Sunday, 30 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998: Results

5. Tony Leung Chiu Wai in The Longest Nite - Leung's role is underwritten but he gives an effective portrayal of the cold brutality of a corrupt cop.

Best Scene: Sam and Tony in the prison cell.
4. Anthony Wong in Beast Cops - Wong gives an entertaining and sometimes moving portrayal of a lazy corrupt cop who tries to redeem himself.

Best Scene: Tung attempts his redemption.
3. Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski - Bridges gives an enjoyable performance as both a funny slacker but as well a straight man in the role he was apparently born to play.

Best Scene: The two Lebowskies meet.
2. Ian McKellen in Apt Pupil -  McKellen's film is terrible as the film's direction stays in one direction while the writing goes in a completely different way. McKellen though matches the two opposing sides with his performance. The first side giving a chilling portrayal of an evil man given the chance to reflect on his evil deeds. The second being an entertaining portrayal of an evil Nazi. McKellen stays above the film by taking his own path apart from the film.

Best Scene: Dussander visits Todd's family.
1. Brendan Gleeson in The General - Gleeson gives an endearing portrayal of the "folk hero" side of his character, but is also effective in his portrayal of the growing desperation of man whose world is closing in on him.

Best Scene: Cahill and the Inspector's last meeting.
Overall Ranking:
  1. Brendan Gleeson in The General
  2. Ian McKellen in Apt Pupil
  3. Edward Norton in American History X
  4. Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski
  5. Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters
  6. Anthony Wong in Beast Cops
  7. Tony Leung Chiu Wai in The Longest Nite
  8. Rufus Sewell in Dark City
  9. Jim Carrey in The Truman Show
  10. Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan
  11. Lau Ching Wan in The Longest Nite
  12. Nick Nolte in Affliction
  13. Bill Paxton in A Simple Plan
  14. Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore
  15. Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  16. Bill Pullman in Zero Effect
  17. John Travolta in A Civil Action
  18. Anthony Hopkins in The Mask of Zorro
  19. Samuel L. Jackson in The Negotiator
  20. Matt Damon in Rounders
  21. Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro
  22. Kevin Spacey in The Negotiator  
  23. Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 4
  24. Will Smith in Enemy of the State 
  25. George Clooney in Out of Sight
  26. Liam Neeson in Les Miserables 
  27. Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 4
  28. Geoffrey Rush in Les Miserables
  29. Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer
  30. Trey Parker in Baseketball
  31. Tony Ho in The Longest Summer
  32. Wesley Snipes in Blade
  33. Anthony Hopkins in Meet Joe Black
  34. Chris Tucker in Rush Hour
  35. Tommy Lee Jones in U.S. Marshals
  36. Ian Bannen in Waking Ned Devine
  37. Joseph Mazzello in Simon Birch
  38. Woody Allen in Antz
  39. John Travolta in Primary Colors 
  40. Ian Michael Smith in Simon Birch
  41. Patrick Stewart in Star Trek Insurrection 
  42. Ben Stiller in There's Something About Mary
  43. Denzel Washington in The Siege
  44. Matt Stone in Baseketball
  45. Matt Dillon in Wild Things 
  46. Dave Foley in A Bug's Life
  47. Jackie Chan in Rush Hour
  48. Wesley Snipes in U.S. Marshals
  49. Adrian Lester in Primary Colors
  50. Eddie Murphy in Doctor Dolittle
  51. Brendan Fraser in Gods and Monsters
  52. Leslie Nielsen in Wrongfully Accused
  53. Ralph Fiennes in The Avengers
  54. Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love 
  55. Warren Beatty in Bulworth
  56. Elijah Wood in The Faculty 
  57. Bruce Willis in Armageddon
  58. Harrison Ford in Six Days Seven Nights 
  59. Elijah Wood in Deep Impact 
  60. Jared Leto in Urban Legend
  61. Michael Keaton in Jack Frost
  62. Robin Williams in Patch Adams 
  63. Nicolas Cage in City of Angels
  64. Gregory Smith in Small Soldiers
  65. Tobey Maguire in Pleasantville
  66. James Marsden in Disturbing Behavior
  67. Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black
  68. Bill Paxton in Mighty Joe Young
  69. Norm MacDonald in Dirty Work
  70. William Hurt in Lost in Space
  71. Ben Affleck in Armageddon 
  72. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Man in the Iron Mask
  73. Eddie Murphy in Holy Man
  74. Michael Wong in Beast Cops
  75. Scott Bakula in Major League: Back to the Minors
  76. Jay Mohr in Jane Austen's Mafia
  77. Adam Sandler in The Waterboy
  78. Jay Mohr in Paulie
  79. Matthew Broderick in Godzilla
  80. Brad Renfro in Apt Pupil
  81. Vince Vaughn in Psycho
Next Year: 1998 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1998: Ian McKellen in Apt Pupil

Ian McKellen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Kurt Dussander who goes by the name Arthur Denker in Apt Pupil.

Apt Pupil tells the story of a high school student who blackmails a former Nazi to get him to tell him his stories of the past. The film has some severe problems. One of the biggest is Bryan Singer's excessively literal direction causes the exploitative material to leave a particularly bad taste. In addition it has a terrible leading performance by Brad Renfro as the boy Todd (Ryan Gosling or Ben Foster probably would have better choices). The film may have worked quite well if it took the material more as a pitch black comedy about an inspirational mentor who happens to be a Nazi and part of the reason I say this is due to the performance I'm about to get to.

Ian McKellen actually shared a few of his wins from critic groups for Gods and Monsters with his performance in this film. Although there was likely no doubt that McKellen would be recognized for his portrayal of the troubled James Whale rather than his performance as a man who calls himself Arthur Denker because he is actually a Nazi war criminal by the name of Kurt Dussander. The high school student Todd goes to Dussander, after doings some research to identify him completely, to hear a first hand account of the Nazi's brutality. McKellen effectively creates not only the Nazi but the old man in Dussander. McKellen is actually playing a much older age, but you would not notice as McKellen so naturally infuses the physical mannerisms of seventy year old into his performance. McKellen's German accent also always feels right for the character and helps amplify its past by having an innate cruelty just in his voice. 

There are kinda two sections of this performance so it is best to start with the first half where he portrays a more realistic depiction of the character as the film takes a less absurdest approach. McKellen is terrific in the earliest scenes where Todd is prodding him for the information about his days as an executioner. McKellen is great because he does not portray Dussander as gloating over his accomplishments nor does he portray any guilt in his voice either. McKellen instead plays Dussander's reflections as bluntly as possible of a man recalling events in his past that are said and done. He's not proud of them but he's not sorry for them either. The strongest emotion that McKellen exudes in the same is an exasperation not over having to recall a bad memory, but rather the exasperation of being forced to tell his stories by some young fool. McKellen actually makes these moments the most cruel as Dussander relates his massacres as merely something he did.

One relatively brief but fantastic scene for McKellen is when Dussander visits Todd's family for dinner one night. McKellen portrays the manner of Dussander brilliantly as he creates the facade of just a nice old man who actually is fairly likable. This scene is important for McKellen as he uses to show exactly how Dussander could have avoided capture for so long, and the act he would have been putting for many years. McKellen on this side of things brings out an earned warmth in his portrayal of Dussander. McKellen is good as he leaves a question to the warmth when Dussander portrays it as he never let's on if Dussander honestly will give a loving embrace or perhaps stab someone in the back. McKellen creates the deception of Arthur Denker incredibly well as he brings a danger of his personality as he so artfully hides the evil behind the face of potentially nice old man or even a possible mentor.

Of course Bryan Singer is not a master of tone and there arrives a problem as he takes such a straight approach to the film even though the writing forces the story to go down an absurdest path. The film and Renfro stumble very badly due to this but one man does not and that is Ian McKellen. McKellen apparently seemed to understand the material better than anyone else as he switches his performance accordingly into a darkly comic portrayal of Dussander. At this point McKellen starts to play the part with an evil glee as Dussander controls the boy but also chooses to help him achieve at school. McKellen takes revels in his performance as he brings to life the Nazi inspirational teacher in quite the entertaining fashion. McKellen is very enjoyable to watch as he has a tremendous amount of fun in the part, which he adapts into a more maniacal villain fitting to the film that probably should have been made out of the material.

