Saturday, 30 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2004: Paul Giamatti in Sideways

Paul Giamatti did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, Sag, well receiving many critical citations and winning The Independent Spirit Award and NYFCC, for portraying Miles in Sideways.

Paul Giamatti's snub seems to be one of those extremely confusing Oscar omissions due to his precursor love as well as the fact that the film itself was quite well liked by the Academy as a whole. Giamatti likely failed to get due to his assumed position in the lineup with voters liking putting their passionate vote, Clint Eastwood, over him who they thought was assured a spot already. Giamatti snub only seems to add to injury since the film is so closely focused on his character and his performance throughout. The supporting players are allowed their moments, but the film never once leaves Miles's perspective for more than a second or two. Sideways also gets to stand out as the only Alexander Payne film since about Schmidt where a lead performance was not nominated. Giamatti like George Clooney in The Descendants, and Jack Nicholson also plays a rather exasperated man going through some sort of personal crisis which is the focus of the film, while of course having various comedic moments also sprinkled lightly throughout.

Giamatti certainly seems well cast in the part, and delivers in quickly establishing Miles as a very certain type of man. Giamatti rightly portrays Miles as basically always at least semi-depressed in most every scene of the film. Giamatti does not show the depression to be something overwhelming that would necessarily even raise any concerns though. Giamatti is very effective in portraying it as a very much lived in depression that resides in Miles. He always seems at least somewhat down in his whole manner, and his semi down beat manner speaking. Giamatti hits just the right note with it because it properly denotes the recent history of Miles's life, but he handles it in a way that although noticeable it would never really ever cause worry. Giamatti makes seem as though a character trait simply due to the time in which Miles has had it. He also does quite well though to make it truly something dynamic in Miles in that the intensity of Miles's general malaise properly changes depending on the situation.

Normally Giamatti's shows Miles's distress being there but quiet, some circumstances make it almost disappear, and of course being reminded of his wife Giamatti shows it as something quite explosive. The only times where it really seems to almost go away are whenever Miles talks about his love and knowledge of various wines. Giamatti handles these moments very well by showing Miles when in his element and in his passion that he almost forgets his personal plight for a moment. Giamatti actually  technically treads the line of being unlikable here as he definitely brings a certain smugness to Miles when he is offering his sage advice on proper wine making and drinking. Giamatti avoid being unlikable though because he is able to gain sympathy through every situation by making Miles genuine as the type of guy he is. Miles is far from perfect, and he probably is the cause of much of his suffering, but Giamatti only ever shows this as the type of flaws someone simply has.

One of the highlights of the film is the unique chemistry between Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church as Miles's friend Jack. Although they are friends the two do not create their relationship as some truly great friendship between the two men. It's a friendship but a very particular and realistic one between the two. They are not alike in many ways with the often upbeat Jack contrasting a great deal from the very much downbeat Miles. It is not the similarities that bring them together but rather the one sorta allows the other one to be. On the one hand Jack is a philanderer and Miles acts as almost a non-moral compass as Giamatti plays these scenes with only ever suggesting that Miles never really stops Jack allowing Jack to be. On the other hand Jack does take Miles's depression in stride while offering constant support to his friend the best he can. It is an unusual friendship to be sure but it is a wholly believable one through the honest chemistry the two share.

Miles personal journey is extreme in moments but rather modest on a whole. As I said before Miles's depression of sorts never leaves him wholly or at least never permanently, not even in the final moments when perhaps there is hope for him. Giamatti though weaves kinda a tapestry of the highs and lows of his personal journey. Giamatti is exceptionally natural about as he allows there to be a flow and not be a flow at the same time. There are moments of happiness inter spliced with sadness that seems always honest for his character. For example when he finds a potential love in a woman Maya (Virginia Madsen) there is the sense of things becoming better for Miles yet Giamatti shows that his general sadness in a way drives him to her to begin with. This is a very good performance by Giamatti simply by making Miles seem like just someone you could meet. Even in the more comedic moments Giamatti plays his reactions in a funny yet down to earth fashion.  It's a strong leading work that works well in bringing the whole film together.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2004: Will Ferrell in Anchorman

Will Ferrell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

Anchorman is a very funny comedy about the life and times of one local news anchor.

I will start right off in saying I'm no fan of Will Ferrell as a comedian. I find his usual shtick of the man child who gets loud and noisy gets very tiresome very quickly. I just don't find it particularly funny and I find he too often just devolves into repetition in his performances. I was not even looking forward too much to watching this film, but I was very encouraged by other non-Will Farrell fans who claimed this was the Will Farrell film that they did enjoy. Well watching the film proved their claim to be true, and I actually don't dislike Farrell in this film. The main reason being that he does not exactly do his usual thing exactly. Well Ron Burgundy is not exactly a normal functioning adult by any means, and Farrell is in no way avoiding his usual style of comedy there's a certain factor that makes his performance here far more enjoyable than usual for me. That factor being that he is playing a 70's local news anchor who at least seems to suffer the delusion of being somewhat intelligent.

Ferrell is very enjoyable in the fact that he plays the role to actually be at least marginally convincing as a news anchor. Obviously its still entirely comedic in nature, but Ferrell's proper newsman man voice and whole physical manner are quite good. Ferrell is convincing just enough with his semi refined manner here that it makes his stupidity all the funnier. His completely moronic statements such as first believing San Diego's name is something that it definitely does not stand for then proceeds to retract that statement claiming scientists are still trying to determine what the name means exactly would not be nearly as funny if it were not for the semi-intellectual manner in which Ferrell speaks. That pretty much goes throughout his whole performance as he makes something rather endearing out of the foolishness expressed by Burgundy because Burgundy always states the foolishness in such way in which you feel as though Burgundy is really trying.

This is not a terribly complex comedic role as Ferrell technically keeps up with this same style throughout the film and Burgundy does not really change all that much by the end of it. Of course that does not matter since this is a comedy that is particularly goofy after all it has various news teams duke it out in a particularly hilarious and absurd brawl. The biggest change that occurs is when Burgundy gets fired from the news leaving him a broken man. The best parts of the brief set of scenes is when Ferrell really goes extremely dramatic in portraying Burgundy as haunted beyond belief by his failure as a newsman. When Ferrell plays rather "seriously" it is when he is at his most hilarious actually. Of course this scene does not last long and as soon he is hired Burgundy is back to his old self again. There's no big character arc past that, but there does not have to be. Ferrell is rather funny, certainly the most I've liked him, and although I would not put this as an all-time great comic performance it is a good one.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2004

And the Nominees Were Not:

Bruno Ganz in Downfall

Javier Bardem in The Sea Inside

Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Paul Giamatti in Sideways

Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman

And Bonus Review:
Will Ferrell in Anchorman

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor 1933: Results

5. Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones- Robeson has some good moments throughout but his performance is always a little too stagy. He also can never quite make up for the rushed nature of the film.

Best Scene: Jones pretends to be invincible.
4. Warner Baxter in 42nd Street -Baxter's role is somewhat limited for most of the film but once he gets going he gives quite a compelling portrayal of the various tricks of the director to make his show a success.

Best Scene: Marsh teaches Ann how to act.
3. Groucho Marx in Duck Soup- Marx does his usual shtick here, which is just fine since his usual shtick is quite amusing.

Best Scene: Firefly cross examines the spy.
2. John Barrymore in Counsellor At Law- Barrymore is in absolute command of his film giving a charming and compelling portrayal of a driven lawyer.

Best Scene: The counsellor finds out the truth about his wife.
1. Claude Rains in The Invisible Man- Good Predictions Luke and Anonymous. Rains might just be a voice for some of the film but what a voice he is. He carries the right menace as the villainous invisible man, but he also is supremely entertaining with just a dash of pathos for good measure.

Best Scene:  The Invisible Man tells about his plans.
Overall Rank:
  1. Charles Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII
  2. Claude Rains in The Invisible Man 
  3. John Barrymore in Counsellor At Law
  4. Oliver Hardy in Sons of the Desert
  5. Stan Laurel in Sons of the Desert
  6. Groucho Marx in Duck Soup
  7. Warner Baxter in 42nd Street
  8. William Powell in The Kennel Murder Case
  9. Robert Armstrong in King Kong
  10. Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones
  11. Cedric Hardwicke in The Ghoul
  12. Warren William in Lady For a Day
  13. Bruce Cabot in King Kong 
  14. Robert Armstrong in The Son of Kong 
  15. Leslie Howard in Berkeley Square
  16. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in Morning Glory
  17. Clive Brook in Cavalcade
Supporting Top Ten:
  1. Robert Donat in The Private Life of Henry VIII 
  2. John Barrymore in Dinner At Eight 
  3. Rudolf Klein-Rogge in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
  4. Lionel Barrymore in Dinner At Eight
  5. Boris Karloff in The Ghoul
  6. Ralph Morgan in The Kennel Murder Case
  7. Melvyn Douglas in Counsellor At Law 
  8. Eugene Palette in The Kennel Murder Case
  9. Henry Travers in The Invisible Man
  10. Ralph Richardson in The Ghoul
Next Year: 2004 lead

Alternate Best Actor 1933: Groucho Marx in Duck Soup

Groucho Marx did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup.

