Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973: Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye

Elliott Gould did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye.

The Long Goodbye is a terrific neo noir by Robert Altman that modernizes private detective Philip Marlowe.

Elliot Gould after his breakout in the late 60's found himself in a career slump due to his behavior on the set of the film that eventually became What's Up Doc, and I would imagine his performance in Ingmar Bergman's The Touch did not help matters. Robert Altman though cast him here as Philip Marlowe which seems like a rather curious casting choice on paper. The role of Philip Malowe is usually reserved for tough guy actors like Humphrey Bogart, James Garner, James Caan, and even later on in the seventies Robert Mitchum. This is not a traditional representation of the role though, and not simply because it was given a contemporary setting. The film opens not with Marlowe taking care of a case but rather dealing with his cat who has gotten hungry in the middle of the night. This Marlowe lives in a lonely apartment but with a group of frequently nude hippie women live across the way from him. Don't take that as a glamorous setting because it's really not.

Marlowe, after attempting and failing to find the right cat food, still doesn't get a case just request to drive his friend Terry, who claims to have fought with his wife, to Tijuana. Gould casting suddenly starts to make sense as this is not the Marlowe of Bogart, and I'd say may have influenced Doc Sportello of Inherent Vice. Gould does not seem like a fit for a tough guy, and his performance isn't as a tough guy. The thing is he isn't separate entirely from the character either, he is Philip Marlowe but entirely Elliott Gould's Philip Marlowe. To explain, Gould's performance is not without the traits of Marlowe, and what is set up around the character. As required of a P.I. in the forties he smokes in basically every scene, and he always wears a suit. Again those features of Marlowe though not exactly Gould's performance per se. Gould's performance feels as though he is a Marlowe though is perhaps more of as an actual private detective rather than the hero of a detective novel.

That is not to say that this what one would charge as a "realistic" performance, not that it is fantastical though. Gould gives us perhaps the Marlowe of being in the life as he is and would be in as a private detective. Gould's delivery often is curious yet intriguing to the character in as he drifts out of conversations with those who really are not interested in him all that much. It's something brilliant though in this and the way Gould plays it. In that maybe the tough guy Marlowe might say similair things and seem "cool", the way Gould suggests perhaps a certain loneliness in this act as thought he man's life is made of these cursory interactions. Of course Marlowe has his time when he does get a bit more attention, where he fits in the role as the protagonist of a film noir. That begins as the cops come by the question Marlowe about the disappearance of his friend who asked for the ride, and the brutal death of that man's wife.

As Marlowe is arrested, on a trumped up charge, we are given a Marlowe perhaps more in his element as he deals with the police. Gould is rather hilarious in this scene as he kind of talks around the cops and makes fun of them for their severe attitude. Again though there something genius in how Gould approaches this in again he is the film noir hero, but he's also not at all. This is also apparent in his scenes where he deals with a strange vicious criminal Augustine (Mark Rydell) and his gang who wants money that was being kept by Terry which Augustine thinks was given to Marlowe. Gould seems to fulfill kind of the typical way of acting above those interrogating him and trying to menace him. As typical he's pretty calm and collected, kind of above it all while showing a certain disdain towards them. Gould even fulfills the requirement in that he's indeed rather enjoyable to watch in these scenes, but all of it is not truly in the normal way. Instead of being the master of the room, Gould plays it somewhat adrift as someone really would come across as who is not taking such a situation seriously. It is so different yet it still absolutely works.

That also is again not how Gould plays every scene as the detective, he carefully only plays scenes that way when technically the situation is a waste of time for Marlowe. We are also given scenes where we actually see him in action such as when he is hired to find a writer, Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden), by the man's wife Eileen Wade. Marlowe quickly finds the husband at a shady detox center, and even sneaks in to help the man escape. These scenes are actually a brilliant bit of directing by Altman, though Gould is important within them. Altman though directs them in this purposefully kind of low key way while Gould portrays more of that assertiveness of behavior that would be more fitting to more of closeups with some more pronounced edits. Marlowe saves the man and it soon becomes as though there is no mystery to anyone besides Marlowe. Here's kind of a part of the key of Gould's whole performance that makes it take a step further than it might have been as this approach could've been parody but it's not. It's something truly fascinating.

Gould again is adrift in those meaningless, to him, interrogation scenes but he's not that way towards the mystery that involves people that Marlowe does care about. Gould does bring this palatable undercurrent of an emotional connection there. When he quizzes Wade's wife on knowing more than she acts as though she does, there is a severity in his voice, and Gould makes Marlowe as someone who cares. There is something even more to this as again he's being the film noir hero, but this takes on yet another purpose that is surprisingly poignant. In that Gould again shows that Marlowe does care and the way he does, while no one else seems to, is made rather moving even. The performance in a way I found to be covert in its emotional impact. Now it was already an entertaining engaging work, but it's more. There's an incredible scene that closes the film where Marlowe finally "solves his problem". It is very cathartic moment as Gould attaches the emotion within that goes beyond just getting the villain so to speak. Gould reflects a further attachment of the personal betrayal involved but also the satisfaction of essentially being truly "Philip Marlowe". What Gould does here is this remarkable contradiction of a characterization. In that Gould has the features of that noir detective, Philip Marlowe. He's in the seventies though, and he's not exactly as everyone else should be yet he feels entirely natural to himself because of Gould's work. Gould never falls into caricature, but makes sense of this contradiction of character. This is such daring work that absolutely succeeds in terms of creating something completely new out of something old. I loved this performance.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1973

And the Nominees Were Not:

Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now

Robert Shaw in The Hireling

Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye

Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1947: Louis Jouvet in Quai des Orfèvres

Louis Jouvet did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Inspector Antoine in Quai des Orfèvres.

