In the Q&A column Nathaniel answers 9 or 10 questions posed by readers each week. This week young actors seemed to be on your brain for which we must surely blame that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close trailer. Here we go again.
Spencer: With your great passion for film and your auteur love have you ever thought about MAKING films?
Yes but not in any specific way which is why I never pursued it. I have some skill with editing which I studied briefly in college (or so my friend who is an actual film editor tells me) and I write but in truth, I probably wouldn't be happy unless I was directing (i.e. in control). I was honest with myself early on that I just couldn't see myself having the right temperament for it. Still, like anyone, I've had fleeting fantasy moments about making movies. It usually involves me being lauded as the director who finally brought the musical back for good. Mostly because I keep waiting for that savior to arrive and, as it turns out, Rob Marshall wasn't the answer.
I just recently watched the Martin Scorsese documentary on Fran Lebowitz called Public Speaking (which I recommend) and she put into words something I've always felt.
An audience with a high level of connoisseurship is as important to the culture as artists."
She explains why in more articulate detail in the film but I'm happy to do my small part in continuing the connoisseur tradition.
Basti: "Extremely Loud..." and "Hugo" ahead... What is your favourite performance by a male child actor?
I tend to not like child actors, at least American ones, because they're too precociously aware of the camera. That said I have nostalgic fondness for Mark Lester in Oliver! (1968) because I was obsessed with the movie when I was the age of its singing orphans. Jamie Bell was pretty special in Billy Elliott (2000) and I'm happy his career panned out. I liked Nicholas Gledhill in Careful He Might Hear You (1984) but the movie is a foggy memory. Oh, Haley Joel Osment! You can't even say "it was the direction" with him as you can with many great child performances, since he was deserving of Oscar nominations twice before he was even 13! (The Sixth Sense and A.I. Artificial Intelligence).
Philip: What does Kirsten Dunst need to do to see an Oscar nomination?
She's doing it right now. I don't mean that Melancholia will snag her her first Oscar nomination -- she has to share film carrying duties there and her cargo is too eerie and depressive for mass appeal -- but that she's making very smart moves at this point in her career as she rebuilds after that weird post Spider-Man 3 spell...
Her current decisions and ace work (All Good Things followed immediately by Melancholia? That's quite a twofer performance-wise.) are bound to pay off in terms of respect and career momentum as she reaches the magic years for female movie stars. Which, if you're wondering, is from about 31 to 35 years of age by my calculations. So many of the truly iconic performances have happened in that age range. Think of the best and most famous performances ever and then look up the age the actress was at the time. It's uncanny. Or maybe it's just when actresses have the best opportunities work-wise. Of course Oscar likes women best at age 29 (as previously discussed) but that's a different topic.
MrW: Chaplin or Keaton?
Keaton and with bells on. Uh, even though there's no sound.
Liz: What would you do to fix the foreign language category at the Oscars, particularly the strange eligibility and release rules? On one hand, it's frustrating that it's virtually impossible for moviegoers to see the movies before the ceremony. But on the other, it's a nice way to get these movies more exposure if they're able to put "Oscar nominated" on their posters. Quandry?
I am much more forgiving of Oscar's foreign film rules than most pundits. I totally understand why they have the one film rule and the percentage rules of language and the "is it Albanian enough?" rulings and all of that. That said, I do think there's one easy fix that wouldn't completely demolish Oscar's diversity-structure but would still better represent what's happening in world cinema and maybe even prompt more ambitious release strategies. My feeling is the rules should stay exactly as is EXCEPT that if a film receives a regular release during the calendar year it also becomes eligible in this category, at least for write-in votes. Sure this would give France and India, for example, a multiple films edge each year (since several of their films see stateside releases) and other countries an edge in the years in which they have world cinema heat but why shouldn't the Best Foreign Film Category also reflect dominant film cultures? Why shouldn't, for example, Pedro Almodóvar be eligible with every release even if Spain doesn't submit him? It seems like the rules as is don't reflect success stories but only attempt to cause them (unlike every other category).
