Thursday, 29 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1993: Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age of Innocence

Daniel Day-Lewis did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence.

Age of Innocence is a fairly remarkable film about the very proper romantic entanglements in upper class 18th century New York.

1993 offered yet another banner year for Day-Lewis, much like in his breakout year in 1985, through his vastly different characters he portrayed. His Oscar nominated turn as a seemingly aimless Irish youth wrongly accused of a bombing in In the Name of the Father, a performance I feel I underrated in my initial assessment, and as Newland Archer in this film a repressed American in the late 1800's. The characters could not be more different in not only the backgrounds of the characters, their stature in society in their stories, but especially in their emotional nature. It is interesting in that Newland Archer's story is not one of hardship or tragedy in the more straight forward way. He's a consistently well off individual financially yet this is an interesting story of a man being held prisoner by society in a most particular sort of fashion.  It is essential then that he must be a man of the society and it must be said that if all of humanity depended on one man being sent back in time in order to complete some mission that requires integrating into the peoples of the past, the only man for the mission would be Daniel Day-Lewis.

Daniel Day-Lewis seems to walk right into any time period he wishes to inhabit. There is something so eloquent about this incredible ability in Day-Lewis. As, despite the evidence otherwise, it feels so effortless within his performance. Day-Lewis here seems like a man you'd see within a picture from the period. In that no facet of his very presence that feels in authentic to his setting. This of course begins with Day-Lewis's refined American accent that is stilted though in a way that alludes to a man who always seeks to conduct himself properly in society and in business. The accent though is so nicely gentle about it realizing a man of Newland's life and background with such ease. His physical manner is all part of this as again there is something in a man who is very much set within his place in society. He's strict in his manner so to speak yet there is not an inherent discomfort that Day-Lewis portrays in this either. He instead shows a man very much right where he should be merely in terms of being a man in his place in New York at this time. As usual, which what makes Day-Lewis synonymous with great acting, he makes it all so natural as it only ever serves his character.

The film itself is such an interesting period piece in the way it differs from the usual period piece given that it is directed by Martin Scorsese, a director known for his stories with more naturally volatile characters. I have to say I love Scorsese's direction here actually in that it acts as a brilliant companion to Day-Lewis's performance. The two's collaboration here is something to behold as they both in tandem realize a very particular state of being. In that both are constricted seemingly by the laws of the society of the story, yet I don't mean this is a negative sense in any way. In fact quite contrary. I love the way Scorsese's usual vibrancy is apparent yet it springs in bursts in moments where it pierces through the fabric of the tightly wound society. Day-Lewis's performance follows the same idea. Now Day-Lewis previously played what could seem like a similair character in A Room With A View. In that film he played a repressed Edwardian man. The thing is there, which was a supporting part, Day-Lewis cleverly gave a comedic performance by so effectively illustrating such intense repression. Day-Lewis's intentions here are quite different in that Newland is suppose to be the figure with empathize within the film, which could be challenge given the state of the character.

This is Day-Lewis of course that I am writing about and his greatness as an actor, is something I cannot dispute further proven by his performance here. This turn is so beautifully rendered that it is rather astonishing at times. There is never a breakdown moment in the entirety of this performance, not once. Day-Lewis stays true to the man whose greatest failing comes from the fact that he can only speak from the heart at the wrong times, and even then perhaps not with enough passion for it to matter. Day-Lewis work here is yet deeply emotional in the end. This is an intensely subtle performance as he always works within the proper confines of Newland Archer, a distant man in ways to those around him, yet he is never quite distance to us who can  see his deepest thoughts through Day-Lewis's performance and some brilliant touches on Scorsese's part. Newland Archer's problems stem from his relationship with a married woman Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) and later the woman cousin May Welland (Winona Ryder). The problem being that Newland truly loves Ellen, with just a hope granted through her troubled marriage, while society expects him to marry and stay with May despite a lack of genuine affection.

I have to admit I found Day-Lewis's performance often painful watch do to so how effectively he realizes the tension of this conflict within Newland throughout the film. He makes it such a sympathetic plight through the honesty in which he presents his scenes with Pfeiffer. Day-Lewis does not present lust, rather a true longing for who seems to be his intended soul mate. One moment in particular I find especially heartbreaking is a brief fantasy of Ellen coming to embrace him, one of those small bursts of emotion given in both Scorsese's and Day-Lewis work. There is a purity that Day-Lewis brings to the moment, that is defined by love in the moment, of a few seconds. Throughout his performance Day-Lewis always maintains that truth in Newland, which is unfortunately contained by the demands of society. Day-Lewis is incredibly moving as he realizing the difficulty of essentially the act of Newland's life as he is forced to refrain his true hearts desire in order to basically please others. Day-Lewis's work is fascinating as he expresses the real emotion of the man at the end of sentences in these lapses of his refinement. The lapses being unnoticeable by others, yet we can see them through the screen. There is such a poignancy as he makes the emotions so palatable within the edges of his performance. Day-Lewis technically maintains the man of a proper stature, yet we are allowed to see the real devastation in the man as happiness is denied for one reason or another, again and again. Day-Lewis never breaks once again, yet the torture of this life is understood through those margins, of a man crying out with a stern face and sometimes even a smile. Day-Lewis so cleverly infuses these scenes with the truth, even as Newland "lies". There is a scene late where Newland is attempting to work something out to be with Ellen, yet his now wife May gives him news that forces him to abandon his dream forever. Day-Lewis never yells out, yet the loss is all in his eyes, the anguish lies within him, yet never fully breaks outwardly. The most poignant moment in the film though comes for me in the last act, that takes place many years later where Newland is technically free to see Ellen, prodded to do so by his own son yet decides not to. This is said in but a few unimportant words. All that it means to Newland is made readily apparent in Day-Lewis's work. The sadness is persuasive in his gentle looks to Ellen's balcony, suggesting the years wasted and the despair of man recognizing that his dream was just that, only a dream. I found this to be such a powerful piece of work by Daniel Day-Lewis that proves not only his ability to craft this representation of a person from any period, to also more importantly give them real humanity and life.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1993: Anthony Wong in The Untold Story

Anthony Wong did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Wong Chi-hang in The Untold Story.

The Untold story tells the true story of a serial killer cook, although this version of the story is the type you might find within a dirty copy of a sleazy gossip rag in the trash of a smelly bus station bathroom.

The film though is acutely aware of this as it goes for pure exploitation here. The film would be like if in Zodiac you spent half the film watching Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards ogle their boss’s girlfriend and mock their female coworker for her lack of ample breasts. That's half the film as the investigators are portrayed to be utter buffoons in sequences of rather broad comedy. In rest of the time, we are with Anthony Wong, which are even more ridiculous if you can believe it, despite winning the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor that would be like if Terry O'Quinn won the Academy Award for The Stepfather. Here's the thing though as proven by his work in Hardboiled, Infernal Affairs, and especially Beast Cops Anthony Wong is a higher caliber of actor. He's not a simple exploitation actor in terms of talent, which means he offers a little more than you might expect. That's not to say Wong gives this serious performance, quite the contrary, Wong knows the type of film he's in and he embraces it to its fullest.

It needs to be said that this performance is technically just as insane as the rest of the film, yet Wong's approach elevates it beyond through his understanding of the material. Unlike the majority of the rest of the cast, who are pretty bad in their goofy performances, Wong knows how to play into his material while not being wholly consumed by it. Wong knows the intentions of the part and decides to be as entertaining as he can be with that in mind. After all, past his prologue, Wong's first appearance is as he is chopping meat at his restaurant while watching his waitress. Wong's does not hold back in the sweaty sleaze he brings to his manner. He blares his eyes wide open watching her, and makes his mouth tight as he really emphasizes just how disgusting his character is. Wong though is careful in his performance to just chomp around on the scenery in the right ways. It's a curiously mesmerizing performance to watch at times, as Wong brings certain unpredictability to the madness he inflicts not only the character but his whole performance with. 

