Showing posts with label Robert Ryan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Ryan. Show all posts

Friday, October 21, 2011

Specific Heads, Specific Expressions, Specific Gestures and Mannerisms

At both upcoming animation festivals, they asked me to do a seminar and talk about and show some of my influences. Obviously I'm really influenced by classic cartoons and I love cartooniness and magic - the stuff that the cartoon medium does most naturally and better than other media.
But maybe the one thing I do differently than most cartoons is the acting. I'm not that influenced by cartoon acting. I find it too generic and restrictive.
My acting influences come mainly from live action actors and real people I've known in my life.
Real life is a lot more varied, subtle and nuanced than most cartoon acting.
Let's take Kirk Douglas as an example. He is one of my favorite actors.
First of all, Kirk has a really unique look, the equivalent of a character design in cartoons. Animation tends to reuse the same basic character designs over and over again. Everyone has the same eyes, the same mouth, the same square fingered hands etc.
Kirk as a general character design is the hero type. In cartoons most hero types have the same face and body and just wear different outfits. Kirk has a specific head shape, specific eyes, nose, chin, hole in chin and even the musculature of his face is completely unique to him. His teeth are recognizable and his lips are totally specific. Even his body - while generally being of the manly heroic type is a one-of-a-kind variation of it. He has a really wide back, skinny waist, skinny arms and legs and a giant head. So...not only is he built as a unique individual, he also moves all his unique features in original ways. For 2 reasons:
1) His anatomy physically has to move according to the way it's built.
2) He has extreme talent and is one inventive sonuvabitch.
In Detective Story, Kirk is a self righteous police detective who hates criminals and thinks they are scum. He is street wise but also has a very sarcastic side as you can see from some of his expressions here. Sarcasm is an emotion that is hard to draw and animate even in its most general form, but Kirk displays it with great charisma and confidence and in ways unique to himself.

When you watch Kirk in action, his changes from expression to expression are fluid; they go through intermediate transitions that are unique and fascinating. He doesn't just inbetween from happy to sad.

Look at that mouth shape! I like the one hanging tooth on the upper right and the group of teeth on the lower left. Who in animation would think of that? -especially for a heroic character?

Here's the Burl Ives all properly raised children know and love.
As a general type, he is the jolly fat guy, but everything else about him is totally unique-his face, his voice, his personality, his expressions and mannerisms. He's one of the most unique characters in entertainment I can think of.Even his hands are completely specific shapes.

You have to see how his tongue flops around in his mouth when he sings. If you come to one of my seminars you will.
...sorry for the cursor grabs...
Here's the evil side of Burl from "The Big Country" He's actually not evil, he's just a poor, rough hewn but ultimately noble character. That's the kind of character a writer can write with a handful of adjectives. But what Burl brings to the character is so much more - a lot of layers and specific nuances that can't be described in words. They can only be acted - and only by him.
Here's his son, played by Chuck Connors- another generally heroic type but with another completely unique character design. In this movie he plays the villain. Raised by Burl on a poor ranch he is huge, strong, handsome, a bully but ultimately a sniveling coward. Again, the adjectives don't begin to describe the gripping specificity of Connors' brilliant performance.

The chemistry between Chuck and Burl is wonderful! They should have spun them off into a TV sitcom because every scene they are in together is gold.
Here's Chuck trying to kill his loving Pop.
Here's that rough-hewn gruff powerful Dad cradling the beloved son he had to shoot down like a dog.
Kirk punch drunk. One of the most intense scenes in movie history.
Robert Ryan is another actor that I love. He is not quite as richly layered or talented as Kirk or Burl, but he is a completely unique character.
He oozes charisma and you can't take your eyes off him in his best films.
Here's a good comparison of two heroic types. Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan are both big, burly and manly but still look completely different. They are both unique physical specimens. They also act completely differently.
Robert Ryan is a lot more active as an actor than Robert Mitchum. He really thinks about his performances and colors them with very specific second layers.
Here he is having a confrontation with Mitchum. He could have just read the script and made all the expositional story points, but instead he adds a really fun layer to the performance. He uses an apple as a prop and completely violates the damn thing in front of your eyes.

