Thursday, 31 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1997: Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in L.A. Confidential

Russell Crowe did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Officer Wendell "Bud" White in L.A. Confidential.

L.A. Confidential is a masterful film about a three detectives as they investigate the mysterious spree of murders after the incarceration of the head of L.A.'s organized crime.

The first of the lead detectives that we meet is Bud White who brutally beats and busts a husband for beating his wife before going off to the Police station's Christmas party there he proceeds to go along with his thuggish partner to beat up some men accused of violently assaulting some of their fellows police officers leaving one with the impression that Bud is more of a violent thug than keeper of the peace. Russell Crowe was perfectly cast in the part as he has the needed physical presence to make Bud White an always imposing figure. Even more important though is Russell Crowe's incredible screen presence which makes Bud White, even when he is just beating a white beater, extremely compelling to watch. Although Crowe was not a star before this film it is very easy to see why that changed with this film. Crowe commands the screen here and even makes the early thuggish Bud White an interesting character.

Guy Pearce did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Det. Lt. Edmund "Ed" Exley in L.A. Confidential.

The second lead detective we meet in the film is that of Ed Exley played by Guy Pearce. Pearce, was also a fairly obscure name at the time, and although, for whatever reason, he did not become a star from this film it was definitely a breakout of sorts for him. Pearce in the opening is trying to run the police station where Bud and several other cops decide to beat up the suspects. Ed in this first also seems to be a very particularly man that being the straight forward cop who just wants to do things by the books, and refuses to break any of the laws while upholding the law. Pearce does not mind really playing Ed as the stiff he is, and does well to have it so there is a certain weakness in his attempt at command especially compared to Crowe's performance as Bud. A stiff also might seem like an uninteresting character particularly in the way we see Ed from the beginning, but Pearce also makes his character instantly watchable through his considerable charisma even in a part like this.

Both men and performances seems especially specific but this is all part of the brilliance of both the film and the work here by both actors. Shortly enough we learn that this initial view of the men truly is only the surface and we learn more about them. Bud, for example, does not just take on the occasional wife beater he seems to take on every one he hears about with an extreme prejudice. Crowe is excellent in his portrayal of Bud's reaction to any moment where violence against a woman is seen or even heard about. Crowe's portrays it as something very deep inside Bud as practically a psychotic burst of energy that drives the man. It is not just anger that Crowe shows in him as it is a primal force, but there is a righteousness about it that can be felt. Crowe brings, even in such a vicious intensity, that there is just as intense of an empathy that can be felt through his portrayal of Bud's behavior.

We don't instantly learn more about Ed, that's for a little later, but Pearce still excels in fleshing out the character. One particularly effective choice on Pearce's part is to show an immediate change in Ed since after the police brutality Ed choice to testify against his own officers ensuring himself a promotion to a higher ranking detective. Pearce very naturally brings out a greater command in his performance the moment Ed takes his new position. What Pearce does so well is show that Ed has in no one changed in the brief time from his first scene to this scene, but rather that there is very prideful, and even a certain smugness to Ed since he was only proven right in his dedication to his code. Pearce from this point carries Ed as a man with an unshakable confidence thanks to being vindicated, and it absolutely works in creating Ed, at least at first, as this sort of wall of justice so strong that it seems nothing can break through it.

Pearce and Crowe are both exceptional in portraying the officers differing styles in enforcing the laws through the performance, particularly when they both go to take down some men accused of committing a massacre. Both show a great precision in their performances although in very different fashions. Crowe, when Bud goes to infiltrate their hideout early to be able to kill the culprit rather than take him in, moves with a controlled passion. Crowe is terrific because he is able to, in complete silence, suggest both the extreme hatred behind Bud's eyes yet still in a completely controlled fashion fitting for a detective who's doing his duty in a professional way, well a professional way of sorts anyway. Pearce is a little different though as Ed seems to value brains over brawn which can be seen when he interrogates the men.

Pearce is fantastic in the interrogation scene showing in vivid detail Ed's method as he confuses each man to be able to derive the confessions he wants. Pearce carries the whole side with a considerable cool and completely shows Ed Exley in his element as a detective. Pearce portrays the different methods so flawlessly form his subtle constant intimating tone, but as well through a slightly casual manner about his method as well. Pearce almost weaves the scene as if he is putting on a magic show and just handles the scene beautifully. He commands and control every moment just up until the point in which Bud White literally crashes through into the interrogation room. When Ed gets almost everything he wants out of them in his confession you absolutely believe it because Pearce realizes it so incredibly well. It's just some marvelous work by Pearce, and easily one of the highlights of this performance.

After the take down of the men the two detectives either change or more is revealed about themselves. Bud White's revelations mostly come in through his relationship with a high class prostitute Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) a Veronica Lake look a like. Although my liking of Basinger's performance, which I already found  not particularly special, has lessened even more Crowe's performance in these scenes is outstanding. He begins it simple enough as he acts like the tough cop pushing forward the idea of masculinity as it pertains to his general toughness. What is so amazing about what Crowe does is peel that back and reveal the much more honest Bud under his tough exterior. When Bud finally does ask her out there is such a genuine vulnerability in the moment. Crowe does not over do it, but he gives us just the right glimmer of who Bud really. In the subsequent scenes with Basinger Crowe is extremely effective as he so honestly removes the intensity to reveal Bud as a man traumatized by his youth, and rather wounded by the way he is only used as a thug.

Pearce is not one to be outshone though and stays equally as compelling as Crowe as we see Ed as he begins to see that there are some compromises that he must make if he's going to be able to catch all the criminals. Pearce is such a great actor in portraying the reactionary change of a character with very little dialogue to convey. The film never stops to have Ed explain or even stop to talk about the fact that he's going to bending some rules. This is almost a wordless transformation and thankfully Pearce is on hand since he's pretty much an expert at this. Pearce is basically flawless as he slowly shows Ed lose his own crafted exterior a bit, and loses that smugness from before. It is not that Pearce shows Ed to become less of an officer, rather Pearce effortlessly portrays the way the realities of the cop naturally set in on Ed. When Ed makes the decision to kill the suspects it's quick and to the point, but given quite the power through Pearce's expression which shows what's going in Ed's mind at the time.

One of my favorite scenes with Pearce's portrayal of Exley's loss of veneer as he confronts Lynn over her affair with Bud only to learn that it is legit. Pearce is pitch perfect in the scene as he shows a visible effort in Ed as he tightens his jaw and keeps glare to try to show as if Ed is just as manly as the Bud. Pearce creates just enough of a childish notion in Ed's behavior that when he as sex with Bracken, it is basically his faulty attempt to out man Bud. To be fair to old Ed, it's not all about a loss of veneer as seen in an important scene with the other detective of the film Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey). Ed tells Jack why he became a cop in the first place which was to catch the idea of the man who killed his own father, who was also a cop. Although some of his moral statements might have had slight pomposity earlier none of that can be found in this scene. Pearce brings the needed poignancy to the moment as he reveals exactly what has driven Ed from the very beginning.

