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.

72 comments:

Calvin Law said...

Sounds like a Raul Julia in Street Fighter, though not as legendary.

Calvin Law said...

1. Connery
2. Dern
3. Gwynne
4. McNally
5. Lancaster

Psifonian said...

I really hate that the film ruined Jud's last scene from the novel, where he has a more active confrontation with Gage's reanimated corpse. It's such a haunting scene, the way that Gage taunts Jud about his wife's soul being in hell and that she was unfaithful to him and basically angers him to act rashly and thus lose, rather than the stupid-ass neckbite in the film. But Gwynne IS the perfect Jud, and any time I read or think of "Pet Sematary," it's him I think of.

If you've not read the novel, do yourself a favor and seek it out. Or at the very least, read the Timmy Baterman section and Jud's final chapter.

Calvin Law said...

Psifonian: What's your favourite Stephen King novel/novella?

Robert MacFarlane said...

Schlocky adaptations of King novels were standard in the 80's and 90's. If you want to see something truly reprehensible, watch Thinner from 1996.

Psifonian said...

"Thinner" is the worst novel and adaptation by far.

My favorite novel is "The Stand," with "It", "The Waste Lands," and "11/22/63" right behind. I am extremely stoked for the new adaptation of "The Stand" if McConaughey, who has been my choice for Flagg since the days of "Frailty," gets cast.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I was excited for the new It adaptation until they fired Fukunaga.

RatedRStar said...

1. Connery
2. Dern
3. Gwynne
4. McNally
5. Lancaster

Calvin Law said...

Just done a Head-to-Head matchup of Downey Jr., Cumberbatch and McKellen on my blog (actorvsactor.blogspot.co.uk), check it out and tell me what you think, film/television experts :)

luke higham said...

1. Connery
2. Dern
3. McAnally
4. Gwynne
5. Lancaster

Psifonian said...

@Robert: Which is some bullshit. Hell, “True Detective” was essentially a dry-run for “It,” with its constant time-shifts and the moody atmosphere. I was actually getting really excited to see what it was that Will Poulter had shown in his audition to be able to nab the part that had been offered to the likes of Mark Rylance and Ben Mendelsohn. But then New Line had to be asses about it.

luke higham said...

Calvin Or RatedRStar: By Louis's rules, are Carlos (2010) and Scenes From A Marriage (1973) eligible.

Calvin Law said...

They both have theatrical versions so technically, yes.

RatedRStar said...

Um well I suppose they are both tv and film, Carlos was shown at Cannes, while Scenes was nominated for a foreign language film at the Globes so, I would think they were eligible.

Calvin Law said...

By the way have seen Love and Mercy, and Slow West. The former was half an effective film, half a dull and reptitive film. The latter I just could not get into at all, but was very well made I must concur, I just found it boring and uninteresting throughout.

Love and Mercy:
Dano - 4
Cusack - 2.5
Giamatti - 2 (what is wrong with him nowadays)
Banks - 3

Slow West:
Smit-McPhee - 1.5
Fassbender - 3.5
Mendelsohn - 3.5 (probably my favourite part of the film)
Pistorius - 2
McCann - 2.5


luke higham said...

Calvin & RatedRStar: Thanks. If that's the case, then I would recommend Edgar Ramirez for 2010 Lead and Liv Ullmann for 1973, although I would advise Louis to watch the longer versions.

luke higham said...

Calvin: I thought Smit-McPhee was fine and Fassbender & Mendelsohn were very good and the film itself was a fine Western with a very entertaining shootout finale, although I can understand why some found it dull.

Calvin Law said...

I know it's still early but what are everyone's award choices so far for the year?

Best Picture: Mr Holmes

Best Actor: Ian McKellen in Mr Holmes

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan in Far From the Madding Crowd/Alicia Vikander in Testament of Youth

Best Supporting Actor: Matthias Schoenaerts in Far From the Madding Crowd

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Linney in Mr Holmes

Best Director: George Miller for Mad Max Fury Road

luke higham said...

