Bette Davis in the 1970's said about acting, "I think it should show just a bit of work, to be completely natural is not acting." Well we can debate that and I love the golden period as much as I love the 1970's natural period. But let's acknowledge that there were greats and silliness in both times.
I think the greatest actors and stars were on film during both of these times, 1930 to 1950, and 1967 to the early eighties. Not really before or since. We have some exceptional actors now, and there always will be, but it is being bred out a bit, to be great or different.
Nick Cage, Sean Penn, Jennifer Lawrence, Jodie Foster, Hillary Swank, Leo DiCaprio, Reese Witherspoon, Anne Hathaway, Annette Bening, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jude Law, and others all demonstrate the last wave of mediocre. Not star system, not method.
Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Viola Davis, Charlize Theron and most of those brits show it can still be done better. No matter the role or director.
The method style of acting is something I studied for a few years. It comes down to this. A great actor in a big performance is there to perform in such a way as to modulate and guide the audience through an experience. They must be immersed in the character and use techniques to get there. BUT, method acting is not about pissing all over yourself in an effort to make the audience feel your humiliation. They should feel wet. Too many method actors are performing beautiful masturbation. We have seen some high wire performances and have read stories about actors not being able to shake the character. Daniel Day Lewis is a good example of this - an actor who pisses himself to let you know it is raining. And yet it all comes out a bit dry.
Poor Meryl. Possessing every gift in the world of all styles of performing and changing them like a butterfly. Old time show the seams Movie Star Acting(Out of Africa, Sophie's Choice, The Devil Wears Prada) realistic performances that display her lispy voice and wan light,(The violin thing and Deer Hunter and Manhattan)and some method stuff that immerses her and some times dazzles us or leaves us cold or wet.(Ironweed, Silkwood, Marvin's Room and most terribly Postcards From the Edge) She wins and looses, but she should not be knocking the old school style and I doubt that she liked the question. It is where she has been best and found most of her success. She just hates to admit it.
Iron Lady and Julia vs. Julie and Mamma Mia are just crap with a legend at helm. No better than Bette Davis drowning some kid in the bathtub in her early-late name above the title films. Showing off.
There are great method actors - make a list.
There are great natural actors - ditto.
There are great personality stars who become very good actors over time.
Some think acting is just pretending. That used to be for television, but no more.
The Golden age did exclude any of them.
Fuck this post is long and not scholarly. I am a performer, therefor a hunk of beef/cattle. Don't take my word for anything.