Sunday, 30 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976: Ron Howard in The Shootist

Ron Howard did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Gillom Rogers in The Shootist.

Ron Howard for some reason was the only actor to receive any recognition for film, although maybe just the Globes really like him. Howard's role here marks one of his last notable roles as an actor as it was just around this time as he was focusing more on being director. This role isn't any major departure from his earlier work other than The Shootist is a bit more dramatic than either Happy Days or The Andy Griffith Show. Howard's performance early enough seems right in his usual repertoire with his enthusiastic, perhaps overly enthusiastic delivery to most everything. To be fair to Howard though it fits the character of Gillom who's basically in the process of hero worshiping J.B. Books (John Wayne) from a distance. Howard plays Gillom just as a fan boy basically in the early scene where he discovers that his mother's new tenant is such a man that he dreams he would like to be. Howard importantly does not go too far this and just naturally portrays the admiration in Gillom for Books that technically is shallow though certainly pure.

Howard does well enough of portraying this adoration of Books, without overplaying too much, and nicely has just some slight other moments to give Gillom just a bit of variation in personality so he's not purely defined by that, even though that's mostly the point of his character. Although at first the young Gillom is mostly just getting his kicks from his slight interactions with Books, as well as his interaction with anything possibly associated with him. Eventually though Books allows Gillom to go shooting with him, and after they try Howard portrays Gillom as being appropriately cocky after he shoots almost nearly as well as the legendary gunfighter. This leads Books to let Gillom know about the truth behind killing man, which has more to do with will than accuracy. The scene belong unquestionably to Wayne, but Howard does offer some fine support in portraying the way the initial cockiness runs from Gillom face, as he begins to portray a more honest understanding of Gillom towards Books as a man instead of a legend.

Books eventually has Gillom gather the local wannabe gunmen who would not mind to gain the fame from ending the life of the legendary Books. This leads to a final showdown which stands in Books favor it was not for another shooter in the mix, which causes Gillom to step in and live out the moment that he no doubt fantasized in the past. Howard actually is very good in this moment giving the appropriately emotional intensity as Gillom shoots the man, as he portrays that will of conviction to kill in the moment, not for personal glory though but rather something rawer since he's only doing to avenge Books. Howard continues to be very effective as he portrays Gillom sudden realization of what it feels to kill, and shows the complete lack of glory in the moment. I will say much of his performance Howard does not make that much of an impact, although his performance works just fine in the context of what he is given to do. I'll give credit where it is due though since he does give some of the needed power to the pivotal final scenes of the film through his performance.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1976

And the Nominees Were Not:

Hal Holbrook in All The President's Men

Carl Weathers in Rocky

Robert Duvall in Network

Robert Shaw in Robin and Marian

Chief Dan George in The Outlaw Josey Wales 

As Well As:

Ron Howard in The Shootist

Marty Feldman in Silent Movie

Friday, 28 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976: Results

5. Gregory Peck in The Omen - Gregory Peck gives an effective and honest performance which manages to ground the rather extreme nature of his film.

Best Scene: Learning of his wife's fate.
4. Robert Redford in All The President's Men - Redford never is lost in the procedural as his performance amplifies the story while still managing to find his character.

Best Scene: Handling two calls at once. 
3. David Carradine in Bound For Glory - Carradine gives a rather unique and memorable depiction of a one of a kind sort.

Best Scene: Reading the fortune.
2. John Wayne in The Shootist - Wayne gives a wonderful and moving performance worthy as a sendoff for his legendary career.

Best Scene: Books tells the truth about gunfighters.
1. Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales - Good Prediction Anonymous. In the end this year came down to three performances I have about equal affection for, and even now I'll admit my overall could easily switch back to Finch when I re-watch Network, but for the moment my favorite is Eastwood. There are certainly plenty of classic Eastwood moments to be found, but his portrayal goes beyond that. This performance takes the step more though as Eastwood realizes both the viciousness and the tragedy that comes from Wales's violent past with his surprisingly poignant work..

Best Scene: Wales returns to the wounded boy.
Overall Rank:
  1. Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales
  2. Peter Finch in Network
  3. John Wayne in The Shootist
  4. David Carradine in Bound For Glory
  5. Jack Nicholson in Missouri Breaks 
  6. Robert Redford in All the President's Men
  7. Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man
  8. Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver 
  9. Bruce Dern in Family Plot
  10. William Holden in Network 
  11. Gene Wilder in Silver Streak 
  12. Walter Matthau in The Bad News Bears
  13. Dustin Hoffman in All The President's Men
  14. Gregory Peck in The Omen 
  15. Clint Eastwood in The Enforcer
  16. Woody Allen in The Front 
  17. Roman Polanski in The Tenant
  18. Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther Strikes Again 
  19. William Devane in Family Plot
  20. Mel Brooks in Silent Movie
  21. Cliff Robertson in Obsession
  22. Sylvester Stallone in Rocky
  23. Marlon Brando in Missouri Breaks
  24. Jeff Bridges in King Kong
Next Year: 1976 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1976: Robert Redford in All The President's Men

Robert Redford did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bob Woodward in All the President's Men.

All the President's Men depicts the efforts of two Washington post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) to connect the Watergate break in with the White House. The film takes the approach of following the story closely, and technically speaking not bothering too much with the characters of the reporters. The film never stops for a character moment for either of them rather going straight forward with the investigation, but the film never suffers for it. This actually leaves the characters of Woodward and Bernstein mostly just up to Redford and Hoffman. Hoffman gives a good, kinda more classic star investigator sort of performance as he plays up Bernstein as a slick charmer who uses this method to get the information that he needs. Redford can be a charismatic performer, but his take on Woodward I find to be the more interesting of the two performers, as he brings a bit more of the character out within his performance. Again though this is all within the very specific nature of the film that never stops to let either of us know a little more about either reporter.

Woodward does actually have a bit of a personal story within the rest of it all, but it is all within the main investigation. The film opens with Woodward not as a particularly important reporter for the Washington Post, and Redford simply plays the early scenes as Woodward more or less going about his job. There is nothing particular special about it, other than the confusion and intrigue that Redford conveys in him as there appears to be something rather strange about the men who were arrested for an attempted break in. As the story develops though this appears to not be the case causing Bernstein to join, although their initial meeting comes from Bernstein's criticism of Woodward's original article. Redford is very good in portraying the quiet yet firm defensiveness in Woodward as his credibility as a journalist is questioned in anyway. This is not something that the film dwells upon but Redford after this point begins to play Woodward as a bit more of an incisive personality as though he is making sure he does not lose any step with the somewhat more seasoned Bernstein as they continue on the investigation together.

In the scene between the two together Redford shapes the difference in Woodward well who he makes even more to the point than Bernstein who's method is more gradual which is emphasized all the more through Hoffman's charm focused turn. Redford is very effective in his realization of Woodward's approach while even managing to attach in it a way to Woodward's seems to be purposefully proving himself against the way Bernstein could possibly view him as out of his element. In this way Redford portrays this as somewhat mechanical in the way he projects a certain coldness about Woodward when he makes certain particularly incisive remarks around Bernstein, and it is interesting to note that Redford only does this in his scenes with Hoffman. Redford makes Woodward blunt statements as almost a way in which he is cutting off Bernstein's routine somewhat, or at least in a way playing off of it by in a way being the bad cop to Bernstein's good cop who always pretends to be the person's friend no matter what. Redford creates this dynamic which importantly creates a certain distance between the men's personalities.

