Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1960: John Mills in Tunes of Glory

John Mills did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite receiving a BAFTA nomination and winning the Volpi Cup, for portraying Lieutenant Colonel Basil Barrow in Tunes of Glory.

John Mills's place in this film has a bit in common with his character in the film. In that as Colonel Basil Barrow, who is taking over command from Major Jock Sinclair (Alec Guinness), he should be the lead of the film and the man in charge. Unfortunately old Jock and Guinness insist on being the center of attention, and poor Colonel Barrow can't even quite make it as a co-lead since all his actions in the end relate to the way they effect Sinclair. That's in no way to dismiss Mills's performance though, as he has quite the challenge and thankless job to fulfill, much like the Barrow as he tries to clean up the rowdy unit he has taken on. I will admit that Mills is an actor, though more than reliable, often is overshadowed by his co-stars. That is technically the point of Barrow in the film as he's suppose to be overshadowed by Jock, but in a weird way Mills isn't actually overshadowed here. In fact he very much plays his part quite cleverly in the restricted margins.

In the early scenes of the film Mills effectively puts up the front of the proper leader who wants to get his regiment into shape, in a normal fashion. Mills does well to actually play into the thinness of this prospect as he does not portray a direct passion, rather he emphasizes just a man who wants things in order as they should be in a professional fashion. This earns the man little respect from most of the men, particularly not Jock who worked his way up to command after starting out as a boy in the regiment. Mills again is good in portraying the internalized exasperation of the man as he conveys the active effort of Barrow to stay on good terms with everyone, while attempting to lay down the law as a proper commander. The problems only continue as Jock's behavior only gets more out of control and the insubordination continues. Mills's performance works wonders as he reveals technically the man's fault as he does not press issues, but also a real earnestness as he shows only a man with the utmost respect for the regiment itself.

In the scene where Barrow reveals his own connection to the regiment, having been part of it the same year Jock was in prison for his usual drunken behavior, Mills reveals such a genuine passion in the man's words as he attempts to explain how important the regiment truly is. Mills is painful to watch, in a good way, in the moment because he has Barrow only reveal the truth as though he is talking to a trusted friend, yet Jock only continues to mock him when he learns Barrow was a POW in the war. Now this aspect of Barrow's past is especially well handled by Mills's performance. Mills never emphasizes in order to wholly reveal what his terrible prison time has done. Instead Mills wears it within Barrow as a man which again is a brilliant approach. Mills in doing so quietly reveals the trauma in his more intimate moments yet the wear the rest of the time seems to paint the man as though he does not quite have the needed confidence for a proper leader. Mills allows us to see the man while at the same time he presents the "coward" to Jock.

Jock forces a direct power struggle by hitting an enlisted man, an action that should lead to court martial but it is up to Barrow to initiate the charges. Again what's great about Mills's work is that he gives us everything while having Barrow only exude an indecisiveness towards the rest of the men. Mills gives us a man conflicted by his belief in the regiment and desire to hold true to the old guard, but again it only appears as weakness at a glance. Eventually Barrow decides to try to make truce with Jock, and again Mills is incredibly moving by bringing such honesty in the warmth he brings as man who only wants best for regiment. Jock claims to agree to support him but such support never materializes. This unfortunately also leads to any potential support to dry up since he did not court martial Jock when he should have. Mills is heartbreaking in the scene as he watches this betrayal, as the men mock his authority right in front of him. Mills wears the terrible anger and despair so effectively, that he makes Barrow's final actions merely seem an inevitability. It is the best performance I have seen by John Mills, as he matches Guinness's work not trying to go against him, but rather by working around him to craft a tragic portrait of soldier broken by his own men.

30 comments:

Calvin Law said...

Oh I agree, a very interesting performance for sure. I'd put him first but I have a feeling Sellers might get another 5.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

Great review as usual Louis :)

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 1950's version of Rumble Fish.

Calvin Law said...

Saw American Honey. Not nearly as enthused as vast majority of critics and it does feel Malick-lite at points, but does have some fantastic sequences and two great principal performances.

Lane - 5
LaBoeuf - 4.5
Keough - 3.5

Louis Morgan said...

Giuseppe:

Thanks.

