Sunday, 30 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976: Ron Howard in The Shootist

Ron Howard did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Gillom Rogers in The Shootist.

Ron Howard for some reason was the only actor to receive any recognition for film, although maybe just the Globes really like him. Howard's role here marks one of his last notable roles as an actor as it was just around this time as he was focusing more on being director. This role isn't any major departure from his earlier work other than The Shootist is a bit more dramatic than either Happy Days or The Andy Griffith Show. Howard's performance early enough seems right in his usual repertoire with his enthusiastic, perhaps overly enthusiastic delivery to most everything. To be fair to Howard though it fits the character of Gillom who's basically in the process of hero worshiping J.B. Books (John Wayne) from a distance. Howard plays Gillom just as a fan boy basically in the early scene where he discovers that his mother's new tenant is such a man that he dreams he would like to be. Howard importantly does not go too far this and just naturally portrays the admiration in Gillom for Books that technically is shallow though certainly pure.

Howard does well enough of portraying this adoration of Books, without overplaying too much, and nicely has just some slight other moments to give Gillom just a bit of variation in personality so he's not purely defined by that, even though that's mostly the point of his character. Although at first the young Gillom is mostly just getting his kicks from his slight interactions with Books, as well as his interaction with anything possibly associated with him. Eventually though Books allows Gillom to go shooting with him, and after they try Howard portrays Gillom as being appropriately cocky after he shoots almost nearly as well as the legendary gunfighter. This leads Books to let Gillom know about the truth behind killing man, which has more to do with will than accuracy. The scene belong unquestionably to Wayne, but Howard does offer some fine support in portraying the way the initial cockiness runs from Gillom face, as he begins to portray a more honest understanding of Gillom towards Books as a man instead of a legend.

Books eventually has Gillom gather the local wannabe gunmen who would not mind to gain the fame from ending the life of the legendary Books. This leads to a final showdown which stands in Books favor it was not for another shooter in the mix, which causes Gillom to step in and live out the moment that he no doubt fantasized in the past. Howard actually is very good in this moment giving the appropriately emotional intensity as Gillom shoots the man, as he portrays that will of conviction to kill in the moment, not for personal glory though but rather something rawer since he's only doing to avenge Books. Howard continues to be very effective as he portrays Gillom sudden realization of what it feels to kill, and shows the complete lack of glory in the moment. I will say much of his performance Howard does not make that much of an impact, although his performance works just fine in the context of what he is given to do. I'll give credit where it is due though since he does give some of the needed power to the pivotal final scenes of the film through his performance.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976

And the Nominees Were Not:

Hal Holbrook in All The President's Men

Carl Weathers in Rocky

Robert Duvall in Network

Robert Shaw in Robin and Marian

Chief Dan George in The Outlaw Josey Wales 

As Well As:

Ron Howard in The Shootist

Marty Feldman in Silent Movie

Friday, 28 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976: Results

5. Gregory Peck in The Omen - Gregory Peck gives an effective and honest performance which manages to ground the rather extreme nature of his film.

Best Scene: Learning of his wife's fate.
4. Robert Redford in All The President's Men - Redford never is lost in the procedural as his performance amplifies the story while still managing to find his character.

Best Scene: Handling two calls at once. 
3. David Carradine in Bound For Glory - Carradine gives a rather unique and memorable depiction of a one of a kind sort.

Best Scene: Reading the fortune.
2. John Wayne in The Shootist - Wayne gives a wonderful and moving performance worthy as a sendoff for his legendary career.

Best Scene: Books tells the truth about gunfighters.
1. Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales - Good Prediction Anonymous. In the end this year came down to three performances I have about equal affection for, and even now I'll admit my overall could easily switch back to Finch when I re-watch Network, but for the moment my favorite is Eastwood. There are certainly plenty of classic Eastwood moments to be found, but his portrayal goes beyond that. This performance takes the step more though as Eastwood realizes both the viciousness and the tragedy that comes from Wales's violent past with his surprisingly poignant work..

Best Scene: Wales returns to the wounded boy.
Overall Rank:
  1. Peter Finch in Network
  2. Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales
  3. John Wayne in The Shootist
  4. David Carradine in Bound For Glory
  5. Jack Nicholson in Missouri Breaks 
  6. Robert Redford in All the President's Men
  7. Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man 
  8. Sean Connery in Robin and Marian
  9. Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver 
  10. Bruce Dern in Family Plot
  11. William Holden in Network 
  12. Gene Wilder in Silver Streak 
  13. Walter Matthau in The Bad News Bears
  14. Dustin Hoffman in All The President's Men
  15. Gregory Peck in The Omen 
  16. Clint Eastwood in The Enforcer
  17. Sylvester Stallone in Rocky
  18. Woody Allen in The Front 
  19. Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther Strikes Again 
  20. Lenny Baker in Next Stop, Greenwich Village
  21. William Devane in Family Plot
  22. Mel Brooks in Silent Movie
  23. Cliff Robertson in Obsession
  24. Michael Caine in The Eagle Has Landed 
  25. Roman Polanski in The Tenant
  26. Marlon Brando in Missouri Breaks
  27. Jeff Bridges in King Kong
Next Year: 1976 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1976: Robert Redford in All The President's Men

Robert Redford did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bob Woodward in All the President's Men.

All the President's Men depicts the efforts of two Washington post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) to connect the Watergate break in with the White House. The film takes the approach of following the story closely, and technically speaking not bothering too much with the characters of the reporters. The film never stops for a character moment for either of them rather going straight forward with the investigation, but the film never suffers for it. This actually leaves the characters of Woodward and Bernstein mostly just up to Redford and Hoffman. Hoffman gives a good, kinda more classic star investigator sort of performance as he plays up Bernstein as a slick charmer who uses this method to get the information that he needs. Redford can be a charismatic performer, but his take on Woodward I find to be the more interesting of the two performers, as he brings a bit more of the character out within his performance. Again though this is all within the very specific nature of the film that never stops to let either of us know a little more about either reporter.

Woodward does actually have a bit of a personal story within the rest of it all, but it is all within the main investigation. The film opens with Woodward not as a particularly important reporter for the Washington Post, and Redford simply plays the early scenes as Woodward more or less going about his job. There is nothing particular special about it, other than the confusion and intrigue that Redford conveys in him as there appears to be something rather strange about the men who were arrested for an attempted break in. As the story develops though this appears to not be the case causing Bernstein to join, although their initial meeting comes from Bernstein's criticism of Woodward's original article. Redford is very good in portraying the quiet yet firm defensiveness in Woodward as his credibility as a journalist is questioned in anyway. This is not something that the film dwells upon but Redford after this point begins to play Woodward as a bit more of an incisive personality as though he is making sure he does not lose any step with the somewhat more seasoned Bernstein as they continue on the investigation together.

In the scene between the two together Redford shapes the difference in Woodward well who he makes even more to the point than Bernstein who's method is more gradual which is emphasized all the more through Hoffman's charm focused turn. Redford is very effective in his realization of Woodward's approach while even managing to attach in it a way to Woodward's seems to be purposefully proving himself against the way Bernstein could possibly view him as out of his element. In this way Redford portrays this as somewhat mechanical in the way he projects a certain coldness about Woodward when he makes certain particularly incisive remarks around Bernstein, and it is interesting to note that Redford only does this in his scenes with Hoffman. Redford makes Woodward blunt statements as almost a way in which he is cutting off Bernstein's routine somewhat, or at least in a way playing off of it by in a way being the bad cop to Bernstein's good cop who always pretends to be the person's friend no matter what. Redford creates this dynamic which importantly creates a certain distance between the men's personalities.

