Thursday, 30 July 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1959: Alec Guinness in The Scapegoat

Alec Guinness did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Barratt and Jacques De Gué in the Scapegoat.

The Scapegoat has an intriguing concept, although it never quite takes off as it should as a film, about a man who is given the life of his double, he just chances upon, for an unknown reason.

If someone is coming in expecting this to be Alec Guinness's Dead Ringers they will be disappointed. Guinness does play a dual role, but the two men are not twins. The character of Jacques De Gué is also only in a few scenes, and the film does not strive to make much of a dynamic between the two. Yet the scenes of their interactions are perhaps the most interesting in the film thanks to Guinness. Guinness certainly can handle a variety of voices, as well as transform himself considerably in a role, but he does not do this in his portrayal of the two men. This is not to say that he does not realize each man in their own unique fashion. Our main character John Barratt Guinness realizes as a modest enough proper British Gentlemen. He finds him well simply as a man without presumptions, but also without much of anything in terms of his outlook on life keeping him quite meek in his disposition. As Jacques De Gué he does not acquire a French accent, with good reason since, save one, all the other French characters in the film are played by British actors.

Since part of the story is for John to replace Jacques without much trouble, it makes sense for the man not to differ too greatly. Guinness though does shows Jacques to be a man who has lived much more of a "fuller" life in his more outgoing manner, although like John Guinness conveys a certain exasperation within this as though he's also quite tired of his own particular existence. Guinness is terrific though in the way he naturally depicts a different body language in Jacques which are broader, and freer for a man who seems more use to an outgoing life. In turn Guinness depicts John's own as a much more constricted. The most remarkable thing about the twin depiction though is his slight alteration in voice. Guinness does not use a different accent in either role, but there is an alteration in the way he speaks words with slight faster and smoother pace as Jacques, along with differing use of emphases. I would not have minded more the two together because Guinness's work is quite fascinating since he able to realize these differences while still making it convincing that the ruse would not be questioned.

The majority of the film though is not on the two of them together but rather John being placed in to Jacques's life. Guinness portrays John's earliest reactions as particularly straight and realistic as he's just taken aback by the situation, and refuses to recognize that he has been placed in this ruse. Everyone around him refusing to believe that he is anyone but Jacques begins to wear him down. Guinness does not depict this as though John is convinced to participate in the ruse simply because no one will accept his actual story, but rather Guinness conveys very nicely the moments where he begins to interact with the film, especially Jacques, daughter an understated happiness that begins to develop in John. Guinness strikes up an interesting dynamic because he does not play it as though John is exactly purposefully perpetuating the ruse in terms of his own performance. He still keeps John as his modest self, which is quite different form Jacques, but Guinness makes the ruse believable as the sort of modesty that Guinness depicts could easily be misinterpreted as either a sort of joke, or attempt at being apologetic from a more flamboyant individual. 

The succeeding scenes essentially follow John as he goes from one aspect of Jacques life to another, and frankly this calls upon the genuine class it takes to spell out Alec Guinness's name. Guinness presents John to be as dignified of a figure as possible as he goes about seeing various members of Jacques's family who all have something at least slightly strange about them. Guinness plays this scenes out with a quiet reserve though exudes a certain understanding and warmth as he interacts with each with a slight detachment though with a complete respect for their individual needs. There is a certain sweetness that Guinness is able to develop with almost all the members of Jacques's immediate family, as well as even his mistress. The relationship Guinness develops between John and Jacques's daughter is particularly charming, and Guinness is excellent in showing the way that the relationships gradually develop in creating a stronger familiarity between the stranger and the family. The conceit of the story is that John helps almost all of them through their problems, the writing does not do enough to provide reason for this, but Guinness's performance manages to give at least some sense to these developments.

Eventually something drastic happens, where the purpose of Jacques's ruse comes to light, and Guinness is quite effective in portraying just how much the people in the family have come to mean to John. This leads to a final confrontation between Jacques and John. It's a fantastic scene for Guinness as he fully reveals the cruelty to Jacques, only suggested by the state of his family, bringing such venomous pride in his words as he describes what he has done as well as states his specific demand to have his life back. In turn Guinness brings the right sort of poignancy as he portrays the refined yet palatable passion in John as it becomes clear that he has no intention to give up the life, a life Jacques only gave up in order to commit a despicable act. This confrontation is indeed a high point to go out for the film because he mostly focuses on Guinness's assured performance as both men. The weaknesses of the film reveal themselves when the actual final scenes suddenly suggest as though John's relationship Jacques was suppose to be particularly meaningful, which it was not, and the film adds to far less than it should. Guinness's own work can never be faulted though as he elevates what good there is in the film, and gives a compelling portrayal of both characters. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1959: Anthony Franciosa in Career

Anthony Franciosa did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a Golden Globe, for portraying Sam Lawson in Career.

Career is a decent enough film about an aspiring actors continued attempts to break out on the New York stage.

Anthony Franciosa is not an actor I have been fond of, in fact I found every other performance of his that I have seen pretty atrocious including his Oscar nominated performance. Well this perhaps brought him close to another nomination since he did indeed win the Golden Globe for best actor in a drama, which usually translates to an Oscar nomination. That was not the case for Franciosa. Well this seems like a good thing right? After all this part seems ready to come off poorly since one thing they keep mentioning is that above all else is that his character Sam Lawson is a talented actor. Well I have to admit Franciosa's not bad at all here. I don't know what happened maybe Dean Martin playing it so low-key made him relax a bit, or perhaps Shirley MacLaine chomping down the scenery whole sale made him decide to play it down, because Franciosa plays the part in a pretty calm fashion here. He almost comes across as a different actor as he does not just fall down upon his old tricks as he usually did.

Franciosa is actually likable, that's right likable, as he portrays the early scenes of Sam trying to make it in New York with his wife, despite success seeming so difficult to obtain. Franciosa manages to convey his particular passion quiet effectively actually and is able to realize his dream of the stage in a way that does not at all problematic. It would be very easy for such a character to seem far too self-indulgent but Franciosa manages to bring an honesty in this passion that makes you understand why Sam has this dream. Things do not get better though as he is unable to find steady work and his wife Barbara (Joan Blackman) begins to have some particular strong second thoughts about the venture. Now in these scenes something so bizarre happens, it's almost impossible to comprehend the strangeness of it all, in the scenes where Blackman gets kinda melodramatic and over the top Franciosa stay understated in his performance. Inconceivable. Franciosa goes past that though and is even quite good in portraying just that powerful yet desperate desire in Sam to achieve his dream no matter what, that you do feel sorry for Sam when she leaves him.

The oddity continues in his scenes with his agent Shirley (Carolyn Jones) who is trying her best to find him parts, but nothing ever seems to quite work out. Franciosa and Jones are just really charming together actually, and it enjoyable to see their little reactions with each other as they stay casual as Sam faces one defeat after another. There is such a nice warmth about the two's interactions that is not a traditional sort of romantic chemistry but Franciosa and Jones really make you see the unsaid love the two have for each other. Their relationship being the always the bright spot within the film and both actors earn this wonderfully well. The other main relationship is with another wannabe Maury (Martin), who Sam always comes across throughout his career. Although that start out together in a chummy enough fashion, when Maury finds any success he quickly forgets about Sam. Franciosa does a lot in his moments with Martin by portraying so well the intensity that grows in Sam through the frustrations he faces while dealing with the amoral Maury.

When later on Sam becomes somewhat amoral himself for a brief period, by stealing Maury's girl (MacLaine), Franciosa earns the darker side of Sam as he seems to hate everything, by building it up in the previous scenes. At the same time Franciosa effectively conveys the discomfort in Sam in being such a cruel man, and falling back into a better man feels just as natural. Before that happens though there is one last challenge to be performed. That's when Maury does one betrayal too many, and at a particular painful time leaving Sam to attack Maury while threatening to kill him. Time for good old Franciosa right? Wrong. First of all its though only scene this extreme in the performance, and deserved of the situation. Secondly though Franciosa delivers in making feel like the genuine hate from Sam towards a man who has pushed him too far. This performance is quite frightening to tell you the truth its breaking my whole reality, where things seemed so simple and Franciosa was only capable of a terrible performance. Saying this is the best I've seen from him is not good enough. He's actually good here, and not only that I found him endearing. That's right the film had classic feel good moment at the end thanks to how much I found myself caring for Sam as a character thanks to Franciosa.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1959: Tatsuya Nakadai in The Human Condition I: No Greater Love

Tatsuya Nakadai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Kaji in The Human Condition I: No Greater Love.

