The other day I watched commercial television for the first time in quite awhile. I had no choice, really, there were flat-screen monitors throughout the busy waiting room tuned in to a healthcare channel. Haven’t been there in years. Mandatory physical before changing doctors. This is good for business, I thought. Not to mention the makers of anxiety meds. A few more minutes of this and we’ll all be asking our primary care physicians for Prozac, which, according to the commercial, is preferred over the generic Fluoxetine. I made the most of it, I used the opportunity to once again marvel at the superhero talents of actors. Specifically, those who land coveted voice-over gigs. Directed to sound like an old friend as they convincingly read the side effects, assuring all of us in the room that it’s perfectly normal to have suicidal tendencies after taking a pill for depression.
Again, I thought, the nonchalance in which these chroniclers of the human condition deliver us this absurdity deserves an Academy Award, despite what Stanislavski said about how there’s no place in “the work” for nonchalant acting. Stan, I said out loud to the old man in a wheelchair giving his caretaker a load of crap for politely asking him to keep his mask above his nose, you wrote ‘An Actor Prepares’ long before we were forced into our soundproof closets to articulate absurdities with indifference into Yeti microphones, just so we can make the rent on apartments not much larger. Stan didn’t say much to anyone after that, he just stared at his shoes. Rockports.
I wish I could be as blasé about awards and award shows as voice-over artists reading dangerous side effects, I really do, but I can’t. Most actor friends I follow on social media claim they could care less. Not me. I get excited about them. I love it when actors and tenacity and talent are recognized. And I love their speeches and their back stories and wondering whether or not they’re drunk. And there’s obviously alcohol at the Oscars, you don’t see it on tables as you do at the Globes, but you know it’s not far away. And it’s always so much fun to see actors pretending they’re not drunk.
A long time ago in an acting class far, far away, where I was first introduced to the teachings of Constantine Stanislavski, I discovered the key to acting drunk is to focus on acting sober, but you have to be sober to effectively act drunk before acting sober while acting drunk. At that moment I fell madly in love with the craft, and deeply in love with actors. Not to mention booze. I told my new doctor I quit drinking. And smoking. And meat. And dairy. She didn’t seem too thrilled. Bad for business, I thought.
I was curious about how others would react about the Oscar nominations announced several days ago, so I tried to read everything before and after. I was happy ‘Triangle of Sadness’ nailed a nod for best picture, despite not making many critics “who-should-be-nominated” lists. Maybe now it’ll be seen by the huddled and streaming masses. I saw it last year in a little theatre in the South of France, not long after it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. The film destroyed me, in a good way. So much better than ‘The Menu’ at summarizing the present-day dystopian hell leading us like sheep into the waiting rooms of pill pushers everywhere. Pill Pushers. That’s what my father used to call doctors. Stan, the old man in the wheel chair, reminded me of my dad at age ninety-three. Dad ate donuts. And wore Rockports.
I’m still watching last year’s Oscar winner for Best International Feature Film, ‘Drive My Car’, based on the Haruki Murakami short story of the same name. I relate to Murakami, who opened and ran a jazz club in Tokyo until one day he had this overwhelming urge to write. So, like Trigorin in Chekhov’s The Seagull, he wrote without stopping, “like an express train.” Murakami’s friends thought he was crazy— his business was going well but he had another calling. He didn’t spend too much time defending himself, he just wrote. I don’t think he had any formal training, just talent and— here’s that word again— tenacity. And now his stories are being made into films and winning awards, and I will just bet he is one hell of a bartender.
The film, directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, is about an actor and director of theatre who is heartbroken. And one of the lead characters is a candy apple red 1987 SAAB 500 Turbo. The story had me at the actor/director with the broken heart, but the SAAB is the cherry on top, it’s just the perfect pun driving this story to its transcendent conclusion. Sob story.
I know folks who tell me they’d rather watch someone rake sand for two hours than see another movie about heartbreak, grief, love, work, “and the soul-sustaining, life-shaping power of art”, let alone watch another awards show, but I’m a tenaciously resilient believer in actors and story tellers, especially the unknowns sitting in waiting rooms, or talking into microphones in closets, or standing behind a bar writing the next award winning balm for a broken heart on a cocktail napkin. Beats taking prescription drugs, right? Wrong, if you’re a voice over artist gainfully employed by Big Pharma. A paradox.
Awards Season is the one time of year I’m bummed about no longer subscribing to commercial television. Do they still call it Cable?