Monday, 14 October 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2001: Anthony Hopkins in Hearts in Atlantis

Anthony Hopkins did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ted Brautigan in Hearts in Atlantis. 

The very same year Hopkins returned to his best known role, to the general public, as the sinister cannibal Hannibal Lecter, in a somewhat absurd reprise (Note: I've seen parts of that film, enough to know that there's no reason to return to it), he played a complete 180 of that part both perhaps in terms of quality and of course the nature of the role here. Hopkins portrays Ted Brautigan the newly arrived border to the home of widowed mother Liz Garfield (Hope Davis) and her young son Bobby (Anton Yelchin). There's something fascinating about Hopkins, and a testament to his range, as just as much he set one so easily on edge with his performance, he can as easily set one at ease. The idea of the older man interacting with the young boy, must be carefully realized, and any second thoughts are immediately assuaged by Hopkins's performance. There is a wonderful lack of concern as the somewhat shabby Ted arrives as the new border, just introducing himself with the impeccable demeanor of a kindly old man. This isn't the terrifying serial killer so many had come to know him for, but rather there is that grace about him that creates a wholly different presence. Hopkins finding this seemingly with such ease and sets up immediately that Ted will be a welcome guest for the rest of the film. 

The essential element of the film though, and what really is unquestionably the strongest element of the film, is the relationship between Bobby and Ted. Again this being something already so naturally realized by how Hopkins approaches this part. This will a welcoming manner, a quietly assuring voice, even almost a slight shyness though a shyness that creates a sense of honest humanity to Ted. His first scene major scene with Yelchin is just about perfect, and like in Shadowlands, it shows that Hopkins is natural when it comes to working with as well as helping to bring out the best of child actors. Hopkins exudes just this incredible warmth that is just part of his being as Ted that is something so very remarkable. Everything Hopkins does assures this real interest Ted has in the young boy, just as a friend, while offering a bit of mentoring in his own way. This as Ted encourages Bobby to enjoy his library card, a technically cheap gift from his mother, through his own knowledge of literature. Hopkins manages to be inspiring without becoming sentimental in his honest yet eloquent delivery. This as he accentuates but never overplays it. It is of course helped as Ted throws in a fart joke Bobby is sure to enjoy. That moment even though is so sincerely performed by Hopkins, as this natural bit of jest and true affability, which realizes the beginning of the relationship so effectively. 

Given that this is a Stephen King adaptation, not named The Shawshank Redemption, there ought to be a bit of the supernatural. That is found within Ted who seems to have a bit more natural of a foresight than even a well educated elderly man should have. This something he initially passes off as just a bit of insight, however early on Ted notes to Bobby he will have increasing moments of distance that seems connected with his unique abilities. These moments of being lost are especially well performed as Hopkins portrays just as possibly being lost to dementia as being lost to a supernatural power. Hopkins grounds that aspect, as he does the entirety of the power, which I love that Hopkins doesn't overplay his hand in this regard. Hopkins, instead, rather brilliantly, wielding his known intensity in a rather unique way. Obviously we've seen Hopkins brandish this most overtly in roles like Hannibal or as Richard the Lionhearted, but here Hopkins adjusts it naturally within the part of Ted. Hopkins has the intensity however he internalizes within himself and through very quiet, yet oh so incisive delivery. This most notably when confronting a bully of Bobby, where Hopkins calmly commands the moment. Again he does so with a stare that pierces right through the boy, similar to Lecter, but not quite as the righteous disgust defines Hopkins's modest method here. 

As good as Hopkins is in those moments of the supernatural, it is the down to earth relationship between Bobby and Ted that is so special. This is honestly that even as the film struggles itself to create something overall, each scene between Hopkins and Yelchin stand on their own. This largely dependent on the performances. Hopkins so carefully approaching every scene, even the moment of telling Bobby about his eventual proper first kiss, he avoids making remotely creepy in the abundance of warmth and understanding in his eyes. Hopkins accentuates a man who above else cares to help and encourage. This in part showing this careful joy in his face that grants the sense of an appreciation for the moment of just human interaction that Ted enjoys so greatly. Honestly quite a few of the lines given to Hopkins could've gone very wrong with the scenario however Hopkins finds his way around each of them. He  gives a masterclass on line delivery really, as he knows exactly when to adds a bit of comical edge, a little silliness, a bit of inspiration or the most direct honesty to each scene. Although I do wish there was a little bit more of a film around Yelchin and Hopkins overall, what they do together elevates the threadbare narrative. This as I found myself caring very much for their relationship and specifically for the quite old man that is Hopkins's Ted. This leading to the more dramatic moments rather powerfully. One being Ted consistently asking Bobby to watch out for "low men" looking for him, which finally realizes itself when the men appear while the two are visiting the city together. I love how Hopkins approaches this moment, as he manages to show how scared Ted is of being caught in the moment, while still being reassuring to Bobby as he helps him think "away" the men. The same is true for when Ted helps treat Bobby's friend Carol, after she is attacked by the bully Ted and they earlier had the confrontation with. Hopkins is fantastic in the scene by being so reassuring in his tone, and manner. This is showing a man unquestionably of goodwill trying to help an innocent abused, as he talks her through and Bobby through the difficult situation. Anthony Hopkins succeeds in creating such vibrant portrait of the kindly old man, that avoids the cliche of the supernatural mentor by bringing just that earnest humanity in every aspect of the character. This is probably one of Hopkins's most low key performances, but with that I think he shows his considerable range by making it is also one of his best.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2001: Ian Holm in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Ian Holm did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Ian Holm's role in the original LOTR trilogy is technically an essential, though in a way minor role as technically the hero of the previous book to the trilogy. That of The Hobbit where Bilbo was front and center the whole time, despite what overblown adaptations will tell you. Ian Holm then has an interesting role here in that he really must tell you a story you haven't seen within his own work as Bilbo, at least when the film originally came out, well really we still didn't see it. Ian Holm was the protagonist of the previous story, in fact it seems just the right for the role of any lead hobbit, and it is no surprise that he had in fact played Frodo (here played by Elijah Wood) in the 1981 radio adaptation. Holm's casting in itself was something that was just right from the very outset. Of course even the best casting can occasionally disappoint, however that is most certainly not the case here. The richness of Holm's work really is evident from his early narration explaining the nature of hobbits in general. Holm delivers the words with real texture of appreciation and warmth in explaining the quaint life of the denizens of the Shire. This sentimentality though nicely balanced with an equally sincere irascibility as initially mistakes Gandalf (Ian McKellen) for another "well wisher" for Biblo's birthday party that essentially opens the film, as brushes off Gandalf befitting an elder man who doesn't like to suffer fools. Holm's initial work has this sort of wonderful balance between the bitter and the sweet.

