Month: June 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2 *possibly some spoilers alert*

Animations are a bit of a strange case with me. It could be because of my naturally cynical personality, but what I find is that they more often than not make me roll my eyes with their formulaic plot lines, musical numbers and not very funny humour aka not a fan of Frozen, sorry. Before you dismiss me as a heartless person who is seriously lacking a sense of humour (partially true), let me just say that I swear by the old Pixar animations like Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, Toy Story, Wall-E and I am basically a worshipper of Hayao Miyazaki, the god of animated films. What I find about the lesser, and unfortunately more common,  animated films nowadays is that they get too caught up with the external details like the animations and the songs, but when it comes to story and humour they are seriously lacking. Once again, I don’t want to offend the Frozen fans but Olaf the snowman makes me feel more exhausted than anything to watch.

What sets aside the old Pixar movies and Miyazaki films (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, Laputa: Castle In The Sky) is the amount of heart in the stories, which is a very subtle element that cannot be captured by animation details. Frankly, these films have the similar elements as the other films, like the immaculate animations, slapstick humour and singing but what also sets them apart is how human the story and characters are. Like I said, it is something subtle and yet it makes all the difference in the world, be it the simple “Boo!” at the end of Monsters Inc., or the “Surprise me!” at the end of Ratatouille, or the flash of Chihiro’s rubber band at the end of Spirited Away (my personal best animated film ever). Yes, Frozen has a very touching and beautiful message about the power of true love and friendship, but these other films take it even deeper, so much so that I find myself getting the chills because of how powerfully delivered they are.

As such, I happen to be a huge fan of How To Train your Dragon 2, which is certainly surprising given how I usually don’t trust Dreamworks (Over The Hedge, urgh). It is such a simple tale about true friendship, and it does have a formulaic and predictable storyline with many typical elements of animation films, but what makes it stand out is how incredibly moving the friendship between Toothless and  Hiccup is depicted without feeling contrived, corny and manipulative. This touching depiction certainly surprised me because of the various emotions it evoked while I was watching the film. Something as simple as Hiccup riding Toothless through the sky could be such a powerful image of friendship that actually surprised me. Also, what is so amazing about How To Train Your Dragon 2 is how well developed all the characters are, even if they aren’t the most original. The story is full of heart and love; the scene where Stoick and Valka were dancing and singing is something that we see very often (Disney films, anyone?), but over here you could really feel the strong bond and love between the two characters. The relationship development between Astrid and Hiccup is so natural that when they kissed in the end, I found myself actually believing it even though there weren’t exactly scenes dealing specifically with their romance. Their relationship is developed through their adventures together and their overcoming of adversities, which actually makes it all the more believable.

Of course, like all other films, the movie has the inclusion of typical characters that are there for pure comic relief, such as the man-crazy Ruffnut, but crazily enough I actually found myself laughing at these characters’ antics, such as when she goes “take me!” This was something that made me very happy, since animated humour usually don’t mix well with me and yet it worked here.

I laughed!

However, one other aspect of How To Train Your Dragon 2 that makes it such an interesting film is its inclusion of darker elements, including the deaths of pretty major characters. The scene where a controlled Toothless corners Hiccup and was about to kill him is something you don’t see very often in animation films, and yet the film chose to fearlessly explore the fact that good characters do die, taking the “fall and rise of heroes” theme to a deeper level than children films usually do.

All in all, I really really loved How To Train Your Dragon 2, and I can easily see this as the frontrunner for next years Best Animated Feature Film Oscar. It’s a colourful, fun story that is full of heart and has its share of sadness and heartbreaking moments as well. Highly recommended! 4.5/5.

Performance of the week: Vivien Leigh in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

Whenever an actress gives a legendary performance, it is inevitable that people feel this need to compare that performance to her other works. People tend to put down these other works because they don’t up to the legendary status of the iconic performances, but what I feel is that people also tend to overlook the fact that these performances are still solid, great works at the end of the day. You can say that had these “lesser” performances been performed by lesser actresses, they would have been considered outstanding achievements. It happens so many times, even today – Great Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs (Sorry, no point denying my admiration for this performance), Marvellous Meryl Streep in any one of her nominations following Sophie’s Choice etc.

