Thursday, 31 March 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1971: Jon Finch in Macbeth

Jon Finch did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of Macbeth.

This version of Macbeth is directed in particularity grim fashion by Roman Polanski. It's certainly an interesting adaptation through its rather extreme choices which can be either quite effective or quite ridiculous.

Well this is the fourth actor featured here who has played the role of the ambitious Lord who tries to become King after a hearing a prophecy. Jon Finch is so far the youngest when he played the role, which is fitting since he was apparently cast over Nicol Williamson for a perceived sex appeal which Williamson evidently lacked. Now with anyone playing Macbeth it is always interesting to see what their unique take might be. Well I won't say Finch exactly has too much of one as his approach is fairly similair to that of Orson Welles's approach to the character, though thankfully without the use of a distracting accent. This approach is that the story is the transformation from hero to villain in rather straight forward sense. The age though of Finch does allow for something additional in this regard, which is utilized well by Polanki's choices in regards to the progression of Finch's clothing and facial hair. The film begins with a very much clean shaven Finch, looking basically as young as he possibly can in the simple clothing he wears. In the early moments we are presented with a young hero, and Finch very much carries himself as just the good eager soldier ready to do his duty.

Of course that Macbeth was never meant to be due to the prophecy he hears from a few old hags, that leave him with the idea of becoming King. Of course this involves murdering the current King, Duncan, who just happens to wish to stay in Macbeth's home. Macbeth is only encouraged in this ambition by his wife (Francesca Annis). Now with the contemplation of the murder we see one of the very specific choices Polanski takes in his adaptation of the material. That being many of the soliloquies found in the story are through voice over, rather than being directly acted out. Although this allows scenes to technically be more realistic it seems like an odd choice given how over the top other choices are. Furthering that it unfortunately does diminish the impact of the performances. The voice over, though not poorly delivered by Finch at any point, seem almost purposefully disconnected to the performances we see on screen. They never feel intertwined and because of that the emotional power capable from the soliloquies is sorely missing from almost every one. The voice just simply is there, and what the words really mean always remain detached since they are detached from Finch's physical performance.

Now even with the soliloquies being a bit wasted in this version that does not mean Finch gives an unemotional performance, since this version decides to make sure we see every gruesome detail that one could possibly imagine within the play. Here for example we get to see the murder, which naturally takes more than one stab, though even in this Finch's work is forcefully overshadowed by the violence as Polanski focuses much more closely on the act itself rather than the man committing it. Finch though deserves credit in despite having more than a few obstacles in his path he still manages to convey the conflict in Macbeth as he takes the damning step towards villainy by murdering the King. He importantly does not seem vague and still manages to find the needed intensity behind the character to make his descent convincing. Now as the film proceeds though it allows Finch a bit more room to breath once Macbeth's path is set, though still the focus of the film only occasionally fixates upon his work. However there still is enough of a focus to allow for Finch to realize his approach towards Macbeth's transformation as a man, which again seems to be purposefully connected to his age by Finch and the film.

Macbeth gains facial hair along with more clothing that although is more ornate seems more restrictive as though to show less of man who has aged many years in what seems months. Finch adds to this through his portrayal of Macbeth as he loses all of the exuberance of youth, and all joy seems to ripped from him. Finch very much keeps the madness contained with his approach though effectively so as he threads it into this method of a physical degradation of Macbeth. Finch begins to increasingly create the manner of a bitter old man as the tragedy proceeds, and he only goes about committing worse crimes. Any idea of that bright young hero is lost, as Finch becomes a certain personification of misery, and suggests perhaps that his embrace of the character's villainy is his only way to exist with what he has done. On that point Finch is very good as he becomes the vile fiend Macbeth is made out to be bringing the right grandeur to man whose only pleasure seems to come from his ability to harm others. Finch does not become one note through the pivotal moment where he learns of the death of Lady Macbeth. Finch is excellent in that scene by only showing a genuine love he had for his wife, and is honestly rather moving in bringing out this last bit of humanity in a man who is so far gone. This is wiped away though for Macbeth's final scene where he becomes an evil foe worthy of legend. Finch is really good in this scene as he again embraces that fully to make Macbeth brimming with a deranged confidence of sorts, as Finch physically plays the scene with almost a carelessness showing just how invincible Macbeth believes himself to be due to prophecy that seemed to deem him impossible to kill. I absolutely love when Macduff notes a loophole that he passes through. Finch's reaction is perfection as he so simply non-verbally says "ah nuts!", and all that confidence seems to vanish in a moments notice. Of course even his treatment at the end suggests Finch's treatment throughout the film, which is that the film seems more concerned with the violence of the story than even the main character. This is an oddly thankless leading role for Finch, however I do think he still succeeds in giving a compelling version of the character despite the limitations set upon him.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1971

And the Nominees Were Not:

Oliver Reed in The Devils

Jon Finch in Macbeth

Paul Scofield in King Lear

Al Pacino in The Panic in Needle Park

Max von Sydow in The Emigrants

Cancellation of The WACKY WORLD OF WISEAU

Cancellation of Wacky World of Wiseau. Yes it could barely survive a few days, but after attempting to get through Battlefield Earth, I've decided against proceeding with any more self-inflicted torture instead let's get to the good stuff the bonus rounds. Starting with:

1971 Lead.

Friday, 25 March 2016

CANCELLED: WACKY WORLD OF WISEAU: Oscar Nominees Edition

And They Are:

Nicolas Cage in Deadfall

Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man

John Travolta in Battlefield Earth


Jon Voight in Anaconda

Eddie Redmayne in Hick


Now for prediction purposes they should be ranked from most Wiseaus worthy to least Wiseaus worthy.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1939: Results

5. Thomas Mitchell in Gone With The Wind - Mitchell gives a very strong performance by so effectively realizing the wear of loss through his enthusiastic portrayal before the war and his haunting one after it. 

Best Scene: The return to Tara.
4. Lee J. Cobb in Golden Boy - Cobb completely overcomes his potential miscasting by exuding both the age and background of his character so effortlessly through his performance. Cobb goes even past that to give such striking yet almost silent depiction of the moral center of the film.

Best Scene: Mr. Bonaparte before the fight.
3. Ralph Richardson in the Four Feathers - Richardson gives a powerful performance that effectively steals the spotlight of the film through his depiction of the breakdown of a proper soldier.

Best Scene: Durrance realizes who saved him.
2. Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz - Lahr is consistently endearing and hilarious in a performance that stands out among a memorable ensemble through his portrayal of a true scaredy cat.

Best Scene: The Lion's introduction.
1. Cedric Hardwicke in The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Good Predictions Luke, and Anonymous. Among a great field Hardwicke stands at the very top for me in his outstanding portrayal of a zealot's struggle to destroy sin which he sees everywhere including in his own desires.

