Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Henry Fonda in You Only Live Once

Henry Fonda did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Eddie Taylor in You Only Live Once.

You Only Live Once is a somewhat effective film, Fritz Lang always seems like he's being a little held back in his American films, about an ex-convict attempting to reform yet falling into a series of unfortunate circumstances.

As with his friend Jimmy Stewart very few of Henry Fonda pre-1939 films receive much mention. The period in the 30's is interesting for both of them as you can see the development towards their onscreen persona that they would be best known for. Fonda, like Stewart, was sometimes cast as the romantic lead often in very simple roles. That is what appears you'll find here in You Only Live Twice. There are hints of another turn, but early on it feels like it may be a fairly straight forward romance film between Fonda's Eddie and his wife Joan (Sylvia Sydney). As one would expect Fonda is charming enough, though his aw shucks routine never was quite as as endearing as old Stewart's. He still makes Eddie likable enough just as his fortunes begin to turn south because of his history as an ex-con.

As the film takes its darker turn, where Eddie is wrongly accused and convicted of murder as well as sentenced to death by the electric chair, Fonda is actually challenged within the role after this point. There is further challenge though in the structure of the film as well though which often gives as much of an emphasis on those around Eddie than Eddie himself. Fonda though actually is quite good even early on in conveying the underlying sense of discontent in Eddie as he is consistently given the short end for his background. He's mostly aw shucks, but he does grant bit of darkness in there alluding to the background as well. When he's actually put in prison Fonda helps to carry the tone away from the earlier lighter style to where it goes, and where it goes is actually fairly surprising. This is not a story about an innocent man being put away and it just focusing on him getting out. In fact it actually feels at least little bit like Straight Time with Eddie's descent basically caused by societies refusal to believe that he can reform.

When Eddie is taken to prison, and basically given a set date for his own death, Fonda's performance reflects the anguish of this. He drops any notion of an aw or shucks in his honest portrayal of the disbelief at his terrible luck, but also even a definite intensity portraying the man's hatred against the lot he's been given. As it seems as though nothing will turn in his favor the film actually depicts Eddie attempting suicide. It is a great scene for Fonda as he so powerfully exudes the despair in Eddie as he begins to fashion his "tool", but also still gives this certain discontent as though Eddie is doing it in part to at least get something his way for once. Eddie is saved though just to be killed which leads to an escape attempt. Again Fonda manages to take the role where it needs to go in depicting the viciousness in Eddie as he lashes out believing that almost everyone has wronged him. Fonda maintains a descent in Eddie even after he escapes with his wife and they go out on a lamb. He importantly never returns any happiness in Eddie even as they seem to have a chance, staying true to the character as kind of a broken man. The film itself could have been better if it gave more time for Fonda to develop this progression, though he does well with the little he has it doesn't quite have the impact it could have. The performance though is strong, while doesn't hit the heights of his later work, it does suggest that same talent.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1937

And the Nominees Were Not:

Ronald Colman in The Prisoner of Zenda

Robert Donat in Knight Without Armour

Jean Gabin in Pepe Le Moko

Henry Fonda in You Only Live Once

Edward G. Robinson in Kid Galahad

Friday, 24 February 2017

My Wins 2016

To be completely truthful I just made this post because the last comments section was getting a bit cumbersome, so here's a fresh one for the upcoming awards.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2016: Results

13. Yoshi Oida in Silence - Oida gives a moving depiction of the quiet earnest devotion of one of the most devote Christians in Japan.

Best Scene: Ichizo pleads for someone to join him.
12. Shinya Tsukamoto in Silence -Tsukamoto along with Oida gives a moving depiction of a devoted Christian particularly as he faces certain demise.

Best Scene: A final hymn.
11. Alden Ehrenreich in Hail Caesar! - Ehrenreich gives a very funny performance by being so earnest in his approach to a singing cowboy who tries to be an actor.

Best Scene: Would that it were so simple.
10. Harvey Scrimshaw in The Witch - Scrimshaw gives an effective natural depiction of a boy in an unnatural situation that is absolutely haunting in his final moments.

Best Scene: Caleb wakes up.
9. Damian Lewis in Our Kind of Traitor - Lewis gives an incredibly compelling performance that works so well within the certain constraints he purposefully sets up for his refined government agent.

Best Scene: Hector tells about his son. 
8. Tadanobu Asano in Silence - Asano gives an extremely incisive yet somehow funny portrayal of a man viciously needling his hostage in order to break him. 

Best Scene: The interpreter meets Rodrigues.
7. Ralph Ineson in The Witch - Ineson gives a powerful depiction of a man essentially coming to terms with his own desperate state, and losing his delusions of grandeur.

Best Scene: William's prayer at night. 
6. Stellan Skårsgard in Our Kind of Traitor - Skårsgard is asked to do a lot in short order, yet he matches the challenge while giving an incredibly poignant portrait of a man doing whatever it takes to save his family.

Best Scene: Dima says goodbye to Perry.
5. Yosuke Kubozuka in Silence - Kubozuka gives a haunting portrayal that grants a heartbreaking understanding of what seems to be a wretched man.  

Best Scene: Kichijiro's first Confession.
4. Liam Neeson in Silence - Neeson in only a few scenes leaves such a considerable impression through his subversion of his usual role as the confident mentor by instead portraying a sad broken man being forced to destroy his own teachings.

Best Scene: Ferreira meets Rodrigues.
3. Issey Ogata in Silence - Ogata gives a truly menacing yet somehow also absolutely hilarious portrayal of a persecutor with a unique yet brutally effective method of destroying his foes.  

Best Scene: A story of Concubines. 
2. Sam Neill in Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Sam Neill delivers his best performance giving such a hilarious yet heartwarming portraying an irascible old man finding a connection with a troubled boy. Neill balances the various tones of the film brilliantly to be both very funny yet incredibly touching in depicting Uncle Hec's personal journey during his more literal journey through the bush.

Best Scene: The Boar. 
1. Ben Foster in Hell or High Water - Good prediction Michael McCarthy, and Luke Foster gives yet another great performance to his ever growing list of them. He gives an entertaining yet edgy depiction of an outlaw, yet he underlines it all with just a heartbreaking portrayal of man who has only ever found any use for himself as a criminal. Although this was a strong year for the category I have to admit this was an easy choice for me. Not just because this is a great performance, it is, but it hit me on an even more personal level than a good performance already hits you on.

This is not something I mentioned in my review but will I now. Foster's realization of Tanner went even further for me as he so reminded of my own older brother with whom I share a similair relationship to that Toby shares with Tanner, though far less extreme and in different circumstances of course. The little nuances and details of such relationship were there for me, and it connected with me on an even deeper level because of that. I simply cannot deny something like that.

