Monday, June 30, 2014

The Gall

I was watching the Steven Seagal movie "Fire Down Below" yesterday evening- you know, as a kind of a nightcap. I'm not quite sure why I went with that, except that I think I'd only seen parts of it on TV, and I'm interested in seeing more of his work to contrast with Chuck Norris. It's not the worst as Seagal films go. He certainly got worse in the years to come, even if he'd been better before. It's really not that bad. It's perfectly watchable.

Two notable things are the music (which is very Kentucky, as far as I can tell) and the heavy use of sepia tone pictures in the opening and closing credits. I've got to believe that there's more to the Appalachian region than the one kind of music and a very backwards-looking perspective. It seems very reductive and insulting, the way Fire Down Below depicts things. Nobody seems to have televisions or radios, let alone computers or anything truly modern.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tumor Movies

I saw a couple of so-called classics last night as part of a campaign to try and knock out some of those that I have not gotten to. Honestly, I don't think one of them is really called a classic, but it's lumped in on account of being a sequel to one that is. "Caddyshack 2" is the dubious one, and "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" is the other. It's mildly interesting to contrast them, and I have no better ideas for what to write today.

We saw the latter of those films first, and boy is it long. I don't know of many comedies that had intermissions even when intermissions were something that happened, but this one's got an intermission. Not that there's any good reason for it being that long except that it was decided that every comic performer who lived at the time should be in the movie. Many of them, like the Three Stooges and Buster Keaton, appear for mere seconds. It's a frustrating, mainly unfunny movie.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Easy Does it

As I was fortunate enough to be in on a paid acting job the other day, it seems right to say something on the matter. Something that has occurred to me a number of times is that the difficulty level of paid acting work is not necessarily the greatest of anything a performer might do. It might be, of course, but there are plenty of occasions in which things one does for a class are considerably more challenging. This recent one bears that out, although I'm reluctant to discuss it in specific.

In improv class, the sort with which I have the most personal familiarity, there are things that test me from beginning to end. Even the warm-up exercises can be tough. There's a word association game which is meant to force you not to analyze your options before making a decision. You're given a word by the person on your left and must respond with the first thing in your head before continuing the cycle with the person on your left. The key is maintaining the rhythm. It's a scary game because of the ugly words that might come out because you're disabling your filter.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Couple Of Big Films

Yesterday I watched "Stripped To Kill 2: Live Girls". Having already seen "Stripped To Kill", I think I can offer some comment on them both. As you might guess, both concern murder and intrigue at strip clubs. In the original, a female cop must go undercover as a stripper in order to solve a string of murders that is claiming the lives of dancers. I must confess that this displays more concern for the lives of strippers than I suspect the police force has.

This movie shows as much as its successor the curious pattern of dancers making themselves very unlikable right before they are murdered. I fully believe that animosity amongst dancers exists behind the scenes at strip clubs, but the timing in these films is exceptional. Also exception is one particular moment in the movie where the undercover cop has chosen to end her undercover assignment and pursue the case through conventional means. Telling the strip club manager this, she's then convinced to do one last shift. That's more dedication to her fake job than I thought she'd have.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pissed, Narrowly Missed

I had a close call on Metro the other day. I believe I was heading home from somewhere, although now that I try to grasp them, the details of it all prove elusive. The point is that I had gone down to the platform of a subway station (I believe in Hollywood), and sat down against one of the columns there. For a while, there had not been a ton of incidents with unruly people there, and I guess I got complacent about that, not that my attitude matters.

This guy staggers by and plops himself down right next to me. He was eating from some kind of to go box,which I have to point out you're not supposed to do there, but I'll let that slide since he was also committing the more serious offense of being drunk in public. I found myself struck with fear over what he might do. I have no way of knowing whether this man is prone to violence, but at the very least he could have rendered me uncomfortable with inebriated conversation for some time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Something New, Something More

I had a notable meal late yesterday afternoon. Some friends and I went out rather on the spur of the moment in order to celebrate a happy professional development of mine, and it's common for us to hit a local sushi restaurant at such times. It's mostly been my modus operandi to order a few of the basic rolls (usually after quickly looking up the difference between hand and cut rolls), but I found myself remembering our last visit and something that happened during it.

