25 May 2011

Student Silks Show

On May 15, our silks teacher Cody Schreger had her first student showcase: Coming Attractions. It was a great experience all around - a first time performing for many of her students, and a show of which we all felt a sincere ownership. I was, unfortunately, getting over the flu at the time. I couldn't do my whole piece (a loving tribute to Die Hard) but Cody still let me do a little of what we had planned. Below are some of my favorite photos from my portion of the show. All photography by James Glader.
The rest of the class is women, you see. I just wanted to fit in!

I could've done it in the dress.

Adorable argument.

Definitively the shot that shows my post-flu state best.

A couple of real silks performers come out to let me know
I should quit while I'm only so much of a disappointment.

"Well anyway, can you help me down?"
"We don't do that."

24 May 2011

Guest Post @ Devi Pavarti

I have a dear friend with a 'blog all her own who has been accepting guest submissions lately, and I'm honored to have had mine published there today. Please go send her traffic, whether you read my article or not. And Fair Warning: in my article there resides a terrible, shameless pun.

Somewhat in deference to her interests, the piece I wrote is a musing on the definition of erotica as it applies to literature. Pavarti has been a tremendous supporter of my fiction writing (tough love though it may be, as you'll see from her introduction) and I wanted to contribute something I was not only interested in, but something to which her readers might have some response. Perhaps Unfair Warning: Pavarti doesn't censor the eroticism from her 'blog so, though my article is itself harmless, don't go browsin' unless you're ready to be a little titillated...

17 May 2011

Spring Flu = Movie Time

Postcard design by Megan Heflin.
This, ma' dudes, will be a long and largely pointless one.

I am a man of many talents, not the least of which is sudden, debilitating illness at irregular yet strangely predictable intervals. I never imagined I would have a show crash (sudden collapse of health and mental faculty following a production's close; not to be confused with Snow Crash) after filming Android Insurrection, yet that seems to be exactly what has happened to me over the past four days or so. How else can I explain a sudden flu in the middle of spring? It even began during a lull in the almost-constant rain we're having. It began, in fact, while I was enjoying an impromptu trip out Thursday night to see Thor.

I don't know, man. It's enjoyable? It's enjoyable. They did a nice job capturing some of that easy humor that made the first Iron Man so palatable, without skimping on serious stakes for the characters. Branagh was in familiar territory in many respects, including regally set father-son relationships. I also found it largely forgettable, though. Probably the most interesting aspect of it was how finely honed Loki's character seemed to be - never being outright evil, never being altogether good. I actually found myself wondering how much he himself was aware of his motivations, at times. Unexpected complexity for this kind of movie.

It's also, unsurprisingly, a movie that cluster-flocks your eyeballs with elaborate CGI. They seemed aware enough of this to make the Earth setting very plain and grounded, but that doesn't help me view Asgard as any less of a carnival of RoyG.Biv-brought pain, a little vacation in a rainbow-decked uncanny valley, a . . . really computer-generated picture-thing. And I really do wish someone would get a memo out to Marvel that this rubber-ized "armor" material they use doesn't read as magi-science metal. It reads as cheese, a la '90's The Flash television series. At one point in the movie, Thor drops one of their shields, and the pick-up of it hitting the ground uses an actual metal shield. It was so jarring to the continuity to me I laughed. Why did no one else? The prop had clearly been made of plastic up until that point! HA HA!

But to some extent, I have to admit, I was probably just disappointed in a similar way to how I was over Batman Begins. It's not that they did an especially bad job, it's just not the movie I would've liked to see. I know it would have made some problems for integrating Thor into the Avengers movie, but I think when life hands you a superhero who is a god, nested in ancient history, you have the potential to do something really different with the idiom. Make him more of a question mark. Dress him in rusty metal, or dare to give him religious overtones. Just a little grit and ambiguity is what makes me more interested in Captain America and X-Men: First Class than Thor. But I may be alone in this, and gods know it wasn't my $150 million, so what do I know?

