Sunday, 10 December 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1965

And the Nominees Were Not:

Lou Castel in Fists in the Pocket

Charlton Heston in Major Dundee

Orson Welles in Chimes at Midnight

Jozef Kroner in The Shop on Main Street

Zbigniew Cybulski in The Saragossa Manuscript

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010: Results

5. Liu Kai-chi in The Stool Pigeon - Kai-chi gives an over the top performance that keeps his character as mostly a ridiculous caricature.
4. Michael Lonsdale in Of Gods and Men - Lonsdale gives a quietly haunting portrayal of a modest monk willing to face his inevitable demise.

Best Scene: The last supper. 
3. Armie Hammer in The Social Network - Hammer gives two great performances where he gives both a very entertaining portrayal of privilege, but also bothers to find proper nuance within characters while finding the differences between the two twins.

Best Scene: Meeting the president of Harvard. 
2. Ben Kingsley in Shutter Island - Kingsley gives a great performance where he manages to amplify the film's stylistic tone while actually bringing a surprising degree of depth towards the film's twist through the way he builds towards the revelation.

Best Scene: The Lighthouse. 
1. Taika Waititi in Boy - Good Prediction Luke, Tahmeed, Omar, RatedRStar, John Smith, and Matt Mustin. Waititi gives my favorite supporting performance of this year with his genuinely hilarious but also rather off-putting portrayal of a petulant father. He manages to find the complexity of his character with such ease never letting a single aspect of the role override his entire performance.

Best Scene: Demanding his coat back.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1965 Lead

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010: Liu Kai-chi in The Stool Pigeon

Liu Kai-chi did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jabber in The Stool Pigeon.

The Stool Pigeon is a thriller that follows a police inspector Lee (Nick Cheung) and his criminal driver informant Ghost. Although it is bolstered somewhat by a charismatic lead performance by Nicholas Tse as the driver it is bogged down by some rather awkward plotting.

Liu Kai-chi plays the previous titular stool pigeon before Tse takes up the job, and we first meet him in the film's opening where a sting is bungled. That leads Jabber on the wrong end of several machetes when the gangster he was working for becomes aware of his treachery. Kai-chi kind of goes full on manic desperate fool, that you often see in a Hong Kong crime thriller, and it is perhaps a touch over the top. He becomes less sympathetic and more ridiculous in this early scene which is problematic because it is suppose to set up the guilt inspector Lee suffer. Unfortunately that is made all the more underwhelming by Nick Cheung's bland performance. This is suppose to be an underlying and important plot point however I sort of forgot Kai-chi was even in the film much of the time. He occasionally pops back up as now a deranged homeless man hiding from the criminals and constantly fearful for his life. Again Kai-chi's performance is excessive, and it actually might have been somewhat forgivable if he was a little more subtle in his opening scene. His performance instead goes from an 11 to 11 so the change really doesn't leave any impression. Instead we get more of him reacting in an outrageous fashion to everything. Now he's over the top but not completely terrible at this. There are hints of some genuine emotion in there, but that is often diminished by just how much he oversells every one of his lines as well as all his facial expressions. He leaves nowhere for his character to go, and remains almost a cartoon the entire time. The role itself I do think had potential if there had been a degree of restraint as the idea of his character trying to see his wife again could have been moving. It fails though because of just how big he goes the entire time. There are at least some minor glimpses of a decent performance but for the most part Liu Kai-chi's performance makes Jabber nothing more than a forgettable caricature.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010: Ben Kingsley in Shutter Island

Ben Kingsley did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. John Cawley in Shutter Island.

Shutter Island was perhaps slightly misunderstood it seems in its initial evaluation where some seemed to view the tale of two federal marshals investigating an escape from a mental institution as far more prestigious than it is meant to be. Martin Scorsese directs the film purposefully as a much more heightened thriller with overtone closer to the exploitation wing of the horror genre than any real analysis of mental illness.

In that sense I find this film to be a smashing success all outside of a single performance, unfortunately that is Leonardo DiCaprio's leading turn as the federal marshal investigator Teddy Daniels. DiCaprio is the one actor who doesn't seem to understand the tone oddly enough with his excessively intense performance. His work is miscalculated in that it doesn't properly embrace the style but it also gives away the twist through how unhinged he is from the opening scene. A more astute turn for example should have portrayed his opening distress slightly more vague as one should have been able to interpret it as just sea sickness or something else, not obviously something else. Thankfully though DiCaprio is the only off-turn in the film, meanwhile the rest of the film has a terrific ensemble with a particularly brilliant bit of casting as you have various cinematic villains suggesting something is off on this psychiatric island, and not just the patients. There's the Zodiac killer and Buffalo Bill leading the guards, Freddie Kruger hiding in the dark, with Ming the Merciless and Don Logan leading the doctor which brings me to Ben Kingsley.

Kingsley though he originally made his name playing renowned pacifist Mahatmas Gandhi his latter career has often been as the heavy which leaves him in good company with Ted Levine, Jackie Earle Haley, Max von Sydow and John Carroll Lynch on this strange island. What is notable about all those performances, along with Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Williams, and Emily Mortimer as various mysterious women Teddy meets is their mastery of the tone the film is looking for. Kingsley excels best in this which is in part to bring just the right touch of flamboyance, not too much, just the right amount and natural to the character. Kingsley certainly does this in giving the right style and grace of proper psychiatric doctor. There is an emphasis on measure of class in the doctor's manner that is wonderfully realized by Kingsley that adds so well to a bit of his more stylized lines that also makes them natural to the character. I have particular affection for the way Kingsley delivers the line "It's as if she evaporated straight through the walls" when describing the possible method of escape for the missing patient. Kingsley takes that heightened style and makes it all the more vibrant without going over the top, rather amplifying it in the right way.

Of course this being a twisty thriller, and Kingsley playing a man of good nature just doesn't seem right. There is something off about Kingsley's performance but only as it relates to realizing the twist though not in the way one would initially expect. With all these villains you have to be sure that the good Dr. Cawley must be evil, and Teddy's onto something when he thinks there may be unlawful experiments going on the island. Kingsley is brilliant in the way he maneuvers this aspect of the character. On initial viewing he is rather off-putting in a low key way. Kingsley has this certain eeriness in the way he speaks of past psychiatric measures, and the way he interacts with Teddy. Kingsley portrays this keen interest the doctor has in Teddy as though he is perhaps looking for some sort of weakness, and the way he speaks to him Kingsley exerts this gentle persuasion that carries a certain menace within his genial matter. The doctor never seems phased by the lost patient and there is something seemingly quite disturbing in this and something seems to be increasingly not right about the good doctor as the film continues. 

Kingsley seems all set for the classical revelation of the attempted comforting paternal figure turning out to be evil not unlike James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential. There just seems to be something about his warmth that doesn't seem quite like it is placed correctly. As the story continues and the situation on the island seems to become more dire though Kingsley seems to tilt his hand in the revelation as Dr. Cawley almost openly threatens Teddy. Kingsley touches towards the absurd in his rather sinister ,overtly if not ridiculously even, way of speaking of his institute as something important something that he will not allow to be destroyed by anyone. That is of course because it suppose to be ridiculous the twist here is not that Kingsley's Cawley is evil, it's that Teddy is in fact delusional and in fact the "missing" patient. Re-watching the film I noticed just how outstanding Kingsley is in the way he offers all the clues yet doesn't give it away. The false give away towards the revelation Kingsley in fact portrays as a purposeful give away in the character of Cawley trying to get Teddy to see that his paranoia is false and frankly absurd. The real truth of Cawley is that he's good man, simple as that.

