govalen29

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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    Latest Topics

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    The Biographical Film - Good acting or Practiced Mimicry

    Every time a new biographical film hits the big screen I find myself in a debate, both internally and with everyone with whom I come in contact. Is what I just observed good acting or just the ability of an actor to mimic what he/she has seen of the person whose story is being portrayed? Examples of this include Val Kilmer in the Doors and Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line. In interviews, both actors said that they studied hours of film in order to get every nuance correct. And, indeed, they nailed it. However, is that Oscar-worthy? Look at Daniel Day-Lewis, who played Lincoln. He did not have videos to examine, just small bits of written information about Lincoln’s demeanor. He nailed it as well, yet my reason for thinking so is that he met my expectations of what I had read about Lincoln. So, the Oscar goes to… To summarize — If an actor is able to replicate a well-known and documented historical figure’s every characteristic, is this good acting or good mimicry?

    • This would be an interesting topic but it might an idea to provide mimicry and acting clear definitions as a springboard to set up the piece being written. Also, I'm not sure good mimicry and good acting are mutually exclusive. Why not both? Wired have a pretty in depth series that might be a good point of reference - 'Critique Technique' (have a search on YouTube) - that touches a lot of the technical aspects (accent, facial posture, methods of portrayal etc) of actors' portrayals of real people. – JM 12 months ago
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    • For anyone interested in taking this topic, I'd suggest taking a look at some of the acting master classes on You Tube. Michael Caine's contribution is particularly interesting. It's also worth considering just how far some actors will go to 'inhabit' their roles - even going to far as to remain in-character between takes and, in some cases, for the whole film shoot. What psychological effect could this have on the actor? Anyway, excellent topic suggestion. – Amyus 12 months ago
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    • This is would be super interesting to look into. It's always interesting to look at the debate of an impression vs a good take on someone. There are a lot of good videos on this from that one guy that looks at accents from Vanity Fair I think? Again, very interesting! – tredmond 11 months ago
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    Latest Comments

    Leaving aside the fact that humans are naturally curious, and often morbidly so, I think that an interesting aspect that was brought up in this article is the idea of “otherness”. Since humans are tribal by nature, we split ourselves into perceived groups of us and them. The reasons for this are obvious when we look at the evolution of humankind. It was a necessity for survival. “Our group” needs this land, these resources, in order to live. “The other” group is encroaching on “our” resources and thus, is hindering our ability to survive. Thus, they are bad and must be kept out. However, the otherness of the “freak” is not about “us” vs. “them”, in that, “they” are going to steal our resources. This specific type of otherness is about a need for understanding of self.

    Ask any true crime fan why they are fascinated by serial killers and you will often get the answer, “I just need to understand.” Some of us feel an intense need to understand why the world is the way it is, especially the things that are the most horrific, or as with the “freak” most incompatible with what we are used to seeing in our day to day world. If you consider the traditional “freaks” — the Bearded Lady, Lobster Boy, Siamese Twins, etc., when you see images of these people, or if you were among those who saw them in person, the first reaction is generally shock. Then the questions begin swarming through your mind — What am I looking at? Why are they like that? What happened? How do they live? Our mind is searching for answers that the typical person will probably never get (unless you have the internet and curiosity, then viola!). For persons such as myself, who has a deep fascination for all things unusual and generally morbid, I have examined what my overwhelming curiosity for understanding of this specific type of other is.

    Look at my above string of questions. For those of us who have often found themselves identifying as a freak, whether because you look different, act different, are interested in odd things, these are the questions we ask ourselves. Perhaps the fascination with this type of other is partially caused by the commonality we feel with the “freak”. If we can understand the who, what, why, and how of the odd-seeming person that we are being confronted with, perhaps we can understand the freak that we perceive ourselves to be. Thankfully, the people who are physically or socially different than us and are on display now have control of their own destinies. TLC’s vast array of shows about people who live differently than the average viewer has allowed the viewer to access some of the answers that we crave without hurting someone else with the gaze. These people aren’t as “other” as they were before, and we don’t feel as “other” when we understand that their experiences of day to day are similar to ours. We can say that TLC and the internet has normalized the “freak”. However, I prefer to think that we all are freaks and this is the actual meaning of normal.

    The Modern Freak Show

    I think the use of the Ouija board in movies and other genres has a deeper implication than simply a fear of death and/or the unknown. The supposed power of the Ouija board is that one can bring an entity through, usually something malevolent but sometimes something that brings no harm. However, the entity that comes through does not come through the board itself. The entity can only be brought forward if a person is using the board. Thus, the person him or herself is the conduit, the doorway for evil to enter the world.

    In many movies, the conduit is innocent. The author uses Regan from the Exorcist as an example. The Exorcist is the perfect depiction of why the Quija board in film is so terrifying. It is not the idea of death. It is the idea of violation. Regan does not invite Captain Howdy to invade her body. She is an innocent victim who doesn’t realize that she is, in fact, prey. Captain Howdy violates her body. In turn, Regan descends into madness, violence, the opposite of everything that she was at the beginning of the film. Notice that in the majority of films the user of the Quija board is female. If we think in symbolic terms, an evil has entered the innocent female’s body and wreaked havoc on who she is physically, spiritually, and mentally. There is a complete loss of control. The evil entity has stolen her body and identity. She has to fight to regain who she is and must defeat and expel the evil that has forced itself on her.

    I would argue that a violation such as this is more frightening than death. Death has a finality. Violation has ongoing implications of torment and suffering that seem to have no end.

    Ouija Boards in Movies

    I’m not convinced that the idea of a “good adaptation” and a “bad adaptation” are relevant when it comes to art. Of course, to the paid critic the adaptation factor must contribute to his/her argument as to whether a film is good or bad. However, if we look at film as a standalone art as we would literature, painting, sculpting, etc., why does the fact that it is an adaptation matter? Suppose, for instance, a painter observed the statue of David and decided to paint an abstract version of the sculpture. Would a viewer look at the painting as a good or bad adaptation of the sculpted work? I think that’s unlikely. Shouldn’t this also apply to film?

    If we use Stephen King’s “The Shining” as an example, it is well known that King despised the Stanley Kubrick version of his book, primarily because in the book the overheating boiler is almost like a character that Jack is constantly battling until it explodes and takes Jack and the Overlook down with it. Kubrick decided to leave the hotel standing and instead of taking out Jack by fire, he takes him out by ice. That is a significant plot change. However, as the reader and viewer, we the audience can decide that literature and film are separate entities that are unique even if they are based upon the same story. They can each be enjoyed and analyzed individually. They both have the same plot with the same characters and the same location. However, due to the artist’s interpretation, we get to enjoy different themes, a different tone, and the visual element missing from the novel.

    In conclusion, I don’t think “good” and “bad” are the proper filters through which to view an adaptation. Each work of art deserves to viewed as a piece unto itself, even if the origin is based on another artist’s vision.

    The Art of Adaptation: From Book to Film