Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1940: Herbert Marshall in Foreign Correspondent

Herbert Marshall did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Stephen Fisher in Foreign Correspondent.

Herbert Marshall plays Stephen Fisher the head of an organization that seeks to find a peaceful solution to world conflicts while war is clearly brewing just before the start of World War II. We first meet Fisher just before our hero Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) is to embark on his journey as a foreign correspondent in Europe. Marshall presents Stephen Fisher as a very affable man with an unassuming charm. He seems fit to be the man in head of his organization as Marshall simply exudes a respectability, and most definite dignity. He is soon met once again when Jones makes it Europe and attends an important conference for Fisher's organization where Jones meets Fisher's firebrand daughter Carol (Lorraine Day). Marshall is excellent in his scenes with Day as he conveys such a gentle warmth in every interaction with her. There is never a question of Fisher's love towards his daughter as Marshall creates a genuine and loving relationship. Once again Marshall reinforces the idea that Fisher just seems to be a honestly great man that no one could possibly question his motives.

Of course in typical Hitchcock style we soon find out, even before Johnny does, that Fisher is actually the main villain of the film, the man behind the plot to kidnap a Dutch diplomat Van Meer (Albert Bassermann) who apparently knows some very important information that would help the unnamed Nazis. Although this twist is actually told pretty early on it is certainly an effective one since Marshall makes Fisher seem like such a good man. There was perhaps the potential that once the twist takes place that this whole idea behind Fisher could evaporate, and he could have become a more straight forward villain. What's remarkable about Marshall's work is that he never allows it to be that simple, in fact he never begins to start playing Fisher as a villain. Marshall instead portrays Fisher as a man who still is going about a certain duty, rather than some fiend simply trying to bring evil to the world. When he speaks of the plan Marshall reveals some urgency in his voice that of a man who seem actually passionate about what this scheme will do for his cause, opposed to what the plan consists of. Marshall adds a great deal of nuance to the character in momentary reactions as he never loses that kindness about him, it's not an act for him, particularly in regards to his interactions with his daughter where he never loses that true fatherly affection.

As the plot progresses and it takes more extreme measure to both get the information from Van Meer as well as keeping others from finding the man, Marshall is outstanding in again never making Fisher as a straight villain. His reactions are surprisingly moving, when Fisher sees what his men have started doing, as he portrays a definite regret and shame in the man due to the methods he must take. In this though Marshall realizes Fisher's actions though still with understanding and his performance suggests a man who is doing something difficult though something he believes must be the right thing to do. In the final scenes of the film when Fisher explains his actions to his daughter, Marshall again is superb because he does not make this as some sort of evil monologue. Marshall instead delivers it as an attempt to make his daughter grasp what has motivated him, which Marshall never allows a suggestion of selfishness or wickedness to even be taken into account. Marshall creates the sense of how this pains Fisher's in the explanation as though he is forcing himself to realize that his means do not justify his ends, and he has never been doing the right thing. This leads to the his last scene where Fisher finally gets the chance to do some actual good. Marshall is heartbreaking in a completely silent moment as he shows Fisher finally making the choice to do what is truly right. This is a great performance by Herbert Marshall that only improves upon re-watch as wholly earns not only the twist but also successfully makes the villain's demise a poignant loss rather than a satisfying defeat.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1940: George Sanders in Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent

George Sanders did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jack Favell in Rebecca.

George Sanders plays one of the three villains within the film, the other living one being Judith Anderson as the sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, and the third being the deceased Rebecca whose actions in life still torment her husband Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), and his new wife (Joan Fontaine) as well motivate Danvers, and Sanders's Jack Favell. Sanders only has one appearance in the first half of the film as the second Mrs. de Winter is still lost within the mystery of Maxim's country estate Manderley. Sanders appearance is that of the odd stranger at first who seems to be in some collusion with Danvers about something. Favell catches the new Mrs. de Winter overhearing leading him to introduce himself. Sanders carries himself with quite the charisma as Favell although what makes it so good is just how sleazy Sanders comes off while being this charismatic. There just such an overabundance of confidence that Sanders brings in his manner that it is rather off putting though in a unique manner. Sanders is brilliant because he shows a certain persuasive sort of personality that likely would work in some sort of situation, yet makes it such a curiously obvious routine fitting for a cars salesman, which is just what Favell happens to be.

Sanders does not make another appearance until the last act of the film although we do learn that Favell was one of Rebecca lovers, although honestly Sanders makes that clear in his first scene. We do not meet him again until after new evidence regarding Rebecca's death has risen leaving another inquest that potentially threatens Maxim. Favell naturally turns up at the inquest and although there was plenty of indication to this in that first appearance, his next series of appearances Sanders shows that Favell is well, how should one put this eloquently, well he's a bit of an asshole. Though what a hole that Sanders makes him out him out to be. The way Sanders plays it does not just have Favell simply a man who has no regrets about the affair with Rebecca, although he certainly does that, he also makes it seem so vapid of an affair actually as the way Sanders mentions it you can see only the pleasure that Favell gets from the idea of it. That's not bad enough, not by a slight margin though, as Sanders takes it a step further by making it so whenever Favell makes an indication towards Maxim about the affair, basically gloating about it in his face, Sanders seems to exude the most despicable pleasure from this.

Potentially incriminating evidence against Maxim begins arise against Maxim, which Favell quickly jumps the chance. The scene where Favell just walks right into Maxim's car and starts eating his food, Sanders captures just how obnoxiously Favell behavior he is by the way he insists upon himself. Favell decides to attempt to blackmail Maxim over information he has, which Sanders again is terrific because he does not suggest Favell is trying to avenge his former lover or anything close to that. Sanders keeps Favell quite hollow as he states with such glee about how he'd love to be able to drive the fancy cars he sells, and just is so lacking in even the slightest respectability in his proposition towards Maxim. As Favell continues to attempt his plot, even though Maxim is not having it, Sanders continues to be so perfectly hate inducing that when Max finally does punch him that he perhaps is acting on the audience's wishes as well as his own. Sanders is so entertaining in the role by not holding back for a moment in reveling just how wretched of a man Favell happens to be. I especially love his final scene where the truth about Rebecca is revealed. Sanders makes it incredibly satisfying by his reaction in the scene as all the confidence just instantly leaves his face in a moments notice. What I like most is that Sanders still gets the chance to just make Favell all the more detestable just when there might be a slight chance for sympathy. Favell afterwards quickly puts on a sorrowful act of grief, but Sanders cleverly alludes that Favell is probably just fishing for some gain as he looks around for a supportive face then when seeing none he instantly turns back to his usual wretched self. This is a fantastic performance by Sanders that makes a great villain out of a man who simply is without scruples.
Sanders was not nominated for his performance in Rebecca, leaving supporting actor to be the only acting category where Rebecca was not recognized. To make things only worse though Sanders was also ignored, despite his co-star Albert Bassermann being nominated, for portraying Scott ffolliott in Alfred Hitchcock's other film from 1940 Foreign Correspondent. It is interesting that the two films were paired as Rebecca is an example of one of Hitchcock's more cerebral and internalized film while Foreign Correspondent is of his more direct and extroverted style. Both films though have George Sanders though and in this film George Sanders is allowed to use his talents for good instead of evil, character that is. Sanders makes his appearance into the film well into it as he aids our main hero Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) is in pursuit of an assassin. Sanders this time utilizes his considerable charisma for the benefits of humankind with ffolliott as he this fits right into the world of international espionage that Foreign Correspondent covers.

