Sunday, 28 June 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1989: James Spader in Sex, Lies, and Videotape

James Spader did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes, for portraying Graham Dalton in Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape tells of the intertwined lives of four people surrounding around one of the four's unusual fetish.

James Spader plays Graham the old friend of seemingly successful lawyer John (Peter Gallagher) who is in a cold marriage with his wife Ann (Andie MacDowell) as well is in an affair with Ann's sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). Graham shows up to stay with John and his wife until he finds his own apartment, and from his first scene it appears there is something about Graham, although whatever that something is has yet to be revealed. Spader plays the part in a rather clever fashion. He keeps his disposition actually rather meek as the way he talks, interactions with other, even smiles are all quite unassuming. Graham though actually is constantly giving prodding questions to further find out about Ann. What's interesting about this though is Spader actually allows for Graham's rather incisive questions and statements he will make, as he just seems so innocently intrigued by their lives, so there does not seem to be any danger to give out all this personal information to him.

Soon enough Graham seems a bit less innocent when Ann stumbles upon his personal collection of videotapes. The videotapes being a collection of women telling him about their sexual experiences, which he in turn uses for his own pleasure. Although Ann is repulsed at first, she does not stay repulsed for too long, nor does it keep Ann's lusty sister from also going to seek out Graham. In this section of his character Spader calls upon what he's perhaps best known for, which is his particular form of charisma. Spader's charm though is not at all what you think of when you think of the word charm. Spader does have this certain sleazy quality about his performances, not that the way Graham acts is overtly sleazy per se, otherwise than his personal hobby, but Spader's style though does not try to gloss over anything about the man. What's so remarkable about what Spader does though is actually make this oddly appealing. Spader is able to conduct himself in just that certain way where there's no false facade, but instead creates something quite alluring about Graham being exactly as he is.

The film really is about all four of the characters Graham just happens to be the one who propels the story to go forward through his presence effecting the others. For much of the film Graham is kept as a bit of an enigma which seems to hold a certain sway with Ann and Cynthia which in turn only causes frustration for John. Spader strikes up a somewhat peculiar though a rather effective sort of chemistry with Giacomo and MacDowell. With Giacomo, who plays Cynthia as woman who does not do a whole lot to hide her urges as well is rather encouraging to the men in her life, Spader presents Graham playing right into her urges with his quiet yet rather powerful persuasion through his words and face. With MacDowell, who plays Ann as rather sexually repressed to the point that she espouses constantly her supposed lack of interest in the activity, it is all a bit more complicated. Spader in their scenes together suggests how Graham could get under her skin because of the way he realizes the humble manner towards certain discussions that she can't help but be a bit captivated by him.

Graham's mystery though does not remain forever as Ann manages to actually break his particular sort of reserve by her own questions. Spader's performance actually does not change excessively so though as Graham reveals what brought on his unusual behavior to her. Spader though is terrific though because he does not suddenly have Graham break down as being such a reserved guy to begin with that would not quite seem right. Spader shows that Graham still has this certain barrier simply within his low key demeanor, but that does not mean Graham is truly an unemotional man. What's so special is that Spader within the confines does convey the pain in Graham's past that motivates him currently. There is a moving sadness that Spader reveals in Graham as he finally does open up to her. Spader even keeps this reserve in the scene where John rubs salt into Graham's metaphorical wounds, and Graham goes about trashing his prized tapes. Again though Spader makes this feel right for the character as he naturally portrays the disgust in Graham. The film wraps up relatively quickly yet Spader manages to give a satisfying conclusion to his character by presenting him as almost the same man though without quite same the mystic, but also without the lies.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1989: Raul Julia in Romero

Raul Julia did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez in Romero.

Romero is a decent yet unremarkable film about the Archbishop who opposed the tyrannical government in El Salvador.

Raul Julia plays the Archbishop Romero who begins in the film as a fairly simple bishop who is actually looked upon with some disdain by other radical priests, although not by his popular friend, Friar Rutilio Grande (Richard Jordan). Julia is good in these scenes as he establishes Romero's personal stance to the country's problems. Julia is good in the way he frankly allows Romero's behavior to be con-screwed as some sort of apathy, which is how the radicals priest view him as, as Julia plays Romero as a particularly quiet man who from a distance seems to have very little reaction to what is going on all around him in the country. Julia though does not suggest Romero to be callous in his manner, and not even as a man unsure of his place in the conflict. Julia instead effectively exudes a certain religious piety that technically is far more optimistic than the priests who deride him. Romero likely due to his unassuming personality soon finds himself promoted to archbishop. Julia does not show that Romero is at all changed by his suddenly important position, although it does force him to have to make a statement for the church.

Julia's very good in his first speech where Romero essentially states he will keep the same position that he has had before. Julia though brings the right sort of refined passion to his statements still, which although state that the church will stay in the middle under him, he does stress that the church will always seek justice above all. I like how Julia does not make this a compromised statement from Romero, but rather he brings the right earnestness to the sermon of a man who does believe what he is saying. Julia does not play Romero as a man whose lost and needs to be shown a different way, rather he shows that Romero has his way which he has complete faith in. During this early period Julia very importantly shows sides to Romero other than what the intention of the film require him to be. Julia just has some good slight moments where he shows actually an enthusiasm Romero has in taking over the new post. It does not come off as selfish or prideful, but rather Julia portrays as just a genuine reaction to his success. He has one particularly good scene where he sorta celebrates with Father Grande, and the two actors bring a nice warmth to the relationship.

That is particularly necessary because the film does not dwell on their relationship for long, but it ends up being an essential part of Romero's story. Eventually Father Grande's known activism for the common people gets him shot and killed by a government death squad. Julia is outstanding in portraying the devastation in Romero when he sees his old friend's corpse along with the few innocent children shot with him. In the moment Julia powerfully conveys the change in Romero. One of the better aspects of the film is that Romero does not suddenly become like Grande, even with his death, but what the film shows along with Julia performance is a far more gradual transformation of the man. Julia does not switch on to Romero being suddenly adamant against the government, but what he does show is a change in how Romero conducts himself. Julia keeps the certain elegant devotion in Romero but there is something more energetic, active and most of all outgoing about it all. There is a greater purpose Julia suggests in a determination not to just pray for justice, although he will continue to do that, but to take action to stop the violence in his country.

What I think is most remarkable about Julia's performance here is that Julia does not play Romero as a great man so to speak, he's not larger than life and he in no way carries himself as such. Julia presents him as a man in this situation, although a man driven by his faith and belief in good for all mankind. In this way Julia does bring some very human exasperation in Romero's efforts as he attempts to actually mediate between the radical priests, who begin to take some violent actions themselves, as he is repulsed by this idea no matter the circumstance. It's not some divine person here, but a man who is doing what he can to do what is best. Even Romero's actions though begin to face more sever persecution even when they are merely performing his normal duties. There's a strong moment for Julia when Romero states his intentions to perform mass, even though violent troops have taken over the local church. After the men desecrate the holy material in the church, Romero goes and collects them. What I love what Julia does is he creates the very real fear in Romero as he takes this action, making his perseverance to do so all the more poignant.  

Now I think a point of contention for this performance though could come in the scenes where Romero is pushed to the edge by the sheer cruelty of the people he has been attempting to reason with. Julia is very intense in these scenes, and frankly yells quite loudly. I actually think it works for the character he has created thus far. His Romero is a man possessed to this sort of behavior, that just acting out in anger at all, that Julia makes it as though Romero has to force it out in this way since it is so opposed to his very nature. As everything becomes worse though Romero is not only reduced to rage to fight this hatred. In fact Romero in a way is raised up through his good works, as the people support him all the more, and Julia is excellent in bringing just a bit of hope in these moments as Romero embraces their love while returning it. In the end Romero, due to the overwhelming brutality of the government, is forced from mediation to direct confrontation through a final speech, which he states his condemnations of their horrible actions. Julia delivery is wonderful as he brings out the power of the speech, as he portrays the searing disgust for the evil perpetuated by these men. Julia's work here is remarkable as he elevates his thin material to create a moving portrait of a martyr.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1989

And the Nominees Were Not:

Michael J. Fox in Casualties of War

Jeff Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys

James Spader in Sex, Lies, and Videotape

John Hurt in Scandal

Raul Julia in Romero

Monday, 22 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: Results

10. Morgan Freeman in Gone Baby Gone - Freeman has good moments, but gives a little too many indications about his character's duplicitous nature early on.

