Monday, 18 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949: Toshiro Mifune in Stray Dog

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Detective Murakami in Stray Dog.

Well given that I've reviewed every other leading turn by Toshiro Mifune under the guidance of Akira Kurosawa I thought I might as well complete the only one I missed. Of course I previously reviewed him for this year for his work as a doctor who accidentally contracts syphilis in The Quiet Duel, where Mifune revealed his skill in a particularly internalized role, Stray Dog however is in some ways an encapsulation of so many of the elements that makes him my favorite actor. On the first is the very idea of his collaboration with Kurosawa which simply is the greatest between any actor and director in cinematic history. Their achievement together surpasses all others without question. This is abundantly obvious within this film particularly in the earliest scenes that are almost silent in a way as we follow Mifune's Detective Murakami as he goes undercover in order to find the black market operators who have his pistol that was stolen from him. Kurosawa features much of the detail of the environment of the city, however Mifune is never lost within this technique. Mifune's presence of course helps to prevent this yet in every moment we see him he effectively conveying what Murakami is going through as he either wanders the streets or tails a potential suspect. Mifune captures obviously the determination of the detective, yet also conveys the frustrations of the chase, and even a bit humor in the degree of awkwardness he portrays when finding a perpetrator. Mifune and Kurosawa amplify the scenes together, as Kurosawa grants the us the imagery, and Mifune offers that focal point that amplifies it so well.

Mifune of course is almost always kind of the individualist within even the communal society in  every Kurosawa film, which he's here too, but more on that later. This though is the pioneer of the buddy cop duo specifically the veteran detective, here Sato played by Takashi Shimura, and the rookie Mifune's Murakami. The film follows them as they work together to find the "stray dog" aka the man who has Murakami's gun that he's using to violently rob people. Again as much as Mifune stands out as a performer he is not a showboat in all reality and does not stand in the way of his co-stars. Mifune here has, once again, terrific chemistry with Takashi Shimura, this perhaps being their best collaboration in terms of their direct interactions. Mifune knows how to share a scene as does Shimura and the two of them develop naturally the relationship between the detective. They find the right dynamic in every regard with Shimura always emphasizing the wisdom of the old mentor, while Mifune emphases the youth and inexperience of Murakami. The two only amplify this further through the striking way they interact in every scene. I love the way they contrast with Shimura always so calm, yet with certain type of potential energy in the right way in portraying the way Sato deals with a crime, against Mifune who depicts that pent up urgency of a man who both has never solved a case before but has a desperate need to do so.

Now in that desperate need is where we get the really the crux of the character and as expected Mifune uses it to realize Murakami as a distinct man. In the opening scene we get just brief moment of the a cocky young man seemingly quite happy in his job as he does target practice. Mifune in that brief moment doesn't reveal him as this huge ego, but rather seemingly someone on the rise in his life. The loss of the gun causes that shift though and Mifune is terrific in revealing that shattered confidence that stems the early desperation in Murakami as he attempts to recover the weapon. When the gun gets into the wrong hands though, and his loss inadvertently causes death due to the violent man who bought it, Mifune naturally shifts the character again. Mifune brings such a powerful emotion within the case by keeping this underlying and so palatable shame within Murakami. Every time they hear news of an injury or death caused by the gun, Mifune is terrific in the way his reactions convey the immediate deep despair in Murakami as that shame rises to the surface once again. Mifune makes this facet of the character but does not allow it to overwhelm the role entirely as he delves deeper into Murakami all the while the investigation continues on. Within that there is a key facet to the character which is Murakami's relationship to the man they are trying to catch.

Murakami's association to the stray dog is not of any real association, but rather a connection in theoretical mutual experience as both were former soldiers from the war who came back to their normal lives with nothing to show for it. The experience of the war, something that Mifune had experienced in real life as well, is something innately in his performances as it can be found within his personal intensity as a performer even when he's not directly emotional. This provides such a depth within his work here as Murakami as within his approach there is an undeniable sense within his performance of technically a harsher life that was behind him though still haunts him to a certain extent. When Murakami speaks of the stray dog, and how he could have potentially gone his way of life given his similair circumstances, Mifune is outstanding in the way his eyes seem to look within to convey the way Murakami is examining his own pains from the past. This is a consistent factor that Mifune brilliantly realizes though is naturally eased within the story as Sato always counters that Murakami is indeed a better man. Mifune beautifully realizes within his work they idea of that thought that perpetuates throughout. Again Mifune even when not front and center never wastes a moment. In his moments with Shimura, when he presents an overt comfort towards the younger man, Mifune effectively portrays the slight ease yet not removal of these thoughts that are a burden to the man. One of the best moments within Mifune's performance though is almost silent when he listens to the stray dog's girlfriend defend his actions by essentially explaining his plight, which is no different than what Murakami went through. Mifune's reaction hold such power as he depicts Murakami's understanding that his choices made him a different man. Mifune when finally speaks is incredible because he does reveal sanctimony in verbalizing the different path, as there still is the sense of the shared suffering, yet now with the conviction that he was in the right. Again as much as this is accomplished portrayal of this man dealing with his shame from his current failure, and the demons of the past, he is also simply a  a great lead in this police procedural. Mifune is captivating to watch as he works the case in every respect in creating again that urgency, but also in every moment with Shimura the learning process as he sees the seasoned officer work. Mifune naturally builds towards the climax of the film which is amazing scene for him as he represents the strength of Murakami coming into his own as a detective yet also the direct underlying fear of the danger in the moment, but with emotional intensity of man knowing he is truly fighting for a just cause.  I've said before, but it's always worth saying, and I hope to have the pleasure of saying it again, which is this is a great performance by Toshiro Mifune. It's a turn that reveals just how effortless yet remarkable his collaboration with Kurosawa was as well as his ability to not only giving a mesmerizing performance to watch, but also one that wholly captures the complexities of his character.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949: Anton Walbrook in The Queen of Spades

Anton Walbrook did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain Herman Suvorin in The Queen of Spades.

The Queen of Spades has decent atmosphere and some great moments, though it perhaps has too much time between each of them, following the story of a Russian soldier going about a most unusual plan to win at cards.

The Austrian actor Anton Walbrook who perhaps made his international name through the films of Powell and Pressburger, here stars in perhaps less complex role as a Gothic villain. I must say the plan of Captain Herman Suvorin in this film is not exactly the most sensible even for a greedy louse. He goes about by first slowly seducing a Countess's ward in order to just get access to the Countess to demand to know basically how to supernaturally cheat at cards, because he read that she should know in a book, then use that knowledge against the rich officers he refuses to usually play cards with. Captain Suvorin has a serious not being able to see the forest for the trees problem, but I digress. As little as Suvorin's plan makes a whole lot of sense we get Walbrook here acting in as a highly unsympathetic rouge, there is more than a little entertainment to be found from this. In the first half of the film Walbrook is rather successful at being a slimy creep in his method of seduction, that involves very little passion just some random threats. Walbrook to his credit somehow makes it sort of work in his own style to this as he has this persuasive quality within his essentially pretty pathetic words. Walbrook never hides that the Captain is this terrible man yet he still fashions a convincing Lothario through his unique presence as actor. 