This is as we see a rather endearing sense of joy in his greetings and interactions to the old friend of Gandalf. This giving a sense of their old adventure even though we don't see it beyond glimpse. This being even more evident as he regales the children with his conflict with some trolls that Holm illuminates with a proper zest of living the dreams of the youth. In this though Holm effectively realizes shades of darkness, and not just a slight grumpiness to unwelcome "friends". This in the moment of reflecting upon his age, even though he doesn't look it, Holm evokes both a melancholy of age but also a painful weight upon his existence. That weight of course being the one ring of power he has been using on and off since his journey in The Hobbit. This becoming more evident when Bilbo decides to leave the Shire to "retire", thought not before one final confrontation as Gandalf insists Bilbo leave the ring behind. Holm is fantastic in the scene and very much indicates towards the eventually much praised work of Andy Serkis as Gollum, the previous twisted owner of the ring by the ring. Holm is terrific in portraying this fixation, that is obviously weaker than it what we eventually see in Gollum, yet conveys well the obsession as an addiction. This in portraying his accusations towards Gandalf as a vicious irrational reaction of the moment. When snapped from this by Gandalf, Holm delivers such an honest moment of clarity in his poignant delivery of Bilbo plea for forgiveness. His greatest moment in the introductory section of the film though is actually a silent one, as he manages to leave the ring on the ground and walk out the door away from it. Holm brings for a moment this fierce frustration and angry in his face, before this moment of purging it himself to almost looking to his future. Holm makes it such natural moment, and essentially creates this humanity to this fantastical concept of the lure of the one ring. Holm makes a proper impression helping to establish the world of the film, but through textured character. His Bilbo not only grants sight of what the ring means, but we also get sense of who he is and really the nature of hobbits. There is also Bilbo's return later in the film, when Frodo and his group find refuge in the Elvish valley of Rivendell. There Bilbo finally seems his age, and there is a brief but special moment between he and Elijah Wood. There in just a brief reaction from Holm you see both a sense of acceptance, though not without a twinge of somberness in Holm's eyes, of his old age. We are also granted just the utmost tenderness in his reunion with Frodo evoking if for a few seconds the sense of the relationship of a surrogate father to his adopted son. Holm's final scene in the film coming shortly there after as he prepares Frodo for his adventure. A similar scene to his confrontation with Gandalf, though technically the most extreme moment of temptation is handled by a puppet, nonetheless Holm's expression of regret towards Frodo is heartbreaking as he conveys the intensity of this burden he's place upon his beloved nephew. Holm's character here is but a minor role in the scheme of the epic, yet alluding the strength of the film, he still leaves a striking impression.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2001: Justin Theroux in Mulholland Drive

Justin Theroux did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Adam Kesher in Mulholland Drive.

Mulholland Drive is a masterful film seemingly about a Hollywood hopeful trying to solve a mystery surrounding a woman with amnesia she befriends.

Justin Theroux runs parallel to that story, as a director also living in Hollywood, though certainly not the dream. Theroux is an actor I haven't covered before, however mentions in the past haven't been particularly favorable. Theroux however is in the hands of David Lynch, who knows his way around finding the right actor for a given part, and Theroux seems onto the right part here. Although I should for a moment drift the eventual reality of the film, where we see Theroux in the traditional role of a Hollywood director. He's fine, he's confident with an expected undercurrent of smugness. That's all there really is to him, in that nightmare, or truth, but it is the dream that is more fun, or more remarkable as Theroux is concerned. Although Theroux must meet the requisite need to be within the moment of Lynch's world. Although Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts in particular do more of the heavy lifting in this regard, Theroux does do his part in offering sort of the reality in the surreal. This in two pivotal moments, one meeting the very mysterious and seemingly otherworldly "the cowboy" and spotting Watts's Betty as he tests actresses out for the central role in his film. Theroux's work in each is effectively straight forward in granting the very real anxiety and fear to the strange man, and the needed awe to the greatness that seems to be Betty. As always with Lynch, this grounding is essential to the effectiveness of these moments and Theroux more than delivers in these scenes.

The main crux though of his work involves Theroux obviously breaking reality himself a bit for predicting, or perhaps inspiring the existence of J.J. Abrams, who at the time this film was mostly unknown having not yet adopting his existence as Adam Kesher. Perhaps call me illogical myself for presenting this theory, however it is the truth, and I think Abrams himself is trying to tell us all that with his consistent mention of his "mystery box" storytelling ways. What film also features a mystery box, well Mulholland Drive of course, coincidence, I'll let you, and any local municipal psychiatric workers decide that. I believe my theory though holds true within Theroux's portrayal of the director that is Adam within the "dream", where he's not exactly having the best of days. This is obviously reflective of J.J. Abrams own lauded career of doing often hollow recreations of other better films, in that we see Adam experiencing of well weathered scenes though as a person, though also a bit more twisted than usual. We have the director having his dreams of control of his project rejected by coffee snob gangsters, not unlike a visionary director who in fact simply lives within the whims of a preconceived vision of other true visionaries and corporate overloads. Theroux's performance though works in capturing this weak willed disobedience in the moment with his flustered delivery of his objections. This is even as he physically wrecks the car of the men, via stealing a technique from Jack Nicholson, Theroux's way of running away from his vandalism isn't of some passionate artist, but of a child trying to get away with his pettiness. Theroux's performance works as this hilarious, near parody, of this sort of false artistry. This is continued as he lives through another tired scene, given vibrant life through the Lynch madness, of the director coming home to find himself cuckolded by a mulleted dude bro. Again Theroux's performance works in how underwhelming he is in his attempted act of defiance as he tries to ruin his wife's jewelry. There's no confidence, no strength, just this pathetic and very comical manner of a very weak man. Theroux's performance working as proper overwhelmed fool, who in the end falls in line delivering the expected despite claims to the contrary.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2001: Hayden Christensen in Life as a House

Hayden Christensen did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a SAG and Golden Globe, for portraying an emo punk...I mean...Sam Monroe in Life as A House.

Life As A House follows an architect (Kevin Kline), as he tries to reconnect with his family and build a house before he dies from terminal cancer. I must say this film, while watching/-re-watching films from 2001 there are some interesting dated aspects to certain films that do scream early 2000's, despite many other films achieving a more timeless quality. This is not one of those latter films with its musical interludes in particular. The film itself treads difficult material, and does not achieve greatness hoped for in attempting an Ikiru style story. I will say though I wouldn't quite call it a failure either, and is better than other overly sentimental films from the year like the cinematic abomination that is I am Sam for example

Hayden Christensen's nominations for this film are slightly difficult to decipher given the film was not a critical nor a commercial success. I do ponder the "I got there" first mentality may have played a role, as though he had yet to debut as Anakin Skywalker, to some infamy, but at the time there was still quite the possibility that all would've turned out well. With that perhaps there was a desire to designate the "new star" early, a star that would never come as we all know how his work in the Star Wars films went. Now I've mentioned before that Christensen did eventually give a good performance in Shattered Glass, however in that film, he successfully played a man who we shouldn't believe a single word from. In that he succeeded at being phony, which isn't something to hand wave, the film also played into his weaknesses in a way. I'm going on about these other things, because really Christensen here isn't some revelation of a misspent talent, or of potential wasted talent. He's pretty much the Christensen we've all come to exist with in his middling, to be somewhat generous, talents.

Christensen is a bit of a bland performer with a stilted way of delivering lines. That doesn't make him ideal for troubled emotional teenager, though perhaps a little better off then future menacing warlord. This is to say that Christensen's work here is in a role that many a viewers will quickly dislike as we open with him moody and angry towards everyone without much explanation early on. Christensen has a hump there in that his vocal diction and voice just sound a little hollow, and doesn't suggest any truth. So when he starts whining, not only doesn't it create empathy, it also leaves him a bit overcooked all the same. Christensen when he starts yelling finally a bit of emotion does peer through his wall of seeming disinterest. In those moments he borders on being okay, just don't leave the scenes where he says "I don't like" because one has instant flash forward to lines about sand. I'm really being more sarcastic than I should be because this isn't a terrible performance, even as it exists with Christensen seemingly fighting with his own presence, which is he carries a certain anti-charisma typically.

