Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1990: Albert Finney in Miller's Crossing

Albert Finney did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Leo in Miller's Crossing.

Miller's Crossing on re-watch did improve for me. It's still far from my favorite Coen brother's film, and a major villain, the Dane, is a bit weak (which probably would not have been a problem if Peter Stormare, the original choice, had played the part), but on a whole it's pretty good gangster film.

Like many of the Coen brother's films the film takes a risk in having an overt style that spreads to all facets of the film including the acting. Now this did not work all to well for them a few years later in the Hudsucker Proxy where the best performance was given by Paul Newman simply because he did not try to play the part in the style of a 40's screwball comedy. Well here the take is that of a 30's gangster picture and perhaps this is most noticeable in the performance I'm focusing on here by Albert Finney as the crime boss of the town, yep focusing on yet another mobster which I believe is the theme for the supporting actors of 1990. This performance is quite a bit different from Gary Oldman in State of Grace and Robert De Niro in Goodfellas though because Finney chooses to play the part with this very specific style. Finney uses a particularly booming voice, really not at all unlike Ralph Foody's gangster voice from Angels with Filth Souls in Home Alone, that seems to come right from that old style of picture. In addition just the way he sits and leans on his desk in that opening scene seems to come right out from the past once more.

Now all of this could add up to nothing or become grating, as some of the acting can be with this sort of approach when done wrong. Finney though is just brilliant in the realization of this style. In terms of the simple points of it Finney amplifies the whole atmosphere of the film with his work which seems to fits so well into the setting that the Coen's have constructed. I suppose most importantly though Finney is incredibly entertaining and it is fun to watch him as Leo. It's enjoyable to simply watch him perform as the character. I especially love the whole "Danny Boy" shoot out where Finney aptly fulfills the job of a 1930's gangster badass. Every movement in the way Finney conducts himself is perfection in terms of creating Leo as the character he should be for this sort of story. Of course all of this this plays into the key of Finney's work here which is though this is a performance that's fun to watch but this is not a comic performance by Finney. Finney does plays the part with a lot of style but he does not go too far with the style. He does not let the style overwhelm to the point that is all there is, and Finney never uses the style to override the need to give depth to the character.

In this regards Finney is also terrific since he essentially leaves enough room to develop Leo beyond just his gangster style. Finney is interesting in that on the surface he brings the needed commanding presence to go along with his gangster style. Within in that though Finney is excellent in bringing a though strong vein of vulnerability to Leo. It is not anything that Finney plays on as overt that would completely compromise Leo's position. Instead Finney keeps it an understated yet so very effective compromise in Leo, that is needed to explain why Leo makes the decision that technically creates the conflict in the film. That decision being refusing to let the head of the rival mob Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) kill a despicable bookie Bernie (John Turturro) because Leo is in love with Bernie's sister Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). Of course really Leo is being manipulated by Verna completely, but Fineny gives a why to this as he expresses just how infatuated with her he really is. Finney's particularly fantastic in the scene where his right hand man Tom (Gabriel Byrne) reveals he's been having an affair with Verna. Although Leo beats down Tom with a tough guy manner Finney portrays a devastation in Leo, showing just how meaningful the relationship is to him even though it is not to her.

Finney is outstanding here as he finds just the right tone exactly in which to play Leo, and I'd say he matches the style the film seems to be going for better than anyone else in the supporting cast. It's an incredible display of giving a pronounced style to his character, while never seeming to merely become a caricature. Really one of my problems with the film is that Leo exits the film not even quite half way through before reappearing for one last final scene. This is not even necessarily much of a criticism at what is there instead of Leo, but rather it's shame there is not more of Finney's great performance. Now to Finney's credit he certainly keeps Leo alive in the proceedings thanks to the considerable impact he makes in the first third where the majority of his screen time takes place. It is not until the very last scene of the film that he returns, but thanks once again to his earlier work it is an especially welcome one as Finney always manages to make the victory a satisfying one as he makes Leo such an oddly endearing gangster. Finney does not lose anything by his somewhat limited screen time though as he maintains his presence throughout. He makes Leo one of the most memorable aspects of the film as Finney works so eloquently with the material here. This is a performance I just love to watch and is the very best that I've seen from Finney.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1990: Gary Oldman in State of Grace

Gary Oldman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jackie Flannery in State of Grace.

State of Grace is an effective though flawed film, since it never seems to be quite sure what type of film it wants to be, about a young man Terry (Sean Penn) returning to his old neighborhood to be part of the local mobster scene, although his motivations are not quite what they appear to be.

Well from one mobster to another. This time an Irish American mobster played by Gary Oldman, who really is the movie. Always the chameleon Gary Oldman once again proves these skills once again with his accent and manner he brings to Jackie. Oldman fits right in with the actually American actors, but in addition to that some how he actually seems more authentic in creating a criminal from Hell's Kitchen than some of the other actors do. Oldman just is absolutely alive here in his performance from the first scene where Penn's Terry goes to reconnect with Jackie at a bar. Oldman is brilliant in creating this sort of mobster as he brings such a constant energy portraying the lively manner in which Jackie handles his life. Oldman portrays him effectively as a technically a single minded sort of man who views his life, which involves plenty of criminal activity, simply as the way he lives. Oldman brings such a compelling manic quality that expresses so well the way in which Jackie lives his life which is essentially take actions first and never really even bother to think about it.

The tone Oldman strikes up for the character really is quite remarkable. On one side Oldman does makes Jackie perhaps somewhat psychopathic as he really does not bat his eye at violence performed by himself or anyone else. Oldman in addition very much carries that propensity for violence as he carries always an intensity within himself. There is always a bit of spark in Oldman's performance and he makes it a constant that Jackie is a bit of a wild card even within his brother (Ed Harris)'s criminal organization. This is not a villainous performance though by any means, although this somewhat plays into the film's lack of defining what exactly it's going for Oldman in no way falters with his performance. Oldman happens in really the same situations to make Jackie a surprisingly likable character. Part of the reason for this perhaps is that Oldman plays Jackie as perhaps the most honest character in the film, in that he technically has no secrets. An early twist in the film is a reveal that Penn's Terry is an undercover cop, which is one weaker aspects of the film. A conflict does come from this really because how well Oldman realizes Jackie as a character.

One element of the character that may not have worked in lesser hands is that Jackie is seen through a slightly heroic lens, even though he's a guy who plays around with severed hands and does not hesitate to brutally murder people. Oldman though creates this pivotal facet of the character brilliantly though. In the scenes where Jackie talks about the importance of the neighborhood staying the way it is there is this strong passion that Oldman brings and it only ever feels like a genuine desire. What is so unique about it is that Oldman manages to not make this a selfish desire in the man as there is such an oddly honorable quality that Oldman brings to it when Jackie speaks about seeing the way the neighborhood is being changed by developments and the Italian mob. Oldman only adds to this in the scenes where Jackie reacts to a murder of his friend. Oldman is very moving as he portrays the real loss in Jackie and that he no way will forget what happened to his friend. In a later scene when Jackie decides to brutally dispense his justice on some Italian mobsters, Oldman brings forward a palatable anger, making the killings not for himself, rather for the death of his friend.

This is an outstanding performance by Gary Oldman as he consistently covers for weaknesses within the film. One being Terry's dilemma about being an undercover cop which would meaningless if it were not for how sympathetic Oldman manages to make Jackie despite the character's many personal shortcomings. The amazing thing though is Oldman is the one who ramps up the tension of the film especially in one sequence where a hit is dependent on a phone call. Oldman portrayal of Jackie's refusal to stay idle ratchets up the pressure of the moment incredibly well, once again making up for the film that easily could have faltered without him. Now the only problem here is that Jackie is the supporting character and the film weakens whenever he is off screen. This is particularly problematic in the very last act of the film where it really runs out of steam because Oldman has made his exit. Of course neither of those in any relate to a problem with his performance, instead they just show how good his work in this film is. This is simply one of those great supporting performances that makes the film to the point that you really wish it had simply been about that character.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1990: Robert De Niro in Goodfellas

Robert De Niro did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Bafta, for portraying Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas.

