Thursday, 19 April 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1957

And the Nominees Were Not:

Ben Gazzara in The Strange One

Rod Steiger in Across the Bridge

Victor Sjöström in Wild Strawberries

Robert Mitchum in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison 

James Cagney in Man of a Thousand Faces

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2008: Results

5. Richard Jenkins in Step Brothers - Jenkins offers a great bit of catharsis and entertainment through his hilarious turn that embodies every bit of exasperation possible in his observations of the titular's pair's nonsense.

Best Scene: His dream.
4. Mathieu Amalric in A Christmas Tale - Amalric gives a terrific turn in creating the complexity of his character's unique dynamics within his family that form through his own distinct way of interacting with the world.

Best Scene: The one time he loved his mother. 
3. Tom Noonan in Synecdoche, New York - Noonan as per usual gives a fascinating idiosyncratic turn that both acts as a proper representation of emotion, but also the representation of the act of the observation of such emotions.

Best Scene: His own choice.
2. Jason Butler Harner in Changeling - Although he isn't given a great deal of screentime Harner leaves an undeniable impression through his both chilling and honestly heartbreaking portrayal of a stunted and bent serial killer.

Best Scene: The execution.
1. Lee Byung-hun in The Good the Bad The Weird - Good Predictions Bryan L., Calvin, and RatedRStar. Lee delivers a great villainous turn here that successfully matches and amplifies the film's heightened tone while also delivering a palatable menace, along with even some real nuance in his exploration of what really makes his villain tick.

Best Scene: The duel.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1957 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2008: Richard Jenkins in Step Brothers

Richard Jenkins did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Robert Doback in Step Brothers.

A critic once believed that one could not examine a symbiotic relationship more eloquently or more intricately than Ingmar Bergman's Persona, that critic obviously never saw Step Brothers the worthy successor that defies all expectations in its penetrating exploration of the psyche of man.

And by that I mean Step Brothers is about two idiot man children (Will Ferrell, and John C. Reilly) who come to live together as such a titular pair when their respective single parents are married while both still live at home with them. Reilly's father is Richard Jenkins's Robert Doback who often seemed to be my own personal representation during this film. The film itself following this pattern of being kind of funny then really annoying then kind of funny then really annoying and continuing in that savage circle throughout. One aspect that differs from that pattern is Richard Jenkins, who is continually on some sort of point throughout the film. Where his counterpart, Ferrell's mother in the film, played by Mary Steenburgen still mothers her overgrown son, there is less of a cordiality within the character of Robert which Jenkins beautifully realizes. His performance is essentially this slowly erupting nearly apocalyptic volcano of passive aggression that becomes just full grown aggression at his two "sons". Jenkins in a way becomes this trick artist always hitting his marks even when the scene does not. He is consistently hilarious in creating such a raw, and to the point exasperation in each and every one of his reactions. An exasperation that only grows in every moment and settles itself in this intensity of this certain loathing that is particularly great in their Christmas dinner where Jenkins reveals a man retching in the sheer degree of his intolerance. This almost an antidote at times because of Jenkins representing a proper reaction to when the antics are not working at any level, and brings some comic gold by how little "playing up" Jenkins does.

The most consummate professional Jenkins's real intensity he brings is what makes it so funny, as he makes it seem as though Mr. Doback's spirit honestly is seeming to break to his very core. This naturally leads to events that leads the sons to be kicked out of the house, and finally fulfill their roles as adults. Of course that all gets twisted for the climax where at the Catalina wine mixer they must cover for a cover band, but not without a few words of wisdom from old Mr. Doback. This is where he has a change of heart to reveal his own juvenile dream to be a T-Rex. Honestly I can't praise Jenkins enough for the amount of conviction he brings in this most unorthodox speech. He even makes it work in context with the rest of the character, but showing it as almost this mad recall of a past lost dream. In turn it is hilarious as Jenkins acts out his dream a bit by again how seriously he plays it. Jenkins wants you to believe in Mr. Doback's dream, and you'll believe a man can't believe he could be a T-rex. Jenkins inflicts proper hilarity to that moment, and soon afterwards through the sheer eagerness of his delivery as he encourages his son to play his heart out with "Rock the fuck out of those drums Dale". Jenkins steals this film with ease, which some might balk at in terms of an accomplishment, but Jenkins doesn't only steal the film he just sprinkles a little something worthwhile into every one of his scenes.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2008: Mathieu Amalric in A Christmas Tale

Mathieu Amalric did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Henri Vuillard in A Christmas Tale.

A Christmas Tale is an entry into the ennui-filled-reunion genre this time focusing on a family gathering for Christmas while their mother possibly faces death.

