Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1990: Albert Finney in Miller's Crossing

Albert Finney did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Leo in Miller's Crossing.

Miller's Crossing on re-watch did improve for me. It's still far from my favorite Coen brother's film, and a major villain, the Dane, is a bit weak (which probably would not have been a problem if Peter Stormare, the original choice, had played the part), but on a whole it's pretty good gangster film.

Like many of the Coen brother's films the film takes a risk in having an overt style that spreads to all facets of the film including the acting. Now this did not work all to well for them a few years later in the Hudsucker Proxy where the best performance was given by Paul Newman simply because he did not try to play the part in the style of a 40's screwball comedy. Well here the take is that of a 30's gangster picture and perhaps this is most noticeable in the performance I'm focusing on here by Albert Finney as the crime boss of the town, yep focusing on yet another mobster which I believe is the theme for the supporting actors of 1990. This performance is quite a bit different from Gary Oldman in State of Grace and Robert De Niro in Goodfellas though because Finney chooses to play the part with this very specific style. Finney uses a particularly booming voice, really not at all unlike Ralph Foody's gangster voice from Angels with Filth Souls in Home Alone, that seems to come right from that old style of picture. In addition just the way he sits and leans on his desk in that opening scene seems to come right out from the past once more.

Now all of this could add up to nothing or become grating, as some of the acting can be with this sort of approach when done wrong. Finney though is just brilliant in the realization of this style. In terms of the simple points of it Finney amplifies the whole atmosphere of the film with his work which seems to fits so well into the setting that the Coen's have constructed. I suppose most importantly though Finney is incredibly entertaining and it is fun to watch him as Leo. It's enjoyable to simply watch him perform as the character. I especially love the whole "Danny Boy" shoot out where Finney aptly fulfills the job of a 1930's gangster badass. Every movement in the way Finney conducts himself is perfection in terms of creating Leo as the character he should be for this sort of story. Of course all of this this plays into the key of Finney's work here which is though this is a performance that's fun to watch but this is not a comic performance by Finney. Finney does plays the part with a lot of style but he does not go too far with the style. He does not let the style overwhelm to the point that is all there is, and Finney never uses the style to override the need to give depth to the character.

In this regards Finney is also terrific since he essentially leaves enough room to develop Leo beyond just his gangster style. Finney is interesting in that on the surface he brings the needed commanding presence to go along with his gangster style. Within in that though Finney is excellent in bringing a though strong vein of vulnerability to Leo. It is not anything that Finney plays on as overt that would completely compromise Leo's position. Instead Finney keeps it an understated yet so very effective compromise in Leo, that is needed to explain why Leo makes the decision that technically creates the conflict in the film. That decision being refusing to let the head of the rival mob Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) kill a despicable bookie Bernie (John Turturro) because Leo is in love with Bernie's sister Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). Of course really Leo is being manipulated by Verna completely, but Fineny gives a why to this as he expresses just how infatuated with her he really is. Finney's particularly fantastic in the scene where his right hand man Tom (Gabriel Byrne) reveals he's been having an affair with Verna. Although Leo beats down Tom with a tough guy manner Finney portrays a devastation in Leo, showing just how meaningful the relationship is to him even though it is not to her.

Finney is outstanding here as he finds just the right tone exactly in which to play Leo, and I'd say he matches the style the film seems to be going for better than anyone else in the supporting cast. It's an incredible display of giving a pronounced style to his character, while never seeming to merely become a caricature. Really one of my problems with the film is that Leo exits the film not even quite half way through before reappearing for one last final scene. This is not even necessarily much of a criticism at what is there instead of Leo, but rather it's shame there is not more of Finney's great performance. Now to Finney's credit he certainly keeps Leo alive in the proceedings thanks to the considerable impact he makes in the first third where the majority of his screen time takes place. It is not until the very last scene of the film that he returns, but thanks once again to his earlier work it is an especially welcome one as Finney always manages to make the victory a satisfying one as he makes Leo such an oddly endearing gangster. Finney does not lose anything by his somewhat limited screen time though as he maintains his presence throughout. He makes Leo one of the most memorable aspects of the film as Finney works so eloquently with the material here. This is a performance I just love to watch and is the very best that I've seen from Finney.


