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. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2005: Byung-hun Lee in A Bittersweet Life

Byung-hun Lee did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sun-woo Kim  in A Bittersweet Life.

A Bittersweet Life is a terrific film that follows a mob enforcer.

Byung-hun Lee in his English language films has been used primarily for his skills with martial arts, often the case with Asian actors, but even then his work in The Magnificent Seven shows that with just a bit of material he can make an impact beyond that. That is only a small glimpse of what he's capable of still since Lee is not a martial artist who acts, he's an actor who knows martial arts. This is Lee's first collaboration with director Jee-Woon Kim, whom he would later work with in The Good, The Bad, The Weird (a film I ought to watch for the title alone), and the excellent I Saw The Devil. After re-watching the latter film, a film I already greatly appreciated, I came to see just what Lee accomplishes in his role which is substantial though in an atypical sort of fashion. That is Lee, and Kim almost spring an emotional trap on you after a purposefully constrained character and performance up until that point. Lee and Kim utilize a similar technique here in their first film together.

This time Lee plays an enforcer for a Korean mob boss Mr. Kang (Yeong-cheol Kim), who deals with any threats of Mr. Kang in an overtly physical manner. In his first scene we see him beat down the crew of a rival gang, and Lee technically gets to show off a bit of his skills as a fighter. This is not what defines his performance for even a moment. In these introductory scenes Lee gives a proper enforcer, who technically might merely be a henchmen in a different film. He's menacing of course and he what one might describe as a cool badass. Lee's work is not so simple at all though. There is something very important that he brings to the character and that is in the depiction of this early take down as well as simply when he is listening to orders from Kang. There is not a hint of sadism in his portrayal nor is he a cold calculated killer like say an Anton Chigurh. Lee instead presents the passion and indifference in Sun-woo of a man doing his job, a job he doesn't relish yet still is good at, no more no less.

Mr. Kang gives Sun-woo the task of following his girlfriend Hee-soo (Min-a Shin) around to ensure that she is not seeing someone else. Sun-woo takes on the job, and continues as the good employee. Now this is very important though in that Lee gives us a man who goes about being enforcer not as someone who doesn't care, but as a man who has been doing it for many years. Lee reveals the idea of the routine in Sun-woo as there is little excitement and no true satisfaction as he does what he is bid, however Lee is careful not to reveal any disdain either. He's essentially a man whose found his position in life as Lee portrays the contentment in a lack of contentment. This is taken to task though through his time with Hee-soo where he interacts with someone who is not full of bluster and false bravado of the men in the underworld. What Lee does in these scenes though is remarkable as he does not easily enforce a change in his performance of Sun-woo just from a few moments spent with an innocent.

The overarching brilliance throughout Lee's work is the nuance he brings to his depiction of the calm mob enforcer type. Lee technically stays very reserved, staying true to his character, yet does so much within this theoretical limitation. In Sun-woo scenes with Hee-soo, Lee is marvelous as he subverts expectations in regards to the character. Lee does not reveal an immediate change, nor does a reflect a romantic interest. He instead subtly reveals just the smallest indication of perhaps a different path for Sun-woo. When Hee-soo questions if he's an enforcer, the shyness that Lee brings as he attempts to explain that he just works at a hotel feels absolutely genuine as he shows Sun-woo trying to explain himself even to himself. These interactions are very light, and technically never amount to more than an acquaintanceship, yet Lee's only through small reactions portrays so effectively Sun-woo realizing his state of indifference by being no longer in the comfort zone of his world and its people.

Eventually Lee does find out that Hee-soo is not loyal to Kang, and initially follows his orders as he physically accosts the man and is about to call Kang to get the kill order. Lee even in this moment still stays reserved yet conveys the internal conflict in just a silent moment. Lee earns the moment in just a glance as he sees what he has done, and chooses to avoid violence for once. This unfortunately leads Kang to allow the rival gang to enact retribution against Sun-woo for his earlier actions, even though he was following Kang's orders with those actions. This sequence, where it could be a case where the actor is forgotten, but Lee does not allow that. In the action and the torture scenes Lee does not make Sun-woo some superhuman. The intensity of the scene is made truly palatable as Lee brings such real desperation to every action. My favorite moment from the scene though is when Kang, over the phone, questions Sun-woo's action. Lee suggests the real betrayal in Sun-woo as he emphasizes a confusion as he tries comprehend his years of loyalty being forgotten for not killing an innocent.