You have to see this in action to get the full effect. He makes you feel really sorry for that apple.

Peter Lorre has to be one of the very best actors in movie history. He has a million subtle things going on in his head. Both on top of the skin and underneath.

I'll show you the incredible wealth of expressions Peter can concoct for just a single scene and a few lines of dialogue.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Racket - Great Story, Dialogue, Acting, Direction

Here is a clip from one of my favorite movies, directed by John Cromwell and Nicholas Ray. "The Racket" along with other Robert Ryan movies was the inspiration for my web series "Weekend Pussy Hunt".

This movie works on almost every level. It has a good story, great dialogue, brilliant direction and what I look for most of all in movies- wonderful interaction between rich personalities portrayed by distinct charismatic actors.

The Racket stars Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum and they play wonderfully against each other. Mitchum is usually an underplayed character. He has such a strong natural presence that he doesn't really need to act much, although he fills these scenes with subtle amusing expressions that contrast and color Ryan's more active character. Robert Ryan is a methodical thinking actor who adds inventive quirks, expressions and actions to his own natural charisma. These distinct nuances make his best characters positively gripping - and ominous. Watch all the things Ryan does with his tongue-even with his mouth closed!

I'm gonna guess that none of these actors' touches that make the movie come to life have anything to do with the script - even though it's an excellent script. The directors may have helped the actors bring out their best, but at least they didn't hinder their performances as some other directors had. (I always wonder how anyone can make a boring movie with charismatic actors, but it's happened often.)

My favorite part of this sequence is the way Ryan violates a poor apple that he is munching. He turns a simple and innocent prop into an instrument of filth and horror.

This whole clip is full of ideas and is the opposite of stock generic acting. The rest of the movie is too.

*** The movie credits John Cromwell as director, but Nicholas Ray did a lot of reshooting.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Writing For Cartoons 10: Real Dialogue versus Cartoon Writer Dialogue -On Dangerous Ground

Here's a scene that's typical of what happened at Filmation's cartoon studio all the time.

I had just read the script for "Disco Droopy" and someone tipped me off on where the scriptwriter was hiding out.
I chased him down and began to deliver God's justice upon him I beat him within an inch of his cheap life
I felt the foul meat of his face tear off on my fists
in a flash my older wiser supervisor stopped me in my murderous rage
His knuckles connected with my skull and loosened my enraged flesh

When my brains stopped rattling, I woke up to have the harsh modern world explained to me in the coldest meanest wordsI felt the nastiness of reality ooze over me like fish vomit coating a fresh babe

reality sunk in slowly; it produced a last rebellious and futile spasmic outcrythis is what artists face every day of their lives in the terrible icy world of animation scripts.

The scene starts out with the evil writer's whimper.


How about the dialogue in that scene?! When you have great words to say and really good actors to say them, and great direction, you can get intense performances like these!

I've seen these same actors in movies with lesser scripts and they can't do as much with them, despite their obvious talent.

Compare that dialogue with the kind of dialogue animators today get to work with:

What can you do with this kind of dialogue??? Only what Robert Ryan did.

Try reading the lines out loud and see if you don't turn beet red.

Now you could spend 30 bucks and learn how to write dialogue like this:

Or, you can read my articles on writing cartoons for free and aim for something like this:


By the way,Evan Oliver did this great restoration of that Sven Hoek clip. That is a sequence that Nickelodeon kept cutting up every year until there was almost nothing left of it.

I found a 3/4" tape of the rough cut, made before before Nickelodeon destroyed the master. I cut the missing scenes back in, but they had timecodes on it.

Evan Oliver and David Mackenzie took the finished cut and using digital magic, erased the timecodes: