Sunday, 4 December 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2005: Ghassan Massoud and Edward Norton in Kingdom of Heaven

Ghassan Massoud did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Saladin in Kingdom of Heaven.

Kingdom of Heaven is a fairly impressive epic about a Knight Balian (Orland Bloom) who travels to Jerusalem during the crusades, eventually becoming the defender of the city.

Now a weaker aspect of the film technically is Orlando Bloom's lead performance, though this in no way means Bloom is at his worst. In fact it is probably his best performance, well outside his guest appearance on Extras of course, but it is easy to see someone probably could have done more with the part, perhaps Niolaj Coster-Waldau who is featured in a bit role already. Luckily Bloom is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, well other than chronic over actor Marton Csokas as the chief villain whose physical appearance in this film kept making me think "come on Angus Macfadyen I know you can do better than this". Csokas is an exception though, and just about everyone else delivers whether it is David Thewlis as an otherworldly mentor, Liam Neeson as Balian's passionate father, Jeremy Irons and Alexander Siddig as two calm advisors on both sides. Then there are the leaders of the respective armies. The Muslims being lead by Saladin played by Ghassan Massoud.

Massoud's performance realizes the stature of a certain type of leader in Saladin. He's not a man known for his grand speeches or dramatic charges into battle, rather he is known for his wisdom. Massoud exudes this sort of unassuming confidence. Massoud plays the part without ego yet still conveys a definite charisma in Saladin. He portrays an assurance in himself as a reasonable man, and creates the sense that his greatest concern is always what is best for his people. Saladin's early appearances in the film are rather brief, as he tries to avoid war with the Christians. In these scenes though Massoud does well to establish the man as a calm leader, yet with an underlying incisiveness about him. The calmness about him never is that of a fool or a fiend, rather Massoud finds the certain sense of contemplation in Saladin that defines the man. Massoud presents him as a man who is always thinking, never acting rashly, properly showing the leader who waits to only ever make the right move.

Eventually Saladin's hand is forced by the villainous forces among the Christians causing him to finally attack. Massoud never portrays a viciousness even as he has his enemies massacred, instead portraying just this certainty of righteousness in his anger as he executes men for their wrongdoing. Saladin though to finish the reign of his enemies goes to conquer Jerusalem from the Christians. Massoud's performance is technically limited during the siege, though when we do see him he is effective in internalizing essentially the loss in the battle. He subtly, yet poignantly reveals the way this weighs on Saladin as he sees so many die in the attempt to take the city. Eventually Saladin instead tries to parlay for a peaceful truce and this is Massoud's strongest scene. Massoud uses the moment essentially to show Saladin at the height of his ability as he reasons a solution rather than forcing one. Massoud adds so much just in his gaze as he gauges Balian while they attempt to reach some sort of solution. He finds the way Saladin reaches his conclusion to spare the Christians, despite being reminded of pass transgressions. Massoud brings such palatable yet understated passion in Saladin response as reaffirms his refusal to be the barbarian. After the surrender I love the almost humorous quality Massoud brings as he portrays Saladin almost laughing at himself for perpetuating the madness by keeping the city intact. Massoud gives a very strong performance as Saladin, though I must admit I don't think he gives the very best performance in the film.
Edward Norton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying King Baldwin IV in Kingdom of Heaven.

Edward Norton portrays the initial leader of the Christian factions in the holy land as the king of Jerusalem. Norton is unrecognizable in the film given he wears a mask through almost the entirety of the film, and the one scene we see him without his mask, it hardly matters. That is because Norton is portraying Baldwin who we meet as he is already ravaged from leprosy, though still the King. Edward Norton is not an actor that makes one immediately think of historical epic, however he seems the actor most comfortable with the material out of anyone in the cast. Norton doesn't do an overt accent per se, it is technically more of some akin to what say Harvey Keitel did in the Duellists, yet it still never seems like Norton behind the mask. In the end he seems unrecognizable even in voice, as he merely is Baldwin. Norton's there if you try to find him yet there is no reason for such distractions whenever Norton is onscreen. This is despite the technical limitations against him in this performance as the only part of his face that he is able to make use of are his eyes with the rest of his face being covered up by the lifeless mask, however that is not nearly as debilitating as one might assume.