Best Scene: His confrontation with Patrick,.
9. John Travolta in Hairspray - Travolta nicely gives a surprisingly earnest and sometimes moving portrayal of his character.

Best Scene: Edna revealing her insecurities.
8. Ed Harris in Gone Baby Gone - Harris nicely brings his usual acerbic style that works quite well for his character.

Best Scene: Remy's confession.
7. Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men - Jones gives a moving, yet also somehow funny portrayal of a man's confusion and exasperation in face of a violent world.

Best Scene: Bell visits Ellis.
6. Sam Rockwell in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford - Rockwell gives a terrific example of a pure supporting performance, that adds so much to the film, despite only ever briefly being the focus of it.

Best Scene: The Assassination.
5. Albert Finney in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Finney gives a powerful portrayal of the rage and heartbreak that comes from a horrible loss.

Best Scene: The Last Scene.
4. Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn - Zahn gives a haunting portrayal of a prisoner of war being worn away by his captors and nature.

Best Scene: After the failed signal.
3. Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz - Dalton gives a hilarious performance by creating the most obviously evil character who ever existed.

Best Scene: Skinner listens to Angel's theory.
2. John Carroll Lynch in Zodiac -  Lynch gives an outstanding performance, brilliantly realizing his unnerving enigma of a man all in one scene, well and a reaction shot. I have to admit that it was absurdly difficult just to rank my top and I'll admit I'm still not sure of my winner. I feel that I could switch out to any one of performances in the top five. This is an unbelievably great year for the category, it has to be to leave the likes of Bardem and Rockwell out of the top five.

Best Scene: His first scene. Although that reaction shot is also amazing.
1. Ben Foster in 3:10 to Yuma - Foster gives a wildly entertaining as well a rather chilling portrayal of a man who takes loyalty very seriously.

Best Scene: Finding the decoy wagon. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Ben Foster in 3:10 to Yuma
  2. John Carroll Lynch in Zodiac
  3. Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz
  4. Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn
  5. Albert Finney in Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
  6. Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men
  7. Sam Rockwell in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
  8. Garret Dillahunt in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
  9. Charles Fleischer in Zodiac
  10. Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men
  11. Armin Mueller-Stahl in Eastern Promises
  12. Josh Brolin in No Country For Old Men
  13. Robert Downey Jr. in Zodiac
  14. Josh Brolin in American Gangster
  15. Jim Broadbent in Hot Fuzz
  16. Jeremy Davies in Rescue Dawn 
  17. Kurt Russell in Grindhouse 
  18. Jimmi Simpson in Zodiac
  19. Gene Jones in No Country For Old Men
  20. Paddy Considine in Hot Fuzz
  21. Dillon Freasier in There Will Be Blood
  22. Woody Harrelson in No Country For Old Men 
  23. Karl Marcus Franklin in I'm Not There
  24. Robert Duvall in We Own the Night
  25. Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood
  26. Ben Whishaw in I'm Not There
  27. J.K. Simmons in Juno
  28. Nick Frost in Hot Fuzz
  29. Ed Harris in Gone Baby Gone
  30. Anthony Edwards in Zodiac
  31. Titus Welliver in Gone Baby Gone
  32. Peter O'Toole in Ratatouille
  33. Edward Woodward in Hot Fuzz
  34. Sam Shepard in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
  35. Richard Gere in I'm Not There
  36. Brian Cox in Zodiac
  37. Paul Schneider in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
  38. Elias Koteas in Zodiac
  39. Paul Freeman in Hot Fuzz
  40. Barry Corbin in No Country For Old Men
  41. Chris Evans in Sunshine
  42. Thomas Haden Church in Spider-Man 3
  43. Garret Dillahunt in No Country For Old Men 
  44. Raymond J. Barry in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story 
  45. Toby Jones in The Mist 
  46. Jeff Daniels in The Lookout
  47. J.K. Simmons in Spider-Man 3
  48. Peter Fonda in 3:10 to Yuma
  49. Jeremy Renner in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
  50. Mark Strong in Stardust
  51. Jerzy Skolimowski in Eastern Promises
  52. John Travolta in Hairspray
  53. David Wenham in 300
  54. Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton
  55. Brian F. O'Brien in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
  56. Mark Strong in Sunshine
  57. Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild
  58. Timothy Spall in Enchanted
  59. Benedict Wong in Sunshine
  60. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War
  61. Alan Tudyk in 3:10 to Yuma
  62. Stephen Root in No Country For Old Men
  63. James Marsden in Enchanted
  64. Josh Brolin in Grindhouse
  65. Rafe Spall in Hot Fuzz
  66. Ricky Gervais in Stardust
  67. Tim Meadows in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story 
  68. Michael Parks in Grindhouse
  69. Bill Nighy in Hot Fuzz
  70. Peter Vaughn  in Death at a Funeral
  71. Gary Oldman in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  72. Peter O'Toole in Stardust 
  73. Matthew Goode in The Lookout
  74. Forest Whitaker in The Great Debaters
  75. Michael Biehn in Grindhouse
  76. Cliff Curtis in Sunshine  
  77. Ian Holm in Ratatouille
  78. Bill Nighy in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  79. Willem Dafoe in Mr. Bean's Holiday 
  80. Ciaran Hinds in There Will Be Blood
  81. Christopher Walken in Hairspray
  82. Michael Wincott in Seraphim Falls
  83. Philip Baker Hall in Zodiac 
  84. Michael Fassbender in 300
  85. Michael Shannon in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead 
  86. Albert Brooks in The Simpson Movie
  87. Kevin J. O'Connor in There Will Be Blood
  88. Paul Giamatti in Shoot 'Em Up
  89. Christian Bale in I'm Not There
  90. Hiroyuki Sanada in Sunshine 
  91. Alan Rickman in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  92. William Sadler in The Mist
  93. Vincent Cassel in Eastern Promises
  94. Philip Bosco in The Savages
  95. Donal Logue in Zodiac
  96. Peter Cullen in Transformers
  97. Karl Johnson in Hot Fuzz
  98. Peter Dinklage in Death at a Funeral 
  99. William Hurt in Into the Wild
  100. Matt Besser in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story 
  101. Michael Gambon in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  102. Chris Parnell in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story 
  103. James Franco in Spider-Man 3
  104. Timothy Spall in Sweeney Todd
  105. Waris Ahluwalia in The Darjeeling Limited
  106. Dallas Roberts in 3:10 to Yuma
  107. Morgan Freeman in Gone Baby Gone
  108. Kevin J. O'Connor in Seraphim Falls
  109. Peter Fonda in Ghost Rider
  110. Danny Hoch in We Own the Night
  111. Kevin Eldon in Hot Fuzz
  112. Robbie Coltrane in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  113. Ned Beatty in Charlie Wilson's War
  114. Jon Voight in Transformers
  115. James Cromwell in Spider-Man 3
  116. Jason Bateman in Juno
  117. Lam Suet in Mad Detective
  118. Sam Elliot in Ghost Rider
  119. Bruce Davison in Breach
  120. Mark Wahlberg in We Own the Night
  121. Timothy Olyphant in Live Free or Die Hard
  122. John Ashton in Gone Baby Gone  
  123. Terrence Howard in August Rush
  124. Tom Hollander in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  125. Benedict Cumberbatch in Atonement 
  126. Alan Tudyk in Death at a Funeral
  127. Alan Rickman in Sweeney Todd
  128. Heath Ledger in I'm Not There
  129. Gordon Lam in Mad Detective 
  130. Justin Long in Live Free or Die Hard
  131. Dennis Haysbert in Breach
  132. Sacha Baron Cohen in Sweeney Todd
  133. Alex Veadov in We Own the Night
  134. Geoffrey Rush in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 
  135. Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix 
  136. Nate Parker in The Great Debaters
  137. Michael Cera in Juno
  138. Toby Huss in Rescue Dawn
  139. Kevin Smith in Live Free or Die Hard
  140. Rupert Graves in Death at a Funeral
  141. Chow Yun-Fat in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 
  142. Logan Lerman in 3:10 to Yuma 
  143. Vince Vaughn in Into the Wild
  144. Robert De Niro in Stardust
  145. Robin Williams in August Rush
  146. Jamie Campbell Bower in Sweeney Todd
  147. Chris Evans in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  148. Michael Chiklis in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  149. Josh Duhamel in Transformers
  150. Julian McMahon in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  151. Anthony Anderson in Transformers 
  152. John Turturro in Transformers 
  153. Topher Grace in Spider-Man 3 
  154. Rodrigo Santoro in 300
  155. Wes Bentley in Ghost Rider
Next Year: 1989 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: John Travolta in Hairspray

