IF METHOD ACTING IS DEAD, WHAT KILLED IT? David Thomson attributes the change in acting to changes in the way people look at the world.Thomson identifies method acting with sincerity and emotional truth. Actors revealed the true feelings of their characters, and they did it by searching their own selves, even at great emotional cost (Thomson says that “Vivien Leigh nearly went crazy playing Blanche Du Bois.”) Thomson thinks that we are now uneasy with sincerity. The “new cool pretending” reflects a lack of trust in other people. I’m not sure about all this. I do think that there has been some change. There is more irony and distancing both in every day life and in television and movies. For a long time, I tended to value method acting as the pinnacle of acting. I am more aware now—thanks in part to Thomson’s praise of Cary Grant—that there are other kinds of acting. Yet I think the Oscars have the same value system they have always had. Comic acting still does not win Oscars. Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is one of the great performances of the last few years, and yet it is inconceivable that it would ever be nominated for an award. There is more variety of approach today, but I think method acting and gritty realism are still on top.

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