Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1962: Montgomery Clift in Freud

Montgomery Clift did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sigmund Freud in Freud.

Freud tells the story of Sigmund Freud attempting to define his theories on the human mind, in which John Huston takes a somewhat strange approach to depict, as the proceedings have this edge of other worldly horror quality to them, although that might partially be because parts of the film's score would later be used in Alien.

Montgomery Clift gives his penultimate performance in a film here, and where his apparent damaged state often coincided with the nature of his characters after his accident, this is not exactly the case for Sigmund Freud, who is stable for the most part. Nevertheless Clift does seem right for the role, not that he wholly hides himself so to speak, but his work finds a way for these attributes to actually seem fitting to Freud's character in the film. Now Freud for the most part is a confident and healthy enough man who wishes to explore his own theories about illnesses that stem from the mind rather than the body, despite the scientific community giving little credence to these views, so the film is mainly about Freud's attempt to try to find the truth of the human mind through various test cases though the main focuses on a troubled young woman Cecily (Susannah York). Now Clift does not exactly try to reflect an exact copy of the real Freud, but his work instead tries to uncover the mind of such a man which seems rather fitting. Clift is able to position though Freud as a sort of soulful man in the way he interacts with his patients, even early on, and whenever he attempts to describe his beliefs.

Clift portrays very well this certain understated yet palatable passion in Freud to attempt to tap into whatever it is that exactly makes the mind work, as well what exactly the mind can reveal to discover past pains. Clift internalizes this incredibly well and in turn helps dial the film back a bit as Huston's direction sometimes does become a bit bombastic. Clift's performance often is reactionary and Clift never fails to make use of these reactions. Clift finds in Freud the right fascination as he brings this excitement in Freud at any given moment, particularly when it seems they might uncover something wholly new to the world in regards to the human psyche. This constant inquisitive nature of the man is very well realized by Clift's portrayal, but importantly Clift avoids making Freud become some sort of man who simply is interested in the suffering of others. Clift instead brings a powerful vein of empathy in his work as in his reactions there is not that distance of a scientist observing nature. Clift instead creates the sense of a man genuinely caring for these people's inner torments, and Clift helps amplify the intense emotions of any scene by showing Freud's own emotional exhaustion at delving into such dark places that are only found within the subconscious.

Although the film is called Freud, it rarely narrows in the man himself. There are a few scenes between him and his wife though they are only brief. To Clift's credit he is good in these scenes because he presents Freud in a less intense fashion, showing that the man is not always captured by his work. Oddly enough the more personal story almost seems to go to Freud's colleague played by Larry Parks. Freud's own psychological problem is found in the film through his troubled reaction to the death of his father. This element of the film is not deeply developed though, and even the conclusion is left on a quick silent note near the end of the film. Clift though is excellent in the brief scenes that cover this as he brings about such a haunting quality in his depiction that effectively represents Freud's own inner turmoil quite well. Even that quick final moment is actually a great moment for Clift because he does not simplify it as an easy fix, showing a bit of solace in Freud along with still a searing grief in reflecting on the relationship with his father once more. The majority of the film squarely keeps to Freud psychoanalyzing others, especially Cecily which the film uses as its dramatic climax as he seems to uncover exactly what troubles her so deeply. Clift makes this often passive act though so compelling to watch by making Freud's method never lose that personal connection in the moment, and in a way develops his technique by becoming specifically active in certain moments. This is a very strong performance by Clift as he artfully elevates the material while carefully avoiding its pitfalls. His portrait of Freud is an engaging one not through mannerisms or a form of imitation, but rather by finding the core that was the key to the emotional motivation of the man. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1962

And the Nominees Were Not:

James Mason in Lolita

Toshiro Mifune in Sanjuro

Montgomery Clift in Freud

Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear

Tom Courtenay in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Rank Those Five or These Five:

James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Tatsuya Nakadai in Harakiri

Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate

Oskar Werner in Jules and Jim

Patrick McGoohan in All Night Long 

Or both. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1928: Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs and Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill Jr. Best Supporting Actor 1928: William Powell in The Last Command and Results

Conrad Veidt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gwynplaine in The Man Who Laughs.
The Man Who Laughs is an effective film about a surgically deformed to have a constant smile.

A silent actor already not allowed to speak to give life to their character, but Conrad Veidt is technically given even more of a limitation than usual in his portrayal of the titular character. Veidt is not only not allowed not to speak a large portion of his face is already made up for him. That being the constant smile representing the deformity given to his character as an additional punishment for his own father, who was executed, for refusing to recognize King James. A smile large and purposefully grotesque which would ended up becoming inspiration for the creation of the Joker. Despite what the central character looks like, and the villain this film would help to create this is not a horror film, and Gwynplaine is most certainly not a monster. In fact this is not even a case in which his deformity causes people to really mistake him for one since Gwynplaine ends up becoming a clown. In this way the physicality of the performance is not the focal point exactly like say it would later be for Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, as Gwynplaine is a normal man besides what a surgeon did to him. The idea behind the character is past the smile and this presents an intriguing challenge for Veidt to over come with his performance.