Calvin:
Best Picture: 1. Mad Max: Fury Road 2. Ex Machina 3. Mr. Holmes

Best Actor: 1. Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes 2. Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road 3. Domhnall Gleeson in Ex Machina

Best Actress: 1. Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina 2. Alicia Vikander in Testament Of Youth 3. Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Supporting Actor: 1. Nicholas Hoult in Mad Max: Fury Road 2. Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina (I'm placing him in Supporting for the moment, since I need a rewatch) 3. Jeremy Renner in Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Best Supporting Actress: 1. Cate Blanchett in Cinderella 2. Laura Linney in Mr. Holmes 3. Hattie Morahan in Mr. Holmes

Best Director: 1. George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road 2. Alex Garland for Ex Machina 3. Matthew Vaughn for Kingsman: The Secret Service

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Psifonian: I mean... right?! There were some suburban shots in the first season that felt like test footage for It. At the end of the day big studios don't want someone with "risky" visions like Fukunaga. They want yes-men who will do as their told (just look at Marvel). Also, I too was intrigued by Will Poulter's casting. He must have had one *hell* of an audition.

Psifonian said...

I also love the complaints about Poulter not being age-appropriate. I'm like, "Bitch, It is an ageless being from beyond space and time. Being 43 is not that much different from 23 in the grand scheme, especially when said being is wearing goddamn clown makeup!" I mean, Rylance would've been amazing, but I want a Pennywise completely different from Curry's portrayal, because anyone who tries to do Curry will just feel like rehashing. My personal choice was Tilda Swinton, to do an androgynous approach (high squeaky voice, a much more relaxed and engaging personality to lure a child).

Robert MacFarlane said...

People did the same thing with Ledger as the Joker when he was announced, never mind the makeup made him look mid-40's anyway. My first choice was Andy Serkis for Pennywise, but I'm starting to think that's to easy of a choice.

Michael McCarthy said...

Picture: Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller

Actor: Tom Hardy-Mad Max (4.5)

Actress: Alicia Vikander-Ex Machina (5)

Supporting Actor: Nicholas Hoult-Mad Max (5)

Supporting Actress: Rose Byrne-Spy (4)

Calvin Law said...

All your choices are great, especially Swinton, Poulter would have most likely been great, my dream Pennywise though would be Simon Pegg.

Calvin Law said...

Michael and Luke: Great choices all round too.

JackiBoyz said...

1. Connery
2. Dern
3. McAnally
4. Gwynne
5. Lancaster

Robert MacFarlane said...

Oh yeah, my wins for the moment.

Picture: Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road
Actor: Michael Fassbender in Slow West (4)
Actress: Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina (5)
Supporting Actor: Nicolas Hoult in Mad Max: Fury Road (4.5)
Supporting Actress: Rose Byrne in Spy (4.5)

luke higham said...

Calvin: Brooklyn Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IM1XhTxPAE

Calvin Law said...

Cohen looks surprisingly decent from this trailer. Although to be fair it's one bad performance in The Place Beyond the Pines I judged him with.

Ronan should be great (also, I think this is the first time I've heard her use her natural Irish accent), Gleeson will probably be great too, I hope this is the year he finally gains international exposure. He had two great performances last year in 'About Time' and 'Calvary', and this year he has had 'Ex Machina' and will have this, 'The Revenant', and 'Star Wars'.

Calvin Law said...

I haven't read the book but I've heard many great things about how powerful and moving it is. Also Hornby's adapting, one of my favourite modern day authors and his adaptation of 'An Education' was splendid.

luke higham said...

Calvin: He was very good as well in Frank and Unbroken. About Time had a 2013 release.

Calvin Law said...

Ah yes he was great in both those films too. Man what an actor.

Saw Ted 2. If you liked the first one like me you'll like this one. If you hated it, or generally just dislike Seth MacFarlane then you'll hate it.

MacFarlane: 3 (good voice work as always)
Wahlberg: 3.5 (really liked him actually)
Seyfried: 3.5 (significant upgrade over Kunis)
Barth: 3 (bigger role but not given as much in the way of comedy moments as the first one)
Ribisi: 3 (still funny but given much less to do)
Freeman: 2.5
Lynch: 3 (had little to nothing to do but I found his deadpan presence quite amusing)

RatedRStar said...

