Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Alternate Best Actor 2008: Chiwetel Ejiofor in Redbelt

Chiwetel Ejiofor did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mike Terry in Redbelt.

Redbelt follows a mixed martial arts instructor into a tournament. That seems a simple enough premise however David Mamet's screenplay takes this idea towards a strangely convoluted direction made all the weirder through his excessively stylized dialogue where the majority of the characters speak in seemingly as portions of dramatic monologues even in casual conversations.

Chiwetel Ejiofor's lead performance thankfully seems to be one of aspect of the film that insists on preventing the film from collapsing in on its owe indulgences. Now just from first glance Ejiofor's performance here is yet another example of why it is mind boggling that he isn't a bigger star. Ejiofor is incredibly charismatic here. He just projects off the screen beautifully here to the point that he is simply just a traditionally great leading man here in a very general sense. His work though needs to go beyond this given Mamet's fairly bland direction that does nothing to grant any sense of verisimilitude to the flamboyancy of his writing. The funny thing is that Ejiofor has an easy way out, however he doesn't take it. In that one could almost forgive Mike as the one character who speaks in the way that Mamet's writes this film. That is because he's suppose to be a man with a very personal philosophy who has almost an otherworldly perspective towards the world. It would not be out of the ordinary for such a man to speak a little oddly. The interesting thing is though Ejiofor doesn't accept this loop hole, as he also gives the most naturalistic performance even if discounting that Mike is not the most ordinary man.

One should be thankful though for Ejiofor's approach though because as much as one could get away with Mike being bit off-beat his Zen attitude could be grating in the wrong hands. Ejiofor is anything but grating here offering the substance within the words that go far beyond potential fortune cookie sayings. I quite frankly could listen to Ejiofor just teach one of Mike's classes for a whole film because of how well he delivers every single one of his lines. Ejiofor captures this inherent passion into each word that the man speaks, and only allows the utmost conviction in the ideas he's presenting. What I love about Ejiofor's approach in this is frankly how welcoming he is in the presentation of his ideals. When he speaks about the nature of a fighter, where one should not fight without proper cause, he does not come off as a pretentious fool, but rather endears you towards these sentiments. There is such a earnestness within the presentation that Ejiofor brings that encourages you to see the meaning of his explanations. They never feel like platitudes through the empathy of this that Ejiofor offers in them. He does not just speak to those around him, but interacts. The words themselves contain a real power however there is also such a sense of concern, and encouragement within his eyes as he seems to wish to bring out the same passion to the one he speaks that he himself holds.

Ejiofor anchors the film even beyond being the center of the film through his portrayal of Mike that creates an investment into the story no matter how overly complex if not ridiculous it becomes. He realizes Mike as this center point of just this honest man engaging in what slowly reveals itself to be a dishonest world, an excessively dishonest world in the case of this film. Ejiofor is great here though because he manages to make the spirit of the character as such that it never feels intangible even though it is ethereal in some ways. He grounds it in his work that essentially is a man telling everyone around him that they can behave as he does, he even encourages it. One of my favorite moments in Ejiofor's performance is when he gives a basic lesson to the somewhat unstable lawyer Laura (Emily Mortimer) who stumbles across his dojo. In the scene he essentially is telling her how to kill someone wielding a knife, however Ejiofor in the moment doesn't emphasize the idea of violence. He rather projects this wish to inspire strength within the woman, and he is absolutely convincing in this idea. Ejiofor ensures throughout the film that Mike wins you over with his attitude towards life, as he shows you its value at every turn.

That becomes a particularly essential facet towards this film as Mike just has one tragedy after another befall him and those around him due to the amorality of all others. Ejiofor manages to maintain the inherently good nature of the man in a way that never feels bland nor na├»ve. He again brings such an earnest passion and considerable charm within that passion to which he not only makes you believe Mike as man he also makes you care about his plight. He also acts a proper surrogate for the audience in expressing the right low key confusion, and exasperation towards every plot development, caused by the immorality of others. I love the way Ejiofor portrays this effectively as below Mike's philosophy to the point he conveys the idea that Mike just believes such people should be disregarded and ignored much of the time. An over abundance of revelations though forces Mike to eventually face them. Ejiofor is great in bringing a real power to Mike's expressions of his personal dismay at the men's actions. The biggest affront being when he finds out the champion in the mixed martial arts tournament intends to take dive despite the presence of a master of the form known as the professor.  There is only with such a sincerity in every word that he finds in just again echoing how strongly the man's beliefs stand go deep within his very core, and realizes how these violation shake him. There is not a false word only this most remarkable quiet discontent Ejiofor finds in his blunt delivery and earnest eyes. The final fight sequence is a great moment for Ejiofor as he conducts that same passion within his physical performance portraying so well that in every physical interaction it is towards this attempt to strive to reveal the truth than to try to beat the man. Although the setup itself is excessively contrived, and rather rushed I will say I found Mike's final embrace of the professor rather moving. This is almost entirely to do with Ejiofor's work which maintains such a conviction within the character's personal philosophy that he has created the meaning of the moment within mostly his work. This is a terrific performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor as he brings to life a character worthy of your empathy and investment even if he is stuck in an often questionable film.

