Sunday, 28 February 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1962: Robert Ryan in Billy Budd

Robert Ryan did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying John Claggart, Master d'Arms in Billy Budd.

Robert Ryan is of course known for being the heavy in so many films, and he once again fulfills this role in Billy Budd. Here he plays one the officers on a British warship, the Master d'Arms who in charge of keeping in line and disciplining the crew. We are introduced to John Claggart at the swearing in of the ship's new recruit, a former merchant seaman, Billy Budd (Terence Stamp). It interesting to note that Ryan is top billed, and I can't help wonder if he was campaigned lead since Stamp was place in supporting. Anyway Ryan instantly establishes Claggart as a man with really the stiffness of authority about him. Ryan's whole manner here is particularly tight and restrictive as he reveals Claggart to be a man who seems as though he is always on duty, that's because he is. In the early scenes aboard the ship Claggart orders around the crew and they instantly comply to any orders that Claggart demands of them. Ryan makes this particularly convincing in the way he effortlessly exudes the menace of Claggart as he seems in charge of the men to the point that they stand up straight from his mere presence. Ryan earns this through the cold dominance he is able to project so well.

As the film progresses we are given more insight into Claggart's methods of controlling the crew. Ryan is extremely effective as he reveals Claggart's way of control, which is very specific in that he only infrequently uses direct physical punishment from himself. Ryan instead reflects a disturbing assurance in Claggart whenever he speaks to the men as he incisively alludes to them his ability to have them flogged whenever he would wish. Ryan is excellent in the way he portrays the way Claggart's cruelty comes with this definite ease since he is a man who is well aware of the power his position gives him. Claggart is occasionally "needed" to rise to more aggressive action though whenever one of the men becomes a bit too free-spirited or worse tries to lay a hand on him. When these moments occur Ryan is downright chilling by bringing this twinkle in his eye as though Claggart has found himself a new project. Ryan is terrific in the way he presents Claggart narrowing on whoever this unlikely man might be, as his glare seems to be squarely on the individual as he takes any chance to inflict pain on the man, occasionally sneaking in something physical when he can.

What is most terrible of all of this is that these targets are shown by Ryan to be when Claggart has found a little way to get what he desires the most. The problem with that is Claggart is a pure sadist who only wishes to use his position to fulfill those desires. There is a great scene for Ryan as he tries to explain why a man must be flogged to the ship's Captain, Vere (Peter Ustinov). Claggart explains the reasons, which the Captain accepts, but attempts to argue to the Captain that the man should get more lashes due to it being war time. Ryan's fantastic because he plays the scene with Claggart giving the report as a proper Naval officer, however Ryan shows this as the facade which wains a bit as he so eagerly attempts to get the number of lashes raised. The flogging itself is brilliantly performed scene by Ryan finding the intense joy in Claggart as he calls out every flog as though he is a man living out a fantasy. The best moment of the scene is when he reaches ten as Ryan presents sheer ecstasy as he almost names an eleventh lash, but must stop himself. Ryan's marvelous by showing the effort Claggart puts in stopping himself as he clenches his teeth hard to keep the words from coming out of his mouth.

Now as being the sadistic authoritarian it can already be said that Ryan gives a great performance, but that's not all there is to his Claggart. We find this out through his relationship with Billy, a man who seems out of place within the grit of the ship through his simple grace and eternal optimism. I love one of Ryan's earliest reactions to Billy as he stares for a rather long time as though he is completely unsure of what to make out of this man. The problem is Billy is just such a unassuming yet perpetually charming individual who almost everyone comes to love because of just how honest his goodness is. He's a man who obviously loves life. This is in striking opposition to Ryan's portrayal of Claggart. Of course Claggart is an unpleasant man to begin with, but Ryan goes further than that. Whenever he's not inflicting pain on another there is a subtle pain Ryan suggests in Claggart himself, as a man who seems to hate the very idea of existence. His causing of suffering for others ends up being the only way to relieve his own. Billy though notices this and there is an amazing scene where Billy attempts basically to cheer Claggart up. Ryan actually manages to be rather moving in this scene as for just a moment shows a glint of pure happiness, as Claggart smiles at Billy's suggestion to keep him company during his lonely watches. Ryan depicts so well that mess of man that Claggart is as he forces himself to reject the notion, and decides that Billy's goodness must be proven false. Ryan finds a sick passion in Claggart as he does his best to break Billy down to his level, a passion like that of zealot trying desperately to affirm his failing beliefs. Ryan is outstanding in his final scene as he presents Claggart giving all of his vile beliefs in a moment as he makes up a story to the captain about Billy being the leader of an attempted mutiny against him. This technically breaks down Billy, not to a bad man, but to commit a violent act simply because he cannot come up with any verbal response to Claggart's lies. Ryan's brief reaction to the attack is perfection as his expression brings a final euphoria to Claggart as though he's been assured in his view of the world. This is an outstanding performance by Robert Ryan, his best villainous turn which is really saying something. He fulfills the need of being the film's fiendish sadist, yet goes much further finding the complexity needed for the character in his portrait of the personal desperation which compels the man.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1962: Brock Peters and Robert Duvall in To Kill a Mockingbird

Brock Peters did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Brock Peters plays Tom Robinson, an essential character in To Kill a Mockingbird even though he only appears in a single scene, we briefly hear his voice in another scene. Brock Peters plays Tom Robinson a man accused of beating and raping a white woman. The lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) does agree to defend the man despite much of the public already having deemed him guilty. This goes to the point that during the night before his trial Tom comes close to being lynched, and we hear Peters's fearful voice as he quietly asks if they've left. We next see Tom at the trial and Peters is very effective even as he sits silently by portraying the state of horror of a man who is well aware of the terrible situation he is in. The highlight of Peters's performance is of course when Atticus asks Tom to testify on his own behalf. Peters is great in the scene as suggests just the modest man Tom was before the trial, and shows him to be almost paralyzed by the considerable unease brought upon by the accusations. Peters is excellent by actually constantly realizing the effort it takes Tom to keep his composure fitting for a man who knows a noose is waiting for his neck for a crime he did not commit.

Peters is great throughout his portrayal of Tom's testimony since he makes the process of it feel so authentic. He finds that difficulty in Tom as he tries to get past each word, and just set up the situation where he had been asked by the woman several times to help her with chores. He attempts to tell this as a friendly story, though Peters properly never allows the nervousness to fully disappear. As the story progresses to reveal the night of when the supposed crime occurred Peters makes the emotional strain all the greater as he tries to tell the truth about what happened. Peters is incredibly moving by depicting Tom's hesitation to get to the important details of what happened showing the sensitive nature of the man, as well as even conveying the certain sympathy Tom has for his rather wretched accuser. Tom states that the woman in fact attempted to come on to him and that all he did was flee the situation. Peters is heartbreaking as he tearfully espouses his innocence. In the moment Peters echoes so well not only the memories of the past but also the terrible pain of knowing where those memories have left him now. After the testimony there is but a guilty verdict left for him. It's only a short moment but Peters reveals a definite despair in Tom before he is taken away, which sets up Tom's unfortunately tragic fate. Peters gives a very strong performance here as he makes the needed impact in his substantial scene. Tom Robinson is not just the name, as Peters creates the real loss of a man caused by a prejudiced society.
Robert Duvall did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Arthur "Boo" Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Robert Duvall also plays a pivotal character in the film, but just like Peters he only has a single scene where we see his face. Boo Radley has a quite the build up as Atticus's two children Jem (Phillip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham) are somewhat obsessed with him due to the various stories told about him. Those being that he is a potentially dangerous man who only comes out at night. Radley has a considerable presence in the story though he does not appear until the very last scene of the film. Luckily though Robert Duvall must have one of the greatest entrances ever for both a character and an actor since this was Duvall's very first film appearance. Boo appears after having saved Atticus's children from an attacker, and he is found hiding behind a door as everyone tries to figure out what happened. I don't mind admitting that the scene never fails to give me chills. Duvall's reaction is indeed perfection as the light first illuminates him. Duvall first jumps back in an instinctual fear as we see the recluse, and in the moment we see the potentially dangerous man that everyone seems to talk about. There's that distance of a man who only finds discomfort from the presence of onlookers. However in just a few seconds as Scout recognizes him Duvall so naturally, yet silently, reveals such warmth in his face showing the good man that Boo is. It's such a beautifully rendered moment by Duvall as he successfully sums up his character matter of seconds. The moment can be used as an example of truly flawless acting as there is such an emotional impact from just that one look. It is true that this performance is probably no longer than three minutes, perhaps shorter. This in itself is a challenge as Duvall manages to simply be Boo Radley here, and everything that his character is and means is found in those three minutes.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1962: Tatsuya Nakadai in Sanjuro

Tatsuya Nakadai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hanbei Muroto in Sanjuro.

