Saturday, 14 April 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2008: Jason Butler Harner in Changeling

Jason Butler Harner did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gordon Stewart Northcott in Changeling.

Changeling has at its heart a particularly compelling true story of a mother, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), trying to find her lost son which unravels into two separate tragedies however it suffers from slow pacing and some underwhelming performances, especially the child performances, likely in part due to Clint Eastwood's method of doing very few takes.

One tragedy is of Christine Collins's son disappearing. Instead of finding help from law enforcement of the L.A. police department she is instead first ignored, then manipulated, then threatened and abused by them. That tragedy is in part a result of the sadly even darker tragedy underneath that one which brings us to Jason Butler Harner. Harner appears fairly late in the film as the film introduces that this is in part the story of a vicious serial killer who specializes in abducting then killing young boys, one of the abducted boys being Christine's son. We are only given a few glimpses of Harner before the end of the film. This leaves a certain challenge for him in part to make the needed impact given the character is purposefully left as a footnote to Christine's story, understandably so given how grim his story is. The strict perspective into the man is more than enough though given the impact of even only learning part of it as well as due to Harner's performance. Now we are given somewhat the expected from Harner, which is no way anything to sniff at, which is his portrayal of the absolutely horrifying intensity in the brief glimpses of the chicken coop murders. These only last a few seconds but Harner's portrayal of these moments of an atrocity are chilling. There is no respite for a moment just this direct uncompromising evil that Harner portrays as a man behaving on these extreme base instincts.

Outside of those moments though we have more of Harner which I think is what makes this a truly outstanding work from him as he finds a very distinct and particularly disturbing approach to the depiction of a serial killer. Harner is especially effective in these moments, of sort of a flamboyance within the character as written that I think a lesser performance might have used to turn him into a more sort of obvious villain. Harner's work instead uses these moments as terrifying insight into the diseased mind of the man. In that Harner portrays this certain stunted manner as though Northcott is sort of a child in mind himself. He doesn't over do it as to be some sterotypical creepy kid, he just slightly finds this particularly off-putting petulance that is grotesque yet feels very human in the way Harner portrays it. He manages to realize this in a honestly humanizing way as he successfully realizes this awful manner is fitting to this maniac. Harner's approach not only leaves a striking impression it also changes the context somewhat of his final scenes, which technically could have been the simple disposal of a monster. When Christine comes to see him to ask about her son, to whom Northcott refuses to admit killing based on his claim of finding religion therefore redemption. The way Harner delivers this is not as a gloating villain, it is of a messy insanity yet there is something very earnest as he states this horrible retraction. When Christine presses him Harner again is particularly unnerving by basing on this malformed child's responses, even in almost this pseudo attempt to scare Christine by trying to kiss her, it is this momentary juvenile act with the certain shyness Harner brings even within the derangement. When she states she hopes he goes to hell, again Harner by offering that genuine presentation of the character's state it is haunting as he shows in his reaction this real fear in even this terrible killer's eyes. This is expanded to even greater heights in Northcott's execution scene. Harner, despite the character's actions, makes the scene absolutely harrowing to witness. Harner depicts every moment with such vividness from the beginning where there is this pained attempt to find solace in the moment as he speaks his final words and looks to his priest for comfort. He is then is strangely heartbreaking as he moved towards the noose with his delivery of "please don't make me walk so fast". Harner again captures this broken mind and says this almost as a child not wanting to do something, though obviously with the severity of the given situation. Then when placed beneath the noose Harner unleashes just this mania of every kind as we see the killer, but also this man trying anything to get his mind away from his reality before he is killed. He is astonishing throughout the scene. This is a great performance that fully realizes the state of the man, even within the margins of the film, and is especially remarkable as he finds a very distinct, disturbing and powerful approach to a well worn type of role.

38 comments:

RatedRStar said...

Louis: You can't really see it in the picture but in the film itself I kinda thought that Harner strangely resembled a darker haired Oskar Werner???

RatedRStar said...

