Saturday, 6 January 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1965: Robert Shaw in Battle of the Bulge

Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Col. Martin Hessler in Battle of the Bulge.

Battle of the Bulge actually is rather entertaining and works quite well as a war film if one looks at it as more of a Where Eagles Dare, than a Battleground. 

The film despite wearing the name of the real battle is a heavily fictionalized version that follows a somewhat general sense of the real battle but that's about it. It crafts its narrative within original characters within this scheme of utilizing its large cast the most interesting of the characters being Robert Shaw's Martin Hessler. Hessler acts as the chief villain for the film leading the Nazis vanguard of tanks in an attempt to push the allied forces back. Now Shaw in even a basic villain roles is already something special, look no further than The Sting for proof of that, however this is not a basic role particularly as Nazis in war films are often depicted. Shaw makes the most of this as evidenced from his first scene where Hessler's chauffeur dodges an allied plane in order to run for cover while driving towards the German command. Hessler does not move from the car, in part that he knows it is only a reconnaissance plane, but the chauffeur states that wouldn't matter to Hessler if it was a fighter plane. Now Shaw in the moment is commanding, as usual, with his particularly refined voice all the more in his strict accent in the role. Shaw oozes menace as expected however that is not all there is. Hessler explains though he did not "lose a war" to die sitting in the car. Shaw in this suggests more to the colonel as he speaks with a certain underlying pathos in these words showing a soldier recognizing his soon defeat, though still with that confidence of a soldier prepared to do his duty.

The film follows Hessler as he reaches the German command in the area and Shaw carries this certain indifference as Hessler is shown around the compound. Shaw depiction of this though is not of a tired, or pathetic soldier, but rather that of a consternation of his position. Shaw's reaction to the other more ridiculous plans of the command, and more delusional statement effectively reveal Hessler as sensible in his awareness of his situation with such a subtle yet palatable disdain towards his comrades who suffer from this delusion. Shaw's terrific in his blunt delivery of explaining the situation to his commanding officer placing how the allies have them defeated. Shaw's terrific with every word so effectively portraying Hessler's clear view of the war. Shaw carefully shows that Hessler's tone does not change until he sees the sea of Tiger tanks at his disposal. Shaw is brilliant in this scene as his whole demeanor changes to perhaps the Hessler at the start of the war, as he walks now with a dominant passion, and his delivery of "it can be done" are the words of a man firmly in his convictions once more. Hessler is granted an explanation when his chauffeur questions his renewed belief, and Shaw is once again outstanding in reaffirming the man's belief not as false zealousness rather clear understanding of warfare. His monologue on "non-illusions" which include his past victories as well as his current resources, is classic Shaw as he so fiercely reaffirms Hessler's belief with that dynamic emphasis Shaw's a master of.

It has to be said that the character of Hessler is particularly well written within this film, and is actually notable precursor to other pragmatic villains, I can't help but feel he had some influence on A Song of Ice and Fire's Tywin Lannister. Robert Shaw though is essential to bringing out the strength of the writing. Shaw reinforces the idea of the character not as a Nazi who is evil for the sake of being evil, but rather a soldier who intends on doing his duty to the extent he beliefs he can, to the best of his abilities. I love the certain detachment Shaw brings in this that is quite fascinating. Shortly after being granted the Tigers, he is granted a unit of men who attempt to prove their loyalty and devotion to the cause through the singing of a German battle hymn. Shaw in this scene encourages the singing even demanding his chauffeur to do the same before joining in himself. Shaw does not depict this scene as simply as a commander being impressed by his men's devotion or being inspired by them. Shaw is exceptional in as he watches them his eyes reflect a greater intelligence of a man seeing an opportunity and chance in the song. The song less used for himself, but rather he handles the scene as though Hessler is using this very specifically as this tool to prepare his men for the battle ahead. Shaw, even as Hessler joins in, keeps his eyes seemingly fixed on the future objective and this bit of showmanship only is a means to that end.

Often times in these early war films, or later war films for that matter, scenes of the Nazis are little more than exposition scenes to proceed to the next point of the story. That is not the case here where the scenes from the enemy perspective are actually the most engaging in the film because of Shaw's portrayal of Hessler. In the battle scenes Shaw is a properly menacing villain as is to be expected to him, as he brings such a powerful sense of determination and cunning in every scene. Shaw's presence is remarkable as he personifies the strength of the enemy so well, and ensures the enemy attack is particularly intimidating through his portrayal of essentially the Nazi's best soldier. Once the battle begins though there are moments of pause in the advance where we are given the best scenes in the film as Shaw continues to depicts this complex figure Hessler. This is not to say at any point he becomes a truly sympathetic figure, though Shaw ensures you always do understand the man. One chilling scene comes as a French civilian, a teenager, takes a pot shot at Hessler, but the boy's father pleads for his son's life. Hessler spares the boy but orders the death of the father. Shaw is especially unnerving in this scene because he still shows the man working out the best, most pragmatic way to deal with the situation, which to him is to offer mercy though only through an alternative sacrifice. When he orders the death of the father it isn't without sadism, but rather Shaw grants it this professionalism of man doing what he believes he must do.

