Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2015: Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina

Oscar Isaac did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Nathan Bateman in Ex Machina.

Ex Machina an intriguing film about a programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who is "randomly" selected to test the new invention by the CEO of his company.

Oscar Isaac plays the role of the CEO Nathan, and really Oscar Isaac is a bit of chameleon as an actor. Not really in say the Gary Oldman fashion, but rather in the Masayuki Mori fashion. That being he really does not reinvent his accent or anything yet still seems so dissimilar from role to role. Take his output in 2015 for example where he was quite successful in being the hot shot action hero type in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Poe Dameron, Though his accent is indeed the same he could seem more different as Nathan in this film. Isaac is a bit of a master in knowing how to carry himself differently, in again a very subtle way, yet the physical manner he takes with Nathan makes him seem like a wholly different person than the hot shot pilot from Star Wars. The funny thing both characters are even extroverts with Poe though he was directly extroverted, as in he was purposefully trying to make friends with anyone worthwhile, yet with Nathan Isaac does something very clever in that he's extroverted in a way that never quite seems entirely comfortable. Not that he's not really extroverted, he is, but the way Isaac presents does not make Nathan inherently likable.

Now there is something Isaac seems to be doing at the heart of his work, but I'll get to that later. In terms of the machinations of the plot though Nathan appears as though his constant is that of contradiction. In his very first scene Nathan is working out as well as drinking healthy liquids, but then proceeds to explain it as an attempt to recover from a severe hangover he has from drinking the night before. Isaac takes this idea to his creation of Nathan's personality in terms of his interactions with Caleb, and to a lesser extent his creation an android named Ava (Alicia Vikander). When Caleb first meets Nathan, Isaac plays it up giving Nathan a considerable charm, no doubt needed to be the head of a such a large company, as he suggests someone so excited to let someone else see what it is that he's created. The excitement in Nathan in the moment is extremely persuasive by Isaac as anyone probably would sign the ridiculous non-disclosure agreement that Caleb is forced to, since Isaac suggest only something unforgettable could possibly await. This is only made even easier as at this point, Isaac brings a considerable warmth as though Nathan really only simply wants Caleb to see this world changing invention.

However things begin to change when Caleb begins to conduct Turing tests to see whether or not Ava has true consciousness. From this point on Isaac never leaves Nathan as easy to decipher, instead being a bit of an enigma. There are moments where Nathan tells Caleb about how he actually developed Ava and in these moments Isaac exudes the needed smooth intelligence as well as proposes the sort of underlying passion that would be necessary for someone to create such a thing. Then at the same time whenever Caleb becomes too interested in merely the technical side of what makes Ava works, Isaac rejects the notion of the proper brilliant inventor. In these moments there is a dismissive tone that Isaac finds as though Nathan is almost holding his expertise above Caleb, and he does not want his input on the technical side of things since he does not need it. Isaac is terrific as he makes Nathan always slightly insulting in these moments not only because he seems to be stroking his ego to a certain extent, but also because he seems to purposefully try to turn Caleb's question against Caleb in some way. These are not jarring transitions but rather natural as Isaac presents Nathan as a genius, but does not feel like he always has to act like one.

Isaac is great though in the way he also plays with Nathan's relationship with Caleb, as he'll go like in that initial meeting where he seems to be quite encouraging, as well as seems to really believe in Caleb in some way. That's not always the case though as Caleb's own relationship with Ava continues to develop. Isaac though does not always keep this supportive attitude, especially when Nathan is drunk by making him not a particularly pleasant drunk to be around. However Nathan's nature goes even past this whenever he discusses the possible fate of Ava, and his own relationship with her. Isaac is able to be quite menacing here in a rather understated way as he suggests this certain darkness in Nathan whenever he directly deals with Ava, or it seems Caleb is becoming too concerned about her. Whenever Caleb tells Nathan a lie, Isaac creates this certain feeling of unease towards the film by indicating, mostly just through his reactions, that something is not right. As the film proceeds Isaac gradually makes this certain villainous side of Nathan grow as it slowly seems to become clear that he is the evil man that Ava claims that he is to Caleb.

