Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010: Taika Waititi in Boy

Taika Waititi did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alamein aka "Shogun" in Boy.

Boy is a very funny but also rather poignant coming of age story about...well...a boy (James Rolleston) getting a chance to reunite with his absentee father.

Boy I suppose wasn't quite a surprise in its balance of being both heartwarming and gut busting based upon Taika Waititi's later work as a director in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. What was perhaps a bit more of a surprise though was how this also translates to his work as an actor. Waititi in addition to directing the film plays the boy's father Alamein, which is also the boy's real name. In the opening of the film he is in jail where the boy imagines him as some sort hero even at times when he admits he's in jail. Waititi gives us glimpses of Alamein in fantastical visions of the man which grant us some great physical comedy from Waititi. These are perhaps the most purely comic moments in Waititi's work given he is basically being a human cartoon in them. Each one is a splendid piece of ridiculousness from Waititi. Whether it is performing a Maori dance by way of Michael Jackson's thriller, engaging in a dramatic fight with a gang of bikers, or even escaping prison like ninja by throwing dirt as if it was a ninja star, Waititi is highly entertaining. He properly gives a portrayal that is a little too much in that it so clearly a false image of almost this superhuman hero rather than an actual man. Waititi properly invents the hero for a child's dream being oh so endearing, and easy to be proud of, while being quite funny to us by just how absurd these images are.

We meet Alamein in the flesh a bit later as he surprisingly comes with his friends to visit the boy's home. The boy takes it as Alamein wanting to get to know him and his little brother Rocky. Waititi is brilliant in many ways here in the way he portrays the part of Alamein, or as he prefers to be called Shogun, but I'll still keep calling him Alamein. On one front Waititi does make Alamein a likable charming guy on the surface. He brings certainly an energetic spirit to the role, though carefully downplays this in comparison to those scenes of the fantasy. Waititi creates a more natural charm in these scenes fitting to the type of man Alamein is. Now in this Waititi creates these layers, that are not of facades but rather how this behavior can be seen and interpreted depending on who is watching him. At the most surface point this is just an entertaining performance to watch as Waiti has such a considerable comedic skill. This is in flawless delivery when humor is already within the line though Waiti has a particular great skill of even making technically mundane lines hilarious through unique approach as a performer as well as his perfect timing. Waititi makes this an inherent element within Alamein's charm that makes the initial view of him believable, and even what perhaps the boy's deceased mother had seen in him.

Waititi isn't simply entertaining here, though he certainly is that, but he brings real nuance within even this behavior that offers more than just an entertaining dad, although maybe less in a way. That behavior although can be enjoyable, Waititi uses it to also show the state of Alamein which is basically as a man child right down to his insistence that he and his couple guys, the not so amply named "Crazy Horses, are a proper gang. This extends to his interactions with his kids where Waititi walks such a fine line in his portrayal of this. In that he shows exactly how his kids could believe him to be just a fun dad as he encourages them to help him dig for treasure, even while it is in fact a selfish act of him just trying to find his ill-gotten gains he buried before going to jail. Waititi is fun as Alamein however in this he also conveys just how unabashed he is in choosing to misuse his kids. When he speaks over the phone about how there are so many kids around, or asks his boy not to call him dad rather to call him Shogun, there is a earnestness to the petulance that makes him endearing on the surface. Looking further than that surface though Waititi shows a real problem there showing to us the bad father who really is not performing his duties, even while his sons are tricked, initially anyways, even if it appears he's there just spending a good time with them. Waititi goes even further though with this than just having Alamein be a bad father, even though he is definitely that.

Waititi keeps in mind just how unprepared the man is to be a father, and that earnestness in much of his behavior is never wholly false even if somewhat deceiving. He's often having fun with the kids as though they are just his friends, as Waititi conveys the way the guy can't get his head around being a proper paternal figure to the boys. Waititi finds the complication of this in such authentic fashion. Throughout the film as his behavior becomes worse Waititi shows what happens when such behavior is basically forced to directly deal with reality. Waititi is actually most unsettling when this happens as we see the man acting as a boy in a less positive light, and it isn't easy to watch. Waititi doesn't hold back in this particularly in one scene where he suspects his son has taken his money. Waititi  delivers in bringing a downright scary side to Alamein, that feels entirely cohesive to the rest of the character due to Waititi's deft handle on the role. Waititi brutally shows the truth of what happens to the "fun dad" when there is no fun to be had, and his childishness comes into conflict with his kids. When he yells at the boy Waititi shows the very real danger of the man living as the boy.

Again though Waititi carefully does not simplify this to suddenly make Alamein a terrible person, even though he is, in every single scene. Waititi is actually quite moving in the scene right afterwards in portraying so sincerely his attempt at apology, though still recognizing the problem in this since even the apology doesn't fully recognize the nature of his action. In this though Waititi finds a melancholy around the character as exudes the challenge of the man to connect with them in someway he understands, as well as deal with the loss of his wife. There are times in the fun moments there is a genuine warmth that Waititi brings showing Alamein trying to be an actual father to them. Waititi makes these moments properly awkward though genuine. These moments though he makes that somberness the most palatable suggesting that when he acts as the dad remembering the loss of his wife weighs most strongly on his mind. Waititi is downright heartbreaking in his portrayal of the particularly in the final pseudo reconciliation with his sons at the grave of his wife. I'll admit I was a bit surprised by just how well Waiti proves himself as able as an actor as he is a director in terms of so delicately and effectively balancing these tones. I loved this performance as Waititi within his portrayal is ridiculous, moving, horrible, likable, and funny all in his singular complex realization of the mess of a man Alamein is.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010

And the Nominees Were Not:

Armie Hammer in The Social Network

Ben Kingsley in Shutter Island

Liu Kai Chi in The Stool Pigeon

Michael Lonsdale in Of Gods and Men


Taika Waititi in Boy

Monday, 27 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Results

5. William Shimell in Certified Copy - Shimell gives an effective if more simplistic, in comparison to his co-star, portrayal of the film's mysterious relationship.

Best Scene: The first stop.
4. Mads Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising - Mikkelsen offers the right imposing yet otherworldly presence as his silent uncompromising warrior.

Best Scene: The pat.
3. Martin Sheen in The Way - Sheen offers the right balance to his film bringing a real emotional honesty to his character's journey of discovery while also doing the same for his less subtle co-stars.

Best Scene: Police Station.
2. Riz Ahmed in Four Lions - Ahmed is a proper Moe Howardesque straight man offering the right intensity, as well as sense of leadership in dealing with his incompetent underlings, while also humorously portraying his own failings.

Best Scene: Trying to talk Waj out of it. 
1. Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me - Affleck delivers an absolutely chilling depiction of a psychopath and realizes the logic of a disturbed even if his film's not very good.

Best Scene: Preparing a funeral pyre. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2010 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me

Casey Affleck did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me.

The Killer Inside Me at a source material level is a pitch black noir that would require a deft hand to successfully adapt, well no such hand is to be found here.

The film follows a corrupt lawman from his perspective, solely from that perspective and unlike say a Bad Lieutenant of some kind this lawman is wholly evil. The film falters in part because much of it feels like an exercise in replicating the hard boiled noir films of the 40's and 50's like a Double Indemnity, Kiss Me Deadly or The Postman Always Rings Twice. The film is an exercise in that however it does not succeed in even replicating the weakest of those three films in part because the exercise itself feels obvious but also in the way it deals with the characters. The supporting characters, partially in writing often in performance, feel like caricatures we are wholly detached from leaving the only successful character and performance being the one there is suppose to be a level of detachment from to begin with. That is obviously Casey Affleck in the lead role as Lou Ford our villainous protagonist. The majority of Affleck's notable roles in his acting career are at some level anti-social. This is a fascinating performance in Affleck's work since this is once again anti-social however the way he reveals it is very peculiar here, yet reveals itself in exactly the nature of Lou Ford.

