Saturday, 30 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2004: Paul Giamatti in Sideways

Paul Giamatti did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, Sag, well receiving many critical citations and winning The Independent Spirit Award and NYFCC, for portraying Miles in Sideways.

Paul Giamatti's snub seems to be one of those extremely confusing Oscar omissions due to his precursor love as well as the fact that the film itself was quite well liked by the Academy as a whole. Giamatti likely failed to get due to his assumed position in the lineup with voters liking putting their passionate vote, Clint Eastwood, over him who they thought was assured a spot already. Giamatti snub only seems to add to injury since the film is so closely focused on his character and his performance throughout. The supporting players are allowed their moments, but the film never once leaves Miles's perspective for more than a second or two. Sideways also gets to stand out as the only Alexander Payne film since about Schmidt where a lead performance was not nominated. Giamatti like George Clooney in The Descendants, and Jack Nicholson also plays a rather exasperated man going through some sort of personal crisis which is the focus of the film, while of course having various comedic moments also sprinkled lightly throughout.

Giamatti certainly seems well cast in the part, and delivers in quickly establishing Miles as a very certain type of man. Giamatti rightly portrays Miles as basically always at least semi-depressed in most every scene of the film. Giamatti does not show the depression to be something overwhelming that would necessarily even raise any concerns though. Giamatti is very effective in portraying it as a very much lived in depression that resides in Miles. He always seems at least somewhat down in his whole manner, and his semi down beat manner speaking. Giamatti hits just the right note with it because it properly denotes the recent history of Miles's life, but he handles it in a way that although noticeable it would never really ever cause worry. Giamatti makes seem as though a character trait simply due to the time in which Miles has had it. He also does quite well though to make it truly something dynamic in Miles in that the intensity of Miles's general malaise properly changes depending on the situation.

Normally Giamatti's shows Miles's distress being there but quiet, some circumstances make it almost disappear, and of course being reminded of his wife Giamatti shows it as something quite explosive. The only times where it really seems to almost go away are whenever Miles talks about his love and knowledge of various wines. Giamatti handles these moments very well by showing Miles when in his element and in his passion that he almost forgets his personal plight for a moment. Giamatti actually  technically treads the line of being unlikable here as he definitely brings a certain smugness to Miles when he is offering his sage advice on proper wine making and drinking. Giamatti avoid being unlikable though because he is able to gain sympathy through every situation by making Miles genuine as the type of guy he is. Miles is far from perfect, and he probably is the cause of much of his suffering, but Giamatti only ever shows this as the type of flaws someone simply has.

One of the highlights of the film is the unique chemistry between Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church as Miles's friend Jack. Although they are friends the two do not create their relationship as some truly great friendship between the two men. It's a friendship but a very particular and realistic one between the two. They are not alike in many ways with the often upbeat Jack contrasting a great deal from the very much downbeat Miles. It is not the similarities that bring them together but rather the one sorta allows the other one to be. On the one hand Jack is a philanderer and Miles acts as almost a non-moral compass as Giamatti plays these scenes with only ever suggesting that Miles never really stops Jack allowing Jack to be. On the other hand Jack does take Miles's depression in stride while offering constant support to his friend the best he can. It is an unusual friendship to be sure but it is a wholly believable one through the honest chemistry the two share.

Miles personal journey is extreme in moments but rather modest on a whole. As I said before Miles's depression of sorts never leaves him wholly or at least never permanently, not even in the final moments when perhaps there is hope for him. Giamatti though weaves kinda a tapestry of the highs and lows of his personal journey. Giamatti is exceptionally natural about as he allows there to be a flow and not be a flow at the same time. There are moments of happiness inter spliced with sadness that seems always honest for his character. For example when he finds a potential love in a woman Maya (Virginia Madsen) there is the sense of things becoming better for Miles yet Giamatti shows that his general sadness in a way drives him to her to begin with. This is a very good performance by Giamatti simply by making Miles seem like just someone you could meet. Even in the more comedic moments Giamatti plays his reactions in a funny yet down to earth fashion.  It's a strong leading work that works well in bringing the whole film together.

40 comments:

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Argh. I actually HOPE my predictions fail this time round, haha, because I really really hope Ganz gets a 5.

This is certainly the oddest awards snub I've ever seen, especially since Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen were nominated. What do you think of Giamatti as an actor in general, Louis? I think he is usually good, never great but always entertaining regardless of the quality of the film, have you seen John Adams, he was born to play that role.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Although I have to affirm, I though Church and Madsen's nominations were entirely deserved.

mcofra7 said...