There are two scenes I absolutely love from Shaw as they directly challenge Hessler, and Shaw wholly illustrates the nature of the character in such a natural and compelling fashion. The first scene is one where an American G.I. confronts him over a massacre of American prisoners, which Hessler had nothing to do with. It is a fantastic scene, it helps that Charles Bronson plays the G.I., however Shaw is pitch perfect in the way he flows through the scene in playing in Hessler's mind while presenting Hessler's direct responses. Shaw expresses within his eyes genuine surprise at the news, while also providing a direct threat in his words as he responds in turn to the G.I.'s threat to start a riot if they are not protected. The two spar so well as Shaw and Bronson both present the direct passion of these men in the armies the represent however there is more within this. In the final agreement for no riot, but also no massacre, both keep an aggressive overt tone however with an underlying understanding. I especially love the little glint of joy Shaw brings to his face showing Hessler's appreciation for a mutually competent soldier. Shaw is terrific in taking that initial underlying surprise and bringing to an overt anger as Hessler calls into the central command to express his distaste for the massacre. Shaw again brings such a power in every word, though again precise in a way that shows his disgust is at his most severe as the massacre has ruined his battle plan which was to destroy the enemy's moral. Shaw is incredible here in that he makes you perhaps even like Hessler a bit due to the way he always portrays him as a sensible man even if he is on the wrong side, that is until he explains his long term plan to his chauffeur which is not win the war rather to extend it indefinitely. It is unsettling as it reveals where Hessler's pragmatism takes him, and Shaw emphasizes the blunt reality of this by speaking every word as simply what must be. Shaw again shows that Hessler still doesn't suffer from a single delusion, rather portrays the same clarity as the rest of his work as the man explains that he knows they've already lost the war, but as a soldier he can now postpone their defeat indefinitely. This is an outstanding performance as that moment, nor any moment, is not of a madman lost in delusion, but rather a true tactician carefully examining his only path as a loyal officer. This is yet another amazing performance by Robert Shaw as he amplifies every intriguing facet of the character making Hessler not only a marvelous villain, but also simply great character.

80 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Luke Higham said...

Well, there goes my prediction, but it doesn't really matter. I'm very happy that Shaw now has seven fives. :)

Luke Higham said...

9 fives. Absolutely outstanding year for the category.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Me and some of my fellow commenters came up with some choices for a 2010s cast for Unforgiven in a previous post. Your thoughts on it?

Will Munny-Kurt Russell/Mel Gibson/Liam Neeson

Ned Logan-Danny Glover/Delroy Lindo

Little Bill-Ed Harris (This one was unanimous haha, though I'd like to hear if you think someone else could do it)

English Bob-Charles Dance (Jeremy Irons was the first one to come to mind for me, though I ultimately think Dance would be a better fit)

Beauchamp- Domnhall Gleeson

Schofield Kid- Alden Ehrenreich or Will Poulter

Michael McCarthy said...

I'd actually go for Josh Gad as Beauchamp.

Matt Mustin said...

Michael: You know what, I could see that.

Calvin Law said...

Fantastic performance.

Louis: have you ever seen the other The Snowman? The 1982 animated film.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: Telly Savalas got a Globe nomination for this film, deserving?

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: One of my favourite short films and I always watch it every Christmas.

Calvin Law said...

Same Luke. Guaranteed tearjerker every time.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Where would this rank among your favorite performances from Shaw.

Luke Higham said...

Top 5 prediction
1. Courtenay
2. Shaw
3. Andrews
4. Harris
5. Steiger

Anonymous said...

Louis: Based off of Pattinsons work in Good Time, would he be a good fit for Sonny from Dog Day Afternoon?

Alex Marqués said...

^He reminded me of Pacino in that movie. And that's probably in my top 5 fav performances of all time.

Anonymous said...

Seth Meyers is hosting the Golden Globes, what are peoples thoughts on him?

Calvin Law said...

Meyers is fine and likable enough, though I don't find him hilarious or anything as a host in general.

Calvin Law said...

