Monday, 16 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: Bruce Dern, Scott WIlson, and Roberts Blossom in The Great Gatsby

This adaptation of the Great Gatsby though it could have used a little more vibrant direction, and there is a black hole at the center of it I still found to be a rather compelling film. This is in part due to the screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola but also due to the overall ensemble. Although there is that black hole in the center of it with Robert Redford in the titular role, who despite being well cast seems indifferent to the film, which is rather problematic for Gatsby a man with a passion infused purpose. The rest of the performers though make up for this including two of the main supporting actors of the film, and technically a minor one.

The two major ones though are Bruce Dern who was not Oscar nominated despite being nominated for a Golden Globe for portraying Tom Buchanan the lecherous husband of Daisy (Mia Farrow) the object of Gatsby's affections, and Scott Wilson who was not Oscar nominated as George Wilson the working class husband of the woman, Myrtle (Karen Black), Buchanan is having an affair with. Both roles honestly could have been simplified through the performances. In Dern's case Tom is a truly despicable character who even beyond his lechery indulges in brief physical abuse of his mistress, and espouses on his views on white supremacy. Meanwhile Scott Wilson's George is a fairly simple minded gas station owner who only slowly comes to even realize that his wife his having an affair despite the fact that she and Tom do little to hide it. In both circumstances they avoid any simplicity that lesser performances could have entailed. Dern in no way hides the miserable nature of Tom portraying the vile smugness when espousing his beliefs, and the limited selfishness when berating his mistress. Dern still makes Tom a human being if a vile one. In even his cruel scenes with Myrtle Dern portrays it less as Tom being intentionally sadistic, but rather depicts it the troubling reaction of a spoiled man who is not getting something exactly as he wants it. This is pivotal though in Tom as he does love Myrtle and this is shown in Dern's performance. I also love Dern in the scene where he spends time with Gatsby and Daisy. Again Dern's terrific by not playing into a villain but rather bringing an awkwardness and even shyness in Tom as he tries to hide his distress while struggling with his wife's infidelity. Obviously what Dern brings to the role doesn't make Tom any more sympathetic, even his pains involve a severe hypocrisy but what he does do is create a three dimensional role that could have been a one note villain. This leads to there even being some real power to Dern's performance particularly when a terrible tragedy occurs as Dern realizes the heavy loss in Tom, which doesn't make him a better man, but does show that he's human.
Scott Wilson, as usual really, excels with his brief screentime initially revealing just a real earnestness in his George. Wilson brings the right simplicity of attitude that grants an understanding to his initial blindness. He delivers his early moments just with the proper friendliness of a man of his nature where it would be beyond him to second guess his wife. We don't see him learn of the truth but we do see him after he has discovered it. Wilson is great in revealing just the quiet subdued pain in the man who really doesn't want anyone to know about his foolishness, yet Wilson brings such a palatable distress as the man speaks to finally figuring everything out. Wilson's George ends up carrying out the second most horrific act in the film, however what he does in the role creates a direct sympathy for the poor man's plight. Even when committing the violent act at the end of the film. Wilson is very moving by portraying the sheer weight of the emotional anguish that propels the man to his horrible actions. Again a role that could have just been the fool, or just a plot device. Wilson is neither as he offers a real insight into George's suffering, and makes him a victim rather than a villain.
Roberts Blossom did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr. Gatz in The great Gatsby.

My favorite performance in the film though is a rather short one by Roberts Blossom, yes then old man in Home Alone, who offered something rather special to that film as he does the same here. Blossom doesn't appear until the last ten minutes of the film as Gatsby's father with Gatsby's real last name Mr. Gatz. Blossom appears late after the tragic death of his son. What Blossom does here is absolutely remarkable in such short time, and yes I'll admit I have a particular affection whenever an actor can do so much with so little. He appears and underlying to begin with he is wholly heartbreaking in every moment as the loss of his son is felt in every moment of his performance. In every halted breath, and stumbling moment in his physical performance Blossom exudes the sheer grief that the man is suffering through. The extent of his sadness is so well realized as Blossom shows a man just barely keeping it together as he attends his son's funeral. This is not merely a heartbreaking depiction of grief, which it is, but there is such a richness to this portrayal that goes beyond that despite how potent and poignant that aspect of his performance may be. Blossom brings a certain discovering in his depiction realizing the man finding out what it is his son became though with that there is a sense of confusion of the man trying to come to terms with what his son became. Blossom finds that confusion but also a bit of pride as he speaks of his son's ambition and his search for his son. Blossom finds everything that that his son meant to Mr. Gatz, and everything that his loss meant to him. Although he's only onscreen for a few minutes I found his worked resonated more than any other in the film. It went even beyond that because as much as this performance works as such a powerful portrayal of a father's bereavement he also made me care more about Gatsby than Redford ever did. Blossom finds the tragedy of the man who gained everything only to lose it all, and he didn't even play that character. This performance is a testament to what a great character actor like Roberts Blossom can do even in the most minor of roles.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: Ken Takakura in The Yakuza

Ken Takakura did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ken Tanaka in The Yakuza.

Ken Takakura enters the Yakuza as the man to help the American Harry (Robert Mitchum) navigate the Japanese underworld in order to rescue Harry's businessman friend's daughter. We see the film through Harry's eyes, however with an edit of the film it would be easy enough to establish Tanaka as the main character though in a way this would be a different film. In the story we see Harry coming to terms with his past, while trying to deal with the future. Mitchum makes Harry a very open hero however Takakura's Tanaka is far more constrained. We initially meet him teaching at a dojo and Takakura's performance is very exact in his realization of the expression of Tanaka as a man. On the surface when speaking about the job he'll help Harry do, since he owes him for saving his "sister" long ago, Takakura portrays sincerity in his pledge to help. He portrays a man seemingly ready to help, however underneath this Takakura carries a greater complexity. From his first glance to Harry Takakura evokes in his eyes pain of the past in regards to the man, and carries this certain underlying tension in his interactions with the man.

Takakura's performance works particularly well as a companion work to Mitchum's and a contrast to it. On the one side of it Takakura is very effective, as Mitchum is, in the action scenes. He brings the right type of "cool" so to speak in these scenes though Tanaka takes on foes with the sword while Harry uses a gun. As with Mitchum the action scenes are never something taken lightly within Takakura's performance, although he technically goes even further with this partially due to the overtly physical nature of the action he participates in. Takakura brings a real weight to every moment by portraying every ounce of the battles in his own performance. This is in part due to realizing the physical exasperation of the fight, particularly in the final duel, but he also captures the emotional intensity involved. The fight becomes very personal for Tanaka, partially due to honor partially due to loss, and this is never lost in Takakura's performance. In every moment of the fight what motivates the man is keenly felt and makes every action scene all the more compelling because of this.

