Sunday, April 26, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: None; emphatically

Why can't I find any excitement to see new America movies and to write some reviews?

I did see "Duplicity" and "I Love You, Man".

But I don't want to write reviews about them.

"Duplicity" follows the contemporary movie phenomenon that seems to equate 'confusion' with 'profundity': If you don't get it, it must be profound. A post-modernism classic. My response it: it isn't profound; it's an intellectual mess.

"I Love You, Man" starts with an unbelievable (and for me, unsupportable) premise: that the leading man desperately needs a male friend. It would solve his relationship problems. When the premise (the foundation) of a film is false, the rest, like a building, is doomed to collapse...and masturbation jokes are not enough to save it. Ultimately it is a sweet film; but sugar cannot save a rotten appertif.

America is filled with talent; in front of camera and behind the camera. But when the moneyed class (the producers) seek profitable box office by appealing to a dumber and dumber audience (I guess I'm saying young equals dumb)...I have no interest.

I am reminded of a Billy Wilder story. He went t a pitch meeting at the end of his career: maybe he'd like to do one more film. He started telling a very young executive his new story idea...and then stopped. "Thank you," he said, and he stood up to leave." "But, Mr. Wilder," the young executive said, "you haven't finished." "I know," said Billy, "but I don't think you want to hear what I have to say. Even more, I don't want to say what you want to hear."

Billy never made another film.

I'm not Billy. I will see more films; and write more reviews.

But today...I feel too much like Billy to continue.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

ON ACTING: Counter Intuitive

To excitingly act is counter intuitive; meaning: the sensible habits of everyday life are contrary to it.
It is like good skiing. The ski instructor tells you when losing balance to lean downhill. “Lean downhill?” you exclaim! “That’s the way I’m falling!” S/he says: “That’s how you get your balance."
It took me years of studying good acting to realize the logical craft of everyday living is exactly opposite the exciting craft of life onstage.
In everyday life, when we greet a stranger, we carefully shake hands, and then we step back and give them ‘space’. In acting you do the opposite. You ‘get in someone’s face.
In everyday life, if a meeting turns aggressively contentious, we say “goodbye”.
In acting, we clench our fists and say; “let’s get it on.”
In everyday life, we resist emotional over-stimulation. In good acting we embrace it.
In everyday life, we are taught never to discuss sex, politics or religion; to ‘look before we leap’; to ‘count to ten’; to limit our reach to our grasp; to limit objectives to the practical and the possible; minimize interdependence; to even distrust elegance (“They are putting on airs.”)

In exciting acting, we do exactly the opposite in all these things.

Actors on stage must seek danger.
We allow ‘eye locks’, whether sexual or combative, to linger.
We seek and permit elongated handshakes, withering looks. We are unafraid of excesses of sound, smell, touch and taste.
We leap before we look.

A good actors wants everything from everyone; instantly.

The need to accomplish all goals--all goals are overwhelmingly all-important--breeds excitement, danger and emotion.

Be safe in life. In acting, live dangerously.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

There only difference between acting and reality is the context.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

ON ACTING: Comedy and Elegance

Comedy, even more than drama, demands great discipline, courage, and grace-under-pressure: in a word, elegance.

The emotional intensity involved in comedy is invariably greater than that in great drama (although not as complex and varied). Therefore the comic actor-as-character must live under great amounts of emotional chaos during the scene.

Comic actors must work harder to physically handle their chaotic emotions. Intense, inelegant emotions require extremely elegant actions: stumbles, clumsiness and pratfalls, while it looks like the actor is out of control, must be precise. A lack of exquisite form is punishable by a lack of audience response: laughter.

Comedy is controlled hysteria, disciplined chaos. Watch the emotionally chaotic yet brilliantly graceful performances of Jim Carrey, Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, Jackie Gleason, and Charlie Chaplin. They are, like many other great clowns of film and stage, sine qua non lessons in courage, grace under pressure, elegantly manifesting the most sublime physical and verbal control while maintaining the maximum emotional intensity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

ON ACTING: Accomplishing Elegance

Elegance comes naturally to the brave and confident and connected actor: to the actor who is honestly (really) looking and listening to the other characters in the scene--and let's the unconscious sense of that oppositional force dictate force of their opposing actions.

In life, a rule of human economy operates that instinctively calibrates the expenditure of human effort against the estimated, expected resistance of the opposing force.