So I got through about 20 minutes of Book of Henry and I stopped. Not because I didn't think it'd be worth going on, but because I want to wait for an evening where I can sit down with a good meal and drink and fully appreciate just how messed up Colin Trevorrow's creative sensibilities are. Though I guess I should expect nothing less from anyone who did that death scene in Jurassic World.

Bryan L. said...

Anonymous: He can be workmanlike at times, but he's fine enough.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Fonda - 3(Typically solid work from Fonda basically as the one guy who can be a step ahead of Hessler. Fonda brings the right sort of optimistic determination to the part, even though I wouldn't say he makes too much of an impression overall.)

Ryan & Andrews - 3(Both do fine work as the typical hand command sorts. They both have a few minor moments that grant a bit more to their characters and both make the most of these moments. Ryan in portraying the growing desperation within the determination of the commander, and Andrews in his quiet apology to Fonda moment.)

Bronson - 3.5(He's quite good in his part as to be expected. Much of what he does is technically straight forward however I love the sort of world weary intensity that Bronson brings to even the most average line within the film. Again also worth mentioning is his terrific scene with Shaw.)

Blech - 4(He is actually very moving in portraying the next step over to Shaw's Hessler as someone who has become completely disenchanted with the war particularly in regards to the fate of his family. Blech brings the right humanity even in the quiet reactions carefully showing a soldier who won't be disobedient yet cannot hide his sorrows. He is especially great in his confrontation with Shaw as he never fully breaks, yet Blech does a marvelous job subtly revealing the distress in the man without losing his composure.)

Savalas - 4(Savalas tends to bring a bit of character just through his usual presence which is the case here. He goes further here though in offering a believable arc in initially portraying a somewhat tired veteran carefully showing the recruits the ropes of battle, before slowing building his own passion back into battle again.)

Bryan:

I'd say Russell for Munney out of those choices given his recent success with the westerns, as well as having at least somewhat past with them.

Lindo, not Glover particularly not if Gibson was Munney, alternate choice though I'd say Clarke Peters for Ned.

Can't argue with Harris for Little Bill. Maybe William Hurt as an alternative, but from those two I'd choose Harris.

All for Dance for English Bob, though Irons would work as well.

Gleeson I think would be more fitting for the Schofield Kid, I'd agree with Michael that Josh Gad could make a good Beauchamp.

Poulter the right choice there, but Ehrenreich certainly would work.

Calvin:

I have, love it.

RatedRStar:

Yes I'd say so. Not over Shaw, who I imagined must have been campaigned lead, but I preferred him to all the actual Oscar nominees, sans Courtenay.

Tahmeed:

I'd say probably in his top three.

Anonymous:

Yes I'd say he'd be a good fit for that role.

Anonymous:

Never found him particularly funny, nor very charismatic which an awards show hosts always needs.

Luke Higham said...

Your Thoughts on The Snowman and 'Walking In The Air'.

Calvin Law said...

1965 was such a weird year. Werner and Steiger would have seemed like locks, they could have nominated Bannen for The Hill.

Calvin Law said...

Also, Louis, who would you cast as Hessler in a 2010s version of this film? I actually think Michael Fassbender could do a great job in the role.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Well I love some good winter/Christmas imagery, and hand drawn animation so it should be no surprise that I love the Snowman. This is one of the beautifully animated short films I've seen. It brings the original artwork to the book to life in such incredible vibrant detail that goes beyond that even particularly with the flying sequences which are mesmerizing. On side note the Polar Express should have been realized in a short film like this rather than rather than that over blow ugly looking CGI film we got, but I digress. The Snowman is gorgeous and yes the story is simple in just realizing the joys of a snowy evening in a way. That is until the ending, which some find a bit too abrupt, however I think it perfectly realizes how such a time of joy can so quickly come to end and fade away.

Walking in the Air - (As with the entire score of the short film this is just wonderful in the best of ways. It's particularly remarkable in its orchestration which is certainly grand, evoking the winter in the perfect blend of strings, piano, and just a few other light touches. Amplified by the simple, technically repetitive, lyrics though that still feel just right. What is so wonderful about it though is how pleasant and dreamlike it feels fitting to the story, and creating that joyful sense of discovering.)

Calvin:

I think they both suffered from the strange view that stars had to be in lead, there was an actual controversy over Clift and Garland's nominations for Judgment at Nuremberg just a few years before after all, even thought that was ridiculous. That is why all the nominees were either up and comers, or character actors, I think. It doesn't fully explain Bannen's nomination for the wrong film though or why he was nominated over Hardy Kruger who got the Globe nod for that film. I read somewhere Kruger pulled sort of a George C. Scott, so maybe that's why.