The use of many a foreign language actors in Hollywood films is a bit of a curiosity as they become generally known for work in their home country and then is typically cast as some creep in an English language film. That is a particularly strange thing as in most circumstances that is not the nature of their performances in their native tongue, and it often requires one seek out that work to properly see the range of their talent. Mathieu Amalric is one such actor that can even be seen in one of his other performances as such a creeper Dominic Greene in the bond film Quantum of Solace also from 08. A Christmas Tale offers thankfully sort of a different side to the performer here as the black sheep of the family the film focuses. The black sheep for reasons that are not made entirely clear throughout the film, however as the film opens Amalric's Henri is banished from the family by his sister Elizabeth (Anne Consigny) after she pays off the numerous debts he has accrued, however that does not seem to be the exact reason for banishment. Now I write "sort of" a different side to Almaric as it is easy to see why he could be pigeonholed in a certain type role in terms of un-creative casting in that Almaric certainly brings an impish quality here as well. A different type of impish quality though as he carries it in a far more jovial way as though his Henri is in some way embodied by the spirit of Bacchus or of some such sort of like spirit as we catch up with Henri a few years after his banishment.

One of the first acts of Henri's in the film is walking around drunk then face planting directly into a roadway. This would seem perhaps a cry for help for most characters however that is not the nature of Henri exactly, which is so well developed through Almaric's performance. Even in the moment of wandering around there is almost this dancing spirit to it. He doesn't do a dance mind you however Almaric brings a certain energy about his actions that very much embodies this sense of enjoyment within Henri even when suffering some quite extreme physical harm at times. Almaric very much defines around the pain this since of pleasure not of masochism but rather just as part of his overwhelming behavior being this search for such zest towards life. This obviously isn't the most sane of an idea and properly Amalric finds more than a hint of madness in his cheeky little grin even after crashing into the pavement. Amalric portrays it as this bit of insanity yet he manages to project it not so much as this problematic self-destruction but rather this particularly intense and idiosyncratic way of embracing what life has to offer him. The nature of Henri seems to become all the more abundant when he is allowed to return to the family because their mother Junon (Catherine Deneuve) has leukemia and is need of a bone marrow transplant with her same blood type.

Henri visits with his current girlfriend Faunia (Emmanuelle Devos), where he seems to prepare her for some horrible visit with his family. Of course how Amalric interacts with every member of the family helps to define not only his character, but also the family's dynamic and history as well. It is here that we begin to understand the man and Almaric's performance intentions become much more clear. We see perhaps Henri at his purest with his father where actually Almaric portrays the least joyful mania in work and speaks in their moments together with while not an earnestness in his words there is such an honest in his delivery of them and his eyes. This is contrast to the rest of the family where we get much more of the man seeming to live on this extreme edge at all times. A vicious joy of ways that Amalric expresses as Henri speaks to his siblings, particularly his sister. He makes this carefully troubling as this exuding of such joy even when delivering insulting or self-deprecating remarks to himself or even those around him. When his brother-in-law attacks him for one of these such insults, Amalric even laughs this off. There is the intensity of this that Amalric though that reveals this certain anxiety even as he presents such an overt joyousness in the act at all times. The strange juxtaposition of behavior though twists itself in the most fascinating ways between Henri and his nephew, suffering from mental problems, and his mother. In his scenes with his nephew Amalric plays them especially because he actually tones down Henri's typical manner a bit, and adjusts it in a way. He projects a certain more uncompromising warmth to the boy creating the sense of an Uncle trying to support the troubled boy in some way. In these moments Amalric creates the sense of how he would help the boy as Henri's always strangely positive attitude would help the boy as in his eyes as it seems to helps Henri through a rough life.

Of course with his mother it is where we see the painful existence that is Henri's life. Amalric is great in these moments with here as there is such rich, in many unpleasant history between the two felt in every interaction. Amalric presents on the surface the hints of just an old love, as any son should have with his mother, yet around every kindness there is such a palatable resentment in his eyes, and within his delivery. He never loses himself to obvious anger towards her, rather again reveals that joyful attitude that becomes to represent Henri's desperation. Amalric reveals that to essential be this defense mechanism for Henri to deal with both his own failures, but also the disregard so many of his family members have for him. He carefully portrays most strongly when really the feelings of sorrow or sadness should be most prevalent, leaving him in troubled yet functioning state of mind. Amalric realizes this state so well and shows how it brings both the best and the worst out of him. As that even when he does the right thing to save his mother by donating his marrow, Amalric portrays it it in front of her directly with almost a maniacal glee as though to diminish his positive act in order to in no way deliver his love, this is against when we see him with the doctors alone to which Amalric reveals a far more desperate concern allowed away from the limits of his family. Amalric naturally realizes this man who self-sabotages almost to fulfill the role that his family has set for him. He creates the sense that this has been earned in the past, but only exacerbated by his banishment. Although we never learn what caused his sister to banish him, Amalric's work gives understanding to it through this state he makes so vivid. He shows this through a man who has made so many mistakes to the point he never seems to apologize for them rather would remain in his state of "bliss", even if he can't quite succeed with that even. This is a terrific performance by Mathieu Amalric, and easily the most compelling aspect of this film, as he so well realizes the complexity of the man's relationship to his family which in turn creates such a complicated state of the mans so cheerful in his misery.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2008: Jason Butler Harner in Changeling

