Monday, 26 January 2015

Alternate Best Actor 2014: Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

Matthew McConaughey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Cooper in Interstellar.

Interstellar is an ambitious but problematic film about a group astronauts trying to find a new home as earth is becoming uninhabitable. The film contains some of Christopher Nolan's very best as a director, but some of his very worst as a writer.

Matthew McConaughey plays an average Joe hero for the film, although technically not all that average considering he is a former spacecraft pilot. When the film opens though he is merely a farmer attempting to do his best to take care of his family. This is an interesting character for McConaughey to take on as it is sort of a blend for him from his former days as the leading man, and his more intense character driven work. In the early scenes it mostly stresses McConaughey to once again be the semi straight forward leading man to invest in. McConaughey is quietly charming in his usual way that he hones in properly to fit into a guy like Cooper. He's particularly good in portraying Cooper as a father. McConaughey has particularly great chemistry with Mackenzie Foy as Cooper's daughter Murph. McConaughey and Foy both are terrific in creating the needed natural ease and warmth between the two. They are absolutely convincing in creating the needed bond between the two which is truly an essential part of the film.

An idea behind Cooper in the early scenes is that he seems to constantly still have his head in the stars even while it seems that the rest of society has become particularly worldly minded. McConaughey is great at being a bit of a personification of an individual exceptionalism. McConaughey carries this incredible passion around the ideas that Cooper holds dear that it's hard not to sympathize with the character's dreams involving them. McConaughey, for the lack of a better word, is properly spunky in the role. Cooper basically wants to save the day for his family and the earth as a whole, and McConaughey makes this a sensible idea through his performance. McConaughey is very important in creating the sense of excitement in seeing the mission through as he conveys such a powerful desire in Cooper to find the way. What matters the most is that McConaughey makes it such a genuine fervor and allows this to be such an inspiring idea. McConaughey makes Cooper's objective, even though he leaves his family, a noble endeavor.

McConaughey's performance becomes all the more essential once the mission takes off and the film does indulge in a great deal of expository dialogue in order to explain the various scientific concepts involved in the film. McConaughey always grounds the film whenever he is onscreen as he never becomes lost in the words. He perhaps has less of it to deal with, and the some that he does have McConaughey handles in a particularly natural fashion. More necessary though is the way that McConaughey always conveys what it is that the others are talking in terms of emotional means. When they speak of something relating to completion of the mission, what way they are going to complete the mission, or simply whether or not they will lose more time, McConaughey always reflects what this means to the story of Cooper and what he cares most about. This being of course his family and McConaughey always keeps that human quality within the larger spectacle of the film, and never loses it for a moment even during all of the film's sound and fury.

Now as good as McConaughey is in showing how Cooper is always remembering his family that seems like almost nothing compared to the scenes where the film focuses right on it. There is one long scene where Cooper watches messages from home after having lost a considerable amount of time caused by gravitational time dilation. Which means that while Cooper explored one of the planets decades went by on earth while Cooper was only on the planet for a few hours. McConaughey is absolutely heartbreaking in the scene. He is outstanding as he reflects just how every message forces Cooper to see what he has lost over the years, and realize the lives he's left his children of. The intense emotional devastation McConaughey depicts is incredibly moving, and makes one the remarkable scenes in this epic just a man watching a monitor. All of the real weight of the time loss is completely expressed by McConaughey's performance, and this whole idea is never lost for a moment due to his presence.

The emotional poignancy of McConaughey's work brilliantly carries the film and is never overwhelmed by the larger vision of the film. McConaughey treads so efficiently through every turn that it is something amazing to behold. There are even a few moments where McConaughey does throw in a light bit of comedy particularly in Cooper's interactions with the robot TARS, that McConaughey never overplays this but does bring some much needed humor to the film. He also never allows any scene that he's in to completely fall flat because of his performance. Even the very divisive ending scene where Cooper spends his time in a time bending bookshelf, McConaughey still does not lose it. McConaughey does his absolute best to make this a believable result of the journey through his depiction of the emotional state of the moment. Again McConaughey is absurdly moving in the scene as he shows Cooper desperately pleading with himself to stay home, and even if you don't buy the scene as a whole you can certainly believe McConaughey's performance.

