Oscar Night

Jimmy could hardly sit still. This is the biggest night of his life. His whole career is riding on this one evening and he feels ready to explode.

Of course, no one looking at him would know that. He’s been in the biz long enough to know, never to show his emotions. That’s what scripts and make up and cameras are for. Don’t forget cameras. Without cameras we’d have nothing. None of us. None of this.

Jimmy loves the cameras. And the cameras love him.

Just smile. You gotta smile. Who wouldn’t? It’s such a circus. How can you not smile? Make it real.

Yes. It is almost too much. The theater is filled with so many people he’s known for so long. Some of them friends. Many competitors. But there is a mutual respect, or Jimmy liked to think so, between long time collaborators. Even when you strive for a job against so many talented people. Someone has to get it. Better when it’s you, but like the Duke used to say, “Catch the next wave.” There’s always another job, another wave, another Oscar. Until there’s not.

But tonight! Oh boy! Walking up that red carpet. He’s made that trip before, but tonight, they were watching him. Everyone knew Jimmy. Everyone wants to grab his hand. Pat him on the back. Take a picture. Be seen with Jimmy! It is grand. Grand to be Jimmy.

And the women! So many beautiful women! And the clothes. Jimmy has never seen such dresses! Each one more extravagant than the one before. Who wears such stuff? Actresses! They can get away with it. Do you know how many poor children you could clothe with the fabric in that one dress? Is that a dress? Or a house?

Oh, and look at her. Excuse me. You look cold. Does your mother know you went out naked? Your goosebumps have goosebumps. Maybe Dame Whatshername will lend you some of her train with which to cover yourself.

Even tomorrow, when they do the postmortems on the evening and cat about this ugly dress, or that worst look. Hey! Shut up. They were on the carpet. They had the good seats. They were the ones the paparazzi were calling to. Where were you? Lame bastards.

Men are smart enough not to compete on the fashion front. Hopefully, they remember to wear pants. And the tux sleeves aren’t too short. That’s about as daring as the men get. Try to look dignified in the midst of all this brouhaha. They want people looking at their faces, not the clothes. What the men really want is to stand beside a beautiful woman. They really don’t need more than that, when the cameras are flashing. That is plenty, thank you.

A man can look like a toad, but if he’s standing next to a babe? Who cares? He’s a toad with good taste in women. “Look at that beautiful woman with the pet toad!” More power to him. Maybe later, when she kisses him, he’ll turn into a prince.

And the paparazzi. How many flashes can you stand? It’s enough to give you a seizure. Yikes! Take it easy guys. I’ll hold the pose… That’s it? How about one more? A money shot. Get it.

Here comes the interview. “Hey! How are you? Blah. Blah. Stunning!”

“Thank you. Hey, I love your blah, blah. How do you do that?”

“Oh, it’s blah. Got it from my mother, blah. But enough about me. How do you feel tonight? Is this your night?”

“I feel great. I know I did my best and I trust the Academy and the gods that be, to touch those most deserving. I’m just so honored, blah.”

“Well, I don’t want to jinx you. Ha, ha!”

“And blah, blah to you too! Ha, ha!” Smooch!

Jimmy looks around at all the people. And not just people, famous people! He never dreamed. Of course he always dreamed. But to be here is something he could hardly envision. Talk about a cast of thousands.

Look at the sets! They dropped a few dimes on this. Every year it out does every expectation. So much talent. And so much talent that never gets a nod. A name on a list at the end of the show. How many people work to make this come off? It is incredible!

Oh! And there she is. If he owes it to anyone, it is to his co-star. Jimmy knows he wouldn’t have the nomination if not for her. They call it acting, but those scenes with her — well, they forgot about the cameras. Twenty people standing around and they were alone.

She is staggeringly beautiful to Jimmy. Not cliché ‘stunning’. Not merely gorgeous. ‘The original knock-out’ is how Jimmy puts it. And none of the distracting frippery about her dress. Simple, pure class. Elegance defined. Of course nothing could disguise her classic looks.

Jimmy tells people, thousands of years from now, scholars will debate ‘What was she really like?’

Jimmy regrets, they couldn’t make a go of it, off set. He thought they were really in love. It was a movie, silly. Jimmy got taken, like all the rest. “It’s called ‘acting,’ Jimmy,” he chuckles to himself. And she is an actress through and through.

He catches her eye and she nods with that little smile of hers that makes him melt inside. It was just for him.

But she doesn’t come over. No time for that. Who’s the new heartbreak escorting her tonight? Some surfer she discovered? Or Tony, her PR hack, shoe-horned into the program? Cue Hollywood Hairboy #3. Action!

