Sunday, 29 January 2012

Best Actor 2011: Results

5. George Clooney in The Descendants- Clooney as usual for him fails to find conviction in his performance. He has a strange lack of consistency and has some very bad moments that are suppose to be his money scenes.
4. Brad Pitt in Moneyball- Brad Pitt gives a fine leading performance here that is effectively charming and entertaining.
3. Demian Bichir in A Better Life- Demain Bichir gives a heartfelt and incredibly moving performance that only ever relies on bringing out genuine emotions in every moment of his film.
2. Jean Dujardin in The Artist- Jean Dujardin gives simply a wonderful performance that is a unique achievement to behold. He never fails to entertain as well as create a powerful portrait despair as well it is truly great work.
1. Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy- Gary Oldman has the greatest of challenges with his almost emotionless part, yet he makes a compelling and very convincing characterization. His performance improves for me each time I have watched it. A very difficult decision to be sure and I certainly thought between these top two for quite a while. Both give superb performances, and again I have no real reason for picking Oldman over Dujardin, I think they are equally good in their challenging roles, but I am forced to pick one.
Deserving Performances
Ryan Gosling in Drive
Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Best Actor 2011: Demian Bichir in A Better Life

Demian Bichir received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Carlos Galindo in A Better Life.

A Better Life is a descent although far from perfect film about an illegal immigrant from Mexico who attempts to make a better life for his son.

Demian Bichir portrays an illegal immigrant from Mexico who lives in American earning a living through working on trees. Bichir early on shows Carlos just to be really an average but hard working man who honestly just wants to work hard for more. Bichir realistically shows just the right degree of exhaustion on his face to indicate that Carlos has been doing this for a long while. Although not tired in the sense that suggest he does not want to do before, just in the sense that he has been working hard.

Bichir has always a certain ease in the role that always supports the idea of Carlos' history as a worker and as a father. In the first scene with his son there is just a thoroughly natural quality to their scenes together.Their first together is special really because of just how ordinary they are with one another. They establish in their first scene as a father and son that is not the warmest but neither is the coldest. Bichir really characterizes it as less than it should be merely by the fact that Carlos is basically working most of the time and is simply too tired from that to devote the effort to deal with his son.

Bichir effectively brings us into his world with him, and through his simple but moving approach he makes Carlos an easy man to empathize with. He always shows that Carlos' hopes and dreams are genuine, and truly meaningful to him. Because of this honest approach when Carlos finally has the money to buy the equipment to run the tree service himself we are able to feel the joy of the success with him. The scene where he goes to show his son what he has finally achieved is one of the most genuinely heart warming moments I have seen in a recent film.  His happiness and pride in what he has gained is truly brought to life by Bichir.

Soon afterwards in the film Carlos' fortune quickly changes though when his truck is stolen suddenly. Bichir again sense he created such an honest portrait from the beginning of the film, this scene is made heartbreaking as we can really feel the loss right along with him. Bichir is terrific in these scenes because he really downplays it all to great effect. Bichir shows Carlos to really be a modest man and it would be incorrect for him to respond in some great outburst of anger, instead he very simply shows a sadness  in him, but Bichir always shows that Carlos never loses his determination though.

The later scenes of the film focuses on Carlos looking for what was stolen from him with his son, as well at the same time attempting to bond with his son. In these scenes the whole time I wished the actor playing Carlos' son was better, since Bichir is excellent and these scenes could have been great if Bichir had been equaled by his co-star. Bichir is extremely moving in these scenes as he shows Carlos' quiet attempts to try to reconnect with his son. Bichir never tries to force the emotional impact of these scene but rather brings them naturally with his genuine performance.

These scenes could have frankly fallen into overt sentimentality but Bichir never forces a moment. He shows that Carlos have a completely honest love for his son, and only wishes to try to connect with his son. Bichir presents this with a clear history with his son that is exceedingly moving. We feel with Bichir his whole struggle to reach his son, as well as his loss when he forced away from him. It is a very emotionally powerful portrait that always manages to bring the strength of everyone moment to it fullest.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Best Actor 2011: Jean Dujardin in The Artist

Jean Dujardin won his Oscar from his first Oscar nomination for portraying George Valentine in The Artist.

The Artist depicts the fall of a silent star and the rise of a talkie star.

Jean Dujardin is the first actor since Lewis Stone in the Patriot to be nominated for a silent film, and if he were to win he would be the first winner of that sort since Emil Jannings's double win. Jean Dujardin has apparently reminded many people of silent stars like Douglas Fairbanks for example. I actually must disagree and say he actually reminded most of relatively early sound star Fredric March, and George  Valentine after all shares many similarities with Fredric March's character in A Star is Born, they are both originally popular romantic leading men and are eclipsed by a woman they helped get her start, and they both fall into an alcoholic despair over their loss of stardom although the eventual fates are considerably different although they come close to being the same.

