Thursday, 30 August 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1975

And the Nominees Were Not:

Maxim Munzuk in Dersu Uzala

Richard Dreyfuss in Inserts

Charles Bronson in Hard Times

Robert Mitchum in Farewell, My Lovely 

Ugo Tognazzi in My Friends

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Alternate Best Actor and Supporting Actor 1948: Results

5. John Garfield in Force of Evil - Garfield gives one of his better performances in his nearly uncompromising portrayal of a sleazy lawyer. 

Best Scene: Falling from comfort.
4. Rex Harrison in Unfaithfully Yours - Harrison gives an appropriately entertaining and irreverent portrayal of a romantic falling into madness.

Best Scene: Failing to murder.
3. Ray Milland in The Big Clock - Milland gives a terrific wrong man performance that is particularly effective in realizing the film's tricky tone throughout.

Best Scene: Confrontation.
2. Robert Donat in The Winslow Boy - Donat delivers on the promise of playing a barrister, by delivering a powerful portrayal of a man capable of weaponizing his passions.

Best Scene: Interrogating the boy.
1. Takashi Shimura in Drunken Angel - Good Predictions Anonymous, Robert, Bryan and RatedRStar. Shimura gives one of his greatest turns against type, before he had his type, in delivering the mess of  man that covers the noble spirit of the titular angel.

Best Scene: Pondering the Yakuza.
Updated Overall

Updated Supporting Overall 

Next Year: 1975 Lead

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1948: Rex Harrison in Unfaithfully Yours

Rex Harrison did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sir Alfred de Carter in Unfaithfully Yours.

Unfaithfully Yours is a rather enjoyable dark comedy about a famed conductor plotting revenge against his wife after receiving evidence of potential infidelity.

Rex Harrison once again is featured in a review of mine, and I ponder again on the actor. As this is again a successful performance of his, and I think about in comparison to his less successful work. There almost seems a requirement for some element for Harrison to disregard the material at least to an extent, as wholly earnest doesn't quite seem to suit his presence. This is helped naturally by being in a film written/directed by Preston Sturges who never minded putting his tongue firmly into his cheek. We are granted this quite quickly in the film's presentation of the married couple and their entourage. We have at the center Harrison's conductor Sir Alfred de Carter along with his perhaps excessively devoted wife Daphne de Carter (Linda Darnell). These scenes are purposefully overdone with showing just how much the two love each other, and technically here we fall upon a more earnest side. Not quite though. Harrison actually excels by getting to overdo the charm, and debonair style a bit to just lay on a bit thick with just how romantically charged the two are together. It isn't this great love affair or chemistry in normal screen terms, but rather works as this more nearly artificial creation to purposefully make any change in it a earth shattering event for the couple. That earth shattering event that is obviously to be on the way shortly in order to grant that titular unfaithfulness.

Now on a brief note we do have other scenes with Struges's sprite dialogue as Sir Alfred goes about his day outside of his loving moments with his wife. Harrison's idiosyncratic proper voice being a perfect fit for the wry style of Struges. Of course that more wry style slowly develops once the idea of the unfaithfulness is seeded. This is through a series of unfortunate mix ups, aren't they all, to convince Sir Alfred that his wife has betrayed their marriage.  Once we are granted this setup is when Harrison's performance fully takes off, though he is certainly entertaining up to that point. In fact this right within the conducting scene where Sir Alfred is left to ponder what he is learned through a series of orchestral pieces. Harrison's modes of conducting are worth mention in their, not so much for specific technique but rather the emotional context he grants each piece. In each we are granted both the entrance into his thought process, and the result of it. Harrison manages to do this both in terms of actually fulfilling a bit of dramatic intention, and the more expected comedic approach. The dramatic is in simple moments yet Harrison is quite effective in creating it in his conducting reactions such a sense of somberness within the mood that develops his initial wish for understanding of his situation, but also one potential avenue for resolving it.

