Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1990: Gary Oldman in State of Grace

Gary Oldman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jackie Flannery in State of Grace.

State of Grace is an effective though flawed film, since it never seems to be quite sure what type of film it wants to be, about a young man Terry (Sean Penn) returning to his old neighborhood to be part of the local mobster scene, although his motivations are not quite what they appear to be.

Well from one mobster to another. This time an Irish American mobster played by Gary Oldman, who really is the movie. Always the chameleon Gary Oldman once again proves these skills once again with his accent and manner he brings to Jackie. Oldman fits right in with the actually American actors, but in addition to that some how he actually seems more authentic in creating a criminal from Hell's Kitchen than some of the other actors do. Oldman just is absolutely alive here in his performance from the first scene where Penn's Terry goes to reconnect with Jackie at a bar. Oldman is brilliant in creating this sort of mobster as he brings such a constant energy portraying the lively manner in which Jackie handles his life. Oldman portrays him effectively as a technically a single minded sort of man who views his life, which involves plenty of criminal activity, simply as the way he lives. Oldman brings such a compelling manic quality that expresses so well the way in which Jackie lives his life which is essentially take actions first and never really even bother to think about it.

The tone Oldman strikes up for the character really is quite remarkable. On one side Oldman does makes Jackie perhaps somewhat psychopathic as he really does not bat his eye at violence performed by himself or anyone else. Oldman in addition very much carries that propensity for violence as he carries always an intensity within himself. There is always a bit of spark in Oldman's performance and he makes it a constant that Jackie is a bit of a wild card even within his brother (Ed Harris)'s criminal organization. This is not a villainous performance though by any means, although this somewhat plays into the film's lack of defining what exactly it's going for Oldman in no way falters with his performance. Oldman happens in really the same situations to make Jackie a surprisingly likable character. Part of the reason for this perhaps is that Oldman plays Jackie as perhaps the most honest character in the film, in that he technically has no secrets. An early twist in the film is a reveal that Penn's Terry is an undercover cop, which is one weaker aspects of the film. A conflict does come from this really because how well Oldman realizes Jackie as a character.

One element of the character that may not have worked in lesser hands is that Jackie is seen through a slightly heroic lens, even though he's a guy who plays around with severed hands and does not hesitate to brutally murder people. Oldman though creates this pivotal facet of the character brilliantly though. In the scenes where Jackie talks about the importance of the neighborhood staying the way it is there is this strong passion that Oldman brings and it only ever feels like a genuine desire. What is so unique about it is that Oldman manages to not make this a selfish desire in the man as there is such an oddly honorable quality that Oldman brings to it when Jackie speaks about seeing the way the neighborhood is being changed by developments and the Italian mob. Oldman only adds to this in the scenes where Jackie reacts to a murder of his friend. Oldman is very moving as he portrays the real loss in Jackie and that he no way will forget what happened to his friend. In a later scene when Jackie decides to brutally dispense his justice on some Italian mobsters, Oldman brings forward a palatable anger, making the killings not for himself, rather for the death of his friend.

This is an outstanding performance by Gary Oldman as he consistently covers for weaknesses within the film. One being Terry's dilemma about being an undercover cop which would meaningless if it were not for how sympathetic Oldman manages to make Jackie despite the character's many personal shortcomings. The amazing thing though is Oldman is the one who ramps up the tension of the film especially in one sequence where a hit is dependent on a phone call. Oldman portrayal of Jackie's refusal to stay idle ratchets up the pressure of the moment incredibly well, once again making up for the film that easily could have faltered without him. Now the only problem here is that Jackie is the supporting character and the film weakens whenever he is off screen. This is particularly problematic in the very last act of the film where it really runs out of steam because Oldman has made his exit. Of course neither of those in any relate to a problem with his performance, instead they just show how good his work in this film is. This is simply one of those great supporting performances that makes the film to the point that you really wish it had simply been about that character.


GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Amazing performance. Thoughts and ratings for the rest of the cast?

luke higham said...

Surprised but extremely happy.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Ratings on Robert Duvall in The Conversation and Secondhand Lions.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Also, holy shit, it's Oldman's 6th 5 :D

What are everyone's top 10 Gary Oldman performances

1. Leon the Professional (#5 on my all-time supporting list)
2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
3. Immortal Beloved
4. The Firm (a television film, but oh why not)
5. State of Grace
6. Sid and Nancy
7. Prick Up Your Ears
8. JFK
9. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
10. True Romance

The top 8 are all 5's, and 9 and 10 are very strong 4.5's. I should note that I think he's good in The Dark Knight and a solid 4.5 in my books, just not up to the level of his top 10, which doesn't mean much as his top 10 for me is so unbelievably strong.

I would also give him 4.5's for Romeo is Bleeding, Dracula and The Fifth Element, and a 4 for Air Force One. In anything else I've seen him in he's always been in the range of 3-4, with the exception of Child 44 recently where he was severely underused.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

ALso, I'll be seeing Far From the Madding Crowd tomorrow, very excited haha, will give thoughts/ratings on the cast in due course

luke higham said...

GDSAO: It's Oldman's 7th 5.

Louis's 5s
Sid And Nancy
State Of Grace
Leon: The Professional
Immortal Beloved
The Dark Knight
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

luke higham said...

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
2. Immortal Beloved
3. The Firm
4. Leon: The Professional
5. Sid And Nancy
6. State Of Grace
7. JFK
8. The Dark Knight
9. Prick Up Your Ears
10. Bram Stoker's Dracula

The First 8 are 5s and 9th and 10th are 4.5s

luke higham said...

GDSAO & RatedRStar: With your personal opinions aside, by the end of the alternates, which ten actors will have the most 5s.

Toshiro Mifune - 11 (Sanjuro)
Laurence Olivier - 8
James Mason - 8 (North By Northwest and Lolita)
Gene Hackman - 7
Jack Nicholson - 7
Gary Oldman - 7
James Stewart - 6 (The Shop Around The Corner or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance)
Alec Guinness - 5
Robert De Niro - 5
Richard Attenborough - 4
Other Actors with 4 5s include Steiger, Shaw, Walken, Scott, Connery (Last Crusade), Courtenay (Long Distance Runner), Nakadai (Sanjuro), Rockwell (Jesse James) and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Alternates should finish by year's end.

John Smith said...

Toughst and ratings on Reese Witherspoon and Dern in Wild

luke higham said...

GDSAO & RatedRStar: And Sissy Spacek as well with 4 (Carrie).

John Smith said...

And ratings and toughts on Penn in State Of Grace

luke higham said...

John Smith:

Witherspoon - 3.5(Nevertheless I found Witherspoon's performance to be solid enough. Again I never became caught up with her character, but I still felt her performance was believable. I thought she did a decent enough job of portraying the physical degradation along with the mental inspiration even if I was not floored by it. I liked her here though and I did not see any of the awkwardness I sometimes find in her performances)

Dern - 3.5(Well I thought she was more authentic in her motherly love than the other Oscar nominated mother even though her work is perhaps one of the most disjointed, in terms of editing, out of any performance ever nominated for an Oscar. She barely even has a single scene that faded over in some way, but I thought Dern still did about everything she could with what she had)

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: Well I dont know lol you are the statistics man =D, Mifune will win though, no doubt about it.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Thanks for the compliment.

RatedRStar said...

=D hehe ur welcome.

Anonymous said...

Louis might give some more 5s to Simone Signoret and Liv Ullmann once he sees Madame Rosa, Therese Raquin, Shame, Autumn Sonata, Face to Face and some others. Anyway, what are everybody's ratings and thoughts on the cast of Nine? I just watched it today. Didn't like it very much, Cotillard was great though.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Before the alternates finish, Louis will probably see, only Face To Face, since it's 1976 and Louis hasn't covered it yet. He should be able to see the rest that you mentioned during the bonus rounds.

Cotillard (Best In The World) is the only good part of that film, which pains me to say that, since I'm a huge fan of Daniel Day-Lewis.

Louis Morgan said...


Penn - 3.5(It's a solid turn from Penn since there are only a few moments where he decides to default to a bit of his trademark spam. Most of the time he stays rather reserved, which is good for Penn, and is effective in portraying the character's personal struggles involving his job as well as his relationships with Oldman and Wright. I think he does suffer from under written material which leaves him in an awkward place at times, but it is a decent enough performance on the whole)

Wright - 2.5(I think she fell a little too quickly to screaming at the top of her lungs when she was not just going for quietly charming. I mean it makes sense for her character to be upset, but Wright kinda just has two setting for the character)

Viterelli - 3(He does the standard Italian mob boss routine rather well)

Harris - 3.5(It would probably be a four if the film did not let down his character in the last act where it just wants him to be a simple villain, and removes any scenes of conflict. Harris before that point is very good in portraying an attempt a menace as he plays the part well as a guy trying, and failing to be the crime boss he sees himself as. In addition he's quite effective in portraying a subtle struggle in the character involving the scenes with Oldman as his brother. It's shame the writing forces him just to abruptly drop that idea though)

Turturro - 2.5(He's fine though but as liaisons to undercover cops, I've certainly seen better)


The Conversation - 3.5(It's a short performance but a very interesting one. On the initial watch it seems like he's a cold businessman. On re-watch though you notice just how emotional he is after hearing the tapes. Not anger, but rather he's heartbroken as Duvall cleverly creates a tragic portrait of this guy that you don't even notice the first time around because you think he's going to be the one to do something nasty)

Seconhand Lions - 3.5(This is very much in his later style of of the cranky but lovable old timer. The important thing is Duvall still does not phone it in. It might not be his best or most original performance, but it is still a good one)