The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
We’re loving this year’s Hollywood Issue of The New York Times Magazine. The Magazine is walking the walk. They’ve produced 14 short films, most around a minute long, of 14 actors acting out a moment. Watch the series here…
Rage. Seduction. Despondency. Intensity. Angst. Anger. Luminosity. Despair. Evocation. Twirling. Frenzy. Satisfaction. Disconsolation. Awe.
But we don’t get it. All these emotions are distilled and explored by these brilliant actors. But are these actors acting? Or, acting like themselves? Or acting like classic actors? All of the above?
In the introduction by A.O. Scott, we’re told that these actors are showing us “what acting is” but also that they are “striking some of the classic attitudes of cinema” and that “[we] may be startled to see how thoroughly themselves they are in the midst of pretending otherwise.” So which is it? Acting as personal craft? Acting as stylized mimicry? Acting as self-expression? All of the above?
The truth is that what makes these actors so tremendous is that they are able to do all of the above. These short films are so compelling because we feel the drama of the moment, we recall the art history being conjured and we glimpse – in each actor’s choice of material and presentation – something of his or her personality and presence – as an individual, apart from “acting.”
But the question remains. Why these multi-facets? Why the nostalgia? Why the rigamarole?
If these actors defined cinema this year, then why are we being asked to journey with them outside the realm of the present and personal and into shades of a distant past, where cinema – not to mention individuality – was defined quite differently?
Sure. It’s a fun exercise. And these “classic attitudes of cinema” are immortal because they strike at the core.
But we ladies of WTF?! are Natalie Portman’s age, and when we look at her stunning NYTimes Magazine cover and watch her desultory striptease, we see a gorgeous performance…of a faded past. Not an icon we can claim as ours, now. We can’t help but feel that the cinematic-cum-critical-powers-that-be aren’t speaking for us, or even to us, in a fresh, exciting way.
And so, we ask…
What statement can we make about acting now? What visual language can we use to explore cinema now? What do we have to say about ourselves now?
On the plus side, we just killed an hour watching James Franco make out with himself on repeat. So, in some respects, all is right with the world. Score!
Jess & Becky co-created Dating & Hookup and co-founded J&R Creative Media. They have been best friends since they were 12.
datingandhookup.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click to submit your work to us. We love you.
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