Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Best Actor 2014: Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Steve Carell received his first Oscar nomination for portraying John du Pont in Foxcatcher.

Foxcatcher is an effective film about a multimillionaire's relationship with two Olympic Gold medal winning wrestling brothers who he decides to fund.

Comedian Steve Carell actually already played against type early on his prominent film career as a suicidal scholar in Little Miss Sunshine. That I suppose was only lightly against type compared to his performance here as John du Pont. Just for starters Carell is made up with a pale look and plenty of prosthetic in his face to change his appearance considerably. It does not stop there though and Carell gives an extremely mannered performance as John. One particularly noticeable thing is in his vocal delivery where....he....puts....a...breath....between....everything...he...says. This is obviously to sound like the real John du Pont's unique way of speaking, but unfortunately it does sound more like a put on by Carell than something natural to his character. One of the reasons being that Carell accentuates it too much where it was something in John du Pont's manner of speaking, but it was not as overpowering as the way Carell handles it. This is unfortunately not the only element of Carell's performance that does feel a bit "performed".

Carell makes a major misstep from the beginning of his performance, just as he is introducing himself to Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), which is to play up the creep factor of John du Pont. Carell severely overplays his hand by making du Pont seem quite deranged right from the start. The thing is Carell unfortunately keeps this as a constant not even putting on a front when he's doing something in public or for the promotion of his team Foxcatcher. Carell always keeps that distant stare and off-putting distance in his physical performance. There is never a time where one would not suspect there is something very wrong with John du Pont. I should say I felt this way well watching the film for the first time before I saw any footage of the real John du Pont. After seeing the real footage, Carell's method is even more questionable. There is something off about the real du Pont but it's a subtle quality and for the most part he still seems like you could relax around him. With Carell's du Pont it's questionable that anyone would be comfortable being around the man even if they were getting paid, because it seems like he's already a serial killer.

Steve Carell's performance unfortunately makes it so he really has nowhere to go in terms of making John an increasingly problematic and dangerous man. Carell from the start seems like John is ready to kill something to begin with so there's a distinct lack of build up from him in the third act. The only thing that conveys this really is through the script which gives him less lines as the film progresses making a strong disconnection from the man. It likely would have been far more effective if Carell had gradually shown an increasing decay of John's mental state, but Carell starts as though he is already insane. Even past that though Carell's whole portrayal of the mannerisms does never feel wholly genuine, and seems to much like Carell trying to make John this constantly threatening presence. Frankly the whole physical portrayal Carell gives actually seems more fitting for a straight thriller than what Foxcatcher is. The worst thing about this is that this hangs over the entirety of his performance making it that even in certain scenes that try to focus on a different side of du Pont, the mannerisms still makes Carell's performance a bit off.

Carell therefore must try to convey some other ideas about John du Pont while being very much handicapped by his mannerisms. That is not to say there are not some interesting elements in this performance, but they are harder to see than they should be. Carell does manage to create a somewhat intriguing relationship between John and Mark. At times he gives the gaze of almost a fan boy as he watches an Olympic hero he would probably would like to be. At other times Carell simply plays him as a manipulator, basically fulfilling his role as millionaire, as he constantly instructs Mark, and will suddenly take an exception with him without warning. There are moments though where Carell suggests a little warmth in his performance as John seems to be trying to reach out to Mark merely as a friend. Carell is good in these moments as they are kinda heartbreaking as they seem so halfhearted yet earnest at the same time. He is particularly effective in the scene where John sadly tells Mark about his only friend, as he has such a defeated resignation in his speech, who turns out was merely being paid by his mother to be his friend. These random sides of John shown actually work in alluding to the sort of broken man John is.

What obviously contributes all the more to John's problems is his relationship with his very distant mother (Vanessa Redgrave). Carell again does rather well in the one scene where they speak to one another, where John's mother states her disapproval for wrestling, as there is such a palatable disconnect clearly between mother and son which contrasts especially against the close connection Mark shares with his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Carell has one scene where he is close to being outstanding, he would be if he did not have to keep up that wrong approach to John du Pont, where John is doing a training session with his team as his mother comes in to view what he is doing. Carell's conveys John being devastated quietly internally as he has to watch his mother's disapproving eyes once more, and manages to be rather moving by honestly expressing that all John wants is to be loved by his mother. In doing Carell even does well to suggest what causes him to begin to see Dave as an enemy, and again is effective in portraying the anguish as he sees basically what he desires is right in front of him between Dave and Mark.

