Friday, 31 January 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2013: Matthew McConaughey in The Wolf of Wall Street and Mud

Matthew McConaughey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mark Hanna in The Wolf of Wall Street and the titular character of Mud.

The Wolf of Wall Street is basically owned by Leonardo DiCaprio in pretty much every scene except the few scenes that don't feature him and the scenes featuring the best supporting performance in the film by Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey is only in three scenes total during the film and his first and third scenes are rather brief. Those scenes don't matter as the first is just Hanna introducing himself to DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort, and the third is Hanna looking in disbelief, like everyone else, when the market fails big time. This performance is all about his long scene where he speaks to Belfort over lunch, and mentors him on the ways of a proper stock broker. This scene is what makes him the best supporting performance in the film, and a true one scene wonder.

McConaughey is brilliant in this scene as he portrays Mark Hanna as a completely smooth operator who knows pretty much everything of the Wall Street game. McConaughey is great in just being absurdly entertaining with his performance, and has the right flamboyance quite fitting for a man who believes himself to be on top the world. Every little movement of his is a delight, especially his chest beating song, and this is a performance that is simply fun to watch. McConaughey is the master of the scene, and does not a waste moment in this scene just to do something with every word and gesture. Just saying that something is tantamount to fairy dust becomes something rather special for McConaughey, and it is pretty marvelous to behold.

McConaughey does not just do a shtick though as at the same time Hanna is being a genuine mentor to Belfort, and Belfort does model himself after Hanna. There is a major difference with McConaughey's method when compared to DiCaprio's and that is McCounaughey is particularly smooth and above all relaxed even when snorting cocaine. The film goes through with Belfort just diving in head first. McConaughey is excellent because he shows the more seasoned Wall Street broker who has being doing his thing for quite a while. McConaughey makes Mark Hanna a man who knows his trade so well that everything, and I mean everything should be treated with the utmost calm and quite a bit of playfulness.

There is perhaps only one fault to McConaughey's work here, which is creating a fault for the film itself. He is so good in his scene it annoys me a great deal that he never shows up again during the whole course of the film. It would be one thing if Mark Hanna disappeared out of the true story, but in fact Mark Hanna got involved with Belfort's later operations too. It would have been easy to have a couple more lunches, or for Hanna to show up in the office from time to time to offer a bit more sage like advice for Belfort, but alas we have to last with only three scenes of pure McConaughey goodness. McConaughey gets the job done to its fullest though giving an extremely entertaining performance, while making it very believable why Belfort would be so easily sucked into the most negative aspects into the world of Wall Street.
Now at the beginning of 2013 McConaughey had another performance in Mud.

Mud is an effective and moving film about two boys who find a man hiding out on a remote island.

Although McConaughey is the title character he is not the lead. The story is told through the eyes of Tye Sheridan's Ellis one of the boys who come across Mud who seems to be a bit of a mystery. McConaughey is building himself to be a bit of Paul Newman type of actor these days. You don't expect some new accent from him or anything like that, but no one faulted Newman for that either and nor should they. Newman was and now McConaughey is able to reinvent himself not by any gimmick, but rather naturally inhabiting the role. Mud in its very best moments has a bit of timeless quality to it and I could easily have seen this film being made in the late 50's perhaps by Martin Ritt with Paul Newman as Mud, and perhaps Brandon De Wilde as the main boy who finds him.

Anyway Matthew McConaughey plays a very different supporting role in Mud than the one he played in Wolf. Firstly his role in Mud is a large supporting role rather than his brief performance in Wolf. Secondly he played a rich broker in Wolf who wore the best suits, ate the best food, and used the best drugs, but here he plays a man who is technically homeless and looks like he has not had a bath for a long time. McConaughey is just as believable as Mud as he is Mark Hanna. In both performances, just by the way he carries himself and in his slight adjustments on his accent, he suggests where Mud has come from. Where Mark Hanna had clearly a life of entitlement, with Mud you can see his life in the backwoods in everything that he does.

McConaughey was very charismatic in Wolf and here's charismatic again here although in a different way. With Wolf McConaughey conveyed a knowing purposeful charm that fit the lifestyle, with Mud the charm is wholly natural. McConaughey shows that that smile, and warm he brings is just the way that Mud truly is as a man. In the story both of the boys go on to help Mud even with threats of danger with only some fairly small rewards offered from him. The question of what the boys would take so quickly to Mud is never even asked, because McConaughey is absolutely magnetic as Mud and it is very easy to see how the boys would become so invested in Mud's personal plight.

McConaughey does not overplay the charm and early on he nicely builds the mystery of Mud. McConaughey of course makes him seem nice, but he does carry a certain roughness that properly suggests the past about Mud that is eventually revealed. The truth being that Mud has a killed a man, although it was to avenge his lifelong love, who does not really love him in return. McConaughey is terrific in the scene where Mud describes his killing of the man. McConaughey is only completely genuine in the moment and, even though we don't see how the killing took place, we can see in McConaughey's eyes and voice that Mud's action were filled with only the most chivalrous of intentions.

McConaughey gives a rather wonderful performance in this film as brings the unique nature of Mud to life in such a natural and honest fashion. McConaughey's work benefits his film greatly particularly in its eventual ending. Mud has an ending that is a bit divisive, and the very end the film could have easily more ambiguous without the mostly happy ending it actually has. I rather loved the ending and the reason is because McConaughey makes Mud such a likable character. Even with the set up for the ambiguity being already in the film and quite slick at that, McConaughey's heartfelt performance made me just want to see Mud have a good ending as he made me care for his character that much. 

McConaughey excels in both of these two performances even though one is a very emotional performance in Mud, and his lighter performance in The Wolf of Wall Street. McConaughey is incredibly capable in both of his performances, and pretty much takes his great actor test (being able to give a great quiet and flamboyant performance), and passes with flying colors. 2013 was indeed the year for Matthew McConaughey with these two performance, as well as his other great performance in his Oscar nominated work in Dallas Buyers Club. If that was not enough he decided to give perhaps his best performance yet at the beginning of this year with True Detective. All I can say is I'm glad McConaughey decided to reveal he had this much talent, and I hope he only continues down this path.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2013

And the Nominees Were Not:

Ben Foster in Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Ben Foster in Lone Survivor

James Gandolfini in Enough Said

Colin Farrell in Saving Mr. Banks

Sharlto Copley in Elysium

Matthew McConaughey in Mud

Matthew McConaughey in The Wolf of Wall Street

For the prediction contest the honors go to:

Foster in Lone Survivor

McCounaughey in Wolf

(And just for Koook and RatedRStar, I picked the best troll face Sharlto Copley has to offer. Advanced apologies to both of you.)

Next Year: Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2013

Please make your recommendations.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Best Actor 2013: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a very entertaining film about the debauchery and crimes of a wall street broker. It technically did not need to be three hours, but since I enjoyed it all the way through I did not mind.

The Wolf of Wall Street is basically a comedic remake of Goodfellas as both films tell the story of one man's venture into a sinful life, and they basically follow a similar path in terms of high and lows. In both films it is not really the story of a protagonist who is slowly corrupted rather both are the stories are about men who pretty much want to be corrupted. Something rather interesting though is that despite Goodfellas being about mobsters who regularly murdered people Henry Hill as played by Ray Liotta actually has far more authentic emotions than Jordan Belfort ever has, aside from one very brief moment with his first wife early in the film, Belfort is one shallow man as portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. That might sound like I'm criticizing DiCaprio, but I'm not.

This is a very rare Oscar nomination for lead actor because DiCaprio actually gives an entirely comic performance, even a scene that might seem serious in terms of conception tends to still be completely comedic as it is played out in the film. DiCaprio goes for broke by showing Belfort to be the hollow man, and just going all the way with that concept without looking back once. Except for that one brief moment where Belfort lost his first job and DiCaprio let's us see just a little bit of honest concern in the man, there is technically nothing to Belfort as a man other than his want and desire for more money, and any sort of pleasures he can get whether it is from drinking, taking every drug that he can seem to find, or indulging in every type of sex with a woman he can come up with.

