Saturday, 21 December 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999: Results

5. Anthony Wong in The Mission - Wong manages to give a particularly impressive turn, as he manages to find depth in a paper thin role.

Best Scene: Relief after confrontation.
4. Gary Cole in Office Space - Gary Cole masters the art of malevolent indifference through his consistently hilarious turn.

Best Scene: Meeting the two Bobs.
3. Harry Lennix in Titus - Lennix gives a terrific turn as he revels in the insanity of his story and makes the most of his villainous part.

Best Scene: The Moor's confession
2. John C. Reilly in Magnolia - Reilly gives a beautiful turn managing to find such a genuine heart in his portrayal of a caring but lonely officer of the peace.

Best Scene: The date.

1. Robert Carlyle in Ravenous - Good prediction Michael McCarthy. Carlyle gives essentially several different brilliant performances in one. This as a haunted victim, a rabid scoundrel, a devious fiend or as a most peculiar philosopher.

Best Scene: Calqhoun goes loco.
Updated Overall

Next: Going on semi-hiatus until the Oscar nominations, though as is becoming tradition, I'd appreciation any recommendations for films from this year, years I've already covered or animated, TV films or documentaries from any year.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999: Anthony Wong in The Mission

Anthony Wong did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Curtis in The Mission.

The Mission follows a group of hitmen hired as bodyguards for a marked for death triad boss. The film certainly has style, potentially a compelling plot even, but sadly it is a far too thin on character.

The idea of the hitmen working together seems prime for some colorful characters and some great interactions. Well unfortunately that's is not the case with either the former or the latter. All the hit-men are painfully underdeveloped with barely even a minor gimmick to set each one apart. The most compelling of them is Wong's Curtis, not because he's written any better or because there is anything particularly different about him in terms of the scenario, rather it is because he's played by Anthony Wong. Wong's a naturally magnetic actor so that helps of course, but it is really everything about his performance that grants the slightest hint of a substance to Curtis. There is nothing in the dialogue or anything more, but Wong manages to fashion a world weariness in his manner that grants  a history to him in every scene. This is as he brings the ease of the true professional but the way he maneuvers in the group he grants a sense of separation and exasperation of a man whose been through before, perhaps too many times. There is both of sense of cool that Wong brings to this, but also that sense of wear. Wong delivers so much in his eyes, in just the way he examines a situation and looks upon the other hit men. You see Curtis quietly examining the men and the situation, and again evokes the sense of the man's long time in the business. Of course none of this is actually seems to be in the script. Wong just seems to making the character up really with just some extremely perfunctory lines to go with, which are largely stand around and say one line of action or exposition. Wong though does everything in his power to make something of his part of the film, this includes the completely unearned climax where the hitmen have to face one another. Wong's emotional intensity in the scene is terrific and reflects a substance we sadly are not warranted in the film. His final scene is also a brilliant piece of acting of the face of satisfaction of the man finally being allowed to lose through the tension of the job and the situation, while being able to do so with his head held high. I have to commend Wong here, because he makes something out of nearly nothing and one can only imagine the great performance he could have delivered with an actual three dimensional character.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999: John C. Reilly in Magnolia

John C. Reilly did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Officer Jim Kurring in Magnolia.

Magnolia follows the intertwined stories of the various desperate people heading towards a biblical connection. John C. Reilly is an actor who has had a rather atypical career. This in that he hasn't exactly ever been set within his place as a performer, even though he's not quite a character but isn't exactly a leading man either. What that does though I suppose is leave Reilly as an actor who can surprise, and was able to surprise throughout his career in terms of the roles he would play. Before the 2000's attempted to pigeonhole him somewhat as a comic sidekick, something he did well but even that has only been part of his career, he was more so directly a reliable character actor for mostly indie fair in the 90's. The highlight of this portion of his career being his collaboration with then up and coming wunderkind Paul Thomas Anderson. This in his secondary leading turn in Anderson's debut Hard Eight, a memorable supporting turn in Boogie Nights, that in someways would prelude his later comic turns, then finally here as one of the essential characters of the film, being the focus of his thread of the overarching tapestry. This thread perhaps attempting to give you the most hope in humanity in showing us Reilly as officer Jim who opens the film as he attempts to investigate a domestic disturbance.

Reilly is wonderful as Jim even in these scenes in the very professional respect as he does his job. This as Reilly makes the most of his voice, which often is used for comedy for a reason, with its certain softness and general affability. Reilly wields that particularly effectively here though in delivering his lines of the officer with that general affable quality though constricting it slightly. This making Jim's statements do command the appropriate authority as he speaks. This with Reilly making this very specific emphasis on words of Jim doing his job, portraying well this sort of confidence in attitude approaching doing his work while also presenting the man as attempting to disarm any hostilities at the same time. Reilly manages to make a convincing combination between a man who is enforcing the law but also attempts to do it in a way that does create hostilities if necessary. I especially love how Reilly manages this as it would been easy to make Jim come off as a jerk, but creates the right balance. This as even as Jim becomes rightfully flustered at a woman hiding a dead body from him, Reilly even asks the necessary inquiry of  "what the hell is this, Marcie?" regarding the body, he still suggests it as not an immediate judgement by rather offering the opportunity for explanation even as Reilly portrays him as rightfully shaken.

The crux of his performance though relates to when Jim comes across the daughter a famous game show host, Claudia (Melora Walters), based on a noise complaint. There is many a detail Reilly gets impeccably right about this, but the first of them may be his absolutely sincere expression of love at first sight when he initial opens the door and sees Claudia. It is a pitch perfect closeup by Reilly as he instantly expresses his instant infatuation with her. All the same though Jim attempts to do his job first and foremost, and again it is on the surface where Reilly does also excel. This is that Jim not only investigates the disturbance but also technically lectures on it. This seen earlier as he asks a little boy, attempting to give him clues, to not swear and when talking to Claudia and asking her to remember to keep her music low to respect her neighbors. The sort of lecturing tone though is one of the best things Reilly realizes though as he manages to deliver these with a sternness but this underlying warmth. It is just a bit though as Reilly manages to accentuate this positive sense of concern even as he pries about a visitor that upset her. Reilly is able to create again that balance that is definitely of a police officer who takes his position seriously, however no one who abuses his power, but rather someone who wants to make sure that everyone is safe and can live their lives.

The first scene of Jim actually is preparing for his day, where we also hear him leaving a message for a dating service that helps to define the character, and Reilly's performance. Unlike many of the things that may cause a desperation, we don't actually see this in Jim truly, rather even in this opening this need is delivered as a hopeful statement, essential in creating what is at the center of the film a beautiful, if troubled relationship. After that initial reaction I love that Reilly doesn't pile on the infatuation but does portray Jim making sure he does his job first and foremost. This all except the immediacy of his concern of her earlier domestic disturbance, that Reilly delivers with such strict sincerity as he asks her not to joke about a murder police code. Reilly eyes evoke only the absolute concern, although even this is not of purely someone he is smitten with but also just as a caring police officer. This is until he leaves where he does ask her for a date, and I love basically how scared Reilly makes Jim in this moment. It is this wonderful combination of desperation and affection, of a man who knows the situation is not ideal, but also conveys this need to make a potential stand towards happiness. Although between then and the date, Jim unfortunately gets lost in the rain, into a fire fight and loses his gun. A moment of complete desperation where Reilly is moving by making this anxiety even has the same earnestness of a good man, in a rough situation. The date itself is one of my favorite scenes, in a film I love, given that both characters are operating on a different wavelength, yet the same one at the same time. I love it as clearly as Walters portrays Claudia on the verge of a breakdown, Reilly portrays solace in the complete and utter fascination he has in her as a man genuinely in love. This is even as he reveals his own desperation, Reilly is able to even speak the words with a sense of comfort not to explain himself as broken, but rather show he too is in no way perfect. Reilly throughout the scene is great because he portrays Jim's love so directly against the cautiousness of Claudia, right down to that perfect immediacy of his "yes I do", when she asks if he wants to kiss her. I love Reilly's work here as it carries such a real tenderness, particularly in his final narration that underlines each word as a man, a police officer, who doesn't define his life through judgement but rather concern.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999: Gary Cole in Office Space

Gary Cole did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bill Lumbergh in Office Space.

Hey what's happening. Umm, I'm gonna need you to read this review, okay, that would be great. Well, the thing is, it is important to make sure you recognize Gary Cole. Yeah, recognize him, because you don't want forget that, mmmkay. Yeah, it's his work here that's essential to the film. Right. You see his performance is one of those that works based on playing just so well into a one note, that defines the character, and doing this is what would make be great. You see, Cole's slow nearly monotonous delivery that borders between a indifference and a sinister disregard is what helps to make his lines just work so well okay. You see as a representative of corporate VP monotony Cole accentuates that monotony as insatiable and effortlessly consistent. A hilarious degree of indifference to common decency, that is malevolent while just so very relaxed and "approachable". But here's the thing, the hilarity of the performance very much exists within its strict consistency. I mean what's happening, is that Gary Cole is sort of underrated as the stylized comic turns go, and here's the thing, Cole's work is iconic for a reason. Mmmaky, see it's just great how he can just give such a wonderful portrayal of caring so little, with so much disregard for anyone other than his TPS reports. Hey, here's the thing, though I just need him to be funny in a few more situations, and he is by again maintaining that consistency, mostly. This in a fantastical nightmare scenario of Lumbergh having sex with the same degree of monotony as asking for someone to come in on the weekend. Yeahhh, and just take the moment for his one scene of defending his own job, where we get a break from the typical Lumbergh stability, with a great eye shift before returning to his old chestnut, of "yeah". So what I'm slowly saying here, this is a delightful portrait of pure evil.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999: Robert Carlyle in Ravenous

Robert Carlyle did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying F.W. Colqhoun or does he...in Ravenous.

Watching Ravenous once again, it once cemented itself as one of my favorite relatively modern films that was critically panned. This in its realization of a tone that tips towards just the right type of ridiculousness while still effectively telling this horror tale/western of sorts. Where I already covered Guy Pearce in his essential straight man performance as the conflicted Captain Boyd who is sent off to a remote army base after an act of heroism/cowardice in the Mexican-American War, I did not give the time to Robert Carlyle who first appears as a stranger who wanders into the base late into the night. A man who claims to be a survivor of an ill-fated trek into the mountains which led to cannibalism. Carlyle, using his natural Scottish, brogue at this point is merely the beginning of his brilliant performance that will stand on a ledge, however here though that doesn't appear to be the case This is as Carlyle delivers Colqhoun's recitation with the absolute sincerity and honesty. The crippling fear is real and grants the tale a truly haunting quality. This in his eyes of presenting a man who has seen an absolute horror in this experience and a man nearly broken by the experience. There is no reason to suspect anything is afoot with Colqhoun as not only do the character's words seem to ring true, as does Carlyle's performance which seems to be that of a damaged survivor. Of course the soldiers who decide to go to the cave where the horror occurs, as well as the viewer have no idea just what Carlyle has in store for them.

The first inkling comes as Colqhoun comes in with the most unexpected behavior of licking the wounds of one of the soldiers on the trek to the cave. This even though Carlyle portrays this effectively as a madness related to a trauma. Again though Carlyle depicts this with earnestness of this through expressions of a self-loathing and fear of the spoken action. An anguished admission of a man pained by seemingly this overwhelming guilt, more than willing to be bound by the man to ensure their safety. When they arrive to the cave of cannibalism and murder, we see Colqhoun fall upon his knees in gripping terror, which again Carlyle presents as the sheer truth of it that disarms any concerns. This becomes a fantastic bit of physical performance by Robert Carlyle though as this initial writhing of a man earnestly in pain slowly segues to this strange madness. This as grips this animalistic, wolf like, manner in his flaying hands, an jutting motions that is just great in creating this transformation in the man, as it is revealed that he is in fact the murderer and cannibal having led the man into a trap. That it is just hunting season for the man, and just fair game for a bit of insane entertainment in Carlyle's wild performance. This as he quite fittingly becomes quite rabidness, practically drooling as he bears his teeth in great delight to literally seek the blood of the men.

I love Carlyle's balance here as he does purposefully go into the heightened, to the point though that it is just is marvelous for the film's intentions. This as he does carry a genuine menace as he reveals himself as this monster, but is also just a blast to watch as he goes about it. This in that amazing grin that bears his face, and darting eyes that are both of a blood thirsty psychopath, and a man having the time of his life. What makes it so special to me though is it is a brilliant darkly comic performance all at the same time, with he exact timing of reactions. I especially adore his wild smirk just after the man revives from a gun shot that should've killed or at least severely injured a normal man. The Carlyle's sheer joy is that of perhaps the joy of performance, but also just a perfect fit for this cannibal enjoying every last moment of the hunt. Essential in the success of this I feel though is Carlyle doesn't become one note, as extreme and potentially, and somewhat purposefully, absurd of a note he is working with. Carlyle though knows exactly how to play with this absurdity, by offering that balance and knowing exactly when to amp it up and tone it down a bit. Another favorite of mine of the sequence being his hilarious delivery of "that is so annoying" when a gun misfires on his target, that Caryle brings such a great casual manner to, before returning to his diabolical predator eyeing his kill before telling him to "run".

I mean I would probably already be satisfied with Carlyle's performance here as he already delivered the believable portrait of a survivor, then a completely deranged turn as a man consumed with animal lust for humans, but Carlyle still has not one but two more shades to play. This is after Pearce's Boyd, the sole survivor, returns to the camp, and finds that his new commanding officer is one Colonel Ives, who just happens to be Colqhoun. Carlyle is fantastic in demonstrating yet another character here portraying a cool and collected manner, further amplified by now fashioning a refined accent for a proper soldier it would seem. Of course no one believes Boyd's outlandish stories, leaving him as the only one to accuse Ives of being the psychopathic cannibalistic murderer. Carlyle is once again quietly hilarious in his overly unassuming manner as the "innocent" Ives just seems confused by the questions and suspicions of Boyd. Again though I love how Carlyle moves between the face of such innocence, to these perfect little knowing glances towards Pearce, saying without saying "Yes, I know exactly what I'm doing here, and you can't do a thing about it". This eventually leaves Boyd in the sparsely populated camp with Ives as the commanding officer, and it is in this where we get what might be my favorite single "performance" of Carlyle within this performance, although that's hard to say for certain. Carlyle nonetheless is amazing as he portrays the man in his most devious form, though also seemingly most civilized no longer burdened by a fake anguish nor currently lusting after blood, being quite satiated at the moment.Carlyle though now fashion almost a whole new villain, even if it feels like a natural extension of the rabid cannibal we had met before, in portraying this sinister charisma as he essentially preaches the worth of eating other humans. Carlyle is magnificent in that he brings such understated yet palatable passion and conviction within these statements. He absolutely dominates these scenes with this overwhelming presence of a man with far greater power at his disposal. This creating a sense of an absolute command of a man truly made virile by his most unorthodox means, and now quite assured in his path to conquer through cannibalistic ways. This as he attempts to tempt Boyd into joining him, while also mocking him a bit, which Carlyle portrays with such maniacal glee. This is again as it is just fun to watch Carlyle perform here, even as he also completely sells this completely ridiculous idea in a way that works for the film and for creating a truly striking and memorable villain. This is every phase of the characters though as Carlyle gives a great performance whether he is the broken man, the growling monster, the confused soldier, and the uh...life style guru.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999: Peter Sarsgaard in Boys Don't Cry

Peter Sarsgaard did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Lotter in Boys Don't Cry.

