Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Burt Lancaster and Ossie Davis in The Scalphunters

Burt Lancaster and Ossie Davis did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Joe Bass and Joseph Lee respectively in The Scalphunters.

The Scalphunters is a very entertaining western about a fur trapper and a former slave attempting to take on a group of vicious scalp hunters.

The Scalphunters fits into that apparently too rare sub-genre of the unlikely pair western, the western equivalent to the buddy cop movie. Like Red Sun and much later Shanghai Noon it takes the enjoyable formula of mixing two types that normally wouldn't go on a western adventure together. In this one we get technically the more typical western hero with Burt Lancaster's Bass who is just trying to make his living trapping yet gets cheated by an Native American chief who forces him to trade his furs for the slave Joseph played by Ossie Davis. Of course Joseph goes around claiming to be a Comanche Indian rather than a slave. There we have our set up but what needs to make this truly work is our two leads. First we have Lancaster who nicely is actually giving a bit of a mix of what are his two usual starting points of either the stoic man or the crazy one. Lancaster nicely plays this one in that Lancaster begins physically looking as though he may be a your more usual typical western hero but the moment he opens his mouth Lancaster strongly suggests otherwise. Then we get Ossie Davis who is usually quite the welcome presence in any film that he appears, this film is no different in that regard.

What sets any film of this sort apart, and what often determines its success is the chemistry between the leads. This is established well to begin with, through the very differing styles of the characters which are properly realized by both Davis and Lancaster. Davis brings this consistent energy as Joseph Lee portraying him as a man with often a smile on his face, but this is not a simple sort that Davis makes. There is always this certain glint that Davis brings to his eye, though more on that later. Lancaster on the other hand is entertaining by his method of portraying Joe Bass as this "hard man". Although technically speaking Bass does have the requisite skills of a western hero Lancaster skews this to begin with by having this comedic element with the character perceived toughness. Lancaster is terrific in the way he portrays the character's constant fussy state that cleverly undercuts the usual western type. After all Lancaster does indeed stand tall, he's technically the right type to begin with yet Lancaster purposefully subverts that by showing those frustrations, that Bass has over losing his furs and most things for that matter, in this sort of childish manner.

The two of them are great fun together in their clashing styles of essentially comedy. Lancaster so intensely portraying Bass while Davis carrying such an easy going approach to Lee. The two of them strike up that right type of antagonist friendship through that conflicting approaches. Davis delivering his long eloquent statements by Lee showing off his considerable skill as a orator, while Lancaster depicts such pained reactions at being unable to compete at the same verbal level is a particular delight. The two though importantly, even initially as the two try to get up on the other in some way, portray this underlying warmth between the interactions even when they fight. This is something just small in their interactions though it properly plants the seeds of a real camaraderie once the plot gets started.The plot being when the group of scalp hunters, lead by Telly Savalas's Jim Howie, not only steal Bass's furs themselves but also capture Joseph Lee. Although this might seem a somewhat swift separation of our co-leads, they thankfully have many more moments together throughout, but also get their chances to shine on their own as well.

Davis fittingly for Joseph Lee gets the most to say as he tries his usual routine with the scalp hunters in order to gain some favor, even though they plan to sell him when given the chance. Davis though again gives such a charismatic portrayal that he makes it wholly believable he would sort of win his captors over. Again though Davis even as he charms with his elegant ability with words, which Davis grants such an innately pleasant quality to, there is that glint in his eye still. That glint though revealed to be a definite cunning by Davis in Joseph Lee who is never quite as carefree as he makes him out to be. Davis does this even when technically Joseph is playing the part of the likable companion, as he brings this certain incisiveness in even his kind words, and always that knowing quality beneath his delivery. Lancaster's scenes are technically a tad more limited given that all he can interact with is his loyal horse yet he still makes the most of these moments. Again Lancaster sort of charges his performance the right way as he is quite humorous while convincing in portraying the perhaps misplaced intensity in Bass as he strives to get his furs back no matter what in a sort of vengeance more fitting to familial loss than monetary loss.

Thankfully though we still get the two occasionally meet whenever they have the chance which generally results in some marvelous comedic moments as Lancaster and Davis know exactly how to play off each other to make their friendship just so endearing. They successfully earn the weight that is granted as the situation becomes more severe and they both start to get into life or death fights. Lancaster and Davis give such an honesty to portraying the concern the two have for each other in the end, though they do this so well by playing these moments so quietly, almost as though the men are hiding their concern yet absolutely earnest in it. The two naturally come together as a real duo even though their final act really is a extended fight scene between the two, but they even manage to create this sense of good nature within that despite their frequency of going for the dirty blows. The two of them capture that remarkable ease in creating the right dynamic that makes all their fighting almost a show of affection, though it just be a most curious show. Lancaster and Davis just exude that fun right in their performances which is infectious to watch as well. The two  are a classic entertaining mismatched pair throughout the film, and really if the film chose to continue on their final quest I could have gone right along with them.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Jean-Louis Trintignant in The Great Silence

Jean-Louis Trintignant did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gordon aka "Silence" in The Great Silence.

The Great Silence is a fairly effective spaghetti western, though its ending is more than a little questionable, about a bounty hunter who will only ever shoot in self-defense.

A common factor in any spaghetti western is the issue of dubbing and the various languages of those involved particularly the star who often was of a different nationality than the majority of the supporting cast. The Great Silence found a way away from any complications of this by having the lead character played by Jean-Louis Trintignant a mute. This is an interesting choice and makes the man named Silence a rather stoic hero even as stoic western heroes go. This forces many characters around Silence to describe Silence leaving himself mostly there for the most intense action. This actually goes to such a degree that one could argue that Klaus Kinski as the chief villain Loco, also a bounty hunter but without a code, is even co-lead with Trintignant since the film focuses almost as much on him as it does Silence. The casting itself also does seem to be an odd thing though with Trintignant certainly not the first man you'd expect to see in any type of western.

Trintignant though certainly offers quite the unique face for a western which obviously comes in handy for this part and it works in creating a certain atypical skew for the character. In that Trintignant carries a steely stare but not quite in the intense way you may expect. There is instead a certain detachment in his stare that actually does work effectively in creating both a menace in regards to the character but also suggests the state of Silence. This is as Trintignant does convey a certain damage right in the man as he portrays almost an underlying pain in Silence not as a man who is fine with his Silence but is rather pained by it. Trintignant handles this sort of detachment rather well as there is something innately broken within his performance while this also never seems to compromise his stance as sort of the hero to the western. In fact Trintignant makes something seem all the deadlier by that detachment as he guns down, not that he is wholly unfeeling, yet rather a no voice to speak any possible distress.

Although for much of the film Silence has the upper hand since he easily kills all who oppose him but this ends when he comes in contact with Kinski's Loco, who rather ironically is just a little too cool headed to get set off by Silence's attempt to pester him into a fight. This finally puts Silence off his course and Trintignant does successfully explore past the strictures of the type as the tides turn against Silence. Trintignant in these moments captures the more emotional rawness of his state through his eyes particularly in the scene where Silence thinks back to when his family was massacred. The film though again messes with its perspective a bit too much perhaps as it almost seems to become Loco's story and it is only in that view where the film's excessively bleak ending makes any sense. An ending where its silver lining is a bluntly stated message that reveals how the villains actions eventually led to good reforms down the road, which offers little solace. This does reduce Tritntignant's performance's impact a bit by the end of the film. He's still good particularly in revealing the final anguish in Silence in the final duel, yet rather strangely in the end Silence ends up being overshadowed in his own film by his rival Loco, and Tritnignant ends up being a bit overshadowed by Kinski.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Vincent Price in Witchfinder General

Vincent Price did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General.

