Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1990: James Caan in Misery

James Caan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Paul Sheldon in Misery.

Misery is an effective thriller about a famous author who is saved by his number one fan after getting into a car accident during a blizzard.

Most of the praise given to Misery stems from Kathy Bates's Oscar winning performance as nurse/deranged fan Annie Wilkes. Now there is a reason for that as Bates's Oscar win is one of the most deserving period, but this unfortunately leaves the leading man of the film routinely forgotten in discussions regarding the film. It's funny to note is that Caan actually does something that usually is noted, which is playing against type. The problem is though it happens to be in the way that's never given any credit. Caan is best known for playing a man's man who are usually commanding characters. That's not the case here as Paul Sheldon is a fairly unassuming writer, and in addition to that he spends the majority of the film bed ridden. We are introduced to Sheldon as he plans to finish his new book that is not part of his extremely popular Misery series of books. Sheldon's main point early on is that he wants to write something more meaningful for him and away from the books he's become tired of writing. Having Caan in the role instantly strips away the hint of pretension in this motivation as he makes Sheldon just a likable down to earth guy in the film's brief introduction.

Sheldon's car accident leaves him in the company of Annie Wilkes as the film becomes a two character piece, outside of the welcome cutaways to the investigation thanks to the fact that Richard Farnsworth plays the local sheriff. Caan has two particularly major challenges to deal with the first being that he is physically very restricted by the character's predicament, and also has to deal with the flamboyancy innate to Annie Wilkes, which is played to utter perfection by Bates. Well firstly although Caan is either in a bed or in a wheel chair for most of the film there's nothing underwhelming about his physical depiction of Paul. In fact Caan perhaps gives one of the very best portrayals of a straight forward physical anguish. Caan does not leave it to simply all the slings and made up bruises to sell Sheldon's injuries from the accident. Caan expresses every inch of that pain in his portrayal as he shows it to be almost overwhelming in the earliest scenes of the film. This particularly important as Caan properly depicts the very slow and gradual recovery of Paul over the weeks. There never is a misstep in Caan's performance he keeps the condition that Paul is in a constant.

The role of Paul Sheldon was repeatedly turned down before it was finally accepted, and it is easy to see why as Sheldon is most often a reactionary role with the big emotional moments given to Annie. Those actors perhaps correctly predicted that the actress playing Annie was likely to be the one to receive the plaudits. Caan though apparently took on the role due to the nature of the part which was very much opposed to his usual characters who often did not hesitate to speak their minds. Caan's performance is brilliant in that he creates much of the terror through the way Paul interacts with Annie. Caan's good in the earliest scenes with her as he shows Paul to be appropriately thankful towards her for saving his life, but he also does well in the role as he kinda puts on the gracious author to the fan routine. It is not that he's being overly cruel to her or anything but Caan's great at showing kinda the autopilot manner as he accepts her rabid praise as she declares her love for everything related to Misery. Caan does well though to bring honesty to thanking her as well as in the moments where Paul wonders how his daughter is coping with his disappearance.

Of course not everything stays peachy and that's when Caan really starts to facilitate Bates's performance with his own. Caan always stays at his core a realistic depiction of a man in the situation that Paul finds him in which is essential to play against the crazy horror that is Annie Wilkes. Caan is terrific in the first instance where Annie shows her dark side as she gives her thoughts on his new book, which she does not care for largely it seems due to the swearing in the book. Caan at first keeps that same gracious artist routine until she becomes more intense with her complaints and Caan's reaction is absolute perfection as he realizes the unease in Paul as he starts to see the side of her that's not so cheery. In this way Caan becomes one of the very best straight men ever. There is a very strong vein of dark humor in the film and Caan brings a great deal of this out with his performance. When Bates goes on a mad tirade about something that would seem incidental to anyone who's not her, Caan brings out both horror and the humor through his nervous reactions of complete disbelief that only grow stronger the more obvious it becomes just how bent Annie is.