For some reason I always felt Dujardin felt to me more like an early sound star than a truly silent star only because I suppose many silent stars tended to overact a lot, they weren't all Emil Jannings after all, and to me he gives a performance Fredric March sort of gives if you turn off the sound in their films, after all I just find that both Dujardin's and March's face of distress is exactly the same. Anyway though it is really better than Dujardin portrays the part in this manner rather than replicating some of the more dated aspects of the silent period, instead he finds a way to make the essence of the best qualities of old Hollywood.

In the first section of the film when George Valentine is still the great star Dujardin is just a ball of energy. He is about as charming as one could possibly be with the simple joy he shows in every moment as he performs. His smile is about as wide as a smile can be and he just is a bright spot on screen perfectly capturing the sort of charisma of a star of that period without ever making it feel like he is trying to merely imitate one of those stars either. He simply becomes the star which is an outstanding achievement to behold, and it is an essential element for the film itself.

After his fall from stardom which happens rather quickly George Valentine falls in despair. Dujardin excels in this part of his performance just as well as he did when George Valentine was on top, and actually Dujardin perfectly brings out the sadness in Valentine with performance by showing just what a difference there is between his happiness and sadness. It is true that Dujardin change is rather abrupt but it is entirely fitting since George Valentine's fall from stardom happens almost overnight.

Dujardin is extremely effective in his portrayal of the fallen Valentine who never falls in delusions like say Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd, instead he falls into deep despair over his loss. Dujardin is terrific in showing the slowly intensifying despair in his performance, and although silently he perfectly conveys everything that is going through George over every that he lost. There is a great intensity to Dujardin in these moments that brings to life just how troubled George Valentine has become, and he Dujardin effectively works toward the final climax of George's despair exceedingly well.

Dujardin throughout this film gives a compelling and entertaining performance that is easy to follow throughout  George Valentine's tribulations. I must say interestingly enough the part of his performance that I was at all disappointed by was, and this is a spoiler, when he finally does say his single line. The only reason is his single line is with his native french accent and I was perhaps a bit disappointed by this. Not that Dujardin says incorrectly or anything I just don't think the french accent fit the star he was the rest of the time, he just does not look like the successful sound french actors in type like Maurice Chevalier or Charles Boyer, he looks like Fredric March. This is really beyond even a nitpick though.

The artist is a film that really could have been either made or broken by its lead performance. Frankly it would have easy for the actor in this role to have just seemed like some sort of cheap imitation of an actor of the period the film depicts. Dujardin's magnificent performance though completely meets and overcomes all the obstacles of the part.  He simply is a star in this film he never lets you question it from a moment, and the idea that this is an entirely silent performance never matters for a moment. Dujardin brings just as much in fact far emotional power and even charm in his performance than many performances that never stop talking. Dujardin's work here is a truly unique achievement.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Best Actor 2011: Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Solider Spy

Gary Oldman received his first Oscar nomination for portraying George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Tinker Tailor Soldier is an effective thriller about the search for a Soviet double agent at the very top of the British intelligence agency.

Until just a few days ago Gary Oldman was often regarded as one of the most notable actors never nominated for an Oscar. The interesting part is Oldman who became notable early in his career for rather broad performances in films received a nomination finally for the most restrained performance of his career. I suppose the academy wanted him to calm down or something. It is also interesting that the many times broad Oldman not only gives his most restrained and understated performance, but also I would say the most understated performance ever nominated in the category. Yes even more understated than Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies, or Richard Farnsworth in the Straight Story.

It must be a great achievement of sorts for Oldman to have been recognized for such a restrained performances, since the academy often prefers louder performances with at least one scene. It is also notable that Oldman I believe is only the second actor to be nominated for portraying a spy role, the first being Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, also based on a John Le Carre novel, which also features George Smiley but in a supporting role. Burton portrayed a spy who was basically far past the end of his rope, Oldman on the other hand portrays Smiley who some how has been a spy so long that he is content enough with spy life that it does not seem to effect him really in any way.

Oldman has quite a challenge actually than to find a way to make Smiley a compelling character, but still as the character should be. Smiley is a key player one of the most intelligent men yet he almost seems to come off as a non entity. He is suppose to be a man you don't notice in a room, yet he still has an undeniable presence. Smiley is suppose to be a man who actively tries not to be emotional and in order to not show any possible weaknesses to his enemies. Oldman does succeed in producing the professional side of Smiley perfectly. In every scene with a group Oldman is noticeable, but never in a way that only the audience would notice him. In every scene with he is listening Oldman never shows Smiley to simply be listening rather his eyes are always piercing into them showing his constant analysis, and examination to find the truth.

It is always a very difficult trick to make an character interesting whose whole point is that they are not suppose to in anyway emotional, but it is one that Oldman succeeds with. Oldman allows us to see that George is putting on a bit of an act at all times, an act he has been practicing for a long time, and is exceedingly good at but still an act in the end. Oldman is a master of the act with his distant body language as Smiley. As I said his eyes are always piercing and manipulating, but just the way he walks, and sits even suggests a man of great intelligence and ability. Oldman as Smiley is always seeming to say yes I know more than you, as well yes I am going to get exactly what I want from you. Oldman never portrays this as just a pompousness but a genuine skill in Smiley.

