Sunday, 17 August 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1997: Robert Blake in Lost Highway

Robert Blake did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Mystery Man in Lost Highway.

Lost Highway is a reality bending horror film/off-beat thriller about a Jazz musician who goes down a truly bizarre set of events. Lost Highway has some extremely effective scenes and elements, but I don't think it comes together nearly as well as David Lynch's later mind bending thriller Mulholland Drive.

One of the elements that does stand out extremely well is the performance of Robert Blake. Blake who started his career with the Little Rascals and ended, at least so far, it with this film, and I won't get into any other details involving Blake since it has nothing to do with the quality of this performance. Blake plays a man simply billed as the Mystery Man who has a few sparse appearances throughout the film, often only appearing for a quick glimpse. Blake apparently came up with the appearance of the character himself which is pretty simple in that he just wears a very dark suit and some fairly slight power on his face. That's all that's there in terms of the makeup the rest is up to Blake in the creation of this man who may be a serial killer with many tricks up his sleeve, the devil or a figment of imagination. We are never told what the Mystery Man is exactly you just know that he is one man(?) that spells some sort of doom for you if you are unfortunate enough to have a meeting with him.

Robert Blake's performance is technically quite simple since we don't learn about the Mystery Man and obviously he does not have any sort of character arc. He just appears and Blake's performance is all about the visceral impact that it has. Blake's whole performance is one horrible off putting oddity. The way Blake speaks is this not quite monotone manner. There is a certain pleasantness almost to it yet that does not make it any more pleasant. Blake manages to create a terrifying voice that is not deep or monstrous in anyway but rather so chilling in its simplicity. When, late in the film, Blake allows the Mystery Man's voice to become slightly agitated it is incredibly harrowing as Blake is creepy enough in the normal manner of speaking but any change whatsoever is only make him even more unnerving. Blake's does some exceptional work he as he manages to make a fairly quiet voice message on a phone something that comes off as quite terrifying.

Blake's more physical manner does not help things as he walks along in a modest step very much seeming as though the Mystery Man does not need to be in a rush to get anywhere. The whole universe seems as though it will wait for him, he does not need to be in a hurry. In one of Blake's longer scenes he speaks to the musician (Bill Pullman). Blake is brilliant in the scene as his whole approach with the Mystery Man is that he completely knows the musician, and even gives a very big smile a smile that might have been disarming enough if it were not the way Blake does it. When Blake speaks and looks at Pullman's character Blake makes it as though the Mystery Man is looking right through the man and directly into his soul. Blake again technically does so little in terms of his actions yet is absurdly effective in the manner in which he does this seemingly slight actions. There really is not an obvious attempt to be scary yet Blake unquestionably is.

Technically when you get right down to it Blake has one important challenge to meet which is to be horrifying well he's that, and manages to create an unforgettable cinematic horror with his performance. Blake is able to personify an existential dread with his performance and this is a rather extraordinary performance from him. This is a performance that you feel throughout the film as Blake manages to keep you on edge as he makes it something to be feared whenever he may show his face again. Blake and the film never do tell you who this guy is and even the clues to what he might be are fairly thin. None of that matters though as the horror only grows since you are never fully aware of what the Mystery Man is or even what exactly he wants he is simply a sinister force that seems completely unstoppable which Blake brings to life so effectively. This is a fantastic performance by Robert Blake and shows exactly what a performance can do even with very minimal writing and screen time to support it.


koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Ignoring the obvious elephant in the room concerning what he (probably) did in real life, what do you think of him as an actor in general? Is he a shoe-in for 1967 Lead?

luke higham said...

Louis: What decade are you planning to cover next.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert: I haven't actually seen a great many of Blake's performances, but yes he is a guarantee for 67.

Luke: 30's

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, I'm only asking this because I just rewatched the movie, but what's your rating and thoughts for Faysal Ahmed in Captain Phillips?

Anonymous said...

Yes! He was absolutely brilliant! I hope he wins this!

Matt Mustin said...