The Human Condition is a trilogy of films depicting one man's journey during World War II. The first film details the man's attempt to avoid being drafted into the military by taking a job supervising a forced labor camp.

Tatsuya Nakadai perhaps became best known for his more devious turns opposite of Toshiro Mifune or his eventual leading turns as Samurai lords in Ran and Kagemusha, but here he plays technically speaking an average man of the 1940's. As the film opens Nakadai depicts Kaji as a pretty normal man who is fearful of being called into military service. Nakadai in the early scenes properly reflects this certain fear that keeps him also from even making a commitment to his fiancee Michiko. Nakadai portrays this in a particularly honest way as there is a certain cowardice in his behavior, even if there is belief behind it somewhere, the way Nakadai at the beginning portrays Kaji simply believes himself simply to not be suited for war. There is a sentiment of pacifism within this, but it is not the overpowering trait. This is evidenced further when Kaji, instead of taking a life sentence in prison for refusing to fight, is able to get military exemption through a promotion in his work. Nakadai does well not to hide the very simple joy of losing his fear of war as he goes about his new assignment, and seems to intent on living again as he marries Michiko since he no longer fears for his life.

The new promotion though is not a easy position by any means though as he is sent to a mining camp in Manchuria, where he will act as a supervisor for the Chinese who are put into forced labor. Nakadai in those earlier scenes set up Kaji well as basically the activist with only a personal cause, and an activist who simply has never faced a personal trial for these beliefs. He's been able to go along with life just fine without having to confront himself, and Nakadai's performance fittingly realizes this mentality in Kaji as he is first welcomed into the camp by the other supervisors. Nakadai brings the enthusiasm of a reformer, but also the naivety of someone who has never reformed anything when he first attempts to start to speak his mind with his new ideas. Nakadai presents Kaji as being appropriately taken aback when he is informed of some of what his duties will actually be such as organizing the removal of excrement, as well as learning that they expect him to bring prostitute to the camps for the workers. Nakadai naturally strips Kaji of this early enthusiasm as he realizes things are not nearly as simple as he imagined they would be in his head, but this is only the first indication that the job is not quite as he might have expected.

The film offers an intriguing perspective as films set in labor camps are more likely to be from the view of the prisoners, but here we are given instead the view of one of the men running it. Nakadai's fairly unassuming approach works wonders in allowing us to follow very closely along with Kaji as he attempts to make his way as a warden of sorts in the camp. Nakadai starts off by showing Kaji struggling a bit just to get his mind wrapped around the procedures, as well as being particularly  disgusted by some of the mistreatment he does see. Nakadai brings the needed passion of a man trying to make things somewhat better for these men, and this seems to work. His job becomes more difficult though when he must deal with a new set of workers who are full blown prisoners who must not escape in addition to only working for food. Nakadai is terrific in reflecting the extreme inhumanity in the prisoners arrival where they were starved, and forced into a burning train. Nakadai's exudes well Kaji considerable sympathy for their plight, although it is soon the case that Kaji must still supervise their camp, which is proven to be quite the difficult endeavor from the start.

Once the prisoners show the film adjusts its focus somewhat to include some individual stories in and around Kaji though everything always comes back to him. The strength of Nakadai's work here is the way he portrays a very unique transformation of his character. In the early stages Nakadai presents Kaji as the friendly face who is clearly willing to fight for their proper treatment no matter what. Of course even in this there are tasks he is not proud of and Nakadai is very good in showing the awkwardness in Kaji as he brokers the deal with a group of prostitutes to come to his camp. Worse problems arise when a worker is killed and Nakadai brings the power to Kaji's outrage, but he also brings the eventual frustration though resignation when he finds all the authority figures want to sweep it under the rug or they'll sweep him under it. This leaves an unhappy prisoner population and many of them soon begin to plan to escape. Nakadai realizes in a very genuine fashion how the escape attempts seem to change Kaji as it simply becomes harder to be a pure humanitarian. The difficulty of the job mounts and Nakadai manages to portray how some viciousness can come out of a good man due to a terrible system.

The interesting thing is that the prisoners have good reason to escape yet Nakadai manages to create a strong sympathy in Kaji's difficulty to control them, and gives sense to his actions even when he treats them roughly. Nakadai does not show this transformation as Kaji becoming evil, rather him starting allow himself to be overwhelmed by an evil machine he's a cog of. Nakadai never loses the humanity but shows how it some of it is forced out of him through the horrible requirements of the job. Kaji still tries to fight for them, but Nakadai realizes this with much less optimism, along with palatable emotional turmoil as he only ever comes to barriers in trying to do the right thing. A choice is forced upon him though when the powers that be decide that a groups of the prisoners will be executed. Nakadai is outstanding in the scenes before the executions as he gives the final burst of Kaji's old self as he tries fruitlessly to get a reprieve, and shows how this almost seems to burn him out to a true complacency when no one seems to care. This leads to the executions which he is forced to watch, and Nakadai is heartbreaking as he expresses the despair in Kaji as the men are killed with a sword. Within the despair though that old passion builds and Nakadai gives the needed power to when Kaji finally stands up to the soldiers. Nakadai's particularly poignant as the fear of reprisal is in his eyes, yet he expresses the conviction of to do what is humane is always evident. Now if this were not a trilogy the film likely would end soon after this scene. It continues though to set up the next film with Kaji being tortured before losing his exemption from the war, and being sent off. Nakadai is exceptional in these scenes as well, but what is most remarkable is Nakadai brilliantly realizing this unique arc for Kaji's character from a unearned goodness, to slowly a man complacent with evil, to finally a man who's learned what it means to be and has become a decent man. Although this is just part one of Kaji's story, Nakadai's performance feels complete. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1959: Dean Stockwell in Compulsion

Dean Stockwell did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes, for portraying Judd Steiner in Compulsion.

Compulsion is a somewhat compelling film, although certainly brought down by a romantic sub-plot featuring the two worst performances in the film, that tells a fictionalized version of Leopold and Loeb's murder trial.

Leopold and Loeb had previously been fictionalized in film through the 1948 Alfred Hitchcock film Rope. That film took place all in one room and attempted to tell the story of the two men through the setup of a thriller. Compulsion is far more reaching in its version covering the story closer to the actual facts as well as going into the aftermath of the murder, rather than merely depicting the time between the murder and then where they were caught. Both films start in a very similair fashion in that both begin when the murder has just occurred, although in this version instead of killing a classmate they murder a child which was factual to the real case. In both though it focuses in from there onto the relationship of the two young men who decided to commit the murder because they believed themselves superior, and decided that they were basically entitled to a murder since they were supermen who were above the law. This leads them to commit the murder which they believe will be a perfect one which they will get away with since they've worked out every detail it seems.

Dean Stockwell is an actor with a rather odd career to recount as he started as a cutesy child actor in many high profile films, then successfully bridges over the gap into adulthood with a few prominent leading turns. Stockwell's brief stint as a leading man in high profile films seemed strange but likely it was caused by him apparently getting into the hippie counterculture, since after his gap in his filmography his leading turns came in the form of a rather different sort of films although he certainly found success as a character actor. Repulsion stands as one of his most notable leading performances from that brief period as he plays one of the young murderers. Stockwell plays Judd, much like with Farley Granger in Rope, Judd is the submissive of the two men. Farley Granger played this as meekly as possible, but Stockwell is far more interesting in his approach as seen in the opening sequence. Stockwell does not depict it as an overarching quality rather something more specifically attached to their crime. When Judd states his acceptance of this position Stockwell conveys why as he seems to suggest a certain almost sexual thrill in Judd over the prospect.