Wong is at times downright hilarious as he goes about amplifying the film any way in which he can through his unrepentant depiction of the killer. Whether this is the murder scene which Wong relishes in as his namesake goes about killing people in a variety of ways, which Wong depicts with the utmost glee. Whether this is setting fire to a man or beating a man to death with a ladle. Or his portrayal of the other side of Wong as he brings such haphazard awkwardness to the man as he sloppily attempts to cover  his tracks. Wong's delivery is so enjoyably inept, intentionally inept that is, of a man whose arrest is simply an inevitable. I have to admit I have an especial affection for Wong's dramatic turn he employs after the waitress begins to tell the cops about how suspicious her employer is. Now technically speaking nothing within these scenes stops being exploitative, in fact I am going to say most would find these scenes are downright distasteful especially given that they are based on real events. However Wong does his best to alleviate this best he can by playing up this silliness in an effective fashion. 

Now again much of this is dependent on Wong's talent, which actually does suggest that he could have played a more realistic depiction of the character. Technically in the murder scenes, which get pretty brutal, Wong has the needed intensity for such scenes though apparently knowing the film's direction he takes this up just another notch to derive some actual levity among the grotesque. Again Wong shows the potential for something else, if the film had required it, particularly in the scenes where Wong attempts to commit suicide. Wong does bring the gravity of the situation within his eyes as he begins the act, but again playing into the film's tone he just takes a step further. Making the distress seems less that of a lost soul on the last lengths but rather a pathetic act of a vicious monster. Now because of that Wong's best scene is probably his confession where he gets the unabashedly embrace the character’s wretchedness.  Wong brings such psychotic joy into his devious smile as he boasts about his accomplishments, spending an extra bit of time to note that he made his victims into food which he then fed to the very cops investigating him. This is not a great performance by any means.  It is a lot of dark fun from a good actor really slumming it though. 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1993

And the Nominees Were Not:

Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age of Innocence

Anthony Wong in The Untold Story

Anthony Hopkins in Shadowlands

Jesse Bradford in King of the Hill

Leslie Cheung in Farewell My Concubine
And finally a review of:

Jeff Daniels in Gettysburg

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1951: Results

5. Raj Kapoor in Awaara - Despite the somewhat disjointed nature of what is required of him, Kapoor actually matches well any tone or style is requested of him by himself as director.
Best Scene: Raj catches the "thief".
4. Richard Basehart in Fourteen Hours - Basehart keeps most of his more theatrical tendencies under control to an effective portrayal of the intense state of mind on the edge both literally and metaphorically.

Best Scene: Robert speaks with Dunnigan about the good things in life.
3. Oskar Werner in Decision Before Dawn - Werner effectively elevates his film through his moving and nuanced portrayal of a righteous traitor.

Best Scene: Happy argues for the deserter.
2. Trevor Howard in Outcast of the Islands - Howard gives a downright brilliant portrayal of man who only becomes worse after being given a chance for redemption.

Best Scene: Madness in the rain.  
1. Michael Redgrave in The Browning Version - Good prediction Tahmeed. I have to admit the choice for the final overall was relatively easy despite my love for the performances of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Alec Guinness, Robert Walker, Trevor Howard and Alistair Sim from 1951. I thought Redgrave was a good actor before watching this film, but his extraordinary work here put him in even greater light for me. It is such precise yet naturalistic, uncompromising yet heartfelt, complex and poignant depiction of a man who has slowly given up on life.

Best Scene: The speech.
Updated Overall Lead
Updated Overall Supporting

Next Year: 1993 Lead

Alternate Best Actor 1951: Raj Kapoor in Awaara

Raj Kapoor did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Raj Raghunath in Awaara.

Awaara has a potentially interesting story through the trials of a young thief who is the disowned son of a wealthy judge. I'm here to give my opinion though so I have to admit the Bollywood musical scenes completely weighed the film down for me. It makes the pacing somewhat intolerable and every time they came in they completely broke the flow of the story.

Raj Kapoor, who also directed the film, plays our lead character, aptly named Raj as well, who we see through the phases of his life beginning in poverty. In order to support himself he turns to thievery. The film goes in phases essentially as Kapoor almost breaks down his performance into different acts of the film. The first phase being an almost comedic performance as he depicts Raj's attempts at thievery basically as a bit of buffoonery as he keeps get into unlikely situations because of it. As Raj runs into his old childhood friend Rita, who he keeps running into because he attempts to steal from her, accidentally. Again this is handled with more of a comedic effect than might be expected, but in a good way. Kapoor brings a real exuberance to his performance in these scenes in essentially crafting the likable thief who gets into more of hijinks than criminal activity. This includes Raj's efforts to cover his initially thievery of Rita's purse by pretending to have a fight with the "real" thief while out of sight. Kapoor is certainly entertaining as he throws himself into the scene quite literally at times, and manages to be rather charming in portraying this rather strange act.

Again his performance goes through phases, usually broken by one of the musical sequences to be honest, as it shifts to a more directly romantic turn with Nargis as Rita. Though perhaps the transition is a bit hidden by the songs, Kapoor nevertheless effectively becomes the next part of his performance as Raj. Kapoor changes to a more low key charm of sorts, something less active, in portraying a bit more of a humble quality within his interactions with Nargis. They certainly have the requisite chemistry between the two as the two convey well the underlying connection and warmth between the two. Unfortunately for old Raj and Rita this period of the film is short lived, although the underlying chemistry between the two is something that stays within Raj's changes. The next phase though comes as the film becomes a bit more serious minded in its portrayal of Raj's poverty, and that his past as a thief keeps from rising beyond his upbringing. Raj's mental state in this regard isn't exactly helped as he begins to discover the truth about his father, who happens to also be the benefactor of Rita.

This transitions to Kapoor's performance to more of his angry young man performance where he lashes out against society, which leads Raj eventually into criminal charges, and a trial which acts as a framing device for the story. Again Kapoor's performance actually works for what is required for him in this regard. It does not feel as jarring as it seem as it should, even though he loses the charm in favor of portraying the intense discontent in Raj that defines him. The switch is sudden yet given the story around him it manages to match it, and further Kapoor fulfills the need of the part. He is particularly good in this aspect as he portrays well the growing hatred in Raj, as his outrage continues to get the best of him. Within this portion of the film Kapoor makes the transition to an even more violent man natural. One more shift is left, which is the Raj we meet at the beginning of the film, which is more of a man who has given up on life ready to meet his apparently bleak fate despite the continued optimism of Rita who intends to save him. This is technically probably given the most neat of switches though as it feels like a believable enough end result of the angry young man. Kapoor though once again is good in portraying the simple depressed state of the man choking on his own misery, until his big dramatic speech at the end of the film. Kapoor delivers this with the right passion and he also carefully does not drop the state of Raj showing him still to be burdened by sadness. This whole performance is a rather interesting example of a director directing himself. The reason being Kapoor's performance certainly matches every tone the film happens to be going for at any given moment properly, though it is questionable whether all these varied tones are right for a naturally flowing film. I would say no, in that the film doesn't quite pull it off, despite Kapoor's best efforts as an actor. Now I also don't think in these various phases Kapoor is great in any of them, but he's good in all of them, which is worth something. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1951: Michael Redgrave in The Browning Version

Michael Redgrave did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes, for portraying Andrew Crocker-Harris in The Browning Version.

