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.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1963: Alan Bates in The Caretaker

Alan Bates did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mick in The Caretaker.

Alan Bates has on the cursory viewpoint perhaps the least challenging role of the three, and only three, characters of the film. This is that he isn't Donald Pleasence who is transformative as the somewhat enigmatic tramp, and chatterbox Davies, nor is he the seemingly enigmatic and cold Aston played by Robert Shaw. Mick seems to be just, a more or less, average young man and doesn't seem to be as much of a riddle. This role is essential though in that Mick offers perhaps the least alien perspective to most viewers. Bates's performance seems to suggest this idea from the first instance he appears onscreen, as we can seemingly understand him as Bates evokes a curiosity and even concern in Mick, as he watches his brother, Aston, walk home with the rather grungy looking Davies one night. Bates instantly establishes a certain unease within the situation as he watches the mismatched pair come closer to the house. Some time later, after Davies has been given a room to stay in by Aston, Mick comes to surprise Davies. The way Bates approaches the scene is interesting in that he too puts on a strange character. This in bringing a certain menace, yet also mischievous glee as he presses Davies with random questions, delivering them with this hostile humor. The key though here is that Bates plays this scene with a particular flow, creating random confusing asides with that sinister humor, but with sudden moments of incisiveness in his eyes between them, this in Bates creating the sense that Mick is very much playing a part.

This part as a man that is a creation with sort of smug confidence with also this comic degradation towards Davies. Bates does wonderfully with the randomness of his lines by very much granting a  purpose of them within this act. This is that he very much plays them with two purposes in mind. One being that Mick in one part is having a bit of a laugh at the situation, and as the more technically sane man here, plays the part of the insane man basically to have fun. Bates is careful to convey the act so effectively in his quiet moments in between Mick's purposefully sometimes inane rambling. This is also within his brief interactions with his brother. This where Bates removes that hostile "character" as he asks his questions towards his brother. These moments are so carefully realized though as Bates portrays a different curiosity in the interaction. This in the curiosity, similar to how he interacts with Davies, though with more of a weight in his eyes that are less of a hostile concern, and more of a attempt at a sympathetic understanding. In the early moments of their interactions this is shown as a failure with some great moments in Bates's performance being the silent ones. This as he shows a man befuddled by both of his fellow "tenets" with a lack of certainty towards how to handle situation.

Bates creates an effective juxtaposition within his performance by making Mick the least ambiguous, even if technically the writing within the role could allow for as enigmatic of a man. Bates's approach though is to play the man as basically playing around with the mentally unsound men he interacts with. This as Bates portrays very much a purpose, quite effectively so, in Mick's interactions with Davies, even as he plays seemingly cruel tricks. There is a goal within Bates's own performance as in each strange act, there is this moment of observance within his performance as though Mick is figuring out this Davies by engaging in these hostilities. At a certain point Bates's quite effective by creating the moment where he seems to decipher Davies. This as he naturally segues to Mick keeping with the act towards Davies, yet is less hostile in this creating this more affable energy with the man. This as his random quick hectoring having this more positive manner within Bates's performance, portraying a joy of the performance, and the same in interacting with the easier to interact with Davies than his difficult to decipher brother.

Bates manages to grant the sense, without having a scene of explaining things, the existence of Mick. This as a difficult one, for really just an average man, who has had difficulty in engaging in any conversation with his distant brother, who appears to be a responsibility of sorts of his, then enjoying that conversation with Davies due to the lack of that same type of distance. Bates's work is essential in granting meaning to Mick's many words, so carefully within his work. There is the moment of describing his hope for a home for example, Bates is fantastic by dropping the joking pretense to reveal a somber little dream of his for something more. In that though, again almost indirectly pondering about his brother, Bates evokes a more genuine concern, again as this attempted empathy for him, even if confused and in the end failed attempt. It is in this that Bates makes sense of the developments as Davies's words become hateful towards Aston, Bates portrays an unease suddenly in their banter. In turn, Bates delivers again the hostility towards Davies with his questions and posturing. This before perhaps Bates's greatest moment when he drops the act entirely with Davies to admonish him for calling his brother "nutty". Bates is fantastic by delivering just the full venom towards the man's lies, but within this certain passion in his eyes as this defense of his brother. An idea only more fully realized in a brief glance between the brothers, where Bates effectively shows some final direct understanding in a slight but warm smile. This as the brothers create a sense of an agreement, here in the eviction of the troublesome liar Davies, but also finally with the sense of Mick getting a better idea of who his brother is. Alan Bates delivers a terrific performance here, as that change in Mick is so heavily reliant on the nuances of his performance. The changes in the man are barely spoken, yet Bates wholly conveys the ideas behind the character. His performance offering essentially the needed insight to the other men, by offering a man who is far easier to decipher, though too loves a bit of duplicity.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1963

And the Nominees Were Not:

Tatsuya Nakadai in A Woman's Life

Anil Chatterjee in Mahanagar

Alan Bates in The Caretaker

Rod Steiger in Hands Over the City

Geoffrey Keen in Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow

George Cole in Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow 

Patrick Wymark in Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow

For prediction purposes: Keen out of the Scarecrow men. 

Friday, 2 August 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Results

10. Peter Breck in Shock Corridor - Breck gives a rather underwhelming performance that fails to grant the needed detail to his character's mental transition and his relationship to the other mental patients.

Best Scene: Asking about the murder.
9. Steve McQueen in Love With a Proper Stranger - McQueen gives an effective alternative performance from him that realizes his hapless failure as romantic, which is a far cry than his typical cool characters.

Best Scene: Seeing the abortionist. 
8. Alberto Sordi in Il Diavolo - Sordi gives an effective sort of observational turn that offers both comedy and a bit of poignancy in his portrayal of a tourist not quite getting what he expects from his travels.

Best Scene: Confession. 
7. Maurice Ronet in The Fire Within - Ronet gives a rather effective portrayal of a festering depression that manifests itself in different forms over the course of a day.

Best Scene: Final party.
6. Michael Redgrave in Uncle Vanya - Redgrave manages to find comedy and the right degree of pathos in his portrayal of a man who hates his existence to the point he can't help but laugh.