Quai des Orfèvres is a very effective mystery film, though in actuality it is more a comedy of errors than a thriller.

The veteran French actor Louis Jouvet does not enter the film until about halfway through. That first half focuses on the difficult relationship between an incredibly flirtatious singer Jenny (Suzy Delair) and her jealous husband Maurice (Bernard Blier). We see the two going back and forth as Maurice constantly threatens the men Jenny is flirting with them though she is completely devoted to him. Complications ensue though when one of the men, a sleazy photographer, turns up dead. This is made more complex by the married couple having separately visited the murdered man's house, and made even more complicated by Jenny's photographer friend Dora (Simone Renant), with an obvious crush on her, also visiting the crime scene. This leads Inspector Antoine to come in to attempt clear everything up despite the three doing their best to cover their tracks. Jouvet appears and this is great example of an old pro just going to town with some great material. That is to say Jouvet wastes no time in stealing the show.

Jouvet is exceptional as he sets up his whole character in his first scene as Antoine is informed of the crime. Antoine takes a moment to check on his adopted son before leaving. Jouvet's brilliant in just this slight interaction we are given with his son throughout these scenes as he grants such a rich history of the inspector with his son. Jouvet captures this sense of haplessness with his son, as well as this attempt at any sort of discipline in these interactions as he talks about his son's trouble with geography. Jouvet shows this perfect sort of appreciation if what he has, even though he also shows the inspector being perhaps slightly out of his element in this regard. Beneath all of it is such this sweet warmth that Jouvet exudes in almost this indirect way. This is the major personal element we are given on the inspector and Antoine makes the most of it. He humanizes the inspector far past the confines of the case or the confines of this supporting role. Jouvet makes this whole aspect of his character so very endearing while adding an extra layer to his character.

Of course the primary role of the Inspector is to solve the case and in this way Jouvet is again brilliant. Jouvet here reminded of the very best turns of this nature like say Morgan Freeman in Seven, Jouvet is just fascinating to watch as he works the case. The way Jouvet maneuvers every scene he is in is something in itself. I just love the physical presence of his work here as he dominates by almost being exactly where he shouldn't be. I have particular affection for Jouvet's stone face whenever Antoine appears from behind a doorway as though he's Frankenstein's monster. As the Inspector works the case though we are also granted a bit of his philosophy towards his profession. Jouvet delivers this certain acerbic tone even rather humorous as he ponders about the long list of costs to solve the murder for basically who was seen as an undesirable by most. What's best though is the way Jouvet shows that Antoine uses it to manipulate the situation, as Jouvet excels in his reactions in these moments as though he's watching to see guilt by supporting his own cynicism.

Jouvet is so good as he illustrates the technique of the Inspector in every scene as he goes about interrogating each of the principals to get to the bottom of the murder. Jouvet brings this elegance to his method as he shows the Inspector always switching things up so carefully. Jouvet often delivers a comedic moment, and plays it as though Antoine is speaking to a innocent person to get them to open up a bit more. Jouvet though makes it almost a dance of sorts the way he so seems to be playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. Jouvet's delivery and reactions are truly remarkable in the way they do establish the incisiveness of Antoine. Jouvet portrays that Antoine does need to figure things out himself, but in front of the suspects he is always the one in charge. As he'll make a joke then suddenly switch to speaking of the severity of crimes actually, and Jouvet makes his intensity particularly effective by the way he springs it on the suspects as well as we the viewers. His work is excellent in the way he actually becomes a more than a little menacing by realizing this technique so effortlessly. I find Jouvet outdoes any Poirot of any kind in the final scenes of the film as Antoine fixes everything. Jouvet again tears through the scenes making it absolutely convincing that Antoine will get his man/woman in the end. Jouvet though goes even further to offer this touch of a philosophy though presenting again just the right hint of warmth. Jouvet's absolutely charming, in his own unusual way of course, as he makes final interrogation though this time offering such a genuine sympathy as he finally gets the truth. This is an amazing performance by Louis Jouvet as he steals the film wholesale though with such ease and grace as his atypical Inspector Antoine.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1973 Lead

Friday, 17 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Results

5. Orson Welles in The Lady From Shanghai - Welles's accent is more than a little problematic but he's good when he's silent.

Best Scene: Hall of mirrors.
4. Claude Rains in The Unsuspected - Rains is an easy highlight of the film giving an effectively diabolical performance explaining his villain even as the film fails to do.

Best Scene: A final broadcast.
3. Isao Numasaki in One Wonderful Sunday - Numasaki gives a moving and very honest depiction of just a man going through the ups and downs of a normal day.

Best Scene: At home breakdown.
2. Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley - Power proves himself quite the capable actor in a far more daring role than usual creating the right captivating presence as the performer then the right amoral hollowness as the man.

Best Scene: Cold reading a hobo. 
1. Pierre Fresnay in Monsieur Vincent - Fresnay gives a brilliant performance as he manages to humanize yet still embodies a saint.

Best Scene: Vincent thinks on his faults. 
Updated Overall

Next: Review of Louis Jouvet in Quai des Orfèvres which is when I'll update supporting as well.

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Orson Welles in The Lady From Shanghai

Orson Welles did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Michael O'Hara in The Lady From Shanghai.

The Lady From Shanghai is an effective and visually stunning film noir, though like Citizen Kane Welles could've told some of his actors to tone it down a bit, about an Irishman who falls into a strange web of corrupt people by taking a job from a rich lawyer due to his fascination with the man's wife.

