Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Theatrical Art

Last fall, I was behind the scenes in a theatrical production for the first time (other than set-building for the local high school). I was assistant director for Brighton Beach Memoirs at Players Club of Swarthmore, working with the talented Paul Kerrigan.

As part of my contribution to a remarkable cast, I did portraits of each of them in character. In addition to giving a separate print to each cast member, I did a montage of them all for Paul, which you see here.

I'll be working with Paul again, beginning next month, assisting him with Arms and the Man, by G.B. Shaw. I'll try to do the same thing for my cast this time, as well. I'm also considering trying my hand at directing alone, on PCS's Second Stage, where they do smaller productions.

Can anyone suggest a one-set play with four to eight characters?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ben as Batman

The web seems to be in an uproar over the announced casting of Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight in the proposed sequel to Man of Steel. Some are happy; more are unhappy.

Count me as "who cares?" Given the handling of Superman in MoS, I think the whole pairing of Batman and Big Blue in the next movie will simply look like the same character in slightly different colors. The point of the Batman/Superman coupling is to look at two very different ways of being a hero...but the Nolan/Snyder version of Kal-El just isn't different enough from their previous take on Batman to make the comparison worthwhile.

As for the idea of Affleck as Batman--many seem to be concerned because of the failure of Affleck's previous turn in Daredevil. First of all, the Daredevil movie was no near as bad as legend makes it out to be...and the problems it did have had little to do with Affleck's performance.

Oh, and the photo with this post? I took a shot of Affleck as Daredevil and played with it digitally to see what he might look like in the batcowl.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Google Chromecast--A Review

Two weeks ago, we got the new Google Chromecast device. After a bit of trouble on setup (it's currently unsupportable on the Amazon Kindle and my main computer doesn't recognize it on the network because my computer is hard-wired to the router and not wireless), we got it to work by using my wife's laptop as the controlling computer.

We began by just testing it with some short Youtube videos, all of which worked just fine. Today, for the first time, we tried it with something longer--one of the Inspector Alleyn episodes available on Netflix. (Chromecast comes with a free three-month Netflix subscription.) The 90-minute video ran perfectly on our stuttering, no buffering, just a clean broadcast over our DSL connection.

So far, we're quite pleased. Google insists my computer should be able to find the Chromecast device on the net...but I've decided to stop trying to make that work. Google says they plan to make it work on Amazon devices in the near future (the problem is the somewhat wonky version of Android Amazon uses).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Newsflash: Todd MacFarlane is a Sexist Moron

One of my favorite blogs (other than my own) is The Dish, from Andrew Sullivan...but I never expected to find him commenting on comic books. Even more surprisingly, to find that he (and those he quotes) have the same basic opinion of Todd MacFarlane that I have had for some 25 years.

Money quote:

Recently, Alyssa picked a bone with comic creator Todd MacFarlane over his claim that superhero comics are destined to be dominated by males because the form is inherently testosterone-driven:

McFarlane’s arguments, of course, ignore that superheroes don’t actually exist, and that the production of superhero comics is not actually a biological function determined by whatever bodies we’re born with.
 I first interviewed MacFarlane for Wizard around the time of the formation of Image Comics. He was an incoherent blowhard then; apparently he remains one today.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Doctor--Miliennial Hero?

I have been a fan of Doctor Who for something like 33 years. I first got a whiff of it when a former girlfriend went to the UK to study and began raving about it to me in letters. About a year later, it began running in syndication on US TV stations, starting with the first episodes starring Tom Baker, Doctor #4.

In time, I became the foremost writer about all things Who for Starlog magazine, and interviewed Jon Pertwee (#3), Tom Baker, Peter Davison (#5), and Colin Baker (#6), as well as then-producer John Nathan-Turner,  actor Anthony Ainley, who played arch-villain the Master in the 1980s, and the beloved Elisabeth Sladen, companion Sarah Jane Smith to Pertwee and Tom Baker.

So I know a little about this show, including the current very successful revival. My wife pointed me to this I mostly agree with. It's a nice look at how the current series fits in with today's fandom.

I have one quibble, and it's with this line:

....unlike the baby boomers who reacted to war by anointing a hero with a pistol and a big shield, the millennials prefer a skinny alien in a bow tie...