73 comments:

Calvin Law said...

I'll agree on pretty much all fronts except I'd probably give him a 5. The film is indeed overly convoluted.

Luke Higham said...

I hope Krisch is coming next. I think everyone expects Van Damme to get a 5.

Michael McCarthy said...

The film isn't just convoluted, it seems to resist committing to one story arc for more than about 20 minutes at a time. Luckily, Ejiofor was able to keep me invested with one of the most honest performances of a good guy who just has to keep dealing with new tiresome shit every day.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the Under The Silver Lake trailer.

Calvin Law said...

Michael: Agreed, a weird problem given Mamet's stage roots.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top 5 most intriguing actresses in the 20-29 age group and your reasons why.

Mitchell Murray said...

Saoirse Ronan
Margot Robbie
Emma Stone
Elizabeth Olsen
Hailee Steinfeld

Also, to break the rules just a bit, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Luke Higham said...

I would add Elle Fanning who's turning 20 in less than a month.

Michael McCarthy said...

I actually think Krisch will get a five. Revanche packed quite a punch for me.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Would you be able to give thoughts on Let The Right One In.

Calvin Law said...

Some Ejiofor recastings

2010s version of Hell or High Water directed by Steve McQueen
Hamilton: Jeff Goldblum
Toby: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Tanner: Donald Glover
Parker: Dwight Henry

2010s version of Three Days of Condor
Turner: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Kathy: Kelly Reilly
Higgins: Steve Carell
Joubert: Matthias Schoenaerts

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 1960's King of Comedy and 1960's L.A. Confidential.

Anonymous said...

Louis: And also your cast and director for a 50's Last Temptation of Christ.

Bryan L said...

Louis: 2010s film roles you think Sissy Spacek would've been great in back in the 70s and 80s? I'm guessing Ree (Winter's Bone) could be one of them.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Also, your choice for Bobby Hicks in a 00s, 90s, 80s and 70s version of
The Florida Project?

John Smith said...

Louis and everyine Thoughts on the trailer 'Under The Silver Lake'. I have very high hopes after watching it.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Bruce Willis's best scene in Unbreakable and also James McAvoy's best scene in Split?

And what do you think of Rowan Atkinson as an actor?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Is Mifune a 4.5 or 5 for The Bad Sleep Well.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: Mifune's a 4.5 for The Bad Sleep Well.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I wouldn't ask for thoughts on Atkinson until Louis watched series 2-4 of Blackadder.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your rating and thoughts on Zane in The Phantom.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I rather enjoyed the trailer especially since it seems like it is working with sort of The Long Goodbye/Inherent Vice style of tone for a mystery film, which I'm all for. Also seems like it could be a nice change of pace for Garfield after his rather serious minded work of late.

Anonymous:

1. Saoirse Ronan - (Well the only choice for number one. She's one that I'm just looking forward to see whatever she does, especially now that she is getting the roles worthy of her talent. So far she's proven to have an incredible range in pretty much every sense of the word, therefore I will be highly anticipating every role that properly challenges her.)

2. Emma Stone - (Now Stone is intriguing for sort of a different reason as it seems she's becoming keenly aware of her presence and her range. This is more likely to lead to consistency, but also more calculated risks that often spell great success for a performer.)

3.Margot Robbie - (I will admit she largely earns this exact spot due to I, Tonya, though really that should be enough. If she's capable of that performance it is intriguing to see what else she can do. I sincerely hope Mary, Queen of Scots is great, since you couldn't ask for a better twosome to lead it.)

4. Elle Fanning - (I'll cheat given she'll qualify in less than a month. Her output though has already been rather impressive with a notable consistency, and such dynamic energy to her work.)

5. Florence Pugh - (Perhaps a bit swift for such however it is hard not to be intrigued by her based on her performance in Lady Macbeth. Not only that I think her taking the, I believe, the lead in Park Chan-wook's Little Drummer Girl adaptation could be something rather special.)

