Friday, 31 March 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973: Cyril Cusack in The Homecoming

Cyril Cusack did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sam in The Homecoming.

The Homecoming is a bare bones play adaptation detailing the turmoil resulting when a man takes his wife to visit his strange family. 

Cyril Cusack is rather unique character actor from the period as his even in small roles there is usually something a bit different based on his atypical screen presence. This is a particularly effective quality for his role here as Sam the brother of the family patriarch Max (Paul Rogers). Cusack from the start makes Sam standout against the curmudgeon Max, Max's equally miserable son Lenny (Ian Holm), and his other seemingly stunted other son Joey (Terence Rigby). Cyril Cusack in his first scene comes in with Sam discussing his success as a chauffeur do to his refusal to impress himself on others. Cusack carries himself as the proper chauffeur through much of the scene. He has such a pleasant smile and apparent likability as a man who seems to aim to please. Cusack makes Sam seem like just such a gentle soul, unlike the other men, as he so kindly speaks with his nephews and his brother, taking such a quiet pride in his apparent abilities to please his customers as a chauffeur.

Cusack's sunny demeanor earns an impression since he always feels a bit separate for the rest of his downtrodden kin. Cusack does not use this for a simplification of a character, nor does he show that Sam is in some way blissfully unaware. Cusack instead shows this to essentially be a defense mechanism of sorts, a fashioned state for Sam to always try to keep a smile on his face. Cusack makes sense of this by how we see his brother and nephew Lenny in particular who rarely have anything to say that isn't a complaint or a put down of another. Cusack shows the jovial front of Sam as his way of trying to stay beyond the rest of his house hold, and it alludes to this long history. Sam after all has been part of it longer than the rest and Cusack shows this as this built conditioning in Sam to deal with his often intolerable brother. Cusack goes further in revealing Sam's relationship to his brother even when smiling. Cusack does so much with just eyes even at times as every glance to his brother has these quiet hints of disdain towards him, and shows that Sam does not ignore his brother's severe character flaws.

I love the way Cusack's performance is one that cuts through the nonsense in a way even though he shows Sam technically having a personal shield. Cusack does this with such an ease though such as when Max goes off on his stories about the film, and Cusack's reactions say so much through just subtle facial suggestions. There is a moment where Max is going on and on, and Cusack creates the sense of knowing of a man who has heard all the nonsense before. He only occasionally gets into verbal spats, which Cusack reinforces the idea that Sam has his own way with things. There is a moment where he defends himself for example but Cusack portrays this as merely a lapse for him. As he briefly makes his case, but Cusack again in just in his eyes conveys Sam is  just quickly remembering who he's dealing with giving sense to his instant departure from the conversation. Other times though Cusack's terrific in showing Sam managing to get in his own snipes in. Cusack carefully delivers these lines though in that jovial way showing that Sam is getting to enjoy insulting his brother, but making it so it basically goes over the man's head. Now Cusack, despite having only a few lines, is pivotal in the last act of the film when the family, besides Sam, decide to steal away the last brother, Teddy(Michael Jayston)'s, wife Ruth (Vivien Merchant). Cusack gives the most cinematic performance in the film since he never is merely there, his work suggests he knows the camera will pick up anything he does as long as it's onscreen. Cusack uses this to offer the only empathetic man as Cusack is rather moving by showing that Sam is so quietly horrified by the terrible idea the rest of the family has to steal the wife and make her work as a whore. Cusack, wholly in the background, builds towards Sam finally saying something fully without a facade in a broken attempt to warn Ruth about his family's intentions in a very effective moment. Sam though collapses seemingly dead, though he is said to be breathing. Cusack allows for an interpretation of the moment by how he builds towards the short breakdown. Cusack's work suggests that while not quite physically finished, Sam is emotionally finished with dealing with his horrible family. This is a brilliant performance by Cyril Cusack as with such ease he realizes his character in such vivid detail, adding a real substance to the history of the film, as well as giving a quietly poignant portrayal of a semi decent man entrapped in a deranged family.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973: Christopher Lee in The Wicker Man

Christopher Lee did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man.

The supporting performances of the Wicker Man all have this eerie consistency as they portray this strangely sinister happiness within all the pagan denizens of the island, which stands in stark contrast to Edward Woodward's portrayal of the devote Christian and police officer Howie there to find a missing little girl. All of the supporting performances share that same consistency except for Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle. Lord Summerisle being the the lord of the island in more than just a title. Now on the surface Lee seems to fulfill a similar style to the Lord as was found in his subjects. When he greets Howie, he does it with a friendly smile that it subverted with a powerful undercurrent of disdain in his eyes and in his words. When he speaks of the local rituals, that disgust Howie, Lee delivers his lines like that of a proud father to his children, overjoyed to see them performing the rites he "holds dear" and then offers quite the undercurrent of venom in his words whenever he responds to Howie's objections.

Lee's performance though goes deeper than the others because Lord Summerisle isn't quite a typical islander. In one of his early scenes the Lord takes a walk with Howie where he reveals his family's history which involved setting up a fruit plantation in the island, and encouraging the islanders to return to the pagan religion of their ancestors.  Lee speaks these words differently than when defending or praising the rituals. There's more of a distance in the words of Summerisle, and in that distance Lee suggests a certain separation. There is not quite the passion within the description, Lee speaks not as a preacher but rather as a manipulator. Although it is not directly stated Lee alludes to a certain falsehood in Summerisle's own belief by revealing this intelligence around it of a man who is uses the religion rather giving himself to it. Lee nuance in this regards adds greatly to the film as he's not simple another worshiper adding another layer by realizing that the Lord uses the religion to control the populace as his father and grandfather had done.

The focal point of Lee's performance comes in the finale where the islanders have their mayday celebration to which Howie believes will result in a sacrifice, he's right but unfortunately for him he's the sacrifice. In the turn towards the truly sinister nature of the islanders coming out they are all just as jovial as before. Lee is incredibly menacing in revealing Summerisle as this terrible ringmaster for his people as he leads them to go about sacrificing Howie in giant wooden statue. Lee shows the full extent of the manipulation through his powerful voice that now is that of the preacher leading his flock in this chilling joyous celebration about ending a man's life supposedly to bring back a good harvest. Lee though again uses this scene though to bring more than perhaps what is even demanded of him. Lee again separates Summerisle from of the islanders as in between the margins, when the islanders are not focused on him, he suggests the ritual is based on manipulation of the masses rather a true belief from himself. My favorite moment in his entire performance is when Howie attempts to get some sort of revenge by telling the islanders they must sacrifice Summerisle next if the harvest fails again, which it likely will. Lee's reaction is perfection as he shows all the confidence fade from the Lord, and reveals a real fear showing that the Lord realizes his life will be on the line if his plan does not work. Lee portrays an effort in Summerisle as he attempt to return to his form as the grand preacher though struggles delivering his statement now with a raw anger towards Howie. Lee throughout the rest of the scene conveys this desperation in the Lord as they finish the sacrifice, and only returns to his earlier conviction when he sees the islanders have clearly become satiated. Lee gives a very strong performance as his work offers further depth to the character of Lord Summerisle but also the film itself. 

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973: Sterling Hayden in The Long Goodbye

Sterling Hayden did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Roger Wade in The Long Goodbye.