Psifonian said...

The old man's still an artist with a Thompson.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Ratings and thoughts on... you get it by now.

Matt Mustin said...

Can't disagree with any of this, except whereas you just like the film, I LOVE it.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

As do I. It's actually my second favorite Coens flick.

luke higham said...

Finally, Finney gets a 5.

Michael Patison said...

In the exact same boat as y'all, Matt and Robert.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Whoo hoo what a strong year so far!

What are everyone's top 5 performances of the 1960s Angry Young Men, Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Alan Bates

1. Tom Jones (5)
2. Miller's Crossing (5)
3. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (4.5)
4. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (4.5)
5. The Dresser (4.5)

1. Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (5)
2. The Dresser (5)
3. Dr. Zhivago (5)
4. Billy Liar (5)
5. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (5)

1. Far From the Madding Crowd (4.5)
2. A Kind of Loving (4.5)
3. The Fixer (4)
4. The Go-Between (4)
5. The Caretaker (4)

Also in response to your previous question Luke, I think Mifune will get the most 5's when this is all over.

Anonymous said...

Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

TOM HARDY, not to worry about Child 44, and not to get anyone's hopes up too high but this, looks, like...something Louis may like very, very much.

If anyone's to be the spiritual successor in some ways to Jeremy Irons, it'd be Mr Hardy.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Matt: Yeah, certainly, I meant as in a spiritual successor to Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers.

Modern-Day Equivalents:
Tom Hardy=Marlon Brando
Michael Fassbender=Peter O'Toole
Oscar Isaac=1970's Al Pacino
Ben Whishaw=1960's Tom Courtenay

luke higham said...

OMG! I can't wait to see his performance.

You're absolutely right on the money with your comparisons.

I have a feeling it's going to be Hardy's year again, with Fassbender a close second and Gyllenhaal third.

I personally would also compare Hardy to Gary Oldman and Louis's personal equivalent, Richard Harris.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Luke: I like those two equivalents too, especially Oldman since they both are masters of chameleon immersion into roles.

Hardy, had a minor misstep with Child 44 but he was solid in that too, I hope Mad Max is awesome, same for The Revenant. I'm not sure about Gyllenhaal but I'm incredibly excited for Fassbender in Macbeth, not really for the Steve Jobs biopic but I'm sure he'll be great there too.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Btw Far From the Madding Crowd was great, all performances with the exception of one were brilliant, and Thomas Vinterberg's directorial style is splendid (I really need to re-watch The Hunt).

luke higham said...

GDSAO: I know this is quite early and haven't seen trailers for Macbeth, Steve Jobs or The Revenant, but my predicted ratings for Fassbender and Hardy for 2015 are
Macbeth - 5
Steve Jobs - 4.5
Slow West - 4.5
He's also in The Light Between Oceans and Trespass against us, but there isn't much information about them, as of yet.

Legend - 5
The Revenant - 5
Mad Max: Fury Road - 4.5
Child 44 - 3.5

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Ratings & Thoughts on the cast of Far From The Madding Crowd.

You're so lucky, I'm pissed off right now, that my local cinema has only 4 screens, yet shows mainstream garbage (Blockbusters, Rom-Coms etc) most of the time, with the odd exception (Nightcrawler).

Louis Morgan said...


Byrne - 4.5(Byrne plays the part as essentially as the Bogart of the story, although he keeps the amount of style in his performance somewhat reduced which works considering he's the lead. In a Bogart sort of way though Byrne carries himself well as the tough guy, even though he take more than a few beatings, who is the clearest thinker out of anyone in the town. Byrne realizes this sort of character very smoothy, but what I think he does best is bring a certain depth to the part that is not given a great deal of time in terms of dialogue. That being Byrne portrays almost a completely silent moral dilemma in Tom and presents basically his journey into becoming a darker man. He does this incredibly well as there is an understated power in his performance in the scenes where he has to choose life or death for another man, and is very effective in creating this conflict in the character. What is so remarkable about it is how most of it seems up to Byrne as within the plot he internalizes the transition to the man without a heart he claims to be by the end.)

