Tuesday, March 23, 2010

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.

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