After making his way into the ward's mind though he gets to come in and threaten the Countess in order to learn her secrets. It is in this scene where we see Walbrook working up towards something in creating the vicious greed of Suvorin. This is but a warmup though when Suvorin using what he gained from the confrontation finally plays cards. Now this scene is where really is all that matters in regards to Walbrook's performance. Now to be sure Walbrook is pretty over the top here in his darting eyes, and the sheer almost drooling joy in his delivery every time he says "My win" or bets again. He's goes pretty hammy here to be sure, but I would be lying if I did not say I did not find him to be wildly entertaining in his portrayal of the mad greed of the Captain. Walbrook is a hoot throughout the scene in just going all in both literally and metaphorically as they play with Captain seemingly having supernatural help. Eventually though, given that this is a Gothic morality tale, the helps runs out leading to Suvorin losing everything. This thankfully gives us all some more of that very rare rather glorious, delicious, ham from Walbrook in his realization of the Captin's insane ramblings as he loses his mind after he loses the game. Anton Walbrook's performance is not this realization of this complex character it is rather creating essentially a straw man to be burned by the moral of the story basically. In this perhaps somewhat simplistic way Walbrook's work here is a success, it is not a great performance by any margin, however it is rather fun to watch.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949: Robert Ryan in The Set-Up

Robert Ryan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bill "Stoker" Thompson in The Set-Up.

The Set-Up is a terrific film noir/boxing film that follows a boxing match where everyone is on the fix except for the man who's suppose to take the fall.

Robert Ryan is best known for playing heavies in supporting roles so it is interesting to see him here playing not only the lead but also one of the few characters who is not corrupt in the film. Early on we learn of the setup then we are introduced to Ryan's Stoker as he speaks to his wife Julie (Audrey Totter) before he goes off to fight. One only needs to look at Ryan to see that Stoker is an over the hill boxer as Ryan carries this certain underlying despair in his eyes. Stoker though wishes to fight and even speaks about the fight as a chance to potential greatness in the ring. Ryan is very moving as he carries that despair yet is convincing as Stoker makes such statements. Ryan does not depict this as lying to his wife, but rather unintentionally lying to himself. In his delivery Ryan doesn't invoke really a hope but rather this desperate need for a hope in every statement. Ryan reveals this man just trying to put himself in this optimistic mindset despite always reinforcing that underneath Stoker's feelings of doubt are probably as stronger if not stronger than his wife's. Ryan setups so effectively the state of Stoker before he goes to the arena to prepare, portraying just this man dangling on a thread trying so hard not to fall.

Now Robert Ryan is the lead in the film yet in a very specific manner as he acts as the focal point for what is Robert Wise's rather brilliant portrait of the whole atmosphere around the boxing ring. The film takes a great deal of time with Stoker as he awaits his own matches and watches the other boxers prepare to fight. Ryan makes the most out of every second in this largely reactionary performance. Ryan amplifies every other little snippet of a boxer's story through his performance, and in each of these we get a little more insight into Stoker's own life. In the womanizer coming off a victory, Ryan infuses Stoker with an intense distaste not exactly for the behavior rather reflecting his sorrow over his tense relationship with his wife. In the face of the few boxers who are up and comers Ryan finds this incredibly poignant moments as in his eyes you can see a bit of happiness for the men, as well as in the idea of success at all, but also again that sadness still underlines it as he seems to look at himself in the past when he still had an overt hope. This despair only becomes all the stronger though in watching another washed up boxer being beaten within his life. In every single one of these moments there is such a power to them because of how honestly realizes Stoker's investment in their stories since in some way they are like his own.

Eventually it becomes Stoker's turn for the match where we get one of the most powerfully realized boxing matches ever depicted in a fictional film. It is not quite typical though as we focus on almost everyone in the stadium in addition to having the drama right within the ring with Stoker taking on the younger smug boxer who is in on the fix. Ryan is terrific in this sequence, now Ryan a former amateur boxer is believable in terms of fighting, but he goes far further than that with his performance. Ryan portrays physically a certain type of fight as in every moment there is such an intensity in really the heart he brings in every punch, and every moment of facing his opponent straight on. Ryan in every strikes shows a man fighting for his life in a way finding this strength within still an emotional desperation. I love the fierceness in Ryan's his work suggesting Stoker lashing out against everyone and everything doubting him. When Stoker is told of the fix late in the round Ryan only goes further with this idea revealing such a disdain for the idea, and showing a man doing something for himself. When Stoker achieves knockout it is a great moment though as Ryan depicts physically the sheer exasperation of the fight, but also the instance of pride in a man who has had so few of them. Robert Ryan proves his measure in a leading role, technically against type, by delivering this marvelous bittersweet portrait of this boxer. He does not hesitate in revealing the severity of the desperation and vulnerability of the man, which in turn makes his few moments of happiness and hope deeply affecting.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949

And the Nominees Were Not:

Anton Walbrook in The Queen of Spades

David Farrar in The Small Back Room

Robert Ryan in The Set-Up

Howard Vernon in Le Silence de La Mer

Chishū Ryū in Late Spring

And a Special Review of:
Toshiro Mifune in Stray Dog

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1935: Edward G. Robinson in The Whole Town's Talking and Results

Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Arthur Ferguson Jones and "Killer" Mannion in The Whole Town's Talking.

The Whole Town's Talking is a rather enjoyable screwball comedy about a mild mannered clerk being mistaken for a hard edged gangster.

The Whole Town's Talking offers Edward G. Robinson the chance to go far out of his type, but also play right into it. The out of it type is in the role of the clerk Arthur Ferguson Jones whose main worry at the beginning of the film is just getting to work on time. As usual Robinson proves his measure in yet another type of role here. I've covered him in somewhat meek roles before in his film noirs with Fritz Lang, but this is step away from those roles even. Robinson isn't just meek here he's hilariously meek. Robinson's great though in that he's not playing a guy who is pained in any way due to his modest nature, it's just the way he is. Robinson is delightful in throwing himself fully into playing the role to a tee with every little mannerisms, from his slight smile, to his unassuming physical posture, that just emphasize how much of a harmless man Jones is. There's even a particularly enjoyable scene early on where Jones attempts to fashion a more normalized Edward G. Robinson look, and Robinson is great in portraying Jones awkwardly attempting to contort his face into his normal gangster expression. Robinson though is wonderful though by just how endearing he makes everything about Jones, in just how earnest his depiction of every one of those mannerisms are. There's nothing difficult about them in Robinson's approach, they just are the normal behavior of this sweet clerk.

