Monday, 19 February 2018

Alternate Best Actor 2017: Thomas Jane in 1922

Thomas Jane did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Wilfred James in 1922.

1922 is an adequate enough Stephen King adaptation, although I think the story probably could have been handled as just a segment in a horror anthology film, about a farmer taking a most unorthodox method to maintain his house and home.

1922 is very much in the vein of classical Gothic horror, southern Gothic in this case, as Stephen King does a sort of a variation on Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", though here with the lead of Thomas Jane's Wilfred James as a simple farmer type. Jane being no stranger to a King adaptation however this time in a very different role as the central lead. Jane's whole performance is fashioned as a different kind of perspective in this lead character who he takes on his peculiar journey. Jane plays the part more akin, though with more depth mind you, to a character who would more likely be a side character used as part of the atmosphere of a typical horror story. This includes Jane playing the part with a thick southern drawl, and his whole physical manner being of a man of the earth type. Jane emphasizes a certain simplicity in this in the way he speaks so bluntly even with his technically colorful accent performance wise, however Jane fashions it to be a naturalistic aspect of this man of this time and place. His whole performance embodies this man who is made to be part of the earth in a way in his comfort in the rural land, in his simple gait, stoic manner and that pronounced droop in his lip that fills perpetual frown of contentment worthy of a man who lives his rougher life through the land and very happy to do so.

The initial conflict from the film then comes from his wife's desire to move from the farm, due to the value of the land they own, and move into the city. This is with or without Wilfred but she intends to take their son either way. Jane through his realization of this specified nature of the man does find an internal disturbing logic within the man as he decides to murder his wife in order prevent from his son from moving away. Jane doesn't portray this idea as a man with any sort of sadistic glee but rather portrays it as an anger attached specifically towards this decision. When we see Wilfred finding this decision Jane attaches this certain pride for the land, a very problematic pride, which should seem outlandish however Jane's way of finding it within his exact characterization actually does make sense of it within the man's bent logic. He projects that pride of wishing to hold onto his own land no matter what he says. The planning of the murder he says the same way his Wilfred would go about refusing to sell his land to anyone and speaks of the murder as he would planning the planting of a new crop. Jane is notable in the way he makes this initial monstrous action such a natural aspect within his work. He makes this seem like the actions of the man with a very specific worldview rather than of some overt psychopath although Wilfred does qualify as that as well in his own way.

The man successfully murders his wife along with the help of his son before dumping her body into his well. In the initial scenes of the cover up again Jane effectively portrays this as a man just going about his life as the way he sees fit, a rather problematic way to most, however Jane again normalizes it within that very exact portrayal of his. There is a momentary respite as Jane depicts this relief in the man ready just to live his days by tending to his house and home as he always intended without interference. The tell tale heart aspect of this story rear its head within the rats that feast on the man's wife's rotting corpse, and which continue to haunt him throughout the film. Jane in his reactions to specifically the rats embodies well this seed of a guilt from the first instance which he portrays well as just a momentary fear that he tries to quickly cover up as soon as possible. The rest of Jane's performance is dealing with the idea of his specific guilt towards the death of his wife. Early on in this process he shows these as those lapses into fear that usually result from being occasionally reminded of this gruesome end, but much of the time Jane portrays that same sort simple stoicism that initially defined the man as again just the man who thinks himself as the this guardian of his house and home. When he even describes his decision to his son Jane delivers his line with a modest certainty of this farmer who just believed that he knew best.

Obviously given this is Gothic horror things must not go unpunished for our main character as in addition to the frequent appearances of rats other troubles soon arise when his son runs off with the neighbor's daughter, after getting her pregnant. This leads to the gradual downfall of Wilfred as his guilt seems to take a supernatural turn as he begins to see visions, whether real or fake, of more rats and of his dead wife bringing him news that their son has become a bank robber before dying along with the neighbors daughter as his accomplice. Jane reveals this growth in guilt also within his performance where he portrays that loss of that stoic conviction or even pride that defined his initial decision. Jane devolves properly to a more introspective portrayal of the man coming to understand his mistakes revealing a more overt humanity in the fear now revealing itself to be within a more genuine remorse. Wilfred never openly admits his guilt to anyone other than himself however does so well to portray this growing rot within the core of the man through essentially revealing a more open manner in his depiction of the man's emotions. He shows Wilfred no longer able to find solace in his ways as a "man of the earth" and instead finds this man wallowing in his misdeeds. There are no further revelation to destroy the man just more visions of his misdeeds, and essentially they get louder just as the heart got louder in Poe's story. Jane in the end shows the man not breaking as this extreme anguish but rather a more subdued yet powerful evocation of the emotions as the man quietly bears witness to his crimes now with the understanding that he destroyed all that he wanted to preserve through them. This is a strong performance by Jane as he manages  to realize the unique manner of the man in a convincing fashion while avoiding making Wilfred a caricature or a one note monster. He grants insight into the strange man and his horrible decisions, even if that makes all the more disturbing in a way.

