Monday, 6 April 2020

Alternate Best Actor 1978: Harvey Keitel in Fingers

Harvey Keitel did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jimmy Fingers in Fingers.

Fingers is the original film about a man caught between a world of crime and musical aspirations.

I say original film, as I previously reviewed Romain Duris in The Beat That My Heart Skipped, the perhaps more artfully directed remake of the film from 2005. Both are good films though in their own right (though the sex scenes might tell you a little too much about its writer/director), and to inhabit slightly different experiences almost entirely realized within the central performance. Where Duris gave a strong portrayal of a normal guy caught up into a very difficult situation, Keitel doesn't something entirely different with the part. I'll admit when going into watching the film I thought I was more likely going to see a variation on Keitel's work in Mean Streets, which would've been closer to Duris's eventual approach, but Keitel genuinely surprised me.  Where Duris portrayed a man who understood his situation in a sense, even though he was often powerless to deal with it, Keitel portrays a man who in unaware of it. This is fundamental in his approach to the part though which is that Jimmy might be a bit mentally ill, or at least mentally off from the duality of being raised by his criminal father and musician mother, who also appears to be a bit mentally off herself. Keitel's performance then is just not of this hood, or even conflicted hood. It is rather revealing of his Jimmy Fingers as a man wholly out of place in his existence in a way, though technically fashioned by that existence.

Keitel doesn't portray the character as having two sides, at least not exactly. We open the film as he is practicing Bach on the piano. Keitel portraying the uproarious passion of the man within it. This passion for music though doesn't stop once he stops playing. This as we instantly see him trying to entice a young woman while dragging along a radio that is constantly playing some his favorite music. Keitel excitedly speaks every word as Jimmy speaks about the music he loves so much. It is without hesitation that we see this passion from Keitel, where he emphasizes in a way that for Jimmy music is this essential part of him. He speaks of it as though others should just understand at as he does, and his eyes blaring with this rich sense of belief in every word of his. This in portraying Jimmy as just not a music lover, but also as this believer that everyone around him ought to love music as he does. Keitel's performance managing to find this natural, by in a way making it somewhat mentally off, in one way or another, in these moments. This isn't to say he undercuts the passion, quite the contrary, but rather he expresses a man who finds music as the truth of his life and life in general. This though with a lack of awareness that others do not share this same treatment, and showing essentially an anger when there are others who do respect the art as he does.

The scenes where Jimmy speaks to his father (Michael V. Gazzo) Keitel does not hide his excitement at the prospect of the audition, something this father is even generally supportive of. In this time though we also have his father give Jimmy two money collection jobs, as basically his muscle. This may seem at odds with the artistic man that is Jimmy in the opening scenes, however that would be misguided.  Instead at the first money pick up job, it is with his radio that we're storming in. This where Keitel is beaming as he explains his love of the song coming from the radio, and just trying to inquire ways of how his radio can be supported. The man, who owes Jimmy's father money though doesn't relent to that, or Jimmy's initially gentle demands for the money. Jimmy in turn then violently accosts the man, and what is so unnerving in this is how natural Keitel makes it. It isn't a shift rather it is the same passion within the man, though now for different purpose where Keitel delivers the same intensity found in his love of music, now for violence. Keitel delivers on that menace but what makes it remarkable is how it segues in the moment with such ease as Keitel portrays Jimmy's as singular, despite the two interests seem at opposite ends of one another. This is made all the more clear when he gets into a violent argument with men questioning his radio, where Keitel's snap of threatening the man as this near instinct of a man who has this specific sensitivity.