I have admit I did not even feel a disconnect between the two sides of McKellen's work really as he does slowly alter into the other path as it becomes obvious where the story is going. The early scenes McKellen gives a performance that would not be out of place in a film like Schindler's List and in the later scenes McKellen's performance would be a great fit for Marathon Man or The Boys From Brazil. It is rather funny how much McKellen seems to have a better grasp on the tone of the material than Bryan Singer does. Even though there is an obvious problem here but I can't blame McKellen for his work. The early scenes that are so serious in terms of the writing would have been wrong for a Dr. Szell type approach, but the later scenes which are written as an insane horror story would have been wrong for an Amon Goeth approach. I thought McKellen gave two great performances, it would have been nice if there was a film to go along for each, but that's not his fault.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998: Tony Leung Chiu Wai in The Longest Nite

Tony Leung Chiu Wai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Inspector Sam in The Longest Nite.

The Longest Nite is a stylish and effective thriller about two men in the middle a power struggle in Macau's criminal origination. I would say this film probably should have been a little longer to make the plot a little clearer, build up the rivalry a little more, perhaps flesh out the supporting players.

Tony Leung is best known for playing somber heroes so it is a bit surprising to see him here where he plays an extremely corrupt cop. Inspector Sam isn't like Tung from Beast Cops who just took a too relaxed view of his job, Sam actively works as an enforcer for the local criminals. He does not just go about interrogating or arresting particular suspects he's command to. Instead Sam spends his time rough torturing anyone he's basically told to by the bosses he works for. Leung is funny enough less somber here than usual, although he's not really happy either, in his portrayal of Sam who seems to be a very no-nonsense sort of agent. When we first see Sam handle his first couple of cases Leung brings an extremely cold brutality in his performance as there is so little humanity he has in his eyes here as Sam cruelly goes from one man to another harming them in one way or another, and in some cases issuing a very to the point execution order on the suffering party.

It is interesting since Leung is not a really physically imposing guy. The film almost seems to purposefully emphasize this by having him wear somewhat baggy clothing and framing him in a way that never hides his height. Leung overcomes this possible hindrance completely and carries himself with considerable menace through the efficiency he brings to Sam's manner of torture. Leung's whole manner in terms of his movement is that of basically a craftsman doing a job that he knows all too well once again. Leung is quite effective as he does not portray Sam really deriving any pleasure from the violence he inflicts on his poor victims, but rather he portrays it much as just a carpenter making a table or something. Leung shows it basically as something that Sam's gotten use to at this point making it perhaps even more cruel since Sam clearly is not even putting all that much passion into the violence, even though he is still completely fulfilling his task still.

This film is a bit too fast paced thanks to the very short run-time therefore we don't get a lot of downtime so to speak with Leung. Leung's performance is almost always moving in the action except for one very brief scene where Sam seems to take a moment out of the plot. It's an extraordinarily brief scene, but it's a brilliant moment as Leung takes to develop Sam just a little more. All the scene consists of is Sam washing his face but in this moment Leung expresses the exhaustion in Sam as it seem he's been chief torturer for far too long and his resigned reaction when he receives yet another call perfectly sums up how Sam truly feels. It's such a great couple of seconds I do wish the film had given him a bit more time to show Sam outside of the job. That is not the case though as Sam gets to rest even less than usual when he finds out he's being blamed for something, that was something I think the film could have been made a little clearer, and I'm usually pretty good at deciphering complex plots.

Anyway though Sam to make up for his mistake attempts to pin it on a strange hitman named Tony in order not to confuse anything obviously (Lau Ching Wan). Although I would say the film doesn't build the rivalry between Sam and Tony as much as it should Leung and Wan make up for it though in their scenes where they are facing off. The best of them being in a prison cell where Sam waits for Tony to make a move. Leung and Wan bring such a palatable intensity to the scene that they bring a hatred to life in a way that the script doesn't really bother to. Whenever the two share the screen there is a searing emotional quality to the scenes as both actors do their absolute best to cover for the film leaving them a few gaps. They actually don't have that many scenes together though as Sam finds himself the target of a manhunt as he attempts to make it out of Macau before he is killed by either the police or the gangsters.

Again I would not have minded if the film had built up to this climax a little more but Leung does not lose his step as everything seems to be closing in around Sam, and Sam takes some pretty extreme measures himself to attempt to make it out. Leung is terrific in these scenes portraying Sam's vicious manner as flies through the night in Macau killing and torturing his ways to an escape. Leung is excellent in conveying the growing desperation in Sam even as he attempts to his cold demeanor. Leung is effective in carrying these scenes and makes them compelling even though Sam is most certainly a vile character. This is a strong performance by Tony Leung Chiu Wai altogether since he turns Inspector Sam into an interesting villain we follow throughout the film despite the fact that Leung's really isn't given that much material to work with. Not only that the film frankly does not stop and this is a remarkable performance by Leung since he does so much while never losing step with the momentum of the film.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998: Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski

Jeff Bridges did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jeff  "The Dude" Lebowski in The Big Lebowski.

The Big Lebowski tells the story of a slacker who is mistaken for an apparent millionaire causing him to get involved in a strange kidnapping plot. I'll preface that I enjoy the film just fine but I don't love the way some do.

Jeff Bridges technically might very well have been playing against his type that he was before this film came out, but now it is considered perhaps his signature role since it also seem to become evident that his own personality is not that far from the Dude's and even took on the nickname. Well it's not surprising that the Dude frankly became his type since Bridges frankly could not be more comfortable in the role. He certainly is just the Dude and there is never a question of that fact for the moment. Bridges absolutely embodies the role with that slow sloppy way of walking that always reinforces the fact that The Dude definitely does not need to be in a rush to get anywhere. Bridges also just has that especially relaxed quality about every physical movement and his whole speech pattern even when he's not under the influence of marijuana. Bridges is the Dude and it does not take long before it feels like you know just who the Dude is.

The Dude rather oddly is kinda the private eye protagonist for a neo noir. The only reason is that he is mistaken for someone else and is strung along into an odd world mostly because he wants his carpet replaced which was ruined by thugs. Well since the plot itself is much less than it appears the Dude is perhaps the best guy to investigate into it. Of course the Dude hardly really investigates he more of is strung along since people keep showing up at his house or request his company simply due to his incidental involvement with the kidnapping plot that involves some very weird people. He also is prodded along on his own side by his crazy best friend Walter (John Goodman) who comes up with his own absurd ideas involving the plot since it includes a large sum of money. As stated in the film though The Dude is purposefully a constant therefore Bridges keeps his performance on a very similair note throughout, although importantly he never feels one note either.

Bridges is good in the role by keeping a certain realism in the part even though the Dude technically really should have nothing to do with what is going on around him. Bridges does not take his approach too far though and still portrays the Dude as a real guy. This becomes most evident when at first it appears that the kidnapping plot may be serious and that someone's life really is in danger. Bridges is effective in portraying The Dude's reaction as one of genuine fear and concern that his actions and the actions of his friends might have caused someone harm. Bridges is equally good as he gets threatened, and slightly physically accosted by the likes of some Nihilists, the thugs of a pornographer, and a cop. Bridges again does well to portray The Dude rightfully becoming slightly more exasperated and even more intense as the business involving the Big Lebowski becomes more harmful to him. Bridges never makes it that heavy so to speak, but he effectively does bring the right sort of weight to the noir elements.

The majority of his performance is of course not being serious and in fact being that easy going guy as others keep laying down more information on him. Bridges's does well to be both a straight man yet flamboyant in his own sort way as well. Bridges is funny on one end of things in portraying the Dude's confusion at the weird people he comes across as well as the annoyance when Walter's behavior gets too out of hand sometimes. At the same time Bridges is funny as well by not necessarily being the straight man, particularly in the scenes where he interacts with the Big Lebowski and his assistant. Here technically Bridges is the one more actively comical and he does well in that to by being so easygoing, and mostly uncaring, as the Big Lebowski goes on about one thing or another that technically has little to do with The Dude. Bridges has just enough fun in portraying the Dude keeping up his trademark manner even while the Big Lebowski goes off on an overly dramatic monologue.

