Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Comments on Angels

One reason I haven't been posting as much is that my mind's very much on my new relationship, and most of what's occupying my mind is too personal to share in a public forum, if only out of respect for Laurie. But we did just watch the HBO version of Angels in America, so maybe I can find some things to say about that.

I was in some deeply problematic productions of Angels in America I and II here in Birmingham Alabama, so it was intriguing to see how some of the best in the biz handled the challenges of the material. There's lots to praise, but I have to wonder what I'd think of the series if I didn't know about the play and took it purely as a movie/show.

It's very talky, which is normal for a play but not always the best thing for a film. Speeches are fundamental to theatre, which relies on vocal communication (whether spoken or sung) but I'm still trying to make up my mind about talky film. Hitchcock said you should be able to turn the sound off and still follow the story. Eric Rohmer, one of my fave filmmakers, makes talky dramas but makes it clear in his essays that his movies aren't about what people say, but how they say it, and the deceptively simple camerawork in his films is central to his concerns.

One could probably follow the basic story of A in A by watching without sound, but the fullness of it relies so much on what characters say. Director Mike Nichols began his film career with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, so he has a pedigree for adapting film to theatre... and what does he bring to film that wouldn't be better left to theatre? Aside from some complex staging that couldn't work in theatre, swooping camera movements, sudden scene changes and transitions, etc., he takes advantage of the camera's ability to capture delicate, subtle performances. My favorite scene in the screen version of A in A is a discussion between Roy Cohn and Belize, Cohn's flamboyant nurse, about the nature of the afterlife. Belize almost whispers his marvelous description of Heaven, Belize-style, and the camera gets so cozy you can almost feel Belize's body heat. A close second is Harper's final speech, framed in an airplane window with CGI cloud reflections, but unabashedly a speech, straight to the camera... I think I'd love that Long speech even if I didn't know the source material was stagebound (or should that be stage-bound?) Stuff like that on film doesn't make live theatre obsolete, but it is a lovely supplement.

I'm a bit uncertain about the campy flamboyance of Emma Thompson's angel, but given author Tony Kushner's love for .Charles Ludlam I suppose it makes sense to camp up the angel. Anyway it makes an interesting counterbalance to the naturalistic elements of the work. Kushner has compared playwriting to making lasagna, in which disparate ingredients are complexly layered together in way that could make a mess, or could be exquisite... A in A is a compelling layered pasta both onstage and onscreen. Having traveled from ill-conceived poverty-row productions to the glitzy HBO version I find it as aesthetically inspiring as ever. Kushner's lasagna recipe is a good -un.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Readings

This weekend Laurie and I went to the Psychic Fair at local occult bookshop Book, Bean and Candle. I got Sortelige (aka throwing the bones) and runes read; they're similar divination methods, but the runes seem to have established meanings while the stones and bones of sortelige have meanings which the caster, Lilith, arrived at intuitively. Both confirmed that I'm in a good relationship but I need to get my neuroses under control and stop being such a little emo-boy.

Meanwhile Laurie got her tarot read. She reads the cards too, and had a very different interpretation of the cards than the reader did... apparently in Tarot a card has different meanings depending on whether the card is right-side-up or upside-down. Laurie was of the opinion that the reading from the way she was facing made more sense than the reading the reader was looking at. The reader told her that our relationship is stagnating and she should ditch me. I could almost agree, except that we're not stagnating. Our relationship may be a black hole for her, but it's too new to be stagnant. Still, I have no problem reconciling the idea that she's good for me with the idea that I'm bad for her.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

critters

This article by acclaimed novelist and essayist Paul Theroux talks about the folly of anthropomorphizing animals; he thinks it's pretty bogus to impose human thoughts, emotions and yearnings onto critters. My family and I are all about doing cutesy ventriloquist acts with our pets, imposing silly voices on them and presuming to explicate their thoughts. A couple years back it struck me that all the words and tones of voice we'd superimposed on our pets were alien to the pets themselves, and obscured rather than revealed their real personalities. I still play this silly game with animals, but I want to clear it away. If I stop playing these neo-con games with animals I may learn something from them. As Theroux points out, the game in question is all about making animals an extension of ourselves instead of really paying attention to them.

I love cartoon animals, and that seems relevant to this subject somehow, but I'll save that for a later post.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Duchess

Laurie just got an enormous government grant, enough to set up her own little fiefdom and keep it going for years. I used to play games like Civilization, where you create little kingdoms; well, she's doing it in real life. I'm intrigued; running a little kingdom is something I've only simulated (and always with virtually disastrous consequences) so I'll root for her from a safe distance. I feel a bit like a serf who's been adopted by a duchess.

I'm starting to smell a bit like her. It's cuz I'm using her soaps. I like to put my fingers to my nose and inhale aromas that I associate with her.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Caithness

I will play this minor character in the Shakespeare At Sloss production of Macbeth. I am angry at myself; my audition piece was less than fully formed, and I blatantly stumbled on it during the audition itself. Perhaps I could have earned a more full-bodied role if I hadn't bungled my audition.

Yet even a teensy Shakespearean role affords multilayered possibilities. A cursory Googlesearch turned up this:

"Thorfinn, Jarl of Caithness and the Orkneys

This infamous Norse ruler is known as Thorfinn the Great, and he was Macbeth's northern neighbor almost from boyhood, for Thorfinn was only five when he inherited Caithness... Thorfinn swore allegiance to the Norwegian king at age 16, so his loyalties were, at best, divided."

Divided loyalties contrast interestingly with my line "Well, march we on,
To give obedience where 'tis truly owed..." Perhaps Caithness/Thorfinn is trying to reassure himself that his decision to battle Macbeth is the correct one, rather than simply stating an easily-achieved point of view.

I hope I have rocked your world with this information.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chris Cilla

My new link is to Chris Cilla's blog. He made a contribution to Kramer's Ergot 6, the infamous artcomix anthology, that I return to again and again.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Mreowwww...

I'm glad my girlfriend has a whineybutt, neurotic cat. It's prepared her for a whineybutt, neurotic boyfriend. By loving that cat she's learned how to love me. And she's so good at it. I hope that I'll be able to give her my love so unstintingly, and to recieve her love without fear.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bronze doodle pad

I'm in love and it's wonderful, she's wonderful. But it's too precious, I can't make words about it yet. So for now I'll just complain about the Golden Compass movie.

I haven't read the book. Laurie has. Neither of us liked the film. Not that there was nothing to like, but there's too much blunt exposition. Too much telling us that this and that is thus and so, instead of letting us discover it. The fight scenes were video-gamey; fantasies of effortless conflict, exciting but harmless. The almost monochromatic color scheme iss a good idea in theory, but it comes off a bit drab. When extraordinary characters appear they aren't presented in ways that express the magic and mystery the characters should have; it's pure plot mechanics, with cheap Hollywood shorthand (familiar character actors playing stock roles)filling in for numinuousness. Instead of the appearance of something or someone uncanny, it's just another oddball character actor or CGI conjuring trick walking on camera. And when the protagonist uses the prophetic Compass, the visualization doesn't convey the excitement of putting things together and figuring them out; it's just "here's some pictures of some characters in the movie who are relevant to the plot point in contention." Everyone who's read the books assures me that they have real heft, but this film is a routine Hollywood exercise in refining wheat into chaff.