After watching Welles's version of Macbeth and now this film I've come to conclusion that Welles and foreign accents aren't exactly chocolate and peanut butter. As with his Shakespearean adaptation he takes upon a thick brogue this time an Irish one. As was his Scottish accent in Macbeth, the accent itself is a bit much, but what is worse is the way it attempts to hide Welles's naturally impressive voice. It creates this odd squishy sound of sorts as he tries to plug his normal voice with his attempt at an Irish accent. You know I always write that I don't mind accent too much unless they are so bad that they are distracting. Well, here an example of that. It's is made worse that Welles also narrates the film with his Irish brogue and it doesn't sound good. The reason being Welles always sounds as though he is putting on this curiously broad accent and unfortunately it is a sour point that it is the first thing we experience from his performance.

This is not a terrible performance though despite his  accent. O'Hara, despite narrating the film, is often a reactionary character within it. We follow him as he enters into this dark world of corrupt men by taking the job on the rich lawyer Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane)'s boat, due to having previously saved his wife Elsa (Rita Hayworth) from attackers. O'Hara most often observes the rich man, his wife, and the other strange people hanging around. Welles now non-verbally is very good in the role. Welles does well as he internalizes basically this strangeness in his performance through O'Hara as he watches these people. Welles speaks far more effectively when ,well, he does not speak. In this way Welles works well with himself as director in that he is careful to capture O'Hara's state within the pivotal moments which resonate far more than when he goes around speaking in his unnatural voice. Welles expresses the right unease as he interacts with or merely watches the very sleazy Bannister, but does equally well to convey the fascination O'Hara has with his enigmatic wife.

Welles does grant an understanding to O'Hara in mainly only his face and body language to the point that his narration perhaps was not even needed. Welles manages to create this sense of dismay towards basically the amorality presented by the situation, while giving  motivation to O'Hara staying where he is through the entrancement he reflects, rather understandably, to Hayworth's Elsa. Of course the creeps do not end at Bannister as he also meets the man's strange private detective George Grisby who comes to the man with a truly bizarre proposal to fake murder him. Again Welles's work, when he's not speaking, amplifies the atmosphere by offering O'Hara as possibly the only genuine person and portraying such honest confusion as he attempts to grasp the situation he is in. We are also given just a bit background where O'hara has killed before, in a war though, but Welles reflects the discomfort to being spoken of as a murderer when he felt the killing had been his duty. Everything eventually spins out of control when O'Hara finds himself caught in a plot he barely understands, and the final scenes are perhaps Welles's best work in the film. I suppose it helps that he doesn't say much, but he manages to make the ending resonate emotionally by powerfully revealing the sense of betrayal all within still a confused entrancement. Welles excels most in portraying the central "romance" since he realizes the complexity of the attraction to this woman who  This is a good performance, especially well used by Welles himself as the director, but with a less distracting accent I think it could have been a great one.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Pierre Fresnay in Monsieur Vincent

Pierre Fresnay did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Saint Vincent de Paul in Monsieur Vincent.

Monsieur Vincent tells the true story of a French Catholic priest who dedicated himself to helping the poor.

This is a rather different part than the other two performances I've seen from Pierre Fresnay such as Grand Illusion where he played an aristocratic soldier with a particularly strong connection with his captor, and The Murderer Lives At Number 21 where he played a somewhat carefree detective. Fresnay seems almost unrecognizable in this role compared to those earlier performances. I write almost though because there is the idea of the charisma he revealed in those earlier performances, but utilized in a different way. The film opens with Vincent coming into a village where some are being quarantined off and basically ignored by the rest of the populace. Vincent comes onto the scene almost like a shrewd hero though still to only administer proper priestly duties such as healing and prayer. Fresnay again has that charisma of his other performances but he alters it properly given the man Vincent is suppose to be. In that Fresnay is charming as usual, but in a most unusual way. Fresnay underplays it so elegantly in that he comes across just as well as those earlier performances, yet somehow still maintains the modesty essential to such a role.

Fresnay's work is rather fascinating here in that it is a brilliant example of an actor both internalizing and externalizing in their performance. In that Fresnay's work is often reactionary here, and so powerfully so are his reactions. In the early scene where he tries to save the people from the plague his eyes are so piercing as he watches the people shirking their duties as human beings. What is so incredible though is it is not disdain that Fresnay realizes rather he conveys more disappointment towards those not taking up the duties as they should. Fresnay is careful as this certain condemnation of their actions never feels sanctimonious, though of course Vincent is always very much in the right, but nevertheless Fresnay captures the purity of this intention. Fresnay never seems above it all though and with that is so remarkable. Fresnay is able illustrate so much more about Vincent in such slight reactions. Fresnay never simplifies though with this as even as there is a moment where he must glance into someone's souls, he is just as able to speak with another person just as one human being to another.

Fresnay actually brings a certain humor in Vincent in so many moments, but always in such a generous loving way. Fresnay grants these moments as though Vincent wishes to attempt to share any joy he may have with those around. Of course what Vincent specializes in is finding suffering and attempting to try to alleviate it in some way. After Vincent helps as he can with the contagion, Vincent receives praise and thanks while he only really reacts by informing the villagers that he prayed for their sake as well because of their selfishness, though not in so many words. Fresnay doesn't mock in his delivery nor does he make too ethereal. He makes it a grounded yet earnest declaration alluding the man who wishes for others to be the best individual they are able to be, yet is well aware that may be unlikely with those he speaks to. Throughout the film we witness Vincent as he goes through the years helping one person after, noble, poor, slave whoever needs while not asking for thanks in fact purposefully avoiding it.

