Friday, 8 May 2020

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1983: David Bowie in The Hunger

David Bowie did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Blaylock in The Hunger.

The Hunger stands as the directorial debut of Tony Scott but also an outlier in his career. This as the film seems more akin to one of his brother's films, though the sort of extremes of the style are definitely that of the younger Scott, than the director who largely became known for his action pictures.

The film itself is a stylish vampire picture, even if lacking a bit in the screenplay particularly the ending which throws character motivation out the window in order for a bit of phony irony. This style though is almost purposefully trying to make it a particularly erotic, and you might say even glamorous approach to the vampire film. I suppose then who better to cast as one of the vampires than David Bowie, a man whose personal style seemed to so often defy convention, yet always seemed to capture one's imagination with such ease. Bowie is ideal for the almost sort "celebrity" vampire of the film, this as we see the couple, this being John and his wife Miriam (Catherine Deneuve), in two extremes immediately the film. The first the nightclub of a leather bar, where both actors not only have extremely idiosyncratic presences, but also are so powerful in this. Each as their eyes piercing as the two decide on their prey, perhaps you'd assume sexually, however we quickly learn this to be a different sort of lust, blood lust. Each really thriving within Scott's extreme aesthetic, as they just glow and amplify it in they do make the standard "vampire murder scene" something rather unique by the mere virtue of their fascinating performances. We see an alternative side though quickly enough outside of the "night life", this as the two teach music with John as a cellist. These two delivering a different kind of glamor, more traditionally so, and as effectively so. I will say the casting did half the job alone in making a uniquely fascinating vampire pair, by the fact that there just isn't anyone quite like Bowie or Deneuve for that matter, so the combination of the two is rather special in itself.

This "high life" though is short lived within the film though as John starts to aging, despite Miriam's earlier insistence that they would be together forever. Bowie and Deneuve, as briefly as we see them interact, do have that striking chemistry particularly in the brief scene of John turning a century ago. This is important though I find in that their performances though grant that sharply lustful qualities, though there is a more striking genuine emotional sentiment than I had expected coming into the film. This then Bowie portrays well initially an internalized concern, at the beginning of his degradation, as he speaks of how long does he have. Bowie instantly throwing any genre expectations out the window by portraying a man, even an un-dead one, in general need of help. This as he seeks help from an apparent aging expert Sarah (Susan Sarandon), who ignores his request. Bowie's whole performance is rather remarkable in portraying the physical decay, that he does not just leave to the makeup. This movement become more labored, and his eyes slowly grant a more haunted quality of a man seeing the death before him. This as he is particularly notable as we see him phases of this aging so quickly, yet so vividly in Bowie's performance. This right down to his voice becoming coarser towards that of an old man about to push out his final breath. Bowie finding the right horror of this within his expression that goes beyond just the rather impressive makeup effects along with his performance. His delivering becoming more desperate in each phase of a man in an agony and gripped within fear of his state. This in Bowie most remarkable scene where he goes about murdering Miriam's replacement for him in a vain attempt to save himself. Bowie's performance manages to convey the act in this state of exhaustion and despair. This failure only then followed by Bowie's near nothing of a voice as he speaks his final words towards Miriam, these as basically a walking corpse, that Bowie grants a surprising weight to as his performance grants the sheer agony of John in closer to a more literal living death. I will say well I wish the film had spent more time with the couple and developed them beyond the confines of the simplistic plot, what the performers do with the characters even within this confine is captivating. Bowie delivering his expected charisma to the role of the immortal, but then a surprisingly honest tragedy to what that truly means in the end.

53 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the cast.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: I signed* up for a month of The Criterion Channel just to watch the long version of F + A, and I get no thanks from you in return? Alright, I see how it is :/

*Ok, it was the free trial, but I’ll keep it for a month at least

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

This is without a doubt, one of the coolest screencaps for any review.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the production design for Motherless Brooklyn

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: My apologies. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. :)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on the costume design.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: All is forgiven :) To be fair though, I was already looking into The Criterion Channel, but seeing "F & A" on there gave me more reason to try it out haha

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Deneuve - 4.5(On one part this performance delivered exactly what I expected from him. This being such a powerful allure and charisma, that no need to second guess any seduction scene with Deneuve around as she just exudes that sway with such ease. She being a particularly convincing vampire seductress so effortlessly. I will say what surprised me though is how she didn't play it as an ice queen which genuinely surprised me. Not to say she played as the most moral of vampires, particularly in her trying to ignore John's slow demise then her attempt to addict Susan, but in her scene of seeing what has happened to John she portrays so well the real heartbreak in her. Deneuve plays it well in that while it is quite cruel what she is doing, she genuinely does love her victims, which I thought gave those scenes a bit more of a potent emotional element then there would've been as just a blithe evil. This in even her final scene, it isn't a sort "curses" for having her plot spoiled, but rather an actual sense of horror, at her chosen lover would rather commit suicide then fall into her addiction. Now Deneuve I wouldn't say makes Miriam a sympathetic vampire, but she does deliver a stronger humanity, that made the character far more compelling being the more expected eroticism...which she also delivered on.)

