Sunday, 30 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Følsgaard in A Royal Affair

Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Følsgaard did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Johann Friedrich Struensee and Christian VII of Denmark respectively in A Royal Affair.

A Royal Affair is a terrific period piece following the relationships in the royal court of Denmark during the 18th century.

The film opens following the new Danish Queen, from England, Caroline Matilda (Alicia Vikander) as she goes to begin living with her husband King Christian played by Mikkel Følsgaard who I can best describe as a minor lead. This being because Christian is set up from the start to being mostly a pawn of the other players of the court. Følsgaard in turn presents Christian early on as basically a child a play, though he happens to be at play with all the wealth and resources possible around him. Følsgaard's performance is properly thin and petulant in these early scenes as the film sets up the troubled relationship between the Queen and the King. Følsgaard handles this quite well creating the insufferable state of someone who has always gotten what he wants, as in an early scene where openly criticizes Caroline it is the raving of a brat not a King. Even when Caroline sees Christian going off with a mistress Følsgaard let's out this cat hiss in response that he makes natural because it is so fitting to the man child that is his Christian.

Mads Mikkelsen as the true lead of the film comes in a little later as a foreign doctor Johann who is recruited by former court members hoping to gain favor with the King once again. Johann's method is by becoming the king's personal physician. It's always a good thing to see Mads Mikkelsen in a film it seems even a better thing to see him in a leading role. Mikkelsen is captivating in the role even in his relatively unassuming early scenes, achieving something very important in his personal presentation of the doctor. In that Mikkelsen avoids any stuffy notions of the period or a period piece for that matter, yet he avoids feeling overly modern either. Mikkelsen finds the right balance which he uses to suggest the progressive mind of the man just in his very manner of being. His earliest scenes though are as he goes about finding his way into the good graces of the king. Mikkelsen conducts himself as Johann as sort of the best possible confidant, as he brings a warmth in his interactions though with this certain grace though that keeps him from seeming to be a sycophant.

Følsgaard and Mikkelsen's chemistry is actually very key to the film in the creation of the unique relationship between the two, which isn't as simple as king and servant or even as two friends. Although he does have that warmth of a proper confidant Mikkelsen doesn't make that a meaningless thing. It's this interesting command that Mikkelsen conveys in the relationships as he dominates their interactions with one another. Mikkelsen though is careful in that he in no way portrays this as truly manipulative of the doctor, even though it technically is. He shows the care that Johann gives to the king is genuine but with it he asserts his role of more than just a guardian. Følsgaard in turn again stays very much with his portrayal of the king as more than anything a fool, and in many ways a simple minded man. Følsgaard does not use this to give a one dimensional turn but instead finds truth within this attitude. In that Følsgaard offers the first bits of sympathy for the king by depicting such earnest appreciation in his interactions with the doctor, showing the appreciation the king has for a man who wishes to do what is best for him.

Of course Johann's relationship with the Queen is equally important which begins rather coldly as Caroline views him merely as one of the king's lacking at first. Her opinion changes though when Johann finds a dead commoner. This is a great scene for Mikkelsen as he also uses it to show the viewer essentially the sincerity of Johann beyond a doubt. Mikkelsen brings such a quiet yet powerful passion in portraying the severity of his outrage, yet also the tenderness in treating the dead man. As Mikkelsen carefully shows the wholly genuine humanitarian that is the doctor. Mikkelsen makes the switch in Caroline's view of him convincing yet he and Vikander go further to develop the budding relationship between the two. This is often unsaid yet both effortlessly convey the mutual attraction and affection the two share. Mikkelsen's work though again avoid simplification of turning Johann into some sort of lothario. This is in making the affections honest, but Mikkelsen adds more by having the small hesitation in his moments of showing that love, properly representing the doctor's fear knowing where the affair could lead him, and by doing this he grants the situation a greater meaning.

As Johann gets in greater graces with both the king and queen separately, he earns the disdain of the established power. Johann begins to attempt to improve the plight of the common people by influencing the king and again Mikkelsen excels in these scenes. As he makes Johann's suggestions again not that direct manipulation but instead subtle encouragement for the king to be a better leader. Mikkelsen actually even has this idea of affection in the treatment of the king, showing someone who believes in him. Følsgaard's in turn doesn't portray this extreme change in the king to a smarter man really, the relative simplicity of him is properly a constant in his performance, but what he does do is growth in the king's empathy by the empathy shown for him. Følsgaard's best scene comes when the the established council, where the king beforehand has had no sway, attempts to exile Johann. Følsgaard's terrific in the scene as he is able to depict the way the king finds his confidence just as they try to take away Johann. It's powerful moment as Følsgaard portrays the effort it takes for the king to break out of his usual state.

The king not only prevents Johann's exile but eventually gives him the power to be essentially the de facto leader of Denmark. Where Johann rules by a series of reforms. Mikkelsen, even as Johann seizes absolute power, portrays Johann a man of duty rather than a man of power. Mikkelsen does this by providing not a hint of joy in his success rather always providing the burden as he attempts to do his good while facing severe opposition by the establishment as well as the press that demonizes him. This leads to an early tension when a story tells of Johann's affair with the queen, and Følsgaard's very good in the accusation scene by portraying a controlled anger in the king. In that he reacts with the rage you'd expect though Følsgaard in the rage shows the king attempting to find some way to forget the "lie" by an explanation by Johann. The king receives such, but the rumors persist until a few coup is undertaken by the old guard which leads to the exile of the queen and the execution of Johann.  Følsgaard has little to do in these final moments but uses them. He shows the king reverted back to his weakened state but not as quite the same petulant fool he once was, having learned something from his time with Johann. He brings a somberness reflecting the regret in the king over losing his friend and essentially his kingdom. The highlight of the concluding scenes is the execution. A large part of that being because of Mikkelsen's outstanding portrayal of it. He gives the scenes such a visceral edge, even though we don't see the killing, by so effectively realizing the terribly fear as Mikkelsen physically shows a man just barely holding from breaking down. It is a heartbreaking scene as Mikkelsen presents the sheer devastation in Johann in final moments as he is left with nothing to hold to. Følsgaard's work should not be hand waved as it very good performance within the limitations of king Christian. Mads Mikkelsen though is the standout through his always compelling and complex portrayal of the ill-fated good doctor.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio

Toby Jones did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gilderoy in Berberian Sound Studio.

Berberian Sound Studio follows a sound engineer as he works on an Italian horror film. I appreciated it more as an exercise than as a wholly satisfying film.

The film is centered around Toby Jones, the reliable one of a kind character character, whose pretty much guaranteed to bring something to the films he's in no matter the size of his role. It's always a pleasure to see whenever a character actor of Jones's pedigree gets a leading role. It's funny here though that Jones sort of plays what would often be a supporting character in a film about film making, though this film focuses on the sound design for an Italian giallo film never seeming to leave the studio where they are making the tracks for the film. The role of Gilderoy even with the film is a curious one, as even though he's the main character, his presence within that is often off to the side against the diva actress, the mean producer, or the sleazy director since he is often unaware of their internal conflicts by the group since they are so often speaking in Italian around him. This leaves Gilderoy in a very strange position as he attempts to do his work on the film.