Kingsley never hides this either, except in his aforementioned major role play scene. The way he pays so much attention to Teddy, particularly when talking of water torture, Kingsley's reactions are off putting if he was doing it to a stranger, but make perfect sense for an observant doctor trying to help his patient. Kingsley is in fact throughout giving this portrayal of a devoted man tirelessly trying to help the man break from his delusions. His eyes are searching for a break, or some way to try to help  the man. On re-watch his speech about being a special kind of doctor who seeks to respect and understand his patents is genuinely moving as Kingsley offers it so earnestly as the true nature of Cawley. Kingsley in fact makes it all natural to the final revelation scenes which are of Cawley trying to directly confront Teddy with the truth. I love Kingsley in this scene as he brings such an incisiveness to the words. He importantly doesn't play this as a vicious attack on man, but rather infuses every word with such palatable emotion of a man striving hard to break the man from his false world as well as save his life. Kingsley offers a real warmth and tenderness in these scenes particularly in his final shot where it seems Teddy has regressed. Kingsley reaction is quite powerful as he finds the man's heartbreak at his failure to save his patient despite his tireless efforts. This is a great performance by Ben Kingsley as he not only offers an entertaining turn by realizing the film's specific tone, yet he still manages to bridge this towards a needed substance and depth required for the film's final act.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010: Armie Hammer in The Social Network

Armie Hammer did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in The Social Network.

The idea of playing identical twins seems to be a challenge an actor may relish. This often though is used two give two wildly different if not dramatically opposed performances. The most interesting portrayals of twins are not so extreme, just as identical twins in real life tend to not be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Armie Hammer takes this more realistic approach in his portrayal of the Winklevosses or as titled by Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg the Winklevii. On a cursory glance the two men do appear to be almost exactly the same. They are both notable physical specimens that is further emphasized with an excessively upright posture from Hammer fitting for a pair of Olympiad level rowers. Their diction seemingly stemming from a sliver spoon deep in both of their throats. Hammer, who already has a rather refined articulation, seems to go just a little broader than even his normal accent to reinforce the background of the men, but also their nature. Hammer has the twins speak as men whose voices are usually heard, but perhaps more importantly as men who expect themselves to be heard.

The two are proper representations of privilege in every sense, and there is an inherent danger in playing such a type of character, particularly in an Aaron Sorkin screenplay, to veer towards caricature if the actor is not careful. This is not due to underdevelopment of characters in Sorkin's writing rather in his dialogue which is as treacherous as it is rich given its often flamboyant nature. There is almost this idea of Sorkinese which in the wrong hands can easily sound ridiculous and overwritten if not delivered properly. Hammer has a particular challenge there then in that he's already depicting an often simplified type of character with dialogue that could potentially exacerbate this. Hammer wholly avoids this while also making Sorkin's dialogue sing like few other actors have. Hammer in both performances is a master of every little colorful flourish by so effectively realizing the style of both men as natural to these words, and just delivering the lines so well. Hammer perhaps gives the funniest performance, or performances, in the film by making the most out of every line while also by having just the right type of fun with these very particular sort of men.

Now as amusing as Hammer is when pondering between the Winklevi if Zuckerberg offended one of their girlfriends or scoff at the the Prince of Monaco he's careful not to become two caricatures walking around. This is perhaps best seen through the ways he does distinguish the two twins from one another in nuanced and pivotal ways that actually helps to take them beyond simple figures of entitlement. Hammer portrays Cameron and Tyler differently in their personal styles that attaches to their personal belief in their use of that entitlement, however that isn't to say that is all there is to them or to Hammer's performance. Hammer presents Cameron as a man who very much believes, yet deludes himself, in sort of this honor that comes from his position that requires a certain attitude beyond even the mannerisms he has inherited along with his brother. Hammer shows Cameron as a man ready for every party, every general meeting or otherwise in the future in the way he speaks with such certainty towards his beliefs. Hammer grants this a touch of naivety even foolishness however not dishonestly through the character. There is some fun to be had at this expense, but this is part of the beauty of Hammer's performance. He allows you to have fun watching their plight, but he doesn't make them some sort of villain. They are still people.

On this point you can look at the way he depicts Cameron in two contrasting scenes. The first being one of his very best scenes where the two brothers go to lob a formal complaint about Zuckerberg to the president of Harvard. Hammer is downright hilarious in portraying Cameron's genuine disbelief at the president being completely unimpressed by his candor, and part of what makes this funny is how earnestly Hammer delivers every moment as a self-expressed "gentleman of Harvard". This can be contrasted against the series of court deposition scenes where we see a similair earnest disbelief in Hammer, however he garners a real sympathy when reacting to Zuckerberg's words of extreme disregard for the brothers. Now this is interesting as he iw distinguishing that against his portrayal of Tyler who has fewer pretensions over his position that Hammer realizes in subtle yet brilliant ways. Right in the disposition scenes for example it isn't the disbelief of a proper gentleman that he portrays rather fervent anger of someone ticked off who feels he was screwed out of a billion dollars. This idea Hammer directs throughout his work as Tyler that effectively differentiates between the two twins. In every moment of Cameron's assurance of proper manners of privilege, Hammer offers a terrific contrast through the more blunt of the two men who has no shame in using his wealth but also has no delusions around it either. One of my favorite deliveries of his in the film is " I broke your 335-year old doorknob" after tearing off one of Harvard's valued furnishings, that perfectly exemplifies Tyler's attitude towards frankly sentiments of his own class. This is a great pair of performances by Armie Hammer as he excels as a combination of the two yet makes them distinct. He never falls to any pitfalls in playing twins and most importantly succeeds in crafting two entertaining characters yet still humanizes them perhaps beyond what is even their intended purpose within the story.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010: Michael Lonsdale in Of Gods and Men

Michael Lonsdale did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying brother Luc in Of Gods and Men.

Of Gods and Men is a powerful film that depicts the true story of a group of monks deciding whether or not to remain while under threat of fundamentalist terrorists in Algeria.

Veteran french actor Michael Lonsdale portrays one of the monks of the monastery brother Luc who is also the doctor among the group. The film itself takes a reserved approach to its depiction of such a harrowing story as it quietly examines them attempting to continue their lives and duties in their faith even while the barbarians appear to be at the gate. Lonsdale's Luc is perhaps the most modest of the men who are simply trying to mind their faith and help the locals in their small ways. Lonsdale early on offers the presence of a man who has been living this life for a long time. Lonsdale's whole being is one of earnest empathy to those around him, and there is just such an abundance of natural warmth in his work. Lonsdale is particularly remarkable in the way he brings this with such an ease that reflects those years of this state. This is a pleasant state that Lonsdale reveals in brother Luc, as he offers the assurance of a life of fulfilling his duties as to his belief. There is particularly effective scene by Lonsdale early on where he describes the feelings of love to one of the local teenagers and Lonsdale in his gentle delivery and understanding eyes creates such sense of the caring nature of Luc.