Christensen does get better as the film goes on, as honestly Christensen does best when he's not speaking, not the best praise one can give an actor, but it is positive mind you. Christensen's reactionary moments to hearing his father's thoughts on his own father, and not all bad. In fact he at is within the scene, and manages to carry some reflective emotion well. It benefits him though that Sam's emo phase that would make Mason from Boyhood blush (okay probably not) ends half way through the film, and Christensen is allowed a more straight forward turn as a earnest teenager trying to help out his father. Here Christensen does better, if not extraordinary work by any means, in just portraying this growth as a lack of overt emotionalism. Unfortunately once Sam is told the truth of his father's diagnosis we have a return to that which is not Christensen's strong suit. Christensen's breakdown scene again teeters towards the overcooked as again acting emotional leads to a bit of a stilted mess. Having said that, his scenes of reflecting on a greater appreciation towards his father, which Sam express through finishing his father's house, is Christensen's best in the film. The unsaid sense of sorrow but love is well realized looking upon his dying father. This as we see a matured individual and a better performance, even if the whole ending of the film honestly feels a little  rushed. Perhaps too little too late to save this turn as the weaknesses of Christensen as a performer are evident, but so is some talent as well.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2001: Paul Bettany & Mark Addy in A Knight's Tale

Paul Bettany did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Geoffrey Chaucer nor did Mark Addy for portraying Roland in A Knight's Tale.

To A Knight's Tale benefit beyond Heath Ledger's charismatic leading turn, is having a wonderful ragtag crew to tag along the way. One of these being Mark Addy's Roland who is loyal to helping Ledger's William Thatcher take him, and his crew to the top in the jousting circuit. The underrated Mark Addy really is here to do some right proper character actor work, and make the most out of whatever he can bring. This in part just giving such a winning and charming turn. This with this natural warmth within his performance that brings such an appropriately assumed friendship within the group. Addy delivers just the right earnest quality in this even in the moments of disagreement, which he portrays with just this genuine concern and care. This also though with the right enthusiasm within seeing his "boy" succeed or at least attempt to do so. This is with at time almost being the sort of "coach" character to Thatcher advising him towards his jousting career. Addy is an expert at really the  digestible type of exposition, where every line no matter how obvious it may be to setting of scene, is given a bit more color thanks to Addy's always spirited delivery. He never just says anything, but adds a nice bit of character in Roland. Of course this is with the needed bit of just the approach of enough cynicism within that as a friend who isn't exactly 100 percent assured of his friend's plan.  This making it so he can underline any given a moment with a bit more than there would be otherwise by offering either a bit in Roland's concern whether it be in a loving way, or more of a friendly bit of doubt.

Paul Bettany is eventually part of the ragtag group as well, but with a bit more "prestige" playing the eventually famous Geoffrey Chaucer evidently in a less successful time as he is initially found nude trudging a foreign country side. This role seems ideal for Bettany as he appears here in really what is just a fun film, for an actor who, for this brief period, would be best known for his more prestigious work. This sort of dynamic one can perhaps be seen at all from Chaucer's clothes, or lack thereof, even as speaks of a man of the highest academic class. Bettany makes it rather abundantly clear from the outset he will be a wonderful delight in his manner as he walks with a seeming purpose, and dictates every line as though he is speaking words towards which will be eventually cherished by all of mankind. This of course while obviously being a man without a single piece of gold to his name. Bettany though brandishes himself with this style of the great writer nonetheless, and is effortlessly entertaining as he ingratiates himself in the crew, for his own financial well being, or at least a decent pair of clothes. This though is partially a front as we see as despite helping Thatcher get into a tourney he also in turn runs up a debt almost immediately. Here though Bettany though is effective in portraying the desperate modesty of the man. This he portrays particularly well with this timidness of a man who hates himself to be in this state of weakness.

Chaucer off course prefers to be a man in his element, and it is most enjoyable to have Bettany in his in portraying Chaucer as a grand orator to "sell" the greatness of William. This being an arc in itself as Chaucer essentially builds up his showmanship throughout the film. An early example in the fighting pits that Bettany delivers with a bit rougher manner, but still a proper sale. Though Addy must be given credit for stealing the moment in his delivery out the side of his mouth the "yeah" to get the crowd going. A moment that apparently was needed during filming to get the non-English speaking crowd of extras going, though the particulars are vague, either way Addy's delivery is nonetheless hilarious no matter the precise context. Before the joust though we get a bit grander bit from Bettany, as Chaucer rallies the commoners rather than the royalty to cheer for royalty. Bettany is terrific in his precise "rabble rousing" delivery as he explains the great "deeds" of William. Bettany is fantastic as a proper storyteller in his moment of raising the spirit of the crowd, but also going quiet to bring them in. Bettany sells the scene magnificently in a combination of a historical recitation and a professional wrestling promo. One shouldn't forget though Addy's reactions in the scene of partial befuddlement and exasperation at Chaucer's way with the "truth".

A lot of what makes this film work as an entertainment though is just being with the characters with Chaucer and Roland being two particularly delightful ones. Bettany often in his more bombastic redirection fitting to Chaucer as he tries to make William into a proper knight, and Addy consistently offering a bit more of a common and modest touch. A enjoyable example of this being his so sincere shyness when attempting to communicate with William's love interest's lady-in-waiting communicating a message. Addy though throughout doesn't waste a reaction shot, or a short line in just making Roland stand out as a funny yet loyal sidekick. Bettany on the other hand is very much there to "steal the show" as the showman that is Chaucer. This eventually climaxing in Chaucer's introduction for William in the final tournament, technically as a time diversion. Bettany lives up to the finale in his grandiose approach where he is soaking up every word both in his overjoyed exuberance at his own confidence but also with such a supreme passion for the man he's calling out. Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention Bettany's best scene that was left on the cutting room floor initially though restored in the director's cut. This where Chaucer defends William having been placed in the stockade for falsely claiming his status as nobility.  This is truly the highlight of Bettany's work as it is finally Chaucer without any pomp and circumstance to his speech. Bettany delivers it more quietly and with an even greater conviction. This with nearly an emotional breakdown in the moment as Bettany shows the man not selling something, but rather stating without exception an essential truth. It's a powerful moment, that should've been in the original cut. This is as it takes Bettany's work beyond that of just one of the best hype men you could ask for, and reveals this hope for the acceptance of the commoner. Both performances that I mention here are well worth praising with Addy making most of a fairly meager part, and Bettany not wasting a bit of the juicy role that is Geoffrey Chaucer.
(For Addy)
(For Bettany)

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2001

And the Nominees Were Not:

Paul Bettany in A Knight's Tale

Mark Addy in A Knight's Tale

Ian Holm in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


Justin Theroux in Mulholland Drive

Anthony Hopkins in Hearts in Atlantis

James Gandolfini in The Mexican 

Bettany for prediction purposes.

And a review of:
 

Hayden Christensen in Life As A House

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Results

5. Heath Ledger in A Knight's Tale - Ledger delivers a winning star turn that balances the tone of the film nicely through his charismatic turn.

Best Scene: Seeing his father.
4. Liu Ye in Lan Yu -Liu Ye delivers a moving portrayal of absolute honesty and vulnerability that works well in contrast to the primary protagonist's life of repression.

Best Scene: Pondering the pain of the relationship.
3. Anton Yelchin in Hearts in Atlantis - Yelchin delivers a terrific performance by just completely being genuine in his portrayal of this kid both in moments of joy and sorrow.

Best Scene: Reacting to the attack.
2. Jim Carrey in The Majestic - Carrey successfully evokes the needed earnestness in his attempt to replicate the great Capra turns of James Stewart, even if doesn't quite reach the heights of those earlier performances, partially due to working with lesser material.

Best Scene: Saying goodbye to his "dad"
1. Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko - Gyllenhaal gives a convincing portrayal of mental illness, a captivating portrayal of a man's journey into metaphysical madness, but also just a moving portrayal of a young man finding a bit of joy and enlightenment in his journey on Earth we think we know.

Best Scene: Final enlightenment. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2001 Supporting

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko

Jake Gyllenhaal did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of Donnie Darko.

