Monday, November 05, 2007

Wanted: Eye Transplant for Isaac Butler, Who Has Been "Blinded by Hollywood"

Just read Isaac Butler's recent post on Brantley's review of Cyrano, specifically with regard to his grinning approval of Jennifer Garner's performance, and on Charles Isherwood's far more perplexing (in my view) piece on Hollywood invading Broadway or whatever it was.

While I'm having dinner with Le Butler this evening before we see Things We Want (yes, I'll be seen in public with Le Butler, and him with me, and hopefully we both emerge unscathed), I feel the need to do a post on his post (like he and I really need topics to cover as we break bread).

Personally, I didn't think Brantley (I love Isaac dubbing him B-Squared) was another case of the Times' chief drama critic slobbering over Hollywood royalty. In fact, I wish Brantley was more open to such stars -- he wasn't especially kind to Julia Roberts (undeservedly), he certainly wasn't kind at all to Julianne Moore (deservedly), and he seemed decidedly fixated on other issues beyond Claire Danes (weirdly) in Pygmalion -- like the performance of Jefferson Mays.

Given that I rarely express solid opinions about anything (!!), my vote on Garner would be to split the difference -- I thought she had glittering, transcendent moments as well as moments in which anyone else on that stage, including dead 19th century chorus girls, would have been far, far preferable. It was like Garner was constantly being tossed into the ocean and sometimes she remembered to swim -- kicking a lot, thrashing about, locating her natural buoyancy -- while at other times she seemed to drown faster than you can say "Titanic." Such vastly different sides of the same performance couldn't possibly be intentional; I attribute Garner's uneven work to a lack of attention from David Leveaux -- that's my gut instinct.

Isherwood's story, meanwhile, perplexed me more. Here's his lede and second graph:

Some repaving may need to be done on the metaphoric highway between Hollywood and Broadway. Most of the traffic used to be moving west, as actors who had earned their stripes — and a modicum of fame — onstage headed to California, where greater celebrity and greater money beckoned. In the past decade or so, however, the westward traffic has slowed considerably, while the lanes heading east are filling up.

Hollywood seems to home-grow most of its television and film stars now. It’s rare for an actor to leverage a significant stage career into solid movie stardom. Meanwhile established film or television actors who find themselves in a career lull after a few lackluster movies or a flop show, or maybe just with a summer or fall season free of commitments, streak east to Broadway every season to burnish their reputations.

To me, the lede suggests the article will consider the reversal of a trend -- that actors are no longer fleeing the wicked stage for the worry-free glories of pan-sexual Tinseltown but that the reverse is increasingly true. I expected to see not only Julia Roberts' name, but some others as well. Instead, the piece is really a Sunday critics' review of Pygmalion -- Danes and the revival is discussed in 11 full paragraphs, or more than half the piece. As for Isherwood's citation of Amy Ryan (or Steve Carrell in Richard III), um, who cares? It was as if Isherwood betrayed his stated thesis, or perhaps was attempting to locate a thesis by sort of scribbling in search of a subject. I think he has some interesting things to say about Claire, but what any of that has to do with the east-to-west pipeline becoming a west-to-east pipeline -- well, it just eludes me.


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