Monday, 31 May 2010

Best Actor 1985: Harrison Ford in Witness

Harrison Ford received his only Oscar nomination for playing Detective Captain John Book in Witness.

Witness is fairly effective thriller which involves a cop hiding out with an Amish witness who saw the murder of a police officer by a corrupt police officer.

Harrison Ford takes on the role of the strong willed good guy in this as he has done in many other films.  Harrison Ford does not give a performance here that is anything that far from his standard action film performance like in Star Wars or in Indiana Jones. Here though Ford seems to strive purposely to tone down the bits of humor he usually adds to these kinds of performances. He instead does try to make it seem like a real man in this situation rather than a less realistic action hero. That is the only major difference though from his usual performance.

Ford does a fine job even though it is a usual job. He helps carry the audience through the thriller. He gives a completely fine leading performance, and Ford puts the usual confidence and effort into the performance. He is always completely watchable and is never boring. He gives his character the proper amount of strength, and succeeds creating a good leading character, something which Ford is usually very capable in doing.

Ford works well contrasting the city world from the Amish world. Ford is effective in showing the difference in the ways of the city people from the rural Amish people. Ford never over plays the sequences that shows the differences between the groups of people, and helps to illustrate this part of the film very well. Ford adds a humor nicely when he does the singing scene and when he says that it is great coffee. He never though does the traditional action hero style humor found in some of his other films.  Ford's performance on a whole though is not that much and is just a standard good performance from Ford. That is certainly not nothing, and it certainly is something not everyone can do, but  at the same time it is not anything overly amazing either.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Best Actor 1985

And The Nominees Were:

Harrison Ford in Witness

William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman

Jon Voight in Runaway Train

James Garner in Murphy's Romance

Jack Nicholson in Prizzi's Honor

Who Do you Pick? Who Do You Predict?

Best Actor 1958: The Results

5. Spencer Tracy in The Old Man and The Sea- Tracy fails to really make an actual character out of the old man, and always is clearly acting. His narration is better than his performance.
4. Paul Newman in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof- Paul Newman gives a good performance as Brick, and shows the characters pains and frustrations very well.

 3. David Niven in Separate Tables- The falseness of the character is well done, and then his later admittance of his actually nature is well handled by Niven.

2. Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones- Curtis is very good at showing the depth of his character, and never overdoes a single part of his performance. His character's transformation is earned and feels natural opposed to artificial.
1. Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones- Poitier uses his natural charisma and his abilities to create a powerful character.
Deserving Performances:
Alec Guinness in A Horse's Mouth
James Stewart in Vertigo

Best Actor 1958: Paul Newman in A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Paul Newman received his first Oscar nomination for playing Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a somewhat strange adaptation  of Tennessee Williams' play, because it is basically a repressed film about repression, since it was a heavily censored version of the play.

This censorship most heavily effected Paul Newman character since the movie could never exactly say who he really was and what he really was. Newman though never really lets that hurt his performance though. Newman always shows what is not said by the script well, although I wonder how his performance would have been like if the play had not be altered at all.

Paul Newman begins with not really doing much at all, and is just drinking and turning away and everyone. He just continues to reject everyone and everything including his wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor). He makes only short responses, and turns away from her advances. Newman does this for a long period until Maggie talks about Skipper to Brick. Brick finally changes his facade, and yells at her to stop mentioning Skipper. Newman does a fine job showing Brick's frustrations and anger, at the death of Skipper.

Brick though basically tries to revert back to his ignoring until Big Daddy (Burl Ives) begins to question Brick too. The whole long confrontation between Brick and Big Daddy is handled very well by Newman and Ives. Both show the characters' histories exceptionally well, and their conflict shows some of the strongest moments in Newman's performance. Such as when he is not allowed a drink by Big Daddy he makes it clear that Brick needs the alcohol badly. Also  Newman shows his character regrets perfectly especially Brick's regrets involving Skipper's death. His best scene though is probably when he breakdown in front of Big Daddy, telling how he cares about love more than things. Overall Newman gives a strong performance despite some hindrances involving the script.  He shows the pains of the character, and tries his best to show the hidden side of the character, made hidden by the script changes.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Best Actor 1958: Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones

Sidney Poitier received his first Oscar nomination for playing Noah Cullen a black convict who is trying to escape prison in The Defiant Ones.

