Monday, February 22, 2010

Touring Hiatus

Alright, so my touring schedule is getting a little hectic so I will take a short hiatus from blogging about film/theatre while I focus on traveling.

Here's to the journey!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Life From the Outside

I watched 2 Days in Paris with very little idea of what I was getting myself into. I had run into the trailer from another dvd. But the main reason I was able to catch this movie was because Netflix had it on instant play. So I clicked it.

The scenes that stand out for me in the movie are the scenes in which Marion (Julie Deply) and Jack (Adam Goldberg) are riding in a taxi. Every taxi driver enjoys carrying on conversations with Marion in French and Jack sits slumped in the corner confused and frustrated because he doesn't know what is being said. Usually, what is being said is racist, misogynist, unflattering, or mean. And Jack is left to listen to a language he doesn't understand, and watch a girlfriend drift further and further away.

This movie has a lot of similarities to Lost in Translation, except instead of two outsiders we see just one outsider struggling to adjust. This is also a film that didn't make Paris look glamorous, friendly, inviting, new, shiny, and morally or politically superior. This made Paris look as deeply troubled, exciting, dangerous, uninviting, and pock marked as the US. I must say I appreciated that greatly.

That is where the boldness of the film comes from. It's willingness to showcase the unflattering parts of the city (and country) it is documenting. The streets weren't altogether sparkling clean, there were bad parts of the city, ignorant, raving people, riots and protests, and loving couples. This made Paris more than just a tourist destination. More than a simple city of love and promise. This film did what New York, I Love You didn't do. It show cased a city in a way that made it feel like another character. A real, flawed character. A character I actually believed existed and wanted to know more about.

I'd give this film 3 outta 4.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Death of Theatre

Today I want use this Playback Tuesday to talk about the death of theatre or as John Gassner once wrote, "Entropy in the Theatre." Entropy, a gradual decline into disorder. The Best American Plays, fourth series 1951-1957, was written at a time when the game of theatre was beginning to be forever changed by two entertainment competitors, film and television.

In the first paragraph of his introduction, And Still It Moves, he states that theatre, "...according to reasonable expectations should be gasping out its life by now instead of enjoying better health than those giants of mass-communication, the motion pictures and television." Looking back and reading those words made me grimmace. If such a statement were ever true it certainly is not the case now. Film and television are the giants and most theatres have become the naughty younger sibling trying to immitate it's bigger siblings success, the spectacle trying to justify the costs of tickets, or the social rabble raiser. I personally have nothing against any of those, but as I look down the list of the best American playwrights of 1951 to 1957 I am left wondering where did the plays all go? What wasteland houses them?

I will question aloud whether or not the newest generation of playwrights that find themselves in the unfortunate position of writing straight plays or comedies have found a new home in the very places that were once the enemies of the theatre, film and television.

Judging by the productions of a lot of theatres I doubt there is much that can be done to stop the constant trickle of new writers fleeing to more stable (and often more welcoming) waters.

Thus the question remains, Can American theatre survive in the 21st century? Or is it now gasping out it's last breath as the across the country theatres keep going dark, forever.

Does still it move?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Real Men Cry

I found this blog a while ago and love keeping up on the news in the area. One of my favorite posts is the January 28th post about Mel Gibson using menthol crystals to make himself cry for a very emotional scene in Braveheart. Crying doesn't make an actor, but it definitely can make a scene. A lot of times in plays and films there is the omnious parenthetical phrase (she is crying). Working yourself up for a tear jerker scene can be difficult no matter how talented you are for multiple takes or multiple performances.

Nice to see an actor own up...even if the confession was buried in the Braveheart commentary.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Film Flash Friday: New York, I Love You

There is so much about film that I have to learn. I am positive that if I knew more about the making of New York, I Love You or the history behind the filming and the vignettes that I would probably have liked, or at least understood, this film a lot more. I get the fact that many different writers, directors, and actors all intersect. I get that the film is a love letter to the city. I get the general idea. Despite getting all of that I was bored by the first twenty minutes of the film. The love letter to the city was too disembodied for me to want to follow it, and some stories were more captivating than others. The city itself became this montage, but none of it convinced me. And the stories that did pique my interest either left me too baffled and confused or stopped too abruptly to leave a lasting impact on me. It felt less like a patchwork quilt and more like several different puzzles spread out on the floor and pieced hastily together.

I've only lived in New York City for a summer, so perhaps being an outsider helped to dull my enthusiasm. Or perhaps I let my own perceptions of the city cloud the love sonnet being looped not so subtly through each image. Whatever the case I missed the love, or the purpose.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Plaback Tuesday: Write It Again, Neil

I feel this need to revisit Neil Simon and his memoir. I've been thinking about it a lot. He structures each chapter and each chapter title around his plays. Usually, it is a comical or ironic spoiler. But in a way it just helps to underscore how much his plays, his writings, his creative ideas are apart of his life. I think a lot of time for artists a discussion naturally arises about how much of their work is a part of or separate from their personal life. Neil Simon makes it so clear that it can often be difficult to separate your passions from who are as an individual, and yet he does it in a way that is not pretentious but honest.

His book is part reflection on his plays (the stories or situations that influenced them) and part just the tale of a man reflecting on his life--the good, the bad, and the ugly.

He talks about the hits, the flops, and the writing projects he secretly contributed to (A Chorus Line). If you have the time to read it I recommend it as a good (and ultimately positive) read. Oh, and another I learned...playwriting involves a lot of rewrites.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Biz Monday Starter: War in Film

It is time to revisit the NY Times and one of my favorite film critics A.O. Scott. Here is an excerpt from his article, "Apolitics and the War Film" :

Perhaps the decision to stay out of these debates is a way of acknowledging this ambivalence. Or perhaps filmmakers, aware of the volatility of popular opinion, are leery of turning off potential ticket buyers on one side or another. Or maybe, in the end, the gap between beliefs about war and its reality is too wide for any single movie to capture. Politics finds its way into films like
“In the Loop,” Armando Iannucci’s scabrous satire of diplomatic back-stabbing (nominated for an adapted screenplay Oscar), and “No End in Sight,” Charles Ferguson’s meticulous documentary on the disastrous early stages of the Iraqi war. But the disconnection between the policy players in those movies and the guys in “The Hurt Locker” and “Restrepo” seems absolute. That may say more about reality than about the movies.

It is interesting to note the difference between war films of the past and war films now. His article also delves into the need of some film makers to make their films, particularly those involving current wars, neutral. The debate about neutrality and its affect on making films more or less realistic is going on now. I believe his article to be an excellent start to a thoughtful Monday morning.