Acting

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The Early Formation Of The Child Performer

Modern performances rely on young actors amid outlandish worlds of fantasy and fable. It is often conveyed through technological devices such as computer graphics or scale mock-ups. But years ago, child performers had only their voice, their dancing feet, their counterpart, and a reliable stream of antics to deliver entertainment to audiences. In the tradition of Shirley Temple and Little Rascals, show how much or how little technological advancement in screenplay has impacted the burgeoning and maturing actor into a unique form or into a rambunctious version of the original model. By all means, incorporate relevant patterns of the genre by configuring actors such as Mickey Rooney (who started in silent film) into the prose, or the Brooke Shields foray into fashion, modeling, and advertising.

  • Relevant article: https://the-artifice.com/secret-life-of-shirley-temple/ – Misagh 3 weeks ago
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  • An interesting suggestion for an article! There's a great history of cinema to draw upon indeed, but might I also suggest widening the subject to include a look at young actors/actresses' development outside of Hollywood? – Amyus 3 weeks ago
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  • A lovely topic with plenty of research to draw from. I'd be especially interested in the writer's take on Shirley Temple. Both my grandmas had some of her movies, so I watched her as a kid. I liked her, but even when I was little I felt her acting was overdone and whiny. I wonder now if that was encouraged because of a lack of technology, or if today's child stars have similar problems. (Personally, I've seen some really good ones and some that can't act to save their little lives). – Stephanie M. 3 weeks ago
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Who's Your Daddy: Great Thespian Families

This topic is about families of actors, and directors, not movies about fictional or real families. Besides the long line of Barrymores, who are drama’s greatest families? The Bridges? Kirk Douglass, his son, Michael Douglas, and his sons? Blythe Danner and daughter, Gwynneth Paltrow? John Carradine and sons, Richard and Keith?

Who are they? What makes them great? Is their dramatic influence expected to continue? By which younger family members? In acting or directing?

Relatively speaking, this could be a mother of a topic.

  • Donald and Kiefer Sutherland are also father/son acting legends. The two recently starred in a father/son role together in a western called "Forsaken". – ZBetts 1 year ago
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Top Ten Beautiful Voices in Cinema

AMC.com’s "The All-Time Top 100 Voices in the Movies" list begs for debate. It’s top ten is below. These are not the rubber-voiced talents of a Mel Blanc or Seth McFarlane whose faces don’t appear on screen. Nor are they the distinctive but (to many) annoying – pipes of a Melanie Griffith, Gilbert Gottfried, Rosie Perez, or Bobcat Goldthwaite. These are the actresses or actors whose dulcet voices are as memorable as any other part of their skill set.

What is it about their voices that sets them apart? Which cinematic performance is their most interesting and distinctive? Who would you add – say Valeria Golino, Ossie Davis (my favorite male voice), Gene Hackman, Marion Cotillard, or Bryan Cranston? – to the list? Who would you drop, if anyone, from the list? And, finally, what makes the voice of someone such as Holly Hunter (my favorite female voice) so attractive, while another’s voice misses the mark?

AMC.com’s "Top Ten Voices" list:

10. Peter Sellers
9. Holly Hunter
8. John Wayne
7. Al Pacino
6. Marilyn Monroe
5. Jack Nicholson
4. James Earl Jones
3. Christopher Walken
2. Orson Welles
1. Clint Eastwood

  • I think the Marilyn Monroe should have been the fourth instead of James Earl Jones just because I find her more passionating. – mmq2 1 year ago
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  • What about Morgan Freeman -I adore his perfect tone and enunciation – ZBetts 1 year ago
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Ugly Ducklings: Actors Whose Craft Has Improved

I have never been a fan of Ben Affleck. His solo scene in Good Will Hunting in which his character (Chuckie Sullivan) realizes that Matt Damon’s character (Will Hunting) has indeed left for California is awful. However, in Argo, his acting was much better.

This topic is not about the Jack Nicholsons, Robert Duvalls, and Michael Caines of the cinema world who started off as gifted actors who’ve achieved greatness. It’s more about the Paul Newmans who initially got by with looks (like Redford), but improved exponentially with experience (unlike Redford). Nor is it about the Harrison Fords who started out mediocre and never got much better.

Which actors, in your opinion, have shown tremendous growth after a less than auspicious start? How does this happen? Which early performance(s) left you underwhelmed? Why? Which later performance(s) convinced you of their improvement? Why?

One challenge of this topic is communicating the actor’s progression beyond, "Pauline Kael says…" But hey, that’s a start.