Witchfinder General is a flimsy pseudo-exploitation film about an inquisitor during the reign of Oliver Cromwell.

Vincent Price had perhaps a somewhat curious career progression as an actor. In that he started out in very much the prestige picture such as Laura and The Song of Bernadette, but eventually began to appear in a long series of b-movies often as a campy villain. There was more than a slight indication of this in his early work in that he would play often shady characters, but they were not quite the overt villains he came known for. This brings him to this film which itself seems a curious clash of the two phases of his career quite honestly. In that the movie is not quite sure what it wants to be in that it may wish to be a grim realization of the cruel witch hunters of the time, yet its approach very much focuses on the violence, and very little on the characters suggesting the tone more of a violent exploitative horror film. The characters for the most part are incredibly simple, there seems an attempt at further complexity at times yet this usually is forgotten in favor of more bloodshed.

Vincent Price stands in the center of the film as the man who wishes to become the Witchfinder General by uncovering witches all throughout England. Price seems set on his own performance at the very least, even though the film doesn't quite seem set on its own tone. Price goes for the more nuanced approach to the material, very much away from his usual campy type of villainy to portray the witchhunter Hopkins in a very quiet manner. Price is consistent in this in very much trying to impress some sort of reality on the film in his dark somber approach. Price's approach is actually a tad surprising since even in his earlier prestige picture work he usually would be a more flamboyant figure. Here though Price very much seeks to be the puritan really his character should be. Price whole physical manner is that of a hard and cold man. He is effective in this approach as everything about him has this coldness to him in his dark eyes always peering for some sort of weakness, and his straight forward delivery fitting to an official who is going about his task with proper precision.

The character is not quite so straight forward though as revealed early on by the first scene where he goes about interrogating a catholic priest, which involves having his men randomly stabbing the man's back supposedly looking for the mark of Satan. The priest though is granted a respite when the priest's niece offers to prostitute herself in exchange for saving her uncle. This offer is immediately accepted by Hopkins and Price does not depict any sort of conflict in the man over this. Price approach actually instead very much sets up the character as a man who is more than willing to abuse his position to get what he wants and there is never a second thought in his depiction. This again is effective though as Price is appropriately creeping in showing the complete lack of hesitation in the man as he goes from his violent interrogation of doing "God's work" at one moment then giving into lust with the woman the next. The film never really goes anywhere with this idea in terms of revealing the hypocrisy of the character instead he ends up just being basically a monster who needs to be defeated by the end of the film. Price stays consistent within his character throughout even in its more bombastic conclusion, more fitting to a traditional monster picture. Price isn't quite just the monster and is a chilling presence throughout the film. His performance though seems a bit misused in the end as it suggests a greater complexity but it never is allowed to explore this in any real detail. This is a good low key performance by Vincent Price, but the film prevents him from giving a great one.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1968

And the Nominees Were Not:

Lee Marvin in Hell in the Pacific

Burt Lancaster in The Scalphunters

Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West

Malcolm McDowell in If....

Vincent Price in Witchfinder General

Predict Those Five or These Five.

Toshiro Mifune in Hell in the Pacific

Ossie Davis in The Scalphunters

Jean-Louis Trintignant in The Great Silence

Max von Sydow in Shame 

Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer

Or Both. 

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Results

5. Ronald Cheng in Vulgaria - Cheng is easily his film's highlight in his hilarious and appropriately ridiculous portrayal of an over the top gangster.

Best Scene: Dinner time.
4. Cillian Murphy in Broken - Murphy gives a funny, moving and above all very honest portrayal of just unassuming teacher accidentally getting involved in some rather difficult situations. 

Best Scene: Apology
3. Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur - Although the film mutes his impact Siddiqui gives an effective and affecting portrayal of a man forced to become a gangster when you do see him.

Best Scene: Somber victory. 
2. Bradley Whitford in The Cabin in the Woods - Whitford gives a very funny portrayal of a white collar worker who just happens to run a murder factory.

Best Scene: The merman. 
1. Thomas Bo Larsen in The Hunt - Bo Larsen gives a terrific performance that is essential to the film as he finds the complexity of the man who condemns but eventually forgives his best friend for a horrible, though false, crime.

Best Scene: The Church.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1968 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2

Nawazuddin Siddiqui did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Faizal Khan iin Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2.

Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2 I'm going to assume, I have not seen part one, continues the story of a gangster family in India.

The film opens with the murder of the original patriarch then soon after the murder of the heir apparent of the Khan family in a series of reprisals. It is therefore left to Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Faizal to continue the family's criminal organization, which also involves holding political office, as well as to get revenge for the deaths of his family as viciously commanded by his own mother. Siddiqui should be the lead it seems but he's not due to the wavering focus of the film that actually seems like it's setting up another part as this film is going on. The film itself suffers from its pacing due that wavering perspective, the musical sequences of course, and just slowing down at the wrong moments. That unfortunately dilutes what is the most compelling aspect of the film, that being Siddiqui's performance. As early on Siddiqui is quite moving in reacting to both of the deaths that compel his motivation but also in these moments sets up Faizal as far more an observer of the crimes than a true criminal himself.

In the context of his mother's orders Siddiqui is rather effective in portraying that sort of desperate pride in the son attempting to satisfy his mother. It is less taking over as the gangster but rather just attempting to satisfy his apparent duty as a son. That idea is set up brilliantly at first though I wish the film really let him explore this in more detail. Instead it jumps around focusing on the other players and Faizal's story too often gets lost within the proceedings. We do of course jump back to him attempting to be the master gangster and from scene to scene. Siddiqui's quite good in portraying this growth in the confidence of that side of the man. This goes beyond just normal confidence though as Siddiqui starts to slowly develop even the style fitting to a "proper" gangster. In that he actually naturally begins to develop almost a Scarface esque swagger to his performance as his power seems to grow and he seems to becoming the gang boss his family "needs" him to be. Again what we see of Siddiqui, even when these glimpses are brief, is pretty fascinating I only wish the film did not so often mute this transformation through his focus and pacing. Every moment that you really feel as though the film is going to become more insightful into Faizal's story it cuts away, despite Siddiqui alluding to greater potential when we do see him. The only time the film seems to give him the proper time is in its finale where he and his gang finally fully exact revenge. At the end as they are successful in their revenge but arrested by the police though not is all at it seems. This moment the film finally lingers on Faizal and Siddiqui is rather heartbreaking as he projects all of the emotion that Faizal has kept way leaps to the surface though not in joy rather in sorrow of the man realizing the hollowness of his accomplishment. That moment is great and I wish we had gotten the full arc of this reluctant gangster leading up to that point though Siddiqui gives us the proper pieces through his performance the film doesn't know how to place them. This is a strong performance when it's there, but the film doesn't seem to be aware of what it has.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins in The Cabin in the Woods

Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Gary Sitterson and Steve Hadley respectively in The Cabin in the Woods.

The Cabin in the Woods is an entertaining enough slasher movie satire, though I did rather hate its high school nihilist ending.

