Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Alternate Best Actor 2008: Sam Rockwell in Snow Angels

Sam Rockwell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Glenn Marchand in Snow Angels.

Snow Angels is a quietly affecting film focusing on the life of a teenager, his old babysitter and her estranged husband.

Sam Rockwell is an actor sometimes incorrectly boxed in by some. This is usually in the view that he is only capable of his more eccentric turns, those that earn the moniker of Rockwellian. Although crafting an idiosyncratic style as a performer is usually a notable achievement it certainly could be problematic if the performer uses that as a crutch. That never has been the case for Rockwell, and his performance here is a testament to this. There is barely a hint of his usual style in his performance here as Glenn Marchand a former alcoholic turned born again Christian. Rockwell completely rids himself of any of his usual energetic style to give a completely subdued turn fitting to a man in this life and in his current situation. Rockwell's work rather conveys the history of Glenn from this outset which he wears through this internalized somberness that is remarkable. This is striking in the way Rockwell so subtly portrays this as a constant that is less of what Glenn wishes his current state of mind to be, and is more of an indication of the life he has lead before this point. A life of much heartbreak through his relationship with his wife Annie (Kate Beckinsale) however as the film opens we see man trying to make a better life for himself. In his first scene Rockwell exudes this remarkable frustration, as Glenn prepares for the day that includes seeing his kid and perhaps getting a job, that naturally reflects a man still very much burdened by his problems yet striving to correct them.

Rockwell delivers this curious yet wholly convincing type of optimism in his performance in these early scenes. In that he projects very much this eagerness to be optimistic more than there lies a true optimism that defines the man. Rockwell realizes so well this difficult juxtaposition of emotion as he plays it as Glenn very much trying to keep himself in the right frame of mind. He wears in his eyes that sorrow of a problematic past, but with the uneasy smile of a man trying very hard to not let that define his life. We see his early interactions with Annie where he and Beckinsale effectively strike up this troubling chemistry as Rockwell exudes very old difficulties in connecting with her without immediately falling into frustrations. Rockwell shows Glenn very much a man trying to force himself to keep from this though, and is incredible the way in a given scene he shows how Glenn begins with an immediate, slightly artificial, charge of joy that slowly is lost when he and Annie start to fight. An important facet also in this sense is Glenn as a born again Christian, which is an element that Rockwell brilliantly portrays in his performance. When Glenn speaks about his religion there is this intensity that Rockwell delivers in every line. An intensity not of zealot or anything like that, there is instead an intensity of a certain desperation. This desperation that underlines his words that Rockwell effectively shows doesn't allude to doubts in his faith, but rather this painful need to use it as this life preserver for his existence.

The one bit of light in his life is through Glenn and Annie's daughter Tara, though she is more than a bit of a handful. Rockwell though is great in his scenes between Glenn and Tara as he carefully shows that in these most direct interactions with his daughter his troubles seem most at ease. Rockwell never portrays a man completely comfortable with himself, but in these moments presents the man finally at any comfort in his life. He exudes an overabundance of warmth that he uses so well to portray that Glenn has an unquestioned love for his daughter. We briefly see Glenn starting to have any consistency in his life and Rockwell is terrific in realizing Glenn's troubles slowly easing away from his mind, though he carefully shows that they are never completely gone. He has a great moment in perhaps Glenn furthest from his personal traumas when he asks Annie out for a date. Rockwell is outstanding in this scene in that he brings a genuine charm. Not so much the usual charm that Rockwell has, which would be ill-fitting for Glenn, he finds instead something a bit low key yet still notable in reflecting perhaps Glenn's past self that originally won Annie over a long time ago. Rockwell still presents this with a bit of compromised delivery through every little attempted romantic overture having such a real hesitation in every word of a man trying to tip toe around speaking directly with his wife as his wife.

Things quickly fall apart from that better state though when it becomes public knowledge that Annie is having an affair with a married man. This would be an easy enough time to slip up however Rockwell is great as he realizes Glenn essentially falling into the other man he was within the rot of their old marriage. Rockwell portrays Glenn's drunken state as particularly wretched by playing it in a especially naturalistic way. In that he shows Glenn as man who in the past has spent much of his time as drowning in liquor and his jealousy. Rockwell makes him a proper mess of just broken emotions as every word he says towards Annie is angry slurred nonsense fitting to a man who has fallen into those frustrations that had lied dormant before then. Things sadly get worse before they improve as Annie's neglect leads to the accidental death of their daughter. Rockwell's performance is particularly remarkable as he successfully portrays this leading to a different state than that of just the envious drunk. The initial transition is as Glenn is blamed, before the death is discovered, where Rockwell depicts this greater clarity in his outrage over the accusations. The outrage though Rockwell finds in this rather meek way that sadly still alludes to the state of the man as there is a exasperation of someone who has spent his whole life being told he's screwed up.

After the death is discovered Rockwell has a few scenes all that are exceptionally performed by him in portraying Glenn's reaction to the loss. Now part of this is in the expected in one heartbreaking scene where Glenn confronts Annie's lover who prevents him from seeing her. Rockwell in the scene reveals such a harrowing grief in the man as he portrays a man just falling into his this deep pit of despair. He shows a man not only grieving for the loss of his daughter but also wallowing in the terrible sadness of his life up until this point. When Glenn describes his previous suicide attempt Rockwell evokes this horrible sense of a resignation as though Glenn has simply expected himself to meet such a sorrow again. Rockwell realizes every moment of the pain that writhes within him, and is extremely moving as he delivers such raw emotion in every single moment of Glenn's breakdown. After this scene though Glenn's reaction changes. First in almost an attempt to compromise back to the man attempting to inspire hope in himself which we see when tries to give photos of Tara. Rockwell though now shows that this attempt at comfort is even more precarious than it was before with his grief and anger barely being hidden in his failure of a gesture to basically attempt to negotiate his feelings towards Annie. The final sequence of the film Rockwell is downright amazing in his depiction of Glenn's final decision. Rockwell portrays throughout suddenly a certain solace that is absolutely chilling. He does not deliver this as some sudden vicious psychopath rather presents it as this alarming religious conviction in him. Rockwell speaks with this overwhelming calm most of the time showing really that same comfort in his religion, but now to a most tragic end. There is still the occasionally lapse into the raw sorrow that brought him to this point, however Rockwell reveals Glenn now finally at ease through his final decision. This is a great performance Sam Rockwell. It would be easy enough to demonize Glenn or for this to fall apart into some caricature at any point. Rockwell never does this as he humanizes every moment of the man's descent therefore granting a far more potent tragedy at the center of the film.

48 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Five #6 for Rockwell. :)

Luke Higham said...

Thoughts on the cast.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the "I don't remember" scene from L.A. Confidential.

Mitchell Murray said...

Yes.. another 5 for Rockwell. And once again I know I don't speak for everyone, but I'm quite happy we no longer have to say "criminally underrated" next to his name.

Mitchell Murray said...

Oh, and thoughts on Beckinsale too. I'm not a big fan of hers but this seems to be one of her more respected movies.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Public Enemies and Gangs of New York as missed opportunities.

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

Anonymous: I would've gone with a different character arc for Dicaprios character in Gangs of New York instead of the been-done-a-million-times-before revenge story. Maybe one where he has to infiltrate Bill the Butchers crew and kill him in order to be respected in a gang he wants to enter.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Your updated ranking for Martin Scorsese's films?

Calvin Law said...

Saw You Were Never Really There. Felt like there were a few pieces missing, but on the whole I dug it.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: What did you think of Phoenix. BTW, You Were Never Really Here was released in France, Belgium and Spain last year.

Luke Higham said...

RIP Stephen Hawking

Louis: Your 2010s Dodgeball cast.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: And your 2010s cast for Harry Potter And The Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

RIP Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds in history.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: I was very impressed by him. If I put him in 2017 though I think he'd just barely crack my top 10, I think, around the Gyllenhaal/Renner range.

