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The Method is for wimps
January 5, 2008 9:12 AM   Subscribe

The return of BIG acting. Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood

Some past masters of the art from the article:

Jack Nicholson in Batman and The Shining
Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant
Al Pacino in Scarface
Peter Finch in Network
and of course Day-Lewis himself in Gangs of New York
(Several of those NSFW)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (61 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
The fact that Crispin Glover is not on your list is a travesty. His funeral home meltdown in Willard is bigger than any of the above examples.

TRAVESTY!

I love big acting.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, I felt there was some "big acting" in Eastern Promises, too.

(gesticulating wildly) I am going to see There Will Be Blood later today! I bet it will be fuckin' A-MAZING!

Thanks for posting.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:31 AM on January 5, 2008


I actually liked Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood more than Daniel Day-Lewis. Okay, so that isn't exactly a repudiation of "big acting", but there you have it.
posted by Weebot at 9:36 AM on January 5, 2008


That article is pretty pointless. Further, putting Day-Lewis' performance in the same camp as Nicholson's Batman (or even The Shining) or Pacino's Scarface is absolutely ridiculous, as was the "maybe they're doing this because of the writer's strike!"--does the writer really have zero clue about how long it takes to make a movie like this?

This'll probably come out wrong but while watching the film, I completely forgot it was Day-Lewis--from frame 1 he was pretty much Daniel Plainview. I became aware of this a couple hours in when another character appeared on screen for the first time (Bandy) and I was immediately distracted by who was playing the character (it seemed to me to be an overly made up Seymour Cassel, but wasn't).

The film is very unique--I can't really think of anything to compare it to, and is definitely worth a watch, but in the short-run, I gotta say I was a little disappointed with it. That isn't to say the performances weren't great, they pretty much were all-around; I think it was the script that disappointed me.
posted by dobbs at 9:40 AM on January 5, 2008


Oh, and to anyone seeing the film in Toronto, you can catch the 1pm at the Varsity and immediately after (5 to 4:00) walk into No Country For Old Men at 4:15. ;)
posted by dobbs at 9:43 AM on January 5, 2008


Every time I read "There Will Be Blood", I hear it in Mandy Patinkin's voice. After mentally adding "tonight" to the end, of course.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:44 AM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm dying to see this. The transformation DDL goes through is intense (he stays in character continually for months on end) and you can see the results are spectacular, but the thing that is most impressive is the faith in the craft of acting. More of a possession than of a performance. A bit scary that. Also it can quickly become oppressive if the writing and direction don't measure up. (that's why a lot of vehicles produced by actors can be so histrionic.)
posted by Skygazer at 10:06 AM on January 5, 2008


Watching Ace in the Hole last night, I realized that Kirk Douglas is the King of Big Acting. I seriously doubt even Day-Lewis could top his final speech in that film.
posted by Rangeboy at 10:21 AM on January 5, 2008


Wait, Jack Nicholson was acting in Batman? I thought he was just being asshole Jack Nicholson and collecting a paycheck.
posted by Legomancer at 10:22 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm still trying to figure out what to do with my new domain, http://idrinkyourmilkshake.com -- maybe it'll come to me later today when I see There Will Be Blood for the third time, in good company (anybody in Brooklyn want to join us?). In case you're interested, here's my review. And I think dobbs is right that you can't lump Plainview in with the Joker. Scarface is closer, but mainly because of the arc of the story rather than the acting.
posted by muckster at 10:31 AM on January 5, 2008


See, I think Day-Lewis actually is pretty Method, in a lot of ways. I think a lot of "big acting" performances are the result of the Jeremy Irons Technique--an actor realizes no one else in the film is bothering to turn in a performance, and decides to act enough for all of them.
posted by EarBucket at 10:38 AM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ahhhhh....Jeremy Irons in Dungeons & Dragons. Good times.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:45 AM on January 5, 2008


And just because I'm obsessed, here are a few more Blood links from the world of film blogs. Some are spoiler heavy, so tread lightly if you haven't had a chance to see the film yet. posted by muckster at 10:45 AM on January 5, 2008


Oh, and for the biggest performance of all time, check out Deborah Reed as the evil witch (or whatever) in Troll 2. When we watched it, a friend remarked "They should have given this chick the Oscar for Most Acting."
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:49 AM on January 5, 2008


I don't quite understand what is being called "big acting" here. Perhaps it's because I haven't seen most of the movies cited in the article. Is it just acting with a lot of visible emotion? Is it just "hamming it up" without the negative connotation? The whole point of the article was lost on me because I couldn't figure out what was being discussed.
posted by ErWenn at 11:28 AM on January 5, 2008


as was the "maybe they're doing this because of the writer's strike!"--does the writer really have zero clue about how long it takes to make a movie like this?

