Sunday, 2 October 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1960: Alec Guinness in Tunes of Glory

Alec Guinness did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite receiving a BAFTA nomination, for portraying Major Jock Sinclair in Tunes of Glory.

Tunes of Glory is an interesting film about the power struggle in an army regiment during peacetime between the former commanding officer and his newly arrived superior.

Alec Guinness was obviously no stranger to playing the military type, having won his Oscar from such a role in The Bridge on the River Kwai. This role in no way repeats that former turn though as Jock Sinclair could not be more different from Colonel Nicholson from that earlier film. This is made abundantly clear from the first scene of the film as Jock and the regiment are partying to sendoff Jock from no longer being the CO. Guinness fashions a Scottish brogue and changes his physical manner in a particularly interesting way to create the Major's personal style. Guinness once again brings a proper quality fitting to a career soldier, in that Jock does have an often stiff posture. There is however a variation in that whenever duty does not call, such as in the opening scene, this is almost lost entirely. He becomes a man who does not mind in the least to indulge in the pleasures of life, bringing a very course quality who fits right in with the rest of the regiment as they drink, smoke, and dance the night away.

Jock finds himself in a strange place as the new commanding officer comes in, Lieutenant Colonel Basil Barrow (John Mills), though Jock is still in the regiment. Jock though had lead the unit during war and it is only in peace that he is replaced. The nature of the replacement offers an interesting challenge for Guinness's performance since simply showing a petulant jealousy wouldn't quite fit the man. Guinness always reinforces that, despite whatever else he might be, he is a soldier who believes in the life of a soldier, however that does not make him a good man or even a great soldier. Guinness performance is very astute in the way he creates a different disregard for his new commander, which isn't so simple. In fact Guinness depicts a genuine humility of sorts in Jock as he apologizes for the rowdiness of the crowd, which Guinness again effectively attaches to the fact that Jock does want to be a good soldier even in this difficult situation.

As the story proceeds Jock begins to undermine Colonel Barrow's authority, and Guinness is terrific in the way he portrays this specific behavior which is not shown in quite the way one would usually expect. He does not show it to be an active disregard for the man, but rather just his instinctual response to the man. There is some sense allowed to Jock for this behavior as he began as just a boy in the regiment and worked his way up to commander through a war before Barrow came. Guinness bring an important honesty in revealing this story as the passion he brings to Jock is pure in this description. The devotion in his eyes, and fierceness of his words place a real sorrow in being displaced, though again he does not break rank exactly. He stays as a soldier and only voices his complaints in a solemn fashion. The problem with Jock ends up being that he's just not a very good man, which basically compels his problematic behavior as a soldier as well.

Jock by nature is a bit of bully and Guinness presents this behavior in a fascinating fashion. It never is depicted by Guinness as an exact malice of the man, rather a innate flaw that relates heavily with a terrible temper. Guinness is excellent in the scenes where Jock interacts with his fully grown daughter (Susannah York) where he is constantly critical of her behavior, and hates instantly any man she has any affection for. Guinness's performance makes this a gut reaction at all times, as Jock can't help himself when his authority is questioned even with his family. This only continues with his interactions with Barrow, which eventually overlap with his daughter when Jock suddenly attacks a soldier who was seeing his daughter. There is only a vicious anger of a brute that Guinness brings to the action, and a lack of any self-control as the way he tries to ignore the issue only proceeds to undermine Barrow as a CO. Guinness is great because he makes the cruelty of the man so subtle, since it is never exactly intentional yet nevertheless is always harmful.

Jock's behavior eventually leads to something horrible that cannot be righted. This brings Guinness's strongest scene of the film as the Major attempts to make up for the wrongs he has committed by suddenly attempting to be the best soldier possible. Guinness is outstanding in this scene as he is so tense in the beginning trying to reveal his perfect plan, and Guinness makes it a especially powerful scene as every second this resolve begins to crumble under the pressure. Guinness is surprisingly moving as he has Jock slowly fall apart as the guilt of his actions overwhelm him. Guinness makes the scene all the more of an impact as he had crafted such a commanding presence and it is properly disconcerting to see the man lose it all in his breakdown. Guinness earns the moment without question and delivers it flawlessly. It's a striking and rather intriguing portrait of a soldier by Guinness. This time being a portrait not of the destruction due to devotion to a soldier's code, but rather the destruction by not truly understanding how to adhere to one.

