Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1954: James Stewart in Rear Window

James Stewart did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying  L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries in Rear Window.

Rear Window is an excellent thriller about a photojournalist with a broken leg who spends his day looking out the window and finds that one of the people he is spying on might just have murdered his wife.

James Stewart again is the other leading actor for an Alfred Hitchcock film, and he shares some similarities with Ray Milland for Dial M For Murder. They both spend most of their time in their home, although Stewart's character is forced to be there, whereas Milland happens to be there just by the way the film is set up. They are also both romantically involved with Grace Kelly. The difference here is great though in that Ray Milland's character is already married to her, and plans to murder her, whereas James Stewart's Jeff is very reluctant to marry Kelly's Lisa who is a wealthy socialite.

Stewart is in every scene of this film even if it drifts from him it still is in Jeff's point of view as he glances out his window and witnesses the various events in the lives of the people outside his window. Stewart does something in the role that is important early on which is that he portrays Jeff's only real reason for doing what he does is boredom. Stewart never portrays there as any sinister quality in his voyeurism, he simply has nothing better to do with his time and his broken leg, and as well Stewart conveys the natural curiosity in the photojournalist Jeff.

As usual Stewart does indeed have his bountiful charm on display here as usual that is at least in some way able to make his relationship with Kelly believable. In the same way though Stewart though mutes his charisma just enough to really shows the way sitting around and doing nothing has taken a bit of a toll on Jeff. Jeff is a man who is always seeking something to do constantly, always looking for some sort of excitement, so it is fitting that Stewart so well portrays the fact that Jeff instantly hones in on the first thing outside that might rid himself of his boredom in some way.

Stewart is very effective as well in the personal scenes where Jeff argues with Kelly's Lisa over his lack of commitment which stems from the fact he believes she would not able to take the sort of lifestyle that he desires. Stewart is able to be convincing in his near rejection of her, by really conveying well that it is all part of his own weaknesses. Unlike in so many of Stewart's pre It's A Wonderful Life performances there is a distinct lacking in Jeff, and there is a great deal of hesitation Stewart pulls into Jeff that creates the insecurities that creates the rift that leave the two unfulfilled.

Although hesitant in his personal life Stewart does not show the same hesitation within Jeff when he is coming up with his theory about a murder across the courtyard. Stewart is interesting here in that there is not quite that same old Jimmy Stewart passion you might see in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as this is a darkly comic piece by Alfred Hitchcock. There is the same clear insurance of the fact that he is right though that is always unshakable but Stewart here always manages to be actually more casual regarding the whole thing easily adding more comedic lines along with his theories about what happened to the man's wife.

Stewart is incredible as we follow him through as he subtly suggests in the slightest glance, or look that Jeff's internal workings has deciphered a part of the plot, and he is easy to go along with the whole way done his voyeuristic journey. He is always a man of reactions and Stewart nails everyone perfectly being a very real person in the situation that usually mirrors are own reactions to certain moments during the film. I would say his very very best moment in his performance though comes late in the picture when Lisa goes over to the supposed killer's place and he returns home while she is still inside.

Stewart simply is perfect in this pivotal and most suspenseful scene as he reflects are own reaction. All of the horror of the scene is made genuine through Stewart's heart wrenching as Jeff watches helplessly from the distance. Stewart's brings to life the moment as he squirms in fear over seeing the terrible event transpire in front of him. This great part of Stewart's portrayal pretty much sums up the whole of his performance. Stewart manages to provide a realistic portrait who we can easily go along through the sometimes quite seedy world of being a voyeur. He hones the film in and grounds it throughout.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1954: Toshiro Mifune in Seven Samurai

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Kikuchiyo in Seven Samurai.

Seven Samurai is an excellent film about poor villagers who hire seven samurai to fight against a large group of bandits who steal their crops.

In the group of the Seven Samurai there is the wise old leader, his young protege, a learned right hand man, a world weary veteran samurai, a poorly skilled but jovial samurai, a stone faced and most skilled of all of them, and Kikuchiyo portrayed by Mifune who is not even a samurai. Kikuchiyo in fact does not seem to really have a name, or at least either does not remember it or does not wish to state what it is. The other samurai in fact give him the name of Kikuchiyo which is in fact rather derogatory. Not really being a samurai he never really is just part of the group as some of the others are and Mifune's performance sticks out the most within the film.

Mifune early on in the film is off to the side as Kikuchiyo tries to join the samurai on their adventure even though all he has is a one huge sword, and a fake birth certificate to prove his worth. Mifune is terrific in just being a crazy man easy to being drunk, but very much a wannabe Samurai. Although at this point you cannot tell really where he came from but Mifune still is able to convey that his craziness comes from something in his history. Mufine is also great in just creating the dynamic between the insane Kikuchiyo he does anything but stand still against the rest of the Samurai who are all very stoic and reserved.

Eventually Kikuchiyo makes his way with the Samurai by basically just following them until they give in to allowing him to come as well even though his birth certification does very little to prove that he is of noble birth. He nevertheless becomes one of the most motivated of the fighters, even if his insanity never does seem to leave him. Mifune is like a wild animal at times, a particularly vicious one, as he shows the degree of passion Kikuchiyo does have in the fight. It is extreme and the most intense of any of the men hinting that Kikuchiyo has more invested than just wanting the food they are promised by the villagers.

It should be said that there is a great deal of big acting going on in the film that really separates most of the villagers from the samurai who are rather low key save for Kikuchiyo. Toshiro Mifune though really is a master at this rather broad approach, since he firstly does not forget to still have subtle aspects to the performance that keep his performance properly grounded, but as well being able to act this big is a talent not seeming completely overblown, and Mifune most certainly has this talent. For example one great scene of Mifune is when Kikuchiyo chews out the other samurai for their comments regarding the farmers of the village they are protecting.

In this scene Mifune is full force in his intensity and intimidation as he rattles on about his anger toward the remark against the farmers. His hatred of the disregard of the farmers is violent and vicious and Mifune does not lose a beat as he goes off on Kikuchiyo full loud monologue. While he handles this scene in a very big fashion indeed, Mifune never fails though in the same moment to offer smaller hints as to an underlying sadness within Kikuchiyo since really all of this anger comes from the fact that Kikuchiyo himself came from a farming family.

During the all important battle scenes it is hard not to watch Mifune he is consistently entertaining and effective in the role. He portrays Kikuchiyo as a man with almost a death wish the way he throws himself into the battle field seeming almost psychotic at times when he basically eggs on the bandits to aim for him. There is never a moment where Kikuchiyo does not seem to be throwing himself head first into the fray. Mifune is able to through in just the right amount of humor in his performance through his manic approach. Mifune though is able to with ease bring humor at the same time in showing Kikuchiyo's genuine, and very passionate in regards to fighting the battle.

This is especially powerful performance by Mifune as he uses his energy in his performance to become both a very enjoyable comic relief at times, but also does manage to bring to life the very heartbreaking character that is Kikuchiyo. It is indeed a very manic approach as Mifune shows not the slightest hesitation in any scene whether Kikuchiyo is flopping around the battlefield, or is raging in anguish over witnessing an event that mirrors something in his own past. There is never a disconnection in any moment or any facet of Mifune's work here. It is simply a great performance that contributes so much to this amazing film.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1954: Ray Milland in Dial M For Murder

Ray Milland did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tony Wendice in Dial M For Murder.

Dial M For Murder is an effective Hitchcock thriller about a man who hires another man to murder his wife (Grace Kelly).

Ray Milland here portrays the man who hires another man to murder his wife. Ray Milland is especially cultured and dignified in this performance as a wannabe murderer. Milland plays it down the line as a villain all the way, even if he sort of a small scale one. There is not a hint of empathy for his wife he plans to murder. Milland does not show a hint of wishing her anything but the worst. Something very particular about his performance is just how cold Milland is regarding to his portrayal of Tony. Even though the motivation of his murder is that his wife Margot was having an affair with an American mystery writer Mark (Robert Cummings), there is never a moment of outburst or anger in Milland's portrayal even when Tony reveals his true thoughts.

This is not to say Milland does not show Tony's  hatred of both of them, he most certainly does. Milland though is far more effective in portraying Tony's vile motivations by being quite subtle in his performance. Milland shows it in these slightest devious and incisive expression as he tells the story of his plan to his would be hit man. When he takes particularly note on that when he first found about the affair he planned to murder them both Milland shows in his eyes the full extent of his desire to his wife killed for the betrayal. Milland does not dwell on this in his portrayal though always making it abundantly clear that Tony is a man who is always very much in control of his emotions, and his biggest concern is the plan at hand.

Milland is terrific in portraying the cold calculations of Tony as he lays out the plan to his pawn who he wishes to use to perform the deed he wants done. Milland shows no hesitation in Tony, he conveys a brilliance in his planning that Tony knows exactly what he is doing, or at least Tony is extremely satisfied to the level in which he has set up his plan. What works so well about Milland performance he how much enjoyment he infuses into Tony's description of his plan. Milland is wonderful as he presents Tony as almost eating up with delight every word he is staying clearly portraying that Tony is very very proud of himself, and has spent a great deal of time and energy on devising his plan.

When he is not hiring someone to kill his wife though Tony shows no hostilities toward his wife, and in fact acts as if he is not even aware that his wife is having an affair. Milland once again portrays Tony with great efficiency as he is completely believable in fooling both his wife and her lover that he is a completely unassuming man. Now Milland still has that glint in his eyes that always underlies the true nature of Tony, but Milland actually is realistic in being the Tony everyone thinks he is. There is not that deviousness just a pleasant man, and Milland even makes Tony supposed confusion as the events unfold. He is just as convincing as the hapless husband, as he is as the true Tony with murderous intentions.

After about halfway through the film Tony's act is implemented, and the rest of the film deals with the fallout of the results. Tony who no longer has a moment to himself makes it so Milland performance becomes a series of reactions shots in trying to portray the true feeling of Tony, as he forced to put on his facade the rest of the time. This is not a criticism in the least though, as again Milland makes the absolute most out of all of them. They are quick moments to delve into Tony's psyche in the moments. They are all effectively portrayed whether he is showing Tony noticing a detail he needs to change, or which are probably the best moments when Tony sees that his perfect plan is not nearly as perfect as he thought.

 Milland is able to pull us into the killer view, basically through just how much pride and dignity he has in the role. Tony although is a rather despicable individual, he portrays the part with such gusto that he never comes off as such. Milland knows how to have just the right amount of fun in his performance to lighten the whole atmosphere of Tony's horrible deed, yet he is still keeps the film thoroughly grounded in portraying both Tony's motivations as well as his ability to keep his true intentions under wraps. This is a great performance by Ray Milland that makes this one murderous husband that is extremely easy to watch as he undergoes his plan. 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1954

And the Nominees Were Not:

James Mason in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Charles Laughton in Hobson's Choice

Ray Milland in Dial M For Murder

James Stewart in Rear Window

Toshiro Mifune in Seven Samurai

Friday, 27 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 2011: Results

5. Robert Wieckiewicz in In Darkness- This is not a great performance by any means as the role is relatively simple, but Wieckiewicz nevertheless gives a realistic performance.
4. Michael Fassbender in Shame- A compelling performance by Fassbender that creates a memorable performance of a man seeking pleasure but only finds emptiness.
3. Brendan Gleeson in The Guard- Gleeson makes this just a very entertaining from beginning to end through his realization of a man who may be the best and worst cop simultaneously.
2. Michael Shannon in Take Shelter-Shannon gives an excellent performance here through his ability to maneuver through the complex state of his character.
1. Ryan Gosling in Drive- This is another year where the choice of the winner was extremely difficult not only among the alternates, but also the overall of the year. My top three favorites still consist of the three who speak the least. Gosling gives an amazing performance with few words, but all the meaning needed through the smallest of gestures.
Overall Rank:
  1. Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  2. Ryan Gosling in Drive
  3. Jean Dujardin in The Artist
  4. Matthias Schoenaerts in Bullhead
  5. Woody Harrelson in Rampart
  6. Michael Shannon in Take Shelter
  7. Brendan Gleeson in The Guard
  8. Michael Fassbender in Shame
  9. Demian Bichir in A Better Life
  10. Aksel Hennie in Headhunters
  11. Peter Mullan in Tyrannosaur
  12. Peyman Moaadi in A Separation
  13. Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus
  14. Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code
  15. Daniel Henshall in Snowtown
  16. Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In  
  17. Omar Sy in The Intouchables
  18. Francois Cluzet in The Intouchables 
  19. Mel Gibson in The Beaver
  20. Matthew McConaughey in The Lincoln Lawyer
  21. Matt Damon in The Adjustment Burea
  22. Michael Fassbender in X-Men First Class
  23. Tom Hardy in Warrior
  24. Joel Edgerton in Warrior
  25. Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  26. John Boyega in Attack the Block
  27. Paul Giamatti in Win Win
  28. Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre
  29. Ben Foster in The Mechanic
  30. Lucas Pittaway in Snowtown
  31. Christoph Waltz in Carnage
  32. Ewan McGregor in Beginners
  33. Michael Smiley in Kill List 
  34. Brad Pitt in Moneyball   
  35. Johnny Depp in Rango
  36. Daniel Craig in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo 
  37. Dominic Cooper in The Devil's Double
  38. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50
  39. Ryan Gosling in The Ides of March 
  40. Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol 
  41. Andy Serkis in The Adventures of Tintin
  42. Jamie Bell in The Adventures of Tintin 
  43. David Thewlis in The Lady
  44. Robert Wieckiewicz in In Darkness
  45. Neil Maskell in Kill List
  46. Jakub Gierszal in Suicide Room
  47. Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  48. Michael Fassbender in A Dangerous Method   
  49. Harrison Ford in Cowboys & Aliens
  50. Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  51. James McAvoy in X-Men First Class
  52. Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris
  53. Simon Pegg in Paul
  54. David Hyde Pierce in The Perfect Host
  55. Chris Evans in Captain America
  56. Chris Hemsworth in Thor
  57. John C. Reilly in Carnage
  58. Jason Statham in The Mechanic 
  59. Charlie Day in Horrible Bosses
  60. Jason Bateman in Horrible Bosses
  61. Jason Sudeikis in Horrible Bosses
  62. Asa Butterfield in Hugo
  63. Vin Diesel in Fast Five  
  64. Alex Shaffer in Win Win
  65. Joel Courtney in Super 8
  66. Bradley Cooper in Limitless
  67. James Franco in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  68. Daniel Craig in Cowboys & Aliens
  69. Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar
  70. Jason Segal in The Muppets
  71. Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows 
  72. Hunter McCracken in Tree of Life
  73. George Clooney in The Descendants 
  74. Paul Walker in Fast Five
  75. Clayne Crawford in The Perfect Host  
  76. Seth Rogen in Paul
  77. Eddie Redmayne in My Week With Marilyn 
  78. Jeremy Irvine in War Horse
  79. Thomas Horn in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Next Year: 1954

Alternate Best Actor 2011: Ryan Gosling in Drive

Ryan Gosling did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Driver in Drive.