The sensitivity that Keitel does not turn into making a "good" man but rather the man that he is. This as we see him in any instance, including his interactions with women. Keitel portrays this desperate need for some deeper show of affection, that is palatable and seething in these moments. There is a distress in his eyes of a man looking for some greater connection that he never finds. The same can be seen within when we see him playing piano, and now failing to do so for an audition. Again Keitel emphasizes the frustration in his passion that seem displaced, and in his failure to direct it in a away for others to understand. We find that though with his scenes with his father and his one important scene with his mother. His father who in general is more open, though prompting Jimmy to commit more violent acts, and his essential scene with his mother. In both there is a searing need in Keitel's eyes of a boy just looking for approval in his parents, with very differing expectations, and in turn grants sense to the man who thrusts himself so fiercely into a life of both art and violence. Keitel manages to create then this strange, yet convincing, extreme of the man who in a way becomes deranged by the oddness of the arithmetic that makes up his life. Keitel finding these emotional extremes then in the end believable fashion, as we see the man throwing himself still into song, but then just the same as we see his violent acts at the end of the film. Keitel defines Jimmy as a man defined by his passion, and does so powerfully whether it be through an elegant concerto or a brutal murder.

83 comments:

Michael McCarthy said...

One thing I loved about this performance is how Keitel’s body language shifts depending on which parent he’s dealing with, revealing the specific defense mechanisms Fingers has developed in dealing with both of them.

Calvin Law said...

Fascinating. Sounds like a Keitel performance that goes against his usual type (though I'll always stand by him having far more range than people give him credit for).

Mitchell Murray said...

Sounds like another strong performance from Keitel that I ought to check out. It's a shame how the oscars only ever recognized him for "Bugsy", when he's been so much better in less "awards friendly" fare, so to speak.

Also, its oddly satisfying to see both of Scarlett Johansson's nominated turns make it on your rankings, Louis...
Some actors peak to early. Some peak to late. And still others spend much of their careers in less than challenging roles, only to find their biggest acclaim at a certain point. Johansson is a great example of the latter since she's not only being offered interesting parts, she's also proven herself as a matured, talented performer. Thanks to Johansson's 2019 output I have happily revised my opinion of her, and I hope she continues to find success from here on out.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

RatedRStar said...

I do always like that Siskel and Ebert always praised him for his risk taking.

Luke Higham said...

A very underrated performer. Hope to see this soon. I sincerely hope Louis upgrades him for The Duellists.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: your thoughts on the flares scene from In the Name of the Father?

Watched Brubaker today and if Kotto doesn’t get a review this year, he’d be deserving for 1980 Supporting as well. Redford is excellent too.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Your ratings for Redford and Kotto.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: BTW, I checked your instagram feed and you've seen 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Your ratings for the cast.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: 4.5 for both.

Marinca: 5
Vasiliu: 4
Ivanov: 3.5
Potocean: 3

It's actually more of a director's film but Marinca's performance is essential. I'm hoping Louis will love the film.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: thoughts on the last BCS episode? Thought the desert scenes were all very effective, Odenkirk was terrific and Banks gave some of his best work in the series, though my favourite scene might've been the one between Rheehorn and Dalton (who continues to be mesmerising in the role).

Bryan L. said...

Luke: Can we change requests if the performance is from the same year?

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: Yes!

Bryan L. said...

Luke: Very well then.

I’m changing my request from Joaquin Phoenix in Buffalo Soldiers to Mads Mikkelsen in Open Hearts.

Also, for the City of God boys, just a review of Firmino da Hora. I rewatched it and Silva is in less than I first remembered.

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: I think Mikkelsen's a certainty for Open Hearts, Louis ain't passing on a review of a potential five performance from him.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: Hhmmm...how about Greg Kinnear in Auto Focus? I've seen that as well.

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: Yes. What are your ratings for him and Dafoe.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: I'd give both of them a strong 4 at least.

Luke Higham said...

2002 Lead
Leslie Cheung - Inner Senses
Chiwetel Ejiofor - Dirty Pretty Things
Joaquin Phoenix - Buffalo Soldiers
Sol Kyung-Gu - Oasis
Olivier Gourmet - The Son
Hugh Grant - About A Boy
Bill Paxton - Frailty
Hiroyuki Sanada - The Twilight Samurai
Greg Kinnear - Auto Focus
Campbell Scott - Roger Dodger

Alt. David Gulpilil - The Tracker
Jeremy Renner - Dahmer (He's terrific in a not so good film)

Bryan L. said...

Luke: So Kinnear it is? It's a bit against-type work for him, and I also rewatched Buffalo Soldiers, where there isn't worth much discussing there.

