Friday, 9 December 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1951: Oskar Werner in Decision Before Dawn

Oskar Werner did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Corporal Karl Maurer aka Happy in Decision Before Dawn.

Decision Before Dawn about a German being made a spy for the allies takes a little too long on its setup but is a decent thriller once it focuses on that character.

Oskar Werner plays the eventual lead of the film as Happy, who we first see as a German medic and POW but later becomes a spy for the Allies. The film takes a bit of time as it illustrates the plot by spending time with the Americans, planning the mission and setting up another German spy, who has the most predictable character arc one could imagine. The film eventually finds its way to focusing on Happy, who happens to also be played by the best actor in the film. Werner even kind of steals the film before he even gains the stronger focus as he proves his ability onscreen, just through his eyes as he is able to express the quiet outrage in Happy as he decides to work against his home country, in part due to seeing his fellow soldiers despicable behavior even while detained. Thankfully the film restricts its focus upon Happy sooner than later, and we are given one of Werner's first English language performances. Now he might not be as assured as his work in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, but that's a tall order to fulfill.

Werner once again has this real low key charm about him, and he immediately endearing in his portrayal of Happy. He importantly doesn't even need to try, there is just an innate honesty Werner brings to his performance, which is interesting given that he technically playing a traitor. Werner though brings basically home the message of the good traitor in his performance by bringing this effortless goodness that he exudes as Happy. This is also essential in that it makes it particularly easy to invest in Werner as Happy is sent back into his home country in order to discover an important bit of information. Werner actually has a particularly difficult challenge in that he really doesn't have anyone to work against in terms of portraying the man's on the mission, since Happy does not meet up with his liasons until near the film's ending. The rest of the time it is solely upon Werner to realize the struggle in Happy as he goes about his mission. Werner succeeds in this as he creates the sense of the underlying fear in Happy throughout the scenes, but does even more than that.

Werner gives further understanding of Happy through very nuanced indirect reactions within other interactions. For example there is great moment where Happy learns that his father is nearby, and Werner is able to express the concern in Happy for him while still keeping the shell of a soldier just going about his duty. There is so much dependent on Werner to capture so much of the emotional weight of the story. Werner never is lacking in this though and adds so much substance to the side relationships Happy strikes up while on his mission. This includes two "lowly" sorts one a woman few others care about and an affable fellow soldier. In both Werner presents such a palatable empathy in Happy and in turn makes those character more meaningful than they would have been otherwise. Werner is especially moving in a scene where he tries to passionate save someone from death. This all while Werner never loses the struggle of the mission in his very being. He keeps that pivotal central tension but finds the right amount of substance that benefits the film greatly. Eventually the film ends on a straight escape scene where technically some of that substance found earlier seems lost. Werner though proves his worth one last time though in the escape when Happy sacrifices himself for the sake of the mission. Werner has made Happy such a likable character that when this happens it is rather heartbreaking, even if the film itself still doesn't seem like it quite is appreciating what Werner is doing for it. It's performance which elevates the film, and though it might not be as assured as his later work, it is a strong early indication of Werner's talent.

50 comments:

Giuseppe Fadda said...

I have not seen it but I like him a lot in general.

Anonymous said...

Louis, have you seen Rillington Place on BBC? What do you think of a Tim Roth's performance?

RatedRStar said...

Wow thats 3 agreements in a row Louis, Fourteen Hours, Nocturnal Animals and now this lol.

Louis: Are in you interested in seeing Shoes Of The Fisherman, its probably not worth reviewing anyone because of how stacked 1968 is but its certainly an exciting cast of Laurence Olivier, Anthony Quinn, John Gielgud, Leo Mckern and the man you just reviewed Nick Rhodes over here lol =D

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, what would you say are top 10 favorite acting moments by Paul Newman and Jack Nicholson?

Varun Neermul said...

Paul Newman singing in Cool Hand Luke, made me think of this question. He is my win for that year (:

RatedRStar said...