That is perhaps the better side of Sir Alfred, which Harrison handles well, but really what plays to the actor's strength is when it takes a bit of a darker turn. This being announced as he begins to conduct at a more aggressive tempo and Harrison reveals a beautiful sort of madness in his face fitting to a man who has lost all sense of propriety. This is shown through the darkest bit of comedy when Sir Alfred imagines one of his options being to murder his wife then frame her presumed lover for the murder. This technically could easily slant in the wrong direction however it works through Harrison's performance which brings the right intensity, but also the right lack of sincerity in his performance. In that, even as Harrison plays up the derangement of Sir Alfred as he unleashes his plan with his brilliantly maniacal expressions, he twists it towards an absurd level that properly makes the sequence funny rather than disturbing. Harrison's great because he plays it as this grandiose villain rather than a genuinely demented husband keeping the tone from ever become too unwieldy. This is the basis for the entire strength of his work which Harrison handles so well by never letting things really get too serious, except when we see Sir Alfred's better solutions.

In those moments Harrison brings a more genuine sincerity, now seemingly earned by his burdens, that offers enough of an emotional honestly to his situation. Of course those are just respites to the fun of his performance which is through the foolishness of Sir Alfred's thoughts. As he not contemplates murder, but also suicide. Again another scene where Harrison's daffy take is what makes work allowing the moment, as Sir Alfred plays Russian roulette, to be appropriately silly rather than harrowing. My favorite part of his performance actually comes in the finale of sorts as Sir Alfred, after his performance as conductor, chooses the path of murder. A potentially disturbing idea is made hilarious through Harrison's performance, which I especially love because he differentiates from his mad fantasy version. In this version Harrison is great by just being so awkward at every point. His physical work is great because he is neither realistic nor typical slapstick as one physical calamity after another befalls Sir Alfred as he attempts to put his plan into motion. Harrison is terrific by showing in every moment how utterly helpless he is to accomplish anything, and how pathetic he appears in every opportunity to be the perfect murderer. Harrison finds again the perfect tone for the moment as now he does bring a certain genuine quality but only in terms of his reactions of exasperation at his abject failure. Harrison embodies just a man wholly out of his element at every point making this planned murder absolutely delightful to observe. That is the entirety of this performance as Harrison excels in this role which plays certainly on his debonair charm, but more importantly a certain subversion of it that truly makes him shine as a performer. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1948: Takashi Shimura in Drunken Angel

Takashi Shimura did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Doctor Sanada in Drunken Angel.

Drunken Angel is a notable turning point within Akira Kurosawa's career as he continued to move past the burdens of propaganda era Japanese cinema, though still within U.S. military censorship, beginning to achieve his international notoriety, but most of all just becoming all the more remarkable as a filmmaker. An asset towards this was of course within his discovery of Toshiro Mifune as the tuberculosis ridden gangster Matsunaga, but also within the expanded use of his even longer time collaborator Takashi Shimura. Shimura is actually the true lead, or the very least the titular lead. This is a very interesting performance from Shimura, particularly in regards to his work with Kurosawa, as it is not only one of the times he seems to play a character who isn't seen as an older man, but also is one of those against type performances before his type was realized. Shimura is allowed to actually play his age, being one of those actors who always seemed to play characters at least a decade older than himself, but also the role is far from the stoic mentors he become known for particularly in Stray Dog just one year later and Seven Samurai.

Now Shimura does play the part as the more morally righteous figure against Mifune, which was typically their dynamic pre-1960's. The role of Doctor Sanada though is not played by Shimura as a quietly earnest stoic sort. He is, after all the titular character, the "Drunken Angel", obviously a good man but also...a drunk. Shimura doesn't at all conduct himself as the "hero" even in the opening scene where we see him treating Mifune's gangster's bullet wound. Sanada purposefully makes it a painful operation while openly boasting about planning on overcharging. Shimura delivers this in turn portrays a complete lack of empathy in this initial moment, as he wraps every glance and delivers with a clear disgust. Shimura reacts not so much in a personal way, rather his demeanor illustrates a man viewing this gangster as he views any other lowlife. Shimura portrays this as a man having no waste of sympathy even creating a very real intensity in his eyes as he looks as his patient writhing in pain that he is inflicting. This isn't even lost by Shimura as Sanada pesters the man over a cough that may be tuberculosis. Shimura delivers this with mocking, though not overly so, tone again reinforcing the man irritability towards such wasteful men.

