Saturday, January 27, 2007

My thoughts on JHud

For the record, this began as a long comment on Nathaniel's blog, as part of the debate going on there about the best supporting actress nominees and particularly the merits of Jennifer Hudson's performance. But it just got so out of control and long that I thought it made the most sense to just create my own post out of it. Maybe it'll start a new discussion here.

Anyway, some have made comments that it's unfair and inappropriate for JHud to have an oscar when she has no intention of building a film career. I don't agree with that sentiment; further aspirations in film should not be prerequisite to winning awards. In fact, somebody pointed out the "supporting actress curse" and how it might as well be set on Hudson since she doesn't seem likely to pursue a film career anyway. I'd rather she get her oscar and go on to success in music than have Breslin suffer the same fate as Tatum O'Neal and Anna Paquin (i.e. peak at age 10). So I'm really fine with JHud winning. Clearly she's very loved. I just think Breslin and the others (haven't yet seen Blanchett) all give superior performances.

There are just things you learn from experience making films and acting onstage that help you to smooth out the rough edges JHud shows here. Generally when actors make a big film debut, they've already had big careers onstage, or at least been trained or had many years of amateur roles. This is why you sometimes see these huge debuts from people like Barbra Streisand, Better Midler and Julie Andrews. But Jennifer Hudson had NEVER ACTED BEFORE IN HER LIFE. And I'm sorry, but I know as an actor that no one is brilliant the first time they ever do anything, even if they're chock full of natural talent. And she shows a lot of promise, and has big presence, but that's not the same thing as giving a great performance.

It takes a true genius to instantly have a sense of how to act brilliantly without any training or experience whatsoever. Like perhaps whatshername the 4-year-old from the french film in 1997. And I'm sure Streep was pretty great the moment she first set foot onstage. But JHud is not there yet.

Abigail Breslin actually, for all her 10 years of age, has actually had far more acting experience than JHud. And it shows. She, I would argue, has a really potent natural gift, but I'm sure she wasn't brilliant either on the very first thing she did. Her perf may come off as "just cute" but there's not a false moment in it, and she makes brilliant choices throughout, and actually displays oodles of range, for a 10-year-old or for an adult.

Anyway, my main point is that I think it's sort of demeaning to the thousands of actors who go to training programs and devote their lives to improving their craft, when the whole world goes crazy for this girl with zilch experience and a great voice, especially since it's far from a perfect performance.

But I enjoyed her a lot, and she's always humble and grateful and fun, so I hold nothing against her. Just against this huge groundswell of love without any sense of critical perspective on her work.

Actually, a lot of the problems with the performance are Condon's fault. She may well have been brilliant if he'd made a better film than he did. But the obvious writing and rushed, sloppy direction detracted a lot from whatever the perf might've been (it's rather shocking to think that Dreamgirls was made by the same person who directed Gods and Monsters). In fact, as a non-actress, JHud probably followed a lot of direction from Condon that was not necessarily good.

I don't know why I'm obsessing so much over this. Partly because I always hate it when everyone is going wild praising something I don't feel to be award-worthy. Partly because I was expecting better, and really wanted to love JHud and the film, and feel sort of personally betrayed by its mediocrity. Partly because my loyalties still lie with Jennifer Holliday, who I think is transcendent (both acting and singing) in my favorite YouTube clip. Party because I as a singer/actor feel that I catch things most people don't about performances like this. Partly because I as a singer/actor am put off by the lack of regard for training and experience in what we worship in our "flavor of the month" fad-based pop culture. Partly because I as a singer/actor am a bit jealous. But I'm just starting to get sick of this "JHud can do no wrong" vibe.

My own reservations about this performance (again, as an actor) are why I'm less than fully confident in Hudson's chances for the SAG award. The actors could go hog-wild for the VERY actor-friendly Little Miss Sunshine and give it all three awards. But probably not. Expect JHud to win the SAG tomorrow night.

P.S. SAG predictions up soon.

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Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

Well, I've already made my case for why I think she's great and why I hope she gets an Oscar.

For me, acting isn't just about the craft. Jennifer had presence. And yes, she sang her arse off too. Plus, I thought her actual acting was pretty good. She will most likely miss my Best Actress lineup purely because there are too many ladies in the running already.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Partly because my loyalties still lie with Jennifer Holliday, who I think is transcendent (both acting and singing)"


You need look no further than your own statement. No one will ever match-up to your J Holliday goddess, and that's Okay! But allow others to make their own choices and decisions about how they feel on this matter. We're all unique that way.

11:26 AM  

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