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Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
 
While there are other, more tragic matters happening in the world, such as the recovery from this week's tsunami in Southeast Asia. But with a body count at 77,000 and rising, I can't even handle statistics that staggering (that's the entire population of my hometown times five). So instead I focus on smaller, more personal tragedies.

And one emerged yesterday as John Beane, the artistic director of Fullerton's Insurgo Theater Movement, announced that the company is taking a six-month sabbatical while they find a new performance space. While I do not doubt that they will be able to secure a new location, the tone of the announcement was rather somber.

Insurgo is a truly wonderful theater company. They had a variety of tastes in their projects, from lesser-known shows ("This Is Our Youth", "Jack and Jill") to reworkings of Shakespeare ("R3", "H", "Taming of the Shrew"), to stagings of popular literary works ("Dracula", "Wuthering Heights"), to original pieces ("Loaded", "Heaven's Cafe"). It is probably the most eclectic company in Orange County, and whether their hiatus be for six-months or longer, they will be sorely missed.

Orange County theater is a difficult thing to maintain. The O.C. is a conservative spot in the normally liberal Southern California area, and most of the theaters that make money in this county produce easy, mainstream shows (Neil Simon and Andrew Lloyd Webber are the saints of these companies). Even edgier big theaters like Laguna Playhouse and South Coast Repertory are still pretty tame when compared to the theatre communities in Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.

Those truly liberal, edgy theaters - run by working class citizens with limited budgets - deal with original or lesser-known works, and several of the theater owners have trouble promoting these projects. As such, the audience turnout is generally low.

The problem is, those audiences that clamor for the mainstream do not realize that they are being robbed. They give those theaters their money to see something that they have seen before. It does not challenge them, it does not make them think. It just flashes shiny things in front of their eyes.

I beg you, all of you, go see some theater. Some GOOD theater. Stay away from theaters that have the word "Community" in their name. Renounce the outdated bilge that is Neil Simon. There are several small theaters in Orange County that are producing unconventional shows that will excite and stimulate you in ways that you never thought possible. Here are four such companies:

Hunger Artists - I know I talk endlessly about this company, but it is for a reason. In my opinion, no other company in this county comes up with as good of theatre, has more interesting fundraiser or is able to juggle the balance between the original and the accessible like they do. This past year, they produced "How I Learned to Drive", "Assassins", an updating of the "Medea" tale and the West Coast premiere of "The Gog/Magog Project".

Maverick Theater - The tragedy of Maverick was the predecessor to that of Insurgo. They had a lush location at an outdoor mall in Orange, which was great for selling tickets. Meanwhile, they could vary crowd-pleasers and classics like "Romeo & Juliet" and "The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" with more original works like "The King" and a Nazi Germany adaptation of "Frankenstein".

Rude Guerrilla - No other theater in Orange County is more consistently shocking than these guys. No subject is taboo, and no social abnormality has gone unexamined. They are known for their quality productions of Mark Ravenhill and Sarah Kane works, and actually broke into the Los Angeles theatre scene this past year.

STAGEStheatre - Stages does lesser-known plays, like their stellar production of "Red Noses", and originals, including the works of Joel Beers, and they know how to make a show look good. Good casts, good directors, great sets. They know how to make a show look as professional as small theater can get.

So go see a show. See several of them for 2005. Find a theater that you like and donate to them. Audition for a show. Help build sets. Do something to help what is the greatest and fastest-dying art form known to man. It will change your life, I promise you.

Monday, December 27, 2004
 
I wanted to write about my holidays, and how much nicer it is being in a relationship during the season. I also wanted to write about how I always seem to hate what they're writing while I'm writing it. But I realized I had nothing much to say about either of these subjects (both are simple facts that don't call for much exploration...at least not on Monday morning).

So instead, here are a couple of end-of-the-year lists (I'm sorry for all of the lists lately. When I'm writing a play, I tend to use all of my creative muscle on that. Maybe I'll abandon the project soon and get back to what I do best, mildly amusing blogs):

TEN BEST MOVIES OF 2004 (of the ones I've seen so far)...

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)

- Rarely is a film this original while being this accessible. It's hard to find someone who DOESN'T like this funny, emotional piece about the compromises we make for love.

2. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino)

- The stylish conclusion to Tarantino's epic not only neatly ties up all loose ends, but elevates the quality of Vol. 1 so that the two volumes put together equal the best film of the last five years.

3. Sideways (Alexander Payne)

- It's hard to find a flaw in this subtle, heartbreaking comedy about the time in your life when, like wine, you plateau and all shreds of reckless youth abandon you.

