Joe Bob Briggs

Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, TX

"What an actor that guy is!"
"She is such a little actress!"
When people say stuff like this, they usually mean, "What a liar!"'

And this is a little annoying--especially if you're an actor. Because I know a lot of actors, and they spend all their time, every day, thinking about how to be...truthful. How to say the lines so it appears they're not lying.

In fact, when somebody says, "The acting was sooooo bad," they generally just mean that the person was obviously lying. He didn't mean what he was saying.

Actors aren't con men. They're truth men. They're trying to talk the way we would all talk if we told the truth, except we never do.

They don't even believe in doing the role until they really feel some genuine emotion.

In life, nobody waits to feel anything genuine. They just blurt out the first thing off the top of their heads.

When an actor nails a role, when he really truly believes every single thing he ever says, then everyone says, "He was just being himself," or "He must be that way in real life."

They never say, "What a great actor!"
But take somebody like Charlton Heston, or James Earl Jones, or Katharine Hepburn. Somebody who does that old Hollywood thing of making everything bigger than it should be. People say, "What a genius!"

In other words, if you lie in a certain way, you become a great actor. But you have to lie in a powerful way. If you lie in a weak way, like amateurs do, then you just suck.

Barbara Hershey is a great actress. We know this because she's invisible. She's different every time you see her. She finds the true moment. Willem Dafoe is a great actor.

And both of these people are "hard to cast." (I'm using these two because they're famous in spite of being good actors.) The reason they're "hard to cast" is that you can't think of them and immediately see what they would look like in a role.

If you hear an actor's name and you immediately think of a certain style, a certain voice and a certain way of doing things, then that's not a great actor. That's a great liar.

We used to have a show-business term for this, but you don't hear it much anymore.

I think it's called "ham."
I'm surprised I have to point this out.
And speaking of kick-butt acting, Mute Witness is the latest low-budget flick out of Moscow, and it's not only a great thriller, but they use Oleg Jankowskij--the Robert DeNiro of Russian film--as the bad guy.

For about three years now, since the Russkies flip-flopped, they've been renting out the great Mosfilm studios to American producers. First we had Haunted Symphony, one of the best Edgar Allan Poe-type horror flicks of the last 10 years. Then we had Bram Stoker's Burial of the Rats. And now we've got the best one yet, Mute Witness, which--surprise!--is about a group of American filmmakers making a horror flick at Mosfilm.

Marina Sudina is a special-effects makeup artist, the kind who knows how to paint the walls red with gore, and one night after filming she gets locked in the studio. She hears a noise, investigates and witnesses what looks like a porno film being made by a couple of creeps from the Russian crew.

Unfortunately, the star of the porn film is a big-breasted mama with 70 miles of bad highway on her face and at the climax, so to speak, she gets hacked up with a butcher knife.

Marina can't speak. She's a mute. But she knows she didn't see any special-effects makeup. Then Oleg, he of the butcher knife, hears a noise in the studio and high-tails it after her, leading to one long chase scene that involves the Russian Mafia, the Russian cops, a goofball American director and the director's girlfriend. Zaniness with deadly weapons ensues.

Nine dead bodies. Four breasts. Multiple stab wounds. Deadly aardvarking. Body-chopping. One motor vehicle chase.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for...
* Marina Sudina, as the mute heroine, for saying, "."
* Oleg Jankowskij, as the snuffster.

* And Anthony Waller, the first-time writer/director, for doing it the drive-in way.

Four stars.
Joe Bob says check it out.

Dear Joe Bob:
Thanks for your support of the First Amendment. So few people really get it.
Freedom of speech has to be absolute. If any form of speech is prohibited because someone finds it offensive, then it becomes possible to ban anything because there will always be someone who finds some kind of speech offensive. If we ban the words of Nazis today because they're offensive, then tomorrow someone will ban our words.

We can't give the government any opening to ban speech. A government that can ban speech it finds "offensive" or "obscene" can simply label anything offensive or obscene, and thus protect itself from criticism.

Enough about that. It seems like a simple enough concept, doesn't it?
Please, keep up the good work. We need your columns. They make people think.
Sincerely,
Douglas Dunaway, San Diego

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