Monday, January 23, 2012

Anjelica Huston Week

Last week I announced that my very first "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" would be dedicated to the films of Anjelica Huston. Why? Because I only know her as the well lit Morticia Addams in the Addams Family movies, and doesn't she deserve more than that…?

So now I'm back to report that over the course of the last seven days, I hunted down and successfully watched seven films featuring the great Ms Huston. I feel like I know her now. Well I don't know her, obviously, but I do know more about her. For example, that creepy lady from the Disney theme park attraction Captain EO that I thought looked like Anjelica Huston is actually Anjelica Huston!

Upon learning this, I briefly considered revisiting Captain EO as part of my week long event (after all, any excuse to go to Disneyland is a good one), but the purpose of "Anjelica Huston Week" was to see movies I hadn't seen. That being said, here is a brief rundown of the films I did watch and the roles she plays in each of them:

The Grifters- Easily one of the best movies I saw this week, Ms Huston plays Lily, a con artist living with the pros and, forgive the pun, "cons" of her profession.

Manhattan Murder Mystery- Filled with good, clean, murderous fun, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton try to solve a hypothetical murder with the help of Alan Alda and (who else?) Lady A.

The Crossing Guard- Sean Penn wrote and directed this very heavy film in which the best scenes belong to Anjelica and her real ex Jack Nicholson as they battle through the debris of a failed marriage.

Prizzi's Honor- This is the film that won Ms Huston an Oscar for her performance as a jilted mob daughter. Her dialect choices alone are worth the 99 cents at Blockbuster, but only if you can find a Blockbuster that carries it...

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou- I decided to watch only one of the Wes Anderson films Anjelica Huston appeared in, and based on recommendations, I rented The Life Acquatic instead of The Royal Tenenbaums. Fear not, however, I turned on the television the next day and happened upon the last 45 minutes of the latter. (Thank you, universe!) Both of these films and her performances in them are filled with quirk and a deadpan to die for.

Enemies: A Love Story- Angie, as I started calling her by this point, is featured in this story as a Holocaust survivor who finds her way to America only to discover that her husband has been remarried…to two other women. A surprisingly funny and moving story.

The Dead- Based on the famous short story, you-know-who's dad, director John Huston, made this lovely ode to their Irish homeland a family affair. It's sweet, and simple, and sad. Just as James Joyce intended-

Now before you praise or deplore the amount of time I spent watching all of these movies, I'll have you know that I fell asleep during four of the seven films I just mentioned. And while this cinematic narcolepsy no doubt reminds us all how nice it is to rewind a DVD instead of a VHS, I also believe it disqualifies me from any professional film viewing occupation as well as dismisses any claims that I simply have nothing better to do with my life than sit around and watch movies.

You see, eventhough visiting countless Blockbuster stores in between Netflix deliveries can be exhausting, the true reason for my sleep deprivation was because I opened a brand new show last weekend.

This new play is a total departure for me. It doesn't follow any conventional rules of theatre. Most of my performance is motivated by the leading character's state of being. His needs and fears magically inspire my character to dance in the hope of accelerating him to a higher plane of existence, which I do while wearing little except underwear and neon orange shoes.

Funny enough, somewhere in the middle of "Anjelica Huston Week," I started looking at my new role with different eyes. As I watched Ms Huston in these movies, I couldn't help but feel impressed by the ferocious appetite that she brings to each of her roles. It's almost as if she has something to prove and yet nothing to lose. She does, after all, come from a dynasty of film royalty, but the real reason you want to watch her is because you feel how badly she wants to be there.

This inspired me to think of my own performance. How badly did I want to be in this new show? Enough to dance in my underwear? Absolutely. Enough to dance in my underwear confidently? That question still needed to be answered.

I realized there was still more to do. I needed work up an appetite for my work. Just like Anjelica Huston, I needed to crave my role in a way that only I could crave it. The opportunity to step up my game had presented itself, and I had to take it. As it turns out, sometimes you just gotta dance like you're fully clothed.

That's really what I took away from "Angelica Huston Week." When you find your passion, it may require you to be more vulnerable than you're prepared to be. It may mean your work won't be received with the same appetite with which you devour it. But regardless of the role, big or small, only you can step up to the plate, and dig in.

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