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. 

34 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Loved the moment where he said, Jesus Christ had his chance and blew it. :)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I'm sure you're pleased, that you finally saw a great Christopher Lee performance. :)

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked him.

Calvin Law said...

Excellent review! And I'm glad to see we share the same #1 Guy Pearce moment. Could I have your top 10 acting moments for Kevin Spacey, just to see if our views correlate again :)

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Are you going to review Robert Ryan in The Naked Spur for 53.

Charles Heiston said...

Damn, i thought your favorite Guy Pearce acting moment would be from Memento But anyway great review, i'd probably give Lee a 4.

Tahmeed: I think he already gave his thoughts on Ryan, but i still hope he gets reviewed.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Spacey:

1. Looking in the mirror - L.A. Confidential
2. The Box - Seven
3. "I don't remember" - L.A. Confidential
4. "Detective! You're Looking For Me" - Seven
5. Rollo Tomasi - L.A. Confidential
6. Car ride - Seven
7. "Like that he's gone" - The Usual Suspects
8. "Because I don't like you" - Glengarry Glen Ross
9. Interrogation breakdown - The Usual Suspects
10. "She is Lana Turner" - L.A. Confidential

Tahmeed:

I plan on reviewing anyone who has a win.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top five Tsutomu Yamazaki acting moments.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

1. Before the execution - High and Low
2. Predicting the fate of Kagemusha - Kagemusha
3. His Story - Red Beard
4. Sasaki's "shame" - Departures
5. Caught - High and Low

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top 5 favorite scenes from Braveheart, and your favorite scenes of Angus Macfayden and David O'Hara's performances.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

1. Bannockburn
2. Freedom Speech
3. Wallace's execution
4. Battle of Falkirk
5. Attack on the British garrison

MacFayden - "You've bleed with Wallace now bleed with me"

O'Hara - Stephen's arrival

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Could you include Jimmi Simpson in Zodiac on the 2007 Supporting list, as well as Tim Robbins in Mystic River for 2003.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your top ten scenes/moments from The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers and The Return Of The King.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your rating for Jack Hawkins in The Prisoner.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I added Simpson, I need to eventually update Robbin's review.

Fellowship:

1. Boromir's Death
2. Gandalf vs Bulrog
3. Prologue
4. Gandalf words of comfort
5. Hiding from the Nazgul
6. The Council of Elrond
7. Nazgul invade the prancing pony
8. Saruman betrays Gandalf
9. Bilbo rids himself of the ring
10. Boromir speaks to Aragorn

The Two Towers:

1. Theoden's final charge
2. Helm's Deep
3. Shimbelmyne
4. Gandalf's return
5. Gollum speaks to himself
6. Saruman rallying his troops
7. Dead Marshes
8. Finding the Orc Massacre
9. Gandalf v Saruman's corruption
10. Old Stories

Return of the King:

1. "You bow to No One"
2. "I can carry you"
3. Theodin's charge
4. "For Frodo"
5. Sam v Shelob
6. Death of Saruman
7. Eowyn v Witch King
8. Gandalf comforts Pippin
9. Destruction of the Ring
10. "You Will Suffer Me"

4

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Your 3 favorite scenes from Hackman's performance in The Conversation.

Louis Morgan said...

Charles:

1. The Hotel Room
2. The Dream
3. Being bugged himself

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Has Robbin's work in Mystic River improved for you or declined.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Also, your lowest 4.5 and 4 on your 2007 supporting ranking.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: Kurt Russell (Death Proof/Grindhouse) and Peter O'Toole (Ratatouille).

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on the Coen Brothers as screenwriters?

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

Declined.

Anonymous:

As screenwriters for themselves they are utterly brilliant. They know exactly the tone they are going for as directors and that only amplified their writing all the more. Their writing which is some of the most creative in the medium today. It is actually rather astonishing how well they excel in every genre as they have such ear for whatever is required honestly. They know how to be hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure. Their incredibly clever dialogue is often genius that feels natural to the films they are making. Their original characters have garnered almost a cult like following for a reason. They create such vivid one of kind characters or finding a wholly original color to familiar archetypes. Their work has a daring like few others in creating these atypical and almost always fascinating stories. Barton Fink, Fargo, Inside Llewyn Davis, can stand beside some of the greatest original screenplays ever written. Now their overall work is a bit more complicated though because while they know how to write for themselves, that doesn't mean it translates perfectly for others. Their films have such unique tones that are required for the film's success, and the realization of a tone has more to do with the director than the screenwriter. That's why a screenplay directed by someone else is not guarantee of a successful film.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Which 10 film genres or sub-genres are you most enthusiastic about.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: Have you even gone from giving a performance a 1 and then changing it to a 5? Or vice versa?

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Well I'm actually fairly enthusiastic about most genres. It would be easier to narrow down to the ones I don't care about as much, and then it's only generic ones I truly don't care about.

Robert:

I don't think I've ever had quite that extreme of a swing of opinion, Natalie Portman in Black Swan is probably the biggest degradation on re-watch for me.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Was she a 4.5 on your initial viewing.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Probably around there.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Yeah, I had a similar reaction to Portman in that. Was initially my win, but rewatch did her no favors. I will say it isn't quite as overacted of a performance as it is overdirected. Aronofsky clearly wanted her to amped up to 11.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: your top 10 Ian McKellen acting moments?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the special effects of the LOTR trilogy.

Calvin Law said...

Also with regards to the question Robert asked, I thought very dimly of John Malkovich in Dangerous Liasons and Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I've come to appreciate both a lot more, so something like a weak 2 to strong 4.5 for both of them.

Calvin Law said...

Also, Louis: Edward Woodward as Rodrigues in Silence?

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

McKellen:

1. Mr. Holmes and Ann - Mr. Holmes
2. Richard meets the Queen - Richard III
3. Gandalf Vs Balrog - Fellowship
4. Holmes tries to save the bees - Mr. Holmes
5. Winter's Discontent - Richard III
6. The Time We Have - Fellowship
7. Top of the world - Richard III
8. Dussander Visits Todd's family - Apt Pupil
9. Comforting Pippin - Return
10. "How do I ask so well?" - Extras

Anonymous:

Just about flawless work throughout the trilogy that holds up to this day. Even the most daring, the full character of Gollum actually works still. There is such a perfect combination though of techniques. The trick photography, the practical effects, the practical sets, the miniatures with the CGI give real weight and depth to the world that was so sorely missing in The Hobbit trilogy.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

He certainly had the skill set for it.