Oldman's key scenes though are his short moments where Smiley's emotions do seep through on occasion as well as a few moments where he lets his guard down. Most of these are only for a single moment that last only a second or two but each are brilliantly used by Oldman to more thoroughly reflect his character. My personal favorite of these brief moments is when he visits the now deceased control's (John Hurt), the former head of British Intelligence, apartment where he finds who control believed could be the double agent. When Smiley sees himself as one of the potentials Oldman reaction is a small but just about perfect indication that Smiley's heart is almost broken to learn that Control did not fully trust him.

Every time there is a break in the defenses of Smiley Oldman's portrays these absolutely perfectly to subtly show there is a great deal of emotional sadness in Smiley surrounding his wife in particular, but it is something he only ever lets onto in short outbursts, if they can even be described as that. Oldman is pitch perfect in these portrayal because they are always fast and quick but still clear indicators of Smiley's true feelings on the matter. Oldman shows them not to be Smiley purposefully letting down his defenses but rather a clear sharp emotional response that not even his experience in the matter of hiding emotions can completely hide.

His best scene though comes in a single scene where he actually lets down his defenses completely, which is when he tells about his meeting with the Soviet mastermind Karla to his confidant Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch). Oldman is terrific in this scene as Smiley changes his body language to no longer being firm and structured for interrogation and analysis and instead becomes just like any man for this moment. There is not flashback in this scene yet Oldman brings us into Smiley's early past, and shows us a glimpse of not only a once more emotional man but also Oldman presents to us what made Smiley change the way he did. He shows a more emotional man, and easier one to relate in this scene, but one less able to be successful in his line of work.

The role of Smiley is a challenging one in that playing a non entity is quite a difficult one, since he is not a simple man, but he portrays himself as a completely non emotional one. Oldman finds just the right dynamic with Smiley though. He always shows Smiley to be the expert spy, and his long history, but inserts moments of more direct emotions without fault to have far greater impact actually than if Smiley was constantly emotional. Gary Oldman finds the right path for Smiley throughout the avoid what could have been the potential limits of the part. Although I will admit this very understated and restrained performance might not be for everyone, I absolutely loved it.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Best Actor 2011: Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Brad Pitt received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Billy Beane in Moneyball.

Moneyball is a descent enough film which depicts Billy Beane general manager of the Oakland A's attempt to use only statistics to create a winning baseball team.

Brad Pitt portrays Billy Beane the general manager who use to be a baseball player himself who never reached what many seemed to be his potential. Pitt portrays his the part in a fairly standard approach. He does not seek to make Billy Beane any sort of genius, or incredible man, just pretty much a normal guy trying to make his under financed team compete with the rich teams. Pitt's performance really for the most part is a standard leading man performance, he never really tries for anything more than that, which is technically fine since Billy Beane is not suppose to be anyone overly special.

Pitt though does have a sort of commanding presence in the film as Beane who wants to bring his team up using completely unorthodox methods. Pitt does have just the right dynamic between domination and relaxation actually, since after all Beane is doing these business maneuvers in baseball not something bigger. Pitt always displays a certain seriousness in Beane, in that he does take his business seriously enough, but he never goes that far with showing that Beane also is indeed aware of what kind of business he is in which makes him naturally a more relaxed fellow.

Pitt finds the right sort of determination, and passion within the part to be convincing as Billy Beane. He does not present his new ideas as something that is because he is some sort courageous visionary, but in many ways as just a man desperate for a new way or answer. Pitt creates just the right amount of desperation within Beane's whole sage. It not a self pitying desperation though Pitt portrays rather as something that is actually a motivating factor for Beane rather than a restrictive aspect of him.

Pitt is quite good and charismatic in the role. I do wish though that there was perhaps a little more time granted to Pitt actually reflection on Beane past. There are a few moments and Pitt is fine in showing some degree of regret, but these scenes a very very short, and never long enough or fully written enough for Pitt to turn them into anything especially amazing. Which is a shame since I do think Pitt shows promise in his short moments, but there is just not enough there.

I won't say this is a perfect performance by Pitt simply because there are a couple of scenes where his line readings have a little bit of a rehearsed quality to them, nor will I say this is the most complex performance Pitt has ever given, but I will say this is a good performance. It is a solid leading man turn from Pitt that realizes most of the potential of a part, giving a charming and entertaining performance, which allows the audience easily to follow Beane through his exploits.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Best Actor 2011: George Clooney in The Descendants

George Clooney received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Matt King in The Descendants.

The Descendants deals with Matt King who owns a great deal of real estate in Hawaii due to inheritance. He deals with his wife being in a coma she will not awaken from, a big money land deal, his rebellious daughters, and learning that his wife was having an affair.

The last three films by Alexander Payne have been about older men dealing with some serious problems in their life, and facing a crisis. I should say right away that George Clooney does not at all change his track record with me, and proves that he most certainly is no Paul Giamatti or Jack Nicholson. Clooney as usual never really makes a mark in his part that will ever make me remember Matt King as a notable character, and actually portrays Matt King in a somewhat different way for Clooney but still the same as his other performances in terms of its success.

Clooney firstly does not give his Up in the Air "Hi I'm George Clooney" type of performances that so many believe to be charming, I don't. In fact in the role of Matt King he never really tries to be charming in any way and does indeed attempt to show Matt as more of just a man trying to go through his series of crises. Having said that though his performance is more in line with that of his performance in Michael Clayton, but like his performance in Michael Clayton there is not the required conviction in his performance or characterization to make his performance compelling.

In fact his performance is rather incompetent in many ways as he attempts to be the exasperated husband and father. I simply never bought him in the role as the man who is emotionally bent out of shape, something Jack Nicholson and Paul Giamatti succeeded with very well in their similar roles. Clooney just never seems tired enough, or truly a man who has experienced troubles of Matt King's sort in life, it just not there ever in Clooney's performance as much as he wants it to be. I will give credit that Clooney tries many things in this performance, but this actually just leads to an inconsistency in his performance.

 Clooney attempts quite ineffectively to combine drama and comedy in his performance in a rather poorly conceived fashion. For example when he first learns of his wife's affair he goes running for some reason like he is one of his films for the Coen brothers. Than he confronts someone about it with the utmost seriousness. There is not any sort of logic for Clooney to do this in this scene, he does anyway, which causes him never to turn Matt King into a compelling character in any fashion. He truly fails to bring us into Matt's mindset and problems at any point in the film.

I must say much of the time Clooney is just going through the role with the same uncertainty throughout in his performance, there is not a single scene where he really finds a way to make his performance compelling. He fails to ever really brings Matt's problems to life even in the what should be some compelling scenes that one would think would automatically bring it out. That is the scene with his wife's lover, Clooney is bizarrely dull throughout the whole affair, there is not even signs of repression anger or anything like that.

He plays almost all of his scenes with his typical lacking in conviction Clooney fashion. The only scene he really does more is his final scene with his wife where he finally breaks down, and says goodbye. It wants to be the heartbreaking "Oscar" scene, but Clooney is frankly at his worst in this scene. He frankly wants to rush through the scene, and is not convincing for a moment. He is just clearly "acting" during the whole scene and he fails to bring a single genuine emotion into the scene. This is a poor performance by Clooney, and I will be very annoyed if I have to add "won his second Oscar" to this review.

Best Actor 2011

And the Nominees Are:

Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Jean Dujardin in The Artist

George Clooney in The Descendants

Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 

Demian Bichir in A Better Life

I break my scheduled reviews of supporting 95 to return once again to Best Actor. I actually did not except to do this yet, and would have held off since I thought Michael Fassbender was going to be nominated, and I have not seen Shame, but now I have seen all of these performances.

Supporting will wait because I have yet to see Extremely Loud, or My Week with Marilyn, but I do think I will probably write a deserving performance for Albert Brooks.

Best Supporting Actor 1995: Ed Harris in Apollo 13

Ed Harris received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Gene Kranz in Apollo 13.

Apollo 13 details the troubles of the apollo 13 spacecrafts during its unsuccessful attempt to reach the moon.

Ed Harris portrays the NASA flight director who must deal with the situation of the men in space. As I said in my review of Tommy Lee Jones in the Fugitive, Ed Harris here is merely the man in charge no more no less. He comes in intent on getting the men home by being resilient, and keeping a firm grasp on the situation. Ed Harris is not a dominating force in the film by any margin though, and he really is just there to basically react to each crisis by telling another team to get to it.

There really is not anything particularly special about Harris's portrayal of Kranz it is about as it should be. When he problem happens he acts as he is frustrated, if they need to fix the problem he reacts with determination. The only time there really is anything more required of him is at the very end of the film when they are waiting to see if the man on the space ship survived. He shows the nervousness, sadness, and eventually the happiness of his moment well enough, but nothing that is in any way amazing.

There really are not any scenes where Harris acts in any fashion other than merely what one would expect from the role no more no less. It is a standard performance that really any actor who is the same type as Harris could have played just as well. There is not a single scene where he stands out, or rises above the rest of the cast in a fashion that would make one believe he had to be recognized for this performance. It is not a bad performance, but it just isn't a special one either.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1995

And the Nominees Were:

Ed Harris in Apollo 13

James Cromwell in Babe

Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects

Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys

Tim Roth in Rob Roy

Best Supporting Actor 1982: Results

5. Charles Durning in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas- Durning although may be the best part of the film, still does not make a particularly substantial impact with his small amount of screentime, that is mostly made up of a very unspectacular musical number.
4. Robert Preston in Victor Victoria- Preston gives a standard Preston performance which most certainly is charming but also not particularly special. It is not even the best case of Preston doing Preston.
3. Lou Gossett, Jr. in An Officer and A Gentleman- Gossett is convincing and capable as an intense drill Sergeant, he also is very good in inserting subtle indications of the more humane characterizations of the man.
2. John Lithgow in The World According to Garp- John Lithgow never overacts in his role as a transsexual and instead gives a nicely heartfelt performance.
1.James Mason in The Verdict- This win easily goes to James Mason who thoroughly proves his strength as an actor in the role of the ace attorney in this film. He gives an excellent quietly dominating performance that creating the perfect sort of adversary in the film.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1982: John Lithgow in The World According to Garp

John Lithgow received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp.

