Friday, 28 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1945: Cornel Wilde in Leave Her to Heaven

Cornel Wilde did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Richard Harland in Leave Her to Heaven.

Leave Her to Heaven is an effective film about a man whose life and those around him seemed threatened by a woman obsessed with him.

Cornel Wilde was indeed nominated for Best Actor in 1945 for A Song to Remember (which was forgettable, rim shot please). Anyway his performance was dullness incarnate and all the life seemed to be sucked out of Frederic Chopin. One could perhaps attach this to Charles Vidor's direction who also went on to suck out the life from Franz Liszt and Dirk Bogarde in A Song Without End (which felt endless). Well there is no Charles Vidor around this time so no accusations of soul stealing can be made. Well Wilde proves himself not to be some hollow shell here giving a considerably better performance than his performance as Chopin which naturally means the it's the one the Academy doesn't nominate, but I suppose that's just how it goes

The part of Richard Harland is a fairly simple one early on in the film as he meets with the mysterious woman Ellen (Gene Tierney) who instantly grows strong attracted to him, and even forces a proposal on him. Now this might be some cause to step back for a moment, but since she looks like Gene Tierney it's pretty easy to understand Richard's lack of hesitation.Wilde mostly on just needs to make us invest into Richard's story. Wilde's does do this as he he is appropriately endearing and charming in the role. There is not anything particularly special about Richard, but there is not anything wrong with him he just is a nice guy who cares about those around him particularly his handicap brother. Wilde brings the right enthusiasm and energy into the role that sets up Richard very nicely to make his fall have the right impact. 

Wilde does not play Richard as some sort of fool though and he is very good in his scenes with Tierney. They don't have the usual type of romantic chemistry but they really should not as this is not a normal romance in any way. Instead she seems completely entranced by his appearance as she notes that he reminds her of her father, which again is creepy enough all by its lonesome but Wilde makes it work by the way he plays his affections back. Wilde does not necessary really show that Richard is in love with her exactly, but rather is mutually entranced by her appearance although this time in a more basic sort of way. Wilde takes the right approach in doing so and he makes it believable that he would take so long to catch on as he helps create the allure of Ellen through his own performance that reinforces it.

Wilde is good in the earlier scenes fulfilling the part of Richard well, although Richard purposefully does not make too much of an impact overall as the film focuses on the insanity of Ellen's desires. This changes though when Richard finally finds out about some of Ellen's actions which even includes causing the death of someone. Wilde is very effective in his confrontation scene as he personifies the moral outrage in Richard with the proper ferocity. His best scene though comes after further developments and he has to end all speculation with a court room testimony. Wilde's is fantastic in his delivery of the final monologue bringing the right passion of his resolve to defeat Ellen's plan, but as well Wilde  brings a very powerful haunted quality within it that properly suggests how the whole affair has left Richard.

Well as usual you can leave it to the academy to make such a foolish mistake as nominating Wilde for A Song to Remember instead of this it is even more questionable when the nominations so that they indeed had watched Leave Her to Heaven. If they had not only would they have given Ray Milland, but they also would have made Wilde one of the better nominees for Best Actor rather than one of the worst. For my rating this time I have to basically average out things. He is about a 3.5 for most of the film but he brings the right life to the part and allows us to easily sympathize with Richard's dilemma but then in the end of the film when he finally gets the opportunity to completely soar he absolutely seizes that opportunity that would make him almost worthy of a five.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1945: James Mason in The Seventh Veil

James Mason did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Nicholas in The Seventh Veil.

The Seventh Veil is a decent enough film about the life of a suicidal pianist Francesca (Ann Todd), although the ending is certainly more than a little questionable.

Ann Todd was not much of an actress as there never seems to be much of a drive in her performances rather she often seemed quite content just to kind of be there. Luckily this does mean she would usually not be actively bad so to speak, and if there was a great performance around her she definitely would let that performance flow freely. That was certainly true for Claude Rains in The Passionate Friends, and here in this film we have the other Mr. Jordan, James Mason. Mason is only barely lead in this film and if one were to put him in supporting I would not raise much of argument. Nevertheless Mason has the second largest role in the film as the second cousin and legal guardian of Todd's Francesca.

Nicholas is a bitter man who who has a limp and seems to not care for much of anyone Francesca included. Although Mason wasn't particularly old at the time that never comes into play though as Mason makes Nicholas's palatable from the instance he is on screen. Nicholas is not a villain so to speak as he's more of a colossal jerk. Mason is one of my favorite actors though because of how he is able to enliven any scene he is in with his mere presence which he definitely does here. Many scenes require Mason just to come in and say a few cold dismissive words, really Nicholas could have been pretty forgettable, but Mason delivers every line with such an fierce cynicism that you can feel Nicholas's hatred toward the world as almost an underlying element in the film in every scene.

Nicholas is not all bad though as he finds that Francesca has a talent for the piano something he also knows although only well enough to be a teacher to Francesca. Mason is good in these scenes as well because he really does not lighten up still carrying that intensity as Nicholas just been bitter for too long to ever truly be happy. Mason does adjust his performance every so slightly to accentuate the passion that Nicholas does have for the piano, although even that he mostly hides in his fierce hatred of all things. Mason creates the right dynamic though to show how Nicholas would pressure Francesca to become a better pianist yet still never comes even close to becoming a good mentor. Nicholas always remains a pretty bad mentor and that is really part of the fun with Mason's performance.

I probably would not have said the film was decent enough if it were not for Mason's somewhat infrequent appearances in the film as he really does make the movie with his portrayal of Nicholas. He completely asserts himself  in terms of meeting the demands of the role which is to show how Nicholas could drive Francesca to suicide. Mason definitely brings the needed viciousness and coldness to show this, but he does manage to more than that in his usual Mason way as it is quite entertaining to watch him perform in the scene. My favorite of his being when Francesca tells Nicholas she is being married and Nicholas cuts her down by completely ignoring her. Mason is so brilliantly precise in the moment that even in seeming ignorance can Nicholas seem brutal in his coldness.

It definitely would have been nice if the film had been about Nicholas, or if the film had frankly spent much more time in creating the teacher student dynamic rather than rushing through it then there probably would have been potential for a truly great performance from James Mason. Mason unfortunately only has so much to work with here as Nicholas is both a bit underwritten and underused throughout the film, and this becomes exceedingly noticeable with the ending of the film when out of nowhere they decide Nicholas and Francesca were meant for each. Now Mason handles the final scene well naturally inserting just a little bit of regret within the bitter man, but he hardly could make that ludicrous revelation work. This is still very compelling work from Mason, and I do think the whole film would have been disposable if it were not for him.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1945: Edward G. Robinson in Scarlet Street

Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Christopher Cross in Scarlet Street.

Scarlet Street is Fritz Lang's followup to The Woman in Window which once again reunites Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, who was Lang's go to guy for a slime ball in the mid 40's. The film is a fairly strong film noir of sorts about a sleaze ball couple trying to manipulate an older man. My only problem with it is that Robinson and Duryea are considerably more interesting performers than Bennett, although she is better here than she was in her previous collaboration with Lang.

Robinson is out of his most known mold again here as the overly aptly named Christopher Cross who is an aged cashier who by chance comes across a young woman after he stops her from an apparent mugging. Where Robinson in his earlier effort in Lang played his character as an old man who just really was too old to get involved with such a plot, here Robinson has a completely meek role which is certainly different than his usual type of character. Robinson though is very interesting in his performance and changes his usual screen presence. Where Robinson usually plays parts with a firm voice and strong intensity in him here Robinson appropriately switches to a weaker somewhat wavering speech pattern, and in general his physical state is far more retiring than usual.

Christopher is a rather pathetic sort who we find being pushed around by his wife constantly, and his only solace is to pursue the younger woman who he fails to realize is just trying to extort as much money out of him as possible for some feigned affection. Robinson manages to be quite moving as Chris because although his intent is definitely to commit adultery he makes it easy to see that all Chris is looking for is some genuine affection from someone which he never gets from his wife and thinks he can get from this young woman. Robinson plays up the meekness just enough so that Chris does not become a parody, but makes it it extremely easy to see why it is that Chris is so easily tricked by always emphasizing that desire for some sort of greater comfort.