The film does have more than a few pitfalls along the way, but Matthew McConaughey never falls into one of them. Although McConaughey is even in scenes that don't entirely work, such as the demented guest appearance by Matt Damon, McConaughey never falters in his portrayal of Cooper. The missteps going on in the scene such as Damon getting much too of an over the top of a villain speech as well as villainous performance. The character frankly would be more fitting for a Star Trek episode than this sort of science fiction, but McConaughey does not lose his mark as he keeps Cooper's reactions wholly honest. He acts as the perfect guide for the film's literal journey as well as its emotional one. McConaughey makes for a likable hero who we want to see survive and succeed his mission. In addition McConaughey brings that intensity he's more currently known for in portraying simply the devotion a father has for his daughter. I could actually easily see none of the film working if it were not Matthew McConaughey's performance which stands as the dramatic core which holds the far reaching story together.

30 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I think at this point everyone should just concede McConaughey is on Daniel Day-Lewis levels of greatness with his current winning streak. He has the old Hollywood gift of using his screen persona in new and interesting ways to find wonderful heights. I can't wait to see Sea of Trees.

Matt Mustin said...

He's terrific, once again, although I should quickly add that I actually loved the film itself, flaws and all. Have your ratings on any of the cast changed on rewatch?

mark said...

I Loved the movie despite it's length,impressed with the cast bar Chastain who is increasinly becoming the most overrated actress since Amy Adams and Renee Zellweger,MM is a true star an actor meshing both not seen for me since mid 90's Cruise.

luke higham said...

Thank you Louis, so glad you gave him a 5.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: I'm looking forward to seeing Sea of Trees for McConaughey alone, not for Gus Van Sant.

Interstellar, isn't Nolan's best film, I personally would have it as my number 5, but like all of his films, there's at least one great aspect, here being McConaughey's performance, plus the technical work.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Has anyone heard the rumor that Eddie Redmayne is so terrible in Jupiter Ascending that his people are trying to distance him from it so as not to "Norbit" his chances?

luke higham said...

Louis: Since you've now covered all of Christopher Nolan's films from Memento to Interstellar, what are your top ten performances in Nolan Films.

luke higham said...

Louis: Also, your ranking of Nolan's films.

Psifonian said...

Robert, I don't think Redmayne's going to have to worry about that. Actors have won Razzies and Oscars in the same year; the "Norbit" curse is a load of bull perpetrated by people who can't understand that maybe, just maybe, the Academy (and BAFTA) liked Alan Arkin more.

I don't think Best Actor is sewn up yet. Keaton may have just lost ground but his film is gaining it by the day -- have we ever had a scenario like this play out? If everyone goes gaga for "Birdman," Keaton will get some of that love. I think that it was close with SAG and I think Keaton has a very good shot to win BAFTA (he won London Critics, after all, and they're a good bellwether for BAFTA). Plus he *did* win a SAG Ensemble award, so there could've been a "spread the love" scenario in play.

I just can't fathom "Birdman" overtaking "Boyhood" and Keaton missing Best Actor in the bargain.

Psifonian said...

As for McConaughey, he was better than four of the five current Best Actor nominees and, frankly, is Nolan's best leading performance (sorry, Guy). "Interstellar" could have collapsed under its own weight, but Matthew used some of that rugged old-school charm to keep it soaring. Glad to see you took to it, Louis.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I was less talking about his chances and more that particular rumor, which honestly I joked about when the trailer dropped a few months ago.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

Sea of Trees certainly sounds like an interesting idea for a film, and McCounaghey with Watanabe could be a great pairing. Hopefully Van Sant will keep his excesses under control.

Redmayne looked more like classic Redmayne in the trailer, which is not a good thing, but I'll reserve judgment until I watch the film.

Matt:

Damon would move down to a 2.5, his performance is just tonally very wrong. Foy would move up to a 4 if she wasn't already.