1. Ganz
2. Carrey
3. Bacon
4. Giamatti
5. Bardem

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Hm I might as well change my own predictions if Louis doesn't mind.

1. BACON
2. Ganz
3. Carrey
4. Giamatti
5. Bardem

Anonymous said...

Is Madsen still a 4.5? And what are your thoughts on her performance?

luke higham said...

Ganz, has got it in the bag already.

GANZ is HITLER.

Undisputed No 1

'FEGELEIN, FEGELEIN, FEGELEIN'.

Kevin said...

1. Ganz
2. Carrey
3. Bacon
4. Giamatti
5. Bardem

luke higham said...

Louis: Ratings & Thoughts on Sandra Oh & Virginia Madsen.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Still holding out for Carrey to take it.

RatedRStar said...

I am changing mine I honestly dont no who will win.

1)Bacon
2)Ganz
3)Carrey
4)Giamatti
5)Bardem

JackiBoyz said...

1. Ganz
2. Bacon
3. Carrey
4. Giamatti
5. Bardem

Michael McCarthy said...

I'm also on Team Carrey, I think he had the greatest challenge of this lineup and he met it beautifully.

Anonymous said...

A clear 5 from me, that telephone scene was Oscar gold.

luke higham said...

Everyone apart from Louis: What were your thoughts on Downfall & Ganz's Performance.

Michael Patison said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on the movie as a whole? Also how would you rank Alexander Payne's movies?

Michael Patison said...

Also I guess I'll shift my predictions slightly too:
1. Jim Carrey
2. Bruno Ganz
3. Kevin Bacon
4. Paul Giamatti
5. Javier Bardem

Michael McCarthy said...

Luke: I think Downfall is a rather effective film that gives a unique perspective on the end of the Third Reich, that starts to waver only slightly after Ganz's exit.

Ganz brings an incredible conviction to his performance that matched the conviction of Hitler himself. Because this is the end of Hitler's reign though Ganz needs to also show a certain amount of delusion fueling that conviction, which he brings to life perfectly. By the end, Ganz is equally effective in showing that Hitler has mostly given up, but that his previous conviction is still there enough for him to refuse to live with his defeat.

Michael Patison said...

Luke: Ditto what the other Michael said.

Louis Morgan said...

GetDonaldSutherlandanOscar: I basically mirror your thoughts on Giamatti. I really liked John Adams, admittedly I am a big sucker for anything set during the Revolutionary War, and I thought Giamatti was exceptional in the role.

Anonymous: Yes I would say the rating stands (I really like her performance because she manages to play a role that perhaps even as written is a cliche, but she always makes it feel human. Her warmth is always genuine and I love the unique chemistry she has with Giamatti. I particularly liked that she made the betrayal moment feel authentic in the way she played Maya's reaction. It never felt as simple as the instant turnaround in the liar revealed scenario, and she brought an actual depth to the moment)

Luke:

Oh - 3(I actually like her performance in that she does express exactly what she needs to so we understand her character. Her role is quite thankless though in that she basically only has very brief moments at the beginning and end of scenes. She handles them quite well though)

Michael:

I liked it the other two times I watched the film, but it really grew on me a lot this time. I actually would easily give it Best Picture, out of the nominees now. I really think it balances the drama and comedy quite impeccably well. It never feels one overpowers the others but rather, with the help of the performances, bring all of it out in a very authentic and effective fashion.

1. Sideways
2. Nebraska
3. Election
4. About Schmidt
5. The Descendants

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Luke:

Downfall is a terrific film and would be my personal choice for Best Picture. Instead of trying to cram in all the events of Hitler's Nazi reign, the choice to focus on the last 10 days of the Third Reich allows for much more focus not only just on Hitler, but all parties involved. Moreover it is very entertaining and surprisingly moving at some points.

Ganz is tied with Bacon and Cheadle for my Best Actor win. He is terrific at making Hitler not a caricature nor an unrealistically sympathetic figure, but rather succesfully embodies the character of a man at wit's end. His tics and mannerisms are very well handled, but even more impressive are his quieter moments with Alexandra Maria Lara's Traudl Junge, who is my personal choice for Best Actress.

Equally good in the supporting cast are Corinna Harfouch and Ulrich Matthes as the Goebbels, Kretschmann who is actually quite brilliant in a rather limited role, and of course Christian Berkel as one of the few bright spots in the film.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious Louis, what is your rating/thoughts on Witherspoon in Election?

Anonymous said...