The Browning Version is a rather excellent film about the last days of a public school professor.

Michael Redgrave is an actor who I have appreciated his past work to be sure, though those were often in smaller roles, or as co-leads. Redgrave is the central figure to this film, and I won't attempt to obscure my feelings this is work is rather extraordinary. The film opens with his character, Crocker-Harris being introduced by the school headmaster as well as through the interactions of a few school students. It is far more common for films with a teacher at the focal point to be more broadly inspirational, not unlike Goodbye Mr. Chips which is referenced in this film. This film seems to purposefully subvert that trope. Both the head master and the students paint Crocker-Harris as an unlikable professor and almost view him as a dictatorial figure, with his first appearance sitting silently seemingly being the figure he is described as. This is a rather interesting character study from the outset as this sort of character is more often found as a side character, just a one note antagonist setup to be flustered when our free spirit protagonist wins the day. This film offers a fascinating alternative perspective to such a character, even though we are technically introduced to him a way in which we observe him through the limited lens that everyone else seems to.

Michael Redgrave's first speaking scene is found when we watch Crocker-Harris's replacement come to observe the man's methods in action. Although we are shown a loud uproarious classroom next door we are told such things do not occur in Crocker-Harris's classroom. Redgrave is downright brilliant as he reveals his crafting of this particular professor. It would not be good enough to simply be the posh stuck up gentleman, that wouldn't be correct, Redgrave instead creates something quite unique in his realization of the man. The vocal choice that Redgrave takes is a stroke of genius. He inflicts himself with a higher pitched voice. It is of course very proper yet dull, perfect for long recitations of foreign languages, also perfect for an imitation, as Crocker-Harris's students so often indulge. There is something particularly intelligent Redgrave does with this voice, which I will get to a bit more down below. Redgrave furthers his creation of Crocker-Harris as the perfect dusty old professor with his physical presence. There is an utter rigidity he brings to his performance as he takes his seat at the head of classroom, keeping this very particular gaze, and very specific tightness in place almost as a statue representing a teacher.

We are then allowed to see Crocker-Harris in action, and Redgrave is wholly convincing in being the master of his classroom. He does not do this by raising his voice, yet there is this cold incisiveness that has a strange power to it. There is an intensity within it which is absolutely believable in the way it controls the classroom. As he distributes his punishment in addition to stating the class's failures on their work it absolutely pierces through in the way Redgrave in such a matter of fact fashion carries the old crock. Redgrave shows us a man who does rule, not with an iron fist, rather an iron tongue and resolve of sorts which is unflinching. In this view you'd never second guess this man in his space of command, even if it appears to make the majority of his students so miserable. The whole idea of the image of the man, as stated by the students, is there in Redgrave's work. He is indeed a character though a character in terms of how the student's view of him. There is something even slightly comical about this, not that Crocker-Harris is being funny exactly, rather he's humorous in the way the student's see him. That is not all there is to Crocker-Harris as the film continues.

We are still given technically the limited view of him as one of the students, Taplow, comes for an additional lesson, much to his dismay, as does Crocker-Harris's fellow professor Frank Hunter under the pretense of a friendly visit, though in fact there to continue on his affair with Crocker-Harris's wife Millie. Redgrave shows Crocker-Harris ease up a bit, though not entirely, as he shows up for the additional lesson at first, suggesting just a hint of less prickly figure, though still rather prickly. Redgrave goes on as the tired old teacher until Taplow mentions translating "Agamemnon" from Greek properly, suggesting a real enthusiasm for the material. Redgrave is fantastic in this moment as he still portrays such reservation in the conversation, as though Crocker-Harris is carefully trying to understand whether or not Taplow is being genuine. Redgrave eventually reveals just a dim bit of passion that reveal itself from beneath his skin, quietly explaining his own interest in the work by mentioning his own attempt at translating it. After the lesson Taplow leaves though and we are left with Crocker-Harris and his personal life.

Now in terms of Redgrave's performance we also see a bit of loss in his vocal work in that his high pitched voice though retained, is now entirely natural sounding where in class it seemed just ever so slightly put on. Redgrave is also terrific in creating such anti-chemistry with Jean Kent as Millie, as they eat together in such complete detachment from one another. If there ever was love between them, it is absolutely gone. Redgrave's interactions though aren't those with a stranger though, but rather an enemy who has done him so much wrong he can barely spare her a look in the eye. They later on go to walk about the academy as a cricket game is going along, and we soon learn why this is the case. Crocker-Harris first goes to speak with the head master who informs Crocker-Harris that he not only will not receive his pension, but he is also asked that at his retirement ceremony that he speak before a younger teacher despite it being entirely against protocol. Redgrave's work is so remarkable in the way he internalizes Crocker-Harris is discontent so effectively in the moment, while just barely whispering out his protests that the head master easily waves away. Redgrave gives us a man so defeated by life, and makes the humanity within it so honest, that it is actually a bit painful to witness.

Of course his treatment by the head master is nothing compared to the way his wife brow beats him incessantly for his failures. Redgrave again makes you feel the pain, while maintaining the man's posture and stature as to what suits his position. The measure of suffering is deeply felt in Redgrave's performance, but it goes further in that you see the years of it in the man. He does not even speak against his wife treatment, though in his eyes he shows it hurts him no less, as he presents Crocker-Harris's terrible existence in such vivid detail. The idea of this is only grown as he explains his history as a professor to his successor, which is a tale defeat. In the scene though Crocker-Harris describes his intentional playing up of certain mannerisms to try to entertain the boys originally, which completely matches that somewhat heightened voice and physical performance we saw in his early scenes. The tale is more than just a revelation, and Redgrave instead expresses a confession. A striking confession of the anguish in a man who is admitting to his own loss of will to do what he believed to have been a noble cause.

There is just a bit of hope given to Crocker-Harris, to give his years some meaning when Taplow later returns to give him the titular Browning version of "Agamemnon". Redgrave give such poignancy to the moment as he allows a bit more of that old passion to reveal itself in the way he so beautifully breaks down in just a moment of joy from the gift. Unfortunately his wife refuses to grant any such happiness to Crocker-Harris as she proclaims that Taplow as merely mocking him with the gift, which is so hurtful that even the Hunter, the man having an affair with his wife, is horrified by it. Redgrave though is heart wrenching as he brings Crocker-Harris to almost the end, as you can feel the emotion all pent up and on the edge of the man with every tense word and irritated movement. Redgrave depicts the tremendous effort in Crocker-Harris as he's trying to keep himself proper, even while so clearly falling apart inside. He is especially heartbreaking when he reveals to Hunter that he's always known about the affair, since his wife told him. Redgrave makes the moment almost unbearable because he shows the man who has essentially accepted his pain as he reveals to Hunter, his wife's inability to love him. Redgrave is devastating since there is this sense of warmth he brings to the words, but a warmth lost long ago to the past. It isn't the end of Crocker-Harris though as Hunter tirelessly attempts to get him to stand up for himself, basically insisting he is not as useful as the way his wife treats him. Redgrave renders his understanding of this so eloquently and believable in his quiet reactions. Redgrave calls upon something within his work in the discontent to carefully and convincingly to create a change in Crocker-Harris. Redgrave does not compromise the character though, as when he dismisses his wife Redgrave's whole performance earns this suggesting it has been a long thing coming to begin with. Crocker-Harris's turn around does not end there though as in the farewell ceremony he insists on speaking second, as is his right to do so. Redgrave is downright amazing in the scene as he begins in Crocker-Harris's stilted professor manner at first, before breaking out to essentially giving an anti-inspirational speech. In that he admits his failures to all his students, and Redgrave finally wholly reveals the old passions of the man in this speech. It is a truly cathartic moment, and Redgrave manages to make inspiring in its own way. As now Redgrave, even when admitting defeat, he shows that Croker-Harris is no longer defeated as a man. I honestly could go on and on in discussing the greatness of this performance. I absolutely loved this performance not a second is wasted in Redgrave's outstanding work. He so effortlessly crafts this portrait of this distinct figure in such humanizing and powerful detail.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1951: Trevor Howard in Outcast of the Islands

Trevor Howard did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Peter Willems in Outcast of the Islands.