I'll get to the comedy in a minute but I'd like to start with just the creation of Belfort method as a wall street broker. DiCaprio has a great intensity with his portrayal of this but not the intensity that would make you ever scared of him, at least in the traditional sense, but that intensity that personifies his insatiable thirst for more money. DiCaprio makes Belfort the false salesman but he does it oh so perfectly by making that falseness technically part of the appeal of what the man seems to be offering. DiCaprio brings all the right bravado in his scenes as the salesman as Belfort is really screwing the person over yet he makes the offer just sound so great, because he seems to be so absolutely sure about it. DiCaprio makes the passion in Belfort both truthful and completely fake at the same time.

DiCaprio continues this quite effectively when he has any of his scenes where Belfort seems to be trying to rally his troops to do what else other than continue to make money. DiCaprio again has such a terrific balance in his creation of what Belfort is doing. DiCaprio definitely shows that Belfort is giving his all with his screaming at the top of his lungs through his microphone to say just how awesome he thinks his own company and he is, as well DiCaprio has the non-stop enthusiasm that only reinforces properly why his employees would think he is so cool, but as well why so many would want to work to Belfort. There is such a lack of any genuine feeling though and DiCaprio is great because through his own performance he creates the egg that Belfort's whole world was, pretty but completely empty.

Now enough of that though because the true greatness of DiCaprio's performance is just how funny he is here. DiCaprio kind of does wink at the audience since Belfort does not mind directly speaking the audience from time to time, but in terms of playing Belfor DiCaprio never stops to laugh at the character himself. Instead DiCaprio goes all the way with Belfort and revels in all that Belfort that does, no matter what it may be. DiCaprio's work here is pretty glorious really as he never hesitates in to get whatever he can out of any scene. DiCaprio is great with his line deliveries in just how little feeling he can give, and this lack of feeling can even make Jordan's telling of the death of some of his friends as comedic because he's just so nonchalant about it.

What I love about DiCaprio's work here is that he doesn't ever try to make the material serious in anyway and is so good in indulging in Belfort's antics. DiCaprio's great because of just how casual, and frankly relaxed in the role. I  have been a little more forgiving of DiCaprio most recent dramatic efforts than some, but his work here suggests that this is where he should be. DiCaprio makes Belfort man who does not find anything to be even slightly bashful about and anything he does he just does. What is also great is that DiCaprio does make Belfort quite a doofus, and is hilarious because Belfort as a man who thinks he's a genius as well. One of my favorite moments of DiCaprio's is when he tries to act like a true cutthroat in front of the F.B.I. agent investigating him, DiCaprio first portrays Belfort as so obvious in his foolish attempt though, and quite naturally devolves into some rather childish insults.

As much as I enjoy DiCaprio's line deliveries and his narration there is nothing that compares to the physical aspect of his performance. DiCaprio is rather on fire in the way he injects an incredible energy to every scene he is in and his movement exemplify the whole idea of Belfort's method toward life. This is particularly true of course for his drug habit and DiCaprio's performance is worthy of comparison to Ray Liotta depiction of a drugged up addict. DiCaprio's though is of course twisted slightly for the sake of comedy particularly in the randomness of Belfort's behavior that DiCaprio does so brilliantly. DiCaprio just really is on in pretty much every frame, and never fails to make the most out of Belfort's insanity by pretty much showing just how insane it is thorough his equally insane portrayal of it.

Although there is plenty of great moments based upon DiCaprio's use of his body in this film, that dance routine at Belfort's wedding is a particular highlight, the best moment in this regard though is without a doubt  when Belfort takes too many Lemmon Quaaludes and attempts to get home because he needs to stop his business partner from using the phone. DiCaprio perhaps has never been better than in his, Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot inspired, portrayal of the drugs affect. Frankly I could not stop laughing from DiCaprio's depiction of Belfort's attempt to crawl and mumble his way home. The scene is pure comedic gold, and DiCaprio's performance of the scene is flawless deriving laughter from pretty much every movement in the funniest scene of 2013.

Jordan Belfort is not a likable character really by any measure not only because of his indulgences and illegal actions involving his stock broker firm, but as well he does not mind some wife beating now again either. DiCaprio is magnetic here of course, but he does not try to make us like Jordan Belfort in attempt to make the film watchable. No, what DiCaprio does instead is make it so very easy to laugh at the various exploits of Belfort that it is extremely easy to watch him throughout the film. DiCaprio excels so much here that I would say his true calling seems to be as a comedic actor after all. In fact, since this one was so good, I would not mind seeing DiCaprio and Scorsese tackle a few more pseudo remakes of Scorsese's films with a heavily comedic bent. This is a great performance by Leonardo DiCarpio and one of the amusing ever nominated for an Oscar.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Best Actor 2013: Christian Bale in American Hustle

Christian Bale received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle.

American Hustle is a mess of the film that is suppose to be about Abscam, where the FBI trapped corrupt politicians using a con artist and a fake Arab sheik. It is strange for a film to sacrifice plot for character, rather than the other way around as usually is the case, and it does not work for two reasons. One O. Russell still wants the plot to be important in the way he made the film, and secondly the character scenes tend to be character antics rather than making any sort of character arc.

Christian Bale in 2013 apparently decided to model his performances after one man, Robert De Niro. Bale's superior performance in Out of the Furnace, which is what they should have nominated Bale for if they had to nominate him, reminded me of De Niro in The Deer Hunter. In that film Bale, like De Niro in that earlier film, really plays it close to the chest giving one of his best and most naturalistic performances in years. He has that effortless quality in his performance necessary and you can feel the setting of the film in his work. Bale reminded once again of De Niro in American Hustle, but this time in a far less natural fashion. In American Hustle Bale actually seems to be doing a Robert De Niro impression in the film, as if it was De Niro playing the part as a contemporary film in the 70's.

The De Niro accent and the mannerisms are not the most effortless he's ever done, but they are easy enough to get use to during the film, and these mannerisms and his physical transformation indeed do an okay job of making Bale into the overweight conman who spends an extra amount of time to get his comb over just right. Bale is charismatic enough here for him to believable in his role as the con man who is always working these to try to get his way, although this is hardly the greatest portrayal of a con man, let's just say he's no Paul Newman in the Sting for example. Bale though does a decent enough job himself with the right amount of smoothness in his portrayal, and he makes himself fit the part well enough through all the effort he clearly put in to do so.

I have to admit Christian Bale gives my favorite performance out of the Oscar nominated actors in the film, I preferred Renner and De Niro overall. The funny thing is Bale despite being lead actually is the one who does not have any pointless scenes like Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have. None of his scenes seemed like he went to go improvising for the sake of flamboyance, instead Bale has the ridiculously thankless role of trying to carry the plot even when the director does not care about it. Bale tries, oh does he try, and you can see it in his performance with every scene. He is the most consistent because in Bale's performance you can see him trying his best to keep the plot going even with all the distractions around him.

It is rather odd that Rosenfeld, despite being a con man who probably should have showy scenes, does not really have any showy scenes to himself. It would make perfect sense if he did, you know maybe he has a scene where it shows him really rope someone into one of his games, or the Abscam, but oddly Bale's part is pretty light on the dialogue in some key scenes. For whatever reason the non con man F.B.I agent gets all those moments. The most con manning we really get from him is when he convinces Jeremy Renner's character Mayor Carmine Polito not to walk out on the scam by trying to befriend him. Bale is charming enough when he does this but it is less putting a wool over his eyes in a Henry Gondorff sorta way, and more of Rosenfeld going like "Hey I'm a nice guy, we should be friends".

There are technically scenes that seem set up for Bale like when he is talking with the mayor over dinner, but when Rosenfeld is suppose to lay down the con the film instead focuses on Jennifer Lawrence's antics instead. This frequently happens to Bale throughout the film, and because of that there is a serious problem created. One plot point that matters a lot by the end of the film is Rosenfeld feeling sorry for Renner's character yet the film fails to really establish their friendship enough, at least enough that a man who makes his career out of screwing people would want to change his ways. The film doesn't care about this relationship though until the end of the film, either covering it up with a musical montage, or editing away from it to see what sorta wacky stuff Lawrence and Cooper's characters are up to.

