Archive for Hollywood

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #2 | Equus

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Tragedy.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #2

I do not often weep: for not only do my thoughts on matters pertaining to American culture (art) daily, hell hourly, sink to depths “too deep for tears” — but also, I believe that all minds which have contemplated such matters as intensely as I have done, must, for their own protection from utter despondency, hold some undying belief that the overall future and well-being of American culture (art) will one day be free of suffering. On these accounts, I am weary at this phase in life: and, as I have said, I do not often weep… Yet here I am, in my feelings once again, though this time much more even-keeled and moderate: and often, when I wander at this time around Hollywood, past the eateries, theaters (Pantages, Palladium) and tourist traps shops that line Hollywood Blvd. or along the much quieter Theater Row (Santa Monica Blvd.; same flair), each district lit up by bright, attention-grabbing signs, and hear the lively conversations of those I stroll by or see huddled together on the sidewalks outside of the theaters which years ago sated me, I shed a single, metaphorical “tear” and smile to myself over the other-worldliness of the scenery which so abruptly and so unsympathetically has separated me from being one with American culture (art) at the moment. How it happened, the reader should already know from my previous “incident”; however, there is still more remaining to this introductory narration…

Not long after the period of the last “incident” I recorded, I had the unfortunate opportunity of meeting a gentleman who might possibly be the worst instructor teaching at the community college level—at any grade level—and barring the fourth grade, having to sit through his “lectures” was the most excruciating time I’ve ever spent in a classroom. Several members of the faculty sang his praises and in their eyes, he could do no wrong. One would’ve expected rose petals to be flung at his feet every time he walked the halls from the way he was lauded by his peers. One female faculty member in particular left me mouth open and speechless over her adoration for him. The man had thrown a hex on her long before I arrived on campus—so there was absolutely nothing I could say to her to prove to her otherwise that this man was, excuse my French: le piece of fecal matter. On our walk to the Business Department office to make print-outs for our midterms was when I decided to voice my opinion. I had had enough—and something had to give goddammit! I respectfully told her that she shouldn’t be so quick to fall for every kind, old, black man that knows how to stack his words. I said that the black men of his generation had perfected the gift of gab and that it was like honey to the ears of the white men of his era who would much rather see black men holding out tin cups and sitting in the gutter talking to themselves in a drunken stupor or swaying back and forth in a warm summer breeze dangling from the end of a noose than upright and thriving. I also said that these same black men had used the power of spoken word for the majority of their lives and purely for selfish reasons like avoiding hardship, or getting out of a jam, or stuffing their bellies, or fleecing their own brethren. And then I said that some of these same black men had even managed to convince small, unsuspecting colleges/institutions that they were smarter than the senior classes exiting Princeton; case in point, the entire Business Department of L— College, for some reason, thinks that they struck oil when they decided to employ an elderly black man who is still working well into his eighth decade of existence, a black man who’s yet to teach his current students anything relevant to the course he had been selected to instruct—I said all of this, or something to that effect. I ended by mentioning to her that if he were so damn “smart” then why hadn’t he retired yet? I mean, David Rockefeller recently topped out at 101 but his work had real (dire) influence. He was rigging the stock market; he was re-engineering human beings; he was whispering to women that they should put down the frying pan and instead pick up the keyboard—all of this allegedly, of course. (I don’t want to get whacked!) But what was this friggin’ guy doing? Don’t flatter me by saying “Teaching us.” Seriously, a man that “smart”, I said to her, is willingly choosing to work until he’s dead…? Having said my fill and her with no response, we finished out the errand in silence.

It was only out of a matter of convenience that I had remained tight-lipped to begin with. During this period in life I was pretty much nostrils out all the time, always on the lookout for a shortcut—and I had found one with him. It was grating, but a shortcut nonetheless. I mean, he just sat in front of us and talked for two and a half hours—or however long—twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) about Venus knows what; all of it improvised and not at all relevant to what was described in his course syllabus. (Those poor trees.) The class was supposed to be about Economics. Le Douche would also like to get my heart rate up by saying that he was going to teach us how to read stocks but, you know, that would drastically cut into his monologue, so… Anyhoo, my classmates and I—on the strength of this guy’s insufferable yakking—eventually bonded together. As the semester went on, during each “lecture” we would all turn to each other in deep confusion and total disbelief, absolutely mystified by what we were seeing play out right in front of us. It was just like in Fight Club: it was on all of our minds, we just hadn’t given it a name. There wasn’t even a name we could give it—but collectively we were all thinking, “Is he really just gonna sit there and talk the whole time and not teach us?” Dude was mum only for two days: our midterms and our finals… I know, I know. How can he administer a midterm and a final exam when all he did was talk ambiguously about “stuff” and never got around to teaching us anything? Well, I’m still trying to figure that one out too myself, to be honest—and how he calculated my final grade in the class: a B.

I dally with these stories because, to me, the recollection of them is interesting—not to mention the whole marketing angle which I’ve discussed in the past. So, as was the case with Preliminary Confession #1, the reader will have to once again practice patience, for I am in no rush to hasten to a close on what is my second preliminary question. And, like always, I ask that we turn our attention to this month’s stage play, Equus.

white horses running

Power & Grace

 

Title: Equus (1973)
Playwright: Peter Shaffer
Time Period: Early Postmodernism Period
Plot: A dispirited child psychiatrist attempts to treat an emotionally-troubled teenage boy who has committed a horrific act of animal cruelty.
Dope Line(s):

[Act 1.3]

DYSART
What did I expect of him? Very little, I promise you. One more dented little face. One more adolescent freak. The usual unusual. One great thing about being in the adjustment business: you’re never short of customers.

[Act 1.7]

FRANK
Yes, well that’s him. He’s always been a weird lad, I have to be honest. Can you imagine spending your weekends like that—just cleaning out stalls—with all the things that he could have been doing in the way of Further Education?

[Act 1.14]

ALAN
And he said ‘Behold—I give you Equus, my only begotten son!’

toy rocking horse

Hours of fun as a toddler…

Who knew the play involving animal cruelty would be so complex? Quite the shocking turn of events in this here series. I could say the same about my life right now, but that’s another story—and one I don’t want to get into… You know, it’s never a good feeling having to subject yourself to material that you’re strongly against. It rarely turns out positive, and, if anything, the whole experience just leaves you woozy. All the ordeal can ever do really is further cement your beliefs—that’s what pretty much ends up happening… I can be honest: I didn’t give this play much of a leg to stand on. I didn’t know if I would be in a strong enough place mentally to deal with the kind of imagery a story like this one evokes. Personally, I’m of the belief that there’s a special rung (circle?) in Hell reserved solely for those who are unkind to animals. I’m not quite full-on PETA about it—but, for Christ’s sake leave the damn animals alone!

Still, I was curious—and what good would this theater-review series be if it didn’t have a healthy mix of material? Considering my narrative hang-ups, I had to put them to the side for the interim in order to carry out this endeavor. Now that doesn’t mean that my nerves weren’t bad or that my stomach wasn’t in knots over having to read Equus (Latin for horse; Equus ferus caballus is the actual subspecies). Peter Shaffer did bless the world with Amadeus, I figured, so at least I knew that I’d be in the hands of a solid playwright.

And Shaffer did have quite the stunning writing career. Success in London, success in New York, success in Hollywood—the creative-type trifecta! Equus, in its heyday, left audiences speechless. Monumental when you consider it had over 1,000 performances… A little more trivia here: Anthony Hopkins was an original cast member in the New York production (1974). Oh, and the masks worn in The Lion King Musical were inspired by the masks used in Equus. Not bad, not bad… And near the end of Shaffer’s life (He died in 2016.) he gave the rights to Equus to prominent theater producer David Pugh who then went on to cast Daniel Radcliffe in one of the lead roles for the play’s revival (2007). At the time, it was still peak Potter and having Radcliffe in the play—in the buff!—was a no go for Warner Bros.’ execs, so he eventually had to drop out. (No lazy wand jokes here.)

half man half horse

The beast within…

Shaffer received the story by chance during a car ride through the English country side. A friend of his mentioned to him in passing that a teenage boy in the area had done something horrendous to a group of twenty-six horses at a local stable. Losing contact with the friend and not bothering to seek out the actual news story, Shaffer used the sparse details to recreate his own narrative, dropping the number of horses down to six and also exploring the realms of passion, (human/animal) sexuality, religion and sanity rather than the heinous act itself. Further backbone and heft were added through the old world Greek Stage tradition. He incorporated masks, miming, fourth wall-breaking and dance as well as a “faux” Chorus: the actors remain on stage the entire time, watching the story unfold along with the audience but also ready to jump in at a moment’s notice. Again, not bad. Not bad at all… As for the story, well…

equus poster

Chilling. Grisly. Disturbing.

The year is 1973(?) and at curtain we are to envision that we are in the office of Martin Dysart, a middle-age, overworked child psychiatrist at the Rokeby Psychiatric Hospital in South England. (This primarily is the location of the story though, technically, there are others. The stage design is sparse with only a single, main light shining down to the center of it that’s in the shape of a square.) Cigarette lit, he speaks to us (the real audience) and as small group gathered before him about a teenage boy he has been treating for the past month. He pauses mid-monologue, getting ahead of himself, and decides to go back to the very beginning, back to when he first became aware of the boy’s existence… Now this is one of the most highly controversial ways to start off a story—via flashback and with (voice-over) narration… In Hollywood, that is. (Remember, I have a script-reading background.) Flashbacks at the start of a screenplay are a huge red flag. It’s the tell-tale sign of a novice screenwriter. The next sign of a novice screenwriter is the use of voice-over narration—and speaking to the audience (“breaking the fourth wall”) does virtually the same function, when switching from the medium of Film over to Stage. In Film, seeing these two coupled together at the start of a screenplay would make a veteran script-reader cross his or her legs and let out a deep sigh of disgust. I actually started off my first (and only) short film [#shameless plug] in this fashion but will most likely avoid starting off a story this way again—and, of course, the subject matter… (That’s another long story and is strictly personal, and not a shot at anybody else.) Me, myself—I don’t get script-reader’s beef with flashbacks (or flashforwards or dream sequences for that matter) but I can kind of understand their frustration with voice-over narration, kind of… What seems like a simple story device can actually be quite cumbersome to work with once you get going. There are figuratively millions of books out there on how to use voice-over narration “properly” so by all means seek out the one you like. But here’s my take on voice-over narration having read over two-hundred screenplays that use it, hundreds of stage plays that break the fourth wall, and a plethora of novels written in first-person past tense:

(1) If the main character narrates the story, whether starting at the very beginning or at the “perceived beginning” (a flashback to a pivotal incident), we as the audience are robbed of any actual stakes (and possible tension). Basically, the main character survived. So to show us a scene—or several scenes—of near-death moments feels like a “cheat.” (To see a movie/play where the main character dies nowadays would take an act of Congress.)

(2) Who is the main character telling her story to? Because we (the real audience) don’t technically “exist.” Many new (screen-) writers fail to comprehend this notion. And not too many of them are ever that clever enough to make their main character cuckoo (i.e., the main character is talking to herself). And because of their failure to understand this story element, you can often tell that the jokes and dramatic beats were written for us and not the person the main character should be telling her story to, whoever that may be.

(3) Exposition. Basically, your main character will end up saying “stuff” (information that we need to know for story purposes) to people who should already be in the know. For instance, the main character will narrate for a bit then drop out to let a scene play out regularly. And in this scene you will get a line like: “So, am I going to see you tonight for dinner at eight?” Sure, the main character could be just saying this to confirm. But shouldn’t the other character in the scene know this info already and maybe want to discuss something else?