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

King of Comedy 1960's directed by Blake Edwards:

Rupert Pupkin: Jack Lemmon
Bing Langford: Bing Crosby
Masha: Shirley MacLaine

L.A. Confidential 1960's directed by John Frankenheimer:

Jack Vincennes: Paul Newman
Bud White: Steve McQueen
Ed Exley: Robert Redford
Dudley: Burt Lancaster
Sid Hudgens: Edmond O'Brien
Patchett: Jack Palance

Last Temptation of Christ 1950's directed by Ingmar Bergman:

Jesus: Max von Sydow
Judas: Gunnar Bjornstrand
Pontius Pilate: Bengt Ekerot
Mary Magdalene: Bibi Andersson
Saul/Paul: Erland Josephson

Bryan:

Ree (Winter's Bone)
Tonya Harding
Elisa Esposito
And she simply should have played Violet Weston from August: Osage County.

For Bobby Hicks:

70's: Richard Widmark
80's: Harry Dean Stanton
90's: Donald Sutherland
00's: Christopher Walken

Anonymous:

For Willis, realizing the the truth about Glass. For McAvoy either the real personality moment or the dance.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

It has been so long since I've seen it, I'd really need to re-watch the film to give proper thoughts on his performance.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Who would be your choices for Bobby Hicks for a 50's and 60's Florida Project?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

50's: Walter Brennan
60's: John Carradine

Anonymous said...

Louis what would be your contemporary alternate casting for the Oscar winning supporting actor roles of the 2010's?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Dicky Eklund: Sam Rockwell
Hal Fields: Ian Holm
Dr. King Schultz: John Lone
Rayon: Barry Pepper
Fletcher: Miguel Ferrer
Rudolf Abel: Jared Harris
Juan: Sterling K. Brown
Officer Dixon: Walton Goggins

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Have you watched any TV Series lately and your thoughts on Brendan Fraser as an actor.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Same question as Anonymous, but for the Best Actress winners from this decade? I'd imagine someone older for Tiffany in SLP.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

No, but I plan on watching the first episode of Trust at the very least. Speaking of Fraser, I don't really have an exact thought on him perhaps because of how strange his career has been. On just the surface he has a definite "big lug" type of likability that can work well when properly used, and is perhaps underused in his comedic element if one hears his vocal work in "King of the Hill" and "The Simpsons" where he was hilarious in both. He isn't always used all that well, but I do think he had something. There is also the question of his dramatic ability, but I'll be getting more into that when I get back to 2002.

Bryan:

Nina Sayers: Kirsten Dunst
Margaret Thatcher: Lindsay Duncan
Tiffany Maxwell: Michelle Williams
Jasmine Francis: Gillian Anderson
Alice Howard: Kristin Scott Thomas
Joy Newsome: Emma Stone
Mia Dolan: Brie Larson
Midred Hayes: Holly Hunter

Michael McCarthy said...

As much as I loved Simmons in Whiplash, the idea of Ferrer in the role is absolutely titilating. Such a shame he’s gone.

Mitchell Murray said...

Also just so everyone knows Penns at a 4.5 now for Milk, more than double his original score. If anyone can recall another performance Louis changed his mind on so drastically, then by all means..

Michael McCarthy said...

Ayyy another 4.5 for Jenkins too!

Bryan L said...

Louis: I haven't even seen August: Osage County and I already know who you're referring to.

Penn's a 4.5 now? I'm glad to hear that. He's always been a 4 in my book.

Calvin Law said...

I got a couple for the Best Actor winners:

George VI: Obviously Jared Harris or Ben Mendelsohn, but as an alternative Hugo Weaving
George Valentin: Kyle Chandler
Abraham Lincoln: Liam Neeson
Ron Woodrof: Ethan Hawke
Stephen Hawking: Daniel Radcliffe
Hugh Glass: Christian Bale
Lee Chandler: Macon Blair
Winston Churchill: Toby Jones

Bryan L said...

Calvin: Kyle Chandler as "The Artist"? That would be very intriguing.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, is Dev Patel a 1 for Slumdog?

Bryan L said...

Anonymous: It appears so, since Pitt is a 1.5 at the moment and Patel is listed below him, unless Patel is also a 1.5 haha.

To round it out, Supporting Actress

Alice Eklund: Allison Janney
Minny Jackson: Naomie Harris
Fantine: Marion Cotillard, or perhaps Emily Blunt
Patsey: Hhmmm maybe Janelle Monae?
Olivia Evans: Laura Dern
Gerda Wegener: Margot Robbie, or Saoirse Ronan
Rose Lee Maxson: Alfre Woodard
Lavona Golden: Frances McDormand

Anonymous said...