Again the contrast against Mitchum though is what is truly remarkably in this as Harry is the man we know pretty quickly, but Tanaka is the mystery of the film, the mystery who slowly unravels in order for us to understand. Takakura's performance is always in an exact tandem with this unraveling and through this makes the most compelling aspect of the film. After the initial rescue, which only leads to greater problems for Ken, which Harry tries to help him with. There's a great scene for Takakura where Harry tries to counsel him on what to do with his severe problem involving honor and the Yakuza where Ken's life is on the line. Takakura is amazing in the scene because every line of delivery has an abruptness, even a coldness of a man who doesn't care much about what Harry is saying, and just will do what he needs to do for himself. In every words about Harry, particularly when Harry speaks about his "sister's" concern for him, there is such a palatable anguish within Takakura's eyes. Takakura is deeply affecting as a reveals the real man suffering beneath essentially the requirements of honor, alluding to what the man is really going through even before we learn what that is.

Takakura is terrific in keeping in this dual nature of the man as he does portray an absolute conviction within the honor, yet there is always the sense of the sacrifice this entails. Takakura keeps in mind this idea throughout his performance though in every moment large or small, in even a slight reaction such as watching Harry being embraced by his "sister", there is those subtle hints to the far more vulnerable man who is burdened by his giri, his obligation, due to when Harry's past actions saved his "sister's" life. Eventually we learn the truth of the man which is that Harry never had saved his sister but actually his wife, and his honor left him to support Harry even as the two had an romantic affair. This revelation is bluntly revealed in a heartbreaking moment as grieves over the death, due to a gunfight, of his thought to be niece but was in fact his daughter. Takakura reveals the severity of the loss in revealing the out pour of almost the full anguish of the man's life. That is not only an incredibly powerful moment in the scene itself, but looking at the revelation naturally grants an understanding to the whole of Takakura's performance.

With this mystery revealed Takakura's performance is interesting in that it is the same yet with the perspective of knowing the truth you see every moment of the man in a different and very poignant light. In that way we are much like Harry in the film who by the end comes to fully understand the sacrifices of Tanaka himself. This leads to the two men coming together to realize a friendship between the two. It's a great scene for both actors though especially so for Takakura. Takakura in the moment loses that tension between the two sides of the man as Harry offers his apology. Takakura opens up most honestly emotionally in the moment, no longer is directed around any pain, no longer with the distance to the man who both righted and inadvertently wrong him. There is such an earned tenderness and respect in his delivery of "No man has a greater friend" which is both heartwarming and devastating as we see that two men finally fully knowing one another. This is a great performance by Ken Takakura as he provides the hidden heart of the film through his slow dissection of this initial enigma of a man that grants a real substance to the film that elevates the potentially pulpy story.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: David Warner in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs

David Warner did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dennis Charles Nipple in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs.

Ah old David Warner the actor always giving such compelling work in the margins of any film he may appear, shining so well if he's ever allowed the center of a film. Thankfully we are granted some undiluted Warner here in about three or four scenes as one of the friends of the titular Malcolm (John Hurt), the recently kicked out of college pseudo thinker trying to create a phallic based political party. We are introduced to Warner's Dennis Charles Nipple last out of the principal players as he engages in a philosophical, and somewhat practical conversation on the quality of a jacket. As I mentioned in my review of John Hurt's performance in this film the script still feels very much of the stage. Like Hurt, Warner is such a great performer though that he manages to elevate the script and alleviate this problem to the certain extent through his performances. The monologues are perhaps too long, but they aren't too shabby when delivered by an actor of Warner's caliber. Warner is engaging simply to watch and speak in this role to begin with, however Warner takes this further through his successful approach to the role of Mr. Nipple.

Although before that I must commend the film for the costuming on Warner here which is something special in itself. Warner does not waste that useful starting point from the first scene on. Now his performance works best in terms of specifically how it relates to John Hurt's not only in terms of their chemistry but also how he makes Dennis differ from Malcolm. Now on one end you see how these two are friends as they meet each other in terms of their love of philosophical argument, although each seem to get something different out of this. The argument itself that opens their first scene together is quite useless about knowing "proper corduroy" though the two great actors make the most of it in certain terms in that is rather amusing to see both men bring such a misplaced intensity in this conversation. The nature of the intensity is a bit different though in that Hurt portrays a real frustration in not being able to convince Dennis on his belief, whereas Warner portrays a different dynamic. Warner portrays always a certain thrill, a real pleasure of just having the conversation itself, he brings just a little bit of frustration towards Malcolm, but Warner captures that natural friendly frustration when trying to get a point across, something I experienced myself quite recently in a discussion over whether Mother! is a masterpiece or a piece of trash, but I digress.

Past their direct arguments over their own specific viewpoints there is also a difference in the nature of the stance and frankly the use of their philosophy. Warner makes the passion in Dennis far more genuine and shows that the man doesn't use his personal views to build any facade for himself. Warner depicts a real comfort in his views and even when they may be ridiculous in his own way Warner makes Dennis rather endearing by making his passion so honest. When describing his own dreamlike experience from not eating Warner delivers this was such a sincerity, as a man trying to share his own wonderment, and potential illumination rather than force upon them like Malcolm. When Warner speaks Dennis's words there is the spirit of a man truly of this nature as Warner portrays Dennis wholly at comfort with himself. This is in stark contrast to Malcolm, but also Malcolm's other two friends Wick and Irwin whose connection isn't as fellow amateur philosophers, but rather are there for Malcolm's guidance. Warner's terrific when they enter as he shows very specifically that Dennis is only there for the discussions with his friend, through his reactions where he establishes just how unimpressed he is with Malcolm's followers.

Dennis sticks around for the beginnings of Malcolm's political movement, however the way Warner's maneuvers these scenes are key. Warner takes on an endearing curiosity and even playfulness suggesting Dennis sees it just as a game, and mostly there to just spend time with his friend. Warner keeps the right distance as just a man really playing around, which is in an effective sharp contrast to the bluster of Malcolm, and the blind devotion of Wick and Irwin. The one moment Dennis really does speak up early on is to offer a different more respectful view of women through one of his stories, which Warner again brings a gentle passion that stands against the viciousness of Malcolm's party. Dennis not really being into the phallic party is what leads to Warner's final scene where he is put on trial for his "crimes" by Malcolm and the other two. In this scene Warner once again begins with Dennis not taking too seriously as he protests the claims against him with the concern of playing game, however this changes when Malcolm sentences Dennis to ostracization and "death". Warner in this moment importantly captures the man outside the game in a way by so well expressing his eyes the growing sense in Dennis that there may be something seriously wrong with Malcolm. Warner is rather heartbreaking even in capturing a realization of the severity of the game, and the simple betrayal of friendship Dennis assumed they shared. Warner gives wonderful work here as he is not only one of the watchable aspects of the film, he alleviates some of its problems, and is pivotal in creating a wholly sympathetic, though still atypical, man to provide almost the antidote to the venom of our central character.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974

And the Nominees Were Not:

Ken Takakura in The Yakuza


Richard Harris in Juggernaut

David Warner in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs

Christopher Lee in The Man With The Golden Gun

Roberts Blossom in The Great Gatsby

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Results

5. Bruno S. in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser - S. creates a proper enigma as he is always at a certain distant yet is always compelling.

Best Scene: Philosophies.

4. James Caan in The Gambler - Caan gives a terrific performance where he plays with his usual image to create a man at odds with himself as essentially meek man deluding himself with the risk his gambling addition entails.

