Wallach does not show Guido to become particularly emotional, and as odd as it might seem Wallach makes it completely believable. It is not that Guido is faking the emotions rather Wallach shows that Guido will only really reflect on them if he thinks it can in some way make it so he can connect with Roslyn.

Wallach here shows just as he did a year earlier with The Magnificent Seven that he only needs just enough to create a great character. Both Guido and Calvera very well could have been the most forgettable elements of their respective films, but in Wallach's hands they are among the most memorable. Guido may seem simple and in many ways he is and in fact the film seems set up just to dismiss him as the bad guy among all the guys. Wallach is great here by technically fulfilling the need of Guido being the "bad guy" but by doing in a realistic fashion that never paints him as being an obvious bad guy. In fact Wallach plays him most of the time as being likable enough whenever things don't really matter, but when the worse side comes out to him Wallach still does not undercut Guido as a character. He creates a very honest and full portrait of Guido that far surpasses what it seems was even the intent of the role.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1961

And the Nominees Were Not:

Anthony Quinn in The Guns of Navarone

Eli Wallach in The Misfits

Burt Lancaster in Judgment At Nuremberg

Tatsuya Nakadai in Yojimbo

Karl Malden in One Eyed Jacks

Alternate Best Actor 1961: Results

5. Sidney Poitier in A Raisin in the Sun- Poitier tends go a little more theatrical at times than he needs to but for the most part Poitier gives an effective performance as a character that is far from the heroic roles he usually played.

Best Scene: The opening scene.
4. Clark Gable in The Misfits- Gable gives a moving portrayal of a individualistic cowboy past his prime that is worthy of being his swan song.

Best Scene: Gay goes to recapture the horses.
3. Dirk Bogarde in Victim- Although I do wish the film let Borgarde explore his character a little more, Bogarde still gives a powerful portrayal of a repressed homosexual.

Best Scene: Melville Farr reveals the truth to his wife.
2. James Cagney in One, Two, Three- James Cagney gives a very entertaining and incredibly energetic performance that could not be a better fit for the screwball comedy he leads.

Best Scene: MacNamara tries to solve all his problems in a few hours.
1. Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo - Well I did not even need to have a second to think of my favorite performance by a leading actor from 1961. This is one of the very best performances from Toshiro Mifune creating one of the most memorable heroes in cinema.

Best Scene: The Final Duel.
Overall Rank:
  1. Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo
  2. Stuart Whitman in The Mark
  3. Paul Newman in The Hustler
  4. Marcello Mastroianni in Divorce, Italian Style 
  5. James Cagney in One, Two, Three
  6. Dirk Bogarde in Victim
  7. Clark Gable in The Misfits
  8. Marcello Mastroianni in La Notte
  9. Sidney Poitier in A Raisin in the Sun
  10. Gregory Peck in The Guns of Navarone
  11. Anthony Perkins in Goodbye Again
  12. Warren Beatty in Splendor in the Grass
  13. Yves Montand in Goodbye Again
  14. Marlon Brando in One Eyed Jacks
  15. Spencer Tracy in Judgment At Nuremberg
  16. Rod Taylor in 101 Dalmatians
  17. Fred MacMurray in The Absent Minded Professor
  18. George Peppard in Breakfast At Tiffany's
  19. Richard Beymer in West Side Story
  20. Glenn Ford in Pocketful of Miracles
  21. Horst Buchholz in Fanny
Next Year: 1961 Supporting

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1961: James Cagney in One, Two, Three

James Cagney did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying C.R. MacNamara in One, Two, Three.

One, Two, Three is an entertaining screwball comedy about a Coca-Cola executive in East Berlin whose life is turned upside down when he must entertain his bosses daughter who goes off and gets married to a communist from West Berlin.

James Cagney gives his final lead performance in this film as he retired from acting due to his bad experiences while making this film and he did not come back to film until 20 years later for his supporting role in Ragtime. Although Cagney evidently did not have not have a very good time making the film, apparently especially due to the behavior of chronic over actor Horst Buchholz, that really can't be noticed in Cagney's performance. The part of C.R. MacNamara is one of the prototypical screwball comedy lead which tends to be a business man of some sort who has to orchestra some crazy scheme while craziness occurs all around him because of this plan. That is certainly the case with MacNamara who has to deal with his bosses flighty daughter, her sudden communist husband, the Russians, his oddball German staff, and his own family.

This may be an aging Cagney technically speaking but he has much energy that he had back when he was doing Yankee Doodle Dandy. Cagney really is one of the perfect actors for a screwball comedy as he just is always on in his scenes. The film never stops in its comic absurdity and neither does Cagney. There is plenty of dialogue for Cagney to get through the film and Cagney is a master of it. He does lose a single beat as he develops the right rhythm for the dialogue. It is not stop and Cagney is more than up to the task to keep it going with that constant fluidity needed for this kind of film. A good screwball comedy really needs to never stop its motions and Cagney makes more than sure of that. Cagney knows exactly how to deliver every line with expert timing and precision really getting the most possible out of the comedic potential in the script.

Cagney is always a physical performer as he rarely ever seems restrained in his movements. There is of course all his dancing in Yankee Doodle Dandy, but even when he's a gangster there is certain something extra he brings to the way he beats someone or even the way he shoots his gun. Technically here Cagney is just playing a relatively normal guy who technically does not have to do too many physical actions throughout the course of the film. That does not matter though because Cagney still has this way of accentuating every gesture even the way he walks has something very special to it. This absolutely works brilliantly for the part and the film itself as it makes it as though MacNamara is moving just as quickly as everything that is going around him. Cagney in doing so makes sure that he is never overshadowed by anyone or anything in the film leading it all the way through.

This technically speaking is probably not the deepest character he ever played as MacNamara's objectives are clear from the beginning, and even his problems with his wife over his affairs with his secretaries is basically just played for laughs. That is not a problem though as Cagney's whole performance is played for laughs and Cagney certainly derives plenty of those out of the material. He acts like a torpedo and delivers the screwball comedy right through its course and doing his best to avoid any faults. Cagney almost makes Buchholz tolerable because just how much he runs circles around him in every scene they share together so he at least makes the scenes still enjoyable. Cagney here pretty much utilizes almost everything that makes him stand out so well as a performer and that works incredibly well into making this one very entertaining performance to watch.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1961: Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the samurai in Yojimbo.

Yojimbo is a fantastic film from Akira Kurosawa about a town divided by two criminal gangs.

Toshiro Mifune plays an outsider to this story as he plays a Ronin who happens to stumble upon this town who is made up of various criminals who work for either one gangster family or the other who try to control the town. This actually might be Mifune's quietest performance oddly enough since his performances in High and Low and The Quiet Duel had those moments of well earned reasonable emotional outbursts. Here Mifune shows considerable restraint in his creation of the samurai which is a remarkable one beginning right from the way he walks. It would be easy enough I suppose to simply walk normally, but Mifune playing the character as a wolf of sorts walks in this particular way. It comes off as completely natural to be sure but that little itch he gives the samurai makes him stand out in the way the samurai should stand out as it becomes clear he is far different from any other man in the town.

