Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1965: Rod Steiger in Doctor Zhivago

Rod Steiger did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Victor Ipolitovich Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago.

Doctor Zhivago did receive a best supporting actor nomination, and deservedly so, for Tom Courtenay but Steiger could not get double nominated despite the film being well received by the academy. As I stated in Werner's review there seemed to be some prejudice against a leading man even being thought of as a supporting player, but perhaps also what kept Steiger from being recognized was the nature of Komarovsky. Although Courtenay's Pasha does not exactly end on a light note, he at least started as an optimistic man, Komarovsky though may be the most insidious character in the film. We first meet Komarovsky in the per-revolutionary Russia as a wealthy man who is working his ways on the daughter of his friend. The daughter being Lara (Julie Christie) who Komarovsky goes about seducing, and Steiger is almost the lead of the film in these scenes since Zhivago (Omar Sharif) is very much in the background.

Steiger is brilliant here as he is so effortlessly commanding the role of Komarovsky. Steiger is marvelous in his scene with Christie early on as he basically depicts each step of Komarovsky's method from start to finish. In his earliest scenes Steiger presents himself as a charming enough fellow, that of possible even mentor and father figure to Lara. Steiger though effectively undercuts this by always keeping that lust in Komarovsky's eyes as he slowly woos Lara to accept him. Steiger breaks this though, revealing true extent of his sleaze, as he forces himself upon Lara in a cab ride home. Steiger even plays this scene particularly brutally by showing absolutely no hesitation as Komarovsky does this. Of course even when this ends Steiger reverts partially back to an apparently sensible fellow as he presents Komarovsky once again having a vile warmth as he almost acts as though he was merely leaving a lesson for Lara, but this is not the end of Komarovsky's cruel game by any margin. This continues as Komarovsky even bothers to meet Lara's fiancee Pasha.

Komarovsky though is only continuing to use Lara though as he basically states that she lowered herself by giving in to him. Steiger is absolutely brutal in the scene, which Komarovsky claims is not rape, because Steiger keeps his performance so viciously calms as if the whole thing has all been part of his malicious plan to use Lara then basically throw her away. What stands out most though is Steiger does not just play Komarovsky as just an evil manipulator, even though he is that. Steiger though is most effective perhaps when showing the humanity in Komarovsky along with his disgusting behavior. Steiger is particularly good in the scene where he rushes to find help for Lara's mother who has attempted suicide. Steiger suggests the guilt is still palatable in the man, Steiger presents it not as something that will make him change his ways exactly, but that he's still a man and will feel such things. He's equally great in the scene where Lara takes her revenge by shooting Komarovsky, and Steiger's reaction is perfection. It is less fear, but more of realization that perhaps he did go too far in his manipulations of Lara.

One of the most important aspects of his character is that Komarovsky never seems to lose his status despite all the changes going on around him. The reason being that Komarovsky tries to always play all sides in order to keep people as friends even though he is never their friend. This is well shown in the scene immediately after the shooting where he is treated by Zhivago. Steiger is very charming and even makes himself most likable as he talks with Zhivago and even speaks of Zhivago's father. Steiger is quite persuasive in making Komarovsky a man that's easy to like when you are aware of very little about him, and he pulls this trick off pivotal to the character flawlessly. Komarovsky disappears for some time after this point but he does appear late in the film to visit Lara and Zhivago about their impeding doom due to the powers that be after the revolution. The humanity that Steiger did give to Komarovsky earlier in the film is very important here because it would be quite difficult to understand his reasoning here as he has not much to gain, especially since he does intend to help Zhivago as well. 

Steiger is outstanding in these scenes as well because there is a sense of regret within his demeanor yet still that same treacherous glint in his eyes as though maybe there is yet one more game he is playing. Steiger's best moments within in these is when he tells Zhivago the truth of his situation as there is such passionate nihilism Steiger brings in his delivery. Steiger is particularly effective against the more uplifting work of Sharif, as Sharif presents a man trying to look for the best, Steiger unrepentantly shows a man who is aware of the worst. Komarovsky is a rather complex character to begin with but that in no way means that Steiger had an easy here. Steiger is pivotal in giving Komarovsky the strong presence that he needs making it so you never forget him even when he has a more than an hour long absence from the film. Steiger does this and more as he matches the depth of the character with an equally deep portrayal. Steiger is striking in his depiction of the reprehensible fiend that Komarovsky was. Steiger importantly shows that Komarovsky understands that about himself, but also makes it absolutely convincing why Komarovsky would never pay for his crimes with his memorable portrait of duplicitous ingenuity.


luke higham said...

Louis: Your ratings & thoughts for the rest of the cast.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Steiger is brilliant here.

Also thanks for your thoughts on The Drop Louis, you really helped me re-evaluate the film as a whole and it's now my personal BP win after re - watch. Not sure if anyone else will agree with me but I think Hardy is the best British actor working today, followed closely by Bale, Oldman, Day - Lewis and Fassbender.

Luke: Thoughts on Wishaw, Hawkins and Kidman in Paddington, I loved the film personally although I thought Pete Capaldi was criminally underused as he was hilarious whenever he was onscreen.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: I liked the Drop as well, It's not in my top ten, but it is in my top twenty.

My Current Top Ten Actors from the British Isles (Yes, Ireland is one of them) are.
1. Gary Oldman
2. Michael Fassbender
3. Tom Hardy (Number 2 & 3 are interchangable)
4. Daniel Day Lewis
5. Brendan Gleeson
6. Christian Bale
7. Cillian Murphy
8. Ben Whishaw
9. John Hurt
10. Michael Caine

I liked Paddington alot & I'm considering whether or not it'll be in my top ten for the year. Whishaw's voicework for Paddington Bear was terrific and made him extremely lovable. I thought the cast was great overall, Bonneville was enormously enjoyable and I thought his change from risk analyst to a devil may care hero was well earned, I personally thought he stole the show. Hawkins was very good as the kind, loving mother, who's willingness to help find Paddington a home, came off as endearing. Kidman was enjoyable as the villain and I do agree that Capaldi was underused, but I was happy to see him on screen nevertheless.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Honourable Mentions:
Ralph Fiennes
Ewan McGregor
Jude Law
Benedict Cumberbatch
Chiwetel Ejiofor

luke higham said...

Imitation Game
American Sniper
Into The Woods
Big Eyes
& Unbroken are all online
Source: Putlocker.Is

luke higham said...

Louis: Also, have you seen Whiplash or Joe yet.

Anonymous said...

What everybody's ratings and thoughts on the cast of Into the Woods?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I already gave mine before, so I'll just copy and paste them again:

Corden - 4.5: I'm completely shocked at how little praise he's getting. He's perfectly cast as the Baker and brings out the comic charm and emotional aspects of the character perfectly. If they didn't cut out "No More", he'd be a 5.

Blunt - 4.5: Yes she and Corden were the easy highlights for me. Like Corden, she handled the comic and emotional aspects wonderfully. They both had great chemistry and lit up the screen whenever they were on.

Streep - 3.5: Not the disaster I thought it was going to be, but still has a few problems. The main is not of her own, but of the film sparing Rapunzel, therefore removing any emotional impact from her arc. That being said, she was fairly amusing. Her histrionics were far more justified here than in other cases.

Depp - 1.5: HOW THE HELL DID THEY MAKE THIS MORE RAPEY THAN THE PLAY?! I've defended Depp's singing in Sweeney Todd in the past. Hell, I've defended his genre movie mugging in the past. But this? As the cut song would say, no more. Thank God he's just a cameo.

Pine - 3.5: I really wish there was more of him. He was hysterical for what he had, especially Agony, but the film's adaptation choices cost him one hell of a number with Agony Reprise.

Kendrick - 3: Her singing is very good, but Cinderella as a character is so... blah.

Huttlestone - 2: Annoying kid actor is annoying.

Crawford - 2.5: Red Riding Hood is supposed to be deadpan, but her comic timing was off.

Ullman - 2.5: Funny enough, but not much to do.

Magnussen - 3: Like Pine, I wish there was more. Both Princes were a riot in the play. I don't really like that they made his character nice in this version, but he does a decent job.

RatedRStar said...

Selma, Into The Woods, American Sniper and Big Eyes........ I AM COMING TO GET YOU =D (thoughts coming soon)

luke higham said...

Imitation Game Ratings
Cumberbatch - 4.5, but it is not final, as I may give him a 5 in the next couple of weeks, since it's a hard performance to rate.
Knightley - 4, her best performance
Goode - 3.5
Strong - 3.5
Dance - 3.5, God I love Tywin
Leech - 3
Kinnear - 3

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: I think I've given everyone else at one time or another.

Thanks for the links, but I intended on getting to several of these in the theater over the week/weekend so I'll wait until then.

I saw Whiplash.


If we're talking about current output I think I'd completely agree.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Whiplash, plus your rating & thoughts on Teller.

Louis Morgan said...


Whiplash - (I really enjoyed the film almost throughout and there were moments of it, the ending in particular, where I absolutely loved it. There is the small bit in the middle where Teller's character becomes self-absorbed that I did not feel was quite built up enough, I did feel that maybe it rushed that little part of the film there. The rest though certainly moved well, and it was one of those films that was an entertaining treat. I certainly preferred over its soon to be Oscar precursors of The Paper Chase and An Officer and Gentleman if you know what I mean. )

Teller - 4(Switch back between 4 and 4.5 with him. He is dynamite in any of the scenes where he is playing the drums, and no not because he can play the drums, I always hate when too much attention is brought to something like that, but in terms of the physical exhaustion and determination Teller brings he's outstanding. In these scenes you see the conviction of the player, and it is wonderful. He's equally good in his scenes with Simmons both reacting first as the earnest student then as the devastated victim. My only minor problem, echoing my thoughts on the film, is the scenes in the middle where he only cares about drumming didn't quite for me. It went there just a little too fast, and even though its either the writing or the editing Teller can't quite make up for it either with his performance)

luke higham said...

Louis: I completely agree with your comments, although he is a 4.5 for me, mainly because of the drumming scenes.

Selma Ratings
Oyelowo - 5
Egogo - 4
Wilkinson - 4
Roth - 3.5
Winfrey - 3
Gooding Jr - 2.5