Friday, March 5, 2010

Creativity and Process

Last night’s ushering gig was for a panel discussion on the creative process as it relates to movies. The speakers were Brett Ratner (director of X-Men 3, producer of Prison Break, among other things), Peter Guber (producer of A Few Good Men, 7 Years in Tibet and Batman Returns, among many, many others) and Bob Balaban (producer of Gosford Park, director of The Exonerated and actor in many things – you might recognize him as the studio executive who leaves Hollywood and joins Greenpeace to save whales in order to impress Elaine on Seinfeld). There were a few things that I took away (four if you include the fact that Campbell Brown from CNN is prettier in real life than on TV, wench, pretty or smart, pick one).

The first is that the Oscars are pretty much the big ball of hooey that I’ve always figured they were. And are getting hooier by the minute. One significant item I found out is that the only category where you are required to have seen all entries in order to vote is foreign film. Thank you and good night. The Academy just lost all semblance of credibility with me. Oh, I heard Sandra Bullock was good in that. Let me check that box.

Second, and really sad for me personally, is the disappearance of the middle budget film. Once upon a time, if you really, really wanted to get your movie made, you’d figure out a way to do it for between $5 million and $30 million, and if you had any sort of a reputation or were considered a hot prospect, odd were that you’d be able to get it made. But because they’ll only double the investment at best, and make another piddly $15 million, they aren’t considered good business. So those are movies that tell a good story and need enough money to pay for a modest location in the real world and good actors with some name recognition, but you aren’t going to blow anything up, shoot at the top of the Eiffel Tower or film in 3D. So what you are getting is big, tent-pole, franchise, merchandise tie-in movies. Or the Blair Witch Project. And even the Blair Witch Projects are getting harder to see, because the studios are afraid of buying something that isn’t the Blair Witch Project or Little Miss Sunshine. So, anyone who’s a fan of movies where people talk, you may be SOL in the next few years at the picture show.

And lastly, and least fully, I started thinking about something as I watched the 3 people talk. It was interesting to me that the two most financially successful people on the stage (Ratner and Guber) focused less on luck and talent in what they do than on the hard work. They focused on the things that they could control: how much effort they could put into a project and how well they were able to apply their talents. Bob Balaban is less financially successful, but, in my eyes at least, more interestingly successful. He focused more on being open to opportunities as they came along. The acting thing wasn’t offering him new challenges, so he decided he’d take a directing gig and found he enjoyed it. Then he wasn’t that excited with the directing projects he was getting, so he decided to start producing projects he found meaningful. When he wrote a script for kids, and was offered to turn it into a book instead – hey, okay, that can work too. He seemed to have a lot of pots on the stove, and when one cooled down, he could turn and concentrate on something else. Always busy. I’m not sure what the lesson is here on this. But it’s definitely something to think about.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ain't diversity grand?

Really, it’s so great to see Victoria’s Secret start a body-positive campaign like “I Love My Body.” So many fashion campaigns push a cookie cutter body image, and a narrow view of what is beautiful. But Vickie’s jumps in there with campaign that is about loving the you that you are. It’s empowerment.
Look at the diversity they represent. You can be any size, any shape and any color of woman with big boobs, a tiny waist and less that 18 percent body fat and still have a beautiful, lovable body. They really are angels.

[Okay, fer real. It’s probably unfair to smack Vickie’s. They are one of the few, and one of the earliest, to consistently embrace ethnic models, and not have a lily-white public face. I’ll give them points for that. Kudos. But the fem-bot thing, really? And I should also point out that, in the interest of full disclosure, they don’t even make my bra size. A little bitter.]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Have you lost your freaking mind?!?!?!?!?

Dermot Mulroney as Jim Rockford? What was Kyle MacLachlan busy?

I have to say I most firmly OBJECT. Dermot Mulroney my goddamn ass. He can't touch the hem of James Garner's double-knit polyester, western fit slacks. Could he be Maverick? No. Could he be your Local Sheriff? No. Even Mel Gibson, prior to losing his pea brain, couldn't fill those boots.

James Garner is manly. James Garner sweats Old Spice. James Garner could use is fists. But he's clever enough never to have to. Chuck Norris looks up to James Garner.

Dermot Mulroney is . . . puh.

