Monday, 5 February 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2017: Jack Dylan Grazer & Bill Skarsgård in It

Jack Dylan Grazer did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Edward "Eddie" Kaspbrak in It.

It is a fairly entertaining horror film about a child eating monster stalking the underbelly of a New England town. Although watching it again it does overdo a few typical horror film techniques, particularly the string smear to telegraph when something scary is about to happen.

One of the elements that works so well within this adaptation of Stephen King's novel is the coming of age story of the kids that could almost stand separately from their time dealing with a killer clown from outer space. This is further amplified by the terrific ensemble of juvenile performers that form their group known as the losers club. Although perhaps a couple of them are a bit under served by the screenplay, Chosen Jacobs as Mike and Wyatt Oleff as Stan, together they excel in a few ways. One being in every single one of the horror scenes where not a single one of the actors falters. They help to bring to life the horror in intimate detail as they effectively heighten the tension of each and every encounter. They are as good though in terms of creating this group dynamic of these kids. They do just behave in this uniform way of all good little kids falling into line as friends. No, what they do is make a far stronger dynamic by so naturally realizing the richness of their interactions which aren't always wholly pleasant for some of the members yet so effectively allude to the history between the kids who already know each other and the brewing history with the new additions to the group.

Although obviously in this review I am focusing in on Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie, who is in the "upper tier" in terms of both of those aforementioned elements. His scenes of terror are particularly strong in that regard especially his direct moments with the fellow mentioned below. Grazer frankly sells something even far more terrifying than we even see through the sheer petrified terror he able to realize within his performance as Eddie. He goes all in in creating every gasp, and panic in his body language so very real. Again while the horror is important what makes this film stand out within the horror genre are the kids. My favorite, and really most realistic dynamics within the kids, is their constant ball busting one another spearheaded by Finn Wolfhard's Richie, who tries far too hard to make everything a joke, and that's entirely the point. Jack Dylan Grazer, who apparently also came up with a lot Richie's one liners, is actually delivers the most abundant humor in the film. His realizes this isn't so much in Eddie's effort to make a joke but rather his reactions towards Richie's jokes. This includes some general frustration that Grazer realizes so naturally as the friend who just can't believe the stupidity of his friend at times, the best moments in this though are whenever this takes the form of indeed a counter joke. These are always placed right after something Richie says, and Grazer's delivery is dynamite every time by so boosting the moment through his portrayal of Eddie's sheer annoyance as he comes up with his own comeback. It's terrific as Grazer actually ends up being the funniest of the kids by so effectively realizing this dynamic with Wolfhard as Richie. In addition though, even in their sometimes rough jokes, they both create this underlying sense of genuine care for one another even if it isn't directly spoken very often.

An important aspect of this is that Grazer's performance, despite some of cruder choices in subject matter and vocabulary, still makes Eddie a normal kid. This isn't even in his scenes with the monster where obviously Eddie is particularly vulnerable. In even his verbal sparring with Richie that frustration Grazer brings is very much with the right earnestness within petulance of a child. There is also though more to this in his portrayal of the hypochondriac side of Eddie that he makes a very naturalistic part of his character. In the moments where they are just near something dirty or when he's talking about disease Grazer captures the intensity of the anxiety of a kid without proper foresight or guidance. Grazer makes it something that seems to pester him throughout showing well the way it is a near hysterical fear that is pervasive in him. The best moments though of his are when Eddie comes face to face with his overbearing mother where Grazer most strongly reveals the true innocence of Eddie. These moments are terrific because he plays them entirely lacking of the pretense of the "maturity" when hanging out with the rest of the friends. He shows just a really scared kid and constricts showing in his eyes as though Eddie is looking some sort of comfort from his mother to which he is given the exact opposite. Grazer's best scene in the film is when he directly confronts his fears by confronting his unloving mother after finding out she has been giving him placebos that only contributed to his anxieties. Grazer's great in this scene on a dramatic level again because he doesn't suddenly become an adult but rather is all the more moving by truly revealing this innocent delivery of Eddie's rejection of his mother's behavior. It's beautifully realized as he finds still a bit of fear as he says he has to help his friend and in turn makes that determination all the more powerful. In addition it's a downright hilarious as well through his flawless, purposefully unknowing, delivery of "They're gazebos!" when decrying the placebos. Grazer gives a wonderful performance here that realizes Eddie's arc so well while also just contributing just a little something special to every single scene he is in.
Bill Skarsgård did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular monster aka Pennywise the dancing clown in It.