The only time that Christopher seems truly happy is when he painting or discussing painting, and Robinson pulls away the meekness to exemplify a stronger passion within the man, although never stronger enough to really come right out and do something for himself. Robinson is very effective by giving the truth to the situation as Christopher continually is mistreated over and over again and he basically just keeps going more and more. Robinson makes Christopher's yearning something very strong within Christoper as there is always a certain earnestness within him, yet at the same time he shows it as something that weakens him as the yearning forces him to do basically anything that he will believe will finally fulfill him.

Robinson finds the right dynamic for Chris in his early scenes and builds the intensity until soon enough that Christopher finds he has been misused the entire time, which leads him to the murder. Although I do think the scene he is earned by Robinson I do feel Lang's does not quite give the scene the impact it should have by the way it seems to rushed. Technically it could have either been faster paced for the purpose of being more dramatic or slower to build to the moment a little more but Lang's takes a slightly awkward approach which weakens Robinson's performance a bit. Luckily though the film immediately picks up afterwards though as for once in the 40's a murderer not only gets away with it even allows another man to be executed for it.

Christopher despite avoiding execution hardly gets to enjoy much of it as he losing his wife, his job, and can't even take credit for his paintings that have become popular lest it lead him to the execution chamber. Robinson's is excellent in these final scenes of the film as he portrays the complete degradation of Chris as he has to deal with both the guilt of his crime but as well be haunted by the fact that no one actually ever cared for him. It is remarkable to see Robinson play such a vulnerable cahracter but he absolutely pulls it off and creates a palatable despair in his characterization making it so the ending the film has the needed impact that was a bit lacking in the murder scene. This is a strong piece of work by Edward G. Robinson and proves his abilities went beyond the fierce quick talkers he is known for.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1945

And the Nominees Were Not:

Jean-Louis Barrault in Children of Paradise

Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter

Cornel Wilde in Leave Her to Heaven 

James Mason in The Seventh Veil

Edward G. Robinson in Scarlet Street

Monday, 24 February 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Results

5. Samuel West in Howard's End- West handles his part well, but he fails to leave that much of a lasting impression.

Best Scene: Bast first meets the Schlegel sisters. 
4. Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs- Buscemi gives a good performance by giving a realistic depiction of a man who strives to be professional above all else.

Best Scene:  The Mexican standoff.
3. Richard Harris in Unforgiven- Harris gives a strong performance by nicely building up his character's prim pompousness just to have it cut down.

Best Scene: English Bob and Little Bill meet once again. 
2. Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross- Just one great monologue and he delivers it flawlessly.
1. Paul McGann in Alien 3- Good Predictions Michael McCarthy and Psifonian Although it was never in question who would take this year overall, it should be noted that McGann gives a great portrayal of uncontrollable madness.

Best Scene: Golic apologizes for a killing.
Overall Rank:
  1. Gene Hackman in Unforgiven
  2. Paul McGann in Alien 3
  3. Ray Wise in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  4. Al Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross
  5. Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross
  6. Richard Harris in Unforgiven
  7. Charles Dance in Alien 3 
  8. Morgan Freeman in Unforgiven 
  9. Fred Gwynne in My Cousin Vinny
  10. Ed Harris in Glengarry Glen Ross 
  11. Charles S. Dutton in Alien 3
  12. Wesley Snipes in The Waterdance
  13. Robin Williams in Aladdin 
  14. Kevin Spacey in Glengarry Glen Ross 
  15. William Forsythe in The Waterdance 
  16. David Bowie in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  17. Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs
  18. Harry Dean Stanton in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 
  19. Tom Skerritt in A River Runs Through It
  20. Sydney Pollack in Husbands and Wives
  21. Graham Greene in Thunderheart
  22. Stephen Fry in Peter's Friends
  23. Frank Silva in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  24. Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game
  25. Kevin Kline in Chaplin
  26. Saul Rubinek in Unforgiven
  27. J.T. Walsh in A Few Good Men 
  28. Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own
  29. Courtney B. Vance in One False Move
  30. Alan Arkin in Glengarry Glen Ross 
  31. Ray Wise in Bob Roberts 
  32. Kenneth Branagh in Peter's Friends
  33. Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs 
  34. Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  35. Jonathan Pryce in Glengarry Glen Ross
  36. Samuel West in Howard's End
  37. Lawrence Tierney in Reservoir Dogs 
  38. Tony Todd in Candyman
  39. Anthony Wong in Hard Boiled
  40. Pete Postlethwaite in Alien 3 
  41. Liam Neeson in Husbands and Wives
  42. Hugh Laurie in Peter's Friends
  43. Giancarlo Esposito in Bob Roberts
  44. Sam Shepard in Thunderheart
  45. Kiefer Sutherland in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  46. Jeff Goldblum in Deep Cover
  47. West Studi  in The Last of the Mohicans
  48. Dana Ashbrook in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  49. Anthony Hopkins in Dracula
  50. Dana Carvey in Wayne's World 
  51. Lenny von Dohlen in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 
  52. Alan Rickman in Bob Roberts
  53. Chris Penn in Reservoir Dogs
  54. Ray Walston in Of Mice and Men
  55. Tom Waits in Dracula 
  56. Chris Isaak in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  57. Tim Curry in Home Alone 2
  58. Sidney Poitier in Sneakers
  59. Russell Means in The Last of the Mohicans
  60. Oliver Platt in Beethoven
  61. Stanley Tucci in Beethoven 
  62. Al Freeman Jr. in Malcolm X
  63. Fred Ward in The Player
  64. James Earl Jones in Sneakers
  65. James Woods in Chaplin
  66. Jim Broadbent in The Crying Game  
  67. Peter Ustinov in Lorenzo's Oil
  68. Rob Campbell in Unforgiven
  69. Kevin Bacon in A Few Good Men  
  70. Woody Allen in Husbands and Wives
  71. Stephen Tobolowsky in Sneakers
  72. Delroy Lindo in Malcolm X
  73. Billy Bob Thornton in One False Move
  74. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Scent of a Woman 
  75. Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men
  76. Anthony James in Unforgiven
  77. Rob Lowe in Wayne's World 
  78. David Lynch in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 
  79. J.T. Walsh in Hoffa
  80. Donald Sutherland in Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  81. Danny Webb in Alien 3
  82. Joe Pesci in Home Alone 2 
  83. Rutger Hauer in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  84. David Strathairn in Sneakers
  85. Gilbert Gottfried in Aladdin  
  86. River Phoenix in Sneakers 
  87. Paul Reubens in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  88. David Paymer in Mr. Saturday Night 
  89. Frank Whaley in Hoffa
  90. Ralph Brown in Alien 3 
  91. Jared Harris in The Public Eye
  92. Ian Watkin in Dead Alive
  93. Philip Chan in HardBoiled
  94. Eddie Bracken in Home Alone 2 
  95. Edward Bunker in Reservoir Dogs
  96. Eric Schweig in The Last of the Mohicans
  97. Ben Kingsley in Sneakers
  98. Vincent D'Onofrio in The Player
  99. Jonathan Freeman in Aladdin
  100. Richard E. Grant in The Player
  101. Philip Kwok in Hard Boiled
  102. Forest Whitaker in The Crying Game 
  103. David Strathairn in A League of Their Own
  104. Lance Henriksen in Alien 3
  105. Robert Prosky in Far and Away
  106. Mako in Sidekicks
  107. Wayne Knight in Basic Instinct
  108. James Rebhorn in Scent of a Woman 
  109. Miguel Ferrer in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  110. Richard E. Grant in Dracula
  111. Peter Gallagher in The Player 
  112. Dan Aykroyd in Sneakers
  113. Harvey Keitel in Sister Act 
  114. William Forsythe in American Me
  115. Brian Doyle-Murray in Wayne's World
  116. Daniel Stern in Home Alone 2
  117. Anthony Hopkins in Chaplin 
  118. Rupert Graves in Damage
  119. Stephen Weber in Single White Female
  120. Cary Elwes in Dracula
  121. Christopher Walken in Batman Returns
  122. George Dzundza in Basic Instinct
  123. Michael Beach in One False Move
  124. Wolfgang Bodison in A Few Good Men 
  125. Jaimz Woolvett in Unforgiven 
  126. James Wilsby in Howard's End
  127. Kevin Pollack in A Few Good Men
  128. Ralph Maccio in My Cousin Vinny
  129. Ralph Brown in The Crying Game 
  130. Fernando Rey in 1492 Conquest of Paradise
  131. Maurice Roeves in The Last of the Mohicans
  132. Billy Campbell in Dracula
  133. Dean Jones in Beethoven
  134. Dan Aykroyd in Chaplin
  135. John Heard in Home Alone 2
  136. Jonathan Brandis in Ladybugs 
  137. Ron Silver in Mr. Saturday Night
  138. Armand Assante in 1492 Conquest of Paradise 
  139. Bradley Whitford in Scent of a Woman 
  140. Steven Bauer in Raising Cain
  141. Casey Siemaszko in Of Mice and Men
  142. Kiefer Sutherland in A Few Good Men
  143. Victor Garber in Light Sleeper
  144. Stephen Tobolowsky in Single White Female
  145. Chuck Norris in Sidekicks
  146. Beau Bridges in Sidekicks 
  147. Gregory Sierra in Deep Cover
  148. Thomas Gibson in Far and Away
  149. Quentin Tarantino in Reservoir Dogs 
  150. Spike Lee in Malcolm X
  151. Pauly Shore in Encino Man
  152. Charles Martin Smith in Deep Cover 
  153. Danny DeVito in Batman Returns
  154. Michael DeLuise in Encino Man
  155. Joe Piscopo in Sidekicks
  156. Keanu Reeves in Dracula
Next Year: 1945 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Samuel West in Howard's End