Affleck's work is interesting though in that it isn't about facades exactly, but rather the meaning he attaches to Lou Ford's behavior that we know however no one else knows until it is too late. When we open the film we see Lou Ford as he sent out to evict known prostitute Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba), where we see Lou Ford as this unassuming if not slightly charming deputy. Affleck is not a naturally overtly charming performer however what he does here is quite fascinating in the sort of elfish charm he does find in that mischievous smile of his as he lets himself in. Affleck doesn't actually portray this hint of charm as a facade exactly since in that smile there is already exactly what he is, the problem is only Ford knows this. In that smile he charms Joyce long enough yet Affleck in that even brings his intention which isn't to pleasant towards her or even evict her, it is far worse. He goes about instead starting a sadomasochistic relationship with her where he routinely physically abuses her in perverse sex acts. Affleck doesn't reveal some evil side rather knowing what he intends to do grants a very different reaction from Affleck's slight grin given its meaning.

Affleck's performance here is apart from the rest of the film both in terms of quality but also in the way he portrays the psychosis of Deputy Ford. Ford is merely a man who does things throughout the film seemingly with little sense, even with a backstory of encouraging it but not creating it. Ford is mentally ill from the start and that is not going to change. What Affleck portrays throughout the film is merely such a man interacting with his surroundings, which unfortunately results in many deaths, and general destruction. Affleck's depicts Ford without even a hint of guilt portraying this purity of the madness of a man that is truly chilling because of the level of comfort Affleck depicts in this. In his actions of inflicting pain or killing Affleck portrays some to be sure in Ford as he does this, but also a hollowness within the ease in which he does it. There are no lingering thoughts that Affleck portrays rather a man completely comfortable in himself at every point throughout the film no matter what danger he may be putting himself in or how close he might be to getting caught for his many horrible actions throughout the story.

Ford's actions don't make a lot of sense throughout as he seems to almost actively work to getting himself caught by the end of the film however it is given any sense through Affleck's portrayal of his particular sort of craziness. Affleck always makes Ford the man he as this deranged pleasure seeker. He isn't even wholly without emotion as Ford speaks to some love he holds for Joyce, and although Affleck shows this to be true he also shows that this love means for him stabbing her to death. Affleck's performance here is terrific as he is most disturbing in so honestly realizing the man's sinister nature at every point no matter how illogical, since Affleck shows that it is wholly logical to Ford. In those eyes there is the man who holds such pleasure from just inflicting harm to others with that carefree genuine attitude that Affleck finds in this that makes it so off-putting. Affleck's work here on its own is compelling but it truly stands alone. He remains intriguing even as the film never really becomes as such. Affleck's performance is what would be needed for any adaptation of The Killer Inside Me, as he brings to life the man in eerie detail, even if the film itself fails to capitalize on the strength of its lead.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Byung-hun Lee in I Saw the Devil

Byung-hun Lee did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Soo-hyun Kim in I Saw the Devil.

The first time I watched I Saw the Devil I took very strongly to Min-sik Choi's performance as the central villain Kyung-chul, a serial killer who randomly targets the fiancee of Lee's secret service agent Soo-hyun Kim, and perhaps took Byung-hun Lee's performance somewhat for granted. On re-watches though I noticed my mistake in this, and the brilliance of the pairing of Choi and Lee, perhaps the two most talented Korean actors. The reason being they are such opposites in style and frankly everything else, though similair in their considerable talent. Where Choi certainly does not have the look of the traditional leading man, and his very flamboyant energetic performer, Lee on the other hand is very much the traditional leading man however with a very particular often restrained approach to his roles. These two provide for a most fascinating dynamic as we have Choi on the ledge, brilliantly so, as a complete madman, against Lee's very internalized performances Kim seemingly our hero ready to get revenge for his murdered fiancee. Now again, I quite wrongly, believed Lee to be overshadowed where in fact his work is just as pivotal as Choi's to the overall success of the film.

It is always interesting to see how a film will play differently when re-watching it, and the earliest scenes of the film have all the greater impact when you are aware of what is coming soon. Lee in the brief scene where Kim speaks with his fiancee is actually rather devastating with this knowledge in that he does provide a real warmth in the brief scene where Kim attempts to find a moment to romance her while doing his security scenes. It is a genuinely sweet moment where Lee just reveals a normal guy in love, which naturally in this film is not meant to be given that she is murdered as the opening scene of the film. In discovering the murder Lee is moving in portraying the honest grief of Kim as he initially discovers his painful loss. This however changes from the moment he decides to exact revenge by finding the killer. Lee puts that obvious gentle humanity to Kim in his very quiet portrayal of the state of Kim once he begins his descent into hell. Lee's fashions this exact state of Kim as this man filled with vengeance, and is outstanding what he does with his restraint in the role.

Lee shows a man no longer seemingly broken by his loss rather completely in charge of his existence. There is this undeniable  power to the presence of Lee as he is frankly more menacing than the killer he assaults. Lee portrays this with the right limited emotions at times of a man who is essentially focusing himself away from his sorrows, and into the path that gives himself purpose. This is not to say it is unemotional in the slightest. Lee is incredible in the way he stays so quiet yet brings such a palatable intensity in his eyes. His eyes that suggest this hatred that fuels the man on his quest. This though again often has this certain calm and in doing so Lee does not make Kim some otherworldly hero simply doing the right thing, for him it's unfortunately far more complex. In that intensity there is this confidence, and seemingly some ease in his being. A contentment most of the time in his drive to get revenge. In the early scenes where he directly faces the other criminals, or Choi's Kyung-chul Lee brings this detachment within the intensity as though he is acting as some spirit of vengeance who is beyond their limits of understanding. Lee's terrific as this technical facade is actually made properly believable, and what makes him so menacing.

That state is always Lee's point of return in his performance and it so effectively reveals the frame of mind of the man who is finding some strange solace in his quest. This is not to say there are not moments of breaking, Lee in fact brings this at the right moment, such as when he finds his wife wedding ring he naturally reveals a bit of the pain again. That though he wisely keeps restrained still keeping Kim as the properly stoic "hero" that you would find in most revenge thrillers. He returns though always back to seeming in a place away with it whenever he is on his quest. This is to the point in his initial confrontation with Kyung-chul Lee stays almost without emotion in the fight, until he has knocked the killer unconscious and is about to be able to kill him. Lee reveals just a bit of his pain seeping in even within the apparent satisfaction as he is about to commit the coup de grace, and in this Lee makes the strange choice to let Kyung-chul live convincing. In that moment Lee suggests the thought of a man about to lose everything falling back into his despair, and makes sense of the man letting the killer live since if he tortures him it gives him something to keep him going and away from his despair.

Lee shows this as allowing Kim to continue his state of that confidence, that power as he follows and pesters the man trying to drive him insane, well...more insane. Lee brings that detachment, that what would usually be described as sort of a cool bad ass detachment, of the man whose going to make life for the villain a living hell. Lee constantly appears with that intensity, and absolute control as Kyung-chul's personal judge dispensing punishment viciously, and without mercy. Again this is not truly without emotion however Lee brings it through that palatable contempt to destroy the man. That intensity is as such through Lee's performance that he allows Kim to seemingly become almost the monster himself as he stalks his prey of the killers, with the piercing eyes of a different kind of killer as he seems to stare into their souls, and his voice in these moments which reinforce this unshakable determination in his uncompromising pointed delivery. The more time we spend with Lee portraying Kim on the moment the less simple it become, as he indeed seems less the hero seeking revenge, and man becoming not far off the man he's seeking revenge against.

