Posts Tagged Acting

Made in Hong Kong Film Festival: A Salute to Kara Wai

If you’ve never heard of the Made in Hong Kong Film Festival, it’s a wonderful event cosponsored by the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office. 2016 marks the twenty-first year since the Festival’s inception in Washington, D.C., with a spectacular line up of films from July 15 through August 7 at the National Museum of American History.

Photo of Actress Kara Wai

Photo of Kara Wai courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Sunday afternoon featured the second day of a Salute to Kara Wai with a special screening of My Young Auntie (1981). The fifty-six year-old actress won her first Hong Kong Film Award for her performance in the funny and intense kung fu classic made by the Shaw Brothers studio. She plays a young student who marries her dying teacher to protect his inheritance. She delivers the deed to her new nephew and grand-nephew, but greedy relatives are not too far behind. Read the rest of this entry »

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Interview with Steven Bartle [Part 2]

Photo of the 'God Save the King' Poster

Courtesy of Steven Bartle

In the first segment of my interview with Steven Bartle, the U.K. actor and writer told me about how his medical discharge from the Royal Marines Commandos shaped the story of his upcoming film short, Recoil. Bartle is very busy on other projects like Distant Love and God Save the King.

As a film producer, are you getting the music for Recoil, too?

I’m currently working with a well-known British producer called Damon Hess, who is doing some of the music for Recoil. It’s a very exciting time to be working with an artist such as Damon. He is collaborating with [DJ and singer] Sonique on a brand new release for Reckless Records due out in the summer.

Tell us about Distant Love, another short film.

Distant Love is actually the first [short] film that I’ve written fully. The husband is doing everything he can to save his marriage that’s falling apart in his eyes. As far as he’s aware, he’s done nothing wrong. He treats his wife like the princess she deserves! But she’s throwing everything back in his face and treating him like he’s not there. In the end, we’re left with this huge twist that I’m not going to reveal. Read the rest of this entry »

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Interview with UK Actor Steven Bartle [Part 1]

Photo of Steven Bartle

Steven Bartle, Courtesy of Bartle Productions

I want to spotlight StevenBartle: an actor, writer, and producer who currently resides in London. Originally from Sheffield, Bartle was a Royal Marines Commando until 2010, when he was injured in an attack that left him blind in one eye and unable to continue in the service. The young man was determined to make a fresh start, which came to be in his passion for acting. The 26-year-old was happy to Skype with me last month to discuss his career and reveal his upcoming projects.

How did you decide to get into acting?

I always wanted to be an actor. However, I never had the courage to do it. I never believed in myself. I went and joined the [Royal] Marines. After that [ended], I was just overcoming some very dark personal issues. I was starting to really think that I may as well come out of that and pursue what I really want in life and not be scared anymore. Read the rest of this entry »

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Middleburg Film Festival Panel: Meg Ryan’s Directorial Debut, ‘Ithaca’

Ithaca Promo Photo

Photo used with permission from the Middleburg Film Festival

In the presence of Meg Ryan, the word “uncertainty” is not likely to cross your mind when it comes to her work. The Golden Globe-nominated actress was remarkably poised and cheerful in her demeanor as she took her seat on the Hill School stage last weekend. That Saturday marked the world premiere of her directorial debut, Ithaca, at the Middleburg Film Festival (MFF) in Middleburg, Va.

“What am I [as a woman] doing here, making a story about boys?” she asked Sam Shepard one day at the set. The renowned playwright and actor replied that she shouldn’t worry, because women make men after all. Indeed, Ryan has much to be proud of with her new film, which was shot at an exhilarating pace (a mere 23 days!) in Petersburg, Va. Ithaca centers upon a coming-of-age story about Homer Macauley, a boy who starts his first job as a telegram delivery boy. The drama is an adaptation of William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy and takes place during World War II.

