Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Keanu's acting mad skillz

(First posted on IMDb under a thread about Keanu's acting.)

Sometimes I think his performances look better on hindsight, but not while watching them. And then there's how for just about every single film he does, there are both people declaring it his best work ever and other people declaring it his worst ever, both among fans and critics alike. I've always found that disparity to be utterly fascinating, especially since I end up part of it as well - there are some Keanu films that other people like a lot that I got bored watching and didn't think he was that great in (most notably Point Break; seriously what's so wonderful about it?), and other films which I liked that others declared crap.

Maybe it's a matter of different people considering different kinds of acting to be good. I usually look out for naturalness in the role and character portrayal, regardless of how emotional (or not) a performance may be, because there are a lot of people in this world who are naturally deadpan or wooden and so I don't think such a performance should be necessarily considered bad. As long as I'm convinced that the character could be a real person, that there's that consistency there where the real Keanu becomes near or totally invisible, then I would consider it a good performance.

I think it's interesting that my very first impression of Keanu way before I became a fan was that he was 'default', like a template of a person, one who was similarly no one and yet had the potential to be anyone - a blank canvas. I think I was about 11 then and The Matrix was the only one of his films that I had watched, and that sense of defaultness came across kind of strongly to the extent that I could almost visualise him in just about any role; you just had to add stuff on to create a character. The basic form was already there.

I guess that has both positive and negative aspects to it, but since becoming a fan about four years after that I have come across other critics who have said very similar things about Keanu and his acting style - for example as someone "who has a face audiences can project a lot of stuff into." (Colleen Murphy, "Keanu's Excellent Adventure" by Lyle Slack - MacLean's (Ca), January 23, 1995)

I have a theory that, when it comes to a performance, Keanu completely erases his own personality before taking on the character's - such that if the character is not particularly strong, the lack of depth shows through beneath it. Whereas with other actors, they tend to mould their own personality to fit the character, or take on the character's personality on top of their own, so that if the character is not particularly strong, the actor's own personality will still shine through and provide that extra depth and meaning to the performance. The downside of this is that there will always be that part of them that goes with the role and cannot be separated from it.

So when people talk about how they always see Keanu rather than the character, it's not really true - to date I don't think there has been a single role where Keanu's character came across as anything at all like him (as seen in real life interviews). What they're seeing instead is that blank space that lurks beyond the surface of the character, the void where Keanu used to be. It's not him. He's not there.

But when the character is strong and complete and three-dimensional enough, it can fill that void and result in what looks like a great performance.

That's one of my theories, anyway.

Another has to do with how Keanu is a perfectionist, and as such I would like to volunteer the possibility that his "bad" performances are not really bad; they are just too perfect to the extent of seeming fake. Bear with me.

I did a university term paper on how humanity and perfection are incompatible, because human characteristics like, say, emotions and spontaneity have a tendency to go against "perfect" qualities like cold rationality and order, such that the closer something is to perfect, the less human it is.

A robot or a computer would be a good example. They work on pure logic; everything makes sense in there, everything is neat, and ordered, and there is no chaos (unless you're running on Windows Vista which sucks). If you get a computer to compete against a human in something like maths, or a chess game (with exceptions), chances are that the computer will far surpass the human's performance. Yet when it comes to producing realistic emotions, the computer would never be able to get anywhere near the performance level of the human. It is something that requires a lack of perfection.

So back to Keanu the self-identified perfectionist. People have commented on how his earlier performances were much more open and natural, but how he started to close up as he got older - and as he started wanting to take his craft seriously and be good at it, doing takes over and over again until they were just right.

But I don't think there can ever be an objective level of "just right" when it comes to something as subjective as portraying human emotions in acting, although I think it is that imaginary objective level that Keanu usually aims towards. Resulting in carefully measured emotions, painstakingly calculated nuances of personality, no wrong moves, no stray gesture, no out-of-place expression, no slips of unasked-for feeling, everything perfect and flawless. Like a computer. Perhaps inhuman, robotic, wooden, but perfect.

It's probably important how some of Keanu's best performances were the ones he said he had "fun" doing - Bill & Teds, The Gift - rather than the ones he spent days or months of research and training over. Look at the amount of work he put into the Matrix sequels as compared to the first part of the trilogy - and then see how much more inferior his resulting performance was when juxtaposed against the first Matrix. It seems like when he feels less pressure to perform, his acting becomes freer and more natural, less tense. There are also more technical flaws, but the result is a more human delivery.

Many of his film co-stars have mentioned how Keanu would do multiple takes when he's dissatisfied with his acting, and from there you get his film performances, constantly slammed by critics. But then there's his stage turn as Hamlet - something which Keanu was very nervous over partly because he only had one take and no chance to redo it if he messed up - which got him some of the best reviews of his entire career. I'm pretty sure there's a link there somewhere.

