Tag Archives: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor

Film Review: Marathon Man (1976)

 

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I wonder how much Marathon Man speaks William Goldman‘s novel of the same name but in any case, this suspense/thriller film was a crazy contribution to the American cinema in many ways. I liked the direction of film (John Schlesinger) which was straight to subject, mixing and bringing complexity in characters of Doc (Roy Scheider) the CIA guy and big B of the marathon man (Dustin Hoffman), and Elsa (Marthe Keller) the gf of Babe, the marathon man.

First hour of the film was generally growing concerns to know a possible crime scene at some stage and that was the beauty of film-making, the director exactly was spot on. Again my same concern in every film i.e., character development and that was another home run by the director. First hour of Dustin Hoffman’s central character was much of supporting role till the murder of Doc. And from the murder, Babe was the anchor of the ship.

Another impression was the antagonist, in fact a cruel antagonist. The film was mostly remembered for the role of Dr. Christian Szell, a Nazi war criminal played by Laurence Olivier. He played a marvelous villain and thanks to him that due to that unforgettable torturing scene, viewers had to think twice before paying a visit to the dentist. His repeated dialogue “Is it safe?” itself was cruel and annoying but was to play our nerves in few seconds. This role earned the legend his only Academy nomination for Best ‘Supporting’ Actor.

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The great British actor gave his heart out in displaying a spectacular performance. This is the film when he was in treatment of cancer and the case was so serious that he took this role to leave a large sum of earned money to his family. He had to shoot the scenes every day with heavy doses of painkillers which later affected his memory. He lived another 13 years after a successful operation.

The then 38 y.o. Hoffman lost 13 pounds for the role to shape himself as a graduate student. The bathtub scene of his drowning was real as he himself requested to water him as long as possible to offer a realistic view. An interesting trivia confirmed that the guy who played Dr. Szell’s brother whose car was involved in oil-truck collision in opening-scene was, in real, a survivor of Hindenburg Disaster.

One major difference between the novel and film was unfortunately the conclusion. Sources said that Hoffman was unhappy whereas Goldman used the word ‘shit’ to the interviewer to mark his opinion for the conclusion. In the film, Babe moved Szell on gunpoint to the pump-room and forced him to swallow the diamonds whereas in the novel, Babe lead Szell to the Central Park and fired multiple shots on him.

Marathon Man was a brilliant storyteller which explored Nazi war criminals staging appearances in remaining old years of their lives and handling/mishandling of CIA. It was and is a perfect treat for Hoffman or Olivier fans to watch their magic.

Ratings: 8.2/10

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Movie Review: Bridge of Spies (2015)

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Bridge Of Spies is one of the most terrific historical drama I have seen in last few years. Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by the Coen brothers, the movie is somehow based on James B.Donovan’s book “Strangers on a Bridge“. James B.Donovan was an American insurance lawyer, who after his experience of Nuremberg Trials in 1945 (also mentioned in the movie) was asked by US Govt to defend Soviet spy Rudolf Abel.

Now who was Rudolf Abel? Shortly speaking, Abel was born in UK to Russian émigré parents, which means born to the couples living in political exile. He served Soviet military and fought against Nazis in WWII. After the war, he lived as spy in US where years later he was caught by FBI. The director began his part in the movie from here and I think that was a good decision.

The movie has two phases blended splendidly. One is Donovan/Abel phase and the other is Powers/Pryor phase. The other phase is story of two Americans. Francis Gary Powers was American pilot whose CIA spy plane was shot down by the Soviets in 1960 and Frederic Pryor, a graduate student, was caught by East German police without any charge a year later, who was studying there since 1959.

Spielberg offers sharp visual historic presentation of the famous exchange occurred in Glienicke Bridge. The famous exchange scene has been shot at very same historic site. The dare and gallantry of James B.Donovan is well explained, his wit saved Abel’s hugely expected hanging sentence into a 30-year imprisonment which turned into nationwide massive shock.

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When it comes to tell history, the most important aspect to the viewers and readers is ‘deep intensity’. Spielberg successfully sketches deep realistic intensity hitting your head hard, specially at two different scenes. One is the court scene when the judge declares Abel’s punishment to 30 years instead of hanging, next 5 minutes are the peak of boiling points. The other scene is Donovan witnessing Berlin Wall shooting, facial expressions of Tom Hanks who plays Donovan here are priceless.

Bridge of Spies is committed with 90% historical accuracy with slight alterations i.e., all critical points under the incidents happened and presented in the movie are true. Spielberg’s frequent collaborator John Williams did join to compose movie’s score but left for Thomas Newman due to health issues but Newman justified his musical presence and didn’t make us miss John’s score. Production and costume designs were super-excellent, one simply cannot expect an error in these two departments as Speilberg has been veteran of many many historic movies.

Pace is slow but adaptable. Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel is a showstopper who deservingly won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role. Overall, Bridge of Spies is a decent history digging movie from a very important time-zone of the 20th century.

Ratings: 8.8/10

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