4. The Incredibles (Brad Bird)

- It's surprising just how delightful this latest Pixar offering is. From the animation to the voicework to the script to the musical score, everything is top-notch in this production.

5. The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci)

- There was no movie this year sexier than Bertolucci's snapshot of 1960's Paris, as a naive American tourist falls in love with an incestuous pair of twins. Any proud film fanatic needs to see this one.

6. Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston)

- Catalina Sandino Moreno gave this year's most notable breakthrough performance as a 17 year-old Colombian drug mule in Marston's arresting, brutal allegory, which was so convincing that I stopped thinking of it as a movie.

7. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk)

- An underappreciated gem. Ki-Duk's film is slow and meditative, its scenery lush, its ideas displayed in front of us, rather than shoved in our face. Because of that, it involved me more than most films are capable of doing.

8. Kinsey (Bill Condon)

- Not just a fascinating and revealing look at a controversial 20th century figure, but an interesting examination at the fine line between the excesses of conservatism and liberalism.

9. Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore)

- Strip away all of the controversies, all of the publicity and all of Michael Moore's ego, and you get a funny and astounding document revealing a presidential administration built almost entirely on secrets and lies.

10. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright)

- In terms of pure entertainment, "Shaun of the Dead" delivered better than any other film this year. Turning the zombie movie on its head, it was alternately touching, scary, and very, very funny.


TEN BEST ALBUMS OF 2004:

1. Nellie McKay - "Get Away From Me"

- The most astounding debut in a long time. McKay's eclectic, insanely catchy mix of songs - each infused with equal parts rage and wit - only get better with each subsequent listening.

2. Rufus Wainwright - "Want Two"

- Wainwright's opera-influenced melodies and lazy pronunciation reached its artistic peak with his fourth album, a beautiful, funny and haunting collection of heartbreaking tunes.

3. Brian Wilson - "SMiLE"

- Fans waiting over 35 years for this "Pet Sounds" follow-up were not disappointed. While keeping the "Good Vibrations" catchiness that made the Beach Boys famous, Wilson added several layers to this album that would have made it groundbreaking then, and still accessible now.

4. The Streets - "A Grand Don't Come For Free"

- Mike Skinner's brilliant second album centers around 1000 quid that has gone missing. In the process of finding it, he questions his friendships, his lifestyle and himself.

5. Bjork - "Medulla"

- While not as satisfying as "Homogenic" or "Vespertine", Bjork's latest - composed almost entirely with human voices - stands tall above most of the year's offerings.

6. Beastie Boys - "To the 5 Burroughs"

- In this amazing album, the Beastie Boys return to their "Licensed to Ill" roots while infusing their songs with the maturity that comes with age. It's a potent combination.

7. Modest Mouse - "Good News For Those Who Love Bad News"

- Modest Mouse's wild, yelling vocals are more focused and musical in this justly celebrated, instantly catchy album.

8. The Mooney Suzuki - "Alive & Amplified"

- The friend who recommended this to me said simply, "This really rocks", and how right he was. The album contains a sound that is simultaneously familiar and original, and "Alive & Amplified" is one of the year's best songs.

9. Loretta Lynn - "Van Lear Rose"

- Lynn was wise in hiring Jack White as her latest producer. He dusted her off and dressed her up in an album that is both appealing to older fans and newer listeners.

10. Franz Ferdinand - "Franz Ferdinand"

- In terms of sheer catchiness, Franz Ferdinand's first CD has it in spades. This is an album that begs to be listened to repeatedly and sung along with.


TEN BEST LOCAL THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS OF 2004 (of all the productions that I saw, which honestly weren't many):

1). "Topdog/Underdog" (Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles) - Under George C. Wolfe's direction and a stellar two-man cast, Suzan Lori-Parks' numerous themes shone brighter than any other theatrical production I had ever seen.

2). "The Sandwich Conscience" (12th Annual Young Playwrights Festival at The Blank Theatre, Los Angeles) - 19 year-old Yelena Moskovich's script, a one-man show about a Vietnam vet fighting for sanity while making a sandwich, is a brutal, original signal of a new theatrical voice that is destined for greatness.

3). "Mr. Marmalade" (South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa) - Another interesting new voice is Noah Haidle, whose play, involving a four year-old girl who takes her imaginary relationship much too far, boasted moments both funny and chilling and the year's best performance from Eliza Pryor Nagel.

4). "Cold/Tender" (Theatre @ Boston Court, Pasadena) - A play filled with big ideas, Cody Henderson's piece, revolving around three different couples all linked by political intrigue, is a funny and fascinating look at the consequences of being in a certain place at a certain time.