What's next? Bradley Cooper playing Stroker Ace? Rob Pattinson as Dirty Harry?

This. Must. Be. Stopped.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More things change

I love this article. And not just because Judge Brown reinforces my not-retirement plan. I also love his comment about privacy laws. I had never really thought about it in that way. Our expectations of privacy really are pretty new in human history if you really think about it.

We think sex is something private. But until well into the 20th century, many people in western society lived as a family group in a one-room set-up. If you were a farm kid living in a sod house, or an immigrant living in a one-room tenement in a big city, you probably had no questions about where babies came from. You were more than likely present when your baby sister was conceived. And if you were wealthy, you probably had some sort of hired help who saw what you threw away, cleaned your dirty linen or coughed discreetly before they entered a room.

The fact that we are more mobile as a society has given us some illusion of privacy too. If you are born in a town and live there until the day you die, more than likely everyone will know every little thing you’ve ever done. Hard to have secrets when someone can say “You know those Joneses. Cheap as can be, every last one of them.” And though it’s much rarer to live your entire life in one place, we’re starting to create our own villages on the internet. You can live 5,000 miles from your hometown, but one posted picture of you doing body shots off of a waiter named Jaime on Facebook and suddenly everybody you’ve ever known once again knows your business.

I think the judge is probably right – the more we push each other away as a society, the more we find ways to draw each other close again.

Give a little bit

Not sure if anyone else is inclined this way, but I thought I’d pass along something I found out. I was making a donation to the Red Cross for Haiti a few weeks ago, and discovered that you can make a donation through your Amazon account. First, don’t tell my Dad that I’m donating to the Red Cross – he hates them, something to do with Vietnam, even though my Dad served in Turkey not Vietnam, but he gets all purple in the face, so I’m not going there to find out. Second, I’m donating to the Red Cross because they’re there. Wherever the disaster is, they are there.

So, knowing what I did about the Haiti donation, I went again for Chile, and it is incredibly easy to just give $10. I spend $10 on a lot of stupid things in this world, so giving a little dough to help people whose lives have fallen down around them is the least I can do. And my biggest barrier to donating at times like this is that I think of it, then I forget because I don't have a phone number, or website, or my credit card right then. The Amazon link makes it instant grat giving. What a concept!

And of course I have an Amazon account. I put Mr. Amazon’s youngest through college. I know there’s a lot of things that are questionable, but still, I adore Amazon. I do at least half my holiday shopping through them. I can buy just about anything that’s available on the internet, without coughing up my credit card info to anyone and everyone. And now they make it completely donate money right when it’s need. I heart Amazon very, very much.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Walk this way . . .

So, I started ushering for the big performing arts center downtown. Gotta say – luv it!

For one thing, I can pull off the Greta Garbo/half-drag/boy look that is the ushering costume. One of the benefits of having no boobs. Androgyny I can do. It’s the standard “everybody look the same” thing where you bring a white dress shirt and black slacks, and they provide a charcoal, menswear vest and burgundy tie. No style points, and no room for personal flair. But if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do be the best little drag boy I can be. So I spent a half hour on Saturday learning to tie a Windsor knot (which one of the male ushers noted approvingly is the “Cadillac of knots”). I think I looked a right treat.

For another thing, it’s a nice social activity for the socially awkward. There’s a weird sense of anonymous camaraderie that you get. There are so many volunteers, you’ll have a smile-and-nod acquaintance with a lot of people, but never have to come up with more than 2 minutes of conversation with any of them. And how hard can it be to like anyone for 2 minutes at a time?

Plus, it gives me the chance to exercise my “alternate personality.” I am painfully shy. But over the years, I’ve developed this other identity. I use her in situations where I have to look like I’m an extrovert. She just struts right up to strangers with a big smile, “Hi! Can I help you find your seats?” All that contact with strangers would make me a nervous wreck, but she seems to do just fine (seriously, I swear I’m not nuts. I think they call this a coping mechanism). I haven’t actually had to use those outgoing muscles in awhile, so I was kind of surprised that I was able to just jump in and be Miss Perky without feeling too rusty.

So, I’m going to sign up for a few more sessions between now and April 1. Keeps me from that blank, accusing stare from the TV. And as for volunteer work, it beats picking up trash by a country mile.

TIME: Quotes of the Day