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.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Film Flash Friday: The fim I want to see but probably won't

Antichrist is one of those films I know will be an eye opener. It has been causing a stir, whether good or bad, the jury (read the critics who can make or break independent films) is divided. It has been dubbed the movie that feels as if your eyes are being scrapped out of your sockets. I must say that any movie that causes such a stir of emotion makes me curious. I want to see a film that if looked at philosophically is brilliant, but could also be called the most disturbing film of the century.

Here are two reviews below if you are interested. Maybe this will be the film you want to see and certainly will.

A.O. Scott NY Times
: (below is an excerpt)

"The rest of “Antichrist,” divided into chapters and shot in weird, pulsating, muted digital color by Anthony Dod Mantle (“Slumdog Millionaire”), explores the aftermath of this fatal incident, and expands on its implicit linking of female sexuality and death. The mother is mad with grief and guilt, and Ms. Gainsbourg’s anguished, naked (literally and otherwise) performance is, at least in the film’s first half, its only genuinely harrowing aspect. Following in the footsteps of Emily Watson in “Breaking the Waves,” Bjork in “Dancer in the Dark” and Nicole Kidman in “Dogville,” she allows herself to be pushed and provoked toward brave and extraordinary feats of acting in a dubious cause...That sinister, sylvan place is where they go to work things out, amid a storm of falling acorns and a riot of metaphors and curious optical effects. “Antichrist” certainly looks and sounds troubling, with landscapes that warp, buckle and undulate and an aural design that turns puffs of wind into satanic murmurs. Occasionally a grotesque animatronic animal — including a talking fox that has already gathered a cult following in cinephile circles — shows up to add an extra touch of Guignol."

Roger Ebert: (below is an excerpt)

"That said, I know what's in it for von Trier. What was in it for me? More than anything else, I responded to the performances. Feature films may be fiction, but they are certainly documentaries showing actors in front of a camera. Both Dafoe and Gainsbourg have been risk takers, as anyone working with von Trier must be. The ways they're called upon to act in this film are extraordinary. They respond without hesitation. More important, they convince. Who can say what von Trier intended? His own explanations have been vague. The actors take the words and actions at face value and invest them with all the conviction they can. The result, in a sense, is that He and She get away from von Trier's theoretical control and act on their own, as they are compelled to.

We don't know as much as we think we do about acting. In a recent interview, I asked Dafoe what discussions he had with Gainsbourg before their most difficult scenes. He said they discussed very little: "We had great intimacy on the set but the truth is we barely knew each other. We kissed in front of the camera the first time, we got naked for the first time with the camera rolling. This is pure pretending. Since our intimacy only exists before the camera, it makes it more potent for us."

So it is a documentary in one way. What does it document? The courage of the actors, for one thing. The realization of von Trier's images, for another. And on the personal level, our fear that evil does exist in the world, that our fellow men are capable of limitless cruelty, and that it might lead, as it does in the film, to the obliteration of human hope. The third stage is Despair."

Interesting stuff, but maybe too much a psychological bender for me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Playback Tuesday: Neil Simon

The life of a writer is not all rose buds and peach pies. It involves a lot of ideas, rewrites, and financial backing. It also involves taking a play from concept to tangible performance. Occasionally it involves letting go of great actors like De Niro because "no actor ever thinks he can't become right for the part even when it is obvious he is not." It's fascinating to get a glimpse into the life of a playwright whose monologues I've managed to butcher at different points in my theatre career. A great read. Now, I may go back in time and read his first autobiography, Rewrites.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Biz Monday Starter: Theatre School Reviewed

I literally can't get enough of this blog. I am constantly searching the web for interesting Theatre/Film/Entertainment tidbits and I always return here. Reading it is like a big gulp of clean, refreshingly honest, reflective conversation.

A post that caught me eye immediately was Thinking Out Loud: Why I Need A Study Group (or Where Theatre School Failed Me)

How could it not catch my eye? I felt as if someone had finally pinpointed and written down all of my post-graduation angst. My first thought, "Thank god I am not alone." My second thought, "Canada would be a great place to live. When can I move?" I love the idea of people from all facets of the artistic community coming together to discuss, question, and theorize about art.

In case you can't read the full article here are some questions discussed at their meetings:
  • How do we respond to our artistic lineage?
  • If we had­ postmodernism, why do I need to think about modernism?
  • How do I dedicate myself to thinking critically and artistically about my world and still participate in it?
  • Is it valuable to impose old work on new performers?
  • Is amateur participation in the arts making professional art redundant?
I also pulled this last paragraph in full:

For me, it’s an act of stretching myself into unfamiliar territory around people who relate to the same basic structures that I do, so I can think daringly without feeling alone at sea. It’s about conjuring the kind of curiosity and imagination that can lead to entirely new ways of working. I always leave feeling “activated”. For months the ideas and questions raised sit poised at the front of my mind, ready when I see a show and wonder “what is this show doing – and how do I feel about it?” or “how does this show fit into the arts ecology of Toronto/Canada/the world?”