Jimmy hopes for his sake, he’s got the stuff to land on his feet. He’ll need it. Jimmy walked that gauntlet. Good luck!

Smiling people stroll by. They offer their hands, embraces, kisses on the cheek. Some of them mean it.

The orchestra is starting up! Here we go. Batten down the hatches. Jimmy’s getting an Oscar tonight! “Don’t let it slip through your fingers, boy.”

Jimmy looks at his notes. Short and sweet. Sincere thanks. Hit all the notes. Humility. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Leave them wanting more. And thank her. She won’t expect that.

Judging by the acceptance speeches, Jimmy knows it will be a long evening. At least until he gives his. Then everyone will wake up. He was all for the third seamstress getting her due. But please don’t let her near the mic.

Jimmy thinks, “Can everyone just shut up and let me have my statue? Enough!”

After a while, Jimmy wonders if he accidentally wandered into a political rally. “Is someone running for president? I thought these were acting awards. Actors don’t have opinions, they have scripts.”

Suddenly, it is time. Jimmy can’t believe it. It all happened so fast. He doesn’t feel ready. Where did the night go?

He keeps repeating the mantra, “Wait to hear your name. Don’t jump up until they say your name.” Jimmy braces himself on the arms of the chair.

The presenters come out. She is one of them. This could be weird. Maybe it will be perfect. Is it a sign? An omen? Jimmy swallows hard.

The presenters stall with some banter. Everyone is laughing. It is excruciating. The man gives her the envelope. She looks directly at Jimmy with that little signature smile. She opens the envelope and the look in her eyes says it all. She says the most beautiful words in the most beautiful voice, “And the winner of the Oscar, for best actor is… Jimmy…”

The crowd goes nuts. She throws the envelope over her shoulder and strides to the edge of the stage to offer her hand to Jimmy as he bounds up the steps. There are screams and whistles as she gives him a passionate kiss. The other presenter makes a big show of breaking them up. It’s pandemonium. Jimmy wipes tears from his eyes as he steps to the mic…

Nurse Salazar tapped Jimmy on the shoulder to get his attention. He looked up at her from his chair with a look of confusion.

“Mr. Jimmy, time for your meds. They’ll help you sleep.”

Jimmy looked at the television. The end credits streamed by. The big music reached its crescendo. Then Jimmy remembered the golden statue, cradled on his lap.

The nurse continued. “Everyone in the home gets so agitated. Every year, it’s the same.” She smiled down at Jimmy. “You want me to take that for you? You don’t want to drop Mr. Oscar. I’ll put it back up on the shelf. He’ll be safe there.”

Jimmy surrendered his Oscar with reluctance. In exchange, she gave him a small cup containing some pills.

“Here you go, Mr. Jimmy. These will help you sleep. Would you like to get into bed now?”

Jimmy smiled at her. “Do you want my autograph? You can say you knew me, when.”

 

 

 

No Photos, Please – Interview with a Paparazzi

If I score a decent shot today, my month may work out alright. By ‘alright’ I mean I won’t have to move home to the folk’s garage sofa again. Of course, Hawk is right about money. Anyone would be a fool to do this without some expectation of compensation. Expectations don’t pay the bills though.

I’m sitting at Dr. Hogly Wogly’s, in the Valley no less, trying to collect my thoughts and grab a bite after a disastrous morning.  I got the call to door-step Britney, too late. She was long gone by the time I got there. Then, en route to Shiloh’s birthday party, at Casa Vega, I got caught in traffic and construction on Lankershim. One lane in rush hour with a stop light about every twenty feet. It was insane! I could have walked there faster. No wonder no one lives in the Valley.  So, I missed that too.

So here I am, thinking I found a quiet place to finally get breakfast at what, one o’clock? And this cockatoo behind me won’t let anyone in the place get any peace. No one will look at her, afraid to become a target.

Even when there is lead time to the shoot, you never know. Nowadays, it’s like a ravening pack of dogs, into it for the love of the chase. Fools think just because they have a smart phone, they’re capable of being pappies. No way.

Of course, if they weasel their way onto a team and get sent out… they may do alright. But ‘til then, you jostle with all the other free lancers, scratching at the pecking order periphery, praying for a flat fee. Then you’ve got your expenses…

Hold it. “Hawk. What you got?… No way! By the airport? LAX? I’m in the Valley. That’s like two hours away, if I’m lucky… What? Van Nuys has an airport? Since when?… Well maybe. Get me something back over the hill can’t you?… Speak up, will you? The woman in the booth behind me is having a baby… Long overdue. Why is JLaw flying out of Van Nuys?… You’re kidding! That was a long time ago. And anyway, that was Paris. She wouldn’t remember that. She loves me… Private jet? Where is the airport?… Oh, right, Van Nuys. Got it… If you say so. Thanks!”

