Archive for October, 2006

Movie acting

October 13, 2006

An interesting article over at Cineaste asks “What is Great Acting? in the context of film”  While the answers it provides are perhaps a little vague, I’m glad that someone is at least asking the question.  People identify “great” and “bad” actors all the time without ever really analyzing what it is that makes them respond that way.

Is it “great acting” when Jack Nicholson shouts in A Few Good Men?  Or is it so affecting only because Aaron Sorkin wrote him some good lines.  Is great acting nothing more than choosing good roles?

Is it great acting when Woody Allen plays himself in Annie Hall?  It’s a convincing and touching performance; does it matter that the character is little different from the actor (or anyway, the actor’s public persona)?  Is there anything inherently wrong with creating an effective persona to be used again and again in a variety of roles?

And if editing does most of the work (as shown by Lev Kuleshov) and the specific role does the rest, is Sean Penn’s emoting really any better than Keanu Reeves’s blank stare?



October 11, 2006

And there goes my last shred of dignity.

Since landing in LA, I’ve unloaded trucks, laid cable, pretended to be a caterer, and been paid to be part of a gameshow audience, but never did I feel dirty about my odd jobs, even when I left the set smelling like a two-day old ham that’d been left sitting under a heat lamp.

But now, this time, I feel dirty. For now I have been paid to be a “laugher.” This week I was given a nice wad of cash to sit in the audience of a test screening for a new movie — attended by important distributors — and pretend to have a good time. I was instructed to laugh “from the gut” and to applaud at the end. I won’t reveal which movie I saw, or which company contacted me, for fear of losing further gigs, but I will say that I was there for a very good reason: the movie wouldn’t have drawn many laughs otherwise.

I did have the fortune of being handed the wrong kind of ticket upon my entrance, so that some of the junior staffers working the screening were convinced I was a rep from Focus Features.

“Can I get you popcorn or anything, sir?” one asked me after I’d been seated, and shortly after an announcement that there would be an unexpected 15-minute delay. He looked like his name might be Chet.
“Nah, I’m good,” I said, my eyes darting around to see if he might be talking to someone else, before I gradually sussed out the misunderstanding. He tried to chat me up a bit, and I responded as monosyllabically as possible, fearing the embarrassment that would ensue if I were found out. Oh, it was awkward for me anyway, but not yet for this poor guy who thought I was important. He ended with, “Well, thanks for sticking around.” Anytime, Chet.

The real guy from Focus never showed, which is just as well, because there’s no earthly chance they’d be interested in this picture. I left with a phony smile plastered to my face, then went home and showered.

Movie theaters

October 7, 2006

Finally I live in a town where independent films are shown. Sometimes LA gets them before the rest of the country. Sometimes we get flicks that are never screened elsewhere at all.

It’s a pity I won’t actually get to watch any of them.

I went to go see Half Nelson today. There are other films I’m more interested in right now, but a friend wanted to check it out. It’s been getting good reviews, and if nothing else I’m sure the title is some kind of lame play on words that I’d get to make fun of later. (I really hope the main character isn’t named Nelson). I lost track of time and left myself “only” half an hour to drive the six miles to the Los Feliz 3. I got there in just under 25 minutes. And then, because the theater doesn’t have its own lot, I started looking for parking.

And kept looking for parking.

And kept looking for parking.

Wider circles every time. First a one block radius, then two, then three, then four. Not a spot to be seen. Not a single spot. Lines and lines of endless cars.

You’ve been lied to for years. The primary business of Los Angeles is not making movies. It’s being in the way. On the freeway, people sit in their cars, in the way. On the set, background actors and P.A.s who don’t have enough to do get in the way. In production offices, people with vague titles that usually contain the word “development” get in the way of writers and producers. Everyone’s in the way. Call it the Los Angeles Constant. As sure as gravity. It’s why movies are so expensive, and why ticket prices are so high. For every one person who accomplishes, there are ten who impede and obstruct.

So after 25 further painful minutes, at which point Half Nelson had been running for at least a quarter hour, I finally found what looked like a spot. But which, it turned out, was too small by a good foot. I was blocking someone’s driveway. Probably not enough so that they couldn’t get out, but certainly enough so that they’d call a towing company, because surely they are assholes.

So I pulled out and kept looking (coincidentally, this sentence also applies to an unfortunate sexual experience, but that’s a story for another day).

After five more minutes, I gave up and went home. My friend had already purchased the ticket for me, and I’d wasted at least a gallon of gas. So I ended up with $10 missing from my wallet and an hour’s worth of aggravation.

Someone once told me how much he loved going to the movies in LA because theaters were everywhere and if he wanted to see something, he just got up and went without any forethought. He’s out of his fucking mind.

On the plus side, while driving, I’m pretty sure I saw Anne Hathaway picking her nose.

Ooh that smell.

October 5, 2006

1) Around 1 AM last night, a few blocks worth of Beverly Blvd. smelt like burnt pancakes.  I don’t know what caused it, or how it spread so wide.  The investigation is ongoing.

2) Though the odor has dispersed, for two days my bathroom smelled very strongly of fish.  I believe this may be related to the fact that my kitchen sink is spitting up water, though I’m not sure how.  It left as mysteriously as it came.

3) Presently, I smell like hair gel, because my head was shellacked with what I’m pretty sure was a glue stick for my background appearance on The O.C.  Yuko, the Japanese hairstylist who took care of me, went to a great deal of trouble to make me look like an astronaut’s son circa 1965.  After the glue stick proved not entirely effective at taming my hair, she said “you need something special” and pulled out a small can of something with the consistency of recently melted wax.  It worked, but she started getting upset because I used it all up.

I’ve showered to get the stuff out — and to stave off other odors — but the glue and wax is stubborn.  I washed, I rinsed, I repeated, but to little avail.  I still have a sticky head, and that’s one of the adjectives I least want preceding “head.”