Louis: Second emo haired picture in a row as well haha.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is Jolie still a 3.5.

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar:

I'll have to see what I can do for Almaric to keep the theme going, since obviously Jenkins can't deliver in that regard.

Luke:

Re-watch only did her favors, 4.5.

Robert MacFarlane said...

He's totally amazing in this film, and it's a shame he didn't get more job offers after it. Though he apparently seems to be doing well with stage work. I know someone who saw him in The Crucible as Reverend Parris and told me he stole the show.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Jolie and where would you rank her in the Lead overall.

Emi Grant said...

Louis: What would be your Top 20 Best Directed films of all time?

Bryan L said...

Some 2010s casts

Broadcast News, dir. Craig Gillespie

Tom Grunick- Chris Evans
Aaron Altman- Cillian Murphy (Think Free Fire)
Jane Craig- Brie Larson

The Mosquito Coast, dir. J.A. Bayona

Allie Fox- Matthew McConaughey
"Mother" Fox- Reese Witherspoon
Charlie Fox- Tye Sheridan
Mr. Haddy- Barkhad Abdi
Reverend Spellgood- Michael Stuhlbarg
Emily- Abigail Breslin

The Mission, dir. James Gray

Rodrigo Mendoza- Joaquin Phoenix
Father Gabriel- Michael Fassbender (I'd love to see this two collaborate)
Father Fielding- Tom Hiddleston
Felipe- Sam Claflin
Cardinal Altamirano- Liam Cunningham

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on this alternate opening from The Incredibles.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAh7onp0bCo

RatedRStar said...

I always do this so ill get out of the way my final Hong Kong film award predictions

Best Picture
Shock Wave
Our Time Will Come
Love Education
Chasing The Dragon
Paradox
Will Win/Should Win - Our Time Will Come

Best Director
Kearen Pang - 29+1
Herman Yau - Shock Wave
Ann Hui - Our Time Will Come
Sylvia Chang - Love Education
Yip Wai Shun - Paradox
Will Win/Should Win - Ann Hui

Best Actor
Ronald Cheng - Concerto Of The Bully
Andy Lau - Shock Wave
Tian Zhuang-Zhuang - Love Education
Louis Koo - Paradox
Ling Man Lung - Tomorrow Is Another Day
Will Win - Louis Koo (Zhuang may upset)
Should Win - Ronald Cheng

Best Actress
Chrissie Chau - 29+1
Zhou Xun - Our Time Will Come
Stephy Tang - The Empty Hands
Sylvia Chang - Love Education
Teresa Mo - Tomorrow Is Another Day
Will Win - Zhou Xun
Should Win - Chrissie Chau

Best Supporting Actor
Philip Keung - Concerto Of The Bully
Philip Keung - Shock Wave
Yasuaki Kurata - The Empty Hands
Yasuaki Kurata - God Of War
Paul Chun - Love Off The Cuff
Gordon Lam - Paradox
Will Win/Should Win - Yasuaki Kurata

Best Supporting Actress
Joyce Cheng - 29+1
Deanie Ip - Our Time Will Come
Estelle Wu - Love Education
Susan Shaw - Vampire Cleanup Department
Baby Bo - Somewhere Beyond The Mist
Will Win/Should Win - Deanie Ip

Anonymous said...

Louis: Also your cast for a David Lean version of Reds.

Anonymous said...

Louis: How do you feel Robert Pattinsonwould fit in the following:

Sonny Wortzik
Freddie Quell
The Joker
Pvt Prewitt

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Are there any actors aside from Day-Lewis that you think would make a great Daniel Plainview irrespective of decade.

Calvin Law said...

My prediction for the final top 10:

1. Ledger
2. Fiennes
3. Oldman
4. Lee
5. Harner
6. Downey Jr. (hoping for an upgrade)
7. Pitt
8. Yamazaki
9. Brolin
10. Noonan

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I do think Amalric will be in that top 10.

Calvin Law said...

