Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1965

And the Nominees Were Not:

Toshiro Mifune in Red Beard

Rod Steiger in Doctor Zhivago

Ian Bannen in The Hill

Harry Andrews in The Hill


Ian Hendry in The Hill

Oskar Werner in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Jack Lemmon in The Great Race 

For the Prediction Contest the Honor goes to:

Andrews

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2006: Results

5. Sergi López in Pan's Labyrinth - López gives an appropriately imposing portrayal of his sadistic character, but there just always felt like there was something missing.

Best Scene: Vidal's first torture session.
4. Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale - Mikkelsen gives an appropriately slick villainous turn, but also manages to bring more depth than one might expect from such a character.

Best Scene:  A most painful torture session. 
3. Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine - Carell gives a rather assured portrayal of his suicidal character who gradually finds some will to live.

Best Scene: Frank tells Dwayne to suffer.
2. Michael Caine in Children of Men - Caine gives a great supporting work where he gives a enjoyable off-beat yet still poignant turn. It's the sort of work that seems like he has more screen time than he does because of the impact he makes with the little he has.

Best Scene: Jasper says goodbye to his wife. 
1. Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland - He'd be my supporting win but I can't quite agree with that placement. In either category though Affleck gives a great performance. He brings to life the charisma yet weakness of Reeves brilliantly to life, and gives a heartbreaking portrayal of a man who never felt he soared high enough.

Best Scene: Reeves's wrestling footage. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Michael Caine in Children of Men
  2. Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children
  3. Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine 
  4. Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale
  5. Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine
  6. David Bowie in The Prestige 
  7. Robert Downey Jr. in A Scanner Darkly
  8. Rob Lowe in Thank You For Smoking
  9. Michael Caine in The Prestige 
  10. Toby Jones in The Painted Veil
  11. Alec Baldwin in The Departed 
  12. John Hurt in V For Vendetta
  13. Sergi López in Pan's Labyrinth
  14. Martin Sheen in The Departed
  15. Morgan Freeman in Lucky Number Slevin
  16. Bob Hoskins in Hollywoodland
  17. Joe Pesci in The Good Shepherd
  18. Ben Kingsley in Lucky Number Slevin
  19. Giancarlo Giannini in Casino Royale
  20. Mark Wahlberg in The Departed
  21. Noah Emmerich in Little Children
  22. Richard Sammel in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
  23. Ray Winstone in The Departed
  24. Liam Cunningham in The Wind That Shakes the Barley
  25. Ulrich Tukur in The Lives of Others 
  26. Paul Dano in Little Miss Sunshine
  27. Jeremy Piven in Smokin' Aces
  28. Padraic Delaney in The Wind That Shakes the Barley
  29. Jeffrey DeMunn in Hollywoodland 
  30. Stephen Rea in V For Vendetta
  31. Woody Harrelson in A Scanner Darkly
  32. Alex Angulo in Pan's Labyrinth
  33. Michael Clarke Duncan in Talladega Nights in The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby
  34. Tsuyoshi Ihara in Letters from Iwo Jima
  35. Chris Pine in Smokin' Aces
  36. Boubker Ait El Caid in Babel
  37. Gary Cole in Talladega Nights in The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby
  38. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Mission Impossible III
  39. Rufus Sewell in The Illusionist  
  40. John C. Reilly in Talladega Nights in The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby
  41. Brad Pitt in Babel
  42. J.K. Simmons in Thank You For Smoking
  43. Paul Newman in Cars
  44. Andy Serkis in The Prestige
  45. Ray Liotta in Smokin' Aces
  46. Chiwetel Ejiofor in Children of Men 
  47. Leslie Phillips in Venus
  48. Sam Elliot in Thank You For Smoking
  49. Michael Gambon in The Good Shepherd 
  50. Stephen Fry in V For Vendetta
  51. Bill Nighy in Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  52. David Oyelowo in The Last King of Scotland
  53. Thomas Thieme in The Lives of Others
  54. Ryo Kase in Letters From Iwo Jima
  55. Ben Affleck in Smokin' Aces
  56. Peter Mullan in Children of Men
  57. Arnold Vosloo in Blood Diamond
  58. Koji Yakusho in Babel
  59. Liev Schreiber in The Painted Veil
  60. Robert De Niro in The Good Shepherd
  61. Stellan Skarsgaard in Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  62. Alfred Molina in The Hoax
  63. Dustin Hoffman in Stranger Than Fiction 
  64. Gael Garcia Bernal in Babel
  65. Paul Giamatti in The Illusionist 
  66. Ben Foster in X-Men The Last Stand
  67. John Turturro in The Good Shepherd 
  68. Nestor Carbonell in Smokin' Aces
  69. Michael Sheen in The Queen
  70. Chiwetel Ejiofor in Inside Man
  71. William H. Macy in Thank You For Smoking
  72. Bill Nighy in Notes on a Scandal
  73. Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls
  74. Terry Crews in Idiocracy
  75. Burt Young in Rocky Balboa
  76. Charlie Hunnam in Children of Men
  77. Simon McBurney in The Last King of Scotland
  78. Stanley Tucci in Lucky Number Slevin
  79. Anthony Mackie in Half Nelson
  80. Willem Dafoe in Inside Man
  81. Tom Hollander in Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  82. Stanley Tucci in The Devil Wears Prada
  83. David Koechner in Thank You For Smoking
  84. Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns
  85. James Badge Dale in The Departed
  86. Alec Baldwin in The Good Shepherd 
  87. Greg Kinnear in Invincible
  88. Billy Crudup in The Good Shepherd
  89. James Cromwell in The Queen
  90. William Hurt in The Good Shepherd 
  91. Richard Griffiths in Venus
  92. Ian McKellen in X-Men: The Last Stand
  93. Jack Davenport in Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  94. Mike Starr in The Black Dahlia
  95. Stanley Tucci in The Hoax
  96. Bruce Willis in Lucky Number Slevin
  97. Jack Nicholson in The Departed
  98. Tony Burton in Rocky Balboa
  99. Larry The Cable Guy in Cars 
  100. Dax Shepard in Idiocracy
  101. Danny Glover in Dreamgirls  
  102. Kelsey Grammer in X-Men The Last Stand
  103. Frank Langella in Superman Returns 
  104. Jaden Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness
  105. Dick Van Dyke in Night at the Museum  
  106. Patrick Stewart in X-Men The Last Stand
  107. Kevin McNally in Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  108. James Marsden in Superman Returns
  109. Milo Ventimiglia in Rocky Balboa
  110. Jeff Daniels in RV
  111. Jamie Foxx in Dreamgirls 
  112. Alan Arkin in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause 
  113. Robin Williams in Night at the Museum
  114. Aaron Eckhart in The Black Dahlia 
  115. Martin Short in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause 
  116. Mickey Rooney in Night at the Museum
  117. Dan Castellaneta in The Pursuit of Happyness
  118. Andrew Simpson in Notes on a Scandal
  119. Andy Garcia in Smokin' Aces
  120. Rory Cochrane in A Scanner Darkly
  121. Spencer Breslin in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
  122. Vinnie Jones in X-Men: The Last Stand
  123. Tristan Lake Leabu in Superman Returns
  124. Eddie Redmayne in The Good Shepherd
Next Year: 1965 Supporting

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2006: Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine

Steve Carell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Frank Ginsberg in Little Miss Sunshine.