Norton establishes Baldwin effortlessly from his first scene where Balian is introduced to him. Now Norton does not rely on anything to overt in terms of his body language. He brings the right grace of King, well still conveying the degradation caused by his condition, and effectively gradually showing the worsening of the condition every time we see him throughout the film. That is not what makes this such a remarkable performance though as Norton is absolutely as magnetic when he is standing or  when he sitting or laying down here. His first scene where he meets Balian Norton is utterly captivating in realizing the power of the figure. This is essential as Norton must make it convincing that Baldwin is still the respected King despite the ravages of his disease. Norton makes that wholly believable as he conducts himself with such assurance still, and his voice commands attention despite never seeking it precisely. There is simply this wonderful quality about Norton's voice as there is something contemplative about it yet with a profound assurance of a man who firmly understands the world he lives in. There is a humanity Norton brings yet the cunning is all the same, as Norton depicts a benevolent King yet a King who will do what is required to secure his Kingdom.

Norton though also utilizes well the only part of his face that he is allowed to use. Norton's eyes are truly expressive here as he gives them this piercing quality fitting for a leader, yet within them there is the sense of the constant suffering Baldwin must endure. Norton with only seemingly the most minor of resources is utterly fascinating to watch here. Baldwin through the film offers the most sage advice as he attempts to maintain civility with the Muslims, even while dealing with a form of insurrection in the ranks. Norton gives us this struggle, but also makes every success convincing through that eloquent sway in the man he realizes so beautifully. Norton though as keeps the idea of the man alive particularly near the end of his time in the film as he begins to finally die from his disease. There is one especially heartbreaking scene where Baldwin's sister finally goes to see him on his deathbed, after ignoring him in his terrible state for some time. Although we got very little to establish this relationship beforehand, Norton makes us understand it in an instance. The love that Norton expresses in his eyes as he sees her brings such poignancy to the moment suggesting how much she had meant to him. Norton is incredibly moving as he captures the pure joy of the moment as Baldwin has one moment of happiness before his death. Every single scene in which Baldwin appears is a highlight in the film a Norton so effortlessly gives the life to the King and the man, and is never overshadowed by the mere idea behind him. It is an excellent performance which, like John Hurt in the Elephant Man and Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, never seems limited in emotional impact despite the nature of the role.

34 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Despite not giving Massoud a 5, I'm still very happy that you really liked him and I'm extremely happy that Norton has another 5.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your quick thoughts on the film overall and your 1960s, 70s and 2010s castings, though I expect not many changes for the latter.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Could you include Norton in the results page.

Alex Marqués said...

Relax luke hahaha

Calvin Law said...

I personally think Bloom was really good in this and I'd give him a 4, but agree completely on Massoud and I like Norton but not as much as you.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Fantastic! I'm ecstatic that Norton has another 5 as well. I think he might finish third or even second in the overall.

RIP everyone's predictions though :p

94dfk1 said...

I've been meaning to check this one out for awhile. The Director's Cut of course.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: Haha Orlando was very good on Extras, Johnny Wanker =D, what is your favorite guest performance from Extras? I would say most of them do good work but I think David Bowie is probably my favorite with Gordon Ramsay being my least favorite.


Mahershala Ali has won a few critics awards so far, for some reason though, I cant see him being the favorite to win, not yet anyway, I dont know if there is a favorite yet though if I am honest.

Charles Heiston said...

Louis, Your thoughts on Jeff Daniels in Gettysburg??

Luke Higham said...

Charles: Louis' reviewing him, whenever he gets to '93.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Concerning Orlando Bloom, I rewatched the first Pirates movie in the Summer and he was much better than I remembered. Mostly because Depp's ad-libbing seemed to throw him off-kilter in a good way. His baffled reactions are actually pretty amusing.

Alex Marqués said...

Tahmeed: I can see him winning.

Calvin Law said...

Robert: I absolutely agree. I think his earnest and naive approach to being the 'hero' played off Depp extremely well. Nothing great and he's overshadowed, but certainly much better than Knightley. I'll also defend him as being relatively well cast in Troy because I feel that's EXACTLY how the character was written to be played.

