Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TV Review: "The Event"

NBC's last big fantasy series "Heroes" crashed and burned in two seasons, while languishing on for two more. ABC's last big fantasy series "Lost" ran for a strong, well-planned six seasons, culminating in a derisive, but mostly satisfying finale. Lusting after the same kind of success, NBC's latest entry in the genre is "The Event," a show they promoted ad nauseum all summer long.

"What is 'The Event?'" the promos asked, over and over again. And I must admit, my curiosity was piqued. And now that I've seen the first two episodes, I can honestly say... "Meh."

"The Event" has a likable and (mostly) attractive enough cast: Jason Ritter (son of the late John, most recently seen on "Parenthood"); Blair Underwood ("Dirty Sexy Money;" "The New Adventures of Old Christine"); Laura Innes ("E.R."); Scott Patterson ("The Gilmore Girls") and "Heroes" and "Damages" alum Zeljko Ivanek are joined by a bunch of folks you've seen a million times, including hotties Wes Ramsey and Ian Anthony Dale.

So far, the plot concerns a vast conspiracy dating back to the 1940's when a group of aliens apparently crash-landed in the Alaskan mountains, where the majority of them have since been held in a top-secret facility. Led by the mysterious Sophia (Innes), the aliens are keeping a secret which will apparently have a major impact on the world. Meanwhile, lovers Sean (Ritter) and Leila (Sarah Roemer) have been separated while on a cruise. Leila's father Michael (Patterson) is a pilot who is forced (it's a long story) to fly a plane into the Presidential Compound in Miami, where President Elias Martinez (Underwood) is about to hold a press conference revealing the presence of the ETs. The ETs magically transport the plane to the Arizona desert at the last minute. Sean, aboard the plane in an attempt to stop his future father-in-law from killing the Prez is the only survivor to escape, only to be arrested for the murder of Greg (Dale), a guy he and Leila met while on the cruise. Greg's girlfriend Vicky (Taylor Cole) is not who she presents herself to be and everyone is completely confused by what's going on. 

Two episodes in and we already have more answers than "Lost" gave us in it's first season, but the time-jumping plot already seems threadworn and annoying. I really want to like "The Event" (especially thanks to its charismatic cast) and I hope it gets better as it goes along, though I don't hold much hope for it reaching whatever conclusion the writers have in mind. An especially icky moment where an alien in CIA disguise removes a fake vein from his arm was most effective in episode 2, but I somehow want more conspiracy and less boring character background -- the scene in which Sean and Leila meet, 5 years before the events of "The Event," seemed particularly contrived and silly, especially since it had absolutely nothing to do with what is happening in the story's present timeline. Kudos, though, to the inclusion of Tony "Candyman" Todd as General Whitman in Episode 1 Let's hope the writers of "The Event" are smart enough to keep us interested throughout whatever it is they have planned for us. I really like this cast and hope they have a long-enough run to make my attention worthwhile. **1/2 (Two and a Half Stars Out of Four).

And on a side note: RIP Arthur Penn, director of Bonnie and Clyde, among other iconic works. That's 2 out of 3...

More, anon.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Inappropriateness

I had so much fun he last time I posted about Inappropriate Soundtracks, I thought I'd share some more with you. Of course, part of that comes out of my being so tired, I really don't have a whole lot else to talk about. Once the show is over and I get back to more regular schedule, you can expect more of my usual.

Now, I'm sure you're all sick to death of hearing about Top Girls (though I'll be posting about it at least one more time before the show closes) and I haven't seen a movie in what seems like 10,000 years and I haven't seen enough of the new fall TV season to review any of the new shows properly (though I think I'll be talking about "The Event" once I've seen the second episode). So, rather than tax my own brain by trying to be witty and clever about nothing, here are some more Inappropriate Soundtrack clips that made me laugh. Oh, and our very evil clown friend there? Just something to grab your attention while I blather on about nonsense. Enjoy:

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The Fugitive

Blade Runner

The Road Warrior

The Terminator

And finally, here's an entire Inappropriate Trailer:

Now we finally know where Jigsaw got his start...