The opening scene reveals a darker side in Shimura's performance, however he does reveal the titular angel while Sanada gives Matsunaga a TB exam. Once Sanada discovers that the man may have the deadly disease, Shimura subtly pulls back on the disgust to develop the right hint of sympathy given the severity of the situation. Although Shimura does not wholly open up, he is particularly effective in his approach by so quietly assuming just the right hints of concern in his eyes, and even in his softer delivery while still speaking words mostly dismissive of the gangster. Shimura naturally reveals the good heart that defines Sanada, however this first scene is not an outlier in terms of portraying this rougher side of the character. Shimura, even as Sanada is on a theoretically positive duty to inform the gangster of his condition, portrays essentially this struggle between the man's virtues and his vices. Shimura is fascinating to watch here as his performance is so physically expressive, arguably more so than Mifune in this film which is saying something, and he thrives in this approach.

Now to be fair Shimura is always an expressive actor however this is usually honed within his face, although there's that of course which I'll get to, he is remarkable in his depiction of Sanada as this sous. Shimura doesn't hold back in this regard showing an absolute lust in his moments of drink as a man who is wholly desperate in this act as a severe addiction. Shimura even develops the man's physical stature as this weakly in how he shows that Sanada is indeed menaced by Matsunaga's violent outbursts. Although he doesn't show a man who truly cowers as he brings still such a palatable resilience in his delivery in these moments, however he doesn't hide the physical weakness of the man that reveals a genuine fear, if even mostly from instinct. The weaknesses of the man do not come from interaction with the troublesome individuals that live in his slum. Shimura delivers the difficulty of the man's experience at every point as this contradiction. There's wonderful slight moment early on as he looks for Matsunaga explaining he is the type of guy women go for. Shimura's whole manner is that of a defeated man, and even in his sardonic line of how women should prefer him, there is real pathos in Shimura's eyes that allude to perhaps more honestly within that sentiment than he would care to admit.

Sanada as a character, in turn is the noble sort in nearly all of his actions but no in attitude. Again Shimura is excellent in the way he brings to life this angle defined by his demons. His interactions rather with Mifune are great throughout the film, and very different from their typical dynamic. In this one when Mifune barks, Shimura barks right back at him which is rather remarkable. Shimura expresses so well Sanada not as a man who calmly informs people to do the right thing, rather demands it. Shimura again delivers this intensity of a man nearly broken by his circumstances whose outrage goes beyond a single case such as Matsunaga, but rather is screaming towards everyone who has failed to make use of his good will. This is in stark contrast to the few, yet important, moments where we see Sanada with another one of his TB patients who is actually listening to his orders for recovery. In these moments Shimura reveals such a quiet and quiet powerful realization of the sheer warmth within the man when it isn't hidden by his anger. An anger that Shimura reveals perhaps even deeper than at society but also perhaps against his own problems. Shimura never hides the pathetic nature of his character, even as he does unquestionable good.

The crux of the film comes as Matsunaga attempts reformation by trying to take on a former gang boss of the neighborhood, while also dying from his TB. Meanwhile Sanada only keeps his attempt to save the man essentially by yelling him into submission, while also dealing with the gang boss who is looking for his old girlfriend who happens to be the doctors assistant. Shimura effectively presents Sanada as a constant in these scenes showing that the man doesn't change his approach even when threatened with death. Matsunaga is instead the one to take action that leads to his death, though also does lead to the imprisonment of the gang boss once again. This leaves a final scene for Shimura which is one of the best of his career. It is an amazing scene as he keeps on bringing Sanada's temper into the moment, though calmed a bit, as he espouses his hatred of the way and waste of the Yakuza gangsters. His voice is disparaging, yet Shimura in that expressive face of his reveals the very real heartbreak in Sanada over the loss of his patient that delivers this final poignancy on his relationship with the gangster. Shimura delivers a great performance here as he finds essentially the diamond in the rough, not as a hero in a slum, but rather the kindness within a wretched man.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1948: Robert Donat in The Winslow Boy

Robert Donat did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sir Robert Morton in The Winslow Boy.

