Thursday, 6 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1959: James Mason in North By Northwest

James Mason did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Phillip Vandamm in North By Northwest.

Well this was the role James Mason was destined to play, well at least destined by the film's director Alfred Hitchcock since in his earlier film, Rope, the film bluntly stated that James Mason would make a great villain for a film. Well Mason is given his chance as he plays the sort of villain that James Bond would eventually become accustom facing. Like so many Bond villains Philip Vandamm has his fair share amount of henchmen, some rather scenic domiciles at his disposal, and naturally likes to always have a good talk with his opponent first. Of course Vandamm's enemy in this film is not exactly James Bond, although he perhaps shares just a bit of his personal style, but rather a man mistaken for a spy one Roger Thornhill played so well by Cary Grant. Their first meeting is purely by the mistake of his own henchmen, but this initial meeting between Thornhill and Vandamm allows for unbelievable levels of suaveness (yes even suaver than Dean Stockwell in Blue Velvet) thanks to having two masters of knowing what it means to be smooth in Cary Grant and of course James Mason.

Mason would have naturally been perfect for a Bond villain since he moves so gently he almost seems to float in his initial meeting with Thornhill, as Vandamm asks him questions that are more confusing than anything. Mason does not raise his voice once in this interrogation yet he so effectively brings this understated menace in the way he examines Thornhill with his eyes, and in such a matter of fact fashion alludes that Thornhill is going to be killed if he does not cooperate. Mason brings the considerable confidence of a man who's been through this sort of thing so many times before, that it really is just standard procedure at this point, and merely just something that needs to be done. Mason is so wonderfully elegant while being so quietly sinister in his movements and his speech that you'd believe Thornhill would tell him everything, unfortunately Thornhill has nothing to tell. My favorite moment in the scene has to be when Vandamm decides to make it quick and simply presses Thornhill to tell him whether or not he will cooperate with a simple yes or no. Mason is great in his casual shrug when Thornhill says no, as though he's silently stating "Oh well I guess you'll have to die then" before walking off.

Mason makes a very memorable impression in this first scene making so you certainly remember him when he makes his short silent appearances about an hour in, as well as when he finally makes his second vocal appearance an hour and a half into the film. Thornhill next meeting with Vandamm comes due to his romantic entanglements with a mysterious woman Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), who happens to be entangled in the same way with Vandamm. Mason is very good in this scene by bringing a bit more depth to the part of Vandamm as Thornhill makes pointed remarks about Eve's methods. Mason does well not to give it away too hard, after all he would not to show weakness to Thornhill or his men, but in an effective subtle fashion portrays the certain heartbreak in Vandamm as he realizes she was not as loyal to him as he would have wished. Mason takes it perhaps even a step further by playing it as Vandamm is falling upon his excessively calm villain act in order to cover upon any of his own desperation. Of course it works better than potentially fooling Thornhill, but the audience as well as again Mason is able to exude a considerable menace with such ease that's perfect for the character.

Of course Mason is also great in his interactions with Vandamm's most loyal man Leonard (Martin Landau). Landau is a terrific foil for Mason as he makes Leonard basically the darker and more direct member of their little organization. Landau plays his side with a creepy and distinct assurance about things always waiting and ready, while Mason's Vandamm takes his time with things. Leonard's loyalty seems to extend a bit past an employee who respects his boss, instead Landau suggests instead, while not overplaying it, that Leonard is bit in love with Vandamm. Mason in turn conveys quite well Vandamm's way of treating this infatuation as being mildly flattered although still only interested in what Leonard has to offer as a henchmen. This relationship has very little time devoted to it, but both actors manage to give it life nevertheless adding just something extra to the film. That's Mason whole performance in a nutshell though. Often times in Hitchcock's wrong man thrillers the villain isn't all that memorable. That is not the case in this film thanks to Mason's performance that so easily brings a certain sophistication to his character's shady dealings. Although Mason delivers depth to the part wherever available, the best part of his performance is the style and a charisma he brings to this relatively simple role. To watch Mason and Grant work the script so well is such a delight, and like Grant as the hero I simply could not see anyone else in this role other than Mason. 

70 comments:

luke higham said...

Hallelujah!
Ratings & Thoughts on the cast of Ghost Protocol.

Calvin Law said...

What rating would you give Landau?

luke higham said...

Louis: I'm very happy that you liked Rogue Nation and am pleased that it is your favourite. What I said earlier, was due to having no knowledge that you've seen Ghost Protocol. :)

Will you see both Testament Of Youth and Far From The Madding Crowd before or during the 2015 reviews and rankings. :)

luke higham said...

Alfred Hitchcock is now equal with Kurosawa, in terms of 5 star performances in their films, with 17. :)

luke higham said...

And Mason's equalled with Oldman, Hackman and Nicholson. :)

luke higham said...