(4) This last one really curls the blood of many script-readers. If you have one character who narrates, who is often the main character of the story then we (the real audience as well as the person[s] being told the story; see #2) can only “see” the story from the main character’s point-of-view. So the moment you switch point-of-views it becomes a “cheat.” Ideally, voice-over narration is a way for the audience (and the person[s] listening to the narrator) to get inside of a (main) character’s head and see life through that character’s eyes—and no one else’s. This element gets botched the most. Midway through a script with voice-over narration, out of nowhere the main character has knowledge of things she couldn’t have known because she was either never there or hadn’t yet arrived at the location where those specific details would eventually come up. It’s a matter of sequencing. Some writers try to gloss over this by saying that because the main character/narrator is recollecting all that happened, the details of things she couldn’t possibly know of but somehow knows of them much earlier in the narrative are okay to state at an earlier time because she’s merely piecing a story together, albeit unreliably (first person mechanics automatically make this a reality), and she’s going to eventually find out that information anyway and a simple line of dialogue to clear up the matter when she does eventually find out the information in the correct scene is a simple-enough fix. It’s like a reverse lampshade, or something. But in my book, it’s still a “cheat.”

black-horse

The Dark One

Shaffer works all four of these with ease, tripping up a bit on #3—but that’s just me being hella nit-picky. However, the rest of the story hums… And of the five stage plays I’ve reviewed so far, Equus has the most complete story line: you have a world-weary doctor who is over it and doing the cliché one last job. Here it’s up to him to determine the fate of a teen who has done something monstrous to a team of stable horses, and he’s got roughly one month to make his final decision. The teenager in question is seventeen-year-old Alan Strang, who is a bit of a sicko in my opinion. I’m quite disturbed by what he did to those horses. I shiver thinking about how many more Alan Strangs there are out there today hidden in society doing this type of sick, twisted ish behind closed doors and away from cameras…

I would like to take this time to apologize in advance for what is going to be the vagueness of my review. Like Camille (could’ve done a tie-in but opted not to) — I think this is one you should read… But I also must issue a Trigger Warning along with that recommendation. There are two sequences—this being more a performance piece, and the showiest of the plays I’ve discussed—that are definitely worth your while. One is at the “midpoint” and the other is at what I take to be the play’s climax. These sequences make the play what it is and Shaffer’s descriptions in these moments (throughout as well) have sucked all the life force out of me. (I don’t know if I could’ve handled seeing this play acted out IRL.)

hobbyhorse

Giddy up!

Shaffer piles a lot on to his plate here in trying to get to the root of what would make Alan do what he did. I don’t buy any of it, and I don’t feel bad about making that known. The theme here—again, under the umbrellas of passion, sex, religion and sanity—is the seemingly senseless violence of our time. Yeah, I agree but with Alan it comes down to curiosity—that and he could get away with it because the creatures he lashed out on are virtually defenseless.

the_godfather_horse_head

Entertainment? Where’s the heck is PETA?

Having read Equus, I can’t help but look at this play differently now. I’m going to go against the grain here and take a Feminist angle, because I find it warranted this time around. Plot and narrative-mechanics wise, this play is another two-hander (forty-year-old man, seventeen-year-old boy) and the typical back-and-forth/will-they, won’t-they business is all solid. But there are some peculiar—and by peculiar, I mean off-putting—jabs at women kneaded not so subtlety into the dough… Both Dysart and Alan blame women for their sexual inadequacies; Dysart admits to a female colleague—on the job!—that he is impotent; Dysart’s boss (Hesther) allows him to go far beyond the doctor/patient relationship thus making her a pushover; Alan’s dad (Frank) blames his wife (Dora; Alan’s mother) for Alan’s behavior (effeminacy); it’s also suggested—strongly suggested—that a young woman’s (Jill) sexual advances are what may have caused Alan to go postal; Alan, himself, is even antagonistic towards a nurse and strikes his own mother… Look, facts are facts—coded or exposed. And Shaffer, not any of the characters in this here story, may have had some resentment (and possible outright hatred) towards women. Not to speak ill of the dead but it’s worth mentioning that Shaffer was homosexual, so… (That makes two gay writers for those keeping track of diversity.)

Well, it should be obvious that this story holds up… I mean, just look at what we’re doing to Mother Nature. Hell, look at what we’re doing to our own species… Sorry, I can’t be more inventive and extensive. Stories like this make me extremely depressive and question my existence… I get to wondering if our society is even equipped to handle grisly events like the one featured in Equus… This play was written and performed in the 1970’s, and like a cheating voice-over narration, I have working knowledge of the future so I know that we don’t per se… And I guess that’s what makes me so sad. Right now, some nut-job is getting ready to mistreat/torture an animal for no other reason than that he/she can. It’s absolutely infuriating that I or any animal-protecting agency can’t do anything to stop it from happening… It looks like this has shaped up to be another Color Struck moment where fun slips out the back door. *deep sigh* Tough material to trek through this month boys and girls and aliens… But make no mistake, Shaffer’s a genius playwright and the writing in Equus is phenomenal… It’s just the subject matter; I’m not a fan of this kind of stuff (anymore)… I’ll close by saying… Shit, I don’t even know how to close… And here it is National Pet Month and I just had to have this play slotted, oh boy… I’ll see you guys next month with something a little more upbeat… I should be all right by then… Next month’s stage play is from one of my favorite time periods: The Restoration.

stage-chair

‘Til June…

 

 

Rating: 3/5

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #1: Conclusion| The Lady of the Camellias

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Tragedy.

 

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #1: …Conclusion

So blended and intertwined in my life are occasions of laughter and of tears, that I can’t recall without shaking my head and smiling, an “incident” that occurred back in the early fall of 2010, a bit of an icky little situation that ultimately deaded my live-theater attendance. I was working in a restaurant downtown at the time, and I was just coming out of a funk over — what else — my film “career”, and wasn’t quite clicking on all cylinders just yet; but was in a good place mentally where, if needed, I could be sociable; where I could be in a room with other people all pursuing the same thing I was pursuing and not be at all bothered by any of the conversations or be so in my head that I’m just sort of halfway listening to someone lie “fudge” the truth about all of the “wonderful” and “exciting” things that were happening for them in their career; the usual shop talk aside from droning on about what one had to “endure” while at their Day Job waiting tables, stocking groceries, or brewing corporate coffee. (Uber wasn’t in yet.)

I forget who exactly had invited me to this party I went to. But I feel the strong need to attribute my being there to someone so I’m just going to randomly pick my old friend Greg (same names) and say that it was him, even though I’m fairly certain it wasn’t, and I eventually ended up riding there with Thomas and Edwin anyway. This party was in Silver Lake. Again, this is 2010 and I didn’t really have a good feel for what L.A. was—not like I have now; and I wasn’t all that excited about being at a party in that particular neighborhood. Silver Lake, in my humble opinion, can be a loathsome part of town, especially when you’re down on your luck and hard-up for cash—like I was. Back then, I pretty much hated L.A. across the board but in my assessment of Silver Lake, having ventured there a handful of times prior to that evening; I could see why East Coast Americans had mockingly come to call Los Angeles, La La Land. Silver Lake’s stretch of Sunset Boulevard on any given day, to me, feels like a scene right out of the movie They Live—but in reverse. By that I mean, your eyes are visibly exposed and everyone else’s are shielded behind a pair of blacked-out Ray-Bans® and you’re the one being stared at because you’re not wearing flip-flops, or dirty Converse® sneakers, or ripped denim, or Hippie beads, or a baggy V(ee)-neck tee, or a fedora, or vintage clothing; there’s no “ink” on your sleeves (forearms) — you get my drift. 2010 was like peak Hipster time (How are these people even allowed to get away with calling themselves individuals?) out here in L.A. — and none of it ironic. But me, silly me, I’m a glutton for punishment, and I hadn’t been out of the house in a while and would’ve happily agreed to rob a bank if that instead had been offered to me. Plus, I wanted to hang out with Thomas; no homo—I just wanted to do bro-shit!

It had been my intention originally to just bunker down at the edge of a sofa or grab a chair and pull it up against a wall out of the way and camp out there, maybe then make a few trips to the snack table, let Thomas do his thing, and as the party progressed, have Thomas find me, pour ourselves a cup and raise one. But after wandering around by myself for some time, in awe that a man still in his early 20s had come up on a nice chunk of change (by way of paychecks from some network sitcom that was popular with white suburban tweens) and purchased himself fly-as-f—k man cave at the very top of the Silver Lake hills (I don’t know the name; Mount something, I think), I veered into the “first-floor kitchen” for an iced adult beverage, not because I necessarily wanted one but because I wanted something to do with my hands. And in itself, 2010 was interesting moment in time. This is before YouTube started playing commercials before every freakin’ video clip, and way before smartphones became the pervasive little pests that they are; yes, people actually talked to one another in group settings not talked to one another while glued to their cell phone screens in group settings. And since everyone’s necks weren’t at a downward angle, one could enter a room and be greeted, or make eye contact with the host and others—and perhaps even nab a warm smile from one of the ladies, or fellas. Most importantly that “special stuff” wafted all through the air (vibe), hanging there to let you know if the party you found yourself at was going to be chill or nah

Most of the desserts and junk food had been depleted and the drinks as well… I don’t know if I’m the only one who notices this, but there is this strange phenomenon at house parties where the brown liquor disappears first. After that, the tequila and beer drop off; then the wines—red and white. Pulling up the rear is vodka and gin. Poor gin. Nobody’s friend. Hardly anyone touched you back in 2010. We’ve all seen it: that jumbo bottle of Seagram’s that’s trotted out each and every party and/or get-together and forced to live out its lonely existence at the back third of the drink table, isolated from all of the other cooler, sexier alcohols; and no matter how “wild” the party gets, it never gets opened—not even on a dare… Is it just me? Am I the only one who notices this? Well, it gave me something to grin about, in between bites of salvaged scraps of mushy birthday cake and lukewarm frosting (I was at a get-together and not a B-Day) that I recklessly shoveled into my mouth. (So uncouth; I know.)

It was as if everyone at the party—or at least in my vicinity—just stood waiting and looking around, anxious for some sort of event to take place. It was well after midnight and most of the conversations were starting to fatigue, and from a quick scan of the faces still present there was but one hedonist amongst the lot of us (me!) so putting forth the idea of a group orgy was definitely out of the question. And for some time standing there nibbling, nibbling and mixing some Tropicana®-whatever juice and gin (I caved.) concoction, there had been an animate object in the shape of a human being steadily creeping towards me from the left—the Devil’s side—with slow and determined steps (knee-high leather bootz) and being accompanied by the obnoxious sound of child-like snickering.

“You have cake on your face… Oh, my God! It’s all over your chin.” And then an encore of more child-like snickering.

I’ll tell you no lies: I become completely unhinged in moments like this. I’m still shell-shocked over some ish that happened to me back in tha hood and would prefer it if people would engage me head on… But that’ll never happen so…

I communicated my embarrassment, internally. I tend to be that way around beautiful (Latin) women. My next thought was that all was lost; and that my only chance for executing a retreat was to sacrifice my adult beverage. However, on reflection, I was quite determined to make the most of my trip to the “first-floor kitchen.” The young senorita was in the utmost alarm, both on her account and mine: but, in spite of this, so peculiarly had the viewing of my face, in this wacky episode, taken hold of her bodily functions, forcing out of her that long, loud, and lovable language of laughter (Alliteration boys and girls and aliens.) that momentarily severed several of the conversations happening one room over in “the den” (open-kitchen floor plan), and in the process, unburdened me with having to issue a harsh sentence for violating my personal space.

She was an actress — What girl there wasn’t? — and I, a writer; a pre-Tinder, face-to-face match made in creative-type Heaven. Fast forward one half-hour later and I’m still saying all of the right words, and I’m doing a so-so job of eating my junk food, and our responses to each other’s questions seem real—and the moment isn’t like something out of a Romantic Comedy. Our time together—plus or minus some bizarre cock-blocking from my own homeboy Greg—was truly genuine… You know, it’s chance encounters like these that makes one say, “I went to this really cool party last night.” Hell, if I know. I only spoke to one person (her) and had ghosted on the host earlier in the night soon as he started boasting about his accomplishments and gave myself a tour of his place. (Who does that? Just exactly what kind of asshole am I?)

Anyhoo, MaribelMaritza… uh, let’s see, MaMa— something. This is by no means to protect the innocent; I simply can’t remember her name—but I’ll never forget that face though. Three days later M— got me into her theater show free of charge, some small-box theater joint in DTLA that receives funding from the city to help foster Latino thespians. I was with it—and all that it entails. With interracial relationships, I’ve learned over time to just relax and take it easy. They know that I’m black (“African-American”) — it’s written all over my skin for Christ’s sake…

I thought the entire production was self-indulgent, and it seemed to be all about this one dude; this chubby, Latino do-every-job-in-the-theater type. You have to watch out for scumbags like him, especially in small, crumby theaters as was the case with the one I was at. His type tend to hire gullible young actresses who’ll do just about anything for a role, only to seduce them then discard them at the end of a production. Their only other hires are gay dudes, fearing competition from other heterosexual men. His house, his rules; I guess. Yeah, his type are all about sleeping with the main actress; that’s their reason for turning over in the morning. And M— was the main actress, so the first “date” or first “interaction” rather, involved a bit of recon work on my part because I could plainly see how “familiar” he was with M— at certain moments in the “play” and based on the cast (him, her, two other girls, and several gay male supports), as mentioned above—I knew his type and was extra motivated in wanting to eff up his world. But, I didn’t want to get too turnt up on the first night and decided to just sit back and play it cool.