John Travolta did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

Hairspray is a musical I did not mind watching, I guess, about an overweight teen Tracy Turnbald who makes it on a local dance TV show who then becomes a proponent for the racial integration of the show.

John Travolta plays Tracy's mother as the part originated by the drag queen Divine, and then having a man play the role continued on stage, so that's why. It seems fitting enough as a musical dance movie with Travolta's two earliest hits being the musical Grease and the dance centric Saturday Night Fever. Despite the set up, and perhaps the make up being a bit over the top Travolta actually plays the role relatively straight. The voice he uses is a fairly minor adjustment so to speak, and Travolta kinda goes about trying to make Edna a believable enough character actually. It would be easy enough to see the part played in a pretty over the top way, where the whole character could simply be seen as a joke. Travolta takes this fairly unassuming approach to the part and there really is not made much of him playing the part really. He's simply in the role and all of the mannerism and the like he employs all fairly simply though as well being effective in making Edna Turnblad feel like an actual character in the film.

Edna's story is relatively simple as she is hesitant to support Tracy's intentions to become a dance star because of her own issues with her own poor self-esteem. Travolta actually fairly moving in portraying the vulnerability of Edna as she expresses her concerns about Tracy's prospects. The film though kinda ping pongs Edna though as she'll be down quickly brought back up, then have something else to challenge her self-esteem once again. These are all fairly abrupt and to the point in the turnaround, and in typical musical fashion many are handled through a musical number. Travolta both ends admirably enough though in giving an honest to the hesitations then the right earnest passion whenever Edna gains her self respect again. In addition Travolta brings a certain sweetness to the role that works quite well as Edna becomes more supportive of her daughters efforts, particularly late in the film when she has to become particularly active to help her daughter succeed.

As a musical there are of course musical sequences, and if one where expecting the sort of energy shown by Travolta in Grease they be a bit disappointed. Travolta's delivery and even dancing in the numbers he takes part in he again stays rather modest in his performance. This is not a criticism though because Travolta very much stays with his character when he does this, and in his performances Travolta does get across the feeling of each number that Edna is a part of. Really I'd say Travolta gives a good performance here entirely by trying to realize Edna as more than a caricature, which the part very easily could have been all things considered. I suppose my only complaint, and not a real complaint so to speak, is that I suppose to love this performance by any means. I do like him here, particularly because he does succeed in making more out of the part than being a simple gimmick. It's a fine performance I'm not going to call it a great performance, but I certainly had no problems with it.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz

Timothy Dalton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Simon Skinner in Hot Fuzz.

Hot Fuzz is an extremely entertaining comedy about a big city police officer Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) who is forced to transfer to a village in the country which is not all that it seems.

The first indication that there might be something amiss is probably that the local super marker is run by Timothy Dalton, none other than the man whose portrayal of James Bond was unfortunately a bit ahead of the time. It does not help that Simon Skinner first introduces himself to Nicholas Angel as "a slasher who must be stopped" well he only meant of prices. Well you know with that sort of introduction you just might he's the villain, well Dalton does not allow one to have any misconceptions here, he's the villain, there might as a well be neon lights above his head indicating his villainy, even though it's a mystery of sorts, he's the villain, well just like in any good cliched action movie you don't have to look twice, he's the villain, you got that yet, well take a note of it. You might say this is an obvious performance, well you'd be right, but if you were to think that means it is a bad performance well you'd be wrong dead wrong (make sure to imagine dead wrong as though Timothy Dalton in this very performance were saying it though, that way you'll better understand my intent).

Now being a comedy that might be an excuse to give a goofy performance where the villain is just sort of wacky, well that's not the case for Dalton, well I suppose it does depend on your definition of goofy and wacky though. Anyways Dalton's masterstroke of his performance is not to really play the part as though he is a character in a comedy. No Dalton takes the approach of giving a performance fitting for the sort of cliched action movie Hot Fuzz is lampooning, but Dalton up its up a notch, an extra notch. He takes obvious villainy to a whole new level as every word he speaks seems to have a menacing undercurrent within it, and well let's see how's best to describe it, well it is hilarious. Dalton's evil turn is absurdly funny though as, even before anything has gone down or even there's any reason to suspect his character of anything yet, he's making you suspect him through the absurd statements he makes, such as bashing someone's head in to know their secrets, or having customers, who deserted his store, having their heads sliced off for their betrayal. The lines themselves are good, but it is Dalton who makes them great through his absolutely diabolical delivery.

Dalton is amazing in this role because of just how much conviction he brings to the part. He never winks once, although he does look directly into the camera once but then again he makes it all part of the grand form of evil that Dalton makes in the character of Simon Skinner. Dalton's a very intense actor when he wants to be and its pure comic gold to see him brings all of that to this character. There's something far too amusing about the fact that Dalton does not bring a hint of subtly to Skinner, to make his intentions about a clear as an intention can be. This alone might not have been that funny, but the dramatic devotion Dalton has in the role to go as far as he does is incredible. It's not just in his absurdly grim delivery though, but everything about the man Dalton takes to the fullest form of an action movie villain. The physical style he takes in the part is ingenious as simply the way he stands and moves around any given scene is deliciously devious. I particularly love one moment where he is advertising a game "splat the rat", and it is all too clear Skinner is not talking about the game. He even gets to have his evil applause to "congratulate" Angel's detective skills, and Dalton does not waste it. Then to top it all off is that smile of his, which is pure perfection as it is about as sinister of grin as one can form. The way relishes finding a worthy opponent, who is tenacious enough to withstand his villainy, is simply marvelous. I have to admit just about every moment of Dalton's performance here causes to be burst out laughing in his creation of the most conspicuous villain who ever existed, the best part is Dalton never seems like he's trying to be funny, so to speak, he just is. It's safe to say I love every moment of this performance. Yes this is a one note performance but oh what a grand and glorious note it is.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: Ben Foster in 3:10 to Yuma

Ben Foster did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Charlie Prince in 3:10 to Yuma.

3:10 to Yuma is a fairly entertaining enough western about a downtrodden rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) being tasked to bring an infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to a train destined for a prison.