Outcast of the Islands is a very intriguing character study about a rogue who is given a second chance on trading post/island.

Trevor Howard is an actor I've liked in the past in his roles as either the suave gentlemen, or the fierce gruff type, this is perhaps the most challenging role I've seen him undertake. It is also the first of his leading turns where he's actually the sole and central lead. The film opens with his character Peter Willems acting as a manger for a merchant at a trading post near Singapore. Howard is pretty marvelous to begin with in portraying a man about town. He brings such confidence in Willems as he goes about his life of luxury. Howard gives us a man without really a care in the world as he about his day of smoking, drinking and playing games while casually ignoring his wife and most things around him. Howard is quite a lout though in that he does manage to bring a genuine charm within this behavior and is rather suave. It suggests how Willems earned his position to begin with, as he really is rather smooth to be sure. There seems to be more to this though when an old mentor of sorts arrives, a trading ship Captain, Tom Lingard (Ralph Richardson) who took a liking to Willems when he was younger.

During the arrival of Lingard, Willems announces himself and Howard brings such a genuine pride in Willems as he shows off his finery and states his rather cushy position. Unfortunately this is a short lived joy when Willems is instantly fired when he is accused of having stolen from the very merchant he had been working for. Howard technically seems to pull off the impossible  of sorts as he somehow prevents you from instantly condemning Willems, even though he really should be. Howard to be sure does not hold back in showing the immediate reaction in Willems that reveals the man's petty nature.  Howard brims with this intense bitterness of the man, as for a moment any sense of that charm is lost as he closes down into seemingly a hatred for everyone. Howard is particularly despicable when Willems essentially dismisses his wife as only a burden to him, the venom in Howard is oh so pure, hinting early on the real nature of the man. Something funny happens though after this point, and as everyone seems to ignore his requests for help, Howard kind of wins you over once again.

It is not for becoming a better man truly, as Howard makes Willems a real sad sack, though earnestly so that you do feel sorry for him, even though you shouldn't. For some reason it helps that Howard carefully brings back that glint of a roguish charm that is hard to ignore. Howard is remarkable because as he for some reason gains sympathy from the audience once again, he makes it wholly believable that he'd convince Richardson's Lingard to give him a second chance, because hey why not. There is something truly special in this in that Howard's charisma makes it seem like he has the potential for change, even though Howard has not shown a single sign of real repentance in his performance. It's pretty great as Willems gains Lingard's sympathy by faking a suicide, because after all look at that sorrowful face it looks like he's learned his lesson. Of course though it might seem like sorrow on the outer surface, Howard is honest to his character as if you look any deeper you can see the man is only sorry that he got caught. Nevertheless he is given his chance as Lingard brings him to the more remote trading post, filled with local natives, in order to reform himself by working with Lingard's son-in-law Elmer Almeyer (Robert Morley).

Howard is clever as he does show a change in Willems in this new situation, but hardly for the better. Howard more than anything expresses a general discontent in the man, a tension in his physical manner of a man who simply is somewhere he does not want to be. Howard is careful though in that he still somehow hides just how despicable he truly is, and he tricks you into thinking this might be a story about a man's redemption, it isn't. Willems begins to interact with the natives and Elmer along with his wife (Wendy Hiller), and Howard portrays all of this in a very casual way. That is he never suggests much growth in Willems, finding instead that the man treats the island as an inconvenience most of the time, and essentially interacts mostly to remove his boredom. Willems eventually finds something he believes is worth his interest in the local chief's daughter Aissa (Kerima). A romance does develop though Howard again doesn't give it much depth, and no that's not a criticism. Howard instead stays true to the man Willems is instead by conveying such a distinct lust in Willems throughout the affair, which luckily for Willems Aissa shares the same lust for him.

Howard is fascinating to watch as he conveys  a most unusual reaction once he become more acquainted with the island, which does not lead to good things. Above all Howard conveys a lack of understanding of it, rather always maintaining the sense that Willem's life is more defined with pleasure than anything else. Willems runs into trouble when the chief does not condone his relationship with his daughter, yet Howard shows it never phases Willems. He reunites with her again and again, and Howard still only shows the most surface of interaction even when he ends up critically injuring the chief after the chief attacks him with a knife. There is a frustration that Howard brings, but still never a true revelation. Howard is terrific in portraying the confusion that arrives from a man who never bothers to care to know what his actions truly amount to. After the attack Willems learns nothing, and even decides to stab Lingard in the back by joining up with a rival merchant after Almeyer refuses to give Willems any further help.

Willems though decides to misuse the new found position to get back at Almeyer. Howard is pretty amazing in the sequence where he essentially leads a native attack against Almeyer and his storehouse. Howard brings this pettiness about the whole affair, with a hint of madness, all just to get back at the man who had every right to ignore him. Howard shows a sloppiness as well though as he throws himself into the intensity of emotion as Willems once again goes about stealing what he wants without for a moment thinking of the ramifications. Afterwards we see Willems in a luxury of sorts and Howard brings that sense of a certain contentment as he reaps the awards of his misdeeds, yet he keeps that underlying lack of insight as he still interacts with the natives with almost a bizarre hesitation, the hesitation of a man who is unaware of his surroundings. This even includes the chief's daughter, and I love the awkwardness Howard brings whenever Willems is not lusting after her.

The death of the chief though leads Willems to be exiled to a remote location as well, though still with the chief's daughter, but Lingard returns to essentially name Willems his sins before leaving him to rot for his actions. Howard is outstanding in this final sequence as he portrays the madness of Willems broken by his actions, revealing the despicable lout he always had been. Howard not only earned that through the way he established the man but as well his curious descent while being adrift in this land.  Howard gives us a man with nothing left but his pathetic self, and it is extremely visceral depiction of madness. Howard releases all the fear and paranoia of the man who fears his only companion, the chief's daughter, believing she'll seek revenge for his father as he still fails to understand her. Then he's so perfectly raw as he first begs then threatens Lingard for help. Howard is incredible depicting the rogue's end as just a mess. This is a downright brilliant performance by Howard. He makes this unlikable character absolutely captivating even while never compromising his arc that is of a man revealing himself to only be worse given the chance. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1951: Oskar Werner in Decision Before Dawn

Oskar Werner did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Corporal Karl Maurer aka Happy in Decision Before Dawn.

Decision Before Dawn about a German being made a spy for the allies takes a little too long on its setup but is a decent thriller once it focuses on that character.

Oskar Werner plays the eventual lead of the film as Happy, who we first see as a German medic and POW but later becomes a spy for the Allies. The film takes a bit of time as it illustrates the plot by spending time with the Americans, planning the mission and setting up another German spy, who has the most predictable character arc one could imagine. The film eventually finds its way to focusing on Happy, who happens to also be played by the best actor in the film. Werner even kind of steals the film before he even gains the stronger focus as he proves his ability onscreen, just through his eyes as he is able to express the quiet outrage in Happy as he decides to work against his home country, in part due to seeing his fellow soldiers despicable behavior even while detained. Thankfully the film restricts its focus upon Happy sooner than later, and we are given one of Werner's first English language performances. Now he might not be as assured as his work in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, but that's a tall order to fulfill.