The Winslow Boy is another, as to be expected it seems, assured and compelling stage adaptation by Anthony Asquith, this time about the case of a boy being expelled from a naval academy that slowly snowballs to become a matter of national importance in England.

Playing a barrister or a lawyer seems like a type of role that an actor will play at least sometime in their life, or perhaps they should given the nature of the profession. That of a showman in a certain sense, though with that with a specific intention that isn't entertainment but rather persuasion. This grants a performer a unique challenge, but also opportunity to essentially create a method of their own to fulfill this unique need. It is then with much appreciation that I find the underrated Robert Donat in such a role. Robert Donat enters into the film near the middle point of the film as the boy's father Arthur Winslow (Cedric Hardwicke) continues to seek justice for his son who was expelled from a naval academy for an alleged theft despite receiving no trail whatsoever, despite so many being against with his main support coming from his free spirited feminist daughter Catherine (Margaret Leighton). Sir Robert initially appears as just a potential barrister, who may not even have much of an interest in the case as he seems more concerned with his upcoming dinner appointment as he arrives to meet the family. Donat is particularly good at seeming indifferent with a certain calm that is so very suitable to that the sincere face of his. Donat presents a man though especially calm in this state which will soon mean far more than indifference as it can initially be misinterpreted as.

Before Sir Robert leaves, he interrogates the boy himself though in the manner of the prosecutor rather than the boy's prospective defense. Donat is mesmerizing in the scene as he plays it as essentially Sir Robert switching onto barrister mode. Donat is fantastic as he commands every moment with his still gentle in terms of his accent, yet now fierce in his pointed delivery, as Sir Robert goes about weeding the truth out of the situation. Donat's method of intensity is particularly effective as he brings so much ease within it yet with such palatable determination as well. There is overarching calm command in his demeanor as he makes it wholly convincing that he not only "breaks" the boy as he does, but also manages to grasp the situation through his approach. My favorite moment of this though is perhaps when Sir Robert is finished, and instantly switches back to the seemingly disinterested tardy diner. In this Donat reveals his approach within the part which is to play Sir Robert as a man who very much reserves his energy only to what it is absolutely pivotal to do so, while the rest of the time presenting the man of a strict ease and grace. This is not to say either are static though, however this setup is rather effective for Donat in terms of developing the personal power of the barrister.

Sir Robert out of court Donat does not show as someone you ignore still rather actually reveals his own persuasive ability even within this state. Donat in his calm delivery though finds its own incisiveness however he realizes this through a very dry wit. What's so wonderful in these moments is how presents the way Sir Robert is not phased in these moments. Donat's manner captures this inherent power through this as exudes the presence of man so assured within himself, and his own ability that he need not "show off". This makes it most dynamic then when we do so a more overt expression from Donat's performance. This is of course in the courtroom scenes where Donat delivers the more direct passion as you'd expect, with the right persuasive flavor within the appropriate potency in every word. Again Donat doesn't exactly break in either rather nearly weaponizes the character's emotions in a way, by essentially revealing the more direct emotion only when it is most useful. My favorite moment within this idea through Donat's performance actually comes not in grandiose speech, but rather a single gesture. That being when parliament speaks against giving the Winslow boy a proper trial by stating public safety should overcome individual rights. Donat says nothing, only closes a book, yet his reaction captures in a moment the severity of Sir Robert's conviction, and you can feel the outrage in the man even without muttering a single phrase.