The humanity Lee manages in this performance is truly remarkable, but does even more than what I already have mentioned. It also brings even some very natural humor to his performance, by offering such an honest presence. There is one particularly hilarious scene where Sun-woo goes about purchasing a gun from a dealer, and Lee's reactions are priceless. He never goes broad or plays the moment up, yet earns the levity through how effortlessly he inhabits the character. Now leading up to the final sequence of the film I would already consider this a great performance, yet as later with his final scene in I Saw the Devil, Lee has a surprise waiting for us, two surprises this time. The first being when Sun-woo confronts Mr. Kang, and Lee is incredibly moving by finally breaking down revealing the real heartbreak in Sun-woo from being treated so horribly by a man he served with such loyalty. Then there is one more moment as the film flashback briefly to show as Sun-woo watched Hee-soo play in a string ensemble. Lee loses that contentment in his lack of contentment to Sun-woo, to instead finally reveal a moment of real joy. There is such catharsis and poignancy that comes from Lee in this scene. I love this performance as Lee delivers as the lone anti-hero, yet he goes even deeper to offer a downright beautiful portrait of a man seeing a better life if only for the briefest of time.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2005: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Mysterious Skin

Joseph Gordon-Levitt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Neil McCormick in Mysterious Skin.

Mysterious Skin tells the intertwining stories of two young men who were both sexually abused by the same man as children. The film I'd say is a far more effective film than L.I.E., which covers similar subject matter, though Gregg Araki's directorial style has a certain exploitative quality that seems inappropriate given the material at hand.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in kind of his I'm an adult actor shift, plays one of the young men, Neil, who we find had been sexually abused as a child by his little league coach. This is along with another boy Brian (Brady Corbet), but the two end up being changed by the act in different ways. Brian represses the memory of his abuse to the point that he believes his lost time is the result of alien abduction, Neil on the other hand clearly remembers being raped, and embraces it himself in a strange way by almost viewing the coach as a mentor of sorts. This goes so far as Neil, as a boy, also personally abused Brian at a separate time. Gordon-Levitt for much of the film plays Neil as someone who is ensured in who he is. There is an innate confidence that Gordon-Levitt brings that alludes to the way Neil's mind works, Gordon-Levitt presents him as someone who seems wholly comfortable with his sexuality and himself. In narration, which Gordon-Levitt gives just a pinch of southwest twang, Gordon-Levitt delivers the story of Neil's abuse not as a horror story rather as a learning experience.

Neil ends up becoming a male prostitute working for mainly older men. Gordon-Levitt plays these scenes in an interesting way that alludes to Neil's mental state that stems from his abuse as a child. That is there is a bizarre conviction in him as he goes about going with the men, and it less as though he is receiving any real pleasure from it rather it is though Neil is performing a specific service he's good at. In the scenes where he does this still at his old home, Gordon-Levitt realizes Neil's behavior as a learned trait, and effectively shows the bizarre state of mind created by his childhood. Not every scene is selling his body though as we see a few scenes where Neil interacts with mother and his two close friends. Unlike his counterpart Brain who is withdrawn, Gordon-Levitt brings more than just a bit of flamboyance to the young man on the outer surface of Neil as he seems to enjoy his life, even carrying this certain pride whenever he speaks about his "accomplishments" as a prostitute.

Eventually Neil leaves his hometown to venture out into New York where he still works as a prostitute. The film follows him as he goes on a few different jobs. Gordon-Levitt at first keeps the similair blasé attitude. The nature of the jobs slowly become more extreme from one man with Aids seeking any touch, to eventually a violent man who severely beats Neil. As the jobs reveal damaged men, Neil in turn starts to realize the way he has been broken by his past. I have to say these scene left me cold. It isn't that Gordon-Levitt is bad, in fact I'd say gets across the general idea of Neil slowly uncovering his own damaged nature, but the scenes lacked the emotional power I would have expected them to. The film culminates as Neil and Brian meet as adults and Neil finally tells Brian what happened to them as children. I have to admit I Brady Corbet's portrayal of Brian left the stronger impression in terms of that scene and the overall film.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives good work here, it technically meets the needs of the character, but as often is the case for Gordon-Levitt for me, it doesn't quite take the next step into a truly resonate performance. This is a case though where I can perhaps see why some take to this performance so strongly even if I cannot myself.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2005: Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto

Cillian Murphy did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Patrick/Patricia "Kitten" Braden in Breakfast on Pluto.

Breakfast on Pluto, which features just about every famous Irish actor in existence, is a film that's interesting but does not quite fully come together about the misadventures of an atypical foundling in Ireland.