Samuel West did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Bafta, for portraying Leonard Bast in Howard's End.

Howard's End is a very fine adaptation of the novel which tells the story of three families through the exchanging of a house Howard's End that goes from person to person.

Each of the families in Howard's End represents a different class of Edwardian England. The Wilcox family being the very wealthy upper class, the Schlegel sisters being the bourgeoisie, and Bast being the lower class. Of course it is a relative lower class for Bast as he is a white collar lower class still as he does not look poor when you look right at him, but unlike those above him money seems to be an actual concern for him. West plays Bast very much in the appropriate style that most of the actors employ. The style being firmly in that Edwardian bent where emotions are to be very specifically expressed, and even when one's emotions become more volatile it's still to be done in a fairly repressed way that still must keep one's proper manner intact at all times.

The Edwardian confines are an interesting challenge for any actor because it is up to them to not simply be dull in his portraying this particular style of person, and as well attempt to see what they can do below the surface with the work. West technically gets a little more wiggle room with Bast as he is one of the more emotional characters, although still not that emotional. West definitely is good in coming up with that Edwardian reserve as he always seems at least slightly constrained in some way, as a good Edwardian should even though he is technically an emotional fellow. West is effective in always keeping that a mostly proper stance, and when there is something for him to be a little more emotional about West is effective in stressing a stronger intensity in these moments to basically show a strong repression.

Bast comes in and out of the film usually being roped along by the whims of the the Schlegel sisters who think they are helping Bast, but he continually finds himself off in slowly worse circumstances. There are few moments where Bast takes exception with them but they are played as very Edwardian by West which certainly is the way they should be played. For the most part though West plays Bast as a man who just is slowly getting more and more depressed over his situation. He plays it as a particularly inward bound depression as he just seems to sunken from the inside. This does not change even when he has an affair with one of the sisters as the film seems to play it that she does this in part because of his rather miserable state both financially and emotionally.

 West handles his dissolution of the man well enough to even the point that his sudden exit at the end of the film can even be believed rather easily. West's work here is a good performance which firmly stands within the realm of the Edwardian culture. I don't see this as a particularly great performance though as he never quite stands out really all that much with his performance. It's a good enough performance in that I have no real complaints and he definitely gets across exactly what should be gotten across in regards to Bast as a character. It's fine work but just fine. There is perhaps there could have been ground gained with the character it is hard to say, but either way I find that his performance is more than adequate but also pretty easy to forget.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Richard Harris in Unforgiven

Richard Harris did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying English Bob in Unforgiven.

One of the aspects of Unforgiven that I love is that it is far more than a revenge story as it delves into the whole idea of what means to be a gunfighter. Where this aspect of the film really starts is the appearance of English Bob played by Richard Harris. Richard Harris is an actor I've always liked, you'd certainly be hard pressed to name an actor more entertaining in an interview than him, and this gets to be a somewhat showboating performance from him at least when we are introduced to English Bob. English Bob is riding a train and espousing his views on the recent shooting of President Garfield. Harris plays the role with all proper diction and refinement making sure he puts the English in English Bob to its fullest extent, and proving himself just as capable as playing a gentleman as he would thug.

Harris has some fun with the role, and is pretty entertaining in portraying Bob as a man who is purposefully tying to pick a fight with others with his pompous demeanor. Harris in his opening scene creates the ego brilliantly of the man as you can see his great joy he takes in proving himself superior to others. Harris does more than that though by suggesting exactly what Bob is which is a killer underneath all his fine clothing. My favorite moment of his in this scene is when one of the men is taking offense to Bob and another warns him of Bob's history as a gunfighter. Harris is steely gaze is perfect as he suggests in just that moment the deadly abilities of Bob, and that yes indeed Bob would not really mind cutting down a few lesser sorts if they wanted to start something even if it is over whether or not America should have a monarch.

English Bob's destination is the town of Old Whiskey where the local prostitutes are offering a bounty against some men who cut one of them. As Bob still continues on in his pompous way into town even having too much delight in pretending to shoot a few bystanders Harris. He continues on in this way though until he finds himself surrounded by deputies and the sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). Harris and Hackman are great in this scene as they play just the right casual antagonism that instantly reinforces the fact that Bob and Little Bill go way back, although not as old chums to be sure. Harris is great in the scene though by keeping Bob calm and cool and still rather genial as a good gentleman should be as he gives up his first gun. This end in one of my favorite moments of he film though and that is when Daggett asks for one more gun hidden in Bob's coat.

Harris's reaction to that moment is absolutely flawless and I love because not only is it a terrific ah hell sort of face but also Harris shows all that English gentlemen act just completely drain out of him in a moment. He gets drained more thoroughly out of him when Little Bill beats the living tar out of him and locks him in jail for the night. Inside the prison Hackman of course owns the scene as he just about owns the film with his unquestionably the greatest supporting performance of 1992, yeah don't worry, but that should not diminish what Harris still does in the scene. Of course Harris is limited by that he must be writhing in pain, which Harris does well, but his silent reactions to the true revelation of the west are all very well handled as only with his face Harris suggests Bob being somewhat ashamed about what he has done in the past that really does live up to his present image he likes to present.

One of the best moments of the film, again this is a great film so I can say that a lot, is when Little Bill has Bob's biographer (Saul Rubinek) try pulling the trigger of gun which he balks at, but then decides try for Bob's hand in it. It is one of Hackman's most incredible moment as he goes from an amiable warmth to completely chilling in a moment, but Harris does not slouch either. Harris also brings out the killer side in Bob at the same moment as he approaches the gun, and is very effective though in showing that Bob does know to accept defeat. Bob then is sent on his not so merry way with Harris leaving Bob as taken down many notches from his entrance. This is relatively short performance but he so nicely adds to the film in just the right way. The film is not about English Bob, but Harris realizes him as another part of the complex West that Unforgiven portrays.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Paul McGann in Alien 3

Paul McGann did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Golic in Alien 3.

Alien 3 tends to be a heavily bashed film, but I rather dug it even if some of the visual effects are quite poor. I suppose maybe if you've seen Aliens first though you probably will take exception to the instant demise of the characters from Aliens, but Sigourney Weaver's great performance alone should stop this film from being instantly dismissed. Then again I've only watched the apparently superior assembly cut.