5). "Red Noses" (StagesTheatre, Fullerton) - More than the solid ensemble cast, tight direction or excellent lead performance from Mark Palkoner, this production boasted something I didn't see from any other small theatre show this year: Everyone involved seemed to really believe in the themes of the piece they were a part of.

6). "Roscoe Spitzer Is Afraid of Dying" (StagesTheatre, Fullerton) - Joel Beers' twist on the selling the soul to the devil for fame says a lot of interesting things about the state of modern music, the pharmaceutical industry and theatre in general.

7). "Brooklyn Boy" (South Coast Repertory) - Despite some predictability, and a less-than-great lead performance by Adam Arkin, this was still an engaging show that showed off Donald Marguiles' talent for writing incredible dialogue.

8). "The Importance of Being Earnest" (Hunger Artists, Fullerton) - Director Kelly Flynn took one of the greatest English comedies ever written, boiled it down to a nice, tight 90 minutes, and set it in 1960's London, turning the overproduced Wilde play into something new and fresh.

9). "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (Old Globe Theatre, San Diego) - This show exists for no other reason than to be a lot of fun. So it's a fortunate thing that it is. A game cast and a lively score make it a good (though not great) musical comedy.

10). "Heathen Valley" (Elephant Asylum, Los Angeles) - A mostly-solid cast and astounding direction from Darin Anthony elevates this mediocre play about the attempt to reform a town of sinners into an exciting campfire story.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
 
One of the perks of my new living situation is that, being a wannabe computer whiz, I live with two actual computer whizzes, who have been able to outfit my computer with some wonderful bells and whistles.

Perhaps the greatest of all of these are "emulators" that let me play non-PC games on my computer. I currently have hundreds of games, taken straight from the arcades of my youth, now available for playing on my computer. For the past few days, I have been rediscovering the joy that I got in grade school, feeding quarters to such treasures like "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", "The Simpsons", "X-Men", "Star Wars" (the 80's version with the lines) and "Michael Jackson's Moonwalker" (I just realized that most of my favorite games are licensed from already established franchises. I was quite the commercial bastard when I was young).

One of the games that I revisited was "Mortal Kombat". For those of you unfamiliar (and if you are, where were YOU in '92?), "Mortal Kombat" (or "MK", for those of us in the know) was a one- to two-player fighter game, in which the main goal was to basically beat the shit out of whoever you were playing with.

It was a pretty innovative game for several reasons. The characters were digitized, which made them look more realistic than your average video game character. It had an absurd plot, involving a mystic fighting tournament, and it offered a cast of characters that seemed to come straight out of various 80's movies like "Bloodsport" and "Big Trouble in Little China". This was a game that knew it was a bad kung-fu film, and loved every minute of it.

The distinctive factor of the game, however, was its creepiness. Unlike the colorful and comparatively light "Street Fighter II" - with its minimal blood and near-comical cast of characters - "Mortal Kombat" was steeped in brooding music and shadows. Just getting to the character selection screen and choosing which menacing, lifelike being I would assume would send chills down my spine when I was ten years old.

And then there was the violence. At the end of the each match, the winner would was commanded to "finish" their opponent, who stood dazed in front of them. They were then given the option of mutilating the loser in truly horrific ways (personal favorites of mine were pulling the head and spine from the rest of the body, pulling out the still-beating heart, or the always-popular uppercut into the pit of spikes).

Before getting it on my computer a few days ago, I never owned the game (my parents would never let that kind of shameless violence in their house, for reasons that seem fairly reasonable to be now, though not then). Being forced to only play the game on the sly at the local arcade, it became an unattainable thing of desire for me. I would see it at a game store, and wish that it would somehow grow legs, walk to my house and hide in my room. I would get in debates with my parents over its content, citing that it was merely a piece of entertainment that was no more damaging to my notions of violence and death than Looney Tunes or Ninja Turtles (an argument that, at the age of ten, was condensed to "C'mon, it's not that bad!").

Being such a significant part of my childhood, I of course turned to it almost immediately upon receiving it. Not having played it for many years, I was struck by how flawed the game is. While the atmosphere is every bit as good as I remembered, the controls are somewhat clunky and it feels at times like it was slapped together.

And yet...I can't help but love it. "Street Fighter II" is, in almost every way, superior as a game, and yet I keep returning to "MK".

I've noticed this as a trend that has been occurring with me lately. At a DVD store last night, I almost bought a copy of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids", a movie I loved when I first saw it at the age of eight. Last night I watched some of the Superman cartoons that the Max Fleischer studios made in the 1940's, a cartoon that I watched on video as a kid.

