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November 15, 2012

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The Siren

Jbryant, yeah, I think Barrymore would be the first to say she has learned a lot since then, so there's hope for Lawrence. I do think that saying you haven't seen a lot of old movies is different from airily implying that they'd be a waste of your time, as Lawrence did. The latter is just crass.

But I understand our genial host's reluctance to beat up on a young actress; they get a lot of slams about all kinds of things and there's no need to keep piling on. I liked Glenn's sly suggestion on Twitter that if she goes up for a part in a Scorsese movie her attitude could change overnight. I just wanted to make it clear that unless you think acting is somehow a less serious pursuit, it's no better to hear that sort of thing from an actor than from a director, cinematographer, composer etc.

And for what it's worth I am eager to see Silver Linings, if only because Three Kings was so good I live in hope that Russell's future will bring others to equal it.

That Fuzzy Bastard

While acting is certainly not a less serious pursuit than behind-the-camera tasks, it's a very different skill set. Film actors (especially modern film actors) are primarily charged with being present and transparent for the camera, and that rewards people who have strong and unambiguous immediate reactions over people who like to reserve judgement until they know more. It's hard to be a great, or even a good director without some knowledge of cinema history (even your average Hollywood hack has a few favorites). But as many neorealist films have shown, you can be a great on-screen performer without so much as *seeing* any movies.

george

I remember an article from several years ago -- I think it was by Richard Schickel -- which pointed out that most people in the movie industry are not film buffs, or experts on movie history.

The article observed that people who really know movie history, like Spielberg and Scorsese, are as rare in the industry as they are among "civilians."

jbryant

In my first post in this thread, I cut J-Law lots of slack over her quote, mostly because it raises more questions than it answers (how many silents has she actually seen, if any? Did she approach them with serious interest, or as a lark? What's black-and-white got to do with it? Is her comment on the level, or just a throwaway attempt to sound witty or (gag) 'relatable'?).

This is starting to remind me a bit of Michael Stipe's famous remarks about The Beatles being "elevator music" and having no influence on him. He later clarified that he meant when he was a kid he was into the Monkees, the Archies and the Banana Splits, having missed the British invasion and being too young to appreciate the influence the Beatles had on the music he liked. Maybe Lawrence will eventually pop up and say "Eh, I was just ragging on The Artist and got a little carried away."

Fuzzy's point is well-taken: Lawrence has become a fine actress without ever having a lesson.

Main thing I'm learning from all this: Damn, I'm glad all the nonsense I spouted when I was 22 wasn't on the record and printed in the New York Times.

Petey

I'll third Fuzzy's point.

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"And for what it's worth I am eager to see Silver Linings, if only because Three Kings was so good I live in hope that Russell's future will bring others to equal it."

I Heart Huckabees is an underrated masterpiece.

(And can't we all hope that Russell becomes a legendary director, just so we can get the Lily Tomlin screaming bout into a biopic?)

Petey

"I remember an article from several years ago -- I think it was by Richard Schickel -- which pointed out that most people in the movie industry are not film buffs"

If you exclude actors, suits, and Teamsters, I think this is largely incorrect.

You generally don't become an editor or cinematographer, let alone a director, without coming out of a cinephile background...

george

The article was on the occasion of an AFI list of the "100 best movies," voted on by film industry professionals, which included very few pre-1950 movies. This led to speculation that ignorance of film history had spread to the people who make movies.

Gordon Cameron

>The only thing I see as condescending here is the notion that actors, alone of all artists in all disciplines, need know nothing about the history of what they are doing.

There's a difference between being ignorant of a style of acting common in movies some 90 years ago, and 'knowing nothing' about the history of acting. I'd recommend anyone see silent films, and it's possible in certain circumstances that Lawrence could learn something useful from watching Louise Brooks or Mary Pickford or Max Schreck, but if she 'only' limited herself to studying Streep/De Niro/Brando/Diane Keaton/etc. I imagine she'd do fine. She already does fine. Haing S. Ngor and the little kid in The Bicycle Thief did fine too. I think there are many roads to good acting, and in some cases it's largely a matter of unselfconsciously 'being,' as long as the camera approves. (Though I'm sure Lawrence brings a lot more craft to it than just that.)

preston

My viewing tastes were also formed by Walter Kerr's "The Silent Clowns" when I was in early high school. Speaking of which, maybe one of the requirements of getting into SAG would be having to take a mandatory class in Film History. Nothing too strenuous, just a few hours of classes on a couple of weekends, like drivers ed.

I jest, I discovered the Kerr book in jr. high.

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