In the various supposedly complicated scenes of the various characters doing things Bale does stay on task in his attempt to make the plot important to this film. Bale shows in Rosenfeld some actual concern through his expressions. Whether it be some regret for screwing a man he's come to respect or fear when it seems they taking on opponents far smarter than they are, Bale does his very best to articulate these emotions in a believable way. Sure the film could not care less about Rosenfeld's dealings with the plot most of the time, but Bale, whenever he is on screen, does what he can to bring some weight to proceedings. Bale does not really have enough material to defeat the way that David O. Russell decided to direct the film, but I do like that he made an attempt, even if it was a mostly futile endeavor.

When it is all said and done I did like Bale's performance. He was the only performance out of the Oscar nominated performances, that made me care about the character in anyway. He was the only one I could empathize with in anyway, particularly in his portrayal of the exasperation toward Jennifer Lawrence's acting... I mean her character's actions. Bale does have the right type of energy here as he focuses to try to make the film move, rather than have an Oscary scene or two, but everything is against him as I said before. The film should have given Bale more to do with Irving Rosenfeld as I'm sure there could have been many interesting little details shown about the process of the con, but eh the film never cares for that anyway. This isn't a great performance, or Bale's strongest work from 2013, but hey he gave it his best shot, which I certainly appreciate.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Best Actor 2013: Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave.

12 Years a Slave is an excellent film about the story of one educated freeman who was forced into slavery.

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup who is an educated man living in New York with his family at the beginning of the film, he makes his living through his skills as a violinist which leads him into contact with two strange man who claim to work for a circus. There is not technically anything special about Solomon in this setting as he is just a pretty average guy who loves his family and rather seems to enjoy his life. Ejiofor does well in just making Solomon a pretty average family man without any unnecessary pretense. Solomon should just be a normal man and Ejiofor portrays him as such, he also does not put on his happiness too much to make it overblown, rather he establishes the right type of contentment one would expect from a man with his life.

His good life is put on a definite hold when the meeting with two mysterious men takes an odd turn and in the morning he finds himself in chains. From this point on Ejiofor work has a similar trajectory to Adrien Brody's performance in the Pianist or the second of Haing S. Ngor performance in The Killing Fields. His performance is a bit different as Solomon's time as a slave did allow him to speak where Dith Pran and Wladyslaw Szpilman could not speak a word at times lest it cost them their lives. What is similar though is the portrayal of the physical and psychological torture that he must go through his time as a slave, which all starts when his new hosts whip him until he will go by the name they have given him which is Platt, to hide his true identity.

Ejiofor is extremely effective in bringing the emotions to life as Solomon has undergo such hardships. In his earliest scenes his hardships are pretty much very direct pain both because of the gashes to his back, but as well in his realization that he won't be able to see his family ever again. Ejiofor makes it very easy to feel for Solomon's plight and he does not hold back on the emotional intensity of the moment of these early scenes. Solomon is going through hell and Ejiofor reflects this with his performance. Solomon has been beaten down and we see this through Ejiofor's eyes that shows a man who has been beaten down and absolutely is in fear of someone taking his life. That is not all there is to Ejiofor's portrayal of Solomon though.

Just like Brody in The Pianist and Ngor in The Killing Fields, the most important underlying factor to Ejiofor's portrayal of Solomon is the strong resilience in the man. Solomon of course suffers one hardship after another, but never does Ejiofor show it to be outright despair. Ejiofor shows the will in the man to do more than drown in his sorrows as Solomon never does give on the chance of once again seeing his family again, even if it seems very unlikely considering his current circumstances. Ejiofor brings the power of the man's spirit fervently to life. It is always evident in some way whether it be in a quiet moment where the hope always seems to be in him, or a somewhat louder moment where Ejiofor gives a great passion to Solomon's refusal to give up.

Ejiofor gives a very interesting performance in regards to the way he shows Solomon's particular place on the plantation. For better and for worse Solomon does stand out and Ejiofor is effective in creating this distance that Solomon sets himself from the other slaves, but as well makes him to be considered exceptional by the slavers which is both a good and a bad thing for him. Ejiofor intelligently plays these scenes because he does not show Solomon to be some sort of show off, but rather he properly shows that really Solomon can't fit in with the rest for two reasons. One reason being his background which Ejiofor makes something very innate in his performance and secondly because Ejiofor always reinforces the idea that Solomon won't become any other slave as they would be him giving up.

This is of course mostly a reactionary performance by Ejiofor but he brings such power in these reactions that he never is overshadowed by the direction by Steve McQueen or the more flamboyant performances around him. Ejiofor stands his ground by making the emotional impact of every scene all the greater because of his entirely genuine performance. There are many harrowing and frankly disturbing scenes throughout 12 Years a Slave such as when Solomon witnesses the brutal hanging of two runaway slaves. These are not just merely images to be horrified by because of Ejiofor's work at the center of it all. He does not let a single scene go by without making his own mark through his honest depiction of Solomon's reactions to these cruelties that he must witness.

Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a great performance here and carries this film on his shoulders from beginning to end. Solomon Northup is actually not an excessively complex character, but in Ejiofor's hands he never seems simple either. Ejiofor realizes the difficulty of Solomon's journey without ever devolving into a repetitive performance. Ejiofor only ever bring truth to his performance and finds that within a man such as Solomon. When Solomon apologizes to the family for his appearance, it does not seem strange in the least and is incredibly heartfelt because Ejiofor has made this the nature of Solomon as a man. Ejiofor performance absolutely works in perfect tandem with film by only ever giving an earnest and very sympathetic depiction of the trial of Solomon Northup, making his story a powerful and poignant depiction of survival.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Best Actor 2013: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey won his Oscar from his first Oscar nomination for portraying Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club.

Dallas Buyers Club is a surprisingly good story of one man's attempt to fight both HIV and the FDA through untested medicines and the creation of a membership service. The film manages to be very heartfelt without ever falling into schmaltz.

Matthew McConaughey's career resurgence, out of the black hole of bad romantic comedies, of 2012 with film like Bernie and Killer Joe was indeed only an indication of what would come as he followed it in 2013 with his performances in Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street, and his leading performance here in Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaughey is not just choosing better projects though, but he is also proving himself more than worthy of every role he takes on as well. The role of Ron Woodroof is quite a jumble, in not only who the character is, but also what happens to the character, and most importantly how much the character really needs to do within the context of the film's structure. There are many parts to this man, and McConaughey seems ready to take each part to form a single man.

The first aspect that one would notice and expect from an actor playing an HIV patient is frankly the suffering. McConaughey in this regard is excellent. He of course has the look of the haggard AIDS patient with his especially think frame, but there is much more to McConaughey's work than his dramatic weight loss. Throughout the film Woodroof suffers various pains, particularly early on when he refuses to recognize his problem. McConaughey brings to life every point of Woodroof's condition to the screen with a great precision. The moments of physical pain are done are done completely to the point by McConaughey never using them to be an overly dramatic scene, but rather he bluntly shows where Woodroof is in regards to his health from one moment to the next.

McConaughey's portrayal of Woodroof's physical state is only one aspect though of his performance as this is a story about the man Woodroof is more than what is ailing his body. At the beginning of his film Woodroof is philandering, drinking, smoking, gambling, cheating, and cocaine snorting fellow. McConaughey is very effective in his portrayal of these early scenes showing this as being pretty much the every day routine for old Ron. McConaughey conveys the casual attitude  the man has to his life incredibly well in his kind of pleasure seeking daze. This changes though quite rapidly when Ron comes to learn that he is HIV positive. Ron is quite in disbelief especially since he thinks that only homosexuals contract the disease.