Ryan Gosling here plays a role that never has the name of his character identified, and we really never find out exactly where he came from or how he really got to the place he is at the beginning of the film. As the stuntman/car mechanic/getaway driver Gosling portrays a man of very few words. He is a hero very much in the vein of those once played by Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen in that his actions always say much more than he does. Gosling though never seems to imitate either of those actors who both naturals in playing such characters, and Gosling creates a very unique character with the Driver.

At the beginning of the film he is the driver for some random criminals, and Gosling is simply astonishing in this scene. He is absolutely in the zone here showing that when the Driver is driving he is absolutely in control. Gosling here says nothing at all it is all in his face, and he is amazing in the way he conveys the absolute conviction in the Driver's eyes as he tries out maneuver the police. There is not hesitation shown by Gosling every movement is precise, and there is not a hint of fear in his eyes. When he is driving Gosling shows the Driver almost as one with the car in his abilities. When he is in the car he is in the world that he completely understands.

We see a very different man after his initial successful getaway. Gosling shows a very different individual when he is not behind the wheel as he approach as woman Irene (Carey Mulligan) who has a son, and a husband in prison. Gosling shows that the man completely in power when behind the wheel, but when out of it he shows a man far less sure of himself. It is not that he is pathetic or anything like that, but Gosling shows the driver to really be rather shy and reluctant in normal affairs. He really is not even able to approach the woman without help form someone else as Gosling portrays the Driver as a man never to purposefully put his first foot forward.

When he does finally actually strike up a relationship with the woman and her son, Gosling still must portray the Driver in the manner of glances rather than in words. Drive could be argued as the film based on the direction of Nicolas Wending Refn, but it never feels as a soley directors picture, as the actors always are able to thrive well even in scenes with a clear stamp of the director. For example his first scene where he drives Irene around both he and Mulligan only really share glances, but Gosling is terrific in showing the genuine enchantment the driver seems to have with her. It is a very unique relationship as Gosling portrays this as driver's first love that really explains how it moves him as much as it does.

Of course the good times do not last long for the Driver as he is forced to do any getaway drive to help Irene's husband make up a debt with the mob, but all goes horribly and the Driver is forced to fight his way out of the situation. Gosling is particularly effective in the very first scene where he has to commit violence against people. It is harsh and brutal violence that the Driver participates in to save himself, but Gosling is incredible in realizing both the veracity of what the Driver is capable of as well though in just his face the extent that the violence does leave him stunned. Gosling shows that the Driver is a man completely capable of the violence he must commit to save himself, but he still brings to life the very real trauma of the situation.

This whole performance is about the subtle movements, and glares that Gosling gives. A performance with as few words as this easily could have been ineffective, but Gosling is able to convey all he needs with the little he is given. Gosling is simply fascinating in so many scenes where a simple gesture can mean so much. He never fails once to bring to life the quick moments so fully to life. One particular stunning scene where Refn's direction and Gosling's performance work in perfect harmony takes place in a elevator late in the film. Gosling maneuvers through the scene perfectly making the moment that begins of complete beauty, to complete brutality. Gosling never loses a step in his depiction of the Driver bringing about the existential quality of the Driver without fault.

It should be noted as well that when he does speak though, a word is never wasted. In the moments in which the driver must face down another Gosling is truly intense. Gosling simply expresses a certain almost silent cool though, that makes the Driver a fascinating character to follow through his journey. Of course the very history of the Driver is never told, but not for a moment does Gosling's characterization seem to simplistic. He is able to convey that this man has come from some where very particular, and he says enough of the Driver's past without really ever saying anything about. It is a truly effective performance from Gosling through doing so much with so little. There is not a single moment where Gosling is not simply fascinating in his memorable and very unique performance here.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 2011: Michael Shannon in Take Shelter

Michael Shannon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Curtis LaForche in Take Shelter.

Take Shelter is an effective film about a man who sees strange visions which may be indicating some sort of terrible future, or they may be caused by a developing paranoid schizophrenia.

Shannon did not receive an Oscar nomination here as the film, and his performance never gained enough traction for the Oscar nomination. He very well could have been close though. Shannon did receive an Oscar nomination earlier for his supporting role in Revolutionary Road which was quite over the top needlessly so depiction of a mentally disturbed man. I did not think he was terrible in that role as I do believe he showed some quality in the performance that suggested that he could have been given a far greater performance if he merely toned down the performance slightly.

Shannon seriously dials back his performance this time as a man with a possible mental problem, or a man who is having prophetic visions. What they are technically does not matter to Shannon's performance as Curtis is deeply disturbed by what he sees either way. Shannon portrays the disturbance in a low key fashion for a great while during the film. He shows the constant internal uncertainty within Curtis as he sees one horrible event after another with very little idea of what they mean. Shannon effectively brings to life all of the pain Curtis faces over his visions and how they bring out the worst fears in him.

The focus on the film is how the visions persist and how they slowly worsen his own mental state as well as his relationship with his wife (Jessica Chastain) and the local community as well. Shannon is quite effective as he builds the disturbance that grows slowly in Curtis as his visions become more frequent as well as more disturbing. At first Shannon portrays a struggle within Curtis to fight against the feelings of anxiety, and he tries to express some sort of sense of normalcy on his face although, Shannon shows it is very very difficult for him to do so for long.

In his more strained moments Shannon is quite good as he has fierce short moments of intensity where he tries to quickly cut off his paranoia, but as well Shannon keeps the same intensity in the scenes where his wife questions his behavior. Shannon again presents as a rather brutal anger to keep his wife from finding out more about what is affecting him. Shannon does not portray this as a cruelty, even if it is blunt, from Curtis but rather his way of trying to keep his wife from really finding out the truth of what really is going on with his behavior exactly.

He cannot shake the visions though, and his condition only becomes worse when he makes the connection that his mother became a schizophrenic at the same age he is now. Shannon importantly keeps us with him through this battle going on in his mind though as he does always manage to humanize Curtis. Shannon always manages to bring to life the idea that really part of what haunts Curtis is his own care for his family. Shannon always makes it very clear that he has a genuine love for his family, and great deal of his fear comes from that he is either alienating them do to his condition or being concerned for them due to the disaster in his visions.

Shannon is excellent in the slow decay of Curtis's mental state. Shannon is careful in this as he always shows that Curtis is trying his very best to not fall into what he believes to be a mental condition, and Shannon properly stresses the resistance Curtis has to the visions. The visions never do leave though, and Shannon falls deeply into believing everything that he sees in the vision. Shannon is able to reflect the conflicting emotions that result from falling into his state of urgency he is forced to feel do to what Curtis sees. Shannon never makes it so Curtis is ever one way, but always stresses the unbalances nature the visions have caused in him. Shannon is convincing by showing an incredible drive in Curtis in his scenes where he thinks he is being prophetic, but as well is just as believable when he shows Curtis's intense sadness and pain when he believes himself to be falling apart.

Shannon effectively leads to his final scenes which include his more Oscary scene, and his actual best scenes. His more oscary scene where he confronts the town people and espouses loudly about his apocalyptic visions. This is certain more like his Revolutionary Road performance, but really he earns it here. Shannon manages to make it work because throughout the film he has been building the anxiety growing up until this point, and it is earned that Curtis would finally burst out as he does. Shannon turns it into a strong scene because he shows really the full extent to what the visions have been doing to him.

 His very best moments though come when he and his family going until the shelter during the storm. Shannon once again dials it down but he frankly more intense here than he was in the scene with the town people. Shannon is chilling here because he realizes his paranoia so quietly. He is truly off putting here as shows just how intense his fears have become. Michael Shannon though is equally strong as he portrays Curtis finally facing his fears. Shannon is absolutely heartbreaking as he shows the terror in his eyes as he finally confronts what is outside the shelter. Shannon gives an excellent performance here and as he is able to really allow the ending occur through his ability to maneuver through the complex state of his character. Shannon here shows exactly what his earlier Oscar nominated performance could have been with this powerful work.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 2011: Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

Brendan Gleeson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sergeant Gerry Boyle in The Guard.

