Monday, 30 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1937: Joseph Schildkraut in The Life of Emile Zola

Joseph Schildkraut won his Oscar from his only Oscar nomination for portraying Captain Alfred Dreyfus in The Life of Emile Zola.

Joseph Schildkraut probably is fights Jack Palance, and Ben Johnson for the shortest performance to win an Oscar. As Captain Alfred Dreyfus first appears well into the film, and even then there is very little of him seen. He barely is even the main focuses of the scenes he is in, but nevertheless Schildkraut still makes an impact with his short performance as Dreyfus. After all although Dreyfus is a little scene character his character's troubles are the focus of the latter part of the film.

Captain Alfred Dreyfus is falsely accused and convicted of being a traitor in the French army basically because he is Jewish. Due to his limited screen time it is essential that we care for Dreyfus the moment we see him, so Schildkraut has his work cut out for him. Schildkraut meets the demands of the part and from his first scene does have a nice warm presence as Dreyfus that we can easily we sympathize with. Although it is only a glimpse, in the glimpse Schildkraut shows an honest family man who absolutely could not be guilty of anything especially not being a traitor his country.

Schildkraut brings us into Dreyfus's terrible struggle to convince people of his innocence. Schildkraut gives an entirely honest performance showing that pain, and disbelief that Dreyfus is going through. Schildkraut is absolutely heart wrenching when he is being stripped of rank, because his cries of "I am Innocent" are cries of a man desperately pleading to be believed and have his life returned to him. Schildkraut gives a passionate and moving portrait of Dreyfus in just these few moments.

Schildkraut continues to be effective as Dreyfus is being imprisoned and the sadness overwhelms him from what has happened to him. It would be common for many actors of this period to be completely unbelievable or over the top, but Schilkraut always gives a truthful performance. In just a few small reaction shots Schildkraut conveys the utter devastation of Dreyfus that has come from his imprisonment. There is not a false moment in this portrayal.

Dreyfus is finally proven innocent and released. Schildkraut is again given very little time, but still he manages to convey so well the relief, and happiness Dreyfus feels. He doesn't overplay it, but portrays the reality of this man's hope finally being rewarded. This is a good performance throughout only held by the fact he is barely in the film. It is really amazing though that Schildkraut managed to turn Dreyfus into a moving character in such limited screen time, when he could have easily been almost a non entity.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1937: Roland Young in Topper

Roland Young received his only Oscar nomination for portraying the titular Cosmo Topper in Topper.

Topper tells about a stuffy rich man Topper, who his haunted by the ghosts of his care free acquaintances the Kerbys (Cary Grant, Constance Bennett).

 Roland Young is the very first case of category fraud in Best Supporting Actor as Roland Young is not supporting film. This is rather the indications of the trend that is common which is character actors in lead roles, as well as unassuming characters can commonly find themselves put in the supporting category. The film is titled Topper for a reason as it is about the stuffy Topper being basically forced to be more carefree by his ghostly friends. This is not even a case of secondary male lead, Cary Grant is not even in the film all that much and half the time he is he is only a disembodied voice.

Roland Young whole performance is pretty much made up of him being stuffy and being taken aback by his other worldly friends. The whole point of his performance really is to be funny as the proper man is forced into improper behavior by them. Young certainly is a proper enough man with his demeanor as Topper but Young actually might try to be to realistic as Topper. He is always very to the point, and underplays every situation maybe a little too much. I would rather he wouldn't overact, but maybe in reality Young's Topper is just a bit too stiff.

Not that being is stiff is the incorrect way to portray Topper, that is the point of the character, I just think there probably could have been funnier. It is actually very difficult to do the straight man right, to be comedic without ever seeming to be comedic, but Young does not really accomplish this difficult task. A straight man must somehow have the same comedic energy that matches the comedians, but at the same time never looks like he is having fun, Young certainly does not look like he is having much fun, but the underlying comedic energy never is there.

I don't want to sound too harsh because Young really is not bad as Topper he certainly fits the role, and portrays it without overacting. At the same time though this could have been a truly classic comedic performance with a greater straight man in the role. There is the occasional moment where Young does have a glint of how the performance really should have been but there really are not enough of them. He also is perfectly fine in his portrayal of Topper loosening up.Young is always consistently competent in the role, but he never really makes the part hilarious when it very well could have been.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1937

And the Nominees Were:

Ralph Bellamy in The Awful Truth

Thomas Mitchell in The Hurricane

Joseph Schildkraut in The Life of Emile Zola

Roland Young in Topper

H.B. Warner in Lost Horizon

Friday, 27 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1966: Results

5. Mako in The Sand Pebbles- Mako gives a good realistic performance. His role is limited, and his character is frankly cut off just when he is becoming interesting.
4. James Mason in Georgy Girl- Mason although has a thankless role in many ways gives a charming, and dryly comic performance, that manages to turn his character into an actual man and not just a creep as he easily could have been.
3. Robert Shaw in A Man For All Seasons- If I was giving the award to my favorite actor Shaw would take this, with close competition from Mason. Nevertheless Shaw gives a strong performance in only two scenes realizing Henry VIII's distinct personality marvelously.
2. George Segal in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?- Segal has an extremely thankless role especially compared to the flashiness of the performances around him, but Segal stays true to his part and creates an effective realistic portrait of a man in the strange situation of the film.
1. Walter Matthau in The Fortune Cookie- Walter Matthau stands on top for this with his consistently hilarious performance. Matthau never wastes a moment as his shyster lawyer deriving comedy from every facet of his character and makes the film.
Deserving Performances:
Richard Attenborough in The Sand Pebbles
Richard Crenna in The Sand Pebbles
Lee Van Cleef in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
John Hurt in A Man for All Seasons

Best Supporting Actor 1966: Robert Shaw in A Man For All Seasons

Robert Shaw received his only Oscar nomination for portraying King Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons.