One of the major expansions upon the original 1957 film, which starred Van Heflin and Glenn Ford as the rancher and the outlaw respectively, is found in the character of Charlie Prince. Prince is in the earlier film as played by Richard Jaeckel, but his role is fairly simple. He's still Wade's right hand man apparently, but that film has few scenes from the gang's perspective. That's not the case here in the remake where it is obvious from the first scene that Charlie is going to have a substantial presence in the film.  I suppose it helps things that he's played by the criminally underrated Ben Foster who plays the part with a considerable degree of grandeur. The fact that Charlie wants to stand out is a given, after all what other sort of outlaw would don a coat like his? Foster plays into this brilliantly though as he carries Charlie as the sort of guy who pretty much wants to build up his own image as much as he possibly can. The way he stands the way he struts around are all of a man who wants to be larger than life, and possibly worthy to stand next to the already larger than life Ben Wade. Ben Foster is marvelous as he portrays Charlie as a basically a legend in the making, but of his own making.

Foster is almost deliciously pompous in the role as he shows that Charlie is well aware of his superior abilities with firearms, and does not mind showing off. Whenever Charlie does one of his tricky shots or puts away his guns in a stylized fashion Foster always presents Charlie as absolutely relishing every moment of it. Foster suggests that Charlie is not even in the outlaw life for the money, but rather simply in it for the outlaw life. Foster carries Charlie as a perpetual showoff who loves what it is that he can do. Although for the most part Charlie is able to live up to the name he is building up for himself, that's not to say there is not a certain desperation about the whole display. In his first scene scene where Charlie confronts a man who he is neither scared or impressed by Charlie, Foster is rather effective in portraying Charlie's with perhaps just a bit of vulnerability as he tries to play it off by simply shooting the man. Now playing a role in such a way is a great risk as it certainly can misfire, or make Charlie seem to much at any time. Foster never allows that firstly by giving sense to the Charlie's whole manner, but also because he does not forget that being an outlaw involves more than simply being just a big name.

Although Foster makes Charlie a bit much so to speak, but he never makes him a joke. Even though Charlie prances around with his own personal style in the end Charlie technically speaking is someone who likes to murder people in style. Well this sound more than a little deranged and Foster portrays it as such. Foster creates a considerable menace with his presence as there is such an unpredictability about the personality he fashions for Charlie. One constant of sorts though is that Foster brings a striking intensity to Charlie which creates the sense that Charlie is quite clearly a psychopath. Foster never leaves this even as something one note, and it would have been easy enough to do so. Foster shows the glee in Charlie as he dispatches any opponent who offers little resistance, but also means very little to him. That's not quite the case though when the person actually poses any threat to him or poses a threat to his quest to retrieve Ben Wade from his captors. In this moments Foster is quite chilling in revealing an even darker viciousness in Charlie fitting for a man who will watch a man burn alive simply because he delayed him from rescuing Wade. 

Of course what is it with Charlie and Ben Wade anyways. Charlie goes quite out of his way to rescue his old boss, who got captured due to his own mistake, and even admonishes the rest of the gang when they dare to suggest that they don't risk their lives for Wade. Well Foster is absolutely convincing in creating this undying loyalty Charlie has for Wade, although in perhaps a bit of an atypical sort of way. Foster takes the approach that Charlie seems to be a bit in love with Wade. Now what's so special about the way Foster does this though is he does not make it overt to the point that Charlie is like Mr. Smithers from the Simpson. Foster portrays this very effectively by suggesting that Charlie himself is probably not quite aware about just how much he loves Wade, but nevertheless he can't quite help it. Foster manages to even to give all the more sense his grandstanding as Charlie trying to earn his place Wade. Foster does not show this behavior as a way for Charlie to usurp Wade like some sort of upstart but rather Charlie's attempt to be truly worthy to stand next to the man. Foster makes the extent that Charlie goes to save Wade believable through so well realizing that particularly strong affection he has for the man. Foster creates such a captivating character here, but it should also be said that he's also simply extremely entertaining in the role. He's fun to witness every second he's on screen, as he delivers every one of his one liners with flawless timing. Well very much fitting to the gunslinger he plays Foster hits his mark every time, never letting an opportunity to make an impact pass by. I particularly love his reaction when dealing with makeshift posse who dare to think that they can stand in his way. Foster never allows these moments to compromise the more dramatic or sinister elements of the character, making all of the elements of his performance come together without fault. It's an exceptional piece work by Ben Foster as he manages to create both the most compelling character of the film as well as the most enjoyable one to watch.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: John Carroll Lynch in Zodiac

John Carroll Lynch did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Arthur Leigh Allen in Zodiac.

Zodiac is an excellent film about the investigation of the elusive serial killer who calls himself the Zodiac.

One of the best elements of Zodiac is the way it paints the complex portrait of the cluster of information and suspects that comes from a killer such as the Zodiac who purposefully plays with the media and public. This leads the investigators with many shady figures who do not necessarily even have anything to do with the killings. One of these men eventually seems particularly promising since a former acquaintance says that the man essentially spelled out his psychotic plan to him. The man being one Arthur Leigh Allen played by John Carroll Lynch. Lynch only has three scenes, two of them being silent and quiet brief. His first appearance though is an extended interview with the leading investigators. Lynch lumbers into the scene as he walks in and sees the three detectives he seems to give an accusatory glance to his employer who's brought him to the meeting just before he sits down to the detectives. As he's put before the men though Lynch falsifies a cordial enough expression as though Arthur's not at all shaken by this meeting, even though it's whether or not to determine that he's a possible serial killer.

Lynch is brilliant in the way he articulates Arthur's attempt to deal with the cops questions. There's a slight attempt to be like just as scared as anyone else in regards to the case, and disgusted just as much as any normal person would be. All while doing this though Lynch portrays Arthur as being excessively assured in the way he speaks to the police about how he did not have anything to do it. Lynch delivers every line as though it has been rehearsed a thousand times in Arthur's mind as he basically lists every reason why he's innocent without stumbling once. Lynch is outstanding because he shows how this over confidence suggests anything but an innocence as every detail seems to come out as about as eloquent as it can be. It is almost he's listing important information to them as Lynch shows just how natural it is for Arthur to bring up an incriminating fact, that involving bloodied knives, because it's already attached to part of his presentation of innocence, therefore no time should be spent avoiding this. Lynch never loses a step when Arthur is giving his "prepared" remarks and interestingly shows just how damning such certainty can be.

What's so fascinating about Lynch's performance is the way he conveys the apparent layers of the man as the interview goes forward. Through much of it Lynch keeps that kinda modest way about himself as though he's just a gentle man trying to live his life in a normal enough way. When the questions from the detectives become incisive at all though Lynch pulls back monetarily as though he's adjusting a bit and reveals a certain darkness below the surface fitting for the pedophile that he is. Although that does not mean he's a serial killer who takes as much time for detail as the Zodiac. When they bring up his crime as a pedophile though this  seems to take more than a simple rearrangement of feelings. It's one of the most memorable moments in the film even though it only lasts a few seconds as Arthur tells them "I am not the Zodiac. And if I were, I certainly wouldn't tell you.". Although he's stating his innocence the way Lynch looks at them is unnerving as in his eyes and voice suddenly become that of such a killer. Just before he leaves though Arthur comments on how he would like to see cops no longer called pigs, a favored term by the Zodiac, Lynch delivers this with such duplicity. Even though he still stays quiet, as though it is pleasantry, there is such a sinister quality in how false Lynch makes it so sound, as though he's purposefully taunting the police. Lynch's next scene is merely from his back, and only a few seconds long, as Arthur arrives to find the police searching his trailer. After that he only has one more near the end of the film when Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) political cartoonist turned obsessed private investigator goes to look him in the eye, as he's sure Arthur's the one. Again it's only a few seconds long but Lynch is once again brilliant as he begins just with kind smile asking if Robert needs any help, When he recognizes him though Lynch is absolutely chilling as his face slowly changes into the Zodiac once more. This is an oustanding piece of work by John Carroll Lynch as he creates such a complex and disturbing depiction of this man in only a few minutes of screentime.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men

Tommy Lee Jones did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a SAG, and a BAFTA, for portraying Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country For Old Men.