Anonymous:

Rumble Fish (1950's, directed by, eh, Nicholas Ray)

Rusty: Dennis Hopper
The Motorcycle Boy: James Dean
Patty: Natalie Wood
Father: Robert Ryan
Cassandra: Lee Grant
Midget: James Earl Jones

Giuseppe Fadda said...

Louis what are your ratings and thoughts on Diane Lane and Diana Scarwid in Rumble Fish?

RatedRStar said...

John Mills was probably the best performer in Cats, Id suggest him for 1998 supporting but I dont think Cats counts =D.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I'm an hour through watching The Innocents (it's my first time watching it), and damn is it chilling.
Louis: Would you say that the supernatural part of the story is real, or if it's made up in Miss Gidden's mind?

Luke Higham said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Div0iP65aZo

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the Logan trailer.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your overall thoughts on these directors:
Raoul Walsh
Mervyn LeRoy
Brian De Palma
John Frankenheimer
Alan J. Pakula

Louis Morgan said...

Giuseppe:

I have to admit I can barely remember their performances, and I did not watch the film all that long ago.

Tahmeed:

I'd interpret it as made up in her mind, since Miles could not see Quint at the end, as a way for her to rationalize the children's behavior which in reality likely stemmed from abuse by the original caretakers before they died.

Anonymous:

Raoul Walsh - (One of the most underrated of the period. His films had a real grit at a time where glamor was the norm, this is even the case for his great romantic comedy The Strawberry Blonde. His films had an intensity to them. Although of course he was working in the code he never seemed restricted by it. The viciousness of the violence was evident without being graphic, and although criminals were always punished there was a real sympathy for them all the same.)

Mervyn LeRoy - (Looking at LeRoy's filmography I'd say he's one of those directors where you might be able to detect what interested in him. In that his direction could be a little lopsided, in that he seemed far more concerned with the oddballs the straights. There seems so much more energy in the scenes with Rico in Little Caesar, with the crazy landscaper and the crazy girl in the Bad Seed, Van Heflin in Johnny Eager and of course with the mad Emperor Nero in Quo Vadis than any of their sensible co-star. When dealing in those characters LeRoy's work had a real passion, when not, his work could be a little bland.)

Brian De Palma - (A curious filmmaker to follow as he began his mainstream career by directly aping Hitchcock while the old master was still alive. De Palma did fashion his own style and approach through his love of camp or at the very least extremes. This would be both a great asset and enemy. When the material called for it, Carrie, Blow Out, Casualties of War it worked wonders in emotionally captivating and visually stunning fair. When the material needed a bit more variation, a bit more intimacy, dare I say subtly, though De Palma would seem lost at sea. Black Dahlia is the perfect representation of limits and abilities. The film is visually stunning, and those Mia Kirshner scenes are truly haunting. The overall film though flounders as De Palma can't help but exploit every element of the story to the point of ridiculousness.)

Louis Morgan said...

John Frankenheimer - (I have to say he probably should have stayed in black and white. He had clearly such a real passion and wholly understood the art of the classic canvas. In color his films just never matched the work you saw in his early career like The Train, The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days of May. Now this is not to say he was a bad director in color. French Connection II, Black Sunday and The Iceman Cometh are all good films. You'd never guess that it was the same man as his earlier work, as he seemed colorblind. He was still a good story teller but that visual panache was lost, well in comparison.)

Alan J. Pakula - (His best film, All the President's Men, had a incredible screenplay and his direction matched it every step of way. One should not disqualify his work there at all as there are so many brilliant choices throughout the film in creating such a sense of paranoia in addition to keeping a procedural so alive. Just ponder on some of those moments, such as the calls to take down the president well the tv plays his reelection at the same time, or that legendary panning above the two small reporters admits the grand conspiracy. Honestly I could go on all day about that film. If the screenplay wasn't as as strong though, Pakula's work actually still usually added something to the film. Klute I find a ponderous thriller, since the story and characters just aren't there, damned if it isn't atmospheric though. Pakula knew how to craft a scene in a compelling fashion, but sometimes the scenes just weren't worth it.)

Luke:

Well the trailer cheated using that song. I have to admit I really liked it. Jackman and Stewart look both very promising and I'm actually glad its not a direct Old Man Logan adaptation (Millar is too problematic of a writer). Mangold ability as a visual stylist still looks a little underwhelming, imagine some "The Road" type imagery instead, but I'm excited to see it.