Jones also acts as our entry point into the Italian studio as he tries to discover what he'll being doing exactly, while we try to see what the film is about exactly. Jones is very good in these early scenes as he realizes the unease of this unknown as Gilderoy tries to acclimate himself to the studio. This is made all the more difficult through Jones's realization of Gilderoy's introversion. Jones is terrific in this regard as he makes it such a natural element to his work which he doesn't overplay though. He shows the way that Gilderoy never quite looks anyone else in the eye, and Jones delivers his lines often with a rush as he struggles to pace his speaking to the normal societal standard. Jones doesn't though go so far as to make Gilderoy this creep though, and does offer a sympathetic bent to this state of the man. Jones makes the awkwardness unintentional as he should be, and shows well the way that Gilderoy does attempt to speak with a greater ease, he just struggles with it.

Jones is pivotal in creating the atmosphere of the film as he manages to offer that outsider's state of mind in the place, which is made worse through his introversion. Jones reveals that difficultly in trying to even be part of the group he's working with, which extends further than his personal awkwardness. Jones conveys that underlying, quiet fear, of the unknown as even his reactions to the Italian speaking is important as Jones so well shows that state of disconnectedness. Jones creates this so well as he does allow Gilderoy to be an empathetic figure through the honesty of many of his reactions. One in particular is when Gilderoy is seeking a little reimbursement for his airplane ticket from the producer and he is brutally chewed out. Jones portrays so well the way this only worsens Gilderoy's state and only seems to further place him on the outside while being stuck within the studio that slowly seems to be some of purgatory if not hell for Gilderoy.

The only reprieves that Jones shows are in the form of letters from his mother, about chicks, and at times when he is left to work all alone. Jones subtly in his eyes conveys so well the bits of solace Gilderoy finds in these moments yet he even makes these somewhat cruel by the brevity of this time. Jones will show this only lasts when Gilderoy is left to himself but the moment matter of the film comes back, he backs into that state. Jones not only helps to create the atmosphere but also balances it with the pivotal human factor through his depiction of Gilderoy's experience. He offers an understanding to the man and the situation even as he becomes more and more unwieldy. A great deal of the horror comes in Jones's reflection of the oddly painful situation, as he is able to show that terror that is most unpleasant as he's not even quite sure what it is he's afraid of. There though seems to be something off and Jones grants this all the more power by offering such a genuine, even if unique, presence. One of the most unnerving moments is when Gilderoy has a call to the outside where he is told his plane ride he took to Italy supposedly never happened. Jones makes it such a chilling moment by finding the confusion within Gilderoy as the fear in the man begins to surface. I will say the film doesn't wholly make use of what Jones is doing as it begins to get swallowed up by its own style, though at least that style is good, and loses its way a bit. Jones maintains his compelling performance right until the end as he brings Gilderoy at least to his end in his strange hell. Jones internalizes the emotional desperation in Gilderoy as he becomes all the more broken, yet all the more silent in his pain. Jones's performance is worthier of a stronger film, though this isn't bad one. I do feel a better film could have allowed Jones to take this role even further. As it stands though he amplifies the film's best elements through his ability to realize the horror and humanize it.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone

Matthias Schoenaerts did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ali in Rust and Bone.

Rust and Bone is an effective film which follows the relationship between a poor amateur boxer and an Orca trainer who lost her legs due to an accident.

The last time I reviewed Matthias Schoenaerts it was for his great work in Bullhead as Jacky a man who spoke with his body and his fists more often than his mouth. Once again in a leading role Schoenaerts plays a deeply physical role, though this time as a rather different character in Ali who perhaps lives in a more typical situation. Ali after all is introduced in a series of scenes depicting him, along with his very young son Sam, going to live with his older sister. There is nothing notable at first about Ali other than the man is obviously living in poverty. Even with this poverty in mind Schoenaerts is dealing with a less innately troubled soul here as shown when we follow him as he begins work as a bouncer in a club. This is where Ali first comes across the Orca Trainer Stéphanie, before her accident, played to perfection by Marion Cotillard as usual. Schoenaerts brings such considerable charm this time around, playing so well an innate likability within Ali in this interaction. Unlike in Bullhead, purposefully so there, Schoenaerts is able to capture a more extroverted spirit and does so effectively by providing within the charm this underlying concern that makes Ali all the more appealing.

Outside of that potentially romantic setting though we see the rest of Ali which Schoenaerts paints in less appealing strokes. What Schoenaerts does here though is avoid any simplification in his portrayal of Ali the rest of the time. This is particularly notable in his scenes with his son Sam where Schoenaerts creates the complexity of the relationship in his performance. He carefully portrays the sort of affection you'd expect from a good father when ever he is interacting with his son in a carefree situation. Whenever his son though requires Ali to directly inconvenience himself and has to deal with the responsibility of his son Schoenaerts reveals a worse side to Ali. He doesn't reveal a different man though in that he manages to portray not an exact contradiction. Schoenaerts instead directly portrays this lack of maturity within these interactions. As he presents Ali's frustrations as these quick reactions without any thought behind them.  Schoenaerts in these moments depicts a lack of sort of the logical connections within Ali as it's less being a bad father, though it is that as well, but rather being detached from the idea of being one.

Schoenaert's performance in those moments even interestingly causes you to reexamine his seeming charm from earlier. Although Schoenaerts does not reveal that to be a facade, he does show it to be Ali as man without concern, and that that charm most strongly comes out when in that state of mind. Schoenaerts seems to win the viewer over again though in the scenes he shares with Stéphanie as he sees her after the accident, and takes her to go swimming. Schoenaerts chemistry with Cotillard is something truly remarkable and unique here. In that in the early scenes they are together, past the first scene, they speak to one another certainly but that's not where the connection lies. The connection lies in the physical, and not only the most obvious aspect. The way Schoenaerts interacts with Cotillard when he is just helping around, particularly swimming in the ocean there is this symbiosis. The two seem so complete in these moments and there is this natural joy within the interaction. This does though extend to the obvious of an eventual sexual relationship as well. There is something so powerful in the intimacy they find that again is found within their performances that seem as one in the realization of the solace the two have within each other's presence in these moments.

Schoenaerts excels in terms of the physicality of his performance with Cotillard and his scenes where we see Ali fighting for money. Ali explains he's fighting for cash, but also something more which Schoenaerts seems to purposefully deliver this as a haphazard explanation. The far better explanation comes when we actually see him in the fight itself and Schoenaerts delivers the thrill of the moment as Ali gets into the action. In these moments Schoenaerts shows such passion in the heat of though just for the thrill of it, and it is with this though that Schoenaerts further develops the flaw of the character. In that with those moments purely of the physical whether it is fighting, swimming or sex, Ali seems to most connect with life, but Schoenaerts presents the problem with this though by garnering it some superficiality particularly with Ali's other dalliances. Schoenaerts makes the problematic nature of Ali quite intriguing because he doesn't condemn the behavior but rather the context of it. Even after it seems he and Stéphanie are beginning to connect Ali will go with another woman in front of her. Again it's interesting in that Schoenaerts makes this  understandable yet just as painful of an action, by showing Ali's failure to understand his behavior beyond a certain point.