Now even though the physical element I still would not say is the most striking part of his performance it still is well worth noting that Veidt's use of his physical presence. Although not a monster Veidt does not exactly carry himself as a wholly normal man either as there is something quite special about the way he physically performs the part. Veidt is someone who is marvelous in terms of making his body language come across the screen and with this as Veidt shows the way Gwynplaine interacts with people. This is this retired restrictive quality that Veidt shows as though he wants to avoid direct exposure with them as he knows what to expect from their reaction. Even in the moments where he is performing as a clown Veidt is tremendous in portraying this hesitation in his physical manner as though he is in a way fighting against his own popularity which seems to come from the crowd's fascination with his smile. Now the one person this is not the case for is the blind woman Dea (Mary Philbin), though Veidt does something fascinating with this well. When they are just interacting in general there is a greater warmth in Veidt's interactions with her depicting his honest nature as a man, but not when she is presenting her love to him directly which then again Veidt has Gwynplaine cower as though once again he is hiding from his own disfigurement, which he's sure would prevent any woman from loving him.

Now what's incredible is that physical element of his performance is not the most notable aspect of Veidt's work here, there is something else, although most of his face is covered by that smile his eyes are as free as any man's. Now the eyes are often the easiest place to spot a silent over actor as absurd bug eyes was too often the standard setting for many actors during the era. This can even be seen in Cesare Gravina's performance as Gwynplaine's caretaker, who always seems a bit surprised by everything at all times. The eyes though are the center of Veidt's work and this is masterstroke of his performance as so brilliantly uses it to reveal the man behind the "laugh". There is so much humanity that Veidt brings out of his eyes that is is absolutely heartbreaking to watch him in the film because of the sheer emotion that Veidt brings in just the top half of his face like that. The moments of sadness, as Gwynplaine is continually seen only for his smile and he starts to feel as though no one could see past that, are so palatable because of that heartbreak Veidt so well realizes in every torn look and tear. It's an astonishing performance in the way that Veidt makes the audience always see the man as the emotions from him are so keenly felt because he always offers as access to the very soul of the man that Gwynplaine is, not the freak he is mistaken for. The performance it reminds me most of is John Hurt's work in The Elephant Man, both actors are severely limited in that they must be covered to represent what so many see their characters as in the story. The beauty of the portrayals of Hurt and Veidt as their respective characters is that using the little they have they force we the audience to see what the others could not, the man not the monster. 
Buster Keaton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying William Canfield, Jr. in Steamboat Bill Jr.

Steamboat Bill Jr. is an enjoyable comedy about the son of a captain who fails to live up to his steamboat captain father's expectations due to his meek demeanor and the fact that he's romantically involved with his chief rival's daughter.

Buster Keaton is most often compared to Charlie Chaplin obviously since they were both silent comedians, but also because they both frequently directed their films as well. It is interesting to compare their styles as both a director and an actor, and they certainly hold similarities in terms of the materiel. Both of them would stare as a fairly unassuming man who would fall into some absurd situation often in some way associated with his love interest. Now an obvious difference is found in Keaton being a tad more informal in terms of the character, Chaplin was most often the Tramp, whereas Keaton had less defined of a comical character. He did not have an exact suit nor was he made up in the way Chaplin was, and the defining element was the fact that it was Buster Keaton. As directors their films, although I must admit I've currently seen less of Keaton, often have a similair set up to get to the physical gags, though Keaton's approach is in way more realistic than Chaplin's more romantic approach. That's not to say the gags are not as absurd, but there is something grittier about them, as the danger often seems more real, perhaps because it was as Keaton really was simply standing in place as the whole front of a house fell around him in this film.

This carries over in a way to their separate performances as Chaplin would be grander in a certain way in regards to his character's emotions, as well as even with some of the gags seemed more apart of them in a different fashion than Keaton's approach. Keaton again is much more low key in his approach taking a rather dead pan approach, not quite the usual dead pan of indifference rather this sorrowful simple expression that is most often seen across his face. Keaton manages to derive this charm from just his whole sad sack manner that ends up being quite endearing while working particularly well, in technically the center of the film, that being the physical comedy. Again with Keaton there is something less exact, though most certainly was perhaps even more exact than Chaplin when filmed, in the gag sequences than Chaplin who often times there were specific moments where the Tramp was supposed to be performing within the film.

