Sunday, 25 September 2022

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1981: James Woods in Eyewitness

James Woods did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alan “Aldo” Mercer in Eyewitness. 

Eyewitness is overall a middling thriller about an apartment janitor Daryll (William Hurt) getting caught up in a murder investigator with a more glamorous tv reporter Antonia (Sigourney Weaver)

What Eyewitness does offer is quite the cast including pairing of two actors who had very similar trajectories in their careers, both where they broke out into leading status in the 80's. Woods plays Hurt's fellow janitor, Aldo a man we come across who is both playful to his coworker as he sneaks up on him and rather acerbic towards the people in their building, with a strong racist tinge towards his feelings towards a complaining Vietnamese tenet. 80's Woods is a magnetic performer and instantly makes an impression with Aldo just by the sheer intensity of his presence which wields well here because he kind of darts around with his impression. He's got some comedic accentuations, but there is also real hate in his disregard for the tenet. Woods realizes a state of innate frustration of the man as the janitor who is stuck in his job and dealing with his struggle with life after an apparent time in Vietnam. Woods's performance is in stark contrast to his next scene where he's brought in for questioning around the death of that very tenet. Woods effectively changes to a meeker style as the man seemingly avoids any accusation of guilt, though with little fundamental skips of this state as we see that energy just a bit in moments of hectoring the police still, only slightly, which Woods portrays as almost the guy can't quite help it.

 Naturally, Aldo becomes a suspect in the murder although the film purposefully keeps a certain distance from the character, even as he is a friend of Daryll's. So really anything that comes from the character is really Woods's eccentricities as a performer that do give the character of Aldo some life. Take a scene of the character just moving a tv from a distance, Woods gives it just some life just through the oddball physical manner he brings to it, he gives Aldo some character even when the scene doesn't give him all that much to do. Although it speaks somewhat to the weaknesses of the film as we develop a conflict between Aldo, Daryll and the fact that Daryll was Aldo's sister's boyfriend, however he's shifted his eye to the tv reporter, also looking at the murder, Antonia. Although this relationship is barely setup, we get the conclusion of it as Aldo is trying to get Daryll in on a scheme while also basically asserting that he's going to marry his sister soon. The build up isn't there, but Woods still does sell it with sudden nearly erratic shift from a near brotherly affection to the violent rage of betrayal. Woods sells the moment, even though the script doesn't. When spoilers, we get his confession that isn't about killing the man, but rather just a revelation of his insecurities, it again isn't a moment that is naturally realized in the script. Woods though is very good in the scene in showing there is no pretense here with his very subdued delivery that reveals the sad state of the man, and is moving in the little hints of an attempted joy he expresses as he tries to explain his plan. Woods's character really just is a red herring, rushed to the point that it is hard to convince yourself that he isn't just a red herring. Any impact of the character is created just by Woods's atypical onscreen energy that delivers life into this role, that overall is an afterthought. 


Louis Morgan said...

Note: The swiftness of the review came from having had forgotten to post the nominee list yesterday.

Luke Higham said...

Ratings and thoughts on the Cast.

Luke Higham said...

And films to watch during this lineup.
Mephisto (Re-Watch for Brandauer)
Ragtime (Re-Watch for Rollins)
Lili Marleen
Marianne And Juliane
One From The Heart
Whose Life Is It Anyway?
Modern Romance
36 Chowringhee Lane
Quest For Fire

RatedRStar said...

Louis: I remember when I used to rank murder mysteries by how easy they were, this surely has to be a contender for the easiest whodunit ever.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: The one surprise funnily enough lol was that James Woods survives the film, that was the one thing that surprised me.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

1. Williamson
2. Dunne
3. Hopper
4. Warner
5. Woods

Matt Mustin said...

1. Williamson
2. Hopper
3. Warner
4. Dunne
5. Woods

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Did you see Hopkins portrayal of Adolf Hitler in The Bunker.

Anonymous said...

Luke, your rating predictions.

Luke Higham said...

Williamson - 5
Dunne - 5
Hopper - 4.5/5 (Given its Hopper, could see him doing much better than I'm expecting him to)
Warner - 4.5

And a 4.5 for Hauer.

Ytrewq Wertyq said...


Well, that review pretty much sums up my thoughts on Woods and I would've rather seen more of him compared to the uninteresting romancing bits between Hurt and Weaver.

Michael McCarthy said...

1. Nicol Williamson
2. Dennis Hopper
3. Griffin Dunne
4. David Warner
5. James Woods

Luke Higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Patison said...

1. Williamson
2. Hopper
3. Dunne
4. Warner
5. Woods

Bryan L. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

1) Williamson
2) Hopper
3) Dunne
4) Warner
5) Woods

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on House Of The Dragon.