Caan does not waste really an inch of himself through his down to earth performance that so well amplifies Bates's. One scene in particular I think expresses this best which is the infamous hobbling scene, where Annie gruesomely ensures that Paul stays disabled. The spine tingling nature of the scene would not be found if it weren't for Caan. His squirming in an overpowering fear as he sees what she's doing, along with his meekly asking her to please stop builds up the moments to an almost excruciating point. Then as he writhes in pain of the moment of the act, Caan brings it all home as he delivers in showing just how horrible the act is. Caan is so on point here it is incredible in the way he jumps around the part with such ease. Whether its portraying the points of the torture or the way Paul tries to handle Annie. Caan's performance is pivotal once again in the scenes where he convinces Annie to do something as he believably puts on a false charm when he tries to play into Annie's fan girl tendencies. Caan though is flawless in the way he jumps to genuine fear, if the plan goes wrong, or to such earned exasperation when she turns around or simply he's just had too much of her insanity. Also even though some of the most emotional scenes are given to Bates, that's not to say Caan has none. In fact Caan is very moving in the scene where Annie forces him to burn his new book as he expresses just how much losing the new work means to him as he is made to destroy it. Caan absolutely convincing in this meeker role, he does not allow himself to be overshadowed by Bates instead he fulfills the need of grounding her work. He realizes every step of Paul's terrifying predicament with his fantastic work. I have to say I love this performance which deserves to be praised right along with Bates's.

41 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm SO glad you love him. Such an underappreciated performance.

Michael McCarthy said...

I had a feeling I should've placed him higher...he'd be my close second place behind Depp, I won't mind one bit if he takes the year.

GM said...

Easy 5 for me too.

luke higham said...

Louis: Rating & Thoughts on Farnsworth.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

What are your top 10 performances in a Stephen King movie adaptation Louis?

John Smith said...

I know you did not ask but i would like to give mine:

1. Sissy Spacek/Carrie
2. James Whitmore/Shawshank Redemption
3. James Caan/Misery
4. Kathy Bates/Misery
5.The cast of Stand By Me
6. Tim Robbins/Shawshank
7. Morgan Freeman/The Green Mile
8. Duncan/The Green Mile
9. Tom Hanks/The Green Mile
10.Farnsworth/Misery

Anonymous said...

Louis you HAVE to see Carrie. Sissy Spacek is fantastic, she was both scary and heartbreaking... Piper Laurie was also terrific.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

You also have to see the Carrie remake, with pre-Faults Ansel Elgort. Or Hansel Gretelgort, if you prefer.

GM said...

1. Bates - Misery
2. Laurie - Carrie
3. Spacek - Carrie
4. Caan - Misery
5. Bates - Dolores Claiborne
6. Whitmore - Shawsank
7. Robbins - Shawsank
8. Freeman - Shawsank
9. Duvall - The Shining
10. Duncan - Green Mile

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

1. Kathy Bates (Misery)
2. Christopher Walken (The Dead Zone)
3. Sissy Spacek (Carrie)
4. Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile)
5. Kathy Bates (Dolores Claireborne)
6. Piper Laurie (Carrie)
7. Ian McKellen (Apt Pupil)
8. James Caan (Misery)
9. Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption)
10. Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption)

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I'll save Farnsworth for the moment at least.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar:

1. Kathy Bates - Misery
2. Christopher Walken - The Dead Zone
3. James Caan - Misery
4. James Whitmore - The Shawshank Redemption
5. Kathy Bates - Dolores Claiborne
6. Richard Dawson - The Running Man
7. Tim Robbins - The Shawshank Redemption
8. Judy Parfitt - Dolores Claiborne
9. Ian McKellen - Apt Pupil
10. Morgan Freeman - The Shawshank Redemption

luke higham said...