Best Scene: The brothers say their goodbyes.
Overall Rank:
  1. Ben Foster in Hell or High Water
  2. Sam Neill in Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  3. Issey Ogata in Silence
  4. Liam Neeson in Silence
  5. Yosuke Kubozuka in Silence
  6. Mahershala Ali in Moonlight
  7. Stellan Skårsgard in Our Kind of Traitor
  8. Ralph Ineson in The Witch
  9. Tadanobu Asano in Silence 
  10. Damian Lewis in Our Kind of Traitor
  11. Hugo Weaving in Hacksaw Ridge 
  12. Woody Harrelson in The Edge of Seventeen
  13. Harvey Scrimshaw in The Witch
  14. Alden Ehrenreich in Hail Caesar!
  15. Christopher Lloyd in I Am Not A Serial Killer
  16. Farid Sajadhosseini in The Salesman
  17. Shinya Tsukamoto in Silence
  18. Yoshi Oida in Silence 
  19. Gil Birmingham in Hell or High Water 
  20. Sharlto Copley in Hardcore Henry
  21. Jack Reynor in Sing Street
  22. Macon Blair in Green Room
  23. Tracy Letts in Christine
  24. Ha Jung-woo in The Handmaiden
  25. Nick Offerman in The Founder
  26. John Carroll Lynch in The Founder
  27. Toby Kebbell in A Monster Calls
  28. Jun Kunimura in The Wailing
  29. Jared Harris in Certain Women
  30. Alan Rickman in Eye in the Sky
  31. Donnie Yen in Rogue One 
  32. Tom Bennett in Love and Friendship
  33. Adam Driver in Silence
  34. John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane
  35. Andre Holland in Moonlight
  36. Ma Dong-Seok in Train to Busan
  37. Jovan Adepo in Fences
  38. Kurt Russell in Deepwater Horizon 
  39. Ralph Fiennes in Hail Caesar!
  40. Patrick Stewart in Green Room 
  41. Kevin Costner in Hidden Figures
  42. Aaron Paul in Eye in the Sky
  43. Mykelti Williamson in Fences
  44. Sebastian Stan in Captain America Civil War 
  45. Alan Tudyk in Rogue One
  46. Jharrel Jerome in Moonlight 
  47. Tom Wilkinson in Denial
  48. John Gallagher Jr. in 10 Cloverfield Lane
  49. Lucas Dawson in The Witch
  50. Stephen Henderson in Fences
  51. Barkhad Abdi in Eye in the Sky
  52. Bradley Whitford in Other People
  53. Daniel Bruhl in Captain America Civil War
  54. Mads Mikkelsen in Rogue One
  55. Luke Bracey in Hacksaw Ridge 
  56. Evan Peters in X-Men Apocalypse
  57. Byung-hun Lee in The Age of Shadows
  58. Tom Holland in Captain America Civil War
  59. Alessandro Nivola in The Neon Demon
  60. Kevin Spacey in Elvis & Nixon 
  61. George Clooney in Hail Caesar!
  62. Liam Neeson in A Monster Calls 
  63. Cho Jin-woong in The Handmaiden
  64. Barry Shabaka Henley in Paterson
  65. Billy Crudup in Jackie
  66. John Leguizamo in The Infiltrator
  67. Frank Langella in Captain Fantastic
  68. Peter Sarsgaard in Jackie
  69. Keegan Michael-Key in Don't Think Twice
  70. Ethan Hawke in The Magnificent Seven 
  71. Chadwick Boseman in Captain America Civil War
  72. John Hurt in Jackie
  73. Billy Crudup in 20th Century Women 
  74. Max Baker in Hail Caesar!
  75. Michael Fassbender in X-Men Apocalypse
  76. William Jackson Harper in Paterson
  77. Bill Murray in The Jungle Book 
  78. Russell Hornsby in Fences 
  79. Blake Jenner in The Edge of Seventeen
  80. Rene Auberjonois in Certain Women
  81. James McAvoy in X-Men Apocalypse
  82. Anthony Mackie in Captain America Civil War
  83. Adam Driver in Midnight Special  
  84. Paul Rudd in Captain America Civil War
  85. Ralph Fiennes in Kubo and the Two Strings
  86. Riz Ahmed in Rogue One
  87. Byung-hun Lee in The Magnificent Seven
  88. Masatoshi Nagase in Paterson 
  89. Mike Birbiglia in Don't Think Twice
  90. Channing Tatum in Hail Caesar!
  91. Idris Elba in The Jungle Book  
  92. Hayden Szeto in The Edge of Seventeen
  93. Mads Mikkelsen in Dr. Strange
  94. Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea 
  95. David Wenham in Lion
  96. Jiang Wen in Rogue One
  97. Brendan Gleeson in Live By Night
  98. Toby Jones in The Man Who Knew Infinity
  99. Sam Worthington in Hacksaw Ridge
  100. TJ Miller in Deadpool
  101. Jimmy O Yang in Patriots Day
  102. Charles Berling in Elle
  103. Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals
  104. Simon Pegg in Star Trek Beyond
  105. Toby Jones in Anthropoid
  106. Colin Farrell in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 
  107. Oscar Kightley in Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  108. Aaron Eckhart in Bleed for This
  109. Colin Hanks in Elvis & Nixon
  110. Rhys Darby in Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  111. Jeremy Renner in Captain America Civil War
  112. JK Simmons in Kung Fu Panda 3  
  113. Stefan Kapicic in Deadpool
  114. Ben Kingsley in The Jungle Book 
  115. Michael Sheen in Passengers 
  116. Hwang Jung-min in The Wailing
  117. Joel Edgerton in Midnight Special
  118. Michael Parks in Blood Father
  119. Shingo Tsurumi in The Age of Shadows 
  120. Aidan Gillen in Sing Street
  121. Corey Stoll in Cafe Society 
  122. Jaden Piner in Moonlight
  123. Ben Mendelsohn in Rogue One
  124. Robert Picardo in Hail Caesar!
  125. Joe Cole in Green Room
  126. Kyle Chandler in Manchester by The Sea
  127. Alex Wolff in Patriots Day
  128. Themo Melikidze in Patriots Day
  129. Benedict Wong in Dr. Strange 
  130. Callum Turner in Green Room
  131. Ed Skrein in Deadpool
  132. Keanu Reeves in The Neon Demon
  133. Timothy Spall in Denial
  134. Frank Grillo in Captain America Civil War
  135. Bryan Cranston in Kung Fu Panda 3
  136. Matthew Goode in Allied  
  137. Chiwetel Ejiofor in Dr. Strange
  138. Mahershala Ali in Hidden Figures
  139. Bill Camp in Midnight Special
  140. Mahershala Ali in Free State of Jones
  141. Jared Harris in Allied  
  142. Laurence Fishburne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 
  143. Ciaran Hinds in Bleed For This
  144. Jemaine Clement in Moana 
  145. Kevin Bacon in Patriots Day 
  146. Nicolas Cage in Snowden
  147. John Goodman Patriots Day
  148. Ben Foster in The Finest Hours  
  149. Babak Karimi in The Salesman
  150. Laurence Fishburne in Passengers
  151. Jonas Bloquet in Elle
  152. Ciaran Hinds in Silence
  153. JK Simmons in Patriots Day
  154. Woody Harrelson in Triple 9 
  155. William H. Macy in Blood Father
  156. Jeremy Irons in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  157. Kodi Smit-McPhee in X-Men Apocalypse
  158. Ethan Suplee in Deepwater Horizon 
  159. Jay Hernandez in Suicide Squad
  160. Karl Urban in Star Trek Beyond 
  161. Tye Sheridan in X-Men Apocalypse
  162. Clancy Brown in Hail Caesar! 
  163. George MacKay in Captain Fantastic
  164. Rhys Ifans in Snowden
  165. Aaron Eckhart in Sully
  166. Chiwetel Ejiofor in Triple 9
  167. Laurent Lafitte in Elle
  168. Zachary Quinto in Star Trek Beyond
  169. Harry Lloyd in Anthropoid
  170. August Diehl in Allied  
  171. David Costabile in 13 Hours
  172. Anthony Mackie in Triple 9
  173. Ken Stott in Cafe Society
  174. Simon McBurney in Allied
  175. Bradley Cooper in War Dogs
  176. Karl Geary in I Am Not a Serial Killer 
  177. Graham McTavish in The Finest Hours
  178. Norman Reedus in Triple 9 
  179. Chris Messina in Live By Night
  180. Jeremy Renner in Arrival
  181. Chris Cooper in Demolition
  182. Keanu Reeves in Keanu 
  183. Edgar Ramirez in Gold
  184. Mark Strong in Miss Sloane 
  185. Stephen Fry in Love and Friendship
  186. Vince Vaughn in Hacksaw Ridge
  187. JK Simmons in The Accountant 
  188. Idris Elba in Zootopia
  189. Jai Courtney in Suicide Squad
  190. Kevin Pollack in War Dogs
  191. Christopher Lambert in Hail Caesar!
  192. Michael Shannon in Loving 
  193. Sam Waterston in Miss Sloane
  194. Steve Carrell in Cafe Society 
  195. Sam Shepard in Midnight Special
  196. Anton Lesser in Allied 
  197. Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Nocturnal Animals 
  198. Jon Bernthal in The Accountant 
  199. JK Simmons in Zootopia
  200. Clifton Collins Jr. in Triple 9
  201. Method Man in Keanu 
  202. Anton Yelchin in Star Trek Beyond
  203. Choi Woo-shik in Train to Busan
  204. Jason Mitchell in Keanu
  205. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo in The Magnificent Seven
  206. Andrew Scott in Denial
  207. Forest Whittaker in Arrival
  208. Michael C. Hall in Christine
  209. Don Wycherley in Sing Street
  210. Eric Bana in The Finest Hours
  211. Chris Gethard in Don't Think Twice
  212. Matthew McConaughey in Kubo and the Two Strings
  213. Kim Eui-sung in Train to Busan
  214. Scoot McNairy in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 
  215. Martin Sensemeier in The Magnificent Seven
  216. Johnny Depp in Yoga Hosers 
  217. Christopher Walken in The Jungle Book
  218. Tracy Letts in Indignation
  219. Chris Hemsworth in Ghostbusters 
  220. Keith David in The Nice Guys
  221. Idris Elba in Star Trek Beyond
  222. John Lithgow in The Accountant 
  223. Zach Woods in Other People
  224. Dylan Minnette in Don't Breathe
  225. Andy Garcia in Ghostbusters
  226. Peyman Moaadi in 13 Hours
  227. Justin Long in Yoga Hosers 
  228. Matt Bomer in The Nice Guys 
  229. Michael Stuhlbarg in Arrival
  230. Robert Glenister in Live By Night
  231. Michael Sheen in Nocturnal Animals
  232. Will Smith in Suicide Squad 
  233. Oscar Isaac in X-Men Apocalypse
  234. Beau Knapp in The Nice Guys
  235. Luke Evans in Girl on the Train
  236. Michael Stuhlbarg in Miss Sloane
  237. Chris Cooper in Live By Night
  238. Ezra Miller in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  239. Daniel Zovatto in Don't Breath
  240. John Malkovich in Deepwater Horizon 
  241. Nick Kroll in Loving
  242. Aaron Paul in Triple 9 
  243. Jim Parsons in Hidden Figures
  244. Vincent D'Onofrio in The Magnificent Seven
  245. Diego Luna in Blood Father
  246. Armie Hammer in Nocturnal Animals  
  247. Forest Whittaker in Rogue One 
  248. Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  249. Jacob Latimore in Collateral Beauty 
  250. Justin Theroux in Girl on the Train
  251. Bill Murray in Ghostbusters 
  252. Judah Lewis in Demolition
  253. Peter Sarsgaard in The Magnificent Seven
  254. Ralph Garman in Yoga Hosers
  255. Joel Kinnaman in Suicide Squad
  256. Tyler Posey in Yoga Hosers
  257. Jesse Eisenberg in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  258. Matthew Maher in Live By Night
  259. Simon Helberg in Florence Foster Jenkins
  260. Jared Leto in Suicide Squad
  261. Edward Norton in Collateral Beauty
  262. Austin Butler in Yoga Hosers
  263. Neil Casey in Ghostbusters
  264. Michael Pena in Collateral Beauty
Next Year: 1937 though I'm going to take a break until after the Oscars.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2016: Ralph Ineson and Harvey Scrimshaw in The Witch

Ralph Ineson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying William and Harvey Scrimshaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Caleb in The Witch.

The Witch is an effective atmospheric horror film, though I think they might confirm the supernatural far too early and one character decision later on makes no sense, about a man who decides to go off into the woods alone with his family after breaking off from his colony in early 1600's New England.

Ralph Ineson, the man with the amazing voice, plays William the patriarch of the family. The film opens as he is expelled from his colony for apparently having too puritanical view for even the puritans. He then takes his family off into the woods where they attempt to make a life for themselves secluded from the rest of the world. The Witch attempts to recreate period authentic dialogue which is a risky move to take this approach given it's kind of requiring a sort of Shakespearean performance but without the same well worn material to practice with. This approach though is successful in large part do to all the cast members effectively having a grasp on the dialogue. Not one of the actors struggles with it for more than a few words, and they make it sound wholly natural. Ineson though deserves special mention though for perhaps going full Shakespearean with how naturally the lines seem to flow from his mouth, though again it probably helps that his voice makes them all the more compelling. Ineson, and really the entire cast, Scrimshaw included, manage to merely seem of the period which helps in creating that creepy authenticity within the film.

We are introduced to the family in a rather cold way, and at times in the film it often feels we are given more of an uncomfortable association than an actual empathy with the group. We are kept at a purposeful distance from them. Ineson is effective early on in the film by depicting the sort of presence needed for such a man who is willing to risk the lives of his family for the sake of his skewed principles. Ineson though has this grandeur in himself in these scenes, an innate confidence of a man who is fervent in his beliefs. There is an unquestioned conviction in his eyes and his voice as he states he'd be rid of the colony. Scrimshaw in the early scenes has few lines though and depicts well just a scared boy in a difficult situation, creating the sense of confusion within the general fear of being forced to embark on their journey off into the bleak wilderness. Again a strong contrast against Ineson's portrayal of William which is filled with the pride of a zealot. There's notable scene early on as William leads his family in pray over their new land, and there feels an indulgence in his prayer as Ineson reflects more of praying for a glory to his "accomplishment" than to God.

Their attempt at independence goes very poorly very quickly as their crops fail to thrive, and the paranoia emerges when their youngest infant baby mysteriously disappears, through we as the audience know it has been abducted and killed by a witch. Scrimshaw's performance works very well in reflecting the simplicity of a boy's uncertainty. He presents Caleb's struggle well by providing the confused state that is only made more severe by his growing experiences of lust in addition to the uncertainty of their new life. Scrimshaw's work is very affecting by providing this tragic faulty attempt at bravery within this state. Now one slightly comforting element of sorts is his relationship with his older sister Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), although even this is problematic due those random thoughts of lust. Taylor-Joy and Scrimshaw an effective chemistry though at times where there appears to be an honest love between a brother and sister however brief, and even hidden beneath their other concerns. Scrimshaw and Taylor-Joy though still convey this connection, and even allusion to better times in the brief moments they speak without concern for their lives or their souls.

Ineson defines his performance by slowly becoming more sympathetic by essentially bringing William down to earth as the family's situation worsens. Ineson loses that passion of the zealot and trades it for a sad desperation. Ineson so well internalizes William's realization that he has made a terrible mistake for his family, and reveals just the man underneath the zealot. Ineson ends up showing particularly honest frustrations in the man as he tries to make peace between the ever growing divide between his family. I love that Ineson actually does not really stylize these moments but rather brings some honest humanity in portraying such realistic frustrations in William as he attempts calm the intensity within his family. The intensity only grows though when Caleb also disappears into the woods when he meets a witch in the forest. The scene is potentially ridiculous but the combination of horror and fascination portrayed by Scrimshaw grounds it. Eventually Caleb is found though he appears to be in a catatonic state. He eventually comes to which is a phenomenal piece of acting by Scrimshaw. There feels no performance, which makes it absolutely terrifying, as he first convulses to release an apple from his throat, then breaks into a hysterical prayer. Scrimshaw is absolutely haunting in bringing such a horrifying combination of this terrible glee, and terror as Caleb seems to give his own last rites before his sudden death.

William continues on as he attempts to still to bring them together even as his children and wife are at each other throats by accusing each other of witchcraft. Ineson continues to be so strong in the way he actually just keeps bringing William further from that pedestal he had initially placed himself upon. That pride is completely gone, and even though he's still far from a perfect man Ineson does reveal a genuine concern for his family. Ineson is particularly moving in the scene where William reveals he took and stole his wife's father's silver cup. A point of division between her and Thomasin because she thought Thomasin had taken it. Ineson is great in the scene as he so meekly reveals the truth and he shows William finally looking upon his own sin. There is the unfortunate scene where William locks all his remaining children in with the goat that they all believe may be demonic. It makes no sense not only because why would he put them in there, but it also isn't quite fitting to where Ineson has brought William to at this point in his arc. Frankly Ineson presents just a more reasonable man at this point, again this a case of not fulfilling the plot point, but Ineson's approach feels like the far better approach for the character. One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when we see Willliam praying for his family, this is because Ineson's delivery so different from the first prayer we saw. This one is without that zealotry, rather just a man who is actually pleading to God for help. Both Ralph Ineson and Harvey Scrimshaw give very compelling performances by crafting remarkably honest depictions of these two people. They do not excuse their work by genre or by the supernatural element. They give real people going through unreal events.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2016: Sam Neill in Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Sam Neill did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hector "Uncle Hec" in Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a very enjoyable film about a juvenile delinquent and his "foster Uncle" hiding in the bush away from a particularly driven child protection service.

Sam Neill despite leading one of the biggest films of all time, Jurassic Park, kind of faded into a certain obscurity going so far as to appear as the doctor in The Escape Plan for some reason. Neill perhaps has gotten his most prominent feature film role in sometime, although it is not saying enough, this film should be more recognized if you ask me, but nevertheless still notable. Anyways it seems Neill just merely needs to take roles where his character goes through an arc involving paternal instincts. So there must be a beginning for that, and the film opens with our troubled youth Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) being brought to his new home with his "foster aunt"  Bella ready to take care of him, who is married to Neill's Hec. Hec though is not overly interested in the boy, with the initiative of taking Ricky in clearly belonging to his wife. Neill only has a scant few lines in the first twenty minutes of the film, but that in no way hinders Neill's performance. Neill is a great irascible old man in the early scenes as he mostly keeps to himself, as this old sort more comfortable hunting than interacting with someone. Neill exudes such a well placed disdain early on for essentially this initial nuisance of having Ricky around.

After a bit though Ricky becomes more comfortable with his new home and Hec seems to become a bit comfortable with Ricky. Neill's very good though in showing this as basically in reflection to his wife's appreciation of the boy. He hasn't completely taken him into his heart, but Neill shows just the right hints of a potential warmth beneath his crusty old surface. Tragedy though soon strikes though as Bella suddenly dies and even though it is not focused upon for too long Neill actually is very moving in portraying first the more overt anguish at discovering her death then later just wearing the grief within Hec. This is basically all left to Neill and he's really quite effective in internalizing the death within his work. I particularly love his completely humorless reaction towards Ricky, when he asks if he can't get a replacement wife, as Neill shows so well that it is no laughing matter to Hec. He truly has lost someone very dear to him. The film then takes its turn to the main story as Ricky, rather than returning to the child services, decides to run away into the forest, with Hec following shortly afterwards to find him.

This is when Neill's performance really comes into play with the film, and where frankly the brilliance of it becomes evident. Sam Neill essentially has to do it all in that the film needs a bridge between its various aspects, and Neill is that bridge. The film is a comedy, a very funny one at that, and much of the humor is derived from the interactions between Ricky and Hec. Dennison gives a somewhat broad performance as a wannabe gangsta type of kid, and Neill plays so well off of that set up. Neill himself never seems to unintentionally go for laughs, he technically speaking plays Hec in a very realistic fashion, but that's what makes his performance so great. He's a downright perfect as a straight man for Dennison, as his often stone cold reactions to some of his more nonsensical statements are quite hilarious. Neill knows exactly how to amplify anything that Dennison does by so honestly portraying Hec's extremely amusing befuddlement at the boys personal style. Neill is never one note in this and he's so good at keeping his timing right on point throughout the film making just about every comic setup he's given work absolutely without question.

That is not to say that Neill makes Hec some static character, despite needing to act as the straight man. One thing that is so remarkable about Neill's portrayal of Hec is the way he actually is able to build up to a couple of straight jokes himself, and he completely earns them. Neill delivery of these are flawless because he makes these moments still feel so natural to the character of Hec, he makes so it just would seem like something he would say. I have a particularly affection for his incredibly funny switch of first so dramatically saying "now we run", to his straight forward "no reason to run" after instantly facing exhaustion at the prospect. This is such entertaining performance from Neill and againn he never seems to be trying to be entertaining. That's what makes it so special. In that he works with Dennison but breaks off only at the right time and in a way that seems right for Hec. Neill never sacrifices the character for a joke, but he's consistently amusing throughout the film. Neill gives a great example of what can be done when an actor has such a grasp of his material, and crafts such an effective realization of his character.

Of course this isn't just an entertaining performance, again Neill acts as this very important bridge to making the film worth more than quite a few laughs, although that's already a worth a lot if you ask me. Neill though goes further in realizing that connection between Hec and Ricky. Early on in their adventure together Ricky actually causes Hec to lash out him in anger, when Ricky presses Hec over his inability to read. Neill doesn't hold back in making the anger pretty intense actually and again only fitting to how Hec should be. Neill though is just as believable as he makes Hec's meek little apology over his outburst soon afterwards so genuine. Neill does so much in his reactions throughout the film as he never wastes a moment to convey Hec's growing concern for the boy. Neill never rushes a moment in this absolutely taking each step as he should, and again so much of it is in his silence. Neill makes a particularly powerful moment in Hec's earnest concern as he hears about the death of one of Ricky's friends who was also in the foster home system. Neill says it all without having to say a single thing. Neill's truly impressive the way he realizes the more dramatic moments with such ease throughout the film, such as when he loses his loyal dog in a boar attack. Neill instantly makes the moment genuinely heartbreaking as he shows Hec's subtle sadness over the loss with such poignancy. It's hard boiled in its simplicity, yet there is never doubt that Hec is torn up over what he has to do. There is no transition that Neill fails to realize throughout the film. He always keeps the film grounded in the right way. When basically the moment comes for grumpy old Hec to reveal his love for the boy, again he doesn't have to say anything. Neill makes you feel it instead and it is incredibly heartwarming because of how well he does it. It wasn't from a single moment but capitalization on everything that Neill did previously in the film. There is never a conflict with Neill as this is a performance because he merely is Uncle Hec, and everything he does it exactly what Uncle Hec should do. Everything in his portrayal feels natural which is quite the achievement given the technical tonal movement in the film. Neill makes that tone work. Neill utilizes every second of his screen time to give us such a heartfelt yet incredibly amusing turn, I love this performance.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2016: Alden Ehrenreich in Hail Caesar!

Alden Ehrenreich did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hobie Doyle in Hail Caesar!.

Hail Caesar! is an enjoyable series of vignettes about a Hollywood fixer, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), trying to fix various problems around his studio.

Hail Caesar is probably one of the Coen Brothers more divisive films perhaps partially because of how earnest of a love letter to old Hollywood it is. There is cynicism of course within the depiction of the personal lives of the various actors and directors, but it's at its heart a movie that loves movies. It doesn't matter what that movie may even be which brings us to our future Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich plays Hobie Doyle who as the film opens specializes in b-westerns, where the gun play isn't too rough and there's always time to play a song on his guitar. We briefly see him at work where he seems very at home riding, roping and shooting though he doesn't say much,. Later on we catch a bit one of his films. Where again his speaking is brief and his singing is overdubbed, in a very classic Hollywood fashion. Ehrenreich does produce a certain something in this in that there's nothing great about what Hobie Doyle is technically doing onscreen, but he's certainly doing to the best of abilities. Ehrenreich brings the right confidence not of a great movie star, but of a man doing a good job.

Hobie differs from most of the other stars we meet. The graceful DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is in a course woman off screen, the confident Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is a simple dope and the happy go lucky Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) is secretly a cold communist. Old Hobie is just the same easy going cowboy off screen as he is onscreen. Ehrenreich is really quite charming by just how pure he makes the character. He's just a simple chap who treats it all as a job. He brings such an enjoyable enthusiasm and earnestness to every one of his lines. Ehrenreich shows that Hobie has nothing ever to hide and every ounce of him is genuine. There is purposefully no shading which is what makes him such a delight actually. Even when he speaking about the possible duplicitous nature of eekstras (extras), there is only the best of intentions revealed in Ehrenreich's serious delivery, which in turn makes it very amusing. Ehrenreich is so straight forward in the best of ways in his whole realization of this cowboy, he never winks which is what makes him just so endearing.

Ehrenreich's standout scene is actually fairly early on in the film but it also is the best scene of the film. It is the one scene where Hobie is required to be something he's not, an actor. That is when he used as a last minute replacement for a role in the revered stage adaptation style drama. Ehrenreich is downright brilliant in the scene in his realization of just how ill-fitting Hobie is to the film. Ehrenreich is hilarious by making nothing about the process feel natural. Never has a man seemed more awkward when simply just walking towards than sitting down on a couch. Ehrenreich's great as he kind of hits every wrong beat within his performance as Hobie as he is terribly self aware, seemingly looking at every camera and person behind it, while failing to properly address the other actor he is suppose to be interacting with. When he finally gets to his line Ehrenreich is perfect as he almost seems to cough it as though he is attempting some unnatural process within his throat by speaking while a camera is rolling. Things only get funnier when the film's director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), attempts to direct him. Fiennes and Ehrenreich's comedic timing couldn't be better as they portray the difficult exchange between the two. I love how Ehrenreich stays still so earnest, showing that Hobie only wants to do what the director wants him to do, but would that it were so simple. Again that is the highlight of the film, but whenever we see Hobie onscreen it's a highlight, because Ehrenreich steals the film. He hones in the Coens' style so well producing such a delightful and entertaining character in Hobie Doyle.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2016: Stellan Skarsgård and Damian Lewis in Our Kind of Traitor

Stellan Skarsgård did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dima in Our Kind Of Traitor.

Our Kind of Traitor is somewhat effective though standard John Le Carré adaptation about an English School Teacher and his wife being caught up in the dark world of illegal finances after accepting to do a favor for a strange man. 

Our Kind of Traitor seems kind of strange in that the two actual leads of the English teacher Perry MacKendrick (Ewan McGregor) and his wife Gail (Naomie Harris) are the most bland characters in the film. There are two supporting characters though who seem like they should be the leads the first being Stellan Skarsgård's as the strange man with information. Stellan Skarsgård is an actor probably best known for his long list of shady supporting roles from one despicable man to the another. This seems like that may be the case again as his character of Dima randomly appears in a bar and approaches McGregor's Perry. Skarsgård is an actor who you just can't naturally trust. Skarsgård even sets up his Dima a little differently than usual, playing essentially a bro-russian, as he insists that Perry come to a party with him. Skarsgård's always has that certain sinister glimpse in his eye though, that suggests there's gotta be something up. Intentional or not, I'd say intentional, Skarsgård's very presence crafts a certain tension early on in these scenes as it seems like there's something afoot even if it is hard to know what.

Dima seems harmless enough, and a funny thing is Skarsgård wins you over a bit too just as he does Perry. His whole larger than life enjoyment of life becomes a little endearing after you've spent enough time with him. After he gets to know Perry a bit better though he reveals himself to be more than meets the eye, though not in the way a Stellan Skarsgård character generally is. Suddenly Skarsgård changes gears severely as Dima explains his dire situation, where he will be forced to transfer all of his funds to his old boss's son before he and his family will be killed. Skarsgård manages this switch incredibly effectively as he brings that fear in his voice and eyes as he pleads with Perry for help. Skarsgård in doing so also explains a bit of just how big he is the rest of the time, showing that Dima is very much putting on an act as though he blissfully unaware what is going to happen to him very soon. Skarsgård manages in just a few moments to grant a very real urgency to the film by managing to make Dima surprisingly sympathetic in such short order.

Again the film does seem just slightly curious in that Skarsgård should be the lead of the film, it is his character who is the most important, yet he is indeed "supporting" the far less interesting Perry. Skarsgård though is still essentially required to do everything a lead must do just in far more limited screen time and perspective. In that we get a quick snippet of Dima's past when he was recruited into the Russian mob, now this is perhaps one of the easier elements to provide as Skarsgård does always have that duplicitous look about him. This continues further though as we are only given a slight sense of Dima's relationship with the man who intends to kill him and his family. This is basically all given to a single scene where Dima mocks the man with a story about when the man was as a boy. Now Skarsgård is great in the scene doing so well to portray the vicious hatred Dima has for the man while coating with just enough of a still semi-pleasant facade on the surface. Again just a snippet yet Skarsgård in that snippet conveys wholly the sense of disdain and betrayal Dima has suffered given that he was a real friend to the man's father. Skarsgard heavy lifting continues also to establish a real sort of connection between Dima and Perry as well. He pulls it off though, again through so little, but in his direct interactions Skarsgård conveys so effectively the man's gratitude to him, bringing a real warmth as he thanks him again and again for his help. The main crux of the story though is Dima attempting to save his family by trading inside information to the British government. It is with this that Skarsgård is the beating heart of the film. The whole sense of real desperation and concern is realized so powerfully by Skarsgård's performance. He handles it well by showing the internalization of it when Dima is attempting to keep his facade up, but is incredibly moving when he reveals just the increasingly fearful man who who will do whatever it takes to save his family. It may be a little odd how Skarsgård has to fulfill so many aspect of the role so swiftly, yet he does so brilliantly. This is a great performance. If we did not believe Dima and his struggle the film would have faltered entirely. Skarsgård elevates it through his honest emotional performance.
Damian Lewis did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hector in Our Kind of Traitor.

The second supporting character who seems like he should be lead is Damian Lewis's Hector. Lewis comes into the film after Perry attempts to deliver Dima's request to the British government. Lewis is the MI6 agent in charge of the investigation. Though his name is Hector this seems to perhaps give Lewis a chance to give his own take on Le Carré's longtime lead, George Smiley. Hector too is a bi-spectacled spy with a very exact sort of personal style. I will say now Lewis is becoming an actor I'm eager to see more of, as he often brings something special to his roles. That is the case here as his whole presentation of Hector is rather engaging. He goes about crafting his own sort of Smiley with his excessively refined English accent, and his whole manner. Lewis projects the right sort of cool confidence that seems a requirement for a man of his position within the more modern world of espionage. This is a performance though that just is magnetic, the moment he steps in to question McGregor, Lewis is instantly compelling to watch.

In the early scenes it appears as though Hector is very much a man with just a plan of action that he intends initiate with cold efficiency. Lewis's performance is rather marvelous in just making this style of Hector quite charismatic in sort of strange way reminiscent even of Gary Oldman as Smiley in Tinker Tailor, in that there is just something so remarkable about watching the man work. Hector though isn't quite that powerful though as he goes about some risky maneuvers in order to get the information he needs. Lewis's performances is very astute in the way he plays within this sort of stricture that he has set up with Hector. Lewis manages to play just within the margins of this, in just a slight turn of the mouth or a just a small movement  in his eyes. In these early scenes there is the hint of the smallest desperation in voice, covered up by his usual assurance, as Hector decides to go with the mission despite not receiving proper clearance for it. It is rather fascinating to watch Lewis work here because he never does break out of the refinement of the character, yet as soon as conveys the frustrations in Hector towards his boss at not being able to pursue the case he doesn't seem cold after all. Lewis's work in itself has this efficiency in emotion, since you always understand how Hector is feeling even though he technically never raises his voice beyond a certain point nor does he really lose his composure.

He has this precision that it so captivating to watch. So many of the highlights belong to Lewis. Even in some exposition particularly in the scene where Hector lashes out against the amorality of the business he is trying to prevent, Lewis makes it absolutely engrossing through his dynamic delivering. He infuses with such a real intensity, a real outrage, yet still so calm all the same. There is just a bit of explanation to further motivations, really just one scene, where Hector explains how he believes his own son was targeted by one of the corrupt officials he's trying to take down. Again just in the margins does Lewis reveals the sadness, only in them does he, his Hector is never emotional yet you always understand him. There is a scene at the end of the film where Lewis is just examining and object and finds something important. Silent scene that could be nothing in the wrong hands. Lewis reveals all of Hector's thoughts just through the slightest glimpse of joy, making a far more satisfying scene than it would have been otherwise. As with Skarsgård Lewis does so much heavy lifting within the film to elevate past just a very routine thriller. Although I won't say the film quite completely escapes that qualifier, their work far surpasses it.  

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2016: Ben Foster in Hell or High Water

Ben Foster did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite receiving a few critical citations and winning the Independent Spirit Award, for portraying Tanner Howard in Hell or High Water.

When will be the day when I stop having to refer to Ben Foster as the criminally underrated Ben Foster? Well still not today even though his performance here has gotten him the closest to widespread recognition so far. He still came up short, which is a shame since an Oscar nomination is just what he needs to raise his profile closer to where it should be. I won't bury the lead, my thoughts on Ben Foster are well known, why would I dislike this performance, in a film I've clearly shown by affection for. It's not a change heart for me but it gets me a chance to write about that perhaps I've underrated Ben Foster all along myself. This role on the outset may seem similair to his previous performance in 3:10 to Yuma where he also played an outlaw of sorts, though that film was a traditional western this one is a neo-western. Charlie Prince from Yuma mostly robbed stage coaches, Tanner Howard robs banks. What I think can be the testament to a great actor is what can they do new with a potentially similair character, a la Toshiro Mifune who managed to find so many variations within the heroic samurai.

One cannot hand wave, saying it was just the writing, Ben Foster's performance, when so many of his performances reveal hidden depths in the characters he's playing. Foster, even in a completely disposable action film like the Mechanic offers three dimensions to his character. So here he is in Hell Or High Water, a very well written film, but let's look at what Foster does. On the outset Foster grants you what you'd at least want from the "bad" brother/partner in terms of the most direct appeal of such a performance. In that Foster is incredibly engaging here, that's no surprise given it is Ben Foster. Ben Foster dominates though as he should in the robbery scenes. As I mentioned in Chris Pine's review for this film, Pine brought an awkwardness to the robberies, Foster brings the exact opposite. Foster in every robbery scene shows us a man who is absolutely in charge of the situation.  He of course brings the needed intensity as he shows, at least towards the tellers and such, that creates the sense of a proper threat. He intimidates just as he should and offers the right almost predicable unpredictability to the proper bank robber.

Now the obvious diagnosis for Tanner would be that he is a psychopath, not unlike the clearly psychopathic Charlie Prince, I will now my make case against that claim, at least as the traditional sort of psychopath whose crazy for the sake of being crazy, through describing what Ben Foster does in the role. It would be easy enough to be that type of psychopath, Foster again excelled as such in Yuma though also brought additional depths to that character as well, which is the traditional approach to this type of character. This would also appear to make sense for Tanner's background given that he murdered his own father, and openly admits to that fact. That's not what truly defines Foster's take which actually grants a far more fascinating approach. Foster's work narrows upon what it is that Tanner truly gets out of the robberies. He definitely has fun with them, but what I love about what Foster does is that he doesn't engage this as a sadistic sort of fun. Foster in a way can convince you on the enjoyment of the robberies, as he eases Toby's own reservations, because the sort of fun he seems to be having is very appealing, at least early on. He makes it sort of endearing in the way he allows us and Toby to experience it ourselves.

There is more to be discussed on the whole psychopath aspect, but more on that soon enough. A highlight of the film, which there are plenty of, is the relationship between Toby and Tanner. I wrote in Pine's review that I would get back to it, and here it is since it is an essential element to what makes Foster's work so fantastic. The two merely are brothers in this film which is so special to see onscreen realized this well. That's a testament to both actors who go beyond any surface notions of such a relationship. They find the sheer complexity of it all through the sheer naturalism of both of their performances. Here's what's so great is that they don't switch, okay now they get along, now they don't. It is a far more fluid and genuine realization than that. It is never a single thing, which is what is so great about it. So many of the comedic moments of the film come so well, and are in fact quite hilarious by how good they are together. One of the best pieces of dialogue in 2016 has to be Foster expressing Tanner's consternation at getting Mr. Pibb instead of Dr. Pepper with "Only assholes drink Mr. Pibb" countered by Toby's hilarious reply "Drink up".

