Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Best Supporting Actor 2018: Sam Rockwell in Vice

Sam Rockwell received his second Oscar nomination for portraying George W. Bush in Vice.

Now on paper Sam Rockwell seems like a great choice for the former president with a specific energy as a performer seeming a proper match for the particular style of Bush. Well if you're looking at the result of great casting look elsewhere, not so much due to Rockwell's performance mind oyu, he's just barely the film to be honest. Vice's main intention is a film to tell us how horrible Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) is as a person, politician, and the destruction he inflicted upon American if not mankind in general. Writer/director Adam McKay makes him as much a boogeyman as a person, to the point of an extreme simplification of history. This idea was touched upon by Oliver Stone in the better, though far from great, W., but even the notoriously unsubtle Stone granted a bit of nuance to the subject. That's not the case here to the point that the actual president during Cheney's reign as vice president is an after thought. This is as McKay views Bush solely as a puppet for Cheney to control, and so the former president and Rockwell are regulated to a few brief scenes.

One being a quick moment as the black sheep of his own family being drunk at a white house party. Honestly we barely get to see what Rockwell is trying to do in the scene as the glimpse is so brief. There is nothing to scoff at, because why scoff when there's nothing there. Let's jump ahead then to the cleaned up Bush running for president, inviting Cheney to be his VP, inter spliced with fishing footage, because GET IT he's reeling him in, thanks MCKAY!!! I wouldn't have known otherwise. Although because of that we still barely get to see what Rockwell is doing, but now it is clear enough to notice him. Rockwell whips out a bit of the rolling speech of Bush with a Texas twang, with the casual physical manner thrown in. We can barely hear this though as the scene is interrupted by Cheney's internal monologue just as we are by the film's obnoxious editing style. Again he's there but we barely even get a sense of the character. It's been called an SNL impression, which is not completely inaccurate (though slightly), but I'd say that is not Rockwell's fault. The problem is he only gets some scant unimportant lines speaking in generalities for Cheney. This makes it so we can only see the mannerisms, he's doing. He's not doing them poorly, the funny thing is, he's not trying to really be funny. He's trying to realize the character it seems, but the film's against him. The same occurs as he asks Cheney again, it's presented in the same obnoxious way, and again Rockwell is strangely in the background the whole time. In the situation room to determine how to react to 9/11, Rockwell is again forced to just sit and stare. He's got a fine, "I'm concerned" face going, but sadly again we barely get a sense of him. Rockwell manages a bit in portraying an unease and lack of certainty. Finally we get the most Rockwell is allowed to do in another discussion on the invasion of Iraq. Again the focus is on Cheney's manipulations, and in a rather simplistic way. Rockwell though delivers his line with a bit desperation showing the need to stand up to his father's legacy. The sense of it is there is in his performance, so good job there. I have seen some real negativity towards this performance, to which I'd say why? He's simply barely in the film. We only get a glance at him, so honestly what he's doing with Bush physically and vocally can't really "settle" for the viewer. He hits his marks, he hits the requisite emotion, and that's about it. The whole thing feels more like Rockwell's audition to play Bush, rather than him actually playing the part. I mean I'd certainly give him the call back, but I'd try to give him some better scenes to work with once the film starts shooting.

Best Supporting Actor 2018

And the Nominees Are:

Adam Driver in Blackkklansman

Mahershala Ali in Green Book

Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Elliott in A Star is Born

Sam Rockwell in Vice

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Final Oscar predictions (aka I don't want a three page comments section)

Picture:
  1. A Star is Born
  2. Roma
  3. Blackkklansman
  4. The Favourite
  5. Vice
  6. Green Book
  7. Bohemian Rhapsody
  8. First Man
Next two would be Beale Street and Black Panther. Again predicting (hoping) the 5% #1 votes rule, by tech branchers, will get First Man in. I think the same could happen for Beale Street. At the same time feeling this is what could prevent Black Panther from making it.

