Monday, 14 April 2014
Best Supporting Actor 1976: Laurence Olivier - Marathon Man
Luckily, Laurence Olivier in a supporting turn of Marathon Man's villain is not a miscast. In fact, we need to wait quite a while to finally see Olivier on screen and when he does appear, he doesn't have a lot to do in his initial scenes, therefore there's not much to go wrong at.
First time he has got some place to show off his talents is the famous scene of torture. Though he's only got to say one line: 'Is it safe?', it is in fact a very juicy scene. A mediocore actor would have become flat. But Olivier was able to get the most out of this situation and even become evil.
In fact, Olivier's portrayal is very subtle. He only goes over the top in two short responses that are easily forgivable. His entire performance is very subtle and that's what is so terrifying about his character Dr. Szell. With his gentleness he becomes creepy. And that's why his performance works so well.
On the other hand we can look at the same thing differently. Because of this subtlety, his performance lacks some memorable moments. Even the legendary torture scene was too subtle to be something extraordinary. The subtlety worked greatly in the film, but after watching it you may easily forget his performance. If you compare it to some other villains in movie history, the most memorable ones were always a bit overacted, while Szell is not. That might be the reason, why he doesn't stand among the Joker, Keyser Soze, or Hannibal Lecter.
But it is still a very effective performance. He might be too human to really leave deeper impression on the audience, but that's the guilt of the script and the director. Olivier stays very realistic almost thoughout his whole performance and that's why it works. It may not be the most memorable villain in the history of film, but a very decent one, yes! And what makes this villain different from the most of villains is that his behaviour is rational. He is greedy, that's all. It is so simple, that it is perfect, because we can more easily understand him. He shows this perfectly in his last scene that is also the climatic scene of the film. That might be the only, or the most memorable scene of this portrayal.
The chances of winning an Oscar: I believe that he was the second. He's won a Golden Globe and after almost thirty years he must have been an overdue...