Redford creates that small personal of arc of Woodward, but also is pivotal in just amplifying every positive element of the film such as realizing the sense of paranoia in the scene where Woodward meets his most confidential source. Redford helps to amplify the performance he's working in there by showing the way every new, potentially dangerous information arises, that Woodward is shaken not as a reporter but also a man. Of course the meat of the film is really the conversations with named individuals that reveal more information and which technically are just people talking often just over the phone. The amazing part of the film is these manage to be quite captivating to watch even with their simplicity. A part of the credit for this should belong to Redford. Redford's performance works so well in making them as engaging as they are by reflecting so well the meaning of each so well in his performance. Even with the act of talking and taking notes, Redford is excellent in his depiction of the slight reactions of Woodward that manage to convey all that Woodward's going through during the conversations. Whether it is the exasperation of a failed lead, the switching from friendly to confrontational in the conversation, and just the small moments of excitement when something new is uncovered. One particular great sequence comes from just a one shot of Woodward handling two conversations at once. Redford is exceptional to the point that even though he actually messed up a line, he manage to carry it naturally into the conversation. Redford does great work here because he avoids any detachment that was possible given that really there isn't much to the character of Bob Woodward. Redford finds what there is between the lines, and most importantly makes him always feel like a real guy investigating this even if we don't ever see what he does when he's not working.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976: Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales

Clint Eastwood did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the title character of The Outlaw Josey Wales.

The Outlaw Josey Wales is a compelling western about a confederate soldier who refuses to let the war end well after it is over.

Looking at the role at a glance might cause one to believe it to be simply a standard Eastwood western role, which in itself is nothing to scoff at as Eastwood usually gives good performances in such circumstances. Eastwood's "standard" roles started out as the more sardonic badass in the Dollars trilogy as well as a other westerns he appeared in. When he started directing these himself there began a shift and Eastwood started to become a bit darker of a figure in the film, although that original iteration wasn't wiped away all that quickly. This certainly can be seen in the character of Josey Wales who we follow in his attempted escape to Mexico after every other member of the confederate army has surrendered except him. During this time we are treated to some classic Eastwood quips along the way, and Eastwood delivers these flawlessly as per usual. The one about pullin' pistols or whistlin' Dixie is particularly smooth and impeccably executed. As usual as well Eastwood brings the dead pan humor into the line deliveries brilliantly, and most often with just his often rather hilarious reactions to anyone possibly buffoonery around him, it is all indeed some classic Eastwood.

To continue on this point Eastwood once again finds that particular way that only he can quite do. Eastwood has considerable charisma, and even charm, but it's all in his own way and on his own terms. A Eastwood performance never feels like it's purposefully trying to charm you, but nevertheless he just kinda does anyways. Eastwood does not make any exceptions for old Josey Wales in fact in this film in particular Eastwood makes no excuses for his character, and does not make an obvious attempts at an obvious likability really, which I will get to in more detail a little later on. Again though that Eastwood presence is so remarkable in the way carry every scene so effortlessly while being so minimalist at the same time. Eastwood is a master of this, and Eastwood as a director knows how to amplify it all the more as he always holds attention in every scene even when Wales might only have a single action. Eastwood is an actor who really does just so much with just a twitch of the eye, and of course this could not be more fitting to the character of Wales who is all about his rather simple actions or his few words just before he draws his guns.

Now being an Eastwood directed western the character is much darker than his earlier characters like the man with no name. Of course this is a requirement for the role of Josey Wales, given his past which I will be getting to soon. Eastwood though is outstanding though in the sheer viciousness he realizes in his character. The potential for violence for the man always feels possible, and it's quite interesting what Eastwood is able to accomplish with his performance. Eastwood creates much of the tension of the film with his performance, of course he creates all of it being the director as well, but he does so much as a performer. In his realization of Josey Wales's personal style he presents essentially a ticking time bomb in every scene where it appears that Josey might face someone, or even some when he might not. There's a calm insurance in Eastwood's work fitting for a man who's being killing for so long that now that's all that he really knows how to do. In this calmness though Eastwood realizes such an intensity by making death seemingly one of the few ways in which Josey knows how to end an a conversation with. Although he's our hero for the film, there is something chilling Eastwood finds in this method, particularly in one cold interaction with a bounty hunter with a case of temporary cold feet.

Now much of what I have written so far can be skewed as more typical Eastwood, although that should not be taken for granted considering the effectiveness of that to begin with as well as this is one of the very best example of it. Nevertheless this role is a bit different as opposed to many a Eastwood western hero we actually find out what compels Josey Wales to be such an efficient killer. The film opening Eastwood is terrific in presenting just an average optimistic man who in just a couple of minutes. What's even more amazing though is how affecting Eastwood actually is in making the quick deaths of Josey's family meaningful, as the grief he portrays is quite palatable, and there is never a question that it could lead Josey to become the bitter man we meet after the opening credits. We don't see the whole transformation, as we come back after the civil war is already over, but we do see the end result. Eastwood's characters tend to be sardonic and not really care about the men he kills, though with Wales Eastwood takes it a tad further through his portrayal of the character's personal vendetta. When he kills the men there is a particular powerful hate that Eastwood exudes, particularly in the uncaring way he mocks all his kills with a spit of messy tobacco where their corpses lie.

This is not Eastwood portraying a soulless killer by any means. Not only because he's the hero, but the most remarkable aspect of his work here is how emotional he makes the character actually. Of course this is in the emotion more becoming of killer which is hate, that Eastwood portrays as quite abundant, but that's not really who Wales in Eastwood's portrayal of him. During his journey to Mexico to escape the authorities there are people Wales connects with in more way than giving them an extra bit of lead. One of these relationships is with a younger rebel who happened to be part of a botched surrender, and goes some of the way with Josey. The boy is injured though and eventually succumbs to his wounds. Eastwood is incredible in the moment of the boy's death as Eastwood reveals perhaps the true Josey in that there is such sadness in the man, as one of his few friends have gone, and seems to suggest that the man's callousness is at least partially a facade. In that moment, and a few others where Josey is pressed to care, Eastwood is quite moving revealing a vulnerability in the man as though he needs to be such a sardonic killer or else he would simply break down crying from the memories of all that he's lost. Instead of the film ending in an arbitrary fashion of the outlaw merely getting away from his pursuers, Eastwood rather wonderfully reveals a return of the heart of the character by the end. Although it is clear that he will never be the same man he was in the opening scene, Eastwood earns the way a more outward returns to the man, and that death no longer seems to be the man's only belief in regards to life. This is a great performance by Eastwood as he brings depth and also a surprising amount of poignancy to his portrait of this hardened old west outlaw.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976: David Carradine in Bound For Glory

David Carradine did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory.

Bound For Glory is a beautifully shot and well told story of the early days of folk singer Woody Guthrie's career.

The nominees for best picture for 1976 were the winner Rocky, Network, Taxi Driver, and All The President's Men. Each of these films are now considered bonafide American classics (personal opinions aside), but of course there were five nominees the fifth being Bound For Glory which for has become the forgotten selection. Perhaps it is Bound For Glory rather low key style that has pushed it into obscurity or maybe that it stars a lesser known actor than those other films since the star is David Carradine. Carradine does have notoriety as more of a cult actor through his work on the television series Kung-Fu, and more recently in Kill Bill, which Kung-Fu likely contributed to him getting that part. There's no Kung-Fu of any kind to be found in Bound for Glory though, although interestingly enough this performance is not truly all that far from his Caine in Kung-Fu, particularly not in the early scenes of the film where it shows Woody just trying to get a read on what he should do for his life. This mostly depicts Woody as he goes about his Midwestern town, spending time playing guitar, visiting with other locals, his family or his girlfriend (Melinda Dillon).