"And put yourself in their shoes: with the writers' strike in full effect, no wonder - maybe Hollywood actors thought this would be their last chance to throw the kitchen sink in until... who knows when?"

He just means they're doing extra acting because they know it'll be a while before they'll be in another film. They're acting enough to get them through the next year.

I love big acting, but whenever I see a bad actor doing it, I always think, "I'M ACTING AS HARD AS I CAN!!!!"
posted by Koko at 11:38 AM on January 5, 2008


I'll second rangeboy, Kirk Douglas is the king of BIG ACTING
posted by cazoo at 11:42 AM on January 5, 2008


...but while watching the film, I completely forgot it was Day-Lewis

That's what I notice whenever watching him act in any film. He becomes the character.
posted by ericb at 11:51 AM on January 5, 2008


I think Day-Lewis is the best actor working (and "There Will Be Blood" will cement this), but Astro Zombie is dead-on about Crispin Glover. Sean Penn should get honorable mention as well.

I can't wait to see this movie!!
posted by survivorman at 12:07 PM on January 5, 2008


Muckster your photos illustrate a great point. I can't believe that the guy standing next to PTA is the same person who portrayed Plainview. It is mind boggling.

The film blew my mind, my friends and I were up past 1am discussing it, and the nuances of it. The brutal opening 20 minutes just were amazing. It was like watching a someone prep a canvas for painting, you can understand the smaller individual parts, and the lack of dialog makes you a pure observer, and then finally do you understand as the work progresses how important those opening segments were.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:12 PM on January 5, 2008


Chris Penn also.

Oh, how I miss Chris Penn.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:59 PM on January 5, 2008


The LA Weekly recently had a very interesting cover article about Daniel Day-Lewis.
posted by redteam at 12:59 PM on January 5, 2008


Damn, but Daniel Day Lewis can wear some hot facial hair. Love the stache.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2008


I can't believe you missed Bruce Campbell in, well, pretty much everything he's been in. Shame on you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:42 PM on January 5, 2008


Hard Eight was great; Boogie Nights was very good, but about 30 minutes too long; Magnolia was an unwatchable piece of shit; I barely made it through Punch Drunk Love. So yeah, I'm kind of all over the place with PT Anderson. Given that, here's a question for those that have seen There Will Be Blood: do you think I will like it? Based on the first two of his films that I mentioned above, I want to like Anderson, I really do, but the last two I mentioned were just plain ol' fashioned awful and I don't want to get burned again.
posted by NoMich at 2:45 PM on January 5, 2008


I know they're over the top but he plays the roles I'd want: Gary Oldman in The Professional and The Fifth Element.

Oh and Dracula too
posted by JaredSeth at 2:54 PM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bruce Campbell is the king. That can go without saying. And usually does.
posted by zennie at 3:00 PM on January 5, 2008


Eric Roberts. Jon Voight. Runaway Train.
posted by bwg at 3:46 PM on January 5, 2008


I have to second JaredSeth on Gary Oldman, at least in regards to Léon (aka The Professional in the USA). His portrayal of Norman Stansfield was a wonderfully over-the-top avatar of crooked cop-ness. This role is perhaps my all time favorite example of scene chewing done well - "done well" being the key here.