Best Scene: Frollo reveals his feelings for Esmeralda. 
Overall Rank:
  1. Cedric Hardwicke in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  2. Thomas Mitchell in Stagecoach
  3. Claude Rains in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  4. Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz
  5. Frank Morgan in The Wizard of Oz 
  6. Ralph Richardson in The Four Feathers
  7. Lee J. Cobb in Golden Boy
  8. Thomas Mitchell in Gone With the Wind
  9. Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz
  10. Thomas Mitchell in Only Angels Have Wings 
  11. John Barrymore in Midnight
  12. Jack Haley in The Wizard of Oz
  13. Humphrey Bogart in The Roaring Twenties
  14. Harry Davenport in Gone With the Wind
  15. Edward Arnold in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  16. Leslie Howard in Gone With The Wind
  17. Thomas Mitchell in Mr. Smith Goes To Wasington
  18. George Bancroft in Stagecoach
  19. Don Ameche in Midnight
  20. John Carradine in Stagecoach
  21. Robert Preston in Beau Geste
  22. John Carradine in Jesse James
  23. Thomas Mitchell in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  24. Sam Jaffe in Gunga Din 
  25. Claude Rains in Juarez
  26. Harry Davenport in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  27. John Carradine in Drums Along the Mohawk
  28. Brian Donlevy in Beau Geste
  29. Eduardo Ciannelli in Gunga Din 
  30. Ward Bond in Gone With the Wind
  31. C. Aubrey Smith in The Four Feathers
  32. Otto Kruger in Another Thin Man
  33. J. Carrol Naish in Beau Geste
  34. Frank McHugh in Another Thin Man
  35. Nigel Bruce in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  36. Sheldon Leonard in Another Thin Man
  37. Arthur Shields in Drums Along the Mohawk
  38. Donald O'Connor in Beau Geste 
  39. Shemp Howard in Another Thin Man
  40. Sig Rugman in Only Angels Have Wings
  41. Henry Fonda in Jesse James
  42. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in Gunga Din 
  43. Adolphe Menjou in Golden Boy 
  44. Sig Rugman in Ninotchka
  45. Felix Bressart in Ninotchka
  46. Alexander Granach in Ninotchka
  47. Donald Meek in Young Mr. Lincoln
  48. George Zucco in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  49. Broderick Crawford in Beau Geste
  50. Fredrick Culley in The Four Feathers
  51. Humphrey Bogart in Dark Victory
  52. Harry Carey in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 
  53. Charley Grapewin in The Wizard of Oz
  54. Richard Bathelmess in Only Angels Have Wings
  55. Donald Meek in Stagecoach
  56. Joseph Calleia in Golden Boy
  57. Ward Bond in Drums Along the Mohawk 
  58. Jack Allen in The Four Feathers
  59. Donald Gray in The Four Feathers
  60. Lee Bowman in Love Affair
  61. Ward Bond in Young Mr. Lincoln 
  62. Paul Henreid in Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  63. Guy Kibbee in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  64. David Niven in Wuthering Heights
  65. Morton Lowry in The Hound of the Baskervilles
  66. Guy Kibbee in Babes in Arms
  67. Henry Hull in Jesse James  
  68. Sebastian Shaw in Another Thin Man 
  69. Terry Kilburn in Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  70. Reginald Gardiner in The Flying Deuces
  71. Richard Greene in The Hound of the Baskervilles
  72. Jeffrey Lynn in The Roaring Twenties
  73. Sidney Blackmer in Convict's Code
  74. George Reeves in Gone With the Wind
  75. Fred Crane in Gone With the Wind
  76. John Garfield in Juarez
Next Up:

An announcement first which is to thank everyone who has been following and continues to comment. I really like how civil the discussions over any films or performances are even when we might disagree vehemently over them. Now I must announce a change in pace due to other obligations. For the time being there probably will only be one review a week and sometimes it might be longer. I'll still leave my thoughts on new movies I see, and update film thoughts now and again. Hopefully in the future I will be able to pick up the pace again, but this is how it has to be for the present.

Now to take a break from trying to find the Best OF before the Bonus Rounds start I'd like to go to the opposite end of things with a WISEAU ROUND (as suggested by Robert MacFarlane). Which means give me your best(worst) performances that are of a different breed entirely.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1939: Ralph Richardson in The Four Feathers

Ralph Richardson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain John Durrance in The Four Feathers.

The Four Feathers is an effective film that tells the story of one man Harry Faversham (John Clements) who attempts to redeem himself, through rather unorthodox means, after he is shamed by those around him for resigning his military commission just before they were to be sent out on an dangerous mission.

Ralph Richardson plays one of his military friends, though John and Harry already share a complicated relationship due to their attempts to court the same woman Ethne (Jane Duprez). Richardson's role is pivotal in the film, as several scenes focus squarely on him, though his character's purpose and actions are always in relation to Harry's journey, so I do feel he is supporting. Richardson, despite having a less notable film career, though not unremarkable, than his contemporaries of the British stage, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, actually started out with a greater comfort in regards to cinema than either of them. Richardson, as he also proved in The Citadel and even the Ghoul of all films, has a natural grace on screen which works quite well with the part. Richardson finds the right approach in the early scenes with Durrance by bringing an underlying understanding in Durrance's interactions with Harry, despite alluding to some understandable consternation due to his rejection by Ethne. Richardson finds the complexity of Durrance's attitude towards Harry well, never overplaying either side of the man's personal feelings. Richardson handles this within bringing the right strict manner fitting for a man who certainly believes in being a soldier.

After Harry resigns the film follows Durrance's time in the Middle East where he does not exactly get off all that well as a soldier. Richardson is terrific in portraying the physical degradation of Durrance as he slowly succumbs to heatstroke. He's equally good in portraying the mental breakdown in Durrance. Richardson takes a decidedly nontheatrical approach in realizing almost in a certain surprise in Durrance's view during this time as almost he can't believe how ill equipped he's found himself not only in terms of current predicament but as a soldier. Richardson importantly never shows this to be as though Durrance is some sort of goof, but rather finds the suffering Durrance goes through in a genuinely harsh fashion. This only worsens as a battle occurs while he is in this state which leaves only Durrance, and a disguised Harry living. Harry goes about attempting to save Durrance whose state which only worsens during this time. Again Richardson is very good in his depiction of the delirium that that inflicts upon Durrance due to his heat stroke. Richardson finds this confused state by showing bluntly just how much of a mess Durrance is bringing the right constant unease in terms of state along with a harried method of speaking.

Eventually Harry gets Durrance to safety without Durrance ever knowing it was his old "cowardly" friend, unfortunately Durrance has been left apparently permanently blind by the experience. Richardson is very moving in finding the new state of Durrance back at home, where he does find sympathy from Ethne who agrees to merry him. The blindness itself Richardson effectively portrays particularly since he does not attempt to draw too much attention to it. The most remarkable aspect of Richardson's work is his portrayal of the change in Durrance as a man bringing out the right earnest modesty in man who has had the soldier in him painfully ripped out. Now really the emotional climax of the film does not belong to our leading character Harry, as his success at proving his bravery is acknowledged largely off screen, that even includes his own reunion with Ethne. That climax is really all left to Richardson which is all the better I suppose due to John Clements's choice to give a rather cold performance as Harry. Richardson makes the most of this chance in the scene where Durrance comes to realize what Harry had done for him, and decides to give up Ethne. Richardson is heartbreaking as he internalizes the decision brilliantly throughout a single scene, and his brief reaction upon realizing Harry's deed is outstanding as Richardson effortlessly conveys the severity of this revelation in Durrance. This is a very strong performance by Ricahrdson as he anchors the film throughout rising above the call of duty, since he still really is not the lead.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1939: Lee J. Cobb in Golden Boy

Lee J. Cobb did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr. Bonaparte in Golden Boy.

Golden Boy is a film with really that Barton Fink feeling about a young talented violinist Joe Bonaparte (William Holden) who instead tries to become a prize fighter.

Lee J. Cobb plays the father to William Holden's character, an Italian immigrant who obviously is suppose to be a middle aged man despite Cobb only being around 28 at the time the film was made. Cobb is helped by having sort of that Gene Hackman quality where he seemed to be the same age for an extended period of time, however Cobb erasing even the thought of miscasting extends to his performance as well. Cobb carries himself well in the role as he effectively coveys the age of the character in his slow somewhat labored movements. Cobb's rather remarkable in this regard in that he simply makes the age seem part of Mr. Bonaparte and ensures that excessive attention is not brought to this whole aspect of the character. This is notable in that it is just part of Cobb's performance that is taken as a given, and he completely succeeds in being far older than he was. It's quite an achievement that if one was not aware of Cobb's actual age one would not even need to give the casting a second thought. The challenges against Cobb continue though as he plays Mr. Bonaparte who again is an Italian Immigrant, and the character's lines are in somewhat broken English.

