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.