Ironically, if true, this means that in order for Keanu to become a better actor, his performances need to be more imperfect.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Interesting things about The Anu, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Keanu Fan

One day on Youtube, someone called TheVannieShow described Keanu's personality to be "as interesting as a tree branch". I objected, declaring The Anu to be one of the most interesting people on Earth. lollipopfop then asked which Earth I was talking about, saying that it couldn't possibly be this one (Alternate Universe fish, I say), and challenged me to name one interesting thing about Keanu.

I decided that naming just one interesting thing about The Anu would not do justice to his awesomeness, and my list wouldn't fit into the Youtube comment box, so I had to resort to a PM. Here it is, in all its edited glory:


1) He's probably got one of the most diverse range of films in Hollywood. He's done films in practically every genre I can think of - science fiction, comedy, drama, action, romance, horror, musical, children, gay movie, animation, fantasy, Shakespeare, family, sports, religious, thriller, etc. He's been quoted multiple times saying that he's not out to fill any particular niche area. He doesn't want to be "part of the Hollywood product machine". He's just there to act, and to do as may different kinds of roles as possible. He doesn't want to repeat himself.

2) His background, admittedly nothing he can be credited for, but lollipopfop didn't specify so I'm assuming it counts: He was born to a British mother and Hawaiian-Chinese father in Lebanon; parents divorced when he was two, mother remarried four times; grew up in Australia and New York before settling in Toronto; later drove out on his own to Hollywood when he was 19 with only a beaten-down car and $3000 to his name, because he didn't think that there would be much chance for him to pursue an acting career in Toronto.

3) He does not act at all like the typical Hollywood celebrity. For starters, even after becoming a millionaire, he spent a large part of his life homeless, living out of a single suitcase in a hotel, occasionally spotted - and photographed by incredulous paparazzi - sleeping on the streets next to stray animals and other homeless people. Someone reportedly once gave him money because they thought he was a beggar.

4) Which brings us to how he pays practially no attention whatsoever to his appearance, which is a great change from the majority of preening Hollywood stars. In his early days in Hollywood, his agents complained about his lack of presentability and how he looked like a homeless bum; his retort was that he was paid to act, not to look good. He has favourite clothes that he wears until they literally fall apart - one favourite pair of shoes was duct-taped up (and photographed by increasingly incredulous paparazzi) when it could no longer hold together on its own, despite him being more than able to afford many new ones. Same goes with his other clothes; an ancient red T-shirt is now pink. Two colours for the price of one. An excellent way to save.

5) He is an extremely private person who does not participate much in the Hollywood scene. He hates the limelight, was quoted in the mid 80s saying he never wanting to become super-famous because it would be "awful", and up to this day prefers to spend time on his own, reading, listening to music, or just thinking about life. He has described himself as "practically a celibate monk" when quizzed on whether he was gay (he says "No... but you never know") due to the lack of scantily-clad women hanging on his arm the way they hang on the arms of his peers. He keeps to himself a lot, and is very introverted, something rare among the Hollywood group.

6) Which brings us to how he's widely considered by many of his friends and co-stars to be one of the most well-read celebrities out there. His personal obsession is Shakespeare; he's committed whole plays to heart, and has been known to recite it in times of stress in order to calm himself down. He's also reputedly a brilliant chess player, and defeated Laurence Fishburne in 15 minutes.

7) Leading up to his intelligence - his IQ is reportedly 160. One of the most common adjectives used to describe him is 'intelligent', from people who know and/or have worked with him.

8) And yet people around the world still have the idea that he is dumb, courtesy of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, which goes only to show how great a performance that role was.

9) He is dyslexic, and as such had difficulty in school - was expelled from several schools for talking too much, not sitting still (an interviewer once described him as an ADD poster child, and yet look at critics who complain about him just standing there in his films; compared to his energetically hyper off-the-walls, making funny faces at the camera, throwing out really funny jokes at regular intervals behaviour in real life, just standing still and giving the impression of woodeness probably takes a whole lot of effort and acting talent from him). He is meanwhile an autodidact, and did not let his disability affect his voracious appetite for books and learning. While other young Hollywood stars were out there partying and getting into trouble, he would be sitting in his trailer and reading books on acting technique and Philip K. Dick (his favourite author). Though he did do a lot of partying too, but was scared to a stop when his best friend River Phoenix died of a drug overdose; after that he became aggresively anti-drugs, all the more so when his biological father - whom he had not seen since he was a child - was arrested for being the head of a drug smuggling ring.

10) He doesn't own a computer. He doesn't see the need for one. He had one once, but used it only to play chess. When he needs to send messages to people, he either does so by hand or by typewriter, and sends the letter through snail mail. He doesn't like how e-mails are so easy to delete and forget about with a click of button.

11) His childhood ambitions included being a racecar driver, nuclear scientist, orchestra conductor or inventor. Part-time jobs he took up prior to acting included sharpening ice-skates, cutting trees, and being the manager of a pasta shop at 18, in which he made 150 pounds of pasta a day. Due in part to being Canadian, he is also a great ice hockey player (Cuba Gooding Jr. called him the best ice hockey player in Hollywood) and was voted MVP on his high school team.