Duck Soup is a very enjoyable film about the hijinks involving a ruler of a free country who butts heads with a dictator.

Groucho Marx plays Rufus T. Firefly who is elected to be the new leader of Freedonia even if it takes a while for him to realize it. Who Groucho plays does not really matter as even though his name may be different this Groucho Marx doing his routine as Groucho. Marx's routine is not really to play a character, and his whole thing is to almost be separate from the story at hand. Now it is true of many of the early comics like Chaplin, and Laurel & Hardy in that they would play the same characters in their films, but those characters could still become emotionally involved with the plot of the film. This is not the case of Groucho Marx whose whole bit is to be kinda disassociated with everything to the point that he will often comment toward the camera to voice his insult or general disinterest at anything that is going on around him. That is perfectly fine though as the film is almost wholly built around Groucho's comedic manner to the outrageous situation he finds himself in.

Well Marx certainly is entertaining in his constant cracking of wise throughout the film as he basically never stops making insults of one form or another at anything and all things. Marx's whole method is to be as rapid fire as possible really, and rarely does he stop except for a slightly absurdest reaction to something. Therefore not every single joke he makes is going to perfectly land perhaps but a whole bunch of them certainly do. My favorite instance of his wordplay insults is when Firefly is interrogating a spy (Chico Marx) for the other nation and says everything as positive while twisting it quickly into actually something quite negative. Marx is very purposefully extremely one note in his performance as Marx never changes from his rather disingenuous attitude. Even in a scene where Firefly accidentally gets angry at the dictator of the other nation causing a war, Marx still plays it all the same, which is the whole point of his comedic character, which is just fine since Marx is consistently funny here.

Well what's a comic performance from the period if one does not count the physical aspect of the comedy? Well Marx actually takes a similair approach to the physical comedy as he does his verbal comedy with again being purposefully withdrawn from the whole thing. Marx often has just a big grin on his face, quite enjoying the hijinks himself, while walking around in a purposefully casually goofy sort of way. Marx actually has quite a bit of energy in the big musical numbers, or the scenes of great physical comedy in his manner of not caring. Marx's timing is excellent even though it all seems to lack a technical purpose, it's an odd trick, but one that Marx pulls off quite brilliantly. Now reading just the synopsis of the film you may be tricked into thinking this performance, and film has some greater purpose like Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. That's not the case as the whole idea about the countries is merely just a springboard for some various comedic situations for the Marx brothers to participate in. Marx's performance does not strive to be anything more than it is which is a very enjoyable example of his usual shtick.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1933: Claude Rains in The Invisible Man

Claude Rains did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Jack Griffin also known as the titular character in The Invisible Man.

The Invisible Man is a very enjoyable film about a scientist who has undergone a most peculiar sort of experiment.

Claude Rains one of the greatest character actors of all time had a rather peculiar breakout role to be sure. The Invisible Man was only the second film Rains was in, only having a supporting role in a silent beforehand, and despite being in the starring role of the film we only witness his actual face at the very end of the film for a brief moment. For the rest of the film Rains is either fully covered by clothing, or well rather hard to see. Nevertheless the film did give Rains the start to quite his long lasting cinematic career, and the main reason for that must have been his voice. This is actually somewhat similair to John Hurt in The Elephant Man in that both actors are physically onscreen during their performance, but technically speaking their work is almost vocal work in nature. This is even more true for Rains than it was for Hurt, as the disability involving Rains character simply only makes it so he can never be seen. Technically speaking Rains's physical performance is pretty straight forward which makes since in that Griffin is not suffering from his ailment at least not in a normal way.

Rains's voice is perfection for this role though as his voice does exude a certain class and intelligence just naturally. We don't need to know Griffin is a brilliant man because Rains sounds like such a brilliant man anyways. Rains in his earliest scenes, when he is all covered up, is actually quite good in portraying a more introverted quality in his voice in these scenes. He suggests a certain desperation in these moments as Griffin actually is trying to save himself from his invisibility, and Rains very nicely gives us the tragic side of the character before the villain side of Griffin comes out. This happens when, instead of being left alone to try and find a cure, Griffin is hassled by all of the town people leaving no choice for Griffin to reveal himself which reveals that there isn't much of him. Rains quickly becomes the monster who laughs his way through as he terrorizes the people who dare get in his way. Rains's is extremely entertaining in these scenes as there is such a relish of his evil acts through Rains's voice, and really Rains let's you basically in on the fun of all the acts random annoyance that Griffin is committing.

Where James Whale's earlier foray into monsters, that being the Frankenstein Monster, there was a great deal of woe in the monster. The Invisible Man on the other hand becomes a bit more directly evil even if there is a slight tragedy stated in that his evil is suppose to be a side effect of the chemicals that turned him invisible. For most of the film except for the beginning, and brief moments where Griffin interacts with his former love interest, The Invisible Man is evil and loves being so. There is extra degree of enjoyment of it as Rains's performance rather slyly makes a lot of what the Invisible Man is doing is the rather crude and cruel ego stroking of a once cultured and brilliant man. My favorite moments of Rains's performance are easily when he is terrorizing a former colleague of his who foolishly decides to call the cops on the invisible man. My favorite moment of these scenes is when Griffin discusses his plans which naturally include a few murders just for good measure. Rains is hilarious in the way he so matter factually states these things, and portrays the insanity Griffin in such an enjoyably proper sort of fashion. 

Rains's performance here oddly enough is most comedic and Rains is actually quite funny in his portrayal of The Invisible Man's personal enjoyment of his random acts of evil. Rains though, even while being funny, does always carry himself with the right sort of menace at the same time, and manages to really make the fun of Griffin's behavior really a great deal of the basis of his evil. It's kind of a weird way for a performance as a monster to be, but everything that Rains does here does work for the film. This might not ever be the same type of challenge as some of his later, more physical, roles later in his long career, but it is its own challenge all the same. The fact that he is only a voice for most of the film never feels like a problem for Rains as a realizes Griffin as a compelling character all the same, and you have to think there is not even an animation of the character or something to help him the rest of the way. It's on Rains voice, and with his great voice Rains completely delivers in giving quite a marvelous performance of a marvelous character.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

R.I.P. Richard Attenborough

The world has lost one of its greatest actors

Alternate Best Actor 1933: John Barrymore in Counsellor at Law

John Barrymore did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying George Simon in Counsellor at Law.

Counsellor at Law is a rather solid film about the personal and professional trials of a lawyer.

John Barrymore was a name synonymous with great acting as was later the case with Laurence Olivier, then Robert De Niro, and most currently Daniel Day-Lewis. It has been said that his film career never reached the heights of his stage career and it is interesting that he could be cast in especially small roles like in Marie Antoinette for example. That is not the case for Counsellor at Law where he is front and center for almost the entirety of the film. The film's opening minutes even begin as basically a build up to Barrymore's entrance as we simply hear his secretaries keep telling many people that Mr. Simon is not in yet, until finally the film reveals Barrymore taking care of business. Once Barrymore comes on the scene the film practically becomes an almost nonstop acting showcase for him as the lawyer George Simon has to go from one problem to another whether it has to deal with his work as a lawyer or his marriage to a shallow wasp.

Barrymore begins in basically a rapid fire sort of approach as Simon juggles one case to another in quick succession. Barrymore actually is a bit of a marvel her and it is wonderful watch him in the role here. Barrymore certainly has a theatrical style of performance to be sure, but he still knows how to attune himself for film. His style though also really works for the character of the driven lawyer who obviously would not be opposed to doing a bit of theatrics in the courtroom if it called for it. The film almost plays a bit like a screwball comedy with the way Barrymore handles the dialogue in a rapid fire way early on. Barrymore though is great in selling the material and really giving it a constant energy. All the various exposition in these early scenes could quickly just have become muddled in no time or just could have come off as simply boring. Barrymore brings the material to life making it all clear in concise while doing it with a great deal of style.