I should get it out of the way that Robert Shaw is one of my favorite actors. I have loved him in every performance of his that I have seen so far. It is one of the biggest mistakes by the academy that Shaw was only nominated once, frankly he should have been nominated at least for 73 for the Sting, 74 for The Taking Pelham One Two Three, and 75 for Jaws. If Shaw had won for any of those three great performances of his than he would have been a terrific winner. Unfortunately Shaw was only nominated once for portraying the most popular Oscar character ever King Henry VIII.

Henry was previously portrayed by Charles Laughton, and later by Richard Burton who both were nominated in the lead category for their performances as the English King. Although Burton and Shaw both portray Henry at the same time in his life, when he took over the church to marry Anne Boleyn, his portrayal has more in common with Laughton's work than Burton's excessively over the top and sometimes unconvincing performance in Anne of the Thousand Days. Shaw like Laughton focuses on the sort of the spoiled brat personality one can develop over having been given anything he has ever wanted in life as well as being able to do anything he has ever wanted to do.

Unlike Laughton though Shaw is supporting and only has three scenes in which he appears one very very briefly  from far away, but his second scene certainly is his most important. The moment comes as Henry unexpectedly comes to visit his new chancellor Thomas More (Paul Scofield) to see if More has changed his mind over Henry's decision to marry Anne Boleyn. Shaw knows how to portray Henry and from his first moment coming in through the shine of the sun you know that this man is King. Shaw has an undeniable presence on screen which he exploits perfectly as Henry. There is no question this man is charge his voice his broad manner, Shaw makes Henry a man of absolute sway.

Shaw has a childlike enthusiasm in the role which absolutely represents his portrayal of Henry. He is always childish which Shaw turns into a believable trait of Henry that suggests his history as always a man of wealth and power. Shaw always shows Henry always showing his power pretty much just for fun at times, of course he can act loud, even obnoxious whenever he wants. Shaw shows that Henry is always aware of the fact that he can act this way and no one can say anything about it. Shaw has a constant fun loving quality that is perfect for the immaturity in Henry. Interestingly though Shaw successfully always brings an undercurrent of threatening instability in Henry.

Shaw is terrific in his scene with Scofield as the two men talk over the pressing issue of the marriage and the troubles with church. Shaw is great as he constantly tries to stay friendly as Henry in the scene. He always has a certain smile and warmth toward Thomas that shows that they certainly are friends, but Shaw has just the right degree of uncertainty in his performance to show that Henry knows his friend might not be on his side for once. Shaw is particularly great when he goes on the attack, but it is fast and almost unexpected as his look goes from the of friendship to hatred just from the mentioning of the former chancellor who Henry feels betrayed him. It is a careful simple threat to Thomas which he darts in the middle of the conversation between the warmth, Shaw pulls this off flawlessly.

After this Shaw has one more scene at the wedding with he and Anne Boleyn. Again Shaw is superb in showing the lust in Henry's eyes he has for his eyes. There is passion, and an obvious expectations of much pleasure for himself in just this short moment, which Shaw pulls of brilliantly. Frankly Shaw shows more depth for this relationship with Anne in his single scene than Richard Burton did in the whole of Anne of the Thousand Days. At the end of the scene though he is interrupted as he thinks he sees Thomas. A short moment but an effective one showing that really Henry really did believe Thomas was a friend, and desperately wanted his friend to see things his way.

Shaw is truly quite great in this basically two scene performance. He completely realizes Henry VIII as a character in the film. In his two scenes he seizes control and shows the power of Henry creating the proper impact on the film he needs to. In his few moments he flawlessly creates the antagonist of the film who is almost always working his will off screen and through other men. I actually with there had been more of his Henry VIII. After watching his performance here I actually wish Shaw had gotten a film where he had been the lead as Henry VIII because of what he does with the character despite his extremely limited time. In any case this is a terrific supporting turn that more than fulfills his duties as King Henry.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1966: Walter Matthau in The Fortune Cookie

Walter Matthau won his Oscar from his first nomination for portraying William 'Whiplash Willie' Gingrinch in The Fortune Cookie.

The Fortune Cookie tells about a football cameraman Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) who is tackled on the field, and reluctantly agrees to fake severe injury to make money from a liability suit started by his shyster lawyer brother in law. 

I do not want to be misunderstood from my first two reviews of Walter Matthau's lead performances that were nominated. One which I really did not care for and the other I thought was only okay. I like Walter Matthau, but he strangely was only nominated in the lead when he played a character much much older than himself for whatever reason, and I am not crazy about Matthau old man mannerisms which strangely drove both of those performances. Walter Matthau though here portrays a character that is suppose to be basically his actual age, and there are no unneeded mannerisms to be seen.

Matthau portrays the brother in law shyster lawyer who pushes hard for the lawsuit. Walter Matthau has sometimes been argued as a lead in this film, and there certainly can be a case for that as he is the driving force of the film, and there are plenty of scenes where he is the central character. I do not mind this placement though as there is another identifiable lead in Jack Lemmon, and there are certainly many scenes where Matthau does not appear. He could really be placed in either category and I really would not mind. I really do not mind though because part of the reason Matthau even stands out the most in scenes where he is not even the focus is because just how good he is as Whiplash Willie.

Matthau is another Oscar winning performance that disputes the idea that the academy never rewards comedic performance, or at least never rewards straightly comedic performances. As with the likes of Peter Ustinov's second win, and Kevin Kline's win, Matthau is another winner who never stops going for laughs with his performance.  Matthau absolutely makes the film with his performances as the lawyer who comes up with the trumped up lawsuit to make himself rich. Matthau never tries for a moment to show that old Willie is anything more than a shyster, he wants to make a buck and that is all there is to right down the line.

