Sunday, 29 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1979: Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now

Marlon Brando did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.

Marlon Brando gets the Harry Lime role for this film a character we do not see much of, and we don't even meet until the third act yet there is such a tremendous build up for the character as we hear so much about him before we get our chance to meet him. Marlon Brando, being looked upon as basically a larger than life figure in terms of acting, was the perfect fit for the rouge army colonel figure who is apparently being worshiped like a god. Brando is an actor, much like Jack Nicholson, who I feel as his career progressed slowly became overly indulgent as an actor as if no one would question his greatness, and like Jack Nicholson it seems like it would require basically the director to really reign in their performances. Well Francis Ford Coppola seems like the perfect fit for one as he gave Brando his comeback role in The Godfather.

Now this could seem like an indulgent Brando performance, and Coppola notoriously had an incredibly difficult time with Brando while making this film. The thing is though, even if perhaps Brando was being very indulgent here, it works completely for the role of Colonel Kurtz. Kurtz after all is a man who could very easily be described as rather indulgent himself. When Willard (Martin Sheen) finally arrives to Kurtz's compound to assassinate him he has already seen many forms of madness, having some of that madness even in himself, but what Brando does is bring a whole different type of madness with his first scene. Enveloped in almost absolute darkness Brando brings us a man who is of his own world in more than one respected, it's his world that he is created that Willard is entering a world filled people who worship him, and his mind is also of another world.

Brando's unique manner of speaking creates this sense of Kurtz as an otherworldly figure. Brando does not simple speak as himself though as he speaks as though he is delivering a sermon in the specific conviction of his words yet there is an aloofness as if this sermon is only truly for himself. Brando's reactions equally portray Kurtz as viewing himself as something other than any normal man. He does not react naturally, rather as a man who knows all, and as if those who are near him are only there since he wished it. Brando carefully does not truly make Kurtz the god he portrays he makes the delusion, but along with that he brings the reality. Brando in a few moments, such as his angry outburst towards Hooper's photojournalist, that are short and to the point, but in these moments Brando effectively shows that are frustrations of a normal man. Brando treads carefully making the delusion something to be believed, but never shows it to be an absolute truth.

Brando makes the larger than life figure Kurtz should be, but above all his performance does meet the challenge of having this tremendous build up to his character. Brando's performance is most importantly compelling portrayal of Kurtz's unique brand of madness that in turn creates many others' madness. Brando delivers in making Kurtz an allusive, yet still fascinating mystery to behold. There is philosopher found in his constant ramblings, but there is the soldier as well as Brando is able to carry a palatable menace particularly in the scene where Kurtz offers Willard a most peculiar "gift" while Willard is his prisoner. The final fate of Colonel Kurtz may have seemed slightly absurd, but Brando makes it completely believable through his realization of Kurtz's complex insanity. Brando matches the challenge of the character and perhaps gives the last performance where he actually made use of his considerable talent.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1979

And the Nominees Were Not:

Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now

Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now

Ian Holm in Alien

Michael Palin in Life of Brian

James Remar in The Warriors

Friday, 27 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1979: Results

5. Graham Chapman in Life of Brian - Chapman gives enjoyable enough performances as both a straight man and a very silly one, but is never that hilarious.

Best Scene: Brian on the cross.
4. Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now - Sheen gives a solid mostly reactionary performance although I do feel he is a bit overshadowed by the film's direction and its other performances.

Best Scene: Willard is told about his previous missions.
3. James Woods in The Onion Field - Woods gives a compelling portrayal that brings depth to a character who could have been just a simple psycho killer.

Best Scene: Lead up to the murder.
2. Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu the Vampyre -Kinksi effectively replicates aspects of Max Schreck's performances, but also offers his own interpretation by strangely yet poignantly bringing some honest humanity to the creature.

Best Scene: Dracula speaks of his desire for love.
1. Brad Dourif in Wise Blood - This was an easier choice than I expected to be as I found Dourif easily gave the best leading performance from 1979. Dourif might not give the most accessible turn, but is consistently fascinating portrait of a truly unique character.

Best Scene: Motes confronts his imposter.
Overall Ranking:
  1. Brad Dourif in Wise Blood
  2. Peter Sellers in Being There
  3. Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu the Vampyre
  4. James Woods in The Onion Field
  5. Robert Duvall in The Great Santini
  6. Roy Scheider in All That Jazz
  7. Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now
  8. Jack Lemmon in The China Syndrome
  9. Alan Arkin in The In-Laws
  10. Peter Falk in The In-Laws
  11. Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs Kramer
  12. Mel Gibson in Mad Max
  13. Bruno Ganz in Nosferatu the Vampyre
  14. Al Pacino in ...And Justice For All
  15. Clint Eastwood in Escape From Alcatraz
  16. Dennis Christopher in Breaking Away
  17. Frank Langella in Dracula
  18. Graham Chapman in Life of Brian
  19. Woody Allen in Manhattan  
  20. John Savage in The Onion Field
  21. Franklyn Seales in The Onion Field
  22. William Shatner in Star Trek The Motion Picture
  23. Sylvester Stallone in Rocky II
  24. Kelly Reno in The Black Stallion
  25. Michael Beck in The Warriors
Next Year: 1979 Supporting

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1979: Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now

Martin Sheen did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Captain Benjamin Willard in Apocalypse Now.

Apocalypse Now is an Odyssey into Darkness and Martin Sheen is our Odysseus through the character of Captain Benjamin Willard. Where Odysseus started his journey after his time in the Trojan war Willard also begins the film after obviously going through many things in the Vietnam war although we never really learn what that is precisely only that he's contributed to some very unofficial assassinations before. The opening scenes of the film has Willard on R & R obviously not really mentally all there and this is only made worse since he is obviously drunk. Sheen is effective in this scene in portraying a completely despondent man, probably helped that he was actually drunk in the filming of the scene. It is interesting as both Sheen and the film show Willard at his most mentally unstable at the beginning of the film before he technically becomes a saner seeming man for basically the rest of the film.

Sheen is far more reserved after this point although properly does show a certain intensity beneath the surface of Willard that never truly leaves him. A very strong moment of Sheen's comes early on when he's given his new assignment to assassinate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) with extreme prejudice. During the scene his superiors basically lay out a few of his earlier assignments which Willard properly denies after having existed. In the moment though Sheen is quite terrific in portraying the memories of these killings in his haunted face as they go over them. We don't know what exactly these mission required or entailed exactly, but Sheen hints at through his face as Willard seems to be remembering them ironically enough while denying that they every happens. It's once again an effective moment for Sheen and his first scene with this one does well to set up where Willard is coming from.  

Even though Sheen is the lead of the film once the journey starts though he often takes the back burner to the other characters of the film. His narration is always present though, which apparently was performed by both Sheen and his brother, which has the right dour quality as his voice sound like a man going to a place of true darkness. As soon as the journey starts though Sheen is pushed to the side by the larger than life characters he encounters the first being Robert Duvall's Colonel Kilgore. Duvall dominates all of his scenes without question. Even after that meeting Sheen is not always the main focus on the boat focuses more often on the interactions of the other crew members. Willard is seen as the outsider and is often away from the others and really when it focuses on Willard in the boat it is usually when he is reading Kurtz's file and reacting to that man's history.

On re-watch of the film I was surprised at just how reactionary Sheen's performance ends up being in the film as most of it depicts Willard watching others and only are there a few actions of Willard are relatively brief in nature and interestingly enough usually focus on the other characters reactions. For example after the crew accidentally murders a group of civilians and suddenly Willard finishes off the only survivor the focus on Sheen is very brief making it quick moment with us barely even able to see Willard's whole mindset. This is not to be negative toward Sheen in the slightest as his subtle reactions usually are well handled adding to the atmosphere of any scene through his own troubled reaction as the journey slowly becomes even more perilous. In fact almost all of Sheen reactions are well done even the more intense reactions such as one where a head is dropped in Willard's lap, and Sheen's reaction is properly realistic.