RatedRStar said...

Id like to think that Daniels will appear as a special review rather than as part of the predictions, basically he could be the 6th nominee, it would kinda ruin the predictions and it would take a spot from someone else but I think Louis knows that anyway.

I do like the first Pirates movie, just dislike the other 3 lol.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Bloom - 3(Bloom has some good moments in there particularly the battle scenes where he makes you feel the situation. The general idea behind the character is lost on his performance, in that it should be a man on the edge kind of finding something to believe in. None of that is present in Bloom's performance as he just goes for kind of a general stoic hero type. Now he is not too bad in that regard, but so much more could have been done with the character.)

Neeson - 3.5(Neeson firmly in the father/surrogate father part of his career. Neeson though is very good here fulfilling that role well once again though brings a bit more than just that. You get the sense of the character's history beyond that he brings the certain roguish quality even while being the mature figure you'd expect him to be.)

Thewlis - 4(Thewlis's brings such a interesting presence here as he becomes something possibly greater than a man, though his work still always feels honest all the same way. There is a power in the ethereal warmth in his work, as his advice seems something even greater than just the words of wisdom from a man.)

Irons & Siddig - 3.5(Both offer just the right type of gravitas to their performances, suggesting the right understated intensity of men who deeply care for their leaders to do the right thing yet are careful never to overstep their bounds.)

Gleeson - 3(His character is technically very one note, but his performance works as just one big ball of sleaze.)

Sheen & Finch - 3(Both are pretty good in portraying the overt self-righteousness of the rather questionable "holy men".)

Green - 3(I liked scenes of her performance such as her scene with Norton and her portrayal of the humbled queen near the end. I didn't feel she quite made a completely cohesive figure through the film making some of her motivations a bit more blurred than they should have been particularly in terms of her character's support of her husband.)

Csokas - 2(He could be worse, but he just kind of plays it one note "angry" guy the whole time. I think something more interesting could have been done with him, but he fails to do it.)

Ian Glen, and Coster-Waldau are also good in their rather simple roles.

The film overall I thought was technically outstanding. I also found it worked as an epic in terms of those grand battles, but established the stakes well through realizing the various individual players very well. I must assume that the theatrical cut weakens the latter part of that.

Kingdom of Heaven 1960's directed by David Lean:

Balian: Richard Harris
Sibylla: Susannah York
Tiberius: Alec Guinness
The Hospitaller: Jack Hawkins
Raynald: Nigel Green
Guy De Lusignan: Peter Finch
Priest: Christopher Plummer
Godfrey: Trevor Howard
Saladin: Anthony Quinn
Nasir: I.S. Johar
Patriarch: John Gielgud
Baldwin: Patrick McGoohan

70's directed by Richard Attenborough:

Balian: Charles Dance
Sibylla: Jane Seymour
Tiberius: Donald Pleasence
The Hospitaller: Dirk Bogarde
Raynald: Freddie Jones
Guy De Lusignan: Oliver Reed
Priest: Edward Fox
Godfrey: Sean Connery
Saladin: Omar Sharif
Nasir: F. Murray Abraham
Patriarch: Jose Ferrer
Baldwin: Anthony Hopkins

10's reuse everyone except Balian really.

Giuseppe:

By the way on that Silence recognition, that could mean something for Neeson's chances, then again it could just be L.A. critics being a little atypical for the sake of it, something they'll do somewhat frequently such as when they gave Arquette the lead win for Boyhood.

RatedRStar:

Patrick Stewart

94dfk1 said...

What a coincidence, since I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean two nights ago. Bloom wasn't bad actually. Knightley was Ok but nothing special. Depp would be a 4 for me. My friends do tell me the franchise goes in a downward direction from the first one, however. Maybe the new pair of directors and writer they hired for the fifth one will bring a spark to the franchise.

Michael McCarthy said...

Good god would Oliver Reed have been a perfect Guy de Lusignan.

Calvin Law said...