Donnie Darko although works as it does in its trippy time bending pseudo coming of age story, however it does seem like it is on a razors edge in terms of almost falling apart, though it never does. This barely scraping by though perhaps predicated writer/director Richard Kelly's apparent lack of success afterward.

It must be said  that Jake Gyllenhaal, despite having clearly a very successful career, has had a bit of strange one in terms of cultivating sort of an expected persona as an actor. This with different fits of attempted sort of "star" terms of different types, but always the return towards some darkly inclined character work. The most notable recent example of this being his greatest performance in Nightcrawler, and fittingly this also was found near the beginning here as part of his breakout. This film though not overly successful initially, has found its following leading to this becoming one of his noted roles, of course it helps playing a character with an alliterative name. A deserving state though as the performance falls into line well with Gyllenhaal's unique abilities as a performer. Gyllenhaal in many ways being an essential ingredient in realizing the film's success by balancing it all through his portrayal of Donnie that sort of bends itself through the various sort of tones that the film plays with in creating the strange journey of the young boy through time, life and death. This as he must be a whole lot of things to be Donnie who is a whole many things, really even just within the idea of what exactly is going on in the film.

Now on the most surface examination you have the story of just a troubled teenager potentially, who nearly dies from a jet engine crashing into his house, however that is only part of his troubles. He's a young man who seems off balance to most and Gyllenhaal is excellent in realizing this point in a few ways. This on the most surface area in creating that sort of confusion of self when he speaks to adults. This with a shying physical manner as he retires from situations that press his mental state, and that lack of confidence within situations. Gyllenhaal is effective in creating the sense of the "odd boy" that so many see Donnie as, though as this believable portrayal of just a boy with a mental illness. Take his scenes with his psychiatrist (Katherine Ross), Gyllenhaal as they speak of his "visions" Gyllenhaal creates the real sense of the anxiety within them as he speaks to her with the fear of a real teenager struggling with his mental state. This though in itself isn't something that Gyllenhaal makes as one note, and is terrific in finding ways to create the variation even in this state. I especially love one moment where his father broaches the subject in support of his son, and Gyllenhaal expresses this perfect hesitation though with appreciation in the moment for the love of father.

Technically speaking this off-beat state though makes Donnie a bit different in other settings other than with his concerned parents and other adults who are technically sympathetic to the young man. This in school where Donnie does have some friends, and slowly a girlfriend in new girl Gretchen (Jena Malone). He is also seen as the weird kid and Gyllenhaal finds an effective balance in his work in creating really each of these perspectives. This in the classroom he physically places himself retiring, however in his delivery he brings the intensity fitting his pressing existence that comes within discussions with his teachers over metaphysics, and literary themes. Gyllenhaal captures the right off-beat energy particularly in his scenes with Malone. This as he manages to be charming in a most particular way that is true to the character. This as even as he still has a bit of that shyness there is such an earnestness within his moments of just broaching any conversation with her. This with a real sweetness just beneath it that is so well realized within Gyllenhaal's performance. He manages to touch upon it to make the eccentricity honest to Donnie, while making it endearing within the very specific realm of this relationship. This where Donnie is absolutely honest as himself at every point in Gyllenhaal's performance.

Of course then there is the other state of Donnie with his "imaginary" friend the Rabbit Frank, who speaks to him of the demise of the world in reality and time bending sequences. These themselves being entirely different state of existence seemingly and where Gyllenhaal still excels once again. This in a way grounding them initially in creating the sense of fear in some interactions with Frank when he speaks of the upcoming demise of Donnie's world. Gyllenhaal balances with this fascination at times, amplified by state of hypnosis, of this state of thought that is indeed beyond the normal state of reality. Gyllenhaal delivers a needed weight to this moments by really granting this strict intensity within these moments as Donnie, quite understandably, is fixated within his visions. This state of being in turn also attaches itself to Donnie's actions of destruction of different forms, including publicly berating self-help guru/soon to be outed sex criminal Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze). This moment though is a great one of this spirited yet oh so specific incisiveness within Gyllenhaal performance that creates the sense of sort of a force even beyond Donnie himself in his denouncement of Cunningham's philosophy. Of course the strength within all of this though is Gyllenhaal careful balance of each side of Donnie, that never feels inconsistent, but rather makes sense and amplifies the givens situation. This in turn makes the strange journey cohesive through his performance that creates the essential element through the humanity in his turn as Donnie. This as he makes a convincing portrayal of mental illness, a captivating portrayal of a man's journey into metaphysical madness, but also just a moving portrayal of a young man finding a bit of joy and enlightenment in his journey on Earth we think we know.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Jim Carrey in The Majestic

Jim Carrey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Peter Appleton in The Majestic.

The Majestic is Frank Darabont's attempt to recapture the films of Frank Capra, which is an admirable ambition, if perhaps a bit foolhardy, not unlike the optimistic endeavors of a Capra protagonist, through the story of a Hollywood screenwriter who is mistaken, through a case of amnesia, for a young man lost in the war in a small town.

There's a challenge in attempting to recapture the world of Frank Capra, which was a very specific tone to begin with. The man that was known as Jim Carrey in the 90's probably wouldn't be one's first choice to the play the lead for an attempt to recapture "Capracorn", being best known for his irreverent comedic performances. This took place in his brief period where he seemed to attempt to balance his comic projects with some more dramatic material. While these typically involved comedy in one way or another, whether it be more subtle in the case of The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or more overt in the case of playing a real comedian in Man on the Moon. This is an exception from the period in this is a purely dramatic turn from Carrey without even the most minor crutch when it comes to bringing a bit of humor into the proceedings for almost the entirety of the film. This simply just is Carrey as a straight leading man, and in that there is something one suddenly notices from the opening frames. That despite Carrey's usual elastic face, when tempered to a strict reality, he actually has perhaps more than just a passing resemblance to one of Capra's most noted leading men, Mr. Jimmy Stewart. Of course a man Carrey imitated in his standup acts, but this performance isn't to imitate Stewart, but rather evoke what that man delivered in his Capra performances.

That's no small challenge, and to successful deliver on this would be no small feat, as Stewart in his height with Capra delivered one of the greatest performances ever given. Now I'll admit right away that Carrey isn't able to produce a work equal to Stewart in Capra's greatest film It's a Wonderful Life, however his work does seem to understand some essential elements that were necessary to the greatness of Stewart's work in his Capra collaborations. This is from the outset of the film where we first see the screenwriter Peter listen as studio executives hack away at an idea of his. Carrey just listens on in thought elsewhere, and even in this action establishes that this will not be a typical Carrey turn. There is no attention seeking, no broad manner, but rather just an attempt to be a normal man. This I guess isn't too much in itself, I mean to tone it down, but his work goes beyond that as he establishes Peter as basically an unassuming screenwriter who is just trying to live out the Hollywood dream, to which he currently is at a lower rung of. Carrey's work though emphasizes this earnestness in this presentation of the man, and succeeds in just being so honestly straight forward. This again sounds a little strange as praise, but it is working towards creating a leading man turn of a bygone era.

Peter's world though is thrown into upheaval when he is accused of being a communist and faces a possible federal subpoena to "name names". Before that happens though he gets into a car accident, losing his memory, but being found by a loving small town. Carrey's performance that becomes even more Stewartesque as the man that so many begin to hold their hopes to, when a local man Harry Trimble (Martin Landau) incorrectly believes that Peter is in fact his son Luke, who was lost in the war. Peter's amnesia allowing him to at the very least not reject the claim, though also tentatively accepting it in a certain sense. This leaves Carrey an interesting challenge in very much relying on a charm, he had not really become known for, while also even reducing that to portray the man attempting to figure things out. Carrey's work is remarkable in the sense of creating a convincing state of confusion but also discovery in the moments of being told who he "is". This isn't too bad given that almost everyone loves Luke, even the lovely daughter of the town doctor, Adele (Laurie Holden). This in itself leading to a proper aw shucks romance, for Carrey to evoke the modest romantic manner that made Stewart's so special. This Carrey can do low key affection rather wonderfully, and he strikes up a nice chemistry with Holden, in that quiet yet potent fashion.

