Monday, 9 April 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2008: Tom Noonan in Synecdoche, New York

Tom Noonan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sammy Barnathan in Synecdoche, New York.

Tom Noonan is one of those indispensable character actors quite frankly as there is no one quite like him. The contrast between his impressive stature, and his impressively soft voice is particularly notable. It worked to quite chilling effect in Michael Mann's Manhunter, where he played a serial killer, however Noonan's idiosyncratic presence manages to always be something distinctive, however at the same time he always disappears into his roles despite not really changing himself. Screenwriter/director Charlie Kaufman seems keenly aware of this casting him as "everyone" else in his animated Anomalisa, and here in his directorial debut. Noonan has a quite a role really needed for someone whose going to need to make some impression rather quickly. Noonan's Sammy appears once Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) begins his gargantuan theater project to represent his own life. Sammy auditions to play Caden's double with his only qualification being that he has stalked Caden for 20 years therefore knows everything about him. The way Noonan essentially confesses a rather creepy idea is fascinating. In that there is this conviction to this passion that Noonan infuses that is brilliantly specific. In that in this audition we are given is this controlled yet raw intensity he espouses, yet with such a pleasant manner while doing so. Noonan shows the act to be Caden, and all his emotion, yet still shows the act even while capturing what is needed from it. Noonan plays him as a man who can express exactly as he needs, yet it not imprisoned by it.

Of course what Tom Noonan does here is very specific, and an essential facet of the film in that his Sammy is the double of Caden in more ways than he plays him. Obviously Noonan looks, really, nothing like Philip Seymour Hoffman. That is not the point and Noonan's performance hones in on this idea of a different kind of a representation of Caden. In that Caden is an observer rather than an actor in life, therefore it is a most curious thing for an actor to play this observer, while being an observer. That's is a strange idea to be sure, however it makes this a particularly fascinating performance to watch as Noonan realizes this act in his own way that is something rather clever. Caden is of course troubled by this state which Noonan contrasts so effectively by portraying a man in a state of calm in his own observation process. Noonan initially portrays that, despite this life, Sammy wants for nothing in his own existence of acting as the observer of the observer who is troubled by being the observer. Noonan exudes a calm in this place of strict connection, which he plays with in such an interesting way. In that he directly acts a certain moment will present the needed intensity of emotion to be Caden, yet can calmly be himself the next moment, such as so genuinely commenting on the talent of Caden's wife who is an actress.

Noonan's work here is entertaining in itself, in that his exact state is humorous to be sure, but what is so special about it is how well he finds this strange state of the man who is almost a comforting factor in the film by showing a path of the observer initially. The idea though becomes that in a way Sammy is less an observer because he is at least acting out Caden's observations unlike Caden who is simply still watching them. This does not change until Sammy's action to take action where Caden did not which in turn finally leads Caden to take action, the action Sammy had taken, how that somehow adds up is why I love the film. Noonan's work ends up being quite something even more than this curious side show though in the end, as Sammy's observation of Caden's action leads to something more. Noonan is heartbreaking quite frankly in finally attaching the emotion of the performance to Sammy finally observing by removing that initial calm in this moment of observation. This leads to a performance of Sammy, a tragic performance, which is emotionally charged as it should be to represent Caden, yet with this calm as Sammy takes his own action in the performance. It is an utterly bizarre end to the character that Noonan delivers in such a powerful way by naturally reaching this breaking point as the observer becomes the true actor in the end.

25 comments:

Matt Mustin said...

I don't understand this review at all, but I guess you liked him.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the production design and cinematography of Bride of Frankenstein and The Devil and Daniel Webster.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Also, what do you think of a 1960's The Verdict with Jimmy Stewart in Newman's role and Claude Rains in Mason's role?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on J.K. Simmons as actor?

Plus, past film roles for Simmons?

Plus, 70s cast and director for On the Waterfront?

Anonymous said...

I always considered Noonan to be quite underrated as an actor.
Anonymous: Simmons - (A great character actor all around. Like any character actor he does not always get a great role, but usually even then he stands out well for his few seconds of screentime. When he has a juicy role like J. Jonah or Fletcher though he's rather mesmerizing to watch all in his own particular way)

Anonymous said...

Louis: your casts for a 70’s and 80’s version of hell or high water?

Mitchell Murray said...

80s:

Tobey: Sam Shepard
Tanner: Dennis Hopper
Marcus: Clint Eastwood

Bryan L said...

Anonymous: He gave his 80s cast in Jeff Bridges' review for the same film

"Hell or High Water 1980's Directed by Peter Weir:

Toby: Kurt Russell
Tanner: James Woods
Alberto: Will Sampson
Marcus: Kirk Douglas"

Omar Franini said...

1. Byung-Hun
2. Harner
3. Amalric
4. Noonan
5. Jenkins

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Bride of Frankenstein's production design, much like the film itself is a natural expansion on the previous film. It retains that same stylized brilliance that beyond the scientific equipment, which is purposefully obtuse, is this fascinating not quite reality in the design. In that everything seems plausible enough, yet is just a little off that helps to ensure such a vivd atmosphere in the film's world.

The cinematography is an excellent example of really continuing to pioneer really what has become known as horror lighting, while also just being so vibrant in general as James Whale was one of the few directors at the time who seemed to understand what could be done with a camera. In that he bothered to actually put the cinematographer to more work than, "hey just make sure we can see the actors". There is actually movement here that is particularly smooth, and effective in granting a far more dynamic perspective. The lighting though is what is particularly remarkable and again an essential element in creating the film's atmosphere. This is in a more low key sense such as the twilight of the opening scenes, or more showy, yet brilliantly so, sense such as the demonic shadows on Ernest Thesiger during the experiment or just about every thing about how Elsa Lanchester is lit.