It is intriguing how Sanders works in this as he portrays simply a secondary hero for the film since he's certainly not Jones's sidekick, and at the same time ffolliott has the same good intentions as Jones. What Sanders does though is make the film all the better by adding a nice variation in the dynamic seen right for the beginning of his appearance as he so calmly explains the reason for the doubled and lower case f's in his last name while dodging bullets while chasing after the assassin. Sanders is pretty marvelous in realizing a James Bond sort of style for ffolliott, whereas McCrea's Jones is a far more straight forward sort. There's few moments that go by where ffolliott does not have a quip to go with the occasion. Sanders delivers these all quite flawlessly hitting his mark every time. Sanders makes ffolliott's wit as effortless as it should be. He adds so much character to the film through his mere presence, after all perhaps one could get along with simply one hero, but Sanders makes it worthwhile to have two heroes because he's just so much fun in the role.

Sanders is wonderful in finding just the right tone between the quips though and the actual severity of the situation. In the scene where ffolliott reveals to Jones that he's actually been more driven than he perhaps alluded to all along, Sanders is excellent in conveying the quiet passion in ffolliott to do the right thing as well. A funny thing about the film is that the heroic act to find the central figure of the plot is done by ffolliott and note Jones. In fact in the scene Jones really is ffolliott sidekick as ffolliott is the one who takes the needed steps to follow the villain's tracks, and to well save the day. Sanders is great in the scene as he reveals just how much ffolliott does care about the situation, he helps to create the severity of the moment by showing that it is not simply a game for ffolliot making the scene surprisingly powerful. Although this may merely be his second best performance of 1940 its a very good one that proves Sanders not only can be the man you love to hate, but also just the guy you can love without the hate.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1940: Frank Morgan in The Shop Around the Corner

Frank Morgan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hugo Matuschek in The Shop Around the Corner.

Frank Morgan is perhaps best known for a role that I'll be covering eventually, but one element that is often found in most of his roles is that he plays a fellow who is at least somewhat nervous. This is usually played for laughs. That is the case here for the early scenes of the film, and why not there is something quite enjoyable about the way Morgan's voice fluctuates, and the way his face just seems to be so filled with anxiety in a moments notice. Morgan is a delightful side character in these scenes showing the somewhat problematic state of the shop through Mr. Matuschek behavior. Morgan is consistently entertaining in just his reactions in creating this almost constant mood of unease in Matuschek as he so badly wants everything in the shop to run smoothly though everything that goes wrong makes him become particularly troubled. Morgan while funny does a good job of making this seem like an honest and natural state of his character by just so well realizing the Matuschek's inability to relax that causes him to constantly get worked up even with minor difficulties.

What's notable here is although Morgan's depiction of Matuschek's nervousness does derive some humor for the film, it is not the sole purpose of it in this film. Morgan does not make Matuschek's behavior as simply a joke, because he does not turn him into just a caricature. Morgan actually does something very intelligent in that he creates the sense that as the story progresses Matuschek's behavior slowly becomes not nearly as funny. Technically speaking Morgan allows the humor at Matuschek expense to work because there still seems to be a good spirit in his portrayal, and the nervousness is just his way. As the story progresses though Morgan slowly loses this spirit and there just becomes something far less jovial about his attitude towards everyone. Morgan makes this work especially well because of how naturally and gradually he portrays it. He does not just suddenly change, but rather Morgan realizes the change as though Matuschek is going over something in his mind again and again that is causing him considerable distress. 

Eventually this leads him to unexpectedly his best employee Alfred (James Stewart), and in the scene Morgan is very effective by presenting the terribly dour state of mind that Matuschek is in at this time. Morgan is terrific because he so subtly portrays this descent of the man, as his performance shows a man falling apart though as a meek man. When Matuschek attempts suicide Morgan is rather heartbreaking because it is unexpected through wholly earned in the way Morgan made it always something that was there through the way he quietly creates the depression that he only grows until the final breaking point that comes from finding out that his wife has been having an affair. Morgan is great in his next scene where he is attempting to recover from his nervous breakdown and must apologize to Alfred who he had wrongly been suspicious of. Morgan is incredibly moving in depicting the sad state of regret as Matuschek finally verbalizes what has been troubling him for so long. Morgan in the final scenes of the film again does not cheat the character as he does not show a full recovery. Instead Morgan is quite haunting by portraying Matuschek as attempting to rediscover the joy of life, and while there is some success Morgan still coveys that a sadness still remains in the man. It's a very strong and surprisingly nuanced performance by Morgan, that brings a great deal of poignancy to the film's darker moments.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1940

And the Nominees Were Not:

Frank Morgan in The Shop Around the Corner

John Carradine in The Grapes of Wrath

George Sanders in Rebecca

George Sanders in Foreign Correspondent

Herbert Marshall in Foreign Correspondent

Friday, 25 September 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1940: Results

5. Michael Redgrave in The Stars Look Down - Redgrave, despite being somewhat limited by his film, gives an effective depiction of a shy man finding courage for a cause.

Best Scene: His last speech.
4. Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice - Although apparently in the minority I find Olivier gives a charming and rather funny portrayal of an excessively proper gentleman.

Best Scene: His failed proposition.
3. Edward G. Robinson in Brother Orchid - Robinson calls upon his more serious gangster performances then cleverly subverts them to give a comic, and surprisingly moving portrayal.

Best Scene: Brother Orchid is denounced.
2. Cary Grant in His Girl Friday - Grant gives a very entertaining performance that creates the properly dominating and manipulative presence of the character while still being quite charming.

Best Scene: The final sequence.
1. James Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner - Good Predictions Michael Patison, Jackiboyz, ruthiehenshallfan99, and RatedRStar. Stewart gives an immensely likable and sympathetic performance that is a great example of his appeal as a leading man.

Best Scene: Alfred confronts Vadas.
Overall Ranking:
  1. Laurence Olivier in Rebecca
  2. Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator
  3. James Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner
  4. Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath
  5. Conrad Veidt in Contraband
  6. Cary Grant in His Girl Friday 
  7. Edward G. Robinson in Brother Orchid
  8. Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice
  9. James Stewart in The Mortal Storm
  10. Michael Redgrave in The Stars Look Down 
  11. Brian Donlevy in The Great McGinty 
  12. W.C. Fields in The Bank Dick
  13. Joel McCrea in Foreign Correspondent 
  14. Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk
  15. Henry Fonda in The Return of Frank James
  16. Stanley Ridges in Black Friday
  17. Cary Grant in My Favorite Wife
  18. Raymond Massey in Abe Lincoln in Illinois 
  19. Boris Karloff in Black Friday
  20. Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story
  21. Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro
  22. Dickie Jones Pinocchio
  23. James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story
  24. Charles Laughton in They Knew What They Wanted 
  25. Frank Craven in Our Town
  26. William Holden in Our Town
  27. Mickey Rooney in Strike Up The Band
  28. Gary Cooper in The Westerner 
Next Year: 1940 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1940: James Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner

James Stewart did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alfred Kralik in The Shop Around the Corner.

The Shop Around the Corner is an enjoyable romantic comedy about the various things going on in the titular shop.