With Keaton his character usually is forced into the physical madness, which Keaton also makes incredibly funny in how off the cuff it feels within the film which is always aided to by his facial and physical reactions which always keep that meekness that makes it seem all the more haphazard and amusing. Now with Steamboat Bill Jr. I'll admit that it does not quite muster up the poignancy of some of Chaplin best efforts, although I quite preferred this film as well as Keaton's work than Chaplin's own film from 28 The Circus. That is not to say that Keaton purely aims for laughs, sine he does spend enough time to develop something in terms of father and son relationship as well as the romantic one. Neither are anything too substantial though still well realized in their own modest way. It is more than enough to in a way insulate the comic the moments with a certain dramatic pull, and for Keaton to be both a hero we can invest in while just being a guy with laugh at.
Overall Rank Lead Actor:
  1. Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs
  2. Erich von Stroheim in The Wedding March
  3. Emil Jannings in The Last Command
  4. Louis Wolheim in The Racket 
  5. James Murray in The Crowd
  6. Jean Debucourt in The Fall of the House of Usher
  7. Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill Jr. 
  8. Warner Baxter in In Old Arizona
  9. George Bancroft in The Docks of New York
  10. Charles Chaplin in The Circus
  11. Charles Farrell in Street Angel
  12. Thomas Meighan in The Racket
  13. Edmund Lowe in In Old Arizona
William Powell in The Last Command. The supporting cast is not always one where one would find great supporting performances in silent films simply as too many often reverted to that bug eyed expression, or they just were to unremarkable to come across the screen without actually saying anything. Powell, who made his name soon afterwards as an actor for the talkies, does make an impression within the limitations of silence. I won't say Powell is 100% without the occasional indulgence of just a bit of ham to be found, but he does not allow it to define his whole performance. Powell plays a man in the flashback sequences of the film who in turn suffers a bit of the wrath of the Russian General Sergius Alexander (Emil Jannings).  What's great is the sardonic king of the 30's is able to even get across quite a bit that trademark snark without even speaking a word. Even the two phases of it with at first the young man with a chip on his shoulder trying to act tough against a man of great power. Then in the present scenes Powell brings it with the confidence of a man well in charge as a successful film director who plans to humiliate that very same General by putting him in his film. Powell is so enjoyably smug and it's interesting to see him be able to bring that across so well without even use that great voice of his. This isn't a large role though Powell manages to make an nice impact, he even manages to see the extremely quick reversal of his character fairly well all things considered. It's a good performance from Powell that rises far above the the frequently forgettable performances by many of the minor players in silent films.
Supporting Top Ten:
  1. William Powell in The Last Command
  2. Lionel Barrymore in Sadie Thompson
  3. Eugène Silvain in The Passion of Joan of Arc
  4. Ernest Torrence in Steamboat Bill Jr.
  5. Lars Hanson in The Wind
  6. Montagu Love in The Wind
  7. Lewis Stone in A Woman of Affairs
  8. George E. Stone in The Racket 
  9. Tom McGuire in Steamboat Bill Jr.
  10. Bert Roach in The Crowd
Next Year: 1962 Lead

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1995: Results

5. Gene Hackman in Get Shorty - Hackman gives an effortlessly amusing performance as he manages to make an unscrupulous movie producer rather endearing.

Best Scene: Harry tries to act tough.
4. Don Cheadle in Devil in a Blue Dress -Cheadle takes his time to appear but once he does he steals the show with his magnetic turn as a trigger happy sidekick.

Best Scene: A drunk Mouse.
3. Sam Neill in Restoration - Neill gives a properly grand, and entertaining performance that so well represents the lovable rouge that Charles II needs to be.

Best Scene: Charles sets everything right.
2. Patrick McGoohan in Braveheart - McGoohan, playing a far less likable King than Charles, also brings the larger than life gravitas, but along with it considerable menace in his depiction of the cruel Longshanks. 

Best Scene: The battle of Falkirk.
1. Kevin Spacey in Seven - Spacey gives a great performance in realizing the "other worldly" preacher the killer believes he is, but also brilliantly undercuts it by also finding the real hate filled psychopath beneath it all.

