Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1977: Jack Nance in Eraserhead

Jack Nance did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Henry Spencer in Eraserhead.

Eraserhead is a strange film about a man dealing and seeing weird things. I must say it is quite compelling in its weirdness.

Jack Nance plays the central man Henry Spencer who inhabits a most bizarre world filled with some equally bizarre people and creatures. Henry is perhaps the least odd thing about the film which isn't saying a lot, I mean just look at his haircut after all. Nance's performance fulfills a very particular role in that he's the kinda sorta straight man to the rest of the film. Both the kinda and sorta are needed though because it's hard to say that Nance's portrayal of Henry is exactly how a normal guy would react in such a situation. Nance's performance is also very much in the way of Lynch's style, although still feels less of one of "freaks" like the way all the other performances are. Nance has an almost comic manner with his performance with the way he portrays a certain constant unease at all the oddness, which actually seems like a rather reasonable reaction to everything going on around him.

Nance's performance is mostly reactive altogether as there is not exactly a lot of scenes where we understand the inner workings of Henry as a man, well unless one is referring to what is below his head if it were to fall off. Nance's performance though does work in his limited role of reacting to the odd things whether it is his manic fiancee, his alluring neighbor, his horny potential future mother in law, his constantly crying and seemingly dying alien son, a bleeding turkey dinner, or all sorts of other odd things going on in this world. Nance's reactions tend to be effective in one way or another. The first being just reflective of the oddness itself and Nance does a fine job of giving at least an ever so slightly realistic reaction to these completely out there images. Although I won't say that Nance really makes the film seem believable so to speak but his performance in a somewhat strange way facilitates them as a more accessible whole.

Jack Nance's performance here is a good one that not only matches David Lynch's most unusual style, but helps to amplify. One of the last shots of the film of Henry staring out would not be nearly as remarkable if not for Nance's combination of fear and astonishment that he portrays in Henry's face. He is always interesting to say the least in every frame that he does inhabit. Nevertheless, having said that Nance's performance is very much a cog in David Lynch's machine as all the performances in the film are. Nance's performance stands out the most in terms of the cast, but when thinking about the film it is doubtful that one would necessarily remember Henry as a character so to speak. It is more likely one would remember the imagery and how Henry is part of that imagery. Nance serves his purpose as in the film well, but it is always the film as a whole, rather than Nance's work as a individual, that leaves the strongest impression.

23 comments:

luke higham said...

1. Carney
2. Keitel
3. Dreyfuss
4. Sordi
5. Nance

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I knew you'd say that he was more of a tool for Lynch than anything.

GM said...

I agree!


1. Carney
2. Sordi
3. Keitel
4. Dreyfuss
5. Nance

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

1. Sordi
2. Dreyfuss
3. Carney
4. Keitel
5. Nance

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

What's everyone's ranking of their favourite Lynch films? For me:

1. The Elephant Man
2. Blue Velvet
3. The Straight Story
4. Wild at Heart
5. Mullohand Drive
6. Twin Peaks
7. Inland Empire
8. Eraserhead
9. Dune
10. Lost Highway

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, how would you rank Lynch's films? Also, and this is open to everyone else as well, what would your ratings be on the cast of Lawless? (which I just watched)
Here's mine, for the record:
LeBeouf-2.5
Hardy-4
Pearce-1.5
Clarke-3.5
Oldman-3.5
Chastain-3.5
Wasikowska-2.5
DeHaan-3

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Mine on Lawless:

LeBeouf - 2
Hardy - 4
Pearce - 1 (Worst Supporting Actor that year)
Clarke - 2.5
Oldman - 3
Chastain - 3.5
Wasikowska - 2.5
DeHaan - 2.5

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

LeBeouf-2
Hardy-4
Pearce-1
Clarke-2.5
Oldman-4
Chastain-3.5
Wasikowska-3
DeHaan-3

Michael McCarthy said...

Riiiiiiight I haven't put in my predictions yet have I?

1. Alberto Sordi
2. Richard Dreyfus
3. Art Carney
4. Harvey Keitel
5. Jack Nance

Louis Morgan said...

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar:

1. Blue Velvet
2. The Elephant Man
3. Mulholland Drive
4. The Straight Story
5. Eraserhead
6. Lost Highway

Matt:

LeBeouf- 2
Hardy- 4
Pearce-3
Clarke-3
Oldman- 2.5(Wasted)
Chastain-3.5
Wasikowska-2.5

Matt Mustin said...

I agree that Oldman was completely wasted, and I was originally just gonna give him a 3, but his one big scene left enough of an impression for me to up his score a bit.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Louis, you need to lower Pearce's score. Please, for God's sake, I've never hated an actor I love that much in my life. So much mugging. So much screeching.

Louis Morgan said...

NEVER!!!!!!!!! Well at least until I watch the film again.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I hope it's another John Noble case where you see the light. Also, unrelated, but ratings and thoughts on Griffin Dunne in An American Werewolf in London?

Michael Patison said...

Rethinking:
1. Harvey Keitel
2. Art Carney
3. Alberto Sordi
4. Richard Dreyfuss
5. Jack Nance

Michael McCarthy said...

In regards to Nance, I also want to say I think it's really interesting how he seemed to play his character as if he were reacting to a series of highly unlikely surprises rather than bizarre and seemingly impossible occurrences.

Anonymous said...

Aaand my predictions have already failed :( by the way I haven't seen Lawless and I've only seen Blue Velvet from Lynch (which I loved)

Anonymous said...

Louis, what are your thoughts on Joseph Cotten and Dana Andrews as actors.

Anonymous said...

Louis what are your thoughts and ratings on Priscilla Lane in Arsenic and Old Lace and Olivia DeHavilland in To Each His Own?

RatedRStar said...

1. Carney
2. Sordi
3. Keitel
4. Dreyfuss
5. Nance

JackiBoyz said...

1. Carney
2. Sordi
3. Dreyfuss
4. Keitel
5. Nance

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Barbara Loden in Splendor in the Grass?

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

Dunne - 4(It might seem like he is laying it on a little thick at the beginning with his whole smiling sarcasm, but that translates brilliantly to his performance once he dies. Every one of his dead scenes are both very funny yet extremely creepy)

Anonymous:

Cotten - (From what I have seen, whenever he stretched himself he succeeded. Otherwise than that he's usually a fairly charming presence in his films although I would not say overtly so. When the material's not really there he's also just kinda there)

Andrews - (He's fine enough in the straight leading roles but he can be a little bland. Whenever he plays an emotional role he packs quite the punch)

Lane - 3(I thought she was marginally enjoyable and charming enough in her role. Nothing all that great, but certainly just fine)

De Havilland - 3(She tries to make something out of her character. I never felt she was genuinely bad or anything but could never overcome just how boring and bland her film was)

Anonymous:

Loden - (To be honest I don't remember her performance)