Saturday, 24 October 2020

Alternate Best Actor 1994: Ben Kingsley in Death and the Maiden

Ben Kingsley did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Roberto Miranda in Death and the Maiden. 

Death and the Maiden follows a woman kidnapping a man she believes had raped her while she was the captive of a brutal regime. While I do think the film on the whole is effective, it suffers from an uncharacteristically bad performance from Sigourney Weaver as the woman and a mostly bland performance by Stuart Wilson as the woman's husband, also an attorney for the new ministry of justice. 

Well this film only has really three characters, with two of them being not particularly well performed, it leaves Ben Kingsley to pick up the slack. Ben Kingsley initially appears as a man who just gives the husband a ride back to the couples secluded seaside home. As seemingly meaningless as this scene is, Kingsley's performance does begin within this first scene, this when he hears the name of the man that indicates the husband will be one of the men prosecuting the criminals of the previous regime. Kingsley's expression at hearing the news glints a change in the man's thoughts. On initial viewing this may seem rather meaningless, however re-watching with the knowledge Kingsley's performance is one saying the truth of the man, just as it is hidden. This is as his expression changes to a man thinking on the matter before leaving. The man eventually turning, claiming to bring back a left behind wheel to the man, but also supposedly to state his agreement with the attorney's job to find justice for the previous regime. Kingsley's delivery being slightly a little much, purposefully, as a man putting a bit of air of support. This almost too formal in certain respect of the man showing an earnest respect. Again the degree of formality though that Kingsley places on it is perhaps just a man putting it on too thickly, or maybe is a man purposefully trying to hide who he is by agreeing with something that would easily lead to his eventual downfall. Now importantly though when not strictly speaking of politics, Kingsley's performance delivers a more naturalistic bent within the man just casually speaking to the man regarding car breakage or offering some strange counsel to the attorney about his obviously rather emotional wife. These moments importantly suggesting that the doctor may in fact just be some any man with no great secret to hide.

The turn happens though as the wife first steals the doctor's car in order to supposedly find some kind of evidence as she feels she has recognized his voice as the man who tortured and raped her. This leading her to immediately bound and gag him as she prepares to find a kind of revenge for herself, though without actually knowing whether he is in fact the man or not, having only heard him in her time of torture. Where Weaver is bizarrely terrible in her immediate sort of interrogation, hard to call it that as the doctor is initially gagged, Kingsley on the other hand is terrific by playing the scene entirely close to the bone in his reactions. This in presenting a man just absolutely terrified by the place he's in in his reactions, and in many ways having exactly no idea how to react to what is going on beyond him. Kingsley doing so much with his eyes in the moment of the man exhibiting the right sense of confusion within the moment, just as he conveys a sense of the man attempting to figure out what this inquiry is. Even in his eyes though Kingsley conveys an essential nuance as again there is a sense that the confusion could be of a man just sincerely confused at what is going on however there is also the potential for a man perhaps calculating whether he has in fact been caught in his crime. Kingsley grants the right visceral intensity to the moment, though a bit lost by just how hammy Weaver is, however Kingsley strictly finds a reality of the situation. When immediately released from his gag, Kingsley's great through his delivery of capturing the immediate trauma and terror fitting to a man having been tortured and threatened. 
Kingsley's performance then becomes basically the central tension of the film, again maybe this would be less the focus if his co-stars were a bit better, but nonetheless Kingsley is prepared for this. Kingsley's excellent in his scene where the attorney begins to sorta believe and interrogates the man himself. Kingsley is able to effectively tip toeing around the truth within his performance. This as he creates the right anger within his doctor that again can be that of a man who is trying to hector those interrogating him away from the truth, or that of a man righteously ticked off over the accusation. Kingsley importantly though even within these moments convey switching his eyes still that palatable sense of fear and desperation of the situation. Again though Kingsley's portrayal of the fear could be that of an innocent for his life or a guilty man for his life. Kingsley is incisive in his portrayal as again there is that duality of his work. This as he could be that of a master manipulator prodding in the insecurities of his captors or that incisiveness of who is in fact an innocent victim pleading for his life best he can. Kingsley's work is compelling in both on initial viewing crafting the question of the man's innocence or guilt, and on repeat viewing seeing the man playing the sides of the situation. When we see first a false confession, pushed by the husband to avoid a killing and the wife for satisfaction, Kingsley is great at being phony. Kingsley giving a stilted delivery of the man going through the motion of a confession in the most matter of fact way. The confession of an innocent man.

