The best actors in the business still lean into the microphone when they talk


Now let me get this straight.

The Oscars honor, among other things, the best actors in Hollywood. These are people who have devoted their professional careers to reciting dialog in front of a camera and making it look spontaneous and natural.

But for some reason, put them on stage at the Oscars, and instead of reciting dialog spontaneously and naturally, they read it stiltedly and lean into the microphone while doing it.

And these are the best actors in the business?¹

It's like hosting a music award show and finding that all the performers suck at singing.

¹Oh wait, sorry, it's not a business. It's a craft. I don't know whose idea it was to start referring to movie-making as a craft, but I'm sick of it already.

Comments (31)
  1. bahbar says:

    Regarding your note, blame it on Blizzard. It’s a star craft, too.

  2. Karellen says:

    Many would argue that the businesses of marketing, promoting and merchandising movies has very little to do with the very real crafts of making movies and acting.

    OTOH, the kinds of people who would make that distinction, or be highly dedicated to those crafts, are typically not the kinds of people who are prominently featured at the USA’s AMPAS Awards ceremony. :-)

  3. Alexander Grigoriev says:

    Producing and selling software is a business. Software design and coding is a craft.

  4. nathan_works says:

    Raymond, when Andy Rooney kicks the bucket, you can fill in for him.

  5. GWO says:

    This just in: "People who are used to pretending to be other people uncomfortable when asked to be themselves."

    Acting is simply not the same thing as presenting.

  6. James Schend says:

    Movie stars aren’t generally very good actors, frankly. There are exceptions, of course– but any idiot can look good in a movie when you get as many takes as you need, and all your dialog is ADR’d in later anyway.

    That’s not to say they’re terrible actors (although some are), just to say being in a movie doesn’t say a lot about somebody’s acting ability.7

  7. Gabe says:

    Stage acting is a craft. Movie and TV acting? Not so much.

  8. J says:

    Perhaps the award speech is part of the craft.  To look nervous and unprepared conveys humility ("ohmygosh I won?").  A smooth read and natural-sounding speech may appear pompous or somewhat disingenuous.  It’s all about image.

  9. JenK says:

    On movie sets there’s no talking into the mic.  Instead you have a boom above you, or you’re body-mic’d. So actually talking into an mic is a novelty.

    <i>Rock singers,</i> on the other hand…

    Stage actors know how to project. Kinda wonder if the Tonys ever have to deal with actors not bothering to use the mic. ;)

  10. 104 says:

    i agree that the "craft" title is stupid. we all become creative experts in our jobs / passions / whatever consumes a significant amount of our attention. whether it’s writing code, acting, laying bricks, designing a building, sorting glass, or making sandwiches. of course this ignores that the word "craft" is still allowed to have connotations, and those aren’t stupid; this is just a natural evolution of language.

    to a few commenters here: acting is not as easy as you think, and getting many takes / ADR doesn’t make up for a bad actor. If there’s some magical sweet spot that the director has in mind, a good actor can relay it, and not disrupt the creative flow. Those that don’t "get it" will ruin what would otherwise be a fluid rhythm.

    a bunch of windows programmers give their insights into hollywood movie production… this is bound to be entertaining enough for the big screen am i rite?

  11. As far as having "as many takes as you want," movies do have budgets and schedules. An expensive star that knows what he’s doing, can give the director what he wants in a few takes, and looks good doing it is probably more economical than an actor that takes all day to get it right and looks so-so doing it.

  12. Jon says:

    See, they tricked you. They are acting. It’s done on purpose to make them seem more humble when being given the industry’s biggest honor. The hunched forward body language does that, plus the amateur-like speech. Far more likable than "I won bitches, in your face".

  13. Nick says:

    One concession I’d made is that, if you assume the winners really aren’t known in advance, then they’re probably pretty nervous about winning in general.

    Added to that is, as someone else pointed out, it’s one thing to be in front of a camera and relatively small crew where you can do several takes if you mess up.  The Oscars are filmed live, broadcast to millions, and there are no retakes.  If you screw up everybody gets to see.

    That said, I agree it’s somewhat funny to see people you would think are used to being in front of crowds stumble and mumble through a 30 second thank-you speech.

