Actors Who Can’t Do Accents

Some Film Actors like Meryl Streep are adept at playing characters with a whole range of different accents and regional dialects. However, some film actors who should be best kept nameless  but who I will now mercilessly name are best kept to their “mother tongues” because when they try to venture into changing the natural rhythms and cadences of their voices, the results are often quite painful to the human ear.

Park The Cah in Haavad Yaaad

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Having gone to school in Boston, I know that the regional accents are often subtle. I can therefore categorically say that not everyone speaks like John F. Kennedy after a visit to the dentist.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Tom Hans or Rob Morrow ever got my memo.

Sure  Charles Van Doren famously lied about getting the answers on 21 in the film Quiz Show, but I believe the more grievous crime was Rob Morrow’s ridiculously thick “bahstonian” accent in Quiz Show. Its lucky he was a lawyer and not a dialect coach. His clients would sue.

Tom Hanks is a respected actor known for versatility in comedy and drama.  Yet accents are not his strong suit.  Even Forrest Gump where he must put on a southern accent is cartoon-ish and only aided somewhat by the reality that Gump was mentally challenged so therefore  spoke in a halting and overly deliberate way.  But, Hanks bizarrely bad boston accent in “Catch Me If You Can” cannot be attributable to any inferior intellect.  In this instance, Hanks character was in complete control of all his faculties…except for speech.

2 thick accents don’t mix

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Russel Crowe is known for his intensity and dissolving into the characters he plays.  unfortunately his australian accent doesn’t always make the seamless transition.  In A Beautiful Mind or Cinderella Man  his accents it still sounds like a mix of australian/new york or australian/southern.  A mumble-mouthed jumble… a verbal concoction that savages two dialects in the process.  Maybe the more merciful way to go was to dub Crowe’s audio using another actor.

Keanu-Bad

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In the history of bad accents, Keanu Reeves should be given the gold trophy.  In the film Dracula, his accent is so bad you wish that a vampire would put an early end to his life. In the film, “Devil’s Advocate”, Keanu voices a southern accent so fowl, him and his law clients deserved death by lethal injection.  In fact, in most films Keanu seems even barely able to speak his native language, English, with any degree of fluency or meaning . When he is called on to speak, Reeves talking pattern is as awkward as any space alien or a 6 year old reading a Dick and Jane Book for the first time.

Holly Hunter- The accent from nowhere

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Holly Hunter has an eccentric sounding southern accent which she cannot shake and even sounds out of place in films in which her characters are supposed to have southern roots. Simply put,  her voice doesn’t exactly match her face.  When watching any of her films, you might always find yourself asking,  Why does this character have this weird southern accent?    So film-makers almost have to concoct a colorful backstory to explain why Holly Hunter has an eccentric southern drawl…ie her character often summered in a farm in rural Arkansas. fittingly, she Hunter was honored for an Oscar for  her work in the Piano, in a role in which she did not speak out loud.

Speak Russian?  Nyet!

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I think its safe to generalize and say that most actors cannot do a convincing Russian Accent. Inevitably, they all sound like some variation of “Boris” from the old Bullwinkle Cartoon . For instance  John Malkovich’s ridiculously over-the-top accent in “Rounders”. If he tried that voice in real life, He’d be laughed out of any self-respecting Russian Bathhouse or denied service in any restaurant in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn which served pirogis. Thankfully, in the film “Inside John Malkovich” the actor was not called upon to to illicit any  particular foreign accent. The last thing you’d want to be is trapped in his subconscious or the scene with the multiple malkovich’s all speaking in bad Russian continuously. Nyet, Definitely Nyet!

Levitt Sounds Off On Project Greenlight

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I  watched the Premiere of Project Greenlight last night with much interest because I’m also an aspiring film-maker.  More of a writer than director etc but  in the ballpark.  Anyhow , first off not crazy about the show’s premise: the fact that Affleck, and Damon sponsor a contest and  help to hand pick the director of a comedy film There’s just something too…” Success anointing success about it”.   I realize that most deals in Hollywood done by successful people. this way but the fact that two primo sucess stories in the room and are personally choosing the director(with the exception of the one they actually picked) are expected to kiss their Affleck and Damon’s ass and make a case for themselves is just too much fawning for me.  At least with shows like “Undercover Boss” the guy in the power position at least pretends to be on equal footing to begin with so that he can get a true perspective of his workers and not their “Best sucking up behavior”

To Heighten the stakes, In the very beginning of the show, Affleck and Damon claim they are putting their integrity/career on the line with their choices.  Obviously, they’re not.  The prior winners of Project Greenlight were barely a blip on the movie radar Yet Ben managed to go on to Box Office, Oscar and nanny boffing success regardless. Now, if Damon and Affleck, would agree to give all their money/posessions to charity if the winner of Project Greenlight didn’t succeed, then there would be real drama and we could see  the duo get more emotionally invested in the show,  instead of appearing occasionally in perfunctory phone conversations about this or that insignificant detail.

