Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Best Supporting Actor 2018: Adam Driver in Blakkklansman

Adam Driver received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Detective Philip "Flip" Zimmerman in Blackkklansman.

Blackkklansman is a good enough film following an African American cop, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan.

Adam Driver, who was perhaps the most consistently recognized aspect of this film throughout this awards season, actually has a fairly limited role in terms of scope of character, though large in terms of screentime. Driver portrays the most seasoned undercover detective who ends up working with Ron to investigate the Klan. We meet him initially as the two monitor a speaker with ties to black radicals. It is there that we come to know the character with Driver in the role. Now I won't go to speak to a German man again in Paterson New Jersey to cover Driver here, but Driver is an actor where there is a certain fascinating quality just to his normal presence. It's a little off-beat and intriguing by nature, which is a good thing for Flip who is a pretty straight forward character in the scheme of the film. We know him really just as a competent, devoted cop, who is casually a good guy. This is immediately evident on the debriefing on the speaker where Ron believes him not to be a threat, and Driver delivers Flip's agreement with this as a direct confirmation. This is not of some guy who is overly passionate, but rather just is firmly doing his job, as a decent man.

This remains much the same once he begins the investigation into the Klan with Ron. There is a touch of a dismissive quality towards Ron, though as a rookie cop not as an African American, that Driver delivers well as just a bit of dry ribbing such as when he remarks on Ron using his own name in order to establish contact with the Klan. In order to infiltrate it further though someone obviously needs to take Ron's place, which is Flip. Initially Driver just again hits the marks of professionalism as he preps for the job, and begins his work as an undercover man. Now in the undercover scenes Driver gets to stretch a bit more, though still in a limited sense as a man putting up a front. Driver though is very good in portraying sort of the duality within the character as he deals with the situation. In playing the racist, while actually being one of the targets of the Klan as a Jewish man. Driver realizes this sort of hollow passion, as brings the needed conviction to be believed by the Klan members, while in his eyes expressing no truth within the words. It's a delicate balance that Driver pulls off well as he is believable as an inside man, while also managing to let the audience in on Flip's own feelings on the situation.

Driver's work is important as in a way he facilitates a bit of the humor of the situations involving the Klan members stupidity, by giving such straight laced reactions, or attuned over reactions that Driver plays as sort of as these hidden bit of derision towards them. In this though the film never becomes about Flip truly, despite being the focus of so many scenes, leaving his arc about his Jewish heritage rather limited. Driver though still does some particularly fine work in realizing the little bit of this we are granted. The most notable instance of this being when he opens up to Ron about thinking more about his Jewish heritage. It's a strong scene from Driver as he makes less a grandiose statement, but rather realizes it as this rather subtle bit of self-reflection in Flip. There also a especially strong moment during Flip as fake Ron's initiation to the Klan. It is just his line delivery as Flip has to state being a non-Jewish pure Aryan race. Driver doesn't make it this hesitation, that would kind of give away the truth to the onlooking Klan members, but does find the right awkwardness alluding to Flip's discomfort even as he succeed in playing the part as the Klan member. That moment is essentially what Driver's performance is, which is a lot of strong little moments. We don't delve deeper into his self-reflection, nor any aspect of who he is beyond the investigation, being Jewish and a good man. Driver however makes the most of what he has to work with, and is especially important in helping the film's tone find balance with his careful and subtle work throughout.


Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the retirement home scene in Chinatown.

Calvin Law said...

Interesting. I’d go for a 4.5 but he is kind of limited I suppose. Quite glad he has his first nomination though.

Emi Grant said...

I'd go with a 4.5, too. His scene where he opens to Ron and his confrontation, especially his line "For you it's a crusade, for me it's a job", really connected with me.

It's really nice to see Driver get a solid first nomination.

Mitchell Murray said...

Well I'm in agreement here as well. Part of me thinks the role itself, regardless of the actor playing it, would've been a part of interest within the context of the film. After all spend a lot of time with Zimmerman, whether bouncing off of Stallworth, or in the infiltration scenes themselves. The part is important to the film's success along with the lead, and so I can imagine almost any competent actor gaining some traction within this movie's awards campaign.

