Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 24 April 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012

And the Nominees Were Not:

Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair

Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt

Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone

Tom Courtenay in Quartet

Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Year: 2012 Lead

Saturday, 22 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 21 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man

Harry Dean Stanton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bud in Repo Man.

Repo Man is a downright bonkers film, and I mean that in a good way, about a young punk Otto (Emilio Estevez) taking a job as a repo man in L.A. where strange things occur.

Harry Dean Stanton plays Bud the man who randomly recruits Otto to repossess a car on the street through a lie saying his wife's in labor and he doesn't want to leave her car in "bad area". Now just the way Stanton says bad neighborhood told me that I was going to be in for quite the treat with this performance. Although I guess the fact that it's Harry Dean Stanton in a prominent role should have already tipped me off of that. In fact old Stanton is even top billed here, though he is indeed supporting to Estevez's Otto. Stanton's bud though acts as the access point to the strange world of repossessions. Stanton's old scraggly mannerisms perfect for the seedy world of the repo as he dulls out his advice with this rough certainty. It is quite something just to have Stanton being the mentor character of sort to Otto, as Stanton does fulfill this though not in the way you may expect. Stanton's certain type of world weariness, although I'm not certain is quite the right word as Stanton doesn't suggest Bud's tired of the world just rather he's not terribly impressed by it.

Stanton's performance makes bud as though he's this hardboiled detective giving out information on the job though of course he's not a detective. Stanton's approach though makes what this advice is quite something to say the least such as telling Otto he needs to wake up early but also that all repo men are on speed which is then shown through Bud snorting drugs up with Otto. This performance is as bonkers as the film yet it's so special because of how down to earthish Stanton plays the role. Stanton is consistently hilarious in everything he does in this film in portraying Bud's gruff, rough yet fairly casual demeanor towards his job. Stanton's so funny in just being this hard ass type which is perhaps most evident when he comes across his rival repo man and whenever Stanton delivers a salty insult their way it's a little gem. One of my favorite moments though is perhaps his annoyed scoff when the two men threaten to sue them after he gets revenge by crashing into their car.

The consistency is perhaps though what makes this performance so good as Stanton's portrayal of Bud's unflappable attitude is what is so terribly  amusing about his work here.  I love the way that even when he gets ready to take on some store robbers he still deals with it like it's just part of his daily routine. This even includes when things begin to get stranger around one car that seems to have an alien presence within it. Ol' Bud decides to commandeer it despite it risking his life for it. When Otto presses him on his hypocrisy in regards to his earlier advice, that no car is worth dying for, Stanton makes it a moment of comedic gold as he portrays the anger specifically in Bud over being called an asshole indirectly by Otto since that's what he referred to people who risked their lives over cars. I loved everything about this performance to the point that I loved every second Stanton was onscreen. He's always doing something that is at least a little entertaining through his pitch perfect portrayal of the caustic Bud. Although this is a bigger role in ways, it's another of Stanton making such an impact with fairly limited resources. Every line delivery, every reaction, there's just that extra little something that could only be brought out by Harry Dean Stanton. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: Kenneth McMillan in Dune & The Pope of Greenwich Village and Sting in Dune

Kenneth McMillan nor Sting received an Oscar nomination for portraying Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and Feyd-Rautha respectively in Dune.

Well you won't quite seen any film like David Lynch's Dune, but that isn't exactly a good thing unlike most Lynch films. Seeing Lynch take on something like this is interesting in itself, but unfortunately that's mainly in the concept. In the execution it's often a dull film with Lynch, strangely enough of all people, making sure to explain everything within the sci-fi universe with constant long winded exposition.

Adding to the curiosity of the film is its notable cast, though some would gain their notoriety after this film, including Jurgen Prochnow, Brad Dourif, Richard Jordan, Max von Sydow, Jose Ferrer, Linda Hunt and Patrick Stewart. I'm focusing on perhaps two of the lesser known performers, as actors mind you, Kenneth McMillan and the musician Sting. Much of the cast is as dull as so many of the lines they deliver, luckily there are these two crazies waiting in the wings. McMillan and Sting play the two central, active, villains in the film who are bent on destroying the house of Atreides to which our hero Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) belongs. McMillan plays the Baron Harkonnen who spends much of his time having his giant pustules drained of their pus while he murders his servants via a heart plug he has installed in them, while Sting plays his nephew Feyd-Rautha who spends much of the film seemingly waiting in his green room in order to do something evil.