The original tv miniseries adaptation of the film is not known as this untouchable classic. In fact it is known as much worse when one begins to consider the second half of the series. The one element consistently praised though is Tim Curry's original portrayal of Pennywise the clown leaving the one thing this adaptation had to live up to when compared to the miniseries. The fairly young Bill Skarsgård came as the choice for the lover of floating things, and I will say he certainly had a take for the character. Skarsgård takes the approach that Pennywise isn't all that great in his act of pretending to be a clown. Although this might seem strange, he actually goes all the way with this in terms of portraying it specifically as this Alien not only trying to pretend to be a clown but a human in general. Skarsgård's vocal delivery in the role is of this constant breaking of the timbre of his voice as he constantly is going from this more heightened attempted pleasant voice, that constantly is falling towards a more guttural sound. That sound being closer to this vicious beast rather than a man, and Skarsgård portrays this as the real Alien struggling to maintain his clown voice. He keeps this idea within the entirety of his performance. This also is just in the way he interacts with his prey, particularly in the use of his eyes where Skarsgård's will portray this sudden switch to a blank stare more akin to predator than anything else again showing the clown as nothing more than the most surface of veils for the monster beneath. This is an interesting choice, and technically well portrayed by Skarsgård through the methods I previously mentioned. He is not so specific towards that idea though that he doesn't also have a bit of fun in the role, as a proper Pennywise should to be honest. He takes a few notes from the Joker's playbook, in portraying the most overwhelming joy in the clown as he terrorizes his victims. In turn he is entertaining in the role particularly when the film switches more towards action horror later on. Having said all that I don't love this performance, only because while chilling enough, in that he's certainly not goofy, he doesn't truly get under your skin beyond a certain point, well unless he's eating you....no Skarsgård's good, but he's not quite great. Curry in the original, who plays as a flamboyant though demonic clown, is more chilling while also being more entertaining oddly enough. Skarsgård's version is an interesting approach that he realizes well but he does not pinch the truly visceral nerve you want from a performance like this. I mean I just can't help but wonder what that other guy would've done, you know the one I hear gave a pretty chilling performance in a different film from 2017.

46 comments:

Bryan L said...

I kind of expected this rating for Skarsgard tbh. He's good though.

Louis: Your 2010s cast and director for Brokeback Mountain? I'm thinking Alden Ehrenreich for Jack Twist, Jennifer Lawrence for Alma, and Brie Larson for Lureen. A bit stumped for Ennis, though.

Matt Mustin said...

I liked Skarsgaard more than you, I think, but I agree that Grazer is wonderful. Actually, Grazer's performance got stronger for me on rewatch.

Anonymous said...

Louis: In your opinion, what's the best way for an actor to play a real-life person?

Psifonian said...

Yeah, Skarsgard was very strong but the writing let him down. I hated his final scene. "Fear?" Go fuck yourself. I feel like he perfectly captured Pennywise in the first scene but Muschietti and Co. really squandered him after that. (Which is kinda how I feel about the film itself.)

Grazer was impeccable, though. Really all of the kids were, when they were given screentime to be so. I'd actually rate Finn Wolfhard at the bottom of a very powerful ensemble of child actors.

Matt Mustin said...

Psifonian: That first scene is indeed the best part of Skarsgaard's performance. I'd also put Wolfhard at the bottom, just because I think he overdid it a bit even in terms of what the character was supposed to be. Just in moments, though, he's good overall.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Any rating changes?
Also, I'd raise Finn Wolfhard to a 4 myself. While Grazer was the best, I loved Wolfhard's breakdown after seeing THAT vision, and his 'And now I have to kill this clown' speech.

Matt Mustin said...

Actually, I think Sophia Lillis is the best in the cast.

Psifonian said...

Matt: Yeah, Richie is a very divisive character within the books. He's got some great one-liners, but a little goes a long way. Especially considering that Stan and Mike (both perfectly cast/acted) got so little to do. I actually really loved Wyatt Oleff's delivery of "I hate you" at the end. Even if he smiled at the end, there was a hidden edge of honesty there, that no matter what, he would always hate Bill a little for getting him involved in the whole thing.

Yeah, I'd say Sophia Lillis was the MVP. I hate how the film damsel-in-distress'd her at the end, though. Really, the film should've been split in two different two-hour releases. The first (released at the start of summer) should've been everything up until the rockfight. The second (released at the end of summer) would be about the Losers coming together, confronting Pennywise at Neibolt Street, then the fight. I don't like that Bev was kidnapped; if anything, I think Stan should've been, and that Bev is the one who brings them all together to rescue him.

