Tag Archives: greats

The Acting Masterclass #2 – Michael Fassbender

Image courtesy of CinemaBlend.com

Image courtesy of CinemaBlend.com

One of the most captivating performers to emerge from the last 10 years, German/Irish actor Michael Fassbender is certainly proving his worth.

After his breakout performance in Zack Snyder’s graphic novel homo-erotic fest, ’300′, Fassbender began a working relationship with London artist/filmmaker Steve McQueen (not that one), and was critically acclaimed for his role as activist Bobby Sands in ‘Hunger’.

Since then, Mr Fassbender has undoubtedly become one of the most popular and sought after actors working in Hollywood.

My admiration for him stems from his ability to inhabit so many diverse and original characters. One that has been a huge testimony to this is his astounding portrayal of a sex addict in McQueen’s ‘Shame’. A film about a high-flyer working in New York that has an emotionally crippling form of hypersexuality, and engages in frequent acts of onanism and intercourse.

In the movie, his regimented lifestyle spirals out of control when his estranged sister, Sissy (Cary Mulligan), turns up on his doorstep. The most vivid turning point of the movie for me is at this point, where Fassbender’s character, Brandon, immediately begins to display signs of stress, aggravation and almost seething mental torment at the spanner his sister throws in to the works. Fassbender displays this with a conviction that is truly engaging – his uneasiness being a stark contrast to his behaviour around his co-workers, his friends and more predominantly with women. The character of Brandon, for me, is perhaps the most personal, insightful and beautifully performed role by the actor. It also has an incredible pay off.

Though his affinity with independent film has brought him much success. Fassbender has also made an extremely popular and easy transition into mainstream cinema. Last year, he starred as a young ‘Erik Lensherr’, delightfully preceded by Sir Ian McKellen, in the 60′s set comic-book movie, X-Men: First Class. This year, he featured in the lukewarm/fairly positively received ‘Prometheus’ as the android ‘David’.

In First Class, Fassbender oozes charm, danger and Bond-esque cool. Notably basing much of his performance on Sean Connery’s 007 and the overall aesthetic of Dr. No in many of his one-to-one scenes, not to mention disregarding Sir Ian’s performances of the character of Erik, and completely making it his own. It was a breath of fresh air to see such a well-known villain take on the role of the sympathetic, a man who could be a hero tragically fall that we, the audience, can so easily root for. And this was very much down to how Michael approached the character, his reasonings for his actions, his methods and his emotional turmoil.

Oddly enough, his most recent successful performance, in ‘Prometheus’ – is a completely different animal. His mysterious motives kept relatively in the dark for the duration of the movie is overshadowed by an obvious and unflattering form of self-possession. He teems with icy demeanour, and engages the other characters almost subjectively in parts. Fassbender plays this off with such an arrogance, and knowing, that it’s nearly impossible to not notice or appreciate the dedication he put into the character. Unquestionably the film’s saving grace in my opinion.

Of course, no actor can be without their stinkers, and Fassy in no exception, from the ‘promising on the outside’ ‘A Dangerous Method’, which I found utterly non-compelling and marred by a dire script. To the meathead favourite ’300′. But these are examples of the ill-conceived. Frankly, I see this man becoming one the greatest actors to ever grace the screen. 2012 may have been the year of Fassbender…. But let’s see how the next one pans out….


The Acting Masterclass #1 – John Turturro

They only pay for the Jewfro

 

Turturro’s an actor I first became aware of during a viewing of The Big Lebowski, one of his multiple collaborations with Joel and Ethan Coen. His character, ‘Jesus’, a minimal antagonist, would eventually become a cult icon in fandom. The infamous ‘ball-licking’ scene is one of the most memorable and often referenced shots in the entire movie.  The bowling alley-set scene is also greatly remembered for the tirade of Hispanic sleaze directed toward The Dude and Walter to a Mexicanized version of The Eagle’s classic ‘Hotel California’ (to which they appear both aloof and disgusted). Subsequently, and hilariously, ‘Jesus’ is revealed to be a ‘pedarast’.

Now, not only is that the first time i saw John Turturro on-screen, but it’s also my favourite. However, after digging around for other works I was surprised to find the much of his resume were of more dramatic roles, such as the sublime ‘Barton Fink’ and ‘Miller’s Crossing’, both of course from the Coens back catalogue, the hugely overlooked ‘Quiz Show’ and Spike Lee’s acclaimed but controversial ‘Do The Right Thing’.

For me, Turturro’s comfort zone is in that of a role where a character is defined by his mannerisms, the movements and expressions. His ‘goofish’ appearance and easy-to-improv accent make him as recognisable as some of Hollywood’s greats. Comparatively, his dramatic roles have a subtle unsuspected hint of a humorous tone  - conclusively rendering him a sympathetically down-trodden figure. His downfall in the Gabriel Byrne-led ‘Miller’s Crossing’ is perhaps one of his most ‘laughably sympathetic’.

His most famously acclaimed performance comes from ‘Barton Fink’, where, as the titular character, Turturro’s world is turned upside down and is left in a state of sheer despair, panic and confusion through the shocking turn of events after such optimism and luck begin to rear. The performance suitably aided by the film’s almost impending feeling of disaster or catastrophe. It’s in roles of this nature, and thematically dim narratives, where John’s exudate of his real capability shows.

In more recent years, Turturro has become more known for his turns in the 3 Michael Bay Transformer movies. Portraying an annoying, hard-ass that becomes an annoying, hard-ass that helps Shia Leboeuf. (Come on admit it…) Painfully reminding me of the recent work of Robert De Niro - the pandering to studio executive and P.R pressures. Still, John Turturro, to this day, continues to be one of the most competent Italian-American actors of our generation.

