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 Unlike his counterpart Brain who is withdrawn, Gordon-Levitt brings more than just a bit of flamboyance to the young man on the outer surface of Neil as he seems to enjoy his life, even carrying this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.

63 comments:

Luke Higham said...

He still can't get that 4. :(

Calvin Law said...

Damn. I think he's brilliant here personally though I think the film is just okay.

Thoughts and rating for Corbet?

Anonymous said...

Thoughts/ratings on the rest of the cast?

Robert MacFarlane said...

As someone who in general likes JGL a lot more than you, I actually agree with this review.

RatedRStar said...

I think the film is just okay also, I know there is a little bit of a cult following for it.

As for Jordan Gordon-Levitt I dont know what to say about him, he just never seems to be destined for greatness.

Louis: I will say there is one performance, just one, where I felt Levitt was more than just simply solid, and that is in Brick, he isnt the best male performer in Brick either but he is quite good.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I actually totally love him and Brick and think he towers above a lot of his cast mates when it comes to saying the stylized dialogue so convincingly.

Calvin Law said...

He's great in this, Brick, 500 Days of Summer and the underrated Hesher. Otherwise I think he's perfectly fine in general.

Anonymous said...

Is being perfectly fine and nothing more good enough now what with the Tom Hardys and Michael Fassbenders of the world being around nowadays?

RatedRStar said...

Brick was very different for him I felt because, Levitt has a rather recognisiable face, like a Tom Cruise where you sometimes dont believe him in a role, but in Brick the withdrawn almost anime character worked, I felt Lukas Haas was the best male performer because he felt the closest to what the film wanted which was a secretive dark film noir, aside from his ending which is just underwhelming but Ive told Robert this before so lol.

Calvin Law said...

I was actually very impressed by the whole of the Brick cast when I re-watched it a few months ago. Also, controversial, I prefer JGL to Fassbender in general. Fassy has the greater heights with Macbeth and Inglorious Basterds, but I find Levitt a much more engaging and charismatic presence even in his more thankless roles.

Luke Higham said...

Saw Fantastic Beasts. It was solid by all accounts.

Redmayne - 4
Fogler - 4
Waterston - 3
Sudol - 3
Farrell - 3/3.5
Miller - 2.5
Morton - 3
Depp - N/R (I'll give him a chance for the sequel, but I only have middling expectations)

94dfk1 said...

Seems like this review and thread should be saved in case anyone asks Louis what he thinks of JGL in the future haha. I myself think he is pretty reliable and that you know what you're going to get out of him. Hopefully one day he'll get that one role where he truly shines, like Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Loving has been uploaded to Putlocker.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Corbet - 4(His performance is properly constrained as he suggests someone who seems unable to go forward because of his obsession with seemingly his unknowable past, and the damage caused by it. There is an underlying distress that Corbet shows, yet there is a tragic endearing quality that Corbet brings to Brian, an earnestness to find the truth as thought it will give him some sort of enlightenment, even though it will in fact only offer him terrible heartbreak.)

Anonymous:

Licon - 2.5(His performance is decent at times yet there is an awkwardness to several moments in his performance that seems unintentional.)

Rajskub - 4(She's quite effective in her few scenes, as she never tells exactly what is wrong with her character. She creates the eccentricity that makes Avalyn off putting yet she never laughs at her. She enables a real sense of sympathy as there is something off with her, though we never find that out what the cause was. She's especially heartbreaking in the moment where Brian "rejects" her, as she brings such a clumsiness about her desire while making it feel absolutely honest.)

Sage - 3(The film purposefully limits the view of him but he does well in projecting his behavior as kindness to children yet utter creepiness to anyone else.)

Trachtenberg - 2.5(She's fine but her character ended seeming almost entirely pointless despite the build up in the childhood scenes.)

The child performances are shaky though understandably so, by the way Araki directed them.

Luke:

I'll wait to watch in the theater on Wednesday.

Luke Higham said...

