Sunday, 10 May 2020

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1983: Jonathan Pryce & Jason Robards in Something Wicked This Way Comes

Jonathan Pryce nor did Jason Robards receive Oscar nominations for portraying Mr. Dark and Charles Halloway respectively in Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Something Wicked This Way Comes tells the story of a circus coming to a small town, which doesn't wish to entertain. The film is appropriately "spooky" and largely effective, though you do sense a bit of a compromised vision in parts.

Although a Disney film, which partly compromised what seemed to be the stronger vision of director Jack Clayton. The director of the masterful ghost film The Innocents, this film isn't on that's level, however the mind behind that film's greatness can be seen here in parts. The easiest example to be seen in one Jason Robards, a noted dramatic performer who does not choose to phone in or in anyway sort of give a live action Disney turn of the more forgettable ilk. In fact Robards's performance, I won't beat around the bush here, seemed prepped for a masterpiece.  Robards playing the father of one of the technical central characters of the two boys, Will and Jim. Robards's Halloway the town's librarian who we come across initially as an aging man, though Robards grants the brightness of someone more than willing to still show a nice warmth to his son. Robards reminding me of bit Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, as not an excessively loving father in terms of the specific presentation of that warmth, however that sense of love is still granted just by the way they internalize it in their work. It is just fact, and Robards realizing that in his performance is something special in itself, and essential for where the film goes. Robards's is typical no nonsense presence though is just a great choice for a supernatural horror film. This as we see him just seeing even the early signs of it, Robards brings a weight and reality to it, that establishes the horror quite effectively even before it begins.

Robards work in general though offers a remarkable depth here as we see the man pondering the eerie storm that predates the circus, and his own weak heart. In the former Robards is the film's greatest asset in creating a sense of dread. This in just his whole expression of observing the strange night sky, he grants the sense that this is something more than just a bad wind. Robards pondering the latter he finds a real nuance within the idea. This sense of a quiet regret in his eyes of a man who just has almost a slight shame of not being able to be what is wholly expected of being a father, in terms of what he is physically able to do with his son. Robards has an exceptional moment where he speaks to the time when people die. Robards is amazing in the moment as he expresses in his delivery the certain anxiety of his own fear of potentially dying, but built around the old man trying to comfort his son as he speaks. This as Robards finds such an effective complication as the man wishes to put his son at ease while also in his eyes showing the sense in the man that the concern is very much real. In Robards's performance the idea of the weak heart is not just a plot point. Robards rather develops within his work to create a real sense of how it places this almost shyness within the man, this certain repression of spirit, even as we at the same time still get a strong sense of a caring and loving father all the same.

Of course the storm but preludes the circus and Jonathan Pryce in a rather early role, as the aptly named Mr. Dark. Now having such a name you won't be surprised that he isn't just your average sinister circus owner, but rather someone far more sinister. Although Pryce would become I think better known for his authoritative villains later on, his knack for it was evident from the outset of his career as shown here. Pryce's whole manner is just about perfect in just having that fitting unnerving stature. This of a man who just seems a little bit off, even when simply handing out flyers for his circus or free tickets. Pryce though is particularly effective here in delivering that sort of graceful menace of his. This is as Pryce here doesn't really even raise his voice. He rather speaks with that refined voice of his, and in doing so creates that unique sort of menace. This as Pryce portrays his Mr. Dark as a man who has a particular ease in his state of being, and fittingly Pryce makes him more so a force of nature than an evil man so to speak. This as Pryce speaks each word with this nearly entrancing quality fitting a man who wishes to pull each of his victims in no through threats but rather temptation. This as Pryce couldn't be more inviting in his manner as he speaks with a slight smile and manner as though he he truly is an impresario bringing in the crowd. The different however though is that glint in Pryce's eyes though that grant that diabolical nature of the man, so evident in his name. Pryce's performance though properly owning the evil, as there is no reason to hide the nature of a man called Mr. Dark after all, and grants that Mr. Dark is as this unnerving character even before he has made a single legitimate threat.