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan:

Fine choices not sure about Ennis myself.

Anonymous:

It depends on the tone as a comedy it might be the right choice to exaggerate the real person's mannerisms for example, but it's best not do that for a more serious minded film. In general a good rule of thumb is if the "impression" part is secondary to what's more important is the foundation in realizing the character naturally within the context of the film. An actor can get by with only a thin, or sometimes non-existent impression of the real person, but an overblown one can ruin a performance.

Tahmeed:

No, I'd agree with Matt that Wolfhard overdoes the routine just a bit at times, and I'd say he does give the least consistent performance out of the kids. Although Oleff and Jacobs are not really given many chances to be inconsistent.

Mitchell Murray said...

Still haven't seen this movie, and I won't bother guessing who Louis is alluded too at the end, but that said I don't really have a reason not to check this out now.

Matt Mustin said...

Mitchell: Oh, there is no guessing who he's referring to at the end, if you know anything about the casting process of this film.

Mitchell Murray said...

ohh..now I get it

Robert MacFarlane said...

Grazer juuuuust misses out on my top 5 for Supporting Actor (though Lillis is my #3 for Supporting Actress). I might be biased, because I’m basically Eddie.

Calvin Law said...

Bodes well for Poulter.

Emi Grant said...

Louis: Thoughts on Battle Of The Sexes' cast?

Calvin Law said...

Jesse Plemons for Ennis.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I'm curious to how Poulter would have played Pennywise. Fukunaga's original script described Pennywise as looking childlike (and also completely hairless), which fits Poulter's babyface look. Apparently he slayed Fukunaga at the audition. I would give anything to see that footage,

Mitchell Murray said...

(Emi) Stone's a 5, he's saved Carell, and the rest of the cast is a mixture of 3.5s and 3s

Robert MacFarlane said...

He gave Stowell a 4, and I admit that performance has oddly stuck with me.

Mitchell Murray said...

Me too, actually. Larry King could have been such an ogre honestly, but both the movie and Stowell's performance add a lot of sympathy to him. Kind of reminds me of what Kyle Chandler did in "Carol".

Robert MacFarlane said...

In fairness, the real Larry King was surprisingly supportive of Billie Jean even after their separation.

Bryan L said...

Calvin: I'll second Plemons.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Honestly I'm surprised the film didn't go even further with how awful Margaret Court was in reality.

Calvin Law said...

Yeah at first I was like was she that bad then I did some reading, yep even worse.

Mitchell Murray said...

As much as I wished the movie went farther or had a little more bite, even I have to admit a lot of its strength comes from its upbeat tone and even handed screenplay. Sure its glossy, but it gets the job done.

Robert MacFarlane said...

The screenplay wasn't too great, the direction luckily reigned it in alongside Stone's absolutely wonderful work.

Robert MacFarlane said...

If anyone's wondering, this ended up being my lineup:

Actor

1. Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out
2. Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049
3. Timothee Chalamet in call Me By Your Name
4. Jeremy Renner in Wind River
5. Robert Pattinson in Good Time

Actress

1. Margot Robbie in I, Tonya
2. Vicky Krieps in Phantom Thread
3. Dafne Keen in Logan
4. Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes
5. Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day

Supporting Actor

1. Mark Hamill in The Last Jedi
2. Sebastian Stan in I, Tonya
3. Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project
4. Michael Stuhlbarg in Call Me By Your Name
5. Patrick Stewart in Logan

Supporting Actress

1. Allison Williams in Get Out
2. Ana de Amras in Blade Runner 2049
3. Sophia Lillis in It
4. Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird
5. Morgan Saylor in Novitiate

Mitchell Murray said...

Not a bad list I have to say. I agree on most of the performances and at least understand why you would leave certain movies off.

Robert MacFarlane said...

There's a few I felt bad about leaving off. Ronan and Duris in particular.

Mitchell Murray said...

I'm assuming best actor is all 5's because if Daniel Day-Lewis didn't make it, and I've heard nothing but praise for him.

Bryan L said...

Robert: Solid list, though I'm not as big on Chalamet as you are it seems. Glad to see Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner, Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas on there as well.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Mitchell: Day-Lewis is a 4.5 for me. I guess. I don't really "do" ratings.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on these missed movie opportunities:
Orson Welles' Heart of Darkness and Don Quixote
John Ford's The Family
Laurence Olivier's Hamlet
Robert Aldrich's Kinderspiel

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant Olivier's Macbeth.

Alex Marqués said...

