Monday, 11 August 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1997: James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential

James Cromwell did not receive an Oscar nomination Captain Dudley Smith in L.A. Confidential.

James Cromwell is probably best known for his portrayal of the kind farmer Hoggett in Babe, and certainly was best known for that role when he was cast in L.A. Confidential. This was likely was well in mind when he was cast in this role as the Captain who is the superior of the two homicide detectives Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) and Bud White (Russell Crowe) that we follow through the film. Cromwell in Babe ended up being a great portrait of the gentle warmth of rugged man. This again seems like it is going to be the case as we first meet him and see his interactions with both Bud and Ed. Cromwell to top it all off plays the role with his Cork Irish accent. Cromwell does this all again and it all seems to be done to make us absolutely trust Dudley Smith. Cromwell certainly succeeds as you can see why Ed and Bud would believe what he says, because we the audience believe him as well.

This is not to say that Cromwell's portrayal is overly simplistic, as just like Pearce and Crowe, Cromwell slowly peels away the role you thought he was fulfilling from the beginning. Cromwell does disarm you for most of the film with his considerable old guy type of charm, even though we slowly see that Dudley is not exactly on the level from start. Cromwell brings a certain edge to the character form the very beginning, and the film itself brings as one of the first things he does is grill Ed on his ability to break the law to uphold the law. Cromwell plays incredibly well because the way he delivers the lines is that of good mentor just testing the man as one should. Of course throughout the main investigation Cromwell plays Dudley as very calm and considerate to both officers, and reserved in that he seems to be ready for any result. Cromwell does it well because it could just be taken as a man who's seen enough to know what to expect, or maybe old Dudley just isn't really the man he appears to be.

Well that's where the major spoiler for the film comes into play which is that Cromwell actually is the chief villain in the film. Dudley is actually behind pretty much everything that has being going in the film in his attempt to take over organized crime in the city by using any means necessary. Cromwell reveals that all of his personal style is no that of a father figure but merely that of a power hungry master manipulator. The whole impact of the revelation is made extremely palatable because of Cromwell's performance. On one hand it is is a twist that holds up to scrutiny as you simply see Cromwell's earlier performance only makes more sense in this new light, and another its a very effective twist because how good of a villain Cromwell makes Captain Dudley. It is very disconcerting to see Cromwell play such a cold man in the last third of the film, instead of warmth in his eyes there is only a killer's calculation there. Cromwell is especially chilling in one moment where he reveals to one of his accomplishes that he's expendable with the simple statement of "Hush Hush".

The casting here was certainly quite clever as it has the effect that I'm pretty sure was well intended by the filmmakers. They do not deserve all the credit though as Cromwell wholly delivers in the role as well, and turns Dudley into quite the memorable character. Like Pearce and Crowe slowly reveal a depth behind the straight forward by the books cop and the rough thuggish cop respectively, Cromwell reveals the truth behind the mentor. In Cromwell's case it has the opposite effect, where Pearce and Crowe allowed a greater sympathy and understanding for their characters, in Cromwell case, he subverts the whole idea of the comforting experienced mentor type character that was expected. It's a brilliantly devious and devilish turn, that brings a strong menace to the film the moment that it is needed. Cromwell's performance might not be the best performance in the film, but its a very good performance that is yet another fantastic facet of this terrific film.

22 comments:

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I consider James Cromwell to be the epitome of acting consistency. I've never seen a bad performance from him.

Also, Louis, I'd like to have your thoughts on the 1975 Oscar Best Actor race. Do you think Pacino and Nicholson were neck to neck in terms of votes, or was Nicholson by far the frontrunner?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Also, is Robert Redford in contention for any of your future Alternate Best Actor reviews? I hope so because it's a shame his only review on here so far is one of his weakest performances.

Kevin said...

@GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar:

Redford is definitely in contention for All The President's Men

Anonymous said...

@Kevin: Oh, wonderful, that is probably his best performance.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your review, Cromwell was very good here.

Anonymous said...

Who is your pick for 1986 for Best Supporting Actress? Rossellini or Wiest?

Anonymous said...

what are your ratings and thoughts on Gene Tierney in Heaven Can Wait (1943), Eleanor Parker in The Sound of Music (1965) and Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette (1943) and Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)?

luke higham said...

Louis: Since you've moved Bruce Willis up to #20 for '97 Lead, Can I have your ratings & thoughts on Willis & Oldman in The Fifth Element.