The Guard is an enjoyable crime comedy film about an Irish Guard and an America FBI agent (Don Cheadle) who work together to take care of three dangerous drug dealers.

Brendan Gleeson is a consistently competent character actor in supporting roles, but I must say that his true calling is leading man. Two directors who seem to understand that are the McDonagh brothers as Martin McDonagh allowed Gleeson show his considerable talent in In Bruges, and Martin McDonagh brother John Michael McDonagh allows Gleeson to do it once again in this film. The Guard and In Bruges clearly are related in that they both share a certain style which never forgets to be funny while still telling a fairly or very dramatic story.

Gleeson portrays the lead in both films, and his role here as a Sergeant in the Irish police force differs from his role from Ken in In Bruges in the amount of humor in the performance. There was plenty of humor of course in his great performance in In Bruges, but Gleeson does not stop being funny here as the odd Sergeant Boyle. Gleeson has a rather strange way of playing the Sergeant in that he both seems rather serious sometimes in his deliveries which is full of conviction by Gleeson, but Gleeson never stops playing up the humor of the role as well.

Gleeson has just a jovial presence that never stop giving when it comes to giving out laughs through his delightful characterization. Gleeson timing is marvelous here as he rings out each one liner right after the other with marvelous aplomb that never gets old. Gleeson has a great deal of fun in the role in just playing up the central idea behind Sergeant Boyle which is that he either is really dumb or really smart. Gleeson is effective in that he really plays it both ways having constant comedic moments in the rather stupid things espoused by Boyle constantly, yet at the same time Gleeson in his eyes seems to say that Boyle always knows what he is doing.

This is not nearly as complex of a role as Ken in In Bruges and most of it is just being funny, but there certainly is not a problem with that because Gleeson is quite good at it. He plays every scene with the same wonderful comic timing, and plays off well against every other cast member especially Don Cheadle as the straight laced FBI agent. The two play off each other wonderfully with Cheadle playing up just how taking aback the FBI agent, and Gleeson going as far as he can without going too far with his portrayal of this absurd man.

Although almost the entirety of this performance is comedic Gleeson as he did in In Bruges balances it well with an actually grounded characterization. Even though he is always trying to be funny he never comes off as unrealistic because of the perfect tone Gleeson finds in the character. This allows for the few entirely dramatic moments such as when Boyle visits his mother to be properly moving despite being relatively small aspect of the film. Gleeson never falters once always being funny but whenever the need comes to it he is absolutely emotionally convincing as well. Gleeson always shows absolute devotion the the role, and makes Sgt. Boyle a compelling if odd hero to follow. Gleeson makes this just a very entertaining from beginning to end through his realization of a man who may be the best and worst cop simultaneously. This may not be his very best work, that would be In Bruges, but still is great work from this actor who deserves more leading roles to his name.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 2011: Robert Wieckiewicz in In Darkness

Robert Wieckiewicz did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Leopold Socha in In Darkness.

In Darkness is a sometimes prodding but also sometimes effective film about a group of Jews who avoid the Nazis by living in the sewer of a city.

 Robert Wieckiewicz portrays the man Leopold who hides the Jews. Leopold is a sewer maintenance worker who knows the sewers better than anyone, as well as early on is just a small time thief. At first he does not hide the Jews who take refuge in the sewer for any sort of noble reason. He in fact only hides them because they agree to pay him for his services and that it is all. He continues to hide them even after they run out of money and stop paying him, and even after it becomes far far more dangerous for him to keep their existence under wraps.

Robert Wieckiewicz portrays Leopold in a rather blunt fashion as just a man trying to make some money at first. He really does not try to make him particularly devious in his thievery, and there is not really any doubt shown in him just really the habit of going about his business to survive during the war. Wieckiewicz really does not depict all that much of a transition in his character, even though Leopold becomes completely selfless after awhile. This is not really a problem though as it is an interesting way to portray Leopold's motivations, and really Wieckiewicz takes a realistic approach to his entire characterization.

Wieckiewicz really plays it as Leopold merely doing what he is doing because simply that is what is right to do. Although it is true he keeps going even after doing it for the money at first their are not the moments of revelations like say there were in Liam Neeson's performance in Schindler's List, but Leopold is very different from Oskar Schindler. As he goes from doing it for the money to doing for the good of the people he treats both with the same workman like approach. Wieckiewicz stays true to the character by doing this actually, and really is showing that Leopold was simply a good man all along.

Leopold has a rather strange relationship with his Jews as portrayed by Wieckiewicz. He never does seem to really connect with them and is always distant protector of them. Even when he is telling them they need to move or bad news Wieckiewicz presents it as Leopold still just mostly doing his job. He shows that Leopold never does connect with them and always is an outsider to them even by the very end of the film. Wieckiewicz is actually effective again because he very realistically shows that Leopold never feels in the same position as they are.

Throughout the film Wieckiewicz is very to the point in the role just carrying through the scenes quietly by honestly portraying Leopold's journey through hiding the people. He is very consistent save for the very end when Leopold has believed they have all died, and Wieckiewicz shows the horrible distress he undergoes over believing the loss of the people. The other scene is at the very end where he joyously tells the people to come out. It is a moving scene as he shows Leopold's genuine pride and happiness at bringing the group of people alive through the war. This is not a great performance by any means as the role is relatively simple, but Wieckiewicz nevertheless gives a good realistic performance.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 2011: Michael Fassbender in Shame

Michael Fassbender did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Brandon Sullivan in Shame.

Shame is a film about a man with an addiction to sex that is far from perfect, and its best aspect is by far its lead performance.

Michael Fassbender was not nominated for the Oscar even though he was well praised for the role, received a Bafta nomination, and it was one of four films he was in during the year. The academy obviously just did not care for the film since Shame did not receive any nominations period. The film was also rated NC-17 and deals with material that the academy is clearly not particularly comfortable with. Apparently the older members were not having fond memories about Midnight Cowboy when viewing this film, and that may largely be due to the main character who is a far cry from Joe Buck in that film.

Joe Buck as played by Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy was an overly joyful naive dreamer who wishes to exploit his supposed sexual prowess for monetary gain in quite a desperate looking New York City. Well the city has changed a lot as has the protagonist. Brandon is a successful enough man, and constantly participates in sexual acts, but he is only ever doing for his own wants and quite often is the one paying for it. Brandon though is a cynical man, and although he is seeking pleasure through all of the sex that is in his life he finds that he has very little of it to be found.

Michael Fassbender, as I said in my review of his performance in Hunger, has a unique virile screen presence that alone makes him watchable. Here this is used certainly well in almost a strange way though. Brandon is constantly having sex with women both prostitutes as well as women he picks up from bars and such. The differences seem almost meaningless as Brandon is done with the voluntary just as fast as the paid. Fassbender through his strength of his personality with his great charisma makes this of course very easy to believe, and the ease in which Brandon can be a sex addict is never in question.

The main crux of this performance though really is in Fassbender's whole portrayal of the attitude Brandon has when committing a sexual act of any kind throughout the film. Fassbender has certainly an energy in these scenes always suggesting that Brandon is very much actively pursing the satisfaction one would want in a sexual experience. Fassbender though never shows even a glint of pleasure in the act itself even if he shows it in an energetic fashion. There is a desperation Fassbender portrays instead, in Brandon's face is always a want for something in what he is doing, but at the end there is always disappointment and emptiness shown by Fassbender's expression.

