J.W. Hastings writes a great piece on movie acting, one that nicely formalizes and codifies a number of common-sense but, to my limited awareness, generally unspoken observations. Here are just a few of my favorites:
"Actors should not show how hard they are working."
You can observe a current and flagrant violation of this rule in the 15-second spots for "The Terminal," apparently sufficient time for Tom Hanks to display a host of the kind of miniscule-yet-overplayed mannerisms (the stoop, the soft-spokenness, the Bronson Pinchot accent) that J.W. deplores. It's not as "serious" as the stunt roles, Method-isms, and naturalistic contortions he cites, but it's cut from the same cloth. If I had to coin a term for it, it would be "flagrant restraint"; happily, J.W. has little use for it.
"Almost everything is forgivable if the actor is having fun."
This is the reason I'll watch nearly anything with Ewen Macgregor, who surely enjoys his work more than any man alive, even if it sports George Lucas direction or Baz Luhrmann ironic pop medleys. His enthusiasm (alas, not always communicable to the rest of the cast) generates a total commitment to his roles, and a remarkably unmannered commitment - even if it's to the mannerisms of a 1960s Cary Grant/Rock Hudson or a 1970s Alec Guinness. That is, he's willing to to flout an overvalued cinematic naturalism but he's not willing to add his own ironic winks as he does so.
You have to like any essay that's willing to praise typecasting over mimicry (maybe this is just my bias for the better class of studio movies showing through - why would you ever ask Peter Lorre or Claude Rains to play anyone other than "Peter Lorre" or "Claude Rains"?) or the always-excellent Brian Cox over the increasingly self-parodic Anthony Hopkins. Go read the entire piece.
Please pardon this interruption; we now return to your regularly scheduled rant on comics and literary respectability.