Monday, 30 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1988: John Neville in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

John Neville did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a rather enjoyable fantastical adventure film following the Baron through his proclaimed travels that are more than a little farfetched.

John Neville throughout his film career mostly played minor roles with this film being a notable exception. It seems that Neville intended to make the most of that opportunity given the performance he grants any viewer of this film. Neville seems to call upon his inner C. Aubrey Smith to create the legendary, in his own words, Baron Munchausen. We initially meet the character as he introduces himself during a play about his life, which the elderly Baron does not approve of. Although Neville is highly enjoyable in delivering a most refined series of disapproving scoffs towards those failing to properly produce a play on his life, along with some particularly lustful glances towards the young women in the play, this is but a warm up to full force of Neville's performance as the titular man. This comes as the Baron tells the story of one of his previous exploits, that incurred a war with the Turks going on still during the play's performance, which in turns leads to a new adventure by the Baron. This somehow also returns him to a more youthful appearance and we are granted the undiluted legend by John Neville.

Neville's performance here is a sort of marvel in his crafting of the outrageous Baron. This is a full bodied performance in every sense as he makes no waste of his vibrant costuming, or his gigantic nose embracing them fully. What Neville does though is match all that with the sheer spirit of his portrayal of the Baron. Neville's work is of a legend in the making as there is such a grandeur to every aspect of work. This is from his posture that seems almost excessively straight proper for a real man of the very highest order. Any single gesture in the entirety of Neville's performance is something worth noting because it is though he is posing for a painting of a great hero in every moment, in any swing of the sword or moment of declaring one thing or another. Neville performs not as a man on top the world, but actually far above it. In terms of his physical work though my favorite aspect probably is that glorious mile wide grin Neville brings to the part. It is magnificent and fitting to a man who lives life in a way that no one else possibly could.

John Neville continues his marvelous approach though in his magnificent deliveries throughout the film. Again the grander the better seems to be Neville's idea here and I'm inclined to agree. In almost every statement, particularly those when it comes to naming his next move as an adventurer or even more so when he is speaking about his own greatness, Neville grants them a booming boasting voice filled with such overwhelming confidence. Neville grants this earned confidence almost in way through the sheer refinement of it all, since you must just accept that he know what he's doing, and what he says is true since it all sounds just so good coming out of that golden throat of his. Neville fashions in his performance a man who in all of his facets as a man matches the nature of the stories he tells, and the story we witness him in. Neville is downright amazing as his performance is somehow never overshadowed by director Terry Gilliam's outrageous vision. Neville instead brilliantly stands on top of it at every turn since somehow the Baron just seems a bit more than even the most wildest of his "dreams". 

This is actually a rather curious performance to follow for such an adventure film as more often we follow a hero who isn't really use to the insanity, yes this is partially represented through the Baron's stowaway sidekick Sally (Sarah Polley), but the Baron is the true lead. The Baron is atypical since rather than discovering these various incredible places and people, the Baron is fashioning them in a way. Neville's performance though makes this absolutely work for this film in going about amplifying everything through the daring of approach that matches the daring of the Baron. Neville's performance is a performance that is simply so much fun to watch given how well he captures the style of this insane character. It becomes quite entertaining just to go along with him in this way where Neville offers such great spirit in every action scene by portraying a man who just lives for it all. I also do love his just ever so slightly altered approach when a woman comes along as he depicts the same overwhelming enthusiasm yet adjusts it to a lower key charm, well a lower key charm for the Baron it's still pretty outrageous for the average man. Neville is also consistently hilarious so often in this unabashed take, I have particular affection for his completely without shame delivery of "Yes" after one of his old servants accuses the Baron of having left him to rot in a cage yet still expects him to follow him. Neville makes it convincing that the servant would still follow the unrepentant Baron since his charisma is a bit magical. This is not a performance about a character arc, really the only thing that occasionally happens is the Baron gets down on himself and occasionally seems to accept his demise. Neville doesn't make these moments too serious showing them more of just a grumpy reaction to a potential reality setting in than a true loss of the man's spirit. That's just fine though as the film is entirely about going for the grand gestures in every respect, and Neville's whole performance is a singular grand gesture. I loved every second of this performance by John Neville as he simply becomes a man who perhaps died on more than a few occasions, but don't worry he's always alright in the end.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1988: Michael Keaton in Clean and Sober

Michael Keaton did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning NSFC, for portraying Daryl Poynter in Clean and Sober.

Clean and Sober loses itself in the third act a bit but otherwise I found it to be a mostly effective depiction the story of an addict going to rehab essentially just for a place to stay.

What helps the film along greatly is its cast including M. Emmet Walsh, Morgan Freeman and Kathy Baker. Michael Keaton though is of course the center of the film, and the one who makes it. In the same year as perhaps his most iconic role, or at least his most iconic role he doesn't have to share, with Beetlejuice where he played the madcap and grotesque "humanbuster", this should stand in quite the contrast as a very down to earth drama. Although that is true in some way but the roles, and films for that matter depend greatly on the unique presence of Keaton. Frankly it just seems like Keaton ought to have played a coke head at one time or another in the 80's, giving his always kinetic energy as a performer is perfect for this type of role. That is not all wasted by the film or Keaton who captures the role as basically this functioning, though barely, drug addict so effectively. In the early scenes Keaton's work grants the frantic pace needed for the character who is juggling his, embezzlement funded, stock playing, his drugs, and dealing with a fellow drug addled dalliance who dies after a one night stand with him. Keaton captures the cocaine fueled rush in every moment showing this constant excessive rate in his stressed yet so active speech pattern, and his physical energy that is enthusiastic yet pained at the same time.

What Keaton does here not only sets up the character so well, but he also keeps the tone from becoming too heavy in an effective way. It is not that this is a humorous performance by Keaton overall, however, as usual, there is a certain comic styling that Keaton so naturally delivers to the role. It isn't that he's making jokes, but rather makes things completely seem as though his Daryl would treat some of what's going around him with this certain levity. Keaton makes this work quite well particularly early on as he reacts to the other patients at the rehab with a definite lack of sincerity. Daryl after all is only there initially for a place to basically hideout due to his problems relating to his embezzlement and the deceased woman. Keaton reflects that well by portraying as more of an observer having the occasional laugh at those around him. Keaton keeps this so well in character, though he also does well to add just a few signs of withdrawal as he stays in the rehab. Keaton's approach is the right one for cocaine withdrawal as there aren't overt physical aspects, however Keaton does well to present the growing intensity in Daryl is gets further away from his last high. He builds this especially effectively as he loses any of that initial humor, before finally fully lashing out when the counselor (Freeman) refuses to let Daryl misuse the center.

Keaton is terrific in terms of realizing the gradual change in Daryl's character as he continues to stay at the rehab, as his problems do not diminish despite his efforts. Keaton never makes this easy showing well the right combination of desperation that grows in Daryl, but also the way his smarmy disregard for the place begins to slowly fade. Keaton never misses a step here and his work is remarkable in portraying the difficultly of the process. Keaton nicely never makes it this simple as though Daryl is just suddenly fixed by a single thing. He instead, in just the subtle reactions, conveys when the man truly takes something in, and generally loses that overt confidence of a man who thinks he knows all the answers. I find his scenes with M. Emmet Walsh are very strong, as Walsh plays the man who essentially insists on acting as Daryl's sponsor. Their chemistry together really works as Walsh emphasizes the patience, and support, though with a bit of strictness, against Keaton who throws a bit of venom in some of their interactions. Keaton though is great at making that wall Daryl builds real therefore earning the collapse of it as the Walsh's character's words slowly take hold. Again those reactions just are on point as every so often Keaton's eyes bring that sense of a man finally looking at himself, and understanding the chance to better himself.

