Thursday, 3 July 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1979: Michael Palin in Life of Brian

Michael Palin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr Big-Nose, Francis, Mrs A, Ex-leper, Ben, Pontius Pilate, Boring Prophet, Eddie, Nisus Wettus, and the 3rd wise man in Life of Brian.

I have not seen a great deal of what Monty Python has to offer, as I have not seen many of their old sketches, nor all that many of their films. Nevertheless whenever a film involves multiple Pythons the one who almost always stands out to me is Michael Palin. This is once again the case here in Life of Brian. Graham Chapman is fine as the straight man, John Cleese and Eric Idle are quite enjoyable as their various character but the highlight of the film is Michael Palin and his various characters. Cleese and Idle are both enjoyable in their various characters but they are not excessively dissimilar in nature. Cleese and Idle's main goal is just to be funny though and they certainly succeed at that, but Palin really goes the extra distance with his performance. Palin does this by never allows one of his characters to be just a copy of another.

One of the way that Palin does this is that he makes a far better use of the physical side of his performance than Cleese and Idle do. Palin changes more than just his voice or merely just his lines, but he changes himself with each new character. For example there is when he is Mr. Big-Nose for example he is sure footed and withdrawn as the manner of a man restraining his anger. As the cured leper Palin walks with a particularly strong stand and every movement is especially robust to fully suggest that the man is in the best physical condition. There is also his Pontius Pilate where Palin very brilliantly suggests the previous Pilate portrays as his movements have that stoic quality fitting for the man of the Pilate position. Almost every one of Palin's characters has a different feeling about them, and Palin never just makes it Michael Palin being funny in another costume.

This is a comedic performance though so is he funny. Well yes he is. Palin in fact by physically playing Pilate so "correctly" it makes it all the funnier when he speaks with his speech impediment. The speech impediment would not be funny all by itself, but Palin makes it funny because he still carries Pilate as if he is this great authority figure despite the fact that everyone has to hold back laughter well around him. My favorite of Palin's character here though is as a prison official in charge of telling prisoners where they need to go. Palin creates some pure comedic gold as he keeps the prison official so overly courteous and gentle as he directs various people to their deaths by crucifixion. It only gets better in that these scenes are paired with his Pilate ones making it so Palin just gets to top himself with the amount of laughs he is able to derive with his competing performances.

Michael Palin here does not have any character arcs just characters to have some fun with. In this task he completely succeeds as he is consistently entertaining in his various random appearances throughout the film. He's always a bright spot in his quick appearances, and his largest role of Pilate is one of the true high points of the film. Palin steals this film quite efficiently yet rather modestly with his particular manner of comedic style. Honestly I think Palin probably could have just played all the character and it would have worked out fine as he's so good in creating those different types of characters to make them unique in some way while making sure that he never forgets to be very amusing as well. Palin serves the film with his set of supporting performances probably just as well as he possibly could since he certainly adds plenty of comedy to this comedy.

12 comments:

Matt Mustin said...

Michael Palin's always been one of my favourites as well, although I love John Cleese too. You may have answered this before, but what's your ratings and thought for him in Brazil?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Palin always had the most range of all of the Python alumni. Even his sketches were the best, like The Spanish Inquisition.

luke higham said...

Louis: Can I have your extended thoughts on Jake Lloyd & Hayden Christensen in Star Wars Eps I, II and III.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: I have given my thoughts before. I give him a 4.5 as I loved his portrayal of such a controlled and well frankly friendly psychopathy.

Luke:

Lloyd - (Lloyd basically is the incarnation of everything bad about a child acting. His line deliveries are always bad with such a lack of understanding and general blandness to them. At the same there is an over eagerness to his performance that always comes off as him trying to act rather than honestly becoming the character. He oversells his scenes making his Anakin terribly cloying. He's the worst kind of kid character there can be as we keep hearing how great he is, but Lloyd never makes us believe it)

Christensen - (Well at least they were consistent in their blandness. Lucas's dialogue does no one any favors but Christensen seems to bring some extra effort to suck even a hint of life out every line. He is as wooden as a performance gets and every emotion seems like he is forcing it out much like a constipated man. He has no chemistry with Portman, and he is particularly lame in the second film. Again he makes Anakin completely uninteresting while his supposed greatness is never once felt. The third film is not much better as he is just as stilted, and his portrayal of his character's conflict is more than a little overwhelming. He is not driven to evil by some primal passion, no Christensen just kinda makes him whiny and then turns him whinier the more evil he gets. The writing was of course bad to begin with, but Christensen only makes the worst of it)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I think Christensen is fine in Episode III when he isn't talking. He has most of the death glares down surprisingly well. Then he opens his mouth and cancels it out.

RatedRStar said...

I have a question for everyone:

When did you first start watching the Oscars, like which ceremony was your first?

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Mine was the 79th Academy Awards, held in Feb '07, with The Departed as the Best Picture winner & I was 12 years old when I started watching it.

JackiBoyz said...

Mines was the ceremony that Crash won best picture, a bad start if you ask me lol.

Michael McCarthy said...

Mine was the 2008 Oscars, when Slumfog Millionaire won. At least that was the first time I was able to watch the whole thing.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

2008 for me as well.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your rating & thoughts on Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction & Clancy Brown in The Shawshank Redemption

Louis Morgan said...

Keitel - 4(Delivers Tarantino's dialogue flawlessly and controls his scenes exactly like the fixer controls the Bonnie situation)

Brown - 4(He makes no bones about it his character is just a brute, and Brown delivers in being one vicious and miserable fiend. I like that he's no always intense, and has those slightly lighter moments where he's just talking like a normal guy, making so when the intensity does come out it has the impact needed. )