Thursday, February 23, 2017

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The Bicentennial Actor

With two nominations here, Network becomes the rare film to get five acting nods (Mrs. Miniver, All About EveFrom Here to Eternity, On the WaterfrontTom Jones, Bonnie and Clyde are the others). Sylvester Stallone is the first since Charlie Chaplin to be up for both Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay without a co-writer! Giancarlo Giannini is only the third male actor ever nominated for a foreign language performance - funnily enough, the second was fellow nominee Robert De Niro (The Godfather: Part II). And all three were in Italian!

Oh, and of course, Peter Finch becomes the first posthumous acting winner:

The nominees after the jump.

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle
Taxi Driver

He's a man quietly possessed. Dangerous. Unnerving. Boyish. Attractive. A sheepish smile, an unsettling grin. Genius voice-overs, read plainly, controlled, almost like a child's recitation. He genuinely does not understand why his date went wrong, and yet we're kind of rooting for him....until he shaves his head. I love Robert De Niro; I don't want to deal with Travis Bickle.

Peter Finch as Howard Beale

I don't know how Finch is able to rocket to 10 in the first third of the film and maintain that energy without becoming boring, but goddam he does it. Maybe it's because we believe in Howard Beale - Finch takes him seriously, so while he may be the Mad Prophet of the Air Waves, he's genuine. And exactly as magnetic, hypnotic as a mad prophet should be; he's Elijah without the flaming chariot. And he doesn't have to work too hard to convince that he and Schumacher are friends and equals.

Giancarlo Giannini as Pasqualino
Seven Beauties

Giannini's performance is all visual - Pasqualino's a great talker, of course, and that odd froggy wheeze Giannini speaks in is unforgettable, very telling of the character's unpolished roots. But when I say visual, I mean the half-shut eyes, the pursed lips, the way-too-rehearsed swagger, all cluing us in to the nature of this try-hard; and then his sweaty, defeated, desperate hangdog expression later on.

William Holden as Max Schumacher

Holden makes a great choice, keeping Max mostly measured with brief, yet controlled, outbursts; it makes him seem like he's the mature, clear-headed one, even though when you really think about it, he's kind of a jerk. Not just for leaving his wife for Faye Dunaway, but for lecturing himself and both of them about it; for letting Howard have a mental breakdown on-air because he's mad at a potential power shift; for telling that same story about the Washington Bridge twice in a 24-hour period like he was a goddamned genius. Max is unlikable, and Holden's prissy, entitled approach is perfect.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa

Stallone is someone who knows his limitations and plays to them. He's a bunch of muscle with terrible diction and not the most expressive face. And he uses all that to his advantage in the writing and playing of Rocky Balboa, a Philly "bum" who gets a shot at the big-time, and doesn't even know if he can do it. That scene the night before the fight, where he expresses those doubts to Adrian...he earned the nod right there.


My rankings:
5. Giancarlo Giannini
4. Sylvester Stallone
3. William Holden
2. Peter Finch
1. Robert De Niro

Mom's rankings
4. Peter Finch
3. William Holden
2. Sylvester Stallone
1. Robert De Niro

Oh, thank goodness, not a tie, nothing even close to a tie! Oscar chose Finch, but the vote from the Silver Screening Room couldn't be clearer...


By the way, if I were to compare the Best Actors of 1976 to those of 2016, it would go like this:

Mr. Self-Pity: Casey Affleck / William Holden
Bloody Nice Guy: Andrew Garfield / Sylvester Stallone
No, Trust Me, I Really Get It, Not Like Those Other Guys: Ryan Gosling / Robert De Niro
Disconnected: Viggo Mortensen / Peter Finch
Fragile Masculinity: Denzel Washington / Giancarlo Giannini

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Giannini - I adore him in anything he does. That aside. I totally agree with your choice of DeNiro