The other young man is Artie Strauss played by Bradford Dillman takes a similair approach, although I would done in a far more effective manner, as John Dall in Rope as they both present their man is particularly remorseless, but really he'd have to be if he goes about taunting fate by even trying to help in the investigation personally. With Judd is a bit less exact in his behavior. In more official settings such as in the classroom, or in a discussion with other students Stockwell portrays Judd in being very close to Artie in terms of personality. Stockwell is quite good in expressing the sheer pompousness of this pervasive attitude in Judd as he reveals his philosophy about the right of a superior man. Stockwell does not hide just how unlikable the whole idea is, or how unlikable Judd is when he is talking about, but what he does show is the strong conviction in Judd when he speaks these words. There is an affirmative belief and absolute conviction that Stockwell gives every word, the sort of conviction that would be needed to take the philosophy to the next step which would be to actually commit murder to put the philosophy into action.

Judd though does not bring this same conviction though when he is outside an academic setting, and in the real world. Stockwell does well to provide an awkwardness to Judd as he basically has to be a normal person trying to interact with others without his philosophy to hide behind, or with Artie to interact with. There is far less certainty to the man, and Stockwell effectively conveys the weaknesses within him. When a situation causes Judd to reveal some violent and psychotic tendencies Stockwell does not portray it as coming from the super man of his philosophy, but rather just a deranged and pathetic individual. Judd's believability as a "superman" becomes even more into question once it is discovered that they left a pair of glasses at the scene of the crime. Stockwell is terrific as he reveals far less than a master criminal in the scenes where the two men begin to hear about the evidence that suggests they'll likely become suspects sooner rather than later. Stockwell delivers in finding the sort of visceral gut reactions in these scenes fitting for someone whose going back through his mind, and realized they've made a terrible mistake.

Their "perfect" murder comes crashing down in front of their faces as Judd is soon brought in for questioning due to his glasses. Stockwell is great in these scenes because he shows Judd attempting to be the superior being again as he goes face to face with the district attorney. Now outside of just stating his own personal theories Stockwell brings a considerable desperation in the act as it is obvious Judd is not nearly as confident about the matter as he claims to be. This makes it wholly naturally when he quickly breaks down into an emotional mess when it is revealed they know it is his glasses, and later when Artie quickly confesses to the crime after they are both formally brought in. The two fall apart to reveal far less than they every pretended to be and Stockwell is excellent in realizing Judd as the mess he truly is. Stockwell and Dillman take a back seat in the last act of the film once they two men are brought to trial as the film more closely follows on the actions of their defense attorney named Jonathan Wilk clearly based on Clarence Darrow and played by Orson Welles. Stockwell still delivers in the few moments that he has but his impact is diminished. This really does not matter much though as the proceeding scenes allowed him create compelling portrayal of the rather unique derangement of this young man.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1959

And the Nominees Were Not:

Tatsuya Nakadai in The Human Condition I: No Greater Love

Jean-Pierre Léaud in The 400 Blows

Cary Grant in North By Northwest

Alec Guinness in The Scapegoat

Dean Stockwell in Compulsion

And for Some Reason:
Anthony Franciosa in Career

Monday, 20 July 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1989: Results

5. Burt Lancaster in Field of Dreams  - Lancaster gives a moving and memorable performance that was a worthy one to be his last.

Best Scene: Moonlight's introduction.
4. Fred Gwynne in Pet Sematary - Gwynne rises above his film to give an entertaining, but also very affecting performance that finds the right tone for the material.

Best Scene: Jud apologizes for what he has done.
3. Ray McAnally in My Left Foot - McAnally is a great performance by realizing his character as complex father who's capable of cruelty but love as well.

Best Scene: "Mother"
2. Bruce Dern in The 'burbs - Bruce Dern gives a consistently hilarious performance that brings some laughs to every scene he is in.

Best Scene: The Klopeks come back.
1. Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Good Predictions Luke, Jackiboyz, Michael McCarthy, GM, and Anonymous. Connery succeeds completely in playing a part against his usual time giving an extremely enjoyable humorous turn, but at the same time effortlessly turns Henry Jones Sr into the beating heart of the film.

Best Scene: End of the tank chase.
Overall Rank:
  1. Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  2. Bruce Dern in The 'burbs
  3. Ray McAnally in My Left Foot
  4. Hugh O'Conor in My Left Foot
  5. Danny Aiello in Do The Right Thing
  6. Fred Gwynne in Pet Sematary
  7. Ray Liotta in Field of Dreams
  8. Derek Jacobi in Henry V
  9. Ossie Davis in Do The Right Thing
  10. Burt Lancaster in Field of Dreams
  11. Andre Braugher in Glory 
  12. Beau Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys
  13. Morgan Freeman in Glory
  14. Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2 
  15. Peter MacNicol in Ghostbusters II 
  16. Ian Holm in Henry V
  17. Rick Ducommun in The 'burbs
  18. James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams
  19. Jerry Orbach in Crimes and Misdemeanors
  20. Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future Part II
  21. Robert Eddison in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  22. John Turturro in Do the Right Thing
  23. Denzel Washington in Glory
  24. Ethan Hawke in Dead Poets Society
  25. Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters II
  26. Danny DeVito in The War of the Roses
  27. Willem Dafoe in Born on the Fourth of July
  28. Jason Robards in Parenthood
  29. John Leguizamo in Casualties of War 
  30. Denholm Elliot in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 
  31. Michael Biehn in The Abyss
  32. Robert Downey Jr. in True Believer
  33. Richard Jordan in Romero
  34. River Phoenix in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  35. Henry Gibson in The 'burbs 
  36. John Mahoney in Say Anything 
  37. Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters II
  38. Paul Scofield in Henry V
  39. John Rhys-Davies in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  40. Corey Feldman in The 'burbs
  41. Julian Glover in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  42. Joss Ackland in Lethal Weapon 2
  43. Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters II
  44. DeForest Kelley in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  45. Kevork Malikyan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  46. Tom Hulce in Parenthood
  47. Gale Hansen in Dead Poets Society
  48. Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters II
  49. Bruno Kirby in When Harry Met Sally
  50. Randy Quaid in Christmas Vacation 
  51. Giancarlo Esposito in Do The Right Thing
  52. Charles Hallahan in True Believer
  53. Robert Sean Leonard in Dead Poets Society
  54. Brian Doyle-Murray in Christmas Vacation
  55. Raymond J. Barry in Born on the Fourth of July
  56. William Hickey in Christmas Vacation
  57. Alan Alda in Crimes and Misdemeanors
  58. John C. Reilly in Casualties of War 
  59. Benecio Del Toro in License To Kill
  60. Miko Hughes in Pet Sematary 
  61. Joaquin Phoenix in Parenthood
  62. Zakes Mokae in A Dry White Season 
  63. Keanu Reeves in Parenthood 
  64. Sam Waterston in Crimes and Misdemeanors
  65. Brian Blessed in Henry V
  66. Marlon Brando in A Dry White Season
  67. Christian Bale in Henry V
  68. Macauley Culkin in Uncle Buck
  69. Tom Bower in True Believer
  70. Don Patrick Harvey in Casualties of War
  71. Robert Davi in License to Kill
  72. Brother Theodore in The 'burbs
  73. Michael Byrne in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  74. Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society
  75. Ian McKellen in Scandal
  76. Kurtwood Smith in True Believer
  77. George Carlin in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
  78. John Randolph in Christmas Vacation
  79. Pat Morita in The Karate Kid Part III
  80. Michael Gough in Batman
  81. Laurence Luckinbill in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  82. Bill Nunn in Do the Right Thing 
  83. Rick Ducommun in Little Monsters
  84. Samuel L. Jackson in Do the Right Thing 
  85. Peter Gallagher in Sex, Lies, and Videotape
  86. Jackey Vinson in The Wizard
  87. Jurgen Prochnow in A Dry White Season 
  88. Robbie Coltrane in Henry V
  89. Dan Aykroyd in Driving Miss Daisy
  90. Frank Whaley in Field of Dreams
  91. E.G. Marshall in Christmas Vacation
  92. Rick Moranis in Parenthood
  93. Billy Dee Williams in Batman
  94. Alan King in Enemies, A Love Story
  95. Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier 
  96. Martin Kove in The Karate Kid III
  97. Thomas F. Wilson in Back to the Future Part II
  98. Johnny Galecki in Christmas Vacation
  99. Cary Elwes in Glory
  100. Abe Vigoda in Look Who's Talking
  101. Pat Hingle in Batman
  102. Robert Wuhl in Batman 
  103. Timothy Busfield in Field of Dreams
  104. George Segal in Look Who's Talking
  105. Reginald VelJohnson in Turner & Hooch
  106. Thomas Ian Griffith in The Karate Kid III
  107. Beau Bridges in The Wizard
  108. Daniel Stern in Little Monsters
  109. Glenn Shadix in Heathers 
  110. Frank Whaley in Little Monsters 
  111. Scott Paulin in Turner & Hooch 
  112. Mickey Rooney in Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland 
  113. Christian Slater in The Wizard
  114. Jay Underwood in Uncle Buck
  115. Ben Savage in Little Monsters
  116. Brad Greenquist in Pet Sematary
  117. Luke Edwards in The Wizard 
  118. Frank Whaley in Born on the Fourth of July
  119. Will Seltzer in The Wizard
  120. Sean Penn in Casualties of War
  121. Josh Evans in Born on the Fourth of July
Next Year: 1959 Lead

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1989: James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster in Field of Dreams

James Earl Jones did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Terence Mann in Field of Dreams.