A big group of us were there then, and I think we may have been marking the occasion of someone's birthday. The restaurant's staff was, understandably, tested by our numbers, and depended on us to say who was supposed to have which order as they brought it out. You wouldn't think it would be hard to know what order was mine, particularly given my above-stated penchant for certain items, but then that would mean you didn't know me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Overly Serious Reminiscence

I was thinking about being back in the sixth grade yesterday. It struck me that the people who I wanted so very much to like me then- the people who I tried with all my heart to befriend, with no success- were really nobody special at all. I say that not because I failed, which would suggest that to salve my feelings I am to this day misrepresenting good, fun people. Rather I say it because years later, it's easier to see things then objective. The hindsight helps.

I couldn't for the life of me say what ever became of those people. I do know a little about the people I was friendly with then, and they seem to be doing well. They were more the misfits. They were the inveterate genre movie fans, the guys who lived on Taco Bell. It was in sixth grade, I think, that I realized they were who I was.To that point I fancied myself some kind of athlete, fit to hang out with the cool kids. By the time I had gone on the middle school, I had wised up.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Not All Right At All

Yesterday's game between the US and Portugal was not satisfying at all. I went into it with the idea that America had a fantastic chance of winning and advancing to the next round (the nature of which I would learn just as soon as necessary), but I was chastened considerably at the game's beginning as the Portuguese scored easily in the face of some evidently poor American defense. I hoped that they'd be able to recover.

They did, regaining their wits, toughening their defense and scoring a pair of goals by midway through the second half. I was at this time quite sure once again that this game was, if not a sure thing, then at least nearly one. Both teams were quite fatigued by the heat, which is understandable considering we're talking about a stadium in the middle of the jungle. I'll never know who thought that would be a smart idea.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Par Tease Zone

Yesterday evening I was at a the birthday party of a friend. It was a good time. There was food, there were friends, there were games and there was a movie. It was a useful way to finish the day after one or two anxious experiences. Of course, the party itself is an anxious experience for me, and while it's more rewarding than going home and watching movies alone, it's also more fraught with peril. My attempts to evade that peril were a mixed bag.

I had bought hot dogs and buns earlier that day, meaning to eat them myself. It occurred to me at some point that I should bring something to the party, and it occurred to me that the hot dogs might fit the bill (more so than liquor, which I find is often oversupplied. Food and non-alcoholic drinks, meanwhile, are undersupplied often). I knew that the theme was tacos, and that cooking the hot dogs might be problematic, but I figured they'd still work out one way or another.

Steps

It's another day and another missed deadline, but tomorrow is another day. In any case, recent events turn my attention to the steps that result in booking an acting job. I can only speak for myself on the strength of my own limited experience, of course. If you're fortunate, you get in the room for an audition in the first place. Of all the people that want to, not many do. There's a casting office with this sign on the wall that says how many typically do (with the point being that you ought to have gratitude for getting as far as you do even if you don't get as far as you'd like).

If you do well in the audition, that's probably not the end of it, although I did book something after just one audition. That's atypical. More likely you get a callback. Instead of just one person in the room, you're facing several, and you may be called on to do more than you did in the first audition or to do something very different. It's a more nerve-wracking experience, although I think I'm getting better with repetition.

Friday, June 20, 2014

So I Say

I was with some people the other night, and we were all together to help a mutual friend test out some games he'd devised for a movies-based podcast (something which maybe I ought to have got off the ground myself by now). We played the games (a couple of which I won), drank a very little and ate some pizza. It was a good time, and it was a case of being very glad I'd made the decision to leave the house. It's funny to find that people don't see my great difficulty with socializing, but then I can see how you might miss it.

In any case, the night was not quite over. The host and mutual friend volunteered to give a guy a ride to the nearby train station (asking me to find something to play on the TV while waiting for his return- I opted for "Johnny Mnemonic"), and another few left, but some of us were content to hang out a little more. On his return, we interrupted the Keanu Reeves film and watched one called "The Taint". I hesitate to describe it in detail.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Death Of Journalism Of Death

A particularly sports journalist- Richard Durrett of ESPN- died the other day. As I'd never heard of him, I don't know why I clicked on the link to the first article I saw except that I imagined he was likely an old veteran who'd covered a lot of the big stories over the years, or at least those pertaining to Dallas, where he operated. I found instead that he was 38, and with widened eyes, I read on to learn what cause of death claimed him so young.

