The New York Times likes to consider itself the “newspaper of record” — and so when they place their foot on the throat of a production to test their muscle — theatre people the world over cringe and hope they don’t get hit with the tainted shrapnel.  The NYTimes recently promoted an interactive “lesson in movie acting” with 14 celebrities “emoting” on their website.

The entire presentation is silly and curiously sterile.  Acting is about passion and magnitude, not falsely emoting with a camera trained on you.

One of the most widely celebrated — yet entirely wrongheaded — performances is the one with Michael Douglas sitting in a chair “thinking.” Even the jaded and cynical got in on the “Ooooing” over this piece of monotonous tomfoolery:

…a gaunt Michael Douglas sits magisterially in a leather chair and just … thinks. It’s a knockout 43 seconds, and his first performance since going public with his cancer diagnosis last summer. Is he acting or merely allowing us access to his introspection? We’ll never know. And his enigmatic gaze, in the midst of much New York Times and A-list actors taking themselves too seriously, reminds us of the power of a great performer, revealing his own decisive moment.

We are eschewing the “Ooooing” — because what Michael Douglas is doing in that clip is a cheap actor trick.  Give me five minutes with someone who has never acted before and I can give you an identical result.  There is no meaning in the Douglas meme.

The rest of the “acting” demonstrated on the NYTimes website is, again, all gloss and no substance.  There are intermittent blips of character that have no depth and absolutely zero danger.

Why, then, does the NYTimes choose to celebrate nothing and hope to make it into something?  They do it as a test of their reckoning power in the marketplace:  “If the NYTimes says it is good and proper, then it must be so.” That’s how the NYTimes comes to be an arbiter of good taste.

It is our moral duty to know better and to spot the differences between genuine genius and imitation spectacle intended to divert attention and sell newspapers.

We must protect what we love and vindicate what we honor — and we begin that vigilant process by marking the NYTimes acting examples as trinkets of what must never be.


  1. Outside of the context of an actual scene, showing emotions for no reason seems sort of useless. Are we meant to see something of interest in these detached emotions?

    1. It does seem like a strange exercise in “showing off.” I agree that emotion without context has zero meaning. These aren’t snippets of talent — these are pieces of a whole in which there are no other pieces. So the entire idea is adrift in pretention.

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