The film though should not be dismissed anyway though as I was surprised by the strong performances from most of the supporting actors particularly Charles Dance's kind yet troubled doctor, Charles S. Dutton's strong willed spiritual leader of the prisoners, and of course Paul McGann as Golic one of the most troublesome inmates on the planet. At the beginning of the film Golic is a formerly deranged killer, although he has since mellowed out through the religion of the men, but even with that he still seems a bit off to say the least and the other inn mates still do not exactly jump to have to be around him. The role of Golic is technically one of pure insanity even when he is saner at the beginning of the film as he is completely mentally unhinged man, since even among killers and rapists he seems crazy.

This type of role is a ripe one for all sorts of overacting and in most cases it probably would not help that it is also a sci-fi horror film where sometimes actors take an excuse to act extremely poorly. McGann's performance though is a revelation as I think he gives better portrayal of insanity and mental disability than many actors who play those sort of roles in more "serious minded" films. McGann is only ever Golic with this performance as he resists any moment to overact, and even though his portrayal is technically speaking acting at its most extreme you really won't notice it because of  how good McGann is in the role. The way he moves, the way he talks, and all of his little physical tics all are made by McGann as part of Golic and it is quite a fascinating performance to watch.

The Alien makes mince meat out of a few of the prisoners with Golic being the only survivor out of the small group of men, and we get a bit of a different horror reaction out of McGann. It's still a reaction of fear, but McGann is remarkable in showing an already deranged man become more deranged. The scene technically is pretty simple as it is just a few men getting killed with Golic having to react and then run away as fast as possible can after seeing the monster. It is made incredibly memorable by McGann keeping with his character in the moment. When Golic runs in from fright it is quite different as the man also reverts at the same time. It's an outstanding moment for McGann as it is fascinating to see him pull off the mental decay of Golic so exceptionally well in his portrayal of the change of Golic.

In the early scene McGann made Golic as quite insane but properly reflected the effect of the prison in him which made him a repressed insanity although still insane. Once Golic sees the alien though McGann holds nothing back in turning Golic into a man completely controlled by his derangement and it is something to behold. McGann turns Golic into a mostly gibbering mess though its amazing because he actually goes to edge without faulting once giving a startling depiction that honestly makes the idea of the alien more frightening through his performance than the alien really is in this film. Golic only continues in the wrong direction when he once again witnesses the monster, who does not kill him and something sets off in him as he seems to worship the alien which McGann is completely convincing in Golic's captivation.

Ripley and the other convicts manage to trap the Alien but Golic sets to free what he sees as his savior of sorts. Again Golic's whole scene could have been nothing but it is astonishing because of McGann's fervent depiction of the uncontrollable craziness. McGann never becomes one note even the character is technically one element but McGann never gives into one set attitude but rather is compelling through the randomness of Golic's mind. One of the most disturbing moments is just before Golic releases the alien as he kills the man guarding the door. McGann does not do cold, but is more disconcerting by showing Golic genuinely repentant toward the act. It might seem bizarre but McGann only leaves it as part of who Golic is.

The role of Golic is actually pretty much a throwaway part, and I find it very easy to see how a lesser performance would have treated the character as just an excuse to act wacky for awhile or really been a completely forgettable character all together. This is particularly noticeable in that apparently in the theatrical release it is just assumed that he dies off screen, and even in the version I saw Golic still is fairly quickly done away with and off screen but with an actual reason. I frankly would have wished for Golic to continue into the film as McGann's performance is such an interesting portrait of insanity to watch. He gives it his all and he only succeeds in giving vivid life to his character's madness.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs

Steve Buscemi did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning an Independent Spirit Award, for portraying Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs.

Mr. Pink is the only jewel thief who is not compromised in some way Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) becomes too much of a mentor to Mr. Orange, which is a problem because Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) spoiler is very compromised because he is a cop,  Mr. Blonde(Michael Madsen) might know how to get things done but he is very problematic because of his psychotic behavior, Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) is too busy being a red herring, and Mr. Brown is very compromised not because not only does he die soon after the robbery he's also unfortunately played by Quentin Tarantino. That leaves Mr. Pink, the non-tipper, as the only man who really wants to be a professional even after the job has gone seriously wrong.

Steve Buscemi is an actor who does not really need to convince you that he is criminal through any sort of performance technique, he just naturally has that shady look about him. Well Buscemi does not toy with this in anyway for sure and fits together will the very well cast array of crooks in the film. Buscemi though has the right demeanor in his performance during the various flashbacks in the films that reveal what the men were doing before they went to the robbery. Buscemi even here carries the right relaxed approach that suggests Pink's calmer nature. How Buscemi does this though is portray Pink as a man rather relaxed in his circumstances who treats the upcoming proceedings as just a thing he does from day to day being a professional and all.

Buscemi is very good and even rather enjoyable by taking this approach in the flashbacks and does well not to oversell the more humorous lines he has. In his own monologue about his preference not to tip Buscemi plays it very to the point in a realistic fashion. In doing so he is very effectively setting up Pink as a naturally calculating sort, and looking at things too much is just his way of doing things. The same goes for when they are assigned the name and he is forced to take exception with the color choice given to him. Buscemi makes the reaction appropriately amusing by once again delivering it naturally as possible making basically the reaction that most men would have after being given the unfortunate name he is given.

His demeanor of course changes quite severely though once they make it to the warehouse after the botched robbery. Buscemi is extremely effective in bringing the needed intensity to the situation. He plays Pink very well by giving the right agitation as well volatility in his performance that sums of the feelings of man who does not know what's going on but wants to. Buscemi's best moments are when Pink reacts to the more extreme behavior by some of his cohorts. Buscemi's reactions are perfect in expressing the disbelief of the others, and reinforces always the fact that Pink is a professional above else. My favorite moment of his has to be his strained plea during the Mexican standoff that sums up how a sane man would view the insane situation quite nicely.

Buscemi's work is all together a solid work that adds to the film nicely and fulfills Pink's part of the dynamic of men incredibly well. I would not describe this as one of those supporting performances that steals the film though. He is indeed my favorite out of the cast, but that is not to say he always makes the strongest impression in every scene, I would say he makes the strongest in many scenes but not all. I don't want to sound like I am really criticizing Buscemi in anyway though as he handles the material just as he should, and really the only thing that really holds him back is the nature of the film. It's a very good performance by Buscemi although his best portrayal of a criminal would come as a less professional sort.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross

Alec Baldwin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Glengarry Glen Ross has a terrific ensemble from Jack Lemmon's leading work, that I still scratch my head over how he failed to get any awards traction for, Pacino rightfully nominated turn, Ed Harris's portrayal of the loudmouth who blames everyone but himself, Kevin Spacey as one of the most punchable characters ever written, and Alan Arkin and Jonathan Pryce do some strong work as well in their smaller roles as rather meek men. Baldwin is actually only in one scene in the film early on as a motivational speaker of sorts who is sent by the men at the head office to "inspire" the salesmen who have been in a bit of slump. This role was not in the original play, and apparently written specifically for Baldwin to perform in the film.

Baldwin only has one scene yet his monologue is consistently one of the most mentioned aspects of the film. There is a reason for this as it is brilliantly written by David Mamet to be sure, but it is also brilliantly played by Baldwin. Blake begins his rant by basically bringing silence to the room and stating firmly that Lemmon's Shelley Levene is not allowed coffee because only closers can I have coffee. Closers referring to those salesman who manage to actually sell the properties they are hocking and close the deal completely. Baldwin starts like a military commander who has a serious bug up a certain part of his body as Blake verbally abuses all of the men without hesitation. Baldwin delivery and demeanor is fierce as if Blake could burst into violence at any moment although he won't it is the level of intensity that Baldwin brings to the role.

Baldwin's makes every insult sting just as it should and perfectly exemplifies the severity of the situation for the salesman by showing just how stinking uncaring Baldwin plays Blake as. Of course the viciousness Baldwin brings to the part is entertaining and gets the point across quite brutally, but I don't think it would be as memorable if he did not also bring across the more inspiring aspects of the speech. Well inspiring so to speak, as the reason Blake is there is to inspire them not to go make them go into despair, although the two can be confused but that's definitely the point. Baldwin makes the right changes in tone at the right moments such as when he seems to lighten up ever so slightly when asking Levene if he is going to grab those opportunities that are so obvious, or when he quiets down a little bit for some more direct humiliation for Ed Harris's character.

