Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: American Buffalo

VHS cover image courtesy
American Buffalo (1996) ** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Michael Corrente
Starring: Dennis Franz, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Nelson 

The tagline for this movie is "They had a plan. It wasn't worth a nickel."
Sadly, I didn't think this movie was even worth a nickel. It's a very slow, dialog-heavy drama that takes forever to lead anywhere, and the ending it finally leads up to -- after a whole lot of yelling between Dennis Franz and Dustin Hoffman -- is pointless and provides no closure for the conflict created in the story. It just sort of ...ends. 
I'll grant that Franz is solid in his role, and so is Sean Nelson (who was a relative newcomer to the movie biz at the time).

But Hoffman plays a character so annoying and without any redeeming qualities that I just wanted Franz to lose it, tell him to shut up and bash him in the head. With all due respect to an Oscar-winning actor like Hoffman, his performance in this is just a little too much and the director should have dialed him down a bit. Furthermore, the movie was shot like the David Mamet stage play it's based on: three characters and one setting. I don't think that translated too well for the big screen -- it felt like I was watching a stage play.

But there are film critics who loved this, including the late Gene Siskel who gave the film "thumbs up" and called the performances "superb." So
I suppose if you like dialog-driven dramas and are a fan of Mamet's plays as well as Hoffman's or Franz's acting, it's at least worth watching for the banter between Franz and Hoffman. The dialog is certainly well-scripted, but Hoffman's unlikeable character, the slow pace and lack of a satisfying ending ruined the film experience for me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Aspiring Actors Are Not Actors

I personally hate the term "aspiring actor." You can be a "beginner," but "aspiring"? No. Either you're an actor or you aren't. My definition of "aspiring actor" is someone with no acting experience who wishes they could be an actor -- that they have hopes and dreams of one day becoming an actor.

If you aspire to be an actor, do something about it: take classes and audition for community theater, local stage productions, student projects and indie films. Churches sometimes have drama teams and perform for services and special events, but if your church doesn't have one, start one. If you're in high school or college, get involved with the drama club, or start one if they don't have one. Famous improv troupes got started because friends got together and put on a show. Heck, get a digital video camera and make your own stuff for YouTube or Vimeo, or get together with friends and make something for fun and put it out there for others to see.

There are actors who are famous who aren't very good actors. So don't allow a lack of confidence or inexperience to prevent you from pursuing opportunities to perform. And don't just sit around wishing you could be an actor. Act on it.