Saturday, 18 October 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1967: James Garner in Hour of the Gun

James Garner did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Wyatt Earp in Hour of the Gun.

Hour of the Gun is a decent enough telling of the Tombstone story even if the whole thing seems oddly rushed. 

Wyatt Earp is a historical figure who has been played many times by several different actors usually depicting the events of Earp against the Cowboys lead by Ike Clayton. The role of Wyatt Earp is often portrayed as the hero who wages war against the outlaws along with his more flamboyant friend Doc Holliday (Jason Robards in this version). Earp is technically a slightly thankless role since he is somewhat pigeonholed and even set up in a way to be overshadowed by whoever is playing Holliday. Earp is usually played by the actor known for more steadfast roles which is the case here with James Garner in the lead. Garner is probably best known for the often likable romantic or heroic lead. Garner has just a natural likability in his performances to begin with but Garner actually kinda rejects his usually screen persona here as Wyatt Earp. It would be easy enough to see Garner play Earp with a wink and a welcoming smile but he actually chooses to take a very different approach with the gunfighter.

Garner surprisingly gives a rather cold portrayal of Earp actually and seems to purposefully accentuate the fact that Earp's a killer. This makes sense though for this version of Earp which the film presents as revenge seeking, although still justice seeking as well, since it is pretty earlier on in the film when Virgil Earp is wounded and Morgan Earp is killed. This leaves Wyatt for the rest of the film to avenge his brothers by any means necessary with the help by the seemingly self-hating Doc Holliday. Garner carries himself here with a real intensity here as there is such a lack of warmth in his eyes here which is quite different from the way Garner usually is. It's an effective approach by Garner though as he portrays Wyatt Earp as a man truly hard bitten and changed by what happened to his brothers. He does not have any time to be funny or charming he's on a mission to kill men who wronged him, and Garner bluntly shows this through his performance.

Now the way the story is told in this version isn't really in a way to give a character study while portraying the events. It instead takes a pretty strict stance of meeting each plot point even bothering to go over the courtroom problems faced by Earp and company. The film also spends plenty of time with the other supporting character although never enough really to realize them all that well leaving the impact Garner can have some what reduced. It's a bit of a shame as what Garner does do in the role is rather striking as he successfully plays this extremely hard bitten version of the character. He also has some nice enough chemistry with Robards, but the film fails to explore the particularly interesting friendship between the two men, something Tombstone handled particularly well. Garner is consistently good here and has one particularly stand out moment where he coldly kills his last man. Garner gives a strong performance and I only wish the film had allowed him to explore Wyatt Earp a little more than it did.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1967

And the Nominees Were Not:

James Garner in Hour of the Gun

Alain Delon in Le Samourai

Sidney Poitier in In The Heat of the Night

Robert Blake in In Cold Blood

Richard Harris in Camelot

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1953: Results

5. Lee Marvin in The Wild One - Marvin steals the film in just a couple of scenes with his entertaining portrayal of a boisterous biker.

Best Scene: The Beetles arrive into town.
4. Otto Preminger in Stalag 17 - Preminger gives an enjoyable, with just enough menace, performance as the smug camp commandant.

Best Scene: The man trying to "escape" is killed.
3. Jay Robinson in The Robe - Robinson makes himself the highlight of the film by giving a lively energetic performance in an otherwise rather bland film.

Best Scene: Gallio's trail.
2. John Gielgud in Julius Caesar - Gielgud gives a great performance through his devious portrayal of Cassius that acts a particularly effective counterpoint to James Mason's honest portrayal of Brutus.

Best Scene: Cassius before the battle.
1. Ernest Borgnine in From Here to Eternity - This year came down for me between Gielgud who gives a great performance with a great material against Borgnine who gives a gives a great performance with very limited material. Although Borgnine only has a few minutes of screen time he makes a substantial impact with his intimidating portrayal of a vicious soldier.

