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Christopher Plummer (#110 of 11)

Oscar 2018 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2018 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscar 2018 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Frances McDormand will all but certainly reap the benefit of staying true to form and eschewing the bulk of the Oscar campaigning playbook, thereby avoiding having to utter any defenses for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, unquestionably this year’s most #problematic awards contender. Sam Rockwell, conversely, has spent Oscar season staying true to himself and doing everything within his power to charm voters and please crowds. The results have been defter than even his ever-reliable fancy feet. He joked through his Golden Globes acceptance speech, admitting that after a career filled with indie films—and, you know, Charlie’s Angels—it was nice to be in something that people actually saw and thanking writer-director Martin McDonagh for “not being a dick.” He reasserted his renegade-outsider cred by dutifully clocking in at Studio 8H and then lacing one of his Saturday Night Live skits with an impromptu, live-TV four-letter word. He kept his tongue firmly planted in cheek even as he allowed a cardboard cutout of Agnès Varda to upstage him and everyone else at the Oscar nominees luncheon.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Supporting Actress

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

Blergh. Weeks ago I dreamed a dream where all the particulars of my presently contentious relationship with Anne Hathaway, a typically smart and endearing performer who was robbed of an Oscar in 2009 for Rachel Getting Married, were manifest. At the actual Oscar ceremony, which resembled a standing room-only dinner party, I hugged Hathaway, who I referred to as my sister, as she paraded around in her Catwoman outfit, working the room with the same jacked-up excitement she exhibited days earlier opposite Chelsea Handler and Jon Stewart and hinting at all the things she’s going to do to her hubby once she gets home. Someone, probably Christopher Plummer, announces the winner in this category and the award goes to Sally Field, for illuminating through her two excellent meltdowns in Lincoln, one opposite Tommy Lee Jones, the other opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, the essence of the Steven Spielberg film as a study of the conflict between public and private modes of behavior in the arena of American politics. Shock ripples through the room, and while I should be sad for my sister, who puts on a predictably brave face, I can barely sustain my excitement at Oscar turning his beefed-up buttocks to a performance every bit as cloying as Anne’s contrived acceptance speech at the Golden Globes.

Honoring Structure: An Interview with An Enemy of the People‘s Richard Thomas

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Honoring Structure: An Interview with An Enemy of the People’s Richard Thomas
Honoring Structure: An Interview with An Enemy of the People’s Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas is back on Broadway in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s revival of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. The New York-born actor, who for many will always be associated with The Waltons, started his career as a child actor, making his first Broadway appearance at age seven in 1958. Since then, with detours for movies and especially television, he’s worked steadily in the theater, playing a slew of classical roles in regional theater, and working on contemporary fare by writers such as Lanford Wilson, Terrence McNally, Edward Albee, and David Mamet.

In Ibsen’s 1882 classic, a community’s highly anticipated source of revenue, a new public baths for their town, is in jeopardy when the town’s medical officer, Thomas Stockman, discovers the water may be contaminated. Stockman’s determination to stop the project sets him in collision with his fellow townspeople as well as his brother, Peter (Thomas), the mayor of the town. I spoke with the 61-year-old actor shortly before performances started at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway.

Summer of ‘87: Dragnet: Not Just the Facts, Ma’am

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Summer of ‘87: Dragnet: Not Just the Facts, Ma’am
Summer of ‘87: Dragnet: Not Just the Facts, Ma’am

Dragnet’s screenplay is a veritable cornucopia of “what the fuck?” moments disguised as a big screen adaptation of a TV series. The ’50s police procedural created by Jack Webb is now a cop buddy movie overflowing with genre-skipping ’80s excess. It’s a parody, a mystery, a crime caper, a chase film, a satire and a horror movie featuring human sacrifice to an anaconda. It’s also a love story whose female component is referred to as “the virgin Connie Swail.” Dragnet winks at its source material often, but besides a committed lead performance by Dan Aykroyd and the return of Webb’s partner, Harry Morgan, little remains of the original show. This ain’t your grandmother’s Dragnet; it’s your deranged drunk uncle’s Dragnet.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

That a now slimmer, totally unfunny Seth has been nominated for an Oscar before McLovin’ (whose take on Evil Ed was, if no patch on Colin Ferrell’s smoldering Jerry in the Fright Night redo, still a more fully realized character than Moneyball’s Peter Brand, movies’ all-time flimsiest amalgamate) is the only kink in a category preoccupied with old men getting real with their feelings. Which is why no one should’ve been surprised in the slightest to see Albert Brooks given the cold shoulder: His Drive heavy had no feelings to bloviate (though the compassion he showed one of Drive’s supporting characters even while taking his life away should’ve been more properly noted). I’m not sure whether Brooks should take it as a compliment or an insult to have been excluded, but it has to sting a little bit that Hill’s downright catatonic bullpen pencil pusher usurped him in what seems clearly this year’s biggest coattails nod.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

Long before he delivered an über-classy acceptance speech at last night’s Golden Globes, a speech that Oscarcast producers are surely hoping he has the wherewithal to repeat, Christopher Plummer had the Supporting Actor race all sewn up. For his tender turn as Ewan McGregor’s late-blooming gay father in Beginners, the 82-year-old has been racking up the precursors, climbing toward a Kodak Theater standing O that’s been in the cards since his movie dropped last June. If he were to lose, by the freak chance that voters were cool with slighting one of cinema’s most beloved Oscar-less veterans, Plummer’s trophy would go to Albert Brooks, who went way against type in Drive, playing a calculating Hollywood shitbag who cuts throats (Producers Branch? Check.). The third lock in this category is Kenneth Branagh, who hammed it up royally as Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (a knee-jerk candidate since his gig was announced, Branagh owes much to the casting director, whose thespian-as-thespian stunt exceeds the actual work).

