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.

31 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings & Thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Larsen's the winner then.

Charles Heiston said...

I agree with the rating. Neither of them are fantastic, just very good.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I'd go higher for Whitford just for his last scene.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Well then, should have predicted Larsen. Although Siddiqui could surprise.

RatedRStar said...

I think one of the problems with Cabin is that the scenes with Whitford and Jenkins are by far the best so when it cuts back to the young adults it becomes rather generic I think, and not particularly scary.

RatedRStar said...

So basically I think the best thing is to just fast forward and watch all of the Whitford/Jenkins scenes and then say finite =D.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: This might be a rather nerdy question, so to speak, but what were the subjects you were most interested in in high school. Mine would be Chemistry and Maths.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Also your thoughts on these TV episodes-
'Child Abduction is Not Funny'-South Park
'Unbowed, Unbent and Unbroken'-Game of Thrones
'Optimal Tip to Tip Efficiency'-Silicon Valley

Calvin Law said...

I have a feeling Louis was definitely a history/politics buff based on film tastes.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Everyone else can answer what intrigued you guys when you were students (if you want to).

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: History and English Literature.

94dfk1 said...

Calvin: I too also sense that, but from looking at his profile pic haha.

Anyway, History and English for me in Hs. Kept trying to get into Politics but it just kept confusing me and I'd get bored eventually.

Varun Neermul said...

Does anyone think Siddiqui could win?

Luke Higham said...

Varun: I'm really not sure about that. Hindi films are still very much a blind spot for Louis.

Varun Neermul said...

I really hope he at least that likes Nawazuddins performance.

94dfk1 said...

RatedRStar: You could also make the case that it was intentionally done by the filmmakers: playing the horror genre straightforward during the scenes with the teenagers while subverting it when we went back with Whitford and Jenkins, since the tone also changed whenever they went back and forth between the two plots. :)

Matt Mustin said...

RatedRStar: That's the entire point of the film.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Connolly - 2.5(She's perfectly fine but I don't think it exactly properly subverts the types enough in a way. In that her performance merely is that of the final girl, and an okay example of that yet not really anything more.)

Hemsworth - 2.5(Again it may have made more sense to have given them a little more time before they got to the cabin since Marty's claim that he's acting suddenly like jock isn't really all that different from what we see early on. In terms of being the jock who intends on some wannabe heroics he's also perfectly fine.)

Hutchison - 2(Her performance is no different from any of the other first girls. It technically fits that trope, yet there is nothing on top of that or within it.)

Williams - 2(He might as well not have been there by the little impact he makes. In terms of even being the "brains" trope he falls severely short)

Kranz - 3(He gives very much a Joss Whedon performance, even if its not directed him, in that it is very much in his usual sort of comedic style. Kranz for me does a decent enough example of it, but I find a little of it goes a long way. There were times where I found him funny but there were also times were I found his shtick got a little old as well.)

Weaver - 2.5(Pointless character really other than to have a random cameo which had already been done by Paul, though this film might have been shot first. Nevertheless Weaver just for the sake of Weaver is a bit too much of a trend by these filmmakers who I grew up probably loving Alien and Aliens. She's fine in her bit of exposition but there's nothing remarkable about what she does here.)

Tahmeed:

Calvin is onto something there.

"Child Abduction is" - (Everything about this episode is hilarious from the hysteria of the parents, to the ghost of human kindness, to the very peculiar mongol invasion. I re-watched it about a year ago and I must admit I foolishly took a large sip of a drink in the moment just before Tweek was about to come out of his room at the request of the "police officer", that was a mistake.)

"Unbowed, Unbent and Unbroken" - (The episode has become infamous for two reasons but there are a few just simply good things about it. The Arya and King's Landing scenes are fine, and the Tyrion and Jorah scene is very good. The wedding itself even is a rather effectively directed scene. There's the terrible sandsnakes fight though though and the infamous rape. Now the scene in terms of the shows logic makes sense and isn't technically gratuitous. The change from the books also makes sense due to the later books failing largely due to the excessive expansion in narratives, and the waste of the ones already there. I'd say there are problems with it, though it did end up working well enough in the next season which righted many of the wrongs of the previous season. A problem was the whole set up since the viewer already knew about Ramsay there was no surprise, and the moment ended up seeming a character regression from her evolution to the previous season. She regained back to it next season, but like many things in Season 5 it was a pitfall really from the writers trying to deal with Martin's excessively divergent paths.)

"Optimal" - (The second half of the first season I do think was part the show trying to find itself as well as deal with the unfortunate loss of Christopher Evan Welch. The ending even in this is a little shaky. It's not quite great but the main idea and scene behind the title was indeed quite hilarious.)

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the lunch scene in Jurassic Park.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'm disappointed you didn't like the film more. I personally love every scene, and honestly most of my favorite moments were with the younger characters. It's just so entertaining to watch the morph from realistic characters into horror movie clichés, and and there's a lot you don't pick up on the first time. Chris Hemsworth specifically has been sitting very well with me, he has some moments of underrated comedic genius. And I know that Fran Kranz is playing a well-worn character, but my God does he do it perfectly.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: could Robert Downey Jr. be bumped up for Tropic Thunder?

Matt Mustin said...

Calvin: I feel like he should, just based on looking at how risky that actually was, and how spectacularly it paid off.

Calvin Law said...

Matt: Agreed. Just re-watched the film and realized how much he lifts certain scenes that could have just been plain offensive, into something truly hilarious.

Charles Heiston said...

Tahmeed: History for me.

RatedRStar said...

We have our infamous disagreements but here I 100 percent agree with Louis on this, I just, I just feel that Cabin works as a comedy, but thats it, it certainly isn't scary, I think the young adult characters dont seem to matter though, like Jesse Williams for example, they make it out that he is going to be the survivor along with Connolly, and then they kill him off in the most predictable way possible and its like, what was the point of his character they could have done so much more.

I kinda wished oddly enough, that Williams character was like Jamie Kennedys character in Scream in that he was smart and knew the rules.

Calvin Law said...

Tahmeed: English and History.

Varun: You never know, I really need to catch up on lots of Hollywood myself. Might start with 3 Idiots after exams finish.

Anonymous said...

Calvin: I wouldn't mind if he gets upgraded to a 5. He basically steals every scene he's in.

Charles Heiston said...

Calvin: He's completely worthy of a 5.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, did you ever give your thoughts on The Handmaiden? If not, could I have them, if so, where can I find them?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

It's a terrific scene which is sort of one of the important scenes those future sequels should have taken a better note of. In that we really get a feel for the character and their viewpoints in regards to the dinosaurs. We know how they really feel in a natural lively way, particularly with Goldblum and his almost legendary monologue.

Calvin:

Possibly.

Matt:

You can find that in my review for Jeff Daniels in Gettysburg.

Anonymous said...

Vincent Price in Witchfinder General
Malcolm McDowell in If....
Jean-Louis Trintignant in The Great Silence
Tony Curtis in The Boston Strangler
Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer