House Logo
Explore categories +

Jerry Lewis (#110 of 15)

Review: Glenn Kenny’s Robert De Niro: Anatomy of an Actor

Comments Comments (...)

Review: Glenn Kenny’s Robert De Niro: Anatomy of an Actor
Review: Glenn Kenny’s Robert De Niro: Anatomy of an Actor

Art-making is too often discussed in terms that implicitly liken it to magic, thusly neglecting the truth that it involves work that resembles the day-by-day toils of many other ostensibly plainer occupations. With Robert De Niro: Anatomy of an Actor, film critic Glenn Kenny quietly pushes against that mythology. A compassionate, pragmatic anti-sentimentality, or an attempt at one, serves as the through line for his examination of one the most mythologized of all screen actors. In his introduction, Kenny writes of “De Niro’s reluctance to do interviews, and his seeming stumbling while doing them, his famous taciturnity in contrast to his preternaturally vivid presence on screen, created a mythology that itself spawned a counter-mythology. It made De Niro as famous for being an enigma, a code that a journalist or critic with just the right amount of persistence and perspicacity could crack. But what if the answer is right in front of our faces, and always has been?” The author follows that with a quote in which director Elia Kazan (who worked with De Niro on The Last Tycoon) claims that the actor is among the hardest working that he’s collaborated with, and the only one who asked to rehearse on Sundays.

In other words, Kenny brings De Niro down to earth as a working artist, which serves to somewhat ironically reawaken your awe for the actor and the profound emotional nakedness that he once achieved reliably in one performance after another. Reading this, one wonders, not why De Niro drifted toward less immersive a-job’s-a-job roles, but how he plumbed himself as deeply as long as he did. The author emphasizes detail, connecting physical gestures from one role, sometimes mercilessly, to their repetition in another film (such as the reappearance of a “shoo” motion from Goodfellas in Awakenings.) He paints De Niro unsurprisingly as a master craftsman who’s intensely devoted to analysis and rehearsal, which he, somewhat, ineffably fuses with his personality and his soul. (I’m indulging my own mythology.) Following the familiar Cahiers du Cinéma “Anatomy of an Actor” template, Kenny discusses 10 “iconic roles” in De Niro’s canon that serve to shape the actor’s career as he evolved from galvanic acting titan to controversial “sell-out” to an inevitably mellower character actor who’s still capable, nevertheless, of imbuing a questionable project or under-respected performer with a bit of prestige by association.

SXSW 2013: Getting Back to Abnormal, This Ain’t No Mouse Music!, No More Road Trips?, & Don Jon

Comments Comments (...)

SXSW 2013: <em>Getting Back to Abnormal</em>, <em>This Ain’t No Mouse Music!</em>, <em>No More Road Trips?</em>, & <em>Don Jon</em>
SXSW 2013: <em>Getting Back to Abnormal</em>, <em>This Ain’t No Mouse Music!</em>, <em>No More Road Trips?</em>, & <em>Don Jon</em>

Geeky, admittedly devoid of tact, and first seen on a radio talk show in which a series of African-American callers accuse her of being a racist, Stacy Head makes an unlikely heroine. But that’s just what she proves to be, as Getting Back to Abnormal conducts a tour of the racial politics of New Orleans that’s as meandering and culturally rich as a second line parade.

The movie—and, it seems clear, Stacy’s political career—would never have ignited without a tireless little fireplug of a woman named Barbara Lacen-Keller, an African-American child of the projects who handles constituent outreach for Stacy and serves as her fiercest and best advocate. The four co-directors (Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, Peter Odabashian, and Paul Stekler) bob in and out of Stacy’s and Barbara’s storyline, but they keep returning to the campaign as Stacy, the first white woman to represent the central city of New Orleans on the city council in 30 years, runs for reelection. Stacy’s and Barbara’s campaigning and the refreshingly frank, often moving stories they tell to the camera illuminate the chasm that yawns between the races in New Orleans—and the bridges that sometimes span that gap.

15 Famous Movie Hotels

Comments Comments (...)

15 Famous Movie Hotels
15 Famous Movie Hotels

This weekend offers a little something for the wee ones, in advance of everyone’s favorite make-believe holiday, Halloween (when, you know, you can wear stuff like this). Hotel Transylvania features the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, and CeeLo Green, and it tells the tale of a five-star resort where monsters can go to—get this—be safe from us humans. Hollywood loves to boost its products’ escapist qualities by setting them in get-away-from-it-all locales. From L.A. to Vegas to Thailand, the stops on our list boast some very memorable hotels, which vary in their abilities to accommodate, relax, and terrify.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012: Cloud Atlas

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>Cloud Atlas</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>Cloud Atlas</em>

Phoned-in portent and feigned profundity form the basis of each of the seven interlocking narratives that comprise Cloud Atlas, and while they appear superficially distinct (a bit of creaky 1930s manor drama cast against garish near-future sci-fi, etc.), they share the fully consistent qualities of flat acting, shabby editing, and surprisingly uninspired design. That not one of these seven pieces feels like a coherently developed story of its own is perhaps unsurprising (even unfurling over an interminably dull 163 minutes, we simply don’t spend enough time with any particular set of characters for a single emotional arc to properly register), but what’s remarkable is how poorly they fit together as an ostensibly unified whole. The rhythm of this thing—and when you’re composing something this dense, rhythm is everything—just feels entirely wrong, reducing what crumbs of dramatic or kinetic interest are scattered across its running time to dust. This isn’t simply a case of elements of the film working or not working; the entire array of ideas (both aesthetic and thematic) which make up the film are so badly integrated that even the smallest traces and flickers of light are snuffed out altogether. Nothing works because, almost by the very nature of its design, nothing can: It collapses so intensely under the weight of its own inanity and pretension that nothing at all is left standing.