Cillian Murphy plays the naturally challenging role of a transgender character. This is a bit different than say an Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl though. The film's tone is more irreverent than self-satisfied, and the character is of a different nature. Patrick/Patricia, or just Kitten, is who Kitten is really from the first time we see the character as an adult. There is no "transformation" period in Murphy's performance, though that might partially stem from a far more intelligent acting choice, but in terms of the character there is no moment where Kitten undergoes any surgery for example. Kitten just starts out being Kitten, and that is that. This still offers a challenge nonetheless to Murphy, in fact it also guarantees that if part of his performance isn't working none of it really will. Murphy though is basically an actor who only takes on challenges. He's an actor who has perhaps been associated best in the mainstream in his creepy role as the Scarecrow in the Dark Knight trilogy, from 2005 as well, but looking through his filmography there is no trend in terms of the roles Murphy takes.

Murphy's performance is entirely out on a limb because of that as he must create a rather unique presence as Kitten. Again though he has the advantage from starting at this point as Kitten already exhibits feminine physical mannerisms. Now Murphy deserves a great deal of credit in this regard given that he seems far less natural at first when dressed in a schoolboy's attire, but when in Kitten begins to wear dresses suddenly everything about his performance seems as it should be. That's not a criticism against his initial portrayal when Patrick is school, rather Murphy so effectively realizes the idea of the character embracing exactly who they want to be. Murphy is equally impressive in his vocal work here as he manages as higher pitched voice for the character that never seems forced or unnatural for even a moment. This is a bit different than director Neil Jordan's previous foray into somewhat similair subject matter with The Crying Game that we know the biological gender of the character from the outset, hey even old Stephen Rea gets a heads up this time, but seeing his work here, Murphy might have been able to pull off Dill in that film as well.

This is not just some sort of technical accomplishment by Murphy though, but rather a springboard to realize Kitten past this distinguishing aspect to the character. Kitten technically speaking is not atypical just for that one element by any means, and Murphy realizes a most unique presence with his performance. Murphy brings this energy to his work that really is quite something to see from the man who one could see brood so effectively in his villainous turns. Kitten is about life though and Murphy realizes that with the sheer exuberance he brings to his performance. A running element in the film is the way that so many take a liking  to Kitten, and not necessarily in a lustful way. Murphy is just rather wonderful in the part as he succeeds in making Kitten's energy just oh so very endearing. It isn't what one would always call subtle, but nor should it be. Murphy makes this convincing in that he's not in your face yet he's in no way quiet. What Murphy projects is this desire for a happiness, even when it is not even true at the time, that is so charming that it's hard to dislike Kitten.

The film isn't a great film by any means, in that it has a great central character, but it doesn't really know what to do with Kitten. The film kind of jumbles around from comedy to drama with the drama either coming from Kitten searching for biological mother, or dealing with social problems in Ireland itself. The film never quite balances the tone perfectly, in that kind of fails to build towards anything, but Murphy does balance the tone within his performance. Murphy's trick to this though is to merely keep Kitten consistent as a character, and everything that comes from Kitten is entirely genuine due to how effectively Murphy finds his character. Murphy is especially strong in the way he interacts with the rest of the cast, and is astute in playing against them in order to bring out what's best. This includes the directly comedic scenes involving Brendan Gleeson, or the semi-comedic ones involving Stephen Rea. Murphy always allows the humor to come naturally from Kitten eccentricities flowing together with the similarly eccentric men into some entertaining madness. On the more dramatic side there are the relationships with the local priest (Liam Neeson) where Kitten's connection is stronger than one would expect, or the eventual pseudo connection with Kitten's mother. In these scenes Murphy finds a real poignancy in revealing the tender desire in Kitten for a real acceptance, as Murphy so beautifully plays the vulnerabilities in Kitten when the reunion is attempted yet aborted. When there is finally someone who recognized Kitten as his own, Murphy makes it surprisingly heartwarming as he brings such joy in Kitten finding a place to be loved. The film never quite makes use of what Murphy fully. We get fits and starts of ideas, but the film does not articulate this into something special. Nevertheless Murphy's work standing out on its own is a remarkable accomplishment.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2005: Tony Leung Ka-Fai in Election

Tony Leung Ka-Fai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Big D in Election.

Election follows the turmoil as a triad chooses its new leader. It has a great setup yet it fails to properly develop its characters and ends up being rather forgettable as Hong Kong crime films go.