Loving
Edgerton - 4.5
Negga - 4.5/5
Shannon - 3
Csokas - 2.5

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Apart from Loving, what else do you plan on seeing this week.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: The big concern that some people mentioned on here that in the trailer, Joel Edgertons work looked like he was mumbling quite a lot but in a fairly ott way, is that the case for Loving?

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: He does mumble quite often, but I actually felt he did it in a rather natural fashion.

But it's up to you, whether you feel the same or not whenever you get the chance to see it.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

I've just seen Nocturnal Animals. I have a few reservations about it, but I overall I really liked it.

Calvin Law said...

Giuseppe: Thoughts/ratings on the rest of the cast?

Anonymous said...

From what I have seen I like the character that Jake Gyllenhaal plays, he just seems like a nice depressed man who did nothing wrong lol, unless I got that wrong.

Calvin Law said...

The script tries for that, kind of fails in doing so, but Gyllenhaal somehow manages to patch things up enough to make it make sense.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I know a few people who HATED Nocturnal Animals, and they often cite how the film ends blaming it all on Adams's character. I'll make my own judgements for when I see it.

Anonymous said...

What does everyone reckon to the Ghost in the Shell trailer?

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I'll probably see Allied if it gets decent reviews.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what's your ratings and thoughts on Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray in What About Bob?

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Anonymous: Ignoring the obvious whitewashing issues, it at the very least looks like a visual treat.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

@Calvin:

Adams - 4.5 (I thought she was excellent at portraying her character's developement over the course of the years, from idealistic student to embittered, unhappy trophy wife. Her performance is mostly a reactionary one but I felt she carried her own segment of the story particularly well. I thought she was terrific in her final scene)

Gyllenhaal - 4.5 (Bordering on a 5 actually. I thought he was fantastic in the storyline in which he portrays the character in the novel: his portrayal is truly compelling and he portrays perfectly his character's grief and desire for revenge. He manages not to get overshadowed by Shannon's and Taylor-Johnson's more flamboyant performances. In the real life storyline, he does not do too much but he does a convincing job at portraying Edward at every step of his relationship with Susan)

Shannon (He might get nominated, so I won't say much about his performance now)

Taylor-Johnson - 4.5 (Strongly verging on a 5 and I might upgrade him soon. I think he gives a truly captivating portrayal that manages to be both strangely charismatic and downright terrifying. The role is technically a bit one-dimensional but Taylor-Johnson completely overcomes the potential limitations of the role thanks to the strength of his performance. It's a brilliant performance and his final scene was excellent)

Linney - 4 (I thought she was very good in her single scene. I can see why someone would see her work as extremely overcooked but I personally thought her approach worked and she's quite memorable in her portrayal of the selfish, narrow-minded mother. It's not an amazing performance but she was very good)

Malone, Sheen, Riseborough (I thought the attempted satire was by far the worst part of the movie as I felt it was written as so broad it kind of stands out in a wrong fashion. Malone manages to make the dialogue work and to a lesser extent Sheen too, even if they overall have too little to do to leave a lasting impression, but I have to admit I really disliked Riseborough's single scene as I felt she went way overboard)

Calvin Law said...

I really found Adams extremely limited and one-note; she did better than anyone could have in the role, but I swear if she gets nominated for Nocturnal Animals over Arrival...

Glad we agree about Taylor-Johnson, Gyllenhaal and the satirical figures.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

I agree the role is technically one-note but I thought she made the most out of it. I have not seen Arrival yet, so I don't know if I'd prefer her there, but I think that if she gets nominated this year it will be for Arrival (I don't think Nocturnal Animals will be very appreciated by the Academy).

Anonymous said...

The Founder is getting good reviews, looks like its looking good for Keaton so far =).

Anonymous said...

I have also heard a strong rumour that a huge Oscar campaign is planned for Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic, it would be quite fantastic to see him recognised.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: Thoughts and ratings for Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton and Chris Tucker in Jackie Brown?

Varun Neermul said...

Just saw Captain Fantastic, haven't cried like that in a long time.

Mortensen is my best actor win so far.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on William H Macy in Boogie Nights, who I can't find on the rankings for that year.