Again though Cobb excels in the role as he does not go about playing into possibly becoming a stereotype, as the part could have devolved into. Cobb never overplays the accent, and instead portrays it as something that would come naturally from the character. There's nothing forced about his delivery and Cobb really makes it work. There's an important ease Cobb brings to the part, and again he makes himself a more than appropriate fit for the role. Now the challenges only continue for Cobb really as Mr. Bonaparte has some pivotal moments in the film, but he technically speaking is a largely reactionary role. This turns out to be more than enough for Cobb. This can be in the less dramatic sense when it is a more casual moments with his son and daughter, and Cobb's reactions add so much to these scenes adding this essential history in the interactions. When they play the music in any scene the joy Cobb expresses is simply wonderful, showing the unquestionable love the man has for his family. The sense of family is largely created from Cobb who brings the right ease of familiarity bringing an innate warmth to these scenes, and makes him such a likable presence in the film.

Now Mr. Bonaparte is mostly there to act as the moral conscience to his son, the film even bothers to directly verbalize this at one point. Cobb's performance absolutely works in providing this in a particularly honest way. His interactions with William Holden always carry a genuine tenderness, as Cobb so effectively exudes just how much Mr. Bonaparte cares for his son's moral well being. Cobb's particularly good though with just how internalized he keeps these moments though as his disappointment with his son, is keenly felt yet Cobb keeps in such a quiet way. Cobb though within this unassuming personality so well realizes how Mr. Bonaparte stands out while being modest. The way Joe crumples over his father's scrutiny, which is never direct, yet Cobb makes it so incisive by making Mr. Bonaparte's sadness over his son's mistakes so palatable. Cobb's earns the moral outrage, yet never enforces it, as he just presents it so eloquently through a good man, who can't outright stop his son, yet still cannot ignore his actions. Cobb's face speaks so much in this portrayal, and is so moving throughout the film. This is really exceptional work from Cobb since there were so many ways he could have been tripped up by the character's age, his background, or the possibility that he could have come across as either sanctimonious or just repetitive. That is never the case as Cobb matches every challenge presented to giving a earnest portrait of a father who only wants what is truly best for his son.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1939: Thomas Mitchell and Leslie Howard in Gone With the Wind

Thomas Mitchell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gerald O'Hara in Gone With The Wind.

Thomas Mitchell was a prolific actor who was frequently in several films in any given year though 1939 just seemed to be his year. He not only appeared in prominent roles in notable films from the year The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Only Angles Have Wings, he also managed to be in three best picture nominees this film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Stagecoach which he deservedly won his Oscar for. In Gone With The Wind he plays the part of Gerald O'Hara the father of our protagonist Scarlett O'Hara(Vivien Leigh). In the early scenes of the film Mitchell's part is fairly straight forward as the Irishmen trying to confer a few words of wisdom to his impetuous daughter. Mitchell's good in the role infusing a slight Irish accent, which he doesn't overdo, and bringing the right definite warmth in his interactions with Leigh. He though brings at the same time the right stern quality even within the obvious love that Mitchell portrays first in his technically futile attempt to try to reign in some of his daughter's ambition. This also comes with a slight scolding when she hand waves the importance of Tara their plantation and home. Mitchell's very good in the moment in revealing the intensity of passion in Gerald's words as he expresses not only how much the land means to him, but also how much it should mean to Scarlett as well.

The ideal man of the South we meet in these early scenes takes a long hiatus from the film, in fact almost the entirety of the Civil War. When Scarlett finally makes it back to Tara the place is quite barren on the outside, and when she opens the door she finds her father who possibly looks worse. Mitchell is amazing in just how effectively he portrays Gerald terrible state as the wear of the losses over the time Scarlett has been gone can be so well seen in his harried eyes, and haggard face. Mitchell is terrific as he stays so subdued for much of this time yet the devastation of the man is brilliantly realized by him. Mitchell is heartbreaking as he presents the insanity in Gerald as seemingly his own shield against all that his happened to him as there is this attempted glee in him as he speaks of his deceased wife as though she's living, however within the act the original cause of his state can be seen in this sorrow that never leaves him despite his madness's attempt to cover it up. This is until his last scene where his passion for the land once again reappears, and Mitchell once again brings that to life yet now just with this painful desperation in the moment. It's beautifully rendered work by Mitchell and with so many of his performances he proves himself one of the most capable actor in terms of the depiction of the type of extreme emotional states that might leave to some terrible overacting. Mitchell never allows that to be the case giving a striking performance that manages to stand out with this grand epic, as well as marks just the one of his many strong turns from 1939.
Leslie Howard did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind.

Leslie Howard was evidently "the" choice for the part of Ashley, which might seem slightly strange for some being an Englishman who in no way hides his accent. Though I don't see why anyone would complain about that given how refined Howard's voice is it seems fitting enough for a refined Southern gentleman as well. Howard I notice frequently gets some derision for his performance in the film, and not just for the accent. Though if one views the test footage of other actors in the part, it seems Howard really was the only possible choice. Now some criticism seems to come in part do to say a definite lower amount of charm than Clark Gable in the male lead role of Rhett Butler. Now Gable's already one of the most charming performers ever to have graced the screen, and this perhaps is him at his most charming, however if one sees more of Howard's filmography, "Pimpernel" Smith and Pygmalion in particular, they'll find he could be quite charming himself. Howard instead more directly serves the role, and the film as whole, by not calling upon that here. Instead he takes the rather admirable approach to differ Ashley from Rhett, as he certainly exudes just what is to be that proper gentleman here, which is never left in question which is in stark contrast to the questionable rascal that is Rhett. Howard brings the right grace to the part, particularly in the early scenes, as he offers the right sort of charisma that makes him standout just not in the way Rhett does thanks to Gable.

Now Ashley's purpose in the story is as the object of Scarlett's affection, as she only sees him despite the fact that he is married early on to Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). Howard does well to really make Ashley the right match for Melanie throughout the film, despite Scarlett's delusion that he should hers. Howard, and de Havilland's work has an unsaid chemistry of sorts given they actually don't share that much time with one another screen. What they do is find the right connection in personal spirit in the way both suggest themselves to be naturally unassuming and unselfish souls. Howard finds the right ease of presence of man who prefers to do the right thing, though states as such in a direct yet quiet fashion. The problem remains though is with Scarlett being constantly smitten with him, to the point that she does not mind how many lives she ruins just to get him. Howard creates the right curious chemistry with Leigh in that he portrays the simple difficulty in interacting with her. He brings the right unease in any of these moments as he manages to suggest Ashley's refusal as man standing in his duty at being a proper husband. When Ashley does reveal that he does love Scarlett in return it's an earned moment by Howard as his delivery is almost that of an unwanted escape of emotion, and depicts a definite guilt within himself after his momentary loss of his usual proper reserve. It's finely measured work by Howard as he keeps Ashley on this certain wavelength of a decent man who is constantly must readjust with his constant interactions with Scarlett. Ashley Wilkes really is a thankless role, in that he's rarely given the spotlight, and he's really there to facilitate the motivations for the other characters. Howard delivers in that respect though giving a supporting performance that truly supports the rest of the cast and the film. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1939: Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr and Frank Morgan in The Wizard of Oz.

Ray Bolger did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hunk and the Scarecrow, Jack Haley did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hickory and the Tin Man, and Bert Lahr did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Zeke and the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz, about a young girl attempt to get home after arriving in a fantasy land, I suppose is not one of my favorite films of all time, but I certainly still enjoy it quite a bit.

Dorothy(Judy Garland)'s companions on her way to see the Wizard of Oz actually all appear before she even gets to Oz itself. That being they are the hired hands at the farm in which she lives. Bolger's, Lahr's and Haley's screentime as the farm hands Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory respectively is rather brief. It is well used by them in that each give more understated performances as just three nice fellows trying to be supportive of Dorothy. Lahr is particularly good in this scene in since he could probably have been able to be in a serious film set Kansas due to just how down to earth he is. Haley and Bolger are less so, but they still do well to establish the farmhands as not exact duplicates of the men we meet in Oz itself though of course part of the film establishes that all three are indeed suppose to look like those very same farmhands. The first one we meet being Ray Bolger's Scarecrow someone desperately in need of a brain, the very next scene though she meets  Jack Haley's The Tin Man desperately in the need of a heart and right after that Bert Lahr's Lion who just needs some courage.