People on the blog, today we have lost another legendary actor.

RIP Omar Sharif

I really like to feel that Sharif came so close to that Oscar, which was his or Stamps, how was he not nominated for Doctor Zhivago, he won a globe for gods sake.

It should have been Sharif vs Stamp for 62 I cannot believe they voted for Begley which I actually think was a poor choice and very underwhelming, compared to the complexity of Sharifs work and the heartbreaking work of Stamp.

luke higham said...

R.I.P. Omar Sharif
Bless Him

Calvin Law said...

RIP Omar Sharif. His portrayal of Sherif Ali in 'Lawrence of Arabia' is most certainly, one of the greatest supporting performances of all time.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis, can you give more expanded thoughts on Dale Midkiff?

luke higham said...

Louis: Is Max Schreck and Judy Davis Lead Or Supporting for Nosferatu and Naked Lunch Respectively.

luke higham said...

Louis: And Liv Ullmann in Persona.

Anonymous said...

Ullmann is leading and Davis is supporting, don't know abouth Schrek though. I know Davis is his 1991 win for Supporting though, and that Ullmann is his 2nd for Best Actress 1966 (correct me Louis if I'm wrong)

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Thanks, Andersson is his pick for '66.

luke higham said...

Louis: Lastly, Faye Dunaway in Network.

luke higham said...

Ted 2 Ratings
MacFarlane - 3
Wahlberg - 3
Seyfried - 3
Barth - 3
Ribisi - 3
Freeman - 2.5
Lynch - 3
Neeson - 3 (Pretty funny cameo)
The film is quite funny at points, though I do prefer the original.

Michael McCarthy said...

I don't think I could bring myself to see Ted 2. Family Guy has become probably the most incompetently made and morally reprehensible shows on television and I'm not about to hand it's creator more money any time soon.

Robert MacFarlane said...

You know, I actually enjoyed the first Ted despite also despising Seth MacFarlane on a good day (how dare Uncle Seth not send us any royalties!). Yet every trailer I saw for Ted 2 looked like punishment for people like me who enjoyed the first Ted despite themselves.

Matt Mustin said...

I enjoyed the first one too.

Michael McCarthy said...

I did too, but that was before I'd seen episodes like Seahorse Seashell Party, Fresh Heir, Life of Brian, and other such monstrosities.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I still think it's fine, but mostly because the humor is a LOT less cruel than MacFarlane is usually used to. Vulgar? Sure. But not as nearly as mean-spirited.

Michael McCarthy said...

I disagree. Family Guy's "serious" messages as of late have been horribly misguided, especially when it tries to deal with the subject of abusive relationships. It's given the message that people in said relationships should stay in them for the benefit of their abusers, and that if a woman stays in an abusive relationship it's HER fault and she's "not real woman."

Robert MacFarlane said...

No, I meant Ted, not Family Guy. Fuck Family Guy.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Louis. What are your thoughts and ratings on:
Humphrey Bogart in In A Lonely Place
Gregory Peck in Spellbound
George C. Scott in Changeling
Peter O'Toole in How to Steal A Million and Troy
Paul Scofield in Hamlet

Anonymous said...

Also, your top 20 most overrated actors and some of your thoughts on them.

Robert MacFarlane said...

20? Isn't that a bit... much?

luke higham said...

Anonymous:
George C. Scott - 4.5(Some actors might have taken such a film to overact, but Scott is absolutely steadfast in giving a convincing portrayal of a man honestly grieving while finding out the truth about his haunted living quarters)

O' Toole - Troy - 4(A re-watch could propel him higher. O'Toole really was on a whole different level and perhaps he remembered what made the old swords and sandals films work. O'Toole brings genuine emotions to the part and manages to be quite heartbreaking in his pivotal scene where he asks for his sons body)

All Time
1. Sean Penn
2. Jamie Foxx
3. Will Smith
4. Warren Beatty
5. George Clooney
6. Gene Kelly
7. Nick Nolte
8. Matt Damon
9. Spencer Tracy
10. Gary Cooper

