Thursday, 24 May 2018

Alternate Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor 1991: Alan Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply and Closet Land

Alan Rickman did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite receiving a BAFTA nomination, for portraying Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply nor did he receive one for playing the interrogator in Closet Land.

Truly, Madly, Deeply is a rather delightful but also poignant film about a woman Nina (Juliet Stevenson) being visited by the ghost of her late musician boyfriend. Closet Land is a film that gets lost within its own pretensions about a children's author (Madeleine Stowe) being interrogated in some unknown country for an unknown reason. The promise of such a premise being far better realized by Martin McDonagh's play The Pillowman.

What these two otherwise disparate films do happen to have in common is in British thespian Alan Rickman and his one of a kind voice. Rickman's talents though went beyond his voice, though that was certainly one of his great assets, and these two films do grant insights into two vastly different sides to Rickman's talent as a performer. The roles couldn't be more different playing in Truly Madly Deeply a likable musician, who happens to be a ghost, and in Closet Land playing a vicious state interrogator. I suppose one clear comparison within the two is that we are granted some prime Rickman vocal work who thankfully in no way hides that drawling baritone of his. He in fact has a bit of fun with it in both films, which is quite an accomplishment in the serious minded to a fault Closet Land. Both performances though very much begin with the initial idea which seems rich enough in each. The dead lover returned in Jamie, and the interrogator with more than few tricks up his sleeve. The former allowing Rickman to play nicely against what became his "formal" type in mainstream cinema due to his career defining role as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, meanwhile the interrogator very much plays right into that type.

Might as well take the more expected then with the interrogator, who really you could not ask for a better performer to make the rather laborious material of the film work. In that so much of the film is long monologues or dialogues pieces, that sadly wears their thematic ideas a little obviously on their sleeves leaving little subtly or perhaps even reality within the text, leaving the actors to some how make them work. Although I can't say either Rickman, or Stowe make the film "work" they do make it far easier to watch than it otherwise would be, and do their best to attempt to illustrate what the film was going for even though the film itself fails in its attempt. Rickman's typical deadpan yet forceful delivery is really perfection for the interrogator as it not only invokes the sort of assumed menace needed for the part it also expertly emphasizes the minutia of the man's existence. In that Rickman carefully plays that as the interrogation opens this is hardly the first, nor would it intend to be the last person the interrogator intends to break to satisfy the state's demands. Rickman is appropriately chilling by playing it very much a matter of routine from the outset finding the certain bureaucracy in the process of the interrogator, despite his process involving trying to physically and mentally destroy an individual for an unnamed crime.

Now enough of that "high minded" nonsense though as we also have here a Rickman turn that shows he could be just as charming as he could be menacing if he so chose to be. Rickman takes a bit to appear, as we follow around Stevenson's Nina failing to get over the grief of his loss, and I would actually say Rickman is supporting despite the importance of his character. When Jamie does suddenly appear in their old home, despite being quite dead, this is not a haunting but rather a wondrous event it would seem. Rickman doesn't take long to show what Nina saw in old Jamie as there is such a considerable charisma in his work. He is just exuding this pure joy, and importantly he and Stevenson drum up an immediate chemistry. An important sort of chemistry though where the two barely even need to state their love for one another since one can just feel it through not only the jubilation the two actors express so well in their interactions, but just the warmth within their casual interactions. Despite the strange situation, there is no stiffness or formality between the two as Rickman and Stevenson deliver their lines and react to one another with this sense of comfort natural to their long standing great affection for one another.

Enough of that fun though lets get back to slow torture in a film that seems a touch too impressed with itself during every development in the interaction between the writer and the interrogator. Rickman though cannot be faulted for so well illustrating every moment of this horrible process. The way he plays it is as this true professional who in every moment is well aware of what step he is in terms of trying to break her. In that Rickman brings this slight air of irritability within a false civility. Rickman develops this false earnestness whenever the interrogator claims he's just going through the interrogation as a routine, though with always this momentary gaps realized in a hesitation in his delivery or a single turn of the eyes that Rickman brilliantly signals as the reality of the viciousness. Rickman creates so much of the uneasiness, and sense of threat within the film through his work. The actual moments where the interrogator uses violence in particular Rickman performs so well by drawing out in a way as he sort of overtly mannered each that effectively reveals the interrogator purposefully taking his time to show what is doing before he is doing it to create this dread even before the pain.