We meet next Tuesday February 2nd and welcome new faces. We’ll be talking about audience as community and beauty (among other things). You can read the details of all our past and future goings-on here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Film Flash Friday: Extras Series Finale

I absolutely love the idea of Extras. A satire on so many fronts: the film industry, actors, fame...the list could go on and on. I laugh, which is somewhat ironic, because often I find myself laughing at myself. In the Extras Series Finale, I found myself not laughing at all. I cried or frowned because I actually found there to be more truth than bitting humor. And it is much easier for me to laugh at hints of truth than at bare faced truths. Almost anything can be funny, but when the laughter fades and you find yourself living the reality laughter takes a while to build up to.

The Extras Series Finale did something I believe is the mark of a truly great made me reevaluate myself and the industry which can be more than just cold, it can be downright devastating. Acting is a careers in which you are selling more than just talent, or ability. You are selling yourself. Your teeth, your skin, your hair, your lips, your body are all on the market. Which can be why each rejection can resonate even deeper than "you're just not right for the part." It can often be hard to decipher which part of you was wrong for the part. My talent, my ability (things that we, arguably, have more of an opportunity to improve upon) or my look (a thing much harder to "improve upon").

Acting is a super competitive job, and some argue that it just comes with the territory. Every time I hear that I think of the Lily Tomlin quote, "The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat."

The ending of Extras was somewhat hopeful. The rat decides to exit the race. But it seemed to beg the question, is it possible to change the game without the game changing you? Is it possible to stay true to your values and be successful? Does adhearing to your own compass of right and wrong mean having to create a your own path, or are there already pathways already there for you to follow? Is it possible to make a living doing what you love? And if what you love begins to morph, to shape shift into something unrecognizable should you still try and hold onto it?

I really enjoyed the Extras series finale, and I am extremely happy that such a statement exists. It encourages me to reflect, reanalyze, and most importantly to question (even if I don't have any of the answers).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Playback Tuesday: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

I do love plays. I can always count on coming back to them no matter how much I moan and complain about the few that are very hard to read and understand. It's like having a running dialogue going on in your head. And I get to imagine each character (with help from the playwright, of course). I am familiar with this play, mostly because it tends to yields some very good monologues for many a young actress, but this was my first time reading it start to finish. I was entranced from the beginning. And by beginning, I do not mean page one of the play, but rather with the first introductory note by the playwright.

I absolutely love it when playwrights right introductions or notes or thoughts about the plays they have written. I feel as if there is something very special about that. A way for me to connect to the playwright, their emotions and feelings, without having them in the room. A way to bypass the question and answer after the reading, but still gain insight. The more I learn about the craft of play writing the more entranced I become with the playwright. How did their life experiences influence the play, the characters, the overall theme?

In the case of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Paul Zindel's past experiences with his mother and sister played a key role in forming his play. He says, "For me, the play continued to resonate on many levels. There was the unspoken, the personal, in which my sister had always been my hisotorian and guide...while our mother dreamed and held on to a bizarre, preposterous pride, some nights there would be no food to eat, no coal to burn."

He also talks about his influence on the character Tillie, "I sketched a speck of myself into Marigolds, changing my sex to become the fictional, life-affirming Tillie. And the lesson I learned by writing the play with thoughtfulness, honesty, amazement, and terror was that youth is resilient in the clutch of darkness. Between the lines was a love letter to my teachers and librarians and the entire public school system, the world that had been my, and my sister's , salvation from the madhouse."

He calls his introduction, Marigold's Revisited. Zindel goes back to watch a production of the play in 1996, the play was written in 1970 (and won the pulitzer prize in 1971). Paul Zindel died of Cancer in 2003. Marigold's seems to be a play that at once mirrors the trouble life he led as a child, and serves to encourage hope in others who find themselves in similar situations.

A good read indeed.

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
Paul Zindel

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Biz Monday Starter: Decimating the Arts through Lack of Funds

I begin this Monday morning with thoughts of the Arts. What is Art worth? It's funny to try and place a monetary value on Art. When I say Art, I am including everything from visual to performance to written works. Whether or not it is fair to answer that question, the truth is that there is a monetary value placed on the arts. Funding, whether through grants, government, or business, puts a value on artistic endeavors. Money makes the world go round, and it also makes the arts happen. In British Columbia, provincial arts are facing 92% cuts to their funds. What impresses me so much is how they are coming together to fight it! I am enamored with their artistic community and the way in which they voice their outrage.