Unfortunately for Jones he happens to look just like the gangster "Killer" Mannion, which leads him to be arrested early on though eventually released when the mix up discovered. Now after some rather amusing moments from Robinson depicting first an abject terror then an abject joy due to first the mix up then random boons due to the mix up we run into Robinson's second performance. The evil Killer Mannion first appearing deep in shadow there at Jones's apartment to exploit the mix up for himself in order to commit crimes more easily. Now Robinson obviously should be more comfortable as Mannion given this sort of role is how he became a star to begin with, and to be sure he's very comfortable in the role, however this isn't just a copy of Little Caesar here. Robinson actually purposefully overplays the role a tad, in a good way, in that he sort of does a Edward G. Robinson parody type of gangster performance as Mannion. This could be a bit much, but it's just right for the tone of the film. You of course have to still take him seriously as Robinson is always menacing whenever he wishes to be, yet he keeps Mannion from being a downer on the fun by accentuating his typical mannerisms a tad. Robinson finds the right balance as he does make Mannion a genuine threat, yet he's still funny as well by being such an obvious gangster even when he's pretending to be Jones.

Many of the highlight scenes of the film are of Robinson acting against Robinson, this being a fairly early example of the single actor sharing chemistry with himself. He has a real way of acting terrifying while acting terrified at the same time, or acting vicious and gentle at the same time. Robinson has a great deal of fun in every one of these scenes developing a rather amusing dynamic with himself as Mannion misuses the poor clerk. Eventually though the best Robinson scene though does come alone when the meek Jones must pretend to be the tough gangster in order to save himself and his friends. Robinson is sort of outstanding in this sequence as he effectively portrays a struggle just to play his usual part in a most entertaining fashion. The best part being without a doubt when Jones has to brandish a Tommy gun himself and fires at Mannion's henchmen. Robinson is downright hilarious in portraying Jones almost crying as he shoots the gun, and wrenching in fear as he attempts to be menacing even for a moment. This is yet another terrific performance from Edward G. Robinson as he excels at not just one but two types of roles in this screwball comedy.
Updated Lead Overall
Updated Supporting Overall

Next Year: 1949 Lead

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Results

5. Tony Todd in Candyman - Todd begins his performance in creating a unique approach to a cinematic boogeyman unfortunately the film finds its way into making it a standard one.

Best Scene: The Candyman appears.
4. Graham Greene in Thunderheart - Greene manages to find the right humor while still making an emotional impact as his cop who acts as more than one type of guide.

Best Scene: Finding the murder victims.
3. David Bowie in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me -  Bowie in literally a couple of minutes creates a fascinating enigma that leaves quite the impression.

Best Scene: "We're not gonna talk about Judy"
2. Wesley Snipes in The Waterdance -  Snipes gives a terrific performance here creating the right charismatic bluster that hides the sad man beneath it all.

Best Scene: Raymond wins the bet.
1. Ray Wise in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me - Wise gives an outstanding reprise of his all-time great television turn, this time effectively realizing the extremes of the man and granting insight into Leland Palmer's mind.

Best Scene: Leland apologizes. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1935, Won't necessarily do a lineup. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Tony Todd in Candyman

Tony Todd did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular role in Candyman.

Candyman begins as a rather atmospheric horror film following the investigation of an urban legend, but it loses its way to a more overt slasher film once the titular character fully appears.

This is not a knock against Tony Todd in the role as the ghostly monster who you summon by repeating his name in the mirror so many times. Now I should clarify there can be some entertainment to be had from the second half of this film, it is just the first half suggests the sort of horror film that really gets under your skin rather than the more routine one that follows after. Tony Todd's initial appearance though actually suggests the better path as he appears from a distance in what is a rather chilling scene. Although Todd at 6'5'' is a rather menacing figure to begin with, and that bloody hook does not exactly hurt things in this regard, Todd's performance does take this even further. In this scene he carries an eerie presence that is far more off-putting than if he was just playing it as some overt psychotic. Todd instead plays it as though he this higher being of some sort, though this higher being that desires a death sacrifice. His gaze has a murderous glint in his eyes, yet it seems to look even beyond that as a force beyond the earth. Todd's voice, which needs to be said is an amazing voice to begin with, though takes it even further. Again he does not just go for an overt evil routine instead there is almost a certain allure he brings within his delivery that makes the Candyman a tempter, even while he does not hide the terrible result that would be at the end of that temptation.

After that initial scene though the film becomes far less creative in its use of the titular character. He mostly shows up, says something cryptic, kills someone, then leaves. Now to be fair though Todd's approach in itself is never the problem. His performance remains compelling to at the very least a certain extent as he does so effectively realizes the enigmatic nature of the being. The film though overuses and misuses his performance. It slowly peels away what made him so effective in the first scene till the end where he just has basically lost all his mystery. Unfortunately the trick Todd pulls itself loses its luster and he cannot adjust to something that maintains the sort of horror wonder of the character when he starts flailing around like just any other horror villain. In the end it is the film that is frustrating one not Todd however a part of that frustration comes in how it ends up wasting this performance. From that opening scene one can see the potential for a truly remarkable creation of a different type of terror by Todd, unfortunately the film settles just for a tall guy with a pointy weapon.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: David Bowie, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Wise and Frank Silva in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

David Bowie did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Phillip Jeffries in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me acts a prequel to the original Twin Peaks series but also really a bridge, 25 years before, for the third season of the show. In serving that purpose it is extremely effective as an episode in the series, though an outsider may be a bit lost if they are viewing it all on its own.

David Bowie is actually only in about two minutes of the film, if even that, in his role as missing F.B.I agent Phillip Jeffries. He appears mysteriously out of an elevator in F.B.I headquarters, rambles seemingly incoherently then disappears without trace, yet leaves an ever lasting memory in this time. Of course credit must go to David Lynch's brilliant set up of the scene, but this scene would not be what it is without David Bowie. Bowie is of course known best as his work as a musician however onscreen he has a singular screen presence, an almost otherworldly quality. This is most useful in this role as one sits up and takes notice the moment Bowie ever enters the frame, Bowie's mere existence amplifies the already enigmatic nature of scene. It is not merely about Bowie being so fascinating in it of itself, but as his performance as agent Jeffries. The beginning of which is Bowie portrayal of the state of Jeffries which seems to be a of a man who sees far beyond one's normal existential crisis. The very particular emotional distress Bowie exudes isn't of just a time traveler, but of a man who has been through hell learned terrible secrets behind his whole universe and is here to tell the story. There is a painful urgency yet confusion that Bowie brings in every bit of that strange anguish he delivers in the role. As he makes Jeffries this man barely in his place with only this minor grip on reality trying to explain his story before disappearing while we witness a blood curdling scream by Bowie. To make everything all the more fascinating though Bowie uses a southern American accent in the role, which is some strange masterstroke. This only makes the already effortlessly intriguing Bowie all the more captivating. Bowie in just a couple of minutes, again if that, leaves an undeniable impression, creating one of the most enthralling figures in the grand Twin Peaks universe.
Harry Dean Stanton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Carl Rodd in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

Speaking of effortlessly compelling actors look no further than Harry Dean Stanton, who can do more in a couple seconds than some actors can do in 3 hours. Stanton though is rather different than Bowie in terms of their exact presence, in fact sort of the opposite in that Harry Dean Stanton certainly always feels like a man of our world, which is part of his great appeal. Stanton appears as the trailer park owner that housed a murder victim whose death F.B.I agents Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) are investigating. Stanton initially appears as a seemingly more ill-tempered sort when the agents knock on his trailer door before his normal wake time. Stanton is hilarious in his initial grumpiness though this does aside as he reveals Rodd to be a nice enough guy who just doesn't like being woken up early. Stanton is very entertaining though particularly in contrast to the straight laced F.B.I. agents. Stanton just has a way with any line quite honestly and couldn't be a better fit for David Lynch's unique style of comedy. Stanton finds the appropriate tone for sort of Americana humor found with Lynch, as Stanton makes it quite funny in that particular style, yet he also makes it quite earnest. Stanton finds the humor in just his every little moment, such as commenting on his coffee, or his straight forward confusion at what the F.B.I are doing exactly. Now Stanton just being this friendly trailer park owner, would be enough. There is more though as the seriousness of the situation does arrive, and in an instance Stanton naturally reveals another side to Rodd as the investigate the murder victim's trailer. Stanton in his single line of "See, I've already gone places... I just wanna stay where I am" alludes so haunting to the man's own history in his unknown but there is also something poignant in the second half of a man just wanting the stability in his quiet life. As usual Stanton makes quite an impression in just a few minutes as Carl Rodd giving a great introduction to a character, which he thankfully was allowed to reprise in the show's third season.
Ray Wise did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

It is also worth noting that Ray Wise was not Emmy nominated for his work in the series leaving one of the all time great television performances unrecognized. Ray Wise's work actually there shows perhaps the wide gap there was between film/television, something that Twin Peaks, very much ahead of its time, was trying to reduce. I mention that as it is likely if someone gave that same performance today they likely would break out across the board, or least for a little while. Of course this is also trying to understand Wise's baffling low key career in general as I've found him to be an incredibly dynamic performer no matter where he turns up. Anyway Wise's reprise begins when he appears after the elongated prologue featuring Bowie, Stanton and the F.B.I. agents, as the film jumps to the titular town to focus on the final days of murder victim Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Wise obviously playing her father Leland, who in the series we eventually discovered, spoilers, that he was her murderer. Of course it's not so simple and where in the series we saw the phases of the man from a certain distance, here we are given the intimate detail of Leland's broken self. The first side we see of him Wise is terrifying as Leland demands Laura wash her fingernails before dinner. Wise in the moment is of this horribly abusive father. Wise persecutes her though in this horribly controlling way as he does it as though he is teaching her lesson, with his "father knows best" delivery that makes the moment all the more chilling.

A moment later though Wise instantly switches to a heartbreaking tone in the purity of the despondence that he shows in Leland as he profusely apologizes to his daughter for his earlier demands. Wise in this moment is completely earnest and sympathetic in his portrayal of such a tender sorrow as Leland attempts to explain himself. This is extremely inconsistent from the previous scene yet this is not a flaw in Wise's performance but rather the truth of it. Wise in that moment shows that being absolutely the purest form of the true Leland Palmer, which is as this loving father. A loving father that Wise does bring such a terrible shattered warmth, as he shows a man attempting to genuinely care for his daughter. Wise though makes every moment of it seem as though he on this horrible edge, as he suggests Leland is always a second from a complete emotional breakdown. Wise is harrowing to watch though as he does not make this in any way false, despite what we have previously seen, as he presents something being deeply wrong in this yet there is an absolute truth in his guilt. Wise in doing this though realizes the grave predicament that Leland Palmer exists in.

The predicament is not that Leland is struggling with his worst impulses but rather that he is literally possessed by an evil spirit that thrives on the suffering of humans. Although the idea of the demon inside can be taken as a metaphor, but in this case it's not. Now the literal in itself is potentially a ridiculous concept but it never feels as such due to the brilliance of how Wise portrays it, as well as another reason which I will get to soon. Wise though creates this state of the man which he does not show as a Jekyll and Hyde but rather something much worse. Wise depicts it as a man essentially being torn from within as his own self is constantly corrupted, which he is occasionally released from yet he can do nothing about it. A genius element in Wise's work in that, even though it's not even required, he actually in many ways allows for both the literal and metaphorical interpretation of Leland's mind. Wise's work is outstanding as he manages to find all that makes of the man without losing control of it. He realizes so effectively this confusion in himself in every moment as in his physical manner there is always this horrid pressure to this as a man who seems never at ease whether he is giving into his shame, to the monster within, or if even he's not directly either. Wise portrays a man who is simply wrong from the inside out yet makes sense of this insane idea. Wise is downright amazing in every scene as he brings the warmth in portraying Leland's love for his daughter, but he is also terrifying as he brings about her own corruption and death. Wise's work in the television series was great, and this performance is an incredible companion of that work as he reveals the internalized horror of the man.
Frank Silva did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bob in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

The true source of the evil in the story though is in the spirit Bob played by Frank Silva. Silva's original appearance coming from a sudden bit of inspiration by David Lynch leading Silva, originally a set dresser, becoming one of the most iconic characters from the series. It's a fascinating thing as the image of Silva taken out of context perhaps shouldn't be terrifying, he's just a guy with long hair in denim, yet he's one of the most horrifying figures in any fictional work. Silva's performance is essentially a silent one except for some grunts, which should not be hand waved as his delivery of them as human animal are truly disturbing. Silva embodies this concept of this evil spirit, which is that of seemingly man's worse inclination and desires personified. Silva does not need to speak in order to strike fear. Silva's performance is almost entirely physical and as that it is something unforgettable. Silva's very being is of an urge, a terrible urge, to do whatever creates suffering. There is this lust, yet this hate, there is even a strange sorrow, yet joy all in Silva's performance that is pure unadulterated emotion. A single part of what Silva's doing could be even empathetic in someway yet his combination of all of it, all at once, in this way creates this figure that is one of the most unnerving as Silva is otherworldly yet entirely human all at once. He is a boogeyman that strikes that particular almost existential fear yet with a grounding that carries a most visceral sting. Although of David Lynch's work amplifies all of this, yet there is a reason that the mere sight of Bob behind a dresser is one of the frightening scenes in any film, as Silva gives the boogeyman a face, a most terrifying one.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Graham Greene in Thunderheart

Graham Greene did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Walter Crow Horse in Thunderheart.

Thunderheart follows a murder investigation on an Native American reservation by the FBI, although the film is decent it never seems to reach the potential within its story.