Mifune obviously was no stranger to the role of the heroic swordsman as shown through his performance in the Seven Samurai. In the Seven Samurai though he was a crazed man who was only a wannabe samurai in reality, who became very emotionally invested in the plight of the farmers he was helping. The nameless samurai here is a bit more distant but that is not to say Mifune plays him as a cold man. No, Mifune instead gives this character just a coolness factor to him. Everything that Mifune physically does in the role just has this effortlessness in creating just how well frankly awesome the character is. Before we even see just how great of a sword fighter he is Mifune obviously shows exactly how great of a sword fighter he is through the way he approaches the role. There is a pervasive confidence Mifune exudes with such ease, and never does even slightly approach into pompousness.

When the samurai first comes into town he finds out about the whole dynamic of the town and the gangs from a good restaurant owner who hates the ways of the criminals. The samurai therefore decides on a plan to make basically both sides of the town kill each other to rid the town of all of its negative influences. Mifune honestly could not be more bad ass than he is here as the samurai so calmly makes his decision through speaking the line akin to "I'll get paid for killing, and this town is full of people who deserve to die". Mifune delivers that we such a calm reserve, but in this reserve you can see that the samurai clearly means what he speaks. Through most of the film Mifune stays fairly reserved like that but it only adds to the fierce quality in the man. Mifune is able to be extremely imposing without even seeming to have to try, that's just how good Toshiro Mifune is here.

Mifune goes much further than simply being a tough guy with the samurai as he creates a certain mischievousness in his performance. Mifune plays it as that the samurai is not simply causing the deaths of the criminals because they are bad, but also that the samurai just really enjoys doing this. There is such a constant sense of fun in his performance, and a certain slyness that properly shows that the samurai is several steps ahead of everyone else in the town. That chin rub when looking over something is just perfect as Mifune basically let's the audience in on the fun of creating this havoc for the villains of the piece. This is a rather surprisingly humorous performance from Mifune as there is a certain comedic quality he brings in most of the scenes where he is tricking one of the sides. I particularly love his rather funny reaction of disgust when one side tries to get his support by offering him some female companionship.

Mifune even sometimes goes even more broadly comic with his performance yet he always keeps it within the confines of the samurai, who after all is a bit of a joker right down to the fake name he gives Kuwabatake Sanjuro which means "thirty-year-old mulberry field ". Mifune knows exactly when to go a little broader which occurs when the samurai watches the chaos between the two gangs, a chaos that he purposefully caused himself. Mifune is very entertaining as he basically shows the samurai, for a lack of a better word, trolling the criminals as he laughs in great glee at their various misfortunes that he has orchestrated. Again Mifune does this so well because he never makes the samurai seem distant toward the audience himself. Instead Mifune brings this relaxed and very welcoming quality that always allows the audience pretty much troll right along with him. 

Mifune's performance is not all fun and games though in that there is a very real threat from the criminals particularly a gun touting one (Tatsuya Nakadai), and the whole game becomes even more problematic when the samurai finds that there is a family of innocents caught in the crossfire. The samurai does go out of his way to help them but very coyly acts as though he does not care. Mifune plays these scenes particularly well by subtly suggesting that there is a heart in that cynical calm. These moments are very brief but Mifune brings just the right heart to them well still keeping that front as thought the samurai doesn't care. The samurai due to these actions must also lose that confidence he exudes in every scene when he is finally caught by one of the families in one of his double crosses and is receives a severe beating as he is interrogated for the location of the family that he helped. 

The scenes of the beaten samurai are expertly handled by Mifune as he very bluntly makes you feel the pain as he honestly shows the results of the beating. Although the samurai is not defeated mentally Mifune does quite brutally realize the severity of pain caused by the torture, and in doing so make it all the final duel all the greater impact. The final duel is technically quite absurd when you get right down to it as it is the sole samurai versus an entire gang and one of them even has a gun. Mifune makes it believable though through that undeniable strength he brings to the character. Mifune even more remarkable in this scene though as you see in his face a deadly conviction and that this killing is going to be his most personal. Mifune is great in the moments where the samurai attacks as he is almost like lighting in his manner as he has such a pronounced intensity in each stab yet he keeps it almost as an eloquent dance fitting for the intelligence of the samurai. 

Toshiro Mifune gives a brilliant performance here as he just so perfectly creates the character of samurai. Every awesome moment the character has is earned entirely by Mifune's equally awesome performance. Mifune carries the film incredibly well as he is perhaps at his most assured with his performance here. There is not a moment waste or ill used in this performance as he always brings something in the scene. Mifune makes the samurai one of the all time great onscreen bad-asses but even that is not enough. He really is absurdly entertaining in this film and brings the humor from the character so naturally with everything else that he must do. Mifune meets every challenge of the character giving such a memorable performance and making the lone samurai one of the best heroes of cinema. It seems like the greatest actors all have that one performance where they frankly get to show off a little this one's Mifune. That approach works flawlessly for the character, and this is easily one of the greatest performances by Toshiro Mifune. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1961: Dirk Bogarde in Victim

Dirk Bogarde did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Bafta, for portraying Melville Farr in Victim.

Victim is a decent enough film about a English barrister who attempts to find someone who has been blackmailing homosexuals by threatening to out them at a time when it was illegal.

Victim is a notable film from this time as it deals with the issue of homosexuality going so far as to even saying the word and even has some homosexual characters who, although do not want to be outed due to the law against them, are obviously very comfortable with their lifestyle. Dirk Bogarde plays the lead role of the barrister Melville who follows the case after an acquaintance of his commits suicide after stealing money to pay for the blackmailing. Although Melville Farr is a lawyer this is not a simple case of him just wanting to find justice for a friend, and as the film proceeds it becomes fairly obvious that Farr and the man were not merely acquaintances. Farr tries to go about the case as some sort of outside observer but it soon becomes clear that, despite that he is married, Farr himself is a closeted homosexual as well.

It is interesting that Dirk Bogarde took on such a role since he himself was apparently a closeted homosexual in real life. There are many gay characters in the film but you won't find a single one of them playing the character with any obvious mannerisms to suggest this, Bogarde included. Instead most of the performances, Bogarde's included, are very withdrawn performances emotionally speaking. Melville Farr is a repressed man and that can be seen through Bogarde's performance. There is always a certain intensity that Bogarde carries himself with and suggests the secret of Farr in subtle and effective fashion before we even learn the truth from the story. Bogarde creates the right tension within Melville Farr that simply is a part of him due to his life where he is constantly hiding a part of himself, a part that is being prodded by these blackmailers.