The history of the brothers is within every interaction we see between them and I love the rich texture they bring to this. It is a complicated relationship in that there is a definite divergence in their personalities, exemplified by Foster's more outgoing performance against Pine's understated work. It goes past that though in that Toby definitely has problems with Tanner's life choices and his unwieldy personality. Foster defines his portrayal though because he shows that Tanner unquestionably loves his brother, there's no complication in this, but he does not depict as simple either. Foster importantly has it taken for granted that Tanner always is the older brother to Toby. We see the different sides to what this means. During the bank robberies he both breaks his balls and supports him all the same. It is never false or contradictory. Every switch Foster is able to attach it to the very same sentiment of just the way Tanner treats his brother. Pivotal in that is in the moments where he teases Toby, there is such an overabundance of warmth within the teasing. When Tanner scares off a woman from Toby, it is without any ill-will towards Toby, Foster directs all at the woman suggesting the older brother always is looking out for his kid brother, even if it isn't always in the best of ways. 

This is one of the most honest depictions of brothers that I have seen on screen. There are two scenes I especially love involving this. One is the very last scene the two share together. Foster is heartbreaking as he turns away yet so earnestly tells Toby that he loves him. Of course he follows this by saying he can "go fuck himself", but that in no way cancels the first statement. Instead Foster's joking delivery of the first, against the earnestness of the first, one so perfectly exemplifies their relationship, which is that the love is just a given even with complications around it. The other scene is less climatic but just as remarkable. It is basically a silent scene as we see the two of them at night as they are horsing around with one another. Foster and Pine are so good in that this just the boys being the boys they've been since childhood. Now back to the whole psychopath thing, which again is not handled with just the "I'm evil" sort of thing by Ben Foster. We hear his motivation to help Toby early on, as he directly verbalizes it as "Because you asked me to little brother", Foster performance shows this to be true in part, because he does love his little brother and would help him, yet it is not the whole story when it comes to Tanner's motivation.

We again see him around the robberies, and Foster shows that Tanner is absolutely loving every minute of it without question. There is something more to this though as again it isn't sadistic, at least in Tanner's mind. There is something so much more as in the joy there is also a real pride, which again more on that in a moment. This is in a stark contrast to what we see with Foster the rest of the time when he's essentially forced to face his life. When he is taken into the room where their sickly mother lived in just before she died, this could be a moment to show Tanner's disregard for her particularly with his final statement in the scene being a disregard, Foster shows the very real anguish in Tanner as he ponders if he could have done something. His final remark is delivered as sad reminder to himself that she never really loved him more than a bitterness towards her. There is another moment where Tanner speaks to his brother about his sons, and Toby says that his older son is a bit like Tanner. Tanner ruminates on his own mistakes while suggesting how his son can succeed, and Foster is outstanding by revealing such sorrow when Tanner really is forced to think about his life. Foster throughout the film interjects this affecting pathos that reveals how Tanner truly feels about himself. In that Foster shows that Tanner is actually quite self-loathing and is aware that he's basically a loser in normal existence. It is important look at say the scene where the brothers visit their lawyer, Foster shows Tanner is basically lost in average conversation, only coming alive when he can attempt to "support" his brother in some way. Foster utilizes this to give greater substance to Tanner's motivation, which his love for his brother factors in, but it's far more than that. Foster again has that pride within his enjoyment of it, and Foster behaves and speaks as an outlaw of the old west not the present day. That's not criticism, but it is a stroke of genius in Foster's work. He gives us a man whose doing the only thing that he's good at in these scenes furthermore it is the only part of his life that gives him any purpose. Near the end of the film when he walks towards a lynch mob, and scares them away with a machine gun, Foster walks with such swagger. Again Foster presents Tanner in his calling in these moments, as the "enemy to everyone", as opposed to the sad man he is otherwise.Yes this is indeed another great performance by Ben Foster. It's more though as it proves just how daring and nuanced his work as an actor is. This is indeed an entertaining performance that's fun watch. It's so much more still though in his ability grant far more to the character than would have been there otherwise. This is a phenomenal performance by a phenomenal actor.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2016: Shinya Tsukamoto, Yoshi Oida, Tadanobu Asano, Issey Ogata, Liam Neeson, and Yosuke Kubozuka in Silence

Shinya Tsukamoto and Yoshi Oida did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Mokichi and Ichizo respectively in Silence.
Although Silence may seem to be a story about an individual's journey, the story of Jesuit priest Sebastião Rodrigues, played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield,  as he attempts to spread Christianity in Japan while learning of the whereabouts of his former mentor, it is so much more than that. The film is built around Rodrigues, but through him we encounter so many different people within 17th century Japan. Two of the first Rodrigues, and his fellow priest Garupe (Adam Driver), encounter are Mokichi and Ichizo played by Shinya Tsukamoto and Yoshi Oida. The two men are Japanese Christians with Ichizo having even been trained to give baptisms. Their performances are defined by an honesty in their very presence. Both Tsukamoto and Oida portray this desperate passion in the men in order to renew their faith once more. The two portray a direct uncompromising respect for the priests, which comes with this palatable attachment the villagers have to what they bring in to their lives.

What is important about both of their performances is that even within the intensity of that attachment the two directly show the appreciation that each man has for the priests, which directly connects to their faith. The desperation is real but within it Oida and Tsukamoto reveal what it is that Mokichi and Ichizo are granted from it. When in direct interaction, of their faith, they portray the solace they receive from it. Their joy is overwhelming at times and in that they directly suggest not only what they find in their beliefs but also what it grants them. All in this though we are given an insight into the very peculiar status of the men's beliefs considering that they are technically praying in secret. This is found in their performances that convey this terrible attempt to keep hidden something they hold dear. That intense fear they both bring when they believe they may loses the priests, it is not that either of them are holding onto the men, but rather the idea of the men being such powerful tools of their belief.

Their test of faith comes though when the Japanese inquisition visits their village, and again both actors excel in these scenes. There is real power in the terror that grace their face as they attempt to stand in front of the inquisition. It is decided that both Mokichi and Ichizo must be hostages, but they must find two more. Oida has a terrific scene where he reveals the pure unadulterated faith in Ichizo as he pleads with another to join them in their sacrifice. Here in these scene there such a poignancy in depicting both men attempting to deal with their own struggle to abandon their faith in order to save themselves. Both are exceptional in the moment where Rodrigues grants them the permission to trample the image of Christ they will be presented with. Rodrigues's own statement is given understanding through the sheer horror that Tsukamoto portrays as he asks what to do, and Oida is equally effective as he conveys Ichizo's surprise at the advice. The two fail though to apostatize to the inquisitions requirement, they do trample the image Christ but without certainty. Again both of the performances are essential in these moments as silently they given the terrible struggle in both men, and allude to their belief. The men are sentenced to death and slowly executed by the tide while placed upon wooden crosses. This is Tsukamoto's scene and he is heart wrenching throughout the scene. As he reveals the man's slow emotional death in painful detail. What makes it so moving though is that Tsukamoto depicts still that solace in the man's eyes as he says a pray for his friend when Ichizo dies, and then later when he sings a hymn as he tries to hold onto life or perhaps ease his death. Both actors give very strong performances as they so effectively, and importantly grant a face to the Japanese Christians and their struggle. Their deaths are not meaningless, as they continue to haunt long after their departure.
Tadanobu Asano and Issey Ogata did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying The Interpreter and the inquisitor Inoue Masashige respectively in Silence.

The lead persecutor of Christians in Japan we actually meet relatively early on as the Japanese inquisition first visits the Christian villagers. Ogata appears but does not speak for some time. In these scenes though we do get a glimpse into his rather brilliant approach to the part. As he's riding through the village he does not stare down at the villagers with hate, but actually a rather pleasant smile. Ogata's approach is not to present Inoue as this sinister villain instead playing the role kind of like a kooky old grandfather. The amazing part of it is how well he pulls it off. He's unassuming as we see him yet there is just something so interesting about the old man who rides with the inquisition. Everything about Ogata's demeanor is kind of something else, and again brilliantly so. The way he squints his eyes, his hunch, and especially that almost sweet? voice that he does, grants a most unique presence within the film to say the least. He gives though the age of the character, but also this man of power who essentially behaves in a way that only a man with his power could behave.