Steve Carell is making some headway this year for his dramatic performance in Foxcatcher which is seen as an against type of performance for him. The interesting thing is though in Little Miss Sunshine, which came only a few years into his  prominent movie career, he very much plays a dramatic role. Although Little Miss Sunshine is part comedy Carell's role entails very little comedy to be honest. There are only really two scenes where he's expected to be funny and one is more action based than really from his performance. The first being merely when he throws a drink the other is when he is being sarcastic toward Greg Kinnear's character, who is his brother in-law, as he espouses his personal philosophy which he promotes too often. Carell is enjoyable enough in this scene but most importantly it feels just something Frank would do as Carell importantly does not fall back on his comedic style of old, which I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan of.

Much of the film Carell gives a fittingly somber performance as Frank since before the films begins Frank had just attempted to commit suicide. Carrell's performance certainly matches this idea from his opening scene as the emotional devastation lives in his face. Frank is taken to his sister (Toni Collette)'s home where, despite being obviously not exactly functional himself, he is an observer of her family's dysfunction. Although the intensity of the depression obviously subsides to the extreme right after his most extreme act, Carell effectively keeps the sadness within Frank as he stays somewhat withdrawn from everyone else. In a subtle way Carell suggests Frank as basically reexamining his life as the story progresses around him. Carell is quite good as the impartial observer in portraying Frank's confusion and measured interest at the various oddities involving his sister's family whether it's her son Dwayne (Paul Dano) who swore a vow of silence , he beauty pageant obsessed daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin), or her extremely crusty father-in-law (Alan Arkin).

Carell rather interestingly takes a rather different approach for one major aspect of his character. That being he's a former university professor and who considers himself the number one Proust scholar. Throughout the film Frank attempts to espouse his scholarly knowledge, but the interesting thing is Carell does not portray Frank as the pompous intellectual type he very well might have done as that's that common style with this type of character. Carell though is very good in showing Frank attempt at giving out this sort of information, not as Frank attempting to stroke his ego, but rather a slight attempt to impart the little he has to give. I particularly like the scene where he fails at this when he attempts to tell the meaning of à la mode to Olive only to be quickly shut down. Carell brings the right sort of meekness in his demeanor as he rightfully never loses the idea that Frank is very much in recovery. It is perhaps the case that Frank may have been the pompous scholar at one time, but Carell is rather affecting in portraying a man who probably received more humility than he needed to in a short amount of time. 

Carell's role is mostly rather muted during the film since Frank is often a passive character. Carell though never simply fades into the background though and his reactions are never wasted when he is part of the group. Carell is excellent by quietly conveying the improvement of Frank's mental health throughout the course of the film. It is not shown thrown obvious points of change but rather it is a gradual process as the rest of the story unfolds. Carell handles this incredibly well actually as it always seems honest as Frank becomes more optimistic. It is mainly through reactions but the transformation is well handled from his complete despair found in his first shot to some rather poignant glimmers of happiness seen by the end. Carell best moment is when Frank finally seems to succeed in his attempt at giving wisdom when he advises Dwayne to do his best to stick it out despite his problems with his family. Carell offers a nice bit of honest warmth in the scene and suggests, despite not saying so, that Frank intends to the same as he advised. This is a strong performance by Steve Carell which actually proved his ability as a dramatic actor not long after he technically was even considered a movie funnyman.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland

Ben Affleck did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying George Reeves in Hollywoodland.

Hollywoodland is an effective enough film about a private detective's (Adrien Brody) investigation into the apparent suicide of former Superman star George Reeves. Although I do like the film it's one of those films that never quite comes together even though greatness seems in reach.

After watching the film again I do have to move Ben Affleck over to leading actor for the film. Although there is another lead in the detective Louis Simo played by Brody his story of investigating Reeves's death is inter spliced with scenes of Reeves's life in Hollywood. Those scenes are almost all from Reeves's perspective and very few of the scenes even come from Brody's character hearing about Reeves, so I think it is fair enough to say Affleck leads the scenes set in the past. There certainly should have been no category confusion leaving Affleck as an oddly snubbed guy for having won two Oscars. Despite Argo winning best picture he was not nominated for director, and despite this film indicating his comeback, as it was just after having become the butt of many jokes for several years and only a year off his directorial debut, Affleck was ignored for this performance.

Ben Affleck plays George Reeves who we introduced to through his dead body. The film begins with George Reeves dying from being shot in the head, and the rest of the film examines whether or not he was the one who pulled the trigger. Part of the examination of this is going through his career and we first meet the living Reeves at a club in Hollywood. Affleck is great in the role of creating Reeves particularly style of performance which does extend right into his personal life as he purposefully tries to charm people to help make himself a star. Affleck has an interesting take on his manner in the role as he does kinda go for that old school type of movie star charm as Reeves. Affleck though does not make it pure so to speak, because after all Reeves was not exactly Clark Gable himself. There is that sort of posture though and very to the point delivery yet Affleck brings a decided weakness about the show as though Reeves is not quite as great as he thinks he is.

Reeves finds minor improvement in his career through relationship with a older well connected married woman Toni Mannix (Diane Lane). Both basically use each other in this relationship but it is interesting in the way both Affleck and Lane play these scenes. Although it is in the open that they both basically understand the nature of the relationship neither actor portrays their character as an innately cold individual. Even though they speak openly about it, Mannix in particular, Affleck and Lane still bring a certain warmth to the relationship. It is obviously not as pleasant as one would want to be as the basis seems to be something that underlines every scene they are together. Affleck and Lane are quite good though in creating the complexity in the chemistry between the two. Even with that being understood they still suggest the two forming an actual bond, and although they seem to say that both would deny loving the other, they do indicate that they do.

The biggest success that Reeves does find is in portraying Superman onscreen and Affleck absolutely shines in the scenes depicting Reeves as the character. In his portrayal of the recreation of the part Affleck is great as he really is that Superman of that era as he should be. He has that nobleness, that boy scout quality, and its all as bluntly heroic as possible. The smile, the stance, the whole demeanor Affleck makes the Superman Reeves was. One scene in particular that I love is when Reeves is spotted in a restaurant. Affleck begins the scene very much as the depressed Reeves as he basically looks upon his career as Superman as a waste of his talent. After being told of the watchers though he straightens himself in the rest room and Affleck brilliantly shows the transformation take place. He goes from the palatable sadness of Reeves's personal life to once again the great larger than life hero as he stands to meet his admirers.

Affleck is terrific in portraying the growing depression and despair throughout his performance. In the beginning Affleck plays Reeves as a fairly optimistic man but certainly with a sense of frustrations for not yet having had his break. As his personal story proceeds though Affleck portrays a slow descent into despair as his career never quite takes off and he is typecast in a role he hates. Affleck is tremendous in the way he reflects every set back as it slowly seems to wear him down. Slowly the attempt a charm starts to wear away and Affleck progressively portrays a sadder and sadder man. When Reeves has an outburst against at Toni Affleck wholly earns the scene and is outstanding as he realizes all the pent up anger in Reeves due to his fate. What is most heartbreaking though is the hints of optimism Affleck leaves in his performance such as his last performance before his death where he plays guitar to his friends and Affleck suggests last bit of hope in his song.

What is most remarkable about Affleck's work though is his juxtaposition of Reeves as the performer against Reeves as a man. Affleck is amazing as he puts on the act of Superman as he should be yet his expression subtly suggests a man who hates his life. One of the most memorable moments in his performance is when Simo watches footage of Reeves showing his martial arts skills to ensure a job to do a wrestling match. Affleck once again puts on that bright face as Reeves does his various moves bringing that great big smile and a sense of showmanship. Affleck makes it the second most haunting test footage of 2006, it happened to be a great year for that, though as he shows underneath the overwhelming heartbreak as Reeves indicates to cut showing his personal disdain at having fallen to this act. This a truly powerful performance by Ben Affleck and I wish he would again take a challenging role since, if this is any indication, he's more than up to the task.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2006: Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale

Mads Mikkelsen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Le Chiffre in Casino Royale.

Mads Mikkelsen plays the first villain of revised Bond with Daniel Craig in the leading role. The revisions past the terribleness and ridiculousness of the final Pierce Brosnan lead movies can be seen in the writing and performance of the villain Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre technically does not have any grandstanding plans other than to make as much money as he can through any method he can which includes handling money for terrorists, and even hiring terrorists to help ensure his schemes. He also is purposefully given a character trait that is less than imposing which is that he has asthma, and must use his inhaler from time to time. This is not to say that the Le Chiffre is some weakling of an enemy but his objective is a bit more complicated than trying to simply to rule the world, and when something does not go right it really means something to him since it costs him millions of dollars.

Mikkelsen's role is somewhat simple early on as the film mostly focuses on Bond taking down some of the men Le Chiffre hires rather than the Le Chiffre himself. Mikkelsen still has a few scenes where he put in his orders or offers his own services. Mikkelsen makes himself a true Bond villain though as he carries himself with such a natural class and dignity while still exuding considerable menace. Mikkelsen's manner is impeccable as he suggests Le Chiffre intelligence quite effectively and makes him an intimidating presence even while every thing we see suggests that Le Chiffre might not be all that formidable. Mikkelsen's role quickly becomes more substantial when the film reaches its focal point the titular Casino Royale poker game where Bond and Le Chiffre face off for a gigantic pot of money. Naturally, in true Bond villain form, Mikkelsen executes well  the routine as Le Chiffre greets Bond in a friendly way while clearly having a deadly intent in his eyes.

For awhile Mikkelsen thrives in technically a very restricted role as he must trade starring daggers with Bond on the poker table. Mikkelsen is great at this as he does have a great stare that carries a menace even when there isn't anything particularly menacing about what he is doing. Mikkelsen brings the needed intellectual smugness to the role making it sting particularly hard whenever Le Chiffre gets the better hand than Bond. His delivery of  "oops" when he reveals that one of his cards has caused Bond to lose big time is just about perfection. The interesting that Mikkelsen though does make Le Chiffre a bit more than a villain we should despise. This is best seen when Le Chiffre, and his girlfriend, are threatened by a couple of the terrorists he acts as the banker for. Mikkelsen is great in the scene as he portrays a very honest desperation in the Le Chiffre showing that the card game is a matter of life or death for him. Although Mikkelsen still keep Le Chiffre reserved as a man, he still gives the sense that there is a humanity in him.

Mikkelsen actually is incredibly good at making Le Chiffre a strong presence despite not having a major villain scene for the majority of the film. This does come with his last scene where he decides to simply torture Bond to get the money, utilizing one of the painful torture methods a man could imagine. Mikkelsen is just about flawless in this scene as he brings the needed cold intensity as Le Chiffre brutally interrogates Bond. What I love the most though is how varied Mikkelsen's performance in the scene. He does not just show Le Chiffre as torturing for the fun of it, although Mikkelsen does portray a bit of satisfaction, but that he is trying to get something. There is that desperation from before as again Mikkelsen suggests that Le Chiffre is trying to save his own life by taking away Bond's. My favorite part though are his downright brilliant interactions with Craig. They play off each other so well in the scene as they certainly never hold back on creating visceral impact of the scene, yet they even through in a bit of dark humor as they still are playing a small game of wits. The best single moment though, that I absolutely love from Mikkelsen is after Le Chiffre has tried everything to get to Bond, and Mikkelsen is so genuine as he shows that Le Chiffre can't help but laugh at Bond's resilience. Mikkelsen even gets to top it off with the great last moment where he makes Le Chiffre's fear so palatable that you almost feel sorry for him. Mikkelsen is an excellent Bond villain as he goes far beyond the call duty here. He certainly meets all the standard requirements of being an enemy of 007, but he goes further than that with the part. His Le Chiffre is more than just an obstacle to be overcome as he creates an actual man who happens to cross paths with James Bond.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2006: Sergi López in Pan's Labyrinth

Sergi López did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain Vidal in Pan's Labyrinth.

Pan's Labyrinth is an effective film, even though I do have a few reservations, telling the story of a little girl Ofelia dark adventure involving a fantasy world while she lives with her pregnant mother on a Spanish military base intent on weeding out the remaining rebels after the Spanish Civil War.

Watching the film again I have to say it would not be hard for me to put Sergi López as co-lead in the film. This is due to the fantasy side of things being told from Ofelia perspective, but the scenes of reality being mostly told through the eyes of Captain Vidal. Vidal in addition to being the head of the military base he also is Ofelia's stepfather having been the one who impregnated her mother. Although Captain Vidal is the most prominent character on the reality side of things he might as well be the big bad wolf since Vidal is written to be a personification of an organized evil, usually even in the cases of this type there may be a bit of humanity found, after all there is some even in the case of Ralph Fiennes's Amon Goeth in Schindler's List, that's not really the case for Vidal. Even in his personal life Vidal shuts down any discussion of those things known as feeling and the only thing he seems to care about is the birth of his son, but mostly as though it is a possession more than anything else.

As written Vidal certainly could have been extremely over the top and almost ceaseless in his obvious evilness, but to his credit that's not really the way López plays him. The few chances he gets to explore any other side of Vidal López tries to make something out of them. This includes the brief moment where he greets his wife as López gives a nicely feigned charm although this is shortly undercut by his particularly rude treatment of his Ofelia. His unpleasantness at the dinner table where he ignores all personal questions is given some sense by López suggesting more of his uncomfortableness with interpersonal interactions than simply evil motivating him. There is also the running idea of his father's watch which originally had the exact time his father died, and he was some how given the message to show him how a brave man dies. The whole watch idea I feel is a bit underdeveloped in terms of the writing and López can't quite make up for it. He's not bad in these scenes, but it never has the impact that direction seems to imply that it should have.

The main point of his performance though is the scene of Vidal being a murderer and torturer of rebels, their conspirators, and anyone unfortunate enough to be accused of such. López is very good in these scenes by not playing them as a crazy psychopath but rather an official soldier of death. López plays Vidal as particularly relaxed in these scenes as though this is when the man is truly in his element. López does not scream or yell but rather has such a viciousness simply in the way he casually way he portrays his manner in the killings. López brings such a comfort in Vidal as he takes his hammer to men, or shoots them down. It is not that of a man seeking gratification really, but rather as a man going about his job in the fashion he knows best. López makes the character the most cruel by portraying the efficiency of his method at all times. López, if he must be the big bad wolf certainly earns the title. As good as he is in these scenes I do feel something is missing and there may have been a little more to explore with the character. López does find some depth but in the end the character still feels fairly simple. He's certainly never lacking in the needed menace for the character, but I could never shake the feeling that something is missing.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2006: Michael Caine in Children of Men

Michael Caine did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jasper Palmer in Children of Men.

Michael Caine is actually rather cleverly playing a role in terms of its intent very much in type yet in a particularly against type way for Michael Caine. Caine certainly is no stranger to player the mentor type in fact that might be every other role during his later career. In fact you can see him in such a role, a rather good example of it to be sure, in The Prestige. Caine technically plays kinda a mentor of sorts to Clive Owen's Theo, but Caine's not nearly as respectable and dignified as he usually is. Jasper's a rather off-beat guy who spends his time in his hidden house where he grows his own weed for sale. Caine takes a rather cheeky approach in the role as this is more of a hippie sage style of performance rather than that of the wise old teacher he usually plays. Caine proves himself just as suited for such a role though and he transforms from his more usual style of performance quite seamlessly.