Peter Sarsgaard portrays the central role of the film of one of the eventual rapists and murderers of the central character of Brandon (Hilary Swank) after discovering Brandon to be transgender. Sarsgaard's performance, though overall small within the overall scope of the film, is an essential facet of it. Sarsgaard's performance is interesting in that he has a limited amount of material to work with however does make a striking impact, well beyond the obviously horrible actions of the man. Sarsgaard's work isn't that of the traditional timebomb, that of the slow descent, but rather that of a landmine. This is as we first meet John as appears to be at least a slightly charming good old boy who befriends Brandon. Sarsgaard manages to deliver a very convincing charisma in the role. It isn't something that is too overt, yet it penetrates his scenes effectively with this strange allure. We see this particularly early on where he encourages Brandon to break the law by attempting to out run police through a dirt road. Sarsgaard's prompting has this cunning ease about it in that he is very much tempting the situation however Sarsgaard does well to downplay the moment. This in this particularly lurid prompting that makes his suggestions to do bad seem like the right thing to do as it seems just so easy. Of course Sarsgaard is also just good in portraying the seeming comfort of the man in the moments of cordiality between seeming friends and family. Sarsgaard portrays an amiability of a man when all things appears to be just fine for everyone, most importantly himself.

Sarsgaard though is a landmine though in that this in the portrayal of man slowly swallowed by his worst intentions. Sarsgaard rather reveals the real threat of the man throughout the film in moments of outbursts, aka any situation in which anyone causes John the slightest inconvenience. Sarsgaard depicts a chilling immediacy to these moments with a viciousness in the moments merely where John becomes slightly annoyed. In those instances though Sarsgaard depicts the intensity of a killer just set in a different direction. Sarsgaard delivers the vile hatred even in the moments of just kicking people out of a car showing the true nature of the man simply as something dormant, but also ready to come out at the slightest push. That push coming out in full force once John discovers the truth about Brandon leading first gang rape then the eventual murder. Sarsgaard is terrifying in these scenes of sheer brutality by delivering the visceral hate of the actions, but also just the lack of any hesitation. Sarsgaard portraying the ease of the act due to it simply being the nature of the man he had shown throughout the film, but had not allowed one to realize its true terrible potential until it was far too late. Sarsgaard avoids any cliche regarding the character, particularly for basically a psycho hillbilly, rather presenting directly both a real man and a real killer.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999: Bryan Brown in Two Hands

Bryan Brown did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Pando in Two Hands.

Bryan Brown plays Pando the head local gangster, whom Jimmy (Heath Ledger) is attempting to get in the good graces of, though does anything but throughout the film. Brown's performance on the immediate surface seems to be right in the line of the mentor gangster characters. Of course Pando really isn't too much of a gangster, though seen by such as Jimmy, however Brown emphasizes this idea in his performance. This as even as we see him seemingly in his "might", Brown adds a bit of posturing in his manner of calling Jimmy for a job. Brown showing a man who certainly believes in his own power, though perhaps isn't so much if you scratch the surface at all. Brown emphasizes this furthermore as we see him in his place with his men, where he plays board games, rather than any typical gangster fair. Brown's portrayal of this though is just with the slightest bit of intimidation, as lightly as possible, and really not far off from a standard boss rather than a legitimate gangster. Brown portrays a rather casual manner, that effectively borders at first between a man just comfortable in his space, as questionable as that is, but also perhaps too comfortable in perhaps just being a layabout going in for easy money. The latter perhaps becoming the truth the more we get to see of Jimmy. After Jimmy accidentally fails his first mission to deliver 10,000 dollars, we begin to see the bad side of Pando. Although again Brown is hilarious by still keeping the same manner as really essentially just a lazy man, as he casually discusses needing to kill Jimmy with the same manner as he speaks to one of his kids.

Brown is terrific in that he does create a slight menace merely in that casual discussion of "doing" a guy, while still at the same time slowly revealing that Pando is far less than Jimmy had thought of him in more ways than one. What I like most of Brown's performance though that in the technically pathetic nature he brings out of Pando, he also does reveal a bit of humanity, even if misspent in a way. This in his delivery of treating Jimmy's girlfriend, even as he intends to murder Jimmy, with the absolute courtesy and even a bit of sadness at the whole thing. He emphasizes this all the better as he and his crew take Jimmy to be killed. This where Jimmy offers a real alternate, Brown expression of a real fear and worry, as though he may being doing the wrong thing. Brown in a sense portrays both how at the same time he's both a terrible gangster and human being, even though he is attempting to be both. That sequence opens the film, however we eventual return to it into a scene of wonderful dark comedy as Pando and his crew fail to kill Jimmy due to having only a corroded gun to use. Brown is hilarious in his delivery of his frustrations as he questions his men, again being so earnest in his concentration while also so lacking in any real menace. Brown portraying a man trying and really failing even to be a proper, non-gangster boss.The final nail of this though is in Brown's final scene where Jimmy comes back, with the money. This with Pando initially misunderstanding as an attack, and the all too weak delivery Brown offers as he tries to instruct his men to kill Jimmy before he pulls out the money. Brown's wonderful in the shift to overly accommodating in praising Jimmy for doing a job well done, and again the failure of the act is what makes Brown's performance works so well. This as we see nothing but a fool pretending to be so far more than he is, which is only confirmed when he finally has a gun in his face, and Brown shows only but petrified fear in his "cool" gangster. This all being one wonderful long act of Brown portraying his mob boss who the more we see of him, it all becomes an obvious act by Pando himself to be a mob boss.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999: Harry Lennix in Titus

Harry Lennix did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Aaron the Moor in Titus.

As I mentioned in my review of Anthony Hopkins's lead performance in this Shakespearean adaptation, Titus is a whole lot in every way right down to the original source material that is Shakespeare's most insane play. This requires one to absolutely try to own their space of it then in terms of the acting, which brings me to Harry Lennix. Aaron the Moor initially appears as one of the prisoners taken by general Titus (Hopkins), along with Tamora (Jessica Lange), Queen of the Goths and her two sons. Where Tamora's villainous ways are propelled technically by Titus killing one of her sons, Aaron the Moor is a villain basically because, why not. This idea something that Lennix holds onto, and runs with it, which is the best decision he could've possibly made. Of course as needed for such an approach Lennix reveals a mastery of the Shakespearean verse with the ease of his performance, this to the point he quite nearly sings the part. This making the most as the conspirator in the film whom we are given his direct thoughts as he goes about bringing about Tamora's vengeance. This including his earliest scene of rounding up Tamora's ridiculous sons, this Lennix delivers with an impeccable command in his manner that evokes the control Aaron seizes towards the plan, with piercing eyes with a focus on some specific target of his that is without noble intention.

Now the one argument one can make for his great motivator is his affair with Tamora, however even this Lennix delivers as something Aaron brandishes. This lust not defining his own motivation, but rather just some further enjoyment in his living experience that is that of the fiend. I love Lennix's physical manner in these early scenes where he portrays this calm manner. This that does two things. The first that is that of the man to avoid suspicion as he seems as though he is but an observer, however also in this Lennix offers also a man seemingly in the perfect seat to enjoy the chaos he has wrought. My favorite instance of this being as he encourages Titus to cut off his own hand in order to receive a pardon for his condemned son. Every single one of Lennix's reactions plays beautifully into the absurdity of the situation, however by granting a sense of sinister son. The highlight of this being his sort of sly glance of joy of "here we go"just before cutting off Titus's appendage. Lennix portraying Aaron as basically living his best life in the moment, that brings the needed heightened style really both to the film's style but also really the absurdity of Shakespeare's story as well.

Lennix above all captures a needed sense of fun to the material, which is essential as to take Titus Andronicus too seriously would be as serious of a mistake as writing serious too many times in short succession. This even in the reveal of his affair with Tamora through Aaron's child with her, with Aaron bluntly putting to her unknowing sons that he had indeed "done their mother", which Lennix delivers with a perfect shamelessness. Aaron deeds though eventual do meet their natural end as he becomes the prisoner of Titus's noble son, Lucius (Angus MacFadyen), although Lennix's performance is only just getting started at this point. This as Lennix reveals his "deeds" in order to save his son. Lennix to his credit naturally brings just a bit of sincerity within his expression of concern for his son, and effectively connects that concern as the only humanity the Moor has to offer. Lennix is marvelous as subverts that only humanity instantly as Aaron begins his confession. This instantly with such insatiable glee in every word in describing not only his affair with empress but also the destruction of Titus's family including the rape of his daughter. Lennix delivers each line with such devilish jubilation and such intense venom in every breath. Lennix captures this spirit of evil, not defined by a specific vengeance, but rather this thrill as though this endeavor has been the man's life calling. Lennix is absolutely magnetic throughout his speech of a true misanthrope, as he speaks of his thousand evil deeds with his only regret not committing a thousand more, which Lennix offers with the swagger ill-fitting of a confession however ideal for a boast. Although Titus frequently doesn't work, every moment in which Lennix takes center stage it does. Lennix offering such an entertaining work, which finds the ideal tone for the material, in creating the one fiend in the story who suffers no delusions regarding his fiendish ways.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999

And the Nominees Were Not:

Harry Lennix in Titus

Robert Carlyle in Ravenous

John C. Reilly in Magnolia

Gary Cole in Office Space

Anthony Wong in The Mission

With Additional Reviews of:
Bryan Brown in Two Hands

Peters Sarsgaard in Boys Don't Cry

Alternate Best Actor 1999: Results

5. Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut - Cruise fulfills the general needs of his performance however never seems ideal for the general needs of his character. 

Best Scene: His confession.
4. Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out the Dead - Cage delivers the more expected extremes of his insomniac paramedic, however it his more subdued moments that perhaps leave the strongest impression.

Best Scene: Saving the dealer.
3. Anthony Hopkins in Titus - Hopkins delivers both the needed gravity for any Shakespearean performance, but with a sense of fun needed for the work that is Titus Andronicus.

Best Scene: Some nice pies.
2. Heath Ledger in Two Hands - Ledger delivers a terrific early star turn that manages to effortlessly balance the romantic, dramatic and comedic elements of his film.

Best Scene: Confronting Pando.
1. Jim Broadbent in Topsy-Turvy - Broadbent gives an absolutely winning turn in his approach as a humorous man who takes himself very seriously.

Best Scene: His inspiration.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1999 Supporting

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1999: Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut

Tom Cruise did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. William "Bill" Harford in Eyes Wide Shut.

Eyes Wide Shut is Stanley Kubrick's final film around a man's odyssey after his wife confesses lecherous thoughts to him.  

The pairing of Stanley Kubrick and Tom Cruise from the outset doesn't sound like an ideal pairing. This is with Kubrick often being almost a "prop master" in his use of actors to serve an extremely specific purpose, against Tom Cruise who one can almost say is an auteur actor, in that a Tom Cruise vehicle usually means a specific thing and image. Now to be fair, until his most recent decade, Cruise seemed to attempt to pepper in non-commercial challenges within his overarching famed career of  being a matinee performer. The thing is though Cruise's forays into the non-commercial usually were driven by turns from him that are forceful Cruise turns, showing a different side of his ability, however typically using his known strengths in a way to further his range, like in the same year in Magnolia, later in Collateral, or even in Tropic Thunder. In this film though, Cruise plays our "average man", which one could almost say is a mistake in a sexually charged film that is this. In that Cruise is an actor who doesn't have an innate sexuality onscreen. This is not a commentary on any rumors or the like regarding Cruise,there are many actors without this quality, but in terms of his natural screen presence is that of asexuality. This as the love story rarely is the focal points of any successful Cruise film, not that it is an extreme void, but it isn't what defines Cruise as a performer.

This again all adds up to a strange combination in Tom Cruise in a Stanley Kubrick film, as Tom Cruise in incapable of simply being a man, his own screen presence is too strong for that, being far more ideal for early Kubrick, and for a film about sex, you have Cruise who is not say an early Brando in that regard. I mean then again, perhaps that was all in the grand scheme of Kubrick, who is an infallible genius...to some...who believe he made every decision with such meticulous purpose, even when it seemed like a bad decision. We have that possible here with Cruise who is not an expected choice to see wandering the streets of NY looking for sexual answers. Although then again it does offer that later day Kubrick clinical quality he seemed to love so much, as the film is not particularly raw for being about the base human need. It is instead particularly one can examine when you have Cruise seemingly more a curious observer himself than a man dealing with lusts of every kind. A curiosity then is what the film becomes, as does Bill's journey where he finds himself in strange situations, creepy costume owners, orgies, prostitutes, drug overdoses, sexual fantasies, however in each of these, well except maybe the drug overdose, Bill is but an observer. This in only further emphasized in Cruise's performance which keeps a distance from that material almost at all times. This maintaining that late Kubrickian detachment, intentional perhaps, but the right decision, well that's a different question.

The film itself was made in part as the starring pairing of the then married couple of Nicole Kidman and Cruise, which I would imagine didn't help matters there, but I won't speculate too much. Their interactions are limited however, with the fissure developing between the married couple in the film early on, that propels Bill on his strange journey. Kidman quite frankly is a performer who seems more ideal Kubrick, where Cruise would've perhaps been better served back in the mindset of Kubrick when he was working with Kirk Douglas. This as in their scenes together Kidman stands out more in working within the style of Kubrick, where Cruise does seem a bit lost, although that serves his very lost character. I will say the actual performance that there is beyond looking around looking confused, or looking slightly lustful, are not at all poorly performed by Cruise. The extent of this though is always curiously limited, as the man always keeps himself from going the next step, and in turn we keep Cruise at that distance. There are the two more major moments of interacting with Kidman, first in hearing her confession then making his own. In both Cruise does capture the emotional distress of the situation. The rest of the film Cruise is within that limitation, to the point that even when he is learning about strange things, and eventually finding possible answers, Bill still is the quiet observer. The quiet observer that Cruise doesn't portray poorly by any measure, in that he captures enough of a reality to the strange situations, and anxiety in each moment. It is not a bad performance, even if the character doesn't seem at all ideal for Cruise's strengths as a performer. This may have been intentional as those who view Kubrick as infallible would likely say. This as Cruise could be seen himself placed in situations alien to the performer, reacting with the same distance, as Bill as an alien to his life situations, keeping the same distance. This as neither man takes that next step, neither Cruise fully exiting his comfort zone by going that next step of raw sexuality on screen, nor Bill breaking out of his faithfulness towards his wife. I will however, always contest that casting the charisma absent Ryan O'Neal was a fundamental mistake of Barry Lyndon therefore will not accept the Kubrick as infallible view. This while I don't think Cruise's casting is as detrimental to the character, I too have a difficulty finding that I cannot see a better path with a performer more ideal for the material, the character and indeed the director.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1999: Jim Broadbent in Topsy-Turvy

Jim Broadbent did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying W.S. Gilbert in Topsy-Turvy.