*7 Fives.

Anonymous said...

Fuck yeah, Mason got a 5! He was simply amazing.
Louis: Your cast and director for:
On the Waterfront (1990's and 2010's)
The Hustler (2010's)
The Departed (70's, 80's and 90's)
And your thoughts on Olivier in Clash of the Titans, Bogart, Hepburn and Holden in Sabrina and Jackie Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story.

Anonymous said...

Luke: He will get a 5 for Lolita also. :)

Anonymous said...

And I kinda hope Sellers to get a 5 also. But Robert Ryan in Billy Budd will win overall.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Hell Yeah. :)
It's a fucking guarantee.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I predict Ryan, though Nakadai, Sharif and Sellers are strong contenders as well. :)

Anonymous said...

Luke: What ratings would you give to Lyon and Winters?

luke higham said...

Anonymous:
Winters - 4.5
Lyon - 4

Anonymous said...

Luke: I think that I would also give them the same ratings.

Michael McCarthy said...

...Eh, he was pretty good. Still think Landau was more memorable.

I'm not sure if you saw this comment from the last post Louis, but what are your thoughts and rating for David Warner in Time Bandits? Because for me he's at least a 4.5.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Goodnight. :)

Anonymous said...

Luke: Goodnight, Luke. :)

luke higham said...

Louis: How many Wiseaus do you give Dudley Manlove in Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Just got back from The Gift. *Really* need to mull over the ending before I make a decision on the film itself, but here's my ratings on the cast:

Hall: 4
Bateman: 4.5 (no, really)
Edgerton: 4

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Cruise - 3.5(Solid Cruise work again)

Patton - 2(I can she why she just kinda faded after this film, and really looking at her work gives an idea of what's so special about Ferguson in the sequel. Patton is just a bit bland of a performer, and really feels ill-suited for the role)

Pegg - 3(He's funny with his little asides here and there in this one)

Renner - 3.5(Gets to be the heart in this one. He's good at portraying basically a rougher and less confident agent that works well against Cruise's performance. I particularly liked when his portrayal of the hesitations before depending on magnets. Also when he has his own revelation scene Renner gives the needed poignancy)

Nyqvist - 2.5(As he showed in John Wick he can be a good villain, but he just wasn't given much to do)

And yes I plan on seeing both of those films.

In regards to Manlove is at least worth a 3. Although with a name like Manlove, maybe he knew what he was doing.

Calvin:

4 bordering on a 4.5.

Anonymous:

On the Waterfront (1990's Martin Scorsese)

Terry Malloy - Viggo Mortensen
Edie Doyle - Laura Dern
Johnny Friendly - James Woods
Charley Malloy - Joe Pesci
Father Barry - Robert De Niro

On the Waterfront (2010's Michael R. Roskam)

Terry Malloy - Tom Hardy
Edie Doyle - Carey Mulligan
Johnny Friendly - Philip Seymour Hoffman
Charley Malloy - Josh Brolin
Father Barry - Brendan Gleeson

The Hustler (2010's David Lowery)

Fast Eddie - Ben Foster
Fats - John Goodman
Bert - Matthew McConaughey
Sarah - Rooney Mara

The Departed (1970's Roman Polanksi):

Billy Costigan - Jack Nicholson
Colin Sullivan - Robert Redford
Frank Costello - John Huston
Charles Queenan - George C. Scott
Sean Dignam - Roy Scheider
French - Stacy Keach
Ellerby - Robert Mitchum
Madolyn - Faye Dunaway
Barrigan - Hector Elizondo

The Departed (1980's Michael Mann):

Billy Costigan - Mickey Rourke
Colin Sullivan - Mel Gibson
Frank Costello - Robert Prosky
Charles Queenan - Ray McNally
Sean Dignam - Joe Pesci
French - Bob Hoskins
Ellerby - Harvey Keitel
Madolyn - Sigourney Weaver
Barrigan - Ray Liotta

The Departed (1990's Curtis Hanson):

Billy Costigan - Nicolas Cage
Colin Sullivan - Tom Cruise
Frank Costello - Gene Hackman
Charles Queenan - Richard Harris
Sean Dignam - Robert Downey Jr
French - Bob Hoskins (reprises role)
Ellerby - James Woods
Madolyn - Elisabeth Shue
Barrigan - Philip Seymour Hoffman

Olivier - 2.5(Alright I'm forced to admit this is a weaker turn by Olivier. I mean he's definitely miscast at his age to play the all powerful Zeus. Like Olivier always did in his paycheck movies though he's still having fun with the role, and that comes through at least a bit)

Robinson - 1(It's a funny thing that Chadwick Boseman made a more convincing Jackie Robinson than the man himself. Robinson just seems out of his element his whole performance. He's extremely bland and devoid of charisma on screen. He unfortunately fails to do himself justice, but at least his performance here can always be used when someone says "It's easy to play yourself")

Haven't seen it.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: Sorry keep forgetting to reply.

