Saturday, 25 October 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1967: Alan Arkin in Wait Until Dark

Alan Arkin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Roat in Wait Until Dark.

Wait Until Dark is an effective thriller about three criminals who are trying to find a doll filled with drugs that ended up apparently at the apartment of an unknowing blind woman Susy (Audrey Hepburn).

Although I did give some praise last review to the HFPA for successfully recognizing Richard Attenborough as an actor I sorta have to take that away when referring to this film. Oddly the HFPA did nominate someone for Wait Until Dark but it was not Alan Arkin, nor was it even Richard Crenna as the most sympathetic of the criminals, but rather Efrem Zimbalist who plays Susy's husband Sam. Zimbalist isn't bad really but his role is so unsubstantial that it certainly leaves you scratching tour head when thinking about the nomination. I guess Arkin maybe suffered from category confusion, which would is ridiculous, but probably more likely the nature of the role prevented him from being recognized. According to Arkin himself part of the reason he got the role is that few wanted it due to its sinister nature, and that same sinister nature is probably what prevented him from being nominated for any awards.

One more random tidbit before I get on with the review is that Quentin Tarantino played this part in a stage revival that was at the very end of his overexposure, now that might been something really horrifying to watch. Anyway, Alan Arkin plays the man who refers to himself as Roat who is the worst of the three criminals. This made abundantly clear when one of his earliest actions is that he murdered the original drug mule off screen and black mails her associates with her murder to ensure that they work with him to get the doll. Also the visual presentation of the character alone pretty much set stage for the character with his small round sunglasses he often wears, the truly bizarre haircut that Arkin sports, and the way he often suddenly appears entrenched in shadow. With all of that already set up Arkin rather intelligently does not really try to play up the villainy of Roat any more than what is already set up in fact Arkin takes kinda a relaxed approach to the part.

In his first conversation with the other two criminals Arkin rather cleverly commands the scene even though his whole manner as Roat is that of a man who is quite sure of every step of his plan. Arkin's easy going style here is surprisingly effective in creating the callousness of Roat. Arkin rather strangely is able to be quite menacing in this first scene while delivery almost every part of the chat as if he is just having a simple conversation with the men. This is even in the case when Roat tells them that he murdered their old criminal associate since he felt she was trying to cut him out on their business. Arkin brings such a casual sinister quality to the part by making the amoral quality of the man just so naturally a part of him. Arkin shows that Roat does not need to try to be evil rather Roat just innately is evil so no reason to force it out of him. Arkin's curious approach pays off quite well and just from his opening scene you know there is hanging knife over the rest of the characters.

Roat does not strike right away as the men first put on act which they think will force Susy to reveal the doll. Roat plays two parts in this charade the first being Roat Sr. who demands to see Susy's husband angrily and funny enough Arkin kinda does his curmudgeon act that he's probably best known for now. He also plays Roat Jr. which Arkin plays an extremely timid man who is both concerned over his father's outrageous behavior while also being concerned that his wife is having an affair with Susy's husband. Arkin plays these in a slightly absurd fashion and more as caricature than characters, but this absolutely makes sense since Roat is not trying to win an Oscar. Also Susy is suppose to suspect something is up so Arkin slightly off approach is the right one. Arkin is enjoyable in these scenes but he's also quite good in portraying the true Roat in his eyes while he is pretending to be these characters.

The finale of the film ends up being a most unusual battle between Roat and Susy. The knife drops quite effectively as Roat brings out his true nature again as he coldly dispatches his fellow criminals then proceeds to inquire about the doll to Susy. Arkin is quite chilling in this prolonged scene as he brings such a sadistic glee to Roat as he viciously toys with Susy and does not mind boasting about predicting the double cross against him. Arkin makes Roat manner most unnerving such as when he brushes off his claim that he wouldn't hurt Susy by non-nonchalantly stating that he had his fingers crossed. What makes Arkin's performance especially strong though are in the moments when Susy manages to get the upper hand for at least a moment. Arkin is terrific as he plays these moments especially realistically as just a guy frustrated or pained by what happened.

