Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lectures on Acting: Arthur A Seidelman and Jim Jarret

I created this blog to help promote an appreciation of acting and actors. I am an actor myself and study acting at a school called Playhouse West in North Hollywood, California USA. Every now and then there are some lectures for students and actors given by guest speakers. Here some lectures given by two speakers that I found to be very inspirational. If you are an actor looking for inspiration, or an everyday person who wants to learn more about what acting really is, I would highly recommend giving these lectures a listen.

Arthur A Seidelman is an Award winning director of films, television, and plays and has an extensive list of credits. He is a passionate man when it comes to the art of directing and acting. He is originally from New York and studied acting under the teacher Sanford Meisner.

This lecture is titled "What an Actor Needs to Know." This lecture talks about what acting is from an artist's point of view.

This is another followup lecture given by Seidelman titled "Why be an Actor." This lecture touches upon some of the stuff in the first lecture but specifically asks actors to examine why they pursue their craft and challenges them to put their egos aside.. A very inspiring lecture filled with wisdom.

Jim Jarrett is an actor/teacher of an acting school in San Francisco and produces and acts in one man shows including "Vincent" and "Meisner". He also studied acting under Sanford Meisner.

In this lecture Jarrett talks about his own unorthodox path to building a successful acting career after rejecting the Hollywood System. The theme of his lecture is that you don't have to follow the beaten path to success if you know what you want out of your acting career. This lecture is part of a series of lectures he gives on career building. For more information visit his website!

Please Enjoy the wisdom contained in these wonderful lectures!

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

District 9 (2009)

Saw this movie last weekend in the theatres. Produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Neill Blomkamp, 'District 9' proved to be surprisingly evocative and emotionally moving.

The basic plot is... an Alien mothership becomes disabled over Johannesberg, South Africa. Unable to return home, the insect like aliens live as refugees alongside humans in a makeshift shantytown known as "District 9". 20 years later, human authorities decide to relocate the Aliens to a new area in order to please disgruntled human citizens. The man in charge is an awkwardly enthusiastic and neurotic public servant named Wikus van der Merwe(played by Sharlto Copley). As Wikus and his militarized force of civil servants descend upon the shanty town chaos ensues. After being sprayed by a mysterious black alien fluid that alters his genetics into that of an alien, Wikus finds himself questioning the 'humanity' of himself, his species, and that of the alien 'prawns' he is charged to relocate.

'District 9' is a social commentary on Apartheid in South Africa but can be applied to any form of caste/race based social inequality. The film is shot in a quasi-documentary style that is somewhat unorthodox and may have some film goers wondering what exactly is going on in terms of storytelling. The overall effect is interesting in that while witnessing the brutal injustices inflicted against the aliens, one is not sure whether to laugh or feel disgusted and sympathetic. Over the course of the film it becomes clear who the humane and inhumane are. In this sense Blomkamp is very clever in humanizing the aliens and taking the audience on the psychological and emotional journey from dehumanizing prejudice to empathy.

The main character of Wikus van der Merwe is endearingly played by Sharlto Copley. An awkward, yet enthusiastic and ambitious servant of the state, Wikus resembles a younger version of the bosses in the British and American TV series "The Office." Except rather than being in charge of paper salesmen, he is in charge of an army of social workers backed by paramilitary comandoes riding in APC carriers and scout helicopters. Because of the awkward comedy of his role, it is easy to overlook the emotional intensity and depth of the situations actor Sharlto Copley must act throughout the movie. There are several painful and traumatic experiences the character Wikus goes through in the movie and Sharlto Copley acts this very convincingly and with much emotional depth and sensitivity. His acting lends a sense of humanity and endearingness to the character that would otherwise be rather annoying.

Another thing that I liked in the movie was the writing. The characters are all very well developed. The use of reverse stereotypes is quite clever, such as the cowardly hero, the civilized alien, and the disabled Nigerian warlord, and the Evil Captain of the soldiers. In a normal Hollywood movie, The captain of soldiers would be played by Bruce Willis and be the hero of the story, The Aliens would be savage monsters, the Nigerian Warlord would be athletic but somewhat idiotic, and Wikus would be a traitorous, and cowardly human who gets eaten by an alien.

The one thing 'District 9' does tackle head on is graphic violence and action. It is quite graphic and grisly as one would expect an alien movie to be and fans of this genre will not be disappointed. Originally intended to be a movie version of Halo, before the project went under, the movie has lots of cool effects and technologies reminiscent of the game. There is a cool action sequence towards the end involving a huge mechanized robotic suit seen in the trailers that is very cool. All said and done this was a very cool film and one of the better one's I've seen in quite a while. Did I mention it was cool?