The weakest portion of the film is its third act as we leave the facility and Daryl tries to reform his life. Now the problem with this is actually stops focusing on Daryl and moves over to this potential romance with a fellow attendee Charlie (Kathy Baker) dealing with her own recovering. Now there isn't anything wrong with Baker and Keaton together. Keaton is even good in not overly presenting the romantic angle too much, always keeping a certain emphasis on the genuine concern Daryl has for her. The writing here though falters as it just doesn't develop itself well enough, and the pacing of this aspect feels off. The film would have been better off just staying with Daryl's story wholly as the secondary one just seems rushed. Keaton to his credit is good in these scenes though they wrongly take the pressure off of him, until the last few minutes of the film. Keaton makes the most of those final scenes still though making his reaction to what happens to Baker's character appropriately moving even if its overall impact is diminished by the writing of it. Keaton then gets to end the film with Daryl's speech at an AA meeting. Keaton's great in this scene, although it's pretty interesting in that he probably gives one of the most realistic movie speeches because he handles it as a guy who isn't use to giving them. He stumbles a bit during it, and there isn't an overt emotion towards the audience, watching him, although we feel it through Keaton's understated approach to revealing what Daryl's word really do mean to him. Although this isn't a great film, Keaton elevates it brilliantly giving the needed substance and power to this study of an addict's recovery.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1988: Klaus Maria Brandauer in Hanussen

Klaus Maria Brandauer did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Klaus Schneider aka Erik Jan Hanussen in Hanussen.

Hanussen is an effective character study following an Austrian who after being wounded in World War I becomes a mentalist in Germany.

Well I interrupt our predetermined lineup of reviews to come to Klaus Maria Brandauer during his brief period as a leading man and international star. As with one of his other notable leading turn as a real life figure in Mephisto, Brandauer once again plays a role whose fate is intertwined with the Nazi movement in Germany. As with that earlier performance Brandauer's approach is innately fascinating in itself. Now in the early scenes of the film Brandauer's work is fairly unassuming in presenting just a man first in agony of his head wound from a gunshot, then going through a difficult recovery. We are granted this time with Klaus Schneider which Brandauer uses well to establish a pivotal initial understanding to the man before he becomes the titular figure for the film. Brandauer's work is properly modest here as we see him with the other veterans dealing with their suffering and Brandauer is moving in effectively depicting the somber state of this man. This all changes though when one of the particularly damaged men threatens the hospital with a grenade leading to Hanussen coming out.

The first time we meet Hanussen is a downright brilliant scene for Brandauer's performance, though there are many more to come, this one is distinctive in the way Brandauer approaches this first instance of his abilities. In the scene Klaus calls upon his apparent mental sway to calm the suicidal man, and prevent him from setting off the grenade. Brandauer in this moment brings this sudden power just in his gaze and in his delivery carries such an authority with every word, yet in this instance there is a desperation to the moment. Brandauer doesn't portray as an intentional use of some control, but rather the instinct of the man to try to handle the situation and save everyone in the room himself included. The power is realized yet in this moment Brandauer portrays it as brought on by the emotions of that horrible situation. This is Klaus Schneider using the power he'd be known for but before he realized he even had it. This leads Schneider to examine his position, and Brandauer portrays this as bringing a growth in the confidence in the man that leads to a fuller recovery from his war injuries. In this we are granted with the first sight of his ego which, as proven earlier with Mephisto, Brandauer is a master at a realization of this.

That ego is a major facet of his performance here, and he carefully uses this within his performance throughout. At the hospital the man's ego initially grows through the interest of his doctor who sees his power or at least talent, and even through a nurse who has an affair with him. Brandauer shows the way Schneider takes on these praises and encouragement with a certain thrill that provides with it a most definite joy. Brandauer shows this build the man up to so much more than he had been but this only grows as he changes his name to become Jan Hanussen. This is where his performance becomes particularly fascinating in how Brandauer works in discovering the character for himself. It would be simple enough just to create the megalomaniac but that isn't what Brandauer does with his performance. Instead even as we see Hanussen build up as this creation there is always a sense of Schneider in a certain way that is a central facet to Brandauer's work. There is no simplification as Brandauer presents the various faces of the man which are all compelling in their own right and what is truly remarkable is in the way Brandauer weaves them as one in this strange tapestry of a man.

In private quarters, though in company, Brandauer gives us some of Schneider still but with the confidence of Hanussen drawn within that. Brandauer in his moments with his old doctor and his girlfriend does offer a genuine decency at times. Although again that confidence is of Hanussen in a way, and Brandauer delivers all of these scenes with an inherent distance of the man with this power against those who do not have it. He projects a bit of an enigma, but he allows enough of an honest human being there as well. Brandauer carefully shows the man still is willing to connect, and there are moments of just some real warmth he provides in showing the man still needing normal friendships however they are a secondary goal in the end. The focus of the film is Hanussen, though this is most often as the mentalist performer. It is here where Brandauer is absolutely outstanding in every single scene as this larger than life figure. What he does is so incredible in every instance. Brandauer projects such an extreme and overpowering charisma in these scenes. Every part of it from his ease in delivery yet with such a commanding voice to his physical performance that is so essential in crafting the manner of a mystic who is otherworldly, and wholly in control.

It is enough of an achievement for Brandauer to do as I have already stated, but even here he goes further in the exact way he handles every single one of these scenes. In all of them there is this overpowering charisma yet he handles this in a different way depending on the situation. In many instances we are granted just the pure showman and in these scenes Brandauer is very entertaining with a more overt approach to a man somewhat playing up the mystic act since it is indeed an act. This is different though in a scene where Hanussen takes on a would be heckler. Again Brandauer commands the screen much as Hanussen commands the man's mind. In this time though there is a vindictive force to his pull as he so effectively presents the way Hanussen incisively breaks the man down before calmly dismissing him. My favorite single Hanussen scene though is when he is put on trial for charlatanism. Brandauer at first begins more grounded as he answers the questions of the prosecutor and the judge explaining his act as interest in humans. In this moment Brandauer reveals this quiet yet rather intense passion that holds this as truth to what inspires the man. Still by the nature of the court Brandauer shows Hanussen playing with them a bit, and Brandauer is rather enjoyable to watch in presenting so well the man treating the trial as a bit of a game. When pressed further though he switches to the full power of Hanussen in a way, and Brandauer is mesmerizing to watch pull out essentially that power of the man's sheer will. The whole court rises when he commands them to, and Brandauer makes this seem a natural act.

There is yet the final layer to Brandauer's performance and the man that is Hanussen. This is the most internalized part and an essential facet to this portrayal since it keeps him grounded to a certain extent alluding to the wounded war veteran we met at the beginning of the film. This facet is an extremely subtle part of Brandauer's performance in that it is mostly silent and comes into play with Hanussen's perhaps greatest ability which is to see in the future. Now when he acts as the clairvoyant there is that degree of showmanship, but what I speak to is what Brandauer does when he sees that his predictions have come true. Brandauer is amazing in bringing back a vulnerability to the man and in a way rationalizing the entire story. Brandauer, even though this is where Hanussen's powers are most proven to be true, Brandauer portrays in his eyes and whole body language this loss of ego and definite fear from Hanussen seeing his power as real. In this Brandauer realizes this sense of doubt within the man that should seem a contradiction yet Brandauer's performance is so astute it instead offers a greater insight into the man. Brandauer finds the man struggling with himself and not only whether his abilities or real, but also if really wants them to be. We see this side of the man continue as Hitler appropriates Hanussen's methods for his own ends, and in these reactions off unease there is that scared man just trying to get by again. This unease eventually leads him to take action which quickly leads him to be taken out by a group of Nazi soldiers to be executed. The final scene is another astonishing scene for Brandauer as he briefly begins with Hanussen attempting to play the master of the mind to get out of this, however the men's gun's quickly break this act. Brandauer then proceeds to be harrowing by depicting the breaking man's ego as he is taunted by the men before being killed himself. There is yet one final moment of his power, which is brilliantly portrayed, as Brandauer offers the foresight once again without the ego, and it is devastating as predicts the demise of the Nazis in one of his final breaths. This is a downright masterful portrait by Klaus Maria Brandauer as he not only becomes that otherworldly figure, but he manages to poignantly humanizes this man at the same time.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1988: Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Daniel Day-Lewis  did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tomas in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being follows a Czech surgeon and the two women in his life just as the Soviet Union invades.