More nonsense, anon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

RIP Gloria Stuart

I have to start this post by saying that I really do hate James Cameron's Titanic. Overlong and overwrought, it made its millions by appealing to teenage girls who saw it over and over because of it's "romantic" storyline. Well I say "Bullcrap!" Only slightly more contrived than the plot of Cameron's Avatar, Titanic exploits a real-life tragedy for a lame romance not even worthy of the worst Harlequin Romance novel. How sad then, that an actress with a 7 decade career is best remembered for a supporting role in it?

Stuart made her film debut as Doris in 1932's Street of Women, a cheesy soap opera about a cheating doctor. She went on to appear in several Universal classics, including James Whale's The Old Dark House and Whale's 1933 version of H.G. Welles' The Invisible Man.

She appeared in the Shirley Temple classic Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and almost 50 years later in Richard Benjamin's hilarious salute to 50's TV, My Favorite Year. In 1991, in a nod to her role in the original film, she guest starred on the short-lived TV series "The Invisible Man" and also appeared in guest spots on "Murder, She Wrote;" "Touched By an Angel" and "General Hospital."

Ms. Stuart never garnered the fame of many of her contemporaries, but then not many of them had careers as long as hers. We should all be so lucky to do what we love for as long as she did. Gloria Stuart was 100 years old and the only cast member of Titanic who was actually alive when the ship sank.

More, anon.

Why Does This Movie Rate a Sequel?

Wow! What a week! Top Girls has proven a great success (if I do say so, myself) and while I am really tired right now, I am also aware I've been neglecting the Revenge... But all is well in Uncle P's world, so back to whatever passes for normalcy, I guess.

So last October, millions of idiots (many of whose thoughts on film I usually respect) were duped into thinking Paranormal Activity was actually a scary movie. I still have no idea why. 

Boring, predictable and derivative, Paranormal Activity made millions and convinced otherwise sane film goers that it was really scary. Number One on my "Worst Movies of 2009," (my original review can be read here), the $11,000 movie made enough money to prompt distributor Paramount to commission a sequel, written by the original writer/director Oren Pelli. Directing duties
are handled this time by Tod Williams (The Adventures of Sebastian Cole), so perhaps the pacing problems of the first film are resolved here, but I still have my doubts.

Somehow, I think the joke poster above is closer to what we'll get than an actually scary movie. Pelli is once again the screenwriter, and I have my doubts that his skills have improved. And Katie Featherston apparently returns as the only credited actor in this grab for more unsophisticated film goers' dollars. This time, I think I'll wait until Paranormal Activity 2 is available On Demand (which should be sometime in December). In case you're actually interested, here's the trailer, which involves a dog and baby who casts no reflection (?):

'Shocktober' is only a few days away, kiddies and Uncle P is preparing 31 posts on his favorite Horror Movie Directors, so stay tuned. Until then, expect more gayness, more horror and more nonsense, as usual.

More, anon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Opening Night Nonsense

So, tonight is Top Girls opening night and we're still looking for a few small props. Our producer headed out to the Dollar Store today in search of brandy snifters. She didn't find them, but did come across the inexplicable item in the photo your right, which she snapped with her phone and immediately shared with me and the cast. But I have to know, what the hell is it?

It appears to be the last one, which says to me that several people plunked down their hard-earned dollar and bought one of these, whatever they are. I guess its a toy, but it seems incomplete. And is it a dinosaur? An alien? Jar Jar Binks' disabled cousin? I mean really... What the hell is it? Any ideas?

Anyway, Uncle P is in the midst of a change-of-season sinus infection, making what should be a terrific day, a miserable one. I'm loaded up on decongestants and pain relievers and hoping that Opening Night adrenaline will kick in and make me forget about it by curtain, tonight.

