Sunday, January 17, 2016


And another thing! I think deep soul-level acting might not be sustainable. Maybe you need to take shortcuts to spare yourself.
I made a couple of romantic efforts this fall, both of which left me reeling, incapacitated. Just taking the lid off my emotions for a brief time seems to be something I’m less and less able to recover from. (I recently self-defined as strong, but not tough. Like a bleeding anvil.) Acting is the same thing. Here’s my heart and soul. I can’t just turn it off again when I’m done and go back to pivot tables and analyzing market trends.
Safer to be more of a Maggie Smith. Smart, edgy, self-aware. She’ll never stop being brilliant. She’s got it together. I think Saoirse Ronan could maintain a long and brilliant career, intelligent, intentional, emotional, but not unmoored. I fear Jennifer Lawrence will burn out. But I could be wrong on that count. She’s powerful in her emotion, not fragile. She reminds me of seeing Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted, where I felt like Jolie might stride right off the screen and beat the crap out of me. Whereas Brittany Murphy, in that same film, so fragile and raw, felt fated to disintegrate.
I love directing actors. I love directing instinctual actors. The actors you have to approach like wild animals. Put them in front of a camera and see what happens. These are also the people who have trouble maintaining an adult life. Their genius is their in-the-moment-ness. I also love directing the intellectual actors, who know what they’re doing. Who will show up and give you not just what you think you want, but something extra they came up with in the shower. Steve Voldseth springs to mind. Directing, for the films I’ve made, comes mostly in the editing. In taking what works and creating something out of it. Not getting tied to the original concept. I love editing scenes I know nothing about going in, without knowledge of how it was written, how it was cast, how it was set up, what mistakes were made, what seemed magical in real life. Because none of that matters when you’re editing: you have to see what’s there and build what you can of it. If I have any real skill in life, it’s making do with little. Editing limits you to what was actually captured, and the original intentions are irrelevant. Where was I going with this? Hell if I know. I do know that I fall in love with every actor I edit. You can’t gaze at someone that intimately for hours and hours without finding the beauty and the humanity in them. And those people who volunteer to have their souls captured on film (okay, hard drive) are exquisite. Anyway…
I appreciated Philip’s nods to Kyle Chandler in Carol (his quiet explosion trying to fix the sink was the most-- possibly the only-- human moment in the film), and Oscar Isaac (he came out of nowhere for me, in Star Wars and Ex Machina, bursting fully-formed, charismatic and powerful), and Michael Caine (another actor who has maintained his genius remarkably well - he was beautiful in Youth).
My favorite 2015 movie-going experience was probably Welcome to Happiness, the only true festival fare I saw. Plus, OMG, Keegan-Michael Key was there, inches from me, and I’m certainly guilty of star-struckery. (My daughter’s reading over my shoulder, questioning “star-struckery,” but she appreciates, “fated to disintegrate.”) Anyway, the premise of Welcome to Happiness is a lovely one, and it’s handled with only a trace of quirk. Well, okay, the quirk gets pretty thick at times, but it’s such a hopeful film I give it a lot of slack. Brendan Sexton III is marvelous - another actor one fears will dissolve in emotion. The young director handled the opening scene with marvelous confidence, and though the film did not maintain that early strength, I’m eager to see what this guy will do next.
I miss festivals. I miss seeing strange little films I wouldn’t ordinarily see. I will make a concerted effort to seek these out more diligently this year. Or I may just read a lot of novels in the bath. (That cracked my daughter up. She knows me well.)
Other favorite experiences: Inside Out with my two favorite kids. This film destroyed me. My kids sweetly tried to comfort me as I sobbed. My daughter is 10 and on the verge of changes like my grandmother described my 13th year: “When Mawa stopped smiling.” I’m terrified of the end of childhood. This Christmas had a melancholy tinge as my daughter tried and failed to muster the magic feeling she’d had in years past. We both cried, mourning this, and I told her this is one of the reasons we have kids: to get that feeling back. Where magic is real and everything is possible. Where joy is the undisputed leader.