Of course enough of that, and let us looks back at Jamie where we get Rickman playing the part in a way that is a little atypical for a ghost. In that Rickman portrays Jamie as a ghost in no way troubled by his death, in fact has this rather distinct ease about the whole situation reflecting a man quite enjoying the freedom it grants him in a way. Rickman shares that enjoyment by being this great ball of energy really, which is notable for the often deadpan Rickman, as he has quite a bit of fun with his performance it would seem. The right kind though as he lets us right in on it, to the point that is quite infectious honestly in his early scenes. He and Stevenson together are simply wonderful though in the exuberance of it all as the two seem to live the reunion to the fullest. I especially adore the moment in which the two sing a duet of "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore". Neither actor is this great singer however it doesn't at all matter as that is hardly the point. The scene is a wonder because of that great happiness the two create through that is absolutely endearing for every second of it. Both bringing such a glow to it through their performance, with Rickman, so known for his icy characters, being rather splendid as this loving soul.

Well back to the hateful soul where Rickman is quite remarkable in realizing more within the character even in its limited presentation. This includes the interrogator putting on other parts, when the writer is blindfolded, that Rickman quite dynamically realizes as this guttural monster as the more brutal interrogator while also doing a high pitched pathetic wine to represent a fake witness being tortured to implicate the writer. Rickman is great there in creating yet another tool of the interrogator, however he goes a bit further when the interrogator is playing the witness when he claims to be left alone with the writer. Rickman uses this moment to its fullest as the witness describes the main interrogator, as a rich cultured man. Of course this is to create a false image for the writer to confess to, however given the writer is blindfolded Rickman subtly goes a bit further. When he delivers these words of propping up the interrogator as this good man Rickman silently portrays this honest sorrow in the man's eyes, showing the broken humanity of a man who once had morals, and is pained by the man he has becomes. This is a small moment, but honestly probably the best moment in the problematic film, because of how honest Rickman makes it through his performance. This plants the proper seed actual as the film goes on, and on, in the torture. Rickman though at least brings something out of this process by presenting the gradual wear in the interrogator own resolve revealing this desperation as he realizes his failures as the writer refuses to break.

Now his performance as Jamie also has more to it as well, as Nina continues to come home to him, while he introduces his fellow ghost friends who all just sort of hang about since they have nothing better to do. Rickman is rather hilarious in this, even as Jamie encroaches on Nina's patience, by showing this purity of the behavior. In that Rickman makes every, sometimes even inconsiderate moment technically speaking, genuinely goodhearted by playing it with the sense that Jamie truly has nothing more to do than hangout since he essentially an embodiment of living in the past. Rickman in turn doesn't hold back in terms of showing the joy that can come from such nostalgia, however also presents the limitations as Jamie has nowhere to go. Rickman doesn't at all present this as Jamie being truly troubled, even when he and Nina have a brief squabble, but rather direct as showing Jamie being all that Jamie can be. Eventually this, and the addition of a new boyfriend leads Nina to move on, leaving Jamie to be left in the past though not gone. The film ends with Jamie watching as she moves on, and Rickman is outstanding in the moment. His reaction is heartbreaking as he captures the sadness of losing her, but with a hint of joy reflective of Jamie's love for her that goes beyond even the point she has moved on from him. These two performances couldn't be more different in intent, and even within the contexts of the film since one amplifies a good film, and other makes a failure far more digestible. The two together though are representations of the talent of Alan Rickman who could be the most unpleasant of interrogators, or the most enchanting of ghosts.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1991: River Phoenix in Dogfight

River Phoenix did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Eddie Birdlace in Dogfight.

Dogfight despite its cruel opening premise of a group of marines rounding up a group of women for a contest involving who can find the ugliest date becomes a rather sweet romance between one of the marines and his date.