Despite both Pearce and Crowe being the leads of the film they actually don't interact all that much, until the third act. The wait is well worth it though as Crowe and Pearce play off each other impeccably well. The interesting thing is they manage to both have no chemistry and a lot of chemistry at the same time. On one hand their differing styles stay firmly in place and it is wonderful to see Crowe and Pearce handle every scene with the controlled Ed and the emotional Bud. They overlap and under lap in the scenes and it is really something watch. They also do have such a chemistry they form as the characters finally understand that both of them are, despite their differences, trying to do the right thing. It is an unspoken truth about the two and that is best shown by their final scene together where one of them isn't even allowed to speak. Crowe and Pearce create the connection though so even though you don't know what both of them are saying, you understand exactly what it means.

Despite the strength of their performances, and the fact that the film definitely had support neither Peace nor Crowe managed to garner any support from the Academy for this film. Although the academy should be blamed a bit for recognizing perhaps the weakest performance in the film while ignoring every other performance in the film somehow, technically so should many other awards bodies who did exactly the same thing. It's a shame though because Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe create one of the all time great screen duos in this film. Both manage to individually fully realize their characters not as simple archetypes, as they might appear in the opening scenes of the film, but rather as truly complex men. Their dynamic together carries this film to the incredible heights that it achieves. These simply are two great performances from two great actors.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1997: Ian Holm in The Sweet Hereafter

Ian Holm did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite receiving some critical citations, for portraying Mitchell Stevens in The Sweet Hereafter.

The Sweet Hereafter is an atmospheric and intriguing film about the way the lives of the people in a small town are changed after a tragic school bus accident. 

Ian Holm plays the opportunist lawyer who tries to get the town residents to utilize the tragedy to get money from the bus company that made the school bus. Holm plays Mitchell Stevens is technically a bit of an outsider, and if it were not for the flash forward scenes Holm would really just be a supporting character as the film focuses heavily on the reactions of the other people in the town as well. Holm almost plays two characters in the film as it cross cuts with Stevens while he is trying to get the people to hire him, and later as we meet him on far more personal terms. In the scenes that are set in the past Holm, who did so particularly well in Alien, is once again great at portraying a type of acting within in character. In the case of Mitchell Stevens he's not portraying an android pretending to be a man, but he still is playing a man who is pretending.

Almost all of the scenes set in the past show Mitchell as he attempts to sway the families of the victim into letting him represent them, this task is easier with some more than others. One of the early families is more than happy not only to hire him, but also dispense various information about the other families that might hurt the case. Holm's pretty straight forward in these scenes just showing Mitchell as an intelligent enough lawyer going through the steps as he is building his case. Things are not so straight forward though when he confronts some of the people who would rather forget the accident rather bring it all very much to the light again while going through a long court battle. Holm is terrific in these scenes as he portrays Mitchell putting on an act, the act of a true crusader rather basically just an ambulance chaser trying to make a quick buck off of people's tragic loss.

Holm is brilliant as Mitchelle tries to convince two of the parents that someone must be sued for the mechanical error. Holm delivers the speech with such a passion as Mitchell says that suing the bus company is almost a moral duty to supposedly prevent something like that from ever happening again. Holm is great because he is completely believable in bringing such an emotional power to what Mitchell is saying and you could easily see how the very emotionally vulnerable people of the town would be swayed by Mitchell's plead. Holm though is so great by showing the act within the emotional power though. There is a performance that Holm shows not in his own actual performance, but rather the performance that Mitchell is giving in his impassioned speech. It's an extremely tricky yet very effective dynamic that Holm manages to achieve.

Mitchell is far from a soulless individual  Although Mitchell's daughter is still alive it is almost as if Mitchell has lost her as she is a never recovering drug addict. During the film he receives a few calls from her and Holm shows the history between the two as he portrays Mitchell as almost responding monotonously to his daughter. Holm suggests as if she has called him in such a way so many times that he can barely bother to with an emotion. There was emotion once though as shown when Mitchell confides to an acquaintance about a time when his daughter almost died when she was young. Holm is absolutely heartbreaking as the love and loss in his voice when he speaks about the time he saved her life does not have a hint of falseness. The power of the scene is only amplified by the fake passion in the early scene and it is truly moving to see the "actor" from before only speaking the absolute truth. 

Holm's work is, I suppose, technically slightly limited by his screen time, and the fact that he's lead in what still feels like an ensemble film. That never seems like it diminishes his impact on the film as a whole as whenever Holm is given the chance in the material Holm utilizes it fully. Although I would not have minded if the film had given even more to do with the character since with what he is given he creates such an interesting complex character. It's a unique piece of work as he effortlessly and very believable realizes this lawyer as a both the lying lawyer but also a man who has some very real problems of his own. It is often the case that in a "director's film" the performances can be overshadowed by the vision, and that is sometimes the case, but Holm knows how leave his mark while never trying to make a spectacle out of himself. Holm's performance, is much like the film, rather unassuming in many ways yet carries such an palatable poignancy all the same.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1997

And the Nominees Were Not:

Russell Crowe in L.A. Confidential

Guy Pearce in L.A. Confidential

Ian Holm in The Sweet Hereafter

Philip Baker Hall in Hard Eight

Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1942: Joseph Cotten in The Magnificent Ambersons and Results

Joseph Cotten did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Eugene Morgan in The Magnificent Ambersons.

Joseph Cotten once again collaborates with Orson Welles in the role of Eugene Morgan a wealthy industrial whose life is very much intertwined with the the lives of those Magnificent Ambersons. As I wrote in my review of Holt's performance as the Amberson heir George, Welles, in the early scenes of the film, purposefully creates a false golden age as we first meet the characters. Cotten, unlike Holt, gives a fairly natural portrayal of the golden age for his character though. In his portrayal Cotten gives just enough charm to his role to make his character likable enough as well as with the right warmth to establish that Eugene certainly cares for his daughter Lucy (Anne Baxter), and in general just wants to see everyone happy in the simplest of ways. It's technically relatively simple, but Cotten never makes it seems as there is nothing, and just makes Eugene honestly a kind man.

Problems arise though when it becomes obvious that Eugene and George's mother Isabel have been in love for some time, and Eugene's presence is because of his desire to pursue this relationship once more after the death of George's father. Although George reacts quite harshly to this revelation Eugene's behavior is nothing to get in arms about. Cotten portrays in a wholly humble and fairly sweet fashion creating the needed sympathy for Eugene while showing George to be a word I won't write here. Anyway though George puts an end to it all by throwing a tantrum leaving Eugene alone. Cotten is moving enough showing Eugene basically just accepting this result in a quiet and somber fashion. The film keeps it fairly simple and short though but Cotten certainly makes us understand and care for his character's plight.