Sanjuro follows the further adventures of the nameless samurai (Toshiro Mifune) originally featured in Yojimbo as he goes about helping a group of men weed out the growing corruption in their clan. Tatsuya Nakadai also returns, though obviously not as the same character, but serves a similair purpose. That being again as the most worthy adversary for the samurai, though again not the official leader of the villains, but rather as their most competent enforcer. Hanbei is actually quite a bit different from Unosuke the gunslinger from Yojimbo in large part due to Nakadai's portrayal of each. Hanbei is introduced far sooner in the film as his first appearance is a pseudo confrontation with the samurai, though the samurai avoids a real fight as he's only hiding the group of men. Nakadai though one again proves himself a match for Mifune's considerable presence, as he did in Yojimbo as well though in almost a sneaky way. Nakadai here is much more upfront about going directly face to face against Mifune. Nakadai pulls it off as he carries that same considerable confidence that Mifune exudes so well.

Nakadai finds the same sort of presence as Mifune, and when the samurai later states the danger presented Hanbei, opposed to their other enemies, it is wholly earned by Nakadai's performance. Nakadai as usual excels in the villainous role as he is able to convey such malevolence in those eyes of his that seem to pierce the soul, and simply oozes menace with such ease. There is something rather remarkable in Nakadai's work as he goes beyond making Hanbei simply a worthy foe for the samurai. It's rather interesting in their first meeting, despite the samurai beating a few of his men, Nakadai does not portray an antagonism towards the warrior. Nakadai's reaction instead suggests Hanbei is only rather impressed by the samurai's skill, and is in fact more than happy to offer the samurai a job. This might seem just the set up for the samurai to find a into his enemy's good graces, but Nakadai and Mifune take it bit further than you might expect.When the samurai comes for the job, wanting to infiltrate the enemy from within for more information, Nakadai portrays only an honest warmth in Hanbei as he enthusiastically welcomes the samurai into his ranks.

Their initial conversation scene, as Hanbei fills the samurai in on the situation, is a great moment. Now Hanbei does not mind stating that he is just as corrupt as the men he works for, Nakadai brings such a glee in Hanbei when he makes this statement yet this is not as simple as it might seem. There is an underlying genuine understanding that Nakadai conveys as well as Mifune despite the fact that the samurai is tricking the man. The understanding though is not in regards to their moral codes, that is where they do differ as the samurai is a good man and Hanbei is not, but there is a connection still. Nakadai and Mifune both present men of a similair sort, though again of a different morality, as they not only are aware of each other's skill, but also share a mutual perspective on those around them. This is present through a definite cynicism in that they both know they are in fact much smarter than the men they are helping, the problem is they happen to be helping two different set of fools. It's a real camaraderie that Nakadai and Mifune develop for the moment, I especially like how much fun Nakadai shows Hanbei having when the samurai gives an example to him of how he will impress Hanbei's boss.

I love that Nakadai and Mifune briefly make the two a good team as they share the same sort of grace as the take down four men together. Unfortunately the pseudo friendship of the two cannot continue when the samurai must release the men, since they were those he was trying to help, while Hanbei is away. Nakadai's actually pretty hilarious in his depiction of Hanbei's surprise at his men all being dead, and his disappointment at seeing the the samurai hog tied as the soul survivor. Nakadai rightly suggests Hanbei is much less convinced by the next story the samurai comes to him with, as he keeps an observant stare upon him as though he's trying to see if he can find the truth of the man. Hanbei actually technically outsmarts the samurai catching him in the middle of sending a signal, and technically would win the day if it were not for the incompetence of his bosses. Nakadai though is fascinating as he depicts a very real sense of betrayal in Hanbei as he lashes out at the samurai, before needing to ride off as a messenger. The samurai of course wins the day for his allies, but that still leaves one final duel, a natural occurrence for any Nakadai/Mifune collaboration, with Hanbei due to that earlier betrayal. Again what's so special about this is that's not just a good guy facing down the bad guy. They instead find that same connection before, and Nakadai is actually even rather moving, despite being the main villain, by revealing a genuine despair in Hanbei due to the samurai manipulating him. Nakadai gives a great performance as he not only fulfills the duties of being a menacing foe for the samurai, but also subtly offers more substance by for once given truth to that often said villain cliche of "we're not so different you and I".

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1962: Lee Marvin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Lee Marvin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Liberty Valance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Lee Marvin obviously plays the doomed man at the end of the title, but the title itself is a label of fame rather than infamy. The reason being the nature of Liberty Valance who we are introduced to as he robs a stagecoach and brutally beats one of the passengers Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart). Marvin as one should expect dominates the scene with his fierce voice, and imposing demeanor. Marvin exudes a considerable menace from his own personal presence even when his face is hidden by a mask. Stoddard after recovering soon finds out that Liberty is a career outlaw who spends his time robbing and assaulting basically whoever he feels like with the local law enforcement too timid to stand up to him. Liberty really is not this master criminal in the slightest, but  he's still quite the problem since any one may randomly suffer because of him. Marvin is terrific in the role bellowing out his lines with the right bluster and disregard for anything one might even consider to be decent. I particularly love the considerable disdain in his voice whenever he chides the Easterner Stoddard by referring to him as "dude".

Marvin is actually only in about five or six scenes of the film, a few of them even being brief, yet he makes quite the impact as Liberty. The interesting part of it all is that again Liberty is not this hyper intelligent villain, he's just a thug who lives in a place where good punch and quick draw is all that is needed to be a terror. Marvin embraces this so well with his performance as he conquers any given situation not by portraying any sort of exact charisma, but rather just the brunt force that is Valance. Marvin carries almost a relaxed quality at times that is fitting for a man who believes he's pretty much entitled to whatever he wants, but there is only ever an underlying current of viciousness that alludes to the violence Liberty is capable of. A viciousness that only grows whenever a situation forces Liberty to get mad, which is a most unpleasant sight thanks to Marvin. One can see how Liberty himself as Marvin makes him a man who insists upon himself, which is easy since no one can physically stand up to him other than Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). The moments between he and Wayne are fantastic in the way that they match each other's presence and intensity presenting the men distinctly in their element.

Marvin's especially effective in these scenes by quietly conveying a bit of fear in Liberty, as he recognizes Doniphon as a man who is indeed a threat to him, a threat he'd rather avoid. Liberty instead keeps his focus on Stoddard, who only further encourages Liberty by Ransom attempting to take the legal route in dealing with the outlaw. This is until Liberty takes it a step further, and Ransom decides to take on Liberty with a gun in hand. This is a downright amazing scene for Marvin because even though it takes Stoddard all his courage to stare down the man, Marvin shows that Liberty still does not care lick about it. Marvin is excellent as he plays the scene as though Liberty is just trying to get as much enjoyment as he can in his last confrontation with a man he thinks so little of. Marvin portrays this in a terrific fashion as he leans on a pole almost throughout the confrontation displaying not a bit of fear for Stoddard's attempts. Marvin's great as Liberty toys with Stoddard as he so genuinely bursts out laughing every time he messes with Stoddard. Marvin makes Liberty a true bully as he shows so much joy in every second Liberty torments him. When Liberty finally decides on the coup de grace, Marvin's reaction is basically that of a man whose had his fun so might as well get the job done. Marvin tops it all off with his brief, but brilliant death scene as one can't help but see just bit of disbelief in his expression just before he collapses. This is a memorable turn by Marvin not by creating this truly cunning adversary, but rather making him the violent lout he should be.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1962: Peter Sellers in Lolita

Peter Sellers did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Clare Quilty in Lolita.

Now looking at Peter Sellers's performance in Lolita at its most straight forward seems in line with what he was most known for before his work with Stanley Kubrick, and perhaps in general is still best known for which is broad comedy. This should not sound as though I am being dismissive in this regard as there's nothing to hand wave about Sellers's performance here in that regard either. In each of Seller's substantial scenes he takes upon a slightly different personality and accent as he interacts with the always perplexed Humbert Humbert (James Mason). In his first scene there is a moment in which Sellers reads back Humbert's rather serious letter in cranky cowboy voice, and Sellers is indeed hilarious as he wheezes his way through the man's mocking of Humbert. In one of his later appearances Sellers appears as a supposed school psychiatrist and does a rather expected Sigmund Freud parody, heavy accent and all. That's rather fine as Sellers again proves to be comedic gold as he says his somewhat ridiculous mumbo jumbo with such equally absurd, yet still oddly convicted, delivery.

