bad actor

Posted on January 31st, 2007 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Media, Stuff.

I don't watch television if I can help it, especially serial drama, which is so calcified as a form -- even Joss Whedon, yes -- that exposure to its predictable plot arcs and hammy acting and stunted dialogue is like sandpaper on my brain. (I have tried over the years to not sound like a snot about this. Just for the record, I am not trying to pretend this is an objective judgment, or to say anything about anyone else's appreciation of televised serial drama. I just can't fucking stand it, and the less I see of it the worse it is when I see it.)

Even by the standards of my completely negative attitude toward the whole form, though, I was surprised last night, while watching Law & Order: Criminal Intent at the bar (a series of shows I gather has a good reputation, which confirms my feelings about the form, because it was cringingly badly written and its plot was simple-minded when it wasn't absurd) at what a laughably bad actor Vincent D'Onofrio is. He has William Shatner's vocal delivery, only even more parodically; there really is no syntactic or emotional sense to when he pauses in a phrase. But in addition, he is ludicrously physical, twitching, swaying, making pointless finger movements, again at seemingly random intervals, like he's reached into a grab bag of gestures and sprinkled them through his acting for extra flavor. The swaying in particular was making me crack up. He was a relief, so bad that he made the ordinary badness of the show almost bearable.

I suppose I'm going to find out he's an Emmy winner.

13 comments.

Richard

Comment on January 31st, 2007.

Ha! I try to avoid television, too, though mostly because I'd rather spend my time doing other things. And I've never liked the Law & Order shows anyway. Even so, I've seen more than my fair share of Criminal Intent (my fair share, I should think, ought to be vanishingly small), and it is unquestionably awful, from its scare-mongering stories, to its pedestrian writing, right down to Miss Totally Bland Female Partner. And yet, something about D'Onofrio's performance is compulsively watchable to me. I watch him in amazement. He is so over-the-top, his performance so weird that it makes me laugh.

Funny you mention Joss Whedon; lacking the time for watching many movies at home, we've been catching up on Buffy, which I do love, and watching The Wire, which we find phenomenal. I wonder what you would think of it...

Jordan

Comment on January 31st, 2007.

Agreed entirely about television, and I think it's often the alleged exceptions that drive home the larger point of its overarching badness. Firefly was recommended to me again and again - "this one's different!" - but yeah, I found that as tiresome as anything else.

I actually like D'Onofrio's schtick here and there (he did a fine job in The Cell for one) but yeah, mostly he's a ham.

Laurel

Comment on January 31st, 2007.

D'Onofrio was nominated for an Emmy for a guest appearance on Homicide if I recall correctly. I like him on Criminal Intent but his character is supposed to be bizarre.

I'll second the recommendation for The Wire since someone else brought it up. One of the best shows ever and I don't think it would rub you the wrong way the way so many other shows do (I could, of course, be wrong).

Scraps

Comment on January 31st, 2007.

If The Wire is a Whedon show, it is very likely to rub me the wrong way. I seem to be deaf to his virtues.

Richard

Comment on January 31st, 2007.

The Wire is not a Whedon show, no, though I can see how my comment would have implied that it might be, if you didn't already know... it's a David Simon thing, who was involved in Homicide: Life on the Streets, which I thought was great. Also, The Wire is on HBO, so it has shorter seasons (13 episodes), the stories of which unfold slowly. I think it's got a lot more to offer than many of our recent critically praised movies... Anyway, not trying to convince you, since who can say what someone else will like....

Gavin

Comment on January 31st, 2007.

The Wire is pretty astonishingly great; if you're curious, Scraps, I'm happy to loan you the DVDs.

rich

Comment on January 31st, 2007.

yes, the wire is great. a friend and i get together every week or two and watch about five episodes DVD in an evening and it truly has a slow-burn novelistically accreciative specificity. whatev. we're only a few episodes into season two. i met steve earle (who has a small recurring role as a reformed junkie) recently at the washington square dog run and he told me season 5 will be the last one. (number 4 is currently playing on HBO). and you're totally right about vincent d'onofrio. every time i see that show (and actually i can't watch watch it...because of HIM) i say to myself, just what the heck does he think he's doing, anyway? stupid. SVU is much better. as for the ween song. do you know a song by zappa called 'honey, don't you want a man like me'? same pocket of juvenille sexuality and r&b sleaze.

Scraps

Comment on January 31st, 2007.

I don't know the Zappa song, and I'm interested, though Zappa has always been tough for me, partly because I find aspects of his personality (and the way it's reflected in his music) so offputting, and partly because so much of his music has always been so obviously prog yet somehow forgiven the sins of prog because he was Cool and they weren't -- which is of course an attitude problem. and not something I ought to hold against his music.

I am intrigued by how much y'all like The Wire. I haven't been able to like a single serial drama since Hill Street Blues -- and I doubt I'd like that if it came out now -- so I suspect that I may be simply incapable of liking any TV serial drama. But I particularly loathe any kind of action serial drama -- I'd rather watch a plain old soap opera than a soap opera disguised as a cop show. What's it about? If anyone still wants to tell me after I make myself such an obnoxiously hard sell.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Comment on February 1st, 2007.

This is all so much less interesting than the question of why this stuff works for so many other people.

And "because they're stupid" is already the least interesting answer.

Scraps

Comment on February 1st, 2007.

If I thought that people liked this stuff because they were stupid, I wouldn't have included the parenthetical caveat in the first paragraph. Even without it, I thought you knew me better than that.

I'm interested in why this stuff works for other people, but I'm less qualified to write about that than I am to write about why it doesn't work for me. I don't think I can be accused of generally pursuing more of my dislikes than my enthusiasms in this space.

RJ Johnson

Comment on February 1st, 2007.

Likely the reasons you dislike D'Onofrio were the reasons the casting directors hire him. He has an ability to be oddly physical --The Cell was already cited, but he was the bug in the first Men In Black movie, and the Emmy nomination he got for his appearance on Homicide required him to act only from the waist up-- that sets him apart from other performers.

As to why your tastes diverge from other people's, I don't think I have enough data to even speculate badly at this time. I'll keep my eyes open, though.

ethan

Comment on February 1st, 2007.

I for one love television. I find mass media in general utterly fascinating, but even aside from academic interest there are a whole bunch of shows, past and present, that I just straight up love. In the serial drama department: Veronica Mars, the first three Star Treks, Twin Peaks, Doctor Who (I'm a latecomer who's just picked up on it), Desperate Housewives, The X-Files, The Avengers, UFO, and, yes, Joss Whedon's shows, among others.

Yes, I understand that I just made a pointless list. And, yes, I know that I've said here that Christina Aguilera made the best album of 2006, so perhaps my tastes might be suspect. I don't even really have a point. I just wanted to stick up for my beloved television.

Oh, and I can't stand D'Onofrio, either.

Scraps

Comment on February 1st, 2007.

There are no pointless lists!

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