Arkin's is particularly good though in how he shows Roat trying to maintain his attitude as he usually reverts to his usual self once he gets the upper hand back. Well that is until Susy manages to do something that more permanently causes Roat to lose his usual cool. Arkin's is great in the scene as he forgets all about Roat's casual manner and instead is quite terrifying by just showing a man fighting against all sorts of anguish as his rage pulls him forward in a last ditch attempt to kill Susy. Alan Arkin altogether makes Roat one memorable villain for the film. His unusually style in his performance always works in still making him a figure to be feared while having a slight comic edge to the character that works rather nicely. Arkin's performance works as he makes Roat a believable a murderous thug who does not mind enjoying his ill deeds, but most importantly that he still suffers injuries like any real man would.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1967: Richard Attenborough in Doctor Dolittle

Richard Attenborough did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning the Golden Globe, for portraying Albert Blossom in Doctor Dolittle.

Doctor Dolittle is an overlong and often dull musical about a veterinarian (Rex Harrison) who can talk to the animals. Also there's not nearly enough Albert Blossom in it.

Well one must give credit to the HFPA when it came to recognizing Richard Attenborough as they gave him back to back wins while the academy chose to ignore him both times. What is particularly egregious about this is that his wins account for two of the seven times that the winner in supporting actor was not at least Oscar nominated for their work. What ever was the Academy's problem with Attenborough's acting? This is only made more criminal because the academy bothered to show they had no shame in nominating Doctor Dolittle for several other awards including best picture which many say was due to a some very intense campaigning on part of the studio to try to earn the film some commercial success. This means the academy did not mind saying it was one of the best pictures of the year but could not be bothered to recognize the one major part of the film that deserved to be recognized.

Anyway Attenborough plays Albert Blossom a circus owner that Doctor Dolittle takes a two headed llama type creature to. Attenborough enjoyably scoffs at the prospect at something he hasn't seen before until he finally see the creature and what follows is the only musical number that works in the film. Attenborough leads the song as he portrays an absolute amazement in Blossom at this creature. Attenborough is a unbounded ball of energy here as moves about the screen in portraying the rather extreme excitement Blossom feels at this new discovery. Attenborough is so thoroughly charming in his portrayal of this frantic reaction that he manages to suddenly energizes the picture, which had been sorely lacking up until this point. He makes Blossom such a delightful soul to watch as he first negotiates then proceeds to greatly profit off of his deal with Dolittle. 

This is a musical and technically almost the entirety of his performance is singing and dancing. Well Attenborough obviously is not the greatest singer or dancer but this is case where his tremendous acting ability actually manages to completely make up for that. The way he hops up and down and around in every scene is just marvelous to watch and is so fitting to the character of Blossom. This only continues with his singing of the song "I've never seen anything like it". I don't know if the song is, as written, even necessarily better than the other songs in the film but rather it seems to come to life by the completely wonderful way Attenborough sings it. He having so much fun with the way he shows basically the revelatory way Blossom has seen everything in a new light that it's hard not to have the fun right along with him. Almost every second of the song is pure joy because of Attenborough.

Of course then something odd happens. The film keeps on going and when I first watched it I kept wondering when Blossom was going to show up again. Of course he never does and the rest of the film is just one big let down after the pure jubilation felt with Attenborough's number. I don't know if the song was meant to be a showstopper but, by George, Attenborough makes it one. It's funny to note that the next time that Attenborough would be working with Dolittle's director Richard Fleishcer, who must be one of the most inconsistent directors of all time, would be in 10 Rillington Place. Actually I have to say it almost seems as though Attenborough may have brought out the best out of Fleishcer. Attenborough unfortunately is a one scene wonder, frankly the film should have been about Blossom, but what a one scene wonder he is. Although it's very easy to forget the rest of the boring musical I'll actually come back to the film just to watch Attenborough scene again.

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1967

And the Nominees Were Not:

Alan Arkin in Wait Until Dark

Richard Attenborough in Doctor Dolittle

Alan Bates in Far From the Madding Crowd

Peter Finch in Far From the Madding Crowd 

Terence Stamp in Far From the Madding Crowd

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1967: Results

5. Richard Harris in Camelot - Harris is charming when he needs to be and knows how to bring weight to the dramatics, but can't completely overcome the weaknesses of the film.

Best Scene: Final reprise of Camelot
4. James Garner in Hour of the Gun - Garner is effective in portraying the intensity of this vengeful Wyatt Earp, unfortunately the film doesn't let him explore the role enough.