McConaughey is amazing in the scene in which Woodroof is given his diagnosis. This would be an easy scene to overplay in so many fashions especially when Woodroof begins to espouse his hatred toward homosexuals. In regard to that aspect of Ron McConaughey is very realistic by showing just as the most casual of responses as this view just has always been Ron's view towards gay people. McConaughey hits every note needed for the scene from Ron's strong disbelief over the idea of him even being capable of having HIV along with subtle fear in his reaction, but as well a defiance to even recognize it. McConaughey realizes the complicated emotions of the moment in Ron vividly and shows all that Ron is going through in the moment.

The diagnosis at first only leads Ron down a path of destruction as he refuses to recognize the diagnosis as truth. McConaughey is marvelous because there is never a moment he is not furthering the path of Ron. Any moment, especially these early scenes, could just be Ron being stupid and not listening, but that's not what McConaughey does with these scenes. McConaughey surely does show the denial in Ron, but that is not all there is. McConaughey shows, even before his wake up call in a hospital bed, that Ron is no longer in his pleasure seeking daze. McConaughey suggests that unease in the man as he slowly sees the reality about himself. McConaughey has an especially powerful scene where Ron prays at a strip bar. The set up never seems forced because how truthful McConaughey is in his portrayal of Ron's trying to reach for something to live.

Ron manages to find himself a way through a bit of luck that seems to be a way for him to live, and thrive by selling untested medicines to other HIV patients. The strongest quality within Ron is his individualistic streak that propels him to come up with his scheme for survival. McConaughey creates this in Ron to allow it to be absolutely palatable. There is such a strong passion that McConaughey brings to Ron and we see how a man could do what Ron does. When Ron basically says to his doctors that he refuses to die in thirty days even though it seems like there is no other option, McConaughey makes it more of an inevitability that he will not die in his allotted time. McConaughey brings such a convincing strength in the role showing that nothing will kill this man in thirty days.

When Ron opens the Dallas Buyers Club he has not necessarily become a good person, as he is definitely making plenty of money from it, but he is a changed man from before. McConaughey is so good because there is nothing unnatural about Ron's transition. He earns every moment including Ron losing his animosity toward homosexuals once he starts an alliance with the cross dressing Rayon (Jared Leto). McConaughey does not oversell this by having Ron instantly accepting. He nicely moves through from begrudgingly accepting them, with the obvious monetary boon, to slowly becoming openly so. McConaughey never jumps once with this, and by doing so he makes the change in Ron far more moving and remarkable because it comes off as so natural.

The natural quality of this change is also true as Ron slowly becomes more selfless in his use of the club. McConaughey again only feels genuine as he portrays Ron becoming more invested in his plan that he made originally mostly to make money and save his own skin. I love that there is not a single scene where he just realizes he needs to do good now, or even sees that he has been selfish in some. No there is none of that rather McConaughey makes the change happen with great poignancy by having the passion in Ron only grow more and more as the pressures and forces against him only seem to becomes stronger. McConaughey allows this story to be easily invested with because he brings such conviction in portraying of one man's will to live.

Now one thing I have not mentioned yet is how great this performance is in just the most traditional sort of way. What I mean by that is how magnetic McConaughey here as he energizes every single scene he is in, and never fails to put every ounce of himself into the part. McConaughey carries the film with such ease and grace, and he utilizes his charm perfectly. McConaughey is rather cunning in his choice to hold back on his abundance of natural charm at the beginning of the film and effectively releases it really when Ron starts to become a far more self-realized individual. McConaughey seems like he was not content with this film just being a character piece as every scene he sells to its fullest, and making the emotional impact of them fierce though with the appropriate nuance.

This is a captivating piece of acting by McConaughey as he realizes a full portrait of the complex man of Ron Woodroof. The part could have easily been turned into bad Oscar bait and the film also could have easily gone the wrong direction if that happened. McConaughey does not let that happen though, as he brings the whole story to the forefront never letting one detail lie inert in his depiction. McConaughey technically gives a risky performance by going in every direction with Woodroof, but seems to achieve perfection as all of it adds up to one man. All I really can say is I love this performance and I love that Matthew McConaughey has decided to let everyone know just how talented he is. This is Matthew McConaughey greatest performance yet, and it is wonderful that McConaughey has made that really mean something.

Best Actor 2013

And the Nominees Are:

Christian Bale in American Hustle

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Bruce Dern in Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Monday, 20 January 2014

Best Supporting Actor 2013: Results

5. Bradley Cooper in American Hustle- Cooper both underplays and overplays his performance. He is often overshadowed by his co-stars, yet when he tries to be flamboyant he randomly overacts wildly.

Best Scene: Richie is taken off the case.
4. Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street- Hill gives a fine performance throughout his film, but he is overshadowed almost every step of the way by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Best Scene: Lemmon Quaaludes.
3. Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club- Jared Leto gives a moving performance with just the right amount of flamboyance, even if I would say he is slightly overshadowed by his co-star.

Best Scene: Rayon visits his father.
2. Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave - Fassbender gives a vicious depiction of his character's brutality, but he as well gives compelling portrayal of the attitude of the day to day slave owner.

Best Scene: The whipping scene.
1. Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips- Well this year for me came down to the two villains, and what I love about both Abdi and Fassbender's performance is although they are both very effectively in depicting their character's behavior but they also find what is behind this behavior. Barkhad Abdi, even though it is his film debut, gives a very assured performance in which he makes a dangerous villain, but as well a moving portrayal of a desperate man.

Best Scene: "Maybe in America Irish"

Best Supporting Actor 2013: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto won his Oscar from his first Oscar nomination for portraying Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.

Jared Leto plays the role of a homosexual who wants a sex change, who has AIDS, who is dying and  is drug addict as well. He has all that going on but he is actually the supporting character to the main story about the individualistic Ron Woodroof played by Matthew McConaughey who tries to fight against his own diagnosis by trying every drug to help his condition even though they are not supported by the FDA. Leto in a way reminded me of John Lithgow's Oscar nominated performance in The World According to Garp. In both films the main protagonist is at first repulsed by them, but slowly they act as a very supportive element within the film.

For much of the film Rayon back up Ron and acts as his sidekick of sorts as they run a business of selling unapproved drugs to HIV patients, while they use the money to survive and research new way to fight off the virus. Leto's is very good in not overplaying the obvious flamboyance of his character. Leto makes Rayon a peculiar sort most definitely, but everything he does in his creation of Rayon feels wholly natural. Leto handles his accent especially well in playing both Rayon attempt to sound like a woman while actually having a slight Texan accent as well. Leto finds his tone perfectly by definitely having the flamboyance to Rayon, but never letting it overwhelm the character.

Leto  is very good in being the supportive presence in the film to McConaughey's more confrontational portrayal of Woodruff. Leto and McConaughey have a terrific chemistry in the film in creating this friendship between two extremely different people. Leto is very good in being the warmer of the two who always seems to be trying to be cheerful in at least some sort of way, while as well being the far more fearful of the two. Leto balances the two qualities beautifully in his depiction of Rayon that plays off McConaughey's performance very effectively. Importantly as well though Leto does have just the right bit of snark in showing that, even though they have found a common cause, there definitely is a disconnect between Ron and Rayon.

Leto here also did remind me of William Hurt's greatest, and Oscar winning, performance in Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Both are very troubled souls who seem to find solace in their choice of clothing, although Hurt's Molina only occasionally wore them where Leto's Rayon wears feminine clothing in every scene but one. Rayon has more problems than just his virus as he consistently takes drugs even if that makes less and less likely that he will live for very long. Leto is very moving in portraying Rayon as an individual who basically wants to live, seen in his attempts to be cheery, yet knows that he is not going to, shown in his fear that only grows stronger as his health begins to decline more and more.

Jared Leto's best scene actually though is when he drops any of his Rayon mannerisms, as well as the dresses when Rayon goes to see his father in an attempt to try to help keep the Dallas Buyers Club going. Leto's performance is excellent in this scene as he shows the unease of Rayon out of his usual element. There is more than that though as Leto suggests Rayon's uncomfortable and troubled life with his father before he ever came in contact with Woodruff. Leto is terrific in this scene as there is nothing really cheery about Rayon here and he allows for the fear to more fully overwhelm him, and Leto expresses not only how much that Rayon does not want to die, but how much he wants to live as well.