Cotten is consistently good here with some standout moments throughout, particularly his monologue about automobiles, but the material never allows Cotten do anything that notable with the role. He definitely is never bad in anyway, and he definitely steals every scene he shares with Tim Holt but that's not too much of challenge. Whenever he is on screen Cotten realizes Eugene properly as character, and he certainly allows you to understand and empathize with his character. The film is a brief one and the story of Eugene's love and loss seems to be one of the aspects of the film that was perhaps cut a little too short leaving Cotten's impact somewhat diminished. Cotten does solid work in every regard there just is not enough here to allow him to truly make something memorable with the role of Eugene Morgan.
Other Performances:

Roddy McDowall in The Pied Piper - Good Child actors are sometimes hard to come by and bad ones can almost ruin a film like say those atrocious ones in Watch on the Rhine. Luckily The Pied Piper has two of the best from the period with McDowall and Peggy Ann Garner. McDowall plays the overly smart type kid character with a few too many comebacks, which could spell disaster for most. McDowall though does it with such a considerable amount of charm and grace. I particularly found his chemistry with Woolley very endearing and they played off each other in such a wonderful and rather funny fashion. My major complaint with the film is later developments in the plot pushes McDowall to the background and there really is something lost there. The only problem with this performance is how little there is of it, the film never seemed to notice the gold they had with McDowall and Woolley.
Laird Cregar in This Gun For Hire - The more I see of him the more I think perhaps Cregar should be mentioned along with the likes of John Cazale when speaking of a great actor whose career was tragically cut short. Cregar has such a tremendous screen presence which he makes of great use as the liaison between Alan Ladd's hit man and a business man. Cregar has such a unique style about himself and he's one of those actors who is just fun to watch acting. This works well for the role of the weasel he plays here who is quite timid about death even though he is the man who hands out the money to cause death. Cregar makes it that, so you can't help but be a little sorry for his overly gentle fool, who is almost positively petrified by how black everything gets around them. Cregar has a very Peter Ustinov like quality about himself as the way he moves and deliveries his lines as the coward just has the perfect comedic tinge to it. Cregar made me enjoy his performance so much I actually was rather sad to see what happens to his character at the end of the film. It's a nice bit of work and shows his range as he manages to proves himself capable of playing a commanding character through his portrayal of Henry Morgan also in 1942.
Claude Rains in Now Voyager - Claude Rains, a noted player of villains, plays quite against that type as the doctor who plans on helping Bette Davis's character who is about to suffer a nervous breakdown because of controlling behavior of her cold mother. Rains does not have a huge role in the film showing up in various key turning points in the film basically to facilitate the best out of Davis's character. Rains, despite being such an expert at playing viscous could men, is quite adept a playing a warm one. Rains is performance is really quite strong here because it is not just the tender way he speaks that makes his character such a comforting factor. No Rains goes further than that with his performance as through his body language he conveys perfectly always a strong sense of empathy. When Davis character first appears the way Rains interacts and moves with the right delicacy and care.  The doctor just wants to help her get better, succeeding in doing so, and that is extremely easy to believe as Rains is so good at making the doctor so genuinely good. I liked every moment he appeared in the film, and like the other performances mentioned thus far I certainly could have gone for more of him.
I'm sure there's someone who's going to like this ranking.

Overall Rank:
  1. Claude Rains in Casablanca
  2. Claude Rains in Now Voyager
  3. Laird Cregar in This Gun For Hire
  4. Claude Rains in Kings Row
  5. Claude Rains in Moontide
  6. Laird Cregar in The Black Swan 
  7. Otto Kruger in Saboteur
  8. Pierre Larquey in The Murderer Lives At Number 23
  9. Noel Roquevert in The Murderer Lives At Number 23  
  10. Jean Tissier in The Murderer Lives At Number 23
  11. Roddy McDowall in The Pied Piper
  12. Norman Lloyd in Saboteur
  13. George Sanders in The Black Swan
  14. Walter Huston in Yankee Doodle Dandy
  15. Peter Lorre in Casablanca
  16. Joseph Cotten in The Magnificent Ambersons
  17. William Demarest in The Palm Beach Story
  18. Alexander Knox in This Above All 
  19. Walter Brennan in The Pride of the Yankees
  20. Otto Preminger in The Pied Piper
  21. Tully Marshall in This Gun For Hire
  22. Sydney Greenstreet in Casablanca
  23. William Bendix in Wake Island
  24. Paul Henreid in Casablanca
  25. Thomas Mitchell in This Above All
  26. Charles Coburn in Kings Row
  27. Bernard Miles in In Which We Serve
  28. Stanley Ridges in To Be Or Not To Be
  29. Thomas Mitchell in Moontide
  30. Henry Travers in Mrs. Miniver
  31. Robert Preston in Wake Island
  32. Paul Henreid in Now Voyager
  33. Rudy Valee in The Palm Beach Story
  34. S.Z. Sakall in Casablanca
  35. Thomas Mitchell in The Black Swan
  36. Frank Morgan in Tortilla Flat
  37. Jimmy Durante in The Man Who Came to Dinner
  38. Robert Stack in To Be Or Not To Be
  39. Ray Collins in The Magnificent Ambersons 
  40. Anthony Quinn in The Black Swan
  41. Philip Dorn in Random Harvest
  42. Brian Donlevy in Wake Island 
  43. S.Z. Sakall in Yankee Doodle Dandy
  44. Anthony Quinn in Road to Morocco
  45. Robert Preston in This Gun For Hire
  46. Sheldon Leonard in Tortilla Flat
  47. Reginald Owen in Mrs. Miniver
  48. Donald Meek in Tortilla Flat
  49. Richard Travis in The Man Who Came To Dinner
  50. Richard Ney in Mrs. Miniver
  51. Richard Whorf in Yankee Doodle Dandy
  52. Akim Tamiroff in Tortilla Flat
Next Year: 1997 lead

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1942: Results

5. Tim Holt in The Magnificent Ambersons -  Holt's character is an unlikable boring brat, and Holt in no way makes him compelling in any of that.

Best Scene: Fanny's revelation... I guess.
4. Noel Coward in In Which We Serve - Coward obviously had a very specific purpose for his film and his performance which is to give a passionate message for World War II. Well he accomplishes that well leaving other elements of his performance a bit simple.

Best Scene: The Captain delivers a speech to his troops.
3. Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire - Ladd his the right notes in his portrayal of a brutal assassin, but just never quite seems to go the extra distance with his performance.

Best Scene:  Raven talks about his past.
2. Joel McCrea in The Palm Beach Story - McCrea gets kinda the short end of the stick in terms of screen time but he still gives an enjoyable portrayal of a husband exasperated by his wife's odd behavior.

Best Scene: Tom hears about his "sister's" idea.
1. Pierre Fresnay in The Murderer Lives At Number 21- Easily my favorite out of these five. Fresnay as is a great charmer here giving a highly entertaining portrayal that makes his film one enjoyable mystery to watch.