The title suggests a standard trope in a horror film as a group of stereotyped teenagers or young adults go into a spooky cabin in the woods for the weekend. That set up though is pre-subverted from just about the outset as the dark credits fitting for a horror film are stopped in favor of two white collar workers at seemingly a government facility talking about their domestic problems. The workers being Sitterson and Hadley played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who perhaps seem a bit out of place to open a slasher film or to even be in one. Richard Jenkins being the always reliable character actor often cast as some sort of official, and Bradley Whitford being perhaps the replacement for William Atherton as often the guy for obnoxious entitlement. The two represent the alternative factor that purposefully sets the film apart as the two men are there to essentially construct the typical horror movie unbeknownst to the five setting off towards the cabin. They are not there merely to set up the story though as the film focuses on their operation of the cabin horrors as much as it does on the denizens of the cabin.

Whitford and Jenkins don't reinvent themselves here the fun actually is in the fact that they play their parts that would be typical to a film that just takes place in some random office building. Both meet their roles so well with Jenkins being sort of the slightly more exasperated sort emphasizing just sort of getting the job done though still with the precision of a consummate professional. Jenkins though is good in just playing it as though setting up the murders is just more or less an average day for Sitterson. Whitford nicely does not duplicate Jenkins though they both very much are the office workers, but Whitford goes for a slightly different angle. In the back and forth with Jenkins particularly early on when they are not even talking about the mission they are nicely on the same wave length of two long time workers who are just shooting the breeze offering equal parts ridicule and support to one another. Their work history is a known factor in this. Now Whitford's performance though differs from Jenkins in that in the work Whitford portrays a more overt investment for Hadley towards the the mission not terms of it being a success, but rather in terms of the fun that can be had from it.

Now the humor of the satire most often comes from these two playing their parts in this way with Jenkins's reaction of often complete disinterest at the various events, while Whitford is often very funny his rather skewed interests particularly in his sorrowful face at seeing once again that the cabin will not be attacked by mermen. Of course even that Whitford does not portray as a major heartbreak just sort of the disappointment like if his boss had cancelled free pretzel day. The only time they break this darkly humorous state of pseudo-contentment is when something goes wrong that requires an immediate fix such as when they have to prevent the survivors from escaping through tunnel. Jenkins is particularly effective in these moments though as he portrays Sitterson wake up and get into gear as the absolute best professional he can be if the situation calls for it. Whitford though is equally good though showing the general, less helpful, frustrations of guy whose jobs has become a lot harder. The two of them consistently enliven the film with their presence of offering such a different type of performer in the slasher film, that I found to be easily the most enjoyable part of the film. Any moment they try not to waste. The highlight for me is probably in Whitford's performance late in the film, as all hell is breaking through almost literally, when finally a merman appears though not quite at the right time for Hadley. Whitford's reaction though is perfection as he captures awe at perhaps the fortune of finally seeing it then the sheer disbelief of having the misfortune of being in its line of sight. The two of them terrific as the "villains" because they don't play them as villains, even with their blase attitude towards death. They're just guys doing a job, in fact Hadley briefly shows just a bit of sympathy though Whitford plays this as a very distant sort of admiration rather than true sympathy. That lack of exact villainy is partially because they are enjoyable to watch but they also find the right tone. That tone which not only makes their characters work but is also pivotal in creating the right type of satirical bent for the film.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Ronald Cheng in Vulgaria

Ronald Cheng did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tyranosaurus in Vulgaria.

Vulgaria follows the misadventures of a film producer To Wai-cheung (Chapman To) attempting to get a movie made.

The film itself starts out fairly well but flounders as it continues partially due to its leading man, partially due to its wavering tone with these semi-serious moments ill-fitting to the irreverent style of the overall film, and because Ronald Cheng is only in three scenes in the film with two of those scenes being rather brief. His first scene comes as our producer To goes about seeking a Chinese mainland investor to fund his film, unfortunately the man is Tyranosaurus a member of the Triad. Not unfortunately for us though as Cheng is incredibly entertaining in the role offering the flamboyance fitting to the man's name and his over the top manner of dress. Cheng is clearly having a blast but he lets us in on the fun as Tyranosaurus begins as the most gracious of hosts towards To offering him all the strange meats he could dream of. Cheng brings the proper ridiculous swagger to the role of such a gangster who is interested in making a most peculiar film, as everything he does is rather overt though importantly most hilarious. Cheng makes it go even further though in that there is a certain menace in this humor.

That is particularly in the way Cheng depicts the ease in which Tyranosaurus brandishes his gun. He plays it all just as a rather casual thing for the crazy man. Unfortunately for To, Tyranosaurus is easily offended and if one does not eat one of his stomach turning dishes they must commit a bit of bestiality. Now that is most absurd and Cheng's performance brings the best out of it by the conviction he brings in his delivery of the man's madness. Unfortunately Cheng disappears after the sudden conclusion of that scene, to avoid the actual depiction of bestiality,  and we are not graced with his presence again until basically the finale of the film. Thankfully we are given a bit more of him as Cheng continues to derive some comic gold from the material in his portraying such intense disgust at not getting the film he wanted, then later just pure unabashed sleaze as the man takes far too many liberties with one of the actresses at the premiere. Cheng goes all in and is such a delight in this approach. Now here's a film where just about everybody is going over the top. The film would have benefited from a true straight man since Chapman To does a bit too much clowning for his own good. The film also needed a few more comedic performances that worked, but at least there's Ronald Cheng who absolutely succeeds. He's such a fun bit of insanity in his 10 minutes or less of screentime, and I wish the film had given us more of him. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Cillian Murphy in Broken

Cillian Murphy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mike Kiernan in Broken.

Broken is a low key and I found to be rather effective coming of age story set in a pseudo To Kill a Mockingbird framework.

Now it's pseudo in that we do have a lead young female character who goes by a nickname, this time Skunk, who has a brother, given far less focus than in "Mockingbird", a father (Tim Roth) who is a lawyer. Several of these elements though are subverted particularly in the Boo Radley equivalent who in the end is shown to be dangerous in his mental derangement, and the low class father (Rory Kinnear) isn't quite the villain Bob Ewell was in the original film. We also aren't given a real Tom Robinson the closest we get is Cillian Murphy's Mike. We first meet Mike only really in passing at first as Skunk's nanny, Kasia's, boyfriend. Ge is given a more substantial role when it turns out he's Skunk's new school teacher as well. Although Murphy is an actor who often excels at playing the off-beat character or the man in an incredibly tense situation, though I actually liked seeing him here as just an average guy.

There may seem "baiter" roles at hand with Roth's sort of take on Atticus Finch, Robert Emms as the deranged man or Rory Kinnear as the loving yet violent father, who are indeed all good, however even though he's grappling with the least intense material Murphy actually left the strongest impression for me within the confines of his low key character. Murphy in no way tries to change that idea either, but is effective in playing Mike as an unassuming guy who almost accidentally gets caught up in the problems within Skunk's neighborhood. I like the honesty that Murphy brings that just adds a nice bit of life to the proceedings in a character that easily could have been forgotten about. Murphy so naturally realizes the various sides of Mike that Skunk sees him in. He brings the right type of awkwardness in this as Murphy shows sort of the strain as he attempts to be the proper teacher while still having these casual moments though suggesting the the sort of friend he has been in the past.