Sterling Hayden is best known for his cold tough guy roles in films like The Killing and The Asphalt Jungle, even his best performance in Dr. Strangelove is a subversion of that idea. His performance in The Long Goodbye is a complete departure from that type. We first see Roger Wade, a successful novelist, as Elliott Gould's Philip Marlowe finds him staying in a shady rehab center for celebrities with drug and alcohol problems. Marlowe gets him out and returns him home to his wife, but that doesn't mean Roger's all okay. Hayden's work is unlike any other performance I've seen of his in his portrayal of the mess of the man that is Roger Wade. Hayden's performance though isn't just of any trouble man it's sort of a Ernest Hemingway pseudo genius who happens to also be a complete drunkard. Hayden's terrific in bringing to life that sort of grand larger than life personality. Apparently Hayden was in reality drunk and high throughout the shoot, well this is one time where it actually works out. Hayden doesn't just wear it well he kind of glories in it as he should in this role. Hayden plays the way Wade projects himself as just a guy loving life. Hayden is this curiously endearing bundle of life in his portrayal as he never feels over the top it only feels natural to the state of man that Roger is. Now the reason Hayden's apparent intoxication works here is because this is not just a performance to watch to be a mess. Hayden's work is surprising in its level nuance particularly given the circumstances supposedly behind the performance.

Hayden though with company brings that whole lively boisterous routine, but it definitely hiding something as he underlines it with such unease whenever he speaks alone with his wife. His scene we see alone with his wife it is rather striking to see such a sensitive and vulnerable Hayden as he reveals the insecurities of the Wade who in reality isn't enjoying life in the least. Hayden shows that most of the time though Wade hides a sadness in front of other that is until  his former doctor (Henry Gibson) comes to collect a bill. Hayden surprisingly heartbreaking in this scene by starting with Wade trying to work through by yelling at the man but as the doctor is not deterred Hayden reveals the facade of Wade's deteriorate. There is such a powerful sorrow that Hayden brings by withdrawing himself, losing that boisterousness, portraying this self-examination in his eyes that forces Wade into this lonely place. What happens to Wade in the end is made an unfortunate inevitability by Sterling Hayden fantastic performance. Hayden goes against his usual style so effectively to create this tragic figure of a man whose disposition cannot hide his depression.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973

And the Nominees Were Not:

Richard Jordan in The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Sterling Hayden in The Long Goodbye

Yul Brynner in Westworld

Christopher Lee in The Wicker Man

Cyril Cusack in The Homecoming

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Results

5. Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle - Well this is unpleasant. I hate putting any of these performances "last" because they're all great, but I have to choose one. Anyway Mitchum gives a great performance giving this quietly devastating portrait of a man who essentially wasted his life.

Best Scene: "what a future he’s got, huh"
4. Robert Shaw in The Hireling-  Shaw gives a heartbreaking performance here showing a different shade of his talent in his powerful realization of a lonely man seeking love.

Best Scene: Declaration of Love.
3. Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now - Sutherland's performance is both an unforgettable depiction of man struggling with his grief and also so effectively helps to realize the spine chilling horror of the film.

Best Scene: Seeing the Inspector.
2. Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye - Gould gives a brilliantly funny and always compelling performance in his rather contradictory yet most effective take on Phillip Marlowe.

Best Scene: "I even lost my cat"
1. Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man - Edward Woodward gives a masterful performance that works as normalcy against the unknown, as a portrait of zealous if foolish conviction, and harrowing depiction of facing unspeakable horrors. This year frankly deserves multiple winners by the sheer quality of so many of the leading turns.

Best Scene: Seeing the titular man. 
Updated Overall

Next: 1973 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Robert Shaw in The Hireling

Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Steven Ledbetter in The Hireling.

The Hireling, though at times curiously directed, is an effective film about the relationship between a recently widowed Lady and her chauffeur.

Although I've been an enthusiastic supporter of all of Robert Shaw's many memorable supporting turns until this performance I have never reviewed any of his leading turns. This is the first and a rather different side of Shaw given we are usually left a bit more of distance given he's not the lead. This is also Shaw in a very different role, far from his say his villainous turn in The Sting also in 73, or even the other leading turns I've seen him in which have been "men on a mission" films. We are introduced to Shaw's Ledbetter as the hireling, used to drive the Lady Franklin (Sarah Miles) who has recently been released from a mental clinic for her crippling depression after the death of her husband. Shaw actually rather quiet in the early scenes of the film as Ledbetter fulfills his duties with a proper "yes, my lady" at the end of every confirmation. I will say it took just a bit of getting used to this Shaw as this driver, though no fault of his own, as Shaw just has that certain look about him as though he's planning on killing someone even though he's not, though I should note this quality in Shaw actually ends up being an asset to his characterization in the end.

Before all that though we get this other side to Shaw as Ledbetter drives around the Lady Franklin. Shaw isn't surprising,  it's Robert Shaw we're talking about here to begin with, but it rather remarkable to see Shaw in this more unassuming role. Shaw's approach though is atypical even in a part like this, that being the working class "friend" helping a wealthy person become a better person in some way. The reason being Shaw actually keeps the idea of class in mind in his work. In that Shaw, rather than making Ledbetter some free spirit from the get go, still shows the certain stilted quality in the interactions particularly through the unnatural delivery of "My Lady" at the end of every response. What makes this so effective in developing the relationship is the way Shaw is able to convey essentially the concern in Ledbetter, in just his slight glance Shaw is able to reveal a bit of empathy towards her suggesting the way Ledbetter comes to understand that the Lady needs support.

Shaw is excellent as he carefully works in this warmth in Ledbetter's words towards the lady, and begins to try to get to help her recover from her losses in some way. He even offers his own support by comparing the Lady to his wife and naming his children. There is such a strong affection as he speaks these words though it is towards the Lady not towards his wife and children. This is just the subtle touch though in Shaw's work though as there is such a genuine charm that Shaw brings in Ledbetter's general encouraging spirit towards the Lady. As the Lady slowly becomes more outgoing and seems to be recovering from her depression, Shaw mirrors this interestingly by offering Ledbetter as becoming all the more outgoing towards the Lady. He still keeps some of the structure of class requirement but Shaw reveals all the more of generosity in Ledbetter. This sort of culminates as he takes the Lady to a boxing matches, by students he teach, and Shaw reveals such endearing joy from Ledbetter as he not only sees her happy as well but is able to spend time with her.

Unfortunately Ledbetter is not all that he seems, though this is not to reveal some truly duplicitous sort. We are shown Ledbetter's real life where he works at his dirty garage and is alone besides the occasion liaison with local waitress, having made up his wife and family. Shaw here reveals not the real man or the false man, but rather what Ledbetter is without the Lady by his side. An underlying theme within the film is the trauma of World War I though that is not often brought up. Shaw's brilliant though because he shows that those experiences are merely a part of Ledbetter's existence. Shaw uses that through his usual intensity but this time adjusting it to reveal this internalized pain that is almost a constant. Shaw is careful in that he shows that Ledbetter is not constantly in anguish, rather though there is this discomfort of mind and soul that alludes to the horrors that the man had to experience. Shaw shows that this leaves him unable to find solace with the exception of when he is with the Lady Franklin, and that is where Shaw so effectively reveals a true happiness.

Ledbetter though finds his services less and less required, to the growing health of the Lady, and her finding a companion in an unfaithful upper class sort. Ledbetter in turn attempts to find any way back to the Lady, which includes faking a car breakdown and random service calls. This is no romantic comedy though where this behavior will turn out well for all. Shaw is horrible to watch in these scenes, and no that is not a criticism. Shaw makes it more than a little painful to watch at times as he exudes this burden in these moments. This tension of a man basically waiting to hear the woman he loves to say the words. That sense of waiting is there and Shaw places these moments of hesitation as though Ledbetter is leaving gaps hoping she will say the words within them. There's one particularly powerful scene where Ledbetter says nothing but names his false ill-fortunes. This scene is a little curious in some of the director, Alan Bridges, choices but Shaw is on point. Shaw speaks the words that are meaningless to Ledbetter, yet in his face there is such a terrible longing as he wants to say more yet cannot bring himself to do so. The most moving moment though of that scene actually is when the Lady asks Ledbetter's first name, and Shaw expresses such agonizing realization as Ledbetter the distance between them since she does not even know his full name.

