Archive for March, 2017

Stage Management

March 6, 2017

I was thinking about the big snafu at the end of the Oscars recently. I did not watch the most recent Academy Awards and several of the ones before that. Awards shows generally do not interest me because I can get the same experience in a much shorter timespan by reading snippets of speeches and watching clips the next day. Of course, since I was online at the time, it was nearly impossible to avoid Oscars talk on my twitter feed. As of today, I have only seen one of the ten movies that were nominated for Best Picture and I will talk about that on Thursday. I have seen neither La La Land or Moonlight. I heard that both were good but a lot of people seemed to vilify La La Land for some reason.


The real villain in this story.

Of course, people were even angrier at the flub of announcing the wrong winner for Best Picture at the end of the night. However, never attribute to malice what you can attribute to ignorance. From what I have heard from various articles that I have read, the wrong winner was announced because the presenters of the award (Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty) were given the wrong envelope by the accountants that keep the envelopes safe. Which most likely means either the accountants or the company that prints the contents of the envelopes are to blame. It was a confusing moment to be sure but it seems like everybody eventually stumbled through it.


When the accountants froze, the stage manager leaped into action.

Who is the biggest hero in this story? As far as I can tell, it is the stage manager. They quickly realized something was wrong and informed the assembled producers of La La Land. To their credit, the La La Land crew were very professional and gracious about the mistake. Also, the crew of Moonlight was also very gracious about the mistake and even praised La La Land later on. It reminded me of all the times that I had to scramble to make something right as a stage manager during my brief career in theater. It is so important for the backstage crew to be on top of things. It is equally important for the performers to be as professional as possible.


The mantle is a heavy one.

I never became a professional stage manager. I worked as a stage manager in community theater and college. Those experiences made me want to be a professional stage manager but my first and last job in the field swiftly turned me into a designer instead. I was actually glad for it because stage managers have it rough. The worst experiences I had were when I worked with the now defunct Baltimore Opera Company. Actors are generally pretty chill individuals but opera stars can be a special kind of crazy. I once tried to wrangle a crazy Canadian who literally threw a tantrum at the end of rehearsal. I also was part of a costume meeting with a female singer who took one look at her dress and refused to wear it. Ever.


I miss these guys.

But, like I said, most performers are pretty cool. There was a French singer I worked with who did not speak English. I used a few Italian words I knew to communicate with him and he would smile and be the nicest guy in the world. I worked with a ton of interesting guys and gals in high school, college and beyond who I still remember fondly. My favorite will always be my friend Bill who unfortunately died young of cancer a few years ago. He was a bright ball of energy who listened to Christmas music all year long and was basically a living muppet. When I worked with him as a designer after college, he was something I looked forward to every day. Later, I looked forward to hanging with him and his comedy team partner Scotty.

While I left the theater a while ago, I still carry the lessons with me. It is important to stay on top of things and get along with everybody. Nobody loves to work with a diva. The collaborative work prepared me to work with others in other jobs I have had. Remember to use every experience you have had as you move forward. Oh and also don’t blame La La Land for somebody else’s silly mistake.

Death of a Halfling

March 4, 2017

Bron had placed the small body onto the wagon and stared at it for a moment. The stillness of the gnome was strange. His life had been full of death and chaos since he could remember. Sometimes it seemed as if blood had stained his skin more often than water had washed it clean. He had seen people fall beside him in combat before. However, this was back in his days with the orc clan that had birthed him. He had not cared much for those who had gone out of their way to make him feel unwelcome. Since his exile, he had worked alone until the dwarf had hired him in Neverwinter. Traveling with these others now was a new experience. After a few battles, he had a grudging respect for their abilities.

Of course, he had not respected the gnome. Even now he could not remember his name. He had called him “halfling” because it had annoyed the gnome originally. The little man had seemed harmless enough. In a world where Bron sorted things into whether they were a challenge or not a challenge, the gnome had been classified as “no challenge”. Bron did not have much experience with magic besides a single warlock in the clan who was lazy and the Witch. The gnome had been largely ineffective in the use of his magic previously.

That changed in the most recent glorious battle. In the midst of battle, the gnome warlock had stayed in a very heated battle. Bron had faced off against a strange barbarian goblin. However, the gnome had cheated him of his victory by magically turning the goblin into a pile of glitter. It had been shocking. Just hours earlier Bron had cut a goblin in half lengthwise and that had filled Bron with joy. In comparison, the transmutation of the goblin into glitter was deeply wrong. After a brief pause, the battle had begun again and Bron had been brought low by a bugbear. It was Bron’s first bugbear. He awoke again in time to see the gnome get savagely murdered by the bugbear.