His work in Sid and Nancy is also worth mentioning here.
posted by John Smallberries at 4:38 PM on January 5, 2008


I absolutely adored Magnolia. Anyone who says it's an unwatchable piece of shit has no taste.
posted by empath at 5:15 PM on January 5, 2008


Jack Nicholson in Batman and The Shining
Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant
Al Pacino in Scarface
Peter Finch in Network
and of course Day-Lewis himself in Gangs of New York



I would add Geoffrey Rush in Shine to that list.
posted by Mr_Zero at 5:34 PM on January 5, 2008


I'm studying up on Daniel Day Lewis. He may be the best actor in that list. He completely vanishes into characters. I'm always dissapointed when he speaks as himself, because I'm in love with Newland Archer, and miss him, and wish him well. The character, Newland Archer. *shakes head* Silly woman. He's not a "big actor" per se, he's a genius actor, though, certainly. My Left Foot, oh, I could go on and on. DDL FTW.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:52 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tom Hulce in Amadeus?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:09 PM on January 5, 2008


Um, Gary Oldman in True Romance? Six minutes, stole the movie.
posted by gottabefunky at 6:55 PM on January 5, 2008


Don't forget Daniel Day-Lewis' big acting in MY LEFT FOOT.

Benicio del Toro's acting in 21 GRAMS is massive.

And, honestly, Russell Crowe kills me every time in GLADIATOR which, btw, also has some massively big acting from Joaquin Phoenix.
posted by liza at 7:27 PM on January 5, 2008


Magnolia was an unwatchable piece of shit; I barely made it through Punch Drunk Love.

Well you're wrong about those two films so I'll say you won't like this one. :)
posted by dobbs at 7:48 PM on January 5, 2008


I absolutely adored Magnolia. Anyone who says it's an unwatchable piece of shit has no taste.

No taste for shit, perhaps.
posted by bradth27 at 8:33 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know why but this whole thing about "Big acting" got me thinking about, the Indian Runner.
posted by nola at 8:35 PM on January 5, 2008


I absolutely adored Magnolia. Anyone who says it's an unwatchable piece of shit has no taste.

I beg your pardon empath, but I am a man of impeccable taste. So there.
posted by NoMich at 8:58 PM on January 5, 2008


My experience with Magnolia is that smokers tend to dislike it, because it is three hours long. They've been twitching and needing a smoke for hours, and it starts raining frogs, and they say, three hours without a smoke for this bullshit?

Nonsmokers see the scene and say, wow, it's raining frogs.

I don't smoke, so a rather liked the film.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:24 PM on January 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Daniel Day-Lewis is magnificent. And really I agree with pretty much everything else here.
But, folks, let's face it, no one - NO ONE - jerks off like Keitel.
Oh sure, Ted Levine did an excellent "hide the penis" dance naked and murmur dance that arguably rivals even the best over exposed incoherent mumbling Keitel rhumba.
But even Sir Anthony Hopkins would be hard pressed and would ultimately succumb and admit failure in self-abusing himself as dramatically as Keitel. They almost got rid of Harrison Ford in Star Wars because Hans Solo couldn't stroke the wookie. I mean even DeNiro can't five-knuckle shuffle like Keitel. They had to omit the crucial "Teasing the Python" in the trenches scene from "Path's of Glory" because Douglas although his teeth were properly clenched, he couldn't get the veins in his neck to stand out enough.
Simon Cinema wept to Fellini that Godadard could not find a man for his bathroom scene in "Contempt" who could wank with the authority of a master like Keitel. Who else could nerk the throbber in Bad Lieutenant - Stallone? He can't toss yogurt, not like Keitel. No one can....

...sorry, got a bit off track there.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:41 PM on January 5, 2008


Still, her fearless attempts to redefine the boundaries of acting are nothing compared to Daniel Day-Lewis. His performance - or rather behaviour - in There Will Be Blood puts the tin hat on everything. It doesn't just dominate the film, it IS the film, and while watching him deliver the near three-hour film's climactic monologue it's possible to speculate whether any other acting was done anywhere else in the world that day, because Dan looks like he's doing it ALL.