A striking part of his portrayal of Brandon is that although there is never pleasure found in any moment of his sexual activities, Fassbender still shows that this was something lost in Brandon over some time. The reason for this, which is well played by Fassbender, is that in his moments of showing interest before the intercourse he shows glints of expectation and actually a hope that perhaps this one will finally bring him the pleasure he is constantly seeking but can never find. Fassbender shows that just like the alcoholic who always drinks but never can get drunk, Brandon constantly has sex but never sexual satisfaction.

The most persuading factor in Fassbender's performance is really the emptiness of Brandon's life. Fassbender effectively portrays this not really as a pain to Brandon, but instead a safety. There is problem from his past a trauma that apparently both he and his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) both suffered. It never is explicitly stated what exactly the trauma was, but it most certainly seriously messed up both of them. Fassbender is terrific showing the trauma seems to be something he avoids through being completely detached from anything, keeping himself only connected to things in a brief fashion like his one night stands.

The most powerful moments of Fassbender's performance come by way of the moments where Brandon is forced not to be empty such as when he goes on a date with his co-worker Marianne (Nicole Beharie). Fassbender is great in this scene as he shows both a great deal of awkwardness in Brandon as he treads through actual conversations, but he also effectively shows an underlying almost happiness expressed that is absent from him at all other times. When the relationship is about to become sexual, Fassbender is convincing in his depiction of the pain that does develop when he forced to do something with an actual emotional connection which prevents him from continuing the relationship.

The same problems appear when Brandon deals with his sister, which again Fassbender is great in portraying Brandon's difficulties involving a relationship he has to actually feel something about. Fassbender is quite strong in showing how to avoid his sister he can only really show anger toward her most of the time. Fassbender carefully creates the relationship that there is a connection there with some small degree of love, but again there is an avoidance that to actually become truly emotionally involved only leading to rage against her for basically making himself confront his own problems.

The film is frankly not always as compelling as it should be as I said it is just interesting, but never quite amazing as many of Steve McQueen's directorial flares seem like a little too much like directorial flares. This is great work from Fassbender creating a vivid portrait of this man though, even if there are a few moments  by McQueen that seem to be there just to let Fassbender show off like the crying in the rain, but that is a fault of the film and not of Fassbender's work. And to be perfectly honest even in the scenes just to let Fassbender act, he still is great in these scenes even if they do not work toward his overall characterization as much as they should. This is a striking performance though that helps seal Michael Fassbender as one of the most intriguing actors of today.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 2011

And the Nominees Were Not:

Ryan Gosling in Drive

Robert Wieckiewicz in In Darkness

Michael Fassbender in Shame

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter

Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1965: Results

5. Michael Caine in The Ipcress File- Caine uses his unique screen presence here to make Harry Palmer a down to earth, and very likable hero.

Best Scene: Palmer is tortured. (The scenes are dated but Caine's performance is not.)
4. Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago-This really is not the usual performance for an epic, but Sharif makes the most of his character and successfully carries the film.

Best Scene: Zhivago meets with Strelnikov.
3. Lee Van Cleef in For A Few Dollars More-  It is a performance of quiet simplicity, and in this simplicity is where the incredible strength of this performance lies.

Best Scene: The final duel.
2. Sean Connery in The Hill- This is an excellent showcase of Connery's talent as he not only utilizes his more commonly found command of the screen, but as well effectively shows us that he is fully capable of creating an emotionally resonate performance.

Best Scene: Roberts confronts Major Wilson.
1. Terence Stamp in The Collector-This is a great performance by Stamp as both a humane portrait of a lonely man, but at the same time a convincing portrayal of a man who seems to prefer the dead over the living. This is again an incredible year, and again Stamp wins for now but Connery, Steiger, and Burton are not far behind.

Best Scene: Miranda tries to seduce Freddie.
Overall Rank:
  1. Terence Stamp in The Collector
  2. Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in From The Cold
  3. Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker
  4. Orson Welles in Chimes at Midnight
  5. Sean Connery in The Hill
  6. Jozef Kroner in The Shop on Main Street
  7. Lee Van Cleef in For A Few Dollars More
  8. Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago
  9. Oskar Werner in Ship of Fools 
  10. Toshiro Mifune in Samurai Assassin
  11. Sidney Poitier in A Patch of Blue
  12. James Stewart in Shenandoah
  13. Clint Eastwood in For A Few Dollars More  
  14. Michael Caine in The Ipcress File
  15. Frank Sinatra in Von Ryan's Express
  16. James Fox in King Rat 
  17. John Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder
  18. Keith Baxter in Chimes at Midnight
  19. Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou  
  20. John Wayne in In Harm's Way
  21. James Stewart in The Flight of the Phoenix
  22. George Segal in King Rat 
  23. Richard Widmark in The Bedford Incident
  24. Jean Sorel in Sandra
  25. Charlton Heston in Major Dundee 
  26. Laurence Olivier in Bunny Lake is Missing 
  27. Zbigniew Cybulski in The Saragossa Manuscript
  28. Laurence Olivier in Othello  
  29. Max von Sydow in The Greatest Story Ever Told 
  30. Sidney Poitier in The Bedford Incident
  31. Jack Lemmon in The Great Race 
  32. Claudio Brook in Simon of the Desert
  33. Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music
  34. Yuzo Kayama in Red Beard 
  35. Peter O'Toole in What's New Pussycat?
  36. Sean Connery in Thunderball 
  37. Frank Finlay in Othello
  38. Marcello Mastroianni in The 10th Victim
  39. Charlton Heston in The War Lord
  40. Marcello Mastroianni in Casanova 70
  41. Michael Crawford in The Knack ...and How to Get It
  42. Eddie Constantine in Alphaville
  43. Charlton Heston in The Agony and The Ecstasy
  44. Rex Harrison in The Agony and The Ecstasy
  45. Tony Curtis in The Great Race  
  46. Jean-Claude Drouot in Le Bonheur
  47. Steve McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid 
  48. George Peppard in Operation Crossbow 
  49. Kirk Douglas in The Heroes of Telemark
  50. Stuart Whitman in Those Magnificent Men And Their Flying Machines 
  51. Jason Robards in A Thousand Clowns
  52. Lou Castel in Fists in the Pocket
  53. Peter O'Toole in Lord Jim
  54. Jean-Paul Belmondo in Pierrot Le Fou
  55. Keir Dullea in Bunny Lake is Missing 
  56. Richard Burton in The Sandpiper
  57. Ringo Starr in Help!
  58. Paul McCartney in Help!
  59. John Lennon in Help! 
  60. George Harrison in Help!
Next Year: 2011

Alternate Best Actor 1965: Terence Stamp in The Collector

Terence Stamp did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Freddie Clegg in The Collector.

The Collector is a brilliant film about a man who kidnaps a woman and brings her to his secluded and spacious home.

Terence Stamp did not receive an Oscar nomination despite the fact the film did receive a best director nomination as well as a nomination for Samantha Eggar as Miranda Grey the woman whom Stamp's character kidnaps. Stamp though found himself not nominated despite winning Cannes for Best actor. Stamp may have felled victim to the fact that he portrayed a villain although to be fair they were never completely opposed to all kinds of villains, but perhaps this was one of the kinds they did not feel like they could support. Also even though Stamp had been nominated before for Billy Budd he has been nominated in the supporting category for a lead performance, and the academy may have been reluctant to nominate the young Stamp for a leading performance.

Stamp portrays Freddie Clegg a young man who has won a great deal of money suddenly and chooses to use it to buy a secluded estate. He is a lonely man without friends who decided to use his estate that includes a underground living space to kidnap a woman. He decides to kidnap Miranda despite hesitations, but his intents are not the usual for a kidnapper. He has no desires for random, nor does he desire sexual favors, nor does he want to hurt her in anyway, all he wants her for really is company. Freddie is a very different sort of captor to be sure, as the holding her captive is the only thing Freddie does that is wrong. Stamp therefore does not portray Freddie as many may have portrayed him.