Paul Newman in the 60s could hardly do anything wrong, aside from Exodus lol.

Varun Neermul said...

I agree, I saw the Hustler 3 days ago... he was amazing in that film. He is my Brando (A lot of people keep worshipping Brando as a god, I worship Paul Newman lol)

Calvin Law said...

Werner's always good so I'll check this out. Also I'll concur with the general consensus that Newman in the 60s was in a league of his own. I'll agree with Varun, I've always admired him more than Brando.

Louis: so apparently Damian Lewis was the first choice for Electro. Glad to see he didn't go down that route.

Anonymous said...

Brando's problem is that he got lazy.

Anonymous said...

I think most people on this blog would agree that Newman was better than Brando, consistency will always be better then just simply the very best performance. Thats why I think Oskar Werner is Austrias best actor not Christoph Waltz who I still like a lot.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Nolan North's Penguin, Maurice LaMarche's Mr. Freeze, Wally Wingert's Riddler and Tasia Valenza's Poison Ivy in Arkham City.

Anonymous said...

I think Werner was a very talented actor. I haven't seen this film yet but I'll try to see it soon. By the way, I recently saw Only When I Laugh and I was wondering if you can repost your ratings and thoughts on Kristy McNichol and Joan Hackett.

Anonymous said...

Louis what are you expecting from his final performance in Voyage Of The Damned when you come to it, do you reckon it will be similar to Ship Of Fools or do you think it will be one of those hard to watch performances because of an actors personal life?

Michael McCarthy said...

I love Newman in Cool Hand Luke, he actually might be my win for that year as well. On the subject of Brando though, I still assert that if he had been born 30 years later he would have been PERFECT to star in a Donald Trump biopic. He sorta had the look when he got older, and I think his self-indulgent tendencies would have served the role well.

Calvin Law said...

Newman just misses out on my 1967 lineup (I nom Steiger, Hoffman, Delon, Blake and Poitier is my win).

RatedRStar said...

I still like Brando simply because of that 4 year streak that he had, surely there must be a performance between 1955 and 1971 that he was decent in, I do not believe an actor like Brando could be that bad for so many years, there must be one, I will have to see these films to find out I think.

Varun Neermul said...

My favorite performances from Brando are as ranked

1.On The Waterfront (5)

2. A Streetcar Named Desire (5)

3. Last Tango In Paris (4.5)

4. Apocalypse Now (4.5)

5. The Godfather (4.5)

6, Julius Caesar (4.5)

7. Viva Zapata (4)



My Favorite Newman Performances Are Ranked...

1.The Verdict (Just watched it... wow... he is a 5)
2.Cool Hand Luke (5)
2.Hud (5)
4.The Hustler (5)
5.Road To Perdition (5)
6.Slap Shot (4.5)

Need to watch "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof", "The Sting", "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid".

Varun Neermul said...

Also need to see the " The Long, Hot Summer "

94dfk1 said...

Really need to get around to seeing Brando's earlier works. I've only watched him in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now.

Louis: Your thoughts on the score for Cloud Atlas? I think it's quite good and aptly fits in with the movie's epic scope.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Haven't seen it.

RatedRStar:

I'd say I'm interested based on the cast.

Varun:

Nicholson:

1. Finding about Billy - One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
2. The Ending - Chinatown
3. Speaking to his Father - Five Easy Pieces
4. Baseball - One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
5. Revealing his feelings - Reds
6. Visiting his family - Ironweed
7. Ain't I a badass - The Last Detail
8. Campfire - Easy Rider
9. Reading the Letter - About Schmidt
10. The Diner - Five Easy Pieces

Newman:

1. The Summation - The Verdict
2. The Ending - Hud
3. "I'll kill you Burt" - The Hustler
4. "I'm Glad it was you" - Road to Perdition
5. Luke's Inheritance - Cool Hand Luke
6. A game of Poker - The Sting
7. Visiting the Hospital - The Verdict
8. Confrontation with Homer - Hud
9. Picnic - The Hustler
10. Luke breaks - Cool Hand Luke

Calvin:

Bullet dodged.