I rather loved Topsy-Turvy, which tells the story of Gilbert and Sullivan attempting to stage a comeback of sorts through the Mikado.

The film borders on an ensemble piece as it does take time with just about every element of the eventual production, focusing on the various characters in and around the Savoy theatre. The man who gets the greatest focus fittingly is the man who without would've made the creation of the Mikado simply impossible, that being librettist W.S. Gilbert played by the always reliable Jim Broadbent. Broadbent having rather a challenge in the character of Gilbert, given that the man is essentially a living contradiction. A contradiction that serves Broadbent's approach to the part which is as a humorous man who takes himself very seriously. This as his most essential professional output involves being a mostly comic wordsmith, who is partial to, as his creative partner Sullivan says, Topsy-Turvy ridiculousness. Broadbent's performance then has two main objectives, one to make sense of this man, and the second to make this man work within the film which takes a lightly comic approach. The sense of the man is within his life that while he has a caring wife (Lesley Manville), he has a troublesome relationship with his father and distant, and all importantly humorless, mother. Broadbent's performance then creates this sense of logic within the character's repression as spurned by such a childhood.

This is as Broadbent presents very much one side a man you would expect from such a life on the surface, which is always interesting for Broadbent for a reason I'll get to on the second part of his challenge. Broadbent though delivers a hardness in manner within the man. This physically stature as a proper businessman despite being an artist first and foremost. When the man discusses his idea with his wife or Sullivan, Broadbent speaks in hard delivery of a man as though he was simply discussing any old financial plan or legal action. This seeming without an obvious passion on the immediate surface. Broadbent carefully though doesn't specifically make Gilbert seem bored however, but this is a hardness seemingly ill-fitting to what it is that he writes. Of course we are party to more than just Gilbert as others see him, as we are given the moments of inspiration that he finds through a Japanese exhibition in England. Although even as this Broadbent portrays only the most careful breaks in the moments of interacting with his wife, which is quite different from when we see him admiring a sword from the exhibition alone in his room. We see him first goofing off alone, where Broadbent suddenly reveals a cheerfulness befitting to a truly topsy turvy sort, as not of that stiffness is evident in the man. Broadbent in this moment is not breaking the character, but rather revealing the humorous man that is at Gilbert's heart that was mostly repressed thoroughly by his childhood. This is further reinforced where we see him admiring the sword and Broadbent has a beautiful moment where his face expresses the true creative spirit in the sincere emotional intensity in his eyes.

Well with that Broadbent brilliantly explains Gilbert, however that still leaves a potentially stiff character in this comedy who needs to exist beyond the emotional revelations of the man, as strikingly performed as those are. Well thankfully Broadbent is the perfect man to deliver this in a way, as he is particularly well attuned actor for both comedy and drama, particularly in his voice that is marvelous in how it manages to both have a comedic light pitch, while still having a dominating depth. Broadbent knows exactly how to use this as he manages to be quite impeccably hilarious as Gilbert. This as even in those scenes of describing his silly ideas, Broadbent is absolutely comic gold in just how directly dry he is about every word, with this underlying conviction of sorts, that is properly, though naturally, ridiculous as Gilbert describes a contrived idea about a transformative potion. Broadbent's delivery of Gilbert's ideas becomes a consistent point of hilarity as he brings such refinement with even the most absurd words in Gilbert's rhythmic expressions. Broadbent's approach is wonderfully entertaining in the earliest scenes of the film, but only broadens as we see the man in action in terms of attempting to realize his project to his vision. Broadbent is fantastic as the seemingly tyrannical man dictating such specific changes along with way with few willing to stand up to his whims. Broadbent carries is this and is incredible in every single scene, particularly an extended one of directing the actors through a scene. Broadbent commands magnificently, and still quite humorously, as he delivers this intensity, without ever raising his voice, in each comment that alludes to a tremendous will to see his achievement to come to life properly. Broadbent so effortlessly delivers the comedy in each scene, while still maintaining the needs of Gilbert as almost a man to be feared by those helping to create his vision. Broadbent makes us see each part of the creative process through his portrayal of Gilbert, whose all his actions are of that of one sort, yet within the frame of existence another This is as Broadbent makes it just a natural part of the contrasting whole of a man who internally is funny truly passionate man, encased within the body of a proper Victorian gentlemen in every respect. In very much the same way Broadbent himself delivers an honest and striking portrait of an artist, encased in a most hilarious nearly deadpan comic turn. I loved this performance.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1999: Heath Ledger in Two Hands

Heath Ledger did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jimmy in Two Hands.

Two Hands is an underrated off-beat crime film, following a young wannabe gangster, who immediately screws up a job for a local gangster.

Well as with any Australian actor who breaks out internationally, there are ought to be an "early" catalogue of their work on their home turf. Unsurprisingly Heath Ledger falls into this group, as the same year he started the beginnings of his international breakout in 10 Things I Hate About You, he appeared here in perhaps overall a more substantial role as Jimmy. The young man trying to make his name through crime is a good starter role for many an actor, however for Ledger this quite a bit different than one might expect. This in that Ledger's work has more in common with a romantic lead than say Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, which actually makes for a rather intriguing off-beat turn for this type of story. It also allows for Ledger to utilize his substantial charm. This is something I mentioned in A Knight's Tale, however where it was weaponized by him in a way there, here it is realized within a sort of haplessness of the youth of the character. Ledger is wholly winning in this regard bringing such an likable eagerness even in the earliest scenes as the man attempts to make an impression with the local crime boss Pando (Bryan Brown). Ledger speaks of this desire though with an innocence that crafts such a likability for Jimmy, as we can see only the sights for a successful life rather any notion of becoming a true violent criminal or anything of that ilk.

Ledger's terrific by showing just as much interest in Jimmy in meeting up with the hopeful photographer Alex (Rose Byrne). This in bringing though a similar enthusiasm that has that same naivety in a way that very much accentuates the hopeful youth of the young man. Ledger exudes that beautifully here in portraying very much Jimmy as a young man with so many chances for the future, though perhaps not exactly thinking of the best way to achieve that. This as fortunes almost instantly shift for Jimmy, as he bungles his first job for Pando by losing 10,000 dollars, due to leaving the cash when he thought he had a potential chance to meet up with Alex early. After the initial intensity of attempting to find the money, having screwed up royally which Ledger depicts quite naturally though there is initially a little shift. This shift as Jimmy ponders just telling Pando what happened thinking he'd understand. Ledger is downright hilarious in this moment by once again accentuating really just how good natured Jimmy is as a person, and that thinking through this logic makes absolute sense for the young man. The dog eat dog world of the gangster just doesn't make sense to him, and Ledger delivers this as the honest world view of the optimistic young man.