No Country For Old Men depicts the story of the fates around a satchel full of money from a drug deal that went south.. You have our 'hero' the everyman Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who is trying to make a run with the money while not being killed and trying to protect his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald), while being tracked down by the psychotic Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Attempting to keep up in some way is Tommy Lee Jones's local Sheriff Bell. Really the casting was already half way there as Jones's haggard face already pretty much sums up Ed's state of mind from his first appearance. Although Jones's first contribution to the film is the opening narration, fairly similair to the narration found in the Coens' first film Blood Simple. Well where in that film it was delivered by M. Emmet Walsh as a psychotic killer who seems to relish in viewing the world in such a cynical fashion. Here it is a bit different as Jones's delivery is far more somber filled with an exasperation and certain confusion of man unable to comprehend the horrible way his world quickly seems to be falling apart.

Jones's appearances after this point are somewhat sporadic as he's almost always third in the sequence as Moss makes his move, Chigurh makes his own, and then Bell is far too late just trying to figure out what exactly is going on. Jones strikes up a rather interesting tone with his performance actually. Although the gloomy state of the character is always quite evident in his performance Jones does not give a dour performance. Jones in his somewhat sporadic scenes does not portray Bell as being overwhelmed by the way of the world, rather Jones at first shows him as still very much just trying to comprehend what exactly is it all about. Within this though Jones surprising enough gives really kinda a comic performance actually. He plays into the role a bit as Bell is almost like an Andy Griffith type figure stuck in this dark story. This is found in just his general demeanor such as his chuckle when his wife tells him not to hurt anyone on the job, or just the way he deals with his perhaps over eager Barney Fife style deputy. This seems like something that should not work, considering how brutal some of the sequences can be, but Jones finds the exact tone for his scenes as he's quite funny yet still feels like an honest character.

Jones manages to artfully work in this humor within the spent sort of wisdom of old Bell, who can't seem to get upset at the sights he sees, but certainly is still affected by them. There's something so wry about the way Jones has Bell wax philosophically on the various things, while still seeming to be completely confused by them. What works so well about his work here is that it never seems that Bell is not taking the situation seriously because he just can't quite seem to grasp it himself. The best he can come up with is to tell Carla Jean that Llewelyn should come to him, and they'll talk things out in good old fashioned sort of way. Well nothing works out as such, and Bell completely fails to help Moss, or stop any of the bad men. The last act belongs most closely to Jones as Bell tries to deal with his failure. Jones's is very effective in the way he keeps his demeanor yet still, in an understated way fitting to Bell, conveys how this loss seems to be the final straw for Jones. Jones never portrays Bell as breaking down, but Jones portrays less detachment from the horror as Bell through his own involvement in it. Jones is moving by presenting Bell basically lost in this world that he can't seem to ever fully understand, and can't do anything to change it. The performance ends on a hanging note but as it should be, as Jones does not give closure to the man because Bell will never have any.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: Sam Rockwell in The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Sam Rockwell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Charley Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford.

Sam Rockwell is an actor I've seen accused of being unable to share the spotlight. Now I find this accusation ludicrous to begin with because often the best parts of one of his Rockwellian performances come in with how he interacts with the other performance e.g. in Seven Psychopaths his more extroverted work played particularly well against Christopher Walken's much more reserved performance. Any who to avoid getting too off track, here is a performance that should completely shut down such an accusation. Rockwell plays Charley Ford one of the members of the temporarily formed James gang who have come together for a train robbery. Charley in terms of the story is important due to his brother (Casey Affleck) being latter titular character fated to kill the legendary Jesse James (Brad Pitt). In the earliest scenes though Charley is just part of the gang, and it would be easy enough to be forgotten in the mix of the various players of this scene. Rockwell probably has the biggest challenge though because Charley the least assuming guy there against the mythic James brothers, or the other men who all have one hang up or another that seems ready to cause a bit of conflict.

Rockwell always adds a bit character in these scenes rather well while actually being quite a bit less extroverted in his performance. He's good actually by showing that Charley is probably the best person for the James gang because he's level headed enough, easy to get along with, and does not have any delusions like his wannabe brother. There's a good scene early on where Charley makes a proposition to Frank James (Sam Shepard) about being a permanent part of the gang, along with Robert. Rockwell's does well in that he portrays Charley's enthusiasm as particularly intelligently stated, although with only a bit of over eagerness, but this comes from Charley having to put forth an idea come up with by Robert. Rockwell is quite interesting in the way he creates a certain unsaid brotherly connection between the two. Charley often ridicules or embarrasses Robert for his delusions about Jesse, but Rockwell never makes this the least bit cruel. Rockwell instead strikes up that certain sort of older brother ribbing. Yes it definitely causes Robert to become upset, but Rockwell always shows there's no real malice in Charley when he does, in fact he seems to suggest doing to keep Bob from going too far.

As the dissolution of the gang leaves Jesse kinda lost and very paranoid as he continues on, he actually seems to start to trust only one man in his gang that being Charley. Rockwell manages to make sense of this through his depiction of Charley as someone who actually seems reasonable. Rockwell adds to this bit by effectively making Charley a bit of a bright spot as there is a naturally endearing quality to Rockwell's performance that makes Jesse's trust of him very understandable. Of course even Charley is not fully trusted by Jesse and must face probably some of the most severe scrutiny. Rockwell again is so good at realizing basically what makes Charley special for Jesse as Rockwell carries a certain optimism, and is able to make Charley a man one should not suspect of anything. Rockwell plays this scenes incredibly well though as he always builds the tension well as he internalizes it suggesting that Charley certainly has plenty of fear for Jesse, but is able to hide far better than some others. Rockwell never wastes a moments of these scenes though as he does gradually build an unsaid, but definite understanding in Charley that he'll never be safe unless Jesse dies.

What really is so special about this performance though is just how much Rockwell does in between the lines so to speak. He does not even need to be a focus of the scenes, but his reactions always add something as he manages to make these that of a genuine person not a stock side character. Rockwell's work gives just a bit more life to every moment even the slightest of ways. I especially love just his expression of somber understanding when Jesse asks Charley about suicide. It's surprising how good Rockwell is, because this is not Charley's story yet you always know where Charley is in his own struggle with Jesse parallel to his brothers. Where Bob is caught up with a few too many ideas, Rockwell presents Charley as technically of a more honest man. There's a great brief scene where Rockwell shows the complexities of Charley's conflict as he recognizes that Jesse is his friend, but also recognizes that he's becoming increasingly dangerous. This leads to the assassination scene which is a masterfully performed scene by Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, and Sam Rockwell.

 Rockwell should not be forgotten because although you feel what Bob and Jesse are going through, the same is for Charley. Rockwell is outstanding because he's not overshadowed by Affleck or Pitt, yet he never feels out of place, and only adds to the power scene. It's remarkable how Rockwell presents Charley's own time in the scene as he also prepares to kill Jesse, but Rockwell is very moving by showing it as a simple resignation for his own survival, without even a thought of glory as he prepares his own gun. After the assassination the film depicts both brothers dealing with the fallout. Rockwell has a few scenes that are fairly swiftly paced, but don't feel rushed. Nevertheless Rockwell has to show Charley going through quite a lot in a matter of scenes, but hey he does not miss a mark here. He's entertaining then quite haunting in his stage portrayal of Jesse. Rockwell then is quite harrowing in his portrayal of how the events have spent the rest of Charley as he seems to be a decaying man leaving his final scene. It's short once again but heart wrenching as Rockwell captures the pain in Charley in such detail. This is a great performance and one of those great models for a truly great truly supporting performance. Charley is rarely the focus, and it is easy to see how he could have been just a side note in the film, and easily forgotten. Rockwell never allows that to happen and makes those final scenes so much powerful than perhaps they should have been, since he simply let us know the man Charley Ford was.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: Albert Finney in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Albert Finney did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Charles Hanson in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

Albert Finney plays the father of the sons Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) who work together on a plan to rob their parents' jewelry store to solve their severe financial problems. Finney's appearances are rather brief in the earliest scenes of the film as we see him rather simply as apparently just a supportive grandfather towards his granddaughter and loving husband towards his wife. His role seems simple enough but when robbery masterminded by Andy goes wrong, that all changes. The film at first jumps between the perspective of the brothers, but when the fallout begins the film jumps back to show the events through Charles's eyes. In the earliest scenes in a chronological sense Finney is good in honestly realizing the somewhat simple life of Charles we are shown. He presents Charles as being content enough with his life and bringing a nice bit of warmth in just his slight interactions with his wife. It technically speaking is not anything overly substantial but Finney does a good job of establishing the contentment in Charles's life just before the robbery is about to take place.