The film is much more of a procedural than I really expected it to be as Farr goes from one closeted man to the next in an attempt to try and find who caused the death of his old lover. Bogarde is completely fine in the more standard moments as Farr investigates because even this Bogarde brings a certain subtext. In these scenes Bogarde suggests a visible efforts from Farr to try to act as though the case is a distant thought for him, while still suggesting that underlying tension in the man over his very direct connection with this problem. As it proceeds though Farr is not able to stay distant forever as some of the men he interviews seem to notice his interest is far more than that of the observer and his wife as well seems notice that perhaps his old tendencies never truly went away.

Bogarde shows Melville Farr as a man who is not happy to be gay as found in his violent outbursts at the other closeted men when they confront him. Bogarde does not make this simplistic though as shown in the scene where Farr's wife confronts him. Bogarde portrays incredibly well the extreme conflict in the man as when Farr reveals the truth about himself Bogarde suggests the desire in the man quite strong yet all covered with a self-hate. This could be seen as the film trying to get off easy, for the time, by making the man not want to be a homosexual. Bogarde thankfully does not play the part that way. He gives a greater depth by creating a fuller portrait of this sort of repression found in the man. Bogarde shows the want but also the hesitation making the confusion in the man fully realized.

This is a strong performance by Dirk Bogarde although I do wish the film had been structured differently. The whole blackmail procedural just never becomes that interesting, and is a pretty simple bad guys need to be stopped type of plot. The most fascinating aspect of the film is the exploration of the central character and Bogarde certainly does his best to bring the complexity needed for such a character. It is obvious though that there was far more to explore with the character than the film takes him simply since it pretty much gives favor to the plot over the character study. The film could have still kept the plot but it needed to work more closely with delving into Melville Farr's personal connection than it ends up doing. Nevertheless Bogarde still gives a rather remarkable performance that only seems to be held back by the limitations set upon him by the film itself.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1961: Clark Gable in The Misfits

Clark Gable did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gay Langland in The Misfits.

The Misfits is a solid enough film about the relationship between a younger divorcee and three somewhat off men who try to maintain their independence by catching wild mustangs.

Misfits is particularly notable film as it is one of the last films of Montgomery Clift, the last completed film of Marilyn Monroe, and the final film of Clark Gable. Clark Gable portrays Gay Langland a cowboy who is still trying to keep to his old ways even as the world is so obviously changing around him, and making his independent ways far more difficult to achieve. Gable in his later performances still tried to keep his old charm, in films such as Teacher's Pet for example, while it obviously his face could not hide his age. This film is quite a bit different as Gable seems to embrace his age more here as he adjusts his performance here considerably, and although he certainly has his charm in this case he changes from his old days.

Gable still brings plenty of charm but he plays it through his character of Gay quite brilliantly. He has a rougher quality to it suggesting Gay's background as a cowboy, but as well Gable suggests the age of Gay in his performance. Gable still lights up a room with his presence to be sure but it it not quite a bright as it always was. Gable wears the right sort of somberness in his performance. It is not even anything that is even slightly overpowering in his performance but Gable brings it subtly in his performance. Gable makes it a very natural facet to Gay that is simply an essential part of the man alluding to his own history that has brought him to this point in his life. You never are told what Gay has gone through but you can see some of it simply through Gable's face.

Clark Gable carries himself very well in the film and never seems out of place with Eli Wallach, Clift or Monroe. Gable even manages to create some pretty believable chemistry with Monroe as the rather sensitive divorcee Roslyn and despite their age difference their relationship actually seems believable. Gable of course has that charm which helps in making the relationship have a foundation, but he goes even further creating some honest warmth even in the somewhat rough exterior of Gay. Gable manages the right balance between realizes both the tough individualistic qualities in Gay, but as well the softer more likable qualities that would make Roslyn fall for him. The central relationship is realized very well by Gable and Monroe and it never seems odd or wrong for Gay and Roslyn to be together.

When the men decide to round up Mustangs for a quick profit conflict arises since Roslyn learns that the captured Mustangs will be sold off to butchers. Gable is quite strong though in portraying the conflict within Gay himself as he is constantly trying to reason the use of the Mustangs to Roslyn. What Gable does so well is show the strong enthusiasm in the catch, portraying the sense of Gay living the life he wants to live for the moment. Gable brings this moments down in just the right way though by making Gay's reactions to Roslyn's reactions very natural, and most of all true to the character. Although I feel Roslyn's objections are written in too much of a heavy handed and one note fashion, Gable does make up for it by realizing a complexity in the conflict through his performance as Gay.

Gable is excellent in the final scenes of the film after the Mustangs have been released due to Roslyn's objections but Gaye still ties them up to only release them again. This might seem odd, but Gable makes it absolutely convincing with Gable conveying the undying belief that Gay has in himself to still make his own decisions. Gable is quite moving by showing a desperation in Gay that it is not even his pride that make Gay perform this seemingly odd action, it is a need to keep onto his own life that he loves so dearly. Gable personifies the old west individualism beautifully here, and I could have easily seen him in Melvyn Douglas's role in Hud. Unfortunately Gable died before this film even found release but it is a performance worthy to mark the end of the legendary career of Clark Gable.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1961: Sidney Poitier in A Raisin in The Sun

Sidney Poitier did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe and a Bafta, for portraying Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in The Sun.

A Raisin in The Sun is about the trials of a poor black family when it seems their lives may be improved by an insurance payment. As a play adaptation it is pretty much by the numbers for the time, particularly in the use of its score, but the material itself is strong enough to make the film worth watching.

Sidney Poitier is playing rather far from his usual type here as Walter Lee Younger is neither a hero or really even that good of a man. In fact it would be easy enough to call him a bit of a jerk. Poitier in turn gives a performance that is rather different from most of his performances from the time. Firstly he practically rids himself of that substantial charm that made him such a star to begin with. Poitier smartly does this though as Walter Lee really simply is not a man worthy of Poitier's charisma, and it would be wrong for Poitier to approach the part in his usual way. Instead from his first scene we see a very different Sidney Poitier since the first scene depicts Walter Lee complaining about his current plight but in a way where his hatred is very much directed at his exasperated wife Ruth (Ruby Dee).

It is very interesting see Poitier in a genuinely unlikable role like this and Poitier does not appear out his element as he creates Walter Lee as a man who pretty much has some sort of problem with everything in his life. The initial scene of Walter harassing Ruth is well done by Poitier because he really establishes it as a very casual manner to it. Poitier does not make Walter Lee's behavior out to be that of a monster, but rather in his performance Poitier very much makes it a reflection of Walter Lee's own defense mechanism. Walter Lee hates so many things about his life but rather living with it in himself he takes it out on his family instead. Poitier shows this through his performance as he makes Walter Lee's behavior have a wavering intensity fitting for just his standard attitude to attempt to deal with his life. 