Watching this film made me think of the single performance by Daniel Day-Lewis that I've seen where I was underwhelmed by his work, this isn't some cryptic warning for the rest of the review by the way. That performance though is his work in Nine where he was miscast as the dazed Italian director Guido. Now it is easy enough to say that was a bad film, but I started thinking what was it that made Day-Lewis seem miscast there. It may have been the nature of the role of Guido who has a lack of urgency right to the point that a major plot facet of that film is that Guido never even completes his film that he's suppose to be making. That is in contrast to Day-Lewis's other performances where you can find some urgency or at least some purpose even in the most constricted of situations. It got me thinking and that perhaps Day-Lewis needs most of all to be an active performer, and this is not in regards to reactions either. Day-Lewis has one of the greatest reactions in all of cinema on his resume, but rather it is this passiveness was required in Guido that was ill-fitting to Day-Lewis's methods as an actor. Now the reason that got me thinking was here was again a part of a man who partially lets others react around him, but also is a Lothario.

The film focuses on Tomas and the two women in his life the sexually liberated artist Sabina (Lena Olin), and the far more conservative and shy waitress/inspiring photographer Tereza (Juliette Binoche). Now in terms of the film the women are as important as Tomas, in fact there are substantial portions of the film where Day-Lewis is absent, but I digress. The nature of Tomas as a womanizer is very specific here, and fortunately for Day-Lewis it requires often a more active approach. Now in part this does rely on Day-Lewis being a naturally charismatic and attractive to which women are just simply drawn to him. These are the least interesting parts to Day-Lewis's performance actually as again Day-Lewis seems almost to dislike the idea of easy ways out in terms of acting. Thankfully though the more active performer is required in creating the two distinct relationships between the two women. In his scenes with Olin, Day-Lewis emphasizes very much the lust, and with Olin develops well this spirit of antagonism within that which effectively alludes to the way this fuels their flames essentially. These moments are particularly direct with both actors showing there is no time wasted as the two give in quickly to the pleasure with one another in passionate though purposefully limited fashion.

That is in sharp contrast to the relationship with Binoche's Tereza which Day-Lewis portrays initially as Tomas approaching her in a similair way he would any other one of his "conquests". Day-Lewis though naturally realizes the way this changes though as Tereza reveals her hesitations but also desire for a deeper interaction with him. Day-Lewis is very good in portraying a gentler, less lustful, side to Tomas in these moments finding these reactionary moments of the man moving from lust to love, and bringing a real gentle quality to even their sexually charged scenes. In these moments Day-Lewis presents this patience of the man conveying a deeper relationship there. His and Binoche's chemistry works quite well in throughout the film building the two's connection from moment to moment. Although their relationship is frequently challenged by the Soviets, and Tomas's infidelity the two find the foundation of a genuine warmth and affection. In the moments where Tereza questions Tomas's actions even, Day-Lewis is quite good actually by not portraying shame, but rather presenting a man who doesn't designate a deeper importance to sex unlike Tereza. The depth instead comes from the two just being together, and both actors excel in realizing that joy and more so comfort in each other's presence particularly in the closing scenes of the film.

Although much of Day-Lewis's time is spent in those moments of the relationship, returning back to the most active Day-Lewis is the best Day-Lewis holds particularly true here. While Day-Lewis is definitely quite good in those scenes, his best are when Tomas is front and center. This is found in part of the film as we first see Tomas casually disregard the Soviets, which he initially delivers with only a minor intensity though as just someone in a conversation with friends. Tomas though writes a more scathing article against the Soviets, which is problematic when they invade leading Tomas and Tereza to leave the country though they eventually return. This leads Tomas to come afoul with the government who press him to name names of his collaborators or be no longer allowed to practice medicine in his hospital. These couple of scenes offer perhaps the Day-Lewis we all love most as he is downright amazing in the scenes just through his eyes portraying such sheer disregard for the government agent asking the questions. There is such a powerful incisiveness to Day-Lewis's work as in his very being you get such a incredible sense of Tomas's discontent, even though he never once raises his voice in the scene. Once again Day-Lewis is outstanding in this most urgent moment, expressing the most struggle so well in very few minutes, and in a part of the story that isn't given that much focus yet makes a substantial impact because of this performance. This isn't one of Day-Lewis's greatest turns, perhaps because how passive the character is, but that isn't saying much when talking about one of the most talented actors alive. This is still a very strong and remarkable turn from the great Daniel Day-Lewis.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1988

And the Nominees Were Not:

John Neville in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Michael Keaton in Clean and Sober

Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ

Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being 

Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

For Prediction Purposes:

Caine out of the Scoundrels

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: Results

5. Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun - Lee as expected makes for a proper Bond villain both charismatic and menacing even if perhaps he's too much of a match for his Bond.

Best Scene: Proposing the duel.
4. Roberts Blossom in The Great Gatsby - Roberts Blossom gives the most resonate performance in his film and even manages to offer a bit of tragedy left lacking by the film's underwhelming film.

Best Scene: Mr. Gatz in Gatsby's room.
3. David Warner in Little Malcolm - The underrated Warner gives a terrific performance as usual giving an amusing and even moving portrayal of a wannabe philosopher whose positive outlook stands in a striking contrast to the titular wannabe philosopher.

Best Scene: Sentenced to death.
2. Ken Takakura in The Yakuza -Takakura gives a brilliant performance that sets up an enigma which he slowly reveals in a deeply poignant portrait of a man defined by the sacrifices he makes for the sake of his honor.

Best Scene: Revelation of his real relationship.
1. Richard Harris in Juggernaut - Good Predictions Tahmeed, Omar, Luke, RatedRStar, and Michael McCarthy. Richard Harris seems to be in a role just right for him as he gives an incredibly charming performance, that is so effortlessly compelling in his portrayal of a bomb disposal expert with his own personal style and philosophy towards his job.

Best Scene: "Fallon is the champion"
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1988 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun

Christopher Lee did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun.

The Man With the Golden Gun though not a utter failure, as common for a Moore era Bond, suffers from a disengaged lead and tonal problems, such as when it randomly becomes a Kung Fu movie briefly,  or when Clifton James unfortunately returns as the hillbilly Sheriff from Live and Let Die.

Roger Moore as per usual seems to be not taking anything very seriously which is a bit problematic when James Bond is marked for death. Bond as played by Moore only ever seems mildly concerned by this at the very worst. The film though seems somewhat aware that this Bond is almost a non-character in a way therefore it does give a certain focus to the villain right down to the opening pre-credits action sequence being devoted to our villain rather than our hero. Well if the film is going to lean on the villain a bit it is a good thing that it's played by serial film villain Christopher Lee, who has graced just about every franchise in existence with his presence at one time or antoher. Lee must be said is a particularly good fit for a Bond villain with his suave style, and deep booming voice that's perfect for the Bond style villain who loves his tailored suits, tropical villas, and overly elaborate methods of killing people. For Scarmanga the ex-KGB, ex-trick shot artist, slash high priced hit man his method technically should be swift, killing with a gold bullet and a highly impractical golden gun, however he ensures the unneeded elaboration since Scaramanga will only kill Bond after he's outsmarted him a set number of times, frankly a few too many to be honest.

