Thursday, 7 December 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2010: Ben Kingsley in Shutter Island

Ben Kingsley did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. John Cawley in Shutter Island.

Shutter Island was perhaps slightly misunderstood it seems in its initial evaluation where some seemed to view the tale of two federal marshals investigating an escape from a mental institution as far more prestigious than it is meant to be. Martin Scorsese directs the film purposefully as a much more heightened thriller with overtone closer to the exploitation wing of the horror genre than any real analysis of mental illness.

In that sense I find this film to be a smashing success all outside of a single performance, unfortunately that is Leonardo DiCaprio's leading turn as the federal marshal investigator Teddy Daniels. DiCaprio is the one actor who doesn't seem to understand the tone oddly enough with his excessively intense performance. His work is miscalculated in that it doesn't properly embrace the style but it also gives away the twist through how unhinged he is from the opening scene. A more astute turn for example should have portrayed his opening distress slightly more vague as one should have been able to interpret it as just sea sickness or something else, not obviously something else. Thankfully though DiCaprio is the only off-turn in the film, meanwhile the rest of the film has a terrific ensemble with a particularly brilliant bit of casting as you have various cinematic villains suggesting something is off on this psychiatric island, and not just the patients. There's the Zodiac killer and Buffalo Bill leading the guards, Freddie Kruger hiding in the dark, with Ming the Merciless and Don Logan leading the doctor which brings me to Ben Kingsley.

Kingsley though he originally made his name playing renowned pacifist Mahatmas Gandhi his latter career has often been as the heavy which leaves him in good company with Ted Levine, Jackie Earle Haley, Max von Sydow and John Carroll Lynch on this strange island. What is notable about all those performances, along with Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Williams, and Emily Mortimer as various mysterious women Teddy meets is their mastery of the tone the film is looking for. Kingsley excels best in this which is in part to bring just the right touch of flamboyance, not too much, just the right amount and natural to the character. Kingsley certainly does this in giving the right style and grace of proper psychiatric doctor. There is an emphasis on measure of class in the doctor's manner that is wonderfully realized by Kingsley that adds so well to a bit of his more stylized lines that also makes them natural to the character. I have particular affection for the way Kingsley delivers the line "It's as if she evaporated straight through the walls" when describing the possible method of escape for the missing patient. Kingsley takes that heightened style and makes it all the more vibrant without going over the top, rather amplifying it in the right way.

Of course this being a twisty thriller, and Kingsley playing a man of good nature just doesn't seem right. There is something off about Kingsley's performance but only as it relates to realizing the twist though not in the way one would initially expect. With all these villains you have to be sure that the good Dr. Cawley must be evil, and Teddy's onto something when he thinks there may be unlawful experiments going on the island. Kingsley is brilliant in the way he maneuvers this aspect of the character. On initial viewing he is rather off-putting in a low key way. Kingsley has this certain eeriness in the way he speaks of past psychiatric measures, and the way he interacts with Teddy. Kingsley portrays this keen interest the doctor has in Teddy as though he is perhaps looking for some sort of weakness, and the way he speaks to him Kingsley exerts this gentle persuasion that carries a certain menace within his genial matter. The doctor never seems phased by the lost patient and there is something seemingly quite disturbing in this and something seems to be increasingly not right about the good doctor as the film continues. 

Kingsley seems all set for the classical revelation of the attempted comforting paternal figure turning out to be evil not unlike James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential. There just seems to be something about his warmth that doesn't seem quite like it is placed correctly. As the story continues and the situation on the island seems to become more dire though Kingsley seems to tilt his hand in the revelation as Dr. Cawley almost openly threatens Teddy. Kingsley touches towards the absurd in his rather sinister ,overtly if not ridiculously even, way of speaking of his institute as something important something that he will not allow to be destroyed by anyone. That is of course because it suppose to be ridiculous the twist here is not that Kingsley's Cawley is evil, it's that Teddy is in fact delusional and in fact the "missing" patient. Re-watching the film I noticed just how outstanding Kingsley is in the way he offers all the clues yet doesn't give it away. The false give away towards the revelation Kingsley in fact portrays as a purposeful give away in the character of Cawley trying to get Teddy to see that his paranoia is false and frankly absurd. The real truth of Cawley is that he's good man, simple as that.