Best Scene: Fatso warns Maggio
Overall Rank:
  1. Ernest Borgnine in From Here to Eternity
  2. John Gielgud in Julius Caesar
  3. Robert Ryan in The Naked Spur
  4. Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar
  5. Jay Robinson in The Robe
  6. Otto Preminger in Stalag 17
  7. Lee Marvin in The Wild One
  8. Boris Karloff in A & C meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  9. Jack Palance in Shane
  10. Hans Conried in Peter Pan
  11. Richard Erdman in Stalag 17
  12. James Mason in The Desert Rats 
  13. Charles Laughton in Salome
  14. Peter Graves in Stalag 17 
  15. Millard Mitchell in The Naked Spur
  16. Lee Marvin in The Big Heat
  17. Neville Brand in Stalag 17 
  18. Ralph Meeker in The Naked Spur
  19. Gill Stratton in Stalag 17 
  20. Robinson Stone in Stalag 17
  21. William Tubbs in The Wages of Fear
  22. Sig Ruman in Stalag 17 
  23. Robert Strauss in Stalag 17
  24. Edmond O'Brien in Julius Caesar
  25. Scott Forbes in Charade
  26. Robert Newton in The Desert Rats 
  27. Bill Thompson in Peter Pan
  28. Folco Lulli in The Wages of Fear
  29. Brian Aherne in Titanic
  30. Edmund Trizcinski in Stalag 17
  31. Karl Malden in I Confess
  32. Alexander Scourby in The Big Heat
  33. Peter van Eyck in The Wages of Fear
  34. Louis Calhern in Julis Caesar
  35. Harvey Lembeck in Stalag 17
  36. Jack Warden in From Here to Eternity
  37. Adam Williams in The Big Heat
  38. Don Talor in Stalag 17
  39. Reginald Denny in A & C meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  40. Anthony Perkins in The Actress 
  41. Michael Rennie in The Robe 
  42. Tom Tully in The Moon is Blue
  43. Ward Bond in Hondo
  44. Richard Kiley in Pickup on South Street
  45. George Reeves in From Here to Eternity
  46. Elisha Cook Jr. in Shane
  47. Bela Lugosi in Glen or Glenda
  48. Brian Aherne in I Confess 
  49. Emile Meyer in Shane
  50. Ray Teal in The Wild One
  51. Richard Baseheart in Titanic
  52. Rhys Williams in Man in the Attic
  53. Ryosuke Kagawa in Ugetsu
  54. Robert Keith in The Wild One 
  55. Philip Ober in From Here to Eternity
  56. Eddie Albert in Roman Holiday
  57. Cedric Hardwicke in Salome 
  58. Donald Sinden in Magambo
  59. Harley Power in Roman Holiday
  60. Robert Wagner in Titanic
  61. Jean-Pierre Aumont in Lili
  62. Michael Pate in Hondo
  63. Alan Badel in Salome
  64. Brandon De Wilde in Shane
  65. Dean Jagger in The Robe
  66. Harcourt Williams in Roman Holiday
  67. Craig Stevens in A & C meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  68. Byron Palmer in Man in the Attic
  69. Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity
  70. Victor Mature in The Robe
  71. Gregory Moffett in Robot Monster
Next Year: 1967 Lead

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1953: Otto Preminger in Stalag 17

Otto Preminger did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Colonel von Scherbach in Stalag 17.

Stalag 17 has a rather robust ensemble which does a great job of making the barracks of Stalag 17 quite the vivid place. Honestly the academy might have pulled a name randomly out of hat when they chose Robert Strauss from the film, since it certainly seems possible that they could have gone for someone else from the film. Otto Preminger certainly would seem right up their alley as a director, primarily known for directing, acting was something the academy seemed to like as seen by their nominations for John Huston, Erich von Stroheim and Vittorio de Sica. Then again Preminger is playing a Nazi so perhaps that prevented some recognition. Being the camp commandant though that leaves Preminger as one of the main villains, technically the spy inside the barracks could be considered more villainous, but Preminger is the one who gets open and about with his villainy.

Preminger, like Borgnine, Marvin, and Robinson, also only has a few scenes most of which are when von Scherbach is addressing the men at roll call. Preminger doesn't play von Scherbach as some obvious Nazi who wears his evil on his sleeve no rather Preminger takes a bit of a lighter approach much more fitting of a man whose duties are watching men rather than killing them. Preminger brings just enough of a flamboyance to his role as he delivers his lines in a fairly lighthearted way. Preminger never goes too far to seem as though out of character, but brings just enough of a jovial quality to von Scherbach. Preminger does it quite well by having a menace within his antics toward the men. Preminger is cleverly warm well being cold as he makes von Scherbach somewhat amusing in his manner but in a way in which only von Scherbach will be allowed to enjoy.

Preminger doesn't get to do a whole lot as Colonel von Scherbach but he's quite enjoyable whenever he is on screen with his smug overly confidant demeanor. He's particularly good in the scene where he's interrogating a prisoner merely by not allowing him to sleep as Preminger walks about as if von Scherbach does not have a single care in the world. My favorite moment of his might actually be a silent one when it appears as though the man the Nazis have been looking for has been killed as Preminger shows Scherbach look over the body with self-satisfaction only to have it abruptly vanquish from his face when realizing it's not the case, that reaction alone makes the ending of the film all the more satisfying to watch. The limits of the part certainly leave Preminger's performance somewhat limited but within those limits he thrives quite well.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1953: Ernest Borgnine in From Here to Eternity

Ernest Borgnine did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Staff Sergeant James R. "Fatso" Judson in From Here to Eternity.