For Vivien Leigh, it is not one, but two of such iconic performances that are widely regarded as the greatest of all time till today. After all, her performance as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire is this blogger’s personal favourite female performance (Sorry, won’t shut up about this too – it bears repeating). She didn’t really have any prominent film roles after her two Oscar-winning turns; not because she wasn’t wanted, but probably because she chose to focus more on her theatre career, and her personal life problems. I have always loved this woman and her brilliant acting talent. She was certainly a theatrical one, but it worked – she was never faking her scenes with superficial mannerisms, but portraying her characters with pure brutal honesty, almost pouring herself into them even. And like Geraldine Page, the big mannerisms combined with the emotional intensity and honesty makes her a true force on screen.

Leigh’s performance here as Karen Stone is a lot different from Scarlett O’ Hara and Blanche Dubois – she is a lot less over the top and a lot more subtle. To some, this may be underwhelming but I think it makes total sense. Karen Stone isn’t a fake, manipulative and spoilt southern belle who has to act cute, charming and coy to get exactly what she wants. She also isn’t a delusional woman who thinks that she is still living in the past and only WANTS MAGIC! What you see from Karen Stone is a woman with dignity, an ageing widow who has a quietly burning sadness in her eyes. Like A Streetcar Named Desire, this role reflected what Leigh was going through at that point of her life. Her marriage with Laurence Olivier had collapsed, and she was facing numerous health-related problems. As Karen herself said, she was “drifting”, and Leigh excellently portrayed this. She doesn’t get a lot of huge dramatic scenes, but she like a ghost who is floating through Rome aimlessly. There is just something haunting and ethereal about her; she’s not “out there” like Scarlett and Blanche, but the “mysterious woman” whom you read about in poems. Like the homeless man who stalks her, you are always curious and intrigued by her when you see her walking down the streets with that always visible sadness in her eyes.

In a typical Tennessee Willams fashion, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone deals with themes like ageing and youth. As mentioned earlier, unlike Blanche Dubois, Karen Stone has accepted the fact that she’s old and unwanted, but you can still sense this quiet desperation to cling on to that prospect of being desired. There is a lot of dignity in this woman; she refuses to be a “client” to the Contessa (played superbly by Oscar-nominated Lotte Lenya), a female pimp who is a bit too eager to push her gigolos to wealthy and lonely old women.  She believes, or is deluding herself, that Paolo (played pretty terribly by Warren Beatty) is firmly in love with her, and is not using her for money. You can really see how well Leigh identified herself in this part, like A Streetcar Named Desire. The desperation, insecurities, loneliness and the need to be desired again can be seen and felt off her, and watching her being described as a “chicken hawk” who preys on young men at the end is just uncomfortably saddening. Even though Warren Beatty is giving a really bad performance (coming from someone who usually praises criticised performances, mind you), Leigh sells their scenes together by actually making me believe that she is genuinely happy with him. *SPOILER* All these make the ending more haunting, when everything turns against her and she decided to seek companionship with the homeless man who has been obsessed with her right from the beginning. Her final expression of resignation and sadness is just brilliant. *SPOILER* And it is from here you realise that although she is not fully crazy, Karen Stone is in fact sick and her reality, like Blanche Dubois, is crumbling around her when she realised that she is being made used of. What is amazing about the performance is how she could have been played exactly the same as Blanche Dubois, but Leigh gives a subtle and more nuanced spin on the character, which is needed here since the desperation and emotional intensity of these two characters are on different levels. It feels like two different characters, and yet you can sense how personal and deep both performances are coming from her. Even though one can say that there isn’t a lot of “flashy” acting, monologues and tears, which is probably what cost her the awards recognition, I’ve always felt that this performance is incredibly real –it’s like she wasn’t even acting anymore, and I think that’s what sets her performance apart from the other “quiet” roles. She was Karen Stone.

Still, Vivien Leigh wasn’t nominated for any major acting awards for her performance here. The Oscar ultimately went to Sophia Loren for her brilliant turn in Two Women that year. However, even though this is a quiet performance, it’s one that I fully admire and respect by this brilliant actress. She doesn’t blow you away like Scarlett O’ Hara and Blanche Dubois, but slowly haunts your mind like a ghost.