Director:
  1. Alfonso Cuaron - Roma
  2. Spike Lee - Blackkklansman
  3. Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born
  4. Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite
  5. Adam McKay - Vice
The controversy around Peter Farrelly is striking at the exact moment, that might not push the film out but I think could be enough to give McKay and Lanthimos the edge over him. I'd love to see Pawel Pawlikowski pull a Bennett Miller and get in over McKay, however I don't foresee that happening.

Actor:
  1. Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
  2. Christian Bale - Vice
  3. Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born
  4. Viggo Mortensen - Green Book
  5. John David Washington - Blackkklansman
Same as before, again can Hawke, Gosling or Dafoe surprise? It has happened before, like Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah, who had no industry precursors mentions but got in over a younger crop. But the odds typically are against it.

Actress:
  1. Olivia Colman - The Favourite
  2. Glenn Close - The Wife
  3. Lady Gaga - A Star is Born
  4. Melissa McCarthy - Can you Ever Forgive Me?
  5. Emily Blunt - Mary Poppins Returns 
The fringe contenders again need to be surprises. I'll admit I was tempted to go with Yalitza Aparicio, however will they make Blunt wait again? Maybe. But I'm predicting her anyways. The bigger surprises usually happen here rather than Actor though,  like Ruth Negga, Charlotte Rampling and Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, so it's not off the table the question though is, who would it be? Maybe Aparicio, Collette, Kidman, Davis or Pike. Though playing it safe.

Supporting Actor:
  1. Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
  2. Marhershala Ali - Green Book
  3. Adam Driver - Blackkklansman
  4. Sam Elliott - A Star is Born
  5. Sam Rockwell - Vice
Well my hesitation before around Rockwell being a Globe overreaction has been lifted by his BAFTA nomination. Curious to see if a dark horse will happen, but it doesn't seem too likely.

Supporting Actress:
  1. Rachel Weisz - The Favourite
  2. Emma Stone - The Favourite
  3. Amy Adams - Vice
  4. Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
  5. Claire Foy - First Man
Again probably wishful thinking in terms of order, however it is hard to call someone who has been snubbed by both actual overlapping voter groups a lock for a nomination let alone a win, in the case of King. Although Adams seems safe enough now, her role is minor, but sometimes that just doesn't matter. Foy hopefully is bolstered by First Man's tech comeback as indicated by the guilds. Robbie is hanging around too, but her position is certainly flimsy. Blunt is also possible for her other performance, but being ignored by her hometown group does leave a major ? there.

Original Screenplay:
  1. The Favourite
  2. Green Book
  3. Roma
  4. Vice
  5. Eighth Grade
The category isn't deep enough for the controversy around Green Book to stop it here. The top four seem pretty close to locks, barring some MAJOR snub. It's all about that fifth spot really, and typically there is some Indie feature to garner the lone spot. Eighth Grade has the momentum, so that will probably be it.

Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Blackkklansman
  2. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk
  4. A Star is Born
  5. The Death of Stalin
The top four seem in a strong position at this point. Going with the Armando Iannucci surprise, as he managed to get in with In the Loop, which was the sole nomination for that film.


Animated:
  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  2. Incredibles 2
  3. Isle of Dogs 
  4. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  5. Mirai
Given last year's nominees the change in voting system obviously has skewed the nominees in a far more populist direction. That makes the top four given, though as with The Breadwinner last year there's probably enough there to get something like Mirai in.

Production Design:
  1. The Favourite
  2. Mary Poppins Returns
  3. First Man
  4. Isle of Dogs
  5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Hard to predict honestly past Poppins and The Favourite, as I could see a lot of random notices here.

Cinematography:
  1. Roma 
  2. First Man
  3. The Favourite
  4. A Star is Born
  5. Cold War
Typically these lineup with the ASC nominees, unless there is an established cinematographer they want to bring back, that gives Delbonnel an outside change for Scruggs, but I don't see it happening.

Costume Design:
  1. The Favourite
  2. Mary Poppins Returns
  3. Mary Queen of Scots
  4. Black Panther 
  5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
I wouldn't put it past them doing something stupid like giving Bohemian Rhapsody a nomination here, but I'm hoping for the inspired, and BAFTA supported, Scruggs nod.