Matthau simply is hilarious in the role from beginning to end. From his first scene Matthau is comedic gold as the rather amoral lawyer. Much of the humor that comes from his performance are some of his small reactions especially his brilliant look he makes after hearing that Lemmon's character had a previous injury that he could use for his own purposes in a new lawsuit. Matthau has a perfect devilish smile here as Willie that shows Willie's way of finding someway to benefit and exploit just about anything that comes his way anyway that he can. Even though Willie is completely amoral Matthau can't help but make Willie likable, there is just something absolutely endearing about Matthau's portrayal.

Matthau has a constant energy in the role that makes him the best part of every scene, even when has only a couple of lines Matthau still steals the scene, that is simply how enjoyable he is as Willie. Every moment Matthau is an enthusiastic presence and coming out with a terrific line, or reaction every chance he gets. Matthau is hilarious in his whole realization of every part of Willie's plan in every advance and set back Matthau never stops being funny in showing every trick that Willie has up his sleeve. What I like about Matthau's performance is that he always shows that Willie is the smartest man always in the room, even if he uses his intelligence so poorly.

I must say actually that I don't know if Matthau are a great pair actually since in both this and the Odd Couple Matthau absolutely steals the show, not that Lemmon is bad he is good as well actually, but Matthau definitely is the one that you remember from their scenes together. I suppose it really is not Lemmon's fault so much here because Matthau absolutely controls their scenes together, and I suppose one could attest it to Matthau just being absolutely on in his performance here. Matthau never has a wasted scene, or moment in his performance every scene he brings the humor he needs to in the role. As I watched the film I only wanted more of Matthau as Willie he just that entertaining in the role. It is a great performance that always succeeds.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1966: George Segal in Who Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

George Segal received his only Oscar nomination so far for portraying Nick in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

George Segal has really the thankless role of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. There are the two bickering alcoholic, and pratically certifiably insane Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), and George (Richard Burton), than there is Nick's wife Honey (Sandy Dennis) who gets to go quite off her rocker after she drinks too much. All three of those get to constantly show off and attempt to upstage each other at every turn, George Segal as Nick though is calmest and the sanest of them all. He never becomes raving drunk, or just plain raving. Segal has to be the straight man of the film, he always stays as the most sensible of the four even though he gets deep into the dark web created by Martha and George.

Nick is a new professor of the college where George has long been, and Martha is the daughter of the president of the University. He and his wife visit Martha and George after a faculty party for a night of drinking and some terrible games. In these early scenes, particularly when he first walks in, Segal shows what would probably be the reaction of any normal person witnessing Martha and George first hand. He perfectly conveys the very awkward feelings Nick has over the entire situation. He has the whole embarrassment, discomfort as one would expect, but as well an attempt to pleasant and outgoing with his college, and the daughter of his new boss.

Segal shows that Nick is in just one unpleasant situation from beginning to end and really does not know exactly how to respond to Martha and George. Early on Segal has Nick desperately trying to be a pleasant guest joking at Martha's jokes at George's expense as well as trying to be friendly at the same time with George as they have a "pleasant" conversation with one another. Segal never tries to upstage Burton as George, nor should he since Nick is really in way over his head with the man. Instead Segal portrays a entirely realistic portrait of a man dealing with an intellectual lunatic. Segal in his own way does match Burton's performance not by trying to be his equal but instead properly keep Nick as the rather confused man he should be.

His and Burton's scenes together are quite effective because Segal shows Nick really trying to have some sort of friendship or camaraderie with this man by telling about his personal story particularly about he and his wife. Segal shows Nick trying desperately to be casual with George, and the two do have a particular dynamic that works well. Segal always acts the fool in a completely realistic fashion, and not by showing that Nick is dumb, but that he simply is not George. He honestly shows a man just trying to be friendly never even suspecting the fact that the man he is talking to is only measuring and looking for weaknesses in him to exploit later if needed.

Another pivotal aspect of his performance though in his depiction of Nick's relationship with his wife. He and Dennis really do not have a great chemistry so to speak, it is not obvious that they should be together, instead the two actors show that it is obvious that they are have been forced to be together. There actually interactions are always short and always take a backseat to Martha and George but the two actors do realize Nick, and Honey's troubled history incredibly well. Segal does show that Nick does have affection for his wife, but there is always a constant frustrations within his portrayal. Segal shows that these frustrations perfectly represent the pains Nick feels over the lack of a strong basis for their marriage. Segal never overplays the trouble in the marriage instead, again, realistically presents an undercurrent of regret in Nick over his imperfect marriage.

Segal actually is quite good throughout the film as Nick is slowly worn down by night with Martha and George, and by drink. Segal is effective in portraying Nick drunkenness. He really is perfect actually because he honestly portrays through the night the way the drink wears down on Nick. He never for a moment overplays this instead going all the way through showing a man becoming sick by drink. Segal is always excellent in showing Nick's frustrations with the night as he recognizes he is basically being used by Martha and George. He again acts a beacon of reality in the film emphasizes the complete distress of learning the truth of the two as well as having had to be used by both of them as well. At the end of the film Nick is his own sort of mess that Segal realizes. Nick is over his head the entire film, and it has its very own effect on his that ends well in depression and frustration. This is strong work by George Segal, Nick is the least flashy part, but Segal still makes his own memorable impression in the film, by being the only person who seems to keep his head on his shoulders, and even he comes close to losing it. It is his down the line realistic performance that absolutely has the right dynamic within the group and really makes the film work.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1966: Mako in The Sand Pebbles

Mako received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Po-han in The Sand Pebbles.

It is strange that Mako was the one who received the nomination for this film and not Richard Attenborough who gives a very memorable performance as a U.S. Navy mate who begins a tragic relationship with a native woman in China, and even won the golden globe for his performance. I suppose the academy just has never cared for Attenborough as an actor for some strange reason. Instead they chose to nominate Mako in his role as Po-han one of the Chinese who work in the engine room on the ship.