40 comments:

Giuseppe Fadda said...

I haven't seen this yet but I eventually will. He's such a great actor.

Calvin Law said...

Thoughts and ratings for Mills and York?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Seen anything new lately.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 2010's Hud.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

I'll save Mills for the moment.

York - 3(Very limited role. She's about as good as one could be though.)

Anonymous:

Hud directed by Jeff Nichols

Hud: Matthew McConaughey
Homer: Sam Shepard
Lonnie Bannon: Tye Sheridan
Alma: Jessica Chastain

Calvin Law said...

That's probably one of the more straightforward casts in a while haha.

Robert MacFarlane said...

That's... kind of obvious of a recast. I'd be willing to roll the dice and have Chris Pine play Hud based on his work in Hell or High Water.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert & Calvin:

Hard to mix it up when it just seems right. I mean there are only a few actors around who could play Hud since he has to have an overt charisma. Pine I could see working though.

94dfk1 said...

I've been catching up on this year's movies recently:
Eye in the Sky: 4.5/5 (Quite good actually)
The Shallows: 4/5 (127 Hours meets Jaws. Climax is a little over-the-top but not bad overall)
Swiss Army Man: 4/5 (Very unique and committed performances out of Dano and Radcliffe)
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates: 2/5 (Ugh)
The Infiltrator: 3.5/5 (Pretty workmanlike and derivative of Donnie Brasco, but Cranston does shine)
Cafe Society: 3.5/5 (Good, but not great Woody Allen)
The Secret Life of Pets: 3/5 (It'll entertain the smaller ones for an hour and a half at least.)

Not a good start for The Girl on the Train on Rotten Tomatoes so far.

RatedRStar said...

The Girl On The Train has a pretty poor trailer which doesn't seem to have any suspense and the fact that it gives away who did it just like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy did is pretty disappointing.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Just saw Queen of Katwe. Louis, I know you were dismissive of Lupita in 12 Years a Slave, but I think you'll be way more impressed with her work here. (Oyelowo is pretty damn good too).

Anonymous said...

Louis: Rating and thoughts on Ann Todd in The Seventh Veil, The Passionate Friends and The Paradine Case.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

She's probably the best in the Paradine case where she just needs to be the slightly assertive love interest for Peck's character, she doesn't have much of a role, but I will say she does well with the little she has.

She's the definite weak link in both of the other two films. She's overshadowed completely by Mason and Rains despite having much more screetime. In both she has rather juicy roles to begin with. Todd plays them in such a bland lifeless fashion though that she makes no impact, despite the material clearly being there. She relies on a very limited set of choices, mostly seeming to try to emulate what Celia Johnson did in Brief Encounter, and failing miserably. There is no nuance in her gazes, just a blank stare. If one can imagine Celia Johnson in The Seventh Veil and The Passionate Friends for a moment, it becomes clear just how underwhelming Todd was in them.

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, Your Thoughts and rating on the cast of 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice'

Varun Neermul said...

Also your thoughts on 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' as a movie

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: The ten performances that improved the most for you, and ten that declined the most for you, on a rewatch.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: I'm quite sure Mara's #1 for the former and I'd guess Kevin Spacey in American Beauty for the latter.

Alex Marqués said...

American Beauty isn't particularly great, but I think Spacey does a pretty good job in it.

Louis Morgan said...

Varun:

I believe I covered Cannon before.

Wood - 2(Way overplays her role at every step. There's no humanity whatsoever and she seems like a caricature the whole time.)

Culp - 3.5(He's very one note for much of the film, but does not overdo his "enlightened" status the way Wood does. In addition the scene where he learns that Wood is practicing what he preaches, he's pretty great.)

Tahmeed:

Hasn't happened that often, usually it's technically more marginal (.5 changes theoretically speaking), so how about top fives instead.

Improved:

1. Richard Dreyfuss - The Goodbye Girl
2. Russell Crowe - Gladiator
3. Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
4. Louise Fletcher - One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
5. Clint Eastwood - Unforgiven

Declined:

1. Natalie Portman - Black Swan
2. Kevin Spacey - American Beauty
3. Sean Penn - Mystic River
4. Peter Firth - Equus
5. Richard Burton - Equus

Calvin Law said...

Louis: What did you originally give Fletcher, Eastwood, Penn and the Equus boys? I imagine Dreyfuss must've been a low 2 or something before you re-watched him, Mara was previously a 3.5, and from what I've garnered from your retrospective thoughts the initial impact of Portman and Spacey might've hovered around strong 4's or 4.5's.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Penn was a 3.5 originally.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Whom would you consider Leonardo Dicaprio's contemporaries?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Rating and thoughts on Dylan Walsh, Laura Linney, Ernie Hudson, Tim Curry and Joe Don Baker in Congo.

Alex Marqués said...

Has anyone seen The Wailing? According to the reviews, it's very good.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: What was the very first score that you gave Crowe in Gladiator? (before he got upgraded to a 3.5)

Calvin Law said...

Tahmeed: He was a 3.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed & Calvin: He was a 2 first time round.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Seen anything new recently.

Calvin Law said...

Damn, a 2? Gosh.

What does everyone make of the John Wick 2 trailer?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Have you seen Gargoyles? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

Calvin Law said...

Bleed for This: decent boxing film with an interesting dynamic and excellent performances by the three most prominent cast members, but it feels rather tried and tested, generic, no real sense of flair. Competently made but nothing really stands out as daring in any way.

Teller - 4 (solid physical performance particularly in the second half, and nails his emotional beats, but what stands out most is his charismatic handling of his character's star presence)

Eckhart - 4 (thrown a few too many cliches in his direction but he really disappears into the role, has some very good chemistry with Teller, and has some hilarious moments)

Hinds - 4 (a very interesting portrayal of a father figure as he starts out by being rather uncouth and entertainingly so, but then proceeds to become a more heartfelt and moving presence. The scene where he breaks down to reveal his love for his son is close to being amazing)

Luke Higham said...

R.I.P. Andrzej Wajda

94dfk1 said...

Calvin: You already saw it early? Seems like the boxing genre can't seem to venture too far outside it's cliches, tropes and plot beats.

Calvin Law said...

94dfk1: Yeah at a BFI premiere. I'd agree to an extent, but Creed managed to find a way around that incredibly well.

Varun Neermul said...

Watching Robert Ford talking to Jesse James is so awkward that it hurts.

Alex Marqués said...

Is it the first time you watch it? Love that film.

Varun Neermul said...

No, it's the second time. Appreciating it a lot more. My favorite move of 2007

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what's your rating and thoughts on Peter Falk in Wings of Desire, as well as your thoughts on the cinematography of Skyfall?

Alex Marqués said...

I appreciated it a lot more the second time. Affleck's acting is so subtle that I took his performance for granted the first time.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Fletcher - 3.5
Eastwood - 3.5
Burton - 4.5(should be lowered to a 3.5)
Firth - 4

In regards to John Wick 2, my excitement is just as it was before the trailer. In that I did not love the trailer, but just as a trailer. Can't wait for the film.

94dk1:

Matt Damon. No one quite has his particular stature these days in terms of star power though, although I would say that has at least something to do with very well established directors.

Anonymous:

Walsh and Linney are bland.

Hudson is fairly entertaining doing his weird Clark Gable impression.

Tim Curry is ridiculous but enjoyably so.

Joe Don Baker is just ridiculous.

Luke:

No.

Anonymous:

I have but not much, and don't remember it very well.

Matt:

Falk - 4.5(It's great work by Falk, playing Peter Falk and playing into that Columbo image. It's rather brilliant introspective work of sorts as there is this humorous touch to it, but also an intriguing quality about him. He's not devilish yet there is a very interesting way he prods along the angel to fall. He does it well though not as trying to make him do something wrong, but rather encourage him to enjoy what he can have.)

The Skyfall work is Bond perfection, the best Bond has ever looked. Of course Bond is known for is beautiful vistas, which are more beautiful than ever, particularly the Shanghai scenes. It goes further in just the framing and composition of every shot that it is simply stunning throughout. Also special mention to Deakins for realizing so well the way it slowly becomes night in the final showdown.