Editing:
  1. First Man 
  2. A Star is Born
  3. Roma
  4. Vice
  5. Blackkklansman 
A MOST editing Vice nomination, and a best picture contender support nom somewhere (like Three Billboards last year), maybe to Blakkklansman, could be either The Favourite or Bohemian Rhapsody as well.

Makeup and Hairstyling:
  1. Vice
  2. Stan and Ollie
  3. Suspiria
Typically some of the most random nominations can be found here. They love transformation to famous people in the case of Vice and Stan and Ollie, (hopefully they won't go for a bad overbite piece for Bohemian Rhapsody in that vein). I could see Suspiria making it given how extensive the work is there.

Sound Editing:
  1. First Man
  2. A Quiet Place
  3. Solo
  4. Incredibles 2
  5. Mission Impossible: Fallout
More sounds the better typically in this case, plus they tend to like action Pixar here.

Sound Mixing:
  1. First Man
  2. A Star is Born
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody
  4. A Quiet Place
  5. Mary Poppins Returns
The category for musically inclined films, and there are plenty of them to go around.

Score:
  1. First Man
  2. Mary Poppins Returns
  3. Isle of Dogs
  4. If Beale Street Could Talk
  5. Black Panther
Given Hurwitz's random snub at BAFTA, I could see any one of these five missing out as well. 

Visual Effects:
  1. First Man
  2. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  3. Avengers: Infinity War
  4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  5. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Support for the film is the only way the extremely dodgy effects found in Black Panther, will make it. Solo, Jurassic World, and Ready Player One, are beloved by few, but they definitely have a lot of effects to go around, which is all that is needed as evidenced by Kong's nomination last year.

Song:
  1. "Shallow" - A Star is Born
  2. "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" - Mary Poppins Returns
  3. "All the Stars" - Black Panther
  4. "I'll Fight" - RGB
  5. "When a Cowboy Trades his Spurs for Wing" - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Anything past the first three is going to be random, so might as well indulge in some wishful thinking with my #5.

Documentary Feature:
  1. Won't You Be My Neighbor 
  2. RGB
  3. Three Identical Strangers
  4. Free Solo
  5. The Silence of Others
Honestly just pick five, as even "locks" miss out frequently in this category.
  1. Roma
  2. Cold War
  3. Burning
  4. Shoplifters
  5. The Guilty
Like Doc, this category is extremely squirrely so any way is fine, though Roma and Cold War are probably safe. Again I'll indulge in some wishful thinking with my #5, but hey maybe it's run time alone will help endear itself to voters off the shortlist. 

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1987: Results

5. Roy Cheung in Prison on Fire - Cheung gives an effective, if limited turn, as the toughest guard of a prison who rules with quiet confidence and a pinch of sadism.

Best Scene: Making a false rat.
4. Bill Paxton in Near Dark - Paxton gives it his all, in only the way he can, in his portrayal of a monster just loving his living death.

Best Scene: Picking up some ladies (victims).
3. Kurtwood Smith in Robocop - Smith gives a marvelous atypical turn for a villain who just doesn't care much for anything or anyone, other getting to do what he wants.

Best Scene: "Bitches leave"
2. Robert Downey Jr. in Less Than Zero - Downey manages to overcome the weaknesses of his film to give a wholly heart wrenching depiction of drug addiction through a man whose charisma thinks can keep getting him by.

Best Scene: Asking his father for help. 
1. Will Patton in No Way Out - Good predictions Luke, Jackiboyz, Tahmeed, Emi Grant, Lezlie, and Matt C. Patton steals his film whole sale through his absolutely captivating portrayal of a man so controlled on the surface, yet in a way motivated by a powerful passion.

Best Scene: Men of power.

Updated Overall

Next: Well I'll be trying to catch up on the films of 2018 missed. Feel free though to again throw out a recommendation from the years I've covered in the bonus rounds already, or an animated, documentary or television film from any year.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1987: Roy Cheung in Prison on Fire

Roy Cheung did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Officer "Scar-face" Hung in Prison on Fire.