My favorite scene of his, in terms of being extremely funny, is when Sellers appears to Humbert at a hotel and claims to be part of the police officers convention which is also staying there. Sellers is dynamite in this scene in how flawless his timing is as he delivers his long line of oddly stringed together words as a man, just a normal guy who just wants to talk about normal world events to another guy with a normal looking face. His hastened manner of speaking which seems only to become faster as the scene goes on is so weirdly spellbinding as well as so humorous. Then there is of course the rest of the opening sequence which again is comedic magic for Sellers as he plays off so well against Mason's intense performance. Just about everything Sellers does is worth a laugh as he goes about talking and keeps changing subjects, while Humbert is obviously quite focused on a single topic. Almost every second of Sellers's performance here is pure joy when looked upon in the simplest sense, as Sellers is indeed as funny as you'd expect him to be as these various strange character. Of course Sellers is only playing one character, and his intent isn't quite so simple.

Every time we Sellers he is playing Clare Quilty. Now this is not a secret since we are properly introduced to Quilty and everything. This is in plain sight as he evens dons the disguises yet it is quite obvious it's Sellers to us, though Humbert is completely in the dark about that as well as what Quilty's purposes are. Well the truth about Quilty is that he is quite interested in, just as Humbert is interested in, Humbert's step-daughter the titular Lolita (Sue Lyon). Of course by interested in I mean in one of the worst possible ways an older man could be interested in a teenage girl. With this in mind Sellers's work adds more than a few layers past just already being hilarious. The scenes where Quilty disguises himself are not just Quilty being strange, but rather Quilty actively manipulating Humbert for his own ends. Sellers in these scenes actually has this definite incisiveness through his eyes and his words as he's trying to scare Humbert into taking a certain action as well as seems to be trolling him just a bit. There's a more than a little sadistic glee underlying these scenes that Sellers realizes in particularly effective fashion as he crafts Quilty into far more than a comedic distraction building towards when the true purpose of Quilty is revealed within the story.

Now Quilty has other appearances throughout the film, often quite briefly as you might just see him hidden in the background or to the side of the center of the frame. Sellers's exceptional as his demeanor in these moments develops Quilty as not only an enigmatic figure, but also almost has a  demonic like presence as he stalks Humbert and Lolita through every move. There is something particularly remarkable as Sellers is so off-putting, and no not exactly in the way you'd expect, even through only his voice when Quilty makes a rather accusatory phone call to Humbert. It's interesting in that Sellers actually in a way confuses the viewer as much as Quilty confuses Humbert. The reason being we kind of know who Quilty is since the first scene of the film is when Humbert goes over to murder him. In this scene Sellers shows who Quilty is when he's not on task as stalker so to speak, which is just hedonistic creep. Sellers does not shy away from that fact in least yet is outstanding since he actually managed to shift the perspective of Quilty throughout the film through his portrayal of Quilty's various disguises. This is amazing work as Sellers can't even pigeonhole himself here. This is indeed a great comedic turn, yet he's equally disturbing in the role as well. He even manages to make Quilty slightly sympathetic in the opening scene by subtly portraying some honest fear and unease in Quilty as he goes about mocking Humbert while knowing death is not far away. None of this really should work but all of it does because of Sellers's fantastic performance.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1962

And the Nominees Were Not:

Robert Ryan in Billy Budd

Peter Sellers in Lolita

Lee Marvin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Tatsuya Nakadai in Sanjuro

Robert Duvall in To Kill a Mockingbird

Brock Peters in To Kill a Mockingbird

For prediction purposes: Duvall from the mockingbird men.

And for a single review spectacular:
The supporting cast of Lawrence of Arabia:

Arthur Kennedy in Lawrence of Arabia

Claude Rains in Lawrence of Arabia

Jose Ferrer in Lawrence of Arabia

Alec Guinness in Lawrence of Arabia

Anthony Quinn in Lawrence of Arabia

Jack Hawkins in Lawrence of Arabia

Anthony Quayle in Lawrence of Arabia

For prediction purposes, eh rank em all if you wish.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2015: Results

10. Johnny Depp in Black Mass - Depp returns to form here for an effectively brutal depiction of a vicious mobster.

Best Scene: Whitey tries to explain why he wasn't a rat.
9. Ben Mendelsohn in Mississippi Grind - Ben Mendelsohn gives an endearing and moving depiction of a gambler with his work being particularly well amplified by his amazing chemistry with his co-star Ryan Reynolds.

Best Scene: Gerry plays a piano.
8. Michael B. Jordan in Creed - Jordan gives a great portrayal of a man with the passion to find his own path though with the frustrations of a son trying to overcome the shadow of his father.

Best Scene: "I wasn't a mistake"
7. Jason Segel in The End of the Tour - Segel gives a fascinating portrait of David Foster Wallace capturing his personal idiosyncrasies along with his personal philosophy, intelligence, and vulnerabilities.

Best Scene: Lipsky asks Wallace about his depression.
6. Michael Fassbender in Macbeth - Michael Fassbender offers a unique and powerful alternative interpretation of the tragic Scot, as man slowly destroyed by madness from his post traumatic stress.

Best Scene: Macbeth learns of the fate of his wife.
5. Ben Foster in The Program - Foster brings the right out of control vanity and ego to his Lance Armstrong, but still offers just enough sympathy for the man.

Best Scene: Lance says he'll clean up the sport himself. 
4. Jason Bateman in The Gift - Jason Bateman offers one of the most realistic depictions of a bully you'll find in a film, but goes further to still instill this sort of man with a very real humanity.

Best Scene: The final gift.
3. Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes - McKellen offers not only his own effective approach to the well worn character, but also goes deeper to realize the personal difficulties of being such a man in heartbreaking detail.

Best Scene: Mr. Holmes and Ann.
2. Tom Hardy in Legend - Tom Hardy gives two great performances, one appropriately outrageous and entertaining as deranged mad man, and the other appropriately charming and moving as a potentially good man who allows himself to fall down the same path as his brother.

Best Scene: The Krays come to blows. 
1. Jacob Tremblay in Room - Good predictions Luke and Anonymous. This year came down to several performances for me, and it's a great year, despite what perhaps the lead actor nominations might allow one to believe. My choice, the choice that I'm picking, yes right exactly now must be chosen, yes the choice. Well obviously I already chose, but this one was particularly difficult as there was not a single performance that just stood out to me, not in a bad way mind you, but rather I had to choose simply through work that I equally loved. Anyway my choice is the youngest of all the nominees yet his work is no less captivating. Tremblay's work is unassuming yet tremendous, as he carries his film so eloquently depicting a quiet yet so powerful depiction of a boy's tumultuous journey to discover the world.

Best Scene: Preparing to leave the room. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Jacob Tremblay in Room
  2. Tom Hardy in Legend
  3. Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes
  4. Tom Courtenay in 45 Years
  5. Jason Bateman in The Gift
  6. Ben Foster in The Program
  7. Michael Fassbender in Macbeth
  8. Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road
  9. Jason Segel in The End of the Tour
  10. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
  11. Michael B. Jordan in Creed 
  12. Kurt Russell in Bone Tomahawk
  13. Paul Dano in Love & Mercy
  14. John Cusack in Love & Mercy
  15. Abraham Attah in Beasts of No Nation
  16. Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies
  17. Tobey Maguire in Pawn Sacrifice 
  18. Ben Mendelsohn in Mississippi Grind
  19. Ryan Reynolds in Mississippi Grind 
  20. Andrew Garfield in 99 Homes
  21. John Boyega in Star Wars: The Force Awakens 
  22. Patrick Wilson in Bone Tomahawk
  23. Joel Edgerton in Black Mass 
  24. Jesse Eisenberg in The End of the Tour
  25. Johnny Depp in Black Mass
  26. Domhnall Gleeson in Ex Machina
  27. Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs
  28. Colin Farrell in The Lobster 
  29. Jason Clarke in Everest 
  30. Matt Damon in The Martian 
  31. Sharlto Copley in Chappie
  32. Daniel Craig in Spectre
  33. Bryan Cranston in Trumbo
  34. Michael Fassbender in Slow West
  35. Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation 
  36. Kevin Bacon in Cop Car
  37. Tom Hardy in Child 44
  38. Tom Hiddleston in Crimson Peak
  39. Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service 
  40. Armie Hammer in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
  41. Henry Cavill in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
  42. Paul Rudd in Ant-Man
  43. Robert De Niro in The Intern 
  44. Vin Diesel in Furious 7
  45. Liam Neeson in Run All Night
  46. Richard Madden in Cinderella
  47. Taron Egerton in Kingsman: The Secret Service 
  48. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Walk 
  49. James Freedson-Jackson in Cop Car
  50. Hays Wellford in Cop Car
  51. Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw
  52. Bill Hader in Trainwreck
  53. Noah Schnapp in The Peanuts Movie
  54. Sean Penn in The Gunman
  55. Kodi Smit-McPhee in Slow West
  56. David Thewlis in Anomalisa
  57. Chris Pratt in Jurassic World 
  58. Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational Man
  59. Michael Caine in Youth 
  60. Chris Hemsworth in The Heart of the Sea
  61. Will Smith in Concussion
  62. Dev Patel in Chappie
  63. Channing Tatum in Jupiter Ascending
  64. Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl
Next Year: 1962 Supporting

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2015: Michael Fassbender in Macbeth

Michael Fassbender did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of Macbeth.

