Monday, 24 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1954: Fredric March in Executive Suite

Fredric March did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Loren Phineas Shaw in Executive Suite.

Executive Suite is a rather effective drama about the power struggle that ensues in a successful company after their president dies without leaving an obvious successor.

Executive Suite follows the several vice presidents of the company dealing with the calamity. The two strongest figures shown in the film are William Holden's McDonald "Don" Wallin against March's Shaw. Now March's performance is essential to the film in more ways than you may initially expect. Now on one hand this is simply an engaging performance, as March tends to be when he dials it back a bit playing to his strengths as a performer. That is what March does here as he carries his very distinct and assured presence to the role of Shaw. March brings that confidence to the role to create Shaw as a powerful figure in the company. March is innately compelling here as he offers such an efficiency in his performance, so rarely wasting time on the wrong emotions which is quite fitting to his character. This is part of March's performance which is always very much on point and straight forward in a remarkable way. In that there is nothing dull in this as March in particular makes the technical dialogue involving the company not only effortless in his delivery yet always comprehensible. When in the early scenes of the film Shaw figures out what happens and takes immediate action, March brings an incisiveness not only in words but also through his very assured physical body language as he carefully breaks down the reasoning behind his actions.

Now this is where March's performance though goes beyond in terms of how it amplifies the film. There are elements to the film that could have made it potentially into a more hamfisted morality play particularly in the role of Shaw. March's work is what avoids this problem. It would easy to imagine Shaw being made into an overt villain, but March wisely avoids this and in turn avoids simplifying the drama. March importantly always plays the role as a man who believes he is doing the right thing throughout the film. Again in that early scene where he establishes basically his authority, where technically Shaw is just assuring that the company will not collapse, March presents a confidant man yet not an egotistical one as he could have been here. There is a sense of righteousness but not a sanctimonious self-righteousness. March brings what is a genuine passion within his words that reflect the will of a man who is looking beyond himself even as he does take steps to try to secure his position as president. When he's making his moves within the story Shaw moves with precision but again March plays these scenes by emphasizing how Shaw working towards his goal. When he negotiates even with the less savory men of the company, March delivers his lines in a direct fashion again reinforcing that this is not a game to Shaw, but something he feels must be done.

The plot comes to a head with the final voting to determine who will be the next president and what their exact vision for the company is. Shaw offers his vision which is essentially to keep things as they are but in doing so ensuring the greatest dividends to their stockholders. In this explanation March gives it all the sincerity and certainty of a seasoned and intelligent businessman. There is no purposeful stubbornness in March's approach but a very direct earnestness behind the explanation. Now this is a low key earnestness to be sure, but March uses that so well to give his view that paints Shaw as a reasonable man who wants what he believes to be best for the company. Even as the first vote does not exactly go his way March is very good in revealing a bit more emotion in Shaw. March even in this stays true to his approach and plays this emotion most strongly as a quiet frustration that they are making things more difficult for the company. I particularly like his scene with Louis Calhern's more amoral board member, where March just presents such a genuine disbelief that the fool would sabotage his own desires by voting against him. March portrays no real anger, but rather reinforces the nature of Shaw by only being confused by the man's actions. When Holden's Don presents his view with a stirring speech, March earns the acceptance in Shaw due to his reactions not being of a man being defeated but rather taking in the idea and seeing that they could work towards the success of the company. March's performance here keeps the film from becoming too black and white by providing a real opposition to what becomes the final message. He never allows Shaw to be a straw man by not only delivering his view as a reasonable alternative but also creating three dimensional character who is merely doing what he believes is the right.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1954: Jean Gabin in Touchez Pas Au Grisbi

Jean Gabin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Max in Touchez Pas Au Grisbi.

Touchez Pas Au Grisbi is a terrific crime thriller about an aging gangster who must come out of retirement after a rival gangster goes after his best friend and old partner in crime in order to ransom for an old score of theirs.

Jean Gabin fulfills what must be one of the earliest examples of the now well worn trope of the older man who has to come back for just one more job. Gabin, in what was apparently was his post-war comeback role, is a prime figure to fulfill such a role. This film came several years after his suave work in Pepe Le Moko, but Gabin did not lose a step in that time. In the early scenes, and really throughout the film, we do get plenty of classic smooth Gabin. Gabin once again just has this effortlessness in his presence here and just exudes the confidence of the character. This is a seasoned Gabin though and it seems like he even needs to try even less than he did in his earlier roles. Of course this is Gabin making it look so easy which is all the more notable here as Max is the ladies man to every woman in the general vicinity, and Gabin enables this to be wholly convincing. Again Gabin brings this charm with such ease that is perfect for this role as he presents a man who has just be on top of the world for many years, and this comes off him in a way that makes it so evident why he is such an appealing figure to just about everyone. Gabin sets his place at the head of the table without question.