Donat creates such a dynamic force in the film, and enlivens every scene through his captivating turn. Although Sir Robert doesn't have a major arc, Donat also excels in the bit we are granted of one. This largely being his own investment into the case, which is more obvious in the courtroom scenes, however Donat also has some wonderfully low key moments as he projects a growing empathy in the man's eyes as he explains his ongoing support of their endeavor. This is just a light touch, yet just another facet that Donat so effortlessly realizes in his performance. Donat's performance absolutely amplifies the material at every turn even when the material itself is perhaps imperfect. This comes in the final scene of the film where it attempts to insinuate a possible romance between the daughter Catherine and Sir Robert. An unneeded scene perhaps, however I can almost forgive it for how well it is executed by Donat and Leighton. The moment being that of playful banter as Catherine comments how little Sir Robert knows women when asking if she has dropped her feminist endeavors, to which Robert counters how little she knows men when she doubts the two will ever see each other again. Donat's delivery of the line is again filled with such a cool wit, but also his reaction is downright swoon worthy to be honest with the charm he infuses into the moment. It's a great moment due to Donat's performance, which is representation of the work he delivers in this film giving one of his best performances by never wasting an instance of potential within the part.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1948: Ray Milland in The Big Clock

Ray Milland did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying George Stroud in The Big Clock.

The Big Clock is a rather off-beat thriller, though effective, about a man finding himself accidentally the target of a murder investigation that he is also helping lead.

This film was later re-made as No Way Out, with Kevin Costner as the "wrong man", where that film was an overt thriller this film is not. It's actual a rather curious film that examines corporate politics of a magazine as much as it follows the murder plot. Our wrong man, George Stroud is very different from say the wrong man Milland played earlier in Ministry of Fear. Milland plays a man whose not on the run, but rather finds himself stuck within the claustrophobia of an ever shrinking sky scraper. The initial scenes of the film are of a man who isn't in any particular dismay except his inability to choose his family over his work first. Milland grants his typical charm to the role which as usual has a certain ease about it. This is particularly effective in this role as he makes Stroud not overly concerned in any point in the early scenes. He rather paint a man who haplessly falls into the thriller by simply not giving up on the connections of his job. Again Milland presents this with no malice or an exact callousness. He rather presents more as a carelessness of a man as his reaction illustrate a man who is trying to keep his job almost in spite of himself. Milland manages to capture this certain hypocrisy well by making it more of a lower key societal constriction more than anything else.

Stroud becomes entrapped within the plot so to speak by attempting collusion with the mistress of his boss Janoth (Charles Laughton). This technically could be a more overtly morally questionable element, however Milland realizes this interest well as more of a mild curiosity than real passion on his part. He brings just enough of a glint of real duplicity in his eyes to create the notion of his motivation, but only a glint to still keep Stroud as a generally decent man. His brief encounter with the mistress though leaves him to be the fall man for Janoth, well really Janoth's right hand man's, plan to cover Janoth's murder of his mistress. The fall man though is unknown to everyone except Stroud with Janoth trying to figure out the mysterious fall man, who he saw leaving his mistress's apartment, by having Stroud himself investigate the clues internally in the company. Well with that complex plot ready, and a murder having occurred you'd think the film would kick into a high gear. Well not so much as the film makes it far more a comedy of errors, despite that murder, than the thriller you'd expect. The comedy of errors is found through the strange personalities connected to the company, but also with Stroud bizarre position as trying to find the real murderer while leading the false investigation to find himself.

Milland's performance is key to realizing this strange situation, and to make it work within the film without leading the tone to become too unwieldy. Milland's low key approach from the start aids this greatly as he makes it feel natural that Stroud wouldn't be more upset by the situation by making it the genuine type of person he is. Now Milland does create the right internalized tension however he limits it. He off-sets this instead by bringing a certain glibness in his reactions and deliveries that allude so well to the man's situation that is darkly comical. Milland plays with that idea well by showing that strange effort in his moments of the investigation of a man's whose heart isn't quite in it against trying to find the real killer where he paints a stronger conviction. Milland most of all though becomes a mediator of sorts between the colorful people he comes across throughout the film. Milland's interactions creates the right grounding in each by portraying so well every moment of Stroud using the unique characters to help clue him towards his proper conclusion. Again Milland has just the right bit of fun in this in his reactions properly amplifying some of these strange sorts by showing a humorous yet honest reaction to them. The two interactions that defy this though are with his wife, and the real culprit and his collaborator. In these moments Milland grants the right urgency in his performance reflecting Stroud without being able to sort of distance himself through the tragic comedy of the situation otherwise. In the moments with his wife Milland conveys so well the unease of the situation and just the right hints of guilt of a man who was working against his wife's desires. With Laughton, and George Macready as the right hand man, Milland brings out much more the hero you'd expect from a story in his passionate though desperate manner in the final confrontation. This approach though works as a proper progression of Stroud as he uncovers the plot. This is very good leading turn by Milland, which is no surprise, as he effectively both subverts the nature of the role a bit, while also still fulfilling what is typically expected.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1948: John Garfield in Force of Evil