A shame about a transformative performance like this is it is not one that can be readily appreciated, though Ogata was the only supporting actor from the ensemble recognized anywhere to begin with, but if one actually goes to see the man in an interview one can see that he truly went out on a limb with his performance here. It absolutely works though and makes him the all the more effective as a villain. Ogata does not really speak for over an hour into the film, even though we see him before that point, after Rodrigues has been captured with a group of Japanese Christians. He speaks and we get a glimpse of Inoue's most unusual method of defeating his enemies. In that Ogata delivers his initial words against the Christians as though he is merely pleasantly giving them a bit of advice. This even continues as he opens up to Rodrigues, but this changes when Rodrigues makes it clear that he will not be an easily defeated priest. Ogata's switch is perfect, as well as rather menacing, revealing a more exact hatred, when he makes his frustrations known directly to him. I especially admire his venomous delivery of "The price of you glory is their suffering" suggesting a less gentle man when he sees that this priest will take some time.

We are soon introduced to the second persecutor with considerable emphasis within film which is the man only named as the interpreter. He is the man who most often interacts with Rodrigues as they attempt to get him to apostatize. Although the interpreter fulfills the requirements of his name that is not his only purpose. Tadanobu Asano's work is yet another striking turn in this film. Asano again twists the part in rather compelling way. He does not scream at Rodrigues, but he rather, well what's the best word to describe, yes I know, he trolls him. Asano delivers this palatable disdain in everything about his performance that is so effective in offering this curious atypical yet still sinister presence. What's so great about Asano's approach is just how much passive aggression he brings to the part, though he portrays all of the interpreters hatred as very much a natural state of being that he's quite comfortable with. Asano is not one note though even quite effectively delivering a real passion as he states what the value in Buddhism is. Asano delivers this straight to even allow one to potentially agree with the interpreter, of course then Asano is so incisive as he turns this honest defense into a vicious attack against Rodrigues's own beliefs.

Now the reason I discussed Ogata and Asano together, besides that their characters are in supportive of each other in the same task, is that they are also kind of hilarious. Despite being the most identifiable villains for the film, they are also the source of the most light hearted moments in the film. What is astonishing is that it somehow feels not only natural it only elevates the film's strengths all the more. A great deal of the credit for this needs to go to both actors. Asano's comedic moments come from that general sense of superiority he grants the Interpreter. Asano though is suddenly funny when he is funny, particularly his timing when Rodrigues asks if their plan is to let their body betray him and he instantly counters "Not at all" with such abrasive indifference. Ogata's very being is amusing particularly with the little business he goes in whether it is shooing a fly in his initial interrogation or his manner of calling or punishing those he needs when he's trying to straighten up. Both make the humor genuine, and fitting to their characters. In these instances Asano and Ogata reflect the attitudes of the men whose job it has become to inflict such punishments, and they're so comfortable in it that they can be rather blasé about it all. 

Ogata and Asano do not compromise their characters intentions though with those lighter moments. They are a natural part of their overarching characterizations of these inquisitors. When they become more direct in their technique both are brutally effective. Again one of the most notable sequences of the film is when Rodrigues is forced to watch Father Garupe drown in a failed attempt to save some of the Japanese Christians. Asano is bone chilling in the scene as he offers such exact remarks towards Rodrigues throughout it. There is no sympathy just the intention to break the man with his cruel words that are made all the crueler through Asano's direct almost unemotional delivery. Ogata excels in crafting this most unusual man's way of destroying those who oppose him, and he manages to make something so menacing out of only usually implying what he's capable of. We actually don't really ever hear him order someone to be directly executed or tortured. Ogata gives us that sly smile and even a warmth as he speaks to Rodrigues about a story regarding concubines, even offering this shyness as he ponders if he should regale such a story to a celibate priest. When the story is revealed to be a metaphor for the other countries interfering in Japan, there is this darker shade in his eyes, which only worsens when Rodrigues's resolve is not lost. Ogata in those moments suggests the man responsible for the torture and murders of so many. Ogata though in the end presents a man who has come to attempt to convert rather than kill, though that may involve the killing of others. I feel this is best represented in Ogata's final scene where he actually comforts the defeated Rodrigues, and delivers his message as "hey you tried your best but it was all against you". Ogata gives a great performance as he not only offers such a unique character, that you feel has quite the life outside of the frame we view him in. Asano and Ogata realize the effectiveness of the inquisition. They present men who have become so very comfortable and efficient in their task, making it almost second nature to them, even though it involves so many horrible deeds.
Liam Neeson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Father Cristovao Ferreira in Silence.

Liam Neeson plays almost the Colonel Kurtz for the journey, in that he's technically the end goal of the missionaries. Unlike Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now we actually do see Liam Neeson before the end. He opens the film as we witness part of Father Ferreira's, who lead the Christian mission in Japan, downfall as he watches his fellow priests being slowly tortured. Neeson is devastating in these glimpses offering a man worn away by his anguish. Neeson in the flashbacks later as well shows a man who has been through hell and is almost hollow in the way his strength has been purged from him. We do not see Ferreira again for over two hours when he finally appears to be a final weapon of sorts by the inquisition in order to get Rodrigues to apostatize, as Ferreira had done. Ferreira is mentioned several times before his reappearance, as the inquisition name him as a great example for all others as he has not only given up his faith but also lives as a Japanese. There is this buildup to the man, again not unlike Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, so Neeson needs to live up to this.

Neeson does live up to his character's reputation but not in the way you may think. Neeson's work here is fascinating as seems aware of his own screen persona. Neeson is of course no way a stranger to playing mentors, on the contrary it is one of his specialties. Neeson though in those roles though is always known for the confidence and command he brings to them. That is not what Neeson brings here and he makes a tremendous impact from his first scene where Ferreira sits across from Rodrigues to speak. Neeson is notable as he gives us this broken man. Neeson realizes what was done to Ferreier in every aspect of his performance. Neeson shares almost no eye contact with Garfield throughout the scene, almost like beat dog, showing this shame as Ferreira knows how he must look to his old student. Neeson inflicts this hesitation in his early greetings, this stops in speech reflecting this overwhelming sadness of the man. When he asks "do I seem so different" to Rodrigues, there is such distress in his voice, as Neeson shows a man who honestly knows the answer already. When he speaks of being happy to finally be of use, Neeson reveals a man writhing in pain just below his skin, torn apart by just what he has become.

Neeson shows that Ferreira only can come out of this depression when he attempts to speak Rodrigues into following his example. Neeson portrays this in no way as Ferreira having become some true believer for the Japanese's  cause. There is something as painful as his depressed state as he attempt to argue for Rodrigues to denounce his faith himself. There is a passion that Neeson grants the words but a cynical passion. Neeson plays this as a man grasping onto his olds doubts to be able to speak these words. Neeson perhaps gives us the most direct Ferreira as he attempts to convince Rodrigues that the Japanese never understood Christianity to begin with. Neeson again does not deliver this as some man whose made a revelation, it is rather a man writhing in his own torments. There is no hope left in Neeson's voice or eyes in his miserable teachings towards his old student. Neeson's work is incredibly striking and oddly enough soulful as he depicts a man who has had his own faith ripped from him. As powerful as Neeson's performance is up until he helps to "break" Rodrigues, one of the most affecting moments though is in his final quiet scene as he and Rodrigues go about their duties as pawns of the anti-christian Japanese. Ferreira states that only "Our Lord" can judge their minds, and in that brief moment Neeson alludes to the man and teacher Ferreira once was, and that his faith was perhaps still within him. This is an outstanding performance by Liam Neeson as it is such compelling subversion of his usual presence, and leaves such considerable imprint on the film despite his very brief screentime. 
Yosuke Kubozuka did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Kichijiro in Silence.

The final performance I write about comes through the character who is probably given the second greatest importance within the narrative, behind Rodrigues of course. Kichijiro we are introduced to outside of Japan as he is living as an expatriate in Macau. Although living might be an overstatement as the two priests are shown the man who is little more than drunken wreck, with the only reason why he's the best man for the job of guide is because he's the only man for the job. Kubozuka does not give a quiet performance, but nor should he. The man after all from his first scene is shown to be a druken fool. Kubozuka excels in being just that as he yells nonsensically against going with them. Kichijiro needs to be an obvious mess to anyone who sees him, and Kubozuka brings that. He makes him a bit of a joke, which again is an intentional realization of the character who is a bit of joke to everyone who speaks of him. There is a moment though that Kubozuka effectively undercuts this slightly when he lashes out at being called a Christian. His lament that Christians die could merely be the ramblings of an idiotic drunk, but Kubozuka infuses it with a bit more pathos than that even if only lasts for a moment.