Louis & GDSAO: Do you plan on seeing Avengers: Age Of Ultron anytime soon, since I'll be seeing it later this evening.

Louis: Have you seen any films at all for 2015.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

No to the second question. I plan on seeing Avengers but it does not come out until May 1st around these parts.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Luke: I'll be seeing it soon. Do tell us how you find it, I have heard some very interesting things about not only the new characters but also Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Will Do.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I also must add I do quite love Tim Curry's performance in 'It'

mark said...

Will you be reviewing Farsworth for this,love his banter with his wife.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

This will turn out to be a pretty great year I hope, Rooker and Caan with 5's already, Liotta is definitely getting a 5 (considering how much Louis loves Goodfellas), Depp I hope will get a 5 although unlikely, and Cheung is perfectly solid.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Just a bit bored again; any more retroactive castings?

Misery (1950s)
Paul: Joseph Cotten
Annie: Shelley Winters
Buster: Walter Brennan

The Shawshank Redemption (1960s)
Andy: Peter Falk
Red: Robert Shaw
Norton: Rod Steiger
Brooks: Claude Rains

The Green Mile (1940s)
Paul Edgecomb: James Stewart
John Coffey: Paul Robeson
Percy Wetmore: Richard Attenborough
Brutus: Ward Bond
Wild Bill: Lew Ayres
Del: Peter Lorre



Louis Morgan said...

Fargo (1940's):

Marge: Myrna Loy
Jerry: James Stewart
Carl: Elisha Cook, Jr.
Grimsrud: Sterling Hayden
Wade: Louis Calhern

Reservoir Dogs (1960's):

White: Lee Marvin
Orange: Steve McQueen
Pink: Peter Falk
Blonde: Alan Arkin
Eddie: George Segal
Joe: John Huston
Blue: Lee Van Cleef

Michael McCarthy said...

Barton Fink (1940's)

Barton Fink: Joel McCrea
Charlie Meadows: Laird Cregar
Audrey Taylor: Joan Crawford
W.P. Mayhew: Louis Calhern
Jack Lipnick: Oliver Hardy
Ben Geisler: Stan Laurel

luke higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
luke higham said...

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Thoughts:
It was a good enough sequel, yet I felt a bit disappointed by its treatment of Ultron as a character (Much quirkier than I expected), though nowhere near as bad as the Mandarin from Iron Man 3 in my opinion and doesn't affect Spader's work in the slightest. It's greatest strength is it's character moments, yet the plot felt less cohesive than the original film and the buildup to some of the more anticipated moments such as the Hulkbuster fight felt rushed.

Ratings:
Downey Jr. - 3.5
Evans - 3.5
Ruffalo - 3.5
Hemsworth - 3.5
Renner - 3.5 (Had a more expanded role this time and delivers well on it)
Johansson - 3
Olsen - 3 (Leaning towards a 3.5)
Johnson - 2 (He was OK, I guess, but completely pales in comparison to Peters performance in X-Men: DOFP)
Spader - 4 (Excellent voice work)
Bettany - 3.5 (The most interesting of the newer batch of Avengers)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Luke: Would you say Captain America is underutilised, as I haven't heard much about him from the reviews. It's good to see that apparently, Renner has an expanded role as he#s arguably the best actor out of all the Avengers.

What were your ratings for the first Avengers, Luke, as well as your top 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe performances, myself:

Downey Jr. - 3.5
Evans - 4 (I've always been a bit biased as I love the Cap)
Ruffalo - 3.5
Hemsworth - 3
Johansson - 2.5
Renner - 2
Hiddleston - 4
Jackson - 3.5

1. Chris Evans in Winter Soldier (4.5)
2. Tom Hiddleston in Thor (4.5)
3. Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man (4.5)
4. Tom Hiddleston in Thor 2 (4)
5. Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy (4)
6. David Batuista in Guardians of the Galaxy
7. Chris Evans in Captain America (4)
8. Tom Hiddleston in The Avengers (4)
9. Chris Evans in The Avengers (4)
10. Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3 (3.5)

luke higham said...