Fields of Dreams is a particularly earnest film about Iowa farmer Ray (Kevin Costner) who is convinced by an otherworldly voice to build a baseball field in his corn field, and undergo a mysterious journey. I have to admit this is one of those films where I understand why people love it even though I don't carry quite the same enthusiasm for it.

The first man this journey brings Ray to is a controversial and reclusive writer Terence Mann. The character was obviously based on J.D. Salinger to the point that in the original novel it simply was Salinger. Jones's first appearance in the film comes when Ray tracks him down, and Mann is not convinced by Ray's story. Jones puts the cynic in cynicism in his initial appearance as Mann playing him as a curmudgeon who wants nothing to do with his fan. Jones is actually rather funny in portraying Mann as he openly mocks Ray's optimism about being from the 60's and even threatening to beat him with a crowbar only being stopped after Ray reminds Mann that he's a pacifist. This causes him to comically scoff which Jones does deliver quite well. Jones actually makes this work, even though it may appear slightly at odds with the character just the next set of scenes, in that he manages to make it seem as this is likely Mann's usual standard treatment for his fans who are crazy enough to track him down.

The next scenes, while Mann still needs some convincing, are taken a bit more seriously as Mann states his reasons for his reclusive life as well as why he has problems with people who expect too much of him. Jones manages to bridge this gap quite well as he plays these scenes as though Mann's talking much more from the heart. That heart being also quite filled a general pessimism and anger about the way things have turned out. Jones realizes Mann's current state quite well, but this does not last too long as he soon sees a vision as well. Jones makes the transition fairly natural as he portrays at least at first more of a mystification than a whole understanding of what's going on, and what exactly it means. When the two of them go on their guest to find a local doctor who was very briefly a major league baseball player things seem to change a bit. Unfortunately they find the man is already dead, so Mann goes about researching him, and Jones is rather affecting by showing the way Mann seems to quietly find some encouragement for optimism again through Doc's reputation.

This only seems to continue once Ray finally brings Mann back to the field where all the deceased baseball players have come back to life to play again. Jones is actually does a lot merely in portraying the reaction of Terence to the miraculous event. Jones actually just does well by showing what an average person's reaction would be which is surprise followed by a form of disbelief. Jones effectively also attaches to Mann personally as he seems to slowly lose all cynicism. For a long time in the final scenes of the film Jones is merely silent, but does quite a bit in the way he presents Mann soaking all of it in. He builds up the spirit that seems to be enlivening Mann up until he finally gives his big speech about what baseball means exactly. Jones delivers it with all the passion and invigoration of a man whose found a renewed view of life itself. This is a good performance by James Earl Jones and it fits right into the films tone. Jones work probably does not really get into the real gritty details of what would make a guy like Mann tick, rather it sticks to simpler and broader gestures which is what the film advocates, and Jones thrives within the film.
Burt Lancaster did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham in Field of Dreams.

Field of Dreams ended up being Burt Lancaster's final film and it seems fitting considering how much nostalgia fills the film. The film even includes a short sequence of people gently remembering all these things about Lancaster's character Moonlight Graham. It almost seems to need to be a screen legend playing the part since Moonlight is certainly treated as a local legend while Ray and Terence discover various things about his past. It takes Ray literally traveling back in time while Moonlight still lived for him to be able to run into the old man. When he runs into him it is only fitting that it must be Burt Lancaster who turns around in the moonlight, since who else could fill those shoes? Well while casting Lancaster in the role was certainly an intelligent move on the filmmakers part, what really matters is what does Lancaster bring to the film past his status as an actor. After all technically speaking this was not truly a special appearance by Lancaster in terms of his career, this simply was his final film, since Lancaster never really stopped working after his debut in The Killers.

Lancaster only actually has two scenes, one in which is fairly short, but the first is fairly long when Ray runs into the late doctor in the past. Lancaster matches the description of the character of the Doc completely as he carries such a strong yet quiet dignity about himself. Even when Ray is just asking who he is, Lancaster exudes just a special warmth that suggests the sort of man that would be respected, and loved by those around him. Lancaster does not just leave Doc as such as he brings out a different side of the man when Ray asks about the one inning that he played in the Major Leagues. Lancaster in the moment changes Doc's demeanor slightly as the enthusiasm of a younger man seems to spring out, and he wonderfully suggests the past where he very briefly got to live his dream. Lancaster does not leave it as a moment just joy though as he conveys a bit of longing in the Doc. Not something great to the point that it truly bothers, yet he can't help but feel a bit of sadness in the fact that he got to live his dream, but did it so briefly that he never wholly achieved it.

Lancaster continues to tap into a certain nostalgic feeling as the Doc describes his one wish to Ray, which would be to bat in a major league game just once. Lancaster creates the sense of just how much the idea means to the old man, and in his eyes there is that desire to have perhaps lived a different life. Lancaster does not leave Doc on the note of longing though as he turns down Ray's offer to return with him to the Field of Dreams. Lancaster is very moving as the doc tells Ray that what he was always meant to be was a doctor. Lancaster beautifully shows that in the end doc is wholly satisfied in his life, and in the end seems to have preferred how things turned out. His final smile sums it up, as it is one of a man who has lived a good life with baseball bring a dream that was not necessary for happiness. Lancaster has one appearance late in the film that is basically a shorter version of his earlier scene, as the Doc once more confirms what baseball means to him, but also what it doesn't mean. Lancaster's final exit is probably one of the most memorable and fitting of a final scene of any actor's career. This is a good performance and worthy to be Lancaster's last, although I must admit his performance is not my favorite of the film, and I'm not talking about Jones.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1989: Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Sean Connery did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, for portraying Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is an excellent adventure film, I actually even prefer it over Raiders, about Indiana Jones searching for the Holy grail.

Sean Connery's casting as Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford)'s father seems just about perfect, after all who should raise one iconic action hero other than James Bond perhaps the most iconic of them all. This seems played into by the film where we only get a glimpse of Henry in the film's opening flashback. In the scene we do not see Connery, only hear his voice who quietly commands young Indiana to wait for his attention. After this point we keep hearing many things about Henry, and knowing it is Connery, there is a considerable build up for his appearance which does not come until over forty minutes in. When he finally does appear though, which involves Indiana infiltrating a German castle, we don't quite get what we should have expected. Connery is known best for playing his calm and quite commanding characters like James Bond. Even when Connery grew older he still continued to play these sort of roles, after all his Oscar winning role only two years earlier was a street smart cop there to toughen up that film's hero, his first physical appearance though proves that this will not be the case in this film.

Well Sean Connery actually plays against type here, but like James Caan in Misery it's the sort of playing against type an actor rarely gets credit for. Connery usually plays a man ripe and ready to handle any situation he sees, well that's just not Henry Jones. The film does seem to purposefully set this up as Indiana is dramatically hit by a vase after he comes into his father's prison room. Although as the camera finally shows Connery it seems kind of serious. Well that's all broken once Henry's expression changes and Connery reveals the sort of man Henry is as he looks on with joyous surprise that it is indeed "you Junior", before casually lamenting the broken vase before being relieved that it is nothing but a fake. Henry is not necessarily a meek man, but he's certainly a far cry from his son. Connery, even though he's playing actually very different sort than he so often plays, fits the role like a glove. After the revelation Connery simply is Henry and he could not be more comfortable in the role. He perfectly creates the sort of more retiring manner fit for a man who has spent much of his life examining old books and artifacts in a quest to find a single item.