Anonymous:

North - (Interesting in that I feel he plays it as if Bob Hoskins had played the Penguin, a very different approach from Paul Williams's refined take. North's version definitely works giving him more of that hard London style edge that rather works for a different kind of Penguin, and even manages to do his squawk in a natural way.)

LaMarche - (Really just an imitation of Ansara, but a good imitation. I won't say he quite hits those heights but he comes close enough to be sure.)

Wingert - (Similar to John Glover's take, and similarly effective. His voice carries the requisite smugness needed for the Riddler, with the underlying sense of joy in attempting to prove his superior intellect.)

Valenza - (Doesn't have too much to do, but does that sultry creepy rather well.)

Anonymous:

Not sure. It's technically a little different in his case since he lived more than a few years after that film.

94dk1:

Love the score actually particularly the way in which it ends up intertwining into the story.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on this Batman animated short.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt_27bqy8S4

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Just got back my exam results, an 87% average, with 5 A*s and 5 As. I'm happy and relieved :)

Alex Marqués said...

Congratulations Tahmeed :)

Varun Neermul said...

Good job Tameed!

Varun Neermul said...

Golden Globes will be announced tomorrow.

94dfk1 said...

Just watched Bone Tomahawk. Very good. 4.5/5. Let's just say I was not ready for THAT scene, and I audibly grimaced.

Russell-4.5 (Great job as the lead. Properly demonstrates his command as the sheriff.)

Wilson-5 (My personal favorite of the cast. He aces his louder scenes, so to speak where many actors could have come off as whiny. I wonder what he would've done instead of Pratt in The Magnificent Seven.)

Jenkins-4.5 (I think he was better in the second half of the movie than the first. His line where he mentions that the alcohol ought to taste better than humans was the biggest laugh for me.)

Fox-4 (Very good in his last scene, but he did feel just a tad rehearsed compared to the others.)

RatedRStar said...

Well done Tahmeed =D

RatedRStar said...

I cant wait for the Globe and SAG nominations, soon here they come =D.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Alex, Varun, Daniel: Thanks a lot guys :D

Calvin Law said...

Congrats Tahmeed were they like GCSEs or something?

Anonymous said...

Tahmeed: Congratulations!

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Calvin: They were like mocks for my GCSEs. I just hope that the real thing is much easier than these exams though :). And thanks!
Anonymous: Thank you :)

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top ten favorite films of the 90s. Mine would probably be:

1) L.A. Confidential
2) The Shawshank Redemption
3) Goodfellas
4) Schindler's List
5) Pulp Fiction
6) The Silence of the Lambs
7) The Truman Show
8) Only Yesterday (an amazing film by the always incredible Studio Ghibli)
9) Seven
10)Fight Club (I don't love it like I used to, but I still think that it's a terrifically madde film)
Massive footnote: I haven't seen Barton Fink, Gettysburg, JFK, Braveheart, Magnolia, The Straight Story,The Big Lebowski, Fargo, The Thin Red Line, etc. I intend to rectify that problem during my holidays :)

Alex Marqués said...

Tahmeed: Watch those Coen films as soon as possible!

Now with the Boston Online Film Critics awards, the leaders for the race so far are La La Land, Jenkins, Huppert, Affleck and Ali.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Well animated to be sure, though I never loved the pale catowman/Bruce Wayne's wight eyes in the fourth season design. I felt the music though didn't really fit the design particularly well taking away from the silent film approach.

Tahmeed:

1. L.A. Confidential
2. Goodfellas
3. Barton Fink
4. The Shawshank Redemption
5. The Thin Red Line
6. Unforgiven
7. JFK
8. Fargo
9. Schindler's List
10. Magnolia

By the way congratulations.

Alex Marqués said...

Has anyone seen Toni Erdmann? It has won almost everything at the European Film Awards.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Thank you :)
Btw, could I have your thoughts on the direction and screenplay of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Cause I remember reading in a comments section that you didn't like those aspects of the film that much.