Christopher Lee though brings what you'd expect him to do so which is a natural bit of gravitas for the character and is the smooth villain you'd expect him to be. Lee makes such a strong use of that devious grin of his in particular whether it is one of the many time he tricks Bond, or he deals with a no longer useful associate. Lee is simply fun to watch here as he grants a much needed shot of energy to the film through his charismatic approach to the grandiose villain. Lee though knows how to balance the style for a Bond villain with some genuine menace. This of course comes very easily to Lee as usual, and the moments where he gets his villain speeches are the best in the film. Thankfully we are granted two of these and absolutely dominates the screen in these scenes to make Scaramanga a proper threat. The only problem I'd say is that Moore never really plays off of him too much say the way Sean Connery did to Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love. Lee delivers the needed intimidation in his performance, but Moore does not really bother to reflect this himself limiting the tension of these scenes. This cannot be blamed again Lee who remains on point to the point that he work stands far above the film itself. This isn't even Lee just throwing in an as expected good villain turn, it is Christopher Lee after all. He goes further in the action scenes himself by portraying a little vulnerability and fear in Scarmanaga to try to create any sense of reality in these scenes. This is yet again wasted by Moore's excessively light touch in what ends up being a colossal disappointment in terms of the final duel. Christopher Lee though is never disappointing. He delivers a proper Bond villain in every regard however it's a shame it's a little wasted on a rather indifferent Bond.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: Richard Harris in Juggernaut

Richard Harris did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lieutenant Commander Anthony Fallon in Juggernaut.

Juggernaut though starts a bit slow is a rather compelling thriller, once it gets going, about a cruise ship being held for ransom after being armed with a series of time bombs.

Now what gets the film truly going is Richard Harris as bomb dismantling expert Fallon. There is perhaps that character that just seems "right" for an actor and this seems to be the one for Harris. There is that role that seems in tune with their onscreen persona, and for Harris here his off screen, or at least, interview persona. This requires a bit of an explanation I suppose though I would just suggest one should go watch Harris in any of his interviews as he is one of the most effortless and entertaining actors in that setting. That charm brings so wonderfully in that setting he transfers here as Fallon, perhaps this was even hoped for by the filmmakers given that they have Fallon being a particularly fond of an alcoholic beverage now and again. Harris to begin with brings such a natural quality to his work with the sheer ease of his performance, and brings a natural levity to the film, despite the severity around his role. Harris is simply naturally entertaining to watch here in a role that he just makes his own in that very special way from the point that in that outset it seems to become quite evident that only Richard Harris could have possibly played this part quite like this.

This is not to say Harris is coasting here, far far from it in fact, in a way it is pretty astonishing how Harris brings himself to the role while fully developing Fallon as his own man. This includes Harris's own bountiful charm for sure, but this is actually part of the character in a two fold way. In part Harris through this shows the confidence of the character that by his charm is wholly endearing, and makes sense out the man who we initially meet as he's casually disarming a far less impressive bomb. Harris though goes further with the idea than just showing Fallon as this expert. There is more in that Harris conveys this lightness in his work often in some of the more intense moments actually. In these scenes Fallon constantly makes humorous side remarks, which Harris does deliver in a genuinely funny way however he goes further with this. Harris in these moments suggests this as partially a defense mechanism of sorts for Fallon in dealing with the situation. This is because Harris never delivers them in a way that seems tonally awkward or ever out of character in the slightest.

Now a reason for that is Harris's overall approach to the part particularly in the bomb disposal scenes which are the highlight of the film, and Harris is a major reason for this. Although Harris projects that confidence so well, along with that humor he doesn't downplay the severity of it in Fallon's mind. In even the moments where he makes his little jokey asides Harris's eyes convey very much the very real concerns for Fallon. Harris is never static here instead his whole performance alludes to a man who has gone through this particular line of work, and has found his way of dealing with. That partially includes his humor, but Harris never simplifies it. I love an early moment where Fallon espouses on his talents in this particular line of work and mutters he wishes he was as such a success in a different line of work. Harris doesn't deliver this line with an overt sadness or anything like this but rather an amused shrug which so well emphasizes the way Fallon has come to terms with this. When Fallon is pressed by the ship's captain (Omar Sharif) on his attitude though we get a bit of a darker side to Fallon, which potentially could've become a confusing aspect to the character, however Harris's firm grasp on the material ensures that it is not.

When something goes wrong or Fallon's methods are questioned Fallon delivers some darker views in regards to the technical insignificant amount of lives in the scheme of the entire universe. These moments much of the time are still with the other members of the bomb squad where Harris still brings a more comedic bent in this philosophy, but with the captain, after Fallon's lost another one of his men, Harris matches the darkness of the message. The callousness though that Harris delivers though comes through an insincerity in attitude in this moment. Harris in part suggests one that he is not terribly impressed by the Captain's concerns, since Fallon is more keenly aware than anyone in regards to the severity of the situation, but it also actually reinforces his personal way of dealing with his particular line of work. Again Harris usually adds that humorous touch to this but in this moment Fallon understandably doesn't bother with easing the words. Harris though shows with that humor and insincerity though the fashioned belief the man uses, not to truly delude himself, but rather to help himself deal with his job where he could die at any moment therefore he needs to be a little insensitive now and again just to be sane in his work.

What we came to the film for though was to see Richard Harris disarm a bomb and we get that in style with Harris. He is down right mesmerizing in these scenes, and he is essential to the film's success since the parts of the film that truly work are the disarmament scenes. Harris again is brilliant in that he layers his performance as noted in bringing a real depth actually to the character's manner during these scenes however he still ratchets the tension up in every moment. Harris is particularly great near the end of the film where the situation becomes more dire and he could be killed at any moment. Harris is fantastic in doing so much tension through his performance by slowly losing some of that comfort in Fallon right down to the final scenes where he loses his humor, and physically Harris reflects the real fear in the situation. Fallon never falls apart, but Harris is great by realizing that he's still a man doing a very dangerous task. My favorite moment of Harris's performance and the film is at the end with naturally one last wire to cut. Harris builds to the moment so effectively, and then releases the tension with his final moment of comfort and perfect delivery of Fallon's very much earned self-congratulatory "Fallon is the champion".  I love the line because as much as it is a genuinely, for the lack of a better word, a cool moment for Harris, he also does brings that sense of a sigh of relief along with it. Harris absolutely owns this part from beginning to end creating such a captivating character that steals the film without question.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: Bruce Dern, Scott Wilson, and Roberts Blossom in The Great Gatsby

This adaptation of the Great Gatsby though it could have used a little more vibrant direction, and there is a black hole at the center of it I still found to be a rather compelling film. This is in part due to the screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola but also due to the overall ensemble. Although there is that black hole in the center of it with Robert Redford in the titular role, who despite being well cast seems indifferent to the film, which is rather problematic for Gatsby a man with a passion infused purpose. The rest of the performers though make up for this including two of the main supporting actors of the film, and technically a minor one.