Ali's often selfish ways though catch up with him as he accidentally gets his own sister fired from her job, and he is forced some other path. The film jumps ahead in time to reveal Ali attempting to become a professional boxer but goes to spend some time with his son who has been living with his sister. In their time together an accident occurs where Sam falls through ice on a frozen lake. Schoenaerts is astonishing in this scene as he captures the pure visceral intensity of the moment. The moment has such an impact as Schoenaerts is so within the scene in his powerful portrayal of the breakdown emotionally but he also captures the physical anguish as he exhausts himself to save his son. Schoenaerts is equally heartbreaking moments later as he speaks to Stéphanie over the phone and he finally reveals the man without any barrier of irresponsibility within him. Schoenaerts is incredibly moving as he depicts Ali finally connecting all the way through almost losing his son, and in doing so naturally completes Ali's arc to a better man than he had been. When we see Ali with Stéphanie and his son at the end of the film it is an earned happy ending. Schoenaerts earns it by so vividly portraying the man's moment of clarity.  This is a great performance by Matthias Schoenaerts on his own yet achieves even greater heights through the poignant and unique relationship he is able to bring to life with Marion Cotillard.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012

And the Nominees Were Not:

Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair

Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt

Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone

Tom Courtenay in Quartet

Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Results

5. Tim Roth in The Hit - Roth gives a properly entertaining performance in creating the superficiality of his young wannabe hitman.

Best Scene: The Hit.
4. John Candy in Splash - Candy steals his film with ease with his funny take as a pseudo lothario that makes his scenes the only scenes worthwhile in the film.

Best Scene: Listening in.
3. Denholm Elliott in A Private Function - Elliott is the funniest part of his film by taking the role overly seriously, playing his hoity toit doctor as a menacing pseudo-gangster.

Best Scene: Threat to the couple.
2. Kenneth McMillan in The Pope of Greenwich Village - McMillan proves himself a great character actor with not only his wildly entertaining portrayal of a intergalactic madman in Dune, but also this down to earth heartfelt honest portrayal of a small time criminal.

Best Scene: Saying goodbye to his wife.
1. Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man - Good Predictions Michael McCarthy, and Luke. Well for me it came down to two great characters actors giving two remarkable performances within years were they gave kind of the opposite style in the same year. Stanton with his great lead performance in the low key Paris, Texas, and here in his extremely enjoyable absurdist tone as a veteran repo man. Honestly I could switch between the two down the road, but at this moment I'm going for Stanton's hilarious turn.

Best Scene: "You calling me an asshole?"
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2012 Lead

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Denholm Elliott in A Private Function

Denholm Elliott did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning BAFTA, for portraying Dr. Charles Swaby in A Private Function.

A Private Function is yet another off-beat film from 84 this time about a husband Gilbert (Michael Palin) and wife Joyce (Maggie Smith) getting into the complicated black market during food rationing in post-war England.

Denholm Eliott, in the second of his three consecutive BAFTA winning performances, plays the ringleader of the "nefarious" group secretly procuring food outside of the food rationing policies set by the government. Denholm Elliott is the funniest part of this comedy of manners because he plays the part the role less as a stuck up high class doctor and more as a crime boss not entirely unlike Michael Caine's Mortwell in Mona Lisa. Elliott's approach is to take everything so seriously that it ends up becoming more than a little hilarious, I won't say he quite plays it straight though because he doesn't exactly. There is a build up to this though as we see glimpses of his character as he is working with his "gang" of other well to dos who plan on getting their pork for a pivotal private function no matter what it takes, well maybe not no matter what. These guys though are pretty severe though it seems evidenced by Elliott's mere body language in these scenes as he sits with his darkened expression among the others, clearly the man of power, of course we're talking about the leader of a hoity toit dinner.

Unfortunately for doctor Swaby and his "villains" the new doctor in town, foot doctor that is, Gilbert accidentally comes wind of their hidden pigs who, egged on by his wife, decide to steal it in order to social climb. This leads to the doctor to be short of one pivotal main course for his dinner party leading to a break down among his gang. Elliott is hilarious in this scene, particularly the pained distress in his reaction at being suggested that they replace the main course with salmon. Elliott's great as he takes this atypical swing around as he plays it more mobster than snob in the viciousness he exudes in his speech against the changing mores of England. It is not entirely unlike Bob Hoskins's final speech in The Long Good Friday though of course Elliott's anger stems from having to share a little rather than due to losing everything. What I actually loved is that Elliott does not wink at any point in this playing the whole thing straight yet skewed still as a most ridiculous society man.

Elliott's best scenes come in the climax in the film where the men find their stolen pigs and must deal with Joyce and Gilbert in order to proceed with their proper meal on time. Elliott again stays with his oh so amusing approach as he brings so much intensity to the role. I with all sincerity hope Elliott played a legitimate gangster once since Elliott would be genuinely menacing in the role if his threats were more than just rather vague insults. Of course that is what makes Elliott so funny as he delivers his lines with the same type of determined hate you'd expect from a man who will kill to get what he wants, although of course the doctor really won't go that far. Elliott's subversion is quite something with the highlight being perhaps his version of Robert Prosky's speech in Thief since Elliott does not hold back directing his brutal words so effectively yet his brutal words basically amount to "hey nobody likes you, leave town". Elliott gives a very entertaining performance as he stays so true and consistent in his initial setup of portraying Dr. Charles Swaby as the most "merciless" of all dinner party hosts.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man

Harry Dean Stanton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bud in Repo Man.

Repo Man is a downright bonkers film, and I mean that in a good way, about a young punk Otto (Emilio Estevez) taking a job as a repo man in L.A. where strange things occur.

Harry Dean Stanton plays Bud the man who randomly recruits Otto to repossess a car on the street through a lie saying his wife's in labor and he doesn't want to leave her car in "bad area". Now just the way Stanton says bad neighborhood told me that I was going to be in for quite the treat with this performance. Although I guess the fact that it's Harry Dean Stanton in a prominent role should have already tipped me off of that. In fact old Stanton is even top billed here, though he is indeed supporting to Estevez's Otto. Stanton's bud though acts as the access point to the strange world of repossessions. Stanton's old scraggly mannerisms perfect for the seedy world of the repo as he dulls out his advice with this rough certainty. It is quite something just to have Stanton being the mentor character of sort to Otto, as Stanton does fulfill this though not in the way you may expect. Stanton's certain type of world weariness, although I'm not certain is quite the right word as Stanton doesn't suggest Bud's tired of the world just rather he's not terribly impressed by it.

Stanton's performance makes bud as though he's this hardboiled detective giving out information on the job though of course he's not a detective. Stanton's approach though makes what this advice is quite something to say the least such as telling Otto he needs to wake up early but also that all repo men are on speed which is then shown through Bud snorting drugs up with Otto. This performance is as bonkers as the film yet it's so special because of how down to earthish Stanton plays the role. Stanton is consistently hilarious in everything he does in this film in portraying Bud's gruff, rough yet fairly casual demeanor towards his job. Stanton's so funny in just being this hard ass type which is perhaps most evident when he comes across his rival repo man and whenever Stanton delivers a salty insult their way it's a little gem. One of my favorite moments though is perhaps his annoyed scoff when the two men threaten to sue them after he gets revenge by crashing into their car.