Carell's performance here I feel has the potential for greatness as there are several moments where he does create a compelling portrait of John du Pont's mental state. Unfortunately Carell undercuts everything with his obvious sociopath routine that always feels very much acted every second he does it. Carell does not take the wrong approach in portraying John's relationship with the brothers and his mother, but there's always simply the fact that why is he standing like rigid board all the time. It would have been interesting if Carell instead started with hints of John's mental problems and slowly built them to the pivotal moment, which likely would have been more effective, and apparently truer to the real life story. A mannered performance like this easily can work, his co-star Ruffalo technically is equally mannered but Ruffalo's performance not only feels far more natural it also makes more sense for his character, but what Carell does here is weigh down everything else he even tries. I hate to try to wave away this performance because it's not a complete failure, Carell's approach is daring in many ways, but it's just not quite the right approach.

82 comments:

luke higham said...

Thank You Louis, My last prediction was right.

luke higham said...

Fuck You Carell, stealing Gyllenhaal/Oyelowo's spot.

Fuck You Academy, Louis, You fucking better do 15 alternate reviews, since this A**hole got reviewed and you do know the 15 I've been badgering on about for the past 3 weeks.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

My thoughts EXACTLY, down to the same rating. There are flashes of a better performance, but it's just too obvious.

Anonymous said...

lol @ the anger a few comments above me.. Anyways, great review

RatedRStar said...

Yes I knew this would happen, great review, and I hope he learns in future since he is not a bad actor, such a shame. Lets hope 2015 best actor will have all good performances in the best actor category, since 2011/2012/2013/2014 have all had mainly strong best actor categories, 2015 surely has to be counted alongside those great years.

RatedRStar said...

Thankfully though its all great from here on though in terms of the other 4 nominees, so I am interested since I think this will be top 4 years.

RatedRStar said...

Am I the only one who thinks the 2010s sets of films and the oscars in general are already better than most of the films from the 2000s.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Personal Opinion aside, let's hope we can get 2-3 5s for 2014 Lead Actor.

RatedRStar said...

Well I am very excited about the 2015 films Luke, I want to see if Star Wars is good or terrible, I want to see Fifty Shades Of Grey just to see how bad it could be, and to see Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jake Gyllenhaal has potential contenders makes me very excited.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Well, if the rules hadn't changed multiple times for the best picture category, it would still be the same old shit, even though the acting races have still suffered over the past 5 years apart from the glorious 2013 (Male Lead).

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I think you and I can agree that Fassbender, Hardy & Gyllenhaal are guaranteed to be reviewed at least once next year since Hardy has The Revenant, Child 44, Mad Max Fury Road and Legend, Fassbender has Macbeth, Slow West, The Light Between Oceans, Trespass Against Us and maybe Jobs and Gyllenhaal has Everest, Southpaw and Demolition. I really hope Birdman isn't a one off for Inarritu and hopefully Dicaprio can give a career best performance.

RatedRStar said...

Michael Fassbender, Jake Gyllenhaal, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy = Orgasm =D, surely at least two of those have to have a chance.

You know what, I was wrong about Steve Carell, I thought Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern were the two worst acting nominees this year I am afraid.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Your Ratings & Thoughts for Dern & Witherspoon and your ratings for the cast of Inherent Vice.

luke higham said...

I Hated Wild, Foxcatcher on a 4th viewing, I will say is a really good film, Carell's performance got worse and worse for me though and Tatum's Performance is my 14th 5 in lead for 2014.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I must have unfairly high standards to only six perfect scores for Lead Actor this year. Hell, one of them is only 2014 by my rules.

Anonymous said...

For those those who don't like Dern in Wild... Go watch The Fault in Our Stars. It's a somewhat similar role but it's much more touching and hearfelt. Same goes for Woodley who gives one of my favorite performance of the year. Louis, are you going to watch it? I'm not sure if you'll like it, but I'm interested in your thoughts on Elgort's performance and I assure you that Woodley and Dern are great.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: Well, we all have different criterias, although I tend to follow Louis's instead of the live or die approach where the performances are judged solely on the overall quality of the films rather than the performances as a whole.

Psifonian said...

Hahaha, I didn't expect it to be THIS low. Tatum is much better, but I feel that Carell held his own. Shouldn't have been nominated over, say, Gyllenhaal, but he was better than Redmayne.

luke higham said...

Psifonian: You're going to be sadly disappointed on that one, Redmayne will get a 4.5

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I don't always throw the baby out with the bathwater. I gave McAvoy a 5 for filth and I hated the movie.

Anonymous said...

