Monday, February 29, 2016

Core Post #3: Masculinity, Method Acting, and the whole "Theater vs. Film" Argument

I've always been fascinated by the differences between stage actors and film actors. Very few do both well. In this week's readings, both SID and Stars note the major differences between stage and film acting: stage actors are thought to be "more talented" because of the immediateness of their performance, whereas film actors' final performances are edited in post production, leaving more room for error; stage actors tend to be more "large" in their expressions in order to convey their characters' messages, whereas film actors are more subtle and understated in their facial and body expressions.

Although contemporary stage actors quite often make the transition to film, I think it's pretty rare to see it the other way around. When Hollywood actors and actresses sign on the Broadway shows, hardcore stage junkies muffle a groan of resentment and skepticism. Daniel Radcliffe, following his Harry Potter work, did the play Equus, which actually received much critical acclaim. However, many other stars, such as Scarlett Johansson, a famed movie star, receive moderate to sub-par ratings on the big stage. The theater and the tv screen exist in such separate yet intrinsically similar worlds.

I found the bit on film editing in respect to actors' performances quite interesting. I took a film editing class last semester, and my professor told us that we should look through all of the daily clips to find the "best performance." In many ways, the editor is constructing the performance as much as an actor is giving it. There is a sense of artificiality in film that isn't present in the always-present stage acting.

Dyer's words about masculinity (with respect to Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire) and method acting were very intriguing. I've always wanted to learn more about method acting and its roots. Brando embodied an animalistic, savage male character that tossed his female counterpart around in Streetcar. Brando embodied this character, Dyer notes, not just in his words, but also in the physicalness illustrated in simple actions such as chewing or sorting through clothes. Dyer also goes on to write about how method acting is often used to tap into an actor's subconscious thoughts and emotions that may help portray more complex states of being or thoughts, such as jealousy, repression, or layered emotions. The first reading in SID talks about the fine line between authorship and actors, in that a true actor will embody the character completely without claiming or "re-writing" authorship of that character. While I think that this is somewhat true (good actors will be able to portray characters that are unlike they themselves), it is hard to completely make this distinction as every actor will naturally put themselves into a character, and typecasting will ensure that certain actors will play certain parts that are perhaps more indicative of their personas. It's all cyclical...there is no one way to break down authorship without bringing into account the actors.

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