I have to say I was a bit surprised altogether with my revaluation of this performance as I find in the whole scheme of the film Sheen's performance does not have all that great of an impact. In the overall tapestry of Francis Ford Coppola's film Sheen actually does not make his presence all that known and does seem to be just a part of the tapestry that Coppola paints. I don't want to sound overly negative though as Sheen is good in the part, and gives a solid performance. Even in terms of the performances of the film though Sheen is overshadowed by almost every one of the flashier performances, and there are cases where a withdrawn performance can makes the biggest impact. That is not the case here as Sheen never quite gives a great performance here, it's a good performance I have no doubt about that but it's no longer one I feel goes beyond the call of duty (no pun intended).

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1979: Graham Chapman in Life of Brian

Graham Chapman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Brian Cohen and Biggus Dickus in Life of Brian.

Life of Brian is an enjoyable comedy about a man born near Jesus who gets mistaken for a messiah.

Life of Brian has plenty of absurd characters to go around played by the Monty Python members, but one of the least insane characters is played by Graham Chapman in the leading role. Brian is just a rather simple fellow and Chapman plays him as such going the extra mile really in his method of portraying that Brian is just some average sap. Chapman makes all of his expression simple without being overly stupid and his whole manner gives Brian a whole sort of naivety as a man. Brian is a man without really any big ideas or big ambition for himself therefore he's the perfect sort to be manipulated by some other upstarts. Chapman certainly gives us this man completely, and Chapman does a pretty admirable job of simply being the somewhat hapless fellow that Brian should be.

Most of the Python members are going for the laugh in a very broad way, Chapman does this himself which I will get to, but that's not the case with Chapman's portrayal of the lowly Brian. Instead Chapman is the straight man to all the absurdity as the film covers his reactions to those around him who seem rather insane. Chapman certainly derives a nice amount of humor as first Brian is just sort of strung long by the schemes as others as he basically smiles and follows like a good lad. As the film progresses Chapman adjusts accordingly to the more traditional straight man of comedy as he gets increasingly exasperated at the foolishness of others. Chapman again is quite funny and aids in the less subtle performances well with his own more down to earth portrayal of Brian's confusion and eventually annoyance at the actions of others.

Chapman is not only Brian being the straight man but he actually has his own broader character whose absurdity obviously begins with his name Biggus Dickus. Old Dickus is a Roman centurion who is not particularly intimidating to say the least. Chapman is fairly entertaining in giving the character a funny voice that sounds more like out of cartoon than a biblical epic. Overall though there really is not all that much of the oddly named man, and really Chapman's total time as this character is extremely brief with only a few lines given to him to say in that funny voice. Also I won't lie though these scenes though do belong to Michael Palin as Pontius Pilate not Chapman. Chapman's never bad though and certainly gets his fair share of laughs too, but Palin's performance is the one that you remember.

Chapman overall succeeds quite well within the film being the appropriate element of sanity to stabilize the humor in the right fashion when playing Brian, and being properly entertaining with the one character that let's him join in with the rest of the cast. I would not say that this is a great performance by any measure as I don't think this is a case of straight man turn that actually steals the show from the showier turns, in this case it is the showier turns that are the funniest, and even Chapman's showier character is far from the funniest character of that nature. This is a good comedic performance that serves his purpose well enough but I never thought it was a truly hilarious performance nor did I feel that Chapman went all that further with any other element of the character to make up for the fact that he's not ridiculously funny.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1979: Brad Dourif in Wise Blood

Brad Dourif did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hazel Motes in Wise Blood.

Wise Blood is an odd but intriguing  film about a man who gets involved in the preaching game in the south.

Brad Dourif often plays off kilter roles although more often than not these are supporting characters of the film. This is not the case for Wise Blood as we follow his character Hazel Motes throughout the film starting when we catch him after returning from some war somewhere now back in apparently where he came from to start his new life. The new life for Hazel Motes is not the type of life usually associated with a returning war veteran. It is common though that some character might be a bit emotionally damaged, which is certainly the case for Hazel Motes, but I must say that it seems that whatever he did as a soldier probably only contributed to some of what Motes does once he begins his life anew. I suppose that should be expected though when it is Brad Dourif who is playing the role though.

This is a performance that does not some time to settle to say the least as the first time I watched the film I was not sure what exactly to make of Dourif as well as the film. Dourif's performance is particularly obtuse here as his portrayal of Hazel Motes has a certainly a rather bizarre style to it. I suppose it is not helped by the path of Hazel Motes as a character which one probably would not describe as natural, and certainly would not describe as normal. If one were to read something about the film and just here it as a man trying to become a preacher one may think it was an Elmer Gantry type story with Dourif taking up the role of the charismatic preacher with a questionable past. That is not the case the case here as Dourif's plays Hazel Motes as not really the preacher type really, at least not the traditional type, well at least no in the type one would expect, well at least he's a strange one to say the least. 

Brad Dourif's performance is odd and in fact you might hate it or at least be baffled by it, but give it time as I did and there is something very special to be found here. The early scenes of the film shows Hazel Motes moving around the land seemingly in an aimless fashion as he dresses as a stereotypical preacher while naturally spending some of his time with a prostitute. Dourif's whole performance is a bit of enigma from the very beginning just as Motes is an enigma so it certainly is fitting. Dourif always brings this underlying intensity in his portrayal here that is rather piercing in nature even with the fact that Dourif is obviously not a the most menacing figure physically. The intensity in his portrayal is particularly effective in setting up Motes as obviously not a sane man. His method is quite different from the usual method of playing an insane person, or even the way Dourif usually plays them, but it completely works here.

There is a constant anger in his portrayal of Motes as he begins to interact with some other people most notably a "blind" preacher Asa Hawks (Harry Dean Stanton), his daughter Sabbath Lily Hawks (Amy Wright), and a different sort of aimless young man Enoch Emory (Dan Shor). Motes seems to hate these preachers so much that he states his desire to make a church based around the idea of no church. This odd idea seems completely believable coming from his mouth as the anger Dourif expresses in every moment is so strong that it could compel this man to such a bizarre course. This is a madness to be sure but it is fascinating to watch because of how compelling he makes this behavior of Motes. It's not quite like anything normal yet Dourif makes all normal to this character, and truly an oddity that's hard not to watch no matter how angry and eventually even psychopathic the man may be.

One of the achievements of this performance is the charisma that Dourif does create in the role even though Motes is not a particularly likable man. The characters of Emory and the preacher's daughter seem to simply want to be near Motes despite the fact that his attitude toward them is not particularly pleasant in nature. This can be wholly believable because of Dourif and dark magnetism that he does bring to the part. In the scenes of his attempted preaching, which never seem to go well and always seem to be interrupted by someone, Dourif does bring something special in his power he brings to Motes. Motes really is not even saying anything particularly profound and certainly not inspirational in anyway as Motes seems to be motivated by hate and pessimism more than anything else. Dourif is able to bring power to the pessimism through his devoted performance that creates such a fervent passion in Motes's philosophy.

One of the difficulties in grasping this performance and this character is the seeming unchanging ways of the character for most of the film, and the fact that even when we do see changes the are so extreme that they are not exactly making Motes anymore of a character with whom you can easily relate. That's not the point of Hazel Motes as a character and definitely not the intent of Dourif's performance. This is an out of the ordinary character that gets center stage and Dourif never dulls him down to this instead goes about just being incredibly interesting by realizing this strange man so vividly. When Motes goes and does some truly odd things particularly at the end in his attempt at a spiritual? quest which ends up with Motes blinding himself, well because obviously that's the case. Well it does feel obvious and not at all opposed to Dourif who grasps his character so well here that even such seemingly impossible understandable event actually just seems a natural course for Motes.

I will freely admit that I'm not sure I know exactly how describe this performance fully, but all I can say is I loved what Brad Dourif did in this film. This is a performance that stand out as something to be viewed all on its own as Dourif allows us to witness the journey of this man, who one would never accuse of being normal. It's an extremely effective performance that takes the risk of keeping in line with who the character is and even technically risking being repetitive since Motes is rather steadfast in his beliefs. Dourif never takes the easy way out with his work yet he never makes Motes seem uninteresting in the least. I won't lie one watch is probably not enough to appreciate this performance for its worth, but give it time to settle and I think you'll see something special. This is a fantastic performance by Brad Dourif that rejects all common constraints and gives an impossibly intriguing portrait of one very memorable character.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1979: Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu the Vampyre

Klaus Kinski did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Count Dracula in Nosferatu the Vampyre.