If I have a complaint, and it's not really so much about Leto, is that the impact of his performance is somewhat diminished by Ron Woodroof's story. This is particularly true in Leto's last scenes that are very abrupt, since they are tailored made more in regards to creating conflict in Woodroof's story rather than giving Rayon a proper sendoff as a character. Unlike Fassbender and Abdi who I felt stood toe to toe with the lead performances they supported in every scene they, I did feel that Leto at times was overshadowed slightly by Matthew McConaughey's leading work. I do not want to sound dismissive toward Leto's performance though in anyway as his portrayal of Rayon is a remarkable piece of acting which finds the humanity within his character's flamboyant exterior.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Best Supporting Actor 2013: Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips

Barkhad Abdi received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Abduwali Muse in Captain Phillips.

Captain Phillips is an effective thriller about the hijacking of a cargo ship by Somali pirates. I would say though it drags a bit once it gets to the lifeboat.

Most of the notable first time film actors nominated in this category tend to be in extremely sympathetic roles like Haing S. Ngor in The Killing Fields or Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives, but that is not exactly the case with Barkhad Abdi in this film. Barkhad Abdi plays the head of the group of four pirates who decide to try to make money by attacking the ship run by Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks). The film is about the two captains Phillips of the cargo ship, and Muse who runs his own boat. Abdi is almost co-lead with Hanks in this film as it does bother to show him before the hijacking and even gives him perspective beforehand as he chooses his men then chooses to proceed with his plan.

Muse is definitely a villain in the film as he does shoot at, and threaten to kill people to make his money, but the film does show where he is coming from. It allows you to sympathize with him if you choose to, which is one of the strengths of the film. Abdi does not necessarily play him in an overly sympathetic way actually, even if Muse's desperation is an essential part of the film. Abdi plays the part correctly from the begging as he is a pirate who plans on making money no matter what even if it means hurting people. In his early scenes Abdi plays Muse as a bit of the silent gangster and is effective in conveying his underlying determination to get on Phillips's ship even with resistance from both Phillips's and his crew as well as many hesitations from fellow Pirates.

When Muse and his men finally infiltrate the ship and confront the Captain Abdi is brilliant in his magnetic portrayal of Muse in the scene. Abdi plays it as a bit of an act, although an act in the character of Muse. Abdi makes the right distinction in his performance as Muse basically tries to act as the very calm and cool leader of the men, who will not be taken as a fool by Phillips. Abdi is great because there is the performance in him of wanting to be considered the man in charge with his delivery of "I'm the Captain Now" which is flawlessly handled by Abdi. Abdi makes Muse the Pirate who definitely should be taken seriously, but at the same time he suggests that this is in an underlying way that this is not exactly who Muse truly is, rather it is his way of trying to control the situation.

After Muse's attempt in controlling the ship goes far worse than he would have hoped, and instead decides to kidnap only Phillips aboard the cargo ship's lifeboat, and attempt to get some ransom somehow. Abdi is terrific in portraying how his failure to take the ship has hit Muse very hard. Abdi rightfully drops Muse attempting to be in control and effectively begins to show the desperation in the man instead. At this point Abdi suggests he really does not have have any point for the act, and instead just tries to lead his men while it slowly becomes obvious that his plan is going to fail. Abdi matches Tom Hanks in terms of his realistic reactions as the tension increases. Abdi is exceptional in portraying Muse slowly failing attempt to control his men as well as Phillips.

As his plan only seems to become worse as they are surrounded by the U.S. navy Abdi is rather moving in his portrayal of Muse attempt to rationalize still going further with the plan. Abdi is great because he shows the effort as Muse tries to keep on a brave face in face of an obvious defeat and there is such sadness, although a properly restrained form of it, in Abdi's delivery of the line ""I go too far, Irish". Abdi shows that Muse really does know he's been defeated but this pride and desperation will not allow him to admit, so he keeps attempting to keep a brave face. There is even such a tragedy as Abdi still gives off the faint confidence as Muse claims that he will probably get millions from his plan which will allow him to be rich in America. 

Abdi's very best scene though comes in a trade off in philosophy between the two Captains as Phillips tries to ask Muse if this course of action was all that Muse could have really done with his life. Abdi fully realizes the desperation in Muse in this scene as there is such a resignation in his words as he basically tells Phillips that he believes there was no other option for him to take. Abdi vividly portrays the state of the man and alludes to his history of Somalia where he likely found very few other ideas other than piracy, and further controlled by his elders who he refers to as his bosses. Abdi's performance of this scene shows the depth of this man as more than just simply a man trying to make money, but rather a series of circumstances that have brought him to this place. 

Barkhad Abdi despite this being his screen debut gives a very assured performance. Abdi creates an fascinating character out Muse, by never overplaying an aspect of it. The part could have easily been played as just a constantly angry pirate, or he actually also could have been played as overly somber to gain sympathy. Abdi's performance rises above any of that because he creates a fuller portrait of Muse. He makes Muse the villain he should be with the right intensity suggesting the danger his character does present for Phillips, but he as well manages to show what makes this man the danger he is, which is definitely not simplistic evil. Barkhad Abid gives a great performance as Abduwali Muse, and succeeds, along with the writing, in bringing a greater complexity to this story.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Best Supporting Actor 2013: Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave

Michael Fassbender received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave.

This film marks Michael Fassbender's third collaboration with director Steve McQueen, although it is first time he is in a supporting role, and the first time that he has found himself Oscar nominated for his performance. Fassbender plays Edwin Epps the second owner of the kidnapped former freeman Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Where Solomon's first owner William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) showed at least signs of being a decent man, there is no such luxury when it comes to Edwin Epps the cotton plantation owner. In our first glimpse of Epps we see him reading scripture and claiming that the passage gives him the absolute right to whip any of his slaves if they do not serve him as he sees fit.

Plantation owners tend to be portrayed a certain way usually as the southern gentleman who wishes to be charming but is truly a brute, that is the way Leonardo DiCaprio played such a man in Django Unchained for example. Micheal Fassbender takes a completely different route in his portrayal of Edwin Epps who is anything but charming. Epps, in terms of the writing, is not an extremely complicated man. It is very easy to see how he could have easily been portrayed as an one note brute who just goes from one terrible act to another. Fassbender avoids such a path in his depiction of Epps. Fassbender attempts to find a little more to the man when he has a chance, but as well gives a very interesting portrayal of the man's actions throughout the film.

As is usually the case for Fassbender, this is a very physical performance, and Fassbender does a great deal to create Epps through his movements. Fassbender doesn't make Epps a gentleman, but instead often presents him to be man-child. This is especially well shown in the way he interacts with the slaves from moment to moment. Fassbender never looks at them really in the eyes nor does he position himself in a man to man fashion. Fassbender instead always plays it as Epps is constantly looking down them as if they were animals rather than people. Fassbender goes even further with this point in the way he speaks, and will be even strangely casual, like when he leads on one slaves head. Fassbender shows that Epps does not just say they are his property, he believes it.

One of the qualities behind the man that Fassbender suggests is that his slaves have made him a truly idle man. Fassbender is pretty brilliant in how he shows Epps to be just one lazy man. Fassbender often has him lying around watching everyone else do the work, there is often a sense of malaise in the man. Fassbender rightly is not always the barking monster as working with the slaves is a day to day life style for him, to always be a villain would just be too much effort. Fassbender realizes the results of a man with too much power over others by portraying how the man himself has been formed. The one scene Fassbender plays as Epps absolutely invested is the cotton counting, which makes perfect sense as Epps definitely cares about his money.

There is of course Epps's relationship with his slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) who he constantly praises, rapes, and even states that he prefers her over his wife (Sarah Paulson). Fassbender again derives the complexities of Epps's treatment of her. Fassbender portrays it in the cotton counting as almost a man priding over his best horse. When he rapes her though Fassbender does not just show it to be lust, although there is plenty of that to go around, there is a conflict in him. Fassbender gives a sense that Epps loves her, but fights within himself as he does completely see slaves as his property. Fassbender makes sense of his disjointed behavior as he is man who fights within himself as he can't quite comprehend exactly how to handle his situation.