These two are the highlights of the film in every way possible because they're the only ones who want to try to make this a fun sci-fi adventure. McMillan is terrific by embracing the grotesque nature of his character to the nth degree. McMillan just revels in it in the best of ways as he portrays such a sick glee in the Baron as he goes about scheming to destroy the Atreides but also just when he goes about randomly doing any evil act. McMillan is the excessively indulgent creep he should be as his performance feels like gluttony incarnate. McMillan wastes no image of himself as even the way he rises and floats, rather than walks, has this deliciously sick sinister quality to it. Sting's take is a bit different in just that he plays Feyd-Rautha as though he knows he's the main boss for the film, and I mean the main boss in video game terms. Sting provides this overpowering confidence in just his swagger particularly in his scene where he walks around in a speedo for some reason. Sting even makes that scene work in a way though because the sheer ego of his portrayal matches such an act.

The two of them together are a whole lot of fun and the film comes to life whenever they are onscreen. It rather struggles the rest of the time, but with either the Baron or Feyd-Rautha onscreen you are in for some real entertainment. Although they are almost kind of in a different movie, that's fine because it's a much better movie. In that the two turns are fitting for a crazy science fiction adventure film rather than a boring one. McMillan is a great villain in his scenes as he captures a real menace by portraying such disgusting sadism so effectively. McMillan makes his scenes compelling by so intricately realizing the vile nature of the Baron in such an entertaining way. McMillan's work here, though again with a sci-fi bent, feels like a proper personification of Lynchian insanity, something that is sorely lacking or strangely underwhelming in so many other aspects of the film. I wish the rest of the film was able to match the wavelength that McMillan is on as the Baron. The only person who is there for him is Sting who again is built up so much until his final scene which is not wasted by him. Sting comes in with such cockiness and just everything about him provides the perfect smugness for his villain. Of course the high point of all of it is Sting rather brilliant and properly absurd delivery of the line "I WILL KILL HIM!!!!" again and again. Do these two chew the scenery, sure, but have you seen this scenery? These two are the only ones who know how to handle the scenery and handle they do. They become one with ridiculousness that surrounds them to create two great stylized villains worthy to be David Lynch villains, even if the film is more than cut below the average Lynch.
(For Sting)
(For McMillan)
Kenneth McMillan also did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Barney in The Pope of Greenwich Village.

Kenneth McMillan sadly is one of those actors who died just as he was breaking out as a character actor. He proved his talents though in 1984 where he appeared in three high profile films. The aforementioned Dune, this film, and Amadeus. His appearance in Amadeus was only in two deleted scenes, added back into the director's cut, though I don't feel those scenes belong in the film McMillan was good in them. His larger two roles of 1984 are the ones I'm covering here which together are signs of a great character actor. In Dune he proves his ability to find his own path within a problematic film, and in Pope of Greenwich village he proves another important skill for a character actor through his success in a potential throwaway role. McMillan plays Barney a clock repairman but also a amateur safe cracker who goes along with the two hapless criminals/cousins of Charlie (Mickey Rourke) and Paulie (Eric Roberts) on a robbery in order to solve all their money problems. McMillan though ensures that Barney isn't just the third wheel of the crew even though he is given the least importance within the film.

First off McMillan proves that he is quite capable of given a far more low key performance here than in Dune. He is just as effective at giving a reality to this shop keep in New York as he is giving the grand madness to a space tyrant. From his first scene I love the history that McMillan infuses into Barney. He portrays a complete lack of ego as he explains his skills presenting the sort of man who has mostly come to terms with who he is. McMillan gives it a bit of somberness in his eyes yet with just a quiet touches of pride in his delivering showing a guy who isn't completely happy where he's ended up yet is not planning on giving up just yet. McMillan's work gives so much nuance to Barney even in the scenes where he is just watching Charlie and Paulie as they are talking. McMillan says so much even when he's saying nothing as Barney examines his two partners with a slight critical eye. McMillan adds a nice touch of humor by revealing just how unimpressed Barney is by them, but by also offering a contrast in style. McMillan portrays Barney with a very casual demeanor as they discuss the crime, as he's done similair work before, against Charlie and Paulie who bring far more intensity in the discussion given they are amateurs.