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: Thanks for the info. Honestly, I was really struggling with whatever 10 I'd go with. I'll replace Phoenix with Gulpilil.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: Alrighty. You can make my request change official then. Phoenix out, Kinnear in.

Also, I've heard that you keep a 4.5/5 Google Docs. May I have access to it? :) bryansfilmsandetc@gmail.com

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: I've sent it. It's not entirely accurate but it's subject to change.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: Received!

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: Could you send it to me as well? My email's tahmeedkc@gmail.com

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Agreed, I think it's a shame Keitel never exactly broker out past a certain point, staying a literal low budget leading man/character actor, while his contemporaries made that transition, but I suppose he was always destined to be Scorsese's Takashi Shimura.

Tahmeed:

Gazzo - 3.5(He's effective once again as the gangster type, though here a lot cruder in that respect particularly in the intensity he directs at Keitel. I like though that he manages to create a certain sense of warmth, if hidden within himself, towards Keitel as a loving father, even if a father who technically completely abusing his son.)

Farrow - 2.5(She serves her role but doesn't really make an impression beyond it.)

Brown - 2.5(Just wanted to note how bizarre his scene is. He's fine, but that sequence is 70's to the EXTREME, and not really in a good way.)

Seldes - 3.5(Quite effective in her one scene in portraying in the way he character technically has the better life in mind for Keitel's character, she portrays broadly a far colder manner towards him than Gazzo, working well as a contrast that helps to define Jimmy.)

Calvin:

I assume you mean the remembrance of Giuseppe, Sheridan is sort of a meat and potatoes director (and I mean that in the best of ways when he is at his best), though that is a scene of tipping his hand slightly, and effectively so in allowing a bit more visual beauty within the harsh setting that really brings home the loss of really titular character.

I LOVED the episode that was just a taut piece altogether, with finally some great interaction between Saul and Mike again, with Odenkirk being outstanding in bringing home the intensity of the situation that is almost entirely new to Saul, but also had that fantastic moment from Banks of Mike explaining himself. Though I'd agree with the best scene though, as Dalton is turning in a villain worthy to be there with the best of Breaking Bad.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Bryan switched Phoenix to Greg Kinnear in Auto Focus.

Michael McCarthy said...

Hell, let me in on that google doc too if you don’t mind Luke. mmccarthy24601@gmail.com

Luke Higham said...

Guys, if there's any questions you want to ask me about that list, feel free.

Tim said...

Louis, what are your thoughts and rating on David Thomlinson in Mary Poppins?

Luke Higham said...

Tim: He's being reviewed for 64 Supporting. He's sitting on a 3.5 at the monent.

Michael Patison said...

Luke: I know you've shared it with me before but I'm not sure where the Google Doc is. I'd like it as well. jmpatison@gmail.com

Bryan L. said...

Luke: Your rating and overall thoughts on Macbeth (2015)?

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: A 4.

2 amazing performances (As of now, a career-best Fassbender), Great Cinematography, I personally love the alternative interpretation of two Grief-Stricken parents. However, I do think the visual aesthetic can be rather excessive at times and I feel that we've yet to see the definitive cinematic Macbeth in a traditional sense.

Luke Higham said...

I'm really looking forward to Joel Coen's Macbeth.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: Thanks man, I really appreciate it :)

Louis: Could I have your thoughts on the direction of A Fish Called Wanda?

Lucas Saavedra said...

Luke: could you send it to me too if you don´t mind? My mail is lukisaa03@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Louis: Although he was briefly in the sixth season of Game of Thrones, do you think Richard E. Grant could've been a good fit for Littlefinger? Or in a 2000s version of the show as well?

Calvin Law said...

I have a feeling the Coen’s Macbeth is going to be weird as fuck. I cannot wait to see Denzel and McDormand go at it.

Louis; yeah I’d really missed seeing Banks and Odenkirk interact.

Michael Patison said...

Luke: Glad you added "traditional sense" to your Macbeth comments, because I found the Patrick Stewart version pretty damn good.

I also find David Tennant performance in Stewart's Hamlet to be a career best, despite my love for his Doctor.

Also, thanks so much for the email.

Calvin Law said...

