Dec 072010

alas, the fortunate and brave souls conducting their mannerisms and their kindly gaits cannot mesmerize the screen anymore.  as the brave directors and producers cast the lovely and the photogenic, the depth and range of expression continues to fall flat.

many people forget that in theater, many productions of the same text are produced.  any junior high school can produce the odd couple or hamlet following precisely the same script, production notes, and stage directions as another.  however, obviously, certain productions overwhelm others.

as scripts are developed and cast, jack lemmon is very unavailable.  his expressive face, his impeccable timing, and his sincerity all remain ingrained in the minds of those of us who know what cinema can do.

i do not doubt that capable actors are out there.  fortunately, i know many brilliant performers who can sit and watch the apartment, or the great race, or the odd couple, or missing, and watch in wonder at what comic acting can achieve.

although jim carrey can carry a film, his punishment lies on the development side.  his desire to expand his horizons and challenge himself is met with scorn by his industry and his fans.  zach galifinakis is only beginning to mature, but, like will ferrell before him, is bombarded by the demand to be the guy he was back whenever.  those of us who were lucky enough to see zach when he had to settle for being the most brilliant standup comedian alive, can count our blessings that he has been able to achieve such broad acclaim.

as jack lemmon marches towards immortality, and netflix gives us permission to look into windows in the past greatness of cinema, we are reminded of the raw power of film.  not from explosions or recycled plots or impossible scenarios, but by playing the scene and the dialogue for itself.  i do not doubt that jack knew how lucky he was to have the loyalty of billy wilder, but alas, a billy wilder script would not get made today.

a movie that takes place in an office and an apartment with a suicide attempt, adulterous executives, and the rest would probably be considered experimental in our current time.  ironically, wilder was critized for being too bland in his pursuit of human comedy, not allowing for the real badness of his characters to shine through.  in 1960, now 50 years ago, jack lemmon and shirley maclaine devastated us all by showing us what we were capable of.  the jokes and the humanity of the apartment still hold us captive.  in fact, mad men, a progressive television show, sticks to a similar world.  however, jack and shirley do not need the set decoration, the costumes, or the sex to show us what relationships are really about.

jack lemmon is an icon.  and, as we plug forward, exasperated by our stars who want a reward for their suffering through open mics, ambivalent crowds, and cartoonish casting directors, we should remember that hiding a story is not the same as telling a story.

maybe jack lemmon could be a character actor today.  maybe he and sam worthington and brad pitt would have a lot to talk about.  but, i doubt that.  as a wise man said, “just because you are a character doesn’t mean you have character.”

maybe good movies come from good stories, good actors, good directors, good producers, good lighting, good photography, etc.  maybe we dont need to spend so much money showing our new digital toys.  maybe we need spend more money developing and nurturing those of us that are in this business of show to tell great stories and reward ourselves with the credibility and resources to make more.

thank you jack lemmon for reminding me why i do what i do.  thank you from the bottom of my heart.

ving rhames did the right thing.  his humility in giving jack his award should serve as a lesson for the entitled generation.

ironically enough, i remember watching an interview with shirley maclaine on the making of in her shoes with toni collette and cameron diaz.  i will never forget shirley’s surprise at how apathetic her costars were towards her.  they never asked her questions about her career or her method.  this woman, 50 years after the apartment, still works.  i would hope, like in any other profession, a young newbie with every opportunity in the world would absorb as much knowledge as possible from the crafty, legendary veteran.

alas, surrounded by publicists, marketers, and star-struck sociopaths, these “actors” do not care to improve.  they simply want to be noticed.  anyone who understands scene work, story telling, or the performing arts at all, knows that the best are contributors and serve the project.  they want to help the story get told.  they may disagree, but the director has a story to tell, and the actor is paid to help, not to grin and mug at the camera so that the audience in pitch black staring at a giant screen may notice them.

jack and shirley worked to make each other better.  their intonations and physicality were timed and rehearsed to enhance the needed beats of the story.  i doubt shirley’s publicist told her not to do a suicide attempt because nobody wants to see a movie star with problems.


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