What I love about McMillan's performance is he's the lead of his own story, there is nothing about what McMillan does that limits Barney. McMillan leaves no moment just lying there as he brings depth to all his onscreen behavior. Even something like how he acts in the robbery scene McMillan does so well as he captures some underlying fear of the situation yet still brings the assurance of a guy whose had the past experience. McMillan adds just that that extra bit of honesty to every scene by giving every reaction and interaction this richness of a life lived. As good as McMillan is before the robbery scene he's great afterwards. Again Barney could have been a throwaway role with a lesser actor, just a footnote for Charlie and Paulie's story. McMillan doesn't allow that. In a scene afterwards where he asks Charlie to essentially make sure his family gets his share, McMillan offers such earnestness that made me care more about Barney than Paulie or even Charlie. I'll admit watching the film the first time I became quite concerned, since often things don't often turn out well for the older accomplice in films. This became all the more troubling when we see Barney ready himself to leave New York saying goodbye to his wife. McMillan is absolutely heartbreaking the scene as his strained delivery suggests his years of failures yet with such genuine affection in his eyes as he says farewell to his wife. In only a moment onscreen McMillan alludes to so many years and even allows you to sense his relationshis with his wife. I was overjoyed when Barney does escape and that was because McMillan made me so invested in this poor old guy. This is an incredible supporting performance as he goes far beyond the call of the role to create such a vivid portrait of this small time crook that could have been just an easily forgotten side character in the film. That achievement is the mark of a great character actor.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1984: John Candy in Splash

John Candy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Freddie Bauer in Splash.

Splash, finally watching from beginning to end, I found to be kind of a terrible romantic comedy with a curiously unappealing central performance by Tom Hanks, but there was one thing I liked.

Well obviously I'm talking about the gone too soon John Candy, who was sadly not properly appreciated in his time. It's a shame since his ability is so evident in a film this where he plays the brother to Tom Hanks's Allen. Candy's whole agenda in the film seems to be to make better any way he can whenever he is onscreen. Candy's Freddie is this strange lothario of sorts right down to his pseudo playboy attire. The last time I covered a Candy performance it was as the more lovable though luckless salesman in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. This role actually depends a different sort of angle for Candy to go off of, and Candy is more than up to the task. His style here is indulgent in the right way fitting to a guy who just goes about loving his life and living in his own sort of way which is great foil against old the oddly unpleasant Allen who somehow can even seem to enjoy life when he's with a sexy mermaid. Where Hanks is being always so down Candy is the perfect antidote that just seems to brighten every frame as the cheeky Freddie.

Anyway there really is not enough Candy to go around in this film, but when Candy appears it is highlight, in fact just the scenes with Candy simply are the good scenes of the film. Candy does his best to pick up the slack of Hanks's performance at every turn. One of his most enjoyable scenes is early on as they are going about Allen's business together and Freddie is hanging around delivering one liners about either Allen's misfortunes or his useless employees. Well Candy knocks these out of the park really with his madcap delivery. He goes even further though with the madness he inflicts in every scene of his madness that can come from any direction whether it is as he bursts out laughing so suddenly, or so many of his quietly judgemental reactions that are most often hilarious. Candy tries to make a bit work even when other facts are not working such as again Hanks is oddly misguided turn. Candy fulfills the role of the best friend, which is a mainstay of the romantic comedy. This is terrific example of that trope as Candy does provide all that these types of roles need. He importantly does bring the support needed. In that he has the right earnest warmth in his scenes where he encourages Allen, like the kind older brother. I love the slight twist in Candy's demeanor though in there are moments where he goes almost like a drill Sergeant that still serves the purpose of support though in the form of a much tough love, of course it also results in him being quite amusing at the same time. The focus is of course is that comedy which Candy is on point every second he's onscreen with his infectious energy. I hate that the film almost seems to waste him, as he's absent for a large chunk of the film, and we barely get a proper sendoff for Freddie. Nevertheless Candy, while he can't save the film due to lack of screentime, is the one who delivers any of the enjoyment the film has to offer.