Saturday, 29 December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1987: Kurtwood Smith in Robocop

Kurtwood Smith did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Clarence Boddicker in Robocop.

Robocop is an entertaining action film, biting satire, and an emotional exploration into the mind murdered police officer who is revised through robotics.

Kurtwood Smith is a proper "that guy" actor of the 80's and on in television and film. An example of a talented actor who usually is in brief often unimportant roles, though makes them feels a bit less unimportant. It is then always fun to see such an actor get an actually a role to sink his teeth into. And I feel that is a properly appropriate description for the character of Clarence Boddicker the mob boss of the Detroit of the future. Clarence is not a villain with some grand master plan or some evil scheme to rule the world. In fact in perhaps the wrong hands Clarence might be a bit disposable in more ways than one. Smith's performance though is rather great by really embracing the idea of a villain who very much is in it for the money and the joy of being a criminal. This again seemingly could be boring, but Smith's approach not only makes it work, it makes the whole character come to life in a rather special way. Smith's approach is just to really embrace the sort of inner jerk of a criminal, and it is this that so enlivens the role. This approach is interesting in that it allows him to stand out in scenes that technically really he should not necessarily do so, but does so because of Smith's performance.

This is right from the first full scene he is in where he and his gang are being trailed by the still living, eventual Robocop, Murphy (Peter Weller) and his partner. Smith brings this very distinct approach in the way he approaches the scene. As he portrays almost this specific type of annoyance rather than an exact fear. This approach that Smith fashions making Clarence in a way sort of character who kind of treats the city as his little playground. This is as in the action scene Smith combines the intrusion as bothersome, though he doesn't overplay this to a unbelievable point of indifference. Smith instead makes it something far more entertaining, while still finding a definite menace in the sort of carelessness towards life that he portrays in this. Smith finds an actual menace by portraying such a lack of hesitation, and not doing in quite  detached or a traditional psychopathic way. It is rather this sort of fascinating way of playing as well just a bit of scum. His glee in the moment for example is not excessively viciously sadistic, even though that is indeed what his actions are, but Smith instead depicts it like it is all a game that Clarence loves to play.

Smith's approach is a touch askew and that is what makes Clarence memorable, when he is technically just a general thug in terms of overall conception. We see this in the essential scene where Clarence and his thugs massacre Murphy, which eventually turns him into the titular cop. Smith is brutally effective in the scene playing the whole thing up with a blunt bit of fun as he toys with the cop before killing him. The callous enjoyment that Smith delivers in every one of his scenes is what makes him stand out so well. Again Clarence isn't the man with the grand plan yet he doesn't become overshadowed by technically the main because Smith plays the part as a guy who is entirely fine with the way things are. Smith way of handling a scene then gives it a bit of different angle that makes far more memorable. Take the scene where he kills Robocop's creator, for his boss, where Smith is mostly silent in the scene. The little looks of "you're going to die soon", with a sly grin, or the almost sensuous way he removes the grenade pin to perform the coup de grace,  not only gives Clarence more character, but the whole scene. This approach even allows his scene, where he becomes a complete coward toward Robocop giving up his boss from a bit of intimidation, not to lose anything from the character. This is as Smith plays it with the exact same "who cares" selfish attitude as anything else fitting to the proper slime ball he is. This is not only a good villainous turn but really just a fun performance as well from Smith as he subtly gives a bit of an atypical energy to what could be a standard thug.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1987: Robert Downey Jr. in Less Than Zero

Robert Downey Jr. did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Julian Wells in Less Than Zero.

Less Than Zero follows a college freshman, Clay (Andrew McCarthy), returning to Los Angeles during his holiday to discover his old high school friends have fallen into a world of drugs and depravity.

Less Than Zero does not come together as a film mostly depicting its material without cohering a proper thematic understanding in the drama. This in part comes from the miscasting of two of the most central figures particularly Andrew McCarthy in the lead who largely gives a distant performance. I'll admit it is not helped that it seems they took off so many edges off of the character of Clay that he eventually became two-dimensional. The film is not entirely bereft of merit though largely due to the, sadly, perfectly cast Robert Downey Jr. as Clay's old high school friend Julian. This is though before we even brave towards the prophetic material as even within the opening scene of the main character's high school graduation, Downey delivers that dynamic presence that helped to launch his initial stardom. We get the young actor/young man, seemingly with his whole life in front him. Downey just exudes that grand charisma of someone who should only go up from there, with that ease and grace to his very existence that just makes him so immensely likable. The scene itself evidently added to help sympathize with the characters, but it is not wasted by Downey who establishes essentially Julian's potential before we find his future some months later.

