Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1956: Elisha Cook, Jr. in The Killing

Elisha Cook, Jr. did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying George Peatty in The Killing.

Elisha Cook, Jr. can be noted as perhaps the grandfather of the loser henchmen, where it's not a question of whether or not they will die but rather when they will die, paving way for the likes of similarly "pathetic" actors like Steve Buscemi, David Patrick Kelly, and currently Paul Dano. Cook just could never get a break whether he was playing the communist everyone makes fun of in The Pigskin Parade, the gunsel everyone makes fun of in The Maltese Falcon, or here where he plays one of the men in a plot to get a "Killing" in a race track robbery. Things don't exactly look great for Cook as George is one of the inside men on the job, as he is one of the window tellers at the track. Well he's not so pathetic this time in his job, or at first, even in his interactions with the other men working on the scheme of the heist, rather this comes out most strongly when we get George's personal story through the scenes that he shares with his wife Sherry (Marie Windsor).

Sherry of course is nothing but a greedy, shallow, adulteress who obviously has nothing but disdain for her husband. Cook is very good in their scenes together as he shows just how much he is controlled by his wife. Cook almost never seems to break his stare off of her as though George is looking for a single moment of adoration from her, something he never really does see. The way he leans and watches her, even the always sorta tender a way he speaks to her, Cook exudes such a striking desperation in George as he is obviously held in her sway simple because he desires his love returned so badly. The worst part for George though is that he cannot even talk big in the right way as he tries to get her respect by promising that he'll be rich soon. Cook's delivery though shows such a weakness in this statement and basically shows that George basically encourages Sherry to start prodding him for information. His attempts to backtrack or avoid the question though also shown by Cook to be such a difficult thing for him to do that him giving away the plot is inevitable.

With the guys Cook is good at playing George at trying to be like one of them, although with a noticeable discomfort. This only grows when the guys catch Sherry listening in and Cook naturally breaks down. There's a reason Cook played so many pathetic characters because he was great at it. He reduces down to that quick talking nervousness with such ease, and makes George so perfectly meek. After narrowly avoiding punishment from the other guys George even considers backing out as Cook portrays George's fear only growing. The only thing that brings him back is Sherry offering a bit of false adoration towards him, and Cook so naturally brings George right back under her sway once again. Cook though is not wholly one note and does well to have a subtle undercurrent of anger in George. He gives the sense that George is aware of the true nature of his wife, but his more base desires keeps him from really doing anything about. This comes into play when after the heist, Sherry's own plan goes into plan where she uses her lover to ripoff the guys. Cook makes George's finally snapping particularly convincing and rather powerful that results in a bloodbath leaving George as the sole survivor. Cook's best scene is perhaps when the wounded George stumbles home to Sherry who ineffectually attempts to hide her treachery. Cook is rather moving in this single scene as he plays it as George looking one more time to his wife for affection. He is denied once again so he shoots her and Cook is wonderfully woeful, in a good one of course, once more as he still expresses George's subservience though this time not enough for him not to take his revenge. Cook's work here is of course right in his type, but that's just fine, because he was good at being that type.

20 comments:

luke higham said...

1. Wallach
2. Brynner
3. Robinson
4. Bond
5. Cook Jr

GM said...

1. Brynner
2. Wallach
3. Robinson
4. Bond
5. Cook, jr.

John Smith said...

Louis, Toughts and rating on Chris Cooper in American Beauty

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Has anyone else here seen Transamerica, it is outrageous how Felicity Huffman lost to Reese Witherspoon

RatedRStar said...

@Donald: I think Reese Witherspoon is like a cancer of the movie world lol.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: GEORGE CLOONEY!, SEAN PENN AND ADAM SANDLER!

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: JAMIE FOXX AND JOHNNY DEPP.

Anonymous said...

Come on Sean Penn is not a terrible actor... He was great in Dead Man Walking and The Thin Red Line after all... George Clooney is not that bad either, he has given some good performances as well (The Ides of March, The American...) and Johnny Depp was good in Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands, even if I don't like him very much otherwise... And, well, Reese Witherspoon shouldn't have won against Felicity Huffman, but she still was fine in Walk the Line and Wild too, and she was actually very good in Election.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I meant on a consistent basis, where the majority of their performances have been either pretty bland, emotionally manipulative, convictionless or Weird in a bad way. Penn was great in Dead Man Walkng and The Thin Red Line but has been average or worse in films such as I Am Sam and Milk, Clooney has The American & O Country but all 4 of his nominated performances are underwhelming, Sandler has Punch Drunk Love but has been utter trash elsewhere, Depp has Scissorhands and Ed Wood but has been on a downward trajectory for me since Sweeney Todd and Foxx, Not once have I seen a good performance from him.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: These actors apart from Foxx can prove to be great every once and a while, but for me, just not enough to truly appreciate them.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

The only actor in the business right now I find to be completely terrible is Ansel Elgort.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: He's complete garbage too, but only saw him in The Fault Of Our Stars, So I haven't yet felt that he's being shoved down my throat.

Anonymous said...

@luke: I hated Elgort in TFIOS, and the movie as well, but what did you think of Woodley? I agree with kook160 that she elevated the movie and she was great.

luke higham said...

Louis: For 1960 Lead in the bonus rounds, I'd recommend reviewing Richard Attenborough in The Angry Silence.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Hated the film, but Woodley was good for the majority of it, She'd be a 3.5, leaning towards a 4.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what's your rating and thoughts on Lee Byung-hun in I Saw the Devil?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Anonymous: Actually I thought Dern was even better than Woodley and easily the highlight.

Deiner said...

Great review.
Hey Louis, what are your thoughts and ratings of Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights, Mia Farrow in The Purple Rose of Cairo, Cathy Tyson in Mona Lisa and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat?

Louis Morgan said...

John Smith:

Cooper - 3.5(A terribly written role really as that whole person who hates something but be that something is a bit conveniently written, because after all we all know all racists are racists because they are secretly that race. Anyway. Cooper though does do his best to make something out of it. He attempts to a least to a little bit of emotional substance around his character's rants, and it is easy to see how someone else could have just gone completely one note. There is at least some subtly to it, I still don't think the character's revelation truly works, but Cooper certainly tries his best)

Luke:

I'll be honest Luke it is hard to keep away from any Attenborough performance especially a particularly acclaimed one.

Matt:

Lee Byung-hun - 4(He is overshadowed by Choi Min-sik's performance, but then again it's hard not to be especially since he has the far less flamboyant role. He does fairly well to stand against him though still effectively conveys his own character's decent into darkness in a natural way. Often that idea feels forced but the writi

Louis Morgan said...

Deiner:

Oberon - 4(I could not help but feel that Olivier was better at the looks at longing loved. Olivier has more of an advantage though because Heathcliff has more of an arc than Cathy in terms of character. Cathy kinda stays with the somewhat cold exterior while harboring the deeper desires with different variations of that. Oberon does well enough in expressing these sides to the character though, and I still like her performance)

Farrow - 4.5(So many of Farrow's roles in Allen films are essentially designed to be the less interesting reactionary characters to more flamboyant ones. This case is no different, but I feel she has a greater purpose within that in this case. Farrow does a nice representation of the adoring fan who finds so much in watching her favorite. She does the glow of the light face particularly well in expressing the true happiness. In addition though she does well to portray the fantasy of her scenes with Tom against the more down to earth moments with Danny Aiello's character. It's lovely work.)

Tyson - 4.5(She does an excellent job of projecting that high class escort while still reflecting the intense pain of having been a street hooker in the past. She presents the dueling personalities well in addition to having a coldness about her yet having a warmth there as well. She's really has great chemistry with Hoskins as you certainly believe their fights, but just as well believe the more tender moments as well)

Turner - 4(She's certainly as alluring as a woman can be in more ways than one so its quite convincing how easily she could control Ned Racine. However I don't think her performance really hits the heights of Barbara Stanwyck's performance. I don't feel she brings quite as much of an edge as Stanwyck managed. Turner's good, but she just never feels quite as devious as the truly great femme fatales.)