Producer Janet Brenner joined Ryan at the Hill School for a Q&A with Susan Koch, Executive Director of the Middleburg Film Festival. (The Friday screening featured a discussion with Ryan and lead actor Alex Neustaedter.) For both ladies, casting was one key element, coming down to their list of “dream actors.” The cast came to include Jack Quaid (Ryan’s son) as Homer’s brother out at the war front, as well as Hamish Linklater and Sam Shepard as Homer’s supervisors. Another standout actor is the youngest in the line-up: Spencer Howell as Homer’s lovable younger brother, Ulysses. Howell’s “tender” and cute face even served as Ryan’s screensaver as she worked through the meticulous post-production process, an ordeal she’s not sure if she will tackle again.

Ithaca MFF 2015

Janet Brenner and Meg Ryan. Photo: Pat Cuadros

As one audience member pointed out, at times there is very little dialogue in a scene. Ryan agreed, emphasizing the impact of the cinematography. “The frames are so communicative, so evocative,” she explained. For Ryan, the camera lens “barrels over” or directly addressed the themes of death and grief, wrestling with them genuinely.

Ithaca also marks the on-screen reunion of Ryan with Tom Hanks, a subject that piqued the curiosity of the audience. Ryan animatedly recounted the story of her co-star’s departure from the set on his only day of filming. It’s easy for one to picture Hanks standing before the crew and solemnly declaring, “I think we’ve gotten to know each other well in the last 10 hours.”

Ryan provided a lot of advice to aspiring actors and filmmakers in attendance. “Don’t wait to be hired,” she said, recommending YouTube as a platform for getting a portfolio started. Technology and accessibility are factors that have brought changes to the film industry, she went on, predicting that someday the Academy Award for Best Picture will be given to a film shot entirely with a smartphone.

What’s next for Meg Ryan? “Sleeping,” she joked. In reality, Ithaca has only just begun its journey through the film festival cycle. In early November, it will be screened at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, Va.

This article was first published as “Middleburg Film Festival Panel: Meg Ryan’s Directorial Debut, ‘Ithaca'” on Blogcritics.org.

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Kevin Spacey Discusses His Career and ‘House of Cards’ at UVa

Kevin Spacey sees Frank Underwood as a “misunderstood” role model in the political arena depicted in the Netflix hit series, “House of Cards.” Therefore, his counterpart would make a wonderful source of information for students looking to be successful at the University of Virginia. At least that’s what the Academy Award winning actor believes. He was in Charlottesville last night as part of the President’s Speaker Series for the Arts, now its second year. The event was held at the John Paul Jones Arena.

Kevin Spacey at UVa - Photo by Pat Cuadros

Kevin Spacey at UVa – Photo by Pat Cuadros.

The series serves to highlight the importance of the arts (music, drama, dance, architectural design, and studio art) in forming the whole person. Spacey applauded the efforts of schools that are working to embrace “STEAM” instead of “STEM.”

Spacey has had an extensive career in film and theater, but he’s well aware of the success of “House of Cards.” It’s clear that he enjoys playing the role, remarking that “It’s great playing a politician who gets s*** done.” (Pardon the masked expletive.) As I mentioned earlier, he even dispenses advice to the students, complete with Frank’s cold, southern drawl. Here is one such inspirational gem:

Tips for surviving your first year of college, according to Frank Underwood. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

Tips for surviving your first year of college, according to Frank Underwood. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

For those weary of spoilers, the advice consisted of quotes from the first season of the show only. All kidding aside, Spacey switched from a lighter tone to a serious, empassioned tone as he shared stories from his life. It’s important to be willing to work hard and take risks to achieve your goals, even if others don’t believe you’re heading in the right direction. And, he certainly has an innovative record to prove the truth of his words: finishing eleven seasons as the artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre, heading the first Netflix Instant shows, and even lending his voice to the latest “Call of Duty” video game.