This in an interesting adaptation of the Scottish play taking a particularly stylistic approach to the material, although arguably to the point of excess.

Michael Fassbender's ignored performance of 2015 is in the often played role of Macbeth. Macbeth despite being a well worn character the way he's drawn in the play actually allows much interpretation to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is really the more direct character in a way. This film offers a different motivation to begin with through the addition of Macbeth and his wife (Marion Cotillard) having lost their son before the beginning of the story. Fassbender in turn does not portray Macbeth as the standard sort of hero who simply stumbles upon the misfortune of the corruption offered by the witches. The initial battle where Macbeth finds his glory Fassbender portrays Macbeth as already deeply troubled and obviously depressed by his loss. There is a considerable dread that Fassbender exudes as a man who is not there for the glory of battle, but merely for duty. In Fassbender's haggard gaze there are the eyes of one who has seen many battles, and this next battle is yet another terrible ordeal for him. Fassbender is striking in portraying the anguish of Macbeth as he sees his fellow soldiers fall, and the loss of lives seem to weigh down his very being. When Macbeth meets the witches this is not a normal soldier stumbling on a cursed prophecy, but rather Fassbender shows a man who has already been deeply scared by life.

Fassbender offers an intriguing interpretation of the character as the King, Duncan, comes to his home, and the potential to fulfill the prophecy to become King becomes quite evident. Lady Macbeth only encourages the idea and Fassbender and Cotillard are very effective together. This is not the case of Lady Macbeth seducing her husband in order to claim the throne, but rather the speaking of the crown seems almost as some odd mutual solace between the two. When they discuss the plan there is a tenderness the two realizes yet it is not that of lust. Fassbender and Cotillard instead seem to suggest the two as almost utilizing the prophecy as some way to overcome their personal grief. Fassbender is rather fascinating in that he plays Macbeth as in a post traumatic daze, and as a man who is almost in a dream as he goes about his murderous plot. Fassbender in a way makes even the delivering of Macbeth's soliloquy of contemplating the murder particularly convincing, not just because Fassbender does certainly excel with Shakespeare's words, but he also portrays it as the insanity of  man who speaks to himself. The murder itself Fassbender depicts in a very detached way as he kills the King. Again though it works in giving an sense of Macbeth's state of mind as he barely seems to be able to comprehend the reality of what he has done. 

The plan of course works and Macbeth becomes King, but nothing seems successful about this endeavor. There is nothing but a hollow the stare as the two have apparently fulfilled their "dream". As he looks over his court Fassbender shows no joy, satisfaction, or even guilt about his place on the throne. Fassbender keeps Macbeth still as a man who haunted by the horrors he's seen, and the murder in fact has only worsened his state. Fassbender is quite powerful though as he portrays only a growing mental decay in Macbeth as he attempts to stay as King. As Macbeth goes upon allowing even more murders in order to stay as King which includes the slaughter of a family, as well as the murder of his best friend, Fassbender still keeps a detachment to the proceedings. It is true to the way he establishes the character, and succeeds in being rather chilling by showing only a poisonous madness growing from his original daze. Fassbender shows Macbeth as man trying to find some sort of relief for this, yet through every heinous act he only suggests a further degradation of the man's already fragile state. The madness only begets madness, and one should commend Fassbender for some how furthering the deterioration of the man, when he already began the film with the man rotting from the inside.

No matter what Macbeth does though he in no way finds any sort of comfort from his position. This in fact leads Lady Macbeth to eventually commit suicide. The finding of the dead Lady Macbeth is a tremendous scene for Fassbender as he begins the scene with that same daze that compelled him through the rest of his slow demise. When he seems to see that she indeed cannot rise Fassbender is rather heartbreaking in portraying Macbeth as finally having a moment of realization of what he has done. In the scene the guilt of his actions seems to appear as Fassbender poignantly delivers this moment of clarity as Macbeth for once seems to realize what he has done. Fassbender manages to make something truly moving from this by presenting it as Macbeth also seeing that he has gone too far to turn back now. This portion of the story is more traditionally when Macbeth becomes his most diabolical and becomes the villain for Macduff (Sean Harris) to defeat. Fassbender does not do this and in fact makes Macbeth possibly at his most sympathetic since before the initial murder. At this point of the story the armies of Duncan's sons are formed and are coming to retake the throne, and this is usually when Macbeth becomes filled with an egotistical pride believing himself invisible due to a final prophecy from the witches.

Macbeth though still must take the field of battle, this is usually shown through ego, but Fassbender presents an alternative reason. Fassbender instead portrays a somber acceptance of his fate, and that he must merely continue on the path to hell that he has set for himself. Now I could see how one could be disappointed by this, as often times Macbeth's downfall is where the real fireworks from the performance seem to come from. Macbeth's downfall is downplayed by Fassbender very much opposed to the usual approach to the character, yet I find it to be no less compelling. Fassbender stays true to his interpretation of Macbeth by showing him basically going through the motions of the battle. His final fight with Macduff is particularly different. Macbeth's famous line of boast that he cannot be killed by a man who is woman born, is not delivered with the usual confidence. Fassbender instead states it with sorrow as a man whose pained by his very existence, but continues since as far as he knows there's no other way out except suicide for him. The pivotal moment when Macbeth learns that Macduff can kill him, I found Fassbender surprisingly affecting by having the reaction less of a surprise, but rather that of man who finally understands that there is perhaps a way for him to end his suffering. This is an atypical take on Macbeth, and I can even see how it could leave some disappointed. I for one for this to be an outstanding performance as it offers a captivating and unique approach to a character where that is quite difficult to say the least.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2015: Tom Hardy in Legend

Tom Hardy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ronald "Ronnie" and Reginald "Reggie" Kray in Legend.

Legend is a film though I find watchable enough, with even some great moments, is a bit problematic as a gangster film about the notorious Kray twins who attempted to control the crime underworld in London during the 1960's.

The film itself has an inability to really decide on a tone on whether it was to be a more realistic depiction of the rise and fall of a gangster like Goodfellas, or would like to be something purposefully more bombastic and stylistic like Gangster No.1. Now this might not be as damning as it could be simply because a realistic gangster film also has to be a bit over the top simply to be accurate to begin with. Now there may be a purpose for this, though it is not all that well realized story wise, through Tom Hardy's portrayal of both Kray twins. Although the twins are identical they actually rather different looking nonetheless due to Ronnie's glasses, his nose, and his contorted face, the latter of which Hardy rather brilliantly pulls off himself. In addition the two of them have distinct accents made by Hardy despite both being cockney. For Reggie Hardy basically finds an accent that is the most refined a cockney sound can be while still being cockney. For Ronnie on the other hand Hardy gives a much courser accent. Both of these are done with complete consistency by Hardy as they not only feel natural to his characters, but already allude to their differences. I have to admit Hardy managed to make them so distinct that I basically forgot that this is a dual role, since Hardy makes both of them unique right from the outset.

We are first introduced to Hardy's Reggie, after the title screen, as he goes about his duties as a gangster so to speak, but despite the technical brutality of the job there's nothing harsh about this performance, yet. Hardy is the epitome of a suave gangster as he goes about his day. Hardy just in the way he walks as Reggie is just brimming with really an endearing confidence, as though he's almost walking on air, a man whose a bit above it all, and has somehow earned it. One of his earliest scenes is when he goes about taking care of business which leads him to the door of Frances Shea (Emily Browning). Hardy is extremely charming in this scene as Reggie asks Frances out despite the fact that Reggie does this by attempting to slightly blackmail her by suggesting he'll be easier on her brother if she says yes. Hardy though makes it work without question, and it is wholly believable that Frances would be swept off her feet by him. Hardy just is so perfectly smooth as Reggie, carrying the right kind of Marlon Brando charm well when Brando was charming that is. Hardy plays it not that he really conceals his roughness exactly, but rather is able to wear it in a way that makes it seem oh so appealing. That's not quite the case for Ronnie Kray though.