Prison on Fire is a decent, though somewhat unfocused, film about an unassuming man Lo Ka Yiu (Tony Leung Ka-fai) sentenced to a 3 year prison sentence where he befriends a fellow inmate Chung Tin Ching (Chow Yun-Fat) who helps him navigate the politics of the prison between the guards and the prisoners, especially those who are members of the Triad.

Of course what is a prison drama without at least one corrupt guard? I don't know...I'm not sure I've seen one yet. Anyway that role this time is designated to Roy Cheung as Officer "Scar-Face". That should probably be the setup for a rather over the top character, however right down to the scar on his face, Cheung is pretty low key in the role. This is to the point that he doesn't really have to much of an impact on the film for about half of it. He is occasionally there with a reaction or two, but not much more. I'll give Cheung credit though in that these reactions are at lot more interesting than they would be in lesser hands, as he portrays them with this certain observation in the eyes of Hung. He isn't just going through the motions, but rather he creates the sense of almost the Officer putting a plan into action even as he sees the new prisoners come in. This is not even as the head of the guards mind you, rather just the most "powerful" one in the prison.

Cheung effectively exudes the needed charisma to establish even without saying much. He has the right presence that creates a naturally sense of command in the man who watches, and seems to control even before any action takes place. Of course eventually the prison unrest is realized due to the Triad influence within the prison. Eventually Hung attempts to destroy any unrest through some fairly questionable means. Cheung plays his part with a considerable ease that translates to granting Hung the appropriate menace for the role. The casual manner observing the prisoners is the same as when he is talking to a snitch or making a threat. Cheung isn't one note in this rather makes this form of confidence in the man who believes he essentially rules the prison. Cheung also does add just a proper hint of sadism when he informs Ching that he's going to make him look like an informant. The certainty in his portrayal of the act, the sharpness of the delivery gives Hung the needed edge. His methods don't work though leading to a more overt riot, and more overt villainy. Cheung continues to stay true to his overall characterization as he only lightly builds the desperation in the man, that mostly reveals itself in a violent viciousness. This eventually explodes which Cheung grants a visceral sting to in a moment of brunt intensity, however even this he controls to a certain extent, fitting to Hung who has likely held his position of command for some time. This is a good performance by Roy Cheung however limited by the material. Cheung just is rather underutilized, though effective when onscreen he just isn't allowed to take Officer "Scar-face" past a certain point. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Another Year and Another Official Lineup