It seems everything was put in place by fate for Frank Sinatra to win his Oscar for his role as Private Maggio in this film. The first being by getting the role because Eli Wallach turned the role down (who surely would have been brilliant), and then the academy taking upon themselves to nominate a rather weak set of nominees to make sure nothing happened like having a performance that was too good to ignore. One wonders if the voters in some way were encouraged to ignore the likes of John Gielgud for example since his film was rather successful otherwise. This allowed a Sinatra victory even though he is not even the best supporting actor in the film. This is made most abundantly obvious by the fact that Sinatra shares more than a few scenes with the man, that man being Ernest Borgnine. There are several negative figures shown in the army, although shown more of to be jerks rather than anything else, Judson, who runs the stockade seems to be another sort of man altogether.

Ernest Borgnine is only in a few scenes, and even in these scenes his screen time is somewhat limited but Borgnine does not allow this to be a problem. His two earliest scenes are directly between Fatso and Maggio as they both purposefully get on each other nerves. Borgnine eats Sinatra alive in these scenes as he brings such menace in his portrayal of Fatso. Borgnine does not show Fatso outwardly aggressive yet he's more chilling by conveying the beast in the man just in that stare he gives Maggio. When Fatso threatens Maggio Borgnine does not show an empty threat but rather a sadistic guarantee that Fatso is certain he will get his satisfaction. Borgnine is fantastic as he makes Fatso such a sinister presence in his few moments on screen that he convinces of what Fatso is doing when not shown. There is not a second wasted in Borgnine's performance making an impact from even a few seconds. Borgnine best scene actually just might be when Maggio is brought to Fatso in the stockade.

Borgnine actually has only a couple of seconds to end that scene as Fatso sees that he has Maggio exactly wants him. Sinatra for some reason chooses to stare blankly at the screen in almost wonderment, not fear or more likely defiance in his face, failing to express what Maggio should be feeling. Borgnine on the other hand brings the most perfect vicious grin to Fatso's face and we know exactly the torture Fatso is planning without having to see it. Borgnine also deserves credit for being one of the actors who completely goes toe to toe with Montgomery Clift without ever being overshadowed. In their one scene together Borgnine proves a match for Clift. Their scene together is sensational as the two meet both having such a reserved intensity as the two suggest that two volcanoes are about to erupt. I especially love though that laugh Borgnine gives before he goes off with Clift portraying one again that above else Fatso loves the idea of the chance for violence.

Now I will note that this is a very short performance and he's not even like a one scene wonder since his role is spread very thinly across his few scenes. His role also technically is quite limited merely that of the evil guard who causes Maggio's downfall. I don't feel though this should be used to complain about Borgnine's performance as he goes above and beyond the duty (no pun intended) with the role of Fatso Judson. Although I certainly would not have minded a little more time given Borgnine here. Nevertheless in his sparse time Borgnine full realizes the sick nature of Judson and it feels as though his performance actually is that of a more substantial character. Not only that though Borgnine absolutely commands the screen for every moment of his performance. This is the definition of a great supporting performance because Borgnine manages to create a memorable and particularly effective character that adds a lot to the film while the character easily could have been just as forgettable as those Sergeants who hassle Prewitt.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1953: Jay Robinson in The Robe

Jay Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Caligula in The Robe.

The Robe is a pretty bland biblical epic with a bland leading performance by Richard Burton and is many ways like Quo Vadis which was also rather bland. Like Quo Vadis though there is one man who refuses to be bland and once again it is the actor playing the Roman Emperor in the film. In Quo Vadis it was Peter Ustinov playing the infamous Roman Emperor Nero, in the Robe it is Jay Robinson who plays perhaps the even more infamous Caligula. Robinson appears in the opening of the film, before Caligula has been made Emperor, to basically attempt to outbid our hero Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton) at a slave auction. Robinson is great as he prances on the scene in a way only a man who knew he was about to have absolute power could. Robinson's smile is perfect showing a man loving his place, but as well a man having a such a joy of performance that it's hard not to have fun watching it.

Robinson's performance is quite good at realizing Caligula's character even though the film technically does not get into Caligula's personal lusts, in fact a different actor could have played him as just some jealous power hungry guy. That's not the case for Robinson who seems to suggest Caligula's various perversions merely in that devious grin of his and just the whole odd way he carries himself in every scene. Robinson seems to show a man who loves various pleasures far too much just in the way he slants in his chair. Honestly Robinson does not waste a gesture in making his Caligula one sick man even though we don't see much of it first hand. Technically speaking most of the time is spent with Caligula terrorizing Gallio eventual wife Diana (Jean Simmons) as he basically wants Gallio dead after he has converted to Christianity. Well even within the limits of the role Robinson still makes sure to get the most out of it.

