Sunday, 27 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1997: Ian Holm in The Sweet Hereafter

Ian Holm did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite receiving some critical citations, for portraying Mitchell Stevens in The Sweet Hereafter.

The Sweet Hereafter is an atmospheric and intriguing film about the way the lives of the people in a small town are changed after a tragic school bus accident. 

Ian Holm plays the opportunist lawyer who tries to get the town residents to utilize the tragedy to get money from the bus company that made the school bus. Holm plays Mitchell Stevens is technically a bit of an outsider, and if it were not for the flash forward scenes Holm would really just be a supporting character as the film focuses heavily on the reactions of the other people in the town as well. Holm almost plays two characters in the film as it cross cuts with Stevens while he is trying to get the people to hire him, and later as we meet him on far more personal terms. In the scenes that are set in the past Holm, who did so particularly well in Alien, is once again great at portraying a type of acting within in character. In the case of Mitchell Stevens he's not portraying an android pretending to be a man, but he still is playing a man who is pretending.

Almost all of the scenes set in the past show Mitchell as he attempts to sway the families of the victim into letting him represent them, this task is easier with some more than others. One of the early families is more than happy not only to hire him, but also dispense various information about the other families that might hurt the case. Holm's pretty straight forward in these scenes just showing Mitchell as an intelligent enough lawyer going through the steps as he is building his case. Things are not so straight forward though when he confronts some of the people who would rather forget the accident rather bring it all very much to the light again while going through a long court battle. Holm is terrific in these scenes as he portrays Mitchell putting on an act, the act of a true crusader rather basically just an ambulance chaser trying to make a quick buck off of people's tragic loss.

Holm is brilliant as Mitchelle tries to convince two of the parents that someone must be sued for the mechanical error. Holm delivers the speech with such a passion as Mitchell says that suing the bus company is almost a moral duty to supposedly prevent something like that from ever happening again. Holm is great because he is completely believable in bringing such an emotional power to what Mitchell is saying and you could easily see how the very emotionally vulnerable people of the town would be swayed by Mitchell's plead. Holm though is so great by showing the act within the emotional power though. There is a performance that Holm shows not in his own actual performance, but rather the performance that Mitchell is giving in his impassioned speech. It's an extremely tricky yet very effective dynamic that Holm manages to achieve.

Mitchell is far from a soulless individual  Although Mitchell's daughter is still alive it is almost as if Mitchell has lost her as she is a never recovering drug addict. During the film he receives a few calls from her and Holm shows the history between the two as he portrays Mitchell as almost responding monotonously to his daughter. Holm suggests as if she has called him in such a way so many times that he can barely bother to with an emotion. There was emotion once though as shown when Mitchell confides to an acquaintance about a time when his daughter almost died when she was young. Holm is absolutely heartbreaking as the love and loss in his voice when he speaks about the time he saved her life does not have a hint of falseness. The power of the scene is only amplified by the fake passion in the early scene and it is truly moving to see the "actor" from before only speaking the absolute truth. 

Holm's work is, I suppose, technically slightly limited by his screen time, and the fact that he's lead in what still feels like an ensemble film. That never seems like it diminishes his impact on the film as a whole as whenever Holm is given the chance in the material Holm utilizes it fully. Although I would not have minded if the film had given even more to do with the character since with what he is given he creates such an interesting complex character. It's a unique piece of work as he effortlessly and very believable realizes this lawyer as a both the lying lawyer but also a man who has some very real problems of his own. It is often the case that in a "director's film" the performances can be overshadowed by the vision, and that is sometimes the case, but Holm knows how leave his mark while never trying to make a spectacle out of himself. Holm's performance, is much like the film, rather unassuming in many ways yet carries such an palatable poignancy all the same.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

My choice for Best Picture. As for Best Actor I'm torn between him, Duvall and (I need a re-watch)Carlyle.

By the way, Louis, which is your most "disliked" Oscar make-up win? For a while I was torn between Pacino for Scent of a Woman and James Stewart for The Philadeplphia Story. I think I'll go with the latter since Pacino's performance was actually fairly decent (I'd give him a 4) and Stewart's wasn't very good at all, and it seemed to compel the Academy to not give him any more wins which is a shame, I find he should have won for It's A Wonderful Life and Anatomy of a Murder.

mcofra7 said...