Marcus said...

Louis: Do you think the reconstructed version of The Rogue Song on Youtube would be good enough to review Lawrence Tibbett for 1930 Best Actor?

Louis Morgan said...


Preemptively, this has to be up there with Sneakers in terms of not doing much with an amazing cast on paper.

Hurt - 3(I think he is frankly miscast here as both the janitor and the average guy. I am perpetually a fan of Hurt's distinct presence but none of his presence screams "any man janitor". Having said that I do think he has some decent moments where he shows what he can do in his particular way, but overall there is a certain awkwardness because he's just not the right type of actor for this part. A part that I think needed more of a Michael Keaton, Kurt Russell or maybe Keith Carradine. Hurt would've been better suited for Plummer's part or maybe even Woods's.)

Weaver - 3(It's a pretty lame role for her but I still thought she managed to deliver a certain presence even with the strict limitations on her here.)

Plummer - 3.5(Although I think the way they realize his character is totally bungled but when he is asked to do something with it, he certainly delivers as to be expected.)

Worth & Paulsen - 3(They do deliver more than decently in their one major emotional moment.)

McMillan - 3(A thankless role but found him to be a descent curmudgeon, with a bit of emotional nuance in his later scene.)

Reed - 3(Frankly her relationship with Hurt seemed more interesting as she has this very oddball quality that I wished the film had explored more rather than getting to the pretty bland interactions between Weaver and Hurt.)

Freeman - 3(Really the only reason he makes any impression is because he's Morgan Freeman and has a great presence even before his breakout.)



Yes when he passed by the real killer, I thought for sure he was a goner.


Well that's a great find, but I still wouldn't add an official rating because as it is the materials are still overall too limited, I could add more though to my existing review based on the additional material "presented".

Luke Higham said...

Thoughts on The Bunker and the cast.

Luke Higham said...

With ratings.

Shaggy Rogers said...

Louis: Thoughts on cinematography, production design, costumes and makeup of Lady Snowblood.

8000S said...

Louis: Thoughts on the sound design of Blow Out and Zsigmond's work in Obsession.

Mitchell Murray said...

Sorry for the late predictions on this one.

1) Williamson
2) Dunne
3) Hopper
4) Warner
5) Woods

Also, not for nothing, I believe Williamson was one of my requests, albeit one remember seeking out at someone's recommendation (probably Luke, but I don't recall for sure).

Mitchell Murray said...

*one I remember seeking out*

ALSO, I re-watched "Fighting with My Family" a couple days back, and a duel review for Florence Pugh (That + "Midsommar" IE her two breakout leading roles from 2019) is in progress.

Luke Higham said...

Mitchell: That was indeed me.

Luke Higham said...

Ratings and thoughts on Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow in Escape To Victory and Ralph Richardson in Dragonslayer.

Louis Morgan said...

Will get to all other thoughts relatively soon.

I liked basically pilot#2 for House of the Dragon with all the recasting and really re-table settings in this episode, though some major things happened anyways beyond the time jumps. Still a slower going episode, though overall found it effective, though I wouldn't have minded spending a bit more time with Harwin Strong in order to make what happens there a bit more pointed. MVP Paddy Considine for being absolutely heartbreaking even without having too much to say here, though close second to Matthew Needham's wonderfully fiendish work. I thought though Cooke was very strong here and liked D'Arcy. I will say though I think they should've probably re-cast Fabien Frankel as while I can more or less buy the others without much obvious aging, he is a bit too innately fresh faced to be convincingly so much older.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Quite liked the House of the Dragon episode too. My MVP would either be Considine or Blondell for giving such an incisive, impactful performance with not a lot of time. Loved D'Arcy and Cooke too for making the time jump seem completely natural.

Have to give mad props to Needham for somehow giving the performance Gillen should have always given as Littlefinger, albeit with a far more questionable endgame. As for Frankel, I let out a cheer when Harwin Strong beat up Cole, so I guess mission accomplished there.

Calvin Law said...

I feel like every few months we get a new performance which shows us what Gillen should've given in Game of Thrones, which I guess kind of goes to show it really was such a missed opportunity and predictable way to go about Littlefinger. There's so much variation to be found in fiends!

Maciej said...


Shaggy Rogers said...


Anonymous said...

Luke, your thoughts on Nigel Terry in Excalibur.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: A bit of a mixed bag for me, though more goodness than bad. I wish they cast a younger performer for his Pre-King scenes because except for the knighting scene, he's unconvincing as an 18-20 year old and completely overshadowed by Williamson. Past that he gives a strong confident turn and his scenes with Williamson are great. He'd be a 4 for me.