RatedRStar said...

"Do you really think you can hold me" haha what a terrible line lol.

RatedRStar said...

Fences is of course getting good reviews as well, could 2016 be the year for the best ever best actor category, the only actors I am worried about are Denzel Washington which I could easily be wrong on and Warren Beatty for obvious reasons but the rest look good on paper.

Alex Marqués said...

At this point, Washington, Gosling, Affleck and Keaton could be locks for the lead category, the fifth spot could go to Edgerton, Hanks, Garfield or Beatty. I'd LOVE to see Mortensen sneaking into that spot.

Alex Marqués said...

For best actress, I think Negga, Stone, Portman and Benning are safe choices too. The fifth spot is trickier...
Also, I think it could be possible for Villeneuve to receive his first nom. :)

RatedRStar said...

I think Gosling needs a SAG nomination and then I think he is in, a GG win isnt enough I think and this could easily be another Blue Valentine/Amour situation where the actress gets all the buzz and the actor doesn't.

RatedRStar said...

As for actress, Negga is the only I would have one or two doubts over but I think she probably at the very least will get SAG/GG/Bafta nominations.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt:

Murray - 2.5(There is not anything wrong with his performance in that he is what he should be. The thing is I feel he's meant to be endearing more than completely intolerable but the problem is I find myself sympathizing a bit too much with Dreyfuss's character, which I don't think was quite the intention.)

Dreyfuss - 3.5(Honestly I could go up with him. I find his performance is a rather amusing portrayal of a man being slowly driven to madness by old Bob. He really gives the decent the gradual quality it needs despite the lightweight nature of the film. I particularly enjoy his final scenes where he's gone completely off the deep end, and I can't help but feel sorry for him even when he's about to commit a homicide.)

Calvin:

Keaton - 3(Never felt his role went beyond a bit of exposition in terms of what he does. Honestly I think the role could have nothing at all, but Keaton gives it some life through his usual energy.)

Tucker - 3(Hey who doesn't like a bit of Chris Tucker. Most people apparently do not, but I do for whatever reason. It's a few minutes of his usual shtick and works well for the theoretical punchline.)

Fonda - 2.5(Her performance never quite worked for me. I don't think she's actively bad, but I could imagine someone being a true scene stealer in this. For example her final scene with De Niro could have been truly memorable if she had made more of an impact throughout. She's there, she's fine but that's about it for me.)

Tahmeed:

Macy - 3.5(I don't think he makes that much of an impact, though he's fine, until his final scene. He's pretty great with his final scene though where he brings the right darkly comic edge to his character's rather subtle reaction throughout the scene.)

Calvin Law said...

I'd go much higher for Keaton myself, I always thought he added a lot to a pretty entertaining role.

RatedRStar said...

I actually really like the first Rush Hour movie and that is mostly because of Tucker. I also think that outside of films Chris Tucker and Michael Jackson make a pretty cool duo lol

Louis I dont think you put Tucker on 1997 supporting for The Fifth Element which is probably the most divisive performance he gave, what you reckon to him?

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on James Marsden as Cyclops? I think he was a bit young for Janssen's Jean Grey.

Calvin Law said...

I've found Marsden to be incredibly bland in everything I've seen bar Enchanted and Hairspray, where I thought he was an absolute delight in both.

Also saw Fantastic Beasts. Really enjoyed it, though I certainly have reservations.

Redmayne - 4
Fogler - 4
Waterston - 3 (would be higher if she'd eased up a bit at the start)
Sudol - 3.5
Farrell - 3
Miller - 2
Morton - 2.5
The cameo - 1 (reminded me of Dark Shadows)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Are you seeing Fantastic Beasts anytime soon.

Louis Morgan said...

I saw Loving.

Luke:

I might do a double feature tomorrow with that and Allied.

RatedRStar:

He's there, and I think I mentioned him back then. In short I enjoy him there too.

