Monday, 22 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Jean-Louis Trintignant in The Great Silence

Jean-Louis Trintignant did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gordon aka "Silence" in The Great Silence.

The Great Silence is a fairly effective spaghetti western, though its ending is more than a little questionable, about a bounty hunter who will only ever shoot in self-defense.

A common factor in any spaghetti western is the issue of dubbing and the various languages of those involved particularly the star who often was of a different nationality than the majority of the supporting cast. The Great Silence found a way away from any complications of this by having the lead character played by Jean-Louis Trintignant a mute. This is an interesting choice and makes the man named Silence a rather stoic hero even as stoic western heroes go. This forces many characters around Silence to describe Silence leaving himself mostly there for the most intense action. This actually goes to such a degree that one could argue that Klaus Kinski as the chief villain Loco, also a bounty hunter but without a code, is even co-lead with Trintignant since the film focuses almost as much on him as it does Silence. The casting itself also does seem to be an odd thing though with Trintignant certainly not the first man you'd expect to see in any type of western.

Trintignant though certainly offers quite the unique face for a western which obviously comes in handy for this part and it works in creating a certain atypical skew for the character. In that Trintignant carries a steely stare but not quite in the intense way you may expect. There is instead a certain detachment in his stare that actually does work effectively in creating both a menace in regards to the character but also suggests the state of Silence. This is as Trintignant does convey a certain damage right in the man as he portrays almost an underlying pain in Silence not as a man who is fine with his Silence but is rather pained by it. Trintignant handles this sort of detachment rather well as there is something innately broken within his performance while this also never seems to compromise his stance as sort of the hero to the western. In fact Trintignant makes something seem all the deadlier by that detachment as he guns down, not that he is wholly unfeeling, yet rather a no voice to speak any possible distress.

Although for much of the film Silence has the upper hand since he easily kills all who oppose him but this ends when he comes in contact with Kinski's Loco, who rather ironically is just a little too cool headed to get set off by Silence's attempt to pester him into a fight. This finally puts Silence off his course and Trintignant does successfully explore past the strictures of the type as the tides turn against Silence. Trintignant in these moments captures the more emotional rawness of his state through his eyes particularly in the scene where Silence thinks back to when his family was massacred. The film though again messes with its perspective a bit too much perhaps as it almost seems to become Loco's story and it is only in that view where the film's excessively bleak ending makes any sense. An ending where its silver lining is a bluntly stated message that reveals how the villains actions eventually led to good reforms down the road, which offers little solace. This does reduce Tritntignant's performance's impact a bit by the end of the film. He's still good particularly in revealing the final anguish in Silence in the final duel, yet rather strangely in the end Silence ends up being overshadowed in his own film by his rival Loco, and Tritnignant ends up being a bit overshadowed by Kinski.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Vincent Price in Witchfinder General

Vincent Price did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General.

Witchfinder General is a flimsy pseudo-exploitation film about an inquisitor during the reign of Oliver Cromwell.

Vincent Price had perhaps a somewhat curious career progression as an actor. In that he started out in very much the prestige picture such as Laura and The Song of Bernadette, but eventually began to appear in a long series of b-movies often as a campy villain. There was more than a slight indication of this in his early work in that he would play often shady characters, but they were not quite the overt villains he came known for. This brings him to this film which itself seems a curious clash of the two phases of his career quite honestly. In that the movie is not quite sure what it wants to be in that it may wish to be a grim realization of the cruel witch hunters of the time, yet its approach very much focuses on the violence, and very little on the characters suggesting the tone more of a violent exploitative horror film. The characters for the most part are incredibly simple, there seems an attempt at further complexity at times yet this usually is forgotten in favor of more bloodshed.

Vincent Price stands in the center of the film as the man who wishes to become the Witchfinder General by uncovering witches all throughout England. Price seems set on his own performance at the very least, even though the film doesn't quite seem set on its own tone. Price goes for the more nuanced approach to the material, very much away from his usual campy type of villainy to portray the witchhunter Hopkins in a very quiet manner. Price is consistent in this in very much trying to impress some sort of reality on the film in his dark somber approach. Price's approach is actually a tad surprising since even in his earlier prestige picture work he usually would be a more flamboyant figure. Here though Price very much seeks to be the puritan really his character should be. Price whole physical manner is that of a hard and cold man. He is effective in this approach as everything about him has this coldness to him in his dark eyes always peering for some sort of weakness, and his straight forward delivery fitting to an official who is going about his task with proper precision.