Disappointments? Carol. Sumptuous, yes. But flat, emotionless. It made me want to rewatch Velvet Goldmine, which was so visceral and tender. (Brian finds it ahistorical and infuriating, but I’m blissfully unaware of any possible reality attached to it, other than the general Bowie/Iggyness.) Aloha. Emma Stone is delightful, but making her Asian was hurtful. Painful. Offensive. The film angered me. Not least because of the careless way it treated the paternity of the daughter. Made me want to punch things. I did enjoy the nonverbal conversation between Cooper and Krasinski. Minions. Argh.
Favorite moments on screen? Creed: motorcycle run and Tessa Thompson removing her hearing aids as Don pounds on her door. The Big Short: “Why are they confessing?” “They’re not. They’re bragging.” Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Rey and Finn taking the time to congratulate themselves on their coolness; Rey with Han in the Millennium Falcon. Love & Mercy: Recording Pet Sounds. Brooklyn: The marriage proposal; the return to Ireland and the temptation of forgetting.
So. The Oscars. Oh, man, you guys. I love the Oscars in all their absurdity. Of course I want my favorite actors and films to be nominated and to win. But what other awards in the world do we feel like we have so much stake in? The movies are ours. We own them. Actors and directors belong to us. They are our royalty and our property. Who won Best Advancement in Cancer Research in 2006? I dunno. Probably some old white guy. But The New World was freakin’ robbed. Crash? Seriously?
I hope the Oscars will eventually go the way of most professional sports. It’ll be only black people who win anything or are nominated. Because, dude, come on. Who wants to see pasty white people emoting? But, nah, as long as we are a mostly white establishment we’ll want to see people like us and we’ll appreciate the performances of people like us and stories like ours. Actual talent be damned. The world is rigged. It is getting better. Maybe. It’s just sooooo goddamned slow. And when the black, brown, gay, female talents come along, well… there’s only room for one at a time. Look, guys, we gave that Hurt Locker chick some awards, like, just a couple of years ago. We often nominate one or two black people. What more do you want from us? Now you’re just trying to take away spots from the nice white men who deserve them. Maybe we can split up the awards. We have actor and actress. How about director and directress? Director and Directress of Color? LGBT special consideration awards. The Special Oscars. Honestly, the entertainment industry is better for non-white people than most industries in this silly planet. I work for a law firm with 65 partners. About 55 of them are, yeah, you know-- straight, white men. I want this conversation to be louder and broader. We are a racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, able-ist species. Let’s try to be better.
Odie’s call (and Meryl’s) for diversity in film criticism is heeded. People ask me to write occasionally, or encourage me to write, or ask where they can read what I’ve written. (HA!) And it’s flattering because I like to think of myself as a smarty-pants wit with Things to Say. But my writing is like my chess playing. All defense, no end game. I’m weak, and I’m lazy. (But I always will love you, Marie.) When my first treehouse post went up I was drenched in sweat. I’m a coward. If I never try, I’ll never fail. My potential remains intact.
So thank you, Dennis, for persuading me to do this thing in a safe, padded-walled treehouse. I’ve enjoyed your writing and Odie’s for some years now, but Philip and Brian were new to me, and I find them delightful, thoughtful, warm, funny and passionate. Thanks for letting me be the token welfare mom in your little salon. I am encouraged and roused to start writing regularly. And I’ve been inspired this past year by Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham and Mallory Ortberg, all writing unapologetically feminine and feminist and funny stuff. Of course I’ll still read a lot of novels in the bath. Shut up.
Marya Murphy has been called "a less-effeminate Oscar Wilde," and "a Twitter personality," neither of which has yet to lead to a lucrative job offering, though she has scored a free computer and opera tickets. She has produced several critically-acclaimed films (CanaryAround the BayBabnik and Amity) and continues to act, write, edit and generally film-make when her selfish eight- and 10-year-old aren’t demanding to be fed, clothed and educated. Marya hails from Redwood City, CA.


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