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.

75 comments:

Luke Higham said...

5s all round. :)

Robert: Your thoughts on Deliver Us, The Plagues and Through Heaven's Eyes.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Yeah, I had a feeling this performance and movie was up your alley. Also:

1. Gould
2. Mitchum
3. Woodward
4. Sutherland
5. Shaw

Robert MacFarlane said...

Deliver Us: Kinda schmaltzy, to be honest. And forgettable.

Plagues: The film's best number. Haunting, unnerving, and a great illustration of the brothers' divide.

Throug Heaven's Eyes: Catchy, but feels out of place within the film.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the cast.

Charles Heiston said...

Did not expect a 5. The updated overall will certainly be interesting.

1. Mitchum
2. Woodward
3. Gould
4. Shaw
5. Sutherland

Michael Patison said...

1. Elliott Gould
2. Robert Mitchum
3. Edward Woodward
4. Robert Shaw
5. Donald Sutherland

omar said...

1. Woodward
2. Gould
3. Mitchum
4. Sutherland
5. Shaw

Calvin Law said...

1. Woodward
2. Gould
3. Shaw
4. Sutherland
5. Mitchum

Calvin Law said...

I'm always up for a good adaptation of Marlowe, even though this is probably my least favourite of the Chandlers I've read.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

1. Woodward
2. Gould
3. Shaw
4. Sutherland
5. Mitchum

I'm glad Elliot Gould redeemed himself in Louis's eyes :)

Alex Marqués said...

1. Gould
2. Mitchum
3. Woodward
4. Sutherland
5. Shaw

Louis: Is this your favourite Altman film?

JackiBoyz said...

1. Woodward
2. Gould
3. Shaw
4. Sutherland
5. Mitchum

GM said...

1. Gould
2. Mitchum
3. Shaw
4. Sutherland
5. Woodward

Luke Higham said...

1. Woodward
2. Gould
3. Sutherland
4. Mitchum
5. Shaw

Varun Neermul said...

Just watched 'A bigger splash'... It know one of my favorite movies and Fiennes best performance.

1. Woodward
2. Gould
3. Sutherland
4. Mitchum
5. Shaw

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Varun: Fiennes's best performance, you say? You've got me quite hyped about it, I'll definitely check it out as soon as I can :)

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: I'd give him a 4.5, but isn't anywhere near the level of his work in In Bruges or Schindler's List.

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, the television cut of 'Scenes From A Marriage' is better.

Varun Neermul said...

Has Louis given his thoughts on Watson in 'Beauty And The Beast'?

Luke Higham said...

Varun: Yes.

Watson - (One of the weakest aspects of the remake. The auto tuning can get a bit severe at times, I can get behind technically inadequate singing so I probably would have preferred if they just let her miss since at least it sounds more authentic. That's just a part of the problem though. Watson clearly tries very hard, and maybe could do well with real actors director. Watson's effort is always apparent but what's worse is kind of the messiness of how she handles the role. There are times where she tries to be more charming and enthusiastic like the original, that's only at times. There are other moments where she seems just disinterested like her delivery of "your library makes our small corner of the world feel big". Then there is her old call back which is to overemphasize everything in her dramatic moments, and even moments are not suppose to be dramatic. Watson overdoes these moments by making the act too much of an act. Again a problem is the approaches are not connected to even a single scene as she often switches her approach around in a very unnatural fashion. Her Belle almost comes off as standoffish rather than endearing at the wrong times. She has some moments where she's on the right track, but they are always amidst so many where she's not)

Charles Heiston said...

Fiennes needs to do a lot to surpass Grand Budapest Hotel and In Bruges for me. I'd give him a 4.5 as well for A Bigger Splash.

Michael McCarthy said...

Wow this is a crapshoot.

1. Donald Sutherland
2. Edward Woodward
3. Elliott Gould
4. Robert Shaw
5. Robert Mitchum

Luke Higham said...

1. Woodward
2. Sutherland
3. Gould
4. Shaw
5. Mitchum

Luke Higham said...

Michael McCarthy: Your thoughts on Woodward, Sutherland, Shaw and Mitchum.

RatedRStar said...

1. Woodward
2. Gould
3. Shaw
4. Sutherland
5. Mitchum

Charles Heiston said...

Changing one more time.

1. Woodward
2. Mitchum
3. Gould
4. Shaw
5. Sutherland

Luke Higham said...

Charles: What did you think of Woodward.

This lineup is so hard to predict.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: I'd put him as my #2 of 1973 lead behind Lemmon. I thought he was fantastic. I'm surprised i haven't seen it till recently.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: I thought he was perfect in his final scenes.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: Would he be your win for 1973? I admit i was tempted to give him the win. And that's saying a lot since 1973 is a fascinating year for performances.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: To be perfectly honest, yes. :)

It's quite amazing that we could end up with 15 fives in Lead, if Newman & Pacino do indeed go up.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: What did you think of Christopher Lee.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: I thought he was decent. Although no one was overshadowing Woodward.

Michael McCarthy said...