Best Scene: Inspector Wens stalls the killer.
Overall Rank:
  1. Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca
  2. Pierre Fresnay in The Murderer Lives At Number 21
  3. Monty Woolley in The Pied Piper
  4. Ronald Colman in Random Harvest
  5. James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy
  6. Joel McCrea in The Palm Beach Story
  7. Monty Woolley in The Man Who Came to Dinner
  8. Ronald Reagan in Kings Row
  9. Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire
  10. Robert Cummings in Saboteur 
  11. Jack Benny in To Be or Not To Be 
  12. Jean Gabin in Moontide
  13. Bob Hope in Road to Morocco  
  14. Tyrone Power in This Above All   
  15. Robert Cummings in Kings Row
  16. Noel Coward in In Which We Serve 
  17. John Mills in In Which We Serve 
  18. Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn 
  19. Walter Pidgeon in Mrs. Miniver
  20. Tyrone Power in The Black Swan
  21. Gary Cooper in The Pride of the Yankees
  22. Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn
  23. Bing Crosby in Road to Morocco
  24. Tim Holt in The Magnificent Ambersons
  25. Spencer Tracy in Tortilla Flat
  26. John Garfield in Tortilla Flat
Next Year: 1942 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1942: Tim Holt in The Magnificent Ambersons

Tim Holt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying George in The Magnificent Ambersons.

The Magnificent Ambersons is a decent enough followup to Citizen Kane by Orson Welles about a fading prominent family, although the fact that is was severely cut by the studio is quite noticeable.

Tim Holt, best known as the far less greedy miner in the Treasure of Sierra Madre, once again plays a role that seems thankless to the showier roles given to much of the cast. Holt plays George who will inherit what is left of the Amberson fortune. Holt in the early scenes plays George extremely straight as the lead character in a family drama like this, really in pretty much the way these sorts of characters are portrayed in parodies. Holt speaks every line as to the point as possible, and in all honesty is quite bland as George seems to just enjoy his status in life as well as the fact that he seems primed to marry his romantic interest Lucy (Anne Baxter). Although I think this was a purposeful directing choice on Welles part, Holt does not find any wiggle room to do something special within his restriction like say the way Daniel Day-Lewis eventually would in A Room With A View.

The reason George just seems the romantic hero is that Welles obviously wanted to give us this golden age appearance for the family of the Ambersons as well as for the life of George. This is torn down rather quickly though when a scandal arises surrounding George's mother and Lucy's father. This leaves George to confront it in a particularly selfish and fairly extreme way showing him to be actually just really a spoiled brat more that anything. Holt again keeps it incredibly straight to almost the point of parody as he plays George's reaction as basically just a temper tantrum. Again I think this does fit the character, and Welles's intent but Holt's performance does it in a particularly standard fashion. His George is just extremely likable Holt suggest no real substance to this, he does it with no style, and never attempts to do it in cleverly humorous fashion either.

Eventually, well rather quickly due to the brevity of the film, George falls on some hard times himself losing Lucy, having to get a job and eventually getting an automobile accident. Again Holt just stays quite bland and very uninteresting. Holt still keeps George as a man of no depth even when distraught, but I suppose that is true to form. Nevertheless George is still one boring man who I could care less about, and Holt does not even turn that into some sort of compelling anti-charisma. Holt's performance and George as a character just seems there to facilitate the more interesting characters who are performed by the likes of Agnes Moorehead and Joseph Cotten. This not a truly bad performance as I do think technically Holt fulfills his duty in a certain way, but that way is particularly forgettable.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1942: Pierre Fresnay in The Murderer Lives at Number 21

Pierre Fresnay did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Inspector Wens in The Murderer Lives At Number 21.

The Murderer Lives At Number 21 is a very entertaining murder mystery about a detective who knows the boarding house where the murderer lives, but does not know who the murderer is.

The Murderer Lives At Number 21 is a bit like the french version of the Thin Man. Both films are murder mysteries with a wide number of suspects, a comedic tone, and a detective who seems to spend just as much time dealing with his off-beat love interest as he does investigating the case. Pierre Fresnay in turn plays the role of Inspector Wens in much the same way that William Powell played Nick Charles in The Thin Man. Fresnay has a real casual demeanor in his performance as he walks along at an leisurely pace even though there is a murderer on the loose. This in turn is seen through his performance as Fresnay always stays quite calm and relaxed all the time, and treats the whole affair as a game, at least in part anyway.  

Fresnay is quite fun in the role actually though and does have that same time of dry delivery that suited William Powell, although Fresnay is a bit less sardonic in style. Fresnay has the same type of charm that is rather unassuming but so perfectly fitting in his creation of the assured detective. Fresnay makes Inspector Wens properly likable with his charm, and his attitude never seems distant rather it simply creates the right relaxed tone for the picture. Fresnay manner also allows him to play well off of Wens's opera singer girlfriend Mila (Suzy Delair) who is rather flamboyant in nature. Fresnay honestly makes Delair's performance work much more, by his manner of downplaying his part, and giving some rather funny reactions to some of her absurdity. 

All of it is not fun and games though as technically Wens does need to find a murderer which means going to the boarding house and interviewing each resident to find the culprit. Fresnay keeps the same tone even as the bodies start piling up but he does so in a convincing fashion. In his scenes of examination Fresnay oozes the right intelligence along with the wit in the character. Every line he delivers he brings the right incisive and piercing quality and he illustrates that Wens's relaxed attitude is actually part of his method of keeping the crooks off guard. Fresnay carefully never seems to aloof to the point that he seems that the murders don't matter, there is a substance that Fresnay subtly brings this in some key reactions, and he cleverly brings the dramatic weight well still being so eloquently lighthearted.

Pierre Fresnay makes Inspector Wens a great protagonist for a mystery. It's so easy to follow him through the mystery to its end by creating the necessary tone for the film creating an enjoyable story, but Fresnay goes further than that in making his own performance just enjoyable to watch all on his own. Fresnay is very entertaining throughout but my favorite scene of his is when he uncovers the culprit but not in the best of ways. It leaves Wens to distract the killer by delaying although this seems technically hard to believe its actually completely works because of the way Fresnay controls the scene so completely and so brilliantly. It's a marvelous scene for Fresnay and it shows how good Fresnay is at the role. Unlike the Thin Man, The Murderer Lives At Number 21 was a single effort without any sequels, which is a bit unfortunate as Fresnay made Inspector Wens such delightful company that I would not have mined seeing him on another investigation.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1942: Joel McCrea in The Palm Beach Story

Joel McCrea did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tom Jeffers in The Palm Beach Story.

The Palm Beach Story is an enjoyable subversion of the romantic comedy which begins with the happy ending, and slowly reveals perhaps that happy ending wasn't so happy.

Joel McCrea is a common leading man to be found in romantic comedies from the period, and is a good fit for the genre although he takes a bit of a different approach than who is probably the romantic comedy champion Cary Grant. Grant usually played characters who were the schemers and his performance therefore tended to be devious in some way. That is not the case for McCrea's characters who instead roped along by someone else. That was the case for his character in The More the Merrier and it is the case here as well. His character of Tom Jeffers is quite taken aback from the beginning of the film when he finds out his wife  Geraldine "Gerry" Jeffers (Claudette Colbert) has decided to leave him since they are in somewhat dire financial straights and she believes they will be better off separated.