Kingsley never hides this either, except in his aforementioned major role play scene. The way he pays so much attention to Teddy, particularly when talking of water torture, Kingsley's reactions are off putting if he was doing it to a stranger, but make perfect sense for an observant doctor trying to help his patient. Kingsley is in fact throughout giving this portrayal of a devoted man tirelessly trying to help the man break from his delusions. His eyes are searching for a break, or some way to try to help  the man. On re-watch his speech about being a special kind of doctor who seeks to respect and understand his patents is genuinely moving as Kingsley offers it so earnestly as the true nature of Cawley. Kingsley in fact makes it all natural to the final revelation scenes which are of Cawley trying to directly confront Teddy with the truth. I love Kingsley in this scene as he brings such an incisiveness to the words. He importantly doesn't play this as a vicious attack on man, but rather infuses every word with such palatable emotion of a man striving hard to break the man from his false world as well as save his life. Kingsley offers a real warmth and tenderness in these scenes particularly in his final shot where it seems Teddy has regressed. Kingsley reaction is quite powerful as he finds the man's heartbreak at his failure to save his patient despite his tireless efforts. This is a great performance by Ben Kingsley as he not only offers an entertaining turn by realizing the film's specific tone, yet he still manages to bridge this towards a needed substance and depth required for the film's final act.

53 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Any rating changes for the rest of the cast.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

DiCaprio's down to a 2. Everyone else remains the same.

Luke Higham said...

Didn't expect him to go down that low.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Eh it's unfortunately some of his worst dramatic tendencies, meanwhile a different performance could have been great even from him.

Also re-watching the film it's easily my production design winner and I'd say it's one of the very best examples of that from the decade.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I knew beforehand that your opinion of him was gonna diminish further and felt he would get a 2.5, though a 2 is a tad surprising. I personally have him at a 3 for the time being.

Luke Higham said...

Have you re-watched Inception.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 1940's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Calvin Law said...

What's your rating for Ruffalo? I've always thought he was quite good too.

Michael McCarthy said...

Yes! This really nails what I love about this performance. Also, going up to three 5's in this lineup from zero is quite satisfying.

Luke Higham said...

Michael: Could go up to 5 with Ben and John. :)

Michael McCarthy said...

Luke: I'd actually be fine with them staying as they are, but we'll see!

Calvin Law said...

Mendelsohn definitely deserves a 5. I don't love Hawkes as much as most but I wouldn't question it either.

Calvin Law said...

I predict the top 5 to be:

1. Kingsley
2. Waititi
3. Hammer
4. Hawkes
5. Mendelsohn

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top ten Nicolas Cage acting moments?

Matt Mustin said...

Love this performance and this review actually made me rethink my opinion of DiCaprio's performance. I still find him very effective, but he does kind of go too intense from the get-go.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Who would you have cast instead of Dicaprio for the lead role? I feel that he looks too contemporary to fit this time period, like in Revolutionary Road. Or would you still have gone with him and hope for better direction?

Matt Mustin said...

Also, Louis, what's your rating and thoughts for Elias Koteas? I know he's only in it for a couple seconds, but I found it a very memorable performance nonetheless.

Alex Marqués said...

What are your thoughts on Ruffalo?

Luke Higham said...

1. Waititi
2. Hawkes
3. Mendelsohn
4. Kingsley
5. Hammer

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom trailer.

Calvin Law said...

That was TURRIBLE

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Hated this trailer, from what I can gather the plot absolutely sucks, the visuals weren't great and more recycled dialogue. This is so disappointing from Bayona.

Nice to see Ian Malcolm again but that's the only positive I have for it.

Mitchell Murray said...

(Calvin) I wasn't ecstatic for a Jurassic World sequel and this trailer certainly didn't help. I've always maintained they should have played their Goldblum card in the first reboot, and there's nothing in the trailer that would suggest Pratt and Howard are any less bland then they were the first time.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

I'd move him up to a 4.

Anonymous:

I think I might have given those before let me have a look.

Bryan:

I think DiCaprio could have worked however I think he is a little too known for his tortured characters. In 2010 I actually say Matthew McConaughey could have been perfect. Although he had already done unhinged in the past he had become known mostly for his straight laced roles to see him go from that type of lead to full on mad McCounaghey by the third act could have been something special.

Matt:

Koteas - 3(Obviously a very very short performance however he is quite effectively chilling in those few seconds.)