Poitier plays the black convict very well. Poitier has his usually natural charisma, although he clearly reduces it here a bit to be believable as the convict. He does have a natural "cool" to him no matter what that works quite well. He has it when he not saying anything at all, and he does it with just a look. Poitier many times uses that as Cullen's way of basically fighting back against Joker (Tony Curtis). This mights have not worked but Poitier does it so Cullen wins even if Joker says a lot more. Poitier natural presence works incredibly well throughout the film, and Poitier though never only uses just that and forgets to act.

Poitier makes a strong portrait of an angry man who is basically just tired of being looked down and upon and being mistreated. Poitier never makes him just only angry but rather a complicated man, who shows exactly why he is angry. Poitier is always strong particularly when he tells Joker not to call him boy or anything else derogatory.  His scenes where he explains his anger are very well done. Such as when he complains about his wife always telling to be nice, or tells about his religious father. Also when he speaks about how he ended up in jail. He creates reason for his character and sympathy through his explanations, but he never panders for it and earns it naturally.

Everything Poitier does in this film is well done. The only problem I might have is that Cullen really does not undergo any changes. He is basically the same man throughout the film, and just goes back to his singing at the end. All the development belongs to Curtis' character. But this is not Poitier's fault his character not changing is merely in the script. Poitier though anyways pulls a lot out his character, and probably created a much deeper character than was in the script due to his performance. Both he and Curtis succeed with their separate characters, and they both work together well. Both give very good performances, and I believe Poitier could have given an even greater performance if the script did not prevent it.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Best Actor 1958: Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones

Tony Curtis received his only Oscar nomination for playing the white escaped convict John "Joker" Jackson in The Defiant Ones.

The Defiant Ones I felt was a fairly effective drama about  a white and a black chain gang runaways who learn more about each other as they try to out run the law. Many seem to think this film is overly heavy handed and overbearing. I never felt that though.

Tony Curtis plays the southern white man who is chained to the black man. This is a good example of two leads working well together. Neither tries to steal scenes from the other and they rather work well together. Curtis plays his part very well actually. His accent is not overdone, although it is not perfect, but it work fine.
Curtis could have really overplayed his character the  whole way through. He could have been just an over the top racist character, and then his transition to caring about Poitier's character would have been completely strange and unjustified. Instead Curtis plays it much better, as a man with some racist tendencies but he is not only that. Curtis could have done a lot of overacting but he never does. When he calls Poitier's character various things he never makes it seem too obtuse, instead it shows it as merely the way the man is.

Curtis shows well that the character himself tries to put down the Poitier character because he basically wants to try to see someone lower in society than him. Curtis portrays his frustrations well, and fully realizes Joker as a person and not some symbolic character. Particularly strong scenes for Curtis are when he tries to stop a possibly lynching of himself, or when he talks about his knowledge of lynching. Another strong scene is when he is with the single mother they hold up with briefly. His scene where he describes his dreams is very well handled.

The best part of his performance though is how his character changes. Curtis never just does it but makes it gradual and possibly due to how he played Joker at the beginning. Curtis shows that the man naturally learned to change his view of Poitier's character, and it is not artificial at all as it could have been. Curtis' performance on a whole is very good, and works well for the film. He never has a scene which is unbelievably good, but he is always good, in a part that could have easily been played poorly.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Best Actor 1958: David Niven in Separate Tables

David Niven received an Oscar from his only Oscar nomination for playing Major Angus Pollock in Separate Tables.
Separate Tables is a fairly well done adaptation of a play, and weaves between the different stories well, but I did feel that the Kerr and Niven section was stronger than the Lancaster and Hayworth section, although the latter certainly still has its quality.

David Niven is one of those actors that seems like he must have been nominated for an Oscar more than once, but no, he was only ever nominated for this film alone. Luckily it was a deserving nomination, although I would say it certainly has supporting screen time, but his role does have the importance of a leading role.

Niven is superb in every scene he is in even if he is only in a few scenes. He carries himself perfectly in this film. He gives an interesting performance because he does these various mannerisms, in his voice and his posture that one would expect from a British officer, except they seem slightly false. But the interesting part is they are suppose to be false, and forced really. Niven does this false routine just right, so it is not obvious but is at the same time clearly off in some way.

David Niven stays very restrained with his short performance but creates a very powerful performance. Niven focuses mostly on his face, which Niven uses to great effect. He shows a history of the character with his face. Some of his expressions are especially effective such as when he looks at the newspaper that tells of his act, or when he find out that the others found out.  His scenes with Deborah Kerr are brilliant and both play off each other very well, well their doing these incredibly introverted characters. Niven is really perfect here showing the shy nature of the character impeccably well, along with his attempts to be a "normal" soldier. Niven is never off and makes the best use of all he has giving a very good performance.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Best Actor 1958: Spencer Tracy in The Old Man and the Sea

Spencer Tracy received his sixth Oscar nomination for playing the titular character in The Old man and the sea.

The old man and the sea is a rather odd adaptation of the story in many ways, and perhaps relies too much on narration. It is technically flawed so much that sometimes it can become distracting. There is very few actors in the film, only two have any real screen time one being a boy who is very poorly played, so much that he doesn't even seem to cry when he is suppose to and the other is Spencer Tracy.

Tracy also is the narrator in the film and not just the Old man. His narration is actually fine for a narration and I find he actually gives a better narration than a performance as the old man. As the old man Tracy is in many ways very awkward, and well watching the performance I was unfortunately reminded in some ways of his performance in Captain Courageous. I suppose Tracy should just not have played fishermen.

Tracy does not seem to know what exactly to do with this performance. He never really creates a character exactly, he has some ideas but he never makes anything out of it. He kind of does an accent but he never really does one. That is something wrong about the performance. He never really is believable as the fisherman and his attempts to be him are always slightly false.

The Old Man talks to himself and Tracy does not handle this well. He seems to be acting to himself rather than really talking to himself. He never seems to be the man who talks to himself, but instead he overdose it and again he rings false. Tracy's narration is good but very little else of his performance is very good. He never really gets into the character and this stops him from ever giving a compelling performance. I did not hate this performance but I did not ever see it succeeding either.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Best Actor 1958

And The Nominees Were:

Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones

Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones

David Niven in Separate Tables 

Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Spencer Tracy in The Old Man and the Sea

Who do you Pick? Who do you Predict?

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Best Actor 1964: Results

5. Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady- Harrison effectively plays Henry Higgins throughout the film, and is perfectly cast in the part of the snobbish English Professor.
4. Richard Burton in Becket- Richard Burton gives a quietly effective performance as Thomas Becket.
3. Peter O'Toole in Becket- I would have not minded giving Peter O'Toole two wins for playing King Henry the II because he plays him very differently even though he still shows the same man. O'Toole shows a younger Henry and gives an effective and in many ways entertaining performance as Henry.
2. Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove- Peter Sellers succeeds completely in making all three characters different  and he gets a good amount of laughs from each.
1.Anthony Quinn in Zorba the Greek- Quinn is another perfectly cast actor, and he makes the most out of his role filling it with a great amount of life and depth. Who really could have played this role besides Quinn?

Best Actor 1964: Anthony Quinn in Zorba the Greek

Anthony Quinn received his fourth and last Oscar nomination for playing Alexis Zorba in Zorba the Greek.

Zorba the Greek is a fairly interesting film about an Englishmen and a Greek going to Crete, where there lives are affected by the various goingons in the village they stay in.

Alexis Zorba is one of those characters that seem to have a person tailor made to play them, and that person is Anthony Quinn. He just fits the type of Zorba brilliantly, and here is a performance that would be very difficult for anyone to replicate. Quinn fully throws himself into this role, and fills his performance with incredible strength and energy.

