So, a few weeks ago, my English prof gave our class an article to read and then consistently reflect on. This article, The Elusive Big Idea by Neal Gabler, discussed the lackadaisical mannerisms of our twenty-first century society. Obviously, that's a huge talking point, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
Gabler mentioned in his article that a "visual culture," like films and television, are not expressing ideas properly to the younger generation. This was a simple mention, probably would have been passed over by anyone else. But, this little section really struck a cord with me. I am an avid fan of film and television, spending most of my free time observing multiple critically acclaimed and stimulating works. Gabler assumes that all movies and television shows are just used to stare blankly at a screen for two hours. It's true many films, mostly blockbusters and "flicks", are used as mindless entertainment. But, there are films that provoke a viewer to think. And, in my opinion, these are the only films that matter. A film that challenges a viewer both physically and emotionally can be just as impactful as a well written novel.
It is very rare to find an impactful movie or show like this in Hollywood or on American television, but Europe, especially the British film industry, is creating films that challenge the viewer to think, create ideas, and change their perspective on the world.
If you haven't figure it out by now, I am a bit of an Anglophile. I adore the English culture. I very rarely do anything other than watch British made movies or television. So, I'm quite fond of the British film industry. Unlike most Americans, I can appreciate British films for more than "their awesome accents." I am a visual movie goer, meaning I love to watch something that is visual stimulating. To me, the best visual movies come from the British. They really capture an art within the film; they use the screen as a canvas to paint a beautiful picture. The image on the screen becomes a work of art, which helps to tell the story just as much as the screenplay.
And it’s not just the screenplays and directing that sets UK films apart. It’s also the actors. Okay, here is where we all moan, “Oh no, she’s going to talk about Cumberbatch again!” No, really, here me out! Benedict’s not the only good actor in Britain. Because I watch so much British film and television, my family is also subjected to watch it. They normally just moan and cry, “But I can’t understand anything they’re saying.” Whatever. But, one day my mom said to me, “Those British actors are pretty good, aren’t they. They are much better than the actors we have.” *Rays of sunlight beam down on me, and angels sing* Thank you, mom! Thank you! Finally someone in my family gets it. Here is what I love about British actors: they understand the craft, they get what it means to be an actor. Unlike Hollywood, these actors are trained; yes, they have actually attended acting classes! They have this thing called talent! The actors in Britain aren’t hired because they are beautiful or sexy or they know somebody who knows somebody who gave them a job. They actually have a talent for the craft.
It’s quite an exciting experience watching an actor submerge himself/ herself into a role, to watch them physically change before your eyes. A film has so much more impact if the actors can convince the audience of the story they are telling. You are connected more to the piece if you understand the characters. It’s the actor’s job to tell the story of these characters, the life they live, and the trials they face. If an actor can’t do that, then what’s the point? Have you ever watched an interview with Ben Whishaw or Benedict Cumberbatch where they actually talk about their characters? They become so passionate about them that you begin to think that these characters are real people that they know and understand. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things to see an actor fall in love with a character and actually become them. The point I’m trying to make here is that most actors don’t understand that there is more to acting than just saying line. You have to become a character, understand who they are fully.
Besides their obvious care for art within films, the British also produce work that isn’t simplified for the audience. For example, in 2012 the BBC produced a miniseries called The Hollow Crown, which was a collection of William Shakespeare's histories: Richard II, the two-part Henry IV, and Henry V. This was a very daring move to put full Shakespearean productions on television. But this is what is extraordinary about the British industry. They chose to produce four full-length Shakespeare movies, rather than air a dim-witted, narrow-minded comedy. (Mind you, the English still do have dim-witted, narrow minded comedies. I know that.) They chose to challenge their audience. And this isn’t the first Shakespearean production that have funded. Can you image ABC producing anything like a Shakespearean program? Instead of showing intellectually challenging and thought-provoking media, they air Two and a Half Men and Family Guy.
This is America's downfall. As a country devoted to their screens, why are we treating them as a mindless escape. We should be using media not as bad thing, but as a way of challenging our society, to make our society think more about important issues or societal problems. We are very close-minded when it comes to media. We want to see things blown up or people falling in love. I think we need to take advantage of our media-centric society, use film and television to their full potential, and make our society think more potently and creatively.
Originally Published on ActorNerdFashionista.blogspot.com on February 2, 2014
Photo Credit: theguardian.com, prezi.com, starcre8er.livejournal.com, aceshowbiz.com, shortfilms.uk.org
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