We find Ronnie after that title screen first as he's in a mental hospital where the psychiatrist must be strong armed in order to agree to Kray's release. Hardy now here is a bit on the other end of things as there is nothing smooth about Ronnie. Hardy's terrific in just realizing the way Ronnie speaks which goes even beyond his accent. Hardy has this very internalized externalized approach with Ronnie which obviously sounds odd, but makes sense with the character. That being Ronnie whole demeanor is a bit hard to ignore, and in no way does he ever seem retiring in the least. Hardy has the bent way he speaks as though he is often really only talking to himself at times. The demented reality of Ronnie's mind is found in Hardy's jumbled delivery of whenever Ronnie speaks his mind. There's always something so very off about him yet there is a pivotal lack of shame Hardy suggests in Ronnie's demeanor. There's definite a similair confidence found in Hardy's Ronnie as there is in his Reggie, though the nature of it is a bit different. Hardy shows Reggie as a man confident in his abilities to win someone over, with Ronnie on the other hand Hardy presents a man confident with his ability to be the psychopath he is.

Now the film's alternating tone actually could be attached to each Kray's view of what being a gangster means exactly. Reggie obviously sees crime as a way to considerable success therefore a bit more low key whereas Ronnie seems to be far more interested in the flamboyant and, well, the rather violent elements of the life. There's separate attitudes are particularly well shown early on in a scene that features double Hardy, which are all the best scenes really, as Reggie and Ronnie are lured into a trap by their gangster rival. The scene is a great moment for both of Hardy's performances. With Reggie Hardy finds so well his particular attitude in dealing with the fight which again is to treat it with such eloquence. Hardy makes Reggie a true master in this domain and even in such a fight he still somehow seems respectable. Hardy with Ronnie on the other hand is quite entertaining in portraying Ronnie close to drooling with the idea of the fight portraying him with such intensity as he basically seeks to be the titular Legend, declaring his desire for a "proper gunfight". Hardy even finds something to bring out of the performance of the fight itself for each, having Reggie like a proper boxer dealing with each foe, Ronnie though Hardy presents him like rabid animal indulging what seems to be his greatest delight.

Of course the gangster's life involves more than a proper gunfight or a blunt object fight as they try to deal with day to day business of running their illegal and legal operations. Hardy again carries himself perfectly as Reggie when he's the man of the nightclub, always being a man there, as well as when discussing important business with the the American mafia. Hardy makes Reggie a man born to rule finding that cool needed for a man who keeps calm even when dealing with some potentially dangerous men. Hardy is the polar opposite in his portrayal of Ronnie in his dealings with the business side of things suggesting a considerable unease even in Ronnie as he try to deal with anything that seems the slightest bit boring to him. Hardy in this case is marvelous in presenting the considerable awkwardness in Ronnie, which is kind of always there anyway, but only grows. He's especially good in planting basically one of the seeds of the Kray's destruction by making Ronnie have a clear distaste for this aspect of being gangster, but also showing that Ronnie has trouble even understanding it. Hardy's great though  by alluding to such a danger in this confusion as the more confused Ronnie is the more off-putting he becomes.

It probably sounds like I was praising the varying tone there, but I think certain scenes show perhaps what the film could have been if it more effectively intertwined both Kray's story. The tonal shifts could have even seemed appropriate in order to represent each Kray's personal style. The film only really gets along because of Hardy, since few scenes have enough rhyme or reason and frequently fail to build up to something special. Now in purely looking at the strength of a performance though that's completely fine for Hardy. Hardy manages to do something special with each, and certainly does his best within the film's messy frame by portraying the separate life of each Kray so well. As Ronnie, Hardy manages to actually be rather hilarious when he's suppose to be in delivering the messy madness of the man, and makes sense of a man who somehow finds sense in trying to create his own personal utopia in Ethiopia. Hardy though somehow is even menacing in realizing how terrifying the mess could be, since he makes the man's psychotic intensity always a constant. Now it seems much more serious minded in the story of Reggie particularly with his romance with Frances. Hardy importantly in these scenes makes Reggie love towards her honest with a true warmth, though at the same time finds the right conflict through his consistent hesitation whenever she suggests he become a better man.

Technically speaking these two sides should not come together at all, but Hardy pulls it off particularly when he shares scenes with himself. It needs to be said that Hardy somehow finds the right chemistry with himself, and manages to cohere the tones represented by each brother by making it really the conflict between them. What's most likely the best scene of the film is when the two of them come directly to blows and Hardy is incredible in depicting the breakdown caused by those personalities he's so well developed to this point. The film's second half is where it really starts to get clumsy in its story telling nevertheless Hardy still shines through. He's outstanding in fashioning each Kray's downfall separately managing a connection in the end. Ronnie's downfall is expected, and my favorite solo scene of Ronnie may be when he basically lives his dream by assassinating the Kray's gangster rival. Hardy's amazing in the scene having Ronnie walk with such pride, and conviction as he goes about his task even though he is in fact dooming himself into life incarceration. Hardy properly makes Reggie's a bit more complex as his downfall comes in part due to his relationship with Frances. Hardy is very moving even in creating the honesty in Reggie's love for her, but unconditional it never quite can be. He reveals the truth about Reggie, which connects him directly to his brother, which that he too really is just a barbarian in a suit at heart, he just knows how to wear the suit better. Hardy's fantastic in presentation of the conflict in Reggie and is always convincing in representing the contradiction of the man. The truly despicable moments of Reggie Hardy makes equally honest though suggesting his own sick joy of the lifestyle that makes him more like Ronnie than he'd want to admit. The loss of Frances, very much caused by Reggie, leads him also to a murder that's his downfall. It is not a moment of pride for Reggie, and Hardy is even a little heartbreaking somehow by leaving Reggie an emotional mess who can only accept himself as the man he chose to be. As you probably surmised I love both of Hardy's performances here. The film doesn't quite come together, but this never hinders Hardy. He gives two compelling portraits of two men who are vastly different in terms of personality, but in the end are just the same as men.

Alternate Best Actor 2015: Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes

Ian McKellen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes.

Mr. Holmes is an effective film about life of elderly Sherlock Holmes where he's tasked to solve a few mysteries of a different sort.

The most substantial portion of the film follows Holmes at the latest part of his life in retirement in an English cottage where he is tended to by the housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), and spends time with her son Roger (Milo Parker). McKellen actually is aged up considerably in the role in terms of makeup but also through his performance. McKellen adds to this through his troubled movements, and his rather cracked voice as Holmes. He carries himself with a slow pace, and even amplifies the makeup through his often haggard expression. I was actually somewhat concerned on my first viewing that McKellen might be reducing Holmes to a crotchety old man type. This was merely through his introductory scene where he corrects his fellow train passengers that an insect in sight is in fact a wasp and not a bee. McKellen brings a considerable disdain in his voice as he states that a wasp is different creature entirely, but as the rest of the film reveals this is merely to illustrate Holmes's attitude towards wasps, and perhaps a bit of exasperation just from his long trip, rather than his normal attitude towards life. McKellen does not make Holmes a curmudgeon as he finds already some enthusiasm, though still reduced from age, when he goes about his one remaining passion in life which is tending to his bees.

An even better side of Holmes is quickly shown by McKellen when the housekeeper's son Roger inquires about one of his cases that he had been writing about. McKellen is splendid in bringing this spark of light into Holmes the moment he is asked about his old days as a detective. There is such a nice light touch of humor McKellen brings as he calmly discusses his old method of deciphering people's intention, I particularly love the quiet sense of pride McKellen shows when Roger states that the process as the thing that Holmes does. McKellen though is quite moving though as he is asked for more at the time, and portrays the sorrow in the man as he struggles with his memory. McKellen is terrific in finding this internal frustration in Holmes any moment where he must recall something, and McKellen finds this anguish to perhaps be even more considerable as Holmes was once a man made by his mind essentially. Of course this leads to what seems like an essential question on McKellen's performance, which whatever his exact approach to Sherlock Holmes is. This something always rather interesting to examine considering all the different portrayals of the detective that have been seen over the years.

McKellen even as the elderly Holmes is able to find his Sherlock Holmes so to speak. McKellen  finds this exact method of the man as he keeps this observant quality about him at all times, as though he's always, just by instinct, observes carefully all those around him. McKellen in his body language and the way he speaks make this precise manner to the man who does try keep these exact movements just as he once did, and even reveals a bit of a frustration almost when his age keeps him from being exactly as he wishes he should be. McKellen does something essential for the character in that he finds basically how Holmes's views the world, which is that of the logical spectator. McKellen plays this well by allowing a cursory glance to make this appear as though this might be that of a cold man, but as we get to know Holmes through the story that's not the case. McKellen's performance keeps this needed internalization in terms of Holmes's emotions. McKellen does not make this a case of an unemotional man, rather he instead presents a man almost more comfortable keeping his distance while dealing with anything the way he is most accustom to, which is logically. McKellen shows this in almost a delay of a personal reaction at times, as though Holmes can't help but try to find the solution before even speaking of the problem.