Zorba is a man with many lusts, and he does not mind acting upon them constantly. Quinn never overplays this fact about Zorba and instead he is as naturalistic as possible. Quinn shows the self-described madness of the man perfectly. The dance that Quinn does works incredibly well, and Quinn uses it show the nature of the character fantastically. Every lust that Quinn shows Quinn handles as well as any lust can be. Quinn makes it a fully natural aspect of the character with the lusting after the various women and the  enjoyment of alcohol. His scenes where he romances Madame Hortense (Lilia Kedrova) are brilliant.

Zorba played by Quinn is not just a crazy Greek man, but Quinn puts more depth into him, making Zorba a wild man but also a real and in some ways a poetic one. Quinn is equally effective in Zorba's quiet moments as he is in his loud moments. The almost silent moments were Zorba reflects on his life, or the scenes where he reflects on death are just perfect. Quinn seemed born to play this role, therefore he claims his birthright creating a memorable and incredibly effective performance.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Best Actor 1964: Peter O'Toole in Becket

Peter O'Toole received his second Oscar Nomination for playing King Henry II in Becket.

This is the first time O'Toole played Henry II since he would play him again in The Lion in Winter. O'Toole is possibly the only person who was nominated for the same role twice and is almost equally great in both. O'Toole really shows a different side of Henry in Becket but still the same person as in the Lion in Winter. He shows a younger Henry, a more exuberant Henry, and a Henry with vastly different problems than the one in the Lion in Winter.

O'Toole plays Henry in a very loud and almost over the top manner, but I do not ever think he goes completely over the top. He shows Henry to be a boisterous man, but also at times one who has a greater understanding of things. O'Toole is always effective and Henry changes emotions in a heartbeat, which O'Toole handles very well. O'Toole makes it believable that Henry would say how he hates Becket so much, but then despair over having to mistreat him.

O'Toole like Burton commands great presence in this film. He always gives the proper strength to his performance to show the strength of the King. O'Toole controls the scenes without Burton impeccably well, and never does anything that is even slightly dull. Something interesting I found in his performance was that is was both dramatically compelling and very entertaining at times too. I really enjoyed the scenes where he ridicules his children and mother, because O'Toole was so entertaining in them. O'Toole finds the proper balance though and never forgets the different facets of the character. 

Like I said in Burton's review, Burton and O'Toole work fantastically together.  every scene they share together is brilliant. Their best scene though being their last scene together which works incredibly well because both men are at the top of their form. O'Toole best scene probably alone though is his scene where he indirectly signs Becket's death warrant.O'Toole shows all the sides of Henry here brilliantly. He shows the man's humble and his cruel side, and is the equal of Burton's last scene.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Best Actor 1964: Richard Burton in Becket

Richard Burton received his third Oscar nomination for playing Saint Thomas Becket the martyred Arch Bishop of Canterbury in Becket.

Becket I found to be a very effective period piece, and sometimes very entertaining. I liked the film the whole way through really, and it was helped overall by the two leads.

Becket is an example where both of the leads did deserve their nominations, and one does not just make the other seem pointless. They both are important to the film, and they both handle their roles very well but in massively different ways. O'Toole gives a very loud performance, and Burton gives a very quiet performance.

Burton has the title role who goes through several changes throughout the course of the film from King Henry II's (Peter O'Toole) loyal council to his fierce rival at the end. Burton is effective throughout the film, and I thought there was particular strength in the early scenes that show his friendship with Henry. O'Toole and Burton work fantastically together, they share the scene rather than trying to steal it from each other. They play off each other well with O'Toole being so loud and Burton being very quiet and withdrawn. His reactions to what O'Toole says are always superb. Particularly strong moments are when Burton reflects about a old Saxon's life and another scene where he realizes the King's rather pitiful request of him.

Burton though changes and advances Becket as he becomes the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and begins to realize his duties must cause him to strive away from King Henry. I felt Burton handled his conflict well without ever over doing it, since he showed a little bit of it beforehand making it so it was not a sudden and unrealistic change. Burton handles his changed ways very well. He never over plays the goodness of the character and still shows him to be man. Burton shows excellent command and gives the proper power to the character. The scene where excommunicates the noble is perfectly done by Burton.