Gabin though carefully compromises his role, in that obviously that confidence is something that is there and always evident yet he is aware of that even within the character in the right way. Gabin does not hide his age which works so well for the character who does not hide it on his own. Gabin though somehow makes himself seem all the more assured though in the way he delivers his lines about just wanting to retire early in the night, or his "I'm too old for this" type of lines. He has those in the film yet Gabin delivers them not as a man who is not unhappy about this, but rather is entirely content in this. There is a comfort in the age that Gabin presents that somehow only gives the character a greater inherent strength because of it. Gabin shows a man who simply know how to age, and some of his power seems to come from how well he is accommodate to himself essentially. In the first act Gabin has that needed presence as he does the little work he still deals with and Gabin makes Max the man at the top of his craft even in retirement. Again he could be the definition of smooth of how he creates in Max that skill of a master setting up the man who is at ease in his life, and someone who should never be taken lightly.

Unfortunately a younger gangster does try to force Max out of his semi-retirement by launching a plot involving kidnapping his old partner Riton (Rene Dary) in order to extort the considerable loot from an old heist. Once the plot starts, matching the perhaps less films that would come later, Max reveals his particular set of skills. Gabin, despite already seeming such a confident and strong figure manages to take it even further in these scenes. Gabin in these scenes, as Max breaks down the situation and goes about taking down his opponents, reminded me a bit of Alain Delon in Le Samourai or even more fittingly Albert Finney in Miller's Crossing. In that Gabin just in his physical manner is this man who apparently was born for this life and was destined to be a gangster. In every moment Gabin offers that complete control and even a certain thrill of it. Gabin shows Max technically exactly where he should be as he goes about defeating his much younger opponents. This is not merely Gabin being well, cool, there is more to the role in regards to his relationship with Riton. Although Max derides him early Gabin delivers these lines with the utmost warmth actually showing the very strong soft spot that Max has for his old partner, and a genuine love within the gangster. This carries the right underlying poignancy through the story as Gabin emphasizes that this goes further than business for him. Gabin holds onto this idea so effectively building towards his final moment in the film which is this nuanced but oh so powerful reaction where Gabin so subtly reveals Max's quiet sorrow due to the events of the film. This is a great performance by Jean Gabin as he perhaps set the initial standard for the badass ready for just "one more job".

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1954: George Sanders in Journey to Italy

George Sanders did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alexander 'Alex' Joyce in Journey to Italy.

Journey to Italy is almost an anti-Roman Holiday about a couple whose marriage becomes increasingly strained as they vacation in Italy.

George Sanders is best known for his purring villains, whether or not he is playing a literal feline, or at the very least he is an intellectual sort with a biting wit whether or not he's even a sympathetic sort. This performance is again in that vein yet what we see of him here is different from those earlier performances. In that Sanders here is playing a man in a more modest situation with his wife Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) as they travel abroad. Sanders in many ways gives the performance you'd expect from him in that he is his usual suave self particularly when Alex and Katherine are among others. He has that certain wit about him and is properly as Sanders should be. This takes on a different shade though when the two are alone together or alone separately. In that Sanders's has this certain misery within that behavior, his statements being particularly caustic, emphasized as such by Sanders's delivery which lacks that certain joy in the cynicism found in his most of his work. This performance Sanders presents more of such a man that you get to know both when he is "on" in front of the crowd and off when alone with his wife.

Sanders's style is effectively subverted in these moments as we see him essentially as Katherine does which is as the excessively cynical sort, and this is one of the most painful marks on their relationship. Their interactions are notable for their broken chemistry of sorts as they only seem to connect in minor instances of social interaction, or when they are being more directly critical of one another. They lack any real warmth, but what Sanders and Bergman do though is capture this specific sort of coldness. It is not of two people wholly without a history rather there is a familiarity in this but an unpleasant familiarity represented often in a mutual disinterest or an unease in recognizing the faults they see in one another. The film breaks them apart where we see each going off their own where perhaps Bergman is allowed to create a bit more insight into her character partially because she speaks to herself. Sanders does have a few scenes though where we see him pondering a potential affair with a local. These scenes do feel a touch limited at times, and perhaps there was an intentional vapidness in Sanders's work. They don't leave the same impact though in Bergman's similair scenes where we seem to come to understand Katherine more than we do Alex.

Eventually the two troubles come to a head in their final day in Italy. Again this is where Sanders shines along with Bergman for that matter as they so well capture this certain vicious sniping the each make towards one another as the final conflict builds in that day. They once more capture the mutual stress in these moments, and their delivery works as this sudden messy outpouring of frustrations against one another. They work so well in creating this dissolution though along with their sudden switching to basically appease their hosts as their tour continues. The two find the difficulty in their attempts to switch back to their proper social behavior while always conveying their ongoing fight is still weighing on their minds. This eventually leads to the two getting caught up in a religious procession where suddenly their relationship turns around. Although as written there appears to be something missing there, though perhaps that is the point in that both Bergman and Sanders don't quite make that easy in their performance. The reason being that even as they declare their renewed love of sorts there is something off and desperate in the moment that suggests perhaps it is not as happy of an ending as it might seem. Although there seem something missing in his scenes away from Bergman with her Sanders gives a compelling alternative view of his usual screen persona.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1954

And the Nominees Were Not:

Anthony Quinn in La Strada

Fredric March in Executive Suite

Jean Gabin in Touchez Pas Au Grisbi

George Sanders in Journey to Italy

Alec Guinness in The Detective

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003: Results

5. Park Hai-il in Memories of Murder - A performance that grew on me considerable with a re-watch as it develops another layer as he presents both a guilty and innocent man as the potential serial killer.

Best Scene: Interrogation.
4. Jason Isaacs in Peter Pan - Isaacs is both an effectively meek yet eventually heartwarming Mr. Darling while also being a properly menacing yet entertaining Captain Hook.

Best Scene: Hook tricks Tinkerbell.
3. Bernie Mac in Bad Santa - Mac gives an hilarious portrayal of his straight shooting security chief who isn't exactly completely on the level himself.

Best Scene: "Half"
2. James Caan in Dogville - Caan's performance delivers this remarkable impact for the finale of his film, as he, in only really single scene, not only establishes a long difficult history with Nicole Kidman's Grace, but also realizes his distinct personal philosophy towards the world.

Best Scene: "Arrogance"
1. Yoo Ji-tae in Oldboy - Good predictions Omar and Calvin. Yoo Ji-Tae gives an outstanding performance that offers a most atypical villain for a revenge thriller, and also delivers his own portrayal of his character's own tale of revenge that ends up oddly  trumping the "hero's".

Best Scene: The Elevator.
Update Overall

Next Year: 1954 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003: Park Hae-il in Memories of Murder

Park Hae-il did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Park Hyeon-gyu in Memories of Murder.

Memories of Murder is a brilliant film that follows the search for a serial killer in the South Korean countryside.

Park Hae-il appears rather late into the film as a man who the detectives, Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho) and Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung), believe may be the killer. His connection to the crimes come in a single song he requested that plays on the radio every time the murders occur though it is also every time it rains at night. Park Hae-il's performance as the subject is a very interesting one, and essential to serving his purpose in the film, which is to be a giant question mark. I have to say what he does here is rather remarkable in that his performance actually forces the viewer into the same viewpoint as Detectives Seo and Park find themselves in. In that the first time I watched the film I was convinced that he was guilty. This was through his portrayal of the quiet dispassion that seemed that of psychopath, there was a sinister distance as he answered the questions as guilty man simply thriving on the knowledge that they have no hard evidence against him. However watching the film again his performance plays a different way which is fascinating. That dispassion can be interpreted less as something sinister. It not only can reflect an earned distaste for the police, earned due to the random brutality of one of their members, but also suggests perhaps just an anti-social man living a difficult isolated life.

Park's performance remains though an enigma, yet his work never feels vague in this. Again in the initial viewing his few later scenes, after his initial interrogation, he is off-putting as seeming to be the killer gloating against his foes for their inability to catch him. On re-watch though this can be as easily viewed as a man already living an unpleasant life becoming understandably ill at ease with such severe accusations being made against him. Again it is yet another brilliant element of this film this idea that it make you get caught up in the evidence, the evidence against the man that you believe to be airtight yet becomes much more flimsy once the emotion surrounding it dies down. Of course again in that initial viewing right when you are with the detectives, in all of their frustrations and pain over the case, there is a desire for some sort of closure somewhere, and the only candidates seems in Park's off putting man. It is then easy enough to get caught up in the final confrontation where detective Seo is about to kill the man in cold blood after another murder has taken place. Again Park's turn only seems to encourage this as the unrepentant killer, who admits his guilt only with palatable disdain in the heat of the moment. Again though on re-evaluation Park evokes a real fear in the scene suggesting that perhaps the man is just fearful for his life, though perhaps through his military life he reacts to fear through some external anger rather than falling apart as most would. This is terrific performance as in a few scenes he creates this captivating figure that is mystery one can't quite decipher. He allows either interpretation of his character to be valid, yet is genuine in his performance. It is truly remarkable since his performance makes his character frustrating in the right way. You can't quite get a bead on him as Park leads with a fork in the road as this unpleasant behavior could be of a serial killer, or man who has no affection for the world yet is harmless. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2003: Yoo Ji-Tae in Oldboy

Yoo Ji-Tae did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lee Woo-jin in Oldboy.

Oldboy is the second film in Park Chan-wook's thematic revenge trilogy. That revenge on the surface appears to be based around the man Oh Dae-su's (Choi Min-sik) search for the man who imprisoned him for 15 years. Unfortunately for Oh Dae-su the real revenge at the center of the film is not Oh Dae-su's for that man, but rather that man's for Oh Dae-su. That man being Lee Woo-jin played by Yoo Ji-Tae. After Dae-su is released from his strange prolonged prison sentence he slowly received messages from a man, that man being Lee. They are slight initially and as mysterious as the prison itself. We only hear Yoo a few times, and see his eyes in a couple of straightforward messages. We only finally see him in the flesh rather suddenly when he initially appears to be a helpful bystander who offers aid to Dae-su after a fight. It is there where we first see Yoo's bright smile he brings to the role, such a congenial grin as he almost treats Oh Dae-su as this old friend, ensuring that he will survive that violent encounter.

Yoo Ji-Tae's casting and his performance offer quite an atypical villain for the film, as he first off he just does not look like this truly sinister man just by a glance then there is Yoo's portrayal. Yoo does not try to exert an overt menace with his performance, and again in fact there is this certain friendliness at times, though in reality more of a familiarity that Yoo expresses. Yoo does not do this to undercut his performance, no instead it amplifies in the way he creates this truly unique antagonist with Lee. That familiarity ends up being rather off-putting in one way Yoo alludes to the way that Lee knows so much that Dae-su does not, far too much in fact. There is even more though as Yoo suggests something even deeper than that even. Of course this also becomes duplicitous as Yoo makes that smile get under your skin as there is an innate smugness that Yoo brings, which again goes further than just making him this smug snake. Yes that is there, but again Yoo makes it seem all the more sinister since the smugness suggest his complete control of every situation in the film, and is imposing in his own way by creating Lee as this man who almost seems impossible to decipher while he apparently has everything deciphered around him.

Yoo, despite being very consistent in creating this sense of certainty in Lee, he is never one note. There are these brilliant edges he brings to his performance, moments that he uses so effectively to allude to more about Lee's nature and his real relationship with Oh Dae-su. These often are slight moments, where we see a real burning hatred, these are in small moments when he turns away for just a second, in those moments though are usually related to either when Oh Dae-su reveals absolutely no knowledge of why Lee is doing this to him, or later on when he begins to call back the memory. In those times though there is that intensity of a hatred, fitting to a man bent on revenge, yet Yoo takes it further as there a certain somberness in this anger reflecting his sorrow connected to the revenge. Eventually we do learn that Oh Dae-su caused a rumor, a true rumor, that Lee and his sister were having an incestuous relationship which eventually lead to her committing suicide. It is in the final confrontation where the film does reveal that it has always been about Lee's revenge, not Oh Dae-su's.

Lee brings throughout the scene that domination of what could be the noble avenger if it was not so twisted, as he breaks Oh Dae-su down with such confidence revealing his plan of revenge that entails Oh Dae-su unknowingly sleeping with his own daughter. The revelation causes a full mental breakdown in Oh Dae-su that leads him to beg Lee not to reveal the information to his daughter. Yoo is brutally effective by how he controls every moment and reveals what that satisfaction and familiarity came from. As Yoo presented as Lee knowing his plan was working but also conveying a certain connection through their mutual incest. Yoo is amazing in the final moment as he laughs over Oh Dae-su bringing such a joy in a man who has apparently gotten everything he desired, and essentially fulfilled what had become his life goal. Again though since this is his revenge story it ends as so many do in what is my favorite scene in this great performance. That being when Lee enters the elevator to leave Oh Dae-su alone in his misery with that smile of pure elation. Lee though hears recording of the pain of his actions which causes his mind to drift back to his sister's suicide which he was present for. Yoo is heartbreaking in his painful demise of that smile into such anguish, the anguish that is all he is left with after having avenged the death, which naturally leads to his own demise. Yoo Ji-Tae's performance here is outstanding piece of work as he successfully is so unlike what you'd expect from villain in a revenge film, yet also succeeds in creating this idea that Lee is living out his own revenge through his surprisingly poignant though still chilling portrait of a man consumed by vengeance in his own way.