Current
1. Sean Penn
2. Jamie Foxx
3. Will Smith
4. Warren Beatty
5. George Clooney
6. Nick Nolte
7. Matt Damon
8. Johnny Depp
9. Denzel Washington
10. Colin Firth

Sean Penn - (I find him the most overrated simply because I have seen him put up as an all time great. Penn does have ability but he does not show it all that often. He is a truly horrendous over actor and he almost has a trademark in that overacting scream he does in far too many roles. Even when he downplays it doesn't always work as he often comes off as terribly dull)

Jamie Foxx - (I find Foxx underwhelming in almost every facet as an actor. I don't find him particularly charming, I don't find him particularly funny, and he never is able to disappear in a role even slightly.)

Will Smith - (Smith does have a definite charm, but as a dramatic actor a lot is to be desired. He can be extremely mannered yet still far too breezy in his dramatic roles which is a terrible combination.
Even his charm is being a bit misspent these days since when he does not try the charm is not there. It is almost like too many people told him he was charming so he no longer thinks he needs to actual produce the charm.
I try not to get personal, but since it involves his own film career, it does not help that he tries to push his, apparently, no talent son constantly)

George Clooney - (He does of course have presence, he does have ability as The American as well as a few other performances have proved. He coasts far too much on his charm, which I don't find all that charming, trying to make it completely anchor too many of his performances. On the flip side many of his weaker dramatic turns are simply just not doing his charm while not bothering to replace it with anything whatsoever)

Matt Damon - (I actually can like Matt Damon sometimes as I think he is capable of being a solid leading man. When he is not a solid actor though he is a terribly bland one who also tries to rely on a charm like Clooney, but actually don't think Damon has that much of an innate charm actually)

Johnny Depp - (He's got talent somewhere in him, but that would be hard to find these days. Depp is already in his late Nicholson side of his career it seems as every performance is an over the top characterization that seems to be monitored by no one. Depp is capable of having a good performance derived out of him whether it is toned down like Donnie Brasco, or overt like in Ed Wood. Depp though is like a thin stick tottering just over a river though just one slight breeze he's already gone too far ever to be recovered)

Denzel Washington - (I actually find Washington completely fine as an actor. He has plenty of charisma and presence to go around. I just don't think he is nearly as great as he is often considered as I do feel he has a fairly limited range)

Colin Firth - (Like Washington I do find him entirely fine and can be quite good in certain cases. I don't put him as high as some simply because rarely do you not see the wheels turning, so to speak, with one of his performances)

Anonymous said...

Louis I know you didn't care at all for the movie but what are your rating and thoughts on Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns? I thought that she was great.

luke higham said...

Louis: Have you seen Ex Machina yet.

luke higham said...

Anonymous:
In regards to Pfeiffer
''To be perfectly honest since I have not seen the film since I watched it in theaters I just don't remember her performance all that well''.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I'm with Anonymous on Pfeiffer, and I'm not big on Batman Returns myself (I would qualify it as an interesting failure, though).

luke higham said...

Calvin:
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bha24P9uw-E

Robert MacFarlane said...

Honestly, the movie looks like crap. Eisenberg intrigues me, though. Want to see where that goes.

RatedRStar said...

I am not sure what to make of the trailer, I would like to be surprised in some way, Jesse looks interesting though.

JackiBoyz said...

RatedRStar: Daniel have you seen any films recently?

RatedRStar said...

JackiBoyz: A goal of mine is to see all of the best actor and supporting actors, I of course managed to find The Fixer which is very hard in the UK, but I have tryed to find some Oscar nominated films which were hard. The films I recently saw are

The Big Sky
My Cousin Rachel

Robert MacFarlane said...

Hey, Psifonian, if you're reading this, you watched Boardwalk Empire, right?

Calvin Law said...

Luke: It actually looks promising. I'm sure Affleck will be fine based on this trailer and I can't wait to see what Eisenberg, Irons, and Holly Hunter do.