There are various things that, because they are so steeped in my childhood, I cannot possibly dislike, no matter how bad they may be. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze" will continue to be a great film, with breakthrough performances from Ernie Reyes, Jr. and Super Shredder. No amount of "Hook"-bashing will convince me that it's anything less than the perfect allegory of lost childhood. "Animaniacs" is, was and always will be the epitome of deconstructing the madness of pop culture.

What amazes me is how much my childhood stays with me, even when I change. I no longer embrace the beliefs that I had as a kid (cartoonish violence in games makes me uneasy, and I now lean toward the weightier, cause-and-effect violence of "Grand Theft Auto" and the like), and yet those beliefs stay with me.

The older I get, the more it seems I try to remember the things that I loved as a kid (I'm working on getting copies of "The Oregon Trail" and "Math Blaster"). So many negative influences in my life (alcohol, traffic, steady employment, financial anxieties) rob me of the innocence that I once had, so this is the way to warp back to a time when a great tragedy was the guy who took over my character on "The Simpsons" after I lost, even though I saved up a dollar in quarters specifically so I could get a high score and put my initials in.

And now, since I remembered that there was a "Hook" video game, I'm going to play that now, too. Viva la adolescence!

P.S. I realized last night why I wait until the last minute to buy Christmas gifts. It's not so much out of procrastination as it is my enjoyment of the thrill of the hunt. Last night, having completed most of my shopping, I had a feeling of accomplishment much more satisfying than if I had completed all of my shopping early.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
 
Driving for six hours through some of Interstate 5's more spacious locations (who knew California still had beautiful scenery...and flowing traffic?).

Having a crying infant quiet down when held in your arms.

Playing "Dance Dance Revolution" with an old high school friend.

Finding out "First Blood" is actually a pretty good movie (Surprise .1: Stallone's not as bad an actor as I thought. Surprise .2: A spectacular shot involving a helicopter, a sniper and a tree. Surprise .3: Is that Brian Dennehy?).

Listening to Suzan Lori-Parks read (and sing) her debut novel, "Getting Mother's Body".

Trying to figure out how to pay for gas when my Mobil Card is rejected ($300 limit? Lame!).

A town called Buttonwillow (what do you bet they're a hospitable little place, rundown and proud?).

Al Pacino saying "I want my fucking juman rights!" in "Scarface" (I don't understand why "Say hello to my little friend" is the famous line from that movie when there are ten million better quotes, the best being "Hey, pelicans!").

Finally getting the lines memorized for the "Barefoot in the Park" scene I'm doing for Hunger Artist's Last Chance Fest (www.hungerartists.com/last.htm. Shameless plug).

Staying away from politics and news for four days (except for one political debate with aforementioned friend, who, despite voting for Bush, shares a lot of my beliefs).

Countless text messages from Brey.

A couple of wonderful gifts waiting for me when I get home.

This is what makes up a good weekend.

Before I left for my trip up to Seaside, my sister and I attended a special screening of "Maria Full of Grace", followed by a Q & A with the writer/director and lead actress. First off, it's an amazing film about drug mules in Colombia, which is an issue I knew next to nothing about. It's a brutal, astounding story that makes me realize that all of my problems right now are total bullshit.

It was also an interesting experience watching Catalina Sandino Moreno give an amazing performance on a movie screen, and then suddenly seeing her in person. She said that was her first film role, and before that she only did community theatre. Miracles happen, people.

Speaking of movies, the Golden Globe nominations came out yesterday, which is exciting to hardcore film nerds like me. The Golden Globes are like the funnier, more likable little brother to the Academy Awards. They usually give notice to films that Oscar wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

This year's nominations are a really good batch. Jamie Foxx is nominated for no less than three awards (two movie, one TV). A big congrats to Uma Thurman for her nomination in "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" (how come the Golden Globes are the only ones that realize how incredible her performances in those movies really were?). "Sideways" was given a ton of nominations, all deserved, and surprisingly, the Best Picture Musical or Comedy category has no throwaway nominations like in previous years ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", "The Incredibles", "Ray" and "Sideways", all really good films).

Anyway, here are the nominations:

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
"The Aviator"
"Closer"
"Finding Neverland"
"Hotel Rwanda"
"Kinsey"
"Million Dollar Baby"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
Scarlett Johansson - "A Love Song For Bobby Long"
Nicole Kidman - "Birth"
Imelda Staunton - "Vera Drake"
Hilary Swank - "Million Dollar Baby"
Uma Thurman - "Kill Bill, Vol. 2"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE - DRAMA
Javier Bardem - "The Sea Inside"
Don Cheadle - "Hotel Rwanda"
Johnny Depp - "Finding Neverland"
Leonardo DiCaprio - "The Aviator"
Liam Neeson - "Kinsey"