Po-han is just one of the Chinese who work on the ship until Steve McQueen's machinist Holman takes him under his wing. Mako is fine early on showing a sympathetic face to Holman. He just wants to help Holman unlike some of the other Chinese who like to do things their way. Most of his early scenes make of just small reactions of concern, and surprise while dealing with Holman. Mako is entirely realistic, but really he does not make too much of an impression either.

After Holman brings him under his wing Mako gets some more substantial scenes such as when Holman teaches him to run the ship's engine. Mako again is appropriately realistic, and is actually quite effective in showing Po-han's learning. He also has a low key charm in his performance that does make Po-han endearing in his own small way. This is still not incredible work by Mako but it is absolutely solid since it fulfills the role completely.

Mako continues his portrayal in the same fashion as Po-han boxes one of the racist men on the ship. He is again good, properly realistic, and we can easily sympathize with him through Mako's likable portrayal. Again it is not a whole lot but it also is all that the film asks of him. Po-han is not a tremendous role, but Mako really is perfect in the role.

 He does his very best to be a character not just a stereotype as he easily could have been, and we most certainly feel for him all too well in his final scene. It is a good supporting performance not the best in the film, and certainly not the most memorable. After all Mako gets cut off just as his character is really becoming interesting, nevertheless Mako does absolutely fulfill his role, and deserves credit for doing so.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1966: James Mason in Georgy Girl

James Mason received his second Oscar nomination for portraying James Leamington in Georgy Girl.

Georgy Girl is about a young woman Georgy (Lynn Redgrave) who tries to avoid the romantic intentions of her father's employer as well as be part of the swinging life of her selfish roommate (Charlotte Rampling).

James Mason is one actor I have yet to see a performance by him that I did not like. Mason perhaps since he took almost any role he was offered genuinely loved acting, and maybe it is that joy of performance that comes through in his performances aids in this. Mason just has a unique charming presence, and something wonderful I find about him is that despite the fact he is well spoken especially classy this could easily come off as just acting superior, but Mason always has a certain likability which works perfectly for his performance as James Leamington in Georgy Girl.

James Leamington is a rich man who constantly is trying to convince his employee's daughter, who he has supported and believes she owes him, to become his mistress. Leamington certainly as written is very much a creep especially sense he considers Georgy almost as a daughter before he wishes to have a relationship with her. Mason though with his unique style some how manages avoid this and some how manages to make Leamington likable. Mason manages to show that, even in his scenes where he is upset with Georgy, that his character really has an honest enthusiasm love for her, and even more importantly he never forgets to find the humor in his character.

Mason never lets a moment slip to bring in a little dry humor into his portrayal. There is something almost endearing about Leamington simply because of the way Mason always pokes fun at his character. Mason though is perfect at this because he never winks toward the audience in any way he is invested in his character at all times, yet he finds just the right way to make fun of him at the same time. He is always very serious in all his scene, yet he stays so serious throughout everything it is actually quite funny. This is especially true when he offers his affair agreement to Georgy. He takes such a business like approach to the whole affair that i could be taken as excessively cold, but Mason brings humor to the scene because he never once shows that Leamington has the slightest sense of what he is doing and how he is doing it.

Mason's part though mostly are these short scenes of repetition with Leamington always looking for Georgy even though she is trying her best to avoid him. Later in the film though he does have a dramatic moment. The moment actually comes a little out of nowhere, but it does force Leamington to face the effects of his strange decisions. The scene is rather quick, but Mason nails it. His reaction could not be a better reaction of complete shock, as well as some grief. Yet magically Mason still even has a bit of humor in this scene as his surprised look still suggests his character naivety, as Mason's face seems to suggest that Leamington only just realized that anyone even really existed in his world beside him.

Mason only real problem is the fact that the film does not really care much for his character in the least. He is only a side character at first, and that he almost seems dispensable later on in the film when the film becomes far far more interested in Georgy's dealing with her roommate and her boyfriend. If it weren't for the ending one would wonder why it continued to cut to Leamington during the latter half of the film. Mason is always good, his best scene comes from this cutaway, but the way the film is set up it makes his character almost seem superfluous. The reason for Leamington comes in the end though in a quick scene where fulfills his role in the story. Mason is good in the very short final scene as he shows a changed man, sort of. Mason does convey enough that Leamington seems to have finally seen a way not to be completely selfish, it is quick change but naturally handled by Mason.

This is actually technically speaking a very good performance by Mason it could have been an utter failure in so many ways, but Mason does find the right way to portray the part to make the character of Leamington work, as well as actually make the ending sort of work. If Leamington had been portrayed completely without humor he would have been an awful character, and would have hurt the film and certainly would have ruined the ending. Luckily Mason does not fail with the part, and even though it is far from his greatest performance it is a challenged fulfilled.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1966

And the Nominees Were:

Robert Shaw in A Man For All Seasons

James Mason in Georgy Girl

Walter Matthau in The Fortune Cookie

George Segal in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Mako in The Sand Pebbles

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2005: Results

5. George Clooney in Syriana- Clooney never is believable as a world weary CIA operative, but worse than that he fails to act as the anchor to for the audience he is suppose to be.
4. Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man- Giamatti gives a good performance even if his character is limited. He shows both the friend in his boxing manager character as well as the furious promoter and showman.
3. Matt Dillon in Crash- Dillon is actually quite effective, and realistic in the role as a racist police officer who still manages to pull through when needed. The only problem is the nature of the film leaves his character with too little to do to make the impact Dillon indicates he could have made in the scenes he does have.
2. Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain- Although his characterization at the beginning of the film is a bit shaky and inconsistent Gyllenhaal certainly makes up for it later as he realizes the frustrations and pain in his character that lead him down a road to bitterness.
1. William Hurt in A History Violence- Good Prediction RatedRStar. Although he most certainly has the least amount of screen time for me he has the most impact. He makes an effective antagonist and actually turns his one scene role into an actual character particularly in Hurt's realization of his character's peculiar relationship with his brother.
Deserving Performances:
Ed Harris in A History of Violence
Mickey Rourke in Sin City

Best Supporting Actor 2005: Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain

Jake Gyllenhaal received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain.