Here is a video I pulled from this post on the Praxis Theatre blog...a constant source of inspiration.

They even link to this website where you can see a "list of prominent British Columbians and Canadians speak out against the cuts." 8% of the arts does not look promising.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Film Flash Friday: Feast of Love

How many movies are out there that I have no idea exist? It feels like every time I watch a preview, or browse Netflix I find some film that I have to see. Feast of Love was one of those films. I had never heard of it before, but the story looked interesting and Morgan Freeman was in it along with Greg Kinnear. So, onto my queque it went. I wasn't disappointed. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed it a lot. It was a hopeful film that centered around the lives of couples. As interesting a subject matter as any. Which makes me ponder. How many movies are out there that I have no idea exist? And can I watch all of them in a lifetime? The film that I am watching for Friday is another one that I discovered by watching the previews from this film. Funny how that happens. My film world just keeps expanding and expanding. I'd love to hear about how people schedule film watching into their schedules. I am not particularly good about it. I have six films waiting for me. It's something that keeps me excited--even if I can't watch them right away, I know that they are there, waiting...and I can't wait to see what I'll find. Maybe that is some of the excitement about watching films you have no idea about. You never know what the movie is going to throw at you. Is it a romance film? A comedy? A drama? Will I like the characters, the acting, the writing, the filming, the editing, the ending? So many questions and then, hopefully, it happens. You sink into the film and allow the plot to unfold before you. That's how I felt watching this film. I didn't search out reviews or online summaries. I just watched the preview, got the movie, and watched it. A nice way to end the week.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Playback Tuesday: Research

I finally finished the Harriet Tubman biography I had been working on since before Christmas. I know, it's not a play, but believe it or not my Harriet Tubman biography is related to the nature of the biz. As an actor, research is an integral part of any role. My ultimate goal when portraying a character isn't to necessarily be an expert in any one aspect of a character's life, but to come as close as I can to understanding a character and their motivations (I often fall grievously short but it's good to set high standards). When you think about it that's actually a rather daunting and difficult job. I have a difficult time just trying to analyze myself and my own "character" motivations.

Acting, in of itself, can be rather humorous to think about at first. One individual attempting to portray another individual. I use the word portray intentionally, because imitating is a word that I've found to be rather irksome. I want to do more than imitate, which implies this almost outward understanding of character. I want to know (or at least try to know) as much about a character's inner workings as possible. The funny thing about characters and human beings is that the knowledge and understanding that I attempt to pin down is impossible. Understanding seems to be much more fluid a concept so that there is always something more to know or add. Always some new place for the character to grow or expand.

I also find that there is a particular challenge added when portraying someone who actually existed in "real life." The excitment of knowing that the story being told actually happened. The scenes being played now may have been played out many years before. And even if those scenes weren't played out in exactly the same way it is interesting to ponder the possible similarities.

I read this biography in hopes of further understanding a character whom I had heard about, but never really took the time to discover. In earlier posts a discussion popped up in the comment section about heroism and what makes a hero. Whether or not tragic misgivings were needed to highlight the eventual rise (or decline of a hero). I am still not sure about the answer to that, but I am discovering that the more I learn about iconic individuals of the past their "humanness" seems to manifest itself in curious ways. Flaws, personal strife, or misgivings seem to, in an odd way, bypass the passage of time to create bridges connecting their stories to my own.

I must remember in the future not to ignore the power of the biography when it comes to film, theatre, and television. Many a successful production has come from such stories. I guess in the in end I am always taken aback by the power of the written word, and I am extremely grateful that I began Playback Tuesday as a way to force myself to read more.

As much as I love the biography, next Playback Tuesday I will reenter the world of plays. A good two (maybe three) week hiatus is long enough.

Harriet Tubman: Portrait of An American Hero
Kate Clifford Larson

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Biz Monday Starter: More Thougts

I posted about Avatar two weeks ago, and it looks like the film is still getting a lot of attention, both for its command of the box office and the way it has attracted award season buzz. Here are two more posts about the movie.

This one from Yahoo
An overview about Avatar and the thing known as Box Office Gold

And this interesting one from the NY Times. Do I agree with some of the things said in this controversial I still like better believe it!