The consistency is perhaps though what makes this performance so good as Stanton's portrayal of Bud's unflappable attitude is what is so terribly  amusing about his work here.  I love the way that even when he gets ready to take on some store robbers he still deals with it like it's just part of his daily routine. This even includes when things begin to get stranger around one car that seems to have an alien presence within it. Ol' Bud decides to commandeer it despite it risking his life for it. When Otto presses him on his hypocrisy in regards to his earlier advice, that no car is worth dying for, Stanton makes it a moment of comedic gold as he portrays the anger specifically in Bud over being called an asshole indirectly by Otto since that's what he referred to people who risked their lives over cars. I loved everything about this performance to the point that I loved every second Stanton was onscreen. He's always doing something that is at least a little entertaining through his pitch perfect portrayal of the caustic Bud. Although this is a bigger role in ways, it's another of Stanton making such an impact with fairly limited resources. Every line delivery, every reaction, there's just that extra little something that could only be brought out by Harry Dean Stanton. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Kenneth McMillan in Dune & The Pope of Greenwich Village and Sting in Dune

Kenneth McMillan nor Sting received an Oscar nomination for portraying Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and Feyd-Rautha respectively in Dune.

Well you won't quite seen any film like David Lynch's Dune, but that isn't exactly a good thing unlike most Lynch films. Seeing Lynch take on something like this is interesting in itself, but unfortunately that's mainly in the concept. In the execution it's often a dull film with Lynch, strangely enough of all people, making sure to explain everything within the sci-fi universe with constant long winded exposition.

Adding to the curiosity of the film is its notable cast, though some would gain their notoriety after this film, including Jurgen Prochnow, Brad Dourif, Richard Jordan, Max von Sydow, Jose Ferrer, Linda Hunt and Patrick Stewart. I'm focusing on perhaps two of the lesser known performers, as actors mind you, Kenneth McMillan and the musician Sting. Much of the cast is as dull as so many of the lines they deliver, luckily there are these two crazies waiting in the wings. McMillan and Sting play the two central, active, villains in the film who are bent on destroying the house of Atreides to which our hero Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) belongs. McMillan plays the Baron Harkonnen who spends much of his time having his giant pustules drained of their pus while he murders his servants via a heart plug he has installed in them, while Sting plays his nephew Feyd-Rautha who spends much of the film seemingly waiting in his green room in order to do something evil.

These two are the highlights of the film in every way possible because they're the only ones who want to try to make this a fun sci-fi adventure. McMillan is terrific by embracing the grotesque nature of his character to the nth degree. McMillan just revels in it in the best of ways as he portrays such a sick glee in the Baron as he goes about scheming to destroy the Atreides but also just when he goes about randomly doing any evil act. McMillan is the excessively indulgent creep he should be as his performance feels like gluttony incarnate. McMillan wastes no image of himself as even the way he rises and floats, rather than walks, has this deliciously sick sinister quality to it. Sting's take is a bit different in just that he plays Feyd-Rautha as though he knows he's the main boss for the film, and I mean the main boss in video game terms. Sting provides this overpowering confidence in just his swagger particularly in his scene where he walks around in a speedo for some reason. Sting even makes that scene work in a way though because the sheer ego of his portrayal matches such an act.

The two of them together are a whole lot of fun and the film comes to life whenever they are onscreen. It rather struggles the rest of the time, but with either the Baron or Feyd-Rautha onscreen you are in for some real entertainment. Although they are almost kind of in a different movie, that's fine because it's a much better movie. In that the two turns are fitting for a crazy science fiction adventure film rather than a boring one. McMillan is a great villain in his scenes as he captures a real menace by portraying such disgusting sadism so effectively. McMillan makes his scenes compelling by so intricately realizing the vile nature of the Baron in such an entertaining way. McMillan's work here, though again with a sci-fi bent, feels like a proper personification of Lynchian insanity, something that is sorely lacking or strangely underwhelming in so many other aspects of the film. I wish the rest of the film was able to match the wavelength that McMillan is on as the Baron. The only person who is there for him is Sting who again is built up so much until his final scene which is not wasted by him. Sting comes in with such cockiness and just everything about him provides the perfect smugness for his villain. Of course the high point of all of it is Sting rather brilliant and properly absurd delivery of the line "I WILL KILL HIM!!!!" again and again. Do these two chew the scenery, sure, but have you seen this scenery? These two are the only ones who know how to handle the scenery and handle they do. They become one with ridiculousness that surrounds them to create two great stylized villains worthy to be David Lynch villains, even if the film is more than cut below the average Lynch.
(For Sting)
(For McMillan)
Kenneth McMillan also did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Barney in The Pope of Greenwich Village.

Kenneth McMillan sadly is one of those actors who died just as he was breaking out as a character actor. He proved his talents though in 1984 where he appeared in three high profile films. The aforementioned Dune, this film, and Amadeus. His appearance in Amadeus was only in two deleted scenes, added back into the director's cut, though I don't feel those scenes belong in the film McMillan was good in them. His larger two roles of 1984 are the ones I'm covering here which together are signs of a great character actor. In Dune he proves his ability to find his own path within a problematic film, and in Pope of Greenwich village he proves another important skill for a character actor through his success in a potential throwaway role. McMillan plays Barney a clock repairman but also a amateur safe cracker who goes along with the two hapless criminals/cousins of Charlie (Mickey Rourke) and Paulie (Eric Roberts) on a robbery in order to solve all their money problems. McMillan though ensures that Barney isn't just the third wheel of the crew even though he is given the least importance within the film.

First off McMillan proves that he is quite capable of given a far more low key performance here than in Dune. He is just as effective at giving a reality to this shop keep in New York as he is giving the grand madness to a space tyrant. From his first scene I love the history that McMillan infuses into Barney. He portrays a complete lack of ego as he explains his skills presenting the sort of man who has mostly come to terms with who he is. McMillan gives it a bit of somberness in his eyes yet with just a quiet touches of pride in his delivering showing a guy who isn't completely happy where he's ended up yet is not planning on giving up just yet. McMillan's work gives so much nuance to Barney even in the scenes where he is just watching Charlie and Paulie as they are talking. McMillan says so much even when he's saying nothing as Barney examines his two partners with a slight critical eye. McMillan adds a nice touch of humor by revealing just how unimpressed Barney is by them, but by also offering a contrast in style. McMillan portrays Barney with a very casual demeanor as they discuss the crime, as he's done similair work before, against Charlie and Paulie who bring far more intensity in the discussion given they are amateurs.