If you know what that thing is, or have a funny idea of what it might be, let me know. 

More, anon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Gayest Things You'll See This Week

First of all, I must send out massive congratulations to my angel Matty, who today set a new Guinness World Record for longest continuous kiss. Matty and his friend Bobby kissed for 33 hours straight (no pun intended). This marks the first time that the record has been set by a same sex couple. I am so very proud of him.

You can read all about it here on Towleroad. There's already been talk of the boys appearing on "Ellen," though I'll believe that when I see it. Matty appeared in the JTMF production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, was Assistant Stage Manager for Sordid Lives and will be seen next June in the JTMF production of Die Mommy, Die! 

And thanks to my dear Stephen in Portland, comes the trailer for the gay romantic comedy* Bear Country City, in selected cities now and available on DVD in December. As a big ole bear (and bear aficionado) myself, Uncle P is really looking forward to seeing this one. Trailer may be NSFW:

*I look forward to the day when I no longer have to qualify a romantic comedy as 'gay.'

Okay - I'm off to (hopefully) finish the sound plot for Top Girls. We open Thursday, so I may be quiet (well, online, at least) for a few days. Wish me broken legs. 

More, anon.

(Updated on 9/20)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Musical 'Meh'

Since I've been going on and on about Top Girls almost ad nauseum, I thought I'd talk about musical theatre tonight, for a change.

Of course, the big Broadway news this year is the on-again-off-again-on-again Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, directed by The Lion King director, Julie Taymor, with music and lyrics by U2's Bono and The Edge.

With production costs estimated to be well over $100M, SM:TOD will have to run for thirty years before it sees a profit. My friend Michael thinks this is a brilliant idea for a show and can't wait to see it. I think it's the dumbest concept for a musical since Carrie White (and we all know how well that turned out - poor Betty Buckley had to play a man in her next show to wash the stink off of her career). Now I love Taymor (especially her films) and I used to love U2, but I just don't see this working, especially after seeing this clip of Taymor's, Bono's and the Edge's recent appearance on "Good Morning America:"

Pop-up book sets? And what the hell is "Swiss Miss?" You can't tell me that Stan Lee actually approved that ridiculous costume. And here's Reeve Carney (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) singing one of the show's songs, "Boy Falls From the Sky:"

Not exactly something you'll be humming on your way out of the theatre, is it? 

But never fear. News from i09 is on the way to save the day... or is it? The Sci-Fi maniacs are reporting that Spidey will have some mammoth competition when the musical King Kong - Live On Stage opens in 2013. Construction on the animatronic ape is already underway in Australia, courtesy of the folks who brought us Walking with Dinosaurs. No word on who'll be starring yet, but you can bet they won't be monkeying around with this one (sorry - couldn't help myself).

Finally (via) out of Germany comes Hope! The Musical. A musical biography of our 44th President, Hope! The Musical is the story of the meteoric rise of Barack Huessin Obama, his wife Michelle and his rivals: Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Sarah Palin. The show is apparently huge in Europe and plans are underway for a US tour. Sung in English and German, the clip below looks to me like a combination of Hair, Rent, and Stomp as produced by Simon Cowell and the DNC:

Honestly, with shows like this in our future, I'm almost glad I stopped doing musicals a while back. 

More, anon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's Almost Soup - A Shameless Plug

I am without a doubt, the luckiest director in the entire world. Somehow, the gods continue to bless me with amazingly talented casts who are not only able to understand exactly what I want from them, but also translate that understanding into performances that go above and beyond. The photo above is from this past Monday's rehearsal for Top Girls and features five of the eight astonishingly good actresses in the show. From L: Jess (Dull Gret); Janet (Marlene); Sarah (Pope Joan); Liz (Lady Nijo) and Susan (Isabella Bird), toasting Marlene's promotion in the play's exceptionally complicated opening scene.