Well enough with little Tony Leung let's see what big Tony Leung is capable of, fittingly as Big D. Big D is one of the men vying for the top position going against his chief rival Lam Lok (Simon Yam). Where Lam is the more reserved family man type, though not necessarily less brutal, Big D basically plays the part of the gangster to a t. Leung seems to relish this role and in turn plays the part of the gangster to a t. He's a flamboyant hot shot and Leung brings this to life with real joy in his performance. Leung goes big in the right way bringing the sort of swagger needed for the man. This is fitting to someone called Big D to begin with, as Leung makes him a man who loves the life of gangster probably more than what one technically gains from it in a monetary sense. Leung carries himself as ready for the game at the center, and from his opening scene effectively shows why Big D clearly will not simply let the vote decide who is in charge.

Big D stays as the wild card throughout the film as he tries to get the upper hand any way possible, violent or otherwise, all the while the other elder mafia members, Lam Lok, and the police try to keep things under control through other methods. Leung stands out well as the guy who perhaps is a bit outside of his depth in the whole affair, while still being an effective player because of his often ridiculous approach in his attempt to seize power. Leung brings that right sort of explosive presence to his work as any time Big D is onscreen he's all that matters. Leung technically makes him the right kind of mess of bluster as he is absolutely convincing as he man who openly attacks one of his associates as not only the police but the press are watching him.

Of course the film's flaws kind of hover around Leung who is basically in a world of his own throughout the film, as Big D just goes about doing his own thing, until just before the very end. Leung is the by far the best part of the film as he's the only real aspect of the film that "pops" so to speak. Almost all the other characters sort of fade together in part due to the rushed pace of the film, but also the lack of character moments. Leung makes Big D just about all character, and I became invested in his story mainly because he was one of the few characters who had any real life to him. Leung's work still is fairly limited, as the film is almost an ensemble piece, though I'd say Big D and Lam Lok are given enough importance to be considered lead, but this does not help the lack of refinement in the characters. Leung's infuses enough life into Big D to be the highlight of the film, but not quite enough to truly overcome the weakness of said film.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2005: Daniel Auteuil in Caché

Daniel Auteuil did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Georges Laurent in Caché.

Caché though is not subtle in its allegory is effective through its literal drama, about a family receiving surveillance tapes of their own home.

Daniel Auteuil plays the patriarch of the family who also is a successful talk show host. He and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) begin to receive tapes on their front door step. The tape records the front of their house, but nothing else. Auteuil's work is very natural in these early scenes as the two attempt to decipher what exactly is being presented to them. Auteuil initially makes Georges more or less just as any normal man would react to the situation. He conveys the sense of confusion in the circumstances as well as the understandable undercurrent of fear that stems from being observed. Auteuil throughout the rest of the film, well except for his very brief scenes where we see him doing his job, at the very least has a small sense of discomfort in his portrayal of George, as Auteuil finds the right type of paranoia of a man who knows he's always being watched. He does not overplay this as he rather keeps it understated and natural to a man trying to still live his life as normally as possible.

Auteuil only occasionally strikes harder in these early scenes, and effectively so, as the frustration of  the ongoing tapes puts him on an edge in part due to his inability to explain them. Eventually the videos themselves seem to indicate something when one of them is of Georges's old childhood home instead. This brings Georges to visit his mother. It's a great scene for Auteuil as he finds the right warmth of a son speaking with his mother yet captures that nagging thought in the back of his mind the whole time. Georges never can quite speak directly to his mother about what is going on, but begins to allude to what he believes is the cause. Auteuil finds that thought as though it is a wound that only seems to fester in his mind, as the man cannot stop himself from trying to comprehend the past. Though the details are sketchy at first, Georges comes to believe the tapes are coming from Majid (Maurice Bénichou) an orphan boy his family took in until the six year old Georges told a lie about that got the boy sent back to an orphanage.

Auteuil's work illustrates the conflict within Georges when dealing with this matter, which he takes some time to admit to his wife or even himself. Auteuil does not portray Georges as having a direct guilt nor does he portray him as indifferent to the past. Auteuil finds instead the detail of situation in his performance. There is a sense of guilt, though a worn and measured guilt. Auteuil has it present enough that it wears on Georges but it never overwhelms him. Auteuil reflects even a shield of sorts by this as though there are moments where Georges fights against the idea of guilt given his age when he made the lie and the amount of time that has passed by. Auteuil shows how troubling it is though as Georges never deals with completely yet cannot rid himself of it either. Georges though does take action by confronting Majid over the tapes, though the man denies them. Auteuil's work again excels being so realistically defining the interaction as he depicts the frustrations of a man who just wants the strange form of terrorism to end.