Bridges does indeed seem born for the role as it is one of those cases where it is hard to see anyone else playing the part especially as it appeared to become one with him after this point. Bridges is quite entertaining in the role, and I do thoroughly enjoy his performance. In addition to this Bridges does as well never goes too far with the role still making the few dramatic points work as they should, as he never makes the Dude purely into caricature. I suppose though this is where it comes into play with how much you love the film as I could easily see someone loving the film loving this performance equally. Well I like the film just fine, and I like Bridges in mostly the same way, I guess I might like the performance slightly more. To be sure I don't have anything to complain about his work here it just doesn't work quite as well for me as it does for so many others, although I can see why his work here is loved by some.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998: Brendan Gleeson in The General

Brendan Gleeson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Martin Cahill the titular character in The General.

The General is an enjoyable enough film about the exploits of a most unusual Irish crime boss.

Brendan Gleeson plays Martin Cahill, in his most prominent leading performance before his work with the McDonagh brothers, and from the get go Gleeson benefits from having a fairly close physical resemblance to the real Cahill. The reality of Cahill though doesn't come too deeply into the film itself which takes the approach of making him somewhat of a folk hero of sorts, since in reality it appears Cahill was an even more devious sort than the film presents him to be. Gleeson though is terrific in creating the "heroic" version of Cahill that we meet early in the film as he does things his own way, and that's too an even more absurd extent than most individualists. Cahill is not a usual crime boss, first of all since he focuses almost exclusively on robberies, but also takes rather absurd and flamboyant method to crimes. Cahill almost doesn't hide his crimes to the police instead he carefully hides any possible evidence that could tie them to him.

Gleeson is perfect for the role, and that's not just because of his physical likeness either. Gleeson is very interesting in the way he can have quite the commanding presence while bringing such a relaxed charm in his manner. That's certainly his approach for Cahill which is an effective one to be sure. Gleeson's charm as well makes Cahill quite the likable character here despite the fact that he's a criminal who only commits crimes for personal benefits, and is actually not at all opposed to violent crimes. Gleeson though portrays such a joy in Cahill whenever he commits a crime in his very peculiar and strange ways, such as one where he deposits money at bank then hangs out at the police station for alibi while his own men steal the same exact money right back from the bank, that it's difficult to not kinda have the fun right along with him. Although Cahill is technically quite smug and overconfident in terms of his actions, Gleeson's performance is able to smooth over all of this due to just how accessible Gleeson makes Cahill.

Cahill is a weird crime boss, not only because he stays in plain sight, other than his habit of always covering his face in public, but also because of his fairly informal way of dealing with his men. Gleeson is quite interesting as he makes Cahill odd way of things rather believable because of his performance. There is a great charisma about Gleeson making it easy to see how Cahill is so easily in charge of such a large group even though the structures involving his game are pretty thin. Gleeson has that command even though there is such an ease in his performance at the same time. Of course Cahill on occasion does dish out some punishment, such as when he crucifies a guy to a pool table to ensure he's telling the truth. Gleeson is appropriately cruel in the scene effectively revealing the darker edge to Cahill. Gleeson manages to bounce back from this naturally though when Cahill takes the same man to the hospital himself to ensure that the man recovers from his wounds.

Everything is not fun and games for Cahill because despite his considerable success with his absurd crimes Cahill can't keep up the streak. One of the reasons Cahill can't keep the streak going is because of the streak makes it so the cops take him so seriously that they tail him constantly with police always watching his house. Gleeson is terrific in carrying himself in general with that rebellious attitude and confidence of Cahill and then proceeding to wear it away as his life basically starts to become to much for him. There are the occasional moments where something goes wrong Cahill and Gleeson is great by showing Cahill lose his resolve for a brief instance. In the instance Gleeson suggests the real vulnerability of the man in certain circumstances such as when he has to get extremely abrupt with the I.R.A. since the organization wants in on Cahill's earnings. Gleeson handles these well by showing Cahill's unable to keep his personal going under greater pressure.

Throughout the third act of the film one things after another goes wrong for Cahill as he makes some poor decisions, his underlings begin to threaten his freedom, he develops diabetes, and of course the police never stop hounding him. Gleeson is very good here as he portrays Cahill keeping his brave face of joking and messing with the police but with moments of losing his cool which become more and more intense. Soon though it becomes clear that everything is becoming to much and Gleeson is most moving when he presents Cahill even losing his ability to always smile to the police. One of his best scenes is when Gleeson shows Cahill losing almost all his reserve and Gleeson portrays it as Cahill completely breaking down but constantly trying to keep himself together though he simply is not able to. Gleeson gives a great portrait of Cahill's emotional rise and fall as he shows that he is basically finished mentally even before he receives his fatal wounds from the I.R.A.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998: Anthony Wong in Beast Cops

Anthony Wong did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tung in Beast Cops.

Beast Cops is a bit of an odd film to be sure. It's much more of an odd couple type of comedy about three very different cops living in the same apartment than it is about the power struggle of a local Triad. I rather enjoyed the film for its oddness actually even though it does have a very bland lead performance, and some pretty unintentionally funny sound effects.

The bland lead performance belongs to Michael Wong who plays the new officer of the group Michael Cheung. Wong's always slightly awkward performance, that involves some truly random moments where he speaks English, is not quite as detrimental to the film as it could have been because at least Cheung is suppose to be an extreme straight arrow, but this does leave the character wholly overshadowed by Officer Tung played by Anthony Wong the true star of the film. It's too bad there's no Lieutenant in the Hong Kong Police because Tung wouldn't fit too badly into the mold of a bad lieutenant, although closer to Nicolas Cage's version rather than Harvey Kietel's. Although he might be best described as lazy Lieutenant, as his corruption seems from mostly a lack of caring but Tung's life as a cop certainly involves drinking, using drugs, some prostitution, very casually taking bribes, and having far too comfortable of a relationship with the local Triad members.

Anthony Wong is in top form from the first scene by not being in particularly top form. Wong was apparently actually ill while filming the movie and this only contributes in making Tung the spent type of cop he is. In the opening scenes he's barely at all interested in doing what is required of a cop as Wong is very good in portraying Tung's manner of just basically going through the motions of being a cop. Wong is great though because he does not make Tung just a big nothing though and he's particularly good in portraying the sorta attempted manner to be the cop while failing to really fulfill his duties. Wong brings that certain boisterousness about Tung as if Tung is still the king of his neighborhood, and has any importance at all in his position even though he's basically nothing. Wong brings the right sort of wholly pathetic quality about Tung's routine as he feigns getting involved in a triad murder, but in fact just goes along and warns his friend in the Triad to get out of town. 

We are then introduced to the other Wong's character who first meets Tung at a nightclub. Wong, the better Wong that is, is actually quite funny in his scenes where Tung is doing his best to kinda maneuver around his new boss and make him feel comfortable in his own way. Tung's first attempt is to make him not notice his considerable corruption by trying to have him as good of a time as possible. Wong's quite the delight as he portrays Tung over enthusiastic manner as he brings so much energy in Tung's attempt at making everything just too good for his new boss. I particularly love the moment where Tung abruptly stops his crusade when he hears that Cheung needs a place to stay. Wong is hilarious as he so abruptly shifts to a more serious tone, of sorts, as Tung offers his own room to Cheung. This is only the beginning for their weird partnership, and I have to say I only wish the other Wong was a better straight man for Anthony Wong, since I think these scenes could have reached an even higher height.

The hijinks only continue in their scenes where Cheung and Tung go on patrol and Cheung expects a bit more discipline in his unit than they are used to. Wong again is great as he portrays the mostly brainless attempt by Tung to seem like he's doing something when randomly beats up someone to show his measure. The best moment though is when a real crime is occurring right near him and Wong's reaction is rather hilarious as Tung's first question is to ask if someone is filming around there. Wong continues to be quite entertaining though when we see Cheung and Tung in their apartment together, where Wong has to make occasional requests of his old bedroom in order to have his time with his prostitute relationship he's having. Wong always manages to make Tung's antics surprisingly endearing as brings such an earnestness to his foolishness, that is made only funnier because Tung is a cop.

