Saturday, 28 July 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1948

And the Nominees Were Not:

Takashi Shimura in Drunken Angel

Rex Harrison in Unfaithfully Yours

Ray Milland in The Big Clock

Robert Donat in The Winslow Boy

John Garfield in Force of Evil

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Alternate Best Actor and Supporting Actor 1938: Results

5. Claude Rains in White Banners - Rains gives a properly dignified and endearing turn if in a rather limited role.

Best Scene: Finding out the truth. 
4. Erich von Stroheim in Les Disparus de Saint-Agil - von Stroheim has fun playing around with his usual menacing presence to be a rather memorable part of the film's mystery.

Best Scene: Joining the investigation.
3. Charles Laughton in Sidewalks of London - Aside from his accent to an extent, Laughton gives a properly charming yet moving portrayal of a street entertainer.

Best Scene: Final performance.
2. Raimu in The Baker's Wife - Raimu gives a moving portrayal of the slow breakdown of a man by revealing the real pathos behind the humor of his simple baker and his predicament.

Best Scene: suicide attempt
1. Jean Gabin in Port of Shadows - Good predictions Michael McCarthy and Luke. Gabin delivers yet another great performance this time as a rather modest yet charming man who slowly comes out of his shell while also getting lost into a dark web of deceit.

Best Scene: Violent outburst.
Updated Overall

Updated Supporting Overall 

Next Year: 1948 Lead, I'd appreciate any supporting suggestions as well.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1938: Erich von Stroheim in Les Disparus de Saint-Agil

Erich von Stroheim did receive Oscar nomination for portraying Walter, the English teacher in Les Disparus de Saint-Agil.

I rather enjoyed Les Disparus de Saint-Agil for the strange coming of age mystery (?) that it is, about a boys school where some strange disappearances begin to occur.

Spoiler Alert, as I write about the best known actor among the supporting cast of a mystery. That usually means only one thing, well that seems to be the point in this case. Actor/director Erich von Stroheim didn't always play the villain, however he does carry a natural striking presence that is also more than a little menacing. This is merely a side effect though rather than a strict intention. This makes him perfectly cast here as Walter the English teacher of the boys school who everyone views as a little scary. von Stroheim's approach in this really is perfect by not trying in a certain sense. Of course he tries but von Stroheim rather delivers just that ease of menace that naturally comes from his presence without really adding much on top of it. The one notable thing he does is to avoid diminishing it, but also not amplifying it either. He rather establishes this natural state of Walter as this very calm and demure individual. He speaks with a quiet yet direct and assured manner. He walks as a man who is essentially a loner, in his very small and very internalized method of moving. von Stroheim presents a man who is not trying to bring attention to himself, however through that brings attention to himself as this overly insular man. There is an early moment that represents this so well where Walter asks the kids essentially if they think he is scary, which von Stroheim delivers beautifully as there is both a solemn hollowness in his manner yet an earnestness deep within it all the same as a man who doesn't want to be seen as scary.

The character of Walter the English teacher for most of the film is quite the red herring which is played up so well by von Stroheim. Again how von Stroheim plays it though is essential in this by carrying that casual unintentional menace. This is through his way of playing every weird action of the man as though he is unable to be anything but a little creepy. I love that von Stroheim doesn't create any false moments just to mislead you in the mystery, but rather makes it this accidental frustration. In the end von Stroheim reveals the truth by so consistently presenting the man as he is, and as this genuine person even if the genuine man always looks a little suspicious. Eventually though suspicious are lifted from him as he ends up helping one of the young rebellious boys trying to solve the mystery. This portion of the film is sadly a little rushed, typical to so many films from the period that want to keep their running time short. Thankfully we do get a bit of it and von Stroheim is rather entertaining as he is tries to go along with the boy. What is entertaining about this is actually von Stroheim once again sticking to the consistency of the character through his performance. von Stroheim still performs him in the same way, which works as both once again reinforcing that the man was honest the whole time, but also makes it a little funny to see Walter become a bit of a Sherlock Holmes of sorts along with the boy. Sadly this does not last nearly long enough. It is however enough to make the final scenes of the film, where a few of the boys welcome Walter into their secret club, properly heartwarming particularly through von Stroheim whose expression still is consistent in his stoic manner yet still reflects a very subtle appreciation in the reserved man. Although I wish the film made a greater use of his work this is a fun little performance from Erich von Stroheim that makes such great use of his onscreen persona.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1938: Jean Gabin in Port of Shadows

Jean Gabin did not receive an Oscar nomination portraying Jean in Port of Shadows.

Port of Shadows is a rather effective early film noir following an army deserter who naturally finds himself in a world of deceit in a port city.