Jason Butler Harner did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gordon Stewart Northcott in Changeling.

Changeling has at its heart a particularly compelling true story of a mother, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), trying to find her lost son which unravels into two separate tragedies however it suffers from slow pacing and some underwhelming performances, especially the child performances, likely in part due to Clint Eastwood's method of doing very few takes.

One tragedy is of Christine Collins's son disappearing. Instead of finding help from law enforcement of the L.A. police department she is instead first ignored, then manipulated, then threatened and abused by them. That tragedy is in part a result of the sadly even darker tragedy underneath that one which brings us to Jason Butler Harner. Harner appears fairly late in the film as the film introduces that this is in part the story of a vicious serial killer who specializes in abducting then killing young boys, one of the abducted boys being Christine's son. We are only given a few glimpses of Harner before the end of the film. This leaves a certain challenge for him in part to make the needed impact given the character is purposefully left as a footnote to Christine's story, understandably so given how grim his story is. The strict perspective into the man is more than enough though given the impact of even only learning part of it as well as due to Harner's performance. Now we are given somewhat the expected from Harner, which is no way anything to sniff at, which is his portrayal of the absolutely horrifying intensity in the brief glimpses of the chicken coop murders. These only last a few seconds but Harner's portrayal of these moments of an atrocity are chilling. There is no respite for a moment just this direct uncompromising evil that Harner portrays as a man behaving on these extreme base instincts.

Outside of those moments though we have more of Harner which I think is what makes this a truly outstanding work from him as he finds a very distinct and particularly disturbing approach to the depiction of a serial killer. Harner is especially effective in these moments, of sort of a flamboyance within the character as written that I think a lesser performance might have used to turn him into a more sort of obvious villain. Harner's work instead uses these moments as terrifying insight into the diseased mind of the man. In that Harner portrays this certain stunted manner as though Northcott is sort of a child in mind himself. He doesn't over do it as to be some sterotypical creepy kid, he just slightly finds this particularly off-putting petulance that is grotesque yet feels very human in the way Harner portrays it. He manages to realize this in a honestly humanizing way as he successfully realizes this awful manner is fitting to this maniac. Harner's approach not only leaves a striking impression it also changes the context somewhat of his final scenes, which technically could have been the simple disposal of a monster. When Christine comes to see him to ask about her son, to whom Northcott refuses to admit killing based on his claim of finding religion therefore redemption. The way Harner delivers this is not as a gloating villain, it is of a messy insanity yet there is something very earnest as he states this horrible retraction. When Christine presses him Harner again is particularly unnerving by basing on this malformed child's responses, even in almost this pseudo attempt to scare Christine by trying to kiss her, it is this momentary juvenile act with the certain shyness Harner brings even within the derangement. When she states she hopes he goes to hell, again Harner by offering that genuine presentation of the character's state it is haunting as he shows in his reaction this real fear in even this terrible killer's eyes. This is expanded to even greater heights in Northcott's execution scene. Harner, despite the character's actions, makes the scene absolutely harrowing to witness. Harner depicts every moment with such vividness from the beginning where there is this pained attempt to find solace in the moment as he speaks his final words and looks to his priest for comfort. He is then is strangely heartbreaking as he moved towards the noose with his delivery of "please don't make me walk so fast". Harner again captures this broken mind and says this almost as a child not wanting to do something, though obviously with the severity of the given situation. Then when placed beneath the noose Harner unleashes just this mania of every kind as we see the killer, but also this man trying anything to get his mind away from his reality before he is killed. He is astonishing throughout the scene. This is a great performance that fully realizes the state of the man, even within the margins of the film, and is especially remarkable as he finds a very distinct, disturbing and powerful approach to a well worn type of role.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2008: Lee Byung-hun in The Good The Bad The Weird

Lee Byung-hun did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Park Chang-yi aka The Bad in The Good The Bad The Weird.