Carrey's performance works as he manages to deliver on the promise of being as earnest as the film is in terms of creating a portrait of basically optimism of the human spirit and of a small town whose existence is made simply by the existence of the return of this "Luke". There is no winking, or playing to a modern sensibility. Carrey carries himself with that spirit as well, and offers the essential non-judgement to the material's strictly genuine tone. Carrey more and more begins to appear as a Stewart sort and this transformation for him as a performer is impressive in itself. Carrey becomes this likable man who becomes part of the town, by romancing Adele, making friends with the local, and recreating the local theater back to its former glory with his "father". In all of this Carrey manages to evoke that old spirit fairly impressively, even as the narrative I'll say isn't as cohesive or compelling as the best of Capra, try as it might to be as such. Nonetheless Carrey's work remains consistent in trying to bring this somewhat flawed version of a Capra story to screen. This including when Peter, after having recovered his memories, must tend to the dying Harry knowing he's not his father. Carrey though is outstanding in offer some final comfort to the old man by "pretending" however Carrey is heartbreaking by only giving each reaction and word this strict honesty to support Peter's real love within a lie.

I will say where the film sort of falls apart, though not to the extent that I think it becomes a bad film even if it definitely comes short of its inspiration, is its ending. This is as Peter is hauled before congress while also dealing with not being Luke, but having to meet the sort of expectations left behind by the brave figure. Carrey's performance to his own credit remains consistent even as the film cannot quite juggle its various elements to the grand Capra finale that it is looking for. Again an admirable attempt even so that I won't be cynical about as some of the criticism towards this film was. Part of that is Carrey's whose performance gives that truth to the material by staying with it. This in portraying the phase of the Capra hero as he gives up, where I'd say is probably the biggest mistake in the whole film. This is as it is a little timid of the darkness, something Capra was not actually timid of nor was Stewart's performance, one can simply watch the scene where George Bailey lashes out at his family in It's A Wonderful Life, for evidence of that. The film rather treats this dilemma as Peter just going, "why not just make it easy", rather than being offered a real temptation, which sadly leaves Carrey's performance without sort of the real low needed to real bring out the power of the high. The film does have the attempted height in the form of the HUAC testimony where Peter pleads his case by evoking the proper spirit of America through remembering Luke essentially. This doesn't hit as hard as Smith's final words in Mr Smith Goes to Washington, or the ending of It's Wonderful Life. Carrey to his credit delivers on the requisite passion in the moment even the writing doesn't quite support him enough here. I'll also grant credit in the bit of humor here, Carrey doesn't fall upon any old tricks but rather evokes Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, in his bit of mocking the bullying committee members. It's a well performed scene, but I have to admit it just doesn't reach the heights of the scenes it would wish to be compared to, although that does not mean it is a failure. Carrey's performance here though deserves admiration as he successfully evokes a classic leading man, the greatest one in fact in Jimmy Stewart, even though he doesn't reach the greatness of those turns. That's a high standard for anyone to match, especially when working with lesser material to be honest, and while Carrey doesn't quite reach it, he comes close enough to deserve comparison, which is a remarkable achievement in itself.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Liu Ye in Lan Yu

Liu Ye did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character in Lan Yu.

Lan Yu is an interesting though I wouldn't say wholly successful film following the homosexual relationship between a closeted older man Han Dong (Hu Jun) and a young student, the titular Lan Yu.

Liu Ye plays the younger man and is technically the secondary role within the film. This is as the perspective of the film is mostly told within Han's view of his relationship with Lan Yu, but how each stage of interaction with him leaves this impact. Liu Ye's performance then is many ways essential as he has very limited screentime, even though I would say it is still a leading role, to realize Lan Yu's character. This being a particular challenge since as written the role could've easily become one note in one way or another. This being that Lan Yu almost seems a specter at times in his appearances and it likely would've been a mistake to make the role too ethereal in nature. Thankfully Liu Ye makes no such mistakes approaching the role with a strict honesty. This forgoing any false mannerisms or posturing to make Lan Yu into the "young lover" to stand out, but instead strives to do so by just offering a very human portrait of this young man. This is evident from one of his earliest moments where we see the men's initial tryst. This is a key scene for the film, and expressed through Liu's performance that creates the sense of discovering in the moment. He doesn't make is just this physical act, but rather this powerful moment within his eyes of conveying this being an essential moment in his life.

Liu Ye's performance is then one about consistency but a consistency of a note that is rather remarkable. This being granting the importance of the relationship within the character of Lan Yu, who does not see it as a meaningless fling, affair or otherwise. This is rather a life changing experience. That is evident in their first tryst but also from then on. Liu grants the needed dynamic with Hu Jun's more guarded performance by portraying Lan Yu as someone who doesn't hide his emotions and wears them most evidently. Liu's work then is powerful through how blunt it is, however this must be said is notable in the restraint he shows within this once again. There is one of his greatest moments of his work is simply in reaction to hearing Han's more muted or at lest compromised emotions regarding their relationship. Liu captures the despair so effectively by portraying as this searing distress. This as his work emphasizes above all that for Lan Yu this relationship is for him the love of his life and an ever life changing experience. Liu Ye, even when he has certain periods of being absent from the narrative, always leaves the lasting impression on the film.

This all the while Han cannot forget about him neither does the viewer due to what Liu Ye accomplishes when we do see Lan Yu. His portrayal manages to create a particularly needed authenticity within the realization of Lan Yu's struggle. This is even with these technical "jumps" in places based on when Han meets him again. Liu Ye is terrific in portraying this certain maturation within Lan Yu. Liu's work again excels though by making this impressive impact in such a calm yet potent way. When Lan Yu essentially stakes his emotional claim around the idea of the relationship, Liu's delivery is reserved yet piercing. This as within every word there is this concise emotional intensity, that doesn't come out in anger, but rather a vulnerability. A vulnerability that reveals Lan Yu really is only seeking this happiness with the one he loves without exception. Liu excels in portraying Lan Yu's lack of compromise through his portrayal as just this raw emotion of someone trying to find his happiness. Liu's work manages to earn the place of Lan Yu as this nearly haunting presence in the film, not by making Lan Yu this dreamlike idea of perfection, but rather this honest portrayal of a purity of an soul that will not bargain with his truth. Lie Ye gives a fantastic turn here as even though he's not the main focus, he in a way makes himself as such with such ease. This in creating his own separate, and technically far more poignant portrait, not of a man refusing to be himself, but rather a man who can only be who he is.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Anton Yelchin in Hearts in Atlantis

Anton Yelchin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Robert "Bobby" Garfield in Hearts in Atlantis.

Hearts in Atlantis is one of those films that feels as though there just a little too little to it. In that it very much feels like a short story, although not a bad way, but perhaps to brief of one. It is indeed derivative of Frank Darabont's Stephen King adaptations, but even then not in a bad way, particularly not in terms of having great cinematography, even if it definitely falls short of those films. This film, a coming of age story about a boy striking up a friendship with a mysterious boarder, does feel incomplete,  also needlessly depressing in its bookends that take place in the present, however it definitely has value within its flawed whole.