Best Picture 1971

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A Clockwork Orange  Fiddler On The RoofThe French ConnectionThe Last Picture ShowNicholas and Alexandra

 

 

 

After contemplating hard between 1976, 1977 and 1979, I decided to go back to the earlier part of this decade and re-visit the 5 1971 films that the academy decided to nominate for best picture:

A Clockwork Orange

The French Connection *winner* 

Fiddler On The Roof

The Last Picture Show

Nicholas and Alexandra

Like 1975, these 5 films seem so interesting and fascinating as compared to 78 and 70. I have actually seen 3 of the movies, or rather 2, since I watched Fiddler On The Roof when I was less than 10 so I remember NOTHING about it. The French Connection is certainly an interesting and unusual pick, but to be honest I wasn’t that big a fan of it when I last watched it. Hopefully, that will change this time round. Oh, and I am crazy about The Last Picture Show, so….I’ll try to be as objective as I can. And I do love period pieces so Nicholas and Alexandra sounds incredibly fascinating to me! A Clockwork Orange sounds disturbing, but once again, in Stanley Kubrick I trust.

It’s going to be very slow, but I’ll definitely get it done with asap! (Hey, I completed 78 much faster than expected)

 

(Early) Performance of the week: Cary Grant in Penny Serenade (1941)

Cary Grant was pretty much the star of the 40s, appearing in A LOT of the critically-acclaimed movies from that decade. He is certainly a respected personality, and widely regarded as an iconic movie star, most notably for his acting abilities and his impeccable fashion style. Truth be told, the few movies that I’ve seen him in weren’t the best showcase of his acting talents. I felt that he totally misfired in Suspicion (same year as Penny Serenade), and was a bit overshadowed by his brilliant female leads in The Awful Truth, His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story and Notorious. Still, I could sort of see why people were worshiping him so much: he definitely can act, he has excellent comedic timing and is certainly a charming presence on screen (heck, Diane Keaton loves him). I just didn’t find myself going crazy over his acting like the whole world does.

You can pretty much say that Penny Serenade was the game changer for me, in which he showed his talent for dramatic performances and received his first Oscar nomination for best actor. But before I talk about his performance, let me just confess how much I loved this movie, and in fact it might be one of my favourites from this decade. What I find strange is that it’s far from perfect – the script, frankly, is kinda mediocre and you can see that the writer was trying a little bit too hard to make the audience burst into tears in each scene. The editing also takes a while to get used to (records), and the obvious use of foreshadowing (involving fortune cookies, earthquakes and angels) is something that I find a bit annoying and manipulative. However, what made me love the film is the BRILLIANT acting all around. It’s impossible to believe that this sappy screenplay can actually be brought to life with the sincere, honest and realistic performances by the entire cast, even the memorable supporting players like Beulah Bondi and Edgar Buchanan. Irene Dunne is fantastic (as usual); she had the typical cliche role to play but her realistic and nuanced acting style brought out all the layers of her character, successfully avoiding the traps of playing the melodramatic, teary-eyed wife. All of the clumsiness and nervous tics she brought to the character felt very natural and believable, like when she first bathed the baby and Miss Oliver’s surprise visit. Nowadays people praise Grant for his court hearing scene (more on that later), but I think Dunne played her part in adding to the emotional intensity as well, especially when she tearfully looks out of the window as he sets off, and when she anxiously waits at the table as he returns home. It’s hard to imagine that this woman played the hilarious Lucy Warriner in The Awful Truth – she would really have deserved a nomination for her work here (much better than the actual best actress winner anyway). The emotional honesty of the cast really lifted the weaknesses of the script, so much so that the darkness of some parts gave me chills. I never saw an over dramatic melodrama from the 40s, but a pretty believable story about a couple’s very tough and unfortunate marriage. It was like a 1941 version of Blue Valentine, and yes you can say a guilty pleasure of mine lol.

Still, the star that got recognized was Cary Grant for his performance as Roger Adams. It’s easy to see why though; although I don’t think less of Irene Dunne’s performance, Grant had the advantage of a) more complex character development and b) a super emotional, scene-stealing monologue. However, what made his performance worked here is the naturalism and honesty in his role. Admittedly, there are times where I feel he can be a bit repetitive with his charming man shtick in his other films, but over here he had to play an ordinary man – and it worked. I wouldn’t say it is a de-glam (FAR from it), but it would certainly require a bit of imagination if you were asked whether Cary Grant could get rid of his usual charming, suave, smooth-talking persona to play an ordinary man who falls in love and awkwardly chases this girl he sees working in the record store. And it works; it never comes off as contrived and fake, but actually kinda sweet and charming in a different way, like the way he nods when Julie got the hint about inviting him into her home.

Grant always has this distinct awkwardness and clumsiness that he uses as comic relief in his charming man roles, especially The Awful Truth, but over here he plays it in a different way that fits the tone of the film rather than as slapstick humour. He makes it such that Roger is clearly an inexperienced father and the clumsiness comes naturally from the character. I mean, the scene when they first brought the baby home is so damn memorable because of his funny antics, like when he clumsily drops the things he is carrying, and when he takes off his wife’s shoes so that they can climb the steps quietly. The way they ran up the steps was so funny, but not in the same way as the screwball films. There was this somewhat innocent and naive tone to it, making it endearing and sweet.

Still the film is a drama, and there are some emotionally heavy scenes that he has to cover. What I particularly admired is how he handled the flaws and changes to the character so believably. Earlier on, we got to see how impulsive and childish Roger (I wanted to type Jerry LOL) was when he quit his job upon acquiring a small fortune, but his change of heart after Julie’s accident during the earthquake was very believably handled. The same goes for his attitude towards their adopted daughter; his initial dislike of children, and his desire to have a son was clear from the beginning, but his attitude change as he found out how much he loved his daughter was never overplayed, obvious or excessively sentimental. You can really see how strong his love for his daughter has developed over the years, and that’s what makes the famous courtroom plea so devastating. It never rings false to me, and you can really feel the sadness and desperation of the character (I mean, I can sort of imagine James Stewart overdoing this part so…). I must say though – the odd camera angle kinda affected it a tiny bit, since you mostly see his side profile during this scene, but you could still hear the emotions in his voice.

However, the most fundamental element that made his performance work would be his brilliant chemistry with Irene Dunne. I never for a second doubted them as husband and wife, and even though they fell in love 10 minutes into the movie, it is actually believable. However, unlike The Awful Truth, both of them realised the more sombre tone of the film, and you can sense the emotional intensity during the periods when the marriage is strained. Of course, he had the help of Dunne’s terrific performance, but it takes two performers to make these scenes work.

All in all, this is a terrific, heartbreaking performance by a great film actor. It’s not a legendary achievement by any means, but it’s still brilliant and definitely worth watching. And crap, I know I’m not supposed to but I loved the film despite its flaws! I mean, it takes something to really move my stone-cold cynical heart, much less what could be a typical 40s melodrama, but it did! And it is very easy to watch actually, despite the darkness of the story at times.

An early post before I start work on Monday!

12 Performances!

Not that 12 is a nice number or something revolutinary, but I’m surprised that I have already covered more than 10 performances since the introduction of this category. I honestly expected myself to give up after around 5 performances. And yet, as I did these posts, I realised that it’s something that I do enjoy doing; like I said, I don’t pretend to be an acting expert and say that I know how this and that line should have been delivered or how many teardrops the actress should have dropped at this particular frame. For me, it’s about the feelings and emotions. I wouldn’t even call my posts reviews, since I’m not a professional critic, but more of reflections. What did I feel about this performance? What kind of emotions did it evoke? And let’s face it, it is a subjective game. Even when I acknowledge that the performer is giving an outstanding and perfectly delivered performance, there’s always the issue of how much I identified myself within the performance, and how much I could connect with it. There are times I watch a performance and go, “yes, he/she is perfect, he is fully honest in the performance, never ringing a false note”, and I am blown away by the performance, but I just don’t find myself falling heads over heels in love with it, despite my highest respect for the performance. Still, I do have great fun doing this, sometimes more than my best picture post and I don’t intend to stop even though I have found a short job to occupy me for the next couple of weeks before school starts.

And so, the performances that I have discussed are:

Favourite Best Actor Winners

Favourite Best Actress Winners

Rod Steiger in In The Heat Of The Night (1967)

Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (1940)

Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)

Diane Keaton in Looking For Mr Goodbar (1977)

Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Walter Huston in The Devil And Daniel Webster (1941)

Ingrid Bergman in Notorious (1946)

Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights (1997)

Sigourney Weaver in Aliens (1986)

Marion Cotillard in Inception (2010)

Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)

Beatrice Straight in Network (1976)

 

 

Performance of the week: Rod Steiger in In The Heat of the Night (1967)

Rod Steiger received his third Oscar nomination and won his only Oscar for playing Gillespie, a police chief assigned to work with a black detective to investigate a murder case in a racially hostile southern town. I’m obviously not an expert at analysing Oscar races like some people are (never read Inside Oscar, for starters) but from what I gather, Steiger was pretty much what you call the frontrunner for the award. He won a lot of the precursor awards, and I really don’t think Dustin Hoffman (my pick for this year) was that much of a threat since he was still a relative newcomer. Paul Newman might have threatened him since it was his fourth nomination and zero win. Were they willing to give Spencer Tracy his third Oscar, given how Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner was his final film role, and this was a posthumous nomination for him ? I really don’t know.