Werner once again has this real low key charm about him, and he immediately endearing in his portrayal of Happy. He importantly doesn't even need to try, there is just an innate honesty Werner brings to his performance, which is interesting given that he technically playing a traitor. Werner though brings basically home the message of the good traitor in his performance by bringing this effortless goodness that he exudes as Happy. This is also essential in that it makes it particularly easy to invest in Werner as Happy is sent back into his home country in order to discover an important bit of information. Werner actually has a particularly difficult challenge in that he really doesn't have anyone to work against in terms of portraying the man's on the mission, since Happy does not meet up with his liasons until near the film's ending. The rest of the time it is solely upon Werner to realize the struggle in Happy as he goes about his mission. Werner succeeds in this as he creates the sense of the underlying fear in Happy throughout the scenes, but does even more than that.

Werner gives further understanding of Happy through very nuanced indirect reactions within other interactions. For example there is great moment where Happy learns that his father is nearby, and Werner is able to express the concern in Happy for him while still keeping the shell of a soldier just going about his duty. There is so much dependent on Werner to capture so much of the emotional weight of the story. Werner never is lacking in this though and adds so much substance to the side relationships Happy strikes up while on his mission. This includes two "lowly" sorts one a woman few others care about and an affable fellow soldier. In both Werner presents such a palatable empathy in Happy and in turn makes those character more meaningful than they would have been otherwise. Werner is especially moving in a scene where he tries to passionate save someone from death. This all while Werner never loses the struggle of the mission in his very being. He keeps that pivotal central tension but finds the right amount of substance that benefits the film greatly. Eventually the film ends on a straight escape scene where technically some of that substance found earlier seems lost. Werner though proves his worth one last time though in the escape when Happy sacrifices himself for the sake of the mission. Werner has made Happy such a likable character that when this happens it is rather heartbreaking, even if the film itself still doesn't seem like it quite is appreciating what Werner is doing for it. It's performance which elevates the film, and though it might not be as assured as his later work, it is a strong early indication of Werner's talent.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1951: Richard Basehart in Fourteen Hours

Richard Basehart did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning NBR, for portraying Robert Cosick in Fourteen Hours.

Fourteen Hours is rather compelling hidden gem, despite a few lets slowly explain the psychology of the situation it to the audience moments, about a man standing on a ledge of a tall building threatening to commit suicide.

Richard Basehart plays the man who we first meet as he's already on the ledge apparently waiting to jump off. The film's star I suppose is Henry Hathaway's direction which presents the sort of communal experience in related to the event with almost as much importance as the even itself. The film often wavers from the men though it always come back to him, and the one person he agrees to negotiate with. The man being a random beat cop Charlie Dunnigan (Paul Douglas), who just happens to be one of the first ones to speak to the man. Might as well get the negative out of the way first. Basehart is an actor I've found okay at best in the other films I've seen him in, as the fact that he got his start on stage is immediately apparent. He does have a tendency, in this film as well, to oversell even the most basic lines with the expression of someone making sure those seated in the back rows will hear. It is not that all his line deliveries are bad, but they tend to feel off because of this broad approach which is not necessary on film.

There is much dependent on Basehart's performance, even with the film's wavering focus, particularly in terms of keeping the central tension alive. It must be believed that the man on the ledge, Robert, could jump at any time. Basehart is convincing in this regard as he makes the man's distress absolutely palatable. Basehart importantly never lets up in this, as even in his calmer moments, he still keeps the tense manner in his physical manner, showing the way Robert is almost seized in the anguish that has brought him to this point. Basehart effectively utilizes this throughout the film to maintain the question of whether or not Robert will jump. Basehart, despite this underlying quality always, manages to find nuance with this, and it easy to see how the role could easily been overplayed the whole time. Basehart carefully defines Robert when he can through the moments we are given throughout the story depending on whoever Robert might be interacting with at any given point.

Basehart works very well with Paul Douglas, as the two gradually strike up the right sort of chemistry. There is always a certain gap between them, yet the slow warmth that is created, in moments where Basehart relaxes just over so much are rather affecting. In order to try to get Robert off though they allow others to see him including his parents. Basehart is excellent when his overbearing mother appears as he shows Robert only become even more constrictive and emotional, suggesting he is even more likely to jump than before. When he meets his father, who attempts to reconcile with his son, Basehart conveys the way the initial fierce reaction of fear slowly assuages to a certain understanding. Through these interactions though Basehart is able to allude to the confused state of the man, who is mentally unstable from his upbringing, and is creates the sense of his past that has lead him to this point. It is unfortunate that film decides to have a doctor explain this all this to us, a la Psycho, since Basehart's performance fulfills that need to begin with. Obviously the part is limited in a certain regard, Basehart only moves a few feet throughout the film, yet he makes use of this. I find again his physical performance to be the most remarkable aspect in not only revealing the man's anguish, but as well creating the pressure of certain sequences. Basehart keeps essentially this suspicion in his body language, making that even passing a glass of water a tense moment. Again the center of it are his scenes with Douglas, and through them Basehart believably shows the gradual shift in Robert as he slowly comes back from literally the edge. It's a strong performance by Basehart, even with his overly enthusiastic of line deliveries, that might not carry the film but instead offers its honest emotional center.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1951

And the Nominees Were Not:

Raj Kapoor in Awaara

Oskar Werner in Decision Before Dawn

Trevor Howard in Outcast of the Islands

Michael Redgrave in The Browning Version

Richard Basehart in Fourteen Hours

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2005: Results

5. Jeffrey Wright in Broken Flowers - Wright gives a relatively brief yet enjoyable turn bringing such endearing enthusiasm to his role as a kooky wannabe detective.

Best Scene:Winston lays out the case. 
4. Min-sik Choi in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance - Choi has a limited role yet still gives a captivating portrayal of diabolical sleaze.

Best Scene: "Nobody's perfect"
3. Cillian Murphy in Red Eye - Murphy gives first a charming than rather chilling villainous turn that creates the needed sense of tension in the thriller, even if the third act of the film lets him down a bit.

Best Scene: Rippner reveals his true intentions. 
2. Ghassan Massoud in Kingdom of Heaven - Massoud gives a striking depiction of Saladin capturing the needed low key charisma and power of the wisdom of the man.

Best Scene: The parlay. 
1. Keanu Reeves in Thumbsucker - Reeves gives a hilarious performance in his portrayal of the destruction of a man's personal philosophy.

Best Scene: The final appointment. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1951 Lead (make any supporting suggestions as well)

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2005: Min-sik Choi in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Min-sik Choi did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr. Baek in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance is stylistic and oddly upbeat, well at compared to its predecessors Oldboy and especially Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, about a woman Geum-ja (Young-ae Lee) seeking revenge against the man who caused her to be wrongly imprisoned for a murder she did not commit.

Old Min-Sik Choi plays the man responsible for Lady Vengeance's sorrows, but he's not actually in the film all that much. In fact I'd say Choi's casting is part of director's Chan-wook Park's way to reference the previous two films in the thematic trilogy, as the leads of Mr. Vengeance Kang-ho Song, and Ha-kyun Shin play mere cameo roles as a pair of hitmen. Choi, the former lead of Oldboy, gets a slightly more substantial role as Mr. Baek the target for revenge. We only get glimpses of Baek for much of the film, pieces of Geum-ja's mind essentially, whether it is of Mr. Baek threatening her daughter, a fantasy of killing him as a dog, or a brief moment where we see him teaching a class through song. I'll admit that last scene does work quite well in creating a disturbing image, as there just seems something off when Min-sik Choi does it. In fact to his credit Choi is such a compelling actor that he manages to at least standout despite the extreme limitations of his role. There just something so innately magnetic about the way Choi works the screen that is always so impressive.