Alex:

Ruffalo - (I'm not sure he did himself any favors for his own reception in that he actually plays part of the performance as though Chuck just isn't very good at role playing. In any of the scenes of trying to be the federal Marshall he comes off as incredibly awkward and forced however that is the point. Ruffalo is properly far more genuine in his interactions with DiCaprio though like Kingsley he brings in the right duality to this. In that in part you could look at him as the concerned and uneasy partner just trying to figure things out through his "boss" by the way he seems to hang on his every word while seeming always more focused on Teddy than whoever else they're talking to, but with the twist in man Ruffalo is actually just showing the very sympathetic measures of the doctor trying to stay with his patient's state of mind.)

Luke:

Looks awful, and it seems like Goldblum will probably just be a cameo. It's a shame Bayona is working with a Trevorrow script.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Three Billboards 1940's directed by John Huston:

Mildred Hayes: Gladys Cooper
Sheriff Willoughby: Walter Huston
Dixon: James Cagney
Charlie Hayes: Pat O'Brien
Robbie Hayes: Donald O'Connor
Connolly: Frank Qualen
Red: Elisha Cook Jr.
James: Billy Curtis

Calvin Law said...

Rule number one of the Goldblum playbook: don't use all your Goldblum at once.

The film looks terrible I'd agree, but couldn't they at least have made a good trailer? Like, Suicide Squad is an awful film, but some of those trailers were really fun to watch.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: Huston as Willoughby is great, but I have to say if O'Brien played Willoughby instead that would be a truly haunting film.

Glad you've upgraded Ruffalo.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: What's your new rating for Justin Timberlake in The Social Network.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the video game opening from Toy Story 2 and your top ten Pixar moments.

Michael McCarthy said...

I've just seen The Disaster Artist. LOVED it. I honestly wouldn't mind at all if Franco won Best Actor this year.

Calvin Law said...

Michael: that'd be crazy awesome.

Luke Higham said...

Any recent viewings Louis.

Bryan L. said...

Calvin: The trailers for Suicide Squad will always hold a special place for me, especially considering how the movie turned out :/.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what would your cast and director be for a 2010's version of The Exorcist?

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

4

Luke:

That sequence is just an example of some fun animation, with the focus on the animation, along with the first act of Wall-e actually makes me wish Pixar would make a mostly silent film. Give me a bit to work out that list.

Ladybird and The Disaster Artist.

Matt:

The Exorcist directed by Kim Jee-woon:

Chris MacNeil: Lee Young-ae
Father Merrin: Choi Min-sik
Father Karras: Lee Byung-hun
Regan: Ahn Seo-hyun
Kinderman: Song Kang-ho

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on the films and the casts.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

The Disaster Artist is easily the funniest film of the year and perhaps also the most purely entertaining one. Although it doesn't have the same depth of pathos as Ed Wood, nor should it, it captures that same spirit of one searching for self-expression and fulfilling a dream even if they only believe in it. It's a lot of fun watching the inside creation of the film, however it does go further in also effectively explores Wiseau, as much as it can, through his strange relationship with Sestero, and just this sort of fringe type trying to make it into the mainstream in his very much his own way.

I will say initially I thought the documentary prologue and epilogues were unneeded, but then when I heard several audience members behind me say "He's real!" at the end with the actual footage of Wiseau I changed my mind.

Cast Ratings(get you the thoughts soon):

D.Franco - 3.5
Rogen - 3.5
Brie - 2.5
Graynor - 3
Hutcherson - 3
Weaver - 3
Efron - 3
Buress & Mantzoukas - 3
Scheer - 3.5
Mullally - 3
Apatow - 3

I really liked Lady Bird a great deal as well, both films are among my favorites of the year. I'll admit I had my concerns, however I found the film very effectively avoided the usual pitfalls found in the sort of indie dramedies I felt the trailer sold it as. That is there are not those scenes of "one upping" someone for no reason. Even in the boyfriend characters, who seemingly have their "jerk" moment it doesn't simplify this into just making them caricatures out of those moments. It bothers actually to really look at all the characters as people, and even if they are not given a lot of time, the time they have isn't wasted. It works in finding really is own unique arrangement to a song one has perhaps heard before, particularly through the relationship between mother and daughter. I will say just a minor gripe I had was with the ending. The two pivotal emotional moments absolutely worked, however the brief sequence between them I didn't feel provided the right bridge. Still just a minor quibble.

Ronan - 4.5(Could go up)
Metcalf - 5
Hedges - 3
Chalamet - 3
Feldstein - 4
Henderson - 3.5
Smith - 3
Rodrigues - 3

Michael McCarthy said...

I'd actually give Dave Franco a solid 4, I actually think he took some risks with his performance that went under the radar. What's your rating for Tracy Letts in Lady Bird?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Where would you rank Metcalf for Supporting Actress. It's turning out to be a great year for the category and you still have Janney to see.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael:

I'm saving Letts.

Luke:

Number one.

Mitchell Murray said...

(Louis) Glad to see you liked both of them and I'll be looking forward to Franco's review.

As it happens I just watched "The Circle" and umm... well, lets just say it wasn't my smartest choice to see it.

Bryan L. said...

Can't wait for James Franco's review and I wouldn't be surprised if his brother moves up to a 4 on rewatch.

Louis: Do you see James Woods as Lou Bloom in an early 80s version of Nightcrawler? He definitely has the energy for it.

Oh and what past film roles do you think Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver would be great for?

Anonymous said...

Garfield would work for Norman Bates.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

1. Opening - UP
2. Daily Routine - Wall-E
3. Romance - Wall-E
4. Lost imagination - Inside Out
5. Capes - The Incredibles
6. Dinner Table - Inside Out
7. Escape - Toy Story 3
8. Ego's review - Ratatouille
9. Crossing the road - Toy Story 2
10. Going home - Toy Story

D.Franco - (Obviously he is the far less showy of the two leads, and his performance is far less trying to play Sestero, but rather evoking his type. I think this was the right approach since Sestero should always be the anchor to reality which Franco provides quite effectively. His performance works in a two fold fashion in that in part he acts as a sort of straight man to his brother's Tommy. He plays off the comedy but not for comedy, although it results in that. Franco properly always stays give a wholly straight performance actually making the comedy come naturally, but in turn making the relationship between the two actually work. Franco brings a certain warmth in the supportive understanding, but also effective shows his gradual frustrations with Tommy's less reasonable actions. It's proper turn that gives that anchor and in way acts as the right facilitator to his brother's turn, so actually I would raise him up to a 4.)

Brie - (As Calvin mentioned she really is there for a plot progression point. She's not bad at all, but her performance is limited.)

Mullally - (She's effective in brief scene creating enough of a sense of her relationship with Greg in their scene, while also bringing in the right blunt reality in her brief confrontation with Tommy.)

Scheer & Rogen - (Both are quite good in portraying two differing ridiculing reactions towards Wiseau. Rogen does well in making it more comedic in showing a man just completely baffled by the man, while Scheer is effective in presenting a more overt disgust towards the man and his behavior.)

The reenactors - (All are good, special mention though to Zach Efron for delivering the proper intensity of Chris-R, especially enjoyed his portrayal of psyching himself up before the scene.)

The reactors of Tommy - (All are funny in short little beats of dealing with Tommy my favorite though would have to be Judd Apatow.)

Louis Morgan said...


Ronan - (Just another terrific leading turn from her. Her realization of sort of the exact Gerwig mannerisms are so effective and natural that it's hard to notice them in the right way. She just fully embodies the part in that regard and never makes a fuss about it. Beyond that it is great work in terms of capturing her character's journey but also maneuvering the tone set by Gerwig's direction particularly effectively. In that the film has a certain breeziness to its tone, however with its dramatic moments mostly very subtle within that. Ronan captures those scenes incredibly well while also finding that more humorous overarching quality. Ronan does this mainly by just feeling a wholly authentic teenager in every scene, which in a way makes the fact that this is a mannered turn technically speaking all the more impressive. She's marvelous in so well just showing just such a genuine way of her various changes in attitude throughout the story, but also just a changes in nature of any given scene. She's charming at times, intolerable at others, yet it is always as the same whole person that Ronan realizes. She captures it all in this very naturalistic ever changing performance that always avoid caricature, and makes the most out of every dramatic moment with such a notable ease.)