There are a set of flashbacks throughout the film which depict Holmes's final case which involves a man who wishes Holmes to get to the bottom of his wife's strange behavior. McKellen is outstanding in finding so well the youth of the character, even though he's obviously not young still. McKellen though presents Holmes as a man absolutely still in his element as he brings such confidence and grace about the man as he goes about the case. McKellen speaks with such unquestionable authority revealing the intelligence of the man in every glance, and movement. McKellen's approach though Holmes, which I find particularly special, is the way he portrays this joy of performance. In this case not McKellen own performance, although I'd say you can see that as well, but the joy that Holmes takes in performing his duties as detective. McKellen creates the idea that Holmes is a man who's great at his job and loves doing it. In creating this idea though McKellen actually gives understanding to Holmes's somewhat closed off emotional state suggesting that satisfaction he found in his investigations was on the surface enough to seemingly have a fulfilling life. As one would expect Holmes quickly figures out the secret behind the case, and McKellen brings the expected energy you want from the typical moment where Holmes quickly deciphers each piece of evidence.

The end of the case though is Holmes discovering the woman Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan) purposefully tried to string along Holmes to make it appear as though she's going to murder her husband, but naturally he figures out that she in fact plans to commit suicide. McKellen is outstanding in portraying the somberness in the man, that is hidden behind the joy he gets from his work, as he admits to his own loneliness in an attempt to convince Ann not to go through with her plan. When she offers a completely alternative plan that they deal with their loneliness together McKellen's reaction is flawless. He's heartbreaking by for once showing Holmes caught off guard and for once unable to actually decipher what is being presented to him since only an emotional, rather logical, response is possible. McKellen renders the moment beautifully as discovers such genuine pain in Holmes in his usual hesitation as it seems he could say yes, but then returns to proper detective form to simply instruct her to go back to her husband. This leaves to tragedy though when she still goes through with her plan, leaving Holmes to observe that he made the logical, yet wrong decision. There is such a poignancy McKellen finds in his expression that shows how haunted Holmes is by the mistake, and that his retirement was simply inevitable as there was no way he could find joy in that work again.

That brings us to Holmes's current life where technically he is an odd state as for much of the time since he cannot recall what even made him retire in the first place. This in no way brings his joy back fully, the fact that he failed is one thing he does remember, but he keeps that certain detachment. McKellen suggests that the old investigative joy returns in his interactions with Roger, as the boy is also fascinated by Holmes's old exploits. McKellen and Parker are charming together finding well the connection as Holmes is allowed to remember the good of his past again, though the pain seem to lie dormant. The detachment though surfaces in his interactions with Roger and his mother. There's two scenes that I especially love when Roger insults his mother, and as usual Holmes's reaction is slightly delayed by McKellen yet considerable in his dismay when it comes as he portrays such palatable passion that he never treat someone with such little regard. The other comes after Holmes has managed to recall how he failed his final investigation, and Roger has been seriously wounded by what looks like bee stings, though Holmes knows better. Holmes wishes to protect his bees, from Mrs Munro's wrath, when she calls him out on his distance, McKellen makes it a very moving moment as he shows Holmes's break down allowing the emotions rather than logic rule for once in the moment to show just how much he has cared this entire time. McKellen's work here is excellent in that he not only finds his own captivating take on the often played character, but also in creating an affecting portrait of man coming to terms with his life.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2015: Jason Segel in The End of the Tour

Jason Segel did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour.

The End of the Tour is a terrific film about a Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) interviewing novelist David Foster Wallace as he wraps up his tour promoting his highly acclaimed novel Infinite Jest.

Jason Segel is an actor best known for his broad comedic performances, though I'll admit I have seen little of his work in total, so this is rather outside of that comfort zone. The film is a two character piece, though there are other minor players, but it squares specifically on the dynamic between Lipsky and Wallace. Jesse Eisenberg who frequently gives mannered performances actually is surprisingly subdued in that regard here, which works well against Segel's work which must be mannered in order to capture the spirit of Wallace. Any notion that Segel is just a broad comic actor can instantly be forgotten in his realizations of Wallace's idiosyncrasies. The way Segel speaks here is somewhat unusual in his almost airy sound of his voice, the muted timbre as well as the pace of delivery as he almost quickly rushes through what he's saying then has a notable pause before starting again. This is the way Foster spoke, and you'd think this was merely the way Segel spoke as it never feels like an affectation, but rather just the way the man speaks. Segel even captures the unique movements of the man as creates a sense of an almost tug of war in his body language as he goes outgoing one moment, to a shyness the next. Segel makes it all of this seem just as he is, and never allows it to seem like acting for even a moment.

Segel's brilliant realization of Wallace's various tics, without making them seem like acting tics, is essential to the success of the film. When we first meet Wallace it could have been just time to see some caricature of a real person but through Segel we seem to just meet the man. Segel importantly does nothing to prevent us from seeing Wallace as more than just a collection of ideas, which is also important in the film as Lipsky also has to see Wallace as a person rather just as the vague idea he has of some genius novelist. Segel's performance carefully humanizes Wallace from the moment we meet him in the flesh as calmly apologizes for his earlier brief phone conversation with Lipsky, where he sounded as though he might be the egotistical writer sort. His introductory moment further quashes this idea as Segel, even in finding those idiosyncratic behavior of the man, plays him as an approachable enough man, even if there is a certain introverted element in his behavior. Segel and Eisenberg for that matter both do very well in portraying the needed awkwardness of two strangers' meeting. Segel's very good in portraying the courtesy of Wallace as he tries to break the ice with Lipsky, but with a most definite hesitation when the idea of the interview is more fully realized when Lipsky reveals his tape recorder.

The conversations between the two are really the film, and both actors must find their characters in the shifting of topics throughout the interview. Now often times the conversations are quite minor in discussion such as just when they are indulging in some junk food they procured for the night. Segel and Eisenberg manage to make even these minor conversations rather compelling as they so easily find the chemistry between the two, and make the words sound so particularly natural. These scenes are nicely played though in producing a certain warmth, and perhaps alluding to a possible friendship just through the ease in which the two of them can go back and forth on various topics. Segel captures a certain rhythm in Wallace as he covers these simple enough topics as he goes from casual discussion, but set off on a certain point reveals an intellectual intensity of sorts, though not overt. Segel is excellent in these moments as he basically reveals the passion of Wallace's certain beliefs when they come off even in casual conversation. What's special about this is that he avoids making it seem self-indulgent. He naturally comes to these points as just someone talking about something they care about, and even then Segel inserts moments of realization as though Wallace sees what he's doing and pulls back.  

That puts a nice contrast against the moments where Lipsky directly presses Wallace to talk about his personal philosophies and how they relate to Infinite Jest. Segel handles these moments well by showing Wallace very much take upon the role of the proper interviewee as though he's on a talk show. Segel does not portray this as though it is a facade or anything, just rather the adjustment of a man who wants to make sure he gets his ideas across clearly. The passion in these scenes Segel reveals again though in an intriguing alternate way that it is more precise, and in a way less natural, but in no way false. He conveys the earnestness of his beliefs in direct fashion to make it abundantly clear to Lipsky exactly what ge believes without question, though again Segel does this without an obvious smugness rather a confidence of an intelligent man who has given much investment into the development of these concepts. There are moments even in these conversations that Wallace takes a moment to make it clear that all that he says is what he hopes his book accomplished. Segel is great in this as he reveals this to be genuine modesty in Wallace, and suggests the vulnerability of a man who perhaps is still unsure if he's truly succeeded or not.

As the tour goes on Lipsky and Wallace do connect in their moments of mutual appreciation but there is definite push back when Lipsky's questions become more incisive towards Wallace's personal life. This includes questions involving his parents as well as his problems with depression and possibly drug abuse. Segel is fantastic once again in these moments as again he keeps it very much within the setting of a proper interview as he maintains his composure as well as he can. Segel's reactions to these questions show Wallace's resistance to even broach the subject, and finds an understated disgust towards Lipsky for even bringing the subject up. When Wallace does answer Segel finds the right defensiveness in Wallace at all times as he makes every answer have an aggressive quality to it as though he's trying to even attack some of Lipsky's suggestions in his own humble way. However Segel does not have Wallace cover up as he does allude to the pain associated with these memories, and gives a greater understanding to the subtle melancholia that Segel presents as a part of Wallace's natural state of being. The difficulties of the interview are only encouraged by Lipsky's jealousy of Wallace's success, but also Wallace's concerns when Lipsky seems to be becoming a bit too friendly with Wallace's female friends. Segel is quietly moving by creating the sense of Wallace's personal sensitivity, that is not of an egotistical writer, but that of a man with very normal insecurities. The fate of Wallace is known from the introduction, as he eventually committed suicide, and Segel does find that course in his portrayal. Segel never allows that to control the portrait of the man. Segel through every conversations, which are always engaging no matter how slight they may seem, finds the man's sorrow, his brilliance, but also his joys. It's an excellent performance which always feels not as an imitation, but as a true embodiment of this man.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2015: Jacob Tremblay in Room

Jacob Tremblay did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for SAG, for portraying Jack Newsome in Room.