Goodfellas marks Robert De Niro's sixth collaboration with director Martin Scorsese and it is notable that it is the first time since their first collaboration, Mean Streets, where he does not have the leading role. Although a few critics groups and the Baftas placed him lead, I would most likely because he's Robert De Niro, since obviously the lead of the film is Ray Liotta as Henry Hill. Like in Mean Streets though De Niro perhaps has the most influential character in terms of the progression of the story. The first time Jimmy appears in the film in chronological order it is essentially as a big shot among gangsters at a party. De Niro being no stranger to playing the mob type fits into the role with the sort of ease you'd expect. As Jimmy in this scene though he brings that overt charisma to the man and creates Jimmy's presence in the moments which is much stronger than pretty much any other mobster of the group. De Niro establishes Jimmy as a man who does things his way and realizes him as the sort of guy the young Henry would aspire to be.

De Niro carries himself particularly well in the scenes where he takes the young Henry as well as the young Tommy DeVito under his wing. De Niro carries himself with almost a fatherly grace as he shows the boys the ropes even more as he runs his various criminal operations. De Niro shows Jimmy to seem like such a generous man at first as he has people doing exactly what he wants them to do for him, but we seen soon enough that it is hardly all there is to Jimmy. The first scene that perhaps makes the abundantly clear is when someone who owns Jimmy money keeps dodging the questions and even openly acts defiantly towards Jimmy. De Niro is great in the scene as he pretty much breaks down to exactly what Jimmy is behind his nice suits and his genial demeanor to those who serve his interests, which is a thug. De Niro plays it in a particularly uncompromising fashion as he shows Jimmy to bluntly brutal in the way he roughs up the man for paying up. There's no warmth, not even any reserve, its a direct violent outburst from a man who's simply not getting what he wants out of him. 

De Niro, Liotta, and Pesci as Tommy are particularly good together in just portraying the camaraderie between the three. They are terrific together in bringing such an authentic feeling ease they have together as the three enjoy all their life has to offer. They are good in their moments of enjoyment, even when ribbing one another over slight things, and what so remarkable is how they show essentially the little things in the life of the wiseguy. De Niro and Pesci are very interesting together in that as Pesci realizes the overt psychopathy of Tommy while De Niro is quite good as he shows that Jimmy really not far from Tommy in terms of nature he just happens to be better at utilizing his violent tendencies in a "useful" fashion. De Niro brings that same sort intense violent glee along Pesci when Jimmy goes about helping Tommy kill a mobster who insulted Tommy. De Niro and Pesci together are brilliant in the way they realize the very dark nature of the mobster as a man by doing it in such a convincing and casual fashion. They really are quite evil, they just happen to be able to get along in a normal way simply because of their position in the mob.

One of his best scenes is when it appears as though Tommy is about to be a made man, something Henry and Jimmy can't become because they are not pure Italian. De Niro is outstanding in the scene as he manages to create some sympathy for the psychopathic Tommy through first bringing such genuine enthusiasm as he waits for the news only to bring such honest grief when things don't go as planned. That's what so good about De Niro here as he so eloquently is able to believably show all these different facets of Jimmy while keeping him as one man. In addition De Niro actually creates some of the most chilling moments because of his creation of Jimmy's nature like this. The section that of the film that follows most closely on De Niro is after a gigantic heist masterminded by Jimmy, but for some reason every man on the job wants to try to screw up afterwards. There is one amazing moment from De Niro, as it's a silent reaction shot, but in his face you can see his mind planning the death of everyone who is trying to screw up his idea for the money from the heist. De Niro makes Jimmy especially dangerous through the way he specifically conveys his maliciousness which only makes itself known when completely necessary. The scene where he asks Henry's wife to look a dress, although clearly planning something else for her, is particularly unnerving because again De Niro keeps up a generous spirit with Jimmy while in those eyes there's that glint again of his true nature. This perhaps De Niro's best collaboration Scorsese as he knows exactly how to work within the film. He allows other actors to shine when they have their moments, amplifying their work with his own assured performance, giving so much more texture in certain scenes just by sometimes being in the background. When it is his time though De Niro delivers every moment and creates a fascinating portrait of Jimmy Conway.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1990

And the Nominees Were Not:

Albert Finney in Miller's Crossing

Armand Assante in Q & A

Robert De Niro in Goodfellas

Harry Dean Stanton in Wild At Heart

Gary Oldman in State of Grace

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1990: Results

5. Leslie Cheung in Days of Being Wild - Although the film under utilizes him Cheung strikes up the perfect note as the romantic/vapid dreamer.

Best Scene: On the train.
4. Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands - Depp artfully creates his artificial yet all too human portrayal of a "monster".

Best Scene: The Christmas present from his father.
3. Ray Liotta in Goodfellas - Liotta gives a great performance in realizing the exuberance of mob life along with its harmful and corrupting qualities.

Best Scene: The one day sequence.
2. Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer - Rooker gives a chilling performance by bringing out the harsh truths of his character who kills just because that's what he does.

Best Scene: Henry talks about his past.
1. James Caan in Misery - Well my single favorite leading actor performance from 1990 is the performance so often forgotten next to the praise of his co-star. Caan's work should not be forgotten though as his brilliant reactionary work amplifies Bates's performance as well as the film's horror, while giving a very moving and sometimes funny portrayal of a man in a horrible situation.

Best Scene: Burning the manuscript.
Overall Rank:
  1. James Caan in Misery
  2. Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 
  3. Jeremy Irons in Reversal of Fortune
  4. Ray Liotta in Goodfellas
  5. Gabriel Byrne in Miller's Crossing
  6. Mel Gibson in Hamlet 
  7. Nicolas Cage in Wild At Heart
  8. Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands
  9. Richard Harris in The Field
  10. Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future III
  11. Al Pacino in The Godfather Part III
  12. Ron Silver in Reversal of Fortune
  13. Clint Eastwood in The Rookie
  14. Leslie Cheung in Days of Being Wild
  15. Paul Newman in Mr. and Mrs. Bridge
  16. Ben Mendelsohn in The Big Steal 
  17. Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone
  18. Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October
  19. Clint Eastwood in White Hunter Black Heart
  20. Robin Williams in Awakenings
  21. Christian Slater in Pump Up the Volume
  22. Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future III
  23. Jeff Daniels in Arachnophobia
  24. Harrison Ford in Presumed Innocent 
  25. Sean Penn in State of Grace
  26. Andy Lau in Days of Being Wild 
  27. Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven
  28. Kevin Bacon in Tremors
  29. Alan Young in Ducktales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp
  30. Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October 
  31. Jeff Fahey in White Hunter Black Heart
  32. Bob Newhart in The Rescuers Down Under 
  33. Nick Nolte in Q & A
  34. Bruce Willis in Die Hard II
  35. Mel Gibson in Bird on a Wire
  36. Danny Glover in Predator 2
  37. Gerard Depardieu in Cyrano de Bergerac
  38. Robert De Niro in Awakenings
  39. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall
  40. Patrick Swayze in Ghost
  41. Josh Pais in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  42. Brian Tochi in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  43. Robbie Rist in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  44. Corey Feldman in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  45. John Cusack in The Grifters 
  46. Charlie Sheen in The Rookie 
  47. Timothy Hutton in Q & A
  48. Bob Hoskins in Heart Condition
  49. Denzel Washington in Heart Condition
  50. Zach Galligan in Gremlins 2
  51. John Travolta in Look Who's Talking Too
  52. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop
  53. Bruce Willis in Look Who's Talking Too 
  54. Matthew Modine in Pacific Heights
  55. Rick Moranis in My Blue Heaven
  56. Warren Beatty in Dick Tracy
  57. Matthew Modine in Memphis Belle
  58. Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves 
  59. John Ritter in Problem Child
  60. Sylvester Stallone in Rocky V 
  61. Jim Varney in Ernest Goes to Jail
  62. Michael Oliver in Problem Child
  63. Bill Cosby in Ghost Dad
  64. Richard Gere in Pretty Woman
  65. Matt Salinger in Captain America
Next Year: 1990 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1990: Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands

Johnny Depp did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying the titular character of Edward Scissorhands.

Edward Scissorhands tells essentially a fairytale about a man created with scissors for hands.