Pacino needs to go up to a five. The win for this year is a tossup between him and the Sutherland for me.

Luke: I've actually only seen Sutherland and Woodward, but I will try to get you those thoughts later on.

RatedRStar said...

Just seen the Death Note teaser, looks fine enough actually as a trailer.

Robert MacFarlane said...

It looks like a fascinating adaptation (LOVE the visualization of L as a Banksy-like figure). That said, Nat Wolff's hair is embarrassing to look at.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt:

The Weary kind - (The best part of the film I say with ease actually. It frankly captures the themes of the film better than the film itself does I feel. The lyrics are what stand out the most best as it so effectively grants the world weariness needed for "The Weary kind" after all. The emotion behind the words is what grants the song such an impact. Of course that is not to handwave the music, which is subtly complex piece. The most prominent being the relatively simple guitar strums, yet these slowly supplemented with larger bass oriented underscore that builds to something quite special.)

Luke:

Saving Hayden.

van Pallandt - 3.5(The film purposefully keeps her at a certain distance in order to help create the mystery. I liked what she brought to the role though in that she offered this surface contentment that's disarming while having these very short moments where she's suddenly off alluding to that she might know more than she claims.)

Gibson - 3.5(Great fit for the weasel shady doctor type. He's not in it much but he's really quite the good pest for the few scenes he's in.)

Rydell - 4(I have to say I'm rather surprised he acted so rarely, even though he indeed mainly a director, but I say that because he's really good here. Rydell manages this very curious combination in his performance in that he's very funny in portraying his indulgent criminal behavior yet kind of makes it all the more chilling when he suddenly acts out in a violent fashion. Rydell makes his character truly unpredictable because his performance is so unpredictable.)

Alex:

It's certainly up there.

Anonymous:

Cobb - 3.5(A good performance that does his best to elevate the film best he can. He of course brings the hard edge needed for such a role and steals every scene he is in as well as the film. I wish he truly was lead as the opening of the film makes it appear as though he will be given his dynamic incisive performance.)

Calvin:

Oh and I keep forgetting:

Trevor Howard:

1. Madness in the Rain - Outcast of the Islands
2. Willems leads the attack - Outcast of the Islands
3. Suicide "attempt" - Outcast of the Islands
4. On the subject of marriage - Ryan's Daughter
5. Calloway's introduction - The Third Man
6. Bligh Loses Command - Mutiny on the Bounty
7. Declaration of Love - Brief Encounter
8. Looking for Charles - Ryan's Daughter
9. Confronting Von Ryan - Von Ryan's Express
10. Torturing Elmer - Outcast of the Islands

Charles Heiston said...

And to properly answer a question to a few posts ago, about whose the better actor, Bale or Pitt. I say Pitt, because he's reached more heights in acting than Bale. Pitt was downright fantastic in Assassination of Jesse James and The Tree of Life, while Bale is yet to reach those heights.

Charles Heiston said...

Although Bale is clearly more consistent in just good performances.

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, who do you think is the better actor? Pitt or Bale?

Calvin Law said...

Varun: He said it was a tough choice in one of the previous reviews.

Louis: Thanks for that, and I'm glad we concur entirely on #1.

Varun Neermul said...

Calvin: Forgot about that (:

Luke Higham said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAuSkYOs_bw

Anonymous said...

Louis: Since Affleck played George Reeves, who played Superman in the 1950's show, do you think he could be a good Superman?

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I think he's better suited as Batman.

Anonymous said...

Luke: It's funny how many people thought he was going to be a terrible Batman, but now the majority thinks he's good.

Varun Neermul said...

Luke: The trailer indicates that it will at least be a good flick.

Calvin Law said...

THEY BROUGHT BACK THE 'I DON'T WANT TO DIE BECAUSE OF YOUR FUCKING ARROGANCE' GUY

On a more understated note, it looks fucking brilliant. I cackled so much when McDormand started kicking those high school students in the groin.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Well, I guess McDormand's probably going to be my Best Actress winner.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I can't wait for Three Billboards, it seems like it will be a bloody hilarious comedy. Hope Harrelson, Rockwell and Dormand give 5-star performances :)
Louis: Thoughts on the Three Billboards trailer.

Charles Heiston said...

Three Billboards looks fantastic. Glad to see McDormand back in action, and can't get enough Rockwell/Harrelson chemistry.

Alex Marqués said...

McDormand was already back in action with Olive Kitteridge, if I'm not mistaken.

The trailer looks interesting, but I'm a bit skeptical sicne I think Seven Psychopaths was a stepdown from In Bruges. I hope this one turns out to be great.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Also, John Hawkes as the villain!

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Maybe, but I think Batman was the better suit for him.

Tahmeed:

That was amazing. McDormand/McDonagh looks like it probably will be the match made in heaven I expected. Loved basically every second of it, and you know it's Martin McDonagh when there's already plenty of quotable lines just from the trailer.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know which post contained Louis thoughts on the Legion cast? unless he hasnt done that.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: He hasn't. He briefly mentioned Stevens, but that's about it.

Robert MacFarlane said...