The World According to Garp is a very unique film about the life of a writer T.S. Garp (Robin Williams), and his feminist mother (Glenn Close).

John Lithgow portrays a transsexual former football player Roberta Muldoon. In playing a transsexual Lithgow actually tries not to bring that much more attention to it with his actual performance. All of his mannerisms for the part are rather low key and really very handled because of that reason. Lithgow's voice and mannerisms are all fairly simple but realistically portrayed that naturally realize his character. Lithgow's performance never becomes actory which is very important to his character presence in the film.

Roberta's role in the film is that of a completely supporting character, in the sense that Roberta literally provides emotional support to the other character in the film. Yes there are moments where Roberta doesn't just discuss someone else's problems but these scenes are always short and usually just a sentence or two at the beginning or the end of a scene. Lithgow although given very little time in these moments does succeed in showing Roberta to be a fairly average person actually who is seeking happiness. Lithgow though always shows Roberta to be one of the less troubled characters in the film.

Lithgow's although shows that although Roberta does not have perfect happiness, that does not stop Roberta from having a very bright outlook on life that is rather endearing, and provides a nice contrast from some of the more troubled characters in the film. Roberta is always there is offer a kind helping hand throughout the film, and although this is somewhat limited, Lithgow does manage to make the most of it. Everything time Roberta is on screen things do seem to either brighten or ease up a little bit due to Lithgow's charming presence.

I will say after watching the film the first I was a bit surprised to find out Roberta's exact role in the film, as in it  was far more limited than I thought it would be. Still Lithgow takes a role that easily could have been very much overacted or very well could been a rather exploitative type of performance, and instead turns Roberta in a very human character. Lithgow as well succeeds in making Roberta add a great deal of heart to the film that was certainly needed.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1982: Lou Gossett Jr. in An Officer and a Gentleman

Lou Gossett Jr. won his Oscar from his only nomination so far for portraying Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman.

An Officer and a Gentleman depicts Zack Mayo(Richard Gere)'s attempt to get through a naval training program.

One of Zack's seemingly largest obstacles, although in actuality is trying to get him through the course, is his drill Sergeant played by Gossett. In all truth there really is not too many ways to play a drill Sergeant, particularly in their opening scenes where they ridicule everyone. I really must say I was not surprised to learn that Gossett was coached by R. Lee Ermy a real drill Sergeant, who also later portrayed one in Full Metal Jacket. Gossett portrayal Sergeant Foley is not nearly as intense or brutal as Ermy's was in that film, but his performance clearly shows he took a few pointers from Ermy. 

As the Sergeant Gossett is appropriately intense, and dominates most scenes he is in with his presence. He quick witted loud, swift, and properly rough in proper drill Sergeant method. The question is, is this amazing acting the drill sergeant role is technically a standard role where there is not much play to it except on just how intense they and Gossett is not the most intense, that would be Ermy, but he does manage to make a far greater impact than most other drill sergeant performances I have seen.

What specifically separates Gossett as a drill Sergeant is that he always hints at the fact that really Sergeant Foley wants to bring what is best out of the recruits, and does in fact feel proud when they achieve. Gossett handles these moments in very very small reactions in a few scenes, and actually they are just about brilliantly handled by Gossett. This is because Gossett handles them with such subtly that the audience can notice it but also only enough that it never compromises what his character is suppose to be. 

Although I cannot really say this quite an amazing performance by Gossett it is easy for me to say it is a good one. He is completely up to being the overwhelming presence of the Sergeant as well as does add some well laced hidden human characteristics as well. It is a very well handled performance that could have been a wholly standard performance that made absolutely no impact whatsoever, or it could have failed to find the right balance between the rough and the humane, but Gossett manages to find both this balance and leave a mark on the film.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1982: Robert Preston in Victor Victoria

Robert Preston received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Carole "Toddy" Todd in Victor Victoria.

Victor Victoria tells of the "comedic" problems that arise after a struggling female soprano Victoria Grant (Julie Andrews) pretends to be a man who performs drag.

When it comes to portraying a gay character many actors use certain mannerisms sometimes very effectively William Hurt, sometimes not so much Ed Harris, one who is only aware of Preston's performance here might think Preston puts on mannerisms, but from what I have seen from Preston acts just as he always does here, and really does not technically play his character as visibly gay. He instead plays him as Preston seems to play just about all his roles as a fairly flamboyant witty energetic shyster of some sort.

