Moving and Shaking

Defeat? I do not recognize the meaning of the word. – Margaret Thatcher

While some people keep their tissues close during movies such as PS I Love You, or Moulin Rouge, or Les Miserables, with the exception of Les Mis, I’m pretty stone hearted.  The movies which get my eyes to floweth over are biopics, the stories of people who are doing good work but are cut down in their prime due to disease or assassination.  Years ago, I watched a documentary on Freddie Mercury who is one of my musical heroes, and even though I knew how it was going to end, I could help but sit there sobbing as his friends and loved ones recounted his final days. When I watched Into the Wild, the tears didn’t start until Eddie Vedder began singing over the credits.  Sure, a lot of people may think McCandless wasn’t someone to be revered, but I believe he was in search of something, and before he could tell his family, his friends, and everyone else his revelation, he was gone.

Yesterday, I finally had the chance/desire to watch Jack, CBC’s biopic of the late Jack Layton.  Now there were a lot of things he did I disagreed with, but he was undeniably a champion for things I wish to be a vocal champion for.  I think with Jack at the helm, the NDP was the perfect Opposition. (Don’t get me started on Mulcair.)  By the last ten minutes, the tears were flowing.  You could imagine the ugly cry face when the last letter he wrote to Canadians was read.  “My friends, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.  And we’ll change the world.”

I think all of us at one point want to be the one to change the world.  Some of us still think that, and it drives our actions.  Some of us having taken a step back from that line of thinking, and have allowed others to take the baton.  Then there are the very few who like to step on those people and grumble that it can’t be done so why try.  I’m not going to talk about those people.  They’re always going to exist.  I’ve only recently come into what I call my soapbox era.  There are a lot of things I see which I feel needs to be changed.  I’ve become a fan of revolution (funnily enough, that’s the part of Les Mis I cried at.  Not at Fantine’s death, but at the people fighting for which they believe in). I’d love to use my talent at creating change.  I may have had my tongue firmly in cheek when I wrote in #AmWriting, “You don’t have to agree.  My play will bring both sides of the argument together.  Create discourse.  Encourage change.  That’s what plays are about”, but I truly believe that.  With some exceptions, the plays I’ve written are meant to inform about what’s going on in society, whether I have the answer or not.  Drowning Ophelia, I’ve mentioned is about domestic abuse.  It’s about how I felt when I was being emotionally manipulated, and yes, emotional abuse is every bit as hurtful as physical.  The Courtship of Sarah Chandler (spring/fall 2014) works out my thoughts about marriage.  I don’t want it, but I understand why people do.  My latest play, for which I only have one monologue, explores this new yet old view of who women are in society.

There are a lot of things wrong in our society.  You can blame politics, religion, education, whatever, but blaming doesn’t bring about solution.  Identifying the problem is only one step.  Once it’s identified, work on finding the solution.  Some problems are less scary than others to fix.  Some require courage, and strength in your conviction.  My favourite M. Night Shyamalan film to date is Lady in the Water.  It inspired me to start to write again after a very long dry spell.  In it, there is a character: Vick Ran.  He is writing “The Cookbook”, which contains views and ideas which will inspire a future president, who will more than likely change the world for the better.  He learns that due to the controversial nature, he will be assassinated.

The nature of death frightens me sometimes.  I have a hard time dealing with it.  The idea of a living, breathing person turning into an empty shell just doesn’t mesh well with my thought cycle.  I don’t want it to hurt.  I want it to happen when I’m 125 years old and am just tired of living.  Movers and shakers rarely get that option though.  Perhaps that’s just what you sign on for.  I can’t sit idly back and not comment, not try to change.  Maybe down the line that’ll mean isolation, or worse.  To believe in something that strongly is appealing.  It gives my life purpose.  Who knows, maybe years from now, it’ll give someone else’s life purpose too.

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Acting Like A Hippo

Fat guy in a little coat.  – Chris Farley

The internet is abuzz after Rex Reed’s review of Melissa McCarthy’s performance in Identity Thief.  There is nothing that makes my blood boil more than having someone call someone else “tractor-sized”, and “hippo”.  I too have been victim of people shouting at me from cars to “lose some weight”.  More recently, I was walking into a store, and after smiling a “hello” to two young adults loitering outside heard, “whale alert”.  Their “observation” was unwelcome, unwarranted, and just mean-spirited. If you are one of those people who like to point out people’s size, stop it!  We know!  And a lot of us are working on it, and your comments aren’t helping.  I’m sure Ms. McCarthy does not need me to stand up for her, but I will outline my main beef with his words.