Barrymore is in absolute command every minute as he is on screen and he is absolutely convincing as this powerful and passionate lawyer. We don't even need to see him in the courtroom to know how good he would be as Barrymore is so assured in his portrayal of Simon's various wheeling and dealings. When on task Barrymore shows Simon to be always assertive and have his situations within his grasp when they are technically just routine matters for the counsellor. Barrymore is exceptional here though in there is a palatable wit he brings to the part that may very well not have been there with a lesser performer. There really aren't any lines that are innately funny in nature, this is no a screwball comedy by any means, but whenever there is a chance to make a comment a bit comedic Barrymore does. It's particularly fine work because Barrymore makes these little humorous moments completely naturally, and just along with everything else that is going on with his character.

The character of George Simon does not have it easy though and many things from his past come to haunt him all in a short period of time. One of the first things is his shallow wife who quickly demands that he leave a case that would otherwise be a social faux pas, although at the same time she is obviously about to embark on affair away from Simon with a man much of her world. Then he finds himself threatened by disbarment due to having helped guy with somewhat questionable methods earlier on, and finally he has to try and help a radical from his old neighborhood. Barrymore is really quite interesting in the way he plays Simon's reactions to these various things in that he still is pretty rapid fire with it showing that seemingly nothing can stop Simon's drive as a lawyer. It's an odd trick but one that Barrymore pulls off quite graciously. When Simon deals with his wife Barrymore eases back on the intensity rather nicely but only for a moment to show that in one place in his life he has hesitations is in his troubled relationship with his wife.

So many of these films from the early 30's are rather brisk in their running time, and this is film is no exception to that rule. Barrymore's rather swift manner though makes it so he himself avoids ever seeming rushed in his portrayal of Simon's difficulties. Barrymore plays it well by showing as a growing intensity in Simon as one thing after another seems to go wrong for him, but Barrymore never stops keeping Simon on task even when things are going all wrong for him. It's never seems odd though as it always seems exactly how his character should behave as the only thing he really knows in life is too work hard, and constantly. Barrymore does not stop really until a final moment when he finally realizes that his wife has basically left him. Barrymore suddenly completely drops the drive of man, showing that in his wife is one place that Simon never fully understood leaving him completely confused and out of his element for once. It has a powerful impact because Barrymore built to the moment so carefully and convincingly throughout his performance. Although apparently there were many difficulties faced by William Wyler, who directed the film, in regards to Barrymore none of this can be seen in the film itself. The tremendous of Barrymore as an actor can be seen in this performance that stood as a true challenge, a challenge he more than met.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1933: Warner Baxter in 42nd Street

Warner Baxter did not receive an Oscar nomination Julian Marsh in 42nd Street.

42nd Street is an entertaining film that is the prototype for the backstage musical.

Warner Baxter plays one of the most important roles for a back stage musical which is the driven director. Julian Marsh is especially driven since he is financially strapped and even his health is in question so the musical must be a success. An argument can be easily made that 42nd Street is an ensemble and Baxter therefore is supporting. I personally put Baxter lead because the central drive of the story is to put on the show as a success, and Marsh is driving force behind that. His screen time is somewhat limited though, but the film is constantly coming back to Marsh over every other character to basically progress the story. We go from every part of the musical production with Marsh from the casting of the parts, to the rehearsals, to the catastrophe of an important cast member industry, and most importantly the opening night.

Marsh is played by certainly one of the lesser known Best Actor Oscar winners, Warner Baxter. Like in his Oscar winning for In Old Arizona, Baxter, unlike Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones, shows he obviously understands film. Baxter's performance here is always knowledgeable about the camera knowing when to simply let the camera read certain emotions, and knowing when to go a little bigger when necessary. For most of the film Baxter is regulated to a somewhat simple role as Marsh basically just keeps telling the cast and crew that they are terrible but getting marginally better each time. Although it's technically somewhat repetitive in nature Baxter's really does handle the role well. He has some excellent command and you really see the drive in his eyes with every order he gives. Baxter makes it obvious that there is never any doubt who is in charge, and he makes you remember Marsh even when he absent for some stretches of the film.

Baxter really gets his chance to shine though when he has to quickly get wannabe star Ann (Ginger Rogers) into shape for the opening night after the injury of the original star. Baxter is great in these scenes delivery so much energy in his performance and actually making it convincing that Marsh would be able to push into to shape so quickly. One of my favorite moments is when he has her try out her acting chops which do not meet his approval. Baxter is great as he quickly shifts gears and performs as Marsh performs the scene himself to show her how its done. It's great just to watch Baxter perform in these scenes and I only wish there had been more of them since Baxter makes them the highlight of the film for me. These films from the 30's are pretty short though so the tutelage does not last long and before you know it is the opening night. Baxter only can come quickly in and out of scenes for a moment as the film goes from one musical number to another.

The nature of the last section leaves Baxter limited but he still makes his mark in every moment through his passionate portrayal of Marsh's method to push Ann to her limits. Baxter throws himself into every moment and he certainly makes the line "Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" a classic since he not only convinces you of the inspiration but also suggests the desperation as shows in his eyes that Marsh does need the show to succeed. One of my favorite moments in Baxter's performance the last scene in the film as Marsh here's all the praise go to Ann and many of the patrons asserting that Marsh will taking all the credit without earning it. Baxter's subtle reaction is perfect in showing Marsh's exasperation at such a result but also his resignation like he just knew that it would happen. This is very good performance by Warner Baxter in which he basically asserts himself as the lead. My only major complaint is that the film just should have given him more to do throughout rather confining all of his best moments to the final minutes of the film.

Alternate Best Actor 1933: Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones

Paul Robeson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Brutus Jones in The Emperor Jones.

The Emperor Jones is a fairly lacking character study about a man who goes from a prisoner to becoming the Emperor of an island. The film is notable though with Robeson in the lead, and even in a role that is not a simplistic caricature.

Paul Robeson plays the lead role and the film seems like it was made to be a showcase for his various talents particularly in the odd often absurd way the film progresses. The film starts out simply enough as Brutus is simply excited to start his good new job on a train with his wife by his side. This part seems to try to show off Robeson as a charming romantic lead, and Robeson is indeed charming enough enough in these scenes. These scenes though suggests the problem with the film, and the limitations on Robeson's performance. We see his romantic scenes but the film never goes into very much detail about them. We see parts of it but the story never seems to get into the meat of it. Robeson is just fine in these moments but before you know it old Brutus has been arrested and is sent of to jail. Once in jail we get the musical portion of his performance.

Robeson has a powerful voice, and the film managed to get it the song easily enough since it is prisoners singing while working, but honestly it does not necessarily seem to fit to Brutus's character as a whole. You don't get to dwell on that for long though since it is only in a moment that he's beaten up a guard and escaped. This moment briefly gives us Robeson as bit of a darker side to Brutus, and in all honesty this is probably his best moment. Robeson comes across the strongest in the scene, and actually seems to utilize film as he delivers the intensity in Brutus through his eyes. We again don't get this for long as Brutus has to escape to an island where he teams up with a merchant to gain some power. This is where things go a bit off since the story telling seems even more rushed than it was before, and it leaves Robeson to really rush through every change in Brutus far too quickly.

Suddenly Brutus becomes a con man as he fools everyone into thinking he's invincible by putting blanks in a gun and proclaiming that only a silver bullet can kill him. Robeson actually has a bit fun in portraying the deviousness of Brutus with a sly grin, but he never makes sense of this extreme character change in Brutus. We simply must by it but the writing never allows that to be possible and nor can Robeson salvage the lack of material. Soon enough though Brutus is the Emperor of the island where he mistreats the people. Unfortunately we are only really told this and this just instantly happens. Robeson seems to be even a little caught off guard this time since he just sticks to the conman approach for the character. This then instantly proceeds to the overthrow period where Brutus wrong off to have a prolonged monologue into madness, which again just is not earned.

Robeson is definitely a theatrical performer here, which is not out of the ordinary for the period, but unlike some actors from the period Robeson does not act perfectly attuned to the medium. The camera only seems to be in his mind in a few short instances and his performance seems more for the non-existent stage audience to witness from a distance. This is especially noticeable in this breakdown scene as Robeson physically and mentally decays in all too specific of way. Robeson is not bad and there is a certain power to the scene but it is limited because it never really felt at all natural to the character. There is no through line in the film or in Robeson's performance for the character to make him seem like a singular man. He often feels like a different character from scene to scene. Robeson has some good moments here and there and obviously shows a lot of promise, but very little of that promise comes to surface through the film's lacking direction and story.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1933

And the Nominees Were Not:

Claude Rains in The Invisible Man

Groucho Marx in Duck Soup

Warner Baxter in 42nd Street

Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones

John Barrymore in Counsellor At Law

Monday, 18 August 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1997: Results

5. Billy Zane in Titanic - A hilarious portrayal of absurdity unfortunately Zane was trying to be serious.

Best Scene: Pretty much every scene.
4. Jude Law in Gattaca - Law gives a powerful portrayal of a man embittered through his own life but finds inspiration in the life of another.