And played, I was. After the show, I get up out of that small-ass theater seat and start making my way over to M— to congratulate her and out of the corner of my eye I see another black guy starting over to her, and, of course, the Latino Everyman following behind her like a whipped poodle, shadowing the poor girl’s every move. And now I’m thinking to myself, “What is this?” Because, I’m nobody’s fool. I’m nobody’s pawn; perhaps a rook from time to time. And I don’t fight over scraps of meat either—well, not this particular scrap of meat. This should’ve been in the bag, the way I saw it. Something’s not adding up. And how the f—k did I not see this coming? And now more questions start to sprout up… Why the free ticket? And why the lengthy late-night text messaging convos? And why all the initial interest and exchange of phone numbers? I’m not even a week into knowing this girl and I don’t even know if I feel like investigating any of this ish; and so: I just let it go… Some things just ain’t worth it.

And whether I wanted to know or not, all of my questions were answered two days later when I— (protecting the innocent here), my drop-dead gorgeous Asian co-worker and “friend” walked up behind me and tapped my shoulder while I was standing at the computer terminal. “Hi, Greg.” I breathed evenly for a moment, and then I turned poised but a little pissed. “I guess you already heard what happened?”

“I haven’t heard anything. What are you talking about, I—?”

“Well, I saw you talking to M— at the party…”

“You were there?”

“Yeah, the guy I’m seeing was the guy M— was seeing…”

He was there?”

“Yeah.”

“What’d he look like?”

“Well… He was tall, about your height. Black.”

Tall and black… Oh, yeah. That’s right, you do like black guys.” I— was one of the few Asian women in Los Angeles who was willing to admit that publicly: that she was into black men. And that’s when it hit me: I—’s dude and I had crossed paths that night at the theater. He was also the same black dude I vaguely remember seeing at the party (in Silver Lake), Thomas and I being the only other brothers that were there. Interesting. I clocked him looking at me when I was talking to M— in the kitchen, and he didn’t seem to be at all bothered by it. Well, I’ll be goddamned. I guess dude was doing a little recon work on me. “So what’s up, I—?”

“I did something bad.”

“Tell me.”

“Well, that bitch…” — It’s always “that bitch,” am I right fellas? — “…is upset because J— likes me and not her. She’s a slut anyway because you, J—, and H— (Latino Everyman) all f—ked her, and now that bitch has nobody! I had to put that bitch in her place the other night. She kept calling J—’s phone while I was with him…”

Let’s get one thing straight: I hate Drama. Especially the drama of messy little girls, because none of the females involved in this here anecdote had acted like women.

I had to cut I— off mid-sentence: “Wait, wait. Hold up… I never f—ked, M—.”

“You what…? But I thought…”

“Nope. You seem to have gotten hold of some bad information. Or came to that conclusion all on your own.”

Wait for it. Apologies tend to take a long time.

“Oh, Greg. I am so sorry. My bad, I…”

“It’s all good, I—. I’m going to be honest with you: you just threw me in the crossfire by being messy. It sucks, but it’s whatever. I actually did kind of like her though. I went to go see her a few nights ago. She had asked me to come see her stupid-ass play” — I felt that way on the strength of the Latino Everyman not her — “and she wouldn’t even talk to me afterwards or reply to any of my texts. And now I know why,” I said; smiling—and proud of myself that I had remained calm the entire time. “But, like I said, it’s all good. I hope things work out for the best between you and J—.”

THE END. FOR NOW —

Creative-types and Sex and Friendship and Art and Life and Loyalty and Integrity and Hard Work—quite an interesting emulsion these things are here in Los Angeles… And where I was around that time (2010), I just wanted to put each back into its individual bottle and keep them separate; that in itself no easy task. But it’s all for the best now, I hope. As far as the theater (Art) I merely extracted what I wanted from it the most which was the material

And that’s how a nice and easy-going fellow, that would be me—who has no theater background at all—got it in his mind to want to write criticism on stage plays. The above “incident”, though a bit melodramatic, was the culmination of more than my fair share of similar theater run-ins (Drama). Episode after episode after episode of ones like the above, or much milder versions, had taken a toll on me. And it didn’t help the other side either (audience member) seeing as I actually knew how the sausage was really made—and, of course, theater’s notoriously steep ticket prices which I sure as hell couldn’t afford… I’m clueless as to how the theater is now; I’m still about two years out from setting foot back into one. But back then I was really open to the idea of having a real theater experience—but, man, all of the bullshit. Some were power-hungry. Most approached it as a stepladder to the movie business. Many were just horny. All—or what felt like all—seemed indifferent about the material and only a tiny, tiny few had any extensive knowledge of the medium. Tradition meant something to them. So, in effect, this theater review series is a way for me to make up for lost time—and diggin’ in the crates for old material is as good of a place to start! I’d be ecstatic if any of the plays in this series are revived for modern audiences… Okay, that’s enough of me being in my feelings. Let’s turn our attention to April’s stage play, La Dame aux Camélias.

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The Auteuil – 19th century French Elite Hangout

 

Title: La Dame aux Camélias [The Lady of the Camellias] (1848)

Playwright: Alexandre Dumas fils

Time Period: Late Romantic Period

Plot: A Parisian courtesan, in spite of her many admirers, falls hopelessly in love with a young bourgeoisie man.

Dope Line(s):

[Act I]

MARGUERITE
Go away at once, if what you say is true. Or else, love me as a friend, and in no other way. Come and talk to me sometimes, but have no illusions about me, for I’m not worth much. You are too young and have too much feeling to live in this world of ours. Love some other woman and marry. I’m trying to be honest with you.

[Act II]

MARGUERITE
Good-bye, you foolish boy. Does he love me, I wonder? Am I even sure that I love him, I who have never loved?

[Act IV]

ARMAND
Then I will tell you. You gave yourself to him because you don’t understand the meaning of loyalty and honour; because your love belongs to the highest bidder and your heart is a thing that can be bought and sold; because when you found yourself face to face with the sacrifice that you were going to make for me, your courage failed you, and you went back to the past; because I, who have devoted my life to you and my honour, too, meant less to you than your horses and carriages and the jewels around your neck.

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Book Art

There’s a quote floating around out there in the ether with Mae West’s name attached to it that I’m sure to butcher here. It goes a little something like this: “Men love women with a history, because they’re hoping that her past will repeat itself.” Not bad, huh? Not good either—morally and socially speaking, that is; opting to give away the milk for free, or at a relatively affordable price. Oh, the Horror… and the humanity… There are some out there who believe that if we (America) were to lift up the bar on Sex (Legalize it!) that these here walls are sure to crumble. That’s a weighty “proposition” to consider: on whether or not to commodify sex. A quick, wet finger to the wind tells me that a decision is looming; and just as quickly I bury my head in the sand. I can’t bear the thought on how good ol’ Oosa (U.S.A.) is going to tackle the world’s oldest profession. But considering what’s going on in DC, ATL and in the Bay Area with the Missing Black Girls—it an absolute fact at this point that many of them have been funneled into the sex trade—as well as the usual turning of tricks in every dirty, cheap motel along every dirty, cheap highway in this here republic, one can see that the situation has become critical.

The “cat” (Brace yourself.) is really out of the bag now here in the 21st century; it’s even gone digital (Backpage). Yes, we are a long ways away from The Pill and the Sexual Revolution and the Swingin’ Seventies and whatever the nicknames for the eighties and nineties were… What a mess! The moral fabric of our country is hanging in the balance… What do we tell the girls? And the little boys? Or the Christians? And the alien debunkers? And we can’t forget the pimps & hoes? A magnificent quandary to ponder. And here I am being crass about it. I’m sorry; it’s an unforgivable character flaw. I’m like that in moments like this when there’s way too much gray area—and no visible solution.

Stick. To. The. Blog. Post. G!

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White Camellia equals Hanky-Panky

 

Oh, but I just can’t help myself—not after reading material like this. La Dame aux Camélias [English translation; The Lady of the Camellias], or Camille, written by Alexandre Dumas fils (at 23!) first as a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name—then hastily was put together to be performed on stage a year later—does the impossible and makes me empathize with a hoe, er, I mean a courtesan. Further, a femme galette, which is like the Ferrari® of hoes; because not only do they dole out sex, they’re also highly educated and are as just as refined as the crème de la crème of the then Parisian high-society (mid-1800’s). Only difference is that they come with a heftier price tag to garner their “services.” And all this means is that these femme galettes really knew how to please a man. Thus, the earlier quote from Mae West… Because if there’s anybody who’s in trouble should the original-pimp-of-the-land (Uncle Sam) push the RED BUTTON and legalize nookie, it’s regular women. Yeah, these galz might play nice with the hoes now, retweeting memes and quotes, or mobbing up at Slut Walks for whatever it is that they do there, and hoisting up high to the sky their personalized, homemade posters about “sex workers” needing “rights”, but quietly these broads are shaking in their bootz. Back-alley logic, perhaps; but I’ll be alright

A recent article came up out of the muck a short while back legitimizing what men like me already knew but was revealing to those who were oblivious somehow to the fact that we Americans ain’t gettin’ busy no mo’. Sex—other than hoes & johns—is on the decline. It’s not as bad as Japan but it’s been trending downward for some time. There are a lot of factors that may have led to this atrocity of cold, sexless bedrooms and no nooners on the washing machine during lunch break; here are a few: contemporary dating mores, longer work hours/careerism, pornography, Feminism, video games, smartphones. Yet, if you cruise past any random Insta-thot’s profile page and peek at said thot’s follower amounts, you’ll see that the thirst is real. American men want it; but American women ain’t giving it. So, is there any wonder why the Porn business eclipsed $10 billion dollars in profit in 2015 which can be easily backed up by the smut-filled search histories on you galz’ guy-friend’s & husband’s laptops, or that the underground sex trade is now hovering close to $15 billion annually? And there’s clamoring now to bring this illicit business above ground? Pussy would put Disney® out of business… Fifteen billion dollars is Nike® on a bad year, and you can’t walk past that many people without seeing their brand on someone’s feet… So that’s what we would be unleashing onto the general public—if one were discussing things morally, that is. But it isn’t like sex isn’t everywhere nowadays anyway. I mean, have you seen what they do with breadsticks in fast-food pizza commercials?

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Dumas Himself

 

And yet I keep coming back to the numbers… Who? Who’s buying it? Add the two numbers above together and that’s twenty-five billion dollars. Who? Who out there is it? Most American men deny in public that they don’t watch porn or pay for crotch but the numbers don’t support their claim. So, who? Now I sound like a goddamn owl. Who goddammit? Is it you reading this? Are you the who?

Moving on.

Prostitution is Big Business—and has always been and *sigh* might always be. And where Big Business is—Uncle Sam wants to be there also… But I’ll back off for now seeing as Le France has our attention à la Camille. And as palate cleanser, here are some useless interesting facts about camellias to rinse away all of the sex talk.

It is said that the camellia flower speaks to the heart and expresses positive feelings. Colors range from white, yellow, pink, red and purple. In the Koreas camellias symbolize faithfulness and longevity. Some contemporary meanings of the camellia are of desire and passion, and refinement. In Western civilization, white camellias were used in the past by mothers at funerals when mourning over the early loss of a child. Oh, and here at home, in the still-behind state of Alabama, the (pink) camellia is the state flower and represents “southern beauty.” Its place of origin is Japan where it was cultivated for thousands of years, and did not make its way to Europe until the mid-1700’s. A timely saying is: “Nothing says spring quite like camellias in bloom.”

And it is spring; it began last month. But there was some overlap with Women’s History Month, so why not celebrate spring now! Love is in the air, folded in with all of the toxins and smog, and I couldn’t think of a better stage play to add to my inaugural theater review series for the month of April. Camille is considered by some to be one of the greatest love stories ever told. An online search will bring up a plethora of movie adaptations, theater revivals and musicals—but I still wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about. I’m going to be brutally honest here and totally contradict a lot of what I said last month as far as storytelling goes. It’s also interesting to note that I’ve recognized a few parallels in the four plays (to be discussed at a later time) — three of which do some peculiar things with the locations and characterizations. Romeo and Juliet is the only outlier in that it “feels bigger” than what it actually is whereas the others stage plays are confined to one, or a few locations. And, so…

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Marie Duplessis – Real life Camille

 

As if in French farce, though we are in France, Camille’s opening scene takes place in the drawing room of a beautiful Parisian home circa 1848. A gentleman by the name of de Varville is sitting impatiently and having a small discourse with a close friend, Nichette. It’s rather harmless banter about her and her fiancé Gustave (who won’t appear until later in the play) and why he hasn’t married her yet seeing as the two have been seen together in public—holding hands of all things abominable. They’re both waiting for the titular character to arrive back at her home and in she comes, The Lady of the Camellias, Marguerite, a title she received for her choice of camellia she wore on her person while a courtesan: red for when she is menstruating, white for “Come on, boys. Time to have a little fun!” She’s absolutely brazened, both beautiful and confident, and can easily slick talk every man in the room. Side by side with Summer House, the two main characters come crashing & thundering in hard—which is more or less a staple of the medium. With screenwriting I’m used to taking in those early moments of a script to see if the writer will “show” me who the main character is—because film is a visual medium—whereas in theater there are no cameras and showing doesn’t come into play all that much. In theater (stage plays), characterization is more often than not verbally expressed (“tell”). And in less than five pages, Camille puts In the Summer House in my rear-view mirror—and thank Gawd! Dumas, being a master student of the stage having studied the movements before his, borrows heavily from Greek Tragedy and turns the plot very quickly, giving us the crux of Marguerite’s dilemma and joining her with her eventual lover up front. Like I said, Marguerite is no longer a courtesan—at least from what I can gather—but can’t seem to keep men from orbiting around her (de Varville). And due to a relapse back into past her “profession”, on top of an ominous lingering cough, life for her is slowly starting to turn sour. Her current john man/helper Duke de Mauriac—mentioned throughout in name only—was set to provide for her as long as she could keep it in her pants but since she couldn’t do that, fifty-thousand francs worth of debt that Marguerite rung up under his name now hangs over her head—and he wants it all back.

But, no worries; she’s got Love now. Armand, the new apple in her eye, is at her home with his friend, Gaston, who is there with his friend, Prudence, a milliner (hat-maker) and across-the-lawn neighbor/dear friend to Marguerite. And, of course, there’s Olympe, Marguerite’s brothel-buddy from back in the day; and Saint-Gaudens, an elderly gentleman who’s Olympe’s current sugar daddy, not to mention Nanine, the maid—the maid/butler being a stock character of farce because of their ability to move in and out of scenes helping to expose/provide information and move the plot forward. A bit of a character pile up, but Dumas does an amazing job not to make the scene feel “stuffed”—though most of the story plays like this. About fourteen characters, roughly, have some sort of bearing against the plot.

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Red Camellia means no Hanky-Panky

Which brings me to my central point; because, in essence, Camille is yet another plotless story. The next four acts of the play, all of which take place at various locations (Marguerite’s dressing room; a château in the French countryside; Olympe’s house; then back at Marguerite’s) and at various times (four days later; three months later; one month later; six months later) make relatively no significant changes to what we learned in the opening act—that these two, for better or for worse, are madly in love with one another and want like hell to be together. Sure, there are some reversals and setbacks (that’s drama) and later developments, but this is essentially is a two-hander with a smorgasbord of supporting characters. That’s not to say that this story wasn’t a joy throughout—because it was! This is truly powerful stuff. I may have been extremely generous to Romeo and Juliet in giving it a 4.5/5 rating back at the beginning because one could make the argument that Camille is possibly a better romantic story than R&J—just looking at the characters of Romeo & Juliet and Marguerite & Armand side by side. I stood up; I didn’t throw the book—but was oh so close to doing it. What happens here is truly heart-breaking. I felt so bad for the both of them. In reading up about Camille, the challenge of any production was to find the right Marguerite, and if you didn’t the critics nailed you for it. The list of women who actually received praise for their performance as Marguerite is a rather small one; those other women were run out of town.

I keep a small, private stock of stage plays that I like to believe no one else knows anything about. (We literature buffs are a weird bunch.) And this play is going into that collection and may even crack my top ten. Like I said, I may sound contradictory, but when the writing is this superb and the characters are this rich, you tend to overlook plot mechanics, time jumps, and coincidences—or that Dumas, in adapting himself, fails to include in the stage play a clear understanding for those who might not be privy to the novel that Marguerite is suffering from consumption (tuberculosis). It’s no exact science but it’s still a code I live by. Camille is the exception to the rule, however. I even respond to its deep though uplifting theme of redemption through love and suffering… And I shouldn’t say two-hander because there is sort of a loose “triangle” here. I know I’ve said a lot already, definitely more than I’d originally planned and not even close to what I wanted to say. But I would like to leave you with this one particular exchange just in case for some reason, you might not get around to reading this play:

[DUVAL: Cannot you see what your old age will be, doubly deserted, doubly desolate? What memories will you leave behind you? What good will you ever have accomplished? You and my son have two very different roads to follow; chance has brought them together for a moment. You have been happy for three months; do not sully that happiness; keep the memory of it always in your heart. Let it strengthen you; it is all you have the right to ask of it. One day you will be proud of what you have done, and all your life you will respect yourself for it. It is as a man of the world that I am speaking to you, it is as a father that I am pleading with you. Come, Marguerite, prove to me that you really love my son, and take courage.

MARGUERITE: And so, whatever she may do, the woman, once she has fallen can never rise again. God may forgive her, perhaps, the world never. What man would wish to make her his wife, what child to call her mother? It is all true, what you have told me. I have said the same thing to myself many times, but I never understood it until now. You speak to me in the name of your son and daughter; it is good of you to use those names. One day, sir, you will tell this beautiful and pure young girl, for it is for her sake that I am willing to sacrifice my happiness, that somewhere in the world there was a woman who had only one thought, one hope, one dream in life, and that for her sake she renounced them all, and that she died of it. Because I shall die of it and then, perhaps, God will forgive me.]

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“Bois du Boulogne” – Alexey P. Bogolyubov

If that doesn’t move you then I don’t what will … So does this story hold up today? Well, no; not really. There’s a small, small window for this kind of material to be impactful but it’s closing fast. Considering where we are now with Prostitution, and how desensitized and oblivious we are to it, and how much of a problem it is globally, I don’t see how a story where a high-priced prostitute falling in love with an upper-crust man (Pretty Woman) would bring us all to tears, or make us consider doing something about eradicating the profession. Society is way too fragmented now as is for us to give people grief for who they choose to fall in love with—and still be able tackle all of the Big Problems as well. Hell, a political scandal dies down after a week or so. No one has the time or the energy—I sure don’t!—to keep up with who someone is sleeping with, even that someone’s family. At best,  a relative or friend will just tell you to “be safe and make sure that they love you.” Who you fall in love with in today’s world is your business, and no one else’s. So, if you want to make a prostitute from the Bunny Ranch your wife or make an “escort” off of Backpage your girlfriend—go for it! Whatever makes you happy, bruh! Now that doesn’t mean you won’t be fodder for the internet trolls, ‘cause they’re gonna get ya regardless. You’ll be a joke or a meme for like a month, if that, then it’s on to the next one. Anything past that is nothing a private patch of land in North Dakota or an expensive three-bedroom loft TriBeCa can’t handle. Most Americans are chumps anyway; they just act tough online. If they were to see you and your hoe-turned-housewife, or vice versa, walking down the street they wouldn’t do a thing at all. They probably wouldn’t even recognize you because they’d already be harping on the next “issue” and expressing fake outrage over that one. So go ahead and love who you love—or, if you can’t find love, you’re more than welcome to add to the debauchery by spending a couple of Ben Franks on the by-the-hour artificial version…

Well, enjoy the start to your spring. Start thinking about getting yourself in shape for the summer. Beach Season is right around the corner. Next month I contradict myself even further (farther?) — because the stage play I’ll be reviewing then is going to be all about the effed up things a man does to a horse!

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‘Til May…

 

 

Rating: 4/5

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #1: Continued| In the Summer House

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Tragedy.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #1: Continued…

A wiser man than me once said that “we never do anything consciously for the last time”—that is, anything which we have long been doing—“without sadness of heart.” (If ever there was a saying more soothing to the creative Soul than this one—only the universe knows.) This truth I felt intensely, when I came to leave filmmaking behind, a career option I had fallen madly in love with, and where I had thought I would find fulfillment and happiness. (Just be patient; even I am so over talking about this. The TL;DR version that will eventually dead this matter is coming this summer.) On the night I left film forever (Yes, I remember!) I grieved in my room all by my lonely, and may or may not have shed a few tears. (No, I don’t remember—or do I?) And that night, while looking over a healthy pile of rejection letters from literary managers and agents, and film festivals (I do it to myself honestly, holding on to ish like this), I rolled over in bed, and, catching a glimpse of my face, my reflection in the mirror as if on standby, locked gazes with it, and looked myself intently in the eye, thinking to myself, “What now, G? What now? How in the hell are you gonna come back from this one? Of all the stupid things you’ve ever done in your life this one hurts the most. Now you’re stuck here—in Los Angeles of all places. And you don’t even have enough money to get your ass back home… I want out of this goddamn town! I want out of this industry! I’m not even IN this industry! I don’t want anything to do with film ever again!” And I was right: I never did have anything to do with it—until recent. Still at the mirror, I looked at myself self-righteously and proudly (Hey, we all do in that moment—am I right?), smiled resolutely, nodded my affirmation (or rather, my goodbye), and I parted ways with the movie business forever—or so I thought.

Morning came—so dramatic; I know—and under normal circumstances I would’ve been ready to launch into my day. I’m thankful for my up-and-at-‘em approach to life, and, in many regards, I’ve benefited greatly for having this outlook—though it wasn’t on showcase in that moment. As for my residence: it’s a spacious, second-floor, balcony apartment (occupancy four), and I have been blessed, from my first moving in, with a cast of supportive roommates and “a room of my own room” just like good ol’ Virginia, which I use—then and of course now—as an area of leisure and study. At about six-thirty or so I got up, and stared with hazy contentedness at the treeless skyline of S——, the now gentrified L.A. enclave cloaked in a gray sunlight and slowly beginning to tinge sky-blue with the gloomy dullness of a typical, cloudless December morning. (Told ya I know the date!) Again, I agreed that I would be unwavering and overwhelmingly fixed in my decision: but yet I was vexed by the looming possibility of setbacks and obstacles; and if I could’ve foreseen the shit-storm that my life would become over the next two years, and quite the back-breaking, soul-crushing shit-storm of pain and misery at that which wasted no time in starting up around me, I would’ve… Well… Well, I don’t have the heart to jot it down here…

To this vexation the calm peace of morning presented a disturbing comparison, and in some degree a mild stimulant. The moment was more profound—or at least it seemed to be—than that of any other time in my life here on the West Coast: and to me the stillness of morning is more moving than any other stillness, because the city (L.A.) hasn’t come alive yet; and thus, I’m able to sit quietly and introspect and think freely, unabated. I put on a pair of sweats, moped about, and did nothing of importance. Up to this point in time my room had been my “meditative tower”: here I read, and typed, and poured over notes all hours of the day well into the wee hours of the night: and, painful as it is to admit, that for what remained of 2014—and 2015 and 2016, respectively—I, who was about as easy-going as they come, had lost my joyful vigor and stanch optimism upon ending the violent and contentious see-saw battle with my chosen career path; yet, on the other hand, as a “creative type” (loosely), so passionately fond of books, and visual art, and stage plays (Yay!), and dedicated to all sorts of intellectual endeavors, I recall not sitting for too long an interval in the caustic stew of dejection, and sought out random activities from time to time. Still moping about, I was a bit teary-eyed, I think, as I looked around on the floor at all of the crumpled-up sheets of paper, underneath my stool at a stack of dusty notebooks, at the dog-eared novels stacked at the base of the wall, and other relevant items of my former trade, knowing for certain, that I looked upon them for the last time—or so I thought. Even as I write this today, it has been three years since enduring the worst of it: and yet, at this moment, I can picture the scene quite vividly as if it were yesterday. The lost look on my face: pitying and abominable; my eyes and mouth of which had prior operated with great animation, and the whole of my face once so radiant and jolly, had been completely debased. A thousand times over I avoided the mirror, seeing as there was nothing to gather as consolation from looking into it…

Damn, here I am once again putting the cart before the horse. The summer needs to get here in a hurry. And try as I may: I don’t want to spend precious hours during this portion of my life reminiscing about the past. Admittedly, I have yet to arrive at something definitive in regards to Preliminary Confession #1. Well, it should be painfully obvious to you now that my casual avoidance of the question is by design, hence the protracted lamentation (and teaser). Hell, any salesperson worth his or her salt is constantly thinking of ways to drum up business; they have to get you, the customer, to come back somehow… I think you see where I’m going with this. Anyhoo, and without further ado, we now jump to March’s stage play, In the Summer House.

