Thursday, 12 February 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1982: Kurt Russell in The Thing

Kurt Russell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying R.J. MacReady The Thing.

The Thing is an excellent horror film set at a scientific outpost in Antarctica that is invaded by a strange creature that takes the form of its devoured prey. 

The Thing marks Kurt Russell's second theatrical collaboration with director John Carpenter after the dystopian thriller Escape from New York. Kurt Russell once again seems pegged to portray the hero of the film, and to be sure MacReady is the maverick of the base as the helicopter pilot who has his own base. Russell does not just simply copy Snake Plissken who was the action hero who seemed to have some sort of problem with everyone. Russell's importantly adjusts his performance here because MacReady is not an action hero. In fact the first time we meet MacReady is when he is just casually drinking and loses at electronic chess to his computer opponent. Russell does not portray MacReady as some guy who's ready for action, but rather merely just kinda a tired guy doing a pretty standard job. You can feel MacReady's time on the isolated base just in Russell's eyes and his manner that time in a frost bitten land with only the same exact people to communicate with have certainly worn on MacReady.

The minutia of the life on the base though takes an odd turn when they discover some truly odd things after investigating two Norwegian men who died trying to kill a dog that ran to the American base. The film focuses at first on the men trying to make sense of the odd occurrence by visiting the desolated Norwegian base. Russell is perhaps the best of the actors in the film in terms of just simply portraying the reaction to the, at first eerie things he sees. Russell does some great work in just conveying the quiet unease in MacReady as he looks over the destruction of the base, and Russell very much grips the film in a reality as his reactions are only as such. Of course the signs stop when the alien itself rears its head in the form of a mutating dog that tries to infect the other dogs in the base's kettle. Well there was potential for the film to go into absurdest territory because although the visual effects are remarkable they're not exactly the most subtle depictions of a creature. Pretty much the entire cast does a fantastic job of grounding these scenes by simply playing the fear as how an normal person would react to seeing such things.

As the threat grows the men deal with the situation in different ways, and Russell is does well to create MacReady's dynamic with the other men. That being he does not have too much of one really. Russell creates a certain distance in the scenes together with the other men as Russell suggests not a hint of camaraderie. It is not that he is actively unlikable, but rather Russell portrays MacReady's attitude as that of the loner that keeps him from having no particular connection with the other men. Russell by having this certain coldness does well to set up MacReady as the leader for the crisis. This seems like an odd idea that the man who isolates himself further from the men to be the one in charge of the group, but it ends up making sense because MacReady's distance allows him to be the only one who can do what is needed. What is needed is a dispassionate view in terms of trust since MacReady does not trust anyone especially in particular he will not give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Russell is very convincing in creating the idea that MacReady's able to control the situation,  as much as he can, by giving such intensity to MacReady's individual will to survive.

Now because of that we are given a few moments where MacReady does kinda get to be the hero of the film since he is always the one taking down the alien after every trick that it pulls. Russell does not compromise his character at any point even though MacReady ends up being a bit of a bad ass, but hey he can't help it. Well in that respect Russell is best described as being sorta awesome in the role by bringing such conviction to certain lines of his such as "Now I'll show you what I already know" when referring the confidence he has in his blood test, or the determination in "We're not gettin' outta here alive. But neither is that Thing", and of course his line just before blowing up a massive version of the creature. Russell delivers them all with absolute precision yet he makes these moments come naturally from the character. They never feel out of place and fit the character he created. Russell as well though never lightens the situation in these moments though because it is not that of a relaxed cool in how MacReady deals with the monster, but rather Russell always still portrays a sense of desperation in the man.

Russell excels particularly well in portraying MacReady's physical and mental degradation throughout the film. Russell expresses well the decay in MacReady through the film since he never gets any sleep and is only worn away even more by the cold. Russell though is also particularly effective though in also depicting the growing paranoia in MacReady as well as his realization and acceptance of his death as long as it means the death of the creature. Russell is terrific by carefully growing the sense of distress in MacReady as the situation only becomes worse throughout the story. There is one scene where MacReady leaves a tape recording to warn any future visitors to the site. Russell infusing the scene with a surprising amount of poignancy by so honestly delivering the repressed fear and despair that is in MacReady. Russell gives a strong performance here as he manages to amplify the horror of the situation by only offering genuine responses to the creature. Russell nicely offers the mild comfort of the film by making MacReady a compelling lead, and always keeps the character of R.J. MacReady firmly as a resilient but still flawed man.


koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm really hoping he's great in Hateful Eight.