River Phoenix's tragically brief career was rather different than say a James Dean who had three major films, iconic to their era, although also in roles who all begin their films as rebellious young men against whatever system they are within. Phoenix's career perhaps resulted in fewer classics, although that may differ based on one's specific definition of a classics, his output was fairly prolific even within its brevity. Phoenix in his eight year long career made 13 (and half to include Dark Blood) films within a variety of genres, and importantly a variety of roles for Phoenix. This included within 1991 itself where he played the physically troubled prostitute in My Own Private Idaho, and here as Eddie Birdlace a marine on leave just before he is set to go over sea to Vietnam. Phoenix as he was believable in realizing the meekness Mike in that film, Phoenix captures the problematic machismo of Eddie here. Phoenix offers that certain swagger of both his personality and physicality as Eddie and his fellow "B" men, based upon their names, come into town looking for women. Phoenix delivers the complimentary hollow intensity as he portrays this inherent tension with every delivery really every movement that works in tandem as the other men hard bent on convincing they are all really fighting men, even though none of them have yet to feel the sting of battle.

Phoenix's performance wisely though brings enough of subtle nuance even within these moments that are properly overt as intended showing perhaps there is maybe a bit more substance to Eddie than his cohorts even if it is rather hidden. Eddie nonetheless goes about his task to find a "dog" for the dogfight coming across a local music loving waitress Rose (Lili Taylor). Phoenix is great in the initial pick up scene which involves obviously showing more interest than is honest towards Rose by Eddie. Phoenix though actually though sets up the potential for more in their relationship even in the troublesome initial setup there. Phoenix is great in the way he delivers that certain leading man charisma he was capable, though sadly was not able to show off frequently enough, though he brings though in somewhat overly forceful way. He cools the intensity of before though to reveal that charisma within it but in his initial pursuit Phoenix rather is able to establish the act Eddie is performing, while being believable that he would indeed be charismatic in Rose's eyes. When he shows interest in Rose's music though Phoenix subtly delivers more a genuine charm in line with these moments, and quieter attitude that effectively alludes to something more even as Eddie is still just propositioning her for a humiliating situation. 

Phoenix finds the right approach within the dogfight sequence itself, which to the film's benefit is fairly early on in the story. In that again he creates the right sense of the circumstances that define Eddie's behavior against what is perhaps truer to Eddie's real nature. He still brings the moments directly with the other marines withe all the excessive bluster and absurd confidence needed. He subverts though in his moments with Taylor where he depicts a slowly growing unease as the two reach the titular event. Phoenix during the event itself shows Eddie only comfortable in the moments of complete blind support by his fellow marines within their deplorable behavior, and in turn Phoenix gradually in turn portrays this as a more difficult act to perpetuate. Phoenix naturally creates the complete loss of this attitude by in turn delivering such an earnest, if hesitant, warning towards Rose as she unknowing engages in parts of the "show". Phoenix properly shows not a hint of joy except in the most direct interactions with Rose, however even these Phoenix makes only the faintest fitting towards the compromise of the situation. When Rose discovers the truth and lashes out at Eddie, Phoenix powerfully delivers the vulnerability, not so much as classic Phoenix vulnerability, but more fitting to the character that Eddie is. He's moving though in so honestly creating this moment of full realization of actions through every word of Rose's. Phoenix says very little in the moment, but in his eyes conveys wholly Eddie's understanding of his wrongdoing.

The actual romance of the film begins when Eddie seeks to track down Rose to apologize for his actions while also taking her out on an actual date. Phoenix excels though as he shows still this struggle between his learnt expectation against his more genuine self. Eddie's initial apology is a beautifully realized moment by Phoenix by again so naturally purging the bluster, to show the more genuine individual in the moment. Eddie though once the new date starts puts it again as he shows her around town while trying to mock a maitre di. Phoenix once brings that same excessive unearned confidence in the moment throwing himself into every venom and profanity laced insult. What Phoenix does so well though is to portray this with such a extreme edge that is more fitting to it as almost an automatic reaction from his "education" in the marines. He pushes this as a blind rush into the type of man he's established himself with which Phoenix shows is still thin even when Eddie uses it for a less overtly problematic purpose. Rose calls him on this behavior again, though more gently than before, and Eddie finally lets it go. From there on Phoenix reveals really the real man that is beneath all that posturing and poignant portrays the far gentler soul within. From then on what we get instead is just this wonderfully realized romance between Eddie and Rose. Phoenix and Taylor have amazing chemistry with one another.