Caine based his performance on John Lennon and this certainly can be seen easily through the long locks Caine sports in the film. This extends past that though as Caine imitates the certain body language that Lennon had such as the way he would focus or his eyes or just the way he would bend over. This can almost be taken for granted though as Caine never makes a big deal out of these mannerisms but rather just quietly uses them to help establish the particularly artist flamboyancy of Jasper. Caine does splendid work here most importantly by being the only guy who seems to be genuinely happy in the film, and  even Jasper has plenty to be sad about such as his wife being in basically a comatose state. Caine though portrays the part of Jasper as the sort of guy who tries to be happy no matter what the situation as he brings such a natural glee in the part. There just a genuine warmth about everything Caine does and he does do a fantastic job of being one of the particularly colorful spots in a grey world.

It's actually rather interesting since the role of Jasper is relatively simple as he only has two sequences in which he appears. In both he tells a few jokes while delivering a bit of exposition and giving the most proper definition of being a supporting character. Caine though shows exactly how to do such a role through his exceptionally endearing portrayal of Jasper. When delivering lines about the governments oppression, the theories behind what has caused the infertility problems, how Theo and his wife met, or just very simply setting up where the next sequence of action will go Caine simply is terrific. Caine never makes these moments seem forced or at all just there to serve the plot. He also brings so much life in the character of Jasper that in these explanations he offers that of the view of a man actually having lived in the world. In addition to that Caine has just the right bit of fun when Jasper tells his often rather uncouth jokes. Caine is certainly entertaining and enjoyable, and again makes Jasper's whole style just come to life.

I would not have minded if the film had included more of Jasper since Caine is such a delight in the role. The funny thing is I always for some reason think Caine has more screen time than he does because of the impact he makes in the little time he does have. I think his very best scene shows exactly just how much Caine does with just a little bit of material. The scene is when Jasper is going to mercy kill his comatose wife just before the violent rebels looking for Theo are going to show up. It's a short moment but so beautifully handled by Caine. There such a tenderness Caine brings as Jasper says goodbye by telling his wife that he loves her one last time, and even though we never see their past Caine makes the moment perfectly heartbreaking. Caine succeeds in enlivening every second he is onscreen, and he gives a particularly memorable turn here. Caine establishes Jasper as the bright spot on the film making his final moments as disconcerting as they should be. I love Caine's performance here and it is a great example of making a small role seem grand.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2006

And the Nominees Were Not:

Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale

Michael Caine in Children of Men

Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland

Sergi Lopez in Pan's Labyrinth

Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Results

10. Matt Damon in The Departed - Damon actually is good being a despicable worm you want to see get his comeuppance, but he's never more and the potential seemed to be there in the role.

Best Scene: Sullivan and Costigan in the Elevator.
9. Hugh Jackman in The Prestige - The main reason he's so low is merely his extra character in the film where he goes a little too broad. He's great though in portraying his character's great showmanship and his underlying obsession.

Best Scene: Angier confesses the truth about his "trick".
8. Jean Dujardin in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies - This is just a really fun performance as Dujardin as he brilliantly replicates while satirizing 60's James Bond. 

Best Scene: The real version of his time with Jefferson .
7. Keanu Reeves in A Scanner Darkly - Reeves gives a powerful depiction of a man who slowly loses his mind through his drug addiction while still trying to be an undercover cop.

Best Scene: Bob's break down.
6. Cillian Murphy in The Wind That Shakes the Barley - Murphy gives a great performance not as a larger than life freedom fighter, but as an average man doing what he believes in.

Best Scene: The execution.
5. Ken Watanabe in Letters From Iwo Jima- Watanabe manages to show the commander of men, but as well the man behind the uniform.

Best Scene: The General and the Private meet for the last time.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed - DiCaprio gives a compelling portrayal of the intensity and pressure of an undercover cop.

Best Scene: Billy's visit to the psychiatrist.
3. Christian Bale in The Prestige - Christian Bale gives a memorable portrayal of a peculiar obsession and his duplicitous work makes the film's twist particularly effective.  

Best Scene: Borden meets Lord Caldlow.
2. Clive Owen in Children of Men - Clive Owen gives a powerful portrayal that makes his character's personal struggle resonate even though the film rarely focuses on that.

Best Scene: Theo watches his friend's execution.
1. Ulrich Mühe in The Lives of Others - Good Predictions Luke, Anonymous, Kevin, mcofra7, and  Psifonian. Mühe gives an exceptional performance as he so poignantly and convincingly portrays the transformation of a man from a heartless cog in a machine to a good man. 

Best Scene: The second interrogation.
Overall Rank:
  1. Ulrich Mühe in The Lives of Others
  2. Clive Owen in Children of Men
  3. Christian Bale in The Prestige
  4. Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland
  5. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed
  6. Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland
  7. Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
  8. Ken Watanabe in Letter From Iwo Jima
  9. Cillian Murphy in The Wind That Shakes the Barley
  10. Keanu Reeves in A Scanner Darkly
  11. Aaron Eckhart in Thank You For Smoking
  12. Jean Dujardin in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
  13. Hugh Jackman in The Prestige
  14. Adrien Brody in Hollywoodland 
  15. Josh Hartnett in Lucky Number Slevin
  16. Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond
  17. James McAvoy in The Last King of Scotland
  18. Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson
  19. Edward Norton in The Painted Veil
  20. Peter O'Toole in Venus
  21. Sebastian Koch in The Lives of Others
  22. Denzel Washington in Inside Man
  23. Clive Owen in Inside Man
  24. Hugo Weaving in V For Vendetta
  25. Edward Norton in The Illusionist 
  26. Greg Kinnear in Little Miss Sunshine 
  27. Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction
  28. Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III
  29. Matt Damon in The Departed
  30. Patrick Wilson in Little Children
  31. Richard Gere in The Hoax
  32. Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond
  33. Ryan Reynolds in Smokin' Aces 
  34. Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa
  35. Luke Wilson in Idiocracy
  36. Kazunari Ninomiya in Letters From Iwo Jima
  37. Mark Wahlberg in Invincible
  38. Will Smith  in The Pursuit of Happyness
  39. Josh Hartnett in The Black Dahlia
  40. Hugh Jackman in X-Men: The Last Stand
  41. Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  42. Owen Wilson in Cars 
  43. Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights in The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby
  44. Matt Damon in The Good Shepherd
  45. Brandon Routh in Superman Returns 
  46. Ben Stiller in Night At the Museum
  47. Tim Allen in The Santa Clause: The Escape Clause
  48. Robin Williams in RV
  49. Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Next Year: 2006 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Jean Dujardin in OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies

Jean Dujardin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath the titular character of OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is a funny movie about basically a French James Bond, although the character technically predates Bond, who must foil an evil plot in Cairo.

Jean Dujardin does seem as a perfect French Bond, especially for the Connery type of character. Dujardin just has that look about that says international secret agent the moment you look at him. Dujardin is such an exceedingly charming performer here with that smile of his that's just perfect to say the least. Dujardin frankly makes suaveness look so easy as he carries himself with that secret agent cool to such a degree. His whole manner is just right that Dujardin makes the OSS 117 seemingly quite cool although this is part of what makes his performance work so well here. The thing is OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is less like Goldfinger or Dr. No, and much more akin to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. His intent is also much closer to Mike Myers's performance from that film than it is Connery's from the Bond, but the great thing is, unlike Myers, Dujardin definitely has the look down.

As he proved later on even more successfully in his international breakout work in The Artist Dujardin is a master physical performer. The collaboration between director Michel Hazanavicius and Dujardin really could not be more perfect. Where Hazanavicius is so consummate in terms of recapturing the visual styles of old, Dujardin is equally so, if not perhaps more so, in capturing the performance style of old. Although yes Connery's performances had a different less absurdest intent, Dujardin is fantastic in the way though he just brings about the essence of that work. The physical movements just have this certain rhythm about them, and there is just something how he maneuvers within the camera just so brilliantly captures the way suaveness was portrayed back in the 60's. It's amazing how Dujardin is able to accomplish this and really I'd love to see him tackle on another style of performance in the future.