Although the two boys accidentally uncover the sinister nature of the circus the real hero of the film is Robards's Holloway, and in a way becomes the man of heart versus the heartless, ironic given Holloway's heart condition. I love Robards's performance here is it is decidedly unexpected in this sense, since he is the hero, but an easy journey for him this is not. This as we see in an essential scene where Holloway recounts his scene where he wasn't the one who was able to save his son, because his father never taught him how to swim. Robards is amazing in the moment as his expression instantly recounts the anxiety of the original moment, and the pain of the certain type of failure as a father. Robards is powerful in the scene because he shows within it because as he describes the failure it is not just an idea, rather a real sense of experience as recounts. Robards making Holloway not a flawless hero, though even in this description we still again gain the sense that it is the regret as it is tied for the unquestioned love for his son. Nonetheless then we find Holloway as the man who must stand up against Pryce's Mr. Dark. The first scene between them showing the strength of each of their performances. This as Pryce again is so curiously, and effectively, insidious here. This as the slight shake in his voice, still so eloquent, though in that just that slight variation in his voice we sense an unnerving rage. Robards is great against him in portraying the blunt reaction to the strange man. This certainly a sense of resilience as he notes the importance reading, but more than anything, Robards eyes accentuate the man actively trying to decipher the strange, and clearly nefarious man. Love in particular though Robards's directed delivering of "boys, what the hell is going on", as he does so offering such a realistic honesty in the moment. The two naturally then are lead to a confrontation, really of spirit more than anything. Mr. Dark initially getting the upper hand, in a scene that Pryce brings a vile relish to the man just enjoying the pain he inflicts upon others, and importantly maintaining that certain omnipotence as he does so. Pryce playing the scene up beautifully of Mr. Dark fully in his element as he terrorizes the boys and the aging man. Robards is excellent though in showing that within this conflict Holloway's fears are very much genuine, as his physical wavering and anxiety are palatable. This with Robards granting a real honesty to the horror. Robards in turn makes the moment of the turn far more poignant and powerful though then finding the man capturing the spirit again. This again in bringing forth that sense of love that was always evident, but finally put forth in a more energetic and open manner within Robards's performance. This film works best when Robards and Pryce are applying their trade, this as both so well realize their characters within the scenario. Pryce making for appropriately fiendish yet magnetic devil as needed for such a tale, and Robards going even further perhaps in offering a real power in his portrait of a vulnerable yet honest man who stands against the evil that infects his town.
(For Pryce)
(For Robards)


Calvin Law said...

Still need to figure out a way to see this. Did not know Clayton directed this, intrigued me even more.

Calvin Law said...

Also your thoughts on Clayton as a director overall? Seems like he’s someone who’s vision was often compromised but when it was shown to its full potential it shows he could’ve been one of the all-time acclaimed greats.

Robert MacFarlane said...


No seriously, who do I have to swear indentured servitude at Disney to get that missing footage?

Louis Morgan said...


His career is not that of a "one hit wonder" director, even though he has that masterpiece under his belt in my view with The Innocents, since even his debut film Room At The Top, I think was one of the better "angry young man" films, particularly regards to the directorial eye. As a non-screenwriter director, and apparently somewhat tempestuous career in both personality and relationship with the "brass", seems as though it lead to his oddly short, yet long career, of 7 films in the span of 30 years. In a way though I think the only outlier is The Great Gatsby, where he took such an austere approach, though as someone who doesn't hate that adaptation, I do think his work in the intimate interior scenes wasn't without merit, even if is vision of the period seemed oddly muted. The rest of his work I think each is of a greater visionary, but perhaps held back for one reason or another. The Pumpkin Eater, an experiment that doesn't entirely work however Clayton does create a striking film, this film (Studio interference), and the Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, which has a sloppy screenplay, and is perhaps too miserable for its own good, but Clayton makes that misery quite vivid. I think perhaps he was someone who perhaps found the wrong projects or sought them out, I only say that as the more in need of style in terms of his material, the better, in terms of his own achievement. The greatest being that seemingly perfect paring of script and filmmaker in The Innocents, it's a shame that sort of kismet didn't have re-occurrence, although maybe it did...and Disney just got in the way.


Now that's a hashtag I could get behind.

Lucas Saavedra said...

Louis: what are your ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

Matt Mustin said...

I rewatched Seven for the first time in years and I'm once again struck by how David Fincher is able to take a script that actually seems kind of standard on paper, for the most part, and turn it into a masterpiece.

Matt Mustin said...

I also appreciated Brad Pitt's performance a lot more this time, because I saw what he was doing.

Tim said...

Let's talk About the "101 greatest screenplays" list by the WGA from 2005. Are there any movies in there you think do not belong at all, or not as high? (I know you do not like American Beauty, i myself don't like Harold and Maude)

And which movies after 2005 would you think would be on there if the list were done now? I am one-hundred-percent sure About No Country for old Men and The Social Network, the possibility is high for Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Maybe Brokeback Mountain.

Emi Grant said...

Tim: Whiplash and The Favourite instantly come to mind.

Calvin Law said...

I don't think American Beauty, Notorious, Manhattan, Star Wars, or Witness (even though I really like the latter two) really deserve to be on there, Eternal Sunshine and The Lady Eve are pleasant surprises.

For post-2005 films:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
There Will Be Blood
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
The Lives of Others
The Hunt
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Social Network
A Separation
Phantom Thread
Little Women

Are a few that would come to mind for me as worthy inclusions.

Tim said...

Calvin i never really got the dislike for American Beauty by most people on here. I love that movie to death. Why exactly would you say it was not really deserving? (I also forgot to say that i would not include Star Wars in that list either)

Calvin Law said...

RIP Jerry Stiller

Calvin Law said...

Tim: It’s just one of the most surface and shallow explorations of the American dream I’ve ever seen, like a pulped down Death of a Salesman delivered with all the subtlety of Philip Roth but without the necessary substance. Also hate the whole ‘whodunnit’ structure it builds towards and several monologues I’d consider among the nadir of Oscar-hungry fare.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the 'Brave Sir Robin' scene and song from Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Would you still consider Game Of Thrones as Pryce's best work.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is Robards a lock for The Ballad Of Cable Hogue.