The robbery though is botched which leaves Charles's wife severely injured to the point she falls in a completely unresponsive coma. Finney is tremendous in the first scene, chronologically speaking, as Charles comes back to the shop to discover the police investigating the crime scene, and so well portrays the overwhelming fear in Charles as he tries to find out what has happened to his wife. Soon afterwards his children come to the hospital and we see Charles as he has to wait to know his wife's condition. Finney is heartbreaking as he portrays the anxiousness in Charles as he sits in the waiting room chair barely able to be still as well as a striking confusion and sadness he shows Charles trying to come to grips with what exactly happened with his wife. Finney is incredibly moving as he plays Charles as being barely able to speak as he portrays just how distraught Charles is over his wife's condition, and clearly how much he loved her. Finney is terrific in the scenes succeeding this one chronologically as Charles has to make his choice whether or not to pull his wife's plug, and let her die since her brain is no longer functioning.

Finney portrays so well Charles's grief as he almost seems to retire into himself as he must contemplate letting his wife go. Finney shows that Charles almost can barely comprehend how he's in this situation and depicts so well this sad state where Charles does not want to have to recognize this decision he must make. Finney reveals all the pain in Charles in such a poignant fashion as Charles finally says to let her go. Afterwards we see Charles in his state of grief and Finney keeps Charles still attempting to comprehend what has happened while suffering every moment of this confusion. During this time there is a fantastic scene for Finney where Charles's elder son Andy voices the distance he feels from the rest of the family largely because of the cold treatment he received from Charles. Although we never see any of the boys childhood Finney is marvelous in the way he brings out such a considerable sorrow and regret, as well as warmth as Charles attempts to apologize to Andy for this. What makes Finney's performance of this scene particularly brilliant though, is when Andy seems to go too far in his anger, Finney brings out the Charles that caused that, showing the stern father as he quickly slaps Andy to set him straight.

Charles's story does not end as the film continues to follow him as deals with his wife's death past the funeral. Finney again keeps Charles unable to stop thinking about what happened, and so good at portraying this obsession in him. Finney naturally eases away from the confusion in Charles to a palatable anger, which Finney always portrays coming directly from his sadness. Finney creates the sense of discontent in Charles as no one seems to care about what really happened at the crime scene. Finney builds the overwhelming frustrations in Charles as all of his attempts to get the police to do something fail, and Finney makes Charles decision to investigate the crime himself an inevitability. Finney is outstanding because when Charles makes this decision Finney expresses finally a sense of purpose in Charles. Finney perhaps reveals a bit of the old Charles as he brings a considerable determination in him, as it becomes clear that Charles will have his revenge. This brings Charles to a fellow jewelry dealer who he knows was a fence, and happened to be the man Andy goes to to ensure he'll be able to move the jewelry from the robbery.

When the fence reveals that Andy was behind the plot due to Andy having left his business card with the fence, Finney's reaction brings the weight of this revelation to Charles, as he seems to shatter from the inside, and Finney delivers the severity of this betrayal. This leaves one last scene, the final scene of the film, where Charles visits an injured Andy in the hospital, after Andy's back up plan has also failed, to finally confront his son. Finney's performance is amazing here as he still suggests just a hint of the support of the father as he claims to accept Andy's apology, but it's only a hint. Finney then reveals the full extent of Charles's rage towards his sons. The intensity Finney brings is shattering, as he shows Charles finally unleash everything he has just barely been able to pent up since the robbery. This is a great performance Albert Finney, perhaps his very best, as he creates such a vivid and powerful portrait of a man's loss and the need for vengeance that comes from it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman in Gone Baby Gone

Ed Harris did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Detective Sergeant Remy Bressant in Gone Baby Gone.

Ed Harris comes into Gone Baby Gone as the lead detective investigating the disappearance
of a little girl who is none too happy to have to aid private investigator Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) who has been hired also to follow the case. This sort of role fits right into Ed Harris's wheelhouse as Ed Harris is always good at being a colossal ball buster. He does well in establishing Sergeant Bressant's attitude toward Patrick in a believable fashion. Although there are revelations about his character later on that paint a fuller picture about Bressant's motivations there's no need to question him at first because of Harris's performance. Harris presents acerbic attitude quite effectively as it does not seem too much by any means. Harris gives the right sense that Bressant simply not being impressed by the young man, and frankly just does not have any time for him. Harris creates the sense of the sort of cop Bressant is in these early scenes. There's an obvious wear that Harris effortlessly conveys in Bressant due to his time of dealing with the worst scum, that while it does not necessarily fully excuse the way he treats Patrick, it certainly allows one to understand why he treats him that way.

Harris's performance works well as a contrast to Affleck's performance, as it seems Bressant is possibly the man that Patrick could become as he is also changed by the murky world the investigation brings him through. Harris gives a needed bluntness to his scenes as he basically has Bressant state the apparent truths without sentiment, while Affleck carefully carries a more overt sentiment around the problems in the case. Harris is careful though not to portray as though Bressant has lost his humanity or anything near that. Harris also has a strong emotional quality to his work but he carefully shows how it differs from the certain hopefulness Affleck brings to Patrick. Harris is indeed most often a bit callous in the way he presents Bressant attitude, but when a moment forces something out of him there definitely something there. Instead any any idea of hope though Harris instead brings a particularly vicious hatred in disgust into Bressant for the developments of the case, as though he has no reason to have any hopes since he is well aware of the world that he lives in.

Harris's best scene is probably after Patrick's sort of proved himself to Bressant, by doing something that seems to support Bressant's own world view. Harris is very good in the scene as he let's go of his more acerbic tendencies and Harris reveals in all earnestness what motivates Bressant. There is a concern that Harris reveals and shows that he's not way just some simple mean cop. The film has its twist take in place though and Bressant takes many extreme measures to try cover what it is that he did. Harris is good in these scenes because he does not make Bressant seem to suddenly become some psychotic villain, even though he does have to wear a clown mask at one point. Harris is good in these scenes because he also loses any of that dark levity that is found in his early scenes. Harris presents Bressant as being especially concerned in these scenes, and reveals that in the Bressant was too entranced into the case for his own well being as a cop and a man. This is a good performance that manages to realizes his character in a way that gives some understanding to the twist, but never gives it away either.
Morgan Freeman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain Jack Doyle in Gone Baby Gone.

Morgan Freeman plays a well respected police Captain who has a personal investment in the case because his own child had been abducted. Freeman seems like good casting in the role since he's someone who carries a certain respectability through his natural screen presence. This would seem a perfect fit for the character of Captain Doyle, and I must say it seems that way in the brief glimpses we are given of the character in his very official setting. The first time Patrick meets him though Freeman takes the approach of giving a very intense confrontation from the outset as he speaks the words about his own loss, and the severity of the situation as though Patrick should feel guilty around. Freeman creates a volatility with the character just as Harris did in his scenes, but the problem with Freeman is is really did not need to the way he does. It feels as though he overplays his hand, and wipes away the bit of respect his initial appearance creates. From the outset there seems to be something off about his character, and there is no reason to accept him as a character more fitting to the Morgan Freeman type.