The character is not quite so straight forward though as revealed early on by the first scene where he goes about interrogating a catholic priest, which involves having his men randomly stabbing the man's back supposedly looking for the mark of Satan. The priest though is granted a respite when the priest's niece offers to prostitute herself in exchange for saving her uncle. This offer is immediately accepted by Hopkins and Price does not depict any sort of conflict in the man over this. Price approach actually instead very much sets up the character as a man who is more than willing to abuse his position to get what he wants and there is never a second thought in his depiction. This again is effective though as Price is appropriately creeping in showing the complete lack of hesitation in the man as he goes from his violent interrogation of doing "God's work" at one moment then giving into lust with the woman the next. The film never really goes anywhere with this idea in terms of revealing the hypocrisy of the character instead he ends up just being basically a monster who needs to be defeated by the end of the film. Price stays consistent within his character throughout even in its more bombastic conclusion, more fitting to a traditional monster picture. Price isn't quite just the monster and is a chilling presence throughout the film. His performance though seems a bit misused in the end as it suggests a greater complexity but it never is allowed to explore this in any real detail. This is a good low key performance by Vincent Price, but the film prevents him from giving a great one.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1968

And the Nominees Were Not:

Lee Marvin in Hell in the Pacific

Burt Lancaster in The Scalphunters

Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West

Malcolm McDowell in If....

Vincent Price in Witchfinder General

Predict Those Five or These Five.

Toshiro Mifune in Hell in the Pacific

Ossie Davis in The Scalphunters

Jean-Louis Trintignant in The Great Silence

Max von Sydow in Shame 

Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer

Or Both. 

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Results

5. Ronald Cheng in Vulgaria - Cheng is easily his film's highlight in his hilarious and appropriately ridiculous portrayal of an over the top gangster.

Best Scene: Dinner time.
4. Cillian Murphy in Broken - Murphy gives a funny, moving and above all very honest portrayal of just unassuming teacher accidentally getting involved in some rather difficult situations. 

Best Scene: Apology
3. Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur - Although the film mutes his impact Siddiqui gives an effective and affecting portrayal of a man forced to become a gangster when you do see him.

Best Scene: Somber victory. 
2. Bradley Whitford in The Cabin in the Woods - Whitford gives a very funny portrayal of a white collar worker who just happens to run a murder factory.

Best Scene: The merman. 
1. Thomas Bo Larsen in The Hunt - Bo Larsen gives a terrific performance that is essential to the film as he finds the complexity of the man who condemns but eventually forgives his best friend for a horrible, though false, crime.

Best Scene: The Church.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1968 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2

Nawazuddin Siddiqui did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Faizal Khan iin Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2.

Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2 I'm going to assume, I have not seen part one, continues the story of a gangster family in India.

The film opens with the murder of the original patriarch then soon after the murder of the heir apparent of the Khan family in a series of reprisals. It is therefore left to Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Faizal to continue the family's criminal organization, which also involves holding political office, as well as to get revenge for the deaths of his family as viciously commanded by his own mother. Siddiqui should be the lead it seems but he's not due to the wavering focus of the film that actually seems like it's setting up another part as this film is going on. The film itself suffers from its pacing due that wavering perspective, the musical sequences of course, and just slowing down at the wrong moments. That unfortunately dilutes what is the most compelling aspect of the film, that being Siddiqui's performance. As early on Siddiqui is quite moving in reacting to both of the deaths that compel his motivation but also in these moments sets up Faizal as far more an observer of the crimes than a true criminal himself.