Unfortunately again the film is not done ripping one's heart out as Ledbetter finally does decide to express his love to the Lady Franklin. The scene is incredible for Shaw as he portrays such a desperation and is absolutely heartbreaking by being such miserable mess. Shaw though makes the emotion absolutely raw and honest in his declaration of love though making it all the more painful as she rejects him. Shaw in that scene showed a man basically at his end, though still with love in his heart, but this changes in his final scene where he crashes a date between the Lady and her rich unfaithful suitor. Shaw's a different kind of mess here, and it's fascinating scene as he depicts another breakdown though this time defined by hate rather than affection. Shaw is outstanding though as he presents a man lower than rock bottom flailing around drunk on alcohol, but also through his intense sorrows at seeing that his chance for happiness was a lie. This is an amazing performance by Robert Shaw giving such tragic yet tender depiction of this lonely man, that is another angle of his immense talent.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man

Edward Woodward did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sergeant Howie in The Wicker Man.

The Wicker Man is an effective horror film, other than a couple of strange musical choices, about a police officer traveling to a remote Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a girl.

Edward Woodward plays the police officer and is our entry point into the strange island which is the setting of the film. There is a brief introduction on the mainland where we witness Woodward dutifully perform his duties as a Catholic in church before going off to perform his duties as a police officer after receiving a letter noting the disappearance of a girl. Woodward's performance is pivotal in establishing the tone of the film given that he is on such another wavelength than the rest of the actors as the islanders. The ensemble of the islanders, except Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle, as these odd "simple" folk where they are have this unsettling sinister joviality. Woodward is a complete separation from every else by presenting the complete outsider that is Howie, although this is not quite the more usual leading horror performance more on that later. Woodward though offers the right representation of a normality as he first arrives to the island and begins his investigation.

Woodward offers a strict reality with his performance and with that he assures that Howie has that separation of from the islanders. Woodward does something very important which is that he does not inflict his performance with any unnecessary style or needless mannerisms which in turn only amplifies the rest of the ensemble. Woodward at the core of his performance establishes the reflection of traditional society against the strange society of the islanders. When he first arrives Woodward is excellent by portraying the genuine reaction that would come from being accosted by such odd passive aggression right for the moment he merely asks for help to reach the shore from his plane. Woodward helps to convey the unpleasantness of this place by so earnestly portraying the sheer disbelief in Howie that would most likely would be the reaction of any person to the islanders seeming lack of concern for the life of the missing girl.

That is not all there is to Woodward's performance, as again this is not just the normal protagonist of a horror film as the sane man trying to figure things out. It's a bit different. Although Woodward does a proper representation of normalcy Howie brings more to the island than that. Howie is a strict law officer and a strict Christian in addition to that which Woodward utilized to be a powerful element in his performance. As noted intense actors go Edward Woodward truly needs to be named far more often than he is, as he's one of the very best at it. Woodward utilizes this intensity brilliantly here as he fashions it within his performance so naturally. Woodward utilizes it so well in revealing exactly Howie's state on the island. On one end the strict way Woodward presents himself, very to the point and with a directness is fitting to a law officer. Woodward extends this further though in portraying also the this as a part of his own beliefs. The Christian values in Howie, Woodward upholds through a depiction of a  tense undeniable conviction.

Woodward presents Howie well as a truly righteous man at the very least in his own eyes, and often plays the part as the man attempting to bring some sort of justice in what seems to be a Godless island. In that sense Woodward cut through every scene like a razor in the way he so incisively proceeds with Howie's investigation. Woodward never makes it merely the investigation though, even though that aspect Woodward emphasis most strongly that also offers Howie's most sympathetic attitude. There is not a single scene where Woodward is not captivating to watch because of how he handles every scene. It's amazing in the way that Woodward realizes this very idea of kind of a proper societal oversight in the film. Woodward in a way makes Howie both seem absolutely in command yet wholly out of his element all the same. In every moment of the investigation, as he questions the whereabouts of the girl, Woodward's performance makes Howie the irreproachable detective who will discover whatever mystery that island holds.

Woodward plays with that conviction towards solving the case also in his conviction towards his own faith. Woodward is terrific in portraying this disdain Howie has towards the villagers would seem to relish in all behaviors that Howie finds morally reprehensible. Woodward takes this further than merely a possible puritanical attitude towards their more lax views on open sexuality, as he shows this disdain churning to disgust as he comes to know that the islanders are pagans. The severity of the reaction Woodward conveys shows this not to be merely Howie hating a religion that is not his own, rather he contributes this sense of disbelief that in his modern times such a community could even exist that reject his own beliefs. Woodward does have that intensity of the zealot but this does not make Howie as distant as the villagers to the viewer. This again because Woodward does layer this to further convey the notion that there is something seriously wrong with the villagers, particularly in the classroom scene where Howie admonishes their psychotic lack of empathy in the school children due to seemingly having no concern whatsoever for their own classmate. Woodward makes Howie's cause a righteous one, even if Howie can be rather self-righteous.

The island though slowly reveals itself to be even more sinister than just the general rudeness of its denizens as they seem to be building towards their annual festival which may entail human sacrifice. Woodward excels in portraying the frustrations in dealing with the antagonist locals own disdain for his beliefs particularly Lord Summerisle. What's so good about Woodward's work though is the way reveals that every time Howie's resolve is hit, Woodward expresses this building back towards his confidence that he in the right. He does this rather quickly, but Woodward importantly shows that it still must be done. The most severe test before the climax comes when the landlord's daughter of the inn he's staying at attempts to seduce him. Woodward again does reveal the difficulty in his resolve as Howie almost succumbs to the advances, though he's able to stop himself. I love though how Woodward again presents the resolve having returned summed best by his oh so proper delivery of Howie's explanation of his rejection to the woman. Now before tackling the climax of the performance, which is a quite thing all in itself. This performance up until that point is an outstanding piece work. He makes Howie understood as a man, but he also helps to create that terrible sense of isolation that is so pervasive in the film through this. He is so unlike the other performances, yet again though Howie is a particular sort of man Woodward still makes him an honest one. This makes the horror of the film all the more unsettling particularly as he arrives to the finale where he discovers that someone is going to be sacrificed unfortunately, it's him.

Woodward is simply amazing for every second of the final scene. In the early part of the scene as Woodward shows the effort in Howie as he is trying to come to grips with what is happening, and almost in a certain disbelief in if the villagers really are serious. This changes severely when he sees the wicker man in full view. Woodward's reaction  realizes the terror by the sheer terror he expresses in the moment. It horrifying as he makes the fear real. Woodward never loses the fear for the rest of the scene and is harrowing as he grants the situation a genuine gravity. Woodward does not become one note, which would almost be warranted, nevertheless Woodward makes the most of what remains. Woodward depicts the painful attempt to basically gain his resolve once again as he pleads with the islanders trying to explain that the sacrifice will be meaningless. When this does not work though I love the vicious anger, alluding to perhaps a justice in the end, he directs right at Lord Summerisle by stating that the Lord will be next to fill the burning man. No reprieve is granted and Woodward again is unforgettable. Woodward makes the terror so vivid in his disturbing yet heartbreaking final anguish. As he reveals this proper mess of fear, hatred but also just an attempt at solace as he holds onto his own faith one last time.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Robert Mitchum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular Eddie "Fingers" Coyle in The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a terrific film, finding the tone Killing Them Softly failed to find in adapting this film's source material's followup, about an intersecting group of criminals centering around an old small time crook

Robert Mitchum plays the lead role of Eddie Coyle, though this is technically a smaller leading role, he's lead but the film spends ample time with the other people within the crime world Eddie is associated with. Mitchum though is the center point for a reason in his depiction of Eddie Coyle, which is a performance that must be stated that it is brilliant from the get go then dissect why. Again Robert Mitchum is not constantly front and center in the film, and what he does is so much within his performance it is something truly remarkable. Now in Mitchum first scene we have him meet one of his first associates and it's incredibly what Mitchum does here. Mitchum very much embraces his age in the role, and never tries to hide it. In fact he quite embraces, amplifying it even by wearing these hard years within himself. He doesn't create a falsehood in this regard, as he does not attempt to try to show this old timer whose really tougher than all these young ins, which I'm sure Mitchum could have pulled off. Mitchum though instead far more effectively reveals who Eddie is, which is an old manstill in the criminal life.