@kook160: Are you talking about McAvoy in Filth? Because I fucking love that performance. Anyway, for now I've seen ony two 5 star performances by a lead actor for 2014 (McAvoy is 2013 for me), but I haven't seen Keaton or Oyelowo yet.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: When I watched Inherent Vice I was quite ill at the time and had to turn it off, I will say I was enjoying it up until that point so I will watch it fully some time eventually.

Reese Witherspoon (2) I just really thought this was one note self hating, and thats it, the flashbacks dont work at all and her performance seems to be completely directed rather than done by her, the film is awful and is like if someone vomited on my head.

Laura Dern (2) This is like a Thelma Ritter nomination, she turns up, does some stuff, and thats it, nothing memorable or worth nominated in the slightest, I have not seen A Most Violent Year but there is no way that Chastain was worst than Dern, just no way.

@Koook160: A person of great taste should always expect 5 star quality.

Oh by the way my mother loved High and Low =D the only thing she didnt like was the kidnappers reason at the end lol she thought he should have been Gondos secret son or something lol

Anonymous said...

@kook160: if you don't mind, can I have your top 10 for Best Leading Actress of 2014? I'd love to read it.

luke higham said...

Koook160: That's a fantastic exception, although I am a fan of Filth.

RatedRStar said...

@Psifonian: What are your thoughts on Redmayne? cause even though I really liked him as Hawking, I could see that some people might say, well its Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man again, an actory performance.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm not comfortable doing top 10 Leading Actresses yet. Hell, I'm not even comfortable doing 5. Still WAY too many have to see. I need to squeeze in Beyond the Lights, Belle, The Immigrant, Two Days One Night, Ida, Cake, Still Alice, Obvious Child, The One I Love, and others.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@luke: Yeah, Filth just rubbed me the wrong way. More puerile than clever. The obvious foreshadowing did nothing to help the laughable "tone shift" near the end either. Luckily McAvoy hit every note he was given.

Anonymous said...

Louis what is your rating for Arquette in Boyhood?

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Louis gave Arquette a 2.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Changed predictions:

1. Keaton
2. Cooper
3. Redmayne
4. Cumberbatch
5. Carrell

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

For the record, we're all under the overwhelming assumption Gyllenhaal will be the overall winner for Louis, right?

luke higham said...

Koook160: I'm not entirely convinced he's the overwhelming favourite, It's surely between him, Keaton, Pearce and Hardy for that top spot.

RatedRStar said...

I wont be surprised if Jake doesnt win but I really do believe Jake was the best of the year, I mean I was so scared and worried that it would be Daniel Bruhl all over again, and it was.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Kook160: Not quite. I have a feeling Hoffman or Keaton could edge over him, potentially. But feel free to lambast me.

And rest assured, Gyllenhaal is amazing IMO, perhaps even more so after re-watch.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Or Hardy and Pearce, yes.

luke higham said...

Hoffman & Gleeson are slight possibilities as well and surely this year is better than last year, bar fucking none.

RatedRStar said...

Louis, on a side note, um the altenate years are well, not too far away from being done, I am not going to ask what your plan is or if there is one after you have finished alternate cause I really hope this blog can continue because it is the best. I just wanted to ask if you have an idea of what you are doing after alternates =D.

mark said...

Just saw AMVY v underwhelmed by Chastain very mannered,Isaac and Brooks were fantastic..

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: he is doing Bonus rounds, where he'll review 5 performances from different years.

An example - lineup
Mads Mikkelson in The Hunt
Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man
Tatsuya Nakadai in Ran
Woody Harrelson in Rampart
Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I recommend the requirement of them being from the same decade.

luke higham said...

Mark: Even though Isaac was a 4.5 for me, I thought he gave an incredibly refreshing take on a Pacino-esque character with morals.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: Sure, that would work well too.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

What upcoming films/performances do we all think smell of Oscar potential? For me,

Child 44 (Oldman, Hardy)
Ewan McGregor in Jane Got a Gun
Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak
St James Place (Tom Hanks)
Silence (Andrew Garfield, Ken Watanabe)
Triple Nine (Woody Harrelson)
The Revenant (Dicaprio and Hardy)

luke higham said...

Macbeth (Fassbender & Cotillard)
The Revenant (Dicaprio and Hardy)
Silence (Garfield & Watanabe)
SouthPaw (Gyllenhaal)
Knight of Cups (Bale) - Who knows

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

In case anyone's wondering about McGregor, I just saw Son of a Gun and it was shit but McGregor was great as a VERY uncouth, violent sort, I can only wait to see what more's in store in that darker side of his abilities (although I do really like him as a straightforward leading man too)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Ah yes, forgot about Macbeth and Knight of Cups.