BEST MOTION PICTURE - MUSICAL OR COMEDY
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
"The Incredibles"
"Ray"
"Sideways"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE - MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Annette Bening - "Being Julia"
Ashley Judd - "De-Lovely"
Emmy Rossum - "The Phantom of the Opera"
Kate Winslet - "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
Renee Zellweger - "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE -MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Jim Carrey - "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
Jamie Foxx - "Ray"
Paul Giamatti - "Sideways"
Kevin Kline - "De-Lovely"
Kevin Spacey - "Beyond the Sea"

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
"The Chorus (Les Choristes)" (France)
"House of Flying Daggers" (China)
"The Motorcycle Diaries" (Brazil)
"The Sea Inside" (Spain)
"A Very Long Engagement" (France)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Cate Blanchett - "The Aviator"
Laura Linney - "Kinsey"
Virginia Madsen - "Sideways"
Natalie Portman - "Closer"
Meryl Streep - "The Manchurian Candidate"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
David Carradine - "Kill Bill, Vol. 2"
Thomas Haden Church - "Sideways"
Jamie Foxx - "Collateral"
Morgan Freeman - "Million Dollar Baby"
Clive Owen - "Closer"

BEST DIRECTOR - MOTION PICTURE
Clint Eastwood - "Million Dollar Baby"
Marc Forster - "Finding Neverland"
Mike Nichols - "Closer"
Alexander Payne - "Sideways"
Martin Scorsese - "The Aviator"

BEST SCREENPLAY - MOTION PICTURE
Charlie Kaufman - "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
John Logan - "The Aviator"
David Magee - "Finding Neverland"
Patrick Marber - "Closer"
Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor - "Sideways"

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE - MOTION PICTURE
Clint Eastwood - "Million Dollar Baby"
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek - "Finding Neverland"
Rolfe Kent - "Sideways"
Howard Shore - "The Aviator"
Hans Zimmer - "Spanglish"

BEST ORIGINAL SONG - MOTION PICTURE
"Accidentally in Love" - "Shrek 2"
"Believe" - "The Polar Express"
"Learn to Be Lonely" - "The Phantom of the Opera"
"Million Voices" - "Hotel Rwanda"
"Old Habits Die Hard" - "Alfie"

Wednesday, December 08, 2004
 
London, I have my sights set on you.

I'm looking at the listing of current Broadway shows, and here's where it stands:

Revival of a Musical: 5 shows
One-person shows: 6 shows
Revival of a play: 3 shows
New play: 2 shows
New musical: 3 shows
New musicals that have been playing for over a year and therefore aren't so new: 9 shows

Now that's not very good. 17 musicals to 11 plays. Not that all musicals are bad, but most of them are overrated, while the really good ones ("Assassins", "Caroline or Change") close early. Meanwhile, most of the musicals currently playing are the standards we've all grown to know and love and then hate ("Beauty and the Beast", "The Lion King", "Phantom", etc.), and most of the plays are one-person shows (a.k.a. two-hour stand-up routines).

But just when you thought that was bad, here's the lineup for the rest of the season:

Musical adaptation of previous works: 10 shows
Revival of a play: 10 shows
Revival of a musical: 6 shows
One person-show: 3 shows
New play transferred from England: 3 shows
New American play: 3 shows
New musical: 2 shows

Now that's insane. It would have been good news that the incoming plays outnumber the musicals...IF MOST OF THEM WEREN'T FREAKING REVIVALS OR STAND-UP ROUTINES!!! Seriously, are we that hard up for new voices? Are we so desperate that we have to stage no less than two Neil Simon plays (three if you count "Sweet Charity", which he wrote the book for)? Do you need already established source material to get a producer to fund your musical now? And why is that the four new American plays this season (yes, only four out of the sixty-five shows to play this season) are all from well-established writers (John Patrick Shanley, Donald Marguiles, Elaine May and August Wilson)? I know that there are incredible new playwrights out there. I keep losing competitions to them. So why aren't they being represented on the Great White Way?

I've pretty much given up on Broadway. When the best New York audiences are going to get is "Brooklyn Boy", a well-written but exceedingly predictable play, something is rotten in the state of New York. Now I'm looking toward London. True, they have their fair share of cheesy musicals ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", anyone?). But they're much more about good drama there. After all, this is the place that gave us Sarah Kane, Michael McDonagh and Caryl Churchill.

I'm convinced that London is the place to go if you want to do well as an up-and-coming playwright nowadays. So that, along with Los Angeles and Orange County, is the place where I'm going to try for a production. Royal Court Theatre, I'm coming after your ass! You said "American Way" showed great promise, so now I'm never gonna leave you alone!