Mitchum just is this old Boston crook, with a great Boston accent by the way, and takes it so much further from there. In that initial scene, although his face says the truth, now Mitchum shows Eddie's attempt to be more than he is but it is only an attempt. As he describes where his little moniker comes from there is this strained attempt at being some man he may have been in the past, or might not have been in reality. There's a real sadness hidden within Mitchum's work as he attempts to express this confidence of real tough within a man who has lived a hard life yet that is still meaningless within the world he lives in. Mitchum never focuses upon a single emotion and that is part of the incredible nuance in his performance though. As even in this exchange with one of his associates, even as he's trying to act tough in a way, Mitchum though even conveys just the right bit of history with still the right kind of comfort speaking to someone who he's known for awhile, he realizes this aspect so well throughout the film with every one of Eddie's "friends".

Mitchum creating the actual sense of any camaraderie to the other criminals he associates with is pivotal since it makes the story all the crueler for Eddie. The reason for that being that Eddie is an informant, aiding ATF agent Dave Foley (Richard Jordan) in taking down his various friends in an attempt to try to avoid his prison sentence of at least two years. Mitchum is amazing in the role though in every one of his scenes with Jordan because of how much he reveals about in Eddie in these scenes. As when it seems like Foley might be able to help him Mitchum projects a pride in Eddie, putting up again a certain front to try to be more than he is. Mitchum though again creates a duality in this as there is a weakness in this pride, the effort behind that can be felt which is purposeful in Mitchum's work. As Mitchum shows Eddie basically trying to convince himself he's doing the right thing by giving these bits of information out, Mitchum manages to create empathy within Eddie despite his actions seeming largely selfish in nature.

We are given a glimpse of Eddie at home with his wife and kids. Mitchum actually very good in these scenes by just being so straight forward in presenting Eddie as just a nice father and husband no more, no less. Mitchum though importantly does show exactly that Eddie does have something he cares about. Furthermore Mitchum, when Foley demands more information or fails to really provide any real benefit for the information that Eddie provides him. Mitchum again is excellent in never simplifying the emotional reaction which further helps to explain the man. Mitchum grants the expected frustrations towards Foley as he gets nothing in return but he also does reveal a real pain in Eddie as he speaks about giving up his friends who trust him. There's an outstanding moment late in the film where Eddie approaches Foley with an additional bit of information that will lead to the arrest of more of his friends. In the approach Mitchum presents the struggle and sense of self-loathing in his hesitant delivery. This makes it all the more torturous when Foley coldly reveals that the information is useless since the men have already been arrested. 

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, in great detail, shows the methods of the criminals as they undergo long lengths to commit their crimes in almost a French Connection style and also reveals that there is no honor among anyone in the organization. In turn Eddie's story is not one about redemption, or overcoming the odds to get out. It's about the last days of crook who never really made it anywhere, and no one truly cares about all that much. This sad truth is within the entirety of Mitchum's performance though again with only the weak attempts to create some sort of rationalization that he's more than he is, and will have an actual future. At the end of the film though Eddie run out of options, since he doesn't really have anyone else to turn in, and Mitchum reveals the palatable despair in Eddie as he no longer can create any delusions. What I love again though is the film never stops exactly to tells us about Eddie's state it so effortlessly within Mitchum's work. There is one particularly powerful moment near the end of the film where Eddie ponders about the promise in the future of a young Hockey player. Eddie does not speak about himself yet Mitchum is heartbreaking by in his face expressing that self-reflection of a man who knows he's essentially wasted his life.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now

Donald Sutherland did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying John Baxter in Don't Look Now.

Don't Look Now is an effective horror film about a husband and wife dealing with strange events after the drowning of their young daughter.

Well once again returning to Donald Sutherland in a leading role and once again curiously dealing with a role in which his character is dealing with the death of his child due to drowning. Sutherland, despite his character dealing with a very similar tragedy as his work in Ordinary People, did not simply give a repetition of this performance in that later film. A pivotal reason for this is where we come into the tragedy. In Ordinary People much time has past and the focus is upon dealing with this surviving son. That's not the intention of Don't Look Now as the film opens with drowning where Sutherland's John Baxter senses something is wrong, but fails to rescue his daughter in time. Now that scene alone is a harrowing moment in Sutherland's performance as he reflects the intensity and rawness of grief first realized. The film though then switches to the couple in Vienna a short time later where John is working to help restore an old Church.

Sutherland's approach in the succeeding scenes is particularly effective in the way he presents the grief of John. Sutherland often times on the most exterior surface of his performance will deliver his lines as though there is nothing wrong, and when doing his work in particular Sutherland offers a man attempting to go forward with his life. What makes this remarkable though is the way Sutherland in no way hides the grief in that he is able to portray a man trying to get along with life best he can. Of course Sutherland does show that is not really the truth in his own performance. That intensity even found in the first scene, though no longer overt is still apparent as Sutherland instead internalizes as part of what John is. Although Sutherland does not always direct the sorrow, the sorrow is always apparent. Sutherland shows that John does not wear it particularly well. John does not say what is wrong, even tries to act like there isn't anything wrong at times, but Sutherland keeps that loss alive within his performance even when it is not focused upon.

Sutherland shows that John is acting as though he is attempting move on in some way which is against his wife Laura (Julie Christie) who becomes easily fascinated when a blind woman who claims to be able to see their a daughter. Sutherland excels in these moments as he finds the right complexity within John's state and further shows that it is less a state of attempting to move on but rather a state of denial. The way Sutherland works this is very natural in it difficulty, in that he even makes John's occasional humorous moments a little difficult to take as there is still this innate sadness in even these moments. When he is forced to more directly relive this tragedy due to the "psychic's" communications with his wife. Sutherland is excellent in his realization of the man's pain through the mix of emotion he shows. There's the moment where he tries to move his wife past it and in that moment Sutherland brings that attempt to sort of close himself off from the problem. When she keeps engaging with the blind woman though Sutherland grants a passive aggression in his performance suggesting an anger in John at being reminded of his loss so directly.

In this we also see John's relationship with his wife. Sutherland and Christie are interesting together as they bring this right sort of detached chemistry. In that the two do suggest there was a clear loving relationship between the two as there are a few moments of warmth of two old lovers, as well as that sex scene, which seems even more famous than the film itself, and there's a reason for that. In those moments though they bring the right connection at times, but so often that is not their relationship. At the other times, particularly when Laura listens to the medium, they do well to provide that contrast in view and reaction to their mutual loss. They in turn manage to effectively realize that towards their interactions which are not always loving. The regrets and problems stemming from their loss particularly on Sutherland's end when his delivery or reaction can often be short if not wholly cold towards Christie. Sutherland again excels so much in terms of truly defining the way the grief defines John's state in the film. Sutherland's brilliant because he gives that man who is trying so hard to keep it together yet this only results in a certain self-inflicted torture. 

