Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's the theater, darling!

Yesterday I happened across a couple of interesting essays on the state of American acting. This one from the Atlantic titled, "The Decline of the American Actor" and this one from the New Yorker, in response to the first, titled, "Free Yourself from the Cult of Marlon Brando."

I agree and disagree with parts of both but I thought discussion of what makes "good" acting was relevant especially with the Hollywood-turn Bollywood has been taking the last few years. Personally, as a viewer, I couldn't give less of a fuck about "good" acting. What matters to me to an actor's ability to connect with the audience, to connect with me. If an actor can convey the emotions necessary for the scene, then that's "good" acting as far as I'm concerned. The rest is all inside baseball (inside cricket?) nobody other than critics and/or industry watchers cares about.

BUT I did think it was interesting to hear the talk about training. I do really enjoy the theatrical, showy style of acting and, coincidence or not, most of my favorite character actors in any industry turn out to be theater actors. The theater just works for me. I just enjoy theater-trained (British) actors more than the "method"-style (American) ones. Relevant to Bollywood, I've also found that DANCERS and/or martial artists who become actors have a style that works for me, rooted in getting the physicality right to the part. Which is why I'll always value something like Varun's performance in that one song I linked to a couple days back in ABCD 2 over the more American-style Imran or Abhishek acting. One connects with me, the other doesn't.

Brody has a great line in his piece on why British actors are generally cast in American period pieces:

"[F]ew can summon the granitic opacity of people from half a century ago or far earlier, yet British actors can imitate it."

Which gets to why British actors are generally the ones cast as aliens/monsters on American sci-fi shows. You don't have to summon any alienness from within yourself, you just have to be able to act the part.

Lately I've been working my way through the SyFy Network series Defiance. It's in the third season right now but I've been catching up with seasons one and two on Amazon Prime. The first season starts off a little shaky but the series finds its feet soon enough. There are aliens and weird mystical things and political drama (as well as excellent use of women characters and non-white people in the main cast) but what really caught my interest was the story of the Tarr family. The Tarrs are aliens who immigrated to Earth and have spent the last two seasons attempting to navigate the cultural divide. It's a fascinating portrait of a family having to figure out how to bridge the gap between the old world and easy-breezy Western culture. The link here is that the parents are both played by Brits--Tony Curran and Jaime Murray--while the son is played by Jesse Rath, the Canadian son of immigrant parents himself. Seeing Jesse's very contemporary, very Western, very free mannerisms opposite the formalness of the actors playing his parents has just been so compelling. The conflicts, the negotiations of, "Well, yeah, but HERE they do things this way!" and his choice of occupation: Record Producer. Ha! (Where's my Tarr Traxx T-shirt, yo?!)

Anyways, I've really been enjoying the show.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Masss: Was it a Mass?!

Running for their lives towards the beginning of Massu Engira Masilamani aka Masss, our orphan hero Massu (Suriya) and his buddy Jet Li (Premgi Amaren) run right into a temple. In this temple is a holy man who tells them--and I’m paraphrasing from the subtitles here--“A rock outside is just a rock but if you see in the temple then it becomes a God. The mind is what gives meaning.” It’s an odd little moment of quiet shoehorned into a very loud, very busy film and the message stuck with me after the film was over, as I tried to piece together what it was, exactly, that I’d just seen. Masss is a lot of things all at once, what you see depends on where your brain places the meaning.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jyothi Lakshmi… A Charmme Production.

I said the other day that I've been thinking a lot about Heroes recently but watching this trailer for Jyothi Lakshmi reminds me of the old debate about "female Heroes" in films. What's the difference between an "author-backed role" for a heroine, a "woman-centric film", and a "female hero"? I feel like we have strong heroines, who may even be the protagonist, like Katrina Kaif in Bang Bang, but they are still heroines. "Women-centric film" is usually the tag put on those dull, Miramax-ish movies where the lead role goes to an actress either looking to break out of heroine-ing or an actress past her heroine-ing prime but who still attracts media interest. (YAWN!)

A female hero is something different. It's something in the way the camera films her. The way she faces the audience. We can desire her, as we desire male heroes, but we also want to be her. Male heroes aren't all powerful nor are they always in control. And they can be fetishized by the camera as much as any item girl can be but there is something in the way a hero is portrayed… a magnetism. To see a woman in the same light. I think that's what Puri Jagannadh manages to capture with Charmme in this trailer. You can't take your eyes off her.

At least I couldn't.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Do I deserve this much Beefcake?! DO I?!

Friends!!! Good morning! Can I just say that I think I was spoiled by Japan? I have a ticket to Belle & Sebastian tonight but I didn't quite realize until right now that the venue is SO FAR from public transportation that it would be extremely difficult to get to without driving but if I drive then parking is like $30!!!!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! On top of that, I forgot that unlike in Japan, concerts here start really late. So, instead of a nice evening out, having a beer or two, seeing one of my favorite bands, and getting home at a reasonable time (11pm ish) in order to get to work in the morning, I'd be paying at least $30 for parking but then not having even a beer OR paying even more and getting a taxi AND the show probably wouldn't even start until 10-10:30pm… UGH! And the venue itself seriously sucks, according to Yelp. Seriously, America, get it together. I think I might just sit this one out.

I'll be seeing Belle & Sebastian at the end of the month anyways at All Tomorrow's Parties in Iceland so yeah. Basically, FUCK YOU, ECHOSTAGE and fuck you, lack of public transportation options in the United States!

ANYWAYS! Enough ranting! Life is good, friends! My health is really, really improving and I'm almost over my jet lag. So now the question is… DO I EVEN DESERVE TO BE ON THIS PLATFORM?

I can't say but I definitely deserve to watch this movie. I'll do it. I'll put my trust in Karan "from the director of Agneepath" Malhotra. The only thing I was worried about was songs (i.e. would there be songs?!) but then I saw Bebo is doing an item so no worries!

And if that's not enough beefcake for a Thursday morning…

DAMN VARUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The more I see from Varun, the more I like him. I definitely thing ABCD 2 is one to look out for if it features songs like this. What I like about what I've seen from Varun so far is that despite the fact that he's a star kid, he seems to really be putting in the effort to make what could be throwaway roles into something compelling. I mean, Main Tera Hero is an utterly mediocre film but Varun makes his scenes pop. And now ABCD 2 promos… kid has presence, determination, and talent. I got to respect that.

Now to catch up with Badlapur… I wonder if it's on streaming yet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Selfie Le Le Re~~!

*whistle whistle*

This is going to look incredible on a huge movie screen! God damn, it feels good to see Salman doing his thing again. And I mean that, personally, it feels good to see Salman dancing because it's been far too long since I've seen Salman dancing. And the trailer for Bajrangi Bhaijaan looks great. Just the kind of movie I like: a BIG HEART, over-emotional, action-packed, filmi, but with a nod to the larger world.

I know I've missed out on the drama with Salman and his court case and I also know that there is nothing I can say on the topic that will satisfy anybody, either for or against. My own view is complicated and unavoidably colored by the fact that I am who I am.

And I have been thinking a lot recently about Heroes and how so much of the image is actually the reality. I mean it's not the real reality but it's real to us. I'll never meet Salman and I don't know if I'd want to but I've come to really love and treasure him as a Hero. I don't agree with punishment for punishment's sake but justice must be served. But in punishing Salman Khan, Bollywood Industry Figure, you're punishing a lot of people whose jobs depend on him and who has been working hard to put out a humane, kind image in recent years and who stands for a lot of things for a lot of people, good and bad. It's very different from punishing Salman Khan, private person. What crimes is Salman Khan, Public Figure answering for beyond his own as a private person? I don't know. Can he answer for his crimes as a private person without punishing all of those who depend on the Public Figure? Has he already, in his own way? I don't know. All I can do is trust in the Hero. And perhaps that is my answer.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Baahubali!!! Come to me!!!!

WOW!!!! What a trailer to come home to!!!!! Baahubali looks epic.

And, I know, you're all surprised but I don't think I'll be seeing Dil Dhadakne Do. I have many other things to do instead that will be more fun. Like laundry and grocery shopping! Hee!

Have a great day everybody!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bye-bye, Japan! See you next time!!

Yes, I'm back in the USA! And feeling so, so much better than I did when I left. I'm very glad I went on my vacation, even though the timing was not so great and I had to keep my expenses down… I feel quite refreshed and happy. I would love to share some pictures with you!

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