In related news, I'm in a show. But Jeremy, say you, weren't you just rejected for a show yesterday? Why, yes, observant reader. I was feeling down after not getting "This Is Our Youth", and despite a request from the director, I couldn't do "Othello" at Hunger Artists for personal reasons (I would have been working with someone who has long worn out their welcome with me).

So then Ms. Darcy Hogan and Mr. Jason Lythgoe, two very talented local performers, convinced me to go along to an audition of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" that they were doing in La Habra. My original thought was, "Do I really want to do 'Joseph'? I've been doing all of this really amazing theatre for the past six months, and now I'm going for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical?"

And then I thought, "Fuck, yeah! Why not? I haven't done a musical in a while, especially one with dancing, so why the hell shouldn't I go for 'Joseph'?" I've been in "Joseph" before and it was the most fun show I had ever been in.

Besides, I thought it would be interesting to go from "Assassins" ("What do you do? You do what you have to do. You kill the President!"; died by electric chair), to "The Gog/Magog Project" ("There will be a revolution, and theater will not survive! It is you who have destroyed it, you self-serving sons of bitches who can't abide to hear one thing you don't already agree with!"; died by hanging), to "Madame Guignol's Hellhouse" ("You will accept Jesus as your savior, or I will drown you like a fucking rat!"; died by stabbing) to "Joseph" ("Go, go, go Joseph, you know what they say/Hang on now Joseph, you'll make it some day/Sha la la Joseph, you're doing fine/You and your dreamcoat ahead of your time!"; no deaths).

So I went and auditioned for it last night. One day later, I'm one of the brothers and the Pharoah (who has the show's best song, an Elvis-style recounting of his dreams). So yeah! I'm in "Joseph" again, baby! I'm gonna have fun with that.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004
 
Sorry in advance for the pissy mood. I didn't get the role in "This Is Our Youth". I'm extremely excited for my sister, who did get in the show. But I am also disappointed, as you can imagine. When it comes to shows like that and "Equus" (which I auditioned for last summer and did not get), it's almost a hopeless feeling, because those shows rarely get produced around here, and I'm just the right age for both. So there's a very good chance that I will never get to play those roles. But I was getting a lot of roles and a lot of people have been asking me to be in their shows, so I think this was good for me. Like Walt Disney said, "A kick in the teeth can be the best thing in the world for you."

Still, I'm really crabby, and being at work doesn't help. First off, everyone keeps talking about the holiday party that we had on Saturday. "Did you have a good time at the party? How long did you stay at the party? What did you think of the party?" I'm sorry, but the holiday party never has been all that great. Granted, it was worlds better this year, because they put it at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. I was saved from the agony of mingling with people I see every day - and watching them get drunker and sadder as the night went on - by some really interesting exhibits of aquatic life (which I've always felt is like alien life. Where else on earth are you going to see something like a jellyfish or a manta ray?).

It was also quite interesting to watch schools of fish as they all mindlessly swam in a circle, and then watch the same kind of telekinetic meandering from the people on the dance floor. But I grew tired (both of the party, and tired in general) and left early. And now I'm not hearing the end of it. "When did you leave? Why did you leave so early? Were you not having a good time?" Remember, the party was last Saturday night. Today is Tuesday. I was pretty much over the party after having told the third person about flashlight fish (which I've decided I want a tank of).

And as if I wasn't already a smidge cantankerous, a co-worker of mine, who has the unique ability to beat a jest into the ground until it goes from mildly amusing to extremely annoying, starts teasing me about my girlfriend. So this is the official record for those who don't know, just so that I can put an end to this:

- Yes, I am dating a wonderful young woman who is, in age only, seventeen.
- Yes, her mother approves of me.
- Yes, we are staying within the boundaries of the law.
- Yes, she has a name (Brey).
- Yes, I'm extremely happy, the happiest I've been in a very long time.

So please stop acting like town gossips.

Please stop using the phrase "robbing the cradle".

Please stop giving me looks like "I never knew this dark side of you" (I am not a criminal), or "Way to go, tiger" (she is not a conquest).

And please, PLEASE stop telling me to "be careful", as if she's going to turn around and claim statutory rape on me. I don't bring up the possibility that your wife could steal your money and run off with your best friend, so show me the same respect.

*WHEW*

Okay, I feel much better now. Venting is good.

Monday, December 06, 2004
 
First off, my heart goes out to those those injured and the families of those killed in the invasion of the U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia. It is the ultimate symbol of the unrest that al-Qaeda feels about the relationship that the corrupt government of the United States holds with the corrupt government of Saudi Arabia. The sad thing is most people in this country won't see it as such, because they don't know any better.