Again with this it seems like we should expect an angel among men, and in terms of his accomplishments he kind of is. Fresnay though does not allow himself to be pigeonholed as such in this brilliant work of his. Again this is in terms of how he externalizes and internalizes all that Vincent is as a person which extends beyond his good works, even if that's mainly what the film focuses upon. Fresnay's work feels just as reality since he refuses to be merely an idea of Saint, he instead intends to reveal the man in the Saint, even if that man is quite saintly. Fresnay's work is far greater than the film itself because of this approach. I love the way Fresnay makes the passions in Vincent so very real and palatable. In any scene where he is helping others Fresnay presents such genuine concern in every moment as helps, and the moving quiet joy he expresses when helping those who truly need it. Furthermore though Fresnay also echoes the world Vincent does live in, which is ripe with corruption and contemptible individuals, by providing the right sense of dissatisfaction with those people. Fresnay though is terrific in that he is incredibly incisive in just a glance or a calm remark, such when he is offered a scent candle to avoid the scent of suffering slaves on ship, as he alludes to that disappointment without becoming defined by it. Now that is what I even mean by his humanizing of Vincent though. What is so outstanding about this work is how deeply unpretentious it is despite playing a figure worthy of such pretenses.

Fresnay though gives that humor even almost alluding to his flawless delivery of his various bard from Number 21 in a few scenes where Vincent avoids any direct praise from an old acquaintance. Fresnay always brings these little moments, and they don't even have to be comedic. Even in the grand chambers where Vincent tries to encourage the best out of the "elite" emphasizes an understanding and embracing warmth by his unaffected portrayal of Vincent. Now I did not even mention that this is a story set over decades as we see Vincent age to an old man. Fresnay excels in just another facet of his work as he so gradually ages the man with his performances taking on certain mannerisms fitting to an older man, a squint, a hunch, yet doing it in such a natural way that there is no disconnect from Vincent of one year to the next. The film again is one great deed after another, which Fresnay elevates greatly by his nuanced work, and the film ends actually on Vincent only sort of criticizing himself for still not doing enough to help others. This could be terribly self-indulgent, but it is not at all. Fresnay makes it such a beautiful moment as again it is expressed with only a humble grace. Fresnay's whole performance is an amazing piece of acting as he allows a saint to be man even if he is a flawless one.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Claude Rains in The Unsuspected

Claude Rains did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Victor Grandison in The Unsuspected.

The Unsuspected, though fairly well directed by Michael Curtiz, is a very oddly written thriller about the murders surrounding a mystery radio host.

The Unsuspected is so strange as it opens with brutal murder of the radio host's secretary. The film than proceeds to introduce a set of characters all around the host, Rains's Victor Grandison. It seems like it's building a mystery with these introductions of the suspects and even with Rains's first scene where Victor delivers one of his shows. Rains's voice seems so fitting for such a broadcast with Rains emphasizing every word to give a real certain ominous quality and as he warns about the "unsuspected" is quite something. The thing is, despite this set up, there isn't a mystery. and I don't mean just because Claude Rains is in the film, he's actually not the initial killer in the film. It reveals quite early, rather nonchalantly, who the killer is, a handyman who works for Victor. It further reveals that Victor himself is complicit since he figures out who the killer is yet only blackmails the man to do his bidding. The film then proceeds to follow Victor as he seems to try to kill everyone within his extended family for a reason that is never quite specified past Rains's performance.

The film honestly probably wouldn't have worked at all with its main cast being, while not bad, rather forgettable for the most part, if it were not for old Claude Rains being in this role. Rains basically is there to carry the entirety of the film, and is the only thing that really comes across all that well past a few atmospheric shots crafted by Curtiz. This is kind of Rains unleashed in a way though. In his scenes where Victor is interacting with his family Rains brings such a suave command as you'd expect from him. There is just the right assurance and style to his work that is perfect for this type of patrician radio host. To be entirely truthful Rains frankly seemed like he should have hosted a mystery theater at some point given that he brings the right sort of dark elegance for "murder in a mansion" style stories. Rains, as the surface Victor is more than he should be, and by that I mean by his sheer charm he makes some fairly tepid material engaging. Rains offers a real energy to role that is much needed to the film, although he extends that to further than merely Claude Rains being his usual amazing self.

Rains extends that energy to actually make sense of his character, who really doesn't make any sense just by what is written in the film, and with a lesser actor in the role the character would have fallen wholly flat. The thing is Victor goes about wanting to murder everyone in ways in which he makes everyone else look like a suspect or makes their deaths look like suicides. Again this is never explained but Rains's explains it through his rather brilliant performance. Rains throughout these scenes very carefully portrays them to convey the motivation all wordlessly of course. Rains does not simply have Victor set up the murder, nor does he portrays the sort of psychotic behavior you may expect, although his behavior is obviously that as well. Rains in the murder scenes does not even show any malice instead he's quite chilling by portraying instead this fascination in Victor in the act itself. He does grant a creepy joy as he does this, with that energy he has in the role, but again Rains depicts very carefully as Victor getting a kick out of the whole process. Rains makes sense of the character by showing this host who has become with obsessed with doing what he has only ever spoken of, and also makes a rather entertaining villain while doing so. I won't say he quite saves the film, but it is relatively easy to get through due to his dutiful work as always.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Isao Numasaki in One Wonderful Sunday

Isao Numasaki did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Yuzo in One Wonderful Sunday.

One Wonderful Sunday, if you'll forgive the repetition, is a wonderful bittersweet film about a young couple attempting to spend the day together with very little money.

