May 15, 2012

Some Good Writing about Acting

In honor of the end of House, Hugh Laurie wrote a column for Entertainment Weekly. He has some great stuff to say about acting and making film that works. He talks about the ensemble, how they worked like a chamber orchestra with "perfectly satisfying intervals, cadences, rhythms." And how much of modern acting is allowed to be sloppy, with the expectation that skilled editors will patch it together into something smooth. But, he says, "that could never have worked for House. The door to Wilson's office had to close between the words "malignant" and "melanoma," to punctuate the moment, not a half second earlier or later. The cap of the pill bottle had to snap jut before the patient turns his head from the window, or the moment would fail." Laurie, a professional musician as well as actor, continues his music analogy: "But enough with the looting and more than enough with my tooting. There were so many great horns in the brass section, far more than I can mention here" and goes on to mention costar Robert Sean Leonard and others.

I also like when he writes about the criticism that House was formulaic. He notes that formula is endemic to any human endeavor. "All blues songs are the same, all operas are the same, all games of basketball are definitely the same (to an English eye, anyway); in fact,  everything is the same, including critics, if you don't pay attention to their differences."

But here's my favorite passage of all:  "If you preface your critique with "just," you can diminish and undermine the most complex structures."

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