Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stopping and Starting

I tried to maintain a blog before on myspace and it just wasn't as sexy as this one.  I couldn't keep up with it and all the millions of friends, so I think this will be my new forum for telling the world what my take on things is.  Now that I got those comments about 2001/2010 out of my head I guess I can start with the mission statement for this new one.  Does this go at the top under the blog title?  I don't know.  I do know I love talking about movies I've seen and what's going on in the world and drawing connections to the lives of people I know.  The future of art.  What makes something worthwhile.  
Since much of my work as an actor involves seeing shows and thinking critically about them, I'll include great performances and writing I come across here but probably leave out negative reviews.  Never say never, but ultimately it's just not doing anyone any good to rip apart a production that's not successful when all any of us are trying to do is make art together.  Some critics (which I am not) sell papers by writing hilariously catty and/or scathing reviews of shows and pour their writing talent into destroying a company's two months of low-paying, gut-busting hard work.  I do not believe in this.  The theatre is the last place in the world anyone should be trying to encourage back-biting or competition.  Most theatrical criticism cripples artists and destroys risk-taking.  I'll be firm but fair--like the best bosses.
Film is a completely different story.  Most commercial films are a colossal waste of energy and resources.  It's not that there is no artistry involved (every member of a film crew is doing a ton of specialized work) but the work is, in fact, so specialized that the artisans are divorced from the content itself and make superficial movies that are well-made.  The people whose job it is to make sure the story is any good are usually bankers and money men.  The product that emerges from everyone's hard work is usually all fucked up by calculations at the highest levels of what will sell to the most people.  There's too much money and talent involved for the industry to not get some of my scorn for these kinds of bad, bad decisions.  If it deserves it, it's gonna get it.  Hopefully, as I get older and wiser, I'm also becoming more attuned to what has merit, and I shouldn't have to skewer anything too often.  Making a stand about what you're willing to pay for and put up with is the only thing that will make them listen out there.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

2001/2010: The Story of No Story

I just watched the movies 2001: A space odyssey and 2010: The year we make contact.  First, 2001.  I really liked this, although I knew what the story was beforehand.  That's probably why I could handle the excrutiatingly long pans and lack of dialogue.  Some truly incredible imagery remains with you long after it's over.  The construction of the shots were expert and exciting.  Innovative.  The problem for me is that Stanley Kubrik was telling individual unconnected stories.  1.) Early primates discovering tools, 2.)  A mission to the moon, 3.) A mission to Jupiter that ends up with Hal malfunctioning, 4.) David Bowman's transformation into the Star Child.  These are not discrete plot points but interconnected threads of a bigger picture.  Kubrik is a master technically, but a rudimentary synopsis from wikipedia will yield more narrative than what's on film here.  And the problem with this is that the story is fantastic and really complicated and interesting.  
The film takes a "hard science" approach to what life would be like onboard a spaceship--which translates to a lot of monotony and boredom punctuated by life-threatening crises, and this I think is the biggest pitfall in the storytelling.  It's the same problem that befell Minority Report: they got so involved "showing us what the future looks like" that they didn't show us real characters pursuing their objectives in that environment.   Kubrik (and Clarke) are rightly fascinated by the details; Ships take months to reach their destinations, everything is automated, and the characters spend their time exercising, eating space food, or in hypersleep.  At one point, Frank Poole watches a video birthday message from home while sunbathing. This is very real, but let's get into the fact that an alien monolith has been discovered buried on the moon that represents a care-taking race of superior beings who have been guiding the course of human evolution since the beginning!  The movie is ostensibly about a mission to explore a similar monolith on Jupiter and then halfway through becomes an entirely different movie altogether.  When Hal breaks down the whole 
movie breaks down, too because of Kubrik's flights of impressionistic fancy in representing the non-scientific, surreal story elements.  It's a movie not a book, so visuals take priority, but there is no way I would have had any clue what any of it meant (or amounted to) if I didn't already know.  
2010 is basically the same thing.  A rougher, less sexy, more populated version of the same thing.  The whole business of life being ushered into being by the monoliths is pushed aside in favor of the space-escape/cold-war-tension elements.  It's more about an unlikely allies adventure than about connecting the dots.  I wanted to know what's going on!