Best Scene: Finally breaking.
5. Marcello Mastroianni in The Organizer - Mastroianni gives an effective atypical turn from him in his off-beat portrayal of a passionate activist.

Best Scene: Final speech.
4. Gunnar Björnstrand in Winter Light - Björnstrand gives a distant though striking turn as a man whose crafted an existence through rejection of emotion and thought that would otherwise pain him.

Best Scene: Telling his truth. 
3. Robert Shaw in The Caretaker - Shaw gives a powerful internalized portrayal of a man psychologically broken however still attempting to make a human connection.

Best Scene: His story. 
2. Patrick McGoohan in Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow - McGoohan gives a great turn as every facet of his masked hero, from the menacing "villain" that is the scarecrow, to the affable, if seemingly harmless, parson, and the cunning man beneath each ruse. 

Best Scene: The official trial.
1. Burt Lancaster in The Leopard - Good predictions Robert, Luke, BRAZINTERMA, Charles, Tahmeed, Michael McCarthy, RatedRStar, and Bryan. Lancaster reveals his greater versatility once again in his convincing portrayal of his cunning and charismatic prince's method but also a powerful portrayal of his final melancholy.

Best Scene: Alone during the party. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1963 Supporting

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Gunnar Björnstrand in Winter Light

Gunnar Björnstrand did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Pastor Tomas Ericsson in Winter Light

Winter Light is an excellent film following a pastor over a single day as he deals with his dwindling congregation, his own doubts and those of a suicidal parishioner. The film filling in the other "original" material featured in First Reformed, that was not featured in Diary of a Country Priest. 

The central role of the contemplative pastor here is notably different from the similarly burdened theologians featured in the aforementioned films from the lack of the constant internal monologue of journal entries. This leaves a more distant figure to be portraying by Gunnar Björnstrand. Björnstrand, taking a far less extroverted role than that of the heroic squire featured in The Seventh Seal, opens the film as he proceeds with mass. An important moment as the setting piece where it appears we see the dispassionate man going through the motions. He speaks the words with a professional expectation but little more than that. Björnstrand emphasizing a man performing the ceremony without passion or seemingly purpose to the close of the mass. Björnstrand presents with similar dispassion as he sees to its end and even in his interactions with the local schoolteacher Märta (Ingrid Thulin). This as she plays around with the idea of this deep infatuation between sarcasm and something genuine. This against Björnstrand's work which is as this wall of seemingly indifference. He grants just the slightest glint of familiarity in these moments, however always shielded and hidden, as Björnstrand consistently pulls from her physically and verbally he grants mostly a detachment within his lack of affirmation towards her remarks. 

Björnstrand serves the need of the character as a largely frustrating one. In that the heart is purposefully left to the far more open Märta, where Thulin is devastating and rather heartbreaking in portraying the woman's perhaps hopeless cause to find love in the pastor. She presses him essentially to act by declaring her love to him, but also questioning his peculiar faith. This is perhaps the most important aspect of Björnstrand's performance which emphasizes the moments of speaking of God seemingly with this fixation rather than any sense of inspiration. This portraying the pastor's connection essentially as a painful hold on him. This is further seen as the troubled parishioner Jonas (Max von Sydow) comes to seek his counsel. Björnstrand puts on barely a false facade of the man truly attempting to shepherd his flock. This as both as he speaks first to the man and his wife, and then just the man, Björnstrand begins both seems with a perfunctory concern. Björnstrand isn't quite blithe but still instills this interactions with nearly that same indifference, only more than that through some shy attachment to duty. Björnstrand delivers this even as the man pours out his despair regarding his existence and the state of the world.

The answer to the man's question calls upon the pastor's own past of having witnessed atrocities during the Spanish civil war. Björnstrand speaks with a purposefully tempered and internalized emotion. Again, a distant, though this time emphasizing a purposeful detachment from any sense of horrors he might have witnessed. As he continues to explain his own earlier faith that is explained as a selfish faith that was egocentric. Björnstrand opens up slightly in this regard, and effectively so in revealing a notable self-loathing in these remarks. This speaking with less than discontent in creating a sense of disgust with his past in some way. This bridged with explaining the death of this wife, where there is an anguish within Björnstrand's work but an anger within it. This before stating his own rejection of a God, as essentially an easier way to face the world. Björnstrand stating these words finally with emotion, though again with this certain venom intertwined with this attempt at distance. This being the key really to the character and the essential truth of the man realized by Björnstrand's performance in this moment. Though as he reveals the honest reality of his own view, we still see the man who offers not a hint of comfort to the distraught man, who commits suicide soon afterwards.

The pastor finally leaves the church in the solemn duty of attending to the dead man's corpse, before being tasked to inform his widow. The process though is continued with Märta attending to him along the way. This despite as he continually denies her any return of affection, even in a moment of berating her for attempting to behave as his wife. The more direct emotion being an effective tell that Björnstrand portrays, as negatively as it is, as this dishonesty that hides a real emotion. This that he definitely does feel something for him, something similar to his deceased wife, that causes this to become a rejection of such a notion. This being that key of the man that Björnstrand realizes in a convincing fashion, as a man who has essentially close himself off from feeling lest it burden him. Her persistence forcing him from his shell of indifference through reaction is of anger and hate as though seemingly fueled by the idea of essentially having to feel.  This is only for a moment as we witness tell Jonas's now widow of her husband's fate. Again Björnstrand depicts that same detachment in delivery this news, not to the point of seeming cruel, yet still he makes it a perfunctory act of decency rather than a true one fitting towards his profession. This leaves the seemingly faithless man only to potentially give service, though to a non-existent crowd other than the organist, Märta, and his sexton. This being perhaps the most important scene as the sexton notes Jesus's own struggles with doubt on the cross, though this is purposefully limited within Björnstrand's performance. This in that Bergman's work as the director creates an ambiguity regarding the character's own faith in the end of the film, this as we do not witness the final sermon only the beginning of it. The question being is it now with meaning because of the sexton's words, and the sight of Märta, who begins praying. A brilliant choice mind you, however it does limit Björnstrand performance, which is neutral in the moment, lest that ambiguity be lost. This as even in the end the pastor remains a frustrating character, who we do learn about, and have an understanding of, but we as the audience never completely lose that distance from him. This is not a criticism regarding Björnstrand's performance, which stands on its own as a strong turn, that works well within the confines of the role and purpose, however it is Thulin's performance and Bergman's work that leaves the most lasting impression.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Burt Lancaster in The Leopard

Burt Lancaster did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina in The Leopard.

