10 favorite moments in acting

Every so often I watch a movie or tv show and the actor(s) take my breath away with their performance. But it’s more than a performance. The actors have created life on film. This blog post recognizes ten of those incredible moments.

  1. Judd Hirsch and Wallace Shawn as brothers in Season 20, Episode 10 of “Law and Order Special Victims Unit.”
  2. Emma Thompson in the HBO film, “Wit.”
  3. Kate Winslet in the movie, “The Reader.”
  4. Al Pacino in the movie, “The Merchant of Venice.”
  5. Benedict Cumberbatch in “Richard III” of ‘The Hollow Crown” series.
  6. John Hurt as John Merrick in David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man.”
  7. Whoopi Goldberg in the movie, “The Color Purple.”
  8. Donald Sutherland in the movie, “Ordinary People.”
  9. Andy Griffith in the movie, “A Face in the Crowd.”
  10. Geoffrey Rush in the movie, “Final Portrait.”

Perhaps you have a favorite acting performance that moved you. Please feel free to mention it in the comments below.

Near 500 words: Skeezer

Skeezer was the founder of the Radicals. She was the one who gave the group edge. Always a smile on her face, she had founded the group as an outlet for her creativity. First of all she was a musician. She played the harmonica and she played a mean harp. She would have given Willie Dixon a run for his money if he was still around.

Then there were the songs. Nobody in the city had heard lyrics like hers. She could make up a lyric and have it tied up in a song in less than five minutes. How she got this facility came from reading the dictionary like others read a romance or a mystery. Asked why she loved reading the dictionary, she answered, “It’s the mystery of it all. You never know what word is going to turn up.”

But what she became famous for was The Dance. The Dance was the day she and the four other young women of the Radicals showed up in Central Park and danced modern dance for an hour. That wasn’t unusual. There were groups all the time showing up. But these women showed up in their skimpy dresses on a day when it had just snow and the temp was not above 10.

When they did it for a second year on February 1, the City went crazy. A large crowd showed up. That was the year the video of their dance went viral. Over thirty million peeps on Youtube. Because they posted the video, they made a chunk of change. That was Skeezer’s idea as well. She was one heck of a business woman.

But she resisted going solo. She thought it was rude and she wasn’t about to abandon her Sisters. They were her friends and you just don’t do that to friends.

By the time Skeezer made it into her thirties, the Radicals had their own office and recording studio and rehearsal space downtown. After ten years, many started thinking of the women as Old Skool. Skeezer wasn’t having that. She’d worked too damn hard to lose their image as radicals.

So she invited in five of the best jazz musicians around. She had an idea for an album of tunes that would blow the head off the music scene. The CD did what it was supposed to do. Called “Dirty Words”, there wasn’t a dirty word on any of the songs if you could call them songs. Actually it was an epic poem, telling of the deeds of the Radicals. How they snuck into New York City in a wooden horse. How they faced down the mayor who happened to be named Priam. The final song was a celebration called “Blast”.

The piece de resistance was the performance. The Radicals, now six, performed it in the nude. The second night they were busted for indecency. They called in the news media and protested they were a free speech movement. Then they stripped and yelled, “Oh Fuck.” “Oh Fuck” became a You Tube hit.

Skeezer always knew how to make a ruckus. If she had not been an artist, she might have been a gangster. After all, her hero was John Lennon. Once she discovered his “Instant Karma”, “Gimme Some Truth” and “God” at twelve, she was changed. She knew what she wanted to be. She was going to be a prophet. And her prophecy would be her art.

Skeezer turned forty and left the Radicals. It was time. The group had become an institution. It was time to go to the mountains and seek. So she went off on a pilgrimage to climb the holy mountains around the world.

The last time we heard from Skeezer word was that she was climbing Mount Everest. Some say she died up there, and some say she didn’t. Then there is that small group who have come to believe that Skeezer will be coming down with Jesus in the Rapture. Who knows? All most of us know is we sure miss The Radicalist Radical of Them All.

The Magician’s Assistant

It’s Halloween and time to celebrate. So here’s a Halloween story.

Brooks and Frank were not brothers although others thought they could be. No one could remember them when they were not together. Brooks was a magician; Frank was a fireman. Or at least, he liked to dress up as a fireman.

Brooks was often on stage, showing the world his trick of sawing a fireman in half. Usually magicians saw a woman in half, Brooks sawed Frank in half. People loved the trick. Frank showed up on the stage and Brooks introduced him to the box. Frank wore his fireman’s uniform. Once Frank was in the box safe and secure, Brooks set the box on fire. Then the sawing began.

Frank always thought of himself being like the one the knife thrower threw the knives at. It took steady nerves to stand there and let those knives come at you. He thought that the knife thrower’s partner could dodge bullets if she had to. She had that kind of concentration. So he worked on his concentration.

All was well and good for quite some time. Then it happened. It happened just as Brooks and Frank became a sensation and started to fill larger venues. Frank met Darla.

Darla was a tall, slender dark-haired beauty with only one ambition. She had spent years wanting to be a magician’s assistant. She saw Brooks on stage. She just knew what he needed. He needed Darla to hand him the saw. It was a matter of faith. Every magician needed a Darla.

One night during the show, Darla walked onto the stage. She had the saw in her hands. She lifted it above her head. Then she handed the saw to Brooks.