Lonsdale's performance as the film continues is one of consistency and grace even while the world seems to crumble around the monastery. Now this is actually what is so notable about Lonsdale is what he does within potential limits of the role which could have been vague with the wrong actor in the part. Lonsdale while having that grace doesn't make brother Luc someone beyond who is which is a loving person. Lonsdale portrays his moments of dealing with his asthma, and the hardship of the danger of attacks as just that a hardship. Lonsdale's reaction depict the way he takes these things into himself but also takes them in stride. Lonsdale importantly always makes it feel wholly genuine with the man Luc is which is in this calm of his very being. Throughout the film though he is perhaps the least troubled by the impending threat on all of them which may result in their deaths. In every discussion Luc is quick to show his support for staying, and unlike the other monks is never truly conflicted by the choice. Lonsdale again doesn't use this as though Luc is detached, but rather aware of his own state of being.

Lonsdale realizes this elegance in his thoughts which is that as an old man with his health issues he knows he doesn't have long on this earth in any circumstances. Londsdale is tremendous in the way he creates this sense of this understanding that creates perhaps somberness of it, but never a sadness. There is rather where there is that calm in his being, that calm of a man who has lived his life the way he believed to be right. As the film continues then Lonsdale in this portrayal of this acceptance of fate is the most comforting presence in the film. Unlike the other men Lonsdale shows this sort of confidence of a man who can see his end, but rather than being fearful of it readies himself for it with a quiet embrace. As much as this is a place of lasting warmth in the film, particularly in the final moments the monks spend together, the impact of Lonsdale goes even further than expected as the story reaches its end. Lonsdale's work becomes incredibly poignant in never creating a unapproachable martyr, but rather creating this portrait of honest goodness. The final shots of the film of him bearing a storm well slowly moving towards his end are haunting showing the real power of Lonsdale's unassuming yet potent work.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010: Taika Waititi in Boy

Taika Waititi did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alamein aka "Shogun" in Boy.

Boy is a very funny but also rather poignant coming of age story about...well...a boy (James Rolleston) getting a chance to reunite with his absentee father.

Boy I suppose wasn't quite a surprise in its balance of being both heartwarming and gut busting based upon Taika Waititi's later work as a director in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. What was perhaps a bit more of a surprise though was how this also translates to his work as an actor. Waititi in addition to directing the film plays the boy's father Alamein, which is also the boy's real name. In the opening of the film he is in jail where the boy imagines him as some sort hero even at times when he admits he's in jail. Waititi gives us glimpses of Alamein in fantastical visions of the man which grant us some great physical comedy from Waititi. These are perhaps the most purely comic moments in Waititi's work given he is basically being a human cartoon in them. Each one is a splendid piece of ridiculousness from Waititi. Whether it is performing a Maori dance by way of Michael Jackson's thriller, engaging in a dramatic fight with a gang of bikers, or even escaping prison like ninja by throwing dirt as if it was a ninja star, Waititi is highly entertaining. He properly gives a portrayal that is a little too much in that it so clearly a false image of almost this superhuman hero rather than an actual man. Waititi properly invents the hero for a child's dream being oh so endearing, and easy to be proud of, while being quite funny to us by just how absurd these images are.

We meet Alamein in the flesh a bit later as he surprisingly comes with his friends to visit the boy's home. The boy takes it as Alamein wanting to get to know him and his little brother Rocky. Waititi is brilliant in many ways here in the way he portrays the part of Alamein, or as he prefers to be called Shogun, but I'll still keep calling him Alamein. On one front Waititi does make Alamein a likable charming guy on the surface. He brings certainly an energetic spirit to the role, though carefully downplays this in comparison to those scenes of the fantasy. Waititi creates a more natural charm in these scenes fitting to the type of man Alamein is. Now in this Waititi creates these layers, that are not of facades but rather how this behavior can be seen and interpreted depending on who is watching him. At the most surface point this is just an entertaining performance to watch as Waiti has such a considerable comedic skill. This is in flawless delivery when humor is already within the line though Waiti has a particular great skill of even making technically mundane lines hilarious through unique approach as a performer as well as his perfect timing. Waititi makes this an inherent element within Alamein's charm that makes the initial view of him believable, and even what perhaps the boy's deceased mother had seen in him.

Waititi isn't simply entertaining here, though he certainly is that, but he brings real nuance within even this behavior that offers more than just an entertaining dad, although maybe less in a way. That behavior although can be enjoyable, Waititi uses it to also show the state of Alamein which is basically as a man child right down to his insistence that he and his couple guys, the not so amply named "Crazy Horses, are a proper gang. This extends to his interactions with his kids where Waititi walks such a fine line in his portrayal of this. In that he shows exactly how his kids could believe him to be just a fun dad as he encourages them to help him dig for treasure, even while it is in fact a selfish act of him just trying to find his ill-gotten gains he buried before going to jail. Waititi is fun as Alamein however in this he also conveys just how unabashed he is in choosing to misuse his kids. When he speaks over the phone about how there are so many kids around, or asks his boy not to call him dad rather to call him Shogun, there is a earnestness to the petulance that makes him endearing on the surface. Looking further than that surface though Waititi shows a real problem there showing to us the bad father who really is not performing his duties, even while his sons are tricked, initially anyways, even if it appears he's there just spending a good time with them. Waititi goes even further though with this than just having Alamein be a bad father, even though he is definitely that.

Waititi keeps in mind just how unprepared the man is to be a father, and that earnestness in much of his behavior is never wholly false even if somewhat deceiving. He's often having fun with the kids as though they are just his friends, as Waititi conveys the way the guy can't get his head around being a proper paternal figure to the boys. Waititi finds the complication of this in such authentic fashion. Throughout the film as his behavior becomes worse Waititi shows what happens when such behavior is basically forced to directly deal with reality. Waititi is actually most unsettling when this happens as we see the man acting as a boy in a less positive light, and it isn't easy to watch. Waititi doesn't hold back in this particularly in one scene where he suspects his son has taken his money. Waititi  delivers in bringing a downright scary side to Alamein, that feels entirely cohesive to the rest of the character due to Waititi's deft handle on the role. Waititi brutally shows the truth of what happens to the "fun dad" when there is no fun to be had, and his childishness comes into conflict with his kids. When he yells at the boy Waititi shows the very real danger of the man living as the boy.

Again though Waititi carefully does not simplify this to suddenly make Alamein a terrible person, even though he is, in every single scene. Waititi is actually quite moving in the scene right afterwards in portraying so sincerely his attempt at apology, though still recognizing the problem in this since even the apology doesn't fully recognize the nature of his action. In this though Waititi finds a melancholy around the character as exudes the challenge of the man to connect with them in someway he understands, as well as deal with the loss of his wife. There are times in the fun moments there is a genuine warmth that Waititi brings showing Alamein trying to be an actual father to them. Waititi makes these moments properly awkward though genuine. These moments though he makes that somberness the most palatable suggesting that when he acts as the dad remembering the loss of his wife weighs most strongly on his mind. Waititi is downright heartbreaking in his portrayal of the particularly in the final pseudo reconciliation with his sons at the grave of his wife. I'll admit I was a bit surprised by just how well Waiti proves himself as able as an actor as he is a director in terms of so delicately and effectively balancing these tones. I loved this performance as Waititi within his portrayal is ridiculous, moving, horrible, likable, and funny all in his singular complex realization of the mess of a man Alamein is.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010

And the Nominees Were Not:

Armie Hammer in The Social Network

Ben Kingsley in Shutter Island

Liu Kai Chi in The Stool Pigeon

Michael Lonsdale in Of Gods and Men


Taika Waititi in Boy

Monday, 27 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Results

5. William Shimell in Certified Copy - Shimell gives an effective if more simplistic, in comparison to his co-star, portrayal of the film's mysterious relationship.

Best Scene: The first stop.
4. Mads Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising - Mikkelsen offers the right imposing yet otherworldly presence as his silent uncompromising warrior.

Best Scene: The pat.
3. Martin Sheen in The Way - Sheen offers the right balance to his film bringing a real emotional honesty to his character's journey of discovery while also doing the same for his less subtle co-stars.

Best Scene: Police Station.
2. Riz Ahmed in Four Lions - Ahmed is a proper Moe Howardesque straight man offering the right intensity, as well as sense of leadership in dealing with his incompetent underlings, while also humorously portraying his own failings.

Best Scene: Trying to talk Waj out of it. 
1. Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me - Affleck delivers an absolutely chilling depiction of a psychopath and realizes the logic of a disturbed even if his film's not very good.

Best Scene: Preparing a funeral pyre. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2010 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me

Casey Affleck did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me.

The Killer Inside Me at a source material level is a pitch black noir that would require a deft hand to successfully adapt, well no such hand is to be found here.

The film follows a corrupt lawman from his perspective, solely from that perspective and unlike say a Bad Lieutenant of some kind this lawman is wholly evil. The film falters in part because much of it feels like an exercise in replicating the hard boiled noir films of the 40's and 50's like a Double Indemnity, Kiss Me Deadly or The Postman Always Rings Twice. The film is an exercise in that however it does not succeed in even replicating the weakest of those three films in part because the exercise itself feels obvious but also in the way it deals with the characters. The supporting characters, partially in writing often in performance, feel like caricatures we are wholly detached from leaving the only successful character and performance being the one there is suppose to be a level of detachment from to begin with. That is obviously Casey Affleck in the lead role as Lou Ford our villainous protagonist. The majority of Affleck's notable roles in his acting career are at some level anti-social. This is a fascinating performance in Affleck's work since this is once again anti-social however the way he reveals it is very peculiar here, yet reveals itself in exactly the nature of Lou Ford.

Affleck's work is interesting though in that it isn't about facades exactly, but rather the meaning he attaches to Lou Ford's behavior that we know however no one else knows until it is too late. When we open the film we see Lou Ford as he sent out to evict known prostitute Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba), where we see Lou Ford as this unassuming if not slightly charming deputy. Affleck is not a naturally overtly charming performer however what he does here is quite fascinating in the sort of elfish charm he does find in that mischievous smile of his as he lets himself in. Affleck doesn't actually portray this hint of charm as a facade exactly since in that smile there is already exactly what he is, the problem is only Ford knows this. In that smile he charms Joyce long enough yet Affleck in that even brings his intention which isn't to pleasant towards her or even evict her, it is far worse. He goes about instead starting a sadomasochistic relationship with her where he routinely physically abuses her in perverse sex acts. Affleck doesn't reveal some evil side rather knowing what he intends to do grants a very different reaction from Affleck's slight grin given its meaning.

Affleck's performance here is apart from the rest of the film both in terms of quality but also in the way he portrays the psychosis of Deputy Ford. Ford is merely a man who does things throughout the film seemingly with little sense, even with a backstory of encouraging it but not creating it. Ford is mentally ill from the start and that is not going to change. What Affleck portrays throughout the film is merely such a man interacting with his surroundings, which unfortunately results in many deaths, and general destruction. Affleck's depicts Ford without even a hint of guilt portraying this purity of the madness of a man that is truly chilling because of the level of comfort Affleck depicts in this. In his actions of inflicting pain or killing Affleck portrays some to be sure in Ford as he does this, but also a hollowness within the ease in which he does it. There are no lingering thoughts that Affleck portrays rather a man completely comfortable in himself at every point throughout the film no matter what danger he may be putting himself in or how close he might be to getting caught for his many horrible actions throughout the story.

Ford's actions don't make a lot of sense throughout as he seems to almost actively work to getting himself caught by the end of the film however it is given any sense through Affleck's portrayal of his particular sort of craziness. Affleck always makes Ford the man he as this deranged pleasure seeker. He isn't even wholly without emotion as Ford speaks to some love he holds for Joyce, and although Affleck shows this to be true he also shows that this love means for him stabbing her to death. Affleck's performance here is terrific as he is most disturbing in so honestly realizing the man's sinister nature at every point no matter how illogical, since Affleck shows that it is wholly logical to Ford. In those eyes there is the man who holds such pleasure from just inflicting harm to others with that carefree genuine attitude that Affleck finds in this that makes it so off-putting. Affleck's work here on its own is compelling but it truly stands alone. He remains intriguing even as the film never really becomes as such. Affleck's performance is what would be needed for any adaptation of The Killer Inside Me, as he brings to life the man in eerie detail, even if the film itself fails to capitalize on the strength of its lead.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Byung-hun Lee in I Saw the Devil

Byung-hun Lee did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Soo-hyun Kim in I Saw the Devil.

The first time I watched I Saw the Devil I took very strongly to Min-sik Choi's performance as the central villain Kyung-chul, a serial killer who randomly targets the fiancee of Lee's secret service agent Soo-hyun Kim, and perhaps took Byung-hun Lee's performance somewhat for granted. On re-watches though I noticed my mistake in this, and the brilliance of the pairing of Choi and Lee, perhaps the two most talented Korean actors. The reason being they are such opposites in style and frankly everything else, though similair in their considerable talent. Where Choi certainly does not have the look of the traditional leading man, and his very flamboyant energetic performer, Lee on the other hand is very much the traditional leading man however with a very particular often restrained approach to his roles. These two provide for a most fascinating dynamic as we have Choi on the ledge, brilliantly so, as a complete madman, against Lee's very internalized performances Kim seemingly our hero ready to get revenge for his murdered fiancee. Now again, I quite wrongly, believed Lee to be overshadowed where in fact his work is just as pivotal as Choi's to the overall success of the film.

It is always interesting to see how a film will play differently when re-watching it, and the earliest scenes of the film have all the greater impact when you are aware of what is coming soon. Lee in the brief scene where Kim speaks with his fiancee is actually rather devastating with this knowledge in that he does provide a real warmth in the brief scene where Kim attempts to find a moment to romance her while doing his security scenes. It is a genuinely sweet moment where Lee just reveals a normal guy in love, which naturally in this film is not meant to be given that she is murdered as the opening scene of the film. In discovering the murder Lee is moving in portraying the honest grief of Kim as he initially discovers his painful loss. This however changes from the moment he decides to exact revenge by finding the killer. Lee puts that obvious gentle humanity to Kim in his very quiet portrayal of the state of Kim once he begins his descent into hell. Lee's fashions this exact state of Kim as this man filled with vengeance, and is outstanding what he does with his restraint in the role.