Firstly Stamp really never tries to be actively villainous in the role, and early on he tries to be likable. Stamp of course shows absolutely no real charm here, as Freddie has not idea how to be a charming man, but in his first scene with Eggar Stamp actually makes Freddie in a way sympathetic. It is a particularly difficult act of making such a man at all sympathetic but Stamp manages to meet the challenge. Freddie first tells Miranda of his purpose for bringing her to his place, and that he in fact loves her, and has loved her for quite some time. Stamp is amazing here because he shows that this obsession of Freddie's is entirely genuine, and that his claims of no ill will are entirely truthful.

Stamp actually is almost heart breaking in his portrayal of Freddie because he never tries to make him seem at all evil. He makes him a sad lonely person who is not a psychopath but rather he shows that his shyness has created this sort of mental disturbance in him that has brought him to kidnap this woman. Stamp is interesting because even in the presence of her he shows that Freddie's shyness is still overwhelming. His body language is always withdrawn, and he always conveys the difficultly that it takes just for Freddie to look at her in the eye and say something. When he says that he loves her, Stamp creates a struggle within Freddie just to get those words out.

Of course the most important aspect of the film is the relationship between the two and how their dynamic changes through time. While Eggar's Miranda at first shows excitement over Freddie's agreement to let her go after a limited amount of time in captivity, Stamp though portrays Freddie as very much reluctant to really try to connect with Miranda as his shyness really is overwhelming. Stamp shows that he desperately wants Miranda to be the one to connect with him, as he really is unable to connect with him. Stamp in fact makes Freddie so distant that at times he almost seems like a butler to her, even though he happens to be the hone holding her captive.

Now although Stamp does not portray Freddie ever in an obvious fashion, and because of that he is truly chilling when Freddie's refusal to let her leave does come out. There are moments early on in between when he is trying to be the most pleasant man he can be when he does show the mental disturbance of the man that is quite horrifying. Stamp does it so casually that it is especially disconcerting because it will come out right along with just a pleasantry. Stamp in these moments though is precise showing that Freddie has it all extremely well planned out, and as well shows a more frightening side to Freddie because Stamp makes Freddie's self assurance something to be feared.

Although certain in his abilities regarding keeping her in his home, what is equally off putting about him though is the uncertainty he portrays regarding his relationship with Eggar. Stamp is simply amazing in showing the jumble of emotions that Freddie feels in a completely coherent way, as he desperately attempts to connect with but he can't do so with more than words. Even when he asks her to marry her, Stamp portrays it as a desperate plea to find some sort of remedy for his loneliness. Stamp though is incredible because the statement of Freddie he actually ends with is that Freddie does not know what he wants.

In many scenes Miranda tries to persuade Freddie that he could get along with her even outside of this world that he has created for them, but he insists that he would never be able to. It is a sharp desperate self doubt that he holds as a constant, Stamp shows that Freddie himself is pained because he knows that he can never be normal. Freddie contradicts himself, but Stamp makes it work as Freddie never can interact with humans the way he really would like, and one scene in particular Stamp powerfully shows this strange dichotomy.

In one moment after rendering Miranda unconscious Freddie clutches Miranda in a joy of love, which Stamp portrays as Freddie at his happiest finally having what he wants. Soon afterward though Miranda in a desperate act to satiate Freddie offers herself to him. Stamp is chilling as he shows Freddie cruel rejection of her, as her living embrace can never meet the joy he felt in her unconscious one. Stamp is simply stunning in the role because of how perfectly he realizes the insanity behind Freddie's desires. He never has Freddie find what he is looking for leaving him in the state of an uncertain emotional need, but never an understanding. Miranda in the end is apparently not what he wanted after all, and Stamp leaves a exceedingly memorable impression with the simple revelation that Freddie learns nothing at all from his relationship with her. This is a great performance by Stamp as both a humane portrait of a lonely man, but at the same time a convincing portrayal of a man who seems to prefer the dead over the living.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1965: Lee Van Cleef in For A Few Dollars More

Lee Van Cleef did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Colonel Douglas Mortimer in For A Few Dollars More.

For A Few Dollars More is the second part to the excellent dollars trilogy by Sergio Leone. This one depicts Clint Eastwood this time called Manco who is a bounty hunter who teams up with another bounty hunter to take down the crazed bandit Indio (Gian Maria Volonté) and his gang after they have robbed a bank.

Lee Van Cleef portrays Colonel Mortimer the other bounty hunter who I consider lead with Eastwood as the film at first follows both their exploits separately but equally, and after they team up they both stay important to the story. Van Cleef's Mortimer perhaps is even more important due to the fact the film tells anything about the past of his character something that is left as a complete mystery in regards to Eastwood's Manco. Lee Van Cleef before appearing in this film was in a few westerns, notable ones even like High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but in both of those films despite having a given name his characters were no more than thug number two. Here though Cleef honestly has a role, and is given the chance to shine as an actor.

Lee Van Cleef is actually the first of the two actors to appear, and for me makes an even greater impression than Eastwood does. Both are shown on a job as a bounty hunter basically just to show us how much of a badass each of the characters are. Lee Van Cleef is even better than Eastwood at being one here, and Eastwood might as well as the badass king. Van Cleef is cool and collected in the film, showing the ease of his character's ability to kill. In the first scene of him going after a man Van Cleef shows that Mortimer moves through to his job with an ease, and unquestionable confidence. It is an absolutely earned confidence by Van Cleef, there is not a moment where Mortimer seems pompous, Van Cleef makes it clear that Mortimer is just simply that good.

It simply is just enjoyable to watch Lee Van Cleef as Mortimer maneuver his way through eventually dealing with the group of bank robbers. Cleef makes a particular sort of hero here with his firm precise method of walking, his always squinting eyes that seems to see through anything, and ease he seems to show in any situation. Really when he is not talking to Manco Mortimer says very little, but Cleef again speaks only with precision and just the right degree of gentlemanly demeanor that suggests his past as a proper soldier. There is a bit humor, and always a quiet power in Van Cleef's portrayal that makes everything that the colonel does believable. Even when he does something that no sane man would do such as lighting a match on Klaus Kinski, I doubt even Werner Herzog would do that, is made convincing through Van Cleef's steadfast performance.

Now although Lee Van Cleef is very consistent with his performance as the strong willed Mortimer there are little indications throughout the film that show that Mortimer may be in the fight for more reasons that just the money. These are relatively small moments for most of the film, but Van Cleef portrays each of them marvelously. Lee Van Cleef of course does not really show that there is any sort of weakness in Mortimer, the strength and cunning of the character really are his primary trait. He does not show that there is more to the man that just being a professional killer. It is quite well hidden pain, but Van Cleef lets in just enough that there is something that haunts him over something that he has lost in his past.

The very best moment of his performance comes in the very best part of any Sergio Leone western which is the final duel which is in this film is between Mortimer and Indio. Before this moment Van Cleef subtly suggested through glances in Mortimer's earlier scenes with Indio that there was something more, but here it really comes out as a deadly want of vengeance. Van Cleef is amazing here because it is not just anger in his eyes as he looks at Indio as they prepare to kill one another, but there is a sadness in his eyes as well. This is not a sadness over the fact that he possibly could be killed, but rather Van Cleef effectively shows it to be the feelings over his past devastation over the death of his sister which Indio caused. He does not make it as a debilitating factor though, but instead makes it as the driving factor in his will to win the duel. Although this is not the type of performance usually associated with great acting, but it simply is nevertheless. It is a performance of quiet simplicity, and in this simplicity is where the incredible strength of this performance lies.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1965: Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago

Omar Sharif did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago the titular character of Doctor Zhivago.