Read 'em if you have time because they are great things to ponder as 3-D makes a grab for "the new wave of film."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Film Flash Friday: The Lives of Others

It is rare that I choose to write about a film that I haven't seen the ending to. To be fair, I saw about 5 minutes until the end of the film, and I was completely riveted. This film, about East Berlin before the fall of the wall, documents a time where the secret police owned the people and the information. Those individuals who didn't were killed, persecuted, or driven out. The cost of knowledge, ideas, and individual freedoms were great. To feel the pressure to fall in line with an accepted group idea, whether for or against the government, also was great. You were either with one or against the other, and the fascinating thing was to see an individual fight to stay neutral. The film begged the question of whether or not neutrality in hostile situations is possible. In the end it is up to the protagonist (and his ever present antagonist) to decide the fate of many lives. I love how the typewriter becomes the symbol for "truth" and how it plays a major role in both the protagonist's and antagonist's lives. As for the ending, I was highly disappointed with my (clearly scratched and damaged) Netflix dvd. There is nothing is more disheartening than being left 5 minutes from the ending of a film and finding yourself yelling empty curses at a machine. So, alas I read the ending online. The impact was not the same. This is the type of the movie that may need to be watched all over again just to get to the last five minutes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Playback Tuesday: Screenplay

Normally, Playback Tuesday involves the reading of a play or screenplay, but I thought that I'd like to extend it to books that have to deal with the any aspect of the Industry that I am curious to know more about. I was first introduced to Syd Field's book through a college screenwriting class. As you might imagine, I read very little of the book while I was actually taking the class. It was one of those books that we were strongly encouraged to read, but no assignment was directly tied into the reading of it. Therefore, I didn't truly discover how interesting the book was until a year after I had graduated. I found it, pages crisp, the new book smell still firmly intact, lying on a pile of other unused college artifacts. I am glad I rescued it. The book no longer has the new book smell, the pages are full of highlight marks and pencil stars, but I think it is much more happy. Syd Field is a man who is unafraid to use repetition to beat a concept or term into your head. I being, occasionally concept challenged, appreciate this greatly. If you are interested in learning about one man's theory (though generally accepted by Hollywood) about what makes a good screenplay or feel as if there is a screenplay lurking somewhere in the depths of your soul, this book is a great place to start.

For more info on the book:
Amazon Book Page
For more info on the man:

Syd Field

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Biz Monday Starter: Blogging the Industry

I was given a link to this blog and I immediately fell in love. The Entertainment Business can be rather closed when it comes to sharing information about the realities/requirements of certain jobs...I absolutely love how Jessica is so open about her design process and even has a post with common questions and answers. Did I mention how much I love people blogging about what they are passionate about?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Picture Perfect Weekend

I am off to watch more movies. Have a great weekend.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Film Flash Friday: Avatar

I must admit that anything I say about Avatar from this point on can be hotly contested because I may have allowed myself to be blown away by the 3-D. This is definitely that movie where I'd like to kindly advise any person who hasn't seen the movie to not even think about buying tickets to the 2-D version--the 3-D version is worth the extra 2 to 3 dollars. (A slight disclaimer...for our 3-D experience glasses were a requirement...not the two tone ones from 70s, but glasses none-the-less so if you wear glasses already and don't have easy access to contacts I am not sure if it is the same.) So, before the film starts you get to see 3-D. Alice in Wonderland is a preview that stood out in my mind.

I wish I could explain the amount of visual detail that you as an audience member get to see and experience, or how visual effects can actually work to enhance the storyline of a film. I believe, though, it will have to be experienced rather than explained. The widespread usage of this technology will definitely have interesting effects on the film industry...despite the cost of the film, and the amount of money needed to just "break-even" it looks as if Avatar is a hit. How 3-D will affect films that rely less on action adventure to propel the story forward? I cannot say.

The biggest gripe about the film, is a common gripe for action adventure films...the story was weak. I, however, thought the story was just fine. A masterpiece, no. Somewhat predictable outcomes, villains, and heroes, yes. But for what it was, an intense action film that put the audience in a breathtaking world far away from home, it was great...and one could even, with little effort, take away some political undertones. One friend mentioned, the capture of Hawaii.

I liked it. I was left slightly speechless afterward, and felt like I had just witnessed some sort of monumental shift in film. It might also help if I added that I saw the film in Helena, MT. I had assumed that a place like Helena would have no theater with the capability to see 3-D...that I'd have to wait until I got to some bigger city. Oh, naive me...I forgot that you don't release a film like Avatar if only people in major metropolitan areas can see make sure that you give it every opportunity you can to be a huge success.