In these scenes Carradine actually plays Woody as a bit of sage of the Midwest in his particular way he acts towards life. There is a certain otherworldly quality that Carradine is able to manage within his portrayal of Woody. It is not that he is above human or anything in anyway like that, but rather Carradine finds a grace in the simplicity of the man. There's one very memorable early on when Woody is told to give a woman wasting away a fortune. Carradine is brilliant in this scene as Woody is in no way giving the woman a fortune in reality, in fact he's not even really pretending to give her one rather just telling her things that are realistic truths. Even within these words though Carradine captures almost something mystical within the calm and reassuring way that Woody manages to break the woman out of her daze. Although in a way he is moving about in these early scenes Carradine does not play this as Caine from Kung-Fu. Carradine doesn't necessarily do an exact imitation of the real Woody Guthrie but more importantly he manages to capture the essence of his optimistic spirit through the easy going demeanor that Carradine establishes.

Naturally being a film about a musician there are more than a few musical performances by Carradine throughout the film. The film actually chooses to let these sequences play out in a particular subdued way. They are never there to exactly be the center of attention in any given scene. Carradine in turn does not over accentuate any moment of his performance, and in no way changes, not really even his voice, when he goes about playing a song. Carradine shows so well is that the songs of this fluidity about them in the way he performs and sings them. They are Woody's natural state of being really, and the way the song comes out always feels in an unrehearsed fashion. He might as well just continue speaking when he sings, not due to the manner of his singing, but rather because Carradine makes it actually as though that is when Woody is able to connect most with people around him. This ends up being Woody's calling, when his unique manner as a man prevents him from being able to find any sort of steady work otherwise. Woody then goes about taking to the road, and seeing what there is for him in the rest of America.

Along the way through America Woody sees many of the former farmers turned into poorly treated pickers who often try to make their way through the train yard, where they find a non too sympathetic group of company men. Carradine is very effective in being a reactionary presence as seeing their difficult lives and often brutal treatment seems to offer him a specific purpose. Carradine expresses well a loss in actually that sort of optimism he had before, and Carradine plays it as though really perhaps Woody knows nothing of the real plight of people. It is interesting portrayal because Carradine actually makes Woody more down to earth as the film progresses as he learns more about the world. This even when Woody begins to find success where Carradine makes the biggest impact through Woody's playing. It no longer seems as part of him in either way really. When performing what he wishes to perform Carradine brings a greater drive presenting an intriguing way the powerful passion that develops in Woody for the cause, that's still within his unassuming personality though nevertheless quite palatable. His performances though are also quite a bit different when he is forced to play his songs, but only his songs that are without any overt sort of social statement. Again Carradine is terrific because he does not compromise the way he has set up Woody, even though Woody is forced to go against his nature. Carradine creates the considerable discontent and distaste in Woody in a striking fashion, while still in a subtle way fitting his subtle man. The final act of the film does not exactly resolve everything for Woody as he is still stuck between worlds it seems through his growing success as a singer, and his desire to fight for the plight of the less fortunate. This might have felt far more arbitrary of an ending if it were not for Carradine's performance. He realizes so well the personal style and philosophy of Woody that is that of the drifter in both mind and body, who could never be set in one place because that's simply isn't who he is. Carradine gives strong work here giving a memorable and unique portrait of the folk singer.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976: John Wayne in The Shootist

John Wayne did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Bernard "J.B." Books in The Shootist.

The Shootist is an interesting film about the last days of a famed gunfighter, although I don't believe it quite reaches the heights that seem possible from its central idea.

The last film of an actors career can sometimes be unmemorable in that it just is another film in their filmography like The Harder They Fall for Humphrey Bogart, it sometimes can be quite memorable for the wrong reasons like Bela Lugosi in Plan 9 From Outer Space where it is an unfortunate indication of where their career ended up, or it can seem like the right final showcase for their talent that seems like a final reflection on their career. Clark Gable had this with The Misfits, Burt Lancaster had this with Field of Dreams, but perhaps the most perfect example of this has to be John Wayne's last film being the Shootist. Wayne was always known best for his work in westerns, and it's fitting for that last film to be in that genre. This takes a step further than that since the central character is dying from cancer, unfortunately what Wayne would die of a few years after this film. Not only that but in a way the story of J.B. Books seems to be that of many a John Wayne character and in way this is both a sendoff for Wayne, and for all those various western heroes he played throughout his career.

Every time I've covered John Wayne outside of his Oscar nominations they've been for somewhat atypical performances for Wayne. The first being the Quiet Man as the romantic lead where he played a guy whose problems came from his refusal to fight, and the other being for The Searches where he was the lead in a western but as a much harder and colder man than usual. That is not the case with this film as J.B. Books feels like the end to a more typical John Wayne villain. The film has a certain dark edge to it, but it in itself isn't all that dark. Books's life is not that of William Munny from Unforgiven, Ryunosuke from The Sword of Doom, or even Wayne's own Ethan Edwards where the violence of the men was most often a result of their own selfishness or viciousness. It's made known that Books only kills people who break one of his few personal rules, and as well that he even spent time as a law man. This is not unlike the more typical Wayne character, and this is John Wayne style John Wayne performance. Of course in the war films and the westerns the effectiveness and strength of the typical Wayne could vary, sometimes it would work, sometimes less so, luckily The Shootist is the very best John Wayne John Wayne performance I've seen.

Wayne is especially on here to say the least as he just has this grander larger than life quality often what he seems to be striving for in his performances, and this is fitting quite well to the man of J.B. Books who is considered the living legend, the last great gunfighter. Wayne carries himself well with this in man as his whole stature and manner here feels that of such a man. Wayne's presence is in his usual way but stronger than in any other film as this sort of man. There just is something more remarkable here as Wayne brings something extra as though Books is not like those previous characters, but instead seemed to have been everyone meaning he's lived quite a life. There is a gracefulness evident here that seems indicative of his ways as a shootist. Whenever he does deal with someone with the gun Wayne plays these scenes perfectly by not giving any hesitation or fear in Books, instead he portrays Books as being basically a professional in the way he takes down any opponent. What Wayne does not put in though is any sort of sadism in Books as again this is a John Wayne type of character, and the film presents every man he kills as basically making the first move against him, although this is not to say that it's quite the simple within Wayne's performance.

I would not necessarily put John Wayne as one of the most charming actors of all time, that was never exactly part of his appeal, but here Wayne really is incredibly charming. It's an intriguing one though as Wayne again does not feel that different from his earlier similair performances, but it seems as though he learned from all those earlier work as he makes himself charming within the rough and tough sort of character. Wayne just seems to hit his mark every time in this film as his little bit of humor thrown in here or there in some of his banter in dealing with phonies or just other folk works especially well here. All the old Wayne tricks and touches are here, but Wayne makes them the best he's  Wayne has a generous amount of warmth in his performance here and his chemistry with Lauren Bacall as local inn keep named Bond is surprisingly effective. It's not romantic chemistry in this case, but rather just a honest feeling companionship that they develop. Wayne is wonderful in their more tender moments together as he shows quite clearly a love of life within in Books, and that the cancer that's killing him is no way a blessing, even with so many gunning for his life, rather Wayne shows he's a man who has enjoyed his time on earth even though it has not always been easy.