There is still tons of work to be done before we open next Thursday, but at tonight's rehearsal, I could feel the electricity really starting to spark. Each of them is a powerhouse in her own right, but when they are all 'on' at the same time - it's nothing short of magical.

I really do hope that if you are within driving distance of central NJ, that you get a chance to see these extraordinary women in this extraordinary play. You can order advance tickets here or buy them at the door. I know I say this all the time, but this really is a theatrical experience that you will not soon forget.

Shameless plug over. Go back to whatever it was you were doing (but do come see the show if you can).

More, anon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Favorite Silent Film

Obsessed with Film has this review of the newly restored version of Fritz Lang's iconic silent Sci-Fi film, Metropolis. A nearly full-length version was discovered in a Argentinian museum in 2008, and the current version was taken from that print.

Uncle P has been a fan of this movie for almost as long as he can remember. It's the movie that taught me that images can be so more more powerful than words and was my choice for viewing in the first film class I ever took. Released in 1927, Metropolis garnered rave reviews, but was cut down from its original 205 minute running time (extraordinary for a film made in 1926) for subsequent releases. In 1984, musician/filmmaker Giorgio Moroder released a 90 minute version with a pop-music score (the first CD I ever bought) and additional title cards to make up for the assumed-missing scenes. 25 minutes have now been added to the film, including new title cards for the scenes too damaged to include. While not exactly Lang's cut, the current re-release is probably the closest modern audiences can come to the original version of this 84 year-old classic.

Best known for this film and the Peter Lorre classic M, Lang's movie was exceptionally ahead of its time in both terms of special effects and story-telling. Indeed, Karel Capek had only introduced the word "robot" into the language just 6 years earlier in his play R.U.R. (a dreadfully boring play in which Uncle P made his college theatre debut).

With a screenplay by the original novelist Thea von Harbou, Metropolis is rather simplistic by today's standards, telling the story of a supposedly Utopian society where the privileged live in luxury above ground, while proletariat workers toil like slaves in a vast underground complex. Enter the beautiful Maria, who preaches peace and equality to the proles, and with whom the protagonist Freder, falls hopelessly in love. Of course, Freder's father runs the whole place and wants to incite a riot among the workers so he can justify replacing them with machines. To that end, he hires mad scientist Rotwang to replace Maria with a robot who will rile the workers into a frenzy. Creating effects that would be used well into the 1960's, Lang managed to make a movie that would influence filmmakers from Stanley Kubrick to Stephen Spielberg and  inspire writers such as Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick. A rather extraordinary accomplishment for a burgeoning media, don't you think?

Here's the trailer for the film's latest incarnation:

More, anon.

PS - In semi-related movie news, Uncle P received an email today from a director interested in Army of the Dead. Keep your fingers crossed (again).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Songs in the Key of Me

Cyndi at Her 80's Best

So, I've started to put together a list of music I want to use for pre-show, intermission and scene changes for Top Girls. The play is set in 1982, so of course I went and pulled all my '80's CDs, looking for pieces that might be appropriate. Thinking I have to sneak "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in there somewhere, I started listening to Cyndi Lauper's debut debut album "She's So Unusual" and came across a song I'd almost forgotten about: "She Bop." Which of course led Uncle P to think about other songs that deal with... um... well, pleasuring one's self.

While hardly the first song ever written about onanistic behavior, "She Bop" features some of the most overt lyrics ever written on the subject, including my favorite: "They say I better stop or I'll go blind."

Love her or hate her (and I so very much love her), Cyndi is probably an even more iconic '80's star than Madonna, Billy Idol (remind me someday to tell you about that concert) or Adam Ant.

 R.I.P. Captain Lou Albano (though I never really got the whole rubberband thing).

