Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1960: Alain Delon in Purple Noon

Alain Delon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tom Ripley in Purple Noon.

Purple Noon is the effective original cinematic adaptation of the Talented Mister Ripley, about a man who seems to befriend a wealthy man in order to get a reward offered to him by the man's father.

I first began writing this review by saying what's wrong with Matt Damon's and that later film's approach to the character of Tom Ripley, but I went back and noticed I had done the exact same thing for Dennis Hopper's portrayal of the character in 1977's The American Friend. Nevertheless I still feel I need to bring some of that up again as I examine the very first cinematic portrayal of the character by Alain Delon. This version actually begins in a rather interesting way. We jump right into the relationship between Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf, Phillipe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) in this version. We don't see Ripley lead into his plan, they've already spent some time together, and the film actually takes the style as though the story might be something a little lighter. That's not to say the film seems tonally wrong but kind of brilliantly the film hides its true intents from us just as Ripley hides his true intent from Greenleaf. As the film begins its breezy tone as does Delon who just seems to have Tom fulfilling the role of the hanger on, just happy to be around a rich "cool" guy like Greenleaf.

There is of course more to Ripley than what we gain from the first glance. In fact it is soon afterwards that Delon begins to reveal more about the man. Delon takes a far more subtle approach, than the overt awkward creep that Damon would later do, in these moments. We see Ripley go along with Greenleaf on his little escapades, and although whenever he is in Greenleaf view Delon presents just a good party friend, there's a bit more when he looks away. There's a great moment when Greenleaf is romancing a random woman, and Ripley tries to do the same. Delon does not present this as a jealous attempt by Ripley but rather something far more interesting. There is a mimicry in the very act as Delon has Ripley taking notes as he tries to kiss and caress the woman in the same manner as Greenleaf.  Delon does not do this as a man just simply trying to act like the other person, but rather there is a more severe intensity that Delon brings. That intensity of a man who quite simply wants to be the other man, and again this is still not so simple due to Delon's intelligent portrayal.

Ripley's plan continues as he architects Greenleaf's fall by ensuring his philandering is known by his fiancee Marge (Marie Laforêt) all the while setting up everything for his personal replacement of Greenleaf. What I love about Delon's approach though is he portrays this inherent fascination in Ripley towards Greenleaf, though in a rather unique. He portrays an attraction not necessarily to the man, but rather the life. Again not as just a man being greedy or anything like that, but rather he conveys Ripley's motivations as a method for the man to find an identity for himself. When there is a scene early on of Ripley play acting out his replacement of Greenleaf, Delon is terrific by not showing any pleasure in this exactly rather a strange contentment of being this alternative self. Delon manages to show the more of the natural sociopath in his Ripley. In that Delon does not actually portray ever a maliciousness in Ripely at any point, instead he depicts him as a man who is essentially being himself, even if that means being someone else.

When we get to the first murder Delon does not show it to be a vicious attack, rather a specific undertaking of Ripley simply going through with the plan. Now Delon's approach here has a curious effect, something that Hopper also accomplished, Damon failed to accomplish, and I believe was always the intention of the character. The effect being he becomes the bizarre "hero" for the story. Now this is in more of a Richard III sort of way, as we see to become Ripley's accomplishes as he goes about his crimes. Delon does this a few ways. One is that there is a certain sense of fun he brings to the proceedings. Delon never winks towards the camera, but he capitalizes so well on the state of his character. There is a wonderful moment where Ripley, pretending to be Greenleaf, is told by Marge over the phone that she had an affair with Ripley. Delon's reaction is priceless as he's humorously at being used as the lie. 

Delon is always true to the nature of the man he's developed, and this strange honesty, in a man who is always lying, is quite captivating. Delon always has Tom Ripley being Tom Ripley. As we follow him through the plan Delon which he never undercuts. There are technically moments of humanity, humanity in that he presents the right fear in his close calls with the police. It does not seem wrong for the character yet Delon brings in all the more into Ripley's plan. A fascinating thing about Delon's work is that he never cheapens the character for an easier explanation. In the end when Ripley has everything lined up, all of Greenleaf's wealth, and even his fiancee, Delon shows that strange contentment in the imitation. Again though Delon never reveals overt lust for the woman, or desire for the money. It rather Tom Ripley just getting to be exactly what he wishes to be. This is an excellent performance by Alain Delon as he succeeds in finding and creating the needed complexity for the character. Delon's chilling at times, humorous at times, but most importantly is always compelling in his portrayal of such a unique character as Tom Ripley.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1960: Pierre Brasseur in Eyes Without A Face

Pierre Brasseur did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Doctor Génessier in Eyes Without A Face.