The film obviously continues for some time after Baldwin leaves as he has no additional scenes or even reminders in the script that callback to his character. Baldwin has just the one scene to call his own, but boy does he call it his own. Baldwin does not waste a second of the monologue and gives it the tremendous  impact it should have setting what it is that the men are up against really, but as well just being a scene that is great to watch. Baldwin's performance is fitting to the strength of the writing and the two come together in a most beautiful and brutal tandem. Although he has only one scene Baldwin still makes himself one of the very best parts of the film. With all the great moments it could have been easy to forget this one, that definitely does not happen though and it is no surprise that this is the most remembered scene of the film.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992

And the Nominees Were Not:

Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross

Paul McGann in Alien 3

Richard Harris in Unforgiven

Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs

Samuel West in Howard's End

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2013: Results

5. Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners- Gyllenhaal gives probably his best performance in his full depiction of a detective investigating a terrible crime in both the official process but also the emotional impact.

Best Scene: Loki rushes to the hospital.
4. Joaquin Phoenix in Her- Phoenix gives a nice counterpoint to his great performance in the Master with his warm and endearing portrayal of a lonely man.

Best Scene:  Theodore begins his romantic relationship with Samantha.
3. Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips- Hanks gives an excellent turn underplaying nicely while keeping the intensity of the film, then absolutely bringing the emotional power to his final scene.

Best Scene: Phillips goes into shock.
2. Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis- Isaac gives a fantastic performance as a jerk by realizing him fully as a person from the great amount of heart he puts into his music, to his less savory qualities off the stage. 

Best Scene: Fare Thee Well
1. James McAvoy in Filth- This year was amazing for lead actor and that's all there is to it. It really explains the strength of the Academy lineup because honestly it was just too difficult to really mess up, although they still managed to ever so slightly, as it seemed everyone was on top their game. Even Christian Bale the weakest of the nominees gave a great performance in Out of the Furnace to make up for it seems. My favorite of all theses great and often career best performances is James McAvoy's performance in Filth. I love every moment of this insane work that is a great achievement in dark comedy, but also an equally tragic turn at the same time.

Best Scene: The ending.
Overall Rank:
  1. James McAvoy in Filth
  2. Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
  3. Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis
  4. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
  5. Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips
  6. Bruce Dern in Nebraska
  7. Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
  8. Joaquin Phoenix in Her
  9. Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners
  10. Christoph Waltz in The Zero Theorem
  11. Christian Bale in Out of the Furnace 
  12. Michael Shannon in The Iceman
  13. Tye Sheridan in Mud
  14. Robert Redford in All is Lost
  15. Vithaya Pansringarm in Only God Forgives
  16. Sam Rockwell in A Single Shot
  17. Simon Pegg in The World's End 
  18. Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines
  19. Lee Jung-jae in New World
  20. Chris Evans in Snowpiercer 
  21. Jude Law in Side Effects
  22. Tony Leung Chiu Wai in The Grandmaster
  23. Steve Coogan in Philomena
  24.  Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station
  25. Bradley Cooper in The Place Beyond the Pines
  26. Martin Freeman in The Hobbit
  27. Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3
  28. Daniel Bruhl in Rush
  29. Josh Brolin in Oldboy 
  30. Matt Damon in Elysium
  31. Benedict Cumberbatch in The Fifth Estate
  32. Dane Dehaan in The Place Beyond the Pines
  33. Michael Fassbender in The Counselor
  34. Casey Affleck in Ain't Them Bodies Saints
  35. Will Forte in Nebraska
  36. Christian Bale in American Hustle
  37. Chris Hemsworth in Rush
  38. Dane Dehaan in Kill Your Darlings
  39. Chadwick Boseman in 42
  40. Henry Cavill in Man of Steel
  41. Chris Hemsworth in Thor 2
  42. Chris Pine in Star Trek Into Darkness
  43. Hugh Jackman in Prisoners
  44. Charlie Hunnam in Pacific Rim
  45. Denzel Washington in 2 Guns 
  46. Vin Diesel in Fast & Furious 6
  47. Zachary Quinto in Star Trek Into Darkness 
  48. Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  49. Mark Wahlberg in Pain & Gain
  50. Daniel Bruhl in The Fifth Estate
  51. Forest Whitaker in The Butler
  52. Dwayne Johnson in G.I. Joe
  53. Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives
  54. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Don Jon
  55. Mark Wahlberg in 2 Guns 
  56. Daniel Radcliffe in Kill Your Darlings
  57. Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Escape Plan
  58. Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine
  59. Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Stand
  60. Sylvester Stallone in The Escape Plan
  61. Mark Wahlberg in Lone Survivor
Next Year: 1992 supporting

Alternate Best Actor 2013: Joaquin Phoenix in Her

Joaquin Phoenix did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Theodore Twombly in Her.

Her tells the love story between a man and the artificial intelligence that runs his computer. I quite liked the film although I suppose I was not quite as enraptured as some.

Joaquin Phoenix after his Oscar nominated performance in the Master as Freddie Quell and once again he plays a wounded man. Theodore Twombly's wounds though amount to very little compared to whatever it was that haunted Quell so deeply, but Theodore definitely is somewhat off after breaking up with his wife. Phoenix sets up making Theodore a much more approachable sort of a man, but perhaps just a particular and peculiar of one at the same time. Phoenix does proceed to go out on another limb as Theodore although this time it is a much unassuming way than with Quell, and with a far different goal. Technically both film at least in part about the soul searching of one man, but in this case the soul searching seems much more pleasant for all involved, and really much less pressing of a matter to be sure.

Anyway Phoenix once again is terrific in his creation of Twombly as a man that goes far more than just wearing the rather strange futuristic version of pants. Phoenix sets out in making Theodore, who spends his days writing romantic cards for other people's loved ones, as a particularly nebbish and sensitive sort. With the way he pushes his glass, and the way he always retires away from people Phoenix rather naturally sets up the shy nature of the man. He continues with the choice of accent and manner of speaking he uses. In The Master Phoenix made it so Quell was a man who hesitated since he seemed to suffer from every word he spoke, again Phoenix makes every word an effort but in a different way. It is not it pains him to say the word, but rather paints Theodore's manner of speaking as if he is quickly writing what he will say in his head before he says it.

The creation of Theodore is used quite differently than Quell though and this is a much warmer performance by Phoenix. Although technically speaking there are many things going on with Phoenix's turn here as he does many things to make Theodore who he is, they never become noticeable outside of Theodore. Phoenix makes them a natural part of the man, and merely Phoenix uses his various physical tics to amplify the nature of Theodore which is that of a shy and somewhat depressed man. These qualities in Theodore are essential for the character particularly as the film continues into stranger territory. It is easy to completely believe Phoenix as this retiring sort of man, and that is exactly what is needed once Theodore starts to use his own artificial intelligence Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) who definitely seems to have a mind of her own. 

The whole relationship that quickly grows into a romance between the man and the computer which is rather absurd to say the least to begin with, and only seems fitting for a certain episode of the Twilight Zone starring Wally Cox. In that episode the relationship was more that of a femmefatale who slowly broke the man down to his wits end with all of her manipulations, this time the relationship is much more gentle in nature to say the least. The whole concept could pretty much break down instantly if it were not for Phoenix's way of setting up Theodore before he starts the relationship. The neediness and vulnerability that Phoenix conveys so well in his early scenes and that wounded quality he has about, Phoenix makes Theodore a man who you could honestly see date his operating system.

When the relationship first starts they do seem to be perfect together as they seem to love just talking together and doing everything together. They seem in perfect synergy with one another and to be sure Phoenix has great chemistry with the voice simply by portraying the happiness in Theodore in such an unabashed fashion. Phoenix, who definitely had none to give in his previous performance in The Master, offers a fair about a tenderness with his work particularly expressed through his face. Phoenix's portrayal of Theodore's happiness is especially endearing and because Phoenix is able to show Theodore to be so honestly happy it is far easier to accept the relationship between the two as something that at the very least is therapeutic for him as he no longer seems wounded. 