Murphy's performance actually brings in a nice bit of humor to the film though in a way that is natural to the overall tone of the film. For example his wordless hapless reaction to hearing a not so pleasant message from Kasia delivered by Skunk. Murphy is such an enjoyable yet understandable luckless guy here. Murphy brings the right likability through his earnest approach such as in his scene where Mike saves Skunk from harassment by the local bullies, the daughters of the Bob Ewell equivalent. Murphy in the scene does not command much of anything but he is so good at showing just the most noble intent in Mike as he tries to help. This unfortunately for Mike leads to him being accused of rape by one of the daughters followed up by a sudden severe beating by her father. Murphy somehow makes this somewhat amusing despite the severity of it by in his genuine reactions that show just how taken aback Mike is by it all. He further avoids melodrama even as he chews out Skunk's father for helping him, since Kasia is now seeing him instead, because he captures that undercurrent of comical disbelief with the very real emotion of his strange situation. Furthermore he is even moving as Murphy brings such vulnerability in Mike's later phone call to apologize for his behavior. This performance is notable because he essentially gives Mike a reason for being in the movie since he technically could have been eliminated. Murphy gives Mike purpose by offering the right depth in his little side story that is quietly humorous yet still sympathetic as just the wrong man in more than one way.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012: Thomas Bo Larsen in The Hunt

Thomas Bo Larsen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Theo in The Hunt.

One of the major reasons The Hunt is such a powerful film is how convincing it is in realizing its scenario of this kindergarten teacher Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) being ostracized and demonized due to false allegations of sexual abuse. In this it seeks no simplification even though Lucas is clearly innocent the whole time. The film though does not seek to create the accusers and the believers of the accusations into villains. This includes the pivotal role of Theo played by Thomas Bo Larsen who not only is the father of Klara the girl who first claims to have been abused by Lucas, but also happens to be Lucas's best friend. In the early scene Bo Larsen's good just by being convincing at being a normal guy. He has such a natural chemistry with Mikkelsen, as I love the way they sort of have that casual way of fooling around with one another fitting to a rich friendship, and the earnest warmth Bo Larsen brings in his delivery when Theo asks Lucas about custody of his son.

There's one scene that is technically outside of directly interacting with Lucas where it is a tender moment between Theo and his wife. I love the moment because of just how authentic it feels between the two of them and how honestly it just offers a real history outside of the confines. The film excels, amplified by these performances, because it never feels constricted by the central element. That is of course a pivotal factor but as with Bo Larsen's performance there is so much more than that to the community we see, and the people meet that makes the degradation of it all the more powerful. This degradation comes when Klara lies about Lucas's actions, which leads to a sort of hysteria as everyone start to believe it. This isn't simplified which is well shown through Bo Larsen's performance when Lucas comes to attempt to explain things to Theo.  Bo Larsen is brilliant as he creates the complexity of Theo's belief because he actually portrays this conflicting feeling, a wish to disbelieve the act of his friend yet the heartbreak of accepting that something horrible was done to his daughter. He manages to make sense of the belief of the lie and actually creates sympathy for the man even though we know he's wrong.

Bo Larsen's work helps to importantly make the situation all  the more convincing and honestly are the more heartbreaking. There's a scene later on where Theo speaks with Lucas's son Marcus. Again Bo Larsen finds the nuance of the past within situation as he portrays the underlying desire to reach out as the old friend and help while though offering the cold distress, and tension of man still pained by what he believes has been done to his daughter. This eventually leads to the Christmas Eve Church scene which is the highlight of Mikkelsen's masterful performance. In On the Waterfront one should never dismiss Rod Steiger's contribution to the taxi cab scene most noted for Marlon Brando's performance, nor should one dismiss Phillip Seymour Hoffman's incredible work in the processing scene in The Master though Joaquin Phoenix may leave the strongest impression, and one should not forget Thomas Bo Larsen's contribution in this scene. Bo Larsen's own reactions are essential to the power of the scene as he subtly alludes to Theo coming to grips with a certain shame, and understanding of what he has done to his friend. His final reaction when Lucas stares right at him is particularly effective as Bo Larsen shows that Theo has nothing to say for himself in this realization. This leads soon to an incredibly moving scene where Theo admits his mistake, and this is because Bo Larsen earns this so much as in the sort of spoken realization the years of their friendship and the pain of his mistake is so deeply felt in his face and his words. Thomas Bo Larsen's role overall is limited yet critical to the film. His work not only makes the town's forgiveness of Lucas believable but also very poignant. His screentime is limited but within it he importantly adds so much to the film by granting the needed complexity and really humanity to those who turn on Lucas so brutally.  

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2012

And the Nominees Were Not:

Bradley Whitford in The Cabin in the Woods

Richard Jenkins in The Cabin in the Woods 

Thomas Bo Larsen in The Hunt

Cillian Murphy in Broken

Ronald Cheng in Vulgaria

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2

For Prediction Purposes:

Whitford in The Cabin in the Woods

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Results

5. Tom Courtenay in Quartet - Courtenay rises above his material and offers some dignity in his portrayal of an aging musician still holding a grudge.

Best Scene: The church.
4. Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio - Jones amplifies the best elements of his film through his unique and compelling portrayal of a man in a strange purgatory.

Best Scene: Calling the airline.
3. Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair - In his second best leading turn of the year Mikkelsen gives a charismatic and moving portrayal of a decent man trying to play the game of the royal court for good.

Best Scene: The Execution.
2. Mathias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone - Schoenaerts gives another great physical turn this time as a man who finds solace in connections yet fails to understand them.

Best Scene: Saving Sam.
1. Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt - Good predictions Omar, Giuseppe, Luke, Robert, Charles, Anonymous, Jackiboyz, RatedRStar, Michael Patison, Tahmeed, Varun, moviefilm, and Alex. Well of course Mikkelsen was easily my favorite of these five, though good performances all. Mikkelsen though is on another level here and the only performance that can stand against his work here is Joaquin Phoenix's equally impressive work in The Master. Phoenix's work as the broken man trying to find some sort of path against Mikkelsen's work as the normal man going through a terrible situation. Each are compelling in their own way, and each have their own set of challenges which they both surpass at every turn. Both are two of the greatest performances I've ever seen, and since I am pained to choose right I apologize in advance. 

Best Scene: The Church. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2012 Supporting

Friday, 5 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Tom Courtenay in Quartet

Tom Courtenay did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Reginald "Reg" Paget in Quartet.

Quartet is a tad cornball film about an aging quartet of opera singers coming back together to sing in a concert to save their retirement home for musicians.

Tom Courtenay has fairly recently began reappearing in films after disappearing almost for the entirety of the seventies, purposefully apparently to focus on the stage, after his stellar run in sixties. Courtenay began some sparse appearances though but now is having regular appearances again. Well that is much appreciated to see Courtenay in films again particularly in this film. This film overall just lays on the cheese a little thickly through the unfortunately somewhat cloying performances of some of the cast, and the choices by director Dustin Hoffman to treat perhaps everything a little too lightly. Thankfully there is Courtenay to add a bit of grumpiness to the film, and actually what I mean by that is more realistic grumpiness not sort of that, sweet grumpiness that would be quite intolerable in this film. Courtenay actually bothers to try to infuse any pathos into the proceedings through his depiction of Reg's disposition from hearing that his former wife, Jean (Maggie Smith), is coming to live at the retirement home as well.