Good. I can finish up here and try to find the Van Nuys Airport in plenty of time. Make my nut for the month.

Some celebs get lonely, or have a show coming out and want people to remember the hot ticket. Not yesterday’s news. They use us to promote their product – them.

Some pappies try to get the goods on them. Make them look bad. Figure someday the animal pix will be worth something. I made that mistake when I first started. Hawk was giving me the business about JLaw. But they need you. And if you can make friends with them, make them look good, they’ll work with you. Make them look like animals, they’ll respond in kind.

There was one time, some starlet of the month… no, not Miley… maybe… Cameron! Well, anyway, she gave one of the cheeky paps a roundhouse with her purse. She must have had a gold brick in it. He went down like a raw oyster. For the count. It took three of us to get him back to his feet again. But not before we got our shots in. Three papers published my pix. Cha-ching! Plus overseas!

I don’t know what he said to her but she let him have it. Her eyes were like pin points. You know, like a cornered animal about to attack? Well she did. Pow!

I wish I had a camera with an f-stop as small as her pupils. Tiny! Talk about depth of field. Everything’s in focus. Here to the moon! She looked psychotic.

Speaking of psychotic, this gal behind me is going to ruin her voice. What is her problem? Am I the only one who hears this?

Technically, it’s so much easier now, with digital and send. Back in the prehistoric film days, some real money could be made with the seller’s market. Now, competition’s stiff and prices are down. It helps to have Hawk watching my back. Couldn’t do it without him.

Hawk is very old school. Ancient history. Remember film? Hawk said, in his day, he had an army of runners taking film to his private lab at any time, day or night. No one could beat him. He’d be there at the clubs all night. What a life. He claims he was there when that Lady Di got it. I doubt it though. Maybe in spirit.

He never made the transition to the whole digital thing. He was there from the beginning though. Now he rides herd on all the baby pappies who think they’re hot salsa. He gets his cut from everyone.

Can someone shut this woman up? What’s the number to 911? How is the guy with her still sitting there? Is he on a leash? Enough!

Of course now, the photo-shop jockey is king.  The primitive stuff had genius to it, and wit. But what they can do today makes the old collage style look like cave paintings. They put stuff out now, that never happened and you’d swear it was real. No wonder the courts threw out photo evidence.

Once Hawk told a bunch of us he doesn’t take half the shots he sees. Prefers to keep them in his head. Pure… Something about the moment, the big ‘now’ being lost between the past and the future. I didn’t really follow too much, but I think he was saying something like, you worry about where the shot will end up, in the future. But by the time you get it, it’s all in the past. And the key moment, the ‘now’, he says, gets lost for all the distractions. Really. What do you have if you lose the now?

Hawk says you don’t need graven images to be damned. That’s what he calls film, ‘graven images’. He says some people still worry the camera steals their soul. How ignorant is that?

Wait. The mouth and her hipster lap dog are leaving. She’s still upset. Over what? She’s just walking out. Leaving him to handle all the business.  Oh, there’s a limo waiting. Chauffer… Wait. It’s her! You mean JLaw’s been the one revving the chainsaw up my back for the last hour? I could’ve gotten a gazillion shots!

Where’d she get a bouquet from? Then she hits him over the head with it – again! Like what Hawk says. The best shots never make it into the camera. They’re only in your head. But they live on, forever.

Catch ya later. I gotta get to the airport.

Has Anyone Seen My Je Ne Sais Quoi?

Sometimes, I accompany my wife to her favorite make-up store. Cosmetics are now a highly competitive, big business.  Recently, I have become appalled at the decadent state of ‘modeling.’ Models were once icons of ideal beauty for mere mortals to emulate. Testing the standards of beauty, the movement to use ‘normal’ looking models has taken an ugly turn. And all to sell voluminous brows, or third-eye liner.

Why would anyone ‘normal looking’ spend a fortune on beauty products, in order to emulate and look more like… themselves? And what now passes for the ‘common’ look is more than a little scary. The number of gap toothed models on display make me wonder how much money my parents could have saved on my orthodontia had this fashion become the rage in my youth.

This is the look of normal? A century ago, anyone looking like this would either be locked up in an asylum or had to be part of the English royal family.

Once upon a time, it was thought that a flaw was necessary to be truly beautiful. These days, the stars are either cookie-cutter bland, or the ‘flaw’ has become the whole show. Do today’s young women really want to look like refugees from an episode of “The Walking Dead”? Some of these models make Grace Jones look positively nubile.