 

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Old School Ocean Fun

 

Title: In the Summer House (1953)

Playwright: Jane Bowles
Time Period: Middle to Late Modernism
Plot: A middle-aged woman of good carriage becomes an overbearing presence in her young daughter’s life who is just entering into adulthood. Over the course of a year, the two women confront and avoid one another—at times to the detriment of those around them.
Dope Line(s):

[Act 1, Sc. 2]

GERTRUDE
. . . Even my griefs and my sorrows don’t seem to belong to me. Nothing does—as if a shadow has passed over my whole life and made it dark. . .

[Act 1, Sc. 3]

MRS. CONSTABLE
I don’t know where to go or what to do next. I can’t seem to tear myself away from you or Mr. Solares or Mrs. Lopez or Molly. Isn’t that a ridiculous reaction? I feel linked to you. That’s the only way I can explain it. I don’t ever want to have any other friends. It’s as if I had been born right here in the garden and had never lived anywhere before in my life. Don’t leave me please. I don’t know where to go. Don’t leave me.

[Act 2, Sc. 1]

 MOLLY
After a while I could sit in that booth, and if I wanted to I could imagine I was home in the garden . . . inside the summer house.

 

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Amusement Backdrop

 

As the great philosopher Forrest Gump once said: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you gonna get.” *heavy sigh* Boy, I absolutely had no idea what I was in for with this one. Which reminds me: it’s Women’s History Month. Helloooo, Ladies! This one’s for you: In the Summer House by Jane Bowles. What’s that? Never heard of it? No worries; perhaps in the past is a great place to keep this one.

You know, after reading such an odd play like this one I figured that it would be best if I let you in on the process. In the initial blog post announcing this series I mainly hit the bullet points but now might be a good time for me to go a little past that, seeing as it’s still early in the series and my style, tone and format aren’t completely locked down yet. Oh, and I also don’t want you guys to think that I’m a d**k and doing this series just to crap on other people’s work as a way to feel good about myself.

 

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Salute to Women’s History

 

Okay, for starters: there are just too many stage plays to choose from—millions possibly. 2017’s lineup is already locked in place and isn’t at random. Each play is in essence a tie-in—at least for this year—to whatever is in observance (Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc.) for that particular month which is why I went with In the Summer House, a play that was written by a woman, features a group of women, and is set during what I thought would be an interesting time period showcasing the lives of women: the decade before the Sexual Revolution (1960’s) and the rise of 2nd wave Feminism.

It’s a given that my style is unorthodox (undisciplined); no fancy words and academic analysis here, or paragraphs boggled down by theater jargon. And since this is my slice of the internet, I’m not going to hold back saying how I feel about something I’ve read. And with readership as low as it is, what need is there for me to swab clean my initial reaction to something? However, I do try my best to keep an air of professionalism just in case someone from the print media ranks stumbles upon this blog, likes what they’ve read, and then asks me what my take is on a current theater production. What I’m saying is: I’ll zip it up for by-lines and dinero. Other than that: the beat goes on.

 

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All-female Mariachi [Taxco] Band, 1950s

Preliminary Confession #1 — How did a nice and easy-going fellow such as myself get it in his mind head to want to want to write criticism on stageplays? — isn’t fully answered but I did allude, even before this question, to the fact that I come from a film background. And a lot of the jobs I took early on required that I read and evaluate screenplays (for free!) which get their DNA (formatting) from stage plays because—guffawHollywood’s first wave of filmmakers were theater directors and playwrights. (The style of screenplay still being used today is called the Master Scene Format which was created by Thomas Ince in 1911.) So, in essence, I’ve been reading stage plays for a minute now (2006) and that’s why I can’t help but give such a strong opinion on how to “correct something” in them. That part of me won’t go away. Another part that won’t go away is how I go about picking what to read. Again, I trust my film senses: I read theater websites, see what plays my favorite writers have read, ask people I know what they’ve read (this is actually how Hollywood finds new material), seek out lists of classics—but the main thing I do is look at the title. Just about everyone in the film industry is guilty of it. And for the undiscovered writer, that’s really your only sure shot: the title—which explains how out of hand they’ve gotten as of late. Personally, I’ve read over 1,000 screenplays. (This is a very, very low number; some who get paid to read scripts average 700 scripts a year.) Nowadays I’ll read maybe three or four new ones start to finish if that, and skim maybe the first 15-to-20 pages of another four or five more but I don’t consume them in high volume like I once used to. Much of what’s written on spec today won’t get produced thanks to sequel-itis and comic book-itis currently squatting in our movie theaters. The scripts floating around Hollywood at the moment are basically one-hundred-page calling cards to do work-for-hire on studio tent-pole projects… So when it came to narrowing down my list for the inaugural twelve—and the year following—some made the cut just on their titles alone as well as my own subjective tastes. I’ve also held off reading them in advance so that whatever I have to say about them happens in the moment… Look, not all of these plays are going to be stellar—just go back one month. I knew going in that I’d see some peculiar ones and that I would have to do my best in trying to be fair, honest and open-minded as possible when it came to critiquing them. It’s just that on back-to-back months here at the very beginning I’ve really been caught by surprise.

 

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Jane Bowles, herself

 

This particular work came recommended from a blog I read where a follower asked the blogger what plays should she consider for her young, all-girl theater company and this play was listed in her response—which brings me to why I brought up my script-reading background. This play falls into the not-so-rare situation of where the title caught my eye. In the Summer House — it has a nice ring to it. It sounds profound yet ominous and tragic, metaphorical… As a script-reader I gravitated towards stories that are set in one location—which the title implies. Horror, which is all the rage right now (Get Out), benefits significantly from this. One location means smaller budget which in turn means more money for P&A (prints and advertisement). And for a filmmaker constricted to just one location, it’s a true test of his or her creative ability. This, on title alone, would’ve been added to my reading pile back in the day. Now reading it would’ve been an entirely different story because there are a few variables to consider. Like, did this come into the office through an agency, or on spec? If it came in on spec, I would’ve set this aside after page five. No way would I waste my time or risk getting fired from my non-paying job by investing time in reading this. And if it came in through an agency, I’d just bite my tongue as best as I could but still articulate to the boss man in the comment section on the coverage page that this script was a chore to read and heavy, heavy revisions would be needed before this could be seen by a paying audience. Now some readers go further, getting down right vindictive with their comments, but that never really suited me. I’m not a malicious person; I just want the story to be good. I’m not out to destroy a writer’s career before they even had a chance to get it started.

About my tastes: I like ensembles, one-location settings, and short time-frames (an afternoon, over the course of a night, three days; nothing more than a week), well-written monologues. Stuff that drives me up the wall: “You’re late!” scenes, narrative time jumps (one year later, five years later, TEN YEARS LATER!!), grandstanding (I’m not sure of the actual term but it’s when a woman tells a man, or vice versa, to “Leave!” either verbally or silently and just as the man starts off she yells, “Wait!”), casually racist jokes or racist stock characters (Magic Negro, Gay Best Friend who’s a party/wedding planner, broken-English Asian actor. Seriously, is every Latino male over the age of 40 a lawn mower, and is every Latino male under the age of 40 a gangbanger? Better yet: what are Americans’ understanding of Muslims before 9/11? Seems like they’re all depicted as either hopeless or criminal and the only way to save them is to continue occupying their land and dropping bombs on them, ignoring their pain and suffering because only American troops are the ones dealing with PTSD. [Is that too political for you? Oh well!]).

 

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Ocean Front, circa 1950s

 

What else: no plot (as in a story with no goal; people just standing around yakking), bodily fluids (semen, fecal matter, urine, etc. whether visible or mentioned) and mutilation (perverted sexual acts, animal cruelty, slicing of the epidermis, stuffing of objects into the orifices, extreme violence and gore whether realistic or CGI, etc.). I’ll go one step further and say that writers who write scenes in their script/play showing or mentioning the acts of defecation and urination in an unnatural way, or showing a character slicing open their own skin just for the sake of “shock value” should be brought in for psychological evaluation. These people clearly need proper medical care & attention and shouldn’t be indulged. I’m mystified as to how they manage to get into rooms with people who make films for a living and convince them that they should fund their projects. It’s absolutely mind-boggling… Now that’s just a small selection and by no means extensive even though it looks that way. It might even give you the impression that I’m no fun. No. A man can’t just dine on caviar alone. There are some exceptions; I pray that they come up along the way. I’m usually good at avoiding a lot of the cons when it comes to movies. But stage plays ain’t like movies. I can see movie trailers and steer clear of the bad ones. I’m going into a lot of these plays blind because the synopses for the majority of them make no damn sense at all. They’re like trying to read an anthropology book on Stone Age civilization; two paragraphs in and you’re clueless as to what any of it actually means. Whew! I’ve said a mouthful. Now that that’s off my chest, on to our stage play…

 

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I’ll take mine Rockefeller

 

I try to dig up little tidbits on each of these and it appears that Mrs. Bowles left planet Earth at the age of 56 leaving behind a fairly light body of work (one novel, seven short stories and this stage play). My take from reading up on her can be surmised in two words: proud bigot. Sorry, not sorry. She had a stroke at age 40, developed a limp because of it, and then took out her frustrations on the rest of the world, feeling that she can say whatever she damn well pleases. In her own words: “I’m Jewish, homosexual, alcoholic, a communist — and I’m a cripple!” Then again, maybe she’d fit right in considering America’s current social climate. So as you can see, she was known more for what she did away from the stage, that is, her being abrasive, in an open marriage and her being a “homosexual” (again her words, not mine; besides gay had an entirely different meaning back then) — but that sort of stuff barely moves the needle nowadays, not when people can change “transition” to a new gender (Caitlyn Jenner) or become so color struck (Boom! Another monthly tie-in, though hella forced this time.) that they would want to change “transition” into an entirely new racial identity (Rachel Dolezal). So her alternative lifestyle only gets a meh and a half nod from me. If you want to wow me, you have to do it on the page—something she couldn’t even do in real life. Summer House’s stint on Broadway was insignificant, and critics then (1953) were split 50/50.

In Bowles’ story: Gertrude Eastman Cuevas and her daughter Molly are the owners of precious beachfront property in southern California that is footsteps away from the Pacific Ocean. At opening curtain we are in the garden and just off of it and the main house sits a “round summer house covered with vines.” Molly is in and out of this summer house constantly, using it as a place to hide from her overbearing mother. Oddly, Gertrude’s behavior comes at you right out of the gates. Some of the things this lady espouses wouldn’t even be said in polite company. She has an acerbic remark for just about everything: men, women, brown people, children, work, money, life. Nothing misses a lashing from her tongue. It being the 1950’s and all, it’s interesting to note the difficulty Gertrude has had in raising a child on her own. She now finds herself debating on whether or not to marry Mr. Solares, a Mexican (-American?/ -immigrant?) suitor who has been courting her for some time. Her reasoning isn’t that drawn out and seems to be purely financial:

[GERTRUDE: I’m thinking of seriously marrying Mr. Solares, after all. I would at least have a life free of financial worry…]

Besides that there isn’t much in the way of conflict here. But a series of characters are introduced, so many in fact that I just plain stubbornly don’t want to list them. And I like stories with lots of characters but here there are so damn many, none of which are all that distinguishable, nor do they do anything interesting. I’ll just focus on these three: Lionel, Vivian Constable and Mrs. Constable. Mr. Solares and his sisters and the other random characters that pop up from time to time are a non-factor. Vivian and Molly are roughly the same age (15 and 18, respectively) and this, if any, is where the play gets its central conflict from. Allegedly the theme of this play is about mother/daughter relationships and you can kind of see that here and there, but those moments are so fleeting, and what you get in between them are unfunny, senseless pratfalls, random character walk-throughs, on-the-nose musical numbers, way-out-in-right-field navel gazing, and random time jumps (ten months here; two months there). After reading this play, I wanted to throw the book at the wall. But that course of action is reserved for that special bunch of literary works that successfully manage to get under my skin. Throwing the book is an act I consider to be on par with a compliment, good material or bad…

Vivian too is constantly trying to get from out underneath her mom and has made her rent her a room in Gertrude’s house. Mrs. Constable allows it but is staying close by at a hotel up the coastline and stops over sporadically to check in on her daughter. I wrote in my notes that Vivian and Molly, based on the dialogue given to them, must be mentally retarded disabled because the ish they say, man… I guess the implication here is that Gertrude and Mrs. Constable have stunted their daughters’ growth. Well, if that’s the case, where the hell is Child Protection Services or the local law enforcement for that matter because something happens to one of these young ladies later on in the story and I’m amazed that the adults involved were able to keep their freedom. I’m even more amazed at the fact that neither of these two young ladies has walked into traffic yet, especially Molly.