Edward Scissorhands marks the first collaboration between Depp and director Tim Burton. A relationship that I suppose was promising, after all their second film was Ed Wood, but now the two are in serious need of  a dudevorce. Any who this is about the past when Tim Burton was seen as some sort of visionary, and Johnny Depp was seen as one of the most promising actors. The film essentially takes the approach of having sympathy for the monster from Frankenstein except Edward does not even have Frankenstein's violent reactions to violence. The biggest danger Edwards has is perhaps a minor cut, but that's hardly his intention. The character is not even viewed by most of the suburbanites as a monster at first despite coming from a dark castle and obviously being quite unusual in appearance. Depp's performance here is in a similar vein with some of his later works with Burton, as the character is heavily made up while being purposefully strange with Depp technically giving a very mannered performance. The difference here though is there seems to be a lot more heart in terms of Depp's performance.

In terms of the mannerisms Depp plays the part by accentuating the fact that his body's basis was that of an automaton. Depp steps with each foot after the other and everything about his movements are particularly stilted and forced looking. This works though as Depp does suggest really what's underneath Edward's skin and in addition there's something very important that Depp does not do here that he would go on to do later on his career. That being that Depp does not overindulge in terms of the mannerisms as there is never that quality of having them just for the sake of it. It feels true to the character and only helps to establish what Edward is. In contrast to this Depp does not bring a hint of artifice in terms of Edward's facial expressions. This is where Depp brings out the gentle of nature of the character quite beautifully. He only ever brings a very unassuming quality to Edward and very specifically as naivety. There's an innate shyness as Depp conveys the way Edward is not use to interacting with so many people, and in addition though he brings out that curiosity of a child making new discoveries in a world that's very different from his dark castle.

Depp is particularly effective in bringing out such genuine sweetness in the character even while still bringing those odd physical mannerisms of Edward. In his face though there is only an emotional honesty about the character as Depp presents Edward as basically incapable of being anything other than a trusting and understanding sort. Depp actually has very few lines in the film. It's not that he does not talk, but rather Edward just happens to be particularly meek. Again Depp realizes the gentleness of the character through his timid voice that almost seems to squeak out that once again reinforces just how wholly harmless Edward is. Depp makes Edwards the sort of fairytale character he needs to be as he is only ever endearing and wholly sympathetic while still showing how Edward was made in the end. He really flawlessly creates the "monster" the film needs and is consistent in the way the character should be. He makes both the joy of his early acceptance by the community and the sadness of when he rejected quite palatable. The whole romantic wonder of the character in his scenes with Winona Ryder's character also work because of Depp's creation of Edward brings that wonder. It's very good performance by Depp as he makes Edward and frankly does not show the performance which is often case with his later work. I don't love his performance here as some obviously do, perhaps because I don't really care too much for the film, but I'll give credit where it's due, this is fine work from Depp.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1990: Leslie Cheung in Days of Being Wild

Leslie Cheung did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Yuddy in Days of Being Wild.

Days of Being Wild is an interesting enough film about the several people who's lives are effected by one man finding out he was adopted. The ending might be a bit random, it's Tony Leung for some reason, but that can happen when the intended sequel does not materialize.

Leslie Cheung plays the sort of lead to the film. I say sort of lead because the film somewhat randomly jumps between characters although the consistent factor is that Yuddy is behind something that's happening to them often inadvertently. Cheung's performance is very one note which may seem strange considering the nature of role. Yuddy is basically a playboy who spends his time mooching of his non-mother, and charming women then proceeding to break their hearts. It might seem as though one would have to switch a bit to be believable. The strength of Cheung performance though is that Cheung does it all in a single manner really. The overriding quality that Cheung exudes is the self-indulgence in Yuddy. He's about as selfish as one can imagine and Cheung presents in a particularly interesting way. It's almost in a look of his which is that of the beautiful romantic, well you know the beautiful romantic of a romantic novel. This one look is basically enough for the character because of how much Cheung manages to bring out of it.

In the scenes where he charms the women Cheung does not necessarily change from that note by any means though but he manages to have this certain false allure about it in these scenes where he speaks to the women. Cheung manages in these moments to be that his expression is that of the deep thoughts, and there is in fact a certain charm about him when he speaks the words to woo the women. It's an interesting trick to be sure which Cheung pulls off flawlessly. It becomes particularly fascinating when we gets the scenes where he's basically done with the women or when he's talking to his non-mother. In these scenes it becomes abundantly obvious just how much of a lie those other scenes are as Cheung cleverly reveals the "deep thoughts" to be vapid nothings. Cheung shows simply that there's nothing really to Yuddy as a man. He's a big nothing who just happens to be good at suggesting that he's something else. Cheung handles this so well though because he's so convincing at making this other side to Yuddy while in not way hiding his true nature.

The only time it seems we might get a bit more from Yuddy is near the end of the film when something happens to him that obviously must break his reserve. Of course it does not reveal as much as one might think, in fact Cheung does well to once again not really give any more depth to Yuddy. It's an effective final scene though because what Cheung does is show that even in a more stressful situation he once again can't help but be terribly indulgent. He once again shows him thinking those deep thoughts with the only difference in this case being that he has at least something to think about for once. Cheung gives a very good performance here because he renders his one note so wonderfully and it's intriguing how much he gets out of it. My only reservations come in terms of the way the film uses him. His appearances a bit random and sometimes really quite brief. We get parts of interactions but the film almost seems to purposefully diminish his impact by skipping what one would assume would be important scenes. Nevertheless I can't fault Cheung himself as his realization of Yuddy is rather remarkable.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1990: Ray Liotta in Goodfellas

Ray Liotta did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Henry Hill in Goodfellas.

Goodfellas was very well received while being nominated for and winning many awards. Very few were given to Ray Liotta's lead performance, some leading performance recognition went to Robert De Niro instead who would never have ever been considered lead if the role was played by a lesser known actor. This is not all too surprising even though role of Henry Hill is quite a challenge, it is not the challenge that an actor is often given credit for. Henry Hill acts as our guide through the world of the mob in New Jersey as we follow him from his earliest days as a teenager working small time jobs, to becoming fully embedded into higher dealings of the mob life. Perhaps one of the most noted aspects of Liotta's performance is actually his narration. Narration often seems something that's taken more for granted than it should be. Liotta's delivery is pitch perfect here as it has such an earthy life to it. It is not merely a list of observances that Liotta gives rather he gives each moment a vivid detail of how Henry feels about each event he describes. Liotta's narration contributes to the film's atmosphere incredibly well, and further helps to establish the world the film is set in.

Now even though his narration is always present, except for few scenes where Henry's wife Karen takes over, Liotta's performance is not always front and center even though he's definitely lead. The film gives great detail to the whole world he's in with even some minor oddball crooks getting a bit of time to themselves. Liotta though is a constant as he best personifies kinda a criminal with a lack of a different element to him. He's not the boss like Paulie (Paul Sorvino), a criminal mastermind like Jimmy (Robert De Niro), nor is a psychopath like Tommy (Joe Pesci). Henry very simply is a man in it for the life of the wiseguy. Liotta is terrific in realizing simply the allure of the life through his performance. As he gets to be the toughest guy not in the mob, is allowed to have essentially an endless supply of cash as well as getting to basically act as though he is above everyone else who's not in the life, Liotta brings the enthusiasm of these moments in his performance. In his face you find the joy of living the life, with all the thrills coming from it. Of course Goodfellas is not a glorification of the mob by any means, and it does not shy away from the darker elements of what comes with that life in the least.

This is where one of the challenges come in with his performance in that Henry is not a good guy by any means. In addition Liotta does not compromise in this respect as he portrays rather bluntly just how uncouth and uncaring Henry can be at times towards the people in his life particularly his wife. Liotta's performance works though in the way he shows how a man of the lifestyle would be actually. There's that certain natural cruelty that Liotta brings that feels particularly genuine when Henry basically brushes off some of his more harmful behavior that just comes with his life. Henry's not necessarily pure evil though so to speak as he obviously is not like Tommy or even Jimmy in terms of his personal nature. As with Martin Scorsese's pseudo re-make of Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street, Liotta, like Leonardo DiCaprio would in the later film, helps to present the straight forward depiction of a man who loves being a criminal. A funny thing is that Liotta brings much, well heart I suppose, to his portrayal of the "low class" criminal than DiCaprio would bring as a "high class" criminal. That's not a dig at that later performance, but it's rather just interesting to note that little bit of depth of the mobsters opposed to the pure vapid nature of the Wall Street crooks.