Speaking of femininity, a counter movement is growing for men. Am I the only one who thinks male models have become just a tad too self-consciously perfect? The line has been crossed where the tweezed, plucked, waxed and chrome-plated look currently popular, makes the wax figures from Madame Tussauds look ruggedly authentic. All that well-oiled sullenness just begs to be hit with a banana crème pie.

Who is promoting these new standards of beauty? And would someone please clean the Vaseline off their glasses?

Years ago, new to Hollywood, I was working sets for a commercial production company, hungry for a ‘break’. The location manager asked me would I be interested in doing modeling. I was intrigued.

He suggested I go in for a test. He thought I had ‘a look, a certain quality.’ A talent scout he knew, was looking for someone with that… je ne sais quoi. He gave me the card of his photographer friend and I called for an appointment.

Wow. Mere months in the city and I had been discovered! I couldn’t wait to tell my wife. She cynically thought my getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, might be premature.

I told her “Mine is the face that will launch a thousand shipments of what people buy after turning a page in a glossy magazine and seeing my face. Liquor.”

I went to my appointment for the test photo-shoot with eager anticipation. There was none of the ‘metoo’ stuff you may have heard about. The photographer looked at me, pointed and told me to stand by a bicycle parked on the highly-lit set.

I was no fool. I knew better than to ask him what my motivation was.

I did my best to act like it was my bicycle.

He snapped a few shots and told me I could go. That was it. No contracts were forthcoming. No requests for autographs. What a disappointment!

You may be thinking, ‘Well, maybe they couldn’t see the bicycle.’ That wasn’t it. Nor the absence of inflatable abs. Ignorance of my need to sneer wasn’t it either.

However, I do think I know what harpooned my becoming tomorrow’s over-night sensation, today.

I’m sure you haven’t noticed, but I have a slight bow in my legs, which I’ve been told, if I stand in a certain way, on a clear day you can see Catalina Island. My Mom told me, when she was pregnant with me, she got scared by a horse.

But maybe now, with the move away from the ultra-beautiful, I could still make my big break into modeling.  Now, where did I leave my tweezers?

I’m not a Talking Bomb, but I Played One on TV

One of the most interesting aspects of working in post-production in Hollywood was the time I spent on the ADR stage. ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) is the process by which actors are brought onto a sound stage to recreate their original performance that was marred by noisy ambience or other technical issues. I had the opportunity to work with many talented actors, most of whom were cooperative and agreeable under stressful circumstances.

The task is a unique blend of technical ability and art. Ideally, in the original performance, the actor inhabits the character while submerged in the ambiance of the location and interacting with the other characters.

On the ADR stage, the actor must re-create that original sense and emotion of the scene, while standing alone on a dark stage which lacks any of the physical cues that supported the original performance. And he must also watch him or herself on the screen and perfectly lip-sync his new performance to the original. It is that combination of re-creating an emotional performance, while also objectively observing it, which throws some actors.

Imagine yourself playing a character helping a wounded friend while dodging bullets from a sniper. All your exertions and dialogue provide the viewer with a sense of the immediacy and danger of your plight.

Now, imagine trying to re-create that same tension, without the noise, the dust, the struggle, or your co-player, all while standing on a cool, dark stage, watching yourself perform on a giant screen.

Some actors just cannot do it. Their process of acting is so integrated into the moment that doing justice to their performance, after the fact, in such artificial circumstances defeats them. And many are wonderful actors. Ultimately, if the performance is good, a little judicious editorial surgery will improve on the sync.

One such case was with the actor Robert DeNiro. Considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, the process of ADR is completely counter-intuitive for him and his style of acting. We scheduled multiple sessions, only for him to balk or cancel each in turn. He was agreeable, but intimidated by the technical process. I finally got him to do his lines ‘wild,’ with four or five interpretations of each line. With minimal editing, I was able to make one of these performances fit.

I worked with the actor Jackie Chan on one of his films. He is the most focused and exacting actor I ever worked with. Except for lunch, he never took a break. A week was scheduled for the recording and he finished re-voicing the complete film in three days.

Jackie’s film was shot in Chinese. Our task was to replace Jackie’s whole Chinese language performance with English lines. We needed to write Jackie’s lines so they would make sense to the story and also closely match the onscreen lip movements.

This task was daunting enough. But as we were starting, Jackie asked how he could get rid of his Chinese accent. Since we were preparing his film for an American release, he didn’t want his Chinese accent to distract or make the audience struggle to understand.

Having never been asked this, or thought about it, I needed to think fast. How could I solve this? Hardly missing a beat, a solution popped into my head. The ADR gods were smiling down on me.

One factor for any non-native speaker of English (or, I suspect, any second language) is the natural tendency to pronounce each word discreetly. This exaggerates the accent and creates a stilted hesitation, rather than a natural flow of expression. The speaker sounds like they are struggling over a pile of rocks, rather than floating down a stream.