One Wonderful Sunday is Akira Kurosawa's last film before his first collaboration with the one and only Toshiro Mifune, and concerns a far more average sort of individual as played by Isao Numasaki, any actor with few credits to his name. The film follows very simply a day between the man, Yuzo and his fiancee Masako (Chieko Nakakita). One of the reasons I so enjoyed the film actually was how natural and simple of a film it is, aside from its questionable choice to break the fourth wall. A great deal of credit for this needs to go to Numasaki and Nakakita for this. We are introduced to the two of them as people who want to be together, this is not about a growing romance the romantic angle is suppose to be a given. It is given because of their chemistry with one another. This is very notable though because they do not create this sort of grand love for one another rather they establish the time the two have been together instead. There is the right comfort the two bring in their interactions that suggest simply the right understanding that they love each other to the point that they don't really even need to say it all that much, it is indeed a given.

Numasaki's performance actually made me a bit surprised he has so few credits to his name given just how genuine he is as a performer. He brings this innate likability to Yuzo because he comes across as such an honest sort. There is nothing in Numasaki's work that ever seems off in the least and it's with this that helps the film work as well as it does. Numasaki is able to create such sympathy by feeling so real in his performance. Numasaki has such a downright perfect sort of screen presence by having such an easy and unassuming performance style. Never does it feel like you're witnessing this sort of character, instead you're simply watching a man attempting to go on this date of sorts. Numasaki simply is Yuzo here as Nakakita simply is Masako, and together they are this young couple. Importantly though Numasaki though still is always engaging never becoming stale in his portrayal instead he finds what is so interesting in the understated man that Yuzo is. Now with this date of sorts we are given the tone of the film which gives us the bitter with the sweet.

Isao Numasaki's performance is incredibly effective in terms of capturing every situation with such intimate detail and nuance. In the early scenes he's incredibly moving by portraying the quiet shame in the man, an his loss of enthusiasm as he speaks about their lack of money that makes it so they not only can't live together but can barely do much on their date. Numasaki is very good in establishing the somewhat sorrowful state of Numasaki which he portrays in such a quiet yet affecting way. Numasaki carefully avoids any melodrama in this showing it more of Yuzo's predisposition to start thinking of his troubles. Numasaki shows this so authentically in the way he just sort of seizes up in his whole physical state and only speaks in these somber tones. Numasaki does not overwhelm yet presents this as the place Yuzo basically reverts to whenever he's reminded of just how little he has. There are times for distraction though as Yuzo decides to join a children's baseball game. Numasaki is incredibly endearing in the scene by bringing such enthusiasm in this moment of fun. This is quick transition when this happens yet Numasaki makes entirely work by just how genuine he is in the part. Numasaki so well realizes the way a distraction of joy can exist from time to time even when in a bad state overall.

Numasaki's performance finds the right wavelength of sorts as he creates a believable dynamic throughout the day/film. He so convincingly falls to his lowest point in a heartbreaking scene where Numasaki shows the sorrow overwhelm him for a moment, as he even lashes out a bit at Masako. Numasaki again does not overplay importantly instead playing the moment in a subtle fitting to a man being drowned in his sadness. He is pulled up from it but again Numasaki makes this so eloquent and gradual. It never seems like a requirement of the film, it feels like what should happen next and that is through Numasaki's convincing performance. Numasaki even manages to fulfill the other extreme near the end of the film where he becomes his most jubilant by faking conducting an orchestra to be entertained by. A very poignant scene as Numasaki though does not show a madness there, but rather just instead reflects a man gaining back just the right amount of hope in order to find some joy in life again. This is beautiful work from Numasaki as it represents the highs and lows of life with such grace, creating such powerful empathy for this story of two people simply trying to share a day together.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley

Tyrone Power did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Stanton "Stan" Carlisle in Nightmare Alley.

Nightmare Alley is a fairly effective film noir about an ambitious carnival barker, and is a film I'd actually love to see a remake of as I 'd feel there would be quite the potential with this material altered for a modern context.

Tyrone Power has not been a favorite actor of mine, in that I find him to be a very bland leading man almost every film I've seen him in, with the exception of his supporting role in Witness For the Prosecution. The question though was that fluke? Well with Nightmare Alley Tyrone Power might share a great deal with fellow onscreen Jesse James, Brad Pitt. In that perhaps he's a terrible romantic lead hiding quite the capable character actor. Well Power is lead here, but this is not his typical leading turn as the goodhearted pirate, the goodhearted war veteran, the goodhearted aristocrat or the goodhearted Zorro. Here we meet Stan who initially seems potentially like a more traditional Power role, but to be honest with a bit more zip than usual as we see him perform as the carnival barker by introducing a mind reading act. Any such idea though is soon broken as we see Stan attempting to find the secret code used by the "mind reader" and her drunkard partner, and here's where we see another side to Power, the side of Power I like to see quite honestly.

Power is rather interesting in that in those roles where he's a playing charming guy he's not that charming, but here he is yet in a very particular way. Stan goes around seducing two women of the circus and old Stan does it with ease. Power is convincing in this but what so special about is the way he plays the trick on the women really. There is something so nefarious about the way Power does it as he offers such words of warmth and love while his eyes seem as though they are looking for something entirely for his own selfish ends. This is only the warm up act for Stan though as it seems his powers (no pun intended) of persuasion are only are on the grow. This is indicated early on in a scene where he cold reads a local Sheriff to prevent him from shutting down the circus. Power is quite honestly incredible in the scene in a way that his distinct to Power, and that is what makes it so effective. As he goes about telling the Sheriff his inner most thoughts the oddly specific precision of Power's deliver gives it this otherworldly quality as though Stan really doing it all himself, though of course he's not.

