My second post for Debbie’s Winter in July Blogathonis on Disney’s animation “The Sword in the Stone” (1963), and, like my previous post, take note of spoilers! This animation is based on a book (1938) by T.H. White and has a distinction to be the last one produced under Walt Disney himself. In “The Sword in the Stone”, we have merry old England and an innocent enough plot. Wart (aka Arthur) is a young helper to an aspiring knight Kay, before Merlin, a great wizard, comes into the scene and spots Arthur as having great potential and future. After Merlin and Arthur’s initial encounter, Merlin takes the young boy under his wing and teaches him by experience the power of love, knowledge and bravery The snowy scenes come very late into this film, when it is Christmas and the knights’ tournament is held in London. Sir Kay participates with Arthur being his squire. The tournament takes place near the place where the legendary sword in the stone stands. The legend has it that whoever draws the sword from the stone is the true heir to the English throne. When Sir Kay’s own sword goes missing, young Arthur has no choice but to consider taking the sword residing in the stone.
Ralph Fiennes is 55 years old today, and “to celebrate” the birthday of my favourite actor, I am doing this subjective list of his 5 best performances. Ralph is not only a great actor, he is super versatile. Whether it is a romantic hero in a sweeping drama; a disturbed individual in a psychological thriller; a true villain in a historic or adventure film; or simply a caricature of a man in a comedy; Ralph can nail any role with ease and grace. In no particular order:
1.Count Almásy – “The English Patient” (1996)
Anthony Minghella’s “The English Patient” was both a critical and box-office success, and will remain one of the most beautifully-rendered dramas ever. Part of the credit for this should go to its stars, and Ralph Fiennes here played Count László de Almásy (a role which landed him an Oscar nomination). This was a tricky role, because the hero was so imperfect. He is a multi-lingual cartographer, but, because of his origin, he is almost a man shrouded in mystery. We learn that, as a person, he can be selfish and very withdrawn, and, as a lover, very devoted, but also impulsive. He learns his lessons as circumstances in his life take a turn for the worse. Fiennes gives a very memorable performance as that man, and his romance with Katharine (Kristin Scott Thomas) is probably one of the screen’s most heart-breaking.
“If you want to know who I am, it is all in the work.”
“I don’t play villains, I play very interesting people.”
“When I’m 80 years old, I’ll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, “After all this time?” And I will say, “Always”. (Alan Rickman)
British actor Alan Rickman sadly passed away on 14 January 2016. My first introduction to him was through “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991), which I watched at a young age on a VHS. Rickman was the perfect villain there, impersonating Sheriff George of Nottingham with such passion, zeal and enthusiasm, he becomes a truly feared man there, and I do not think that impersonation would ever leave me, so powerful it was. Then, of course, we also have Rickman’s “great villains” in “Die Hard” (1988) and “Quigley Down Under” (1990). I have always admired people playing villains. Unlike action-heroes or “goodies”, villains in films are people whom no one likes, but they are very important because without them, there will not be any praises for glorious heroes. It also takes real acting skill to play a villain, and Alan Rickman could do so not just superbly and convincingly, but with that originality in his presentation that would be simply enviable.
It could be argued that the first two Harry Potter movies directed by Chris Columbus (“Home Alone” (1990)) were the best ones in the series in many ways: they were the most faithful to J.K. Rowling’s original stories; the casting choices could not have been any better there; and the movies had very logical and structured narratives. All these things were barely touched upon in the later Harry Potter films.