Tag Archives: cinema

Why Acting in Modern Films Seems More ‘Real’

A brief history of acting theory and how it has shaped cinema:

“[T]he difference in acting styles that you are noticing is partly the influence of Constantin Stanislavski’s System that he developed between 1911 and 1938.
The System (or sometimes “The Method”) was based on the idea that human beings are not consciously in control of their emotions and cannot simply summon emotive inspiration on command. One could, however, coax or entice the desired emotions.

At first Stanislavsky included what actors call Emotional Memory (based on French psychologist Theodule Ribot’s concept of ‘Affective Memory’) wherein an actor utilizes memories of his own past experiences to emulate the emotional life of his character. Emotional Memory became a controversial method after Michael Chekhov, one of Stanislavski’s protégés, suffered a nervous breakdown. Although Stanislavski shied away from Emotional Memory exercises in his later years, they remain a common (if somewhat controversial) staple of actor training in the Western World. Later, The System was expanded to include the study of physical actions, gesture, verbal/physical communication, and the nature of the Given Circumstances to evoke the actor’s own natural emotions for a performance on stage.
Stanislavski believed that if an actor completed all of the necessary steps of The System, the desired emotional state would be produced within the actor and the audience would perceive his/her actions as genuine and truthful.

These ideas began to migrate to the United States in the 1920s where they flourished and were further developed and adapted by American artists like Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, and Stella Adler.

Actors employing these methods began to appear in major screen roles in the late 1930s, but the new, naturalistic style really began to take over in the 1950s-1960s after the success of films like A Streetcar Named Desire. Today, The System and its countless derivatives are so common in actor training that they have almost replaced the older, more representational acting styles completely.”

Full thread http://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/1x8em5/why_do_actors_in_modern_movies_today_feel_more/cf93nyp

Stella Adler image and quote from http://quotespictures.net/stella-adler-art-reminds-you/

Rom-Com Death March Reduces Divorce Rate

Divorce rate cut in half when couples watch relationship movies together:

“Study participants were sent home with a list of 47 movies with intimate relationships as a major plot focus and asked to watch one a week for the next month, followed by the same guided discussion for about 45 minutes. Which approach proved most effective? To the surprise of the researchers, all worked equally well. All three methods halved the divorce-and-separation rate to 11 percent compared to the 24 percent rate among the couples in the control group. Partners in the control group received no training or instructions but were otherwise similar in age, education, ethnicity, relationship satisfaction, and other dimensions.”

Full list of the movies http://edu.surveygizmo.com/s3/1508519/movie

Full article http://www.mdconnects.com/articles/302/20140131/divorce-rate-cut-half-couples-who-discussed-relationship-movies.htm

A Glorious ‘Benjamin Button’ Takedown

A thorough skewering:

“Written by Eric Roth, writer of Forrest Gump, the thing read as though a studio executive had come to Roth with the conceit – a man ages backwards – and the assignment to turn that conceit into Forrest Gump 2. Mission sort of accomplished. Consider:

  • a southern boy born into a body afflicted with a crippling ailment. Forrest Gump is unable to walk without the use of leg braces. Benjamin Button is born arthritic and dying of old age.
  • both boys gain the ability to walk properly through seemingly miraculous circumstances.
  • both boys fall in love at a young age with the girl who will be their Fermina Daza, loves lifelong and unrequited until one brief moment in young adulthood when the timing is just right. Their paths, of course, again diverge soon after, only to reconnect years later in a situation involving a child.
  • both boys are raised by a parent or parental figures who repeat a single piece of sage wisdom that the boy himself grows up to impart. In Forrest Gump, Forrest’s mother teaches him that “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Benjamin Button, in an unsubtle attempt at creating another catchphrase, has both Queenie and Tizzy, Benjamin’s step-parents, tell him that “You never know what’s comin’ for you.” Both Forrest and Benjamin go on to repeat this motto to others in their lives.
  • both boys grow into dim bulbs of men, “pure of heart” but emotionally naive and so sympathetically vulnerable to the cruelties of the world.
  • both become enlisted in the military, and enter the service of an eccentric commanding officer known primarily by his title and first name. Lieutenant Dan, Captain Mike.
  • both serve alongside ostensibly eccentric fellow officers, introduced by way of a scene that was itself, in Forrest Gump, a takeoff on the original, unironic, scene in Apocalypse Now.

For instance, Forrest Gump is a bit more proactive than Benjamin Button, who passively moves through life without making an active decision until near the end, when he consciously does one of the most despicable things a man can do. He abandons his family. The film, of course, intends for us to continue feeling empathy for Benjamin beyond that point, and so has one of the characters wounded by Benjamin’s decision tell him he was right to do what he did, but his decision never feels right, morally or narratively. The script needs (or, rather, wants) this thing to happen, and so it happens, despite its complete incongruity with what we know of Benjamin up to that point.
One would think the near total passivity of the title character would have been a flaw evident at the screenplay stage (for the record, it was) but rarely have script problems slowed the production of a film once an A-list director has his momentum behind it, pushing it inevitably toward the screen whether ready or not.

And while not the worst film I’ve seen, it remains so thoroughly mediocre, so poorly written and so poorly made, that its arrogance only leaves that much more bitter a taste in my mouth. As a rule, one hopes to judge a film on its merits alone, and not by any hype – any buzz – that might surround it. But the buzz about “the best screenplay I’ve ever read,” the hype and reviews that use words like “epic” and “masterpiece” compel me to take the thing down a notch. It is not a masterpiece. There are, in fact, few films in recent memory that I have detested more.”

Full length epic rage http://www.reddit.com/r/movies/comments/1vd0of/inspired_by_rbooks_what_is_a_movie_you_absolutely/cer6yn2

How ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’ Changed Filmmaking

A little film history:

“Basically, they were Photoshopping every frame of the movie. That had never been done. Until O Brother. Of course, at that time, editing your movie on the computer wasn’t the absolute-given it is today. Hell, these days, major-ass movies are shot, edited, processed, and projected without ever involving film at all, and for the ones that don’t, DI is standard operating procedure.

Perhaps if it weren’t for the gorgeous color work in O Brother, the movie industry would have held on to the old chemical processes a little bit longer. As it happened, the first major use of DI on a feature was glorious, and nearly everyone was sold on the idea immediately. Virtually the next day, Peter Jackson was extolling the virtues of a DI for his film The Fellowship of the Ring, which was where things started getting really crazy.

“And now, with effectively no exceptions, you see nothing but movies – and TV shows, and everything else – that went through the same process O Brother did fifteen years ago.

Pretty cool, huh?”

Full thread http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/1wn9z1/o_brother_where_art_thou_grammy_performance_2002/cf401jh