What I love about McMillan's performance is he's the lead of his own story, there is nothing about what McMillan does that limits Barney. McMillan leaves no moment just lying there as he brings depth to all his onscreen behavior. Even something like how he acts in the robbery scene McMillan does so well as he captures some underlying fear of the situation yet still brings the assurance of a guy whose had the past experience. McMillan adds just that that extra bit of honesty to every scene by giving every reaction and interaction this richness of a life lived. As good as McMillan is before the robbery scene he's great afterwards. Again Barney could have been a throwaway role with a lesser actor, just a footnote for Charlie and Paulie's story. McMillan doesn't allow that. In a scene afterwards where he asks Charlie to essentially make sure his family gets his share, McMillan offers such earnestness that made me care more about Barney than Paulie or even Charlie. I'll admit watching the film the first time I became quite concerned, since often things don't often turn out well for the older accomplice in films. This became all the more troubling when we see Barney ready himself to leave New York saying goodbye to his wife. McMillan is absolutely heartbreaking the scene as his strained delivery suggests his years of failures yet with such genuine affection in his eyes as he says farewell to his wife. In only a moment onscreen McMillan alludes to so many years and even allows you to sense his relationshis with his wife. I was overjoyed when Barney does escape and that was because McMillan made me so invested in this poor old guy. This is an incredible supporting performance as he goes far beyond the call of the role to create such a vivid portrait of this small time crook that could have been just an easily forgotten side character in the film. That achievement is the mark of a great character actor.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: John Candy in Splash

John Candy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Freddie Bauer in Splash.

Splash, finally watching from beginning to end, I found to be kind of a terrible romantic comedy with a curiously unappealing central performance by Tom Hanks, but there was one thing I liked.

Well obviously I'm talking about the gone too soon John Candy, who was sadly not properly appreciated in his time. It's a shame since his ability is so evident in a film this where he plays the brother to Tom Hanks's Allen. Candy's whole agenda in the film seems to be to make better any way he can whenever he is onscreen. Candy's Freddie is this strange lothario of sorts right down to his pseudo playboy attire. The last time I covered a Candy performance it was as the more lovable though luckless salesman in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. This role actually depends a different sort of angle for Candy to go off of, and Candy is more than up to the task. His style here is indulgent in the right way fitting to a guy who just goes about loving his life and living in his own sort of way which is great foil against old the oddly unpleasant Allen who somehow can even seem to enjoy life when he's with a sexy mermaid. Where Hanks is being always so down Candy is the perfect antidote that just seems to brighten every frame as the cheeky Freddie.

Anyway there really is not enough Candy to go around in this film, but when Candy appears it is highlight, in fact just the scenes with Candy simply are the good scenes of the film. Candy does his best to pick up the slack of Hanks's performance at every turn. One of his most enjoyable scenes is early on as they are going about Allen's business together and Freddie is hanging around delivering one liners about either Allen's misfortunes or his useless employees. Well Candy knocks these out of the park really with his madcap delivery. He goes even further though with the madness he inflicts in every scene of his madness that can come from any direction whether it is as he bursts out laughing so suddenly, or so many of his quietly judgemental reactions that are most often hilarious. Candy tries to make a bit work even when other facts are not working such as again Hanks is oddly misguided turn. Candy fulfills the role of the best friend, which is a mainstay of the romantic comedy. This is terrific example of that trope as Candy does provide all that these types of roles need. He importantly does bring the support needed. In that he has the right earnest warmth in his scenes where he encourages Allen, like the kind older brother. I love the slight twist in Candy's demeanor though in there are moments where he goes almost like a drill Sergeant that still serves the purpose of support though in the form of a much tough love, of course it also results in him being quite amusing at the same time. The focus is of course is that comedy which Candy is on point every second he's onscreen with his infectious energy. I hate that the film almost seems to waste him, as he's absent for a large chunk of the film, and we barely get a proper sendoff for Freddie. Nevertheless Candy, while he can't save the film due to lack of screentime, is the one who delivers any of the enjoyment the film has to offer. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Tim Roth in The Hit

Tim Roth did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Myron in The Hit.

Tim Roth plays junior hitman Myron to John Hurt's Braddock tasked with taking mob informant Willie (Terence Stamp) from Spain to meet his end in Paris. Tim Roth, fitting to a screen debut, gives a very eager performance that is also rather fitting to his role as first time on the job hitman Myron. Unlike the calm and collected Braddock, Roth portrays the right irrationality from the outset portraying Myron getting far too much of a kick at capturing poor Willie. Roth's performance works by sort of his lack of tacking things seriously, or more accurately professionally in any way. Roth plays it mostly as Myron treating the whole thing like a thrill seeking experience more than anything else. In the early scenes there is a severe lack of understanding towards Willie as even Roth's grin seems to scream "Yeah let's kill this guy", but with no real depth to this sentiment whatsoever.

Roth brings the right sort of bluster to his performance which is all show in the right way. In the way he walks and talks he's a great contrast to the consummate professional Braddock who is very low key. Roth brings the right lack of maturing in all that he does as he brandishes the gun like a kid playing an outlaw, not a real outlaw, the way he walks around with such a strut, and shows off all his weaponry is all that of kid playing show and tell. Roth, even in the scenes where Myron talks big against Willie, is properly not menacing since he plays it as all a put on by the young Myron. One of my favorite moments of his early on, reminiscent of Colin Farrell in In Bruges another first timer hitman, is when Braddock has to adjust the plan and go to Madrid in attempt to lose the authorities. Roth's terrific since his reaction is that of a spoiled brat annoyed that he's going have to wait for his "treat".

Roth's performance properly makes Myron a surface level guy since even when we are allowed a different side of Myron through another captive of a beautiful local Maggie (Laura del Sol), Roth doesn't truly show any depth in Myron. Myron does tend to the woman attempting to help her, but again even this Roth makes fairly juvenile. In that Roth focuses on that he is obviously just very much smitten by Maggie's beauty, and that even his more tender notions come from a very simple mindset. Roth after awhile is quite good in showing just how lacking Myron is in every quality by showing how quickly he forgets his facade of either the tough hitman or the caring one. Roth's work rightfully has the awkwardness of a young man who has no idea what he is doing at any time. I feel this is best summed up in his final scene where he refuses to kill, but again just as a sad sack loser with no real convictions. He's actually darkly hilarious in the stupid look that Roth wears as he fails to comprehend that he's made a dire mistake. This is an entertaining portrayal by Tim Roth as he adds a nice bit of character to the film. He technically is a bit overshadowed by Stamp and Hurt but not in bad way. Braddock and Willie are functioning really on different level, and Roth gives enjoyable turn as someone wholly out of his element even if he thinks otherwise.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984

And the Nominees Were Not:

Kenneth McMillan in Dune

Kenneth McMillan in The Pope of Greenwich Village

Sting in Dune

Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man

Denholm Elliott in A Private Function

Tim Roth in The Hit

John Candy in Splash

For prediction purposes the Sting/McMillan/McMillan slot goes to whichever McMillan performance I prefer. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1984: Results

5. John Cassavetes in Love Streams - Cassavetes is convincing as the off-beat playboy, as well as the supportive brother, but the impact of his work always remains rather muted. 

Best Scene: A naked man. 
4. Jack Lemmon in Mass Appeal - Lemmon tries his best to salvage his material giving some honesty to his character even within such a problematic film.