Louis: If you could keep their respective casts, but recast the following characters with another actor from the film’s decade, who would it be for:

Daniel Plainview
Robert Ford
Bob Saginowski
Jacky Vanmarsenile
Randy “the Ram” Robinson

Plus, your thoughts and rating on Miles Teller in Whiplash if you haven’t given them?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the South Park episode "Tweek x Craig".

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the taxi scene from I Saw the Devil.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Anonymous: Louis's ratings and thoughts on Teller-

Teller - 4(Switch back between 4 and 4.5 with him. He is dynamite in any of the scenes where he is playing the drums, and no not because he can play the drums, I always hate when too much attention is brought to something like that, but in terms of the physical exhaustion and determination Teller brings he's outstanding. In these scenes you see the conviction of the player, and it is wonderful. He's equally good in his scenes with Simmons both reacting first as the earnest student then as the devastated victim. My only minor problem, echoing my thoughts on the film, is the scenes in the middle where he only cares about drumming didn't quite for me. It went there just a little too fast, and even though its either the writing or the editing Teller can't quite make up for it either with his performance)

He was upgraded to a 4.5 on Simmon's review.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Have you thought about re-examining George Clooney's nominated turns in Up In The Air/Michael Clayton or are your opinions on them set in stone.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I thought he was fine in Michael Clayton and haven't seen Up In The Air in years though I didn't care much for it and Clooney's work.

Mitchell Murray said...

I just reviewed Clooney myself for "Up in the Air" and thought he was good. Haven't seen Michael Clayton in a while but from what I've read and seen, those are the two performances of his people tend to agree on.

Luke Higham said...

Mitchell: Have you seen Clooney in The American. He's great there.

Mitchell Murray said...

I haven't seen The American. I have seen the two movies above, plus The Descendants, O Brother Where Art Thou, the Ocean series and Syriana, so I'm fairly familiar with Clooney's career.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

1.5.

Anonymous:

Daniel Plainview: Viggo Mortensen
Robert Ford: Joaquin Phoenix
Bob Saginowski: Well since Matthias Schoenaerts would be busy, Michael Shannon
Jacky Vanmarsenile: I'm afraid my knowledge of Belgian actors is a tad limited to properly answer that. For an English Language version though, Tom Hardy.
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: The original choice of Nicolas Cage could have worked.

Tahmeed:

The main plot is rather effective, the Cartman one goes off the deep end instantly and never comes back, and isn't funny enough to make up for it. Again though the titular aspect works though mainly for the "Breakup" scene which carries some classic comedy of one party of an act seemingly and suddenly taking their performance far too seriously.

A brilliant scene as performed by by Choi, but especially as directed by Kim. The way he builds up the tension through showing the clues in some very exact camera movements is great, only bested by that perfect respite through Choi's perfect delivery on the killer's thoughts on the driver's luck, before breaking out into such flawlessly executed frantic carnage.

Luke:

More set in stone than Michelangelo's David.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Which of these performances could go up for you-

Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity
Brendan Gleeson in Braveheart and 28 Days Later
Nicolas Cage in Adaptation
Paul Lukas in Watch on the Rhine
John Savage in The Deer Hunter

Luke Higham said...

Louis: And Gleeson in Gangs Of New York.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: What is your rating for Bullock in The Blind Side.

Luke Higham said...

Actually, I might request Christian Bale in Empire Of The Sun sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Apparently, Pat O'Brien was considered for Sergeant York. How do you think he would have fared?

RatedRStar said...

Louis: I think it was the right decision to change Sean Penns score for Milk, but also I think the right decision to keep pretty much all of his other scores as they are.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: After that upgrade, I think there's a good chance for Denzel to go up for Training Day, The Hurricane, Glory and maybe even Cry Freedom.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Your reasons for having Elwood P. Dowd and John L. Sullivan as two (2) of Dicaprios past film roles? I indeed do see him as Johnny Hooker.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: I am fine with all of them aside from The Hurricane which I didnt like at all.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: I currently have him at a 3.5 but I can't rule out the possibility especially with Michael's enthusiasm for it.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: Also, I have a feeling he hasn't watched it since the initial review.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the Bear scene from The Fox And The Hound.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

Lacaster - yes, possibly, slightly.
Gleeson - No, probably not.
Cage - Probably not.
Lukas - No.
Savages - Yes possibly.

3

Luke:

Probably not.

It has been far too long to give my proper thoughts on that scene, though I recall it being a highlight.

