Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's the theater, darling!

Yesterday I happened across a couple of interesting essays on the state of American acting. This one from the Atlantic titled, "The Decline of the American Actor" and this one from the New Yorker, in response to the first, titled, "Free Yourself from the Cult of Marlon Brando."

I agree and disagree with parts of both but I thought discussion of what makes "good" acting was relevant especially with the Hollywood-turn Bollywood has been taking the last few years. Personally, as a viewer, I couldn't give less of a fuck about "good" acting. What matters to me to an actor's ability to connect with the audience, to connect with me. If an actor can convey the emotions necessary for the scene, then that's "good" acting as far as I'm concerned. The rest is all inside baseball (inside cricket?) nobody other than critics and/or industry watchers cares about.

BUT I did think it was interesting to hear the talk about training. I do really enjoy the theatrical, showy style of acting and, coincidence or not, most of my favorite character actors in any industry turn out to be theater actors. The theater just works for me. I just enjoy theater-trained (British) actors more than the "method"-style (American) ones. Relevant to Bollywood, I've also found that DANCERS and/or martial artists who become actors have a style that works for me, rooted in getting the physicality right to the part. Which is why I'll always value something like Varun's performance in that one song I linked to a couple days back in ABCD 2 over the more American-style Imran or Abhishek acting. One connects with me, the other doesn't.

Brody has a great line in his piece on why British actors are generally cast in American period pieces:

"[F]ew can summon the granitic opacity of people from half a century ago or far earlier, yet British actors can imitate it."

Which gets to why British actors are generally the ones cast as aliens/monsters on American sci-fi shows. You don't have to summon any alienness from within yourself, you just have to be able to act the part.

Lately I've been working my way through the SyFy Network series Defiance. It's in the third season right now but I've been catching up with seasons one and two on Amazon Prime. The first season starts off a little shaky but the series finds its feet soon enough. There are aliens and weird mystical things and political drama (as well as excellent use of women characters and non-white people in the main cast) but what really caught my interest was the story of the Tarr family. The Tarrs are aliens who immigrated to Earth and have spent the last two seasons attempting to navigate the cultural divide. It's a fascinating portrait of a family having to figure out how to bridge the gap between the old world and easy-breezy Western culture. The link here is that the parents are both played by Brits--Tony Curran and Jaime Murray--while the son is played by Jesse Rath, the Canadian son of immigrant parents himself. Seeing Jesse's very contemporary, very Western, very free mannerisms opposite the formalness of the actors playing his parents has just been so compelling. The conflicts, the negotiations of, "Well, yeah, but HERE they do things this way!" and his choice of occupation: Record Producer. Ha! (Where's my Tarr Traxx T-shirt, yo?!)

Anyways, I've really been enjoying the show.

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Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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