I can’t reveal particulars, but another source is disagreeing with the hat-in-the-air praise for Kenneth Branagh‘s performance as Laurence Oliver in My Week With Marilyn that I passed along last April. This on top of a similar view posted yesterday by “Yahoo” has persuaded me to think, “Okay, let’s take it easy with the K. Branagh thing.” Particularly since the most recent opinion comes from a very perceptive fellow.
Every now and then an actor delivers a performance that is so odious and unpleasant to settle into that even sophisticated filmgoers find themselves resenting the actor on some level, despite the obvious. If the performance is off-putting enough, it can seriously harm or stall an actor’s career. For me Ezra Miller‘s inhabiting of an evil, acid-spewing fiend in We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of these. I instantly knew while watching Lynne Ramsay‘s film in Cannes that I’d be avoiding seeing this guy in anything else, if at all possible.
Unfair? A bit cruel? Yeah, it is. But that’s what a lacerating performance can sometimes achieve.
What other performances have been so instantly offensive that they all but stopped the career of the actor? All I can think of is Lorraine Braco‘s as a braying biochemist in Medicine Man (1992), which seemed to ruin her feature film work (at last in terms of choice roles) until she bounced back in ’99 with her psychiatrist role in The Sopranos. And, I suppose, Elizabeth Berridge performance as Mozart’s shrewish, low-rent wife in Milos Forman‘s Amadeus (’84). She pretty much went right into ’80s and ’90s TV after that grating turn. She played Annie Oakley in Hidalgo (’04).
It’s been 16 or 17 years since Gabrielle Anwar “disappeared” from features and moved over to television. The last thing she did that really mattered was that tango dance scene with Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman (’92). I’d very nearly forgotten her. Things fall away and you move on. And then wham…her face (perhaps even more stimulating at 41 than in her early 20s) popped up in a trailer for The Family Tree (Tuckman Media, 8.26).
There’s something about faint signs of age settling into the face of a strikingly beautiful woman that gets me. I don’t know why exactly. Even if she has what appear to be trout lips.
The film, an American Beauty-resembling dramedy about a mom with memory loss and a dad with a proverbial wandering eye, is a problem. I haven’t seen it, but the website’s 1996-era design style tells you everything. No, I don’t think Tuckman Media was trying to be hip by intentionally trying to make it look like a Clinton-era website. Anwar’s costars are Dermot Mulroney, Hope Davis, Chi McBride, Vhristina Hendricks, Selma Blair, Keith Carradine, Max Thierot, Rachel Leigh Cook, Jane Seymour and Britt Robertson. The director is Vivi Friedman.
In his N.Y. Times profile of Stephen Lang, John Anderson describes the 50ish actor as having been “scarier than John Dillinger in Public Enemies.” No — Lang was snarlier, but while playing a flinty, straight-up lawman with a sense of honor and dignity about him. Lang was also the co-deliverer (with Marion Cotillard) of that film’s great emotional finale. It’s appalling that I can’t find a decent, unsqueezed clip of this scene.
Avatar‘s Zoe Saldana gets to do the same old avenge-the-death-of-my-parents crap in the vein of a typical Luc Besson, hard-tack, badass-hot-chick La Femme Nikita, blah, blah. And why call it Columbiana? Why do the makers of these films insist on making them all the same way, which is to say in the manner of a Cannon film transposed to the present? Why don’t they try to make it in a Steven Soderbergh mode?
Q: “So how secure do we build this? How many guy wires? Do we make it strong enough to hold up in heavy winds and howling rainstorms, or just strong enough to stand in good weather or what?” A: “Or strong enough to withstand an earthquake, you mean? C’mon, man…we have to stay within our budget. We don’t want to go nuts here. I have mouths to feed. Just build it the usual way.”
Five people died in this calamity. A horrible thing all around. But I have to say that the above video footage reminds me how I always get a huge thrill when dark clouds swirl overhead and the winds pick up like in the parting-the-Red Sea sequence in The Ten Commandments.
Sidenote: Look at the blonde with the swept-back hair and the shoulder-baring black sweater or leotard about the 37 second mark, and how she’s smiling and happy-chatting with her girlfriends. 25 seconds after the collapse.
I’ve misheard song lyrics all my life, and over time those wrong lyrics have sunk into my system and become frozen in amber, and now I can’t hear the correct lyrics to save my life. Most of the mis-heard lyrics were absorbed when I was a kid or a teenager, for the most part. I know it sounds silly but these idiotic re-wordings have stayed in my head.
Example #1: “All Shook Up,” Elvis Presley. All my life I’ve been hearing “I’m itchin’ like a man on a buzzin’ tree” and “mah friends say I’m actin’ wide as a bug.” The correct lyrics are “I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree” and “my friends say I’m actin wild as a bug.” Except Presley doesn’t say “wild” in that song. Wild is a two-syllable word that Presley just flat-out doesn’t pronounce — he says “wide.” Yes, an idiotic interpretation. How exactly does a bug act when he’s “wide”? (Or “narrow” for that matter?) But there’s nothing crazy about itching as a result of being in the vicinity of a “buzzing” tree. The tree could be buzzing with mosquitoes or flies or gnats and you could feel itchy from that proximity.
Example #2: “(The Love I Saw In You Was) Just A Mirage,” Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. The song goes “We used to meet in romantic places / You gave the illusion that your love was real / Now all that’s left are lipstick traces / From the kisses you only pretended to feel.” My lifelong problem is that I never heard “are lipstick traces” — I heard “I miss Dick Tracy.” Now listen to these lyrics the Jeffrey Wells way, and you’ll understand why my life has turned out the way it has: “”We used to meet in romantic places / You gave the illusion that your love was real / Now all that’s left I miss Dick Tracy / From the kisses you only pretended to feel.”
Example #3: “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story, written by Stephen Sondheim & sung by Richard Beymer in the 1961 film. The guy who sang on Beymer’s behalf slightly misrepesented the lyrics when he sang “With a click / With a shock / Phone’ll jingle / Door’ll knock / Open the latch!” It’s not my fault but the singer’s that all my life I’ve been hearing “phono jingo / dorro knock!” I know for a fact that almost all singers deliberately de-emphasize the “ell” sound in songs because they’re hard to musically enunciate in a way that sounds “right.”