The rest of my weekend enjoyed the remainder of our "three months free" Showtime (the WORST pay channel?), The Movie Channel and Netflix Instant. (Wife Megan can rejoice that at least a couple of the decidedly unromantic Korean films have been wiped from our queue.) I started out inauspiciously, which may or may not have had something to do with how sick I was compared to how sick I thought I was - by midday my fever of which I had previously been unaware had spiked to 102. I wrapped up Valkyrie On Demand (oh Bryan, what pretty, inconsequential movies you make) and started on Adventureland. I only got about fifteen minutes in to that before giving up. Still can't decide if that was because I found the movie improbably uninteresting (it is) or because my frustration trying to understand Jesse Eisenberg's meteoric movie career hit a bursting point (it did).

But THEN. Oh, THEN. Cruising through channels for something short-term, I found that Big Fan was just starting. This is a little movie I've had some curiosity about. I enjoy it - succeed or fail - when comedians (Patton Oswalt, in this case) tackle serious fare, and I thought the movie sounded like it had potential for interesting conflict when I heard about it a couple of years ago. But I pretty much hate spectator sports (subject for another post) and, frankly, at the time I was a little mixed on Patton. Since then I've had time to learn more about him, and he's grown on me. So I gave Big Fan a shot.

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS. Oh my gosh. So good. So GOOD. Man. This movie was surprising in all the best ways, primarily because it is deftly handled with incredible honesty. It's ugly - New York and Jersey look like they really do most of the time, and the people are presented in all their fat and crinkles. It's beautiful - so believable, and the most despicable of characters are played with real heart. And what everyone said about Oswalt's performance is true. It's unequivocally wonderful. I think it's entered my canon of great NYC movies, in spite of being contemporary, largely in New Jersey and about football fans. Go to see (er, at home, from whichever delivery service).

After Big Fan, I shuffled back to bed with my peaking fever, and brought the laptop to consume one that I've been hanging on to for far too long. I balked at Let the Right One In; don't know why, but I just keep putting that one off. Instead, I finally hunkered down for Oldboy. Which, I've decided, was a mistake. 1) I waited too long and it got built up quite a bit in my mind 2) Big Fan left me high, not in the mood for hard-boiled noir 3) I've since learned the dubbing on Old Boy is atrocious, and I should've gotten the DVD and watched with subtitles. It's a good film. It's based on manga, and is a revenge story, so . . . BRING THE KIDS! (But don't, at all.) Ugh. That was my overall response. It's difficult to imagine a Spielberg/Smith remake.

But it was awfully well done! With both (dark) humor and good performances! Yay, noir, as well! And one thing, which I can't believe I never heard specifically about: corridor fight scene. Oh my God. Shot over three days with no cuts or CGI edits (barring some small CGI to deal with a stabbing and a few punch connections). All time - it's in my top ten fight scenes, indubitably. Warning: This is violent: No, really:

I didn't feel like leaving Korea just yet (in spite of having a bit of a gorge in my throat [possibly a live octopus]) and ventured thereafter into The Host. This is a movie I can recommend without hesitation. Unless you dislike monster and/or dysfunctional-family movies. It's billed as a horror movie, but I think that's a little reductive. What gives the movie wings (gills?) is its success in portraying a lovable yet serious dysfunction in family, society - really in humanity at large. The struggle against the monster becomes the struggle against our own nature, and its outcome is satisfyingly bleak. That being said, the movie is still very funny and ends on a hopeful note. Great sick viewing. Wish I could have seen it with a NYC audience when it was in theatres.

I tried to move on to Daybreakers which - I've been led to believe - is a largely underrated movie, but alas the weight of sleep was too much. The good Wife and I did finally consume I Love You, Phillip Morris over the course of Saturday into Sunday, which had been laying listless on our sidetable for almost a week. ILYPM is really REALLY good. I think. I was a little fever-hazy, feeling helpless for much of it, so I might have been especially emotionally pliable. But I think it was really REALLY good. A pretty impressive blend of humor, style, and genuine emotion. Great performances from two actors who are, admittedly, favorites of mine (though certainly far from do-no-wrong status). I wanted to stand up and clap for them at the end, but that may speak to my physical state as much as to their work.