Robinson is incredibly entertaining in the scenes where Caligula is in some way thwarted in his attempts to get Gallio. Robinson plays Caligula in these scenes like a spoiled brat who's not getting the present he wanted. Robinson is glorious in showing the rampant insanity of Caligula that in it's heart is childish in nature fitting for a man who has anything he wants handed to him no matter how crazy the request may be. My only problem with Caligula in this film is he's not in the film as much as Nero was in Quo Vadis. Robinson has about four scenes in the film and two of those scenes are a bit short. There's just not enough Caligula to go around because he's unquestionably the best part of the film. Robinson energizes the proceedings whenever he shows up and actually makes the film entertaining with his antics. Almost alone Robinson prevents the film from being completely forgettable as he gives one reason to watch the film.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1953: John Gielgud in Julius Caesar

John Gielgud did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Cassius in Julius Caesar.

John Gielgud plays Cassius who along with James Mason's Brutus is one of the main conspirators who plan to kill Julius Caesar then supposedly reform Rome back to a republic. Gielgud's performance acts as a great counterpoint to Mason's performance. Where Mason upheld Brutus's nobility in every breath he takes Gielgud does not do the same for Cassius. Well maybe he does though as Gielgud shows in the scenes where Cassius is trying to urge Brutus to kill Caesar. Gielgud as usual speaks with such elegance as he tries to convince Brutus to go along with the assassination. There is a determination a righteousness even in Gielgud's voice as he espouses various platitudes to Brutus's ears and Gielgud makes it quite believable that Cassius could sway the good Brutus, who happens to love Caesar, to this rather extreme manner of thinking. When Cassius stares Brutus in the face and speaks to him Gielgud makes himself a mirror of Mason, although as it turns out a false a mirror.

The brilliance of Gielgud's performance though is that he portrays Cassius's urging toward Brutus to be quite false, and merely Cassius manipulating Brutus. This is never spoken of by Cassius himself but rather shown wholly by Gielgud's work. Gielgud is fantastic in the moments where frankly Brutus is simply not looking at Cassius and Gielgud uses these moments to portray the true nature of Cassius's intent. Gielgud silent reactions when Cassius is left to his own thoughts does not portray Cassius as a man who is trying to save Rome from a man who has become a tyrant. No Gielgud instead portrays a searing malice in Cassius as he looks upon Caesar and speaks the words against him. Although in words and even in his delivery Gielgud has Cassius claim a conflict of sorts Gielgud shows nothing but a distinct hate in Cassius's eyes. Gielgud is striking as he creates this sinister duplicity in the character being convincing as he persuades Brutus while still conveying the real motivation in Cassius.

Gielgud is excellent in the way he plays with this act as the film goes on, never fully dropping it, although obviously relinquishing it somewhat when the men do kill Caesar. Where Mason presents Brutus clearly feeling guilt even as he performs the coup de grรขce and tries to uphold the righteousness of the actions Gielgud does not hold to the same pretensions with Cassius. With Brutus dead and the man thinking of their actions Gielgud brings a smile to Cassius face as he ponders about how the future will see this deed. Gielgud presents Cassius as loving having killed a man he hated, there is no guilt whatsoever, only a certain joy as perhaps he sees his own chance for power soon to come. Gielgud keeps the act going though when Caesar's loyal man Mark Antony (Marlon Brando) comes on the scene. Gielgud changes Cassius from the man lusting after power to now a somber sadness fitting of a sensible and honorable man who surely killed Caesar only for the goodness of Rome.

After the overthrow goes much more roughly than expected Gielgud reveals all there is to Cassius when Brutus calls him on his obvious personal corruption. Gielgud is great as he reduces Cassius to almost nothing as he simply sneers angrily at actually being seen for what he is rather than what he pretends to be. This can only be momentary though as they do have a war to fight which Brutus still believes in even if the odds seem against them. Gielgud is quite moving as he seems to make Cassius create a false image again although this time it is not to convince Brutus but rather himself. Brutus still speaks for the good of Rome and Cassius seems to go along with it. Gielgud brings the brave face to Cassius as he tries to stand tall with Brutus yet Gielgud once again brings an undercurrent of something else. This time though it is a dread and a fear as Gielgud shows that in his heart Cassius knows that they are doomed. Gielgud is terrific as through the final moments of Cassius he tears away the false hopes of the man to reveal a man whose seen all his plans go up in flames. John Gielgud on his own gives a great portrait of betrayal and deceit but it works especially well against Mason's portrayal of honesty and devotion.