Well if one is speaking of actors with the most range of the period, one must speak the name of Jean Gabin within that context as well if one is speaking of early sound cinema. Gabin though is that notable, and always potent combination of the considerable actor, but also a proper star. The idea of his range is particularly well supported by his work in 1938 with this film and The Human Beast which share the similarity of a man being caught within a bad situation somewhat out of his control, yet very different within the characters in how that comes about. What is a most remarkable talent with a performer though also is even working within similarities there are key differences within the performances. Gabin is an actor with that talent here in that on the surface there are similarities, however the performances are properly dissimilar. This is seen from the outset as Gabin delivers a man of a wholly different burden in the opening scene. This is fascinating though just to watch Gabin play such subtle yet important differences, as his Jean hitches a ride with a truck driver. Gabin is burdened by a somber expression, however it is one that seems less to pertain to the man as his very being, but rather just the current state of his existence.

Gabin finds this balance within only his expression even of this sadness that essentially doesn't run too deep, as he reveals no pain within the man in terms of a truly burdened mental distress rather alluding to a more recent difficulty of his life. There is more within this though as Gabin delivers this natural soulfulness within his performance here that creates not only an inherent sympathy towards Jean as a character, but also so well alludes to the nature of the man even within his distressed state. This is as Gabin, even in this overarching somber state, doesn't portray even a hint of bitterness or hatred within his gaze. He presents a man well aware of his troubles, yet also not a man who seems to blame others for them. This is even further realized as Jean stops the truck driver, he's hitched a ride with, from hitting a stray dog, which leads the two to nearly come to blows. Now in the moment of the action, I love the unassuming morality that Gabin expresses, as the action is just of a man who simply has this need to do the right thing. When explaining his action Gabin delivers such an earnest conviction, yet so modestly within his delivery as again a man who just simply has to do that righteous act, yet in no way intends to boast of it.

That action though does lead to a near fight that Jean diffuses quickly in what is just a brilliant moment for Gabin, and the sheer unique magnetism he has in the role. Gabin again is very calm, very internalized in style as he plays it as Jean so calmly explaining that there is no reason to fight, while also asking for cigarette. Gabin is wholly convincing in this moment by bringing such an earnest goodness that he makes exude from the character through his meek expression, but also his wholly genuine while also unpretentious manner of speaking. Gabin uses this brief interaction to so successfully establish the nature of the man, that establishes Jean as such a congenial protagonist even within his current state. Jean moves on to become involved in a bit of the shadowy underground of the city merely by seeking refuge in the wrong place at a dive bar. Gabin in these moments is particularly interesting as this reactionary protagonist within the story, as he largely observes the others within the seedy world, however is never truly inactive. Gabin rather presents a man who essentially has come to be drawn within himself, which we see early as he expresses his hunger, while also noting his pride from having to do so earlier. Gabin in the moment presents so effectively this man who is burdened by his current situation, however most directly by his initial unwillingness to take the simple ways out of it.

Gabin realizes Jean as the soldier who had to desert long before we are given this information, by this natural reluctance in attitude of a man who has just escaped from something, which is currently defining his behavior however doesn't wholly define the man. Gabin portrays the state as purposefully thin, which we see more of as his place in the bar leads him to interacting with a low grade gangster Lucien (Pierre Brasseur), a wannabe runaway Nelly (Michele Morgan) and her creepy "protective" godfather Zabel (Michel Simon). In each of the interactions Gabin is able to allude to the state of mind of Jean where he essentially speaks and acts in a certain way as is fitting to his position. Within the interactions with the two men there is an initial lack of concern that Gabin presents through this exasperation fitting to a man on a run, who intends to run more by taking a ship to Venezuela. In turn these interactions Gabin delivers a lack of concern in both his blunt delivery in his less flattering attitudes towards them, but also in a certain indifference to their responses realizing a man who believes he will be gone from his current situation soon. The relationship with Nelly is quite different though where we technically we should have traditionally charming Gabin. Gabin to fall upon that type of charm though would be ill-fitting for the character, yet Gabin still realizes his usual charisma however in a way that is proper to the deserter Jean. When he initially speaks to her, he does so somewhat callously of a man who again is on his way out, however Gabin presents this as a facade in regards towards Nelly as even in his most negative statements Gabin grants an undercurrent of the disingenuous. He plays it in that moment of the charm naturally coming out, as he shows so effectively Jean's immediate infatuation with her, even as the man feels he should be the "bitter ex-soldier" in the current moment.