The film shifts to a more serious tone though when Cheung stops actually doing his job trying to take down the local Triad. Although I don't think the other Wong gets along all the well with the tonal shift, the better Wong thrives along with it despite being the funniest performer in the humorous scenes. Wong has a terrific short moment where Tung threatens the under boss for an attack on Cheung which causes the under boss to remind Tung of his corruption. Wong's brings the intensity of the moment to life especially as he quickly reflects the guilt and forced hesitation as Tung basically recognizes what he is for a moment. Things only get worse though when the Triad boss, who had been on the run, is killed in a power struggle leaving Tung to finally take action. Tung pumps himself on all sorts of things and basically goes into kill the man making for one amazing scene for Anthony Wong.

Wong is outstanding in this scene as he becomes almost a personification of vengeance as Tung finally decides to try to make things right. Wong though still makes him the same Tung, and in this he shows it as a bit of a madness in Tung which is only additionally made worse by the drugs and alcohol in his system. What makes Wong so effective is how he shows the substances as part of Tung's madness as he becomes almost like a terminator as he shrugs off various stabbings to try to corner the man he's after. It's a brilliant scene for Wong since he makes the insanity of the scene so absolutely the Tung he created for the rest of the film, and he successfully bridges the character to this point. Wong I would say is easily the highlight of the entire film as he just goes with the material in a way that any of the actors are not able to compete with. Wong makes Tung quite the memorable and rather likable dirty cop to follow through the film and he's especially good due to the way he manages to mediate between the humor and the drama of the material so well.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998

And the Nominees Were Not:

Anthony Wong in Beast Cops

Tony Leung Chiu Wai in The Longest Nite

Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski 

Brendan Gleeson in The General

Ian McKellen in Apt Pupil

Friday, 21 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor and Supporting Actor 1932: Results

Paul Muni in Scarface - The same year where Muni gave, at least from what I have seen, his best performance in I Am Fugitive From A Chain Gang he also played perhaps one of his best known roles as Tony Camonte best known as Scarface. It's funny in that both this performance and Al Pacino's performance in the remake where perhaps turning points for both actors as they often went for more
over the top characterizations after playing the role of Scarface. Like Pacino, Muni does not give a very subtle or subdued performance here, but it does fit the role of an over the top gangster. Muni's goes big it doesn't ever quite sit right for me, but I did feel it worked better here as it fit in creating the flamboyant nature of the role. He also bothers to bring some subtly in terms of his reactions creating the right intensity, and at least bringing some poignancy to the scenes where Tony is being overprotective of his sister. 3.5/5

Best Actor Ranking:
  1. Paul Muni in I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang
  2. Oliver Hardy in Pack Up Your Troubles
  3. Stan Laurel in Pack Up Your Troubles
  4. William Powell in Jewel Robbery
  5. Paul Muni in Scarface
  6. Boris Karloff in The Mummy
  7. John Barrymore in State's Attorney
  8. Herbert Marshall in Trouble in Paradise
  9. Gary Cooper in A Farewell to Arms
  10. John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement
  11. Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers
  12. Joel McCrea in The Most Dangerous Game
  13. Bela Lugosi in White Zombie
  14. Junior Durkin in Hell's House
  15. William Gargan in Rain
  16. Harry Earles in Freaks
  17. Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan The Ape Man
  18. David Manners in The Mummy
  19. John Harron in White Zombie
John Barrymore in Grand Hotel - Barrymore is rather good here in creating the outward suaveness of the Baron as he he charms his way into seemingly everyone's heart around him. Barrymore carries himself with a great deal of that old Hollywood style of charisma which works quite well here. Barrymore also does well in portraying the desperate elements found in the Baron, which easily could lead to some ACTING, but actually Barrymore is quite effective by staying fairly toned down in this respect. Instead of showing the Baron constantly having to deal with the thoughts of his financial troubles, Barrymore is quite good instead by subtly showing the slight hesitations and secondary glances of the man that suggest the man's predicament. It's fine work and rather easily my supporting win for the year. 4/5

Best Supporting Actor Top Ten:
  1. John Barrymore in Grand Hotel
  2. Charles Laughton in The Old Dark House
  3. Lionel Barrymore in Grand Hotel 
  4. Boris Karloff in The Old Dark House
  5. Leslie Banks in The Most Dangerous Game
  6. Pat O'Brien in Hell's House
  7. Walter Huston in Rain 
  8. Melvyn Douglas in The Old Dark House
  9. Edward Ellis in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
  10. Raymond Massey in The Old Dark House
Next Year: 1998 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: Results

5. Finlay Currie in Great Expectations- Currie brings the right roughness and heart to the role but still never makes that much an impression.

Best Scene: Magwitch comes back.
4. William Bendix in The Blue Dahlia- Bendix, despite the writing messing up his ending, gives an affecting portrayal of a man driven to moments of insanity due to his war experiences.

Best Scene: Buzz is bothered by the music. 
3. Roger Livesey in A Matter of Life and Death- Livesey steals the film right out from David Niven and manages to give weight to the central romance of the film than the two performers portraying it do.

Best Scene: The doctor fights for Peter's life in the Heavenly court.

2. Henry Travers in It's A Wonderful Life- Travers gives a funny and quite wonderful realization of the pure goodness of his character.

Best Scene: George after visiting his mother.
1. Lionel Barrymore in It's a Wonderful Life- Good Predictions Kevin, Maciej, moviefilm, koook160, and  Jackiboyz. The year itself came down to one of my favorite depictions of a villain of all time against Claude Rains who manages to make the villain the most sympathetic character in his film. Both I think are equally good in their roles and I don't see how either could be better. In a way to cheat out of really choosing I'll just base it on their second films of the year. Rains was also great in Angel on my Shoulder whereas Barrymore was quite forgettable in Duel in the Sun.

Best Scene: George goes to Potter for help.
Overall Rank:
  1. Claude Rains in Notorious
  2. Lionel Barrymore in It's A Wonderful Life
  3. Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives
  4. Henry Travers in It's A Wonderful Life
  5. Roger Livesey in A Matter of Life and Death
  6. Thomas Mitchell in It's A Wonderful Life 
  7. Claude Rains in Angel on My Shoulder
  8. William Bendix in The Blue Dahlia
  9. Charles Coburn in The Green Years
  10. Raymond Massey in A Matter of Life and Death
  11. Samuel S. Hinds in It's A Wonderful Life
  12. William Conrad in The Killers
  13. Hume Cronyn in The Postman Always Rings Twice 
  14. Finlay Currie in Great Expectations
  15. Marius Goring in A Matter of Life and Death
  16. Kirk Douglas in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
  17. Victor Mature in My Darling Clementine
  18. Alec Guinness in Great Expectations
  19. H.B. Warner in It's A Wonderful Life
  20. Francis L. Sullivan in Great Expectations
  21. Sheldon Leonard in It's A Wonderful Life
  22. Richard Attenborough in A Matter of Life and Death
  23. Walter Brennan in my Darling Clementine
  24. Frank Faylen in It's A Wonderful Life
  25. Roman Bohnen in The Best Years of Our Lives
  26. Bobby Anderson in It's A Wonderful Life 
  27. Bernard Miles in Great Expectations
  28. Ward Bond in It's A Wonderful Life 
  29. Walter Baldwin in The Best Years of Our Lives
  30. Howard da Silva in The Blue Dahlia 
  31. Robert Coote in A Matter of Life and Death
  32. Elisha Cook Jr. in The Big Sleep
  33. Nigel Bruce in Terror By Night
  34. Albert Dekker in The Killers
  35. William Edmunds in It's A Wonderful Life
  36. Anthony Wager in Great Expectations
  37. Henry Travers in The Yearling
  38. Charles MacGraw in The Killers
  39. Clifton Webb in The Razor's Edge
  40. Marcel Andre in Beauty and the Beast
  41. Hoagy Carmicheal in The Best Years of Our Lives
  42. Walter Huston in Duel in the Sun
  43. Reinhold Schunzel in Notorious
  44. Hardie Albright in Angel on My Shoulder
  45. Todd Karns in It's A Wonderful Life
  46. Lionel Barrymore in Duel in the Sun
  47. Will Wright in The Blue Dahlia
  48. Richard Haydn in The Green Years
  49. Herbert Marshall in The Razor's Edge
  50. Michel Auclair in Beauty and the Beast
  51. William Demarest in The Jolson Story
  52. Ward Bond in My Darling Clementine
  53. Louis Calhern in Notorious
  54. Charles Waldron in The Big Sleep
  55. Cecil Kellaway in The Postman Always Rings Twice
  56. Jess Barker in The Time of Our Lives
  57. Joseph Calleia in Gilda
  58. John Payne in The Razor's Edge
  59. Leon Ames in The Postman Always Rings Twice
  60. Hume Cronyn in The Green Years
  61. Philip Mervale in The Stranger
  62. Hugh Beaumont in The Blue Dahlia 
  63. Chill Wills in The Yearling
  64. Richard Long in The Stranger
  65. Philip Terry in To Each His Own
  66. George Macready in Gilda
  67. Bill Goodwin in To Each His Own
  68. Edwin Maxwell in The Jolson Story
  69. Bill Goodwin in The Jolson Story 
  70. John Lund in To Each His Own
Next Year: 1932 Lead might as well suggest any Supporting ideas as well.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: Finlay Currie in Great Expectations