Best Scene: End of the game.

3. Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza - Mitchum is a proper badass as you'd expect yet he finds a real substance within the role by so effectively exploring the history with the man.

Best Scene: Amputation forgiveness.

2. John Hurt in Little Malcolm - Hurt gives a downright brilliant performance that makes sense of his potentially unwieldy material, and is always engaging even as the film loses steam.

Best Scene: Malcolm delusions are confronted.

1. Warren Oates in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia - Good Predictions Luke, Charles, Robert, Tahmeed, Omar, RatedRStar, Matt C., BRAZINTERMA Prêmio Fictício, Anonymous and Calvin. Oates easily wins this lineup for me for his dynamic and daring portrayal of a man already on the edge falling off.

Best Scene: "Because it feels so good."
Updated Overall

 Next Year: 1974 Supporting

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Bruno S. in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Bruno S. did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser is an interesting film that follows a strange young man appearing in a town with only a odd note in hand.

Bruno S.'s performance, as typical for a Herzog lead, is as a man that is either an extreme himself or in an extreme situation. This is the former for the strange man at the center of the film. This is not a film where we are meant to necessarily emphasize with the outsider, Herzog positions us technically closer to the view of the town's people trying to decipher the man. We are only given slightly more information then they are initially since we at the very least see Kaspar as he is in his confinement in a dank basement, and is taught some strange lesson by a man even more mysterious than Kaspar himself. The man leaves Kaspar in the town with the note, and teaches him to repeat a single phrase about becoming a gallant rider, and that is all. After that we are much like the town just trying to understand the man, and it is with this idea that Bruno S.'s performance is built around. S.'s performance is to give us the behavior, but only he is to understand it, not us. In the opening scenes, and his initial moment in town S.'s whole physical performance is of this strange specimen that we're are not expected to fully know. He grants Kaspar wide eyes that seem to take in everything around him, and his body language is distinct almost statuesque. He is a curiosity just from looking at him, which is exactly as Kaspar should be.

Bruno S. succeeds in being compelling just in himself as you watch there is just something about him that intrigues and captivates even beyond his strange note and past. This is essential to the character given that everyone becomes so interested him to the point they present him in a show despite there technically being nothing overtly abnormal about him physically. It isn't just the story though as S.'s performance also brings that strangeness so effectively to life. S. creates the sense that there is a mystery there even though he never tells you what it is. S. gives us a man who has been in an experience that does not relate to any other man in his state of this distance, but it is a certain type of distance that he expresses. S. is carefully not to be off-putting in the early scenes as his whole state of being has this naivety only to Kaspar himself. He's not exactly a child yet there is an innocence to him that makes it as though you not only want to learn more  of the enigma even though S. gives you few additional clues through his own performance to what the man is.

The film has a time jump where Kaspar has learned to easily communicate at least verbally with others, however that in no way removes the mystery of the man. S. portrays the growth in communication is only to a point as even the way he delivers the lines still is more at others, or even to himself rather than with another. He never loses that certain stare of his that now seems to come less of a man who wishes to observe everything around him, but rather of a man whose sight is of some other plain. S. keeps the man as much of a mystery still not allowing you into his plight or to really emphasize with him. Herzog and S. instead keep you still with those around him attempting to decipher what is the story to this man. Every moment of S.'s performance keeps this self containment of the man is. When Hauser mentions his own views on things these are delivered bluntly just as almost random thoughts, and S. portrays these distinctive emotions of the man. He never emotes as a normal person exactly he almost emotes in this particularly intense yet still abrupt and remote way that again keeps him far from an attachment. The main different in the time jump even is that in a way Kaspar becomes less innately likable since now one knows he can communicate yet chooses not to. S.'s performance technically though is of the same man who has just the only difference was his vocabulary of words and knowledge of the world has grown. This is a idiosyncratic performance by Bruno S. as he just is as Kaspar should be. He purposefully is never quite relatable, instead S. gives a performance that succeeds in bringing to life a true enigma that is impossible to fully comprehend.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Warren Oates in Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia

Warren Oates did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bennie in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

Bring Me the Head Of Alfredo Garcia, despite some particularly extreme negative reactions by some, I found to be a great crime thriller about an American bartender in Mexico going about trying to collect a bounty by finding the head of a dead man.

Now something already intriguing about the film is casting an actor like Warren Oates in the lead of the film. Oates is of course an incredibly reliable character actor, and just one of those guys who you can sense a story through their performance even if they don't have a lot of screentime. I love seeing when such an actor gets their chance to take on a leading role, and see how they can explore a role when they aren't technically working in the margins of a story. Oates's casting is further fascinating in that it seems to set a different type of tone for the film right from the outset when we see him working in his bar in Mexico, which is visited by two hitmen looking for the titular man. If this was Steve McQueen, or say a William Holden, and this nothing against those two actors I like very much, the viewer would likely immediately take to this "hero" for us to follow, as you'd just assume they'd have to be lovable rogues. When we see Bennie played by Oates, that's not the case, though I have to admit I love simply the look of Oates as Bennie, but I digress. Oates's unique presence offers something very different there which is a most unpredictable protagonist for us to follow throughout the film.

Oates's whole approach makes Bennie feel right within the rundown atmosphere of the bar. Oates carries that harshness of a man who has obviously been through some things being an army veteran, yet there is almost a levity within this that alludes to the man seemingly stuck in a definite aimlessness. Bennie more or less accepts the job of recovering Garcia, initially in a way that Oates portrays with a proper "why not" as he exudes this casual air of not quite a despair, yet an understanding of his situation. This becomes more complicated, but also simpler in a way when he gets more information from his girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega). It's more complicated because he learns that Elita was also having an affair with Alfredo, but simpler because he learns that Alfredo already died in a car accident. Now Oates's portrayal of Bennie's relationship with Elita is something truly fascinating as he creates such a striking realization of Bennie basically drifting even with her. He portrays any sense of betrayal with this delay of a man detached through experience, he does lash out at her for this eventually yet even this Oates depicts as a painful delay of the man's messy mind. Oates makes his anger real, yet instinctual in the moment, as though his wavering mind has fallen where it should be for a moment.

Now despite the infidelity the two decide to set off to get the bounty for Alfredo since they only need the head of the dead man. Oates is terrific though in making his acceptance of Elita in a way quite fascinating and surprisingly affecting. There is a moment before their journey really begins with where Oates so tenderly portrays just the genuine love Bennie has for Elita. Oates's performance again is so terrific how he even acts so effectively through sunglasses. Yet Oates through just a bit of cracking in his voice, and waver in his mouth reveals that vulnerability Bennie has with Elita that shows how much he does care for her. Unfortunately their journey gets off to a poor start when they accosted by two bikers who plan to rape Elita where again the unpredictability about Oates's performance makes the scene particularly remarkable. Obviously a Steve McQueen would of course save the day, but with Oates that is not a guarantee. Oates utilizes this in the moment as he portrays such an internalized anguish in his physical tension as he sits there, yet there is almost a potential consignment that makes the moment particularly unnerving. Again though Oates shows less a hero gaining his confidence, but rather depicts the shaken man coming to the right thought that allows him to take his action. What follows though is not a typical badass, rather the scene is particularly notable given Oates atypical approach that isn't as a hero, but rather a truly desperate man committing this act of violence.

