Sunday, 4 February 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2017: Paul Dano in Okja

Paul Dano did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jay in Okja.

Okja is kind of like a successful throw back to the family adventure films of the 80's in that it grants a most joyous entertaining ride while getting quite dark at times in its story of a little girl, her super pig, and the evil corporation that intends to exploit them both.

Paul Dano's first appearance into the film comes as a mysterious truck pulls upside the one containing the titular super pig in order to transport it into the company's big event to celebrate their super pig success. Paul Dano is one of the passengers of the mysterious truck wearing a black mask, which when watching the film for the first time I wasn't sure what to make of this interloper, as for many a film Paul Dano has been a resident creep of cinema whether it be in There Will Be Blood, Twelve Years a Slave, or Prisoners. The question was whether or not this would be some less than pleasant fellow also trying to use the pig for his own nefarious purposes, one wouldn't put that past a Paul Dano character. The moment where any such concerns are completely erased though is perhaps my favorite in the film, which is where the pig is unleashed in an underground mall where the corporate men, the little girl Mija who own the Pig, and Dano's group all attempt to retrieve the pig for themselves. The Pig gets a essentially a plastic thorn in Okja foot to which Paul Dano's Jay takes out and reveals himself. I love how Dano portrays the scene in the sheer empathy in his face as he goes about his task revealing such an intensity within his concern for the injured pig reveals the true nature of his character all in this single silent moment.

Dano through this film then plays wildly against what had become his established type, and proves himself quite capable in a far friendlier sort of character. Dano goes further than that though in that he is basically the one truly comforting character within the whole film, as even the other members of his group called the Animal Liberation Front, aka the ALF, are just a little loopy in one way or another. Dano offers a consistency within his portrayal of Jay's concern for Mija, and her pig throughout in a way that is actually rather moving. There is only the most genuine warmth that Dano brings in every moment as he attempts to defend not only the two of them, but also try to rid of her of any harm of any kind. My favorite moment in his performance probably is at the grand pig show by the corporation that the ALF sabotages by, harmlessly, attacking and playing footage of the corporations actual brutal treatment of the pigs, and Jay takes the stage in order to prevent Mija from seeing Okja's mistreatment. Dano so effectively projects such an overwhelming sense of compassion in the moment showing that Jay only ever cares for her absolute welfare. Dano throughout the conclusion of the film is terrific in just always so powerfully emphasizing Jay's concern in every interaction that always exudes this uncompromising empathy that defines Jay.

That is not to say that Dano has no variations within the film, though what he already brings with his overwhelming main facet that defines the character would be enough for me to call this a more than successful performance. Dano though makes the most out of the few moments where Jay's personal philosophy essentially is questioned just a bit. The first instance of this being when he learns that one of his fellow members willfully mistranslated Mija's words. Dano's great in this moment as he dispenses a most unusual beat down on the man. Dano's delivery of this scene is fascinating as he so eloquently realizes the style of Jay's peaceful philosophy even when it relates to violence. Dano inflicts the moment as though the intensity of the attack isn't defined by hatred, but rather a sheer disappointment in his compatriot. Dano makes it even lightly comical in this way though only by making it feel so true to the nature of Jay. The other moment though where this is tested though is in his final scene of helping Mija retrieve her pig from the slaughter house and from the nasty CEO of the corporation (Tilda Swinton). Dano already is great in the scene by bringing a real visceral intensity and change within Jay's empathy by finding a certain degree of desperation as he tries to help Mija. He excels though as he's being taken away by the security and tells the CEO he is considering breaking his rule of loving all the creatures of the earth for her specifically. Dano's fantastic in this moment as he portrays it as though Jay is trying to eek out a bit of genuine anger towards her but even this he shows as a struggle for it is just against the man's very being. This is terrific work by Paul Dano as he offers such a needed bit of heart to the film, and this yet another proof that he continues to be one of the most interesting actors of his age group.


Luke Higham said...

Fantastic work, though not his career best in my view, that distinction goes to War & Peace.

Louis: Could you possibly review him for There Will Be Blood.

Anonymous said...

He was great.
Louis: Your thoughts on the voices of Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Robert Mitchum, Keith David and Edward G. Robinson.

Calvin Law said...

Easy 5 for me just for his pitch-perfect reaction to almost bludgeoning Okja to save Mija. He's fantastic here - also I take into account his post-credits scene where he's a riot.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: He's certainly been on a roll as of late. 3 great and 1 utterly amazing performances in the past 3 years.

Calvin Law said...

I need to find somethig to watch War and Peace on.

Calvin Law said...

Also any rating changes Louis?

Louis Morgan said...




Bogart, Cagney, & Robinson - (Where would the gangster pictures of old be without these three voices? Nowhere, be stuck with the second rate Chester Morris gangster styling. These three set the standard, though similair, are all distinct and iconic to themselves.)

Mitchum - (An underrated voice as great voices go. Mitchum's voice is a good representation of his screen presence as it is such easy going sounding voice yet booming with such a natural command at the same time.)

