Monday, September 01, 2008

The Face and the Voice

Spoilers for Monsters Inc and Monk and the Kid ahead

I've been thinking about actors and acting today...

When people speak, they put inflection into their voice. (Otherwise they just talk in a robotic monotone, like Bebe Neuwirth as Lilith - loved her cameo as herself in Will and Grace where she talks normally, then segues into her Lilith voice in an attempt to convince Jack and Karen that she is an actress and not the character of Lilth.)

(Or, they sound like David Caruso!)

What importance does inflection play in lines? Well, take Monsters, Inc., on of my top 5 animated films. Steve Buscemi plays the villainous Randall. In one scene - after it has already been shown that he's the villain - he has a dialog with Sully and Mike in which he's asking about the kid who escaped and is in the factory.

Randall/Buscemi's line is, "You haven't seen anything, have you?"

But the way he delivers the line (not to mention the way the character's animated while he says the line) makes it clear that he's trying oh so desperately to sound casual and not succeeding. (And as an actor, you know Buscemi could have sounded casual if he'd wanted to.)

He delivers the line with an inflection and a pause... "You haven't seen anything...have you?" If you didn't know he was a villain you'd know it at that moment.

Then, later on in the movie, Mr. Waternoose aka James Coburn, says, "Does anyone else know about this?"

But it's the way he says it that is the key.

"Does....anybody else... know about this?"

Right until that exact second I had no idea that Mr Waternoose was going to turn into a villain, but as soon as he said that line in that way, I knew it.

It's all about inflection.

So now we come to my mini-obsession with Michael Goorjian. Through the magic of Unbox, I downloaded his episode, Mr. Monk and the Kid. Of course he only had 3 brief scenes (so annoying) but he got to display a wide range of emotions in that time.

So, first scene, Monk and his assistant are in the house of Mrs. Carlyle and her son who plays the violin. They're in the living room talking to the mother, who exudes just a slight bit of nervousness. Then Michael comes down the stairs a little way, carrying violin and bow, and says, "Mother."

"Daniel." says the mother, in a rather emphasized way, as she's signalling to the son that he's to pretend he's Daniel, not Jacob.

"Is something...wrong." says Michael, in an unconvincing tone...just the way someone who is not used to playing a role would say it (as in one brother pretending for some reason.)

He says his next line, kind of all in a rush and uninflected. Bad acting, yes, but not the bad acting of a bad actor, but the good acting of an actor playing someone who's not used to lying.

"Can you ask them to come back I'm rehearsing right now."

but he says it

"Canyouaskthemtocomeback I'mrehearsingrightnow."

In his subsequent two lines, he gets in a bit more inflection, as he cements himself int he role of his brother...

Next scene, mother and son have been found out, and they're sitting in the living room. Mike has a glass of liquor in his hand, and he's obviously very nervous and very frightened, and he plays the scene wonderfully. He's a bit of a wimp, chickening out of delivering the ransom money - but then he has to be so that Monk can do it, and thus we get a very funny scene of Monk throwig the ransom money to the wrong person...

Anyway, final scene, no dialog, Mrs Carlyle and Mike run up to the just-released brother, complete with bloodily bandaged hand, and Mike looks back before he embraces his brother (which I gotta tell you, made me wonder if he actually didn't have something to do with it. Did he look around, as if nervous that all the crooks might not have been captured, continuing his cowardly role, or did he look around just to make sure they were gone and hadn't seen him, because he's the one who told the crooks about his brother and the fact that his mother could come up with $500,000 at short notice?

Anyay, contrast his normal speaking voice (not to mention his facial expressions) with his role as the highly-functional autistic Aaron Pratt in the CSI episode "Caged." His inflection is all on the wrong words, or he speaks too loudly... he seems to inhabit the character and does it very very well...

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