The Devil and Daniel Webster has fantastic production design in the form of sort of this Gothic rustic. In that by definition most of what we see are what are a lot of barns, but oh what they do with them. The elaborate style within that is fascinating particularly the barn of when Scratch and Stone first meet, or the barn dance sets. They are both so ornate yet still plain in terms of what's in them. Beyond that there are just marvelous little touches in the design throughout, I have especially great affection for the oozing coins from beneath the floor unleashed by Scratch.

The cinematography of the film is equally strong, typical for Dieterle's best work, which is so wisely used in a very specific way. In that much of the film's lighting is good, though in a way where the contrasts are downplayed than was even typical for the average film of the 40's. This used incredibly well to make the supernatural scenes standout all the more. Once Scratch's influence is felt, the film's lighting is some of the most elaborate of the period, and this juxtaposition is outstanding. The trial scene is probably one of my favorite scenes in terms of the lighting of the decade. It's a genius choice in that instead of darkness alluding to evil it is instead this extremely hard white light that comes off as extremely unnatural, and I mean that as a great compliment. This atypical choice is especially striking, and essential in creating the film's exact sort of horror it is peddling.

Anonymous:

Perfect choices.

Anonymous:

Parnell Emmett McCarthy (Anatomy of a Murder)
Boss Finley (Sweet Bird of Youth)
Arthur Jensen

Anonymous:

On the Waterfront directed by Martin Scorsese:

Terry Malloy: Robert De Niro
Father Barry: Gene Hackman
Johnny Friendly: Robert Duvall
Charley Malloy: Harvey Keitel
Edie Doyle: Jill Clayburgh

Anonymous:

Tanner: James Caan
Tobey: Martin Sheen
Marcus: John Wayne
Alberto: Jay Silverheels

Bryan L said...

Louis: Your 80s and 90s cast and director for Call Me by Your Name and I, Tonya? As if they had been set in then-contemporary times.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Lastly, who would be your 2010s choices for these Cronenberg protagonists?

Max Renn
Johnny Smith
Seth Brundle
Beverly and Elliot Mantle (I'm thinking Fassbender)

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your 40's and 50's choices for Tanner, Tobey and Alberto.

Calvin Law said...

Bryan: for the Cronenbergs,

Max Renn: Glenn Howerton
Johnny Smith: Ryan Gosling
Seth Brundle: Adam Driver
Beverly and Elliot Mantle: Fassbender would be great

Calvin Law said...

Saw Thoroughbreds, really liked it, especially the score and characters. It will probably sit quite well with me.

Joy: 4
Cooke: 4.5
Yelchin: 4
Sparks: 3

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the screenplays of In Bruges, Pulp Fiction and The Social Network.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Calvin: I'm surprised you didn't give Taylor-Joy a 5, because she's far an ahead my favorite performance of the year so far.

Calvin Law said...

Robert: all three performers could go up considerably. I personally thought that Cooke stood out most to me, but honestly it's a great ensemble.

Bryan L said...

Calvin: Good choices. I think Benedict Cumberbatch might also work for the Mantle twins.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Could Haley Joel Osment go up for The Sixth Sense and Charles Laughton for Witness For The Prosecution.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top 20 movies with the best black-and-white cinematography.

Omar Franini said...

Louis: your ratings for the cast of A Quiet Place?

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: What's your ratings and thoughts on Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson in The Other Guys?

Mitchell Murray said...

Anyone have any thoughts on the True Crimes trailer with Jim Carrey? I for one am intrigued just for him alone.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed & Anonymous:

Let me get those on the next post's comment section.

Luke:

Probably not.

Omar:

Blunt 4, the rest 3.5.

Matt:

Jackson & Johnson - 3.5(Both essentially give a purity of them at their most "The Rock"/badass Jacksoniest. In that they are in their most stereotypical form and rather amusingly so. This is particularly true for their absolutely hilarious final moments just due to the sheer conviction of their performance in this particular way especially the delivery of "Aim for the bushes".)

Bryan:

Call Me By Your Name 1980's directed by Stephen Frears:

Elio: River Phoenix
Oliver: Rupert Everett
Mr. Perlman: F. Murray Abraham

Call Me by Your Name 1990's Directed by James Ivory:

Elio: Leonardo DiCaprio
Oliver: Billy Crudup
Mr. Perlman: Saul Rubinek

I, Tonya 1980's directed by Martin Scorsese:

Tonya Harding: Jennifer Jason Leigh
Jeff Gillooly: Ray Liotta
LaVona Golden: Elizabeth Taylor
Shawn Eckhart: Wayne Knight

I, Tonya 1990's directed by Paul Thomas Anderson:

Tonya Harding: Gwyneth Paltrow
Jeff Gillooly: Nicolas Cage
LaVona Golden: Blythe Danner
Shawn Eckhart: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Max Renn: Jimmi Simpson (Keeping with the always sunny flare)
Johnny Smith: Ethan Hawke
Seth Brundle: Yeah Driver
The Mantles: Yeah Fassbender

Anonymous:

40's:

Toby Howard: Kirk Douglas
Tanner Howard: Burt Lancaster
Marcus Hamilton: Harry Carey
Alberto Parker: Ralph Moody

50's:

Toby Howard: William Holden
Tanner Howard: Robert Mitchum
Marcus Hamilton: Clark Gable
Alberto Parker: J. Carrol Naish