omplete QPORIT: A GIANT WAVE OF GREAT ACTING IN CURRENT AND COMING FILMS

Friday, October 25, 2013

 

A GIANT WAVE OF GREAT ACTING IN CURRENT AND COMING FILMS


Exceptionally fine performances enrich a large number of important films currently in theaters or coming soon.

The spectacularly impressive 2013 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL NYFF 2013 and the intimately enjoyable 2013 HAMPTONS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL HIFF 2013 (which overlapped slightly in time and partly in film presentations) both coming just before the fall season begins, were showplaces for some of the film acting highlights of the year (with, as a major bonus to the film audience, access in Q&A’s to the stars and directors that made the films).

Talking to the actors and directors of these films suggests a pattern for how great film performances are created: (Note: not all these factors apply to every shoot.)

• Tremendous preparation by the actors before shooting starts
• Improvisation before shooting and on set to help understand the characters and the relationships between characters
• Interaction and discussions between the director and the actors (especially if the director is also an actor)
• A strong, positive relationship among the actors off-screen (especially if the action in the film is toxic)
• Dedication, almost to the point of compulsion, to get both the action and the visual look exactly right in every scene
• Playing the scenes with a natural, moment to moment focus on the character’s actions.

And

• “Trust” by the director that the actors are ideally cast and can nail the performance
• “Trust” by the actor that the director will handle every aspect of the film’s creation other than the actor’s performance.

While none of these elements should be surprising to anyone who has studied acting or film directing, what is evident is that the greater the effort in each of these areas, the better the result – and when the effort is much greater, the result can be much better.

As an aside, one major difference between film acting and theatrical acting is that (usually, not always) film actors must do their own preparation before shooting starts (especially when working with directors who “trust” their actors – as opposed to those who improvise and rehearse on set), while stage actors usually develop their performance during extensive (but never extensive enough) rehearsals together with the other actors, and can then even refine their performance over time based on the reaction of the audience.


Here are some of the great performances – see just below for more details!

Scott Haze -- CHILD OF GOD
Adèle Exarchopoulos & Léa Seydoux -- BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
Ben Stiller & Kristen Wiig -- THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Bruce Dern & Will ForteNEBRASKA
Samantha Morton -- DECODING ANNIE PARKER
Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix (and Samantha Morton) – HER
Ralph Fiennes & Felicity Jones -- THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
Isabelle Huppert -- ABUSE OF WEAKNESS
Robert Redford -- ALL IS LOST
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’O and ensemble -- 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Domhnall Gleeson -- ABOUT TIME
Oscar Isaac -- INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
The Kids: Liana Liberato & Amy Acres -- FREE RIDE
Tanaquil LeClercq -- AFTERNOON OF A FAUN

And here’s some more about these fantastic solo, ensemble, nearly wordless, young, singing, dancing, romantic, courageous, loving, mad and body-less terrific performances:



Scott Haze
CHILD OF GOD

Scott Haze -- CHILD OF GOD
NYFF 2013. Scott was one of Variety’s 10 Actors To Watch at HIFF 2013

The performance of Scott Haze in Child of God is one of the strongest, most amazing performances of this year or any year. Based on Cormac McCarthy’s short novel, director James Franco has created a compelling (and for some people a completely off-putting, horrible) story of madness, estrangement and seriously misdirected love. An almost impossible character to play, Scott has created a convincing and mesmerizing portrayal. Chosen by Franco because he believed Scott would commit fully to realizing the part, Scott, in fact, immersed himself in the world of the character for months, hanging out with moonshiners, living in a cave, studying the source material, and preparing himself so thoroughly that a film about his preparation would be a gripping film itself.


Adèle Exarchopoulos & Léa Seydoux
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

Adèle Exarchopoulos & Léa Seydoux -- BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
NYFF 2013. HIFF 2013. Adele and director Abdellatif Kechiche participated in a Q&A at NYFF.

In an unprecedented honor, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux were awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes, along with the director, for creating this supremely sensual portrait of a young woman’s sexual awakening and its aftermath. Filmed “eating scenes” are almost as memorable as the legendary one in Tom Jones. Making love in splendid sensuality, Adele is examined and revealed in illuminating detail, while Lea is the essence of attraction and rejection.


Ben Stiller & Kristen Wiig
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Ben Stiller & Kristen Wiig -- THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
NYFF 2013. Ben and Kristen were on hand at NYFF 13.

In one of the smartest, most entertaining, romantic, and comedic romantic comedies in a long time, Ben and Kristen are terrific together, a classic film couple. This will be a great Holiday movie for the family.


Bruce Dern & Will ForteNEBRASKA
NYFF 2013. HIFF 2013. Bruce Dern and Will Forte were on hand to talk about the film.

Winner of the Best Actor Prize at Cannes, Bruce Dern brings to life a brilliant character. He said (modestly) “It was all on the page,” but it was not until he gave it life that it was all in the film. He was assisted by a terrific supporting performance by Will Forte. Though the premise (a road trip to collect a “million dollar prize”) seems silly, this is a film that is nearly impossible to dislike.


Samantha Morton -- DECODING ANNIE PARKER
HIFF 2013. Winner of the SLOAN prize at HIFF.

In a fearless, totally committed performance, Samantha Morton brings to life the (lightly fictionalized) story of Annie Parker, a victim of the BRCA1 gene mutation that predisposes a person to the likelihood of cancer. Annie Parker, a real person, (who looked terrific appearing in person at the film’s screening) has struggled through a history of recurring cancers. Helen Hunt plays Mary-Claire King, a woman scientist who helped to reveal the role of the BRCA1 gene mutation in causing cancer.


Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix (and Samantha Morton) – HER
NYFF 2013. HIFF 2013.

In possibly her best performance ever, Scarlett Johansson is the voice of a computer system that Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with. The performance of both Joaquin and Scarlett was created over an extended period of time, first with Samantha Morton working with Joaquin, then with Scarlett and Joaquin, with lots of reshoots and improvisations.


Ralph Fiennes & Felicity Jones
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
Ralph Fiennes & Felicity Jones -- THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
NYFF 2013. HIFF 2013. Ralph Fiennes attended the premiere at NYFF, then flew out by helicopter to present the film at HIFF.

Two of the most challenging challenges in filmmaking are directing yourself, and making a credible period story of a passionate affair between an older famous man and a young woman. Ralph Fiennes does both. He described his method of working with (the terrific and beautiful) actress Felicity Jones as discussing the work in great detail and reaching a consensus with the actress.


Isabelle Huppert -- ABUSE OF WEAKNESS
NYFF 2013.

Isabelle Huppert created a great performance playing a version of the director herself, Catherine Breillat, who was herself involved in an episode much like the one filmed. Isabelle brilliantly portrays a woman who is the victim of a serious, physically debilitating stroke, and then loses the wisdom to resist a person she knows is a con-man. (In contrast to several other examples, especially the previous one, the actress and the director had almost no contact before the shooting began and did not, according to reports, interact very much on the set either – even though the actress was playing the director!)


Robert Redford
ALL IS LOST
Photo Credit Daniel Daza

Robert Redford -- ALL IS LOST
NYFF 2013. Robert Redford and director J.C. Chandor came to NYFF.

Robert Redford is underappreciated as an actor because he is so natural in every role. In ALL IS LOST he is simply himself at sea. Alone. No one to talk with… and he simply sets himself the task of surviving on a doomed sailboat. He is unfailingly interesting. The situation is totally believable. He is completely natural.


Michael Fassbender as “Edwin Epps,” Lupita Nyong’o as “Patsey,” 
and Chiwetel Ejiofor as “Solomon Northup”
12 YEARS A SLAVE
Photo by Francois Duhamel

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’O and ensemble -- 12 YEARS A SLAVE
NYFF 2013. HIFF 2013.

In this very trying piece of history, the director Steve McQueen keeps many strains of almost melodramatic evil and horror in play to tell the harrowing story of a free black man from New York who, in 1841, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South – a true story, based on a memoir by the victim. All the acting is exceptional: the ensemble of great acting is needed to keep the story in focus, credible, important and watchable. One key to the success of this movie is the exceptionally clear focus and desire of Ejiofor to escape from the hell into which he has been captured. This film and story is a reminder of the horror of slavery, and institutional evil, and how recent that was in our country. Indeed, with some small changes in detail and characters, and little change in plot, this could be a tale of sexual slavery trafficking today. Nyong’O, who plays a young slave woman is an exceptional actress that I first noticed a few years ago when she was charismatic in a TV special on Africa. She has since directed an interesting film, was a production worker with several great directors including Mira Nair, attended Yale Drama School, and is one of Variety’s Ten Actors To Watch this year.


Domhnall Gleeson -- ABOUT TIME
NYFF 2013. HIFF 2013.

Domhnall Gleeson again proves he is one of the great coming actors of our time. An alumnus of the Harry Potter movies, one of HIFF’s Rising Stars last year, he was a most convincing Russian in last year’s Anna Karenina, and here he is a flawless romantic, time travelling hero. Rachel McAdams is her usual delightful self.


Oscar Isaac -- INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
NYFF 2013.

A film about the early years of folk music in New York features a singular performance by Oscar Isaac as the title character. It is a multilayered performance that catches the failure to be charismatic of a struggling singer. Oscar sings and acts, perfectly, and is in just about every scene. Oscar is one of Variety’s 10 Actors To Watch.


The Kids: Liana Liberato & Amy Acres -- FREE RIDE
HIFF 2013.

This small indie film features terrific performances by Liana Liberato as a teenager and Amy Acres as a pre-teen. Both performances are natural and eye catching. Liana actually was on the cover of the NYT magazine on June 4, 2006, in an article about children trying to make it in Hollywood.


And finally:

Tanaquil LeClercq -- AFTERNOON OF A FAUN
NYFF 2013.

It’s not exactly acting in the usual sense, because this is a documentary, and the footage is archival, but Tanaquil LeClercq, a brilliant dancer crippled with polio at the height of her career, is a charismatic and extremely interesting personality.


Please follow us at www.QPORIT.com. We have many more photos, videos and stories to come about the actors and films above, and many other Film Festival films and events!

Here are some stories about NYFF 2013 and HIFF 2013 currently in QPORIT:

MAIN SLATE: NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2013
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2013/08/main-slate-new-york-film-festival-2013.html

21st HAMPTONS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (HIFF 2013)
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2013/10/21st-hamptons-international-film.html

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS -- the NYFF Opening Night Gala film with Tom Hanks:
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2013/07/tom-hanks-stars-opening-night-in-2013.html

HER -- with Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johansson:
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2013/08/spike-jonzes-her-will-close-nyff-2013.html

TRANSMEDIA AT NYFF 2013
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2013/09/transmedia-at-nyff-2013.html



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