James Stewart's Oscar win must be noted as a bit of a head scratcher, as his win for The Philadelphia Story is perhaps most notable because it gave Stewart his only competitive Oscar. It always feels a bit of a shame as for me personally it is his only Oscar nominated performance that I don't either really quite like or flat out love. Insult is added to injury is when one realizes that it was not even Stewart's best work from 1940. Stewart here once again plays a romantic lead, although this time this time it more closely focuses on his character unlike The Philadelphia Story where one could possibly argue that both he and Cary Grant were supporting Katherine Hepburn the whole time. Stewart's given a far more substantial role here as a salesman at a leather goods shop. Stewart naturally makes Alfred extremely likable with his easy going charm that is not more fitting for the director, Ernst Lubitsch's fairly, although not quite entirely, breezy tone that he establishes for the lighthearted story. Stewart could not feel more effortless in the role and is an extremely easy lead to follow through this romantic comedy.

Actually one of the things I did not care for in his performance in The Philadelphia Story was that I felt Stewart actually made his character's disgust and boredom at his task of covering socialites a little too realistic to the point that he was a bit too off putting for it to be fun. Stewart actually directly fixes that mistake with this performance as he must conveying a similair sentiment in his earliest scenes with his eventual love interest, Klara Novak, played by Margaret Sullavan. The early set up is that she's the new employee at the shop whose particular method of selling items quickly gets on Alfred's nerves. Stewart now this time strikes exactly the right tone in portraying this. He certainly gets across just how much Klara gets under his skin in his fairly intense reactions, but Stewart accentuates them in the right fashion in which they become appropriately comic without being too ridiculous. Stewart while driving the humor from it properly he also makes the initial conflict between the two characters actually feel wholly honest rather than simply just the superfluous and rather thin barrier to be broken down throughout the story. 

What's worth nothing on Stewart's work though is that he never treats any element of the film just a means to get to the eventual happy end of the film. Stewart does not allow any part of it just to be taken for granted, and succeeds in realizing any aspect of Alfred's life not simply making him feel stuck in the romantic comedy structure. One of the subplots is dealing with the high strung nature of his boss Mr. Matuschek (Frank Morgan) which causes some minor problems earl yon but these problems grow as Matuschek becomes concerned about more pivotal things in his life. This inadvertently effects Alfred early on though eventually it becomes directly problematic for him. Stewart is very good in portraying Alfred's rightful frustrations at the behavior, and is quite moving when portraying the severe disappointment when it appears that Mr. Matuschek's paranoia has gotten the best of him causing him to fire Alfred. Stewart, as per usual, makes this feel so honest that he makes it incredibly easy to sympathize with Alfred's plight during these scenes. Things switch around soon enough though when, through very problematic circumstances, Mr. Matuschek comes back to his senses.

Stewart is great in the scene where Alfred takes on the actual source of Mr. Matuschek's misery, bring that classic Stewart passion into Alfred's disgust which makes the moment rather powerful. The film after all is a romantic comedy though so an essential element of it is the relationship. In this case they are quite dismissive of one another, even though they unknowingly write love letters to one another. What works so well is that Stewart and Sullavan do not depict is that immediate switch from hatred to love. Simply in their scenes together, where they are not necessarily interacting all that much, Stewart and Sullavan slowly depict just a gradual distinguishing of hostilities. There are occasional fall backs to some more aggressive behavior but both actors make this feel particularly natural. The two of them earn the eventual heartwarming sweetness that comes from the ending, since neither of them make it easy by having either the love or the fights seem forced in the least. It's lovely work from the both them. For Stewart this is a great example of just what made him so appealing as a leading man, and if he had to win leading actor for 1940 it should have been for this performance. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1940: Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice

Laurence Olivier did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice is an enjoyable enough film about the complications that ensue from five sisters without inheritance attempting to find proper suitors.

Having not seen any other versions of the story nor read the book, I'm going into this interpretations with absolutely no idea about the true nature of the story, or perhaps how the tone should be. This as just a film though I felt worked as basically "proper" screwball romantic comedy. A great deal of a reason for this is Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy who we meet as one of the targets of the Bennet sisters' mother for a proper suitor for her daughters. Mr. Darcy though is not the sweeping romantic type though, and Olivier actually takes a similair approach to the character that Daniel Day-Lewis would later take with a somewhat similair role in A Room With A View. That being that Olivier goes about portraying Darcy as an excessively proper English Gentleman, particularly in the early scenes where he first meets the Bennets including Elizabeth (Greer Garson). He makes a poor initial impression by making his patrician attitudes known out loud, and Olivier depicts him as a man almost constrained within himself in his tight movements, and the fairly stilted voice he uses as though every words has been rehearsed over and over again beforehand.

Olivier, like Day-Lewis in that later film, does a great service to the film through his work as he makes Darcy quite an amusing presence in the film by making his proper behavior extreme enough that it actually becomes quite comic. The best part about this is that there is nothing that Darcy does that is necessarily funny in itself but Olivier effortlessly brings out through his purposefully overt performance. Although Olivier does technically over do it, so the character is funny rather than just serious and dour as I feel he easily could be, Olivier does not over do it to the point that Darcy is merely a caricature either. Rather Olivier is quite effective in fashioning the barrier necessary for the character, since there must  be some transition for Elizabeth. Olivier interestingly is able to help realize this through his own performance as he depicts the surface of the man as almost impenetrable. Olivier does not do this in order to portray Darcy as cold or unfeeling, but rather fashions the reserve fitting for a man who has spent all his life learning to behave in this distinctly proper fashion even though it may not actually be the true nature of Darcy after all.

Although much of his performance is in the role of being a tad overstuffed, and entertainingly so, Olivier is terrific in alluding to the better nature of Darcy quite early on. The moments where she purposefully embarrasses him Olivier quietly depicts Darcy not reacting like a simple pompous fool being surprised, but rather a more complex man being honestly hurt by this treatment. My favorite scene of Olivier's has to be his initial proposition of marriage of Elizabeth that rejects as in the single scene it shows exactly what's so good about Olivier's performance. In his stumbling proposal Olivier is very funny as well as in his needlessly direct responses to Elizabeth when she announces her objections, as he always stays as the proper gentlemen who never should be too emotional. My favorite moment in the scene is as Darcy exits the room, and its only a brief moment though an extremely important one. When Darcy finally turns his head away from Elizabeth's view Olivier shows just how genuinely torn apart emotionally Darcy is by the rejection, and in the moment Olivier is quite moving by revealing the sensitive man he really is. Olivier is able to make Darcy transition from pompous charmless gentleman to the perfect rather charming gentleman a wholly effortless one, by creating the sense that Elizabeth brings this better side out of him. It's not a change exactly, but rather simply having him shed some of his thick shell he learned over the years. It's strong work from Olivier and I doubt I would have liked the film to the same degree if it were not for his performance, as much of the humor of the film comes from him. It's a splendid performance, that might not be his best work from 1940, but that's hardly a problem. 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1940: Cary Grant in His Girl Friday

Cary Grant did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Walter Burns in His Girl Friday.

His Girl Friday is an entertaining remake of the Front Page about an editor attempting to get their retiring top writer through various schemes around an up coming state execution.

The major change in this version of the story is that the top writer Hildy has been made into a woman played Rosalind Russell, and that she had been formerly married to the editor played by Grant. Naturally she's attempting to get away from town with her fiancee Bruce played by Ralph Bellamy, because who else would that role be played by? I've covered Grant before in the scheming husband with The Awful Truth where he tried to win back Irene Dunne by tripping up Ralph Bellamy in more ways than one. In that film though Grant portrayed these attempts with a certain meekness about them, and that everything he did was a bit haphazard. Grant with Walter Burns takes a different approach as he makes Walter Burns a much more dominating force in the film as the editor from his earliest scene, as he first hears about Hildy's attempt to leave him and the paper behind permanently, something he obviously intends to put a stop to anyway he can.