David - (Well is there a greater voice? Hard to say but David is definitely in the upper pantheon of incredible voices. I think sleek is the best way to describe his dynamic yet oh so pleasant sounding vocals.)


Yes Gyllenhaal's up to a 3, although I still didn't think he quite pulled it off, he annoyed me a lot less this time around, and I even enjoyed his "on camera" moments.

Calvin Law said...

Gyllenhaal definitely has more than a few good moments, though the performance as a whole is still a bit underwhelming for me I did quite like his final few scenes.

Psifonian said...

I really think Gyllenhaal gets way too much shit for his performance in "Okja." It's ludicrous, but it works in the confines of the film he's in, and it's clear he's having a ball.

MVP for me was Shirley Henderson, although she had far too little screentime.

Calvin Law said...

Psifonian: what's your worst performance of the year so far?

Psifonian said...

Calvin: That's a toughie. There are a few performances I'd rate as "the worst", but for different reasons.

In terms of "performance that got undeserved acclaim," it's Mary J. Blige. Unlike Chalamet and Metcalf's performances, where I can legitimately see what would appeal to people even if I don't agree, I can't for the life of me see what Blige is getting acclaim for. Because she doesn't do anything in the film. She is so passive throughout the whole piece, the film (already sluggish as it is) doesn't galvanize when she's on-screen, and while on paper the sort of "suffering mother stricken by poverty and oppression" would be a cinch for major focus, she feels like an afterthought. The whole film, really, feels this way, but Blige kind of exemplifies it. The movie itself is such a mixed bag where there are promising threads of different subplots, but it all amounts to little more than leftover fuzz in the dryer filter.

In terms of "actors I generally love gave performances that were utter shit," the entire cast of "The Glass Castle" qualifies. That film actually made me quit watching movies for a good two weeks. Woody Harrelson went a long way towards repairing the damage with "Three Billboards," but I'm still gonna be side-eyeing that motherfucker for a while because he broke my trust hard with that one. If he had won for that (as I had been predicting him to this time last year), he would rate as my least favorite Supporting Actor winner, finally dethroning Morgan Freeman. Watts and Larson also should be ashamed of themselves, but Harrelson offended me slightly more.

In terms of "most miscast performance" I've seen this year, Armie Hammer in "Call Me By Your Name." He wasn't believable as a twenty-four-year-old, but even worse, he had absolutely zero chemistry with his co-star. It's largely the same reason I disliked "Carol" so much: I couldn't care about their relationship if I didn't believe in their dynamic.

Calvin Law said...

I'm so glad 'The Glass Castle' didn't end up being an Oscar contender. Don't think I could bring myself to watch that tripe.

Mitchell Murray said...

You know, I used to loathe Dano with a passion, but after he toned himself down for "Love And Mercy", and followed that up with endearing, quirky roles like this and Swiss Army Man, well I got to say he's an actor I look forward to watch now.

And just to respond to Psfonian's comments, I agree on Blige, disagree on Hammer and haven't seen Glass Castle

Lezlie said...

Psifonian: I thought Rooney Mara was amazing in Carol, but felt like Blanchett could have done more with her role. Maybe it was the lack of chemistry as you said.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Would it be possible to watch War & Peace during the 2016 bonus round.

Anonymous said...

Psifonian: Who would you realistically cast in Armie Hammers role? keep in mind that there arent many 24 year old heartthrob type actors out there which Oliver is supposed to be.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

Honestly I don’t see the miscasting regarding Hammer and I thought his characterization of Oliver was layered and rich. And I thought his chemistry with Chalamet so amazing, so I guess the movie worked on a completely different level for me (same for Carol, which I think is a masterpiece).

Psifonian said...

Anonymous: I don't know why they couldn't have gone for an unknown. I can't just pick a random actor because it all comes down to the chemistry between Oliver and Elio's actors, which wasn't there in the actual film. That is more important than looks or believability that you are a good decade younger than you are.

Lezlie: I think "Carol" suffered from an equally critical issue: Nagy's script was a horrendous adaptation of a good book. I've thought that Haynes tackled the wrong Highsmith work with Mara/Lachman; I wish that he had adapted a Ripley book with Mara as a gender-swapped Ripley.

Giuseppe: I acknowledge that most people (clearly) loved "Call Me By Your Name" and thought the chemistry between its leads worked. That's perfectly fine. But it didn't for me, and I've had people tell me I "missed the point" or that "the film wasn't made for me," as though a straight male cannot enjoy the film about a same-sex relationship or empathize with its characters. Pardon my French, but fuck that noise. I have issues with CMBYN, "Carol," "Blue is the Warmest Color" (a film I find bloated and far too voyeuristic to the point of gross objectification, plus I didn't like Seydoux's character) . . . all films that are seen as LGBTQ masterpieces. I don't consider them as such, but they shouldn't be treated as outlandishly indecipherable if you aren't part of its "target demographic" (which isn't even the case; these films are far more mainstream than a lot of people give them credit for being). I don't mean to vent at you specifically on this, because you expressed what worked within the film for you (which is perfectly fine), but films like these have been somewhat hard to express dislike or criticism for because it's so easy to weaponize that criticism and make it personal towards the critic.