Later on in the play Lionel, a fast-food employee at the local seafood shack, gets it in his mind to ask for Molly’s hand in marriage—and it was at this point that I broke down mentally. Imagine asking someone pointed questions about making plans to be together and what their outlook is on the future and them completely ignoring you, opting to chase ladybugs around a yard and speak ethereally about the moon and the stars and not wanting to feel pain… What the ever-loving f—k!

The men in this story. Hell, the women in this story!

I wrote the entire damn cast off. Mr. Solares is a pushover and is completely dismissive of Gertrude’s cattiness and racism. Lionel has no clue about life and proposes to a much younger woman than he his who is a complete ditz, who over time will become a burden on him. Vivian too is a Dodo bird, and as for what happens to her, well… it happened and? (Spoiler.) Mrs. Constable is spineless and was made to be a lush merely for theatrics. Mr. Solares’ sisters and servants are just over-the-top stereotypes of Mexican immigrants that would in no way fly in this day in age. There isn’t even a sufficient amount of back story on any of them to justify these characterizations except for Gertrude who gets the tried-and-true “daddy issues” crutch.

 

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Or raw with a little horseradish and Crystal hot sauce…

 

I’ve come to grips with the fact that I may very well never make an impact on Pop Culture, but holy mother of Venus I know I’m better than this! Just exactly what was going on five or four or three decades ago for theater/literary critics to keep a light shined on this kind of material? Why would one of my favorite bloggers recommend this to a woman for tweens to perform?

Absolutely nothing happens in this story; there is no plot! And it doesn’t even take place in the summer house!! Let me clarify the no plot statement: I’m not against plotless stories, not if they are filled with interesting characters. None of these characters felt real to me. Just about everything they said was stilted and if it wasn’t stilted dialogue, it was underlined by music score. Furthermore, what hurts a plotless story are narrative time jumps. It makes a story feel disjointed because the minute something gets interesting, you suddenly are rushed forward to a new point in time and have to build up forward momentum all over again. Bowles, in trying to keep her story interesting, decides to add more characters but our connection to the original, main characters was never cemented, yet she just continues to pile more and more of them on…

Does this story hold up? Seems like a funny question considering all that I’ve said. But the crazy part is, falling back on my script reading days, I would place this story on the border of “PASS” (reject) and “CONSIDER” (re-read at a later date to see if it can change our minds on wanting to reject it). Consider has these varying degrees and after a while it becomes sort of like ordering steak. This could be something to “consider” but with what I said above: heavy, heavy revisions. The majority of the “conflicts/situations” (proposals, marriages, foreclosures) in this play happen off-screen—but not in a good way like Chekhov. They just randomly do for some reason. And none of what does happen on stage justifies all of the bizarre time jumps except Vivian and Gertrude’s marriages which they’ve arranged to have together. Correcting this wouldn’t be all that difficult… I like the idea of a single mother being overbearing to her daughter, and juxtaposing that against the decade of the 1950’s could work beautifully, seeing as that was a stagnant time for all Americans. Deep-six the year long time-frame and just and have it all come to a head on their wedding day which could be over the course of an afternoon. This also would be one of the rare occasions where I would recommend flashbacks—but like salt, use sparingly. And, of course, get rid of the inane pratfalls, racism and bigotry—or at least be more subtle. Merge a few characters together and it would make for an explosive situation all under one roof, or all outside in the garden, rather, next to the ocean. Because undeniably, Gertrude Eastman Cuevas is an interesting character—speaking out the way she does considering the time period. And if given just a little bit more to go off of, she could truly be something special. Bizarre scripts like this one fizzle up out of the murk every now and then in the film business. A story like this one would be bought by A-lister’s production company then heavily revised beyond recognition. And as soon as the A-lister has the chance to put down the cape or the machine gun, getting this kind of material made would be their top priority because main characters this challenging and this complex don’t come around all that often. And on those days, your job as a script reader is difficult. Because you don’t want to be the guy who wrote “PASS” on a script that could potentially land Meryl her next Oscar® nomination. Add to that the fact that the industry is currently on a manhunt, er, I mean, womanhunt for stories with strong, female protagonists. Plus, we all know period pieces are shoe-ins for Best Picture… So this one smells like “CONSIDER”. So, yeah, in a weird way: this story does hold up. The mother/daughter estranged-relationship that’s fully dimensional is a story not often told.

Well, I think I’ve exhausted my point. Hopefully, there’s enough here to last you until next month. I’m three weeks into a 30-day juice cleanse and I’m hella grumpy from typing and revising this blog so much. One Love, boys and girls and aliens… I’m on my way to the kitchen now to pour myself a bowl of vegetable broth.

 

 

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‘Til April…

 

 

Rating: 2/5

2016 – Movie List*

Posted in Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2016 by gregnett

*Of the movies I’ve seen… which no one has asked my opinion on. (I’ve seen over a 100 films this year. That should qualify me, right?)

Here’s yet another obligatory list ranking movies that hit theaters this calendar year, 2016 Anno Domini. A good, safe number is 10. So that’s what I’m giving you — and ten words to go along with them. All are listed by their USA release date. See ya in 2017. Enjoy!

 

 

Official poster shows the titular hero Deadpool standing in front of the viewers, with hugging his hands, and donning his traditional black and red suit and mask, and the film's name, credits and billing below him.

Dir. Tim Miller

 

Ten words: Who knew a violent action flick could be so funny?

 

 

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Dir. Christian Ditter

 

Ten words: Somewhat passable contemporary dating movie tripped up by stock clichés.

 

 

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Dir. John Hillcoat

 

Ten words: By the book crooked cops actioner. Mackie is surprisingly good.

 

 

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Dir. Don Cheadle

 

Ten words: Raw. Dizzying. Brash. Uncouth. Tragic. Just like the man portrayed.

 

 

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Dir. Jeremy Saulnier

 

Ten words: Horror film meets Punk band. An unsettling, grim narrative. Yikes!

 

 

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Dir. Ian Edelman

 

Ten words: Charming, formulaic fish out of water story — but with Hispanics.

 

 

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Dir. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman

 

Ten words: In a year of studio misfires, how’s this more entertaining?

 

 

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Dir. Oliver Stone

 

Ten word: The most heart-warming romantic thriller of the year… Wait, what?

 

 

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Dir. Ben Younger

 

Ten word: Conventional pugilist story but skillfully crafted to avoid unwelcoming comparisons.

 

 

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Dir. Kenneth Lonergan

 

Ten words: Mocks Christianity. Alcohol bandages all of the white people grief.

MOVIE REVIEW: Equals; or Dystopian Romance sweetened with Splenda®

Posted in Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2016 by gregnett

 

I’m starting to grow restless of these dystopian movies—I really am. I can’t take much more of them. Every time I go to thinking that the latest one will offer up something new and inventive, not even a third of the way in and I feel myself drifting off into outer space due to boredom. I would love to tell you that I made it past the half hour mark with Equals (dir. Drake Doremus, Breathe In) before the boredom set in but sadly that wasn’t the case. Sure, I’ve seen worse science fiction but this movie really tested my patience. Again, I’m not quite yet a critical mass but boy, oh boy…

 

galaxy

Can you spot me floating out there somewhere…

 

My main problem with Equals—and films of its ilk—is the casual, subtle, eugenic nature of them that none of these movies ever bother to address. How can a supposedly functioning, safe, harmonic “perfect society” like the one presented in Equals not be traumatized by the event that took place in order for it to come into existence? The answer is a bit of a cliché—and safely bundled up in the premise, I guess. But I can’t help but counter by stating how much of a cop-out that is: that in the future, after a nuclear event that wiped out most of the Earth’s human population, society will now be held in check with pills that will keep people in line and docile—and negate their sex drive too. And I know I shouldn’t be thinking about weighty, complex issues like eugenics while I’m watching a movie and rather putting my focus on trying to enjoy it. But there were just too many questions floating around that needed answering. Like, what’s so special about the handful of brown and Asian people that are allowed to “live” in The Collective? Why are they so okay with living under these conditions (restrictions)? Are they even allowed to question the setup of things? And why does The Collective feel that it’s okay to keep their numbers so much smaller than that of the white citizens, seeing as the State regulates child birth? Wouldn’t this tip the brown and Asian people off that something in their society is amiss? The fact that the races aren’t all represented with “equal” numbers? So are the people of color on a regimen of pills different from the white citizens? Ones that don’t make them realize that they’re outnumbered? And shouldn’t they be the ones committing suicide? (Seriously, do a Google search for minority suicide rates and see what pops up.) And how about the elephant in the room: (institutional) racism? It doesn’t seem to exist anymore, so how did that one get handled? With a premise so vague, it can’t just be summed up that some “pill” makes things so, or can it? If so, then this movie just jacked Big Pharma’s battle cry. They’re the loons who think that there’s a pill for “everything.”

 

Still floating… I wish I had my headphones…

 

Here in the West—America, Canada, (Western) Europe, Australia; Brazil all of a sudden—movies, like mostly everything else, are Eurocentric. But apparently no one slid Mother Earth the memo. Let’s see, umm, a quick head count… Oh, that’s odd. Brown people actually outnumber white people globally by a ratio of 11 to 1. So to see wide, serene, panoramic shots of a dystopian (virtually) white society living out their days without a care in the world, one has to think that their “government” or their elders or their who-have-yous were totally chill about the “vanishing” of 70% of the world’s human population, or damn near, to make way for their futuristic, techno-deficient Shangri-La. Again, to recount: brown (and Asian) people currently make up roughly 70% of the world’s population and this movie, like so many others in its genre, makes no attempt at explaining their disappearance, or even bothers to offer up a commemoration. Here, I suppose, some vague nuclear war is mentioned as to why the world’s population has been depleted, but still—why is it always the brown people who suffer huge losses? To me, it seems statistically improbable… At this point in life I shouldn’t be surprised that this is always the case with Western science fiction, movies or otherwise. But seriously, ponder that for a second: the disappearance of 5.2 billion brown and Asian people from the face of the Earth. Do you know what that is?  Well, boys and girls that is the equivalent of 262 Native American holocausts!

The only reason why black people are even in this movie is so that the hams who run the movie biz can experience that warm cozy feeling about their tummies for being Progressive™. And the only reason why Asian people are in this movie probably has something to do with my sneaky suspicion that a portion of the financing for the film came from the Orient—after quickly glancing at the credits. Shame on me, but I lack the confidence in believing that if this film were backed by a major American movie studio that it would be so racially diverse—and the film isn’t, though it would like to believe it is. Then again, maybe Equals could’ve been made by a major studio. But I doubt the people of color would’ve been able to use their real voices and speak with their natural inflections and at a normal tone (blacks yell; Asians whisper) … So yeah, there’d be black people in it—and a few Hispanic people too, for good measure. And as usual, there would be no Asian actors—they always seem to get the shaft for some reason… What? Don’t come at me, bro. You should know by now how Hollywood likes to roll them off the assembly line. Don’t believe me? Just go watch Pitch Perfect 1 & 2 then report back to me and tell me what you saw. Tell me you saw fine, excellent representations of Asian-Americans, please do—I dare you. So however you feel about that swipe at Asians (it isn’t; I love Asian people), don’t use that energy to troll me. Use that same energy to write your congressman a letter. (Boom! Current political snark. Two points!)