As the relationship proceeds there are some problems that certainly develop because obviously she has no actual physical body, but as well after he meets with his estranged wife who basically confronts him with the fact that its only the perfect relationship for him because he does not have to deal with a real woman. Phoenix is very effective in basically losing the intensity of the love and happiness in the early scenes as he begins to sew in the seeds of doubt into himself, and the problems begin to arise. Phoenix brings down Theodore's high very naturally and rather moving as we see him lose that magical quality the two seemed to have together in the beginning. Phoenix does not fall in one instance but after the first point of doubt Phoenix is exceptionally in showing it to be a downhill slide although still with some ups and downs.

Phoenix's performance is absolutely captivating here as he so authentically goes through this unusual relationship with the mix of both the bizarre and the real. The direction of the film often relies on Phoenix to carry a scene through just the image of his face as he reacts to Samantha. Phoenix is able to meet this challenge as he simply is Theodore in the film and any every change in him always feel the natural progression of both the man and his relationship with Her. Phoenix brings such a poignancy in every moment of the upside of whenever it seems like it is making Theodore a more complete person. Phoenix though is equally heartbreaking and quite believable in his depiction of Theodore's more pained reactions when it appears that his relationship with Samantha is far from unique as well is something that will not be lasting forever.

This year I seem to be handy out fives like candy corn to the actors, but really I don't have much of a choice. I see no reason to deny any of the performances that I have reviewed as they completely meet my qualifications for a five which is to meet or surpass the requirements of the role, depending on the complexity of the role as written, but as well just the extra something that makes an impact that makes me absolutely feel the greatness of the performance. That has been true of everyone I have reviewed so far, and this is also true for Joaquin Phoenix's performance in this film. His creation of Theodore is remarkable and creates a rather beautiful portrait of depressed man finding some sort of peace of mind. Phoenix fulfills his role and his greatness is evident in almost every frame thorough his technically very intensely acted performance, yet so wonderfully fitting for this film.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2013: Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite basically being nominated for every single other acting award, for portraying Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips.

Tom Hanks, the old academy favorite, found himself  not nominated for his work in this film despite the film being nominated for best picture and his co-star Barkhad Abdi being nominated for best supporting actor. I would say it is likely Hanks suffered probably the same fate Ben Affleck suffered in the previous year. with his best director snub. That is he probably seemed such a lock that many voters did not even bother to vote him which unfortunately allowed Christian Bale to get in over him. That is a really shame though that the Academy decided to finally snub Hanks for what would have been his best nominated work, and the greatness of their lineup would have been even more unquestionable.

Anyway Hanks plays an actual man Richard Phillips who was the commander of a unarmed transport freighter going through dangerous pirate territory. The early scenes of the film rely very much on Hanks just being the average sort of man who is just doing his job. Hanks is definitely good in setting up Phillips as a likable enough guy and gives his personal moments the investment they need just so we know where he coming from. When he gets on the ship Hanks is again very good in simply fulfilling what the role should be. He runs his ship not as some great hero or even great captain, but Hanks shows the casual atmosphere of it all by playing the scenes like any average boss with a fairly unassuming but somewhat scolding personality toward his crew to keep them on task.

Captain Phillips suffered some controversy for its portrayal of the Richard Phillips as many of his crew members actually stated he made several foolish actions and was not the hero the film portrays him as. Well I would say that neither the film, nor Hanks really try to make him out to be to be an overly heroic figure either. In fact throughout the showdown with the pirates it can easily be said that the film shows the crew doing most of the work to stop the pirates, and the film does show Phillips making some dumb decisions during the course. Also even though Tom Hanks, who has played several hero types in his time, does not really try to to play Phillips as a hero here, giving a more interesting approach by just reflecting the actions of a fairly average man in such a situation.

Once the pirates board Hanks is very effective in showing a man whose is trying to do his best to what he can to halt the pirates, while trying to keep the situation as calm as possible. Before the pirates come on Hanks is very good at simply showing the emotions as they come and bringing the intensity of the scene alive as he should. When the pirates do board Hanks is strong in the scene as he tries to keep his men together in his final announcement to them. Hanks doesn't play the scene as if he is the greatest commander of men, but honestly as a man trying to do his best to urge his crew and keep them together. The strongest moments of Hanks's performance though begin once he gets to start sharing scenes with Barkhad Abdi as the pirate leader Muse.

He and Abdi are both great together as they play off each other with a perfect precision as they basically have showdown through words as Muse tries to takeover the ship but finds it is harder than it appears. Hanks is very good in firstly always giving the reaction of a man who thinks he could die at any minute as we see the desperation and nervousness within him even if never completely overwhelms him. Hanks combines this well though with Phillips trying to pull his best Lance Henriksen in Dog Day Afternoon by trying to plant the seeds of doubts in the Pirates while trying to send information to the crew to make it so they can botch the pirates plans. Hanks is good in playing the act that Phillips actually plays which is that of the hapless dope who just seems to be accidentally messing the pirates up.

Hanks handles these scenes well by playing them shrewdly but not too shrewdly frankly. Hanks does not go about making Phillips a genius or an impeccable leader though but rather a guy who has thought of a few tricks to throw the pirates off. Hanks always keeps the pressure on his exchanges of looks between him are Abdi is great as Abdi shows that Muse does know that Phillips is up to something, but Hanks keeps Phillips looking at least slightly hapless, as just a guy who wants the pirates to leave with even the money from the ship's safe for their benefit. This continues once Phillips is captured by Muse and the other three pirates on the life boat as they go along toward Somalia but are quickly hounded by the navy which spells doom for the plans of the pirates.

Hanks adjusts his performance appropriately here as he does slowly build the fear in Phillips himself, even he does keep up his antics to mess with pirates, although Hanks brings just the right sympathy with his tone. Hanks carefully never goes too far with this as he properly still shows that Phillips is definitely exhibiting caution and rather effectively plays it as that Phillips is just thinking about his own safety as anyone would at that point. Inside the life boat I will say it is Abdi who really does steal the show as his becomes such an unforgettably portrait of a desperate man who just won't give up, but Hanks is never far behind keeping with him along the way. Hanks actually makes the right move here to not try to overwhelm Abdi's performance, but rather kinda like Rod Steiger in On the Waterfront, he amplifies the more emotionally volatile performance through his quieter work.

Of course at the end of the film there is the scene which most everyone talks about when praising Hanks's performance which what happens to Phillips after he is saved in a bloody rescue. It is a very performance heavy scene so to speak as Hanks shows Phillips completely in shock after the events on the lifeboat. It's technically ACTING at its most but all I can say is Hanks absolutely nails it without question. You do feel that Phillips is a man in shock in the scene and Hanks is quite powerful by simply giving fully into the scene. He drops anything else about Phillips and completely is in the portrayal of the shock and certainly creates an amazing and most memorable end to his great depiction of Captain Richard Phillips. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2013: James McAvoy in Filth

James McAvoy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson in Filth.

Filth is a rather insane  and extremely entertaining film about a Scottish detective who is intent on getting the single promotion most of his fellow Detectives are vying for.

You can forget about any ideas about the types of characters James McAvoy usually plays because they have no relevance with his portrayal of Detective Bruce Robertson in this film. This is one performance that is best to go beat by beat the first beat McAvoy shedding any ideas you might have about him being one of those pretty boy actors who wants to play the youthful go getter sort of guy. That's not Bruce that's not Bruce one bit. One of his earliest scenes is when he and the other detectives get the lowdown on a crime from their chief, and the first thing he does is fart just to start things off I suppose. Anyway though McAvoy whole portrayal is what makes it hilarious as he gives the not me face, and then the accusatory glance at the man sitting closest to him. I guess that kind of sets the tone but don't be fooled by just that.

McAvoy's work here is highly entertaining from this early scene where he gives the low down on each of his opponents for the promotion. McAvoy's narration is this is very much like Leonado DiCaprio's in The Wolf of Wall Street, which is to say it is not your typical Morgan Freeman type of delivery. McAvoy's like DiCaprio's has that same amorality suggested just in the way he speaks about seemingly important things with such irreverence in his attitude. Like DiCaprio this makes his narration very comedic to behold, but McAvoy perhaps has a little extra added to it through a sense of mischief in his delivery. In his narration McAvoy does not just show that he wants to get the promotion over his co-workers by humiliating them, he also suggests in his slightly joyful delivery that he is going to personally enjoy every minute of it.