Courtenay is actually willing to take the further step as in his initial reactions to see her and in his repeated refusals to even speak to her for a more than a few words. Courtenay in these moments does not sweeten this by any mean offering some real anguish within his harsh turns away, and years of holding a grudge in his cold refusals. Reg's attitude comes from Jean having cheated on him many years ago and Courtenay actually conveys that sense of betrayal in these interactions. He grants them though, even in the initial reaction, more complexity than that. In that Courtenay is able to express the sort of particular sort of damage within Reg's view. As Courtenay expresses the past affection within the current bitterness. Courtenay attempts to actually convey the years of holding this in through these scenes something that is sorely lacking in the other problems depicted by most of the other cast members which are boiled down to basically a cutesy eccentricity.

The film though perhaps wish to get their leads in on the goofiness of the elements outside of them, Courtenay in a scene where Reg is trying to teach opera to hip teenagers. Courtenay though manages to keep his dignity intact with this scene, and even offer a bit of dignity to the film in the process. Courtenay does this by offering just the right quiet passion in his delivery as he speaks of the power of opera, and as well even makes the right mild curiosity not seem ridiculous when the conversation turns to rap. The same goes for a scene where Reg curses out one of the employees of the retirement home which is all set up to be overly cloying but Courtenay actually delivers the insults with enough venom to keep from being so. Courtenay strives to find some reality in the situation and develop a character with Reg not just a set of quirks of an older person. Courtenay succeeds in this even when the film battles him at every turn.

The most severe challenge in this regard is perhaps in Reg's forgiveness of Jean which feels sort of rushed. It isn't quite dealt with as one would imagine it should be either, they just kind of work through it. This is all done rather quickly with little to no major problems. Courtenay to his credit once again though does make it work though by in those cold scenes suggesting again that underlying affection and just slowly showing that comes out again. He makes it a natural progression mainly through his performance and through his chemistry with Smith which is endearing enough. The film though is in a rush to get to his disappointing ending, where obviously they shouldn't have made it about opera singers. Courtenay's performance here made me wish he had given a part with more depth because he does find depth in what is a paper thin role. He does his best to bring the best out of the material. I wish he was in a better film but I will say he made this a better film through his performance.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt

Mads Mikkelsen did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes, for portraying Lucas in The Hunt.

The Hunt is an excellent film about a school teacher being accused of sexual abuse.

The second leading turn from 2012 for Mads Mikkelsen comes in a modern set piece where rather than playing a doctor who changes a kingdom he plays a rather normal man, which is also in contrast to his supporting roles in his English Language films where he is so often cast as the villain. Mikkelsen gives an appropriately unassuming performance in the early scenes as we see Lucas go about his day as a kindergarten teacher. There is something about this performance, even as Mikkelsen is just establishing Lucas as this likable normal guy. In that there is effortlessness to the point that it seems we are observing a man never a character. Mikkelsen though is equally at ease in how captivating he is all the same. There is nothing that Mikkelsen is doing other than representing an honest normal person but it is utterly transfixing. It is difficult to see where even to begin in terms of what Mikkelsen is doing that is so special even at this stage of his performance. His work though transcends any acting in a way that is fascinating but also pivotal to his role.

Mikkelsen's work makes us familiar with this man in the bit of joy he gets with working with the kids, but also the sense of responsibility with them as well. He allows us to learn of his dynamic with his friends as the somewhat shy, but outgoing enough member of the group. Mikkelsen's turn just is rich with history in that we have seem to come into observing this man's life at a random point. Mikkelsen, depending on with whom he is interacting with, says so much whether it is the comfort with his best friend Theo, or his slightly awkward yet charming in his own way flirting with his co-worker Nadja with whom he starts a relationships with. Mikkelsen allows such an investment into Lucas even as there is only one major difficulty in his life early on. It is again such remarkable work in how well realized Mikkelsen makes Lucas, yet without seeming attempting to enforce the viewer to notice, but one must when watching the film. The one major difficultly that we do see early is Lucas's inability to see his son, as he attempts to negotiate with his ex-wife to be able to have more days of custody with him.

In the phone calls to his wife though Mikkelsen is incredibly moving as in his words and the urgency he depicts the love Lucas has for his son. The honesty to his simple desire to just see him and spend time him is so eloquently found by Mikkelsen's performance. One does not see his son for quite some time into the film yet you want him to be able to because of Mikkelsen's heartfelt work. A far greater trouble comes unexpectedly due to Theo's young daughter, Klara, developing a crush on Lucas, which she attempts to act upon by giving Lucas a gift and kissing him on the lips. Mikkelsen's terrific in the way he is able to find the complexity in this relationship when Lucas has to put a stop to her behavior. In that he grants the right assertiveness yet warmth as he just attempts to tell her why it is not appropriate behavior. Again the depth Mikkelsen finds is notable though as there is nothing that only stands on the surface in his work. In this Mikkelsen creates the difficulty in the relationship by showing Lucas's affection as real, though entirely proper, which is misinterpreted by the young girl.

This leads Klara to make up a false story about Lucas having sexually molested her, which the head of the school believes. Mikkelsen importantly is able to convey how the lie actually grows all the more through Lucas's initial reaction, as he makes it such an honest moment of sheer disbelief that he doesn't deny only because he doesn't believe anyone could believe it. Mikkelsen portrays the lack of weight it initially has on Lucas's mind as he has Lucas go on basically as normal, since he knows there is no truth to the charge. The charge grows though which Lucas discovers first by discovering he can see his son leading him to go confront the head of the school. Mikkelsen is outstanding in the way his performance works two fold in that on one side, from the audiences view there can be such sympathy, while conveying also the way Lucas does not help himself in a natural way. Mikkelsen presents such earned outrage at the very notion, since he knows it is an absolute lie. He expresses this without reservation that reveals his anguish over not seeing his son due to the head of the school calling his wife, but it also shows how this indirectly does no endear himself to those around him.

The lies only grow which leads to a sort of hysteria among both the parents and children as they start accusing him of having abused multiple children. Mikkelsen is outstanding in capturing the intensity of the situation and Lucas's attempt to deal with the situation. Again how vividly he has already realized him makes these scenes all the more effective. Again though he shows so well that anger connected with people so easily believing the lie about him, and there's a great scene where he purposefully makes Nadja leave him because she shows any doubt on the matter. Mikkelsen though makes the action not only understandable but also powerful since within the anger he is able to attach to the turmoil in the man from being doubted over such a severe crime. When Lucas goes to attempt to speak anyone including in his friend Theo and his family who already begin by treating him as a convicted criminal, Mikkelsen finds such poignancy and pain there as he so gently delivers Lucas's earnest attempt to clear himself of the wrongdoing yet it falls upon the deaf ears due to the emotional state of his former friends.