Best Scene: Earp's final kill
3. Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night - Poitier is a commanding and charismatic portrayal of his determined detective, and especially shines in any scene he shares with Rod Steiger.

Best Scene: At the chief's house.
2. Alain Delon in Le Samourai - Delon gives an excellent minimalistic performance as he does so much in the creation of the physical manner of his character.

Best Scene: The Samourai final assassination attempt.
1. Robert Blake in In Cold Blood - Good prediction Fisti. This came down to Delon doing so much with such a purposefully limited character and Blake making the absolute most out of great as he manages to give such a heartbreaking yet wholly chilling portrayal of Perry Smith.

Best Scene: Perry recounts a part of his life before his execution.
Overall Ranking:
  1. Robert Blake in In Cold Blood
  2. Alain Delon in Le Samourai
  3. Rod Steiger in In The Heat of the Night
  4. Sidney Poitier in In The Heat of the Night
  5. Toshiro Mifune in Samurai Rebellion
  6. Sidney Poitier in To Sir With Love
  7. Scott Wilson in In Cold Blood
  8. Gene Wilder in The Producers
  9. Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke
  10. Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate
  11. Warren Beatty in Bonnie & Clyde
  12. Lee Marvin in Point Blank 
  13. Dudley Moore in Bedazzled
  14. Richard Burton in The Taming of the Shrew
  15. James Garner in Hour of the Gun
  16. Peter O'Toole in The Night of the Generals
  17. Peter Cook in Bedazzled
  18. Zero Mostel in The Producers
  19. Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice
  20. Albert Finney in Two For the Road
  21. Richard Harris in Camelot
  22. Robert Morse in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying 
  23. Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen 
  24. John Wayne in The War Wagon
  25. Spencer Tracy in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
  26. Omar Sharif in The Night of the Generals
  27. Sidney Poitier in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
  28. Kirk Douglas in The War Wagon
  29. Dick Van Dyke in Divorce American Style
  30. Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park
  31. Rex Harrison in Doctor Dolittle
  32. Tadao Takashima in Son of Godzilla
  33. Akira Kubo in Son of Godzilla
Next Year: 1967 Supporting

And yes apparently the Producers is 67 by my rules.

Alternate Best Actor 1967: Richard Harris in Camelot

Richard Harris did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a Golden Globe, for portraying King Arthur in Camelot.

Camelot potentially may have worked with a more creative director but instead its directed by Joshua Logan who seemed to be able to suck the life and potential out of any material.

There is one thing I like about this adaptation and that is obviously Richard Harris as King Arthur since I am clearly reviewing him. Harris doesn't exactly give a subtle performance here, which is fine as one should avoid being sucked upon into Logan's dull direction. Harris has two sides to his performance one side is the one, that one would more immediately associate with someone playing King Arthur in a musical version of the story. In this side Harris is quite charming in portraying Arthur as a lover of life. Harris provides a great bit of energy that even makes up for the fact that's he's obviously not the greatest singer in the world. Harris though tries his best to give some life to these scenes even when he is undercut at every turn by Logan who brings absolutely not a hint of momentum with his direction. Harris is fun in the role even though he does not get to say all that much fun for long.

Things don't stay happy for Arthur for long when it becomes quite obvious that the great knight Lancelot (horribly played by Franco Nero) is clearly having an affair with his wife Guinevere (Vanessa Redgrave). This leaves Arthur to become more introverted as he basically watches as his destiny is spelled out for him which is only further aided along by his sinister illegitimate son Mordred (David Hemmings). Harris is quite good in doing the extreme dramatics of these scenes giving that cold stare as he looks at the lovers with a disdain as well as a despair as he sees fate slowly closing in on him. Harris is equally excels whenever he needs to make any fierce statement of a King as Harris carries himself with quite the command while having that brutal edge. Harris is able to do the act of the uncivilized nature in such a gentlemanly figure otherwise rather effectively.