As with Byung-hun Lee's work in his other leading collaboration with director Jee-woon Kim A Bittersweet Life, Lee is springing a bit of trap with his performance. In that while he is compelling in portraying this more subdued, and withdrawn performance it is building to something. We have hints of this throughout as there are the moments where just a bit of Kim's pain reveals itself, however Lee always portrays this is as only very subtle momentary lapses such as single tear where the emotion pushes itself just slightly through, until the very end of the film where he sets a final death trap to end it all. When Kim leaves Kyung-chul to fate Lee is ice cold as he walks away without emotion until finally the end comes, and the trap is sprung with Lee's performance. Again Lee has stayed reserved for the rest of the film but he finally lapses in this scene revealing finally the full extent of all the pain from the events of the story, and the hollowness he's left with. Lee gives one of the most heartbreaking depictions of grief that has all the greater impact as he shows this usually guarded man finally losing any sense of control. Lee in the scene just lets it all go in such powerful way in this messy combination of tears, and laughs, not laughs of joy rather of a horrible madness stemming from his damaged state. Byung-hun Lee gives a great performance that while perhaps his impact is not immediately as obvious as Choi's it holds the same importance in providing a real emotional depth within the carnage through his complex realization of what revenge does to a man.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Mads Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising

Mads Mikkelsen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying One-Eye in Valhalla Rising.

Valhalla Rising follows a silent warrior who follows with a group of soldiers in a crusade that leads them to an unknown land.

Valhalla Rising is film that seems to encourage polarizing reactions from those who watch with its minimalist, contemplative style. The only point of any agreement should come from the film's striking technical elements particularly its cinematography, although these are perhaps just a little diminished by the bizarre choice to use terrible and very distracting Photoshop blood splatter effects, especially given the amount of practical effects already utilized. The rest though will be how one takes to the stark story, and storytelling methods that features intense yet cold emotions. This is perhaps best personified through the central character of One-Eye played by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen has not a single line in the entire film, as his One-Eye is a man of actions only. This is from the outset of the film where we see him used by a chieftain for fights to the death in between being locked in a cage. Now often a silent performance does not mean unemotional however even here One-Eye is purposefully made to be an enigmatic character, and somewhat distant in his rather mystical presence within the film. That is right down to his moniker and physical attribute that alludes to Odin the Norse god, which extends as far as One-Eye having the power to foresee the future.

This performance is not exactly the usual type of challenge these performances are since part of the intention of the character is to be a bit impenetrable particularly against the other characters who wear their emotions far more openly and broadly. Mikkelsen's One-Eye is suppose to be set as a stone in a way, a man above and beyond those around him in someway. Mikkelsen's work is not particularly emotional, and really his character is rather static once again acting in contrast to those around him. Mikkelsen's portrayal falls largely upon his own presence which is remarkable in its own right. There is something naturally compelling about Mikkelsen to the point that even when he's not saying anything verbally or non-verbally for that matter, there is something striking in Mikkelsen's very being. Mikkelsen becomes an impressive conduit of interest throughout the film, as he does compel one to watch One-Eye even though he gives very little to explain the man. What truly defines Mikkelsen's performance is what is it that he brings within this almost set condition of One-Eye that defines the character throughout the film.

Mikkelsen's presence is worthy of the demi-god, or just simply god within the story. Mikkelsen brings that natural intensity of his, particularly through that incisive single eye of his here that indeed seems to see beyond all those around him. There is a mercilessness about this, yet not exactly an evil that Mikkelsen portrays. Mikkelsen for much of the film doesn't depict One-Eye as good or as evil, but something that simply is. Mikkelsen is able to capture a being who acts upon some will greater than the normal man even in the way he kills Mikkelsen portrays with this exactness not of a skilled warrior rather as a deity dispensing his judgment. Mikkelsen nor the film desires more from the character than this exact state which continues as he joins a crusade to the unknown. Mikkelsen acts as the only point of stability in the journey although even then this is in a purposefully cold and distant fashion. One-Eye even as he has visions of a certain doom does not wither from this, rather treats this as his inevitable fate. The only slight break we are granted is in his final moments where he awaits this fate with a boy who gave him food in captivity, and he acted as protector to on their journey to the unknown. Mikkelsen still portrays this true to the state of One-Eye as in simple comforting pat there is the only warmth to be found anywhere within the film. Mikkelsen even depicts this though as part of the otherworldly nature still even in the human act, it is still seemingly a pardon towards the boy from a god. This performance is exactly as it should be in this specific realization of the omnipotent One-Eye, to be more emotional, would be dishonest to the role. Mikkelsen delivers all that he is able within the confines, and is far more compelling than most actors would be in the role. He is however still subservient towards the overarching vision which leaves him in that exact distant state that is still only as absorbing as the film allows him to be.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Riz Ahmed in Four Lions

Riz Ahmed did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Omar in Four Lions.

Four Lions surprisingly somehow works as a comedy about a group of rather westernized jihadists in England.

Riz Ahmed who seems to be slowly breaking out, most notably with his very dramatic role in the mini-series The Night Of,  despite being a terrorist leader this is not dramatically minded role...for the most part. Ahmed instead plays essentially Moe Howard of the Three Stooges as the "brains" of a group of the dimwitted fanatics. Ahmed's performance is therefore to be the wrangler among the group more or less. Ahmed's performance is interesting in turn, like Moe Howard actually, he has to be sort of the straight man but also comedic in his own way as well. There is much of it as purely the Moe of the group in terms of dealing with the overt stupidity of the rest of the group particularly the constantly angry convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay) with a varied amount of dumb ideas on how they should go about being a terrorist cell. Ahmed brings the right type of exasperation in every little reaction to this, but also the more direct vicious anger proper for a Moe Howard type. He's especially hilarious when he breaks down Barry's idea of bombing a mosque to the moderates to become radical, as Ahmed brings nothing but the most extreme disbelief and derision in every breath as he explains how stupid the idea is.

He's also the straight man to the other idiots in the group though Ahmed brings as much of a certain confusion towards their incompetence he handles it a bit differently particularly towards the simpleton Waj (Kayvan Novak). It is here though he is again the Moe as he has to wrangle them towards the cause though again Ahmed portrays a certain way. This is very important in terms of maintaining the tone of the film as Ahmed never portrays Omar, the most competent of the men, still realistically as a jihadist. When Omar goes about encouraging, or really manipulating, the other men Ahmed doesn't bring the passion of a true fanatic, as that really wouldn't be funny. Ahmed instead approaches it basically as a guy trying to almost form kind of a band, a band he takes seriously yet can't quite get his guys to work properly together. He doesn't deliver his words to them as these passionate views of a mad man, but rather of a fairly stressed out guy just trying to make what they're doing work. This is right down to an early scene where he sees his men's terrorist videos, where Ahmed reacts again less as a man looking at horrifying propaganda, but rather a front man being very disappointed in his band members' music videos.

Now in proper Moe Howard form Ahmed, though the most intelligent of the men, is also a bit of an idiot he's just better at hiding it from himself. This is right down to their motivation where they are group yet couldn't be more westernized themselves. This is actually especially true to Ahmed's portrayal of Omar, which is again never exactly true to his intention. Again what makes this work in a comedic sense is that Ahmed stays pure to this throughout the film, and plays it as being perhaps somewhat oblivious to this contradiction. In turn Ahmed is consistently funny in portraying just how comfortable technically Omar in this such as his full embracing of a jogging neighbor while he and the men are transferring their explosions. Ahmed carefully shows not a hint of actually hating anyone, other than his own men, which I feel is key to making the film's tone work. The whole time Ahmed portrays this as less something he truly deeply believes in a dogmatic sense, but rather because it is something that has been decided for him. Even when he announces his intention to go about suicide bombing to his wife, Ahmed delivers his veiled statement as though he's decided to finally go on vacation or something.

A pivotal element in Ahmed's performance actually though is that he doesn't wink at any point and stays true to his character of Omar, which makes both the character and the tone of the film cohesive. This is as Ahmed portrays Omar most at ease at essentially not be a fundamentalist terrorist or even a fundamentalist in any way. This is particularly important to the few scenes Ahmed shares with a more religiously observant Muslim, who is not a potential terrorist, where Ahmed brings such a petulance in his treatment of the man. Again this should almost seem nonsensical however Ahmed makes it entertaining yet somehow natural to the character, and his skewed views towards his own religion. In every moment where he's actually trying to be terrorist Ahmed's great by showing Omar frankly at his most idiotic, such as his classical prat fall when firing a bazooka, or the whole final sequence where the men go to blow themselves up wearing ridiculous costumes. Ahmed makes for the right type of physical embodiment of awkwardness, however he goes even further to slowly throughout the sequence portraying the realization in Omar over his mistake. He ends up creating a bridge the film to a more dramatic intention as he attempts to talk Waj out of it. Ahmed manages to make this transition work, without somehow going too heavy, despite the film ending the way it does. Ahmed's performance, much like the film, is this incredible balancing act that manages to be quite entertaining while somehow making light of the dark material, yet somehow also create some depth to it. It shouldn't work, but it does, and Riz Ahmed's astute performance is one of the greatest contributions in making it so. 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Martin Sheen in The Way

Martin Sheen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Thomas "Tom" Avery in The Way.

The Way is fairly predictable however I ended quite liking the film in its inspirational intentions following a father following his deceased son's footsteps by taking a pilgrimage on an ancient spiritual tale that his son died on.

Martin Sheen after his period during the 70's as a leading man came to become perhaps best known mostly for often unassuming supporting roles in terms of his cinematic output. This is a notable exception naturally coming from a collaboration with his son Emilio Estevez as the film's director. Incidentally though the last time I covered a Sheen performance was also in a film about a rather different kind of trek in Apocalypse Now, however this one seems to evoke an attempt to transcend towards a certain heaven rather than a descent into hell. In a film about such a journey though we don't begin with Martin Sheen's Tom Avery as a deeply unhappy man. Instead we just see him briefly living his life, and Sheen shows him just to be an affable enough man before being devastated from hearing about the sudden death of his son Daniel (played by Estevez of course). Sheen is terrific though in portraying the sheer weight of his original sorrows from hearing about the death of his son. Sheen is moving yet he carefully approaches these scenes in showing just how lonely and cold the sadness in the scene. He internalizes very effectively by portraying directly the way all Tom can feel over this and his relationship with his son is that sorrow. Sheen establishes well this state of Tom's grief before and while he collects his son's remains in Europe.

In Europe though he discovers how his son died, and decides to help him finish the way of St. James by taking his ashes while walking it himself. On the journey I must say how much I appreciated Sheen's performance because of how he does not allow the film to veer off into excessively sentimental or corny material. Naturally there are elements to basically turn this film into that sort of thing as par for the course he comes across a few other pilgrims including an acerbic chain smoking divorcee Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a goofy Dutchman Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), and a slightly daffy philosophical writer Jack (James Nesbitt). These three could easily lead the film astray, and not so much due to the performances, but just the nature of the characters. Sheen though offers just the right balance by carefully never becoming flamboyant in that way, and there are certainly opportunities for some over the top "seasoned old guy" lines. Sheen though stays reserved properly and plays off them well by offering such a down to earth portrayal. In turn Sheen stays true to the character by keeping alive his grief as the underlying factor in the character. Sheen rightfully keeps this as a weight right down to his very physical performance that creates the sense of that sorrow even in the lighter moments.

Sheen captures so well the spiritual and religious journey of the character. Again this is where another actor may have gone very broad but Sheen does so well to keep the journey a fairly subtle one. He creates a real sense of the pilgrimage in portraying Tom trying to come to terms with his sons death throughout the film, rather just being a simple fix at any point. In turn Sheen does well in that he grants moments where there seems joy is coming from the experience, but just as well makes his moments of exasperation as well as confusion of his state just as natural. The one broader scene by Sheen is one I actually thought he pulled off well. In that it is the scene where Tom lashes out at the other pilgrims for their inadequacies after failing to really respect his loss in a proper way. Sheen I felt earned this as in those previous moments where they bring up his son his reactions properly take in some of that distress from their somewhat accidental carelessness, and disregard for his real loss as they get so caught up in themselves. Sheen in the outrage scene instead delivers the proper outburst who has just enough of their little asides, as well as still suggests the anger is part of that same anguish from the death of his son. It is far more cathartic as it might have been as Sheen builds towards in all of the previous interactions making it feel as a natural growth in his relationship with the others.

The most powerful aspect of the film for me though is the continuing portrayal of dealing with the direct grief from Sheen, and surprisingly made the potentially ridiculous moments of Estevez randomly appearing to him throughout the journey rather poignant since he makes you understand what this really means. This is helped by a pivotal flashback scene where we see the two talking before his son originally left to Europe. The two together in that single scene is something special as they manage transport such a genuine relationship into this moment, and sense the history between the two. Although it is a tense scene there is still a sense of warmth, and love between the two even within the words of the conflict. Sheen's performance takes this further throughout the journey though as he depicts the changing state in Tom. Sheen brings such real power to every moment where he leaves some of his son's ashes at one of the landmarks or has to retrieve them from a thief and raging water. In those moments the intensity of the grief Sheen grants to his passion towards his son so beautifully. Past that though throughout he gradually loses that isolation that defined his original sadness. Sheen slowly shows in his eyes a man no longer only looking at the loss, but rather the memory and appreciation for his son as he makes it further on his trek. Sheen never loses sight of this idea and brings such a real heart to center of the film. His devoted and earnest portrayal in every moment of the film anchors it, and makes it resonate far more than it would have otherwise.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: William Shimell in Certified Copy

William Shimell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying James Miller in Certified Copy.

Certified Copy follows a British writer as he goes along with a French woman (Juliette Binoche) through an Italian village.

Now that description of the film's plot sounds excessively simple as it does not articulate the complexity within the film, which on one hand seems like a chapter of the Before series with two people talking in a European locale however, this film lacks the context of those films on purpose. The most context we are given before the initial direct meeting between the man and the woman is that the man is a British writer who has written a popular book, in Italy, on the nature of copied art, meanwhile the woman is at his public reading with a disruptive son. That is all we know before they later meet seemingly as strangers. We are never given the name of the woman, making the man's name technically equally meaningless in this story. It is then in what they speak to one another and the performances in which we are to gather some sort of understanding of the pair's relationship. This is a notable pairing at the center as we have the seasoned actress Binoche as the woman with William Shimell. Shimell is not a seasoned cinematic actor or even a traditionally dramatic actor. His background being as a baritone opera performer with his only previous onscreen credits being in TV filmed performances of operas and oratorios. This choice may seem strange but seems pointed to the intentions of the film.

The film never informs the viewer what is going on exactly. The pair appear to be strangers, or at best minor acquaintances, at first yet the conversation gets increasingly familiar between the two of them as the film goes on.  Of course this directly relates to the title of the film as well as the novel that James has written. In that it examines that issues of authenticity in art are meaningless as all art must be copied from somewhere. This gathers doubt to the nature of this relationship that we are witnessing whether it is authentic, or is it a copy, which by the charge of the book, perhaps the film as well, is just as meaningful as the real thing. Then again of course it is a copy of real relationship if one were to also keep in mind the nature of a fictional film. This eventually brings me to Shimell's performance, which that context is needed to understand fully his work, as well as I'd say his casting across from Binoche.  Shimell's performance is not on the same level of Binoche's. Binoche's work is fascinating as she plays the part from so many angles, sometimes with the playfulness of a game, sometimes deadly seriously, and with so many in between. She allows multiple interpretations yet never seems vague in her approach. Shimell's allows for the interpretations however his work is far more direct and precise in this sense.

Where Binoche's performance is in this state of constant flow, Shimell portrays more of an exact set of phases, though with this they do carry their own ambiguity because of this. Although he's certainly subdued most of the film you could almost describe as operatic in that Shimell focuses on the overtones. Initially Shimell is quite good honestly in presenting just the straightforward intellectual writer giving his views first in the formal way at a public reading, then later when he initially encounters the woman. Shimell delivers his lines with a casual quality even within philosophy or even if it is approaching sensitive material. The man seems careless as though he is just with a stranger, even a fan of his work, but of course the conversation continues. Shimell does bring one overarching quality in his performance is there is a detachment about it, and presents everything seemingly exactly as you should see it. Although what makes this ambiguous in his own way is his transitions throughout the film. As we continue Shimell becomes more distant the more intimate the conversation becomes. Shimell actually allows you to read two ways, properly so, in that he is a man either tired of this charade, or he's tired of his situation with who is potentially his wife.

Shimell is consistent in the way his detachment defines the man relationship with the woman as really the woman's investment defines her relationship with him. She seems to be after something from the conversation, while the man avoids it. In turn Shimell only portrays a greater investment in terms of greater frustration seemingly seeking detachment. He more or less becomes less affable than anything even towards the end, when there seems to be any sort of reconciliation between the two. Even in that moment Shimell only really reduces his frustration seemingly giving in to whatever he is giving in to only a moment, but still with a detachment as he essentially says he has to leave soon no matter what. This performance honestly probably wouldn't quite work on its own yet it does as a foil to Binoche's performance. What she does works effectively in creating this strange window into this mysterious relationship, and she almost works against him as this wall of sorts. Again it comes back to the casting as Shimell's work isn't that of a seasoned veteran actor. His work isn't on the same level as Binoche's yet it works nonetheless in creating this particular dynamic. Now is it possible that an equally complex turn could have worked with Binoche's performance? Yes. Would that have been better? Maybe. Nevertheless Shimell's performance in tandem with Binoche's succeeds in creating this fascinating if enigmatic relationship that essentially is the film entire.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010

And the Nominees Were Not:

Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me

William Shimell in Certified Copy

Martin Sheen in The Way

Mads Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising

Riz Ahmed in Four Lions

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: Results

5. Eric Idle in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - Idle gives a rather amusing performance that matches the film's tone, and adds to its various delights. 

Best Actor: Split second save.
4. Pete Postlethwaite in Distant Voices, Still Lives - Postlethewaite effectively captures the various memories of a father both in moments of severe brutality and occasional warmth.

Best Scene: Unpleasant Dinner. 
3. Jacky Cheung in As Tears Go By - Cheung makes for an effective time bomb in his properly flamboyant portrayal of a wannabe gangster on a constant collision course with reality.

Best Scene: Becoming a real gangster.
2. M. Emmet Walsh in Clean and Sober - Walsh makes a striking impact in such limited screentime initially in creating the sense of a history of pain from his own life of drugs, and creating a truly empathetic figure there to help and improve another who was once like himself.

Best Scene: Waiting. 
1. John Lone in The Moderns - Lone gives a brilliant performance here creating a properly ruthless depiction of a vicious businessman, however while honestly revealing the desperation within the man which leads to his downfall. 

Best Scene: Destroying the art.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2010 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: Jacky Cheung in As Tears Go By

Jacky Cheung did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Fly in As Tears Go By.

As Tears Go By is fairly remarkable debut Wong Kar-Wai, that is sort of his Mean Streets. 

Now I write that it is like his Mean Streets, in part because you can see the beginnings of him fashioning his personal unique style, but also the stories are very similair. Both films focus on small time street toughs. In both films we have the lead as the more stable of the two, here Wah played by Andy Lau, who while dealing with underworld tries to find romance while also dealing with his hotheaded friend, in this film younger brother, played here by Jacky Cheung. As with Robert De Niro's Jacky Boy from that film, Fly is a wildcard hotshot with a desire to make name without having any sense. Now I'll admit making this direct comparison won't do Cheung any great favors against prime form De Niro. Cheung to his own credit though finds his own way with the role of Fly from his first scene where he struggles to procure a debt from another denizen of the underworld. Cheung brings the right overt bluster to the role, as in these confrontational moments everything is heightened in his body language and every delivery. Cheung's approach though fits this wholly in creating he sense of the miserable effort Fly puts in trying to be more than he is. Cheung properly doesn't make it look easy rather showing Fly's attempt to be tough while never evoking that needed confidence to truly be dangerous, setting up so well Fly's reliance on Wah to actually ever get anything done.

Throughout he film Fly essentially acts as Wah's anchor towards the bad things in life as he continues to fumble his way as a wannabe gangster, usually leaving Wah to get involved to save him. Cheung is effective in all of his scene in realizing the particularly pathetic state of the man whether he is putting on such a ridiculous act of trying to be the "man of the streets" or just revealing the nothing of the man that Fly is whenever he is a physical wreck after once again failing to live up to his "name". There is only a brief respite when he placed into a normal job only slightly outside of the underworld as a street vendor, where Cheung is quite good in showing the sheer ambivalence of Fly towards the whole thing, and the severe disdain whenever he is called upon his position. Cheung finds that right type of uncontrolled spark in his performance that makes every foolish action and overreaction of Fly natural to his constant state of inadequacy to be more than he is, yet always having that intense need to be so. Now importantly Cheung creates the right underlying connection in his scenes with Lau to suggest their history in their interactions to give an understanding to Wah's continued support of him. As is proper thug Cheung essentially makes Fly this ticking time bomb of emotion that eventually leads to an real outburst of true violence by the end. This is the natural progression as realized by Cheung's performance and there is a definite power to the final minutes of the film where the wannabe tries to be the real gangster. This performance doesn't quite reach the heights of say a De Niro in Mean Streets, however it still stands as a strong portrayal of the wannabe set on a terrible crash course.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: John Lone in The Moderns

John Lone did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, for portraying Bertram Stone in The Moderns.

The Moderns, like Choose Me the other film from Alan Rudolph that I have seen, takes a very atypical, though rather intriguing I found, approach in quietly examining its characters, their relationships and the environment they live in. This time the focus being on a group of people in Paris art scene during the mid 1920's.