Stan's ambition only grows though as he goes off to become a performer along with his sort of forced upon him wife, to act as a higher class "mind reader". Again Power is so good in these scenes by actually playing into what usually is a weakness in his performances which is that certain detachment. Power here though makes such a strong use of it as though Stan in these moments is above all mere mortals. Now this is not an accidental stroke of luck because, as with Witness For the Prosecution, Power off sets these moments with his scenes off stage so to speak. Power does not have anything ethereal about it as he rather bluntly portrays Stan for what he truly is, just a selfish man who wants more, only more. Power here brings the emotion, though of course this emotion is not the most pleasant to be seen. Power reveals a lust in Stan's eyes as he describes his intentions to only become an even greater sort of "showman" to the public, as he reveals a wholly amoral desire in Stan. Power makes no apologizes in this as he speaks of his potential dupes with a considerable disdain.

Something that I really like about this performance is that Power really doesn't grant any silver lining to Stan, other than he's not more evil than he already is. He stays with him even as Stan begins to act as though he can speak to the dead, even using it to try to dupe a skeptic. In the scene where Stan summons the man's dead sister, played by Stan's wife, Power is great as he only acts as the showman pressing for a greater reaction in the man while revealing no hesitations even as the man begins to breakdown mentally. Power even continues this after Stan has been found out for the fraud he is, and does not take use the final scenes of the film to show the "real nice guy beneath the surface". Instead Power shows just a bitter man who can still occasionally pull off a nice trick or two but only to impress his fellow hobos. There's one especially remarkable moment where Stan cold reads a fellow drunkard and Power still shows that Stan has it making it all the crueler as he stops the act while the man is still transfixed. Power brings a real viciousness to his hatred to his own plight, and reflects just how wretched of a state the man is in. This leads Stan to go back to the circus where he accepts the only job that is offered to him, the lowest one in the circus, the geek. Power is exceptional in the scene as he agrees with again his fake smile of a true showman, but this time he's laughing only at himself. The film ends with an unneeded last minute switch, and given the Hays code I'm surprised Stan got such a "happyish" ending even. Nevertheless before the last minute switch we get Stan at his worst as he breaks down in an alcoholic rage and well Power nails the scene. He goes all the way in being a complete wreck just lashing out, and Power is terrific mess. Of course Power also this entire role. This isn't an actor playing into his weaknesses, rather it's an actor apparently playing the type of role he always should have played.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947

And the Nominees Were Not:

Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley

Claude Rains in The Unsuspected

Orson Welles in The Lady From Shanghai

Isao Numasaki in One Wonderful Sunday

Pierre Fresnay in Monsieur Vincent

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Results

5. Henry Fonda in You Only Live Once - Though he only gets to scratch the surface Fonda is able to tap into a darker side of his onscreen persona to give an effective portrayal of a man destroyed by his desperate situation.

Best Scene: Broken Cup.
4. Edward G. Robinson in Kid Galahad - A limited role yet Robinson excels as usual giving an entertaining yet moving portrayal of a boxing promoter who finds his conscience.

Best Scene: Final Confrontation. 
3. Robert Donat in Knight Without Armour - The underrated Donat as usual offers such a genuine presence that brings some much needed weight to his romantic historical thriller.

Best Scene: Train escape.
2. Ronald Colman in The Prisoner of Zenda - Colman excels as both in his portrayal as the fearful King, and as through his incredibly charming, humorous yet passionate performance as the well meaning doppelganger.

Best Scene: Final Battle. 
1. Jean Gabin in Pepe Le Moko - Good Predictions Anonymous, Luke, Tahmeed, Giuseppe, John Smith and Michael McCarthy. Jean Gabin gives a great performance that realizes the suave style of his flamboyant thief but also gives a moving depiction of the frustrated man pained by his circumstances.

Best Scene: Watching the boat.
Updated Overall Lead
Updated Overall Supporting

Next Year: 1947 Lead (I'll take any supporting suggestions as well)

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Ronald Colman in The Prisoner of Zenda

Ronald Colman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Major Rudolf Rassendyll and King Rudolf V in The Prisoner of Zenda.

The Prisoner Of Zenda is a very entertaining film about an Englishman filling for a distant cousin, a foreign King, in order to thwart a potential coup.

Now having previously mentioned the underrated status of Robert Donat perhaps Ronald Colman deserves a similar mention. Colman is not even granted the notoriety of a controversial Oscar win since no one seems to even remember he won an Oscar at all. That's a shame though given that Colman's presence in a film was basically a guarantee that there would at least be something worthwhile in the film. Well thankfully The Prisoner of Zenda is already an enjoyable adventure film, but it gets amplified all the more through the services of Colman in dual roles. We aren't given that much time with the one of the two roles, that being the King Rudolf who we meet briefly as he's somewhat taken aback by his doppelganger, yet soon enough welcomes him into his good graces. Colman again only has a few scenes as the King, yet makes use of them well to craft a separate character. Colman keeps the differences relatively slight, fitting given that most people are suppose to believe the other Rudolf is the King, but Colman does finds another personality in these few scenes. Colman grants a shyness and unease in his body language, as he's more distant, implying much more of a natural fear innate in a man who is aware that there are those who do not wish for him to succeed.

Colman uses his scenes as the King well which amplify his work as just plain old Rudolph. This is a bit more traditional Colman, but I mean that in a good way. Colman again brings that ease to his performance that makes him such a likable screen presence. Colman though manages to indicate something further in this by carefully realizing a man who is not burdened by responsibility, which the King is. When the King is drugged, then later kidnapped by those who wish to take the power for themselves, the common Rudolph is called upon to act as an imposter in order for the King to keep his title. Colman actually carries this lack of burden into his portrayal of Rudolph's method of impersonation. Colman brings this sort of carefree quality, although he portrays the proper intention to succeed most directly, particularly when a challenge arises, Colman always alludes to the peculiar state in some very knowing glances though. Colman manages to bring just the right touches of humor in these, in such small moments such as almost forgetting his lines, or just showing the way he's more than a little taken aback by all the attention he is receiving.