The introduction of each is refined down to they discover them, their problem, then they sing a song about it. Now with each performer though they go beyond just being a guy in some heavy, and well rather impressive makeup. Ray Bolger's physical manner in the performance is that of a somewhat weightless shuffle as though is indeed made of straw, and barely has material to allow himself to stand up straight. On the other hand Jack Haley's gives an appropriately stilted performance as the Tin Man. That being stilted in the way he often so forcefully moves around suggesting a man who's nothing more than a hunk of metal. Haley's particularly good in making the Tin Man's movements all the more laborious when he's gone and rusted himself. Now Lahr technically least acts like the odd thing he portrays, but then again he's suppose to be a Lion who also just happens to talk and stand upright. That's not a negative point against Lahr in the least though since his physical portrayal of the Lion is great anyway. I love how he puts on the facade of the tough Lion as he at times attempts to be almost like an aggressive boxer in his stances in in order to seem tough, and even the way he contorts his fact is though the Lion is attempting to be some sort of vicious animal. This is all in contrast to whenever the Lion is given cause to become fearful, and Lahr's terrific in the way he basically tightens up into such a modest creature in the matter of seconds.

Now given the way they look, the nature of the film itself, and the fact that all three were vaudeville performers at heart, these are not going to obviously be the most subtle turns by any of them. Luckily they don't need to be, in fact it would have been wrong if they were. Bolger's performance captures the sort of scatterbrained manner for a man who supposedly has no brain, though there are frequent moments to suggest otherwise despite the Scarecrow's incorrect knowledge about triangles. Bolger though is the right sort of ball of energy as a guy whose held together by almost nothing,  Bolger brings that right eagerness for someone who has no intent to let that get in the way. Haley also does very good job of already establishing the Tin Man's heart from his first appearance. Haley speaks with a higher pitched voice, higher than his time as Hickory, which works quite well in this regard. Haley's voice has this innate affectionate sweetness to his words that effectively implies just how much heart the metal man already has. The Lion's actions, as written, actually offer very little bravery on his part. Well that really does not matter once again as Lahr is downright hilarious as such a literal scaredy cat. I particularly love his first scene where he goes from his extremely obvious tough guy facade, to a complete wimp due to a slight physical assault by Dorothy. Lahr's wonderful in being such a whiner with just how weak he is as he asks Dorothy "why'd you hit me" yet Lahr's sorrowful expression is so genuinely remorseful that he's absolutely endearing.

The three are also tasked to deliver a few songs, each given the slightly altered version of an introductory one, though I guess because Lahr's was so short of a reprise they decided to give him his own solo number "If I was King of the Forest" which technically is completely superfluous, though I don't mind it. Each of them acquit themselves well in this regard, and once again especially Lahr. He makes the most of his solo carrying all the manners of a great king only to undercut at the end with his very enjoyably switch back to a retiring mess at the end of the song. Now beyond the scenes that solely focus on each character there is more to be found. I will say Haley probably stands out the least in regards to his more reactionary moments, though not that he is bad either. Bolger and Lahr though just you can watch them in any given scenes and are extremely entertaining in showing the Scarecrow and the Lion's reactions to any new oddity they might encounter. Now to repeat once more Lahr stands out the best in this regard being always so consistently funny in revealing the Lion as he's so often gripped in fear. All three of them are a delight throughout the film as they manage to be such a likable trio, and even really earn Dorothy's tearful goodbye as the warmth of their camaraderie grows with such ease due to their unassuming yet oh so effective chemistry. The three of them find just the right tone for the film, and help to amplify its best qualities in a quite admirable fashion. Though what about that pesky old Wizard everyone is looking for?
(Haley)
(Bolger)
(Lahr)
Frank Morgan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying The Doorman, The Guard, The Cab Driver, Professor Marvel and the titular Wizard in The Wizard of Oz.

Well there's one notable supporting player who does not help Dorothy on the yellow brick road instead he's the man waiting at the end of it that being the titular Wizard played by Frank Morgan. Morgan, like the others, does appear in the Kansas sequence. Morgan plays Professor Marvel a traveling fortune teller. This is some quick classic Frank Morgan playing the somewhat shifty yet still goodhearted fortune teller who reveals Dorothy's fortune by simply lifting a photograph of hers while she's not looking, though he's doing it for a good cause. Morgan though really is quite the trickster as Professor Marvel given that really he has this certain sleazy quality about the man that he does not shy away from yet he carries such an undeniable charm that he completely gets away with it. Well after his relatively brief scene in Kansas Morgan appears when they get to Oz. The trick though is we first don't see him as the Wizard, though perhaps the Wizard is just a bit of a sly one, since we see Morgan as three separate men doing jobs around town. This includes the doorman to Oz, the driver of the horse who constantly changes colors, and the Wizard's personal guard as well. These are relatively brief parts, but to be fair Morgan helps them find some of the most often remembered moments of the film. This is particularly true for the guard in that he is so amusingly fussy with his immortal delivery of "NO ONE CAN SEE THE WIZARD NOT NO NOBODY NOT NO HOW!". Then of course he gets to add to that with his ridiculous cry face when he sees the heartbreak suffered by the group from not being able to see the great Oz. Of course these slight character are completely ridiculous which Morgan embraces with his particularly wacky voice he uses but I would not want it any other way.

However it's the Wizard we're all waiting to see, who we originally meet as floating green head who has some random things spew fire for the sake of it. Now the voice Morgan does as the Wizard is quite menacing, and completely matches the almost demonic face that we are faced with. He even gets a bit chilling when comments on the fact that the group liquidated the Wicked Witch of the West. Of course the film ends with Dorothy's dog Toto revealing this Wizard itself is just a illusion, with the real Wizard merely being a man behind a curtain who happens to have a microphone. Morgan's reaction at seeing the curtain being pulled back is simply marvelous. I really love Morgan bellowing out the fake Wizard's final order, but reducing to the real Wizard in such a quiet unassuming voice as he finishes the sentence "I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL wizard of oz". Morgan's revelation is perfection as he goes from being that powerful ominous being, to just a meek old man in a matter of second. What's notable is even though the characters are similair Morgan does not just feel as though he's doing Professor Marvel, despite both being phony tricksters. Again Morgan pulls it off though as he makes The Wizard so affable in a matter of seconds, despite risking the lives of all of our heroes and almost giving them nothing in return, but hey how could any one hate that sweet face Morgan so effortlessly projects. What comes next is probably my favorite scene in the film, in large due to Morgan, as The Wizard solves everyone's problems by basically telling them they did not have them to begin with, but giving them something from his gift bag just to make it all the better. Morgan is wholly spellbinding as he technically is a true conman bringing so much charisma as he delivers the brains, heart, and courage as needed. What's so special about is you get little caught up yourself, and can't help but agree thanks to Morgan. He's so sly as he goes about granting his degree to the Scarecrow, so confident and assured in granting the medal to the Lion, then so warm and downright inspirational as he reflects on the true method of measuring love as he grants a clock heart to the Tin Man. Of course Dorothy's request almost stumps him until he decides to become a showman again, and Morgan is just that as he is so captivating in his description that lead him to the Emerald City. I won't hesitate to say that I adore this performance by Morgan as he's a wizard well worth waiting to see, and his other appearances are simply a welcome bonus.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1939: Cedric Hardwicke in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Cedric Hardwicke did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Judge Jean Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Sir Cedric Hardwicke is an actor whose very name seems to suggest a regal individual and fittingly Hardwicke was often cast as authority figures if not actual kings. More often than not though it seems he was often cast simply for that sort of stature as many of his roles were not particularly substantial. It is interesting then to take a look at his performance here as Judge Frollo, which seems like a juicy role. Well either way Hardwicke is once again as a man of power, though technically in a subservient position as he can only advise his King on matters. Hardwicke's earliest scene is with the King were Frollo attempts to convince the King that the printing press is a dangerous instrument and must be destroyed. Now this seems simple enough as the evil guy who wants to stop book from being created, however Hardwicke is particularly effective in his portrayal of Frollo's sentiments. He reveals this considerable passion in his words, no matter how terrible, as Hardwicke does not portray this as evil blathering. He rather succeeds in revealing the sentiment, at least in Frollo's eyes, about the dangers of the press. He brings the needed conviction in the words as he quickly realizes Frollo's particular sort of philosophy in his very first scene.