After delivering remarks to the crowd, Spacey was interviewed by Jody Kielbasa, Vice Provost for the arts and Director of the Virginia Film Festival. He regaled the crowd with his celebrity impersonations, running from Jack Lemmon to Bill Clinton. As Clinton, he quipped, “You can never get an education bill passed that fast” when he commented on question of realism in “House of Cards.”

Kevin Spacey answers questions from Jody Kielbasa at the JPJ, October, 18, 2014. Photo by Pat Cuadros

Kevin Spacey answers questions from Jody Kielbasa at the JPJ, October, 18, 2014. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

As with many actors, Spacey touched on the differences between theater and film. He favors theater over film due to the malleability of the former. “You’ll never be better on film” in the sense that those cuts are final. In contrast, theatrical productions (all the rehearsals and performances) coalesce into an amazing journey that actors shape themselves. He says, “Theater is the actors’ meeting. Film is the director’s meeting.”

Much was made of Jack Lemmon’s role as mentor to Kevin Spacey. Spacey discussed the importance of good teachers in helping young people because they help you maintain a “sense of confidence” to keep you on track with your goals. True teachers are the ones who believe in you even when no one else does. Truly humble and admirable teachers (whether actors or other professionals) who achieve success are the ones who always remember to “send down the elevator” for talented individuals in the next generation.

It’s only fitting to end on the topic of education, given the aims of the President’s Speakers for the Arts series. Kevin Spacey was a great speaker to invite to UVa. Let’s hope next year’s guest will also be an excellent leader and promoter of the arts. Tina Fey was a great choice in the inaugural year, due to her connections to the university. However, the speakers don’t have to be former students, as this past weekend has shown.

Anyone up for watching “House of Cards” again? You can still find the first and second seasons on Netflix Instant through a subscription.

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Giancarlo Esposito Talks ‘Breaking Bad’ and New Projects at Wizard World

As you may have noticed, I have returned to the blog scene after a bit of a break. Earlier this month, Richmond, Va. hosted a Wizard World convention with many exciting panels. Be sure to check out my main page soon for details about the Adam West and Burt Ward panel.

Down the hall from the “Gotham” sneak peek, Giancarlo Esposito spoke to fans in his panel, “Behind the Role.” He is currently best known for his role as Gustavo “Gus” Fring from the acclaimed series, “Breaking Bad.” Esposito has also starred as villains in “Revolution” and “Once Upon a Time.”

Giancarlo Esposito Discusses Acting and New Projects at Wizard World in Richmond

Giancarlo Esposito Discusses Acting and New Projects at Wizard World in Richmond

While “Breaking Bad” seems to be his claim to widespread fame, Esposito seems tired of being recognized as Gus, as he has moved onto acting and production projects, such as those in his company, Quiet Hand Productions. “Gus is more well known than I am,” he remarks, almost with annoyance in his tone. Of course, many questions from adulating fans during the Q&A dealt with “Breaking Bad” or comments about their favorite parts of the show. Yes, Gus fans, Esposito has not discounted the possibility of taking on a “Breaking Bad” spin-off series.

The more interesting questions concerned Esposito’s attitudes toward his job as an actor and producer, as well as his favorite venue for acting. When asked about Shakespeare, he confessed that he would like to play the role of Hamlet; such a character appeals to him as he originally hails from Denmark. Esposito positively glowed as he spoke of his love of the theater, an art form that is so “visceral and immediate” with the energy and audiences. Taking on roles involves both “acting and reacting,” facets that can be impaired by the methods and shorter schedules in TV and film roles. He expressed his disapproval of actors with ego issues, emphasizing the importance of staying grounded and positive.

He admitted that many acting offers have been coming to him as of late. However, he would like to focus on his own projects, stressing that it is important to look at the big picture and to stay patient. Keeping things in perspective allows one to be available for those wonderful and unexpected opportunities, life lessons that he also wanted to impart to the audience about life in general. Overall, Esposito’s panel was rather enjoyable and one hopes he will keep sharing his insights at conventions in the future.

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