The thing is OSS 117 is not exactly a great spy, although he somehow manages to get the job. He's a bit of an idiot to say the least although not exactly quite in a normal way. I mean he does kinda seem to have spy abilities. This is a great combination by Dujardin here because he probably could play a more serious version of the character we not too many tweaks. This is particularly great early on when you see kinda the cracks in his character and its almost a bit hard to notice them at first because Dujardin almost always carries himself with that same confidence you'd expect from a Bond like character. He delivers his lines often with a great assurance that this is a slick costumer who knows exactly what it is that he's doing. This causes it to be particularly funny when he slips up such as showing his obvious lack of knowledge when it comes to dealing with the assignment he is on, or even something rather simple like thinking that Egypt still would have a pharaoh in the 20th century.

OSS 117 isn't just an idiot but he's more than just a little bit of a jerk to. He has a constant disregard for any foreign society or religion and seems to specifically avoid attempting to learn or appreciate anything about it. In addition to that he even forgets his supposed friend that he believes he is avenging in his current mission, while harboring thoughts about his friend that seem a little too strong so to speak, although OSS 117 would vehemently deny any such accusations about his sexuality. On top of all that OSS 117 does not even mind punching out a woman or two if they were to get in his way. The thing Dujardin is absolutely hilarious in depicting all of this since he shows that his behavior barely even seems to phase him. What is so great about Dujardin's performance, and what really makes it so successful at being comedic is that he almost always somehow stays very charismatic and still feels like a James Bond type.

Dujardin consistently brings out the humor out of every situation where it his through the way he so sincerely plays the brazen stupidity in OSS 117's words, but also makes so many of his action scenes comedic gold just by the way he performs them. I have to say I particularly enjoyed the scene where he takes down all the men in the message parlor, there's just something especially funny about the way Dujardin does it. This is just a very entertaining performance by Dujardin and it is something special as broadly comic performances go. Dujardin goes the extra distance with his work as he pretty much doing something to entertain every second he's on screen. Although this is certainly a technical achievement so to speak in his great replication of a certain type of performance, but most of all this is just a really fun performance to watch.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Ulrich Mühe in The Lives of Others

Ulrich Mühe did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for BAFTA, for portraying Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler in The Lives of Others.

The Lives of Others is an excellent film set in East Berlin still under communist control which depicts the monitoring of one writer.

Ulrich Mühe plays Wiesler who we are introduced to as a member of the secret police while he conducts a class to young recruits in training. He is instructing the class through the use of recording of his own successful interrogation of a man accused of being an enemy of the state. Mühe is fantastic in the way he instantly establishes Wiesler's nature at the beginning of the film. Mühe portrays him as the strict authoritarian perfect for his position as a Stasi agent. In the interrogation scene Mühe carries himself with such a striking coldness. There's no sympathy in his eyes just a piercing gaze as he stares right through the man who is he is quickly breaking down under his scrutiny. Mühe keeps a similar reserve in the classroom as he teaches the students with the same strict professionalism. He's particularly good in the quick moment when one student voices dismay at the interrogation and Mühe portrays the lack of hesitation as Wiesler puts a mark next to the students name to keep record of such a remark.

Mühe in addition to this portrays Wiesler as an extreme introvert. Mühe seems to keep everything strictly calculated within Wiesler as even the way he walks seems to be something specific and coded for his own protection. In these early scenes Mühe makes Wiesler basically the perfect tool for such a regime that wishes for mindless devotion and service without a hint of individual thought. Mühe plays Wiesler as barely a man, but rather just a cog in the organization. There's nothing particularly human about he does and there is almost no emotion in him as he performs his duty. Mühe rather brilliantly creates a man, who already would have trouble interacting with the outside world, being only shown a certain way of life that prides itself in constant suspicion and secrecy. Mühe gives us such a man, and he's particularly great in his interactions with his superior. Although they technically are suppose to friends Mühe still shows Wiesler never losing sight of his task as he only seems to interact when its his turn to advise on policy.

Wiesler is released from his oddly sheltered life though when he is assigned to monitor a seemingly apolitical writer Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch). At the beginning of the surveillance Mühe keeps Wiesler still very much the operative he should be. As he initially bugs the house Mühe portrays Wiesler going about his job with the utmost precision without a hint of feeling as he makes preparations basically to ruin someone's life. This disregard for a normal humanity continues as Wiesler begins his routine of listening in on Dreyman's life basically just waiting until there is something for which they can arrest him for. Mühe not only portrays a lack of empathy in Wiesler but even a certain venom in the man's mind as though Wiesler just desires to see this enemy punished. While the monitoring continues we are given a glimpse of Wiesler's personal life, or more correctly the lack thereof. Mühe is very honest in portraying Wiesler very much out of his element in the real world, and suggests just a sad lonely man waiting until his next monitoring session.

Wiesler though does not stay on this course though as he learns that the real reason for the inquiry into Dreyman is his relationship with an actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), who is lusted after by a powerful official. Mühe does not portray the malice as suddenly leaving Wiesler though as can be seen when he purposefully causes Dreyman to see Christa-Maria being used sexually by the official, and in that moment Mühe keeps that disregard for anyone. The exposure of normal interaction between people, opposed to interrogating prisoners and spending time with other similair individuals, something seems to happen in Wiesler. Mühe's performance technically becomes almost dialogue free as there are large stretches of the film where we just see him listening to Dreyman's life and file the proper reports about what he hears. Mühe manages to make something so compelling though merely through his almost silent reactions as the monitoring continues. Mühe's performance though is particularly effective because the change in Wiesler is so delicately handled.

Mühe is outstanding by showing the process of Wiesler's growing involvement. At first, after he loses his callousness, Mühe does suggest an investment but with a certain distance. Mühe conveys the interest in Wiesler not to be that of one human being caring about another, but rather at first as though Wiesler is merely listening to an interesting story on the radio. Mühe though slowly grows this fascination in Wiesler which seems to become stronger as it is his only true contact with the outside world, the most we see of Wiesler in a personal setting is having sex with a prostitute. Mühe is great in that scene though by rather honestly showing the desperation in Wiesler to reach out, as he asks the prostitute simply to spend more time with him, and Mühe makes it particularly understandable why he would be caught up in Dreyman's story. The greatness of Mühe's performance is the natural and extremely subtle way though he shows the slow change as he continues to listen even when it becomes obvious that Dreyman will be committing an act against the state.

What is so remarkable about Mühe's work is that he earns every moment of Wiesler somewhat improbable transformation. Mühe not only make Wiesler's growing empathy believable. Mühe is wonderful as he expresses the heartbreak, perhaps better than actually suffering the heartbreak, as Wiesler hears about the losses in Dreyman's life. The scene where Dreyman plays a song for his friends death is made most moving not through what Dreyman does, but just Mühe beautiful reactions as he shows Wiesler being truly changed by what he hears. Wiesler becomes so involved though that he even makes contact with Christa-Maria in a bar. Mühe shows Wiesler put on a slight act as though he is just fan, but portrays such earnest emotion as tries to propel here out of despair. Wiesler's investment though causes him to hide Dreyman's activities and Wiesler himself comes under suspicion. To prove his loyalty Wiesler has to interrogate Christa-Maria to find the whereabouts of Dreyman's hidden typewriter. Mühe is perfect in this scene as he partially returns to the old Wiesler to interrogate, but with a noticeable and powerful difference. Now you see in his eyes how it shames him to have to break her especially since she obviously remembers him from before. I love this performance by Ulrich Mühe as his quiet work is what makes the film work. He creates the  portrait of such a man finding humanity both convincing and poignant.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman in The Prestige

Christian Bale did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alfred Borden but that's not all, and Hugh Jackman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Robert Angier but that's not all in The Prestige.