Of course, Cyndi wasn't the only one singing about the joys of being alone in the 80's. Billy Idol's biggest hit was about that very subject, no matter how many zombies he put in the video for "Dancing with Myself" And it wasn't just new-age punks singing about one-handing it. Classic rocker Billy Joel had his own take on the subject with "Sometimes a Fantasy:"

And quintessential '80's band Devo had this to say on the subject:

And then there's the Violent Femmes "Blister in the Sun:"

Mot to mention the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself,"  The Vapors' "Turning Japanese" and the Buzzcocks' "Orgasm Addict:"

Even Prince got into the act with "Darling Nikki:"

But by no means was masturbation (there I've said it) an exclusively 80's musical phenomenon. Chuck Berry explored the subject in the Mid '70's with "My Ding-a- Ling:"

Of course, "Darling Nikki" is about so much more than just self-love...

And in the 90's, the subject was still being explored (all puns intended) by artists such as Tori Amos:

Even Country Western stars sing about it (albeit disguised as patriotism):

Hell, if you don't love yourself, who will? So be proud of your toys, soiled hand-towels and waste cans filled with stiffened Kleenex... I'm not here to judge, but rather to comment, even if that comment is "Oh, yes!"

More, anon.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Forget

I woke up very early on September 11, 2001 with a fever. Knowing I wasn't going to be any good to anyone that day, I called out of work, took some Tylenol and went back to bed.

I woke up again at about 9:45. I came downstairs, got myself some breakfast (I don't remember what, but probably a Thomas' bagel) and turned on the TV in time to see the first tower collapsing. 

I thought I was losing my mind.

I think I called my mother at her job, next. She assured me that she was okay, and that yes, they had heard what was happening. I then called my sister, who works at a major TV shopping network in Florida. There are TV's everywhere there, and she said that everyone was simply glued to them, watching in horror, as I was. No one in my family even worked remotely anywhere near where the attacks were happening, but I was so freaked out, I had to make sure they were OK. 

Like most Americans (indeed, most of the world), I spent that day watching the events unfold again and again, and crying incessantly. Eventually, it all became too much and I think I shut the TV off around 3:00 and slept some more, exhausted by the flu I had apparently contracted and by  the horrors being replayed ad infinitum.

As time passed and people started posting pictures of missing loved ones all over the city, I spent more time crying for their losses. I knew no one who died that day (two friends who worked for different companies in the towers during the first attempt to bring them down, no longer did so), but witnessing the agony of those who had lost loved ones was almost too much to bear... Eventually, I just started watching cable to avoid the whole thing. I couldn't take it anymore and needed a distraction. 

September of 2001 was... strange, to say the least. I (like every American) wanted revenge against those who had killed nearly 3000 innocent people. Of course, had I known then what atrocities would later be sanctioned by the war criminals Bush and Cheney, I might have felt differently. Had I known that over 5000 U.S. troops would be killed in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I would have felt differently. Had I known that George W. Bush was leading the country into the worst economy since the 70's, I would have felt differently.

9/11 now seems to me like a weird, distant, collective nightmare which we all shared. Since then, right-wing nutjobs have gotten louder and scarier and uglier, while the voices of reason are viewed as weaklings and traitors. People want to burn copies of the Qu'ran and vilify all Muslims for the actions of a few radical extremists and attack anyone who even appears to be Islamic, while Constitutional rights are opposed in the name of patriotism. Madness, it seems, simply begets more madness.

I don't pretend to have any answers to the problems America faces as we draw a year closer to the 10th Anniversary of the single worst terrorist attack on our soil. But I can offer this: Never forget that day. Never forget the lives that were lost and the bravery of the firefighters, police officers and airline passengers who gave of themselves that day. And honor the memories of those who gave their lives so that you and I are still free to express our opinions about that day.

More, anon.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Big Bags of Frozen Crap

So, finally, here's the poster for Top Girls. We open two weeks from tonight and still have a ton of work to do. Saturday is a set painting party and then Monday is our first full run of Act I.

My astonishingly gifted cast continues to pour everything they've got into their performances and watching them grow as we rehearse is just so satisfying... 