Metcalf - (One of the great parental turns I'd say as she, like Ronan, also captures so well this type of person with such authenticity. Metcalf's performance is not as a "good" mother or a "bad" mother but just a mother is as she is. Metcalf makes this all natural within her work which there are moments where technically speaking the mom is just making unneeded remarks to "Lady Bird", however this technically at a certain cruelty Metcalf makes these a honest part of who she. These moments though are not wrongly focused upon her work though showing effectively as an off-shoot of their underlying tensions as other time that strict direct Metcalf always shows comes from a place of concern and care for her daughter. The genuinely heartwarming moments, which tend to brief, are particularly moving but again what I love about this performance is how much Metcalf embodies every aspect of the character. She doesn't switch to one nature or another, she is exactly who she is with all her strengths and faults.)

Also on a side note I think the film's overarching success probably is helped by Gerwig not really choosing sides rather allowing you to legitimately sympathize more with Lady Bird or her mother depending on who you are.

Hedges & Chalamet - (Both are good at portraying their "appeal" towards Lady Bird while also finding how they probably are not right for her either. That element though is carefully not simplified by the writing or their performances.)

Feldstein - (Her performance is very good in the way she actually manages to hit sort of the jilted best friend beats without the film really fashioning overt scenes out of them. They are just smaller sometimes even silent moments within scenes that she realizes in a very genuine and often moving fashion.)

Henderson - (Short performance however quite effective in just realizing the dour state of the man both when he appears to be alright, with something definitely wrong just below the surface, and also when he's definitely not right at all.)

Smith - (Nicely doesn't overdo sort of the standard "principal" role bring a certain charm and avoids falling into caricature.)

Rodrigues - (I'd say he was probably the closest to falling towards full caricature, especially since the adopted brother had been used for that exact thing in Easy-A, and for much of the film it seemed like that might be all he was doing. His scene with Letts late in the film makes up for it though, and Rodrigues finds the right depth to the character in that scene.)

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan:

Woods would be the only choice.

Garfield:

Yes Bates
Richard Hannay (39 Steps)
Arthur Hamp (King & Country)

Driver:

Casy (The Grapes of Wrath)
Leo Bloom
Sal (Dog Day Afternoon)

Luke Higham said...

Has Ronan gone up. Your thoughts suggest that she has.

Michael McCarthy said...

Louis: I like how you mentioned that Smith never went to caricature, one of the things I really liked about Lady Bird was how they portrayed all of the Catholic school teachers as normal people. They were properly strict sometimes, but they were shown to have good senses of humor and never became the fascist dictators that you often see in films like this.

Also on Dave Franco, what I really liked about his performance was how he played it like Greg refused to see how ridiculous Tommy truly was because he was so grateful to him. Even when the relationship was at his most strained, Greg never impeaches Tommy's ability as an artist, he only ever calls him out for his personal betrayals. I specifically love one very brief moment he has right before he reads the script for the first time, where in just a few seconds he manages to convey a real fear that the script is going to be awful, followed by a determination to support Tommy's endeavors no matter what.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Could Gene Wilder go up for The Producers.

Bryan L. said...

Guess I didn't have to wait long for Dave Franco to get a 4 after all haha.

Louis: Thx. I recently saw Psycho for the first time and was thinking Garfield all along for Bates, although I think Driver would be a good alternate as well. I've also been watching James Woods' early work since I'm part of the generation that knows him mainly from Family Guy :/

Luke Higham said...

1965 Lead suggestions
Orson Welles - Chimes At Midnight
Charlton Heston - Major Dundee
Zbigniew Cybulski - The Saragossa Manuscript
John Wayne - In Harm's Way

Alt.
Toshiro Mifune - Samurai Assassin
Lou Castel - Fists In The Pocket
Eddie Constantine - Alphaville
Melvyn Douglas - Rapture
Robert Hossein - The Secret Killer
Jean-Paul Belmondo - Pierrot Le Fou
Popov/Lyubshin - I Am Twenty
Victor Rebengiuc - Forest Of The Hanged

Supporting:
Robert Shaw - Battle Of The Bulge
Kirk Douglas - In Harm's Way
Richard Harris - Major Dundee

Robert MacFarlane said...

I saw The Disaster Artist. It's a tad too forgiving to Wiseau. but otherwise I laughed my ass off the entire time. Also, I think we might have broke James Franco.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I'd say so.

Michael:

Yeah, that was good moment, and I agree in regards to Franco's approach.

Tahmeed:

Maybe.