Mitchell Murray said...

Everyone: Thoughts on the new preview for HBO's "The Last of Us" series?

As someone who hasn't played the sequel game yet, I'm wondering if they'll solely focus on the events of the first, or combine the storylines of both. Either way, it does seem they've captured the world and tone of the story, and Pedro Pascal looks pretty spot on as Joel.

Side note: Beyond his actual voice actor W. Earl Brown, Nick Offerman is a solid choice for Bill.

Shaggy Rogers said...

Louis: your #6-#10 for Director in 1970, 1973 and 1974.

Mitchell Murray said...

Also, I did finish my double review of Florence Pugh's 2019 leading turns IE "Fighting with My Family" and "Midsommar".

I'll again post it here for everyone to read, though just know that it's a sizable amount of text, and will be broken into a few chunks. Again, if you guys have any feedback or thoughts, I'm all ears.

Mitchell Murray said...

Part 1:

Florence Pugh did not receive an Oscar nomination for playing Saraya Bevis/Paige in Stephen Merchant’s biopic “Fighting with My Family”, nor did she receive one for playing Dani Ardor in Ari Aster’s horror film “Midsommar”.

While she’d been working for several years prior to 2019, and garnered particular praise for “The Falling” and “Lady Macbeth”, Pugh really exploded onto the scene during that specific year. She appeared in three films released a few months apart from each other; The biopic and horror movie detailed above, as well as Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women”, for which she received a well deserved Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. Pugh’s terrific portrayal of Amy March netted significant acclaim, and put her in the same category as Laura Dern, Kathy Bates, Margot Robbie and her eventual “Black Widow” co-star Scarlett Johansson. And on top of all this coverage and work, she hadn’t even turned twenty five at the time, whereas many actors find success well into their thirties. Clearly, Pugh has made some very smart choices in her career, and they’ve paid off given how plenty of viewers applaud her skill. I myself find Pugh to be a consistently good performer, to the point where I’ve likened her image and dramatic range to a young Kate Winslet. With that said, let’s look at her two leading performances from 2019, which despite being in films I have vastly different thoughts on, both showcase varying facets of her talent.

I might as well start with the basics here, and cover the two distinct accents Pugh displays. In “Fighting with My Family”, one might be tempted, at first blush, to say the English born Pugh merely uses her own voice. As shown by the film, however, the real Paige grew up in Norwich, whereas Pugh was raised almost three hundred kilometres west in Oxford. Even as someone not from the UK, I’m sure the regional accents of those two areas would be quite distinct. I can say, however, that Pugh seems to lower her natural pitch slightly, to better replicate Paige's reasonably deep voice. It’s not an unrecognisable difference, strictly speaking, but it still adds to the performance in its own small way. For “Midsommar”, meanwhile, Pugh’s vocal work is taken another step. As is commonplace for many UK actors, she employs a generalised American dialect, which isn’t a real thing, but I won’t hold it against her specifically. Either way, Pugh does well with the accent throughout the film, and it never comes across as distractingly stiff or forced. Both Paige and Dani require dialect changes from Pugh (the latter obviously more so), and she manages to make both sound entirely natural.

Now although she doesn’t drastically shift her accent for “Fighting with My Family”, the athleticism involved is certainly more pronounced than in “Midsommar”. The protagonist is a wrestler, after all, and Pugh does a convincing job with the part’s physical qualities. She has the brashness for Paige’s demeanour, and simply makes it a facet of her personality without it feeling tacked on. In the wrestling scenes themselves, which are one of the core elements of the performance, Pugh is again believable. It's not even because of her stature, per say, but rather the joy she brings into these sequences. The fondness Paige developed for the WWE is absolutely expressed, in her introduction alone, by Pugh’s screen presence. I should also discuss the film’s comedic moments, since they require a different form of energy and projection. Paige’s comedic moments hit home because…well…Pugh is really funny. She delivers her humorous notes in a casual and charming manner, and like her brazen attitude, she doesn’t over emphasise them to the point where they feel forced. I have to say, just from these initial comparisons, it’s impressive how Pugh showcases two performance alterations - one being more kinesthetic in nature, while the other being reliant on articulation.

Mitchell Murray said...