Kichijiro does in the end take the priests over to Japan where we eventually learn the cause of the man's state. The revelation is that Kichijiro is not only indeed a Christian but also his whole family was murdered by the Japanese inquisition. Kichijiro only survived himself by apostatizing yet he still saw his family die. We are given a brief insight into the former man as we flashback to see his family being massacred as he watched. Kubozuka's presence is different in that he stands not as the drunken fool, but a normal man. As the family is massacred though Kubozuka's reaction is truly haunting as it echoes the pain the man is suffering, a pain that could bring him to the state the Fathers originally found him in. The scene gives sense to Kubozuka's performance which not of a drunken fool, but rather a man driven to madness due his grief. In the scene where Kichijiro tells Rodrigues his story Kubozuka is absolutely heartbreaking by revealing the real man beneath the wretch. He portrays so well the hint of hope in the man with such poignancy as he asks if there is a chance that God may forgive him.

When the inquisition arrives though Kubozuka shows that although we may have a greater understanding of the man, he's in no way recovered. Kubozuka instead portrays this rather problematic attachment that Kichijiro gains towards Rodrigues. Kubozuka depicts it as that same madness in the man, but now he has a method of trying to find some respite which is through looking towards Rodrigues for guidance and absolution. When the villagers asks for Kichijiro's help, as well as accuse him of wrongdoing, Kubozuka's reaction grants an insight into the man. He reacts in utter fear but his protests are all aimed right towards Rodrigues in attempt for him to escape from his personal demons somehow. Kichijiro is one of the few Japanese who consistently avoids being killed by his willingness to apostatize again and again. Kichijiro for the rest of the film ends up being a rather strange ghost of sorts, though very much alive, who follows around Rodrigues. Again Kubozuka's work offers an understanding to this behavior by portraying that attachment that is so strong to the priest. Kubozuka's terrific because he really is absolutely the wretch Kichijiro seems to be, only becoming more wretched when he apparently betrays Rodrigues to the authorities. There is even a slightly comic element in this as Kichijiro continues to appear no matter where Rodrigues goes in order to deliver his confession. Kubozuka's performance touches upon a humorous undercurrent yet that is only an aspect in his realization of the terrible pathetic state of the man. What's so remarkable about his work is his ability to infuse Kichijiro with that history, and that at all points he carries that very real pain that brought him to this point with a very real desperation in his attempts to find some solace. Kubozuka is the last of the prominent supporting actors to appear in the film as he acts as a servant to the now apostatized Rodrigues. Years have past and Kubozuka gives a slightly more put together Kichijiro, having been living a different life of sorts. Kichijiro still asks to have his confession heard and it is comic in a way yet also tragic because Kubozuka makes the intention of his wish to have his sins forgiven so honest. He's incredibly moving and Kubozuka also manages to give understanding to Kichijiro as a man, despite his pathetic state. He's never a caricature as Kubozuka delivers his own embodiment of man's journey to finding his own path in regards to his faith, that mirrors Rodrigues's own though Kichijiro's perhaps is a less noble one. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2016

And the Nominees Were Not:

Stellan Skarsgård in Our Kind of Traitor

Damian Lewis in Our Kind of Traitor 

Sam Neill in Hunt For the Wilderpeople

Ben Foster in Hell or High Water

Alden Ehrenreich in Hail Caesar!

Ralph Ineson in The Witch 

Harvey Scrimshaw in The Witch

For Prediction purposes:

Skarsgård from Traitor

Ineson from the VVitch

 And they also were not:

Shinya Tsukamoto in Silence

Yoshi Oida in Silence 

Tadanobu Asano in Silence

Liam Neeson in Silence 

Issey Ogata in Silence

Yosuke Kubozuka in Silence

For prediction purposes:

Tsukamoto out of the villagers.  

Alternate Best Actor 2016: Results

5. Adam Driver in Paterson - I approach the keyboard to write the results of the year. I ponder if I chose Driver because he's the only actor from Silence I left off on the supporting shortlist. I continue to think and realize that this is a performance worth writing about.
4. Michael Keaton in The Founder - Keaton gives an entertaining performance as Ray Kroc but also manages to take his film to the darker places it needs to go in his revelation of the true nature of a cutthroat businessman.

Best Scene: Bathroom meeting.
3. Chris Pine in Hell or High - Chris Pine has an unassuming role yet gives a powerful portrayal of his character's motivations without being overshadowed by his more colorful co-stars.

Best Scene: Final scene.
2. Joel Edgerton in Loving - Edgerton gives a brilliant understated performance internalizing so effectively both the character's turmoil due to his hardship but also the love for his wife.

Best Scene: First meeting with Cohen.
1. Andrew Garfield in Silence - Good Predictions Calvin Law, and Robert MacFarlane. Due to only having five slots this may seem a weaker year, but that's in large pat because the Academy really did their job this year. It was a strong year for lead actor with Andrew Garfield giving the crowning achievement. He gives the most powerful performance of the year. It is an emotionally devastating performance to watch, but so much more in his profound realization of his character's unique journey of faith.

Best Scene: Garupe's test.
Overall Rank:
  1. Andrew Garfield in Silence
  2. Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water
  3. Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic
  4. Joel Edgerton in Loving
  5. Denzel Washington in Fences
  6. Ryan Gosling in La La Land
  7. Chris Pine in Hell or High Water
  8. Shahab Hosseini in The Salesman
  9. Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea
  10. Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge
  11. Michael Keaton in The Founder 
  12. Adam Driver in Paterson
  13. Song Kang-ho in The Age of Shadows
  14. Tom Hanks in Sully
  15. Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys
  16. Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys
  17. Robert Downey Jr. Captain America: Civil War 
  18. Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 
  19. Daniel Radcliffe in Swiss Army Man
  20. Paul Dano in Swiss Army Man 
  21. Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight
  22. Ethan Hawke in Born to Be Blue
  23. Julian Dennison in Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  24. Lewis MacDougall in A Monster Calls 
  25. Ashton Sanders in Moonlight 
  26. Anton Yelchin in Green Room
  27. Jesse Plemons in Other People
  28. Benedict Cumberbatch in Dr. Strange 
  29. Jake Gyllenhaal in Demolition
  30. Chris Evans in Captain America: Civil War 
  31. Jeremy Irons in The Man Who Knew Infinity
  32. Jonah Hill in War Dogs
  33. Dan Fogler in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 
  34. Bryan Cranston in The Infiltrator
  35. Hugh Grant in Florence Foster Jenkins
  36. Cillian Murphy in Anthropoid
  37. Mark Rylance in The BFG
  38. Dave Johns in I, Daniel Blake
  39. Michael Fassbender in The Light Between Oceans
  40. Sunny Pawar in Lion
  41. Dev Patel in Lion
  42. Gong Yoo in Train to Busan
  43. Mel Gibson in Blood Father 
  44. Josh Brolin in Hail Caesar! 
  45. Gong Yoo in The Age of Shadows
  46. Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 
  47. Miles Teller in Bleed For This
  48. David Oyelowo in The Queen of Katwe
  49. Diego Luna in Rogue One
  50. Dwayne Johnson in Moana
  51. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo in Sing Street 
  52. Alex Hibbert in Moonlight 
  53. Matthew McConaughey in Free State of Jones
  54. Michael Shannon in Elvis & Nixon
  55. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Snowden
  56. Denzel Washington in The Magnificent Seven 
  57. Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day 
  58. Casey Affleck in The Finest Hours
  59. Jason Bateman in Zootopia
  60. Ben Affleck in The Accountant
  61. Stephen Lang in Don't Breathe
  62. Miles Teller in War Dogs
  63. Michael Shannon in Midnight Special
  64. Peter Simonischek in Toni Erdmann 
  65. Matthew McConaughey in Gold
  66. Keegan-Michael Key in Keanu 
  67. Lucas Jade Zumann in 20th Century Women
  68. Chris Pine in Star Trek: Beyond
  69. Ben Affleck in Live by Night 
  70. John Krasinski in 13 Hours
  71. Casey Affleck in Triple Nine 
  72. James Badge Dale in 13 Hours
  73. Mark Wahlberg in Deepwater Horizon 
  74. Jamie Dornan in Anthropoid 
  75. Jack Black in Kung Fu Panda 3
  76. Art Parkinson in Kubo and the Two Strings
  77. Jordan Peele in Keanu 
  78. Dev Patel in The Man Who Knew Infinity
  79. Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  80. Jesse Eisenberg in Cafe Society
  81. Kwak Do-won in The Wailing
  82. Max Records in I am Not a Serial Killer
  83. Ewan McGregor in Our Kind of Traitor
  84. Chris Pratt in Passengers 
  85. Jaeden Lieberher in Midnight Special 
  86. Logan Lerman in Indignation
  87. Chris Pine in The Finest Hours
  88. Neel Sethi in The Jungle Book
  89. Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  90. Brad Pitt in Allied
  91. Jake Gyllenhaal in Nocturnal Animals
  92. Will Smith in Collateral Beauty