Long Way Home

Dear J-

I wonder about these actors who have roles in what you might consider to be kids’ movies, people who maybe had serious roles and are now acting in Escape from Planet Earth or Spy Kids. I’m not going to use the phrase “reduced to” because these are conscious decisions, to take a role or not, and I’m not privy to the decision-making processes that have happened to get them there. I suspect in some part it’s because they might be doing a favor for a friend, and in other ways, maybe they want to make a movie they can take their kids to as well. You want your kids to know what you do and feel proud of it, and what better way for an actor than to show off a finished product?

It’s easy to snipe from outside and say these kids’ movies roles must be a walk in the park; you’d never see a serious actor with, let’s say the intensity of a Daniel Day-Lewis taking on one of those roles. Here I suspect most critics have no formal training in acting or filmmaking, or at least no experience in it besides what they’ve observed over the years. This is why I try to read book reviews written by published authors, which may end up being overly complimentary, but at least are written from a place of sympathy. I’m reminded of Stephen Sondheim’s advice to Jason Robert Brown: be supportive. So sure, maybe the plot of this particular movie won’t advance your understanding of the world, but the role looked like fun and who doesn’t want to get paid for having fun?

The cost of entertainment is always rising, except for the case of music, perhaps (we’ve grown accustomed to the price point of $1 per song and $10 per album and folks complaining about that should remember twenty and thirty years back when it was $15-20 in contemporary money, meaning closer to $25-30/album in today’s money) and I understand we want to get the most for what we pay. Yet we also consciously associate cultural worth with what we consume, as though the person on a steady drip of art-house movies is somewhat better than the one who only watches films helmed by John Woo, who in turn far exceeds the cultural capacity of the Michael Bay addict. Same thing with books; if you’re passing over convoluted literature in favor of YA fiction, maybe there’s something wrong with you. Why don’t you want to challenge yourself, right?

I think we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we do in real life, and I certainly can’t always understand what it takes to get through your day; who am I to criticize your tastes or how you spend your time?



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