Part 2:

Before we continue, I might as well address my thoughts on the movies, since their quality and genre obviously affect Pugh’s acting choices. Also, full disclosure, there’s a lot more to unpack with “Midsommar” than “Fighting with My Family”, since I have a lot more specific criticisms regarding the former. In any case, the latter is a fine example of how films don’t always have to reinvent the wheel; Sometimes committing to an established blueprint will function just fine. The film doesn’t cover everything about Paige’s life, and I’m sure a fair amount of liberties were taken here or there. Likewise, if you’ve seen other films of its type, then the dialogue and narrative are easy enough to predict. Simply put, the film could’ve been another standard, unmemorable biopic. The reasons why it’s more than that, though, are down to the specific subject being explored, and the actors refusing to submit half hearted work. I’ll admit, there’s something innately interesting about Paige’s story, and her success as a British woman within a primarily Americentric, male dominated industry. The cast further contributes to that situation's blend of humour and drama, with every actor taking their material and running with it. Nick Frost and Lena Headey, portraying Paige’s parents Patrick and Julia, respectively, are particular stand outs. Based on the footage within the film’s credits, it’s fair to say they researched and channelled the personalities of their real life counterparts. On a final but important note, the film is simply hilarious - which shouldn’t be surprising from director and writer Stephen Merchant.

That’s my summation of “Fighting with My Family”, and I wish my thoughts on “Midsommar” were as unfussy and positive overall. Sadly, despite its beautiful cinematography, intriguing setting and decently strong opening, I simply don’t find the film to be that compelling or scary. It attempts to create a slow burn, which in this case results in a number of scenes that just linger too long. It also doesn’t help that the film has some pretty overt foreshadowing (including a literal storyboard), and I’m still trying to decide if it's well conceived or not. On that note, the graphic moments might’ve been startling on my first watch, but since shock value is reduced with exposure, they weren’t as effective this time around. For example, during a scene involving two village elders, the shots stay on the prop bodies long enough that the illusion of real violence is lost. Also, to be perfectly blunt, I found most of the side characters fairly boring. I’m hesitant to blame the cast, but a lot of their dialogue could’ve been played with greater energy. The lines they’re reciting also could’ve had more dimension, particularly in the case of Mark (Will Poulter), who feels a lot more one note and grating than necessary. Having said all of that, however, the film’s saving grace, and the character which allows for the most investment, is Pugh’s Dani.

Branching from that point, the first ten minutes of “Midsommar” are my favourite of the film, with Pugh being the central reason why. She so believably conveys Dani’s emotional exhaustion, both because of her mentally troubled sister, and the strained relationship with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). In Dani’s phone call to Christian, Pugh does a remarkable job of filtering her character’s despair from her voice, while simultaneously releasing it through her tear strewn eyes. The pain caused by her now distant lover, coupled with Dani’s recent anxiety, is conveyed through Pugh’s performance. This is also where the film’s first major tragedy occurs, as Dani’s sister kills herself and their parents through carbon monoxide poisoning. Pugh is again painfully authentic, and makes her character’s reaction quite distressing through her anguished wails.

Mitchell Murray said...

Part 3:

Following the first couple of scenes, and Dani’s choice to accompany Christian and his friends to a Swedish commune, Pugh continues to be good in the role. She effectively conveys Dani’s silent trauma in her nearly vacant expression, suggesting the loss of stability and joy in her life. Her relationship with Christian is likewise affected, and Pugh again realises the growing disconnect and passive aggressiveness between the partners. Dani’s meek attempts to rekindle her relationship, or even hold a conversation, fall on deaf ears as Christian offers little reciprocity. This sense of detachment, and Dani simply “tagging along” with the group, is shown by Pugh verbally and non verbally. She also never loses the character’s grief, and there are distinct moments where Dani fights her own trauma. One of the best instances of this occurs when the group decides to take mushrooms. After someone utters the word “family”, Pugh shows Dani combating her stress in a rather visceral manner, and also with a touch of self hatred after giving into the trigger. It’s another strong moment for the performance, and it’s a shame the film doesn’t keep up with her beyond a certain point.

Now one of the major differences between these two movies, aside from the genre, is the quality of Pugh’s co-stars. In “Fighting with My Family”, Pugh is surrounded by a number of charismatic performers to keep pace with. In “Midsommar”, she frankly doesn’t have an acting equal, so her individual performance is perhaps even more important to that film’s success. One dynamic that was interesting upon rewatch was actually Dani’s relationship with Pelle (Vilhem Blomgren). Although a seemingly welcoming and considerate friend, the character has ulterior motives for warming up to Dani, which become clear towards the end. As such, there are several interactions between the two where Pelle speaks so fondly, yet also says the right things to either gain Dani’s trust, or increase the wedge between her and Christian. Opposite Blomgren, Pugh does imply this newfound comfort and ease within Dani. Her silent performance hints at Pelle’s influence on the character, and arguably plants the initial seeds for her indoctrination.