Redford creates that small personal of arc of Woodward, but also is pivotal in just amplifying every positive element of the film such as realizing the sense of paranoia in the scene where Woodward meets his most confidential source. Redford helps to amplify the performance he's working in there by showing the way every new, potentially dangerous information arises, that Woodward is shaken not as a reporter but also a man. Of course the meat of the film is really the conversations with named individuals that reveal more information and which technically are just people talking often just over the phone. The amazing part of the film is these manage to be quite captivating to watch even with their simplicity. A part of the credit for this should belong to Redford. Redford's performance works so well in making them as engaging as they are by reflecting so well the meaning of each so well in his performance. Even with the act of talking and taking notes, Redford is excellent in his depiction of the slight reactions of Woodward that manage to convey all that Woodward's going through during the conversations. Whether it is the exasperation of a failed lead, the switching from friendly to confrontational in the conversation, and just the small moments of excitement when something new is uncovered. One particular great sequence comes from just a one shot of Woodward handling two conversations at once. Redford is exceptional to the point that even though he actually messed up a line, he manage to carry it naturally into the conversation. Redford does great work here because he avoids any detachment that was possible given that really there isn't much to the character of Bob Woodward. Redford finds what there is between the lines, and most importantly makes him always feel like a real guy investigating this even if we don't ever see what he does when he's not working.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976: Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales

Clint Eastwood did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the title character of The Outlaw Josey Wales.

The Outlaw Josey Wales is a compelling western about a confederate soldier who refuses to let the war end well after it is over.

Looking at the role at a glance might cause one to believe it to be simply a standard Eastwood western role, which in itself is nothing to scoff at as Eastwood usually gives good performances in such circumstances. Eastwood's "standard" roles started out as the more sardonic badass in the Dollars trilogy as well as a other westerns he appeared in. When he started directing these himself there began a shift and Eastwood started to become a bit darker of a figure in the film, although that original iteration wasn't wiped away all that quickly. This certainly can be seen in the character of Josey Wales who we follow in his attempted escape to Mexico after every other member of the confederate army has surrendered except him. During this time we are treated to some classic Eastwood quips along the way, and Eastwood delivers these flawlessly as per usual. The one about pullin' pistols or whistlin' Dixie is particularly smooth and impeccably executed. As usual as well Eastwood brings the dead pan humor into the line deliveries brilliantly, and most often with just his often rather hilarious reactions to anyone possibly buffoonery around him, it is all indeed some classic Eastwood.

To continue on this point Eastwood once again finds that particular way that only he can quite do. Eastwood has considerable charisma, and even charm, but it's all in his own way and on his own terms. A Eastwood performance never feels like it's purposefully trying to charm you, but nevertheless he just kinda does anyways. Eastwood does not make any exceptions for old Josey Wales in fact in this film in particular Eastwood makes no excuses for his character, and does not make an obvious attempts at an obvious likability really, which I will get to in more detail a little later on. Again though that Eastwood presence is so remarkable in the way carry every scene so effortlessly while being so minimalist at the same time. Eastwood is a master of this, and Eastwood as a director knows how to amplify it all the more as he always holds attention in every scene even when Wales might only have a single action. Eastwood is an actor who really does just so much with just a twitch of the eye, and of course this could not be more fitting to the character of Wales who is all about his rather simple actions or his few words just before he draws his guns.

Now being an Eastwood directed western the character is much darker than his earlier characters like the man with no name. Of course this is a requirement for the role of Josey Wales, given his past which I will be getting to soon. Eastwood though is outstanding though in the sheer viciousness he realizes in his character. The potential for violence for the man always feels possible, and it's quite interesting what Eastwood is able to accomplish with his performance. Eastwood creates much of the tension of the film with his performance, of course he creates all of it being the director as well, but he does so much as a performer. In his realization of Josey Wales's personal style he presents essentially a ticking time bomb in every scene where it appears that Josey might face someone, or even some when he might not. There's a calm insurance in Eastwood's work fitting for a man who's being killing for so long that now that's all that he really knows how to do. In this calmness though Eastwood realizes such an intensity by making death seemingly one of the few ways in which Josey knows how to end an a conversation with. Although he's our hero for the film, there is something chilling Eastwood finds in this method, particularly in one cold interaction with a bounty hunter with a case of temporary cold feet.