Colman finds the right balance in his work as he shows Rudolf conveying both the severity of the situation and the strangeness of it, all of course with his trademark charm thrown in for good measure. Colman proceeds though to properly realize the changing situation as Rudolf continues the act. This includes the complication of being encouraged to romance the King's intended the Princess Flavia (Madeleine Caroll). Colman is always a great romantic lead as he just seems to be able to strike that spark with no time at all, and that is the case here as well. Colman though again does well not to play it completely straight. He brings just the right undercurrent awkwardness in moments indicating the impersonation even while portraying honest infatuation. Not everything though is quite as complex as with Rudolf dealing with the film's true villain the henchmen Rupert (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) who makes no excuses for his amorality. Colman is terrific in these scenes though by showing the way Rudolf is so keenly aware of almost the game he's playing against this man, as he and Fairbanks have a lot of fun as the two have a battle of wits along with the expected swordplay. Colman though is careful though to portray a genuine concern and passion for the King's safety as the situation becomes more severe. He's particularly good in the closing scenes of the film, including its thrilling climax, offering the right gravity to the situation. He's indeed effortless in the role, but Colman importantly provides the needed intensity showing the needed effort Rudolf must make to save the day as well as return to being just the common man. This is typically strong work from Ronald Colman that succeeds in making the film all the more enjoyable.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Jean Gabin in Pepe Le Moko

Jean Gabin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of Pepe Le Moko.

Pepe Le Moko is the superior original film about a wanted thief who avoids police capture in Algiers by hiding in a densely populated district known as the Casbah.

Pepe Le Moko was remade the very next year as Algiers in 1938 in which the role was played by another Frenchman, Charles Boyer. Jean Gabin, who never broke out in America the way Boyer did, possibly because his English speaking accent unfortunately sounded a little goofy, though he was perhaps the most popular French dramatic actor of the period in France whereas Boyer was perhaps the most popular French dramatic actor in America. Boyer was Oscar nominated for that performance and it is interesting to see the separate interpretations to the character granted by Boyer and Gabin since they are rather different performers in style. Boyer's charisma stemming oddly enough from kind of a cold command, but Gabin is more directly charming. Gabin played a thief just the previous year in The Lower Depths, and he does offers that sort of suave style once again, but this is in no way a repetition of that previous performance.

Gabin is certainly suave as he was in the Lower Depths, but Gabin adjusts this properly to a "high class" type of criminal rather than the lower class thief he portrayed in that earlier film. Gabin was a quieter technically more innately likable sort there, whereas here Gabin plays the role with a bit more flamboyance fitting to a man who has become the obsession of the police force. Gabin brings a more overt style to the man, Gabin technically playing it up purposefully as a man who plays it up himself. Gabin, whenever Pepe is the presence of the police or a potential "fan", presents himself as the affable rogue he should be at least in their view. Gabin offers the right performance of a suave man who knows he's being suave. As he bargains a deal for some of his stolen jewels in the view of so many, Gabin infuses Le Moko with just the right assurance of a man living in success rather than a desperate man trying to find a way to make money.

Gabin of course offers the expected charm to the role and is very convincing as he wins the hearts of two separate women. This is in opposition to Boyer's methods in the same role where he provided more of the intensity within the charisma. Gabin though is more appealing frankly, but he importantly does not use this to simplify Le Moko as a simple romantic though. Gabin brings a harder edge to the role, as he cultivates this definite darkness in the role even within his most charming moments. There is this incisiveness within Gabin's eyes even as he negotiates a price for stolen goods seemingly with such ease. Gabin alludes to a far more intense figure than Le Moko likes to provide to most who see him. This darker side though only becomes all the more evident as Le Moko deals with members of his cadre who do not listen to his order directly. Gabin provides a more vicious edge fitting to a criminal, that is almost his true self that Gabin provides whenever Le Moko truly needs to take care business.

The one major element that was lacking in Charles Boyer's performance, which is only all the more evident when watching this performance, is the idea of Pepe Le Moko being technically a captive of sort in the Casbah. Boyer never seemed too uncomfortable with his life, and his downfall almost seems to come just by carelessness. Gabin crafts a far more captivating and complex depiction of Le Moko by giving weight to Le Moko's circumstances. Again Gabin reveals far more of the man within the margins, whenever we witness away from the crowd and within more vulnerable circumstances. Gabin portrays Le Moko without that confidence, or charm instead revealing a definite desperation within the man suffering from a sort of cabin fever within the Casbah. Gabin infuses so much discontent in the way he slowly conveys a growing unease in Le Moko as he lies alone, or seems to see that he is imprisoning himself by avoiding prison. Even in the central romantic relationship Gabin portrays on the edges of his charm a weakness showing that his desire for the woman, from outside the Casbah, also is a desire to escape the Casbah. Gabin slowly loses the character's "cool" throughout the film showing more and more the real man beneath it all from scene to scene. When he leaves the Casbah it is a far more emotional moment than it is in Algiers, because Gabin infuses this strange hope with hopelessness. As Gabin shows such pain as he is within the Casbah yet still in his eyes reveals this eagerness as though Le Moko is walking towards a wonderful dream. A far stronger finale comes in through Gabin as he strips down his work in the final moments of the film to reveal only a sad man beneath the fancy scarf no longer even able to hang onto the image he has crafted for himself. Gabin's work adds so much more substance to the story by making Pepe Le Moko so much more than just this "sly thief" who has a romance on the side that almost accidentally is his downfall. He gives an excellent performance by complicating the story with his striking realization of a man struggling to maintain freedom in mind as well as body.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Robert Donat in Knight Without Armour

Robert Donat did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying A.J. Fothergill also known as "Peter Ouranoff" in Knight Without Armour.