Brian: I love that James Gray The Mission cast, and on that note:

2010s The Bounty directed by James Gray
Fletcher Christian: Robert Pattinson
William Bligh: Joaquin Phoenix
John Fryer: Tom Holland

2010s The Last Emperor directed by James Gray
Puyi: Hayden Szeto
Wanrong: Jing Tian
Reginald Johnston: Iain Glen
Detention Camp Governor: Jiang Wen

Calvin Law said...

Luke: That's true.

Anonymous said...

Louis said that Viggo could work as Daniel Plainview.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is Damian Lewis still a 3.5 or has he gone up to a 4 for The Escapist.

Anonymous said...

Anatomy of a Murder (1940's version)
Paul Biegler: Fredric March
Laura Manion: Joan Fontaine
Frederick Manion: Robert Mitchum
Parnell McCarthy: Thomas Mitchell
Claude Dancer: Lee J. Cobb

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Downey Jr. is definitely going up since I just realized he wasn't on the Non-five actors list.

Bryan L said...

Calvin: Thx. I was a bit stumped for Aaron Altman but I think it could be a challenging role for Cillian.

I thought of James Gray because he's great at period pieces and has experience with movies set in the jungle, J.A Bayona because of The Impossible (family in the jungle) and Gillespie because I think he could gracefully move between the tones Broadcast News requires.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Thoughts on my above 2010s casts and this one?

The Fly, dir. Dan Trachtenberg
Seth Brundle- Adam Driver (Thanks Calvin)
Ronnie- Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Stathis Borans- Colin Farrell

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Perhaps any objection to her work changed as I think she excels in terms of portraying the very specific state of her character in each phase of her experience. In that in the early scenes she does make her just slightly unease given her situation but properly delivers the direct uncompromising love of the mother throughout. In the experience with the police she actually is able capture the bizarre emotional state needed as she interacts with the boy obviously not her, own and is quite moving in bringing the right combination of sorrow and anger as she demands answers. Her best scenes are probably in the asylum though in creating the intensity of anguish but also this right sort of facade in front of it as she tries to project whatever she believes the authorities want her to project. This while still always keeping he right underlying sorrow that form into more powerful grief as her story continues. Her intensity in this is earned, but also she does find the right nuance in moments of hope against those of truly understanding her loss.

I'll give a proper ranking update in supporting results.

Emi Grant:

Top 25:

All Quiet on the Western Front
Amadeus
Apocalypse Now
Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
Barton Fink
Blade Runner
Blue Velvet
Brief Encounter
Citizen Kane
Dr. Strangelove
Drive
Goodfellas
The Good the Bad and The Ugly
Jaws
JFK
Lawrence of Arabia
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mulholland Drive
Ran
Seven Samurai
There Will be Blood
The Thin Red Line
The Third Man
Vertigo
Zodiac

Bryan:

The Mosquito Coast seems about right particularly Abdi as Haddy. The Mission is perfection. For Broadcast News, while I think Murphy could work I think the part should have a comedian in it, and in that I'd probably say perhaps Jordan Peele. Fine choices for the Fly cast, not sure about Trachtenberg, but he could potentially work.

Anonymous:

Obviously it changes the whole film so I can see why it wasn't used. It is an effective alternate opening though from the comical suburbia conflict at the barbecue, then a genuinely effective villain scene later on. Again that would have changed the entire film though, but the concepts are quite good.

Anonymous:

William Hurt for Reed, you can keep the rest.

Anonymous:

I'd say he would be a fine fit for all of those as his Connie wasn't far off Sonny. For all of those you need that sort of kinetic unhinged quality which he's shown he can deliver, and sort of that internalized unease essential for Quell and Prewitt.

Emi Grant said...

R.I.P. R. Lee Ermey

Sergeant Hartman will never be forgotten

Louis Morgan said...

R.I.P.

R. Lee Ermey

Luke Higham said...