I asked Jackie to say the phrase ‘American accent’ but to slur the final ‘n’ to the beginning of ‘accent’ to sound like ‘America-naccent’. By tying the two words together, much of that odd emphasis and hesitation is lost and it sounds much more natural.

Jackie tried it and immediately grasped my intent. We started work and he was pleased with the improvement in his ‘American’ accent. Whew!

Another aspect of ADR is the recording of background ‘walla’ for crowd scenes, restaurant scenes etc. Some ‘loop groups’ are very talented and will create a texture of background that adds a sense of reality to a scene.

Long ago, loop groups were told to murmur ‘peanut butter’ over and over to create a non-descript background buzz that would not compete with the foreground dialogue. Modern loop groups bring vocabulary lists and even foreign language phrases for the talent to use in order to give the walla the flavor of a specific time and place. A Moroccan street market sounds different than a corporate board room. Really!

Many actors, practice their craft and can make a decent living working in a loop group while seeking on-camera work. The downside can be that novice actors are so hungry to be ‘discovered,’ their performances must be reined in so they remain in the background.

Working with inexperienced actors provided me with the opportunity to perform as a ‘talking bomb’. Twice. Occasionally, some absurd gimmick becomes popular with multiple script writers. In this case, a time bomb which not only had a clock, but also a voice which announced, to anyone who happened to be standing around, how many seconds they had before being blown to bits.

“Siri, should I cut the red wire or the blue wire?”

On two different shows, I ran the sessions where we needed a voice counting down from ‘ten,’ presumably to inject further tension into an already anxious scene. But the actors seemed unable to grasp the ‘motivation’ of the ‘talking bomb.’ Alternatively gleefully evil or mother-hover anxious, their bomb was over-acting.

Every Shakespearean attempt by each member of the loop group would be rejected by the director. When they ran out of actors, I offered to try.

The tension in the scene was in the characters, and hopefully, with the audience. But the bomb couldn’t care less about the pending explosion. It wasn’t a character. It had no character. It didn’t ‘know’ what was about to happen.

I performed my count-down as devoid of emotion as possible, a counter-point to the humans in the scene. This bomb had not a care in the world. Rain or shine, this bomb was indifferent to its future or the lack thereof. It was what no actor wants to be described as – mechanical and flat. My performance, with just a suggestion of boredom, was perfect.

I was the bomb. They loved it.

Hits and Misses from Storyography – 2017

Each year at this time I re-publish a selection of some of my blogs that may have slipped through the cracks, or I hope will find readers who might have missed them on the first pass.

And I include some of my personal favorites.

I am Woman, Hear Me “Wahhh!” is a little more political than usual for me but, like it or not, I felt my take on the recent sex scandals had to be said: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/i-am-woman-hear-me-wahhh/  

Gumshoe, Meet Banana Peel is a rant from a different place that I hope gives you a smile: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/11/04/gumshoe-meet-banana-peel/

Shakespeare, On the Rocks is a whimsical re-imagining of some of the Bard’s more famous plays: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/shakespeare-on-the-rocks/

Eclipsed by a Fidget Spinner is an exploration of our need for diversion and the cyclical nature of our lives. This was printed in a recent edition of the Tolucan Times: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/eclipsed-by-a-fidget-spinner/

You Kiss With That Mouth? was my most read blog this year. I’m told my misadventures with dentists is very entertaining and funny. Don’t forget to floss: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/kicking-when-im-crowned/

Liberals and the Seven Stages of Grief examines the Kubler-Ross model of grief through the prism of the 2016 election: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/liberals-and-the-seven-stages-of-grief/

Another Brick in the Wall recounts my brief tenure as a middle school teacher: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/06/22/another-brick-in-the-wall/

Love and Scar Tissue is a reprint of a review I did for the Tolucan Times of the amazing Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. I wish everyone could have seen this riveting performance: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/love-and-scar-tissue-on-display-in-danny-and-the-deep-blue-sea-and-poison/

Thank you for reading my blog this year. I very much appreciate your comments and attention. I hope 2018 is wonderful for all.

Why Movies About Movie Making Flop

It seems most movies tanked this summer. But why do movies about the film business do especially badly at the box office? I don’t mean films that use Hollywood as a backdrop, great films like ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ or ‘Sunset Boulevard’.

I mean movies that present the film business as interesting in and of itself. You know, shows like ‘An Alan Smithee Film’, ‘Map to the Stars’, ‘The Player’ ‘Won Ton Ton…’ and others. Did you see any of them? Exactly my point. These films didn’t sell enough pop corn to pay the ushers.

