DID YOU READ

The difference between movie stars and actors

Leonardo DiCaprio in "Inception"

Posted by on

Is there a difference between “movie stars” and actors? Both of them act, obviously, but one of them does it as an art form and the other does it – how does one say this? — for the adulation and the box office. There has been endless speculation about psychological motivations. Why would someone need to act on the big screen? Why would someone feel the need to be known by so many people? Did their mothers give them enough love when they were children? Movie stars occasionally do off Broadway – for the craft, for the prestige — but generally they pick their roles not so much for an Oscar or a Screen Actors Guild award so much as for winning the weekend. Tom Cruise, to put it plainly, is a movie star; Willem Dafoe is a – capital “A” — actor. There is a difference.

Recently choleric super-producer Harvey Weinstein – whose muses have, over the years, included Gwyneth Paltrow and Penelope Cruz – was spotted publicly pitching woo at Katy Perry to star in the Paul Potts biopic. From Page Six: “The mogul behind ‘The Artist’ spoke to Perry about playing the wife of Potts — the English mobile-phone salesman who became a singing sensation after winning Simon Cowell’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in 2007. Weinstein was spotted chatting with Perry, who responded, ‘I love a challenge,’ at his pre-Oscar party at Soho House.”

Swell and lovely, Katy. But does loving a challenge make Katy Perry an actress or someone who sometimes acts? Her performance in the “Firework” video notwithstanding, Weinstein was not looking for someone dedicated to the craft for this role. Katy has a fan base; Katy is interesting; Katy sings; Katy can get butts in seats. Katy Perry could conceivably become a movie star. Being a “movie star means being pretty and/or interesting on screen. But the public, to be sure, is fickle.

The pendulum swings. The box office magic doesn’t last. Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford were once stars of such a magnitude as to be in another cosmos altogether. Neither of them is that now. Holding the attention of the public is not easy. What prevailed in the 80s doesn’t hold twenty years later. It is almost like we are in a relationship with movie stars – and all celebrities, really. A one-sided relationship. And when we have had enough of them, when we are no longer interested, we break up. We have essentially fallen out of love with Harrison and Julia. But can we still be friends?

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Brad Pitt is both an actor and a movie star and so are Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. All are interesting and beautiful and can get people into theaters when they star in the leading role but they also tend to favor serious and complex stories. Angelina Jolie can play Lara Croft in a kick ass role, but she also is also not averse to telling a difficult story about Bosnia or playing the wife of a Wall Street Journal reporter murdered by terrorists. Neither of those films was made to get the maximum number of asses into theater seats. Shia LaBeouf – God bless his heart — would never make such an altruistic calculation. Shia is all about the bottom line – entertaining people with big, shiny movies.

Leo DiCaprio is another example of an actor and a movie star. It is hard to imagine Leo doing an action film or even a slapstick comedy – not that there is anything wrong with that. There is a place for Iron Man and there is a place for J. Edgar in this world. But the stories that Leo wants to tell, the stories that Leo wants to be a part of, involve complicated people in serious situations. And though life has its funny moments and though we love our fantasies, this is what Leo wants to represent.

Capital A – as in art — Actors are not quite in it for the money or the fame. But if you are an actor in the movies you are, ipso facto, famous and rich. It is obviously a complicated relationship; as complicated, really, as an independent film. Obviously an actor could stick to stage work, doing Ibsen off Broadway. But if you are going out an auditioning for films in Los Angeles, fame and/or money are clearly a motivating factor. Not the number one factor, but a big factor nonetheless. So there is clearly a difference between capital a Actors and movie stars. But the difference is not as great as we would like to think.

Who are your favorite movie stars and Actors? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

CBB_221_ComedyBangBangTonight

Road Trip

Scott Aukerman Is Hitting the Road for a Comedy Bang! Bang! Live Tour

Scott and Comedy Bang! Bang! are coming to a town near you.

Posted by on

Comprised of countless characters, hilarious guests, and running gags, Comedy Bang! Bang! simply can’t be contained in just its podcast and TV forms. As such, host Scott Aukerman is taking the show and its oddball cavalcade on the road in a brand new live tour. Fan favorites Lauren Lapkus, Paul F. Tompkins, and Neil Campbell will be along for the ride (either as themselves, as their show personas, or both — we’re not at liberty to say!), and there will surely be a few surprise drop-ins as well. And maybe…a little magic?

Scott Magic

Check out the tour dates below and catch the Comedy Bang! Bang! live tour when it swings nearby. And be sure to check back for updates on Comedy Bang! Bang!‘s new season, debuting this spring on IFC with new bandleader and cohost “Weird Al” Yankovic.