Michael Patison said...

DonaldSutherland: I'd also say Redford's in contention for The Candidate

Louis: Who would you have cast instead of Kim Basinger?

Anonymous said...

Seems like I'm the only one who actually liked Basinger. She was good enough for me, and I thought that her confrontation with Guy Pearce was well acted by her. She did not deserve her Oscar but I thought that she was fine. Louis, would you give her a 2.5 now?

luke higham said...

R.I.P. Robin Williams

Kevin said...

Oh my fucking god, RIP Robin Williams.

He may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there is no denying his talent and the energy he brings to screen. You will be missed...

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

RIP Robin Williams. I'm glad Louis and I at least agree what his best performance is.

mcofra7 said...

RIP Robin Williams

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

O Captain! My Captain...I know it's not everyone's favourite performance but Dead Poets Society and Robin Williams will always have a special place in my heart.

RIP

Louis Morgan said...

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar:

I think Nicholson probably had a substantial win because of the success of the film overall, and he had an even stronger "overdue" factor than Pacino at that time.

Redford will get his due.

Anonymous:

Rossellini

Anonymous:

Tierney - 4.5(The best performance that I've seen from Tierney. She gives an effectively chilling work in bringing such a vapid emotionless to her character yet effectively hidden behind a veil of allure)

Parker - 3.5(A thankless role to be sure but Parker gives quite a bit of life and energy to the very simple obstacle she is suppose to form. If someone had to be nominated for supporting actress in the film it should have been her)

Jones - The Song of Bernadette - 4.5 (Jones portrays such an honesty goodness and sweetness of her performance. She makes her Bernadette a true saint as there is something so inspiring about the beautiful optimism that she conveys in her performance. A deserving winner certainly)

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing - 2.5 (Obviously miscast which is a problem but no the main problem. The main problem is it is a very melodramatic romance from the 50's which is always something hard to overcome. Jones does not do it and her performance unfortunately falls into the mediocrity of the rest of the film)

Luke:

Willis - 4(Willis trying in an action role is always a very good thing. That is the case here. Like Die Hard he brings the right desperation in the action scenes to make you feel them as well, but as well gives a very quietly charming performance as well. Really solid work form him)

Oldman - 3.5(Watching it again I still found him quite bizarre to say the least from the way he looks to the odd odd accent that he uses. It's not subtle in any way but I actually did thoroughly enjoy his performance. It does not hit the heights of the Professional, but he still was quite a bit of fun)

Michael Patison: They could have done another Australian and given Naomi Watts her break earlier. Although they would have probably had to change the actress Lynn Bracken is suppose to look like.

Anonymous: Actually I'll give you her confrontation scene with Pearce. I found her lacking in her scenes with Crowe though, and I'd probably would settle on a 2.5.






RIP Robin Williams

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Louis, I have just seen Stalag 17 and could I have your ratings and thoughts on some of the cast? I know you may be doing Otto Perminger for the Alternate Supporting, and it's also pretty tricky to comment on some of the performances without giving the game away, but I'd just like to hear your thoughts on say, the likes of good ol' Joey and Cookie, Shapiro etc.

Also, do you think Holden deserved to win? I think so definitely, I found him even more impressive than Clift, although that may be due to the fact that the film he was in was so much better (it should have been nominated and won Best Picture, especially considering how poor the other nominees were)

Anonymous said...

RIP Robin Williams

Anonymous said...

RIP Robin Williams
Louis, you say that your favorite performance from Tierney is Heaven Can Wait (1943) but what do you think of her in Leave Her to Heaven (1945)?

Matt Mustin said...

R.I.P. Lauren Bacall. Another legend gone.

luke higham said...

R.I.P. Lauren Bacall

Louis Morgan said...

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar:

Excluding Preminger I think I would probably settle on a nice steady 3 for most of the supporting cast. No one takes away a scene from Holden or makes a stronger impact but almost all of them do such a nice job of realizing the barracks as a little world of its own.

And yes I think Holden completely deserved his win.

Anonymous:

Whoops I actually gave my thoughts on her in Leave Her to Heaven. In Heaven Can Wait I'd give her a 3. It's a charming enough turn, and her chemistry with Ameche is solid enough. Her role is a tad too limited though for her to go very far with it.







RIP Lauren Bacall