Room is a good film, though I feel it does have one terrible scene, about a mother trying raise her son within the captivity of a small room.

Jacob Tremblay plays the son and as usual for a child actor, a male child actor especially, his contribution to his film was ignored by the Oscars, despite the film over performing otherwise. This in part came to his ridiculous placement as a supporting actor in the film, his SAG nomination came in that category, despite every scene being from his perspective. A rather foolish choice in every regard not only because of how absurd the idea was, but also the supporting category was far more difficult to get into than lead. If Tremblay had been campaigned in the right category he very well could have been nominated. Of course I do have the unfortunate suspicion that if he had been he would have suffered the same criticism that Quvenzhané Wallis suffered when she was successfully nominated for Best Actress for Beasts of the Southern Wild. The criticism being that somehow the performances of child actors should be ignored since the director no doubt contributed to what we see on screen, but this seems to ignore the fact that any decent director will contribute in at least in someway to every performance. If one wants to claim a child actor's performance is not worthy of an Oscar nomination or win for following the director's lead then no Oscar winning performance can even be considered deserving besides Laurence Olivier in Hamlet and Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful.

Anyway with that out of the way let's actually take a look at Tremblay's performance. Tremblay plays Jack who was born within a room that also houses his mother Ma (Brie Larson). The earliest scenes of the film depict the daily routine of Ma and Jack as well as the celebration of his fifth birthday inside the room. Now often time an impressive performance from a child is in a role that is in somewhat out of the ordinary like Martin Stephens in The Innocents or Hugh O'Conor in My Left Foot. Tremblay's work here is very notable in that in terms of who Jack is in these early scenes, is just a normal five year old boy. Tremblay in turn has to play a normal child, which is a bit harder than it sounds I suppose. Tremblay succeeds in actually making Jack a successfully cute kid in terms of his behavior around the room. His energy he brings to the role is endearing while never over playing it to the point that it becomes cloying. Tremblay captures the youthful enthusiasm in just the right fashion that makes Jack so likable yet he is no way one note. Tremblay makes Jack a kid whose easy to like but he's not perfect by any means. He never tries to make Jack some sort of odd embodiment of pure goodness which can too often be the case for kids in films.

Now a central aspect of the film is found in Jack's view of the world which has been shaped by his mother in order to stop him from seeing that horrible truth of their situation, which is that his mother is a captive and is raped by her kidnapper every night. The mother has in part created this through telling Jack that the room they are in are basically the whole world, and everything that comes from the outside is a sort of magic. Tremblay realizes this state of Jack's incredibly well as he captures the needed thrill in Jack towards the idea of being able to marvel at life, even though it's just in one Room, because his mother has built it up to be something rather special in his mind, his curiosity to see more is satisfied by making the little that the room is seem like more than it is. When his mother decides to undergo an escape plan which involves Jack being smuggled out of the room though, she must attempt to break this strict view of the world she has given him. Again I love how well Tremblay realizes the raw anger of a child having to deal with something he does not fully understand, in the moments where Jack lashes again his mother. He makes it feel only ever very real, and is effective by showing Jack's painful struggle to deal with a sudden break off from much of what he has been told since he was born.

The escape scene itself is an amazing moment for Tremblay as he finally is allowed to see what's outside of that small room. Tremblay's initial reaction is so beautifully played as his eyes are that of a boy whose whole perception has grown exponentially. He's terrific in finding that difficulty in Jack's escape by showing how every one of his senses seem overloaded in the moment. He's barely able to walk, or talk as Tremblay so naturally finds the intensity of the moment as Jack attempts to deal with reality completely on his own. Tremblay is able to find both the fear and the wonderment of the revelation. Jack does not get to deal with this for long though as he still is on task to attempt to save his mother who was left in the room. As he's instantly pressed with questions to find his mother, Tremblay is so good in showing the way Jack fights through his own terrible unease to attempt to help his mother. Eventually she is found though and Jack's journey only continues into the unknown that is the rest of the world. Tremblay does well to reveal Jack back in his comfort zone when directly interacting with his mother, though filled with questions due to all the new things, though whenever a stranger appears he reveals so genuinely the trepidation in Jack as he closes off towards his mother the one thing he can hold on from his old world.

Now in that something that needs to be noted is his pitch perfect chemistry with Brie Larson as Jack's Ma. Their mother/son bond is made something quite special by both actors due to the lack of simplicity of it all. The two have the needed warmth of course as they are so comfortable together and the years between the two can be keenly felt in every interaction. I love that the two are able to go beyond just a loving relationship though as the two are equally fantastic in finding the right tensions at times particularly when Jack insists on the fantasy of the room, while his mother insists on questioning it. The two eloquently begin to shift the relationship when they find freedom, which comes as the two have different mental struggles to deal with, Jack in adapting the open world, but Ma has to come to terms with the scars from the horrible ordeal that she endured for seven years. The two keep the needed underlying connection suggesting the unconditional love between the two, though a distance is slowly found, even before it is physically created, due to Ma no longer being just Ma, and having to deal with what happened to who she once was. This requires Jack to fully break off from what he knew life as in the room.

The film actually much more closely focuses upon Jack's adaptation to his new life, and Tremblay only continues to be absolutely remarkable in the role. He never rushes the adjustment as every moment goes by with Jack slowly breaking out of his shell created by his old life. Tremblay's performance again never allows for a simplification of the process. There is naturally Jack finding everything new where Tremblay brings the appropriate fascination in Jack as each new thing is something completely remarkable in his eyes. There are the moments we're he's just becoming acquainted with his new family, and Tremblay slowly loses the shyness in Jack through his time with them. What I love about Tremblay's work with Jack finding his relationships with his grandmother, and step-grandfather, is how genuine every single instance of their interaction is. There is only a real poignancy found in this without it ever feeling forced in the least. Again it is not all good as Jack also has to discover his mother's decaying state, and Tremblay is very moving in portraying Jack's concern particularly the heartbreaking moment where he discovers her suicide attempt. The good and the bad he goes threw adjusts Jack to the world and Tremblay's depiction earns this adjustment. Not only that he makes it a quietly powerful one to witness. Tremblay, despite the incorrect category claim, carries this film on his little shoulders. This is a performance that is a joy to watch as he so flawlessly navigates through the film which would not have worked if we did not believe in the boy, we do through Jacob Tremblay. I love Tremblay's work here that does not falter even when the film does somewhat. It's a great performance that deserves to stand right next to any adult leading turn from 2015.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2015: Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Johnny Depp did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for SAG, for portraying James "Whitey" Bulger in Black Mass.

Black Mass, which focuses on Boston mobster Whitey Bulger's time as an FBI informant, is a film I appreciated with my initial viewing, but after hearing a great deal of disdain for the film I  pondered how the film would hold up on re-watch. Well I thought it still worked, it's not a great gangster film, but it's a good one.

Black Mass has perhaps been most noted as a potential return to form for Johnny Depp, though technically speaking some of the features of his frequently derided recent work is here as well. In a surface sense only though as his role is also heavily made up, perhaps too much as I believe they actually toned down his eye color in post production after the first teaser, but then again Bulger was not exactly the most ordinary looking fellow. As also expected is an overt accent, here a grizzled throaty voice that sounds like his vocal chords have been clouded in smoke his entire life, that is only made more distinct by his South Boston accent. Depp is consistent in these choices, the same can be said for those derided performances, but often times those performances feel very much like Depp is having a great laugh at a joke only he understands or finds funny. All of this surface grime feels very fitting to the role of Whitey Bulger, and seems to make sense in this creation of a man who's treated as almost otherworldly by some. Though I would say it takes a bit of time to get use to, he does not disappear instantaneously like say Richard Jenkins in Bone Tomahawk, once you do it's very easy to accept Depp in this role, and all of the immediate creation of Bulger does feel natural to the character.

Now the film begins with Bulger already an established criminal element, a man who has been in and out of prison already, ready to only expand his territory in order to control organized crime in Boston. This film actually very distinctly attempts to not romanticize a single aspect of the criminal life, even a film like Goodfellas which showed the brutality of the life also suggested its allure. This is interesting in that the appearance of Bulger coincides with this idea, and it almost seems to suggest that the clouded view of some towards Bulger seemed to have developed from past association, however someone without that connection is not fooled for a moment. This actually kind of gives Depp free reign to go all out in portraying the evil of Bulger in a particularly blunt fashion. The viciousness of the man is almost always evident as there is an considerable intensity in every breath that Depp takes with this performance. He seems to wear his beatings and murders on his sleeve as Depp brings the needed menace to the role right off in some of the earliest scenes as he goes about beating a man and having another killed for seemingly slight infractions.