Connery does more than convince us in this first scene that he's more than suited in the role, but he also gives us the idea of just how entertaining he is going to be in it as well. This becomes particularly evident in his absolutely hilarious reactions in just a few minutes of the screen time. One being when Indiana reveals he brought Henry's important diary right into a Nazi lair, as Connery is great in portraying such exasperation towards his son, then I think this perhaps only topped by his quite comical disbelief after his son has gunned down a group of Nazis who were holding them at gunpoint. It is interesting Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is one of the best sequels of all time, even though it could have easily seemed repetitive of the first one given the similair plot, but it never does. Something that I think helps a considerable amount in this regard is Connery's presence which does bring something brand new to the proceedings. That being that he is with Harrison Ford's Indiana through just about every scene of the second half of the film which offers quite a different dynamic by having these two as a duo together.

Connery is marvelous in every scene as probably one of the funniest comic reliefs in an action film ever, but it's really quite intriguing since Ford himself is also quite funny already in the role. Connery only seems to amplify any thing that Ford does, I especially love the dumb smile both of them give when they accidentally find a secret passage and come face to face with a female Nazi. Connery does distinguish himself well from Ford in the action scenes by basically presenting a novice in the arena of chases and fights. Connery's reaction are always just priceless as Henry is so surprised by so many people trying to kill him, because he states himself it is a new experience for him. There is a certain excitement about all that Connery also exudes that makes every scene all the more fun. Of course it does not even need to be an action scene for Connery's comedic timing to be flawless here. One of the most enjoyable moments has to be his scoff when he figures out the beautiful Nazi is talking to his son, and not him. This really is one of those supporting performances that just seems to go the extra distance since there is never a moment where Connery does not add something.

You know I could go on and on listing every little moment of his performance from his face after accidentally shooting their own plane, to his jubilation at discovering another secret passage just by sitting down, but there's just so many. This performance goes above and beyond all that since he also does create a more in depth relationship between Henry and his son than you might expect given the style of the film. Connery brilliant inserts just these short moments where Henry reveals the stern father, particularly in judgment of Indiana enjoying some of the action a little too much. I must admit Connery somehow works this also into some very humorous deadpan moments. Connery extends it further than that in his type of chemistry with Ford. There is not an excessive connection between the two though there seems to be an understanding of sorts. Connery brings just the right sort of warmth though with a certain distance about it as though he expects Indiana to be knowledgeable enough to know that he cares for him without directly saying it. There short dinner scene is particularly good because in an instance Connery realizes Henry's parenting method, which is not exactly cold, but leaves his son to perhaps do a little too much of his own thinking.

Now given that this is such a funny performance you'd might think it would be only capable of that, but that once again is not the case. The moments where they discuss the quest to find the grail and Connery reveals that considerable passion in Henry fitting for a man who has obsessed for it for his whole life. Connery though is outstanding in the moment where Henry explains the severity of the situation, and Connery brings such dramatic weight to the importance of finding the grail. This conviction in his speech is wonderfully handled, and in his eyes you see what the grail means to Henry. Even the relationship with Indiana, which certainly has a lot of laughs, is not only played for that though. The moment where he reprimands Indiana for blasphemy Connery shows the difference between the two and even a certain disappointment in Indiana's cynicism. Also when in a moment where it seems Indiana has died Connery is heartbreaking as he reveals so well just how much he loves his son. He earns the moment and makes the one a few moments later when he embraces his son who has survived truly poignant. Connery's portrayal of Henry adds so much to the film as he either makes a great scene all the more entertaining, or enliven a dramatic moment all the more. I don't mind saying it. I love this performance it simply is one those perfect examples of what makes a great supporting performance.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1989: Rick Ducommun and Bruce Dern in The 'burbs

Rick Ducommun did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Art Weingartner in The 'burbs.

The 'Burbs is an enjoyable comedy about a group of neighbors in a suburb who suspect their new rarely seen neighbors have a morbid secret.

Rick Ducommun seemed to specialize in slightly comic supporting parts in order to add just a bit of humor to the supporting cast, for example as one of locals in Groundhogs Day. Ducommun's most notable role perhaps came in this film as one of the neighbors of straight man on a stay at home vacation Ray (Tom Hanks). Ducommun plays Art Ray's best friend and the neighbor who is definitely the most sure that there is something going wrong at the home of the mysterious Klopeks. This technically speaking is a fairly standard role for a comedy like this being the far more excitable best friend to our more sensible lead, a mainstay although I do ponder what was the exact first version of it but I digress. Rick Ducommun offers importantly a good version of such a character. He brings a great deal of energy to his performance fitting to Art's obsession with Klopeks. Ducommun makes the enthusiasm feel natural though, and succeeds in making Art endearing rather than off putting which a character like this can easily become in the wrong hands.

Ducommun creates an enjoyable tone for his performance in the early scenes where they are simply examining the Klopeks from a distance and Ray is actually quite skeptical about the notion that there is anything suspect about whatever it is that they are doing in their basement at night. Ducommun keeps Art's manner almost curiously light as he espouses his thoughts on what they definitely are doing, according Art anyways, as though he is a boy who is telling his favorite ghost story. Well Art does basically that when he tells the story of a soda jerk who murdered his family which Ducommun delivers as Art being more than anything a bit excited by the prospect that such a story is going on right across from his house. Ducommun keeps Art as a constant source of a foolish interest in the morbid reality he's just so sure of. Of course one of my favorite moments of his performance is actually when Art kinda turns things on its head when they are actually digging to find something. Ducommun is great as he shows Art basically loses all interest once the fun of the project is lost because there is a requirement for him to do some actual work.

Of course the meat of his performance is with the direct hijinks involved with Art trying to find or witness something out of the ordinary along with Ray. Ducommun and Hanks are quite good together in portraying there various sense of curiosity which is always a bit stronger when it comes to Art's reaction. They are both equally adept though in portraying there freak outs when either something goes wrong or they have found something. The best moment of these of course being when they think they've discovered the femur of their elderly neighbor where both of them scream in a hilarious unison.  Ducommun manages just the right way to work his character though in that he keeps Art likable although he still also does make it so you quite understand why he'd eventually get on Ray's nerves particularly at the end when Ray's finally has had enough leading him to attack Art. Something I quite like the film actually though is that Art in no way learns a lesson by the end, and Ducommun expresses this so well in Art's final absurd monologue about how creeps should not mess with suburbanites. This a good sidekick performance, which I quite like, although don't quite love, unlike perhaps.....
Bruce Dern did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lieutenant Mark Rumsfield in The 'burbs.

Bruce Dern plays another one of the neighbors in suburb that being Vietnam veteran Lieutenant Mark Rumsfield. Well the moment he appears with the beginning from the theme of Patton playing in the background, you know that it's going to be something memorable. Rumsfield's whole presence in the film is really one of the best elements of the film. After all the hijinks perhaps could have been left to the straight man Ray and his goofy neighbor Art, but the 'burbs decides to throw in a third player into the proceedings. That player being Bruce Dern clearly reprising his Oscar nominated role in Coming Home, well not really, but Dern perhaps plays into that idea just a bit. I mean after all his entrance in this film is not too far from first appearance in that film as gung ho military sort. Bruce Dern is just terrific as he stops out with such unshakable pride to once again raise the American flag on his ground. He's a true soldier well that is until he accidentally steps into dog excrement from his obnoxious elderly neighbor leaving Dern to perfectly lose his resolve and gain the resolve to let the neighbor have it.

What's marvelous here really is that Dern does not really take many steps to adjust his performance for a comedy. Dern might as well be in Coming Home in a way because the intensity he showed in that performance can be seen here as well, although I would argue to a far greater effect. In just some of the early scenes where we get Rumsfield's reaction along with the rest of the neighborhood Dern always manages to come out on top in terms of amount of humor derived through just how intently he glares as a new development appears. Dern is consistently brilliant in his depiction of Rumsfield's whole approach to taking on the Klopeks as he plays it as though Rumsefield is basically getting ready for some sort of black ops mission in the way he watches with the other men, as well as his very serious uncertainty after the other men suffer a bee attack due to attempting to knock on the Klopeks's door. I particularly enjoy just how impressed he is with himself when he has removed a window to break into a house and proudly announces that he did it the "military" way.