This is even as he is targeted for death for his bungling, he still goes about to still see Alex for a date. This leads to a rather wonderful, and low key scene between Jimmy and Alex where they haven't had a care in the world for the moment as they speak to one another. Their chemistry is absolutely lovely as Ledger again is so charming through portraying this certain shyness in Jimmy as he broaches every moment of the conversation still, and the sheer exuberance as the two seem to find something special in each other. They play off each other perfectly in creating the sense of the mutual attraction in the two, and the understand of the two between each other as they speak of their dreams. Of course such dreams are potentially quite short as the date leads Jimmy right into the hands of Pando and his crew, who plan to kill him, despite Jimmy's pleas of getting the money through running a job. This in which we get two scenes of them dragging into the forest, split through their placement in the film, both which are highlights for Ledger. The first being just a darkly comic bit of brilliance as Ledger delivers Jimmy's attempt at a save through a phone number he doesn't know, with the same sort of attitude of a man attempting to ensure the man at the box office that he does have tickets to the show. Ledger's great in showing that the situation still hasn't fully dawned on Jimmy. When we do see this though, Ledger is incredibly moving in portraying again the strict honesty of Jimmy's pleas befitting a young man who really shouldn't be in the gangster's life.

Jimmy manages to just barely escape that demise in order to hook up with a few other local hoods by robbing a bank in order to get Pando his 10 grand. This whole aspect of the film being pretty terrific as a crime comedy, though never so broad that it breaks the overall tone of the film. Ledger adds to this greatly in just his casual manner as he sits along with his fellow "toughs" as he explains the need and use of a shotgun for a bank robbery. This nothing compared to the robbery itself, which manages to be a downright hilarious, though still tense, sequence. Ledger is surprisingly essential in this through his largely silent, and entirely masked performance. Ledger's body language though throughout the scene is pitch perfect in accentuating Jimmy's inexperience but also the ridiculousness of the less than professional bank robbers. Ledger's pitch perfect in the haplessness both of the entry as even his "proper" use of the shotgun feels a bit artificial. It becomes far greater comedy when one of Jimmy's partner's knocks himself up, leaving Jimmy to juggle more than a few things to make a swift escape. Ledger's inability to hold the shotgun, the money, and drag the other man, is properly labored and wrings out every bit of humor he can from the scene. With that great bit of climactic comedy, we are also given a great bit of dramatic climax as Jimmy brings the money to Pando, while also closing their relationship by brandishing a gun before leaving. Ledger has again two fantastic nearly non-verbal moments, first his threat to Pando where his face just bears the distress of the betrayal of the whole life and the anguish now presented towards Pando as threat, rather than fear within Jimmy. Ledger only topping that though with his expression leaving the place with just this sincere sense of relief in his expression fitting a man whose lifted a great burden of both his debt, but also of a life he never belonged within. This is a terrific performance by Heath Ledger as he manages the film's tone effortlessly, creating just an immensely likable lead we want to see succeed within the story of this atypical film. It's a proper winning turn from Ledger in every sense, showing that while all definitely appreciated his talent at the end of his all too short career, it was evident right from the start.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1999: Ralph Fiennes in Sunshine

Ralph Fiennes did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ignatz Sonnenschein, Adam Sors and Ivan Sors in Sunshine.

Sunshine is an effective enough film, though rather repetitive even if that is part of the film's intention, following three generations of a Hungarian Jewish family.

Ralph Fiennes is an actor I hold in a fairly high regard. He is though an actor who I feel is at his best when he is stretching himself in some way. Whether that is mining the depths of madness in Spider, bringing to life a disturbing real evil in Schindler's List, or his two brilliant largely comic turns of In Bruges and The Grand Budapest Hotel. In those performances Fiennes is more than sort of the generalized European leading man, which is not how he started, however it is how he gained some notoriety through his turn in The English Patient. Now, as the more expected role Fiennes is far from an underwhelming actor, he's good in "Patient", but it isn't the type of work that I consider to be Fiennes at his best. Of course, Sunshine does fall into the latter group, however the change here being he plays not one European romantic lead, but three. Here playing the three generations of men of a Jewish family that is slowly ingratiating itself into the Hungarian culture, potentially by losing their own heritage for the sake of upward mobility.

The first man Ignatz Sonnenschein is introduced to us initially as a humble romantic. Fiennes as to be expected does smoulder more than finely in his portrayal of the man wishing his romance with his cousin Valerie Sonnenschein (Jennifer Ehle). Fiennes portraying largely a modest charm of the man whose romance seems to be his greatest concern initially. There is a certain detachment through the film's approach within these scenes that are bridges through the narration of the grandson of Ignatz, also provided by Fiennes, that takes upon an observational tone that leaves the transitions of the man rather swift. This is as we witness quickly the man finding success within the Hungarian world by slowly giving up on his own family's life as a Jewish family. Fiennes portrays this initially with the earnestness of a need of a man just attempting to make headway in a world that he believes is impossible to overcome otherwise. This leaves the man first to change his last name, but this process continues as he begins to fully support the Hungarian political life despite its questionable morality.

We then witness the turn of the man as he becomes more intense and bitter, as his family questions his support for the emperor. Fiennes is effective in crafting that bitterness with that trademark intensity of his. The film's approach leaves him a limited range though as we see the parts of his transformation rather than the whole, until we are led with the ailing, angry man, we haven't really felt the changes just the end of it. It's fine work, but the limits are obvious. Well we then recent as we meet Ignatz's son we move to his son Adam, also played by Fiennes. Adam begins in a stronger position in the Hungarian society than Ignatz did, as a soon to be championship fencer. Again we see basically a reset with Fiennes as the humble, more charming man. Fiennes is indeed that once again however there isn't some great distance in character. He doesn't play it exactly the same, however the nature of the roles leaves Fiennes in a very similar part. This as we see the same trajectory as he becomes more confident through his successes, and in turn more intense in his moments of trepidation.

The major change is the man completely eliminates his history by converting to Catholicism, but this is done not as cold ambition, rather more as this lack of concern. Adam's story though faces a different tragedy as his intensity realizes itself as the fascist movement takes over and he, and his son, are sent to a concentration camp. It is here that Fiennes certainly does excel in the moment of portraying the adamant refusal to deny his stature, and that slowly crumbling physical will as the prison guards slowly torture him to death. This leaves his son Ivan, now played by Fiennes, to lead the film. This begins powerfully enough as we see a different gear in the grieving Ivan trying to explain the death of his father, where Fiennes effectively shows the anguish that penetrates his entire being, with a striking pain as he is unable to verbalize what happened. Again though the nature of the narrative switches from the humble broken man quickly to the revenge seeking policeman. Again Fiennes hits the gear as to be expected however it does feel very much the same. This final man being particularly limited as we see him just go from angry police man fighting against former killer of Jews, then against the Soviets who lashes against after he sees their oppressive ways. There is an intimacy lost here, and not on Fiennes but as the film examines it as this circular process. This circular process that is very much realized in Fiennes's work. This being we see the humble man, the confident man gaining status, the intense man fighting for or against some political upheaval, the lustful man in a forbidden romance, and then finally his end. Ivan having the least tragic end as he returns to his early humble ways attempting to once again regain his lost heritage. The sameness is not a criticism against Fiennes, as this is intended in the narrative and Fiennes does not portray man as exactly the same however every apple fittingly does not fall from the tree. This of course being already that romantic leading turn that I don't believe is Fiennes at his best, however here you have it three times over. Three good performances mind you, but only just that, which don't add up to some greater achievement in the end.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1999: Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out the Dead

Nicolas Cage did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Frank Pierce in Bringing Out the Dead.

Bringing Out The Dead is kind of the middle ground for Martin Scorsese's middle of the night in NY films, between the largely comic After Hours and the very dark Taxi Driver, here in a mix following a paramedic's long nights. I found it to be a largely effective film, if especially off-beat almost set to to be "lesser" Scorsese, however I'd probably say it's his 3rd best film from his 90's output.