Eyes Without a Face is an effective horror film about a surgeon trying to find a new face for his disfigured daughter. 

The last time I saw a film with Pierre Brasseur it was Children of Paradise where he played a charismatic stage actor. I'll admit I did not recognize Brasseur as I began watching this film, not only because of his noticeable physical changes from fifteen years of age, but also the vast difference in performance style. In that earlier film Brasseur was outgoing and purposefully larger than life fitting the grand stage presence of the man he was playing. Here Brasseur gives a far more subdued performance, as he barely raises his voice throughout the film. We first meet the doctor as he is identifying the apparent body of his daughter in the morgue. Brasseur is whisper quiet as he tells the attendants that it is indeed his daughter, and even goes about oddly speaking to another man looking for his daughter. Brasseur still stays reserved though effectively portrays a man above suspicion. It seems like his state is that of someone emotionally distant due to suffering from grief.

After the funeral though we soon discover that his daughter is in fact alive, though still disfigured. Brasseur's performance matches this reveal as a man distant not due to grief, but rather by his obsession. The obsession to find his daughter a new face, which unfortunately turns him into almost a serial killer as he kidnaps other young women in order to replace his daughter's lost face. That opening scene earns a new meaning as the doctor was in fact looking over the body of the woman he actually killed, through surgery, and the other father is actually the one who has lost someone. Brasseur does seem to infuse just the slightest hint of guilt within the doctor's reactions in the scene, though his obsession is enough to keep him from feeling any real sympathy for the poor man. After all the doctor does not cease his attempts to find the face after that failure, continuing on his course to kidnap as many women as needed in order for his daughter to regain what she has lost.

Brasseur is rather chilling in the role by presenting the doctor as being so matter of fact about the procedure. He does not portray any maliciousness on the doctor's part as he goes about disfiguring the women, but rather just a proper surgeon going about his task. Where Brasseur does bring an emotional quality is in his interactions with his daughter. Now here Brasseur is just as chilling as in the operating scenes, even though he portrays these interactions with such a delicate warmth. He presents only honest affection in the doctor, but Brasseur effectively realizes the unnerving quality of that affection by realizing how it has created this narrow mindset in the man. When the daughter notes any objection for his actions, Brasseur presents just a father who firmly believes he is doing what is right for his daughter, who he loves without equivocation. He completely ignores her but Brasseur plays this with a bizarre assurance of a man who knows in his heart what he is doing is right, despite how wrong he clearly is. Now the character of Doctor Génessier ends up being a fairly limited one, as he's Dr. Frankenstein, but unlike Dr. Frakenstein he never even second guesses his devotion to his questionable task. The doctor keeps his set path to the bitter end, and Brasseur delivers a strong performance which brings that disturbing mindset to life.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1960

And the Nominees Were Not:

Richard Attenborough in The Angry Silence

Pierre Brasseur in Eyes Without a Face

Alec Guinness in Tunes of Glory

Karlheinz Böhm in Peeping Tom

Alain Delon in Purple Noon

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2011: Results

5. Patton Oswalt in Young Adult - Oswalt improves his film as much as he can through his funny and sometimes moving performance.

Best Scene: Matt talks about his injury. 
4. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Headhunters - Waldau gives an enjoyably smug and properly straight forward portrayal of a true cutthroat in every sense.

Best Scene: Clas at the meeting.
3. Tom Hiddleston in Thor - Hiddleston succeeds in bringing the needed complexity to Loki who he shows to be far more than a simple trickster.

Best Scene: Loki reveals his plan.
2. Sam Worthington in The Debt - Worthington proves himself more than capable in a supporting role creating a heartbreaking depiction of  man broken by tragedy.

Best Scene: David and Rachel at the party.
1. Brian Cox in Coriolanus - Good predictions Robert MacFarlane, Luke, Anonymous, and Calvin. Cox gives a great Shakespearean performance as he manages to modernize the Bard's words in his surprisingly affecting portrayal of a man attempting to save his friend and his country.

Best Scene: Menenius makes his final plea to Caius.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1960 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2011: Sam Worthington in The Debt

Sam Worthington did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying David Peretz in The Debt.

The Debt is a somewhat effective thriller about a team of Israeli operatives attempting to capture a Nazi war criminal, and the fallout from it years afterwards.

