Wednesday, April 9, 2008

American Actor; German Accent; Canadian Perspective

There's a story circulating that Tom Cruise's new movie Valkyrie, the story of one of many failed plots to nix Hitler, is being held up in production because of Cruise's poor German accent. Apparently he's not believable as an English-speaking German. Given that Cruise is from upstate New York, that doesn't surprise me.

So here's Tom Cruise, in Nazi Germany, and he's not believable as an authentic German. Given that I saw him, last week, on the cover of my mom's US Weekly, I'm understandably shocked.

This begs the question: Why speak in the accent, anyway?

You've probably noticed Anglo actors affecting foreign accents in countless movies. That's fine as long as the character is acting as an ESL student, but the rest of the time it's just stupid. How many Elizabethans have we seen with mercury fillings and straight teeth?

What's the conceit here? That characters are more believable when they're obviously foreign? Were these German officers speaking English at the time? That seems to be what directors are driving at. Because not every German character speaks English; some speak German, usually in the background. So here are these real Germans, speaking German, and here are these other Germans, speaking English. If Tom Cruise can't speak German, then let him use his own voice. I understand that I'm not watching a documentary. I'll accept the fact that these are not authentic Nazis caught in Lost's execrable space-time continuum and captured on digital film.

A friend once told me he didn't like subtitles because he didn't go to the movies to think. I think the real reason captions have disappeared is because most people can't read.

Hamlet was a Dane, yet every actor who plays him affects an English accent. Why can't Claus von Stauffenberg be from Syracuse?

This really bothers me when American actors are pretending to be Canadian. First of all, they're all really white. They sit up straight, they speak like Exonians, and they're all bald. And to reinforce the fact that they're Canadian, they all talk about our Minister of Justice. Obviously, a Canadian flag is hanging in the background.

A lot of people don't understand that Due South was actually carried on American networks. Americans have this weird desire for inaccurate, boneless cultural depictions that can be swallowed in the same gulp as a Hardee's pancake burger.

Really, I can't say why that is.

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