The two major ones though are Bruce Dern who was not Oscar nominated despite being nominated for a Golden Globe for portraying Tom Buchanan the lecherous husband of Daisy (Mia Farrow) the object of Gatsby's affections, and Scott Wilson who was not Oscar nominated as George Wilson the working class husband of the woman, Myrtle (Karen Black), Buchanan is having an affair with. Both roles honestly could have been simplified through the performances. In Dern's case Tom is a truly despicable character who even beyond his lechery indulges in brief physical abuse of his mistress, and espouses on his views on white supremacy. Meanwhile Scott Wilson's George is a fairly simple minded gas station owner who only slowly comes to even realize that his wife his having an affair despite the fact that she and Tom do little to hide it. In both circumstances they avoid any simplicity that lesser performances could have entailed. Dern in no way hides the miserable nature of Tom portraying the vile smugness when espousing his beliefs, and the limited selfishness when berating his mistress. Dern still makes Tom a human being if a vile one. In even his cruel scenes with Myrtle Dern portrays it less as Tom being intentionally sadistic, but rather depicts it the troubling reaction of a spoiled man who is not getting something exactly as he wants it. This is pivotal though in Tom as he does love Myrtle and this is shown in Dern's performance. I also love Dern in the scene where he spends time with Gatsby and Daisy. Again Dern's terrific by not playing into a villain but rather bringing an awkwardness and even shyness in Tom as he tries to hide his distress while struggling with his wife's infidelity. Obviously what Dern brings to the role doesn't make Tom any more sympathetic, even his pains involve a severe hypocrisy but what he does do is create a three dimensional role that could have been a one note villain. This leads to there even being some real power to Dern's performance particularly when a terrible tragedy occurs as Dern realizes the heavy loss in Tom, which doesn't make him a better man, but does show that he's human.
Scott Wilson, as usual really, excels with his brief screentime initially revealing just a real earnestness in his George. Wilson brings the right simplicity of attitude that grants an understanding to his initial blindness. He delivers his early moments just with the proper friendliness of a man of his nature where it would be beyond him to second guess his wife. We don't see him learn of the truth but we do see him after he has discovered it. Wilson is great in revealing just the quiet subdued pain in the man who really doesn't want anyone to know about his foolishness, yet Wilson brings such a palatable distress as the man speaks to finally figuring everything out. Wilson's George ends up carrying out the second most horrific act in the film, however what he does in the role creates a direct sympathy for the poor man's plight. Even when committing the violent act at the end of the film. Wilson is very moving by portraying the sheer weight of the emotional anguish that propels the man to his horrible actions. Again a role that could have just been the fool, or just a plot device. Wilson is neither as he offers a real insight into George's suffering, and makes him a victim rather than a villain.
Roberts Blossom did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr. Gatz in The great Gatsby.

My favorite performance in the film though is a rather short one by Roberts Blossom, yes the old man in Home Alone, who offered something rather special to that film as he does the same here. Blossom doesn't appear until the last ten minutes of the film as Gatsby's father with Gatsby's real last name Mr. Gatz. Blossom appears late after the tragic death of his son. What Blossom does here is absolutely remarkable in such short time, and yes I'll admit I have a particular affection whenever an actor can do so much with so little. He appears and underlying to begin with he is wholly heartbreaking in every moment as the loss of his son is felt in every moment of his performance. In every halted breath, and stumbling moment in his physical performance Blossom exudes the sheer grief that the man is suffering through. The extent of his sadness is so well realized as Blossom shows a man just barely keeping it together as he attends his son's funeral. This is not merely a heartbreaking depiction of grief, which it is, but there is such a richness to this portrayal that goes beyond that despite how potent and poignant that aspect of his performance may be. Blossom brings a certain discovering in his depiction realizing the man finding out what it is his son became though with that there is a sense of confusion of the man trying to come to terms with what his son became. Blossom finds that confusion but also a bit of pride as he speaks of his son's ambition and his search for his son. Blossom finds everything that that his son meant to Mr. Gatz, and everything that his loss meant to him. Although he's only onscreen for a few minutes I found his worked resonated more than any other in the film. It went even beyond that because as much as this performance works as such a powerful portrayal of a father's bereavement he also made me care more about Gatsby than Redford ever did. Blossom finds the tragedy of the man who gained everything only to lose it all, and he didn't even play that character. This performance is a testament to what a great character actor like Roberts Blossom can do even in the most minor of roles.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: Ken Takakura in The Yakuza

Ken Takakura did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ken Tanaka in The Yakuza.

Ken Takakura enters the Yakuza as the man to help the American Harry (Robert Mitchum) navigate the Japanese underworld in order to rescue Harry's businessman friend's daughter. We see the film through Harry's eyes, however with an edit of the film it would be easy enough to establish Tanaka as the main character though in a way this would be a different film. In the story we see Harry coming to terms with his past, while trying to deal with the future. Mitchum makes Harry a very open hero however Takakura's Tanaka is far more constrained. We initially meet him teaching at a dojo and Takakura's performance is very exact in his realization of the expression of Tanaka as a man. On the surface when speaking about the job he'll help Harry do, since he owes him for saving his "sister" long ago, Takakura portrays sincerity in his pledge to help. He portrays a man seemingly ready to help, however underneath this Takakura carries a greater complexity. From his first glance to Harry Takakura evokes in his eyes pain of the past in regards to the man, and carries this certain underlying tension in his interactions with the man.

Takakura's performance works particularly well as a companion work to Mitchum's and a contrast to it. On the one side of it Takakura is very effective, as Mitchum is, in the action scenes. He brings the right type of "cool" so to speak in these scenes though Tanaka takes on foes with the sword while Harry uses a gun. As with Mitchum the action scenes are never something taken lightly within Takakura's performance, although he technically goes even further with this partially due to the overtly physical nature of the action he participates in. Takakura brings a real weight to every moment by portraying every ounce of the battles in his own performance. This is in part due to realizing the physical exasperation of the fight, particularly in the final duel, but he also captures the emotional intensity involved. The fight becomes very personal for Tanaka, partially due to honor partially due to loss, and this is never lost in Takakura's performance. In every moment of the fight what motivates the man is keenly felt and makes every action scene all the more compelling because of this.

Again the contrast against Mitchum though is what is truly remarkably in this as Harry is the man we know pretty quickly, but Tanaka is the mystery of the film, the mystery who slowly unravels in order for us to understand. Takakura's performance is always in an exact tandem with this unraveling and through this makes the most compelling aspect of the film. After the initial rescue, which only leads to greater problems for Ken, which Harry tries to help him with. There's a great scene for Takakura where Harry tries to counsel him on what to do with his severe problem involving honor and the Yakuza where Ken's life is on the line. Takakura is amazing in the scene because every line of delivery has an abruptness, even a coldness of a man who doesn't care much about what Harry is saying, and just will do what he needs to do for himself. In every words about Harry, particularly when Harry speaks about his "sister's" concern for him, there is such a palatable anguish within Takakura's eyes. Takakura is deeply affecting as a reveals the real man suffering beneath essentially the requirements of honor, alluding to what the man is really going through even before we learn what that is.

Takakura is terrific in keeping in this dual nature of the man as he does portray an absolute conviction within the honor, yet there is always the sense of the sacrifice this entails. Takakura keeps in mind this idea throughout his performance though in every moment large or small, in even a slight reaction such as watching Harry being embraced by his "sister", there is those subtle hints to the far more vulnerable man who is burdened by his giri, his obligation, due to when Harry's past actions saved his "sister's" life. Eventually we learn the truth of the man which is that Harry never had saved his sister but actually his wife, and his honor left him to support Harry even as the two had an romantic affair. This revelation is bluntly revealed in a heartbreaking moment as grieves over the death, due to a gunfight, of his thought to be niece but was in fact his daughter. Takakura reveals the severity of the loss in revealing the out pour of almost the full anguish of the man's life. That is not only an incredibly powerful moment in the scene itself, but looking at the revelation naturally grants an understanding to the whole of Takakura's performance.

With this mystery revealed Takakura's performance is interesting in that it is the same yet with the perspective of knowing the truth you see every moment of the man in a different and very poignant light. In that way we are much like Harry in the film who by the end comes to fully understand the sacrifices of Tanaka himself. This leads to the two men coming together to realize a friendship between the two. It's a great scene for both actors though especially so for Takakura. Takakura in the moment loses that tension between the two sides of the man as Harry offers his apology. Takakura opens up most honestly emotionally in the moment, no longer is directed around any pain, no longer with the distance to the man who both righted and inadvertently wrong him. There is such an earned tenderness and respect in his delivery of "No man has a greater friend" which is both heartwarming and devastating as we see that two men finally fully knowing one another. This is a great performance by Ken Takakura as he provides the hidden heart of the film through his slow dissection of this initial enigma of a man that grants a real substance to the film that elevates the potentially pulpy story.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: David Warner in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs

David Warner did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dennis Charles Nipple in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs.

