I've been watching a lot of movies lately. As a member of Screen Actors Guild I will cast my ballot for the SAG Awards tomorrow by noon Pacific Time. This year there are some terrific performances, particularly in the female actor categories. It will be tough choice, but for both the female actor in a leading role and female actor in a supporting role, I think I will vote for the women of Albert Nobbs. Glenn Close and Janet McTeer portray two very different variations on the woman-masquerading-as-man theme in this period drama set in late-19th century Dublin. The performances are meticulous, and spell-binding. If you want to see not-good-but-great acting, check out this small-studio release.
My acting students were asking me the other day who I considered to be an excellent actor. I told them (before I saw the incomparable Ms. Close and Ms. McTeer) to study both Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn and Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. Each has a tough job: not to recreate, but to embody a real woman who was herself playing a role for the public. Add to that the difficulty that each of these famous women still looms large in our collective memory, and you can see why such roles could prove catastrophic for lesser talents. Both of these performances are spectacular!
I like these films very much for other reasons, as well. My Week With Marilyn contains some very interesting (and heated) discussions of the clashing acting techniques employed by Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe as they try to work together in The Prince and the Showgirl. If you're curious about the difference between acting techniques used in 1957 by the best American film star and the best British stage star, this movie gives you a very good idea.
The Iron Lady provides a glimpse of what I do when I work with clients as a Communications Artist. In the film Margaret Thatcher, the only woman sitting in the House of Commons, is advised that before she runs for party leadership she'll have to do something about her shrill voice. So off she goes to a drama school voice teacher and learns how to speak from her center, lower her voice, and project authority. As I tell my clients, if you can use your voice as your secret weapon, the rest will follow. In Margaret Thatcher's case, the rest, as they say, is history. . . !