Now past all that, the part he is most there to fulfill is to be the personification of the brutality of slavery. Fassbender is brilliant here because he actually shows the day to day of the everyday slaver. Epps dishes out whippings on a daily bases, and Fassbender shows it as just business as usual. Fassbender makes the daily routine in the way changes from scene to scene in a way one would expect from a man who really does not know what to do with himself, and in all truth is very immature. Fassbender, through this unpredictability, makes the threat of Epps all the greater. Fassbender is terrific in his drunken moments as he bluntly makes Epps a bad drunk. Fassbender becomes a slob who basically trips on himself, but a slob to be feared as might kill in such a daze.

There is one particular chilling moment where he interrogates Solomon. Fassbender plays Epps as a calm and controlled here, as the situation does technically involve money again. Fassbender builds the tension well by keeping Epps again so very casual in his style as he talks to Solomon in almost a slightly warm fashion, yet oh so well conveying that murderous hint in the man. This is very different from his inebriated scenes but Fassbender connects the pieces properly and makes every behavior natural to his Epps. This includes even one brief moment where Epps is about to whip Patsey. Fassbender is incredible in just one moment expressing that conflict in the man. It is a striking moment as Fassbender does give Epps the tiniest hint of humanity. Fassbender gives it a real power though by bringing such an intensity as Epps must force himself to believe his philosophy to get over his moment of hesitation.

Michael Fassbender's work here is being taken for granted I think. Edwin Epps technically just needed to be a vicious character who just acts vicious for awhile until he exits the film. Fassbender certainly does that with a great ferocity as he does not hold back making it to the point of Epps's inherited mentality. Fassbender though goes further with his performance though. Fassbender depicts Epps as an evil man, and there is no question about that, but he actually in part alludes to where some of this comes from within him. His Epps is not just brutal because he's a bad man, although I must stress again that is definitely true, but he is a bad man who's behavior comes in part from environment that has taught him and turned him a certain way. Fassbender's performance is tremendous as he realizes the slave owner for all that he is, and turn makes this great film all the stronger.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Best Supporting Actor 2013: Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street

Jonah Hill received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Donnie Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Jonah Hill somehow has managed a second Oscar nomination after his suitable enough but unimpressive performance in Moneyball. In that film Hill played the right hand man to Brad Pitt's Billy Beane who wished to streamline his baseball team, Hill this time plays the right hand man to Leonard DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort who wishes to streamline the stock market to make as much money as possible whether or not it happens to be ill gotten gains. Donnie Azoff of The Wolf of Wall Street is a far cry from Peter Brand in Moneyball. After all the first thing we really learn about Donnie is that he married his own first cousin because he believed he should be the one to have sex with her, soon afterwards he decides to smoke crack, and really we just keep going from there.

Hill certainly does more than he did in Moneyball which begins right with his creation of Donnie. He plays the part with a somewhat course voice in attempt to play a certain kind of businessman of the period. It almost seems like he is trying to play the part as perhaps Joe Pesci would have if the film had been made exactly when it occurred. Now I could see Joe Pesci in this part easily and he probably would have been absolutely brilliant. Well Jonah Hill is no Joe Pesci, and Jonah Hill attempting to be Joe Pesci does not come anything close to Joe Pesci, that does not mean he is bad though. Hill wears the accent well enough and he does get into his character, and does become part of tapestry of debauchery as he should.

Donnie Azoff basically seems to be the worst of the worst among their group of men who decide to try about everything they can with the money they have. The story of Donnie is mainly being as disgusting as possible without a bit of shame in it. Whether it is using prostitutes, taking loads of drugs, or eating the fish of a poor guy of a guy who wasn't focused enough, he does it without blinking an eye, well unless of course the drugs make it hard to keep one's eye open. Hill again does well enough in these scenes as he does throw himself into them with a great energy, and properly conveys just how much joy Donnie gets from his own antics. Hill's portrayal of these antics though are just not ever nearly as memorable as Leonard DiCaprio's portrayal, although the reason for that is for another time.

There is a little bit more to old Donnie than just when he ingests into his body though. There are scenes of Azoff actually doing the job of trying to make money. Hill is pretty good at being the obnoxious hustler, and does the purposefully overdone salesman speak correctly. He's of course very annoying, but I will grant him that is the point of his character. There is a little more though when Donnie comes down a little from the various substances he is abusing, and stops abusing other people. The businessman in a rather precarious position is well handled as he tones down Donnie in the right way, but these scenes never are that incredible. He's fine but he is not amazing.

There are a few questions that need to be answered in regard to this performance. Does it make it less egregious that Jonah Hill has more Oscar nominations than Toshiro Mifune, Donald Sutherland, Richard Attenborough (in acting), Guy Pearce, Ewan McGregor, and Brendan Gleeson combined? The answer is no. Is he the best supporting actor in the film? No once again, certainly not over Matthew McConaughey's brilliant almost one scene wonder or Jean Dujardin or Kyle Chandler. Is he consistently overshadowed by Leonardo DiCaprio's performance and Martin Scorsese's direction? The answer is yes. Could someone else have been better in the role? Yes. Is it a decent performance with some good enough moments? I would say yes to that too.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Best Supporting Actor 2013: Bradley Cooper in American Hustle

Bradley Cooper received his second Oscar nomination for portraying FBI Agent Richard "Richie" DiMaso in American Hustle.

Bradley Cooper has found himself once again nominated after his lead nomination for his previous collaboration with David O. Russell in Silver Linings Playbook. Cooper, rightfully, turned some heads with his earlier performance proving himself quite capable in a dramatic role, and more than just a face. Apparently Silver Linings Playbook may have brought him too much acclaim as his performance in this film is that of a man who believes himself to be an infallible actor, but in reality he is quite a fallible fellow. This is not helped by the way Russell directs American Hustle which is to try to give his actors as many Oscar scenes as possible even if they make little sense in context to the plot of the film or even really the character.

The role of FBI agent Richie DiMaso, at least on paper, seems to be quite a meaty role. He is the man catches who catches the con artists Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) and Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), he comes up with the scheme to use them to catch corrupt politicians, he gets his ambitious arc, and he even is allowed to be the villain of sorts of the film as the power of his position goes to his head. Well Cooper here simultaneously falls short and goes over board with his character. It is an odd combination and it seems perhaps the praise of Cooper's last perhaps went to his head, as Cooper's performance here seems like that of a man who believes he can do no wrong. 

It is rather odd how Cooper's work plays as much of the time he just seems rather boring. There is a distinct lack of ambition in this overly ambitious man at times. Cooper delivers his lines, but there is not the drive there to really suggest a man trying to make a name for himself. He is often upstaged by his co-stars including Amy Adams(who I'm not crazy about either), Christian Bale, and especially Louis C.K. in their scenes together, there is strange lack of passion at times as he does things in the basest of ways. This is also the case for another kind of passion, the first time Adams's character makes a suggestive remark to him, Cooper's reaction is terrible in that there is no power in his lust yet he still comes off like a teenager rather than a grown man.

Cooper oddly downplays too much yet overplays his part too, a combination you don't want. There is no method to this attempted madness as he will be thoroughly uninteresting in a scene then at the end of it will make a bizarrely over the top face to end the scene. The first I think of is his first scene with Louis C.K. as his superior at the FBI and Cooper goes through the scene in a very to the point fashion without any spice or surprise to be found in either his voice or facial expressions. Then at the very end of the scene Cooper decides that the natural end of the screen should be contort his face to a most unnatural expression. There is purpose to this expression but it certainly is distracting especially since Cooper does this in a few other scenes as well.