Finlay Currie did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations.

Great Expectations is a well directed adaptation of Charles Dickens's book about a meek orphan Pip's coming of age story which includes meeting some unusual characters.

One of these unusual characters appears rather early on in the film as the boy Pip finds an escaped convict who he is played by Currie. Currie is appropriately rough in his depiction of the convict's manner not sugar coating him at all at the beginning, and suggesting the hard life that the man his lead. Currie moment here is quite brief but he makes Magwitch memorable enough before he is taken away again by the police. Eventually Pip finds himself rich through a mysterious benefactor, who Pip assumes is the wrong person, but eventually he is surprised to see Magwitch in his house once again which is quite the surprise. Currie's is quite good in his reappearance by know portraying Magwitch as a much more jovial sort certainly made happy by his far better life, although Currie still carries the right roughness around the edges to still show that Magwitch never could quite lose his criminal past completely. 

Currie is effective in turning Magwitch into a likable figure in these few short moments and realizes his whole character best he can. We do want to indeed see Pip help him out as Currie brings an earnest charm into the role. After his first introduction he disappears for a long time and then after his second introduction he placed firmly into the background as the film focuses on Pip basically coming up with a way and the preparing his eventual devised way to smuggle Magwitch out of England. Currie has one more scene where talks about the pain of his past which he makes fairly poignant by honestly portraying the sentiment within the general roughness of Magwitch's character. This is a solid enough performance by Currie as he probably does as much as one could do with how the role Magwitch is used in this version at least. He does not make that much an impact, but his work certainly is more than satisfactory.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: Lionel Barrymore in It's A Wonderful Life


Lionel Barrymore did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Henry F. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life.

The previous collaboration before It's Wonderful Life between director Frank Capra and Lionel Barrymore was in You Can't Take It With You where Barrymore played the role of the jovial patriarch of a free spirited family. Well in this their next collaboration Barrymore's character could not be more different. Barrymore plays the antagonist of the film Mr. Potter who is a banker who owns half the town of Bedford Falls to begin with as the film opens. Although Barrymore was certainly quite believable as a lovable old man he's even better here as Mr. Potter who is introduced as being the meanest man in the county. We first introduced to Potter as he is chewing out George Bailey's father for not foreclosing on homes. Even though Barrymore is confined to a wheel-chair he has a considerable presence as Potter, and is actually quite imposing figure despite needing to be wheeled around by a lurch like figure at all times. His brief introduction though is really a warm up though for the rest of Barrymore's performance.

The greatness of Barrymore's performance actually comes most into play as a most worthy opponent for James Stewart as George. There first face off, and Barrymore's second scene, is after George's father has died and the share holders of his father's company the Bailey Building and Loan are there to determine its fate. Potter wants it to be dissolved as it poses a threat to his control of the town, although he has a backhanded praise of George's father. Barrymore is brilliant in how he does this as he stats that Bailey was a man of so called ideals. The way he looks to the side in discontent and pauses with the so called is time so perfectly by Barrymore that gives such an a callousness to his statement. Barrymore continues to excel and is a great counterpoint to Stewart's performance as George makes his passionate rebuttal against Potter's view of the people of the town. Barrymore's reaction is perfect in showing just how little Potter thinks of George's words. What's particularly great is the way he does the yawn, where he kinda tries to hide but in a way to bring more attention to it.

I don't know if I can name a performance where someone makes there face as expressive as Barrymore more does here as Potter. It never feels strange or awkward or any way and in fact Barrymore uses that as well as his hands as an effective way to make up for the fact that he obviously has some physical constraints. Barrymore is great just to watch here with all that he does in his various facial movements and hand gestures. They never feel like too much but only aid in making his Potter all the more memorable as a character. These certainly come into play in one of Barrymore's best scenes when Potter calls in George to his office in an attempt to get George to accept a high paying  job in order to rid himself of his rival. Barrymore is amazing in this scene because he does shed the true nature of the character ever so much as Potter makes his offer. For a moment Barrymore is terrific as he brings a false kindness to Potter as such a sweet offer to George, and makes it so very tempting. My favorite moment is that final smile where he thinks he has George, since there is such deviousness within it.

Well his offer to George is Potter at his most "kind" later on we get Potter at his worst and Barrymore is once again outstanding. George comes to Potter for help due to a misplacement of funds, which actually accidentally fell into Potter's hands, hoping that Potter will help him. Barrymore does not hold back at just how despicable Potter is in this scene as Barrymore begins with Potter almost confused and concerned by George's predicament. As Potter asks about embezzlement or possibly an affair George is thought to be, incorrectly, having Barrymore has almost a fatherly tone as if Potter is trying to mentor the young man on proper business practices, even though he knows the truth. When Potter sees that George has nothing financially to offer him Barrymore brings out the full sinister nature of Potter, and he gives basically a sickly inverted of George's earlier speech against him. Barrymore's is incredible as he matches Stewart's passion from that earlier scene but is quite chilling by making the passion serve such a horrible notion and purpose.

Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers don't share any scenes together and whereas Barrymore has a some scenes throughout Travers's are all one after another, but they fulfill two polar opposites. Where Travers was such a wonderful personification of good, Barrymore is such a personification of evil. Lionel Barrymore succeeds in making Mr. Potter one of the all time great villains of cinema, and Potter does not even need to physically harm a soul. Barrymore's performance makes Potter such a vile sort by realizing the man's cruel ideology. It is interesting to note that Barrymore was originally going to play Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, but was unable to do to his legs. It is easy to see him, due to his role here as Potter, to play the unreformed Scrooge, but actually Barrymore does not make Potter just the unreformed Scrooge. Barrymore makes Potter a darker sort, a man incapable of seeing the error of his ways. I love this performance, which is even very entertaining due to Barrymore's energetic style, yet that never takes away even an ounce of the viciousness of his characterization.  

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: Henry Travers in It's A Wonderful Life

Henry Travers did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Clarence Odbody, angel second class, in It's A Wonderful Life.

Henry Travers first speaks rather early in the film as he is called upon by God and Joseph to be the one to go down to Earth to help George Bailey (James Stewart) before he takes his life. Before Clarence can go help him though he is first given George's back story which is about the first two thirds of the film. During this time Clarence makes the occasional comment, and you could not ask a better voice for an angel. There is such a genuine warmth and goodness to Travers voice that is hard to imagine anything but kindness coming from him, making his casting as a mean old man in The Bells of Saint Mary's all the more ridiculous I mention this mostly because it's the movie on the marquee in Bedford Falls. Anyway, although we get the very short comments Travers does not appear in the flesh until very late in the film when it takes its last act turn, and Travers's appearance is what indicates this turn in the film.