Of course Don't Look Know is a horror film, and Sutherland's work is also essential to the film's success in this regard, as he becomes the sole lead for the last third of the film after Christie's Laura apparently goes home to England.  John though believes he sees her still in Venice attending a funeral, and he goes off to try to find her. Now the pivotal part of Sutherland's performance is that he does not allow these scenes not to only be a showcase for Nicholas Roeg's atmospheric direction. Sutherland is never lost within these scenes and is particularly moving in portraying the intensity of fear in John as he searches for her. The unease and anxiety is palatable through Sutherland as he helps create this sense of dread through his honesty of his performance. Sutherland also plays the role as a man truly going through these strange events which makes these scenes all the more off-putting. Sutherland internalizes the instability of being in the strange place and that haunted quality as John struggles to find an answer to his question. Sutherland never forgets the crux of his character which is the loss of his daughter, which becomes all the more prevalent as John keeps seeing a strange figure in the same rain coat that his daughter died in. Sutherland portrays the unexpressed sorrow revealing itself as he looks upon the figure, and is heart wrenching by gradually revealing the extent of his suffering as John attempts to learn the nature of figure. Donald Sutherland's work here is key to the success of the film which slowly gets under your skin. Sutherland is never in a "genre" film so to speak. He gives an intimate and powerfully honest performance that makes the horror within the film all the more chilling.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye

Elliott Gould did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye.

The Long Goodbye is a terrific neo noir by Robert Altman that modernizes private detective Philip Marlowe.

Elliot Gould after his breakout in the late 60's found himself in a career slump due to his behavior on the set of the film that eventually became What's Up Doc, and I would imagine his performance in Ingmar Bergman's The Touch did not help matters. Robert Altman though cast him here as Philip Marlowe which seems like a rather curious casting choice on paper. The role of Philip Malowe is usually reserved for tough guy actors like Humphrey Bogart, James Garner, James Caan, and even later on in the seventies Robert Mitchum. This is not a traditional representation of the role though, and not simply because it was given a contemporary setting. The film opens not with Marlowe taking care of a case but rather dealing with his cat who has gotten hungry in the middle of the night. This Marlowe lives in a lonely apartment but with a group of frequently nude hippie women live across the way from him. Don't take that as a glamorous setting because it's really not.

Marlowe, after attempting and failing to find the right cat food, still doesn't get a case just request to drive his friend Terry, who claims to have fought with his wife, to Tijuana. Gould casting suddenly starts to make sense as this is not the Marlowe of Bogart, and I'd say may have influenced Doc Sportello of Inherent Vice. Gould does not seem like a fit for a tough guy, and his performance isn't as a tough guy. The thing is he isn't separate entirely from the character either, he is Philip Marlowe but entirely Elliott Gould's Philip Marlowe. To explain, Gould's performance is not without the traits of Marlowe, and what is set up around the character. As required of a P.I. in the forties he smokes in basically every scene, and he always wears a suit. Again those features of Marlowe though not exactly Gould's performance per se. Gould's performance feels as though he is a Marlowe though is perhaps more of as an actual private detective rather than the hero of a detective novel.

That is not to say that this what one would charge as a "realistic" performance, not that it is fantastical though. Gould gives us perhaps the Marlowe of being in the life as he is and would be in as a private detective. Gould's delivery often is curious yet intriguing to the character in as he drifts out of conversations with those who really are not interested in him all that much. It's something brilliant though in this and the way Gould plays it. In that maybe the tough guy Marlowe might say similair things and seem "cool", the way Gould suggests perhaps a certain loneliness in this act as thought he man's life is made of these cursory interactions. Of course Marlowe has his time when he does get a bit more attention, where he fits in the role as the protagonist of a film noir. That begins as the cops come by the question Marlowe about the disappearance of his friend who asked for the ride, and the brutal death of that man's wife.

As Marlowe is arrested, on a trumped up charge, we are given a Marlowe perhaps more in his element as he deals with the police. Gould is rather hilarious in this scene as he kind of talks around the cops and makes fun of them for their severe attitude. Again though there something genius in how Gould approaches this in again he is the film noir hero, but he's also not at all. This is also apparent in his scenes where he deals with a strange vicious criminal Augustine (Mark Rydell) and his gang who wants money that was being kept by Terry which Augustine thinks was given to Marlowe. Gould seems to fulfill kind of the typical way of acting above those interrogating him and trying to menace him. As typical he's pretty calm and collected, kind of above it all while showing a certain disdain towards them. Gould even fulfills the requirement in that he's indeed rather enjoyable to watch in these scenes, but all of it is not truly in the normal way. Instead of being the master of the room, Gould plays it somewhat adrift as someone really would come across as who is not taking such a situation seriously. It is so different yet it still absolutely works.

That also is again not how Gould plays every scene as the detective, he carefully only plays scenes that way when technically the situation is a waste of time for Marlowe. We are also given scenes where we actually see him in action such as when he is hired to find a writer, Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden), by the man's wife Eileen Wade. Marlowe quickly finds the husband at a shady detox center, and even sneaks in to help the man escape. These scenes are actually a brilliant bit of directing by Altman, though Gould is important within them. Altman though directs them in this purposefully kind of low key way while Gould portrays more of that assertiveness of behavior that would be more fitting to more of closeups with some more pronounced edits. Marlowe saves the man and it soon becomes as though there is no mystery to anyone besides Marlowe. Here's kind of a part of the key of Gould's whole performance that makes it take a step further than it might have been as this approach could've been parody but it's not. It's something truly fascinating.

Gould again is adrift in those meaningless, to him, interrogation scenes but he's not that way towards the mystery that involves people that Marlowe does care about. Gould does bring this palatable undercurrent of an emotional connection there. When he quizzes Wade's wife on knowing more than she acts as though she does, there is a severity in his voice, and Gould makes Marlowe as someone who cares. There is something even more to this as again he's being the film noir hero, but this takes on yet another purpose that is surprisingly poignant. In that Gould again shows that Marlowe does care and the way he does, while no one else seems to, is made rather moving even. The performance in a way I found to be covert in its emotional impact. Now it was already an entertaining engaging work, but it's more. There's an incredible scene that closes the film where Marlowe finally "solves his problem". It is very cathartic moment as Gould attaches the emotion within that goes beyond just getting the villain so to speak. Gould reflects a further attachment of the personal betrayal involved but also the satisfaction of essentially being truly "Philip Marlowe". What Gould does here is this remarkable contradiction of a characterization. In that Gould has the features of that noir detective, Philip Marlowe. He's in the seventies though, and he's not exactly as everyone else should be yet he feels entirely natural to himself because of Gould's work. Gould never falls into caricature, but makes sense of this contradiction of character. This is such daring work that absolutely succeeds in terms of creating something completely new out of something old. I loved this performance.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973

And the Nominees Were Not:

Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now

Robert Shaw in The Hireling

Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye

Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1947: Louis Jouvet in Quai des Orfèvres

Louis Jouvet did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Inspector Antoine in Quai des Orfèvres.

Quai des Orfèvres is a very effective mystery film, though in actuality it is more a comedy of errors than a thriller.

The veteran French actor Louis Jouvet does not enter the film until about halfway through. That first half focuses on the difficult relationship between an incredibly flirtatious singer Jenny (Suzy Delair) and her jealous husband Maurice (Bernard Blier). We see the two going back and forth as Maurice constantly threatens the men Jenny is flirting with them though she is completely devoted to him. Complications ensue though when one of the men, a sleazy photographer, turns up dead. This is made more complex by the married couple having separately visited the murdered man's house, and made even more complicated by Jenny's photographer friend Dora (Simone Renant), with an obvious crush on her, also visiting the crime scene. This leads Inspector Antoine to come in to attempt clear everything up despite the three doing their best to cover their tracks. Jouvet appears and this is great example of an old pro just going to town with some great material. That is to say Jouvet wastes no time in stealing the show.