April 30 – Theater at the Ace—Los Angeles, CA
May 6 – Convocation Hall—Toronto, ON
May 7 – Wilbur Theatre—Boston, MA
May 8 – Keswick Theatre—Philadelphia, PA
May 9 – The Lincoln Theatre—Washington, DC
May 10 – The Carolina Theatre of Durham—Durham, NC
May 11 – The Tabernacle—Atlanta, GA
May 13 – Gramercy Theatre—New York, NY
May 17 – Texas Theatre—Dallas, TX
May 18 – Paramount Theatre—Austin, TX
May 19 – Pantages Theatre—Minneapolis, MN
May 20 – Athenaeum Theatre—Chicago, IL
May 21 – Royal Oak Music Theatre—Detroit, MI
May 22 – Paramount Theatre—Denver, CO
May 23 – Fox Theater—Oakland, CA
May 24 – Revolution Hall—Portland, OR
May 25 – The Moore Theatre—Seattle, WA
May 26 –Vogue Theatre—Vancouver, BC

Tim Grierson on Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s Remarkable Post-“Titanic” Careers

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

Posted by on

Every once in a while, websites will run one of those “Where Are They Now?” features where they’ll spotlight a beloved old movie or TV show and then let you know what its cast members are up to these days. Normally, one of the actors has remained successful, while the rest of them had OK careers whose highlight was this specific movie or TV show. I realize such features are popular, but they always make me sorta sad. So many of these poor people are, say, 20 years removed from their biggest hit — it must be somewhat difficult to only be remembered for something a lifetime ago.

That’s what makes the 3D re-release of writer-director James Cameron’s “Titanic” this week so unusual. The Oscar-winning romantic drama, which opened December 1997, featured two rising young stars who haven’t been associated with a hit that mammoth since. (To be fair, though, almost no one has: It wasn’t until “Avatar” came around that “Titanic” was knocked off its perch as the highest-grossing movie of all time.) Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet became household names thanks to “Titanic,” but, somewhat miraculously, neither of them feel hopelessly chained to that film. They’ve gone on to impressive careers. That doesn’t happen that often.

You could argue that lots of people knew DiCaprio and Winslet before “Titanic.” And while that’s true, it’s important to go back and see what each actor’s biggest hit was before “Titanic.” For DiCaprio, it was “Romeo + Juliet,” which made $46 million and was sort of a dry run for Cameron’s high-stakes romantic tragedy. Meanwhile, Winslet had “Sense and Sensibility,” the Jane Austen adaptation that earned Winslet the first of six Oscar nominations and grossed $43 million. By comparison, “Titanic” made $601 million, which was far more than the two stars’ entire filmography combined to that point. Audiences may have been aware of DiCaprio and Winslet, but Cameron’s smash made them superstars.

The challenge, though, is what a superstar does next. Although Winslet was the one to get an Oscar nomination from “Titanic,” DiCaprio was the bigger name, and so his subsequent films had to contend with the expectations that they featured “the star of ‘Titanic.’” “The Man in the Iron Mask” was a modest performer, he had a small (but really funny) part in Woody Allen’s “Celebrity,” and then he was the lead in “The Beach,” a critical and commercial disappointment that, just three years removed from “Titanic,” started to make people wonder if his star was beginning to wane.

But it was then that DiCaprio made a career decision that’s helped him immensely since: aligning himself with A-list filmmakers. In December 2002, he returned with Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” and Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can.” Additionally, DiCaprio, who had one Oscar nomination under his belt already with “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” began making the transition from marquee dreamboat to serious actor. That hasn’t always gone smoothly — some still complain that his performances in “J. Edgar” and “The Aviator” lack the necessary authority and grit — but with two Oscar nominations and five $100-million-plus hits in the last 10 years, he’s clearly established himself as a star who earns both critical and commercial respect. That was hardly a sure thing when “Titanic” came out and he was just 23.

Unlike DiCaprio, Winslet never had such pressure after “Titanic.” Maybe it was because DiCaprio already had a reputation as a Hollywood bad boy, but Winslet wasn’t perceived as a “celebrity” in the same way. She was an actress, appearing in acclaimed indies like “Heavenly Creatures,” “Jude” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet.” If her co-star’s turn in “Titanic” seemed part of a well-designed ascent to stardom, Winslet’s involvement was a bit more out of leftfield.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that after “Titanic,” she went back to indies, very happily doing “Quills” or “Iris” and not worrying if audiences wondered why she wasn’t interesting in the spotlight. She’s done the occasional studio movie, like the romantic comedy “The Holiday,” but mostly the art house has been her domain, and she’s done terrific work in films like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Little Children.” (She also won Best Actress for “The Reader.”) But it’s worth noting that the biggest hit she’s been associated with since “Titanic” was last year’s “Contagion,” which only made $76 million. But wisely, she’s never made box office numbers the way to gauge her success — it’s from the impressive body of work she’s already amassed at age 36.

Ironically, this weekend’s other big release is also beset with nostalgia: “American Reunion.” Looking at the poster for the film, which recreates the group-shot photo from “American Pie,” you can’t help but glance at the different actors and consider which ones have disappeared and which ones have had thriving careers. (Of that bunch, would you have guessed that Alyson Hannigan would be doing as well as any of them?) But with “Titanic,” there’s no such whatever-happened-to-so-and-so? awkwardness. In fact, we almost take it for granted that these two young stars have continued to be major onscreen presences. Honestly, they made it look rather easy. Even when they reunited for “Revolutionary Road” in 2008, the “Titanic” connection (though obvious) wasn’t that big of a deal. They’re two of our most constantly rewarding stars — them being in another movie together seemed natural.

