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.

14 comments:

Matt Mustin said...

Another great performance in a film full of them. Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

Calvin Law said...

Louis/everyone else, what are your top 10 Coen Brothers performances?

1. Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis
2. John Goodman in Barton Fink
3. Steve Buscemi in Fargo
4. Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona
5. John Turturro in Barton Fink
6. M. Emmet Walsh in Blood Simple
7. Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski
8. Frances McDormand in Fargo
9. Albert Finney in Miller's Crossing
10. Judy Davis in Barton Fink

Hon. Mention: Dan Hedaya in Blood Simple

Calvin Law said...

And also rankings of the Coen Brother films you've seen.

1. Inside Llweyn Davis
2. Barton Fink
3. Raising Arizona
4. Fargo
5. True Grit
6. Blood Simple
7. O Brother Where Art Thou?
8. No Country for Old Men
9. The Big Lebowski
10. Miller's Crossing
11. Burn After Reading
12. The Hudsucker Proxy

Calvin Law said...

Love all the top 8 and quite like 9 and 10.

luke higham said...

Calvin:
Performances
1. Steve Buscemi/Fargo
2. John Goodman/Barton Fink
3. Peter Stormare/Fargo
4. Oscar Isaac/Inside Llewyn Davis
5. Frances McDormand/Fargo
6. Javier Bardem/No Country For Old Men
7. John Turturro/ Barton Fink
8. Albert Finney/ Miller's Crossing
9. William H. Macy/Fargo
10. John Goodman/ The Big Lebowski
Hon. Billy Bob Thornton/The Man Who Wasn't There

Films
1. Fargo
2. Barton Fink
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. No Country For Old Men
5. The Big Lebowski
6. The Man Who Wasn't There
7. Miller's Crossing
8. A Serious Man
9. Raising Arizona
10. O Brother Where Art Thou?
11. Blood Simple
12. True Grit
13. Burn After Reading

Anonymous said...

Films:
1. A Serious Man
2. No Country For Old Men
3. Fargo
4. Burn After Reading
5. Miller's Crossing
6. Barton Fink
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
8. O Brother Where Art Thou?
9. The Man Who Wasn't There
10. Blood Simple
11. The Big Lebowski
12. Raising Arizona
13. True Grit
14. The Ladykillers
15. Intolerable Cruelty

Performances:
1. William H. Macy - Fargo
2. Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men
3. Holly Hunter - Raising Arizona
4. John Goodman - Barton Fink
5. Frances McDormand - Fargo
6. Jeff Bridges - The Big Lebowski
7. Steve Buscemi - Fargo
8. Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
9. John Turturro - Barton Fink
10. Michael Stuhlbarg - A Serious Man

(Very) Honorable Mention: J. K. Simmons - Burn After Reading

luke higham said...

Louis: Your rating for Richard Jenkins in Burn After Reading.

Michael McCarthy said...

1. Fargo
2. Barton Fink
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. The Big Lebowski
5. Miller's Crossing
6. No Country for Old Men
7. A Serious Man
8. True Grit
9. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
10. Burn After Reading
11. The Man Who Wasn't There
12. Blood Simple

Michael McCarthy said...

So I just saw Love & Mercy and it's pretty easily my least favorite film of the year so far.

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: Rating & Thoughts on Dano.

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: And Cusack as well, please.

Michael McCarthy said...

Cusack: 3 (He was heavily mannered in a way that was a little distracting at times but worked well enough. Unfortunately his character was completely static so he was never all that compelling. I also think he could've added a bit more charm so it wouldn't be looked like Banks wanted to be with him just because of his fame.)

Dano: 3.5 (He was a little more interesting. He's pretty good at being the ambitious musician who earnestly wants to make real art and who's always a little off. He actually has a bit of an arc, unfortunately towards the latter half of his performance he goes over the top frequently.)

Louis Morgan said...

Matt:

Brolin - 4.5(Brolin's performance is rather interesting actually in that he plays the lone fairly reserved western hero, but Llewelyn is not the man without no name. Brolin does a great deal in the silent margins of the film as you always feel what Llewelyn is going through and helps ratchet up the tension of the film all the more. In addition to that Brolin is very effective in the way he makes Llewelyn somewhat viable as a hero. He has confidence and strength but not as much as he thinks)

Harrelson - 4(Harrelson is a hoot as he creates his own professional killer who's probably a bit too sardonic for his own good. What I like most though is his more somber moments where he alludes to the sort of man Chigurh is)

Dillahunt - 3.5(He's really quite enjoyable foil to Tommy Lee Jones similarly manages to Barney Fife without seeming out of place)

Harper - 3(Strikes up a believable chemistry with Jones even though she is not given much to do)

Corbin - 3.5(A good one scene wonder as he shows the same sort of worn out qualities that Jones expresses, but Corbin lacks the confusion as he portrays man who understands how the world has always been)

Root - 3(Good in his very brief time, but does not get to do much)

Jones - 4(A one scene wonder to be sure. The dynamic he strikes up with Chigurh is just so good as he shows that the man just is not on the same wavelength of Chigurh in the least. He's hilarious as he tries to keep a certain cordiality while dealing with the psychopath, but still builds the tension as he conveys the poor man's nervousness as he tries to comprehend the situation.)

Calvin:

1. John Goodman - Barton Fink
2. Steve Buscemi - Fargo
3. Peter Stormare - Fargo
4. France McDormand - Fargo
5. John Turturro - Barton Fink
6. Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
7. William H. Macy - Fargo
8. Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men
9. Albert Finney - Miller's Crossing
10. John Goodman - The Big Lebowski

Luke:

4

Matt Mustin said...

Glad to see that you liked Gene Jones. He is *essential* to that scene's effectiveness.