Michael McCarthy said...

*exhales for first time since nominees were announced* this is almost exactly how I felt about Carell in this movie. And Robert, I only have 9 fives, which is a lot but still significantly fewer than some of the others on this blog.

Psifonian said...

RatedRStar,

I thought Redmayne got the physicality down pat, but the terrible script brought him down. There was zero growth and character development. The degeneration looked good, but they ultimately reduced him to being a prop. Jones had to do the real heavy lifting to make it work, and even she had to struggle against a woeful script.

I will give full credit to Marsh, Redmayne and Jones for showing up to play ball. But if you have a shitty script like this film did, it's tantamount to the New York Yankees showing up to the World Series and no one brought a baseball. So I look at Redmayne and think, "Man, if only this performance could've had some meat to it." It's not deserving of a nod, especially in such a dense year, but it's tragic because you can see great promise in it. And this is coming from someone who generally hates Eddie Redmayne.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I could not disagree with you more Psifinian, but since I do value your views a lot generally I'm not really eager to start an argument. Although I will agree that Redmayne isn't much of an actor in most circumstances. TTOE being one of the few exceptions.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

*Psifonian

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Actually, I thought TToE's script was okay. Compared to IG, at least.

moviefilm said...

Oh my god, luke (and some others). How long are you going to be so hateful? The Academy is about the politics and always will be. And it's not the question of life. Carell got nominated for a weak performance in an otherwise very strong year for this category. And so what? Just enjoy the other performances that were great and be happy for that. Louis will review as many performances, as he has got spirits to and the most you can do is to ask about this thoughts and reatings of the performances you are interested in. But calling Carell an asshole just for being nominated for an Academy Awards seems too much for me. And even unfair. I'm not going to give you moral advice here, I assume you're an adult person, but still. Film industry is to make us feel good. Please stop being so hateful, I'm really getting sick and tired of it and I still don't see the point in that. Thank you.

Matt Mustin said...

Also, he didn't nominate himself. So if you're mad at anybody be mad at the people who nominated him.

Matt Mustin said...

Also, how come none of you were this pissed when Bradley Cooper got nominated for American Hustle?

Michael McCarthy said...

I wasn't a big fan of the screenplay for The Theory of Everything either, but I didn't think it brought down Redmayne's performance as much as Psifonian did. I think we all agree his physical creation was great, my biggest problem was the difficulty Redmayne seemed to have in conveying complex emotions due to his physical limitations. I also thought his portrayal of Hawking before he got sick was a tad inconsistent with his portrayal of Hawking in the latter part of the film. I'd still give him a high 4/low 4.5

Anonymous said...

Moviefilm's comment = best comment on this bizarre, hateful thread

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Oh give me a fucking break. We're not 8chan or something.

Anonymous said...

Louis what are your ratings and thoughts on Elizabeth Moss in The One I Love and Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant?

luke higham said...

Moviefilm: with Carell, I didn't mean it literally, If I've offended anyone, I apologise for that, but it was in the heat of the moment. So, no he's not an asshole, but still undeserving of the nod. But we do have our likes and our dislikes and of course some of us are going to be incredibly passionate about it, so, if I'm coming off as incredibly hateful, I give my wholehearted apologies. I did say in a previous comment though, that it was same old s*** from the academy when it comes to their acting categories, with the 70+ white rich men pulling the strings.
Matt Mustin: Cooper's nomination was a bit more tolerable, since it was in the supporting category, not the lead.

luke higham said...

Moviefilm: also, with that mini rant at the beginning, you may have had worse from RatedRStar.
KoooK160: I agree with you that everyone's entitled to free speech without any restrictions.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your ratings & thoughts on Phoenix & Renner in The Immigrant.

Lezlie said...

Sometimes I just log in in the morning here in Europe and scroll down the comments, thinking "Jeez, what did I miss?" :D Also, great thoughts about Carell, he was a 3 for me too.

luke higham said...

Moviefilm: Here's my more polite thoughts on Carell.
'He was fine I guess, I'd give him a 3.5, but nothing Academy Award worthy.

luke higham said...

Moviefilm: And his performance in Little Miss Sunshine was great, so I don't hate him as an actor or a human being.

John Smith said...

Let's not overlook his comedy performances in The 40 Year Old Virging and the tv-show The Office.

That is what the Academy does and the people on this blog are better then them.

luke higham said...

With the rant, that I had earlier, it was out of sheer frustration, with the academy's decisions and as a reader of this blog, I of course want to see a near, if not perfect lineup, so anyone could or should understand in that respect. All I want is the best of the best.

luke higham said...