Jake Gyllenhaal really is co-lead with Heath Ledger in this film. It tells the story of both men and he should have been in the lead category. It seem though we will never have two nominees from the same film in lead category as if there is any reason to put them in supporting they will, in this case I would say what landed Gyllenhaal in supporting is Ledger gets to reflect at the end where Gyllenhall does not. Nevertheless his role does have just as much importance as Ledger's as it follows both Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar through both their own relationship together and what they do when they are apart.

Watching the film again I must say I was quite disappointed by Gyllenhaal's performance as Jack Twist early in the film when Jack and Ennis first are given their job shepherding. Early on when Jack is rather aggressively trying to pursue a relationship with Ennis, while Ennis is rather confused about it. Gyllenhaal almost tries to be too stoic in the role as Jack early on. He wants to make him a man who is all about what lies beneath, but really is conveying of what lies beneath is a bit lacking early on. Frankly for these early scenes Ledger consistently stays far more interesting and effective than Gyllenhaal who seems a little confused on how to portray his character at first.

I say confused because in between his moments of stoicism he throws in some moments of rather wild extroversion. This could be taken as a more wild of a man on the inside of stoicism, but it never plays this way. There is a most certainly a disconnect in these moments and Gyllenhaal really does not meld them together in an effective fashion. He does not really find exactly the way he should portray Jack, he tries several different ways to try to find his way for Jack but none of them really work here. Also except for a few longing looks Gyllenhaal frankly could have done much more to really show that to Jack that his relationship with Ennis must happen, but Gyllenhaal does not find the right way to get it across.

After these shaky early scenes, actually more of the early half of the picture Gyllenhaal finds his ways with Jack Twist after Jack has gotten married himself into to a life that he hates. Gyllenhaal does become effective when he brings out the bitterness in Jack over his life. In his married life scenes Gyllenhaal effectively conveys the facade his character puts on at all times. Gyllenhaal though shows that really Jack is not the best at it showing a constant anger that is always clearly underneath from his frustrations over never getting what he really wants. Gyllenhaal always shows a constant pain within Jack during these scenes even when the occasion should be pleasant there is always an unpleasantness in Jack.

The pivotal moments of his performance are with Heath Ledger though. There later scenes are very well handled by both actors as they find the right sort of dynamic between the two. Although these scenes certainly can be categorized as romantic they are defined as the problems between the two as much as the love between them. With Ennis more of confused by the whole matter, and completely unsure of what to do exactly, where as Gyllenhaal shows a passion in Jack that desperately wants them to be together always, and with that there is always a bitterness in Gyllenhaal portrayal over just the pain Jack feels whenever he is not with Ennis frankly.

The path of his character really is a negative one. Where Ledger's Ennis moves further and further to try to understand the relationship all Jack does is become increasingly tired, and almost hate filled over not getting what he wants. Gyllenhaal is quite strong in showing this path of Jack's as he slowly moves along it through almost the entire film. Gyllenhaal shows it something that takes time but does make Jack into far less of a man than his former self, into a brooding and almost cold man in some regards. This transformation is what really makes his performance. This is not a perfect performance by any means it is far too shaky early on, but Gyllenhaal does create a compelling character in the end.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2005: Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man

Paul Giamatti received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Joe Gould in Cinderella Man.

Cinderella Man tells of the the fall as well as unexpected comeback of boxer James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe).

Paul Giamatti after being snubbed for his well praised performance in Sideways, he was finally nominated for his supporting role as Jimmy Braddock's manager Joe Gould. Joe Gould is a lively manager and friend to Braddock who not only does his best to find him matches puts his all into the matches staying right along with Braddock during his fights. Gould though always stays as a friend to Braddock throughout even as they are both facing the troubles of the Great Depression.

Giamatti is fine in the role of the two roles Gould has in the film, the loyal friend, and the energetic manager. Giamatii underplays the friendship with Braddock as he never tries to act like Joe and James are the absolutely best friends to the end sort of friends. He instead more realistically shows that although they are always on good terms with one another it is in the end a strong working relationship more than a personal one. In creating this specific sort of relationship Giamatti realistically portrays dynamic between he and Braddock.

Much of Giamatti performance though is in his portrayal of the way Gould tries to work both around the ring and in the back stage dealings of boxing. Giamatti knows these are the scenes for him to shine and he tries his absolute hardest to make an impact in these moments. In his back stage dealings Giamatti shows a sly and somewhat cunning man who always comes with with a quick clever barb to try to get a deal in a way that is best for him and Braddock.

In the actual boxing scenes Giamatti shows that Gould pretty much takes over the showmanship for Braddock. Giamatti does have an appropriate degree of energy in these scenes as he is either tradings insults with Braddock's opponent, or he is furiously motivating Braddock and offering advice. Giamatti is consistently effective here as he realizes the manner and technique of Joe Gould quite well.

The only problem I would say about the role itself is its limits. There is a little bit of Joe at home, but it is very limited at best. Giamatti puts every once of himself into the role, and makes a great effort at all times. The role itself though is never substantial enough for Giamatti to truly take off. It is most certainly a good performance but the the very nature of the role leave Giamatti little to do, and little material to make a truly memorable impact with his character.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2005: George Clooney in Syriana

George Clooney won his Oscar from his first acting nomination for portraying Bob Barnes in Syriana.

Syriana details a group of intersecting stories involving the U.S.'s associations and complications with foreign oil.