Nguyễn Ngọc Toàn said...

RIP Stephen Hawking!

Mitchell Murray said...

May Hawking rest in peace.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Beckinsale - (Her performance has some good moments in there but it is a mostly underwhelming work on the whole. This is especially when considered against Rockwell's performance. Her work just never gets beyond a cursory level with the character making her seem just mildly vapid then somewhat distraught later on. She just never takes the character further and more than anything is never quite a match for what Rockwell is doing. She always keeps her character just a little too vague even though the material really is there. She essentially leaves all the heavy lifting to him though she does try she just never quite gets there unfortunately. She's never bad to the point of a truly problematic distraction, but it is noticeable when the two are directly acting off one another.)

Angarano - (He's good(perhaps as usual?) in being the lead of the more low key part of the story which is saying something since even the tragedy is fairly subdued in its approach. Angarano though is very good in playing with this idea by portraying the part in an effectively straight forward way as this unassuming teenager. That is not to say he is ever underwhelming in the role but rather is quite good in the way he in such a naturalistic fashion allows us to get to know his character. His major, so to speak, are the romantic scenes which are made appropriately sweet through his and Olivia Thirlby's chemistry, and his subtle yet affecting portrayal of the way the other story does weigh on his mind. It's good performance as purposefully the less incendiary side of the story, yet adds to that side through this contrast that Angarano realizes so well.)

Thirlby - (Her role is somewhat limited however she makes the most of what she does have which is mostly in terms of realizing that romance which does work quite well.)

Katt - (He seems perhaps a bit much at first, and perhaps he is just a little much at first, however I do think he is good in his main scene with Rockwell in providing distant yet not entirely unaffected reactions towards his breakdown.)

Sedaris - (She's actually more than decent here in providing both such an honesty to her character's, rather well earned, yet still subdued anger, but also being wholly genuine later on when portraying the character's common decency as this uncompromising empathy given the situation.)

Dodgeball:

Pete LaFleur: Jason Segel
White Goodman: Glenn Howerton
Kate: Kate McKinnon
Patches: Stacy Keach

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Oh it's a great moment as written and as performed by Guy Pearce and Christopher Plummer. It honestly though is a particularly moving moment in how well it realizes the sad state of Vincennes, that is particularly dependent on the delivery. As the performance doesn't offer it as some scoff off, but rather the man having this tragic realization of how meaningless his life has become as it seems like he is trying to remember the why but no longer is able to.

Anonymous:

Public Enemies, in its current form, could have been easily greatly improved with just better cinematography rather than that ugly and ill-fitting attempt to replicate the digital camerawork which was so successful with Collateral. In terms of broader changes though the film could have been a more compelling larger scale examination of the public enemies period. There are facets of this already in the film that are compelling such as Billy Crudup's J. Edgar Hoover, which on a side note completely trounces DiCaprio's take on the man particularly the scene where they are working with the exact same material. The film could have expanded on that idea and focused on a portrait on the entire world rather than the film's rather narrow take on only Dillinger. I will say it didn't result in a bad film as is, but it could have been a great one.

Gangs of New York is a particularly aggravating missed opportunity in that it already has most of the ingredients for a masterpiece. A fascinating period, Day-Lewis, the rest of the supporting cast, Scorsese's direction (except for his choice in the song for the opening battle), and all the technical elements are among the best of any film particularly the production design. There is unfortunately DiCaprio and Diaz, who are a firm cut below all of their co-stars, not just Day-Lewis, though those two in particular are not helped by the problematic script. The script that wrongly throws out a more compelling rivalry between the priest and the butcher to focus on this revenge plot hindered by the underwhelming character, as performed and written, that is Amsterdam. There are other problems though as its attempt to weave the grandeur scope within the intimate story also becomes unwieldy at times, and there are so many facets of the era that seem horribly wasted in order to just run them through the generic plot like Tweed, and Hell-cat Maggie. I don't think it's a bad film still, but a potential masterpiece unrealized is always particularly aggravating.

