…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Best Actor

The Essential Performances of the 90s Showdown


 

 

Our friend Andrew Kendall of Encore’s World… has painstakingly planned and vetted 64 of the greatest performances of the 1990’s out of a possible 200, this difficult task eventually proving fruitful, presenting us with a showdown where you can vote for the better performance out of two that are paired. Thirty-two performances begin this showdown, but there can only be one winner.

FULL BRACKET HERE

Andrew has chosen me as one of his henchmen, the others being Jose Solis of Movies Kick Ass and Nick Prigge of Cinema Romantico. I pretty much tried to rig and troll the list while the three of them brought the bracket some quality. Other bloggers suggested their bests, like Amir Soltani of Amiresque, Courtney Small of Big Thoughts from a Small Mind, Craig Bloomfield of Dark Eye Socket, Ruth Maramis of FlixChatter and Ryan McNeil of The Matinee, Alex of Film Forager, Andy from The Film Emporium, and Jessica of The Velvet Café.

Andreas Stoehr of Pussy Goes Grr, Michael Cusumano of Serious Film and Yojimbo of Let’s Not Talk About Movies have also stepped in to do what I’ll be doing every other day or so – talk about two of the performances that are pitted against each other.

I already submitted some of my write-ups, the first one between the surprisingly restrained Nicolas Cage and the classical touches of Irene Jacob, both performances being in the moment, the actors enveloping each moment with intense emotion. I’m trying not to be biased between the two. You have until Tuesday to vote between the two of them, since every showdown is given three days to fight against each other. The clue to the next showdown that I’ll be moderating is in the picture below. Which one is it? I’ll link you when it’s up.

Now go to Andrew’s site and vote! And comment!

 


A Man for All Seasons


I’ve presented my Jesus freak side before or in other words, I’m sure my ambivalence towards my provenance has seeped into my blog especially when discussing religious movies. That important factor in my life makes me hesitant in fully embracing Robert Bolt‘s play A Man for All Seasons. Again, I’m crudely comparing the first cracks of this Renaissance-era schism to its counterpart across the pond. The American Civil War was formally about ‘the power struggle between the federation and its states but really it was about slavery. In that same vein, the play masquerades its main crisis that it’s about the protagonist, English Lord Chancellor Thomas More (Paul Scofield), and that he should be able to pledge allegiance to his religion over his country. But it’s really about calling his king King Henry VIII’s (Robert Shaw) and adulterer and his new seventeen-year-old wife Anne Boleyn (Vanessa Redgrave in a silent but nuanced performance) a whore. I read the play as part of my Catholic high school curriculum – I don’t remember our class performing it and in my mind all actors had the right to defend their own stance as the correct one. But Fred Zinneman‘s movie adaptation feels so one-sided. This is especially true in casting Henry and let’s be honest: if a director tells Shaw (charming and handsome as he is and what is wrong with me?) to yell and be a boor it’s not like he’s going to say no. I can only imagine Seth MacFarlane being inspired by Shaw’s performance in portraying Peter Griffin’s real Irish dad.

But I do like the lawyer-like talk in vogue for the movie second half. There’s a subplot about John Hurt’s character where the visuals do the storytelling and another one on More’s daughter’s marriage to a man who is against any religious institution, a postmodern touch to a traditional landscape. Scofield and Wendy Hiller, who plays his wife, are more subtle in the delivery of their flowery lines than I remember, the former earning that Oscar especially in the last scenes, where he has to bellow his last thoughts without overacting. It’s a fascinating look towards the Medieval/Renaissance struggle from a mid-twentieth century lens, the latter grappling with its own changing stances towards morality.


Overreading Colour! Shine!


This is stupid. Let’s begin.

Red is used in Shine, denoting public arenas where adolescent David Helfgott (Noah Taylor), well…shines. The curtains of a stage where he plays and is hailed a prodigy. He meets Isaac Stern. He’s supposed to tell Stern, through his stage dad Peter (Armin Mueller-Stahl)’s coaching, that he’ll give anything for success. Surprisingly Daddy wants to thwart David’s education, offered to him by Stern himself. The colour is also used in a library scene, meeting a girl but leaves her out of obligation. Red marks the boy’s desires, repressed yet encouraged.

Humour me as I try to combine both pink and orange in symbolism, the two complementing each other, used on different times in young David’s life. The former, as you can see in the still, is the girl’s room where he can bond with his sisters and tell him about others who encourage his dreams of studying in America. The latter in a more minor moment, as he wakes up after a drunken night out in the town, wearing an orange boa feathered scarf, one eye-opening to his new world in England. Those colours mark freedom for David.

There’s a lot of green around Peter. The vegetation in his shack’s front porch, tall to protect his family from being taken by the outside world and the backyard grass, where he can watch over them. Except for the girl’s room, most of the house has green wallpaper, including the piano room where he teaches David, in the bathroom and in David’s bedroom. In the still, he’s telling David that hating one’s own father is the worst thing in the world. The colour in the interior scenes feel masculine, less of a stabilizing sense but more drab, weathered and gloomy.

White has its double meanings. We see it’s strongest manifestations around David’s music professor Cecil Parkes (John Gielgud), the latter’s collection of marble representations of body parts of the greatest musicians including Rachmaninoff’s beautiful hands. The piano keys themselves suggest the classicism that the music suggests and requires for the people who love it and want it. It’s an intellectual, genius’ colour. As the cliché goes, genius borders with insanity, the same colour of David’s hospital gowns.

Black. An internal colour, where David remembers the music and simultaneously forgets it. His hair that’s perfectly combed only to be dishevelled with sweat. His enlarged pupils. Cecil warns him not to let the music engulf him. This shot at first didn’t make sense, David’s head being vertical makes me feel like he never falls. Maybe that’s the point, or that this way we can see that there’s more air space above him. How much he’s lost into the space of the music.

Gold and yellow are closer relatives than pink and orange. The first pair, for both young and old David (Geoffrey Rush), mark domestic spaces outside his home, places where women dominate. The first belongs to David’s intellectual mentor. She’s the first person he tells about any scholarship, the golden brown effect coming from her eclectic possessions and personality. The yellow comes in as wallpaper on one of the institutions where David is admitted, a freer space where mentally challenged people can relax.

Lastly, there’s blue, shining through the windows of the lounge where he starts playing again. And with his sheet music floating his wife Gillian’s (Lynn Regdrave) pool, having to fetch him and sheet music from the pool. Blue spaces seem controlled, even modern. They represent his second birth towards performing music and the support he needs to do so, and again he gets that support from female characters. But unlike his younger self, he’s ready this time.