John Lone's career is a particularly frustrating one to examine with his brief skirting with stardom after his early work in the eighties that culminated in his performance in the best picture winning The Last Emperor. His career continued though oddly quickly faded to smaller supporting roles to the point that he has now not appeared in any film in ten years. Where is John Lone? Does anyone know? I wish he'd come back. Anyway Lone's career loss is a true shame given his talent and notably is one of the few Asian actors to achieve a real notoriety outside of martial arts based films. With this role he even makes the important transition to playing a role without even an element related to his ethnicity, as the role of Bertram Stone was not written for an Asian actor. It just required a talented one given that it is the traditionally difficult role of the other man. This other man role is a little bit different though as though Lone's Stone's wife is Rachel (Linda Fiorentino), she is also married to our lead the artist Nick (Keith Carradine), this is unbeknownst to Stone obviously. This leads to a different type of dynamic in general since Nick isn't trying to win over the man's wife, rather he just trying to decipher if his wife is coming back to him.

Nonetheless this is a challenging role as it is easy to make this character very ridiculous very quickly, and the caricature within the characters. Thankfully that is not the case due to Lone's considerable talent. Now from the start Lone makes a notable impact through his mere presence, as Stone is initially described as a friend of Houdini's, a businessman, and possibly a murderer, I love the way Stone carries this sense of danger with him. In his eyes and his exact manner he stands out against everyone else in the French cafe. He's not of the artistic bent instead there is this innate harshness that Lone exudes, a definite almost maniacal edge needed for a ruthless businessman. There is a bit of an extra flair that only an actor like Lone would bring. He takes it a bit further by creating this sense of knowing towards Stone's knowledge that people see him in dangerous. In turn there is just this certain degree of cheekiness that it particularly effective in creating the sense of Stone's position in this role. Lone shows a man who knows he isn't like those around him, and part of him does enjoy this simply in terms of enjoying the fear they have for him. In his initial confrontations with Nick, I love the way that Lone portrays Stone as loving the way he pushes around Nick, particularly in their one sided boxing match, as a man who is aware of his power without any shame in using it.

Now that would be kind of enough, as Lone is already great as the other man as the villain, but there is more to his performance than that. Stone in the film is trying to use his acquired wealth to buy himself into the art scene. This idea is key to Lone's performance, and his motivation for this is only truly explained through Lone's performance. What we see in Lone is a man who has gotten just about everything he wants although with the wish to keep his wife. Lone in this regard creates a very subtle desperation that he attaches to Stones's attempts to join the artistic movement by buying it out. In turn Lone's performance makes this part of the man's wish to retain his wife through becoming a proper part of the world. Lone's terrific in the way he does this wholly in his own work, and in such a quiet way that slowly builds throughout the film which culminates when Stone buys some masterpieces from Nick and his art dealer friend. This is denied from him when they are said to be fakes by the art crowd, to which leads Stone to destroy the paintings. This is downright amazing scene for Lone. On when end he reveals the ruthless businessman as he goes about stabbing and burning the paintings.

There is also to the sheer venom towards the art crowd that has rejected him. Lone's outstanding as he doesn't even raise his voice yet there is such a palatable intensity in his hatred towards them. This is only part of it though as that straight hatred is important as Lone shows that he doesn't care about the art crowd, but he does care about the rejection since it also means his wife will reject him. This is found that in the viciousness of his intensity there is there is a more vulnerable desperation as Lone plays it as though the only thing holding Stone together is the hate. It's incredible as I found Lone actually rather affecting by reveal such a genuine pain within the man violent demeanor. Lone naturally leads to the final confrontation where he finally loses his front to reveal the wretched man beneath of it. Lone makes it genuine, and even offers a bit of sympathy for the fiend in his final moments mastering one of the trickiest types of roles. Now before I can end this review I do have to mention Lone's final scene that while has no relevance to his arc it is a bit of mad brilliance in Lone's physical performance. The moment consists of performing an escape trick in a strange circumstance and Lone captures through the insane glee he brings in the moment as man who is on some other plain of existence. This is a great performance by John Lone and yet another reminder why he needs to come back to us.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: Pete Postlethwaite in Distant Voices, Still Lives

Pete Postlethwaite did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tommy Davies in Distant Voices, Still Lives.

Distant Voices, Still Lives is a contemplative film following the lives of a working class family during the 40's and the 50's.

Pete Postlethewaite's performance is essentially one of memory within the film. We open the film as the family is essentially moving on from their father, and we granted glimpses into their past with their domineering father. Postlethewaite's performance in turn is fashioned towards specific glimpses into what will be held by memory. There is not a slight moment in what we witness of Postlethewaite's father to the family, they are all extremes, though logically so within the context of his purpose within the film. Postlethewaite's performance is there to quickly grant truth to these memories though as memories which can be a rather curious thing. In this way we don't see the whole picture of the man but rather just the facets. Postlethwaite's does excel in his portrayal of every one of these facets. The most overwhelming memory seems to be those of his abuse towards the family. These scenes carry a cold brutality to them because of how effective Postlethwaite is in portraying the vicious behavior of the man.

Postlethwaite delivers the same intensity whether he is verbally assaulting his family or physically assaulting them. These moments are particularly difficult to watch as Postlethwaite makes them feel so natural to the man, and just the way he simply was. We are granted other glimpses of the man though in ill health in moments but others as a more loving father. Postlethwaite's performance delivers in these glimpses and even makes sense to them. The moments of warmth are of the same man who beats his wife, as even in the moments of warmth there is this a sense of the nature of the man. The nature being of a quick temper, though there are times where he can be charming when not currently in his most hateful state. These again though are only glimpses we see we don't  see the transition though Postlethwaite makes it always seem the same man despite the different extremes. It is an effective turn that leaves the strongest impression on the film even though all the performances are limited within the style of the film. Postlethwaite gives an understanding to the father's influence within the family's collective mind even though we are granted a limited portrait of the man.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: M. Emmet Walsh in Clean and Sober

M. Emmet Walsh did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Richard in Clean and Sober.

M. Emmet Walsh, the other great character actor along with Harry Dean Stanton, seems almost a guarantee of something worthwhile to the films he appears in, even often in a very marginal quantity. Walsh, like Stanton though, is always fascinating to see when he is allowed a bit more material to work with given his success with such minor roles. Walsh here isn't given a major role, but there's more than enough for him to make an impact which we see in the opening of the film. The film opens apparently in a support group where we see Walsh's Richard speaking about addiction, which we return to one other time, I actually wish we had gotten more of these scenes throughout the film. These are some of the best moments in the film though due to Walsh's performance. Walsh reveals Richard as vulnerable former addict creating such a strong sense of his past decay in the somber quiet pain such as when speaking of looking in the past for the headlights of his drug dealer, or when his nose was misshapen from a drug bender. He creates a vivid sense of the man's history as in every word there are these memories of this terrible time filled with a palatable anxiety and loss over the broken man he once was. Although these scenes initially have no connection they are essential to the film, and Walsh uses them brilliantly to establish the man Richard was before we meet him in the central story.