The tapes only continue and things appear to escalate as Georges's son goes missing. Auteuil carefully never has Georges break at any point instead portrays Georges attempt to repress it all best he can, and appear as together as he can. Auteuil never falters in this, and never seems vague. His work is astute as he builds the intensity of the situation with minor outburst, never an explosion, and impressively expresses every moment within the confines of this man trying to keep it together. Auteuil becomes quietly powerful as every moment is felt in his performance through his subtle presentation of it. There is one particularly disconcerting scene where something rather extreme happens in an instant, and Auteuil adds so much to the moment by making his reaction feel absolutely real. What is perhaps Auteuil's strongest scene though is when Georges is confronted by Majid's son. Auteuil reveals the entirety of Georges struggle, the fear, the dread, the anger, and even the sadness in the conversation. He barely raises his voice but he doesn't have to you know exactly what the man is going through at every point of it. Auteuil never vilifies Georges nor does he make him an innocent victim. He grants the complexity he deserves by presenting him truthfully as a man in a terrible situation with a troubling past.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2005: Damian Lewis in Keane

Damian Lewis did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying David Keane in Keane.

Keane is an interesting character study about a disturbed man.

Damian Lewis plays the title character. Lewis is an actor I have to say who has somehow flown under my radar for some time. Now that I'm actually starting to catch up with some of his work though I must say I'm finding him to be an immensely talented actor. This role presents a challenge as the film bares so much on Damian Lewis's performance. We follow David Keane in an intimate fashion and I mean intimate. This is even more so than in the normal character study or even the typical one man show, as the camera itself never wavers more than a few feet from him with so many of the shots staying directly on him. In the early scenes of the film we follow David just as he goes about his day. We are not given his backstory. We are instead dropped right into this man's life without any preparation. Quite simply this is where everything could have gone wrong for the film and for the central character if it was the wrong actor in the role. Luckily it is Damian Lewis who absolutely inhabits this character, which is essential given the condition of the man.

The film opens with David asking employees at a train station if they've seen his daughter. Lewis is heartbreaking from the outset as his pleas for some sort of information are harrowing. There is such a palatable desperation in his voice as he attempts to find any solace which they cannot offer him. We continue to follow the man and it becomes clear he is mentally ill. The mental illness that Lewis manages to depict is a different sort than is often focused upon in films, in fact David Keane feels more like a character we might just meet just for a scene in most films. Lewis reveals a far messier type of illness as he so effectively shows the disjointed mental state of David. Lewis never forces this rather making his randomness feel so natural. In fact Lewis is so good he is indeed rather hard to watch as he portrays the struggle for the man to keep himself together for even the most basic tasks. Lewis's physical manner, and behavior always reinforces the jumbled state of a man who struggles to think clearly.

We first follow a day in his life as David pays for his rent, buys drugs, and randomly looks for work. Lewis shows though in these actions that it even goes deeper than his mental problems, as he brings this almost constant sense of distress in the man which alludes the loss of his daughter many years ago. Lewis takes this idea through David's day as many of his acts seem an attempt to find some sort of solace. Lewis reveals a strain in David as he makes this attempt for some sort of ease whether it is using drugs, having sex with a random woman, or in one instance just trying to listen a song at a bar. Lewis is harrowing to watch as he exudes such pain in David in his futile attempt to calm his mental state. The bar song scene is especially powerful as Lewis brings such a raw desire in David as he tries to take in the song as much as he can, while still showing that it never quite brings David what he is looking for. This sort of changes when David befriends a mother (Amy Ryan) and her young daughter (Abigail Breslin).

Lewis excels in these scenes as he shows a greater comfort in David in these interactions, though the disturbed nature of the man is never forgotten. Lewis shows just a bit of ease in David, but he simply still is a mentally unwell. As he finds out more about them though, David begins to believe that the mother might be abandoning her daughter. This is unsaid yet made through Lewis's performance. Lewis conveys this as he brings the growing paranoia back to David once again, and begins to lose his stability. Lewis is terrific as he creates this as a thought in David that gradually grows, and only builds his inability to keep himself together. Lewis's work is deeply moving though in his interactions with the young girl, as he brings such a warmth as we see David as the father he was meant to be if his own daughter had not been stolen from him. Even as his intentions become problematic, since David tries to use her as a bait of sorts as he believes that the person who abducted his own daughter still frequents the same train station, Lewis strangely reveals a noble intention. Lewis only reveals a very earnest desire for some sort of closure but is given none. Lewis's work though is truly affecting though as he still reveals only the love of a father as he decides to do the right thing. This is a striking performance, and the film frankly would not have worked at all if it were not for Lewis. If for a moment this felt like acting it would all fall apart in a moments notice. Lewis's work though always feels real, and carries us through this man's troubled life.