Cary Grant is terrific in allowing for a bit of his change from the luckless romantic with an attempt at a scheme brewing. Grant here portrays Walter as a man who absolutely knows his plan from the start, and is technically playing the game every second he's on screen. Grant realizes this within his performance with the sort of ease he always has in a romantic comedy sort of role, but here he does adjust it quite nicely to fit the part of Walter. Grant makes Walter far more active in his methods and Grant does have this certain command about him in any scene, as there is always an underlying confidence as though Walter is already quite sure everything is going to go his way before he even starts his plan. Grant's reactions are great here particularly when Hildy first starts to tell Walter about Bruce. Grant is so hilariously cruel actually in his exceedingly sarcastic manner as he hears every detail about her supposed new life that she's quite happy to start. What's so remarkable is that Grant never loses his innate charm even when he technically is doing some rather reprehensible things to service his plan.

The idea of adding the editor and the writer being romantically involved on paper actually is often the cliche of what someone does in order to ruin an original idea. It's what makes His Girl Friday stand out as a remake, besting the Front Page as a film, and finding new ground in the story through this variation. The variation though is made all the better by having Grant and Rosalind Russell as the divorced team. Russell and Grant are wonderful together. Firstly by just how well both have a grasp on the material, in fact I'd actually say Russell perhaps even bests Grant in this regard. Within that though the two have spectacular chemistry together, but what's so special about it is that they really don't exactly have any romantic scenes in this romantic comedy. The closest it comes is a couple of seconds near the end of the film. The two though to create the idea that the two should be together through their non-romantic interactions throughout the film, as Grant and Russell just make it as though Hildy and Walter seem on the wavelength, particularly in the memorable conclusion of the film.

Grant manages to effortlessly work within the somewhat swift pace of the film and particularly its dialogue which often juggles many things at once. Grant never loses step once as he so well realizes Walter's controlling ways of the whole situation. Whether that is putting on all the supposed charm and a sort of repentant attitude when trying win Hildy again in the early scenes of the film before they sort of join forces but then at a moments notice when dealing with one of his men whose help facilitating everything for him Grant switches perfectly to the fairly cutthroat editor whose eyes show he knows exactly what he's doing. Some of my favorite moments though may be the ones that he shares with Bellamy, as Grant makes Walter on even more of an act than usual as what he says and the way he moves feels so genuine even while he simply comes up with one way after another to imprison the poor guy in order to keep him away from Hildy. Grant is incredibly entertaining here as he makes the most of the dialogue absolutely nailing every one liner he has well making the the dialogue flow beautifully. This is splendid work from Grant and one of his best performances within the genre he was so well known for.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1940: Edward G. Robinson in Brother Orchid

Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying "Little" John T. Sarto also known as the titular Brother Orchid.

Brother Orchid is a slight though quite enjoyable comedy about a retired gangster trying to reclaim his crown, though nothing turns out the way he expects.

Edward G. Robinson was no stranger to playing gangsters as he originally made his name through Little Caesar. Little Sarto is a lot like Caesar, if Caesar lasted a bit longer, and lived in a nicer world to begin with. The early scenes of the film are quite interesting to basically watch Robinson play the part of Little Caesar but in a comedy. What's so great is that Robinson does not take this as an excuse to not take things seriously. Robinson isn't far off from the way he handled Caesar, other than there is just a strong innate likability he brings to Little Sarto to begin. Caesar always seemed a bit unpleasant, that's not the case for Sarto. Robinson still though would be convincing with the same performance even in a more serious minded film, as he still carries himself with the command and certain menace that he brings so effortlessly with his presence. Robinson manages to use this for the purposes of comedy quite effectively since he ends up playing everything in such a surprisingly straight fashion. 

Robinson does not change his manner much that's what makes it so much fun to watch Robinson being basically Little Caesar though doing some things that are exactly fitting to Little Caesar. Little Sarto isn't really that different of a guy but in the early scenes of the film he's far more interested in where's he's going to be spending his retirement while having a very relaxed approach towards the life of the gangster. It's a great deal of fun just to watch Robinson do some pretty unassuming and non-threatening actions while still performing it as if he really was a big time mobster. There is actually really a surprising sweetness to this behavior that Robinson realizes as though Little Sarto is almost playing gangster, since he does not really have that edge that would require one to be a true mob boss. Robinson quietly shows that even though he's able to exude that tough exterior deep down he's a big softie. This is what Sarto unfortunately discovers when he attempts to reclaim his place as top dog, as his original second in command Jack (Humphrey Bogart) is not too keen on giving up what he got from Sarto's abrupt departure.

This leads to a gunfight which leaves a severely wounded Sarto who only finds refuge at a monastery full of monks. Here is where Robinson alters his performance slightly, but he does it so delicately that it absolutely works. What Robinson changes that he does start more directly going for laughs, although he was certainly getting them beforehand when not trying to do so. This is not a bad thing at all though as Robinson acts as the comic foil against the extreme straight men that are the monks played in a very calm and stoic manner. Robinson is hilarious though as he makes the gangster attitude and mannerisms all become a bit thicker as to accentuate the way Sarto just does not fit in, even after he decides to join the monks, in order to just use the place as a hide out while he plans his comeback. The way Robinson is just so off and out of place with the rest works in creating a series of funny moments. I particularly enjoy the way Robinson so quickly sounds off constant gangster speak that plays so well off against the monks who speak in a very straight forward fashion.

During his time with the brothers though Robinson does have some slight and momentary reactions that are very effective in suggesting that perhaps Sarto's beginning to see the place as a bit more than just a way for him to avoid his pursuers. Nevertheless Sarto decides to cut corners in his duties  as the new novice brother, brother Orchid, by stealing milk as well as hiring a local boy to do some of his chores for him. This is eventually found out by a senior brother which leads him to announce this shame in front of the whole monastery. The moment is surprisingly heartfelt due to Robinson makes Brother Orchid's breakdown so genuine as he reveals how much he has enjoyed his time in the monastery revealing a stronger pride in his life than he ever did as a gangster. This whole setup could have fallen very flat. Robinson not only manages to make it believable that Sarto could transform himself into Brother Orchid, but also that he makes this transformation and realization as heartwarming as it is. This is wonderful work by Robinson as he turns his usual image on his head, to give a delightful performance.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1940: Michael Redgrave in The Stars Look Down

Michael Redgrave did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Davey Fenwick in The Stars Look Down.

The Stars Look Down an effective film depicting the hardships a mining village in England.

Michael Redgrave played Davey who we follow through most the story as the son in a family of mine workers, although he's studying in order to go to university. Redgrave is indeed the lead though the film gives ample time to the community of the miners particularly in the opening scenes where Redgrave's appearances are somewhat sparse. In the few appearances we do see him though Redgrave makes for a likable enough lead, and does well to realize two sides to Davey's character. The first being the somewhat shy and unassuming bookworm type. Redgrave has a particularly meek manner and a very meek voice. Redgrave portrays this quite naturally which is very important for what his character means for the film. Although the miners show their discontent they don't have an exact voice, and this is what Davey intends to be, which might seem odd considering how he usually behaves. Redgrave's approach is an intelligence one that gives a certain arc for his character that might not have been there otherwise.