Just got back from A Most Wanted Man. Hoffman was quite good, although I couldn't help but feel that he was somewhat limited.

Kevin said...

Changing my predictions:

1. Crowe
2. Hall
3. Pearce
4. Holm
5. Pacino

Deiner said...

Great review, what are your thoughts and rating on Sarah Polley?

Anonymous said...

Louis who would you say is the weakest winner that you've seen for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress?

Anonymous said...

Do you think that Simone Signoret is leading or supporting in Les Diaboliques and Room at the Top?

luke higham said...

1. Pearce
2. Hall
3. Crowe
4. Holm
5. Pacino

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: Stewart is a good choice for me since it's his only Oscar nominated turn that isn't great, and it's one of the few times where I really don't care for his performance all that much.

Denier: Thanks.

Polley - 4(I rather liked her performance because she managed to carry that otherworldly quality in her character, almost a mysticism, in her performance yet never went over the top with that aspect. She made it something subtle yet still palatable but importantly still showed that her character was, when you got right down to it, simply a girl traumatized by what she had to go through)

Anonymous:

Actress:

Mary Pickford - Coquette

Supporting Actress:

Gloria Grahame - The Bad and the Beautiful

Anonymous:

She's on the border for both but I'd say lead for Les Diaboliques and supporting for Room at the Top.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Just finished watching Lawrence of Arabia for the first time. Amazing film and I was wondering if besides Louis I could have everyone's ratings (and if you like thoughts as well) on the supporting cast? And O'Toole as well I suppose but I don't think anything much else needs to be said.

Guinness-4.5 (was a 4 most of the way through until his final scene. I loved the accent he used and he had lots of presence throughout but it was the final scene which made me feel I could have gone for more of him)
Quinn-4
Ferrer-4
Quayle-5
Rains-4.5 (very, very close to a 5. His role is technically very limited but when he gets a chance to shine boy does he shine!)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Kennedy a 4.5, Sharif a 5

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Also while watching Lawrence I had an image of a 1940s Lord of the Rings with Claude Rains as Bilbo Baggins and James Cagney as Frodo. How's that sound lol

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Pickford and Grahame? And is there a Meryl Streep performance that would get a 4.5 outside of Sophie's Choice?

Anonymous said...

If Signoret is supporting for Room at the Top, who would you pick for the gold? Signoret or Lee Remick in Anatomy of a Murder? I know you gave Remick a 4.5 but maybe you decided to bump her up to a five.

JackiBoyz said...

Louis, what are your thoughts and ratings on the two main villains from the first two Mad Max films.

mcofra7 said...

1. Hall
2. Pearce
3. Crowe
4. Holm
5. Pacino

Michael Patison said...

Anonymous (most recent): I'm not Louis, but I personally put Signoret in lead so they can both win. They are both so incredibly deserving. If they were in the same category, though, I'd probably go with Signoret.

DonaldSutherland:
I haven't seen it in a while (and that for the first time), so I'm only going to list those that really struck me on first viewing. I'll have to watch it again to get ratings on some of the others. I really don't have enough of a grasp of any one of their characters to give any thoughts. The movie itself is enough to take in first time around.
Omar Sharif-5
Alec Guinness-4.5
Claude Rains-4.5
Jose Ferrer-4 (though he could become a 4.5)
Anthony Kennedy-4 (I really don't remember him that much)
Anthony Quinn-3.5 (I barely remember him at all)
Anthony Quayle-N/A (I literally had to look up who he portrayed and I still don't remember any of his scenes)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Patison: I agree with your point about the movie being enough to take in first time round. A re-watch will be needed.

Also, a 4 for Hawkins.

Anonymous said...

@Michael Patison, why don't you make some posts on your blog with your personal nominees for every year? It would be great

Michael Patison said...

Anonymous: I would totally do that, but at this point I haven't seen enough to be able to do anything like that. Yes, I have done it on my own, but large portions of them I haven't seen and am just going off general public opinion. I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that at all, at least at this stage.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Pickford - 1(The worst kind of old movie acting. She's terribly dull in almost every way carrying no presence and at all while allowing every line delivery just sort of lay there. This is the perfect storm of bad though because she's manages to still overact terribly, through her completely random use of making her eyes really wide that is extremely odd to witness)

Grahame - 1.5(She's not aggressively bad or anything but she's such a nonentity in her film. She has barely any screen time to begin with, but with what she does has she gives a very standard and forgettable portrayal of a southern belle. I don't now how much could have been done with this character to begin with but Grahame fails to even match up to that measure. It's a shame too because if they gave her a win for one of her other performances that year she'd be at least an okay winner)

As for Streep there aren't any more I could name but I haven't seen several of her performances that are often described as her best.