By contrast, Pugh’s strongest dynamic in “Fighting with My Family” would likely be the scenes between Paige and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden). Both performers create a nicely understated rapport together, and convey the unspoken bond between the siblings. Unfortunately, a rift suddenly forms when during a WWE tryout, their coach Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn) selects Paige instead of Zak. The emotional weight of this plot is helped considerably by Lowden, who captures Zak’s increasing spiral into depression and resentment. The bittersweetness of this decision is reflected in Pugh’s performance, who finds Paige’s conflict of wanting to support her brother, while also securing her own career. This is most visible early on when Paige’s parents drive her to the airport, yet Zak refuses to join them. Both Pugh and Lowden play this goodbye sequence well, with the brother and sister trying to retain their outward support, despite the distance that’s now been created.

Mitchell Murray said...

Part 4:

This conflict is emphasised by the stresses Paige encounters in Florida. The “fish out of water” aspect of her trial is shown in a few ways, including the conversations she has with some fellow wrestlers, who are quite different from her physically. Pugh is good at showing the initial awkwardness of their encounter, especially when the women test the appeal of Paige’s accent, and she chooses to read some rather bleak news headlines. This later evolves into Paige’s feelings of inadequacy, next to these people who she perceives as more attractive, but less skilled. Pugh again finds the loneliness of this social isolation, and how it contributes to her confusion over why she’s pursuing a WWE career; Is it purely for herself, or does she only do it because of her family? Is she more deserving of this shot at success than her brother? Those questions come into play later, and I think Pugh finds the initial doubts of them during these training scenes. It’s also important that Pugh makes Paige’s attitude sympathetic, while at the same time showing how it becomes an obstacle. This is best displayed when Paige tries to teach her teammate not to botch a move, by giving her a “receipt”. Her solution is met with anger and reprimand from Morgan, and Pugh plays that moment of disconnect well, by realising Paige’s struggle to forgo her previous methods.

To switch back to “Midsommar”, one of that film’s most memorable sequences involves the ritualistic killing of an elderly man and woman - the former being bludgeoned to death after surviving a large fall. As I stated before, the choice to repeatedly show the gore of these killings unfortunately makes the prop corpses much more obvious. That being said, Pugh’s performance makes up for that lost impact slightly. While Christian and his companions react with terror and disgust, Dani almost displays a fascination behind her instinctual shock. Pugh adds a blank fixation in her eyes that I think helps explain the character’s eventual change, even while being horrified in the short term. The film doesn’t immediately capitalise on her performance, however, and instead one of the following scenes involves Christian and his friend Josh (William Jackson Harper) arguing over their academic theses. I think this scene is an easy example of the movie’s faults, since their conversation emerges with very little build up, and almost comes off as two actors going through the motions rather than a natural confrontation.

Thankfully, Pugh again comes in to get the proceedings back on track. Her critical scene after the killings finds Dani expressing her anxiety to Pelle, along with her initial desire to leave the commune. It’s a finely acted sequence for both Pugh and Blomgren, where Pelle finds Dani in a particularly vulnerable spot, having been reminded of her parent’s deaths both emotionally and physically. Blomgren again wields Pelle’s subtle manipulations in praising the commune, highlighting the support he found after the loss of his own parents. Likewise, Pugh conveys the results of these manipulations through a gradual release of visible tension. As the viewer, you can understand how Pelle’s words affect Dani, thanks in large part to Pugh’s reactions. Unfortunately, the film’s whiplash reappears for a brief dream sequence, one that honestly doesn’t show us anything that hasn't already been discussed. The confusion, grief and fear of abandonment in Dani had already been stated, so I can’t help but think Aster could’ve cut the scene out. To her credit, though, Pugh recaptures the same acting notes, and reinforces the trend of her performance being the film’s trump card.

Mitchell Murray said...

Part 5:

Now since I have more complex observations regarding “Midsommar”, I can honestly wrap my thoughts on Pugh’s “Fighting with My Family” performance right now. As stated before, the film is a pretty straightforward take on Paige's story, and hits many of the beats one might expect from a breezy biopic. In turn, Pugh is fairly straightforward in the scope of her performance. Similar to the rest of the cast (Frost, Headey and Lowden, in particular), she’s simply on target with whatever the movie needs. In Paige’s emotional journey to discover her true goals, Pugh conveys those feelings of introspection and gradual assurance throughout. In her scenes revolving around the Knight family, she adds to the chemistry, tension and underlying warmth found in their activities. And in her one liners and anxious moments, she authentically conveys both parts of the role, while still maintaining a consistent portrayal. Again, these notes are predictable, but Pugh and the cast are capable enough to keep them from becoming tired. This all culminates in Paige’s “Raw” debut, and her speech after defeating the current Divas champion AJ Lee (Thea Trinidad). The positioning of this scene certainly feels cliched, and comes across as a definite “movie” moment rather than a historically accurate event. Nevertheless, Pugh brings the right passion in her words, and makes it as heartfelt as the film requires. Ultimately, this performance isn’t about transforming beyond recognition, or even striking the largest emotional notes. “Fighting with My Family” asks Pugh for a crowd pleasing turn, and she more than rises to the challenge. Her interpretation of Paige is energetic, funny and dramatically sound, not to mention receptive to her co-star’s efforts. It’s a winning turn that glues the film together, and confirms Pugh’s charisma in a relatively lighter role.