Ah old David Warner the actor always giving such compelling work in the margins of any film he may appear, shining so well if he's ever allowed the center of a film. Thankfully we are granted some undiluted Warner here in about three or four scenes as one of the friends of the titular Malcolm (John Hurt), the recently kicked out of college pseudo thinker trying to create a phallic based political party. We are introduced to Warner's Dennis Charles Nipple last out of the principal players as he engages in a philosophical, and somewhat practical conversation on the quality of a jacket. As I mentioned in my review of John Hurt's performance in this film the script still feels very much of the stage. Like Hurt, Warner is such a great performer though that he manages to elevate the script and alleviate this problem to the certain extent through his performances. The monologues are perhaps too long, but they aren't too shabby when delivered by an actor of Warner's caliber. Warner is engaging simply to watch and speak in this role to begin with, however Warner takes this further through his successful approach to the role of Mr. Nipple.

Although before that I must commend the film for the costuming on Warner here which is something special in itself. Warner does not waste that useful starting point from the first scene on. Now his performance works best in terms of specifically how it relates to John Hurt's not only in terms of their chemistry but also how he makes Dennis differ from Malcolm. Now on one end you see how these two are friends as they meet each other in terms of their love of philosophical argument, although each seem to get something different out of this. The argument itself that opens their first scene together is quite useless about knowing "proper corduroy" though the two great actors make the most of it in certain terms in that is rather amusing to see both men bring such a misplaced intensity in this conversation. The nature of the intensity is a bit different though in that Hurt portrays a real frustration in not being able to convince Dennis on his belief, whereas Warner portrays a different dynamic. Warner portrays always a certain thrill, a real pleasure of just having the conversation itself, he brings just a little bit of frustration towards Malcolm, but Warner captures that natural friendly frustration when trying to get a point across, something I experienced myself quite recently in a discussion over whether Mother! is a masterpiece or a piece of trash, but I digress.

Past their direct arguments over their own specific viewpoints there is also a difference in the nature of the stance and frankly the use of their philosophy. Warner makes the passion in Dennis far more genuine and shows that the man doesn't use his personal views to build any facade for himself. Warner depicts a real comfort in his views and even when they may be ridiculous in his own way Warner makes Dennis rather endearing by making his passion so honest. When describing his own dreamlike experience from not eating Warner delivers this was such a sincerity, as a man trying to share his own wonderment, and potential illumination rather than force upon them like Malcolm. When Warner speaks Dennis's words there is the spirit of a man truly of this nature as Warner portrays Dennis wholly at comfort with himself. This is in stark contrast to Malcolm, but also Malcolm's other two friends Wick and Irwin whose connection isn't as fellow amateur philosophers, but rather are there for Malcolm's guidance. Warner's terrific when they enter as he shows very specifically that Dennis is only there for the discussions with his friend, through his reactions where he establishes just how unimpressed he is with Malcolm's followers.

Dennis sticks around for the beginnings of Malcolm's political movement, however the way Warner's maneuvers these scenes are key. Warner takes on an endearing curiosity and even playfulness suggesting Dennis sees it just as a game, and mostly there to just spend time with his friend. Warner keeps the right distance as just a man really playing around, which is in an effective sharp contrast to the bluster of Malcolm, and the blind devotion of Wick and Irwin. The one moment Dennis really does speak up early on is to offer a different more respectful view of women through one of his stories, which Warner again brings a gentle passion that stands against the viciousness of Malcolm's party. Dennis not really being into the phallic party is what leads to Warner's final scene where he is put on trial for his "crimes" by Malcolm and the other two. In this scene Warner once again begins with Dennis not taking too seriously as he protests the claims against him with the concern of playing game, however this changes when Malcolm sentences Dennis to ostracization and "death". Warner in this moment importantly captures the man outside the game in a way by so well expressing his eyes the growing sense in Dennis that there may be something seriously wrong with Malcolm. Warner is rather heartbreaking even in capturing a realization of the severity of the game, and the simple betrayal of friendship Dennis assumed they shared. Warner gives wonderful work here as he is not only one of the watchable aspects of the film, he alleviates some of its problems, and is pivotal in creating a wholly sympathetic, though still atypical, man to provide almost the antidote to the venom of our central character.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974

And the Nominees Were Not:

Ken Takakura in The Yakuza


Richard Harris in Juggernaut

David Warner in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs

Christopher Lee in The Man With The Golden Gun

Roberts Blossom in The Great Gatsby

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Results

5. Bruno S. in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser - S. creates a proper enigma as he is always at a certain distance yet is always compelling.

Best Scene: Philosophies.
4. James Caan in The Gambler - Caan gives a terrific performance where he plays with his usual image to create a man at odds with himself as essentially meek man deluding himself with the risk his gambling addition entails.

Best Scene: End of the game.

3. Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza - Mitchum is a proper badass as you'd expect yet he finds a real substance within the role by so effectively exploring the history with the man.

Best Scene: Amputation forgiveness.
2. John Hurt in Little Malcolm - Hurt gives a downright brilliant performance that makes sense of his potentially unwieldy material, and is always engaging even as the film loses steam.

Best Scene: Malcolm's delusions are confronted.
1. Warren Oates in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia - Good Predictions Luke, Charles, Robert, Tahmeed, Omar, RatedRStar, Matt C., BRAZINTERMA Prêmio Fictício, Anonymous and Calvin. Oates easily wins this lineup for me for his dynamic and daring portrayal of a man already on the edge falling off.

Best Scene: "Because it feels so good."
Updated Overall

 Next Year: 1974 Supporting

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Bruno S. in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Bruno S. did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser is an interesting film that follows a strange young man appearing in a town with only an odd note in hand.

Bruno S.'s performance, as typical for a Herzog lead, is as a man that is either an extreme himself or in an extreme situation. This is the former for the strange man at the center of the film. This is not a film where we are meant to necessarily emphasize with the outsider, Herzog positions us technically closer to the view of the town's people trying to decipher the man. We are only given slightly more information then they are initially since we at the very least see Kaspar as he is in his confinement in a dank basement, and is taught some strange lesson by a man even more mysterious than Kaspar himself. The man leaves Kaspar in the town with the note, and teaches him to repeat a single phrase about becoming a gallant rider, and that is all. After that we are much like the town just trying to understand the man, and it is with this idea that Bruno S.'s performance is built around. S.'s performance is to give us the behavior, but only he is to understand it, not us. In the opening scenes, and his initial moment in town S.'s whole physical performance is of this strange specimen that we're are not expected to fully know. He grants Kaspar wide eyes that seem to take in everything around him, and his body language is distinct almost statuesque. He is a curiosity just from looking at him, which is exactly as Kaspar should be.

Bruno S. succeeds in being compelling just in himself as you watch there is just something about him that intrigues and captivates even beyond his strange note and past. This is essential to the character given that everyone becomes so interested him to the point they present him in a show despite there technically being nothing overtly abnormal about him physically. It isn't just the story though as S.'s performance also brings that strangeness so effectively to life. S. creates the sense that there is a mystery there even though he never tells you what it is. S. gives us a man who has been in an experience that does not relate to any other man in his state of this distance, but it is a certain type of distance that he expresses. S. is carefully not to be off-putting in the early scenes as his whole state of being has this naivety only to Kaspar himself. He's not exactly a child yet there is an innocence to him that makes it as though you not only want to learn more  of the enigma even though S. gives you few additional clues through his own performance to what the man is.

The film has a time jump where Kaspar has learned to easily communicate at least verbally with others, however that in no way removes the mystery of the man. S. portrays the growth in communication is only to a point as even the way he delivers the lines still is more at others, or even to himself rather than with another. He never loses that certain stare of his that now seems to come less of a man who wishes to observe everything around him, but rather of a man whose sight is of some other plain. S. keeps the man as much of a mystery still not allowing you into his plight or to really emphasize with him. Herzog and S. instead keep you still with those around him attempting to decipher what is the story to this man. Every moment of S.'s performance keeps this self containment of the man is. When Hauser mentions his own views on things these are delivered bluntly just as almost random thoughts, and S. portrays these distinctive emotions of the man. He never emotes as a normal person exactly he almost emotes in this particularly intense yet still abrupt and remote way that again keeps him far from an attachment. The main different in the time jump even is that in a way Kaspar becomes less innately likable since now one knows he can communicate yet chooses not to. S.'s performance technically though is of the same man who has just the only difference was his vocabulary of words and knowledge of the world has grown. This is a idiosyncratic performance by Bruno S. as he just is as Kaspar should be. He purposefully is never quite relatable, instead S. gives a performance that succeeds in bringing to life a true enigma that is impossible to fully comprehend.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Warren Oates in Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia

Warren Oates did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bennie in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

Bring Me the Head Of Alfredo Garcia, despite some particularly extreme negative reactions by some, I found to be a great crime thriller about an American bartender in Mexico going about trying to collect a bounty by finding the head of a dead man.

Now something already intriguing about the film is casting an actor like Warren Oates in the lead of the film. Oates is of course an incredibly reliable character actor, and just one of those guys who you can sense a story through their performance even if they don't have a lot of screentime. I love seeing when such an actor gets their chance to take on a leading role, and see how they can explore a role when they aren't technically working in the margins of a story. Oates's casting is further fascinating in that it seems to set a different type of tone for the film right from the outset when we see him working in his bar in Mexico, which is visited by two hitmen looking for the titular man. If this was Steve McQueen, or say a William Holden, and this nothing against those two actors I like very much, the viewer would likely immediately take to this "hero" for us to follow, as you'd just assume they'd have to be lovable rogues. When we see Bennie played by Oates, that's not the case, though I have to admit I love simply the look of Oates as Bennie, but I digress. Oates's unique presence offers something very different there which is a most unpredictable protagonist for us to follow throughout the film.

Oates's whole approach makes Bennie feel right within the rundown atmosphere of the bar. Oates carries that harshness of a man who has obviously been through some things being an army veteran, yet there is almost a levity within this that alludes to the man seemingly stuck in a definite aimlessness. Bennie more or less accepts the job of recovering Garcia, initially in a way that Oates portrays with a proper "why not" as he exudes this casual air of not quite a despair, yet an understanding of his situation. This becomes more complicated, but also simpler in a way when he gets more information from his girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega). It's more complicated because he learns that Elita was also having an affair with Alfredo, but simpler because he learns that Alfredo already died in a car accident. Now Oates's portrayal of Bennie's relationship with Elita is something truly fascinating as he creates such a striking realization of Bennie basically drifting even with her. He portrays any sense of betrayal with this delay of a man detached through experience, he does lash out at her for this eventually yet even this Oates depicts as a painful delay of the man's messy mind. Oates makes his anger real, yet instinctual in the moment, as though his wavering mind has fallen where it should be for a moment.

Now despite the infidelity the two decide to set off to get the bounty for Alfredo since they only need the head of the dead man. Oates is terrific though in making his acceptance of Elita in a way quite fascinating and surprisingly affecting. There is a moment before their journey really begins with where Oates so tenderly portrays just the genuine love Bennie has for Elita. Oates's performance again is so terrific how he even acts so effectively through sunglasses. Yet Oates through just a bit of cracking in his voice, and waver in his mouth reveals that vulnerability Bennie has with Elita that shows how much he does care for her. Unfortunately their journey gets off to a poor start when they accosted by two bikers who plan to rape Elita where again the unpredictability about Oates's performance makes the scene particularly remarkable. Obviously a Steve McQueen would of course save the day, but with Oates that is not a guarantee. Oates utilizes this in the moment as he portrays such an internalized anguish in his physical tension as he sits there, yet there is almost a potential consignment that makes the moment particularly unnerving. Again though Oates shows less a hero gaining his confidence, but rather depicts the shaken man coming to the right thought that allows him to take his action. What follows though is not a typical badass, rather the scene is particularly notable given Oates atypical approach that isn't as a hero, but rather a truly desperate man committing this act of violence.

Bennie and Elita eventually reach the village where Alfredo is buried, though Elita has more than a few second thoughts of desecrating the grave of her former lover. Bennie is not as concerned and Oates again is great in so well realizing the particularly mindset that is going on with Bennie in the moment. As always he Oates suggests the man who isn't thinking clearly as he keeps that certain detachment in the moment but I love the way Oates inserts the moments of such genuine emotion in there at times. It's purposefully messy though in natural way as he reveals Bennie in one moment attempting to justify himself though there is more the sense of that urge towards the greed involved with the head. When he says he'll put the grave back together as it was though in that delivery Oates is wholly sincere in showing Bennie's concern for his girlfriend, and he even takes a moment in revealing more than a bit guilt for his actions. This subsides for him to continue with his task, again though Oates doesn't make this a switch. He instead so effectively portrays this as more of a flow of Bennie's mind, in that even in the same moment he wants the money, and wants to do right by Elita, and it is all logical in the moment. Bennie though is attacked and buried in the grave instead waking up in a shocking scene where he discovers a murdered Elita next to him in the grave.

Oates is downright amazing in the moment of discovering as he not only reveals the terrible anguish in Bennie in every one of his wails, but also depicts essentially a man breaking the rest of the way through this anguish. After this scene Oates's performance takes Bennie to this different state of mind altogether and it is astonishing to watch. From this point on Oates essentially shows that Bennie has basically gone off the deep end, yet the task of collecting the money for the head of Alfredo keeps him together to at least some degree. What Oates realizes is this sort of stream of consciousness in everything about him, as Oates makes Bennie not a man on the edge but far past it. In every moment of the final act Oates is in this extraordinarily compelling portrayal of Bennie's state of mind. As he goes about his task still Bennie begins to speak to Alfredo as though he is on the car ride with him. Oates is brilliant in the way he rambles in these that allude to the emotional madness of the man as he attempts to reason himself to complete his task despite that horrific grief that Oates holds as an undercurrent to this insanity. Oates is downright amazing as in these scenes he is what would be in most films the cool badass taking down the bad men by shooting them one by one. Now indeed that is what Bennie is doing as he continues to kill everyone as he brings Alfredo to his destination. In every one of these moments Oates paints a man at his most extreme margins, as he keeps Bennie at this state of sheer dementia as he prods himself to keep killing. What is so remarkable in this is again how emotional Oates makes this in creating how the randomness of the emotions are flowing through Bennie, as Oates shows that grief at times, that callousness at others, or just a sheer moment of glee such in his exuberant yet aching delivery of "because it feels so good" after killing a man. When Bennie reaches his destination it is only logical to Bennie's illogical state that Oates has so convincingly realized that he'd take the money then proceed to kill the man and his men who hired him for not paying enough respect to the head that led to the deaths of so many. I love this performance as again in that moment Oates is so mesmerizing to watch as he brings that viciousness to the killing yet makes it so heartbreaking in its own way as he has shown how this man has gotten to this place. This is an outstanding performance by Warren Oates as he crafts such a lurid and unique portrait of a man falling right off the brink of his own mind.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza

Robert Mitchum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harry Kilmer in The Yakuza.

The Yakuza I found to be a pretty effective action/crime film about an retired American detective with connections in Japan being sent there by an old friend/businessman whose daughter has been kidnapped by a yakuza gangster, naturally things aren't as they appear.

Robert Mitchum managed to fashion a later career for himself not by attempting to hide his age but by embracing it. Mitchum was willing to play the meek schoolteacher in Ryan's Daughter and the down on his luck mobster in The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Although Mitchum gets to play perhaps a more traditionally appealing leading man here he does not attempt to position the part as something its not in fact he ensures the years past are something which define his Harry. Now from the outset though Mitchum made his breakout originally through crime noirs  and here is returning to a genre though with a twist through its setting which mostly takes place in Japan. The appeal of Mitchum's screen presence is of course quite evident, and it is perhaps only amplified by his age to be honest. Mitchum has that same ease onscreen and is naturally compelling as usual. This is not a copy of those earlier performances though by any means, as again Mitchum takes in consideration who Harry has been and where he has been. This is not a man fresh into the life of dealing with crime, he's a seasoned veteran, and Mitchum brings just the right inherent world weariness within his work for the crime world.