Best Scene: Jerome sends Vincent on his way.
3. James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential- Cromwell gives a particularly effective subversion of the warm mentor.

Best Scene: Sid Hudgens's interrogation.
2. Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential - Spacey gives a wonderfully entertaining portrayal of a pompous detective more interests in celebrity than crime, but also a very poignant portrayal of man realizing he's lost his way.

Best Scene: Jack Vincennes reflects on his life in a bar.
1. Robert Blake in Lost Highway - Good Prediction Psifonian. Well this came down to Spacey who had almost a leading role to Blake's relatively small role. Although I did love Spacey's work the supporting performance that I feel made the strongest impact from 1997 is Blake's portrayal of a walking nightmare which is one of the most viscerally effective performances of all time.

Best Scene: Fred meets the Mystery Man at a party.
Overall Rank:
  1. Robert Blake in Lost Highway
  2. Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential
  3. James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential
  4. Jude Law in Gattaca
  5. Mark Addy in The Full Monty
  6. Robert Forster in Jackie Brown
  7. Don Cheadle in Boogie Nights 
  8. Danny DeVito in L.A. Confidential
  9. James Rebhorn in The Game  
  10. Ray Liotta in Cop Land
  11. Samuel L. Jackson in Hard Eight
  12. Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights
  13. Pete Postlethwaite in The Lost World Jurassic Park 
  14. Tom Wilkinson in The Full Monty 
  15. Chang Chen in Happy Together
  16. John C. Reilly in Hard Eight
  17. Bruce Greenwood in The Sweet Hereafter
  18. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Hard Eight
  19. Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element
  20. Danny DeVito in The Rainmaker
  21. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Boogie Nights
  22. Robert Loggia in Lost Highway 
  23. Alfred Molina in Boogie Nights
  24. Bernard Hill in Titanic
  25. Kevin Kline in The Ice Storm
  26. Jon Voight in The Rainmaker
  27. John Malkovich in Con Air  
  28. Robert Wagner in Austin Powers
  29. Gary Oldman in Air Force One
  30. Harvey Keitel in Cop Land
  31. Vincent D'Onofrio in Men in Black
  32. Tobey Maguire in The Ice Storm
  33. Ian Holm in The Fifth Element
  34. David Strathairn in L.A. Confidential
  35. Elijah Wood in The Ice Storm
  36. Michael Madsen in Donnie Brasco
  37. Greg Kinnear in As Good As It Gets
  38. Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate
  39. Tony Shalhoub in Gattaca
  40. Jamey Sheridan in The Ice Storm
  41. Rip Torn in Men in Black
  42. Brion James in The Fifth Element
  43. Brian Cox in The Boxer
  44. Bruno Kirby in Donnie Brasco
  45. Adam Hann-Byrd in The Ice Storm
  46. Anthony Hopkins in Amistad
  47. Walton Goggins in The Apostle
  48. Thomas Jane in Boogie Nights
  49. Ron Rifkin in L.A. Confidential
  50. Matthew McConuaghey in Contact
  51. Ken Stott in The Boxer
  52. John Leguizamo in Spawn
  53. Michael Ironside in Starship Troopers
  54. Billy Bob Thornton in The Apostle 
  55. Nicol Williamson in Spawn
  56. Richard Norton in Mr. Nice Guy
  57. Gary Busey in Lost Highway
  58. Richard Attenborough in The Lost World Jurassic Park
  59. Patrick Stewart in Conspiracy Theory
  60. Martin Sheen in Spawn
  61. Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies 
  62. Michael York in Austin Powers
  63. Steve Buscemi in Con Air
  64. John C. Reilly in Boogie Nights
  65. Dean Stockwell in The Rainmaker 
  66. Christopher Walken in Mousehunt
  67. Alan Arkin in Gattaca
  68. Victor Garber in Titanic
  69. Seth Green in Austin Powers
  70. Michael Keaton in Jackie Brown
  71. Jason Isaacs in Event Horizon 
  72. Will Ferrell in Austin Powers 
  73. Mickey Rourke in The Rainmaker 
  74. Ving Rhames in Con Air
  75. William H. Macy in Wag the Dog
  76. Robert Patrick in Cop Land
  77. Antony Sher in Mrs. Brown
  78. Robert De Niro in Jackie Brown
  79. Michael Gough in Batman and Robin
  80. Danny Glover in The Rainmaker
  81. Stellan Skargard in Good Will Hunting
  82. Clancy Brown in Starship Troopers
  83. Giustino Durano in Life is Beautiful
  84. Abe Vigoda in Good Burger
  85. Paul Giamatti in Donnie Brasco
  86. Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element
  87. Tenzin Lodoe in Kundun
  88. Morgan Freeman in Amistad
  89. David Warner in Titanic
  90. Woody Harrelson in Wag the Dog
  91. Joe Don Baker in Tomorrow Never Dies
  92. Gerard Butler in Mrs. Brown
  93. Martin Short in Jungle 2 Jungle
  94. Kenneth Bryans in Macbeth 
  95. Ernest Borgnine in Gattaca 
  96. Michael Gambon in The Wings of the Dove
  97. David Cross in Men in Black
  98. Denis Leary in Wag the Dog
  99. Thomas Haden Church in George of the Jungle
  100. Dean Stockwell in Air Force One
  101. William Snape in The Fully Monty
  102. Robert De Niro in Cop Land
  103. Matthew McConaughey in Amistad
  104. D.B.Sweeney in Spawn 
  105. Don Cheadle in Volcano
  106. William Hickey in Mousehunt 
  107. Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting  
  108. Cary Elwes in Liar Liar 
  109. Sean Penn in The Game
  110. Tom McCamus in The Sweet Hereafter
  111. Neil Patrick Harris in Starship Troopers
  112. Giorgio Cantarini in Life is Beautiful
  113. Loren Dean in Gattaca
  114. Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting 
  115. Richard Roundtree in Steel 
  116. Vince Vaughn in The Lost World Jurassic Park
  117. Cuba Gooding Jr. in As Good As It Gets
  118. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Batman and Robin
  119. Jake Busey in Starship Troopers
  120. Randy Quaid in Vegas Vacation
  121. Tom Wood in Ulee's Gold
  122. Robin Shou in Beverly Hills Ninja
  123. Richard Schiff in The Lost World Jurassic Park
  124. Colm Meaney in Con Air
  125. Nick Cassavettes in Face Off 
  126. Gyurme Tethong in Kundun
  127. Charles Hallahan in Dante's Peak
  128. Graham McTavish in Macbeth
  129. Chris Rock in Beverly Hills Ninja
  130. Bill Paxton in Titanic
  131. David Ogden Stiers in Jungle 2 Jungle
  132. Judd Nelson in Steel 
  133. Aleksander Krupa in Home Alone 3
  134. Patrick Muldoon in Starship Troopers 
  135. Dan Schneider in Good Burger
  136. Lenny Von Dohlein in Home Alone 3
  137. Nathaniel Parker in Beverly Hills Ninja
  138. Arliss Howard in The Lost World Jurassic Park
  139. James Remar in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
  140. John Corbett in Volcano
  141. Jan Schweiterman in Good Burger
  142. David Thornton in Home Alone 3
  143. Greg Crutwell in George of the Jungle
  144. Gotz Otto in Tomorrow Never Dies
  145. Justin Cooper in Liar Liar 
  146. Litefoot in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
  147. Alessandro Nivola in Face Off
  148. Chris O'Donnell in Batman and Robin
  149. Danny Nucci in Titanic
  150. Brian Thompson in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
  151. Billy Zane in Titanic
Next Year: 1933 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1997: Billy Zane in Titanic

Billy Zane did not receive a razzi..I mean Oscar nomination for portraying Caledon Nathan "Cal" Hockley in Titanic.

I don't like the film though for the same reason I did not like when I initially watched it back in 97 with all the hype and that is the incredibly weak script. On re-watch I was surprised just how bad some of the lines were, and I almost forgot about the Bill Paxton stuff which is 90's to the extreme. Titanic does have admirable elements to it as the final sequence is pretty well done, many of the effects are impressive, and DiCaprio and Winslet do have a strong chemistry to be sure. Of course is their chemistry strong enough to make up for the.........?

