Monday, 31 July 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1954: Alec Guinness in The Detective

Alec Guinness did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Father Brown in The Detective.

The Detective is a rather enjoyable about a priest who is also an amateur sleuth attempting to stop a notorious thief.

The film itself lives and dies on the shoulders of Alec Guinness, and a bit on Peter Finch, as Father Brown. This is again Guinness, very notable within the time, going for a sort of chameleon style of performance. Not through overt makeup or anything, just through his performance. Now Guinness previously played a priest in Kind Hearts and Coronets, also directed by Robert Hamer, again in a bit of a disappearing act. Guinness though finds yet another unique characterization in his creation of Father Brown. Guinness begins with his alteration of his accent just ever so slightly, that just seems so fitting to a beloved sort of local priest. Guinness though continues in his physical manner that is all his own here, as even specific behavior, such as a moment of imagination, Guinness fashions something unique to his Father Brown. As typical for Guinness though he's both incredibly consistent in the mannerisms he grants to his character, and perhaps more importantly he makes this feel wholly natural to the role. It not only feels natural to the role, but it succeeds in amplifying it as you just feel you're with Father Brown after a few scenes with Guinness.

Guinness is especially important to making this character work as there are several elements that need to be made sense of. Guinness on the first aspect must be the sleuth of course for any good mystery, or crime film of this sort. Well, as he showed to an even further extent in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Guinness is a master of the incisive stare. Guinness though does this in a rather fascinating way here as there is a softness within this in a strange way that seems just right for the character. Guinness though provides sort of that detectives spark of intuition in his work so well through he sheer energy he brings as Brown goes about trying to solve case. Of course none of this is at the expense of his portrayal of Brown as a priest either though. Guinness in the moments where Brown must fulfill his role in a sermon or in providing guidance to a parishioner, Guinness offers that grace and dignity within his performance which does not at all seem at odds with the rest of his performance. Guinness rather shows very directly though that Brown is one man, but even he is technically aware that he is a professional priest, but not quite a professional detective.

Now the priest being a detective may seem a touch far out, but Guinness even makes this absolutely work through his approach. The idea is quite mad after all as shown in the opening scene where he arrested after returning stolen goods for one of his flock, and Guinness plays into this so effectively. Guinness does this by bringing a bit of madness into his performance, now not that he is psychotic or anything like that but Guinness brings the right eccentric kookiness to the role. Guinness makes this an essential motivation for his performance actually. In that he makes that sort of insanity a part of who Brown is and this is needed to partially make sense of the man. He is a bit off his rocker and Guinness uses this without compromising the character in the slightest. Again Guinness uses this to amplify him so well by creating an understanding in his viewpoint even if it is more than a little atypical to say the least. Guinness makes the whole central concept work by playing into that it is somewhat ridiculous but never making fun of it either. He instead makes Brown a man capable of being what he is which includes being not quite the most normal priest.

A major difference between Brown and most amateur sleuths though is his intentions. He intends to stop criminals, but that is not his primary intention as he first and foremost desires to save their souls. The central plot follows Brown as he wishes to stop the thief Flambeau (Finch) by not having him arrested, rather by trying to convince him to move towards a more righteous path. This is an element that Guinness properly offers a great deal gravity to and properly takes the most seriously. Guinness as he describes his purpose offers the strongest passion within his work, by creating such an honesty to Brown's words to help who he sees as a man lost. I would be remiss though not to also mention Finch who also gives a very effective performance and makes for a great scene partner with Guinness here. In that both together help to grant a certain reality to the idea of stopping the thief by convincing him that his life path is wrong, rather than sending him to prison. The two are great because both actually provide such an earnest conviction to their points of view. Finch bringing a proper cynicism which is so well counted by Guinness who manages to deliver Brown's speeches with grounded idealism. The certainty that Guinness brings not only is powerful but almost rather profound. Guinness makes an especially strong impact in their final confrontation as he delicately explains the way Flambeau has set up his own private prison. Guinness refuses any smugness yet rather brings this tender concern and warmth, showing Brown's attack on the man's life as an act of unconditional love.

Of course as much as Guinness excels in every facet of the character and making Father Brown a cohesive whole, it must also be said that this is just an incredibly entertaining performance to watch. Guinness is prime Guinness here which means it is just fun to watch him work, and he enlivens every scene with his mere presence. Whether it is trying out his various wrestling holds, or coming up with his own new plot to catch Flambeau Guinness is effortlessly engaging. Guinness is just an enjoyable detective and tha kind of would have been enough for this to be a very good performance, but he does go more than a few steps beyond that. As this is a brilliant realization of what is really a tricky character. It would have been easy to make him feel too sanctimonious, too bland or even annoying. Guinness not only avoids any such pitfalls he instead merges the threads of the character to make a single compelling figure for us to follow through his story. He is indeed the efficient detective, he is indeed the devoted priest, he even is just barmy enough to connect those two things, yet only makes the task of the man an absolutely endearing ideal. This is wonderful work from the always exceptional Guinness, and it's a bit of a shame that he never once returned to the role. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1954: Anthony Quinn in La Strada

Anthony Quinn did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Zampanò the strongman in La Strada.

La Strada is a great film by Federico Fellini which focuses upon a poor girl's, Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), travels with a circus performer she's sold to.

Anthony Quinn plays that performer, and typically to western actors in foreign films he is dubbed so we unfortunately are not granted Quinn's booming voice which sadly would've have been especially fitting to this character. Luckily though this is a very physical performance, and Quinn is a very physical actor. In terms of casting Quinn is a perfect fit for the role as the circus strong man, but also everything that Zampanò represents. Fellini evidently described the character as representing the earth and we can see essentially that sort of grit from Quinn in his opening frame. Any high flying ideals are non-existent in Quinn's portrayal from the outset as he takes on Gelsomina Quinn exudes the general disinterest in her setting up quite obviously that Zampanò is only taking her on as necessity rather than any real desire. Quinn's expression hold the right discontent with this woman who seems to be looking for more out of life. Quinn on the other hand paints a man who is very much part of the darker side of life, and though perhaps he is not truly content with this in that he isn't exactly happy, yet he seems to help create this state of mind.

Quinn's work most often provides a striking contrast to the purity of Masina's Gelsomina. Zampanò is anything but that with Quinn accentuating this harshness though not overplaying it. Quinn rather than emphasizing an active sadism towards her portrays Zampanò treating her mostly as some sort of nuisance that he has to put up with. That is not to say that Quinn's approach is not at all cruel, in fact there is a distinct cruelty within just how little regard Quinn expresses in Zampanò's treatment of her. When he hits her with a switch in order to properly play the drums for his act Quinn's whole manner is less of a man mistreating this woman, but rather almost like he's trying to get a dog to learn a trick. We are given a slightly different side to the strong man when he is performing as such, and Quinn's terrific in these scenes in presenting the showman if only a for the few minutes while the act is going on. Those  moments arethe few times he doesn't seem tired with life, although just right after the act he returns to just as he was before. Quinn establishes only the slightest bit of joy in his whole being whenever he's finding in any direct satisfaction, such as with a different woman, or the monetary boon from performing his act

Quinn for much of the film is this force of nature that seems unchanging as hardened earth. Quinn brings that quality to life without becoming too symbolic though as he does create a man in the amoral Zampanò. There is nuance in his work, something that comes solely from Quinn, in the scenes as Zampanò keeps retrieving Gelsomina despite his disregard for her. There are hints of just a bit of remorse in Quinn's eyes, yet he reflects this as only a hint that never overtakes him long enough to become a good man for even a moment. Eventually the two also meet another performer, the fool (Richard Basehart) who purposefully pesters Zampanò for an unknown reason. Now in these interactions Quinn is more direct in presenting Zampanò's viciousness yet even this is shown as instinctual more than anything. As when Zampanò takes things too far Quinn depiction of the attack is that of careless bullying than real hatred. That act leads Zampanò to finally abandon Gelosomina, and though Quinn was the secondary lead for most of the film he becomes the primary lead in the last few scenes. Quinn is excellent in these scenes as he takes just that hint of remorse he brought in the earlier moments with Masina, to naturally reveal a man finally facing his actions. Quinn is honestly heartbreaking in portraying this man essentially writhing in his past actions, so effectively depicting this palatable anguish as the man who no longer can get by simply by not feeling. This is a terrific performance by Anthony Quinn, as even though we don't hear his voice, he makes a considerable impact on the film realizing the simplicity of the man without making this a simplistic performance.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1954: Fredric March in Executive Suite

Fredric March did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Loren Phineas Shaw in Executive Suite.

Executive Suite is a rather effective drama about the power struggle that ensues in a successful company after their president dies without leaving an obvious successor.

Executive Suite follows the several vice presidents of the company dealing with the calamity. The two strongest figures shown in the film are William Holden's McDonald "Don" Wallin against March's Shaw. Now March's performance is essential to the film in more ways than you may initially expect. Now on one hand this is simply an engaging performance, as March tends to be when he dials it back a bit playing to his strengths as a performer. That is what March does here as he carries his very distinct and assured presence to the role of Shaw. March brings that confidence to the role to create Shaw as a powerful figure in the company. March is innately compelling here as he offers such an efficiency in his performance, so rarely wasting time on the wrong emotions which is quite fitting to his character. This is part of March's performance which is always very much on point and straight forward in a remarkable way. In that there is nothing dull in this as March in particular makes the technical dialogue involving the company not only effortless in his delivery yet always comprehensible. When in the early scenes of the film Shaw figures out what happens and takes immediate action, March brings an incisiveness not only in words but also through his very assured physical body language as he carefully breaks down the reasoning behind his actions.