Sadly continuing on with another actor whose career was tragically short, we have Anton Yelchin who like Ledger was showing his most promise at the end of that of his far too brief time in acting. Let's forget all that though and look at the true beginning of his career, here taking upon the role of the young boy living with his single mother (Hope Davis), and eventually the boarder Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins). Yelchin's performance here begins simply enough really as just a boy enjoying his youth with his friends Sully and Carol. Yelchin importantly brings just a naturalism within just being a boy. There's just an inherent attitude of just a normal kid living his life. This is something easier said then done, and Yelchin doesn't have any signs of obvious sort of child actor or needless precociousness. He makes Bobby however just a naturally likable kid, by being so natural. Yelchin just shows the right sort of joys of the innocent as he hangs around with his friends, though is not one note. Finding the sort of right slight undercurrent of sadness, and quiet frustration in just the most subtle ways in his interactions with his mom. He doesn't show a boy who hates his mom, but does rather effectively alludes to the more difficult history with his father no longer around.

The crux of the film however comes with the introduction of Ted who befriends Bobby. Where the film most succeeds in the relationship between the two realized through the chemistry between Yelchin and Hopkins, who are an unlikely pair, however work wonderfully together. Ted offers initially Bobby a job of sorts to read him the newspaper and look out for "low men", but this grows into a paternal relationship between the boy and the old man. Yelchin with Hopkins finds such a real warmth in their interactions. An essential part of this is Yelchin's portrayal of Bobby's genuine interest in Ted's various bit of information and stories he shared. Yelchin brings just the right youthful curiosity within these moments. There is past that though just the sense of comfort in their interactions with one another, as Ted finds ways to help Bobby, while Bobby continues to help Ted. This while in own ways while becoming more invested in him, and his states of seeming to be away mentally. Yelchin is terrific here by making this relationship, which has some undercurrents of the supernatural, wholly honest in terms of the emotion. He never plays it up, but rather slowly earns Bobby's growing respect and love for Ted in these interactions between each other.

Yelchin's work succeeds on the authenticity throughout which grants a needed reality on the story that is often on the edge of excessive sentimentality and even a bit of corniness in hitting both the coming of age and Stephen King trademarks. Yelchin though earns the majority of these by never falling into becoming a cliche within his own work. For example, we have the scene of his first kiss through his friend Carol. This is a basic enough moment, but what makes it something more is Yelchin's work. We get his moment of hesitation, the fear for a moment in his eyes, but also the bit of over eagerness with the scene. Yelchin brings just this honesty to the scene successfully making it rather moving in its simplicity. The same goes for a scene where Bobby randomly learns a bit more about his father on a trip with Ted. Yelchin's quiet, but powerful excitement at every bit of description offered to him. Again such a moment works through the depth within Yelchin's portrayal that grants a realism needed for the role. The same goes for the expected, for Stephen King, scene of a bully going to an extreme when one of them hurts Carol by hitting her with a bat. What elevates the moment is the acting, with Yelchin excelling in creating such a devastating portrayal of real anguish, along with palatable concern. He's terrific by making it messy just as it would be for any child in such a traumatic scene. This scene actually though is almost the climax as the film rushes towards its conclusion with Bobby's mom turning Ted into the "Bad Man". Nonetheless Yelchin is fantastic in his scene with Davis, portraying just this sad disappointment in his mom, and just sadness towards the loss of Ted. Yelchin brings such a powerful force by making it such a natural one. This being just a normal kid showing his despair towards losing a friend and discontent towards a flawed mother. Yelchin's work does that throughout this film in offering only this earned portrayal of the mostly straight forward coming of age story for Bobby. Although it doesn't make the film complete, it offers something while worth while through his earnest and authentic turn.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Heath Ledger in A Knight's Tale

Heath Ledger did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying William Thatcher in A Knight's Tale.

A Knight's Tale is a lightweight, though rather enjoyable film, about a commoner who attempts to make his way in the nobles only sport of jousting.

The gone far too soon Heath Ledger sadly was really only slightly past the end of the beginning of showing his considerable talent evident in his Oscar nominated turn and his eventual Oscar winning turn that came after his unfortunate passing. Those two performances showed an incredible range and ability to transform himself for a role. His performance as "sir" William here isn't quite as much of a challenge, but it does give Ledger the chance for something else. That something else being just a proper leading man turn. Ledger's performance actually reminded me a bit of his fellow Australian Chris Hemsworth as Thor, though once Hemsworth found his place in that role. Ledger though finds the right tone for this type of role from the outset. This in capturing this overarching charisma that falls upon two things really. The first being an ease in his presence and manner in the film found in the humor he delivers in the role. Ledger knows the tone, which just is a fun romp more than anything, and in that way brings this humor. It is with this complete ease where Ledger never clowns or postures. He just exists with it, bringing it so naturally as just part of William's outgoing and easygoing personality. A personality that not only wins over all his friends, but also wins we the viewers right over to the character as such an endearing lead.

The other thing though that is needed is still balancing the tone. Although the film is lightweight it isn't a farce, even with its purposefully anachronistic use of music, therefore one can't go too far on only humor. Ledger importantly also does deliver the needed earnestness within the role as well. He brings this really with the same ease, which grants the needed weight but doesn't weigh down the film. Take his initial speech where he persuades his comrades to help him on his seemingly impossible journey to become a knight as commoner. Ledger makes the speech convincing by only granting each word a real heart. The same goes for the central romance, which I think honestly could've been a bit beefed up on a writing end towards the character of William's love the lady Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), but nonetheless it does still work. A big reason for this is Ledger's portrayal of William infatuation with Jocelyn. This again delivering such sincerity in every moment of interaction, right from the first time he lays eyes on her. Ledger helps it along being a basic romance, by never making fun of the idea in his work, instead he supports it with just the utmost conviction in these moments.

The film to be fair never gets too serious beyond Rufus Sewell's boring performance as the black knight villain, who should've taken lessons from Christopher Guest and Chris Sarandon on how to deliver a villain turn in a film like this, and William's relationship with his peasant father. The latter though is just another example of Ledger to shine in a low key way. This in the pivotal reunion scene, where William has found success and delivers the news to his now blinded father. Ledger again is wholly within the moment as just this most divine and honest spirit to the moment. This just accentuating in every moment the real appreciation of a son for his father and the bittersweet nature of the reunion. Beyond that though this is just performance to make William someone you absolutely wish to root for. Ledger does this in a seemingly effortless fashion. He does show when William gets hurt, it hurts, in turn making his victories all the more powerful because he shows us such a modest yet such an endearing hero to follow. When the audience for jousting matches cheer for William, it is easy to do so right along, because Ledger has made someone worth cheering for. Although I wouldn't quite put this performance up there with say Cary Elwes in the previously alluded to The Princess Bride, it does earn favorable comparisons to that work nonetheless. That in itself is a considerable success in my mind, and this performance a testament to Ledger's ability as a proper movie star.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2001

And the Nominees Were Not:

Heath Ledger in A Knight's Tale

Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko

Jim Carrey in The Majestic

Anton Yelchin in Hearts in Atlantis

Liu Ye in Lan Yu

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1963: Results

5. Tatsuya Nakadai in A Woman's Life - I guess I'll note that I decided against reviewing both he and Steiger, as I found neither were notable examples of their talents, though for different reasons. For Nakadai it is just far too limited of a role, reduced even more so by the film's strange structure. He only gets the chance really to be charming, which he of course delivers on, but as Nakadai roles go it wastes him more than a bit.

Best Scene: Years later.
4. Rod Steiger in Hands Over the City - I'd actually say Steiger had a good role here but he's sabotaged by really a bad dub job. Obviously it's not going to be his real voice anyways, but it's worse than that because it doesn't really ever seem to be coming out of him, even with that in mind. It sadly detracts from his work even as dubbing go. This is a shame as his role is pretty meaty, but Steiger just can't shine. I'll give him credit that he does still convey a certain ego and powerful manner of a manipulative businessman. Sadly the dubbing issues keep a certain detachment there. Steiger is obviously acting his heart out at every point, but given the amount of dialogue in particular, it's a shame we can't hear him.