Well before I get to another 25 year break, here is a different one. Before Graham Greene played a harried overworked police officer on a reservation in Wind River, he played one in this film. Although both films begin with the same basic premise, they differ very much in content and theme with this film following far more closely the greater implication of the murder here as the film is as much about the conflict between the FBI, the various factions of the reservation, with the murder just a starting point. Technically speaking Graham Greene's performance most directly relates to the murder though as we first meet him as he comes to pick up the body running afoul of FBI veteran Frank Coutelle (Sam Shepard) and novice investigator Ray Levoi (Val Kilmer) put on the mission due to his minor Sioux heritage. Any initial misunderstandings are cleared up though as Walter is revealed to the law on the reservation. Greene makes the right impact right off the bat though in his comical exasperation towards  Ray Levoi's over eagerness, and he establishes his approach to Walter.

Greene on one hand is quite entertaining in giving a quietly comedic performance, what he'd do again in his similair role in Wind River. Greene is able to find the right balance here though in his low key way of infusing some truly natural humor in the role. He never tries to be funny but rather just is. This is often just in his reactions towards Ray early on as he shows that Walter in no way expects Ray to be all that much help. Greene effectively delivers the way Walter goes about pestering Ray a bit early on in a way as he grants the character the right confidence in his peculiar sort of authority over the man. The moment where he pulls over Ray for speeding, though with the intention to speak to the man, Green though has the right sort of fun in the moment showing the bit of honest enjoyment that Walter gets out of mocking Ray a bit. Although Greene manages to be funny in the role that is in no way his point in the film, as he has the far more important part of being essentially Ray's guide into the world of the reservation helping him see an alternate view beyond what Coutelle tells him.

Greene makes Walter the moral guide of sorts to Ray, even though he is also the most entertaining character though even that Greene shows that his certain comic exasperation comes from a place of real pain over his thankless job in a terrible situation. After awhile Greene shows the little jokes, while always have a bit of genuine anger, eventually have a bit of wisdom in them as well. Greene finds the right balance in his performance showing Walter own devotion to his quest though he goes about it in his own way. Greene's terrific in the way he actually eases up a bit in his sort of trolling of Ray as the situation becomes more dire and Ray begins to learn the truth. Greene in his approach slowly brings a greater gravity and direct passion. Again not something that was not there before but Greene powerfully brings it to the forefront when it becomes the most important. He quite honestly delivers the transformation for Kilmer's character more than Kilmer himself, as he makes an impact through the way Walter reacts to the man making so much out of the respect for the man he reveals in his eyes. This is a strong performance by Graham Greene, and even though I think the film could have made an even better use of his character particularly in relation to Kilmer's, his work still stands as the highlight of the film.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Wesley Snipes in The Waterdance

Wesley Snipes did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Raymond Hill in The Waterdance.

Wesley Snipes before embarking on his somewhat ill-fated time as a leading man began as a character actor. This role could almost seem as a bit of bridge, as it allows him to deliver what he became known for while giving perhaps more substantial character to work with. Here Snipes technically plays the secondary story to Eric Stoltz's Joel, yet even with the secondary focus perhaps Snipes's story as Raymond is a bit more potent in some ways. We first meet Snipes as forces his introduction to Joel and his married girlfriend Anna (Helen Hunt). Snipes though is quite charismatic actually in presenting really Raymond as someone who perhaps lays it on a bit thick yet does so rather effectively. Snipes uses this to allude to more than just being a charming sort in these moments those. Snipes puts a bit more emphasis on it than that in creating certain bluster with an real charm though that suggests more about Raymond using this as his own way to overcome his own difficulty accepting his condition. Snipes lays it on thick in these moments, and as he should as he shows Raymond as a guy forcing himself to try to basically be something he's not which is someone completely comfortable with his situation.

In the early scenes Snipes is terrific actually in setting up Raymond particularly in regard to when the conversation turns to his wife early on. When speaking on the matter Snipes brings such a false confidence in every word portraying an desperation in Raymond that he's doing all that he can to cover it up. This is in contrast to when we actually meet Raymond's wife who only shows up, despite his earlier claims of her great affection for him, to try to force him to sign divorce papers. Snipes's quite good in the scene though as he plays it a bit as Raymond still trying to put on his charm as he avoids facing her directly. He's rather moving actually though as Snipes reveals this facade buckling in the moment, as he depicts the attempt to maintain the charm in the man yet he quietly reveals the overwhelming sadness within the man as he still tries to connect to his family even as they are disregarding him. As they basically abandon him Snipes is terrific as he reveals the collapse of any solace in faking any happiness, revealing just the angry anguish underneath the man as he finally fully faces his own situation.

Although Joel has a form of support, the only support ends up  being the other guys in the hospital in particular the injured biker Bloss (William Forsythe) despite their original antagonism due to Raymond's boisterous nature. This relationship could seem contrived but Forsythe and Snipes make it wholly believable through the unique chemistry they strike up. Past that initial antagonism the two of them are effective in the way each show that the men connect on their mutual misery by supporting each other as they essentially say "screw the world" together. The two of them find a certain warmth actually within the anger just through the way they share it together, and this friendship that develops ends up being the most poignant element within the film. The difficult connection is earned by both actors. I love their final scene together where they come together after Raymond has gone through a particularly rough patch. Snipes is wonderful by finding Raymond completely without his bravado showing just the modest man searching for happiness beneath it all. Bloss offers a bit of comfort by reaffirming an old, perhaps minor, success with a woman. Snipes brings just the right bit of confidence back in the man in the moment, and suggests that he hasn't given back to the delusion but rather almost fakes it a bit in an earnest appreciation for what his friend has done for him. Snipes and Forsythe, despite given secondary focus and less importance, quietly steal their film in their convincing and heartfelt depiction of two unlikely friends finding solace in one another.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992

And the Nominees Were Not:

Tony Todd in Candyman

Wesley Snipes in The Waterdance

Graham Greene in Thunderheart 

David Bowie in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 

Harry Dean Stanton in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Ray Wise in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 

Frank Silva in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 


For Prediction Purposes:

Bowie (For the fascinating couple of minutes duo)

Wise (Let the host represent)

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Results

5. Eric Stoltz in The Waterdance - Stoltz gives an effective performance that offers a rather low key and alternative take to the disabled man story.

Best Scene: Asking Anna to move on.
4. Benoît Poelvoorde in Man Bites Dog - Poelvoord's work does not just fit but also creates the chilling off-beat tone in his strange portrayal of a vicious serial killer.

Best Scene: Heart Attack murder.
3. Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper - Crowe gives a terrific initial indication to his considerable talent through his brutal portrayal of a neo-nazi where he grants emotional nuance to the character yet purposefully never makes him sympathetic while doing so.

Best Scene: Hando finds Davey and Gabrielle.
2. Peter Coyote in Bitter Moon - Coyote embraces yet also provides some needed depth to his lurid material in his terrific realization of a man slowly overwhelmed by bitterness.

Best Scene: Final remorse.
1. Willem Dafoe in Light Sleeper - Dafoe gives a powerful internalized portrayal of his drug dealer, showing the man attempting to find a new life after having already seemingly suffered through the worst.

Best Scene: Street Jumper. 
Update Overall

Next Year: 1992 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Eric Stoltz in The Waterdance

Eric Stoltz did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Joel Garcia in The Waterdance.

The Waterdance is a surprisingly low key film about a writer dealing with being confined to a wheel chair after breaking his neck.

This film follows Eric Stoltz in the lead role of Joel as he deals with his injury within a hospital ward where he interacts with other men in a similair situation most frequently former biker Bloss (William Forsythe) and braggart Raymond (Wesley Snipes). The film really is almost as much about those two as it is Joel, though we most often see those two in how they way Joel perceives them. Stoltz, whose career unfortunately never really fully recovered from being replaced in Back to the Future, though once again proves himself to be a particularly natural performer. This allows for a kind of a different take on the injured man story line that is fitting to the film's style which again seems to be striving to avoid the usual melodrama associated with these types of stories. Although that is not to say there isn't drama, but the film very much takes it in a calm and controlled fashion. This is partially due to Stoltz's performance which begins with the character in a mental state that is a tad unexpected, although this plays partially into the structure of the film where we open post-injury before we had time to even meet the man before his time in the film.

Stoltz portrays initially a strange euphoria in the character, perhaps relating to initial survival of his injury which one could presume was near death. Stoltz is effective in his portrayal of this though as he shows it to be almost a detached state in some ways. As he speaks not as though he is out of it, but as though his focus is upon his survival rather than his injury. Stoltz does not overplay this making it feel a very natural state of being for the moment, a being of a certain contentment in his existence. This naturally though is a relatively short lived state of a mind, as Stoltz rather naturally portrays the progression to a more earthly understanding of what's real going on around him. Again though Stoltz's portrayal of this switch is very nuanced as he does abruptly losing one the switches, but rather he gradually reveals the other emotions creeping into his work. A notable aspect of this though is how Stoltz works this in whether he is the focus or not. He never wastes his time when a scene is more clearly focused upon Bloss or Raymond rather than Joel. His reactions are always remarkable as Stoltz relates them to Joel's own state of mind.

The main focus of Joel's story comes in his relationship with his married girlfriend Anna (Helen Hunt apparently prepping very early on for The Sessions). Again though unlike say The Men with Marlon Brando, Stoltz and the film takes this very easy though effectively. After that early period of enthusiasm, where it seems as though their is no hesitation in their relationship despite the injury, the problems soon arise. Stoltz though is terrific in revealing these seeds of potential bitterness so internally in his work, in a glance, or a moment. He is infrequently direct in any moment yet Stoltz's work never feels vague in this regard either. He instead portrays exactly the pain Joel's going through but in a distinctly understated fashion. Again his reactions within the other men's stories are key, particularly in the moments where Raymond struggles with his wife, and Stoltz reflects Joel taking the it in which only seems to create his own certain distress. As much as this pain gradually moves in, it also gradually is changed as well in Stoltz's performance. The acceptance of his condition and his difficulty of that is all equally a quiet one. Even in the major scene where he suggests Anna move on from their relationship, Stoltz downplays it yet still manages to be rather affecting in portraying a subtle anguish in this choice.  The film fittingly leaves on a modest note of Joel leaving the hospital to start his life on the outside, not necessarily a perfect man, but a man comfortable with his existence. This is a good performance by Eric Stoltz as he is essential in realizing this distinct approach the film takes to the material, as even in its modesty he creates a poignant portrait of this man's recovery.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper

Russell Crowe did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hando in Romper Stomper.

Romper Stomper follows a neo-nazi gang who launches their own personal war against a group of Vietnamese Australians.

I have previously covered two other actors having played neo-nazis those being Ryan Gosling in The Believer and Edward Norton in American History X. Both films dealt with treacherous subject matter with both actors taking on the role of such morally reprehensible men. In both instances though there was perhaps a safety net of sorts for the films, for the actors and really for the audience watching the film. In American History X, after the opening sequence we cross cut between Norton playing a full blown neo-nazi, a man seeking redemption and showing remorse for his previous actions. In The Believer we know from the outset that that Ryan Gosling's character is more complicated since we immediately learn of his Jewish heritage and upbringing. There is no such "safety net" for Romper Stomper or Crowe in the role Hando, perhaps that has helped keep this film fairly obscure outside of Australia, and likely it would be even more forgotten if not for Crowe's later career being of such notoriety. There are no truly sympathetic character within the film, the closest the film comes is one of neo-nazis showing some minor regrets yet not doing anything about it, and the young woman Gabrielle who joins the group, who is broken from years of abuse, yet still participates in the gang's horrible acts.

The film in no way hides the brutality of the group as we open with them beating a few teenagers, we see that the worst of them is their leader played by Crowe. The character of Hando is a wholly despicable sort, and perhaps made all the terrible because he's played by Russell Crowe. Crowe's considerable presence as an actor is wholly evident this early in his career as he does command the screen as Hando. Crowe realizes the charisma of Hando quite effectively, and even though this won't really work on any sensible viewer since we know what he is from the start, Crowe makes it absolutely convincing that Hando would command the men as he does. Crowe carries himself with such swagger as though Hando firmly believes himself to be this leader of men for a greater cause, and is so determined in this that he easily convinces his followers of this as well. When he speaks of his philosophy, which is complete garbage, Crowe though does infuse every word with such a palatable passion that again would be most effective in rallying his men to his demented cause.

Again this film is not easily digested, and part of this is how many scenes it has of Hando and his men being the horrible people they are. Crowe perhaps makes them even harder to watch then they are in conception because of how good he is in the role. Crowe brings such a intensity in every hateful word and act that makes every moment of it utterly chilling to watch. Crowe does not hold back for a moment in making the hate truly so venomous as it seems to exist in every pour. Every part of his performance in his eyes, his physical manner that always carries an aggressiveness, asserts Hando as this hate filled man. There is no goodness underlying the man, or some hidden pain to try to alleviate the motivation some way. He's a hateful man, and that's all there is to it. Crowe does not ever make this seem simplistic though and again this is what makes the film all the more difficult. He's not a cartoon of a neo-nazi, rather Crowe's method of fully embodying the vileness grants it a terrible honesty, the honesty that this man is just a rotten man to his core.