The article did not say, though it went on for nine paragraphs. Now, if you don't know why, you don't know, but it seems logical to me that you would say at some point that a cause of death was not established or announced immediately (or, as they would have said before the internet, 'as of press time'). I don't happen to think it's ever reasonable to ignore the cause of death, but it is least excusable when someone relatively young dies. I can guess for myself why an 85 year-old might have died, but a 38 year-old demands explanation.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ugh Again!

A little less than a month ago, I watched the Scott Baio classic "Zapped!" Really, I ought to have put classic in quotes considering the disturbing manner in which that film delivers its titillation (which, of course, is the reason for being of all 80's sex comedies). Baio, the school nerd, stumbles upon a formula for telekinesis and uses it exclusively to strip innocent women of their clothes. His love interest is fine with that, but bristles at his use of his powers for the comparatively moral purpose of unfairly influencing games of chance.

The sequel, "Zapped Again!", concerns a newcomer to the same school a few years later. He is not so much a nerd, and just happens to find Baio's formula hidden in the wall of the room used by the science club. The film plays out in mostly identical fashion, with the newcomer aggressively using his powers to expose women either to punish them for perceived crimes or merely to serve as some kind of distraction during critical moments. It's ugly stuff.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Turnaround

I watched the USA's first World Cup game yesterday. I was aware of it coming up and had some interest, my words to the contrary aside. In truth, soccer (the World Cup included) is like most things for me: in a vacuum, there's every chance that I'll enjoy it. In connection with other people, that is not so. Other people's involvement in anything is more likely to put me off than anything else, which is too bad. I feel badly about that. I'll own up to struggling with socializing, and that problem of mine leaves me less into any number of things.

I don't have a base level interest in the game, the event and the general prestige of my country in whatever form that takes. I certainly would rather the USA wins than loses, and the game isn't really so bad. If I understood it better, I'd like it better (since the long stretches between shots on goal would have some meaning for me), but I know enough, and it's kind of fun to watch the game. I wish some things about it were different, and I wish we could make it more our own (in such areas as the lingo, songs traditions & such(, but I kind of enjoy watching the game now and then.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bare Minimum

I have lately been on a real 80's sex comedy kick lately, and there are many out there to indulge myself in. The other night I was sorting through ones I had watched and ones I hadn't, finally coming up with a fresh one: "Recruits". This film, it turns out, was by the same director who was responsible for the "Screwballs" films, so the initial uncertainty I had as a result of the film's inordinately aged look in the opening scenes was unfounded.

In the film, the political leadership of a coastal town called "Clams Cove" decides that the police force is overworked, and a new unit must be formed to handle traffic offenses so that the main unit is free to handle tougher crime. The opportunistic police chief sees this as his opportunity to grab power, and he proceeds to deliberately form a unit composed of very sub-par recruits which will be unable to detect and foil his phony assassination plot against the mayor.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Worthless Story Of Cleaning

I've heard it said that it is an American thing to respond in times of crisis and to be neglectful when some preventive measure could be taken that would avert crisis. I don't know exactly how true that is, but it feels right. It applies some to me. I struggle to do what is necessary in small doses so that I don't have to do a whole lot of what is right all at once. I never manage to clean one dish. I always am cleaning a whole bunch at once after I've been asked a little less nicely than the last time.

This is the case for most domestic stuff. I recently managed to do my laundry and clean my room. It was a major action on par with the Normandy invasion for me because it had been so very long since I had done either. Casualties were, thankfully, kept to a minimum. I was thankful for that, because the laundry in particular threatened to inflict them. As most articles of clothing I owned had reached an unacceptable state of decrepitude, it was quite a weight that I had to lug down to the laundry room and back.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Rest Of The World's Game

The World Cup has been going for a couple days, and my interest level is at an all time low. I care specifically about the sport of soccer as little as I ever have. As I have said during attempts to take American sports overseas, it is fine by me if they never care about our games just like it should be OK by them if we never like their games, but for some reason there are people on either side of the ocean who bemoan this state of affairs with bizarre passion.