George is about to commit suicide, due to a lost large sum of money, by jumping off a bridge. In this darkest of moments for the film we suddenly and unexpectedly get a bright beam of light in the face of Henry Travers as Clarence when he makes his first onscreen appearance. Travers could not have a more kindly smile instantly offering some hope to the situation of a possible suicide, which alleviated all the more when Clarence jumps in himself forcing George's good nature to kick causing him to jump in as well to save Clarence. What follows is one of my favorite scenes in the film, although I'll admit I have a lot of favorite scenes in this film, as George and Clarence dry off giving Clarence a chance to introduce himself as his guardian angel.Travers is pitch perfect in the role and he makes his first substantial scene wonderful to watch. Travers establishes such a sweetness in his performance, which never feels too much or forced, but rather is truly angelic.

Travers also manages to bring a certain kookiness to the role that he also so carefully portrays as it could easily become cloying but Travers is only ever endearing in his portrayal of it. Travers has a very sly comic timing and manner in his performance. He never distracts too much away from the importance of the emotions concerning George's story and brings these humorous moments flawlessly into these scenes. Travers is actually quite unassumingly hilarious as Clarence as he makes the character's naivety and somewhat absentmindedness both funny yet just so very charming at the same time. This is one of those performances where you could almost take any line delivery from Travers and find something special in it. Two moments perhaps are my favorite, on the comic side of things, the first being his oh so friendly goodbye of "Cheerio my good man" after scaring a man away in disbelief after giving out what AS2 stands for, and my second is his rather futile attempt to name a drink for himself at a bar.

Travers's work is not just merely funny and sweet even if it is both those things as well because Clarence is sent there with a mission which is to convince George that his life is worthwhile. Travers excels in this regard as well as he carries himself with this otherworldly wisdom that he manages to make a natural part of the daffy angel. Travers is outstanding in the moments where he shows Clarence to merely quietly prod George with the information. There is something so powerful about the way Travers delivers his lines in these scenes as he speaks the blunt truth with such a severity but always with a warmth. Travers brings such a poignancy in every lines he speaks particularly "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?". Travers is excellent as he portrays Clarence as having such an inspiring soulfulness about him that George would have to take notice of Clarence's message.

It is interesting in that the exact final moment of Clarence's exit of the film is not particularly climatic, but it strangely ends up not mattering. Travers makes such a grand impression in the screen time he does have that it doesn't feel like Clarence is shortchanged by the end of the film. The reason being that it feels though Clarence's presence is still with George to the very last frame of the film. Travers accomplishes this by just how good he is in the role. This is an incredibly entertaining performance by Travers to say the least as he's consistently funny and makes Clarence so likable as well. It is more than just a likable characterization by Travers though as he makes Clarence serve an even greater purpose. George going from the worst to finding the will to live is of course beautifully brought to life by Stewart's amazing performance, but Travers also contributes greatly to making the transformation as powerful as it is through his realization of Clarence as a entity of pure goodness.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: William Bendix in The Blue Dahlia

William Bendix did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Buzz Wanchek in The Blue Dahlia.

The Blue Dahlia is a decent enough film noir about an ex-bomber pilot Johnny (Alan Ladd) who is accused of murdering his unfaithful wife.

William Bendix plays Buzz who is one of the two buddies who comes home along with Johnny. The other buddy is George who is as much as a straight arrow as one can be but what do you expect when he's played by Hugh Beaumont. William Bendix is one of the more underrated character actors from the period as I have yet to be disappointed by him, although I must admit that I have not seen the Babe Ruth Story. Bendix, like in his work in Lifeboat, carries an innate likability. There is such a genuine earnestness about his work that he manages to make Buzz a guy who is pretty easy to feel sorry for even though in his first scene it becomes clear that Buzz has a short fuse as he lashes out against a guy simply for playing music from a jukebox. The reason for his short fuse though is not because Buzz simply has a bad temper, but rather due to his experiences from the war which left a metal plate in his head.

Like in his performance in Lifeboat where he had the drunk scenes here he has those angry outburst which again could lead to some very over the top style of performance, but once again Bendix excels by not doing this. Bendix portrays Buzz's moments of losing his mind incredibly well as he portrays them as basically a nervous jolt of emotional desperation. Bendix is terrific because as he goes into the rather intense moments of Buzz he carefully always reinforces that it comes from his own pain, and that his outburst is Buzz's attempt to alleviate that even though it may be a bit futile. Bendix makes these moments all the more disconcerting because he does have such an endearing quality to his performance. He believably turns that gentle quality into a viciousness so effectively, and even though the film does not spend too much time on it, Bendix gives a fairly remarkable portrayal of his character's post traumatic stress disorder.

The film is about Ladd's characters attempt to find the real culprit to his wife's murder so it might seem obvious where Buzz fits into that when Johnny's wife invites Buzz over. Bendix is extremely effective in these rather brief scenes as brings a considerable poignancy to the moment where Johnny's wife talks to Buzz, even though she is only trying to manipulate him. Bendix makes it appropriately tragic though by honestly portraying how desperate Buzz is for a real tenderness which he will not be receiving from Johnny's wife. There major problem in regards to Bendix comes into play when the film reaching its conclusion and it turns out Buzz is at best a red herring and at worst a completely pointless to the plot. The film seems to be building to Buzz being the murderer caused by one of his moments of insanity then forgetting about it due to his moments of memory loss, that is not the case though. 

I was not surprised to say the least when I read that Buzz was the original murderer and it was changed and it does feel like a last minute change since the real conclusion is rather unsatisfactory. The reason this mattes in regards to Bendix though is the film fails to give him one last scene to show where it is Buzz is going in regards to his potential insanity as his story just kinda stops after Buzz is cleared of the charges. The reason this is a problem with the film is that Buzz is easily the most interesting character in the film and Bendix easily gives the best performance. I would much rather have had the more emotionally explosive ending involving Buzz rather than the overly simple one where a character no one cared about to begin with turned out to be the killer. The usage of Buzz only does harm to the film itself but not really Bendix's performance past denying one more potentially great scene. Bendix still manages to give a moving portrait of a man traumatized by war, even if film itself doesn't use it to its fullest potential.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946: Roger Livesey in A Matter of Life and Death

Roger Livesey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Frank Reeves in A Matter of Life and Death.

Roger Livesey plays the doctor who Peter (David Niven) and June (Kim Hunter) goes to see because of Peter miraculous survival from jumping out of a plane, and his subsequent apparent visitations from someone from beyond. As I wrote in David Niven's review the romance between Peter and June loses its steam as soon as they meet each other face to face for the first time I still loved the film though because of the splendid direction of Powell and Pressburger, and due to the performances from the supporting players with Livesey being the most important of these. Livesey basically picks up the slack since he becomes the crowd in Niven and Hunter's scenes together. It should be stated that Roger Livesey has one of the underrated voices of cinema as that along with his whole manner as a performer makes himself quite the magnetic figure who just seems to bring something quite special to the picture.

Livesey technically does not do too much in his early scenes other than observe Peter and offer some exposition here and there of what he believes it might. Well that's apparently more than enough for Livesey since he infuses so much into the role of doctor. Livesey's has such a tremendous presence and brings such a palatable authority to his words. There is this dramatic determination that Livesey has that brings weight to Peter's situation with such ease when the doctor does start to give his own diagnosis on Peter's problem. Livesey's portrayal of the doctor is not some excessively serious performance and he equally excels in his reactionary moments. Livesey is excellent in beginning a certain casual curiosity as the doctor seems somewhat bemused by Peter's claims, but he effectively transforms this to genuine concern as it becomes abundantly clear that no matter what is the truth it's not good for Peter's well being.

Livesey's best scene though takes places in the court of the most high as he defends Peter's right to stay and lie a much longer life then what was intended for him. The doctor must defend Peter against the bitter prosecution of one Abraham Farlan (Raymond Massey) who hates all things English since he was the first casualty of the American Revolution. Livesey and Massey's face off is one of the best highlights of the film. Massey brings his usual dignified manner in his character's fairly petty points made against Peter. Livesey is terrific in this scene carrying himself in such a clever fashion actually. I like how both he and Massey bring a very different kind of passion to each of their characters. With Massey's being a venomous side of things while Livesey keeps the doctor points as spoken in a lighthearted yet still very forceful manner. Livesey portrays it as  if the doctor is shooting down Abraham's points by turning them into a bit of a joke.

Livesey makes the most out of every single moment of speechifying in the heavenly court. Livesey never let's this become at all boring instead he makes his tradeoff with Massey surprisingly thrilling. Livesey's performance even manages through his delivery to give weight to the idea of the central romance even though the central romance ends up not even being anything that special past their first scene. This is a strong performance by Roger Livesey as he steals the film right out from under David Niven, although he does not do this in the way you might expect. He does not go for any sort of obvious flamboyant overacting nor does he make an overt attempts to bring needless attention to himself. Livesey very effortlessly just makes the doctor the most watchable character in the film, and the one who simply enlivens the story the most.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1946

And the Nominees Were Not:

Henry Travers in It's A Wonderful Life

Lionel Barrymore in It's A Wonderful Life

Roger Livesey in A Matter of Life and Death

Finlay Currie in Great Expectations

William Bendix in The Blue Dahlia

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1946: Results

5. David Niven in A Matter of Life and Death - Niven, despite a strong start, gives an adequate performance but one that is overshadowed both by the supporting players and the film's direction.

Best Scene: Peter's "goodbye".
4. Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine - The film doesn't really do much with Wyatt Earp as a character but Fonda still manages to gives a solid leading turn befitting the film.

Best Scene: The O.K. Corral
3. Van Heflin in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers - Van Heflin gives a surprisingly charming performance that carefully maneuvers around the film's intensely melodramatic story. 

Best Scene: Sam leaves the house as well as his past.
2. Jean Marais in Beauty and the Beast - He makes for an appropriately jerky villain but as well brings the right humanity and animal into his earnest depiction of the beast.

Best Scene: Just before the transformation.
1. Dana Andrews in The Best Years of Our Lives - Good Prediction RatedRStar, mcofra7, and Luke. Andrews gives a powerful understated portrayal of man repressing his anguish of the war as he faces civilian life once again.

Best Scene: Fred visits an old bomber.
Overall Rank:
  1. James Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life
  2. Dana Andrews in The Best Years of Our Lives
  3. Jean Marais in Beauty and the Beast
  4. Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep
  5. Fredric March in The Best Years of Our Lives
  6. Van Heflin in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
  7. Paul Muni in Angel on My Shoulder
  8. Cary Grant in Notorious
  9. Burt Lancaster in The Killers
  10. John Mills in Great Expectations
  11. Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine
  12. Edmond O'Brien in The Killers
  13. Edward G. Robinson in The Stranger
  14. Basil Rathbone in Terror By Night
  15. David Niven in A Matter of Life and Death
  16. Claude Jarman Jr. in The Yearling
  17. Orson Welles in The Stranger
  18. Glenn Ford in Gilda
  19. John Garfield in The Postman Always Rings Twice
  20. Dean Stockwell in The Green Years
  21. Alan Ladd in The Blue Dahlia
  22. Tom Drake in The Green Years
  23. Gregory Peck in The Yearling
  24. Bud Abbott in The Time of Their Lives
  25. Lou Costello in The Time of Their Lives
  26. Bob Hope in The Road to Utopia
  27. Bing Crosby in The Road to Utopia
  28. Joseph Cotten in Duel in the Sun
  29. Tyrone Power in The Razor's Edge
  30. Gregory Peck in Duel in the Sun
  31. Larry Parks in The Jolson Story
Next Year: 1946 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1946: Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine

Henry Fonda did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine.

My Darling Clementine is a decent enough, although especially inaccurate I mean it seems to almost go out of its way in this regard having Morgan Earp the only surviving brother even though he was the only one who died in Tombstone, telling of Wyatt Earp's time as the Marshall of Tombstone as he faces off against the Clantons.

Henry Fonda plays the famous and often portrayed Wyatt Earp, but My Darling Clementine isn't really trying to represent the historical Earp nor is it really realizing much of its own vision regarding the man. Fonda would go on to portray a rather negative depiction of an Earp like character in Warlock but in this film, as written, Earp is more of just a pretty standard western hero. The film makes brief mention of his earlier days in law enforcement but they are mostly glossed over in favor of him being a fairly typical hero you'd expect in a John Ford western. He comes in with his brothers to Tombstone with cattle, and is just looking to make a new life for himself much like many a standard heroes. This is only continued when he gets wrong by someone leaving him to have to stay in Tombstone to find the culprits again in a pretty standard hero sort of fashion.

Henry Fonda's performance though does work well enough within this extremely limited version of Wyatt Earp in which every part of him is pretty muted as written. The history of the character is only mentioned without giving any more depth to the man, his brothers are non-entities, and he's barely even friends with Doc Holliday (Victor Mature). In fact they are slightly antagonistic to one another before Holliday helps at the end to get revenge. Even the antagonism between the two is pretty simplified to the point of Earp just saying for Holliday not tell people they need to get out of town. Then there is Earp's romance with the titular Clementine which never amounts to anything more than a few longing glances from Earp since she is far more interested in Holliday than him. This is altogether a pretty thin role and really it's only in the depiction of Earp's vengeance for his brothers that the film illustrates much about the character.

The character is actually pretty much left to Fonda himself since Earp's most defining feature throughout the film is to want to keep the peace despite the rowdy nature of almost everyone around him. Fonda certainly brings the needed presence and command for a part such as his, but really what he adds to most is the slightly humorous touches he brings to his character. It isn't that this is even a funny performance exactly but rather Fonda has this certain ease in all the standard western moments that manages to lighten them up a bit. Now he goes the exact opposite when Earp gets his revenge which is rather brief actually, but Fonda certainly brings the needed intensity when it is called upon him. This is hardly the definitive portrayal of Wyatt Earp by any means, but that's always feels like it is the writing's fault not Fonda's. I don't think I've found that definitive performance yet, but on its own Fonda gives a solid enough leading turn in a John Ford western.

Alternate Best Actor 1946: Dana Andrews in The Best Years of Our Lives

Dana Andrews did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain Fred Derry in The Best Years of Our Lives.

The Best Years of Our Lives was well loved by the Oscars being nominated for 8 Oscar winning seven of them and even receiving an extra honorary Oscar for Harold Russell to go along with his supporting win. Although it is pretty ridiculous that Teresa Wright wasn't recognized for her supporting work in the film it seems even stranger that out of the three men playing the veterans returning home after the war Andrews, who probably has the most substantial role, was ignored. It is perhaps the role that sunk Andrews since his manner of dealing with his problems from the return home are a bit more muted than the other men. Harold Russell's Homer lost both his hands which he often hides with a sunny disposition to cover his deep emotional turmoil, and Fredric March's Al resorts merely to drink when facing his return to home life some of which does not exactly sit right with him. Fred, other than one nightmare that brings him back to his time as a Air Force bomber, stays rather reserved.

One may think Dana Andrews to merely be a somewhat limited leading man if they, for whatever reason, only ever watched his performances in films like Boomerang and Laura. This idea is instantly shattered if they were to watch his very emotional work in The Ox-Bow Incident. His performance The Best Years of Our Lives Andrews meets a bit of an understanding between this two sides in his portrayal of Fred Derry. Andrews portrays Fred most of the time as a mostly unassuming man who even stays unassuming when dealing with many of his problems involving his return home. These includes his inability to find himself decent employment as well as dealing with very shallow wife (Virginia Mayo) who obviously seemed to have married Fred mainly for his soldier's pay. Andrews plays Fred much of the time as dealing with this problems with a brave face to say the least as he presents Fred as trying to merely pick up the pieces after coming back from the war.

Andrews's method here is quite effective though as he does not portray Fred as being an unemotional or boring man, but rather a reserved one who doesn't ever rely on someone else for his problems. Andrews does well in the role by taking this approach as he makes him likable enough in his own way, but also suggests a certain way that Fred has chosen to deal with his problems which is mainly to not acknowledge them. This leaves Andrews to take on a particularly subtle approach for the character which actually works incredibly well. Andrews brings such tremendous emotional intensity in just his eyes yet in an interesting way he's not exactly forceful about which shows how in a way Fred lets his problems pile up because of his refusal to stand up and say something. Andrews though is fantastic in the way he internalizes the problems of Fred so well as even though he does not act out his frustrations, Andrews always makes you feel those frustrations within Fred's reserved frame.