As strong as I do think Kingsley's performance is in balancing the sense of potential guilt or not while also making up for his less than compelling co-stars, what makes this a great performance to me is in his final speaking scene. This as the two literally push the doctor to the brink by threatening to kill him by pushing him into the sea. A specific one shot monologue solely on Kingsley. Kingsley is amazing in this scene as it isn't simply just a confession of what occurred by a man confessing the entirety of himself in the moment. This is as he opens with speaking towards a claimed innocence of losing himself to the temptation of the situation. A sadness but also some strange attempted pride as he speaks as a man trying to explain himself. As it continues though this twists itself towards some pride in his deeds instead as he reveals a chilling quality as he speaks of the man. Kingsley speaking with a vile rage at his own pathetic state in dealing with women in reality, and creating in his expression a since of power within the man as he speaks. A violent hatred suddenly, and even a casual quality in speaking of his "experiments" in the situation. The longer Kingsley speaks the more the man reveals himself enjoying the corruption of the state seemingly at the pinnacle of his evil. The ending of the speech is Kingsley at his most brilliant as he creates a juxtaposition. This as he is both unashamed and shameless at the same time. This as when noting "I was sorry it ended" there is a sorrow that Kingsley portrays not of his actions exactly but rather a man who thought himself as a good having fallen so far. The hesitation in his voice hinting at the humanity destroyed while his words showing a man who willingly allowed it to happen. Kingsley is outstanding in the speech as he is indeed chilling, but more so he reveals the entirety of the man's experience of the past in this single speech.


Luke Higham said...

Very happy that Kingsley now has his 3rd five.

Samuel L. Jackson is now the favourite to take the overall win

Matt Mustin said...

He really is terrific and the only reason to see the film. In regards to Weaver, I wonder how much of that was just bad direction, because obviously she's an amazing actress overall.

Mitchell Murray said...

Matt: Well I'll say this in regards to Weaver: While she's most certainly achieved greatness in several performances, there are times when she can seem visibly disinterested, or perhaps overplay her emotions more than she needs too. Those criticisms are few and far between, thankfully, but I would say they became more frequent in her post "Alien 3" career, and particularly when dealing with less than solid direction/writing (Ex. "A Map of the World")

As for Kingsley, he's beyond great, and that monologue is my favourite acting moment of his.

Louis Morgan said...

I watched On the Rocks, which I thought was okay, I guess. The conversations on the nature of men and women actually are extremely repetitive as is the general narrative which never really amounts to much of anything either in terms of character or insight. It isn't entirely bereft of charms, or at least, one can get through it without much of a struggle. I mean its not incompetently made, it just isn't particularly inspired in most respects.

Murray is squarely right on the border between supporting and secondary lead, I wouldn't say its category fraud to place him either.

Jones - 3.5
Wayans - 3

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on Jones.

Is it any better than Lost In Translation.

Louis Morgan said...


Yes but given how I feel about Lost in Translation, take that as you will. Lesser ambition, but greater success within that ambition, though I don't think On the Rocks is all that great success either.

Jones - (Her performance is fine in a role that doesn't stress too much from her. She's essentially just a character going through a minor malaise. She conveys that without making it seem too much or too little. She does that while striking a natural enough chemistry with Murray, and just being genuinely convincing in a pretty general way. I think the part honestly might be a little too cautious, as is the film, as it doesn't really push her any where as an actress just like how the character isn't really pushed anywhere. She mostly just kind of reacts, despite being the true lead, to Murray's actions throughout. Although kudos to convincing honest reactions.)

Calvin Law said...

Most films are better than Lost in Translation. Or at least, less racist and full of themselves.

RatedRStar said...

Its tricky with Lost in Translation, because I will say I did like some of it, as bad as the humour was, and I knew the link that put was on the blog would be either the stripper scene or the Karaoke scene which were both poor.

I might get some flack for this but the one thing I did quite like about Lost in Translation was the idea and feeling which was when you go to a foreign country and you are totally lost at sea, and you have no idea what to do and you feel like its an Alien planet of some kind, I felt the film did do a good job of showing what that feels like, I should say I didn't like the humour at all though.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: Is there any chance of Langella getting upgraded for Dracula? While the film was just good, I honestly found him superior to both Lugosi and Oldman. Granted, I plan on watching Nosferatu the Vampyre from the same year to compare with Kinski, but so far Langella is my favorite Count.

Louis Morgan said...


Maybe, it's one of those that I've only seen the *one* time.