In the World Cup they make much of patriotic spirit. I do love my country and in theory wish for it to succeed at all endeavors, but I just don't value success in soccer enough for it to matter whether the US team does well or poorly. I feel as if there are more practical measures by which I would like for America to out-do other nations, most of them having to do with material prosperity in some way. Wouldn't it be nice if we beat the world at math aptitude?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Scandalous Film

The other day, I was watching a movie from one of my favorite sub-genres, the 80's sex comedy. It's called "Hamburger... The Motion Picture". I could write a whole essay on the title alone. You don't often see the title separated from a subtitle by elipses instead of a colon. One wonders if they are willfully leaving something out of the title but can't bring themselves to do so in secrecy. Then there's the curious move of going with the "motion picture" subtitle, which makes the most sense when you're adapting something. Was Hamburger a TV show?

The movie itself is both conventional and not. It concerns an impetuous young man who has been thrown out of four colleges for having too much sex. The troubling associations we would make with that idea are, I must assume, nothing they thought of in those days. He's just someone having too much fun at the expense of his studies, we're meant to understand. In any case, there just is no ordinary college that will take him, so naturally he turns to a hamburger chain training school.

Skip It!

Yesterday I managed to skip a day writing for this blog, which upsets me to an unreasonable degree. It is no longer as if I am breaking precedent, as there now have been several days since 2009 which have passed without a new post. That is still a pretty good record considering no one expects anything of me along these lines except myself. Those are the hardest circumstances under which to remain disciplined: when you know with virtual certainty that no one will know.

In any event, here I am today to get back on the horse. It seems an opportune time to consider changes. I could adopt a movie-reviewing format without costing myself readers. I have hardly any, and anyway I have been doing a lot of little reviews lately anyway. It's something I do feel enthusiasm for, and focusing on that would stand a reasonable chance of gaining me a lot of readers. I believe that people expect consistency, which I have always delivered, and a precise focus, which I never have.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Disappointed

People have a way of really messing up my enjoyment of things, movies especially. Yesterday, I finally watched "Top Gun", which I had known for years to be a very popular movie, but had never gotten to. I had, of course, long been aware of different bits of it that had become parts of broader pop culture, but never saw it firsthand. As part of a group initiative some friends and I have embarked on, I resolved to get to that.

It was a little disappointing. I guess that was to be expected. It had been built up so much that I don't see how it could live up to expectations. All those different bits that I'd been exposed to suggested something so incredible, and it wasn't the greatest thing of all time. It wasn't as bad as the many parodies made it out to be, but those undermined its impact on me more than they created something with which I would compare it favorably.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Not Bad

Last night I had a decent improv show. The whole day was interesting. There had been an incident near the apartment. A guy with a gun had led police on a high speed chase and holed up in a house a little over half a mile way, and so the neighborhood was a little on edge. The matter was resolved in a matter of a couple hours, but jangled nerves healed slowly. This was some concern, since the location of the show was even nearer to where things had happened than my home.

As it was, one would not have known anything about it, as normally as the show proceeded. It was a student showcase, and several classes at lower levels went very nicely before it was the turn of my own. My roommate as well as other friends and acquaintances handled themselves nicely. I admit that I have some difficulty in paying much attention, and we typically have to miss some of the action while warming up for our own performance, but the other classes did well.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Standards

I find myself very impatient with people. As flawed as I am, I can't take it for one second when people display the few frailties I don't have, and also the ones that I do have. Writing is one area that I like to consider a strength, and so when I see it done poorly, that really gets me. I don't happen to be perfect at writing. Lots of people are better at it, and even those who aren't have often made more of their gifts in that area than I, but I still am harsh in my judgment.

When I read scripts, it often bugs me to find that the grammar, spelling and formatting are all in terrible shape. Sometimes this is from people who aren't writing any better than I would expect them to speak, but sometimes it's people who I'd never guess write so poorly. I could find myself reading something that has some real promise to it (from a person who could express the idea verbally and leave me sensing no trouble) but get waylaid by the unfortunate manner in which it's expressed on the page.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

"Where's The Battlefield"

I finally got to one of those movies I think you've just got to see (if you want to have any comment on it, that is), the infamous John Travolta movie "Battlefield Earth". It made a big splash on release, with everyone lining up to take shots at it. I was as eager as anyone, but I never did see it and was not well informed enough to say anything terribly interesting about it. I finally set to the task of changing that, though I doubt anyone's that eager to hear about it now.