Now much of what I have written so far can be skewed as more typical Eastwood, although that should not be taken for granted considering the effectiveness of that to begin with as well as this is one of the very best example of it. Nevertheless this role is a bit different as opposed to many a Eastwood western hero we actually find out what compels Josey Wales to be such an efficient killer. The film opening Eastwood is terrific in presenting just an average optimistic man who in just a couple of minutes. What's even more amazing though is how affecting Eastwood actually is in making the quick deaths of Josey's family meaningful, as the grief he portrays is quite palatable, and there is never a question that it could lead Josey to become the bitter man we meet after the opening credits. We don't see the whole transformation, as we come back after the civil war is already over, but we do see the end result. Eastwood's characters tend to be sardonic and not really care about the men he kills, though with Wales Eastwood takes it a tad further through his portrayal of the character's personal vendetta. When he kills the men there is a particular powerful hate that Eastwood exudes, particularly in the uncaring way he mocks all his kills with a spit of messy tobacco where their corpses lie.

This is not Eastwood portraying a soulless killer by any means. Not only because he's the hero, but the most remarkable aspect of his work here is how emotional he makes the character actually. Of course this is in the emotion more becoming of killer which is hate, that Eastwood portrays as quite abundant, but that's not really who Wales in Eastwood's portrayal of him. During his journey to Mexico to escape the authorities there are people Wales connects with in more way than giving them an extra bit of lead. One of these relationships is with a younger rebel who happened to be part of a botched surrender, and goes some of the way with Josey. The boy is injured though and eventually succumbs to his wounds. Eastwood is incredible in the moment of the boy's death as Eastwood reveals perhaps the true Josey in that there is such sadness in the man, as one of his few friends have gone, and seems to suggest that the man's callousness is at least partially a facade. In that moment, and a few others where Josey is pressed to care, Eastwood is quite moving revealing a vulnerability in the man as though he needs to be such a sardonic killer or else he would simply break down crying from the memories of all that he's lost. Instead of the film ending in an arbitrary fashion of the outlaw merely getting away from his pursuers, Eastwood rather wonderfully reveals a return of the heart of the character by the end. Although it is clear that he will never be the same man he was in the opening scene, Eastwood earns the way a more outward returns to the man, and that death no longer seems to be the man's only belief in regards to life. This is a great performance by Eastwood as he brings depth and also a surprising amount of poignancy to his portrait of this hardened old west outlaw.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976: David Carradine in Bound For Glory

David Carradine did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory.

Bound For Glory is a beautifully shot and well told story of the early days of folk singer Woody Guthrie's career.

The nominees for best picture for 1976 were the winner Rocky, Network, Taxi Driver, and All The President's Men. Each of these films are now considered bonafide American classics (personal opinions aside), but of course there were five nominees the fifth being Bound For Glory which for has become the forgotten selection. Perhaps it is Bound For Glory rather low key style that has pushed it into obscurity or maybe that it stars a lesser known actor than those other films since the star is David Carradine. Carradine does have notoriety as more of a cult actor through his work on the television series Kung-Fu, and more recently in Kill Bill, which Kung-Fu likely contributed to him getting that part. There's no Kung-Fu of any kind to be found in Bound for Glory though, although interestingly enough this performance is not truly all that far from his Caine in Kung-Fu, particularly not in the early scenes of the film where it shows Woody just trying to get a read on what he should do for his life. This mostly depicts Woody as he goes about his Midwestern town, spending time playing guitar, visiting with other locals, his family or his girlfriend (Melinda Dillon).

In these scenes Carradine actually plays Woody as a bit of sage of the Midwest in his particular way he acts towards life. There is a certain otherworldly quality that Carradine is able to manage within his portrayal of Woody. It is not that he is above human or anything in anyway like that, but rather Carradine finds a grace in the simplicity of the man. There's one very memorable early on when Woody is told to give a woman wasting away a fortune. Carradine is brilliant in this scene as Woody is in no way giving the woman a fortune in reality, in fact he's not even really pretending to give her one rather just telling her things that are realistic truths. Even within these words though Carradine captures almost something mystical within the calm and reassuring way that Woody manages to break the woman out of her daze. Although in a way he is moving about in these early scenes Carradine does not play this as Caine from Kung-Fu. Carradine doesn't necessarily do an exact imitation of the real Woody Guthrie but more importantly he manages to capture the essence of his optimistic spirit through the easy going demeanor that Carradine establishes.

Naturally being a film about a musician there are more than a few musical performances by Carradine throughout the film. The film actually chooses to let these sequences play out in a particular subdued way. They are never there to exactly be the center of attention in any given scene. Carradine in turn does not over accentuate any moment of his performance, and in no way changes, not really even his voice, when he goes about playing a song. Carradine shows so well is that the songs of this fluidity about them in the way he performs and sings them. They are Woody's natural state of being really, and the way the song comes out always feels in an unrehearsed fashion. He might as well just continue speaking when he sings, not due to the manner of his singing, but rather because Carradine makes it actually as though that is when Woody is able to connect most with people around him. This ends up being Woody's calling, when his unique manner as a man prevents him from being able to find any sort of steady work otherwise. Woody then goes about taking to the road, and seeing what there is for him in the rest of America.

Along the way through America Woody sees many of the former farmers turned into poorly treated pickers who often try to make their way through the train yard, where they find a non too sympathetic group of company men. Carradine is very effective in being a reactionary presence as seeing their difficult lives and often brutal treatment seems to offer him a specific purpose. Carradine expresses well a loss in actually that sort of optimism he had before, and Carradine plays it as though really perhaps Woody knows nothing of the real plight of people. It is interesting portrayal because Carradine actually makes Woody more down to earth as the film progresses as he learns more about the world. This even when Woody begins to find success where Carradine makes the biggest impact through Woody's playing. It no longer seems as part of him in either way really. When performing what he wishes to perform Carradine brings a greater drive presenting an intriguing way the powerful passion that develops in Woody for the cause, that's still within his unassuming personality though nevertheless quite palatable. His performances though are also quite a bit different when he is forced to play his songs, but only his songs that are without any overt sort of social statement. Again Carradine is terrific because he does not compromise the way he has set up Woody, even though Woody is forced to go against his nature. Carradine creates the considerable discontent and distaste in Woody in a striking fashion, while still in a subtle way fitting his subtle man. The final act of the film does not exactly resolve everything for Woody as he is still stuck between worlds it seems through his growing success as a singer, and his desire to fight for the plight of the less fortunate. This might have felt far more arbitrary of an ending if it were not for Carradine's performance. He realizes so well the personal style and philosophy of Woody that is that of the drifter in both mind and body, who could never be set in one place because that's simply isn't who he is. Carradine gives strong work here giving a memorable and unique portrait of the folk singer.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1976: John Wayne in The Shootist

John Wayne did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Bernard "J.B." Books in The Shootist.

The Shootist is an interesting film about the last days of a famed gunfighter, although I don't believe it quite reaches the heights that seem possible from its central idea.

The last film of an actors career can sometimes be unmemorable in that it just is another film in their filmography like The Harder They Fall for Humphrey Bogart, it sometimes can be quite memorable for the wrong reasons like Bela Lugosi in Plan 9 From Outer Space where it is an unfortunate indication of where their career ended up, or it can seem like the right final showcase for their talent that seems like a final reflection on their career. Clark Gable had this with The Misfits, Burt Lancaster had this with Field of Dreams, but perhaps the most perfect example of this has to be John Wayne's last film being the Shootist. Wayne was always known best for his work in westerns, and it's fitting for that last film to be in that genre. This takes a step further than that since the central character is dying from cancer, unfortunately what Wayne would die of a few years after this film. Not only that but in a way the story of J.B. Books seems to be that of many a John Wayne character and in way this is both a sendoff for Wayne, and for all those various western heroes he played throughout his career.