33 comments:

Matt Mustin said...

Haven't seen this yet, but reading the novella I feel like Tim Blake Nelson would've been perfect in this role.

Michael McCarthy said...

This is pretty much how I felt.

Calvin Law said...

Well barring any surprise upgrades, looks like this will be the lowest 5's year since 2012. Although perhaps the most 4.5's.

Psifonian said...

Too low. Too. Low.

Charles H said...

Oof, didn't expect him less then a 4.5.

Charles H said...

Psifonian: What's your rating for him again?

Anonymous said...

@charles: Psifonian doesn't do ratings.

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 james franco acting moments

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: 21 4.5s which is one more than last year. In all fairness, we've been conditioned to expect an abundance of great performances since 2013 that it had become the norm so a minor decline was bound to happen. Still, 8 fives is nothing to sniff at. We've had at least 5 fives from each year this decade which can't be said for any other. I don't expect 2018 to be a great deal better either.

On the whole, 2017 has had 30 fives which is 1 behind 2015.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Also, we still have a bonus round to come in the next few years, so there's a possibility of improvement.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: What's your plan between the end of these reviews and the Oscars ceremony. If you're viewing more films during the interim though shorter than the previous one and only one recommendation from each reader then I just want you to re-watch Mean Streets.

Omar Franini said...

Louis: ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

Augusto BSF said...

Calvin, I'm with you about Allison Janney. Actually, I go lower with her, I'd give a 3, maybe a 3.5. I don't think there is anything wrong with the performance itself, it's just that the character is so paper thin and repetitive - she's basically the one liner that smokes and curses all the time and that I don't find all that funny. Alright, there is the 'that's the sacrifice a mother makes' moment, which gives some depth to her, but it's really not that much. Even her reaction when throws a knife on Tonya is hurt by this lack of substance. It doesn't help that Robbie and Stan are allowed to show different sides of their characters. I also think Metcalf (by far) and even Spencer are ahead of her - considering I haven't seen Phantom Thread yet.

Sincerely? I'd rather see Sandy Martin being nominated and even winning these awards instead of Janney. That is a despicable mother character that is not the same thing in every single scene - and Martin totally delivers the nuances required, being funny, disgusting and even endearing. She's actually my MVP alongside McDormand.

Psifonian said...

Who do you guys think were the MVPs of "How the West Was Won" and "The Longest Day"?

Robert MacFarlane said...

Concerning the Janney debate: As much as I loved the film, I thought she was... okay, I guess? She's appropriately cruel and has some funny moments, but she's not nearly as impressive as Robbie, Stan, or even Hauser. I'm okay with her winning in the same way I'm okay with Rockwell winning: seeing an underrated actor/actress I love finally get attention from the Academy even if I'm not crazy about their work. That said, I'm definitely on Team Metcalf when it comes to who's nominated.

RatedRStar said...

Psifonian: I need to go back and watch both of them, honestly, I dont remember there being a proper epic MVP for either in like a Tom Courtenay with Doctor Zhivago, I guess for The Longest Day, the performance I remember most fondly of all people, is Richard Burton who I fought put a lot of effort in.