Of course the masterstroke of this performance comes its revealing finale as the truth comes out about Nathan, that being the actual center of Isaac's work is around the fact that Nathan is just a BRO at heart. Isaac coalesces all lingering threads involving his character with this fact. His whole maniacal scientist routine was purposefully played up just to fool Caleb into helping Ava all the more. His ever changing mood, part put on, part standard potential moodiness of a true Bro. The reason this is behind all of behavior in some way is found in the revelation scene where Nathan shows what he had been up to all along. When he reveals that he's been duping Caleb Isaac is fantastic because he does not depict it as though he's an evil mastermind gloating about it, but rather is pretty casual in his explanation. Oscar's delivery is less "you were a pawn all along" to more of "sorry dude, but I had to make sure my A.I. pure". Of course him being a BRO was never hidden, with his constant dunking and the fact that he did not mind making a crude remark quite often. What I love though is Isaac in the end makes Nathan less than he might have been, but in the best way. He's technically more inconsiderate than outright maniacal  My favorite moment in the film already gives this away, when Nathan breaks out into a surprise dance number. Technically Nathan could be doing his evil routine but at this point Isaac shows who Nathan really is as he'd rather just tear up the dance floor at this point. Isaac by embracing the BRO side to the extent that he does not only makes sense of the character's motivations throughout, but also makes this an extremely entertaining performance to watch. It's really a fun approach yet Isaac never compromises the tone or intensity of the film, but instead succeeds in only ever amplifying both.


Luke Higham said...

I'm glad you liked him. :)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is Gleeson up to a 4.5.

Deiner said...

I agree, he was great.

Robert MacFarlane said...

It says something that this is only my fourth favorite Oscar Isaac performance. The man is a bonafide genius.

Calvin Law said...

Watching Show Me a Hero now and have to agree very strongly with Robert. I think I'd rank his top 4 performances:

1. ILD
2. A Most Violent Year
3. Show Me a Hero
4. Ex Machina

The man is a genius indeed.

Anonymous said...

I really love Oscar Isaac a lot, and I found this performance absolutely amazing. He's one of my favorite actors working nowadays along with Fassbender.

Calvin Law said...

Also not really an acting thing but the man's got moves.

Luke Higham said...

My Ten Favourite Actors currently working.
Tom Hardy
Michael Fassbender
Ben Foster
Oscar Isaac
Brendan Gleeson
Mark Rylance
Ian McKellen
Ben Whishaw
Gary Oldman
Ralph Fiennes

I excluded Day-Lewis, since he acts once every 4-5 years.

Alex Marqués said...

Great review Louis! Glad you liked it, he created a fascinating character in this great movie.
Isaac is one hell of an actor, and his career since 2013 has been crazily good. I really need to watch Show Me A Hero.

Alex Marqués said...

Everyone: Can I have your Best Actress/Supporting Actress nominees for 2008, 2009 and 2012?

mcofra7 said...


Calvin Law said...

Luke: Mine would be kind of the same as yours, with a few exceptions :)

Tom Hardy
Oscar Isaac
Brendan Gleeson
Christoph Waltz
Matt Damon
Christian Bale
Ian McKellen
Matthew McConaughey
Sam Rockwell/Samuel L. Jackson

I left Ben Whishaw and Mark Rylance off because I need to see more of them, and Gary Oldman because his current output isn't particularly notable.

Luke Higham said...

Kristin Scott Thomas - I've Loved You So Long
Sally Hawkins - Happy Go Lucky
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Cate Blanchett - The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Amy Adams - Doubt
Viola Davis - Doubt
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

Kim Hye-Ja - Mother
Carey Mulligan - An Education
Gabouray Sidibe - Precious
Saoirse Ronan - The Lovely Bones

Mo'Nique - Precious
Melanie Laurent - Inglourious Basterds
Marion Cotillard - Public Enemies
Diane Kruger - Inglourious Basterds
Samantha Morton - The Messenger

Marion Cotillard - Rust And Bone
Naomi Wats - The Impossible
Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty
Quvenzhane Wallis - Beasts Of The Soutern Wild

Doona Bae - Cloud Atlas
Amy Adams - The Master
Sally Field - Lincoln
Linda Bright Clay - Seven Psychopaths

Robert MacFarlane said...