John Garfield did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Joe Morse in Force of Evil.

Force of Evil is a rather effective film noir that follows a corrupt lawyer and his descent into the criminal underworld.

Force of Evil is notable as a film noir as the protagonist is amorally bent from the opening of the film. He is not the wrong man who gets into a plot nor the sap who is corrupted by some other force. The character of Joe Morse rather is comfortable in his place as a lawyer for the equally corrupt men involved with the numbers racket. In this role is John Garfield, an actor who had a notable intensity for his period in particular however I personally don't feel he always utilized it properly. This is actually a performance that doesn't play into that idea, at least not in a more traditional way. Garfield isn't the angry young man he often played, but rather a cold calculating man. This is interesting to see, and honestly seems to play towards his strength as his performances often become rather unwieldy when he goes for a more overt intensity. He still has an intensity here to be sure however he rearranges it to be far more internalized which works for the nature of Joe Morse's character. Garfield presents a man defined very much by his moral state which is almost in this certain separation from the moment.

Garfield's performance portrays a man essentially organized in this context of lacking nearly any concern for general decency, however not actively sadistic in this sense. Garfield offers this smooth delivery of a man very much presenting himself as this proper slick lawyer however this is subverted through the context of his work which is typically duplicitous in some way. Although distant this approach is actually rather effective in creating the sense of the style of Joe Morse's character and how he thrives within the underworld. He portrays this exact manner of his conviction in his dealing with the other nasty men of the other world. This is through the calm that Garfield brings along without an exact overt emotion in these interactions. He instead consistently emphasizes Joe's ability to detach himself from the dirty work of it all, and more of treat as though it is merely what is his duty as a lawyer should be. This could be alienating potentially however the approach works for the role particularly in terms of establishing what will be his arc throughout the film, which is strictly connected to his brother Leo (Thomas Gomez).

The relationship with his brother is central to the film overall as it is where the sense of any morality lies. This in itself is a bit more complex than one might expect given that Leo is also in the same world though as a smaller time crook in the underworld. Leo even in his more obviously criminal position is in a sense the conscience as he pushes back against Joe's methods that pull both deeper in. Garfield is very good in his interactions with Gomez though by delivering the right nuance within Joe's cold facade. In these moments Garfield doesn't break his overarching calm approach, but does grant tiny hints in his reactions towards him suggesting just the faintest hint of a struggle in Joe as Leo challenges him. This slightly other side is also shown within his relationship with one of Leo's secretaries Doris. Again Garfield does not fall onto any habits of his other performances to portray this keeping his performance true to the cold man Joe is for the most part. He again though just ever so slightly eases away that cold demeanor to reveal just hints of charm, and a more outgoing spirit. Again what is notable about it is how consistent Garfield is. He shows enough to hint the potential for change, yet still keeps the character firmly within his personal manner defined by amorality overall. The ending actually doesn't take Joe as far from this as one might expect for a noir, which were required to be moralizing in some way. The situations again push Joe out of his comfort yet Garfield does not depict an extreme change. This approach does work though in again keeping a more understated reactions towards the upheaval around him. He shows a loss of a bit of the calm, yet still shows the man's attempt to hold control as consistent even as his plans falls apart around him. This is a good performance by Garfield as he avoids the typical pitfalls of his performances, while still utilizing his talents to deliver an atypical yet intriguing protagonist to lead this noir.