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.

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.