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.


Calvin Law said...

Thoughts and ratings for the rest of the cast?

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Female Lead/Supporting Top 5s for 1980 and 1981 with ratings.

Michael McCarthy said...

I actually think there's quite a bit more to this performance, like the way he shows that the women's sexual history is something that truly fascinates him rather than just arouses him. I'd really like to hear your thoughts on San Giacomo, I thought she was excellent.

RatedRStar said...

:Michael McCarthy: What I meant by that previous post is simply that I couldn't see myself getting old lol.

Michael Patison said...

I agree there's quite a bit more to this performance than you may be giving it credit for.

Additionally, I love this film. Most people, including me, do not like Soderbergh, but I found his work to be exceptional here.

Out of the cast, Gallagher is the only weak link for me. MacDowell is absolutely terrific and so is San Giacomo

It's my Best Picture winner for the year.

RatedRStar said...

I quite like this film actually, although I usually don't really think too much of Soderbergh either, I think he is a ok enough director I suppose, I did like Traffic though.

Louis have you seen Douglas in War of The Roses, and Cusack in Say Anything, if so what are your thoughts and ratings on them? and if you haven't seen them, they could get in bonus reviews possibly =).

Anonymous said...

I thought MacDowell was surprisingly great in this. Giacomo was brilliant and she'd be my pick for supporting, and Spader was fantastic as well. What do you think of the movie Louis?

Anonymous said...

Just watched Ex Machina and St Vincent - Louis and people here: what are your ratings for the main characters' performances of these films?

Ex Machina:
Oscar Isaac - 5 (funny, menacing, manipulative, warming, mysterious, all of this, and, by the end, a very cohesive character build, and a terrific scene presence)
Alicia Vikander - 4.5
Dowmnhall Gleeson - 4 (the less complex of the characters, but still a very efective performance, also fullfilled with charisma)

St. Vincent:
Bill Murray - 4.5 (almost a 5)
Melissa McCarthy - 4
Naomi Watts - 4.5
Jaeden Lieberher - 4 (the kind of surprisingly natural performance from a young kid)

Michael McCarthy said...


Bothe Gleeson and Isaac border on 4.5. Haven't seen St. Vincent.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Isaac: 4
Vikander: 5
Gleeson: 3.5

luke higham said...

Vikander - 5
Gleeson - 4.5
Isaac - 4.5

moviefilm said...

St. Vincent
Bill Murray - 4.5 (stronger campaigning and a weaker year could have actually made him a serious Oscar contender, after the stroke he's brilliant)
Naomi Watts - 4 (slightly overacted, but really enjoyable)
Melissa McCarthy - 3.5 (she's good in characterisation, but is overshadowed by the co-stars)
Jaeden Lieberher - 4.5 (a great co-lead to Murray)

Matt Mustin said...

Well, I just watched The Hunt. Mikkelsen is amazing, but really, the whole cast is incredible.

Michael McCarthy said...

Guys I just saw Me and Earl and the Dying Girl...and WOW was it an emotionally manipulative movie. It actually made me kind of angry.

mcofra7 said...

Louis: Has your rating changed for Gordon-Levitt in Sin City? I noticed that Ed Helms in Stretch is ranked above him, who you gave a 3.5

John Smith said...

Louis, your toughest on the cast of City Of God as well as your toughest on the movie.

I thought the movie was great as well as the child performances

Louis Morgan said...


MacDowell - 4.5(MacDowell may seem limited in other things but I guess everything just seems to play into her strengths here. She does not create the sexually repressed woman into a caricature though. She brings an honesty to these scenes and always suggests what compels her to act this way. When she does portray the progression she wholly earns that and really strikes up some great chemistry with Spader)

San Giacomo - 4.5(Like MacDowell she does a terrific job of not playing into cliche. Although she certainly is extremely alluring in portraying the side of the lusty woman that's not all there is. There is a palatable desperation that she conveys so well, and again suggests what's behind this compulsion. Her final progression is given less focus, but she's very effective in creating almost a sense of maturity when she reconciles with her sister)




Sissy Spacek - Coal Miner's Daughter
Mary Tyler Moore - Ordinary People
Shelley Duvall - The Shining
Susan Sarandon - Atlantic City
Blair Brown - Altered States - 3.5

Supporting Actress:

Beverly D'Angelo - Coal Miner's Daughter
Carrie Fisher - The Empire Strikes Back
Wendy Hiller - The Elephant Man
Anne Bancroft - The Elephant Man
Cathy Moriarty - Raging Bull



Bernadette Peters - Pennies From Heaven - 4
Kathleen Turner - Body Heat
Diane Keaton - Reds
Marsha Mason - Only When I Laugh
Katherine Hepburn - On Golden Pond

Supporting Actress:

Karen Allen - Raiders of the Lost Ark
Alice Krige - Chariots of Fire - 4
Shelley Duvall - Time Bandits - 4
Maggie Smith - Clash of the Titans - 4
Maureen Stapleton - Reds


I've seen them. But let me give you those thoughts a little later.


I actually rather liked the movie especially since it does not have Soderberg's later stylistic flourishes that I find extremely grating.

John Smith:

Haven't seen it.