Lee shows a man no longer seemingly broken by his loss rather completely in charge of his existence. There is this undeniable  power to the presence of Lee as he is frankly more menacing than the killer he assaults. Lee portrays this with the right limited emotions at times of a man who is essentially focusing himself away from his sorrows, and into the path that gives himself purpose. This is not to say it is unemotional in the slightest. Lee is incredible in the way he stays so quiet yet brings such a palatable intensity in his eyes. His eyes that suggest this hatred that fuels the man on his quest. This though again often has this certain calm and in doing so Lee does not make Kim some otherworldly hero simply doing the right thing, for him it's unfortunately far more complex. In that intensity there is this confidence, and seemingly some ease in his being. A contentment most of the time in his drive to get revenge. In the early scenes where he directly faces the other criminals, or Choi's Kyung-chul Lee brings this detachment within the intensity as though he is acting as some spirit of vengeance who is beyond their limits of understanding. Lee's terrific as this technical facade is actually made properly believable, and what makes him so menacing.

That state is always Lee's point of return in his performance and it so effectively reveals the frame of mind of the man who is finding some strange solace in his quest. This is not to say there are not moments of breaking, Lee in fact brings this at the right moment, such as when he finds his wife wedding ring he naturally reveals a bit of the pain again. That though he wisely keeps restrained still keeping Kim as the properly stoic "hero" that you would find in most revenge thrillers. He returns though always back to seeming in a place away with it whenever he is on his quest. This is to the point in his initial confrontation with Kyung-chul Lee stays almost without emotion in the fight, until he has knocked the killer unconscious and is about to be able to kill him. Lee reveals just a bit of his pain seeping in even within the apparent satisfaction as he is about to commit the coup de grace, and in this Lee makes the strange choice to let Kyung-chul live convincing. In that moment Lee suggests the thought of a man about to lose everything falling back into his despair, and makes sense of the man letting the killer live since if he tortures him it gives him something to keep him going and away from his despair.

Lee shows this as allowing Kim to continue his state of that confidence, that power as he follows and pesters the man trying to drive him insane, well...more insane. Lee brings that detachment, that what would usually be described as sort of a cool bad ass detachment, of the man whose going to make life for the villain a living hell. Lee constantly appears with that intensity, and absolute control as Kyung-chul's personal judge dispensing punishment viciously, and without mercy. Again this is not truly without emotion however Lee brings it through that palatable contempt to destroy the man. That intensity is as such through Lee's performance that he allows Kim to seemingly become almost the monster himself as he stalks his prey of the killers, with the piercing eyes of a different kind of killer as he seems to stare into their souls, and his voice in these moments which reinforce this unshakable determination in his uncompromising pointed delivery. The more time we spend with Lee portraying Kim on the moment the less simple it become, as he indeed seems less the hero seeking revenge, and man becoming not far off the man he's seeking revenge against.

As with Byung-hun Lee's work in his other leading collaboration with director Jee-woon Kim A Bittersweet Life, Lee is springing a bit of trap with his performance. In that while he is compelling in portraying this more subdued, and withdrawn performance it is building to something. We have hints of this throughout as there are the moments where just a bit of Kim's pain reveals itself, however Lee always portrays this is as only very subtle momentary lapses such as single tear where the emotion pushes itself just slightly through, until the very end of the film where he sets a final death trap to end it all. When Kim leaves Kyung-chul to fate Lee is ice cold as he walks away without emotion until finally the end comes, and the trap is sprung with Lee's performance. Again Lee has stayed reserved for the rest of the film but he finally lapses in this scene revealing finally the full extent of all the pain from the events of the story, and the hollowness he's left with. Lee gives one of the most heartbreaking depictions of grief that has all the greater impact as he shows this usually guarded man finally losing any sense of control. Lee in the scene just lets it all go in such powerful way in this messy combination of tears, and laughs, not laughs of joy rather of a horrible madness stemming from his damaged state. Byung-hun Lee gives a great performance that while perhaps his impact is not immediately as obvious as Choi's it holds the same importance in providing a real emotional depth within the carnage through his complex realization of what revenge does to a man.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Mads Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising

Mads Mikkelsen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying One-Eye in Valhalla Rising.

Valhalla Rising follows a silent warrior who follows with a group of soldiers in a crusade that leads them to an unknown land.

Valhalla Rising is film that seems to encourage polarizing reactions from those who watch with its minimalist, contemplative style. The only point of any agreement should come from the film's striking technical elements particularly its cinematography, although these are perhaps just a little diminished by the bizarre choice to use terrible and very distracting Photoshop blood splatter effects, especially given the amount of practical effects already utilized. The rest though will be how one takes to the stark story, and storytelling methods that features intense yet cold emotions. This is perhaps best personified through the central character of One-Eye played by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen has not a single line in the entire film, as his One-Eye is a man of actions only. This is from the outset of the film where we see him used by a chieftain for fights to the death in between being locked in a cage. Now often a silent performance does not mean unemotional however even here One-Eye is purposefully made to be an enigmatic character, and somewhat distant in his rather mystical presence within the film. That is right down to his moniker and physical attribute that alludes to Odin the Norse god, which extends as far as One-Eye having the power to foresee the future.

This performance is not exactly the usual type of challenge these performances are since part of the intention of the character is to be a bit impenetrable particularly against the other characters who wear their emotions far more openly and broadly. Mikkelsen's One-Eye is suppose to be set as a stone in a way, a man above and beyond those around him in someway. Mikkelsen's work is not particularly emotional, and really his character is rather static once again acting in contrast to those around him. Mikkelsen's portrayal falls largely upon his own presence which is remarkable in its own right. There is something naturally compelling about Mikkelsen to the point that even when he's not saying anything verbally or non-verbally for that matter, there is something striking in Mikkelsen's very being. Mikkelsen becomes an impressive conduit of interest throughout the film, as he does compel one to watch One-Eye even though he gives very little to explain the man. What truly defines Mikkelsen's performance is what is it that he brings within this almost set condition of One-Eye that defines the character throughout the film.

Mikkelsen's presence is worthy of the demi-god, or just simply god within the story. Mikkelsen brings that natural intensity of his, particularly through that incisive single eye of his here that indeed seems to see beyond all those around him. There is a mercilessness about this, yet not exactly an evil that Mikkelsen portrays. Mikkelsen for much of the film doesn't depict One-Eye as good or as evil, but something that simply is. Mikkelsen is able to capture a being who acts upon some will greater than the normal man even in the way he kills Mikkelsen portrays with this exactness not of a skilled warrior rather as a deity dispensing his judgment. Mikkelsen nor the film desires more from the character than this exact state which continues as he joins a crusade to the unknown. Mikkelsen acts as the only point of stability in the journey although even then this is in a purposefully cold and distant fashion. One-Eye even as he has visions of a certain doom does not wither from this, rather treats this as his inevitable fate. The only slight break we are granted is in his final moments where he awaits this fate with a boy who gave him food in captivity, and he acted as protector to on their journey to the unknown. Mikkelsen still portrays this true to the state of One-Eye as in simple comforting pat there is the only warmth to be found anywhere within the film. Mikkelsen even depicts this though as part of the otherworldly nature still even in the human act, it is still seemingly a pardon towards the boy from a god. This performance is exactly as it should be in this specific realization of the omnipotent One-Eye, to be more emotional, would be dishonest to the role. Mikkelsen delivers all that he is able within the confines, and is far more compelling than most actors would be in the role. He is however still subservient towards the overarching vision which leaves him in that exact distant state that is still only as absorbing as the film allows him to be.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Riz Ahmed in Four Lions

Riz Ahmed did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Omar in Four Lions.

Four Lions surprisingly somehow works as a comedy about a group of rather westernized jihadists in England.

Riz Ahmed who seems to be slowly breaking out, most notably with his very dramatic role in the mini-series The Night Of,  despite being a terrorist leader this is not dramatically minded role...for the most part. Ahmed instead plays essentially Moe Howard of the Three Stooges as the "brains" of a group of the dimwitted fanatics. Ahmed's performance is therefore to be the wrangler among the group more or less. Ahmed's performance is interesting in turn, like Moe Howard actually, he has to be sort of the straight man but also comedic in his own way as well. There is much of it as purely the Moe of the group in terms of dealing with the overt stupidity of the rest of the group particularly the constantly angry convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay) with a varied amount of dumb ideas on how they should go about being a terrorist cell. Ahmed brings the right type of exasperation in every little reaction to this, but also the more direct vicious anger proper for a Moe Howard type. He's especially hilarious when he breaks down Barry's idea of bombing a mosque to the moderates to become radical, as Ahmed brings nothing but the most extreme disbelief and derision in every breath as he explains how stupid the idea is.

He's also the straight man to the other idiots in the group though Ahmed brings as much of a certain confusion towards their incompetence he handles it a bit differently particularly towards the simpleton Waj (Kayvan Novak). It is here though he is again the Moe as he has to wrangle them towards the cause though again Ahmed portrays a certain way. This is very important in terms of maintaining the tone of the film as Ahmed never portrays Omar, the most competent of the men, still realistically as a jihadist. When Omar goes about encouraging, or really manipulating, the other men Ahmed doesn't bring the passion of a true fanatic, as that really wouldn't be funny. Ahmed instead approaches it basically as a guy trying to almost form kind of a band, a band he takes seriously yet can't quite get his guys to work properly together. He doesn't deliver his words to them as these passionate views of a mad man, but rather of a fairly stressed out guy just trying to make what they're doing work. This is right down to an early scene where he sees his men's terrorist videos, where Ahmed reacts again less as a man looking at horrifying propaganda, but rather a front man being very disappointed in his band members' music videos.

Now in proper Moe Howard form Ahmed, though the most intelligent of the men, is also a bit of an idiot he's just better at hiding it from himself. This is right down to their motivation where they are group yet couldn't be more westernized themselves. This is actually especially true to Ahmed's portrayal of Omar, which is again never exactly true to his intention. Again what makes this work in a comedic sense is that Ahmed stays pure to this throughout the film, and plays it as being perhaps somewhat oblivious to this contradiction. In turn Ahmed is consistently funny in portraying just how comfortable technically Omar in this such as his full embracing of a jogging neighbor while he and the men are transferring their explosions. Ahmed carefully shows not a hint of actually hating anyone, other than his own men, which I feel is key to making the film's tone work. The whole time Ahmed portrays this as less something he truly deeply believes in a dogmatic sense, but rather because it is something that has been decided for him. Even when he announces his intention to go about suicide bombing to his wife, Ahmed delivers his veiled statement as though he's decided to finally go on vacation or something.

A pivotal element in Ahmed's performance actually though is that he doesn't wink at any point and stays true to his character of Omar, which makes both the character and the tone of the film cohesive. This is as Ahmed portrays Omar most at ease at essentially not be a fundamentalist terrorist or even a fundamentalist in any way. This is particularly important to the few scenes Ahmed shares with a more religiously observant Muslim, who is not a potential terrorist, where Ahmed brings such a petulance in his treatment of the man. Again this should almost seem nonsensical however Ahmed makes it entertaining yet somehow natural to the character, and his skewed views towards his own religion. In every moment where he's actually trying to be terrorist Ahmed's great by showing Omar frankly at his most idiotic, such as his classical prat fall when firing a bazooka, or the whole final sequence where the men go to blow themselves up wearing ridiculous costumes. Ahmed makes for the right type of physical embodiment of awkwardness, however he goes even further to slowly throughout the sequence portraying the realization in Omar over his mistake. He ends up creating a bridge the film to a more dramatic intention as he attempts to talk Waj out of it. Ahmed manages to make this transition work, without somehow going too heavy, despite the film ending the way it does. Ahmed's performance, much like the film, is this incredible balancing act that manages to be quite entertaining while somehow making light of the dark material, yet somehow also create some depth to it. It shouldn't work, but it does, and Riz Ahmed's astute performance is one of the greatest contributions in making it so. 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Martin Sheen in The Way

Martin Sheen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Thomas "Tom" Avery in The Way.

The Way is fairly predictable however I ended quite liking the film in its inspirational intentions following a father following his deceased son's footsteps by taking a pilgrimage on an ancient spiritual tale that his son died on.

Martin Sheen after his period during the 70's as a leading man came to become perhaps best known mostly for often unassuming supporting roles in terms of his cinematic output. This is a notable exception naturally coming from a collaboration with his son Emilio Estevez as the film's director. Incidentally though the last time I covered a Sheen performance was also in a film about a rather different kind of trek in Apocalypse Now, however this one seems to evoke an attempt to transcend towards a certain heaven rather than a descent into hell. In a film about such a journey though we don't begin with Martin Sheen's Tom Avery as a deeply unhappy man. Instead we just see him briefly living his life, and Sheen shows him just to be an affable enough man before being devastated from hearing about the sudden death of his son Daniel (played by Estevez of course). Sheen is terrific though in portraying the sheer weight of his original sorrows from hearing about the death of his son. Sheen is moving yet he carefully approaches these scenes in showing just how lonely and cold the sadness in the scene. He internalizes very effectively by portraying directly the way all Tom can feel over this and his relationship with his son is that sorrow. Sheen establishes well this state of Tom's grief before and while he collects his son's remains in Europe.

In Europe though he discovers how his son died, and decides to help him finish the way of St. James by taking his ashes while walking it himself. On the journey I must say how much I appreciated Sheen's performance because of how he does not allow the film to veer off into excessively sentimental or corny material. Naturally there are elements to basically turn this film into that sort of thing as par for the course he comes across a few other pilgrims including an acerbic chain smoking divorcee Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a goofy Dutchman Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), and a slightly daffy philosophical writer Jack (James Nesbitt). These three could easily lead the film astray, and not so much due to the performances, but just the nature of the characters. Sheen though offers just the right balance by carefully never becoming flamboyant in that way, and there are certainly opportunities for some over the top "seasoned old guy" lines. Sheen though stays reserved properly and plays off them well by offering such a down to earth portrayal. In turn Sheen stays true to the character by keeping alive his grief as the underlying factor in the character. Sheen rightfully keeps this as a weight right down to his very physical performance that creates the sense of that sorrow even in the lighter moments.

