Monday, September 18, 2006

Oddballs Who Can Act

September 18

Actors are odd people. David Niven once said, "We are all just children, really. We like to dress up in funny clothes and parade around in front of the grownups."

That being said, there are some who are odder than others. Some might be borderline schizophrenic and also have an enormous talent in the art of acting. Others may seem so but have comparatively normal lives outside the universe of their working lives. Some actually are quite ordinary and still are good at assuming the roles of the extraordinary. I think this may be a valid choice as a way to live a life.

I watched one of the new shows on television Friday. The name was “Men in Trees” and the story was kind of a female version of “Northern Exposure” of a few years back. A writer of relationship self-help books finds herself in need of help when she discovers her fiance is the kind of man she has been warning her readers about. She makes the discovery when on a business trip to Alaska and is so shaken that she decides not to return home. She feels that with all the advice she has so glibly doled out about men, she really knows nothing about them at all. The little town of Elmo, Alaska, has a population of almost all men, some of them attractive and apparently all of them heterosexual, so her hunch is she can learn about males here if she ever will.

The story hinges on its leading lady, Anne Heche. This is a very talented actress who is clearly an odd duck. Once a steady date of Steve Martin, she fell in love with Ellen Degeneres and risked a budding career by announcing that she and the comedienne were partners for life. The relationship, not surprisingly, didn't last, but the surprising thing was that when she walked out she left the presumed dominant one in the relationship looking like the victim. Even more surprising, both of their careers flourished and Heche went on to playing quirky leading lady roles with hardly a bobble. Whether she has enough appeal to carry "Men in Trees" remains to be seen.

Angelina Jolie is another actress with a checkered past offscreen. What transcended her dabbles with the various escapades, causes and odd roles she undertook was that she was an extremely attractive (I might say hot)appearance and a huge acting talent.

There are a lot of actors who are good and also may be certifiable, and not all of them are women. We know that some have had very public problems, like Robert Downey, Jr., Marlon Brando, and others who hold our attention by their unpredictable behavior and unusual acting choices. Johnny Depp comes to mind. (In fact, he's never far from my thoughts.)

After reading Colin McGinn's book The Power of Movies I've actually found myself watching movies and television dramas in a different way: I simply look into the eyes of the actors and I can follow the emotional life of the characters. It's amazing this has never been so perfectly isolated for me before. McGinn's theory is that we look into movies as we look into a window or a mirror. That makes looking into the eyes such a logical way to read the actor's -- or the character's -- mind. And this is essential to understanding most movies.

Well, I looked into Anne Heche's eyes in "Men in Trees," and I could see what is so compelling about this strange lady. She is more and less than she seems. She is able to put herself into some other person's persona and embue that character with the right traits for the story. There are enough duende to fuel a Hollywood studio, and keep at least one tv series and a couple of movies going for years.


Bert Bananas said...

You have prompted a blog. I'm not exactly thanking you, but I give credit where credit is due...

Finding Fair Hope said...

See that, readers? I'm an inspiration to the bananaman, even though he doesn't believe the eye theory is worth looking into. Check out his blog by clicking on his name!

Isadora Too said...

The "eyes" really do have it. Doesn't matter how crazy or grounded in real life an actor is, it's his or her ability to empathize with a
character and know what they are thinking at every moment that makes
the character work or not. Inner dialogue, spine, call it what you
will, it's truly what the eyes and body language say at any given moment, not the words and any actor that can breathe another persona
without losing the control necessary to carry through, has my admiration. Liam Neilson does that for me. Although I only watched the last 10 minutes of "Men in Trees", my thought was that I'd like to watch the next installment. Amanda Peet on "Studio 60..." just said the lines very prettily, but very boringly! (Maybe she didn't have anybut boring lines to say... tune in next week.)

Isadora Too said...

Just read Banana's blog and retort and in one sense he is correct. Take a photograph of say... someone who is frightened or angry, wipe away all but the eyes and you might wind up with nothing but... eyes.
BUT... acting is not a static endeavor. It is a kinetic art,
constantly moving and the eyes are a great part of the energy that
explains who and what the character truly is. So, sorry Bananas, in
this I must concur with Ms. ff.

Hurdit Herfurst said...

The thing that makes me mad is that I was born both odd and without a lick of talent.I mean if you're gonna be a little off you might as well make it work for you. Don't cha think?

Claire V. said...

Sorry to be so cynical, but I wonder if Ms. Heche really "risked" anything by hooking up with Ellen DeGeneres in so public a manner. On the contrary,I suspect it was more a calculated strategy for getting her own media attention and piqueing the curiosity of the sensation loving public.As I recall, it was fairly close on the heels of Ms. DeGeneres' own highly publicized "coming out". I believe it's called "using" a situation to one's own advantage.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Lots of speculation on the matter, Claire V., but I wouldn't think publicly turning lesbian would be a great career move for an actress on the way up, even by attaching to a likable comedienne. But no doubt she got a lot of ink at the time, even through the breakup when she claimed to have a multiple personality disorder.