Unlike the targets of the previous two films, who also were motivated by revenge in some way, Mr. Baek is much more a disposable baddie, who we only learn is a child murderer and a rapist in addition to framing Geum-ja. We get again just few glimpses as he attempts to mount his defense, and to be fair Choi exudes menace with such as per usual. He is quickly caught though, and we finally get a bit of that Choi goodness, though not a lot of it. There's a particularly effective scenes where Choi isn't onscreen, yet does add a great deal to the scene as a kidnapped Mr. Baek translates messages into English for Geum-ja. Choi finds nuance within this such as his initial scoff when she threatens him, and his eventual fearful sigh as he begins to understand the severity of his situation. Baek has no hidden plans or tricks up his sleeve though, all his has left are a few words. Choi does his best to make the most of them. I especially love Choi's sleazy, "haven't seen you in awhile", reaction when he first see Geum-ja, as though Baek is attempting to try to not take her seriously.

This changes to fear when it is clear she is very serious, and again Choi probably far more compelling than any other actor in the role could be in portraying the physical fear and eventual pain throughout the scenes. Baek only get one more moment to himself, before his disposal, when one of the parents of his victims asks him why he did it. Choi does his absolute best with this being so beautifully despicable by so casually playing the moment as Baek shrugs off with "nobody's perfect". I'll admit I was a little disappointed with the allowance for Choi here, you can never have enough Min-sik Choi, but he's good with what has. The thing is though the film is more a revenge procedural than a thriller, in that everything basically works for the lady, rather than the terrible back and forth found in the other films in the trilogy. Again this is a good performance by Min-sik Choi despite the limitations, but in the end it feels like a warm up act for his turn in I Saw the Devil.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2005: Ghassan Massoud and Edward Norton in Kingdom of Heaven

Ghassan Massoud did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Saladin in Kingdom of Heaven.

Kingdom of Heaven is a fairly impressive epic about a Knight Balian (Orland Bloom) who travels to Jerusalem during the crusades, eventually becoming the defender of the city.

Now a weaker aspect of the film technically is Orlando Bloom's lead performance, though this in no way means Bloom is at his worst. In fact it is probably his best performance, well outside his guest appearance on Extras of course, but it is easy to see someone probably could have done more with the part, perhaps Niolaj Coster-Waldau who is featured in a bit role already. Luckily Bloom is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, well other than chronic over actor Marton Csokas as the chief villain whose physical appearance in this film kept making me think "come on Angus Macfadyen I know you can do better than this". Csokas is an exception though, and just about everyone else delivers whether it is David Thewlis as an otherworldly mentor, Liam Neeson as Balian's passionate father, Jeremy Irons and Alexander Siddig as two calm advisors on both sides. Then there are the leaders of the respective armies. The Muslims being lead by Saladin played by Ghassan Massoud.

Massoud's performance realizes the stature of a certain type of leader in Saladin. He's not a man known for his grand speeches or dramatic charges into battle, rather he is known for his wisdom. Massoud exudes this sort of unassuming confidence. Massoud plays the part without ego yet still conveys a definite charisma in Saladin. He portrays an assurance in himself as a reasonable man, and creates the sense that his greatest concern is always what is best for his people. Saladin's early appearances in the film are rather brief, as he tries to avoid war with the Christians. In these scenes though Massoud does well to establish the man as a calm leader, yet with an underlying incisiveness about him. The calmness about him never is that of a fool or a fiend, rather Massoud finds the certain sense of contemplation in Saladin that defines the man. Massoud presents him as a man who is always thinking, never acting rashly, properly showing the leader who waits to only ever make the right move.

Eventually Saladin's hand is forced by the villainous forces among the Christians causing him to finally attack. Massoud never portrays a viciousness even as he has his enemies massacred, instead portraying just this certainty of righteousness in his anger as he executes men for their wrongdoing. Saladin though to finish the reign of his enemies goes to conquer Jerusalem from the Christians. Massoud's performance is technically limited during the siege, though when we do see him he is effective in internalizing essentially the loss in the battle. He subtly, yet poignantly reveals the way this weighs on Saladin as he sees so many die in the attempt to take the city. Eventually Saladin instead tries to parlay for a peaceful truce and this is Massoud's strongest scene. Massoud uses the moment essentially to show Saladin at the height of his ability as he reasons a solution rather than forcing one. Massoud adds so much just in his gaze as he gauges Balian while they attempt to reach some sort of solution. He finds the way Saladin reaches his conclusion to spare the Christians, despite being reminded of pass transgressions. Massoud brings such palatable yet understated passion in Saladin response as reaffirms his refusal to be the barbarian. After the surrender I love the almost humorous quality Massoud brings as he portrays Saladin almost laughing at himself for perpetuating the madness by keeping the city intact. Massoud gives a very strong performance as Saladin, though I must admit I don't think he gives the very best performance in the film.
Edward Norton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying King Baldwin IV in Kingdom of Heaven.

Edward Norton portrays the initial leader of the Christian factions in the holy land as the king of Jerusalem. Norton is unrecognizable in the film given he wears a mask through almost the entirety of the film, and the one scene we see him without his mask, it hardly matters. That is because Norton is portraying Baldwin who we meet as he is already ravaged from leprosy, though still the King. Edward Norton is not an actor that makes one immediately think of historical epic, however he seems the actor most comfortable with the material out of anyone in the cast. Norton doesn't do an overt accent per se, it is technically more of some akin to what say Harvey Keitel did in the Duellists, yet it still never seems like Norton behind the mask. In the end he seems unrecognizable even in voice, as he merely is Baldwin. Norton's there if you try to find him yet there is no reason for such distractions whenever Norton is onscreen. This is despite the technical limitations against him in this performance as the only part of his face that he is able to make use of are his eyes with the rest of his face being covered up by the lifeless mask, however that is not nearly as debilitating as one might assume.

Norton establishes Baldwin effortlessly from his first scene where Balian is introduced to him. Now Norton does not rely on anything to overt in terms of his body language. He brings the right grace of King, well still conveying the degradation caused by his condition, and effectively gradually showing the worsening of the condition every time we see him throughout the film. That is not what makes this such a remarkable performance though as Norton is absolutely as magnetic when he is standing or  when he sitting or laying down here. His first scene where he meets Balian Norton is utterly captivating in realizing the power of the figure. This is essential as Norton must make it convincing that Baldwin is still the respected King despite the ravages of his disease. Norton makes that wholly believable as he conducts himself with such assurance still, and his voice commands attention despite never seeking it precisely. There is simply this wonderful quality about Norton's voice as there is something contemplative about it yet with a profound assurance of a man who firmly understands the world he lives in. There is a humanity Norton brings yet the cunning is all the same, as Norton depicts a benevolent King yet a King who will do what is required to secure his Kingdom.

