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.

57 comments:

Luke Higham said...

YES!

Louis: Ratings/Thoughts for the rest of the cast.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Saving Lee.

Everyone else is good through the sheer consistency in their work. Everyone else captures that same derisive hospitality and since they are so similair it makes it all the more off-putting.

Charles Heiston said...

You're damn right this is a 5 tar performance.

Louis: Do you prefer his performance here to Breaker Morant?

Charles Heiston said...

5 star performance*

Anonymous said...

I'll be damned, but i think he has a shot at defeating Lemmon.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: What did you think of that final shot. :)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Do you plan on watching the remake with Nicolas Cage.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

This review definitely sounds like he's gonna be Louis's win for the year :).

Come on Shaw, get your first Lead Actor 5!

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Charles: Comparing reviews, I guess Louis prefers this performance by a close margin.

Alex Marqués said...

Winner! I think he's incredible.

Alex Marqués said...

Apparently, he was offered a role in the remake of this film, glad he declined it.

Great review by the way, Louis, and I'm glad you're saving Lee.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: I'm pretty sure Louis's respect for Woodward's performance would rise up to F. Murray Abraham-in-Amadeus levels after viewing Cage's laughably miscalculated and over the top work xD.

Charles Heiston said...

If i'm not mistaken, Louis was supposed to review Cage for The Wicker Man awhile back.

Calvin Law said...

I actually think Cage's performance in the remake is brilliant in its own little way. Woodward is great though, glad you loved him. 1973 is panning out to be one of the greatest years, since Shaw is probably going to get a 5 too.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: Glad you loved Bannen and Richardson in Tinker, what about Bernard Hepton, are your views towards him positive or negative because he made me appreciate David Dencik a whole lot less.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: 1973 is currently equal 1st with 2014 Lead. It's the Best Lead Actor Year of all-time.

Louis Morgan said...

Charles:

Edge to the Wicker Man.

Luke:

Fantastic shot with that juxtaposition of the fallen head against the setting sun.

I have seen parts of that version. Hot Fuzz was a much stronger remake.

Calvin:

Hepton's great and is clearly the superior more complex take. For me Dencik's performance does work though as a rather different character though, particularly in the airstrip scene.

Calvin Law said...

Woodward would have been a great Nicolas Angell, teamed with perhaps Dudley Moore. And David Warner as one of the Andy's.

I agree they're different characters, but I just thought Dencik was absolutely dominated by everyone else in every scene he was in which might have been the point, as you say. I do think Toby Jones and especially Tom Hardy are vastly superior to their television counterparts though. Same goes to a lesser extent to John Hurt and Alexander Knox. I used to prefer Jayston over Cumberbatch but I realize the latter makes a lot out of quite little.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Greatly prefer Jones(how can you top that Napoleon complex?) and Hardy (I find that Tarr's story resonates so much more in the film) over their counterparts as well. Although Knox is more than decent I wish they had gotten Cyril Cusack to play Control again.

Calvin Law said...

Tarr is essentially a complete jerk-off in the television series. Which works in a way I guess because Guinness is so brilliant in breaking him down, but I slightly preferred the more cordial dynamic between Hardy, Oldman, and Cumberbatch in the film.

Calvin Law said...

So confirmed for supporting:

Jordan
Hayden
Lee

Who else?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top 10 male supporting performances of the 40's.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Top ten male leading performances of the 1940s as well.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: So are Pacino and Newman guaranteed to get upgraded? You did say this year equalled 2014 already.

Calvin Law said...

Tahmeed: there were 8 5's in 1973 already, in addition to these 4 that equals 2014

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Calvin: Oh yeah, for some reason I thought 2014 had 14 5's in Lead instead of 12.

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, would you like to see Arnold Schwarzenegger as the beast in 'Beauty And The Beast'. I would love that, it would be so funny.

Varun Neermul said...

And i think he could give a fair amount of nuance to the role if he tried.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I asked Louis about his top ten most emotional TV scenes before, but I forgot to give my own list. This would be it-
(Spoilers may follow)


1. Hank's demise- Breaking Bad
2. Farewell- Assassination Classroom
3. The execution of Ned Stark-Game of Thrones
4. The final montage- Six Feet Under
5. The Red Wedding- Game of Thrones
6. Marcia Clark's breakdown- The People vs OJ Simpson
7. Frieza kills Vegeta- Dragon Ball Z (even though Abridged also made it quite hilarious and justified)
8. Kenny's "permanent" death in Season 5- South Park
9. L's demise- Death Note (his final expression to Light really sells it for me)
10.Gus's backstory- Breaking Bad

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Charles mentioned Truffaut in Day For Night. Can't think of anyone else though.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I've checked Daniel's spreadsheet and he has Bruce Dern in The Laughing Policeman, Arthur Lowe in O Lucky Man! and Martin Balsam in Summer Wishes, Summer Dreams.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Daniel: Could you send me your spreadsheet of bonus round performances? My email address is right below-
tahmeedkc@gmail.com

Calvin Law said...