Jouvet is exceptional as he sets up his whole character in his first scene as Antoine is informed of the crime. Antoine takes a moment to check on his adopted son before leaving. Jouvet's brilliant in just this slight interaction we are given with his son throughout these scenes as he grants such a rich history of the inspector with his son. Jouvet captures this sense of haplessness with his son, as well as this attempt at any sort of discipline in these interactions as he talks about his son's trouble with geography. Jouvet shows this perfect sort of appreciation if what he has, even though he also shows the inspector being perhaps slightly out of his element in this regard. Beneath all of it is such this sweet warmth that Jouvet exudes in almost this indirect way. This is the major personal element we are given on the inspector and Antoine makes the most of it. He humanizes the inspector far past the confines of the case or the confines of this supporting role. Jouvet makes this whole aspect of his character so very endearing while adding an extra layer to his character.

Of course the primary role of the Inspector is to solve the case and in this way Jouvet is again brilliant. Jouvet here reminded of the very best turns of this nature like say Morgan Freeman in Seven, Jouvet is just fascinating to watch as he works the case. The way Jouvet maneuvers every scene he is in is something in itself. I just love the physical presence of his work here as he dominates by almost being exactly where he shouldn't be. I have particular affection for Jouvet's stone face whenever Antoine appears from behind a doorway as though he's Frankenstein's monster. As the Inspector works the case though we are also granted a bit of his philosophy towards his profession. Jouvet delivers this certain acerbic tone even rather humorous as he ponders about the long list of costs to solve the murder for basically who was seen as an undesirable by most. What's best though is the way Jouvet shows that Antoine uses it to manipulate the situation, as Jouvet excels in his reactions in these moments as though he's watching to see guilt by supporting his own cynicism.

Jouvet is so good as he illustrates the technique of the Inspector in every scene as he goes about interrogating each of the principals to get to the bottom of the murder. Jouvet brings this elegance to his method as he shows the Inspector always switching things up so carefully. Jouvet often delivers a comedic moment, and plays it as though Antoine is speaking to a innocent person to get them to open up a bit more. Jouvet though makes it almost a dance of sorts the way he so seems to be playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. Jouvet's delivery and reactions are truly remarkable in the way they do establish the incisiveness of Antoine. Jouvet portrays that Antoine does need to figure things out himself, but in front of the suspects he is always the one in charge. As he'll make a joke then suddenly switch to speaking of the severity of crimes actually, and Jouvet makes his intensity particularly effective by the way he springs it on the suspects as well as we the viewers. His work is excellent in the way he actually becomes a more than a little menacing by realizing this technique so effortlessly. I find Jouvet outdoes any Poirot of any kind in the final scenes of the film as Antoine fixes everything. Jouvet again tears through the scenes making it absolutely convincing that Antoine will get his man/woman in the end. Jouvet though goes even further to offer this touch of a philosophy though presenting again just the right hint of warmth. Jouvet's absolutely charming, in his own unusual way of course, as he makes final interrogation though this time offering such a genuine sympathy as he finally gets the truth. This is an amazing performance by Louis Jouvet as he steals the film wholesale though with such ease and grace as his atypical Inspector Antoine.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1973 Lead

Friday, 17 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Results

5. Orson Welles in The Lady From Shanghai - Welles's accent is more than a little problematic but he's good when he's silent.

Best Scene: Hall of mirrors.
4. Claude Rains in The Unsuspected - Rains is an easy highlight of the film giving an effectively diabolical performance explaining his villain even as the film fails to do.

Best Scene: A final broadcast.
3. Isao Numasaki in One Wonderful Sunday - Numasaki gives a moving and very honest depiction of just a man going through the ups and downs of a normal day.

Best Scene: At home breakdown.
2. Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley - Power proves himself quite the capable actor in a far more daring role than usual creating the right captivating presence as the performer then the right amoral hollowness as the man.

Best Scene: Cold reading a hobo. 
1. Pierre Fresnay in Monsieur Vincent - Fresnay gives a brilliant performance as he manages to humanize yet still embodies a saint.

Best Scene: Vincent thinks on his faults. 
Updated Overall

Next: Review of Louis Jouvet in Quai des Orfèvres which is when I'll update supporting as well.

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Orson Welles in The Lady From Shanghai

Orson Welles did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Michael O'Hara in The Lady From Shanghai.

The Lady From Shanghai is an effective and visually stunning film noir, though like Citizen Kane Welles could've told some of his actors to tone it down a bit, about an Irishman who falls into a strange web of corrupt people by taking a job from a rich lawyer due to his fascination with the man's wife.

After watching Welles's version of Macbeth and now this film I've come to conclusion that Welles and foreign accents aren't exactly chocolate and peanut butter. As with his Shakespearean adaptation he takes upon a thick brogue this time an Irish one. As was his Scottish accent in Macbeth, the accent itself is a bit much, but what is worse is the way it attempts to hide Welles's naturally impressive voice. It creates this odd squishy sound of sorts as he tries to plug his normal voice with his attempt at an Irish accent. You know I always write that I don't mind accent too much unless they are so bad that they are distracting. Well, here an example of that. It's is made worse that Welles also narrates the film with his Irish brogue and it doesn't sound good. The reason being Welles always sounds as though he is putting on this curiously broad accent and unfortunately it is a sour point that it is the first thing we experience from his performance.

This is not a terrible performance though despite his  accent. O'Hara, despite narrating the film, is often a reactionary character within it. We follow him as he enters into this dark world of corrupt men by taking the job on the rich lawyer Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane)'s boat, due to having previously saved his wife Elsa (Rita Hayworth) from attackers. O'Hara most often observes the rich man, his wife, and the other strange people hanging around. Welles now non-verbally is very good in the role. Welles does well as he internalizes basically this strangeness in his performance through O'Hara as he watches these people. Welles speaks far more effectively when ,well, he does not speak. In this way Welles works well with himself as director in that he is careful to capture O'Hara's state within the pivotal moments which resonate far more than when he goes around speaking in his unnatural voice. Welles expresses the right unease as he interacts with or merely watches the very sleazy Bannister, but does equally well to convey the fascination O'Hara has with his enigmatic wife.

Welles does grant an understanding to O'Hara in mainly only his face and body language to the point that his narration perhaps was not even needed. Welles manages to create this sense of dismay towards basically the amorality presented by the situation, while giving  motivation to O'Hara staying where he is through the entrancement he reflects, rather understandably, to Hayworth's Elsa. Of course the creeps do not end at Bannister as he also meets the man's strange private detective George Grisby who comes to the man with a truly bizarre proposal to fake murder him. Again Welles's work, when he's not speaking, amplifies the atmosphere by offering O'Hara as possibly the only genuine person and portraying such honest confusion as he attempts to grasp the situation he is in. We are also given just a bit background where O'hara has killed before, in a war though, but Welles reflects the discomfort to being spoken of as a murderer when he felt the killing had been his duty. Everything eventually spins out of control when O'Hara finds himself caught in a plot he barely understands, and the final scenes are perhaps Welles's best work in the film. I suppose it helps that he doesn't say much, but he manages to make the ending resonate emotionally by powerfully revealing the sense of betrayal all within still a confused entrancement. Welles excels most in portraying the central "romance" since he realizes the complexity of the attraction to this woman who  This is a good performance, especially well used by Welles himself as the director, but with a less distracting accent I think it could have been a great one.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Pierre Fresnay in Monsieur Vincent

Pierre Fresnay did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Saint Vincent de Paul in Monsieur Vincent.

Monsieur Vincent tells the true story of a French Catholic priest who dedicated himself to helping the poor.

This is a rather different part than the other two performances I've seen from Pierre Fresnay such as Grand Illusion where he played an aristocratic soldier with a particularly strong connection with his captor, and The Murderer Lives At Number 21 where he played a somewhat carefree detective. Fresnay seems almost unrecognizable in this role compared to those earlier performances. I write almost though because there is the idea of the charisma he revealed in those earlier performances, but utilized in a different way. The film opens with Vincent coming into a village where some are being quarantined off and basically ignored by the rest of the populace. Vincent comes onto the scene almost like a shrewd hero though still to only administer proper priestly duties such as healing and prayer. Fresnay again has that charisma of his other performances but he alters it properly given the man Vincent is suppose to be. In that Fresnay is charming as usual, but in a most unusual way. Fresnay underplays it so elegantly in that he comes across just as well as those earlier performances, yet somehow still maintains the modesty essential to such a role.