So far my favorites on Legion have been Stevens, Plaza, and Clement.

Louis Morgan said...

Those three are my favorites as well, though I think almost everyone is good at the very least.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Yeah, Plaza had been the biggest surprise. She should have been cast as Satanic figures years ago.

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts on them so far Louis?

Louis Morgan said...

There's only one episode left, so might as well wait until then.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Thoughts on Daniel Craig as an actor?

Michael McCarthy said...

Three Billboards has already been my most anticipated film for about 2 years now, so that trailer's got me feeling downright ravenous.

Louis Morgan said...

94dk1:

Craig - (With Craig, and looking over the film of his I've seen, I've liked most of his performances, I'd say his biggest flop, as an actor, has been Cowboys & Aliens, and I didn't hate his performance there. That was an uninspired film though he gave an uninspired leading turn. I would say Craig strangely has had a more classical career in a way, so that type of situation being a flop makes sense. Craig right now kind of is a bit like Clint Eastwood had in his acting career. In that he seems to be well aware of his range and knows how to play within it. His parts tend to be in that certain range and in turn he seems fairly adept at not being miscast. He also does have more range than I've seen some give him credit for. One could try to argue that he had to be brooding bond because he doesn't have enough charisma on his own. I wouldn't agree since his work in Layer Cake kind of suggested he could have gone for a more overtly charming Bond if he wanted to. He even started out as a successful weasel in films like Elizabeth and Road to Perdition, then successfully transitioned to the leading man, though that has mostly been as Bond. I would say there is maybe a certain unknown about his abilities, whether or not he could venture further from his current successful mode. He is talented though in working with the limits it seems like he's set up for himself so far.)

Robert MacFarlane said...

I seem to one of the few who thought Craig was much better than Law and Newman in Road to Perdition.

Michael McCarthy said...

Craig used to be my favorite of the supporting cast of Road to Perdition too, but since then I've come around to Newman in a big way. I still put Craig way above Law though.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I should mention that I don't really like Road to Perdition that much.

94dfk1 said...

Robert: The first half is rather excellent IMO, but the second half feels like Spielberg took over from Mended.

Louis: Thanks.

I'm really curious as how he'll fare in Logan Lucky, Soderberghs upcoming heist comedy.

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, your top 10 James Stewart acting moments?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Varun: This is from the 1951 bonus results page-
1. The ending - It's a Wonderful Life
2. Recreating Madeleine - Vertigo
3. Visiting his mother's house in Potterville - It's a Wonderful Life
4. The Ending - Vertigo
5. Final meeting with Potter - It's a Wonderful Life
6. The Senator finishes the story - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
7. End of the filibusterer - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
8. Getting the rape into the case - Anatomy of the Murder
9. The clock tower - Vertigo
10. Watching Lisa go to Thornwall's apartment - Rear Window
source-https://actoroscar.blogspot.com/2016/12/alternate-best-actor-1951-results.html

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis:- Your top ten acting moments for Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton.

Varun Neermul said...

Tahmeed: Thank you

Calvin Law said...

Louis: Top 10 Takashi Shimura acting moments, and your overall thoughts on him as an actor.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is the next review coming tonight.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

O'Toole:

1. "They'll Come For Me" - Lawrence of Arabia
2. "No Prisoners" - Lawrence of Arabia
3. "Nothing is written" - Lawrence of Arabia
4. An execution - Lawrence of Arabia
5. Torture - Lawrence of Arabia
6. "Nothing is written" - Lawrence of Arabia
7. "You think I'm just anyone Ali?" - Lawrence of Arabia
8. "But No Sons" - The Lion in Winter
9. "Will someone rid me of this troublesome priest" - Becket
10. "I'll kill them" - The Stuntman

Richard Burton:

1. "You know what a spy is?" - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
2. "He's dead Martha" - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
3. The Wall - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
4. The trial - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
5. "Your dead Martha" - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
6. Uncovering the plot - Where Eagles Dare
7. Life of a Saxon - Becket
8. Torturing Winston - 1984
9. "Cash or Credit?" - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
10. "Let's not cheat the hangman" - Where Eagles Dare

Calvin:

Toshiro Mifune honestly couldn't have asked for a better scene partner than Shimura. Takashi Shimura's method to engage and encourage Mifune's own performance was remarkable in itself. His work goes beyond those collaborations with the occasional cameo role he so often had in his late Kurosawa ventures, but Shimura knew how to stand out in his own subtle way. There was a particular honesty and adept ability in his work to find the right tone and style for any given film. Then there is his performance in Ikiru which stands on its own, and is a testament to a one of a kind talent, as he could be so powerful in such a quiet way.

1. Gondola no Uta first time - Ikiru
2. Gondola no Uta Second time - Ikiru
3. His "birthday" - Ikiru
4. A bit of hope - Drunken Angel
5. Baseball Game - Stray Dog
6. His introduction - Seven Samurai
7. Telling his story - Rashomon
8. Learning of his cancer - Ikiru
9. His introduction - Stray Dog
10. "You'd be dead" - Seven Samurai