Moviefilm: I still stand by the 15 reviews for tha alternates, since I genuinely do feel there are more than ten unnominated performances to talk about such as the ones that I mentioned, If Louis only does ten it wouldn't bother me much, but if he did write 15 reviews, I'll be a very very happy young adult. Also, I did ask him either yesterday or the day before, on other 4/4.5 performances that he wasn't going to review and he didn't reply, so it may be a hint that he's doing more than 10, but who knows.

So Louis, continue on with the brilliant work you've been doing for the past 5 years. BEST FILM CRITIC EVER.

RatedRStar said...

@Moviefilm, I will say on the subject, that I am a very passionate guy also, and I am not really as bad of a guy as I come across on the blog, I mean I have only gotten personal with Joaquin Phoenix and now I love the guy as an actor so ya know =D I wouldnt take my angry rants as serious, its more comedic and cartoonish if ya get me, I mean, I love hugs and stuff how can I be all bad =D

luke higham said...

We may come across as a bit insensitive but were really not. The deaths of Ledger, Hoffman, O'Toole and Attenborough can prove that, as tears were somewhat flowing out of my eyes when the news broke out for each of them.

moviefilm said...

I didn't mean it as a criticism. I have just had enough of complaining. I also want the best of the best to get nominated. But it's art. What's best for me, isn't for you and for the Academy (take aside the fact, that the Academy is also about the politics). So I can only say that I would appreciate Fiennes', Gyllenhaal's, Murray's, or Teller's nomination much more than Carell's, but that's it. The complaining over and over again was just boring and even defensive at some point.
And The Immigrant (my ratings):
Cotillard - 4.5
Renner - 4
Phoenix - 2

luke higham said...

moviefilm: Well past this review, it's gonna be alot more positive from here on out, so you'll have no more bitching from me til next January and I'll say that the Oscar nominations are the only part of the year that really frustrate me as a fan of film.

tahmeed chowdhury said...

I saw birdman and the imitation game yesterday. I thought cumberbatch was slightly better than keaton, and they're both 5's in my book.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Keaton is the only one nominated I would give a 5 to.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: I'm the same, I really hope he wins and looking forward to his acceptance speech too.

John Smith said...

Rated R Star, I was wondering if your opinion has changed on Joaquin Phoenix's performance in The Master.

RatedRStar said...

@John Smith: Yes it changed about a year ago, =D a couple more viewings led me to like the film, and Phoenixs performance a lot more. I think I would have The Master as my second favorite film of 2012.

Michael McCarthy said...

Louis, do you have a rating for Yoshitaka Zushi in Red Beard? Because I just rewatched the film and I found it to be a terrific child performance, I'd love to know your thoughts on it if you have any.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: I can't say I'm in a rush to watch A Fault in Our Stars, but I may get around to it.

Anonymous:

Moss - 3.5(What I enjoyed most was simply the story of the film, but I did like Moss's dual performance. The one side being the seemingly impossible to impress and to satisfy wife who seems to have at least some disdain for her husband at all times, and then the perfectly well behaved and loving one. Moss does a fine job of peeling away from both sides and slowly moving the two towards each other in an interesting way)

Cotillard - 5(The film seemed purposefully made to be a melodrama of old, not unlike something like Carrie for example, and part of Cotillard performance is I feel an old school movie star quality. There is something so wonderfully luminous about her here and she is simply wonderful in the part. Of course that is technically subverted by what happens to her character. Cotillard gives an amazing performance that always exudes this inner beauty even as she's unrelenting in showing the psychological and physical degradation of her character. This actually might be my favorite performance of hers and is easily my win now for 2013)

Luke:

I'm not sure what to make of Phoenix yet, I might have to re-watch just for him.

Renner - 4(I suppose Renner could have played Hugh Jackman's role in the prestige as Renner is great at being the charismatic magician who wins the crowd over. Renner gives an affecting performance though by being so unassuming and honest in the charm he brings to his character)

Michael McCarthy:

Zushi - 3.5(Yamazaki and Mifune were the only ones who made my ranking merely because I could not find a good source to identify some of the performers with their characters. Anyway I'd agree. Zushi is nicely not at all mannered in being the rambunctious yet endearing boy. He successfully makes the scenes focused on his possible fate rather heart wrenching)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Louis: Watch Fault. I need vindication on Ansel Elgort.

Louis Morgan said...

Ahhhhhuuuuuu......alright.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I will personally pay for any therapy sessions as a result.

mcofra7 said...

"I can't say I'm in a rush to watch A Fault in Our Stars"

lol I feel ya, man