McAvoy's brilliance in this role though does not stop with his narration or his comedic timing, not by a small margin. We also soon get a glimpse with Bruce on the job which he takes as the king of the city style approach. He and another one of the detectives bust two young people one who is underage. McAvoy has the right cynical dominance in the scene and we see Bruce in top form as he controls the situation without question. His two interrogations of the subjects are particularly notable as Bruce humiliates and tortures each of them in most unusual ways to derive what he wants from them again rather unusual things that he desires. McAvoy carries himself with a palatable menace in the scene and you can see why they would give it up. That would be enough but McAvoy twists it by having such a sinister face of glee the whole time.

It is really saying something, I must say, that Detective Bruce Robertson actually makes the Bad Lieutenant seem like a lightweight by comparison when it comes to being the dirtiest cop imaginable. Aside of pushing subjects around to get whatever he wants Bruce indulges in somethings so many things that perhaps even Jordan Belfort might take a moment to consider doing them. We get the usual thing like having sex with a co-workers wife, but uh not usually in this way no not this way at all. Old Bruce not only has sex with her but they also both participate in autoerotic asphyxiation with one another as they take turns choking it other with ropes while having sex of course. By the way James McAvoy's face is something to behold in these scenes not only is he hilarious in his expression somehow, but he does not cut back on the depravity.

In his indulgences McAvoy makes Bruce Robertson almost a force of nature of sorts as he goes constantly for any enjoyment that can be found for himself whether it be sex, drink, drugs, or just some sort of humiliation for someone else. McAvoy sells every scene to the fullest extent and he goes about showing Bruce extreme exuberance of the moment. When Bruce is indulging McAvoy does not show him to be a man who is just trying to have a good time, not not even the slightest. McAvoy makes it far more primal and far more intense with Bruce. When Bruce does any of it McAvoy suggests an unsatisfiable need within Bruce to do these things. It is not just because he likes it not even  even close really, no what Bruce does is something it appears that Bruce must have, which is essential in the later revelations of his character.

Well as it turns out Bruce is more of a mess than he even appears to be, and well he definitely seems like a mess to begin with so how much more a mess can he be. Well he is not just a man who would want to attend a party by Bacchus like Jordan Belfort, nah because Bruce actually does have a soul even though that may be rather hard to believe. We first view Bruce's heart when he attempts to help a dying man and it flashes quickly to show that Bruce himself is thinking of this dying boy. McAvoy's performance is surprisingly heart wrenching at times because he does portray Bruce as genuinely being haunted by this death in his past. McAvoy does not separate from the rest of the man though by any measure but rather suggest quite effectively that his outrageous behavior is in fact has been caused by this trauma.

McAvoy is a marvel to behold at times the way he intertwines these facets of Bruce so flawlessly together. There is not the disconnect as you would think there would be as McAvoy brings both sides of Bruce together as one man. One particularly amazing scene is when Bruce goes from harassing one of the suspects of the crime he must solve first in his typical way of badgering while having his combination of a sneer and smile. On his way out though he bumps into the grieving woman whose husband he had attempted to save earlier. The few seconds where he changes demeanor McAvoy is masterful as we see a tender side of Bruce revealed as he attempts to try to deal with her in an honest way. McAvoy's moment creates a decided kink in Bruce's armor of amorality and remarkably shows that Bruce is not really what he makes himself out to be.

As the film progresses slowly things begin to fall more and more apart for Bruce as less and less does it seem like he really has a grasp on the case he's suppose to be solving, or the promotion he wants, or even reality. McAvoy's falling apart is truly something to behold here because firstly it comes naturally because of the seeds of doubt he planted in the played of the earlier scenes of the more controlled Bruce, but as well because McAvoy still does not hold back for a moment whether it be the debauchery he still continues to participate in and his ever growing fragile state of mind. McAvoy is amazing because he still stays hilarious while creating substantial sympathy for the broken man that Bruce slowly reveals himself to be. McAvoy's absurdly fascinating to watch in this depraved decay as even a moment of phone sex becomes a mental breakdown for Bruce.

One thing that seems like a silver lining for Bruce are those dreamlike images of his smoking hot wife. Of course they are dreamlike for a reason. The spoiler truth behind Bruce is that he actually spends his nights dressing up in women's clothing walking the streets and believing himself to be his wife who has left him. This scene could have fallen into an instantly bad sort of parody of absurdity but McAvoy never let's that happen. He plays it so flawlessly by making the moment darkly comic in its very own way, but also deeply tragic. The most interesting part of it McAvoy weaves his performance so its both tragic and funny for the same reason which is how he ends up at this point. Its oddly comical because we see the "tough" Bruce who humiliates others devolve to this point, but it's terribly tragic because McAvoy believably makes this the actual broken psyche of this man.

This performance is all about the ups and downs of the bipolar Bruce as the slow reveal of just how extreme his sides are. My favorite moment perhaps is the very end of his performance which one again so brilliantly connects the man even while his actions seems so random. McAvoy begins the scene where Bruce trying to inspire his one friend (Eddie Marsan), and McAvoy is genuinely warm and tender in the moment. He then proceeds to utter defeat and is extremely heartbreaking in showing the last of the man and just the slight hesitation as he sees one of the bright spots in his life, and then it all ends so perfectly with one last smile and wink that ends it all with one more laugh. This is an outstanding performance by James McAvoy as he turns the broken man into a cohesive whole, and I loved watching every minute of it.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2013: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis

Oscar Isaac did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Llewyn Davis in Inside Llewyn Davis.

Inside Llewyn Davis is an excellent film that depicts a week in the life of a folk singer in the early 60's.

The last film by the Joel and Ethan Coen to deal with the life of an artist was Barton Fink about a playwright struggling with writer's block while working on a screenplay in Hollywood. In both films they really do not allow the artist to have any pretension. Barton Fink was portrayed as a writer who despite having success decries it for not finding the theater of the people, a place where the common man will tell their story yet he consistently interrupts a seemingly common man when he tries to tell the story. The less successful Llewyn Davis is the artist this time and again there is no pedestal that he is being place on by the film, although in this case it is not for slight delusions of grandeur but rather that Llewyn Davis is not a good man.

This is not a case of a villainous protagonist like Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood or Tatsuya Nakadai in The Sword of Doom, but it is perhaps is just as much of a challenge for Oscar Isaac as he must play essentially a jerk. The film stays with Llewyn throughout its course as well, and although there are definitely comic moments in the film that is not the only intent unlike say Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street who also played a jerk. Llewyn is a different breed of lout than Jordan Belfort, and Isaac has to meet the requirements of the role which is to make us not only follow Llewyn Davis but as well actually care about him throughout his week long journey depicted in the film which involves Llewyn suffering but as well making plenty of setbacks for himself.

Llewyn is a folk singer who seems to be perhaps on the fringe of some sort of success although part of his potential has been taken away because his old musical partner committed suicide leaving him to have to try and launch a solo career. There are some who recognize he has talents but no one in particularly really wants to pay him for said talents, although there are a few people willing to lend him their couch for him to stay on as he really does not live anywhere himself. Oscar Isaac is actually absolutely perfect in finding just the right way to play Llewyn in the film. He does not try to avoid portraying Llewyn as the questionable sort he is, but rather goes about embracing this factor as honestly as he can. Isaac does not try to make Llewyn sympathetic but rather he tries to make Llewyn just a man that you could actually meet in life.

Isaac simply is the part of a folk singer of the period there is not even a question of that in any regard. Firstly in the various musical scenes of the film Isaac is terrific in being the type of performer that Llewyn should be. As a folk singer this is not about a larger than life stage personality but rather the opposite in sort of purposefully presenting one self as kind of a man on the fringe of things. Isaac is very effective in portraying this style of performance and carries himself in a very authentic feeling fashion. When Llewyn performs Isaac throws himself into the moment in the right fashion. You can see the effort of the musical performance in Isaac's work, and most importantly in these scenes you can see a strong albeit low key passion that Isaac gives Llewyn in these scenes that properly reinforces the idea that Llewyn does care about his music.