Do you hear that sound....sounds like a train whistle... a whistle that spells the same doom the Mystery Man from Lost Highway personified...yes my friends can you handle the horrors of the Zane train. Well the Zane train has cometh and only horrors await. Or do they after all Billy Zane was great in Zoolander as Billy Zane, and how about that time he wore purple pajamas in The Phantom I don't have anything to say about his performance in that I just wanted to remind everyone that it existed. No today I'm here to discuss Billy Zane in Titanic. He plays the rich fiancee of Rose (Kate Winslet) and you know he's no good from the start since Rose decides to freely compare herself to African slaves as she embarks on her trip to America. She goes even further than that and contemplates suicide which unfortunately can be a side effect from long term Zane exposure after all in the opening reveal of Titanic it is hard to tell if Zane is cgi generated or not since he's just as if not more artificial in nature.

After Rose is saved by Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) Zane is on the scene as he maneuvers through the scene with Cal caring for Rose and dealing with Jack. Zane is obviously quite genius as he does not bother to show anything one would refer to as a HU-MAN emotion in the scene. No he instead seems to try to find some sort of truth in the void of nothingness as his creation of Cal is that of a man who has never existed. No Zane won't settle with being a man no he must be film from a Saturday morning cartoon, and it better not be a very good cartoon either. Zane has a very interesting manner in the scene as he is suppose to be intense toward Jack as he first accuses him of wrongdoing then eventual thanks him as Zane decides to look in any place that is not the right place. Obviously Zane is perhaps trying for the same sort of idea James Dean was going for in his own performances, although maybe not maybe Zane just was doing that because he's a bad actor, it's certainly a daring approach to the character either way.

 Now one of Zane's greatest moments is when he gives the heart of the ocean gem to Rose. It's a magnificent scene as Zane looks in the mirror where Rose is trying on the necklace. Zane chooses not to look longingly at Rose since you'd think he'd be at least lusting after her even if he does not really love her, nor is he lusty after the gem as if all he he cares about is possessions, no Zane instead chooses to stare longingly at himself as if he could simply not resist his own good looks in the mirror. An interesting approach I think... no that's not the right word for it, a subtle approach? no that's not the case here... hmm oh right poorly that's what Zane's doing here he's acting very poorly. Zane's performance is still an interesting case of a performance as it is almost fascinating to watch in his lack of authenticity in any aspect of his performance, his physical, performance, his line delivery, everything seems almost otherworldly in his inability to play Cal in any manner that is even slightly how you'd expect a person to act.

One really hasn't seen much of anything though until Zane stops being just some pompous dweeb and starts to portray Cal as a demented psychopath. You know if this was a comedic performance this would actually be quite the success as I could not help but snicker every type Zane said something, unfortunately that is not the case as the whole film wants to be a straight forward romance with Zane being the jilted other man in a completely serious manner. Zane apparently thinks to do that he should play Cal as a merely mentally deranged individual. The scene where Zane chases Jack and Rose while shooting is a particular highlight as we see Zane showing off at his great ability of facial contortion. Zane, to be menacing, I guess bulges his eyes, opens his mouth wide, sneers to his utmost ability, and the best part is he never does them together making one really bizarre display of ACTING.

Technically speaking this is a terrible performance that I did enjoy as I found myself laughing repeatedly at Zane's various antics. If he was suppose to be the comedy relief then bravo to Zane, unfortunately intent does matter. This was suppose to be a dramatic character in a dramatic film, if you go by that as the intent is a horrendous performance and it's badness is so powerful that it can even effect the film as a whole. I would actually say this is a perfect example of a terrible supporting performance for a film as it does exactly what you don't want a performance to do. It's badness actually distracts from any positive elements, and at times it is hard to take the film as a whole seriously because of the quality of this performance. Whenever someone tries to state that Titanic is a perfect film, or even a great film there are only two words that need to be uttered to break that delusion of grandeur, Billy Zane. Zane has left me no other choice but to give him the following:

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1997: Robert Blake in Lost Highway

Robert Blake did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Mystery Man in Lost Highway.

Lost Highway is a reality bending horror film/off-beat thriller about a Jazz musician who goes down a truly bizarre set of events. Lost Highway has some extremely effective scenes and elements, but I don't think it comes together nearly as well as David Lynch's later mind bending thriller Mulholland Drive.

One of the elements that does stand out extremely well is the performance of Robert Blake. Blake who started his career with the Little Rascals and ended, at least so far, it with this film, and I won't get into any other details involving Blake since it has nothing to do with the quality of this performance. Blake plays a man simply billed as the Mystery Man who has a few sparse appearances throughout the film, often only appearing for a quick glimpse. Blake apparently came up with the appearance of the character himself which is pretty simple in that he just wears a very dark suit and some fairly slight power on his face. That's all that's there in terms of the makeup the rest is up to Blake in the creation of this man who may be a serial killer with many tricks up his sleeve, the devil or a figment of imagination. We are never told what the Mystery Man is exactly you just know that he is one man(?) that spells some sort of doom for you if you are unfortunate enough to have a meeting with him.

Robert Blake's performance is technically quite simple since we don't learn about the Mystery Man and obviously he does not have any sort of character arc. He just appears and Blake's performance is all about the visceral impact that it has. Blake's whole performance is one horrible off putting oddity. The way Blake speaks is this not quite monotone manner. There is a certain pleasantness almost to it yet that does not make it any more pleasant. Blake manages to create a terrifying voice that is not deep or monstrous in anyway but rather so chilling in its simplicity. When, late in the film, Blake allows the Mystery Man's voice to become slightly agitated it is incredibly harrowing as Blake is creepy enough in the normal manner of speaking but any change whatsoever is only make him even more unnerving. Blake's does some exceptional work he as he manages to make a fairly quiet voice message on a phone something that comes off as quite terrifying.

Blake's more physical manner does not help things as he walks along in a modest step very much seeming as though the Mystery Man does not need to be in a rush to get anywhere. The whole universe seems as though it will wait for him, he does not need to be in a hurry. In one of Blake's longer scenes he speaks to the musician (Bill Pullman). Blake is brilliant in the scene as his whole approach with the Mystery Man is that he completely knows the musician, and even gives a very big smile a smile that might have been disarming enough if it were not the way Blake does it. When Blake speaks and looks at Pullman's character Blake makes it as though the Mystery Man is looking right through the man and directly into his soul. Blake again technically does so little in terms of his actions yet is absurdly effective in the manner in which he does this seemingly slight actions. There really is not an obvious attempt to be scary yet Blake unquestionably is.

Technically when you get right down to it Blake has one important challenge to meet which is to be horrifying well he's that, and manages to create an unforgettable cinematic horror with his performance. Blake is able to personify an existential dread with his performance and this is a rather extraordinary performance from him. This is a performance that you feel throughout the film as Blake manages to keep you on edge as he makes it something to be feared whenever he may show his face again. Blake and the film never do tell you who this guy is and even the clues to what he might be are fairly thin. None of that matters though as the horror only grows since you are never fully aware of what the Mystery Man is or even what exactly he wants he is simply a sinister force that seems completely unstoppable which Blake brings to life so effectively. This is a fantastic performance by Robert Blake and shows exactly what a performance can do even with very minimal writing and screen time to support it.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1997: Jude Law in Gattaca

Jude Law did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca.

Gattaca is an interesting and mostly effective sci-fi thriller, although I think it does try too hard to pull all the storyline together at the end, about a man who is deemed genetically inferior who assumes the identity of a genetically superior man in order to achieve his dream of space travel.

Ethan Hawke plays the man, Vincent, who usurps a genetically "perfect" man's position who is played by Jude Law. Hawke and Law seem to make sense for this type of arrangement. Not only because they do bear some physical similarities but also rather strangely, I feel, both are, in the general public sense, somewhat undervalued as actors. Jude Law is an interesting actor to me in that despite being a leading man, and I do like him just fine as a leading man, his best performances come from more character actor type roles like in A.I., The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Road to Perdition. This is once again a supporting role for Jude Law as he plays the genetically "pure" man who allows his identity to be taken since he has suffered an injury which leaves him crippled from the waist down. Jerome gives his name to Vincent as well as various samples needed for various tests in exchange simply for the cash to allow him to live a similar lifestyle to the one that he had been accustom to before his accident.

Law effectively makes a fierce impact the moment we see him in onscreen. Law's creates a palatable sense of bitterness in his performance as Jerome is forced to give up his own "perfect" status for another. Law does not simply leave this as the only reason for Jerome's overall state as Jerome explain that even in his seemingly perfect state of health he was unable to be the best at his own chosen goal. Law does not simply suggest the emotions as something simple but brings the complexity they deserve. Law has a cynicism in his manner fitting for a man who seems to have been betrayed by fate as well as the whole promise of his existence. Along with that though Law as well conveys the depression of Jerome, as he seems to be pained by the simple fact that he is living a life that is anything but perfection. Law gives the state of the man and brilliantly gives us the past life of the man without ever having to show a single scene of Jerome before his accident.