Their romance reminded a lot of the romance in Marty, which is always a good thing, in that while there is some underlying tension from the cause of their initial meeting, the two find such a beauty in their unassuming yet so very warm interactions with each other. The two just slowly build these ease from each subsequent scene, and the two are so genuine together that is so delightful just to watch the two interact with each other. What they even do for the most part isn't even that dramatic yet it doesn't matter because of how special yet still understated they make the relationship. Each step isn't this major act, but just this ingenious coming together two people. I love how simple yet special their final moments are that just seem right by how effectively Phoenix and Taylor realized the developing love between the two. That ends on a great note, but the film keeps going. The film then gets its second chance for a good ending where Eddie has a sobering talk with one of his fellow marines where he reveals his real self, as does his comrade. The film keeps going to cover the Kennedy assassination, Eddie's traumatic time in Vietnam then finally his return to Rose. Although I don't think these scenes are at needed to the overall story Phoenix's performance manages to give them at least some purpose by at least portraying Eddie's continuing down his path to becoming a more mature man even through his suffering. His final scenes back from the war Phoenix is moving in realizing the losses in his eyes, creating the right haunted quality within them, which in turn does make his return embrace with Rose rather moving even if paced strangely. Of course this is all just good film going on longer than it should, and at the very least we are granted more time with Phoenix's charismatic turn here. A performance that not only carries that extra time, it also just creates a fascinating and affecting portrait of a man finding himself while also finding love, and is a testament to the talent that was lost in River Phoenix. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1991: Joe Mantegna in Homicide

Joe Mantegna did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bobby Gold in Homicide.

Homicide follows a Jewish detective while he tries to solve the murder of an elderly Jewish woman, and while he tracks down a brutal drug dealer.

Homicide, yeah homicide, that's the name of an act and film. It's two things, right, maybe a metaphor or two. What the hell do I know. It's like a movie where everybody talks. Talks with this way of speaking. You know what I'm saying? Well do you? There are spaces to make sure you hear what I'm saying though. Make sure you here it right clear like I'm talking to someone else, but instead I'm monologuing. Monologuing like I'm a stage actor, but hey I'm suppose to be here talkin up a film. A film performance that is. A film where everyone talks a little strange. The plot seems a little convoluted. You know the type of film? Ever see Redbelt? A bit like that, although at least here, in this film, you can see at least some connections to the complications. If you know what I'm saying. All the supporting characters though they still all seem strange in their weird way of speaking through monologue, that isn't at all cinematic. David Mamet. Ever hear of the guy? Well it seems he could use another set of eyes to adapt his words on film, even just to direct em if you know what I'm saying. You see his words. His words, yeah, they're just a too thick, too thick for their own cake, like bad bunt cake. Ever have a bad bunt cake? Hopefully not, I wouldn't inflict you with that disease of the guttural intestines. This film, even as is, isn't terrible, not great, potential there you know. Doesn't come together. Also how are you suppose to believe Ricky Jay could physically impose Joe Mantegna, not the easiest pill to swallow, maybe he was using some slight of fist.

Okay, I'll stop writing like that and focus on once again the element of Mamet's film that manages to overcome the burdens from his way of directing his own work. Once again it is in the lead character who is the only character who seems to come to life. This again comes partially from the storytelling which doesn't effectively intertwine its elements partially because it doesn't quite develop them enough. The one element it does develop though is the central character who is given life by Mamet's frequent collaborator Joe Mantegna. Mantegna does need to contest with bit of Mamet's stylized dialogue, often overly stylized, however Mantegna is able to ease this a bit. One he is one of the better actors in terms of delivery of it anyway that makes it at all sound natural. He is helped further though by thankfully the character of Bobby Gold only needing a bit of it. He thankfully gets to be a bit more grounded and frankly more cinematic. Mantegna in turn is able to give a far more cinematic turn here that is the center of the film even beyond the lead. In that he is the true cohesion of the film as Gold deals with the two wildly contrasting plots, and has to connect them essentially by creating the personal journey of Gold in how it connects with the mystery and the manhunt.