As the investigation progresses and a break through seems to appear the Captain get directly involved with it, as he attempts to make Patrick and the other detectives do things his way. Freeman again seems to intentionally has a certain falseness about the Captain, as though he is overly trying to show his concerns to those around him. Freeman has shown before he certainly knows how to do passion when he needs to but Freeman gives a falseness to it here. Now it is true that a twist works best for the film as a whole if it is set up, so even though you get tricked by it the first time, when you watch the film again the film still works since you know can see what brought the twist together. Gone Baby Gone's twist is problematic to begin with since it seems a bit odd that three seasoned police officers are going to put so much on the line just to help one guy who wants a better life for his niece, and if Doyle wanted another kid so badly he could just adopt. Even with its ridiculousness Freeman telegraphs it too much with his performance by not creating an sense of false security with his character. Freeman always plays every moment as too much of a confrontation, and with far too many oddly fake moments in there.

Harris throws in a few slight instances where he alludes to the fact that Bressant knows a bit more than he is telling Patrick, but these one's are only really noticeable after already knowing the twist. Freeman puts too many in for his own good as he sets up the twist, but goes too far giving it away at the same time. It would have likely been far more effective if Freeman did play into making the Captain as respected, as the film claims he is, but Freeman never creates the illusion making his fall from grace carry far less of an impact than it should have. Freeman's best scene is when the act is wholly dropped and he tries to argue with Patrick the morality of his needlessly complex method of avoiding filing adoption papers. Although probably have some forging done for his plan anyways, but I'm getting off topic. Interestingly enough Freeman is far less confrontational in this scene than in his earlier ones, but this actually works much better as he finally seems to make his character genuine in the least. It's a good scene for Freeman as he finally delivers the passion that motivates the character in an honest fashion. It's fine end but as a whole Freeman's approach is a miscalculation that severely undermines what I assume was the point of the character.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn

Steve Zahn did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Duane Martin in Rescue Dawn.

Steve Zahn is probably best known for his performances as wacky sidekicks in comedies. Well this performance could not be further from that, although I guess he still is kinda a sidekick. Zahn plays the first American face that Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) sees after his capture by North Vietnamese friendly forces after his crash landing. This is within a prisoner of war camp, and Dieter sees Duane just as he is being released from solitary confinement. Zahn's performance is extremely effective from the moment we see him as he essentially realizes the camp's hardships. Like most of the actors Zahn is indeed visually appears to fit the part, but Zahn does not leave to weight loss and dirt though to convey this. Zahn's physical performance is remarkable as the grim nature of the camp is readily apparent. Zahn's movements are very slow as though every step is painful for Duane, and it is a terrible effort for him merely to be able to get around just the small area of the camp. Zahn out of all the actors is especially good at showing what the camp's conditions do to a man.

Zahn portrays Duane as almost a walking corpse as there is just so little energy that Zahn puts in the man. The way he shutters about Zahn depicts a man who's just barely holding onto life even when Dieter first appears. Zahn's work is uncompromising because he bluntly portrays Duane as having wasted away in the camp from starvation, as can be seen by his appearance to be sure, but also in his eyes as Zahn shows a man who seemingly has not had a single comfort in a long time. If the starvation was not horrible enough though Duane also suffers from chronic dysentery. Although the film actually does not show this ever, Zahn's performance reveals the unpleasantness of it as he portrays the constant strain of it, as well as the really the embarrassment of it as Zahn so plainly has Duane state that he can't help it. That's not all there is though to it unfortunately for Duane since the men have been tortured before their arrival, and are constantly threatened by violence due to the guards of the camp. Again Zahn's performance reflects this brutality as he always seems to shy away from the guards, and how he wears the suffering of such treatment at all times. 

What Zahn does so well is create the mental condition of Duane though within the camp. Where Bale, and Jeremy Davies as the other American in the camp play their roles in a fairly extroverted way, which I do think is fitting in giving a sense of their particular forms of madness, Zahn keeps his performance very introverted as though Duane's very self is wearing to nothing. Zahn, despite his withdrawn approach often becomes the most compelling because you still feel exactly what Duane is going through. Although he never breaks open in the way the other two actors do but this distress he conveys is palatable. Zahn has his own intensity that is incredible as one can see a man who wants to scream out over his life but it can't come out of it. There is perhaps even a little of his own madness, but again very different from the sort shown by Bale and Davies. Zahn once again keeps it internalized within his work as there is something a bit off about Duane, but how could there not be given his circumstances. There is something unpredictable about his manner and there is something so disconcerting about the way Zahn depicts an insanity of what should be a stable man.

This is not a one note performance of endless suffering, even if that is impeccably portrayed by Zahn. Zahn never let's us forget that Duane is a man who had a life before. There is that spark of the past still in him, which makes his current existence all the harrowing. This small spark is best scene in the rather quiet scenes where Dieter and Duane interact with each other. Bale and Zahn are great together as they realize the friendship between the two even though there really is not an excessive focus upon it. They make use of the moments the two do have as there is such a subtle warmth the two draw upon that is quite moving to be sure. There is one particularly good scene where Dieter tells Duane the story about what inspired him to want to be a pilot in the first place. The two's camaraderie seems amplified by them both being pilots, and the two actors create this so well. What I like most about these scenes though is the way Zahn suggests a bit more life in Duane as he interacts with the spirited Dieter. Zahn's work is very poignant as he gives just the slightest bit of hope in Duane's tired eyes as Duane is given motivation to live through Dieter.

The two eventually do make their escape from the camp, but the plan goes wrong which leaves the two of them to have to try to wander through the jungle to find help. Zahn is heartbreaking in the scenes as they progress as he shows Duane lose that hope from the start of the escape. Zahn makes this harrowing as he gradually shows Duane someone become even worse off than he was in the camp, as the remaining bit of his life seems to fade away, to the point that he almost is ghost just stumbling behind the still passionate Dieter, although even he's starting to lose hope as well. This eventually leads the men to take the risk of asking local villagers for help. Even though the two ask for help as meekly as possible the villagers become aggressive. The attack by the villagers is not a long scene but it is gut wrenching as Zahn's performance so simply depicts the horror of the moment, as he finally lets out a scream, though it is only scream of pain just before Duane's life is taken from him. This is tremendous work by Steve Zahn as he presents the painful decline of a man towards death. Zahn earns the final scenes where Duane seems to haunt Dieter, because he haunts us as well.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007

And the Nominees Were Not:

Albert Finney in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz

Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men

Ben Foster in 3:10 to Yuma

Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn

Predict those five or these five:

Sam Rockwell in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford

John Carroll Lynch in Zodiac

Morgan Freeman in Gone Baby Gone

Ed Harris in Gone Baby Gone

John Travolta in Hairspray

Or both

Alternate Best Actor 2007: Results

10. James McAvoy in Atonement - McAvoy is oddly smarmy for a romantic lead and leaves much to be desired as our guide through the horrors of war.

Best Scene: Saving Briony I guess.
9. Cillian Murphy in Sunshine - Murphy gives an interesting take on the sci-fi thriller hero by playing it cold but still giving his character humanity. Although the director's self-indulgence covers up what should be his emotional climax.

Best Scene: The first action sequence.
8. Chris Cooper in Breach - Cooper creates a believable portrait of a man who contradicts almost everything he says, yet speaks with such conviction.

Best Scene: The arrest.
7. Joaquin Phoenix in We Own the Night - Phoenix is given a character arc that is fairly well worn, but he makes it feel honest and gives a compelling performance.

Best Scene: Bobby hears about his father.
6. Lau Ching Wan in Mad Detective - Wan gives an entertaining off beat portrayal of a schizophrenic who actually embraces his madness.

Best Scene: The detective with his wives.
5. John C. Reilly in Walk Hard - Reilly gives a very enjoyably parody of the troubled popular musician, largely by bringing so much conviction to the role.

