29 July 2008
28 July 2008
- Too old. They extended the casting age into the "20's" (sic; somebody get a proofreader into that casting office), but come on now. Would I really be fresh-faced enough for the sweetest dork in the Marvel universe?
- Not pretty enough. Well, this is Broadway. You should see some of these magnificent bastards.
- Can't sing. Yes so I can sing. It's just that I don't. Ever. Upon threat of injury, even.
- Doesn't know what he's doing. In some things, sure. In a musical? It's like any other specialized field. You jump right in, and the learning curve is going to be terribly steep. Nearly everybody thinks they could be an film actor. Hardly anyone says, "Hey, I know all I need to know about Broadway from watching it."
- Can't dance. Oh I'll act the hell from a good bit of circus or fight choreography. I'll even make picking up a coin feel specific and significant. But a shuffle-ball-change? Next, please.
- Is shaking. And...sweating; profusely. And what is that smell? So scared. So very very scared.
The alarm went off at 5:30 this morning, and I shot up like a rocket. My carefully-chosen t-shirt and my carefully-chosen slacks were donned, followed up by sneakers. It took me longer than usual to get ready, but I blamed the hour and was out the door by 7:30. When I got to Leonard Street, the line hadn't quite gotten to the end of the block. I walked to a nearby bodega, grabbed a large cup of coffee, and took my place at the end of the line. It was a matter of seconds before more people joined the line behind me, and very soon the line snaked back around its first corner. It's been years since I stood in line for an open call, I thought. All this just to sign up for a time-slot. I looked around me, and wasn't surprised to see largely teens and early-twenty-somethings. I was surprised to see some of them be over six feet tall, or rather robust, or whatever other features you wouldn't expect to see on your Peter Parker or your Mary Jane. I did see some older women in line, which was a comfort, until I remembered the high-school principal role was described as older.
Crossword puzzles make for great distraction from an open call wait line, I find. I had a good book and four New York magazine crosswords to keep me from obsessing. It was hard, though, to block out the energy around me. And probably wrong, as far as choices go. Better to absorb and reflect energy than block it, in just about any situation. Maybe it was my nervousness (I doubt but that it was the main), but I was immediately turned off by the conversation around me. Directly in front of me in line was a group of three uber-musical-theatre types and they, like, were clearly very excited to be, like, there and yet somehow, like, better than a lot of the like, people there. They yammered non-stop, alternating between musical-theatre topics and gossiping, and they knew every third person who walked by, and greeted them with a stock phrase: "Oh my God!" Directly in front of them was a sixteen-year-old girl whose father had driven her in from New Jersey for the day. She sat patiently, quietly, in line while he called in regularly to tell her what he had gotten into exploring Chinatown. Behind me, a woman (one of the elder) promptly started making business calls on her Blackberry at 9:00, checking on leases and contracts and spreading little white lies about where she actually was. I tried to block it out, lose time (and thereby anxiety) and remember the damn name of the damn dog in the damn The Thin Man movies. "Asta," by the way.
I soon had reason to be grateful for my surrounding musical-theatre enthusiasts. Their support network had someone ahead in the line, who informed them via cell phone that the auditions would actually be acapella. This was very useful information, as I learned 1) I could stop sweating that the sheet music I had brought would sound as I thought it ought, and 2) I now knew the line wasn't going to just sign up for time slots. They were moving us through FAST. We'd get the name sheet, put down our information, then get ushered in pronto. It was around 10:00 when I got the vicarious news. At approximately 11:15 I was in a tiny room, taking my first breath.
The auditions were being held at The Knitting Factory, a downtown music venue I had visited once before for a reading and concert by Friend Nat. It's a dark and intricate space, with many rooms on different levels and a very rock-n-roll vibe. We were brought inside in a group of about ten, and taken downstairs. On our way we heard singing in various rooms, and passed lines of people waiting to enter one room or another to give up their sixteen bars of enticing magic. They were auditioning in no less than four rooms, simultaneously, and possibly many more. The room I was brought into to wait in line actually had people auditioning at one end, in the open. I was terrified that I was seeing where I would have to audition, in front of everyone. It took me a couple of nerve-steeling minutes to realize that, no, in fact we were in line for a teeny-tiny room with a door. I could hear the people audition on the other side, but it looked private, and the voices were somewhat muffled. Mine would be most of all, because I can't belt like the others waiting for their shot at spandex. Finally, my turn came and I stepped inside with no introduction.