Hardwicke's performance is terrific in the way he so well captures the authoritarian attitudes of Frollo. Hardwicke's presence is indeed perfect for the role to begin with as the authority of his position just seems to exude from his very being. The command of his character is notable in Hardwicke's cold delivery of Frollo's beliefs. What I really like about Hardwicke's performance though is he does not use this set up for the character to turn him into as obvious of a villain as he could have been. The way Hardwicke carries himself never has a hint of sadism in Frollo, which would be wrong for the character. Hardwicke instead keeps this underlying intensity of a man who seems almost burdened by his position and his view of the world. He is a most unpleasant man indeed yet Hardwicke does not simplify this notion importantly. He instead is able to realize how it seems to come from his convictions to what he sees as his personal duties, and how he attempts to live out his life. The burden of this is made a part of Frollo brilliantly through Hardwicke's performance as he makes Frollo a man who seems ill at ease with life itself because of all that he sees is wrong with it.

Frollo is not a purely evil man evidenced by his choice to save the Quasimodo, which he did purely out of the good of his heart in this version. Hardwicke finds this in his first reaction to Quasimodo as Frollo is about to take action against the crowd's decision to parade him out as the King of fools in the festival of fools. Hardwicke does not portray the react as a mean man who wants to stop Quasimodo's joy, but rather reveals a genuine dismay in Frollo for Quasimodo being used a mere spectacle by the crowd. Hardwicke is exceptional in the way he is able to find the conflicting nature of Frollo. There is one particularly fantastic moment with the Gypsy Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara) where he initially goes on long about his hatred for Gypsies first. Hardwicke brings the needed harsh authority in these words as man trying fervently to insist upon the sins of others, which he believes he will purge. When she mentions her love of animals though Frollo is forced to agree. What's marvelous is Hardwicke makes this revelation completely genuine yet he shows this to be almost painful for Frollo to admit. There is a terrible unease that Hardwicke conveys as he presents the way Frollo constricts. As he reveals his true ability for some tenderness in his eyes, yet Hardwicke tightens his manner all the more, as though he's trying to purge this possible joy out of his system as though anything pleasant may be sinful.

Now one of the greatest challenges to Hardwicke comes in Frollo's relationship with Esmeralda. This element actually is far less verbalized than even in the Disney version, he had a whole song just on that point after all. Much of this is left to Hardwicke's performance which is more than enough. Hardwicke's outstanding in every aspect of this. This starting with his original reaction to her where the glint of lust seems to become awakened in him. As he interacts with her at any point Hardwicke creates the sense of how in the grip of his desires that he is in. There is a great moment when Frollo comes to directly confront Esmeralda with his desires. Hardwicke makes Frollo such an emotional mess in the moment as he attempts this odd warmth in his declaration of "love", and he's so good as he suggests the way this tears him asunder. His final quest that turns him into true villain could lead him also to a simplicity but again Hardwicke shirks this. He instead is able to portray within his determination to rid himself of his desire, an active effort in Frollo to remain the destroyer of sin. This is made without heart by Hardwicke, instead it's most unsettling as he shows a man fighting against himself in order to be something worse than he could have been. Cedric Hardwicke gives an outstanding performance as he manages find nuance in the role, even when hidden by the standards of the time, in his powerful portrait of a man ruled by his perverse attempt to rid the world and himself of sin.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1939

And the Nominees Were Not:

Cedric Hardwicke in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Lee J. Cobb in Golden Boy

Ralph Richardson in Four Feathers

Thomas Mitchell in Gone With the Wind

Leslie Howard in Gone With the Wind

Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz

Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz

Frank Morgan in The Wizard of Oz

Jack Haley in The Wizard of Oz 

For Prediction Purposes:

Mitchell in Gone With the Wind

Lahr in the Wizard of Oz

Alternate Best Actor 1939: Results

5. Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln - Fonda gives an atypical performance as Lincoln, but an effective one finding the right charisma within an unassuming personality.

Best Scene: Lincoln stops a Lynching.
4. Conrad Veidt in The Spy in Black - Veidt effectively humanizes his character making his German spy far more than just a villain who needs to be stopped.

Best Scene: The ending. 
3. Basil Rathbone in The Hound of Baskervilles - Rathbone earns his place as the most iconic Sherlock Holmes by giving a well rounded portrayal of the character. As he delivers the right command in the role, but also finds a certain humor which never undercuts the gravity of the situation.

Best Scene: Holmes's introduction
2. James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties - As per usual Cagney gives a strong portrait of an intimidating gangster, but also as per usual he ends up being surprisingly moving as well.

Best Scene: Eddie's final confrontation with George. 
1. Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Laughton gives a downright brilliant performance capturing the physicality needed for Quasimodo, and the emotional core of the character in heartbreaking detail.

Best Scene: "why was i not made of stone like thee"
Overall Ranking:
  1. Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  2. Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind
  3. James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  4. Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights
  5. Robert Donat in Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  6. James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties
  7. Basil Rathbone in The Hound of Baskervilles
  8. Conrad Veidt in The Spy in Black
  9. William Powell in Another Thin Man 
  10. John Wayne in Stagecoach
  11. Cary Grant in Only Angels Have Wings 
  12. Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  13. Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln
  14. Edmond O'Brien in The Hunchback of Notre Dame 
  15. William Holden in Golden Boy
  16. Stan Laurel in The Flying Deuces
  17. Oliver Hardy in The Flying Deuces
  18. Brian Aherne in Juarez
  19. Gary Cooper in Beau Geste
  20. Ray Milland in Beau Geste 
  21. John Clements in The Four Feathers
  22. Melvyn Douglas in Ninotchka
  23. Victor McLaglen in Gunga Din
  24. Nigel Bruce in The Hound of Baskervilles 
  25. Paul Muni in Juarez 
  26. Cary Grant in Gunga Din
  27. George Brent in Dark Victory
  28. Charles Boyer in Love Affair
  29. Henry Fonda in Drums Along the Mohawk
  30. Mickey Rooney in Babes in Arms
  31. Tyrone Power in Jesse James
  32. Robert Kent in Convict's Code
Next Year: 1939 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1939: Basil Rathbone in The Hound of Baskervilles

Basil Rathbone did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of Baskervilles.

The Hound of Baskervilles is a fine version of the story about Sherlock Holmes investigating the mystery involving a possibly mythical creature.

The Hound of Baskervilles marks the first of a total of fourteen films with Rathbone playing the most famous detective of literature. Rathbone certainly is the most prolific performer as Holmes, at least in terms of cinematic output, and I would say is definitely the most iconic depiction of the character. When the standard image of Holmes is thought of it is probably of Rathbone in the deerstalker. What of his actual performance as the detective though? I must admit I don't find Basil Rathbone to be the most consistent performer. When he goes over the top he's a rather bad ham, and there are times were he can be quite bland as well. Thankfully one would not notice this is they only ever viewed his performances as Holmes. The interesting thing though is that the story of the Hound of the Baskervilles features Holmes in a rather limited quantity, with Doctor Watson (Nigel Bruce) receiving more screen time given that he arrives on the foggy moor to investigate at a much earlier time than Sherlock Holmes. Once again though thankfully this does not seem to matter as Rathbone certainly uses the screentime he does have at his disposal to realize his own approach to the often played character.

