Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moments in Film History I'd Like to See

"My Dinner With André" to be Re-Released in 3D.

The 3D revolution is now complete. With the imminent re-release of the seminal, if motionless, "My Dinner With Andre" (1981, Saga Productions), the film industry announces its intention to milk the recent obsession with 3D for everything it is worth. The original, cult favorite from director Louis Malle, stars Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, as themselves, conversing in a restaurant. That's it. They talk about other places, and fantastical goings-on, but they, and the audience, remain seated in the restaurant throughout the film. It was a minor success and has enjoyed cult status ever since, but never reached a wider audience than film critics, film students and readers of "The New Yorker."

Saga Productions believes the movie can find a new audience by introducing 3D technology. In justifying the re-release, producer Henry Zuckerman said, "I don't think viewers truly got a sense of what it was like to have Wallace Shawn poking his finger at Mr. Gregory." The director was going for a shot that just wasn't possible in 1981 with the technology available then." he added. "Now, in the point of view shots, the audience will feel as if the finger is coming right at them. It's really amazing what you can do now." Early test audiences have, indeed, been observed leaning back slightly during this scene. One audience member even shielded herself with her hands, as if Shawn's finger might strike her.

Painstaking care was taken in rendering the restaurant in three dimensions, and some scenes proved more difficult to pull off. Explained chief animator, intern Chuck, "Well, there's a scene where Shawn, because he's talking so fast, and has . . . you know, that lisp, that he spits a little in Gregory's face. It's almost imperceptible. But each of those little droplets had to be rendered, frame by frame. Not to mention the gesticulating. Geez, those guys use their hands to talk a lot."

If this release is a success, Saga intends to re-release "My Dinner With Andre" for IMAX theaters. In this version, Wallace Shawn's bald spot will be the size of a putting green.


Okay, so since I'm now officially a Gleetard - in spite of my absolute 50:50 love/hate relationship with the program - I feel suddenly duty-bound to discuss each week's defining moments with the rest of the Gleetards. Short of that, I'll share my thoughts with my blog subscribers, or as I like to call them,

Season 2 / Episode 2

First off, the visual joke at the open was worth the price of admission, so I hope you caught it: Miss Pillsbury's sex-ed pamphlets had wonderfully comical titles, my favorite (or the only one I can remember) being, "Wow! There's a Hair Down There." . . . I was genuinely concerned that Ryan Murphy might actually try to justify (or even celebrate) Christopher Cross' recording career for a minute there, but the Michael Bolton joke was a redeeming moment . . . Sorry, but Britney Spears is a pop music machine; not an artist. And if I have to listen to another angry/yelling/jealous/love song by any of these song factories, my head is going to explode. That said, the musical numbers crackled with life and the performances were top-drawer, as usual. The creators get a pass on my usual overproduction criticism, because all but one of the numbers was a fantasy. A fantasy is always overproduced, or you're not doing it right, right? So sure, bring on the giant hair-blowing fans, the autotune, and the glam. But please, during rehearsals, could somebody's voice crack? Is that so much to ask? (And I don't mean fall completely apart, as Rachel's did last season.) Just one mistake would be nice. But no. Everybody from the chorus to the band knows every part, perfectly, the first time they play anything. Which reminds me, could one of these divas please throw an appreciative bone to the band? Hello? The writers could have even more fun bringing the band into the mix. But I digress. . . The story; oh yes, the story, was there one? The first two episodes this season have featured enough musical numbers to bolster the entertainment sector of the economy with costuming and make-up alone. Of course, storytelling is not the show's strong point. The relationship dramas became boring the second half of the first season. Where the writers shine is in their keen observations of high school life. While I would still argue that these kids - if we are to take their bounty of talents at face value - would be among the most popular in any high school in the world, I'll accept the premise that they're vilified by a particular segment of the school's population. I still don't think the writers know who some of their characters really are, though, apart from being a human delivery system for the show's wit. (Puck, Quinn and Britney come quickly to mind. ) . . . Geez, I had to wait almost the entire length of the program for my Sue Sylvester moment, which was so rambling and weird that I can't remember even the gist of it. I do remember that it made me laugh, though. . . But my favorite line had to be the principal's introduction of New Directions, which began, "Fresh off their last place finish at regionals. . . ." I mean, he said it with such conviction and pride, it was priceless.

To any 14-year-old boy out there who says, "Glee SUCKS," I couldn't say that I disagree with you. Like I said, love/hate; 50:50.

Don't look for another entry anytime soon. I'm guessing I'd be able to copy and paste these comments, with just a few changes, as a response to any upcoming episode.

And that's what I think about . . . . GLEE!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Our Trip to Chicago, via Hell

The trip to Chicago had been planned for some time, to coincide with R.E.M.'s performance at the United Center. The only sticking point was that Shelley had to teach on Friday, so we would have to get an afternoon flight to make the show. I had shrewdly done that weeks before even buying the tickets for the concert, so confident was I that we would get them. And in fact, being fan club members, we were able to secure 14th row center seats. Pretty sweet. I went nuts and bought four of them. Friends in Chicago said they'd be glad to lighten their wallets and join the fun. Just in case anything happened to delay the flight (HA!) I had sent one pair of tickets to my friend's office via certified mail.