Calvin Law said...

I actually think Pakula's direction is tied with the screenplay as the best thing about All the President's Men. Glad you give it credit there too Louis.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I have to admit the Logan trailer was impressive.

Luke Higham said...

What are everyone's top ten Mini-Series.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your rating and thoughts on Bakshi's Lord Of The Rings and your rating/thoughts on John Hurt.

Anonymous said...

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

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Hurt - 3.5(Although the voice acting of the film is not exactly stellar across the board Hurt is excellent. The sheer command of Aragorn as a character is felt through Hurt's voice, and he's particularly effective in his opening scene suggesting the certain mystery and darkness of the man along with his more heroic qualities.)

Anonymous:

Advise and Consent (2010's Directed by David Fincher)

Leffingwell: Jeff Daniels
Seab Cooley: James Woods
Brig Anderson: Jake Gyllenhaal
Bob Munson: Kevin Kline
Lafe Smith: Adrien Brody
The President: Ted Danson
VP Harley Hudson: Viggo Mortensen
Herbert Gelman: Steve Buscemi

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Hugh Jackman as an actor.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the cast of Vicky Cristina Barcelona?

Luke: I was going to ask Louis about Hugh Jackman too actually haha.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Jackman - (Jackman comes across as just one of the most charming individual period off screen, and on you can tell he's a guy who absolutely wants to do what it takes to serve his role and especially the film. There is never a lack of effort, and he never phones it in. His instincts though can be a bit off as he just comes at the role the wrong way sometimes. I kind of hate to call out a bad Jackman performance if only because you can see he really aims to please. He is talented and has definite screen presence but he's someone who needs the right role.)

94dk1:

I'm fairly sure my lack of for enthusiasm of Cruz has been documented.

Hall - (She's the best part of the film as she manages to elevate her thinly written character to at least appear to be a person. I can't say she has enough to work with to be amazing, but as usual she offers a needed honesty to the material even when its not.)

Bardem - (The character as written is a one note lothario. Bardem is okay but he can't overcome with just how limited the part is)

Johansson - (The character is basically reactionary in that she stands around having things happen to her. Johansson's wooden and doesn't really develop the needed chemistry with anyone.)

94dfk1 said...

Was expecting you to go to either side of the spectrum regarding Cruz haha. Thanks!

Is it just me or does anyone else think Winding Refn is a better director than he is a writer? I did like the concept of Gosling not avenging someone whose mother badly wants revenge for in Only God Forgives and the unique angle of the "young girl tries to make it in Hollywood" trope in The Neon Demon. Those are the two only things I liked about each of those films, unfortunately.

Drive, on on the other hand, really did benefit from Refn's ability to creating a tone and his visual flourishes (elevator scene), as they positively complemented to a, IMO, good script.

L Rime said...

Ended up watching In a Valley of Violence. Pretty straight forward revenge western but with lots of black humor without trying to act like it's too smart to be a normal western. It's not really self referential is what I mean, which a lot of westerns that are made these days can be. I thought everyone was reasonably good in it too. Especially Hawke, Travolta, Farmiga, and the dog.

Varun Neermul said...

Louis: Your Thoughts on Amy Adams as an actress

Michael McCarthy said...

You know I should probably throw in my predictions...

1. Peter Sellers
2. Renato Salvatori
3. John Mills
4. Robert Mitchum
5. Martin Stephens

Luke Higham said...

1. Sellers
2. Salvatori
3. Mills
4. Mitchum
5. Stephens

Michael McCarthy: Your ratings and thoughts on Stephens, Mitchum, Salvatori and Sellers.

Calvin Law said...

I just realised Hacksaw Ridge and La La Land aren't coming to the UK till 2017. Dammit.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I saw Girl on the Train. Pretty damn bad. Even Blunt was weak.

Louis Morgan said...

Varun:

Adams - (Adams is actually someone I'd describe as being very good if not great when she's good, but when she's not she's not at all. This is very much in her approaches which are generally all in for better or worse. I say it has nothing to do with sticking to type, though she does excel as the happy go lucky, as her work in The Master proved she could go against type rather effectively.)