This is found through his delivery of four key speeches throughout the film. In the first speech, which is particularly impromptu, Redgrave is very good in portraying all the passion in Davey as it is fierce and you really feel the emotions that pour into. At the same time though Redgrave makes it tense and sharp in a way that is not that of a natural speaker. The shyness is there in the speech, even though the speech itself is an extroverted act, Redgrave does well to depict the sort of hesitation and effort required for such a man to do this. At this point Davey goes away to University to where gets into vying for the affection of a young woman with the more outgoing Joe Gowlan (Emlyn Williams), the young woman Jenny being played by Redgrave's The Lady Vanishes co-star Margaret Lockwood. Where Redgrave and Lockwood were quite endearing in Hitchcock's comedic thriller, this relationship is very different. Well of course Redgrave plays an introverted fellow rather than his extroverted outgoing hero in that film, and instead of playing a spunky heroine plays a vapid woman.

During this time we are given his second speech in a college debate which Redgrave begins to give a bit more refinement in his speech, though there is still a certain weakness, and distance reflecting that in the moment Davey is not in the presence of the people he wants to fight for. At the same time the relationship continues and Redgrave and Lockwood once again have chemistry though this time of a different sort. Redgrave depicts Davey's interest in Jenny with all earnestness, and shows him to almost be in fear in his interactions with her as though he is so taken aback that she is bothering to give him the time of day, even though she's really just using him as a game on Joe. Joe rejects the game leaving Davey for Jenny to fall back on who takes her to his home, which she is not particularly found. Lockwood and Redgrave are quite good at striking up the right sort of awkwardness as her thin personality results in constant complaints and strong passive aggressive streak, while Redgrave so well portrays Davey's terrible state of clearly being ruled by infatuation while realizing simply a resigned confusion idea with Davey on what to do with her behavior.

Although his return home does not work for his marriage it brings him to make one more attempt for some sort of reform. This third speech Redgrave earns Davey as finally being in his element with the passion and power of persuasion in his force. There's no hesitation in this case as he makes his speech, it only comes when he pressed on his marital woes, and Redgrave is quite good in how he slightly reduces Davey to his meeker self when reminded of his personal weaknesses. The film's final act actually forced Redgrave to disappear for much of it as it instead focuses on a group of men stuck in a mine, and the efforts to attempt to rescue them. Redgrave isn't even given much to do in between the lines so to speak in these scenes as he's simply off screen much like the early scenes of the film. He's never really given any focus again until right near the end of the film where Davey gives his last "speech", which isn't a speech at all, but rather a rejection of his earlier position as the speaker for the miners. It's a powerful moment as Redgrave shows Davey's grief and apparent final understanding of the world. Although Redgrave's character is often sidelined, he still manages to give a moving and compelling portrait of a man finding his place in life.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1940

And the Nominees Were Not:

Edward G. Robinson in Brother Orchid

Cary Grant in His Girl Friday

James Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner

Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice

Michael Redgrave in The Stars Look Down

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976: Results

5. Robert Duvall in Network - Duvall absolutely fulfills the role of the corporate hatchet men, and smartly differs himself from his other co-stars by showing that only money and power motivate the man.

Best Scene: Firing Max.
4. Carl Weathers in Rocky - Weathers gives a very entertaining yet nuanced depiction of a champion boxer.

Best Scene: Deciding on the Italian Stallion. 
3. Chief Dan George in The Outlaw Josey Wales - Dan George gives a moving, funny, and very unique depiction of the "wise Indian".

Best Scene: His first monologue.
2. Hal Holbrook in All The President's Men - Holbrook gives a brilliant performance that creates such an enigmatic and fascinating character. 

Best Scene: Deep Throat's introduction.
1. Robert Shaw in Robin and Marian - Good Prediction RatedRStar. Robert Shaw gives a great performance. He brings his usual menace that you'd expect from him, but also offers a humorous and surprisingly moving depiction of a tired man forced to relive the past.

Best Scene: The duel. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man
  2. Robert Shaw in Robin and Marian
  3. Hal Holbrook in All The President's Men
  4. Chief Dan George in The Outlaw Josey Wales
  5. Carl Weathers in Rocky
  6. Burgess Meredith in Rocky
  7. Robert Duvall in Network
  8. Nicol Williamson in Robin and Marian
  9. David Warner in The Omen
  10. Roy Scheider in Marathon Man
  11. James Stewart in The Shootist
  12. Harry Dean Stanton in Missouri Breaks
  13. Jeff Goldblum in Next Stop, Greenwich Village
  14. Richard Harris in Robin and Marian
  15. Zero Mostel in The Front
  16. Donald Sutherland in The Eagle Has Landed
  17. Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver
  18. Robert Duvall in The Eagle Has Landed
  19. Jason Robards in All The President's Men
  20. Harvey Keitel in Taxi Driver
  21. Joe Spinell in Rocky 
  22. Peter Falk in Murder By Death
  23. John Vernon in The Outlaw Josey Wales 
  24. Ned Beatty in Silver Streak
  25. Peter Sellers in Murder By Death
  26. Christopher Walken in Next Stop, Greenwich Village
  27. William Devane in Marathon Man
  28. Richard Boone in The Shootist
  29. Richard Pryor in Silver Streak
  30. Marty Feldman in Silent Movie
  31. Jackie Earle Haley in The Bad News Bears
  32. James Coco in Murder By Death
  33. Donald Pleasence in The Eagle Has Landed
  34. Patrick McGoohan in Silver Streak
  35. Dom DeLuise in Silent Movie
  36. Erland Josephson in Face to Face
  37. Herbert Lom in The Pink Panther Strikes Again
  38. Vic Morrow in The Bad News Bears
  39. Alec Guinness in Murder By Death
  40. Ron Howard in The Shootist
  41. Melvyn Douglas in The Tenant
  42. Jack Warden in All The President's Men
  43. Burt Reynolds in Silent Movie
  44. Ian Holm in Robin and Marian
  45. Randy Quaid in Missouri Breaks 
  46. Tony Burton in Rocky
  47. Richard Narita in Murder By Death
  48. Ronny Cox in Bound For Glory
  49. Gunnar Bjornstrand in Face to Face
  50. Patrick Troughton in The Omen
  51. Stephen Collins in All The President's Men  
  52. James Caan in Silent Movie
  53. James Cromwell in Murder By Death
  54. William Katt in Carrie
  55. Treat Williams in The Eagle Has Landed
  56. Dick Crockett in The Pink Panthers Strikes Again
  57. Sid Caesar in Silent Movie
  58. Martin Balsam in All The President's Men
  59. Leo McKern in The Omen
  60. Paul Newman in Silent Movie
  61. Albert Brooks in Taxi Driver
  62. Harvey Spencer Stephens in The Omen
  63. Michael Murphy in The Front
  64. Will Sampson in The Outlaw Josey Wales
  65. Scatman Crothers in Silver Streak 
  66. Truman Capote in Murder By Death
  67. John Travolta in Carrie
  68. Robert Walden in All The President's Men
  69. Ned Beatty in Network
  70. Fredric Forrest in Missouri Breaks 
  71. Anthony Quayle in The Eagle Has Landed
  72. Denholm Elliot in Robin and Marian
  73. John Carradine in The Shootist 
  74. Albert Popwell in The Enforcer
  75. Peter Boyle in Taxi Driver
  76. David Niven in Murder By Death
  77. Wesley Addy in Network
  78. Burt Young in Rocky
  79. Harold Gould in Silent Movie
  80. Antonio Fargas in Next Stop Greenwich Village
  81. Clifton James in Silver Streak
  82. Thayer David in Rocky
  83. Charles Grodin in King Kong 
  84. Larry Hagman in The Eagle Has Landed
  85. Kenneth Haigh in Robin and Marian 
  86. Ed Lauter in Family Plot
  87. John Lithgow in Obsession  
  88. Arthur Burghardt in Network
  89. Sydney Lassick in Carrie
  90. Hugh O'Brian in The Shootist
  91. John McLiam in Missouri Breaks
  92. Bill McKinney in The Shootist 
  93. Bill McKinney in The Outlaw Josey Wales
  94. Harry Morgan in The Shootist 
  95. DeVeren Bookwalter in The Enforcer
Next Year: 1940 Lead

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976: Robert Shaw in Robin and Marian

Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin and Marian.