Why audiences don’t ‘get’ Hollywood-centric stories is a question I’ve never heard answered. I think it has to do with Hollywood’s self-promotion as a land of limitless glamour and glimmering success. There must be conflict to successfully engage the audience. How can the audience identify with anyone from that fanciful place untouched by darkness?

Comedies about the film business fail because they are filled with self-aware ‘in’ jokes, funny to those in the movie and few others. Alternately, the character’s problems may seem contrived. Can I truly sympathize with Red when she actively solicits the attentions of the Big Bad Wolf?

A case in point is a TV series I recently endured. The premise of it is absurd and I don’t recommend it. A secondary character, a writer is complaining about his sorry lot as the lead writer of a hit show. He is so put upon by his producer boss, that he has to work during ‘hiatus week’ while everyone else is vacationing or sitting by the pool. Any working schmo can identify with that. Who wants to work while everyone else is out playing? Not me.

But when you consider how much this ‘poor’ guy gets paid to put words on paper (six figures easily, plus golden time, residuals, etc.), our sympathy starts to fade. Perhaps his kids will respect him when they learn their Harvard tuition is completely funded. Meanwhile, he kvetches about his horrible job while riding around in a bit-coin powered limo and attending exclusive parties to schmooze flavor-of-the-week glitterati. Poor guy.

Understand that writing in Hollywood is a difficult and often thankless job. Writers often don’t get the appreciation they deserve. That is not my point. But Joe Blough, working two jobs just to keep up, and mowing his own lawn has a hard time feeling this character’s pain.

I never met a Hollywood writer who complained about his job. Whatever his private life, Hollywood people know they are blessed by whatever gods they grovel to. They would never be tempted to bite that beast’s gracious hand.

But that is only part of the problem. You have actors whose job is to give a gloss of authenticity to what is an inherently artificial process. It is hard enough to succeed at playing a cop, a housewife, or a lawyer. But an actor portraying an ‘authentic actor’ is beyond the best skills of most talented thespians. How exactly does an actor act, in the wild, when he’s not acting? What are they ‘really’ like? Just like you and me? Really?

Also, creating sympathetic portrayals of producers, directors and others in the business can be a task fraught with many pitfalls. Some of us ‘civilians’ may have to deal with out-sized egos and immense pressures in our hum-drum lives, but in Hollywood? Recent headlines only hint at what some of these powerful people are about.

But there is something un-real about how Hollywood elite deal with even mundane tasks. I heard Frank Sinatra had toilet paper in his house bearing his own image. Is your guest bathroom stocked with toilet paper with your smiling face printed on each two-ply sheet?

Asking an actor (read: someone truly fake and insincere) to honestly portray someone who is fake and insincere, creates a feedback loop of artifice. When it fails, it just looks like bad acting. But it is an honest attempt (by an inherently dishonest person) to portray as genuine, someone they know is dishonest. And that last bit is the problem. They try to make them genuine.

Some actors just play themselves and really only play one role, regardless how many shows they are in. Others never play themselves and completely transform once that camera starts rolling. When is either genuine though?

Not to say ‘genuine’ is impossible to do. In the recent mini-series ‘Feud,’ the story of the legendary competition between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (played wonderfully by Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lang) all the elements combine to form a veritable work of genius. Centered on their one movie together, ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’ the series does everything right that most movies about movies fail miserably at. The characters are well known and bigger than life. The supporting roles are deliciously consistent with our expectations of who these people were. The writing is superb.

We see the characters on and off camera and they behave just as we expect they behaved, cat claws and all. Despite their bigger than life personas, the actors and writers succeeded in bringing out these character’s genuine humanity and the poignancy of their loneliness while embracing their prodigious flaws. They bring out their third dimension.

And the filmmakers never try to convince us these stars were normal or ‘just like us’. Hell, no! We don’t need to believe the ‘rich Hollywood actors, being paid millions of dollars to portray people just like you and me’ actually are just like you and me.

They succeed by highlighting our lives and allowing us to see things more clearly through their depiction on the big screen.

But they are not like us. And that is alright. I don’t want their flaws. I have my own. Watching them is entertaining. Watching me, not so much. (That is why they are known as ‘stars’!) If they were like me, I certainly wouldn’t be buying tickets to watch them.

Click  to see the Storyography Video Memoir website:  http://www.lifestoryography.com/

Emotionally compelling ‘The Beauty, The Banshee & Me’ at Whitefire Theatre

Review by John K. Adams

Children sometimes feel they were adopted regardless of their personal circumstances. Perhaps it is the beginning of the romantic imagination. Despite an ideal childhood, a child may sense a missed connection lurking in the shadows beyond their safe home.