Luke:

1. Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
2. Guy Pearce - Memento
3. Matthew McConaughey - Interstellar
4. Gary Oldman - The Dark Knight
5. Christian Bale - The Prestige
6. Robin Williams - Insomnia
7. Harriet Sansom Harris - Memento
8. David Bowie - The Prestige
9. Marion Cotillard - Inception
10. Hugh Jackman - The Prestige

1. Memento
2. The Prestige
3. The Dark Knight
4. Inception
5. Batman Begins
6. Interstellar
7. Insomnia
8. The Dark Knight Rises

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Redmayne looked like he was doing a hilarious imitation of Voldemort in the trailer.

Anonymous said...

I'd give Damon a 2 for Interstellar, I think that a 2.5 is way too generous... He really threw the movie off balance.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uia6y9SRsj4

Child 44 trailer. Tom Brando Hardy, Gary Fucking Oldman, hell yeah.

RatedRStar said...

Child 44 does look good, the only things I am a bit worried about is the release date and the director.

luke higham said...

Ex Machina Ratings
Gleeson - 4.5
Vikander - 4.5
Isaac - 4 (leaning towards a 4.5)

luke higham said...

GDSAO & RatedRStar: It definitely looks interesting enough, hell, any film that stars Tom Hardy, as well as other names like Fassbender, Oldman, Day Lewis, B. Gleeson, McConaughey, Bale and Dicaprio, are massive selling points for me.

luke higham said...

GDSAO & RatedRStar: Phoenix & Gyllenhaal as well.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: Indeed it is, I look forward to 2015 a lot, for movies, and videogames as well since 2014 was so bad for videogames.

I wonder everyone, will Fifty Shades Of Grey be an abomination like I think it will be or will it surprise lol.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I'll freely admit to you, that I'm one of the biggest Assassin's Creed fans and the only reasons for that, as well as not hating III, Revelations, Unity or Rogue is 1.(I'm a history buff) and 2.(The Accurate Portrayals of Architecture in every game so far).

Fifty Shades of Grey, will be Ok I guess, I predict a 30-45% Rotten Tomatoes Score.

Matt Mustin said...

Actually, I think 2.5 is a bit too generous for Damon as well.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: In all honesty, I've lost my passion for videogames over the past few months, I'm strictly Film & TV from now on, although I absolutely agree that 2014 was the worst year in recent memory for the video game industry, even more so than 2012.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm PRAYING 50 Shades be a Showgirls-level disaster that will be a future drinking game/midnight showing phenomena. That's the best possible outcome. Worst possible outcome is that it sucks AND is a total bore.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: For you, it will undoubtedly be the latter, the fact that it didn't receive an NC17/18 rating and diluted sex scenes says it all.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I don't know. When they try to shoot around it and make "tasteful" sex scenes, that could be hilarious in its own right.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: In that case sure, but there's no way in hell I'm seeing it, I'd much rather see Shame again than that piece of crap.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm seeing it with my old buddy Jack Daniels.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar, Louis and anyone else: in detail, what are your thoughts/hopes on your top ten anticipated films of 2015.

Louis Morgan said...

1. Spectre - (Craig again, Mendes again, and Waltz as the villain. What else do you need? Well I would have liked Deakins to return, but what can you do?)

2. Queen of the Desert - (This type of story in the hands of Werner Herzog could gives us something unique)

3. The Revenant - (Birdman better not have been a fluke)

4. Triple Nine - (Hoping Lawless was just a fluke)

5. The Hateful Eight - (It's Tarantino so I'm interested. Hopefully his editing will be a little more back on track this time)

6. Crimson Peak - (Sounds like my type of horror)

7. Mad Max: Fury Road - (I'm all for another Mad Max and it looks interesting to say the least. I would have liked Gibson to return, but you could not ask for a better replacement)

8. Chappie - (Hopefully a tad less bombastic than his last effort, and it's good to see Copley not as a villain)

9. The Avengers: Age of Ultron - (Hopefully its as enjoyable as the first, and Ultron looks like he could potentially be a great villain which are oddly rare in Marvel films)

10. Silence - (10 because it's 2016 now, I'm hoping it makes a 2015 release)