The film is not a depressing requiem as there is something very encouraging about Books right until his last scene in the film. There is that darker edge within there and this mostly comes from Wayne's own work. Although Wayne is quite moving in portraying that enjoyment of life in Books, that is not all there is when Bacall's character does press him a bit more on his life and what exactly it has lead to. In these moments Wayne is striking by revealing a deeper sorrow in the man as though when he is forced to truly reflect on things that all that he's done has not added up to enough. There is a powerful anguish in moments, and although in the end Books goes to face death head on, Wayne suggests a most definite fear of this when Books is at his lowest moments. The best moments of his performance is when he deals with Bond's son Gillom (Ron Howard) who idolizes the man. The younger man is eager to learn all the tricks from Books about gunfighter, and he's eager enough to shoot with him as well as tell him the truth that it's more about will and nerves than accuracy in a gunfight. What's outstanding about Wayne's work though is how he actually undercuts these words with his own delivery of them. He ends up being quite heartbreaking actually when he tells Gillom these things it is not pride that Wayne conveys rather he brings a considerable sadness in them as though Books himself is realizing that what's he's best at and what he's defined his life with is not something worth living for. This is a great performance by Wayne because he does not leave death as a one note. There is of course sadness in there in those moments of regrets, there's those glints of nostalgia, as well as the appreciate of what's still left there. What makes this truly special though is that John Wayne is also able to make it feel like one final hurrah for his whole career as a star, as almost everything that defined that is found here through his portrayal of J.B. Books, and not only that Wayne happens to make it the greatest iteration of that classic John Wayne persona.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976: Gregory Peck in The Omen

Gregory Peck did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Robert Thorn in The Omen.

The Omen tells the story of a U.S. diplomat who receives a replacement for his son, unfortunately the boy appears to be the antichrist. It's a pretty good horror film, with an especially memorable score, although I don't think it quite gets under the skin the way The Exorcist did, the film this one is clearly trying to ape.

In the seventies many of the old time Hollywood actors find themselves in parts and films that were quite the far cry from their earlier films. This was certainly the case for Gregory Peck being in this film. Being in a film of this nature could easily lead such an actor to go BIG, which Peck would do two years later in The Boys From Brazil, although I must admit that I, and apparently everyone else, like that performance. That's not the case here for The Omen as Peck does not use it as an excuse to play into the rather extreme and in someways absurd tone of the story. Peck instead really downplays his part as the American diplomat in England who after the death of his son, apparently in childbirth, he is offered oddly a new one by a questionable priest. Peck's actually really quite good in providing just the honest emotions of the situations as he conveys Thorn's confusion over the request while realizing the certain emotional vulnerability in him at the time which makes him conducive to the strange request of the priest to take this other child as his own.

After this point he and his wife (Lee Remick) seem content enough with "their" child Damien this until some strange this start to occur starting at Damien's birthday party where his current Nanny hangs herself in front of the party claiming it was all for Damien. This scene sets up the point of much of Peck's performance in the film as Thorn is one of the many witnesses to the hanging. That being quite a very down to earth human reaction to the very bizarre occurrences that all seem to surround his adopted son in some way. Peck's very good in this scene in making the horror feel real through his own realistic reaction fitting a man who has just scene a woman hang herself apparently as a tribute for his son. This actually goes for every death in the film as Peck gives them a bit of extra weight past merely the shock factor by giving some humanity to them in addition to the shock factor. The majority of this comes from Peck who avoids falling into overacting and going in with some of the ridiculousness of the kills, but rather makes them far more horrifying by showing what a normal man's reaction would be to them.

Peck's performance though does go past simply giving something to the film's more extreme moments of violence. He also interestingly acts as one of the two straight men for the film, the other one being David Warner as a photographer whose photographs tell him more than he would like. The arc for Thorn begins when that same priest who gave him the baby now appears to him telling him that the child is in fact the antichrist and must be destroyed. Peck does well to begin as one would expect which is simply sheer disbelief and confusion over these revelations, as they seem to be complete nonsense. When the odd yet tragic events begins though things begin to change. Peck is very effective in portraying the gradual change in his character. As that initial confusion becomes more of a concerned puzzlement as problems continue to occur, to slowly something more as it is evident that it clearly has something to do with his "son". Peck manages to find just the right natural approach in this as it never feels as though Thorn is being unrealistically stubborn, or far too easily accepting of such otherworldly ideas.

What Peck does particularly well is keeping the revelations with the severe attachment that this involves the boy he has raised himself, and Peck carefully keeps this alive in a certain pressure in Thorn explaining what keeps him from accepting the truth the way Warner's character does. Certain things work their way to get Thorn to move back this though, when the violence begins hitting closer to home. Peck is really quite moving in just the quiet despair he reflects when Thorn is told some especially horrible news over the phone. Peck is able to attach this within Thorn to almost wholly accepting the truth of it all, but unfortunately there is one problem to solve it all he must kill the boy. I'll admit a slight sour point for me comes from soon after the news as I feel Peck overacts just a tad in portraying Thorn's rejection as just a bit much, to me it felt like Peck in Spellbound which is not a good thing. Thankfully Peck more than makes up for it in the climatic scene where he realizes the terrible conflict in Thorn that forms his hesitations but also his convictions as he attempts to commit the deed despite it seeming so unbelievable. This is a strong performance from Peck as he manages to ground the film by keeping a human element within it, while stopping it from becoming simply a fright show.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976

And the Nominees Were Not:

John Wayne in The Shootist

Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales

Robert Redford in All The President's Men

David Carradine in Bound For Glory

Gregory Peck in The Omen

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1959: Results

5. Orson Welles in Compulsion - Welles gives a rather understated yet very effective portrayal of his passionate lawyer.

Best Scene: Wilk's final words to the killers.
4. James Mason in North By Northwest - Mason gives a wonderfully suave and effortlessly menacing depiction of a villain with class.

Best Scene: The auction.
3. Laurence Olivier in The Devil's Disciple - Olivier gives one of his most entertaining performance as his humorous and incisive portrayal of a soldier who's a true gentleman above all. 

Best Scene: The Trial
2. Stephen Boyd in Ben-Hur -  Although Boyd is great at being a smug and despicable villain, he creates a far more memorable portrayal through giving a greater depth to what motivates this man.

Best Scene: Messala after the race.
1. Joseph Schildkraut in The Diary of Anne Frank - I'll admit this is another year where I could easily switch one way or the other between the top two. At the moment though my win goes to Schildkraut's incredible work which so well realizes the warmth and optimism of his character making his final depiction of a broken man truly heartbreaking.