12) One of his favourite pastimes is riding his motorbike along mountain roads late at night, WITH THE HEADLIGHTS OFF because he enjoys the thrill. This has resulted in several accidents, some of which nearly killed him. That however has not stopped him, though he admits to being more careful since.

13) Many of his friends, co-stars and fans who met him have described him as completely void of any ego usually expected of a Hollywood A-lister, extremely humble and modest, and not in a fake way - possibly partly due to extreme self-esteem problems resulting from his childhood. In early interviews, he expressed surprise and occasional anger at the way journalists kept praising him for various things - he doesn't think he's good looking at all (judging from his off-screen appearance - presumably the main times he looks into the mirror - this is justified), he doesn't think he's cool, he gets very disturbed by the idea of people making him into a role model (I do that; he'll probably hate me), he doesn't think he's that big a star - he calls all this "fiction", lies fabricated by the media in order to increase hype and get more money; and says that he's just an actor trying to improve every day, and wishes that people would stop making him out to be things he doesn't think he is. Time and again he's said that he's only "interested in becoming a better actor". He tries. He tries a lot. For that I respect him.

14) And he doesn't let what critics say get him down. He acknowledges the existence of bad reviews; he calls it "a drag", but that life has to go on, and he can't let things like that stop him from doing what he wants to do - and he loves acting, very much, calling it among other things one of the few times that he feels free.

15) Again, he doesn't want to be part of the Hollywood machine. Because of that he's risked mulitple instances of what other stars would have considered career suicide. He does the films that interest him, that he has a passion for, not those that would pay big or help advance his career. He turned down The Fly II to do a small indie film that paid him one-tenth as much; he turned down the offered $7 million for Speed II in order to join his best friends in a band tour, and then to play Hamlet in Canada, which admittedly was for him a dream come true, being the Shakespeare freak that he is - although in the days preceding it he was quoted as being terrified and having nightmares about forgetting his lines, especially seeing all the fans who had come from all over the world just to watch him; he gets stage fright, and on stage you only get one take.

16) He is extremely hardworking and dedicated to whatever project he signs up for. He will fight in the face of studios who wish to change the scripts to suit their money-making desires; he has fought for the integrity of his characters, or of the scripts, and been angry when major cuts or alterations were made that he felt undermined the script. Sometimes he fails - examples being Johnny Mnemonic, which started off as a cyberpunk black&white film noir piece but got inserted with a whole lot of pointless action and had chunks of story cut from it once Speed became the unexpected blockbuster of the summer; and The Replacements, which a fellow Keanu fan and friend of mine said was much, much better in its original draft when compared to the final product. For Speed, he initially wanted to turn down the role because he didn't like the way that it tried to set up situations explictly to force one-liners, and found the character of Jack Traven to be too flippant and too unlike the real SWAT policemen he had got to know as friends from the filming of Point Break; fortunately for him, the director agreed, they hired another scriptwriter, and together they set about revising the script to make it into the final product.

17) "Keanu is not and never has been money motivated", says Lewis Baumander, who directed him in Hamlet and in an 1980s production of Romeo & Juliet, where he had been "casted on the spot" as Mercutio - something that Baumander almost never did with any role, but he had been blown away by Keanu's talent and passion for the part. Keanu has been known for taking salary cuts - he did it for The Devil's Advocate so that they could afford to hire Al Pacino; he did it for The Replacements so they could afford to hire Gene Hackman; he gave up all his box-office takings for the Matrix sequels (turned out to be $38 million) so the Wachowskis could afford to complete the special effects. He also bought Harley Davidson motorcycles for each of the twelve stuntmen who worked with him on The Matrix. His younger sister Kim suffers from leukemia; Keanu has as a result donated whole lots of money towards cancer research, and was one of the people involved in the recent Stand Up 2 Cancer event. His friends have meanwhile described him as one of the most generous people they know; Keanu says he doesn't need the money, because he already has more than enough to last him centuries.

18) He is very, very determined to do anything he sets his mind to. He's also a perfectionist, which he admits as one of his flaws and something that he's tried to work at. In an early Coca Cola commercial in which he played a bike racer, he did research on professional bikers and discovered that they usually shaved their legs in order to minimise air drag. So he shaved all the hair off his legs. For a commercial (It's up on Youtube; here you go ->, in which no one would be able to see leg hair even if they looked. He has since done the same for just about every role he's ever taken on. Co-stars have been quoted as freaking out at the sheer volume of notes that Keanu comes up with for his characters, and how deeply he researches each one - again, he loves reading despite his dyslexia; for his role in Little Buddha, he got hold of a whole lot of books on Buddhism, deprived himself from television or any form of fiction for the whole period of research, and just sat in his room and read through all those books; for his role in A Walk in the Clouds, he did massive research into World War II, the life of a soldier, American history; talked to a bunch of war veterans, all that. For The Matrix, the Wachowskis gave him a reading list of heavy philosophical books that he had to finish before even opening a page of the script - this was one of the things that turned a lot of other potential leads away, but Keanu got straight into it and read everything. And he was rewarded for it - The Matrix is awesome.

Thus concludes one soupcon of why The Anu is a very interesting person, and why anyone who disagrees must come from an alternate universe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thoughts on extended TDTESS trailer

An extended trailer of The Day the Earth Stood Still previewed on FOX yesterday; for those of you who didn't catch it (or who, like me, are non-American and who have to pay for our lack of American politics with an equal lack of early-access to videos), here you go:

Has some great moments in it, but overall I'm not as hyped up over it as I would have liked to be.

I can sense a lot of potential in there. This film definitely has the potential to be really great, but somehow that held more promise when all I knew of it was a short two minute trailer. It had more mystery then; this one shows us more, takes away some of that mystery, and if the whole film continues with this same kind of standard I think I may find it a disappointment. I expect it to be sufficiently entertaining, sure, enough to make me want to catch the thing in theatres, but what I've seen so far makes me doubt that it would reach that level of all-out-awesome that I had been hoping from the time this project was announced.

I can't really put my toe (fingers are overrated and hurt from too much typing) on what's wrong, though. Maybe it's a bit of everything: I get the sense that they're holding back, a teasing sort of "we could have done this and it would have been the most amazing thing you've ever seen and made you pee in your pants, but instead we decided to show some concern for your personal hygiene and chose to do this instead, so tough luck, hahaha." Or maybe it's just me.

Because the first part of that extended trailer (and presumably the first part of the film) was great. The whole hey-look-there's-a-strange-object-in-outer-space-defying-gravitational-pull-OH-NOEZ-IT'S-COMING-TOWARDS-US!!!11 was exciting in a traditional science-fiction sort of way, the kind of thing that continues to be exciting even though it's been done over and over again.

Then the pace faltered a little when they all trooped out to go check out the landing spot of the UFO.

Here I'd admit to some personal bias - I do have some vague form of agoraphobia. Open spaces with people running about = not good. I like small confined places. I laugh at claustrophobists. My idea of a dream house is an underground, labyrinthine affair with no windows. I love being in submarines. I like being lost in buildings. The movie Cube ranks among my ten favourite of all time for its claustrophobic awesomeness. I draw the line at being buried alive, but you get the idea.

So, a bunch of scientists in radiation suits mucking about a wide open forest looking for an alien kind of killed the excitement of the earlier scenes for me, as did the later scenes again in the wide open spaces. I don't like wide open spaces. Especially in a science-fiction film, because I tend to associate sci-fi with high tech stuff - like buildings, not so much the environment, but then again this film supposedly deals partly with the environment so I see why they did that.

But then they're back in the wonderful indoors! In what I'd love to think is a vast underground secret scientific laboratory with no windows - if it turns out I'm wrong, I will be sad. And then what I currently consider the best part of that extended trailer - them trying to revive the alien in the case.

(The scene does however suffer from a lack of tentacles. When I see an alien thrashing about in a case, there's a part of me that naturally expects to see tentacles. One usually does not expect in such moments to see Keanu Reeves, or Michael Rennie for that matter; one expects TENTACLES. CTHULHU AWAKENS AND STIRS IN THE DARK.

^ See, that's the kind of thing I mean when I say this thing feels like full of untapped potential.

...I suddenly think that Tim Burton should have made this film. I would have loved to see what he would have done with it.)

But this is going off-tangent, and my personal bias should preferably not come into play here, so going back to the topic, and since this is a Keanu-themed blog, back to Keanu:

I'll admit that I had hoped for better; well maybe not better, just a different interpretation of Klaatu. Before the fish start being happy, I would add that I definitely don't think it's a matter of lack of acting ability on Keanu's part. It's just that his take on Klaatu differs from what I had in mind, though I don't really know what I had in mind. It's just... I don't know, the idea of Keanu-playing-alien could have been so much... more, and definitely within his scope, judging from past performances. That depth isn't quite reached here, though I hope that maybe it gets there over the course of the film; although as Klaatu supposedly gets gradually more human, that might not happen.

There's something that feels too toned-down about his performance in the clip, but at the same time, while watching the thing, I don't know how else he could have done it. And it's not just Keanu, because the toned-down feeling continues even when he's not on screen. So maybe it's a script problem, but the dialogue itself seems fine too.

It's frustrating.

So far the only conclusion I can reach is that the wrongness has something to do with the film editing. Maybe some parts could have been cut differently. Or... well... comma... George...


One thing is for certain, though... If anyone saw any Ted in Klaatu, they need an CAT scan. NOW.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

For posterity's sake.

I wrote and posted this on IMDb some time back in response to yet another post making the highly questionable declaration that all of Keanu's characters are exactly alike.

So here goes; an analysis of those of Keanu's characters that I know well enough to analyse.