Mantegna from his first scene is effective in establishing really this duality of the character. In that on one end as he discusses police procedure, and his procedure as detective in a most personal way, as in just specifically speaking of his own methods Mantegna brings this confidence and control of a true professional. He has the right calm and intensity of his eyes of a man who is well reasoned and well seasoned in his position. This is against the moment where he loses this comfort from either a hostile colleague or even a captive prisoner physically attacking him in order to try to steal his gun. Mantegna reveals this considerable unease even beyond the attack itself. There is this discomfort that reveals a greater anxiety in his reactions. A palatable desperation of a man who is not just uncomfortable in the situation, but also in terms of his sense of place within his profession. Mantegna naturally affords the character this duality by creating this sense of calm when only there can be a detachment. Even when he fawned over by his hero-worshiping partner (William H. Macy) Mantegna shows an appreciation only through his delivery that emphasis a courtesy, while physically reflecting this unease even in processing this type of support. Mantegna reveals a detective who has fashioned his place through his work as a detective, but as a man still is lost.

Mantegna uses this setup well then to explore the two avenues that reveal themselves as he tries to track criminal as a typical detective, and tries to solve the murder of the Jewish woman that forces him to examine his own, lost, heritage. We initially see this as he succeeds in the interactions towards the tracking with that same detached confidence, but with the murder investigation Mantegna portrays so well this pained forced connection. A way as he reacts with such unease to any sight that forces him to think about his own place as a Jew and what it means to him. Mantegna is able to bring the appropriate humanity to this struggle, which is a bit too academically worded by the supporting characters within this plot line. Mantegna successfully captures far more nuance in his portrayal of how this investigation in a inflicts him with his true sense of a lost identity. This is something he finds so well early on in his reactions that Mantegna shows in his eyes clearly reach him on a deeper level as he sees Jewish custom around this murder. He initially seems to try to hide this, by the same way he himself is dismissed by others, by self-hating antisemitism which Mantegna delivers so well as this specific yet hollow outrage as though he is simply aping others that seems ill-fitting to Gold.

Mantegna develops gradually this loss of distance as the reactions begin to also bring a greater depth into his direct delivery in the moments of trying to uncover the truth. This leads him deeper into his own culture/religion and Mantegna delivers this emotional connection through showing almost a relief when he stumbles upon a Zionist organization in his city. Briefly Mantegna reveals still hesitation but finally some comfort as he speaks more openly with the group, and even aids them in the arson of an anti-Semitic group's headquarters. Homicide being a Mamet film though quickly reveals this to be ruse by the organization to try to use Gold's connections in the police force to their benefit. Although this rushed Mantegna manages to at least bring a genuine emotion to this in his realization of the heartbreak of the moment of again being lost in his own identity. This quickly rams Gold into his other plot line following the crook which is connected only through Mantegna's performance. Mantegna does deliver though in realizing the emotionally spent state of Gold in every harried moment and exasperated work spoken as a man who really is fed up with life. He only speaks dripping with a caustic hate and cynicism that he essentially tries to bring down the criminal (Ving Rhames) to his level of thought. This is more or less where the film leaves us, and the film itself doesn't quite come together towards something wholly remarkable. Mantegna though does overcome the material, and in some ways makes it digestible by giving a moving portrait of a detective trying to come terms with his own self through his investigations. It doesn't make the film itself wholly successful, however Mantegna at least offers a stable emotional center through his successful performance.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1991: Christopher Eccleston in Let Him Have It

Christopher Eccleston did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Derek Bentley in Let Him Have It.

