Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Best Supporting Actor 2018: Sam Rockwell in Vice

Sam Rockwell received his second Oscar nomination for portraying George W. Bush in Vice.

Now on paper Sam Rockwell seems like a great choice for the former president with a specific energy as a performer seeming a proper match for the particular style of Bush. Well if you're looking at the result of great casting look elsewhere, not so much due to Rockwell's performance mind you, he's just barely in the film to be honest. Vice's main intention is a film to tell us how horrible Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) is as a person, politician, and the destruction he inflicted upon American if not mankind in general. Writer/director Adam McKay makes him as much a boogeyman as a person, to the point of an extreme simplification of history. This idea was touched upon by Oliver Stone in the better, though far from great, W., but even the notoriously unsubtle Stone granted a bit of nuance to the subject. That's not the case here to the point that the actual president during Cheney's reign as vice president is an after thought. This is as McKay views Bush solely as a puppet for Cheney to control, and so the former president and Rockwell are regulated to a few brief scenes.

One being a quick moment as the black sheep of his own family being drunk at a white house party. Honestly we barely get to see what Rockwell is trying to do in the scene as the glimpse is so brief. There is nothing to scoff at, because why scoff when there's nothing there. Let's jump ahead then to the cleaned up Bush running for president, inviting Cheney to be his VP, inter spliced with fishing footage, because GET IT he's reeling him in, thanks MCKAY!!! I wouldn't have known otherwise. Although because of that we still barely get to see what Rockwell is doing, but now it is clear enough to notice him. Rockwell whips out a bit of the rolling speech of Bush with a Texas twang, with the casual physical manner thrown in. We can barely hear this though as the scene is interrupted by Cheney's internal monologue just as we are by the film's obnoxious editing style. Again he's there but we barely even get a sense of the character. It's been called an SNL impression, which is not completely inaccurate (though slightly), but I'd say that is not Rockwell's fault. The problem is he only gets some scant unimportant lines speaking in generalities for Cheney. This makes it so we can only see the mannerisms, he's doing. He's not doing them poorly, the funny thing is, he's not trying to really be funny. He's trying to realize the character it seems, but the film's against him. The same occurs as he asks Cheney again, it's presented in the same obnoxious way, and again Rockwell is strangely in the background the whole time. In the situation room to determine how to react to 9/11, Rockwell is again forced to just sit and stare. He's got a fine, "I'm concerned" face going, but sadly again we barely get a sense of him. Rockwell manages a bit in portraying an unease and lack of certainty. Finally we get the most Rockwell is allowed to do in another discussion on the invasion of Iraq. Again the focus is on Cheney's manipulations, and in a rather simplistic way. Rockwell though delivers his line with a bit desperation showing the need to stand up to his father's legacy. The sense of it is there is in his performance, so good job there. I have seen some real negativity towards this performance, to which I'd say why? He's simply barely in the film. We only get a glance at him, so honestly what he's doing with Bush physically and vocally can't really "settle" for the viewer. He hits his marks, he hits the requisite emotion, and that's about it. The whole thing feels more like Rockwell's audition to play Bush, rather than him actually playing the part. I mean I'd certainly give him the call back, but I'd try to give him some better scenes to work with once the film starts shooting.


Matt Mustin said...

Rating and thoughts for Steve Carell?

Calvin Law said...

Huh, I actually thought he was trying to be funny, or at least I found him funny, and would go a bit higher. Best part of the film IMO.

Louis Morgan said...


Carell - 2(I may be even generous with this rating, as this and Beautiful Boy, have made me second guess his talents overall as an actor. Now I'll admit he might have been harmed by the direction, as it seems like the film was more overtly comedic, as he had a song number originally, so the more serious tone does him no favors. This is as he essentially is playing Brick from Anchorman. Of course I never found him that funny as Brick, and certainly did not find him funny here. Then again if we are suppose to take him seriously that's an even greater problem as he's full blown caricature for the majority of his performance. I mean he doesn't make a difference between the public and personal persona, he is just one heightened over the top note. An obnoxious note. That is except for his last scene, and the scene where he is briefed by Cheney in the oval office. It seems like in those scenes he suddenly realized the film was trying to be more serious and in turn he tries to find some nuance. Sadly it is far too late to salvage the rest of his work.)


Well Bush's mannerisms are kind of comedic naturally, but I don't think Rockwell was really pushing them to "be funny" so to speak.

Calvin Law said...

Well, glad this least interesting part of the lineup's out of the way. I have no idea which way you'll go for the remaining four reviews, will be interesting.

Emi Grant said...

Man, about a year ago I would've said that Carell was going to own the year. Quite a shame none of his films really worked out.

Matt Mustin said...

Emi: I think part of the problem is he *really* wants an Oscar, so he's picking projects that seem like they have potential to get him one, even if they don't.

Calvin Law said...

I agree with both of you guys. Funny thing is, though it didn't technically work out last year, I did think he gave two great performances in 2017, while giving 2 bad ones (Marwen unseen, I don't think it'll be great) this year. And the weird thing is they're almost parallels of one another. He plays a troubled father in both Beautiful Boy and Last Flag Flying, one doesn't work, one really does. He goes for a very mannered and comedic portrayal of a real-life figure in Battle of the Sexes and Vice, one is perfectly fitting, the other one isn't at all.

Honestly I think it's less that he should keep 'trying' for an Oscar, more that he should find roles which are suited to his approach.

Matt Mustin said...

Calvin: I agree that's what he *should* be doing.

Charles H said...

Well we all expected this. Carell and Rockwell had a poor 2018. Carell pushed it with Foxcatcher, Beautiful Boy, and Vice, but the thing is he's gotten close to an Oscar despite his poor quality work.

Mitchell Murray said...

Yah, this is about my thoughts on Rockwell's performance as well. Ideal casting, clear intent, but horribly limited in what he's actually required to do, with what should be a very interesting role. Honestly I feel bad for Rockwell more than anything because we've seen the terrific actor he can be, and I just hope his post oscar career yields more rewarding projects for him in the future.

As for Carell, I'm also in agreement with you guys here. He's a talented actor who can be rather wonderful in the right role, usually when playing to his naturally tender screen presence, but he really should be more careful with flamboyant/mannered characters.

Bryan L. said...

Mitchell: Rockwell does have a Waititi film lined up, so maybe he'll deliver with that.

Not surprised to hear that Carrell is heading back to television. To be more accurate, Netflix.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: can I have your thoughts on 'Revelation' from Boy Erased.

Calvin Law said...

Also, just to plug (as per usual) here's my thoughts/analysis of the Oscar nominations, I've decided to just cover them all in one post this year and then go straight into discussing my annual picks:


Bryan L. said...

Louis: Who would be your choice to present the Best Picture award, since they usually pick a Hollywood vet to do so? A "dream choice" and a more realistic one, to make it a little interesting.

And is Roma just on the outside looking in on your Top 10? If so, is there a chance it sneaks on there?

GM said...

1. Grant
2. Elliott
3. Driver
4. Ali
5. Rockwell

Bryan L. said...

Louis: BTW I'm glad "Meal Ticket" from Buster Scruggs has grown on you a bit. I thought I was in the minority on that one.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on Ready Player One and ratings/thoughts on the cast.

RatedRStar said...

I am just so happy that Rockwell did get another Oscar nomination, I actually do think he was the MVP of Vice, purely because he did what he had 2.

Sam Rockwell is a 2 time Oscar Nominee I can't stop being giddy about that lol.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your #11-#20 favourite films of 2018.

Lezlie said...

1. Grant
2. Driver
3. Elliot
4. Ali
5. Rockwell

Omar Franini said...

1. Grant
2. Elliott
3. Driver
4. Ali
5. Rockwell

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on this:

John Smith said...

1. Grant
2. Elliott
3. Driver
4. Ali
5. Rockwell

Bryan L. said...

Anyone here see either of the Fyre Festival documentaries that came out last week? If so, thoughts? I only saw the Netflix one.

joe burns said...

I predicted him to be snubbed in favor of Chamalet but Rockwell had leftover goodwill from last year and the Academy clearly liked Vice a lot which I predicted but I thought Rockwell would miss. Haven't seen this film yet. It doesn't sound that great lol.

Calvin Law said...

Has anyone else watched The Marvellous Mrs Maisel? I’m getting through it now and it’s a blast.

Álex Marqués said...

Calvin: yeah, it's awesome. Rachel Brosnahan is a star, plain and simple.

Calvin Law said...

Alex: She really is. I eventually persisted till the end of Season 3 of House of Cards and she was one of the big reasons.

moviefilm said...

1) Grant
2) Driver
3) Elliott
4) Ali
5) Rockwell

Charles H said...

Louis: Your updated top ten Robert Shaw acting moments.

Louis Morgan said...


Revelation is striking tune to be sure, pretty effective bit of the synth vocal blend style, with a bit of quite poignancy to simple melody. That builds rather splendidly to its chorus, as it manages to create a rather remarkable combination between sort of somber quality and inspirational one.


Have Mel Brooks do it, as in any modern appearance, he's still got it energy wise.

Otherwise get Anthony Hopkins, who is prestigious but not stuffy.

No, as my reservations are not likely to leave.


Ready Player One I found just mostly disposable sadly. I liked The Shining sequence, and a few others things, but mostly it just came off as hollow. The themes are suggested, but never really effectively explored for the most part. They just kind of say them without substance to them ever. In addition the use of all the IP sadly is equally hollow, and just a lot name dropping essentially like "the Valley Forge from Silent Running". Really the greatest benefit from it is the few musical cues that Silvestri uses, in his otherwise unmemorable score.

Sheridan - 2.5(He's awkward here past the point of what the character was meant to be, I think. As Sheridan onscreen comes off as awkward as a performer sadly here, and just seems to almost be trying too hard a lot of the time. He doesn't have the endearing qualities you'd want from a sort of cinematic awkwardness. Although having trouble with a mainstream fair is not the worst condition as an actor, perhaps he just needs some thing to graft onto to really excel as he did in Joe and Mud.)

Cooke - 4(Cooke on the other hand is an utter delight and does her absolute best to find a sense of fun for the film. Although I will say that birthmark is utter ridiculousness as a character part. Still all give Cooke all the credit for selling the self-consciousness of it against, her overall very endearing work when in her element.)

Mendelsohn - 3.5(I actually ponder if Mendelsohn is really tired of these standard villain roles at this point, because he is doing something a little different here, almost like he's just having some fun. He has this certain cheekiness he brings to a part that really is just evil corporate bad guy. He goes a little off beat at times I find, which frankly a good thing if he's going to be saddled again and again with basically the same part.)

Miller - 3(Fine troll voice that works effectively against the dramatic look of his character.)

Pegg - 2.5(Strangely wasted, part of the thematic weakness, as the subplot involving his character's wife seems like an afterthought.)

Waithe - (She brings a bit of off beat character that adds a little something a least to the proceedings.)

John-Kamen - (I just have to ask, why does she look just like Luv, from Blade Runner 2049, even though the films were produced around the same time.)

Rylance - 4(Rylance delivers once again, which ought to be expected, in his take of showing the man who is obviously on the spectrum. Rylance doesn't make this cutesy, but rather effectively shows the distance in the man. At the same he still the sort of internalized emotion within the man, that he has trouble conveying.)


11. Leave No Trace
12. Isle of Dogs
13. The Sisters Brothers
14. Roma
15. If Beale Street Could Talk
16. The Old Man and the Gun
17. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
18. Blindspotting
19. Creed II
20. Boy Erased

Impressively take on the monologue with a bit more intimacy demonstrated in Lewis by his approach, yet no less emotional in its execution.


Good to see you Joe.


1. guess
2. life jackets - Jaws
3. "Lonergan, you're gonna remember that name" - The Sting
4. First Attempt to Capture the Shark - Jaws
5. Destroying the radio - Jaws
6. Fingernails on a chalk board - Jaws
7. Killing a hostage - The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
8. Battlefield is home - Battle of the Bulge
9. Red Grant Revealed - From Russia With Love
10. Meeting Hooper - Jaws