Maybe that’s why both DiCaprio and Winslet have expressed a little embarrassment at seeing “Titanic” again 15 years later. Cameron said that he showed the film to DiCaprio and “[h]e said to me, ‘I’m such a young punk. Look at me.’ He was practically crawling under the seat.” As for Winslet, “I’ve seen little pieces of it,” she said, “but it’s a whole different me and we look much younger and our acting was different, hopefully not as good as now.”

And they’re both right. It’s a nice feather in an actor’s cap to be part of a film as popular and acclaimed as “Titanic.” But perhaps it’s even better to have gone on to do even better work since.

The top 10 coolest supercomputers in movies (with video)

The architect from "The Matrix"

Posted by on

Computers are smarter than us, so don’t go messing around with them or telling them to open the pod bay doors. Here are some mighty machines from sci-fi movies that have forced us to examine our own humanity — and whether it’s such a good idea to be advancing technology so damn quickly.


Alpha 60 in “Alphaville” (1965)

Jean-Luc Godard’s hipper-than-thou New Wave sci-fi film has been nothing if not influential to other cool auteurs over the years with its tale of a faraway planet whose central city (that looks exactly like 1965 Paris) is ruled by the evil Professor von Braun (Howard Vernon), whose creation, Alpha 60, is a sentient computer (with a really creepy voice) that outlaws free thought and emotion, replacing them with dehumanizing and often contradictory concepts that keep everyone confused. . . and obedient. The interrogation scene between secret agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) and Alpha 60 features the super-computer at its most sinister — even though, like every other scene in “Alphaville,” you get the vague impression that we’re not supposed to be taking any of this seriously.


Hal-9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

Never send a super-computer to do a man’s job, as “protocol” always gets in the way of improvising when the initial plan suddenly needs reevaluation. As much as HAL fills the “villain” role of this sci-fi masterpiece as the champion of the mission over the welfare of the crew, director Stanley Kubrick gives this smart machine a heavy dose of humanity when he dies a painfully slow death (as astronaut Dave Bowman shuts him down through a series of agonizingly long processes); indeed, HAL, like any self-aware being, is ultimately afraid to die — he even tries to comfort himself as he sings himself the lullaby of “Daisy Bell.” HAL was reactivated for the sequel, “2010: The Year We Make Contact” — and, for the most part, behaved himself.


Bomb 20 in “Dark Star” (1974)

Take “2001: A Space Odyssey” mixed with Ray Bradbury’s short story, “Kaleidoscope,” throw in what was probably a hell of a lot of hashish and filter it through the minds of two film students named Dan O’Bannon and John Carpenter and you’ve got “Dark Star,” the “spaced-out odyssey for the Strangelove Generation.” The crew of the Dark Star is on a mission to destroy “unstable planets” that might threaten the colonization of the entire universe, an endeavor for which they’re armed with artificially intelligent “Thermostellar Triggering Devices” — or, simply, “Bombs.” Unfortunately, with artificial intelligence also comes the capacity for Cartesian doubt (the process of doubting the truth of one’s beliefs), which leads to. . . well, watch the clip and see. We think we’ll miss the beachball alien the most.


Master Control Program in “TRON” (1982)

Disney’s other gonzo sci-fi film from the late ’70s and early ’80s isn’t as bizarrely misguided as its truly insane predecessor, The Black Hole, but that doesn’t mean it actually makes much sense itself. It doesn’t really matter, though — “TRON” is nothing if not pretty with its glowing lights and neon haze, and the special effects somehow look almost (almost) as impressive today as they did back in 1982. Well, maybe the villainous Master Control Program could use an upgrade (its lips — so mesmerizing!), but the commanding and intimidating voice of David Warner keeps any and all potential snickering in check. Good ol’ MCP was sorely missed in “TRON: Legacy,” though a new rather disconcerting sight was provided by Jeff Bridges as he was put through the CGI fountain of youth to portray both a young Kevin Flynn and his evil Grid alter ego, CLU (Codified Likeness Utility). Ugh.


Joshua in “WarGames” (1983)

That’s right, Joshua, nobody wins in nuclear war, so the only option is to not play the game at all! One of the better ’80s films to cash in on the video game/home computer craze (and definitely one of the darkest), “WarGames” follows young David Lightman (Matthew Broderick, three years before becoming Ferris Bueller), a teenage hacker who unwittingly accesses a military supercomputer programmed to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. . . and nearly starts World War III as he innocently starts playing what he thinks is a cooler version of Pong. This clip features the third act climax, where Joshua talks itself out of blowing up the planet — you have to admit, that’s a sound and light show worthy of a Pink Floyd concert.

Continue to next page >>
Powered by ZergNet