I really do not see any sort of play in his performance as the gay friend of Andrews' character who helps her with his charade as a man pretending being woman. He is fairly flamboyant in his Robert Preston sort of fashion with his distinct voice, and way of speaking. He is Preston all the way which is fitting of his character, and also is charming as it just about always is but I can't really say this is any sort of great performance either. It really is just standard Robert Preston, and not even standard Preston at his best.

Robert Preston also never made me really convinced of his character at all times particularly in his scenes where he is in bed with men, to be honest it never looks like Preston had much of an association with them in any way. He honestly did not seem honestly gay to me, since to me he really just was doing Preston. Preston does indeed says all his lines about his character's sexuality with the utmost conviction, yet I was never convinced, because Preston was just being Preston the entire time.

Although Robert Preston is indeed the male lead of the film he undergoes no changes throughout the film just acting as someone to make insert a clever line from time to time in usual Robert Preston fashion. Preston's performance is enjoyable to a degree since Preston is an enjoyable to watch, but I don't think this is best I frankly thought he was more entertaining and effective in the Last Starfighter actually. Still this is most certainly not a bad performance, but one that frankly left me underwhelmed.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1982: James Mason in The Verdict

James Mason received his third and final Oscar nomination for portraying Ed Concannon in The Verdict.

In the supporting actor category Mason was not the first actor to be nominated for portraying an the adversary attorney in a court room drama as George C. Scott was also nominated for a similar role in 1959 for Anatomy of a Murder a performance that earned my win for that particular year. What I like is to see these two talented actors taken such different approaches to what are very similar character in that they are both there just to win their case, there really is not a personal life mentioned or anything else, yet they still managed to be Oscar nominated.

Well it is most certainly true that one can be nominated for an entirely unimpressive and unsubstantial performance, Mason though as with  Scott managed to show how a great actor can make the most out of just about any sort of role if they actually bother to try. It is just interesting to look at the differences and similarities between Scott and Mason in the ways they both managed to succeed in their roles, and make a substantial impact in their film despite the technical limitations of their part.

Where Scott was more demanding, and intense as his prosecutor, Mason portrays his slick attorney as a relatively quite man but one who like Scott's character is absolutely always in control of his situation. Mason though always presents Ed Concannon as an always prepared man who examines every situation so he doesn't need to get loud or angry, he is in charge because he has determined that he is in charge. Mason always shows with cold efficiency that there is a calculated procedure Concannon takes to everything involved with a case.

Mason has such a great ease in his performance that it makes him a more than just a rival to Paul Newman's Frank Galvin, but in fact makes him seem like his legal superior. Mason for most of the film has complete control in his scenes, and so calmly lays down plan and actions in every scene with just the right degree of  smug superiority. Mason never shows Concannon to be an idiot when it comes to his superior manner and tone, but rather something he has earned his right to use from his long standing history as a lawyer.

Mason is particularly excellent in his scenes of cross examination, since he really does not have a harsh intense attitude, but rather is always polite, even though Mason shows almost a fiendish quality in this calm approach that through his slowly but eloquently put questions he is always carefully tearing into them. I particularly like when Concannon basically harasses a witness, and accuses her of lying, yet he does it with such calm reserve he actually seems even more piercing because of this.

Mason is terrific in every moment he needs to show just how smart, and effective Ed Concannon is creating an almost overwhelming obstacle for Galvin to fight, but my favorite moment in his performance is when he is at a loss for words in a single scene. Mason's reaction is absolutely perfect when Concannon finally is truly surprised by something he hadn't planned for, and Mason shows a vulnerability in this single scene where it Concannon can barely understand that there something has occurred that he has not planned for, simply a terrific moment that perfectly shows a sign of weakness in Concannon.

This is a great performance by Mason who takes what he has an makes the absolute most of it. It would have been very easy to actually have had Concannon be an nonentity in the film, but instead just like George C. Scott in Anatomy of Murder he turns Concannon into a formidable court room villain. His performance here puts to shame other performances that just settle in their roles and never attempt bring more life to the part. This is a brilliant realization of what an actor can do with a character even when the character is limited.

Best Supporting Actor 1982: Charles Durning in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Charles Durning received his first Oscar nomination for portraying the Governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

The Best Little Whorehouse is a rather hard to sit through musical about a long standing Whorehouse's problems with people who are against it.

Charles Durning portrays the governor of Texas who aside from a few very short and quite unremarkable  reaction shots really does not do anything in the film until way past half way through the film he finally does something because the governor of Texas is the person left with the decision to close the Whorehouse down or not, even though he really does not want to be the person left with the decision. Durning despite how little he is in the film is often described as the best part of this film, although that may be true it really says more about the quality of the film than the quality of his performance.

He really does not do anything till he is asked to make a decision on the Whorehouse something he does not really want to do since it gives him any sort of responsibility. So he says all of that in a musical number about side stepping the issue, in which he joyfully sings about his love of doing so, with short moments of saying absolutely nothing through just saying some random good politician type statements. I can't say the number is particularly well written or well directed but Durning does have some energy into the number but never enough that it makes the number at all memorable.