At first surprise, Brooks was taken aback. How dare this woman interrupt his performance. When he heard the applause, he changed his mind. As the three of them walked off the stage, Brooks whispered to his new assistant, “I can’t pay you much.”

Darla just smiled. She was happy her dream had come true.

Frank took one look at Darla and he was smitten. Cupid aimed his arrow, and kwhack, it hit Frank in the heart.

For several performances, the act went on perfectly. Brooks introduced the box. Frank walked out onto the stage in his fireman’s costume and crawled into the box. Brooks locked the box. Darla brought out the fire starter and set the box on fire. Then she raised the saw above her head. And the trick went off without a problem.

Frank couldn’t keep his love to himself. One night just before a performance, he walked up to Darla and whispered, “I love you.”

Well, Darla was having none of this love thing. She knew it could blow a good act. She had seen other acts go up in flames because of the jealousy. So she let her partner-in-crime know she wasn’t interested in a gentle sort of way.

Frank walked onto stage with tears in his eyes. He crawled into the box like always. Darla set the box on fire. Brooks took the saw from her hands. Things were going well just like usual. But Frank couldn’t concentrate. He just couldn’t concentrate.

 

Hamlet puts on a play, nyah nyah nyah

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…
As You Like It. Act 2 Scene 7.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 3 Scene 2 (continued).

ELSINORE TOWN CRYER

Dear Reader, I know you have been anxious to hear all the news at the Castle. Your Auntie Yorick is Johnny-on-the-spotsky with the latest. Last night there was a murder. A real live murder. It was the piece de resistance “The Murder of Gonzago”, and that play was something else. And I’m talking a capital Something and a capital Else.

Over the years, I’ve seen all the plays. “A Spanish Tragedy” by Tommy Kyd. Chris Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus”. (That was a really good’un.) Romeo and Juliet by that guy from Stratford. I never can remember his name but he’s written some great ones. Anyway R&G has a real bummer of an ending.

I must tell you the prince himself directed this one. That Hamlet, he is turning into to a man with many talents. Now he’s given us this play, and wow. I mean, double wow. And the actors. I got to tell you the players in this “Gonzago” were almost as good as our own Richard Burbage and his gang of Chamberlain’s Men. If actors ever strutted their stuff on stage, these players had stuff they knew how to strut. Boy, did they ever.

Both their Magnanimousnesses were in attendance. They entered with the trumpets trumpeting a root-a-toot-toot. The king’s wear was designed by none other than Giorgio Armani. His Magnanimousness wore the finest purple with gold and scarlet trim from his itsy bitsy toesies to his fur-lined hat reaching for the ceiling. The colors were so bright they would blind a person if one looked at him straight-on.

There was only one person who upstaged the king. Queen Gertrude. She wore a black Azzaro Couture gown revealing enough queenly skin to make everybody blush. The glass slippers alone were a revelation. The skirt to her dress was so transparent that you could get a gander on her long, thin legs. The top on her dress had an oval opening that showed a belly-button button of solid gold. The top draped over the queen and unbuttoned, barely covering her bosoms. The crown on the tippy top of her head was bejeweled in jewels that would make the crown jewels in the Tower of London envious.

Normally their Magnanimousnesses would have sat on their royal tushes on the royal furniture. Not this time. I was informed that, if they sat, their clothes would break. Then the emperor would have no clothes. So they chose to stand. As they stood their stand, they were dignified in their standing as royals are wont to do.

I have to say that it was good to see the Prince back with the lovely Ophelia. She wore a simple white country dress, covered in bouquets of flowers. Hamlet, as usual, showed no fashion sense at all. He was in regular black. He may be a prince, but his fashion-sense is downright serf. While the couple watched the play, they were like two turtledoves, turtledoving as if turtledoving was going out of style.

The play opens with a prologue in pantomime. A murder occurs. A king is poisoned. The murderer takes his place beside the king’s bride. Then the play begins. During the performance, the prince kept talking over the actors’ lines. I guess he was throwing out his jokes to impress his ladylove. He sure had her laughing. Sometimes it was hard to hear the players’ words over the prince’s jabs. But he kept coming out with the funniest lines. That Prince Hamlet, he’s a riot sometimes.

Just as the play was getting interesting, the king’s man, Polonius, interrupted and threw the lights on. The king had displeasure written all over his face. He did one of his world class trumpisms, made a lewd comment about immigration and left the performance. Could it be that his feet were hurting in those tight pointy shoes on his feet? One thing is for sure. Those shoes squeaked as the king waddled out of the hall, an unpleasant frown on his face.

As she followed the king in his exit, Queen Gertrude threw Hamlet a face that said, “Just what are you up to?” I have to tell you it was not a nice face. I do hope that the prince will be forgiven for his rudeness during the play. He has had a rough time of things since his daddy died.

Since they irked king’s displeasure, will the players get paid? I hope so. They performed their performance of murder so well, so realistic. They deserve a bonus in addition to the equity they normally receive.

The king ran through the castle halls, calling out, “Lights, lights.” It was as if he were in some interminable darkness. I love that word “interminable”. Always wanted to use it in a column. One of my New Year’s resolutions. Now I can lay it to rest.

‘Til next time.
Your Auntie Yorick.