Every time I've covered John Wayne outside of his Oscar nominations they've been for somewhat atypical performances for Wayne. The first being the Quiet Man as the romantic lead where he played a guy whose problems came from his refusal to fight, and the other being for The Searches where he was the lead in a western but as a much harder and colder man than usual. That is not the case with this film as J.B. Books feels like the end to a more typical John Wayne villain. The film has a certain dark edge to it, but it in itself isn't all that dark. Books's life is not that of William Munny from Unforgiven, Ryunosuke from The Sword of Doom, or even Wayne's own Ethan Edwards where the violence of the men was most often a result of their own selfishness or viciousness. It's made known that Books only kills people who break one of his few personal rules, and as well that he even spent time as a law man. This is not unlike the more typical Wayne character, and this is John Wayne style John Wayne performance. Of course in the war films and the westerns the effectiveness and strength of the typical Wayne could vary, sometimes it would work, sometimes less so, luckily The Shootist is the very best John Wayne John Wayne performance I've seen.

Wayne is especially on here to say the least as he just has this grander larger than life quality often what he seems to be striving for in his performances, and this is fitting quite well to the man of J.B. Books who is considered the living legend, the last great gunfighter. Wayne carries himself well with this in man as his whole stature and manner here feels that of such a man. Wayne's presence is in his usual way but stronger than in any other film as this sort of man. There just is something more remarkable here as Wayne brings something extra as though Books is not like those previous characters, but instead seemed to have been everyone meaning he's lived quite a life. There is a gracefulness evident here that seems indicative of his ways as a shootist. Whenever he does deal with someone with the gun Wayne plays these scenes perfectly by not giving any hesitation or fear in Books, instead he portrays Books as being basically a professional in the way he takes down any opponent. What Wayne does not put in though is any sort of sadism in Books as again this is a John Wayne type of character, and the film presents every man he kills as basically making the first move against him, although this is not to say that it's quite the simple within Wayne's performance.

I would not necessarily put John Wayne as one of the most charming actors of all time, that was never exactly part of his appeal, but here Wayne really is incredibly charming. It's an intriguing one though as Wayne again does not feel that different from his earlier similair performances, but it seems as though he learned from all those earlier work as he makes himself charming within the rough and tough sort of character. Wayne just seems to hit his mark every time in this film as his little bit of humor thrown in here or there in some of his banter in dealing with phonies or just other folk works especially well here. All the old Wayne tricks and touches are here, but Wayne makes them the best he's  Wayne has a generous amount of warmth in his performance here and his chemistry with Lauren Bacall as local inn keep named Bond is surprisingly effective. It's not romantic chemistry in this case, but rather just a honest feeling companionship that they develop. Wayne is wonderful in their more tender moments together as he shows quite clearly a love of life within in Books, and that the cancer that's killing him is no way a blessing, even with so many gunning for his life, rather Wayne shows he's a man who has enjoyed his time on earth even though it has not always been easy.

The film is not a depressing requiem as there is something very encouraging about Books right until his last scene in the film. There is that darker edge within there and this mostly comes from Wayne's own work. Although Wayne is quite moving in portraying that enjoyment of life in Books, that is not all there is when Bacall's character does press him a bit more on his life and what exactly it has lead to. In these moments Wayne is striking by revealing a deeper sorrow in the man as though when he is forced to truly reflect on things that all that he's done has not added up to enough. There is a powerful anguish in moments, and although in the end Books goes to face death head on, Wayne suggests a most definite fear of this when Books is at his lowest moments. The best moments of his performance is when he deals with Bond's son Gillom (Ron Howard) who idolizes the man. The younger man is eager to learn all the tricks from Books about gunfighter, and he's eager enough to shoot with him as well as tell him the truth that it's more about will and nerves than accuracy in a gunfight. What's outstanding about Wayne's work though is how he actually undercuts these words with his own delivery of them. He ends up being quite heartbreaking actually when he tells Gillom these things it is not pride that Wayne conveys rather he brings a considerable sadness in them as though Books himself is realizing that what's he's best at and what he's defined his life with is not something worth living for. This is a great performance by Wayne because he does not leave death as a one note. There is of course sadness in there in those moments of regrets, there's those glints of nostalgia, as well as the appreciate of what's still left there. What makes this truly special though is that John Wayne is also able to make it feel like one final hurrah for his whole career as a star, as almost everything that defined that is found here through his portrayal of J.B. Books, and not only that Wayne happens to make it the greatest iteration of that classic John Wayne persona.