There is technically only really one major moment that Fred reacts outwardly which is his dream, fitting since Fred obviously would not be able to control himself in such a circumstance. Andrews handles the scene well as basically a hysteria as he realizes the sting of the memory which is a traumatic battle. It's a strong moment but his most remarkable part of his performance is again a silent moment where Fred goes back into an old bomber and consciously relives his trauma. Andrews makes Fred a ticking time bomb of sorts as there is always that tension Andrews suggests in Fred, yet when he does break open here Andrews still takes a restrained approach. Andrews does so much in merely his expression and the growing distress as he shows bluntly Fred being overwhelmed by all of the pain he had suffered during combat once again. Andrews reveals all of his pent up anguish, although still in a silent but oh so powerful moment.

Andrews performance here is a great example of someone thriving in a tricky role. Fred's nature even extends to his relationship with Al's daughter Peggy (Teresa Wright) since Fred has to keep his affections in check since he is married. Andrews and Wright manage to develop kinda an unspoken chemistry rather honestly and very much earn the final moments since they suggest how the two feel simply through their glances. This is really the testament to the whole power of Dana Andrews performance where he does so much with so little. It is not even that the role is underwritten, it isn't at all actually, it is though that to be true to Fred's character he had to give a somewhat distant performance. Andrews thrives though within these limitations giving a poignant and moving portrait of a man suffering from post traumatic stress yet fights within himself not to let it affect him. It is terrific work and he should have been recognized right along with Harold Russell's and Fredric March's Oscar winning turns.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1946: Van Heflin in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

Van Heflin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sam Masterson in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is an often a bit over the top in its melodramatic story about a cold but powerful married couple who's dark secret comes to the surface when their old childhood friend comes to town.

Van Heflin, according himself, was told that he would never get the girl at the end of the film. This can certainly be seen in probably his two made famous films, at least in modern times, of Shane and 3:10 to Yuma. Funny enough he actually gets the "girl" in both of those films so to speak, but in both of those films he plays the more bland average man character, as written, compared to the more flamboyant individuals of Shane and Ben Wade played by Alan Ladd and Glenn Ford respectively. The reason I mention this is in this film because both of the two main women of the film are both rather blunt in displaying their affections toward Heflin's character. One being his old childhood friend the titular Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) who is married to a man named Walter (An against type Kirk Douglas since it was his first film before he even had a type), and another being a troubled woman Toni (Lizabeth Scott).

Van Heflin is actually kinda against type himself by playing the technically romantic lead which is interesting since his character starts out as the more troubled child. Even though he is drifter who does some gambling Sam is in no way a malicious character. It is interesting to see Heflin, who was obviously being very generous to his co-stars in those later westerns he made, since he proves himself to have quite the charm when he calls upon. Heflin carries himself well with a certain slick devil may care manner as Sam first arrives into town and he just seems to be enjoying his time of soaking in the nostalgia of being in his old hometown. His instant befriending of Toni is made wholly believable by Heflin's performance. He has a great easy going charisma here and he does a great job of establishing Sam as a likable guy, and his work here makes it a bit surprising the way he was often given the role as the other guy.

Heflin does well to kinda establish Sam outside of the melodrama a bit as his performance always feel very reserved well the emotions start flying quite freely with the other characters. Heflin's take with the character really works because he frankly presents Sam as basically a reluctant participant in the almost absurd level of drama that takes place involving Douglas's and Stanwyck's characters. This makes the most sense because Sam is not only tricked into staying more than once by Martha, but this also leads to him being constantly harassed by goons hired by Walter who happens to be a politician with some local sway. This leaves Sam as basically a man who just wants to leave possibly with the young woman he happened across. Unfortunately for Sam Martha keeps making her advances which leaves Walter to also become increasingly desperate as well. Heflin is great by portraying just the very down to earth exasperation of dealing with the insanity he'd rather not be a part of.

Van Heflin does some fine work here by resisting the urge ever to become part of the melodrama and it is perfect for the character of Sam who is really pulled along to the plot. Heflin is able to somewhat alleviate the intensity of the melodrama by playing Sam in just a rather charming and honest fashion. This does limit his character arc somewhat in that he mainly becomes disillusioned with his old friends, but Heflin handles this well by just being so genuine in his depiction of Sam's reactions throughout. The film isn't a great success but Heflin is essential to keeping it on a rail as he brings some power to the situation by portraying how a sane man would respond to such insanity. He kinda stabilizes the melodrama in a way but as well offers enough relief through the surprisingly amount of charm that he does bring into the role. It's very solid work from probably one of the most underrated actors from the period.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1946: Jean Marais in Beauty and the Beast

Jean Marais did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Beast and Avenant in Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast is rather wonderful telling of the classic fairy tale.

Jean Marais plays the Beast but he also plays Avenant who's Belle's (Josette Day) boyfriend and technical antagonist. Technically in this version Belle's sisters are more problematic and Avenant is hardly a Gaston like figure. Avenant's more of kinda of a jerk, but he's not really aggressively evil or anything. Marias's role is pretty limited as Avenant, but still does a pretty job of it. I like that he does not portray Avenant as being overly menacing or  anything close to that. Marais instead, rather naturally, showed him to be just a fairly charmless and foolish man. When he invades the Beast's palace at the end of the film Marais's manner is not that of a man who trying to commit some cruel act, but rather that of a fool who is about to make a very serious mistake.

The more interesting side of his work here is as the Beast. There are some technical limitations on Marais as he is only left his eyes and physical movements to make the Beast his own. The first time we see the Beast it is in his more beastly way as Belle's father goes to retrieve a rose and he suddenly appears when the father takes the rose. He quickly sentences the father to a quick death unless he brings one of his daughters for the same death. Marais does not simply make the costuming do the work here. In his first appearance he portrays the Beast as rather imposing figure. Marais accentuates an ever so slight almost hiss as he speaks that is effective in creating the animal of the character, while never making it seem silly either. It's a relatively short scene but he sets up the cold side of the beast in a rather effectively.

Belle is the one to come in order to save her father, but immediately it becomes obvious that the Beast's demands were less due to a vicious nature but rather those of a lonely man. Marais is terrific in his first scene where Beast meets Bell as instead of that commanding presence he brought in the meeting with her father there is a shyness to his physical manner as though the Beast is ashamed of his appearance while being around a beautiful woman. Marais manages to go from being the threatening monster to a rather somber figure quite efficiently. Marais makes the most of his eyes suggests the strong humanity in the beast as you see the sadness and even fear in the eyes of the Beast as he must face his own image. Marais artfully overcomes the restrictions of his costume and does what he should which is to show the beauty in the beast.

The love story is done in a rather low key fashion, and it is not exactly done as this larger than life romance exactly. Instead it is portrayed as more of Belle coming to understand and sympathize with the beast plight which is made believable by Marais's performance. Marais does a great job of still keeping this certain animal quality with the beast, even as his sweet nature becomes obvious. Marais earns the sweetness he slowly reveals within the Beast which he portrays in a very elegant yet quiet fashion. What works so well is how he brings out the tenderness and meekness really in the beast as he seems to only earnestly urge Belle to love if rather than trying any overt romantic gestures. With the sweetness though Marais is quite moving in his depiction of the Beast slowly weakening resolve and the way it seems that the Beast is far more fearful of the beauty than she is of him.

The chemistry he and Day strike is most unusual really yet so affecting in a rather otherworldly fashion. The connection they create though absolutely works. What I like most in this version though is in the pivotal scene where the Beast becomes the Prince. What I love about is Day and Marais don't quite present it as you might think. Instead of instantly embracing each other or anything like that there is instead a certain awkwardness both actors bring to the scene. This awkwardness is a good thing though kinda making it like the beast now as the Prince does need to reintroduce himself again since he has become a man again. Marais brings a certain hesitation as if the Beast is making sure she still loves him even though he's no longer the beast. Both of their performances in this scene allows them to earn their happy ending much more as they take the moment to recognize the transition, and give it the wondrous quality it needs.