Best Scene: Opening
3. Geoffrey Keen in Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow - Keen makes for a properly despicable villain who brings the right sort of glee and venom to his role.

Best Scene: "Don't be a fool, they'd hang anyway."
2. Anil Chatterjee in Mahanagar - Chetterjee gives an effective turn in offering humor, somberness and a bit of poignancy in his depiction of a husband slowly rediscovering his place in his family and his wife. 

Best Scene: Reconciliation.
1. Alan Bates in The Caretaker - Bates fairly easily conquers this lineup for me, this even if he might reach the heights of his co-stars, gives a terrific performance between them offering the one typically "sane" man, as society would see him, who plays around with the "insane" man by acting a bit insane himself.

Best Scene: Final Scene. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2001 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1963: David Warner in Tom Jones

David Warner did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Blifil in Tom Jones.

Well due to reasons I'll get to soon, in addition to always accepting a chance to write a bit about the ever underrated David Warner, I've decided to grant an alternate review here. This being in fact his introduction to the screen as Blifil the nephew, and heir, of the good squire Allworthy, and the chief rival of our hero the bastard Tom Jones (Albert Finney) for the hand of the beautiful Sophie Western (Susannah York). Blifil isn't the meatiest of roles, however I think it then deserves mention as something to note of David Warner's talent that he manages to still make a more than decent impression with it. This in taking very much the approach of being essentially the anti-Tom. This is against Finney's outgoing, boisterous, charming, lusty Tom, is Warner's introverted, calm, repulsive, and demure Blifil. Warner so often making himself known in a scene by not so much stealing, but rather than raising a bit of stink to say the least. This as we see Finney doing each and everything, Warner is so often standing still with the stiffest posture, and a most predisposed to despise as Blifil looks on.

Warner conducts himself in the role as a right proper stick in the mud. This by the way deserves better mention as these types of roles can often times lead to boring moments in romance films, and comedies. This so often with the other man, when just an evil jerk, being just tired moments of either bland or over the top acting. Warner though makes quite the go of it to be quite the best nasty man one could ask for. This as Warner so effectively accentuates the difference between he and Tom in every instance in creating this wonderful pit of charisma in a way. This furthermore making no hiding the fact that no one would prefer Blifil with Warner creating such proper nasty grimaces, with his almost wilted delivery of his towards those around him. I especially love Warner's wooing of Sophie scene, where he is such a fantastic bit of awkwardness in each stiff maneuver towards the Sophie, and his state of care being almost more towards a business proposition than any sense of affection for her. Of course the extension of his difference from Tom, in a way, also is in his favor, as where Tom does everything pretty much in the moment, Blifil does have a bit more cunning in him. This in his methods to attempt to destroy Tom. This where Warner infuses a bit of delighted, if internalized glee in his tilted smile, and incisiveness in each of his maneuvers to destroy Tom. This as again he conducts himself as a proper villain really, in this state of vicious determination that goes as far as to try to have poor Tom hanged. Blifil's a nasty piece of work, but it is a joy to watch each of his moments thanks to Warner's performance. He accentuates the nastiness beautifully by providing this contrast to Finney's work. A contrast showing by playing up, without becoming over the top, the despicable nature of his character. Warner manages to make his impact swiftly. Most importantly though Warner makes the most with this character, who again can easily go so wrong, yet Warner importantly gets in on the fun of the film, by being the right type of horrible.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1963: Anil Chatterjee in Mahanagar

Anil Chatterjee did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Subrata Mazumdar in Mahanagar.

Mahanagar is a terrific film that follows the "fallout" when the housewife of a traditional home in Calcutta gets a job.

Anil Chatterjee's performance is an instrumental part of this film as in a way how he features as a performer also relates to the power exchange at the center of the story. This is as the film opens Chatterjee appears to be our lead as a smalltime banker. This is as he gives a quietly charming turn as we see him live his life and interact with his house including his in-laws, his son, his father, his sister and his, at the beginning of the film, housewife Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee). Chatterjee carries himself with this underlying confidence in all things as he glides through his life, even in his romantic circumstances with his wife where he presents an outpouring of warmth towards her. This going to the point that he supports the idea of his wife also getting a job to support the household. Chatterjee portrays this moment with a rather slick assurance of himself to the point he presents a sincere urging towards his rather hesitant wife, though with also perhaps a lack of severe thought on the process. This leaving the man only to be initially slightly taken aback by his father's extreme rejection of refusing to speak with his son after this decision. In turn Chatterjee portraying a moment of unsure disbelief that shows the first little crack in that leading man we initially saw. Chatterjee portraying suddenly a man whose whole life isn't that of some dream. This also featuring  a break in his performance where he is no longer that leading man in charge of it all, suddenly he's no longer the center of the world or the film.

As Arati begins her job, and slowly gets better at it, we have a regression of sort of Subrata so well realized in Chatterjee's performance. His work initially just shows those cracks as he loses that initial certainty towards initially and confusion towards the situation, particularly the extreme reactions like that of his father's. The initial reaction to this is to make the calm suggestion that she quit the job, based largely on his father's reaction. Chatterjee's delivery of this is essential as the suggestion he portrays with just a hint of that old confidence, while painting more largely within the realm of concern for his relationship with his father. This though immediately changes when he loses his own job due to his bank collapsing, and Subrata even being attacked by an angry mob due to that fact. His call to his wife, to tell her to absolutely keep her job due to him no longer having one, Chatterjee realizes the shattered state of the man in the moment by creating this real sense of fear for his family's livelihood. This in his meek delivery as he pleads to ensure that his wife keeps her job. This act not only make Arati the one keeping the family financially afloat, but also in turn pushes Chatterjee more often than not into the background. This isn't to say however Chatterjee becomes unimportant in fact this change perhaps leads to the most remarkable moments of Chatterjee's performance.

Chatterjee manages this notable tone within his portrayal of Subrata as he becomes basically an observer in his own family, as he just watches his wife accomplish much, while he accomplishes very little. What is so notable in this is that Chatterjee manages to create this sense of a sort of emasculation with both humor and pathos. There is something very funny in certain moments where Chatterjee shows Subrata so meekly looking over his shoulder as he finds a thing of lipstick in his wife's purse, or looks on as his wife makes up stories about his own success as a husband. Chatterjee's unease is genuinely amusing in this as we see the man in this state of extreme modesty. This never becomes cartoonish, even if one can get a good chuckle from it, as he does find something very sad in this sense of disconnection to his wife that also comes from this. This as he saunters off to do a basic chore, when she states it is not as though he is doing anything else, and Chatterjee reflects an earnest somberness and embarrassment of a man seemingly without purpose. What is key within this is though Chatterjee doesn't portray any direct maliciousness towards his wife's success, rather instead conveys this confusion in the man that stems from him being pushed out of his place of comfort in more ways than one. This is as he is no longer able to be the breadwinner for his family and he isn't sure what to take from the changes in his wife. Chatterjee manages to find such a real nuance in these moments of a man both unsure of himself and his own world in a way. Chatterjee emphasizing though this state of confusion that keeps him at this certain distance, uncertainty and insecurity of his situation. This comes to a head in the final scene of the film where Arati quits her job, though in a moment of advocating for a friend and fully confident in herself. Arati finally truly confides in Subrata, and Chatterjee is fantastic, in still a largely reactionary moment, of essentially showing the confusion lifting in this scene. It is quite moving as he manages to finally return to that direct sense of love and warmth to his wife, though now deeper in a sense as Chatterjee's eyes reflect a man seeing his wife in a different light, and of equal value to himself. This is a terrific performance by Anil Chatterjee, as he slowly essentially loses his leading man status within the film itself, however within this gives a captivating depiction of a man coming to a better comprehension of just who his wife truly is and what she means to him.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1963: Geoffrey Keen, George Cole and Patrick Wymark in Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow

Geoffrey Keen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying General Pugh in Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow.