A critic is meant to provide discourse on a professional level.  How was the acting in the movie?  Body image has nothing to do with the acting.  He provided a personal critique when he should have been focused on the professional only.

Other discussions have naturally arisen from the news of Mr. Reed’s words.  One I heard this morning, from Calgary’s X92.9 radio station is what got me thinking.  Is McCarthy using her weight as a tool, as it were?  As Lori Gibbs, morning show host of The Show asked, did a skinny, unfunny McCarthy decide she would be funnier if she were fat?  I think you could find evidence that it could be true for some people, but as a performer who has “layers” (Gibb’s word which I loved and stole), I have chosen to use my size for good, rather than evil.  That is to say, I know people make fun of me.  I’m not deaf.  I’m not blind.  I can see the looks, can hear the whispers.  But if I take it away from them, acknowledge I’m fat before they can tell me, I win.  Not them.  Every single one of us has something we don’t like about ourselves.  Our hair may be too frizzy, too straight, or your nose may not be your ideal.  Fat people don’t have the monopoly on people making fun of them, but it does seem to be the “sexy” topic to critics and the internet.

I can sit here and defend myself saying I am on a journey to lose weight, and I am doing so by running, playing softball in the summer, and generally not hiding away eating in a dark corner, but I am not going to stop enjoying the things I love because someone thinks I’m fat. And pardon me, but I don’t believe I heard as much viciousness when discussing John Candy, Chris Farley, and John Belushi (to name a few).  Why can large men have nubile wives, but large women can’t have attractive, fit husbands?  It happens in real life.  Believe it or not, some people are more attractive to the quality of a person, and not the quantity.

I am in the public eye with my theatre group, with the kid’s workshop I teach.  Are there times I wish I wasn’t the fat girl in the room?  Sure. But my talent, my ability has nothing to do with my weight. I don’t act to my weight.  I act to my ability.  Weight does not define my worth.  You don’t define my worth.  I do.

I close with a quote from Bones, which has since stuck with me, and is worth remembering: “an over-emphasis on physical beauty is a common observable phenomena of societies in decline.”

Bull In the China Shop Acting

“Acting is not being emotional, but being able to express emotion.” – Robert Quillen

 

 

 

 

We’ve all heard the idiom “you’re like a bull in a  china shop”, meaning a person has no tact, etc.  I would like to postulate a new meaning, in regards to acting.

This of course, is a life lesson learned in large part because of my participation in the aforementioned Shakespeare class.

People, the theatre world is by and large the exact opposite of the film world.  With some exceptions, film is about the spectacle: 3D, surround sound, explosions.  Theatre is about the spoken word, the emotion, being there with the audience while you discover something new about your character.  It is because of that difference I was surprised, and admittedly angry when a director said in a group of people, referring to myself, “there are no roles for…heavy women.”  I let it go the first time (the man might have suffered from bull in a chinashop syndrome, no?), but when he repeated it a few weeks later, I had to cry foul.  You see, in theatre, unless someone’s line explicitly says, “hey [insert name here], you’re fat/skinny/black/white/hispanic/tall/short”, then the character representation is at the prerogative of the director/casting agent.

Theatre is not about the spectacle.  Unless we’re talking Wicked, Beauty and the Beast, Phantom – but they are on a completely different scale than, say, Mamet, or Shakespeare.

It all comes back to The Bard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understandably so, such a comment (and made twice!) does a couple things to a person. 

  1. They wish to prove the director wrong.
  2. Somewhere, deep inside, they can’t help but wonder, “what if he’s right?”

He’s not right.

For the longest time, I had been cast (and contented to be so) as supporting roles.  There’s really nothing wrong with it.  Supporting roles (or sidekicks) get some of the best lines, they get some of the best laughs.  But they very rarely get to show emotion aside from comedy.

And here’s where the bull enters the china shop.

For so long, I had convinced myself the sidekick, the supporting role was all I ever wanted; I had also convinced myself I was incapable of being anything else.  Incapable of feeling the grand emotions that accompanies a larger role.  Because if the sidekick breaks a piece of china, it’s funny.  The sidekick doesn’t know any better.  And quite frankly, our society has become so comfortable with “heavier people”, or “black people”, or “hispanic people” (and other stereotypes that haven’t been mentioned) in the supporting character role, seeing one of them as a bull in the china shop is comforting.  It’s status quo.  It’s safe.