Matt Mustin said...

"I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!"

Michael McCarthy said...

If 2007 supporting wasn't so crowded, I think I'd like to see a review of him in Death Proof.

mcofra7 said...

Agreed. What are your thoughts on Russell as an actor, Louis?

Michael McCarthy said...

Just finished The Grey Fox. Good movie with very strong work from Farnsworth. Having said that, if De Niro doesn't win this year, there will be wailing, gnashing of teeth and a wrath none hath yet awakened.

No pressure.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Thoughts and ratings on the rest of the cast, as well as Mary Elizabeth Winster in Scott Pilgrim vs The World

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: My Number 1 is Birdman,

RatedRStar said...

My number 1 film of 2014 is also Birdman =D.

The Thing is just awesome, the star of this film isnt Russell, its the Monster itself, and the fact that the film is actually scary,
"We'll do you last AHH^%^%^%"

I should say I absoltely hate Death Proof with a passion lol.

The main reason why the Babadook was not on my top 10, was that I found a particular scene completely pointless and a bit tasteless, yes we know Mr Babadook is scary and kills people but we didn't need to see a tasteless demonstration in which it snaps a dogs neck, that did not need to happen, the film was already working so that just seemed unnecessary.

Even The Thing had the intelligence to not show the dogs being killed onscreen and instead in the shadows most of the time.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

My #1 is A Most Violent Year. Hooray for being alone!


RatedRStar said...

It was on my top ten so your not really alone lol if everyone completely snubbed it possibly lol.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

My top 4 are:

4. Paddington
3. The Theory of Everything (feel free to bash me)
2. Birdman
1. The Drop

Michael McCarthy said...

My number 1 was also Birdman. Yeah, I know.

mcofra7 said...

My #1 is Nightcrawler

Deiner said...

I really want to see this movie! I even own the book, yet I still haven't got time to read it. Louis (I don't know if you've already been asked this) could you tell me your thoughts and rankings of Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion and Deborah Kerr in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

RatedRStar said...

The Crimson Peak trailer looks great =D

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: From what I saw, I think Chastain, could potentially give a career best performance here, Hiddleston, Hunnam and Wiakowska are looking good as well. Overall, it certainly looks, that it could be Del Toro's best since Pan's Labyrinth and hopefully even more so.

RatedRStar said...

I think it will easily be better than Pans Labyrinth (a film I have mixed feelings on).

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I'm a bit of a fan of Pan's Labyrinth, but what can you do, like all films, not everyone will be completely satisfied with what they see on the screen.
What are the biggest positives, you took from the trailer and I would like to know if you've watched BBC Two's Wolf Hall at all, since I believe it's the best british period drama on television, for at least a decade.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I should've said that Crimson Peak, will be at least Del Toro's best effort since Pan's Labyrinth.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: I am afraid I do not watch TV (minus Football) anymore lol, I am a film and games man now through and through.

I like the look of the film, the performances by Hiddleston and Chastain have this mysterious quality to them, the monsters/ghosts look appropraitely creepy, the story looks interesting because its like, what happened in this mansion?

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: At this stage of the 14/15 Season, your predictions for the winners of the Premier League, League Cup, Fa Cup, Europa League and the Champions League.

RatedRStar said...

Premier League: Chelsea
League Cup: Chelsea
FA Cup: Liverpool or Arsenal
Europa League: Wolfsburg or Tottenham Hotspur
Champions League: Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona will be the final four, when the final four are announced I will know.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: What about you, your predictions for those?

luke higham said...

Premier League: Chelsea
League Cup: Chelsea
FA Cup: Realistically, Liverpool, although, I'm hoping for an upset from Bradford City
Europa League: Tottenham Hotspur
Champions League: Bayern Munich

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Last Question, but what are your top 5 best & worst games of 2014, plus your reasons why.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: For the worst I wont go for games like Rambo, I will do a Siskel and Ebert and go for games that tryed to be good and failed

Top 5 Best Games

1)Dragon Age Inquisition (Typically excellent strategy, strong writing, plenty to do, and excellent characters make this easily the best game of 2014, no surprise why it is winning all the GOTY awards)