Poitier is rather good at capturing the behavior of Walter Lee which runs a certain gambit yet is always controlled by that general frustration toward his life. There will be moments where Poitier brings some warmth and joy when times seem somewhat happy. Poitier handles this well though by keeping always an underlying unpleasantness reinforcing the idea that Walter Lee is driven by his frustrations. Poitier builds his around this idea quite well and makes every action of Walter Lee's seem believable. In the moments where Walter is basically just wallowing in self pity Poitier shows Walter Lee in these moments as having been overwhelmed by his frustrations to the point that he can't get over them merely by complaining or harassing someone else.

I have to say that I do have a problem with this performance it is that Poitier does fall a bit on the theatrical side of things a little too often. Walter Lee should be a loud a boisterous jerk anyway, but at times the loudness feels much more like Poitier's acting than what should be coming from the character. This is fairly surprising I suppose as Poitier usually has considerable restraint in his performances, but then again his characters more often are pretty restrained men which is not the case here. Poitier definitely does not bad because of this but it definitely is noticeable here. That is a shame though because Poitier does indeed have such an effortless quality in his other performances that result in definitely more refined performances than this performance which does not come off as nearly as assured.

Honestly the weakness of Poitier's work seem very much the nature of the film's direction which just tries a little harder than it needs to a certain times. Poitier for the most part though does gives an effective performance that makes his character's actions understandable even if some scenes he could have toned his performance down a little for a stronger impact. This is an intriguing performance to be sure as Poitier does play against type and in terms of playing against type Poitier definitely succeeds. The shortcomings of his work come from somewhere else entirely, and perhaps it simply was because he was reprising his stage role so he did not really attune himself for film in this case. Either way this still stands as a good, if imperfect performance, that suggests Poitier was capable of playing flawed characters.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1961

And the Nominees Were Not:

Clark Gable in The Misfits

Dirk Bogarde in Victim

Sidney Poitier in A Raisin in The Sun

Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo

James Cagney in One, Two, Three

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2009: Results

5. Christian McKay in Me and Orson Welles - McKay recreates Orson Welles effectively unfortunately the film fails to give him the opportunity to truly delve into the man.

Best Scene: Welles's outburst on stage.
4. Nicholas Tse in Bodyguards and Assassins - A fairly simple and small role, but Tse makes his character very endearing and in turn makes his final scene very moving.

Best Scene: Si tries to slow the assassin down.
3. Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank- Fassbender combines the right amount of sleaze and charm to his character, although this is not his best performance from 2009.

Best Scene: Connor takes advantage of Mia.

2. Peter Capaldi in In The Loop - Capaldi gives a extremely entertaining and properly intense performance as the foul mouthed fixer Malcolm Tucker. Every scene he is in is a treat, and when the film asks a little more of him Capaldi is more than up to the task.

Best Scene: Malcolm's introduction. 
1. Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Watchmen- Good Predictions Koook and Kevin. The film adaptation of Watchmen did not get everything right but one thing it did which was genius was casting Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian. The Comedian is a complex character and Morgan does not simplify any aspect of him. He gives a powerful performance that is unflinching in the realization of a brute, but also manages to believably allow the man some charm with a semblance of a soul somewhere in him.

Best Scene: The Watchmen's meeting.
Overall Ranking:
  1. Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds
  2. Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Watchmen
  3. Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen
  4. Peter Capaldi in In The Loop
  5. Michael Fassbender in Inglorious Basterds
  6. August Diehl in Inglorious Basterds
  7. Tom Hollander in In The Loop
  8. Robert Duvall in The Road
  9. Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank
  10. Denis Menochet in Inglourious Basterds
  11. Timothy Spall in The Damned United
  12. Paul Higgins in In The Loop
  13. Nicholas Tse in Bodyguards and Assassins
  14. Woody Harrelson in Zombieland
  15. David Rasche in In The Loop
  16. Christian McKay in Me and Orson Welles
  17. Fred Melamed in A Serious Man
  18. Woody Harrelson in The Messenger
  19. Michael Gambon in The Half-Blood Prince
  20. Steve Buscemi in The Messenger
  21. John Malkovich in The Great Buck Howard 
  22. Billy Crudup in Public Enemies 
  23. Richard Sammel in Inglorious Basterds
  24. Michael K. Williams in The Road
  25. Peter Sarsgaard in An Education
  26. Wang Xueqi in Bodyguards and Assassins
  27. Mark Strong in Sherlock Holmes
  28. Jim Broadbent in The Half-Blood Prince 
  29. Daniel Bruhl in Inglourious Basterds
  30. James Gandolfini in In The Loop
  31. Sam Shepard in Brothers
  32. Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes
  33. Alan Rickman in The Half-Blood Prince
  34. Val Kilmer in Bad Lieutenant 
  35. Donnie Yen in Bodyguards and Assassins
  36. Karl Urban in Star Trek
  37. Colm Meaney in The Damned United
  38. Zach Woods in In The Loop
  39. Tom Felton in The Half-Blood Prince
  40. Shea Whigham in Bad Lieutenant 
  41. Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds
  42. Chris Addison in In The Loop
  43. Brad Dourif in Bad Lieutenant 
  44. Robbie Coltrane in The Half-Blood Prince
  45. Matt Damon in Invictus
  46. Liev Schreiber in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  47. Xzibit in Bad Lieutenant
  48. Guy Pearce in The Road
  49. David James in District 9
  50. Jason Bateman in State of Play
  51. Steve Coogan in In The Loop
  52. Mengke Bateer in Bodyguards and Assassins
  53. Scott Bakula in The Informant!
  54. B.J. Novak in Inglourious Basterds 
  55. Simon Pegg in Star Trek
  56. Christopher Plummer in The Last Station
  57. Patrick Wilson in Watchmen
  58. Ben Affleck in State of Play
  59. Liam Cunningham in Harry Brown
  60. Alfred Molina in An Education
  61. Eric Bana in Star Trek 
  62. David Thewlis in The Half-Blood Prince
  63. Til Schweiger in Inglourious Basterds
  64. Oliver Platt in 2012
  65. Danny Huston in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  66. Ben Cross in Star Trek 
  67. Tom Hanks in The Great Buck Howard
  68. Gedeon Burkhard in Inglourious Basterds
  69. Eric Tsang in Bodyguards and Assassins
  70. Richard Kind in A Serious Man
  71. Zhang Hanyu in Bodyguards and Assassins 
  72. J.K. Simmons in Up in the Air
  73. Robert Duvall in Crazy Heart
  74. Christian Bale in Public Enemies
  75. Stephen Lang in Avatar
  76. Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones
  77. Billy Crudup in Watchmen 
  78. Michael Imperioli in The Lovely Bones
  79. Eddie Marsan in Me and Orson Welles
  80. Wang Po-chieh in Bodyguards and Assassins
  81. Leon Lai in Bodyguards and Assassins
  82. Gary Oldman in A Christmas Carol
  83. Rupert Grint in The Half-Blood Prince
  84. Hu Jun  in Bodyguards and Assassins
  85. Mike Myers in Inglourious Basterds
  86. Jason Bateman in Up in the Air
  87. Colin Farrell in Crazy Heart
  88. Paul Giamatti in The Last Station
  89. Colin Firth in A Christmas Carol
  90. Jonah Hill in Funny People
  91. James Tupper in Me and Orson Welles
  92. Woody Harrelson in 2012
  93. Ben Chaplin in Me and Orson Welles
  94. Leo Bill in Me and Orson Welles
  95. Nicholas Hoult in A Single Man
  96. Geoffrey Arend in 500 Days of Summer
  97. Robert Wisden in Watchmen
  98. Eli Roth in Inglourious Basterds
  99. Matthew Goode in Watchmen
  100. Anton Yelchin in Star Trek
Next Year: 1961 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2009: Christian McKay in Me and Orson Welles

