Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alternative Casting Faux Pa

Once upon a time there was a Japanese manga/anime series called Dragonball. I had a Japanese buddy in college who grew up with the stuff and loved, loved, loved it. Apparently he was representative of his generation of Japanese boys.

About a decade ago Dragonball was imported to the States. Often when I went to my local comics shop/nerdcave I noticed a guy or two buying Dragonball merchandise. These guys were usually black.

So now they've made a live-action Dragonball movie. They cast a white guy as Goku, the main character. Obviously an Asian guy would have made more sense, but if they had to go outside Asia they should have cast a black guy. C'mon.

Another thing: I'm an old Watchmen fan, but I look at those trailers and the phrase "Madam Tussaud's" springs to mind. Terry Gilliam considered making a Watchmen movie, but instead he made original films like Brazil and Twelve Monkeys that bore a Watchmen influence but were magnificent originals. That seems like a better approach to me.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This All Is Family

It's been a while since I listened to this broadcast from Radio Open Source, but I remember one thing from it: guest Martha Bayles talks to a lot of folks in distant lands about American TV, and finds that one popular overseas TV trend is shows, like Friends and Sex in the City, which feature characters who aren't deeply involved in family. In many cultures you live with your extended family, and that family remains central to your daily reality; the American fantasy of Individualism distanced from family is as intriguingly alien and escapist to them as The Lord of the Rings. But when Bayles asks them if they'd like to live that fantasy their answer is "Ooooooh no! That may be fine for Americans, but it's not for us."

This intrigues me because I don't care for Friends or Sex in the City, while the two shows I'm most passionate about are Arrested Development and Big Love, both of which are about total immersion in family matters. AD is a farce about a monstrous family, while Big Love is a nuanced but largely affirmative look at family in all its complexity. I'm particularly intrigued by the way Big Love's polygamous family serves as an objective correlative of any family's complex dynamics.

I guess my interest in family-themed TV can all be traced back to my childhood love of The Dukes of Hazzard. I believed that Daisy Duke was simultaneously cousin and wife to both Duke Boys. Mom tried to persuade me that it couldn't possibly be that way, but I remain convinced. In my private cosmology the Sawney Bean-ish clan in Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the inbred offspring of Daisy, Bo and Luke. Nigglers will point out that Hazzard was unleashed years after Chainsaw, but I saw Chainsaw nearly two decades after I delighted myself with my little General Lee windup car, so for me the chronology more or less tracks.

Apologies for not italicising Big Love or Arrested Development the way I did Friends and Sex in the City, but it should come as no surprise to my regular browsers that I was too lazy to keep pressing the italicization button.

A No-Prize to the first person to figure out the cheap pun in this post's title.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

self-ish

I apologise to my regular readers for the self-pitying, narcissistic nature of my last post. I hope you will forgive this rare lapse into self-absorbed crybabyness on my part. I know you don't read this blog to find out about my puny obsessions, fixations, and neuroses, which is why I have heretofore refrained from posting about such matters. I assure each and every one of you that the preceding lapse into self-obsessed, solipsistic upper-class white boy whimpering was not only the first, but the last such lapse this board will see.

Also, no more confabulating. I mean it.

I guess everyone has moments of self-doubt. Do you suppose Count Dante ever considered the possibility that he might only be the fourth or fifth deadliest man alive? Could it be that Sam Sacks ever questioned the long-term viability of his musical career? Might the guys at this website ever have questioned their ability to clearly express their views without undermining the complexity of their critical insights?

Okay, one last promise: I'm going to continue my policy of no cheap snarking on easy targets. That's the Aaron White Promise.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You'll Never Work In This Town Again!

I'm still smarting from my last audition. I'm torn between two theories as to why I got cut in the first round:

1. I'm not nearly as good as I think I am. I wouldn't be the first clueless confabulator in show business. For reassurance I fall back on the testimonials, however insincere or equally clueless, I've received from others. Even assuming that I'm actually any good, I may have lost my edge somewhere along the way. I think I've lost a bit of confidence, and that may show, undermining my auditions with flop sweat.

2. The fault ain't mine. In the audition piece I was given I had a joke which was obviously meant to be a climactic laugh line but which I thought was really weak... last-season-of-Night-Court weak. Actually the whole scene was kind of like that Diane Rehm Show skit I posted a few weeks back, only without all the bile. Kind of a clunky "Fair, polite satire" thing. As my friend J'mel would say, it was very "local," as in a local production suitable only for local hometown-pride audiences. Sounds like a blast, huh? So in order to sell it I tried to invest it with the full force of the character's conviction, channeling everything I've learned from Bill Hicks about smart-alecky white guy ranting (which seemed like an on-target character choice). Maybe it sucked, but maybe it was too strong for what is meant to be a non-threatening little satire. You know, a dainty little wisp of a satire. A meek, harmless little fluffball of a satire. A Satirette.

Another guy did a reading of the same bit, and delivered the line with a casual offhandedness that probably worked better than my attempt to "save" the joke with a big chunk of actorly acting (he also gave a subtle and convincing performance, and might be very good in the role). I suppose professional actors have to learn to deliver lame jokes without any visible tremble of shame.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ambiguous audition

Suppose you audition for a play.

Suppose the director gathers all the auditionees in the theatre and has everybody read from the script in front of each other.

The director tells you the Official Mandatory Audition Lie. You know the Lie I mean; "After the first round of readings we're going to ask some of you to drag your talentless carcasses off the premises before we have you arrested for loitering, but (here comes the lie part) just because we dismiss you doesn't mean you are no longer up for consideration".