Walsh's Richard appears in the main story as a man who offers his services as a sponsor to the hesitant addict Daryl (Michael Keaton). I love the whole presence that Walsh brings his scenes that are actually essential to make it convincing that Keaton's Daryl could beat his addiction. Walsh's approach is remarkable in the very specific way he handles these scenes. He has this interesting way of offering this certain intensity in all of the scenes, as he delivers his lines towards Keaton with a definite incisiveness. His eyes pierce towards him with a real examination of the man as though he is trying to decipher him but Walsh never makes that all Richard is doing. His intensity he fashions always carries this real warmth. In every word there is this definite care and tenderness to it even when speaking harsh truths to him. In his eyes there is a strict empathy that Walsh brings that creates Richard as a man who is there to always help Daryl, through this rather forceful support. It's a moving performance because of how genuine every moment of the work is through Walsh, and he gives a real honesty to a role in the wrong hands could have seemed just a one dimensional plot mechanism. Walsh, as typical for him even if his role is only a minute long, gives a real life to the role that fulfills his purpose so well yet develops him far beyond that purpose. It's terrific work from him, and as usual I only wish we had gotten more of him as it would have probably resulted in a stronger film overall.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: Eric Idle in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Eric Idle did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Berthold/Desmond in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Eric Idle re-teams with his fellow Monty Python alumnus director Terry Gillaim for the third part of his trilogy of imagination. Idle plays two roles the first being one of the actors in the play about the life of Baron Munchausen (John Neville). This part of the performance is pretty limited in portraying a bit of confusion and annoyance at the strange man who seems to recognize him.We get his primary role of when we initially seem to flashback to the Baron's story about how he created war with the Turks. There we are introduced to Idle as one of Baron's cadre of super powered servants. Idle's Desmond being a superhuman runner who wears two balls and chains just to keep him slow the rest of the time. This is proper material for Idle in it is quite broad, and Idle naturally is quite good at realizing this very fast man in a rather amusing way. Idle's physical portrayal of the man's method is all a bit much, and rather enjoyably so. I especially love his actually physical portrayal of running with such a over the top gait, and his way of huffing and puffing with every single breath of his. Idle is simply fun to watch, and his absurd style feels right at home with Gilliam's mad vision for the film.

In a way Idle plays almost a third character as we jump to another adventure with the Baron where he finds an elderly Desmond as a prisoner on the moon. Idle continues to be very funny in portraying the initial confused anger at the Baron, since the Baron essentially left him to rot, to immediately accepting when the Baron just owns what he's done. Idle's timing is perfection along with Neville through his hilarious approach in showing that perhaps Desmond is a little lost if not following the Baron's lead in some way. Once he joins the Baron Idle in a way becomes the representative of the old crew of the Baron, who they slowly regain throughout. This in part as Idle just seems most in tune with the absurd comedic tone of the film. Although afterwards isn't always the focus he still makes an impact through his presence. Whether that is when he is given the chance a getting a focus, such as his run as an older man where Idle is all the more hilarious in his physical performance particularly his sheer overwhelming exasperation at the end of it, or just through reacts to the craziness around. Idle nicely adds to the film whenever he can just through his own amusing reactions to what he sees, or again just revealing the age of the older Desmond in portraying the man getting used up by the end of the adventure. It is a fun performance.  I wouldn't quite say he quite makes that next step as comedic performance goes, like say Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda, this very same year who really is the most talented of the Python group as an actor. Unlike that performance still feels perhaps a bit of a sketch performance, but a very entertaining performance from sketch. Idle never quite embodies fully a character, but rather is just fun to watch being funny Eric Idle, which is really enough.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988

And the Nominees Were Not:

Eric Idle in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

M. Emmet Walsh in Clean and Sober

Pete Postlethewaite in Distant Voices, Still Lives

Jacky Cheung in As Tears Go By

John Lone in The Moderns

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1988: Results

5. Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Day-Lewis plays an often indifferent character however he still strikes up very effective chemistry with both of his female co-stars and stands out well in any moments of real urgency for his character.

Best Scene: Throwing the paper away.
4. Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - Caine along with his co-star Steve Martin gives a delightful turn that is particularly enjoyable in tandem with Martin's more wacky turn.

Best Scene: A cure.
3. Michael Keaton in Clean and Sober - Keaton elevates and energizes his film giving an effective and affecting portrayal of an addict slowly coming to terms with his problem.

Best Scene: Final speech.
2. Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ - Dafoe gives a great atypical approach to his depiction of Jesus giving a powerful depiction of Jesus as the messiah but also the man dealing with facing his destiny and sacrifice.

Best Scene: Asking for the cross.
1. John Neville in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - Perhaps a surprise winner however I loved everything about this performance. Every second Neville's work is entertaining and a sheer delight in his larger than life performance. Every moment of it is a risk, and every risk pays off in this wildly endearing turn.

Best Scene: Battle with the Turks.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1988 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1988: Michael Caine and Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Michael Caine did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Lawrence Jamieson and Steve Martin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Freddy Benson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is an enjoyable film about two rather different con men making a wager of which one can extort a rich American woman.

For the film we get perhaps get a somewhat unusual team up between Michael Caine and Steve Martin, although actually it feels quite natural as the two often play some form of scoundrel to begin with so here we get to see both fully embrace that side of their onscreen persona. Both are well cast in their respective roles and in creating their respective types as con men. Caine emphasizing very much his most suave English qualities at his disposal and offers the proper sort of grace for the character. That grace of course being this dignified method of conning women out of their cash by pretending to be a Prince in need of funds. Caine exudes such an upbringing so well though with that little glint in his eyes that always reminds of his true intentions. This is against Martin he is a bit less subtle since he's a far less subtle conman, going for the small gains, but in a big way. Martin is a terrific other side of the coin by presenting the completely unabashed style going big in the right way as his Freddy isn't afraid to look utterly pathetic in order to steal meal. Although these two both setup their differing characters well what makes this film work is cramming the two unlike pairs together.

The two's dynamic is a delight given how well their atypical chemistry comes together through their very different styles. Caine, who actually can go rather overt when he wants to as well, wisely keeps his Lawrence the far more subdued of the two, which works quite well against Martin's portrayal of Freddy's fairly bombastic approach to conning. The two are initially quite enjoyable by delivering this extreme clash as the two try to outsmart the other in a more general sense. Caine bringing almost cutthroat sort of deviousness with everyone of his knowing smiles, against Martin who just plays so well into the outrageous behavior of Freddy. Martin goes about taking every moment in bringing not a hint of modesty particularly in a scene where we see Freddy almost parading around in some of his ill-gotten games, and Martin is hilarious by being as coarse as Caine is refined. The two clash so well and I especially enjoy just the initial reactions to each other with Caine conveying a low key disgust against Martin's intrigue and a bit of confusion at his upper class rival.

When the two initially seem to come together, although it is in fact just a ploy by Lawrence to get rid of Freddy, we are granted the great dynamic the two share for much of the film. As we get Caine playing very much the straight man, well to a certain degree as he always captures that duplicitous nature of Lawrence even when he's working with Freddy, against Martin's performance. Martin often actually will often play the straight man himself and this a great example of him doing anything but. This is particularly seen in the series of scenes where Freddy helps Lawrence rid himself of some of his conned women by posing as the Prince's stunted brother. Both Caine and Martin are so enjoyable in these scenes by how well they make them work. Martin is very much off the deep end with his strange twangy accent, and the ridiculousness of his apelike physical performance, which is made all the funnier by the way Caine reacts to it. Caine giving this sincere affection with only the occasional respectful correction towards Martin in these moments is what makes them truly work. Martin goes off to sea, but Caine offers the right anchor in every moment.

Thankfully this continues though in an altered way as the two men make a bet to outfox the other in trying to con the seemingly rich and naive American Janet (Glenne Headly) out of her money. Each taking up a different approach with a Caine going the quieter route, though quieter in that he is a quietly manipulative German psychiatrist, against Martin's more overtly manipulative crippled navy man though only crippled due to a mental trauma. Each are just splendid in their own ways with Caine having such a striking undercurrent of deviousness at everyone of his concerned deliveries about Martin's Freddy though with that sinister intention in his eyes, and the always joyous grins to set him up for failure. Martin meanwhile is comic gold in being such an overt sad sack in every regard. I especially love his reactions of hidden pain when Caine sadistically tests his "injury" or his hilarious wailing when he sees Lawrence dance with Janet, since dancing "caused" Freddy's "injury". The two make so much out of every single setup. Now there is a bit of a divide though as Martin stays wholly vapid, though purposefully so even as Freddy tries to seduce Janet, while Caine slowly portrays a concern for her when it is revealed she is in fact poor. Again this isn't given too much focus however Caine makes the transition work for just a few moments, plus importantly does not drop the comedic nature of his scenes with Martin. The two are simply wonderful to watch together and let us in on the fun they seem to be having in portraying Lawrence and Freddy getting ahead of each other, then eventually both of them meeting a mutual failure.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1988: Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ

Willem Dafoe did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ.

The Last Temptation of Christ is a rather fascinating alternative exploration of the life of Christ.

The Last Temptation of Christ was an extremely controversial film when originally released mostly heavily because of the scenes in the last act of the film which depict Jesus living a human life which includes sexual intercourse. Those originally offended seemed to have ignored the intention of the story at its core, and also did not see the film as I'd probably say the moments from the first act probably should have lead to greater controversy if they had been seen. Those scenes though too only are part of the overarching approach to the life of Jesus which is to treat him as both a man and a messiah creating a sense of understanding to the idea of Jesus being a man. Due to this overarching theme Willem Dafoe gives a performance that is unlike any actor who ever played Jesus. In most depictions there is a sense of the Godly nature of him whether it be the mysterious mostly unseen figure in Ben-Hur and The Robe, the ethereal performance of Robert Powell in Jesus of Nazareth, even in the more directly sympathetic performances of Jim Caviezel and Ted Neeley in Passion of the Christ, and Jesus Christ Superstar respectively have an otherworldly quality to them. This is unapparent in Dafoe's approach.

That is not a criticism since this is the core to Dafoe's portrayal of Jesus from the first frame of the film, where I should have imagined the stronger reactions should have come from, again that would have required actually watching the film, where Jesus collaborates with Romans by helping with crucifixions and spends some of his time watching the prostitute Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey) with her customers. Finding the meaning of these scenes depends greatly on watching Dafoe's portrayal of them. Now this is where Dafoe's work is more intriguing as he begins the film with Jesus living as a man. This is not to say he is without divinity, in fact the opposite is quickly proven to be true in the film, but rather what it means to be a man is keenly felt within Dafoe's portrayal. What this means though is in Dafoe's presentation of that this man feels what any man can feel. Dafoe shows him burdened by this specifically presenting effectively this way the man is pulled towards the weakness of being human, conveying ideas of lust, and doubt subtly within his eyes while also portraying the way he is trying to hold them back at the same time.

What is perhaps one of the most engrossing elements in Dafoe's performance is in the way he establishes Jesus as both that man with various temptations of the flesh, but also what it means to be the son of God as well. Dafoe's portrayal of this is incredible because he humanizes technically the superhuman element within Jesus. This is not saying he takes it away rather he delivers the burden of what it means to be aware of who he is, and God's purpose for him. Dafoe's work essentially explains the early scenes by creating what it is that he's going through. Dafoe presents this knowledge of his mission as this underlying constriction in the man as he speaks of his awareness of what God expects of him, there is this overwhelming anguish. This anguish is very specific in Dafoe's performance as it is not of a man hating what he must do, but rather trying to make sense of it. In the moments where he is even approaching sin, though perhaps not participating in directly, Dafoe is incredible in the way he internalizes this struggle. The struggle that he develops as part of this pain but also with sense of an attempt to decipher it himself. This confusion so effectively, and quite powerfully creates an understanding of who Jesus is before he fully accepts why he was put on the Earth to begin with.

As Jesus's journey begins and he finds disciples Dafoe still does not evoke those other well known depictions of Jesus. What he established in the early scenes influences his entire work in creating a different kind of journey though with technically the same final intention. Dafoe allows the viewer a far more intimate perspective into this journey since he does not hide that attachment to Jesus having been born as a man even while being divine. Dafoe portrays so well this realization as he begins his journey, and creation of a confidence from his initial doubts towards becoming the prophet among the Jewish people. Dafoe still does not allow his work to be superseded in his own approach to realizing perhaps the more biblical Jesus as he begins spreading his word, and committing miracles. Dafoe has a far lower key take in this regard than other cinematic depictions however that in no way means his work is any less inspiring. In fact Dafoe's more earthly approach offers something rather special. Dafoe speaks as a man but a truly enlightened man in these scenes, even in his scenes of miracles. Dafoe offers this sense of hardship in his words against violence and towards healing, and in doing so offers a true poignancy to Jesus's message. Dafoe gives the words a real life in his delivery as they come from this place of experience rather than necessarily of only an otherworldly wisdom. 

This approach leads to a very different depiction in the moments of and leading to his arrest as Jesus asks for Judas (Harvey Keitel) to betray him directly in order to fulfill his needed destiny. Dafoe again not only creates sense in this but actually makes it deeply affecting. When he tells Judas to fulfill his own destiny Dafoe presents a certainty in his command, and a passion to this cause. Dafoe still though conveys the underlying suffering of this knowledge of his fate yet with the confidence to accept it at this moment. Dafoe captures the confidence of his initial cause during the last supper, and in his trial with Pontius Pilate. The true feelings of this though are revealed as he is alone in the Garden of Gethsemane where Dafoe presents the full insecurity within the man pulled out in such a moving revealing of his sorrow over what he must do. He is of course crucified however this is where the additional element of the narrative appears that being the titular last temptation Christ. That temptation being given by seemingly his guardian angel to be taken from the cross and being given the chance to live out a normal life as a man. In these scenes are where the controversy of the film most arose however they seemed to ignore the intention as this was the realization of the greatest temptation which was not to be the messiah.

Dafoe's performance is again pivotal to these scenes in his portrayal of the way Jesus initially seems to accept the temptation that is offered to him. It is not of pure happiness but of just a life of any man which may include loss yet requires no divine sacrifice. What Dafoe captures is this contentment to his performance even in the moment of tragic loss. Dafoe doesn't show this as unfeeling rather he presents Jesus seemingly finally without burden, and though his life isn't perfect he depicts the contentment of just being a man. There is tenderness, there is sadness, however there is no larger question of purpose. This seems to continue well into his old age where he comes across Paul (Harry Dean Stanton) the future prophet though he is preaching the word of Jesus, it is a lie as he speaks of the death and resurrection. Dafoe is outstanding in the confrontation scene in first portraying just seemingly a direct disgust and disbelief at the lie. As Paul continues to speak though Dafoe captures in his reaction this realization of perhaps a mistake in his choice, seeing how he did not offer the man the truth behind his noble words. The contentment continues to crumble as does Jerusalem as hate overpowers all, and in his possible last moments he is confront by the still living Judas with his failure. Dafoe's work is amazing as his face captures again the realization with every spoken word that the man must choose death rather than to live a life. Dafoe is wholly harrowing in presenting the heart wrenching sorrow of the man as he loses all composure in such a fierce declaration of failure in order to accept his fate to die on the cross. What the film does and Dafoe's performance offers one of the most moving yet inspiring depictions of Christ's sacrifice on film. They do not do it through overt physical suffering rather through nuanced portrayal of a man coming to terms with his purpose, and denying a life of false contentment. This is a great performance by Willem Dafoe, as he takes an entirely original approach to his portrait of Jesus, yet never loses the inherent message behind him or the power of the sacrifice.