Hahahaha! I love Dan!!
posted by hadjiboy at 5:59 AM on January 6, 2008


Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Ed Wood. Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner. Hopkins in SotL. Pacino in Dick Tracy...etc. etc. etc.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:35 AM on January 6, 2008


Also have to mention Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:38 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


How could I say Johnny Depp in Ed Wood and not mention Martin Landau's amazing turn as Bela Lugosi? OK, I'll stop posting now. Apologies.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:51 AM on January 6, 2008


Beetlegeuse/Beetlejuice.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:55 AM on January 6, 2008


I saw this last night and it was epic. My joy was punctuated even further by hearing various other patrons complain loudly about "not getting it" and that "this was complete bullshit." It makes me feel like the loud, scary, overbearing egregiousness of it was aimed directly at them, and I was a voyeur of their audible suffering.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:05 AM on January 6, 2008


No women doing big acting? (I don't make any suggesions myself because I don't really know what it means. However, if we're talking about people 'disappearing' into roles then Dame Jude does that pretty much every time).
posted by Summer at 2:10 PM on January 6, 2008


I saw There Will Be Blood last night too, and was surrounded by people going "ugh, that was terrible. Was there anything redeemable about the movie at all?" on their way out. I don't get it--were they expecting Peter Pan or something?


soundtrack spoilers: Jonny Greenwood re-used a song from the Bodysong soundtrack, I think. Did anyone else catch that?
posted by hototogisu at 2:17 PM on January 6, 2008


Dnaiel Day-Lewis was fucking excellent in Gangs of New York. Pretty much the only reason to watch it really.

Summer - NO... WIRE... HANGERS!
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sure DD Lewis was great in this movie, but I also think it was his weakest performance yet.

The screenplay derailed after the first hour and caused him to carry the film so much, that I could actually seem him acting for the first time ever. Further, his performance would have been much better if they'd hired a great actor who could keep up with him, to play the preacher (eg Edward Norton).
posted by fairmettle at 8:58 AM on January 7, 2008


How, where, and why do you see the screenplay derailing, fairmettle? I think it's just about perfect. And Paul Dano as Eli Sunday? Fantastic. Care to elaborate?
posted by muckster at 10:08 AM on January 7, 2008


I didn't buy Dano either. I heard he got the part after the original guy couldn't hack it, but I thought he was definitely the weakest link.

He was obviously a faker preacher, but he didn't show it well enough, nor did his performances feel very compelling. I didn't believe he could build a congregation.

Great movie, though. It's nothing like any of P.T. Anderson's earlier movies, so I can't make much of a recommendation on whether you hated Magnolia or not (I liked it). I did not like Punch-Drunk Love much, however (aside from the always excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman). Actually, if I watched it again, I would probably like it better. Sandler is just such a sad sack in that movie it was painful for me. I liked aspects of it, like the piano crash.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:19 AM on January 7, 2008


God I hated Punch-Drunk Love...
posted by Artw at 11:27 AM on January 7, 2008


Just wanted to say that I saw There Will Be Blood this weekend, and it's one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. Very Kubrick. So much so that I can easily see someone calling it a rip-off. For myself, I saw it as him using the tools Kubrick pioneered because they were the best for the job. I hope in time that I still see it that way. Right now, though, I'm simply floored by the film.
posted by shmegegge at 11:48 AM on January 7, 2008


also, I've found Punch Drunk Love to be something that merits revisiting. that first watch-through is rough, but subsequent viewings reveal a lot to like.
posted by shmegegge at 11:49 AM on January 7, 2008


shmegegge: I thought I was the only one whose brain shouted KUBRICK!!! with the final cut to black. Glad I'm not alone.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:37 PM on January 7, 2008


Tom Hanks?
posted by creamed corn at 2:58 PM on January 7, 2008


shmegegge and shakespeherian, the Filmbrain link I posted upthreat discusses some of the Kubrick influences. There's more than a little bit of The Shining and A Clockwork Orange in There Will Be Blood, and in my review, I also pointed out that the wordless opening sequence resembles the Dawn of Man chapter of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a number of ways. There's lots to be discovered here.
posted by muckster at 5:22 PM on January 7, 2008


More than anything else, the cut to black at the end looked to me like the cut to black in Eyes Wide Shut. And now my film-schooly parts are getting all woozy.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:38 PM on January 7, 2008


OK, so I actually set up I drink your milkshake dotcom with a forum (and a sound file), in case anybody would like to get into discussing the movie in detail (or listen to DDL over & over again).
posted by muckster at 9:18 AM on January 11, 2008


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