Knight Without Armour is a somewhat effective film that follows a British spy within the Russian revolution attempting to save a Russian countess.

Robert Donat again is one of the more underrated actors from the period known only today, if at all, as the man who beat James Stewart and Clark Gable for the 1939 best actor Oscar. Donat deserves more and here's a good example why in his role as a British ex-patriot recruited to spy for the Russians. The film's synopsis though might sound like it might offer a bit more complications with the whole being a spy thing, but really that is just the set up to place our hero into the setting. Old Fothergill's close calls come just with the habit of the Reds and the Whites executing whoever they feel like whenever they feel like it, they almost never come from him actually being a spy. This makes his performance perhaps a bit less duplicitous than you might expect, although this is not a criticism against Donat by any means. The character of Fothergill is simply a hero for us to follow through the chaos of the Russian Revolution.

Donat of course works very well as that hero as he has this very low key appeal to him. Donat finds charm just basically in his unassuming style which works particularly well for this role where his character wants to keep a low profile. Again though the spying is not focused upon too much in a way Donat does a good job of showing the way he fits in by being basically that guy off to the side in any given situation. Donat exudes the right lack of pretense showing a man who there is no reason to notice since it does not appear as though he means any harm to anyone. Although this approach works for awhile for Fothergill a problem arises when he crosses path with the Russian Countess Alexandra Adraxine (Marlene Dietrich) who he decides to save from certain death from the revolutionaries due to her family heritage and social standing.

Now I have to admit the biggest surprise for me in this film as Dietrich's performance since she's not doing that worldly colder style that defined many of her performance. Dietrich plays her character here with a certain naivety which I actually took be aback I have to admit. As one would expect the focus in the film becomes a romance between the two as they attempt to escape Russian alive. Donat, from what I've seen, seems particularly proficient at striking up chemistry with his co-stars. Even in very rushed circumstances he just seems to make it work, and that's is the case herre as well. They become quite the endearing pair and the romance feels honest, perhaps it's because Donat is just so likable. The two make it work and in turn make the film actually work as they manage to create an investment in seeing the two get out of it alive together. Donat furthers this though by offering such a genuine presence throughout the film. He creates so much of the tension through his silent reactions throughout the film, and is particularly effective later on in realizing the horror of the constant executions in such a nuanced fashion. Although I will admit going in I did expect a more complex character for Donat to work with, this is still another strong performance from the underrated actor.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1937: Edward G. Robinson in Kid Galahad

Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Nick Donati in Kid Galahad.

Kid Galahad is a decent enough film about a boxing promoter who finds a new prospect in an unassuming bellhop.

It has to be said that Edward G. Robinson is one of the most consistent of actors of the period as he just has a certain grace that was so rare from the period and seemed to so easily avoid that stiffness that some of even the better actors of the period would fall into. Kid Galahad is yet another example of Robinson just, well, owning a part with such from the first scene we see him in. Robinson just has his grasp on the material from his first scene as we see Nick trying to direct his boxer alongside his girlfriend "Fluff" Phillips (Bette Davis). Robinson brings that energy that does just jump of the screen which is a perfect fit also for such a character. He finds the sort of spark needed essentially to represent the fight of the fight granting the right passion as he attempts to control his fighter and win the match.

That fighter proves to be a bad investment and Nick begins to attempt to find anyone in order to beat his mob connected rival Turkey Morgan (Humphrey Bogart, by the way it seems one should never make any deal with Bogart in a pre-Maltese Falcon film). Robinson is quite good at being just kind of the man near the top but not quite. Robinson infuses the right personal style that is just big enough to be befitting of a guy who knows exactly what he wants even if it seems just a bit out of reach. Again Robinson is someone who usually is just fun to watch, and that is the case here. He enlivens even the weaker a scenes a bit by just his mere presence as he makes Nick a surprisingly endearing figure despite the fact that he doesn't exactly hide the fact that he is kind of a jerk. The Robinson though plays into this though grants again this certain elegance to Nick that somehow makes him for whatever reason the better jerk against Bogart, who is in full heel mode here.

The major flaw perhaps of the film is there is not quite enough Nick to go around, he's almost supporting though I will say that Robinson still is lead. The film though often drifts its focus towards hayseed boxer Ward "Kid Galahad" Guisenberry who just is an all around swell guy, and is purposefully as straight forward as it gets. All the drama really comes from Nick, and Robinson's performance. Again Robinson doesn't avoid the nastier side to the character as when Ward gets interested in Nick's kid sister, which Nick doesn't approve of. Although Robinson brings the needed intensity to Nick's anger he does still bother to attach it to this certain emotional devotion to her that conveys effectively the motivation. Robinson does not simplify the motivation at any point. Robinson delivers the right sort of disdain as he purposefully sets up the "Kid" to take a hard fall in a fight, though of course his friends prod him to reconsider. Nick has the last minute change of heart, which although I wish more time had been spent on it, Robinson absolutely delivers. He somehow even makes it work conveying his crisis of conscience though partially because of the motivation he had granted to earlier outrage. He not only makes it work though but he actually manages to make it quite moving by showing Nick's breakdown in such a restrain yet honest fashion. This might not be Robinson's best work, but it is an another example of the man's considerable talent.