Bennie and Elita eventually reach the village where Alfredo is buried, though Elita has more than a few second thoughts of desecrating the grave of her former lover. Bennie is not as concerned and Oates again is great in so well realizing the particularly mindset that is going on with Bennie in the moment. As always he Oates suggests the man who isn't thinking clearly as he keeps that certain detachment in the moment but I love the way Oates inserts the moments of such genuine emotion in there at times. It's purposefully messy though in natural way as he reveals Bennie in one moment attempting to justify himself though there is more the sense of that urge towards the greed involved with the head. When he says he'll put the grave back together as it was though in that delivery Oates is wholly sincere in showing Bennie's concern for his girlfriend, and he even takes a moment in revealing more than a bit guilt for his actions. This subsides for him to continue with his task, again though Oates doesn't make this a switch. He instead so effectively portrays this as more of a flow of Bennie's mind, in that even in the same moment he wants the money, and wants to do right by Elita, and it is all logical in the moment. Bennie though is attacked and buried in the grave instead waking up in a shocking scene where he discovers a murdered Elita next to him in the grave.

Oates is downright amazing in the moment of discovering as he not only reveals the terrible anguish in Bennie in every one of his wails, but also depicts essentially a man breaking the rest of the way through this anguish. After this scene Oates's performance takes Bennie to this different state of mind altogether and it is astonishing to watch. From this point on Oates essentially shows that Bennie has basically gone off the deep end, yet the task of collecting the money for the head of Alfredo keeps him together to at least some degree. What Oates realizes is this sort of stream of consciousness in everything about him, as Oates makes Bennie not a man on the edge but far past it. In every moment of the final act Oates is in this extraordinarily compelling portrayal of Bennie's state of mind. As he goes about his task still Bennie begins to speak to Alfredo as though he is on the car ride with him. Oates is brilliant in the way he rambles in these that allude to the emotional madness of the man as he attempts to reason himself to complete his task despite that horrific grief that Oates holds as an undercurrent to this insanity. Oates is downright amazing as in these scenes he is what would be in most films the cool badass taking down the bad men by shooting them one by one. Now indeed that is what Bennie is doing as he continues to kill everyone as he brings Alfredo to his destination. In every one of these moments Oates paints a man at his most extreme margins, as he keeps Bennie at this state of sheer dementia as he prods himself to keep killing. What is so remarkable in this is again how emotional Oates makes this in creating how the randomness of the emotions are flowing through Bennie, as Oates shows that grief at times, that callousness at others, or just a sheer moment of glee such in his exuberant yet aching delivery of "because it feels so good" after killing a man. When Bennie reaches his destination it is only logical to Bennie's illogical state that Oates has so convincingly realized that he'd take the money then proceed to kill the man and his men who hired him for not paying enough respect to the head that led to the deaths of so many. I love this performance as again in that moment Oates is so mesmerizing to watch as he brings that viciousness to the killing yet makes it so heartbreaking in its own way as he has shown how this man has gotten to this place. This is an outstanding performance by Warren Oates as he crafts such a lurid and unique portrait of a man falling right off the brink of his own mind.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza

Robert Mitchum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harry Kilmer in The Yakuza.

The Yakuza I found to be a pretty effective action/crime film about an retired American detective with connections in Japan being sent there by an old friend/businessman whose daughter has been kidnapped by a yakuza gangster, naturally things aren't as they appear.

Robert Mitchum managed to fashion a later career for himself not by attempting to hide his age but by embracing it. Mitchum was willing to play the meek schoolteacher in Ryan's Daughter and the down on his luck mobster in The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Although Mitchum gets to play perhaps a more traditionally appealing leading man here he does not attempt to position the part as something its not in fact he ensures the years past are something which define his Harry. Now from the outset though Mitchum made his breakout originally through crime noirs  and here is returning to a genre though with a twist through its setting which mostly takes place in Japan. The appeal of Mitchum's screen presence is of course quite evident, and it is perhaps only amplified by his age to be honest. Mitchum has that same ease onscreen and is naturally compelling as usual. This is not a copy of those earlier performances though by any means, as again Mitchum takes in consideration who Harry has been and where he has been. This is not a man fresh into the life of dealing with crime, he's a seasoned veteran, and Mitchum brings just the right inherent world weariness within his work for the crime world.

Although Mitchum properly keys into the losses in the life of this man, he carefully does not let that be the character's only definition. In a early scene we see Harry as he goes to see the Japanese woman Eiko and her daughter who he had saved and had an affair with long ago. Mitchum is great in this scene as he brings such a genuine warmth creating such a strong sense of the love they once shared, and which he certainly fully feels towards her. Mitchum uses these moments so well in creating a real honest tenderness within the character, that makes it all the easier to invest into his story.  There is a severe complication though is in her apparent brother Ken (Ken Takakura), who seems to hold quite the disdain for Harry, though is honor bound to help him for what he did for his sister. Mitchum is careful in also creating this history between the two men as there is a strong sense of the bitterness which Mitchum shows not within Harry himself rather he portrays it as part of this unease he exudes in their early interactions. Mitchum always emphasizes though a definite respect in the way he looks and interacts with Ken.

I'll spoilers for the rest of this review since of course while saving the kidnapped girl goes well the rest does not as soon becomes known that the kidnapping was due to an arms transaction between the yakuza and Harry's American friend which leads to Harry and Ken being the ones in the line of fire. Now in part this does lead to some premium Robert Mitchum as an aged badass, seeing him take down bad guys with a pistol and double barrel shot gun definitely has an appeal. Mitchum always is good at being "cool" in such scenes, while never compromising the intensity of them. In fact here's he's particularly good in every moment of his physical work portraying the way Harry becomes rather exasperated throughout the experience. Mitchum being just entertaining to watch is only part of his performance here as he goes much further in developing the continued relationship with Ken which becomes all the more complicated when he learns that Ken was in fact Eiko's husband not her brother. Mitchum doesn't let a moment of this slide bringing such a poignancy in his reactions to learning this information. Mitchum importantly lets this dictate their later interactions, as he does not make this a ill-fitting action duo, rather Mitchum offers a real sensitivity in portraying in every moment such a guilt and severe concern for the man in every interaction. When the battle is won by the two of them they share a final scene that Mitchum is incredible exceptional in. Mitchum brings such a power in revealing the modest yet palatable gratitude in his eyes that reveal a sadness for what he has done to the man, but also an appreciation for all his sacrifices. Even though the scene involves chopping off an appendage, Mitchum and Takakura make it heartwarming in its own way as in the brief interaction between the two they reveal a mutual understanding between the two that feels wholly earned by both performances. This is a terrific performance by Robert Mitchum as he not only offers a strong presence to keep this thriller compelling, he goes further by amplifying any substance to be found within it. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: James Caan in The Gambler

James Caan did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Axel Freed in The Gambler.

The Gambler is an effective character study following a literary professor and his gambling addiction.