Christian McKay did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Orson Welles in Me and Orson Welles.

Me and Orson Welles tells the of Welles's production of Julius Caesar as seen through the eyes of a wannabe actor with a small part named Richard (Zac Efron). As fluffy famous people stories go I've seen far worse I suppose.

Christian McKay does play Orson Welles and benefits greatly from the fact that he looks quite a bit like the real Orson Welles. McKay goes further than that putting on the Welles voice which might not be dead on I suppose, but it is certainly more than close enough and even more importantly feels natural in his performance. McKay also carries himself the way Welles would in his film performances and in interviews in that there was almost a distinct way in which he would interact with another. There is almost a separation about him in that he interacts like no one else, and McKay plays Welles as if Welles is almost performing in a certain way. It is not even necessarily to entertain anyone else but rather McKay pretty much plays it as Welles way of stroking his own ego at all times.

McKay definitely does bring to life the elements of that charm Welles showed particularly well as Harry Lime in The Third Man. McKay never gets to the great level Welles did in the performance but he does not fail to find some of it though. McKay creates the flamboyance of Welles well and fills the room in just the right way to make it so his presence is always known. McKay brings the slyness in that the charm is almost a deception. Although there is obviously no reason to find him likable McKay makes Welles oddly likable just because he makes him the sort of man you'd want to be around simply to watch. Although the film presents him as a genius it does not present him as a perfect artist as it also depicts him as an egomaniac who is not opposed to the temper tantrum.

One of the film's weakness is although it delves into Welles's less savory quality it gives them very little depth often having people talk about them rather than showing it and for the most part reducing them to a few outbursts. McKay delivers them well by sort of dropping the act yet still keeping it at the same time when Welles loses his reserve. It's bizarre combination of a man losing his composure yet purposefully ACTED at the same time, but McKay does pull it off quite admirable as his outbursts seem like a perfect fit for his Orson Welles's persona that he created from that point. McKay has another quieter outburst later, McKay does that less flamboyantly which fits since there is not a crowd, and although short he uses it well to show a little more about Welles.

The problem with McKay's work has nothing to do with his performance. The problem comes from the fact that the film takes such a narrow view of Welles as either a charming egotistical man or a despicable one. When there might have been a scene for more of him the film chooses to let someone else tell you about it instead of actually allowing McKay to show it. The restrictions on him really do limit McKay's work here considerably and it does end up feeling like the portrait of this Welles is far from complete. McKay still does a very admirable job here and is easily the best thing about the film. Honestly I would really like to see Christian McKay revisit Welles again but in a better film that would delve further into the man than the fairly thin depiction we are given here.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2009: Peter Capaldi in In The Loop

Peter Capaldi did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Malcolm Tucker in In The Loop.

In The Loop is an entertaining political satire about the games played by various political operators who either are trying to push through or hinder the requirements for a war.

Peter Capaldi actually is reprising his role from the tv series The Thick of It, but since I have not seen the series I came completely fresh into his portrayal of Malcolm Tucker. Tucker is the director of communications for the Prime Minister, but really he is there to make sure everything runs smoothly for the demands of the Prime Minister. Capaldi portrays Malcolm Tucker's method as basically belittling everyone and everything to get done whatever has been tasked of him. In this case making sure the war gets through with all the paper work in line and everyone under his pseudo command also completely behind it. Capaldi comes in and out of the film fairly randomly but he makes his presence always known the instant he steps onto the scene.

Capaldi is incredibly enjoyable in every moment of his performance letting every vulgarity filled insult fly with the utmost precision thanks to his brilliant delivery. Capaldi delivers every line with an absurd intensity conveyed through his anger that seems to the point that Malcolm Tucker is prepared to brutally beat down anyone who basically has not done what he has told them to do. Peter Capaldi almost seems carefully used basically to energize the film a bit as he is called upon so suddenly in his appearances. Capaldi certainly does this and his performance is a perfect match of meeting the point of the character. He definitely brings the imitation and it is all to wholly believable that Malcolm Tucker is the fixer of the story, but also he's just really funny with his delivery of the verbal attacks.

There technically is a bit more of a dramatic moment later on when Tucker is trying to close the deal basically where he faces being called basically just an errand boy for his American counterpart as well as basically being treated as an errand boy by his very pompous American counterpart. After being spoken to in a particularly disrespectful way Tucker is left with his thoughts. The moment is very short and incredibly to the point but Capaldi is extremely effective as he portrays Tucker is almost moved to tears to see himself finally defeated. He allows the moment to last just long enough and really brings a emotional weight to the scene which is rather surprising. It only last a minute, but Capaldi bounces from that down moment equally as he conveys the slow build in conviction through Tucker's eyes as he decides to make things "right".

Peter Capaldi is in the film less than one might think, but after watching the film you might think he was in every scene anyway as he is easily one of if not the most memorable aspect of the film. Capaldi just seems to control the film with his presence as he perfectly reflects the Malcolm Tucker tries to control every one around him. What I like most about this performance is that this is just great performance simply to watch. Capaldi just makes every line fly for all their worth, and never loses a second with tremendous pace of this performance. Technically here Malcolm Tucker's role is somewhat limited in the film, but it does not matter because Capaldi makes it a limited type of character in the best way. He does one thing and you love watching him do it. When there is a little more required him Capaldi handles it with ease, this is just some strong and quite slick work from Peter Capaldi.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2009: Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Watchmen

Jeffrey Dean Morgan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Edward "Eddie" Blake a.k.a The Comedian in Watchmen.

