Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Why Don't You Just Try 'Acting'

There's a famous (though not sure if not apocryphal) story that surrounds the 1970's movie "Marathon Man."  Dustin Hoffman plays a grad student who discovers that a Nazi war criminal, played by Sir Laurence Olivier, is smuggling diamonds in New York.  As the story goes, Dustin Hoffman - a notorious 'method' actor - in order to enhance the perceived "realness" of a scene in which he had been awake all night running, reported to the set having actually stayed awake the night before.

Noticing how bedraggled Hoffman was, Olivier commented, "Dustin, why don't you just try acting?"

I thought of this comment upon reading this recent column of Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.  Dowd is, in my opinion, the worst columnist in this nation's newspaper of record whose name does not include "Gail" and "Collins."  As an aside - is anyone in the country more upset that Mitt Romney did not get elected than Collins?  What is she going to write about now that the "Mitt Romney put his dog on the roof of his car" trope is past its sell-by date?

In Dowd's column, she takes to task President Obama for his petulance in response to a question at the press conference marking the first 100 days of his second term.  The president was asked as to why he cannot get his agenda through the congress.  Mr Obama, in what is becoming a bit of a pattern, peevishly shot back, "If you put it that way, maybe I should just pack up and go home."  Maybe the president is looking to his adolescent children for style and substance tips.

Dowd (to give credit where it's due) points out that the president, despite his protestations, does have as part of his job the task of trying to motivate a restive, diffident congress.  The blame congress excuse is starting to wear thin.

But where Maureen Dowd falls down is in her Simple Simon suggestion that, because President Obama played Daniel Day-Lewis playing him playing Lincoln at the White House Correspondence dinner (really; Holy Victor Victoria), Mr Obama should "channel" Lincoln himself.
How can the president star in a White House Correspondents’ Association dinner satirical film pretending to be Daniel Day-Lewis playing Barack Obama in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Obama,” and not have absorbed the lessons of “Lincoln”?
What seems to escape Dowd is that Daniel Day-Lewis is an actor. He's a multiple Oscar winner, to be sure, but pretending to be Abraham Lincoln is not quite the same thing as being Abraham Lincoln.  Hell; it's not even really studying Lincoln in any more than a shallow, superficial way.

That Dowd thinks that acting in a three-minute spoof of an actor pretending to be the president should promote any sort of insight into President Obama reveals a shocking shallowness in a person who gets column space in the leading newspaper in the USA a couple of times a week.

I would say Dowd should be ashamed, but that would require a level of self-awareness that her writing reveals is itself absent.

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