[Literature student cum writer]

Neo - the introverted loner geek and unwilling saviour stressed by his destiny because of his low self-confidence; Ted Logan, the cheerful, trusting teenager who sees the good in everyone and isn't that conventionally intelligent, but with a quick creative mind and a sense of awe at the world; John Constantine, hardened world-weary exorcist who sees the world through cynical eyes and takes orders from none but himself, armed with his own personal moral code, stubborn to the point of personal detriment; David Allen Griffin, slightly psychotic serial killer who enjoys playing with people's minds;

Jjaks Clayton, somewhat confused guy who means well and is just trying to make his own sense of things; Tommy, the eccentric teenager with an impulsive streak who's a bit of a prankster; Matt, lost in his frustrated despair at the world, sometimes feeling like the only sane one around whom no one understands; Alex Wyler, regular nice guy, but filled with growing desperation at the lack of direction in his life; Donnie Barksdale, angry wife-beater, who knows his strength and is not afraid to use it, and who would be fun to poke with a stick; Johnny Utah, brimming with self-confidence bordering on arrogance, spirited, crazy and carefree and wild;

Kevin Lomax, torn between pride and his conscience, suffering quietly the moral consequences of his actions that he pushes aside and tries to bury, hating himself for the things he does and living a life of denial; Siddharta, the Buddha, raised sheltered from the hurts of the world, full of innocent horror at the harsh realities of life; Scott Favor, recalcitrant rich not-straight kid, rebellious for the sake of rebellion, quietly manipulating others for his own selfish ends, betraying their trust and leaving;

Conor O'Neill, kind of twitchy and always on-edge with a somewhat volatile personality, a messed up guy suffering from alcoholism and addictions and gambling problems and all sorts of other things in his screwed up life, and sometimes he just wants to give up but there's a defiant fighting spirit in him that won't let him do so; Julian Mercer, womanising doctor who seems simultaneously puzzled and amused with life; Jack Traven, quiet jock prone to sudden explosions of temper, a person with good intentions but not much ability to properly execute them;

Shane Falco, the perpetually accident-prone, going doggedly about his life and viewing his better past with nostalgic resignation; Perry Lyman, philosophical dentist who can't quite decide what he thinks about life, which frustrates him, secretly, in bursts of private controlled anger that the public only glimpse, tempered with a paternal, almost motherly gentleness; Paul Sutton, polite gentleman who just wants to do what's right, even if at his own expense; Tod Higgins, somewhat of an airhead, with a one-track mind that enables peaceful oblivion to the possible consequences of his actions, living for the moment and not quite conscious of either the past or future;

Tom Ludlow, rough foul-mouthed cop, brutal, working on his own terms with his own sense of justice and not caring about what others think of him; Nelson Moss, arrogant self-obsessed workaholic with no time for others; Eddie Talbot, a teen with a good heart, emotionally damaged by his family problems but hiding it and presenting a cheerful facade to the innocent parties, while in private is mired by feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem, and a deep-seated anger at his family that sometimes turns violent; Jesse Walker, energetic, talkative, won't effing shut up, touchy-feely, impulsive and yet still very much a kid;

Eric: No one ever cares about Eric. Seriously this guy is the only of Keanu's characters who doesn't have a single photo on any of the three main fansites. Poor guy. People don't know he exists. I don't know anything about him other than that he has a motorbike; Bob Arctor, still trying to hold his life together as his mind slowly breaks down, angry at the system and the inhumaness of the almost-robotic people who run society; Eddie Kasalivich, eager nerd trying to prove himself;

Marlon James, practically brain-dead drug addict, sleepwalking through life; Ron Petrie, rebellious smart aleck, defiant of authority but it's mostly just an act, for when it gets down to it he still has his own internal sense of right and wrong which he feels pressured to follow; Kip, dazed fellow, an introvert and a bit of a socially-inept weirdo who's not too aware of his surroundings, and yet someone who can hurt people, mostly out of avoidance, because he's someone who tries not to get too involved in things and prefers to keep his distance.

[/Literature student cum writer]


There are more, but I don't know them as well and so I'll just leave them out here. I haven't even watched most of those films; what I know was garnered from things like pictures and short Youtube clips. It takes talent for an actor to be able to project a character and have people 'get it' in the span of five minutes or so.

They make a brilliant ensemble cast, seriously. Characters who are all alike do not make brilliant ensemble casts. Ergo Keanu's characters are not all alike. QED.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Four months to the Day...

Maybe it's a sign that I've become too involved with Keanu fandom when I start to actively worry about the success of his films. I want them to do well; not because of any financial gain - I would get none, obviously, and the film studios are unarguably more than sufficiently rich - but because a flop would just mean even more fuel for critics to bash Reeves and hold him once again accountable for everything that went wrong, from the acting (which is at least somewhat justified) to the script to the themes to the special effects.