It is not a spoiler to say that Jeffrey Dean Morgan's character The Comedian dies in the film as his death is depicted in the opening scene of the film. The Comedian death acts as the catalyst for the plot basically as Rorschach tries to investigate why the man was killed. As in some mysteries that starts with the death of someone we learn more about them through a series of flashbacks. This is certainly the case for The Comedian who spent his time influencing more than a few events as well as people, and we slowly learn more about him through the memories of the various people in the film all of whom were also former heroes or in one case a former villain. Although The Comedian was known as one of the super heroes the Comedian is far from being someone that anyone would likely call a hero.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan has quite a challenge in the deceased Comedian as he surely is an extremely unlikable character, and it would be easy enough to make him repulsive to the point of being unwatchable. In the earliest scene with him chronologically we see the Comedian meeting with the early superhero group known as the Minutemen. After having their photo taken together the Comedian soon after proceeds to try and rape Sally Jupiter also known as the Silk Spectre. Despite the nature of the character Morgan carries himself with this extremely sly charm and he turns the Comedian into a particularly charismatic figure in almost all of his flashbacks no matter what deplorable act he may be committing. This includes his starting act which Morgan is brutally effective in.

The odd charm he does bring to the comedian does not waver even in his attempted rape sequence in fact Morgan portrays The Comedian actions are part of a certain ego and the philosophy that Morgan helps to creates in the man. Morgan creates a fierce presence and personality with the Comedian which affirms The Comedian's behavior as a man who very much feels he is wiser than others, but problematic when intertwined with his cynical nature. The Comedian despite being one of the heroes holds absolutely no views that the world is anything but a bad place with worthless people in them. Morgan plays the cynicism perfectly into any scene as almost that since everyone is bad The Comedian might as well have a good time well he is here, and Morgan portrays the joy with his unpleasant behavior as an effortless combination.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan makes a strong impact in every one of the flashback scenes in which he appears. Morgan tears through every scene he is in the realization of that nihilistic philosophy, and every one his responses to the more optimistic thoughts of the others truly carry the right sting. Morgan though goes even further with his performance though and one of the best elements of his performance is realizing that slight morality in The Comedian that is perhaps one of the few reasons he ever claimed to be on the side of the law. One of his best scenes is when he and the powerful Dr. Manhattan confront each after the Vietnam war. The scene has Comedian commit yet another atrocity as he murders a local woman he impregnated. Morgan's fantastic because again he is unflinching in showing The Comedian's action come from his mindset, but what is most striking is just the briefest moment of regret when he bluntly questions why Dr. Manhattan did not simply stop him.

Morgan is terrific by bringing a great power to these mild moments of a heart beneath all of The Comedian's hatred. Morgan gives this moments an actual poignancy by earning them so completely, and making Comedian far more than just an evil man. Morgan in turn also explains the seemingly unexplainable scenes as he reported by an old nemesis. The scene has The Comedian weeping filled with regret as he seems unable to deal with something which he sees worse than all that he does in his time, which eventually is revealed to be his knowledge of Ozymandias's plan which involves mass murder. All of Morgan's other scenes makes the breakdown of The Comedian genuine to the man he creates through the rest of his performance. Although his screen time is sparse Morgan makes a profound impact on the film, and honestly creates the supposed influence of the Comedian on the other characters. He meets the complexity of the character head on and gives a profound depiction of all the memories the man crafted with his life.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2009: Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen

Jackie Earle Haley did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Rorschach in Watchmen.

Watchmen I may call an admirable failure or at least an intriguing misfire. It has some pretty dreadful elements in it. One thing that hurts more scenes than I would like to count is the horrendous sound effects Zach Snyder decided to use in the fight scenes, which makes all of them sound at least slightly silly. Another is the nature of the performances many which are terrible such as many of the several supporting roles like the Nixon impersonator for example, but also unfortunately two of the major roles are underwhelming. The awfully wooden Malin Akerman makes nothing out of her role and even worse, for the film anyway, is Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt known as Ozymandias. Goode is a black hole in terms of charisma and makes a potentially fascinating character into just a woefully inadequate and obvious villain, shame they did not get Michael Fassbender as he would have been perfect for the role.

The film though is not all bad though and its sheer ambitious does come through in a positive fashion as there are definitely some great scenes within it especially the opening credits sequence. There are also good performances to be seen including the almost lead, but not quite, Jackie Earle Haley who plays Rorschach. Rorschach for much of the film is are point of view character as he narrates, via his diary, his investigation into the death of the former superhero known as the Comedian. For much of the film Haley is in a full costume including the white mask with ever changing Rorschach tests that cover his face. This does not seem to limit Haley in the slightest though, going right down to his physical portrayal of Rorschach. There is a certain introverted, and peculiar style of movement that Haley employs which really makes him stand out. In his ever so slightly erratic movement Haley suggests the state of mind of the man as well as the violent capabilities of the man.

Haley in the role uses a voice that is rather similar to the one used by Christian Bale when he was in costume as Batman. Although the voice technically is extremely close with the extra gruff and grit Hale's is far superior in this case for two reasons. One being that Haley frankly articulates better to begin with making it actually bring some menace rather than letting the voice be overly distracting all by itself. The other reason being that it alludes well to the truth we learn about Rorschach later on. Haley never allows Rorschach to be simply an image as he easily could have been. Haley makes himself engaging every moment he is onscreen and makes Rorschach a compelling character to follow through the investigation, and his performance actually roped me along even through some of the rougher patches in the film, and by rougher patches I do not mean violent scenes.

Eventually through the investigation Rorschach falls into a trap and right into police custody where his mask is taken and the real Rorschach is revealed. Jackie Earle Haley actually appears out of the costume in a few other scenes before it is shown that he is Rorschach. He appears in the background many times as a man holding an "The End is Near" sign, but it is a complete revelation that this seemingly meek man is in fact imposing vigilante. This change in Rorschach is technically quite extreme and Haley is rather masterful in portraying this rather extreme transition for the character as we meet Walter Kovacs the man behind the mask. The mask is in question though as Rorschach refers to the mask as a face as the police rip it off and we see that Rorschach is not the most mentally stable of men. The particular twist involves what Rorschach exactly is in regards to Kovacs.

Haley as Kovacs brings a blank almost timid face as if without his "face" he might as well be naked in the world. Haley presents Kovacs as a man who seems almost lost in this state, and portrays the fact that really Kovacs and Rorschach are two different entities. In his Kovacs Haley gives a quieter more realistic voice, and presents Kovacs as particularly meek in his physical manner as well. In this Haley shows that Rorschach was something that was created at one time by Kovacs therefore explaining the put on nature of Rorschach, yet was created for so long that what he created become its own entity that dominates over whatever Kovacs may have been before hand. Haley very effectively shows that whenever Kovacs is threatened the Rorschach voice and manner returns as almost a safety mechanism that emerges whenever the Rorschach personality is needed.