Robin and Marian is an intriguing film about an aged Robin Hood (Sean Connery) attempting one last fight against King John and his men while attempting to win over Lady Marian (Audrey Hepburn) once again.

Robert Shaw once again plays the adversary of Sean Connery. Last time was in From Russia With Love as two spies both at the top of their game. Once again they're adversaries but this time as two men who are well past their primes. Shaw plays the former rival of Robin Hood The Sheriff of Nottingham, but like so many things after Robin's long return home from the crusades things are not quite how they use to be. Shaw seems perfect for the role of the villain for the film at least in how you might expect things if this were a more traditional Robin Hood film. After all Shaw may exude menace more effortlessly than any other actor. It is just an innate part of him, and Shaw utilizes this well. The Sheriff has a general menace about himself though Shaw does not make this an active part of him by any means. Shaw instead suggests the fierce some qualities of the man in part as something very much of the past. There is no question that he was once truly a menacing villain worthy to be the opponent of the Robin Hood of the songs, but the Robin Hood he faces now is not that man of songs, fortunately for Robin is that the Sheriff is not the same man either.

Shaw nicely does differentiates his work from Connery who depicts Robin as a man who is trying to gain back the glory of the past. Shaw portrays the Sheriff as a man who is far more understanding of his own reality. His opening scene is a marvelous moment for Shaw as we see the Sheriff at his castle where some men are training. Shaw depicts such a quiet though malaise as he he just looks upon the sight with the eyes of a man who has seen it again and again. The Sheriff though takes a moment to take on two of the men himself before he defeats them quite easily. In this brief instance there is just a glint off a more vibrant life in the Sheriff. Shaw manages to make all quite a somber moment though because he so naturally returns to his normal state once the brief fight is over, since it is obvious the Sheriff has no real purpose since even that fight had no real purpose. The Sheriff goes out to fulfill his duty which is to round up Marian, now the head of an Abbey, by King John's orders. Shaw shows the Sheriff proceed with this task as simple unremarkable business. Shaw depicts it with not even an hint of evil, or desire for harm, rather he presents a man just being the Sheriff since he will never be anything else.

When the Sheriff and his men come to arrest her he finds Robin there ready to save the day, even though Marian does not even desire to show any resistance in particular. Shaw's nuanced reaction in the moment where the Sheriff sees Robin is just perfect. It's not that of a man seeing an old enemy, but rather there's just a tad of nostalgic joy in the moment as though its an old acquaintance that was associated with some positive moments of the past. Shaw does not even leave this at this though as he quickly shifts it away from that as though in the moment the Sheriff realizes that it is likely Robin is going to make things difficult. Naturally this is what Robin does as he basically launches a war against King John and his men something the Sheriff unfortunately happens to be technically speaking. Shaw's terrific in the later action scenes of Robin attacking as he brings just that slight smile of remembrance to the old days, but Shaw always keeps it that Sheriff has no delusions about the past. Instead he's well aware of the mistakes of the past, and Shaw is rather hilarious in his dead pan reactions to Robin's various success as well as the failures of his own men, since he's seen it all before.

I particularly love his interactions with the unknowing and eager Sir Ranulf, as Shaw conveys such an intelligence of experience as he disregards Ranulf's confidence, as well as his incredible knowing reaction when he hears King John's ultimatum in regards to the Sheriff and Robin. This eventually leads to Robin and Sheriff finally having a showdown. Instead of having their armies go at the two settle on that the battle will be decided by champions, the champions being naturally being Robin and the Sheriff. The duel is not quite what you'd expect from a Robin Hood legend, and that's what makes it so good. It is absolutely brilliantly played by both Shaw and Connery. They wear the age wholly in their physical performances as both men clearly just do not have the grace or the ease in their sword fighting manner any more. Rather than being some sort of beautiful display of swordsmanship it illustrates the desperation in the men at this point of their lives, and you see the effort put into every swing. In addition the pain from every injury is especially vibrant due to the two actors. They each take it further though in that each man approaches it differently. Connery, though his body is fighting against him the whole way, portrays Robin Hood as still looking to the glory, and failing to see what he's fallen into. Shaw though is surprisingly moving by showing that the Sheriff has now just had enough the fantasy. He can't even call back to the past any more as Shaw depicts him as knowing the truth of the matter. Near the end of the fight when Sheriff is telling Robin to yield, it does not feel like that of a man trying to get his foe to surrender, but almost that of a friend asking his friend to finally give up his delusion. When the Sheriff falls in the battle it is rather heartbreaking since Shaw showed that the Sheriff was the one trying to bring some sense to the situation. What's outstanding about this work is that Shaw's screen time is limited yet he makes such an impact with every glimpse of his character. There is not a wasted moment as Shaw realizes such depth in the role through his great performance.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976: Robert Duvall in Network

Robert Duvall did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Frank Hackett in Network.

Although Network received five Oscar nominations for acting Robert Duvall was left out of the supporting category with voters instead opting out for Ned Beatty's "one scene wonder" performance, leaving Duvall to be the only actor on the poster not to be nominated for that film. All things considered it does seem a bit of a random snub for Duvall. Any way Duvall plays a character who I suppose shows Network's less than subtle quality, which is that he plays a man named Hackett who's a corporate hatchet man. Not exactly trying to make the audience try to figure that out for themselves, but Network is a film that's definitely obvious in its purpose it just happens to do it so well, for the most part, that it completely works. Robert Duvall is an actor who quite efficient in finding the right tone of a performance for the film and his character as whether it requires a more gentle hand like in Tender Mercies or a more overt approach like in Apocalypse Now. Well when taking on the role of a Hatchet Man named Hackett it was probably wasn't difficult for Duvall to decide on which approach was the right one.

Duvall is terrific in being the Hatchet man in every scene. He walks into every one of the early scenes of the film with so little regard for anyone, and matches the intent of the character who intends to walk over everyone in order to meet his demands. Duvall accentuates the ruthlessness of Hackett incredibly well as he he brings such a particular bluntness to everything that he says, and there is not a delivery of his that does not have at least a tinge of viciousness of it. Duvall conveys as well the particular strategy of Hackett as he goes about attempting to take over the Network's news division from the more noble Max Schumacher (William Holden). Duvall in their initial confrontation Duvall presents Hackett as going forward with an unshakable command in himself as he basically states his intentions without any hesitations, basically sing everything will go as he expects it to while carrying just this general menace about himself that suggests a threat before Hackett has even made any. When Schumacher attempts to stop Hackett's takeover, Duvall is outstanding in unleashing the unholy fury of anger in Hackett as he goes about silencing the man through such smug assurance of his own position. 

As good as he is as being the straight forward unrelenting hatchet man he should, what I really like about Duvall's performance is that he actually shows a different type of character or man from, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), who's lost in his own insanity, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) who's also insane in the way her whole life is ruled by her uncontrollable desire to conquer the world of television, to even the head of the insane head of the corporation Arthur Jensen (Beatty) whose lost in his philosophy of a corporation to rule the whole world. What I like about Duvall's work is he does not present Hackett as insane, at least not in the way the other people are, although one likely would still have to be a bit insane to devise to kill a man just because he has bad ratings. Duvall though does not portray Hackett as any sort of fanatic, which can be seen in the portrayals by Beale, Jensen, and Christensen. Duvall's good in infusing a more realistic bent for Hackett as he's only really motivated by money, and the power of a potential power. He has no actual beliefs, and Duvall portrays Hackett's ambition as far more to the point. This leads to rather effective scenes near the end of the film when threats to his success come in the form of an ever changing Beale. Duvall's very good by giving a humanity to Hackett, by showing just how genuinely worried and troubled he is by seeing his position threatened. Duvall does not present any presumptions in Hackett, his mind is always in the present, and when he decides on the final death Duvall shows Hackett just as swift to the judgment as Diana, but there is just something far more honest in the way he comes to the point. Duvall shows that Hackett feels that he has to, but Dunaway keeps it within Diana's out of reality tunnel vision (this is not a criticism of Dunaway's work in anyway by the way). Duvall gives a very strong performance here. His role actually is a bit thankless. He has a bit less screen time, and in a way his character is kinda inserted around the other who tend to get the "bigger" moment in any given scene. Duvall though still ensures an impact by making the most of what he does have, fulfilling his role as the representation of corporate heartlessness as well as offering an interesting dynamic by effectively realizing the exact nature of this heartlessness.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976: Marty Feldman in Silent Movie

Marty Feldman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Marty Eggs in Silent Movie.

Silent Movie is an enjoyable enough Mel Brooks gag fest filtered down even more than usual through that the film is indeed completely silent, well almost completely.

The film itself tells the simple story of a filmmaker Mel Funn (Brooks) and his two cohorts Dom (Dom DeLuise) and Marty Eggs. I suppose it is fitting that they share the same first names as the characters are not developed past the performer personalities of the actors, though I would say this is entirely purposeful. It basically is a chance for the three of them to test out their skills as a silent performer. Feldman perhaps is a bit tailored made for all show no speaking thanks to his well rather unorthodox appearance. I suppose Feldman does not seem like he needs to do anything more to stand out, but to his credit Feldman ensures that he does just a bit more as he is most expressive as a good silent comic performer should be. That grin of his alone of his is worth a few laughs all in itself, as he certainly is a fit for the concept of the film. If he's on screen Feldman does brighten in some way or another, even just the way he's sitting in a car between Dom and Mel comes off as rather funny for some reason.

The majority of the film is made up of various physical hi-jinks involving the boys either trying to get a Hollywood star to appear in the film, or simply avoid the dark corporate forces who want to see their film fail at any cost. Feldman is quit skilled at this and fits right into any given scene with his wild energy of sorts that he makes feel particularly natural, and not overdone in the least. Whether it is dealing with competing dogs who look the same, or tearing up the dance floor with Anne Bancroft Feldman throws himself into a scene rather head first. Now Feldman gets a bit more character, just a bit more, in that throughout the film he attempts to come on to women in the creepiest ways possible, even once announcing himself as a pervert as his line, in a title card though. Feldman is rather hilarious in every one of these quick side shows as he his lusty creep face is consistently entertaining. Now I suppose there's not much more than what he also brings just in the scenes where he's not necessarily the focus. Again Feldman's expressiveness brings a lot to the proceedings as his reactions say more than enough. Now even for a comedy of this sort this is a rather limited role, but Feldman is the best performer in the film. As he really knows how to work without sound. I won't say he's Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, or Charlie Chaplin in this regard, but I will say this is a fun performance.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976: Carl Weathers in Rocky

Carl Weathers did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Apollo Creed in Rocky.

Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed was actually the only mainstay of the Rocky series, with a large role, that was not nominated for the 1976 Academy Awards. That's unfortunate as this also extends to the character of Apollo is not frequently mentioned in terms of the strength of the original film. Not that he's in any way a criticized element, but rarely is given the credit it should be in terms of the writing and the performance. Since the film is about Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), and his struggle it would have been easy enough to deal with his eventual opponent, The World Heavyweight Champion, as either a non-entity entirely or perhaps an overdone villain. Apollo is neither of those things and through his few scenes throughout the film we get an rather interesting character. His first appearance is for show as we see him on TV handling an interview. Weathers is excellent in his development of Creed's mannerisms in this scene as he takes on Muhammad Ali's style mannerisms of almost dancing when speaking, yet Weathers alters them enough to make them his own in making Apollo not just an imitation.

The next time we see Apollo though it is in a more private setting as he tries to come up with a new fighter for his bi-centennial fight, after his previous opponent must recover from an injury. Weathers is terrific because he does not just present Apollo as he was in the interview, instead he shows frankly a very different man. The mannerisms are still there but only to a far more muted, frankly a far more natural degree. Weathers presents Apollo as much more of a business man in the scene as he discusses the raw facts of what they need to do for the fight. That's not all though and Weathers is brilliant in portraying Apollo as he is basically his own promoter as he comes up with the idea for the fight, which is to get a local nobody a chance at the World Championship belt. There is a special glint in his eyes, and Weathers is marvelous in giving the idea such light as he develops it in his head before pitching it to the rest of the men. In his eyes Weathers conveys so well basically the dollar signs in Apollo's eyes as he states he details of the ideas and even more so when he finds the perfect fighter, none other than the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa.

Weathers also technically helps in giving more sense to why Rocky stands a chance, who in this film is not a great fighter. As Weathers shows that there is never the fight on his mind except just a few brief reassurances to his trainer, where Weathers exudes such confidence in his wave away of any potential challenge showing that it is obvious to Apollo that Rocky is not worth a second thought. Most of the time though it is all about the returns of the fight. This eventually leads to the fight itself which Weathers portrays the true showman in Apollo particularly in his over the top entrance. Weathers is extremely entertaining in portraying just the whole pomp of Apollo as his act is clearly trying to get the most of the crowd. The whole put on is absurd and purposefully so as Weathers makes it the true performance it should be with the mannerisms more overt than ever before since the whole crowd needs to see them. His whole physical of portrayal of the fight is worthy of mention as he actually makes a bit of an arc within it. In the opening he continues the act as Weathers continues to be properly over the top as even his punches are done as rather ridiculous and only for the show. Eventually though Rocky shows that he's in for the fight, and Weathers properly adjusts his performance to an actual match. As it continues though Weathers is great in depicting an ever growing intensity, as well his own physical pain, as he finally takes the fight seriously. Weathers gives a strong performance here by finding the depth to Apollo past simply Rocky's opponent. He's far more than that as Weathers develops, in just a few scenes, the whole way this true prizefighter operates, as a businessman, as a promoter, an entertainer, and when he needs to be a fighter.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976: Hal Holbrook in All The President's Men

Hal Holbrook did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying "deep throat" in All The President's Men.