Sarandon - 4(The least interesting character, and for much of it she is just fine in seeming just slightly confused and taken away by the whole thing, even in her being seduced scene. I will also say her final scene is a whole lot of nonsense, and I'll agree with Sarandon herself, that it doesn't fit into the rest of her character in the least, although again this is entirely to do with the writing. She is absolutely terrific though in portraying the decaying state of blood withdrawal powerfully, and so earnestly. This though in portraying this effective combination in her final scene of despair but with determination.)

LOVED the costume design here, this isn't even about the period work, which is impressive albeit brief. This is for every single bit of clothing put on Deneuve and Bowie. Each one is just such a captivating piece after another, and just an excellent example, of brilliant modern design work across the board. Though extra points for the great brief historical bits, even if that isn't the focus.

Anonymous:

I have to say reading more about the film and the book, I have no idea why it was Norton's passion project if he couldn't see how doing a noir in modern times could work. Perhaps he should've watched the Long Goodbye, Memento, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang...I mean really. Also if he wanted to do a film about Robert Moses...why not do a film about Robert Moses...or make a completely original noir...but I digress.

The actual setting of the 50's is gorgeously realized by the production team. It is a vivid realization in every bit of it we see. From every road, to every neighborhood, rich or poor, or to even the realization of a 50's version of the landmark. The work feels expansive, and honest to the period. Incredible work, that made the period feel vivid, but again...why not just make his own noir rather than re-write so much of the book.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Where would you rank Deneuve in Lead Actress.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

#5

Lucas Saavedra said...

Does anyone else think that David Bowie looks like Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the screencap for this review?

Michael McCarthy said...

Who would you cast in a 2020’s remake of this? I’m thinking Panos Cosmatos for director.

Louis Morgan said...

Lucas:

I can see it.

Michael:

I like Cosmatos as the choice.

John: Robert Pattinson (For a bit of vampire redemption)
Miriam: Eva Green
Sarah: Elizabeth Olsen

Calvin Law said...

‘Why not just make his own noir rather than re-write so much of the book.’ THANK YOU LOUIS.

Also really dug this review, screencap and the Pattinson casting choice, though it would have to be an amazing screenplay to make Pattinson want to play a vampire again. For my money though, he was never outright awful in those films, nor was most of the main cast really.

Michael Patison said...

Louis: Where would you rank Sarandon in Supporting Actress?

Matt Mustin said...

I think re-writing the book was mostly just an ego stroke on Norton's part, but then again, the entire concept of doing the film kind of is.

Calvin Law said...

The main reason Norton probably saw it as the source for his passion project, I hate to say it, is probably the whole idea of the detective with a stutter. Which is a shame if I’m honest.

Michael McCarthy said...

For anyone who didn’t notice, Courtenay took the Lead Actor win.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael P.:

#5, though she right on the border between supporting and lead.

Calvin & Matt:

Probably quite true.

Michael M.

Should note, re-watching the three films, it was not a blowout as the two held up extremely well in my mind, and the three remain on a rather even keel for me.

Calvin Law said...

Oh hurrah. I am very glad to see him take the win.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Your rating and thoughts on Martin Sheen in The Dead Zone

Shaggy Rogers said...

Nice to see Courtenay win again.
I hope that there will be another surprise in the supporting actor, Darren McGavin losing to Sam Shepard or Takeshi Kitano.

Michael McCarthy said...

I think McGavin is an all-time favorite for Louis. This is likely to be a very interesting lineup (I’m pretty sure at this point Robards and Pryce are both 5s) but McGavin is definitely keeping the win.

Robert MacFarlane said...

If Darren McGavin loses his slot, I’m requesting Dougray Scott like I threatened to.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: Is a review of Bowie in The Prestige possible at all?

Bryan L. said...

Matt: Louis said yes in Bowies' review for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

Matt Mustin said...

Bryan: Damn, I missed that.

Calvin Law said...

Final lineup I'm gonna guess is:

1. McGavin
2. Shepard
3. Kitano
4. Pryce
5. Robards

Calvin Law said...

Also, Blonde confirmed to be released in 2021 now.