Jackie Earle Haley's performance is excellent as he really let's us into the deranged mind of Rorschach and his execution of the revelation of Rorschach is almost flawless through the way he had set up the character in all of the scenes proceeding that moment. Haley's best scene though I think comes at the end of the film when the watchmen learn why the comedian was killed and are forced to keep silent about a mass murder in order to avoid nuclear annihilation. Rorschach's own philosophy refuses to leave a crime unpunished and he is forced basically to die due to this belief. Haley is surprisingly heartbreaking in this scene as he so powerfully combines the two sides of the man together for his end. He begins with the Rorschach character as he states his beliefs with conviction, then so delicately reveals the man understanding that he must die for this, which is most pronounced in the way Haley makes the growl waver and we seem to finally see Rorschach and Kovacs meet. This is a fantastic performance by Jackie Earle Haley, one that I found only grew stronger on re-watch, and honestly I could not imagine anyone in the role but Haley.  

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2009: Nicholas Tse in Bodyguards and Assassins

Nicholas Tse did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Deng "Si" Sidi in Bodyguards and Assassins.

Bodyguards and Assassins tells the story of democratic revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen and his followers attempt to stave off assassination. The film is many things in that it is telling a real story yet has the purposefully stylistic action scenes. It is shaped into two halves one that basically introduces all of the bodyguards of Sun and their back stories, then the second half is a long haul as assassins attack the bodyguards who are defending Sun. In turn it is a bit of a mixed bag as the first half is a bit crowded, but the second half quite entertaining and effective.

Nicholas Tse plays one of the followers of Sun who drives a rickshaw and seems to be friends with pretty much everyone. Si is a relatively simple part in the first half as Si is just a lighter part there for a little comic relief and pleasantness among all the fighting and death. Well Tse certainly fulfills this duty as he is incredibly endearing in every scene he is in. He just has this warmth and energy in these scenes that he makes Si quite likable. Tse very skillfully plays the part making sure that Si never becomes precocious, but rather just earns Si's whole bright demeanor. His screen time is relatively scattered but he does a good job of making himself known whenever he is on screen with his enjoyable presence that does well to make the proceedings seem a bit less bleak.

The second half of the film basically is when every bodyguard takes their turn protecting the decoy Sun  used to distract the assassins. In turn each of the bodyguards get their own very dramatic death scene as they sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Si is not exactly a bodyguard really rather he is just driving the rickshaw that the fake Sun is hiding in. For most of the journey though Tse is very moving in his portrayal of Si's reactions to the deaths of his compatriots as well as seeing one of his friends taking up the dangerous job as the fake Sun. Tse role is still relatively simple but he makes the most of basically every quick reaction shot he is allowed, bringing a great deal poignancy to each moment of the gauntlet.

Eventually the numbers are thinned to such an extent that Si himself must attempt to stop the head assassin even though he is obviously not a fighter, and certainly is no match for the man. All Si really can do is grab the man's leg in his futile attempt to stop him and Tse makes the scene very affecting because of how much passion he puts in the moment, and Si's sacrifice is truly felt. It only makes it more heartbreaking because of how much he made you care about Si before this point. This is a fairly simple performance and because of the large ensemble nature of the film his screen time is brief. Tse more than fulfills the needs of the part though and even with those limitations  he manages to give a good performance that manages to be one of the most memorable aspects of the film.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2009: Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank and Michael Fassbender and August Diehl in Inglourious Basterds

Michael Fassbender did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Connor in Fish Tank.

Fish Tank is a somewhat interesting companion piece to An Education as it is a very similar story about teenage girl's, in this film named Mia(Katie Jarvis), relationship with an older man but modern set and considerably grittier.

All of the performances by Michael Fassbender that I have reviewed have been directed by Steve McQueen and have resulted in particularly intense and emotional performances. This film is not directed by Steve McQueen and in turn results in far more casual performance from Fassbender as he portrays a seemingly average guy who is the new boyfriend of Mia's mother Joanne(Kierston Wareing). Although he is the mother's boyfriend he attempts to befriend Mia her daughter as well as her younger daughter at the same time. Early on it is certainly interesting to Fassbender in a rather different situation as Connor appears to want to bond with the family.

Fassbender is very good in frankly downplaying his usual intensity and giving a natural portrayal of a different sort of role. What Fassbender does best is just how particularly charming he is in these scenes. Fassbender makes Connor's reactions with the family feel genuine and most of all he has the right charisma in the part. It is not overpowering in nature but Fassbender is very good in showing exactly why everyone would be so taken with Connor early on. He's supremely likable here but what is key is that he has the charm of a rapscallion. Fassbender naturally suggests that Connor probably is far from perfect to begin with, but he basically is able to show why the family basically could ignore the red flags about him.

Connor develops a seemingly strong relationship with Mia. Fassbender again plays these scenes very well by just ever so slightly side stepping what Connor's intentions are exactly. On one hand Fassbender brings some warmth which Fassbender cleverly even show is genuine, Connor even goes so far as to seemingly support Mia's dream of dancing. On the other there is a constant flirtatious manner in their interjections yet again Fassbender does not overplay his hand. To a certain extent Fassbender suggests that Connor could merely be just the way he is and it could be just his harmless way of interacting with people. That ends up not really being the case one night after Connor and Mia's mother had been drinking, and later Connor and Mia are left alone together.

Connor proceeds to have sex with Mia although Fassbender again plays the scene well by not turning Connor into a monster, but rather portraying him as a man who has do something wrong in the heat of the moment. Connor instantly regrets the decision and Fassbender again does well by showing Connor's guilt to genuine particularly since he changes Connor's attitude for the rest of his performance. All the cheer and charm really as Connor interacts completely differently and Fassbender makes it obvious that what he has done has changed Connor. Once again though he does a great balancing act though letting it be seen two ways one being that Connor honestly regrets what he has done, and the other being he is merely sorry for what could happen to him because of it.

Fassbender gives a very good performance here because he does frankly mix it up a bit. This is a far less intense of a work than so many of his performances but Fassbender proves here that he deinfetely can dial it back when he needs to. His Connor is never just a single element with his character and all the revelation feel believable through his performance in almost every sense. He properly alludes to what will come as he should by really letting the revelations in plain sight, but just being just so charming that he kinda makes you ignore the warning. In doing that he also makes the whole set up of the family buying into believable because of his how well he realizes this particularly cad.
Michael Fassbender also did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lieutenant Archie Hicox in Inglorious Basterds nor did August Diehl for portraying Major Dieter Hellstrom.

It is a bit of shame that despite its large ensemble which contains several performances worthy of mention they were all completely overshadowed by Christoph Waltz's performance as Hans Landa. Waltz is indeed worthy of the praise he received, but the other strong performances in the film should not have been ignored either. One of these performances belongs to Michael Fassbender who plays the role of the main representation of the British in the film who is sent into Germany to infiltrate and sabotage the screening of a German propaganda film which will be attended by most of the German high command. Another belongs to Diehl who plays a bit of a hitch in that plan.