George Clooney is an actor who is sometimes criticized for not really investing in his characters and sometimes very bluntly for playing himself. Well here is an attempt by Clooney to completely reject himself and attempt to portray Bob Barnes an over the hill worn out CIA operative. Well even though I will give credit to Clooney for trying I won't give him credit for succeeding. He never becomes believable as the CIA operative who has been working too many different sides for too long, he is no Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold for example.

Clooney doesn't ever really establish the history of his character, he never seems a like a man who has seen too much or been through too many things. He just never conveys the past of the character in his performance. Instead Clooney gives the same slightly frustrated slight sad face throughout the film to attempt to indicate the state of mine of Barnes. Unfortunately he never shows anything underneath the surface with his performance it is always just basically same expression for his entire performance which is very dull to watch, and does not make Bob Barnes into an interesting character.

The problem is Clooney really did not even need to make Barnes into the that much of an intriguing character, he really could have been just an anchor for the audience in the film. Unfortunately Clooney does not even act as a good anchor he never brings us into his world or into his character's troubles. He instead just makes that same old face again that really does not contribute to the effort of making us empathize with Barnes. Clooney never seems to realize that to underplay one must strive hard to find the complexities of their performances inside subtle reactions like say Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies or Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but Clooney simply is no Oldman or Duvall.

What amazes me is how Clooney stays in his depressed dull manner all the way throughout it does not matter what the context of the scene is whether it is talking with his son, or threatening an oil man he goes about in almost the exact same way. Clooney also shows no development as Barnes uncovers more and more of the film's plot instead he just makes that same old expression again as if he feels he must spends all his time trying to ensure the audience that he is not George Clooney but a downtrodden CIA agent. Clooney though doesn't do the downtrodden part right. There was not a moment in his performance that I cared about his character or his character's story which Clooney failed to ever bring me into it. There is a serious problem with a performance when the thing I remember most about is that his character has the same name as previous nominee Tom Berenger's Sergeant in Platoon.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2005: William Hurt in A History of Violence

William Hurt received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Richie Cusack in A History of Violence.

A History of Violence tells the story of Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) a small town family man who becomes a hero by killing to violent men. After killing the men and gaining media attention he finds men looking for him who believe him to be someone else a man involved with violence and crime Joey Cusack.

I must say it is interesting that William Hurt was the actor recognized for this film. After all Ed Harris gives his career best work as a crime boss who is one of the first men who comes looking for Tom. He has a good deal of screen time whereas William Hurt has a slim amount of screen time that makes up only a scene worth of material as Richie the brother of Joey who also is involved with organized crime. Hurt and Harris both had been nominated several times before, perhaps they felt they wanted to see Hurt again after his long absence, or perhaps it is because the academy honestly thought he was just that good in his short single scene performance.

William Hurt I do feel is a bit of an underrated actor these days as he really is one of the best when given the right role. This is not to say Hurt can't give a bad performance as he most certainly can, but in my experience with Hurt performances he really tends to be bad only when he honestly doesn't put very much effort into his performance like his performance in Lost in Space. Nevertheless I am always interested somewhat in a William Hurt performance especially if he really throws himself into a role and he most certainly does in this role as Richie Cusack. Richie is only on screen for a few minutes, Hurt certainly knows this and does his best to make the most of it.

Hurt never for moments tries not to make an impact with his performance as a character who is built quite a bit actually. We know he exists and is another threat to Tom's life that forces him to directly face his past. Hurt really was the perfect choice to portray the single scene character that is Richie since Hurt knows how to make an impact with a single scene. Hurt doesn't waste a moment of his screen time instantly driving hard into turning Richie into a full fledged character as well as creating a memorable visceral performance that will standout despite being very very brief.

Hurt most certainly does not underplay the role in the least, but I never said an actor can't go for a broader and bigger approach in a performance in some of those performances that I have criticized before. If an actor is talented enough and knows just how and when and how to do it they can succeed exceedingly well by taking such a risk with their performance. For me this is most certainly true for William Hurt as Richie here he frankly does not have time to underplay as Richie, Hurt knows this and instead strikes hard and fast with his performance and always tries to be the center of attention.

Hurt is excellent actually as he shows from just his first moment a certain relationship with Mortensen as Richie's brother. Hurt does convey a certain warmness and understanding with his brother that effectively gives a hint into their history together. Hurt plays the scene well as a demented older brother the whole time. it works because Hurt always talks to Mortensen like any older brother disappointed in his younger brother, although certainly to an extreme, but Hurt always shows Richie having a certain familiarity with his brother even if he does not fully understand him.

When the mobster comes out in Richie Hurt is at first quite chilling in the way he coldly indicates to kill Tom without much hesitation, but there is always the sense that he does not exactly love the idea of killing his brother. Afterward though when nothing goes as planned Hurt is darkly comic and effectively so in showing almost that as a mobster everything has been pretty easy. Hurt humorously shows the complete disblief in Richie at his men's utter incompetence. I particularly love his last reaction where he almost tries to shrug after his murder attempt as just being an older brother. This is a short performance by Hurt but a memorable and enjoyable one. In his one scene he holds the screen and surprisingly realizes Richie into a character of his very own not just a simple one scene antagonist.

Best Supporting Actor 2005: Matt Dillon in Crash

Matt Dillon received his first Oscar nominations for portraying Sergeant John Ryan in Crash.

Crash tells about a group of intersecting stories in Los Angeles where racial tensions cause various problems.

Crash really is a film that is always controlled by the writer and the director not the actors. The reason for this is that the film is set up almost entirely to show to sides of most of the character and both sides are of extremes. Most if not all the scenes in the film are suppose to tension filled due to race relations resulting in many actors yelling at the top of their lungs since most conversations in the film quickly devolve into yelling and name calling much faster than one would think. The character's really do not have arcs in the traditional sense they move very quickly to their different positions set by writer like a chess board.