The insanity of it all continues of course as the men proceed with their plans which eventually leads them to take the ultimate action which is for Ray and Rumsfield to visit the Klopeks with their wives. Dern is just amazing throughout this sequence because of just how insane he shows Rumsfield to be as he supposedly just hanging out with the Klopeks for a friendly visit. Well Dern makes nothing friendly whatsoever about Rumsfield manner. He's always twisted in some way or another as he seems to be examining every bit of the home as though he's looking for defensive weaknesses or something. Dern keeps the same sort of crazed manner in the way he seems to be as imposing as he can be towards every Klopek member, turning his head in psychotic bent as though Rumsfield seems as though he's going to be interrogating every one of the weird brood. Dern is magnificent as he does bring potent sort of madness he's rather well known for but ups it perhaps just a notch in his depiction of Rumsfield method, I especially like when he questions Ray's manhood, when it appears as though he's backing out on the whole idea.

What works so well about Dern's performance though is when there are the moments where the fact that Rumsfield is not exactly in the military still and for all we know he might not actually have ever seen any action. There's is something incredibly funny about Bruce Dern giving such a driven performance even when Rumsfield at one point with Art is basically asking Ray's wife if Ray can come out and play. The conviction Dern brings to the whole tough vet makes it some comic gold when it perhaps slips for a moment. There is one moment in particular where Dern reveals probably the more truthful side of Rumsfield when he espouses his rather pathetic fears about climbing up a power line because its rather high. Eventual the film leads to when all three of the men concoct their plan to go through the Klopek's entire house while they are out. I have to admit I can't help but laugh throughout the sequence any time the film focuses on Dern and whatever he is doing. He really does not get to say much but every little thing that he does is just a hoot. He also nicely gets to top it all off with his masterful delivery of the immortal line "Hey... Pinocchio! Where are you going?" just before running off to capture one of Klopek's "proving" his obvious military might. I love this performance of Bruce Dern's as he pretty much make use of every second of his screen time to make one memorable character out of Lieutenant Mark Rumsfield.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1989: Hugh O'Conor and Ray McAnally in My Left Foot

Hugh O'Conor did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Christy Brown in My Left Foot.

Hugh O'Conor plays Christy Brown as a boy suffering from cerebral palsy in the earliest years of his life when everyone seems to believe that he's mentally disabled due to his physical impairment which leaves him with essentially only the use of his left leg and foot. O'Conor's physical performance is incredible. His portrayal of the effects of palsy never for a moment feels like a put on or acting in the least. O'Conor depicts so well the difficultly of Christy's condition in the randomness of the muscle movements of his face as well as the sheer weight of being unable to control the majority of his body. It's impeccable work from O'Conor as it just feels wholly real and that you are watching a poor boy with this severe disability. there is never a second even in this which feels false. What I love about the film, and this carries over to O'Conor's performance as well though is that this is not a film just about the depiction of a disability. It's always first and foremost about the man, well at first the boy, who manages to find a way in which to deal with the constrictions of it.

O'Conor of course has a set restriction, technically even more severe than his successor in the part since at this point Christy cannot even speak, due to he fact that he must maintain Christy's impairment so he also must portray the mind in the body. O'Conor does so much with his eyes in the role as he makes it rather clear that Christy is not the simpleton so many seem to take him for. A prevailing emotion that O'Conor so well expresses in his performance is the frustrations in Christy due to his forced position in life. O'Conor is interesting though in that he does not portray this in a downtrodden way as a sort of sadness. Instead O'Conor portrays an actual anger in Christy as he must basically fight against himself in order to be recognized, and rather than wanting people to feel sorry for him, he wants them not to be. O'Conor even manages to bring a little humor in part as he conveys Christy's intelligence in his expressions of a certain exasperation Christy feels when he is treated as a simpleton, particularly when a neighbor is slowly telling him letters that's he's definitely well aware of.

O'Conor realizes the spark that will motivate Christy's artistic endeavors later in life, in these early scenes as he's simply just trying to tell people he can think for himself. Although he is unable to say whole words O'Conor's delivery of the grunts of sorts that Christy is able to get out past his physical restrictions is no that of a some random noise. O'Conor brings the intensity of someone fighting to speak, he's trying to vocalize but is just unable able to do it. The moment where Christy finally proves his intelligence to his family by taking chalk with his left foot to write out mother on the floor is simply an amazing scene, and O'Conor's performance contributes greatly to this. O'Conor portrays so well the considerable physical effort it takes for Christy to do this, but also expresses the relief and satisfaction in Christy when he finishes. O'Conor whole work here is a wonderful depiction of Christy initial struggle for recognition. It does stand out on his own completely, but it does more than that. In some biography films there is a bit of disconnect between the child actor we begin with before we get to the adult actor, as though they are almost just wasting time before we really get to know the character. That is not the case here. Even though its an extreme jump in years when Daniel Day-Lewis takes over for O'Conor, there is nothing lost between the performances. O'Conor's performance matches Daniel Day-Lewis's performance, and Day-Lewis's matches O'Conor's. There is a clear progression between the two which is a marvel to behold.
Ray McAnally did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning BAFTA, for portraying Patrick "Paddy" Brown in My Left Foot.

Brenda Fricker, rightly, won the Oscar for portraying Christy's mother. Even with that eventual and sadly posthumous BAFTA win Ray McAnally was ignored as Christy's father. This may have partially been due to the nature of the role of Mr. Brown which feels a bit thankless at times. The first reason being Mr. Brown is not an immediately likable sort. In a far cry from his performance as the refined Bishop in The Mission, for which he also won the BAFTA, Mr. Brown is a working class father that if he were American might be described as a blue collar slob. One of the earliest scenes we see him in is finding out about Christy's birth and the complications in regards to Christy's condition. Mr. Brown instead of dealing with it in any refined fashion goes about by going straight to the pub. Even in this earliest scene of Paddy drinking away his sorrows McAnally does not leave him as simple as he might of been. McAnally certainly is good in creating that rough personality fitting for the rough drinker, but even within this McAnally subtly alludes to Brown sadness, as well as violence to a man with too many comments, not coming from Brown being saddled with such a son rather because people will treat his son as less of a man.

When Christy is a boy his father, much like everyone other than sort of his mother, is under the belief that Christy's mind is disabled as well. McAnally carefully does not portray any contempt in Paddy towards his son at this time, in fact there is even a certain protective quality McAnally suggests whenever he feels that Christy is being mistreated or in a position where he could be potentially mocked. Nevertheless though due to expecting nothing from him he does not exactly pay his son any extra attention. This is until that "mother" scene I referred to in O'Conor's review. Again it is amazing scene which is contributed greatly by O'Conor's, Fricker's, and McAnally's performances. What I love is how McAnally differs Fricker's work. Fricker is very moving in her depiction of Christy's mother's being vindicated for her faith, but McAnally is just moving in his depiction of Paddy's reaction. Although he certainly doubted his son before McAnally is outstanding as he conveys the pride in Paddy in seeing his son's intellect. McAnally is particularly great in the way he shows Paddy being moved to tears, and almost has to move to an over joyous celebration in order to stop himself from breaking down completely.

The thankless nature comes a bit as the film continues just because McAnally gets less time than Fricker, but he certainly still keeps a strong presence throughout the proceedings. McAnally also does have to deal with less endearing side. What's special about this performance is that McAnally brings depth to the rather uncouth side of Paddy. McAnally does not hold back in that he is certainly quite imposing when his rage does reveal itself, but is never something simple. One terrific moment for McAnally is when the large family must eat porridge due to Mr. Brown having been fired, and Christy makes a few comments. McAnally does not show a baseless rage but presents where it comes from. McAnally brings a vulnerability in the action that he suggests seems to stem from Mr. Brown knowing that he's not properly providing for his family. McAnally never treats Mr. Brown as a simple man even at his worst when he viciously berates his pregnant daughter. In the moment just before McAnally is just as good at showing the loving side as he plays with another one of his sons, and even in the switch McAnally never makes Mr. Brown's reaction as something from an uncaring father quite the opposite actually. McAnally makes an honest man of this sort. One of his best scenes is when Mr. Brown shows his love to Christy by building him a room, though never says it, there is such a warmth that McAnally gives in his action that he gives sense to Mr. Brown. This is a brilliant performance by Ray McAnally which works as an excellent counterpoint to Brenda Fricker's work. Where she presents a wholly positive influence for Christy, McAnally vividly creates both the positive and negative influences Christy Brown's father also had on the man.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1989: Fred Gwynne in Pet Sematary

Fred Gwynne did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jud Crandall in Pet Sematary.