The room was literally about 5x7 feet, and seated in it at a desk was a very pleasant looking woman of nondescript age. "Jeff?" "Yes." "Please step down (there was a lower section in all that space, somehow) and begin." So I stepped down, took a nice, deep breath, and began my pop selection: The theme song from The Greatest American Hero.
Should my choice of song have been reason number 7 that I'm totally wrong for the part, not to mention the entire environment? Perhaps, and perhaps not. Probably. Let me tell you how it went: Awfully. I could look on the bright side, and say it could have gone much worse. It could have. There was a very definite danger of my losing the lyrics in my panic, of my throat drying out completely in the final moments before entering, of hitting all the wrong notes in my adrenaline-fueled state, of my crashing into the door on my way out. None of these things happened, and I feel very fortunate in this regard. In some ways, even accomplished. But I was dreadfully frightened, and moved too quickly, too tensely, and my voice vibrato-ed almost into sharp-toned errors, and in no way did I act the song, I was so nervous. It didn't get a laugh, as was half my hope, either because I was too nervous or my proctor was too busy or a little of both. In a word, it was bad. A bad audition.
I am so proud to have done it. I spend so much time subconsciously defending my professionalism and experience, trying to prove myself a wise investment, an asset, to other people. At 31, I am tired of unfulfilling work, and find myself re-evaluating my choices in almost every pursuit. My life, in unexpected ways, is becoming about taking risks once again, just when it maybe ought to be simmering down to a more-settled form. It was absurd of me to go to the Spider-Man audition for numerous sensible reasons, a waste of time and effort from the perspective of supposed "adult priorities." And I rationalized it in any number of ways, to myself and others. I just want to get my circus-y resume in the door. I thought it'd be funny. I have to find out more about this show. I know it'll make for a good story. But the fact of the matter is, the real reason I subjected myself to it is, I think, that when I was very young indeed, that theme song was my favorite song in the world, and I had all the lyrics memorized. And sometimes, when I feel really good, I feel like I could fly, and when I have the means at hand it drives me to climb things and jump from tall places. Hope is a thing with wings, someone with far less opportunities than I have once wrote. I think sometimes it's the best thing one can do for oneself, to just go ahead and believe, and dream big, because...what the hell? It feels good. And who knows where it might lead?
Believe it or not, I'm walking on air,
I never thought I could feel so free!
Flying away on a wing and a prayer,
Who could it be?
Believe it or not, it's just me.
25 July 2008
24 July 2008
- My gauntlets shoot razor spires, yo. Erm, yes. You know, they did such a nice job of justifying low-tech uses for the fins on the gloves in the first film, why did they have to do this? It seemed cheap and lame, especially when you consider he's supposed to be good with precision weapons like his little bat-shuriken. Plus: How did those things fire, exactly? The trigger was in his sphincter, or something?
- I have a metal-manipulation technology so confusing, even I don't quite know how it works. His entrance includes using some gadget attached to his arm to bend a rifle muzzle into a crazy straw. This would seem to have limited uses, so they make sure we know it can also cut into and grip a van's metal shell. Way to go, Q...er...I mean, Lucius. Was that developed to help the military with creating inspirational metal sculptures? Batman is much more the type, as he does later in the film, to disassemble the gun; and if you need extra cool he could do it whilst it's still in the perp's hands. As for adhering to the side of an escape van, see above note about previously established uses for the gauntlet fins.
- I am recent American geopolitical policy personified. That may well be, Batman, but must you beat us about the head and shoulders with it? Er. Come to think of it, that's pretty in keeping with this philosophy. My mistake. Pray, continue.
- My cars don't break--they transform into motorcycles. This...was actually really cool. So I'm willing to suspend judgment on feasibility. They did it in such a way that I thought just prior to it, "Dang; how does he get out of that tank if it tanks?" And I'm not a big fan of the whole batcycle idea, even in the comics. But they made it look and work really really cool. So, like I said, I'm willing to forgive. Until I found out they named it the batPod. You think it's hampered by any DRM issues? And finally, the big one:
- I can haz Bat Sonar thru lil phones n' ther ownerz! No. No, you can't. Stop being frickin' stupid, LOLbatz. I really don't understand what this was doing in my movie (oh all right: OUR movie). Appeal to the video-gamers? They liked that effect in Daredevil? Say something about the omniscience of . . .. Nope; just don't get it. They could have brought up the same issues and character development if he had simply tapped all the phones, or maybe strung together their GPS functions in some wild way. I reject the bat sonar completely.
But enough of all that. This movie, in an unbelievable number of ways, was the Batman movie I've been waiting for all my life. It stands on its own, doing its own things with the character arcs, but doing them well and in a way that doesn't betray the spirit of the original. I almost don't know where to begin in my praise for this film, until I remember that it features the Joker and gives birth to Two-Face, arguably two of the best in a really impressive menagerie of rogues. And they do it so well, so new. They seemed to be decidedly eschewing the tormented childhood angle on both, which was great not only for keeping Gotham from becoming a reformed nursery, but also for keeping the origins of the characters in the action of the film. Harvey Dent is a true tragic figure. We can see his flaw from almost the start, and we watch as he changes over the course of two-and-a-half hours. Development! What a concept in a superhero movie!
And then the Joker. Much well-deserved, post-humus praise has gone Heath Ledger's way for this performance, and I speak as a humble -- not to mention humbled -- actor when I say it is entirely deserved. Between the writing and his craft an indelible character has come to life, one that is incredible to watch in action. I read a lot about how the filmmakers chose to avoid his history, to make him more a character defined by his actions than his history, and I thought, "Eh, well, sounds pretty shallow." And it might have been, had it not been for Ledger. I was amazed by the effect, too, of the screenwriting for him. They have him explain his face one horrible way to one person, then a completely different horrible way to another, then he starts on a third to Batman at the climax of the movie, and Batman never lets him finish. Not only does this make Joker a force in his own chaotic right, it makes Batman win on a direct philosophical level. The Joker never gets to the punchline, the Joker never finishes the joke . . . his comic three is interrupted!
Which leads me to another thing I really, really loved about this movie. Remember when you watched The Matrix for the first time, and you couldn't be sure of what to expect, and accompanying all this big-budget bad-ass-ness were some really interesting ideas about the nature of reality and approaches to that? (I could be speaking only for myself here, but I doubt it.) The Dark Knight is the first movie since then to really engage that kind of philosophical wonderment in me while maintaining the same high stakes and power fantasy. As I wrote last week in my pining for this movie, my ideal Batman struggle is with a villain who somehow stands in opposition not only to his politics, but to his philosophy. That idea was taken well in hand and run with. The Joker was an unrepentant anarchist with an argument about the nature of life that he made seem easy to make, and Batman had to really struggle to contend with it. The good resolution of that came through a seemingly miraculous coincidence of human benevolence, reminiscent of a Spider-Man fight sequence (Humanity is essentially good, and we'll prove it!), but Joker gets in his dangling dig, too. "It only takes one small push to send you over the edge."
Which brings us back to Harvey "Two-Face" Dent.
All-in-all, we've got a pretty well-adjusted Batman in these movies. He found peace in the mountains (studying the art of despotism), purpose that overwhelms his trauma -- we are not subjected to a movie full of flashbacks to that fateful night. This is the closest to Frank Miller's Dark Knight we've gotten in films; the vigilantism is his fix against the trauma, and when he's doing it, he's strong. One thing I loved about what Miller did in that graphic novel was to emphasize Batman's belief in Harvey's reformation and, ultimately, his fear over the recognition that Two-Face is Batman gone bad. Whereas the Joker is Batman's polar opposite, essentially, take the judgment away from Batman, and you've got Two-Face: a dual-identity obsessive who metes out justice by his own authority. Even in completely restructuring Two-Face's origin story (moreover, perhaps as a direct result of that) the writers set that up beautifully. Hopefully in the next installment they will continue to adhere to that motivation for him, and not turn him into a petty thief of some sort, obsessed with the number 2. It's the duality that's important, not the digit itself.