My heart also goes out to the protestors in Kiev, Ukraine, who were unrelenting in their unwillingness to stand up for a rigged election supporting a corrupt president. Unfortunately, it resulted in less than satisfactory results, and I can only hope that their revote wields is treated with more fairness and civility than their last election.

Okay, now it's time for a massive subject jump. *SCREECH* *DOWNSHIFT* *VROOOOOM!!!*

When it comes to acting in a show, I love everything about it except for one thing: the waiting period between auditioning and finding out if you are cast or not. I mentioned in the last post that I was trying out for "This Is Our Youth", the exceedingly well-written play by Kenneth Lonergan. Well, there is a decent chance that I will get the lead role. There's also a decent chance that I will not. It depends on a couple of factors that are too complex to put here.

So I will find out about the results sometime between right now and tomorrow afternoon. The cell phone is in my pocket, and I am waiting anxiously for it to ring. I can hardly function during these periods. I expect every phone call to be the director and I'm on edge when it isn't. It's always at these points where I don't even care if I get in the show or not, I just want to know. I can't stand that the director has a secret that affects me.

There was one more thing that I wanted to talk about, but it escapes me now. Typical Monday morning, I guess. Well, then, that's all I got. Sorry.

Thursday, December 02, 2004
 
It's that time of year again! Awards season! This is where I become a humongous hypocrite. I know that awards ceremonies are overblown, pretentious ceremonies that contribute to the idolatry of celebrities that I so despise.

And yet, I love watching, predicting and taking stats on awards ceremonies. I have since I was very young. I keep tabs on all of the movie awards ceremonies, the Tony's, the Grammy's, the LA Ovation Awards and the OC Weekly Theater Awards. I have lists of upcoming Broadway shows, rave reviews in various publications, notable performances, etc.

Now, the official start of the movie awards season happened yesterday, when the National Board of Review gave their annual awards show. They are as follows:

TEN BEST FILMS: "Finding Neverland" (Marc Forster)
"The Aviator" (Martin Scorsese)
"Closer" (Mike Nichols)
"Million Dollar Baby" (Clint Eastwood)
"Sideways" (Alexander Payne)
"Kinsey" (Bill Condon)
"Vera Drake" (Mike Leigh)
"Ray" (Taylor Hackford)
"Collateral" (Michael Mann)
"Hotel Rwanda" (Terry George)
BEST DIRECTOR: Michael Mann - "Collateral"
BEST ACTOR: Jamie Foxx - "Ray"
BEST ACTRESS: Annette Bening - "Being Julia"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Thomas Haden Church - "Sideways"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Laura Linney - "Kinsey"
BEST ENSEMBLE ACTING: "Closer" (Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: "Sideways"
BEST ANIMATED FILM: "The Incredibles"
BEST FOREIGN FILM: "The Sea Inside"
BEST DOCUMENTARY: "Born Into Brothels"

I feel this is going to be Jamie Foxx's year. Whether he deserves it or not, I can't be sure. I have not seen the movie yet, though I would very much like to (along with "Kinsey", "Finding Neverland", "The Polar Express", "House of Flying Daggers", "The Machinist", "Closer" and several other films coming out in the next few weeks). I was also disappointed to not find "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" on the Top 10 List (and to see Annette Bening, whose acting style screams "I deserve an OSCAR!" win over Uma Thurman's incredible unpretentious performance in "Kill Bill, Vol. 2").

I think my fascination with awards shows is that I do not have "trends" that I am able to follow, whether in fashion, cars, sports or the stock market. But I do have the world of theatre, music and film. I find out who the hot new voices are, and what the cool old voices are still saying. Thursdays and Fridays my days to check the theater sections of OC Weekly, LA Weekly and New York Times.

Well, Jeremy - you are saying to yourself right now, I'm sure - you seem rather obsessive about meaningless awards shows. You wouldn't happen to have one yourself, would you? And if you did, you wouldn't be able to share with me what your picks would be, would you?

Well - I reply to you - yes, and yes...

2004 GABLE ACE AWARDS

BEST PICTURE: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
BEST DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry - "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
BEST ACTOR: Paul Giamatti - "Sideways"
BEST ACTRESS: Uma Thurman - "Kill Bill, Vol. 2"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Alfred Molina - "Coffee & Cigarettes", "Spiderman 2"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Virginia Madsen - "Sideways"
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST: "Sideways"
BEST BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE: Bryce Dallas Howard - "The Village"
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: "Sideways"
BEST ANIMATED FILM: "The Incredibles"
BEST FOREIGN FILM: "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring"
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: "The Saddest Music in the World"
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: "The Saddest Music in the World"
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: "The Saddest Music in the World"
BEST ART DIRECTION: "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow"
BEST SOUND: "The Incredibles"
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: "Spiderman 2"
BEST MAKEUP: "Hellboy"
BEST SOUNDTRACK: "Kill Bill, Vol. 2"
WORST ENDING: "Open Water"

Yeah, I'm an obsessive hypocrite. Bet you didn't know that about me before reading this, did you?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
 
My sister recently read a magazine article that published a poem written by Britney Spears. As you know, Ms. Spears is an accomplished and versatile singer and dancer (and when I say "accomplished and versatile", I of course mean "overpraised and vapid"). However, she has not been known for her songwriting. According to my sister, this poem was proof as to why.