This is a notable difference as it becomes one of the most remarkable elements in Ray Liotta's performance. One thing that's a constant in the world of the mob, that's not in the world of the broker, is death. With this one thing comes Liotta's performance as he does give a measure of humanity to Henry. Liotta is excellent in being the reactionary man with any sense of the value of life in the scene where either Jimmy and especially Tommy get into a violent rage. Liotta plays this scenes especially well in that in one part he often acts as kinda the good cop so to speak as he tries to act as the calm person to talk to when ruffing someone up. Not every case of it is business though particularly with Tommy will become violent from the slightest perceived insult. Liotta is terrific in these scenes by showing that even to someone like Henry, who's in no way opposed to twisting or breaking a few arms, is actually a bit repulsed by the extreme violence and reflects the fear associated with being around Tommy's intensity. Liotta effectively brings a gravity in these scenes as well as establishes that Henry isn't fully comfortable with every aspect of the mob life.

Liotta performance works well within the scenes that may highlight De Niro's or Pesci's performances, as he always knows how to work around them in forming the certain group dynamic they have. In addition though when the film's last act almost squarely focuses upon Henry, Liotta does not falter in the spotlight. Throughout the film Liotta is particularly good in portraying the slow decay in Henry as the tension of the life grows which is only compounded when he becomes a cocaine addict. Liotta is outstanding in portraying the mental paranoia as he there is a pervasiveness nervousness in him, and in addition to that Liotta shows in such detail just how physically spent Henry is. Every twitch and shaken mannerism of Liotta's feels absolutely genuine and realizes so well the toll the drugs have on him. The final act then is basically putting the nails into the coffin of Henry's well being. In this way Liotta is just about flawless as he loses that joyful enthusiasm of the past and presents just what happens to the criminal when the vices of his life finally close in on him. He presents very naturally Henry coming to grips with his situation well seeing what his life has been worth, and I really love his silent reaction of understanding the moment he knows that it is either become a witness or die. Then to top it all off though Liotta's very brief, though very important, last scene as Liotta shows a defeated Henry not because he turned in his friends, rather because he can only go back and remember when he lived the dream.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1990: James Caan in Misery

James Caan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Paul Sheldon in Misery.

Misery is an effective thriller about a famous author who is saved by his number one fan after getting into a car accident during a blizzard.

Most of the praise given to Misery stems from Kathy Bates's Oscar winning performance as nurse/deranged fan Annie Wilkes. Now there is a reason for that as Bates's Oscar win is one of the most deserving period, but this unfortunately leaves the leading man of the film routinely forgotten in discussions regarding the film. It's funny to note is that Caan actually does something that usually is noted, which is playing against type. The problem is though it happens to be in the way that's never given any credit. Caan is best known for playing a man's man who are usually commanding characters. That's not the case here as Paul Sheldon is a fairly unassuming writer, and in addition to that he spends the majority of the film bed ridden. We are introduced to Sheldon as he plans to finish his new book that is not part of his extremely popular Misery series of books. Sheldon's main point early on is that he wants to write something more meaningful for him and away from the books he's become tired of writing. Having Caan in the role instantly strips away the hint of pretension in this motivation as he makes Sheldon just a likable down to earth guy in the film's brief introduction.

Sheldon's car accident leaves him in the company of Annie Wilkes as the film becomes a two character piece, outside of the welcome cutaways to the investigation thanks to the fact that Richard Farnsworth plays the local sheriff. Caan has two particularly major challenges to deal with the first being that he is physically very restricted by the character's predicament, and also has to deal with the flamboyancy innate to Annie Wilkes, which is played to utter perfection by Bates. Well firstly although Caan is either in a bed or in a wheel chair for most of the film there's nothing underwhelming about his physical depiction of Paul. In fact Caan perhaps gives one of the very best portrayals of a straight forward physical anguish. Caan does not leave it to simply all the slings and made up bruises to sell Sheldon's injuries from the accident. Caan expresses every inch of that pain in his portrayal as he shows it to be almost overwhelming in the earliest scenes of the film. This particularly important as Caan properly depicts the very slow and gradual recovery of Paul over the weeks. There never is a misstep in Caan's performance he keeps the condition that Paul is in a constant.

The role of Paul Sheldon was repeatedly turned down before it was finally accepted, and it is easy to see why as Sheldon is most often a reactionary role with the big emotional moments given to Annie. Those actors perhaps correctly predicted that the actress playing Annie was likely to be the one to receive the plaudits. Caan though apparently took on the role due to the nature of the part which was very much opposed to his usual characters who often did not hesitate to speak their minds. Caan's performance is brilliant in that he creates much of the terror through the way Paul interacts with Annie. Caan's good in the earliest scenes with her as he shows Paul to be appropriately thankful towards her for saving his life, but he also does well in the role as he kinda puts on the gracious author to the fan routine. It is not that he's being overly cruel to her or anything but Caan's great at showing kinda the autopilot manner as he accepts her rabid praise as she declares her love for everything related to Misery. Caan does well though to bring honesty to thanking her as well as in the moments where Paul wonders how his daughter is coping with his disappearance.

Of course not everything stays peachy and that's when Caan really starts to facilitate Bates's performance with his own. Caan always stays at his core a realistic depiction of a man in the situation that Paul finds him in which is essential to play against the crazy horror that is Annie Wilkes. Caan is terrific in the first instance where Annie shows her dark side as she gives her thoughts on his new book, which she does not care for largely it seems due to the swearing in the book. Caan at first keeps that same gracious artist routine until she becomes more intense with her complaints and Caan's reaction is absolute perfection as he realizes the unease in Paul as he starts to see the side of her that's not so cheery. In this way Caan becomes one of the very best straight men ever. There is a very strong vein of dark humor in the film and Caan brings a great deal of this out with his performance. When Bates goes on a mad tirade about something that would seem incidental to anyone who's not her, Caan brings out both horror and the humor through his nervous reactions of complete disbelief that only grow stronger the more obvious it becomes just how bent Annie is.

Caan does not waste really an inch of himself through his down to earth performance that so well amplifies Bates's. One scene in particular I think expresses this best which is the infamous hobbling scene, where Annie gruesomely ensures that Paul stays disabled. The spine tingling nature of the scene would not be found if it weren't for Caan. His squirming in an overpowering fear as he sees what she's doing, along with his meekly asking her to please stop builds up the moments to an almost excruciating point. Then as he writhes in pain of the moment of the act, Caan brings it all home as he delivers in showing just how horrible the act is. Caan is so on point here it is incredible in the way he jumps around the part with such ease. Whether its portraying the points of the torture or the way Paul tries to handle Annie. Caan's performance is pivotal once again in the scenes where he convinces Annie to do something as he believably puts on a false charm when he tries to play into Annie's fan girl tendencies. Caan though is flawless in the way he jumps to genuine fear, if the plan goes wrong, or to such earned exasperation when she turns around or simply he's just had too much of her insanity. Also even though some of the most emotional scenes are given to Bates, that's not to say Caan has none. In fact Caan is very moving in the scene where Annie forces him to burn his new book as he expresses just how much losing the new work means to him as he is made to destroy it. Caan absolutely convincing in this meeker role, he does not allow himself to be overshadowed by Bates instead he fulfills the need of grounding her work. He realizes every step of Paul's terrifying predicament with his fantastic work. I have to say I love this performance which deserves to be praised right along with Bates's.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1990: Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Michael Rooker did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer bluntly depicts the life of a murderer.

The reliable character actor Michael Rooker had a bit of a strange break as an actor in that he apparently received many of his more notable roles from the late eighties due to this film's festival runs while the film itself struggled through several years of limbo before finally getting a theatrical release. He was usually given the roles of pretty rotten men which is not surprising given his performance that caused his pseudo breakout. The film takes the approach of focusing very specifically on the behavior the killer. It does not gives us his whole life, nor does it even gives us any police investigation to stop him. We are simply given Henry as he well behaves in the way that he does. There's a very specific lack of theatricality about the depiction of the killer which in turn plays into Michael Rooker's performance as Henry. This is one of the performances where the character really is granted. There is never a question of the performance of Rooker. Rooker simply is Henry here without ever there being the slightest hint of acting in his realization of the man which is essentially in giving us the most unfortunate fly on the wall view we are given of Henry and his life.