After watching this film I must say it caused a bit of a perspective change in regards to its 2014 remake and Mark Wahlberg's performance in that film. Now I thought that film was disposable to begin with, and Wahlberg's performance underwhelming, now they're even worse than that in my mind through its fundamental misunderstanding of the source material, a bit like The Beguiled remake in that sense. It is not as though this film is a masterpiece, I'd describe it probably as just a good film, however it properly knows that this protagonist is not a "cool" hero for us to follow, he's a bit of mess. James Caan is known for his tough guys, but here this is both a fulfillment of certain expectation but also a subversion from him. Caan's performance is particularly essential in using this idea, and in general to the film as the film never spells out Axel's motivation. This is almost entirely left to Caan's performance. We are only granted a few hints within the script, usually not directly about Axel, which take place when Caan is least like a usual Caan character which is when he's working as the literary professor. I like what Caan does in these scenes, where technically he's spelling out who the character is through what he is teaching such as William Carlos William's piece on George Washington from In The American Grain, and Dostoyevsky's sentiment on making 2 + 2 equal to five rather than 4.

Caan in his scenes as the professor importantly plays them most closely to the chest, and carefully does not give away his hand. This is important for two main reasons one being on the surface Caan rightfully downplays his usual presence in order to be believable as this literary professor, which he is, but secondly he keeps away from making the nature of Axel too obvious within the film. Axel is in many ways speaking of himself in these moments but Caan carefully avoids making this obvious instead portraying the right low key passion fitting to such a professor. He never oversteps the bounds of his character there effectively realizing a man creating this discussion with his class, though there is of course still more to this type of exact attachments to these sentiments which directly relate to Axel as a man. In the Washington piece there is a reduction of the image of the great American leader, and in this way Caan makes a reduction of his own screen persona with Axel here. In general Axel is really just a guy and we see him when he's with his mother, or with his rich grandfather, as this fairly meek man where Caan subtly reveals this man filled with a real vulnerability. He not only doesn't take charge of the situations we see him in, he's not even in charge as he just speaks to his mother, as Caan even when stealing money from her makes it a plainly pathetic moment in the unease in which he portrays within Axel in that moment.

Caan's Axel is not a man who is assured of his life in any way, and he's certainly not a cool customer. In his scenes with his girlfriend Caan is notably not assured much of the time. He brings moments of this spark of a charm, yet so often Caan defines again this inherent lack of confidence that ends up defining the relationship. Caan has these great instances ofbringing in this attempted, man's man type of confidence, which is common in his performances, yet here he makes it purposefully flimsy, making a problematic part of who Axel is. Caan's especially strong in some the early scenes where he sees the actions of some of his book makers when they become much more violent. Caan never shows Axel brushing this off, although he internalizes it to a certain degree, he reveals a real fear the man. When he himself is almost on the chopping block stuck with few options Caan's terrific in the way he reveals the man almost closing down in being honestly terrified at the danger he is in. These moments are essential to the character yet must be carefully examined against his actions throughout the film, which can seem contradictory to this, but they are not due to Caan so effectively realizing the nature of the character. The potential contradiction though comes when we see Axel as the titular character so to speak, and the most essential facet within the story.

As the Gambler is where the Dostoyevsky's math comes in, which is found right there in Caan's performance. In the gambling scenes is where we see Caan in his purest form in terms of the Caan type in that he brings that more overt confidence in these moments. Now this is not Caan contradicting the sorta sad sack professor we see the rest of the time. Instead what Caan presents is Axel when he is not seeing that 2 + 2 equals to 4, which is when he fears for his well being due to his gambling debt or is the meek son/grandson, but rather here is the man who defies logic to believe that in this instance that 2 + 2 can equal to five. That confidence here adheres to this hubris where Axel is thriving on essentially this delusion, but a delusion that he firmly believes in the moment. Caan is terrific in finding this state of the man as he gambles which is heightened in a way since in every moment while gambling he brings this thrill, but also that assurance that everything will be as he sees it in the moment. He of courses comes into this state and goes out of it throughout the film, and Caan plays this naturally. There's one particularly strong scene in this regard for Caan where he's going from phone to phone making bets, while occasionally snapping back to pay attention to his girlfriend. It's remarkable as Caan makes the delusion feel so honest, even in the moment he suddenly drops it when he sees she's about to leave him, despite having been so influence by it a second ago. Caan finds that pull of the addiction brilliantly. Perhaps my favorite realization of that for Caan is in the final sequence of the film where he bribes one of his students to shave points in a basketball game to wipe his debts clean. In the game itself Caan delivers that burden of the tension as the game goes on, given his life is on the line. Afterwards though Caan plays Axel as frankly bored by the events, and  oddly takes a risk by going into a dangerous neighborhood where he solicits a prostitute seemingly just to get into a violent altercation with her pimp. Now with an actor with looser grip on the character this scene would make no sense, thankfully the remake did drop this scene for their own good, Caan though understand the role and makes you understand Axel through performance. In this scene Caan shows us Axel becoming bored with the results, since the risk is now gone, and in the end he brings that engagement and confidence back only when once again Axel is taking this nonsensical risk that defies logic, yet makes sense to Axel in the moment.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: John Hurt in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs

John Hurt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Malcolm Scrawdyke in Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs.

Little Malcolm follows an English layabout who attempts to create some strange virility based political party after being thrown out by college.

John Hurt's appearance here is very similair, though perhaps this is just uniform for an English near-do-well, to David Thewlis as Johnny in Mike Leigh's Naked. The comparison doesn't stop there though as they both handle their cigarettes by holding them just barely at the bottom of their mouth, saunter along with a poorly postured gate, most of the time anyways, and aren't just any sort of layabout they're the, unfortunately perhaps, philosophical sort. Now my, brief research into a recognized connection between the two brought up nothing, but I still felt I had to point it out it. Naked is the superior film though as this film feels very much stuck within its stage roots leaving itself to be really carried by the actors, luckily for the film two of those actors are John Hurt and David Warner. John Hurt is such a great actor that to see him just take on an "actor's role" is probably going to be a bit of treat. Hurt again begins in effectively creating that unique personal style of the character, that I have to believe influenced at least one film to come. Hurt's terrific at being this man who we seem to meet at a particular low point in his life, as that does seem emphasized in his very physical being. The way Malcolm deals with this problem though is rather strange, and seems like something that it's a bit difficult to make logical within the more literal medium of film.

Hurt's performance is remarkable as he does make logical sense of the character even with the odd way in which his character behaves. He does this by first establishing that starting point of the character. In the moments where Hurt is alone he portrays him basically as this loser. He just there with little to no passion within the man as he sits around his apartment doing nothing but wasting his hours away. Hurt takes this further actually by creating a real sadness in Malcolm's lack of accomplishments, which seem centered around his inability to take a further step with the young woman Ann who seems interested in him yet he fails to properly compensate. Hurt stays nuanced in these moments as he just reveals the quiet, yet palatable internalized sadness in these reactions to her. When he verbalizes essentially his impudence Hurt importantly does not place any theatricality on these thoughts. In these moments Hurt breaks down Malcolm to his purest form which is just as a sad little man pained by his weaknesses. Hurt in these moments effectively anchors the movie since he shows, that despite anything else that we will see, Malcolm is this troubled college drop out beneath anything else we may see.

Hurt builds upon his setup and we see this when we witness Malcolm interact with the other characters. In his scenes alone with the subtly named, I write with much sarcasm, Charles Nipple (David Warner) Hurt presents just a layer of a facade for Malcolm. Hurt only fashions a partial one that he portrays mostly as this surface reaction to Charles a man who seems so comfortable with himself. Hurt presents a direct anger and antagonism. Hurt carefully directs this in the scenes though as a passion, simplistic, hatred not so much really towards the man, but rather that confidence he exudes in being himself. Hurt astutely does not make these moments pure in the facade though as Hurt shows much more of the real Malcolm still in these moments. As the anger he inflicts towards Charles has still a great deal of that sadness that defines the man, and there still is a great degree of discomfort in himself even as he lashes out at Charles for being so at ease with his very being. Hurt though has another layer to facet though, sort of the crux of the story though, since it's the version of Malcolm that I suppose sells the plot as well as uses up a great deal of the film's screentime.

The last relationship is between Malcolm and two of his other friends, more of lackeys, Wick and Irwin. It is there where he fashions the political party based on proper erections, and dominant men. Hurt in these scenes creates the full facade of them which actually makes sense of the whole ridiculousness of the concept, since within the film Hurt portrays Malcolm essentially playing the part. The part Malcolm is playing is of this maniacal cult or rebel leader with the other men. Hurt does not depict this a mere fantasy for the sake of it but rather shows it as an active display of Malcolm attempting to delude himself into any type of confidence. In these moments Hurt makes Malcolm a different man but only in terms of putting on this fake act. Now all credit must go to Hurt for making these scenes make any sense, however they also are technically just a chance for some serious ACTING on John Hurt's part. Thankfully if John Hurt's doing the ACTING up all for it, especially he does bother to ground these through his other scenes. Now these scenes are a bit much with just how thick the dialogue and monologues are in these scenes of Malcolm creating phony trials, kidnappings and other duplicitous acts in the name of the part.

Hurt is great in these scenes and has earned the right to throw himself right into them. The film further benefits from them since you get to have John Hurt playing different types of roles as part of this one which is quite the splendid thing. We actually get some shades of both his later dictator in V For Vendetta, as well as how his own O'Brien in 1984 might have been if he ever got a chance to reverse the roles. Hurt brings that grandeur of the firebrand leader, and the viciousness of a true violent anarchist as he vindictively pursues his "righteous" cause. Hurt goes all the way in bringing the fullest intensity, and I'll admit it is rather fun to watch just all on its own because of Hurt. This is even as the scenes as written do become a bit tiresome. Hurt's a great actor, so naturally he's great at acting while acting within this film. He's wonderfully insane brute as he leads his men as a downright insane impotent army. Hurt carefully never loses his fundamental definition of the role as even in these scenes he has these careful moments where he breaks, where he delivers the man filled with a brief anxiety that he can only overwhelm by reinforcing his sentiments in all the more zealous fashion. Eventually though Malcolm is called directly on his delusions by Ann which is an outstanding scene for Hurt. In the scene Hurt reverts to the sad quiet man filled with desperation. When she outright asks for him to have sex with her, Hurt's amazing as in his face he represents sheer terror of a man who has no idea how to connect with a woman in any real way. It is only when his henchmen reappear that Hurt reveals slowly growing confidence again but only in the most despicable way. Hurt reveals the man just revert to his delusions, but this time it is even messier as his speaks with such certainty yet his eyes are still are clasped into a deep depression. This time the fantasy holds not a bit of enjoyment for anyone, as Hurt makes the worlds collide in a most, purposefully, unappealing way. Although I would not classify this film as a major success, or perhaps even a success, this is great performance by John Hurt. He takes a potentially unwieldy role and successfully translates the threads into a cohesive and compelling whole.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974

And the Nominees Were Not:

Warren Oates in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza

James Caan in The Gambler

John Hurt in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs

Bruno S. in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1949: Juano Hernandez in Intruder in the Dust and Results

Juano Hernandez did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lucas Beauchamp in Intruder in the Dust.

Intruder in the Dust follows the story of a well to do black man accused of murdering a white man. The film falls mostly inert by too often focusing on the rather bland leading characters of the lawyer and his son who decide to help the man.

Juano Hernandez plays the most compelling role in the film and it is a notable case of non-stereotypical role for a minority actor. Of course I suppose it is worth noting that sympathetic roles often fell to the man wrongly accused of murder, but again there is more to the role of Lucas Beauchamp than merely not being an overt the top stereotype. He's accused of the murder but the situation does not define Hernandez's performance. In fact it is very notable about his work is that he does not attempt to elicit an obvious sympathy, in that he does not make Lucas a sorrowful sort despite being in jail, as that would undercut the nature of the man he portrays. Hernandez's performance is notable from his first scene as he presents this real confidence in his work but also through the character of Lucas. When he goes about helping a young man stuck in a river, Hernandez conveys presence of not really the "local helper" but rather the strength of this man who does things his ways. Hernandez is able to find a real history in this manner of this individualistic man who stands firmly as his own man.

When he is arrested we sadly don't get many scenes of him throughout the film, but the scenes in which he appears are the best in the film. Again Hernandez just is terrific in realizing the story of the man far beyond the limits we see him through the slight plot. Throughout the story Lucas refusing any easy ways out, and mentions his difficulties of the situation yet never is overcome by them. He's great though in the nuance of his work where he recognizes his plight in a very quiet way fitting to a man who has obviously been through a lot. His eyes show a wear that hasn't worn the man away, but only seem to make him all the more seasoned and ready for the world. The years that have built this man are felt through Hernandez's work that finds the substance of the role even though the film sort of fails to do so fully. Hernandez makes Lucas a fascinating character in his time, far beyond his circumstances, and I wish we had gotten a film entirely about him. Unfortunately we are granted a narrow view of the character due to his screentime, however he utilizes every moment that is granted to him to create a three dimensional character. Hernandez to his credit as an actor develops the role beyond these certain limits to steal the film in his dynamic depiction of a one of a kind sort.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1974 Lead

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949: Results

5. Anton Walbrook in The  Queen of Spades - Walbrook's role is a touch limited however he is an effective coldly manipulative Lothario then incredibly entertaining in portraying the glee and madness of his greedy soldier who believes he's found the key to his success.

Best Scene: "MY WIN"
4. Howard Vernon in Le Silence de la Mer - Vernon gives a moving performance within the limits of his film through his humane depiction of a Nazi coming to terms with his situation.

Best Scene: Finally a message.
3. Robert Ryan in The Set-Up - Ryan gives a terrific portrayal of a hopeful desperation of a man trying just for one last shot in the ring.

Best Scene: The Fight
2. Chishū Ryū in Late Spring - Ryū gives such a remarkable modest performance that creates such naturalistic and downright heartbreaking depiction of a man quietly letting go of his daughter.

Best Scene: Peeling the apple.
1. David Farrar in The Small Back Room - Good Predictions Luke, Jackiboyz, RatedRStar and Michael McCarthy. Farrar gives an outstanding complex portrait of a brilliant man, yet one suffering from pain, doubt, and self-pity.