Doctor Zhivago is the excellent follow up by David Lean to Lawrence of Arabia. This film certainly differs in many ways from that film the biggest being the lead character. In Lawrence of Arabia the main character of T.E. Lawrence absolutely controlled the film, and as made the world notice his extraordinary measures. Doctor Zhivago on the other hand though is not a particularly active individual being a man who is most acted upon. He does not change the course of Russia, he in fact can barely control his own existence and is forced to move along with the changes of Russia. Also I suppose I should note that unlike O'Toole Sharif was not nominated for his leading role despite winning the golden globe.

Omar Sharif has a difficult task which is to carry this over three hour long epic on his shoulders even with his character being only the most common man at times. Sharif really takes this fact in stride though, and does not try to be anything more than what Zhivago should be. Funny enough originally Peter O'Toole was the first choice to portray Zhivago, and the fact that O'Toole turned it down was certainly a good thing. One characteristic that seems clear in Zhivago is meekness, and if there is one thing that Peter O'Toole most certainly is not is meek. Sharif though never tries to be more than what Zhivago should be and makes the most of his character despite being such a meek man.

Omar Sharif gives a very understated performance in the lead role that stresses the fact that Zhivago is not an extraordinary man by any measure. Rather just a man trying to live his life particularly early on in the film as he goes through what is expected of him marrying the woman he was posed to marrying finding a properly supportive profession as a doctor, even though he desires to be remembered as a poet, and watching all the events around him only as an observer. Sharif is very good at being this average man because he so honestly portrays the part. He does not try to fancy up what does not need to be, there is a life in this man, but only really a life that desires to live not much more than that.

Sharif effectively reflects a successful, but in many ways, average man when it comes to viewing the changes in Russia that come from the revolution. Sharif shows his reactions, at least at first, to be mostly astonishment at what is going on around as Yuri's interest never really is the revolution at hand. He just is a bystander and he only reacts to the various occurrences taking place in Russia never once taking action to implement any sort of change. When he faced with losing most of his house to revolutionary changes he acts almost slight bemusement at the idea, Sharif showing that Yuri is quite good in taking it in stride at first. The changes do slowly wear on him such as when the state takes more and more of him.

Sharif is good in showing the way that even a man who tries to take things for the best even at the worst can't  deal with the suffering caused by all of the traumatic events in Russia. Sharif still does not show that Yuri changes his nature by any means he is still he same modest man, but there is a growing sadness is in performance. It is all very low key and mostly involves small quiet gestures by Sharif, but he is quite effective as showing the emotions of a sane man in an insane world. For example his scene with Tom Courtenay's Strelnikov, Courtenay of course is electrifying in the scene with his intense depiction of the dehumanization of a man, but Sharif is just as important in showing the completely human and heartbreaking reaction as he shows Yuri's sadness and disbelief over the change in the man.

Of course I should mention that a pivotal part of the film is the central love story between Yuri and Laura (Julie Christie). Now Sharif here is quite excellent as he builds up the love of Yuri, and again Sharif does not overplay this. Early in the film he is good as we see him notice her, and Sharif conveys an unshakable feeling for the woman who Yuri does not even know who she is. Of course they do meet, and Sharif is very good in showing the love that slowly grows with him. He never comes out with it obviously, and at first they do not act upon since they are both married. Even when they finally do have an affair Sharif still stays true to the character, and leaves much unsaid. Sharif and Christie make their relationship something special because both stay subtle and make it far more truthful than if they had conveyed the emotions in a broader fashion.

It would have been very easy for many actors to try and portray the character in a different more constantly active, and could frankly have been trying to steal scenes away from the likes of Rod Steiger and Tom Courtenay. That would have been the wrong approach though. In one scene in the film Zhivago states that he would rather just live life rather than try to be the surgeon for the world, and that is very much Sharif's portrayal. He does not try to control any scene of the film with his performance, but rather he stands firm in his realistic portrayal of an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation. This really is not the usual performance for an epic, but Sharif makes the most of his character and successfully carries the film.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1965: Sean Connery in The Hill

Sean Connery did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Joe Roberts in The Hill.

The Hill is an excellent film about the inner workings of a British Army Prison in the middle of the desert which has many internal disruptions after one of the prisoners recently brought in has died due to punishment.

The fact that Sean Connery received no awards interest for this film is no surprise. He was James Bond at the time simple as that, and it would take a long time for him to be separated from the character, and even longer for the academy to bother recognize him. Also he was not helped by the fact that The Hill, although recognized other places, was completely ignored by the academy. This is completely absurd of course because this is a great film, infinitely better than A Thousand Clowns, and for the academy not even to recognize Harry Andrews who won The NBR for Supporting actor, shows the Hill to be one of the biggest oversights by the academy.

Sean Connery portrays one of the prisoners of the camp Joe Roberts who was a former Sergeant Major. He is very different than the rest of the prisoners who are there for theft, going awol, or some other petty military crime, Roberts there is for punching an officer after refusing to send his men into a surely fatal mission. Roberts also was a successful career soldier and his fall from grace was sudden. Connery is perfect for the role of the once completely loyal soldier. Connery shows early on that he is not the same as the rest of the men, and his stance, and look shows us Roberts's history before coming to the prison.

Connery is great here because he still does keep much of what a career soldier who have from his very proper posture to his ability to carry out the orders, but there is something very different about him that shows how he fell out of favor. Roberts is in rebellion of what he has once served so faithfully, but it is not from laziness or cowardice but from his own sense of right and wrong. Connery does not portray this anger as some random notion that has just suddenly come from nowhere, but rather it was a slow realization of the all of the problems with the military that he has suffered from for far too long.

Something very interesting that Connery does with the role is show that the same conviction that he would have had as a soldier carries right over to his attacks against the system he was once part of. This is a very different role for Connery in that he is always a captive in the film, and Roberts does not fight his way out the situation rather he thinks his way out of it. Connery same power of his presence that he used in his roles as a action hero like James Bond is also quite presence here as he has the same if not greater conviction in his performance here as the hero who has to use his wits instead of his fists to win the day.

Now I almost considered putting Connery in supporting since so much time is given to so many characters in this film, which is part of what makes it such a strong film, but I still do believe Connery is lead even though he might not even have the most screen time in the film. The reason for this is Roberts still is the driving part of the film, and is the one who moves the story forward. Although technically speaking the problems begin due to the death of one the prisoners Stephens (Alfred Lynch) caused by the brutal treatment of the sadistic Staff Sergeant Williams (Ian Hendry), it is Roberts who makes sure that Stephens's death will not mean nothing.

Before the death though Connery is excellent in showing exactly how Roberts will not stand for the cowardly Williams. He makes it clear that here Roberts only has hatred for the utterly horrendous human being that is Williams. The strength is within Connery's eyes here showing that Roberts will not suffer the fool of Williams no matter what, and there is always a quiet rebellion going on. Connery is excellent in portraying the intelligence of Roberts. Roberts has easily surmised exactly who Williams is and what his plan of attack on the prisoners is, and Connery never leaves any question to Roberts's strength that continues in the prison.

Connery is particularly superb though in the moment in which he describes the details of Roberts's cowardice charge and the reasoning behind his attack on his superior. What is notable here is that there is no passion in his portrayal, but rather a very sad cynicism. He does not infuse his action with any pride, not because he thinks he was wrong, but rather Connery instead shows that Roberts has made the heartbreaking discovery that despite his fervent attempts to save his men from a suicide mission, that it meant absolutely nothing in the long wrong as they still all died after someone else lead them in anyway.

