Mar 26, 2014

Actor Round-up: 1936

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5. SPENCER TRACY AS FATHER TIM IN SAN FRANCISCO
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This is a thankless and (almost) pointless role that not only has no business being nominated in the Lead Actor category but is also an incredibly underwhelming Oscar debut by an man who'd go on to be one of the AMPAS' most beloved male actors. In a grouchier mood I may demote this to one statue. But it's certainly one of the most baffling nominations I've viewed thus far, in terms of overall weight and significance.


*demoted from 2 to 1 as of 5/16/14

4. PAUL MUNI AS LOUIS IN THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR
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The only thing that separates Muni from Tracy here is that Muni seems to be doing something. He's carrying his vehicle and contributing vastly, even if his style of acting isn't my cup of tea. Muni's acting here is hamming it up to the Gods--so much so that most of his facial expressions and line deliveries have the stench of an actor who is trying much too hard. A forgettable performance by an actor who has a tendency to miss more than hit with me.



3. WILLIAM POWELL AS GODFREY IN MY MAN GODFREY 
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While he retains the gentlemanly suaveness that always wins me over, I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed by him in this film. He's too detached for my liking and always keeps at a distance, never really taking any chances to humanize or infuse Godfrey with some vulnerability. It's an adequate enough effort, but he's easily lost amongst every other supporting actor in the film.


2. GARY COOPER AS DEEDS IN MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN
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I can't shake this feeling that another actor could have done a much better job with Mr. Deeds than Gary Cooper did. It's almost blasphemous that I don't really like the work of the actor who originated the role, but I feel that Cooper is miscast here since liveliness and outright charisma isn't something that comes naturally to him. He's more of a quiet cool kind of guy, and in this film with this role, it just didn't mesh well for me.


1. WALTER HUSTON AS SAM IN DODSWORTH
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The eldest actor out of this set of nominees, in my mind Walter Huston far surpasses everyone else in terms of his technique. In retrospect I may have been harder on his work than I intended to, as he does a pretty solid job conveying Sam's vigor and subsequent disillusionment. I wouldn't be surprised if I upped his rating to four statues upon another rewatch and a perkier mood. However, in my present state of mind I see this as a good performance with little to no flaws--it just lacks that extra oomph that would make me more passionate about it.



IN CONCLUSION: I was more disappointed in this year than I expected to be. I was expecting to enjoy Cooper, Powell, and Huston more than I did. It's an interesting batch of nominees, with four quiet and subtler performances and one loud and contrived performance. I always struggle with internalized performances--they always leave me wanting more from the actor. This has been mentioned quite a few times but I tend to seek out expressive emotion when it comes to male performances, only because it's something I don't think I see often in male performances--and it's such a "manly" thing to bottle up emotions. That said, if William Powell had to be nominated this year I'd have preferred his work in The Great Ziegfeld, as his work as Florenz Ziegfeld is a bit more realized than his work as Godfrey. And since Spencer Tracy getting nominated this year seems practically non-negotiable given his nod for an insignificant enlarged cameo, I wonder why he didn't get more notices for his work in Fritz Lang's Fury. I've also heard good things about Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest. So...that's that I suppose.

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