Best Scene: Browning speech.
3. Tsutomu Yamazaki in Farewell to the Ark - Yamazaki manages to find balance within the film's strange tone giving a funny yet still honest portrayal of his character's intense frustrations.

Best Scene: He snaps. 
2. Terence Stamp in The Hit - Stamp gives an amusing yet moving portrayal of a dead man walking who seemingly has come to terms with his fate.

Best Scene: "Death be not Proud"
1. John Hurt in The Hit - Good prediction Varun. The immensely talented Hurt proves himself more than capable at being the heavy this time around giving a properly chilling turn yet offers more depth in his vivid portrayal of a hit man who has been at his job for too many years.

Best Scene: The titular moment
Update Overall

Next Year: 1984 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1984: Jack Lemmon in Mass Appeal

Jack Lemmon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Father Tim Farley in Mass Appeal.

Mass Appeal tells the story of an older catholic priest mentoring a young seminarian with perceived radical notions.

Mass Appeal focuses upon the old represented by Lemmon's Father Tim Farley against the new represented Mark Dolson played by Zeljko Ivanek, yes the Canadian that you heeet. With this dynamic the material, which originated on stage which feels obvious from the film's uninspired though not overly stagy direction, crams some things together. The first being the tones which seems to have rather serious intentions but hides it all within a constant levity. It then seems fitting enough to have Jack Lemmon in the lead role noted for his ability in both drama and comedy, though I confess that I tend to prefer him as a straight dramatic actor, not that he's a bad comedic actor by any margin. This film seeks a classic mix, which was quite disastrous in his Oscar nominated turn in Tribute just four years before.

Well that mix actually does work here in that Lemmon uses the comedic to actually realizes who Father Farley really is. In the early scenes of the film we see kind of Farley's normal routine which is to be the priest that everyone loves. Lemmon in turn brings that particularly affable style of his where he has kind of this spry attitude and upbeat delivery to everything he says. Lemmon tends to bring a smile to Farley's face along with this apparent easygoing indifference. The indifference though Lemmon succeeds in making rather appealing as he is indeed almost sort of a song and dance man as he goes about his homily. Lemmon brings absolutely no weight to his sermon to his flock, yet this is intentional since he still is engaging in the moment by providing this what would be described as goodnatured humor to the whole affair. This is but a set up though for Farley to meet his match in the young Mark.

A major problem with the film is the character of Mark is rather insufferable and it is hard to tell if that is Ivanek's performance or intentional as written. I would almost like to imagine it was intentional since Eric Roberts originated the role on Broadway and one can only imagine how that must have been like, but I doubt it. The character is so incredibly self-righteous, and though we hear all about his charitable works, we never see it or see him help anyone. We never see him really even care about anyone, only treating every who isn't him with such extreme disdain, making all his pontificating just an attempt to merely to stroke his ego. I mention all that because the film second thing it crams together is the two stories, and since one of the characters is intolerable it leaves Lemmon to pick up the slack at playing the pseudo-mentor to the young man.

That is a bit muddled though as the film seems to believe it is showing the two men improving each other through their company it doesn't quite achieve this by how one note Mark is. Again this just adds onto Lemmon's burden in his role. Lemmon though is game to try to make it all work. This includes even dealing with Mark, as Lemmon's easy going style is a constant antidote to his angry young man companion. Lemmon though does use this to reveal Farley's technique to help the man which is to attempt to get him to become less intense. Lemmon manages to do something pivotal which is that on one hand he does show the compromise in attempting to soften the harsher side of the man, but he importantly inflicts these few moments where he reveals this genuine sincerity in his attempt to help Mark actually connect with his congregation.

The third cramming comes as the film seems to wish to develop this story of a self-discovery for the Mark, in which it fails entirely, along with a The Browning Version style story of an older man attempting to realize and come to terms with his failings. The second aspect again does have some success through the able efforts of Jack Lemmon. As Farley attempts to teach Mark, and Mark fights back at every turn, Lemmon depicts Farley frustrated reactions to allude to his problem. The problem of being self-satisfied in an unsatisfactory place. Lemmon is effective in that essentially every come back of Farley becomes less jokey which Lemmon uses to reveal the frustrations Farley has for himself as much as at Mark. Although the writing is a bit hamfisted in this regard, such as in a scene where Farley tests Mark's abilities by offering a case of a boy beaten by his father, while obviously being his own story, Lemmon is able to find honesty within the problematic technique. Lemmon does this by calling about the happy go lucky side as his comfortable place, that Lemmon expresses as easier to be in yet always grants a hallow smile. This leads to eventually a speech that seems right out of The Browning Version, where Farley admits his failure in front of his whole congregation in an attempt to help Mark. Lemmon makes the most out of the scene offering both the passion and desperation in his delivery. It isn't quite a powerful moment due to the weaknesses of the film, but it is at no fault of Lemmon that's not. This is a good performance by him as he tries to salvage the material best he can. He doesn't quite make the film work, but he at least finds some truth within his character of Father Farley.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Tsutomu Yamazaki in Farewell to the Ark

Tsutomu Yamazaki did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sutekichi Tokito in Farewell to the Ark.

Farewell to the Ark is a strange film about a village losing their old traditions and gradually moving to a modern mindset.

After Kurosawa's final epic, Ran, few non-animated Japanese films have made an international impact. This lack of notoriety has left a mystery of sorts in the careers of two of the greatest living Japanese actors Tatsuya Nakadai and Tsutomu Yamazaki who have consistently worked since their notable collaborations with Kurosawa. Although Nakadai's post-80's career still is entirely a mystery for me I have seen a handful of films featuring Yamazaki where it seems like he became the go to actor for a supporting or leading role in dramedies such as in Go, Tampopo, and Departures. That brings me to his two performances from 1984. The first being in The Funeral, directed by Juzo Itami the same man who would later make Tampopo. That film is in a similar, yet less farcical vein about a family holding a traditional Japanese funeral where there are serious undertones yet the whole film has a certain levity. This is included in Yamazaki's performance as the husband of the bereaved daughter who is particularly detached from the whole affair since he's mainly there to comfort his wife who really isn't too broken up by her father's death.

Yamazaki in that film has a low key role yet is effortless in realizing both the dramatic and comedic realities of the situation. In that Yamazaki very honestly presents just a man going through the motions of the event and there is something darkly amusing as his greatest unease comes at the thought of having to give a speech at the funeral. Yamazaki appropriately plays it very close to the chest offering just that sort of solemn grace of a man respecting the funeral even while technically not treating it with the proper sincerity internally. Although he is just barely lead, Yamazaki's work is largely reactionary and effectively so, as his performance often highlights a mistake or a faux pas just through his humorous understated glances. His only major action is when his character's mistress pops up and he has a dalliance in the forest surrounding the funeral home. Even this scene is handled with the care of non-melodramatic everyday life, and again Yamazaki's work thrives in seeming just to be so natural to life. It's funny yet never tries to be finding the humor entirely through natural interactions within the situation.

Well that brings me to his second performance from 1984 which I have classified as supporting. Yamazaki's scenes are from his perspective and he seems the most important figure for the first half of the film. His last scene comes with still a good forty minutes left in the film though, and even then his proceeding scenes were broken up by the various vignettes featuring the other villagers. I will say this is rather unfortunate since the film's wavering focus is problematic as it attempts to cover too much forcing the narrative to become overstuffed and there is only a single character I became invested in. Of course that is Sutekichi played by Yamazaki, and in large part it is due to the role being played by Yamazaki. Again Yamazaki is called upon for a balance of drama and comedy though this time it is skewed given the far more insane storytelling present in this film. Yamazaki's Sutekichi's main story is about his inability to sexually perform with his wife/cousin Sue for the unfortunate reason that she has been fastened with a locked, seemingly impregnable (no pun intended) chastity belt.

Again Yamazaki excels within this rather bizarrely challenging role. This time, even though the tone itself is perhaps a bit more absurd to begin with, Yamazaki takes things all the more seriously, which is the right approach since he's one of the few actors who does not turn his character into a caricature. Yamazaki gives Sutekichi's situation an earnest gravity as he does not hold back in portraying the intensity of the man's frustrations particularly in the moment of attempted consummation. Again though Yamazaki knows exactly what he is doing as his approach makes the emotion real yet all the same funny in a very cruel way because how honest he allows it to be. Poor Sutekichi's life is only made worse as gossip spreads that his difficultly is due to impotence which leaves him ostracized and isolated from the rest of the community. Yamazaki brings an even greater intensity as he internalizes these frustrations, showing the way Sutekichi's pent up...well everything only gradually grows until he is about to burst. When it does happen, in the form of killing a relative for mocking his problems. Yamazaki in the moment grants the madness of such pent up anger, yet I also burst out laughing when the act happened I must admit. Yamazaki knows exactly how to maneuver the absurd tone and instead of becoming lost in it he amplifies its best assets. This forces Sutekichi to leave with his wife where he falls into this crisis as he sees the dead man but also believes forgetting everything to the point that he makes written reminders of what is around him as well even who he is. Due to the film's excessive subplotting this portion is a bit oddly paced especially with the wrap up that almost entirely forgets the character exists. Yamazaki again to his credit makes the most of this in developing the mental collapse which avoids making Sutekichi being a merely a symbol of the old, but actually makes him a credible man despite the situation. Yamazaki renders honesty to mess of fear, anger, and horror that haunt the man until he loses himself entirely. With his work in this film and The Funeral Yamazaki masters the tone of each finding both the humor and the drama in the material and through his characters.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1984: Terence Stamp and John Hurt in The Hit

Terence Stamp did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Willie Parker and John Hurt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mitchell Braddock in The Hit.

The Hit is a terrific low key crime film about two hit men attempting to transport a police informant to face his former colleague.

The Hit features to begin with very interesting reverse casting for the accomplished actors in the two leads. Terence Stamp who often played the predator in films such as The Collector, Superman, and Far From the Madding Crowd plays the prey in the form of the police informant Willie while John Hurt who was often the unfortunate victim such as in Alien and 10  Rillington Place, is the would be assassin. The two very talented actors have no difficultly with this adjustment, as we first see Braddock in the film's stylized intro, but we first meet Stamp's Willie as he is successfully testifies against his old gang. Stamp technically plays his trick early on which is the basis for his characterization of Willie, but no reason to give away the trick quite yet. In terms of the sheer basic performance requirement it is a lot of fun seeing Stamp in this more passive sort of role especially in this opening scene as he testifies against his former colleagues. Stamp is curiously enjoyable as he portrays Willie almost a little too aloof in his testimony as though he's barely giving a second though, I particularly like his strangely passionless explanation that he's only testifying because he thinks it is the right thing to do.

The film then jumps ahead ten years to reveal Willie hiding in Spain where he gets caught up by some local thugs and is brought to the English hit men of Braddock and his young accomplice Myron (Tim Roth) who will take him the rest of the way. Once Willie sees the men, and figures where he's going he takes somewhat curious yet rather brilliant approach. In that he again makes Willie rather easygoing given his rather difficult situation. Stamp portrays this all the way in these scenes as his very physical manner is as though he is on a casual vacation, and speaks as though he's talking to some acquaintances. The trick is, though not specifically stated, is within Stamp's performance in that while rather aloof he's not entirely detached. Stamp instead suggests that Willie is playing a game, and is trying to work the men though without them noticing. Stamp's great as he actually gives a rather comedic performance at times by portraying Willie as trolling the two men in an attempt to mess up their plan. When early on Willie introduces himself to a stranger, Stamp's delivery is oh so pleasant yet there seems to be a distinct pleasure in the act that makes things a bit more complicated for Braddock and Myron.

Well that brings us to old Braddock played by the one and only John Hurt. Hurt's performance plays so perfectly against Stamp because he shows quite bluntly that Braddock is not playing a game, he's doing a job. Hurt's whole presence exudes this world weariness fitting to a man whose job is to kill people, and to a man who has doing it for quite some time. Hurt portrays no joy or eagerness when they initially catch Willie, he just gives him a straight stare as though he's confirming a work order. Hurt does not use this to suggest that Braddock is any way fed up with his job, but rather that he's so accustom to it that it has become rather routine. The two are a great balance, and only amplified more so by the overeager Myron. Braddock is the man of the least words leaving most of the speaking to Myron, except for the words that actually need to be said. Hurt's performance is almost the opposite of his turn in the Elephant, where his face was almost entirely covered, as so much of this turn relies on his facial reactions. Hurt, like Stamp, is often rather funny though with Hurt it is through exasperated reactions towards the stupidity of Myron or his attempt to figure out what exactly Willie is up to.

That is not to say Braddock is some hapless sap, in fact far from it. It is fascinating to see Hurt take on the role given that he is not the most physically imposing figure yet that does not matter. Hurt in a strange way makes use of his wiry frame to add to the personal style of Braddock which is this minimalist and specific action. Hurt is actually quite chilling in the role by so effectively realizing this method of Braddock, as he says so much even as he speaks so little. The menace that Hurt exudes is quite remarkable by how effortless he makes it. On one end this is in portraying the exactness of the man's action, as Hurt is excellent in his slight reaction conveying the way Braddock dissects then acts. For example there is a moment where Willie suggests that a third party probably will talk, and Hurt is rather chilling by managing to convey in his expression Braddock determining that the man must die. In the scenes where Braddock goes about killing someone Hurt is so quietly terrifying, as he does not show quite a true sadism as Braddock but does show just how simple the act has become for him.

I rather love how Hurt approaches this because it manages to do two things. On one hand he is the heavy he needs to be by making an act so vicious by being so unassuming while doing it, as he will just casually hold a gun or reveal it since he's done it for so many years. Hurt technically has the traits of the usual "cool" hit man, with his sunglasses, his way of smoking, his casual demeanor, but he uses for a more disturbing end. Hurt's work goes further than that as it also suggests the weight of the years of this life. Hurt though doesn't use this to garner Braddock a true sympathy but rather a troubling understanding. He can be so blase because he's killed so many people in his life, and there is something quite unnerving about such a situation. When Braddock gives sort of a stay of execution at times for Willie, as well as their unfortunate fourth passenger, Maggie who they take along as hostage, Hurt makes it less of the man feeling any sorrow for them rather just sort of saying "Hmm not quite the right time yet". In this way Hurt technically is on a similair wavelength to Stamp in that he's also playing a trick on his companions and the audience, the difference is it isn't quite as purposeful. You may think that Braddock might have a bit of mercy in him somewhere, but in reality we just don't know him well enough yet.

Now I seem to be wrongly ignoring Stamp who stays rather consistent through much of the film, which is not problem given what he shows his character's up to, and also the fact that he is also consistently entertaining in the role as Willie so jovially plants the seeds of doubt in his captors' minds. Stamp though does portray this gradual transition of sorts as though Willie is kind of slowly getting more and more into this character he's developed for himself to trick the men with. The character being a man who is frankly above it all, to the point that he even claims to be above dying. When he describes that death is but a natural process, Stamp grants it the sincerity of a true philosopher who maybe believes exactly what he says. Fittingly as always Hurt's equally good in the scene in portraying Braddock genuinely taken aback by someone who has come to terms with death, something he himself hasn't. The problem is all the tricks come to a head though and all is revealed. On one hand Stamp shows that this really is an act that old Willie has crafted, and over the day has almost begun believe his own acting. Stamp earns a change in this as when he is initially captured, as well as initially threatened by his old colleagues, he shows a man fearful of his life. This is revealed to be the real man when Braddock reveals he's decided to kill them all early. Stamp's actually rather heartbreaking as his act breaks with such a genuine moment of realization of the fear of death as Braddock tells him his time is up. Hurt on the other hand again was showing no trick, but rather a misinterpretation of his actions. Braddock reprieves were not out of any sympathy but just a man knowing he could finish the job later. As we are reminded of Braddock's violent moments which are all standout moments due to Hurt. There's a moment where Maggie attempts to get help, and Hurt's reaction is sheer perfection as it is less "oh no" and more "what you really think I haven't handled something like this before?". This everyday approach to the hit man is downright amazing especially in those small moments that seem so fitting to a man just going through the motions that make the character particularly menacing. Now Stamp gives a fantastic performance, but I absolutely loved Hurt's approach to his role. Although we never leave the confines of the job Hurt through these scenes gives such a vivid portrait of this hit man that in no way makes him any less intimidating.
(For Stamp)
(For Hurt)

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1984: John Cassavetes in Love Streams

John Cassavetes did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Robert Harmon in Love Streams.

Love Streams may be the film I was warned A Woman Under the Influence was, in that I found that film very easy to get through. This one though it just about impenetrable most of the time. It has good scenes in there, yet seems to purposefully starve your patience through his long drawn out scenes of behavior, also on a side note John Cassavetes doesn't seem to be able to direct children very well.

Any way my focus though is on Cassavetes as the actor not the director, and though he's perhaps viewed as an acting director these days he technically is an actor turned director despite having few prominent roles before his transition. This is actually one of his final performances as a director the role of Robert who we are introduced to as a playboy writer. Cassavetes isn't not an excessively charismatic performer, and there is something rather odd about casting himself in the role. The reason being Robert is the brother of Sarah played by Gena Rowlands's the wife of John Cassavetes. Although perhaps this is to show the undisputed closeness of the siblings not even in a romantic way, though the initial kiss upon meeting might be a touch too comfortable for non-Lannister siblings. Still that isn't exactly the focus, and it is not where the film starts. The film begins with Robert living his life which is that of slight relationships with only the occasional more substantial one when it is thrust upon him.

Cassavetes is more than convincing as the pleasure seeker in Robert as a man who just goes around looking for something to enjoy whether it is a drink or a woman. Cassavetes's performance sort of conveys this idea of an attempt of joy. In that there is always this intention and energy of someone trying to have a good time, even though he is not exactly always wholly capable in this regard. Cassavetes is good though in that he plays the part as though Robert is either just slightly tipsy or just has a bit of a hangover. Cassavetes is effective in realizing this day to day state of Robert as never exactly becoming too associated with anything. The film though decides to actually ram through his story rather quickly by having Robert suddenly having to deal with his son who is brought over by his estranged wife. Again the pacing of this element seems rather rushed, given how slow paced the film is in general. Cassavetes impresses himself to make something out of this in very short time. Cassavetes sort of does in just playing it as general frustrations of dealing with something that leaves him a little uneasy.

The film wraps that facet up and moves mostly to focusing on dealing with the mentally unstable Sarah who just commits one strange behavior after another. Cassavetes in the interactions between Robert and Sarah though suggest a bit of a different side to Robert. In that Cassavetes is rather good in at least portraying basically a loving brother's understanding of his sister in that he never reveals too rash of reaction, spelling out years of knowing her madness. Cassavetes doesn't limit this still showing that Robert is taken aback but holds back these frustrations to lashing out against her. Cassavetes is able to convey the complexity of that relationship and his performance works in that regard.. I have to say though his and Rowlands's performances work they never added to anything more than fulfilling the base need of to be a "good performance". Unlike A Woman Under the Influence and Faces this film never had a real emotional resonance. It felt more like acting for the sake of acting, behavior for the sake of behavior, uncomfortable situations simply to be uncomfortable situations. Now that acting for the sake of acting doesn't mean bad acting. In Cassavetes and Rowlands are both good in their roles, but their work simply laid there at a distance. Admirable in technique, but not engaging in terms of either crafting a truly empathetic or compelling character. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1984

And the Nominees Were Not:

John Hurt in The Hit

Terence Stamp in The Hit

Jack Lemmon in Mass Appeal

Tsutomu Yamazaki in Farewell to the Ark 

John Cassavetes in Love Streams

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973 Results

5. Yul Brynner in Westworld -  Brynner is easily the highlight of his film giving a chilling portrayal of an unstoppable android.

Best Scene: The gunslinger wins. 
4. Sterling Hayden in The Long Goodbye - Hayden gives a terrific performance portraying the boisterous man attempting to love life, well in reality only hiding the sad man that hates it.

Best Scene: Wade has to pay a fee.
3. Christopher Lee in The Wicker Man - Lee grants the grandiose menace needed for his island leader of pagans, but adds subtle nuance to his character and film by showing the underlying motivations of the man as well.

Best Scene: Just before the sacrifice.
2. Cyril Cusack in The Homecoming - Cusack gives a quietly brilliant performance as seemingly the only non-miserable soul in a house through his realization of a sunny demeanor which alludes to a complex relationship with his family.

Best Scene: Words of warning.
1. Richard Jordan in The Friends of Eddie Coyle - Good Predictions Luke, Charles, Tahmeed, Michael Patison, Michael McCarthy, and Omar. Richard Jordan gives a fantastic performance by so cruelly realizing the tactics of his law officers which would be the style of a heroic cop in a different film.

Best Scene: Foley tells Eddie some bad news.
Updated Overall
Next Year: 1984 Lead