Sunday, January 27, 2008

Singing ain’t acting.

So, Johnny Depp is a pretty good singer in “Sweeney Todd.” (I haven’t seen the movie, so I guess I’ll just have to believe what I read.) As far as I know, singing and acting are two different things. An actor who attempts to sing is somehow worthy of Best Actor? That’s nonsense. Nonsense on the same level as say, giving an Oscar to Catherine Zeta Jones for doing a little dancing in “Chicago.” Let’s save Academy Award Nominations for acting and leave singing and dancing to whatever shows honor those talents.

Pat Piper shared this thought with me this morning. I am now stealing it.


Piper said...

And it's a damn good thought. Its as if we have so little hopes for actors that when they surprise us, we MUST award them. It's crap.

brian said...

According to this poll, Johnny Depp is ahead of Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor race. If that happens, I'm done with the Academy. I say that every year.

Allen L. said...

Wow. you all couldn't be more wrong. Depp's performance is not only difficult, it's nuanced and layered. It isn't just a singing role. It's an iconic role. One that has been reinvented by depp and burton.
Lewis' performance is fantastic. But without John Hustion it doesn't exist. It is cadence and timbre, manner and affect, a virtual impersonation of John Huston.
either one is worthy.
Depp is probably becoming the actual actor of his generation. Not, as many think, Sean Penn. Depp takes many more risks.

Piper said...


You may be right and I won't debate you on his performance since I haven't seen it. But I will debate you on Depp becoming the actor of his generation. It's Depp's niche to take risky roles. He's based his career on it to the point of it almost being gimmicky. His risk taking gets more press than his actual acting. Ed Wood was not a risk and that was probably his best acting to date. Donnie Brasco was also an excellent performance and that wasn't risky at all. I don't debate that the guy has it in him, but I'm a little tired of the Depp as risk-taker bit. Just be a good actor. No one says Philip Seymour Hoffman is a risk taker. They just say he's a fantastic actor.

Pat said...

I strongly disagree. Singing and acting aren't mutually exclusive parts of a musical performance. When characters are singing, they're still telling you something about themselves and about the story. Especially in "Sweeney Todd" where there's very little dialogue between songs. To be able to effectively portray a complex character through singing is, I think, a genuine acheivement. Having said that, however, I don't think Depp sang his role all that well. The actors who've played Sweeney onstage (on Broadway, at least) are all far better, stronger singers than Depp.

Ray said...

And Pat Piper is absolutely right. Depp's nomination might be one of the worst noms of this Oscar season.

Allen L. said...

Couldn't disagree more. Depp's performance as Sweeney was remarkable. What was odd was seeing it and feeling that way, having been a Sweeney fanatic for 30 years. The Broadway performances that I have seen, that friends who are equally as fanatic as I, were all blown away by Depp's turn.
I think this was a nomination that was dead on.
Hoffman may be a great actor as well. This isn't a competition. There are room for more than one. Depp is one.

Piper said...


So here's my question to you. If Depp sings the entire movie and he doesn't do a very good job of singing do you think he deserves are nomination? Any nomination?

Piper said...

deserves A nomination, not ARE nomination. Don't know where that came from.

Pat said...

What follows is a little long winded, but it ends up with me giving new consideration to your point of view, Piper.

I thought Depp acted the part very well, and his singing met the demands of the role. He's not in the same league, vocally, as the stage Sweeneys, but he did sing it in a way that effectively conveyed Sweeney's rage and heartache.

What I was getting at in my first post was more of a general point that the singing and acting in a musical role are pretty much intertwined. A good singer who can't act sinks the show as surely as an actor who can't sing (that'd be Helena Bonham Carter, who ruined "Sweeney" for me). A good-enough singer (like Depp) who can act can still deliver a powerful performance (which he does). But does he deserve a nomination? I have mixed feelings about that. I don't think this role is a stretch for him, beyond the fact that he does sing.... wait, am I starting to agree with you Piper? Maybe - only I don't think Depp's performance is crap, and I don't find his nomination nearly as egregious as, say, the omission of "4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days" from the Best Foreign Film nominees.

Piper said...


Again, I can't really weigh in on this debate too much since I haven't seen it. My initial conversation with Brian was that I think that the Academy gives nominations to actors willy nilly because suddenly they can sing or dance. I'm still burning from the Chicago craze (that movie still sucks). Anyway, I had read that Depp didn't sing very well and since he has to sing the entire movie, I thought shouldn't that count in the consideration? It just feels like it's more like "wow, look at Johnny Depp, he's a risk taker" and less about his overall performance.

I like Johnny Depp, but I'm kind of tired of getting all excited when Johnny plays dress up and dyes his hair.

Pat said...

"I like Johnny Depp, but I'm kind of tired of getting all excited when Johnny plays dress up and dyes his hair."

LOL - great line, and I actually agree with you on that!

I liked "Chicago" myself - but then, I am a musical theatre fanatic.

Thanks for a lively discussion. Always good to get another point of view.

* (asterisk) said...

Depp has long been the actor of his generation. I'm bored of Daniel Day Lewis, really. Never been a big fan. I hope Johnny gets the gong.

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