Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1979: Graham Chapman in Life of Brian

Graham Chapman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Brian Cohen and Biggus Dickus in Life of Brian.

Life of Brian is an enjoyable comedy about a man born near Jesus who gets mistaken for a messiah.

Life of Brian has plenty of absurd characters to go around played by the Monty Python members, but one of the least insane characters is played by Graham Chapman in the leading role. Brian is just a rather simple fellow and Chapman plays him as such going the extra mile really in his method of portraying that Brian is just some average sap. Chapman makes all of his expression simple without being overly stupid and his whole manner gives Brian a whole sort of naivety as a man. Brian is a man without really any big ideas or big ambition for himself therefore he's the perfect sort to be manipulated by some other upstarts. Chapman certainly gives us this man completely, and Chapman does a pretty admirable job of simply being the somewhat hapless fellow that Brian should be.

Most of the Python members are going for the laugh in a very broad way, Chapman does this himself which I will get to, but that's not the case with Chapman's portrayal of the lowly Brian. Instead Chapman is the straight man to all the absurdity as the film covers his reactions to those around him who seem rather insane. Chapman certainly derives a nice amount of humor as first Brian is just sort of strung long by the schemes as others as he basically smiles and follows like a good lad. As the film progresses Chapman adjusts accordingly to the more traditional straight man of comedy as he gets increasingly exasperated at the foolishness of others. Chapman again is quite funny and aids in the less subtle performances well with his own more down to earth portrayal of Brian's confusion and eventually annoyance at the actions of others.

Chapman is not only Brian being the straight man but he actually has his own broader character whose absurdity obviously begins with his name Biggus Dickus. Old Dickus is a Roman centurion who is not particularly intimidating to say the least. Chapman is fairly entertaining in giving the character a funny voice that sounds more like out of cartoon than a biblical epic. Overall though there really is not all that much of the oddly named man, and really Chapman's total time as this character is extremely brief with only a few lines given to him to say in that funny voice. Also I won't lie though these scenes though do belong to Michael Palin as Pontius Pilate not Chapman. Chapman's never bad though and certainly gets his fair share of laughs too, but Palin's performance is the one that you remember.

Chapman overall succeeds quite well within the film being the appropriate element of sanity to stabilize the humor in the right fashion when playing Brian, and being properly entertaining with the one character that let's him join in with the rest of the cast. I would not say that this is a great performance by any measure as I don't think this is a case of straight man turn that actually steals the show from the showier turns, in this case it is the showier turns that are the funniest, and even Chapman's showier character is far from the funniest character of that nature. This is a good comedic performance that serves his purpose well enough but I never thought it was a truly hilarious performance nor did I feel that Chapman went all that further with any other element of the character to make up for the fact that he's not ridiculously funny.


Michael McCarthy said...

What are your ratings and thoughts for the rest of the cast? I think Palin would be very much deserving of a review so you can exclude him if you wish.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Palin NEEDS a review.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, have you seen Joe? If so, what are your thoughts on Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Also, thoughts on the following Game of Thrones cast members:

Richard Madden
Diana Rigg
Ciaran Hinds
Jerome Flynn
Gwendoline Christie

Louis Morgan said...

Michael McCarthy:

Cleese - 4(Consistently funny in his roles and I particularly enjoy his selfish head of the Jewish and I'd say his funniest scenes is his reaction to the various things the Romans have given to them after all)

Idle - 4(Like Cleese he's also consistently funny with his various roles and I'd say his best are the two overly happy and eager men who also happen to be victims of crucifixion)

Jones - 2.5(Found his main role as Brian's mother more grating than hilarious and just a little too standard over the top man in a dress type of performance. But perhaps he was tad busy directing the film)


I haven't watched Joe yet.


Richard Madden - (Madden brings just the right sort of charisma to Robb Stark as he suggests Bean's performance while though still have a certain underlying weakness showing Robb's inexperience as well as the fact that he can never simply be his father)

Diana Rigg - (Rigg certainly has a particularly award friendly role of the sassy grandma, but hey she does a great job with and is consistently entertaining while still suggesting the darker shades of her character)

Ciaran Hinds - (It's a challenge to make the character seem believable yet Hinds manages it quite effortlessly. Hinds brings the right sort of command that is almost unassuming in nature yet never can it be questioned either)

Jerome Flynn - (Flynn makes Bronn the perfect uncouth type of badass. He's always quite entertaining with his style of nonchalance that tends to be quite funny as well. To top it all off he has some great Dinklage)

Gwendoline Christie - (Physically she could not be more perfect for the role. She goes further than that though actually making herself quite imposing, but as well conveys the complexity of Brienne rather particular past and system of honor. Also she has some surprisingly great chemistry with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and their scenes together are some of the best moments of the third season)

Matt Mustin said...

Are you a fan of Monty Pyhton in general, Louis? Also, have you ever watched Fawlty Towers?

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: I really have not watched great deal of their original show so I can't say. Also, no I have not watched Fawlty Towers.