Best Scene: The Ending.
Overall Rank:
  1. Joseph Schildkraut in The Diary of Anne Frank
  2. Stephen Boyd in Ben-Hur
  3. George C. Scott in Anatomy of a Murder
  4. Laurence Olivier in The Devil's Disciple
  5. James Mason in North By Northwest
  6. Orson Welles in Compulsion
  7. Ben Gazzara in Anatomy of a Murder
  8. Jimmy O'Dea in Darby O'Gill and the Little People
  9. Martin Landau in North By Northwest
  10. Peter Sellers in I'm All Right Jack
  11. Peter Finch in The Nun's Story
  12. Burl Ives in Our Man in Havana
  13. Dean Martin in Rio Bravo
  14. Albert Rémy in The 400 Blows
  15. Hugh Griffith in Ben-Hur
  16. Arthur O'Connell in Anatomy of a Murder
  17. Robert Vaughn in The Young Philadelphians
  18. Richard Attenborough in I'm All Right Jack
  19. Kunie Tanaka in The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity
  20. Lou Jacobi in The Diary of Anne Frank
  21. Finlay Currie in Ben-Hur 
  22. E.G. Marshall in Compulsion
  23. Tony Randall in Pillow Talk
  24. Noel Coward in Our Man in Havana
  25. Donald Wolfit in Room At the Top 
  26. Andre Morrell in The Hound of the Baskervilles
  27. So Yamamura in The Human Condition I: No Greater Love
  28. Ed Wynn in The Diary of Anne Frank
  29. Anthony Quinn in Warlock 
  30. Jack Hawkins in Ben-Hur 
  31. Ernie Kovacs in Our Man in Havana
  32. Joe E. Brown in Some Like It Hot
  33. Christopher Lee in The Hound of the Baskervilles
  34. Terry-Thomas in I'm All Right Jack 
  35. Murray Hamilton in Anatomy of a Murder 
  36. Arthur O'Connell in Operation Petticoat 
  37. Keiji Sada in The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity
  38. Sean Connery in Darby O'Gill and the Little People
  39. Miles Malleson in I'm All Right Jack
  40. Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo
  41. Sam Jaffe in Ben-Hur
  42. John Williams in The Young Philadelphians
  43. Frank Thring in Ben-Hur
  44. Kieron Moore in Darby O'Gill and the Little People
  45. Leo G. Carroll in North By Northwest 
  46. Denis O'Dea in Darby O'Gill and the Little People
  47. Ward Bond in Rio Bravo 
  48. Dean Martin in Career
  49. Billy Dee Williams in The Last Angry Man
  50. Bill Thompson in Sleeping Beauty 
  51. Donald Pleasence in Look Back in Anger 
  52. Ralph Richardson in Our Man in Havana
  53. Donald Houston in Room At the Top
  54. Jack MacGowran in Darby O'Gill and the Little People
  55. Bill Shirley in Sleeping Beauty
  56. Adam West in The Young Philadelphians
  57. Harry Andrews in The Devil's Disciple 
  58. Brian Keith in The Young Philadelphians 
  59. Frank Gorshin in Warlock 
  60. Gary Raymond in Look Back in Anger
  61. Thayer Davis in Journey to the Center of the Earth
  62. Geoffrey Keen in The Scapegoat
  63. Orson Bean in Anatomy of a Murder
  64. Richard Deacon in The Young Philadelphians
  65. Peter Bull in The Scapegoat
  66. Nick Adams in Pillow Talk
  67. Joseph N. Welch in Anatomy of a Murder 
  68. George Raft in Some Like It Hot
  69. Frank McHugh in Career
  70. Pat Boone in Journey to the Center of the Earth
  71. Dick Sargent in Operation Petticoat  
  72. Dan O'Herlihy in Imitation of Life
  73. Luther Adler in The Last Angry Man
  74. Dean Jagger in The Nun's Story
  75. Richard Beymer in The Diary of Anne Frank 
  76. Robert Strauss in 4-D Man
  77. Douglas Spencer in The Diary of Anne Frank
  78. Robert Middleton in Career 
  79. John Gavin in The Imitation of Life
  80. Edgar Stehli in 4-D Man 
  81. Martin Milner in Compulsion 
  82. Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo
  83. Peter Ronson in Journey to the Center of the Earth
  84. Criswell in Plan 9 From Outer Space
  85. Carl Anthony in Plan 9 From Outer Space
  86. Paul Marco in Plan 9 From Outer Space
  87. Tom Keene in Plan 9 From Outer Space
  88. Tor Johnson in Plan 9 From Outer Space
  89. Lyle Talbot in Plan 9 From Outer Space
  90. John Breckinridge in Plan From Outer Space
Next Year: 1976 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1959: Joseph Schildkraut in The Diary of Anne Frank

Joseph Schildkraut did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank.

Joseph Schildkraut was not nominated for the film, despite Ed Wynn being nominated in the supporting category for the film, as he was likely positioned in the leading category, the category he was nominated for at the Globes. I would disagree with this placement since the focus, barring the bookends, focuses on Anne (Millie Perkins) with everyone else in the attic supporting her story. Schildkraut though certainly has a pivotal role as Anne's father. Chronologically speaking the earliest scenes we see Otto is when he, his family including his wife and two daughters, and another family enter a hidden attic in a factory where they will be hiding from possible Nazi deportation. Schildkraut exudes a proper dignity fitting for the description of Mr. Frank. Schilkraut carries himself simply with quite the likability in the role of Mr. Frank, and establishes a certain optimism in this first scene. Even though the two families are going into hiding, which involves not moving for several hours of the day, Schildkraut portrays Otto as having a particularly bright outlook as in his view this drastic measure will save his family from the Nazi regime.

Although Anne has a fairly cold relationship with her mother she has a far better relationship with her father. Schildkraut is terrific in helping to establish this so well with his performance. There is such a generous amount of warmth that he brings out, that feels all the more special in the somewhat timid way he expresses himself. Schildkraut portrays Otto as somewhat unassuming but always so very welcoming in his manner. This is particularly well reflected in his relationship with Anne as merely take the early scene where they wait out the work day the first time before they are allowed to move and actual live again. Schildkraut effortlessly depicts just how naturally loving Otto is towards his family and Anne. There is nothing even to be said about it as there is never but this in his eyes in any given moment, and Schildkraut is able to find this in such a wholly genuine way which is essential for his character. Schildkraut is great though because he makes it feel like such a real affection with Mr. Frank, as there is nothing overbearing or too forceful about. It is something that simply exists through Schildkraut's performance and he makes it abundantly easy to understand why Anne is so attached to him, over her mother.

The Diary of Anne Frank is a long film as it focuses on various moments and interactions with Anne and between the other people in the attic, which eventually added one more via Ed Wynn's Mr. Dussel. Although Anne is kept as a focal point the film focuses very much on the ensemble wherein lies a bit of a challenge in which to stay noticed without seeming to try forcibly to become the center of attention. It could be argued that a few of the other performers. Well this is opposed to the character of Otto as well as opposed to Joseph Schildkraut's performance. Schildkraut though he was one of those reprising his stage and had not made a theatrically released film in over ten years before appearing in this one gives a particularly reserved portrayal of Otto Frank. It's quite outstanding then that Schildkraut is never overshadowed in any scene, despite never once trying to actively steal any scene from any other actor in the film. If he's onscreen he manages to hold some attention through his particularly honest depiction of a man leaving through this situation with his family. In simply his silent reactions Schildkraut always adds some power to the proceedings because of how natural he is in every scene.

When a scene focuses closer on Otto Schildkraut makes the most of this as well. There is one particularly great moment where he comforts Anne after a nightmare. Schildkraut brings out the tenderness of Otto comforting his daughter in such a moving fashion, but within that he effective portrays the way Otto is attempting to coax Anne into being showing more love for mother. The love is never in doubt but Schildkraut is terrific in the way he does not let it be only that as in his eyes he manages to convey the disappointment still in his daughter for her problematic behavior. Otto is always the calm center of the attic, who always tries to find the most peaceful solution for everyone. In this point Schildkraut is great simply because he never feels any less than pure in his character's goodness. It always feels the truth. There is another particularly strong scene for him when the attic is breaking apart due to one of the occupants stealing from the rations. While everyone else is falling apart Schildkraut realizes only a true goodness in Otto's disbelief at the anger of the others, and once again that reassuring quality, although slightly weakened over time, that comes from the considerable optimism that never seems to leave the man.