Gabin uses this so well to grant an impact through the romance by quietly bringing a more overt charm and warmth within his performance. What is key though is he evokes this from the first interaction, and makes it a gradually growing revelation of what was already there. Gabin never just becomes charming in say the Pepe Le Moko way, but rather stays true to the character by still handling this with a great degree of modesty that not only is fitting towards how he established Jean in the opening scene, but also fitting to the man in his somewhat desperate circumstances. Gabin reveals that as Jean opens up it is perhaps a better man in creating a moving romance with Morgan's Nellie, while still even in these moments alluding to that weight on the man's mind due to his circumstances. Gabin carefully opens up though in allowing that greater warmth, and creating the right poignancy within the interactions between the two. Interactions that become more difficult through increasing suspicions of others particularly her godfather, which eventually leads to a confrontation. The confrontation that is a great scene by Gabin even as he reveals a more outgoing individual than the careful soldier of the opening of the film, he still shows the same nature of the act as he does what he believes is the right thing, just as when he saved the dog. Gabin in the moment brings similar almost instinct like manner to the act though with a greater intensity fitting that Jean is removing a problem rather than saving a life. Gabin is able to portray the transformation well of the closed off soldier, to a still modest, but now loving man, while carefully maintaining that nature of the man, which defines Jean's story from the opening to the final scene. Gabin delivers his second great performance from 38 that also realizes a man who becomes lost in a dark web, however through his powerful performance creates an alternative path, and a different man who becomes almost accidentally lost into shadow.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1938: Charles Laughton in Sidewalks of London

Charles Laughton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Charles Staggers in Sidewalks of London.

Sidewalks of London though a little tonally wonky, such as where it briefly devolves into The Great Ziegfeld, is somewhat unique for its time in its focus on working class Londoners. Although interesting in that sense it never quite mines deeply enough in terms of broaching what should be the heart of the material.

The film is about two Londoners in specific one being a Liberty "Libby" (Vivien Leigh) a pickpocket, later performer, and Charles Staggers a London street performer. Charles Laughton's performance style, particularly for his era, was remarkable given his approach. Laughton was an earlier instance of an actor attempting a more chameleon style approach, though certainly distinctly Laughton as well. Laughton though was clearly never pigeonholed by a role playing an affable timid butler, a forceful yet emotional Javert, and a tyrannical Captain Blight all in the same year after all. This idea is again further explored here where he is playing a man of no great historical note, rather is just playing a man. A cockney busker who appears on the street with a grand, yet low class, recitation for a random crowd. Now aside his cockney accent, which is hardly Laughton's greatest affectation though it is easy enough to get use to as the film progresses, however he makes up for it with his physicality in his performance which delivers the man's background and really personal style so effectively.

Laughton's approach on the whole finds the whole of the street style just in the openness of his physical movement. Whether this is just the way he bends his head, or even rubbing his nose is naturally not of a lord. It goes further than that though to realize the style of the man who mostly eases his way through life, at least that is what appears on the surface. This is further emphasized by Laughton when as a busker he compares himself to none other than John Gielgud in his recitation ability. The actual moment of performance is a bit of brilliance by Laughton as it is a bit of atypical charisma as he makes Charles more than sufficiently entertaining in the moment however in a rather specific way. There is something so wonderfully unassuming about the performance as Laughton delivers with such gusto the monologue as a man who just finds just a joy in the performance itself. Within that unassuming quality though Laughton also very realizes the somewhat haphazard, even if frequently recited, act very much fitting to a man of his ilk, as the energy Laughton brings is not only endearing but also somewhat wild natural to a man essentially improvising, not so much the words, rather the action itself.

The film shifts towards its intent when the street smart Charles spots the pickpocket Libby prying her trade rather literally, and confronts her over the matter. It is as Libby pleads her case, mostly over the pains of existence, where Laughton grants a different side to Charles that is rather well put. Charles does not try to hide any facts yet bluntly returns the difficulty of life, and Laughton in his delivery of this is strictly without sentiment. Laughton in the moment doesn't reveal that the performance as the busker is wholly an act, but very much the surface to the much more earthly man within. Laughton is brilliant in this moment by shedding any false bravado in his blunt approach to the words, and in his face so effectively revealing a man who has had a difficult life. There is an inspiration though in this through the calm that Laughton exudes showing that while Charles is aware of life burdens he is prepared to face them. After this Libby and Charles live together ostensibly as co-dependents in their pursuits towards the theater. Laughton carefully though alludes to the truth, while allowing the miscommunication in a sense by delivering so well again that charisma though with a certain timidness within it. For example when mentioning his age there is such a cheerfulness in creating the conversation, however a definite vulnerability Laughton brings when reinforcing that Charles is 39, not forty.

