Friday, 23 June 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2003: Daniel Brühl in Good Bye, Lenin!

Daniel Brühl did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alexander Kerner in Good Bye, Lenin!.

Good Bye, Lenin! is a terrific film about a young man in East Germany taking most unorthodox measurse to protect his mother from experiencing a fatal shock after a coma caused her to be unconscious through the entire German unification.  

Daniel Brühl being a German actor obviously has played his share of Nazis as well as villains in his English language work, and even in his technically sympathetic roles he usually plays rather prickly sorts. It is quite a treat though to see him here in this role where he's not playing a Nazi, certainly not a villain, just a normal guy. Brühl's Alex in the opening scenes of the film is particularly normal young man living in East Germany though he does engage in just a bit of rebellion, the little that there can be against the totalitarian government. Really though Brühl's performance even suggests this is not as a major as it might seem portraying a far greater interest in running into a young woman also at the protest than in the protest itself. There is nothing questionable even in this though as Brühl brings a genuine unassuming charm to Alex, and in this early moment importantly shows his convictions in the moment where he is arrested and simultaneously his mother has her near fatal heart attack from the shock. Brühl is quite affecting in this moment in capturing the son's intense concern for his mother which is pivotal for the rest of the film.

Well that heart attack puts Alex's mother into a coma, which leaves her unaware of the German reunification which Alex and his sister Ariane fully embrace, though Alex continually visits his mother where he also finds that the young woman, Lara, he formerly met at the rally is one of her nurses. Brühl again is incredibly charming by offering such earnestness in both Alex's enthusiasm towards his new discoveries in Germany, but also in his constant concern for his mother. Eventually his mother does awaken but with Alex being given the warning that her next heart attack will probably be fatal. In order to avoid the great shock of the collapse of their old way of life Alex takes it upon himself to hide the German reunification from his mother. Now this is the central conceit to the film and Brühl's performance is essential to not making it feel ridiculous. Brühl makes it work by portraying Alex's devotion to his mother's health so honestly. Although he is lying to her Brühl's delivers these initial lies with only the utmost warmth, and gentle regard always emphasizing that Alex believes this is the only way to save his mother. 

The film then proceeds to reveal Alex's strange game where he takes many unorthodox methods to present everything that his mother sees as still being part of the old Germany. Brühl brings the right energy to the performance as he pulls you right into Alex's mission by making it such a sympathetic prospect. Brühl makes these such engaging scenes though because he reveals everything that comes with them. He has those moments where he is so endearing and encouraging in portraying this ingenuity in Alex as he tirelessly finds ways to create and refine the illusion. Brühl is never one note though in that even when he's in the process itself he does reflect the sort physical effort needed, as with each successive scene Brühl conveys Alex just wearing himself out a bit from it all. Furthermore though he also brings the real frustrations in his arguments with his sister over the illusion as he delivers his counters with that conviction that alludes to his motivation, even while it becomes harder and harder to keep it up his illusion. Meanwhile though I love those moments he has where Alex sees his mother happy, and Brühl so powerfully reaffirms that underlying motivation every time by presenting just the most genuine love towards his mother and happiness at seeing that she is still with him. 

Although his mother's world is crafted by Alex, Alex's own existence is not a constant outside of it. Now one positive aspect of this is in his relationship with Lara to where Brühl makes for a great low key romantic lead. These scenes are pretty modest yet offers the right sweetness to them, though with just the right reservations at times in the persistent argument over Alex's treatment for his mother. Another problem though appears in the form of Alex and Ariane's father who they can now technically reconnect with, as he disappeared to the west when they were children. Brühl has a great scene where he goes to see his father, who has started a new family. In the scene Alex's dialogue is fairly sparse but Brühl's eyes though say it all as they reflect the years of feeling abandoned. He presents this as a sorrow but not anger though suggesting Alex's willingness to potentially forgive the past particularly so that he can bring his father back to see his mother one last time. That moment though is simply the natural state of this wonderful performance by Daniel Brühl as he makes Alex such a likable but also believable lead. He's charming yes but he also offers the right convictions to allow the central conceit to work. He makes you empathize with the young man's plight throughout the film. It's terrific performance and I have to say I hope we'll be able to see this side of Brühl again sometime in the future.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2003: Ivan Dobronravov in The Return

Ivan Dobronravov did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ivan in The Return.

The Return follows two young brothers on a strange trip with the intention to bond with their estranged father after a 12 year absence.

