Monday, March 29, 2010

To Portray a Taxi Driver You Must First Know How to Drive a Taxi! (Comment on a Known Adler System/Strasberg System "Method Acting" Cliche)

Anyone whose an avid fan of film will know of the basic cliche surrounding "method actors" and followers of the Adler System. The cliche that involves a "method actor" literally performing the occupation or defining characteristic of the role in real life so that they may prepare for said role. An example would be Robert De Niro spending six or so months as a taxi driver to prepare himself for his role in the film The Taxi Driver, or Marlon Brando spending months in a hospital bed to prepare himself for the role of an injured war veteran. Generally, they take these steps so that they may feel and seem more comfortable at the role, as well as knowing the basics mannerisms and actions associated with said situations.

One might consider this a foolish, ultimately pointless, and insane way to properly prepare for a role, but in that I disagree. An actor has two forms of knowledge that they can pull from when they read a script and prepare for a role: their own personal experience, and experience that they learn from conversation or research. Without knowledge they are left to their own creativity and imagination. Generally speaking, one will find that personal experience is more reliable than the latter two in allowing one to know how to properly perform an action or group of actions surrounding an occupation, sport, or hobby, and as such will generally come across more effective in a performance. I would safely assume that many would agree that it is better to know personally how to operate a taxi cab, or maneuver around in a wheelchair, than it is to simply speak to someone in such a situation or worse, read about it. This is why the teachers generally have students perform activities that involve the topics they are discussing instead of simply relying only on research, it is more effective as a learning tool!

When an actor prepares in this manner, they become so used to the basic mannerisms involved with the occupation or action that it becomes second nature, allowing them to use that to not only shape the character in a more complete manner, but focus on other aspects of the performance that can't be prepared for in such a way.

Obviously, not all actors have the time, money, or resources to prepare in such a manner, I'm not saying that you cannot give an effective performance without these forms of preparation, but simply that they are reliably effective. A character's occupation helps shape his personality, it helps define him as a unique individual; also, it's hard to be believable in a role, such as a taxi driver if you seem like your having a hard time going about the basic operations of that occupation. Someone whose, supposedly spent years in a wheelchair, shouldn't have a difficult time operating the damn contraption once on screen or on stage. As they say, if you want to learn how to do something, go out and do it!

On a final note, these big name bastards generally make millions of dollars per role (at least now), so I think they should take such actions to prepare for a role if it means they can give their best damn performance. I think they can sacrifice a few months out of their comfort zone to acquire the knowledge and experience to shape a character. I have yet to see such effort go to waste and a lot of performances seem like they could have done quite a bit better if such methods of preparation were used.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mother, Son by Jon "Moose" Tetrino

The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. It was how it worked.

Efficient like so many of the processes the people went through. Why waste the effort picking up the crop?

Why waste the crop that would inevitably spoil on the ground? This was the reasoning behind Son.

Mother stood guard. The fields were vast, hiding dangers both known and untold.

Many would see to it that Mother and Son were prevented from harvesting – for they would surely starve.

Mother often wondered who would be so cold as to present such a want, for isn’t all life sacred in its being?

“Mother?” Son asked, far from oblivious of Mother’s current passage into the same wonderment as before.

“Son, you should continue. We do not have the time to waste here. We must feed the family.”

“Sorry Mother.”

The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. It was how it worked.

Son stopped again, and looked up at the Mother. “I just wanted to know... if all life is sacred, as you have taught... why do we harvest? Is the crop not as sacred as all other life?”

Mother looked down and sighed. “There is a place for all life. The wind plants the seeds in the soil the ground prepared. The rain grows the crops we then eat. Eventually we die, and the family use us to continue, turning us into soil to continue the crops. Now, keep working, your sacks are almost full.”

The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. It was how it worked.

Son, interested more by this way of thinking, could not help himself. While working, he was distracted. Where was his place in this chain of life? To work until death, then be turned into more work for someone else? “Is work all there is?” he muttered under his breath.

Mother heard him, as she always did, and scorned. The bond they had was unbreakable to a fault, everything he said or even thought she heard.

Son forgot this often. It was a mark of the family – unity without question, all for the good of the Queen.
The sickle went down, and cut the stems.

The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. Liquid melted bulkheads. It was how it worked.

Ah yes the Queen. Commander of all the family, as large as it is. Without her, things would grind to a halt. The village wouldn’t be built, the Sons wouldn’t work, the Mothers wouldn’t protect. It would be anarchy A long painful death for the family.

Son often envied her position, but never dared to speak about it.

Others, to, had felt the same, but short of wonder nobody would attempt to usurp the Queen.

Failure would bring death, success would bring upheaval. Neither helped the family, both caused unnecessary loss.

There was no need to cause revolution when the system they had was so successful.

The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. Liquid melted bulkheads. Tendrils collected the liquid. It was how it worked.

Son was still young – a new addition, a new sheep in the flock.

There were many things he did not understand, and that was why Mother was there.

Mother would answer his questions, and protect him until he could protect himself.

In the field, something stirred.

A wolf, as big as the Son himself, came out of hiding and ran towards him.

Son did not notice the threat, concentrating as he was on the crop.

Mother, on the other hand, caught it at the last moment.

 Jumping in the path of the Wolf, there was little struggle.

Mother was a capable fighter, having been a protector for many ages past.

A strike from her sword and a shot from her bow was enough to send the wolf fleeing.

Son was unsure if the wolf would return, but Mother seemed content with the results of her work.

The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. Liquid melted bulkheads. Tendrils collected the liquid. A ship arrived. A volley was fired. The ship was damaged. The ship warped away. It was how it worked.

The sun began to set. The day had been long, and Son had to finish his work.

He had harvested many fields today, but Mother would not be pleased if he did not fill his sacks for return to the village. A few more minutes and he would be done.

The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. Liquid melted bulkheads. Tendrils collected the liquid. A ship arrived. A volley was fired. The ship was damaged. The ship warped away. The habitat module was breaking apart. People were dying. It was how it worked.

Finally, it was time. Mother spoke softly to her Son. “Come, you did well, it is time to offer your work to the village.”

Son was happy. He had managed to finish his work in time to return.

It would be a long journey back through the fields to the village, but he didn’t mind. Mother was always there for him, and with her by his side he felt as safe as he could be.

Tonight he sees the queen, and offers his harvest.

One more cut and he was done, and together, they began their journey home.

The Mother Drone and her Son aligned to the Hive. After flying through the debris of their toils, they warped, leaving the empty husk of the structures behind them. It was how it worked.

(This is a short story written by a good friend of mine, if you wish to contact him he told me to place his MSN messenger here , tell me or him if you wish to see more of his work in the future!) 

The Difference Between Acting and Adam Sandler

Acting has been twisted, devolved, and mangled into the form you see today in theaters. There are rare occasions of great acting, presented by actors with a true understanding of the emotional, physical, and logical traits presented in every performance. Then you get hacks, hacks who wouldn't know how to develop a character if they were given a character creation screen for each of their performances. I might strike a harsh note with some, but I don't think half of the modern actors that grace the screen are true actors, they're performers, comedians, theatrical individuals. I'd safely claim that half of the actors who have been within a movie release within the last year are not competent actors.

Lets start with a singular subject, Adam Sandler. Why do I say Adam Sandler isn't an actor? He never, ever, ever, ever does anything beside behave as himself (sometimes slightly exaggerated) being directed by a script, not acting. Case and point: Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Anger Management, and Billy Madison are all the same character! If you took out the story, plot, and lines from all of the movies and were simply left with Adam's performance there would be no discernible difference between the characters. They are all relatively short tempered, childish, somewhat clever, outgoing, and flirty, but not in an disrespectful manner (romantic interests only), and a tad awkward. The only time he's changed his character type is for Waterboy, and Little Nicky, and even those two characters are more or less the same. Sure he has more subdued, roles in movies like 50 First Dates and Click, but those simply seem like him being him in a normal setting.

Lets pick some opposition from a true actor, Robert Di Niro. This man is a true actor, he develops a character for each particular role, making the character complete with their own nuances: speaking manner, behavioral ticks, and reactions to external stimuli. They feel, look, and behave like complete people, yet each and every one of them is distinctly different from one another. Case and point (again): Leonard Love (Awakenings) and Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver). We'll start with Leonard: A child from the mid 1900's who turns catatonic before eventually be "awoken" by Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) in 1969. Both of the noted actors play parts that seem severely different from how they behave in real life, from Robin William's usual eccentrically outgoing and comedic behavior being toned down to a quiet, conservative, and almost reclusive person. Niro's character is childish, curious, chip, and more than a bit naive, obviously different from the behavior of Niro in real life. Even more important is that both of these characters are complete and believable, that's because, despite them being characters different from the person portraying them, they still pull upon the actor's rich emotional and intellectual repertoire, adding truth instead of cliche. Adam's character in both the The Waterboy and Little Nicky seem stilted, unbelievable, and hard to swallow.

In the past this issue was relatively minor, there were actors like Sandler, but they were not nearly as prominent as they are now. It seems that eye-candy and memorable mechanisms (Sandler is eternally guilty for this), take priority over actual acting.

I will clarify one point, just because I chose a comedic actor for the negative aspect doesn't mean I do not think that comedy can't also contain full and interesting characters. There are actors: Jerry Lewis, Tim Curry, and Robin Williams who can all play the bombastic comedic role that Adam strives for while still supplying a complete, identifiable, and entertaining character. It isn't impossible, but people like Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Owen Wilson, and Bernie Mac cannot pull it off without simply devolving acting into a stand up act, complete with repeated mechanisms, mannerisms, and trademarks.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Love, a Chorus of Whispers!

Love, a chorus of whispers
Bit parts, built upon each other
Until it reaches a crescendo

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Boom, headshot!

I've taken yet another step toward being able to claim I'm an actor! I want to thank my Media Arts teacher for taking time out to helping me, not only by taking the photographs herself, but by providing very helpful posing tips. Oh, if you didn't know before, I want to be an actor. I don't think I've posted that here before..

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Have a Recommendation

Take this test Political Compass and use it as a tool of self-discovery or self-reaffirmation.