Pet Sematary is a rather ineffective horror film about a cemetery which raises the dead. The film is severely weakened by the awful lead performance by Dale Midkiff, and its inability to find the right tone for the material.

Well when a film has a questionable or inconsistent tone it becomes kinda a game of tones for the actors as you wait to see who, if anyone, who find a way to make the material work. Well that sounds like a job for one man or should I say one Munster....?(Feel free to boo as loudly as you like at that). Well anyway that's Fred Gwynne best known for playing the comic Herman Munster in the sitcom the Munsters, but from what I've seen as character actor he always manages to offers a rather unique presence. Now Pet Sematary seems like perhaps it should have gone for a tone similair to An American Werewolf in London, after all both have a zombie who shows up from time to time as a moral guide for the protagonists. That being one which certainly does not shy from the horror, but has a sense of humor in regards to the absurdity of the plot. Well Fred Gwynne seems to be playing for something like this with his choice of making sure to do a rural Maine accent, but this is not Gwynne exactly trying to realistically depict a man from a rural part of Maine, rather a man from Stephen's King's rural Maine.

Gwynne's accent really is a stroke of brilliance because it most definitely is funny and is quite enjoyable just to hear him speak in the role. That alone might be good but what's remarkable is that even though it is an entertaining choice Gwynne's choice does not feel wrong for the horror aspect of the film. Gwynne somehow manages to make the accent go beyond being something simply to enjoyed. Of course if this accent was used in a serious drama it would seem quite out of place, but Gwynne seems to know the sort of film Pet Sematary is or at least should be. Gwynne plays into the certain absurdity of the material, but he does not let his performance be just absurd so to speak. Gwynne's accent manages to also carry this certain well mythic quality to it, it feels like the voice of a man whose had a long history involving the supernatural elements of the film, in his voice you can feel the sort of chill the story should have. Gwynne creates such a palatable atmosphere simply within this unusual though very effective approach as old Jud Crandall. You can sense the evil of the place because Gwynne presents a man who has already seen the secrets of the land.

Gwynne's whole performance is so fitting for this sort of spooky story. I love one of his first scenes where he introduces himself to his new neighbors and remarks on some things he'll show them in the future. The look Gwynne gives out towards the path which leads to the titular cemetery is simply marvelous as it brings such an eerie quality to the proceedings. Gwynne's work here is such a fantastic example of an actor finding the tone of the film when the film fails to discover it as any moment you see Gwynne the film suddenly seems as though it's actually good. Gwynne finds just the right balance in his performance as he gives the story a humor of sorts through that manner that seems excessively fitting for a story one would tell around the campfire, which should be scary though that has humor within in the the general idea too. Gwynne does this so well that he manages to make the story come to life in a way that the film in itself falters in its attempts to do so. Whenever Gwynne is onscreen the film actually seems to work, even though this is often in scenes with Dale Midkiff who seems to be doing his very best to ensure that the film does not.

Now there's something even weirder about this performance. Much of the cast takes a very serious approach to the material, or at least I assume Midkiff was trying to be serious, even though story is filled with ridiculous moments. The film does seem to attempt to also have its genuinely dramatic moments within the story, but the actors who brings the most weight to these scenes is also Fred Gwynne. Gwynne is haunting in the moments where he describes the real nature of what they have done by even using the cemetery with his particularly memorable delivery of "Sometimes dead is better". Gwynne though goes past simply giving some gravity to the idea of raising someone from the dead, but also in less otherworldly concept of death itself. Even when Midkiff is the one suppose to be portrayal insurmountable grief over a certain death it is Gwynne is the one who is heartbreaking in portraying the sadness in Jud for having introduced the cemetery. Gwynne is incredibly moving as he realizes the terrible guilt in Jud who blames himself for everything that has happened. It is amazing that Gwynne is somehow the most entertaining performance and the most poignant performance in the film. He succeeds in finding exactly the right approach to handle the material and manages to elevate it to something quite memorable. He does not quite save the film, I still would not recommend it at least without some severe hesitation. He does give it an element that's well worth watching, which quite honestly shows how the rest of the film should have been.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1989

And the Nominees Were Not:

Ray McAnally in My Left Foot

Hugh O'Conor in My Left Foot

Bruce Dern in The 'burbs

Rick Ducommun in The 'burbs

Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Burt Lancaster in Field of Dreams

James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams

Fred Gwynne in Pet Sematary  

For the prediction Contest:

McAnally for My Left Foot

Dern for The 'burbs

Lancaster for Field of Dreams 

Alternate Best Actor 1989: Results

5. John Hurt in Scandal - The film actually under utilizes him but Hurt gives an appropriately colorful and eventually moving portrayal of an aging playboy who perhaps has too many connections.

Best Scene: Ward explains something about his parties to the cops.
4. Raul Julia in Romero - Julia manages to elevate his film in giving a rather powerful portrayal of a man finding the strength to stand up against injustice.

Best Scene: Romero's final sermon.
3. Jeff Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys - Bridges gives a subtle and very effective portrait of an artist stuck in a painful rut, and his struggle to break out of it.

Best Scene: The Bakers' final duet.
2. James Spader in Sex, Lies, and Videotape - Spader first creates a captivating enigma of a man then is quite fascinating as he strips away his character's mystery.

Best Scene: Graham's interview with Ann.
1. Michael J. Fox in Casualties of War - Good Prediction Psifonian. Michael J. Fox gives a heartbreaking depiction of a decent man being forced to live through an atrocity.

Best Scene: Max recounts the experience at the bar.
Overall Rank:
  1. Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot
  2. Michael J. Fox in Casualties of War
  3. Martin Landau in Crimes and Misdemeanors
  4. James Woods in True Believer
  5. Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  6. Ed Harris in The Abyss
  7. James Spader in Sex, Lies, and Videotape
  8. Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy
  9. Jeff Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys
  10. Raul Julia in Romero
  11. John Hurt in Scandal
  12. John Candy in Uncle Buck
  13. Morgan Freeman in Lean on Me
  14. Kenneth Branagh in Henry V
  15. Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future Part II
  16. Bill Murray in Ghostbusters II
  17. Tom Hanks in The 'Burbs
  18. Michael Douglas in The War of the Roses
  19. Ron Silver in Enemies: A Love Story
  20. John Cusack in Say Anything 
  21. Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon II
  22. Timothy Dalton in License To Kill
  23. Donald Sutherland in A Dry White Season
  24. Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
  25. Alex Winter in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
  26. Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally
  27. Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon II
  28. Michael Keaton in Batman 
  29. Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams
  30. Matthew Broderick in Glory
  31. Woody Allen in Crimes and Misdemeanors
  32. John Travolta in Look Who's Talking
  33. Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation 
  34. Steve Martin in Parenthood
  35. Bruce Willis in Look Who's Talking
  36. Jack Nicholson in Batman
  37. Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July
  38. Tom Hanks in Turner & Hooch
  39. Rick Moranis in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
  40. Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid Part III
  41. William Shatner in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  42. Fred Savage in Little Monsters
  43. Spike Lee in Do The Right Thing 
  44. Fred Savage in The Wizard
  45. Gabriel Damon in Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
  46. Howie Mandel in Little Monsters
  47. Christian Slater in Heathers
  48. Dale Midkiff in Pet Sematary
Next Year: 1989 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1989: John Hurt in Scandal

John Hurt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Stephen Ward in Scandal.

Scandal is an intriguing though somewhat flawed film detailing the inside of a sex scandal that rocked the British political world in the 60's.

This actually is just a bit of atypical role for John Hurt whose face scraggly face often gets him cast as a more retiring sort of man. Well Hurt's certainly great in those roles though this offers just even more of a glimpse into the man's considerable talent as an actor. Hurt plays Stephen Ward an osteopath by profession, but what he clearly really lives for is the night life. Stephen acts as basically the man who organizes all the sexual parties and liaisons for the upper crusts in the British conservative government in power at the time. We first are introduced to Stephen when he finds a new woman to be part of his scene. That being a showgirl Christine Keeler (Joanne Whalley). Hurt is quite brilliant in his creation of the style of Stephen Ward. The fact that he's a bit of skeevy old man is just part of it. Hurt does not hide this in his performance, but instead very effectively embraces it as he always depicts Ward taking probably far too much pleasure some of the most questionable aspects of his hidden little world.

What's great though is Hurt does not make Ward as off putting as he could have easily been, even though he keeps the character's nature quite prevalent at all times. Hurt manages something special in that he does make Ward above else quite a character. There is a charm of sort he brings in Ward's personal style as Hurt always plays him in the early scenes as a man kinda overjoyed with just the idea of living his life the way he wants. There's nothing sinister in the way Hurt portrays this there's in fact an abundance of warmth about him. Hurt makes it absolutely convincing that Ward could get the young ladies to be his agents of sorts because he creates this powerful personality simply through just how easy going Ward is towards things. It never seems like a big deal for the women to do what he suggests because Hurt realizes the way Ward has a way with the women. When he suggests that they spend to time with one of the powerful men he knows, Hurt brings such a considerable elegance to Stephen basically telling them that they should have sex with them.

Of course Ward is not just in on it simply to be in on the life, although that's probably should be his only reason. He also develops his own ideas of the sort of power that he has gained from his somewhat dubious position as the man who finds women for powerful men. He also takes some tasks from MI5 to try to derive information through these liaisons. Hurt is great in the scenes where Stephen discusses this with Christine because well he does not exactly show Stephen taking this in the right way. Hurt portrays Stephen in these scenes as being almost a little boy who's getting in on the spy game, and gets to play James Bond for his very own. The sort of excitement Hurt exudes as Stephen asks for the information so well realizes the sort of silly man that Ward is. His life is just a party and the spy work just becomes yet another part of that party. He never gets anything useful out of this anyways but Hurt's so good at showing how much joy Stephen gets out of this little world he thinks he has ownership of, and ownership he will not want in the near future.

I do think one of the flaws of the film though is Hurt is a tad underused since the film takes the approach of basically hitting each beat of the scandal's timeline. This makes it so Ward's only appearances are needed to hit these points, and it would not have hurt the film to have given just some more scenes throughout. This unfortunately requires more from Hurt than it should in the last act when Ward is put on trial basically as a scapegoat for the government. This feels a bit rushed for two reasons mainly. The first being the film wants us to have more out of Ward's relationship with Christine than the film managed to provide. I mean we definitely got something thanks to Hurt, but I think the film expects a little too much from just the few scenes they had together. The second being this rushes Hurt to portray Ward fall into despair due to the betrayal of everyone around. It's is understandable, but even as a rushed fall into despair it still feels a bit rushed. Hurt to his credit though does not falter and does manage to be fairly moving by removing the life from such a lively fellow. He's especially good in one scene where he has to describe one of his parties and slowly loses his cheekiness as it becomes clear not everyone thinks the way he does. I really just think there should have been more of it, since really you can never have too much John Hurt. Even when the film falters a bit John Hurt does not. He's engaging every second he's on screen, creating quite the compelling depiction of Stephen Ward, and when the worst part of a performance is there's not enough of it, that's a very good performance.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1989: Michael J. Fox in Casualties of War

Michael J. Fox did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Private Max Eriksson in Casualties of War.

Casualties of War is an effective film, even if it is somewhat hurt by a weak central performance, about an American military squad in Vietnam who kidnap a female civilian for vile purposes.

Michael J. Fox as an actor is probably best known for his more lighthearted work on television and in films. Of course this in no way stopped him from giving a great performance as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, but he was not exactly viewed as a dramatic actor. Fox perhaps attempted very briefly to somewhat change this at the end of the 80's with Bright Lights Big City where he played a drug addled writer, and in this film. Fox plays a Private who has just come to Vietnam in the opening scenes of the film. Not unlike the protagonist played by Charlie Sheen in Platoon his baptism by fire occurs rather swiftly as he is gets caught in a fire fight. Fox is very good in the scene in just creating the visceral intensity of the moment as Max has to take violent action to save his life. During the fight Max at one point is caught in an enemy tunnel but is saved at the last moment by a young though battle hardened Sergeant named Tony Meserve played by Sean Penn. Tony seems to sort of take the new recruit under his wing in the proceeding days after that event.

Fox is very good in these early scenes as he shows Max perhaps becoming more like the Sergeant as there becomes a growing callousness, and almost an insanity as he reacts to the attacks from the Vietcong. Fox in these scenes portrays perhaps how decent man like Max could perhaps become like the Sergeant as he captures the way the danger of their surrounding seem to take themselves to almost a different plain of thought. Fox gradually exudes similair attributes to what we see in the Sergeant, although it should be noted that Fox does this in a far more convincing fashion than Penn's over the top work. Fox makes it believable though that Max does not immediately seem to believe the strange idea proposed by the Sergeant. The idea being that their squad should kidnap a local woman to be a sex slave for the squad since they were forced to go on without relief. Fox captures the situation for Max incredibly well because he shows how Max at first is unable to do anything about it since he's still quite sure its just a sick joke by the Sergeant that's just a part of the insanity, and the Sergeant will not actually go through with the plan.

The Sergeant though does begin his plan and Fox is terrific in displaying the sheer disbelief in Max as he can't believe that this is all really happening. The squad goes through with the kidnapping and when they set up the camp for the night it becomes obvious that the Sergeant will soon have the entire squad rape the woman. Although one other man has reservations Max ends up being the only one who will actually stand up to the Sergeant. Fox is great in this scene because he actually does not necessarily make Max this larger than life figure of virtue. Fox rather portrays him very simply as a man who will not do something he knows is absolutely wrong. The confrontation scene is an outstanding moment for Fox because he portrays a terrible fear in Max as he attempts to stand up to Sergeant. This becomes especially powerful because Fox conveys the difficultly and considerable effort it takes for Max to be able to stand up to the four men. Fox shows Max looking for some help from any of the men as well as that the stare of all four is horrible but that Max's beneath it all simply has his simple conviction that gives him the strength to stand up to them.

The men do proceed with the rape since no matter what if Max interfered it would result in his death either immediately or soon afterwards. The Sergeant instead forces him to take guard duty away from the camp while they commit their heinous act. The nightmare continues for Max though since it becomes evident that the men are not done and plan to murder her in order to destroy the evidence of their crimes. Fox takes Max out of the state he had been growing into as he sees that their actions of the moment very much do have meaning. Fox's work in the proceeding scenes is essential  in creating the horror of the scenes. Where the other men have little to no remorse for their actions Max is forced to witness it all with only the faintest hope of trying to stop the murder of the woman. Fox expresses the terrible tension within Max as he simply does not know what to do since if he takes the woman himself he'll be a deserter, but also can stop all four of the men. Fox creates this fierce unease and confusion that overwhelms Max as he tries his best to do something. Every facet of savagery is made the more palatable by Fox's honest reactions as Max is forced to watch the woman's brutal murder.

After they return though Max ignores the other men's threats and goes to report their crime as soon as possible. Unfortunately the commanders have little concern for the actions of the men, and attempt to dissuade Max from going any further with his report. Fox again finds so much power in creating the disgust of just a normal man who cannot believe the callous uncaring nature of the chain of command. Fox does so much in just Max's silent reaction at the two commanders attitude and portrays the growing revulsion in Max. Fox builds this to one scene where Max confronts the rest of the squad after at least one of them has made an attempt on his life. Fox is outstanding in delivering just the genuine contempt in every word as Max tells them not to kill him since no one cares anyways. The despondent passion that Fox brings is tremendous because it all comes from not a great man but just a good man who knows a wrong has been committed. Fox though is at his most heartbreaking though after he shows that Max has given up on finding an real justice and just casually tells another soldier about the crime. Every word of Fox's performance seems haunted by the death and we see that Max can never forget the life that was lost. This is a marvelous performance by Michael J. Fox as he creates a reserved yet such a poignant portrait of one decent man living through an unforgivable atrocity.