McCrea has a very natural charm and takes on a very unassuming style of his performance. McCrea does not go for an overt flamboyance with his work rather staying very down to earth in his performance. In doing so McCrea makes his character's very likable which is important for the role of Tom Jeffers as we must instantly sympathize with his problematic situation involving his particularly flaky wife. McCrea is quite enjoyable in the early scenes given just enough of a comedic spin in his portrayal of Tom's disbelief at his wife's sudden desire for a separation. McCrea, along with Colbert, are quite together because they both really know how to sell the material. They go with the absurdity just enough to make it funny, while still making their characters people rather than just some strange caricatures.

McCrea despite being the male lead actually gets a bit shaft during the film. For a very long stretch in the the middle of the film, after Gerry has taken off, McCrea entirely disappears from the film.The film instead solely focuses on Colbert's various exploits and we don't catch up with McCrea again until after Gerry has gotten them involved with a plot of mistaken identities involving two rich siblings.  Gerry pretends that Tom is her brother as she schemes to marry the rich man, despite Tom's objections. McCrea is quite hilarious in these scenes as he plays Tom as basically wanting nothing to do with the plot he's in. McCrea is very entertaining as he makes Tom's particularly ticked off reactions extremely funny, and manages to make up for his lost time rather admirably.

McCrea is a nice fit for the lead of a Preston Sturges film as he fits the tone incredibly well, and knows exactly how to delivers the lines. Unfortunately in this case McCrea just is not given all that much to do as the film seems more like a showcase for Colbert than it is for him. McCrea may be the lead but only barely so. McCrea still does excel with the little he is given to do, but it's surprisingly little here. I have to say that I could have gone for more of him as I always liked any scene he was in, and I would not have minded seeing Tom's travels in addition to Gerry's. While it may not technically be anything overly substantial this is a very charming and rather amusing bit of work from McCrea.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1942: Noel Coward in In Which We Serve

Noel Coward did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain E.V. Kinross in In Which We Serve.

In Which We Serve is an decent enough film that tells the stories of the men who were on a sunken ship in the Royal Navy during World War II.

Noel Coward does not just star in the film he also wrote, produced it, and directed it along with David Lean. Coward was actually nominated for producing and writing the film. Coward also plays the role of the Captain of the ship who we see grasping for life on a makeshift life boat, on the ship performing his duties and at home with his loving wife (Celia Johnson). This was undoubtedly a passion project for Coward and obviously his way to show his support for his countrymen in the war that was waging when this film as made. Due to this this film takes a very precise depiction of the men to show them all to be good souls who just want a good life which they sacrifice for the greater good. 

Coward's performance is much like his direction and writing here. It's purposefully fairly light in terms of the depth given. Coward portrays the Captain in his home life fairly simply as just a relaxed man who loves his wife and enjoys his life simple as that. Coward brings enough charm, wit and warmth in these scenes always seeming invested enough. Coward seems to frankly give these scenes to Celia Johnson on purpose though, as Coward consistently underplays his role really giving all the emotional moments to Johnson. Obviously the set up was Coward's intention and really it works perfectly fine for the film, even if Coward's performance never becomes all that compelling though.

On the sea Coward is the ship's captain even though Coward physically does not exactly look like a military type. Coward actually offers enough command for the part, and is believable in the role. He also is not overshadowed in the same ways in this scene bringing the needed presence that a Captain should have in such a circumstance. In the scenes of the men trying to survive on the sea without a ship Coward actually is rather could in showing the physical discomfort in the situation and rather effectively loses the usually veneer found in Noel Coward's usual style. Again Coward does not drive especially hard in the role still, he never seems disinterested but always content to be just good enough in the role nothing more.

The one scene where Coward seems to change in this attitude is his last scene where he delivers a passionate speech to his men to fight on and remember the men who died. Coward gives this speech a great deal of passion and you can easily see that the man truly believed these words with all his heart. In that you really see the point of both Coward's performance and the film as a whole. Coward really did not want the acting, or the characters to be the noted thing about the film. No obviously he wanted the message to stand out the most, which makes sense for the time although it makes the film particularly a film of its time only. Coward does not make the other aspects bad though, just very limited and to the point. This includes his performance which is good but ,other than his speech, just good enough. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1942: Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire

Alan Ladd did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Philip Raven in This Gun for Hire.

This Gun For Hire is an interesting enough film noir that follows a hit man who wants to get revenge on his former employer, while evading the police, after having been double crossed.

Alan Ladd, who I know and I imagine most know best as the titular character of Shane, plays a role that is a bit out of the ordinary for the time which is a bit out of the ordinary. It is not that he simply plays a hit man, the careers of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney show that playing criminals was a common occurrence, but the role of Philip Raven is rather different from the gangster those actors played. Raven is actually much closer in vein to say the titular Jackal from the Day of the Jackal. It is not powerful explosive emotions that seem to drive Raven, but rather a very cold professional brutality instead which is certainly rather striking to see from a film made in the early forties.

Ladd's performance also is not trying to sugar coat this character really in any regard. The character is cold and brutal and Ladd actually plays him this way. Ladd carries himself well in the part creating a rather intimidating presence with his performance, and he definitely has that death stare down that is needed for a part like this. Ladd gives a particularly dour performance here, and is not afraid to show this character as the sociopath he is. There is an innate viciousness that Ladd brings to his role and he is very effective early on the film as Raven is taking care of business silently. Ladd finds the brutality of Raven's murders not through an emotionally anger, but rather through his rather intense callousness in almost all things he does which includes killing others.  

Ladd is good in the role in that he takes the right approach, but he's never quite great. Part of this comes from when Raven starts to speak a little more, which is unfortunate. Although Ladd is good in the silent portrayal of Raven's menace he is not quite the same when Raven tries to openly threaten others. Ladd seems to try a little hard in these moments to seem intimidating, and although he never bad it actually weakens what he did right with the role when he is not speaking. Thankfully Ladd never goes too far and fully compromise the rest of his performance with some true overacting. This does weaken the character's impact and Ladd's performance here never does become nearly as compelling as Edward Fox's performance as a similar character in The Day of the Jackal.

Being a film from the forties I fully expected the character to be softened as the film progressed especially after he kidnaps a woman (Veronica Lake) who begins to question his pessimistic attitude. Well although the film reveals Raven not to be pure evil, and that his viciousness does come from somewhere he actually still stays fairly cold after all. Ladd is good as I'm glad he still stays with the character even as he reveals more about the man. Ladd reveals that Raven is not soulless and his troubles started at childhood. Ladd is particularly good as he tells his childhood story because he brings such a powerful hate that is entirely fitting for such a hard boiled man. It would have been easy to make these scene emotional in the wrong way, but Ladd keeps Raven as he killer the whole film through.