Just in case you are still on the fence on seeing this one, you might like this movie if you liked:
Aliens, Shawn of the Dead, Spinal Tap, E.T., The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Avatar

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Logan and Noah Miller's "Touching Home" featuring Ed Harris

Here is a clip from another film at the Playhouse West Film Festival. the Miller Bros. "Touching Home" starring Noah and Logan Miller and also Ed Harris. This movie featured stellar acting and the story of and behind the film was very powerful inspiring. This film is a great example of grass roots independent film making and the power passion, love, and dedication have in realizing a dream. Here's an interview that explains their story...

here is their official website

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Trailer for Scott Cann's 'Mercy'

We just screened this film at the Playhouse West Film Festival. It was awesome and won a bunch of awards. Superbly acted, written, directed. everything. As a committee member I was so glad this film was submitted. This is a quality film!

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Piano Teacher(2001) aka. La Pianiste

Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke (writer). Elfriede Jelinek (novel)

Starring:Isabelle Huppert, Annie Girardot, Benoît Magimel

What do you get when you combine an aging, eccentric, piano teacher prone to masochism and a handsome, young rake who likes to play ice hockey and Schumann…? You get director Michael Haneke’s film The Piano Teacher.

This film stars Isabelle Huppert as the eccentric Erika Kohut, a professor of classical piano at a respected musical conservatory in Vienna who lives with her overbearing, co-dependant mother. Except for the fact that living with her mother drives Erika to pursue hobbies such as voyeurism, pornography, and self-mutilation, everything is going hunky dory in Erika’s life. That is until she meets a dashing, young, but talented, electrical engineer/pianist named Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel). The two meet at a piano recital where they both are performing. Walter begins his romantic pursuit of the icy Erika with a seductive performance of Schumann. Little does Monsieur Klemmer know that he may be in for more than he bargained for…

The Piano Teacher garnered several film awards including the Cannes Grand Prize of the Jury award and also the Best Actor and Best Actress awards. Isabelle Huppert’s performance as Erika Kohut is so amazing. She is pure genius in this role.

Benoît Magimel is also superb as the dashing young suitor Walter Klemmer. His acting is very human and unapologetic in its portrayal of a young man who totally loses his grip on reality while pursuing the woman he desires.

Another performance worth mentioning is that of the Annie Girardot who plays Erika’s mother. The scenes between Girardot and Huppert are so layered and well acted.

If you watch the DVD, it features a very fascinating interview with Huppert herself. Huppert talks about the making of the film as well as her own views on acting. It is very interesting to see how her real life behavior compares to her behavior in the movie. A very educational interview for any actor.

The Piano Teacher is a film about love and seduction. The main character of Erika Kohut struggles with her desire for love and her fears of being seduced. The actions she takes to avoid the pain of seduction ultimately contribute to her greater downfall. Due to the graphic nature of it's depiction of rape and themes of sexual perversity, viewers be warned, while a french film, this movie is not really a first date movie... unless of course your date happens to be an only child piano teacher with an overbearing mother and a proclivity towards pornographic films, voyeurism, and masochistic self-mutilation. That said, this movie is an example of acting and story telling at it’s finest.

If you watched this movie and liked it you may also like the following movies:

Dangerous Liaisons, The Libertine, 2046, In The Mood For Love, I Heart Huckabees, Last Tango in Paris, Ma Mére

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Infernal Affairs(2003)

Everyone has seen or at least knows about the awesome film The Departed starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Mat Dammon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen. But did you know that The last two thirds of The Departed is actually based on a hong kong film called Infernal Affairs? This movie was made in 2004 and features several big name Hong Kong actors including, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Andy Lau, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen and Sammi Cheng. The movie was such a hit in Hong Kong that it inspired a prequel Infernal Affairs 2 and a sequel Infernal Affairs 3, and obviously Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.

The basic story is mostly the same as The Departed. An undercover cop named Chen Wing-Yan(Tony Leung) infiltrates deep into a Triad gang. Meanwhile a Triad gang member Lau Kin-Ming(Andy Lau) infiltrates the Hong Kong police force. While each man gathers intelligence for his organization, the stresses of leading a dual life begin to take their toll.