Anonymous said...

Toni Erdmann might be worth a look when it comes to the bonus rounds.

94dfk1 said...

Everyone: Chances of Andrew Garfield scoring a Golden Globe nom for Hacksaw Ridge? He also has Silence but only a handful of people have seen it so far. His campaign is one of the things I'm following the most this season, as he has a nice problem to have with contenders, but it's still a problem haha.

RatedRStar said...

94dfk1: I am gonna post my Globe predictions in a little bit but I am pretty confident that Garfield will appear, most likely for Hacksaw, I dont think he will get a double nomination.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I really, really hope Garfield gets a Golden Globe nomination, although even I guess it'll be for Hacksaw instead of Silence.
The real question is if Gosling gets nominated for Comedy Actor for La La Land, or for The Nice Guys.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

The play is a lot of hot air, which I don't feel Nichols avoids, instead in moments plays into it all the more. Intentionally crafting more of a grotesque freak show than some sort real dissection of the lives of these four sad people. It seems to wish it both ways though intending on some sort of real insight through the situation yet still relishing so much in the unflattering light the situation puts all the players in.

Gosling will be nominated for La La Land, I guarantee it. I could see him easily being double nominated though.

Charles Heiston said...

I assume the nominations for Best Lead Actor would be -

Gosling - La La Land
Affleck - Mancheaster By The Sea
Hanks - Sully
Garfield - Hacksaw Ridge
Washington - Fences

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Charles Heiston: That could be a perfect line up if Oscar lines up with it; the only potential fuck up in ruining the ratings might be Washington's work in Fences, although he did receive great critical notices for his work on the play. Although, the only nominee from that line-up I see getting a 5 is Affleck (the other three might be strong 4.5s, I guess)

Michael McCarthy said...

I see no reason to think Washington won't be great in Fences.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I'm thinking Mortensen might have more of a chance of getting in that we're thinking. He started campaigning pretty early, and if the SAG's nominate him, I think he's in.

RatedRStar said...

Robert: I am thinking that as well when regards to Viggo, I get the feeling he campaigned quite heavily for Eastern Promises as well as that is a performance that Oscar voters would never have gone for normally.

RatedRStar said...

The globes always have a surprise or two so, I think at the moment my lineup seems rather predictable so there will be a surprise or 2.

Best Film
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Silence

Best Comedy/Musical
20th Century Women
Captain Fantastic
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Love and Friendship

Best Actor Drama
Casey Affleck - Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton - Loving
Andrew Garfield - Hacksaw Ridge
Tom Hanks - Sully
Denzel Washington - Fences

Best Actor Comedy/Musical
Warren Beatty - Rules Don't Apply
Don Cheadle - Miles Ahead
Ryan Gosling - La La Land
Hugh Grant - Florence Foster Jenkins
Viggo Mortensen - Captain Fantastic

Best Actress Drama
Amy Adams - Arrival
Jessica Chastain - Miss Sloane
Isabelle Huppert - Elle
Ruth Negga - Loving
Natalie Portman - Jackie

Best Actress Musical/Comedy
Annette Bening - 20th Century Women
Kate Beckinsale - Love and Friendship
Hailee Steinfield - The Edge of Seventeen
Emma Stone - La La Land
Meryl Streep - Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali - Moonlight
Jeff Bridges - Hell Or High Water
Liam Neeson - Silence
Dev Patel - Lion
Michael Shannon - Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis - Fences
Naomie Harris - Moonlight
Greta Gerwig - 20th Century Women
Nicole Kidman - Lion
Michelle Williams - Manchester by the Sea

Marcus Wozniak said...

Although it's unlikely, here's to hoping the HFPA nominate both Bridges and Foster!
I finally saw Bronson, and loved Tom Hardy's work in it. Wtf were the last 30 minutes of the film though?

Anonymous said...

Varun Neermul: Am I the only one here who thinks that Washington was great in "Training Day".