Anonymous:

Well it would be hard not to fair better than Cooper in that role however from what I've seen O'Brien does best in supporting roles. He probably would have done well in the dramatic moments but perhaps might not have had the right presence for the role.

RatedRStar:

Trust me, they won't change, I actually had been meaning to reassess him for Milk for awhile, recognizing that I perhaps fell into the "Rourke should have won" mindset back then. If I were to ever to change his rating for I Am Sam, it would mean my brain has melted or I was replaced by a pod person.

Bryan:

The Dowd choice is very much one I'd kind of like to see him in as it would be a lightly comic role, which he should do more of, but also the dramatic element would require him to offer a different, less intense, approach which I think could bring something special out of him. The same idea for Sullivan, as again I think DiCaprio as an actor too often shirks his leading man charisma, and comedic ability in order to be the "Actor's actor" he clearly aspires to be even if it doesn't always play to his strengths.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the voices of Tim Curry, David Ogden Stiers, Michael Dorn and Patrick Stewart.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Films in the past that you could see Michael R. Roskam’s directorial style being good for or he could direct?

Plus, your cast and director for a 50s The Drop, a 70s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and a 2010s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

Plus, did you give your thoughts on the score to Tinker before? If not can you please give them?

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 alec baldwin acting moments

Anonymous said...

Louis: What was Johnny Depp's original rating for the first Pirates movie?

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: It was a 3 originally.

Bryan L said...

Anonymous: He had Roskam as director for his 2010s versions of On The Waterfront and The Departed, so definitely those two.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is Pfeiffer still a 4 for Murder On The Orient Express.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the cinematography and production design of The Thing.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Curry - (Such a one of a kind combination of sultry, creepy with a certain regal quality which is bizarre combination that he somehow pulls off brilliantly.)

Stiers - (Well dependent on his needs it is no matter what grand voice however if need be warm you couldn't ask for a gentler more heartwarming voice, for villainy or snobbery he delivers that with effortless egotism.)

Dorn - (Dorn has an interesting hard directness of his voice that is unique, with that exact diction that is something rather memorable.)

Stewart - (One of the all time great voices really as he embodies this dignity with such ease and grandeur which he can seemingly easily manipulate to whatever end.)

Anonymous:

Top Ten I'd say is more appropriate.

1950's Drop directed by Elia Kazan:

Bob: Marlon Brando
Nadia: Kim Hunter
Marv: Lee J. Cobb
Eric Deeds: Montgomery Clift

Now I might just be spit balling here for this one:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 1970's directed by John Irvin:

George Smiley: Alec Guinness
Peter Guillam: Michael Jayston
Esterhase: Bernard Hepton
Bill Hayden: Ian Richardson
Alleline: Michael Aldridge
Roy Bland: Terence Rigby
Jim Prideaux: Ian Bannen
Ricki Tarr: Hywel Bennett
Control: Alexander Knox
Karla: Patrick Stewart
Connie Sachs: Beryl Reid

Louis Morgan said...

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold 2010's directed by Tomas Alfredson:

Alec Leamas: Cillian Murphy
Nan Perry: Florence Pugh
Fiedler: Matthias Schoenaerts
Smiley: Gary Oldman (seen from a distance)
Control: Mark Rylance
Mundt: Sebastian Koch

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is incredible work atmospheric in nature yet still very much dynamic. I love the way its use of instrumentation almost to overall a more emotional tapestry covering the stronger, more exact melodic tones, quite fitting to the film about espionage. A fascinating choice even in this dynamic between almost more jazz related instrumentation, of the drum kit in tandem with more orchestral instruments. An unusual combination that beautifully grants this certain melancholy, yet also urgency within the film.

Luke:

3.5.

Anonymous:

The Thing's cinematography is perhaps one of its most underrated assets. It is simply just beautiful work in a general sense with those beautiful wide shots of Antarctica that help to create the film's overwhelming sense of place. The shots go beyond that in it manages to able to capture a sense of claustrophobia while always properly framing the group shots. The lighting though is the highlight of the work perhaps that is noiresqu. In that its use of lighting is so pivotal, its great to look at, but it also ensures the horror. Whether it is the creation of a shadow on the wall, a single light within a darkness, or the illumination of a burning monster.

The Thing's production design is one of its great assets through its brilliant "simplicity" within creating such a believable yet effortlessly bleak sets that seem livable yet are set up to in act horror all the same. The Norwegian base is a particular highlight as every bit of horror there is indeed a bit of downright terrifying and just genius design of a type of horror we had never seen before.