As for “Midsommar”, the film’s climax (quote-on-quote) revolves around Christian having a prearranged sex ritual with one of the commune’s women, which Dani just so happens to discover. There’s also the convenience of several women joining Dani in a group crying session, at the time when she would need emotional support the most. It goes without saying the cult orchestrated her discovery of the ritual, as yet another means of gaining trust. I must admit, however - and this will be an extended tangent separate from Pugh - that there might’ve been some missed potential with Christian and his ultimate fate. The fact that he was drugged (and to an extent, coerced) means he didn’t go through with the act entirely of his own volition. I’d also add that prior to this scene, his attitude towards Dani was cold and dismissive, but not outright malicious. I think a different avenue for the character could’ve seen Christian be fully responsible for his participation, or if the commune facilitated a sharp moral decline in his behaviour. Indeed, if Christian and Mark swapped personalities, and the former acted more abrasive and problematic from the start, his demise could’ve been even more warranted from a character perspective. This could’ve also bolstered Dani’s development, by granting her the agency and opportunity to decisively confront him, which Pugh could most certainly play. As it stands, Christian’s overall presence is that of someone passively acclimating to his surroundings, which is most of what Reynor does in his later scenes. And Christian’s final moments, as strange as it sounds, come across as oddly pitiful - which may or may not be what Aster intended. There could’ve been an older version of the script with an idea close to mine, but then again, Pugh’s performance shows how the current rendition could work from Dani’s view. Her final gaze upon a weakened, suffering Christian is appropriately sorrowful, and despite everything else, it would still make sense that in this moment, she’d regret ordering his sacrifice. Maybe that's what Aster was going for all along, and if so, Pugh does what she can to add some humanity to Dani’s unsettling change.

Mitchell Murray said...

Part 6 (Final):

Speaking of which, the final frame of the film shows a transfixed Dani, gazing upon a burning structure of wood and human bodies. Pugh does deliver in this small moment, and shows the twisted jubilation in Dani’s eyes as she fully embraces her place in the commune. That being said, I do wish the camera held on her face longer, and that it wasn’t blended with an image of the fiery structure itself. Also, despite some brief reaction shots, Pugh could’ve been offered even more time between Dani looking at the live Christian and his corpse, to allow for a more defined segue into that conclusion. Nevertheless, that’s another nitpick of Aster’s direction and storytelling, not the central performance. To summarise my thoughts, “Midsommar” is a film that both got better and worse upon a second viewing. What improved for me was a greater appreciation for its technical craft, minute details and general template of the story. What got worse was again the lack of interesting side characters, slow pace and the uncomfortable scenes losing their impact with exposure and foresight. Did anything stay the same between those viewings? Why yes, one aspect remained consistent, and it was my praise of Pugh’s leading performance. It’s expectedly strong work from the actress; A striking turn of a traumatised and neglected woman, who finds solace in a community engaged with the macabre. Although the picture surrounding her isn’t as effective, and steers away from her character too often for its own good, Pugh still realises Dani’s experience in a consistently engaging fashion.

So at the end of the day, what are we left with between “Fighting with My Family” and “Midsommar”. From my perspective, we have two notably different films with opposing approaches. Merchant’s biopic tells a real story in a conventional format, and tries to endear its premise to a general audience through humour and heart. Aster’s horror film tells a fictional story based in slowly built dread, though its execution is arguably more divisive. Pugh’s performances in these outings are also considerably different. One is a biopic portrayal with a large portion of comedy, while the other is a horror lead with almost entirely dramatic scenes. One is a real person whose accent is close to Pugh’s, while the other is an invented character of American background. One performance is defined on charisma and star presence, while the other demands extremes of depression and emotional suggestibility. One is from a fairly cliched story that I nevertheless enjoy, while the other is from a far riskier film that I don’t believe pays off. Overall, however, the differences between the roles of Paige and Dani speak to Pugh’s range, as these are ultimately two very good performances, from one of the most gifted young actresses working today.

Louis Morgan said...


A briefer version of the Bunker thoughts as they were deleted (despite storing them in a place with autosave). 