Tim said...

hm, i had been hoping for Walken :(

Calvin Law said...

Louis: here's an idea for a South Korean version of The Hunger, directed by Park Chan Wook, I reckon you'll dig:

Miriam: Kim Min-hee
John: Lee Byung-hun
Sarah: Cho Yeo-jeong

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: I just saw Satyajit Ray's "Charulata", and I can definitely see Mukherjee being a contender for your Lead Actress win for 1964. As much as I loved Mahanagar, I think this is also his greater directorial achievement.

I might request either Soumitra Chatterjee or Sailen Mukherjee, except I need some time to decide on their category placements.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: I have Chatterjee in my Lead lineup for 64 but if you put him in Supporting, it'll be most helpful.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Well that is not a good sign regarding Blonde, as there's no reason for Netflix to ever push a film back, unless they're dumping it....but hey you never know the distributor for Jesse James didn't know they had a masterpiece on their hands either.

Seems an ideal cast/director.

Bryan:

Sheen - 3.5(His performance does definitely border on going too far, however overall I still think the intensity of his bluster certainly works in portraying a completely demented megalomaniac. This in Sheen portraying it as narrow of a perspective as possible of a true psychopath. This though with some effective scenes outside of this, such as his more commercially viable bluster for his political crowds where Sheen does temper it appropriately, or his private threat scene, that is well realized bit of a more cunning evil. Also special mention for his brief flash forward moment, that he makes properly satisfying by showing the blunt despair of the man.)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Have you seen Bad Education with Hugh Jackman. If so, your thoughts on it and ratings/thoughts on the cast.

And did you watch Season 3 of Westworld.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I intend to with the former but just haven't gotten to it yet, I watched one episode of the latter and decided I had entirely lost interest in the series.

Calvin Law said...

I got through 3 episodes and had the same reaction.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: On your 1 week break after this, I'm really looking forward to getting your thoughts on The Personal History Of David Copperfield, Bad Education and True History Of The Kelly Gang.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: same. I feel like with the weird way this year is going to turn out, could see some of those films containing certain wins for Louis.

KristianD said...

Hi Louis. Would you share your rating and thoughts on Lee Grant in "Detective Story"? I've just seen the movie and don't really know what to think about her. She seems to do everything to let the viewer remember her, but her part is actually nothing interesting. She has basically nothing to play. Yet, she won Cannes and Oscar nomination.

Bryan L. said...

KristianD: You can find them on this page (http://actoroscar.blogspot.com/2014/12/alternate-best-supporting-actor-1998_2.html?m=1)

Mitchell Murray said...

So believe it or not, I just watched "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" for the first time.....and I really liked it. Honestly, I tend to like its type of alien movie anyways; Not so much the "Independence Day", fight for our lives situation, but more of a first contact scenario, and the mystery/ideas that can lead to. As far as the Spielberg picture is concerned, I wouldn't say its perfect, but I would call it an interesting, effective and properly uplifting film.

Dreyfuss - 4.5 (Easily his better performance of 77', and the one he should've been nominated for.)
Dillon - 3.5/4
Truffaut - 3.5
Balaban - 3
Guffey - 3

Tim said...

has Louis given your thoughts on Chris Cooper in American Beauty before? And if he has; could somebody tell me what they werem as i have noticed he is relatively low in the Overall rank for 99

Bryan L. said...

Tim: You can find those thoughts here (actoroscar.blogspot.com/2015/03/alternate-best-supporting-actor-1956_3.html?m=1)

Tim said...

thanks

Aidan Pittman said...

Calvin: Eh, I think the 2021 date for Blonde is either because of the pandemic or Dominik really wants to take his time. That being said, I do worry that it'll just get dumped. Hopefully that isn't the case, and given that it's a Marilyn Monroe-inspired film from a well-liked filmmaker still needing Oscar nominations and has a big rising star in the lead, I think they'll hold onto it until Fall next year.

Louis Morgan said...

Aidan:

The film is in post-production according to reports, so baring say maybe a re-edit it's technically finished, hence my concern, since there's no logical reason to hold off, as you'd think Netflix would want any contenders it could have. This is as at the moment, their only other films that are non-dark horse contenders are Mank and maybe Da 5 Bloods. I mean I hope it's great, but usually if Netflix holds onto a film for too long it's not a good thing (e.g. The Last Thing He Wanted

Calvin Law said...

Aidan and Louis: I too hope it’s just because they want to fine-tune stuff but the point about Netflix wanting to take advantage of awards season does make me tentative as well, maybe they just think Mank is going to be the big player and want to put all the focus into its campaign.

Emi Grant said...