Fassbender appears in only three scenes total the first being when he is given the details about the mission and quizzed on his knowledge of German cinema by the British high command, that is distinctly British to be sure just like Fassbender's performance. Fassbender purposefully puts on a somewhat extreme accent to be sure, and although he has not proven it to be his forte yet, as evidenced by The Counselor, here he handles it quite well. It is George Sanders esque on purpose and Fassbender even gives it a slightly comic tinge to it which is pretty well done. It technically sightly broad on purpose yet Fassbender never goes too far with  it rather just using it quite well to establish his character well, and it fits the style Quentin Tarantino establishes.

Fassbender, in the briefing scene,and the scene where he meets  the basterds, goes for the classic style of the very proper British soldier and he does it quite well. Again like his accent his mannerisms and method are at least slightly humorous in style which make both of the scene quite entertaining yet he never goes overboard that it would compromise his character for his major scene that comes after the first two. August Diehl on the other hand has only two scenes one being just a very quick introduction where Diehl is allowed to do very little other than to be there. He is simply introduced and one could easily forget him not that it is his fault rather that's simply all major Dieter Hellstrom gets before he appears once again in his scene with Fassbender.

The two meet when Lieutenant Hicox and two of the basterds go to meet their double agent German actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) in a tavern. Things seem to be going okay until the hidden Gestapo agent Hellstrom notices's something is wrong with Hicox's accent. Fassbender once again handles the accent particularly well by giving a purposefully off delivery of the accent that does not sound quite right. Fassbender's accent he uses is perfect really as it is off, but in such a completely natural fashion. Diehl makes his impact quickly bringing a substantial menace from the instance we see him and he has that same sort of incisiveness in his performance that Christoph Waltz has in his.

Fassbender and Diehl are excellent together as they both play the game Hicox's and Hellstrom are playing so well. Both are pretending to be calm and casual yet both know there is nothing to be calm about in this situation. Fassbender and Diehl both are terrific in putting on the fake smiles of both men yet subtly suggest what lies underneath. Fassbender's uses eyes brilliantly as Hicox is always carefully watching Hellstrom's every move, and in turn Diehl comes back in that after every playful remark he gives there is this chilling glance he gives suggesting the moment in which Hellstrom is looking for a weakness in their story. Both actors slowly build the intensity of the scene until Hicox's final slip up.

The slightly slip up of Hicox is an amazing moment for Diehl as his reaction is perfect as we see the inquisitor fully reveal himself. Fassbender not to be outdone matches well with Hicox also cutting so quickly through the false pretense of the situation also revealing that Hicox is not to be outsmarted either. Both find themselves as basically the first targets in a fire fight and both actors are incredible in the depiction of their final moments. Fassbender is great and just plain cool in bringing out the British in Hicox once more as he keeps that proper manner right before ordering Hellstrom, and in turn his own death. Diehl is equally excellent as he keeps his almost demonic demeanor but with the slight fear in his own eyes knowing that he will be dying soon.

Both actors give very strong performances that honestly made me wish we had gotten to see more of both Hicox and Hellstrom since Fassbender and Diehl excel so well in their roles. In fact I would say if for some reason Christoph Waltz had not existed Diehl probably would have been a great choice in the larger role of Hans Landa as well. Nevertheless the two just get to be two one scene wonders within the film, and the both make the most of what they have. The two of them individually give memorable work and realize the characters wonderfully even with their short amount of screen time. Together they go even further creating such a fantastic dynamic that builds the suspense of the scene incredibly well, and aid in turning their scene into one of the strongest moments of the film.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2009

And the Nominees Were Not:

Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank

Michael Fassbender in Inglorious Basterds

August Diehl in Inglorious Basterds

Peter Capaldi in In The Loop

Christian McKay in Me and Orson Welles

Nicholas Tse in Bodyguards and Assassins

Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen

Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Watchmen

For the Prediction Contest:

Fassbender in Fish Tank





Friday, 2 May 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2009: Results

5. Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - Nicolas Cage is at his mad best here giving a wildly entertaining depiction of the corrupt and drug addicted bad Lieutenant.

Best Scene: The Lieutenant watches the soul dance.
4. Sam Rockwell in Moon - Rockwell gives two great performances here and creates a genuine moving depiction of two men who have more in common than they would like.

Best Scene: Old Sam tells New Sam to go instead.
3. Tom Hardy in Bronson - Hardy gives an amazing and incredibly magnetic performance that brings to life his very strange and violent character in a compelling fashion.

Best Scene: Bronson's "performance" in regards to the sanitarium.
2. Sharlto Copley in District 9- Sharlto Copley gives one of the greatest feature debut performances of all time in his complex, poignant and surprisingly believable depiction of the transformation from a bureaucrat to a half alien freedom fighter.

Best Scene: Wickus is used as a guinea pig by his own company.
1. Viggo Mortensen in The Road- This was a great year for leading performances and it is real shame that the academy could not be bothered to drift out of traditional baity fair to recognize any of these performances. Although I loved all five of these performances the one that left the most lasting impact on me was Mortensen's performance. He gives his best performance with his heartbreaking and almost painfully realistic portrayal of a single man trying to save his son in the horrible conditions of a post-apocalyptic world.

Best Scene: The man says goodbye to the boy.
Overall Rank:
  1. Viggo Mortensen in The Road
  2. Sharlto Copley in District 9
  3. Tom Hardy in Bronson
  4. Sam Rockwell in Moon
  5. Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant
  6. Ben Foster in The Messenger
  7. Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man
  8. Michael Sheen in The Damned United
  9. Colin Firth in A Single Man
  10. Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
  11. Matt Damon in The Informant!
  12. Michael Caine in Harry Brown
  13. Jake Gyllenhaal in Brothers
  14. Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Road
  15. Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes
  16. Tony Leung Ka-fai in Bodyguards and Assassins
  17. Johnny Depp in Public Enemies
  18. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer
  19. Russell Crowe in State of Play
  20. Ed Asner in UP
  21. Zachary Quinto in Star Trek
  22. Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland
  23. Chris Pine in Star Trek
  24. Chiwetel Ejiofor in 2012
  25. Daniel Day-Lewis in Nine
  26. Adam Sandler in Funny People
  27. Daniel Radcliffe in The Half-Blood Prince
  28. Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins Wolverine
  29. Morgan Freeman in Invictus
  30. James McAvoy in The Last Station
  31. Tobey Maguire in Brothers
  32. Colin Hanks in The Great Buck Howard
  33. Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol
  34. Mark Wahlberg in The Lovely Bones
  35. Seth Rogen in Funny People
  36. George Clooney in Up in The Air 
  37. John Cusack in 2012 
  38. Zac Efron in Me and Orson Welles
  39. Sam Worthington in Avatar
Next Year: 2009 Supporting