Robert: I've watched nearly all of it. I loved season 3 and the rest of the seasons I thought effective enough. Buscemi does a great job of holding the series together even when it becomes a bit scattershot in tone. My favourite performance in the series though, would be Jack Huston as Richard Harrow, followed closely by Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, and Shea Wigham.

Robert MacFarlane said...

My favorites of the cast were Wigham, Huston, Shannon, and Williams.

Calvin Law said...

Yeah I thought Shannon was a bit wasted in the second season, but I really did love his arc over the reet of the series, after Buscemi he was perhaps the best at mending the darker and the comedic sides of the series together. Wigham is just the heart and soul of the series, Huston gives an incredibly complex and heartbreaking performance.

I thought Williams was consistently good and occasionally great as well, he'd be high up on my list.

Louis Morgan said...

In regards to the Batman/Superman trailer I have to say that at least I don't know quite what to expect, which was not the case for Avengers 2.

Robert:

Midkiff - (Most of the time he's just horribly bland as most of his line deliveries are so lifeless that it's very hard to care about his character in anyway. His dullness is only amplified all the more when he's acting against Gwynne. Of course the nature of the part requires him to get emotional later on which for him means screaming as loudly as possible while making his eyes as wide as possible. It's not good. His yelling of "Nooooooooooo" might be one of the most unintentionally funny utterances of the word, which is particularly problematic if you know what the no is in reaction to)

Luke: Schreck and Dunaway are leading.

Anonymous:

Bogart - 2(The character is perhaps a difficult one to pull off and Rey's style of direction probably does not help. The problem is there is no nuance in Bogart portrayal of the sides of his character. He either seems like a full on psycho or just a nice guy. Bogart makes the mystery hard to believe just because both sides are handled in too obvious of a fashion.)

Peck - 1.5(Boy when Peck is off boy is he off. Hey like Bogart nuance again would have been needed. As he's either absurdly bland here or he goes and makes some over the top crazy eyes. There is one benefit to his performance I guess which is you really appreciate it when Michael Chekhov appears)

Scofield - 3(A small part but it is interesting to see how the different versions, and actors cover the ghosts. Olivier unsurprisingly leaving it most to his own direction and just having ghostly echoes of his own voice. Brian Blessed being a very imposing and dominating figure. Scofield though I think is quite fascinating as well as he brings more of somber ghost, who seems more heartbroken by his portrayal rather than being filled with a mystical rage)























RIP Omar Sharif

Anonymous said...

Glad, you answered, Louis. By the way, what are your choices for 1944 Best Actress and Supporting Actress?
Also, who do you prefer as an actor/actress?
Ralph Richardson or John Gielgud?
Ingrid Bergman or Greta Garbo?
Barbara Stanwyck or Bette Davis?
Gregory Peck or Gary Cooper?

Calvin Law said...

Anonymous: If you don't mind me giving my thoughts, I think Richardson was always miles ahead of Gieguld in terms of onscreen performances.

Calvin Law said...

Gieguld perhaps generally had better roles and films to act in but Richardson was far superior in terms of versitality, and could carry a film as a lead.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Stanwyck for Double Indemnity and Tallulah Bankhead for Lifeboat.

Ralph Richardson or John Gielgud?

Forced to pick Gielgud at the moment. I like both quite a bit but I need to see more from Richardson.

Ingrid Bergman or Greta Garbo?

Garbo quite easily as there are some Bergman performances I don't like at all.

Barbara Stanwyck or Bette Davis?

Stanwyck.

Gregory Peck or Gary Cooper?

Peck. I might actually prefer more Cooper performances total, but Peck will always have To Kill a Mockingbird.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot. Your thoughts on:
Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight and Spellbound
Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce
Marlon Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty, The Formula and the Missouri Breaks
Also, your thoughts on Marlon Brando as an actor in general.
By the way, I love your blog. I really like your reviews on these Oscar-winning and nominated performances. Plus, on the ranking of Bogart for In A Lonely Place, I believe that some people would find that blasphemous and controversial, since many people say that's one of Bogart's best performances. Glad to see different views on performances that are considered by many people to be the greatest.
Also, who are your top 10 most overrated actresses?