So, on Friday, my eight-year-old daughter, Joni and I drove - well, I did most of the driving - to my wife, Shelley's designated pick-up point. The three of us arrived at the Cleveland airport in plenty of time and, after shuffling through security at a glacial pace and placing all of our belongings into bus pans, we still had a good hour before the flight's scheduled departure. Thinking ahead, we had brought only carry-on luggage. We had our toiletries tucked away perfectly. We were clicking like a machine. It had been a long afternoon for me, or so I claimed, so I went to the bar and had a tall one. I thought about having two - after all, I wouldn't be driving - but thought better of it. As I walked back to the gate, something caught my eye. Instead of 4:35, the flight was now scheduled to depart at 6:25. "They" would never say whether it was weather-related. "Air traffic at O'Hare," they said. Oh, this is good. They also said that the time could shift either way. Show of hands: How many of you have seen a delayed flight's departure time change for the better. (crickets.) I thought so. So, we went over what our situation was. We would still gain an hour and arrive at O'Hare by about 7:00. There were two opening bands, The National (new to both of us) and Modest Mouse (liked by both of us). So we still had plenty of time to get to the show to see R.E.M, who we calculated wouldn't go onstage until 9:00 at the very earliest. So we sat and waited, nervous as hell, for the clock to strike 6:25, so that we could stop worrying. We made phone calls to alert our people in Chicago of the situation and make new arrangements. Worry, worry, worry. Tick tick tick. By 6:00 I was watching Continental planes roll up, attempting to will each to become attached to the jetway at our gate. It was no use. I have ZERO telekinetic powers. No planes were coming our way, but still, the sign said 6:25, and the sign, after all, is the word of God, so we still had little reason to think anything was up, until we heard the woman who had drawn the shortest straw announce that flight yadayada to Chicago "has been cancelled. We will try to . . . " and the rest was just a blur. I was in denial. This could not be happening. Cancelled. But, but, . . . WHAT?! Is there another one in five minutes? Like the bus? Please? After I emerged from this haze, my, let's say, assertive side took over. "Okay, let me guess," I said to the first Continental employee who was unfortunate enough to be in my path. "We purchased non-refundable tickets, so there will be no refund, right?" I don't know about you, but I always figured that meant you couldn't simply change your mind. It seems to me that if the plane is snatched out from under you, . . . well, this was going nowhere. So I got off a shot across the bow: "Seems to me if they're non-refundable tickets, it ought to be a non-cancelable flight," and then skulked off and stood in one of the lines for the rabble, of which I am a card-carrying member. When we arrived at the desk, we explained the situation we were in, and why we should qualify as an exception to the rule. I wasn't nearly as entertaining, I'm sure, as Albert Brooks' was in his attempt to get his nest egg back in "Lost in America," but hey, he was fighting for his nest egg. I was fighting for much, much less. The Continental employee threw us THIS bone: "I have two tickets tonight at 8:15." I looked at her, stunned that this would be an offer they would make to three people. "Okay, well the earliest I can get all three of you there is tomorrow morning." I asked her why on EARTH we would go to Chicago for a day. We simply wanted someone ELSE to pay for at least some of this damage. I'm sure it wasn't pretty to watch. I'd hate to have to see it replayed, but my whining got us this far: "Well, I can put in a Refund Request." Okay, now we're getting somewhere.

I relaxed my shoulders a bit as the woman processed this Refund Request, and then I looked over at Joni, who was leaning against the window overlooking the runways - those wonderful runways. I walked to her and as I neared I saw a look of abject disappointment on her face. She couldn't have cared less about Michael Stipe, but she was looking forward to visiting the American Girl store. And, well, GOING somewhere. Earlier that day she and I changed some of her piggy bank coins into paper money so that she could make a purchase all by herself. She was very excited. And here was her dad, happy enough to just stay home. So I told her we'd have a special day tomorrow. "Cedar Point?" she asked sweetly, going for the kill. I balked, and pretended there must be business to attend to at the desk. Okay, so the RR has been processed, and here we go, dragging our little carry on bags back down the people movers in the opposite direction we'd just come from. We were, to a man, dumbstruck. It was then that my heart told my mouth to say something my brain was not nimble enough to stop. "Well, we could still drive there if you want to, I guess."

So we did. We loaded the Jeep back up, exited Long Term Parking, and headed west, listening to R.E.M.'s latest, "Accelerate," along the way. But alas, no matter how fast we went, we would not arrive before the roadies were having breakfast.

Of course, there would be rain in Indiana. (I think the turnpike commission has their own cloud.) Of course, we would be chattering like rubes about the number of tolls. Of course, there was a lot of traffic in Chicago. And, of course, we got a little lost downtown, but we got to our hotel at 12:30 am, local time. Finally, we got our room and fell into a deep coma.

Eat it, Continental!

We had a great time in Chicago. We did everything we had planned to do, apart from the one event that had been the primary reason we had gone in the first place.

There are a couple of things I wonder about since "the incident." First, I wonder if, Friday night, Michael Stipe saw our empty seats and wondered what had become of "us." More likely, through the harsh lights, he only saw the throng. I also wonder if he remembers when $170 was a lot of money.


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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Al Queda on the Roof

Interpol has issued "an urgent global security alert" after 23 "dangerous individuals" -- including a man identified as the mastermind of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 -- escaped from a Yemeni prison. Jamal Ahmed Badawi was sentenced to death in 2004 for his role in plotting the attack that claimed the lives of 17 U.S. sailors, but had more recently gained some notoriety in a role of a much different sort. For the past two seasons, Badawi had been performing two shows a night as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" with the Yemeni Prison Players. When the show closed after a two year run, Badawi lost interest in his rehabilitation and fled. "We had a good little run there," he remarked after beating a guard to death on his way out of the prison. Asked if it was difficult for him to play a Jew, Badawi shouted, "Those actors in 'Brokeback Mountain' are not gay and yet you do not ask them the same question. Acting is acting," he said, before adding, "Death to the infidels."