Norton though also utilizes well the only part of his face that he is allowed to use. Norton's eyes are truly expressive here as he gives them this piercing quality fitting for a leader, yet within them there is the sense of the constant suffering Baldwin must endure. Norton with only seemingly the most minor of resources is utterly fascinating to watch here. Baldwin through the film offers the most sage advice as he attempts to maintain civility with the Muslims, even while dealing with a form of insurrection in the ranks. Norton gives us this struggle, but also makes every success convincing through that eloquent sway in the man he realizes so beautifully. Norton though as keeps the idea of the man alive particularly near the end of his time in the film as he begins to finally die from his disease. There is one especially heartbreaking scene where Baldwin's sister finally goes to see him on his deathbed, after ignoring him in his terrible state for some time. Although we got very little to establish this relationship beforehand, Norton makes us understand it in an instance. The love that Norton expresses in his eyes as he sees her brings such poignancy to the moment suggesting how much she had meant to him. Norton is incredibly moving as he captures the pure joy of the moment as Baldwin has one moment of happiness before his death. Every single scene in which Baldwin appears is a highlight in the film a Norton so effortlessly gives the life to the King and the man, and is never overshadowed by the mere idea behind him. It is an excellent performance which, like John Hurt in the Elephant Man and Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, never seems limited in emotional impact despite the nature of the role.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2005: Cillian Murphy in Red Eye

Cillian Murphy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jackson "Jack" Rippner in Red Eye.

Red Eye is a pretty effective thriller, until it gets off the plane, about a hotel manager Lisa (Rachel McAdams) being blackmailed by a strange man, while on a plane ride, to help with a political assassination.

The first half of the original trailer for Red Eye actually plays as a romantic comedy, this is made possible by the first act of the film where we get a meet cute between Lisa and a stranger well waiting in the airport. Unfortunately for her the stranger is named Jack Rippner a name almost as ridiculous as KILLian Murphy. Seriously though Murphy actually gets a bit of chance to show his range beyond the expected as Jack attempts to befriend Lisa. Murphy actually is quite the capable charmer. Murphy proves that he could have been in the airplane set romance instead, as he does have the requisite charisma needed. He makes it absolutely convincing that Jack could get into Lisa's good graces, even though Murphy does have just enough fun when alluding to the character's true nature such as his devious glance when claiming he killed his parents for naming him Jack, all in jest of course. Murphy successfully builds the relationship even as he slowly creates a growing sense of warmth and concern in Jack as he continues to speak to Lisa, and even attempts to comfort her to help her through her fear of flying. Of course this all to set up the turn as Jack suddenly reveals his true intention, and Murphy calls upon his side he also showed in his other villainous turn in 05 as Jonathan Crane aka the Scarecrow in Batman Begins.

Jack initiates his plan which involves forcing Lisa, by threatening to have her father killed, to change a VIP's hotel room in order to position him for an assassination. Murphy is great in the turn as he switches so effortlessly from calmly charming to an incisive menace. Murphy in this role is not merely giving the same performance as in Batman Begins. As Crane in Batman Begins, Murphy emphasized a more outward creepiness portraying him as essentially a psychopath just  holding it together enough to be psychiatrist. Murphy's approach here is different, though he certainly makes Jack creepy, he presents a man who does not necessarily take that much pleasure in what he does, but rather has a job to do and knows how to do it. Murphy though instead is rather chilling by showing the directness of the man as part of his plan is to make sure that Lisa complies due to fear of what he might do. Murphy creates the tension so well by bringing this off putting conviction in Jack as he goes about his plan. Murphy commands the scenes so effectively as he shows Jack switching to accommodate the situation. This includes going back to the charmer when interacting with the other passengers, but there's more to it. In his interactions with McAdams Murphy is terrific the way he manipulates every moment.

When it seems like he's getting Lisa going along, Murphy becomes almost soothing, as Jack essentially tells her it will all be over soon enough, however when she attempts to thwart him Murphy brings the real viciousness in Jack with such ease to get her to be complacent once again. Murphy is careful, in these scenes anyways, to never make Jack one note. He emphasizes the professionalism, so to speak, and never makes him just simply evil. There is just the slightest hint of humanity, perhaps a trick to make things easier, that Murphy brings in a few reactionary moments suggesting Jack has no real ill will towards her, her father or even the target, he just is doing his job. Unfortunately the film kind of falls apart once the plane lands and Lisa stabs Jack in the throat to stop his plan. The film explodes with a whole bunch of goofy moments and a general ridiculousness, and any nuance Murphy brought to Jack is lost. I don't believe this is Murphy fault mind you, in terms of what he's given to do, it basically is run after McAdams with a weapon while getting into more slapstick than one of the Three Stooges. Murphy is not even allowed to speak normally, needing to speak with cracked voice of man with throat injury. The character becomes what he might have been if a weaker actor had been in the role which just a straightforward violent killer. Murphy is more than fine in terms of going through these motions, but seems a bit of waste of the better villain he had established beforehand. Of course this is out of Murphy's hands, and he deserves credit for his very compelling work up until that point. Murphy gives a strong performance that elevates the film, the film unfortunately ends up falling a bit too far for him to be able to prop it up.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2005: Keanu Reeves in Thumbsucker

Keanu Reeves did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Perry Lyman in Thumbsucker.

Thumbsucker tells the coming age story of teenager Justin Cobb (Lou Pucci) who compulsively sucks his thumb.

Keanu Reeves is  an actor that I will admit I've come to appreciate to the point that even in his objectively bad performances there's something worth noting in the way only he could give that very terrible performance, in that way. Reeves has a one of a kind presence, which is worth something all on its own. Now that might not be the best for every role, but with the right role it can do wonders. The latter is the case here in Thumbsucker where he plays the orthodontist Perry to our main character, who attempts to help Justin with his thumb related dilemma. Reeves plays the part of the orthodontist as though he is some sort of zen master. Reeves delivers every line as though it is an essential part of his sage philosophy, as he attempts to help Justin get to the root of his problem. Reeves's approach is downright hilarious as he keeps this air of greater importance about him, with his otherworldly detachment as though he knows all the secrets that the universe may contain. In this though Reeves offers just the slight sense of desperation about it, as though it just might be an attempt to act like he knows everything rather than that he actually knows everything. I particularly like the subtle anxiousness he brings when Perry refuses to tell Justin his "power animal", despite having pictures of wolves all around his room.

After Justin rejects Perry's teaching rather forwardly, by running him off the rode in a bike race, Reeves is absent for awhile. Perry though returns unexpectedly, which a good thing because Reeves continues to be pretty amazing. Reeves drops the whole act completely only leaving just the slight leftover traces of that hippie guru personality of before. Perry is now a changed man, who has dropped his old philosophy for something new. Although what Perry is saying seems positive enough, as he even thanks Justin for incurring this change and seems to ask him about his family as though a friend or a mentor would, Reeves brings this brilliant absurdly palatable passive aggression throughout the scene. In every technical pleasantry, there is such a powerful undercurrent of venom through Reeves eyes and expression, that suggests maybe Perry isn't so happy in his new state of mind. Reeves is great as he serves the character, while being so effortlessly amusing at the same time. We unfortunately don't see Reeves again until the end of the film, but once again the wait is worth it due to Reeves's performance. Justin, after apparently "coming of age" goes to visit Perry for one more check up and "pep" talk. Perry once again offers his advice though this time the advice being that there's no real correct answer in the end. Again the way it is worded seems positive enough. Reeves once again is wonderful by creating the subtext within it. Reeves provides this overwhelming despair in Perry throughout the scene, presenting almost a husk of a man as he despondently looks off, and the only possible hope is the broken smile of a man who has given up on life. This is fantastic work by Reeves as he gives a consistently entertaining performance that also so effectively transforms Perry from a man who thinks he knows all the answers to a man who is all too aware that he knows nothing.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2005: Jeffrey Wright in Broken Flowers

Jeffrey Wright did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Winston in Broken Flowers.