Best Scene: The Box.
Overall Rank:
  1. Kevin Spacey in Seven
  2. Patrick McGoohan in Braveheart
  3. Angus Macfadyen in Braveheart
  4. James Cromwell in Babe
  5. Sam Neill in Restoration
  6. Don Cheadle in Devil in a Blue Dress
  7. David O'Hara in Braveheart
  8. Gene Hackman in Get Shorty
  9. Raymond J. Barry in Dead Man Walking
  10. William Hurt in Smoke
  11. David Strathairn in Dolores Claiborne
  12. Ben Stiller in Heavyweights
  13. Sam Waterston in Nixon 
  14. Forest Whitaker in Smoke
  15. Joaquin Phoenix in To Die For 
  16. Harvey Keitel in Smoke
  17. Alan Rickman in Sense and Sensibility
  18. Sean Bean in GoldenEye 
  19. Jim Broadbent in Richard III
  20. Viggo Mortensen in Crimson Tide
  21. Harold Perrineau in Smoke
  22. Ian McKellen in Restoration
  23. Jeremy Irons in Die Hard With a Vengeance
  24. Alan Cumming in GoldenEye
  25. Brendan Gleeson in Braveheart
  26. Gary Sinise in Apollo 13
  27. Tim Roth in Rob Roy
  28. Kevin Bacon in Apollo 13
  29. Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide 
  30. James Woods in Casino 
  31. Benicio Del Toro in The Usual Suspects
  32. Paul Freeman in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie
  33. Jonathan Hyde in Jumanji 
  34. Pete Postlethwaite in The Usual Suspects
  35. John Hurt in Rob Roy
  36. Danny DeVito in Get Shorty
  37. James Woods in Nixon 
  38. Matt Dillon in To Die For
  39. Leland Oser in Seven
  40. Brian Cox in Rob Roy
  41. Dennis Farina in Get Shorty
  42. George Dzundza in Crimson Tide 
  43. Nigel Hawthorne in Richard III
  44. Delroy Lindo in Get Shorty 
  45. Andrew Keir in Rob Roy
  46. Stephen Baldwin in The Usual Suspects
  47. Tom Sizemore in Devil in a Blue Dress
  48. R. Lee Ermey in Dead Man Walking
  49. Frank Vincent in Casino
  50. Colm Meaney in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain 
  51. Tomas von Brömssen in All Things Fair 
  52. Robert Prosky in Dead Man Walking 
  53. James Cosmo in Braveheart
  54. David Thewlis in Restoration
  55. Max von Sydow in Judge Dredd 
  56. Christopher Plummer in Dolores Claiborne
  57. Martin Sheen in The American President
  58. Desmond Llewelyn in GoldenEye
  59. Ian McDiarmid in Restoration
  60. J.T. Walsh in Nixon 
  61. Robert Downey Jr. in Richard III
  62. R. Lee Ermey in Seven
  63. Joe Don Baker in GoldenEye
  64. Kevin Pollack in The Usual Suspects
  65. Nick Wyman in Die Hard with a Vengeance
  66. Michael Gough in Batman Forever 
  67. Ernie Hudson in Congo
  68. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in Mortal Kombat
  69. Chazz Palminteri in The Usual Suspects 
  70. James Gandolfini in Get Shorty
  71. Dan Hedaya in To Die For
  72. Kenneth Griffith in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain 
  73. Robbie Coltrane in GoldenEye
  74. Don Rickles in Toy Story  
  75. Hugh Grant in Sense and Sensibility 
  76. Nathaniel Parker in Othello
  77. Ed Harris in Nixon
  78. Kurtwood Smith in To Die For
  79. Gottfried John in GoldenEye
  80. Jim Varney in Toy Story
  81. Michael J. Fox in The American President
  82. Bradley Whitford in Billy Madison
  83. Christopher Lambert in Mortal Kombat 
  84. Hugh Grant in Restoration
  85. Dennis Hopper in Waterworld
  86. Tom Sizemore in Heat
  87. John Ratzenberger in Toy Story 
  88. David Ogden Stiers in Pocahontas
  89. Trevor Goddard in Mortal Kombat 
  90. Don Rickles in Casino
  91. Jon Voight in Heat
  92. Wallace Shawn in Toy Story
  93. Val Kilmer in Heat
  94. Cheech Marin in Desperado
  95. Chris Cooper in Money Train 
  96. Rob Lowe in Tommy Boy
  97. Tom McGowan in Heavyweights
  98. Darren McGavin in Billy Madison 
  99. Linden Ashby in Mortal Kombat
  100. Tim Curry in Congo 
  101. Ian McNeice in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls 
  102. Jim Cummings in A Goofy Movie
  103. Steve Buscemi in Desperado
  104. F. Murray Abraham in Mighty Aphrodite
  105. Rob Paulsen in A Goofy Movie
  106. Donald Sutherland in Outbreak
  107. Ed Harris in Apollo 13
  108. Sean Connery in First Knight 
  109. Morgan Freeman in Outbreak 
  110. Bill Paxton in Apollo 13
  111. Josh Mostel in Billy Madison 
  112. Simon Callow in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
  113. Charles S. Dutton in Nick of Time
  114. Brian Dennehy in Tommy Boy
  115. Samuel West in Carrington
  116. David Alan Grier in Jumanji
  117. Kevin Gage in Heat
  118. Jon Polito in Bushwhacked
  119. Rip Torn in Canadian Bacon
  120. Rufus Sewell in Carrington
  121. Ben Cross in First Knight 
  122. Robert Blake in Money Train
  123. Joaquim de Almeida in Desperado
  124. Eric Bogosian in Under Siege 2: The Dark Territory 
  125. Martin Short in Father of the Bride Part II
  126. Alan Alda in Canadian Bacon
  127. Christopher Walken in Nick of Time 
  128. Steven Martini in Major Payne
  129. B.D. Wong in Father of the Bride Part II
  130. Bob Hoskins in Nixon
  131. Johnny Yong Bosch in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie
  132. George Wendt in Man of the House
  133. Grant Heslov in Congo 
  134. Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys 
  135. Eric Idle in Casper
  136. Morris Chestnut in Under Siege 2: The Dark Territory 
  137. Stephen Lang in The Amazing Panda Adventure 
  138. Dan Aykroyd in Tommy Boy
  139. Michael Rapaport in Mighty Aphrodite
  140. Orland Brown in Major Payne
  141. Joe Don Baker in Congo 
  142. William H. Macy in Mr. Holland's Opus
  143. Peter Gallagher in While You Were Sleeping
  144. Joe Pantoliano in Bad Boys
  145. George Newbern in Father of the Bride Part II 
  146. Jay Thomas in Mr. Holland's Opus 
  147. Steven Waddington in Carrington
  148. Paul Sorvino in Nixon 
  149. Charles S. Dutton in Cry, The Beloved Country
  150. Steve Cardenas in Might Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie
  151. David Yost in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie
  152. Victor Slezak in The Bridges of Madison County
  153. Jim Carrey in Batman Forever
  154. Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever 
  155. Armand Assante in Judge Dredd
  156. Rob Schneider in Judge Dredd
  157. Quentin Tarantino in Desperado 
  158. Michael Maloney in Othello
  159. Chris O'Donnell in Batman Forever
  160. Julian Sands in Leaving Las Vegas
Next Year: 1928