Well screw that!

Shakespeare has taught me I can have all the emotion of a leading lady.  “For ere Demetrius ever look’d on Hermia’s eyne/He hail’d down oaths that he was only mine”. (Midsummer Night’s Dream Ii).  When I say those lines, I feel the hurt, the pain, the loss of Helena because the man who swore and swore he loved her pushed her aside for her best friend, her other pea in the pod.

How could I feel that if I were a bull in a china shop?

Let’s leave the china shop, fellow bulls!  There’s a large world out there, full of color, and range of emotion and we are all capable of experiencing it, and bringing others to the same experience!

The theatre is not about limiting emotions.  It is about drawing them out, making each and every person sitting in the rows feel them, and draw those same emotions from their own selves.  There is no shame in supporting characters, but shame on you if you, Directors, don’t let them out of the shop every once in a while to let them surprise you, and shame on you, Actors, if you don’t break out from the shop yourself. 

 

Images taken from here and here.

Film Review – Red Tails

“All wings check in.”
“Red 3 standing by.”
“Red 6 standing by.”
“Red 5 standing by”
“Red Buttons standing by.”
“Redd Foxx standing by.”
“Big Red standing by.”
– Star Wars: A New Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image taken from here

Red Tails, starring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr., tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.  Apparently, George Lucas (who served as Executive Producer on this film) started dreaming this up in 1988, with a desire to release in 1992.  20 years later, here we are.

Thing is, 20 years later, it still views as a crappy 80’s film.  I don’t really want to get too deep into the plot.  Actually, I can’t get too deep into the plot.  What you see is what you get.  African American (back then, they called themselves Negros – makes me interested into the evolution of that word, since now I believe it’s considered to be derogatory) men were deemed too stupid and slow in their reactions to be a functional part of the army, so while there were African American pilots, all they did was blow up trains, jeeps, etc.  There’s the religious pilot, the easy-go-lucky pilot, the funny pilot, the straight-arrow pilot and the jack-off pilot, and every other character stereotype you can imagine.  The pilots get a chance to prove themselves; they prove themselves and they soon find they are escorting bomber planes to their destination and fighting off the Germans.  Then the climax scene and then end.

From the get-go we are expected to like the jack-off pilot, but I found that impossible.  Whenever he didn’t listen to instruction, I found myself rolling my eyes and wishing we could watch something else.  Right after he went against orders and blew up a warship, he yelled at his CO for being incompetent.  Thing is, nothing in the scenes we see his CO in reveals such incompetence.  The only reason I can see they put that plot point in there was for us to really like the jack-off.  And since me liking the jack-off didn’t happen, that whole interaction was useless.  Jack-off pilot is the reason people hate pilots.  “What’s the difference between God and pilots? God doesn’t think he’s a pilot.” I thought of that every time jack-off pilot opened his mouth.  Or was just on camera.

Remember that email that circulated back in 1995 that said something akin to: “When white people get mad, they turn red, when they get sick or jealous, they turn green and they have the nerve to call us ‘coloured'”?  They actually put that in the movie like that character was the first person to say that. You know what’s worse?  People in the audience chortled – they actually chortled like it was the first time they had ever heard that.  Thanks guys, nice PSA.

None of the dialogue was inspired.  Not one single word.  The actors played to the camera when they were in their cockpit, grinning like fools (with perfectly straight, white teeth, which was somewhat distracting).  The writing was juvenile, but not one actor attempted to move above it.  They came, they said their lines, and they went home.   I’d be interested to see if any of these characters were real, or they were composites, or completely made up.  Hard to believe there were people actually like that.

Disappointing.

Of course, at the end we have a image of an American flag waving in the background, while America the Beautiful is being played.

There are so many other things I can say about this film, but then I’d have explained the entire film.  Not that you would find it difficult to figure out the plot as it is.  Thing is, the story in and of itself is truly interesting, it’s just the execution of it that sucks hairy balls.

I had two giggles I’d like to share.

  1. The reference(s) to Black Jesus.  Essentially the typical Catholic-type picture of Jesus, with curly hair, wimpy face and a halo, except he was coloured in black.
  2. In the planes, when they would sound off.  “Red 4, this is Red 1.”  Star Wars anyone?

Course, I knew it would be a bad film when they previewed The Three Stooges before showing the movie.

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