The autobiographical, one-woman show, The Beauty, The Banshee & Me, written and performed by Cathy Lind Hayes, unflinchingly explores that yearning and her pursuit of the well-guarded truth about her birth parents.

It also exposes the emotional reasons for laws shielding privacy. When everyone seeks reconnection, those laws may seem arbitrary and cruel. But in a culture of convenience, privacy laws protect everyone when the threat of exposed shame might destroy more than any restored connection could heal.

Lind Hayes’ emotional and physical journey, despite legal barriers and warnings from all quarters, makes a compelling and poignant tale. Everyone pays a steep price for her to find this elusive and dubious truth.

Judged purely as performance, this play deserves to be seen. Hayes is a born storyteller and brings her audience to laughter and tears at will as she recounts her decades-long quest for reconnection with lost family.

Her portrayal of all the characters is vivid. She ensures everyone’s motives are understood, even when the resulting actions cause pain or damage relationships.

The Beauty, The Banshee & Me is a cautionary tale that may serve either camp to further their point. And it is also a remarkably well-written drama that deserves to be seen on its own merits.

“The Beauty, The Banshee & Me runs through October 23rd at the Whitefire Theatre located at 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. For tickets and information visit Plays411.com/Banshee or call (323) 960-1055.  

Note: This review originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on 9/22/16.

Amanda Markowitz film ‘Love Meet Hope’ conquers all

By John K. Adams

“Overall, I most want to inspire other artists to try, keep trying, take chances and not be afraid to make mistakes.”

Strong sentiments from Amanda Markowitz, star, co-creator and producer of Love Meet Hope, winner of Best Dramatic Film at this year’s Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival.

Love Meet Hope is summarized: “A grandfather’s love stories enlighten a jaded man and a moonstruck girl about the realities of love.” Ed Asner, departing from familiar curmudgeonly roles, plays the sweet grandfather, grieving his wife. How great for a film to depict one man’s love stories that resonate to inspire other’s stories.

Markowitz, who co-created the film with Bradley Fowler, shares, “Love Meet Hope inspires and instills hope within each viewer. It is a beautifully unique project with elements of romance, action, drama and comedy all wrapped up to create a compelling work of art.”

Markowitz graduated magna cum laude from USC’s Marshall School of Business, but it was growing up in her parents’ deli, Factor’s Famous Deli in Los Angeles, where she learned “the importance of everyone involved, from the owner to the busboy,” to achieving success.

That ethic of teamwork translated well to the rigors of producing a movie. Amanda says the crew on Love Meet Hope actually had fun while creating this award-winning feature film. Quite a claim, considering movie productions often resemble a military operation.

Markowitz said the toughest things about doing the movie were “wearing multiple hats and learning to delegate. Adaptability becomes second nature. Having a strong team you can trust 100 percent is absolutely essential.”

Love Meet Hope director Bennie Woodell, describes Markowitz as “an asset and a joy to have involved in any production.”

Follow updates on the upcoming release of “Love Meet Hope” on these sites: LoveMeetHope.com, Facebook: Love Meet Hope, Twitter and Instagram: @lovemeethope. Follow Amanda Markowitz at AmandaMarkowitz.com, Facebook: Amanda Markowitz, Twitter and Instagram: @amandamarkowitz.

This interview originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on March 13, 2016.

Actress Lucy Walsh makes film debut in star-studded ‘Mother’s Day’

By John K. Adams

Mother’s Day is an all-star ensemble piece, directed by Garry Marshall. The motion picture follows the interwoven stories of several mothers and their respective children leading up to their annual holiday. It features an all-star cast with Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson and Lucy Walsh.

Walsh makes her film debut in Mother’s Day, but she is no stranger to performance, having toured internationally with her own music with Maroon 5, One Republic, Bruno Mars, Owl City and Ashlee Simpson. The daughter of rocker Joe Walsh, she has also shared the stage with many Nashville greats. She performs her song “Winter Coat” on the soundtrack of Mother’s Day.

“A gift I got from my dad is his great respect for the craft of performance. I would watch him spend days perfecting a six note riff, only to see him toss it off on stage like he just came up with it. It’s powerful to see the work it takes, that work ethic in practice,” she said.

Loving both music and acting, Walsh is now concentrating on the acting piece. Besides Mother’s Day, she also guest stars this season in Criminal Minds and NCIS.

Walsh describes her Mother’s Day role as “the voice of hope for my friend, played by Jason (Sudeikis). My character is sort of this optimistic person, always pushing forward.”

She identifies Gloria Gifford as the acting coach who kick started her career. “You wouldn’t go to the Olympics without a coach, would you? She’s my coach.”