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1995: Gene Hackman in Get Shorty

Gene Hackman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harry Zimm in Get Shorty.

Get Shorty is an entertaining film about a mob enforcer Chili Palmer (John Travolta) attempting to make it in the movies which gets a bit complicated.

Gene Hackman plays the man who seems to potentially be Chili's "in" into the industry as a B-movie producer that Chili comes across due to the various debts the man owes. Now Hackman comes into the film, and instantly seems like he'll be a highlight of it just from the way he so earnestly ponders about what happened to the dog woman he's sleeping next to, though not sleeping with. Things only continue along this course for the rest of the film every time in which Hackman makes an appearance. Hackman interestingly does not really play Harry with much sleaze, though it would have been easy to see how the character could have gone that way, considering his shady dealings, and that some his actions are not exactly the most noble. Oddly enough Hackman plays Harry Zimm in a rather likable fashion, and it certainly would be easy enough for Hackman to go despicable since he's certainly quite good at that as well. Hackman instead plays Zimm with kinda of a twinkle of sorts in his eye as a wannabe Hollywood player himself, just the strange thing happens to be that Harry has managed to fairly successful in his making of B-movie creature features.

Hackman's performance is actually rather essential for Harry working as a character, or at least making much sense in his existence. Harry again is kinda sleazy in his own short cuts at getting ahead, as it does not even seem like he's above potentially selling someone else out, and obviously has difficulties with his own abundance of debts, yet Harry is indeed left standing by the end of the film with no one seeming to mind him in fact many seem to like him. Again this works because of Hackman's endearing portrayal of Harry with this certain constant energy of his presence. Hackman makes Harry very active with this whole up beat quality to him that is more inspiring than off-putting, as Harry is always trying to work some sort of angle which Hackman handles in with an engaging vigor about it. What's so good about this is that Harry not very good what he does, and Hackman is so much fun in basically putting a smile on Harry's face every time he falls flat on that same face with every foolish decision he makes. The audience and Chili probably should hate Harry for all his shenanigans, but due to the way that Hackman portrays them you never do, and it is convincing that Chili doesn't either.

Hackman is a hoot here and the remarkable thing is just how effortless Hackman is in achieving that. Hackman makes Harry a hilarious character yet there is never a time when Hackman seems to actively be trying for laughs, it always feels very much within what should be Harry's behavior in any given situation. This works so well because of how vividly Hackman manages to draw Harry as character. Hackman ends being funny just by making Harry be Harry, and his behavior just ends up being comedic gold. This is particularly needed for one part of the story where Harry deals with one of Chili's gangster associates. Harry tries to act tough with the guy over the phone, Hackman who certainly can be quite intimidating when he wants to be, is just wonderful in not being menacing in the least as Harry is all bluster in his attempt to be tough guy. This leads quite quickly to Harry being brutally beaten ending up with two broken hands as well as several bruises. This scene potentially could have messed up the film's tone but Hackman manages to maintain it by making the beaten Harry just so amusing, while in no way underplaying the amount of pain he suffered. Hackman just always finds the right approach for the material, and this is yet just another strong performance from the great actor.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1995: Patrick McGoohan, Angus Macfayden, and David O'Hara in Braveheart

Patrick McGoohan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying King Edward "Longshanks" in Braveheart.