The focus of the film though is on how Bulger basically began to thrive through an alliance with the F.B.I due to an agent, and another man from Bulger's neighborhood, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton). The relationship is the key one in the film, to the point that I do feel Edgerton is a co-lead with Depp, as it shows both men active in building a single criminal empire despite it being Connolly's job to stop crime in Boston. Now this relationship between the two is intriguing as Connolly basically believes Bulger to be almost a god of sorts to him, though the devil would be more fitting. Depp is very good in the scenes with Edgerton as he plays it as Bulger does not exactly put on a facade yet does purposefully does nothing to dissuade Connolly out of his delusion. This is actually by revealing a bit of his own delusion instead. Depp brings this considerable assurance in Bulger as he agrees to be an informant, by basically always stating it as not ratting because really just because he says so. At the same time he strings up Connolly all the more, as Depp plays Bulger keeping this command as he controls Connolly with more or less his superior presence.

The film quite clearly paints Bulger as a cancer that only denigrates anything he touches, which could leave this to be a one dimensional portrait of a monster. Now Depp avoids this by a few pivotal scenes where Bulger is interacting with his family or non-criminal individuals from his neighborhood. Depp to do this does not suddenly drop Bulger's normal manner by any means, but does rather naturally reveal just the ability for warmth when Bulger is spending time with his son or his mother. Depp in no way uses these scenes to suggest Bulger as a different man, but within his dark husk leaves just a bit light in there to at least offer some humanity in the man that in no way compromises the rest of performance. Quite the contrary actually in that Depp utilizes those few moments to amplify what comes later. When Bulger loses his son Depp effectively reveals only an even darker man that seems ruled by his most fiendish tendencies, when his mother dies this only becomes even worse. Depp only shows the hollowness grow as he portrays only the greater pleasure and cruelty in the man as he continues past losing anything that brought out the slightest hint of kindness in the man.

Depp presents the cancer that is the man only becomes more malignant through his losses. When he physically threatens Connolly's wife or goes about his murder there is a chilling pleasure that Depp brings in every moment. There's no grandeur to Depp's depiction of it, he leaves no interpretation to it, no chance to be thrilled by it, he makes the acts vile and only horrifying to witness. The film does not technically continue long past this point in terms of Bulger's personal story since it ends when his association with Connolly ends. There is one great moment that remains for Depp, that perhaps alludes to where his performance went in the apparently cut sequences depicting Bulger's life in hiding. That is when he finds the incriminating news story that reveals that Bulger was in fact the rat to the whole world, and Bulger attempts to explain himself. Depp is terrific in the scene as he again attempts to keep Bulger's usual confidence, but it wains in the explanation suggesting a moment of clarity as though he finally understands he was even less than he believed was. This is a strong performance by Depp that proves he's still capable of a compelling performance given the right material or perhaps motivation.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2015: Jason Bateman in The Gift

Jason Bateman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Simon Callum in The Gift.

The Gift is an effective psychological thriller about a married couple Simon and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) moving into a new home though their lives are quickly changed when they run into an old school "friend" of Simon's named Gordo (Joel Edgerton).

The old suburban set psychological thriller is being a bit dusted off here in that the genre's popularity seems to have waned a bit at least when compared to its prevalence in the 80's and 90's. As is often the case for this sort of story it does start simply enough with a normal married couple. Jason Bateman is already somewhat unusual choice to be even as the lead of psychological thriller, given his background mostly consists of fairly light comedies. To be fair he's often the straight man which might seem like it could possibly translate to the role of the normal guy having to deal with someone who seems a bit off. Bateman does not play it as his usual straight man and does not take his usual sardonic approach though. Bateman instead does a good job here of at first just seeming normal enough as Simon goes about with his wife in setting up his new life. His chemistry with Hall is nicely handled in a fairly unassuming way and the sense of their few years of marriage is well realized by both of them. With their great new house and a great new job for Simon everything does appear to be on the up until he accidentally runs into Gordo. Gordo though does not seem to be too problematic at first despite an awkward first meeting that leads him to come over for dinner.

Bateman's very good in these early interactions between Simon and Gordo. Bateman delivers the proper enough reactions to the man as though just to be a gracious host. There is the undercurrent of a certain unease that Bateman brings that could perhaps just be due to Gordo's peculiar behavior, but it only seems to grow whenever Gordo directly refers their old school days. Bateman carries this certain hastiness when Simon is forced to talk about it, as though he wants to get over with such conversations as soon as possible. It's not an excessive trepidation that Bateman brings as he conveys a man who really wants to simply keep the past as some pretty vague memories, nothing more. As Gordo continues to insist upon himself frequently appearing unannounced, Bateman only continues to grow a definite distaste in this. There is only a real disdain in his voice whenever he speaks about Gordo with anyone else as, Bateman makes it clear there is not even the slightest hint of affection in Simon for the man. Simon though still seems like a normal enough man dealing with just an unpleasant situation. A breaking point for Simon though finally comes when Gordo invites the two of them to a dinner party that only includes Simon, Robyn and their host.

At this point Simon mocks Gordo, when he's not around, and Bateman is terrific because of again just how much venom he brings to this. When it comes to the point when he's had enough and basically wants to tell Gordo to stop bothering them, it's a great scene for Bateman. Bateman does not allow this to be something easy for Gordo, because of how cruel he makes Simon as every word seems to purposefully try to antagonize Gordo a bit. There's a forceful pompousness that Bateman brings as Simon tells Gordo that there will be no friendship, and Bateman importantly does not make this a clean cut. Bateman instead shows Simon's method more like a rusty razor which instead of cleaning removing the problem leaves a painful infection. After this point the thriller aspects seem to begin as the Callums' dog disappears, and their fish, a gift from Gordo, are poisoned. Simon seems to adjust back as the normal guy dealing with a problem though, and Bateman is good by portraying the distress and legitimate concern over the situation. Things seem to quickly settle down with Gordo though and my favorite subversion of the genre occurs when their dog returns unharmed, yet it appears as though really Simon is not our average protagonist for such a thriller as even when Gordo's not around there's something amiss about his behavior.

Simon badgers Robyn over her use of pills that seemingly left her unconscious. A legitimate concern no doubt but Bateman makes Simon's reaction most problematic due an unpleasant aggressiveness. There is some concern there, but Bateman reveals something vile in how hidden any possible warmth feels in the moment. This side of him shows itself also at his work when Simon marks down the name of his rival for a promotion, as Bateman brings this horrible assurance that already suggests that Simon is planning something for this man. As it becomes clear that Simon is not merely this great guy, Bateman is fantastic because of how naturally he reveals this. He does not suddenly make Simon a villain or a different man, but rather shows the bad that was always there. Bateman does not make this something that randomly appears out of nowhere. He instead portrays this behavior as a personal defense mechanism of sorts as whenever he's pushed into a corner, or just has to deal with something slightly inconvenient this worst side of Simon's comes out. That worst side having developed when he was younger since he was a bully in school where his main target of torment had been Gordo even spreading a rumor which basically ruined his life.

There's an outstanding scene for Bateman as Simon attempts to set thing right with Gordo, but Gordo refuses the attempt at an apology. Bateman is excellent because as the conversation starts he genuinely shows remorse in Simon as he's trying to just finish his mistakes from the past. When Gordo does not accept though Bateman is equally good as Simon falls upon his usual reaction to a problem which is cruelty. Bateman makes it as ugly as it should be as Simon once again only exacerbates the problem by so viciously trying to put down Gordo. Bateman creates the problem of Simon so well as he can basically never allow himself to be inconvenienced. Bateman does not hold back showing just how terrible this is. When Simon tries to defend his behavior, and almost blame Gordo for his own problems, Bateman is so good because he does not simplify this mentality. Again Bateman finds a guilt in there, but he covers it up through Simon's usual self confidence that he can never completely admit fault. Bateman never makes Simon a hero or a villain, but rather a man with some severe faults. This works its way into the final act of the film when Gordo gives Simon one final gift that suggests Gordo may have done something heinous for his revenge against Simon. As Simon watches the footage of the act, Bateman is outstanding in revealing the sheer devastation in Simon as he has to bear witness to it. What's so remarkable about this is that Bateman is even heartbreaking in revealing what this has done to the man, despite what we already know about Simon and what he has done. This is a tremendous performance by Bateman, as he not only makes you forget his comedic work as you're watching him here, he also in such a pivotal fashion humanizes the entire progression of the story through his powerful depiction of a man destroyed by his personal flaws.