Talking about Netflix films. Does anyone have ANY idea of what the hell is going on Charlie Kauffman's "I'm Thinking of Ending Things"?

It was apparently due for release during the first three months of the year and there have been no updates on it ever since.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the direction and screenplay for A Christmas Story?

Louis Morgan said...

Emi Grant:

Odd honestly, unless they're holding for an Oscar friendly release, since otherwise there is no reason for Netflix to hold onto a film if it's bad.

Bryan:

The screenplay and the direction is something of a miracle, something I don't say lightly. This though as I think the best way to look at it is compare the film to the failure that was the sequel "My Summer Story". A sequel that featured the same off-screen creative team but is a complete failure. Why is that? Well it's not just performances, although that is factor, as despite the sequel having plenty of talent (Kieran Culkin, Charles Grodin, Mary Steenburgen), none of the actors inhabit their roles nearly as well, Grodin and Steenburgen in particular, show just how brilliant McGavin and Dillon were in their roles particularly. But lets look close.

Bob Clark's second attempt at Parker's clan I suppose fit right into his later works, but I cannot stress enough how fantastic and essential Clark's work was in the original film. A Christmas Story being an instance, like Curtis Hanson in LA Confidential, where the filmmaker had a passion project that they were not only right about its value, but they almost seemed destined as a filmmaker to make that one film, that not even disparaging the rest of their work, was above and beyond anything else they ever did. Clark's choices here are amazing, as he basically makes a Christmas dream, though the dream of a perfect Christmas, one of nostalgia, but not fake a memory in the best sense. This with the masterstroke of having Jean Shepard narrate the film, as we do feel as we are following that recollection. A key to his direction is the timelessness of it. There is nothing about the film, not a single point, that makes you go "this was filmed in the 80's", this as he so powerfully fashions the period, something he would not do in the sequel. This in his musical choices which so smartly used classical pieces, and few comical instrumentals, that again evoke past not period. The cinematography and production design choices though are key as well in this, as the soft tone of the cinematography, give the film a feeling of a precious memory. The designs make the period so carefully appealing, as it feels perfect, yet he never goes so far with it, to make it not reality. This though as even the old junker in the snow, still feels like something from a proper post-card, but that existence of it makes it not just fantasy, making it tangible in the right way. His direction though is also just a brilliant balance, of comedy, just the right degree of heart and a bit of surrealism. The comedic scenes being all so well timed and executed, special mention the sitting shot of the two "innocent" boys staying in their seat as their friend is stuck on a pole, or the timing of the old man's reaction to "FUDGE". The heart being so beautifully restrained whether it be the moment of the mother quietly covering for Ralphie's fight or the Oldman showing he was listening all along. The surreal moments, which Clark importantly didn't push too hard, smartly cutting the Flash Gordon sequences, he as wisely never infects the film outside of Ralphie's perspective (one of the many failures of the sequel). This isn't just the great fantasy moments either, as the Santa Clause scene is a standout bit of direction, particularly the shot of Ralphie's world spinning as he gets stunned in the pivotal moment. It's brilliant work, and I have to take moment, to commend the underrated moment, that sort of sums up the film, of the father and mother at the end of Christmas day. It so perfectly evokes that feeling of a Christmas night, that just went so well, and just that special sense of place and family.

Louis Morgan said...

A Christmas Story's screenplay is better than a Summer Story in part, because the stories are better but it goes further than that. Now as with most films, particularly great ones, careful things are purged, notable old Flash Gordon. Still this is a work of showing what can be done, if what you write just is that good. In that the film structure is technically closer to a Jim Jarmusch film, in that the structure, which heading towards Christmas, is loose, and really secondary. The film is about the vignettes. They build in a slight way, which is important, but just as important is how light the film makes that. It lets every scenario be hilarious as it is, although carefully its subtly clever in how they do add up, without looking as they do. There are minor arcs within the narrative, that to payoff, even if as you are watching it your just enjoying the humor of them, so well realized in the dialogue, actions, and particularly that essential, and hilarious narration. This is as the film is largely a remembrance, and so entertainingly so, it isn't just funny things that happened as a kid built around getting a BB gun, though it is that. In that it does have that heart in those aforementioned moments with the parents, that are so truly essential in making it a true Christmas Story, not just about that present he got one time.

Bryan L. said...

I also personally think A Christmas Story might be one of the best examples of a film “getting” kids right.

I love how the narration perfectly captures Ralphies thought process in regards to the BB gun and doing whatever it takes to get it as his Christmas gift. I also love how he isn’t completely out of the woods even when he does get it, as he has to think fast so it doesn’t get taken away from him (the icicle).