Fresnay's work is rather fascinating here in that it is a brilliant example of an actor both internalizing and externalizing in their performance. In that Fresnay's work is often reactionary here, and so powerfully so are his reactions. In the early scene where he tries to save the people from the plague his eyes are so piercing as he watches the people shirking their duties as human beings. What is so incredible though is it is not disdain that Fresnay realizes rather he conveys more disappointment towards those not taking up the duties as they should. Fresnay is careful as this certain condemnation of their actions never feels sanctimonious, though of course Vincent is always very much in the right, but nevertheless Fresnay captures the purity of this intention. Fresnay never seems above it all though and with that is so remarkable. Fresnay is able illustrate so much more about Vincent in such slight reactions. Fresnay never simplifies though with this as even as there is a moment where he must glance into someone's souls, he is just as able to speak with another person just as one human being to another.

Fresnay actually brings a certain humor in Vincent in so many moments, but always in such a generous loving way. Fresnay grants these moments as though Vincent wishes to attempt to share any joy he may have with those around. Of course what Vincent specializes in is finding suffering and attempting to try to alleviate it in some way. After Vincent helps as he can with the contagion, Vincent receives praise and thanks while he only really reacts by informing the villagers that he prayed for their sake as well because of their selfishness, though not in so many words. Fresnay doesn't mock in his delivery nor does he make too ethereal. He makes it a grounded yet earnest declaration alluding the man who wishes for others to be the best individual they are able to be, yet is well aware that may be unlikely with those he speaks to. Throughout the film we witness Vincent as he goes through the years helping one person after, noble, poor, slave whoever needs while not asking for thanks in fact purposefully avoiding it.

Again with this it seems like we should expect an angel among men, and in terms of his accomplishments he kind of is. Fresnay though does not allow himself to be pigeonholed as such in this brilliant work of his. Again this is in terms of how he externalizes and internalizes all that Vincent is as a person which extends beyond his good works, even if that's mainly what the film focuses upon. Fresnay's work feels just as reality since he refuses to be merely an idea of Saint, he instead intends to reveal the man in the Saint, even if that man is quite saintly. Fresnay's work is far greater than the film itself because of this approach. I love the way Fresnay makes the passions in Vincent so very real and palatable. In any scene where he is helping others Fresnay presents such genuine concern in every moment as helps, and the moving quiet joy he expresses when helping those who truly need it. Furthermore though Fresnay also echoes the world Vincent does live in, which is ripe with corruption and contemptible individuals, by providing the right sense of dissatisfaction with those people. Fresnay though is terrific in that he is incredibly incisive in just a glance or a calm remark, such when he is offered a scent candle to avoid the scent of suffering slaves on ship, as he alludes to that disappointment without becoming defined by it. Now that is what I even mean by his humanizing of Vincent though. What is so outstanding about this work is how deeply unpretentious it is despite playing a figure worthy of such pretenses.

Fresnay though gives that humor even almost alluding to his flawless delivery of his various bard from Number 21 in a few scenes where Vincent avoids any direct praise from an old acquaintance. Fresnay always brings these little moments, and they don't even have to be comedic. Even in the grand chambers where Vincent tries to encourage the best out of the "elite" emphasizes an understanding and embracing warmth by his unaffected portrayal of Vincent. Now I did not even mention that this is a story set over decades as we see Vincent age to an old man. Fresnay excels in just another facet of his work as he so gradually ages the man with his performances taking on certain mannerisms fitting to an older man, a squint, a hunch, yet doing it in such a natural way that there is no disconnect from Vincent of one year to the next. The film again is one great deed after another, which Fresnay elevates greatly by his nuanced work, and the film ends actually on Vincent only sort of criticizing himself for still not doing enough to help others. This could be terribly self-indulgent, but it is not at all. Fresnay makes it such a beautiful moment as again it is expressed with only a humble grace. Fresnay's whole performance is an amazing piece of acting as he allows a saint to be man even if he is a flawless one.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Claude Rains in The Unsuspected

Claude Rains did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Victor Grandison in The Unsuspected.

The Unsuspected, though fairly well directed by Michael Curtiz, is a very oddly written thriller about the murders surrounding a mystery radio host.

The Unsuspected is so strange as it opens with brutal murder of the radio host's secretary. The film than proceeds to introduce a set of characters all around the host, Rains's Victor Grandison. It seems like it's building a mystery with these introductions of the suspects and even with Rains's first scene where Victor delivers one of his shows. Rains's voice seems so fitting for such a broadcast with Rains emphasizing every word to give a real certain ominous quality and as he warns about the "unsuspected" is quite something. The thing is, despite this set up, there isn't a mystery. and I don't mean just because Claude Rains is in the film, he's actually not the initial killer in the film. It reveals quite early, rather nonchalantly, who the killer is, a handyman who works for Victor. It further reveals that Victor himself is complicit since he figures out who the killer is yet only blackmails the man to do his bidding. The film then proceeds to follow Victor as he seems to try to kill everyone within his extended family for a reason that is never quite specified past Rains's performance.

The film honestly probably wouldn't have worked at all with its main cast being, while not bad, rather forgettable for the most part, if it were not for old Claude Rains being in this role. Rains basically is there to carry the entirety of the film, and is the only thing that really comes across all that well past a few atmospheric shots crafted by Curtiz. This is kind of Rains unleashed in a way though. In his scenes where Victor is interacting with his family Rains brings such a suave command as you'd expect from him. There is just the right assurance and style to his work that is perfect for this type of patrician radio host. To be entirely truthful Rains frankly seemed like he should have hosted a mystery theater at some point given that he brings the right sort of dark elegance for "murder in a mansion" style stories. Rains, as the surface Victor is more than he should be, and by that I mean by his sheer charm he makes some fairly tepid material engaging. Rains offers a real energy to role that is much needed to the film, although he extends that to further than merely Claude Rains being his usual amazing self.

Rains extends that energy to actually make sense of his character, who really doesn't make any sense just by what is written in the film, and with a lesser actor in the role the character would have fallen wholly flat. The thing is Victor goes about wanting to murder everyone in ways in which he makes everyone else look like a suspect or makes their deaths look like suicides. Again this is never explained but Rains's explains it through his rather brilliant performance. Rains throughout these scenes very carefully portrays them to convey the motivation all wordlessly of course. Rains does not simply have Victor set up the murder, nor does he portrays the sort of psychotic behavior you may expect, although his behavior is obviously that as well. Rains in the murder scenes does not even show any malice instead he's quite chilling by portraying instead this fascination in Victor in the act itself. He does grant a creepy joy as he does this, with that energy he has in the role, but again Rains depicts very carefully as Victor getting a kick out of the whole process. Rains makes sense of the character by showing this host who has become with obsessed with doing what he has only ever spoken of, and also makes a rather entertaining villain while doing so. I won't say he quite saves the film, but it is relatively easy to get through due to his dutiful work as always.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Isao Numasaki in One Wonderful Sunday

Isao Numasaki did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Yuzo in One Wonderful Sunday.

One Wonderful Sunday, if you'll forgive the repetition, is a wonderful bittersweet film about a young couple attempting to spend the day together with very little money.

