"bad acting" is subjective - but there are certain repeating concepts that always seem to come up when ever we see bad performances on TV, animation, paintings. plays etc. Here's a short list of a few things I believe can be the difference between good acting and bad acting. I've been reading some great stuff about acting in articles around the web, I thought I could share! Enjoy!
Emotional armor. When I watch actors, I want to see vulnerability. I am not necessarily talking about wailing and crying. Take a look at Anthony Hopkins in "Remains of the Day" for an example.
Some people have too much armor, the biggest hurdles some actors have is portraying the uglier sides of human nature. Others have certain feelings they'd rather not explore; some simply don't want to look unattractive, others can't imagine ever PRETENDING to hurt a child. Bryan Cranston is also great because he drops his armor, it is so good (see "Breaking Bad") because he'll do scenes in his underpants literally and figuratively.
Pushing. Stanislavsky, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanislavski's_system the great Russian acting theorist, helped us understand that acting works better when actors pursue goals rather than try to emote. Bad actors think their job is to emote. See Mel ("Give me back my son!") Gibson and Nicholas Cage. They EMOTE and force their acting.
Lack of confidence in your delivery. If you are an animator this relates to the confidence of your acting choices and execution. If you are a painter or drawer: it's the confidence of your lines or brush strokes. The key to not fall apart when something goes wrong is confidence! If one night your file crashes and you lose 4 hours of work, confidence can be the difference of falling apart or saying to yourself, "Nah I can do it again... AND BETTER." Confidence is when one feels like "I actually know what I'm doing, I enjoy doing it, and I can do it any time, anywhere, under any conditions, and I can recover from mistakes."
Understanding the power of words. They are your main tools when acting. Animators and actors can emphasis words as weapons or even aphrodisiacs.
Own the way you/or your character looks. be comfortable with your body. and if you are animating, use the characters body in their personality! Skinny, fat, tall, short, ugly, or even beautiful - these body types can influence a performance/personality.
Planning! The purpose of prep is so your mind is ready to let go and explore in the moment of execution. Unplanned situations will have you running back to comfort zones and boring choices.
A short collection of some Great Scenes
1. Taxi Driver -- Travis talks to Wizard, a fellow taxi driver, trying to convey the growing rage and dangerous thoughts building in his head. ...feels so very real...
2. American History X -- Derek sits at the dinner table with his girlfriend, his mother, his little brother and sister, and his mother's Jewish boyfriend, as they all discuss the then-recent L.A. riots in the aftermath of the Rodney King case. Edward Norton delivers an incredible performance... Also take notice how the camera shows the growing influence he is having over his little brother and the lose of control the parents have.
The Dark Knight -- The Joker, captured by Gordon and the police, has arranged the kidnapping of DA Harvey Dent and Dent's girlfriend, Assistant DA Rachel. But the Joker doesn't know Rachel is the love interest of Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, as well. But he's about to find out. Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance is among the best villains in cinema history. Take a notice of Christian Bale's under appreciated performance and see if you could spot the moment he snaps.
On The Water Front -- Marlon Brando influenced acting for everyone who came after him. Schooled in Method acting he was able to fuse vulnerability and ferocious rage (like how Ryan Gosling does in DRIVE, James Dean also had a similar style.) Check out how he listens and pursues her in this scene from "On The Waterfront."
A Single Man -- NO EMOTING EXAMPLE FOR THE WIN :) "starting the scene in one emotion state and finishing in another" is how Colin Firth said he tackled this scene. George Falconer (Colin Firth) is a closeted gay college professor in Los Angeles in about 1961. In this scene, he takes a phone call. His partner Jim has died in a car crash in Colorado while visiting his family, and a sympathetic cousin calls George to let him know. Jim's parents had not wanted to contact George, and he is not welcome at Jim's funeral. In this scene George experiences enormous emotion, and Firth conveys it while not really visibly emoting at all; he holds it together completely until he loses it completely. It's incredibly powerful. Also listen to what he has to say about his thought process through that scene. Check it out below.
Dark Victory -- Betty Davis plays a socialite, who has a brain tumor. She tries to live as much life as she can. This scene begins when she goes blind. She knows the absolute last stage of the tumor is when she loses her sight, and at that point has only minutes to live. I like how she shows hint of her subtext while her supporting actors are not. Wonderful contrast.
Michael Redgrave's final speech in The Browning Version. His performance is simply devastating, and it comes together in this scene. The whole film is a work of genius by Redgrave. :)
The interview about the performance and acting
Lord of The Rings -- GOLLUM :)
Colonel Drummond (Spencer Tracy)'s closing speech in the courtroom scene from Inherit the Wind (1960) THIS IS A PERSONAL FAVORITE that set the bar so high, all court room dramas still strive to get an ounce of what was captured here.
GIANT -- James Dean
^Coolest Exit ever..
I have many more clips, I guess I'll have to do a Part 2 of this post pretty soon. I hope you guys liked all these great insights and clips I've gathered from around the internet. Remember I didn't do the raw studying of these clips and I didn't come up with these acting theories myself. I'm just passing along information and I hope it reaches who ever is looking for it. Enjoy the rest of the week!