Best Scene: The final song. 
4. Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn - Bale gives an effective portrayal of the mental and physical degradations in his journey to survive and escape from a pow camp in Laos. 

Best Scene: Dieter is shot at in captivity.
3. Casey Affleck in Gone Baby Gone - Affleck acts quite effectively as the audiences guide through the dark world involved with the film's kidnapping, and gives a strong portrayal of how the journey changes him.

Best Scene: The raid.
2. Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford - Brad Pitt gives a complex portrayal of Jesse James as he creates the myth, but also the man.

Best Scene: The assassination.
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Good Predictions Luke, mcofra7, GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar, and moviefilm. Hoffman gives a great performance as he presents us with a commanding calm man, and is heart wrenching as throughout the film he peels away the layers of his facade to reveal the fearful mess he truly is.

Best Scene: Andy's solution.
Overall Rank:
  1. Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood
  3. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
  4. Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
  5. Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises
  6. Casey Affleck in Gone Baby Gone
  7. Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn
  8. Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz 
  9. John C. Reilly in Walk Hard
  10. Gordon Pinsent in Away From Her 
  11. Ethan Hawke in Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
  12. Mark Ruffalo in Zodiac
  13. Lau Ching Wan in Mad Detective
  14. Russell Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma
  15. Joaquin Phoenix in We Own the Night
  16. Chris Cooper in Breach
  17. Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac
  18. Cillian Murphy in Sunshine
  19. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Savages
  20. Denzel Washington in American Gangster 
  21. Christian Bale in 3:10 to Yuma
  22. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Lookout
  23. Adrien Brody in The Darjeeling Limited
  24. Tommy Lee Jones in In The Valley of Elah
  25. Thomas Jane in The Mist
  26. Owen Wilson in The Darjeeling Limited
  27. Clive Owen in Shoot 'Em Up
  28. Will Smith in I am Legend
  29. Russell Crowe in American Gangster
  30. Jason Schwartzman in The Darjeeling Limited
  31. Glen Hansard in Once
  32. Liam Neeson in Seraphim Falls
  33. Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd
  34. Denzel Whitaker in The Great Debaters
  35. Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild 
  36. Pierce Brosnan in Seraphim Falls
  37. Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson's War
  38. Denzel Washington in The Great Debaters
  39. Patton Oswalt in Ratatouille
  40. Charlie Cox in Stardust 
  41. Gerard Butler in 300
  42. George Clooney in Michael Clayton
  43. Andy On in Mad Detective
  44. James McAvoy in Atonement
  45. Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 
  46. Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard
  47. Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End  
  48. Matthew Macfadyen in Death at a Funeral
  49. Freddie Rodriguez in Grindhouse
  50. Dan Castellaneta in The Simpson Movie
  51. Freddie Highmore in August Rush 
  52. Ryan Phillipe in Breach
  53. Michael Caine in Sleuth
  54. Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  55. Patrick Dempsey in Enchanted
  56. Jude Law in Sleuth
  57. Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider
  58. Rowan Atkinson in Mr. Bean's Holiday
  59. Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 3
  60. Ioan Gruffudd in Fantastic Four: Rise of Silver Surfer
  61. Shia Labeouf in Transformers
Next Year: 2007 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 2007: John C. Reilly in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

John C. Reilly did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Dewey Cox in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story tells the story of a Johnny Cash like musician throughout the years. As a film I enjoyed it in parts, but I have to admit more than once I felt like it should just about being wrapped up instead it just keeps going.

John C. Reilly gets to play the lead here whereas he's usually regulated to the supporting roles in both comedies and dramas actually. Here he gets the main role as the musician who is literally haunted by his past which entailed accidentally chopping his older brother in half. Reilly plays the initial scenes a bit like his other comedies and actually not too far off from his Oscar nominated performance in Chicago. That being kinda as the naive country bumpkin who seems has a consistent bit of optimism in his disposition. Reilly's method does work rather well in terms of playing around the absurdest humor found in the film which always goes for some over the top gag or another visually, or just thrown into the dialogue. Reilly's approach is kinda interesting since he's neither the straight man but he does not exactly go as the obvious funny man either. Obviously his whole set up character is a tad comical to begin with but the way Reilly reacts to the gags is generally in a particularly unassuming way that is funny, and as well allows him to act as though he's really playing a musician with ambition in his heart.

Now the key to this performance is that Reilly attempts to portray the whole life of musician Dewey Cox therefore he can't be a constant because a musician must have phases. Well these can be seen in pretty much every modern musical biopic or just musical such as Ray, Walk the Line or even Dreamgirls. First out he begins as that man with a dream, which Reilly gives all the enthusiasm to with the eyes of a dreamer of things even as everyone tells him there's no reason to pursue his dream. Then we get his early period as a success which Reilly keeps with a great degree of humility and nervousness as though he is in disbelief of his position. This of course naturally leads to the problematic elements of the life such as loose women to keep him away from his wife, and plenty of drugs. Reilly is particularly enjoyable as he keeps that same stupid trusting demeanor as indulges in every drug he's told not to take, as well as has sex with everyone whose something or other he picks up for them. Reilly really is not seductive at all, but that's actually what makes it amusing.

Of course the hedonistic lifestyle leaves to unhappiness as his wife leaves him as well as his new wife leaving Dewey in considerable distress. It is rather enjoyable to see Reilly as the suffering musician overwhelmed by the pain of his life and quite obviously artist endeavor, as always personified by his ghost brother. He even goes to that phase of the shell of a man just going through the motions of nothingness until that intense rehab scene. Reilly's particularly entertaining here because he bothers to go through each of the phases, that Joaquin Phoenix and Jamie Foxx attempted to portray in a serious fashion, but here with a humorous bent to the whole thing. The rehab works though gaining back the love of his second wife leaving him no where to go but be a the musician who transcends all to a higher form of being. Well this is obviously where everything thing should wrap up, as it did in Ray and Walk the Line, but it decides not to. Where those films ended technically speaking mid-career (since obviously they'd never have another crisis), this keeps following Cox as he has a relapse as well as even has to sink into becoming a has been hack while doing a variety show.

Although oddly enough this in a weird way might be more realistic in portraying the full journey of a popular singer, but unfortunately it does feel a bit repetitive in terms of the gags used by the film. Reilly to his credit though does not just merely go back to the similar phase in terms of his performance. Reilly bothers to have a whole new form of depression for Dewey, this time more fitting of an aged man who must wither away in a new whole of nothingness. Of course this all sounds serious but that's never the intention but there is something so great about Reilly keeping Cox in this personal journey despite how silly some of scenes he's involved with can be. The best part of the journey for me has to be the end as Reilly gets his A Beautiful Mind moment where he gets to be caked in makeup and reflect on his life in an overly dramatic moment fitting for the end of an overly dramatic biopic. It's an especially funny end for Reilly because he brings so much convictions for those final seconds as you see Dewey Cox finally reaching the point of self-actualization just before his death a few seconds later.

This is a good comedic performance, in fact I would say I care for his performance more than I care for the film itself, as many a gag fall flat, but in no part due to Reilly's conviction to make them work best he can. What makes this performance a bit of step above just simply being good though are the songs, which are quite easily the high points of the film. Part of the reason for this is Reilly's performances of the songs. Reilly gives every delivery his all, again makes the ridiculous lyrics sing all the better since he treats them with all seriousness, pouring his heart into every ounce of it. What's so memorable about Reilly is that he tackles so many different styles. He covers the performance closely associated with Johnny Cash delivering such drive in his hard ballad about walking hard. He too does the romantic, in this case time excessively sexual, duet with all the sweetness needed. He even does a Bob Dylan in all his mumbling glory. Then he brings all home with the utmost passion of a long life in his final delivery of Dewey's last song in his final seconds. Although I can't say I loved the film as a whole, I did get a thorough kick out of Reilly's strangely devoted work.