Improvisation has always been an essential tool for an actor whether you are in a comedy or a drama. Known for films that only have an outline instead of a set script, Christopher Guest has helped revolutionize the movie-going experience with the “mockumentary” film. Movies like Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting for Guffman, all use a core group of actors known for their improvisational skills. Actors like Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard, and even Christopher Guest himself, all have made regular appearances in these films. Their improvisations skills have been put to use in both comedic and dramatic films. One of the most interesting films of Christopher Guest’s is For Your Consideration. Ironically, there was Oscar buzz for Catherine O’Hara’s performance in which she plays an actress vying for an statue of her own. Honestly, I think this movie SHOULD have gotten an Oscar for O’Hara and the movie itself. Catherine O’Hara’s abilities as an actor of both dramatic and comedic caliber are so high that even the apparent face-lift that her character, Marilyn Hack, has, was not done with use of makeup or special effects. As an actor, she had the ability to use her physicality and enhance the performance in an honest way. Take a look at the clip:
Put this DVD in your queue and watch the pure genius of the cast as they improvise their way through one of the funniest films to parody the film industry. There is more truth to this comedy about drama than in actual documentaries about the industry. I would love to be in a movie like the ones that Christopher Guest produces and directs. I think they are intelligent, funny and pure entertainment. I love seeing skilled actors at work.
Certain movies can make turn any frown upside down. In light of Reese Witherspoon’s recent DUI arrest, maybe she should watch Pleasantville or Legally Blonde to help her get through her legal woes. Here’s a list of movies that always put a smile on my face and are worth checking out to help kick off your weekend with a smile of your own.
Babe (1995): Pigs, especially talking pigs, are adorable. Plus, it has one of the best lines in movie history, ” That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
Amélie (2001): It’s French, it’s fabulous, and it ALWAYS puts a smile on my face. Visually stunning too.
Clue (1985): I could watch this movie all day. In fact, I have watched this movie all day on several occasions just to watch the three endings the way they were meant to be seen. It’s also one of the funniest movie ensembles ever with Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd, and the late Madeline Kahn at its helm. Kahn also delivers one of the best improvised monologues I’ve ever seen.
Pretty Woman (1990): Who wouldn’t want to have an endless supply of pizza while they go on a shopping spree? And bag Richard Gere (from his glory days) in the process? I also wanted to give those salesgirls a piece of my mind.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997): Success is the best form of revenge. Too bad they had to make most of it up. But it’s hysterical in the process. Plus, I really want to know WHO actually invented Post-Its. And, there’s the kick-ass dance number with Alan Cumming, Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino.
Noises Off… (1992): Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, Carol Burnett & Michael Caine in ONE movie. And it has constantly made me laugh every time I watch it. If you’re involved in theater, or have seen the play, it’s definitely worth checking out.
The Philadelphia Story (1940): It’s one of the best movies ever, with three of the biggest stars ever.. It’s classic. And Katharine Hepburn has a scene where she gets drunk. It’s hysterical.
Barefoot in the Park (1967): Neil Simon’s classic play adapted for the screen in one of the funniest movies about becoming a newlywed.
Nine Months (1995): Joan Cusack, Julianne Moore, Tom Arnold, Hugh Grant and a hysterical performance by Robin Williams. The miracle of life gets funny, especially when Julianne Moore’s character goes into labor.
The First Wives Club(1996): Jennifer Lawrence got her “I beat Meryl” line FROM this movie. And it’s hysterical. Divorced women seeking revenge is ACTUALLY FUNNY in this case.
Auditioning is stressful for both the actors in front of the table, and those who are trying to make the decisions behind it. I rarely go into auditions calmly, and if I am calm, it worries me. Some people are really really good at auditioning, but not necessarily acting. And most actors I know say that they are really bad at auditioning. They are also some of the best actors I have worked with. Casting directors have a job to do and we as actors need to realize that fact. They have a limited amount of time to pick from the pool of actors who audition for them, and narrow that down to the final few until they have a cast. It doesn’t matter what the project is. It could range from a commercial, to a film or television series, to a stage production. Casting directors HAVE to find a cast. Wow. Talk about stress.
Sometimes, I have walked into a room and felt the disappointment in the air, because I come to the conclusion automatically, that I know I’m not who they are looking for. I can see it on their faces. I can hear it in their tone of voice. It’s as if they are saying, “Why is she here?” “Why is she wasting our time?” Apparently, I’ve heard, that until the character walks into the room, they are unconvinced that they are going to find anyone to fill a particular part. Sometimes, I’m really confident when I go into an audition. But, to be honest, I size up my “competition” before I go in the room and end up psyching myself out because all these things run through my mind like, “I’m not thin/pretty/normal enough” or “I seem really out of place.” I have two minutes to “impress” these people behind the table, but sometimes I can sense, that even before I’ve opened my mouth to speak, I’ve been tossed aside.
It’s odd that in the “real world” a job interview takes into consideration your previous experience, skill set, and whether or not you’re truly qualified for the job. In the acting world, it can come down to simply, “I didn’t fit the character description.” I’ve come to the conclusion that the pressure that the casting people feel due to the time crunch, and the stress that I bring on myself about the audition, just makes it an all around stressful situation.
Here’s what I am planning to do to curb my stresses. I’ve been asking myself questions to calm myself down. Michael McKean has a great quote about auditioning. He states, “What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t give you the job? Guess what: You already don’t have the job. The worst has happened! Pressure’s off, so have fun. The main reason we wanted to do this is that it look like it would be fun, right?” Right. I have to remember what made me enjoy acting in the first place. That thing that made the fire in my stomach ignite, is that acting is creative. It’s fun. It should never stop being fun. But we as actors have been so consumed with “nailing our audition” that we have lost sight of why we became actors in the first place. I want to serve the material. I have been asking, “How can I serve your project?” in my mind before an audition, rather than “Are you going to like me?” How can I best help out the people behind the table? Well, the easy answer is, I can be what they want. Yet, of all the audition success stories, they seem to include one key point: The actors were showing who they were. They were showing their best qualities. Sometimes, you just have to bring yourself to your work, and utilize the qualities you already possess. So in the end, we’re not really “acting” at all. We’re us. And that’s okay. I’m going to showcase the best of myself. Take it or leave it. So what if I’m not thin/pretty/normal enough? I’m me. Boom. Stressful situation avoided. Bring on the fun!