INTELLIGENCE & MOVIE-MAKING
"CLUELESS" IS RIGHT!
Whatever Happened To The Human Intellect?
It's Not Just The White House...
Everybody in Hollywood is just a little too pretty to be real. And a little too dumb. I can barely tolerate the new generation of male leads, like Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves. They just project such cluelessness; such inability to focus, as actors; such stupidity, as individuals. Actually, I guess they're not so new, any more...
When you grow up on Bogart and Cagney, Eastwood and Connery, Nicholson, DeNiro, Hoffmann, Pacino, Duval, Hackman, it's hard to regard the subsequent generation(s) as believable characters, much less real actors. Now I sound like my grandfather. Oh, well: Gawd bless videos!
I used to teach acting, cosa, and you're not wrong. Everybody you mentioned comes from a different acting tradition, one where they were trained onstage. Reeves and Cruise and Brad Pitt (who has improved; Spy Game showed some real promise) come from a newer technique where you're trained in front of a camera. I've taught both and they're quite different. It's the preoccupation with the camera that makes that difference. Hard to explain....
Posted by Mick at January 14, 2005 07:36 PM
I know what you're saying. It's the audience, the instant feedback: It brings the actor out. The camera keeps him inside himself, or trying to con the camera. The audience isn't real, in film. Not every actor can get past that.
It's not just that, for me. I'm not saying that all those older actors were great intellects, or real-life heroes. But they were able to project that. They either inhabited a character, or put one on, seamlessly, depending upon their individual style. And it was believable. Even though American actors tend to always play themselves, they were able to take possession of a role in a way that really struck you, and made a lasting impression.
Can you imagine anyone in ten, twenty, thirty years, quoting a line, or imitating a character "created" by Keanu, or Cruise? There's no "there" there. Can you even remember the NAMES of any of their characters?
How 'bout these names:
"Nobody gets the best of Fred C. Dobbs."
"Ah, Patrolman Serpico, reporting for duty, Sergeant."
"I know you, Clarisse. I know all about you. With your white trash accent and your cheap shoes..."
Or these lines:
"I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like..." Any trouble finishing that line?
Bill Murray, to his roommate Dustin Hoffmann, as he stumbles in late from his first date in drag: "You. Slut." (Character name?)
Or, "OK, then, I want an egg salad sandwich on whole wheat toast. And hold the egg salad."
"Where do you want me to hold the egg salad?"
Tell me you don't remember the next line!
OK, a lot of it is the writing: The average Hollywood film today is written on a cocktail napkin by a team of twenty-two-year-old coke freaks. There's no "there" there, either. People that young rarely have the breadth of experience or depth of emotions to really know any stories, much less tell them, convincingly. The average age in Hollywood on and off screen has plummetted in the last forty years. And it shows.
Plus, as you say, the old crafts are not being learned any more. John Huston, and many other great directors, were writers, and/or stage directors, before they hit Hollywood. What was Tom Cruise, a parking-lot attendant? That's part of the problem: People make it big, and dominate the industry, before they're ready, as human beings. Before they really are fully human. Before they're dry behind the ears. And it shows.
When I look in Tom Cruise's eyes on the screen, or Keanu Reeves', I see dumb guys trying to remember lines, and convince themselves that they are race-car drivers, or lawyers, or whatever. But they don't quite believe it, and neither do I. I'm not sure they even know what a lawyer or a race-car driver is. They've never had real jobs. Just acting, and not much of it. And they're stupid guys, too. The lack of intelligence shows, in everything they do.
Can you imagine Adam Sandler or any other of those shallow dimwits doing the suicide scene from "Last Tango"? Or "being" Jake LaMotta? Or delivering even one line of dialogue from, say, "My Dinner With Andre"? They're meat-puppets. Male models. Action-figures. That's how directors treat them. And writers? Where are they?
I know what you're saying about acting. Anyone who's ever attended a great stage performance knows what magic it is: For a man or a woman to become another person, to create a real character, to convince you that they are who they say they are, right in front of you, with nothing but their voice and their body, so close you can see them sweat. And I've seen actors reach right through a camera and all the technical bushwa, and grab an audience, and shake it. But I see that less and less.
I know there are plans to completely digitize the movie-making process: To put everything into routines on a computer that can be called up and assembled in any combination. They're already compiling databases of actor's work: You've seen examples in some commercials featuring classic Hollywood actors of the Forties and Fifties in new scenes, created digitally: Fred Astaire dancing with an upright vacuum cleaner. Humphrey Bogart having a Coke in a nightclub. It's like soul-stealing, to me.
Real actors like Liam Neeson have objected to being put in a can like that. He walked out of the Star Wars series because of all the blue screen stuff, shot without scenery or even other actors. It's weird. Someday, I've heard Hollywood execs say, gleefully, they won't even need "live actors" any more. Remember that sinister phrase. Remember "live music"? Bit of a curiousity, now, isn't it? Some future: An artistic world without artists. Just computers, and businessmen...
Keanu is the prototype: I honestly think he's digital, not real at all. I fully expect him to "de-rez" on "ET" or "Hollywood Extra" some night. I'm looking forward to it. Stay tuned.
Croos-posted at Cul's:
"RATBOYS' ANVIL: January 10, 2005: 'Brief Takes' "
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