Warner - 4(Looking at my list for that year I noticed he was way too low. But yes he was very good in the role as he actually brought considerable sense of dread actually as evil, but managed to be pretty funny in the various eccentricities he gave the character)

RatedRStar said...

I remember seeing a poster of The Gift on the side of a bus and thinking wow, another shitty cheap horror picture, but then I see that high score on RT, I am curious.

Anonymous said...

Louis: When you first saw In A Lonely Place, were you expecting too much from Bogart's performance, knowing it was heavily praised?

Louis Morgan said...

I was not aware it was heavily praised when I watched it to be honest.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Could you at least give me your full thoughts on In A Lonely Place as a whole? And if, possible, a rating out of 5?

Anonymous said...

Louis: If you are going to do Bonus 1960 Best Actor, I would advise you to see Tunes of Glory, starring Guinness. He and most critics considered it his best role.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: He said the exact same thing for his performance as Adolf Hitler, yet most critics disagreed with him.

luke higham said...

For 1960, I predict Richard Attenborough, to get a five for The Angry Silence.

Anonymous said...

Luke: Honestly, the only two performances I think are truly great are those of Bruno Ganz's and Charlie Chaplin's. Most of the other performances are just yelling like a madman, which many people think that's how Hitler was in real life.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I completely agree. Chaplin has one of the all-time great speeches and Ganz's portrayal is one of the best performances I've ever seen and it's one of those performances, despite being dramatic in it's intent, that I just can't help, enjoy every single moment of it. :)

Calvin Law said...

Guinness is very good in Tunes of Glory, I'd give him a 4.5. His Hitler I agree though was a bit on the hammy side, not a bad performance at all though.

Ganz and Chaplin are fantastic and are both incredibly strong 5's in my book.

luke higham said...

Calvin: I'm glad you love Ganz as well. :)

Your ratings for the casts of Inside Out and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Anonymous said...

Luke and Calvin: I wish Louis would see Lange in Frances, Foster in The Accused and Page in Trip to Bountiful. I don't know if you guys have seen these three performances or not.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I promise you, that Louis will see those performances eventually. :) Just be patient, Whenever the bonus rounds start, I would ask everyone to recommend Female performances for Louis to watch, as well as Male performances for Louis to review.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Not all at once, but for each year. E.G. 2004 - Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake.

Calvin Law said...

Luke:

Inside Out
A collective 3 - 3.5 for the whole cast save Kaling and Kind, whom I'd both give 4's.

Rogue Nation
Cruise - 3.5
Renner - 3
Pegg - 3
Ferguson - 3.5
Baldwin - 3
Harris - 2.5
McBurney - 3

Robert MacFarlane said...

But... why Kaling?

Calvin Law said...

Anonymous: I've seen Foster and Lange. The former I thought was good but a bit overrated, and I don't care much for the film itself. Lange though is fantastic, but I do need to re-watch before I see to what extent she's propelled in my Best Actress rankings.

luke higham said...

Calvin: Kind was definitely the MVP for me. :)

Calvin Law said...

Robert: I got the cast lists mixed up sorry, was unfamiliar with the voice cast in general so might've mixed up a few names here and there. I was referring to Sadness actually (Phyllis Smith). My apologies.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, Meryl Streep isn't getting an Oscar nomination for Ricki and the Flash. The reviews have been kind of mixed, and Mamie Gummer's performance have actually been praised more than Streep's.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Yeah, Gummer, Kline, and even Rick Springfield have been more praised than her.

Michael McCarthy said...

What are people saying about Audra MacDonald? Because she's an outstanding performer.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Not much, apparently her role is too small. A shame, because she's excellent.

luke higham said...

Louis: I know you're planning to see Mr. Holmes, but will you also see Slow West and Cinderella.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: I am not really not that tempted to suggest that many female performances for Louis unfortunately simply because I think I know what he will say about most of them, plus its the idea that we could find so many hidden gems like Von Sydow in Hawaii and PLeasance in Fantastic Voyage that I really want to suggest, basically films that Louis has definately not seen or possibly never even thought of lol.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: That's fine, it's not mandatory by any means. Though I do want Louis to cover all the bases.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your ratings & thoughts on the cast of Paul (2011).
It's not on your rankings, but you made mention of it some time ago.

ruthiehenshallfan99 said...

Louis: Have you seen the new Fantastic Four? If so, what are your ratings of the cast?

Psifonian said...

Lead or supporting: John Wayne in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"? I've always had him co-lead with Stewart, but the recent rewatch made me feel he's supporting. If so, I have a new '62 win.