Outside of performing Llewyn's songs is when the more obnoxious behavior of Llewyn begins to surface and it would have been very easy for the film to become rather unwatchable because of the fact that Llewyn is a jerk. Isaac does not shirk this fact but he is incredibly watchable, and it is exceedingly easy to follow him throughout the film. Isaac does have his own charisma that is effective and fitting in his folk singer sort of way, but that is not really what makes Isaac's performance work as well as it does. One thing that helps is Isaac's portrayal of the attitude of Llewyn during the film. Llewyn has a somber streak to him to be sure, but Isaac never makes him a man constantly feeling sorry for himself. Instead Isaac shows his behavior is often that he does not reflect on his behavior enough.

Isaac in part does make some of his uncouth behavior such as ignoring the fact that he is not wanted just to continually ask to be able to sleep on a couch. Isaac is funny whenever he needs to be like many of the great performances in Coen Brothers films, but this performance is not chiefly about the laughs, although it definitely is a nice bonus. What is most remarkably about his work is how authentic he is in his portrayal of Llewyn's attitude. He not especially forceful about it all the time rather he is a more realistic jerk in that he has such a relaxed attitude toward his behavior. He does not hesitate to say something, and even further than that Isaac shows Llewyn constant defense of his various actions just that of a man who just rather casually refuses to really look back on how his actions can hurt others.

One thing that really helps Isaac's performance though is that he does not make Llewyn amoral so to speak even though it would have been very easy for him to portrayed as such. Isaac is very careful though to give those very brief moments where it seems Llewyn could turn around. Llewyn never reflects enough on himself to ever say he is sorry, or change his ways, but Isaac is wonderful in showing that Llewyn could always almost do the right thing. One of the strongest moments in his performance is when Llewyn leaves his temporary companion cat behind in car even though its prospects for survival seems slim. Llewyn goes through with this despicable action, but Isaac in only his silent reaction really gives the moment the impact by suggesting that Llewyn does definitely thinks hard about doing the right thing but decides against it.

Isaac even though he plays a questionable character is actually able to make you sympathize with him because of how honest Isaac is with Llewyn Davis. The somber streak I noted earlier is one of these places where it is easy to sympathize with him, and it is the careful way that Isaac plays it. The truly morose moments in Llewyn are all carefully placed by Isaac and they are found when Llewyn has to remember his old partner who committed suicide. The film never says it directly that Llewyn misses his old friend but Isaac establishes this beautifully through his performance. Whenever Llewyn directly remembers something about him you can see in Isaac's portrayal an true reflection in Llewyn for once, and see that Llewyn's loss was more than simply his music career.

This is a great performance by Oscar Isaac, and one that I really just loved watching. Isaac is so naturally part of he atmosphere of the film yet he is never overwhelmed by it. Isaac is amazing in the role because he absolutely merely becomes Llewyn Davis for the course of it. Llewyn is far from a good man, and by the end of the film he really has not really learned any sort of a lesson rather staying as man in his circular pattern he seems to have developed. Watching the journey that Llewyn takes through film though you feel though you have spent time with an actual man in this life. He does not need to learn anything because well he should not really learn anything since it is opposed to a nature of this man, this man that Oscar Isaac vividly brings to life.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2013: Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners

Jake Gyllenhaal did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Detective Loki in Prisoners.

Prisoners shows the investigation of the kidnapping of two young girls by both the police and one of the girls's father. It is an interesting film, beautifully shot of course, with some strong moments, but it never quite comes together as well as it potentially could have.

The film follows closely the father Keller Dover played by Hugh Jackman as he goes down a questionable path of torture in attempt to find his child. The film though gives just as much focus to the investigation lead detective of the case played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Where the investigation of the father is a constantly emotionally charged affair, which makes sense, but even more so due to Jackman's performance. Hugh Jackman often seems to be an actor who, for better or for worse, seems to try to give one hundred and ten percent with his performances. That is definitely the case here where he technically hits the right notes with his performance but he hits them a little too hard at times sometimes unfortunately make his acting more noticeable than really what the character is going through.

Jake Gyllenhaal on the other hand gives a far more measured performance in his portrayal of Detective Loki who is a detective who has successfully solved all of his cases before the film begins. When we first meet him Gyllenhaal is very effective in portraying the process of the Loki. When he is talking to the family about the situation Gyllenhaal properly suggests that he definitely invested in the case and suggests the thought process as he asks the questions about the abduction. Gyllenhaal is careful to show the slight act when Dover starts to become increasingly emotional during the questioning. When Loki tells Dover that we need to relax Gyllenhaal is terrific because he shows that actual type of police training in him with the appropriate artifice as it is something Loki does in very specific situations.

Gyllenhaal finds the right balance in the role to make a fully believable portrait of a Detective in such a case. Gyllenhaal shows Loki as almost ever so slightly aloof early on and most of all very calm. Gyllenhaal brings the confidence of Loki's success in these early scenes, and does properly suggest that Loki knows what he is doing and is sticking to his procedure properly. Gyllenhaal even goes so far as to almost be even slightly humorous in his performance and keeps Loki somewhat lighthearted as he goes around investigating sexual deviants to try to narrow down the case. This is not Gyllenhaal making Loki to be some sort of lifeless jerk, but rather this instead reinforces the idea that Loki is very much a professional and taking many of the developments of the case in stride is his way of keeping on task.

Gyllenhaal also avoid any problems from this approach in the way he portrays Loki's reactions when there appear to be any dark developments in the case including things like a rotting corpse in a cellar or perhaps a boxes filled with snakes and some bloodied clothes. Gyllenhaal is excellent in any of these scenes because technically speaking he still keeps the police command of the situation as he does not show Loki to become some sort of nervous wreck or anything but he very effectively portrays the reaction of a normal man seeing what Loki must see. He makes every revelation and scene all the more intense and gives them a greater impact because of how just realistic he is in showing Loki's reaction. Gyllenhaal always feels spot on here and following him through the investigation is a compelling experience because of him.

The film follows Loki through the case but as well with dealing with the increasingly intense Dover who definitely seems to be hiding something from Loki. As the case slowly gets less understandable and more hopeless that the girls will be found Loki will of course becomes more invested. Gyllenhaal is remarkable though because he never cheats in his portrayal of this. In his scenes with Jackman Gyllenhaal still keeps the appropriate distance as he should, but as well as a strong coldness towards Dover's behavior. Gyllenhaal again conveys the professionalism of Loki as a detective that keeps him this way toward Dover. Gyllenhaal does properly suggest in convincing subtle fashion that he understands Dover, but also he very blunt in showing that Loki really believes that Dover's behavior in no way is helping the case. 

Away Dover, and appropriately so as the lead detective would not want to show any weakness to the victims, Gyllenhaal very naturally reveals and builds Loki's frustrations and struggle with the case. Gyllenhaal handles it so delicately, never rushing a moments of it, and never once going overboard either, his very genuine depiction of Loki losing his resolve resonates powerfully. Even though I feel the film and Jackman often try a little too hard to emotionally charge the film, Gyllenhaal actually handles this much better by taking his more reflective approach. When Gyllenhaal brings the big emotions out you real feel them because he always does it at the right time, and in the right way.

I suppose one thing I should quickly mention is that Gyllenhaal plays Loki as man with a tic where he will blink a lot. It really is not an essential part of his character or anything, but I'll say it reminded me of someone I know who blinks just that way, so good job Gyllenhaal although I don't know if it was particularly necessary. Anyway Gyllenhaal easily is the best thing about the film and managed to amplify every scene of the film he is in through his realistic depiction of the full weight of one detectives investigation into a horrible crime. When I think of the strength of his performance the first scene I think of is Detective Loki's rush to the hospital at the end of the film, I found that a thrilling moment, the direction and music of course was well done, but what really kept me in the scene was Gyllenhaal's fierce portrayal of what Loki is going through both physically and mentally.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2013

 And the Nominees Were Not:

Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners

Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips

James McAvoy in Filth

Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis

Joaquin Phoenix in Her