That's not to dismiss Driver's work, though, as he is quite good here. Like you mentioned he does employ his unique screen presence to create an inherent intrigue in Zimmerman. More importantly, his portrayal is layered enough in showing the facade of Zimmerman's racist behavior, while also revealing the needed introspection whenever he does get a chance to shine. A solid performance overall, from an actor who's consistently impressed me, and I for one am glad to see Driver get some deserved praise for being as reliable as he is.

Bryan L. said...

I concur with Calvin and Emi regarding the 4.5 and being glad about his nomination.

Although for some reason, I've always figured that his Star Wars nemesis, Oscar Isaac, would get one first.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: Thoughts on The Sisters Brothers and Blindspotting?

Matt Mustin said...

Also, I'd probably give Driver a 4.5, but I mostly agree.

Michael McCarthy said...

If it's not too much trouble, could I get your #21-25 for films of 2018? I wanted to see if any of the other best picture nominees or Sorry to Bother You made the cut.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Yeah, Sorry to Bother You had massive staying power with me.

Bryan L. said...

Robert: Your overall thoughts on the Oscar nominations?

Charles H said...

A 4 or 4.5 sounds right. He's the best thing about the film for me and i'm glad to see him being recognized. I assume Washington may be reviewed for alternate lead?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the casts of Blindspotting and The Sisters Brothers.

RatedRStar said...

I am very happy to see Adam Driver as an Oscar nominee, he fully deserves it, this is how actors should get nominations, keep starring in good films and dont star in bad ones.

RatedRStar said...

Bryan L: I give you my word, he absolutely loved it this year just as much I have, never seen a happier man =D.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on Sophie Scholl and ratings and thoughts on the cast. I see you gave Jentsch the win over Young-Ae.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: If you're not saving John David Washington for the Alternate line up, could I have your rating and thoughts on him?

Bryan L. said...

RatedRStar: Glad to hear that. Also would you mind saving a bit of sprinkle dust for me if...*shudders*...Vice/Green Book/Bohemian Rhapsody (besides Malek) win anything on the big night? D:

Calvin Law said...

I got around to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Which I actually liked a great deal more than the original - the songs in particularly are superbly done.

Seyfried - 3
James - 4.5
Streep - N/A
Baranski and Walters - 3
Wynn and Davies - 3
Brosnan - 3 (his singing still isn't good but they actually make a really good use of that in one scene in particular)
Firth - 3
Skarsgard - 3
Irvine - 3
Skinner and Dylan - 3
Cher - 3.5
Garcia - 3

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top 10 Damian Lewis acting moments.

RatedRStar said...

Bryan L: My wand is at the ready =D

Calvin: Why N/A for Streep, does she say Hi then leave lol? I haven't seen it so I dont know.

RatedRStar said...

I am still having dreams about Mark Kermode reviewing the original Mamma Mia lol.

Calvin Law said...

RatedRStar: She’s fine but it’s little more than a cameo if I’m honest.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Apparently, Sharlto Copley was the other actor WB/DC had in mind for the part of Black Mask, before they cast McGregor. Do you think he would've been a better fit there?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Steven Knight re-adapting A Christmas Carol with Tom Hardy potentially starring.

Matt Mustin said...

Bryan L: That's actually a much *worse* choice, I think.

Louis Morgan said...


It's a great scene for Nicholson of course getting to show yet another side of his sort of style as a Private Investigator, though now with Dunaway allowed to briefly get in on the fun. Nicholson does a great bit of cheekiness as he shows Gittes essentially in his element of pulling the ruse.


The Sisters Brothers is a western, so I'm about halfway there to begin with, but a Frenchman's western well that is intriguing. From that, despite some minor pacing issues, get rather fascinating look into who are essentially typically the colorful henchmen of any other western. Here though we get two extremely memorable protagonists of sorts, on a most unusual quest and journey, with a most unusual dynamic. I won't get into that too much as I'm going to get into much more detail pretty soon.

Blindspotting I thought was a fantastic entry into the bromance genre, that I'll admit does make Green Book look amateur hour in more than a few ways. It fits right into films like Pope of Greenwich Village, Mean Streets, and, though more serious here, White Men Can't Jump. In that it builds off the two interactions so well, with everything else they come across as sort of the "plot" just excelling because you so much believe the interactions between the two and the men's dynamic. It probably would be higher on my list honestly, but I have to admit, the final scene, which is obviously suppose to have the greatest impact, just didn't work for me at all. I refer solely to the choice of making it a rap. It was just a bit too much of an overtly stylized turn, that felt ill-fitting to the tone of the rest of the film.


Ahmed - 4(He gives a good performance as the man with the uncompromised heart. Ahmed offers the right sincerity to the character showing just this sort honesty that seems almost ill-fitting to his time and place. Ahmed finds the right passion within it conveying the sincere devotion to essentially humanity that is perhaps a bit lacking in a few of the other characters.)

Gyllenhaal - 2.5(Once again another overly obtuse turn from him. He's trying to really express his range here beyond the emotional, and sadly once again it doesn't work. It feels far too much of a performance and in turn keeps from creating the right chemistry with Ahmed to build more in their scenes together. Instead Ahmed has to essentially do all the heavy lifting.)

Kane - 3(Lovely to see her in anything, and she is quite good in her few moments conveying in just about a minute her complicated relationship with her sons.)

Diggs and Casal - 4.5(I do believe both are lead, Casal is definitely on the border though, however I feel the structure of the film leaves both characters as essential, leaving them both to lead the film essentially. The two are terrific together in just exuding the history of the two guys so naturally realizing their moments of genuine friendship and ease with one another. Even in their conflicts that come about their interactions are so natural that you feel years of pent up frustrations in these outbursts rather than just in the moment. Now their performances are effectively two sides of a coin with Diggs given an understated work, though with a palatable internalized intensity, against Casal who gives a more grandiose turn though with an internalized vulnerability and desperation. The two are great in sort of playing off each other in showing their conflicts in moments of one going up and the other going down, in this constant flux. The times they do meet, are in just their friendly banter, but both so effectively find every bit of each man by how they are with one another. Also though I don't think the scene worked on a conceptual level, Diggs definitely pours his soul into the finale, and I do love Casal's little reaction to the end of it all.)

Louis Morgan said...

Jentsch - (Her performance is essentially the film and the film is quite good, as she is pitch perfect throughout. In that she manages to convey every part of the journey of Scholl. In that she brings the quiet sincere determination of a young woman with a righteous cause. It is never one note as she finds so much understated yet powerful passion in her work. She however does not make her this simple distant martyr. There is such a lived in quality within her work, as you feel you get to know Scholl, even as her experience is so brief. She's terrific in conveying the sort of "game" against her interrogator. She's effective in having her moments of sort incisiveness but also attempts at manipulations as she tries to get away, with her life and the lives of her family. In addition though she also effectively, though quietly, conveys the very real understanding of her fate, though in a courageous particularly poignant fashion. It is dynamic and distinct work every minute she is onscreen.)

Well what I'm really asking is where's that Bennett Miller version I've been hearing about. Any who, Christmas Carol doesn't need to be adapted again, as 51 and the 84 versions are already a strong standard. Having said that I do think the story is powerful enough that another adaptation certainly won't hurt. Hardy is quite young for the role, but I'm interested to see what he does with it, as well as what Knight will do with his adaptation of it


Definitely not, Copley's voice really is not attuned for "menace".


Washington - 4(Sure, as re-watching the film I certainly liked his performance, however he, and honestly the film I've found loses a bit of its impact. Washington certainly gives a good performance though it largely relies on his charm. A considerable charm that he's thankfully inherited from his old man. He makes for an endearing hero to be sure, and pulls off those moments well along with his romantic scenes. He's also good with his bits of wry humor, mostly through his reactions, in his scenes with interacting with Grace's David Duke. I don't think there is too much beyond that as his moments of self-reflection too are brief and don't add up to anything too substantial. It's a good, never underwhelming performance mind you, but not more than that in my view.)


21. Mandy
22. Sorry to Bother You
23. Avengers: Infinity War
24. Widows
25. Deadpool 2

joe burns said...

This was a really well thought out review- it definitely makes me more interested in seeing the film.

Do you think he's good in Star Wars lol?