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Psifonian: I'd say co-lead myself, but borderline. Wouldn't object to either placement. Out of curiosity, do you still consider Casey Affleck and Eli Wallach Supporting? Because neither I can really fathom.

Psifonian said...

Affleck, yes. My reasoning is this: I feel that even though it's his biography (of sorts), Jesse James dominates every frame, even after he's gone, and that Affleck is a supporting character in his own freakin' story. It's a personal choice, and I certainly wouldn't call someone out for putting him in lead, but I view him as supporting.

I'll be honest: Wallach is shifting. I've always had him in supporting because he's always felt like such a subservient character, weaseling in the presence of stronger men, but ultimately, I do think he's lead. I will have to re-upload Best Actor to accommodate (though I'd hate to strip Scofield of his win; I love both performances so much).

Robert MacFarlane said...

You see, I feel the opposite about Affleck. I think the secret to that film's success is realizing that Robert Ford is the one who dominates every frame and it's more the legacy of Jesse James that's important than Jesse James himself. Also, if you just said you didn't want to choose between Affleck and DDL, that would be way more understandable. Hell, I did that for a while because I love both performances.

Psifonian said...

Oh, if that were the case, DDL all day.

Robert MacFarlane said...

And Affleck for me. I wish I could say it was close, but Affleck means a lot more to me.

Anonymous said...

Psifonian: So, is Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance your win for 1962 Supporting?

Anonymous said...

I like both Affleck and DDL and I would choose DDL easily.
Psifonian: I would consider Eastwood, Wallach and Van Cleef to be all leads. Now, I know that you gave Fonda the win for 1968 Best Actor. I never truly understood why many consider Fonda the lead, he's more of a supporting character. The film is more focused on Bronson.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Fonda's another borderline case. Honestly, my definition of what constitutes a lead is also probably the loosest of everyone here. Hell, after re watching Whiplash I'm starting to think Simmons is co-lead. (On a side note, Whiplash did NOT hold up for me on the second go.)

Matt Mustin said...

I don't really understand why Louis considers Barry Pepper supporting in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. He has plenty of scenes to himself in the beginning, and at it's core the film is really about his character's redemption.

Robert MacFarlane said...

In the opposite direction, I actually think that Keitel and Roth were Supporting in Reservoir Dogs since I think that film's structure makes it ensemble. In fact Keitel is my win for Supporting.

Psifonian said...

Yeah, which leaves me in a bit of a pickle, because Van Cleef was my runner-up in '66, and I'm inclined to think all three are co-lead.

Fonda and Bronson are co-lead with me (as is Cardinale). And I could see an argument for Simmons as co-lead.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

As I've said before I'm not really a fan of Ray's purposefully over the top style, and this is mainly because he does not quite fully embrace this. He has this style yet he always tries to leave a more quiet human connection. I won't say he entirely fails in every film but in a ways he basically leaves up to the actors to either ground it like Mason in Bigger Than Life managed to do, or get lost in the extreme nature of some of the scenes as I feel Bogart does in this film. I do feel there is an interesting idea about playing with guilt and suspicion but again Ray handles it in such an over the top fashion that the story never becomes as compelling as it should. It frankly was a story that needed a bit more subtle of an approach.

It's funny I've never been asked to rate a film before, but I suppose I'd give it a 2.5/5.

Luke:

I plan to watch those films at some point.

Ruthiehenshallfan99:

Haven't seen it, probably won't.

Psifonian:

Interesting I never thought about that placement for him, after all he's John Wayne he's always the lead in a Ford western right? I could definitely see Wayne in supporting though since his character is usually seen through Stewart's, except for I think really just the house burning scene, and when he explains what really happened to Valance.

Robert MacFarlane said...

There's a much easier argument for Van Cleef being Supporting due to limited POV.

Anonymous said...

Robert: Has something about Whiplash annoyed you during your second viewing of it?

Louis Morgan said...

Psifonian: I think you can keep Cleef supporting. I agree that in the first act his scenes are that of a lead, but in the second and third acts his appearances are quite sparse often disappearing for very long stretches of time. Those scenes also are not from his perspective, except maybe when he's talking to the commandant, but actually that scene feels from the commandant's perspective.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Yeah, I initially forgave the amateur script for the presentation, but even that wore thin. It came off as less of a dark take on a music drama and more of a frat boy version of it. The ending came off as less ambiguous and more inane. The direction overbearing and forced. I still like the two principles, though.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What rating would you give To Kill A Mockingbird, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, My Fair Lady and West Side Story?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Gigli, Casablanca and An American in Paris as well.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

To Kill A Mockingbird - 5
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - 2.5
My Fair Lady - 2
West Side Story - 2.5
Gigi (I assume you meant) - 1
Casablanca - 5
An American in Paris - 2

Anonymous said...

What are your full thoughts on Virginia Woolf and The Graduate as films? And the rating for The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde.