Don’t Neglect the Bargain Bin









What stars Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, David Moscow (famous for playing David Jacobs in Disney’s Newsies,) future Mentalist star Simon Baker, and former Cosby kid, Malcolm-Jamal Warner? Well, that would be a movie I found in the bargain bin at Walmart back when I was in college called Restaurant (1998.) In fact, Adrien Brody received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for his role in the film about the lives of struggling actors working in a restaurant. It’s actually a really decent film, and I was surprised to find that a film of good quality could end up in the bargain bin.

Julia Roberts has even had movies end up in the bargain bin, one of them being her film debut in Satisfaction. Roberts co-starred alongside Liam Neeson, and Family Ties star, Justine Bateman (whom the film was geared around as a “star vehicle.” ) In the end, it was Julia Roberts who became the household name, but not because of this film. It’s cheesy, but it’s also really interesting as an actor to see how stars, as we know them today, have evolved and grown since their earlier work. I previously blogged about the movie Deeply, starring Kirsten Dunst. I also found that movie in the bargain bin.

I’ve found television series that I used to love as a kid, B-movies of my favorite actors, and some classic films as well. Some stuff is really really bad, other stuff is really good. But the bargain bin should never be neglected. Target has some great deals on really great movies and they usually start at $5. I cannot tell you how great it is to be able to afford some of my favorite movies, and discover new ones too.  One of my acting teachers has always told me to watch bad acting, watch good acting, observe your fellow actors. From an audience’s stand-point, a movie is in the bargain bin because it’s “bad.”From my acting stand-point, I feel bad that others perceive bargain bin movies as awful.

Early on in Julia Roberts career, when she made her film debut in my future bargain bin purchase with the movie Satisfaction, it was more than likely, the biggest break she had in her career at that point. She was making her film debut with Liam Neeson who had already established himself in some fashion, and the “it girl,”  Justine Bateman who was starring on Family Ties. If I were Julia Roberts, I’d be freaking out if I got a part like that with someone who was established on a well-known television series.  Who knows how she feels about that project now.  The way I see it, all projects, whether blockbusters or not, are learning experiences that we can grow from as actors. Plus, when you’re on a budget and you’re a struggling actor, the bargain bin can be awesome.

Thirsty Thursday: “Smashed” (2012)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul in “Smashed” (2012)

The thing with being drunk on film is that it’s not about playing “drunk.” It is about the need to conceal the fact that your character is drunk. When we cry, we often try to hold it back; and when we’re drunk, we try to appear as normal as possible. Sometimes, people forget that fact, and try to play the fact that a character is drunk.  Case in point: In one of her earliest films, Mystic Pizza (1988,) Julia Roberts and friends steal a six pack of beer. After about ONE sip, Roberts is acting drunk. There is also the stereotypical “funny drunk” that many people seem to play. Sixteen Candles(1984) and any teen movie seem to utilize this method of showing  someone as drunk.

Then, there are the movies where alcohol is the main focal point of the character’s life.  The film Smashed (2012) deals with drinking on film as its  focal point: A married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of alcohol gets their relationship put to the test when the wife decides to get sober.

It’s a great film that deals with the specific problem of alcoholism and being drunk. It doesn’t glamorize it, or make it appealing or funny. It tells it how it really is. Troubling, sad, and fixable.It’s a film worth seeing.  It features Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, Husband and wife duo Nick Offerman & Megan Mullally, and great performances.

For more information on dealing with alcoholism if needed, go to Alcoholics Anonymous.

A “Keane” Sense of Talent: Abigail Breslin & Damian Lewis

Long before Abigail Breslin got an Oscar nomination for Little Miss Sunshine, and before Damian Lewis played a Marine in television’s Homeland, the two starred in a little known indie film called Keane (2004.)  Lewis landed his  part on Homeland  because the producers were so impressed with his performance in this little-known film. Currently, it’s available to stream on Netflix, and I saw it a few years ago (before Homeland was a series, actually) and fell in love with its simplicity. It’s psychologically thrilling, and proof that a little movie can yield big results for actors. You never know what may be just around the corner, so don’t knock a project just because it’s small.

From Netflix: After losing his daughter in a Port Authority bus terminal, distraught New York father William Keane (Damian Lewis) befriends Lynn Bedik (Amy Ryan) and her 7-year-old daughter, Kira (Abigail Breslin) — but can he really be trusted? Keane uses alcohol and drugs to numb his pain, but Kira helps him break through his haze and open his heart to new possibilities. There’s just one catch: Keane’s daughter may have never existed at all.

Damian Lewis is fantastic in the film, and now that I think about it, I never even realized he was British when I first saw it. Abigail Breslin was still young enough to play cute and adorable children, and now she’s in the new film The Call, and growing as beautiful as her talent. I saw her onstage when she did the Miracle Worker in 2010 on Broadway.  It was her first stage production, and as such, I picked up on some flaws, but overall her acting ability translated to the stage. But let me say this: Abigail Breslin is meant to be on film. She knows how to act on film. She’s been doing it since she was extremely young. This movie is proof that she had talent even at a young age. Damian Lewis does a fine job of acting with her and Amy Ryan. It’s obvious why he got his part in Homeland because of this. He plays all the colors of his character: the sane, mentally ill, and frustrated father just to name a few. This film is definitely worth checking out.

For my fellow actors, and especially those familiar with the “sound exercise” in Method acting, the following scene is a great example. Basically, the exercise deals with an actor singing moment, by moment, line by line, pacing themselves over the course of the verse/song. Throughout, one’s emotional state might change drastically. I have done many an exercise where I am crying by the end of it. This scene with Damian Lewis is a great example of that exercise in action.