Let Him Have It is a somewhat decent however overly basic depiction of the story of a mentally stunted man being accused of murder after falling in with a violent thug.

Christopher Eccleston gives his debut feature film performance, although the film's aesthetic feels closer to a TV film but I digress. This performance though has the chance to depict rather tragic story of this central real life character as this young man struggling with his very existence. Eccleston is effective in the role in realizing Derek's state of being. He doesn't overplay this rather finding the stunted nature in this certain direct manner of speaking and reacting to people. Eccleston finds this narrow way of Derek of really in the way he even looks at people. There is this obvious focus that Eccleston depicts showing that Derek needs to put this certain extra energy into interacting just like a typical person. Eccleston finds this though not quite perfect and as this show that he feels almost average yet not quite. There is the right type of struggle in every moment of this showing Derek as having difficulty navigating just the normal day to day, and even then he realizes as a clear struggle. Eccleston's work is tasked even further though as Derek is not only troubled by his mental difficulties, but also physical ones as an epileptic. Eccleston to his credit is terrific in the moments of showing the fits, which could led to some wild overacting very easily. Eccleston though performs them believably while again realizing the precarious state that is Derek's life.

Eccleston, despite these clear problems, nicely doesn't always overwhelm his performance with them. He shows these moments with his family as rather sweet by showing the simple humanity even within the struggle. He is never simply a series of tics, but realizes the man within it all. He creates the right pathos through those interactions with his father, mother and sister where we can see the potential for some growth or at least some comfort. Eccleston offers the right warmth in these interactions to provide the basis for some idea of a future that are rather moving through how genuine they feel. This is against his interactions with his "friends" who are petty criminals, who frequently abuse Derek's nature. Eccleston is very good in these interactions as well though by making the right yearning in the interactions as his delivery is that of a simple man aiming to please, and in turn receive some sort of acceptance from these people. This becomes problematic though when he is pulled into a criminal endeavor, which again Eccleston excels with by conveying Derek's attempt to comprehend what is going on throughout. Eccleston though offers an earnestness and a confusion. In that he shows the man trying to be part of it, but also not really wholly aware of what he is part. When the crime turns violent, Eccleston is rather moving in realizing just the mess of the man.

Eccleston even captures the right ambiguity in the specific delivery of the titular line that could either mean for his friend to shoot the cop, or for his friend to drop the gun. Eccleston rightly balances the line by delivering it as this moment of sheer fear that could be either interpreted as plea, or the reaction of a muddled mind. Eventually the crime leaves a police officer dead with Derek and the actual murderer, a minor, facing punishment. The murderer though cannot be executed due to his age leaving Derek as receiving the full brunt of the wrath of the judicial system. The film rather rushes this period of the story however Eccleston manages to find some of the tragedy by portraying that even as he faces death Derek still is struggling to understand what exactly is going on. It is moving by reinforcing the man just trying very hard to figure what is happening right down to the execution itself where he has very little time even to breakdown because of that. This is a good performance by Christopher Eccleston however the film doesn't entirely allow Eccelston to fully sink his teeth into. The film never quite gives the time to Eccleston to truly make this a heartbreaking portrait of this man that seemed quite possible given the subject matter. Eccleston's performance is good, but the full potential of it seems somewhat unrealized by the film's underwhelming approach to the material.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1991

And the Nominees Were Not:

Alan Rickman in Truly Madly Deeply

River Phoenix in Dogfight

Wesley Snipes in New Jack City

Joe Mantegna in Homicide

Christopher Eccleston in Let Him Have It

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1957: Results

5. Ben Gazzara in The Strange One - I decided against granting this performance a full review as there is just not much to it. In one part it is a shaky film debut by Gazzara, something he thankfully shook off rather quickly in just a few years, that I would probably ascribe to weak direction. His performance though makes little use of really the cinematic perspective only garnering actions or reactions when absolutely needed for the character. His performance is oddly indifferent for what is as described to be by the other characters this near dictatorial character. There is no sense of charismatic persuasion, nor even a weasel trick in his work. He's mostly just there with the same dour expression until the very end where he gives a fairly standard melodramatic breakdown. This is part the fault of perhaps the adaptation which leaves too much merely stated about the character as the film fails to create a real sense of the cadet's toxic influence within the barracks. Gazzara though doesn't create this in the few instances he has a chance with either, and this is rather underwhelming work from an actor who thankfully quickly improved after this film.