Once they begin their ruse Law and Hawke share many scenes together discussing the various success and problems that arise from their arrangement. Law almost supersedes Hawke in portraying the main character arc of the film because Hawke perhaps plays the role with a little too much confidence from the beginning. He plays his character as almost completely ready from the beginning and there is not all that much change. Law on the other hand is extremely effective in showing how the real Jerome is changed by the exploits of the fake Jerome. Law makes Jerome extremely easy to invest into despite the fact that Jerome simply is becoming invested into the exploits of fake Jerome. Law is convincing in creating this odd form of empathy as Law in a way becomes the one who shows a growing intensity due to the growing intensity of the situation. Law as well is the one who shows Jerome grow as they seem closer to the goal, and brings an honest poignancy to showing basically life come back to this man simply by seeing another man fulfill his inspiration.

Most of the problems in the film actually come from the fact that the film fails to completely give Law his due. Every scene with Law is compelling because Law makes Jerome such a compelling person all on his own, when he very easily could have simply been a plot device. I wanted more of him and of the odd relationship between the two men playing the same men, but the film unfortunately too often decides against this approach. This only becomes more problematic though by the ending which I think completely undervalues what Law does in the role. The film ends with Hawke's Vincent managing, against all the odds, to make it out into space finally, but at the same time Jerome decides to suddenly commit suicide at the same time. I can only feel that this was the writer trying for too much symbolism as the imperfect man makes it to the stars, and the perfect one burns alive. The ending was not deserving for the character and certainly not the life Law managed to give him. It might have made sense for the Jerome we met at the beginning, but not in the way Law grew the character as the film progressed. Technically Law, I suppose, should have given a lesser performance that just kept Jerome as constant to make the ending make more sense, but no I prefer the great performance he gave instead, and really it's the ending that should have changed not Law's performance.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1997: Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential

Kevin Spacey did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for BAFTA, for portraying Det. Sgt. Jack Vincennes in L.A. Confidential.

L.A. Confidential had somewhat risky casting in its main leads of the then rather unknown Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe in the lead roles they had a sort of a safety though with Kevin Spacey who was certainly a known then. Spacey is fitting to be the "star" of the film as he plays the detective of the stars Jack Vincennes. Spacey is actually very close to being a third lead for the film, and just barely isn't. He certainly has plenty of scenes to himself from the very beginning when we are first introduced to Vincennes who is not exactly the best detective. Vincennes spends most his time acting as a technical adviser for a cop TV show, and in turn spends much of his time living the high life in Hollywood. Vincennes goes even a step further with the little bit of "policing" he does when he strikes up a deal with a sleazy tabloid journalist Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) to arrest two up and comers in a very well publicized drug bust. Vincennes does not do this for any sort of justice he does it for the money and the fame derived from it.

Kevin Spacey plays the role of Jack Vincennes is a rather knowing fashion which could not be a better fit for the character. Spacey really plays Vincennes as a movie start type guy as we see in his opening scene at a Hollywood party. Spacey's great in the role as he definitely has a certain sleaze in his personal style, and you know from the very beginning that Vincennes is hardly a great cop. Of course this is a tricky thing to do as Spacey could have easily made Vincennes so sleazy that you simply wanted to punch him like many likely wanted to do to his character in Glengarry Glen Ross. Spacey manages to avoid this by bringing so much actual charm along with the sleaze. It is not even that Spacey plays it as though Vincennes is trying to hide his less savory qualities with his charisma, no rather Spacey is able to make at all a singular package, and the little bit of sleaze actually manages to add a bit to his style. Spacey is just wonderful at making Vincennes quite likable while being quite despicable at the same time.

Vincennes gets caught up with the by the books detective Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), and the bender of rules detective Bud White (Russell Crowe) when he gets involved with a case of police brutality mainly because one of the beaten suspects got blood on his clothes causing Vincennes to join in. Vincennes is forced to actually be a cop again until he can get a major bust to once again regain his position as the detective of the stars. This includes working with Ed Exley to track down the killers of a group of people in a dinner. Spacey rather slyly shows a bit of a different side as Vincennes investigates with Exley. On one level Spacey still is Vincennes being Vincennes as Spacey plays the whole investigation as though Vincennes doesn't care and to a certain extent finds the whole thing just annoying requirement for the job. In this regard Spacey is quite entertaining in portraying Vincennes's somewhat careless attitude right down to the way he strolls around the crime scene while everyone else is so intense. His performance is only further amplified by how well he plays off Pearce who plays Ed as such a fervent straight arrow.

As I noted before though that Spacey does allude to another side even though Vincennes is still far from being the ideal detective. In the scenes of the investigation Spacey very quietly shows the same sort of conviction and intelligence in Vincennes's method as a detective as Pearce does in a more forward fashion with Exley. Spacey shows in these brief moments that there is a great detective in Vincennes somewhere, but in his investigation of the case Spacey portrays Vincennes as only putting enough effort in to get the case done. There is no genuine passion in Spacey's performance rather his work shows Vincennes to be basically a true professional who is just kinda phoning it in that way he simply can back to what he truly loves, which is of course living the high life. After the "successful" investigation Vincennes goes right back to his old world, even going back to help Hudgens with another frame up and sting job going so far as to even help Hudgens convince the target, a troubled young actor, to prostitute himself with the promise of a career boon. 

Spacey is outstanding in the scene right after agreeing to do the job for Hudgens for a quick buck and a little bit more fame. The scene is simple and silent for Spacey as Vincennes simply looks at himself in the mirror, and it is absolutely perfectly played by Spacey. In just his reaction we see the conflict in Vincennes, and Spacey so beautifully realizes this moment where Vincennes finally sees just how much he has compromised. Spacey is surprisingly moving as he so honestly creates this crisis of conscious in Vincennes. What I love about it is that he never undercuts Vincennes as a character. It is only when he is completely alone that Spacey shows just how distraught Vincennes is over his terrible mistake, and when he is around his fellow officers he does try to be his old self. Of course Spacey is exceptional when there are very brief moments where Vincennes talks about his mistakes to the Ed. Spacey kinda rushes through this moments which is actually exactly as Vincennes should react as he wants to simply recognize the mistake to Ed but never let Ed see just how much he has been troubled by it.

Spacey's performance, like so many elements of L.A. Confidential, is something I completely adore. Spacey is completely pitch perfect in the role, and his work adds so much to the film. Although of course just like all his other male counterpoints he was of course ignored by the Academy, although I guess to their credit he may have suffered slightly from category confusion since his eventual BAFTA nomination was in lead. His performance is one that just is a very entertaining to watch. Spacey in some of his lesser performances can maybe try to show off a little too much, but here it completely works for his character as well as the film as a whole. Spacey also never leaves this as just a fun portrayal, although it certainly works in that regard. Spacey as well, like all the other performances I have reviewed from this film, does a marvelous job of revealing his character as someone far more complex than they might have seemed from the outset. In Spacey's case he gives that very enjoyable depiction of a shallow man in the beginning but ends up giving some of the most poignant moments in the film as he gradually reveals that maybe Jack Vincennes is a far better man than even he would like to admit. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1997: James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential

James Cromwell did not receive an Oscar nomination Captain Dudley Smith in L.A. Confidential.

James Cromwell is probably best known for his portrayal of the kind farmer Hoggett in Babe, and certainly was best known for that role when he was cast in L.A. Confidential. This was likely was well in mind when he was cast in this role as the Captain who is the superior of the two homicide detectives Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) and Bud White (Russell Crowe) that we follow through the film. Cromwell in Babe ended up being a great portrait of the gentle warmth of rugged man. This again seems like it is going to be the case as we first meet him and see his interactions with both Bud and Ed. Cromwell to top it all off plays the role with his Cork Irish accent. Cromwell does this all again and it all seems to be done to make us absolutely trust Dudley Smith. Cromwell certainly succeeds as you can see why Ed and Bud would believe what he says, because we the audience believe him as well.

This is not to say that Cromwell's portrayal is overly simplistic, as just like Pearce and Crowe, Cromwell slowly peels away the role you thought he was fulfilling from the beginning. Cromwell does disarm you for most of the film with his considerable old guy type of charm, even though we slowly see that Dudley is not exactly on the level from start. Cromwell brings a certain edge to the character form the very beginning, and the film itself brings as one of the first things he does is grill Ed on his ability to break the law to uphold the law. Cromwell plays incredibly well because the way he delivers the lines is that of good mentor just testing the man as one should. Of course throughout the main investigation Cromwell plays Dudley as very calm and considerate to both officers, and reserved in that he seems to be ready for any result. Cromwell does it well because it could just be taken as a man who's seen enough to know what to expect, or maybe old Dudley just isn't really the man he appears to be.