Dylan: Cast 4 child/teen actors in a middle school production of "God of Carnage".
What's with all the "young actor" questions this week? This one made me LOL so I had to respond. It's so Bugsy Malone. Tweens and young teens in these purposefully middle age roles is just so wrong. It's as wrong as that classic Onion piece about the grade school production of Equus or Anna Kendrick's age inappropriate rendition of "Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch" in Camp (2003). I'm sure someone with more familiarity with young actors would have more fun doing this. ANYONE WANNA TAKE THIS QUESTION ON? Honestly, I tend to not pay much attention until actors are adults -- I like fully formed or visibly forming star personas way more than embryonic blank slates. The only time I think about the teen actors (who are usually on television which I don't watch as much of) is when they're just so good that I can't ignore them (like Evan Rachel Wood in thirteen. Holy hell but that was a great performance. I want a recount of those Oscar votes that led to the "youngest Best Actress nominee ever"... it was just the wrong one).
One thing I would like to see is Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning at war onscreen so maybe I should cast them both here in the Jodie/MarciaGay & Kate/Hope roles? Who cares about the guys!
Jorge: From the 'Inception' top supporting players (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy), who do you think will be the next to get an Oscar nomination?
Or you think it will be Page, Cotillard or Caine to get a second one sooner than those two?"
I think Cotillard mostly due to the amount and the type of roles she's offered in prestige projects. JGL's problem is that he's still a bit too young for Oscar (they are so weirdly ageist in opposite ways with men and women) and I think Tom Hardy's problem may be the physicality of his roles. Oscar seems to reacts to attention-grabbing male physiques best if they're in distress (i.e. weight gains, weight losses, disabilities, etcetera) and Hardy's physicality has become such a focus of his work that I think that might be hard to get around for people in terms of people recognizing him for his acting talent alone.
Dean: Which of the following films would you most want to see made, and who stars and directs: Extreme Tinker Martha? Loud Tailor Marcy? Incredible Soldier May? Close Spy Marlene?
I have to give you mad points for originality, combining three of this year's wordiest movie titles to make four theoretical but awesome sounding movies. I want to see all four actually but I'm most partial to Loud Tailor Marcy because I picture a, like, sassy comedy about a fashion designer's assistant starring some eccentric beauty with an oversize personality who cannot shut up. I want Ari Graynor for the lead role because she needs a plum vehicle and I want David O. Russell to direct it since I worship his smart and chaotic comedic sensibility. My second choice is Extreme Tinker Martha for which I have to have Ellen Page on the condition that she never has to spout any exposition because that just killed her in Inception. I want to love her again. (To be directed by...?)
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Craig: Which actress (or actresses) from Hollywood's Golden Age could have a career today? Conversely, which of today's acclaimed actresses would have had stardom 70 years ago?
I think the obvious choice is Barbara Stanwyck. She had a certain ease with genre-hopping (how many people are equally good at playing dangerous women in noirs and goofy screwball comedy goddesses?) which I think today's stars have to do more of. Plus, she reads modern. (I'd love to think that Bette Davis would be equally huge in today's Hollywood but the sad truth is there probably wouldn't be so many projects built around her thorny persona and non-traditional beauty.) Drew Barrymore would have been a star in any era, but I think since her persona leans so cheerful and flirtatious without being overtly erotic, I think she would have excelled in the studio system which, at least for mainstream comedies, had way better scripts. Romantic Comedies were once one of the smartest of movie genres. I know I know; impossible to imagine even though it's true.
I've said before that Charlize Theron would have done much better in the past, where her innate glamour would not have had to be separated from her actual acting skill -- back then they could use both at once which is so much less true today in the obsessive need for naturalism in movies. Using that same formula: Uma Thurman. Two younger options (who have worked together) both of which I absolutely believe qualify for this question: Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt.
I'd love to hear readers take on this one. It's equally interesting to think of the reverse. I don't think, for example, that my two redhead godesses Julianne & Nicole would have fared as well in old Hollywood, despite their very impressive gifts.
So... YOUR TURN in the comments!