We catch back with him as Clay returns to L.A. with already some bad blood preexisting as Julian slept with Clay's girlfriend Blair (Jami Gertz). Nonetheless things do seem excessively off as he finds the two enjoying high life in more ways than one. Downey of course brings with that one of a kind energy of his fitting to a make one who is high on more things than life. Downey's excellent though as the breaks in this become evident rather quickly. A great moment for him comes earl yon as he takes a car ride in Clay's convertible with both him and Blair. It all seems fun briefly as he dances and sings around in the car. Downey is without a doubt charming even in these troublesome antics, however his near slip out of the car, within his antics alludes to something far more problematic. His apology afterwards having this considerable unease that realizes that this us quite the literally a high wire act. Something that quickly expands itself as we see Julian trying to find success as he goes deeper in debt with his old classmate/drug dealer Rip (James Spader, also perfectly cast). Downey though almost convinces the viewer as well as he tries to work the deal as there is such a sincerity in that thrill he brings that adds towards his persuasive attitude.

The unfortunately prophetic elements begin to quickly express themselves as though as, like Downey himself, Julian is an out of control drug addict. Like Downey again, Julian seems as though he can control his life as a talented young man. Downey properly tempers his work even as he has this certain physical stress within his eyes conveying the drug addled state even when a bit more sober. Downey is excellent in the way he does not pigeonhole Julian immediately showing that even as he's in the thick of it, he still has it in a way. When talking to Clay of the good old days there such an assured sense of nostalgia as he ponders their old popularity, when he makes a deal with his Uncle the sincerity of his sales pitch is unquestioned. Downey realizes the facade of respectability even with the big cracks evident, there is that strained confidence that just allows one to believe Julian will somehow make it all work. There is still this undercurrent of desperation that only seems to fester as the way Downey makes it this constant, making it essential part of the eventual grotesque enthusiasm that tries to hold the man through each night living his life. In every morning, no matter where Julian ends up, we see a similar state that Downey realizes so vividly. The night itself with every drug and every bit of exasperation wearing on him.

That desperation now worn so directly in his very being as Downey shows a man simply spent right down to the charisma as Downey so quietly plays these moments as the man would rather hide away this state. The meekness he brings being so powerful in terms of showing the weight of his lifestyle. This only exacerbates as Julian takes more drugs while finding himself deeper and deeper in debt to Rip. Eventually going to Clay and Blair nearly in a broken state due to his abuse. Downey's work is absolutely harrowing as he does not hold back, and does not strike single false note in portraying the blunt physical decay. There is no charm, no potential, just a man festering away as he vomits his life out, and Downey makes every moment of this exceedingly visceral and honest. This is shortly followed by one of the best acted scenes of Downey's career where Julian begs his father for a second chance. Downey is wholly heartbreaking in delivery such pain in his eyes from his physical exhaustion, and the betrayal of his father's trust. That history of his life is all there, even if it was never depicted we know what it is that Julian has been through. The weight of every second of this is utterly heartbreaking as Downey is so brutally vulnerable in the moment in expressing the man's desperate need for help. Robert Downey's work is painful to witness at times, especially knowing the man's own trials that only became worse after this film. Downey's amazing performance so effortlessly captures this tragedy of a misspent youth and its descent through a short life of "pleasures" and failures. Although the film itself never realizes the potential of the material, Downey's work unquestionably does as he delivers a heart wrenching depiction of drug addiction that gives a real emotional poignancy to the film, that is only earned through Downey's unforgettable portrayal of Julian.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1987: Bill Paxton in Near Dark

Bill Paxton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Severen in Near Dark.

Near Dark, although not anything too special, is a fairly unique horror film about a young man (Adrian Pasdar) randomly finding himself being taken in by a group drifters/vampires after being bitten by a young woman.

Bill Paxton plays one of the vampires, and perhaps is the best expression of the different sort of tone that Kathryn Bigelow's direction is trying to create as this sort of grunge horror. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all in for the dark and more directly evil portrayal of the lead drifter Jesse played by Lance Henriksen. Henriksen isn't too far off a more typical Dracula in some ways. Paxton though offers something a bit different. This is, I suppose, should be expected as Paxton, for better and worse at times, was a unique performer. There's an energy, an off-beat quality inherent in Paxton that ensured he stood out in his films, though these results were sometimes mixed. Near Dark offers the right type of avenue for Paxton's boundless enthusiasm, where he so often seemed to refuse to phone anything in. This in the role of Severen essentially the punk rocker vampire, where Paxton makes a rather wonderful choice for the role. This is to play Severen as someone who just is absolutely having a blast in being a vampire, lacking the qualms of some of his younger (looking) compatriots, and the pretense of the older Jesse.