Ivan Dobronravov plays Ivan in the most creative naming of a character since Alex Frost as Alex in Elephant. The idea behind such a naming could be to reinforce a certain realism, as the actor should not be as detached from the character, or at least an idea of sort of hiding the acting. Well unlike that other performance from 2003 Dobronravov's performance seems to support this choice. Dobronravov was obviously a child when delivering this performance, and giving any reality to a character is one of the first indicators of a good child performer. There is not any precociousness here, as Dobronravov presents from his first a scene a kid in a fairly troubled situation. We see him early on with his brother, and his friends, or at the very least his peers as they play a game involving heights. Dobronravov is terrific in this opening scene since he realizes so effectively the distress of the situation. In first portraying the intense fear of a child's fear properly, as he breaks down physically in his reaction. Further Dobronravov afterwards captures that terribly shy embarrassment as he shows Ivan attempting to pull himself together, while only falling apart all the more when facing ridicule by those around him.
 
The film then cuts as Ivan and his brother Andrei return home after the incident. We are given just a few moments but Dobronravov and Vladimir Gari as Andrei both create the right inherent chemistry of two brothers who share a strong connection. There isn't a lot said in regards to the matter it is known through the performances as the two both reveal just that right sort of ease with each other, and certain comfort the two share when directly interacting with one another. Their time at home changes suddenly when their father suddenly reenters their lives and swiftly takes them on a strange trip. The central conflict begins through the separate reactions of the brothers. Gari's performance shows Andrei mainly going with the flow portraying an active attempt to become re-acquainted with their father, whereas Dobronravov establishes early on a hostility towards the man. Dobronravov's performance once again works by the sort of intensity only fitting to a child's particular reaction here. Dobronravov importantly creates the right lack of certainty in the emotional state, as he shows the distress that seems to stem from both his feelings of abandonment as they do from his feelings of not knowing how to feel about the situation.

Dobronravov gives a very stubborn performance that is quite effective in showing Ivan refusal to go along or in any way open up to his father. From the moment they set out in the car Dobronravov is consistent in portraying that raw anger of the son towards the father that has the right senselessness in a way, since again it is a kid dealing with this not an adult. As the film progresses though the father's behavior is random as he seems to try to fulfill every role of a father possible in a rapid succession. Dobronravov's performance is often reflexive towards this in portraying the growing confusion in Ivan towards his father's bizarre behavior. His performance does well though as he takes in these moments to gradually worsen Ivan's state as his underlying anger begins to also become confused with feelings of disbelief, paranoia, and even isolation as Ivan begins even losing his connection to his brother. This eventually leads to Ivan acting out in a call back to the opening scene involving a high tower. Dobronravov earns the breakdown as he makes it a powerful release of everything Ivan's been dealing with in a single act, that again is not refined moment of outrage, but rather as messy as it should be for a boy in his situation. This leads to a sudden tragedy and the film suddenly shifts as does Dobronravov's performance. What happens though makes sense for the swiftness of the shift and Dobronravov's fulfills the needed change. That being he shows similair confusion of emotion but now it is defined most strongly by sadness rather than anger, showing the boy still to be lost though now for a different reason. This is a good performance as Ivan Dobronravov realizes this difficult state of this boy through his strange situation offering the needed honesty to the specific drama.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2003: Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Russell Crowe did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Captain Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Master and Commander is a curious special joy for me as every time I watch the film I always somehow seem to forget just how good it is before watching the film again.

Now despite the film's great success with the Oscars overall it received no acting notices, Paul Bettany's snub being altogether mind boggling, but Crowe has seemingly been on the Oscar blacklist ever since his BAFTA altercation in 2002. Then again it may be that Crowe's performance is one that is easy to take for granted, I did that myself when I somehow failed to find him a spot in my alternate lineup, a lineup which included Tommy Wiseau. Why is that though? Well this performance is perhaps not what one might expect just hearing Russell Crowe playing a naval captain, but of course that's what makes this such a marvelous piece of work in all truth. One the great successes of Master and Commander is how vivid life on the ship feels. A great contributor to that is Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey which again just the idea of Crowe as a naval Captain would suggest maybe a more directly intense performance, that is not the case nor is that a problem. Jack Aubrey is of course not a Captain Bligh, or even a Captain Vere, he's a different sort of man, a better sort of man.