The very nature of the film prevents any of the performances from being all that good sense they are not given the time for natural transitions. This is not to say all of the actors do not evolve to more than just a simple one dimensional characterizations set by the film, as some of the actors do far better with the limited material of the film than others. Dillon's performance certainly is one of the actors on the more positive side of the performances in the film since with his very limited screen time he does try his best to realize his character, he even attempts to try to make his character's sudden transition believable.

Dillon portrays a racist L.A.P.D police officer who has a sick father. He quickly harasses an upper class black couple even sexually molesting one of them. Dillon in his first scene plays it rather straight forward that he is merely doing what he is doing and has not real problems doing so. Dillon here actually does not really try to explain his actions and really presents John Ryan as a racist jerk. Dillon is effective here because he does play it as matter of fact reaction by Ryan, he does not turn into an obvious over the top racist, and rather portrays his character's cruelty rather realistically.

After this scene there is mainly a series of short scenes that show his frustrations over his father's illness. Dillon is fine enough here as he shows his frustrations basically amplify his racism and hatred. The only problem is there is not anything special about his portrayal of his relationship with his father. It is paper thin as written and Dillon is unfortunately held by back by it. Dillon certainly indicates his intent to make something truly meaningful out of his character's sadness of his father's problem, but really the script just does not allow him to explore enough.

The final action of Dillon's character is to save the woman he had previously molested. Dillon actually is terrific in this scene because firstly he did not make his character one dimensional earlier, making it believable that he would and could be a good man when he is called into action. As contrived of a scene as it is, and it is very contrived, Dillon is very effective in bringing it to life bringing the challenging emotions of the moment to life. He makes it believable all throughout the he would risk his life to save someone he had previously mistreated. After this scene though he does very little and his character really is not given sufficient closure and it is a shame. Dillon does his very best in the role realizing his character unfortunately the nature and weaknesses of the film always hold his performance back.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2005

 And the Nominees Were:

William Hurt in A History of Violence

Jack Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain

George Clooney in Syriana

Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man

Matt Dillon in Crash

Monday, 16 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1956: Results

5. Don Murray in Bus Stop- Don Murray gives an obnoxious annoying one note performance. Aside from a final scene of a little merit it is a performance that stands as being both dull and over the top at the same time.
4. Robert Stack in Written on the Wind- Stack does try his best in both his early scenes where he attempts to be realistic and his over the top alcoholic scenes. He really is never technically bad but his performance only rarely moving.
3. Mickey Rooney in The Bold and The Brave- Rooney gives a fairly effective performance in some regards putting a lot of energy and joy into his role as a greedy pleasure seeking soldier, unfortunately it is hampered by his traditional Rooney mannerisms.
2. Anthony Perkins in Friendly Persuasion- Perkins although is not used nearly enough in the film gives a moving portrait of a young man's struggle with his conscience.
1. Anthony Quinn in Lust for Life- Good prediction RatedRStar. Anthony Quinn gives a strong scene stealing performance as Paul Gauguin. He has a strong presence in all his scene creating a striking portrait of a pompous self indulgent artist.
Deserving Performances:
Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments
Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments
Ralph Richardson in Richard III

Best Supporting Actor 1956: Mickey Rooney in The Bold and The Brave

Mickey Rooney received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Willie Dooley in The Bold and The Brave.

The Brave and the Bold depicts a group soldiers on the Italian front during World War II.

Mickey Rooney is an actor who is commonly derided by modern viewers for his Rooney mannerisms, and tendency to overact his parts. I must personally I have no animosity toward Rooney. Firstly he showed in The Human Comedy he is capable of giving a moving performance, secondly I personally never had a problem with his Rooneyisms. This is not to say that I do not understand people who do hold this animosity, Rooney certainly is an actor that if he rubs you the wrong way he probably really rubs you the wrong way.  He simply does not annoy me in that way, although it most certainly is true that his performances tend to be better when they are further away from a typical Rooney performance than closer.

I certainly had my hopes up for this performance as it is in a war film and I assumed Rooney would attempt a more realistic approach because of that reason. Unfortunately that is not the case in the Bold and the Brave as  Rooney portrays Dooley who takes a rather lighthearted approach to the war, running a craps game, drinking, treating it as a free ride of sorts. Not that he does not kick into action when his life is threatened but nevertheless he does not treat like the average soldier. Rooney takes it as a comedic turn even though it is in a mostly serious war film.

Rooney as with most of his performances when he was younger, good or bad, throws a great deal of energy into his portrayal. A large amount of this energy goes into his mannerisms he constatnly employs, but to his credit Rooney always tries to light up the screen with his presence. I won't say it really always works as well as he wants to but his efforts are not completely wasted. He does have some humorous enough moments here and there, and Rooney's own joy in his performance does come across that works well for his role whose only concern really is have pleasure in life.

He certainly does get across his character's motivations on the screen which are rather shallow to say the least he wants money and the pleasure one gets from it, and not even the war itself with take his mind away from his goal. Rooney shows an intense greed within Dooley. Rooney manages to still make him likable and charming to a degree even though Dooley is greedy to a fault. I must say if his performance was less mannered this could have been a truly great effort by Rooney. Unfortunately his obvious mannerisms keep his performance from being especially natural. He never fully becomes the character always staying somewhat aside him, not that the performance does not have it strong points the only problem is it could have been an entirely strong performance. Rooney instead gives of a somewhat weak performance with some strong points.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1956: Anthony Quinn in Lust for Life

Anthony Quinn won his second Oscar from his second nomination for portraying Paul Gauguin in Lust For Life.

Anthony Quinn's performance as Paul Gauguin has a strange Oscar myth that goes along with his performance which is that he is only in the film for a very short eight minutes. This is a bizarre continually restated myth because he is probably in the film over twenties minutes. I must say such myths astound me because all one needs to do is watch the film to see he is obviously in the film longer than that. Either way though that is commonly used as reason he did not deserve to win, even though the size of a performance really does not matter, it is the impact made by it.

Quinn most certainly does have an impact with his performance as Paul Gauguin in Lust For Life, one of those roles that seems frankly tailored made for Quinn. Gauguin is a braggart, very sure of himself and his opinions, who enjoys his pleasures, but is also very rough around the edges. Quinn is quite good in his very first scene and instantly makes an impact on the film. There are many actors playing artists that Kirk Douglas's Vincent Van Gogh meets, but Quinn even in his first relatively short scene is the only one who makes a man out of him. Quinn effortlessly becomes Gauguin from his first scene he realizes the distinct manner of Gauguin.

Quinn is pompous and pretensions, and shows that Gauguin does not mind making a scene in fact he wants to make a scene. Quinn has the perfect sort of carefree quality in his performance showing Gauguin casual disregard for any sort of common manners. In his first scene he is quite good in establishing Gauguin casual interest and supporting in Van Gogh's work. There is not an over enthusiasm in Gauguin though as Quinn carefully shows in an early indications of the problems they will have later. Also in his early moments Gauguin gives a little "wisdom" to Gauguin, Quinn is quite effective because he shows although that it might not really be the most intelligent advice given, Gauguin most surely believes in it.

The real meat of his performance comes later as Gauguin goes to live with Van Gogh as an attempt by Vincent's brother Theo to rid Vincent of his loneliness. From their first scene together Quinn and Douglas create a dynamic together that you know will not end well. Van Gogh's desperate want for a friend and fellow artist, but Quinn is effectively hard boiled in his depiction of Gauguin. Although there is the faintest hint in Quinn's performance of Gauguin's respect for Van Gogh as a person, as well as understanding of the great troubles of the man, he never avoid showing the simply truth that the main reason Gauguin went there is simply to have some room and board for free.

Their scenes together really work as Douglas is far more enthusiastic but as well as emotionally intense, and unsure as Van Gogh, whereas Quinn shows Gauguin to be in ways harder, more controlled in and simpler in his ways. Both actors really show that neither of the men match and that they are destined to have problems. Quinn is properly pompous with just the right amount of humor in his performance as Gauguin criticizes Van Gogh in various ways. He shows this as just Gauguin's way, he doesn't exactly purposefully try to upset Van Gogh but Quinn shows that Gauguin ego is so large that he really can't avoid it.

Some of Quinn's best moments come in the two of their fights together as both actors naturally show the way their simple discussions can quickly become heated and violent arguments. Quinn again contrasts well against Douglas. Douglas showing Van Gogh exacerbating tendencies, and Quinn shows a harsh reality in Gauguin simple and rough attacks on Van Gogh. My favorite moments of Quinn's performance though I think might come in when he shows Gauguin try to calm the situation by backing down, or eventually by leaving. Quinn convey that although Gauguin is a bit too quick to anger himself he is not mentally unbalanced in the way Van Gogh is. In this short subtle moments he shows an understanding and realization in Gauguin over his own treatment toward Van Gogh, and that perhaps he has gone too far himself. This may not be his best or his longest performance but Quinn manages to make the most of his role as Paul Gauguin. He not only creates an intriguing portrait of this man, but as well with Kirk Douglas delivers some of the best moments of the film.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1956: Robert Stack in Written on the Wind

Robert Stack received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Kyle Hadley in Written on the Wind.

Written on the Wind is a melodrama that tells about the son of an Oil tycoon who marries a woman Lucy (Lauren Bacall) loved by his best friend Mitch (Rock Hudson) who in turn is lusted after the son's nymphomaniac of a sister Marylee (Dorothy Malone). 

In the case of melodramas from the fifties acting usually is divided in the dull and the over the top. In this case there is the dull of Hudson and Bacall, and the over the top of Malone with Stack in the middle. I find with melodramas of this sort it is best to overact to not fade in with the dullness of the surrounding performances. Stack interestingly enough actually tries not to be dull or overact early on as Kyle the oil tycoon's son attempts to woo Lucy to be his wife while admitting his flaws to her at the same time.

I feel Stack does actually try to convey the feelings of his character by trying to be realistic. It does not really help that his character is written in as shallow of a manner as he is, yes I know that is all the point of Douglas Sirk's irony that modern critic love so much, but nevertheless it does not allow for a particularly interesting performance. I will give Stack credit in that he does try to play the part straight, and realistically but it never amounts to anything particularly moving. I would say his attempts put his performance above the level of Bacall and Hudson but still he does not create a compelling character.

Stack consistently tries as his character slowly feels anguish over his empty life and his fears over his marriage. Stack stays in a similar tone with his character which makes sense actually since he tries to take his troubles in stride at first. In the second half of the film though Stack moves more to the over the top type of performance as Kyle's troubles become worse as he finds out that he might be impudent and with coaxing by his sister that his wife might be having an affair with his best friend. Stack, as I am sure Sirk wanted, gives up his attempts to stay grounded as Kyle.

Stack as Kyle becomes alcoholic and maddened with jealousy and Kyle becomes more and more like his sister with his over the top behavior. Stack I feel never becomes bad actually and is effective enough actually in the role still. He never goes so far that it seems like acting just for acting sake. He still manages to be his character within his film which is purposefully overblown. Also I must say in his over the top moments Stack does have a few more emotionally piercing moments, in an over dramatic way sure, but they are moving nonetheless. This is not a deeply felt portrait of an alcoholic, but the portrait of an alcoholic in a Douglas Sirk film.

I can't say this a performance that ever amazed me in anyway his character early on is very dull and although Stack did his best not to fall into the dullness he could not exactly completely avoid it either. In his more of the over the top sequences he does become a little interesting but even with such big over the top emotions on display the performance still did not make a great impact. I will say this is not bad work from Stack by any means actually he does his absolute best at first to try to find something with just about nothing, and than later on he does do his best to be over the top while still being a character. It is never great work but it is far better than it could have been.