Louis, what are your ratings and thoughts on Beverly D'Angelo in American History X?

Vincent said...

Hey Louis, (or anyone else), what are your thoughts on Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, JCVD and Frost/Nixon?

luke higham said...

Louis: Your top ten animated films with thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for Jim Carrey's review. Louis, in your opinion, what are the best hammy performances of all time?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Witherspoon - 4(Going on based on some old memory here as I have not watched Election in quite while. It's easily the best I've seen from her as she went all the way just with being the ultimate overachiever. She is completely believable as that sort of type, but also does well in the few scenes where we see the desperation in her character)

D'Angelo - 4(I thought her character was probably a tad underwritten, or maybe just over edited, as there is not really a natural through line for her character. I liked D'Angelo in the role nevertheless as she brought some much needed warmth to film that was particularly harsh otherwise)

Vincent:

Slumdog Millionaire - (For me the film fails to really invest in what it is going for. As some sort of comment on the state of India or its changes throughout time it feels extremely thin. Too many characters are underwritten and really it never truly fleshes out any of the conflicts. The brothers' relationship never feels truthful, the love story is just sort of there, and the villains could not be more one dimensional. If it was a fairytale it was never one I found all that inspirational or charming, it wants to have it both ways really which does not work well. Worst of all though I just hated its aesthetic. From the puck cinematography, to the needlessly frantic editing, and of course Boyle's excesses nothing worked for me)

The Wrestler - (Although I do like Rourke's performance I find the film as a whole unbelievably thin. The script just is a set of cliches and though the Ram's story has potential the film fails to find it. It's ambiguous final moment, well played Rourke, left me fairly unemotional in terms of for the end of the film as I felt the film more of stopped rather than having actually earned that sort of ending)

JCVD - (It's technically a fairly standard in its heist qualities, but I feel it does them certainly well enough in that regard. Really that's just to frame the moments of Van Damme's reflections on his life. That side is surprisingly powerful and poignant thanks to Van Damme's surprisingly good performance. I don't know if it's the fact that he playing technically himself, or because it's in his native language(That is probably the case) but Van Damme's proves himself as a very capable actor)

Frost/Nixon - (My favorite of the nominees but that's mainly because I find that lineup to be one of the worst line ups in the academies history. The film is directed, as one would expect, in a completely standard workman like way by Ron Howard. Luckily the story works for that sort of approach as it just allows the writing just to shine which keeps the story compelling throughout even if the film depends on a few two many obvious choices in terms of its historical inaccuracy. Although I think a better, more complex, film could be made out of the rather fascinating story, this certainly was a decent version of it)

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I will note again that I have not seen a single Studio Ghibli film:

1. The Secret of Nimh - (This is my favorite all time animation as it actually has some of my favorite all time animation. As in the animation itself as I find the world so incredible and this is one film I could just look at the images at. Other than that I really like the story, with a most unorthodox heroine, and its whole mysterious tone. To me it's just a simply beautiful piece of film making. It is a shame Don Bluth was not really able to keep the promise of this film for very long)

2. Pinocchio - (Well the best way to describe this one is well magical. Pinocchio is such bizarre, imaginative, yet always moving coming of age story. The best part is although it has its moments of happiness, it is also quite the harrowing story at the same time)

3. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad - (This is an especially personal choice I suppose, and the thing is I don't even love the Toad half, although I do find it perfectly acceptable. I find the Ichabod section to be utter perfection from its amazing animation, its great humor, and its surprisingly terrifying finale involving the headless horseman)

4. The Great Mouse Detective - (Easily my favorite Sherlock Holmes film that I have seen up to this point. Love the hero, and really love the villain which is probably one of the greatest uses of a technically recognizable voices for a role. It's entertaining throughout and that clock tower finale is magnificent)

5. 101 Dalmatians - (Although its true the titular Dalmatians (Aside from Pongo) don't have all that much of a personality that hardly matters because of all the endearing side characters, the enjoyable duo of henchmen and of course Cruella herself. Even though it's a children film it really manage to create a real intensity in the final escape during the climax)

6. Coraline - (A dark fairy tale done in the right way. I loved the atmosphere the film built creating a surprisingly palatable dread, yet still managing to be a consistently entertaining)

7. Dumbo - (Although the film is actually perhaps a bit too short, it does not matter that much by creating such a wonderful story in that limited amount of time. It has some unforgettable moments particularly the Pink Elephants and Baby Mine sequences)