Best Scene: The opening....I guess.
4. Rod Steiger in Across the Bridge - Despite some initial concerns, Steiger gives a rather effective depiction of a cold amorality, that slowly segues to a pained desperation as he naturally discovers the character's morality.

Best Scene: The dog across the bridge.
3. James Cagney - Man of the Thousand Faces - Cagney proves himself once again to be one of the very best actors of his period giving a moving, and more emotionally complex than you might except given the period, portrayal of Lon Chaney's personal struggles, but also a rather remarkable recreations of the man's legendary work that made him an early screen legend.

Best Scene: The handicapped man.
2. Victor Sjöström in Wild Strawberries - Sjöström's performance suggests an understanding of the film's nature giving a moving despite being a largely reactionary turn that grants an even greater power to the imagery and themes presented by the film's notable direction.

Best Scene: The dream of failure.
1. Robert Mitchum in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison - Good prediction John Smith. Robert Mitchum gives one of his most charming performances that makes for a truly endearing action hero of sorts, but he goes even further in his rather effective realization of the changes of his character through his particularly potent and complex chemistry with his co-star.

Best Scene: Allison's apology.
Updated Overall

Updated Supporting Overall

Next Year: 1991 Lead

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Alternate Best Actor 1957: Robert Mitchum in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Robert Mitchum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Corporal Allison in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a rather enjoyable film about a marine and nun stuck on an island in the Pacific in enemy territory during World War II.

It must be said that Robert Mitchum was a great actor, with such an ease onscreen that is perhaps what lead to him being such an underrated commodity. I must say I take a certain joy in finding each and every one of Mitchum's notable turns as they reveal such a remarkable performer who had such a notable idiosyncratic personal style yet had a tremendous and somewhat under exploited range. Of course again even this in some circumstances was almost hard to notice just in terms of how easily Mitchum slipped in a different type of role. The role of Allison here, a marine who finds himself marooned on an island, Mitchum does not use as an excuse just to deliver a performance similair to say his hard boiled P.I. from Out of the Past. Of course that probably almost would have been fine, but Mitchum doesn't go for that approach which is rather impressive to begin with, but also leads to a very special turn from him. Now this isn't just in his New York accent he fashions for his character. That's just part of it, an easy part of it that Mitchum just makes it part of himself. Mitchum with accents is always rather fascinating since he's not an actor who'd strike you as using accents, but you barely notice them when he does use them since he does so in such an effective fashion.

That accent though is only a stepping stone in his portrayal of Allison which I might say is perhaps Mitchum at his most charming. A notable distinction needs to be made in this though in that Mitchum is always a charismatic performer, however this is a time where his considerable charm really comes to the forefront with his approach to Allison as a character. Allison is after all a marine who had a none too pleasant childhood before he reached this rough patch created by his time in the war. Mitchum however does not present this as some sort of horrendous wound by any means. This is not inconsistent though which is so interesting in his work. In that Mitchum delivers the lines on Allison's past rather bluntly with certainly the right hardened attitude in this explanation. There is no sense that these are good memories however they do not truly pain him in Mitchum's presentation. He does this though through a careful, and brilliant, workaround where he reveals this as basically assuaged through his time with the marines. When he speaks of the chapter, even when explaining a harsh drill sergeant, Mitchum infuses this considerable pride in every word. In his eyes he brings this sense of purpose within the marines creating this core within Allison, and this belief essentially towards his duty in the armed forces.