As usual my annual predictions for the official Oscar lineup for Lead and Supporting Actor.
For lead I've once again gone with the SAG five all whom seem they're in a pretty good position, as four of the five are "transformative" roles, that voters typically love, and four of the five are playing real people another bit of voter cap nip as well. Mortensen and Cooper, are both well loved by the academy and with their films apparently being big players they should coast to their nominations. Mortensen after all got in his last two times for films that were otherwise wholly snubbed, so it shouldn't be too difficult when he has other nominations for his film. Malek and Bale's films are not beloved, critically, however they have hit all the right places so far, and even negative reviews of their films typically painted them in a positive light. Malek's film in particular also has over performed so far with the televised awards, and I'm starting to get an Eddie Redmayne vibe from him (especially since the academy can award Cooper other places), though I won't rush to conclusions. The question mark then is John David Washington, the son of academy mainstay Denzel Washington, who despite a random misses in a few less important precursors, has gotten the most important ones when it comes to predictions. I do think he seems pretty set for a nomination. Voters will sometimes forget the younger lead of a film, however he's already been recognized multiple places so that doesn't seem to be the case. The only other hiccup might be a BAFTA snub, his old man has never been nominated there, which can open for another contender to gain ground. It needs to be a real contender there though, for example if critical darling Ethan Hawke shows up there then Hawke has a serious chance, however if say they go for say Steve Coogan in Stan and Ollie, it probably won't translate. Washington seems well protected given the love his film has received as opposed to his seemingly main opponents for the position in Hawke and Ryan Gosling whose films have under performed so far beyond the critics. If the film is doing as well as it has been so far Washington should be an easy inclusion. The other four seem pretty well protected barring a "buyers remorse" regarding Bale given the extreme shift between the twitter hype around Vice that broke down once the film was actually reviewed. This five though seems fairly likely, so I won't second guess it. Hawke would probably be my #6 in predictions, but critical darlings have been left off before. 
No, your eyes aren't fooling you that too is the SAG lineup. Driver and Grant seem quite safe as even when their films have under-performed they've still made it in. The same goes for Ali whose category fraud seems likely to be ignored, since you know he shows up like 10 minutes into the film before he becomes co-lead. Easy second nomination for him given the historical figure, love for the film, the size of his role, and afterglow love after his win two years ago. That leaves Sam Elliott who has been has been making strives in the last few years seemingly to be taken more seriously as an actor beyond just his Sam Elliott style presence. That could helps towards some recognition for A Star is Born. His role is fairly small though, and he was snubbed at the Globes. They obviously have no overlap with the Oscars however it shows that even if a group loves the film they can ignore Elliott. His nomination would be a pivotal part in terms of seeing if the Academy loves A Star is Born or simply really likes it. Now that leaves a certain part of the Internet's favorite, Timothée Chalamet. Well his film has not taken the world by storm in any quality. He's not the critical favorite or anything like that, but he's gotten in at Globes and SAG. He seems like the type that can miss given his film's reception however. The reason I'm predicting him though is the same reason I predicted Robert Duvall for The Judge, back for 2014. There is just such a small field to select from (in academy terms of course, it would be nice if they'd get a mind of their own since in reality there are plenty of worthy candidates to choose from, however the field "selected" for them by the precursors is small). So it might not matter. The few alternatives that have found more "important" recognition are Sam Rockwell, and Michael B. Jordan. Jordan, despite his film doing well with SAG, was ignored so he seems unlikely. Rockwell got in at Globes however they went gaga for Vice in a way that may not carry over given its lack of critical success. Rockwell's role is pretty small, to the point if the Academy just does love the film I could see them randomly go for his co-star Steve Carell who has a slightly larger role in the film. That's saying they even look elsewhere. There are few critical players, like Russell Hornsby in The Hate you Give and Steven Yeun in Burning, however those would both be huge surprises if that were to happen, given that between the two films they'd probably at most get a single nomination, that being Foreign Language film for Burning. It just seems unlikely so rather than becoming creative it seems far more likely for the academy to default what's come before them. There is a chance for a dark horse contender to be introduced through BAFTA, possibly Nicholas Hoult in The Favourite, or Daniel Kaluuya in Widows, through some homegrown support, but even the likelihood of this seems ever slimmer as they've been consistently ignored even when their films have been recognized. Of course with these two lineups, as well as Actress, lining up with SAG in my mind, that seems like a little too much solidarity between the groups. After all five nominees didn't repeat last year, 3 the year before that, and a full 7 the year before that. So there should be a few shake ups, however it isn't easy to foresee them outside of supporting actress at the moment.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1987: Will Patton in No Way Out

Will Patton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Scott Pritchard in No Way Out.

No Way Out is a mostly decent remake of The Big Clock, despite its ludicrous bookends, about a naval officer in intelligence, Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner), finding himself in the middle of a duplicitous conspiracy.

As a remake No Way Out makes several changes to its "wrong man" plot, however the one major consistency is that there is a powerful man who has killed his mistress which his assistant decides to coverup by framing the man the mistress was with. In this version the powerful man is the secretary of defense named David Brice played by Gene Hackman. A major difference though is in this assistant here played by another "that guy" actor, in Will Patton. The character is expanded with his Scott Pritchard actually being responsible for bringing Costner's Farrell into the U.S. intelligence fold. Patton's performance here is heavily mannered, though in a wholly brilliant way that I'd say alludes less to the character's homosexuality and more so to his fastidiousness. Patton portrays Pritchard with a very exact presentation in every way, showing a man who seems to emphasize an exact control of the situation. The way he stands and conducts himself is with sly incisiveness, and a strict confidence about him. Patton grants an innate consistency with this, and specific method to this as even he blinks in a specific way of a man who knows exactly how he must conduct himself to best serve his boss.