As Becket slowly determines his fate Burton brilliant conveys this realization with perfect subtlety, never just openly saying it but rather perfectly showing through his face. His final scenes are all brilliant, particularly the final two. His last scene with O'Toole is truly effecting and his very last scene holds incredible emotional strength due to Burton's performance. His whole performance until he meets his fate is incredible. Burton creates a perfect and effective portrait of man, and succeeds fully with every challenging aspect of Becket.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Best Actor 1964: Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove

Peter Sellers received his first Oscar nomination for playing Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Dr. Strangelove is a brilliant satire by Stanley Kubrick, It has an excellent story, excellent art direction and excellent cinematography.The acting is also brilliant but it is not the kind of traditional brilliance usually found in great acting.

Sellers is one of the few Oscar nominees to be nominated for more than one role, and he is the only one to be nominated for three roles in the same film. The best way to review his performance than is to take each part of his performance separately.

The first role you see him in the film is that of Group Captain Mandrake. Mandrake is a very particular character in the the film since he is not insane. Sellers perfectly plays Mandrake as the very proper RAF English Captain, who tries to learn the recall code from the crazed general Ripper. As Mandrake Sellers creates a satisfactory character who works very well in his scenes, and although he is not exactly going for laughs he helps create them through his restrained delivery. I really enjoyed how Mandrake always kept completely proper with all the insanity around him. Not an overly memorable character exactly but certainly fulfills his role exceedingly well. 

The second role is that of the President of the United States Merkin Muffley. Sellers completely plays Merkin differently from Mandrake and creates completely separate characters. Merkin again does not seem totally insane but not really completely sane either. He plays Merkin equally well as Mandrake. Sellers characterizes Merkin very well as the not particularly confidant but concerned President of the United States. This time though Merkin is more in the position to create more laughs which Sellers does quite well. Many coming from his phone scene with the Russian leader. His president is incredibly memorable, and again he gives a perfect performance as Merkin.

His third and strangest role is Dr. Strangelove. This role really has no seriousness to its role, and Sellers handles the purely comedic role exceedingly well. Everything he does as Strangelove makes his scenes as memorable as they are. His mannerisms in this scene are perfect as is that very odd voice he used for this character. Strangelove could easily have fell flat and the movie really would have suffered but Sellers takes on the challenge succeeds fully. As Strangelove he again creates an unforgettable character who always creates many laughs. All three characters are created completely differently by Sellers. He plays each one exceedingly well, and gives a perfect performance for three different characters. His voices and mannerisms are all perfectly effective. Sellers succeeds with all three characters. Now they are all basically caricatures, but that does not matter for that is their purpose.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Best Actor 1964: Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady

Rex Harrison won his only Oscar from his second and final Oscar nomination for playing Professor Henry Higgins an English professor who decides to mold a flower girl into a proper lady.

My Fair Lady is one of the over the top 60's musicals. I did kind of enjoy it well enough, even though it is a bit too long, and slightly too slow at times.

Rex Harrison is a lead in a musical, but he really does not sing any songs. He strangely talks through them instead. It is a bizarre method but it does work for the character who is a bit too stuck up to sing. That really represents his whole performance though. Everything he does in the performance no matter how strange it seems to be it works very well for the character. He never really changes his facade very much and even when he does it is very minimal. But again that seems exactly as Higgins should be. Harrison really does play Higgins definitively. Would anyone else really seem correct in his role, I do not think so. Harrison simply personifies Higgins perfectly. Harrison never does falter and always comes off correctly as the overly proper English professor. Harrison plays the role with the proper amount of determination and humor. His posture and mannerisms are always positively proper and his arm gestures and everything else. Harrison is always somewhat enjoyable to watch in this, because he stays the same way basically throughout the film. His role though is not one of over complication because of this. Everything is fairly on the surface with this performance, and he is not entertaining as some performances.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Best Actor 1964

 And the Nominees Were:

Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady

Anthony Quinn in Zorba the Greek

Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove

Peter O'Toole in Becket

Richard Burton in Becket

Who do you Predict? Who do you Pick?

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Best Actor 1974: Results

5. Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express- Finney is not anything overly great in the film, but I thought he did what he needed to.

4. Dustin Hoffman in Lenny- Hoffman never really seems like he is Lenny Bruce and he is a bit boring at the beginning, but later on he gives a very effective performance.

3. Al Pacino in the Godfather Part 2- Pacino is completely brilliant as Micheal Corleone and successfully continues the story of an incredibly memorable character


2. Jack Nicholson in Chinatown- Nicholson creates an incredibly memorable private detective, and makes the most of his natural charisma to deliver one of his finest performances.

1. Art Carney in Harry and Tonto- Art Carney creates a perfect portrait of an elderly man. Carney completely deserved to win and is unfairly maligned by people who probably have not seen his brilliant performance.

My Nominees:
Art Carney in Harry and Tonto
Jack Nicholson in Chinatown
Al Pacino in The Godfather Part 2
Gene Hackman in The Conversation
Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Best Actor 1974: Jack Nicholson in Chinatown

Jack Nicholson received his fourth Oscar nomination for playing private detective Jake Gittes who is in way over his head in Chinatown.

Chinatown is a brilliant film noir, that is just about a perfect film. Everything about it is excellent the story, the direction, the music, the look of the film and of course the acting.

Jack Nicholson is the third nominee from this year that gives a flawless performance. Nicholson is perfect as Jake Gittes in Chinatown. This is a performance where Nicholson is in his top dramatic and charismatic form. Nicholson creates a unique and interesting private detective even though that type of character has been played millions of times before. Nicholson carries himself with the proper energy and strength throughout the film. He carries the audience through the complicated plot perfectly.

Nicholson again is perfect in every scene, and he properly depends on his natural charisma. He does not over do it, though and still creates the character of Gittes which is more than just Jack Nicholson. Gittes begins the film as a fairly confidant private eye, who successfully finds out if people are having affairs for people.  Every scene were Gittes manipulates someone so he can get information or do something else, seems completely realistic because Nicholson is so perfectly charismatic in the role, and brings the film a certain gravity which it might not have been able to attain without him.

I particularly like the scene where the man in the barber shop ridicules Jake's line of work. Nicholson is perfect in his anger and annoyance that anyone would think he was doing something wrong. Gittes attempt to always be right and correct, even when he doesn't know what is going on is always spot on. Nicholson is of course perfect in the final scene, where his plans collapse on him. His final face he gives in looking back at what happens helps in making that ending so memorably tragic. This is not a performance that seems overly difficult from a brief description but Nicholson is always interesting and entertaining. Perhaps the character in the wrong hands could have been off but Nicholson makes Gittes into one of the most memorable characters in cinematic history. He give a great performance and is integral to the film and of course earns:

Friday, 14 May 2010

Best Actor 1974: Al Pacino in The Godfather Part 2

Al Pacino received his third Oscar nomination for again playing Michael Corleone the head of the Corleone crime family in the Godfather Part 2.

The Godfather Part 2 is of course the sequel to the great Godfather. I believe Part 2 is a successful sequel, although I don't believe it is better than the original as some believe. It still obviously is a great film with some great performances.

The greatest being Al Pacino's performance as Michael Corleone. Michael now is cold and a much darker man than he was at the beginning of the first one. His transformation though is not fully complete and that is part of the brilliance of this performance. Michael begins in this fully in control of the Corleone family. Pacino shows very well the cold calculating character of Michael now. The way his face conveys that he is always business and always determined to succeed. He has no joy in his work here but only determination for power.

It is interesting to compare how Pacino handles Micheal early dealing compared to how Brando handles Vito's dealings. Pacino is always cold and proficient. He always seems fully in charge as Michael and all to intelligent. Nothing causes him to accept defeat, Pacino completely convinces us of his nature. Michael never seems to be acting cold, and dark, but instead that is merely what he is. Pacino is perfect at completely establishing Michael as a fully realized person.