I would also like to add that some of the comedy felt forced (E.G. Black Widow 'Beep Beep') and on occasion, the film felt like an advertisement for the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War, for which, I have a much higher anticipation than I had for this film.

Lastly, when it comes to Marvel superhero teams, I much prefer the X-Men and the Guardians Of The Galaxy.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWsbqshD5TE&feature=youtu.be

Black Mass trailer, Depp looks surprisingly good here although I won't get my hopes up too high. I think, if this trailer does indeed bode well, next years Best Actor lineup could very well be:

Leonardo Dicaprio (The Revenant)
Johnny Depp (Black Mass)
Tom Courtenay (45 Years, I have a friend who saw it in Berlin and he said, if all goes well with distribution we could very well be looking at a worthy career nomination for ol' Tom)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl, a very interesting story and I hope they pull it off)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

On separate notes, Don Cheadle (for Miles Ahead as Miles Davis), Bryan Cranston in 'Trumbo', Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Demolition', and Matt McConaughey for 'The Sea of Trees' all seem like strong contenders too.



luke higham said...

GDSAO: In regards to Evans, I'd have to say no, yet there isn't a great deal of character development with the exception of Hawkeye.

Honestly, my favourite out of the Avengers is Captain America and I would not have said that after his first individual film.

I forgot about Andy Serkis who has a very good cameo and I'd give him a 3.

First Avengers Ratings
Downey Jr. - 3.5
Evans - 3.5
Ruffalo - 3.5 (leaning towards a 4)
Hemsworth - 3
Johansson - 2
Renner - 2
Hiddleston - 4
Jackson - 3

Top Ten MCU Performances
1. Downey Jr. in Iron Man (4.5)
2. Evans in Winter Soldier (4/4.5)
3. Hiddleston in Thor (4/4.5)
4. Hiddleston in Thor 2 (4)
5. Bautista in GOTG (4)
6. Spader in Avengers 2 (4)
7. Pratt in GOTG (4)
8. Hiddleston in The Avengers (4)
9. Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3 (4)
10. Ruffalo in The Avengers (3.5)

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Anything but a career best performance for Depp is going to be a disappointment for me, having said that, I'm definitely intrigued.

Offical Lineup
Leonardo Dicaprio (The Revenant)
Johnny Depp (Black Mass)
Tom Courtenay (45 Years)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl, I predict that he will deliver a more deserving performance, that's if he wins back to back)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Alt. Picks - Tom Hanks in Bridge Of Spies
Tom Hiddleston in I Saw The Light
Ethan Hawke in Regression
Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw

Alternate Lineup (If we have another incredibly strong year, then my ten picks are)
Michael Fassbender in Macbeth
Matthew McConaughey in Sea Of Trees
Michael Shannon in Midnight Special
Tom Hanks in Bridge Of Spies
Woody Harrelson in Triple Nine
Jake Gyllenhaal in Demolition
Tom Hardy in Legend/Mad Max: Fury Road
Bryan Cranston in Trumbo
Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I'm quite excited about Serkis actually. I have a feeling Black Panther could turn out to be a surprise gem in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Boseman is an awfully talented actor.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: I'm unsure about Silence's release date by the way.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

