QED

Bring Back Silent Movie Stars

Stellar advice for the stars from Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes: “If you win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech … thank your agent and your god and f*** off.”  That advice, if taken, would let us Deplorables in particular enjoy their movies in blissful ignorance of what Hollywood thinks about the world. Alas, no chance. They simply can’t shut up.

I am running out of actors to watch. Make-believe is turning into a sideshow. Sanctimonious, and usually inane, political posturing has become the main game. I can’t recall seeing Joaquin Phoenix in many movies but I like him in the sci-fi movie Signs, starring Mel Gibson. Not yet seen him in Joker but I imagine he must have been good to win an Oscar. Mind you, he’s clearly a complete nut job in real life. So, I dare say, playing a demented clown is not too hard.

Leave aside his meandering and embarrassing soliloquy about racism and his pledge to save the planet by wearing the same tuxedo all award season. Catch, you must, his tortured anguish at the taking of calves from artificially inseminated cows and, to make matters worse, snatching their milk. It is either a quite marvellous spoof or he needs help.

I liked Sean Penn in Mystic River. I had no idea at the time that he is a communist. I don’t want to know. Little did I know when watching his movies that Robert De Niro would end up being best known for infantile temper tantrums directed at a president who has reduced unemployment to levels not seen for sixty years.

Then there is Alec Baldwin in The Edge; one of my favourite movies. How did I know that he would find his true calling by mimicking and ridiculing Trump on a late show? What a come-down. His co-star in the movie is the incomparable Anthony Hopkins. Now don’t tell me he has turned into a political activist. I couldn’t take it. I simply don’t want to know. By the way, Elle MacPherson is in the movie. For some reason I can’t for the life of me fathom I would be willing to cut her some slack if she were to drop a political line or two.

This brings me to Brad Pitt. I simply couldn’t believe it when I saw him on stage, collecting his Oscar for best supporting actor in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, telling his audience that his allotted 45 seconds was longer than the US Senate gave to John Bolton. Talk about grating. What in the world was he thinking?

Brad Pitt is a talented actor. Compare his performances in Seven with Burn After Reading with Fury with Allied. Robert Mitchum, they said, mostly played Robert Mitchum, and John Wayne definitely always played John Wayne, and just look at Robert Downey Jr: whether playing Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes he gives exactly the same mannered performance. All the above have undoubted screen presence. Pitt has that too, but he also has range. And, to me, he looks as though he would be grounded in real life. Apparently not.

He was up there on stage only because of his performance as an actor in a movie. I enjoyed the movie, as I have all Tarantino movies, even though it is a bit overlong. And Pitt was a standout; though Leonardo DiCaprio was good too. Now I won’t be able to watch a Pitt movie without thinking of the moustachioed John Bolton. It is deflating. Illusion shattering.

Apart from Elle I haven’t mentioned actresses. For better or worse men tend to have more prominent roles in most action movies, which I have to admit to favouring. However, Sigourney Weaver is wonderful in each of her four Alien movies and I love Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman and can’t wait for the sequel. Gadot spent two years in the Israeli army so I have to think she will behave with propriety in public and keep her political views to herself.

Luckily, I don’t know what Ms Weaver thinks about politics but there she is at the Oscars in the company of Gadot saying to the assembled crowd that “all women are superheroes.” To be honest, I don’t mind her saying that so much. Though imagine Clint Eastward saying that all men are superheroes while standing next to Henry Cavill. It is faintly ridiculous, whichever sex you pick.

Our Cate Blanchett is, of course, a completely lost cause. Anyway, personally, I prefer Nicole Kidman on screen, and she admirably keeps her political views to herself. She did make a mistake a couple of years or so back in saying that Americans had to come together to support the president. Shocking views which she had to clarify.

When we look into the past it is hard to know the politics of movie stars. Sure, we know that John Wayne and Charleston Heston were Republicans but I doubt very much whether they or any of their contemporaries or predecessors spouted their political views while collecting awards. Bring back the silent movie stars of yore.

12 comments
  • Greg Williams

    The problem with actors is when they play Einstein, they think they are Einstein. Many of them, as Ricky Gervais would say, have less education than Greta Thunberg.

  • Alistair

    Like you, I’m running out of actors to watch. The problem I have is that you know that they are always acting. The first emotion that actors have to learn to fake is sincerity. If they can’t pull that one off – they are hardly going to prosper in Hollywood. (The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made. – Jean Giraudoux.) For example watching the ease with which Cate Blanchett can successfully fake some raw emotion or other on the big screen, you just know how easy it would be to fake every other emotion – like the sincerity of her fear of Global Warming – for the benefit of the media. There can be no credibility listening to a person who fakes emotion for a living. I wouldn’t buy a used car on the say so of an actor – and nor would I by a used activist policy.

  • ianl

    > ” … I prefer Nicole Kidman [to Blanchett] on screen …”

    Yes. Kidman can fake sincerity. She is vaguely believable. Blanchett acts by numbers – you can see her thinking: “… now I must make this gesture, or posture …” Tedious.

    And yes, most actors with any celebrity factor espouse caring, sharing socialism as a cloak for their worldly wealth to minimise envy and keep the box office churning. Hopkins, Caine, the absolutely incomparable Ben Kingsley, genius Judi Dench – these are people worth watching.