Rathbone on the outset certainly succeeds in his creation of Holmes's personal style. Rathbone exudes that considerable confidence needed for the part as he suggests Holmes as a man who is absolutely in command of the investigation. Rathbone brings the needed eloquence to Holmes as he goes about deciphering the case, and is the smooth detective he should be. The intelligence of the character is made simply a constant by Rathbone as he makes it completely convincing as Holmes does not lose a moment in his attempt to decipher the clues. Now another pivotal aspect to any Holmes portrayal though is also how the actor plays Holmes as a man and not just a detective. This area is technically limited here once again since there is not a great deal of Holmes in the film, but also given the specifically non-personal association Holmes has with this case.  Nevertheless within these margins Rathbone is still able to realize the nature of his Holmes as a person. Rathbone's approach to Holmes is rather interesting and quite surprising in terms of both Rathbone as a performer, and the character. That being Rathbone brings a considerable sense of fun to the detective. 

Now Rathbone does have that certain lack of courtesy that is common in Holmes's portrayal, that being he never minds showing off his own intelligence and does not mind indicating the lack of intelligence of others. That goes even to Dr. Watson in this version which is fitting given that Bruce's approach to the character is that of really a buffoon. Rathbone does not make this seem as cruel as this probably should be given how there is a definite warmth that Rathbone carries in his approach that always keeps his ribbing of others rather good natured. Rathbone carefully avoids being smug in the least always providing a definite charm to the detective who does not mind letting everyone know he's a genius yet does in a fashion that somehow is rather endearing. Rathbone importantly keeps a complete lack of malice in any of this as he portrays a genuine friendship with Watson, but just happens to be aware of his friend's shortcomings as well. Rathbone doesn't overwhelm with levity either though as Rathbone's performance never loses the gravity of the situation created by the mystery. His reactions are particularly effective in that they do not reveal some otherworldly immortal especially during the climax where Rathbone reveals some understandable fear in the detective. Basil Rathbone's success in the role is evident, and his many returns are understandable as he gives an appropriately well rounded and appealing portrayal of Holmes. His detective is the genius he should be, with an ego to be sure, but still a man who cares about those he is trying to help.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1939: Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Charles Laughton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a solid enough version of the story bolstered particularly by William Dieterle's direction, and something else.

It is rather interesting to see Charles Laughton to take on this role, perhaps best known previously for proper British gentlemen, though these gentleman certainly varied a great deal in terms of personality. However this is a completely different role for Laughton as Quasimodo the titular Hunchback. Quasimodo in this version of course has his hunchback deformity as well as a skewed eye, bulging half of his face, few teeth in his mouth and to evidently top it all off he is also deaf. The distance given to Quasimodo is far greater since even though he is a leading role, we are often given the perspective of the observer of Quasimodo rather than of the man himself. Now Laughton disappears into the role, which is understandable given the makeup, but that's not all there is to Laughton's work here. Laughton finds the labored movement of Quasimodo due to his hunch, but he goes further revealing the difficult life Quasimodo has had to live in the rest of his face. The wear of such a life can be found imprinted right into the poor soul. Laughton never leaves anything to what is already is there, working with it wholly to make it all singular into his work as Quasimodo. All of it feels completely natural and in way Laughton gives life to the technically artificial elements of the character.

Now Quasimodo's first appearance in this version is during the festival of fools as he makes a surprise appearance to accidentally be the oddest face in order to be crowned the king of fools. Now Laughton is downright brilliant in this first scene as he establishes so well Quasimodo in more than one way. Just about everyone's aversion to him is realized by Laughton because of how effectively he not only gives the sense of his physical state, but also in the way he interacts. Laughton has a disjointed quality about his manner as he realizes how Quasimodo scares those even past his disfigurement. Laughton is terrific in the way he shows Quasimodo's deafness in his awkward method as he is frequently surprised by other people's movement, but Laughton portrays how this surprise may make it appear that he may be dangerous in some way. However even as Laughton establishes this he also alludes to the true nature of Quasimodo in the scene as well. As he looks out at the crowd and those who seem ready to make him the King of the ceremonies, there is a definite enthusiasm that Laughton finds. This enthusiasm is not in terms of the ceremony exactly, but rather Laughton finds the way that Quasimodo is simply incredibly happy to be able to interact with other people.

The film actually keeps Quasimodo at a certain distance for some time as he's merely used by Frollo (Cedric Hardwicke), which gets him into trouble. Quasimodo's trial sorts is another marvelous scene for Laughton as he expresses so well the confusion in Quasimodo as he tries to understand what's going on and tries desperately to communicate in anyway he can. Laughton again finds the inherent awkwardness of Quasimodo in such convincing fashion as he attempts to speak. Laughton's great as he does not reveal Quasimodo to be a unintelligent individual, but rather as someone who can only speak so well given his hearing as well his understandable lack of social skills. The lack of eloquence Laughton finds is not really his choice of words but rather his inability to verbalize them well. Laughton's delivery has the right variation of a man who is actually unable to hear himself speak clearly. There is something so painful about Laughton's work because he is able to show someone reaching out into the world for some sort of connection, but due to everything against him he can't seem to find it. Now fantastic as his ability to create all these traits of Quasimodo that's not all there is to Laughton's performance as we find after he sentenced to a flogging. Everyone seems to ignore his pain except for the gypsy Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara) who gives him water.

Laughton brings such poignancy in the moment as he presents the relief in Quasimodo physically but also mentally as someone finally seems to care whether he lives or dies. Laughton is outstanding as he brings such sheer jubilation in Quasimodo in the succeeding scenes as in his eyes there is definite hope in him as it seems he's finally found the connection he was seeking. Eventually Quasimodo is able to more than return the favor by saving Esmeralda from hanging and keeps her in sanctuary of the bell tower of Notre Dame. In their initial meeting Laughton is finally able to directly verbalize Quasimodo's own personal hardship, and he does not waste this. As he explains his condition, his name of being half formed, Laughton is extremely moving as he basically laughs and cries at the same time suggesting Quasimodo's pain as well as his attempt to deal with his life by finding humor in it at the same time. Laughton never allows him to be one note in this regard though as he still infuses such eagerness in him as he attempts to connect further with Esmeralda by explaining his life in the bell tower with the few pleasures he does have. There is such a warmth that Laughton is able to bring as he finds without question the humanity behind the "monster". This version of the story is decidedly less tragic than the source material, though that is quite easy to do, the ending of the film still is very powerful largely due to Laughton. Quasimodo acts as the hero, defeating the villain, but in the end Esmeralda as well as the public in general still favor the traditionally handsome hero to fall in love with. This still leaves Quasimodo as an outcast in the end. Laughton is absolutely heartbreaking in his somber delivery of his final lines "why was i not made of stone like thee" as Quasimodo speaks to a Gargoyle, his only companion, as he sees the outside world abandon him once more. This is an astonishing performance by Laughton as he matches all the challenges presented in the role by effortlessly capturing not only the physicality needed for the role, but also even more importantly the emotional core of Quasimodo.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1939: Conrad Veidt in The Spy in Black

Conrad Veidt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain Hardt in The Spy in Black.

The Spy in Black is rather effective spy thriller, though one twist makes the whole plot make no sense, about German spies attempting to destroy the British fleet.

Conrad Veidt plays the German submarine Captain who attempts to carry out the central plot with the help of another German agent posing as a school teacher Frau Tiel played by Valerie Hobson. Veidt and Hobson would team up again the very next year, along with director Michael Powell, this time as two people trying to stop German agents in Contraband. With Contraband and The Spy is Black it is quite interesting to examine Veidt as the leading man to begin with. He's more than a bit atypical given his rather evident German accent. Veidt plays the lead here who technically should be the villain since he's playing the German agent during wartime in a British film. Veidt's a fascinating performer to watch as he actually fits what should be the standard structure of the villain. He's got the mandatory German accent, he's physically imposing to be sure, and Veidt never intentionally subverts his character's position in the way you might expecct. He's obviously believable as the enemy agent, and one should never question his possibility for danger yet even though he is in fact working for an evil regime Veidt prevents Hardt from really being evil.