And perhaps it's all the more important for this film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, remake as it is of a well-loved sci-fi cult classic that has more than its fair share of violent detractors who find the very idea of a remake to be a deep and very personal insult. Most likely they would have objected to the film regardless of who was cast in the lead as Klaatu, but in this case too many of them are using Reeves as the main point around which all their objections revolve.

I can't really fault them, admittedly. I have my own favourite films which I would never ever like to see remade - Back to the Future, most of all, and I have spent just as much energy as some of those guys shooting down and suggesting suicide to anyone who suggests that it is time for the BTTF trilogy to see a new light with a new script and new cast (most common suggestions are for Shia LaBeouf as Marty; I vaguely like the guy, but as Marty, no. Just no. He's... uh... uh... TOO TALL! Yes.)

So I do at least have some idea of where they are coming from.

Mostly what annoys me is firstly the way people seem to think that the remake is all Reeves' fault. Because it isn't. Actors usually do not propose scripts or remakes; sometimes they do, but not in this case. They do not write the script either, so complaints that Klaatu will hop down the spaceship ramp with a big grin on his face going: "Whoa! How's it goin', Earthling dudes?" are completely unfounded.

Even if Reeves did write the script, which he didn't, or excessively ad libbed, I would bet a whole pineapple that he would not have turned the remake into Klaatu & Gort's Egregious Expedition. He has, after all, spent the last two decades or so trying to break out of the Ted type-casting that has haunted people's perceptions of him since that brilliant performance in 1989.

Secondly, there have been the usual schools of fish (fish = Keanu critics, for the uninitiated) flooding the boards of the TDTESS remake to raise their objections. It's been filmed, folks. The trailer is out. It's already in post-production. Nothing you say will be able to change that, no matter how vitriolic your rants.

What makes it all the more ironic is that this is the role for which most fish should be celebrating over. Klaatu is supposed to be an emotionless monotone alien, which is exactly what people have been repeatedly accusing Reeves of being in all his previous films. It makes more sense then that they would consider this perfect casting, and derive some smug sort of satisfaction from it.

There are a few who have expressed such views, and I congratulate them on their consistency if nothing else.

But the vast majority do not. The usual criticisms are out - that Reeves is too wooden (ironically, 'wooden' is the exact word used to describe Michael Rennie's portrayal of Klaatu in several reviews of the 1951 original that I dug up) with only one facial expression, always plays Ted, or - as an off-shoot from that - incapable of appearing intelligent.

When presented with photographic proof that Reeves does indeed have more than a singular facial expression, a fish came back with the puzzling rebuttal that he was simply 'acting' that emotion, not 'portraying' it. But isn't 'acting' what actors are supposed to do? And how much difference is there, really, between 'acting' and 'portraying'? Aren't they more or less synonyms of each other when it comes to playing characters?

As for the intelligent thing - it's been shown time and again that Reeves is not dumb and probably surpasses the majority of the population in and out of Hollywood in intelligence and knowledge: his IQ is reputedly 160 - though a definite source for this has yet to be discovered - and friends and co-stars have repeatedly enthused about his intelligence and how he is the most well-read person they know. And one who is brilliant at chess, as Laurence Fishburne admitted after a quick 15-minute defeat.

And perhaps the most appropriate and telling for this instance is a quote by Scott Brown of Entertainment Weekly, in which he says: "Reeves doesn't sound stupid -- far from it. He just doesn't sound human, either. Rather, he sounds like he has a deep affection for humans and has made a purely anthropological effort to integrate himself into their charming little society." ("The Man Who Would Be Keanu" - Entertainment Weekly, Issue #736 - 7th Nov 2003)

Sounds perfect for Klaatu.

'Intelligent' is, in fact, one of the most common words used to describe Reeves. Sure, they might just be sucking up to the guy out of hopes that they would benefit from it somehow, but there are lots of other positive adjectives out there that they could have used instead.

Then the usual counterargument - that just because he is intelligent doesn't mean that he can act intelligent, apparently implying that the moment Reeves steps in front of the camera and starts acting, he loses all visible semblance of intelligence.

...So much for him not acting.

That aside, though, if Reeves does, as people claim, exude intelligence in real life, then I don't see how it would be much of a stretch for him to carry this on to the screen in a role that demands it, which this one would. All he would have to do in this case would be to tone down the acting facade and let his true self shine through, which is a somewhat apt analogy for a character who is supposedly an alien in a human body - again, something that people through the ages have accused him of being in all his films and in real life.

There is, basically, only one good argument for why Reeves should not have been cast as Klaatu - and that is the fact that he is not an unknown actor, which I agree would have been the optimum choice for an alien. This is the only objection so far which I can understand, and it would have applied just as well if any other well-known actor had been cast in his place. Although something tells me that if, say, Christian Bale had been cast instead, there would have been a whole lot less complaining going on about the remake.

But all the same, it's too late. The film has been made, and it's coming out on the 12th of December this year. No amount of tantrum-throwing or whining is going to change that fact, so everyone should just calm down already. You don't have to watch the film if you don't have to. Gort isn't standing by to disintegrate you with his awesome disintegrator ray if you refuse to watch the film.

So just chill, be excellent to each other, and hope that Reeves successfully baradas the nikto to everyone's satisfaction.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Connaisseur Obligé - examining the snob

Ah, starting a new project. The enthusiasm mixed with uncertainty that goes with it… There’s something particularly comforting about watching something born. Even critics.

Here is an example. Judging by the archive, it looks like this particular blogger is just starting his walk down the movie-blogging road. And since the actor in question had a recent movie opening, nothing more natural than making a quick reprisal of the actor’s past work. BUT, there’s an issue: obviously, the blogger is certainly not interested in tarnishing his image among the movie buff elite. After all, you don’t want to start in the wrong way.
Any other actor would most likely deserve a fair assessment of his work. Not when the actor is named "Keanu Reeves", though. True to the class the blogger wishes to belong to, as any self respecting movie connaisseur would do, Keanu Reeves shall not be consistently analysed: Keanu Reeves shall be slugged.
And in this aspect, one has to congratulate the blogger. If the blogging community was all concentrated in one big building, he would be getting the pats on the back of his seniors for a job well done. Or at least a nice try.

Nothing better than a hasty, awkward mash between completely different parts and force them in to a diffuse mass. Because Keanu Reeves HAS to be bad. No matter what. No matter the variety of parts he has played, no matter the years he has worked, no matter who he has worked with, no matter the importance of some of the movies he stared in, no matter if he “has the charisma to play the leading man in any script he wants (…), has the power to make most any movie into box office gold, (…) enough credit to sell the tickets to any movie by simply attaching his name to the project.” Yes, the blogger actually started off in a positive note. Fortunately for him and his street-cred, the blogger quickly revised his first lines. Suddenly, all the characters are the same. Suddenly, the insecure, questioning, concerned Neo is nothing but a sarcastic, sure of himself, tired old bastard like his psychological doppelganger Constantine, which in turn is just like the robust but sensible cop Jack Traven. No, forget the fact that Constantine is seemingly frail due to a deadly illness, and looks like a gush of wind might blast him through a window: he most certainly could run off in a football field, tackle every single player and score a touchdown in The Replacements. In fact, I’ll raise you two more: the surfer in The Gift’s redneck, and the dude in the suave, elegant doctor in Something’s Gotta Give.
Contradicting and absurd analysis, perhaps? No? Maybe a little bit strange… Well, this is what movie junior-blogger is defending, and truth be told, he is not straying from what the hot-shot critics over at the press usually sell. After all, he’s in the clear, when making such strange mashes, because, after all, he’s scribbling about “Keanu Reeves”.

The premise of the junior-blogger: the actor doesn’t make an effort. In fact, this thesis is somewhat clear on the deceivingly positive initial notes: Reeves “simply has to attach is name”; nothing more than that. Because it’s not like he is “even trying”. It’s not like he put his career on the line by going for The Matrix after the failure of Johnny Mnemonic, both movies with philosophies that could have looked similar to the general public, and thus automatically refused. Or risking his health and straining his body to play Neo. Or taking the chance of playing a homosexual character in a time long before the more open minds that received Brokeback Mountain; or taking pay check cuts to allow other actors to join in like with Gene Hackman in The Replacements. Because "Reeves gives you different shades of the same guy he regurgitates over and over". How a scope from innocent lamb to sarcastic wolf is just a "shade", it's left unexplained. It's like reducing, for example, Depp to "shades of weirdo", or Al Pacino to "shades of open-eyed hysteria", or Jack Nicholson to "shades of cynicism". But stop right there: this is something you, the starting movie blogger, must certainly not do: touch the sacred-monsters. For your trashing purposes, leave it on Reeves. Maybe this “same guy” deal comes from the fact that, with varying degrees in sturdiness, all the mentioned characters are tall, dark-haired, and with chinese eyes. As if a “shade” of a character can be reduced to short hair. To looks. To “attempt to change his speech, mannerisms, or walk for different roles”. But let’s grant this, at least. After all, that too is a part of what constitutes acting. And for a change, let's let the man in question cover this aspect (Youtube spot - ignore the giggling, go to 00:31).

And, in a heart-warming circle pat-on-the-back, here we have it: "He is the semi-spaced out surfer dude the gives 'whoa' new meaning." Now, where did I hear that one before? Congratulations. You're part of the gang! Funny how this particular blogger complains about "following formulas", though.

And I walk out of the blog with the confidence of what to expect from present and future critics.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Introduction (a spare)

This is the official blog of the Keanu SWAT Team, which will hopefully see a substantial amount of content in future. Most of us hail from the Keanu Reeves boards on the Internet Movie Database, which a particularly insightful person once declared the coolest and funnest male celeb board on IMDb.

Our headquarters - the website 'Whoa is (Not) Me: Defending Keanu Reeves' - was created in January 2008, and is located at

You want to click on that link. *waves hands in Jedi mind trick*

We started this blog after people complained about lack of content on the website.