Well that's where the major spoiler for the film comes into play which is that Cromwell actually is the chief villain in the film. Dudley is actually behind pretty much everything that has being going in the film in his attempt to take over organized crime in the city by using any means necessary. Cromwell reveals that all of his personal style is no that of a father figure but merely that of a power hungry master manipulator. The whole impact of the revelation is made extremely palatable because of Cromwell's performance. On one hand it is is a twist that holds up to scrutiny as you simply see Cromwell's earlier performance only makes more sense in this new light, and another its a very effective twist because how good of a villain Cromwell makes Captain Dudley. It is very disconcerting to see Cromwell play such a cold man in the last third of the film, instead of warmth in his eyes there is only a killer's calculation there. Cromwell is especially chilling in one moment where he reveals to one of his accomplishes that he's expendable with the simple statement of "Hush Hush".

The casting here was certainly quite clever as it has the effect that I'm pretty sure was well intended by the filmmakers. They do not deserve all the credit though as Cromwell wholly delivers in the role as well, and turns Dudley into quite the memorable character. Like Pearce and Crowe slowly reveal a depth behind the straight forward by the books cop and the rough thuggish cop respectively, Cromwell reveals the truth behind the mentor. In Cromwell's case it has the opposite effect, where Pearce and Crowe allowed a greater sympathy and understanding for their characters, in Cromwell case, he subverts the whole idea of the comforting experienced mentor type character that was expected. It's a brilliantly devious and devilish turn, that brings a strong menace to the film the moment that it is needed. Cromwell's performance might not be the best performance in the film, but its a very good performance that is yet another fantastic facet of this terrific film.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1997

And the Nominees Were Not:

James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential

Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential

Robert Blake in Lost Highway

Jude Law in Gattaca

Billy Zane in Titanic 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1997: Results

5. Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco - Pacino gives a moving portrayal of a mobster whose past his prime but has a little bit to offer to an up and comer criminal who unfortunately happens to be an uncover F.B.I agent.

Best Scene: Lefty asks Donnie about the boat.
4. Ian Holm in The Sweet Hereafter - Holm gives a interesting two sided performance one the false performance of a lawyer pushing for a cause for monetary reasons, the other being a heartfelt portrayal of a father who feels like he has lost his own daughter.

Best Scene: Mitchell recounts saving his daughter's life.
3. Guy Pearce in L.A. Confidential - Guy Pearce gives a fantastic portrayal that slowly dissects the cop who seems absolutely driven to only do good while following the letter of the law.

Best Scene: Ed interrogates the suspected killers.
2. Russell Crowe in L.A. Confidential - Crowe also gives a fantastic performance that slowly dissects the cop who seems absolutely driven to do good, but by any means necessary.

Best Scene: Bud reveals his vulnerabilities to Lynn.
1. Philip Baker Hall in Hard Eight - Good Prediction Psifonian. Hall gives such a magnetic and fascinating portrait of his incredibly unique character. Well this was not an easy decision to make between the top three. I love Pearce, Crowe and Hall's performances all equally. It was hard enough just to rank Pearce and Crowe. I could just as easily change their placement. They completely excel in their roles and get the absolute most out of them. I can at least somewhat justify it, I guess, in that I do think Hall technically has weaker material to begin with, but manages to give just as strong of a performance.

Best Scene: Sydney's final phone call with John.
Overall Rank:
  1. Philip Baker Hall in Hard Eight
  2. Russell Crowe in L.A. Confidential
  3. Guy Pearce in L.A. Confidential
  4. Robert Duvall in The Apostle
  5. Ian Holm in The Sweet Hereafter
  6. Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco
  7. Peter Fonda in Ulee's Gold
  8. Michael Douglas in The Game 
  9. Daniel Day-Lewis in The Boxer
  10. Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights
  11. Robert Carlyle in The Full Monty
  12. Tony Leung in Happy Together
  13. Billy Connolly in Mrs. Brown
  14. Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco
  15. Laurence Fishburne in Event Horizon
  16. Bill Pullman in Lost Highway
  17. Mike Myers in Austin Powers
  18. Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory
  19. Linus Roache in The Wings of the Dove
  20. Leslie Cheung in Happy Together
  21. Samuel L. Jackson in Jackie Brown
  22. Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element 
  23. Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic 
  24. Sylvester Stallone in Copland
  25. Sam Neill in Event Horizon
  26. Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black
  27. Will Smith in Men in Black
  28. Djimon Hounsou in Amistad
  29. Nicolas Cage in Face Off 
  30. Ethan Hawke in Gattaca
  31. Jack Nicholson in As Good As it Gets
  32. Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog
  33. Jeff Goldblum in The Lost World: Jurassic Park
  34. Harrison Ford in Air Force One
  35. Robert De Niro in Wag the Dog 
  36. Balthazar Getty in Lost Highway
  37. Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong in Kundun
  38. Jackie Chan in Mr. Nice Guy
  39. Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies
  40. Brendan Fraser in George of the Jungle
  41. Keanu Reeves in The Devil's Advocate 
  42. Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting
  43. Jim Carrey in Liar Liar
  44. Nathan Lane in Mouse Hunt
  45. Matt Damon in The Rainmaker
  46. Chris Tucker in Money Talks
  47. John Travolta in Face Off
  48. John Cusack in Con Air
  49. Michael Jai White in Spawn
  50. Robeto Benigni in Life is Beautiful
  51. Chris Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja
  52. Charlie Sheen in Money Talks
  53. Pierce Brosnan in Dante's Peak
  54. Tommy Lee Jones in Volcano
  55. Nicolas Cage in Con Air 
  56. Robin Williams in Flubber
  57. Jason Connery in Macbeth 
  58. Chevy Chase in Vegas Vacation
  59. Tim Allen in Jungle 2 Jungle
  60. George Clooney in Batman and Robin
  61. Robin Shou in Mortal Kombat Annihilation
  62. Keenan Thompson in Good Burger
  63. Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers 
  64. Lee Evans in Mousehunt
  65. Sam Huntington in Jungle 2 Jungle
  66. Kel Mitchell in Good Burger
  67. Alex D. Linz in Home Alone 3
  68. Shaquille O'Neal in Steel
Next Year: 1997 Supporting

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1997: Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco

Al Pacino did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero in Donnie Brasco.

Donnie Brasco's is an effective film about a F.B.I agent, Joseph Pistone (Johnny Depp), who goes deep undercover to infiltrate the mob as the titular Donnie Brasco.

Al Pacino plays the secondary lead of the film Lefty who is the first wiseguy to approach Donnie. Although the later career of Al Pacino has not been filled with great films he still managed, from time to time, to bring that same creative spark he had in his seventies heyday. Thankfully Donnie Brasco is one of these cases as he plays Lefty Ruggiero a mobster who is part of a New York crime family. Pacino is certainly no stranger to playing mobsters but Lefty is far cry from Michael Corleone. Lefty has a fairly high up position in the mob and he's certainly been in it for a long time. Lefty though is basically stuck in the position that he has and the only place he can go is basically to the grave either sooner or later. It's really interesting to see Pacino, who has spent so much of his career playing either boisterous or brilliant gangsters, play a mobster who really is not meant for great things in fact he seems to be having a hard enough time just living an okay life.

This performance could almost looked at a companion performance to Philip Baker Hall's performance in Hard Eight. Both play aging men with mob history who decide to take young men under their wing and give them the knowledge they have from the lessons they've learned. The major difference is that Lefty is not nearly as smart as Hall's Sydney from Hard Eight which in turn allows the other major difference which is that Lefty is still in the mob. Pacino is quite good in the early scenes as he first approaches Donnie and begins showing him the ropes of the mob organization. Pacino is quite excellent in the way he portrays the manner of Lefty as he pulls Donnie in while simultaneously threatening to act as though he is the boss. Pacino's performance brings a certain awkwardness to Lefty's method. Pacino shows that in Lefty's case that he has to actively try to act tough, and smart because in reality Lefty isn't really cut out for his life.  