Lucas's ostracized by his friends and criminal charges are even created by the false testimonies of the school children. There is a bit of happiness though as he is reunited with his son Marcus, and these moments are particularly affecting by how honest Mikkelsen realizes Lucas's joy at seeing his son with making the connection between the two wholly genuine. The reunion though is bittersweet though as Lucas is at first arrested, but even after he is released he faces harassment from the townspeople. This goes further than being ostracized by everyone except his own family as his window is smashed, he is attacked at the supermarket and his dog is murdered. Mikkelsen is amazing the way he is able to reflect Lucas taking in this abuse, as he shows him trying to stay above it in a way, but everything that happens still deeply hurts him. Mikkelsen wears this damage so powerfully as he shows the man just barely keeping it together with so many horrible things happening to him. Mikkelsen makes the moments of resilience carry such an impact after given such detail to the pain. In the supermarket scene for example where Mikkelsen ensure you feel every hit he receives from the aggressors yet makes the determination in Lucas believable when he goes back in to face his attackers. Mikkelsen is able to convey the way the modest Lucas breaks out of that modesty as a necessity of the confrontation and in doing so creates such a satisfying moment when he achieves his minor victory. However even after that moment Mikkelsen reveals the very real sorrow in Lucas when he has walked away from the crowd, giving the man forced to live solemnly by a community that has abandoned him.

This comes to a head when Lucas attends the Christmas Eve church service despite the hatred the town has for him. Now this scene, I'll admit from the outset is one of the best pieces of acting I've ever seen. In the scene Lucas sits in the front of the church alone watching the service paying attention to Theo in the congregation and his daughter in the choir. What happens next has allowed Mads Mikkelsen in this film to join the ranks of Richard Jordan in Gettysburg, and Dana Andrews in The Ox-Bow Incident, in that though I've never cried from a film I came very very close watching this scene. Mikkelsen is devastating as he reveals all of the trauma he's received in his emotional breakdown that is raw and absolutely heartbreaking. There are two moments where he turns to look directly at Theo and Mikkelsen again captures so much ache in a glance. His eyes say so much of what Lucas has been through and the sense of betrayal by being judged by his friend so swiftly. Mikkelsen is outstanding, as Lucas directly confronts Theo, by being such a mess fitting to a man who has had his life ruined by a lie. Mikkelsen has it all come out in such way that it so harrowing to witness. It goes even further as Mikkelsen makes it convincing that this show of emotion would make Theo reexamine his judgment. I'll admit I needed this film to have a happy ending, which does, mostly. The reason being Mikkelsen's stunning work that made me empathize with Lucas to such an extent. There is no limitation because of the fact that Lucas is a pretty normal guy outside of the central lie by how evocative and complex of a portrayal this is of a normal person. Mikkelsen gives an all time great performance as this is an example where I did not feel I was watching a character, but rather was just allowed to see this man bare his terrible burden.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Følsgaard in A Royal Affair

Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Følsgaard did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Johann Friedrich Struensee and Christian VII of Denmark respectively in A Royal Affair.

A Royal Affair is a terrific period piece following the relationships in the royal court of Denmark during the 18th century.

The film opens following the new Danish Queen, from England, Caroline Matilda (Alicia Vikander) as she goes to begin living with her husband King Christian played by Mikkel Følsgaard who I can best describe as a minor lead. This being because Christian is set up from the start to being mostly a pawn of the other players of the court. Følsgaard in turn presents Christian early on as basically a child a play, though he happens to be at play with all the wealth and resources possible around him. Følsgaard's performance is properly thin and petulant in these early scenes as the film sets up the troubled relationship between the Queen and the King. Følsgaard handles this quite well creating the insufferable state of someone who has always gotten what he wants, as in an early scene where openly criticizes Caroline it is the raving of a brat not a King. Even when Caroline sees Christian going off with a mistress Følsgaard let's out this cat hiss in response that he makes natural because it is so fitting to the man child that is his Christian.

Mads Mikkelsen as the true lead of the film comes in a little later as a foreign doctor Johann who is recruited by former court members hoping to gain favor with the King once again. Johann's method is by becoming the king's personal physician. It's always a good thing to see Mads Mikkelsen in a film it seems even a better thing to see him in a leading role. Mikkelsen is captivating in the role even in his relatively unassuming early scenes, achieving something very important in his personal presentation of the doctor. In that Mikkelsen avoids any stuffy notions of the period or a period piece for that matter, yet he avoids feeling overly modern either. Mikkelsen finds the right balance which he uses to suggest the progressive mind of the man just in his very manner of being. His earliest scenes though are as he goes about finding his way into the good graces of the king. Mikkelsen conducts himself as Johann as sort of the best possible confidant, as he brings a warmth in his interactions though with this certain grace though that keeps him from seeming to be a sycophant.

Følsgaard and Mikkelsen's chemistry is actually very key to the film in the creation of the unique relationship between the two, which isn't as simple as king and servant or even as two friends. Although he does have that warmth of a proper confidant Mikkelsen doesn't make that a meaningless thing. It's this interesting command that Mikkelsen conveys in the relationships as he dominates their interactions with one another. Mikkelsen though is careful in that he in no way portrays this as truly manipulative of the doctor, even though it technically is. He shows the care that Johann gives to the king is genuine but with it he asserts his role of more than just a guardian. Følsgaard in turn again stays very much with his portrayal of the king as more than anything a fool, and in many ways a simple minded man. Følsgaard does not use this to give a one dimensional turn but instead finds truth within this attitude. In that Følsgaard offers the first bits of sympathy for the king by depicting such earnest appreciation in his interactions with the doctor, showing the appreciation the king has for a man who wishes to do what is best for him.

Of course Johann's relationship with the Queen is equally important which begins rather coldly as Caroline views him merely as one of the king's lacking at first. Her opinion changes though when Johann finds a dead commoner. This is a great scene for Mikkelsen as he also uses it to show the viewer essentially the sincerity of Johann beyond a doubt. Mikkelsen brings such a quiet yet powerful passion in portraying the severity of his outrage, yet also the tenderness in treating the dead man. As Mikkelsen carefully shows the wholly genuine humanitarian that is the doctor. Mikkelsen makes the switch in Caroline's view of him convincing yet he and Vikander go further to develop the budding relationship between the two. This is often unsaid yet both effortlessly convey the mutual attraction and affection the two share. Mikkelsen's work though again avoid simplification of turning Johann into some sort of lothario. This is in making the affections honest, but Mikkelsen adds more by having the small hesitation in his moments of showing that love, properly representing the doctor's fear knowing where the affair could lead him, and by doing this he grants the situation a greater meaning.

As Johann gets in greater graces with both the king and queen separately, he earns the disdain of the established power. Johann begins to attempt to improve the plight of the common people by influencing the king and again Mikkelsen excels in these scenes. As he makes Johann's suggestions again not that direct manipulation but instead subtle encouragement for the king to be a better leader. Mikkelsen actually even has this idea of affection in the treatment of the king, showing someone who believes in him. Følsgaard's in turn doesn't portray this extreme change in the king to a smarter man really, the relative simplicity of him is properly a constant in his performance, but what he does do is growth in the king's empathy by the empathy shown for him. Følsgaard's best scene comes when the the established council, where the king beforehand has had no sway, attempts to exile Johann. Følsgaard's terrific in the scene as he is able to depict the way the king finds his confidence just as they try to take away Johann. It's powerful moment as Følsgaard portrays the effort it takes for the king to break out of his usual state.

