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DID YOU READ

No more Method acting!

No more Method acting! (photo)

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With everyone so busy doing year-end and decade-end round-ups of The Way We Live Now, it’s inevitable that someone would come along and try to define what Acting Looks Like Now. And that someone is film critic David Thomson, a specialist in the parlor game of presenting his own readings and interpretations as general truth.

His article, in the Wall Street Journal, is on “the Death of Method Acting.” There are generalizations about how method acting was about trying to locate “emotional truth” (by which Thomson seems to mean overt self-seriousness and agony). And there are more generalizations about the emergence of a “new style,” which — helpfully for us — “has no studio, no text and little public understanding.” According to Thomson, its exponents include George Clooney, John Malkovich, Robert Downey Jr. and Kevin Spacey.

These “new style” actors are (mostly, and not always in the past) comfortable with providing micro-variations on the same part over and over, with carefully differentiated nuances keeping each performance fresh. Two things attractive about this (heh) “method”: It indicates comfort with your personality, which is always nice: self-confidence, as the relationship experts tell us, is sexy. And these actors are all essentially comic, which makes sense — if your persona depended upon constant brooding and self-seriousness, you wouldn’t get very far, because it’s just not much fun. Luckily for them, the comedy doesn’t have to be in the lines themselves, more in the delivery, an inherently non-self-serious approach to acting.

Anyone who watches a lot of movies (and Thomson certainly does) is lying when they claim an actor “disappears” into a performance. That implies there’s something to hide — i.e., a well-known persona — which, for any name actor, is obvious.

No one really disappears. Daniel Day-Lewis may have gotten more plaudits than anyone this decade, and Daniel Plainview is a ferocious creation, but who seriously forgets who they’re watching in “There Will Be Blood”? Not to mention that, whatever thespy strain he went through, part of that role’s popularity is that Plainview’s rapaciousness and violence are frightening, but also very, very funny, a walking caricature you wouldn’t mock to his face. It’s an Oscar performance the same way, say, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote was, but it’s got a range for fun that playing a historical figure usually precludes.

Elsewhere in the pages of the WSJ, James Franco has the good sense to recognize this while explaining at least part of what he’s been doing on “General Hospital”: “I disrupted the audience’s suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn’t belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas.” And that goes for pretty much everyone with a name.

There’s no real point in trying to figure out who’s a “method actor” and who’s, uh, “reveling in performance” or whatever Thomson wants to call it. We respect and appreciate it more these days when actors cruise through, relaxing in themselves without getting lazy. The awards may still go to the big impersonators and showboats, but people (especially critics) rarely fall into the “oh, he’s just playing himself” trap these days. Once you’re famous, you’ll never truly fool anyone; you might as well get comfortable and make the rest of us the same.

[Photos: “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 1951; “There Will Be Blood,” Paramount Vantage, 2007]

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.