Calvin Law said...

RatedRStar: sure but many films do that without mocking the locals. The film showcases western expat arrogance at its very worst.

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 paul dano acting moments

Anonymous said...

Louis: Thoughts on Woody Breddell's work on The Unsuspected? Regarding that film, apparently Bogart was the original choice for Rains' part and Curtiz also wanted to cast Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo and Cathy O'Donnell, but with Andrews wanting a bigger part and walking out of the picture, Curtiz decided to replace Mayo and O'Donnell as well.

Anonymous said...

Luke, your rating predictions for the other 8 performances in the lineup.

Luke Higham said...

Ge - 4.5
Morrison - 4.5
Khan - 4
Harrelson - 3.5/4 (most likely to be replaced by either Carrey or Finney)

Bacon - 4.5
Cruise - 4.5
Xia - 4/4.5 (I'm keeping him top of my 2nd prediction)
Lee - 4

Anonymous said...

Luke, your predictions for Louis’s 1994 Best Director choices

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Your ratings for Markovics and Bruhl in The Counterfeiters and would you recommend them for reviews.

Luke Higham said...

Frank Darabont - The Shawshank Redemption
Tim Burton - Ed Wood
Quentin Tarantini - Pulp Fiction
Steve James - Hoop Dreams
Krzysztof Kieślowski - Three Colours: Red

Anonymous said...

Luke, your 2004 supporting lineup.

Luke Higham said...

2004 Supporting
Peter O'Toole - Troy (I'm gonna feel sorry for Hoffman losing his sole win because I think O'Toole's taking it)
Daniel Wu/Nicholas Tse - New Police Story
Phil Davis - Vera Drake
William Hurt - The Village
Jeremy Irons - The Merchant Of Venice or Toby Kebbell - Dead Man's Shoes

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Could you possibly review Rip Torn and Ben Stiller in Dodgeball.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: If the following countries had their own version of The Florida Project, who would you cast as the Bobby Hicks equivalent?

South Korea

Also, even though it isn't '94, do you plan on watching Three Colours: Blue? Not too sure what the rules are here, since it's a trilogy, but one of the three isn't part of the rounds' year.

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: He saw Blue for 93 and Binoche got a five.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: Oops, my mistake. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Luke, who do you think will be Louis's Best Lead/Supporting Actress choices for this round as well

Luke Higham said...


Supporting Actress: Virna Lisi in La Reine Margot (Dunst and Griffiths are possible as well)

Lead Actress: Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction

Luke Higham said...

The Last Seduction did have a theatrical release in Australia prior to it's HBO premiere.

Shaggy Rogers said...

Hey guys!
Tell us your ranks of 1994 nominees in each category:

1. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" - The Lion King
2. "Circle of Life"
3. "Make Up Your Mind" - The Paper
4. "Hakuna Matata"
5. "Look What Love Has Done" - Junior

1. The Lion King
2. Forrest Gump
3. The Shawshank Redemption
4. Interview With the Vampire
5. Little Women

1. The Shawshank Redemption
2. Speed
3. Clear and Present Danger
4. Forrest Gump
5. Legends of the Fall

Sound Effects Editing
1. Speed
2. Clear and Present Danger
3. Forrest Gump

1. Hoop Dreams
2. Pulp Fiction
3. The Shawshank Redemption
4. Forrest Gump
5. Speed

Visual Effects
1. Forrest Gump
2. True Lies
3. The Mask

1. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
2. Ed Wood
3. Forrest Gump

1. Queen Margot
2. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
3. Bullets over Broadway
4. Maverick
5. Little Women

Art Direction
1. Interview With the Vampire
2. The Madness of King George
3. Bullets over Broadway
4. Legends of the Fall
5. Forrest Gump

1. The Shawshank Redemption
2. Three Colours: Red
3. Wyatt Earp
4. Legends of the Fall
5. Forrest Gump

Foreign Language Film
1. Before the Rain
2. Strawberry and Chocolate
3. Eat Drink Man Woman
4. Burnt by the Sun
5. Farinelli

Screenplay (Adapted)
1. The Shawshank Redemption
2. Forrest Gump
3. Quiz Show
4. The Madness of King George
5. Nobody's Fool

Screenplay (Original)
1. Pulp Fiction
2. Three Colours: Red
3. Four Weddings and a Funeral
4. Bullets over Broadway
5. Heavenly Creatures

Suppporting Actresss
1. Helen Mirren
2. Uma Thurman
3. Dianne Wiest
4. Rosemary Harris
5. Jennifer Tilly

Supporting Actor
1. Martin Landau (his overall victory remains)
2. Samuel L. Jackson
3. Gary Sinise
4. Paul Scofield
5. Chazz Palminteri

Lead Actress
1. Miranda Richardson
2. Jodie Foster
3. Winona Ryder
4. Susan Sarandon
5. Jessica Lange

Lead Actor
1. Morgan Freeman
2. Nigel Hawthorne
3. John Travolta
4. Tom Hanks
5. Paul Newman

1. Quentin Tarantino
2. Krzysztof Kieślowski
3. Robert Zemeckis
4. Robert Redford
5. Woody Allen

1. Pulp Fiction
2. The Shawshank Redemption
3. Forrest Gump
4. Quiz Show
5. Four Weddings and a Funeral

And what are your ranks?

RatedRStar said...

I will say something though in regards to Asian cinema,
The Golden Horse nominations have been announced and wow Asia is becoming way more progressive in terms of nominating LGBTQIA films, 4 films that involve LGBTQIA have been recognised, and 2 of them are in Best Picture. That is quite incredible.

RatedRStar said...

Like usually there is only like 1 film in Asia that gets recognised in that area, like last year it was Suk Suk, the year before it was Tracey, but to have four films getting nominated, its quite something.

Tim said...

Shaggy Rogers: the first time i feel confident enough to actually answer you on one of these, even though i have by far not yet watched all 5 on most of the categories :) i'll still try on those where i have seen some

Visual effects:
1) Forrest Gump
2) True Lies
3) The Mask

Sound editing:
1) Speed
2) Clear and present Danger
3) Forrest Gump

Sound Mixing:
1) Forrest Gump
2) Shawshank Redemption
3) Speed
4) legend of the fall
5) Clear and present danger

1) Forrest Gump
2) Shawshank Redemption
3) Speed
4) Pulp Fiction

1) Lion King
2) Forrest
3) Shawshank
4) Interview with the Vampire
5) Little Women

1) Ed Wood
2) Frankenstein
3) Forrest Gump

1) Bullets over Broadway
2) little Women
(i guess; it has been years since Maverick)

Art Direction:
1) interview with the Vampire
2) Bullets over Broadway
3) Legends of the fall
4) Forrest Gump

1) Shawshank Redemption
2) Legends of the Fall
3) Forrest Gump
(i just adore the camera movement on Forrest, but i can't tell how much Burgess had to say in that; i guess i should thank Zemeckis for that. When it comes to lighting and colors it would still be under the other too)

Original Screenplay:
1) Pulp Fiction
2) Bullets over Broadway
3) Heavenly Creatures
4) Four Weddings and a Funeral
(2 and 3 are basically interchangable)

Adapted Screenplay:
1) The Shawshank Redemption
2) Forrest Gump

Supporting Actress:
1) Dianne Wiest
2) Uma Thurman
3) Jennifer Tilly

Supporting Actor:
1) Martin Landau
2) Sam Jackson
3) Gary Sinise
4) Chazz Palminteri

Lead actress:
1) Susan Sarandon
2) Jodie foster
3) Winona Ryder

Lead Actor:
1) Morgan Freeman
2) Tom Hanks

1) Robert Zemeckis
2) Quentin Tarantino
3) Woody Allen

1) Forrest Gump
2) The Shawshank Redemption
3) Pulp Fiction
4) Four Weddings and a Funeral

well that's my two cents

Robert MacFarlane said...

Am I the only one here who hates Forrest Gump? Like, a lot?

Mitchell Murray said...

Robert: I dislike certain aspects of the film - namely the writing and historical recreations - but I would still call it "okay" on the whole.

Bryan L. said...

Changing mine a little bit

1. Kingsley
2. Ge
3. Morrison
4. Khan
5. Harrelson

1. Bacon
2. Cruise
3. Xia
4. Lee
5. De Niro

Louis Morgan said...


I'm 100% sure I did that one.


Although I didn't watch that film too long ago, I honestly only remember Rains's work at this point. I'd say Bogart in the role probably would've created more mystery, and that cast would've been a far better supporting cast.


Not out of the question.


Britain: Gary Oldman
Ireland: Gabriel Byrne
Spain: Sergi Lopez
France: Daniel Auteuil
Germany: Christian Berkel
South Korea: Yeong-cheol Kim
Japan: Jun Kunimura
Mexico: Damian Alcazar

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