Pacino is great throughout the film but he has some particular stand out scenes that show the brilliance of his performance. Such as when he realizes Fredo's betrayal and then when he tells Fredo of the betrayal. Both scenes Pacino excels and creates incredibly effective scenes. Also the scene where Kay tells Micheal about the abortion. Pacino face as he realizes what she is saying is incredible. Finally the last scene where it shows the differences between the young Micheal and the current Micheal. Pacino makes the transition of the character believable, and fully memorable. Pacino performance is essential for the film, and  Pacino does absolutely nothing wrong in this performance and is simply perfect. It is a performance that is hard describe because of the withdrawn nature of so much of it, but it is a perfect and unforgettable performance.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Best Actor 1974: Art Carney in Harry and Tonto

Art Carney won his only Oscar from his only Oscar nomination for playing an elderly man Harry Coombes who travels across country with his cat.

Harry and Tonto is one of those dramatic comedies that follows an aging man through his travels, as he meets his relatives old friends, and strangers along the always side by side with his Cat. This is not a great film, but it serves its purpose well and it has a great performance in it.

Art Carney probably best known for playing Ed Norton in the Honeymooners shows in Harry and Tonto that he was as good of a dramatic actor as he was a comedic actor. First of all he fulfills that technical aspects of the parts perfectly. Carney seems like the exact age of the over 70 years old man despite the fact that Carney was only in his fifties at this time. Carney though completely seems to be the age, and never once looks or acts younger than he is suppose to be.

Art Carney is brilliant throughout the film from beginning to end. Harry starts out as an old man who lives with only with his Cat in New York City. Carney gives a very subtle portrait of a man who is not lonely even though he lives alone and has energy despite being old. Harry has not been forced in submission by his age, and Carney shows this without ever going over the top. After being taken out of his old apartment building he goes to live with one of his sons for a while. Again Carney is perfect here to interacting with his semi dysfunctional family. He shows his frustrations perfectly. A great scene in these early moments is where he goes to identify the body of a Russian friend of his at the Morgue. Carney's face and reaction to seeing his deceased friend is brilliant, and perfectly subtle.

Later Harry leaves his son to go out west. His last scene with his son is again perfect, and properly heartfelt. He goes out west and comes across different people and different places. Particular scenes are stronger than others but Carney is great in all of the scenes. He is especially brilliant in the superior scenes. One example being when he meets with his daughter (Ellen Burstyn). Both actors handle this scene especially well, showing a long troubled relationship with only this single scene. A big challenge but the actors pull it off.

Three other moments really exemplify the power of his performance. The scene where he meets his old girlfriend strikes the perfect emotional chord, which is achieved through Carney pitch perfect expressions, and emotions. The other scene where he meets his other son, and he tells his son that he can't live with him. Carney handles this talk so perfectly that it makes one memorable scene. Carney perfectly channels his caring for his son, but also his wish for his son to grow as a man. Then the final scenes where Tonto become sick might be the best. His final expression he gives to the kid and the cat, is incomparable. Carney is just absolutely perfect. He fully and perfectly creates a sympathetic portrait of the aged man. Carney gives a performance that no one could really imitate and he easily earns:

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Best Actor 1974: Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express

Albert Finney received his second Oscar nomination for playing famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express.

Murder on the Orient Express is a movie that seems to have been made to be like a old fashioned movie. With its particular use of editing, cinematography, and acting. I actually enjoyed it well enough. I really have not seen a lot of Agatha Christie work so I cannot compare it to others, but I liked it as it is.

The acting in this film has a lot of over the top nature to that, and no one goes more over the top in this movie than Albert Finney. Again I have not seen other portrayals of Poirot so I am basing this solely on his performance and how it works in the film. Finney certainly is mannered here, by arching himself to have his head under his shoulders to look all the stranger. He uses a strange accent that is a bizarre mixture of his own British accent with a Belgianish accent. With all those oddities, I did like his performance actually. It is not subtle or really brilliant but I was entertained by his performance.

An interesting thing is that despite being the lead Finney's character really has very little to him, since I guess the other novels fleshed out Poirot instead. Finney is there as almost a machine just to solve the mystery. He has no personal stories or personal investments in the murder, he is just there to solve it. He does that with his various interrogations, which amount to basically the same thing over and over, but I find Finney makes them entertaining. Then Finney has his last scene involving the long explanation. I do believe Finney puts the right amount of energy into this scene to keep it going, and he almost makes the explanation seem believable. This is not an amazing performance at all, but I enjoyed it enough, and I thought it worked well for the film.