Those all sound like good choices

Tahmeed: Off the top of my head, Bernard and Timmy's final scene in Westworld, Bill Hadon breaking down in Tinker Tailor, the ending to 11.22.63, and 'Why he don't want me man?' from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: His post-1994 choices are on Donald Pleasence's review for Wake In Fright.

Calvin Law said...

Word of warning guys, new Spider-Man trailer shows way too much.

Luke Higham said...

R.I.P. Darlene Cates

Luke Higham said...

The Venom Spin-off is gonna be Rated-R. :)

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: Thanks man :) Although I am quite surprised Louis hasn't seen Eyes Wide Shut yet.

RatedRStar said...

Those spreadsheets arent neccessarily final they do change sometimes =).

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: What's your 2015 lineup. I forgot to mention Arnold Schwarzenegger in Maggie.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: I still haven't finished it simply because I have no idea how to place the Compton gang.

Tahmeed: I cant send you the entire spreadsheet (I have to keep some mystery about my choices =D lol)

So I will send you 2 samples, choose 2 from this lineup

1920s - 1937
1938 - 1946
1947 - 1954
1955 - 1962
1963 - 1970
1971 - 1978
1979 - 1986
1987 - 1994
1995 - 2002
2003 - 2010
2011 - 2015

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Daniel-I'll pick 63-70 and 38-46.

94dfk1 said...

Everyone: Not sure if it's been asked before, but how is DDLs accent in Nine? Curious since the Italian accent, like Russian, sounds laughable if done improperly.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

1. Dana Andrews - The Ox-Bow Incident
2. Edward G. Robinson - Double Indemnity
3. James Dunn - A tree Grows in Brooklyn
4. Claude Rains - Notorious
5. Walter Huston - The Devil and Daniel Webster
6. Lionel Barrymore - It's A Wonderful Life
7. Van Heflin - Johnny Eager
8. Walter Huston - The Treasure of Sierra Madre
9. Peter Lorre - The Maltese Falcon
10. Harold Russell - The Best Years of Our Lives

Tahmeed:

1. James Stewart - It's A Wonderful Life
2. Ray Milland - The Lost Weekend
3. Humphrey Bogart - The Treasure of Sierra Madre
4. Laurence Olivier - Rebecca
5. Richard Attenborough - Brighton Rock
6. Humphrey Bogart - The Maltese Falcon
7. Toshiro Mifune - The Quiet Duel
8. Pierre Fresnay - Monsieur Vincent
9. Joseph Cotten - Shadow of a Doubt
10. Ronald Colman - A Double Life

Louis Morgan said...

Varun:

That would certainly be something else.

Calvin:

I am considering Yul Brynner in Westworld, as his original ranking is based on a very long ago viewing.

Luke Higham said...

Okay, my supporting suggestions.

Hayden
Jordan
Lee
Brynner
and Dern

Charles Heiston said...

I suggest:

Hayden
Jordan
Lee
Brynner
Truffaut

Luke Higham said...

*Truffaut instead of Dern

Calvin Law said...

It'll be interesting to see what you think of Westworld in light of the new series.

RatedRStar said...

Tahmeed: I have sent you the list =D.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Daniel: Thank you so much! :D <3

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Have you started watching Scenes From A Marriage.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

So, I just finished watching Braveheart for the first time. Not going to lie right, I absolutely loved it from start to finish, and it's probably gonna end up as one of my favorite films of all time.
Ratings-
Gibson-5
Macfayden-5 (my win in supporting for 95)
McGoohan-5
O'Hara-4.5
Gleeson-4
My favorite of the cast has to be Angus MacFayden. His final delivery of "Now bleed with me" is so damn heartwarming and inspirational.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: I'm sure Robert's happy that you liked Macfadyen the most. He despises that film.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I know you warned me, but I did watch that Spider-Man trailer. Keaton will do as well as he possibly could with his role, but I feel Marvel are once again, sticking with their usual formula.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Yes.

Tahmeed:

Glad to hear that.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: I'm quite well aware of Robert's dislike for anything Mel Gibson's directed, and while I can't share that opinion, I do respect it. Of Gibson's films, I've only Hacksaw Ridge and Braveheart, and I loved both of them immensely.