Ali is winning everything now at this point. I'm seeing Moonlight tomorrow so I'll see what I think about that soon enough.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Moonlight has really grown on me since seeing it. Any little quibbles I had in the theater seem to shrink as the days go on. I recommend sitting on it for a few days after seeing it before giving your thoughts.

Calvin Law said...

^will do.

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Louis: What are your ratings and thoughts on Fred Melamed and Adam Arkin in A Serious Man? I watched it last night and enjoyed both of their presences.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Who would you cast as Balian in the 10s instead of Bloom?

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: What's your ratings and thoughts on Keir O'Donnell in Wedding Crashers?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Are you ready to tell us what your top ten novels are?

Calvin Law said...

Louis: in Infernal Affairs would you agree that Keung's and Hon's death scenes are the best directed ones? Because watching it again last night I realized how poorly the other two key death scenes are handled from a stylistic standpoint, especially when compared to The Departed.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your Ridley Scott Ranking with ratings.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on Westworld and the cast.

RatedRStar said...

Louis and Calvin: I would also add Anthony Wong having a better death scene than Martin Sheen.

The scene where the criminals stop Wong at the last second in the elevator when he thinks he gets away with using his phone is way better than Sheen just standing there saying " you got a light" also the Sheen falling is just odd whereas Wong just crashes straight into the car making it a much more shocking scene.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Which Actor has the most 0-1 ratings.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

Melamed - 4(He's a hilarious serious man to be sure. Melamed is very entertaining as he basically portrays a completely egotistical jerk, but does it in such an affable way. I especially love how he tries to be so nice with his delicate voice as he suggests ways for Larry to leave his own home. He's also effective in kind of his nightmare version that perhaps suggests just how Sy Ableman really was without any pretense.)

Arkin - 3.5(Arkin is also quite funny as basically one of the few people who actually tries to tell things as they are, particularly when he quizzes Larry on his wife's relationship with Sy. All his reactions are especially enjoyable as he brings this certain honest sarcasm to them.)

Matt:

O'Donnell - 1(Performances like there either work or don't work at all. I felt the latter and just found his caricature got old the minute he showed up. He's of course one note, that's the point, but it's a tiresome note.)

Calvin:

I would. The Departed is better directed film, though I'll say it again that I think the two films are great in terms of showing the differences in what might be a better movie and what may be better direction.

94dk1:

Maybe Sam Claflin.

Luke:

1. Alien - 5
2. The Duellists - 5
3. Blade Runner - 5
4. Gladiator - 4.5
5. Kingdom of Heaven - 4.5
6. Thelma and Louise - 4.5
7. The Martian - 4.5
8. Matchstick Men - 4
9. American Gangster - 4
10. Black Hawk Down - 4
11. Prometheus - 3.5
12. Body of Lies - 3
13. The Counselor - 1.5

Ah all I will say is that I loved the season entirely and look forward very much to the second season. I don't really want to spoil anything else to anyone who might want to watch the show eventually though, as so much fun is in the discovery of its various secrets. Unfortunately that also extends to the cast which so much of their performances connect to those secrets. Best I can offer is a cast ranking.

1. Jeffrey Wright
2. Anthony Hopkins
3. Evan Rachel Wood
4. Jimmi Simpson
5. Thandie Newton
6. Ed Harris
7. Louis Herthum
8. Sidse Babett Knudsen
9. Clifton Collins Jr.
10. James Marsden
11. Angela Sarafyan
12. Shannon Woodward
13. Rodrigo Santoro
14. Ptolemy Slocum
15. Ingrid Bolso Berdal
16. Luke Hemsworth
17. Leonard Nam
18. Ben Barnes
19. Simon Quaterman
20. Tessa Thompson

Probably Quentin Tarantino.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Which 5 Actors and Actresses under the age of 30, do you think have the most potential to gain 'Best of their Generation/All-Time Great' status.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Status in terms of general perception?

I'd probably say there aren't five, and the two currently that could go that path would be Michael B Jordan and Alicia Vikander. Another possibility for actresses would be Brie Larson, other actors, maybe Dane DaHaan but honestly it seems like he's lost stature, even in a public sense, from The Amazing Spider-man 2.

Luke Higham said...

Jimmy Kimmel's hosting the Oscars next February.