As much as this may be the third part of a midnight trilogy for Scorsese, it is part of a far longer list of films from writer Paul Schrader who basically specializes in film's about men on a razor's edge. It is only natural then for Nicolas Cage to portray one of his written protagonists, specializing in men on an extreme himself, although this film and performance is perhaps bit different than one may expected from only hearing the general synopsis. This is particularly within the early scenes of the film where we come to know of his paramedic, Frank Pierce's experience within his strange world of very long nights. Cage's performance in about the first two thirds of the film is rather subdued, especially for Cage, though quite effective in establishing the state of his character. Now this is of course in a physical sense where one can become a bit fatigued themselves by just looking at Cage who is able to emphasize the insomniac state of the man. This with his worn eyes, his retiring physical presence, and his whole face just wearing too many nights within it. Frank is spent, and this is obvious from seeing Cage in the first frame of the film. Of course the nature of how he is in this state isn't just because he's tired, it is something deeper, something rather spiritual.

Cage for the first half of the film almost portrays the part as though Frank is a priest with some sort of faith self-examination. This is in his moments of staring into the eyes of the dead woman he failed to save, but also in his way of approaching the various people he helps. These people in a range of smelly drunks, self-mutilating crazies, drug addicts and just dying people. Frank speaks of seeing the spirits of the dying and Cage narrates with a contemplative calm. A man trying to decipher his existence while also being haunted by it all the same. In his moments of the man on the job Cage initially carefully administers a zen like conviction who is earnest in his attempts to help others even if exasperated by them. Cage balances well though within this approach the appropriate tone for the film. This as much as he creates that sense of exhaustion, and that haunted quality, there is also a sense of the every day nature of his job. This humor within his lighter calls of a man who has been doing it for a long time and has been able to have this casual demeanor in very strange, yet not particularly intense situations. In way this leads towards a detachment at times, befitting a man who when threatened to lose his job encourages his boss to fire him, as though it would be a sweet release.

Cage's performance exists well within playing off actually whoever it is that Frank is interacting against specifically. There are the more humorous beats that he emphasizes with that more casual almost sarcasm of sorts when interacting with his three "partners" of such extreme personalities themselves or the less dangerous calls he falls on. In these Cage plays well as strangely enough the straight man, despite Frank's peculiar state, though by showing this man on his wavelength that creates a certain comedy in his ease with such disparate personalities. I especially love his "are you serious" reactions to Tom Sizemore's especially tightly wound and violent paramedic. On the other side though is his relationship with the drug addict daughter of a man he "saved", really went into a vegetative state, Mary, (Patricia Arquette). Here Cage dials into these scenes particularly effective in trying to provide solace to the woman, while in his reactions conveying the way that Frank himself is finding solace within his interactions with her. These moments of calm within his otherwise haggard state. Of course this is a bit different though with his relationship with her father, who he envisions wants to die rather than stay in his state. This Cage garners a clever intensity though again of this sort of spiritual entrancement and guilt as he sees the dead man "speaking" to him. Cage largely, and effectively downplays this part into this subdued state of the troubled insomniac. The amount of sort of "Cage unleashed" that one expects from any given Cage turn, is limited to the scene of Frank on his deepest end, compelled by a bit of drug use and a bad trip of sorts. Cage thrives with this madness however he uses it selectively, however effectively though as these moments of release in Frank as side effects from specific extremes that push him that little more off the brink. This film doesn't have as concise of trajectory as many of these types of film, as his sort final act is something he's been toying with the whole time anyways, and is less of leap. His major change really otherwise is getting a decent night of sleep. Cage's performance works within the confines and within anchoring the film. It's a compelling turn within a more subdued approach to the man on an edge narrative.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1999: Anthony Hopkins in Titus

Anthony Hopkins did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Titus Andronicus in Titus.

Titus joins the ranks of other 90's Shakespeare adaptations in their attempts to "modernize" the bard through one method or another. Although most it doesn't tackle what is regarded as one of Shakespeare's great tragedies, but rather one of his more forgotten works about a violent roman general reaping that which he sows.

Although the film may not have what is considered one of the best Shakespearean texts, it does feature one of the great British actors, who always seem as though they best deliver at least one Shakespearean turn of note on film. Now the film itself is pretty messy in perhaps an admirable attempt to capture the camp insanity of the text that many have argued was Shakespeare writing a purposeful parody of violent tragedies. Director Julie Taymor seems to throw everything at the wall regarding the film's visual aesthetic which is quite frankly ridiculous. She's similarly less concise in the direction of the actors who are little inconsistent between the wrong and the right way of handling Shakespeare. The wrong way is trying to sound "hip"...I guess, by doing the Baz Lurhmann style of yelling every line or inflecting it with absolutely no emotion. I do say wrong way, because unless you grant meaning to the words you fail them, and really the best way to modernize them is to bring forth the emotion in a way that is universal, rather than treating it like a foreign language you failing to pantomime quite brutally. Thankfully the majority do take the later approach including, one actor with unquestionably the right approach is the seasoned Hopkins, who unsurprisingly has a great command of the bard's words.

Hopkins's work in a way is an interesting anchor within the madness of the film, in that he seems the most tangible, even as the rather unwieldy tragic "hero". This is as his initially appearance is befitting to the great actor's presence as he appears as the war hero, making a recent conquer while dispensing a bit of "justice" among those he has conquered. Hopkins wields his presence in his establishment of Titus surely as this force of not only war but of will. A man who commands more than respect in the way Hopkins brandishes himself. Hopkins in a way properly establishes himself as the poor Shakespearean hero to be destroyed as he presents this idea of power with ease and once again the grace of the general. This with that calm command that creates the force of will that is his Titus, even as the man defers any ambition to the chosen emperor of the foppish Saturninus (Alan Cumming). Hopkins, after this grand introduction, is fairly quiet initially as he initially attempts to fall in line as the new emperor requests his daughter be his bride. Hopkins only presenting a loyal man to a fault. This as Titus kills his own son after that son attempts to prevent this union favoring Bassianus's younger son.

Hopkins even in that act presents a man who distributes violence more of a form of what he perceives as a swift justice than an emotional act, even against his own kin. This as Hopkins effectively emphasizes the man living to his code as a servant of Rome, unfortunately this code favors Titus not, as Saturninus instead marries the vengeful Goth Tamora (Jessica Lange), who along with her lover and surviving son intend to reek havoc upon Titus who had defeated them all in war. This leading to a progression of transgressions upon Titus. First the rape and mutilation of his daughter, the framing and eventual death of two of his sons, and even the removal of one of Titus's hands in a faulty attempt by him to save those sons. These acts likely would destroy the mind of any man, and Hopkins delivers the sheer brunt of the emotion one would expect in a proper decay of the mind type of Shakespearean monologue. This in finally flowing the emotions of the man in a pit of despair at the news, and the sheer pain, both physical regarding the limb loss and mental, in the loss of his family members, as the man is worn down. Hopkins creating the most compelling imagery in the film is his the grief stricken face of a father and betrayed soldier.