2)Valiant Hearts (No game had a bigger heart, a very sad and moving game that has little dialogue, but a well told story and basic but well crafted puzzles)

3)Alien Isolation (The scariest game of the year, with some terrific graphics and sound effects, this was the true Alien game we wanted rather than Colonial Marines)

4)The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter (The best mystery game of the year, a somber and grim game with beautiful graphics, a great score and some interesting ideas on how mysteries should be done)

5)Shadow Of Mordor (The best open world game of the year, addictive gameplay, a well done orc captain system and plenty to do)

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: AHHH 2014, the worst year in video game history, filled with dissapointments from Far Cry 4 to Titanfall, pretty much every hyped game failed except Dragon Age.

Top 5 worst games of 2014

1)Murdered Soul Suspect (The worst mystery game of the year, with bad voiceacting, gameplay which consisted of walking around picking up basic boring clues and then giving wedgeys to ghosts, the story turned into a mismash of cliched twists and bad soap opera writing)

2)The Evil Within (The worst hyped horror game of the year, with a story that is so insane that it makes no sense what so ever, you could swap any chapter with each other and they would make as much sense, laughable voiceacting, copy pasted Resident Evil 4 gameplay, a poor villain badly played by Jackie Earle Haley, need I say more)

3)Watch Dogs ( A completely generic storyline with bland characters and an extremely bland main character, broken multiplayer components, and barely anything to do in the city, plus the false advertising making this game look better than it actually was with very average graphics as well)

4)Destiny (the biggest overhyped disaster in years lol, with generic combat, a terrible grinding system in which your teammates would often get better rewards than you did plus it takes hours and hours to get any good stuff, a non existent story with Peter Dinklage giving a razzie worthy performance, plus game modes that were just generic copies of other modes)

5)Assassins Creed Unity( A broken glitch ridden game, after the great Black Flag game they then destroy themselves with this, the gameplay hasn't changed at all, the graphics look slightly worst, plus the micro transactions, fuck ubisoft turning into the next EA)

Honorable mentions: Fifa 15, Far Cry 4, Titanfall, Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

luke higham said...

1. Dragon Age Inquisition
2. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
3. Child of Light
4. Alien: Isolation
5. Valiant Hearts
Assassin's Creed: Unity (I have a great soft spot for the franchise anyway, plus, having the most interesting time period to date.)

1. Watch Dogs
2. Destiny
3. Titanfall
4. WWE 2K15
5. Fifa 15

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm not surprised Watch Dogs sucked. It was written by a Gamergater.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: Oh ye I should have put WWE 2K15, the series is dead, definately dead now.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I'll also say for Unity, that it was in my personal opinion, an Admirable Failure, despite the 900p lock and overwhelming glitch problems, I loved the French Revolution setting and I liked the Assassination specific missions as well. I agree, though that Ubisoft are becoming worse than EA at the moment and a part of me does wish, they would give the franchise a 2 to 3 year break.

John Smith said...

Louis, could you consider reviewing Phoenix for his performance in I'm Still Here.

RatedRStar said...

Oh Louis and everyone, Siskel and Eberts choices for 1985 have just been put up, I am gonna be so dissapointed if Eric Roberts would be either of their votes lol =D.

Louis Morgan said...

#1 film of 2014: ...I don't think I have to say.

mcofra7: I usually like Russell as he has rather strong screen presence, and even though he might be best in a certain kind of role, I don't think he really falters when he goes a little further outside his comfort zone.


I could probably use a re-watch since I have not seen it since I saw it in the theater.

Cera - 2.5(Cera coast on just being George Michael Bluth in anything really, which isn't good enough. He could be worse here, but he's not really a particularly endearing hero, although I think gets well enough along so he does not hurt the film too much)

Winstead - 2.5(This film stands like True Romance where thankfully there are all the supporting players to make up for the somewhat underwhelming leads. Winstead, like Cera, I do think could be worse, but I don't think she makes Romana Flowers anything special)

Pill - 3.5(She's one note of constant passive aggression, and does it rather well)

Wong - 4(She pretty much has the character arc since Cera's style of performance leaves Scott perhaps more of a constant than he should be. She's enjoyable naive in her early scenes, then proceeds to be rather funny when doing the psychotic stalker routine, then rounds it off rather nicely in the end to give her character a rushed, but somehow earned, maturation in the end)