I actually have James Stewart in my Bonus supporting 62 lineup, I really liked any scene he was in and livened up the sometimes bloated film lol.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

1. Finale - 11.22.63
2. The Assassination - 11.22.63
3. Killing Dunning - 11.22.63
4. Speaking with the Yellow Card man - 11.22.63
5. Back one more time - 11.22.63
6. Sparking memory from visiting Oswald - 11.22.63
7. Going to the asylum - 11.22.63
8. Going back the first time - 11.22.63
9. Meeting Sadie the first time - 11.22.63
10. Changed time - 11.22.63
11. Sadie's surgery - 11.22.63
12. Too many question - The Disaster Artist
13. The Killing floor - 11.22.63
14. "Stella" - The Disaster Artist
15. Confrontation with Johnny - 11.22.63
16. The Fire - 11.22.63
17. Diner performance - The Disaster Artist
18. Having Bill committed - 11.22.63
19. Onset dictator - The Disaster Artist
20. Losing the accent - The Disaster Artist

Omar:

Schmid - 3(He and Timothee Chalamet should play brothers in something. Anyway he's more than fine in portraying his character's own to the point reactions towards what's going on. I will say nothing about his performance ever becomes too remarkable though it is more than serviceable the entire time. I can't say it is much more than that, but that is mostly due to the limits of the role.)

McDonough - 3(He's fine in portraying quite directly his character who is the most direct character in the film. McDonough at least delivers the initial direct anger at what Jane's son has done, and then later the over grief that is less compromised than what we see from Jane's performance.)

Parker - 3(She's effective in portraying the certain assertiveness of the character even though we don't get much of her. She's later also effective enough as this monster though really the effects do most of the work.)

James - 3(Probably the most interesting of the supporting cast in that he does bring a bit of color to some very basic "Sheriff" scenes to this type of story. Its still nothing too notable but he does bring a bit more than way required.)

Psifonian:

I'd need to re-watch "How the West Was Won", I'd probably say Robert Mitchum or Richard Todd from "The Longest Day".

Luke Higham said...

Louis: The Death Of Stalin is now online.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your updated top ten Day-Lewis moments.

Calvin Law said...

So I just re-watched TSOW and it's gone up loads in my esteem. Still think some of the dialogue is clumsy but the ending and emotional investment worked so much better after getting over the 'shock' factor.

Calvin Law said...

And yeah, Louis, a full top 10 of 11.22.63 seems about right. Funny thing is I can't see anyone in that ensemble played by anyone else, it might be in my top 5 television ensembles of all-time.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Did you like "The Longest Day" and "How the West Was Won" when you saw them or did you think they were a bit too much/bloated/messy?.

Michael McCarthy said...

I’m really surprised that Tommy first seeing the audience’s reaction to The Room isn’t on the list. Even if it’s not an amazing performance, his initial reaction scenes really got to me.

Having said that, I love that “Losing the Accent” made it in there.

Calvin Law said...

Michael: Same, also his rooftop conversation with Greg.

Calvin Law said...

Augusto: just saw your comment. I can agree on most of those points, and thinking about it I'd rank Spencer ahead of her too.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

1. The Baptism - There Will Be Blood
2. Dinner - My Left Foot
3. Oil Man speech - There Will Be Blood
4. An Unexpected Date - Phantom Thread
5. The Ending - My Left Foot
6. Daniel interrogates his "brother" - There Will be Blood
7. "Kiss Me" - Phantom Thread
8. Fouling the ball - In the Name of the Father
9. Meeting with the Cabinet - Lincoln
10. "Fear" - Gangs of New York

Anonymous:

Again I saw "How the West Was Won" so long ago, I'm not quite sure if I even saw the whole thing or just some of the segments so I can't really speak to its quality.

"The Longest Day" is kind of the attempt at the film "Dunkirk" would eventually be, but not as successful in its approach. There are great individual vignettes in the film to the point I'd call a good film, but it is a bit too unwieldy in the size of its scope that it cannot serve every facet of the battle even though it tries.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Will you slightly edit Day-Lewis's review for There Will Be Blood when you cover 2007.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the voices of Deborah Kerr, Ingrid Bergman, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine and Lillian Gish.

Calvin Law said...

Feel like DDL might be taking the win for 2007 when we get to the bonus round.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Not sure about that personally but I'm certain that nobody's finishing above either Affleck or Day-Lewis.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Also, I do have a 10 lineup in mind.

Luke Higham said...

Also, I'm very happy that 'Fear' is in his top ten. I'm very confident for an upgrade.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

Probably.

Anonymous:

Deborah Kerr - (American accent husky perfection, natural accent refined perfection.)

Ingrid Bergman - (European beauty at its finest.)

Olivia de Havilland - (Simple unrefined majesty, at least for the time.)

Joan Fontaine - (Similar to her sister yet someone even modest and wonderful)

Lillian Gish - (Hard to say, not sure if I've ever heard her when she was young. Her older voice though evoked a classical grandmother's warmth)