Nosferatu the Vampyre is an atmospheric and very effective remake of the original silent Nosferatu by Werner Herzog.

This is the first time I have reviewed a performance by the infamous Klaus Kinski, but interestingly here he is following another actors footsteps. That of course being Max Schreck who played the monster in Nosferatu, and since it is a remake of that film rather than another adaptation of the novel Kinski's approach in conception shares many similarities with Schreck's performance. Kinski replicates many of the qualities of Schreck's performance most notably the way he seems to stand in a way in which he looks unnatural thin, and particularly oddly shaped. Kinski manages to replicate the physical mannerisms of Schreck while doing enough to make them him own, and it never seems as though Kinski is simply just trying to ape Schreck's performance. Kinski does make the character his own.

This is not the normal vampire seeming to come from a rat rather than a bat, and in both cases the vampire seems to be a personification of death and decay as the vampire brings the death of the plague wherever he goes. Kinski adds to his own portrayal of the monstrous elements of the monster utilizing the fact that he gets to use sound to his advantage. Kinski speaks and even breaths in a peculiar way as if he were a dying man. Kinski creates this odd monsters in a chilling and oddly believable fashion but this Dracula purpose is a bit different than Schreck's Count Orlok, Schreck sought to mainly realize this monster in all his terror, which he certainly achieved, but Kinski's performance actually has some more humanity to it. This can actually be seen in one of the main visual differences between the two versions which is found in the eyes.

The most human feature on this monster is in his eyes and Kinski utilizes this well to show a constant sadness and sorrow in his expression. Kinski brings a somberness to Dracula, and although he obviously makes him a monster, Kinski never forgets the man who must have once been there. Instead of revealing in his evil, Kinski does not show even a moment where Dracula seems to enjoy the havoc and pain that he is causing for others. Kinski portrays Dracula in a constant depression and is even quite moving as he states his pain from being an immortal monster. This whole idea may seem quite strange or could potentially make not make Dracula particularly frightening. Well Kinski never allows that create a palatable dread through his performance as the evil, but as well doing just as much in terms of humanizing Dracula.

Kinski is outstanding by somehow finding a balance that seems natural for this odd creation. The most fascinating part of his performance are his scenes with Lucy Harker (Isabella Adjani) where Dracula approaches her obviously going to eventually be going for blood but there is something more than that. Dracula wants her to love him and what is so notable about Kinksi's performance is he does not play this as lust of blood or of sexual desire. Kinski instead somehow manages to be very strangely poignant in his portrayal as he shows Dracula asking for this love in such a tender fashion. Kinski does not make his Dracula a monster looking to sustain his own constant and uncontrollable desires, rather his portrayal makes the monster more of a cursed man who is simply trying to either end his torture or find some sort of comfort in it.

As is often the case with Dracula films Kinski's screen time is not substantial as Dracula often disappears for somewhat extended periods to make his sudden appearances all the more disconcerting. This certainly works well in the case of this film as Dracula's presence can be felt even when he is off screen which is a testament to the collaborative effort of both Kinski and Herzog. Kinski's portrayal here is great as he manages to follow the very difficult footsteps set up by Schreck quite deftly yet he still manages to make this seem like his own unique take on the very frequently portrayed character. Kinski gives a very memorable and haunting turn in creating the terror of the inhuman monster that is Dracula while somehow, without contradicting himself, showing that perhaps there is some form of humanity still to be found in such a creature.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1979: James Woods in The Onion Field

James Woods did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Gregory Powell in The Onion Field.

The Onion Field is not a particularly skillfully made film about the murder of a police officer by two criminals and the fallout form that. The film becomes very disjointed later on, and eventually falls into some bizarrely corny final scenes. The film is not without merit though as the build up and the scene of the crime are well done, also there is a certain performance.

James Woods plays one of the two criminals Gregory Powell who is a small time crook who decides to do a few robberies with his criminal associate Jimmy Smith (Franklyn Seales). Woods is great at playing a criminal quite simply as there is such a volatility he brings that is a perfect fit for Gregory Powell, who, in addition to loving crime, also is more than a bit mentally off. Woods brings the needed unpredictability in his performance as you never quite know what one should expect from Powell. Woods is excellent in any scene where it seems Powell is amiable enough that there is still a danger at all times as Woods has this manic energy that brings such a spontaneity in his performance that works extremely well in making Powell a completely unpredictable and always very dangerous presence in the film.

Woods is terrific in every one of his early scenes as he carries such a menace about the character that is always underneath the surface even when Powell seems to be trying to make Smith his friend. Woods is great at being such a live wire in his performance as he so effortlessly brings that tinge of insanity in his performance while always seeming completely natural in his performance. In the early moments Woods completely makes us meet Powell and allows us to understand the odd mindset of the man before he and Smith are faithfully stopped by two cops Karl Hettinger (John Savage) and Ian Campbell (Ted Danson). The cops though are quickly surprised and both disarmed making it so Powell and Smith take both of them hostage and go on to bring them to an onion field which Powell claims is just to allow he and Smith the needed time to get away from their pursuers.

Woods is so good in the kidnapping scene because of how casual he plays the part especially when compared to Seales's performance which purposeful shows Smith hiding his fear by acting out in an intense fashion. Woods commands these scenes without question as Powell almost seems to have a friendly banter with the cops at times even claiming that he'll let them find their guns that way they won't have to pay for them. Woods makes all of the banter seem completely genuine and his portrayal of Powell allows the relaxed attitude of Powell seem completely believable. Woods's relaxed method makes it all the more brutal when Powell suddenly kills Campbell. Woods makes the act seem all the more senseless, which it was since Powell did thinking, wrongly, they had already committed a major crime, because it seems so random yet wholly fitting to the Powell that he has created in the film.

The two men are unable to catch Hettinger who runs off and eventually they are both caught and put on trial for the murder. This where the film starts to become particularly disjointed, focusing too much time on Hettinger's story since it does not handle it especially well, and not quite enough on Powell and Smith's. The time that Woods does have available to him is still more than anything as he continues to bring so much depth to Powell in his scenes. There's a particularly effective scenes in the court proceedings where Powell, defending himself, tells about how he was like a father to his family when he was younger. Woods again is very strong in this scene, even really quite moving as he so honestly expresses yet another facet about Powell as a person. Even though we see not of the past Woods suggests it wonderfully and again makes it still fit with the man we know from the present.

The film really does lose its way as it goes on since it seems to want to make a major point about the way Powell and Smith try to use the system to stave off their execution yet it gives it so little time to explore the details of this. This is only made all the more problematic since Woods easily gives the best performance in the film and is the most compelling element of it. I would have preferred more time to his character rather than the fairly repetitive and unfortunately not particularly powerful scenes  depicting Savage's character's struggle with his survivor's guilt. It would have been interesting to see as Powell and Smith become even savvy with the system, and the ways they try to exploit it. That would have been particularly great since Woods could have brought us even more sides of Powell since he excelled with bringing in creating Powell into a man, a bad man, but an actual human being who has done evil. Although the film falters Woods never does giving a very good performance that deserved a superior film.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1979

And the Nominees Were Not:

Brad Dourif in Wise Blood

Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu the Vampyre

Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now

James Woods in The Onion Field

Graham Chapman in Life of Brian

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958: Results

5. Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula - Lee is menacing with his vicious depiction of Dracula, but the film barely gives him anything to do. 

Best Scene: Dracula attacks.
4. Robert Donat in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness- The part is ripe for embarrassment but Donat avoids it by giving a likable and honest performance that avoids the pitfalls of such a part. 

Best Scene: The Mandarin's message to his people as the Japanese invade.
3. Richard Attenborough in Dunkirk- The film limits him too much but Attenborough still shines by giving humanity to the character of a man who profits from a war he does not support.

Best Scene: Holden helps his wife test out the infant gas mask.
2. Burl Ives in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Ives is fantastic as Big Daddy bringing the larger than life presence needed for such a character, but along with the genuine depth needed.