The Prestige is an excellent film about the rivalry between two magicians, one the great magician and one the great showman.

On the surface the casting of the two leads of the Prestige seems to fit particularly well for their characters. First you have Christian Bale as Alfred Borden who desires to come up with an illusion that would truly leaves audiences astonished. Bale is well known for his physical devotion to his roles, and although there technically is not anything notable in that regard here, but it makes it particularly fitting that he plays Borden who has a particular devotion to his craft. Bale is a perfect fit for the role perhaps because of this as he has that natural intensity about himself, and despite his many talents as an actor a natural charm is not necessarily one of them. In many ways Bale was brilliantly cast as Borden as he matches the style of the character with his normal style of performance. This is not some gimmick but actually a particularly effective element in the film.

Now Hugh Jackman on the other hand is not particularly known for his physical devotion to the roles, although he actually has done that for several films though usually not in to the degree of Bale's, and to be particularly blunt is not referred often as a great actor. Jackman though is often noted for his personal charm and showmanship, especially due to his background in the musical theater. Again like Bale, this appears to be especially clever casting as Robert Angier is not meant to be a great magician since he does not come up with the tricks himself, but he is known for his ability to win over a crowd. Well Jackman certainly seems to be quite the fit here as well as he has the particularly outgoing manner in many of his performances. Each fitting into these molds is incredibly effective in showing the divide between the two men not only as a magicians but also through their differing personalities.

At the beginning of the story chronologically speaking this does not matter as they simply are both assistants to another magician who have at least friendly enough working relationship with one another. This quickly changes though when Angier's wife is killed in a dangerous trick they may or may not have been caused by Borden accidentally. It is a fantastic scene for Jackman where he shows the uncontrollable grief that will propel Angier to have a personal vendetta against Borden. Angier quickly cements the permanent animosity between the two when he purposefully shoots off two of Borden's fingers in a fit of anger. Jackman in fact is rather effective in the way he portrays Angier's hatred as he plays in the bursts of an intense hatred as though there are moments of his memory of his wife that force this out of him, and propel him down this dangerous path.

While their feud begins we also see the two begin each of their personal careers as a stage magician. With Bale we see Borden's act which actually has a distinct lack of charisma about it, which actually works quite well in showing Borden's inability to fully capture the audience's imagination. What Bale does convey so well is that internalized intensity about the man. Although it is not until the end of the film where we actually learn what exactly Borden is doing Bale does absolutely convey the drive in the man. There is constant conviction in Bale's performance as he seems to have this dire secret only he knows, and no one else is allowed to foresee. In a certain way Bale is colder to we the audience as well as Bale does carry himself in a less open fashion than Jackman does, Bale though makes this the nature of Borden which is particularly compelling to watch.

Jackman, as Angier tries his hand at his own career, gets to present his skills as a showman. Interesting enough The Prestige may actually be one of the best examples of Jackman's personal charm actually translating to one of his performances, although here it is refined to for a specific intent. Yes Angier is often more lively and outgoing than Borden when we see him at a personal scale, but the real charm of the man appears when he is performing onstage. Jackman is just about perfect in these scenes capturing the grandeur of the method that Angier employs on stage. Jackman builds the presentation of Angier's own tricks, and shows the way in which he makes them seem better than Borden's original. Jackman brings the needed charisma in these scenes as he creates the broad appeal of the magic trick making it a true even simply to witness what is happening.

As they respective careers take off so do their mutual obsession with one another which never truly ceases to exist. In Bale's performance it is a most curious mix in his performance as though Borden has two very different personalities at hand. At times Bale portrays Borden as certainly devoted to his trick, but more dismayed than driven in regards to his rivalry with Angier. When the issue comes up Bale portrays mostly a palatable regret more than anything else as though Borden does feel responsibility for what has happened between the two of them. Borden at these times seems altogether more gentle of a soul particularly seen in his interactions with his wife Sarah (Rebecca Hall). Bale has a genuine sweetness in these scenes as he portrays a more likable Borden who it seems would be content just to live his life without the world of duplicity involved with magic.

On the other hand though there appears to be a certain randomness involving Bale's performance as he suddenly brings a vicious intensity as Borden takes particularly extreme measures to get his own revenge against Angier. Bale makes the obsession particularly palatable in Borden in these scenes as it seems to extend into his personal life as well. In these scenes Borden starts an affair with Angier's old assistant, and has a callousness towards his wife. Bale in these scenes shows Borden to be far more aggressive in his attitudes, and altogether colder man who seems to often lack empathy. Bale again is as good at brutally course as was at being sweet. There seems to be an obvious disconnect within Borden. Bale handles both versions, if you will, of the character, but this is not a case where they seem shades of man. There seems to be something off about it.

With Angier there is not that same sort of duplicity. As I stated before Jackman plays the part as though as basically sudden outbursts of the obsession. This is not to say that Jackman portrays Angier as though he is loses his obsession then suddenly gains it. Jackman is instead quite good in mostly showing Angier as being much better than Borden at covering up this obsession. Jackman keeps his more outgoing nature most of the time to seemingly make Angier more likable, yet there is almost his own subtle coldness about him as the obsession never seems to truly leave him where it would on occasion leave Borden. A quick side note one of the few reservations  I have towards Jackman in his performance as Angier's double for a trick named Root. It's an over the top caricature by Jackman. He's suppose to be a bit much, but Jackman plays up the act a little too much to be funny.

Of course everything is turned on its head when all is spoiled with the twists being revealed. One of the twists is that Angier is still alive, even though at the beginning of the film it appears he has drowned with Borden being sentenced to hang for having caused it. This is revealed to Borden by Angier visiting Borden under his real name Lord Caldlow. Bale is outstanding in the scene as he rather realistically portrays the complete disbelief in Borden, and is particularly affecting as Borden pleads to Angier to reveal the truth. A slight sour point comes for Jackman once again as his Caldlow demeanor is also a bit on the caricature side of things, which is especially noticeable in the reveal since Bale is so good in that scene. Thankfully Jackman redeems himself with his final scene as Angier's reveals his "trick". Jackman is great in his final scene as he portrays the sad end result of Angier's obsession in his dying moments. Jackman has such a desperation and fear as Angier reveals the risk of his trick, but is also quite moving as he still hints at a final pride of finally pulling off his greatest illusion.

There is yet another twist as it revealed that there is not one but two Borden as he had a twin the entire time. This reveal is a particularly effective twist because it does not only hold up to scrutiny it actually only makes the film all the more interesting on re-watch. One of the reasons for this is Bale's performance which suddenly makes perfect sense when you realize there are two of them as one has been hidden all along in Borden's silent partner Fallon. This makes their final scene together particularly affecting as the brothers finally, in public anyway, seem to recognize each other as brothers and Bale is actual quite heartbreaking as he creates the strong kinship between the two that we only really see in that scene. Bale realizes the twist in his performance by carefully creating each brother even while you're not aware of it, and gives a particularly compelling portrait of two men who share the same life yet are never the same man.
(For Jackman)
(For Bale)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Keanu Reeves in A Scanner Darkly

Keanu Reeves did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bob Arctor in A Scanner Darkly.

A Scanner Darkly is an interesting film set in the near future where drug problems have run rampant and about a detective going undercover to infiltrate the supply chain.