Cooper's performance lacks the rhyme or reason for the randomness of whether he will play a scene straight and dull or as if he is some mad dog. I have to say there seemed to be something missing from this character, something that would cause him to be so erratic, like a cocaine addiction for example. I'm very serious about this point as it almost seems like they thought of doing it but wrote it out as it was already pretty hard to believe that Richie wouldn't be fired for his antics. There one scene in particular where Richie is marching to confront Sydney and I could swear Cooper was playing it as if he was DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, since no cocaine is involved though Cooper's acting is excessive just for the sake of it (on re-watch I noticed a brief cutaway where he snorts something, but if it is suppose to be an influence on his behavior one would think they'd establish it better). It's only made worse because as usual he drops that choice suddenly without explanation.

I'm just going to say it, everything is off about Cooper's performance here. In his portrayal of Richie's lust it seems no existent in one scene then it is all that consumes him as he wildly moves around to suggest his uncontrollable frustrations. In his portrayal of Richie's rise of power there is no charisma to Richie as he builds himself up so when he gets broken down the satisfaction is a bit lost. Richie as a villain is an utter failure too because Cooper only suddenly tries some menace for one scene and in that one scene he tries to hard frankly. It should be from the ambition that menace is derived, but Cooper's method is the unremarkable version where Richie just feels like being a real jerk for just that scene. Don't worry though he'll be exceptionally calm because Richie's quad-polar or something.

You know it really I would not mind the randomness if Cooper was at least entertaining with his decisions, but his ACTING here flounders badly. It is painfully self aware in style and he fails to even be funny despite obviously wanting to be in several scenes. If Cooper had been funny this still would not be a great performance, as it would still be a disjointed mess, but I would have liked if there had been at least scenes of something worthwhile. A mess it is but not in the way that I assume was intended. I could easily see a performance that could have brought some of these elements together to make Richie into a brilliant mess that should have had the through line of his growing ambition, but Cooper forgets to bring the right stabilizing factor to his characterization.

It is a shame that Bradley Cooper was nominated for this film as it would be an even bigger shame if he ever gives a performance like this again, and fails to remember what he did right with his previous Oscar nominated performance. This is very far from one of the best supporting performances of the year, firstly because he is not good, secondly because you could easily make an argument that he is co-lead with Bale, and thirdly because he is not even the best supporting performance in the film. Louis C.K. and Robert De Niro are better in their limited time, and if the Academy wanted recognize someone it should have been Jeremy Renner for his heartfelt turn as a politician who believes that the ends justify the means. Renner's performance feels like a real man throughout the film. Renner took his brief time to find the substance of his character and give a moving portrait of a flawed politician, Cooper's took his ample time to give a pointlessly flashy and shallow performance that seems to try for a few too many yuks. 

Best Supporting Actor 2013

And the Nominees Are:

Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips

Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave

Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street

Bradley Cooper in American Hustle

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1970: Results

5. Leonard Frey in The Boys in the Band- Frey, although his voice is a bit theatrical, gives an effective in his portraying his character's sharp cynicism.

Best Scene: Harold cuts Michael down.
4. Donald Sutherland in Kelly's Heroes- Sutherland gives a weird performance but an endearing character as the aptly named Oddball. 

Best Scene: Oddball takes a break from battle.
3. Trevor Howard in Ryan's Daughter- Howard gives a strong performance that deftly mixes in rather coarse qualities with a genuine heart.

Best Scene: Father Hugh talks to Rosy about marriage.
2. Alec Guinness in Scrooge- Guinness has only two scenes but two scenes of brilliance in his dryly comic performance as a ghost.

Best Scene: Marley in Hell.
1. Karl Malden in Patton- Good Predictions JackiBoyz, Maciej, and Kevin. Karl Malden gives a great performance as the unassuming General Omar Bradley by being the perfect foil for George. C. Scott's depiction of the pride filled Patton, and showing that a modest man can still be a complex man.

Best Scene: Bradley openly speaks his mind to Patton.
Overall Rank:
  1. Karl Malden in Patton
  2. Alec Guinness in Scrooge
  3. Trevor Howard in Ryan's Daughter
  4. John Mills in Ryan's Daughter
  5. Leo McKern in Ryan's Daughter
  6. Donald Sutherland in Kelly's Heroes
  7. Barry Foster in Ryan's Daughter
  8. Don Rickles in Kelly's Heroes
  9. Leonard Frey in The Boys in the Band
  10. Orson Welles in Catch-22
  11. Chief Dan George in Little Big Man
  12. Anthony Perkins in Catch-22
  13. Robert Duvall in MASH
  14. John Marley in Love Story
  15. Tom Skeritt in MASH
  16. Kenneth More in Scrooge
  17. Martin Balsam in Little Big Man
  18. Richard S. Catellano in Lovers and Other Strangers
  19. Richard Mulligan in Little Big Man
  20. Gig Young in Lovers and Other Strangers
  21. Bob Newhart in Catch-22
  22. Anton Rodgers in Scrooge 
  23. Martin Balsam in Catch-22 
  24. Henry Fonda in Sometimes a Great Notion 
  25. Bob Balaban in Catch-22
  26. Rene Auberjonois in MASH
  27. Gerald Sim in Ryan's Daughter
  28. Charles Grodin in Catch-22
  29. Len Lesser in Kelly's Heroes
  30. Martin Sheen in Catch-22
  31. Ray Milland in Love Story
  32. Timothy Dalton in Cromwell
  33. Hal Holbrook in The Great White Hope
  34. Jon Voight in Catch-22 
  35. Peter White in The Boys in the Band
  36. Richard Jaeckel in Sometimes a Great Notion
  37. Gianni Santuccio in Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
  38. Gastone Moschin in The Conformist
  39. Art Garfunkel in Catch-22
  40. Robert Morley in Cromwell
  41. David Collings in Scrooge
  42. Carroll O'Connor in Kelly's Heroes 
  43. Gary Burghoff in MASH
  44. Edward Binns in Patton
  45. Cliff Gorman in The Boys in the Band
  46. Michael Medwin in Scrooge
  47. Laurence Naismith in Scrooge
  48. Enzo Tarascio in The Conformist
  49. Chester Morris in The Great White Hope
  50. Billy Bush in Five Easy Pieces 
  51. Richard Benjamin in Catch-22 
  52. Michael Bates in Patton
  53. Federick Combs in The Boys in the Band 
  54. Richard Beaumont in Scrooge
  55. Laurence Luckinbill in The Boys in the Band
  56. Patrick McDermott in Joe
  57. Lawrence Dobkin in Patton
  58. Jack Gilford in Catch-22
  59. Ralph Waite in Five Easy Pieces 
  60. Robert La Tourneaux in The Boys in the Band
  61. Cal Bellini in Little Big Man

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1970: Leonard Frey in The Boys in the Band

Leonard Frey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harold in The Boys in the Band.

The Boys in the Band is a film about a group of homosexual friends who get together for a birthday party although problems arise when their various past traumas are revealed and one of the men invites his old straight roommate. Although the film is well enough written and directed it is problematic because of the performances of the cast.

The actors in this film are reprising their stage roles and the majority of them are making their film debuts. This unfortunately is more than a little noticeable in their performances as most of them seem to be playing to the back rows. The film wants to make it doubly clear, in case you did not know already that the characters are definitely all gay. The performances may even well fit with the flamboyant characters but the actors often falter with the more subtle moments required of their characters. Leonard Frey did not make his film debut here though, but he too certainly gives a less than subtle way of delivery his lines. His voice here sounds like a more nasal version of the voice that Al Pacino used in Dog Day Afternoon.

Frey appears well into the film although he build up quite a lot as it is his birthday. His entrance is quite dramatic, and suggests that Harold will not necessarily be bringing cheer to the proceedings. Harold, like the main character Michael (Kenneth Nelson), has a strong passive aggressive streak that only becomes more openly aggressive as the night proceeds. Although the voice Frey uses is less than subtle, much like most everyone else, but unlike most of them Frey does know to bring some subtext to within this flamboyance rather than trying just when they are asked to be less loud by the script. Frey, because he seems to understand film the most, gives by far the best performance in the film.

