Saturday, 28 September 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2001

And the Nominees Were Not:

Paul Bettany in A Knight's Tale

Mark Addy in A Knight's Tale

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

Justin Theroux in Mulholland Drive

Anthony Hopkins in Hearts in Atlantis

James Gandolfini in The Mexican 

Bettany for prediction purposes.

And a review of:

Hayden Christensen in Life As A House

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Results

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

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

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

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

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

Best Scene: Final enlightenment. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2001 Supporting

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Jim Carrey in The Majestic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Liu Ye in Lan Yu

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

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

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

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

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