Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949: Robert Ryan in The Set-Up

Robert Ryan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bill "Stoker" Thompson in The Set-Up.

The Set-Up is a terrific film noir/boxing film that follows a boxing match where everyone is on the fix except for the man who's suppose to take the fall.

Robert Ryan is best known for playing heavies in supporting roles so it is interesting to see him here playing not only the lead but also one of the few characters who is not corrupt in the film. Early on we learn of the setup then we are introduced to Ryan's Stoker as he speaks to his wife Julie (Audrey Totter) before he goes off to fight. One only needs to look at Ryan to see that Stoker is an over the hill boxer as Ryan carries this certain underlying despair in his eyes. Stoker though wishes to fight and even speaks about the fight as a chance to potential greatness in the ring. Ryan is very moving as he carries that despair yet is convincing as Stoker makes such statements. Ryan does not depict this as lying to his wife, but rather unintentionally lying to himself. In his delivery Ryan doesn't invoke really a hope but rather this desperate need for a hope in every statement. Ryan reveals this man just trying to put himself in this optimistic mindset despite always reinforcing that underneath Stoker's feelings of doubt are probably as stronger if not stronger than his wife's. Ryan setups so effectively the state of Stoker before he goes to the arena to prepare, portraying just this man dangling on a thread trying so hard not to fall.

Now Robert Ryan is the lead in the film yet in a very specific manner as he acts as the focal point for what is Robert Wise's rather brilliant portrait of the whole atmosphere around the boxing ring. The film takes a great deal of time with Stoker as he awaits his own matches and watches the other boxers prepare to fight. Ryan makes the most out of every second in this largely reactionary performance. Ryan amplifies every other little snippet of a boxer's story through his performance, and in each of these we get a little more insight into Stoker's own life. In the womanizer coming off a victory, Ryan infuses Stoker with an intense distaste not exactly for the behavior rather reflecting his sorrow over his tense relationship with his wife. In the face of the few boxers who are up and comers Ryan finds this incredibly poignant moments as in his eyes you can see a bit of happiness for the men, as well as in the idea of success at all, but also again that sadness still underlines it as he seems to look at himself in the past when he still had an overt hope. This despair only becomes all the stronger though in watching another washed up boxer being beaten within his life. In every single one of these moments there is such a power to them because of how honestly realizes Stoker's investment in their stories since in some way they are like his own.

Eventually it becomes Stoker's turn for the match where we get one of the most powerfully realized boxing matches ever depicted in a fictional film. It is not quite typical though as we focus on almost everyone in the stadium in addition to having the drama right within the ring with Stoker taking on the younger smug boxer who is in on the fix. Ryan is terrific in this sequence, now Ryan a former amateur boxer is believable in terms of fighting, but he goes far further than that with his performance. Ryan portrays physically a certain type of fight as in every moment there is such an intensity in really the heart he brings in every punch, and every moment of facing his opponent straight on. Ryan in every strikes shows a man fighting for his life in a way finding this strength within still an emotional desperation. I love the fierceness in Ryan's his work suggesting Stoker lashing out against everyone and everything doubting him. When Stoker is told of the fix late in the round Ryan only goes further with this idea revealing such a disdain for the idea, and showing a man doing something for himself. When Stoker achieves knockout it is a great moment though as Ryan depicts physically the sheer exasperation of the fight, but also the instance of pride in a man who has had so few of them. Robert Ryan proves his measure in a leading role, technically against type, by delivering this marvelous bittersweet portrait of this boxer. He does not hesitate in revealing the severity of the desperation and vulnerability of the man, which in turn makes his few moments of happiness and hope deeply affecting.

49 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Looks more like a five to me.

Your thoughts on the cast.

Mitchell Murray said...

I'll have to check this out.

(Louis) In response to your prediction of Emma Stone possibly winning again.. I'm a lot more hesitant on that idea. As I've said before Stone wasn't my choice out of last years best actress, despite how superb and utterly charismatic I thought she was in the role. And as much as I admire her as a performer, I rather her career not follow the Jennifer Lawrence awards pathway.. in other words, to much to soon.

Michael McCarthy said...

I actually was expecting lower. Ryan was always good, but to me this film felt more like the first half of a great film rather than a great one all on its own, and I thought Ryan's performance was limited by that.

Anonymous said...

Was expecting a 5.

Charles Heiston said...

I certainly expected a five. Great review nonetheless.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: your thoughts on 'Just You' from Twin Peaks.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your brief thoughts on The Black Room, G Men, Public Enemy Number 1, Mad Love and The Dark Angel as films.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I normally don't want to get too far into stuff like this, but to anyone who frequents Alamo Drafthouse Theaters: Consider boycotting it while it has serial sexual harasser Devin Faraci employed.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: Its interesting that The Set Up came out in the same year that another film noir based around boxing came out (Champion) yet it was Champion that picked up the Oscar nominations, why do you reckon that is? brand new star in Douglas perhaps?

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: What's your thoughts, if you can remember him, on Ian Hanmore in the second season of Game of Thrones?

ruthiehenshallfan99 said...

RatedRStar: I noticed that too. I guess people noticed Douglas more.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Totter - 2.5(Kind of the weak link to me in the film as she leaves almost all of the heavy lifting to Ryan in their scenes together and she doesn't add a great deal to her solo scenes of watching the match. She's not awful or anything but it's easy to envision another actress bringing far more to the role.)

Everyone else - 3(As a collective the ensemble works so well in creating just the seedy nature of the crowd, as well as a few of the more hopeful sorts in there. Everyone makes something out of their reactions suggesting some real character found in the boxing hall in just a minute of screentime.)

Calvin:

The funny thing for me with "Just You", having watched the original series outside of the sphere of any influence I was rather surprised to learn the scene was so heavily derided, perhaps due to the extreme hatred of James Hurley something I also don't quite share, as to me it is a bit of classic musical Lynch which is always something special in my mind. I love the beautiful weirdness of the song amplified by the high pitched nature of Marshall's performance. I find it is hard to go wrong with any of Badalamenti's work on the series and this is no different. Invoking a classical love song yet in a style all of its own. It's actually probably one of my favorite moments from the series to be honest.

Anonymous:

The Black Room - (Boris Karloff and the production design makes the film worth watching making up for the blandness of all the other characters and performances.)

G Men - (It's actually a decently engaging crime drama at times though the whole thing seems like this oddly codified version of a usually Cagney film, right down to him being a titular g men.)

Public Enemy Number 1 - (Potential in the story, as well as in the performances of Barrymore and Arthur as the kin of a crook, but much of it is wasted by a lifeless central performance by Chester Morris and a somewhat underwhelming one by Joseph Calleia)

Mad Love - (Beautiful cinematography, and Lorre's broken man costume is a bit of fun, but otherwise this is a dull slow going horror film severely lacking in genuinely creepy moments.)

The Dark Angel - (Immensely predictable and melodramatic to be sure, but such a film can still work. This one does to a certain extent, it takes a little too long to get going, but it does resonate a bit due to the three central performances.)

RatedRStar:

RKO, which was behind The Setup, even sued Champion for some of the similarities. I think Douglas, the later release date and perhaps the overall more upbeat tone in general, though I'd say Champion's ending could be argued as darker, helped contribute to its greater success with the Academy. Shame for the Setup, since it it is easy enough to overcome a bad ripoff but Champion's stands as a worthy rival, though the Setup missing out on cinematography, especially with the separated categories, was a horrible snub.

Matt:

Well I'd say that story line is probably one of the least interesting from the series overall, his part though is at least somewhat intriguing. He's a pretty a good creeper though in the role and nicely does it as a sort of otherworldly being.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Speaking of the cinematography of this film, what are your thoughts on it?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on:
Dash in the Principal's office from The Incredibles
and Anton Ego's Positive Critique of Gusteau's from Ratatouille

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Could Woods in True Believer be a bonus review for 89' lead.

mcofra7 said...

RIP Frank Vincent

Luke Higham said...

RIP Frank Vincent

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 jennifer jason leigh acting moments

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: I know you love Philip Baker Hall's guest appearance on Seinfeld, but have you ever given your specific thoughts on him?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your ratings for Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in Toy Story 3.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Quite the year for film noir cinematography when there was also the somehow even more impressive The Third Man. The Set-up though is no slouch in looking absolutely beautiful in creating the dark world of the film. It's so incredibly rendered in granting such striking contrasts and such incredible framing that create almost this whole different world in reflecting the grit and the grime of the boxing ring. The highlight for me though is the piercing lighting used around just the ring in the fight itself, making it the centerpiece in such dynamic fashion. It's easy to see how Scorsese got more than few tips for the visual style of Raging Bull from this film.

Luke:

Well the Dash scene is simply a very funny bit particularly from the mad outrage on the teacher against Dash's smug smile.

I will say there is probably just a bit of anti-critic sentiment that isn't really necessary to the moment, however the rest of the scene is the best scene in that film. One for the overall sentiment of taking the risk of embracing something new or unexpected, so wonderfully verbalized by O'Toole's performance.

3.5's.

Charles:

Maybe.

Anonymous:

Leigh:

1. Offer Threat - The Hateful Eight
2. "When you get to hell" - The Hateful Eight
3. "Jim Jones At Botany Bay" - The Hateful Eight
4. Mormons - Twin Peaks
5. Remembering - Dolores Claiborne
6. Gunfight with Accountant - Twin Peaks
7. Initial Interview - Single White Female
8. "Got it" - The Hateful Eight
9. Defending her mother - Dolores Claiborne
10. "Go get some Wendys" - Twin Peaks
11. Spiting on the letter - The Hateful Eight
12. Brief reprieve - Single White Female
13. Mock hanging - The Hateful Eight
14. Getting orders from Mr. C - Twin Peaks
15. Meeting her mother again - Dolores Claiborne
16. Hairstyle change - Single White Female
17. Initial Meeting - Anomalisa
18. Third Wheel - Single White Female
19. Mothering/phone sex - Short Cuts
20. Allen sees his mother - Kill Your Darlings

Matt:

Hall's performance is hilarious since he plays it so straight and so intensely as his tough as nails library cop. Hall knocks out his monologue that is this brilliant outrage against degrading society while technically he's just trying to get to the bottom of a missing book. Hall's relishes in every moment so well, and I also love his second appearance in the episode in his equally commanding dressing down of Kramer and the librarian.















RIP Frank Vincent, everyone get out their shine box.

Deiner said...

Louis: what are your ratings on these performances?
- Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis in "Bandits"
- Brenda Blethyn and Judi Dench in "Pride & Prejudice"
- Catherine Keener in "Capote"
- Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise in "War of the Worlds"
- Fionnula Flanagan in "Transamerica"
- Frances McDormand in "North Country"
- Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni in "Fun with Dick and Jane"
- Johnny Depp in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
- Liv Tyler in "The Fellowship of the Ring"
- Michelle Williams in "Brokeback Mountain"
- Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell in "Bewitched"
- Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger "Cinderella Man"
- Scarlett Johansson in "Ghost World"

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Keith David as an actor.

Michael McCarthy said...

1. David Farrar
2. Chishū Ryū
3. Robert Ryan
4. Howard Vernon
5. Anton Walbrook

Anonymous said...

Luke Higham

1. Farrar
2. Ryu
3. Ryan
4. Vernon
5. Walbrook

Charles Heiston said...

1. Ryu
2. Farrar
3. Ryan
4. Walbrook
5. Vernon

Omar Franini said...

1. David Farrar
2. Robert Ryan
3. Chishū Ryū
4. Howard Vernon
5. Anton Walbrook

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 kevin bacon and christopher plummer acting moments

JackiBoyz said...

1. David Farrar
2. Chishū Ryū
3. Robert Ryan
4. Howard Vernon
5. Anton Walbrook

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

1. Chishū Ryū
2. David Farrar
3. Robert Ryan
4. Howard Vernon
5. Anton Walbrook

Calvin Law said...

Just gotten my press accreditation to LFF festival screenings. I'd already booked tickets for screenings Last Flag Flying and The Shape of Water where I'll hopefully see Del Toro, Cranston and Linklater. I'll also be able to get access to stuff like Brigsby Bear, Lucky etc. in advance. :)

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Would you consider upgrading Roger Livesey for The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: thoughts on Albert Rosenfield's speech on 'love'? Is he mocking Truman or expressing genuine affection?

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: Louis mentioned previously that Livesey could go up to a 5.

John Smith said...

Louis, your top 10 acting momments by Jack Gleeson in Game Of Thrones.

Anonymous said...

Louis: what would be your cast and director for a 1980s version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and a 2010s version of The Shawshank Redemption?

Calvin Law said...

I'll take a crack at both

1980s Eternal Sunshine directed by Wim Wenders
Griffin Dunne as Joel
Debra Winger as Clementine
Sissy Spacek as Mary
Bruno Ganz as Stan
Anthony Michael Hall as Patrick
Dean Stockwell as Howard

2010s The Shawshank Redemption directed by Bong Joon-ho (I'll let Louis do the American version)
Ha Jung-woo as Andy
Choi Min-sik as Red
Cho Jin-woong as Warden Norton
Ma Dong-Seok as Heywood
Hwang Jung-min as Hadlow
Byun Hee-bong as Hatlen

94dfk1 said...

Not sure if anyone here listens to Husker Du, but RIP Grant Hart.

Luke Higham said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJtqk0qq0uk

RatedRStar said...

RIP Grant Hart, I am not really a big fan of Husker Du if I am honest but still.

Luke: I think it looks OK although somewhat standard from Scott, really not sure about that makeup on Kevin Spacey.

Louis Morgan said...

Deiner:

3.5
3
3
3
2.5
2.5
3.5
3
3.5
2
2
2.5
2.5
2
2
4.5
3
3

Anonymous:

Keith David has simply one of the greatest voices around period. I would say in general he's not an actor who is often really given a great role, usually there to offer just some gravitas and great voice which is something he usually does bring. His early work in the 80's, where he had some reasonably sized roles, suggests an often untapped potential as he finds a definite emotional range delivering beyond what is usually required of him.

Anonymous:

Bacon:

1. In the park - The Woodsman
2. Finding the body - Mystic River
3. Play by play - The Woodsman
4. Kennedy died for a reason - JFK
5. Telling Jimmy what happened - Mystic River
6. Stopping the taping - Frost/Nixon
7. First Psychiatric visit - The Woodsman
8. Being pressed by Whitey - Mystic River
9. Seeing his sister - The Woodsman
10. Last visit from the detective - The Woodsman
11. Apologizing - Mystic River
12. Nixon knows some people - Frost/Nixon
13. Cheeky witness - JFK
14. Hello Eric - X-Men: First Class
15. Cross Examining Downey - A Few Good Men
16. Questioning Connolly - Black Mass
17. Making sure not to eject - Apollo 13
18. Finding the killer - Mystic River
19. Smug rider - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
20. I thought this was party - Footloose (for keeping a straight face)

Plummer:

1. All Narration
2. Lashing out at corporate - The Insider
3. That day - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
4. The head - The Man Who Would be King
5. It was a mistake - The Insider
6. Mr. Case's secret - Inside man
7. The Inquest - Dolores Claiborne
8. Meeting the sheik - The Insider
9. Meeting Peachy the first time - The Man Who Would be King
10. Reunion - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
11. coming out - Beginners
12. Attempted Escape - The Sound of Music
13. Tighten security - 12 Monkeys
14. No one is there - A Beautiful Mind
15. Signing the will - The Last Station
16. Final Edelweiss - The Sound of Music
17. Argument - Beginners
18. Fatal Ride - The Night of Generals
19. Cluck cluck - The Last Station
20. kidnapped - 12 Monkeys

Calvin:

It's a suddenly hilarious moment yet I do believe it is genuine in the moment though I think it technically is Albert loving him in his own way, which still will involve some natural disdain.

John Smith:

1. Questioning Tywin's bravery
2. Purple Wedding
3. Now King
4. Tywin's council
5. Showing Margery his crossbow
6. Bring me his Head
7. Threatening Cersei
8. Cowardly King
9. Heads on pikes
10. Riot

Anonymous:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Directed by Barry Levison:

Joel: Robin Williams
Clementine: Ellen Barkin
Mary: Ally Sheedy
Stan: Keith Carradine
Patrick: Ralph Macchio
Howard: Martin Landau

The Shawshank Redemption:

Andy Dufresne: Casey Affleck
Red: Billy Bob Thornton (though due to the narration Freeman really is irreplaceable)
Warden Norton: Tracy Letts
Heywood: Dallas Roberts
Captain Hadley: Richard Armitage
Tommy Williams: Michael Angarano
Boggs: Kevin Rankin
Brooks: Robert Forster

Calvin Law said...

Casey Affleck just doesn't seem like the right sort to me, bit too inherently sleazy. I feel like Andy Dufresne would be perfect role for someone like Adam Driver, actually.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Well for me part the reason I love Robbins's performance is because of his fairly cold approach to the role in terms of the surface to which he slowly reveals his better self through his actions. I feel Affleck could pull that off, Andy should not be a naturally charming figure.

Luke:

Well visually Scott seems to be doing his job, unfortunately the screenplay could easily go either way, and considering his recent efforts in choosing scripts, probably will go the wrong way.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Have you seen the original TMNT cartoon? If so, what are your thoughts on James Avery's Shredder?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

No not really.

RatedRStar said...

I will change my predictions very quickly before the next review

1. David Farrar
2. Chishū Ryū
3. Robert Ryan
4. Howard Vernon
5. Anton Walbrook

Anonymous said...

1. Ryu
2. Farrar
3. Ryan
4. Walbrook
5. Vernon

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Cast for a 2010s version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? I'm thinking Rooney Mara for Clementine. Curious to see who would play Joel now though.

Louis Morgan said...

94dk1:

Joel: Ryan Reynolds
Clementine: Rooney Mara
Mary: Bel Powley
Stan: Domhnall Gleeson
Patrick: Daniel Radcliffe
Howard: Jared Harris