Well I will once again take this opportunity to sing the praises of the wonderful and underrated adventure film/mini-series the Scarecrow of Romney. The film features the previously reviewed work of the underrated Patrick McGoohan in the title role of both the smuggling rouge the Scarecrow, and the seemingly innocent parson Dr. Syn. It also features some turns from some rather underrated British character actors of the period. One of these actors being Geoffrey Keen, who is now perhaps best remembered as his side role in the Bond series, if that even, but whose talents did go beyond delivering a bit of setup exposition. Keen gets the chance to show that off in the role of General Pugh who is the main antagonist specifically sent by King George III to destroy the Scarecrow and his smuggling ring. Keen's performance here is to make Pugh a proper villain for the story. Keen's a rather delightful villain by very much playing up the ego the character. This with a smugly assured smile on his face as he announces the purpose of his arrival to smash the smuggling gang. Keen's most effective by making this Pugh's defining trait but not his only trait. In the same scene of his announcement Keen finds a bit more nuance within an incisive stare as speaks of the people's lawlessness that supports the smuggling. Keen is a great deal of fun in the role, even though he has sort of a presumed general seriousness through playing into the character's superior manner. This in particular in his frequent berating of his underlings who he always views as inferiors. Keen brings such a deliciously pompous demeanor with such venom in every "you fool" he throws out towards those he views as failing him. This also with the sense of the man's power, as there is such an ease in his threats to others, knowing he can easily have most men hanged. Keen's performance captures a certain enjoyable bit of villainy, in the way Pugh doesn't really hide his satisfaction with his own position. This in particularly Keen's smile of pure joy at the burning of random houses, or his manner of nearly breaking out laughing when it is suggested he might keep a promise to condemned men. Keen provides a particularly effective contrast to McGoohan as Syn, this as the equally assured man internalized, where Keen offers a man broad and overly open in his certainties. I'll cheat as I did with McGoohan, by bringing up one of my favorite, mini-series, moments where Pugh believe he has the Scarecrow dead to rights, and Keen asks him to surrender in the "King's Name" with such devilish glee in the moment. The impeccable smugness of Keen makes for Pugh's numerous defeats all the more satisfying, but also all the more enjoyable in Keen's performance. It is with this that I do think Keen takes his performance further than just a villain you like to see lose, in that he finds enough nuance in the moments outside of the direct antagonist. This in just interacting with the local squire, where Keen tones down it nicely to show a slightly social man, if he still carries an inherent intensity even in these moments. The best though being with Pugh out of his element, or forced to be. This when his losses goes beyond the possibility of blaming others, namely when he directly answers to the king himself. Keen is great in his one scene with George, as he delivers the false face of the loyal general, which he beautifully offsets once he turns around to reveal the same bitter frustrations he would at any other man he hates. Keen makes a properly entertaining villain for this entertaining story, who he sets up as just the proper man you just love to see fail again and again.
George Cole did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr. Mipps/Hellspite in Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow.

Moving onto another underrated chap and mainstay of mid-century British cinema in George Cole. A charming performer who gets a nice role here as Dr. Syn's number two, both as the sexton for his church, but also as a fellow masked crusader. His work at the latter is fairly limited in that you can't even see his eyes in the costume and he only has about two lines with the mask on. I do like though his gruffer vocal work that complements McGoohan's own, even if it is only briefly heard. Cole's performance is interesting though in that it only really functions really in the plans of the duplicity for the scarecrow, being Syn's primary confidant and agent. Cole's effective by bringing sort of an alternative perspective in these moments as essentially the more cynical man of the group. This in even in a minor debate where Cole accentuates a lack of earnestness regarding the crusade as this great measure of hope as a man more mindful of the present reality. This is effectively shown in Cole's own portrayal of Mipps's manner in the plans, that Cole plays with a certain degree of self-satisfaction. This in that he brings a certain joy of performance in the act of Mipps going about his methods of manipulation for the sake of their cause. A highlight scene for Cole being when he tricks a prosecutor into a bit of a trap by pretending to be a concerned citizen. Cole manages to do two things at once in the scene as he provides a convincing false sincerity in his assured eyes towards the prosecutor, and bogus sympathy as he speaks of injustices being done. This is while in moments away there is this wonderful glint his eyes of a man just loving his ability to deceive the man. Cole's performance consistently delivers moments of just a bit of character thrown in there for portraying the method of the operator but also the joy he takes in performing his job. Cole doesn't just leave a scene be, but nicely brings in a bit of who Mipps in, as limited as that may be. This is even in just his moments of observing things where he creates the right tensions of the spy, or simply mutual concern as something may go wrong in a plan. Cole delivers a proper sidekick, of sorts, that is a proper companion performance to McGoohan's.
Patrick Wymark did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Joseph Ransley in Dr. Syn, Alias Scarecrow.

Finally in this trio of it I end on the type of performance I always love to highlight, that being the performance that makes the most out of a potential throwaway role. This in Patrick Wymark as Joseph Ransley who works as one of Scarecrow's men, before he threatened by General Pugh to betray him or face arrest. What makes Wymark's performance notable is the amount of sympathy he does create for Ransley throughout the ordeal. This is that the writing more of pegs him for basically a lout, who hates his step-mother, and will selfishly trade everyone in for his own preservation. He is a proper lout but Wymark doesn't make it his only trait. Wymark though is terrific sad sack, right from his opening scene where Pugh interrogates him over his sudden change in fortunes, that Pugh believes is from being a smuggler. Wymark delivers a very real fear of the situation, and genuine unease at the sense of being found out. He's not one note from this as he very much conveys both the sense of being found out but potentially something purer about giving up the whole ring he's part of. Wymark's effective in placing an emphasis in the moment of Ransley seemingly in power, as he initially tries to steal from the Scarecrow and run away with his sons. This in a moment of confidence, as we see the potential smuggler, who believes he knows a few things. This idea though is squashed as he is caught in the act of smuggling and arrested before being put on trial. This is as he and his sons face a potential death penalty, Wymark is honestly rather moving in creating the real desperation in the man as he pleads his inability to anyway help the crown and in turn help himself or his sons. He is left off as a technicality engineered by Dr. Syn but not without being threatened directly by General Pugh and more covertly by Dr. Syn. Again Wymark does more than possibly is demanded by being so earnestly scared with each threat, and by showing just how much of a wreck he becomes as he attempts to drink his troubles away. Unfortunately for him, the king's prosecutor comes to threaten him as well. Wymark is a terrific mess as he delivers with a real anguish as he decries his maddening situation where really everyone is out to get him. Although Wymark doesn't make you side with Ransley, he does grant a real humanity in the act of the traitor. These acts that lead him straight to another trial, unfortunately for him, this time run by the Scarecrow. Wymark's fantastic in the scene though as he manages to play more than one note. In that again you have a very real plea of passion in his voice as he tries to make them understand his situation, this in his earnest delivery as he speaks of trying to save he and his sons lives at the other trial. Of course this is also with a genuine disdain towards the Scarecrow, a logical anger at the man who thwarted his attempted acts of self-preservation, that Wymark leads with anger of a man fed up within his circumstances. This naturally falls away in his portrayal though when the results of the trial are given, and Wymark's expression of a nearly petrified fear again is remarkable as he faces perhaps his final fate. Ransley could've just been some bum traitor, nothing more, but Wymark realizes a real tragedy within his subplot, that takes the part towards something more substantial.