Just what can we expect from the third movie in this franchise? Will Harvey be back? Will Joker? Was Lucius Fox written out, or did his little name-cued destruction of the "bat sonar" redeem Wayne in his eyes? Well, I'd guess, but had I guessed at The Dark Knight's content I would have been sorely mistaken. One can hope, though. I hope they continue to learn from audience feedback, as they seemed to for this film. I hope we get to see the revamped Wayne Manor, and with it the completed "batcave." I hope they leave the Joker alone at least one movie, though that they keep him in the background: a joker card appearing here and there. I love that we leave Batman an outlaw once again, and hope they don't turn that around too early. Most of all, I hope they make a totally new and inventive movie that takes its characters seriously. As they've just succeeded in doing.
(Also: Take the batPod; leave the gun gauntlets.)
Update, 7/25/08: The WSJ agrees with my assessment of the politics of Batman: What Bush and Batman Have in Common. Thanks, Nat.
22 July 2008
21 July 2008
18 July 2008
In honor of MY NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE THE DARK KNIGHT FOR DAYS AND DAYS, I thought I'd finally get around to writing the sequel (heh heh) to this little gem of an entry. I wasn't sure if I'd ever write about this. It's a difficult entry to justify in the ethos of the Aviary (because I've been so dedicated to my mission statement to date) except perhaps to say that: 1 - my doing clown work makes for a very real interest in the sociological implications of any clown identity; B - my early cultural influences have untold ramifications on what I choose to create today; and * - it's BATMAN weekend, people! And I've got to be a part of it!
The Joker makes a great villain for Batman, and the two sum up a very basic human struggle pretty succinctly, so I have to forgive this perpetuation of the coulrophobic phenomenon. Batman is serious, and the events of his life have meaning -- he's a believer. Hell: His whole "superpower" is a character trait, that of determination. And Joker, well, he stands in absolute contrast to that. My favorite characterizations of him never allow him a moment to regret even his own failure. For him, it is all absurd, all pointless. He's not appetite-driven or suppressed, like Gacy, nor a traumatized child who is endlessly acting out his worst fantasies and fears. The story has no significance to the conclusion because, at the end, all our stories end the exact, same, way. If only he could convince Batman of that, maybe then he'd be able to rest. If only the Yorick had survived into Hamlet's story, maybe he could have made everyone see the folly of their ways.
So how do you tell the difference between the jester, who just wants to make fools of us all, and the joker, who wants to make us all corpses? Well, sadly, you can't. That's part of the dread of comedy, and the thrill of death. You just have to take your chances.
14 July 2008
09 July 2008
05 July 2008
03 July 2008
02 July 2008
“I suppose you're wondering why I called you all here. Well. As you can see from my display here, I'm talking about projected growth. Not my projected growth, but our projected growth, and by that I don't mean anything dirty. This is a workplace, after all, and we don't talk about dirty things here unless of course we're complaining about how someone else really needs to clean them up. As you can see from the display, our projected growth is very red. We have a lot of growth in the red sector. Actually, I just set this up because it's my color. Red makes me look good. In fact, Larry, I'm going to ask you to follow me around for the rest of the day just so I look good next to you. Next I have to show you all this cartoon of a dog, trying to catch a balloon. Pay particular attention to this, Emily, because there will be a quiz later. Just for you. We need to keep an eye on you, after all. As you can see, the dog just can't get that balloon. He tries and he tries...but...nope, he can't get it. Ah. I could watch this all day. I did watch it for the entire weekend, over and over again. There are no lines in this, of course, because that's a dog, and a balloon, but if there were, if there were lines I bet you I could recite them all back to you, in sequence. Actually, I hope you all carved out at least a couple of hours, because that's how long this is. It's great though. There, he almost...but no! He can't get it!”