This optimistic man is not he one we first meet in the film as it opens with Otto after the war as he makes his way back to the attic alone. Schildkraut in this scene shows a man without optimism, there have been time of suffering in the meekness, and cold way he approaches the building. He has suffered a great deal, and Schildkraut realizes this in the almost unbearable somberness just before the film jumps back as Otto begins to read his daughter's diary. Even though the time in the diary's timeline ends with one last moment of Schildkraut so well showing that perseverance in Otto as they are about to be arrested, this makes it all the more devastating when it cuts back to Schildkraut depicting Otto as almost a broken man. Schildkraut is so haunting as he lists off learning of the deaths of the people in the attic as the painful memories seem to inflict him with such sadness, until he reaches Anne. Although we are not shown any of the deaths of the others Schildkraut's performance makes every one keenly felt. Schildkraut is absolutely heartbreaking as he so quietly tells the story of how he found out that Anne also had died, because in his breaths the last moments of hope seems to go out of his voice as he seems to accept that he is all that remains from the once life filled place. Although I do think the film has some missteps along the way the power of the story is never lost in a large part due to Schildkraut's work. He creates that sense of loss by so well creating such a warm and loving portrayal of a devoted father, only to strip it away to a man whose seemed to have lost all faith in humanity.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1959: Laurence Olivier in The Devil's Disciple

Laurence Olivier did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Bafta, for portraying General John Burgoyne in The Devil's Disciple.

The Devil's Disciple is a bit of a hidden gem about two men a reverend (Burt Lancaster) and a renegade (Kirk Douglas) whose lives are intertwined and changed by the American Revolution. Although I must admit I have a soft spot for films about the American Revolution since there are oddly so few of them.

Although I have listed before that Sleuth is Olivier's showboating performance of just how good he is, but there is yet another one to note. This time in the role of General John Burgoyne a high ranking British General attempting to stop the American Revolution. The only problem is that Burgoyne does not seem to be all that interested in his duties as a General. Burgoyne was actually a dramatist, which seemed to be his true calling opposed to soldiery. This fact does not come up in the film's dialogue ever, but it seems to have been taken into consideration by Olivier's performance. Olivier is terrific because he essentially plays Burgoyne as a playwright who basically treats his current reality as if it were a play. Olivier has it less being that Burgoyne is a General, but instead that he's playing the part of a General as one should. There Olivier brings such a confidence and proper stature to General Johnny as he walks about as a British General should, and speaks with such authority as he quickly delivers his orders as though it was some sort of game. Olivier is great in this early scene as he takes a momentary pause from the game as he is forced to somberly nod just before a suspected rebel is about to be hanged.

The succeeding scenes Olivier is so much fun in depicting the excessively proper style of Burgoyne as attempts to fulfill his duties as General. Olivier always shows Burgoyne's mind to be slightly above it all more than anything. Olivier is terrific in depicting this needlessly indulgent manner of Burgoyne such as when his men demand some random Americans that are in the way get out immediately, despite the forcefulness of his entourage, Olivier presents the most pleasant of hand waves to smooth over the communication. Of course this even is the case in most of his interactions with his men, particularly a far more spirited soldier played by Harry Andrews. One of the best moments depicting this is when his men are being delayed in the forest and his men are frustrated to no end by sniper attacks as well as being forced to constant delays due to trees being purposefully cut to block their passage. Olivier keeps the perfect composure of General Burgoyne as the most aggravated he gets about the attacks is when he must apologize to his lady friend for the disturbance of the tea time. Olivier gives us the most impossibly gentlemanly soldier one can imagine, and it is marvelous.

Now Olivier would go on to win a Bafta as an excessively proper General a decade later for Oh What  A Lovely War, but in that case he played a fool, Olivier actually does not play Burgoyne as a fool, which is quite interesting. In fact it is quite the opposite as Olivier suggests that his lax manner in part comes from the General possibly being a little too knowledgeable about the affair to the point that he is rather sure of the results. One of Olivier's best scenes is when Douglas's character is put on trail for being mistaken for Lancaster's character, although it's for a crime that Douglas's character committed. Burgoyne does not handle the proceedings, but rather observes the proceedings offering a few bits of commentary now again. These are usually in the form of the General's rather extreme cynicism that is technically opposed to his goals as a General, but clearly masked through wit to avoid any problems. Olivier is hilarious as he has impeccable timing in each and one of these brilliant lines that he ensures are as biting as possible. I particularly love though how bright and inspiring Olivier's manner is as though Burgoyne is technically laughing at himself a bit due to the conundrum he's found himself in.

Olivier is showboating here at his finest as every time the camera turns to him it's sure to be something special, Olivier simply shows how showboating is done since it fits the part as well as he ensure that we're getting as much enjoyment from watching him as he seems to be having performing the part. One of my favorite moments of his has to be when Douglas's character questions the British who are going to have him hanged simply because its their job, to which Olivier retorts with such sly delicacy that if the man were to see Burgoyne's pays stubs he'd think better of him. Olivier's work is so consistently delightful while wholly delivering the purpose of the character still. Olivier in the end presents him as a man of duty still, but nevertheless a man who's not going to let his own duty fool himself, or stop himself from trying to enjoy his current existence best he can. When Burgoyne is forced to deal with something directly, that being negotiations due to some surprisingly results of a battle, Olivier is excellent in portraying a more incisive figure, who certainly commands a presence while trying to do his best to maintain his army's position. Of course this makes it all the funnier afterwards where Olivier depicts the exasperation rather than disbelief when Burgoyne has realized he's positioned to lose his next battle simply because the British war office did not want to disturb another General's plans. It needs to be said that the part of General Burgoyne is a great one, and Olivier wholly realizes this with his equally great performance. Every juicy line he has he articulates flawlessly and he manages to give one of the most thoroughly entertaining performances of his illustrious career. 

Friday, 7 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1959: Stephen Boyd in Ben-Hur

Stephen Boyd did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning the Golden Globe, for portraying Messala in Ben-Hur.

Stephen Boyd perhaps suffered one of the worst snubs in Oscar history, even ignoring the quality of the performance it seems bizarre that he was not nominated. His film was loved by the academy winning 11 of the 12 awards it was nominated for. Boyd must have had the equivalent of buzz at the time judging by the fact that he won the Golden Globe the only real precursor at the time. It's only made odder by the fact that an actor was nominated and won for the supporting category that being Hugh Griffith for his comedic turn as a friendly Sheik. The only explanation I suppose can be found in the role and performance itself so I might as well take a look at it, that's what I'm here for anyways. Stephen Boyd's Messala is actually introduced before our hero Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) even appears. Boyd's first appearance is fitting as he rides his horse in with other Roman centurions exuding the confidence of a seasoned soldier within his eyes though there is a nostalgia for his boyhood home.