The human who had promised them gold had waved his arms over the body but Bron knew it was over. The gnome had ceased being a person and was now a thing. A thing that Bron had carried out of the cave and placed on the wagon. The gnome was dead but he had left his mark on the party. Bron and most of the others had been covered in glitter in the battle. Bron had tried to wash it off in the stream but it would not be removed yet. It was like being haunted by the gnome’s ghost.

Of course, Bron’s thoughts did not dwell on all of this for long. In reality, all of that had passed through his head for only the briefest of moments. He felt a little sympathy for the gnome but that was tempered by the joy of finally finding the challenge he had been seeking. This would make him stronger. Anyway, he had only known the gnome for a few days. It was a shame that he was dead but he would shed no tears for the warlock.

 

Media Update 3/2/2017

March 2, 2017


Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping

I have loved Lonely Island since I first saw their first music video. I had stopped watching Saturday Night Live at the time. I just was not feeling it and what I saw did not really excite me. However, their new digital shorts started to pop up on YouTube. I have since followed their channel on YouTube with interest and hastily devoured every album they have put out. Well, I have not watched Hot Rod, the other feature film they released. They are most known for their music and their sketches which are all always well-written and expertly performed. They have carved out their place mostly as a comedy rap group. This movie is basically about all that and then more. It follows a trio of rappers who hit it big and then one of them (Samberg) went solo. He lost himself along the way and his old friends are also slowly falling apart. It is a story of a meteoric rise, the fall and then another rise. I thought it would be a silly movie but it ended up having a lot of heart. Part of the reason for that is that it is self-aware. It ends up being a good story wrapped up in a parody of the music business and celebrity in general. The movie is jam-packed with songs that are pretty much all written by The Lonely Island which is like getting a new album from them. Samberg is great as a big star who never really learned anything but how to be famous, Jorma Taccone is great as the meek friend who is an expert at mixing music and Akiva Schaffer is the bitter ex-friend who is a good writer. Akiva and Jorma also co-directed the movie while Akiva and Andy wrote it. The rest of the cast is full of musicians that Lonely Island has performed with and Saturday Night Live alumni. I definitely recommend it, especially if you are a fan of their past work.


Keanu

I had wanted to watch this movie when it came out but I am on a limited budget while I have been taking classes and I do not go out to the theater lightly anymore. Thankfully, HBO decided to air the movie and I could not be happier. This movie is timely right now for two reasons. First, a couple of friends just got new kittens. Second, George Michael died over the holidays. I loved Key and Peele. It was a sketch comedy show that was often smart but was also never afraid to get silly. It was kind of a spiritual successor to The Chapelle Show and Kids in the Hall, two other great comedy shows. This movie is very much in the vein of Key and Peele but in some ways, it is even more mature. While things on the show were exaggerated, the movie had a lot subtler acting in it. Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key have both shown how much they have grown and learned working on and writing for their show. There is also a great cast surrounding them that have a lot of fun moments including Method Man and Tiffany Haddish. There are action scenes but for the most part, you can imagine a real person acting the way our heroes act. I definitely recommend it as a silly comedy with a good heart and it is secretly pretty smart.


The Ten

I have mentioned on this blog a few times how much I love the movie Wet Hot American Summer and its prequel miniseries First Day of Camp. That movie was mostly made by cast members of an MTV sketch comedy show called The State. So it was inevitable that I would check out this movie made by ten out of eleven members of The State. I have not seen much of it but The State was irreverent and it did a lot of weird things just to tweak the nose of corporate. This movie is basically a sketch comedy anthology movie full of lengthier comedy sketches. Each sketch covers one of the ten commandments from the Bible in a comedic way. This premise made me nervous because I generally do not like watching anything religious because it is usually heavy-handed and bad. This movie feels like it used the commandments as a jumping off point and could probably be considered sacrilegious at times which is just fine by me. The movie is not without its flaws but I definitely do not regret watching it. There are ten separate stories but they start to melt together as the movie progresses. Characters from an early sketch might reappear in a later sketch and all of them get a curtain call of sorts at the end. The whole thing is tied together by having Paul Rudd introduce each sketch. However, his character eventually gets sucked into the sketches too. The whole thing ends up feeling like a mess but I think it is a good sort of mess. I would recommend it to fans of Wet Hot American Summer, The State or Kids in The Hall.

Music of the Week:
Bella Thorne – Call It Whatever

V8 Wankers – You Hate Me, I’m So Glad

Silly Wizard – The Queen of Argyll

Roxy Roca – Try My Love

Conner4real – I’m a Weirdo

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Dumb Movies That Are Kind of Smart”
– I finished watching Parks and Recreation
– I watched more of Season 2 Blue Bloods
– I watched more Season 1 of Seven Deadly Sins
– I am done with Season 4 of Haven
– I continued watching The Crown
– I continued watching The Librarians out of order
– I started The Magicians Season 2


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