Paxton plays the part as just some sleazy dude who became a vampire, and just is loving the life. Paxton oozes these carefree amorality that he dips with a certain darkly tipped humor in this smiling indifference. What is probably my favorite scene in the film isn't really a horror scene involving Severen, though it does have some terrible implications, where he prepares himself for a night on the town, while practicing some quick draws, before hitching a ride with his eventual victims. It's a marvelous bit of physical acting of Paxton who simply owns the display like a lounge lizard. Paxton's work has this distinct lack of shame in the right way as it so effortlessly realizes Severen as a unique monster, by playing him as a man who thinks he has nothing to lose. Paxton dials it up, and manages to be menacing in this approach by showing what can be so threatening of, for the lack of a better word, a scumbag who has nothing to lose. Paxton verbalizes this unabashed glee in the life of the night which typically involves lots and lots of killing. The near lack of any pathos in Paxton's work, besides a moment of frustration towards the pathos of one of his companions, is what makes Severen truly come to life as a character. Paxton brings a bit of anarchy to every single one of his scenes making the whole film better for it. I especially enjoy him in the action showdown near the end of the film where Paxton plays it as though Severen is having the time of his living death, even when he's about to be run over by a truck. His "come at me bro" as picture above, is simply a magnificent expression by Paxton that might as well sum up this performance. It is just an entertaining turn by Paxton, which throws a crazed curve ball at a well worn type of villain.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1987

And the Nominees Were Not:

Bill Paxton in Near Dark

Will Patton in No Way Out

Robert Downey Jr. in Less Than Zero 

Kurtwood Smith in Robocop

Roy Cheung in Prison on Fire

Friday, 7 December 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1987: Results

10. Gaspard Manesse in Au Revoir Les Enfants -Manesse gives a fine natural turn however his performance is largely limited as the perspective of a mostly naive young boy.

Best Scene: The ending.
9. Steve Martin in Roxanne - Martin gives a surprisingly respectful sendoff of the Cyrano character re-imagined as a fireman, though I perhaps wish he stayed even truer to the spirit of the original.

Best Scene: Smelling fire.
8. Joe Mantegna in House of Games - Mantegna is limited by the character however he gives effective portrayals of the many different sides of a con man, from the sucker, to the smooth operator, and even just the slime ball beneath it all.

Best Scene: "Thank you sir, may I have another"
7. Klaus Kinski in Cobra Verde - Kinski as usually makes an impact in his emotionally raw turn however his work is constricted by the film's distant perspective character.

Best Scene: How to spear
6. Martin Short in Innerspace - Short gives an absolutely hilarious portrayal of an especially unlikely hero, but he also naturally finds some dramatic substance in his character's journey towards confidence.

Best Scene: The dream in reality.
5. Christian Bale in Empire of the Son - Bale gives a dramatic and compelling portrayal of the gradual maturation of a young boy through the horrors of war. His work though often seems strangely at odds with Steven Spielberg who seems often too timid to make a story about the loss of innocence.

Best Scene: After the bombings. 
4. Terry O'Quinn in The Stepfather - O'Quinn is in a garbage film however he breaths a genuinely chilling life into a man who thrives on the love of family but does so through killing them.

Best Scene: Who am I?
3. Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride - Elwes gives a somewhat underrated turn, in a highly regarded film, as his work captures just the perfect tone between earnest charisma, and sly comedy.

Best Scene: "Drop your sword"
2. Richard E. Grant in Withnail and I - Richard E. Grant delivers a marvelous feature film debut in his varied comical, yet not without pathos, portrayal of an actor trying his best to play the play that is his life.

Best Scene: Hamlet in the rain.
1. Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart - Rourke tops this list with ease in his charismatic yet also brilliantly exhaustive portrayal of a vicious mental and moral decay of a man as he descends towards hell.

Best Scene: "I know who I am"
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1987 supporting

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1987: Richard E. Grant in Withnail and I

Richard E. Grant did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character, the first half, in Withnail and I.

Withnail and I follows two unemployed and rarely sober actors as they venture to the countryside for a holiday.

The film follows the titular "I" aka Marwood played by Paul McGann who is a more low key sort though in a similar state as his friend played by Grant in his feature film debut. McGann being the often reactionary straight man to the force of personality that is Grant's Withnail. A character that is in many ways the film in creating it to be more than just one down on his luck actor trying to drink his worries away. Grant is the needed catalyst to the make the story just a bit more interesting in his portrayal of Withnail, who may be both more and less than he is. Fittingly to a name making performance, is the character of Withnail which Grant broaches with great aplomb. One could perhaps try to accuse Grant of showing off, however this is entirely the right approach for Withnail who while unemployed is after all an actor. A supposedly devoted actor, and this idea is most well realized in Grant's performance which is essentially of a performance much of the time. In that Grant so often is playing the part of Withnail as Withnail playing the part of Withnail, as he sees himself.