Rooker strikes up a particularly unpleasant manner with his performance in that he does not present Henry as someone who hides his psychopathy exactly, well otherwise than strictly not killing someone. At the same time Rooker in on way wears on his sleeve to the point that someone would go running the opposite direction once they see his face. Rooker instead portrays him as an introverted loner, which works particularly well in creating how Henry goes about his life. There's nothing clearly wrong with him yet there's nothing clearly right with him either. Of course this is only through a cursory glance and this might change a bit when someone is unfortunate enough to get to know him for a more than just a few seconds. Rooker carries that withdrawn intensity incredibly well in his performance as the violent tendencies becomes a constant with the character. Rooker realizes something especially off-putting through this approach as he shows that Henry does not need to be set of to kill. The ability or potential for him to kill is just a constant in Rooker's portrayal of him. When Henry is going to kill it's merely something that he does which is no way needs to be that of a special occasion.

Many of the scenes of the film have a brutal effectiveness when we merely see Henry go somewhere, and then later see the death later on in gruesome detail. Again there is something so disturbing though about Rooker's method in portrayal as he shows the behavior to be just his natural course of action. There's nothing that needs to go wrong, it is just something he will do. The film eventually does depict some of the murders when Henry's friend Otis (Tom Towles) gets in on the murders as well. Rooker is frightening in these scenes through his uncompromising depiction of Henry's brutality towards his victims. What seems almost most cruel about it is how quick and really meaningless the way Rooker portrays Henry commits them. There's not a second thought about it, it's just what he's going to do and that's a cruel fact about the man. Where Towles shows that Otis is obviously getting a kick out of the murders this is less the case for Rooker's performance. There might be the momentary glimpse of it when Henry comes with something new to do to a victim, but it is almost as if he's been doing it so long it in a way is basically his job which he performs so regularly that it is a routine.

The film never has any moments that depict the past of Henry but he does tells a story about his childhood to Otis's sister Becky (Tracy Arnold). Henry details his childhood where he suffered constant abuse by his prostitute mother. Rooker is outstanding in the scene as he reveals the pain in Henry's past in such a brilliant fashion. What is so remarkable about it is that he does not breakdown exactly in a way that would not make sense for Henry. Rooker is fascinating in the way he shows this in a man who really is without humanity. Rooker is very powerful and moving in his own way as he conveys a hollowness about Henry as speaks the past. There is a real emotion there somewhere as Rooker presents it almost as Henry is looking to where the warmth of his life should have come from with his mother. Rooker though portrays past the deepest hate in Henry instead though as he remembers his mother as he suggests in part the creation of the man as he is. The suffering of his past is made palatable through Rooker's portrayal of it though he always keeps something missing that keeps Henry from ever finding any real humanity within himself.

Much like Richard Attenborough's portrayal of John Reginald Christie in 10 Rillington Place, Rooker rightly keeps Henry's nature as a constant. At most we are given the moments where Henry puts Otis in his place when Otis makes incestuous moves towards his sister. Again though Rooker is terrific by presenting it as almost instinctual reaction towards his own abuse by a family member. It does not indicate a change rather it is as natural of a behavior as his killing. What is so unnerving about his Rooker's performance is the way he makes this such a constant in the man, and that the violence is merely a guaranteed reaction from him. By the end of the film he has not changed and the simple truth he never will change. Henry is not arrested by the end of the film, but he likely just will eventually be after committing more murders in the same way he was going at the beginning of the film. The strength of his performance seems almost like a relatively simple one which is to just genuine be the working class murderer that Henry is. It's an absolutely chilling performance by making the behavior of the man feel so honest.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1990

And the Nominees Were Not:

Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands

Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Ray Liotta in Goodfellas

Leslie Cheung in Days of Being Wild

James Caan in Misery

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1941: Results

5. Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane - Aside from his scenes as an old man Cotten gives a considerably more assured performance than most of co-stars, and effectively creates a sympathetic character arc to follow along Kane's own. 

Best Scene: After Kane loses the election.
4. Herbert Marshall in The Little Foxes - Marshall gives a very moving portrayal of the physical and mental decay of a decent man among fiends.

Best Scene: Horace rejects Regina's request.
3. Edward Arnold in The Devil and Daniel Webster - Arnold realizes the assumed greatness of his character through his strong presence and genuine passion.

Best Scene: Daniel Webster addresses the jury.
2. Laird Cregar in I Wake Up Screaming - Cregar gives a brilliantly grim portrayal of his shadowy detective, but also manages to be rather heartbreaking when explaining the underlying motivations of the character.

Best Scene: Ed Cornell reveals his connection to the deceased.
1. Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon - Peter Lorre is superb managing to be both quite humorous and very sinister in his enigmatic portrayal of Joel Cairo. This an amazing year for supporting actor, especially for the 40's, and I really hate to leave Arnold out of the top five.

Best Scene: Cairo's arrival.
Overall Rank:
  1. Walter Huston in The Devil and Daniel Webster
  2. Van Heflin in Johnny Eager
  3. Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon
  4. Laird Cregar in I Wake Up Screaming
  5. Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon
  6. Edward Arnold in The Devil and Daniel Webster
  7. Herbert Marshall in The Little Foxes
  8. Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane
  9. Claude Rains in The Wolf Man
  10. Claude Rains in Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  11. Donald Crisp in How Green Was My Valley
  12. Barry Fitzgerald in The Sea Wolf
  13. William Demarest in The Lady Eve
  14. Elisha Cook, Jr. in The Maltese Falcon
  15. Leslie Howard in 49th Parallel
  16. John Qualen in The Devil and Daniel Webster
  17. Anton Walbrook in 49th Parallel
  18. Walter Brennan in Meet John Doe
  19. Dana Andrews in Ball of Fire
  20. Gene Lockhart in The Sea Wolf
  21. Niall MacGinnis in 49th Parallel 
  22. Richard Haydn in Ball of Fire
  23. Henry Travers in Ball of Fire
  24. S.Z. Sakall in Ball of Fire
  25. Leonard Kinskey in Ball of Fire
  26. Tully Marshall in Ball of Fire
  27. Aubrey Mather in Ball of Fire
  28. Oskar Homolka in Ball of Fire
  29. Edmund Gwenn in The Devil and Miss Jones
  30. H.B. Warner in The Devil and Daniel Webster
  31. Raymond Massey in 49th Parallel
  32. Charles Coburn in The Lady Eve
  33. S.Z. Sakall in The Devil and Miss Jones
  34. Alan Hale in The Strawberry Blonde
  35. Elisha Cook, Jr. in I Wake Up Screaming
  36. Finlay Currie in 49th Parallel
  37. William Demarest in Sullivan's Travels
  38. Edward Everett Horton in Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  39. Robert Cummings in The Devil and Miss Jones
  40. Edward Arnold in Meet John Doe
  41. Jack Carson in Love Crazy
  42. Donald MacBride in High Sierra
  43. Eugene Pallette in The Lady Eve
  44. Ward Bond in The Maltese Falcon
  45. Jack Carson in The Strawberry Blonde
  46. Porter Hall in Sullivan's Travels
  47. Jerome Cowan in The Maltese Falcon
  48. Edward Arnold in Johnny Eager
  49. James Gleason in Meet John Doe
  50. Henry Travers in High Sierra
  51. Walter Brennan in Sergeant York
  52. Laurence Olivier in 49th Parallel
  53. Rhys Williams in How Green Was My Valley
  54. Richard Carlson in The Little Foxes
  55. Dan Duryea in Ball of Fire
  56. Barry Fitzgerald in How Green Was My Valley
  57. Henry Hull in High Sierra
  58. Frances Sullivan in "Pimpernel Smith"
  59. Nigel Bruce in Suspicion
  60. Dan Duryea in The Little Foxes
  61. Bela Lugosi in The Wolf Man
  62. Ray Collins in Citizen Kane
  63. Vladimir Sokoloff in Love Crazy
  64. Barton MacLane in The Maltese Falcon
  65. James Barton in The Shepherd of the Hills 
  66. Gene Lockhart in The Devil and Daniel Webster
  67. Ralph Bellamy in The Wolf Man 
  68. Paul Stewart in Citizen Kane
  69. Cornel Wilde in High Sierra
  70. Charles Dingle in The Little Foxes
  71. Arthur Kennedy in High Sierra 
  72. Ward Bond in The Shepherd of the Hills
  73. Leo G. Carroll in Suspicion 
  74. Walter Pidgeon in How Green Was My Valley
  75. William Alland in Citizen Kane
  76. Ward Bond in Sergeant York
  77. Carl Benton Reed in The Little Foxes
  78. Alan Mowbray in That Hamilton Woman
  79. Sam Levene in Shadow of the Thin Man
  80. Walter Abel in Hold Back the Dawn
  81. George Tobias in Sergeant York 
  82. Allyn Joslyn in I Wake Up Screaming
  83. Cy Kendall in Johnny Eager 
  84. George Coulouris in Citizen Kane
  85. Alan Mowbray in I Wake Up Screaming
  86. Everett Sloane in Citizen Kane
  87. James Gleason in Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  88. Arthur Shields in How Green Was My Valley
  89. Paul Stewart in Johnny Eager
Next Year: 1990 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1941: Herbert Marshall in The Little Foxes