After some preliminary back and forth with Damon, Affleck, and the rest of the other judges (The Farrelly Brothers) and Brown (who argued for ethnic diversity), The show went out of its way to pick a volatile/arrogant director because they thought he had the most talent. Even though the director they chose specialized in dark films and they were shooting a broad comedy. But,   Its also no secret that dicks are good for ratings: (ie Simon Cowell, or Dennis o’leary SharkTank). So, its likely they picked this guy at least partly because he was an obnoxious jerk.  I mean  No one is going to tune in to watch a show about a a well-run movie production team lead by nice guys high-fiving eachother

In the end result, if these contest driven reality shows (America Idol, The Voice etc) prove anything at all, its that you can’t engineer success. Even successful people occasionally produce shit -literally and figuratively- (Affleck and Damon not excluded). In addition,  How can anyone really be expected to really “Create good art” in such a high stress atmosphere in which every decision they make is filmed for HBO, high profile stars like Affleck and Damon are breathing down your back,  and every decision you try to make is second guessed by a committee?

Things You Never Hear Exiting A Movie Theater

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“I don’t think Hugh Grant blinked nervously enough in that movie”

“Al pacino is a little hard to hear. He should really learn to project. Perhaps he should just bark out some of his lines like an army sargeant.”

“Wow, that Tim Burton Remake was even better than the original!”

“Russell Crowe needs to do more southern accents. The results are really satisfying.”

“That was a powerhouse Keanu Reeves performance. Oscar worthy.”

“I couldn’t decide if that film was more Merchant Ivory or Farrelly Brothers.”

“I felt Drew Barrymore came across too bright in that film.”

“it’s a pity Morgan Freeman didn’t imbue that historical figure with more dignity and gravitas.”

“I don’t think Oliver Stone’s usage of bad father/good father imagery in nearly every one of his films is heavy handed at all!”.

Masters Of Sex- “You’ve Been Dan Logan’ed”

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Open A window- I’ve been a fan of masters of sex from the first season. The acting and dialogue is first rate and it has the simmering love story for the two central characters that is seemingly necessary for these kinds of dramas (ie “The Affair”).

However, now in its third season the show has taken a dip for the worse and the reason is the godawful stench of Perfume/scents mogul, Dan Logan played by The Good Wife’s Josh Charles.

Something smells fishy- On The Good Wife, Josh Charles played a pragmatic, cerebral quick on his toes, lawyer, “Will Gardener”. His innate unruffled, taciturn demeanor played well to the thoughtful and strategizing lawyer he played on the show. However, on “Masters” his strengths as an actor seem wasted on a character that is meant to be more of a suave worldly charmer.  It seems hard to imagine that this undemonstrative guy could inspire Virginia Johnson to play hooky and go to vegas or that he could unlock the secret scent of sex any more than he could unlock the drawer to his own medicine cabinet. Also, what the hell is a perfume mogul anyway?! Does this career even exist and, if so, why cast it with an actor with such a pronounced nose (Josh Charles)? isn’t this casting choice a bit too “on the nose”? and, even if we accept the conceit of the show, that perfume moguls do exist and yes they often have big shnozzes, why would these people conduct their own research? Even back in 1967, wouldn’t these people be able to hire their own assistants to do all the boring lab work?

I guess its too easy to say the addition of Josh Charles alone has “stunk up” the set of Masters Of Sex.  The writers deprived Charles of much of a backstory and are making him far too much of a smitten, reactive agent on the show to be a truly compelling character.  Also, part of what makes Masters Of Sex work is the fiery dynamic of Sheen and Caplan. They’re both volatile with quick shifts into anger or hurt.  Charles “go to” reaction as an actor is to be on his guard and slow to show how he really feels.

So one wonders why Charles, aside from the weekly grind of being on a network show like The Good Wife, opted to transition into a less interesting character on a more niche show like Masters?  Maybe the newly married Charles just wanted to do a few sex scenes with Lizzy Caplan to relieve some of his marital monotony.