Lee Byung-hun and director Kim Jee-woon is perhaps the unsung actor/director collaboration of modern cinema. I have never even heard it mentioned yet it is a notable one with both seeming to bring the best out of each other. In fact you can almost gauge the quality of a film by Kim by how much Lee Byung-hun is in the film. Kim's best two films, A Bittersweet Life, and I Saw the Devil both feature Lee as a lead where he delivers remarkable turns in each. Even in Kim's good, but not quite great, The Age of Shadows, seems to benefit from Lee's brief but important cameo. Now we have this film where Lee is a major supporting role and seemingly in turn this is one of Kim's better film. It should be noted though that any great actor/director collaboration there needs to be the quality in work from both parties, but there also should be some sense of variety. This film also finds that for their collaboration here with Lee no longer playing the anti-heroes of his leading turns, and now fully embracing the role of the villain. Not just any villain though but the sort of villain that wears his villainous qualities right on his sleeve, after all he is know as the bad for a reason. It goes beyond that just in the image alone evokes a proper classical black hat with Lee being adorned in rather glorious dark leather attire, only topped by his rather glorious haircut. Lee isn't an actor to rely on or to be overshadowed by his own appearance.

Lee rather embraces it then amplifies it all the more. This film is obviously heavily influenced by the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone which in turn were heavily influenced by Kurosawa's Yojimbo. Lee's own work seemed to have had this in mind as his villainous work is less akin to Gian Maria Volante or Lee Van Cleef's performances of Leone's films, and closer to the gun wielding samurai played by Tatsuya Nakadai in that progenitor film. That is not to say Lee simply rips off to what Nakadai did, but rather pays homage to it in the best of ways. The central idea he seems to have taken from that performance was Nakadai's snakelike demeanor. Lee fashions this himself through his own angular smile that just is so fiendish it would have to adorn a villain. The idea of such a smile though is reflected in the entirety of Lee's performance which is that the titular bad, Park Chang-yi, quite enjoys being as such. Lee's work though uses that as a starting point but not as a crutch, and does take the performance in his own direction in a way really in a way only Lee could. As with all of Lee's work his physicality is an essential element. Although he does far less martial arts here than in his leading turns, the way Lee moves is so important here in his character. Lee delivers such a brilliant grandiose swagger that just commands every frame he finds himself it. Lee captures this sense of a proper sort of villain, who knows he's a villain, and isn't just happy to show it off, it is almost as though needs to do so.

Lee's physical approach is an ever prescient element of the character that makes Chang-yi standout in every scene he is in. In that it isn't even just his walk, even the way he may be sitting in a chair has this certain brilliant style to it. In that Lee manages to find this intensity in the exact manner he projects this ease of menace. I love the instance of meeting his employer technically speaking if you were to describe the actions they would seem ridiculous, as Chang-yi is hunched over, with his hair covering one eye as he glances at the man. It could be absurd yet Lee finds just the precise manner to only find a real incisive yet casual quality in this manner, and even one would describe as a sense of cool with the character. I will say I have particularly great affection for what Lee can do with that single eye in that he delivers such a killer intensity within it. That intensity though also is credit to again the variety of Lee's work in his films with Kim. In that he gave intense performances in his two leading roles yet in generally are far more internalized fashion. Lee shows his comfort in completely turning that on its head to bring this intensity through this broad and very entertaining take on this arch villain type. Lee completely alters his style to match the very different style for Kim, and together they beautifully amplify the best qualities of this slightly absurdist western of the east.