Yeah yeah yeah, we all know better, but hey.

Some folks are excellent, some are terrible, and most are somewhere in between. The expected blend of A to F students.

You think you're pretty good. The "audience" (to the extent that your fellow auditionees can be considered an audience) seems to enjoy your work. You feel that your read is smart, funny, energetic, idiosyncratic but still widely accessible.

So, they ask the F and D students, as it were, to leave. And to your surprise they ask the B students to leave. And they ask you to leave. As you file out you see the obvious A students still there, but also the C students. Some good people were dismissed, and some (to your eyes) uninspiring people were retained.

So, there you are on the sidewalk with the D and F students. And the B students. And you.

Calculate your emotional response. Show your work.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

From Appalling to Appolonian

From "A Lexicon For Available Light" by Susan Sontag, an essay on the work of choreographer Lucinda Childs:

"Childs's conception of dance is Apollonian: dance should be lively, playful, joyous. Beauty equals power, delicacy, decorum, unaffected intensity. What is ugly is timidity, anxiety, demagoguery, heaviness."

I'm working on an audition piece from Shakespeare's Tempest in which I play Prospero. I find that I'm leaning towards demagoguery and heaviness, shot through with timidity and anxiety. Power, delicacy, decorum and unaffected intensity shall be my watchwords.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Always more people

What does it say about me that I regard Netflix's 500 movie queue limit as constraining, but regard a couple dozen Facebook Friends as just enough?

Once I was a little too fond of a movie called Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer. It was an anime movie based on a long-running comedy series about a silly alien girl who romances/torments a goofy schoolboy. The series as a whole is all about lightwieght hijinks, but this particular film was written and directed by Mamoru Ishii, who's sort of like an aphasic Antonioni. So it came off a bit somber. Anyway, in this film the gang of schoolkids who make up the bulk of the series' cast find that everyone else has disappeared, and they have the run of the city. Being alone with a small group of friends is presented as an ambiguous situation, but at the time I found it a desirable fantasy.

Nowadays I much prefer the openness of the world, in which new relationships are always possible because there are always more people to meet, but on Facebook I find myself reverting to my "just me and my handpicked buddies" mode.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wintery

Last night I dreamt that I was hiking down a trail with a small group through a winter-wonderland forest. A white-bearded old-timer was leading our crew. We came to a fork in the trail. The wind was blowing powerfully down the left-hand fork, while the right-hand fork was still.

The old-timer said "All the critters are down the left path. Animals like wind. They're all down there, eating and being eaten."

I was inclined to take that path and see the critters.

Then he pointed down the right path. "No animals that way, but all is calm and still. It's comfy-warm at the end of that trail, but the snow's still thick."

I set out down the right path, and the rest of the group followed.

FWIW I have odd dreams all the time, but this one had an enigmatic but comprehensible narrative structure so I felt like getting it down.

I also felt like psychoscrutinizing it, but I'll spare you and myself.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Man Oh Man

Laurie had a bad allergic reaction to something (shrimp, we think) yesterday. Ambulance, emergency room. Some drugs, some waiting. As cranky as I am about our little town's littleness compared to the bustling megalopolis of Birmingham, Alabama, I gotta commend the professionalism of the ambulance crew and the Emerg. Room staff. My honey went from sick to safe in short order.

As we sat in the waiting room I saw a Thunderbird in the speckles of the floor tile. Clearly the tension made me receptive to uncanny perceptions...

* * *

And speaking of receptivity to uncanny perceptions, I recently found a Canadian bookseller on who's willing to sell me a copy of Man After Man by Dougal Dixon for $30 instead of the more typical $100. It's a book that rips the lid off Humankind's Evolutionary Future by showing us paintings of creepy humanoid critters. L'il Aaron thumbed through it in a Waldenbooks and experienced his first taste of the uncanny. In the early Eighties I didn't quite get that this was a work of imaginative speculation, rather than Scientific Certitude. I figured the Scientific Community had done the research and figured out that we were gonna evolve into shambling things. The notion that these creatures with human faces were our destiny was like a cosmic wind blowing through my ribcage and playing dissonant notes on the reeds of my heart.

Recently I was paging through a book of similar creepy creature art by Wayne Barlowe in which he accused an unnamed artist of ripping off his ideas for... a book about creatures into which humans might evolve. He didn't mention Dixon by name. My dim recollection of Man After Man certainly resembles Barlowe's idiosyncratic creatures more than Dixon's more straightforward art on display in his more easily accessible dinosaur illustration books. Still, whether or not it's Barlowe's creativity fueling Man After Man, I wanna see the images that chilled me when my age was still in the single digits.

Speaking of things that bugged me out when I was young, I recently rewatched Michael Jackson's Thriller video on Youtube. When I was a boy I would run out the room every time I tried to watch it. Nowadays it just seems silly. Will Man After Man seem equally limp to my adult self, as jaded to Sci-Fi as I am? Or will it still carry a charge?

Well, it's in the mail to my address, and you know I'm not gonna refrain from updating you on this weighty matter.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Sorry I haven't written... I'm trying to follow the writing exercises in Stuart Spencer's The Playwright's Guidebook, and so I'm all writ out.

I did join Facebook since it has now become evident that a critical mass of my friends and loved ones now refuse to communicate via any other medium. I'm such a Facebook loser that I don't know how to post a direct link to my profile yet. Have fun digging.