Broken Flowers is an enjoyable and moving film about the an old womanizer aptly named Don Johnston (Bill Murray) trying to discover which of his old flames sent him a letter indicating that they had a son together.

Jeffrey Wright is one of those actors who is always already giving very interesting performances, yet always flies under the radar for one reason or another, though that may be changing at least at the TV level due to his outstanding work Westworld, but I digress. Wright here plays the neighbor and friend to Bill Murray's Don. His character is a very amateur detective who loves crime fiction, and who takes a particular interest in the letter sent to Murray's character. The character is technically here to serve the purpose of sending Murray on his mission of sorts, and he in turns bookends the film with his "investigation". In perhaps the style of director Jim Jarmusch no one can simply serve just a purpose there always has to be more than that, there is certainly more than that to be had with Winston particularly with Wright in the role. Wright is a delight, and hey that rhymes but don't pay too much attention that statement. The point is though that Wright certainly makes Winston quite a character to say the least, which is not saying enough in this case.

Wright plays the part with a somewhat overt, though I wouldn't quite say broad accent, that already fills Winston with an abundance of color from the outset. Wright absolutely makes this accent his own and just adds to the very idea of Winston is this somewhat kooky neighbor. Wright plays the part as one almost completely comedic side of this dramatic comedy, most of the other major characters are filled with more than a little pathos in one way or another, offers the right presence with that in mind. There's a real sense of fun that Wright brings as he shows so much honest enthusiasm in Winston going about the task of investigating the letter and cracking the case. I love just how brightly optimistic Wright is throughout his performance that plays off Murray's dour style so well. Wright is quite amusing because of just how earnest he makes Winston in every moment as he dissects the case for Don, as though he really is in the middle of a truly important situation. This is all with this unabashed sweetness to Wright's work that presents Winston as a friend who only wants to help his friend, even if he perhaps gets too much joy out of the investigation itself. He's especially effective in realizing that in a moment near the end of the film, as Wright infuses such genuine concern as he apologizes for the problems he inadvertently causes. Wright isn't in the film all that much, though I enjoyed every minute he appeared and missed him when we left him. This is a role that could have been easily overblown but Wright finds just the right approach to make Winston only ever one endearing screwball.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2005

And the Nominees Were Not:

Jeffrey Wright in Broken Flowers

Keanu Reeves in Thumbsucker

Min-sik Choi in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Cillian Murphy in Red Eye

Ghassan Massoud in Kingdom of Heaven

Edward Norton in Kingdom of Heaven

For Prediction Purposes:

Massoud From Kingdom of Heaven

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2005: Results

5. Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto - Murphy is convincing in his challenging role managing to be both humorous and heartwarming though the film doesn't seem to use his work to its fullest potential.

Best Scene: Kitty visits his mother.
4. Romain Duris in The Beat That My Heart Skipped - Duris gives moving portrayal of man wavering from a life of violence to a life of something more.

Best Scene: The final scene. 
3. Daniel Auteuil in Caché - Auteuil gives a compelling performance that effortlessly brings the needed complexity to his character's terrible situation.

Best Scene: Georges is confronted by the son. 
2. Damian Lewis in Keane - Lewis gives a harrowing and emotional resonate portrayal of  a mentally disturbed man.

Best Scene: Keane tries to find the kidnapper. 
1. Byung-hun Lee in A Bittersweet Life - Lee gives a downright brilliant performance. He is the badass lead you'd expect in such a role but goes even deeper to give a surprisingly heartbreaking and humane portrait of a man granted just a glimpse of a better life. 

Best Scene: The final scene. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2005 Supporting

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2005: Romain Duris in The Beat That My Heart Skipped

Romain Duris did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Thomas Seyr in The Beat That My Heart Skipped.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped is an intriguing film about a young man torn between a life of crime or life as a pianist.

Well this film, and performance mine some similair thematic material as the last performance and film I covered, Byung-hun Lee in A Bittersweet Life. Both films follow essentially "thugs" who see potentially a different kind of life, while undergoing particularly difficult circumstances as a criminal. The story of Thomas differs from Sun-woo, though in that Thomas's life of crime is more innately intertwined with his life in general since a great deal of it stems from his father (Niels Arestrup), who encourages a life of violence and crime. The early scenes of the film are where we see Thomas in essentially his learned life as he consorts with corrupt men of a similair ilk, and deals with whatever tasks his father might have set for him. Duris wears this life well within his performance conveying the inner tension right in his body language. Duris Thomas this constrained manner, reflecting essentially the ability for violence, even when he is technically just sitting still, there seems to be a possibility for an outburst.

Of course what is notable about Duris's portrayal of Thomas's intensity is very particular. He doesn't quite make it something that is of his very nature of a person as though he was born that way, rather it was something embedded into him. A strange dichotomy but Duris pulls this off with his performance. Duris finds the moments in which that taught violence is forced to come out, Duris portrays the way this rears its head very specifically, which relates directly to who the character really is. Now this is of course whenever there is any sense danger to begin with but it is more than that even in Duris's performance. There is brilliant way he adjusts almost the sort energy that comes from in the moments, as he becomes off putting in a way that he was not just a second before. This is particularly well shown in an early scene with his father, where the moment his father turns to his own questionable nature, Duris conveys Thomas's reaction as a reflection of his father. Again he never suggests a specific intention, but rather makes it a genuine automatic reaction at this point.

There is another side to Thomas that Duris shows to be most obvious when Thomas is investing in his time as a pianist. Thomas is reintroduced to the idea accidentally as he comes across his mother's former manager, as she was also a pianist, who asks Thomas to audition for him. Duris brings a real earnestness to these scenes, though he does not overplay them. What he does is suggest a comfort in these moments which are not readily apparent in the world of his father. Duris makes this something rather unassuming, though quite poignant, as he shows Thomas's interest as straight forward  with a real enthusiasm within it. Duris is careful to bring nuance in this enthusiasm though as he so nicely conveys the certain hesitations that are normal to someone unsure of their musical skill. The film proceeds forward as Thomas continues to practice piano in order to be ready for his audition, while dealing with his corrupt business partners as well as his father's downward spiral which only becomes worse due to his own shady connections.

Duris portrays Thomas essentially a man in an emotional limbo of sorts where he is pulled to one side or another depending on the situation. Throughout the film when the situation becomes stressful in almost anyway, even during his time with the piano, Duris portrays the needed visceral reaction in Thomas to this. Duris shows the man falling right upon basically what his father taught him, and Duris does not hold back in revealing just how vicious the man becomes. Duris takes this further than just physical assault, also bringing such venom in his verbal attacks when the situation calls for it. In all this Duris suggests almost a mindlessness about it, in that Thomas never chooses this exactly, instead the way he has been raised often brings him to this point. In contrast when he is allowed to find a bit of solace, whether it is through the piano or just not dealing with the worst side of people for a moment, Duris reveals a better man seeking what appears to be a better life. Duris keeps at the heart of his arc for Thomas, a subtle change. Not in the man entirely, but rather in terms of conveying the self-reflection the character slowly achieves.  Duris is careful to show that this technically does not change his actions through the film yet gives sense to this. There's a scene late involving Thomas's father, and Duris brings the very understandable attachment, as Thomas loves his father despite what his lessons have done to him. Duris never brushes off the history of the character, and is rather affecting as he brings the very real conflict in Thomas to life. This is best represented perhaps by his final scene where the two sides of his life are in the same moment, as he must violently resolve a situation just before a piano concert. Duris is powerful by giving the intensity within the violence, yet revealing the devastation in Thomas is now all to aware of what he does, and what he is.