Good picks Robert, even if I don't know why everybody is so crazy about Stan. Kaluuya is a great winner, and Williams is an inspired pick, but I don't think I'd nominate her (she's great in the phone call scene, but besides that I don't think her performance is more than decent).

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the following scenes from It's Always Sunny-
The DENNIS system
Attacking the mall Santa
'The Implication'

John Smith said...

Louis and everyone else, what are your thoughts on the ending for the episode 'Negro y Azul' from breaking bad. It's probably among my top 10 breaking bad endings:

Calvin Law said...

I was even more impressed by Betty Gabriel than Williams, though both are fantastic.

John: I like it, nice episode that moves things along, the Hank scenes are particularly memorable, and it's a really funny episode.

Matt Mustin said...

Calvin: Gabriel was good throughout, and great in her big scene, but she also got a *lot* of help from Peele's direction. The way she's glimpsed at key moments in the film is a big part of what makes that character so effective.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: If you've seen "The Land Before Time", could I get your brief thoughts on it.

Calvin Law said...

Tahmeed: here are his thoughts.

http://deservingperformances.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/the-land-before-time.html?m=1

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the Solo trailer.

RatedRStar said...

I am pretty angry with the Hong Kong film award nominations that were just announced for many reasons so I will ask instead...

Has anyone seen the Anime Award nominations this year from Crunchyroll? It has been a great year for anime =D.

Anonymous said...

Louis: How would have you improved Wyler's Detective Story?
RatedRStar: Nope, not really. Haven't watched a lot of anime these days, with the exception of Gintama, which is dubbed by Ocean Studios.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Welles's Projects - (Any Welles project is one of intrigue particularly adaptations, as he rarely just tried to copy and paste the material. He tried to come through with his own unique vision. In Heart of Darkness I'm sure there would have been some interesting take particularly since we never exactly saw him take on the wilderness as director. With Don Quixote, since we technically got some partial version, it's just a shame we were never granted the whole of it.)

The Family - (This one could have been either a How Green is My Valley or Grapes of Wrath. If it was the latter it could have been something quite memorable, and given Ford's output in general it is a shame we never got to see this more ambitious endeavor.)

Olivier's Macbeth - (Well first off his performance as Macbeth on stage was alleged to be his greatest Shakespearean performance so that alone and it's a shame that's now been lost forever. Secondly all of Olivier's Shakespeare films, despite incorrect revisionism, are actually daring adaptations. Hamlet as a film noir, Henry with its brilliant framing device of the globe theater, and his Richard III that used Richard's soliloquies to break the forth wall. It would have been fascinating to see what his approach with Macbeth would have been.)

Kinderspiel - (Although I would say as a director his ambition sometimes outweighed his talent, the idea of a potential children revolt horror film would have played into his strengths as a director, and could have been something memorable.)

Tahmeed:

Attack the Mall Santa - (Ah fine scene insanity, but far from my favorite It's Always Sunny moments.)

The DENNIS System/The Implication - (Look no further than here for two of the greatest dark comedy sequences every brought brilliantly to life by Glenn Howerton's performance. Two scenes that contribute greatly to why he is so high on my greatest television performances of all time. The DENNIS system being a most hilarious, yet most chilling, subversion of the usual "hey guys here's my game plan" sometimes given to the ladies man character in a sitcom. Oh Dennis has far too much of one, and the breakdown of it is one of the most glorious pieces of sociopathic behavior one will see, while someone remaining extremely funny in every moment of it. The Implication, though shorter, is equally legendary for the old golden god, and perhaps even more reliant on Howerton's performance as he eeks out that menace even as he talks as though he's just got this "brilliant" idea like an 80's teen comedy character. The wordplay of that scene is very special, and also McElhenney also deserves credit for the scene in his reactions of trying to get on his wavelength yet continually becoming increasingly discomforted by doing so.)

John Smith:

A good bit of, probable, symbolism there with the two of them falling in love but staring into a void for the future.

Luke:

Eh looks like a whole lot of nothing special, it's a shame Lord and Miller couldn't have just made their film. Ehrenreich could be charming but he certainly is not coming off as a young Harrison Ford. I imagine someone soon will see that Emilia Clarke isn't going to be a thing outside of Game of Thrones. Glover looks like he might be delivering that Billy Dee Williams swagger though, so that's at least one thing. Nothing in the trailer made me think this project seems any better than when it was first announced. I guess it could've been worse, but that's not saying much.

Anonymous:

The only problems really lie in the source material with the McLeod story being so melodramatic. That just needed to be a made bit more subtle.

Luke Higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.