Sam Worthington made his breakout with Avatar, which went on to become the highest grossing film of all time. This lead to a certain period of Worthington being cast as the leading man in a series of roles,  where he was most often seen as underwhelming or bland. Now one failing to succeed as a leading man does not mean one's a bad actor, sometimes the actor just might not be right for those types of roles. Well with that in mind let's take a look at his supporting role in this film. The Debt jumps back and forth in time as it follows the three operatives, Rachel (Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren), Stefan (Marton Csokas, Tom Wilkinson), and David (Worthington, Ciaran Hinds) in youth and in their later years. In the later years we find Rachel and Stefan as a bitterly divorced pair, and we only meet David briefly before he unexpectedly commits suicide.

David's fate is already known before we come back to follow his younger self on the mission to capture the Nazi doctor Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), and essentially Worthington must lead the character to this point. We first meet David as he is preparing the mission with the others and Worthington presents an isolated man. Worthington keeps an emotional detachment around David, and no this is not in in the way you might expect. Worthington is instead very effective in realizing a man placed into this state of a strange apathy. When it is revealed that David lost his entire family in the holocaust, this seems as though we already know this fact through Worthington's performance. That grave loss can be seen in every second of Worthington's performance as he presents a man who seems to always be actively closing himself off in order to not constantly be reminded of his past.

Worthington is haunting by portraying the intensity in David's to be the way he is, and portrays his time performing the actual requirements of the mission as the only thing that can keep his mind from his pain, if only for a moment. Worthington's work acts a powerful reminder of what the entire point of their mission is, as he wears the deep scars of their motivation. As the mission develops so does a love triangle between the three operatives. Although it is clear that Rachel is most interested in David, we know she ends up with Stefan. Worthington makes this dynamic absolutely believable for his portrayal of David's terrible state. Worthington captures the emotional mess that David, as there is a constant desperation and confusion of a man who wants to pursue this love but can't bring himself to. Worthington portrays the difficult struggle in David to try to reach out, then pulls back as though to avoid the possibility of suffering that same loss once again.

The team eventually captures the Nazi though they fail to properly extract him leaving them to watch over him, waiting for the an possible escape route. Worthington once again excels as this positions David's exact state as he interacts with Vogel. Again Worthington keeps this overarching attempt at that detachment, as he focuses on his duty, and away from what the man did to his family. David is able to keep this detachment until Vogel purposefully continues to prod David with his hateful words. Worthington is brilliant in the breakdown scene as he absolutely earns the moment, and makes it feel as though David for a brief moment is releasing his anguish as he attacks Vogel. This leads to Vogel's escape, and Stefan to encourage them to concoct a lie that they actually succeeded in killing the man. Worthington shows that this lie essentially is the final limit to his repression, depicting a vicious anger at the very notion of reiterating the lie. This however also finally allows him to reveal his love to Rachel. Worthington is absolutely heartbreaking as he conveys such vulnerability in the moment, and is devastating in his reaction as she ignores his plea. As we end on Worthington's performance he has brought David to a man only a moment away from giving up on life. Worthington's soulful portrait of man being overwhelmed by despair elevates the film, and proves his talent as an actor.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Alternate Best Supporting 2011: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Headhunters

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Clas Greve in Headhunters.

Headhunters is an enjoyable off-beat thriller about an art thief/executive recruiter Roger (Aksel Hennie) who chooses the wrong man to be his next mark.

Now in the lead role we have an atypical leading man in Aksel Hennie, which plays directly into his character. A shorter man so insecure about his relationship with his attractive wife that it is actually his motivation to steal the art. We follow our unusual lead as he goes about ripping people off, and eventually he reaches his next target. This next target looking perhaps the type of man we'd usually follow in the role of an international art thief. That being Clas Greve played by Jamie Lannister himself Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Coster-Waldau plays into this idea wholeheartedly by embracing a full on charismatic smugness. From his first scene where Roger comes across Clas, as both someone to steal from and for his job as a recruiter, Clas is in a different class (no pun intended) of his own. Coster-Waldau dominates in the way he should, as he brings such an unabashed assurance to the man who seems as though he is absolutely in control of the situation even though Roger decides to use the man as simply another target to steal from.