Apparently, she does not have the songwriting skills of Bob Dylan. Hell, she doesn't even have the songwriting skills of Bob Vila. And yet, here she is a published poet. Her poem (which rhymed, by the way, because all good poems rhyme) was about all of the things she does in a day. It wasn't a message about the hectic life of a pop star, or an examination at the simultaneously frustrating and rewarding aspects of fame. Just a list. There's a line about her assistant doing something, a line about her makeup, etc.

This was what Britney Spears so desperately had to tell us. She doesn't get to express her true feelings through her songs, and so they stay bottled up. So finally she puts pen to paper, opening a portal into her inner most workings and feelings. And what does she give us? A to do list.

When my sister told me this, I was reminded of a time at my high school library (NERD ALERT!) where, for a laugh, I picked up Kathie Lee Gifford's autobiography. The first page I turned to had - you'll never guess - a poem! This one had a message to it, and that message was basically "My new son is a treat!" It was basically talking about having a new baby, and how lovely he is. Not a bad idea for a poem, but...Actually, yeah, that is a bad idea for any poem that isn't on a greeting card.

But Jeremy, you may ask, did the poem rhyme? And to that I answer your question with a question. If you were Kathie Lee Gifford and you were going to write a poem about your newly born son, do you think you would actually be able to stop yourself from making it rhyme? I didn't think so.

Now while it's good that they are trying to broaden their horizons, I think that they should keep the poems to themselves until they accelerate past the eighth grade level. Just like how I'd object to Alex Trebek dropping a hip-hop album or Hilary Duff performing surgery on me ("Unless it was ORAL surgery! Huh huh huh! Ow, yeah!" This frat boy moment was brought to you by Mattel).

A different example of this is at Disneyland. In one Main Street shop, they sell train whistles. On the whistle is the following quote from Walt Disney himself: "I've always had a love of trains."

I'm sorry, but I don't think I'll be seeing that in "The Quotable Walt Disney" any time soon. More likely in the "Quotes Walt Disney Said In Meaningless Conversations And Magazine Interviews" volume. Disney was a pretty decent philosopher who had many insightful things to say in his lifetime. That was not of them. And yet it is treated with some sort of importance.

I know that I talk a lot about the insane amounts of praise that celebrities get, but it never ceases to amaze me. Britney Spears and Kathie Lee Gifford are probably the worst published poets to graduate from high school, and a passing train endorsement from a great man gets stamped on a product.

It makes me wonder if it's possible for an A-list celebrity to say something stupid. I don't mean controversial, just dumb. Besides the celebrities that are notorious for saying dumb things (Jessica Simpson and our President come immediately to mind), I can't think of people talking about that really dumb thing that one big celebrity said. I'd be willing to bet that if Brad Pitt said, "I never learned how to read, nor did I ever WANT to learn how to read," people would respond with "How brave he is."

I do like the idea of becoming a famous actor and writer. However, I never want to get famous to the point where I say "I love spaghetti" and then see it printed on a box of Barilla. In fact, I wrote a poem about it:

Tell me why does Britney Spears
Print poems for all to see?
Does she not know that they are bad?
It's baffling to me.

So she is now a famous poet
Because she's in show biz.
And yet most people do not know
Who Billy Collins is.

I bet if Britney wrote a script
They'd take it to Broadway.
And yet few people went to see
My superhero play.

Disney says that he likes trains.
They put that on a whistle.
Yet no one cares that I like trains.
It makes my back hairs bristle.

If I wrote something meaningless,
A blurb bursting with brevity,
Would that be all I'd need to do
To be the next celebrity?

Also, on a not-really-related note, they are playing Christmas music at my work right now. Now, I like Christmas music probably more than I should (since I don't have a religion. I'm the Hypocritical Agnostic!), but I object to playing music based around one specific holiday in stores, restaurants and other public places (especially holidays that have that religion's central figure in the name). I think it's rude to those who do not celebrate Christmas. As if to say "Sorry Jewish/African/Atheist guy, but our religion kicks your religion's ass!"

Am I the only one who feels this way?


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