Crowe's portrayal works within technically the one note as he does show that Hando is always defined by his hate at every point. He avoids caricature though by always showing that this evil man is still a man who does these things. Crowe does not try to make us sympathize with Hando in these moments, but rather just shows that Hando has a depth though only in terms that he isn't just a detached personification of cruelty. Crowe shows there is more to him, but that more isn't any better than the man at his most violent. We follow his relationship with Gabrielle. Crowe in these moments shows Hando a little quieter as he romances, well more of has sex with her, yet the nature of the man isn't any different. Crowe still depicts this always as self-centered act, as he speaks only still as things concern himself, and when he randomly lashes out against her it seems to make sure attention is directed back to himself. There is a moment late in the film where Hando finds Davey has slept with Gabrielle. Crowe's great in this scene where he has Hando not lash out, only because he's concerned with his own safety as the police are looking for him. Crowe though in that moment reveals all the desperation of a man with not only his freedom on his late, but also the sense of personal betrayal. It's a terrific moment though as it does not create any sympathy for the man, but it humanizes him just in terms of showing he's human. One needs to remember though this is as the worst of humanity but still humanity. This performance isn't about making a good man, just a horrible one, but still a man. Crowe's performance throughout the film lends nuance and complexity but only in terms of emotions we see in Hando. He's not a complex person in any way, he's Neo-nazi who does what he does because he's a barbaric monster, but since he's a person there is at least some complexity in his emotional state at any given point, Crowe realizes that. Although this isn't an appealing performance in any way, it is a very good one, and an early indication of Crowe's considerable talent.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Willem Dafoe in Light Sleeper

Willem Dafoe did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John LeTour in Light Sleeper.

Light Sleeper, despite some questionable choices by the director, is an often effective thriller though more of a character study about a "high class" drug dealer.

Now I will admit before watching the film I expected a rather different film and performance for that matter with Willem Dafoe playing a drug dealer in a film written and directed by the Taxi Driver's scribe. The name of Light Sleeper even seems to evoke the idea of perhaps a similair insomniac to Travis Bickle slowing going insane in the underbelly of Manhattan. Well that's not the case, the film and Willem Dafoe's performance are far more low key than that. Dafoe here portrays actually a man who is sort of past that phase that probably would have been similair to Travis Bickle. In that we meet his John LeTour after he's no longer a drug addict, and is wanting to escape his life, only staying in it through his by appointment only drug dealing through his supplier Ann (Susan Sarandon) who isn't your typical drug kingpin. John goes on specific assignments to wealthy clients creating a different sort of man of the night. Dafoe's work keeps this in mind and establishes this history of another life in his presentation of who John LeTour is as well when we follow him from one appointment to the next.

Willem Dafoe gives a very quiet performance to the point I will admit to being a bit taken aback by it for a bit as I was watching it. However Dafoe's approach is with purpose. There's a wear in his portrayal of John's demeanor, a wear of the past more even so than his current occupation. When he visits to make some of the deals, there's a certain exasperation not over the act of dealing the drugs entirely, but rather this disengagement with the behavior he once took part in. The idea of the history as a junkie himself is shown in that basically straight resistance to interaction, and even lack of patience with the more aggressive customers. He does not stare them down as just a man who hates, there is a self-loathing within his eyes in these moments, and a forcefulness to be as detached from that as he can. Of course he is technically stuck due to the easy money associated with his life even though this is often a detached life, where again Dafoe portrays that distance. That distance that is not only the suggestion of the past, but also a certain professionalism as the drug dealer.

In his scenes of dealing Dafoe portrays an efficiency and precision in his straight and direct delivery. Dafoe portrays the right awareness as he is not doing it as a junkie anymore, and always carries himself with that certain watchfulness, making his ability to spot when being trailed by an undercover cop convincing. Of course this is not the story of the successful drug dealer, as this isn't the life John wants still. I actually love the scene where we see how this really isn't John, despite his success, in the scene where he confronts the cop. Dafoe begins as the one in charge, seemingly this master of the streets as he prods the badge from the cop. The cop though turns this around pointing out that he's well aware of John's activities which he blackmails him with for information on a murder. Dafoe's terrific as he reveals such a vulnerability and the real guy that John as in the moment, who really isn't any sort of professional criminal. Dafoe crumbles so effectively by losing any confidence, and just revealing the desperation of a man in place he really should never have been in.

We naturally see John trying to escape the life a bit through his old girlfriend, Marianne (Dana Delany), though this is corrupted since they met each other originally as junkies. Now I will admit there is a bit of a problem here because of Delany's performance, who is a better voice actress than actress. This is oddly enough shown here as her line deliveries are very good, but her physical performance is very stilted. Luckily there is Dafoe to pick up the slack. Dafoe is surprisingly affecting in these scenes because he portrays so earnestly. He shows only genuine care in every moment for Marianne and her family. Every moment he depicts only wanting a healthy relationship, and Dafoe finds such a poignancy in the purity of these scenes. This even extend to John purely platonic relationship with Marianne sister Randi (Jane Adams). Those moments I particular love as Dafoe portrays such a palatable warmth realizing John as almost this caring older brother as he offers his support to both sisters as their mother is dying.

Nothing is forgotten easily though for John, as Marianne continues to reject him due to their past, and Dafoe's great in portraying so simply the considerable yet subtle anguish within John as he keeps being kept in his place in the drug world. Of course the drug world is not entirely bleak through his relationship with Sarandon's Ann. The two actually share a splendid chemistry which is basically established just through the way they interact with each other early on. You can sense the attraction and love for one another, in just their silent language towards one another, though they remain employer employee for much of the film. Eventually a tragedy happens that forces all hands in a way, and Dafoe is excellent in the last act of the film. This begins with his two heartbreaking reactions to seeing the tragedy, its initial beginnings, then its end, again Dafoe remains pretty internalized yet so powerfully so. This continues as he seeks a sort of revenge, and again Dafoe stays quiet. He does so effectively though as he conveys just the passion, and pain in this through his eyes. His final act, which is Travis Bickle like in action is not Bickle like in the emotion behind it. Defore portrays not a psychotic reaction, but rather again presents that same earnestness warmth actually in the act of violence. I found this to be a rather wonderful performance by Willem Dafoe, in granting a humane and moving depiction of a drug dealer.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Peter Coyote in Bitter Moon

Peter Coyote did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Oscar Benton in Bitter Moon.

Bitter Moon, if perhaps it was a bit more violent, would seem Roman Polanski making a Brian De Palma erotic thriller as it similarly embraces its trashiness in its story about a man, Hugh Grant, on a cruise being pulled into the story regaled by a crippled man about his relationship with his wife.

Peter Coyote, who somehow I never noticed before sounds just like Henry Fonda, is most often an authority figure character actor not unlike Scott Glenn, or more recently Richard Jenkins. Coyote's role is a strict departure from that as we first meet him as a shady figure, lurching around in his wheelchair all too eager to reveal his long history with his seductive wife Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner). This film as a trashy erotic thriller again very much embraces the trashiness, and really the success of such a film depends on how entertaining it manages to be within that, as well as if it attempts to perhaps just a bit more than that. Well this film really falls almost entirely upon Coyote's shoulders to make the film work as the hot mess it is, given that Hugh Grant, and Kristin Scott Thomas, are only fairly bland diversions while Seigner seems mostly there to strip nude. That leaves Coyote to make something of it all, and I suppose I would not reviewing him here if he didn't. There is already a bit of fun to be had just from seeing Coyote in such a role, but Coyote plays into the film's style in the right way. He's certainly having fun right from his first devilish glare, as he invites Grant's Nigel to listen to his story, but he allows us on it as well.