Bryan:

1. Goodfellas
2. Silence
3. The Wolf of Wall Street
4. After Hours
5. The Departed
6. Raging Bull
7. Age of Innocence
8. The Last Temptation of Christ
9. Mean Streets
10. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
11. Shutter Island
12. Taxi Driver
13. Hugo
14. Gangs of New York
15. Kundun
16. The King of Comedy
17. The Aviator
18. Casino
19. The Color of Money
20. Who's Knocking At My Door
21. New York, New York
22. Cape Fear

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your ratings for the Snow Angels cast.

Michael McCarthy said...

Yeesh, it pains me to see The King of Comedy ranked so low. Pleasantly surprised that Taxi Driver is as high as it is though, I thought for sure it’d be lower.

Anonymous said...

Louis: If L.A. Confidential had been made in the 30's and set in that decade, who would have been your choices for the cast?

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Beckinsale - 2.5
Angarano - 4
Thirlby - 3.5
Sedaris - 3

Anonymous:

Bud White: Clark Gable
Ed Exley: Henry Fonda
Jack Vincennes: James Cagney
Lynn Bracken: Barbara Stanwyck
Sid Hudgens: Barry Fitzgerald
Pratchett: Ray Collins
Dudley: John Barrymore

Calvin Law said...

Cast for a 1960s Death of Stalin, Louis?

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Khrushchev: Orson Welles
Beria: Hugh Griffith
Comrade Andreyev: Richard Attenborough
Vasily Stalin: Richard Harris
Zhukov: Robert Shaw
Molotov: Buster Keaton
Svetlana Stalina: Katherine Helmond
Malenkov: Ed Wynn
Stalin: Oskar Homolka
Maria Yudina: Jeanne Moreau

Matt Mustin said...

Rewatch of There Will Be Blood has pushed Paul Dano all the way up to a 4.5 for me. Can't remember the last time I did such an about-face for a performance.

Michael McCarthy said...

I’m hoping Ejiofor gets reviewed next. Redbelt was a very odd movie, but his performance really stuck with me.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

'As performed by Guy Pearce and Christopher Plummer' xD good one Louis.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: How do you think Filth could have been improved.

Psifonian said...

Saw Annihilation last night. If Arrival huffed a shitload of paint thinner for days on end and then tried to write Under the Skin's Wikipedia entry, the end result would be this movie. Pretty to look at but nothing interesting under the hood. Alex Garland once again proves that he can take an interesting concept and shit all over it (although it's based on a novel, apparently). The stupid framing device pretty much kills any sort of intrigue or momentum, the twists are blatant from the absolute jump, and the lighthouse sequence is ridiculous beyond compare. Everyone in the movie does the bare minimum (is Jennifer Jason Leigh even awake?) and Portman's robotic portrayal wouldn't fool Domhnall Gleeson's character one second in "Ex Machina."

Deiner said...

Louis: I agree Rockwell was great here, however I liked Beckinsale more than you did. Off topic, what are your ratings of these performances:
- Hope Davis in The Secret Life of Dentists
- Jennifer Aniston in Along Came Polly
- Kate Winslet in Finding Neverland
- Kierston Wareing in Fish Tank
- Laura Linney in The Squid and the Whale
- Rebecca Griffiths in Fish Tank

RatedRStar said...

Taika Waititi is apparently going to play an imaginary Hitler in his next film....perfect =D.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: I can't wait. :)

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Charles Laughton's directing career, Wilder's Laurel and Hardy and Lean's The Bounty as missed opportunities.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: If Lean's The Bounty had been realized, who would you cast in the main roles.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Who do you think would have worked as Gershwin if Scorsese had made the film?

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

Unlike most it seems, I like Filth as a film.

Deiner:

Davis - 3.5
Aniston - 2.5
Winslet - 3
Wareing - 3.5
Linney - 3.5
Griffiths - 3

Anonymous:

Considering how successful, in my view, and objectively daring Laughton's first film was it is a shame we never saw him direct a film again. The film is that of a dynamic and unique filmmaker and I'm sure if he had made another film it would have been something special. Whether that would have been another horror movie or something else it likely would have been something memorable.