 


‘And Now For Something Completely Different…’

Music… In my teens it was a big deal but now I kinda don’t care for it… Save for a few bands I’ll religiously follow (Muse, Radiohead, Biffy). But film and television are predominantly ‘my bag’ these days, so I’m rarely found reading Q Magazine or checking out gig listings as much as I used to.

But, I am a multi-faceted, complex and weird human being. And sure, I do enjoy music now – however I don’t believe it’s a defining attribute to my life or personality.

Anyway, here’s a gateway into my musical preferences. My favourite 20 songs of all time… And yes, they’re in order…

20. N.W.A – ‘Fuck Tha Police’ (1988)

19. REM – ‘Shiny Happy People’ (1991)

18. Interpol – ‘Obstable 1′ (2002)

17. Peter Frampton – ‘Show Me The Way’ (1975)

16. Pantera – ‘Five Minutes Alone’ (1994)

15. Jeff Buckley – ‘Last Goodbye’ (1994) 

14. Grandmaster Melle Mel - ‘White Lines’ (1983) 

13. Bob Dylan – ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ (1964)

12. Radiohead - ‘Paranoid Android’ (1997) 

11. Kansas – ‘Carry On My Wayward Son’ (1976) 

10. Snoop Doggy Dogg – ‘Who Am I (What’s My Name)’ (1993)

09. Muse – ‘Fillip’ (1999)

08. David Bowie – ‘Sound & Vision’ (1977)

07. Biffy Clyro – ‘Glitter & Trauma’ (2004) 

06. Damien Rice – ‘The Professor & La Fille Danse’ (2004)

05. Led Zeppelin – ‘Black Dog’ (1971)

04. Rage Against The Machine – ‘Bullet In The Head’ (1992)

03. Radiohead - ‘Exit Music (For A Film)’ (1997)

02. Muse – ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ (2003)

01. Jeff Buckley – ‘Forget Her’ (1994) 


“Icon-not”

 

Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, Christopher Reeve in Superman, Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Harrison Ford in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Al Pacino in The Godfather….

We all refer to these as ‘iconic’ film roles. Portrayals of some of the greatest characters to grace the silver screen. Heroes, heroines, rebels, criminals, saviours. These characters have been embraced worldwide and have each become mainstays in cinematic history and popular culture for decades. It may be something like their clothes, their hair, their actions or even their speech - We, the audience, make a connection to that one vital part, and it’s forever embedded.

We call these portrayals ‘iconic’…. But is it the actor? Or the character itself? The real problem with this argument is that we all have attached those actors to those roles. Even after 30 years and ridiculous attempts at emulation, Sigourney Weaver is still synonymous with the ‘ass-kicking female lead’. It still remains to be seen of an actress who can pull off a similar role without inhabiting elements of Ellen Ripley. This is what frustrates me to the core – there’s no ‘suprise’ in cinema anymore. No original thought. As pointed out vivaciously by Mike Stoklasa of Red Letter Media in his Star Trek 2009 review, the overall majority of films from the last decade have been either remakes, re-imaginings of past films, as well as direct/indirect translations of fictional material released years prior. But it’s all about marketability – if you see something you recognise or like or love, you’re naturally going to want to see more of it. And that’s what I’m trying to point out here. We subconsciously feel safe seeing something or someone we vaguely recognise and we feel comfort in knowing to an extent what we are seeing and feeling. But that’s human nature and can really be applied to most situations. However, we also feel obligated to enjoy films starring iconic actors. Again, we feel ‘pre-satisfied’ and ‘safe’, because of their previous work, and high praise for it.

Isn’t there anything like it though? Harrison Ford putting on that hat? Christopher Reeve spinning retardly in that phone box?

I might be going slightly off in another tangent, but I think it’s food for thought. As sometimes we really do take for granted what these amazing actors have done for cinema and television today. Maybe there wouldn’t be a career for Michelle Rodriguez if it wasn’t for Vasquez… Maybe Samuel L Jackson would be a bank teller if it wasn’t for John Shaft. Films can and probably have changed your life one way or another. An unescapable effect.

But if all those defining, iconic roles that I listed above were not portrayed by those actors/actresses – Would they have honestly been as much a part of our lives as they are today? An often clichéd quote from directors we hear time and time again is – “he/she was the only person who could play the part.” If you really dug deep you’d find countless amounts of directors who have said something along similar lines. But who was the first choice to play Indy? Tom Selleck. Who was cast as Marty McFly initially? Eric Stoltz. You’d be hard-pressing trying to envision any other actor playing those parts, really wouldn’t you? Odd one eh?

But wait, it’s the same character, right? Just with another face, hair-do, voice. Could we honestly admit that the perception of that iconic character can ever be anything than what it was? I can’t attempt to answer the question, however it’s a mind-boggling one. Cinema has hit it’s crisis peak in my opinion, we don’t have that ‘one-man show’ anymore. And judging from a time where new releases are merely fecal matter (i.e Alvin And The Chipmunks, The Last Airbender, White Chicks) – Is there much point to finding that defining role for the 21st century?

That’s what I love about those iconic characters. We’re mentally configured to loving those characters just purely from the simplest of things – and it’s the way those simple things are presented that make the actors so tightly knitted to that character.

Could there ever have been another Ripley, RP McMurphy, Alex DeLarge, Han Solo or Michael Corleone???… The actors that portrayed those roles were masters of their art. They didn’t do it for a quick buck, they did it for us, the audience. Nothing like today. And that’s why they are considered icons, and you won’t find anyone close in Hollywood currently even attempting at best to prove otherwise.

Maybe I’m not seeing the bigger picture :/ . We all know what that is. Acting isn’t really about the acting anymore, nothing DEFINES iconic when I watch films today. In reality, it’s all business and it makes the world go round on its soon to be toppling axis.

Yep.


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