For a best picture winner, In The Heat of the Night isn’t really talked about, but I think it is a terrific film that is definitely worth watching at least once by film fans. It’s not on a legendary level like The Godfather, but I really enjoyed it and I wouldn’t mind watching it again. The direction, for starters, is fantastic. It’s like you can almost feel the hot, humid air of the town, and it feels as though time has slowed down because of how backwards everything is, but at the same time there is this sinister, brutal and oppressive atmosphere. I still would have voted for Mike Nichol’s work in The Graduate, but this one is worthy as well, making this one of my favourite splits between director and picture, the other year being 1972. The racism theme is very well-handled and integrated into the central story line, never feeling manipulative or heavy-handed coughs* The Butler *coughs*. Performances wise, Sidney Poitier is fantastic. He gives my favourite performance in the entire film, and I simply cannot believe that he wasn’t nominated at all. Of course, the screenplay has its shaky moments (well that’s what people say but personally I had no problems), and the acting by some of the supporting cast can be a bit funny, like that Delores Purdy girl who “WENT TOO FAR” with her acting at times, but it wasn’t on a level that distracted. Lee Grant was not bad, but I didn’t go crazy over her performance like some did. It’s a good, solid performance (a bit calculated though) that served the movie well.

As such, you can imagine that when I first watched this movie, I was so taken by Poitier’s work that Steiger’s performance felt a bit underwhelming. However, as I got to mull over it, his performance did grow on me, and now I think it’s great. In fact, I do think it matches up with Poitier’s work, but Poitier had the advantage of a more likable character and a very strong screen presence, so much so that whenever they share a scene together I found myself more taken by Poitier. I mean, how can anyone forget that “They call me Mister Tibbs!” line? The whole air of sophistication, class, intelligence and toughness he brings to the part is just amazing.

From what I read on IMDB boards (horrible, I tell you), Rod Steiger seems to be criticised nowadays as a very hammy and over-the-top actor. Well, people are entitled to their opinions of course, but I personally don’t agree. Yes his acting can be very LOUD and he sure loves to shout in his movies, but I think that he can be a real force on screen when he in top form. People praise Marlon Brando for the car scene in On The Waterfront, and there’s no doubt he was brilliant, but I think Steiger had his share of making that scene work as well. And anyway, even in his hammy performances, I find him super entertaining to watch. I mean, his screaming in The Amityville Horror was probably scarier than the movie itself LOL. To put it simply, I like him a lot as an actor and I’m willing to discover more of his works 🙂

There are a lot of external details to Steiger’s performance here; the “chewing”, the poses and stances, the way he wears his cap, the accent etc. To some, this may be “obvious” mannerisms and acting, but I think it worked because he makes Gillespie such a fascinating character. Actually, what I appreciated the most about his performance here is the amount of unseen depth he adds to the role. The way the subtle moments are blended with his external mannerisms makes the performance a fully realised one. From the beginning, Gillespie seems like one of the town people; he’s horribly racist and unbelievably incompetent as a police officer. However, as the story progresses and circumstances force him to cooperate with Tibbs, you get this feeling that this man is actually unhappy with his life, and he is merely putting up a tough facade to accommodate the culture of his town. He may be incompetent, and he does want to take the easy way out at times, but at the same time you can feel that he does take his job seriously and is willing to continue investigating when proven wrong. What is great about the performance is that this is all suggested but never explicitly stated until a scene towards the end where both characters were having a conversation in Gillespie’s home.

His interaction and “chemistry” with Poitier is excellently handled as well. Steiger uses these opportunities to suggest that there is something more to Gillespie than what it seems on the surface, right from his palpable humiliation in the beginning at being outsmarted by a black man. He seems a bit too eager to solve the case easily, like when he tries to push the blame one of his officers Sam Wood. This of course says a lot about him as a law enforcement officer, but I always get the feeling that Gillespie is doing so as a way of protecting Tibbs, by trying to force him to leave now that the case is “solved”. He knows that the legal situation in his town is beyond hope, and he always tries to prove it to Tibbs by trying to make him accept the current situation and leave before he comes to any harm himself. This is never stated explicitly, and yet you can feel it as he desperately tells Tibbs that the evidence is clear enough. Furthermore, his portrayal itself is free of cliches and is realistically handled. It could have been a standard  “white people learn that black people are not that bad, hence form friendship of a lifetime” revelation (Crash?) but instead you really feel the respect Gillespie has for Tibbs grow slowly and steadily, despite his open annoyance with him.  The final scene where he tells Tibbs to take care could have been so cheesy, but instead it was very heartfelt and moving. Of course, this excellent relationship development is not without Poitier’s great cooperation, since he was the one who is driving the investigation forward and “proving” himself, but I still think that without Gillespie changing his atittude towards Tibbs throughout the whole process, the whole thing would have failed.

