The real way to distinguish a great actor from a mediocre one is to watch how he (or she) wears his costume in a period piece. If say, it looks likes he’s dressed up for a costume ball, then, well, he really can’t get into the character. If, however, it looks like he wears a doublet and hose everyday rather than just put them on to film his scenes, then there’s a good chance he can act the part as well as wear the costume.
And last night, it seemed that a number of the stars at the Oscars had put on their tuxes or long dresses just for the occasion. Well, of course, they did, but the point is to make yourself look comfortable in such formal finery. You know, that Sean Connery/James Bond thing going where you looked comfortable (and darn good) in a tux. Now, Meryl Streep walked with great ease in her dress, but Molly Ringwald seemed mighty stiff in hers. My lady Sandra Bee did seem a bit stiff when he walked the red carpet in her shimmering gown, but once in the auditorium, she moved with grace and class.
The same way she spoke.
Perhaps, the most annoying thing about the Oscars last night was the number of presenters who just read their lines from the teleprompter without emotion. (It’s why the Cameron Diaz/Steve Carell schtick was among the evening’s most entertaining. They mocked their peers.) You’d think other actors would try to do a little more than just read, given that, well, it’s kind of their profession to show they believe it when they speak lines others have written for them. Instead they just phone in their presentations. (Is is that many of them were up-and-coming movie stars, screen presences more than gifted performers?)
And some of them didn’t even turn on the charm. Ann Althouse wrote this morning “actresses with their hard, frozen faces and their sinewy bodies encased in lavishly ruffled dresses showed that movies are no longer a source of fresh inspiration about beauty, femininity and womanhood” (commentary which when I first read it on Instapundit inspired this post). What is it with all these hard, frozen faces, this absence of emotion, this indifference to charm?
I have been noticing just such cold faces on many young women since I moved to Hollywood, a good number of them actresses. And I compare them not just to those like Bullock who succeed today on the silver screen or to Julia Roberts who succeeded in recent years, but to stars of yore who would never let their faces become frozen in a hard, proud smirk.
Maybe some of these actresses would enjoy a bit more than just 15 minutes of the fame, if they, like Bullock, dared to show a broader range of facial expressions instead of the glacial haughtiness of a star who believe she’s made it because she’s walking the red carpet.
Walking the red carpet one year doesn’t mean you’re going to grace movie screens in succeeding years.