Seattle International Film Festival 2011: The First Grader, Beginners, & The Future

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Seattle International Film Festival 2011: <em>The First Grader</em>, <em>Beginners</em>, & <em>The Future</em>
Seattle International Film Festival 2011: <em>The First Grader</em>, <em>Beginners</em>, & <em>The Future</em>

[Editor’s Note: This article is cross-posted at Parallax View.]

Opening night—rarely a strong point of SIFF—arrived with one of the least memorable films of recent memory—even more frustrating since it had already opened theatrically in New York to tepid reviews. The First Grader, the dramatized odyssey of an 84-year-old man who takes up the Kenyan’s government’s promise of universal education to learn to read, otherwise hits all the right notes for a Seattle event, and does so with thudding predictability. It’s an uplifting story of triumph over adversity in a third world setting, a true story with resonance in recent history and current events, and a feature built on waves of swelling music and seas of the adorable faces of children to trigger the audience’s nervous systems like a Pavlovian response. What could have been a resonant exploration of the tensions left over decades after the Mau-Mau rebellion and the lingering feelings of betrayal from both sides of the Kenyan people simply checks off the issues before setting up stock conflicts and easy-to-identify villains on the way to triumph. I understand the SIFF was seriously pursuing a far more substantial feature that, by fault of their own, fell through at the eleventh hour and I applaud their efforts on that count. But that doesn’t make The First Grader any less unimpressive.

Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Sometimes the key to an actor’s successful Oscar campaign is to let the performance speak entirely for itself. For Mo’Nique, the only acting frontrunner that was a no-show at AMPAS’s recent nominees luncheon, we have to wait until March 7 to find out if that strategy worked for homegirl. And sometimes the key to an actor’s successful campaign is to complement a good performance with tastefully played PR. Except for a weirdly botched performance at the SAGs, Christoph Waltz has remained a frontrunner in this category ever since Inglourious Basterds stormed the Cannes Film Festival last year in part by selling himself, in one gracious awards speech after another, as nothing less than a gentleman—though one with all the humor and none of the pomposity of the debonair ghoul he memorably plays in Quentin Tarantino’s film. Don’t even entertain an upset: Like Heath Ledger last year, Waltz is practically the only nominee in this category.

Oscar 2010 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2010 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2010 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz’s lip-licking good show as the smartest Basterd in the Gestapo has so thoroughly run the table with guilds’, critics’, and humanitarian awards that it’s left the remainder of the category’s contenders cowering in his shadow. It’s so dark back there, in fact, it’s hard to even know who else is vying for one of the other four slots, widely accepted to be superfluous at this point given that no one has amassed a sweep this powerful since Martin Landau’s Bela Lugosi in 1994. (Even that invincible perfect storm that was Heath Ledger’s Joker managed to miss a few key trial heats; both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics opted to sidestep posthumous laurels.) Waltz’s biggest miss to date: losing the National Board of Review citation to Woody Harrelson’s tough, empathetic, emotionally wounded war vet in The Messenger. (The Board was blind to Landau too, instead opting for Gary Sinese’s tough, empathetic, physically wounded war vet in Forrest Gump.)

Anthony Mann’s The Fall of the Roman Empire on DVD

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Anthony Mann’s The Fall of the Roman Empire on DVD
Anthony Mann’s The Fall of the Roman Empire on DVD

Tough, lean and spare, The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) was an epic swords and sandals picture coming fast on the heels of Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. Yet despite having its own careening version of a chariot race and the requisite legions of ornately costumed extras amidst spectacularly palatial locations, the tone is surprisingly somber. Much of the first half takes place in the dead of winter, and the performances seem pensive and cool, or manic and edgy. Anthony Mann, best known for his noirish westerns, suggests death through the autumnal season, the Roman legions marching through snowy fields and shadowy pine groves, and the candles and torches flickering ominously in dark rooms.

The oppressive mood gives depth and shading to the pomp and circumstance of ancient Rome, and an extended and potentially tiresome scene where the emperor (Alec Guinness) greets emissaries from every corner of his empire, each with different colorful flags, armor, and titles of honor, is tempered by the fact that the king of the world has a lingering pain in his lower abdomen (a close-up of the emperor’s trusted Greek adviser, Timonides (James Mason), has a gnawing, sweaty intensity, as if he is already imagining his master’s demise). Layers of snow or smoke drift over the widescreen images, obliterating any sense of David Lean’s epic cinema, and the score by Dimitri Tiomkin is frequently low-key. In many scenes, there is no score at all, but the uneasy absence of music in favor of wind or rustling leaves.