Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Genius of James Gandolfini: 1961-2013

James Gandolfini, whose performance as Tony Soprano helped revolutionise American television, died yesterday, aged 51.

New Yorker: There was a time, just a few years ago, when a movie actor could not take a TV job without it seeming like an admission of failure. Doing so was embarrassing, a sign of desperation—not merely because TV fame was chintzier, and the Hollywood status lower, but also because no one thought that TV acting itself could be much good. There were beloved TV stars, of course, but they were performers, not actors, lacking gravitas. It was a littler screen and a littler art. James Gandolfini changed all that . . . It's rare for one performance to change the world, but once Gandolfini cleared the way, nobody could be under any illusion about what a television actor was capable of. Read rest of article here.

New York Times: Part of what pulls you into the performance is the play between that great beautiful slab of a face and the micro and macro movements that continuously ripple across it, creating changing, sometimes clashing emotional textures. One minute, the face opens out to the world like a child’s, the next it’s closing like a man’s fist. His face remained a succession of rounded forms – the high forehead, the nose with the slightly bulbous tip – that when at rest could appear deceptively friendly, receptive. The divide between that face and what the character was thinking behind it was part of what made him such a great villain and, time and again, his characters led with a smile, an invitation that often became a trap for his victims. Read rest of article here.

New Republic: Compare David Chase's dialogue to Aaron Sorkin's dialogue. In Sorkin's shiny nonsense, people speak in repartee and always find the words they need, and nothing insignificant, nothing tedious is ever uttered. Sorkin's phony people go from portentousness to hipness and back. They are figments of a disastrously glamorous imagination, the polished puppets of a shallow man's idea of profundity. In The Sopranos, by contrast, there is no eloquence, even when there is beauty. Silences abound. These people speak the way people actually speak; they lie, and lie again; they hide; they repair gladly to banalities and to borrowed words; they struggle for adequacy in communication; they say nothing at all. They cannot say what they mean or they do not know what they mean. Their obscenities are their tribute to the power of their feelings, the diction of desperation. Yet all this inarticulateness is peculiarly lyrical, and deeply moving. It is also a relief from the talkativeness that passes for thought in fancier places. Words should be fought for. Read rest of article here.

Telegraph: Over 86 episodes originally broadcast between 1999 and 2007, The Sopranos proved that popular television could match the look and feel of anything on the big screen. Moreover, it showed that audiences around the world would respond to writing of the highest quality, and that extended storylines of subtlety and nuance were not incompatible with commercial success. James Gandolfini, as the series’ utterly convincing lead, was central to its allure. Read rest of article here.

Reason: The Sopranos ushered in an age of not just morally ambiguous but morally contemptible protagonists. Tony Soprano is the unquestioned hero of the show and the viewer's main rooting interest. Yet he is a truly horrible human being. One of the achievements of David Chase and the other creative forces of the series is that they made Tony compelling and someone you might identify with without ever shorting the violence and brutality of the character. Since The Sopranos, it's almost commonplace to find TV shows that are set in truly dark universes in which all of the characters are completely morally compromised. Read rest of article here.

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