Crowe's performance here is atypical and almost the opposite of those performances in which he made his name such as The Insider, L.A. Confidential or Gladiator, where he portrayed a dark determination. There is determination but Crowe does not use it to define the man. What Crowe uses to define him is the idea of Aubrey as this Captain during the Napoleonic wars. Now what I mean by that is Crowe does not define his Captain as only a man of battles. We are introduced in an attack, a surprise attack where Crowe conveys the visceral quality of that moment but he does not dwell upon longer than the battle lasts. Crowe portrays Aubrey as being particularly attentive to what happened in the attack beyond that his French foe got the better of him. As Aubrey examines the ship and most importantly learns of the casualties among the crew there is an essential concern that Crowe brings to every step of Aubrey's duty. Crowe does not gloss over a moment of the process as he brings an needed devotion of a Captain who truly cares for his ship and every crew member aboard it although not in the same exact way though this is just part of the unassuming complexity of Crowe's work here.

Crowe of course brings the strong old school presence as usual, Crowe has the right awareness of that though here, in that his performance uses that knowledge to the point that he doesn't need to attempt to amplify it for Aubrey. Crowe's method here makes Aubrey particularly distinctive in the film and I love the way Crowe simply is in charge. There is no effort required, he is the Captain. This though again is not where it stops for Crowe's work though. He is not just the Captain for the duration of his appearance in the film, but rather Crowe's portrayal evokes the years on the ship. This is seen within basically everything that Crowe does onscreen. There is that ease he portrays in his surroundings as Crowe shows Aubrey move around the ship as it were his home on land. Crowe manages to capture this very exact sentimentalism of sorts just in the way he looks upon certain facets. Crowe brings what is a joy in the experience of being on the ship and enjoying what it is. Crowe importantly shows that Aubrey loves this experience of being Captain as well, which extends even further to his whole life which has been in the Navy. Crowe exhibits a man who owns the ship, but also shares it with all those within it as well.

There is his relationship with every member of his crew. The strongest focus of course being with Paul Bettany's Doctor Stephen Maturin, but more on that later. There is also his relationships with each of his officers each which vary through so strongly through Crowe's performance as he realizes Aubrey's relation with each man separately. With the very young Lord William Blakeney (Max Pirkins) Crowe reveals the utmost earnest warmth of a father, though with a distinct ounce of respect to one of his crew members. There is even his seemingly future Captains, of Lieutenant Pullings (James D'Arcy) and Midshipman Calamy (Max Benitz) where Crowe crafts a differentiation through his slight variation in manner to each. He offers each man the respect of a true comrade but there is a greater simplicity with Pulligns treating him as a man just about at his level whereas Crowe offers the manner of a teacher towards Calamy to aim him towards bettering himself as an officer. There is also the far more problematic relationship with Midshipman Hollom (Lee Ingleby). Crowe is brilliant in his direct interaction with Hollom, as he portrays the held in greater frustrations in the Captain over Hollom's inability to fulfill his duty. Crowe shows Aubrey hides though in an attempt to offer his encouragement in hopes the man will become a better officer.

Crowe is quite different yet so naturally so in his portrayal of Aubrey towards the crew. This is quite the fascinating juxtaposition actually as he very carefully offers similair sentiments but in a different way from the officers to the rest of the crew. Crowe does bring a warmth towards every member of the crew particularly in their successes but he does this with a certain distance. He offers a somewhat less personal delivery and manner. He doesn't become a machine but he does always set the Captain apart. This is an interesting trick which Crowe pulls off flawlessly as he delivers the praise in a more generalized way and even when he specifies it is of this greater commander rather than a friend. He sets himself apart so effectively as he shows the man who knows his duty needs this separation, but still a connection. Crowe creates that connection that makes the Captain more than just a man around the crew, in that he is this specific inspiration to them all. Crowe is outstanding as he captures a Aubrey as being successfully the legend of Lucky Jack when he commands his crew in pivotal moments whether it is saving the ship or preparing for a battle. Crowe's manner has this certain grandeur and undeniable charisma as his words carry such a rousing spirit to the point that you'd feel any man worth a salt would follow Aubrey into battle.

There is yet another side to Aubrey in his friendship with Doctor Maturin. Crowe and Bettany have the truly effortless chemistry of lifelong friends and there is a certain magic in just the slightest interaction such as the fun the two have together when playing strings together. Crowe though is terrific though showing a greater vulnerability in Aubrey in his scenes with Maturin, as in this he reveals the way Aubrey carefully extends himself for this most personal counsel. Crowe and Bettany show the men who see each other exactly as they are and even in their arguments there is always the underlying concern for one another. The two are great in the way they make this relationship so genuine that so much can be unsaid in terms of both performances. When Aubrey denies Maturin wish to explore the Galapagos islands, Crowe face remarks his own disappointment in not being able to help his friend even as he speaks the order to deny him, however later on as he states the order to grant the wish again Aubrey never says it's just for him yet there is such unconditional love in the more officially worded order. Both actors realize this relationship so well that you can predict exactly how they will interact with another given any situation because it feels that you just know who they are as friends.

Now Crowe manages the different sides to Aubrey with such a certain perfection in that he never depicts it as this purposeful method of the man, but rather how the man has come to be from his life in the Navy. He's learned how to be a proper Captain, and exactly what it takes. What is so remarkable is how every facet flows from one to next while always being the single man that is Captain Jack Aubrey. Crowe by achieving this amplifies so much of the film by how vivid he makes everything Aubrey is going through. This leads to such powerful moments through Crowe's performance even though the emphasis isn't always squarely on him given director Peter Weir's careful eye to not ignore any facet of the ship and those aboard. There is not a wasted second as you know who Aubrey is precisely through Crowe's portrayal of him. In a moment where  he makes sacrifice one man to save the ship, there is not a great deal of time spent on revealing the anguish yet it is all there in Crowe's reaction the reflects the difficulty of the act. When Maturin is injured in an accident, Crowe is deeply affecting through his subtle yet so poignant depiction of Aubrey seeing his wounded best friend. There is even two separate funeral scenes which could seem redundant yet they are not in the least, with part of the reason being Crowe. The first Crowe in the few words he says offers the pathos as his call upon Aubrey thinking to his own failure, and his delivery of the words are that of apology as much as they are of remembrance. The second though Crowe offers a more exact approach fulfilling wholly the role of the Captain. It is something he's done before, but Crowe puts no cruelty within this fact just instead infusing the words with the respect the Captain should offer to his fallen men. This is not a performance about a single moments but every moment. Crowe's work simply allows us to be with this extraordinary man, learn exactly who is as a person, as a friend, as, well, a master and commander.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2003: Alex Frost in Elephant

Alex Frost did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alex in Elephant.

Not since Gerry have I seen such attention to the detail of walking slowly, here though the film ups the ante by including jogging and eventually even some driving.

One of the random individuals the film focuses on doing nothing for awhile, is Alex Frost as Alex, proving Gus Van Sant's impressive imagination when it comes to naming characters similair to when he referred to both leads of Gerry as Gerry. Oh wait though this film rides on the trivialization of a horrific event through the use of artistic pretension though it is as meaningless as Gerry. Now before one mentions, oh don't you see Van Sant's saying that there is no logic or message to be taken from violent acts, that's not really true evidenced by his scenes that focus on the killers where they engage in playing violent video games, plan their crimes, and kiss one another since it is a film by Gus Van Sant. There is an indicator of a violent reaction to their hollow lives, though naturally in a rather hollow fashion. Now the leader of the two is Alex played by Alex. We get to spend some time with him as he plays piano, but more importantly as he walks slowly around from one place to another. You see that is the most essential element of every life, slow walking, could you imagine life without walking, I'm quite sure life is defined solely by the walks we take. Oh, wait I'm writing about this performance right now, eh I don't know after watching the film I think I'll take a walk, I'll be back in ten minutes.....

What a walk. Hey wait a minute is this an ensemble film, or is Frost lead, I don't care. Anyways back to Mr. Frost again. Well see his performance is very dull and detached. Well this may seem the style of a killer but I could describe most of the performances as also dull and detached. I mean when we see the shooting start the photographer student casually takes a picture, is he too a psycho killer??? No probably not but there is nothing distinctive about what Frost does since almost everyone else is more or less in the same malaise. This even includes when the killing starts and Frost walks from scene to scene as though he is walking to class, I mean show some respect to walking man! Frost's work is indifferent as everyone else is making it so his work in no way stands out, he's also just sort of there. Hey hold on though what about that kissing scene, oh wait he's pretty blasé about that too, never mind. Okay maybe I'm being a bit unfair here, what about his line deliveries, well they're pretty amateurish, though obviously that was Van Sant's intention right, because I really hate those performances that come off like real people or at least engaging in some way. Well eventually through all that pivotal walking we reach a conclusion where Alex corners two students and plays a game to decide which one to shoot first. Frost wakes up to become a psycho killer in this scene, he'd be chilling I suppose if there was any consistency here.  In the scene though Frost becomes a far more active and excited sort ill-fitting to all that he did previously in his performance, but hey if you're not going to care most of the time stay not caring. All I ask for is a little consistency. Eh I'm tired, I think I'll take a walk.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2003

And the Nominees Were Not:

Alex Frost in Elephant

Rémy Girard in The Barbarian Invasions

Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa

Daniel Brühl in Good Bye Lenin!