I liked the fact that, while very similar to its American counterpart, Infernal Affairs is different not just in terms of plot but also in the overall “feel” of the movie. The best way I can describe it is that it focuses more on group dynamics rather than on individual character arcs. Don’t get me wrong, the characters are strong in both movies, but where The Departed emphasizes the perspective of each individual, Infernal Affairs highlights the “game theory” and strategizing aspects of the story. In Infernal Affairs, the characters seem to be almost pawns in a game through which they must constantly navigate in order to survive. A good example is the first “battle” scene of the movie. In Infernal Affairs, the teamwork that goes on between the two groups of the mobsters and the police is emphasized . There is a dramatic scene between the two rival factions when the head mobster and his gang are hauled into the police department for questioning. The showdown between the superintendent(Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) and the head boss Hon Sam(Eric Tsang Chi-wai) further serves to highlight the rivalry between the two groups. Another gem of a scene that is different from the American version was a scene where Tony Leung’s character, Yan, and his Mafia friend Keung(Chapman To Man-Chat) escape in the gun battle of the second act. In this scene the two share an intimate moment of brotherhood among thieves before the unknowing Keung dies from a gunshot wound. This scene not only is very poignant, but serves to emphasize the deep emotional entanglement between Yan and his fellow mobsters. An aspect only alluded to in The Departed with regards to Billy Costigan’s character.

There is one similarity that really stuck out to me. In The Departed, Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of Staff Sergeant Sean Dignam really kicked ass. His obnoxious attitude and the “hand on his hip” acting was quite a knockout. It is interesting to note that in Infernal Affairs the actor who plays the corresponding character of Inspector Cheung, Chapman To Man-Chat, also acts many of his scenes with “hand on his hip” acting technique. Clearly Mark Wahlberg is an awesome actor in that he knew what was right for the character and the scene and wasn’t afraid to borrow from genius.

All in all, Infernal Affairs is an awesome movie. While similar to The Departed, it also has it’s own unique story aspects and stylistic approach to telling the story with an emphasis on the overall character dynamics rather than individual character arcs.

If you liked this movie you might also like:

The Departed, Hard Boiled, In The Mood For Love, 2046, Bullet in the Head.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009


A popular and friendly priest is suspected by the head nun of sexually molesting a black alter boy. Sister Beauvier accuses the Father Flynn of the crime she suspects he has committed, while he vehemently denies his guilt. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse in which the lines of truth are grayed and blurred. Things become even more complicated when Sister Beauvier learns from the boy’s mother that the boy, who is very bonded to Father Flynn, is gay. The characters as well as the audience begin to question their ability to ascertain the truth in a world shrouded by secrecy and the protocols of formality.

Written and Directed by John Patrick Shanley and based on a play by the same name, the story line is very artfully contrived. The interesting thing about both the play and the movie is that it is up to the audience to decide whether or not the purported acts that took place are fact or fiction. This makes Doubt one of those movies that is not meant to merely be watched but to be experienced. It is a heavy movie. It’s the kind of movie you will think about and ponder over for many days or weeks after having watched it. If you like movies that make you a different person after watching them, then you will appreciate this film.

There are several great performances in this film. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep are both exceptional in their roles as hunter and hunted.

Hoffman is expert at playing a progressive-minded man who is obviously wracked a torturous secret. Whether he is a very principled man, or a very sneaky manipulative liar is left to the audience’s interpretation.

Meryl Streep is eccentric yet very human in her role as the mean, terrorizing nun who is willing to do anything to keep her flock in line. For her the ends justify the means. Streep adds a sense of pathos and humanity to a character that would otherwise appear simply cruel, backwards, and unsympathetic.

Other great performances are that of Amy Adams who plays the seemingly innocent and naïve character of the boy’s teacher, Sister James. She gives a very layered performance as well as a woman who struggles with her true belief in the supremacy of goodness and love in the face of all that is going on around her.

Another actress of high merit is Viola Davis who plays the boy’s mother. She has a very powerful scene with Meryll Streep in which she pleads with the Sister to stop investigating her son and the priest's involvement. She is great at playing the role of a woman who has endured the reality of life's injustice and indignities and is desperately fighting for her child’s well-being and future the best way she knows how.

This movie has great performances and is freaking phenomenal in terms of writing and direction. There is a saying that all great art leaves the viewer a different person after watching it and this movie does just that.

If you liked this movie you may also enjoy the following:

Capote, The Devil Wears Prada, Catch Me If You Can, I Confess, Mystic River, Moonstruck.

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