A funny thing about Hal Holbrook's casting is that its an actual clue to the real life mystery, at the time of the film's release, of who exactly Deep Throat really was. Deep Throat being Bob Woodward's (played by Robert Redford in the film) secretive source who held some high position within the U.S. government and was privy to much of the top secret information related to Watergate. Hal Holbrook was the only choice for the role as chosen by the real Bob Woodward, and Holbrook happens just to look a bit like the man who eventually was claimed to be the real Deep Throat, Mark Felt. Well his resemblance probably should be put aside though, since though it was meaningful to reality it was meaningless to the film other than it allowed for Holbrook to give the performance that he does give. Holbrook's introduction is originally through voice only, which is a short moment since all he does is avoid commenting on Watergate, instead he sets up a secret meeting with Woodward through a complex and secretive process that eventually leads Woodward to a parking garage.

Although his initial vocal appearance was unceremonious, Holbrook's first physical appearance is one of the most memorable images of the film as a figure drenched in shadow with only a cigarette to grant him light. Even as Woodward grows close the man only known as Deep Throat still stays mostly obscured by the darkness. Deep Throat is such a striking image with the most visible part of the man being Holbrook's piercing eyes looking directly at Woodward. Holbrook does not waste this introduction as his performance seems to fit right into his surroundings. Holbrook's voice is cold as engages Woodward on what information he exactly wants. There is a harshness about his delivery though within that though within it there seems to be the truth. The whole demeanor Holbrook gives Deep Throat is brilliant created by him. There is a considerable intelligence that he exudes as Woodward tells him what he knows, and in his reaction Holbrook suggests so eloquently that he knows so much more than what he is being told yet. In that there is a slight smile in his face as he tells Woodward essentially the White House is not as smart as they are made out to be, and in that certain understated venom as he describes this Holbrook alludes to perhaps a personal vendetta in Deep Throat which may be his motivation for helping Woodward.

What's so fascinating about Holbrook's work is that he never loses any of the character's mystery while still giving a uniquely emotional details within the man. One instance of this is when Deep Throat goes into detail of a disturbing story on Gordon Liddy, one of the men involved with Watergate in someway. Holbrook is outstanding as he conveys almost a fear as he describes his story which involves Liddy purposefully burning his own hand, as for that moment Deep Throat is trying to convey to Woodward as well perhaps himself, the potential danger in the men they are dealing with. Holbrook's second appearance actually does not come until over an hour later, although you certainly have not forgotten his existence. This is one of those performances that is just so captivating to watch as Holbrook takes on this enigmatic style so flawlessly. Honestly the ever so slight form of flamboyancy around the character could have easily faltered quite poorly, but Holbrook executes it so perfectly that it never does. Holbrook is terrific in his second appearance as gives Deep Throat even more of edge as he there is a certain viciousness in his words and in the intensity in Holbrook almost as though he is antagonizing Woodward in order to motivate him to find the exact truth. Holbrook's final appearance comes near the  end of the film after it seems Woodward and Bernstein have made a mistake. Halbrook is once again outstanding, and even though this particular appearance is rather brief, it not way diminishes the considerable impact of the moment. In an instance Halbrook creates such an overwhelming sense of paranoia as he no longer that cold assurance about him, and conveys are more apparent fear as he warns Woodward that their lives may be in danger. Once again Holbrook adds so much to the film within almost not time at all helping to realize three of the best scenes in this great film. All three of his scenes are masterfully portrayed by Holbrook as he, almost serves the role of Deep Throat, by providing us enough to pull us in and make the story all the more compelling while never losing the mystique that makes him such a fascinating figure, and this such a fascinating performance. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976: Chief Dan George in The Outlaw Josey Wales

Chief Dan George did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lone Watie in The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Chief Dan George received his only Oscar nomination for portraying a comically inclined though straightforward Native American chief in Little Big Man. His role in The Outlaw Josey Wales is a bit even less traditional as seen in George's first appearance which comes after the titular Outlaw (Clint Eastwood) is well on the run, and has just lost his young sidekick and runs into Chief Dan George as Cherokee in rather unusual dress considering that he is topped with a stovepipe hat, and wearing a suit both which are purposefully imitating Abraham Lincoln's attire. At first George manages to be so enjoyably pathetic in his portrayal of Lone's attempt to corner Wales himself, particularly his surprise when he sees that Josey has quickly gotten the best of him. George ends up being quite moving though in just a matter of seconds as his face falls into a certain defeat. It's a particularly sad defeat though in that there is such a strong resignation that George suggests that it is not just a man being mad he was caught of guard, or even scared that he might be killed,rather it is the fact that is just is yet another time in which a white man has sneaked up on him.

After Josey indicates that basically he's not going to kill the old man Lone continues to tell his personal story as a Cherokee which has mostly involved one defeat after another over the years. George is incredible in Lone's little monologue as he never leaves it on a single note. George actually begins as though the whole thing is one big joke over the years as he describes being kicked from one place to another. When he refers to the death of his family from the trail of tears though there is a brief though palatable sorrow and hatred in his voice just for that moment. He continues on his life of misfortune and tells Josey of how it was that he found himself clothed in the way he was, which was basically for a show for the government. George brings just a quiet exasperation as he tells the odd story of the patronizing secretary of the interior, though he throws in just a bit of sarcastic show of pride when reciting the words of the man towards Lone, and his fellow natives who had come to Washington. Then there seems just a hint of actual perseverance and determination as he informs Josey that he chose to wage war on the Union due to the meeting, only to artfully end on one more comic note in his reaction as he sees Josey has fallen asleep from his story.

That's simply George's introductory scene, but it sets well what he'll bring to the film with his presence. That monologue could have been just a simple depressing story, but it's fantastic just how much character George gives just through that one monologue. He's great in his very next scene as he shows such an attempt at an honest pride when he's believed he's snuck up on Josey, unfortunately for him someone else sneaks up on him, and George's "aw shucks" reaction is just hilarious. Thankfully for the film Lone decides to go along with Josey on his adventure to escape to Mexico, and becomes his sidekick for the trip. George is great in every scene in which he appears as Wales's sidekick as well as almost his promoter of sorts. George is wonderful the way he enliven every scene just in his appearance as interacts so astutely with Eastwood's performance. In one way being the far more eager fellow than the technically rather somber Wales, and George is terrific the way he shows that old Lone Watie gets such a thrill out of Josey apply his trade so to speak. I particularly love one sequence in which he basically narrates Josey's preparation in front of a group of thugs, and George brings so much humor, astonishment and even some intensity as Lone calls out Josey's moves.

Although George is marvelous at being a secondary hero for the film, George does not leave it there and creates a very interesting character of Lone Waite past simply being a fun fellow adventurer, although he certainly is that. George's is quite fascinating in the way once he goes on the adventure with Wales he seems to find himself as as a proper Cherokee again. What's so splendid is the way George does not do the more typical Indian cliches of mysteriously knowing the way of the land in the way what animals mean or how to properly track someone. George takes the mystery out of it, but in a memorable way. George plays it as a given that a native American should be able to do all these things, but he says it in such a delightful down to earth fashion as though he's aware of any legends treating them simply as a fact that he needs to live up to. George is very endearing as he shows this as the way Lone is once again accepting who he should be, and tries to live up to his causes of old. The way George slowly renews the confidence of the old man is brilliantly done. The film does not specifically stop for him, after all he is not even the central character, and the film is one almost in constant movement, but George manages to naturally as well powerfully transition his character from basically a worn out old husk of a man, to once again a life filled warrior. This is a great performance by Chief Dan George as he makes so much out of the role that in lesser hand could have been maybe just too goofy, or simply too sad. George manages to balance both out flawlessly giving both a very funny and rather moving portrait of this Cherokee who endeavors to persevere.