Sheen captures so well the spiritual and religious journey of the character. Again this is where another actor may have gone very broad but Sheen does so well to keep the journey a fairly subtle one. He creates a real sense of the pilgrimage in portraying Tom trying to come to terms with his sons death throughout the film, rather just being a simple fix at any point. In turn Sheen does well in that he grants moments where there seems joy is coming from the experience, but just as well makes his moments of exasperation as well as confusion of his state just as natural. The one broader scene by Sheen is one I actually thought he pulled off well. In that it is the scene where Tom lashes out at the other pilgrims for their inadequacies after failing to really respect his loss in a proper way. Sheen I felt earned this as in those previous moments where they bring up his son his reactions properly take in some of that distress from their somewhat accidental carelessness, and disregard for his real loss as they get so caught up in themselves. Sheen in the outrage scene instead delivers the proper outburst who has just enough of their little asides, as well as still suggests the anger is part of that same anguish from the death of his son. It is far more cathartic as it might have been as Sheen builds towards in all of the previous interactions making it feel as a natural growth in his relationship with the others.

The most powerful aspect of the film for me though is the continuing portrayal of dealing with the direct grief from Sheen, and surprisingly made the potentially ridiculous moments of Estevez randomly appearing to him throughout the journey rather poignant since he makes you understand what this really means. This is helped by a pivotal flashback scene where we see the two talking before his son originally left to Europe. The two together in that single scene is something special as they manage transport such a genuine relationship into this moment, and sense the history between the two. Although it is a tense scene there is still a sense of warmth, and love between the two even within the words of the conflict. Sheen's performance takes this further throughout the journey though as he depicts the changing state in Tom. Sheen brings such real power to every moment where he leaves some of his son's ashes at one of the landmarks or has to retrieve them from a thief and raging water. In those moments the intensity of the grief Sheen grants to his passion towards his son so beautifully. Past that though throughout he gradually loses that isolation that defined his original sadness. Sheen slowly shows in his eyes a man no longer only looking at the loss, but rather the memory and appreciation for his son as he makes it further on his trek. Sheen never loses sight of this idea and brings such a real heart to center of the film. His devoted and earnest portrayal in every moment of the film anchors it, and makes it resonate far more than it would have otherwise.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: William Shimell in Certified Copy

William Shimell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying James Miller in Certified Copy.

Certified Copy follows a British writer as he goes along with a French woman (Juliette Binoche) through an Italian village.

Now that description of the film's plot sounds excessively simple as it does not articulate the complexity within the film, which on one hand seems like a chapter of the Before series with two people talking in a European locale however, this film lacks the context of those films on purpose. The most context we are given before the initial direct meeting between the man and the woman is that the man is a British writer who has written a popular book, in Italy, on the nature of copied art, meanwhile the woman is at his public reading with a disruptive son. That is all we know before they later meet seemingly as strangers. We are never given the name of the woman, making the man's name technically equally meaningless in this story. It is then in what they speak to one another and the performances in which we are to gather some sort of understanding of the pair's relationship. This is a notable pairing at the center as we have the seasoned actress Binoche as the woman with William Shimell. Shimell is not a seasoned cinematic actor or even a traditionally dramatic actor. His background being as a baritone opera performer with his only previous onscreen credits being in TV filmed performances of operas and oratorios. This choice may seem strange but seems pointed to the intentions of the film.

The film never informs the viewer what is going on exactly. The pair appear to be strangers, or at best minor acquaintances, at first yet the conversation gets increasingly familiar between the two of them as the film goes on.  Of course this directly relates to the title of the film as well as the novel that James has written. In that it examines that issues of authenticity in art are meaningless as all art must be copied from somewhere. This gathers doubt to the nature of this relationship that we are witnessing whether it is authentic, or is it a copy, which by the charge of the book, perhaps the film as well, is just as meaningful as the real thing. Then again of course it is a copy of real relationship if one were to also keep in mind the nature of a fictional film. This eventually brings me to Shimell's performance, which that context is needed to understand fully his work, as well as I'd say his casting across from Binoche.  Shimell's performance is not on the same level of Binoche's. Binoche's work is fascinating as she plays the part from so many angles, sometimes with the playfulness of a game, sometimes deadly seriously, and with so many in between. She allows multiple interpretations yet never seems vague in her approach. Shimell's allows for the interpretations however his work is far more direct and precise in this sense.

Where Binoche's performance is in this state of constant flow, Shimell portrays more of an exact set of phases, though with this they do carry their own ambiguity because of this. Although he's certainly subdued most of the film you could almost describe as operatic in that Shimell focuses on the overtones. Initially Shimell is quite good honestly in presenting just the straightforward intellectual writer giving his views first in the formal way at a public reading, then later when he initially encounters the woman. Shimell delivers his lines with a casual quality even within philosophy or even if it is approaching sensitive material. The man seems careless as though he is just with a stranger, even a fan of his work, but of course the conversation continues. Shimell does bring one overarching quality in his performance is there is a detachment about it, and presents everything seemingly exactly as you should see it. Although what makes this ambiguous in his own way is his transitions throughout the film. As we continue Shimell becomes more distant the more intimate the conversation becomes. Shimell actually allows you to read two ways, properly so, in that he is a man either tired of this charade, or he's tired of his situation with who is potentially his wife.

Shimell is consistent in the way his detachment defines the man relationship with the woman as really the woman's investment defines her relationship with him. She seems to be after something from the conversation, while the man avoids it. In turn Shimell only portrays a greater investment in terms of greater frustration seemingly seeking detachment. He more or less becomes less affable than anything even towards the end, when there seems to be any sort of reconciliation between the two. Even in that moment Shimell only really reduces his frustration seemingly giving in to whatever he is giving in to only a moment, but still with a detachment as he essentially says he has to leave soon no matter what. This performance honestly probably wouldn't quite work on its own yet it does as a foil to Binoche's performance. What she does works effectively in creating this strange window into this mysterious relationship, and she almost works against him as this wall of sorts. Again it comes back to the casting as Shimell's work isn't that of a seasoned veteran actor. His work isn't on the same level as Binoche's yet it works nonetheless in creating this particular dynamic. Now is it possible that an equally complex turn could have worked with Binoche's performance? Yes. Would that have been better? Maybe. Nevertheless Shimell's performance in tandem with Binoche's succeeds in creating this fascinating if enigmatic relationship that essentially is the film entire.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010

And the Nominees Were Not:

Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me

William Shimell in Certified Copy

Martin Sheen in The Way

Mads Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising

Riz Ahmed in Four Lions

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: Results

5. Eric Idle in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - Idle gives a rather amusing performance that matches the film's tone, and adds to its various delights. 

Best Actor: Split second save.
4. Pete Postlethwaite in Distant Voices, Still Lives - Postlethewaite effectively captures the various memories of a father both in moments of severe brutality and occasional warmth.

Best Scene: Unpleasant Dinner. 
3. Jacky Cheung in As Tears Go By - Cheung makes for an effective time bomb in his properly flamboyant portrayal of a wannabe gangster on a constant collision course with reality.

Best Scene: Becoming a real gangster.
2. M. Emmet Walsh in Clean and Sober - Walsh makes a striking impact in such limited screentime initially in creating the sense of a history of pain from his own life of drugs, and creating a truly empathetic figure there to help and improve another who was once like himself.