My thoughts on all your choices:
Leonardo Dicaprio (The Revenant)- he's all but guaranteed the nom and dare I say it the win, I hope he really nails he's really started to grow on me with his recent performances.
Johnny Depp (Black Mass)-if his whole performance evokes that eerily alluring vibe in that one scene we've just seen then by all means. The Academy seem to like Depp enough as they've nominated him thrice for very out of the norm performances.
Tom Courtenay (45 Years)-Courtenay has always been one of my top favourite actors. And he's well overdue for more recognition by today's generation.
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)-this could go either way, is all I can say, but I have faith.
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)-I'm not terribly excited about this film but who knows, I'm also not as big a fan of Fassbender as most folks on here seem to be but he's a very good actor, I think he'll do a good no.
Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies, I don't know, he's overdue for Captain Philips so if he's solid enough here, very likely.
Tom Hiddleston in I Saw The Light (looks interesting. I'm a big fan of Hiddleston so again, why not if he's worthy)
Ethan Hawke in Regression (I can't really muster much enthusiasm up for this film but Hawke is definitely on a roll now)
Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw (I'll reserve judgement for now but that trailer was IMO awful. Hope I am wrong)
Michael Fassbender in Macbeth (the performance I'm wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy more excited about, I love Shakespeare)
Matthew McConaughey in Sea Of Trees (Van Sant is popular enough with the Academy so we shall see)
Michael Shannon in Midnight Special (I look forward to this regardless of whether it'll be good or bad because Shannon is Fucking Awesome)
Woody Harrelson in Triple Nine (I have a feeling this will be an ensemble sorta film but who knows)
Jake Gyllenhaal in Demolition (I think he might be nominated for this instead)
Tom Hardy in Legend/Mad Max: Fury Road (TOM FUCKING HARDY yeah I hope he rocks in both roles)
Bryan Cranston in Trumbo (Cranston is good to great in everything he's ever done so this should be no exception)
Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes (this is interesting. I forgot about him but you know what, I think he may well be nominated, and even win. He's only been nominated twice before, snubbed multiple times, respected veteran actor, and if he wins he'll give an amazing speech)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

If Silence gets out in time I definitely would not count out Neeson and Garfield.

Louis Morgan said...

In regards to the Black Mass trailer the makeup was a little overdone but Depp looks promising actually. My biggest concern in regards to that film is Scott Cooper whose direction was the worst part of Out of the Furnace.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

In terms of Best Supporting Actor, I think Tom Hardy is very likely, Ken Watanabe for Sea of Trees, no idea about anyone else.

Best Actress I think Carey Mulligan will get in for either, Far From the Madding Crowd or Suffragette. Also Marion Cotillard in Macbeth.

I think we'll see Streep again in Best Supporting Actress (I can feel the wrath already) and maybe Chastain for Crimson Peak? Emma Watson?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I kind of agree about the makeup but I think it does seem to work effectively enough so far as we've seen, I mean Whitey Bulger was no ordinary looking chap haha

Yeah I actually would go so far as to say I disliked Into the Furnace, although I loved Bale's performance, and I've never cared for Crazy Hesrt.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

By the way Louis, last question, where would the following performances lie in your best actress rankings:

Kathy Bates in Misery
Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter
Joan Fontaine in Rebecca

luke higham said...

GDSAO: I too am far more excited about Fassbender in Macbeth than in Steve Jobs since the character's closer to home, plus he's taking on bloody Shakespeare for fuck's sake and Cotillard playing Lady Macbeth, is a match made in Heaven for me.

Fassbender and Hardy are my two favourite young actors right now and have great years ahead of them.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Depp looks promising, though biggest problem with the trailer is that the scene was a carbon copy of Pesci's "How am I funny" scene from Goodfellas.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: I think Waltz would be a candidate for Spectre, since Bardem came fairly close for Skyfall.
Other candidates include Seth Rogan in Steve Jobs, Michael Keaton in Spotlight and Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson & Bruce Dern in The Hateful Eight.

Fuck Streep, enough is enough.

I agree with Mulligan and Cotillard, plus, I would add Cate Blanchett in Carol, Jennifer Lawrence in Joy and Emily Blunt in Sicario.

For Supp. Actress, just Chastain for the moment in Crimson Peak.

Louis Morgan said...

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar:

Fontaine
Bates
Johnson

Love all three though.

Charles Heiston said...

Very shocked by this choice of 1990, Rooker and Irons were the best in my opinion, But i respect your view.