Now the reason Mitchum's choice there is particularly important is because there was a potential possibility for Allison to be this terrible brooder, however his approach to avoid that really opens up the film to frankly a more enjoyable experience in general. Mitchum uses this that allows him to be far more expressive in his charm, of course with such ease as always by portraying Allison very much as a man at ease with himself. Mitchum's approach and turn here actually reminded me a bit of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. In that captures that sort of action hero you can approach. This is in part that charm to be sure that makes Allison just this very likable sort, but it goes further than that. In that Mitchum really allows you in on Allison's endeavors to subvert the Japanese efforts to find him, and his companion as well as to later sabotage their defenses against his fellow marines. Mitchum's so good in the action scenes not just by being charming, but also bringing this certain haplessness to moments. In that just his physicality in the moments and his reactions are not of this superman, but just a guy winging it at times. This in turn makes him so very easy to watch in every moment since he never seems too far gone, but is so very endearing in every moment by showing Allison essentially just doing his very best to survive, serve the marines, and help his nun companion.

Speaking of his nun companion who is an essential part of this performance. As in the story the marooned marine Allison comes across a nun who also happened to be marooned there, the nun Sister Angela played by Deborah Kerr. Now I already covered Kerr and Mitchum later showed their considerable chemistry in The Sundowners, but this was their first film together. The chemistry here also is a bit more complicated given the nature of the relationship whereas in that later film the two where they are already a married couple as the film opens. That is not quite the case obviously for Allison and Sister Angela. Kerr and Mitchum evidently developed a real life friendship through this film, and that sort of ease together is quite obvious through their work together here. What is so important about this though is this film is essentially a two person show between the two. What I love is how even though there is the nun/soldier juxtaposition from the start the sense of ease actually comes quite quickly. Now this is with each fulfilling their roles so well, Mitchum naturally being more expressive against Kerr who stays a bit demure. Their interactions from their opening scene though has just something so remarkable in how genuinely they speak with one another. There is just such earned sweetness and warmth in it that makes the two such entertaining duo from the outset.

The two use that as this basis for the two that certainly makes the film all the more compelling in itself. The two go much further than that though, and I love how both performers so eloquently realize their own arcs in tandem yet separately in approach. Kerr giving the more subtle and introverted portrayal, well Mitchum giving the more extroverted, although I wouldn't quite say broad. Mitchum does well though to convey really just the outgoing nature in every scene making some of Allison's blunt statements seem so honest to the character. When Allison just for example states being unaware of pretty nuns, clearly referring to Sister Angela, there is such a earnest sincerity in Mitchum's delivery that so effectively just reveals this as just the way Allison is. He uses this idea though particularly well in creating what Allison's story is within as the non-church going soldier, interacts with the devote nun. Mitchum does this carefully in presenting really an idea of kind of showing Allison's initial attraction essentially slowly falling into love with the Sister. Mitchum brings this purity through how he so well finds that directness of Allison. His rather uncompromising statements early on about her choice to be nun Mitchum refines always through such clear, and rather pure tenderness for her. What helps all the more though is just how good their chemistry is in every interaction, and to the point the two seem right together, even if this must be in a specific way.

Mitchum gradually delivers this to a tipping point which he importantly portrays not as a mental breaking point, but rather Allison's blunt attitude taking him too far, amplified due to drink. When he reveals his feelings for her I love the definite vulnerability in Mitchum's eyes that allude to really only a most sincere reasoning in the man's mind, even if it was perhaps not in the right circumstances or taken with the right considerations. When the Sister rejects this Mitchum doesn't show the love Allison has for her diminish instead he actually presents as growing after she becomes ill. When he treats her there is perhaps the most powerful affection in every moment as Mitchum brings such a striking compassion in every moment. As he treats her, and then later asks for her forgiveness for his previous statements, Mitchum though has one major difference though which is in his face he carries this considerable sense of empathy. When he asks for her forgiveness Mitchum makes Allison as straight forward as ever, but now with such solemness in his voice evoking such a convincing act of contrition and understanding towards her. The relationship between the two is so beautifully realized as we see both change through it, and come together in what is technically not a romantic love in the most traditional sense, however it is not unrequited in the end. Of course this all naturally woven within their interactions throughout that create such a winning duo throughout the film. I love both of their performances here that manage to find the dramatic potential within the central relationship, but at the same time are just a pair I simply liked spending time with.