Herbert Marshall did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Horace Giddens in The Little Foxes.

The Little Foxes is an effective drama about the corrupt inner workings of a greedy family.

Herbert Marshall plays Horace Giddens the man unlucky enough to be married to the cold Regina (Bette Davis), which unfortunately makes him family with the despicable Hubbards. The one thing all the Hubbards hold in common, including Horace's wife, is they seem to prefer money above all else. Horace does not make his first appearance until some time until the film, although he spoken about mainly in the context that he has a terrible heart condition that will likely lead to his death. Herbert Marshall portrays Horace as a man of quiet dignity as he very gently interacts with everyone including his daughter Alexandra (Teresa Wright) or anyone else who has the slightest hint of human decency. Marshall very quickly makes Horace the most likable character the most likable character in the film by only giving off a very honest demeanor while clearly establishing that Horace in no way shares the avaricious nature of his family by law. Marshall exudes an understated compassion as he makes the love of his daughter a simple fact, as it's clearly what he cares about most in life.

Marshall is quite effective as he portrays Horace as no fool in regards to his interactions with his wife and the rest of the greedy Hubbards. Marshall presents it well as essentially that Horace has simply had enough of their behavior. As he interacts with them, and discovers each new plot in which to make themselves even richer than they already are Marshall does not express surprise. He rather bluntly shows the disdain in a boredom of sorts. Marshall makes it quite clear that it is all simply business as usual for them, and that Horace is unable to do much more than almost roll his eyes at the antics of his relatives. Marshall though does distinguish this from Horace's physical state which also leaves him in a certain state. Marshall portrays well clearly the other sort of exhaustion from his heart condition, as he very carefully takes a calm approach in his manner as he shows Horace is clearly trying to avoid any undue stress.

Although Horace is able to avoid his in-laws he cannot completely ignore his wife which is where the problems lie for the character. Marshall is terrific in the scenes with Davis as he continually keeps Horace trying to keep his distance from her, to ignore her pointless bickering. Marshall is rather moving because he does not show this to be a coldness in Horace, but simply Horace's understanding of the coldness in Regina. There are moments where Marshall brings a great deal of poignancy as Horace seems to try to reach out in some way to his wife, to show his past love for her, but he only ever receives a cold response. Horace continuously suffers the ill-will of his wife, and Marshall is especially good in realizing the slow decay of Horace's physical state. In every fight Marshall conveys the increase in the pressure and stress while so sadly showing that Horace obviously wants no part of the pointless drama his wife has created. This is a very good performance by Herbert Marshall as he makes Horace an appropriately tragic figure, bringing such an understated likability to the part while fully realizing the evil inflicted upon him by his shallow wife.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1941: Edward Arnold in The Devil and Daniel Webster

Edward Arnold did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Daniel Webster in The Devil and Daniel Webster.

The Devil and Daniel Webster is a film that does not necessarily have the strongest lead in James Craig's Jabez Stone, yet this does not really weaken the film thanks to the supporting players who essentially control film making Stone essentially a pawn in his owns story. The first being the embodiment of evil Mr. Scratch, played to perfection by Walter Huston, who temps Jabez Stone into giving away his soul for All That Money Can Buy for seven years. The second being the real life political figure Daniel Webster who is viewed in the story as the greatest politician to ever live, or at least in the view of the people of New England. Webster is played by Edward Arnold who is perhaps best known for playing cold authority figures often times in the films of Frank Capra. Sometimes he'd be given redemption, such as in You Can't Take It With You, but often times he personified the cruelty of authority without compromise. Arnold here plays an authority figure as well, but the complete opposite of those roles as before we see his character he is characterized by every one else as the man of the highest moral order. 

This is supported by his first scene where a shadowy figure, Mr. Scratch, speaks to him tempting him for a deal to ensure that he will one day become president. Arnold is great in these short little scene as treats them in such a matter of fact fashion. The first Arnold suggests to be almost the squashing of bad thoughts as the devil whispers temptation which he ignores as a bad headache until finally has to curse him out the room to put an end to it. That's not the only time though and they have a particularly humorous second encounter where Arnold once again treats him as a fact of life. This time he annoys him in public and I like the way Arnold just shrugs him off as though he's a common pest that just must be dealt with. Of course his ability to reject the offers of Mr. Scratch is not the only that makes Daniel Webster a special man. He's loved by the people as well and Arnold needs to be able to get that across as well. Arnold does this splendidly. Arnold in any role has an imposing screen presence, which he uses particularly artfully here. Arnold as Webster does not insist on his greatness, though he realizes it through still having that strong presence, but in the most gentle of ways. 

Arnold does well to establish Webster in his few scenes early on as he matches the descriptions he receives and is able to create a similar impact that Huston makes. Arnold is able to present Webster as a forceful man in his few moments as we see that which makes him the great man, yet along with it Arnold brings the softness. Not a weakness but rather a natural kindness that he always exudes showing the concern in Webster for others. He's only in a few scenes early on the film though Arnold makes a strong enough of a statement in those scenes that it is known exactly what Webster stands for and that he seems likely to be the only man who will be able to stand up against Mr. Scratch. Webster makes his reappearance back into the film just as Jabez Stone's contract is up and the only thing that Mr. Scratch will take for an extension is Stone's son. This leaves Stone to turn to Webster for help as the final showdown between Scratch and Webster in Stone's barn. The funny thing is in this final sequence that Stone might as well not be in the room since it unquestionably is a face-off between Arnold and Huston.

The final sequence contains what is so great about Arnold's performance as he takes on Mr. Scratch. Arnold importantly builds up the suspense of the scene rather well as he does give some momentary sense of fear as Webster prepares himself to defend Stone in a trial, with a jury picked by the devil. Arnold does not present Webster as an otherworldly figure himself, but rather a man who must overcome his own concerns to take on the devil. The challenge for Arnold comes in the speech he must give to jury, which is the only defense that Webster is allowed, to attempt to give Stone back his soul, the challenge is especially difficult considering that Webster was considered one of the all time great orators. Well Arnold matches the challenge head on, and is outstanding in the scene. He brings the incredible passion needed for the speech as he is brings out the convictions of the man so powerfully. What I love though is that Arnold brings the mediation in his speech. It is not just Webster telling them what is right but convincing them that it is. In this regard Arnold brings such a warmth in his words creating the sense of the palatable love Webster has for his country. He is able to bridge that in a persuasive fashion as Webster tells the damned jury what they missed by turning to the devil. Arnold makes the result of the trial of Stone believable since he makes Webster the great man he needs to be and a truly worthy opponent for Huston's Mr. Scratch.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1941: Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane

Joseph Cotten did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jedediah Leland in Citizen Kane.