Best Scene: Big Daddy recounts the death of his own father.
1. Orson Welles in Touch of Evil - Good Predictions Kooo160, Mark, Michael Patison, RatedRStar, and Michael McCarthy. Technically I should give this to Ives if I was doing on who had the best year overall, and I also should do it if I rated it by Humphrey Bogart's measurement of acting which is rating two actors in the same role. Well Welles played a rip off of Big Daddy in a Long Hot Summer, and Ives wipes the floor with Welles if you compare those performances. I only go by the individual performances themselves though, and although it is close, the supporting performance that left the greatest impact on me was Welles's portrayal of Hank Quinlan. It's a great depiction of dirty cop, not just because he brings the menace and the decay of such a character, but also because he turns it into a tragic portrait of a potentially great man who has lost his way.

Best Scene: Quinlan visits Tanya
Overall Rank:
  1. Orson Welles in Touch of Evil
  2. Burl Ives in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  3. Burl Ives in The Big Country
  4. Richard Attenborough in Dunkirk
  5. Lee J. Cobb in The Brothers Karamazov
  6. Gig Young in Teacher's Pet
  7. Robert Donat in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
  8. Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula
  9. Ray Walston in Damn Yankees
  10. Joseph Calleia in Touch of Evil
  11. Lon Chaney Jr. in The Defiant Ones
  12. Maximilian Schell in The Long Lions
  13. Robert Ryan in Lonelyhearts
  14. Dennis Weaver in Touch of Evil
  15. Susumu Fujita in The Hidden Fortress
  16. Adam Pawlikowski in Ashes and Diamonds
  17. Ernest Thesiger in The Horse's Mouth
  18. Ernest Borgnine in The Vikings
  19. Ray Walston in South Pacific
  20. Akim Tamiroff in Touch of Evil
  21. Richard Basehart in The Brothers Karamazov
  22. Valetin de Vargas in Touch of Evil
  23. Tom Helmore in Vertigo
  24. Mike Morgan in The Horse's Mouth
  25. Robert Shafer in Damn Yankees
  26. Chuck Connors in The Big Country
  27. Takashi Shimura in The Hidden Fortress
  28. Theodore Bikel in The Defiant Ones
  29. Don Rickles in Run Silent Run Deep
  30. Rod Taylor in Separate Tables
  31. John Carradine in The Last Hurrah
  32. Jack Warden in Run Silent Run Deep
  33. James Donald in The Vikings
  34. Orson Welles in The Long, Hot Summer
  35. Albert Salmi in The Brothers Karamazov
  36. Michael Gough in The Horse's Mouth
  37. Charlton Heston in The Big Country
  38. Basil Rathbone in The Last Hurrah
  39. Michael Gough in Horror of Dracula
  40. Pat O'Brien in The Last Hurrah
  41. Stephen Chase in The Blob
  42. Brad Dexter in Run Silent Run Deep
  43. Robert Fields in The Blob
  44. Lee Van Cleef in The Long Lions
  45. Dean Martin in Some Came Running
  46. John Benson in The Blob
  47. Jack Carson in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  48. John Van Eyssen in Horror of Dracula
  49. Nick Adams in Teacher's Pet
  50. Ray Collins in Touch of Evil
  51. James Bonnet in The Blob
  52. Arthur Kennedy in Some Came Running 
  53. Earl Rowe in The Blob
  54. Maurice Chevalier in Gigi
  55. Jeffrey Hunter in The Last Hurrah
  56. Charles McGraw in The Defiant Ones
  57. Alfonso Bedoya in The Big Country
  58. Larry Gates in Some Came Running
  59. Curt Jurgens in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
  60. Charles Bickford in The Big Country
  61. Felipe Pazos Jr. in The Old Man and the Sea
  62. Keith Almoney in The Blob
  63. Anthony Franciosa in The Long, Hot Summer
Next Year:1979 lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958: Richard Attenborough in Dunkirk

Richard Attenborough did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Holden in Dunkirk.

Dunkirk is a well shot and solid, if perhaps slightly too by the books, depiction of two stories around the Dunkirk evacuation of British Soldiers during World War II.

Dunkirk is broken off into two stories one that depicts John Mills as a British soldier trying to get his small group of men safely home, and the other portraying Bernard Lee as a civilian who decides to do something to help the men stuck in France. Both those men are portrayed as perhaps having a few hesitations just in terms of self preservation and general worry but both are shown to be fairly admirable at the beginning and only become more admirable as the film continues. That is not the case for the character of John Holden played by Richard Attenborough. John Holden a businessman who makes money from the war through manufacturing belt buckles, but nevertheless treats the war with a certain ambivalence going so far as to proclaim it as a "phony war".

Richard Attenborough is terrific here in playing a somewhat standard character of the man's who does not seem to believe in anything. Attenborough's performance works though because he finds hidden depth within what seems like a shallow character. Attenborough even in the early scenes where Holden is basically complaining about a war that is making him money does not play as if Holden is just some jerk, even though he technically is. Attenborough instead creates Holden as a fearful and nervous man, and his portrayal suggests that more than anything Holden would prefer that the war was truly phony and offered no threat at all to his existence. When Holden voices his opinions on the uncaring side of things Attenborough makes them less despicable because Attenborough shows that it comes from a particularly honest fear through his performance.

As the story plays out though Holden is tasked to do something since he has a boat, and civilians are asked to contribute their boats to the Dunkirk evacuation. Attenborough makes the most out of what he is given and shows the growth in courage of Holden quite effectively. The reason is that Attenborough does not all of the sudden show Holden have some sort of revelatory moment that gives him strength, nor does he even show the fear completely leave Holden. Attenborough rather completely earns the transformation and makes it rather poignant by convincingly showing the strength to slowly emerge out of the fear. Attenborough stays particularly subtle in the transition yet never underwhelming in the power as Attenborough makes it a completely believable strength that comes from this rather meek man.

Overall the film Dunkirk would have benefited from more Richard Attenborough as most films tend to. The more that one gives Attenborough the more that he delivers, and this film does not quite give Attenborough enough to do. Every moment Attenborough does have is a remarkable as he humanizes Holden and his whole standpoint wonderfully well even when morally dubious in nature. The only problem is that Dunkirk does not care all that much about Holden's story especially near the end of the film where Attenborough is basically stuck getting a boat started, although his portrayal of Holden's reaction to hearing about the death one of his friends is quite affecting. The film particularly seems to give Attenborough the short straw in that it seems he's suppose to have one final scene that we never, which is a shame since I'm sure Attenborough would have been great as usual. Despite the limitations Attenborough still manages some fine work as usual, and is one of the best elements in the film.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958: Robert Donat in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

Robert Donat did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, The Mandarin of Yang Cheng in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness tells the life of Gladys Aylward (Ingrid Bergman) who leaves England to aid at a mission in China. It's a decent enough film helped greatly by a particularly winning turn by Bergman.

Robert Donat technically is quite miscast here in his final role as a Chinese Mandarin, and obviously someone who was actually Chinese would have been more fitting for the role especially since there are actual Chinese actors in the film to begin with. Robert Donat thankfully does not play the role in some stereotypical fashion, and avoids putting on some over the top mannerisms that are often found in the portrayals of these types of character. Instead Donat tries to give a fairly dignified portrayal of the character, and avoids the pitfalls of playing such a character for the most part even if he still has to dress like a Mandarin as well as have the obligatory facial hair that is of course needed for a Mandarin.

Robert Donat is always a charming presence and that is certainly the case here. Donat contains his performance appropriately by keeping that manner of a reserved man who has some power at his disposal. The film portrays the Mandarin as a purely good man though who wants to help the various people in his community and even does not mind helping Gladys despite the fact that she is foreigner. Donat while still keeping the stature of the character intact exudes a nice degree of warmth along with it. Donat makes the character of the Mandarin quite likable in fact because Donat is the one playing him. It is often the case with these characters that they are so serious that they are stiff, Donat keeps the serious points of his character, btu brings a nice ease in his performance that avoids making the Mandarin a boring presence.

The only major problem for Donat is that the Mandarin ends up being a relatively simple part. He shows up from time to time offering some support or some sort of wisdom to Gladys, and that's really about it. Donat is good in these limitations though creating that sense of wisdom the Mandarin should convey, while doing it in a way that is not boring. It's not a great role all together and obviously it is very hard to ever forget that Donat was far from perfect for the role for the most obvious of reasons. Donat still manages to give a good performance though despite what ways against him in the part, and does a good job of bringing some energy and life to any scene that he appears. It's far from his best performance, but not a bad one to be his last.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958: Orson Welles in Touch of Evil

Orson Welles did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil.

Touch of Evil is an excellent thriller about a crime ridden area right on the border between the United States and Mexico.

Touch of Evil opens with a bomb exploding that kills two people in a car right on the border leading it to be investigated by a Mexican detective who happened to be crossing the border with his wife Vargas (Charlton Heston) and a group of Americans lead by detective Hank Quinlan played by the director of the film Orson Welles. Perhaps it is rather obvious that Welles directed, other than because it is a great film, with the extremely memorable entrance Quinlan gets in the film. The scene is being investigated by the other officials with a car driving up with a dramatic close up to reveal the larger than life Hank Quinlan as he emerges from the car instantly inquiring about the case. Welles instantly takes hold of the screen which he will for every other scene in the film as well pretty much every scene he is not in as well. Hank Quinlan is a great character and Welles obviously will not waste this opportunity.

Orson Welles's performance is great in making Quinlan extremely memorable in every regard starting with the physical portrayal. Welles is absolutely spent in the part, and it is something to behold to be sure. His makeup is terrific to being with but Welles goes far past that with the way he plays the part. Welles gives Quinlan a lumbering walk due to Quinlan's limp as well as his size. Welles truly wears the weight the weight in this performance as he shows that Quinlan really even has some trouble breathing due to his condition as a man. Quinlan been through a lot and you can see that right in Welles's face as he suggests that type of damage that Quinlan has taken through his life. Welles is terrific in giving us the history of the man without needing to say at all as we see that Quinlan has been through some bad things. Welles's whole creation is an amazing depiction of a man who is basically decaying.

Hank Quinlan is a very early example of the sort of character later played by the likes of Woody Harrelson, Denzel Washington, Ray Liotta an many others which is the lawman who perhaps has become too good at his job. Welles is terrific because the fact that Quinlan seems like a walking corpse at times is in no way reflected in his portrayal of Quinlan as he proceeds as a detective. Welles commands without question in these scenes as in his eyes and his way about the investigation scenes it is clear that Quinlan is quickly deciphering the clues of the case. The whole dynamic is a difficult one as Welles shows without question that Quinlan is a man of so many vices physically, but Welles brings such a honest and earned confidence in his portrayal of Quinlan as a detective. Welles makes what seems like an inconsistency in Quinlan completely believable as realizes both sides of the complicated man.

One of the most important aspects of Welles's performance is that he wears the past of Quinlan just as well as he wears the present state of the man. Welles's has a particularly wonderful scene when Quinlan goes and visits an old friend/fortune teller Tanya (Marlene Dietrich). Welles is great in this scene as there is such a sense of nostalgia in the joyous expression seen upon Quinlan face as he seems to remembering the good old times in the moment. Welles is great by suggesting in this moment the better man that Quinlan once was, and actually does try to remind himself of this. Welles makes Quinlan incredibly interesting as character because he honestly creates a sense of tragedy within the man. His Quinlan's is not just a standard corrupt cop by any means at all. No Welles makes Quinlan a far more fascinating character, by showing us a man who was once a good man capable of greatness but has lost his way.

Quinlan is forced to only become worse though after Vargas catches Quinlan planting evidence in the house of the man he believes has committed the bombing that opens the film. Welles's is very effective in the last act of the film by believably moving Quinlan to an even darker place once Vargas threatens basically his entire career as an officer of the law. Quinlan starts drinking again, one vice he had given up, and plots to try to frame Vargas's wife in a crime to escape Vargas's inquiries. Welles makes these scenes absolutely convincing by showing the way Quinlan's basically losing himself all the more as he slowly becomes more drunk, and gives in to his negative qualities all the more. Quinlan seemed spent physically from the beginning, but Welles moves on to make Quinlan spent mentally as well as he creates a sense of desperation and even despair that allows Quinlan to do some truly unforgivable things. 

Welles's gives such a fantastic performance here. Hank Quinlan in lesser hands may have just been a one note crummy villain, that we simply applauded at his demise at the end of the film. That is not the case through Welles's work here. Welles certainly brings the needed menace to the part, and as a villain his Quinlan is an extremely memorable one. He's not just a villain though because of how well Welles realizes a modicum of goodness in the man. The final scenes of the film actually are quite moving and Welles brings a certain poignancy to them despite Quinlan getting his comeuppance for his evil. The reason being that Welles is able to make the tale of Quinlan demise of a man who slowly wastes away all of his once great potential both physically, mentally and morally. Welles's performance is a brilliant and powerful piece of work that matches his equally exceptional direction of the film.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958: Burl Ives in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Burl Ives did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harvey "Big Daddy" Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Burl Ives actually already was determined the best supporting actor of 1958 by the academy for his performance in The Big Country. That's certainly a good and deserving performance that was easily the best of the nominees, but was it even Ives's best work from 1958? 1958 also saw the release of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof the adaptation of the stage play where Ives's showed his unexpected acting chops, and he went on to reprise his role of Big Daddy, which is probably his most remembered acting role, the film version.The oddest things about the Oscar choice actually is that they simply seemed to prefer Cat on A Hot Tin Roof in every other way since it found itself nominated in most of the major categories including picture, actor, and actress. The funny thing is that if Ives had been nominated for this film then it actually would have been its sole win as well.

Ives, like in The Big Country, plays a patriarch although this time in a modern setting opposed to the old west, and Big Daddy is certainly a different man from Rufus Hannassey. We first meet Big Daddy in the film as he arrives back to his large estate after an apparent health scare, and he believes himself now safe to live out his life for a while longer and deal with the problems in his family. Ives is magnificent in the part and certainly puts the big in the Big Daddy and that's not referring to his large frame. No Ives has an incredible presence as Big Daddy and he commands every scene that he is with such an ease. The way he stands in frame has even a certain magnetic quality to it, and simply through the way he carries himself Ives is able to instantly establish Big Daddy simply as the man capable of all the great accomplishments that everyone seems to describe him as.

Ives's has a terrific grasp on Big Daddy as a character and is particularly effective in portraying the rather cynical edge the man has. Big Daddy only respects a few things and a few people, and does not mind showing his disrespect in one way or another. Ives knows how to deliver every vicious line with a great proficiency and is rather tremendous in reinforcing the way Big Daddy takes over every situation he is in. Ives is just as great though when Big Daddy must listen to those he does not respect such as his wife or his older son and his wife who do not hide their desire for Big Daddy's estate. Ives is able to pack just as much of a punch just in his expression as Big Daddy chooses to ignore and attempt to avoid the interaction. He expresses this distaste in Big Daddy almost in a wholly silent fashion yet with just the same brutality as when he chooses to verbalize it himself.

Big Daddy though does see promise in his younger son Brick (Paul Newman) and his sultry wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor), although he also sees an obvious problem when somehow Brick fails to conceive with such a wife. Ives is excellent in his scenes with Newman because he never allows them to become just  a simple story of a cold father and a son wanting love. Ives brings so much more to these scenes than that. There is certainly the distance as Ives brings the fierce discipline of the father as Big Daddy basically forces the injured and alcoholic Brick to move with out a crutch and not drink as tries to find out the problem with Brick. Although there certainly is a certain coldness in Ives's performance there is behind it a hear though as well as deep within Big Daddy treatment of Brick Ives suggests that he is doing it honestly to try help his son. Ives makes it the imperfect combination it is but a completely genuine relationship he creates.

The last part of his performance though is a rather extreme change brought on by Big Daddy learning that he is in fact dying after all. Ives's portrayal of Big Daddy ailment is well handled, and he eases back properly on that dominance he exuded so well beforehand. Here in these scenes Big Daddy becomes far more reflective of his own past as well as his connection with his son. Ives is quite moving in these scenes by showing a greater urgency and earnestness in Big Daddy as he attempts to find some way to fix his house before he dies. Ives by subtly giving off that slight sense of warmth before very naturally changes Big Daddy making it so the better qualities of the man he suggested before grow stronger. His best scene though is when Big Daddy reflects on the death of his own father. Ives is very moving as he powerfully shows what his own father meant to him. In the way Ives looks in the moment you can see Big Daddy reliving the past as well seeing himself in his father.

Burl Ives's work is easily the highlight of the entire film. Any scene with Ives has such an energy that is sometimes somewhat missing in some of the other scenes in the film. Ives truly makes the film with his performance as he realizes Big Daddy with the needed complexity for such a part. In lesser hands Big Daddy could have been a one note character as perhaps just a boisterous old man or just a cruel father who fails to understand his son. Ives mediates exceptionally well giving a very interesting portrait of a man trying to maintain his well earned legacy any way that he possibly can. Ives completely controls the film and absolutely makes the part his won. Although The Big Country is definitely a very strong performance in its own right and was not at all a bad representation of Burl Ives's talent as an actor, the best representation of that talent in 1958 was found through his great performance in this film.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958: Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula

Christopher Lee did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Count Dracula in Horror of Dracula.

Horror of Dracula is a bit sloppy retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula almost as if the writer had not read the novel in a long time and just retold it from memory as it has some of the moments of the story but in the most random of ways.

Christopher Lee of the amazing voice and has a magnificent presence, but I have to say his roles always seem to be more minor than one would hope. This is certainly the case for his premier portrayal of one of his most famous roles that being of course Count Dracula. Despite being one of the most noted depictions of the character Lee's initial appearance is quite sparse as the film basically portrays Dracula's actions as pretty random and the film really does not have a particularly natural flow about it. Dracula kinda just does things and he appears from place to place without much logic at all. This version of the story really undercuts Dracula as a character through its ridiculously rushed pace, but it is still interesting to take a look at Lee's performance especially when compared to the other actor who have played the vampire Count.

There was Max Schreck's portrayal as basically a monstrous personification of despair and decay. Then later there was also of course Bela Lugosi, who is perhaps the most iconic, take where he combined a certain allure along with a menace. Also of course there was Gary Oldman's rather tongue-in-cheek that took elements of the other portrayals and took them to an extreme. Lee's performance is more limited than those other three since the films uses him so sparsely. Lee only has a few lines of dialogue throughout the film, and even that is mostly to the point dialogue that does not really try to build the character. Lee mainly has to create his Dracula just through his physical portrayal and even in that case he has to do it very quickly since his screen time is so ridiculously sparse in the film.

Lee performance is relatively simplistic as there just is not enough material available to him. Lee though still does create his own take on Dracula even in these fairly ridiculous confines. When he is acting "normal" Lee carries himself with enough innate menace simply from his presence although I have to say he certainly moves far swifter than the usual portrayal of the Count. I suppose this factors into his portrayal of Dracula when the monster comes out in a more obvious fashion. Lee's plays Dracula in the monster mode in a very animal like fashion as the thirst for blood is quite clearly in his expression as he seeks his prey. Lee is very effective in this regard as he brings such an intensity in his portrayal of the vicious vampire, and it is an interesting take on the character. Unfortunately the film only let's him go so far with this, and that is not very far at all considering his sparse appearances in the film. It's a solid performance by Lee to be sure, but very much wasted by the film.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958

And the Nominees Were Not:

Burl Ives in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Orson Welles in Touch of Evil

Richard Attenborough in Dunkirk

Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula

Robert Donat in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

Alternate Best Actor 1958: Results

I decided not to review Christopher Lee in Dracula since he definitely was not lead. If you predicted the four in the correct order I've given you the win.

4. Zbigniew Cybulski in Ashes and Diamonds - Cybulski gives a solid portrayal, even infusing some James Dean mannerisms naturally, of a young devoted soldier who slowly sees there is potentially more to life, even if I do feel his performance is overshadowed by the film as a whole.

Best Scene: Maciek expresses his hesitations to his superior.
3. Toshiro Mifune in The Hidden Fortress - Mifune gives one of his more simplistic leading turns in a Kurosawa film, but nevertheless it is a rousing portrayal of heroics.

Best Scene: The General charges to stop the enemy's pursuit.
2. Alec Guinness in The Horse's Mouth - Guinness gives a great performance that is both a hilarious and oddly poignant depiction of a strange artist.

Best Scene: Jimson and Coker in the boat at night.
1. James Stewart in Vertigo- Good Predictions JackiBoyz, mcofra7, RatedRStar, Connor Olen, and Michael McCarthy. Stewart gives perhaps his darkest and certainly one of his best performances. Stewart's portrayal is an uncompromising and truly haunting depiction of a man overwhelmed by obsession and fear. 

Best Scene: Scottie sees Madeleine "resurrected".
Overall Rank:
  1. James Stewart in Vertigo
  2. Alec Guinness in The Horse's Mouth
  3. Toshiro Mifune in The Hidden Fortress 
  4. Paul Newman in The Long, Hot Summer
  5. Toshiro Mifune in The Rickshaw Man 
  6. Clark Gable in Teacher's Pet
  7. Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones
  8. Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones
  9. Zbigniew Cybulski in Ashes and Diamonds
  10. David Niven in Separate Tables
  11. Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  12. Clark Gable in Run Silent Run Deep
  13. Burt Lancaster in Run Silent Run Deep
  14. Spencer Tracy in The Last Hurrah
  15. Teiji Takahashi in The Ballad of Narayama
  16. Montgomery Clift in The Young Lions
  17. Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil
  18. John Mills in Dunkirk
  19. Minoru Chiaki in The Hidden Fortress
  20. Kamatari Fujimara in The Hidden Fortress
  21. Peter Cushing in Horror of Dracula
  22. Bernard Lee in Dunkirk
  23. Burt Lancaster in Separate Tables
  24. Steve McQueen in The Blob
  25. Kenneth Moore in A Night to Remember
  26. Dean Martin in The Young Lions
  27. Montgomery Clift in Lonelyhearts
  28. Gregory Peck in The Big Country  
  29. Frank Sinatra in Some Came Running
  30. Tony Curtis in Vikings
  31. Kirk Douglas in Vikings 
  32. Rossano Brazzi in South Pacific
  33. Marlon Brando in The Young Lions
  34. Yul Brynner in The Brothers Karamazov 
  35. John Kerr in South Pacific
  36. Spencer Tracy in The Old Man and the Sea
  37. Tab Hunter in Damn Yankees
  38. Louis Jourdan in Gigi
Next Year: 1958 Supporting

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1958: Alec Guinness in The Horse's Mouth

Alec Guinness did not receive Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA as well as an Oscar for writing film, for portraying Gulley Jimson in The Horse's Mouth.

The Horse's Mouth is an entertaining film about a painter and his attempts to fulfill his artistic ambitions.

Most films about artist whether they be painters or composers tend to be about their hardships while trying to show their brilliance to the public whether it is mental problems, or physical problems caused by the world around them. Well that's not the case of Gulley Jimson in The Horse's Mouth, who does get out of prison at the beginning of the film but it is not standing up for his long standing beliefs about something important, no its for making crank/threatening phone calls to a rich patron of the arts. Guinness certainly can play a great dignity as if it were nothing but that's not the case here. No Guinness even sets out in his own way to make sure no one gets any big ideas about Gulley Jimson starting with the way he speaks. Guinness gives Jimson a very crude growl as his voice that instantly suggests that Jimson is not going to try to be carry himself as the usual artist often seen in films about artists.

This is actually largely a comedic performance by Guinness and a great deal of the comedy comes from the way Jimson tries to continue his artistic ambition through various schemes that can be a bit strange. Guinness is a great scoundrel here and I particularly love his physical mannerisms in this performance. Guinness carries himself with a certain withdrawn quality in the way he walks and interacts with others as if that Jimson is always concealing something about his intents. Guinness always exudes a certain sly mischievousness in his portrayal as Jimson always has something up his sleeve, and always has some sort of idea to get what he wants. Guinness does not create even a wisp of pretentiousness in his portrayal of the way that Jimson intends to meet his artistic needs, which are the ends of his odd schemes even if it tends to be in a fairly round about sort of fashion.

Guinness is very entertaining in all of these scenes with his usual energetic style he can so unassumingly bring to these types of roles. Guinness is probably one of if not the best actor at being hilarious well never seeming like he is attempting to do so. His work as Jimson exemplifies this as all the lunacy in Jimson's behavior certainly seems completely fitting for the way he plays Jimson. The humor is always well earned by Guinness's performance and he creates a incredibly sense of fun as Jimson lays down his schemes on wealthy patrons or his ex-wife. Guinness is particularly funny in the scene where he tries to repeatedly trick an old man always pretending to be some important person with an absurd stuffy voice, than usually ending the call rather abruptly with a violent threat in Jimson's violent growl. Guinness is just great to watch here, and never let's a moment fall flat.

Alec Guinness certainly is one of the best actors at both comedy and drama and this performance is a rather brilliant fusion of both sides of that. It is true that in the broad strokes and on the surface Guinness goes for the laughs, and does that well, but that is not all there is to it. What is particularly amazing about Guinness's work is that the artist part is always something quite relevant to his performance even though Guinness's portrayal  never really stops being comedic either. Guinness stays very subtle in this regard and effectively so. Jimson is a rogue to be sure, and most see him as such, but his work suggests that he is truly devoted to what he does. Guinness handles this well by having the rouge overarching yet there is this passion within Jimson that Guinness effortlessly conveys beneath it all, that is always a factor in the man even if it is fairly easy to overlook due to his nature as a man.

Guinness is excellent in any scene where Jimson talks about his work either past or present. In the past Guinness suggests such a nostalgia, and honest pride in Jimson's expression as it is clear Jimson honestly cares for what he does deeply. When coming up with a future work he usually describes the idea in terms of great deal. Guinness brings so much devotion and passion in his performance in these moments, and suggests the real ambition of the man. What is so spectacular about this Guinness never compromises the comedic element of Jimson. Guinness instead brings out these qualities always in a genuine fashion from Jimson he established from the first scene. Guinness since he plays Jimson in this particular also manages to make it so none of Jimson's speeches seem heavy handed in the slightest instead they all carry a very unassuming poignancy.

Guinness excels in both capacities so well and this is perhaps best shown in his interaction with a barmaid with very little self-esteem named Coker (Kate Walsh). Walsh and Guinness are great together and again very funny as Walsh constantly plays Coker as wanting to do Jimson for his behavior, well Guinness always keeps that impish grin. What is so great though is that even while having all this fun there is scene they share together that is really quite tender as Coker explain why she prays despite hating God, and Jimson's describes his ambition after learning the death of the man he use to harass. Both show the characters in less of extremes but still the same people as in their other scenes, and earn this quiet moment completely.

Guinness is especially moving in the scene in his reaction on learning the old man's death. Despite threatening to kill the old man previously Guinness shows a sadness in Jimson and in this moment we see, in its purest form, Jimson's devotion to his art. The sadness Guinness uses to suggest that Jimson has felt the loss of the old man because at the end of the day the man loved his art, which he honestly did care about. Guinness gives a great performance here and the whole idea is quite a challenge as it would easy enough to well not be particularly funny, or perhaps just be completely funny and not really brings the depth needed for the character of Jimson. Guinness creates the full range of character in Gulley Jimson, and never falters once in balancing the different elements of the man.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1958: James Stewart in Vertigo

James Stewart did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John 'Scottie' Ferguson in Vertigo.

Vertigo is excellent film about an ex-police detective with a crippling fear of heights who, as a private detective, takes on a case about his old friend's wife who has been behaving very bizarrely.

James Stewart in the 30's and the early 40's was best known for portraying the romantic aw shucks or the passionate young man fighting for a good cause. After his service in World War II Stewart's choice in roles changed considerably, and the whole process of his career can be seen through his performance in It's A Wonderful which starts out relatively light but goes into darker territory as the film proceeds. Stewart would continue into darker roles in his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock such as Rope and Rear Window as well as his collaborations in Anthony Mann's westerns where he would play bitter deeply cynical characters. Stewart's darkest role though perhaps came in his final collaboration with Hitchcock in this film Vertigo, where it was not just the film around him that was bleak in nature, but also Stewart's own performance.

Technically speaking Stewart's performance does contain some of his mainstays such as his considerable charm in his scenes with Scottie's ex-fiancee Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) who he is still on good terms with. Stewart mediates well though and does not overplay his hand, and is always completely fitting to the tone that Hitchcock creates around him. Stewart brings just enough of his charm really to make it so he kind of grounds Scottie in these early scenes. At first Stewart perhaps even shows us that Scottie is a likable enough guy and perhaps not completely unlike perhaps the reporter he played in Call Northside 777. This actually adds considerably to the overall effect of his performance because Stewart gives us the Stewart style we know and love to show Scottie as a normal guy who we can invest our interest in but the genius of this performance is that this is all perhaps a ruse once we begin to follow Scottie down his investigation.

Vertigo is an interesting film in not only the way the mystery unfolds, but as well by the way that changes one's perspective on the film on re-watch. In the first viewing, without knowing the twist of the film, we follow Stewart as he follows the wife of his client Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) as she visits various odd places around San Francisco. Stewart's performance here is especially reactionary in nature yet he does so much within these confines. Stewart's is excellent in portraying as Scottie starts out the case as just a confused observer of the odd behavior that Madeleine does. The whole thing seems to become stranger though as it seems Madeleine is visiting places that were important to a woman who died the same age that Madeleine happens to be. This whole concept seems particularly absurd but on first watch Stewart grounds it through his performance that shows the whole way Scottie is processing the odd behavior.

What Stewart does especially well in these early scenes is reflect what the case does to Scottie as he continues to follow Madeleine and even eventually begins to interact with her after he must save her when she jumps into a river seemingly in a trance. Stewart mainly just through his reactions develops this interest in her as he basically is allured by her in every way. Stewart is effective by playing it as almost something primal in him. Stewart completely becomes overwhelmed of this quality in his performance even though there interactions are more than a little sparse they never seem lacking because of the way he expresses Scottie almost entrancement with the woman. Stewart's performance work especially well for the film because in the first viewing Stewart brings so much investment in his portrayal that the whole possession by the dead woman seems plausible in some way, but his performance works in a whole different fashion when you learn the truth about this story.

The truth being that the whole Madeleine story is completely false in nature and Scottie is merely being strung along by it. Stewart's performance works equally well as we are able to see it as the cruelty it is, particularly since Stewart honestly portrays how thoroughly Scottie is swept into the tale. Stewart's performance becomes more than simply a man stricken by the confusion of what going on and instead we see a man being slowly driven to a madness by this trick that is being played upon him. The whole idea only becomes worse when it appears Madeleine commits suicide off a high bell tower and Scottie is unable to prevent it because of his vertigo. Stewart's portrayal of the vertigo itself I think perhaps is one of the most memorable reactions in film history. Stewart's portrayal of the vertigo is flawless in creating the absolute fear in Scottie. Stewart gives it so much power though by as well suggesting his realization of his failure along with the petrifying terror as Scottie can do nothing but watch as Madeleine commits suicide.

Stewart's performance continues to be quite powerful by honestly creating Scottie's damaged psyche as he continues to live even with his failure and Stewart is fantastic in expressing how basically broken Scottie is by the events that transpired. It is not simply a man left to be confused by happen that Stewart shows, but rather he brings the true weight of the even through his performance as we see that Scottie could never be the same after what has happened to him. Stewart shows this Scottie as a man truly lost in the event himself, and even though the film is rather swift in dealing with both Scottie mental breakdown and recovery Stewart never loses his step. In the breakdown, which could have been a time to overact, Stewart is absolutely haunting in his was of internalizing the pain in Scottie, Stewart never yells once yet you can feel him screaming inside as Scottie remembers what happened. Stewart even manages to make the recovery believable, simply by showing that Scottie has hardly gotten over what has occurred.

The final phase of the film shifts as Scottie is surprised to find a woman who greatly resembles Madeleine named Judy. It was said that Stewart was miscast in this role as he plays the romantic lead with Kim Novak who was half his age. The thing is though I don't find this to be a romantic performance in anyway, least of all the way that Stewart plays the part. Scottie claims to have fallen in love with Madeleine and perhaps that is what he believes, but Stewart does not show this to be true love by any means. Rather Stewart gives a much darker portrait of instead a obsession after all the woman he thinks he loves was merely playing a part, and he seemed to have fallen in love with only an image a false image. Stewart is quite startling as he brings his performance into the depths as Scottie forces this other woman to change everything about her to suite his image of the only woman he could love which is the image of Madeleine. 

One of the best moments in the film is when Scottie finally finishes sculpting Judy into Madeleine. Stewart's reaction again is perfection as his eyes suggest that of a man whose seen a ghost come back to life right before his eyes. In the moment that he embraces her is especially powerful as Stewart brings out so much desire and the full extent of Scottie's unshakable obsession as he has re-created what he never truly had. It is a curious moment and even rather unsettling because Stewart intensity is so great and he never makes a romantic moment. It is always something far more unsettling as Scottie has not made the woman he has loved, or even recognized Judy as the woman he has loved, but merely made his false memory come back to life for him. This is a phenomenal performance by Stewart as he gives such a profound depiction of both the creation of Scottie's 'love' and the terrible result of the way it twists his mind. Stewart never compromises his character giving such a tragic yet chilling portrait of this man's delusion.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1958: Toshiro Mifune in The Hidden Fortress

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying General Makabe RokurĊta in The Hidden Fortress.

The Hidden Fortress is an entertaining adventure film about two bumbling and greedy peasants who happen upon a General trying to escort his princess to a safe haven.

One of the reasons Toshiro Mifune is one of my favorite actors is the way he always seems to find something new to do even with similar characters. In Seven Samurai, the Samurai Trilogy, The Sword of Doom, Yojimbo, this film and even Sanjuro Mifune plays a samurai hero yet he never seems like he treading water with his character, not even in Sanjuro where he is repeating the same character from Yojimbo. In The Hidden Fortress he once again plays a sword wielding hero, but this is not just him being Yojimbo before he was Yojimbo. When he played Yojimbo Mifune very brilliantly played the character at a rather interesting distance from the drama, as the samurai of that story simply took great joy in making things go wrong for evil doers. That is not the case here for the General who must save his Princess.

Makabe is very deeply involved with saving the Princess and acts as somewhat as a father figure to her. Mifune is excellent in this time showing an utter devotion in his portrayal as there is always a palatable passion in his performance in every scene. There is none of that somewhat cynical attitude he brought in his Yojimbo performance, here he smartly shows that the General absolutely believes in what he doing and do whatever it takes to help her to safety even if it means some great sacrifice. In this performance Mifune shows that he very easily could have taken on the role of the wise Samurai, played by Takashi Shimura, in the Seven Samurai, as he exudes that stoic wisdom particularly well here. Along those same lines he also, like Shimura, he subtly brings that burden of responsibility just through his his eyes, and whole manner as the General.

In those other films I mentioned Mifune technically played a hero, but definitely not one who you instantly would describe as white knight type. That is the case here as the General is truly the good guy of the piece and the film does not hesitate in stressing that fact. Mifune very wisely goes along with it full force, and once again the physical aspects of his performance add so much. Where Kikuchiyo from the Seven Samurai seemed to barely able to stand reflected his borderline insanity, here Mifune stands up rather straight and perhaps even slightly stiffly. In this one Mifune brings the posture of a General as there is an authority just in the way he sits. The hero is there too such as when he is charging on his horse in one scene Mifune makes it something to behold as he turns it into the charge of a Knight in shining armor in the most classic sense. This makes Mifune's performance stand out particularly well, and reinforces so well the noble nature of the General.

The only times where the General does not have to purely be a hero is when he is interacting directly with the two comedic peasants Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara). The performances by Chiaki and Fujiwara are almost purely humorous even when the film is technically serious around them, and Mifune is very good at balancing between the two sides. Mifune acts well in playing the General as very dead pan against the antics of the two. Tahei and Matashichi sometimes help them and sometimes endanger the mission both because of their lust for gold. Mifune plays the General's reaction almost as if he is their father, as sometimes he just reacts in a slightly bemused way at their foolishness, but when they do something that might threaten the Princess in some way Mifune plays the General as a disciplinarian parent who gives them the back of his hand to bring them back into line.

Mifune also find the right balance in creating the relationship with the Princess where again he plays it like a father. Mifune keeps a certain distance in his portrayal though suggesting that he technically is her servant, but he always suggests that powerful underlying devotion to her protection. Mifune gives a particularly efficient and solid performance even though this is one of his most limited characters in a collaboration with Kurosawa in the leading role. The character is particularly straight forward in this case, and even his screen time is somewhat limited. Chiaki and Fujiwara are actually the leads of the film as well, and probably have more screen time total than Mifune does. Mifune this time mainly just needs to be one of the more straight forward of heroes. Nevertheless Mifune does a great job of it that carries the film incredibly well, even if he might not quite reach the heights of some of his other performances.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1958: Zbigniew Cybulski in Ashes and Diamonds

Zbigniew Cybulski did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Maciek in Ashes and Diamonds.

Ashes and Diamonds is an effective film about members of the Polish Home Army who target a Polish communist leader right at the very end of the second World War.

Zbigniew Cybulski plays one of the young soldiers who we see in the opening of the film as they gun down a couple men in car who they assume to be their target. Cybulski in this early scene plays Maciek as simply an energetic young solider who gets a thrill and almost some glee out of shooting the men and following the orders of his superior. The men quickly retreat from the scene leaving others to discover that the men were not the communists. The rest of the film depicts as Maciek and his superior wait as they are slowly given the chance once again to make an attempt on the life of the communist. In the mean time though Maciek is allowed some time to think of things over and is allowed to mind things other than what his current mission is.

Cybulski became known as the Polish James Dean after this film because of the way in which he plays Maciek, that unfortunately also became prophetic since Cybulski also ended up dying young in an accident. Cybulski only lightly takes on the mannerisms of Dean, and is nothing like Martin Sheen's more encompassing Dean influenced work in Badlands. No Cybulski only even really shows them when Maciek is interacting with his romantic interest in the film Krystyna who is the barmaid at the hotel in which they stay at until it is time to make their move again. The direction Andrzej Wajda apparently gave Cybulski was to play the part as if his character had watched Dean's films despite that technically being impossible. The whole idea might sound pretty problematic all together, but the way Cybulski brings Dean's mannerisms into his performance actually does work.

Cybulski only does his Dean mannerisms when Maciek is trying to act cool toward Krystyna, and basically it is a bit of a put on as he actively is trying to be cool. Cybulski actually plays it entirely naturally even in its technically artificiality, as it comes off as something someone would actually do when they emulate the coolness of a movie character to try to be cool himself. Whenever Cybulski's does use the mannerisms it is only at times that make sense and even then he's pretty subtle about the whole. Did Cybulski need to bring these mannerisms into his performance? Not necessarily, but I suppose they add a little more to Maciek as a character anyway. Maciek is not always trying to be all that cool with the lady though, and in these moments is where Cybulski's creates the arc that Maciek goes through during the course of the film.

Maciek's relationship with Krystyna causes changes in him as Maciek basically sees that there is more to life than his current mission. Cybulski in his early scenes was cool but seemed defined by his actions, as he spends time with Krystyna Cybulski shows Maciek as a man who starts to gain substance. He rather effectively eases back on the cool, to begin to show some genuine growth in the man as Maciek sees there is more to life. Cybulski eases very nicely into Maciek's changes as he portrays it as more of a realization than a revelation. Later on when Maciek kills again Cybulski earns the change in Maciek. In the new killing Maciek loses that extreme enthusiasm that was so pronounced the first time, and is rather powerful as he shows that the new experiences in Maciek has made it so his enthusiasm of the kill simply is impossible now.

The only problem with this performance is that it is limited due to the nature of the film. This is absolutely Andrzej Wajda's film as the film is not simply about Maciek's journey or the assassination. Andrzej Wajda takes a considerable time examining the whole atmosphere of the setting and even fairly minor characters are their due. Cybulski I would say is only barely lead as the film takes its time with all the other characters, making it so Maciek's transformation is one facet of the larger canvas of the film. Zbigniew Cybulski deserves credit for giving a compelling performance with what he does have and makes Maciek's story believable. Cybulski's performance is overshadowed by the film as a whole, but it is definitely a good performance that adds to the strength of the film.