By the way Louis, I'm surprised you hated Middleton and Booth more than Kunis and Tatum in Jupiter Ascending. I actually didn't mind them all that much whereas I found the two leads almost entirely phoned in and charisma drained.

Luke Higham said...

*Gabourey Sdibe

Louis Morgan said...


I'll stand by Tatum for the action scenes only, I agree he was phoned in the rest of the time. Maybe I put down the wrong rating, or I guess I did not sound negative enough but I definitely hated Kunis's performance even more than Middleton's and Booth's.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Did Gleeson go up on a rewatch.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Great review.
What are your thoughts and ratings on:
Judith Anderson in Laura
Lon Chaney Jr. in The Defiant Ones
Robert Montgomery in They Were Expendable (Wayne as well) and Ride the Pink Horse
Paul Muni in A Song to Remember
Cary Grant in Suspicion

Calvin Law said...


Best Actress:
1. Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) 4.5, though I would not argue with anyone who puts her supporting and I might move her over there
2. Angelina Jolie (Changeling) 4
3. Meryl Streep (Doubt) 4
4. Elizabeth Banks (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) 4
5. Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) 4

Best Supporting Actress:
1. Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) 4.5
2. Amy Adams (Doubt) 4.5
3. Tilda Swinton (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) 4
4. Gwenyth Paltrow (Iron Man) 4
5. Clemence Poesy (In Bruges) 4

Best Actress:
1. Carey Mulligan (An Education) 5
2. Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) 4.5
3. Gabourey Sidbe (Precious) 4.5
4. Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) 4
5. Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) 4
Also: Julianne Nicholson (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men) 4

Best Supporting Actress
1. Monique (Precious) 5
2. Marion Cotillard (Public Enemies) 5
3. Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) 4.5
4. Helen Mirren (The Last Station) 4
5. Lauren Ambrose (Where the Wild Things Are) 4

Best Actress: (haven't seen A Royal Affair)
1. Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) 5
2. Naomi Watts (The Impossible) 4.5/5
3. Maggie Smith (Quartet) 4.5
4. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) 4.5
(undecided for 5th place between Lawrence, Riva, and many other strong candidates)

Best Supporting Actress:
1. Sally Field (Lincoln) 4.5
2. Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas) 4.5
3. Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina) 4
4. Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises) 4
5. Lena Headey (Dredd, yes, Dredd) 4 (I really need to watch Game of Thrones as I thoroughly enjoyed her villainous turn here)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Hail, Caesar!, early critical reaction.

Calvin Law said...

I thought Tatum wasn't horrible in Jupiter Ascending. Far from good, and I can see why Robert detested his performance, but I think he pretty much played the role as well as he could've...which given the role itself, isn't saying much.

But yeah out of the whole crappy film, Kunis was worse than Middleton (who I actually quite liked), Booth (who was kind of bland but not without a certain charisma), Tatum, Redmayne and any of the other dreadful CGI figures combined.

Alex Marqués said...

Thank you guys! ;)

Calvin Law said...

Luke: Apparently Fiennes and Ehrenreich are the highlights.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Though I haven't read the reviews, just the RT score, It's a bit disappointing that Clooney hasn't been singled out thus far, but what can you do.

Calvin Law said...

Would that it were so simple :)

mcofra7 said...

Not digging Cheadle in the Miles Ahead trailer

Calvin Law said...

Same. Hopefully the mannerisms will work out but for the timebeing is seems very 'actory'.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Unlike Louis, I'm also a huge fan of Redmayne's space screaming. Five Wiseaus. No, six!

RatedRStar said...

Louis I need to ask you something, I am in the mood for a laugh so I looked at numerous performances that you ranked last, Matt Milne for War Horse came to mind, if you can, could you tell me what minute of the film he gets gassed?