Of course even as different as this performance is Lee once again employs sort of his time bomb of emotion though less restricted than in I Saw the Devil or A Bittersweet Life. Lee once again though is masterfully in crafting this core that defines the man that technically is always apparent in his performance yet it is not something he overtly emphasizes. In this film this quality relates to Chang-yi's path once he understands that fellow bandit Yoon Tae-goo (Song Kang-ho) aka the weird is in possession of the map he has been hired to find. Lee is incredible as per usual in delivering sort of the hidden intent within the character specifically in the moments whenever he sees Yoon. In these moments Lee instantly switches the style of intensity to be far more directed, and seemingly based in something almost more honest in terms of what motivates it. He eases off on the swagger instead reveals these conviction in his eyes, and a far palatable hatred when he tries to kill the man. This becomes one of the most interesting aspects of Lee's portrayal as he reveals within this hatred even a certain vulnerability. When others call Chang-yi it up Lee's reaction's so effectively once again alludes to a bit more  to what makes him tick. Lee's terrific here though in actually portraying these moments in a way as the assassin at his most dangerous. When he is questioned by one of his men, there is this glint of a certain type of insanity in his eyes that almost has a certain desperation in it, before quickly murdering the man. It is a fascinating obsession that Lee creates showing that Yoon has done something to him, something that pesters the man. This naturally comes to a head when the titular trio meet in an expected Mexican standoff where Chang-yi reveals his yearn for vengeance stemming from Yoon's old days as a more notorious bandit who specialized in cutting off finger. Chang-yi being one of his unfortunate victims. Lee is great in this final scene in creating this duality in his death stare towards Yoon which is a combination of this almost witless hatred, and a certain joy as it seems he is about to obtain his revenge. As to be expected with Lee working with Kim, this is a great performance though this time in a wholly different tone. Lee gets everything he can out of this grandiose villain being such an enjoyable fiend throughout, yet still while finding a bit needed nuance where appropriate. Now this review should be over, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the scene, which has no major barring on the rest of his performance, of Lee's portrayal of Chang-yi cracking up while watching a rom com. It's hilarious as Lee so earnestly depicts that moment showing that even a psychotic villain can just step back love a good film. That is all.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2008: Tom Noonan in Synecdoche, New York

Tom Noonan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sammy Barnathan in Synecdoche, New York.

Tom Noonan is one of those indispensable character actors quite frankly as there is no one quite like him. The contrast between his impressive stature, and his impressively soft voice is particularly notable. It worked to quite chilling effect in Michael Mann's Manhunter, where he played a serial killer, however Noonan's idiosyncratic presence manages to always be something distinctive, however at the same time he always disappears into his roles despite not really changing himself. Screenwriter/director Charlie Kaufman seems keenly aware of this casting him as "everyone" else in his animated Anomalisa, and here in his directorial debut. Noonan has a quite a role really needed for someone whose going to need to make some impression rather quickly. Noonan's Sammy appears once Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) begins his gargantuan theater project to represent his own life. Sammy auditions to play Caden's double with his only qualification being that he has stalked Caden for 20 years therefore knows everything about him. The way Noonan essentially confesses a rather creepy idea is fascinating. In that there is this conviction to this passion that Noonan infuses that is brilliantly specific. In that in this audition we are given is this controlled yet raw intensity he espouses, yet with such a pleasant manner while doing so. Noonan shows the act to be Caden, and all his emotion, yet still shows the act even while capturing what is needed from it. Noonan plays him as a man who can express exactly as he needs, yet it not imprisoned by it.

Of course what Tom Noonan does here is very specific, and an essential facet of the film in that his Sammy is the double of Caden in more ways than he plays him. Obviously Noonan looks, really, nothing like Philip Seymour Hoffman. That is not the point and Noonan's performance hones in on this idea of a different kind of a representation of Caden. In that Caden is an observer rather than an actor in life, therefore it is a most curious thing for an actor to play this observer, while being an observer. That's is a strange idea to be sure, however it makes this a particularly fascinating performance to watch as Noonan realizes this act in his own way that is something rather clever. Caden is of course troubled by this state which Noonan contrasts so effectively by portraying a man in a state of calm in his own observation process. Noonan initially portrays that, despite this life, Sammy wants for nothing in his own existence of acting as the observer of the observer who is troubled by being the observer. Noonan exudes a calm in this place of strict connection, which he plays with in such an interesting way. In that he directly acts a certain moment will present the needed intensity of emotion to be Caden, yet can calmly be himself the next moment, such as so genuinely commenting on the talent of Caden's wife who is an actress.

Noonan's work here is entertaining in itself, in that his exact state is humorous to be sure, but what is so special about it is how well he finds this strange state of the man who is almost a comforting factor in the film by showing a path of the observer initially. The idea though becomes that in a way Sammy is less an observer because he is at least acting out Caden's observations unlike Caden who is simply still watching them. This does not change until Sammy's action to take action where Caden did not which in turn finally leads Caden to take action, the action Sammy had taken, how that somehow adds up is why I love the film. Noonan's work ends up being quite something even more than this curious side show though in the end, as Sammy's observation of Caden's action leads to something more. Noonan is heartbreaking quite frankly in finally attaching the emotion of the performance to Sammy finally observing by removing that initial calm in this moment of observation. This leads to a performance of Sammy, a tragic performance, which is emotionally charged as it should be to represent Caden, yet with this calm as Sammy takes his own action in the performance. It is an utterly bizarre end to the character that Noonan delivers in such a powerful way by naturally reaching this breaking point as the observer becomes the true actor in the end.