Best Scene: Tearing apart the room.
Update Overall

Next: Review of Juano Hernandez in Intruder in the Dust, and updated Supporting.

Alternate Best Actor 1949: Howard Vernon in Le Silence de la Mer

Howard Vernon did not receive Oscar nomination for portraying Lt. Werner von Ebrennac in Le Silence de la Mer.

Le Silence de la Mer is an intriguing film about a Nazi officer taking up residency in occupied France with a small French family who refuse to speak to him.

The film takes a unique approach for this story as the French family which consists of a man and his niece almost don't speak a single word in the film. Their thoughts are represented by the narration by the man. The only person we hear actively speaking within the house is the Nazi officer played by Howard Vernon. Now this is interesting in that when we open the film, and first see Vernon's Werner von Ebrennac he could easily be any Nazi from any villain stock room in terms of his appearance. This is not to say Vernon comes out all vile and mean to begin with, he begins the part with a bright smile as the man lets himself into the home of the family, though perhaps with just a bit of coldness as needed to be in his official role. The charming Nazi who reveals his vicious intents though is a common thing though, so one will sympathize with the French family at this early stage. The film continues though and in this Vernon's performance is technically the far less distant one as the family are very static characters, almost just part of the background in a way given that they do not speak. This is even with many scenes between the lieutenant and the family however in these scenes the soldier is the only one who speaks, but he's also the only one who attempts any interaction whatsoever.

After their particularly cold initial interactions the Lieutenant attempts to change it up by only visiting their sitting room in civilian clothes trying to speak to virtues of the French such as which author best represents the French spirit. There still is no real relationship however Vernon's performance is quite effective in portraying this man trying so hard to create one. Vernon beams in almost every moment projecting the enthusiasm of just a man who wants to engage in any conversation it does not need to be even an important one. In his words, and even the way he physically engages with the room itself has the right casual style to it. There's a real warmth within this method of man who essentially just wants to make friends, or at least wants to make some human connection yet the family is wholly resilient as they stay mute. As the one sided conversation continues Vernon portrays well the two sides of the man's interactions in that he keeps a real warmth in the man trying to make a connection, as every word is said as a friend not an invader, while at the same time, Vernon reveals within his eyes the growing bit of desperation and sadness as the result of trying so hard to connect yet seemingly failing to do so.

We are given scenes though with the lieutenant outside of the silent household, although these scenes are pretty sparse in terms of actual dialogue as well. What we do see is the man's connections to his duties as a Nazi in the way he interacts with France itself. In the earlier scenes in terms of speaking on his duties and the way he goes about admiring the conquered landmarks within France, Vernon expresses the attitude of a man proud of his endeavors. Vernon though is careful to portray this with a definite conviction, the conviction of a man who speaks in these grand platitudes, that he firmly believes, yet they are more fitting to a propaganda pamphlet than a wholly genuine experience. In the film though the lieutenant slowly learns of the real intentions of his armies, and again Vernon's reactionary work is essential to the power of the film. As his superiors speak of the intentions of the Nazis to destroy rather than build we see the similair desperation and hesitations as when he takes in the silence of the family. Although Vernon is the main speaker of the film even he does not speak a great deal and the arc of the officer is left often in those silent margins. Vernon finds though changes effectively to reveal slowly a reality dawning within the soldier, and that warmth dissolves in the solider, not that he becomes a hardhearted man, but rather he is moving by revealing a man who has come to understand everything he has known has been a lie. The film leaves on fittingly a silent yet poignant moment where the family interacts with the officer their only time, indirectly, by supporting his choice to leave France due to the Nazi intention. This communication is only through a passage in a book that they set up for the officer read, and Vernon's final reaction is remarkable as he realizes the somberness still of his situation, yet with just a bit of underlying joy of appreciation for the family. Howard Vernon's work, though the least limited in the film, is still fairly limited by the confines of the film's vision. Vernon though still excels well within those confines and is essential in discovering the emotional potency of the story through his humane depiction of a Nazi with a conscience.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949: Chishū Ryū in Late Spring

Chishū Ryū did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Shukichi Somiya in Late Spring.

Late Spring is a beautifully realized film about a young woman who is pressured to be married, but tries to stay with her father.

Chishū Ryū's performance as the older father, and professor Shukichi Somiya is a particularly understated one. This is notable though as a challenge in its own way though as it is needed for the tone of the film, but also for the nature of the character. What is remarkable about his work though is how effective it is despite how quiet it is. This is even more notable though because this isn't a performance as a character who is quietly in anguish or anything like that, not truly anyways. This is just a normal man living his life, that we get a window into after he has been widowed sometime before, and his adult daughter Noriko (Setsuko Hara) still lives with him in order to take care of him. Shukichi though is not ailing in any way we meet him just as he lives his life and still performs his duties as a professor. As we see him just sort of go about his day in his rather low key way fitting to a man of his position and age there's a certain charm to Ryū's performance. There isn't anything overt about this he just makes Skukichi this likable old man who expresses his personal knowledge without ego, just as modestly as you'd expect from someone who would rather share it, than brandish it in a way.

This performance though seems a challenge in a particular way in that as a performance it does not have the usual tenets of an inherently compelling performance. If I merely described what Ryū's does in the role, considering how unassuming he is, it may even sound boring, but it's not at all the case. This performance is an exceptional display again of what can be done in silence, and really in appealing to just a simply truth of a person. This is not to say Ryū's performance is even simple by any means, but rather what he does is capture the simplicity of life, but not in a simple way. The years of this man's life are within Ryū's performance that does not seem to have an acted moment within it. Ryū's work is genuine in every regard as you do just feel as though you are meeting the man living the life as he does, but how honest every scene is through his performance. It's interesting in the way he is very much engaging in this approach. He never wrongly acts out yet creates interest in this man by just always showing us to be an unmistakable person, with his own history, we are watching, never just some character created for the confines of this story.

The focus of the story is between the daughter and father. Ryū's and Hara's chemistry is essential to the film. Again it is an unassuming yet remarkable connection that the two realize in their scenes together. As in every moment of their interaction the years of tender affection between the two of them is an accepted if technically often unstated truth. The film focuses though as the father, in part due to pressures of friends and relatives, to attempt to apart his advice for his daughter to marry despite her wanting to stay with him. The original prodding by Shukichi to his daughter, might not seem especially important, yet they way Ryū plays these scenes is pivotal to the eventual end result of the film. Ryū's portrays no desire to rid himself of her, or a single bit of absentmindedness rather only the most sincere warmth as he suggests a potential suitor. Ryū importantly never depicts a pressure in Shukichi's suggestions but only the most earnest support for her. Ryū doesn't make these moments a father trying to force his daughter into anything she doesn't want, but trying to connect her with what he believes will allow her to find some happiness in her life.