All in all this is still a terrific, Oscar-deserving performance by Rod Steiger, even if he is not necessarily my pick for this year (Hoffman was just too fantastic in The Graduate). That being said, I love the subtle layers he adds to this performance beneath the mannerisms and the accents, making Gillespie a much more complex character than one would expect. Great job that is definitely worth watching.

I’m going to go slow on the 70s best picture project and take a break for a while. Forcing myself to watch too many movies at one shot like a movie marathon can be quite time consuming and restrictive, especially because I always feel obligated to watch the best picture nominees and not other films I’m interested in. I’m going to take some time to discover some other brilliant performances that I have yet to seen :).

My Favourite Best Actor Winners (That I’ve Seen)

This post is going to be harder than my best actress post (LINK), for the reason that I haven’t seen a lot of the actual best actor Oscar winners. Surprisingly, as I was looking through the list, I realised that I have seen more nominees than the actual winners, but I decided not to make my life hell and just focus on the actual winners that I have seen. I mean, I can easily write a five-page essay on win-worthy performances (not saying should have won, given how I haven’t seen the actual winner in some years), like Paul Newman in Hud, The Hustler and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, or Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, or Peter O’ Toole in Lawrence Of Arabia and The Lion In Winter, or Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie and The Graduate, or Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter and on and on and on…and you get my drift. Still, my knowledge of actual winners is a bit limited, so I won’t deny this list isn’t the most insightful or original. Compiling it is far easier than my best actress winners post, and I’m sure it will change in time to come as I watch more of these performances. So for now…

10) Jeremy Irons as Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune (1990)

Reversal of Fortune isn’t really my cup of tea as a movie, but there are 2 aspects of the film that I’ve always enjoyed. One aspect is my dear Glenn Close’s great (and highly underrated) performance as Sunny von Bülow, while the other is Jeremy Iron’s Oscar winning turn as Claus von Bülow. Whenever these 2 aren’t around, I find my interest in the film disappearing almost immediately. Irons’ win, from what I gather, is one of the least talked about, but I find his performance absolutely fantastic. It’s not very showy, and there aren’t any scenery-chewing, Oscar baity scenes but that’s what makes the performance such a stand-out (to me). Despite the quiet nature of the role, to say it is easy to play would be unfair. The script never makes it clear whether Claus is guilty or not, and it is really up to Irons to exploit this element of the part. And he does so magnificently. There is so much mystery in this character, and a lesser actor would have been flip-flopping between making the character guilty at one moment and then innocent next, making the performance a confusing mess. Irons treads the fine line between these 2, cunningly suggest Claus’ innocence in one moment, and then suddenly twisting things to suggest otherwise. He knows how to play with the audience as the script demanded, and that’s what his performance here so fascinating. I feel like only Philip Seymour Hoffman came close to achieving a similar feat in Doubt (2008).

9) Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network (1976)

It’s easy to dismiss Peter Finch’s performance as one-dimensional since he is just crazy for a good 90% of his performance, and I won’t deny that fellow nominee William Holden’s performance has more character development, but I still think that Finch’s performance has a great deal in making Network the classic that it is today. He is almost like a symbol in this movie, representing the extreme influence and cruelty of the media in both ways. On one hand, his insanity is being exploited by the media cruelly and yet while I watch him ramble on and on, I cannot help but feel like one of the television viewers in the film. His presence is so magnetic, and despite his craziness, there is just something so…hypnotic about his ramblings that makes feel so drawn towards him, even if I don’t give a crap about what he says. I can understand where some of the criticisms is coming from, and some may feel that he is supporting (definitely not, imo), but I think Peter Finch gave his 200% in this part, attacking it with a fearless intensity and making the madness of this character frightening to watch.  He also played a part in creating one of the most iconic scenes in film history.

8) Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs is a masterpiece in its own right. The suspenseful direction is one of the best I have seen in a thriller, and watching all the elements being pieced together is just a mind-blowing and nail-biting experience. Anthony Hopkin’s performance Dr Hannibal Lecter is iconic for a right reason. His screen-time is actually short for a best actor winner, but his presence is so strong and his character is so crucial (I can see how some actors might play it in a supporting manner) that the lead win is totally justified. Hopkins’ brought out every detail of the part, from his strange introduction to his blink-less stares, making Lecter a highly memorable character and a real force on screen. And his interactions with Jodie Foster (another honourable omission from my favourite best actress winners) is so magnificently played out, making them one of the greatest on-screen pairings ever.

7) Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood (2007)

Nowadays it is quite common to hear people saying that There Will Be Blood should have won best picture. Personally, I am still one of those No Country For Old Men supporters and this isn’t really one of my favourite Paul Thomas Anderson films, especially as compared to The Master (yes, I’m serious) and Boogie Nights. Still, I won’t deny that this is a great film made by one of the most interesting directors today. The cinematography alone is amazing, the score is great and the story is fascinating, even if it’s not my cup of tea.

Ok sorry, I digressed. I have mentioned in my favourite best actress post that all these highly technical performances aren’t usually my personal favourites, even if I do think that they are fantastic and impressive. I know people tend to go gaga whenever an actor adopts a different voice and uses a completely different set of mannerisms, and I do too, but I just don’t find myself calling them my “ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE PERFORMANCE EVER”. Still, the amount of work, dedication and detail Day-Lewis brings to his character is incredibly impressive, and yes, I do agree that he is one of the best today, even if I am not a fan of his acting style. I think he can a bit guilty of scenery chewing sometimes though (oooo controversy!). Still, his Daniel Plainview is one of the most fascinating creations ever put on screen. He is ambitious, brutal and almost on the brink of madness, but he also has this tenderness to his son that only he himself understands. Despite all those big mannerisms and unique voice, Daniel Day-Lewis brings a quiet intensity to this part that can be easy to miss especially if you are caught up with his “I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!!!” Those killer glares and sadness in his eyes when interacting with his son proves one thing: beneath the external details is an understanding and inhibition of a very complex character that Day-Lewis has fantastically achieved.

6) Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown in My Left Foot (1989)

My Left Foot is a really great and inspirational film, done with minimal sentimentality, and very well-handled throughout. I’m not that crazy over Brenda Fricker’s performance (really great, just not OMG AMAZING for me), but Daniel Day-Lewis performance is on a whole different level altogether. Look, I know I have made that comment about accents and mannerisms, but like Meryl Streep, I just cannot not be impressed by this guy’s performances. You may disagree, and say that he is chewing scenery excessively (true to certain extent), but holy crap it just works. It’s his way of being honest to the character and identifying himself with it. In My Left Foot, Daniel Day-Lewis nailed the physical aspects of Christy Brown incredibly well, so much so that I had no trouble believing this guy really had cerebral palsy. However, there’s something much more than the external aspects to this performance. Day-Lewis shows how Brown is flawed in terms of character as well – his bad temper and his swearing can be off-putting, but at the same time, he also brought out the positive traits of the character, such as his determination and tenacity. A fully realised character, combined with technical perfection, makes this performance a piece of gold. I feel very bad for not putting him higher, but my top 5 are just too good for me to not put there.

5) Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather. These 2 words alone are enough to make me bow in reverence. Ok, that’s a bit much but this movie alone is the reason why I turned into a film fanatic today. I’m also one of those people who think that Al Pacino was robbed of the Oscar. Yes, Joel Grey was truly great in Cabaret but…but…but… Anyway, Marlon Brando’s performance is actually shorter than one would expect for a best actor winner, but there’s something about his presence that just makes you drawn to him. Even though his appearance is limited in the second part of the film, he commands the first part of the movie entirely. I mean, the opening scene is as iconic as it gets. His acting is really subtle actually, but the fact that his presence is so strong can really be attributed to his total inhibition of the character. You can say that he didn’t act as Don Corleone, he was Don Corleone. Every single line, every single movement and every single look comes so naturally from Brando that I have no problem buying his performance at all. He effortlessly brings out every aspect of this fascinating character; the loving father, the loyal friend, the man with principles, and even though you don’t see him killing anyone directly, the brutal killer. Just the horse head scene alone is enough to make you fear this man. And the speech he gives to the other family heads towards the end of the film could just be one of the best acted moments in film history.