  • Doubting Thomas

    An old friend of ours was a schoolteacher in his day job but in his spare time he was a well known actor and director in semi- professional theatre in Canberra. As a gay man, he was politically on the left, although not radically so, and we were most surprised to learn that he had a very dim view of the intelligence of the general run of actors. His opinion was that, with rare exceptions, the better the actor, the emptier the vessel. He saw this as an essential qualification for the craft. I saw no reason to disagree.

  • Mohsen

    You’re quite right to think that most Quadrant readers—indeed, most people—agree with you that it is ludicrous, and there is humor in seeing, that anyone would express anguish at a baby animal being taken away from its mother; after all, what’s there to anguish over anyway?! After all only humans know and feel what it is to be a mother, to be hungry, to be scared, to fear death, to be broken from having lost one’s mother or one’s baby! When it comes to animals, they’re actually pretty humorous to be reminded of; good fun indeed!

  • Peter Smith

    Mohsen, he could have made a reasoned argument against factory framing at an appropriate venue. His argument wasn’t reasoned and the venue was inappropriate. I too think that factory farming is cruel but we have got ourselves into a bind. How do we feed so many people at an affordable cost with traditional methods of farming? But even then raising and killing animals for food is not going to be pleasant whichever way you cut it. Neither is hunting for food. Mother killed babies left to fend for themselves. Wild animals kill indiscriminately for food. It is a part of life. At the same time, I agree with your underlying point and believe that we need stronger regulations governing how farm animals are treated.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Mohsen, everyone but a psychopath feels “anguish” at animal young (not babies in the emotional human sense) being taken from their mothers. Everyone but a psychopath feels “anguish” at some, if not most, of the stages of human exploitation of animals. However, most mature people understand that, until recently, the need to survive pretty much trumped everything else.

    If a sixth sense is ever formally identified, hopefully it will be the sense of proportion, something that appears to be lacking almost entirely on the political left and, unfortunately, at the more extreme end of the right. It is that obvious lack of a sense of proportion that is so frequently displayed by the “luvvies” and emphasised by their total lack of self-awareness.

    What’s not to laugh at? Oh, I know! It’s your crass generalisation about what “most Quadrant readers – indeed most people” agree with. There’s that Acute Sense of Proportion Deficiency Syndrome again.

  • Mohsen

    Doubting Thomas,
    I said, “. . . agree with you that it is ludicrous, and there is humor in seeing, that anyone would express anguish at a baby animal being taken away from its mother.” And what came after was my presumption based on which I made my assertion, the ironic presumption that since there is nothing to anguish over, there is a cause to find those who would express anguish at a baby animal being taken away from its mother ludicrous!
    Being the intelligent person that you are, I know your admonitions about people feeling anguish—not really! You’re wrong! Most people don’t feel anguish about the matter; they don’t even remember the issue, let alone having any feeling about it (not that one should find fault with it); but it’s not what I intended to talk about—and about the need to survive which are misrepresentation of my comment are deliberate!
    By the way, by anguish I—and I believe Peter Smith—meant anguish not “anguish”. What I said is valid!
    .
    Whatever you’re talking about by “proportion” paragraph of your comment!?
    .
    Yes, you did find what not to laugh at; the rest was what you laugh at!
    .
    Using word mother, I found it right to use word “baby”. The baby animals are to their mothers babies. Also, the use of the word baby is literally correct, emotion or no emotion borne:
    1.a (1) : an extremely young child; especially : one that is still in arms : infant (2) : the young of an animal —Merriam Webster, Unabridged
    .
    4.a. a newborn or recently born animal
    b. (as modifier)→ baby rabbits—Collins English Dictionary, Unabridged
    .
    2. A young animal—Macquarie dictionary
    .
    6. The young of an animal—The OED

  • Mohsen

    For some reason the page is not showing the examples by Merriam-Webster. Here they are: (of the nation’s 640 full species of breeding birds, 170 raise their babies … along the Mexican border — W. F. Heald) (a baby lamb)

  • Mohsen

    Peter, thank you for the explanation!
    What you’re suggesting in your comment is absolutely correct!

  • Doubting Thomas

    Mohsen, I agree with Peter. I might have agreed with you had I been able to separate your point from its emotional wrapping.
    You’ve made much of my quibble about “babies”. It’s the emotional use of the term that clouds any sensible discussion. Notwithstanding the dictionary definitions, in general usage I believe that young humans are babies. Young cows are calves, young sheep are lambs, and so on. But by calling them babies, many seek to invoke an emotional equivalence to human babies.
    I guess you have a point that most people don’t feel “anguish” (sic). But that’s only because they never see or think about the processes of the animal husbandry that puts the food on their tables. However, I guarantee that all but psychopaths will feel anguish if they had to see it in all it’s many brutal parts. But, unless the entire world’s population is somehow instantly converted to strict veganism, there are practical limits to the elimination of any but the cruellest farming practices. I grew up on a farm and hated many of the things that had to be done, and think that factory farming is an abomination. Overcrowded and shadeless feed lots ought to be banned.

  • richard.sherratt

    My opinion, for what it;s worth, is that the job of an actor is to convince us that they are their character. They can only do that by being very good at suspending our belief in reality, deceiving us, by pretending to be something that they aren’t. The top actors are brilliant at deceiving us. They are brilliant liars.

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