Citizen Kane indeed has many qualities that would seem to indicate its status as the greatest film of all time. It is impossible for me to share this view as do have one major reservation regarding the film which is the acting. Much of the cast are stage actors making their film debuts as it shows. Most of them still give performances for the stage even if they eventually become comfortable film actors like Everett Sloane and Agnes Moorehead. Even Orson Welles has a slight theatrical bent in a few scenes, yes the re-watch did not change my view on his performance. One of the most successful film actors to come out of Kane though was Joseph Cotten. It is not surprising to see why as Cotten seems the most comfortable with the medium with his performance here. Cotten plays Jedediah Leland Charles Foster Kane's best friend who joins him in taking over a newspaper as a drama critic. Cotten, unlike many of the other supporting players, actually makes use of the moments where not be the central focus, and even when he is he does not take as his chance to make a scene. Unlike someone like Sloane who pretty much yells most of his lines.

Cotten does something rather interesting with his work in that he makes Jedediah the only character in which we are allowed to connect. Welles leaves Kane as a distant figure even though he is the lead. I would say this is purposeful though order to make us keep looking for the truth of the man just like the reporter we follow trying to find out the meaning of Kane's last words "Rosebud". Cotten fulfills an important need of the film to have the man who is genuine. It won't be found in Kane, or Sloane's Bernstein who's essentially a boot lick, and certainly not the reporter since we only see him from behind or in shadow. Cotten in the earliest scenes in the chronological sense gives an effective depiction of the earnestness of wanting to make a statement in the world, while clearly not having the ego about in that Kane does. Cotten does well to essentially let us in on the world of creating the newspaper through his calmer and less presumptuous portrayal of Jedediah. It's very intriguing that even well hanging on the side of the frame Cotten is able to create the man who's far more easy to relate to than Kane is.

Cotten is very good as he reflects and really amplifies what Welles does with Kane in every step of Kane's downfall as a person. As the paper grows Kane seems to become engulfed into his own success whereas Cotten portrays Jedediah still as the same man as he was when they entered the office, but with perhaps a bit less enthusiasm as he watches Kane become a bit too proud of his accomplishments. Cotten says a great deal in his reactions and quiet comments about what is happening to Kane. He expresses well a genuine concern as he still expresses the optimism of the original thought behind the paper while Welles's Kane seems all the less authentic as a man. Cotten still brings the passion though as Jedediah campaigns for Kane's run for the governor of New York, and makes it all the more affecting when he shows the especially genuine disappointment in Jedediah as he sees Kane fall due to Kane's own vices. Cotten expresses well the lost of the faith of essentially the promise that Kane made to him repeatedly about the work they were going to do together. Cotten portrays this to be a final straw for optimism really as the later set scenes with him, Cotten portrays Jedediah as basically jaded individual who no longer seems to have the passion for much of anything, as even when he fires Cotten shows it to be more of a sigh of resignation than any sort of outrage. Cotten powerfully brings to life the loss of Kane's dream by having Jedediah figure out that it was never possible. Now I should briefly mention the framing the flashback scenes where the reporter interviews Jedediah as an old man. Cotten might to the old man mannerisms a tad too much, but really in terms of unneeded theatricality Cotten really seems pretty subdued compared to some of the other performances. In addition Cotten makes up for it with his very strong work in the flashback scenes as he creates the character arc we connect with that brilliantly echos the colder one presented by Welles.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1941: Laird Cregar in I Wake Up Screaming

Laird Cregar did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying detective Ed Cornell in I Wake Up Screaming.

I Wake Up Screaming is an effective film noir, although I say the love story bogs down the second half more than it should, about the unsolved murder of a glamor model Vicky (Carole Landis). 

Well I'm reviewing a supporting performance in a mystery, that's played by Laird Cregar who usually played rather unsavory figures in his tragically brief career, so I guess you know who did it right? Well just wait moment. Laird Cregar makes his initial appearance being a voice in darkness as the prime suspect for the murder, a promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature), is being interrogated by several detectives. The outline of Cregar as well as his voice certainly makes for an ominous presence in these early scenes. The build up of his character only continues as the first time we are able to see him more fully is still as a shadowy figure in the flashbacks watching Vicky and her sister Jill Lynn (Betty Grable). He makes his dramatic announced entrance as he is told to be detective Ed Cornell the head of the investigation and Jill fingers him as a stalker that must be the murderer. Cornell though has an airtight alibi, and I'm not talking Agatha Christie airtight. So if Cregar is not there to be the murderer what is he there for? Well to steal the show obviously.

Cregar has such a presence that is truly remarkable. Here he even gets to stretch past the psychopath as he plays the detective who will follow our 'hero' no matter the obstacle. These characters usually are portrayed as particularly foolish but that's not the case with Ed thanks in large part due to Cregar's performance. Cregar has such a powerful innate confidence about himself as he actually bothers to realize the method of Ed who is touted as a great detective. Well Cregar earns this in his performance as there is something so incisive about the way he quietly watches Frankie or any other potential subject. There is one particularly striking scene where he forces a couple of the suspects to watch footage of the dead girl and the way he so calmly glances at the men it only seems inevitable that one of them will break down. Cregar, even though he is indeed not the murderer, does carry such a considerable menace here as he makes Cornell almost an unstoppable force. The often calm manner that Cregar brings in Cornell interrogation manner is surprisingly off-putting as he actually shows how it was that Cornell likely solved his other cases.

Every scene he shares with Victor Mature is brilliant for Cregar. Cornell is assured that Frankie is the murderer, and Cregar presents this as he has him in his grip during every scene they share together. There is one especially fantastic scene where they share a car ride together and Cornell talks with Frankie over the case lining out his objective. Cregar is terribly chilling in the scene as we see him almost envisioning the death of Frankie in his eyes. As he states so gently how he will basically achieve his death by hanging while simply playing with a piece of string. Cregar brings such a quietly grim element that creates a palatable sense of dread as Cornell hands off the finished string to Frankie which has formed a noose. The noir I think easily could have fallen into a mediocrity if left purely to the leads and the story but Cregar never lets that happen. In the scenes where he does appear he makes such a threatening atmosphere needed for the film, and when he is not onscreen he is never forgotten. Honestly I think I definitely would have preferred the film if it simply had been a character study focused on Cregar's Cornell, since Cregar is so fascinating in creating the tenebrous detective.

Well as great as Cregar is as the villain who's not the murderer in a murder mystery the film in its final scene does explain why Cornell is so determined to see Frankie hanged. That being because this was not merely just another case for Cornell but rather Cornell dated Vicky when she was a waitress before Frankie discovered her. Cregar is outstanding in the final scene because brings such a genuine loss in Cornell as he speaks. In his voice Cregar conveys the loneliness of the man as well as those past glimpses of happiness of memory that Frankie did in fact take away from him. Cregar is rather heartbreaking because he portrays Cornell as the man who was the most broken by her death. Cregar's is able to realize this final revelation in such a convincing and sympathetic way, even though he was fine with sending Frankie to death row even though he did not actually kill her, that the film feels rather cruel when it still seems to treat the character with disdain. Cregar's performance earns more than that though as he wholly earns the surprisingly moving end note to his character, when he has been such compelling terror beforehand. This is an excellent performance from an actor who deserves to be remembered.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1941: Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon

Peter Lorre did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon.

The character of Joel Cairo could be seen as unnecessary to the story merely since there is already technically the main villain in the form of Kaspar Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) who already has a henchmen in the form of Wilmer (Elisha J. Cook Jr.). Cairo is simply another man in search of the elusive title figure there really for an added bit of character, but with a bland actor he could have seemed truly superfluous. Well Peter Lorre is about as the opposite of bland as an actor can be. Really I think Lorre might have been the only actor from the period to fully earn Humphrey Bogart's reaction as Sam Spade to the appearance of Joel Cairo in his office. Bogart face is almost as if a naked man walked through the door, while Cairo earns such a surprise. Lorre is downright brilliant in the whole manner he carries himself as Cairo with his most peculiar mannerisms which Lorre wears with such a natural ease it's something to watch. Everything that Lorre does in his scenes, every facial movements, the way he fondles then almost seems to want to deep throat his can, creates Joel Cairo as quite the specimen who Lorre makes rather unforgettable just from his first scene.