This is never quite a great portrayal of the almost heartless killer as I do think a truly great performance very well could have come from this character with another actor in the role. Ladd, to his credit though, hits all of the right notes with his performance through taking the right approach. He does not hit all of these notes exactly right as there are definitely scenes where you could see where there could have been a greater impact, yet Ladd still is on mark with how the scene should play in relation to the character. Ladd does not mind being unlikable, and rightfully never compromises his character, making his more emotional scenes bring depth to the character rather than a contradiction. Ladd never makes the absolute most out of the role, but he still does do it some justice giving an interesting portrait of a very unorthodox character for the time.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1942

And the Nominees Were Not:

Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire

Joel McCrea in The Palm Beach Story

Noel Coward in In Which We Serve

Tim Holt in The Magnificent Ambersons

Pierre Fresnay in The Murderer Lives At Number 21

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1979: Results

5. James Remar in The Warriors- Remar is gives a compelling and complex portrayal of the most interesting member of the Warriors even his performance is cut short.

Best Scene:  Ajax is caught.
4. Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now-Brando earns the build up to his character and gives a fascinating depiction of a man lost in his own delusions of grandeur.

Best Scene: "An errand boy"
3. Michael Palin in Life of Brian- Palin creates several hilarious characters particularly a not particularly commanding Pontius Pilate, and a particularly pleasant Centurion.

Best Scene: The guard sends men on their way to the cross.
2. Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now- Hopper, despite not even giving a name, creates a fascinating depiction, worthy of his own film, of a burn out who has discovered an odd sort of faith.

Best Scene: Photojournalist greets Willard.
1. Ian Holm in Alien- Holm gives an excellent performance, which is amplified all the more by the terrific ensemble around him, of a rather unique deception and a particularly chilling depiction of a unique sort of evil.

Best Scene: Ash's final message.
Overall Ranking:
  1. Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now
  2. Ian Holm in Alien
  3. Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now
  4. Michael Palin in Life of Brian
  5. John Hurt in Alien 
  6. Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now
  7. Yaphet Kotto in Alien 
  8. Fredric Forrest in Apocalypse Now
  9. Tom Skerritt in Alien
  10. Harry Dean Stanton in Alien
  11. James Remar in The Warriors
  12. Justin Henry in Kramer vs. Kramer
  13. Fredric Forrest in The Rose
  14. John Cleese in Life of Brian
  15. Eric Idle in Life of Brian
  16. Larry Hankin in Escape From Alcatraz
  17. Burgess Meredith in Rocky II 
  18. Paul Dooley in Breaking Away
  19. Carl Weathers in Rocky II
  20. Wilford Brimley in The China Syndrome
  21. Michael O'Keefe in The Great Santini
  22. Harrison Ford in Apocalypse Now
  23. Jackie Earl Haley in Breaking Away
  24. Richard Dysart in Being There 
  25. Harry Dean Stanton in Wise Blood
  26. Laurence Fishburne in Apocalypse Now
  27. John Forsythe in And Justice For All
  28. Albert Hall in Apocalypse Now
  29. Patrick McGoohan in Escape From Alcatraz 
  30. Christopher Lloyd in The Onion Field
  31. David Patrick Kelly in The Warriors
  32. Ted Danson in The Onion Field
  33. Ned Beatty in Wise Blood
  34. Paul Benjamin in Escape From Alcatraz
  35. Michael Douglas in The China Syndrome
  36. Dan Shor in Wise Blood
  37. Mickey Rooney in The Black Stallion
  38. Deforest Kelly in Star Trek The Motion Picture
  39. Sam Bottoms in Apocalypse Now
  40. Michael Murphy in Manhattan
  41. Laurence Olivier in Dracula
  42. Roger Hill in The Warriors
  43. Joe Spinell in Rocky II
  44. Dennis Quaid in Breaking Away
  45. Hoyt Axton in The Black Stallion
  46. Roland Topor in Nosferatu The Vampyre
  47. Jack Warden in And Justice For All
  48. Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek the Motion Picture
  49. Daniel Stern in Breaking Away
  50. Walter Ladengast in Nosferatu The Vampyre 
  51. Alan Bates in The Rose
  52. Donald Pleasence in Dracula 
  53. Melvyn Douglas in Being There
  54. Ed Begley Jr. in The In-Laws
  55. Steve Bisley in Mad Max
  56. Burt Young in Rocky II
  57. Jack Warden in Being There
  58. Marcelino Sanchez in The Warriors
  59. Terry Jones in Life of Brian
  60. Trevor Eve in Dracula
  61. Richard Libertini in The In-Laws
  62. Jeffrey Tambor in And Justice For All
Next Year: 1942 lead

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1979: James Remar in The Warriors

James Remar did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ajax in The Warriors.

The Warriors is a stylish and rather entertaining film about a gang who must return to their territory through many enemies after a grand meeting of the gangs has gone terribly wrong.

Although I do genuinely like the Warriors as a film it's not a film I would describe where the acting really stands out, for the most part anyway. Michael Beck is a bit too stoic as the lead Warrior Swan and most of the other warriors seem pretty interchangeable. The same goes for most of the villains who are more defined by their look then whatever it is that they do, well except for David Patrick Kelly who is always a perfect fit in the role of a slimy weasel. Out of the warriors though there is one performance that stands out and obviously that performance belongs to James Remar. Remar plays Ajax who while not the leader of the Warriors is one of their most prominent members. Ajax wants to be leader and does not mind saying that he's a better man for the job than Swan. Remar's performance, unlike almost every other performance in the film, makes his presence known refusing just to be part of the scenery created by Walter Hill.

Remar's carries himself with a considerable amount of cool early on oozes with the right sort of menace in his performance. Remar's makes himself an imposing bad ass incredibly well, and has a certain charisma with his part that is a tad a lacking with his co-horts in the film. Remar honestly makes you think that Ajax should be the leader simply because Remar carries so much more command with his performance than Beck is able to ever muster with his work. This technical problem is made worse though as Remar just is so much more in the situation with his performance in a physical sense to as he brings the energy needed in the situation, and although you obviously see the fight with the rest of the performances, it is through Remar's performance that you really feel the fight as well. The funny thing though is the film does wish to show us Ajax as a hot head with the wrong kind of lusts who is too crazy to be the leader, and Remar does not reject this idea either.

Remar is equally effective in showing why Ajax is also far from the ideal leader since he probably likes certain elements of gang life a little too much. Remar's always shows that Ajax has an energy about him, a definite violent energy that is ready to explode at every time. As I wrote before, Remar brings the right physicality to the role as he shows that Ajax almost is always holding himself in a bit since he is ready to explode at any minute. Violence is not all that he loves as Ajax is also a very lusty sort since he is also often preoccupied with women, the problem is for him is he never really stops thinking about the violence either. Remar builds up his character well so when Ajax finally just decides to go on and fight we see the full extent of Ajax's ferocity as a fighter while Remar is careful to show that Ajax is also loving every moment of the battle.

Remar's best scene is when all of Ajax's vices come together as he tries to harass a woman in the part. Remar's quite good in this scene because he portrays it every simply as the worst of the thug mentality, and shows technically what the real nature of Ajax is. The best moment comes when the woman reveals herself to be a cop while handcuffing Ajax to a bench and signaling for him to be picked up. Remar's is very good in the scene portraying Ajax as losing any of that cool he had before, and almost turns him into an animal in a cage that is simply trying to get from from his bonds. The only problem is with the scene is it is instantly the end of Ajax and we never see him again once he is taken away by the police leaving us only with the far less interesting characters. Remar with his relatively brief time though gives a much fuller portrayal of gang member as he honestly brings the cool with the tough carefree attitude, yet cleverly subverts that by showing he still is a thug when you see what really compels him.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1979: Ian Holm in Alien

Ian Holm did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ash in Alien.

Alien is a masterful horror film about a crew of spaceship who answer a distress call that leads to contact with a deadly life form.

One of the great elements of Alien is found in its ensemble. Although I have focused on Holm for the review everyone is worthy of mention. The crew of the spaceship called the Nostromo are not just dead meat, despite their high mortality rate, nor are they the standard character usually found in Science fiction. This reflected in almost everyone's performance who play their parts in a particularly down to earth fashion, as they reflect the fact that this crew is not a group of space adventurers rather they are simply a group of people doing a routine job for money. Along with that there is considerable amount of camaraderie the actors create with each other suggesting that the group have been working together for awhile. Their performances just intertwine incredibly well, and it only ever feels like a genuine group of people you meet not just some standard sci-fi or horror archetypes as they easily could have been.

John Hurt, who actually was nominated for a Bafta, gives a very strong performance as one of Kane a crew member who is particularly tired, and finds everything is just rather routine. He very nicely though shows the right excitement in Kane when searching through the odd ship they discover from the distress call. Hurt deserves particular praise for the film's most famous scene of the chestburster. The scene may not have been as effective if it were not for Hurt's portrayal who gives one of the most searing portrayals of pain on screen, and makes you believe that this horrible thing is happening to Kane. Tom Skerritt is also quite good in portraying the ship captain's Dallas. Skerritt brings the right likability and relaxed quality to be the captain of such a ship, but he also brings the right sort of command to the part. He is a comforting factor in the film, seeming perhaps the hero, making all the more effective with his early departure.

Harry Dean Stanton is a particularly interesting choice to be in a sci-fi film, and he offers some nice comic relief early on. He's quite enjoyable in being just about a janitor for the ship. Stanton brings a different kind of exasperation one where he seems to genuinely not care about anything other than the fact that he's getting less money than the rest of the crew. Along with Stanton on the janitorial crew is Yaphet Kotto as Parker who also is upset about the lack of money, although Kotto makes it in a somewhat more amiable half joking sorta fashion. He and Stanton are great together and I love the way the two have kinda a connection between each other but a certain distance throughout the rest due to their more "lowly" jobs on the ship. Kotto gets to do a little more than Stanton, since he lasts longer, and very effectively and believably shifts Parker into passionate man who wants to stop the monster and save the crew.

The ladies are no slouches either. Sirgourney Weaver is exceptional from the beginning as Ripley, although she would later achieve even higher heights with the character in the two sequels to this film, this is still a very assured performance that leads the later of the half incredibly well. Weaver might not give the best performance in this film, as is the case in Aliens and Alien 3, but her strong screen presence adds so much to the film. Veronica Cartwright has what could have been a technically thankless role as the weakest member of the crew Lambert. Cartwright is amazing in the role though because she creates such a real and intense fear. Cartwright does not show that Lambert is just afraid, no she makes Lambert someone almost petrified by her situation. Cartwright makes her absolutely gripped with fear, and it has to be said that Veronica Cartwright is perhaps the greatest cinematic screamer of all time.

What about old Ian Holm though, the man this review is technically all about? Holm is kinda the odd man out, and this is a great ensemble in the best sense since all the other performances amplify Holm's. As I said before you really believe the crew as they all have the right relaxed quality toward one another, well everyone except Holm. Holm has a certain cold streak to his performance, and never seems to share any real connection with other crew members. The crew also all are rather tired of their jobs again this makes Holm stand out. Holm has Ash always very up to task never giving the sense that the character is tired in the least. Holm portrays Ash with constant engagement rather different from the general half-hearted attitude given by the other crew members towards their tasks. Holm and the rest of the cast together create the perfect dynamic by showing that Ash is definitely not like the rest.

Holm is very interesting in the early scene of the film as there is an oddness he brings to his performance, that is all the more pronounced when compared to the particularly naturalistic performances given by the rest of the cast. Holm's performance is particularly astute as he throws in some strange mannerisms that Ash has some of the time. The mannerisms are not strange in the usual way, and Holm is brilliant in his odd choices here. Holm adds in some overly human things to do like for example when he blows out his breath when he is suppose to be bored. It is technically something a human does, but the way Holm does it seems like it is a man acting as you know a proper human should act. You can kinda see the performance, not Holm's, but Ash's. Holm never goes too far with this to give away the game completely, but he alludes to the fact that there is something not quite right about Ash in such a clever subtle fashion.

The deal with Ash is kept a secret by the film and Holm when Kane finds himself incapacitated with an Alien facehugger. On one hand Holm portrays Ash very passionate about letting Kane back on the ship for treatment, and even fervently performs Ash's argument with Ripley since he overrode quarantine protocols which claims was for the sake of Ash. Holm carefully conflicts these claims with his portrayal of Ash's attitude toward Kane while the creature does whatever it is doing to him. Holm plays it rather interestingly as he shows Ash to be very intrigued, and quite gentle in these scenes. The thing Holm never portrays this as Ash having sympathy toward Kane, but rather his tender movements seem toward the creature. Holm again is excellent because he plays his hand in just the right fashion to not give away the truth about Ash, but still completely setting up the intent of the character.

One of my favorite scenes for Holm is the dinner after Kane has seemingly recovered. Again everyone else amplifies Holm's work as they are all just talking casually seeming ready to enjoy Earth again soon enough and happy to see their friend healthy again. Holm though is brilliant as he shows that Ash is absolutely knows something is going to happen, and happen very soon. Holm makes Ash completely knowing as he simply just watches Kane the entire time with a bit of reserved excitement ready to see what is going to happen next. When the alien does rear its ugly head its not fear or disgust that Holm expresses like the rest of the crew, but instead he shows a cruel fascination at the turn of events. Holm is so good though because again he still does not quite seem to give up the game, and it is believable that the others would take so long to suspect him because Holm does keep Ash's oddities so subtle.

