Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Actors... Artists? Hardly

Here's a great post from The Corner about the shallowness of the celebrities who "spoke" at the Obama concert at The Lincoln Memorial on Sunday:

Ashley Judd is very cute, of course, and Samuel L. Jackson was entertaining in Pulp Fiction, but one wonders if these are the best speakers our nation has to offer its new president, who sat kindly through all of it, even the ridiculous leather-panted hooker outfits of Shakira and Beyonce, and showed, as he grooved to Stevie Wonder, that he is likely the first president in American history to know you're supposed to kick it on beats two and four, not one and three.

It was revealing that one of the speeches most worthy of note, from the incomparable Forest Whitaker, was essentially a selection from William Faulkner's Nobel acceptance speech, an uplifting affirmation of art and truth that is at the same time a denunciation of the worst of post-modernism and relativism. What we have forgotten, as unwittingly attested by the voices at this concert (excepting Mr. Obama, of course, who is a first-rate speaker), is that actors are not, in a classical Aristotelian sense, artists. They are skilled, to be sure, but they are empty vessels, to be fitted to parts as suits the real artists, the writers and photographers, the costumers and make-up specialists. This is not to deny the accidental beauty of Marisa Tomei or Jamie Foxx, or the emotive skill of Denzel Washington. But something is strangely out of whack when speeches are to be delivered at the foot of Lincoln, on ground hallowed by King, and the deliverers we choose are none of them thinkers or writers.

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