Saturday, 6 December 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1998: Dylan Baker in Happiness

Dylan Baker did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Bill Maplewood in Happiness.

Happiness tells the very dark, yet told as a black comedy, story of three sisters along with some other people who live particularly unhappy lives.

Dylan Baker, the usually reliable character actor, is the focus of the darkest part of a film which is really saying something in the case of this film. Baker's first scene is unassuming enough as plays the bored psychiatrist to Philip Seymour Hoffman's sexually charged crank caller Allen. His disinterest though only hides the true nature of Doctor Maplewood's life. The next scene depicts his dream where he massacres a park of people with a rifle, but that is hardly the most disturbing element to the man. I mean even in his supposedly less disturbing side Maplewood is more than a little off. These are the scene where Maplewood is spending time with his wife and children. Baker plays the part as basically kinda a father knows best sorta guy as he brings that proper fatherly manner, and warmth that would not be out of place in old fashioned family TV show.

Even on this side though Baker's approach is almost brutally effective in a pitch black humorous fashion. The reason being that Maplewood does not discuss the normal things you might see a father and son say in a "man to man" sort of conversation. No, what Maplewood most often talks to his son about is his son's inability to cum as well as a few other issues relating to his genitals. Baker's performance is especially twisted thanks to being so wholesome while being anything but as he speaks about such matters without much hesitation, and even with some tenderness. These scenes are of course quite bizarre but Baker's makes them work in their own strange way due to the way he realizes the oddity that is Maplewood. Of course a problem lies in the fact that his explicit conversations with his eldest son are hardly the worst thing involving the man. The reason for that is because Maplewood also happens to be a pedophile.

During the film Maplewood drugs one of his son's friends and rapes him as well as visits another kid who is home alone to rape him as well. Thankfully the film does not depict these scenes, but the film is still more than a little off-putting in the way that it depicts the scenes around them. Baker's performance matches the distressing nature of the scenes and amplifies it with his performance. The reason being is Baker does not go for the psychopathic route and in no way does Maplewood seem obviously "evil" in anyway. Instead Baker is is most distressing by rather bluntly showing the excitement in Maplewood as he goes about preparing raping one boy. It is not with any viciousness that Baker portrays Maplewood, but rather he shows this horrible behavior as something Maplewood just really wants to do. It is not with maniacal glee, but instead he is most disturbing by playing it as Maplewood's personal desire.

Of course Maplewood's criminal acts do not go unnoticed for long since he leaves a very easy trace back to him, and he also names the other boy he rapes to the police when they were only asking about the first. This leaves Maplewood one last conversation with his son before his family leaves him due to his crimes. Baker is outstanding in this scene as he does not exactly portray as Maplewood truly regretful of what he did, but is very effective in showing rather that Maplewood for the moment seems to understand what he has done, and that one of results will obviously be the loss of his family. Baker is especially remarkable in the role because he never does compromise the role. He manages to be somewhat moving in the scene but only because he shows Maplewood as a man. Interesting enough though the way he always reinforces the close humanity of his character, rather than a distant inhumanity makes this all the more disturbing of a portrait of a pedophile.


luke higham said...

Louis: Rating & thoughts on Hoffman.

Matt Mustin said...

I haven't seen this movie, but I have seen the scene where he talks to his son, and he's pretty amazing there. Also, as a sidenote, of all the words in the English language, "cum" is one I never thought would appear on this blog.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Todd Solondz is a crazy person.

John Smith said...

Louis, could you tell me your top 5 Alec Guiness perpormances?

luke higham said...

John Smith:
Louis's Top 5
1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
2. Kind Hearts and Coronets
3. The Lavender Hill Mob
4. The Horse's Mouth
5. Little Dorrit

John Smith said...


Anonymous said...

Question for everybody (Louis included): who do you think will be nominated this year for acting? For me:
Best Actor:
Supporting Actor:
Duvall (I guess)
Supporting Actress:
I kinda wish that Jake Gyllenhaal, Matthew McConaughey, Shailene Woodley, Michael Fassbender and Rene Russo could get in, but I doubt it.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Since I only really care about the male side, I'll just give my predictions for their categories, also I'll be alot more certain after the Globe/BFCA nominations are announced.
The last spot will be between Spall, Isaac and Oyelowo.
Edward Norton
Mark Ruffalo
JK Simmons
Channing Tatum
Last spot's between Hawke or Waltz in Big Eyes.

RatedRStar said...

I agree with Lukes predictions of the men I think that 5th spot is the only one up for grabs.

Oh god, Sam Lees review is soon, I will feel like ive let myself down if Louis ends up giving him a low score while I originally gave Sam Lee a very high score.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: It looks like Chelsea will win the title after all, since Aguero may be missed for at least a couple of months.

Also, at the very least, what rating, do you hope Louis gives to Lee.

Louis Morgan said...


Hoffman - 4(He's pretty good in bringing depth to the one note of his character. Hoffman portrays the character in a perpetual nervous slump of sorts as he has all sort of pent up frustrations. Hoffman manages to fairly moving, and somewhat humorous in showing the variations of this state whether he is dealing with his sexy neighbor he sexually prank calls, or his other less alluring neighbor who has a few hidden screws loose herself)

Matt: You and Me both.

Anonymous: I'll save the men for my annual new years tradition prediction but here's my guess for the ladies which is rather difficult due to the thin quality of both categories.


Julianne Moore - Still Alice

Reese Witherspoon - Wild

Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl

Amy Adams - Big Eyes (Critical love sometimes matters less with the acting categories particularly actress, and unfortunately, even though I'd love to see her nominated, Cotillard may suffer from the fact that she has two performances on the table)

Supporting Actress:

My guess would be the same as yours.

Anonymous said...

Actually, why everybody thinks that the Best Actress is so weak this year? I think it's pretty great. Pike is amazing, Jones is sweet and moving and Moore is very effective. Witherspoon is said to be very good too, and Marion Cotillard is terrific in both her movies this year and Shailene Woodley is sensational in a movie I liked only because of her. I mean, there are some really good female performances, I don't know it is considered so weak.

Louis Morgan said...

I don't know if it is necessarily weak overall as I rather like my top five right now, but just it seems there are so few contenders for the five when compared to lead actor (although that is almost always the case).

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Lead Actress has been good this year so far, but we're kind of in a new golden era for Male Lead performances, since we're getting at least five 5 star performances for the last 3 years including this year for sure.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

My current guess:

Lead Actor:

Isaac in A Most Violent Year
Oyelowo in Selma
Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
Redmayne in The Theory of Everything
Keaton in Birdman

Lead Actress:

Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
Moore in Still Alice
Witherspoon in Wild
Pike in Gone Girl
Jones in The Theory of Everything

Supporting Actor:

Hawke in Boyhood
Simmons in Whiplash
Norton in Birdman
Ruffalo in Foxcatcher (starting to believe he'll be the film's only mention)
Pine in Into the Woods (He got inexplicably high praise)

Supporting Actress:

Stone in Birdman
Arquette in Boyhood
Chastain in A Most Violent Year
Streep in Into the Woods
Knightley in The Imitation Game (Oh how I wish she was a contender of Begin Again instead)

Anonymous said...

Louis, have you seen Moore/Witherspoon/Adams yet? if yes, thoughts/ratings on them?