Now this is where March's performance though goes beyond in terms of how it amplifies the film. There are elements to the film that could have made it potentially into a more hamfisted morality play particularly in the role of Shaw. March's work is what avoids this problem. It would easy to imagine Shaw being made into an overt villain, but March wisely avoids this and in turn avoids simplifying the drama. March importantly always plays the role as a man who believes he is doing the right thing throughout the film. Again in that early scene where he establishes basically his authority, where technically Shaw is just assuring that the company will not collapse, March presents a confidant man yet not an egotistical one as he could have been here. There is a sense of righteousness but not a sanctimonious self-righteousness. March brings what is a genuine passion within his words that reflect the will of a man who is looking beyond himself even as he does take steps to try to secure his position as president. When he's making his moves within the story Shaw moves with precision but again March plays these scenes by emphasizing how Shaw working towards his goal. When he negotiates even with the less savory men of the company, March delivers his lines in a direct fashion again reinforcing that this is not a game to Shaw, but something he feels must be done.

The plot comes to a head with the final voting to determine who will be the next president and what their exact vision for the company is. Shaw offers his vision which is essentially to keep things as they are but in doing so ensuring the greatest dividends to their stockholders. In this explanation March gives it all the sincerity and certainty of a seasoned and intelligent businessman. There is no purposeful stubbornness in March's approach but a very direct earnestness behind the explanation. Now this is a low key earnestness to be sure, but March uses that so well to give his view that paints Shaw as a reasonable man who wants what he believes to be best for the company. Even as the first vote does not exactly go his way March is very good in revealing a bit more emotion in Shaw. March even in this stays true to his approach and plays this emotion most strongly as a quiet frustration that they are making things more difficult for the company. I particularly like his scene with Louis Calhern's more amoral board member, where March just presents such a genuine disbelief that the fool would sabotage his own desires by voting against him. March portrays no real anger, but rather reinforces the nature of Shaw by only being confused by the man's actions. When Holden's Don presents his view with a stirring speech, March earns the acceptance in Shaw due to his reactions not being of a man being defeated but rather taking in the idea and seeing that they could work towards the success of the company. March's performance here keeps the film from becoming too black and white by providing a real opposition to what becomes the final message. He never allows Shaw to be a straw man by not only delivering his view as a reasonable alternative but also creating three dimensional character who is merely doing what he believes is the right.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1954: Jean Gabin in Touchez Pas Au Grisbi

Jean Gabin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Max in Touchez Pas Au Grisbi.

Touchez Pas Au Grisbi is a terrific crime thriller about an aging gangster who must come out of retirement after a rival gangster goes after his best friend and old partner in crime in order to ransom for an old score of theirs.

Jean Gabin fulfills what must be one of the earliest examples of the now well worn trope of the older man who has to come back for just one more job. Gabin, in what was apparently was his post-war comeback role, is a prime figure to fulfill such a role. This film came several years after his suave work in Pepe Le Moko, but Gabin did not lose a step in that time. In the early scenes, and really throughout the film, we do get plenty of classic smooth Gabin. Gabin once again just has this effortlessness in his presence here and just exudes the confidence of the character. This is a seasoned Gabin though and it seems like he even needs to try even less than he did in his earlier roles. Of course this is Gabin making it look so easy which is all the more notable here as Max is the ladies man to every woman in the general vicinity, and Gabin enables this to be wholly convincing. Again Gabin brings this charm with such ease that is perfect for this role as he presents a man who has just be on top of the world for many years, and this comes off him in a way that makes it so evident why he is such an appealing figure to just about everyone. Gabin sets his place at the head of the table without question.

Gabin though carefully compromises his role, in that obviously that confidence is something that is there and always evident yet he is aware of that even within the character in the right way. Gabin does not hide his age which works so well for the character who does not hide it on his own. Gabin though somehow makes himself seem all the more assured though in the way he delivers his lines about just wanting to retire early in the night, or his "I'm too old for this" type of lines. He has those in the film yet Gabin delivers them not as a man who is not unhappy about this, but rather is entirely content in this. There is a comfort in the age that Gabin presents that somehow only gives the character a greater inherent strength because of it. Gabin shows a man who simply know how to age, and some of his power seems to come from how well he is accommodate to himself essentially. In the first act Gabin has that needed presence as he does the little work he still deals with and Gabin makes Max the man at the top of his craft even in retirement. Again he could be the definition of smooth of how he creates in Max that skill of a master setting up the man who is at ease in his life, and someone who should never be taken lightly.

Unfortunately a younger gangster does try to force Max out of his semi-retirement by launching a plot involving kidnapping his old partner Riton (Rene Dary) in order to extort the considerable loot from an old heist. Once the plot starts, matching the perhaps less films that would come later, Max reveals his particular set of skills. Gabin, despite already seeming such a confident and strong figure manages to take it even further in these scenes. Gabin in these scenes, as Max breaks down the situation and goes about taking down his opponents, reminded me a bit of Alain Delon in Le Samourai or even more fittingly Albert Finney in Miller's Crossing. In that Gabin just in his physical manner is this man who apparently was born for this life and was destined to be a gangster. In every moment Gabin offers that complete control and even a certain thrill of it. Gabin shows Max technically exactly where he should be as he goes about defeating his much younger opponents. This is not merely Gabin being well, cool, there is more to the role in regards to his relationship with Riton. Although Max derides him early Gabin delivers these lines with the utmost warmth actually showing the very strong soft spot that Max has for his old partner, and a genuine love within the gangster. This carries the right underlying poignancy through the story as Gabin emphasizes that this goes further than business for him. Gabin holds onto this idea so effectively building towards his final moment in the film which is this nuanced but oh so powerful reaction where Gabin so subtly reveals Max's quiet sorrow due to the events of the film. This is a great performance by Jean Gabin as he perhaps set the initial standard for the badass ready for just "one more job".

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1954: George Sanders in Journey to Italy

George Sanders did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alexander 'Alex' Joyce in Journey to Italy.

Journey to Italy is almost an anti-Roman Holiday about a couple whose marriage becomes increasingly strained as they vacation in Italy.

George Sanders is best known for his purring villains, whether or not he is playing a literal feline, or at the very least he is an intellectual sort with a biting wit whether or not he's even a sympathetic sort. This performance is again in that vein yet what we see of him here is different from those earlier performances. In that Sanders here is playing a man in a more modest situation with his wife Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) as they travel abroad. Sanders in many ways gives the performance you'd expect from him in that he is his usual suave self particularly when Alex and Katherine are among others. He has that certain wit about him and is properly as Sanders should be. This takes on a different shade though when the two are alone together or alone separately. In that Sanders's has this certain misery within that behavior, his statements being particularly caustic, emphasized as such by Sanders's delivery which lacks that certain joy in the cynicism found in his most of his work. This performance Sanders presents more of such a man that you get to know both when he is "on" in front of the crowd and off when alone with his wife.

Sanders's style is effectively subverted in these moments as we see him essentially as Katherine does which is as the excessively cynical sort, and this is one of the most painful marks on their relationship. Their interactions are notable for their broken chemistry of sorts as they only seem to connect in minor instances of social interaction, or when they are being more directly critical of one another. They lack any real warmth, but what Sanders and Bergman do though is capture this specific sort of coldness. It is not of two people wholly without a history rather there is a familiarity in this but an unpleasant familiarity represented often in a mutual disinterest or an unease in recognizing the faults they see in one another. The film breaks them apart where we see each going off their own where perhaps Bergman is allowed to create a bit more insight into her character partially because she speaks to herself. Sanders does have a few scenes though where we see him pondering a potential affair with a local. These scenes do feel a touch limited at times, and perhaps there was an intentional vapidness in Sanders's work. They don't leave the same impact though in Bergman's similair scenes where we seem to come to understand Katherine more than we do Alex.

Eventually the two troubles come to a head in their final day in Italy. Again this is where Sanders shines along with Bergman for that matter as they so well capture this certain vicious sniping the each make towards one another as the final conflict builds in that day. They once more capture the mutual stress in these moments, and their delivery works as this sudden messy outpouring of frustrations against one another. They work so well in creating this dissolution though along with their sudden switching to basically appease their hosts as their tour continues. The two find the difficulty in their attempts to switch back to their proper social behavior while always conveying their ongoing fight is still weighing on their minds. This eventually leads to the two getting caught up in a religious procession where suddenly their relationship turns around. Although as written there appears to be something missing there, though perhaps that is the point in that both Bergman and Sanders don't quite make that easy in their performance. The reason being that even as they declare their renewed love of sorts there is something off and desperate in the moment that suggests perhaps it is not as happy of an ending as it might seem. Although there seem something missing in his scenes away from Bergman with her Sanders gives a compelling alternative view of his usual screen persona.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1954

And the Nominees Were Not:

Anthony Quinn in La Strada

Fredric March in Executive Suite

Jean Gabin in Touchez Pas Au Grisbi

George Sanders in Journey to Italy

Alec Guinness in The Detective

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003: Results

5. Park Hai-il in Memories of Murder - A performance that grew on me considerable with a re-watch as it develops another layer as he presents both a guilty and innocent man as the potential serial killer.

Best Scene: Interrogation.
4. Jason Isaacs in Peter Pan - Isaacs is both an effectively meek yet eventually heartwarming Mr. Darling while also being a properly menacing yet entertaining Captain Hook.

Best Scene: Hook tricks Tinkerbell.
3. Bernie Mac in Bad Santa - Mac gives an hilarious portrayal of his straight shooting security chief who isn't exactly completely on the level himself.

Best Scene: "Half"
2. James Caan in Dogville - Caan's performance delivers this remarkable impact for the finale of his film, as he, in only really single scene, not only establishes a long difficult history with Nicole Kidman's Grace, but also realizes his distinct personal philosophy towards the world.

Best Scene: "Arrogance"
1. Yoo Ji-tae in Oldboy - Good predictions Omar and Calvin. Yoo Ji-Tae gives an outstanding performance that offers a most atypical villain for a revenge thriller, and also delivers his own portrayal of his character's own tale of revenge that ends up oddly  trumping the "hero's".

Best Scene: The Elevator.
Update Overall

Next Year: 1954 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003: Park Hae-il in Memories of Murder

Park Hae-il did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Park Hyeon-gyu in Memories of Murder.

Memories of Murder is a brilliant film that follows the search for a serial killer in the South Korean countryside.

Park Hae-il appears rather late into the film as a man who the detectives, Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho) and Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung), believe may be the killer. His connection to the crimes come in a single song he requested that plays on the radio every time the murders occur though it is also every time it rains at night. Park Hae-il's performance as the subject is a very interesting one, and essential to serving his purpose in the film, which is to be a giant question mark. I have to say what he does here is rather remarkable in that his performance actually forces the viewer into the same viewpoint as Detectives Seo and Park find themselves in. In that the first time I watched the film I was convinced that he was guilty. This was through his portrayal of the quiet dispassion that seemed that of psychopath, there was a sinister distance as he answered the questions as guilty man simply thriving on the knowledge that they have no hard evidence against him. However watching the film again his performance plays a different way which is fascinating. That dispassion can be interpreted less as something sinister. It not only can reflect an earned distaste for the police, earned due to the random brutality of one of their members, but also suggests perhaps just an anti-social man living a difficult isolated life.

Park's performance remains though an enigma, yet his work never feels vague in this. Again in the initial viewing his few later scenes, after his initial interrogation, he is off-putting as seeming to be the killer gloating against his foes for their inability to catch him. On re-watch though this can be as easily viewed as a man already living an unpleasant life becoming understandably ill at ease with such severe accusations being made against him. Again it is yet another brilliant element of this film this idea that it make you get caught up in the evidence, the evidence against the man that you believe to be airtight yet becomes much more flimsy once the emotion surrounding it dies down. Of course again in that initial viewing right when you are with the detectives, in all of their frustrations and pain over the case, there is a desire for some sort of closure somewhere, and the only candidates seems in Park's off putting man. It is then easy enough to get caught up in the final confrontation where detective Seo is about to kill the man in cold blood after another murder has taken place. Again Park's turn only seems to encourage this as the unrepentant killer, who admits his guilt only with palatable disdain in the heat of the moment. Again though on re-evaluation Park evokes a real fear in the scene suggesting that perhaps the man is just fearful for his life, though perhaps through his military life he reacts to fear through some external anger rather than falling apart as most would. This is terrific performance as in a few scenes he creates this captivating figure that is mystery one can't quite decipher. He allows either interpretation of his character to be valid, yet is genuine in his performance. It is truly remarkable since his performance makes his character frustrating in the right way. You can't quite get a bead on him as Park leads with a fork in the road as this unpleasant behavior could be of a serial killer, or man who has no affection for the world yet is harmless. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003: Yoo Ji-Tae in Oldboy

Yoo Ji-Tae did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lee Woo-jin in Oldboy.

Oldboy is the second film in Park Chan-wook's thematic revenge trilogy. That revenge on the surface appears to be based around the man Oh Dae-su's (Choi Min-sik) search for the man who imprisoned him for 15 years. Unfortunately for Oh Dae-su the real revenge at the center of the film is not Oh Dae-su's for that man, but rather that man's for Oh Dae-su. That man being Lee Woo-jin played by Yoo Ji-Tae. After Dae-su is released from his strange prolonged prison sentence he slowly received messages from a man, that man being Lee. They are slight initially and as mysterious as the prison itself. We only hear Yoo a few times, and see his eyes in a couple of straightforward messages. We only finally see him in the flesh rather suddenly when he initially appears to be a helpful bystander who offers aid to Dae-su after a fight. It is there where we first see Yoo's bright smile he brings to the role, such a congenial grin as he almost treats Oh Dae-su as this old friend, ensuring that he will survive that violent encounter.

Yoo Ji-Tae's casting and his performance offer quite an atypical villain for the film, as he first off he just does not look like this truly sinister man just by a glance then there is Yoo's portrayal. Yoo does not try to exert an overt menace with his performance, and again in fact there is this certain friendliness at times, though in reality more of a familiarity that Yoo expresses. Yoo does not do this to undercut his performance, no instead it amplifies in the way he creates this truly unique antagonist with Lee. That familiarity ends up being rather off-putting in one way Yoo alludes to the way that Lee knows so much that Dae-su does not, far too much in fact. There is even more though as Yoo suggests something even deeper than that even. Of course this also becomes duplicitous as Yoo makes that smile get under your skin as there is an innate smugness that Yoo brings, which again goes further than just making him this smug snake. Yes that is there, but again Yoo makes it seem all the more sinister since the smugness suggest his complete control of every situation in the film, and is imposing in his own way by creating Lee as this man who almost seems impossible to decipher while he apparently has everything deciphered around him.

Yoo, despite being very consistent in creating this sense of certainty in Lee, he is never one note. There are these brilliant edges he brings to his performance, moments that he uses so effectively to allude to more about Lee's nature and his real relationship with Oh Dae-su. These often are slight moments, where we see a real burning hatred, these are in small moments when he turns away for just a second, in those moments though are usually related to either when Oh Dae-su reveals absolutely no knowledge of why Lee is doing this to him, or later on when he begins to call back the memory. In those times though there is that intensity of a hatred, fitting to a man bent on revenge, yet Yoo takes it further as there a certain somberness in this anger reflecting his sorrow connected to the revenge. Eventually we do learn that Oh Dae-su caused a rumor, a true rumor, that Lee and his sister were having an incestuous relationship which eventually lead to her committing suicide. It is in the final confrontation where the film does reveal that it has always been about Lee's revenge, not Oh Dae-su's.

Lee brings throughout the scene that domination of what could be the noble avenger if it was not so twisted, as he breaks Oh Dae-su down with such confidence revealing his plan of revenge that entails Oh Dae-su unknowingly sleeping with his own daughter. The revelation causes a full mental breakdown in Oh Dae-su that leads him to beg Lee not to reveal the information to his daughter. Yoo is brutally effective by how he controls every moment and reveals what that satisfaction and familiarity came from. As Yoo presented as Lee knowing his plan was working but also conveying a certain connection through their mutual incest. Yoo is amazing in the final moment as he laughs over Oh Dae-su bringing such a joy in a man who has apparently gotten everything he desired, and essentially fulfilled what had become his life goal. Again though since this is his revenge story it ends as so many do in what is my favorite scene in this great performance. That being when Lee enters the elevator to leave Oh Dae-su alone in his misery with that smile of pure elation. Lee though hears recording of the pain of his actions which causes his mind to drift back to his sister's suicide which he was present for. Yoo is heartbreaking in his painful demise of that smile into such anguish, the anguish that is all he is left with after having avenged the death, which naturally leads to his own demise. Yoo Ji-Tae's performance here is outstanding piece of work as he successfully is so unlike what you'd expect from villain in a revenge film, yet also succeeds in creating this idea that Lee is living out his own revenge through his surprisingly poignant though still chilling portrait of a man consumed by vengeance in his own way.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003: Jason Isaacs in Peter Pan

Jason Isaacs did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr. Darling/Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

Peter Pan is a very much forgotten though more than decent big budget and fairly straight forward telling of Peter Pan.

Jason Isaacs as fitting to the tradition of the stage production plays both the role of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. Isaacs seems like someone who ought to have played Captain Hook sometime in his career, but Mr. Darling presents his side shown far less often. Now we are not given too much time with Mr. Darling though Isaacs does manage to make a nice impression in them, in his approach which differs quite strongly from say the Disney version of the character. In that version we have shades of Hook in Mr. Darling before we see Neverland that's not the case for Isaacs. Isaacs plays Mr. Darling as very much a man of Edwardian England, very proper, very meek but with this undeniable earnestness. In his brief moment where we see his frustrations build towards his children, Isaacs actually successfully creates a sympathy, even when being rather humorous, by showing how desperately Mr. Darling wants to impress his employers. Unfortunately the children lead to an embarrassment where Mr. Darling lashes out. Isaacs effectively handles the scene by portraying the frustration as a burst of sudden emotion, that is not purely cruel rather something far more genuine to a man who otherwise loves children.

Of course what we are really waiting for is Isaacs as Captain Hook, which seems perfect casting given Isaacs's perchance for playing evil Englishman. Isaacs though does not merely reprise his Colonel Tavington, which would be far too dark, nor is he even his Lucius Malfoy which would not be quite right for this children's story. Yes the menace is of course there, Isaacs seems to be overjoyed just to be evil at times which comes through. That menace almost seems to be an innate thing and it is merely a given that he fulfills Hook's role as the big bad pirate, but now he goes so much further than that here. Hook is not just any bad guy really there is something more to be had within his various facets, succeeding in those other facets is the true requite for a great Captain Hook. Isaacs sort of having the menace as a given is a great aid as he pivots this to being more than that. In that he brings this certain style of the grand Pirate Captain fitting to the fantastical setting of Neverland. There's this exuberance he brings in his performance, a grandeur of it that has just the right sort of theatrical bent. His Hook isn't just going to kill Peter Pan in his view, he's going to do in a proper flamboyant style.

Isaacs understands the certain pageantry if you will that goes along with the part, which never compromises the needed menace though. He offers both in a properly intimidating though also incredibly entertaining performance. His Hook has the right sense of mischievousness within the more direct villainy. He never allows his Hook to be defined as only the evil pirate, and has so much of the right sort of fun in the role. I have an especially strong affection for portraying the downtrodden, and falsely empathetic Hook who manages to trick Tinkerbell into helping him. Isaacs is properly amusing in his so falsely, yet appropriately earnest delivery of Hook's concern for Peter Pan. Isaacs finds that right balance in his performance in being the villain but doing it in such an enjoyable fashion. This of course also comes heavily into play in Hook's fear of the crocodile who took his Hook. Although this is not given as much focus as the Disney version, Isaacs still is quite funny in portraying the gripping fear in Hook every moment he believes the crocodile is nearby. Isaacs's Hook steals the film with ease, though I will say that is a fairly common occurrence when it comes to Peter Pan. Isaacs is a great Hook though as he balances the part so well to be such almost oddly endearing fiend for the film. Although it is also worth noting his final return as Mr. Darling where Isaacs is actually rather moving in so honestly portraying Mr. Darling's heartfelt apology for his children. His change of heart is entirely earned, since again even before his lashing out Isaacs's reactions were always that of a caring father. Isaacs excels in both roles being a properly sweet Mr. Darling, and a Captain Hook that captures just about all that the great Captain should be.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003: James Caan in Dogville

James Caan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying The Big Man in Dogville.

Dogville follows the dissolution of a secluded town through the town's relationship with a woman hiding from the mob.

The woman, Grace (Nicole Kidman), is running from The Big Man played by James Caan. Caan briefly appears in hand, and in voice early on as a dark figure in the back of a car driven by two men who appear to be mobsters. The voice offers a reward for her whereabouts, but then disappears with his men not to return until the final act of the film. James Caan finally appears as Grace, after having been psychologically and physically abused by the townspeople, goes to see The Big Man who is revealed to be her father. Caan's performance is essential to the film as he has much to fulfill in very little screentime. The first being the sheer presence of a figure known as the Big Man, well this being James Caan him being a believable mobster is basically a given, but it goes beyond that. What Caan must also find is whatever this relationship with Grace is in a few seconds, a relationship that we have had some slight indications of but it is not until now that we see what it truly is.

Caan's performance measures up to these expectations particularly in regards to his relationship with Grace. Kidman and Caan are perfect together as they find this complex relationship between father and daughter in only a few minutes. Caan's fascinating in that he does exude this sort of underlying warmth in the way he speaks to her. There is also the right familiarity between the two  as even in this point of a certain difficulty the history between the two is felt through the performance. There is that apparent love of sorts in Caan's manner as he speaks to her, but this is only a facet of it. Their conversation touches their relationship but it is most dependent on the town as the two speak of essentially their different views of the world and people in particular. Caan's brilliant in his approach as The Big Man explains his view that dogs should not be forgiven of their crimes against Grace's initial belief that they essentially do not know better. Caan dominates the conversation in his portrayal of The Big Man's assurance of this view. There is not an inherent morality in this that Caan portrays but rather he presents it as this innate knowledge and in doing so effectively presents his philosophy to Grace. Caan portrays the Big Man wholly in control of this view, and there is a certain passion through not being directly overt about it, bur rather through that sheer control of it. Now within that conversation, that could have been purely cerebral, it is not. As in the presentation of this view Caan reveals The Big Man's history with grace, in that odd tenderness even if he is giving an apology for having shot at her. Caan makes it all the more personal though in the persuasion is less of some devil tempting her view, but rather there is even almost earnestness to accept his view which is to see the world without any blinders, or at least according to him. Caan is persuasive though again not by showing this to be finally a good man, no one is good within Dogville, but rather someone who appears to stand without a single delusion within the film's world. This is an excellent performance by James Caan as he makes his impact that not only establishes his character, his relationship with Kidman's but also realizes the pivotal denouement for the film.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003: Bernie Mac and John Ritter in Bad Santa

Bernie Mac and John Ritter did not receive an Oscar nominations for portraying Gin Slagel and Bob Chipeska respectively in Bad Santa.

Sadly a connection between these two performances is this marks one of the last performances of both comedic actors who unfortunately both left us far too soon. This at the very least though is a prime chance for both actors to show off their talents. Mac and Ritter play the head of security and manager respectively to the mall that is the next target of Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox) and Willie T. Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) who play the mall elf and
Santa in order to eventually rob the mall. Ritter and Mac play what would appear to be the opposition to this plan although not all goes to plan in that regard. A funny note about Ritter here is this is his follow up collaboration with his friend Billy Bob Thornton, after the far more serious minded Sling Blade. Ritter perhaps is technically more at home here playing the store manager who doesn't quite know what to do with this new Santa, who he hired just for working for less. Ritter's great in portraying Chipeska as perhaps the man least qualified to deal with Willie's manner, right from his initial hilarious horrified reaction in an initial misunderstanding about Willie's sexual performance. Ritter's specific aghast face is a classic when it comes to that sort of reaction as he looks upon Willie, delivering the lines as though he an barely comprehend what has happened as he inquires what's going on.

After his initial introduction Ritter is a diversion that occasional appears that is always quite welcome portraying such a terrific spineless and queasy reaction to everything that Willie is. His other scenes though he shares most often with Mac's Gin who Chipeska asks to investigate Willie. In these scenes Ritter is so effectively nebbish in portraying Chipeska's very weak way of asking for Gin to take on the investigation, so well emphasizing that any taboo matter, which includes the preferred term for a person with dwarfism, with both a moment hesitation and almost indigestion at the thought. Now where Ritter is a marvelous little diversion Mac's role is a bit a more substantial given he may be the one man to be able to stop Marcus and Willie. As with Ritter, Mac is perfectly cast in this role as Gin and overall Mac and Ritter's scenes together are highlights within the film. With Ritter being so hesitant while Mac is so properly straight forward as Gin from his opening line of "Fuckstick?" when pondering about the new Santa. Mac's performance is hilarious in actually being rather no-nonsense despite being obviously funny. This plays so well against Ritter's work which always accentuates the tip toeing that Chipeska is doing, meanwhile Gin cuts right through it without a second thought.

Mac outside of those great scenes portrays Gin as actually rather competent head of security as he quickly discovers not only who Marcus and Willie really are but also what they are up to. As with Ritter, any time we stop by with Gin Mac is a delight in revealing this casual yet somehow intense style of Gin, that is particularly funny to watch whether he is dealing out specific pedicure methods or taking down a young shoplifter by stealing his Mp3 player. Mac finds this certain balance as he's is indeed commanding as a proper officer of the law, but his intention is not exactly equal to that. It is revealed that intention is even worse though when rather than having the two robbers arrested he decides instead to extort them by taking half of their take. Mac's great in the initial vicious dressing down which he controls with the right proper smug assurance. The best moment in this though perhaps coming in negotiation for the take where Mac manages to find about fifteen different ways to say half, making some comedic gold out of saying the same thing over and over again. Unfortunately for Gin ripping the two off is not so easy due to Willie's erratic behavior and Marcus not wanting to be ripped off. Mac so enjoyably loses Gin's earlier assurance in these hiccups portraying the frustrations of Gin so amusingly when he has to keep helping them. I have particular affection for his complete loss of his command when he has to concede to the diminutive Marcus's logic that he physically would not be able to move Willie himself forcing Gin to do it. Mac's work makes the most out of his side story as does Ritter to the point that I would have loved to have seen more of them particularly together. Nevertheless what we do get is more than satisfactory due to the incredible comedic timing of both actors who deliver incredibly entertaining performances that don't waste an ounce of their material.
(For Ritter)
(For Mac)

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003

And the Nominees Were Not:

Bernie Mac in Bad Santa

John Ritter in Bad Santa

James Caan in Dogville

Jason Isaacs in Peter Pan

Yoo Ji-Tae in Oldboy

Park Hae-il in Memories of Murder 

For Prediction Purposes:

Mac from Bad Santa