Every year on my birthday I sit and watch my favorite film of all time with my girls. I call it my favorite film because I watched it at their ages and was absolutely shaken by it. It helped explain feelings I was having about my life, and gave me hope that I wasn't just a guy floating through life hoping. It told me I could actually affect my outcome. At that point that was something I was sure wasn't up to me.
The nice thing is that as they get older I'm able to talk with them about deeper themes that run through the simplest bits of the film. I'm able to see it again and dissect why it affected me like it did and, really, how great a film it is.
(On a side note…what is "great"? It's a great film to me, so, it's a great film. Period. Don't let some outside consensus of judges tell what makes a great film, and don't be embarrassed to love a film that isn't on AFI's list.)
Got me to thinking…
If you died and people wanted to know what went on in your heart while you were alive, could you give them 3 films to watch that would help them understand who you were? What 5 songs would I tell them to listen listen to that would tell me who you are?
Some Kind of Wonderful was my high school days, as much as I liked The Breakfast Club and thought it reminded me of the inane rules of high school, it was Eric Stoltz and his pursuit of the pretty girl that made me say "oh god, that's me."
In America absolutely rocked me out of my seat when I saw it. It reminded me of so much of my early NYC actor days, my early my family days and my struggle to feel connected to a place, a home. Jim Sheridan is clearly in my head when he makes films, or so it feels that way.
Can you list your 3 films? I know I've only listed 2 but the third film, my favorite film, will remain a secret. It's too personal and it's only for my girls to know. A family secret that binds us.
When I started at The Neighborhood Playhouse, Mr. Meisner told us we "were his radishes" and he "plants us all, and in 20 years we become actors." He said all this smiling but at the time I could only think "I don't have 20 years. I need to be an actor now."
It's like she's settled into the idea that actors grow and get better and gave up on the idea that actors do that one thing that got them famous until they're irrelevant. You know those actors don't you? The ones that you used to look forward to watching but now hope the supporting cast will ad a bit of interest to the movie because you know exactly what's coming from the above-title mega-star. It's not like Ms. Bullock has completely "reinvented" ( which is merely publicist speak for trying to appeal to a younger audience) herself. You absolutely see the same person, but it's as if she gave in to that thing called talent and direction and allowed the character to define her, not the other ( all too often) way around. In The Proposal and All About Steve she had real specifics at work along side her usual comedy chops. In The Blind Side she had great specifics as well as a subtlety and maternal instinct she's not shown us before.
It was a lovely thing to see. I don't know her, but I've certainly seen plenty of her work over the years and seeing this evolution into actress reminded me of that early recipe of Mr. Meisner. After 20 years, I feel like I'm the best I've ever been. I'd like to think I too have settled into a trust with my talent and a belief in the mystery of the process so that I can allow great things to come out of me. I'm always puzzled as to why, with access to the greatest scripts, directors and teachers in our world, do so many big stars just stagnate? You know what I'm talking about, don't you? It's not like talent goes away, ignoring your talent will make it hide, but surely with a bit of tempting your instincts again grab hold of that divine thing called the script and your artist starts playing with ideas until the director yells "That's the one! Take it in that direction and let's see where we go!"
When I lecture, I always tell the students that the only thing we can really hope to get out of a career in the arts is fulfillment. Yes, money and affection of fans is a by-product, but what all real artists want is to cure that thing in us that's always asking "did I get that right?" Every artist has the feeling in them that tells them if they really explored and put them selves in the role. I once asked a mega star if she liked her performance in her latest massive hit movie, she answered me with, "the audience absolutely freaked out at the screening."
After 20 years of doing this, you know it when it's right and you know when you copped out. If you're in it for the money then of course you will be fulfilled when you make some, but it seems that even if Ms. Bullock was in it for the money when she started out, things have given way to the fact that she has more to offer and seeds planted earlier have taken root and an actress is starting to ripen.