The king not only prevents Johann's exile but eventually gives him the power to be essentially the de facto leader of Denmark. Where Johann rules by a series of reforms. Mikkelsen, even as Johann seizes absolute power, portrays Johann a man of duty rather than a man of power. Mikkelsen does this by providing not a hint of joy in his success rather always providing the burden as he attempts to do his good while facing severe opposition by the establishment as well as the press that demonizes him. This leads to an early tension when a story tells of Johann's affair with the queen, and Følsgaard's very good in the accusation scene by portraying a controlled anger in the king. In that he reacts with the rage you'd expect though Følsgaard in the rage shows the king attempting to find some way to forget the "lie" by an explanation by Johann. The king receives such, but the rumors persist until a few coup is undertaken by the old guard which leads to the exile of the queen and the execution of Johann.  Følsgaard has little to do in these final moments but uses them. He shows the king reverted back to his weakened state but not as quite the same petulant fool he once was, having learned something from his time with Johann. He brings a somberness reflecting the regret in the king over losing his friend and essentially his kingdom. The highlight of the concluding scenes is the execution. A large part of that being because of Mikkelsen's outstanding portrayal of it. He gives the scenes such a visceral edge, even though we don't see the killing, by so effectively realizing the terribly fear as Mikkelsen physically shows a man just barely holding from breaking down. It is a heartbreaking scene as Mikkelsen presents the sheer devastation in Johann in final moments as he is left with nothing to hold to. Følsgaard's work should not be hand waved as it very good performance within the limitations of king Christian. Mads Mikkelsen though is the standout through his always compelling and complex portrayal of the ill-fated good doctor.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio

Toby Jones did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gilderoy in Berberian Sound Studio.

Berberian Sound Studio follows a sound engineer as he works on an Italian horror film. I appreciated it more as an exercise than as a wholly satisfying film.

The film is centered around Toby Jones, the reliable one of a kind character character, whose pretty much guaranteed to bring something to the films he's in no matter the size of his role. It's always a pleasure to see whenever a character actor of Jones's pedigree gets a leading role. It's funny here though that Jones sort of plays what would often be a supporting character in a film about film making, though this film focuses on the sound design for an Italian giallo film never seeming to leave the studio where they are making the tracks for the film. The role of Gilderoy even with the film is a curious one, as even though he's the main character, his presence within that is often off to the side against the diva actress, the mean producer, or the sleazy director since he is often unaware of their internal conflicts by the group since they are so often speaking in Italian around him. This leaves Gilderoy in a very strange position as he attempts to do his work on the film.

Jones also acts as our entry point into the Italian studio as he tries to discover what he'll being doing exactly, while we try to see what the film is about exactly. Jones is very good in these early scenes as he realizes the unease of this unknown as Gilderoy tries to acclimate himself to the studio. This is made all the more difficult through Jones's realization of Gilderoy's introversion. Jones is terrific in this regard as he makes it such a natural element to his work which he doesn't overplay though. He shows the way that Gilderoy never quite looks anyone else in the eye, and Jones delivers his lines often with a rush as he struggles to pace his speaking to the normal societal standard. Jones doesn't though go so far as to make Gilderoy this creep though, and does offer a sympathetic bent to this state of the man. Jones makes the awkwardness unintentional as he should be, and shows well the way that Gilderoy does attempt to speak with a greater ease, he just struggles with it.

Jones is pivotal in creating the atmosphere of the film as he manages to offer that outsider's state of mind in the place, which is made worse through his introversion. Jones reveals that difficultly in trying to even be part of the group he's working with, which extends further than his personal awkwardness. Jones conveys that underlying, quiet fear, of the unknown as even his reactions to the Italian speaking is important as Jones so well shows that state of disconnectedness. Jones creates this so well as he does allow Gilderoy to be an empathetic figure through the honesty of many of his reactions. One in particular is when Gilderoy is seeking a little reimbursement for his airplane ticket from the producer and he is brutally chewed out. Jones portrays so well the way this only worsens Gilderoy's state and only seems to further place him on the outside while being stuck within the studio that slowly seems to be some of purgatory if not hell for Gilderoy.

The only reprieves that Jones shows are in the form of letters from his mother, about chicks, and at times when he is left to work all alone. Jones subtly in his eyes conveys so well the bits of solace Gilderoy finds in these moments yet he even makes these somewhat cruel by the brevity of this time. Jones will show this only lasts when Gilderoy is left to himself but the moment matter of the film comes back, he backs into that state. Jones not only helps to create the atmosphere but also balances it with the pivotal human factor through his depiction of Gilderoy's experience. He offers an understanding to the man and the situation even as he becomes more and more unwieldy. A great deal of the horror comes in Jones's reflection of the oddly painful situation, as he is able to show that terror that is most unpleasant as he's not even quite sure what it is he's afraid of. There though seems to be something off and Jones grants this all the more power by offering such a genuine, even if unique, presence. One of the most unnerving moments is when Gilderoy has a call to the outside where he is told his plane ride he took to Italy supposedly never happened. Jones makes it such a chilling moment by finding the confusion within Gilderoy as the fear in the man begins to surface. I will say the film doesn't wholly make use of what Jones is doing as it begins to get swallowed up by its own style, though at least that style is good, and loses its way a bit. Jones maintains his compelling performance right until the end as he brings Gilderoy at least to his end in his strange hell. Jones internalizes the emotional desperation in Gilderoy as he becomes all the more broken, yet all the more silent in his pain. Jones's performance is worthier of a stronger film, though this isn't bad on. I do feel a better film could have allowed Jones to take this role even further. As it stands though he amplifies the film's best elements through his ability to realize the horror and humanize it.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone

Matthias Schoenaerts did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ali in Rust and Bone.

Rust and Bone is an effective film which follows the relationship between a poor amateur boxer and an Orca trainer who lost her legs due to an accident.

The last time I reviewed Matthias Schoenaerts it was for his great work in Bullhead as Jacky a man who spoke with his body and his fists more often than his mouth. Once again in a leading role Schoenaerts plays a deeply physical role, though this time as a rather different character in Ali who perhaps lives in a more typical situation. Ali after all is introduced in a series of scenes depicting him, along with his very young son Sam, going to live with his older sister. There is nothing notable at first about Ali other than the man is obviously living in poverty. Even with this poverty in mind Schoenaerts is dealing with a less innately troubled soul here as shown when we follow him as he begins work as a bouncer in a club. This is where Ali first comes across the Orca Trainer Stéphanie, before her accident, played to perfection by Marion Cotillard as usual. Schoenaerts brings such considerable charm this time around, playing so well an innate likability within Ali in this interaction. Unlike in Bullhead, purposefully so there, Schoenaerts is able to capture a more extroverted spirit and does so effectively by providing within the charm this underlying concern that makes Ali all the more appealing.

Outside of that potentially romantic setting though we see the rest of Ali which Schoenaerts paints in less appealing strokes. What Schoenaerts does here though is avoid any simplification in his portrayal of Ali the rest of the time. This is particularly notable in his scenes with his son Sam where Schoenaerts creates the complexity of the relationship in his performance. He carefully portrays the sort of affection you'd expect from a good father when ever he is interacting with his son in a carefree situation. Whenever his son though requires Ali to directly inconvenience himself and has to deal with the responsibility of his son Schoenaerts reveals a worse side to Ali. He doesn't reveal a different man though in that he manages to portray not an exact contradiction. Schoenaerts instead directly portrays this lack of maturity within these interactions. As he presents Ali's frustrations as these quick reactions without any thought behind them.  Schoenaerts in these moments depicts a lack of sort of the logical connections within Ali as it's less being a bad father, though it is that as well, but rather being detached from the idea of being one.