Coyote in the present set scenes is pretty great in embracing that style of the film in the fashion to the point of amplifying it. His work matches the nature material as even in Coyote's slimy lecherous manner he seems to embody the film. He's sweaty, he's perhaps unappealing in many ways, yet there is something most intriguing about him. Now much of the film though takes away from the crippled Oscar as he tells Nigel his past with his wife Mimi that left him in this state. We see Oscar as a wannabe writer who meets, and falls for the waitress Mimi. Now in what are a series, of somewhat repetitive scenes that seem often made just to get Polanski's wife in new sex position, Coyote does make something of them. His performance in these scenes actually attempts to derive a bit of substance past being entertaining trash, even if the focus perhaps is most closely upon it. Coyote's performance bothers to find any depth in this as in the early scenes, he's quite good at being perhaps a more typical role for himself as just the ambitious yet romantic writer who finds this most intriguing woman. Coyote finds an earnestness, not overt, as he keeps the overt style away here enough creating a more sensible frankly portrayal of this man as he enters what at first seems an ideal relationship.

Their relationship ends up being anything but ideal though as they seem to try to trump one another as it constantly goes back and forth from seeming genuine affection, to hatred, to any sex act you can name, to intense manipulation. Now Seigner's performance really only has two settings and is more of an idea, really more a fantasy, than a character, but Coyote's work does bother to connect the strands. In his work he has the starting point be that genuine love he seems to hold for her, and on that he only portrays such a genuine intrigue at whatever she may have next for him. In that there is a direct hook he creates, as Coyote shows the way in every interaction how he holds onto her for so long. As it continues though Coyote gradually reveals a greater frustration as an innate growing element in Oscar that only worsen, which he attaches to this attempt to find any thrill with his wife.  Coyote combines both in portraying this tightrope of intensity in his performance of one of such lust and irritation. Every act has some of both in his delivery and whole manner that creates this horrible dynamic that makes the collapse of the relationship merely an inevitability. Of course as soon as it ends, being such a film as this is, Oscar finds himself crippled due to a road accident.

Mimi returns to him, and again Coyote is excellent by showing the cycle as essentially starting again. As he once again portrays such genuine affection, yet that subsides to this time a seeking for a thrill, which Coyote now shows to be unsatisfying as Mimi essentially tortures him. This cycle is given a soft reset as the two finally get married, and go on that cruise that is the framing device. Now what Coyote has down I suppose foremost is deliver the tale in a most entertaining way with his narration being filled with such a vivid texture representative of the lascivious story. He also though brings us to Oscar's current state which is as this bitter man. Coyote again is entertaining but also fascinating in that he again makes sense of the central relationship. Now his work exudes such palatable and striking bitterness in every word, that is compelling in itself.  He again though connects to the idea of this thrill seeking between Oscar and his wife, as now they attempt to ensnare this new couple into their web. Coyote's great as he shows Oscar loving it as the two seem to fall, I have particular affection myself for his devious reaction when Nigel comes across Oscar in what he expects to be Mimi's bed. Both Oscar and Mimi laugh at that man, and there you see the shared joy once again though in a most unusual endeavor. This continues until they succeed in pulling them in and we have one last scene with Coyote. It is a brief scene yet a fantastic one for Coyote, as he grants an understanding to the whole character and relationship. His reaction is swift yet effective as any joy stemming from the bitterness that leads to the misery of others falls from him and Coyote portrays Oscar falling to the initial affection again. This time though it is through a powerful despair at what the two have done and what they have become. Coyote's performance stands as a turn that makes schlock work by being properly enjoyable, but he does go further to add a bit substance perhaps a little nuance to this trash.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Benoît Poelvoorde in Man Bites Dog

Benoît Poelvoorde did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ben in Man Bites Dog.

Man Bites Dog is a faux documentary that goes along with a camera crew as they follow a serial killer go about his life. Benoît Poelvoorde's performance is not one that attempts to find any sort of reality within the idea of the serial killer, this is not Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. In fact his performance seems more akin to say Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless, and not simply due to his appearance and the fact he speaks French. The reason rather is Poelvoorde playing the character named merely Ben seems as though he is in some way above it all, even though that involves killing people, and unlike in Breathless this involves many many people. Poelvoorde's performance is of course this style through that which seems necessary given the tone of the film, that is at least slightly absurd given the concept at its core. Poelvoorde's approach technically matches this in that this must be an almost unrealistic, though then again The Jinx does exist, portrait of a psychotic. As it is about a man willing to go around showing his methods, and just doing his murders from place to place. Fitting to this Poelvoorde has that casual quality of any comfortable documentary subject who is ready just to give the filmmakers some insight into his day to day life. 

Poelvoorde in this approach does end up being extremely chilling even with this random set up that one would imagine would be more of a dark comedy which is only truly so with this film in terms of the contexts that it places our murderer in. Even with that potential comfort this is an unnerving performance to watch since Poelvoorde is so natural in any given scene whether he is randomly beating down a mail man to death, shooting person upon person, committing home invasions, coming up with new tricks of the trade such as killing a heart patient merely through fear. Poelvoorde's performance is consistently unnerving because of how at home he plays the whole thing, and even though he's not creating a normal reality of this serial killer he does realize the reality within the film. That creates this most unpleasant, yet effective realization of the killer as Poelvoorde makes the character so at home with this life of a specific violent crimes. There is never a real wink to comfort us even with the core setup of the black comedy. Poelvoorde makes the man rotten to his core within the film as he plays with the concept and gives it a life, a peculiar one, but one that is most unsettling to witness. 

Although much of the time is spent killing not all of the film is as we do get to see the man's life past his brutal murders. We spend some time as he visits his girlfriend or sees his parents. Now in these scenes Poelvoorde actually gives a consistent performance to the rest of his work, in that he really is not a different man as he presents the same comfort with a normal life then he does going around murdering. His delivery, his approach, establishes that it is very much all the same time him. To the point Poelvoorde does not even portray much concern just a knowing smile when Ben's mother comments that she would prefer that a murderer, not knowing it is Ben, would suffer the most severe punishment. Poelvoorde's work emphasizes a man who loves his life, and portrays not a hint of true empathy just a man above it all in his sinister amorality. Again though the amorality is not something that sets him back, or slow him down. Throughout the film there are little asides on one subject or another for Ben to philosophize on a bit. What Poelvoorde does is remain once again true to the man he has always established which is to show someone who portrays such joy in whatever it is he is doing whether it is just talking or committing one violent murder after another. There is no separation yet this is effectively so. Poelvoorde's work is this specific to the intention of the film which is to be this documentary subject, and Poelvoorde makes Ben a great one. A man you just get to know and learn about with his unique insights and way of life. Those insight and way of life just happen to be terrifying. Poelvoorde's performance realizes the concept in a vivid and oh so horrible way, yet that is the only way for the film.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1992

And the Nominees Were Not:

Benoît Poelvoorde in Man Bites Dog

Peter Coyote in Bitter Moon

Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper

Willem Dafoe in Light Sleeper

Eric Stoltz in The Waterdance