The Bounty was a major missed opportunity in general, and though the eventual film we got was in no way a bad film, the idea we never saw Lean fulfill his passion project, which would have played to his strengths, was a shame. Not only that it left Lean in limbo as a filmmaker for such a long time leaving him only to make one more film, that is far from his best, making it all the more unfortunate.

Luke:

Well it's pretty hard to top the cast that was assembled for The Bounty however if it was made in say 1974:

Fletcher Christian: Rutger Hauer
Captain Bligh: Robert Shaw
Fryer: Sam Neill
Churchill: Ian McShane

Anonymous:

Mandy Patinkin or Jeff Goldblum.

Calvin Law said...

A 1950s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri directed by Charles Laughton

Mildred: Katherine Hepburn
Willoughby: Charles Laughton
Dixon: Robert Mitchum

And a 1950s L.A. Confidential-esque thriller set in England, directed by Charles Laughton
Vincennes: Charles Laughton
White: Trevor Howard
Exley: Richard Attenborough

Matt Mustin said...

Silence is some kind of masterpiece.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

The Billy Wilder Laurel and Hardy film is a particular shame since it could have just been another good Wilder film, which is enough, however it also could have been the proper sendoff the duo deserved but never got.

On a side note I hope the upcoming "Stan and Ollie" is good as John C. Reilly as Ollie is great casting.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: for a 2010s Kiss of the Spider Woman, which of these pairings would you most want to see?

Adam Driver
Pedro Pascal

Joaquin Phoenix
Wagner Moura

Paul Dano
Gael Garcia Bernal

Domhnall Gleeson
Oscar Isaac

Jared Leto
Alexander Siddig

Matt Mustin said...

Actually, scratch the "some kind" I wrote earlier. It's just a masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Yoir top five performers who mumble very frequently in the 2010s.

Also, your cast for a 1940s The Assassination of Jesse James

Also, if the following characters respective films were made in the 50s, and polished a bit, would you see Marlon Brando as being a good fit for the following:

The Driver (Drive)
Lee Chandler
Dae-su Oh (American Oldboy)
Freddie Quell

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: I'd like to use one of my winning requests on Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride for 87 Lead.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your top ten scenes from Stanley Kubrick films.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: For Film Thoughts:
Hugo
Silence

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

Calvin:

Uhh I guess Phoenix/Moura, it's difficult though as Molina is such a tricky role to pull off.

Anonymous:

Tom Hardy
Joaquin Phoenix
Michael Keaton
Jeremy Renner
Casey Affleck

The Assassination of Jesse James 1940's:

Jesse James: Van Heflin
Robert Ford: Robert Walker
Frank James: Harry Carey
Wood Hite: Robert Ryan
Dick Liddil: Robert Preston
Ed Miller: John Carradine
Charley Ford: Burgess Meredith


Well post-On the Waterfront he'd probably be pretty bad in all of them, so well say pre-54.

The Driver - (Really far too internalized of a character for Brando who does best with some major form of expression in his work.)

Chandler - (Miscast really in the role though I could see him potentially working Montgomery Clift would be the better choice, same with the Driver.)

Oh Dae-su - (This would could potentially work though he probably would have been too younger in the early 50's then would have been terrible in the 60's.)

Quell - (Again a better suite for Clift I think, Brando though I think could work here.)

Luke:

1. "The Faithful Hussar" - Paths of Glory
2. Precious Bodily Fluids - Dr. Strangelove
3. A Call to Russia - Dr. Strangelove
4. Bathroom - Full Metal Jacket
5. Strangelove's Solution - Dr. Strangelove
6. Preverts - Dr. Strangelove
7. Disabling Hal - 2001: A Space Odyssey
8. The Executions - Paths of Glory
9. Promotion offer - Paths of Glory
10. Opening - Lolita