8. Alice in Wonderland - (This one was said to have too many cooks in the kitchen, but I think that's the only way to make a film about this story. It should be a bit random and impossible to decipher. To try to structure Alice is opposed to the idea of the story, and the next thing you know it might as well be Alice and Narnia along with some break dancing Mad Hatter. The Disney version does it right by just having the scenes be mostly random, and having those scene be entertaining especially the Mad tea party)

9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame - (If it were not for three stupid gargoyles this one would be a lot higher. Other than aforementioned atrocities the filmed is filled with some terrific imagery, songs, and boasts one of Disney's greatest villains with Frollo)

10. Fantasia (I don't think every segment completely work, but the ones that do, like The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Night on Bald Mountain, are quite astonishing)

Anonymous: I have perhaps misused the word in the past as I do think hammy is a good way to describe only bad over the top performances. Anyway though here's a top ten of the best over the top performances:

1. Dennis Hopper - Blue Velvet
2. Kathy Bates - Misery
3. Eli Wallach - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
4. Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
5. Toshiro Mifune - Seven Samurai
6. Javier Bardem - Skyfall
7. Raul Julia - Street Fighter
8. Peter Ustinov - Quo Vadis
9. Gene Hackman - Superman
10. Gary Oldman - The Professional

Michael Patison said...

Speaking of over-the-top performances, what does everybody think of Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire? Good, bad, great, indifferent? I personally think she was brilliant.

Also, what category would y'all put her in? She's almost a borderline lead, I'd say.

Anonymous said...

Michael:I would put her as lead. I thought she was lovely, haha...pretty great considering how bad the film around her was (the guy who plays Xerxes, don't even know his name, he is awful)

luke higham said...

Louis: When's the next review up.

Anonymous said...

Louis I'd like to ask you, who's your pick for Best Actress 2012, Riva, Chastain or Watts? Also, what are your ratings and thoughts on Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine, Julia Roberts in August: Osage County and Amy Adams in The Master?

Psifonian said...

Anonymous: I'd love it if Louis preferred Wallis out of 2012's crop. HUSHPUPPY 4EVA.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Louis, have you seen Begin Again yet? Because that is easily my favorite movie so far this year.

RatedRStar said...

I thought Wallis was awful, directed like a typical child performance, Riva was by far and away the best, miles better than the rest.

Psifonian said...

"directed like a typical child performance"

Sorry, but what does this even mean?

Anonymous said...

@Psifonian: I didn't ask if Wallis was his pick because I remember that he once said that he wasn't crazy about her. For me, the Best Actress line-up for 2012 was very strong with all of them being very deserving. I think I'm one of the few people who really love Chastain, even if I don't know if I would pick her.

Michael McCarthy said...

My pick for the year was Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone, I thought she was stronger than all of the nominees that year.

RatedRStar said...

@Psifonian: Basically, someone who is far too obviously directed, like every emotional scene seems like the director said " I know Wallis, why dont you make over the top gloomy faces, and when your brave, constantly roar and act like your really smart, also keep pulling gloomy faces so the audience can tell your really emotional and brave, these things will get you an Oscar nomination no problem Wallis"

I should say I really didnt like Beasts at all and will happily call it overrated, as for Marion Cotillard, I thought she was fantastic (despite a wooden costar) and the first hour of the film is much better than the second half.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I thought Wallis was pretty good, to be honest. Granted the film didn't have the staying power I thought it would have with me.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: Watts - (I have not seen Cotillard)

Hawkins - 2.5(I thought she was wholly acceptable in the part of the Blanche equivalent. The problem was the film failed to really give any depth to Blanche in this version and Hawkins was honestly just given too little to work with to really accomplish much of anything)

Roberts - 3(The most I've ever liked her in a role, but that's not saying a whole lot. In her early scenes though I did very her effective and fairly natural for once, but near the end I thought her self-aware style once again came out)

Adams - 4.5(Although the show belongs to Phoenix and Hoffman she manages to make Peggy more than meets the eye. On one side she is just the fairly charming motherly figure, but there is a most definite edge she brings suggesting that she is may be the titular Master after all. There is of course the most obvious manipulation scene for Peggy which Adams is quite chilling in, but my favorite scenes of her are those simple glances where she suggests that she is a constant influence on Lancaster Dodd)

Psifonian:

She's not my favorite. I do want it to be known that's not for the reason many identify. All performances, except self-directed ones, are likely influenced by the director in at least some way. It is far to arbitrary to pick and choose what performances you think was the actor and which ones were the director. Having said that I only thought she was just fine in the role. I never felt that primal force in her performance that is usually described by those who love it.