A great deal of this comes from Veidt calling upon perhaps his greatest asset as a performer his oh so expressive eyes. In the early scenes just as he's being given his marching orders to go about the task Veidt so effectively realizes a hesitation in the man, which he never needs to verbalize this in his performance. Veidt is rather brilliant in that he really somehow is very charming yet never compromises the status of his character. it seems almost intangible in way as Veidt makes Hardt innately likable, though I do think again in those eyes, which made his performance in The Man Who Laughs so special, there is such a genuine humanity. Veidt though importantly is able to remove the result of the act from the motivation of Hardt. Veidt in his performance never makes Hardt seem sadistic in the plan, but rather keeps the drive of the man particularly straight forward. This works in creating the sense that Hardt's not working in any personal malice, but rather simply is doing his duty as a German Captain. The funny thing is Veidt so well reveals these motivations in Hardt that he not only stops him from seeming just as the villain of the film, but also does something that seems more impossible which is to make the German spy rather endearing.

He is helped along by the film to a point as Hardt purposefully dresses as German officer to not be seen as a spy and even questions the less merciful methods of his associates. Veidt makes the most of these moments as he delivers a considerable passion in Hardt as well as a definite disgust as he questions the murder of a civilian. What's pivotal in Veidt's depiction of Hardt comes in with his relationship with apparent fellow spy Tiel. Veidt and Hobson strike up a terrific dynamic with one another, and she helps to make Veidt seem all the more delightful by being so cold herself. The two have rather astonishing chemistry with one another as they manage to develop a romance of sorts between the two despite the certain hostility set between the characters in addition to the fact that little time is devoted to this element. Veidt and Hobson though are able to convey this in just a few pivotal glances and moments that results in something rather special. Now the film's spoiler twist ending comes as it is revealed that everyone besides Captain Hardt is in fact a British agent, and why they don't merely arrest Hardt from the get go is not particularly well established. The film should completely fall apart at this point given how sizable of a plot hole it is, but I still found the film ended up working thanks in large due to Veidt. He stays compelling to watch and so honestly finds the nature of Hardt that he makes it difficult to sympathize with him as he attempts to make his escape. The film even seems to position firmly as the villain at this point yet Veidt never compromises giving a very moving depiction of a Hardt's desperation as his plan falls apart. It's incredibly strong work from Veidt as he really does carry the film past being a spy thriller, where it probably would have failed if that's all it was, through his portrait of a decent man forced to fulfill a terrible duty.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1939: James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties

James Cagney did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Eddie Bartlett in The Roaring Twenties.

The Roaring Twenties is a pretty good gangster film about a man trying to make it to top through selling liquor during prohibition.

James Cagney obviously is no stranger to playing gangster roles, but this one's variation comes through the way Eddie Bartlett gets into the rackets to begin with. In The Public Enemy he was already an ambitious hood, in Angels with Dirty Faces he was literally the kid on the wrong side of the rail road track, and later on in White Heat he was already a psychopath. Here Eddie Bartlett starts out as a soldier in World War I, and only comes across crime as a way to make up for the time he lost while in a fox hole. In the early scenes of the film Cagney is good at just playing Eddie a pretty average guy who just is trying to survive in the war, and then later on attempts to find his place back in society which is harder than he expects. Cagney's very good in that he actually makes Eddie's path to crime a rather sympathetic one, by showing the path to be as almost something which he stumbles upon it. There is not an obvious ambition that Cagney portrays as Eddie begins to get involved in the business instead he shows it to be a very honest reaction of a man finding something he can do, no more than that.

Cagney does not compromise the unassuming beginning for Eddie even as he goes about becoming a gangster by setting up his own club, and furthering the illegal operations. Cagney plays Eddie from the start as a charming enough guy who seems conducive to friendship as long as you don't give him a reason to dislike you. There is definite likability that Cagney captures well with Eddie and I particularly like the chemistry he seems to strike up with anyone in his group particularly Eddie's old buddy Danny played by Frank McHugh and Eddie's bootlegging business partner Panama played by Gladys George. Cagney keeps Eddie, even when he is becoming a criminal, still  a rather endearing sort as he keeps the central idea behind the cheat of an unpopular law rather than Eddie being a full time villain in the least. As Cagney did in many of his gangster roles, Cagney does not condemn his character for having some moral corruption, despite him being condemned by the codes and standards of the time. Cagney never makes Eddie just a thug and instead presents him as someone one can easily identify with given the situation he is in.

Now this is not to say Cagney keeps Eddie a constant throughout the film by any means. As the film progresses and Eddie becomes more powerful as a gangster Cagney effectively suggests the way Eddie does slowly grow a bit of an ego through a willingness to embrace all elements of the life. Again Cagney does this in a gradual fashion as it never feels as though suddenly Eddie has betrayed himself and instead manages to show the way the lure of the criminal life harms him. Cagney's good as he begins to show that sort of gangster confidence that narrows his personality as a man to the point that he fails to notice a few things the first being that his girlfriend Jean (Priscilla Lane) does not really care for him and perhaps more pressing that his later business partner George (Humphrey Bogart) is a bit of psychopath. Cagney still brings the needed nuance to to Eddie importantly an importantly conveys the revulsion in Eddie as he sees just how cruel George is. However with Eddie's time in the life becomes a capable gangster himself, when dealing with his rivals in the industry. Now these scenes of course are always great for Cagney as he's absolutely in his comfort zone. No one quite threatens and stares down as well as Cagney, but he also earned this transition from the less intense Eddie we knew from the beginning of the film.

There is a bit of a change up for Eddie's story as a gangster as he actually is forced to drop out of the life from the end of prohibition and losing his money due to the stock market crash. To make it all worse Jean leaves him as well. Eddie is left with being a taxi driver as his only means of support. Cagney is terrific in showing just the worn out husk of a man that Eddie has becomes after losing everything that he believed made himself great. Cagney's very moving though by alluding within his sorrow there remains a better man than when he was the king of world. Now here is when the marvel of Cagney's work comes in this film but really all of his best gangster turns, White Heat included despite playing a psychopath. That being he allows Eddie to be more than just a series of gangster mannerisms and a tough exterior. Cagney as per usual reveals really the man within the story. He avoids just being just a two dimensional caricature for the sake of a morality lesson. Cagney finds something more and that's the case here too as he so brilliantly rips your heart right out and you did not even see it coming. By the end of the film Cagney has carried us through Eddie's story and really made him a man to care about despite his shortcomings. When Eddie must meet his fate as a gangster it is made surprisingly poignant because Cagney showed that he was always more than that.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1939: Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln

Henry Fonda did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Abraham Lincoln in Young Mr. Lincoln.

Young Mr. Lincoln is a good film that covers the very early life of Abraham Lincoln, focusing upon his defense of two suspected murderers.

Daniel Day-Lewis's Oscar winning turn as Abraham Lincoln was often noted for his use of a higher pitched, said to be more accurate, voice in his portrayal of Abe Lincoln. That was not the first higher pitch voiced Lincoln to be found, as that's what one will hear in Henry Fonda's performance as Lincoln. Now to be fair it really is basically Fonda's normal voice, which happens to be a great fit, though I don't think the similarities to Day-Lewis's work stop there by any means though. Fonda is made in the film to look more like Lincoln, perhaps slightly overdone in terms of the nose. However Fonda does not just leave the makeup to do the work as he attempts to imitate the man. It's pretty fascinating since unlike imitating someone from modern times Fonda only had paintings and photographs to go off of. Fonda though captures the unique manner of Lincoln found in those sources from his very proper posture, to even the way he sits upon a railing. It never feels like artifice and Fonda manages to make it feel like a natural aspect of the character.

Now this being a biography film of the period means it's not going to be all that hard hitting so to speak. We are given a fairly simple portrait of Abe Lincoln as well an honest guy of course, and his actual biographical portion is pretty short. We only given a glimpse into his relationship with Mary Todd, and his tragic one with Ann Rutledge is shown to be especially short here. To Fonda's credit though he is thoroughly charming in the moments we are given for those possible romances, and manages to make Ann's loss rather moving despite just how swiftly it is handled. The scenes depicting Lincoln out of the public eye are indeed very few though Fonda still succeeds in making a believable depiction of an honest man. Fonda never feels as though he is forcing these qualities and just exudes them as he should. He earns Lincoln's stature, and no not just his height, and makes for a convincing honest Abe. The highlight of his performance though comes in the highlight of the film where he must go about defending two men accused of murder.

In the murder trial, as well as when Lincoln stops a lynch mob the night before, is where the comparisons to Day-Lewis's later work can be freely made. That is again his higher pitched voice is not all there is in terms of his similarities. Fonda goes about carrying himself not as that imposing sort of leader type that say was the way Walter Huston portrayed him in Abraham Lincoln. Fonda gives a nicely relaxed performance, that probably makes his mannerisms also come off as more authentic, as he portrays Lincoln not as man who forces his views or intelligence upon others. Instead Fonda so well conveys the easygoing nature of the man who convinces others to follow his lead almost through a friendly talk, not unlike Day-Lewis's later approach. The attempted lynching scene is absolutely brilliantly played by Fonda as he brings upon a certain self deprecating humor into Lincoln's argument that makes him persuasive in such an unassuming yet wholly effective fashion. Fonda is able to carry a fierce determination in his eyes, but always channels that determination in an understated fashion. The same goes for the trial itself as Fonda rarely even raises his voice so eloquently realizing a true statesman who convinces through a certain goodwill rather than outrage. Fonda suggests a man who allows the person he's trying to persuade choose for himself, he just simply helps the man find the right path. Fonda has that needed magnetism here as one can see the great president he will become even though we never get close to that part of the story here. I would not have minded if the film continued to allow Fonda to depict more of Lincoln's life because his approach here is noteworthy, and I can't help but wonder if he might have influenced Day-Lewis take on the man. It's very strong work from Fonda even within the limitations of the role and the film's story line.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1939

And the Nominees Were Not:

Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Conrad Veidt in The Spy in Black

Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln

James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties

Basil Rathbone in The Hound of Baskervilles

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1962: Results

5. Robert Duvall in To Kill a Mockingbird - Duvall gives a flawless performance that fully realizes his his pivotal character in a matter of 3 minutes.

Best Scene: His only scene. 
4. Lee Marvin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - Marvin gives a memorable villainous turn by being the absolute lout bully that Liberty Valance should be.

Best Scene: The duel. 
3. Tatsuya Nakadai in Sanjuro - Nakadai once again offers a worthy adversary for Toshiro Mifune's nameless samurai, but this time surprisingly strikes up a certain underlying connection between the foes.

Best Scene: The duel. 
2. Robert Ryan in Billy Budd - Ryan gives one of his best performances, giving a chilling portrayal of a sadist, but also manages to find the depth within what compels the man.

Best Scene: Billy tries to comfort Claggart. 
1. Peter Sellers in Lolita - Sellers gives an amazing performance as he's absolutely hilarious, but also manages to be surprisingly unnerving in the role at the same time.

Best Scene: Just a normal guy with a normal face.
7. Arthur Kennedy - Kennedy offers the needed two sides to his character the slightly shallow broadcaster, but as well the sardonic man who is well aware of what he is doing.

Best Scene: "I'll take your bloody picture"
6. Anthony Quayle - Quayle brings surprising depth to his role as he quietly portrays the affecting arc of his character, which is to fully understand who Lawrence really was.

Best Scene: The funeral. 
5. Anthony Quinn - Quinn gives an appropriately larger than life performance capturing the grandeur needed for the role, but importantly finds the right nuance when it is needed.

Best Scene: Tayi and Brighton.
4. Jack Hawkins - Hawkins naturally fulfills the role of the proper British General but goes further in his exploration of his character's relationship with Lawrence.

Best Scene: Allenby convinces Lawrence to take up the fight again.
3. Alec Guinness - As per usual Guinness gives strong work successfully disappearing into his role as well as giving a rather captivating portrait of a quiet yet powerful leader.

Best Scene: Faisal is interviewed.
2. Jose Ferrer - A brilliant one scene wonder as he completely realizes his character's disposition and finds the needed subtext of his scene through his performance.

Best Scene: His scene.
1. Claude Rains - Good predictions mcofra7, and Jackiboyz. Rains gives such an excellent performance as he does not waste a second in creating a fascinating depiction of a smooth political operator.

Best Scene: The ending.
Overall Rank:
  1. Peter Sellers in Lolita
  2. Robert Ryan in Billy Budd
  3. Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia
  4. Claude Rains in Lawrence of Arabia
  5. Tatsuya Nakadai in Sanjuro 
  6. Lee Marvin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  7. Jose Ferrer in Lawrence of Arabia
  8. Brock Peters in To Kill a Mockingbird
  9. Alec Guinness in Lawrence of Arabia
  10. Robert Duvall in To Kill a Mockingbird
  11. Jack Hawkins in Lawrence of Arabia
  12. Charles Bickford in Days of Wine and Roses 
  13. Burgess Meredith in Advise & Consent
  14. Ed Begley in Sweet Bird of Youth 
  15. James Gregory in The Manchurian Candidate
  16. Anthony Quinn in Lawrence of Arabia
  17. Melvyn Douglas in Billy Budd
  18. Anthony Quayle in Lawrence of Arabia 
  19. Charles Laughton in Advise & Consent
  20. Karl Malden in Birdman of Alcatraz
  21. Lee Montague in Billy Budd
  22. Arthur Kennedy in Lawrence of Arabia
  23. Lew Ayres in Advise & Consent
  24. Frank Overton in To Kill a Mockingbird
  25. Joseph Wiseman in Dr. No 
  26. David McCallum in Freud
  27. Richard Harris in Mutiny on the Bounty  
  28. Woody Strode in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 
  29. Richard Attenborough in All Night Long 
  30. Henry Fonda in Advise & Consent
  31. John McGiver in The Manchurian Candidate
  32. Jack Klugman in Days of Wine and Roses
  33. Rentaro Mikuni in Harakiri
  34. David McCallum in Billy Budd
  35. Edmond O'Brien in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  36. Michael Redgrave in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
  37. Khigh Dheigh in The Manchurian Candidate
  38. Paul Rogers in Billy Budd
  39. Victor Buono in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 
  40. Akira Ishihama in Harakiri
  41. Walter Pidgeon in Advise & Consent
  42. Robert Brown in Billy Budd
  43. Gary Cockrell in Lolita
  44. John Carradine in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  45. Yuzo Kayama in Sanjuro
  46. John Neville in Billy Budd
  47. Jack Kruschen in Cape Fear
  48. John Megna in To Kill a Mockingbird 
  49. Buddy Hackett in The Music Man 
  50. Telly Savalas in Cape Fear
  51. Andy Devine in The Man Who Liberty Valance 
  52. Martin Balsam in Cape Fear
  53. Rip Torn in Sweet Bird of Youth 
  54. Takashi Shimura in Sanjuro
  55. Hugh Griffith in Mutiny on the Bounty
  56. James Anderson in To Kill a Mockingbird
  57. Andrew Prine in The Miracle Worker
  58. Paul Fix in To Kill a Mockingbird
  59. Larry Parks in Freud
  60. Wesley Addy in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 
  61. Telly Savalas in Birdman of Alcatraz
  62. Don Murray in Advise & Consent
  63. Edmond O'Brien in Birdman of Alcatraz 
  64. Henry Silva in The Manchurian Candidate
  65. Victor Jory in The Miracle Worker
  66. Jack Lord in Dr. No
  67. Ron Howard in The Music Man
  68. Keith Mitchell in All Night Long
Next Year: 1939 Lead