Anonymous:

Cyclops is simplified, I'd love to see the character given justice, and he plays it on that level. He just is used as the other guy against Wolverine no more, and Marsden doesn't elevate it past that point, though he's decent doing that routine.

94dfk1 said...

The trailer for Silence is finally here! =D

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIZ7lsCKTUQ

94dfk1 said...

Nevermind. It's private now :(. The cinematography was downright beautiful and I could see Prieto winning. Only a couple of shots of Neeson in the trailer. Garfield and Driver do have slight Portuguese accents but I don't think they were distracting.

Louis Morgan said...

94dk1:

Luckily I caught it in time. Looks beautiful, and my expectations are as they were, very high. After Hacksaw I'll definitely reserve judgment until I see the film when it comes to Garfield's accent.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I saw the trailer on another site. Totally beautiful.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Also, Louis, your ratings and thoughts on the Loving cast?

Anonymous said...

Thoughts on the film too.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Loving as a film suggests Nichols might be taking the wrong path as a filmmaker. He seems to be abandoning his earlier style somewhat to become more Speilbergian, which doesn't suit him well. The film of course has its heart in the right place, but it doesn't quite choose its path well. Nichols never makes the choice to tell the story through the small moments or the big picture. He tries both and the film suffers for it. The biggest problem is in the balance. Those small moments are the best moments in the film. Nichols has a real grasp to find the beauty in just simple human interactions and I wish the film had bothered to explore the Loving's relationship in more detail because of that. The film though always felt constrained by the plot mechanics, which has not been the best part of any of Nichols's films. These scenes are excessively standard and tonally off at times, more on that down below. He never favors either side leaving the whole film without a clear voice.

Robert:

Negga - 4.5(It's luminous work even though she does not have a great deal to work with. Now one could argue because the Lovings were simple folk, but I'd counter argue that fails to detail even their simple life all that well. Negga however makes up for it best she can with just how honestly she realizes this person, even within the constraints of the film. No reaction is false, no moment seems wrong. She has a real natural chemistry with Edgerton that feels like an underlying fact. There is poignancy in her work just through this genuine person she brings to life. She feels real, even if the film makes you an acquaintance to her at best.)

Kroll - 2(Okay here's the tonal problem. Kroll isn't terrible all the time, but he's really bad some of the time. There are these few moments where he winks towards the camera which feels completely at odds with what Edgerton and Negga are doing as well as what Nichols seems to be aiming for. He seems like he's going for kind of Jeff Goldblum thing, but Goldblum can pull it off Kroll can't)

Shannon - 3(It's only like a scene and a half, but it's a good scene. Shannon understands what Nichols is going for and helps to realize that to a degree with just an earnest representation of a nice guy trying to get to know these people.)

Csokas - 2.5(To be fair he could have been much worse, considering he's Csokas. Luckily not much is required of him, and what he does do is acceptable though not noteworthy.)

Robert MacFarlane said...

Someone told me about an obscure indie called The Tree where Csokas was actually really good. I should probably check it out.

Calvin Law said...

Silence looks absolutely marvellous.

Anonymous said...

Louis what do you reckon to the Silence trailer?

Anonymous said...

Louis it doesn't matter about the Silence question since I just saw your comment.

RatedRStar said...

Does anyone think the excellent trailer was being very clever at only showing Liam Neeson in 2 brief shots, like they know that he has big importance as well as the buzz surrounding him so its like a nice little tease.

I also saw Loving, I thought it was just ok, I did like Edgerton and Negga a lot though, I actually thought the film was quite slow though like it took so long to get to a fairly obvious conclusion, I am certain this film could have been 90 minutes.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: Your rating and thoughts on Edgerton.

RatedRStar said...

I am not necessarily a religious person but I find the story fascinating.

RatedRStar said...

Luke:

Edgerton (Low 4.5 or a Strong 4) He does mumble but it feels appropriate to his character as he makes the character a man of a period, his chemistry with Negga is very warm and low key as otherwise the film would be a disaster. I felt like he got across the slow but endearing hard working type without overdoing it, maybe his character is a tad simple but I think thats because the film chooses 2 do that.