Connery conveys though that his earlier experience is what sparks his passion to see that justice is done over the death of his fellow prisoner. Roberts finds his own punishment for speaking out, and in his scenes of pushing for justice most of it is speaking retching in pain over a beating he has been given. Connery is excellent here particularly in his scene where he confronts the Regimental Sergeant Major Wilson (Harry Andrews the head of the guards over the death. What is special here is Connery does not convey only anger here like he does in his scenes with Hendry, since Williams is a sadist and Wilson genuinely thinks his helping the men through his harsh treatment.

In his scene where he goes head to head with Wilson though is amazing as Connery shows Roberts basically fall apart in his frustrations over the failures of the code. This is a very different side to Connery here, but he is completely convincing as he shows that really Roberts feels that his whole life has been a falsehood because of the failure of the code he spent most of his life going by. It is an incredible scene because he combines not only his pain he is constantly feeling over his severe beating, but as well his despairing feelings toward the only thing that he has known for his entire life.

The late scenes though are possibly his best as Roberts lies wounded on the floor, but still uses his considerable will to prod the few good men of the prison to do the right thing. Connery through his very quiet portrayal here is superb as he brings to life the fierce determination of Roberts. There is nothing but power in his portrayal as he shows that no matter what Roberts will see justice done. He makes the sheer force of will of Roberts in this scene absolutely come to life, and makes his ability to bring the best out of the men completely believable. This is an excellent showcase of Connery's talent as he not only utilizes his more commonly found command of the screen, but as well effectively shows us that he is fully capable of creating an emotionally resonate character portrait.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1965: Michael Caine in The Ipcress File

Michael Caine did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harry Palmer for the first time in The Ipcress File.

The Ipcress File is an effective spy thriller about a spy trying to undercover a strange kidnapping and mind wiping plot.

The 60's was a popular time for spy films and 1965 had several of them three particularly notable ones though that show very different depiction of being a spy. There was of course the very romantic one found in Thunderball, and the extremely cynical and pessimistic depiction found in The Spy Who Came in From The Cold. The Ipcress File is somewhere in between the two. The Ipcress File stresses far less entertaining of spy life like routine surveillance as well as a mundane living, but there is still some humor found here unlike the insistent double crosses and dirty dealings found in The Spy Who Came in From Cold.

Caine portrayal of Palmer is also somewhere in between Sean Connery depiction of James Bond, and Richard Burton's depiction of Alec Leamas as well. Just like Connery's Bond there is an enthusiasm here that he puts into his job vigorously, and there are times where he does seem to enjoy his job. He though is not entirely different than Alex Leamas though either as Palmer still has many tedious duties to deal with lives a relatively humble life, and has a to deal with some of the back room conspiracy although it is not nearly as devious, and therefore does leave Palmer as nearly as much of a embittered man as Burton's Leamas.

Caine is quite good in the role by creating a balanced portrait of this spy. A key feature of Harry Palmer is his sense of humor which also factors into the fact that he tends to be insubordinate as well. Palmer is constantly cracking small jokes to his sometimes quite not amused superiors. Caine takes the right sort of low key approach here that realizes Palmer's sense of humor, but he does not over due it to become an overly comic performance either. Caine has just enough fun with his performance to lighten the mood a bit in the film, but still when more weight is needed for a scene Caine is completely up to the task.

In his performance as Palmer Caine effectively combines the excitement with the tedium that he encounters as a spy. Caine in the moments where Palmer is tracing someone or dealing with something very important he shows a clear conviction that shows Palmer's devotion to his work. Caine is appropriately keen in the role, conveying the intelligence of Palmer. Caine though does not make Harry completely domineering though. Palmer really is not an expert spy, just a good one, and really Caine does well in portraying his frustrations just well as skills. Of course a great deal of the time Palmer is not doing particularly interesting work, and Caine is good in showing that really Palmer uses his humor just to avoid boredom.

Caine stays consistent with his portrayal for most of the film until the very end when Palmer is captured by the enemy and put under mental torture. Naturally Caine loses that charm and poise he had earlier on as he suffers through the physical and psychological strain put upon him in captivity. Caine is strong here as well showing the extreme pain Palmer goes through in trying to resist the programming his captors are trying to embed in him. Although it is relatively fast in the film in showing the process Palmer undergoes, Caine is brings the horror of it to life. Caine is good here because although he shows a strong resolve in Palmer, he also makes it true that Palmer after all is only human.

This is a very good performance by Michael Caine and it is no surprise that this role helped him secure himself as a leading man. This is original and interesting depiction of this spy who is never derivative despite all of spies at the time. Caine uses his unique screen presence and on screen marvelously here to make Harry Palmer a down to earth, and very likable hero. He makes Palmer the relatively average spy who it is far likely we would be, than say James Bond who we would like to be. Although I would say this is not the greatest spy performance of the year, that still goes to Burton, it is an excellent one nevertheless.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1965

And the Nominees Were Not:

Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago

Lee Van Cleef in For A Few Dollars More

Terence Stamp in The Collector

Sean Connery in The Hill

Michael Caine in The Ipcress File

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Results

5. Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife- Grant never falters in his portrayal of a just about perfect character. He brings a great deal of charm, and wit to the role that makes it an absolutely winning performance.

Best Scene: Dudley first meets the Bishop.
4. Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past- Mitchum gives a strong commanding performance that perfectly fits his world weary on screen persona.

 Best Scene: Jeff finds out Kathie has come back to Whit.
3. Rex Harrison in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir- Harrison is terrific in his role bring both mysterious as well as quite humorous in the role of the titular entity.

Best Scene: The ghost complains about the cause of his death.
2. Charlie Chaplin in Monsieur Verdoux- Chaplin finds just the right tone to brings the life his cynical but also humorous serial killer who treats his murders as just a normal job.

Best Scene:  Verdoux defends his murders.
1. Richard Attenborough in Brighton Rock- There was no question here of who was the very best of year with Attenborough tremendous performance as a young thug. Attenborough gives a striking performance that never strives from the harsh truths of his character.

Best Scene: Pinky's hit goes wrong.
Overall Rank:
  1. Pierre Fresnay in Monsieur Vincent
  2. Ronald Colman in A Double Life
  3. James Mason in Odd Man Out
  4. Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley
  5. Charlie Chaplin in Monsieur Verdoux
  6. Takashi Shimura in Snow Trail
  7. Rex Harrison in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
  8. Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past
  9. Isao Numasaki in One Wonderful Sunday
  10. Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife
  11. Claude Rains in The Unsuspected 
  12. Bernard Blier in Quai des Orfèvres
  13. Robert Montgomery in Ride The Pink Horse 
  14. Cary Grant in The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer
  15. James Cagney in 13 Rue Madeleine
  16. Robert Mitchum in Pursued
  17. Edward G. Robinson in The Red House
  18. Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street
  19. David Niven in The Bishop's Wife
  20. William Powell in Life With Father
  21. Burt Lancaster in Brute Force
  22. John Garfield in Body and Soul
  23. Orson Welles in the Lady From Shanghai
  24. John Payne in Miracle on 34th Street
  25. Humphrey Bogart in Dark Passage 
  26. William Powell in The Song of the Thin Man
  27. Danny Kaye in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  28. Michael Redgrave in Mourning Becomes Electra  
  29. Joseph Cotten in The Farmer's Daughter 
  30. Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill
  31. Dana Andrews in Boomerang! 
  32. Fred MacMurray in The Egg and I
  33. Victor Mature in Kiss of Death
  34. Dick Powell in Johnny O'Clock
  35. Robert Young in Crossfire 
  36. Robert Ryan in The Woman on the Beach
  37. Gregory Peck in The Paradine Case
  38. Lon McCallister in The Red House
  39. Gregory Peck in Gentleman's Agreement
Next Year: 1965