Eventually Ash is caught by Ripley mainly because he seems to be bleeding but the problem is his blood is white not red. Holm is amazing though as he instantly switches to becoming incredibly imposing in an instant as Ash decides that Ripley knows to much. Despite Holm's stature, he still brings a strong menace as there is just such a sudden fierce determination to bring death that Holm portrays in Ash, while Ash seems to have far more strength than a normal human being. Well that's because Ash is in fact an android which becomes even more apparent as he is attacked by the other remaining crew members and begins to malfunction. This could lead to some rather bad overacting, but Holm actually completely sells the scene as Ash begins to convulse wildly before his head is knocked off. Holm honestly comes across as machine losing its proper functionality and its just a wonderfully acted scene by Holm.

Holm, despite only being a head, actually gets one more scene as the crew revives him temporarily to find out what he knows about the Xenomorph. Holm, again only acting with his head, is marvelous in the scene. Holm, while still being the android by showing the malfunctions, delivers Ash's final speech perfectly. He brings such dread to Ash's message while making it more fiendish by showing that Ash is so satisfied that they will soon die. Holm is absolutely bone chilling with his final smile he gives after he tells the crew that even though they are doomed they do have his sympathy. This is a fantastic performance by Ian Holm because he never gives away the secret of his performance, but when it is revealed it makes absolute sense due to the hints from his performance. A lesser actor may have given up the game instantly, or just made it a cheap twist, but Holm executes the character of Ash so perfectly creating a truly memorable villain that works so wonderfully with the rest of the cast.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1979: Michael Palin in Life of Brian

Michael Palin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr Big-Nose, Francis, Mrs A, Ex-leper, Ben, Pontius Pilate, Boring Prophet, Eddie, Nisus Wettus, and the 3rd wise man in Life of Brian.

I have not seen a great deal of what Monty Python has to offer, as I have not seen many of their old sketches, nor all that many of their films. Nevertheless whenever a film involves multiple Pythons the one who almost always stands out to me is Michael Palin. This is once again the case here in Life of Brian. Graham Chapman is fine as the straight man, John Cleese and Eric Idle are quite enjoyable as their various character but the highlight of the film is Michael Palin and his various characters. Cleese and Idle are both enjoyable in their various characters but they are not excessively dissimilar in nature. Cleese and Idle's main goal is just to be funny though and they certainly succeed at that, but Palin really goes the extra distance with his performance. Palin does this by never allows one of his characters to be just a copy of another.

One of the way that Palin does this is that he makes a far better use of the physical side of his performance than Cleese and Idle do. Palin changes more than just his voice or merely just his lines, but he changes himself with each new character. For example there is when he is Mr. Big-Nose for example he is sure footed and withdrawn as the manner of a man restraining his anger. As the cured leper Palin walks with a particularly strong stand and every movement is especially robust to fully suggest that the man is in the best physical condition. There is also his Pontius Pilate where Palin very brilliantly suggests the previous Pilate portrays as his movements have that stoic quality fitting for the man of the Pilate position. Almost every one of Palin's characters has a different feeling about them, and Palin never just makes it Michael Palin being funny in another costume.

This is a comedic performance though so is he funny. Well yes he is. Palin in fact by physically playing Pilate so "correctly" it makes it all the funnier when he speaks with his speech impediment. The speech impediment would not be funny all by itself, but Palin makes it funny because he still carries Pilate as if he is this great authority figure despite the fact that everyone has to hold back laughter well around him. My favorite of Palin's character here though is as a prison official in charge of telling prisoners where they need to go. Palin creates some pure comedic gold as he keeps the prison official so overly courteous and gentle as he directs various people to their deaths by crucifixion. It only gets better in that these scenes are paired with his Pilate ones making it so Palin just gets to top himself with the amount of laughs he is able to derive with his competing performances.

Michael Palin here does not have any character arcs just characters to have some fun with. In this task he completely succeeds as he is consistently entertaining in his various random appearances throughout the film. He's always a bright spot in his quick appearances, and his largest role of Pilate is one of the true high points of the film. Palin steals this film quite efficiently yet rather modestly with his particular manner of comedic style. Honestly I think Palin probably could have just played all the character and it would have worked out fine as he's so good in creating those different types of characters to make them unique in some way while making sure that he never forgets to be very amusing as well. Palin serves the film with his set of supporting performances probably just as well as he possibly could since he certainly adds plenty of comedy to this comedy.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1979: Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now

Dennis Hopper did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the American photojournalist in Apocalypse Now.

As I wrote in my previous review Apocalypse Now depicts many forms of madness whether it is the rigid and controlled madness of Colonel Killgore (Robert Duvall), the delusions of grandeur of Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), the hidden madness of our guide Willard (Martin Sheen), the almost comatose sort of madness of most of Kurtz's followers, and I suppose the more traditional, as in the very extroverted, type of madness is best personified by Dennis Hopper's nameless photographer. Hopper makes an unexpected appearance just a little bit of time before the expected appearance of Brando's Colonel Kurtz, as Willard and the other crew members arrive to Kurtz's compound which is littered with Kurtz's native worshipers as well as the corpses of many other natives, who perhaps weren't the worshiping type.

One of the best aspects of Apocalypse Now are the surprises found in the journey. One of these surprises is Hopper who plays a photojournalist who obviously has been in Vietnam probably longer than most of the soldiers. Hopper's no stranger to unstable character and he's pitch perfect here as the photojournalist. Hopper turns the photojournalist into a man who seems completely spent in almost every way imaginable. Hopper's physical performance is flawless as his odd, yet entirely natural seeming, movements convey the idea that the man is probably under the influence of more than one substance. Everything about Hopper's manner also instantly suggests the derangement of the man as in his eyes and face you can see that this man has had probably too many experiences to count in the war, and have permanently left him a more than a little mentally off.

Hopper is also terrific in his portrayal of a different kind of worship of Kurtz opposed to the more reserved catatonic manner of the other followers. Hopper instead shows the photojournalist as a strange observer, and outsider despite technically being quite influenced by Kurtz. Hopper is brilliant in his performance of the photojournalists own admiration of Kurtz as the photojournalist seems to be completely awe struck by the idea of the man. Hopper is excellent as he makes the photojournalists own unique worship of Kurtz completely believable, as he makes it some sort of revelation for the photojournalist as if Kurtz has become something he believe in. Hopper's never makes this one note though as there is the short moments where the photojournalist points out that Kurtz is far from perfect. Hopper is great because he brings the moments of defensive doubts in the man so naturally, and never leaves the photojournalist as a simple fanatic.

Like the performances of Frederic Forrest, Robert Duvall and Marlon Brando, it is just fascinating to watch Hopper perform here. He takes on this completely insane character but never just hams it up in the part. He certainly never leaves the insanity in question in anyway, but makes it feel completely authentic to the setting of the film as well as the part. If I had a problem with Hopper's performance, and in reality don't, is that I only could have gone for more of him in the film. Hopper's overall screen time is extremely brief yet Hopper still makes his impact beautifully and realizes this character absurdly well. Hopper, despite not even getting a name for his character, creates the photojournalist in such vivid detail that he suggests that this man had his own complicated story to Kurtz's compound. This is exceptional work by Dennis Hopper as he makes his nameless supporting character really worthy of being a lead character in his own film.