Hopkins - 4.5(Going through the same events as Downfall and Hitler: The Last Ten Days, with even basically the same scenes as per historical record. A unique portrayal as other than the accent he seeks to very much create the Hitler you'd see in newsreels specifically in creating that mania of his speeches as part of the character, which are impressive moments in creating the sense of his persona and his paranoia. Hopkins focuses on this more than any other portrayal, more so than even Ganz who overall takes a little bit of a different approach. Hopkins's performance though succeeds in representing this distinct sort of madness. This is effectively mixed in with a subdued sense of defeat he portrays this mix of denial but also mixed in with a sad sense of defeat. He mixes the two qualities naturally to create the state of the man just in this decay, right down to his nerve disease where Hopkins shows a man failing to even go through the motions as he moves closer to defeat, his rage moments almost being these desperate moments of trying to hold onto anything that used to define himself. I will say this is nearly a supporting performance though as the film is more so about the overall atmosphere of the bunker, even more so than Downfall.) 

Jordan - 4(Kind of the true lead for the first half of the film and he is quite good in presenting just the voice of semi-reason against the most intense ravings by Hitler. He's good at delivering the calm convictions of the man against those around him, with enough of a subdued sense of concern given that his pleadings are going against the grain.)

Lonsdale - 3.5(Almost purely reactionary however effective in creating the state of  the man just completely resigned to the disaster that he is in.)

Laurie - 4(I imagine her Emmy nom came from her final scene where she is quite eerie in portraying this strange combination of zealous conviction in her murders while also this sense of more authentic loss at the moment. She isn't in it much but she certainly delivers in the moments she's in.)

Gorman - 3.5(Basically plays Goebbels as this grotesque newscaster where everything is this kind of sale towards an audience, and it does work in crafting the man who never really seems very real, right down when kind of boasting about how he's doing a favor in his suicide method.)

Caine - 2.5(He truly must've just wanted to meet the footballers in the film, because this is basically a nothing role for him. He's in it, but he really doesn't do much of anything in it.)

Von Sydow - 3.5(Honestly the person trying the hardest to make anything out of the film because he manages to find a bit of a satirical quality in the character's very direct passion for football even as he's a Nazi commander. Von Sydow's portrayal of passion is wonderfully pure and creates the most interesting element of the film.)

Richardson - 3.5(A fine sagely performance. He delivers on the gravitas though with a nice bit of gentle humor. Sadly he's not in the film all that much, but he is the best part of the film acting-wise.) 

Louis Morgan said...


Lady's Snowblood cinematography was obviously heavily influential on how Tarantino shot Kill Bill, right down to the vol.1's climax that is directly lifted in every regard from Snowblood. This is particularly seen in the way the frame is built around the central figure with such dynamic composition with her as a focal point. Bolstered though by the lighting that very much emphasizes every color and the contrast between pale white of snow and blood red. 

The production design is striking work in that it crafts period with style, here particularly again the more nature-oriented sets that are very distinct and incredibly striking. Each set though has a certain dynamic vibrancy to them. 

The costumes overall are good, though the greatness lies in crafting the titular figure from her white robes, hiding the red underneath beautifully embodying the character itself in costume, with her distinct umbrella only being the best possible cherry on top. Overall though striking work again in evoking character and style within period. 


The sound design of Blow Out is such an essential part of the film, this is specifically editing the sounds to create the sense of the work of Travolta's character, which it does in a rather cheeky way in the opening but that quite penetrating when it comes to the dissection of the crime scene. The scene of Travolta listening in being a brilliant sequence altogether of the different sounds of the night, and then the titular moment of the difference between a pop and a gunshot. The film succeeds in putting you into the headspace of the foley artist by making the sounds so distinct here and so very present throughout the film. 

Well, it's Zsigmond so there will be plenty to enjoy, and I'd say this maybe even an overall lesser effort from him. There is the specific glow he gives the film where the lighting is mostly all soft evoking memory all the time, and that is going with just his typically immaculate composition and framing of shots. So many moments are interesting just built on the way he composes a group shot. 



6. Andrey Konchalovsky - Uncle Vanya
7. Jaromil Jireš - Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
8. Alejandro Jodorowsky - El Topo 
9. Arthur Penn - Little Big Man
10. Akira Kurosawa - Dodes’ka-den


6. Peter Yates - The Friends of Eddie Coyle
7. Francois Truffaut - Day For Night
8. Victor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive
9. George Roy Hill - The Sting
10. Peter Bogdanovich - Paper Moon


6. Sam Peckinpah - Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
7. Joseph Sargent - The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
8. Mel Brooks - Young Frankenstein
9. Werner Herzog -  The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
10. Martin Scorsese - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Have there been any change of positions in your Female Lead top 5s for 1974 and 2011 since you first posted them.