As a decided boomer, I have to ask who the hero is the author is speaking of? Not Captain America--he's a WW2-era character, not a '60s-'70s one (and he never carried a pistol, either). I've always figured Spider-Man as the epitome of the boomer-era heroes...the one who knows that "with great power comes great responsibility."

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Memo to Disney: Get a Clue!

Consider this something of a follow-up to the previous post. After taking a $200 million write-down on John Carter, Disney is now preparing to take a write-down of roughly the same amount on The Lone Ranger, as reported here.

So what went wrong this time? Well, unlike John Carter--a good film done in by a disastrous marketing campaign by a group of executives who either had no faith in the material or were simply more invested in other projects--the Disney story of the masked man of the plains is simply poorly done. (Apologies to my friends Bob and Howie who seem to love it.) All indications are that Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney just had no idea who the Ranger is or how to handle such a classic hero.

Full disclosure: I have not seen this film; from the trailers, I decided I had no interest in seeing it (at least not by paying theater prices for it). My judgments here are based on the trailers, on reviews, and on word-of-mouth from people I trust.

The Ranger is not Tonto's sidekick, and Tonto is not a Native American version of Jack Sparrow. The Lone Ranger is not an action-comedy buddy movie story on the order of Lethal Weapon. This is not to say the movie can have no sense of humor, no ability to have lighter moments. (See the two Clayton Moore-starring theatrical features for how this can be done.) More importantly, the Lone Ranger does not kill--in fact, the character survived from 1933 to 1957 on radio and television never doing anything more violent than a fistfight or shooting the gun from a bad guy's hand. He certainly doesn't go blowing up train trestles, sending the trains plunging into the canyons below. Did the screenwriter, director and producer not understand the significance of the silver bullets? That life is precious and not to be taken lightly?

Clearly, outside the Marvel franchise--which came to them full-blown and already in steady hands--Disney has no idea how to market a real hero (Carter) or how to make a movie about one (Ranger).

Friday, August 02, 2013

"John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood": A Review

Didn't expect to be posting again so soon, but I just finished this book and I wanted to get my thoughts down while they were fresh.

John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood is author Michael Sellers' history of the way in which Edgar Rice Burroughs' character came to the screen (after a century in print), how the resulting film was marketed, and why it is--perhaps wrongly--considered a failure in movie circles.

It is also the beginning of Sellers's campaign to convince the powers-that-be that a sequel is not only in order but capable of being a hit.

The story of the making and marketing of Disney's John Carter is well told in the book, and Sellers carefully spreads the blame around...though most of it seems to fall on studio chief Rich Ross and marketing director MT Carney. In that, he is probably not wrong. But I think his idea that all that has come before can be overcome in producing and marketing a sequel is wrong. The likelihood of convincing the movie-going public...and especially the "gods of Hollywood"...that John Carter's problems were not inherent to the material is pretty slim.

As much as I'd like to see more of director Andrew Stanton's vision of Barsoom, I suspect Sellers is on a very quixotic quest.

Overture! Curtain Lights!

About four years ago, I did something I hadn't done in over thirty years--I auditioned for a part on stage and got it.

I had been very active in theater throughout my teens and early twenties, mostly with my high school and church groups, although I did perform in one of the very first amateur productions of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1975 (I think), with the Staten Island Civic Theater. When I moved to Brooklyn the next year, that all came to an end. Then came marriage and kids and neither the time nor the opportunity presented itself.

But I worked backstage with the local high school (hi, Ridley Drama Group!) both while and for a few years after my younger son was involved, and that got the juices flowing. So, when I saw that one of the prominent local groups, Players Club of Swarthmore, was auditioning for Into the Woods, I gave it a shot. I played Cinderella's Father (a relatively small role) in that production. But since that fall, not a year has gone by that I haven't been in at least two productions.

Most recently, I was Dr. Bradley in The Man Who Came to Dinner at Colonial Playhouse, another local community theater. That's me, on the far left, staring at Nurse Preen's penguin-injured hand in the second act finale.

I was also in Macbeth (or "the Scottish Play") as superstitious actors refer to it, at Barnstormers (also a local group), playing King Duncan (as well as a couple of ensemble parts after MacB offs Duncan in the first act). I'm in the back row, with the chain of office around my neck.

I'm currently rehearsing for Twelve Angry Men, with yet another local group, Spotlight Theater. It opens in September.

More about my theatrical endeavors, such as they are, at another time.