Also, for the next 70s year I'd rather you did 79 before 70 as I would like to get some requests in for the latter to ensure a 10 lineup.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Could I have your thoughts on the direction and screenplay of Lion? I rewatched it today, and I really hope Kidman can go up to a 5 for it. She's easily my win for 2016 supporting.


Next years I want to see Louis’s renalises: 1936, 1942, 1946, 1958, 1966, 1972, 1976, 1998, 2002, 2009 and 2016.

Luke Higham said...

Brazinterma: 1966 and 2002 are coming soon. For the 2010s, 2014 needs to be next since it has the most requests right now out of that decade.

Anonymous said...

Luke, how many fives do you hope Nicol Williamson will get.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: At least 3 overall. The Reckoning is a certainty and I'm feeling fairly confident about Excalibur. He might do really well with Hamlet (1969) as well.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I'd say that for any great actor, I usually hope for at least 3 fives. It pains me that Paul Scofield or Ralph Richardson (Long Day's Journey Into Night) will get no more than 2 and I would hate to see Christian Bale stuck on the same total for many years to come.

Calvin Law said...

Tbh in Scofield and Richardson’s case, consistency is a big case for their greatness - in my books neither ever gave anything less than a very good turn.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: But the unfortunate thing for me is that Scofield didn't do as much film I would've loved to see him do. He would've been extraordinary in 1984 as O'Brien.

Aidan Pittman said...

Tim: I could easily see Get Out and The Social Network on there. There Will Be Blood, The Master, and maybe The Dark Knight (Jaws and Star Wars are there now, so why not) could be there too. Others in mind are The Favourite, Little Women, Her, and Django Unchained.

Louis Morgan said...


Peterson & Carson - 2.5(Both are just fine no more no less. They're not cloying but they don't really take the roles anywhere in terms of their own work. This leaving Robards to carry the scenes, which works out fine, but I wouldn't minded a bit more from their performances. Although they are not bad.)

Fischer & Grier - 3.5(Both are rather effective in portraying this sort extremely detached faux affability. This as Fischer as the supportive carny and Grier as the alluring one, each though completely make every word hollow that makes both quite unnerving in the best of ways.)

Everyone else is more than fine in their rather small roles.


I'll say the list overall, most choice I can get behind, though some of the ranking I'd say I have more of an issue with. Also I think they should've just said English Language only as the almost token inclusion of 8 1/2 and Grand Illusion, makes me immediately go WHERE ARE KUROSAWA AND BERGMAN.

In Bruges and a either The Master or Phantom Thread for some Anderson recognition.


We'll see.


It's a funny scene amplified that song which does sound very much like your generic minstrel ballad, the humor being in the lyrics that don't quite add up. Then the setup of the ornery three headed knight is a good, particularly as it sticks to them as brave Robin runs off.

Garth Davis's direction of Lion's first half, I'd almost say an antithetical work to Danny Boyle's for Slumdog Millionaire, both stories of Indian children being lost in the streets. In comparison to that film I much appreciate the approach that feels more honest to the story, though perhaps there is a perfect middle ground in to bring a bit more energetic vibe but to not go full Boyle. Davis's approach though largely works in the first half in creating just a genuine tangible feeling to the boy's various encounters and granting a sense of trying to figure out his situation. The highlights of this approach however are found in the focused acting moments, particularly first scene with Kidman, Wenham and Pawar, which is beautifully done in Davis's restraint. I'd say in the second half is where the approach suffers a bit, as there are many scenes of just Patel looking on the internet and being frustrated. The second half really the actor focused scenes are the only ones that really stand out, and there are points where Davis probably needed to show his hand a bit more within the lulls in the narrative. I will still say though, his approach to the reunion though again is fantastic by that restraint, as we just kind of walk there with Patel, and there is something really poignant about the casual discovery of it.

The screenplay by Luke Davies does successfully get the power of the true story across, and that is perhaps the most essential thing. We get enough of a sense of the family, then a sense of the child journey, which is well written within its simplicity. The most complex element in a way is the focus on the adoptive parents, which again is strong element of the work, particularly the "explanation" scene as written. I think in the second half is where Davies's work though again might've done to just to give a bit more life to Saroo's life, particularly the relationship with Mara's Lucy which is simplistic to fault. The lulls are left in there, which other than to create a sense of frustration, they do diminish the narrative thrust. It is a work where you feel it could've benefited for either expanding that section ever so slightly in detail, I mean this could be a simple as just getting a little stronger dialogue to push through lulls, or eliminate some of it. Either way it is a more than decent screenplay that successfully maintained the power of the true story.

RIP Jerry Stiller

Jack Narrator said...

After 1983, I hope that or next will be 2002 only for the final destination of the Lord of the Rings saga, Peter Jackson and Bernard Hill in the Louis review

John Smith said...

Mark Ruffalo is delivering goat material.