Okay, it’s been awhile since I’ve done this. I’m a bit rusty, but here goes…

 

Equals (2016) Kristen Stewart & Nicholas Hoult

 

Equals begins just like every other film in its genre: with the main character playing the part of a loner and at the same time, a distant dreamer of sorts with mad ADHD, or restlessness, or something. They all run the same; I can never tell. Aside from the aforementioned affliction(s), the world that the character lives in seems to have a peculiar knack for sparseness. And by that I mean: all of the garbage we’re amassing as human beings, currently rotting inside freight containers on barges in the Atlantic Ocean and Yangtze River, or floating freely atop the water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, or secretly being hidden deep underneath the sand in the Nevada desert is now gone. The future, once again, will be without clutter. Tall, well-lit skyscrapers, yes; but no clutter. Silas (Nicholas Hoult, X-Men: Apocalypse), though I could’ve sworn I heard his name pronounced “solace” the first time around, is who Equals is centered on. He too gets an insufferable meta-/biblical name to go by. Because if this movie did have any religious undertones—there are none—there’d be no escaping the striking similarities between movie Silas and the real-life biblical Silas who ventured about the then known world behind St. Paul the Apostle as he went on his excursions. Yes, movie Silas too has a strong desire walk the earth like his namesake but his reason is that he can no longer find “solace” in the world he currently lives in. Oh, and Silas is special too. He “feels” stuff… internally, and is issued pills for it though they don’t have any effect on him. Externally, however, it’s grounds for being removed from The Collective—the name of the “perfect society” he lives in—and placed in an underground compound known as “The Den” for reprogramming (death). So, of the five senses, touch—person-to-person contact—has been outlawed. I’m not really sure why that is. The movie doesn’t clarify it all the way, it mostly glosses over this notion—but you sort of just have to go with it.

A bit of a new “wrinkle” for a dystopian sci-fi flick is introduced here in that this “perfect society” allows art, actual artistic expression like visual art, classical music (how did it out survive EDM and Hip-Pop?) and literature—and Silas just so happens to be an illustrator at a company that produces books, digitally of course. Now if you have read any totalitarian manifesto from the last 200 years, you would know that letting the proletariat have a form of release is risky business. But since everyone is on the pill?, or indoctrinated?, there’s really no need to be concerned. Only Equals is a movie and things can’t stay the same forever. There has to be some kind of shake-up of the main character’s world, an inciting incident if you will. But before that can happen, we are introduced to Nia (Kristen Stewart, Anesthesia) who is white. But her name’s origin is Swahili which when translated to English means “purpose.” How a film so void of Africans (and African-Americans) commits such a faux pas beats me. I don’t know, I guess that’s what happens when names sound cool…

 

Just sailing along…

 

So Silas (solace) and Nia (purpose)—who’s a writer, and employed at the same company as Silas—just so happen to witness a white man commit suicide while looking out of the window at work one day, and from a simple thumb twitch on Nia’s part, Silas is able to infer that what he’s been “feeling” for so long that there’s another person—a woman!—who “feels” exactly what he’s been “feeling.” And just like that, he’s smitten. I mean, yeah, he’s looked at her from across the conference table at work a few times, and has seen her scanning her wrist (a very nice touch!) upon entering various buildings and what not, but him suddenly having the hots for her is a bit alarming. If Silas wasn’t so hot his damn self, anyone noticing his change of character would alert the authorities pronto because son does some legendary stalking of Nia following their meet-cute. The movie even goes out of its way to insert a “uhh-could-you-not-follow-so-closely-behind-me-bro!” scene just to ease any discomfort the audience might have in watching Silas’s behavior—and to give Nia some agency, because she was coming off very flat up to that point.

And I think it was about here that the movie lifted me up into outer space—at about the 18-minute mark, or so. For the life of me I thought that when I watched the trailer awhile back I would be going to see a science fiction thriller, not a love story. Equals basically deep-sixes everything it had going for it and became the Nicholas & Kristen Show with some very claustrophobic close-ups for the rest of its run-time. (Off the record: Silas is the worst boyfriend ever! for what he allows to happen to Nia.)

Look, I like Kristen Stewart. Other than the director, she was my main reason for going to see this film, so I wasn’t put off by seeing her face all over the movie screen. But ever since she did Clouds of Sils Maria, she has been picking some really odd films to be in. It’s like she’s content being the co-star rather than the lead. I definitely think she’s challenging herself but some of these stories are suspect… And Drake, he’s a good dude. His intentions are well, but this time around things are just a little too contrived for me.

 

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Equals (2016), Kristen Stewart

 

Truthfully speaking, if there were cameras or cell phones in this film (society) the third act of this movie wouldn’t be possible. The way in which the scenes stack up would be null and void. I have to reiterate that because of how preposterous the story became—and to keep with the theme of this blog post.

Another round of questions: how the f**k did Nia get back into Silas’s apartment? Why is Nia able to successfully commit a B & E (Breaking and Entering) without it alerting the authorities? At this point she’s a fugitive from the law in a society where everyone is chipped and therefore should be monitored, so how is she even able to make it back to Silas’s apartment in the first place? Shouldn’t there be guards posted at Silas’s front door, and guards posted at her home and job, and any other place she would normally go? In the same movie universe there are sleek, slide-away appliances, digital work-stations, jumbo news monitors, magic pills and adhesives but no Instagram, no T-Mobile, no GMail, or drones, or eye in the sky apparatus, or SWAT Team? On top of this, a random day-player mic checks that The Collective has cured cancer, the common cold, and S.O.S. (“Switched On Syndrome”; the movie’s made up disease for what Silas has that makes him “feel” which The Collective later develops a cure for yet Silas is able to shake off its potency) but excuse me, umm… eugenics? Uh, would you mind telling us about that one? What’s even freakier is that the guy who tells us what The Collective has gotten rid of is a person of color. Yikes!

So, yeah, all we’re really stuck with here is a movie romance. And you know how that ish goes: what’s your favorite scary movie, no what’s your favorite scary movie? lines of dialogue, and other hard-hitting questions like, “So where’d you grow up?” and “Are you a Democrat or a Libertarian? — God, not a Republican. Anything but a Republican.” And then the sex. You know the sex. We’ve all seen it: that PG-13 drivel that’s rife with mouth open, over-the-top heavy breathing and simultaneous orgasms… And why is it always the guy who turns into a philosopher for the pillow talk afterwards? Silas is a mute before then. But once he jumps into the sack with Nia, two movie-sex montages later, he’s ready to give a dissertation on love and all of its dynamics… Man, movie pussy is magic.

 

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Equals (2016), Nicholas Hoult

Equals hands its test in early. It was so hell-bent on giving us Romeo and Juliet in the future that it forgot to entertain us living here in the present with the world it had established. John Guleserian’s (cinematographer, Breathe In) visuals are a joy to look at. Too bad there isn’t a story to go along with them. The spotlight of blame shines bright on you Nathan Parker (screenwriter, Blitz) and you too Drake Doremus… And all of this talk about an all-female led Ghostbusters reboot and originality, and here we have a promising, young, American filmmaker doing his send up to Shakespeare. Maybe it’s me but I can’t help but feel like Doremus explores this type of terrain in all of his movies—unless he’s a romantic, then I sincerely apologize.

Equals isn’t a bad movie, not an intentionally bad movie… But it’s not a good one either. Sure, it’s crafted well. I’ve never had to look in all four corners of the frame to see a character’s face before. But a story like this comes a dime a dozen. Don’t believe me just watch: THX 1138 (Equals seems like an updated version IMHO), Comet, Wristcutters: A Love Story, The Hunger Games Trilogy (tetralogy), The Divergent Series, The 5th Wave, Wall-E, The Host, The Giver, The Lobster, The Island, Z for Zachariah (lots of religious undertones), The Matrix (the OG), V for Vendetta (for the counterculture anarchist in you), The Twilight Series (pentalogy; somewhat), Oblivion, In Time, Logan’s Run, Blade Runner (the granddaddy of them all), Southland Tales (horrible; don’t ever watch this movie), Never Let Me Go, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (for all you Hipsters out there), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, AlphavilleHer (one more for da Hipsters), Sleeper (yes, even Woody Allen)—and many, many more. I only say this much because I like Doremus and I want to see more from him. I’m tellin’ ya, the kid has a great eye, and I have a hunch he’s sharper than most. I just don’t see the need to keep going back to the well for Romance.

 

Boooosh!!

 

And as for genre films, aren’t we (brown people and Asians) owed one by now? Zombies, vampires, dystopian romance, evil witches & fairy godmothers, post-apocalyptic automobile societies, aliens, kaijū—yes, we may have missed the boat on these but there has to be some way, some new angle possibly for us to watch our big screen avatars don makeup and funny-looking costumes and prance about some made-up, fantastical world. A film like Leprechaun in the Hood exists but there’s radio silence upon the mention of an all person of color sci-fi epic/drama. Come on, Hollywood. All we’re asking for is just one, decent sci-fi ensemble film (or franchise) that’s front loaded with brown, black and Asian talent. And not one of those dinky Denzel Book of Eli movies either. Now is that too much to ask for in 2016? It can’t really be, really…? I mean, just look at the Fast and the Furious. I know you hate to admit it but that franchise uses a lot of the talent I just mentioned—even women! And they’re on movie number eight last I time I checked. And the filmmakers behind that series don’t discriminate, especially when there’s the strong possibility of making a shit-ton of money.

Equals – 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Science fiction; Romance
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver, David Selby, Bel Powley
Director: Drake Doremus
Producer(s): Michael Pruss, Chip Diggins, Ann Ruark, Michael Schaefer, Ridley Scott, Jay Stern
Screenwriter:  Nathan Parker; story by Drake Doremus
Released: 07/15/2016; Runtime (in minutes) 101; MPAA Rating: PG-13

MOVIE REVIEW: The Keeping Room; or Civil War Panic Room

Posted in Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2015 by gregnett

Perhaps the idea for The Keeping Room came after screenwriter Julia Hart (making her feature film debut here) went on a B movie, woman-in-peril, slasher film bender. Perhaps there was something about the exploitative material of the 70’s and 80’s that needed more exploiting and a re-imagining. And I guess the backdrop of the Civil War was as good as any—perhaps?

He's right behind you! Turn around!

He’s right behind you! Turn around!

After seeing the trailer I was all prepared to wax poetic about how if this movie were about three white men defending their turf while two armies of mostly white men bludgeoned one another over American turf at large, it would’ve been recognized as the start of Good Movie Season and Tom Hardy or someone of his caliber would’ve been mentioned as an Oscar hopeful, and this film would’ve easily played in 2,000 theaters having wiggled its way out of an R rating. But perhaps Hollywood did us a favor on this one…

White clothes...Metaphor?

White clothes… umm, metaphor?

I’m not sure exactly who to shine the spotlight of blame on. The obvious choice would be the director Daniel Barber (Harry Brown) who has a checkered past when it comes to this kind of dark material; or it could be the other way around maybe seeing as it was Julia Hart wrote this—the monologues, in all of their vagueness, are hers. As of this review, I’m still stumped as to what either of them was trying to tell us with this piece. Regardless, what it all boils down to is cinematic pointlessness—and I’m not even trying to be harsh.

Don’t get me wrong: I love period pieces. I just spent the last 3 years of my life writing one. But I pose the same question(s) to the filmmakers of The Keeping Room, the same any reputable critic would pose, the same I posed to myself when I sat down to write my story, the same any general audience would pose sitting down to watch theirs: What does this all really mean? How does this story tie in to today?

Why

Why “run” when I can “walk”…

As far as the latter, there are flashes: the full liberation of women; women not needing to be defined by a man, they themselves should suffice; the constant sexual intrusion of men; (white) male aggression—if I’m reading the subtext correctly. But on the surface where movies need to make sense and entertain, nothing in this film strikes a chord.

Just so at least someone tells you: a keeping room is an area just off the kitchen of a home. Keeping rooms date back to Colonial times when families would sleep in that area when the rest of the house was cold. Since that area could be heated by the kitchen stove, it often provided the only heated place in the house. A fairly light Google search got me that definition. The title is named dropped twice but never fully explained. The “keeping room” also doesn’t factor much into the plot either.

Ominous, ominous, ominous...

Ominous, ominous, ominous…

The year is 1865 and if you’re an American, for your sake, I hope you know that this was the year the Civil War ended. (Bonus points if you know the day and the month.) Three women—two white sisters and their Negro slave—are living together in very close quarters on what I guess is a farm somewhere in the American south. I’m no historian but knowing what I know about Slavery—not the gray sanitized version being taught in American schools—none of what I saw here made a lick of sense. And yes, most stories are contrived, I get that. But this story is contrived beyond forgiveness. The Keeping Room purports that a Negro slave woman, who the movie places at or around the age of 30, would stick around to help two oblivious, lily-white white women, who fall somewhere between the ages of 17 and 30, who know very little about farm work (especially the younger one), who stupidly go walking into the woods and get bitten—off screen!—by a raccoon and become a non-factor (solely the younger one), who have no white men in their vicinity to protect them, who themselves have yet to pack up and travel north to safety, who most likely have treated their Negro slave woman worse than the animals on their farm, who oddly have mentioned to this same Negro slave woman at some point long before the narrative began the whereabouts of extra guns hidden in the house (these guns don’t become a factor until late into the proceedings at which point there is forced exposition on the movie’s part to relay this information to the audience), who ignore danger when it is smack-dab in their face (solely the older one), who lastly, clearly don’t have the muscle mass or sheer will to live they same way their Negro slave woman does and should their Negro slave woman turn the aggressor, it’d be improbable that either of these two white women could defend themselves against her. Taking all of this in I thought to myself, “There is not nearly enough flesh removed from the Negro slave woman’s back to justify this kind of obedience.” Do I have to anecdote about the etymology of the word cracker?

