Friday, 29 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: John Hurt in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs

John Hurt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Malcolm Scrawdyke in Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs.

Little Malcolm follows an English layabout who attempts to create some strange virility based political party after being thrown out by college.

John Hurt's appearance here is very similair, though perhaps this is just uniform for an English near-do-well, to David Thewlis as Johnny in Mike Leigh's Naked. The comparison doesn't stop there though as they both handle their cigarettes by holding them just barely at the bottom of their mouth, saunter along with a poorly postured gate, most of the time anyways, and aren't just any sort of layabout they're the, unfortunately perhaps, philosophical sort. Now my, brief research into a recognized connection between the two brought up nothing, but I still felt I had to point it out it. Naked is the superior film though as this film feels very much stuck within its stage roots leaving itself to be really carried by the actors, luckily for the film two of those actors are John Hurt and David Warner. John Hurt is such a great actor that to see him just take on an "actor's role" is probably going to be a bit of treat. Hurt again begins in effectively creating that unique personal style of the character, that I have to believe influenced at least one film to come. Hurt's terrific at being this man who we seem to meet at a particular low point in his life, as that does seem emphasized in his very physical being. The way Malcolm deals with this problem though is rather strange, and seems like something that it's a bit difficult to make logical within the more literal medium of film.

Hurt's performance is remarkable as he does make logical sense of the character even with the odd way in which his character behaves. He does this by first establishing that starting point of the character. In the moments where Hurt is alone he portrays him basically as this loser. He just there with little to no passion within the man as he sits around his apartment doing nothing but wasting his hours away. Hurt takes this further actually by creating a real sadness in Malcolm's lack of accomplishments, which seem centered around his inability to take a further step with the young woman Ann who seems interested in him yet he fails to properly compensate. Hurt stays nuanced in these moments as he just reveals the quiet, yet palatable internalized sadness in these reactions to her. When he verbalizes essentially his impudence Hurt importantly does not place any theatricality on these thoughts. In these moments Hurt breaks down Malcolm to his purest form which is just as a sad little man pained by his weaknesses. Hurt in these moments effectively anchors the movie since he shows, that despite anything else that we will see, Malcolm is this troubled college drop out beneath anything else we may see.

Hurt builds upon his setup and we see this when we witness Malcolm interact with the other characters. In his scenes alone with the subtly named, I write with much sarcasm, Charles Nipple (David Warner) Hurt presents just a layer of a facade for Malcolm. Hurt only fashions a partial one that he portrays mostly as this surface reaction to Charles a man who seems so comfortable with himself. Hurt presents a direct anger and antagonism. Hurt carefully directs this in the scenes though as a passion, simplistic, hatred not so much really towards the man, but rather that confidence he exudes in being himself. Hurt astutely does not make these moments pure in the facade though as Hurt shows much more of the real Malcolm still in these moments. As the anger he inflicts towards Charles has still a great deal of that sadness that defines the man, and there still is a great degree of discomfort in himself even as he lashes out at Charles for being so at ease with his very being. Hurt though has another layer to facet though, sort of the crux of the story though, since it's the version of Malcolm that I suppose sells the plot as well as uses up a great deal of the film's screentime.

The last relationship is between Malcolm and two of his other friends, more of lackeys, Wick and Irwin. It is there where he fashions the political party based on proper erections, and dominant men. Hurt in these scenes creates the full facade of them which actually makes sense of the whole ridiculousness of the concept, since within the film Hurt portrays Malcolm essentially playing the part. The part Malcolm is playing is of this maniacal cult or rebel leader with the other men. Hurt does not depict this a mere fantasy for the sake of it but rather shows it as an active display of Malcolm attempting to delude himself into any type of confidence. In these moments Hurt makes Malcolm a different man but only in terms of putting on this fake act. Now all credit must go to Hurt for making these scenes make any sense, however they also are technically just a chance for some serious ACTING on John Hurt's part. Thankfully if John Hurt's doing the ACTING up all for it, especially he does bother to ground these through his other scenes. Now these scenes are a bit much with just how thick the dialogue and monologues are in these scenes of Malcolm creating phony trials, kidnappings and other duplicitous acts in the name of the part.

Hurt is great in these scenes and has earned the right to throw himself right into them. The film further benefits from them since you get to have John Hurt playing different types of roles as part of this one which is quite the splendid thing. We actually get some shades of both his later dictator in V For Vendetta, as well as how his own O'Brien in 1984 might have been if he ever got a chance to reverse the roles. Hurt brings that grandeur of the firebrand leader, and the viciousness of a true violent anarchist as he vindictively pursues his "righteous" cause. Hurt goes all the way in bringing the fullest intensity, and I'll admit it is rather fun to watch just all on its own because of Hurt. This is even as the scenes as written do become a bit tiresome. Hurt's a great actor, so naturally he's great at acting while acting within this film. He's wonderfully insane brute as he leads his men as a downright insane impotent army. Hurt carefully never loses his fundamental definition of the role as even in these scenes he has these careful moments where he breaks, where he delivers the man filled with a brief anxiety that he can only overwhelm by reinforcing his sentiments in all the more zealous fashion. Eventually though Malcolm is called directly on his delusions by Ann which is an outstanding scene for Hurt. In the scene Hurt reverts to the sad quiet man filled with desperation. When she outright asks for him to have sex with her, Hurt's amazing as in his face he represents sheer terror of a man who has no idea how to connect with a woman in any real way. It is only when his henchmen reappear that Hurt reveals slowly growing confidence again but only in the most despicable way. Hurt reveals the man just revert to his delusions, but this time it is even messier as his speaks with such certainty yet his eyes are still are clasped into a deep depression. This time the fantasy holds not a bit of enjoyment for anyone, as Hurt makes the worlds collide in a most, purposefully, unappealing way. Although I would not classify this film as a major success, or perhaps even a success, this is great performance by John Hurt. He takes a potentially unwieldy role and successfully translates the threads into a cohesive and compelling whole.

61 comments:

Luke Higham said...

YESSSSS! Love this performance. Glad you reviewed this hidden gem.

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast.

1. Oates
2. Hurt
3. Mitchum
4. Caan
5. S.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I really can't wait for Warner's review. :)

YOU CAN'T AFFORD REAL CORDUROY!

Charles Heiston said...

Excellent performance by him! This is really shows his acting range with this unorthodox character.

1. Oates
2. Hurt
2. Mitchum
3. Caan
5. S.

Robert MacFarlane said...

1. Oates
2. Hurt
3. Mitchum
4. Caan
5. S

Henry W said...

Love this performance from a perennially underappreciated actor. Spot on Louis. Hurt is really amazing here.

Here's another question, which modern films do you find the most innovative in terms of direction, writing or acting?

Also, which actors do you find that their trademark "charm", "charisma" or screen presence often greatly strengthens their work? Conversely, which actors trademark screen presence hinders their work?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

1. Oates
2. Hurt
3. Mitchum
4. Caan
5. S.

Anonymous said...

Still haven't seen this.
1. Oates
2. Hurt
3. Mitchum
4. Caan
5. S.

Anonymous said...

Back to Ebert , I found it funny and weird that he picked Terrence Howard n Hustle and Flow as his Best Actor pick. His reasons were that he thought he showed the most range because his character changed his look on women and life. Lol , sorry , Ebert must have been high when he saw that film.

94dfk1 said...

Just watched American Made. Takes awhile to get going as it is paced rather weird in the beginning, but when it settles, it makes for an entertaining ride.

Cruise-4.5
Wright-2.5
Gleeson-3.5
Plemons-3
Mays-2.5
Edda-3.5

Omar Franini said...

1. Oates
2. Hurt
2. Mitchum
3. Caan
5. S.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the South Park episode 'You're Getting Old'.

RatedRStar said...

I am debating whether Mitchum or Hurt will finish 2nd, ahhhh I will change although I reckon this may be wrong.

1. Oates
2. Hurt
3. Mitchum
4. Caan
5. S.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the final fight between Guile and Bison in the Street Fighter movie.

Calvin Law said...

Wind River was pretty great, I don't think it's necessarily the best of Sheridan's films, they're all great, but this one hit hard. Renner was amazing.

Mitchell Murray said...

(Henry)

Screen presence works: Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson at his peak, Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise if used right, Michael Keaton

Screen presence hurts: George Clooney, Geoffrey Rush, Warren Beatty, Will Smith, Cuba Gooding Jr.

Anonymous said...

Watched American Made. Entertaining enough despite its flaws.
Cruise: 4,5
Wright: 2
Gleeson: 3,5
Plemons: 3
Jones: 2

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the screenplays of L.A. Confidential, Some Like It Hot and The Apartment.

John Smith said...

1.Oates
2.Hurt
3.Caan
4.Mitchum
5 S.

JackiBoyz said...

Are we overestimating Oates, I have never seen his film.

1. Oates
2. Mitchum
3. Hurt
4. Caan
5. S.

Luke Higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke Higham said...

JackiBoyz: I haven't but he's actually Calvin's winner for 1974.

Luke Higham said...

Guys, I might make my request once we get Louis' reaction to The Snowman.

Calvin Law said...

JackiBoyz: He's amazing. Although whether or not Louis likes him is a whole different matter.

RatedRStar said...

I really want The Snowman to do well, I am begging it to do well, a scary murder mystery in the vein of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, with one of the best actors in the world, please please I hope that reviews are good for it.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: It's the film that I've been most hoping to succeed this year.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: I actually think the trailer for The Snowman is amazing, the perfect trailer, reveals not much in context, has a creepy ending with the Snowman head, cast looks great, good director.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: What do you reckon, you reckon The Snowman will succeed as a film or flop?

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

McEnery & Platt - 3(They're both effective in basically playing it up as these two frat boys who get way too caught up in a game. They're good though in portraying properly haphazardly so when it gets dangerous its like a party that's gone very very wrong. They're both equally good though in basically their moment of clarity at the very end, as they show both men come to their senses in such natural way.)

Ayres - 3.5(She's quite good in just seeming natural and sweet enough in her early scenes being the right lack of threat to Hurt in a way. She's terrific in final scene though in bring the incisiveness to her, being the right catharsis in a way as she points out the stupidity of his "movement".)

Tahmeed:

It's one of their one joke episodes in a way, and I will say that does successfully carry them quite far into the extent of its hilarity of being the completely obnoxious cynical sort. I would say the Randy half is less effective, though the ending has a surprising bit of poignancy, though knew from the first time I saw it that would be a false lead.

Anonymous:

Outside of the intro it's a little hard to watch Julia get beat down, luckily the second half does make up for just because you get a lot more of Julia getting to monologue with such glorious aplomb, while again and again beating down van Damme.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

L.A. Confidential is a masterful adaptation and comparing to the Black Dahlia it is easy to see how it could have gone very wrong. It works in every layer of its complex and incredibly rich screenplay though. In terms of the mystery it not only creates a compelling mystery, but realizes it in a way that is complicated yet still easy to follow throughout the film. On the second though it is a fantastic character study of all three of the "leads" each fascinating in their own right with such powerfully realized arcs for all three of them. The third grounding layers is in creation of the world of L.A. set in the period as the film so effectively makes use of those historical moments whether adding in a particular substance, like the Bloody Christmas Incident, or just for a hilarious moment such as with the Lana Turner sequence. The film frankly doesn't waste an aspect of L.A. within realizing the world filled with corruption and intrigue. No facet is wasted in creating such a captivating piece that works as mystery, as a character piece or as this portrait of 50's L.A.

Some Like It Hot is an odd one for me since I like Wilder a great deal, but this film has never connected with me. That is nothing to say really against the screenplay itself as the film is quite clever in its subversion of expectations of the time, as well as in creating the meta version of a gangster picture. The individual pieces of dialogue are there as well, but for whatever reason I've just never found the film all that funny despite enjoying so many of Wilder's other works, though I've never been able to put my finger exactly on why the film doesn't work for me.

Again creating confusion with that is I love the followup of the Apartment, maybe I just need a more inherently likable lead, but then again C.C. Baxter isn't exactly the perfect Knight in shining armor either. This film though again takes biting look at its own time with its notable emphasis on the many affairs of the executives. This is technically just within the setup for the film, which it makes itself a, particularly hilarious, situation comedy at first with Baxter trying to make do in his strange circumstances while also dealing with attempting his own romance. They complicate it effectively though as written by technically finding a more dramatic substance in terms of the collateral damage of the affair, while staying light on its feet. As standard for Wilder's efforts the film though is sprinkled in with just the little gems of dialogue whether in long form found in the ramblings of Baxter, or just the short stingers which cut fat like the perfect final line of the film.

RatedRStar:

If I was putting money down, I'd go success, given Tomas Alfredson's previous effort, and I'd say Hossein Amini, and Peter Straughan are a good combination of screenwriters as well.

Anonymous said...

Watched Gerald's Game. Good movie and good King adaptation. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood are amazing.

Psifonian said...

Yes, "Gerald's Game" is very strong and my hat's off to Mike Flanagan for making that story work. Before this, I only thought Lars von Trier could do it justice. Carla Gugino is Oscar-worthy and Bruce Greenwood deserves Louis's attention.

JackiBoyz said...

Psifonian: Its gonna be a pretty stacked year I would say.

Psifonian said...

Jacki: No doubt, but I don't want Greenwood lost in the shuffle.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I saw Battle of the Sexes. It's okay. Stone is great.

Anonymous said...

How was Carell? Also is he a true lead, supporting, or a straddler?

94dfk1 said...

I'm also hoping The Snowman does really well commercially too, since Fassbender doesn't have many hits outside his franchises. That he stars in anyway.

Luke Higham said...

If Fassbender does deliver his best performance yet, then I hope both of his performances will share a slot this year. (I will choose Covenant for my request if it turns out that way) Same goes for Gosling and Ford in Blade Runner 2049.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Anonymous: He's not bad, actually. Captures the right tone of obnoxiousness with Riggs' public persona and the pitiful loneliness of his private life. He's co-lead, but just barely.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Also, am I really the only person who thinks The Snowman looks aggressively stupid?

Luke Higham said...

Psifonian: Chances are that if you wholeheartedly recommend 1 performance that you're passionate about before the alternates, he'll get in. Plus, I think you have a few requests still in reserve.

Anonymous said...

Robert: What about The Snowman do you think looks stupid?

Robert MacFarlane said...

Anonymous: Um, everything? The plot sounds like a parody of a Dragon Tattoo knockoff.

RatedRStar said...

I have read parts of the novel and know pretty much all The Snowman twists and reveals, trust me the plot is nothing like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, at least the book isn't anyway, the novel of The Snowman is far more of a character study and less of a thriller type, it deals with Harry Holes alcoholism quite deeply, which the second trailer does show.

RatedRStar said...

That isnt a spoiler btw it is the in the international trailer.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: but Ford is most likely supporting though.

Robert MacFarlane said...

"Harry Hole"

You see, you're not selling me on this not being a parody.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Never mind then. I've been keeping away from reviews.

Charles Heiston said...

It sounds like a parody to me, as well.

Anonymous said...

Calvin: What did you think of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia? I'm curious because the critical response is so mixed

Matt Mustin said...

Robert: I don't know much about it, but I'm pretty certain "Hole" is pronounced differently than you'd think it is. It is Norwegian, after all.

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 gabriel byrne john turturro and john goodman acting moments

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what's your thoughts on Philip Seymour Hoffman in Moneyball, because personally I think he's too low in your ranking that year. But that's just me.

Michael McCarthy said...

Considering the film is in English, I was also concerned when I saw that Fassbender's character in The Snowman was named Harry Hole. I didn't want to say anything at first, but it's nice to know I'm not the only one thinking it.

Oh btw:

1. Warren Oates
2. John Hurt
3. James Caan
4. Robert Mitchum
5. Bruno S.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Mark my words, "Harry Hole" will be a meme on Twitter.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Eh, ridiculous name notwithstanding, I'm sure Fassbender will be great in The Snowman.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Would you consider upgrading Peter Capaldi for In the Loop.

Matt Cofrancesco said...

1. Oates
2. Hurt
3. Mitchum
4. Caan
5. S

Calvin Law said...

Saw mother! Can't say I liked it, but there are some effective moments and Lawrence is pretty impressive.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: The text in the 2009 official Supporting Actor results page looks rather peculiar.

Luke Higham said...

1. Oates
2. Hurt
3. Mitchum
4. Caan
5. S.

Michael McCarthy: Your ratings for this lineup & David Warner, as well as your thoughts on Hurt and Warner.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt:

I love Hoffman, but I find he's a bit miscast in that role as the baseball manager type. I don't find that he overcomes not really fitting the part to begin with, as I feel the part needed a bit more a natural fire as accustom to your typical team manager. Hoffman I find is actually far too low key.

Tahmeed:

No.