Schoenaert's performance in those moments even interestingly causes you to reexamine his seeming charm from earlier. Although Schoenaerts does not reveal that to be a facade, he does show it to be Ali as man without concern, and that that charm most strongly comes out when in that state of mind. Schoenaerts seems to win the viewer over again though in the scenes he shares with Stéphanie as he sees her after the accident, and takes her to go swimming. Schoenaerts chemistry with Cotillard is something truly remarkable and unique here. In that in the early scenes they are together, past the first scene, they speak to one another certainly but that's not where the connection lies. The connection lies in the physical, and not only the most obvious aspect. The way Schoenaerts interacts with Cotillard when he is just helping around, particularly swimming in the ocean there is this symbiosis. The two seem so complete in these moments and there is this natural joy within the interaction. This does though extend to the obvious of an eventual sexual relationship as well. There is something so powerful in the intimacy they find that again is found within their performances that seem as one in the realization of the solace the two have within each other's presence in these moments.

Schoenaerts excels in terms of the physicality of his performance with Cotillard and his scenes where we see Ali fighting for money. Ali explains he's fighting for cash, but also something more which Schoenaerts seems to purposefully deliver this as a haphazard explanation. The far better explanation comes when we actually see him in the fight itself and Schoenaerts delivers the thrill of the moment as Ali gets into the action. In these moments Schoenaerts shows such passion in the heat of though just for the thrill of it, and it is with this though that Schoenaerts further develops the flaw of the character. In that with those moments purely of the physical whether it is fighting, swimming or sex, Ali seems to most connect with life, but Schoenaerts presents the problem with this though by garnering it some superficiality particularly with Ali's other dalliances. Schoenaerts makes the problematic nature of Ali quite intriguing because he doesn't condemn the behavior but rather the context of it. Even after it seems he and Stéphanie are beginning to connect Ali will go with another woman in front of her. Again it's interesting in that Schoenaerts makes this  understandable yet just as painful of an action, by showing Ali's failure to understand his behavior beyond a certain point.

Ali's often selfish ways though catch up with him as he accidentally gets his own sister fired from her job, and he is forced some other path. The film jumps ahead in time to reveal Ali attempting to become a professional boxer but goes to spend some time with his son who has been living with his sister. In their time together an accident occurs where Sam falls through ice on a frozen lake. Schoenaerts is astonishing in this scene as he captures the pure visceral intensity of the moment. The moment has such an impact as Schoenaerts is so within the scene in his powerful portrayal of the breakdown emotionally but he also captures the physical anguish as he exhausts himself to save his son. Schoenaerts is equally heartbreaking moments later as he speaks to Stéphanie over the phone and he finally reveals the man without any barrier of irresponsibility within him. Schoenaerts is incredibly moving as he depicts Ali finally connecting all the way through almost losing his son, and in doing so naturally completes Ali's arc to a better man than he had been. When we see Ali with Stéphanie and his son at the end of the film it is an earned happy ending. Schoenaerts earns it by so vividly portraying the man's moment of clarity.  This is a great performance by Matthias Schoenaerts on his own yet achieves even greater heights through the poignant and unique relationship he is able to bring to life with Marion Cotillard.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012

And the Nominees Were Not:

Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair

Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt

Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone

Tom Courtenay in Quartet

Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Results

5. Tim Roth in The Hit - Roth gives a properly entertaining performance in creating the superficiality of his young wannabe hitman.

Best Scene: The Hit.
4. John Candy in Splash - Candy steals his film with ease with his funny take as a pseudo lothario that makes his scenes the only scenes worthwhile in the film.

Best Scene: Listening in.
3. Denholm Elliott in A Private Function - Elliott is the funniest part of his film by taking the role overly seriously, playing his hoity toit doctor as a menacing pseudo-gangster.

Best Scene: Threat to the couple.
2. Kenneth McMillan in The Pope of Greenwich Village - McMillan proves himself a great character actor with not only his wildly entertaining portrayal of a intergalactic madman in Dune, but also this down to earth heartfelt honest portrayal of a small time criminal.

Best Scene: Saying goodbye to his wife.
1. Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man - Good Predictions Michael McCarthy, and Luke. Well for me it came down to two great characters actors giving two remarkable performances within years were they gave kind of the opposite style in the same year. Stanton with his great lead performance in the low key Paris, Texas, and here in his extremely enjoyable absurdist tone as a veteran repo man. Honestly I could switch between the two down the road, but at this moment I'm going for Stanton's hilarious turn.

Best Scene: "You calling me an asshole?"
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2012 Lead

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Denholm Elliott in A Private Function

Denholm Elliott did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning BAFTA, for portraying Dr. Charles Swaby in A Private Function.

A Private Function is yet another off-beat film from 84 this time about a husband Gilbert (Michael Palin) and wife Joyce (Maggie Smith) getting into the complicated black market during food rationing in post-war England.

Denholm Eliott, in the second of his three consecutive BAFTA winning performances, plays the ringleader of the "nefarious" group secretly procuring food outside of the food rationing policies set by the government. Denholm Elliott is the funniest part of this comedy of manners because he plays the part the role less as a stuck up high class doctor and more as a crime boss not entirely unlike Michael Caine's Mortwell in Mona Lisa. Elliott's approach is to take everything so seriously that it ends up becoming more than a little hilarious, I won't say he quite plays it straight though because he doesn't exactly. There is a build up to this though as we see glimpses of his character as he is working with his "gang" of other well to dos who plan on getting their pork for a pivotal private function no matter what it takes, well maybe not no matter what. These guys though are pretty severe though it seems evidenced by Elliott's mere body language in these scenes as he sits with his darkened expression among the others, clearly the man of power, of course we're talking about the leader of a hoity toit dinner.

Unfortunately for doctor Swaby and his "villains" the new doctor in town, foot doctor that is, Gilbert accidentally comes wind of their hidden pigs who, egged on by his wife, decide to steal it in order to social climb. This leads to the doctor to be short of one pivotal main course for his dinner party leading to a break down among his gang. Elliott is hilarious in this scene, particularly the pained distress in his reaction at being suggested that they replace the main course with salmon. Elliott's great as he takes this atypical swing around as he plays it more mobster than snob in the viciousness he exudes in his speech against the changing mores of England. It is not entirely unlike Bob Hoskins's final speech in The Long Good Friday though of course Elliott's anger stems from having to share a little rather than due to losing everything. What I actually loved is that Elliott does not wink at any point in this playing the whole thing straight yet skewed still as a most ridiculous society man.

Elliott's best scenes come in the climax in the film where the men find their stolen pigs and must deal with Joyce and Gilbert in order to proceed with their proper meal on time. Elliott again stays with his oh so amusing approach as he brings so much intensity to the role. I with all sincerity hope Elliott played a legitimate gangster once since Elliott would be genuinely menacing in the role if his threats were more than just rather vague insults. Of course that is what makes Elliott so funny as he delivers his lines with the same type of determined hate you'd expect from a man who will kill to get what he wants, although of course the doctor really won't go that far. Elliott's subversion is quite something with the highlight being perhaps his version of Robert Prosky's speech in Thief since Elliott does not hold back directing his brutal words so effectively yet his brutal words basically amount to "hey nobody likes you, leave town". Elliott gives a very entertaining performance as he stays so true and consistent in his initial setup of portraying Dr. Charles Swaby as the most "merciless" of all dinner party hosts.