Harden - 4.5(She's very good in the role as she cleverly portrays the manipulative nature of her character. She portrays her well as aloof to a certain point as though she is above the men, yet there is an undercurrent of incisiveness as though she is always well aware of what she is doing)

Polito - 4.5(He does well with the Coen brothers and is enjoyable in his smaller roles in the later films he appeared in. Here he has a bigger part though and does not waste that fact. Like Finney, he's very good in portraying the two sides of the character. On one end he brings out the full bluster of a mob boss who plans to take over all, and won't be made a fool by anyone else. Polito, again like Finney, is especially good in creating the motivations of the character. Polito conveys that certain desire for respect that was so deeply wounded by his treatment by the man he wants dead, that Leo won't kill)

Turturro - 2.5(Really going over some of his work I'd say Turturro is at best a decent actor who was great in Barton Fink. In this I do think he's great in the scenes where Bernie's pleading for his life as he falls apart beautifully. He does not rectify that with the rest of his performance. It's obviously suppose to be an act his character plays, but my problem he's just not terribly convincing when he's the cold calculating Bernie)

Freeman - 2(He just gives a bland performance that never carries the menace that the character is obviously suppose to exude.)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...


Mulligan-5 (I do quite like Christie to an extent in the 1967 version but really Mulligan is, undoubtedly, the definitive choice for Bathsheba Everdeen. Whereas Christie focused perhaps a bit too much on just the flirtatious, seductive side of the character Mulligan has an outstanding sense of the character's resilience and determination to make her voice heard through actions. She merges this magnificently well with the slow brimming passion she brings in, in different forms, for the three men, and makes sense of the rather scattershot approach Bathsheba takes to live and love)

Schoenaerts - 5 (First off the physical creation of Gabriel Oak is amazing. From the quiet-energy of not only his body movements but just generally the way he seems so at one with the poetry of motion within nature, but slightly uncomfortable within society, he's superb. His accent as always is perfectly pitched. But above all he is most magnificent in carrying Oak with an air of unpretentious otherworldliness. His love for Bathsheba is so underplayed yet so powerful, and the two actors are great in realising this connection yet maaking it with the insecurities of both characters, making Oak's gradual transition a most joyous on. Schoenaerts is a great actor, and this might be like Mulligan, the best work I've seen from him yet. I do like Bates in the 1967 version an awful lot but there's no question about whom I prefer out of the two.)

Sheen-4.5 (Again, out of Sheen and Finch I prefer Sheen, even though I had major reservations going in to see this about how they would portray Boldwood. Finch was good at conveying the stiffness and rigidity of Boldwood's character, but Sheen goes a step further by being quite funny in his character's unassuming ways. He's rather good in conveying a sort of slowly blossoming courage within his character and actually has some excellent chemistry with Mulligan without compromising the character. His end is rendered all the more tragic through Sheen so suddenly yet so movingly showing his character's hopes and dreams lost in that instant of anger and jealousy.)

Sturridge-2 (His performance itself is incredibly underwhelming and the material is there to give a great performance, Terrence Stamp was amazing in depicting the seductive showmanship and hidden shame of Troy. Sturridge is just your typical cad with a bad boy image, and says every line in the guise of a soulless womanizer even though that's not what Troy is. It's a credit to Vinterberg as a director that he makes something out of this wasted characterization, and I will admit that some of his silent reactions, though blank listless and out of character, do work because of the way Vinterberg uses them.)

Temple-3.5 (small role and runs the risk of being hindered in her impact by Sturridge's lacklusterness. She is though appropriately moving and actually I gave her an extra .5 for adding to Troy a depth which the actor himself could not/would not add)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Louis what are your thoughts and ratings for the supporting cast of the Elephant Man (Gieguld, Jones, Barncroft, Hiller, and if you remember them Dexter Fletcher and Hannah Gordon as Freddie Jones' boy and Treves' wife, just re-watched the film and it really solidified its place in my all-time top 10)

Anonymous said...