Tonight we ran the infamous dinner scene again, adding some hand props and food for the first time, which was... interesting, to say the least. It never ceases to amaze me how the introduction of props can throw actors into spasms of clumsiness and confusin (though to be honest, they really weren't that bad). 

We ran it once and then took a break, during which my producer and I started to discuss how we might pull off all the food props, since there really isn't a proper kitchen in the theatre. We were soon joined by sweet, sweet Emily, who is playing Griselda and Nell. The discussion turned toward the possibility of frozen meals we could nuke, when Emily says: "You could always just go to BJ's. They have those big bags of frozen crap." Q immediately turned to me and said "Please make 'big bags of frozen crap' the title of your blog post tonight." Et viola! Ze trick, she is done! For the first time in over two years, Caliban's Revenge has a title suggested by someone other than Uncle P and quite frankly, I find it refreshing (well, as refreshing as Big Bags of Frozen Crap can be, anyway).

Of course, I don't anticipate Top Girls being a big bag of frozen (or thawed, for that matter) crap, but rather an intense evening of theatre that will have our audiences talking and debating for quite some time afterward. That's the plan, anyway...

More, anon.

The Gayest Things You'll See This Week

Uncle P is usually disdainful when it comes to so-called "reality TV," but my one guilty pleasure is NBC's "America's Got Talent." Anyone, of any age and with any talent can audition. Over the past 5 seasons it's been on, we've seen some pretty outrageous performances from some really outrageous performers.

Of course, none of them have been as nearly outrageous as the enormously talented Prince Poppycock (nee John Quale), who performs in over-the-top costumes and makeup. As regular readers know, Poppycock has been my favorite from his very first audition, when he performed an excerpt of "Largo al factotum" from The Barber of Seville. The openly gay performer is part opera singer, part actor and part performance artist. This week, he once again wowed the audience and the judges with his over-the-top performance:

Honestly, who else can go from Rossini to Verdi to Mercury to Cohan to Sousa, so outrageously and so entertainingly? Because I'm in rehearsal for Top Girls, I don't get to see AGT in real time and must rely on my DVR to watch it. But each time he performs, Poppycock reminds me of why I got into show business in the first place - to entertain. If he doesn't win, I'll be sorely disappointed. But I'll be glad to know that he certainly has a huge a career ahead of him. I can't wait to see the results from this week's voting - and if you already know, please don't spoil it for me. And if he does make it into the Top 4 (of which I have no doubt), take a few minutes and vote for him next week. Almost nothing would make me happier than to see him win. Seriously, wouldn't it be great to have an openly gay AGT winner?

From reality to fiction:

I recently discovered the upcoming TLA movie, Is It Just Me? A sort of gay version of Cyrano, the movie is about an average-looking guy who meets the man of his dreams online, using his hunky roommate's photo on his profile. Starring Nicholas Downs, cutie-pie David Loren and hunky Adam Huss, Is It Just Me? explores the differences between the guys who are looking to just hook up and those of us who are looking for "True Love,' whatever that means:

Maybe my idea for a gay adaptation of Aida isn't so crazy, after all. Hell, I might even convince Poppycock to play the title role...

Oh, crap! Okay, all you potential gay screenwriting rivals out there -- gay Aida was my idea first. No stealing, jerks! Love you! Mwah!

More, anon.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Funniest Things You'll See This Week

I don't know who this woman is, but she has become an internet sensation, twice. And I love her.

First, she hit the net as an eyewitness to a robbery at a Kansas City gas station, and then again as... well, you'll see.

First up is her interview with a KNBC reporter, describing what happened during the robbery.

After you watch the first clip, I'm sure you'll be able to associate her with at least one person you know. I can associate her with at least 4, but that's what 30+ years of being in the theatre does to one.