Best Scene: Waiting. 
1. John Lone in The Moderns - Lone gives a brilliant performance here creating a properly ruthless depiction of a vicious businessman, however while honestly revealing the desperation within the man which leads to his downfall. 

Best Scene: Destroying the art.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2010 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: Jacky Cheung in As Tears Go By

Jacky Cheung did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Fly in As Tears Go By.

As Tears Go By is fairly remarkable debut Wong Kar-Wai, that is sort of his Mean Streets. 

Now I write that it is like his Mean Streets, in part because you can see the beginnings of him fashioning his personal unique style, but also the stories are very similair. Both films focus on small time street toughs. In both films we have the lead as the more stable of the two, here Wah played by Andy Lau, who while dealing with underworld tries to find romance while also dealing with his hotheaded friend, in this film younger brother, played here by Jacky Cheung. As with Robert De Niro's Jacky Boy from that film, Fly is a wildcard hotshot with a desire to make name without having any sense. Now I'll admit making this direct comparison won't do Cheung any great favors against prime form De Niro. Cheung to his own credit though finds his own way with the role of Fly from his first scene where he struggles to procure a debt from another denizen of the underworld. Cheung brings the right overt bluster to the role, as in these confrontational moments everything is heightened in his body language and every delivery. Cheung's approach though fits this wholly in creating he sense of the miserable effort Fly puts in trying to be more than he is. Cheung properly doesn't make it look easy rather showing Fly's attempt to be tough while never evoking that needed confidence to truly be dangerous, setting up so well Fly's reliance on Wah to actually ever get anything done.

Throughout he film Fly essentially acts as Wah's anchor towards the bad things in life as he continues to fumble his way as a wannabe gangster, usually leaving Wah to get involved to save him. Cheung is effective in all of his scene in realizing the particularly pathetic state of the man whether he is putting on such a ridiculous act of trying to be the "man of the streets" or just revealing the nothing of the man that Fly is whenever he is a physical wreck after once again failing to live up to his "name". There is only a brief respite when he placed into a normal job only slightly outside of the underworld as a street vendor, where Cheung is quite good in showing the sheer ambivalence of Fly towards the whole thing, and the severe disdain whenever he is called upon his position. Cheung finds that right type of uncontrolled spark in his performance that makes every foolish action and overreaction of Fly natural to his constant state of inadequacy to be more than he is, yet always having that intense need to be so. Now importantly Cheung creates the right underlying connection in his scenes with Lau to suggest their history in their interactions to give an understanding to Wah's continued support of him. As is proper thug Cheung essentially makes Fly this ticking time bomb of emotion that eventually leads to an real outburst of true violence by the end. This is the natural progression as realized by Cheung's performance and there is a definite power to the final minutes of the film where the wannabe tries to be the real gangster. This performance doesn't quite reach the heights of say a De Niro in Mean Streets, however it still stands as a strong portrayal of the wannabe set on a terrible crash course.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: John Lone in The Moderns

John Lone did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, for portraying Bertram Stone in The Moderns.

The Moderns, like Choose Me the other film from Alan Rudolph that I have seen, takes a very atypical, though rather intriguing I found, approach in quietly examining its characters, their relationships and the environment they live in. This time the focus being on a group of people in Paris art scene during the mid 1920's.

John Lone's career is a particularly frustrating one to examine with his brief skirting with stardom after his early work in the eighties that culminated in his performance in the best picture winning The Last Emperor. His career continued though oddly quickly faded to smaller supporting roles to the point that he has now not appeared in any film in ten years. Where is John Lone? Does anyone know? I wish he'd come back. Anyway Lone's career loss is a true shame given his talent and notably is one of the few Asian actors to achieve a real notoriety outside of martial arts based films. With this role he even makes the important transition to playing a role without even an element related to his ethnicity, as the role of Bertram Stone was not written for an Asian actor. It just required a talented one given that it is the traditionally difficult role of the other man. This other man role is a little bit different though as though Lone's Stone's wife is Rachel (Linda Fiorentino), she is also married to our lead the artist Nick (Keith Carradine), this is unbeknownst to Stone obviously. This leads to a different type of dynamic in general since Nick isn't trying to win over the man's wife, rather he just trying to decipher if his wife is coming back to him.

Nonetheless this is a challenging role as it is easy to make this character very ridiculous very quickly, and the caricature within the characters. Thankfully that is not the case due to Lone's considerable talent. Now from the start Lone makes a notable impact through his mere presence, as Stone is initially described as a friend of Houdini's, a businessman, and possibly a murderer, I love the way Stone carries this sense of danger with him. In his eyes and his exact manner he stands out against everyone else in the French cafe. He's not of the artistic bent instead there is this innate harshness that Lone exudes, a definite almost maniacal edge needed for a ruthless businessman. There is a bit of an extra flair that only an actor like Lone would bring. He takes it a bit further by creating this sense of knowing towards Stone's knowledge that people see him in dangerous. In turn there is just this certain degree of cheekiness that it particularly effective in creating the sense of Stone's position in this role. Lone shows a man who knows he isn't like those around him, and part of him does enjoy this simply in terms of enjoying the fear they have for him. In his initial confrontations with Nick, I love the way that Lone portrays Stone as loving the way he pushes around Nick, particularly in their one sided boxing match, as a man who is aware of his power without any shame in using it.

Now that would be kind of enough, as Lone is already great as the other man as the villain, but there is more to his performance than that. Stone in the film is trying to use his acquired wealth to buy himself into the art scene. This idea is key to Lone's performance, and his motivation for this is only truly explained through Lone's performance. What we see in Lone is a man who has gotten just about everything he wants although with the wish to keep his wife. Lone in this regard creates a very subtle desperation that he attaches to Stones's attempts to join the artistic movement by buying it out. In turn Lone's performance makes this part of the man's wish to retain his wife through becoming a proper part of the world. Lone's terrific in the way he does this wholly in his own work, and in such a quiet way that slowly builds throughout the film which culminates when Stone buys some masterpieces from Nick and his art dealer friend. This is denied from him when they are said to be fakes by the art crowd, to which leads Stone to destroy the paintings. This is downright amazing scene for Lone. On when end he reveals the ruthless businessman as he goes about stabbing and burning the paintings.

There is also to the sheer venom towards the art crowd that has rejected him. Lone's outstanding as he doesn't even raise his voice yet there is such a palatable intensity in his hatred towards them. This is only part of it though as that straight hatred is important as Lone shows that he doesn't care about the art crowd, but he does care about the rejection since it also means his wife will reject him. This is found that in the viciousness of his intensity there is there is a more vulnerable desperation as Lone plays it as though the only thing holding Stone together is the hate. It's incredible as I found Lone actually rather affecting by reveal such a genuine pain within the man violent demeanor. Lone naturally leads to the final confrontation where he finally loses his front to reveal the wretched man beneath of it. Lone makes it genuine, and even offers a bit of sympathy for the fiend in his final moments mastering one of the trickiest types of roles. Now before I can end this review I do have to mention Lone's final scene that while has no relevance to his arc it is a bit of mad brilliance in Lone's physical performance. The moment consists of performing an escape trick in a strange circumstance and Lone captures through the insane glee he brings in the moment as man who is on some other plain of existence. This is a great performance by John Lone and yet another reminder why he needs to come back to us.