  • Is this topic just concerning actors who got parts based on attractiveness (rather than talent), but improved with more acting experience (hence the irony of the "ugly ducklings" title)? If so, then it sounds like an interesting topic since it narrows down the scope from the many actors one can think of. Since it can be such a subjective response, what criteria should one give for how well certain actors performed? – aprosaicpintofpisces 1 year ago
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  • It's about any actor, attractive or not, whose craft has improved.The last paragraph alludes to the difficulty of the topic. – Tigey 1 year ago
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  • aprosaiintofpisces, how would we know whether if someone were hired for looks alone? Also, what other criteria are you alluding to? If you have something specific, please let me know. – Tigey 1 year ago
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  • I agree, TKing. I don’t think we’d ever know that for sure, but there are definitely people whose careers have begun and continued despite an obvious lack of talent. There have been models, singers, or individuals who were simply related to already-established actors. For example, there was that controversy at the Golden Globes about Lady Gaga winning for “Best Actress.” I’ve never watched American Horror Story so I can’t give my own opinion about her performance, but the incident did stir up controversy about whether she won simply because she’s Lady Gaga. Some have succeeded despite a rough start while others haven’t gained much talent despite continued acting careers. I was just talking about actors’ attractiveness as a suggestion since you happened to mention it offhandedly. It could focus on just about anything else that led them into having continued acting careers despite evidence to the contrary. I was only asking for more specificity regarding the types of actors we’re examining. – aprosaicpintofpisces 1 year ago
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  • I meant to say, "I agree, Tigey." I apologize for mixing up usernames. – aprosaicpintofpisces 1 year ago
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  • Paulie Shore's mom owns (or owned) a Comedy Store, so he got as much stage time as he wanted. My dad's funeral was funnier than Paulie Shore on his best day. Then there are the awards that are do-overs. Christopher Paul Curtis wrote a beautiful adolescent book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, the Newberry Award panel goofs, gives the award to a lesser work, then realizes its mistake and "makes up" for it by awarding him the Newberry for Bud, Not Buddy, a good book, but not as good as The Watsons. Likewise, Bob Dylan got a Grammy for Serve Somebody, but nothing for Blood on the Tracks, Like a Rolling Stone or (cue up the angelic choir) Blonde on Blonde. Surely we see through a glass darkly.Don't worry about the name thing. A rosy Tigey burning brightly by another name is just as Swede. – Tigey 1 year ago
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The Look: Cinematic Masters of Expression

In The Night of the Hunter, serial killer, Harry Powell’s (Robert Mitchum) slightly-raised eyebrow is genius, the tiny movement revealing his heartlessness. To those who’ve seen the film, even still photos of Mitchum in character resend Powell’s bone-chilling indifference to life.

Another fine example of communicative expression occurs in The Devil Wears Prada when Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) smugly and finalistically hummed, "Um-huh," not quite under her breath, making audiences frown. Streep’s acting was brilliant: anything more or less alters the message.

What other actors in a particular role – as opposed to say, Bruce Willis’ role-to-role, smart-assed half-smile – use a powerful, signature expression – including facial, verbal, or body language – to define a specific character? What does the expression communicate? Are there actors able to reproduce this mastery via different expressions for different roles? In which roles? With which expressions?

  • First I could think of is Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II. In most of his scenes he's silent, seated, listening to others speak or thinking by himself. Yet even if his actions don't vary much, his brooding face express so many emotions: anger, shock, pain, amusement, and even when he's worried. Still one of Pacino's best, and establishes Michael Corleone's taking over of their family business – Joie 1 year ago
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  • A great film for this topic is Caché. Haneke is a master director and auteur, he always gets supreme performance out of his actors. Caché has minimal dialogue -- forcing his actors to use their eyes to convey emotion. Maybe include the interest of foreign films particularly -- since, if the viewer doesn't understand the language, they must rely solely on physical performance (besides subtitles). – Brandon T. Gass 12 months ago
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The One-Man Show

Watching the recent excellent feature film ‘The Martian’ made me think a great deal about what exactly makes and breaks films that effectively hinge upon a single actor to carry most, even all, of the dramatic beats of a film. ‘The Martian’, ‘Cast Away’, ‘Gravity’, ‘Moon’, ‘Locke’, ‘Secret Honor’ etc.

  • I am Legend! Although Will Smith is amazing so. – Tatijana 2 years ago
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  • There could be a few ways to discuss how actors can make or break a film if they are the only focus of the narrative. I think one way could be to focus on films on both ends of the critical spectrum. If a focus of your idea is the acting, why not compare how one actor successfully headed a narrative and how another fell short; compare and contrast the acting methods. – C N Williamson 2 years ago
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  • 'I Am Legend' is another good shout!The contrast thing is good; I think a particularly effective one would be 'Locke' and the Ryan Reynolds starring 'Buried'. Both are performances technically speaking confined and restrained by the nature of their character's setting/actions, but whereas Tom Hardy gives a magnificent performance and really disappears into the role, I did not really see that with Reynolds. – CalvinLaw 2 years ago
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  • There is also the TV show Last Man On Earth that is solely one actor and it is a comedic representation of the "one-man show." – mckinleyebert 2 years ago
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Playing 'Oneself'

When an actor is cast as ‘onseself’–as in, in a role very similar or even directly resembling his public persona–does that diminish the artistry behind the performance?