Lorre is an interesting case here in that he's not exactly menacing, which I doubt was the point since Spade disarms and knocks out Joel Cairo in his very first appearance. What Lorre does so well is personify the lurid world around the search for the Maltese Falcon. Lorre creates such a innately sinister sense in Cairo just as he propositions Spade for a job, before he has even shown any technical evil side on his part. All Cairo is technically saying at first is that he wants Spade to find the object for him, offering him money, not expecting him to break the law, and he even offers Spade some condolences for his dead partner. Of course everything along with that particularly that smile of his that seems to have such pure malevolence within it. There is such a deviousness  in every word that he speaks even the condolence seems two sided in some way. Lorre makes it as though everything about Cairo seems as though he's crawled out a particularly dark place just before he came to enter Spade's office. When he suddenly draws his gun on Spade it would have been far more surprising if he left the office without threatening Spade with death.

Lorre is also just very funny in the part although never does he have a set of punchlines to say. I particularly love after Spade has knocked him out and searched him. Lorre is such a great weasel as he acts though he is apologizing for the whole affair in such a sweet fashion as though everything they had was just a misunderstanding. He even asks for the gun back in such a calm unassuming way with those big eyes of his bringing such a surface earnestness to it he makes you believe that Spade would give him a gun back. This make it all the more hilarious when Lorre switches back to wholly sinister presence as he wants again draws the gun on Spade insisting that he look through his office. Lorre really is a villainous delight any time in which he appears and it is wonderful the dynamic Lorre is able to achieve in the part. He makes Cairo an absolute fiend to be sure, but such an enjoyable fiend to watch. There is another splendid moment where he has a discussion with Spade and Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor). He begins so professionally as he inquires about Brigid's knowledge then he delightfully falls about apart into a mess as gets into a fight with her when Spade leaves for a few seconds.

Of course just about the best of everything comes in the final sequence of the film as all the players get into a single room to receive the Falcon. This final scene is perhaps the best example of what makes Lorre's performance so good here. Technically speaking Joel does not have too much to say in this last scene as most the dialogue is given between Greenstreet's Gutman and Bogart's Spade. Lorre though would never let himself be forgotten in the midst of all that. Every little gesture of his adds at least a little something to the scene. Lorre frankly is not okay with just standing in the back as he just adds just the right bit of extra color to the scene. Lorre's knows exactly how far to go as he keep Cairo a considerable presence within the scene while not going so far as to be a distraction either. Again he makes Cairo such a terrific weasel within the frame just the way he whispers into ear has something so eloquently devious about it. I especially like though is how he gives the sold out Wilmer such a cold stare, after Wilmer realizes his position, but then proceeds to give him a warm pat on his back like he's saying "ah don't feel too bad". When Lorre does get his little moment though it's all the better. His reaction to finding the real nature of the Falcon is marvelous as breaks down to almost a crying baby over not getting the treasure, while blaming Gutman. I'd say he only tops this with his next reaction of true inspired happiness as Gutman asks him to come along to keep searching for it. This is outstanding work from Lorre as he makes Joel Cairo such memorable part of the story, and shows exactly how to give a flamboyant performance which only adds to the strength of his film.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1941

And the Nominees Were Not:

Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane

Laird Cregar in I Wake Up Screaming

Edward Arnold in The Devil and Daniel Webster

Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon

Herbert Marshall in The Little Foxes

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1941: Results

5. Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolfman - Chaney plays the title creature memorably enough but it's his emotional portrayal of the man's anguish over the creature's deeds that truly stands out.

Best Scene: The first wolf's funeral.
4. Gary Cooper in Ball of Fire - Cooper gives an entertaining and surprisingly believable portrayal of a meek professor.

Best Scene: The professor picks a fight.
3. William Powell in Love Crazy - Powell for the first third of his performance gives his usually enjoyable romantic comedy style of performance then proceeds to be hilarious once his character goes "nuts".

Best Scene: Steve's sister shows up.
2. Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels - McCrea gives an amusing portrayal of a pretensions director but he also manages to find the power of the film's more dramatic intentions.

Best Scene: Sullivan and the prisoners watch the cartoon.
1. Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon - Good Predictions koook160, RatedRStar, and Luke. Well I did not need to think twice of naming Bogart the winner here, although I'll admit being a bit surprised myself that he's a three time winner. This is quintessential Bogart as he just commands the film with such a considerable cool keeping it one compelling mystery from beginning to end.

Best Scene: Unveiling the Falcon.
Overall Rank:
  1. Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon
  2. Edward G. Robinson in The Sea Wolf
  3. Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels
  4. William Powell in Love Crazy
  5. James Cagney in The Strawberry Blonde
  6. Charles Coburn in The Devil and Miss Jones
  7. Orson Welles in Citizen Kane
  8. Gary Cooper in Ball of Fire
  9. Leslie Howard in "Pimpernel" Smith
  10. Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra
  11. William Powell in Shadow of the Thin Man
  12. Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolfman
  13. Cary Grant in Penny Serenade
  14. Roddy McDowall in How Green Was My Valley
  15. Charles Boyer in Hold Back The Dawn
  16. Harry Carey in The Shepherd of the Hills 
  17. Alexander Knox in The Sea Wolf
  18. Laurence Olivier in That Hamilton Woman
  19. Gary Cooper in Meet John Doe
  20. Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve
  21. John Garfield in The Sea Wolf
  22. John Wayne in The Shepherd of the Hills
  23. Robert Montgomery in Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  24. Cary Grant in Suspicion
  25. Eric Portman in 49th Parallel
  26. Victor Mature in I Wake Up Screaming
  27. James Craig in The Devil and Daniel Webster 
  28. Robert Taylor in Johnny Eager
  29. Gary Cooper in Sergeant York
Next Year: 1941 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1941: Gary Cooper in Ball of Fire

Gary Cooper did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying professor Betram Potts in Ball of Fire.

Ball of Fire is an entertaining screwball comedy about a group of professors working on an encyclopedia who accidentally get entangled with gangsters.

Gary Cooper plays against type here in that he plays a bookish professor of grammar which contrasts his usual roles as the worldly heroic everyman. He can be seen in that sort of role in Sergeant York, for which he won his first Oscar, as well as Frank Capra's Meet John Doe. I have to say even in that type I preferred Copper in Meet John Doe as well although sometimes I think the Oscar is used to reward the real life accomplishments of the character sometimes so York would have been an easy choice. His biggest challenge though perhaps came in his role here as one would not expect Cooper in this sort of role. For me though I have to say that Cooper fits particularly well in this sort of role. Despite his burly frame I must say that Cooper can be a nebbish quite well. In fact I'd say his soft spoken voice fits this character far more than in Sergeant York where he's suppose to be a commanding figure. His voice actually works incredibly well here as it does wonders in creating the very unassuming manner of the character.

The professor's initial task in the film is to properly cover modern slang for the encyclopedia the men are working on. Cooper is actually quite humorous as he presents such a politeness and genuine interest as the professor seems fascinated by every new word he learns, no matter how ridiculous. One of the individuals the professor goes to learn about slang is an earthy nightclub performer Katherine "Sugarpuss" O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck), who comes with many a complications due to her gangster boyfriend Joe (Dana Andrews). At first though she just simply shakes up the refined world of the professors. Cooper again is rather enjoyable in portraying the reactions of Betram as he cannot believe some of the results of her presence. Cooper has quite excellent comic timing as even though Betram is fairly quiet character, he makes an impact through his portrayal of Betram's surprise as well as obviously his intrigue. Eventually Sugarpuss and her boyfriend decide to use Betram's romantic interest her for their own personal gains which means stringing the professor along by getting his hopes up.

When the truth is eventually revealed Cooper is very moving in portraying the heartbreak in Betram, and as I've always said Cooper had considerable talent as a silent actor. This actually continues into the film's final act where Betram and his professor pals have to go toe to toe with Joe and his cohorts. There is one particularly hilarious scene, simply because of Cooper's physical performance, as he portrays Betram excessively technical method as a boxer as he decides to take on Joe with a fight. I do want to clear things up slightly in it has been said that I hate Cooper as an actor, in a similar way that's been said to be my view of Denzel Washington. Neither case is it true though in that I do like plenty of their performances well enough, but I just happen to love any of them. I technically do not love this performance either, but I do quite like it. It's a fun performance from Cooper as he technically moves out of his comfort zone here and does it splendidly. From this and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town I'd actually say Cooper's true calling was as a comic actor since it's where it seems like he's most comfortable as a performer.