Although Mitchum properly keys into the losses in the life of this man, he carefully does not let that be the character's only definition. In a early scene we see Harry as he goes to see the Japanese woman Eiko and her daughter who he had saved and had an affair with long ago. Mitchum is great in this scene as he brings such a genuine warmth creating such a strong sense of the love they once shared, and which he certainly fully feels towards her. Mitchum uses these moments so well in creating a real honest tenderness within the character, that makes it all the easier to invest into his story.  There is a severe complication though is in her apparent brother Ken (Ken Takakura), who seems to hold quite the disdain for Harry, though is honor bound to help him for what he did for his sister. Mitchum is careful in also creating this history between the two men as there is a strong sense of the bitterness which Mitchum shows not within Harry himself rather he portrays it as part of this unease he exudes in their early interactions. Mitchum always emphasizes though a definite respect in the way he looks and interacts with Ken.

I'll spoilers for the rest of this review since of course while saving the kidnapped girl goes well the rest does not as soon becomes known that the kidnapping was due to an arms transaction between the yakuza and Harry's American friend which leads to Harry and Ken being the ones in the line of fire. Now in part this does lead to some premium Robert Mitchum as an aged badass, seeing him take down bad guys with a pistol and double barrel shot gun definitely has an appeal. Mitchum always is good at being "cool" in such scenes, while never compromising the intensity of them. In fact here's he's particularly good in every moment of his physical work portraying the way Harry becomes rather exasperated throughout the experience. Mitchum being just entertaining to watch is only part of his performance here as he goes much further in developing the continued relationship with Ken which becomes all the more complicated when he learns that Ken was in fact Eiko's husband not her brother. Mitchum doesn't let a moment of this slide bringing such a poignancy in his reactions to learning this information. Mitchum importantly lets this dictate their later interactions, as he does not make this a ill-fitting action duo, rather Mitchum offers a real sensitivity in portraying in every moment such a guilt and severe concern for the man in every interaction. When the battle is won by the two of them they share a final scene that Mitchum is incredible exceptional in. Mitchum brings such a power in revealing the modest yet palatable gratitude in his eyes that reveal a sadness for what he has done to the man, but also an appreciation for all his sacrifices. Even though the scene involves chopping off an appendage, Mitchum and Takakura make it heartwarming in its own way as in the brief interaction between the two they reveal a mutual understanding between the two that feels wholly earned by both performances. This is a terrific performance by Robert Mitchum as he not only offers a strong presence to keep this thriller compelling, he goes further by amplifying any substance to be found within it. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: James Caan in The Gambler

James Caan did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Axel Freed in The Gambler.

The Gambler is an effective character study following a literary professor and his gambling addiction.

After watching this film I must say it caused a bit of a perspective change in regards to its 2014 remake and Mark Wahlberg's performance in that film. Now I thought that film was disposable to begin with, and Wahlberg's performance underwhelming, now they're even worse than that in my mind through its fundamental misunderstanding of the source material, a bit like The Beguiled remake in that sense. It is not as though this film is a masterpiece, I'd describe it probably as just a good film, however it properly knows that this protagonist is not a "cool" hero for us to follow, he's a bit of mess. James Caan is known for his tough guys, but here this is both a fulfillment of certain expectation but also a subversion from him. Caan's performance is particularly essential in using this idea, and in general to the film as the film never spells out Axel's motivation. This is almost entirely left to Caan's performance. We are only granted a few hints within the script, usually not directly about Axel, which take place when Caan is least like a usual Caan character which is when he's working as the literary professor. I like what Caan does in these scenes, where technically he's spelling out who the character is through what he is teaching such as William Carlos William's piece on George Washington from In The American Grain, and Dostoyevsky's sentiment on making 2 + 2 equal to five rather than 4.

Caan in his scenes as the professor importantly plays them most closely to the chest, and carefully does not give away his hand. This is important for two main reasons one being on the surface Caan rightfully downplays his usual presence in order to be believable as this literary professor, which he is, but secondly he keeps away from making the nature of Axel too obvious within the film. Axel is in many ways speaking of himself in these moments but Caan carefully avoids making this obvious instead portraying the right low key passion fitting to such a professor. He never oversteps the bounds of his character there effectively realizing a man creating this discussion with his class, though there is of course still more to this type of exact attachments to these sentiments which directly relate to Axel as a man. In the Washington piece there is a reduction of the image of the great American leader, and in this way Caan makes a reduction of his own screen persona with Axel here. In general Axel is really just a guy and we see him when he's with his mother, or with his rich grandfather, as this fairly meek man where Caan subtly reveals this man filled with a real vulnerability. He not only doesn't take charge of the situations we see him in, he's not even in charge as he just speaks to his mother, as Caan even when stealing money from her makes it a plainly pathetic moment in the unease in which he portrays within Axel in that moment.

Caan's Axel is not a man who is assured of his life in any way, and he's certainly not a cool customer. In his scenes with his girlfriend Caan is notably not assured much of the time. He brings moments of this spark of a charm, yet so often Caan defines again this inherent lack of confidence that ends up defining the relationship. Caan has these great instances ofbringing in this attempted, man's man type of confidence, which is common in his performances, yet here he makes it purposefully flimsy, making a problematic part of who Axel is. Caan's especially strong in some the early scenes where he sees the actions of some of his book makers when they become much more violent. Caan never shows Axel brushing this off, although he internalizes it to a certain degree, he reveals a real fear the man. When he himself is almost on the chopping block stuck with few options Caan's terrific in the way he reveals the man almost closing down in being honestly terrified at the danger he is in. These moments are essential to the character yet must be carefully examined against his actions throughout the film, which can seem contradictory to this, but they are not due to Caan so effectively realizing the nature of the character. The potential contradiction though comes when we see Axel as the titular character so to speak, and the most essential facet within the story.

As the Gambler is where the Dostoyevsky's math comes in, which is found right there in Caan's performance. In the gambling scenes is where we see Caan in his purest form in terms of the Caan type in that he brings that more overt confidence in these moments. Now this is not Caan contradicting the sorta sad sack professor we see the rest of the time. Instead what Caan presents is Axel when he is not seeing that 2 + 2 equals to 4, which is when he fears for his well being due to his gambling debt or is the meek son/grandson, but rather here is the man who defies logic to believe that in this instance that 2 + 2 can equal to five. That confidence here adheres to this hubris where Axel is thriving on essentially this delusion, but a delusion that he firmly believes in the moment. Caan is terrific in finding this state of the man as he gambles which is heightened in a way since in every moment while gambling he brings this thrill, but also that assurance that everything will be as he sees it in the moment. He of courses comes into this state and goes out of it throughout the film, and Caan plays this naturally. There's one particularly strong scene in this regard for Caan where he's going from phone to phone making bets, while occasionally snapping back to pay attention to his girlfriend. It's remarkable as Caan makes the delusion feel so honest, even in the moment he suddenly drops it when he sees she's about to leave him, despite having been so influence by it a second ago. Caan finds that pull of the addiction brilliantly. Perhaps my favorite realization of that for Caan is in the final sequence of the film where he bribes one of his students to shave points in a basketball game to wipe his debts clean. In the game itself Caan delivers that burden of the tension as the game goes on, given his life is on the line. Afterwards though Caan plays Axel as frankly bored by the events, and  oddly takes a risk by going into a dangerous neighborhood where he solicits a prostitute seemingly just to get into a violent altercation with her pimp. Now with an actor with looser grip on the character this scene would make no sense, thankfully the remake did drop this scene for their own good, Caan though understand the role and makes you understand Axel through performance. In this scene Caan shows us Axel becoming bored with the results, since the risk is now gone, and in the end he brings that engagement and confidence back only when once again Axel is taking this nonsensical risk that defies logic, yet makes sense to Axel in the moment.