They were:
1. Spacek
2. Dunaway
3. Burstyn
4. Rowlands
5. Mira

1. Mara
2. Dunst
3. Gainsbourg
4. Colman
5. Olsen

Luke Higham said...

And there have been reports that Apple are considering releasing Napoleon this December.

Louis Morgan said...



Well with The Greatest Beer Run Ever taking a dive, they don't really have a contender, however that would be VERY speedy post-production even for Scott, although if anyone can do it, he can. I just hope rushed editing doesn't bungle the streak he has going currently.

Luke Higham said...

I'd rather it was released next year because 2023 is shaping up to be an incredibly exciting year.

Anonymous said...

Louis thoughts on AGI potentially re-editing Bardo?

Louis Morgan said...


I think it's been confirmed that he is, so I hope he "finds the film" so to speak, as some of the negative reviews did praise certain elements they just suggested they were obscured overall.

8000S said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the voices of William Jennings Bryan, Robert M. LaFollette, Woodrow Wilson, Huey Long, Thomas E. Dewey and Henry A. Wallace.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: What are the ten/fifteen best hidden gems that you've discovered since the bonus rounds started?

Ytrewq Wertyq said...

Louis: How would you improve Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull as a movie?

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: Do you consider Bad Day at Black Rock ahead of its time? I saw it for the first time last night and was surprised by its style. Feels shockingly modern.

Matt Mustin said...

Network is one of the most cynical movies I've ever seen, so of course I loved it. Peter Finch absolutely deserved the Oscar, what a performance to go out on.


Marcus said...

Mitchell: Really enjoyed your comparison of Pugh's 2019 leading turns, seems like she's unfortunately tasked with carrying another unsuccessful film on her back this year. Have you seen Little Women?

Mitchell Murray said...

Matt: I first saw the film maybe 1-2 years ago, and it's both remarkable and scary how relevant it still is. Also, despite me enjoying "Rocky" as much as most people, I probably like "Network" a little more (haven't seen "All the President's Men" or "Bound for Glory").

Also, music related question for everyone here: What are your thoughts on this cover of "Simple Man" by Jensen Ackles? I quite like it as the softer, soulful performance from Ackles fits well with the story being told by the lyrics.

Mitchell Murray said...

Marcus: Thank you for saying so. And yes, I actually went to the theatre to see "Little Women" upon its release. Needless to say Pugh was great, and is only rivaled by Johansson for my favourite of 2019's best supporting actress field.

Louis Morgan said...


I don't feel like I'm about to be asked "Ratings thought on John Wilkes Booth in Julius Cesar?".


1. Night and the City
2. Seconds
3. Blue Collar
4. The Angry Silence
5. The Small Back Room
6. The Ballad of Cable Hogue
7. The Tin Star
8. The Silent Partner
9. The Narrow Margin
10. The Breaking Point

Non-English Top Five (Limited it as all are underseen in the US to a certain extent). :

1. Devils on the Doorstep
2. Joint Security Area
3. In The Heat of the Sun
4. Revanche
5. Seduced And Abandoned



- Change the Name. Maybe make it about the Spear of Destiny or the Zulfiqar instead.

- Get rid of the sci-fi angle, as Lucas's reasoning is frankly stupid, as while sci-fi replaced serials (though not entirely anyways), sci-fi films didn't have Indiana Jones style leads.

- Cast a more innately likable actor for Jones's action replacement, someone who actually seems like they could've carried on the series alone.

- Use a whole lot less CGI, only when absolutely necessary.

- Don't waste John Hurt, make him the villain.

- Use Sallah so we can be spared the dumb Ray Winstone betraying Indy storyline.

- If one is using Cate Blanchett, make her less goofy, all the other main Indy villains you took seriously. I actually think maybe instead of even doing the Soviets, maybe make the villains South American Nazis trying to regain power.

- Don't kill off Henry Jones, if Connery didn't want to be in it, you didn't need to kill him.

I could go on.


Yes, from the tautness of the film, to how a lot of the moments are handled very quietly for the time, like the final confrontation sequence. I'd even say the handling of the racial injustice aspect was progressive for the time, not only for the inclusion of it, but also the fact that it doesn't beat you over the head with the message (compared to films like Crossfire and Gentleman's Agreement), instead its more subtle approach it becomes far more pointed due to that. For me it's quietly one of the very best films from the 50's.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Could I have your thoughts on Emily Carey, Milly Alcock and Gavin Spokes's performances in House of The Dragon? If you want to wait till the end of the season, that's fine too.

Louis Morgan said...


Wait on that, just as where the characters go could contextualize their performances a bit more, even though they're now different performers.