Patton's setup I'll admit is already intriguing alone, and it is fascinating just to watch him here. This is an example of a great mannered performance to be sure as everything Patton does feel lived in within the character, and creates this as the natural state of the man Pritchard at the very least believes himself to be. He is atypical to be sure, but atypical in such a compelling way that never feels forced either. Patton is marvelous to watch, but he is also essential in creating this very specific operator within the film. This is even as we first meet him as he just simply introducing his old college acquaintance Farrell to some people around Washington D.C. Patton has a forcefulness even in this simple task. This is particularly remarkable in the way Patton maintains such a careful, technically affected, delivery with his voice that sounds almost Truman Capoteesque. Now this one can certainly say alludes to the character's homosexuality, however what is so notable about what Patton does is how he uses this so effectively in his work. The character carries an innate power in the way Patton fashions this altogether as very much the operative protocol for the man, that gives him a real menace even though he's not the typically menacing sort.

Of course when Pritchard really steps up is when Hackman's Brice kills his mistress (Sean Young), who is also seeing Farrell. Brice goes to Pritchard for a personal counsel supposedly before going to confess to the police this crime. Patton is downright brilliant in this scene as he portrays a geninue concern in Pritchard, but also shows that gear kick in. He is not simply listening to the confession rather Patton shows the wheels turning in the man's head, making it when he suddenly springs in with an alternate path by making the murder seem to be part of a conspiracy of a secret Russian agent that they'll say was the last man to see the mistress alive. Again what is brilliant about what Patton does in this scene though is make it more than just a determined underling doing his job. That concern Patton mixes in with this wholly honest passion to helping his boss that he is firmly devoted to. A devotion that creates the essential motivation within the character of Pritchard as he is far from a typical sycophant. Now the film actually I would say as written seems to try to simplify this towards Pritchard being in love with Brice. I appreciate how Patton uses that partially but takes it much further. In that he creates this determined sense of respect as he speaks about Brice early on that shows that it isn't some simple lust, but rather Patton depicts Pritchard as caring about Brice on a deep personal level. 

This leads Brice and Pritchard to develop a manhunt, that they have Farrell ironically lead to find the "Russian agent" therefore finding a fall man for the murder. Meanwhile Farrell attempts to find something to incriminate Brice with in a race against time. This is where again Patton's performance is an essential facet to the film, and really quite the most compelling aspect of it. On one hand he is needed to be a proper villain for the thriller, as Brice is shown as hesitant towards the whole idea of the coverup initially, but the devoted Pritchard stands by the idea. I love again that passion Patton brings towards the investigation, though carefully placed within the calculated personal style of the character, that becomes so overwhelming that it creates a needed palatable sense of danger to the proceedings. Patton though is simply, again, just fascinating to watch particularly his physical performance where he slowly creates a greater strain on the man's style alluding so effectively that perhaps the weight of the gamble is even too much for him. A most riveting example of this is when Pritchard learns about Farrell connections to the woman, and knowledge of Brice's hands in the murder. Patton makes just the act of a few too many blinks, and slight raise of the voice have an impact, showing the man nearly breaking. His violent act being portrayed essentially his method of returning to his needed calm equilibrium. This ends up being but slight reprieve in the final confrontation between Farrell, Brice and Pritchard. Patton is downright brilliant in this scene as he begins with that controlled manner, now so painfully repressed and artificial in Patton's manner. This being something he quickly breaks once Farrell presents his evidence, and Patton brings such desperation as Pritchard tries to take hold of the situation. Sadly for him Brice decides to instead switch Pritchard to the scapegoat. Patton again is outstanding as he plays it as far more meaningful to Pritchard than just his boss abandoning him. Patton loses all control in manner and voice, showing a man whose world has come crashing around him. Patton conveys such a powerful sense of anguish that his friend he so deeply respected, and really loved has betrayed him, that I have to admit I actually felt sympathy for his villain. This is a great performance by Will Patton, as he takes the little nuggets of complexity in the part and expands them so effectively. He avoids turning into just a plot device, or a one note stereotype, but rather steals the film entire in what could've been just a role there to move the plot forward.