I suppose I should quickly address that this indeed an animated film, but since the animation directly utilized the actors physical performances it does not matter for this review. Well I will admit Keanu Reeves is not an actor I have been particularly kind to, and I don't take back my thoughts towards his performances in films like Dangerous Liaisons and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Every new performance by any actor is a new chance for the actor to potentially show some ability. Here Reeves plays the undercover detective who spends his days with a group of druggies as himself sort of, which is more than can be said when he is actually reporting to his department. In these scenes he dresses in a full body suit that distorts his image and voice in order to keep his identity a secret to almost every one even to his immediate superior. This leaves Bob in to lead a most precarious life to say the least.

This part seems almost tailored made for Reeves's particular style, which often can be problematic, but that is not the case here. Often it feels though Reeves is a non-entity and almost emotionless, but that actually makes a lot of sense for his character here. Reeves's performance makes Bob the almost non-entity he is. Reeves in a particularly effortless fashion is able to create the weird place that his character of Bob is in. On one hand when he's with the drug addicts Reeves shows that emotional distance since he is not truly one of them because he is only a cop trying to infiltrate their lifestyle. On the other hand Bob cannot find solace when he is actually as "himself" doing his job due to being in the body suit. Not only only is not himself but he is also unable to honestly communicate with everyone else who also are completely distorted. Reeves is effective as he exudes that odd place that Bob is in as he does not seem apart of any part of the world.

Reeves's particularly set of skills happen to work perfectly in his scenes where he hangs out with the other druggies Barris (Robert Downey Jr.), Ernie (Woody Harrelson) and Freck (Rory Cochrane). Where each of them are all off in their own worlds of sorts Reeves plays a double game with his technically detached performance. Reeves's is effective on one side showing the detective side of Bob as he does keep a distance from them. Of course Bob in a way gets involved in a way more than he should because he does take the drugs along with them in an attempt to seem like he is one of them. The drugs take a particularly odd toll on Bob though as he basically slowly loses himself as it works his way to becoming a shallow husk. Well for a perfect shallow husk look no further than Keanu Reeves. To be completely fair to Reeves though it is not as though Bob is has lost himself from the beginning there is a transition.

The interesting thing about Reeves's work is how he kinda moves to becoming the Reeves we all know best as the film progresses. Reeves is quite effective in portraying the way that Bob seems to lose his mind as the film plays out. Reeves, since part of what Bob loses is his emotions, is quite affecting by showing the outbursts of emotions in Bob that come out while he slowly loses moves towards becoming nothing at all. One particularly moving scene comes when he is reporting to his superior and he is told that he will actually be punished for having become addicted to drugs. Reeves is terrific in this scene as he conveys a man suddenly see everything finally close in around him and his final sudden breakdown is well performed by Reeves as he expresses basically the last bit of that's left of Bob's humanity basically. After that point Reeves brings us to Bob becoming seemingly absolutely detached from everything.

Now this certainly was good casting as Reeves is given the chance use the more problematic elements involving his acting to advantage. It is not simply that though because Reeves is not simply some sort of odd prop for story. The character arc which is showing the damaging effects of the drug abuse is fully portrayed by Reeves. The film does indeed start with Bob already starting in a bad place, but not in the worst place to be sure. There is something quite powerful in Reeves work as honestly has more than there usually is to him, and it is quite disconcerting as he slowly picks these apart from his performance. It is true that this role, a bit like Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love actually, makes Reeves's weaknesses into strengths, but Reeves does deliver past that, even if that happens to brilliantly utilized, giving a compelling portrait of a man's mental demise due to drugs.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Clive Owen in Children of Men

Clive Owen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Theo Faron in Children of Men.

Children of Men is an excellent film set in a world that has been torn about by the sudden infertility of seemingly all women.

We first meet Theo at the beginning of the film as he is merely watching the news of the youngest person in the world dying while he is getting coffee. We see him adding alcohol to his coffee outside before the coffee shop he was just in explodes from a bomb, either from terrorists or the government it is never told. From there on he is are average man who we are to follow through the world that the film creates. Theo seems simple enough and Owen is great in establishing his character's rather bored way through life. There isn't anything passionate as he maneuvers through the day and even after narrowly avoiding being blown up there is not much happiness in having survived that. Other than portraying the fear of the immediate moment of the attack Owen is very effective in establishing as this as a more ordinary occurrence than it should be in this world because of his nonchalance towards it afterwards. The most notable thing about Theo early on is Theo's exasperation with it all.

The most notable thing about Theo is more of who he knows than who he is actually is. First with his off-beat hippie friend Jasper (Michael Caine) as swell his estranged wife Julian (Julianne Moore) who is a the leader of a terrorist group opposed to the government. In his scenes with Jasper Owen is quite good in just exuding a bit of joy showing that his time with his friend is probably the only good time he really has in life. On the other hand it is a particularly disconcerting thing when he goes off to a meeting with his wife as she has thugs abduct him using a van and bag over his head bringing him to a hidden location. Although he is seeing his wife for the first time in some time their relationship is not delved into too much in terms of Owen's performance. Instead Owen rather properly expresses just the surprise and disbelief at the manner in which she is meeting her. Also there really is not a great deal of time for anything else as she technically only met him to have him procure papers for a woman who needs to get out of England.

Theo is able to procure the papers through his well to do cousin and accepts the mission apparently due to the money he is being offered for it. This does not appear to be the only reason as Theo contacts Julian again for the mission. Owen's is terrific as he alludes to a more active Theo of one time as he expresses affections to his wife, carefully as though not to make it too obvious yet suggests the history the two one shared. Owen seamlessly switches to his usual sardonic callousness though after she rebuffs his semi-attempt at rekindling due to memories of their dead son who died in a flu epidemic. Suddenly though as they begin to try to transfer the woman Julian is suddenly killed in an attack. Owen is truly outstanding in the scene as Julian is laid to rest as he first keeps his usual uncaring reserve. After he walks away from the rest of the group though Owen is absolutely heartbreaking as he so naturally loses that reserve to reveal the overpowering grief that Theo actually feels over his wife's death.

Soon after this point Theo finds out that the woman in fact is pregnant and takes it upon himself to get her to safety after he finds out that it was his wife's own terrorist group that killed her. Owen only continues to be exceptional in portraying Theo's reactions to this apparent miracle. When he sees that she's pregnant Owen is flawless in expressing the wonderment of seeing the impossible one again, and gives so much weight to what it means within the film's world. Owen's performance technically becomes even more reserved technically speaking since Theo has to continue right through trying to help the woman find safety while avoiding being killed by either the terrorists or the government forces. Owen does not necessarily have even a lot of lines, which is interesting because I would not describe Theo as a stoic individual, but that never matters as Owen's performance stays consistently compelling throughout the film.

The second half of the film there continues to be great moments for Owen's performance and it is astonishing to note how simple in terms of what Owen needs to do yet how powerfully he does it. One such scene that is fantastic is as Theo overhears Jasper tell the story of how he met Julian. Owen does not say a thing yet his expression conveys the heart beak and the emotional loss as Theo merely is given the moment to reflect on the past. An equally poignant moment comes when Theo must witness yet another of the people he loves being killed. Owen reaction charges the scene with such an intense emotional power as this time he is forced to once again grieve while being charged with anger for the act as he seems to hold in all in well wishing to scream out his pain. Also the pivotal moment of the birth is brilliant played by Owen. All the nervousness, unease, and even humor as he tries to talk her through it, then when the baby comes Owen once again shows the wonderment of the moment.