In the context of his mother's orders Siddiqui is rather effective in portraying that sort of desperate pride in the son attempting to satisfy his mother. It is less taking over as the gangster but rather just attempting to satisfy his apparent duty as a son. That idea is set up brilliantly at first though I wish the film really let him explore this in more detail. Instead it jumps around focusing on the other players and Faizal's story too often gets lost within the proceedings. We do of course jump back to him attempting to be the master gangster and from scene to scene. Siddiqui's quite good in portraying this growth in the confidence of that side of the man. This goes beyond just normal confidence though as Siddiqui starts to slowly develop even the style fitting to a "proper" gangster. In that he actually naturally begins to develop almost a Scarface esque swagger to his performance as his power seems to grow and he seems to becoming the gang boss his family "needs" him to be. Again what we see of Siddiqui, even when these glimpses are brief, is pretty fascinating I only wish the film did not so often mute this transformation through his focus and pacing. Every moment that you really feel as though the film is going to become more insightful into Faizal's story it cuts away, despite Siddiqui alluding to greater potential when we do see him. The only time the film seems to give him the proper time is in its finale where he and his gang finally fully exact revenge. At the end as they are successful in their revenge but arrested by the police though not is all at it seems. This moment the film finally lingers on Faizal and Siddiqui is rather heartbreaking as he projects all of the emotion that Faizal has kept way leaps to the surface though not in joy rather in sorrow of the man realizing the hollowness of his accomplishment. That moment is great and I wish we had gotten the full arc of this reluctant gangster leading up to that point though Siddiqui gives us the proper pieces through his performance the film doesn't know how to place them. This is a strong performance when it's there, but the film doesn't seem to be aware of what it has.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins in The Cabin in the Woods

Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Gary Sitterson and Steve Hadley respectively in The Cabin in the Woods.

The Cabin in the Woods is an entertaining enough slasher movie satire, though I did rather hate its high school nihilist ending.

The title suggests a standard trope in a horror film as a group of stereotyped teenagers or young adults go into a spooky cabin in the woods for the weekend. That set up though is pre-subverted from just about the outset as the dark credits fitting for a horror film are stopped in favor of two white collar workers at seemingly a government facility talking about their domestic problems. The workers being Sitterson and Hadley played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who perhaps seem a bit out of place to open a slasher film or to even be in one. Richard Jenkins being the always reliable character actor often cast as some sort of official, and Bradley Whitford being perhaps the replacement for William Atherton as often the guy for obnoxious entitlement. The two represent the alternative factor that purposefully sets the film apart as the two men are there to essentially construct the typical horror movie unbeknownst to the five setting off towards the cabin. They are not there merely to set up the story though as the film focuses on their operation of the cabin horrors as much as it does on the denizens of the cabin.

Whitford and Jenkins don't reinvent themselves here the fun actually is in the fact that they play their parts that would be typical to a film that just takes place in some random office building. Both meet their roles so well with Jenkins being sort of the slightly more exasperated sort emphasizing just sort of getting the job done though still with the precision of a consummate professional. Jenkins though is good in just playing it as though setting up the murders is just more or less an average day for Sitterson. Whitford nicely does not duplicate Jenkins though they both very much are the office workers, but Whitford goes for a slightly different angle. In the back and forth with Jenkins particularly early on when they are not even talking about the mission they are nicely on the same wave length of two long time workers who are just shooting the breeze offering equal parts ridicule and support to one another. Their work history is a known factor in this. Now Whitford's performance though differs from Jenkins in that in the work Whitford portrays a more overt investment for Hadley towards the the mission not terms of it being a success, but rather in terms of the fun that can be had from it.

Now the humor of the satire most often comes from these two playing their parts in this way with Jenkins's reaction of often complete disinterest at the various events, while Whitford is often very funny his rather skewed interests particularly in his sorrowful face at seeing once again that the cabin will not be attacked by mermen. Of course even that Whitford does not portray as a major heartbreak just sort of the disappointment like if his boss had cancelled free pretzel day. The only time they break this darkly humorous state of pseudo-contentment is when something goes wrong that requires an immediate fix such as when they have to prevent the survivors from escaping through tunnel. Jenkins is particularly effective in these moments though as he portrays Sitterson wake up and get into gear as the absolute best professional he can be if the situation calls for it. Whitford though is equally good though showing the general, less helpful, frustrations of guy whose jobs has become a lot harder. The two of them consistently enliven the film with their presence of offering such a different type of performer in the slasher film, that I found to be easily the most enjoyable part of the film. Any moment they try not to waste. The highlight for me is probably in Whitford's performance late in the film, as all hell is breaking through almost literally, when finally a merman appears though not quite at the right time for Hadley. Whitford's reaction though is perfection as he captures awe at perhaps the fortune of finally seeing it then the sheer disbelief of having the misfortune of being in its line of sight. The two of them terrific as the "villains" because they don't play them as villains, even with their blase attitude towards death. They're just guys doing a job, in fact Hadley briefly shows just a bit of sympathy though Whitford plays this as a very distant sort of admiration rather than true sympathy. That lack of exact villainy is partially because they are enjoyable to watch but they also find the right tone. That tone which not only makes their characters work but is also pivotal in creating the right type of satirical bent for the film.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Ronald Cheng in Vulgaria

Ronald Cheng did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tyranosaurus in Vulgaria.