Ivan Dobronravov in The Return

And a review of:
Russell Crowe in Master and Commander

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968: Results

5. Trevor Howard in The Charge of the Light Brigade - Howard gives a properly strict and slightly ridiculous portrayal fitting to a man who cares more about his stature as an officer than for any of his men. 

Best Scene: Strange seduction.
4. Klaus Kinski in The Great Silence - Kinski gives an effective villainous performance interestingly by taking a rather low key approach showing his Loco as always taking a calm and easy approach to his killings.

Best Scene: Loco wins.
3. Ian Holm in The Bofors Gun - Holm makes an impact through his limited screentime by so effectively presenting the incisiveness of the one man willing to confront both his immediate superior and his out of control fellow soldier.

Best Scene: Flynn confronts O'Rourke.
2. Tom Courtenay in A Dandy in Aspic - Courtenay gives a brilliant performance that creates a complex portrait of a spy who purposefully hates everything and everyone as a means of defense, and rises far above the one note villain the film likely would have settled for.

Best Scene: Gatiss visits Eberline in the hotel. 
1. Tony Curtis in The Boston Strangler - Curtis gives a chilling and effective performance which never relishes in the idea of playing a serial killer, instead offering a haunting and vivid depiction of a psychotic.

Best Scene: DeSalvo's breakdown. 
Updated Overall

Next Year: 2003 Lead

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968: Ian Holm in The Bofors Gun

Ian Holm did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning BAFTA, for portraying Gunner Bill Flynn in The Bofors Gun.

The Bofors Gun I found to be a little bit of a hidden gem about the conflict that develops one night between a recently promoted Lance Bombardier, Terry Evans (David Warner), and a self-destructive Gunner, O'Rouke (Nicol Williamson).

The film focuses on one small section of men through a night where they are assigned to guard a useless gun for an extended period. There is a difficulty to begin with with Warner's Evans being put in charge the small group of men he use to be part of as just one of the regulars. Further complications from Evans's success of the night determines his ability to go home and attempt officer training. Most of the men of the section have little respect for Evans and are at best indifferent to him, his only friend in the group is Holm's Gunner Flynn. Holm makes important use of his early scenes by providing just this warmth in his early interactions with Warner. Holm provides a most genuine support in these moments just providing earnest encouragement presenting Flynn well as just looking out for his friend. This is even found when Evans takes command, and Holm even utilizes a few important reaction shots. In these moments he shows Flynn watching Evans, not looking for flaws to exploit but rather watching with an honest concern hoping his friend will not falter.

As the night goes on O'Rourke's behavior becomes more and more problematic with the other men either partially encouraging it or doing nothing to prevent it, and with Evans hesitating to do anything since it may compromise his return home. Flynn appears for a while as Evans's only solace, but only a solace of sorts as provided by Holm's performance. Holm portrays very specifically a directed delivery representing Flynn attempting to encourage Evans to do the right thing. In each scene we see him in though Holm also reveals a slowly growing frustration in Flynn as Evans keeps avoiding directly dealing with O'Rourke, and allows the problem to continue to grow. Holm builds those frustrations until a scene with Flynn and Evans are alone together, and Flynn tells Evans the blunt truth. Holm is excellent in this scene as he brings such a incisiveness to every one of Flynn's words towards Evans, as he tells him that he is doing the wrong thing. Holm is careful though as he does offer such an intensity in revealing anger towards his friend, but he still shows that Flynn is remaining a friend. Holm's delivery does not go towards hatred just a striking disappointment, portraying Flynn's words as tough love. This stands well as a foil to his scene where he goes and confronts O'Rourke over his behavior. Holm is as incisive in this scene as well but this time offering a strict hatred towards the man. Every word Holm gives a strong coating of venom as Flynn reveals his severe disdain for O'Rourke, and it is cathartic moment through Holm's work as the one man willing to stand up to the out of control O'Rourke. Although the film ends away from Flynn, focusing naturally on a more direct confrontation between Evans and O'Rourke, Holm though in his limited screentime makes his impact particularly through those two aforementioned scenes. Holm gives a terrific performance as he delivers the needed uncompromising sanity that ensures Flynn stands out by being part of the group, but never exactly one of them.