Althouse | category: actors



a blog by Ann Althouse

"By this time, I had some sense of the plot [of Jean-Luc Godard's 'King Lear']... The narrative was now roughly this: The world has been destroyed, post-Chernobyl..."

"... and a puckish little man named William Shakespeare Jr. The Fifth is tasked with re-creating his famous ancestor’s work. The avant-garde opera director Peter Sellars was cast as Shakespeare’s descendant, and Godard inserted himself in a role that doesn’t appear in any Shakespeare play: Herr Doktor Pluggy—an inventor who wears a contraption on his head, with cables dangling, doing research in pursuit of something called 'the image.'.... One day, Godard sneaked into [the room of the actor playing King Lear, Burgess Meredith] and short-sheeted his bed. I noticed that the director seemed to derive satisfaction from provoking people... Toward the end of the shoot, Godard mentioned that he deemed everything I did in the film completely authentic except for one moment.... I asked him which one. 'I’ll tell you when it’s over,' he said.... When I finished my scenes, I approached him to ask which moment, and he told me that it was the scene in which Cordelia lies next to her father, dead. This was completely nonsensical, since it was the last scene that I filmed—it hadn’t even been shot when he made the comment."

Writes Molly Ringwald, in "Shooting Shakespeare with Jean-Luc Godard/The actress and writer recalls working with French cinema’s enfant terrible" (The New Yorker).

What sort of person goes in for practical jokes? I mean, someone who's not in the comedy field — a serious, accomplished person: Why would he favor that particular way of fun? It's one thing to devise something original, but to do a standard practical joke like short-sheeting the bed: Who does that?

Ringwald said Godard "sequestered himself from everyone" and, she thinks, "he was actually a bit shy, trapped in his mind. Perhaps the only way he could make sense of anything was to film and edit it."

How does that square with short-sheeting the bed?  

As for the remark about inauthenticity, I see a subtle humor there. Wasn't he saying, essentially, you were perfect? The only time she was inauthentic was when she, a living person, had to play the role of a dead body. Yes, the dead-body impersonation hadn't happened yet when he made the remark, but he knew she would play that part and he must have considered it funny to unsettle her as he set up a punchline that would make sense at some point in the future.

"It’s the worst thing ever when you open a script and read the words 'strong female lead.' That makes me roll my eyes. I’m already out."

"I’m bored. Those roles are written as incredibly stoic, you spend the whole time acting tough and saying tough things."

Said Emily Blunt, quoted in "Emily Blunt Rails Against ‘Strong Female Lead’ Label: ‘It’s the Worst Thing Ever' and ‘I’m Bored’ of It" (Variety)(via my son John, who linked to it on Facebook).

Movies need to be interesting! If the actors think the characters are boring, why would the audience show up? To be bored?

"Movies like 'Aquaman' and the upcoming live-action version of 'The Little Mermaid' take place underwater but don’t actually submerge the actors."

"'Avatar: The Way of Water' does, and the actors had to learn how to hold their breath for several minutes to shoot some of its undersea sequences. What’s gained from doing it for real?"

The NYT interviewer asks James Cameron in "James Cameron and the Cast of ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Hold Their Breath/The original was the biggest hit ever, but the sequel still took a long time to come together. How will it resonate in a different era of moviegoing?"

Cameron answers:

Oh, I don’t know, maybe that it looks good? Come on! You want it to look like the people are underwater, so they need to be underwater. It’s not some gigantic leap — if you were making a western, you’d be out learning how to ride a horse. I knew Sam was a surfer, but Sig and Zoe and the others weren’t particularly ocean-oriented folks. So I was very specific about what would be required, and we got the world’s best breath-hold specialists to talk them through it.

I didn't see the first "Avatar," so I'm not the audience for this, but if I were, knowing the actors were holding their breath for several minutes would take me out of the fantasy. I'd be thinking of the actors not as the characters in their fictional situation but as hard workers suffering... for what? To create the very illusion that my knowledge would ruin.

Here are 7 TikToks for you this evening. Some people love them!

1. Overused phrases in books.

4. The top 3 tones for voice-over actors.

5. When Rosie O'Donnell visited Martha Stewart in prison.

6. Maybe when the lady seems insecure, it's not what you think.

7. It's the same old song, but with a different melody (and I'm accepting these men in shorts).

Here are 7 TikToks to while away the next few minutes. Let me know what you liked best.

1. Ricky Gourmet goes sugar mode.

2. Whatever happened to the boy who played Charlie in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"?

3. I'm not sure if it's right to do this, but I think all versions of Obama look just great.

4. Spending the night with your irascible Southern grandma.

5. Committing to a "capsule wardrobe."

6. Why do some women knowingly marry gay men?

7. "Fly Me to the Moon."

"Gratefulness is where I live cuz my granny, gmama, momma, family modeled and instilled it in me. It isn’t a posture of less than or crumbs scraping..."

"... but one that acknowledges good things aren’t a guarantee and when we encounter them thankfulness, gratefulness is the least we can express."

Said Shonka Dukureh, who played Big Mama Thornton in the Baz Luhrmann movie "Elvis," quoted, unfortunately, in a report that she has died at the age of 44 (NY Post).

Here's a slice of the trailer that I clipped to show Dukureh:

Here are 5 TikTok items to amuse or intrigue you. Let me know what you like.

1. I had this feeling when I was a kid: That numbers have a personality!

2. How silently does an owl fly?

3. And speaking of birds: Imitating a parrot.

4. Tones a voice actor can use in a corporate training video.

5. Steve Coogan demonstrates the difference between young Al Pacino and old Al Pacino.

"One of the reasons 'Secret Honor' is so affecting is that, with the distance of time, we feel sympathy for the man, especially because we are aware of how Nixon-hating..."

"... had a lot to do with a very personal reaction to the man. There was a sort of loathing that wasn't about politics, but about the way he looked and spoke and certain personality qualities of the sort that would have made him unpopular even as a child. And the truly challenging thing to think about is how he could have been politically effective if he repelled people on a deep psychic level. Bush-haters of today might try imagining themselves thirty years in the future, looking back at him as a mere man."

That's something I wrote on February 14, 2005, in a post called "Small and large falls." 

I'm reading that this morning after seeing this new piece at New York Magazine, "In Secret Honor, Philip Baker Hall Plays Nixon As a Wounded Animal." New York Magazine is writing that now because the actor who played Nixon, Philip Baker Hall, recently died. He was 90.

I was writing about "Secret Honor" in 2005 — 17 years ago — because I was teaching the Watergate Tapes case and I had a nice, new Criterion Collection CD of the Robert Altman film. 

That post also recalled the old episode of "Saturday Night Live" that had Dan Aykroyd playing Nixon (and John Belushi playing Kissinger):

In the skit, Nixon and Kissinger were talking about how all the bad things on the Watergate tapes were just jokes. We see a flashback of them saying the various damning quotes, but making faces and gestures that showed they were just kidding. But people took it the wrong way, because they only had the cold transcript.

That skit was written by Al Franken, who said later: "It's really weird: I remember how I hated Nixon, but I now don't think he was so bad. He was really a moderate in many things and, putting aside his unfortunate paraonoia, was a pretty effective president. When I look at the current political scene with our preacher-in-chief, I feel a definite odd nostalgia for ol' ski-nose."

These days, it's George W. Bush who has entered the nostalgia zone. How many cycles of this loathing and empathizing must we live through before we acquire cool rationality about present-day events? If I, like Philip Baker Hall, live to be 90, I will get to see Americans mulling over the human being who was Donald Trump. But I will never see us break the cycle. It takes too long, and if you've been through multiple cycles, you are old and there are new generations seeing the present as fresh and uniquely urgent. It's like first love. First hate.

A carefully selected sequence of TikToks. Let me know what you like best.

1. When they tell you you look like a "yassified"* Dwight D. Eisenhower.

2. When you're 15, and you write a letter to your favorite actress, and it's Jane Powell.

3. Going emo in 2008.

4. When things are not really that perfect... and it's perfect.

5. How to be spontaneous on TikTok.

6. That CIA document on consciousness and frequencies.

7. How much can a little boy love his baby sister?


* I learned a new word. According to the NYT: "To 'yassify' something... is to apply several beauty filters to a picture using FaceApp, an A.I. photo-editing application, until its subject — be that a celebrity, a historical figure, a fictional character or a work of fine art — becomes almost unrecognizably made up.”

Hope you like these 9 TikTok videos I picked out for you today.

1. "Where are the fruit trees?"

2. Grandparents have had the same bathroom wallpaper since the 1970s.

3. A strange cleaning tip.

4. When you give your wife marriage advice from the 1950s. Does she laugh or get mad?

5. When you perform an extended imitation of the way your wife acts when she gets home from work. Does she laugh or get mad?

6. More analysis of Amber Heard's witness-stand acting from that actor-scholar actor.

7. Take off those ugly socks.

8. Sitting at home, eating snacks.

9. "Maybe the only reason you think you're not good enough is..."

"Gratefulness is where I live cuz my granny, gmama, momma, family modeled and instilled it in me. It isn’t a posture of less than or crumbs scraping..."

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