Harold is a bile filled man ready to take on Michael's bile with great stride. The main difference between the two is that Harold is far more comfortable not only as a homosexual but as well in his sardonic style. Frey is very effective in creating a loathing pessimist who seems to find solace in whatever way he can trade offenses with Michael who happens to be in particularly bad mood. Frey is very good in the most surface side of his character which is making every verbal swipe toward Michael with the utmost precision. It is rather interesting to see the man who played the shy Motol in Fiddler on the Roof play the role of a vicious cynic with such ease and even some menace.

Frey makes Harold more than just a set of zingers to hit Michael with through the course of his visit. Frey, unlike most everyone else, makes great use of his silent moments during the film. Frey in these moments suggests that his cynicism is not all there is to Harold. There is a certain sadness Frey suggests in his quiet moments and in his reactions to Michael's antics that slowly seek to make everyone as miserable as he is. Frey largely steals these scenes by showing that as Michael harasses the others Harold is slowly building up his own distaste and in turn his own case against Michael. When Harold finally cuts Michael down Frey absolutely earns the moment by building to it properly and delivering with the cold ferocity necessary.

The only problem I would have with Frey's performance is his voice that he uses that does always feel like a straight carry over from the stage without proper adjustment for it to seem wholly natural. It still does feel more of an actor's choice than something entirely natural to his character. Other than that choice though Frey's gives a strong performance that easily bests everyone else in the cast by bringing more to his character than some obvious mannerisms or absurdly labored line readings. If it were not for my one major reservation of his choice in voice I would say this is very close to being a great performance by Leonard Frey, as he very much delivers in his portrayal jaded man who gets the most pleasure in his life by punishing a man who just is not nearly as good at being jaded.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1970: Trevor Howard in Ryan's Daughter

Trevor Howard did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Father Hugh Collins in Ryan's Daughter.

Trevor Howard plays the role of the priest of a small Irish village. The role was written for Alec Guinness and it is easy to see him in the role. Guinness turned it down though and Trevor Howard was cast instead. Alec Guinness is not an anagram for genuine class for nothing, Trevor Howard on the other hand name is not an anagram for vow rot harder for nothing either. What I mean by that nonsense is that, while I'm sure Guinness would have been great in the role, Howard's casting offers a rather interesting take on the character of the priest. Howard has a natural roughness to him making him far from a genial man which tend to be the nature of most supportive priest characters.

Howard keeps his usual gruff personality in his portrayal of Father Hugh who does his best to be the moral compass of the village, and basically goes about checking to make sure everything is going as it should be. Howard's performance is a rather effective one because he balances between his natural roughness and the good nature of his character. Howard does not tone down anything about rough side to portray Father Hugh. Howard brings a power to his character through the roughness actually by making him a man who will speak his mind, and speak his mind without reservation either. The way everyone seems slightly weary of Father Hugh is made believable because Howard makes him a force to be reckoned with.

Even though Howard makes Father Hugh gruff he does not forget to convey the morality of the character. Howard actually in part uses the gruffness to add to the righteousness of the man. There is no sense of falseness of his morality because Howard shows that Father Hugh is a character who could never even think of even having the slightest pretension. Howard makes Father Hugh a man who knows what is right and will not hesitate just to speak his mind quickly when he sees someone is at fault. When Father Hugh sees the bad or sometimes rather evil actions of the towns people, Howard is terrific in getting right to the point with his fierce moral indignation that he conveys from the priest.

Howard importantly brings the proper nuance to Father Hugh when he talking to someone he thinks deserves more than a slap in the face. Howard is very warm in his scenes with Sarah Miles as Rosy the titular character. In these scenes Howard is able to convey the importance of his beliefs strongly, and as something more than just a reason to cut sinners down to size. Howard gives the role the appropriate heart needed whenever the Father tries to talk to Rosy gently about her ideas of romance, or later when he tries his best to mend thing after Rosy has an affair of her marriage with a British soldier. Howard carefully shows that although Father Hugh will condemn when necessary, that there is a large heart behind his somewhat coarse exterior.

It is rather odd that the academy decided to ignore Howard's performance here, but I guess they felt they rewarded the film enough by recognizing John Mills's Oscar winning performance as the village idiot Michael (a performance that I will continue to defend, as I do believe he was the best of the truly supporting performances nominated). The academy though should have also recognized Trevor Howard as well as he very much excels with his performance as Father Hugh Collins. Howard succeeds in giving the local priest that large personality that makes him in a way one of the commanding forces of the island,  but Trevor as well well still brings the right tenderness there should be in a man who wants his congregation to be moral and thrive as they should.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1970: Karl Malden in Patton

Karl Malden did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying General Omar N. Bradley in Patton.

Patton is a film almost wholly involved with the story of General George Patton played by George C. Scott. The film's weakest aspects are when it attempts to diversify the story with the excessively simplistic German scenes that easily could have been removed from the film. There is only one supporting character who makes an impression on the film, Michael Bates might have with General Montgomery if he had not played him as such a caricature, that performance is of course Karl Malden as General Omar Bradley. The film carefully spotlights Bradley advancement as a General while following Patton, and in terms of the literal beginning of the story Malden actually appears before Scott does.

I always thought of Malden's performance as a good one but watching the film again for his performance the  only improved the strength of the work. This is readily apparent from his very first scene where he rides to see the end result of a battle in which the allies took heavy losses. Malden establishes the nature of Bradley very effective in the way he handles the scene. He barely says much of anything, but brilliantly portrays the reaction that Bradley has toward the tragic result of the situation. Malden expresses rightly the subtle way that Bradley is forced to suffer the sight. Malden shows that it definitely does move him to see so many of the men dead, but Malden correctly keeps it in the man of Omar Bradley who is must do his duty.

Omar Bradley is the opposite of George Patton in most ways other than that they are both competent. Patton is a loud passionate and very fierce man who does things his own way without even a question with others opinions on the matter. He is easy to find conflict and does seem to have some delusions of grandeur in his belief that he is the reincarnation of many a great warriors. Omar Bradley is nothing like that with an easy going nature, and a complete lack of glory seeking in his attitude. Malden successfully makes Bradley the perfect foil for Scott's Patton. Malden, like his Oscar winning turn, is great in playing unassuming roles. Malden is great because he does not mind being genuine in this regard, and instead of finding flamboyance where there shouldn't be, he brings out the complexities of such a man.

Malden is excellent in the role in bringing to life this man, who is in the war to do his job as efficiently as he thinks he can. Malden does not make Bradley a simple sort, as many may have, and just like Mitch Malden knows that just because a man is reserved does not make him dull. I should say Malden doesn't reprise Mitch here though as Malden has the right forceful presence necessary for a commander of man like Bradley, but Malden shows Bradley to man who carries this power in his personal determination. Malden makes Bradley a restrained man among the nature of Generals, and especially when compared to the overwhelming personality of George S. Patton. Bradley would be a man who is part of the room, Patton on the other hand insists on being the room.

The greatness of Malden's performance is in his chemistry with Scott's performance. Malden is quite fascinating in that he makes Bradley a proper right hand man at first who wants to work with Patton to fight against the Nazis, but Malden has certain hesitations suggested within Bradley kind supportive face. Although Malden goes along with Patton, but in Patton's most eccentric moments Malden hints at a certain coldness toward Patton. This is important as Bradley career takes off and Patton slowly becomes muddled in various controversies. When they meet again on less even ground Malden still keeps Bradley as mostly amiable, but when Patton goes too far Malden  reveals Bradley's side that openly distastes Patton prideful, and less professional side.

Karl Malden gives a great performance that complements Scott's main performance in a marvelous fashion. Although it is Scott's film of course, Malden is not to be forgotten through his fascinating depiction of Omar Bradley. Malden easily could have fallen into the rest of the supporting characters of the film that are forgotten as soon as they leave, or even before that. Malden, unlike the rest of the supporting cast, makes the most of his somewhat limited screen time. In his time he shows a honest depiction of a General who is passionate about his duty, but in heart is an ordinary man taking a down to earth attitude to this duty. He's extremely effective in finding the finer details of the man, especially in Bradley complex relationship to a man whose manner toward war is almost antithesis to his own.