Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Art of Acting: Russell Crowe, Will Smith and other guys

TNT has been running The Gladiator the past few weeks and I have seen my share of all or part of the movie. It is a classic. I saw it twice at the movies. The first time, it was just stunning and then I dragged my wife to go see it. The one part that really bothers me is the end, when Maximus is dying and approaching the "door" of death and then opens it up and enters the "afterlife." I find the imagery so stark and jarring, it really upset me. Now, it doesn't bother me much because I guess I know to expect it.

Also, on either on FX, Bravo or AMC, they've been running Independence Day, one of my favorites. Independence Day and Enemy of the State are two movies that I think Will Smith is excellent in. I was reflecting on this the other day and made an observation.

In ID or Eof State, Will Smith is playing himself. So he is being who he'd actually be if he was a figher pilot or Georgetown DC lawyer being screwed. As a result he is natural, funny, yet serious, and most importantly, believable. Jeff Goldblum is the same way. His characters are himself in varied situations. Tom Cruise is somewhat similar, you never forget that it is Tom Cruise, but his brilliance is the he makes you believe that he is actually in that situation, i.e, dragging a pre-cog through a mall, etc.

On the other hand, you have the Russell Crowes of the world. This guy is brilliant. He becomes the character and you actually buy into it. So in LA Confidential, he was was the hot-tempered cop, in Beautiful Mind, we weren't watching Crowe but Professor Nash and in Gladiator, we aren't watching Crowe but Maximus.

One of my favorite scenes in the Gladiator is after a fight, he is being led back to the holding pen and one of his friends is calling out, "General! General!" Maximus notices him, the next few seconds are amazing: you can see the wheels spining in Maximus' head as he realizes that this is his chance to think up a plan. A second later he shouts to his friend as he is being led, "where are you camped?" "Ostia" is the reply. Again, you see Maximus thinking hard and quickly, again, being led by soldiers, and then he pushes into the crowd to shake a couple of hands and bumps into his friend, "Tell the men their General lives. Find me, find me!"

Why that scene? Don't know. I just realized the other day, that I bought it and that takes a great actor to do that. I also thought Joaquin Phoenix was great. Something about those dark eyes makes his psychosis very convincing. He also pulled it off in Signs. Commodus in Gladiator is quite different from "swing away" Merrill in Signs, a testament to his acting prowess. I did not care much for his character in The Village, but then again, I did not care much for The Village. I have one word for that movie, stupid.

It seems that most of the big name male actors of our time are more themselves in movie types, that great "character actors": Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery, Denzel Washington, Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, which is why their successfull I guess. This way, people know what they are getting in each movie.

Tom Hanks and Russell Crowe would be exceptions. Even Al Pacino is pretty much the same guy in all his movies, which is great if you love Al Pacino. Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall and Dustin Hoffman are more tricky. Dustin Hoffman is the same in all his movies, but he takes it step further. For instance, in Rain Man, that's Dustin Hoffman if he was Autistic, get it? DeNiro and Duvall, are great, and I'm not quite sure what "type" they fall into. Also, Robert Redford comes to mind. I generally don't like his stuff and don't care much for him, with the exception of the exceptional Spy Game. But I think Redford is the same in every movie . . . Clint Eastwood, same.

How about Brad Pitt? Let's see. . . I've seen A River Runs Through It (very good), Twelve Monkeys (dumb movie, couldn't finish it), Seven years in Tibet (very good), Meet Joe Black (excellent movie with Anthony Hopkins), Spy Game (outstanding), and Ocean's Eleven (actually very good). You know what? Come to think of it, Brad Pitt is actually a very good character actor and he isn't necessarily the same in every movie. He does give you a distinct character that makes you forget Brad Pitt.

On a final note, Matt Damon comes to mind. He is the same guy in every movie and I'm not particularly crazy about him. I do have to say though that he was excellent in the Jason Bourne movies.

7 Comments:

Blogger Talmida said...

I think a plain person makes a better character actor because his looks don't distract you from his character.

Who is going to believe some hottie like Brad Pitt works for a tobacco company and blows the whistle? But Crowe? A little overweight, a little tired and saggy, I believe.

I think that's why Tom Hanks gets such good roles -- he's not a hottie.

I love Will Smith. From what I've heard of him, he is a good man, and in his industry, that's a hard thing to be. We rented Hitch this week. Nice movie. :)

4:38 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

That's a good point. I had thought that Crowe was (perceived to be) hot and sexy, but I am not the authority on this.

Tom Hanks is a fascinating person. He is one actor in our generation that snuck up on all of us.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Talmida said...

I agree. I was a huge fan of Tom's first sitcom, Bosom Buddies when it first aired -- my mother and I used to watch it together before dinner. ;)

Crowe good looking? well... he's neutral. Not bad looking, but not what I would call beautiful.

Beautiful men? Keanu Reeves. And the guy who plays Baldwin Jones on NYPD Blue. Brad Pitt might get there -- some pretty guys age really well. Mel Gibson's face is far more interesting now than it was in his youth. (Check out Gallipoli or Mad Max). Same with Pierce Brosnan. But maybe that's just because I'm aging?? ;-D

6:31 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I really liked Will Smith in ALI -- I think that movie's a work of art from Smith's acting to the directing, cinematography . . . it's just a beautiful film.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Ambrose said...

I really like Paul Giamatti. Anyone that works that hard at perfecting a character named Pig Vomit deserves an Oscar.

11:15 AM  
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7:11 AM  
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11:58 AM  

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