This an interesting challenge against Clive Owen since everything about Theo as a character is technically just accepted and even his character arc never stops to next the stop. The film never needs scenes specifically to develop Theo's character though because of Clive Owen's work. He flawlessly creates the character through the lines, and shows him grow as a hero without needing to have an obvious scene to make this change. Owen's work here is one of the moment, and that's all that he needs to be. The way he makes every scene have a greater impact through the simplest aspect of his performance. Even the way he moves around in the action set pieces is notable, yet never distracting, as he just again adds to this visceral punch. Owen is never overshadowed by the vision of the world he only amplifies it with his performance that shows an actor does not necessarily need the normal associated elements of a great performance to give a great performance. Well Owen gives a great performance, and I'd say one of the very best of its sort.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Cillian Murphy in The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Cillian Murphy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Damien O'Donovan in The Wind That Shakes The Barley.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley is an effective enough film that depicts from basically from a small scale Ireland's attempt to gain independence from the British.

Ah yes Cillian Murphy the man whose made my personal top tens three times yet I have never reviewed him. Well now here's the review to rectify this problem. Murphy has played some off-beat roles like in Batman Begins as the Scarecrow, but even with his unorthodox appearance he actually does often play the any man as well. That is the case here as he plays Damien O'Donovan an Irish doctor who in the opening of the film is just one of the men of the community. There is nothing particularly distinctive about him at the beginning of the film as he is just one of the men harassed by British soldiers after they caught playing game with the British claiming it is in violation of the ban on public gatherings. The film actually keeps Damien as such for almost the entirety of the film as director Ken Loach purposefully shows the community together in their fight. 

Murphy is technically just one of the men in the group although he is of course given enough focus to be clearly lead. Murphy's performance is rather low key as this is not depicting the struggle of one seemingly larger than life man a la Michael Collins, who actually gets derided in this film. Despite the nature of his part Murphy never is overshadowed by the vision of the film. He allows Loach's to take this approach without question, as Murphy never goes for a grand standing performance, instead he stays very much in making Damien an average man in the situation. Murphy is terrific though by just realizing this average man in a very honest fashion. Whether it is his interactions with the other people or with his wife Murphy just has a genuine authenticity in his performance. There is nothing that seems forced about the man, and in addition, despite technically being a simple character, Murphy never makes Damien seem less than he should be.

Murphy by depicting Damien in just a realistic fashion makes the later actions of his character have the greater impact. If Murphy had made him the larger than life man when the rebellion takes place everything, interestingly enough, might have seemed simpler as it would have been a hero defeating his enemies. This is not the case though and Murphy does not accentuate the heroic qualities of the rebellion in his performance. This is particularly notable when they start to take a violent approach which includes executing those who were involved with the executions of Irish men. Murphy is great in this scene where Damien performs the killings on the men as he portrays it less like a folk hero, but rather more of a man who has never killed a man in his life. Although Murphy portrays a clear devotion to the cause he still portrays the mental anguish as Damien is finally takes a life for his cause.

After the bring the British to negotiations and they are given a form of independence a divide breaks with those who either think it is not enough freedom, or they also desire to introduce communism into Ireland. Damien is one of these men who refuses to become peaceful even after a form of peace has been created. Damien is one of the voices of dissent and again Murphy stays very much in the mold of keeping Damien just a man rather than necessarily a great leader. Murphy is effective in his delivery as he does not make a grand speech, but still the emotional statements of a man with the utmost conviction in what he believes. Murphy is good though by perhaps suggesting the weaknesses in Damien's abilities to change the mind of the others, including his brother, that not only fails to convince them but causes him to alienate them from his cause as though they were never even on the same side to begin with.

Cillian Murphy's performance artfully matches Ken Loach's vision for the film which is presenting the fight for Irish Independence from a more modest perspective. Cillian Murphy always reinforces this idea through his unassuming yet driven performance. The power of his performance comes from always representing Damien's journey of a normal man who has strong convictions. One of his best scenes that reflects this is his last scene when Damien is about to be executed for attempting to rebel against the new Ireland and refusing to tell where he has hidden his weapons. Murphy is quite out of the ordinary in this last scene because he actually does not present Damien as a man defiantly facing the executors. Instead he's rather heartbreaking by showing a man reacting with the fear of a man who is about to be killed as he does cry out, and breakdown in the moment. Murphy gives a remarkable performance as he makes the ordinary compelling.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Ken Watanabe in Letters From Iwo Jima

Ken Watanabe did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying General Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Letters From Iwo Jima. 

Letters From Iwo Jima is an excellent film that depicts the pivotal battle for the island of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese. 

Ken Watanabe plays the Japanese General in charge of the defense of the Island of Iwo Jima which soon will be attacked by American forces. Watanabe has an interesting role as he plays who would technically be the unseen and unknown villain in most World War II films set in the Pacific theater. Watanabe does not portray the General as villain working for an evil regime in fact he is quite the opposite as Kuribayashi first arrives on the scene. Watanabe carries himself with a strong commanding presence as the General begins to instruct the men. Watanabe though along with the command has a considerable natural warmth he brings in the part to. There is a naturalism optimism about Watanabe’s manner in the scene and effectively allows Kuribayashi to be the inspirational figure he should be upon his arrival.

This is rather interestingly undercut by the fact that one of the first things we hear from
Kuribayashi is his thoughts which is basically accepting his fate which is to die defending his country. Watanabe is very affecting by having this somberness that is pervasive in his performance. Watanabe is particularly good as he very quietly suggests this in his scenes with his men, but as a man trying to cover up his own hesitations. Watanabe is very good as he depicts Kuribayashi as a devoted soldier as he fervently attempts to make the right adjustments to make the island's defenses as formidable as he is able to make them, but also a man who is well aware of the futility of his objective. Watanabe make this inconsistency entirely understandable as he portrays Kuribayashi as having the convictions to his men, yet in his personal feelings reflect a reasonable man.

Watanabe has two especially great contrasting scenes where he motivates the troops. The first time is just before the beginning of the battle and it's a terrific scene for Watanabe as he shows Kuribayashi attempting to reinforce the ideals of Empire. In this scene Watanabe has a great forceful intensity as Kuribayashi fulfills this particular role. There is a coldness though that Watanabe suggests that this is obviously not the true nature of the General. Watanabe shows the effectiveness of this sort of speech, but there is one truer to his heart near the end of the film when Kuribayashi rallies his men for a final charge. Watanabe presents a far greater depth of feeling showing now that all of what the General is in this speech as he does believe it will be his last stand to protect his family. It's a powerful scene and particularly remarkable due to the contrasts that Watanabe presents between the moments. 

Kuribayashi is not always fulfilling his role as General though and the film does leave several moments where Kribayashi reflects back on his life including his time in America. The brief flashbacks are limited but well handled by Watanabe. He does well to make it at different Kuribayashi in the past. Instead of the somber man Watanabe instead portrays the enthusiasm of youth living in a very different world than the one he ends up in. The majority of the scenes though do not necessarily depict what Kuribayashi is thinking. Watanabe is excellent in these moments and there really is not a lot being said. In fact some of the scene merely depict him maybe reading or writing letter that is all. That is all that Watanabe needs though as he creates such poignancy in these moments as Watanabe reflects the happiness of the past while facing the sorrow of the present. It's wonderful work as he gives life to the letters from Iwo Jima.

Watanabe's screen time is somewhat limited due to the nature of the film where he goes back and forth between several men involved in the conflict. There is enough focus on Kuribayashi and perspective given to him that I don't hesitate calling him lead though. Watanabe's presence is felt throughout, and you are never at loss for where Kuribayashi is in terms of dealing with the battle. The film returns back to Watanabe's ongoing depiction of the psychological wear of the battle, which is not helped by men committing suicide against his orders, as the American front line slowly comes closer to his headquarters. It's a rather remarkable portrait of the career soldier devoted to a cause he does not truly believe in. Watanabe seemingly with such ease makes that conflict understandable realizing the human, really rather gentlemanly, nature of the man within along with the fearless convictions of a man of duty.