The Leopard is a rather effective film following aristocrat attempting to uphold his family's position within Sicily during a time of upheaval.

Burt Lancaster joins of one of many of the American or international leads taking on the center role of an Italian film...often in Italian. Well having both watched the film in Italian and all of Lancaster's scenes in English, with his own vocal performance, that's is just something to note more than anything else. What the film though does offer a rather a different role for Lancaster, who was perhaps one of the more covertly versatile actors of his period. This as Lancaster inhabits this role from the first scene of the film as we see his Prince taking in a prayer service with his family, before receiving somewhat troubling news of the ongoing revolution around them. Even with his own voice Lancaster embodies this role beautifully in a rather unique way among his own work. This is as Lancaster is almost always a commanding presence. That is just part of his nature as a performer, but what is striking here is how he manages to deliver that in a wholly different way as the prince. His whole physical manner here is remarkable in the way he creates such a powerful presence. This with a perfectly dignified walk, fitting to a royalty that was bred to be as such, but everything he does here Lancaster does so with that regal quality. What is most essential in this, and in a way more notable, is that Lancaster does so with such a genuine ease and grace. Lancaster makes for a most convincing Italian royal, through this brilliant adjustment toward his typical presence, that uses that power but in a new way.

The Leopard, along with director Luchino Visconti's previous film, Rocco and His Brothers, was undoubtedly a great influence on the far better known The Godfather, with all films being about the life of an Italian family. Where "Rocco" you can see perhaps the influence on the life of the family and sibling dynamics of the Corleone family, here though it is difficult not to see at least some influence on the patriarch of the Corleone'sm, Vito, in Lancaster's prince. This is evident within Lancaster's performance, who just visually isn't a far cry from Brando's appearance in that film, but the comparison stretches further than this. This is as we find the Prince who is essentially our hero in the film, though like Vito, a hero who seeks to maintain the way of life and prominence of his family, whom the viewer may or may not agree with. The method of the man is perhaps what sells the sympathies, which is so impeccably realized by Lancaster's portrayal. This as the prince is a man of this quiet power. Again realized in Lancaster's work, where that ease in manner just carries the immediate strength of the man, but as does his voice that carries this careful precision. This as Lancaster finds something essential in his portrayal which is a careful intelligence that the prince uses to ensure his family survives within the upheaval around him.

Lancaster delivers on the expected confidence within the character which he exudes in every encounter. This even when speaking of the most potentially troublesome developments Lancaster's eyes conveys the right degree of calculation as though the prince is immediately deciding on what his next move needs to be. The essential facet though, that I would say is most similar to Vito, and helps to design that sympathy for the man is this unquestioned concern for his family. This is as Lancaster delivers this understated, yet palatable warmth within the role. This particularly well shown as he wishes his nephew, Tancredi (Alain Delon), good fortune in actually joining the rebel army even donating something to it. Lancaster keeps a reserved expression, but is magnificent in delivery such an overpowering still, sense of affection for the young man. In that moment too, Lancaster finds just the right degree of wistful optimism in the encouragement. This is as Lancaster is able to express in the moment, care for his family but also an enjoyment of the the idea of the idealism of joining in the fight. Lancaster holds back enough though as he still keeps the prince within his station as a prince, who theoretically should support the old guard, but carries this natural sense of the appreciation for those potentially trying to create a better world.

That revolution is technically successful however it is worked for the royals to maintain position through a constitutional monarchy, which the prince endorses. This in a series of a few of the public scenes of the prince as he works his will to ensure the survival of his family, by dealing with some corrupt men, or at least all too eager to find power. Lancaster is outstanding in carrying the technically manipulative charisma within the prince. There is a particularly great scene where the prince goes to vote in a fixed election that will maintain his family's prominence essentially through the creation of allies. Lancaster's fantastic in the scene as he's able to carefully play the scene so we see the prince's manipulation even as he's technically had compromised to meet his goal. Lancaster delivers this perfect twinkle in his eye as he charms the local corrupt Don, through his voting, while also carefully ensuring no disfavor comes to his family's priest who likely would not vote the expected way. Lancaster's magnificent because in every moment we see him as the man in command of the situation even as the prince plays into the fix. This with his bright smile that appeases the crowd, but still with the quick incisive eyes of the man who knows he is working his will.

In private though we find a different man, where Lancaster too excels in creating the very real sense of the man. This particularly in the private discussions with his priest. Lancaster again delivers two things so well in this the first again being that genuine warmth. This even extends to discussing his own reasons for adultery, which Lancaster manages to speak without excessive hypocrisy, underlined perhaps as he speaks every moment regarding his family with that with only this honest concern. This that he underlines more with a strict passion as he discusses his reasons for his own political maneuvers. He calmly explains the needs for his family's survival with a striking devotion and even a humble sincerity regarding the path. Lancaster is captivating but also creates the essential concern for his position. This is particularly essential again, as Lancaster makes one care for the royal family maintaining their status, just as Vito Corleone did so for his criminal enterprise. Lancaster embodies a the true sense of the leader as he advocates for his position, not through grand statements but through precise action and compromise. This even to the point he rejects potential real power as a senator, which again Lancaster is outstanding by managing to convey in the moment of rejection again this repressed enthusiasm showing that while the prince's heart would be in it, his sense forces him against it.

The film ends as he sees the success of those who are the most opportunistic, and perhaps not the most principled, succeed including his nephew Tancredi, who switches from the revolutionary to the royal army without a second thought. This technically culminating in an alliance as Tancredi marries the daughter of the opportunistic Don, Angelica (Claudia Cardinale), to their mutual benefit. Lancaster, as great as he is in the rest of the film, is downright extraordinary in the final sequence celebrating essentially the new alliance and really the new world. This sequence doesn't even require one to watch the film with Lancaster's voice, as he carries such a poignancy just within his face throughout the sequences. This as the prince goes off to passively look upon the extravagance of those around him and the somewhat questionable fruits of his labor. The sense of melancholia is particularly moving as there is almost the sense of second guessing all that he has played for, in the quietly, yet so strikingly distraught expression as he looks upon seemingly nothing of value around him. The one respite in this being in seeing the young couple of Angelica and Tancredi, which despite the opportunistic pairing do genuinely love each other. The expression of this is best scene in the moment where the prince dances with Angelica. This in the brief moment Lancaster evokes the spark of the prince so beautifully as he looks upon her with the eyes of appreciation for some future, or at least something worthwhile within it. This is but a respite though as after this moment, the prince resigns himself as basically a fading past. Lancaster's amazing again as delivers that understated yet so resonate in his portrayal of this despair, of a man accepting yet still haunted by essentially being an extinct breed. This is an incredible performance by Burt Lancaster, that is unlike any other performance of his I've seen, in delivering this rather effortless yet always compelling depiction of a man both strict in his conviction for his family though with the intelligence to know when to compromise for that conviction.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Robert Shaw & Donald Pleasence in The Caretaker

Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Aston nor did Donald Pleasence for portraying Mac Davies in The Caretaker.

The Caretaker is the most effective cinematic adaptation of the three Harold Pinter play's I've seen. This still, as with the other films, being largely a direct translation, though here with some careful cinematic additions within the film, most noticeably the film's eerie sound design.

Obviously, performances are essential with any play adaptation, however they seem to take on an even greater purpose within the ambiguous writing of Harold Pinter. His writing rarely spells things out, more of granting subtle shades of ideas, and alluding to things while rarely ever flatly telling you the direct truth of a matter. In this in mind we are introduced to two men walking down the streets as this film opens, observed by a third man. The first man appears to be a basic hobo played by Donald Pleasence. An actor who is best known today for his genre turns as Dr. Loomis in Halloween or perhaps as one take on James Bond's arch nemesis Blofeld. Although even as those turns show the evidence of the man's talent, they barely even skim the surface of his great ability as a performer. If one were to witness his turn here, one will immediately see all the greater dynamic of a performer, who already seemed rather remarkable. Pleasence is a far cry from the troubled yet clearly affluent Doctor Loomis, this as a lower class man, that Pleasence immediately embodies in a wholly transformative turn. Pleasence's whole physical manner is of this retiring behavior, a manner clearly defined by a hardship of some sort, a messy existence of a man living in the cracks of society. There's a particularly brilliant way with one hand Pleasence keeps warm essentially, as the other, reaching for expressions, keeping the man protecting himself, while seeming to attempting a conversation of some kind with the other man.

The other man is Aston, played of course by Robert Shaw, an actor who thankfully is best known for his greatest performance, however the greatness of his ability is perhaps still under looked. Shaw here though seems perhaps this is within a certain element of his wheelhouse. This being the cold man. This as there is such a stark contrast between Pleasence and Shaw, as Shaw walks barely with a glance to Pleasence, with a careful step, every movement along their pathway. The idea of interaction even seems almost alien, as Shaw makes Aston appear ever so distance. This curious state continues as Aston shows the elder man into an apartment, which he claims is a place he'll be able to stay for at least the night. Shaw's performance in this film actually is one of the result, and a most fascinating one. Because again, this appears as Shaw is working within the idea of the refined English gentleman, who is so austere in his manner, that there appears a contradiction as Aston makes this invitation to Pleasence's Davies. Shaw seems most peculiar, almost as though he is perhaps a calm collected murderer, as he just quietly delivers each line, while keeping this rather consistent eye contact with him. This as Aston remains always so observant yet so detached within Shaw's portrayal, that seems contradictory, at first.

Speaking of contradictions, of the more obvious sort, is the man that is Davies, who gives the name of Bernard Jenkins, along with a variety of different claims, depending on the slightest hint of an idea from Aston. Pleasence is downright amazing in realizing the rather tricky dialogue, of sorts, at hand in Davies who when in conversation imparts a constant stream of various thoughts, typically half-thought. Pleasence thrives with this, with an entirely different accent from his typically posher sort, that is not only crasser but also a natural lisp fitting to a man whose teeth are familiar with the street than a dentist's chair. Pleasence's accent, along with aforementioned physicality is not only so naturally realized, but immediately grants you a sense of this man as any presumed notions of a Pleasence performance are wiped away. Pleasence's ability with that the tricky dialogue is part of this, as he manages to make it sing, in the properly disjointed way it should be. He grants this perfect rambling tempo, when no one gets in the way of Davies's speech, that evokes so effectively a man who has basically made a good portion of his life just blathering to whoever is in ear shot. A man you may believe seems is eager for conversation, establishing why it is perhaps that Aston is walking with him as the film opens.

As great as the transformation already is by Pleasence, it theoretically could be easy enough to stop it there and leave him just this flat kook of a strange sort. Pleasence though takes this performance far beyond that, and in many ways, makes the film through how dynamic his portrayal is in terms of creating the nature of Davies. This is especially within portraying the shades of the man depending on his audience and depending on his circumstance. In that opening Pleasence has a false affability, in that it is very much egotistical in the grand standing way he speaks every word as this accomplishment, however brought to life in this outgoing fashion that one might believe is friendly, if one is poorly experienced in such things. This changes rather subtly in Pleasence's work as Aston offers Davies a place to stay. Pleasence so cleverly begins to subvert the initial impression a bit as he starts to eye the place with both a curiosity and suspicion. This as he conveys so effectively that Davies isn't quite sure what to make of Aston's offer, yet given his current circumstances is more than willing to utilize it. As he continues with this process Davies quiets just a bit, only a bit, and Pleasence is fantastic in a moment of scoffing at the lack of a usable gas stove. This with a directness, that Pleasence emphasizes within his delivery, that establishes sort of the essential "secret" of his character.

There is more to Davies as he comes into interactions with our third character, the observing man from the opening, Mick (Alan Bates) who is Aston's brother. He initially comes in though hectoring Davies by trying to scare him. Pleasence capturing an initial vicious reaction to attempt to push off any real threat, fitting to a man of the street as though he would be attempting to scare off any mob of men harassing him. When Mick reveals himself, and plays verbal games as well, Pleasence is great in portraying Davies finding his gear of dealing with this brother as well. This initial with these more hostile ramblings, when it appears Mick himself might be hostile, ramblings that build himself up. Pleasence is excellent in each bit of banter as though it is this exact, slightly mad, yet still skilled attack to attempt to settle his place. This almost drowning out any attacks on him through the sheer amount of lies he can espouse in single conversation. Pleasence realizes this beautiful mess in his work, as he manages to create the right degree of mania, with also a certain astuteness. Pleasence doesn't exactly portray this as wholly a lie in the man, but rather the man's method of defense, and as we will also see, attack.

Meanwhile we have Shaw's Aston who continues to seemingly be rather friendly in terms of his offerings to Davies. This is as he gives the man a place to stay and recommends that he have a job as well as the caretaker. This while also consistently mentioning his need to build a shed, a exceptionally performed and especially important line for him. This as he delivers it with this certain fixation on the idea, which matches this fixation we see in his eyes upon Davies. This as Shaw speaks as though he constantly looking for something from the man, something that Shaw doesn't portray as intense outwardly, but rather this internalized intensity towards an interest. This is the key to Shaw's performance though as we find in Shaw's major moment within the film, and the most concrete bit of information within the story. Once again proving the master of the monologue, Shaw's delivery of Aston's story is spellbinding. This is as he finally really speaks and Shaw pulls you into every word. This being another harrowing story of the past, but with a different tilt to the one he would become legendary for. This is as Shaw reveals a man essentially broken mentally, relating the story of the electroshock given to him. Shaw is haunting in every word by finding this most unique emotionalism, within just his eyes, and even the sharp distance of his story. This as he fashions this searing pain of the past within his words, that ends up being reflected into the present. This as he grants sense to the entirety of his performance, as explaining a man who has been stunted and detached emotionally. Shaw realizes this as man though, with still emotion, that still exists within him, but hidden within his hide damaged by perhaps illness, perhaps this trauma. Shaw's quiet intention to harm the man who had done this act to, he brings as this moment of remarkable clarity, as he conveys it as a bit of something Aston can hold onto in his difficult state. This is especially well realized as Shaw then segues back to Aston's statement of shed building, again as fixation he also uses as his base attempt at communication.

Shaw manages to convey the real purpose of Aston's long stares, and kindly actions as he seeks for human interaction yet struggles to find it. This making Davies seem the ideal candidate from his boisterous words, that again could seem affable enough, particularly for someone as socially stunted as Aston. Pleasence excels as he slowly portrays Davies not so much as changing, but revealing himself. This as he begins to slowly find friendlier terms with Mick, at the same time Aston attempted to reveal more of himself. With the former brother Pleasence fashions this almost good old boy attitude, as he revels in joy with the back and forth with almost this maniacal glee. This turns even more so to this as Pleasence speaks with quiet venom these little words of antagonism towards Aston to Mick, and reveals a subtle manipulation within the man. This is against his scene with Aston, as even when Aston really reveals his deepest vulnerability to him, Pleasence is terrific actually by making Davies's reaction so limited. This as this almost confusion of why the man would share such information, almost a disinterest as Pleasence reveals the secret of Davies, which that he's an entirely self-serving freeloader. I especially love the moment in which Davies's ramblings, which are usually false pleasantries, fake bake stories and general odd ego stroking, fall into threats. Pleasence rambles these off as he would any other, making them particularly cruel as Davies mentions he could have Aston returned to the electroshock, as though it is just a casual idea to him, and revealing just how little Aston's moment of vulnerability meant to him. This however making Davies's game becoming a bit more obvious as the manipulator, as he attempts to pit the brothers against one another for his benefit. There's a particularly simple scene in this regard where in the night Davies makes random noises while Aston is trying to sleep, again to be another manipulation. Pleasence is an amazing weasel as again he brings just such a casual earnestness in the self-serving suggestions, claiming an alternative job offer from Mick, even with the act having this fiendish intelligence revealed within his eyes as he makes his seemingly noises. Shaw is also great in this scene in portraying Aston's distaste finally with Davies's behavior, again through so little, that Shaw excels with in still conveying this disappointment in his eyes, rather than the eyes of interest and a hope for connection that we had seen before.

This eventually leading to the final confrontation of sorts as Davies duplicity perhaps gives a chance for connection for the brothers as Aston decides to evict Davies. Shaw does so much with so little in this scene as we are granted the one major interaction between the brothers, where Shaw finds a real poignancy in just the smallest sense of familiarity and affection he grants in the tiny glance between the brothers. This showing that perhaps Aston finally has found his connection with another person. This against his moment with Pleasence, where Shaw speaks volumes through his retiring manner, that distance himself as much as possible. This without uncaring deliveries, that are so notable, and make actually the sense of his earlier ones all the more. This now showing there's a truly detached Aston, from a sense of uncaring, rather than that early detachment in Aston due to his damaged mind, the two sides that Shaw flawlessly brings to life. Shaw says very little, but shows that Aston has no interest or purpose for Davies who abused his kindness. Pleasence offers one more magnificent scene, which is almost not necessary to say I suppose as Pleasence is outstanding every second he's onscreen here. I love what Pleasence does though as we have him again riffing through different terrible self-serving ideas, that are particularly obvious at this point, towards Aston to allow him to stay. As much as Pleasence does allow one to see just how despicable he is, he manages to find just the modicum of humanity in conveying a very real fear between each suggestion, of man with a very uncertain future. Both actors give downright brilliant performances. This is as each realizes a very tricky character, but grants a real sense to them and power to their existence. Shaw through a rather minimalist yet impactful turn of slowly revealing the truth of a broken, and Pleasence through a grand, yet nuanced and oh so complex portrayal of a broken man of an entirely different sort.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Michael Redgrave & Laurence Olivier in Uncle Vanya

Michael Redgrave did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Uncle Vanya nor did Laurence Olivier did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Astrov in Uncle Vanya.

Much like the Stuart Burge directed Othello, also starring Olivier, this film isn't quite just a filming of the play but it is close to it. There is no audience, and it is not just one day they decided to film the play. It is shot on a stage set, but the performances/direction, are attuned towards a general cinematic idea, more so than even in Othello, with edits, closeups, etc. being used by Burge, rather than just flatly filming a play performance. In that context, the film does work quite well as a strong staging of a remarkable play.

Michael Redgrave, who rarely played a happy man, plays the titular role of Uncle Vanya, though not necessarily the central role. He is one man within the estate in which the story is set. The old house of Vanya's sister, who is now deceased but left the house, an old maid daughter Sonya (Joan Plowright), and her husband the professor Serebryakov. The professor's visit being the catalyst in the story as he visits the estate with his new young wife Yelena (Rosemary Harris). Vanya is a role that is as unimportant as it is essential in terms of the state of being that defines Vanya. He is a middle aged man, an intelligent one, essentially without purpose within the rural estate. Redgrave's performance perhaps benefits from the pseudo cinematic form the most as so much of his performance are the moments of focusing on him, even when he turned away from whoever is speaking. Redgrave's initial approach is very much the success of his work entirely in realizing his Uncle Vanya. This is as he makes the man in this nearly comical tragic state of a man having had his life been wasted away, seemingly by circumstance. This is not drudgery to watch, as it could've been, as Redgrave tilts within that certain humorous overarching approach that is a rather fascinating one.

A frequent visitor, and fellow denizen of the provincial, is Dr. Astrov, who in many ways is the other side of the very same coin as Vanya. Astrov being played by the great Olivier, who I will praise to no end at any chance, and this will be no exception in that regard. Astrov's role is the more active of the two, which Olivier takes hold of naturally enough. Olivier leading into a given scene with such charisma as a man, who has just a bit more stature within his profession as doctor, but there is a bit more to it than that. Olivier though from the outset is wonderful to watch here playing the part with such a wonderful zest that makes Astrov stand out as he should, as a man who speaks his mind just a bit more than his fellow visitors and residents. Olivier of course takes hold of this idea splendidly with such rapturous deliveries, fitting to Astrov's natural musing upon the situations around him. Olivier delivers the right sort atypical extroverted bent to the man with a love of nature, and just really a general spirited attitude. Olivier exudes the right type of joy of at least the experience of interaction, which is where his performance intermingles with Redgrave's the most. This is as again, Astrov from a cursory look seem like they might be the opposite, which is the fantastic part of what Redgrave and Olivier do together, as the two are in a very similar situation.

Redgrave was an expert at the discontent of life, giving an all-time great performance depicting that in The Browning Version, in portraying such a natural anxiety. This is the case here as Redgrave in a given scene just exudes this discomfort of one's state being. This as making Vanya a man who can find comfort in his own skin even given the discomfort he has had with his life. Redgrave's work again though is terrific because he does not make it this slog and adheres to the idea of Uncle Vanya, the play, is technically a comedy. This is not to say he exactly gives a comedic performance, but what Redgrave does makes sense of the character through this humorous approach. A darkly humorous approach however as Redgrave plays the part as though Vanya can't help but nearly laugh at the expense of himself at every given situation. Rather than cry, Redgrave is rather powerful in making such a painful smile as he just shakes his head at his existence again and again. There is a real pathos Redgrave finds with this, that he carries as almost Vanya's shield from completely breaking down into despair. This even as he declares his love for the young Yelena, Redgrave is heartbreaking as his delivery is inundated with self-deprecating scoffs and grins. This as Redgrave plays the moment quite effectively as one of self-defeat, knowing his attempt for the younger woman will fail, but tries anyway.

Now the two are of the same coin in that Astrov is very much in the same situation as Vanya. In that neither is happy in their place in life, and feel very much out of place within their setting for their existence. Olivier though shows that Astrov quite simply is not as burdened by this knowledge as Vanya is. He instead delivers the mention of their unfortunate circumstances with a blunt straight forward, "yes this is how it is", of a man whose basically made peace with it. Olivier though underlines this though with portraying the doctor as trying to enjoy what there can be found in his life as much as can be found. One of the ways is even within trolling Vanya a bit, as he basically makes fun of him from time to time, which Olivier portrays as biting though with a definite good nature, as his eyes subvert the words with an affectionate warmth. He conveys an empathy within Vanya's plight as he himself is experiencing it, though the way he can experience is taking those bits of joy, which includes pestering Vanya a bit. Olivier accentuates the different nature of this same existence particularly effectively when he also declares his love to Yelena, unfortunately while she was trying to see if the doctor was interested in the "said to be homely" Sonya. This as Olivier portrays this immediate energetic thrust towards the opportunity, attempting to woo her at the chance of something more, which contrasts effectively against the sabotage of Redgrave as Vanya.

Yelena mostly rejects Astrov as she did Vanya, and I love the bit of smug delight Olivier depicts in Astrov's minor victory he can hold over the bitter Vanya. The Vanya who gets worse before he gets better as the story goes on and Redgrave is great in depicting his own breaking point. This as not from denied opportunities, but rather the loss of even the existence he has when the professor suggests selling their home off. Redgrave's exceptional in the moment by finally making his self-deprecating laughs as unbearable, as they sweep away in his eyes towards an abject madness. This as he finally lashes out without hesitations, towards violent action, which Redgrave makes it natural by creating it as this breaking point where Vanya's humor no longer can save him. This leaving Vanya trying to literally kill the professor but failing in that too, therefore left just to sulk within his home again. Redgrave, though he only has a few lines, is great in his final scene by showing Vanya no longer with even that pained smile on his face. This as he attempts to attempt suicide, at least as an act of an attempt by stealing Astrov's morphine, where Redgrave is remarkable just in realizing the sad state of the man now directly living his depression. This again contrasting against Olivier as Astrov who blithely tells Vanya to give him back his morphine and go kill himself properly by shooting himself. Olivier's approach again effectively delivers a comedic bent to it, though in the moment he carefully still grants a genuine concern in the man's eyes for Vanya. Olivier though shows the alternative path as Astrov still is in the same state of existence, however Olivier exudes still just this sense of the simple joy of the little success he had with Yelena and life, though with its own pathos in his pitch perfect reaction as he sadly turns away from Sonya's romantic hopes before leaving the estate. Both Olivier and Redgrave do justice to their roles by finding an effortless tone that serves the material so well, as creating these barriers of comedy, from the tragedy within.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Steve McQueen in Love With the Proper Stranger

Steve McQueen did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Rocky Papasano in Love With the Proper Stranger.

Love With The Proper Stranger is a decent enough semi-comic drama about a relationship that almost accidentally develops due to a one night stand.

The film itself can be noted as an example of a straight drama featuring Steve McQueen in a leading role. McQueen being more typically associated with epics, spectacles and war films. This is a much lower key affair even by "dramatic" McQueen standards, as even his more noted dramatic turns, later on, were typically in film with some sort of grander scale to them. McQueen's just a basic layabout musician looking for a job as we open the film and is a bit befuddled as he runs into a young woman paging him. She's Angie (Natalie Wood), whose not paging for a job but rather finding him to let him know she needs him to find an abortionist after their one night stand. Not a great meeting point for either of them, as Rocky's initial reaction is trying figure out who the woman is before confusion of the sudden bit of responsibility that has fallen upon him. This initial reaction seems to inform McQueen's whole performance which I suppose you might say is a bit of an antithesis of the typical McQueen, in that he makes Rocky decidedly uncool. This might seem a grievous waste of the King of Cool, however it does offer an interesting alternative as he takes a decidedly atypical approach from his usual screen presence.

McQueen usually is someone who owns the screen without trying, and that is typically just a given with him on screen. That is not the case here, as he does not make Rocky some hip cool musician, but rather almost a bit of a doofus. This approach actually is more fitting than expected, as the guy asks another lady friend to try to find an abortionist for Angie, and is obviously not exactly the sharpest tool within any shed. McQueen then very much"tries" more than usual in giving what in some ways feels like a more "active" performance from him. This is as he makes Rocky almost look out of place in a given scene, of trying to play the part of the pseudo respectable romantic. This right down to McQueen's physicality which is bereft of his typical ease, to this cumbersome manner of a non too bright man. Instead of owning a given scene, McQueen awkwardly exists within them, which again actually works in creating a character outside of his typical oeuvre. It is a different sight from McQueen as he comes off as almost petulant, which is quite different from the ultimate man's man that typically defined the McQueen presence.

Steve McQueen's dash outside of his comfort zone is a tad limited here, only as the film does favor Angie more in the narrative, with his only major scenes coming when he directly shares the screen with Wood. McQueen actually doesn't have amazing chemistry with Wood, which I'll again say actually fits the role of Rocky once again. The two are not suppose to be a dream couple by any measure, in fact the first real bonding we see of them as they wait together before being able to see an abortionist. McQueen however is effective in cultivating the certain connection in these moments of interaction. This with this slightly humorous awkwardness as physically he still keeps the same distance, however McQueen uses his eyes towards an understanding and an eventual warmth. Again, it never becomes this rapturous love affair, but rather this slow growth of feeling really between the two. McQueen's performance realizes the difficulty of the situation in every moment, while also slowly finding any ease within the interactions.  He's then effective in the moment of going to the abortionist, who is even shadier than originally expected, to where Rocky, concerned for Angie's safety insists they leave. This is an important moment in McQueen's work as he does not fall into tough McQueen, which would be dishonest to the character. He instead remains consistent in even this more heroic act, he delivers it with a hesitant voice, and without physical command. It is still of a fairly hapless man, but one who finds a better self in the moment. The film after this moment becomes a bit rushed as Rocky is willing to marry Angie, however she rejects his proposal as dishonest. The rest of the film is this dance, with Rocky gradually proving his sincerity. These scenes honestly are a little strangely paced, however McQueen does prove his measure in them. The two have a date of sorts where Rocky's compliments towards Angie come off as insults, unintentionally and in this McQueen finds a genuine charm in each delivery of Rocky's messy earnestness. This along with in his eyes finally conveying a want for her, rather than just a bit of responsibility. This all gets rushed a bit more as the film smashes towards the big romantic gesture of Rocky's that comes off as almost an afterthought in the film's bizarrely handled climax. McQueen's slightly befuddled face though again is rather enjoyable, as we see him present himself with a banjo and bells, with a sincere offer to marry. This isn't extraordinary work by McQueen by any measure, however it is an interesting side to him as a performer. Although limited by the part, McQueen does use it to show off a bit of range outside of his typically dominating presence as the King of Cool. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Alberto Sordi in Il Diavolo

Alberto Sordi did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a Golden Globe, for portraying Amedeo Ferrettiin in Il Diavolo.

Il Diavolo is an interesting film that follows an Italian merchant through his travels in Sweden.

It is probably fair to say that Alberto Sordi's Golden Globe win for best actor in a musical or comedy, is the most obscure winner in the history of the category. This is to the point that one ought to give that often dubious awards group some credit for recognizing a non-English language performance in a film that was not a major awards touchstone otherwise. They might have been on an Italian kick, with Marcello Mastroianni having won the previous year for Divorce, Italian Style, however that was an Oscar nominated turn as well. I won't diminish the win though as this is rather a different turn to examine from comic actor Alberto Sordi. An actor, I'll admit, I have only a limited perspective of in a few scant, though more than decent turns, in English language films, and his notable devastating turn in An Average Little Man. Of course that turn was one that went to a very dark place, however the nature of this role also has really two sides within it.

Sordi's unique talents so strongly evident in that later performance is evident here as well though in perhaps lower stake circumstances. Our man Amedeo is just indeed an average man as well, but in the circumstances of just a business trip. A trip he foresees more for pleasure despite being a married man, of course. Sordi, even with this intention, brings a such a considerable charm through his affable screen presence. This making Amedeo's endeavor almost have this certain oxymoronic innocence within it. This approach is effective however from his earliest moments of essentially admiring the local women who he comes across early in the film. Sordi brings the utmost earnestness in his energy in every one of his greetings towards these women however he manages to find just the right manner for this. In that he does certainly deliver the requisite lustful quality of Amedeo however he carefully does not over do it to the point of becoming excessively sleazy. He's best instead by being just a bit sleazy however so well realized within Sordi's comic manner that still finds a charm even within that.

Sordi's performance is essential the film beyond his exact journey though in a particular way as he stands as a reactionary lead. This makes enough sense as his communication skills are limited as an Italian in Sweden, however how Sordi reacts to each given situation very much makes both the comedic and dramatic thrust through the film. Although less extreme than in An Average Little Man, Sordi's performance very much functions within both atmospheres to realize Amedeo's journey here. Sordi is very funny in initially keeping that same, lets not beat around the bush here, horny grin across his face with each potential "conquest" he meets. Sordi's equally effective in conveying then the certain disappointment as each opportunity instead opens himself up to a different part of the Swedish culture that isn't sex related. Sordi finds in these moments the right humorous disappointment in his expression in a given moment, but balances that with the right degree of shame all the same. A particularly wonderful scene is as he's met with a carol instead of any sort of tryst, and his eyes convey so well the character's certain dismay though that Sordi so effortless conveys to that quiet appreciation though with a definite embarrassment underlining it all.

Throughout Amedeo's journey he does not discover a sex romp, but instead discovers a perhaps a little strange however still welcoming country with far more to offer him that debauchery. Sordi's performance then becomes one of this interesting discovery of each new situation underlining each with a bit of Amedeo's sort of discovery of each place while also creating a sense of the reflection of it within himself. In the grand finale, of sorts, we get really two sides of Sordi's performance so effectively intertwined once again. This being mostly in a hilarious fashion throughout a sequence of ice car racing where Sordi's reactions are priceless to the insane, rather dangerous, hi-jinks of his female host. When finally though it seems he'll get his initial desire of sex, Sordi derives such a poignancy in his timid way of speaking the truths of a man who has in reality only been honorable to his wife despite his straying thoughts throughout. This is a wonderful turn as Sordi very much delivers on the promise of this goofy tourist looking for all the wrong things in all the wrong ways. His comic reactions are consistently funny throughout the film, but what takes the performance further is creating this honest sense of growth in the character. This in creating a genuine portrait of a man learning more about himself in what is an overarching comedic turn.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Marcello Mastroianni in The Organizer

Marcello Mastroianni did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Professor Sinigaglia in The Organizer.

The Organizer is a rather effective film that follows textile workers as they attempt to organize then maintain a strike.

Marcello Mastroianni appears more than 20 minutes into this film, as just barely the lead. This as his character more than anything acts as a catalyst for how the strike will develop. He is not one of the workers but rather an on the run "organizer"/former teacher who is attempting to help the workers in their efforts for better treatment. This is just a brief description however and this is a rather fascinating performance to examine by Mastroianni that is a far cry from the slick modern Italians you'd find him in his Fellini collaborations. Mastroianni actually leverages his typical charisma to offer a wholly different sort of character for himself, in the professor who is anything but the common man. Mastroianni delivers a very different physicality than is typical to his other performances of the period. He has a very effective meek expressionism in his manner. This as he walks very much around like a slightly fearful and rather modest teacher. An interesting approach actually as really what is about half of his performance is that of a rather comedic take, in a film that in its overarching themes is most certainly a drama. Mastroianni plays him almost as this goofball who sticks out quite sorely across the crowd with his slanted walk, and way of always seeming a bit overly, while also oddly, dressed.

I will say though I rather love the approach Mastroianni takes in this regard in it effectively distances the professor from the rest of the people, though while still managing to show why he'd be able to endear himself to the majority of them. This is as Mastroianni has the right off-beat energy in this manner of a man whose joyful attitude is rather endearing. It also helps that Mastroianni manages to be genuinely amusing here in his comedic moments, which he rather naturally brings to the fairly dramatic narrative. This such as his somewhat trollish expression when reacting to seeing he's stopped a potential sexual rendezvous, or his complete lack of hesitation in his manner in a later scene where a prostitute he's staying with says he doesn't need to sleep alone. The way Mastroianni jumps up in that moment is a bit of comic gold and makes the professor rather likable. He importantly doesn't go overboard in his approach that would stretch the honesty of the character. Mastroianni manages to make his manner both enjoyable to watch but also natural within his character. Mastroianni uses it to portray the man who in many ways doesn't really fit in where he is as a fugitive professor among the working class, however he realizes this essentially in this affable way.

Mastroianni's approach though also works in creating this certain specific dynamic within the man, where he is is this affable sort but with a certain pathos. Mastroianni's work finds the right pathos through his quieter scenes where he explains his motivations. In these moments there's a real sense of history in his eyes of a man who has seen much pain in his time. He's especially strong in the moment where he reflects on the situation forcing a woman to become a prostitute with a quiet discontent that so powerfully realizes the man's convictions as an underlying fact. These though are in a way the fuel within the character that flows from the professor when he must speak to the crowd of the workers to to convince them to keep on the good fight. Mastroianni makes these moments especially pointed as he fashions them in contrast to the near clown we see the rest of the time. Mastroianni however rightly plays this as part of who the man is as he almost brings this hesitation before each moment, portraying the professor purging the strength out of himself in order to make his statements. In turn Mastroianni makes them such genuinely striking moments of a fervent passion from a meek man. This as he calls upon a strict righteousness in his words with such a direct strength within his eyes in these moments. Mastroianni in these scenes shows a man who becomes in his element, in a way that has always been within him, however now as he reveals it with such a direct purpose. His way of spurring this grandiose strength out of such modesty makes it all the more notable, since he shows still to come from a man of that modesty through that hesitation. He's a man who must conduct what he believes out himself, which he can do with such thunder, but must still deliver from within himself. This is very much an against type turn by Mastroianni as he takes his usual casual cool charisma and re-purposes it to this more erratic role. Mastroianni does so successfully in making the professor a real character without a becoming a caricature. He finds the man who is of a different life, in an entertaining way, yet never sabotages the serious intentions of the man that brings out in such a remarkable force. The professor isn't your standard Mastroianni lead, or even union hero, however his work crafts instead such a unique sort, that leaves an equally unique impression both within the film and among his oeuvre.