New England Intellectual

27 December, 2007 at 4:21 pm (film)

While we’re playing cameo-watch, let me chronicle one more in a admittedly discursive manner:

I love acting companies. I love stables. There’s a gleefulness about watching actors work with each other in a variety of manners. It’s one of the things that makes watching television so fun in that, if the writing holds up and is sufficiently varied, one gets to see that all-important group chemistry in a series of situations, and the actors get to play off each other in ways that are both familiar and new. It’s why reviewers look for the naturalness of the ensemble cast, because there’s an extra degree of trust that allows for a greater risk-taking and spontaneity in the communal and individual acting.

I am at least always partially conscious of the unreality of film- and stagecraft, and an ensemble cast helps me quiet my qualms that Hollywood is so cutthroat, so mercenary. So many comments about how “we’re all a family here” often rings like hollow EPK hype, and the appearance or sense that actors have formed a band or de facto company that actually feel loyalty and camaraderie that is personal as well as professional allows me to better appreciate a work as a work and simultaneously as a piece of entertainment. I like hearing stories about directors who always include their friends in their projects in some manner. I like directors, writers, and producers who will — in a small way, not in a nepotistic, I’m Gonna Get My Nephew Screenwriter Credit On This sort of way — include their “family” and friends in their work.

SportsNight: Dave, Chris, and Will

Aaron Sorkin is pretty-well recognized for reusing people in his various projects. There are a number of people who crossed over between SportsNight and The West Wing as well as The West Wing and Studio 60. So it was fun to notice in the midst of watching Charlie Wilson’s War that one of the SportsNight tech trio had a one-line moment for those paying particular, if not obsessive attention. Yes, yes, everyone loved the on-again, off-again relationship between Casey and Dana and the slashtastic friendship between Casey and Dan, but one of the best reasons to watch SportsNight were the frequent deadpan moments shared by the supporting ensemble. Watch the writer’s block sequence from the “Dear Louiseepisode, but watch the rest of the room. Watch the actors. This is almost an outtakes reel. SportsNight, particularly during their famous Christmas episode where they thanked, on-air, the actual production crew for all their hard and largely unsung work, often had this palpable sense of production verité. And that sense made the moments with the actors playing the production staff all the more interesting. And while I couldn’t really tell you which of the tech guys was Chris, Will, or Dave, it still gives me a thrill when I see them turn up on other Sorkin projects.

If you find yourself similarly inclined — I prefer “inclined” to “obsessed” — then when Tom Hanks is cutting through the House of Representatives, calling in IOUs to support his budget increases for Afghani weapons, and he is talking to a group of “Northeast intellectuals”, then prepare yourself for 3.7 seconds of a cameo by Ron Ostrow. It made me very happy, anyway.

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