Other than the number he just is a southern inconsistent politician. Durning attempts to be comedic in his character's indecisiveness, but his material is frankly never good enough for Durning to do anything even slightly amusing with it. Durning does try though, and I will give him credit for that but even at his best his performance is nothing special. It never overcomes his material, and his performance is never anything that needed to be awarded. How he was nominated is a bit perplexing especially since they could have nominated him for Tootsie and it would have been far more deserving.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1982

And the Nominees Were:

James Mason in The Verdict

Robert Preston in Victor Victoria

Lou Gossett Jr. in An Officer and A Gentleman

Charles Durning in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

John Lithgow in The World According to Garp

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2004: Results

5. Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby- Freeman gives a painfully standard performance, that is horribly uninspired.
4. Jamie Foxx in Collateral- Foxx gives a functional performance some of the time, but he also fails to capitalize any scene that requires more from him.
3. Alan Alda in The Aviator- Alda has very little to do but still his performance is effective as he shows both the charm and the cruelty of a career politician.

2. Clive Owen in Closer- Owen although has strong elements particularly in portraying the harsh bluntness of his character, but also lacks in terms of his onscreen relationships with his female co-stars.
1. Thomas Haden Church in Sideways- A very easy win for Church who easily gives the best performance of the five through his great achievement of finding a way to make what technically should be just a despicable character, a endearing one instead.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2004: Clive Owen in Closer

Clive Owen recieved his first Oscar nomination for portraying Larry Gray in Closer.

Closer details the intertwined relationships of four miserable people.

Clive Owen portrays one of these four miserable people a dermatologist who is rather cheeky to say the least. He is not supporting of the other three and really all four actors are lead in this film. This is a performance that a lot of people love, but I can't really join that love for this performance, although I will agree that Clive Owen does give the best performance in the film by far. The problems in the performance though come from the overall chemistry with the rest of the cast really.

I do think one aspect of the character Owen does nail is the bluntness of the character. Out of any other character one can argue he is technically the most honest, even if that makes him seem sort of crueler. Owen does have just the right clear and concise fashion in which he speaks and acts. Owen shows that with Larry he just says things the way he sees them, does exactly what he wants, and will always admit his motivations to be exactly what they are.

Owen has the right directness in his performance that shows the exactly zero inhibitions Larry has when it comes to his life. My problems with performance comes with his chemistry with the rest of the cast not so much with Jude Law as his perpetual rival their mutual dislike for one another is appropriately shown with always a certain underlying intensity between the two in their scenes together. It is really his chemistry with Julia Roberts, and Natalie Portman that I have an issue with.

With Julia Roberts I really did not feel there was much of anything between the two, since I never really saw either actor convey enough of a passion with one another for me to honestly believe their relationship. They are suppose to instantly hit off so much that they are soon married, but aside from Owen being slightly charming their is not a strong enough purpose for it. There is not enough of love or lust shown between the two, making the relationship seem quite underwhelming between the two.

This is also true for his scenes with Natalie Portman particularly in their later scenes with he is suppose to be lusting after here. Owen most certainly tries his best, but there never is a great enough drive in their scenes together to make sense of his intense lust, and even Owen's lust was never quite intense as it really should have been. This is hardly a bad performance though and it certainly has strong aspect, but on a whole it is really less than it should have been.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2004: Thomas Haden Church in Sideways

Thomas Haden Church received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Jack Lopate in Sideways.

Sideways details the trip of two men through wine country just before one is going to be married.

Thomas Haden Church portrays Jack who is in many ways the exact opposite of his friend Miles (Paul Giamatti). Jack is almost always happy, even when he gets mad or sad it is only for a brief period, opposed to Miles who is almost always is at least a little bit moody. Jack is just about completely amoral, and seems to have absolutely no sense of decency, where perhaps Miles has a little bit of it. Jack does not seem to be overly smart, where Miles at least could be described as a pseudo intellectual.

Their dynamic is a rather strange one, but both actors do manage to make their "friendship" believable they are able to stand each other, but they are definitely of two different sorts. Thomas Haden Church has actually quite a difficult part in that Jack's actions are quite unlikable through the course of the film caused by his amorality, also there is the fact that it does not seem he even learns anything after what happens to him. Jack could have very easily come off as just a despicable character that you don't want to even see, but Church manages to make the unlikable Jack likable.

Church does this in a rather interesting way, in that he almost portrays Jack as a child, which is the perfect way to portray. Everything Church really does as Jack seems slightly childlike. Church is careful to infuse this childlike quality to Jack to just the right degree, without making Jack seem unrealistic. It is interesting though just the way Church manages to bring a childlike quality to everything he does. His want for his last week of "freedom", and just the way he listens to Miles talk about has just the same enthusiasm and impatience of a child.