At first he seems a man of two minds as he proclaims in all his bluster about making the region far more secure for the Roman Empire, but he is very easily dissuaded by such talk particularly when he hears that his old friend Judah has come to visit him. There is something particularity brilliant about Boyd's choices in his first scene with Heston. Boyd portrays a constant fascination with Judah's very being of existence. He's excessively happy to see him, and Boyd plays these scenes in such a physical fashion. Physical in terms of his interactions with Heston. Boyd is always touching Heston throughout the scene and often lingers quite long in these moments. Although Heston plays it as just an old friend greeting another Boyd does not. Boyd plays it as though Messala had formerly been Ben-Hur lover, or at the very least had always wished to be. This relationship certainly is never stated in the film, rather it's all in Boyd's performance. It's extremely effective in creating the first divide between the two since they seem on different wavelengths of how this relationship should continue. The most remarkable moment in this regard is when Messala hopes they can continue to be good friends, that good friends given a certain accentuation in Boyd's delivery to mean more, which is countered bluntly by Judah rearranging the meaning since one is a Roman the other a Jew.

Boyd continues to carry this to the succeeding scenes where Boyd continues this interest as he always chooses to glance more often to Judah, than to Judah's sister who is interested in him. This is until Judah refuses to give Messala names of potential Jewish rebels, but at the same time Judah still does not look at Messala the way Messala looks at him. Now Boyd realizing this subtext to the character of Messala adds more than simply making his and Judah's past a bit more complex. Boyd utilizes this to make Judah's refusal seem all the damaging to Messala. The intensity Boyd brings in the moment where Judah "betrays" him is particularly powerful. Boyd does not show Messala in the moment as that commander who wants names, he brings a greater emotional quality in his face, of a man whose been denied by the man he believed loved him. Boyd does not lose this when Messala decides to have Judah and his family arrested for accidentally causing the injury of a Roman. Boyd brings a cold demeanor as he has them taken away, but there's a uncomfortable rigidity that Boyd brings as though he is still fighting with himself over this decision. Boyd keeps this idea as Judah gets the chance to confront him. Boyd portrays Messala in thought as though there is still a second thought in his mind, before assuring Judah that he has condemned both Judah and his family.

There is one last emotional outburst, as Boyd brings a searing hatred again in Messala words as he says that he begged Judah for help, but with that Boyd naturally ends the old Messala as he assumes the role of the cruel Roman he wished to create. In this way Boyd is equally effective, and I almost wonder if that's the reason he was not Oscar nominated, maybe he was just too good at being this sort of villain. After all when Judah swears revenge saying he'll return, Boyd's delivery of merely asking "return?" is so perfectly smug and despicable suggesting full well that Messala knows he's given Judah a death sentence. After that scene Boyd disappears for along time in the film, as it follows Judah through his life as a prisoner of Rome. When we finally return to Messala Boyd shows him to have apparently assumed his role as the fierce man of role in his confident rather smarmy demeanor. Boyd is great at this but what I love about his work though is that he still does not make Messala one note. When Judah makes his reappearance known Boyd actually delivers a very realistic reaction of a subdued disbelief with his tough exterior, and also even a fear of what Judah might do. Even in his scene with the Sheik that's all about ego, which again Boyd delivers incredibly well when taunting the Sheik, he still does well to subtly show that Judah is no laughing matter to him. When the other Romans doubt his return, Boyd is excellent by expressing how Messala is very mindful of Judah's return.

This is put aside for the chariot race where the two are pit against each other. Boyd is fantastic in this scene as he has Messala fully embrace his status, and actually seems to revel in it particularly when he loudly asks for Jupiter to give him victory. Boyd importantly does not let the sheer spectacle of the chariot race overshadow his performance, always keeping the villainy of Messala present, presenting such pompousness in his manner as well as such a viciousness in his eyes as purposefully tries to kill the other racers particularly Judah. This ends in his brutal defeat though where he is trampled by a group of horses. Boyd is simply amazing in this final scene as he depicts every bit of Messala's pain, from the straining in his body, and face, to his voice where every breath seems through a collapsed lung. Boyd does not leave it to the makeup he creates Messala's broken body, and it must be said that Boyd dies well. As remarkable as his physical performance is in the scene, that's not all there is. Once last final time Boyd brings the two sides to Messala. There is a certain somberness in his voice as though perhaps there is the regret of a better man as he asks if Judah is happy to see his enemy defeated. Boyd though still leaves hate in the man as he portrays such a vile and final joy in Messala as he is allowed to tell Judah the horrible fate of his family. This is an outstanding performance by Stephen Boyd as he so well realizes Messala as the despicable fiend he should be, but brings a surprising amount of depth to the character as well. His work is one of the most memorable aspects of this epic and deserved to recognized with it.

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. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1959: Orson Welles in Compulsion

Orson Welles did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes, for portraying Jonathan Wilk in Compulsion.

Orson Welles received the Cannes prize along with Dean Stockwell and Bradford Tillman who played the leads as the two young intellectuals who decided to commit the "perfect murder", despite not appearing until the last third of the film. Welles though did receive top billing, and I ponder that perhaps being seen as a leading performer kept Welles from ever receiving another acting nomination after Citizen Kane. Either way Welles receiving top billing though is sensible, past his greater prominence, because Welles does really lead the last third of the film in which he appears since the film decides to try to depict how the real Leopold and Leob managed to avoid the death penalty. Jonathan Wilk is a stand in for the killers' real life lawyer Clarence Darrow. Darrow would be portrayed again in all but name a year later by Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind who would also be Oscar nominated for it. Where in Inherit the Wind that film's Henry Drummond took on the case to promote evolution rather than exactly for the specifics of the case itself, Compulsion's Jonathan Wilk is doing the same as instead of trying to prove their innocence he instead is trying to take a stand against capital punishment that the men will no doubt face otherwise.

Spencer Tracy played his version of Darrow as a firebrand in court, and a bit of almost a jovial character out of court. That's actually very different from Welles approach who instead goes about depicting his Darrow quite a bit differently. The various long fights of his career as well as his age can be seen through Welles is own face as he expresses the wear of this sort of life through his own performance. In the few moments we get of Wilk outside of the courtroom or engaged in some other court related proceedings Welles frankly depicts a more realistic sort of man who carries a certain somberness as a man who perhaps has a few hesitations and reservations regarding his duty as normal man would. Welles presents a man who frankly does not have the energy or time to be a character outside of the court, because that life requires so much of him. Of course the majority of Wilk's screen time is devoted to defending the two men. This includes several scenes proceeding the actual trial where Wilk attempts to save the men early by trying to have them both be proven to be insane, this proves difficult though since both men have already confessed to the crimes as well as have been proven to be sane by the prosecutor's own doctors.

This leaves Wilk to basically only use his own considerable talent to try to save them from hanging. This includes several moments where Wilk points out or indirectly insults the method of his opponents. Tracy again played this method as very loud and overt. Welles is even more incisive in revealing Wilk's intelligence in these scenes though he takes a far more understated approach. Welles instead of outwardly just blasting them with his views, as though he's trying to put them into submission, brings a more persuasive quality as though his corrections are not to make himself feel smarter, but actually promote something better for all. Welles quietly exudes this intelligence in Wilk so well and tears into any given scene so well, without ever raising his voice either. It's quite a different approach for this sort of character, but it works incredibly well to realize actually the beliefs of his character in addition to his methods as a lawyer. The shrewd nature of Wilk can only go so far though, and due to the men's obvious guilt it leaves him no alternative to plead guilty in order to directly appeal to the judge for mercy for the men.