I concur on Fassbender.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Are the results coming shortly and your top ten animated short films.

Louis Morgan said...

I'm going to wait until after the golden globes to post the results.

Here are ten short films I love, no exact ranking.

The Snowman
The Great Piggy Bank Robbery
Freewayphobia
The Tailor of Gloucester
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Peter and the Wolf
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Mad Doctor
Pigs in a Polka
Max Fleischer's Superman

Luke Higham said...

Your thoughts on Peter And The Wolf.

Luke Higham said...

And the rest that you listed.

Your Top Ten Live-Action shorts.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

The Great Piggy Bank Robbery - (Simply hilarious and an example of some of the best humor that Looney tunes had to offer whether it be Daffy's dispatching of the henchmen, the henchmen themselves, eat at Joe's Neon noodle, or the final line of "I love that duck", it's a genuine hoot.)

Freewayphobia - (Simply hilarious as well but with actually rather biting social commentary, though that was common for the Disney average man Goofy shorts. This is the best of them, that stands true today as when it premiered, but is also very funny particularly the transformation of Walker to Wheeler and the serial killer drivers.)

The Tailor of Gloucester - (Deserves mention along with the Snowman as a Christmas animated film and one could argue this as one of the very best animated films period. It is stunning given the detail in every frame combined with the frame rate of the film. Love the film itself that so beautifully realizes its small scale story with that animation along with such special use of animation particularly the Christmas night sequence that is both subtly humorous and quite beautiful as well.)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas - (A Christmas classic in its own right and by far the best Dr. Seuss adaptation one can possibly fine. The animation adapts the original book brilliantly as it doesn't simplify rather it alters properly to be suit the movement of film. The story itself is properly realized particularly through its three very memorable songs, and that terrific Boris Karloff narration. This is the perfect adaptation and needed no other versions.)

Peter and the Wolf - (Fantastic visualization of the musical piece that is amplified by Sterling Holloway's pitch perfect narration. Even as the film does ease back on a few darker elements, which actually is a little strange considering some other Disney short films from the time, it captures the story beatifically particularly through the alignment of the animation with the music.)

The Mad Doctor - (One of the best horror shorts you can find, and starring Mickey Mouse at that. Other than the ending, it is such darkly mesmerizing film that has so much sinister fun in its visual representation of a castle of terrors particular the mad doctor with his dog-chicken idea.)

Pigs in a Polka - (The best Looney Tunes set to music film if you ask me, as it doesn't try to top the more elegant endeavors found in the Disney films, instead it just has a whole lot of fun in essentially a parody of the original Disney's Three Little Pigs. It's wildly entertaining and particularly is a whole lot of fun with its use of the Hungarian dances throughout.)

Max Fleischer's Superman - (Every single one of the Superman shorts is an incredible spectacle to behold and actually proves that Superhero fiction could be well represented long before the modern era. The film captures the spirit of the comic and does so in such dynamic glory. All the shorts are among the best looking animated films you'll ever see.)

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Wouldn't say I could fashion a proper ten, I've seen some great short films, but I haven't seen a lot of them on the whole.

Calvin Law said...

Yeah definitely more of a fan of old Mickey. Glad to see you love ol' Daffy too Louis.

Calvin Law said...

Also, you know they're making another Grinch film Louis? *shudders*

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Well originally having only heard of the casting of Cumberbatch, I must say that was good casting, and I had a little hope, looking at the poster, well my hope is gone.

Louis Morgan said...

Rockwell wins. I knew it! Perhaps the last time I'll say that tonight.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the trial scene from The Informer.

Calvin Law said...

Damn, good shout Louis.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

It is a great scene with Ford apparently having used McLaglen's real hangover as part of the scene, though probably not pleasant for McLaglen, makes the scene all the stronger as you can really feel the pain Gypo is going through every minute as he fumbles his words as the most obvious guilty man. Ford, likely influenced by M, so effectively uses the faces of the crowd exuding the suspicion that creates this atmosphere of judgment of the people that seems to swell around the man.

Louis Morgan said...

Shape of Water wins score, can't complain there, though there goes my predictions.

Luke Higham said...

Yeah, I think Del Toro's winning Director here.

Louis Morgan said...

The Greatest Showman wins song, eh I should've expected that.

Luke:

Seems likely.

Calvin Law said...

I haven't seen Coco yet but 'Remember Me' is by FAR the better song.

Louis Morgan said...

Franco wins.

Calvin:

Agreed.

Louis Morgan said...

Wiseau on stage at the Golden Globes is certainly a surreal sight.