And barely a day after the video hit the net, there is this little bit of genius:

Which was quickly followed by:

And this:

I don't honestly remember a faster spreading meme...
I had a very long, crazy day at the day job and then an intense rehearsal tonight, so I'm off to bed. I hope I was able to bring a smile to your face and a giggle to your lips (that sounded unintentionally dirty, somehow). Have a great Wednesday.

More, anon.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Most Difficult Director's Note Ever

I've been directing for longer than many of my Top Girls actresses have been alive (a fact that is somewhat distressing in and of itself), but I have never before encountered a play that raises more questions than it answers. And, truth be told, Caryl Churchill really doesn't seem interested in answering any of the questions she raises in Top Girls, leaving them instead, up to her audiences to decide.

Of course, art is subjective and should inspire conversation and debate. The human condition may well be constant, but its motives, inspirations and afflictions are myriad. And therein lies the conundrum of Top Girls. Caryl Churchill may well leave the questions up to the audience to decide, but a director and cast must answer at least some of them to create a cohesive and meaningful production.

Pressed by my producer to come up with a Director's Note for this production's program in time to go to press, I found myself (for once), at sea. Regular readers know that Uncle P is rarely one at a lack for words when it comes to expressing my opinions. But my opinions on this particular play are so diverse, it was nigh on impossible to come up with only one page's worth of discussion. In the end, I decided to focus on Churchill's attention on the need for social responsibility and how those that are 'Top Girls' need to be aware of, and nurture those who are not.

Art is one of the few things that connects humans to one another. For all our differences, be they religious; political; sexual or ideological, we all share the need to be productive members of the society in which we live. How we arrive at achieving that goal may vary, but it is ultimately our artistic expressions that connect us to one another.

Of course, all this may very well be idealistic bullshit, in which case I should stop directing and just become a mindless sheep... or not. 

Wow! This entire post now seems little more to me an exercise in semantic masturbation, than anything worth really saying. I wouldn't blame any of you if never read another word I wrote...

To make up for it, here's some gratutious violence:

While that was truly awful, I somehow feel so much better.

More, anon.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Finally Washing Off the 'Star Wars' Stink?

I've been a fan of Israeli-born Natalie Portman ever since her turn as a young girl who hires a hitman for revenge in The Professional. Since then, she's gone on to appear in plenty of films I really like (even if other folks don't), such as Mars Attacks!; Garden State; Cold Mountain; V for Vendetta and The Other Boleyn Girl, among others. 

Unfortunately, she also played Luke and Leia's mother in George Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy. Over this holiday weekend, one of the cable networks (I think it's Spike, but don't quote me) has been running these unfortunate films on what seems like a constant loop. Now, I didn't see any of them in a theater, but rather caught them on DVD or HBO. And, like many fans of the original Star Wars trilogy, I hated them. Boring and over-produced, Episodes 1 through 3 seem to spit in the face of the spirit of the original films. Of course, the payoff is seeing terrible actor Hayden Christensen burned by lava before becoming the character we all know and love to hate, Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith

Deciding I may have given the new trilogy short shrift upon my initial viewings,  I decided to watch them again today. And I am somewhat saddened to report that they are no better now, than when I first saw them.

It has recently been revealed that Lucas never actually intended to make a trilogy of trilogies, but rather wrote the original Star Wars because he wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie, only to find the rights unavailable. So it should come as no no surprise when 20-odd years later, Lucas sat down to write the series' prequels, he had nothing really worth saying. 

Not that he was the greatest writer to begin with. In fact, one of the original trilogy's most famous lines was ad-libbed by Harrison Ford, after several takes using Lucas' original. But the dialog in the prequels is among Lucas' worst, and poor miss Portman comes off sounding like an ill-bred hillbilly, rather than royalty. And it doesn't help that Christensen's 'skills' as an actor fall far short of the rest of the cast. Though to be fair,  Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor and Christopher Lee all sound silly spouting Lucas' lame dialog.