Louis what are your thoughts on the trailer of Legend?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

So, um, I saw Age of Ultron and found it to be okay, I guess. Here's the ratings of the cast:

Downey: 3
Renner: 4
Johansson: 3.5
Ruffalo: 3.5
Evans: 3
Hemsworth: 3
Taylor-Johnson: 2.5
Olsen: 2
Spader: 3.5
Bettany: 3.5

Louis Morgan said...

Also saw the Avengers. I basically felt the same about it as I did the first. Enjoyable and entertaining to be sure, but never quite great in any aspect with the soul searching stuff actually being a bit weak. It really was too long, but I still had a good time watching it. I was glad Renner got his expansion though.

Downey: 3
Renner: 4
Johansson: 3
Ruffalo: 3
Evans: 3.5
Hemsworth: 3
Taylor-Johnson: 3
Olsen: 3
Spader: 3.5
Bettany: 3.5


Your enthusiasm kinda makes me want to watch the film again right now.

Gielgud - 3.5(It's a good performance despite being limited. It's interesting to see Gielgud play the sort of role he often played, that being the fairly strict authority figure, but here there is such a moving warmth about him. I especially love just the scene where the staff supports John)

Hiller - 4(There is something so lovely about her performance where again like Gielgud it seems we are finding the strict though hard working hospital matron. She's forceful but again Hiller is terrific in bringing such genuine compassion through the role, that really is just wonderful. I especially love when she fires the night porter)

Bancroft - 3.5(This is kinda funny as where Lynch is often known for bringing to the screen many different forms of the grotesque much of the characters in this film show so much good in humanity. Bancroft also brings such heart to her role, and every actor on that side of things since there's never feels like a hint of schmaltz within it)

Gordon - 3(Much less to do but she was good in her role as well. I thought she established a natural chemistry with Hopkins even though they did not have too much time together)

Jones - 4(Of course there still is some room for the grotesque and Jones revels in it in the right way. Jones brings something so off-putting in his grim showman act that makes his mere presence something quite unsettling. What's only makes things worse is how Jones brings a disturbing emotional intensity to the role as Bytes views John as a prized possession rather than a man)

Fletcher - 3(Does not get too much but I do think he adds to the atmosphere in the scenes with Bytes)


Roy Orbison and Tom Hardy I think I have to love it. I hope the film lives up to it.

Matt Mustin said...

What are your thoughts on the Avengers cast?

Louis Morgan said...

Downey - (It felt like he was treading water even though I did not feel that way for anyone else doing yet another reprise. I feel he had something new to explore, but he just did not really do it here. He's still good with his quips, but I fear he might be coming close to character fatigue (I'm talking Clint Eastwood in The Dead Pool type) which is a scary thought)

Renner - (Well I'm glad they rectified him being shafted in the first film as I thought Renner brought the most energy, emotional weight, and really the most effortless humor to the entire film by really embracing Hawkeye as the every man of the team. He got his chance and ran with it.)

Johansson - (Well it's kinda on record I think that I don't care too much for her Black Widow. Give me the accent. Come on Viggo Mortensen could do it, can no one else? She was good enough here although...)

Ruffalo - (The Hulk Black Widow stuff just did not do anything for me. I did not even think it was poorly performed, but it was not kismet. Ruffalo mostly has to deal with that subplot, but still his overall actually nerdy take on Banner still is the right take and works)

Evans: - (He's Captain America now and I'm glad he's reached that point, which I did not think he'd be able to. He's everything he should be and I like just how comfortable he is in the role now)

Hemsworth - (Thor's a tad less interesting and here he really had little to do. He was funny and again really is Thor)

Taylor-Johnson - (Much better than I expected him to be. Really I'd say what was most lacking about this Quicksilver was the direction around the speed wasn't nearly as cool as it was in X-Men. I liked Johnson here though. He brought the energy needed for the character while really embracing that accent for all that it was worth)