    [Actually, I was referring to the presenters, but your point is taken. -Raymond]
  14. Dr Pizza says:

    Many of the people collecting awards aren’t actors at all. And actors don’t use highly directional microphones on a stalk in front of and below them.

  15. Wavel says:

    The same people that changed "took a picture" to "made a picture".

  16. Stuart says:

    I’ve got to stand with the actors & recipients on this one. I don’t think there is a parallel between acting and receiving or presenting a reward in this situation. The scales of the environment are radically different, and the pressure is surely intense. I think they deserve a break.

  17. CmraLvr2 says:

    "I think they deserve a break."  

    I prefer to think of them as idiots…just sayin

  18. Dean Harding says:

    You don’t worry about the poor actors, they’ll get a break.

    Apparently, the NON-WINNING nominees got a $45,000 African Safari, a private island holiday in Belize, a $14,000 holiday in Monaco and a $7,000 trip to Connecticut (?). And that’s just the holidays… all up, they get something like $100,000 worth of stuff in their goodie bags!

  19. Adam K says:

    I never pictured Raymond as the kind of guy who reads blogs called Celebitchy. I learn something every day here.

  20. Marquess says:

    Business? Craft? Wasn’t there a time when it was an *art*?

  21. Alte says:

    Regarding your note, blame it on Blizzard. It’s a star craft, too.

  22. anonymous says:

    That’s because the Academy awards have lost their quality and sheen. They’re just another set of awards given to some successful film. The films are not always one of the best, most certainly not in the past decade. So the actors aren’t top class either.

  23. GWO says:

    @anonymous That’s because the Academy awards have lost their quality and sheen. They’re just another set of awards given to some successful film.

    As if that wasn’t always the case:

    "Cavalcade" beat "I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang"

    "The Great Ziegfield" beat Cukor’s "Romeo And Juliet"

    "Rebecca" beat "The Grapes of Wrath"

    "How Green Was My Valley" beat "Citizen Kane" AND "The Maltese Falcon"

    "Mrs Miniver" beat "The Magnificent Ambersons"

    "Gentleman’s Agreement" (what? exactly) beat Lean’s "Great Expectations" AND "Miracle on 34th Street"

    And thats just the 30s and 40s.

  24. Ray Trent says:

    Maybe they’re professionals enough to realize that unless you have a sound guy there pointing a boom mic at you with another guy sitting at a mixing station, and an editor postprocessing your speech that it’s going to sound crappy unless you get close to the mic.

    It’s a live show… they don’t want all the paraphernalia of the industry sitting out there for everyone to see… ruins the magic.  

  25. What actors do on stage is craft.

    What their agent does is business.

  26. "Rebecca" beat "The Grapes of Wrath"

    And rightfully so.

  27. GWO says:

    @Maurits: And rightfully so.

    Nah.  "Rebecca" is a splendid piece of period melodrama, but iti s still just a piece of period melodrama.  The AFI members voted "Grapes Of Wrath" as the 23rd greatest film of all time. It’s possibly the best film by one of the US’s finest ever film makers.

    Besides, my point wasn’t that Rebecca was bad (far from it), merely that the Oscars have never been awarded to the critics favourites — the critics loved "Grapes Of Wrath", "Rebecca" got the nod because it did good business.

  28. Anonymous Coward says:

    @article: That’s because they aren’t great actors. You could get people out of a liberal arts university who could outperform them and who would be willing to work for normal middle class wages. But if you do, in most cases your film will flow, even if it’s better.

    Because people want to see their stars. Of course, a few are exceptionally good looking, or exceptional actors, but most of them are simply famous because they were famous yesterday. It’s a positive feedback mechanism.

  29. Sour Grapes says:

    "Rebecca" beat "The Grapes of Wrath"

    She not only beat those grapes, she stomped the juice out of ’em.

  30. Joe says:

    I’m not sure what motivates your disgust at calling movie-making a craft, Raymond, unless you use some idiosyncratic definition of “craft”.

    [I thought it was clever at first, but now it has become annoying through overuse. -Raymond]
  31. You are so right about this. But there are actors that know how to deliver a speech and entertain. Take a look at some of Jim Carrey’s speeches.

    http://www.mtv.com/videos/misc/395512/2009-mtv-movie-awards-jim-carrey-wins-best-comedic-performance.jhtml

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vqWhqSnMHo

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