Monday, January 28, 2013

Remarkable Snark, Part 2

People who know me know I love awards shows. Oh, sure, they all kinda look the same these days and, yes, there is so much campaigning and politicking in hopes of influencing box office or DVD sales that the season can seem a little bloated. The results are never what you think they should be. There is always a technical gaff along the way and, inevitably, somebody screws up reading off the teleprompter or makes a fool of themselves in an acceptance speech. But, so what? It’s the entertainment business. Shit happens. That’s why we watch.

The SAG Awards are my second favorite (behind the Tonys). Short and sweet. Actors only. I’m a sucker for the opening where we go table to table and hear from several actors about how they got their starts. And they end by saying their name and “I’m an actor.” It gets me every time. I also understand what a compliment it is to be awarded something from your peers.  Actors are a strange lot. When in the middle of a shoot or a play, we are a loving family of artists creating together and then we go our separate ways hustling for the next job guerilla-style.

While watching this year’s SAG Awards, I was following along on Facebook and Twitter. I was struck by how much meanness is aimed at performers by people watching the show. Sometimes the mud is being slung by other actors. I was then simultaneously struck (thunderbolt style) by how much remarkable snark there is, just in general, in the world. Politics is drowning in it, what passes for “entertainment news” is relying on it, bloggers wield it in place of wit. Apparently, everyone is an expert on everything and are proud of the fact that they know more about whatever it is than anyone else.

Okay, now I haven’t been living under a rock and I’m not naive. In fact, I have been as guilty as anyone over the years of my share of cynicism about my industry and the people in it. I’ve complained about Adam Sandler movies, I’ve railed at Tom Cruise’s antics on Oprah, I’ve laughed at less than prepared acceptance speeches by celebrities more fortunate than talented. I’m ashamed of myself. Officially.

The acting profession is hard enough without us sniping at each other from the rocks -- or worse, from our La-Z-Boys. The life of an actor isn’t an easy one, even if you are one of the famous ones receiving an award. The number of actors who are lucky enough to make a living is miniscule in comparison to the number of our brothers and sisters in art relegated to yet another community theatre version of Annie!, The Glass Menagerie or Chapter Two.

I have heard all kinds of bloviating about Russell Crow’s terrible singing in Les Miserables. Mostly from people who can’t (or don’t) sing themselves. Hey, he got the job! It was fine. I heard countless complaints about Daniel Day-Lewis’ accent in Lincoln. So, who knows what Lincoln sounded like? Judge the performance, not your perception of a voice you’ve never heard.

Then there is the sea of support staff that feed off of celebrity and chow down on the flavor of the week. I was in a meeting a while back where several publicists and agents were talking about some fairly well known actors (known as “talent”) as if they were rancid entrees from a Chinese restaurant.

“Oh, no, she’s a bitch, I’ll never work with her again.”
“Him? Are you kidding me? That asshole tried crashing the Globes last year!”
“That chick’s over. She has too much attitude and expected someone to watch her kid while she worked the press line.”

Then after the meeting, they all went back to their own offices where they represented the very same kind of people they were just hurling insults at. Cashing their checks faster than you can say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Snark. Snark.

From a larger perspective, it’s a miracle that ANY movie gets made when you think about it. Even a terrible SyFy Original (Sharktopus, anyone?) should be celebrated for, at the very least, putting people to work. Someone had to like Gigli, right? Someone, somewhere paid money for a DVD of Battleship, yes? It’s remarkable that there are as many theatres as there are producing, well, anything! Even the worst community theatre production of Little Shop of Horrors should be well attended, supported and encouraged. That actor playing Seymour Krelborn might just turn into a very talented actor one day.

The awards season is the one time a year where we can take a breath and revel in some of the better work in film and on TV. I mean, let’s face it, rarely is there anything really, really terrible honored even by nominations. It’s a time where we actually get to hear the occasional honest and sincere acceptance speech that we’ll talk about around the water cooler. The one time where we can actually see a surprised look, an astonished expression or a proud spouse kiss their partner squarely on the mouth.

So, instead of harping on Jodie Foster’s rambling acceptance speech, Jennifer Lawrence’s “maybe wardrobe malfunction,” or the joy and shock from the cast of Downton Abbey, maybe it’s time we stow the snark and just enjoy the award shows as much as we enjoy the work they celebrate. As young actors, we dream of the day we finally hold that SAG or Equity card with our name on it. It means, rightly or wrongly, that we are, finally, a REAL actor. The history of our profession has not been kind, placing many of those before us in station with vagabonds and prostitutes. So, In the spirit of these unions, should we not celebrate the success of our brothers and sisters in craft? Should we not be glad that our profession is celebrated at all.

Then again, you could always just change the channel. I’m sure there’s a rerun of Real Housewives or Jersey Shore somewhere. If you are REALLY lucky, maybe you can catch that episode of Ancient Aliens you missed.


See you in the dark.

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