There is a potential problem in the film that arises as Leigh and Laughton really don't have chemistry, evidently having a poor relationship while making the film, however in a way this doesn't wholly matter as Laughton portrays his side effectively as a difficult state of unrequited love. He portrays the interactions well with that friendly glee as Laughton presents Charles certainly trying to win her over, however without a clear revelation of affection for her beyond just friendship. This in turn naturally delivers the moment in which Charles does reveal his real love for her which Laughton presents so well as a moment of a particularly quiet and modest Charles. Laughton reveals the man just barely airing out the message being very much against his nature to do so, but so earnest in his delivery of that truth. She rejects him bluntly, and the film essentially fumbles around a bit as it follows her rise to stardom and Charles's fall into despair and jealousy. Now Laughton is again on point performance wise however the film never quite finds the right approach in terms of its focus within these scenes to illicit the power possible from at least the concept of the material. This in turn leaves Charles's switch, from a wreck to letting Libby go, rather rushed. Laughton at the very least delivers in each of these moments in first having the man almost wholly losing that joy, having just the faintest twinkle in his spirit, such as his slight performance while being arranged, that makes it all the more terrible of state. These moments are moving in parts due to Laughton, however never build to something wholly remarkable. When the moment comes of his choice Laughton again delivers in bringing back the old sprightly Charles, however it doesn't quite deliver the impact it should due to the shortcomings of the film. Even with that though this is another strong performance by Charles Laughton who amplifies the strengths of the film, and avoids the majority of its shortcomings with yet another unique characterization.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1938: Raimu in The Baker's Wife

Raimu did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Aimable, the baker in The Baker's Wife.

The Baker's Wife is an enjoyable film about the fallout of a small town when the town's baker's wife runs off with another man.

Raimu stands as one of the character's indirectly, though the actual wife of the baker is a rarely seen character given her disappearance relatively early on in the film. Raimu's performance here is a rather interesting one in that he is almost playing the part, initially, as what would be a side character within the film. Of course here he is the main character, or at the very least the core character within the film. Raimu though initially very much paints Aimable as the baker you are suppose to laugh at a little bit. This is not within playing too overtly, or without sympathy, but just granting his role this certain inherent joviality. Raimu exudes a natural energy of just a more simple man initially who is living out his life as he should be as this town baker, and with a cheerfulness towards his wife, even if she seems a touch disinterested in him. Raimu though colors the excitement with enough of this shade in his momentary reactions that suggest a certain underlying sensitivity towards this relationship, though he shows this seemingly to only encourage the character's overarching outgoing style that pushes the baker as the village's most happy man, though in a blissfully unaware sort to fashion.

That set up is pivotal within the film as Raimu makes the viewer like this baker well enough, even if he does encourage a little bit of laughing towards the man's own style though again in a rather low key fashion. Raimu's performance establishes the state of the man that he is going to essentially tear down through the rest of the film once it is discovered that his wife has run away. The switch is not immediate and this is where the power of Raimu's performance lies, even as the film's perspective frequently wavers from him towards the various townspeople reacting towards the situation. Raimu very much initially keeps that more positive energy in his work even as the baker reacts towards the news as well as some of the less encouraging words of the townspeople towards him. Raimu initially delivers these reactions though with enough of a humor in his surprise at becoming cuckold. He very much stays as that affable baker though Raimu even in his more joyful deliveries begins to exude more of that underlying desperation that alludes to a far less blissful state of ignorance than he partially suggests to be experiencing.

The story progresses actually closer to the larger scope of the fallout of the baker's wife departure than specifically the baker, given that he stops baking which effects the whole town. Although the film grants focuses to those various reactions, the through line though remains the baker's own connection to the loss, and his slowly fading mental state. Raimu's performance then brings upon this particularly potent emotional impact of the baker's predicament even as others somewhat glibly deal with it, and even the baker attempted to find some humor in the situation. When that fades Raimu's performance becomes a deeply moving exploration of the really depression within the baker. Raimu's work is particularly impactful in the way though is how he eschews that earlier joviality into this nearly grotesque state of the man who others still view as a joke, however the man is clearly deeply pained by the experienced. When some of the town's cruelty to persists the baker resorts to an attempted suicide. Raimu is honestly rather heartbreaking by so naturally realizing this point within the baker's horribly depressed state and showing to be the same kindly man we met in the opening. Of course this also makes his reprieve feel as natural as the baker decides to keep living in hopes of seeing his wife again, and the smallest glimpse of hope in Raimu's eyes as he speaks this desire poignantly refer to that greater joy from the opening scenes. Eventually the town does succeed in bringing back the wife, which leaves Raimu one final scene where the baker both must accept the return, but also deal with the idea of her betrayal of him. Raimu is fantastic in the scene though as it fully embodies the experience that has changed the baker. Raimu at no point simplifies it bringing out that singular joy though far more tempered in his rather blunt delivery of his more critical words towards his wife. Raimu though successfully portrays this moment as reconciliation, however as a reconciliation which doesn't bring things back to they were, but to a different point. Raimu in the end depicts a both the old and new baker, as he does now have a joyful spirit though a far more somber one that defines the man in his bittersweet end.