For Better Reviews/Commentary Check Out:
3-D's Quest to Move Beyond the Gimmicks, Dave Kehr

Avatar Review, Manohla Dargis

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Playback Tuesday: Arthur (1981)

I can't say that I am not a little surprised and confused about why the movie Arthur made into The Best American Screenplays. Granted, I've never seen the movie, and the script wasn't was just over-the-top. Maybe this is one of those times where my link to the 80s fails me? I know relatively little about the 80s, besides the fact that I was born in the decade. I can only hope that more context about the time period would make this comedy about a free wheeling, rich alcoholic playboy who manages to find love in a working class girl at the risk of losing his 750 million dollar inheritance more humorous. It's the way in which our beloved protagonist, Arthur, swings dangerously from one side of the pendulum to the next as he attempts to come to terms with a belated adulthood. He really is hot and cold when it comes to this love story that seems to get strength from everyone grabbing at some sort of stake in his wealth...including Ralph, Linda's working class, unemployed dad who so badly wants to see the couple work out because he dreams of "...Buicks, Florida, and fast food restaurants." It would seem fitting that the happy (read Arthur gets to keep his 750,000,000) resolution occurs when Linda and Arthur tempt his cantankerous grandmother into relinquishing the money by engaging in an open conversation about their children being "barbers or sanitation men." This, of course, will not do. Thus, the money is handed over quite peacefully. Despite this film winning two academy awards (one for best supporting actor and one for best original song), I dare say this movie would have a hard time getting made today. I never felt that the Arthur had to sacrifice anything. It seemed as if all of the sacrifices were made by others, including his faithful servant Hobson and the rich girl he scorned, Susan. And, because of his lack of sacrifice, I didn't feel sympathy for him, or truly believe that he was able to grow from his experiences. I can't say for sure if I am right, but a look at the movie poster for Arthur II (below) makes believe that perhaps I am.

Arthur (1981)
Screenplay Steve Gordon

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Biz Monday Starter: The Way Things Are Done

I found this article on the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's blog written by a script reader, Pat King, for the theatre. I like it when a somewhat mystifying process is demystified. I was struck by how many new works are being submitted, and how few make it to their stage. King sees his role as less of a gatekeeper, controlling what should attempt to come in and what shouldn't, and as more of an interpreter, a middle man in the conversation between playwright and theatre. He states, "To a certain degree, while I’d love to 'discover' a play that lands on Steppenwolf’s stages, my job is much simpler: to champion exciting, interesting writers that should be on our radar, and to articulate what makes their work sing." I also enjoy when he expounds upon the good, the bad, and the ugly when he says that, "...the very bad and very good scripts are a lot of fun, while the in-between are tremendously difficult to write about." A simple statement that makes a lot sense. Even when reviewing films, the mediocre is harder to categorize or even lampoon/exult...while most people (including myself) can find religious reverence in the stinkers/sinkers and the top of the barrel. Overall, this article also made me feel extremely indebted to the Steppenwolf theatre for having someone to continue the search for new works and to act as a mediator between playwright and theatre. I find it reassuring to know that somewhere out there is a theatre still very much engaged in attempting to introduce fresh works into theatre. As the film industry continues to make giant leaps forward, I believe that theatre must do the same. If not, the danger of creating a stagnant pool overused cash cows as the sole audience fodder becomes less of a thespian's nightmare and more of an American theatre staple.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Picture Perfect Weekend: Montana Winter

The new year is here and so is winter. Here is to a picture perfect weekend.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Film Flash Friday: Whatever Works

Woody Allen and Larry David doing a movie together should make for a delightful hour and a half--two cynical, balding men who love to talk about themselves and their world views collaborating on a film about just that. Unfortunately, Whatever Works reads less like a thought provoking, New York Comedy and more like a botched science experiment in which people's lives are pieced together like predictable, oversized play skol puzzles--perhaps in homage of the films title Whatever Works. This is certainly a film in which Whatever Works translates into everything working out in the end--even if the ways in which the resolutions occur seem to go completely against the grain of the characters. I am all for comedy, but isn't some of the draw in comedy, some of the humor, based off of this notion of truth in characters and characterizations? I find it hard to believe that a charmed (Mississippian no less) southern belle turns into a swanky NYC artist living with two men or that a botched suicide attempt lands love (literally). I guess what I wanted Woody Allen to do was to make me believe that such things were possible within the realm of the world he had created, but this film had more holes than a slice of deli swiss cheese. Larry David does do an outstanding job playing Larry David (or perhaps a younger version of Woody Allen). But, that is not enough to elevate this film, in my opinion, above a hodgepodge of interesting thoughts that were paired with a rather dull and predictable plot. But, hey, whatever works.

Whatever Works

Directed and Written by Woody Allen
out on dvd