Schwartzman - 3.5(Something is already funny about Jason Schwatzman being an arc villain, and really his performance just plays it with that idea in mind. He technically does not do anything out of the ordinary but is enjoyable by playing it rather straight)

Evans - 3.5(A nice one scene wonder as he does the over the top action hero voice and mannerisms in a very funny fashion)

Culkin - 3.5(His performance really picks up much of the slack of Cera's performance. Culkin is rather entertaining in his performance as he nicely avoids going too big, but gives his part just enough flamboyancy along with a bit of deadpan thrown in some of his talks with Scott)

Routh - 3.5(Perhaps he'd be better off as a Superman villain since he's pretty hilarious at doing an especially intense pompousness)


Hiller - 4.5(I greatly preferred her take than Hepburn's musical rendition. Hiller's version of the improper Eliza does feel a whole lot more authentic than Hepburn's possible could, while still being quite charming herself. Hiller though also is more than capable in portraying the proper Eliza as well and successfully makes both sides of the character convincing)

Kerr - 4(Colonel Blimp is a film I do feel that I should give another watch since it does seem like I was missing something. I liked Kerr's performance though as I thought she was appropriately charming with each iteration and made enough subtle differences to show that she was playing different although similar characters)

John Smith:

I'll certainly consider it.


I don't think you're alone in regards to Death Proof.....I did not care for it myself.

Watch the If We Picked The their choices for Best Actor......not good.

RatedRStar said...

Jack Nicholson and Jon Voight, bahhh =D lol, ah well if we did the we pick the winners we would have both picked......William Hurt =D, although I would have said that I also liked Harrison Ford as well.

RatedRStar said...

In fact I think everyone on this blog would have chosen William Hurt (I hope people see Kiss Of The Spider Woman it is wonderful)

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I haven't seen the film for quite awhile, but Hurt is a runaway winner for me, although I preferred Julia, ever so slightly.

RatedRStar said...

On paper it might seem a bit of a surprise that a typical thriller like Witness won 2 oscars, but I think I know why, the whole amish thing probably caught the academys eye, and the editing award went to Witness for one reason, Danny Glovers death scene (which was actually pretty well done) I also think that William Hurt was a surprise winner judging by his reaction and the audience reaction as well.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@RatedRStar: That was one awful year for the Oscars. Ford was very good actually and I'd give him a solid 4, but after that Garner was very average, and Nicholson and Voight were downright awful. I'm not sure who's the more unquestionable win in Academy history, Hurt or Anthony Hopkins (I'd say Marlon Brando for On The Waterfront too, but I would not have minded at all if either Crosby or Mason had won)

By the way, have just seen Vertigo and I think it's cemented Jimmy Stewart as my all time favourite actor, Louis thank you for guiding me towards this fantastic man :D Great film to watch on Valentine's

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I've heard some VERY interesting takes on Eric Roberts that year.

RatedRStar said...

@Koook160: Like what exactly lol?

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: Well at least they choose the right supporting actor....although that year it's a no brainer. I was also hoping they'd have chosen Hurt to hear them talk about Kiss of Spider Woman (which apparently they both liked) since that review has yet to be found. Although it seems like Kiss is perhaps one of those films like Barton Fink where they heavily praised the film when reviewing but neither put it in their top tens for whatever reason.

Although it shows you do have to give it to the academy sometimes since they, thankfully, went with Hurt over Voight and Nicholson who won the Globes.

RatedRStar said...

1985 might be the only year where Siskel and Ebert got it completely wrong, since most of the other "We Pick The Winners" they tended to each pick at least one great performance out of each lineup (Jeremy Irons, Joe Pesci, F Murray Abraham, Bob Hoskins etc)

RatedRStar said...

I should say that Klaus and Angelica Huston were the best of their categories but I think they got the rest of the categories wrong.

Louis Morgan said...

Ebert choosing Huston over Kurosawa was particularly painful I have to say.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Louis, are there any nominated 1.5 performances like Sean Penn in I Am Sam or Tony Franciosa in Hatful of rain that you plan on moving down to a 1?

Louis Morgan said...

Penn (who I just noticed is way too high, although that's part the reasons I was seriously thinking about getting rid of the long list)
and of course Dix.

I mean I find Pitt and Costner extremely bland, but they're not actively bad like the three above.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I think Costner may not have liked his own performance either, considering he laughed when he watched his Oscar clip.