One Wonderful Sunday is Akira Kurosawa's last film before his first collaboration with the one and only Toshiro Mifune, and concerns a far more average sort of individual as played by Isao Numasaki, any actor with few credits to his name. The film follows very simply a day between the man, Yuzo and his fiancee Masako (Chieko Nakakita). One of the reasons I so enjoyed the film actually was how natural and simple of a film it is, aside from its questionable choice to break the fourth wall. A great deal of credit for this needs to go to Numasaki and Nakakita for this. We are introduced to the two of them as people who want to be together, this is not about a growing romance the romantic angle is suppose to be a given. It is given because of their chemistry with one another. This is very notable though because they do not create this sort of grand love for one another rather they establish the time the two have been together instead. There is the right comfort the two bring in their interactions that suggest simply the right understanding that they love each other to the point that they don't really even need to say it all that much, it is indeed a given.

Numasaki's performance actually made me a bit surprised he has so few credits to his name given just how genuine he is as a performer. He brings this innate likability to Yuzo because he comes across as such an honest sort. There is nothing in Numasaki's work that ever seems off in the least and it's with this that helps the film work as well as it does. Numasaki is able to create such sympathy by feeling so real in his performance. Numasaki has such a downright perfect sort of screen presence by having such an easy and unassuming performance style. Never does it feel like you're witnessing this sort of character, instead you're simply watching a man attempting to go on this date of sorts. Numasaki simply is Yuzo here as Nakakita simply is Masako, and together they are this young couple. Importantly though Numasaki though still is always engaging never becoming stale in his portrayal instead he finds what is so interesting in the understated man that Yuzo is. Now with this date of sorts we are given the tone of the film which gives us the bitter with the sweet.

Isao Numasaki's performance is incredibly effective in terms of capturing every situation with such intimate detail and nuance. In the early scenes he's incredibly moving by portraying the quiet shame in the man, an his loss of enthusiasm as he speaks about their lack of money that makes it so they not only can't live together but can barely do much on their date. Numasaki is very good in establishing the somewhat sorrowful state of Numasaki which he portrays in such a quiet yet affecting way. Numasaki carefully avoids any melodrama in this showing it more of Yuzo's predisposition to start thinking of his troubles. Numasaki shows this so authentically in the way he just sort of seizes up in his whole physical state and only speaks in these somber tones. Numasaki does not overwhelm yet presents this as the place Yuzo basically reverts to whenever he's reminded of just how little he has. There are times for distraction though as Yuzo decides to join a children's baseball game. Numasaki is incredibly endearing in the scene by bringing such enthusiasm in this moment of fun. This is quick transition when this happens yet Numasaki makes entirely work by just how genuine he is in the part. Numasaki so well realizes the way a distraction of joy can exist from time to time even when in a bad state overall.

Numasaki's performance finds the right wavelength of sorts as he creates a believable dynamic throughout the day/film. He so convincingly falls to his lowest point in a heartbreaking scene where Numasaki shows the sorrow overwhelm him for a moment, as he even lashes out a bit at Masako. Numasaki again does not overplay importantly instead playing the moment in a subtle fitting to a man being drowned in his sadness. He is pulled up from it but again Numasaki makes this so eloquent and gradual. It never seems like a requirement of the film, it feels like what should happen next and that is through Numasaki's convincing performance. Numasaki even manages to fulfill the other extreme near the end of the film where he becomes his most jubilant by faking conducting an orchestra to be entertained by. A very poignant scene as Numasaki though does not show a madness there, but rather just instead reflects a man gaining back just the right amount of hope in order to find some joy in life again. This is beautiful work from Numasaki as it represents the highs and lows of life with such grace, creating such powerful empathy for this story of two people simply trying to share a day together.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley

Tyrone Power did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Stanton "Stan" Carlisle in Nightmare Alley.

Nightmare Alley is a fairly effective film noir about an ambitious carnival barker, and is a film I'd actually love to see a remake of as I 'd feel there would be quite the potential with this material altered for a modern context.

Tyrone Power has not been a favorite actor of mine, in that I find him to be a very bland leading man almost every film I've seen him in, with the exception of his supporting role in Witness For the Prosecution. The question though was that fluke? Well with Nightmare Alley Tyrone Power might share a great deal with fellow onscreen Jesse James, Brad Pitt. In that perhaps he's a terrible romantic lead hiding quite the capable character actor. Well Power is lead here, but this is not his typical leading turn as the goodhearted pirate, the goodhearted war veteran, the goodhearted aristocrat or the goodhearted Zorro. Here we meet Stan who initially seems potentially like a more traditional Power role, but to be honest with a bit more zip than usual as we see him perform as the carnival barker by introducing a mind reading act. Any such idea though is soon broken as we see Stan attempting to find the secret code used by the "mind reader" and her drunkard partner, and here's where we see another side to Power, the side of Power I like to see quite honestly.

Power is rather interesting in that in those roles where he's a playing charming guy he's not that charming, but here he is yet in a very particular way. Stan goes around seducing two women of the circus and old Stan does it with ease. Power is convincing in this but what so special about is the way he plays the trick on the women really. There is something so nefarious about the way Power does it as he offers such words of warmth and love while his eyes seem as though they are looking for something entirely for his own selfish ends. This is only the warm up act for Stan though as it seems his powers (no pun intended) of persuasion are only are on the grow. This is indicated early on in a scene where he cold reads a local Sheriff to prevent him from shutting down the circus. Power is quite honestly incredible in the scene in a way that his distinct to Power, and that is what makes it so effective. As he goes about telling the Sheriff his inner most thoughts the oddly specific precision of Power's deliver gives it this otherworldly quality as though Stan really doing it all himself, though of course he's not.

Stan's ambition only grows though as he goes off to become a performer along with his sort of forced upon him wife, to act as a higher class "mind reader". Again Power is so good in these scenes by actually playing into what usually is a weakness in his performances which is that certain detachment. Power here though makes such a strong use of it as though Stan in these moments is above all mere mortals. Now this is not an accidental stroke of luck because, as with Witness For the Prosecution, Power off sets these moments with his scenes off stage so to speak. Power does not have anything ethereal about it as he rather bluntly portrays Stan for what he truly is, just a selfish man who wants more, only more. Power here brings the emotion, though of course this emotion is not the most pleasant to be seen. Power reveals a lust in Stan's eyes as he describes his intentions to only become an even greater sort of "showman" to the public, as he reveals a wholly amoral desire in Stan. Power makes no apologizes in this as he speaks of his potential dupes with a considerable disdain.

Something that I really like about this performance is that Power really doesn't grant any silver lining to Stan, other than he's not more evil than he already is. He stays with him even as Stan begins to act as though he can speak to the dead, even using it to try to dupe a skeptic. In the scene where Stan summons the man's dead sister, played by Stan's wife, Power is great as he only acts as the showman pressing for a greater reaction in the man while revealing no hesitations even as the man begins to breakdown mentally. Power even continues this after Stan has been found out for the fraud he is, and does not take use the final scenes of the film to show the "real nice guy beneath the surface". Instead Power shows just a bitter man who can still occasionally pull off a nice trick or two but only to impress his fellow hobos. There's one especially remarkable moment where Stan cold reads a fellow drunkard and Power still shows that Stan has it making it all the crueler as he stops the act while the man is still transfixed. Power brings a real viciousness to his hatred to his own plight, and reflects just how wretched of a state the man is in. This leads Stan to go back to the circus where he accepts the only job that is offered to him, the lowest one in the circus, the geek. Power is exceptional in the scene as he agrees with again his fake smile of a true showman, but this time he's laughing only at himself. The film ends with an unneeded last minute switch, and given the Hays code I'm surprised Stan got such a "happyish" ending even. Nevertheless before the last minute switch we get Stan at his worst as he breaks down in an alcoholic rage and well Power nails the scene. He goes all the way in being a complete wreck just lashing out, and Power is terrific mess. Of course Power also this entire role. This isn't an actor playing into his weaknesses, rather it's an actor apparently playing the type of role he always should have played.