Hopkins's work though still seems like we are waiting for something more, as it is up until this point certainly a striking turn, but we might expect more from Hopkins. Of course more we are indeed granted. and the last act is the highlight of Hopkins's work. This as he initially falls upon this daffy quality that Hopkins wonderfully plays as he seems to lose that power of presence, and becomes seemingly an assuming man gripped in madness. Hopkins presenting as a delicate insanity of a man just lost in his grief and lost in his thoughts as though he cannot face reality. Hopkins's right turn though is of course magnificent as once the sons of Tamora let's their guard down, Titus reveals himself as does Hopkins in just a moment of brilliant physical acting. This as when the seemingly harmless mad man Hopkins is a touched hunched over of a man too lost in himself to stand, then when he calls upon for the capture of the man he immediately straightens his posture to once again reveal the dynamic commander. This is taken further though as Titus sees fit to inflict his vengeance upon the two men. Hopkins wearing a striking and vicious intensity showing a man seething in disgust as he flawlessly delivers his Shakespearean monologue with great aplomb. A most worthy note is Hopkins's delivery of Titus's description of his plan to turn the men to "paste" with a calm, Hannibalesque, sophistication that slowly boils towards a quite literal animalistic hate as he makes his intentions well known.

Evidently Hopkins and Taymor disagreed on the exact interpretation of Titus, with both believing in the feigning of initial madness however with Hopkins believing him sane and Taymor still insane, though in different manner. Honestly either interpretation can be accepted as Titus's actions are quite reasoned in their intent, of a sane man, but also so extreme befitting an insane man. The important thing is Hopkins seems to know exactly what he's doing in the climatic feast scene that is easily the best scene of the film, where Titus plays chef serving a delicious meal of meat pies to the Emperor and Tamora. Hopkins is amazing in showing the affable defeated fool seemingly as he delivers the pies to his guests, however with this diabolical glee of a man whose plans are going exactly to plan. This as his meat pies filled with the meat of Tamora's sons. My single favorite moment perhaps being Hopkins's "yummy" reaction towards Tamora as she bites down, that is both hilarious and right in line with presentation of Titus admiring his craft. Obviously not the first time Hopkins has played a literal chef for men, and fittingly Hopkins is right at home in this sequence. The actual reveal of the trick though is a rather difficult scene to play, though exists as it does right in the original text, as we see Titus kill his daughter due to her condition, based on the "advice" of the emperor, before proceedings to reveal the sins of Tamora and dispatching her himself. Hopkins makes it work by certainly embracing the scene, but also in a way both being quite "reasonable" and completely mad. This as in the act of killing the daughter he plays the moment with the strictest gravitas as though it were a religious ceremony as a most carefully planned act by Titus. This is against his act of killing Tamora, where Hopkins portrays as a purely sweeping emotional gesture of someone truly caught up in the moment. This as a combination of abounding joy along with searing anger as delivers the coup d'grace as a man truly living this final act of his life to its fullest. Although I wouldn't call the film a mess, it is certainly messy, however Hopkins's performance manages maneuver itself through both the scattershot ideas of the direction and the madness of the source material itself, through his work that seems to understand both the substance and lunacy of it. His performance both furnishing the needed gravity for any Shakespearean performance, but with a sense of fun needed for the work that is Titus Andronicus.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1999

 And the Nominees Were Not:

Anthony Hopkins in Titus

Heath Ledger in Two Hands

Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out the Dead

Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut

Jim Broadbent in Topsy-Turvy

And a review Of:

Ralph Fiennes in Sunshine 

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Alternate Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor 1952: Update

Well here are some supporting turns I rather enjoyed. 

James Mason in The Prisoner of Zenda - Well as to be expected Mason takes on the role of the villainous Rupert with great relish. In the 37 version we had Douglas Fairbanks Jr. out of his typical element stealing the show, here we get Mason very much in his element. Although this performance is less of a surprise to be sure, he steals the entirety of the film wholesale with his turn where he very much emphasizes just how much fun the man is having as tries to find a way to rule a kingdom he has no right to, or at least benefit in its power plays in some way. Mason is cheerfully evil here, in a classic Mason way, and you can really get the sense of the joy of performance in Mason's work here. It is very much Mason in his most well known element, and in turn he of course does not disappoint. This as he shows a man who loves the games he gets to play for his schemes, perhaps more than the prizes he may gain from it. I especially love his work in two elements in particular. This being his relationship with his co-villain, the attempted usurper Michael's mistress. Mason does his lusty sleaze with such a devious style by playing the whole moment into how Rupert just finds any way to enjoy himself quite frankly. This of course even with Mason pulling off a bit of that charm of his, though funneled through some expertly performed creepiness. The other element are the action scenes where Mason isn't content to just be in them, but owes them with granting such a sense of sheer joy in every moment of Rupert's attempts at murder.
Ralph Richardson in The Sound Barrier and The Holly and The Ivy - Speaking of actors I suppose in his element here Richardson in two roles that share a great similarity yet are very different. In each film, for much of the film, Richardson's character is assumed to be something by the other characters in the film. In David Lean's The Sound Barrier, he's a research scientist whom his daughter views as heartless as he takes part in experiments that lead to the death of one test pilot after another, many of whom are very close to both of them. Richardson here has a purposefully limited role for much of the film, though that isn't to say he isn't still remarkable in the role throughout. Richardson projects this cold conviction rather effectively and in his eyes delivers that determination of a man intent on changing the world. His performance though is this time bomb of a way, as it builds up until the daughter confronts her father for what she perceives as uncaring and unconcerned. This is until she actually sees him as he listens to an ongoing test and a potential pilot death. Richardson in this moment is fantastic in portraying the sheer distress within the man eyes, powerfully showing the very real weight of the sacrifice within the man who is well aware of what is being lost. This only be amplified by his subtle yet striking silent relief in his expression as he hears one of his pilots survive. Richardson showing the good man within the cold conviction in a particularly believable way, because he portrays the moment not as a different man but rather this honest reflection of how this type of man who reveal his empathy.

This is essentially the same structure, though a very different character in The Holly and the Ivy, an early, and effective, example of the ennui filled family reunion genre. Richardson though here played a white haired parson, who for much of the film is man who is seen, but mostly spoken of by others. Richardson serves the role well actually by just portraying his part as a man who appears contented in the presence of quite simply his life. This with the occasional interested, curious if not perhaps concerned interest in his children as they visit, though they speak too little to him for him to be able to speak more. Of course as his family visits for Christmas, all with their own personal problems, they all assume that their pastor father will not understand their problems. This is until he directly confronts his son and daughter who both went drinking the night before Christmas. This as each first assume he will not know anything based upon two separate issue. The first with his son assuming he cannot understand troubles as a pastor. Richardson is downright amazing in the scene by playing such genuine befuddlement at the claim, which is followed by such outwardly moving portrayal of empathy. This being a far more open empathy than seen in his aforementioned performance, fitting to the pastor who is nothing by a loving caring father. I love Richardson's delivery of the pastor's response to his son, where his delivery finds this eloquent combination of disbelief but also the utmost sincerity as the man only speaks words of care and support towards every problem his son reveals to him. This soon followed by a similar conversation with his daughter, who believes him unable to understand her feelings of doubt towards her faith, because again of his place as a pastor. Richardson again is fantastic in the moment in now showing even more this sense of disbelief. Again within this Richardson wraps in this loving warmth in this though of a man hurt, though only hurt only towards his own apparent inability to prevent his family from misconstruing his personality and the nature of his faith. Richardson again excels though in only depicting a fundamentally good man, even as he speaks of his religion not in boisterous piousness, but rather through quiet reasoned words of a man whose own struggles helped cement his beliefs. Richardson is terrific as he once again makes this considerable impression, as this impeccably placed performance, by delivering the essential brunt of his film's emotional impact in one major revelation. In each, Richardson earns the build up, and doesn't waste the surprise in granting two powerful portrayals of two rather different men poignantly revealing their true natures.
Updated Lead Overall
Updated Supporting Overall

Next Year: 1999 Lead