There's also a lot of outright male homosexual sexuality. Men, having sex with each other, and enjoying that. So it may not be everyone's thing. I, for one, found its approach to that aspect refreshing. It pulled no punches, while also having a freeing sense of humor about it. Frankly, I expected to experience more of a challenge with it, given how much seeming controversy surrounded the movie's release here in the US. I wonder if that controversy was more constructed to try to market the film post-Brokeback, or if anti-homosexual contingents are more offended by enjoying homosexuality than by glorifying or being coy with it? Whatever. Movie's not about that - surprise, surprise.

Aptly enough, the weekend ended with both the Wife and I performing in our cinema-themed, student silks show: Coming Attractions. Each act was inspired by a different popular movie, Wifey's being an amazing (and impressively long) solo inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I made it in by the skin of my constitution (and the grace of some OD'ing on Alka-Seltzer Cold'n'Flu) and managed to perform a little less than half of my Die Hard-inspired solo. I wasn't sure if I had recovered enough by Sunday evening to manage the opening move (an all-arm climb) much less anything else, but adrenaline is the best medicine, and in a way I had been studying movie magic my entire accidental three-day weekend. As I got close to my improvised stopping point, hanging from the ceiling by my knees and grappling with sweaty hands to tie a knot below me, I thought:

This is apt, too. John McClane would totally have the flu while having to do something both stupid and awesome. Yippee-ki-yay...

12 May 2011


In my warm-up routine for teaching commedia dell'arte characters and physical characterization, we spend most of our focus on two things: warming up the spine and isolating parts of the body for specificity. This guy's video may have to become a part of the multimedia model for the class:


11 May 2011


Found here.
I know I couldn't act my way out of an unlocked locker in junior high. I didn't know at the time - that's one of the blessed ignorances of youth that allows us to learn, I think. No, at the time, I was just excited to be there. Excited to get that outlet for all my confused emotional and physical energy, excited by all the trappings that were new to me.

Prior to junior high (and the inimitable Mr. John Newman) what I knew about performing was that my peers responded more when I made a performance more physical - especially when I inflicted some kind of damage on myself - and my teachers responded better when I recited lines clearly, from memory. What more could there be to it? It would take me many more years to learn even the most basic of acting skills and concepts, but in junior high I was suddenly and thrillingly dropped into a semi-professional environment.

We had published scripts. We spent time on dialects. We had auditions as well as performances for people other than our parents. We had a vast theatre - hell, we had TWO theatres at Lake Braddock, both the classroom proscenium (which dwarfed most off-off-Broadway spaces) and an auditorium space (co-designed by a former theatre teacher, so it was built as much for plays as for more official events)

Probably the biggest thrill of all this, though I can't explain quite why, was "tech day." Tech day was when we moved from the classroom stage to the auditorium for the first time. I don't remember if it was a formal thing every show, but it felt like it to me. It felt like getting real. We would open the doors to the curving, dark hallway that led around to the auditorium, and immediately we'd hear power tools and smell sawdust. That smell, in the cool dark, just before stepping into a vast room of seats leading down to a three-quarters-thrust stage . . . well. Memories.

I've had my last day filming on Android Insurrection out in Metuchen. In terms of a career as an actor, this work probably won't hold a lot of significance. I mean, it could be huge, just as anything might, but it's not a job I need to sing from the mountaintops about. (Getting on IMDB finally is a little mountain-toppy for me, though; perhaps I'll sing it from a monadnock.) It was more significant to me, though, than just a bit of fun. Working on this movie was a bit like revisiting that initial thrill I felt as a pre-teen, invited to walk down a dark corridor into a little living through fiction.

And now, too, there's a teaser for the movie. It expresses quite well, I think, the level of fun and excitement involved in making a genre movie of this sort. These movies, they seek to thrill and titillate us. Maybe we find them appealing because we feel a little younger watching them, a little less prepared, a little more thrilled. Our teaser starts with "In the 23rd century..." rather than with "In a world...", but danged if that isn't close enough to titillate me, just a little:

Android Insurrection Teaser from Andrew Bellware on Vimeo.