Calvin Law said...

Ah well, loved Franco and I'm glad I've finally got one prediction right. Though was really hoping for Danny K.

Louis Morgan said...

Wow Janney Upsets as well. Can't complain in the slightest, especially since they could have gone with Blige. It is worth noting she was more "overdue" in terms of Globe nominations than Metcalf was.

Omar Franini said...

Janney wins, totally deserved, at least it wasn't Blidge.

Louis Morgan said...

Looks like it could be Three Billboards's night.

Calvin Law said...

This awards season is so interesting.

Also, what do people think about Franco not letting Tommy speak? I thought it was fine personally, it's his award.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

It was Franco's award anyways, plus I think he was going to let him but they ran out of time.

Louis Morgan said...

In the Fade...surprising given its reception.

Calvin:

It honestly reminded me a bit of when Landau won the Oscar and he was cut before he could thank Bela Lugosi.

Calvin Law said...

The backlash for Three Billboards is coming :/

Omar Franini said...

Louis: i've seen In the Fade iìand it's not a great movie, i was rooting for A Fantastic Woman, but Loveless and The Square would have been terrific choices too.

Louis Morgan said...

Ah blast it, even the cameraman knew MacLachlan was suppose to win.

Mitchell Murray said...

(Calvin) It was to be expected, I suppose.. I mean look at last year with Hacksaw Ridge, Manchester, La La land.. a lot of times excessive praise is the worst thing that can happen to a movie. You can only build it up so much before detractors start appearing.

Michael McCarthy said...

I don't mind Franco not letting Wiseau speak, but it didn't seem like he said anything to him as they were leaving the podium, which bothered me a bit.

Calvin Law said...

McGregor was...decent. But winning over Maclachlan is terrible.

Calvin Law said...

Honestly thinking more and more about Fargo Season 3 bothers me. I'm not sure whether I liked all that much about it besides MEW.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Although I still enjoyed it, it definitely was the weakest thing Hawley's done so far.

Michael McCarthy said...

Aziz!

Calvin Law said...

AZIZ

Bryan L. said...

Mitchell: I believe La La Land sweeping the Golden Globes actually hurt it in the short term, since it only attracted more backlash between the Globes and the Oscars.

Aziz!

Calvin Law said...

I can't believe Three Billboards is being called out for being racist and narrow minded when earlier on a PT BARNUM biopic was rewarded.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Calvin: Can’t I hate both for being problematic and icky?

Calvin Law said...

Robert: you certainly can.

Calvin Law said...

It's the time of year where emotions run high I guess. I'll probably head to bed to avoid the worst of it haha

Robert MacFarlane said...

Also, I’ll try and keep my Three Billboards gag reflex under control for now, but if it beats Get Out or Lady Bird at the actual Oscars, I’ll be in rare form.

Bryan L. said...

Calvin: Im positive the movies marketing team is selling the movie on its songs and showmanship instead of Jackmans performance for the reason you mentioned haha.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

I'll admit when I started out I actually cancelled reviewing an official Oscar lineup because of those sort of extreme sentiments. I've become pretty hardened in that regard now, but I understand the difficulty.

Calvin Law said...

I will say though before I sign off: as a peace offering to Robert I'm hoping, praying Get Out takes the Best Comedy/Musical honours.

Louis Morgan said...

Del Toro wins. It will be interesting to see what takes Drama.

Louis Morgan said...

Ah blast it, bet on the wrong Lady Bird, although they did split the difference as I thought they would.

Louis Morgan said...

Lady Bird wins, that's fine by me.

Louis Morgan said...

Well that felt like Oldman's most likely place to lose, so seems like stars are aligning for him.

Michael McCarthy said...

If there was any doubt about Oldman winning the Oscar, it's gone now.

Mitchell Murray said...

I always forget how soft spoken Oldman is.. he's anything but in most of his performances.

Louis Morgan said...

Mcdormand finally wins a individual Golden Globe, well deserved.

Mitchell Murray said...

While I don't want to give anything away about how I feel about her performance, McDormand's speech was every bit as no-holds-barred as I expected and wanted.

Michael McCarthy said...

With how smashed McDormand clearly was, I'm surprised her speech was that decent.

Mitchell Murray said...

Oh boy... Three Billboards wins best picture...brace yourselves lads.

Louis Morgan said...

Well I think Three Billboards would probably have been better off if The Post won. Anyways this suggests the race may be as I expected between Lady Bird and Billboards.

Michael McCarthy said...

Louis: You're probably right. It's gonna get backlash as loud as La La Land did last year, and it seems to be starting even earlier.