The matter seems to become more difficult though when Noriko directly reveals her intention not to marry in order to take care of her father. Ryū's work is quite moving in the quiet reactions in this moment as he creates the sense of appreciation in the father, before the father tries to reject the notion by stating that he intends to remarry. Ryū places still only such a sincerity in his appeal to his daughter, as he does not show any intensity or bitterness in the idea of trying to get his daughter to leave. There is such genuine poignancy that Ryū finds in telling her to leave him and attempt to find her own happiness, because he makes this technical rejection of sorts filled with such heart and such a sense of the very real love the two have shared as father and daughter over the years. He eventually convinces her to be married, and this is where Ryū's performance took me off guard. Now I already thought he was incredibly effective in just giving this authentic modest portrayal of this man, but the extent of the power of this performance removed the floor out from under me in the final minutes of the film. In the final minutes Noriko is married leaving Shukichi to reveal to a friend that he was never going to remarry. Now the revelation of this lie is not a drop of the facade but rather merely a part of the truth of what we had seen of the man through Ryū's heartfelt performance. When he returns home alone for the first time living by himself, Ryū's is absolutely heartbreaking in revealing the loss of the man, the sadness that is in part of letting go. This again is no switch or anything like that. It is as authentic as the rest of his work, and that is what makes it so special in the revelation, though we really always knew it, that the father loved his daughter and will miss being with her. Ryū's work is outstanding as he creates such a eloquent and downright devastating portrait with such seemingly profound grace.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949: David Farrar in The Small Back Room

David Farrar did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sammy Rice in The Small Back Room.

The Small Back Room is a terrific character study/thriller of sorts about a military scientist who deals with personal and professional issues while also attempting to figure out how to disarm a new mine dropped by German aircraft during World War II.

David Farrar returns to working with Powell and Pressburger after playing the rather cold yet still the object of some of the nuns' affection in Black Narcissus. Interestingly Farrar once again shares the screen with Kathleen Byron, this time playing Sammy's girlfriend/the secretary for his department Susan, thankfully this time both are in a much healthier relationship than the one found in their previous film together. Farrar's performance here though is a major departure from that earlier turn in more ways than that though. Farrar not only is the lead here, but the part allows him to create a far more intimate character for us to sympathize with whereas his role in Narcissus was purposefully distant. Farrar might as well be a different actor with how different his very presence here is compared to that earlier role. This is evident from his first scene where a military officer, Captain Dick Stewart (Michael Gough) goes to find Sammy in order to help him with the problem of an unusual mind that has caused several deaths of civilians. We find Sammy in a bar and Farrar's performance does have this certain charisma to it in this initial scene. It is a modest charisma which Farrar attaches carefully to when his expertise is called upon, as it is by the Captain, to help solve the problem, as Farrar finds this certain spark within the man in this moment. This is a pivotal factor that Farrar intelligently introduces that keeps a possible optimism within the character by giving a hope to the man as connected to this particular problem before we learn more about his personal problems.

Once the Captain leaves, and we are left with Sammy and Susan where in an instance any propriety for the guest is lost in Farrar's performance. Farrar is rather outstanding in this scene in revealing so much in very little time. In the moment Farrar drops putting up any facade, the facade only being though that he was hiding the burden of his pain from his artificial foot. Farrar is terrific in that moment of release not a release of comfort, but rather of letting his ache and discomfort out. Farrar goes further with this though in his first scene directly with Byron. The two have excellent chemistry together, which is rather notable considering their purposeful anti-chemistry found in their previous film together. That is not to say this is anything perfect though in terms of a relationship rather both Farrar and Byron are marvelous in the way they create this longstanding relationship between the two. In simply the way they look upon each other the love between the two is deeply felt even in silence. There is more though as Farrar in the moment reveals the sheer intensity of Sammy's vulnerability which he portrays towards Susan, that Farrar shows him looking for any sort of comfort from her. These moments though are particularly natural as the two fall into this state of Susan trying to offer any relief, while Sammy suffers, and both actors realize it as this way they've been for some time.

Farrar's performance is a captivating piece of work in the way he realizes essentially both the failure and potential of Sammy in every facet of his life. The ease Farrar and Byron have together is pivotal as the time they've been together is a given, but again this is not the two actors creating a fairy tale relationship. They do something far more remarkable though in creating the difficulty in the relationship despite keeping the mutual love for one another as unmistakable truth within it all. Farrar portrays that as a constant within his own work yet he compromises it in a certain way in portraying that the comfort she offers never quite assuages that physical pain. Farrar takes this further though in portraying this amplification of the pain by presenting this self-pity around the moments, showing it to be this almost constant burden on his mind. Farrar is very effective in his scenes with Byron around other company as in every glance and reaction to others, there is this inherent insecurity that Farrar finds. It's brilliantly portrayed in his performance though as he brings out of that pain and self-pity as this troubling mindset. Farrar finds that doubt that he exudes from himself that finds the way Sammy can't seem to help but doubt where or not Susan's love for him is completely earnest. Again what's so incredible about what Farrar does is he makes it this problematic thought that finds itself in his mind, that he shows that he almost tries to fight against, yet it can't help but poison his mind.

The fall back for most of Sammy's suffering both mental and physical is alcohol. This is a performance as an alcoholic however Farrar is careful in his approach in this regard. When he is drinking he does not attach any specific desire for the drink in itself so to speak. Farrar instead finds that in the moment of drinking he portrays rather the desire to drown out his suffering, though he's rather affecting in showing that Sammy never quite achieves that even at his drunkest. As a character study we see Sammy within his job as well where he deals with bureaucratic nonsense and his colleagues making decisions for the wrong reasons. Farrar in these scenes is once again terrific in finding the mindset of Sammy as his reactions in dealing with the other men is this quiet frustration and resignation. It is only when he's called to describe his feelings through his work itself that Farrar reveals so effectively a great strength and confidence in Sammy as it relates to the one thing he can be absolutely certain of, which is his intelligence. Farrar never plays the insufferable genius but rather reveals the suffering genius in quite the poignant fashion. Eventually his self pity leads to Susan leaving him, and we are given Sammy at his worst as he falls completely into his drinking while lashing out at everyone in a drunken stupor. This could be the time for some wild overacting, yet Farrar stays true to the character as he rightfully brings the messiness of the state yet since he does not overplay it he is very  moving in just revealing the ugliness of his inebriation and the severity of his anguish wrapped up in one. Sammy is given a chance for redemption though when he is called upon to solve the mystery of how to disarm one of the live mines. Now Farrar's approach to any scene where Sammy's expertise comes into play here as his sort of turnaround feels natural, since his assurance in that regard had been well established by Farrar before this point. Farrar does not forget what came before though as when he volunteers to disarm it himself in his eyes Farrar reflects this sort of bravery in part comes to his sadness towards the rest of his life. The disarmament is a fantastic scene and Farrar is a highlight of it. He helps to ratchet the tension not only because he's made us care for Sammy up to this point, but also in the moment he finds that certain fear in every moment, with every risky maneuver. Through the scene though Farrar naturally makes it a hopeful one by showing in every action the confidence of the man fully taking over, and the anguish fading away as he comes closer to a real undisputed success. I have to admit this performance took me a bit by surprise as this is a great performance by David Farrar. He creates such a vivid portrait of the troubled scientist never falling into cliche, but rather making the man's story truly resonate in powerful fashion.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949: Toshiro Mifune in Stray Dog

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

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

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

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

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