And- whoa, it's 1 am in the morning. Bogus. Guess I'll go off now and get to bed. Catcha later, dudes!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"What will you have?" "The usual."

There are humorous takes, and then there are abusive generalizations that take over, get a life of their own, and become bad jokes. Such is the case of some of the articles centred on this actor. The article “Keanu Reeves’ extensive vocabulary”, filed under “Movie news”, mind you, is an example of such.

At least the author of this diatribe, Will Lee, is not over-subtle when it comes to the tone of what’s ahead: from the title to the first sentence, the reader knows what to expect and what he/she will gain from reading the article. If anything, it shows how pointless it is to reduce an artistic contribution to a single element: Hitchcock was a lot more than just cameos; it’s as preposterous to reduce such a director to this, as it is to reduce that certain actor to a given interjection.
Still, the author has the need to convince and (mis)direct the reader. “Clearly”, he states, his swiping quip is true. It should be taken seriously. Look! It’s on “Movie news”! The author then goes on to prove his “clear” point, in a list of movie scenes, with the dismissive description on the side, and the author’s precious contribution. There’s also the repetition: what “he says”, to make it “clear” enough for you, in case you don’t get it, is always the same… …isn’t this clever?...
And then, this clear, profound analysis stops in the void, with no wrap up mock from the writer, as to leave you wanting for more and ponder in the “clarity” of his message.

This is a good enough case study of what goes on in terms of what’s written about this actor in the media. Either complete dismissal, or mock. If you’re lucky, with a battered up analysis. If you’re not so lucky, this analysis will not just be battered, but also filled with dishonest considerations and rather… inventive facts when it comes to the actor’s work and biography. Although this particular article didn’t go that far, it still covered many of the elements present when a perhaps annoyed journalist has to write something about Keanu Reeves.
Firstly, we have the usual basis, right there in the title: the trashing sarcasm in the “extensive vocabulary” line. Very typical among these kinds of articles: establish the notion that the actor doesn’t have much going on in the brain department. The Keanu-is-dumb quip. From then on, defending the initial thesis gets much easier for the creative author of such fun and informative articles.
Then, the cherry-pinking when it comes to Reeves’ filmography. Never mind the actor in question worked in over 50 movies: the carrier is defined by the flippant and scornful take on… 5 films. Better yet: 5 SCENES. I can’t speak for other people, but that doesn’t look like a comprehensive career analysis to me. Not only that, but the career-defining-moment is not a very bright one. You could look at such an excessive generalization with some disbelief, but, since it was “clearly” established at the start the actor at hand is supposedly not that smart, the waste being fed becomes more palatable…
Thirdly, we have the defining-moment in itself: the “whoa”. Now, the usage of such an interjection seems is, as far as I’m concerned, particularly common among English-speaking crowds. Not only that but, when it comes to its use in films and media in general, it’s pretty pervasive! Just the other day, in a CSI episode, I heard the expression being uttered perhaps three times in a row, by different actors, upon finding a particularly disturbing piece of evidence. Why not define CSI as the “whoa-series”? Or that group of actors as the “whoa-bunch”? It hasn't been done. Not to my knowledge, at least. The only one who gets flak for daring to use such a common expression? You got it.
All of this derives to another point: the recurrent confusion between actor and the character played. Once again, the typicality is obvious in the title: there’s the assumption that Reeves, himself, not the character, doesn’t have an “extensive vocabulary”. The rest of the article might be centred in characters, but it’s much easier to feed the notion the characters themselves are basic when there’s a preconceived notion the actor playing them is too not very complex. The bundle being handed to the reader is much tidier after making such associations. And it helps the humorous objective, too. Although, where’s the reliability in having such an objective in a “Movie news” article, I guess only the author knows.
Attached to these last points, comes another classic: the notion Keanu Reeves and Ted “Theodore” Logan are the same. Ted was, indeed, a character also defined by the over usage of “whoa”; and I say “also”, because not even that foolish, happy-go-lucky kid was limited solely to an interjection. That doesn’t stop the author from limiting an entire career to such a term, though.

Setting aside the case study at hand, what is usually pretty clear from such types of articles is that the author despises the actor he/she is writing about. And that’s never a good starting point. The themes are always the same: the feeling is that most of these journalists do not sit down and commit to writing something new, but simply limit themselves to copy what was written by somebody else before, or follow the editorial line of the medium they write in. Which is not a very constructive attitude, since it reinforces a notion that might not be accurate. But it does explain how certain ideas are deeply ingrained in the public. The articles are tendentiously based on defective research, and so filled with condescendence and blatancy one has to wonder if they are trying to insult the reader as well.
Of course we can’t ask these professionals to write only about what they like, or to refrain from writing when they get up on the wrong side of the bed. But asking for them to be more thorough when it comes to research seems reasonable to me. Either that, or move humour pieces to the proper “Movie Wit” area.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Introduction here, later on.