“We all niggers now”, says Augusta (Brit Marling, I Origins) to her younger sister Louise (Hailee Steinfeld, Barely Lethal) [She’s like the go to young lady for period pieces, isn’t she?] scolding her for talking down to Mad (Muna Otaru) their female Negro slave. But nothing about what she said was inauthentic. The filmmakers might want to play fast and loose with the time period and its race relations but Louise is absolutely right: why does she have to do field work? Three people don’t need nearly that much food to survive on, especially if all Mad is going to prepare is vegetable soup night after night, and if the men have yet to return home from battle. And why does Augusta need to chop wood for that matter when it clearly looks like and is early spring time? The Civil War ended in the spring of the same year this story takes place. And nights get warmer in the spring. Summer’s approaching, right? I hope the movie isn’t suggesting that she’s getting an early start on the winter which is at best six months away. So again, why is she chopping wood? (Something tells me this story was initially set during the harsh of winter and the production team overlooked this fact figuring no one would notice—that and they couldn’t come up with another scene in which Brit Marling could appear independent in soooo… Well, I noticed not even trying.)

One of my favorite young female actors; this generation's Michelle Rodriguez...

One of my favorite young female actors; this generation’s Michelle Rodriguez…

On the whole, this narrative was concocted in the mind of Hart—a white woman—who keeps Mad broken and docile. Of course if Mad were to slit the sisters’ throats while they were sleeping and then make a run for it there wouldn’t be much of a story, would there? With death so imminent for all the white women cropping up in this film any smart black woman—or any black woman who wants to keep her life—would take her chances out on the road *hint hint* Underground Railroad. Surely Mad’s heard of it; the early 1860’s was its peak time of usage for runaway slaves to Canada. (For one to know just how unruly Africans were, and for that matter, just how twisted and inhumane the white establishment was during Slavery or at anytime prior (or later), it would require personal enrichment beyond American textbooks and mainstream entertainment, I guess.) Later we learn via monologue—a breath of fresh air for these types of movies because speechifying is usually reserved for white principal actors—that Mad is deeply in love with Bill (Nicholas Pinnock, Monster: Dark Continent), a Negro slave man also residing on the sisters’ farm (and the movies way too contrived reason for why Mad is still on the premises possibly), who upon his arrival home is shot in the back while in an Union officer’s uniform. Elsewhere in the movie the other non-principal black characters also die—stylistically—and for no apparent reason: their skulls are burst open before slowly dropping dead, set ablaze while atop run away horse carriages and like Bill cowardly shot in the back while defenseless. Is this another metaphor for something? Is there some deeper meaning in how they die? As for the white characters, well, they die heroically of course, drinking family recipe moonshine and monologuing. But you knew that already…

And it’s because of these and many other gratuitous nihilistic deaths (of mostly white women) that I bring up slasher films. Only in those movies do killers (usually white men as is the case here) silently stalk their prey (young scantily dressed white women) through dark hallways and poorly-lit corridors, only in those movies is exposition doled out through a feeding tube or is just dismissed altogether, only in those movies are main characters silent when they should be yammering. In real life, Bill’s untimely demise could’ve been prevented just by simply saying, “Bill. Thank God you’re home!” out loud. I should be concussed at this point for the amount times I slapped my forehead at this movie’s silliness. I really felt like I was watching a slasher. Even the guy behind me kept huffing his breath and sucking his teeth. (It’s nice when it isn’t just me.)

You could try running...

You could try running…

The film also opens with a framing story that tells us that white men are who we thought they were: belligerent, rapist, sadistic, repugnant scum. And what do white men do to bring on so many bad adjectives, well, the aforementioned and then some. Look, I’m not here to pile up on white men. The movie does that all on its own. But what a movie like this does do is highlight a few cinematic privileges that the Movie Money People of Hollywood would never bestow upon a person of color. The closest filmmakers of color have ever gotten to romanticizing cinematic retribution for Slavery was Django Unchained and even that movie was written and directed by a white male who some think has an honorary hood pass. And that’s life in Hollywood boys & girls…

As for the rest of The Keeping Room, it’s par for the course. We get an obligatory scene of a black slave being called a nigger, a scene where the sisters do their hair and makeup (really tie their dresses) together and talk about “stuff” which is suppose to signify unity or family or something, copious amounts of extreme close-ups of nature, and scene after scene after scene of the two white female leads staring off into the distance feeling exiled, sensing fear, ignoring fear until eventually fear shows up on their front doorstep. Groundbreaking, amirite? A hair slightly above film school all of it—and it even has an obnoxious screechy violin score to boot. As for the dialogue, when characters do speak, it’s of the tin can variety. Which brings me to another thing: I will never understand for the life of me why in the 21st century, with all of the script gurus and screenwriting books, with all of the overpriced film schools populating the country, and with all of the screenwriting best-of lists (the script for this film was on one) and film-centered websites—I will never understand why screenwriters withhold key exposition from the audience, or their characters. I just won’t. Why can’t Augusta and Mad call out to one another so that way Augusta doesn’t have to turn blindly around a corner and shoot an innocent defenseless person in the back? Or make an attempt to call out at least? Why can’t the town hooker say to Augusta that if you continue to hang around town Sam Worthington is going to violently rape you and your sister and possibly your Negro slave? Why! Give me a reason, please do. The entire audience knows Sam Worthington is scum. The framing story explicitly implies it and the rest of the movie hits you over the head with it: white men are sadists and not to be trusted. So who are the filmmakers trying to keep in suspense? Fuck show, don’t tell…TELL! So that way you can find a more satisfying way to achieve actual tension and give us the audience the necessary info we need to buy into your story. Gawd!

Psycho-killer...

Psycho-killer…

I’d go further and discuss this film from a feminist standpoint but what for. It’s all so damn fatalistic. And there’s not much else to it. When people do and act in stupid, senseless ways this film is what you get—a shamble of a production that tries hard to be the third act of Home Alone and the second act of Panic Room but achieves neither. In the end this’ll most likely wind up on Netflix under “Strong Female Lead” which for me is a bit of a head-scratcher. Because after all of the bloodshed, and all of the carnage, and all of the supposed female empowerment, the closing image this movie throws up on screen is three women dressed up like men walking off into the sunset.

The Keeping Room – 1 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama
Starring: Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Muna Otaru, Amy Nuttall, Ned Dennehy
Director: Daniel Barber
Producer(s): David McFadzean, Dete Meserve, Jordan Horowitz, Judd Payne, Patrick Newall
Screenwriter: Julia Hart
Released: 09/25/2015; Runtime (in minutes): 95; MPAA Rating: R

The Guy behind the Guy behind the Camera Operator who’s sitting on the floor leaning against the wall charging His cell phone…

Posted in The City: Los Angeles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2013 by gregnett

“… boldness is a child of ignorance and baseness . . . But nevertheless it doth fascinate…”
Francis Bacon, Of Boldness

Suggested background music:
Wale featuring Nipsey Hussle – “Chun-Li” & Outkast – “The Whole World” <PLAY. REPEAT if necessary.>

I’ve been away from my blog for quite some time. I did it so I could focus more on my screenwriting career. Well, career is such a strong word, but one needs to write in order to eventually have the career part come into play. (I would never abandon the one place I can be published.) I also did a little soul-searching. The kid’s weight even fluctuated up and down by about twenty-five pounds or so . . . lost a few friends, picked up a few new ones, you know—the usual. Yeah, this past year has definitely given me a hefty batch of lemons to make lemonade with.

ImageBut outside all of that, I’ve been on task rewriting and polishing my screenplay which took an incredible amount of focus and drive on my part to get done. The entire process kind of left me with the feeling that the whole world was conspiring against me—which is absurd; I know it isn’t. But I’ve never seen so much negative ish come my way. It was like growing up all over again. Now finishing my script wasn’t necessarily a page one endeavor, but it was as close to it as you could get. It’s hella tenuous combing through a one hundred and six page document, checking it for grammatical errors, syntax and overall plausibility—and that’s only the first part. Next you have to show it to someone, someone who isn’t going to feed your ego or steal it, and they also have to be able to give you constructive, sound, honest feedback. Then after that: you have to send query letters to industry professionals with the intention that the material you want them desperately to read is your best offering, and that you’ll be able to generate the same quality of work—or close to—time and time again as a paid, professional screenwriter. And after that: you have to get back in touch with loved ones and explain to them why you needed to be so distant for so damn long—some of whom who thought you were dead, or worse: moved back home. . . Nope! I’m still here fighting the good fight.

Image

If anyone pays attention to this damn blog, you should know that had a meltdown a while back [Hopes & Dreams… CRUSHED!!! – 06/10/2011] and wrote a panicky, scattered blog post about the screenplay that I’ve just finished as of last week, Chalkboard. Back at that time Chalkboard was just a bunch of scenes and a loose treatment wasting space on my hard-drive and I would only look at it from time to time, and my intention for it wasn’t really to finish writing it. It was what some screenwriters (all writers maybe) call their “top-drawer script”, meaning that only my eyes would see it, I could take some liberties wherever, and it couldn’t possibly be sold or turned into a movie, so what’s the rush in finishing it. In today’s movie-making world, it’s sad but that still might definitely be the case. I looked at that old post just before I started writing this one and I still can’t make sense of what my angle was. If I had to sum it up now it would be insanity—and frustration, paranoia too. I guess I haven’t taken it down because I want other writers to know how crazy and over-dramatic we get about ish, and what being nonsensical looks like as far as me. No one wants to steal my script; I’m not that clever. In the future perhaps. . .

ImageBut distancing myself from people and things for close to a year, though gruesome, was a step I needed to take in order to become the professional screenwriter I think I could be. I always knew how good of a story Chalkboard was, but I didn’t want to buckle down and really write it. But that kind of mindset works against my goal and isn’t what I’m about. So, I guess I got tired of talking about it and thinking about it and decided to give it to some folks—the pages I wrote of course—and the feedback was positive, some wasn’t; but overall it felt good to be passionate and defensive about my work again. And ultimately, every bit of feedback I received went into the effort to make Chalkboard the best screenplay possible, my strongest to date. Again, having another set of eyes other than your own read your work pays huge dividends. I highly recommend it—free sets of eyes that is! Image

Admittedly, I didn’t know if I would be up for it. I had my doubts early on, up until the end really. Why do we do that to ourselves, writers? Seeing so much red ink and having to take so much criticism—it kind of made me want to scrap the whole idea altogether. But then that started to feel like 2008 the year I stopped writing and put a two year freeze on my growth. . . I came back to and remembered: that’s screenwriting, or any other writing for that matter—it’s rewriting. Man, I’ve done so much rewriting! I’ve gotten up and went to bed with this damn script for over a year. Even now after I’ve written The End, I’m still going back into Chalkboard and making changes to it. It’s embarrassing. But seriously, I’m done; I’m not going to touch it anymore!

ImageBut I do want to “touch” on something—talent! Only because no one can say to me anymore that I’m not a good writer. It’s unbelievable how much better I’ve gotten. It’s like when Denzel was released from prison in He Got Game and he returns home to see his family, and his daughter tells him that Jesus Shuttlesworth, his basketball prodigy son, her older brother, can now use his left hand with the same skill and precision as his right. This script is money, and it sucks that it may never get the attention it deserves—which is ironic, because that’s why I wrote a story like Chalkboard in the first place: a story the deals with a character moving on from something the character saw as the end-all be-all to his existence. Now I definitely know what the stakes are as far as screenwriting goes, and with spec screenplays too: only a fraction of those pursuing end up doing. But it doesn’t erase from my mind the fact that I belong and that I’m just as qualified as those working in Hollywood. I’m not begging or whining or prophesying, I’m just stating the obvious: I’m that confident in my craft. So, there’s no reason to hang my head either way. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be taking meetings going into the fall and the coming year. But as far as Chalkboard goes, it just marks my return, my return to writing and feeling good about who I am and what it is that I aspire (still hate that word) to do for a living… I’m back!

ImageI’ll let the universe sort it out, but it feels damn good to be blogging again… I have lot of ish to get off of my chest! And so it begins…