  • Interesting idea, CalvinLaw. It might be worth expanding on this in the title after a ":". Also, are there some specific examples of theater or movies you were thinking of, or would you like to leave that up to the writer? I hope this helps. – Jordan 2 years ago
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  • Probably leave it up to the writer, it's a vast topic to explore so some freedom might be appreciated! – CalvinLaw 2 years ago
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  • Likely yes, it does diminish it. Because playing yourself, likely as a cameo, can usually lead to mugging, quoting famous lines of yourself, or just being rather dull. Although in some unique cases, I've seen biopics where actors portray people from a persons life, even though they themselves knew the person in question. So rather than play themselves, they play more integral characters, which allows them to contribute more to the project. – Jonathan Leiter 2 years ago
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  • I'd actually take the side that it enhances the role. Who better to play you than you? The actor would know all the motivations and thoughts of the person they are playing. I would however note, that acting in a role like this is dangerous... Playing who you are repeatedly shows you limitations as an actor and also would keep you locked into the same role and forever seen as the one role. And people tend to get bored with these sort of actors. – Tatijana 2 years ago
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  • A great one to look at (popular in the UK but perhaps not so much elsewhere) is <i>Extras</i> by Ricky Gervais. It had lots of famous people (Patrick Stewart, David Bowie) playing versions of themselves that went against the public perception. (Patrick Stewart in genral does quite a lot of him-but-not-quite-him roles.) – Francesca Turauskis 2 years ago
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  • in most cases a cameo of yourself only enhances the public persona because people enjoy recognizing parts of the real world in film or tv. – thereisnojosie 2 years ago
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  • This is a great concept. I've always wondered if the actor is truly playing their own self or just who they think they are. To be completely honest, I think this may delve into a deeper concept of who we define our own self as and whether it is who we are or just who we think we are. Anyway, back onto the subject, no, I do not believe that an actor or actress playing himself or herself ruins and/or diminishes the artistry of acting. I believe it may even enhance it and bring it to a new level. One in which the actor or actress may even become confused with who they really are.Think about it, an actor or actress plays a number of different characters in a given time. When they play the characters they are paid to play they become the character. Some may slowly roll into the character and some might dive in head on. Regardless, the actor or actress becomes the character and sometimes they lose their own self in order to play the character. With respect, take Heath Ledger for example. A great actor who played arguably the best joker of all time as well as many other roles that are and will be very well remembered. However, the argument could be made that he "lost" himself by taking on the role of the joker and became the Joker. Who really was Heath Ledger and who would he have been after playing the Joker? Would he have changed? Would he have known who his own self was or would he have to recall and push to retrieve who he was after taking on the dark role. The world will never know. – shaynezamora 2 years ago
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  • I've wondered about it... Well, like in the Goosebumps movie the real R.L Stein makes a cameo while his "character" is actually played by Jack Black. Why is that? It could be that they were looking to make him younger or because the acting skills were more important. – Candice Evenson 2 years ago
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Actors Playing Themselves

In _The Big Bang Theory_, Will Wheaton plays the character "Will Wheaton" but that character is an exaggerated version of Wheaton’s public characteristics, it’s not meant to be a true-to-life version of himself. The same is true for James Van Der Beek’s character in _Don’t Trust the B— in Apt 23_; though named "James Van Der Beek", we are not supposed to think that character legitimately portrays Van Der Beek’s true character.

What challenges do actors face when playing "themselves"? Research through interviews might provide insights into how the actors feel. It seems like both men are having fun with the exaggerations, but are there difficulties? Do they struggle with fans who are unable to make the distinction? Do such roles diminish an actor’s credibility by making their career into a joke, or does it create additional name recognition and re-ignite careers?

Probably a third actor/role should be added to round out this discussion.

  • Interesting topic! If you decide to write this topic, you need to differentiate cameos and actors actually playing themselves for a whole film. It's also worth looking at Sunset Boulevard as it is a fascinating exploration of the star system and the evolving film industry. Billy Wilder uses Buster Keaton, Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim for a reason - they all play characters who are very similar to themselves and the way the film industry has treated them and forgotten them. The names change, but they are actually playing themselves and their lives on camera. Thrilling! – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun 2 years ago
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  • "This is the End" is probably the best recent example, and the stories of each of the actors getting in real fights due to false ones they wrote for the film that were too close to the truth is a fascinating story in and of itself. – smartstooge 2 years ago
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