Wilk's summation is a particularly long one but Welles is riveting for every moment of it. Again Welles actually stays fairly withdrawn but shows what Wilk is driving it as he's attempting to appeal to humanity itself. There is no sympathy in his words for the act, but Welles instead gives the passion within Wilk's words that advocate for justice not revenge. There is a powerful emotionality in Welles as he expresses the earnest need in Wilk that love will outweigh hate. Again Welles does so well to be persuasive as Wilk as he conveys the way Wilk is most disturbed by the insistence that more blood should be shed, and Welles wonderfully illustrates this philosophy through his sober performance. As Welles is able to bridge a gap from any political statement to instead making the words from Wilk feel only as truths. The scene could have been a long monologue of statements. Welles though brings such a weight to each word and manages to make it absolutely convincing that the men's lives would be spared. As great as that scene is though my favorite moment of his performance is brief one after the men have been sentenced to life in prison and seem to be ready to continue in their pompous "superior" ways. Wilk finally no longer has to defend them, and is able to take them to task. Welles is outstanding as he once again takes that incisiveness in his performance to Wilk's disgust as he breaks down their own foolish philosophy showing just how little regard he had for either man. This is terrific work from Welles as he manages to find quite the unorthodox yet such an effective approach to this sort of role.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1959

And the Nominees Were Not:

Orson Welles in Compulsion

Joseph Schildkraut in The Diary of Anne Frank

Stephen Boyd in Ben-Hur

James Mason in North By Northwest

Laurence Olivier in The Devil's Disciple

Alternate Best Actor 1959: Results

5. Jean-Pierre Léaud in The 400 Blows - Léaud gives an honest depiction of the manner and behavior of a troubled young boy.

Best Scene: Antoine at the psychologist.
4. Alec Guinness in The Scapegoat - Although the film itself under utilizes its own concept Guinness gives a compelling portrayal of two men.

Best Scene: The two's meeting at the end. 
3. Dean Stockwell in Compulsion - Stockwell gives an effective depiction of the various sides of his "superior" killer from the pompous intellectual to the scared psychopath.

Best Scene: The first interrogation.
2. Tatsuya Nakadai in The Human Condition I: No Greater Love - Nakadai gives a great portrayal of one man horrible journey in discovering what it truly means to be human.

Best Scene: The Executions.
1. Cary Grant in North By Northwest - Good Prediction Maciej, Robert MacFarlane, and GM Grant perhaps  the very best wrong man performance through his exceedingly entertaining work in the film.

Best Scene: Thornhill at the auction.
Overall Rank:
  1. James Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder
  2. Cary Grant in North By Northwest
  3. Tatsuya Nakadai in The Human Condition I: No Greater Love
  4. Laurence Harvey in Room At the Top
  5. Tatsuya Nakadai in The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity
  6. Albert Sharpe in Darby O'Gill and the Little People
  7. Dean Stockwell in Compulsion
  8. Alec Guinness in The Scapegoat
  9. Alec Guinness in Our Man in Havana
  10. James Mason in Journey To the Center of the Earth
  11. Eiji Okada in Hiroshima Mon Amour
  12. Anthony Franciosa in Career
  13. Bradford Dillman in Compulsion
  14. Kirk Douglas in The Devil's Disciple
  15. Jean-Pierre Léaud in The 400 Blows
  16. John Wayne in Rio Bravo
  17. Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur 
  18. Burt Lancaster in The Devil's Disciple
  19. Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk
  20. Cary Grant in Operation Petticoat
  21. Richard Widmark in Warlock
  22. Peter Cushing in The Hound of the Baskervilles
  23. Paul Newman in The Young Philadelphians
  24. Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot 
  25. Henry Fonda in Warlock
  26. Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot
  27. Tony Curtis in Operation Petticoat
  28. Ian Carmichael in I'm Alright Jack
  29. Paul Muni in The Last Angry Man
  30. David Wayne in The Last Angry Man
  31. Richard Burton in Look Back in Anger 
  32. Robert Lansing in 4-D Man
  33. Gregory Walcott in Plan 9 From Outer Space 
  34. James Congdon in 4-D Man
Next Year: 1959 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1959: Jean-Pierre Léaud in The 400 Blows

Jean-Pierre Léaud did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Antoine Doinel in The 400 Blows.

The 400 Blows is an interesting film depicting the life of a troubled young boy.

Jean-Pierre Léaud plays that young boy who leads the film and it is essential that Léaud passes the child actor test for a realistic film which is to be believable as a kid actually. Well Léaud certainly meets this requirement for Antoine. Although he leads the film though this is not a precocious or endearing young child that we are going to follow. In fact Léaud gives a fairly uncharismatic performance, but don't take that as a criticism. Léaud does not make Antoine an endearing little boy who we're going to enjoy having adventures with. Although really some of the stuff he does is often construed as such in other more lighthearted films that is not the case here. Léaud instead portrays him as the rather unpleasant child that he is. Léaud captures that almost perpetual pout of such a child who always seems slightly at unease even though there is nothing specifically causing him pain. After all he has a family who technically provide for him, he goes to a nice enough school, he even has friends, but nevertheless Léaud portrays the boy as never really being happy.

Léaud's work exudes that sort of indifference of Antoine's behavior in his life. When he behaves poorly in school there is nothing particularly funny about anything he does. He's not doing it for enjoyment he's just doing it. The same goes for the lies that Antoine constantly tells. Léaud never depicts any shrewdness in this, there is not a hint of mischief in it either. Instead he portrays it as a bit of blank action of sorts that again is something that Antoine just does. Even when he lies to his teacher by saying his mother has died in order to explain his absence there is something quite lifeless about the way Léaud delivers in these scenes. That's even the case when he steals, there's Again I am not criticizing his performance at all when I say this, this works instead to accurately show the behavior as really meaningless behavior. Well meaningless in what he's trying to get out of it in the short term, but not meaningless altogether. Léaud does well to allude to the need in Antoine for attention driving this though in a subconscious fashion.

This seems to have developed from Antoine's relationship with his mother, who was unwed when he was born, and did not raise him for many years of his childhood. The problems are compounded through her most recent behavior to him which is quite random as she will become quite cruel one minute than excessively encouraging the next in order to comfort him. Léaud is good in these scenes between Antoine and his mother as he expresses the awkwardness of their interactions. They never quite seem to get along, and even in their moments of warmth there is still something problematic about it. Léaud never depicts a full contentment with Antoine towards his mother as though he's unable to fully understand her own problematic behavior as well as can't quite reconcile her past abandonment of him. They is always that barrier that also extends to his step-father, unfortunately because he is his step father, because Léaud suggests a little more comfort with him as there are not those lingering feelings of betrayal when the two speak with one another.

Although his behavior often is pointless and in general there is a cold demeanor about Antoine, Léaud never makes him emotionless. Importantly because of suggesting where this coldness comes from, but also he shows a bit of difference in himself when he is with his peers. In these moments there is more of an investment he shows, and when he is directly embarrassed in front of them Léaud shows a greater vulnerability in the boy. The friendship he has with another boy clearly matters to him, and there is a very affecting scene for Léaud late in the film when he is pained to see that his friend is not allowed to see him. There is another more open sequence, that might be where the majority of his lines in the film comes from, where he goes to see a psychologist who asks him various things about his life. Léaud uses the scene well to present more overtly though troubled feelings that compel his behavior, but also that even behind his stare that he's just a boy through his shyness when asked if he's ever slept with woman. This is a good performance by Léaud as he simply accurately depicts this sort of child, not as a psychopath, or an elvish scamp, but just as a deeply troubled boy.