In the opening scenes we see the predicament of the two aspiring actors as they sit around outside their apartment, and Grant fashions a certain style within the role. A style that is all his own as he presents a man who while can't make acting a living, does seem to act to live. In that as they ponder their current state, Grant delivers the lines with a certain poetic melancholy, even if the lines themselves are not poetic, as Withnail laments his existence. A lamenting that Grant makes of a man who knows how one should properly lament if to be taken seriously, of course still just complaining when one breaks it down. Grant eloquently, and quite frankly, brilliantly plays with this idea as he works with these two warring sides of the man. This becomes all the more obvious when we see the man in a certain state of undress, that isn't all too pleasant of a sight, as Withnail forgoes his more metaphorical "fuel" for a some literal fuel, lighter fluid due to the lack of drink. Grant plays with a raw discontent in his words of a man suffering with withdrawal. His emotions messy as he complains of another's success, yet still maintain some false air of respectability in his walk. A grotesque walk in this instance of a strange yet striking combination of Grant of a man trying to maintain a perfect performer's posture, while falling apart.

Grant makes Withnail this fascinating presence within the film by so effectively portraying the man's method of getting through his existence. Part of this is certainly just entertaining to be sure. These moments usually stemming from when it appears Withnail has a scheme, and Grant brings such a powerful assurance to the role. Too powerful in a certain sense as he exudes the confidence of a man far greater than he particularly as he speaks of their plans for the holiday. I love though the detail in which Grant brings to any given scene, presenting as though Withnail is moving onto one character to antoher often in this time. Now one of these characters is of the proper "genius" friend showing his friends essentially the ropes of being a perpetual drunk. Grant delivers this impish spirit and that force of personality. Grant offers this strict charisma of a man who is quite sure of what he is saying even if in reality he is not. This is in his rich and uncompromising delivery even when the man speaks of his plan to procure boy urine in case he is tested. Grant maintains this certain stature of some pseudo brilliance, so cheerfully unaware of really how stupid most of his ideas are. Grant makes every moment of convincing of "I", to go along with a simple task, as Grant so effectively plays the part of Withnail so effectively playing the part of some strange mastermind of the nothing.

Grant is indeed very entertaining in Withnail as he performs for his friend, and for his lecherous Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths). Grant is a delight in their scene visiting the man as makes his mannerisms just a bit more foppish, and even all the more sinister befitting a man whose exploitation seems to be going to plan. The plan being to rent the older man's cottage in the country where the two friends believe they'll find some sort of respite. The two hardly find any of that running into the stress of actually needing to work to find food, and running to the angry locals, both animal and man. Grant is terrific as the nature of his act becomes far more desperate in his depiction. His performance still commands that immaculate posture, and refined demeanor, however the cracks within the facade become all the more evident. Now part of this is comical, particularly Grant's weaselly weak assurance when telling "I" to face an angry bull, or his attempt to show up the locals at the most near pub. Grant is despicable in the best of ways with a certain sly energy in the high wire act with an ever thinning wire. Grant is exceptional in the way he peels this way throughout their "tribulations" of their holiday slowly revealing a bit more of Withnail than perhaps he care to share.

This initially reveals itself most in a night scare where Withnail believes one of the locals is seeking revenge against the men for an earlier verbal sparring. Grant maintains a certain respectable level of the actor's dignity, yet makes it rather phony as he reveals a real dismay within his eyes showing a man who is genuinely fearing for himself, even as he tries to keep a certain distance of performance. It slowly becomes all the more grotesque in Grant's hands as not a single truth or reward comes from him. Even in a more comedic moment, such as driving to use his urine trick with the police, while funny Grant's work is that of a writhing in mediocrity. Withnail is a pathetic sort from the outset, but Grant is fantastic as he shows the wear of his method to hide this fact. Although amusing in part it does finally become something more as Grant's final scenes reveal it not only a facade for others but a comfort for himself. This is best reveleaed in his masterful final scene where "I" leaves, having gotten a job, and Withnail is left to stew in his nothingness. Withnail remains alone in the rain and Grant delivers a heartbreaking pathos as his expression is that of a man who has lost something important. Again though in the act of performance there is this attempt at comfort, this time by performing Hamlet, which while we once again here the command of a great actor, it no longer can hide the sad lonely man beneath it all. This is great performance by Richard E. Grant, essentially creating a slowly decaying portrait of a performance of a more dishonest sort.