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: It should be between 1h 40 - 2h 05.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Also, I actually called that Ehrenreich would be singled out for praise in Hail, Caesar. The Coens only take in relative unknowns if they have the utmost faith in their abilities to pull off the roles they gave them. Plus he was surprisingly good in that Beautiful Creatures movie despite it being Southern fried Twilight.

Gus B. said...

YES! Isaac stands as my win for last year as supporting.

1. Arta Dobroshi - Lorna's Silence - 5
2. Angelina Jolie - Changeling - 4.5
3. Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married - 4.5
4. Julianne Moore - Blindness - 4.5
5. Cate Blanchett - Benjamin Button - 4.5

1. Penélope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - 4.5
2. Viola Davis - Doubt - 4.5
3. Kyôko Koizumi - Tokyo Sonata - 4.5
4. Juliette Binoche - Summer Hours - 4
5. Taraji P. Henson - Benjamin Button - 4

1. Hye-ja Kim - Mother - 5
2. Emily Blunt - Young Victoria - 5
3. Golshifteh Farahani - About Elly - 5
4. Mélanie Laurent - Inglourious Basterds - 4.5
5. Abbie Cornish - Bright Star - 4.5

1. Mo'Nique - Precious - 5
2. Marion Cotillard - Nine - 5
3. Sabine Azéma - Les herbes folles - 4.5
4. Diane Krüger - Inglourious Basterds - 4
5. Vera Farmiga - Up In The Air - 4

1. Marion Cotillard - Rust And Bone - 5
2. Quvenzhané Wallis - Beasts of The Southern Wild - 5
3. Meryl Streep - Hope Springs - 4.5
4. Emmanuelle Riva - Amour - 4.5
5. Alicia Vikander - A Royal Affair - 4.5

1. Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linnings Playbook - 5
2. Helen Hunt - The Sessions - 4.5
3. Samantha Barks - Les Misérables - 4.5
4. Amy Adams - The Master - 4.5
5. Pauline Collins - Quartet - 4.5

ruthiehenshallfan99 said...

Luke and RRatedStar: How morbid.

Michael McCarthy said...

Glad you saw the brilliance in this performance.

So I guess next is gonna be Del Toro & Brolin, then The Hateful Eight, then Hoult, then Driver. That's fine, but ahhhhhhh I need Hoult's review.

Louis Morgan said...


Yes 4.5.


Anderson - (She's fine but really does not make too much of an impact)

Chaney Jr. - (If someone should have been nominated for supporting actor for the film it should have been him. It's a good bit of work from him as he brings an earnest yet rough righteous passion in his scene, and suggests really a rather interesting character that I wish we saw more of)

Montgomery - They Were Expendable - (A fine performance, extremely straight forward but he does well as just a good military type of guy role)

Wayne - (Standard war Wayne type but a fine enough example of it)

Ride the Pink Horse - (A very interesting performance as he brings a coldness to the role that actually leaves it open whether or not his character is taking his action for revenge or just personal gain. His slow revelation of something else is really well handled and I pretty much love his final reaction as we see a different man coming out from his experience.)

Muni - (Muni's overacting actually benefits from just how dull his co-star is, since it seems like Muni had to go big lest he be eaten alive by the vapidness of the film's direction.)

I believe I've covered Grant before.

Louis Morgan said...


Well it should be morbid, but the film makes sure that's not.

Louis Morgan said...


Oh and Isaac would be another good choice for an alternate Mike Rezendes.

Calvin Law said...


Alex Marqués said...

Agreed, he would've been much better.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Other actors that were considered for the role of Vito Corleone were Ernest Borgnine, Orson Welles, Anthony Quinn and George C. Scott. What do you think of these choices?

Louis Morgan said...


I think all could have been potentially great. Quinn and Welles probably something similair to what Brando did, though definitely less mannered particularly in Quinn's case. Scott and Borgnine could have been a great as well though I think they would have developed a rather different character with their performances.