The following motion pictures titles are listed for the benefit of actors who would like to learn more about film acting techniques. Here's what to look at and why:
1. Sunset Boulevard 1959
Not only is the story an original (told from the point of view of a dead man), not only are shots invented (a shot from the bottom of a pool), not only is it about ageism, sexism, power, madness, murder, the history of Hollywood (in a pseudo-documentary fashion), it's boy-meets-girl, and it's got two distinct acting styles brought together...This film is a good example of how the "story" starts before the movie begins and goes on after the end. Plus it’s one of the few voice-over narratives that actually enhances the plots, instead of dictating what is happening.
2. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane
Again, two different styles of acting -- one a "movie star" and one a "character actress". No movement is wasted. It's about jealousy, insanity, sibling rivalry, the rise and fall of stardom.
The "mother" in the film is on screen less than ten minutes but made a powerful performance, like Meryl Streep in "Kramer vs. Kramer". She packs a lifetime into those minutes onscreen.
4. The Hours
It's about how lives and ideas intertwine, about choices, about the sacrifices creative people make. Nicole Kidman gives the performance of her life -- totally unrecognizable. Julianne Moore gives a great "repressive" performance.
5. Citizen Kane
Tells the same story from several points of view -- actors had to know who's story they were telling at what time. Wells was a young man at the time.
6. All About Eve
New-comer Marilyn Monroe in the same scene with Bette! Watch Bette "do business" in every scene. Even putting her hands in her pockets means something. Also see "Jezebell".
7. Straightjacket/Queen Bee/Mildred Pierce
Highly stylized acting and delivery -- with a camp quality. In "Straightjacket", Crawford -- in her late 60's -- plays a 29 yr old hotsy-totsy.
8. Rocky Horror Picture Show
This is about being uninhibition and committing to the character -- no matter how outrageous.
9. The Virgin Spring
Simplicity. This is about the power of acting and story-telling (the power of the idea) over technical limitations.
10. 2001 A Space Odyssey
See how actors are used in conjunction to environment, almost as props to be part of a whole visualization.
11. The Pink Panther
Comic timing by a master of the "dry dead pan delivery". Watch the physical acts propel the dialogue and plot lines.
12. Raging Bull/Taxi Driver
De Niro commits completely to the part. You never catch his "acting" -- as opposed to Crawford and Davis who are completely self-aware of what they are doing.
13. Sophie's Choice/The French Lieutenant's Woman
If De Niro is a driving drum beat, then Streep is a violin.
14. Apocalypse Now
Pushing not only art, but the artist. Beyond movie making or movie watching, it's an experience.
15. The Maltese Falcon/To Have And Have Not/Casablanca
This is acting on what is NOT on the screen -- the subtext, the implication, wanting the people within the story to succeed.
16. China Town
Nicolson's character needs to know one piece of information for the entire film and his performance to change. Had he known in the beginning...It's all about the motivation. Why does this person act this way? This is about an attitude.
Any movie with Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich or Charles Laughton...
Movies To Avoid That Are Generally Thought Of As "Good Movie"
1. Gone With The Wind
Nothing more than a Soap Opera -- and an exasperating one at that. The "Titanic" of its day. It took 4 yrs to make, hours to watch, and is not "deep" in any sense. It ends with a supposed "up" but not really.
2. The Wizard Of Oz
Snuff the dog already. Without Toto there is no plot or motivation -- so, really, it's a movie about a despondent girl's dog surrounded by nonsense, lots and lots of nonsense. It ends up where it begins and so what?
3. Singing In The Rain
Should be titled "Singing About Nonsense". Just goofiness and not in a fun way.
4. Star Wars
Little children, not adults, can watch this on DVD. It already looks dated and is technically a poor movie.
5. Rosemarie's Baby
The main character is so dumb that you hope she gets slaughtered by the devil. This is an example of what happens when a character is only reactive and never pro-active. You just don't give a damn.
6. Shindler's List
Over-wrought, manipulative and contrived. The best part is when the Nazis shoot people, otherwise you see starving people for hours on end without any context to the black/white good/evil of the situation. It's plain poor film-making. It's a cartoon that's supposed to have "meaning". "Armistead" is another example of "fake sincerity". Black slaves are in the bowel of a ship, during a storm, at night -- naked, starved, beaten. As a baby is born amongst death and evil, lightning strikes. The lightning illuminates the baby. How? There are no windows in the bottom of a ship.
Ignore John Wayne, Elvis -- they were "personalities", not actors.