And Walsh names Mother’s Day Director, Garry Marshall as her mentor. “He’s a legend. He saw me in A Comedy of Errors and brought me in. He comes from television, so he works really fast. You stay in the moment. He taught me so much.”

It rained constantly in Atlanta during the Mother’s Day shoot. This was a heady experience for Walsh, who grew up in arid Los Angeles. “I would stand on the balcony and let the wind and rain soak my hotel room while I was just yelling and hooting at the storm.”

Mother’s Day opens in theaters on April 29th. Lucy Walsh’s song “Winter Coat” is available on iTunes.

To learn more about Walsh visit her page on IMDB.com search:  Lucy Walsh.

This interview originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on April 7th, 2016.

Distinctive Differences

Hans was the eccentric old guy at the photo lab, where I worked. He was a technician and good at his job. He came across as a kindly old gentleman with a German accent. He minded his business and didn’t bother anyone.

It seemed like everyone in Minnesota had an accent, German, Scandinavian or the weirdest mix of all, Minnesotan.

One day, while on break, he told me about growing up in Germany before WWII. Then he told me about joining the German army and fighting for the Third Reich in Yugoslavia. Then he told me about how their leader, Adolf Hitler, was misunderstood by the world. Poor old Adolf “did a lot of good things,” he said. With great power comes great forgiveness, as Spiderman says. No, wait.

Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” had been released a few years before. My impression of Hans blended with the hilarious, Nazi playwright from that movie, waxing ecstatic over “what a wonderful dancer” Hitler was. Hans wasn’t so demonstrative but he did insist ‘der Fuhrer’ was misunderstood.

A few years later, on my first day of film school in Tampa, Florida, all the buzz was about one instructor, Karl who was a former Luftwaffe pilot in WWII. All the Jewish students were anxious about taking his classes.

Not to worry, Karl, though as severe in countenance as his reputation would suggest, never betrayed any prejudice against any group or individual. He treated everyone with the same superior disdain in keeping with his perfectionist temperament. Considering the styles of some of the other instructors, Karl was consistent, predictable and a purveyor of solid technical information.

Karl also had a dry sense of humor. At least that is how we chose to see it. A fellow student, Bill, once drew Karl into sharing some personal history with us. He was pressed into the German military service as a young teenager and trained to fly a reconnaissance plane, which were unarmed. He spoke tersely of getting captured when a British squadron of fighter planes came out of the clouds and forced him to land.

Bill asked, “But since your plane could fly higher and faster than theirs, couldn’t you have escaped?” Karl gave Bill a look that would unnerve a hawk and delivered a perfect Teutonic response. “You never retreat.” For years we would quote him with our best approximation of his German accent.

Karl came to the United States when he was released from the POW camp. He never looked back.

Years later, in Los Angeles, I worked for his niece, Karola. When I interviewed with her for the job, hearing her last name, her accent, and seeing those familiar features, I knew she could be no one else’s kin. It was an unusual application of my ‘old school tie’.

In the ‘80s, I edited a ‘sword and sorcery’ flick in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a popular genre then. Before going there, all I knew about Argentina was their ‘open door,’ non-extradition policy that welcomed Nazis escaping prosecution after WWII. Mad Magazine always poked fun at their pompous, latter day fascism.

While visiting the set one day, the studio photographer approached me and introduced himself as Juan Schultz, in a curious, German/Spanish accent. In conspiratorial tones, he told me proudly about his being Hitler’s staff photographer. He claimed he documented Hitler meeting Mussolini, and shaking hands with the Pope. He challenged my disbelief with insistent defensiveness. Alas, photographic proof was lost in his hasty exit from Germany.

He escaped to Argentina and changed his name after the war, like many others, to avoid prosecution. He was well on in years, and it could have been true. A shame about that proof.

I’ll never understand why anyone would brag about that, even if true. It is hardly the stuff one puts on their resume. Or, at least I wouldn’t. But in Buenos Aires, it seemed to open many doors.

People cannot keep dark secrets from the light. The same qualities of character that lead us into dark actions, are those which cause us to proudly broadcast them.

My co-worker Hans was an Al Bundy type, nostalgic for the glory days of that game winning touchdown. How could condemning something so glorious be anything but the result of a misunderstanding?

Karl was not nostalgic. He was no ideologue. As anyone would, he pursued opportunities to forge a new life in his adopted country. But he didn’t trade on his past.

Juan was the oddest one. While successfully escaping responsibility for his participation in infamy, he also made his fortune from those associations. And within the right context, he burnished his reputation from his sordid past.

These three men are familiar types. Not specific to one time or place, they are found throughout humanity. We each find ourselves carried by the currents of history. How we choose to respond to those forces is what is telling.

 

 

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