RIP R. Lee Ermey

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: I remember once you said you didn't like Leah Thompson in Back to the Future. I just rewatched the film (in a theater, for extra points), and I actually liked her a lot this viewing.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

I think what I said was I didn't like her as much as the other performances in the film, nonetheless my remarks were perhaps somewhat hasty at that time.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Your Top 10 Favorite Performances by Actresses you usually find disappointing (Clooney in the American, Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock, etc.)? I'm guessing Natalie Portman in Jackie must be one of them.

RatedRStar said...

RIP R. Lee Ermey

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the cinematography of Jaws, Goodfellas and Drive.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on this scene from It's Always Sunny-
https://youtu.be/_nTpsv9PNqo

Anonymous said...

R.I.P. R. Lee Ermey.

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of surprised that Once Upon a Time in the West, Barry Lyndon and Yojimbo aren't on that list.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your rating and thoughts on Thomas Meighan in The Racket. I assume the part required someone like Ronald Colman, right?

Louis Morgan said...

Jaws's work is extremely impressive work both in terms of lighting and the camera movement. The camera work being so essential within creating the idea of the unseen monster. I mean those underwater shots are basically legendary for a reason. The lighting is outstanding as well. The underwater shots themselves, which often can be under lit or over lit. There is just the right balance here. The above water scenes though are great in terms of really evoking the summer light patterns so effectively and naturally. It helps to create a real sense of every day in this, and it is something quite special. Also the realization of the Hitchcock, pull back zoom, managed to top the Vertigo original.

Goodfellas has obviously what it is famous for which is in the movement, which flawlessly realized and helps to create that kinetic quality within the film so naturally. An idea that many directors/cinematographers have failed to realize themselves. I mean just compare the homage version of the moment in Swingers, and you can see it just isn't quite there. What also sets the work apart, also realized in After Hours, is Michael Ballhaus's ability to realize ugliness in a beautiful yet never seeming wrong. It's a strange very specific lighting Ballhaus's realizes that isn't quite glamorous yet boy is it easy to look at it. A notable achievement which is often missed where shooting ugliness often just turns into ugly cinematography. Goodfellas finds the right balance, it's masterful work.

Drive is neo-noir work at perhaps its finest. In that it very much works with the idea of light and darkness, however here with color therefore it takes on a new meaning. There such brilliant working in terms of framing every shot, and the lighting and position of every character. It evokes the idea of the pulls of evil and good between the nature of the man character through this. It is so elegantly and flawlessly realized in this sense. Beautifully of course to with the film perhaps containing my all time favorite shot in the elevator kiss which sheer perfection in every sense. Thematically in terms of being this final angelic embrace while putting out the darkness for just one last moment, before having to fully embrace it. It also just looks astonishing.

Anonymous:

Well Barry Lyndon and Yojimbo weren't really in consideration for me. As technical director Kubrick goes I think 2001 is the greater accomplishment, but Paths of Glory would be next anyways in terms of overall directorial accomplishment. Yojimbo is no slouch, however in terms of Kurosawa's direction I'd put Ikiru and Rashomon above that.

Once's omission I'll admit was in part trying to spread the wealth a bit on my part, really should have been included, but I tried to leave double showings to the more prolific directors. I also do think TGTBTU was his greatest directorial accomplishment in that he first achieved his grand scale western with that film, and succeeded in each of the various tones he realizes throughout.

Anonymous:

Meighan - 2(It is simply just a bland performance nothing more or nothing less either. Obviously you something more to come across well in silent and he just lacks that. At least he's not a chronic over actor, but is very much overshadowed by Wolheim at every time.)

Yes.

Louis Morgan said...

1. Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone (Shame as I used to be of the opposite opinion)
2. Natalie Portman - Jackie
3. Julie Christie - McCabe and Mrs. Miller
4. Melissa Leo - Frozen River
5. Hillary Swank - Boys Don't Cry(Although I am actually liking her in Trust so far)
6. Julie Christie - Doctor Zhivago
7. Reese Witherspoon - Election
8. Scarlet Johansson - Her
9. Rachel Weisz - The Mummy
10. Julia Roberts - August Osage County

Excised actress who can be a touch over praised however I do like many of their performances e. g. Streep.