As the film proceeds forward and Lefty brings Donnie into the fold of the mob Pacino and Depp develop a rather interesting chemistry with one another. Depp, who is particularly understated here, is playing two sides one being the young gangster who wants to learn as much as he can the other side being the undercover agent who is simply infiltrating the mob to acquire as much information as he can derive by going along with Lefty. Pacino is terrific in his portrayal of Lefty manner around Donnie. On one hand Pacino gives that attempted menace of sorts with Lefty, and is quite brilliantly sad as he shows Lefty always trying and failing to act the part of a mob higher up. Pacino nicely portrays Lefty much more in his element when he is mentoring Donnie on a few things. Pacino brings a more natural Lefty in the open as Lefty seems to be able to offer something from his mob years, and that in some way by telling Donnie his knowledge his whole life seems to be a little less at a complete dead end.

Pacino's performance works best in the especially emotionally vulnerable moments as Lefty reveals to Donnie that he is quite aware of the fact that he has nowhere to go. Pacino manages to be very moving in the role despite the fact that Lefty is a killer who technically even boasts about the number of men that he has killed. What Pacino does so well though is show that when you get right down to it that Lefty is nothing more than a lonely old man who wanted to be something but sees that he is almost nothing. Pacino brings such an honest warmth in the scenes where he reaches out to Donnie in some sort of attempt to find something worthwhile in his life, which is unfortunately also a lie. One of my favorite moments in his performance is when, using a tip from Donnie, Lefty tries to set something of his own, something small but it would be his. Pacino brings such a pride and honest happiness as Lefty seems to see something that could be his own, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when it is quickly taken from him.

Al Pacino's portrayal of Lefty is the best part of Donnie Brasco as a film causing my only major complaint to be that Pacino is the secondary lead and the strongest scenes in the film are the ones with Lefty with there being an unfortunately  period in the film where Pacino's appearances become rare. Al Pacino creates such a particularly unique portrait of a gangster who rarely are front and center. Guys like Lefty are often the ones in the background or probably ones who are suddenly killed with little explanation given in other gangster films. Pacino and the film manage to realize one of these guys fully as a person. Pacino gives a very good performance as he simply gives such a genuine depiction of this guy in every scene that he is in. Pacino in doing so does not just show us some random killer, but rather gives a particularly tragic portrait of man who has nothing in his life, and the one shining thing in his life in a surrogate son is also really just another cruel joke being played on him by fate.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1997: Philip Baker Hall in Hard Eight

Philip Baker Hall did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sydney in Hard Eight.

Hard Eight is a rather interesting debut feature of Paul Thomas Anderson about a seasoned gambler who takes a young man, John (John C. Reilly) under his wing.

The prolific character Philip Baker Hall plays the lead role of Sydney an older man who seemingly takes a random man in front of a cafe and proceeds to offer to show him how to be a successful gambler. Philip Baker Hall is reliable in any role that he is given no matter how small they may be. He also though is quite capable as a lead, as he proved his one-man show style portrayal of Nixon in Secret Honor. This time he once again gets a chance to lead a film, although this time its not a solo venture. Philip Baker Hall has such a unique screen presence and in turn he makes Sydney a fascinating character from the moment he asks John if he would like a cup of coffee and a cigarette. Sydney sudden and rather extreme charity to this man seems a bit extreme to say the least Hall does a particularly great job of making you feel comfortable with Sydney despite his straightforward manner. The straightforward attitude that Hall portrays is not exactly how you may expect though.

Hall plays the part with such a delicate complexity and it is fascinating to watch him play the part in a somewhat atypical fashion, yet actually completely naturalistic. Hall disarms you with this sense of warmth that he brings to the part. It's such an unusual charm that Hall infuses to the part. It never is overwhelming but makes Hall manages to use it so calmly to make Sydney so likable, and a completely magnetic character. What Hall does exceptionally well though is that he does not let the warmth define the character or even be an obvious factor. It's something you can feel, but Hall never just simply states with his performance. Hall very nicely leaves a question mark behind the man while he is encouraging John, you can't quite tell what he is up to at this point in the film. Hall allows you to think that perhaps Sydney is just helping John because he is a nice guy or it could be more. Hall never gives you too much or too little leaving Sydney such an interesting enigma of a man.

Hall is great at monologue an exposition, after all he did carry Secret Honor which was just one very long monologue, and ability with it comes into play while he tells John the ropes about how to successfully play the house and win. Hall whole delivery is pitch perfect as it shows this knowledge as almost innate in Sydney as he has obviously spent a considerable time in this sort of life, knowing exactly what to expect. Sydney is in fact kind of a good version of George C. Scott's Burt in The Hustler. Both are well dressed men who take another man under their wing with some manipulation involved, except Sydney seems to be doing for the good of John as a person. The idea of such a man seems almost impossible to believe but Hall makes you believe it as there is such an honesty in Sydney's sage like attitude. Hall brings even more than perhaps what was written though as he does always suggest that there is even more to this relationship, and not what is eventually revealed by the plot of the film.

There is something else that Hall seems to suggest in his performance and what that is, is an underlying sadness about Sydney. He's not weeping or even openly depressed or anything but Hall suggests quite carefully that Sydney is deep down a lonely man who believes by helping others they might treat him with a kindness, which is merely being his friend. Although a later revelation indicates that his decision to help John was not as random as it initially appears, his attempt to alleviate loneliness still seems to be a strong part of it, evidenced by the way he treats a waitress in a casino Clementine (Gweneth Paltrow). Hall again brings this constant sort of empathy that is always felt around Sydney as he treats everyone, who deserves it, with respect. Hall exudes this in a fascinating way because you never see any desperation on Sydney's sleeve, yet nevertheless in his own particularly subtle way Hall still allows you to see that Sydney is reaching out in his own way for some sort of happiness through helping others.

Sydney relationship with John is soon proven to be far from perfect though when he is called in by John to help deal with a blackmail situation that Clementine has come up with while John has chosen to go along with it. Hall is terrific in this scene because he plays it just so realistically. Although Sydney obviously has been a great guy to John up to this point he obviously will not allow himself go to jail by getting involved with a truly harebrained scheme that could only possibly end badly. Hall's great because he just very bluntly shows Sydney ever so slightly loses his cool, and just his survival instincts come into play. Hall knows exactly how to play the scene though because he never loses our empathy in fact he is by far still the most easy to sympathize character in the scene. Hall just wonderfully does not beat around the bush and it's so great to see him so honestly play the scene as he plays Sydney's reaction to be what many people's reaction would be when thrown into such a ludicrous position.

Due to the fact that he is given a minute to think, and that the two manage to plead with him properly Sydney ends up helping them by simply getting them out of the room and on their way. Sydney still has to deal with one more obstacle though and that is a crude friend of John's Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson) who intends to extort Sydney due to Jimmy knowing about Sydney's past. It turns out that Sydney was once a mobster related with plenty of criminal activities including murder. When this revelation is revealed all I thought was yes that makes since. Hall properly left it open to Sydney's true "identity" so to speak, but when the revelation is made you can see that Hall completely makes it understandable. Sydney is in fact a mobster who is trying to make amends of a sort, and try to have a good life despite obviously living a bad one. The history of the man can be seen in the style in which Hall approaches the part, and even in that certain distance he has within his warmth, like it is the leftover coldness needed for a mobster capable of killing.

Jimmy's blackmail basically forces Sydney's hand and Hall brings both the new and old Sydney together in a brilliant set of scenes for him. The first being the old Sydney as he goes about confronting Jimmy. Hall is effectively jarring in this scene as he brings out the killer in Sydney without his cold method in handling Jimmy. Hall in this scene shows both Sydney as he treats a man he has no respect for as well as probably the way Sydney once operated back in the old days. Before this though we get the new Sydney in his attempt at reforming himself as he calls John, who's gone on the a run of sorts with Clementine, and simply tells John that he loves him like a son. This whole scene could have not worked at all in that it could have seemed silly or too cheesy for the rest of the film. It's an incredibly poignant scene because of Hall's performance in the scene. He does not gush or break down in anyway, that would be all wrong for Sydney, yet he still reveals these strong emotions in Sydney probably through the character's very personal manner toward life.

This is a great performance by Philip Baker Hall which kinda makes the film. Paul Thomas Anderson's direction is already very assured, even though its his first film, but the script for the film actually is far from perfection. It's attempts to make it have film noir plot of sorts are not exactly extraordinary, and easily could have sunk the film. The minor twists and turns are not exactly amazing but they all work because of Philip Baker Hall. A lesser actor very well may have left too much on the surface with Sydney, as not a whole lot is said, leaving the character a little hollow, but that is never the case with Philip Baker Hall's portrayal. He realizes the character so truthfully that you always believe in Sydney as a person allowing the film to be such a fascinating character study while with less assured hands it could have just been a second rate thriller. I would not have minded if the film had continued, and we simply followed Sydney some more because Hall's gives such a vivid portrait of this one of a kind character.