The negative qualities of Jack though are the real challenge, and Church meets the challenge. Church does this firstly by being charming in his rather simple, in more than one way, fashion that always feels quite effortless. Again though when he does wrong, and he really does a lot of wrong it is the childishness of Church's characterization that keeps him from somehow seeming completely despicable. Everything he does bad is almost just like a spoiled child that really does not know any better, even though he should.

Even when he suffers the consequences Church shows Jack to act in a childish fashion finding someone else to blame, or when he finds no other option pleading like a crying baby for help. Because Church manages to be so honestly pathetic he actually comes off as oddly endearing. I also really like his scenes where he attempts to cheer up Giamatti's because Church shows such a senseless happiness in the role. Jack really is a rather challenging role but Thomas Haden Church brings the perfect sort of life to the role through his simple but very well handled characterization. Jack is a role that could been just a jerk, but Church succeeded in turning Jack into a lovable jerk.

Best Supporting Actor 2004: Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby

Morgan Freeman won his Oscar from his fourth nomination for portraying Eddie 'Scrap Iron' Dupris in Million Dollar Baby.

Morgan Freeman although would have been a deserving winner for all of his previous nominations, especially for Street Smart, he did not win until here in the best picture winner Million Dollar Baby, which is film that just gets worse and worse every time I watch the dreary film. Morgan Freeman here did received a career Oscar here, that really seemed to be a role that was far too much devised  for Freeman. This sometimes can mean they'll give a performance, and it will be a role they were born to play, but it can also cause one to give a very by the books and standard performance like Freeman's here.

Morgan Freeman offers the narration in the film, and it is not nearly as well handled as in The Shawshank Redemption. In Shawshank it was frankly better performed, but also better used in that it felt like more of the reflections of his character more than just narration, here it feels just like narration nothing more. Freeman being the narrator is only one facet that feels like a far too standard of a role for Freeman. His role is just of a has been old timer who offers advice to the main characters not much more than that.

Most of the time in the film Freeman just gives the same slightly dispassionate expression. It sort of makes sense due to what happened to his character but it does nothing to brighten up the dreary nature of the film, and it would have been nice if there was a performance that did that. Freeman's performance really is just rather repetitiveness giving that same expression that reflects his past. It's surprising just how little Freeman tries to do with the character. He stays painfully the same in almost every scene. 

Freeman gave some good performances in the past he was amazing in Street Smart for example, but in Street Smart he really went as far as possible with his performance, and created a truly memorable character. Here though Freeman turns Scrap Iron into just into serviceable character because of his frankly less than serviceable performance. You would expect the character to be inspiring, but he really isn't. This is a horrible win because this is one of the least interesting performances ever given by the actor.

Best Supporting Actor 2004: Jamie Foxx in Collateral

Jamie Foxx received one of his two nominations for portraying Max Durocher in Collateral.

Collateral tells of a hitman Vincent (Tom Cruise) who takes a cab driver hostage to bring him to his five marks on one night.

Jamie Foxx actually is not at all supporting in this film as the cab driver Vincent uses for the ride is the lead, since he even has more screen time than Cruise. Although it is obvious it was positioned this way to allow Foxx two nominations one that allowed him to undeservedly win for Ray, and this one. I will say first off that Foxx is indeed better here than he was in Ray, but that is saying very little in my opinion. This is more of a standard performance from Foxx than does not rely on mannerisms for his performance, but instead he just tries to convey the emotions of the moment.

It is an attempt at a fairly standard lead performance by Foxx since Max is just suppose to be a very standard Cab driver who happens to be in an not so ordinary situation. Foxx shows Max to be a reasonably happy man who has a dream, and does not really have a problem with his job. He than shows a very scared and frustrated man when his life becomes in danger because of the hitman. I will say Foxx is technically fine, when is scared he is scared, when he frustrated he looks frustrated, he is technically does what he needs to for the part.

Foxx though could have done far more in the part than he does, as it is a lead performance, and really he could have made Max simply into a more interesting character with the possibilities given to him. For example Cruise absolutely dominates all of their scenes together. He always controls the scene, and always has the more overpowering presence than Foxx. Yes it is true Vincent should dominate for most of the film anyways,  Cruise did not need to technically dominate as much as he does though, since Foxx never seizes any opportunity to stay with Cruise.

Foxx just stays really too standard, and functional in the part. He never reaches for more than just very simple emotions, which although are conveyed correctly, aren't all that interesting. Also later in the film there are two scenes where Max is suppose to do more and Foxx is not up for it. Firstly he must impersonate Vincent in one scene, and Foxx is not at all convincing that he could make the gangster afraid of him in the least. Secondly through the night Max is suppose to become more and more frustrated to the point he finally takes matters in his own hand, but again Foxx is not up to it.

Foxx basically keeps Max at the same level emotionally throughout, he should have slowly become more and more drained, but he just does not. Also his scene where he finally takes matters in his own should have been a powerful moment where Max's strength finally comes out, but in Foxx's failed to build toward this point effectively, and the moment itself feels quite underwhelming. Although technically adequate some of the time Foxx fails to capitalize on the possibilities of his character, and this performance ends up being a missed opportunity.