And so it should be in good acting. Only a fool (a bad actor) pays more emotional energy into a created action than is required in accomplishing a task. There should be no grunt to lift a feather; no wasted over-effort to push a weakling.

A bad actor on the other hand, eager to show off their acting prowess, who ‘says’ with his body language: ‘Let me show you how hard this action is—and how brilliantly able I am to accomplish it!--exerts excessive and unreasonable (actor’s) energy to accomplish a simple task. The feather is shoved with a grunt; the opposing whisper is reacted to with a shout!

'Watch my acting--as opposed to reality'--is the shout the audience hears; and it turned off by!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

ON ACTING: "Build"

A build in a scene arises because the truth of each character's life requires more and more effort to hold down* as the scene progresses, and the onslaught from each character's conflictual efforts increases, ripping away each contestant's defenses.

*(Underlying this, of course, is the belief that a person's truth is only unwillingly and most often umwittingly revealed in life, preferred by most humans to be contained, repressed and supresed until the last possible, necessary moment.)

When I was a child, I loved to play with my yellow plastic ducks in the bathtub. My favorite game was to submerge the ducks underwater, then release them and watch them jump out of the water. I remember the activity very vividly after all these years: the deeper the ducks were submerged prior to release, the higher the ducks jumped in the air when they surfaced. The same in acting: as we are forced to dig into deeper and deeper personal layers of truth to defeat the opponent, these truths emerge from the increasing depths of our personality with greater and increasing intensity: hence, bulid.

A REMINDER: The good actor doesn't play a 'build'. It is automatically and proportionally forced on each actor/character as they are truthfully, honestly and emotionally engaged in a real character-conficted scene.

It is a truth of life; hence, of good acting.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

ON ACTING: A Scene's Structural Components

Language, movement, and props are implicit structural components in a scene: ‘givens’ by the writer and director.

By their very human nature, words and movement are the outer shaping of inner character impulses. Words, movement, and facial reactions and prop-handling are the character's emotional life organized into outer action. Actors are therefore automatically aided in their search for structure by writers and directors.

The writer gives them a verbal structure. A director gives them movement structure.

The smart and good actor seeking structure in performance should initially focus on becoming courageous enough, secure enough, and smart enough not to hamper the writer’s and director’s inherently structured offerings. Assume the writer is good writer and the director a good director, and like a smart jockey with a great horse, they should just get on and ride.

Initially, learn your lines as written, follow the director’s blocking, use the suggested props in the script, and allow the early performance rehearsals to flow along the rails of these inherited shapes toward the finish line; let experimentation follow that initial submission to the written and verbal demands.

Good writer’s often hide some of their written structural components in their scripts rather than directly reveal them, however. In such cases, the good actor must dig deep in the dialogue and action to find the structural skeleton beneath the surface obfuscation. These elements may not be obvious. The good actor must decipher the scene's underlying inner structure—the pattern of branches, limbs and twigs inherent in the often disarrayed and obtuse leaves of dialogue and movement…and be prepared to live that inner structure accordingly.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

ON ACTING: The Joy of Acting

Actors often forget the FUN of acting. JOY is the reward of the hard work (getting the job, learning lines, internalizing the blocking requirements, etc).

Acting is not an obligation but a celebration of life: your life as defined by character and plot. It is the emotional flow and joy of your being alive; of having an intense relationship with other people (actors-as-characters), embroiled in the events in the action of the piece, in the safety of the stage and set.

An acor's performance without such living, vital joy is a dead performace. Even pain in performance is pleasure for the actor. A character's pain in performance is a release of the actor's own inner agony, a circumscribe flow of the actor's prior emotional experience, now safely and beneficially released in the words and actions of the character.

To be alive, onstage or off, is the greatest joy.

Do the work first (which includes, like an athlete, being in the best acting-shape possible...through a lifetime of study, practice and experience), prepare for each role with such concentrated effort so that each character, each performance, is no longer a role but you dressed up in the words and actions given to you by the writer and director...and then live.

Remember: each role, each performance, each 'take' of a film scene (and that includes each audition) is, like a moment in everyday life: unique and never possible to be repeated. 'Seize the day!' A successful life (and acting career) is nothing more (or less) than the accumulated stringing together of such joyfully experienced, never-to-be-repeated, individual celebrations of of life...your life...the intensely felt discrete segments of your own existance.