Patrick McGoohan's character and performance is on the opposite end of Mel Gibson's work as the Scottish hero William Wallace. Where Wallace is the romantic hero, fighting for love lost, and proper freedom, King Edward known as Longshanks in turn is a proper villain for such a man. This right down to directly wanting to undermine Wallace's desires as he wants to rule Scotland along with England as well as his first act in the film is to grant Prima Nocta to his nobles, giving them sexual rights to Scottish brides before their husbands. Now with that it must be said that Longshanks is not going to be the most subtly drawn character in the film, in fact if you don't know he's the villain by the first time you see him the film ensure that by making his first act, off screen, being the hangings of a large group of men and boys. This can be clearly seen within McGoohan's performance as well, who discards his usual very refined and deeper voice for something a bit more high pitched and thin suggesting a certain madness just in the sound itself, and instead of being dignified in his usual way there always seems to be just something a bit off in Longshanks is demeanor due to McGoohan's performance.

Now with that said this might very well be a love it or hate it performance as McGoohan throws caution to the wind going all out in depicting Longshanks as the villain, I would argue, the film needs, for the style it takes in delivering the epic story of William Wallace. It must not be a villain who just kinda seems like a guy whose not very nice, no he has to be the tyrant that becomes a personification of the evils of the English from the story. The funny thing is I always have known McGoohan best for his depiction of the Scarecrow/Dr. Syn in the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh(where he would probably make my actor line up that year if I could ever find the original film cut of it) where he played a masked hero fighting against a King of England. This time though he is the King, and an evil one at that, perhaps trying to be the most evil one, though in characters from films in 1995 itself he has some stiff competition from Richard III. Like Ian McKellen's work in that film, McGoohan embraces the evil to its fullest extent throwing himself into making Edward the foe worthy of our hero William Wallace. McGoohan goes about realizing the same sort of grandeur in his performance that is above the vile nature of mere mortals, this is an evil King after all, he has to take it to another level.

McGoohan oozes a palatable menace in his role as his eyes seem to suggest that Longshanks is merely holding back an even more deranged individual behind his regal composure. Even a glance from him seem to be a curse from him as there is nothing but a hateful disregard in him for all things other than himself. McGoohan is curiously unstable while being stable in his role. He keeps Longshanks for the majority of the film as a very sturdy and extremely imposing figure as his presence lords over any scene in which he appears. Within that though there is a unpredictable sort of intensity that perpetuates in any given scene as though the only thing that tempers Longshanks psychopathy is the his position as King, though improves his ability to harm others, because there rarely are moments where Longshanks is comfortable within himself. Even when he tells his original plan to breed out the Scots, and all his advisers agree, McGoohan produces such a venom as Longshanks bites back at their sycophantic behavior. McGoohan does not play Longshanks as a man who simply hates the Scots, or hates people who oppose his power. No, instead McGoohan portrays him as a man who hates everyone, and is most comfortable in the act of brutally killing his foes.

I rather love McGoohan's take of embracing the evil of Longshanks. I particularly enjoy the way he produces that nagging cough of Longshanks that grows throughout the film, that McGoohan makes a very unpleasant wheeze fitting for more of a monster than a man. Now it is far to argue that it is not exactly the most subtle approach, but there's times for subtlety as well as times to go for something a little bigger. McGoohan does this with his performance. Now that is not even to say there is not a certain complexity that McGoohan brings to the part. His character really has one true purpose, but I don't think it is still quite as thin as all that. McGoohan never makes it as though Longshanks is just of one mind, though his unsaid though most likely psychopathy is the motivating factor for the character that McGoohan establishes. In his scenes with his son, the weak willed Edward II, McGoohan depicts an accepted fear in Longshanks as he knows his son will not be able to keep his power, and there is a desperation that McGoohan depicts as Longshanks attempts to get his son to be the King he wants him to be. McGoohan does find variation within the evil King, and his successes in the film feel earned as McGoohan realizes so well the cunning of a King. He's excellent in the only scene where Longshanks is in battle, and McGoohan shows a man who is the absolute champion of the battlefield without raising an arm as he's already defeated Wallace before the battle began. McGoohan makes Longshanks the perfect villain for the film making his final scene so satisfying as McGoohan reveals almost the wretched insides of the man, as he is falling into a despair, while it appears all that he built in his time will splinter in his death.
Angus Macfadyen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Robert the Bruce in Braveheart.

Now if one desires a more modestly drawn work look no further than Angus Macfadyen who plays a prominent Scottish noble who is the strongest contender to become King of Scotland. The story of Robert in the film is the most complicated journey for a character in the film, as Wallace is bent directly on one task freedom, Robert due to his position is forced to deal with the politics of Scotland more delicately. Macfadyen plays Robert with the appropriate charisma in his early scenes not as a clear hero like Wallace, but rather a more refined individual who probably is more suited for a long term leadership than a firebrand like Wallace. To complicate things even more for Robert is that he must deal with his perhaps even more ambitious father (Ian Bannen), who is suffering from leprosy and wants to see his son crowned King of Scotland. Macfadyen is very good in his scenes with Bannen as he portrays Robert's understanding, and willingness to heed his father's more compromising advice in a fashion that does not paint Robert as a fool, Macfadyen, and Bannen in the scenes realizes the two well as men who are thinking in a more complex fashion than most of the players in Scotland, and England, as the two show the men measuring every step of every other man in order to know exactly when and how to make their move.

Macfadyen though presents Robert as a man who makes his moves carefully, he importantly does also establish early on that he is more than just one of the other power or land hungry lords that we see in the rest of the film. In an early scene where Robert describes Wallace's efforts Macfadyen reveals a palatable desire to break out in a similair way to Wallace, and to join Wallace's cause. Of course his father's advice wins out, but Macfadyen keeps this as a understated factor in Robert as he conveys the similair sentiments that motivate Wallace though just no in not such an extroverted fashion. MacFadyen is excellent in the first scene where Robert and Wallace directly interact as Robert attempts to convince Wallace to compromise while Wallace tries to convince Robert not to. What's so strong about Macfadyen's performance is again he does not leave Robert just as this weaker soul who needs to be schooled by Wallace. Macfadyen does not allow this with his portrayal of Robert as he brings an genuine passion and manages to be quite persuasive in his attempts to make Wallace basically understand the more finer details when it comes to the control of power in a country. This makes it all the more earned in MacFadyen subdued though incredibly effective reaction as Wallace urges Robert to be the man he could be.

Of course other matters seem to dictate a different course as he takes his father's course instead and backs Longshanks during a battle with Wallace going so far as to even ride with Longshanks himself. Macfadyen realizes so well the heartbreak and guilt in Robert when Wallace confronts him directly, as Macfadyen does not just show him to be a mad saddened by the defeat of a man he admired, the death he allowed, but the most pain seems to come from the shame that he was not able to be the man Wallace believed he could be. Macfayden creates the intensity of Robert's despair powerfully by again having this undercurrent of that passion Robert desperately wants to embrace, though forces himself to deny due to continuing to follow his father's advice for compromise. Macfadyen never simplifies the conflict in Robert making his personal arc come to life which is pivotal to the film. Robert ends up being the insurance of the film in a way since Wallace's own story ends in rather tragic circumstances, which leaves only Robert left to fight for the freedom Wallace desired as well as the only person who can make the film an inspiring instead of depressing note.

This is all left to the final scene of the film which begins with Robert accepting his position as King, though with the stipulation that he will still bow down to English. Macfayden is outstanding in this scene in almost a completely silent moment as he effectively portraying Robert going over the decision in his mind, and seeming as he will possibly once again compromise. Then there is that moment of the choice that is so beautifully rendered as he has Robert finally become the man Wallace believed he could be. Macfadyen reveals the full fiery passion, that was always there, in Robert in his speech to the Scottish army. It is only nine words long but I actually find it to be the most rousing of all the speeches in the film, amplified so well by Macfadyden's eyes and voice as you can see that same spirit that fueled Wallace as Robert speaks the words "You have bled with Wallace. Now bleed with me.". Macfadyen is gives a great performance by creating such a poignant portrait, not of the romantic hero like Wallace who already has the will attempt to lead the people to freedom to begin with, but rather of a man who must gain the strength to become the hero who can accomplish Wallace's dream.
David O'Hara did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Stephen of Ireland in Braveheart.

Now let's go away from Kings to a soldier on a ground brought to life a character of a character actor David O'Hara, who can steal a scene so well that he stole a whole character away from an actor in about 10 minutes that another actor had eight different films to play. O'Hara here plays a late addition to Wallace's army after Wallace has made a name for himself through his various successful attacks against the English armies in Scotland. While once again David O'Hara puts character in character acting in his first appearance as he and another man arrive to join Wallace's campaign. Stephen though acts a bit differently than the other man who is just another Scot eager for freedom it seems. No Stephen hails from Ireland and inquires if joining Wallace will mean he can kill English. Stephen though seems to be at least a little off his rocker, though perhaps only in the way of a proper warrior poet. After all Stephen often engages in conversations with the almighty, considering God to be his only equal, does not mind referring to all of Ireland simply as his island, and one of his earliest acts is to threaten one of Wallace's men when they attempt question his sanity. Now such a character could easily becoming a bit too much and very could have a been a risk in the film, that risk was instantly squashed though through the casting of O'Hara.

O'Hara is so wonderfully demented in the role and manages to so well make Stephen form of insanity something quite endearing to behold. O'Hara brings so much just in those eyes of his which seem as sharp and piercing as the knife he most commonly brandishes, this goes along with a such a bright and wide smile only fitting for a man who converses with the creator, and just a laugh that is so well delivered by O'Hara as a glorious cackle only fitting for a true mad man. O'Hara, unlike the other two performances I have highlighted, does not really have any scenes to himself, he's rarely not in the presence of Wallace with usually something more important going one around him. What O'Hara instead has at his disposal are a series of moments strewn throughout the film. Whenever the film decides to cut to Stephen O'Hara never wastes a gesture or breath in offering whatever Stephen decides to add to the situation. Stephen always off a bit of off-kilter commentary in his brief moments that always stand out well thanks to O'Hara marvelous work, I've always particularly loved his little aside to Wallace when they're hunkered down due to arrows.

Any sequence in which Stephen appears gets an extra bit of color thanks to O'Hara who makes Stephen a constant source of entertainment. Now although O'Hara is a lot of fun in the role, but that is not all there is to his work. As Wallace's campaigns become less successful and as Edward begins to gain the upper hand O'Hara adjusts his performance appropriately, as Stephen becomes one of the few allies to Wallace to neither die or betray him. O'Hara matches the changing and darker tone of the film perfectly, without ever seeming out of place. In fact O'Hara ends up being quite moving in just offering very sympathetic and wholly genuine reactions to the worst moments particularly Wallace's torture. Now technically Stephen could be erased from the film and the film would go on, though as a whole it would be less. O'Hara's performance here is an example of just what a talented character actor can do.In just a bit of time sprinkled throughout the film O'Hara makes his impact, delivering in creating a memorable character out of a minor role that makes Braveheart a better film by his mere presence.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1995: Don Cheadle in Devil in a Blue Dress

Don Cheadle did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a SAG, for portraying Mouse Alexander in Devil in a Blue Dress.

Devil in a Blue Dress is a decent enough neo-noir about an unemployed man Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins (Denzel Washington) who takes on a job to find a mysterious woman, but things are naturally not as easy as they seem.

Don Cheadle, despite often being the most noted element of the film, actually does not make his full appearance until the film's final act, other than very briefly hearing his voice in a quick flashback. Cheadle suddenly appears to pull Easy out of a tight spot well after the case has become sordid enough that his own life is on the line. Luckily for Easy Mouse appears wielding two handguns that quickly calms Easy's assailant's aggression. Well once Mouse appears there's only one question that has to be asked, where's Mouse been the whole film? Cheadle in just a few seconds becomes the most interesting thing about the film, and the film is not a bad film otherwise. Cheadle though instantly establishes Mouse's personal style so well from the moment he appears. Cheadle carries himself as though he is a true bad ass in the way he points his gun, and just carries this menacing demeanor as though he is ready to kill any man who dares to cross him one way or another. Cheadle makes the whole thing have this certain ease about it though as though Mouse is the smoothest gunslinger in the old west, the only problem being that Mouse is far from the old west in both space and time.

Of course Mouse is about as problematic as he is useful because of his certain way of dealing with things, one of his first acts in the film is to shoot a man in the arm in order to interrogate him. Cheadle makes for a great hot head by making something quite alarming about Mouse, actually because Mouse isn't as good as he thinks he is. Cheadle is interesting in the way he plays it as though Mouse almost has to get too into that image Mouse has for himself. There is a certain desperation that Cheadle realizes in the whole performance of Mouse's that he pulls off in quite the interesting way. What Cheadle does so well is instead of making this simply make Mouse seem pathetic, and nonthreatening, Cheadle makes Mouse all the more dangerous seeming through his more pitiful qualities because there's such an intensity he brings with Mouse as he is someone who always seems like he has something to prove. One of my favorite moments in Cheadle's performance is when Easy has to calm a drunk Mouse down as he threatens to shoot Easy. Cheadle is great as he manages to be rather funny in portraying Mouse, even when drunk, still putting up that tough guy front, while still keeping a sense of danger as drunk Mouse seems more willing than ever to shoot someone.

What Cheadle capturs so well, and is essential to the part of Mouse is just how unpredictable he is. In his interactions with Easy, when nothing he really going on, Cheadle brings such a friendly demeanor to the man that is wholly honest. What's so good is about Cheadle's work is that he feels just as honest when Mouse threatens to shoot Easy. Mouse can go all over the place in a moments notice and Cheadle makes every one of these transitions, no matter how extreme, wholly natural because of his performance. What's also so remarkable about this is that even with all of his random behavior, which at times presents Mouse as quite the morally dubious man, Cheadle someone how makes him endearing possibly because of just how genuine of a mess that Cheadle makes the guy who can go from your best friend to your worst enemy at a moments notice. Now one could question how little Cheadle is in the actual film. He's only in that last third and even then he's used somewhat sparingly. Although I would have loved to see more of Cheadle's Mouse to begin with, Cheadle certainly does his best to make up for his late entrance. Not only does he makes the most memorable character in the film, in a very short amount of time, he also importantly energizes the last act by becoming the wild card the story needs.