Also, Louis, have you seen The Quick And The Dead ('95) and if so, what's your ratings and thoughts on the cast?

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Melina Mercouri in Never on Sunday, Rachel Roberts in This Sporting Life and Anna Magnani in Wild is the Wind?

Anonymous said...

Hi Louis, if you don't mind me asking, who are your top 20 favourite actors?

Psifonian said...

Nightmarish beyond belief. An easy win for me.

"And your name... WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR NAME?!"

RatedRStar said...

I think the best scene in the whole movie is his introduction, and Bill Pullman giving a good performance is a rare feat but he actually does lol David Lynch is so underrated, performances in Lynch films are usually great.

RatedRStar said...

oh no everyone, theres only one person left for Louis to review =D. drum roll.....

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: What's your predicted rating for Zane.

If Louis goes with Wiseaus, then I think he'll probably go with a 2 or 3.

JackiBoyz said...

It's likely that Blake might win here, I wonder who has the most wins out of all of us, Louis do you know?, I think its between Psifonian since he seems to get them right fairly often whenever he predicts and Daniel seems to be the person always saying "one of my winning requests" as well as bringing many unknown actors like Nicholas Tse to the blog.

Anonymous said...

Louis, what do you think of Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette and Courtney Love in The People vs. Larry Flynt and how would you rate them?

Louis Morgan said...


Ahmed - 3.5(I thought he was pretty good even though technically somewhat limited as the film was far more focused on Abdi and Hanks. I liked his performance in that he was appropriately one note as his character always seemed particularly ready for violence, but Ahmed was effective in showing the same type of desperation as Abdi's just as almost part of his character's intensity)

I have seen parts of the Quick and the Dead, but I've never bothered to watch from beginning to end.


Mercouri - 4.5(It's not an extremely complex role but Mercouri does an excellent job of being just an extremely alluring figure in the film, and is such a beautifully energetic presence throughout the film)

Roberts - 4.5(A very interesting performance if slightly hindered by the fact that her character is secondary to Harris's. She creates a very believable chemistry with Harris and I like how the two managed to convey an underlying love there while still very much covering up do to their differing lives and personalities)

Magnani - 4.5(The film she is actually fairly weak in that it really fails in terms of the writing behind Quinn's, and the fact that it has a certain actor who is terrible in just about everything he is in. All these things do weight against Mangnani slightly. Even with that she still manages to give a compelling portrayal of her character's slow change throughout the film particularly in the way she eases into her naturalization so to speak. Along with that she is able to convey the uncontrollable passion of her character well without ever making it seemed forced or obvious)

Alright top 20 in Alphabetical Order:

Alec Guinness
Brendan Gleeson
Clark Gable
Claude Rains
Clint Eastwood
Daniel Day-Lewis
Gary Oldman
Gene Hackman
James Mason
James Stewart
John Hurt
Kirk Douglas
Laurence Olivier
Michael Caine
Raul Julia
Richard Attenborough
Robert Duvall
Robert Shaw
Toshiro Mifune
Viggo Mortensen


I'm not sure since I only note the performances requested.


Shearer - 4.5(It's a very interesting performance because she seems miscast in the role, but while watching the film I was surprised how much she won me over as the film progressed. She's really is quite outstanding in the third act of the film and gives a very powerful portrayal of the pure emotional desperation Marie Antoinette by the very end of the film)

Love - 4.5(She easily stole the film from Harrelson and I would not have minded if the film had been about her character. She gave a very interesting portrayal of her character's desperation as she is quite uncompromising in the mental and physical decay of her character as the story progresses. What I find that makes her performance stand out is there is always this very bright spark of life that she brings even when her character is at the lowest point)

Anonymous said...

Do you think that Faye Dunaway is leading or supporting in Chinatown? And why exactly?

Louis Morgan said...

On the border clearly. I do feel she's lead because of the way she becomes as much of a part of case as Gittes does, and the climax is actually much more controlled by her character than it is by Gittes's.