First Post

Why Now?

For a long time I’ve resisted the impulse to create my own blog due to the sheer volume/morass of other blogs out there and inherent vanity of publishing my own opinions which I felt was lacking in my character.  But then I remembered that I’ve been posting my thoughts with great frequency on my website, facebook, and other online channels for several years. Clearly, I had no vanity left.

But, the difference, I assumed, in writing a blog would be the “personal nature” of the posts.  I’d have to go and open up my psyche to those internet trolls who had the misfortune of having enough time on their hands to read about about how I felt about this or that local restaurant, how my local barista didn’t serve my coffee with enough fawning, and the usual dreck of people that feel they are being treating unfairly by life and want to rail to the heavens about it.

But this is my blog and can be as superficial and lightweight as I choose. No topic is too vacuous. I’ll leave the people who foam about politics, or this or that social social injustice to be alone with their opinions while I embark on the topics which obsess and perplex me.With that whole rambling intro out of the way, I’d like to talk about the recent movies I’ve stumbled across this week on cable and my random thoughts/criticisms about them.

witherspoon

 “Wild” (with reese witherspoon)-   (Those darn flashbacks)  I started to watch “The wild” yesterday because it had been nominated for Reese Witherspoon’s peformance and I was curious about it.  Reese Witherspoon has always struck be as a kind of female Tom Hanks in that she sort of has an “every woman” quality and you automatically root for her every time she sets foot onscreen.  The film “The wild” also shares some similarities with Tom Hanks peformance in “Castaway” in that this film too is, in large part, a look at one person’s struggle with nature.  The film strives to be a journey both figuratively for the characters psychological growth and literally through her 300 mile trek through some very harsh and unforgiving terrain.  For a while we see Witherspoon’s character struggles with her past (drug abuse, divorce, and death) through constantly re-occuring flashbacks. Unfortunately,  I found the sudden flashbacks distracting from the main action.  Because Witherspoon’s character did not have another character to vent her feelings to, the use of flashbacks were meant to give us some background on why she set off on a 300 mile hike alone and how this trip was meant to cleanse her of past pain.  This flashbacks, however, were disjointed and served as brief snapshots that did not allow the audience to get a true sense of this woman’s past life. only brief scenes of her abusing drugs, in the throes of casual sex, or railing at her mom were like a quick 20/20 treatment of the woman’s life  Some prolonged 10-20 minute scenes prior to her trek might have filled in more of the blanks and been better for the flow of the piece.

Too “Hot” for Hiking Another thing which bugged me is that each time Witherspoon’s character was getting into some trouble: no food, no water, boots ruined etc, she would be saved by some convenient, usually horny male passerby who offered her just enough but no more than enough aid go get back on her feet and continue her pathetic journey.  “Hot women are kinda scarce in these here parts” might have been the subtitle for a lot of these exchanges.  Witherspoon’s looks, even without make-up or her usual Legally Blond pluck, was still too much for a lot of the local yokels and, for me, removed much of the danger element necessary for these survivalist flicks. In addition, as soon as one of the male hiker’s or motorists approached Reese, some wife or friend would come by and cut the tension.  To be fair, there was one almost-rape scene later that was slightly tense but one gets the sense that even if attacked by some sex starved bark-eater, Reese would have pulled out some fancy judo moves she learned the night before by reading some self-defense manual.

Where’s the epiphany? – When I noticed that there was only 10 minutes left in the film, I feared that the ending would totally suck and I was not mistaken.  There was a little obligatory voice-over narration where Reese looks satisfyingly over a bridge at the end of her trek and says some things about redemption blah blah blah but I wondered how, since most of her problems stemmed from her interactions with other people, how she got the tools to go back to her life by spending 3 months away from society.  Vacations are nice too but they are only temporary.  Not to be a shrink here, but I think Reese spent those 3 hiking months building up her survivalist skills but needed to get to the root cause of a lot of her problems and develop better people skills.

Some random other thoughts about “Inside Llewelyn Davis”-

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I won’t talk at-length about this film but, aside from the pleasant soundtrack, much of the film just kind of lay there for me.  The taciturn lead of the film, actor Oscar Isaac, had too much of a resemblance to The Jim Gaffigan show’s, foil character, Adam Goldberg so that I kept thinking, “Why didn’t they just get Adam Goldberg”?  but other than a few tense exchanges the film, I felt, did little more than create a small time capsule of one forgettable folk singer’s life.