Ian McKellen’s Macbeth and Judi Dench’s Lady Macbeth are great too.

Mitchell Murray said...

Louis: Perhaps this is a silly question, but is there an ideal run time for you for specific types of films?
I mean, 2 hours is pretty much the standard for most dramas, but it can feel just a tad too long for some raunchy comedies. Then you have really long films which generally take the form of historical/science fiction epics. For the features of Scorsese, Tarantino and Peter Jackson Pre-"The Lovely Bones", I feel such a length is generally worth it. Of course you can also have something like "Dances with Wolves" or "Benjamin Button", which just stretch themselves too thin to be compelling all the way through.

Matt Mustin said...

Mitchell: See, I think a big problem with Tarantino recently (post-Sally Menke) is that he actually severely needs to cut his run times down. Django Unchained and ESPECIALLY once Upon a Time in Hollywood were both longer than they needed to be. Technically, so was The Hateful Eight but that one didn't bother me because I was so captivated the whole time.

As for Peter Jackson "pre-The Lovely Bones"...I mean, Lord of the Rings, sure, but do you really think King Kong justified its length?

Michael Patison said...

Here's all the acting top 10s in 1 place: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1sM-Tz4PDsvXVR1SQtG2xCpaktNL8CJA4Z_dtP0_zrTo/edit?usp=sharing. I'm allowing y'all to edit to I don't have to keep track of it.

Mitchell Murray said...

Matt: In regards to "King Kong", yes I do. Admittedly, I first saw it when I was rather young, so my view of the film might be bolstered by nostalgia. On its own, though, I do feel its one of the better updates on classic Hollywood monsters films. Because Jackson takes such a grand, sweeping approach, allotting the proper time for set up, but also remaining true to the proven "Three act structure", I think he more than earns his extensive run time. It also helps that the film is just so technically impressive, and that most of the cast delivers fine work (Watts being MVP).

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Mitchell: It really depends on the quality of the film for me. That being said, even amazing films like The Irishman or Gone with the Wind can be difficult to get through in one sitting, due to their extreme lengths. Would I want them any shorter? Probably not, as I feel that in both films, the direction, screenplay and all-time great performances involved earn that length easily.

That being said, I find a lot of films to be needlessly long. A lot of Bollywood films could become more effective overall if they had a good half-hour slashed from them: they're often bogged down by musical sequences that seem to be there without any rhyme or reason. I'll also concur with Matt on Tarantino, as I feel he really needed a second voice in OUATIH, in order to encourage him to trim the fat in that film.

Bryan L. said...

I still like OUATIH quite a bit, but I do think its' runtime could've been more justifiable if Tarantino had bothered to develop Sharon Tate as a character, because there really isn't much to most of her scenes. Unfortunately, he didn't.

Calvin Law said...

Honestly everything is context. An ideal run time for me is whatever best suits the respective material, whether it be 10 minutes or 4 hours.

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan:

Alright Blade Runner 2049's screenplay is exceptional in the way Villeneuve's work is, and here is where I would say it wholly best the original, though the original deserves all the credit for its world building, though its single best line was per Mr. Hauer (who still stands as the greatest aspect of any Blade Runner film). This film though took off from that again though, naturally building another world, with the reinvention of replicants, the mythology of the first film, and the growing artifice of the world. The greatness of the work is one where it has that common trait found in most masterpieces in my mind, which is a narrative thrust, with immaculate character realizations and arc. Well we have that there, with the masterstroke of the film's screenplay being defining K as a replicate from the outset. Its thematic realization of the nature of one's identity, the exploration of humanity, is so rich here, both in terms of the total narrative regarding "the child" but all the greater in K's personal journey. Of course K's not the only great character, as though the performances take it even further, the ambiguous nature of Joi and the alternative exploration of "humanity" in Luv are also brilliant works in the screenplay. The scenes have such a striking elegant progression, that find time for character, find time for nuance, but keep the plot captivating, that is a fascinating mystery, and exploration of the characters. My only criticism personally would be the Gaff scene, which honestly I don't have a problem with the setup but it should've been Bryant, not Gaff, as the character just is far too blunt and obvious for the mysterious Gaff of the first film. Otherwise I have nothing but praise, yes I even like Wallace's speeches, which to me are befitting a man with a massive god-complex.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

Cinematic comedy direction is perhaps something that too often doesn't get enough credit, as it is so essential to making comedy work. Charles Crichton gives a fantastic sendoff work, one of the best final films probably, that is such a perfect companion piece to his other hilarious heist picture in The Lavender Hill Mob. Crichton didn't lose an inch in his step in over 30 years later though, bringing Cleese's hilarious script to wonderful life. Timing is in a way everything, and that is what we get here. This in Crichton's work is a showcase in knowing when to make a gag through editing or to let the actor's play it out. He has that wonderful combination of allowing the interaction to make it or the momentum. It's an example of just being so attuned to the jokes, as basically almost every bit hits, as his direction has that essential life that is cinematic. This in take two hilarious but separate scenes. Take Ken and Otto and the fish. A hilarious scene where Crichton basically just lets Kline and Palin have at it, though of course knowing just when to have the hilarious Palin reactions and when to focus on Kline's madness, but he lets that moment play out so nicely in between the two. Then take one of my all time favorite comedy scene of the steam roller, cement and Otto and Ken. Performances are essential, from Palin's determination to Kline's series of negotiations/excuses, but Crichton making the cuts just all the swifter as it closer to Otto, is what makes it really pure gold. An example of how to make a cinematic comedy, that is pure comedy, and I do give the director's branch all the credit for recognizing him there.

Anonymous:

Most definitely, Little Finger was one of the biggest wastes of potential (well other than the entire story) of the show, and Grant, though slightly too old, would've I think brought a more Iago like "friend" quality than Gillen who made him such an obvious slime, that it made Catelyn look a little too dumb. I will also say Grant, along with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, were the two biggest wastes of talent in the show's casting.

Mitchell:

Well the quote of Roger Ebert "No Bad Film is Too Short, No Good film is too long", is true a certain sense, in that I outright reject the notion of any film just being too long because it is long, particularly from people who binge 10 hours of tv. Having said that, to disagree with Ebert a little bit, sometimes making a film a little shorter makes the film all the greater (Amadeus, and Apocalypse Now's theatrical cuts were the exact right length) but can also hinder it (Once Upon a Time in America, Kingdom of Heaven are all superior when you have the whole of it). It all depends.

I will say however there can be trends, particularly in specific genres, however there are always exceptions. Comedies and action films tend to be better are shorter lengths, just because momentum is so key to their success and that is harder to maintain for longer running times. There are exceptions though, Hot Fuzz is 2 hours and I wouldn't cut a minute from it.

Tim said...

I agree with Tahmeed that even great movies can be too long, my example would be Lawrence of Arabia. I only have the Director's Cut, so i can only speak about that.

Yes, of course that movie is brilliant on all levels, but still when i watch it in one sit it can happen that my attention span wanders a bit, which is why most times i watch up to the Intermission and then watch the second half the next day.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: your thoughts on the voice of Jim Jarmusch?

Luke Higham said...

Michael: I'm pretty sure Steinfeld's a 4 for True Grit. From what I remember, Louis accidentally put her above one of the 4.5s and clarified that she was indeed a 4.

Michael Patison said...

Luke: OK I thought so, but she was still there on your list so I thought I must've been wrong. That said, please just send any corrections to me via email (which you now have) or add them to the Questions & Comments tab on the spreadsheet.

Luke Higham said...

Michael Patison: Sorry, that was directed towards Michael McCarthy.

Michael Patison said...

I should also add that I've deleted what's on there and am working offline to complete based on the list you gave me. I'll then paste it and you can fill in the rest of what has been given.

Michael Patison said...

Oh lol OK. Whatever.

Luke Higham said...

Just for further clarification guys, I was responding to an email from Michael M.

Mitchell Murray said...

Louis: That is officially one of my favourite Ebert quotes, then.

Also, how do you think Bill Paxton would've done in Eric Roberts' role from "Runaway Train"? I mentioned his name after first watching the film, and honestly, I feel he would've been a decent fit if we got "Aliens" Paxton. He certainly wouldn't have tried the same over the top mannerisms as Roberts, beyond the usual Paxtonisms, of course.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the Siskel and Ebert reviews of Watership Down and The Squeeze.

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan:

Alright let's wrap it up with Blade Runner 2049's editing, which fittingly falls into the discussion on film runtime. Joe Walker's editing is exceptional, though and in a way though speaks right into this conversation. This as Blade Runner 2049 is a long film, however I think it is the perfect length. A long film, with gradual pacing, I think is where editing can be the greatest challenge in a way, in the editor can find the exact way to build atmosphere in the long take, but not feel laborious. To me this is a masterclass on how to do a contemplative film, though still with urgency. This as the pacing of the film is essential to me in how it takes time, brings me personally even deeper into K's journey and the vividness of the world. It never cuts too soon or too early in that regard, and its gradual manner is essential. I have to say, on this note, I find it comical, that Ridley Scott felt the film was too long, which speaks to perhaps his own frequent failings as a film-making more recently, where a constant progression seems his only concern, without any sense of how the progression actually makes the story compelling. It's a shame as Blade Runner 2049, feels paced like Alien, where the timing is essential, even though that timing is gradual. I have to say even though much has been made of Blade Runner being a "flop", the very idea that in 2017, that a film could make over 250 million dollars, while taking such a contemplative approach, is an achievement.

Calvin:

I mean his voice pretty speaks to why Adam Driver and Bill Murray are right up his alley of leading men, as his own voice is that of a gradual dryness, that honestly would fit right into one of his films.

Mitchell:

Luke;

Watership Down - (Obviously agree with Siskel, other than the running time statement as I'm not sure what you'd cut from the film, and disagree with Ebert's whose view of the animation I fundamentally disagree. This as I'm not sure how he saw them so cuddly, I mean come Woundwort alone makes that hard to believe. Though I'd just say, I personally find the animation finds just the right balance in offering a humanity to the rabbits, that requires a degree of fantasy strangely enough, but while still offering a realistic approach, particularly when compared to say Disney/Warner Bros. animation.)

The Squeeze - (Just a hilarious a review, that if you watch enough films, you do have that feeling at times when you hear about a completely forgettable film, that would you believe it you've seen.)

Mitchell:

I mean most would've been better than Roberts there, I like the Paxton most of the time anyways, but yes, he would've been better, although Roberts is just one of many problems with that film.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Yeah, I really like Wallace’s speeches as well, although part of that may have to do with the casting. I couldn’t find a source to see if they tried to reach out to Emmett Walsh for a reprisal, so maybe Villeneuve just really liked Gaff as a character?

Also, I’m glad you mentioned Ridleys comments and the box office. I think people back then may have focused too much on the films budget, and then labeled it a “flop” based on that, but to be fair...it truly feels like every dollar was used on what you see in the film.

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan:

Well it is the one moment that feels like a fan service moment so I think they wanted Gaff from the start particularly for the Oragami, though logically it makes sense for K to check in with Deckard's old co-workers to find him, and Gaff, despite his limited screentime, is particularly well liked. Ironically though I don't think the service worked, because he was just like a retired cop in the scene, rather than the more enigmatic even insidious figure of the original, so it felt like a disservice to the original character, where Bryant would've fit the scene. Of course it is in sum total a 1 minute scene, so it is what it is.

I find the whole box-office discussion of Blade Runner frustrating, since both did as well as each other, each made a bit more than its production budget and both films you see a budget well spent. As I see people almost saying "oh they shouldn't have made it", as in a world where studios will lose money on terrible generic King Arthur and Robin Hood films (every ten years, despite doing poorly every ten years), why not encourage some actual ambition.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Thoughts on the voices of Richard E. Grant, Vin Diesel, Robert Stack and Peter Cullen.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: He covered Diesels' voice in Laughtons' review for Sidewalks of London.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Thoughts on the production design, cinematography and visual effects of the 1978 Superman movie? It seems Donner was disgusted that the film wasn't nominated for the first two categories.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Could Michael Palin go up for Life of Brian?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your 2000s, 2010s and 2020s choices for King George III, Queen Charlotte and Dr. Willis in The Madness Of King George.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Could I your top ten best directed animated films, and could I have your thoughts on the direction for Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Grant - (English pompousness, wit and elegance all in one voice.)

Stack - (Young his voice wasn't really all that distinctive but old it was a perfect sort of measured sound that just seemed to be like stonewall personified or something.)

Cullen - (Well his actual voice is pretty just a kind of normal voice.)

Anonymous:

Well Superman's production design is basically three sets of terrific different designs. In that first you Krypton/The Fortress of Solotude, which manages to create a minimalist sci-fi that holds up considerably better than the majority of sci-fi looks of the time. This in the sort icy interior planet, that is alien and futuristic, but importantly not over the top or silly. Then you have the Smallville section, which is some fantastic location scouting, but fantastic nonetheless in creating that wonderful Americana feeling. Then you have the Metropolis section, which in addition to some essential support of VFX work, is a terrific combination between screwball comedy of the 40's and modern set in terms of the style. A look that too keep looking far better than some films that more embraced bad seventies interior decorations (I'm looking at you California Suite). Superman was robbed of the nomination there most definitely. I still need to watch The Brink's Job, but Heaven Can Wait, is nothing notable (with heaven being mostly made by a fog machine), California Suite looks genuinely ugly, The Wiz is ambitious but atrocious in its designs, and Interiors indicates that the team indeed did see modern set Bergman films, though I think it probably got the nomination largely on the virtue of its name and that one of the characters is an interior decorator.

Louis Morgan said...


Donner is spot on about the cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth, especially when you have genuinely bad looking films in The Wiz and especially Sam Time, Next Year nominated (probably career nadirs for Oswald Morris and Robert Surtees respectively). Although if one knows about the film's production Unworth's efforts went even beyond just shooting the film in terms of making the film's whole visual design work. This in that he reinvented the idea of the Superhero, compared to say Batman, where his visuals were essential in taking the film seriously. Unworth didn't shoot it in the cheap looking sci-fi way of so many sci-fi films from the period, he shot it like he shot 2001, in a way to make you believe that a man could fly. This as he utilizes dramatic lighting in every sequence to grant the film a gravitas. Whether that be the more alien illumination of Krypton, some notable work in the trial of Zod in particular, the straight rustic beauty of Smallville, or just the best general pristine of the time for Metropolis. His composition and framing of every shot though is that of an epic narrative, one to create a tangible world of meaning, that creates a grandeur to the very idea of the hero.

Louis Morgan said...

The Visual effects don't all hold up, but so many do, that it is an impressive feat to this day. This with the limited work of the time they did make a believable flying hero. This with the combination of the more dramatic impossibilities with interacting with the miniatures from the scenes of destruction. Each instance attempted a believable, tangible sense of the powers, and largely succeeded in that instance.

Tahmeed:

Probably not.

Luke:

00's:

George: Ian McKellen
Charlotte: Lesley Manville
Willis: John Hurt

10's:

George: Alan Rickman
Charlotte: Emily Watson
Willis: Anton Lesser

20's:

George: Mark Rylance
Charlotte: Olivia Colman
Willis: Tom Hollander

Calvin Law said...

Louis: your thoughts on the Pilate’s Trial scene in JCS? I rewatched it tonight and thought Dennen’s performance has aged very well for me, there’s so many nuances in his performance and I also kind of love that reaction shot of Caiphas to the whipping which shows that he’s not really getting any enjoyment out of this.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: If you don't mind, your thoughts on The Wiz, Same Time, Next Year and Interiors with ratings/thoughts on the performances.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: If I may ask, how does "Film Thoughts" on here work? Do we just request films that we'd like to see on there or...?

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: You're better off getting thoughts on this blog instead of that one because any remaining requests I made were left unanswered for 2-3 years.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: Alrighty then.

What ratings would you give to the rest of the cast of Macbeth (2015)? I know Fassbender and Cotillard are easy 5's for you.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

1. Spirited Away
2. The Grave of the Fireflies
3. The Secret of NIMH
4. The Plague Dogs
5. NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind
6. My Neighbor Totoro
7. Watership Down
8. Your Name
9. Akira
10. Coraline

Note; Easy to exclude early Disney, which were more masterminded on the production side of things, and directorial tonal shifts typically are what hold be back from adoring later Disney.

Grave of the Fireflies is a masterclass in two ways in terms of direction from Isao Takahata, in that shows essentially how to do "realistic" animation, and an exceedingly difficult story through animation. This as Takahata doesn't hold back from the brutality, even as it relates to memory with the frequent reminder of the mother's death in memory. It doesn't though feel as though it is torturing with it however, this in the fact that while heartbreaking, it manages to be entirely disheartening is remarkable. This as Takahata delivers those moments of beauty within the spiritual side particularly as they relate to the fireflies. In the story that is essentially a failure to escape reality, as reality permeates. What is so notable though is how the nuance of the relationship is found within Takahata's work that, offers that within the animation itself, and his storytelling which is exceptional powerful but not overwrought. It is a true elegance of a balance of tone, as much as it is technically a difficult film to watch, there is that haunting quality though makes it carry soulfulness that takes it beyond a story of just pity.

Louis Morgan said...

From what I've seen from Miyazaki Spirited Away is this beautiful balance between something more action oriented in a certain sense in "Valley of the Wind", to something more passive in "Neighbor". This in that Miyazaki gives the best of both of his worlds in a certain sense, in that we have the wonderful and comical sequences within the extravagant and beautiful world he creates. These scenes are masterfully realized, though that is as much though creating still a greater emotional quality within the story in the search for her parents. This though balancing towards a particularly powerful climax in the quest. The sequences though are here brilliant of a distinct eye, whether it be the rush of the spirit of the river sequence, or the quiet solitude of the train scene. Miyazaki in this instance, which isn't always the case like say in Porco Rosso, finds purpose and life to each of his sequence to craft an experience like no other (It's a shame, for best director, he had to be going up with a live action director also crafting an experience like no other).

Calvin:

I love the sequence, that is low key great, including Dennen who does bring such a great deal conflict within Pilate's whole sequence, without stopping the song so to speak, realizing an arc throughout, I especially love his whole delivery of "innocent puppet". I agree though of the additional elements, are great including the priests, and also Herod's shift from joy to unease at the flogging.

Luke:

Save the performances for the results for the sake of ease of access.

The Wiz is the epitome of an overproduced musical. I didn't like the songs, the story was poorly implemented, the whole design looked fake and ugly in the worst way. The performers are largely just awkward within their roles with particularly disjointed chemistry, and a particularly miscast lead. An arduous film to get through.

Same Time, Next Year is a painfully obvious play as a play, as it does nothing to really make it live beyond its trappings. The trappings itself I felt were too obvious, and struggled to real find either the humor or drama they wanted to bring from it. It felt instead to be this strange purgatory of a film, stuck within two largely unlikable characters, (though honestly, the adultery romcom trend of the 70's is one I'm glad died).

Interiors is Woody Allen doing Bergman the same way De Palma did Hitchcock, in how blatant it is to the point you go how much is flattery. I'll say while I didn't dislike the film, I greatly preferred the nearly as blatant "Another Woman", or the more subtle Crimes and Misdemeanors examples of Allen doing Bergman. I'll say Bergman's subjects of anxiety and neurosis are far more universal and tangible, than Allen's, which felt a little too detached in their privilege. Although there are good elements about the film, namely Page in particularly, Bergman's own effort from 78 makes this one like quite pale in comparison.

Luke Higham said...

And thoughts on Autumn Sonata.

Bryan: 3.5s for Harris, Considine and Debicki.

A 3 for Reynor.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your 2000s cast for Game of Thrones

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Premiere Bergman honestly, this anchored by two of the best performances in any of his films, though offered in such a shattering and powerful portrait of the pains of a distant parent with the child. It makes the similar material in Interiors seem trite at times, as there is so much honest nuance within Bergman's work, that isn't all hate, or easy love, but a mix of things that makes it all the powerful of a depiction of such a complex relationship. Equally notable is Bergman's direction that is subtle, yet utterly brilliant, the most notable, just how he handles a reaction shot of Bergman listening to Ullmann play the piano.

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