Anonymous:

I'm leaning more to Signoret at the moment, but I re-watch of either film could bolster either one.

JackiBoyz:

Hugh Keays-Bryne - 2.5(Having recently re-watched Mad Max I was even less impressed by the film as it's easy to notice the lack of budget, and after the opening chase sequence the film really does become quite ponderous. Keays-Byrne is fine as Toe-Cutter but I think his look is the most memorable thing about him. He's got enough menace to get by, but his work doesn't make much of an impact)

I'd say there are two in The Road Warrior.


Michael Preston - 3(He's kooky and crazy with an energetic intensity that certainly makes his character a memorable, although not the most memorable villain in the film, Beserker)

Kjell Nilsson - 4(His lame death aside. Lord Humungus is one of the best parts of the film. Although direction certainly is part of it Nilsson definitely delivers his part with his performance particularly with his voice which carries palatable menace yet has a strange level a charisma. When he says he's let the people go Nilsson plays it like Humungus is actually being completely honest about this promise)

Anonymous said...

Louis, what are your ratings and thoughts on:
-Isabelle Adjani in Nosferatu (1979)
-Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface
-Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in Scarface
-Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys
-Teri Garr in Tootsie
-Jessica Lange in Tootsie
-Lesley Ann Warren in Victor Victoria

luke higham said...

Louis: Ratings & Thoughts on Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins & The Sound of Music.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the latest Interstellar Trailer.

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Glenn Close in Reversal of Fortune and The World According to Garp?

Anonymous said...

Whens the next review going up

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Idjani - 4(The version contains the best "Mina" and Johnathan period. Idjani, rather than just playing a damsel in distress, honestly creates a woman in her genuine reactions to the dread and horror around her. She manages though to even create a certain strength underlying in her performance that makes her character stand out, and to top all off she manages some oddly compelling chemistry with Kinski)

Garr - 3(She's kinda funny I guess in her brief scenes, but really her performance is very easy to forget. That is not a great sign for a comedic supporting performance that is just there to be funny and "steal scenes")

Warren - 3(Really the same thoughts as Garr although I have I think I preferred her a little more. They should have waited longer and nominated her for Clue)

Lange - 2.5(Garr's pretty forgettable Lange is instantly forgettable. I never found her bad in any aggressive sort of way. Her performance just fails to stand out and there's no charm or even much of a presence to be found in her work here)

I've never actually watched Scarface the whole way through.

Luke:

Poppins - 3.5(I have not seen the film since I was a kid so my memory really is a little thin. As I recall, she brought the right energy, charm and confidence to the part. Unfortunately I really do need to re-watch the film)

Music - 4(She's effortlessly charming here throwing herself into every moment of the film. So many corny moments would not work at all, but Andrews kinda makes them work through her rather fierce dedication to everything she can with her role. It's a winning performance although I don't love it as much as some)

As for Interstellar McConaughey looks solid, it looks well shot, but I'm not sure what to fully make of the film yet. I'm certainly interested in seeing it though.

Anonymous:

Reversal of Fortune - 4.5(She offers some particularly great narration as there is a certain knowing quality that adds some nicely placed comedic quality to her role. This plays off well in her more forthright portrayal of her's character mental and physical breakdown through the series of flashbacks. She's effective because she does not try to make Sunny just a victim, but rather shows her own hand in her demise)

The World According To Garp - 2.5 (It's her first feature film and that's a little too easy to tell. She gives a very theatrical performance as every line is given too much emphasis. That might also be her giving her character a quirk, but that never amounts to much either. I never felt she really made her character charismatic enough for her position, and just kinda stayed pretty one note throughout)

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: The review will be up in a bit.

Anonymous said...

So how would you rank the nominees for 1982 Best Supporting Actress? (Garr, Lange, Close, Warren and, if you've seen her, Kim Stanley in Frances) also, since you don't like too much any of the nominees, who would be your personal pick?

Louis Morgan said...

Charlotte Rampling in The Verdict