Now a problem does arise in that there isn't much cohesion between the two sides of the King, but that's really not Harris's fault. It isn't that Harris fails to properly transition depending on the scene but Logan's direction has no idea how to make the more lighthearted moments lead to the dramatic ones. The lighthearted scenes and the heavier scenes come seemingly at random making for a rather inconsistent tone which can be seen in Harris's performance since he is forced to jump between the tones so suddenly. There is only any real synergy in his last scene where he tells a young boy to remember Camelot. Harris brings about a real happiness in his remembrance of the past while still keeping a desperation in his voice to convey the severity of the situation. Other than that, which is his best scene to be sure, though Harris just kinda jumps back and forth. I like both sides of his Arthur to be sure but his performance can never fully make up for the weaknesses of the film.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1967: Alain Delon in Le Samourai

Alain Delon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jef Costello in Le Samourai.

Le Samourai is a very effective thriller about a hit man being slowly driven into a corner after being spotted leaving the scene of one of his murders.

Alain Delon plays the titular character of Le Samourai who obviously is not an actual samurai, but technically speaking just a gun for hire. Jef Costello, which is incidentally a far less awesome title than his titular moniker, does not act as some sort of crude hired killer though. This is evidenced from his earliest scene where he lays in bed where he smokes waiting before he goes on his assignment. Delon's performance is almost a silent performance actually. Delon does speak in the film from time to time but it is mostly in one word responses or in the simplest of sentences that are only meant to serve the most basic instructional purposes. There really is very little in terms of dialogue between Costello and anyone, and there is even less in terms of Costello verbalizing whatever it might be that he is going through. Delon's work is mostly all based around what he does physically in the role, and is an interesting example of what an actor can do in a purposely limited part.

Well Delon is rather brilliant in the way he carries himself in the film. Even the way he just smokes in the bed Delon makes less an act of inhaling smoke to rather some sort of preparatory ritual that the samurai must do before he kills. After stopping smoking though the samurai prepares himself by getting dressed in his trench coat and putting on his hat. Although kudos to the costuming, but Delon certainly wears it his own way. There is something so remarkable even just about that way that Delon always puts on Costello's hat. There is just something so, for a lack of a better word, cool about the way Delon removes and wears that hat. It isn't just some guy wearing a hat, even though technically that's all that it is, Delon somehow makes it more than that. The way he does it has this certain emphasis of a warrior preparing himself for his task rather than of a thug with a gun which again that really is all that Jef Costello really is. 

Delon even in the way he walks there is something special about it. The concise steps he takes at all times show a man absolutely driven for this precision of a master swordsman more than a master with the gun. Everything that Delon does adds to this characterization of Costello as slightly otherworldly in his qualities as a samurai. What is so wonderful about what Delon does though is this never seems something forced in his performance but rather wholly natural to the character. It also makes watching him a compelling experience as he is spellbinding in his creation of the manner of the samurai. Now this is especially important for the success of the film firstly because he doesn't have much to say at all, but secondly Costello is not necessarily a particularly sympathetic figure therefore it could have been easy to make this silent killer uninteresting. Delon though is absolutely fascinating as he makes every movement as the samurai something to witness.

Delon manages to be especially effective in the scenes where Costello does kill as again his movements accentuate the incisive approach he takes to killing. There is no aggression or pleasure from Delon when Costello kills but rather just a very chilling steely gaze as takes their lives away. It's rather interesting though that this is not quite like say Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal who also played a professional assassin. Fox played the part of the jackal as a hollow shell of figure who would take on any disguise to make his target, and most of all there was a soulless quality at all times. This is not the case for Delon even though he certainly plays the part of the samurai in a rather cold fashion. Delon though does something else in the role instead and this leads to some of the most remarkable moments during the film. Delon goes about revealing more about Costello than we see, but not for a moment does he change from his intensely subtle performance.

One scene that I particularly liked is after Costello has been injured with a meeting with one of the men who hired him. Costello has to tend to his wounds and Delon somewhat drops the manner of the samurai, almost showing that for the moment the injury has almost snapped him out of his peculiar state forcing him to address something directly that does not require any meditation. It's a striking scene as Delon doesn't show the samurai behavior to be fake, but rather that it is indeed a ritual of sorts for the man. Delon creates particularly powerful scenes though by also revealing that there is a heart in the samurai, and although he kills people for money there is a conscious in him somewhere. It might be rather hard to see but there is evidence of it somewhere.

Delon is extremely reserved in this regard though but surprisingly poignant at the same time. Delon earns these revelations and it seems honest to the character in the way that Delon handles it. He has one amazing scene at the end of the film when it seems Costello is sending another person to their fate. Delon mostly does have that steely gaze again but there is this ever so slight sadness he still conveys so beautifully. It turns out not a sadness for his potential victim but for himself as he surrenders to his fate. It is a perfect moment by Delon and especially notable by just how delicately he handles the scene. The whole performance is a completely fantastic example of truly minimalistic portrayal by an actor. I have to admit to merely loving every second of this performance as he creates such a unique and even oddly heartbreaking character out of the samurai.

Alternate Best Actor 1967: Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night

Sidney Poitier did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, for portraying Detective Virgil Tibbs in In The Heat of the Night.

Sidney Poitier's lack of Oscar recognition in this film seems a bit of strange thing. The film of course won best picture as well as best actor for his co-star Rod Steiger, and Poitier had a banner year with this film, the also best picture nominated Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? and the popular To Sir With Love. Now there were things against him first apparently every awards body agreed it was Steiger's time to win therefore probably deflecting some of Poitier's impact, he also was lead in all three of his films which can be problematic. Also there is not obvious person who upset him since the nominees were made up of Steiger who won, Spencer Tracy giving his final performance, Dustin Hoffman with his very popular breakout performance, Warren Beatty giving his best performance, and Paul Newman who perhaps got in over Poitier due to maybe late surge love for Cool Hand Luke as evidenced by George Kennedy's supporting actor win.

Despite his lack of recognition In The Heat of the Night is perhaps one of Poitier, if not most, iconic roles as Mr. Tibbs a black detective from Philadelphia who finds himself forced into solving a homicide in a racist town. Everything seems set out to make this a memorable role from the outset with the compelling situation he's in, that unique name of his, and even the rather snappy way in which he is dressed. Although it is in the case of most of his roles, starting all the way back with No Way Out as doctor dealing with a prejudiced Richard Widmark, Poitier's character doesn't take any flack from any racist this probably the time where his character was perhaps the most fervent about it. It was most often the case that Poitier would ease into this discontent by first being his usual extremely charming self, this time though Poitier actually begins with a harder edge which makes is fitting since the first thing that happens to Tibbs is that he is charged with the murder himself.

Poitier despite being somewhat more outwardly defiant in this one Poitier still carries himself in his usual classy dignified fashion. Poitier here is the master of frankly the refined anger as he manages to bring such an intensity in Tibbs's objection to his treatment by the police chief Gillespie (Steiger) and his men. Poitier barely even has to raise his voice to still be a palatable force of passion, and when he does raise his voice such as with his famous "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" it is quite powerful. Poitier interestingly doesn't fall upon his substantial charm all that often with this performance, almost holding it as a secret weapon in the reserved persona of Tibbs. Poitier only brings it out in very particular situations when Tibbs needs to derive information out of someone. Poitier very effectively uses his charm in these moments showing it as almost a strategy to make Tibbs instantly likable to the person he's trying to get the information from.

It is no surprise that Poitier went to reprise Tibbs two more times in sequels, although apparently far less successful films in every regard. Poitier has such a commanding presence with Tibbs and he makes for a consistently compelling lead here. Poitier is terrific by realizing Tibbs's method in such an eloquent and precise manner that is always interesting to watch. Poitier is quite good at carrying the film so well, as he's always so good at carrying film yet at the same time he manages to convey Tibbs's particular method of solving the crime. Poitier conveys the methodical nature of Tibbs deductions and makes every revelation he discovers well earned. There is only one moment where Poitier drops this and that is when confronting a known racist who has a motive for the murder. Poitier earns this especially emotional moment, and far from his most calculating, by portraying it as very much the gut reaction of man being forced to deal with an extremely racist individual with a smug sense of entitlement.

As great as Poitier is alone what really makes this performance standout is the way he works with Steiger throughout the film. Both are in top form here as they both are equally brilliant in realizing their characters. They are especially good because In the Heat of the Night is plot driven yet neither Tibbs nor Gillespie ever feel like characters just there to move through the plot. They realize them as fascinating men all on their own and they even come even more to life in their various conflicts during the film. The way the two go from outwardly aggressive to one another to an eventual mutual respect is one of the best elements of the film and it only really works because of Poitier and Steiger. There is not a single moment where the two agree to be friends or to even stop hating each other. There is just a rather slow understanding the two actors build so naturally from scene to scene that they make the transformation in both men not only believable but quite poignant in the end.