4) George C. Scott as General George S. Patton Jr. in Patton (1970)

Not going to go into detail with regards to this one, since you can visit my post on Patton (LINK) to read my thoughts. Even though I am not a fan of the film, George C. Scott’s performance is still one of the best winners in the 70s. Yes, he famously rejected his Oscar, and he faced some really close competition from Jack Nicholson’s astounding work in Five Easy Pieces, but I still find it an incredibly fascinating portrayal, and a real masterpiece of acting.

3) Robert De Niro as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull (1980)

You can say that Robert De Niro is one of the greatest film actors ever and I wouldn’t even disagree. He’s probably one of the few 2 time winner whom everybody agrees with both wins (usually people just agree with one). His method acting is so intense and detailed in characterisation,yet realistic, free of scenery chewing and non-flashy at the same time. He really knows how to act with his eyes, communicating a whole bunch of emotions with a single glance. I mean, even a cameo in American Hustle altogether is enough to elevate that movie into masterpiece territory for a few minutes. Let’s just take a moment to ignore the crap that he has been appearing in recently, shall we? Although I prefer his performance in The Deer Hunter slightly more, there’s no denying how amazing his performance as Jake La Motta really is. Brutal, disturbed, flawed yet saddening at the same time. The final scene alone is worthy of the Oscar.

2) Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in Capote (2005)

Shortly after Philip Seymour Hoffman’s really unfortunate death, I mentioned in an older post that this used to be my favourite performance of all time, but now I have downgraded it to second. I feel a little bit bad for doing so, but I won’t deny that this performance is just astonishing. To some, it may be mimicry, but beneath the voice and the mannerisms is a portrait of an enigmatic character that is just so hard to read, and so fascinating at the same time. Hoffman’s portrayal of Capote’s manipulative side is something that should be used in acting class; every scene brings you a new side of the character and a new dramatic situation. Watching how he wriggles out of his way and how he calmly twists his words to get what he wants can make you gasp in shock. And then you see the final scene, where his conscience finally shows itself, followed by the saddening downwards spiral of the character. An amazing, mind-blowing and astonishing performance by a terrific actor who will be greatly missed.


1) F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984)

At the end of the day, my vote still goes to F. Murray Abraham’s masterful work as Antonio Salieri. His performance is the least flashy and technical as compared to the others (except Jeremy Irons, maybe) but his performance just evokes all kind of emotions in me as a viewer. You really feel sorry for him as he slowly gets overshadowed by Mozart, but at the same time his immense jealousy and manipulation makes you want to punch his guts. Abraham communicates all these emotions with his eyes, and some of his scenes are plain chilling, like when he humiliates Constanze, and his final “I absolve you!” scene.  Yet at the same time, you just feel so damn sorry for this pathetic guy, even though Abraham never demands your sympathy at all. Fantastic. It’s a real pity his career didn’t live up to this win afterwards…

So yes…my top ten favourite best actor winners ever. Interestingly enough, my entire list seems to be made up of dislikeable, flawed and larger-than-life personalities, but these are the performances that I feel left an indelible mark in film history (and my mind!). My 1-5 are solid, and I doubt they’ll change much, but at I continue watching more movies, and I’m pretty sure that the list will change, especially number 10 (he is still fantastic though). Here are some of my favourites that I did not include, but are still amazing works that would have been highly deserving of inclusion.

1)      Jack Nicholson as R. P. McMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

2)      Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront (1954)

3)      Jean Dujardin as George Valentin in The Artist (2011)

3)      Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

And the supposedly fantastic ones that I will hopefully catch up on one day…

1)      Ray Milland as Don Birnam in The Lost Weekend (1945)

2)      Ronald Colman as Anthony John in A Double Life (1947)

3)      Ernest Borgnine as Marty Piletti in Marty (1955)

4)      Alec Guiness as Colonel Nicholson  in The Bridge on The River Kwai (1957)

5)      Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field (1963)

6)      Art Carney as Harry in Harry and Tonto (1974) – Yes, I’m aware of the hate directed towards this performance for beating Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson, but I’m still willing to give it a shot. Only 70s winner I have yet to watch.

7)      Robert Duvall as Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies (1983)

8)      William Hurt as Luis Molina in Kiss Of The Spider Woman (1985)

9)      Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist (2002) – what happened to his career???

10)      Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006) – as with Adrien Brody, what happened???