Coster-Waldau effectively makes Clas a good personification for all of Roger's insecurities as he presents a man who is without doubt, without hesitation, and most importantly Coster-Waldau just exudes self-confidence with that sly grin of his. This is even when Roger begins to find out less savory elements of the man, such as severe scarring on his back, and the fact that he appears to be a former mercenary. Of course nothing helps when it appears that Roger's wife has slept with Clas, and there is a great moment where Roger is pondering this with Coster-Waldau just being so perfectly complacent in his superiority.  The film eventually has its turn when Clas begins to try to kill Roger, though Roger is unsure of the exact reason. Coster-Waldau technically does not switch up his performance as the film shifts into a direct thriller, and in doing so helps the film keep its intended lighter touch.

Coster-Waldau makes for a great sadistic pursuer simply by staying that same smug satisfied self. This works since the man without a personal shame also works for a man without mercy. Coster-Waldau merely reveals that Clas was never really hiding himself in anyway, but rather was simply more literally cutthroat than in the corporate sense. Coster-Waldau certainly brings more than enough menace in his portrayal of a man who is as assured as a hitman, as he is socially. Coster-Waldau carries himself through these scenes as a man whose done it many times before, and killing another is something he is most comfortable with. This is technically a limited performance, much more season one Jamie than season three Jamie, but that's is entirely the point as he stands as such a great contrast to Hennie's performance. Clas is a man without regrets or empathy, and Coster-Waldau realizes that so well through his purposefully constricted performance. This makes the ending all the more satisfying, and Coster-Waldau is equally good in that payoff through the brief moment where Clas's confidence finally slips. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2011: Tom Hiddleston in Thor

Tom Hiddleston did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Loki in Thor.

Thor is an average enough superhero about the titular god of thunder(Chris Hemsworth) being cast down to Earth after his arrogant actions.

Now I say Thor is an average superhero film, because it is. Not every character works, the romance doesn't work, and Kenneth Branagh does not handle the action scenes in an especially compelling fashion. However the film is worth noting for its specific achievements for the Marvel cinematic universe. One being that it successfully bridged the far more mythical elements of the comics universe to the technically more grounded aspects set up in Iron Man. The other thing the film brought was the good Marvel villain or at least apparently the only villain people seem to ever remember with Marvel. Now Tom Hiddleston has had more chances with the character but it is interesting to see actually how Loki changed in terms of his role per film. In the Avengers he was a straight forward villain, though entertainingly so, and later in Thor: The Dark World he was basically a rock star anti-hero.

Hiddleston began here with Loki at his most low key (no pun intended). Now this is rather fitting given that this is before any idea of Loki's villainy is known to the central characters, playing the sly manipulator rather than the grandiose super villain. Now Hiddleston deserves a great deal of credit, along with Anthony Hopkins as Odin, for effectively grounding the whole Norse elements of the story. Hiddleston importantly does not show his cards, and actually plays the role as though one never heard of Loki before in comics or mythology. Hiddleston rather effectively instead portrays Loki very much as the calm thinker of Thor's group, and the more reasonable of the two brothers. Hiddleston succeeds in making the whole early manipulations of Loki, to set Thor up to be expelled, wholly believable. Hiddleston does not emphasis a slick charm, something he would do in his later turns, but rather exudes a sympathetic support.

Loki's plans of course work early on, which gets Thor sent to Earth, but in doing so Loki finds he was in fact adopted by Odin from the gods' sworn enemies the Frost Giants. Hiddleston brings a surprising degree of pathos in his moment when confronting Odin over this. There is no simplification in his portrayal as he reveals Loki somewhat lost with understanding over his exact purpose. Hiddleston does not suddenly make Loki's nature change, and importantly brings the history of Loki and Odin to the scene. When Odin collapses, Hiddleston voices genuine concern in Loki for his father, bringing to life a very real connection that should be prevalent between father and son. It seems like this might change though as Loki assumes the throne of Asgard, and attempts to ensure that his brother never makes it out of Earth.

Hiddleston in these scenes brings more of the Avengers Loki, though still a bit more subtle, in revealing the cold villain who seems to be trying to usurp all power for himself. Hiddleston though plays the villain well and does so rather bluntly particularly when he goes about making a deal with the frost giants for them to murder his father. This is not Hiddleston compromising the rest of his performance though. The reason Hiddleston is playing the pure villain is because Loki himself is playing the part of the villain. Loki ends up betraying the frost giants by killing them when they try to kill Odin. In the end Loki's plan is only to prove his worth to his father, and Hiddleston's work matches this intention so well. There is a real desperation in the act, and he's actually surprisingly moving in the end as he reveals Loki's sadness as he fails in this task. Hiddleston never loses the personal connection in his work and he makes Loki's defeat in the end surprisingly tragic. It's a strong performance by crafting a compelling villain who never is defined by his status as the antagonist.