Olsen - (I think she perhaps embraced the accent less in that the inconsistency of it was much more noticeable, at least to me anyways. I still liked her performance well enough as she did the creepy look in the early scenes then did bring the emotional volatility later on)

Spader - 3.5(Will Marvel ever have a truly menacing villain? sigh. Really it's the writing though which forgets that with villains it should be dark humor if their going to be funny, a la The Joker, some of his jokes were a bit too goofy undercutting the character's threat. Still Spader does his best to salvage it as he certainly can bring such a maniacal quality while still being almost happy go lucky. Spader really had the right track with his vocal work it's the shame the film botched it a bit)

Bettany - (A pleasant surprise in the film and I'm glad he got a face. A well measured performance as Bettany captured A most intriguing sort of warm detachment that fit the point of the character so well)

Anonymous said...

Louis , Richard Gere in Pretty woman? Why do you hate him here ?

John Smith said...

These anonymus comments sometimes make me wonder if actors or actresses pay visits to this blog...

luke higham said...

GDSAO & Louis: I've upped Renner to a 4 now.

Louis: I completely agree with your opinion on Spader, although my rating for him still remains the same.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I think I may have liked Renner more than the film. My rating could go up an reflection/revisit.

John Smith said...

Louis, Ratings and toughts on Bette Davis and Joan Fontaine in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane

luke higham said...

John Smith:
Davis - 4(She's pretty over the top here but unlike in Mr. Skeffington it works quite well for her character. She's entertaining in her evil scenes and even moving in her depressed sequences. I don't think she quite mends the two perfectly but it's a pretty good performance from her).

John Smith said...

Louis, rating and toughts on Bette Davies and Joan Crawford in their oscar nominated performances, also your toughts and rating on Crawford in What ever happend to baby Jane

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

So did anyone see Ex Machina? I saw that one last week and really dug the hell out of it. Here's my rating for the cast:

Gleeson: 3.5
Isaac: 4 (bordering on higher)
Vikander: 5

luke higham said...

John Smith: I decided to show you all of the performances that I could find, instead of solely looking for the nominated performances.
Crawford/Sudden Fear - 4.5(I actually really liked her here as I felt she did a particularly strong job of both carrying the film and creating that growing sense of paranoia in the character as her planned demise comes close to fruition)

Joan Crawford in Rain and Grand Hotel 4(This seems to be before she took on some here less subtle techniques as an actress. In Grand Hotel she's simply a rather charming presence and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. In Rain, despite who ridiculously unsubtle the film is, I thought she was fairly affecting in her depiction of her character's increasingly desperate nature that eventually ends in redemption)

Davis/The Little Foxes - 4.5(Davis is brutally cold here as she portrays the harshness of her character incredibly well. What I like though is the quiet quality of venom. She does not need to yell to cause Marshall's Horace harm, the reserved intensity in her voice and in her eyes is more than I enough. I particularly love the brutal inhumanity in her speech about the only reason why she married Horace)

Davis/Mr. Skeffington - 1.5(All of her worst tendencies as an actress all rolled up into a single overwrought performance. Everything is so off about this performance that it almost seems like it's suppose to be comedic, but the tone of the film obviously shows that it isn't)

Davis/Now, Voyager - 4.5(She's better when she underplays and that is the case here. She is nicely understated and gives a astute leading turn)

Davis/Watch On The Rhine - 3(Well almost everyone is aside from Lukas. Davis barely gets much of a part her. She basically just needs to looked concerned by her husbands's more interesting actions throughout the film. She's not bad at it, she just does not have much to do)

Davis/All About Eve - 4.5(One I don't quite love as most, but I like her a lot. She's great in playing up the endearing star qualities, but undercut with that innate bratty qualities from her treatment)

KoooK160: It's my favourite film of the year so far and Vikander (5) is my Lead Actress winner at the moment.

Gleeson and Isaac are 4.5s as well.

John Smith said...

Thanks (:

Louis Morgan said...


Bancroft - 4(She's good even though she has the less juicy role technically speaking. I thought she played off Davis well by giving a more down to earth performance portraying well her character's slow degradation and growing horror from her constant abuse)