Advance reviews for Darren Aronofsky's (The Wrestler) latest film have been pretty much off the charts, and Portman is being touted for an Oscar nomination almost four months before Black Swan's official release date. Having spent five seasons working with NYC Ballet as an actor in their Education programs, I know that ballet dancers can be... odd. Even odder than actors, if you can believe that. Their days are made up of both grueling physical pain and artistic expression, a combination which can make for some intense personalities, especially among it's stars. If you've ever seen The Turning Point, you have some idea of what I'm talking about. So it comes as no surprise to me that Aronofsky should want to explore the dark side of dance... I've seen it up close and personal, as they say, and am looking forward to seeing both his take on it, and Ms. Portman's much ballyhooed performance. In case you've missed it, here's the trailer:

It is my fervent hope that Black Swan will finally be the movie that erases the last three Star Wars films from audiences' collective consciousness, at least as far as Natalie Portman is concerned. Of course, I'm much more excited about her involvement in the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, than anything. But that's just me...

More, anon.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Even Nomi's Laughing

Okay -- first things first: Why is Cher not billed on this poster? She's without a doubt the biggest star in the movie. And it's not like I'm some fawning Cher queen who thinks she is the be all to end all. Far from it. Yes, we all love her for who she is, but really... she's Cher, bitches. How do Xtina, Veronica Mars and some dopey bint of boyflesh actually rate their names on the poster for what will obviously be one of the worst movies ever made, and poor Little Miss One Name gets no credit at all? All I can think is, she doesn't want any.

Really? A movie about a burlesque theatre in 2010? Writer/director Steven Antin (whose only other directorial credit is the straight-to-video sequel Glass House: The Good Mother) must have been smoking something really good while watching Showgirls to come up with this cinematic shipwreck-in-waiting. I can only think that Joe Ezterhas and Paul Verhoeven are laughing their asses off every time they see the trailer for this movie.

I'm sure you must have seen this trailer before (it's been out for several weeks, now), but take a look again and see if you aren't laughing like a giddy hyena by the end of it:

And what the hell are Stanley Tucci and Alan Cumming doing in this movie? I can't imagine either of them needs the money. I know that work is work, but still...

Uncle P may very well get very wasted and see this movie, if only for its camp value. And I honestly hope that I am proven wrong and Burlesque will turn out to be an amazingly entertaining film... but I'm not counting any chickens, if you know what I mean.

If you want to see a really good, funny movie about Burlesque, put The Night They Raided Minsky's into your NetFlicks queue. I promise you will enjoy it.

Or take a trip to Vegas for Cirque du Soleil's take on Burlesque, Zumanity.

More, anon.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Allusions, Allegories and Downright Rip-Offs

What Are They Sitting On?

So, we finished blocking the first scene of Top Girls tonight. It's long and complicated and filled with tales of both triumph and woe.

And since Churchill is so specific about the seating arrangements in the scene, I couldn't help but take advantage of it and use an iconic image everyone knows towards the end of it. It's not the first time I've done such a thing. I put the Sistine Chapel into The Most Fabulous Story... and hope to find a place to use this image in the scene that follows the dinner in Act I. In fact, I may very well put an iconic image in every scene of the show...

Top Girls is a play so filled with social commentary, I'm sure it won't be difficult to find plenty of places to add such images. The trick, of course, is finding the right image for the right scene. And since one of Churchill's characters is right out of an iconic image, I can't imagine she'd be very upset by the idea.

I'm not afraid to admit that Top Girls is probably the hardest thing I've ever attempted as a director - it's loaded with layer-upon-layer of psychology; politics; feminism; mythology; symbolism and social commentary, all of which need to be explored in order to create a cohesive piece out of a play that asks a million and five questions without answering a single one of them. 

Still, I'm confident that my most excellent cast is up to the task. They certainly aren't afraid to take the journey (and the risks that go along with it) with me, and that's what every director hopes for when he or she casts a show. I just have to convince myself that I'm up to it, as well.

More, anon.