Vulgaria follows the misadventures of a film producer To Wai-cheung (Chapman To) attempting to get a movie made.

The film itself starts out fairly well but flounders as it continues partially due to its leading man, partially due to its wavering tone with these semi-serious moments ill-fitting to the irreverent style of the overall film, and because Ronald Cheng is only in three scenes in the film with two of those scenes being rather brief. His first scene comes as our producer To goes about seeking a Chinese mainland investor to fund his film, unfortunately the man is Tyranosaurus a member of the Triad. Not unfortunately for us though as Cheng is incredibly entertaining in the role offering the flamboyance fitting to the man's name and his over the top manner of dress. Cheng is clearly having a blast but he lets us in on the fun as Tyranosaurus begins as the most gracious of hosts towards To offering him all the strange meats he could dream of. Cheng brings the proper ridiculous swagger to the role of such a gangster who is interested in making a most peculiar film, as everything he does is rather overt though importantly most hilarious. Cheng makes it go even further though in that there is a certain menace in this humor.

That is particularly in the way Cheng depicts the ease in which Tyranosaurus brandishes his gun. He plays it all just as a rather casual thing for the crazy man. Unfortunately for To, Tyranosaurus is easily offended and if one does not eat one of his stomach turning dishes they must commit a bit of bestiality. Now that is most absurd and Cheng's performance brings the best out of it by the conviction he brings in his delivery of the man's madness. Unfortunately Cheng disappears after the sudden conclusion of that scene, to avoid the actual depiction of bestiality,  and we are not graced with his presence again until basically the finale of the film. Thankfully we are given a bit more of him as Cheng continues to derive some comic gold from the material in his portraying such intense disgust at not getting the film he wanted, then later just pure unabashed sleaze as the man takes far too many liberties with one of the actresses at the premiere. Cheng goes all in and is such a delight in this approach. Now here's a film where just about everybody is going over the top. The film would have benefited from a true straight man since Chapman To does a bit too much clowning for his own good. The film also needed a few more comedic performances that worked, but at least there's Ronald Cheng who absolutely succeeds. He's such a fun bit of insanity in his 10 minutes or less of screentime, and I wish the film had given us more of him. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Cillian Murphy in Broken

Cillian Murphy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mike Kiernan in Broken.

Broken is a low key and I found to be rather effective coming of age story set in a pseudo To Kill a Mockingbird framework.

Now it's pseudo in that we do have a lead young female character who goes by a nickname, this time Skunk, who has a brother, given far less focus than in "Mockingbird", a father (Tim Roth) who is a lawyer. Several of these elements though are subverted particularly in the Boo Radley equivalent who in the end is shown to be dangerous in his mental derangement, and the low class father (Rory Kinnear) isn't quite the villain Bob Ewell was in the original film. We also aren't given a real Tom Robinson the closest we get is Cillian Murphy's Mike. We first meet Mike only really in passing at first as Skunk's nanny, Kasia's, boyfriend. Ge is given a more substantial role when it turns out he's Skunk's new school teacher as well. Although Murphy is an actor who often excels at playing the off-beat character or the man in an incredibly tense situation, though I actually liked seeing him here as just an average guy.

There may seem "baiter" roles at hand with Roth's sort of take on Atticus Finch, Robert Emms as the deranged man or Rory Kinnear as the loving yet violent father, who are indeed all good, however even though he's grappling with the least intense material Murphy actually left the strongest impression for me within the confines of his low key character. Murphy in no way tries to change that idea either, but is effective in playing Mike as an unassuming guy who almost accidentally gets caught up in the problems within Skunk's neighborhood. I like the honesty that Murphy brings that just adds a nice bit of life to the proceedings in a character that easily could have been forgotten about. Murphy so naturally realizes the various sides of Mike that Skunk sees him in. He brings the right type of awkwardness in this as Murphy shows sort of the strain as he attempts to be the proper teacher while still having these casual moments though suggesting the the sort of friend he has been in the past.

Murphy's performance actually brings in a nice bit of humor to the film though in a way that is natural to the overall tone of the film. For example his wordless hapless reaction to hearing a not so pleasant message from Kasia delivered by Skunk. Murphy is such an enjoyable yet understandable luckless guy here. Murphy brings the right likability through his earnest approach such as in his scene where Mike saves Skunk from harassment by the local bullies, the daughters of the Bob Ewell equivalent. Murphy in the scene does not command much of anything but he is so good at showing just the most noble intent in Mike as he tries to help. This unfortunately for Mike leads to him being accused of rape by one of the daughters followed up by a sudden severe beating by her father. Murphy somehow makes this somewhat amusing despite the severity of it by in his genuine reactions that show just how taken aback Mike is by it all. He further avoids melodrama even as he chews out Skunk's father for helping him, since Kasia is now seeing him instead, because he captures that undercurrent of comical disbelief with the very real emotion of his strange situation. Furthermore he is even moving as Murphy brings such vulnerability in Mike's later phone call to apologize for his behavior. This performance is notable because he essentially gives Mike a reason for being in the movie since he technically could have been eliminated. Murphy gives Mike purpose by offering the right depth in his little side story that is quietly humorous yet still sympathetic as just the wrong man in more than one way.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Thomas Bo Larsen in The Hunt

Thomas Bo Larsen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Theo in The Hunt.

One of the major reasons The Hunt is such a powerful film is how convincing it is in realizing its scenario of this kindergarten teacher Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) being ostracized and demonized due to false allegations of sexual abuse. In this it seeks no simplification even though Lucas is clearly innocent the whole time. The film though does not seek to create the accusers and the believers of the accusations into villains. This includes the pivotal role of Theo played by Thomas Bo Larsen who not only is the father of Klara the girl who first claims to have been abused by Lucas, but also happens to be Lucas's best friend. In the early scene Bo Larsen's good just by being convincing at being a normal guy. He has such a natural chemistry with Mikkelsen, as I love the way they sort of have that casual way of fooling around with one another fitting to a rich friendship, and the earnest warmth Bo Larsen brings in his delivery when Theo asks Lucas about custody of his son.

There's one scene that is technically outside of directly interacting with Lucas where it is a tender moment between Theo and his wife. I love the moment because of just how authentic it feels between the two of them and how honestly it just offers a real history outside of the confines. The film excels, amplified by these performances, because it never feels constricted by the central element. That is of course a pivotal factor but as with Bo Larsen's performance there is so much more than that to the community we see, and the people meet that makes the degradation of it all the more powerful. This degradation comes when Klara lies about Lucas's actions, which leads to a sort of hysteria as everyone start to believe it. This isn't simplified which is well shown through Bo Larsen's performance when Lucas comes to attempt to explain things to Theo.  Bo Larsen is brilliant as he creates the complexity of Theo's belief because he actually portrays this conflicting feeling, a wish to disbelieve the act of his friend yet the heartbreak of accepting that something horrible was done to his daughter. He manages to make sense of the belief of the lie and actually creates sympathy for the man even though we know he's wrong.

Bo Larsen's work helps to importantly make the situation all  the more convincing and honestly are the more heartbreaking. There's a scene later on where Theo speaks with Lucas's son Marcus. Again Bo Larsen finds the nuance of the past within situation as he portrays the underlying desire to reach out as the old friend and help while though offering the cold distress, and tension of man still pained by what he believes has been done to his daughter. This eventually leads to the Christmas Eve Church scene which is the highlight of Mikkelsen's masterful performance. In On the Waterfront one should never dismiss Rod Steiger's contribution to the taxi cab scene most noted for Marlon Brando's performance, nor should one dismiss Phillip Seymour Hoffman's incredible work in the processing scene in The Master though Joaquin Phoenix may leave the strongest impression, and one should not forget Thomas Bo Larsen's contribution in this scene. Bo Larsen's own reactions are essential to the power of the scene as he subtly alludes to Theo coming to grips with a certain shame, and understanding of what he has done to his friend. His final reaction when Lucas stares right at him is particularly effective as Bo Larsen shows that Theo has nothing to say for himself in this realization. This leads soon to an incredibly moving scene where Theo admits his mistake, and this is because Bo Larsen earns this so much as in the sort of spoken realization the years of their friendship and the pain of his mistake is so deeply felt in his face and his words. Thomas Bo Larsen's role overall is limited yet critical to the film. His work not only makes the town's forgiveness of Lucas believable but also very poignant. His screentime is limited but within it he importantly adds so much to the film by granting the needed complexity and really humanity to those who turn on Lucas so brutally.  

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012

And the Nominees Were Not:

Bradley Whitford in The Cabin in the Woods

Richard Jenkins in The Cabin in the Woods 

Thomas Bo Larsen in The Hunt

Cillian Murphy in Broken

Ronald Cheng in Vulgaria

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2

For Prediction Purposes:

Whitford in The Cabin in the Woods

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Results

5. Tom Courtenay in Quartet - Courtenay rises above his material and offers some dignity in his portrayal of an aging musician still holding a grudge.

Best Scene: The church.
4. Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio - Jones amplifies the best elements of his film through his unique and compelling portrayal of a man in a strange purgatory.

Best Scene: Calling the airline.
3. Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair - In his second best leading turn of the year Mikkelsen gives a charismatic and moving portrayal of a decent man trying to play the game of the royal court for good.

Best Scene: The Execution.
2. Mathias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone - Schoenaerts gives another great physical turn this time as a man who finds solace in connections yet fails to understand them.

Best Scene: Saving Sam.
1. Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt - Good predictions Omar, Giuseppe, Luke, Robert, Charles, Anonymous, Jackiboyz, RatedRStar, Michael Patison, Tahmeed, Varun, moviefilm, and Alex. Well of course Mikkelsen was easily my favorite of these five, though good performances all. Mikkelsen though is on another level here and the only performance that can stand against his work here is Joaquin Phoenix's equally impressive work in The Master. Phoenix's work as the broken man trying to find some sort of path against Mikkelsen's work as the normal man going through a terrible situation. Each are compelling in their own way, and each have their own set of challenges which they both surpass at every turn. Both are two of the greatest performances I've ever seen, and since I am pained to choose right I apologize in advance. 

Best Scene: The Church. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2012 Supporting

Friday, 5 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Tom Courtenay in Quartet

Tom Courtenay did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Reginald "Reg" Paget in Quartet.

Quartet is a tad cornball film about an aging quartet of opera singers coming back together to sing in a concert to save their retirement home for musicians.

Tom Courtenay has fairly recently began reappearing in films after disappearing almost for the entirety of the seventies, purposefully apparently to focus on the stage, after his stellar run in sixties. Courtenay began some sparse appearances though but now is having regular appearances again. Well that is much appreciated to see Courtenay in films again particularly in this film. This film overall just lays on the cheese a little thickly through the unfortunately somewhat cloying performances of some of the cast, and the choices by director Dustin Hoffman to treat perhaps everything a little too lightly. Thankfully there is Courtenay to add a bit of grumpiness to the film, and actually what I mean by that is more realistic grumpiness not sort of that, sweet grumpiness that would be quite intolerable in this film. Courtenay actually bothers to try to infuse any pathos into the proceedings through his depiction of Reg's disposition from hearing that his former wife, Jean (Maggie Smith), is coming to live at the retirement home as well.

Courtenay is actually willing to take the further step as in his initial reactions to see her and in his repeated refusals to even speak to her for a more than a few words. Courtenay in these moments does not sweeten this by any mean offering some real anguish within his harsh turns away, and years of holding a grudge in his cold refusals. Reg's attitude comes from Jean having cheated on him many years ago and Courtenay actually conveys that sense of betrayal in these interactions. He grants them though, even in the initial reaction, more complexity than that. In that Courtenay is able to express the sort of particular sort of damage within Reg's view. As Courtenay expresses the past affection within the current bitterness. Courtenay attempts to actually convey the years of holding this in through these scenes something that is sorely lacking in the other problems depicted by most of the other cast members which are boiled down to basically a cutesy eccentricity.

The film though perhaps wish to get their leads in on the goofiness of the elements outside of them, Courtenay in a scene where Reg is trying to teach opera to hip teenagers. Courtenay though manages to keep his dignity intact with this scene, and even offer a bit of dignity to the film in the process. Courtenay does this by offering just the right quiet passion in his delivery as he speaks of the power of opera, and as well even makes the right mild curiosity not seem ridiculous when the conversation turns to rap. The same goes for a scene where Reg curses out one of the employees of the retirement home which is all set up to be overly cloying but Courtenay actually delivers the insults with enough venom to keep from being so. Courtenay strives to find some reality in the situation and develop a character with Reg not just a set of quirks of an older person. Courtenay succeeds in this even when the film battles him at every turn.

The most severe challenge in this regard is perhaps in Reg's forgiveness of Jean which feels sort of rushed. It isn't quite dealt with as one would imagine it should be either, they just kind of work through it. This is all done rather quickly with little to no major problems. Courtenay to his credit once again though does make it work though by in those cold scenes suggesting again that underlying affection and just slowly showing that comes out again. He makes it a natural progression mainly through his performance and through his chemistry with Smith which is endearing enough. The film though is in a rush to get to his disappointing ending, where obviously they shouldn't have made it about opera singers. Courtenay's performance here made me wish he had given a part with more depth because he does find depth in what is a paper thin role. He does his best to bring the best out of the material. I wish he was in a better film but I will say he made this a better film through his performance.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt

Mads Mikkelsen did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes, for portraying Lucas in The Hunt.

The Hunt is an excellent film about a school teacher being accused of sexual abuse.

The second leading turn from 2012 for Mads Mikkelsen comes in a modern set piece where rather than playing a doctor who changes a kingdom he plays a rather normal man, which is also in contrast to his supporting roles in his English Language films where he is so often cast as the villain. Mikkelsen gives an appropriately unassuming performance in the early scenes as we see Lucas go about his day as a kindergarten teacher. There is something about this performance, even as Mikkelsen is just establishing Lucas as this likable normal guy. In that there is effortlessness to the point that it seems we are observing a man never a character. Mikkelsen though is equally at ease in how captivating he is all the same. There is nothing that Mikkelsen is doing other than representing an honest normal person but it is utterly transfixing. It is difficult to see where even to begin in terms of what Mikkelsen is doing that is so special even at this stage of his performance. His work though transcends any acting in a way that is fascinating but also pivotal to his role.

Mikkelsen's work makes us familiar with this man in the bit of joy he gets with working with the kids, but also the sense of responsibility with them as well. He allows us to learn of his dynamic with his friends as the somewhat shy, but outgoing enough member of the group. Mikkelsen's turn just is rich with history in that we have seem to come into observing this man's life at a random point. Mikkelsen, depending on with whom he is interacting with, says so much whether it is the comfort with his best friend Theo, or his slightly awkward yet charming in his own way flirting with his co-worker Nadja with whom he starts a relationships with. Mikkelsen allows such an investment into Lucas even as there is only one major difficulty in his life early on. It is again such remarkable work in how well realized Mikkelsen makes Lucas, yet without seeming attempting to enforce the viewer to notice, but one must when watching the film. The one major difficultly that we do see early is Lucas's inability to see his son, as he attempts to negotiate with his ex-wife to be able to have more days of custody with him.

In the phone calls to his wife though Mikkelsen is incredibly moving as in his words and the urgency he depicts the love Lucas has for his son. The honesty to his simple desire to just see him and spend time him is so eloquently found by Mikkelsen's performance. One does not see his son for quite some time into the film yet you want him to be able to because of Mikkelsen's heartfelt work. A far greater trouble comes unexpectedly due to Theo's young daughter, Klara, developing a crush on Lucas, which she attempts to act upon by giving Lucas a gift and kissing him on the lips. Mikkelsen's terrific in the way he is able to find the complexity in this relationship when Lucas has to put a stop to her behavior. In that he grants the right assertiveness yet warmth as he just attempts to tell her why it is not appropriate behavior. Again the depth Mikkelsen finds is notable though as there is nothing that only stands on the surface in his work. In this Mikkelsen creates the difficulty in the relationship by showing Lucas's affection as real, though entirely proper, which is misinterpreted by the young girl.

This leads Klara to make up a false story about Lucas having sexually molested her, which the head of the school believes. Mikkelsen importantly is able to convey how the lie actually grows all the more through Lucas's initial reaction, as he makes it such an honest moment of sheer disbelief that he doesn't deny only because he doesn't believe anyone could believe it. Mikkelsen portrays the lack of weight it initially has on Lucas's mind as he has Lucas go on basically as normal, since he knows there is no truth to the charge. The charge grows though which Lucas discovers first by discovering he can see his son leading him to go confront the head of the school. Mikkelsen is outstanding in the way his performance works two fold in that on one side, from the audiences view there can be such sympathy, while conveying also the way Lucas does not help himself in a natural way. Mikkelsen presents such earned outrage at the very notion, since he knows it is an absolute lie. He expresses this without reservation that reveals his anguish over not seeing his son due to the head of the school calling his wife, but it also shows how this indirectly does no endear himself to those around him.

The lies only grow which leads to a sort of hysteria among both the parents and children as they start accusing him of having abused multiple children. Mikkelsen is outstanding in capturing the intensity of the situation and Lucas's attempt to deal with the situation. Again how vividly he has already realized him makes these scenes all the more effective. Again though he shows so well that anger connected with people so easily believing the lie about him, and there's a great scene where he purposefully makes Nadja leave him because she shows any doubt on the matter. Mikkelsen though makes the action not only understandable but also powerful since within the anger he is able to attach to the turmoil in the man from being doubted over such a severe crime. When Lucas goes to attempt to speak anyone including in his friend Theo and his family who already begin by treating him as a convicted criminal, Mikkelsen finds such poignancy and pain there as he so gently delivers Lucas's earnest attempt to clear himself of the wrongdoing yet it falls upon the deaf ears due to the emotional state of his former friends.

Lucas's ostracized by his friends and criminal charges are even created by the false testimonies of the school children. There is a bit of happiness though as he is reunited with his son Marcus, and these moments are particularly affecting by how honest Mikkelsen realizes Lucas's joy at seeing his son with making the connection between the two wholly genuine. The reunion though is bittersweet though as Lucas is at first arrested, but even after he is released he faces harassment from the townspeople. This goes further than being ostracized by everyone except his own family as his window is smashed, he is attacked at the supermarket and his dog is murdered. Mikkelsen is amazing the way he is able to reflect Lucas taking in this abuse, as he shows him trying to stay above it in a way, but everything that happens still deeply hurts him. Mikkelsen wears this damage so powerfully as he shows the man just barely keeping it together with so many horrible things happening to him. Mikkelsen makes the moments of resilience carry such an impact after given such detail to the pain. In the supermarket scene for example where Mikkelsen ensure you feel every hit he receives from the aggressors yet makes the determination in Lucas believable when he goes back in to face his attackers. Mikkelsen is able to convey the way the modest Lucas breaks out of that modesty as a necessity of the confrontation and in doing so creates such a satisfying moment when he achieves his minor victory. However even after that moment Mikkelsen reveals the very real sorrow in Lucas when he has walked away from the crowd, giving the man forced to live solemnly by a community that has abandoned him.

This comes to a head when Lucas attends the Christmas Eve church service despite the hatred the town has for him. Now this scene, I'll admit from the outset is one of the best pieces of acting I've ever seen. In the scene Lucas sits in the front of the church alone watching the service paying attention to Theo in the congregation and his daughter in the choir. What happens next has allowed Mads Mikkelsen in this film to join the ranks of Richard Jordan in Gettysburg, and Dana Andrews in The Ox-Bow Incident, in that though I've never cried from a film I came very very close watching this scene. Mikkelsen is devastating as he reveals all of the trauma he's received in his emotional breakdown that is raw and absolutely heartbreaking. There are two moments where he turns to look directly at Theo and Mikkelsen again captures so much ache in a glance. His eyes say so much of what Lucas has been through and the sense of betrayal by being judged by his friend so swiftly. Mikkelsen is outstanding, as Lucas directly confronts Theo, by being such a mess fitting to a man who has had his life ruined by a lie. Mikkelsen has it all come out in such way that it so harrowing to witness. It goes even further as Mikkelsen makes it convincing that this show of emotion would make Theo reexamine his judgment. I'll admit I needed this film to have a happy ending, which does, mostly. The reason being Mikkelsen's stunning work that made me empathize with Lucas to such an extent. There is no limitation because of the fact that Lucas is a pretty normal guy outside of the central lie by how evocative and complex of a portrayal this is of a normal person. Mikkelsen gives an all time great performance as this is an example where I did not feel I was watching a character, but rather was just allowed to see this man bare his terrible burden.