The movie is really not that bad. It's notorious for being bad in a number of ways, and some of those are fair, but movies like this get a bad rap. The only really unpardonable thing is that a movie would be unwatchable- that it would provide no entertainment whatsoever. Movies that fail less spectacularly are often entirely unwatchable, but a monumental bomb like this one gets labeled as something worse despite really being much better.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Seen

A few days ago, I finally saw the comedy classic "Caddyshack" as part of an initiative by a few friends and myself to finally knock off the various classics that we all have neglected over the years. I never had felt much eagerness for this one, but I always understood how good it was supposed to be, and whether it was good or not, I wanted to have made the effort to find out. Here was a golden opportunity to overcome my lack of motivation.

It was, I must say, a disappointment. I didn't find much of the film to be very funny, which is a problem for a comedy. There were one or two chuckles, but that was the extent of it. It was helped none by a poorly organized script. There were a couple of promising story elements one could have built around, such as the caddy competition or the plans of Rodney Dangerfield's character to buy the golf course, but those things were squandered.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cracking The Case

A couple of nights ago, I had my latest VHS movie night. Yesterday I wrote about the first film we watched, "Hurricane Smith". It was enjoyable enough, once people quieted down. It's rather frustrating that people should chatter over the opening scenes and then get upset about not knowing what's going on, but let's not dwell on that. The point is that Carl Weathers went to Australia in search of his sister, found out she was dead and returned home with an Australian hooker with a heart of gold.

The second film- "Crack House" played out slightly differently. You have a teen boy who has quit gang life to pursue his education and work at a burger restaurant. He's drawn back in when his brother (I think) is killed by a rival gang, but this only winds up making a victim of his girlfriend, who is taken captive by the selfsame rival gang. She becomes addicted to crack and is made to debase herself in a myriad of ways by ganglord Jim Brown. Cop Richard Roundtree teams up with the teen boy to free her and bust the gang.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hurricane Film

I had my VHS-watching night last night. I'd had to postpone it in order to sit in on the "Top Story! Weekly" writing staff, and so it was being held in the first week of June instead of the last week of May. I had some concern about very many people attending, but those fears proved unfounded, and we had a good time watching a couple of old action movies. I think people mainly think of scifi and horror when it comes to "bad movies", but I say action movies are great too.

The first one we watched was "Hurricane Smith". Carl Weathers stars as a Texas oil field worker who journeys to Australia in search of his missing sister. He finds out that she got involved in some bad stuff (IE drugs and sex work) while in the employ of a nefarious underworld figure played by Jurgen Prochnow. Weathers continues to try to find her, but mainly is sidetracked by a hooker and her pimp who he logically ought to have moved on from after he got what information they had.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Still Tea

The improv fest goes on, but naturally I have other things going on in my life. I was, as I wrote yesterday's post, spacing out in hopes of finding inspiration. My eyes settled on what was in front of me, and I lazily resigned myself to write about what I saw, which was my tea cup. It had come from IKEA, and it's a dainty thing. I hadn't used it much was I was mainly drinking coffee, but it is showing signs of heavy use now.

I've drunk a few hundred cups of tea, I would guess. There were five cups and saucers, but there are now only two of the cups. I know how one of them went away- when a roommate broke the handle- but the others are a mystery to me. I know I didn't break them, but why fall into recriminations? Things break and are replaced. At least I still have the saucers. Maybe I can find new cups that fit the old saucers.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Three Deep

The LA Improv Fest, of which I wrote earlier, is now in its third day. The first was wonderful since I got to see things I wrote performed, not to mention some other cool stuff that happened. A friend asked me to help out with a performance of his that required a DJ, and then there were my friends who won the first round of a festival contest. The next night- last night- was practically as good. There were more shows involving friends, some of whom won and others of whom lost. It was good fun.

I was pleased not only to see and support friends, but to make new ones. I have an ongoing mission to progress every relationship I have, making people I don't know into people I know, people I know into people who know me, and so forth. This is commonly a difficult thing for me, and I accomplish it only in fits and starts, sometimes making no progress at all. This festival, however, amplifies the effect, and in the past couple days, I have managed more along these lines than is usually the case, so that's good.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Road Map

At last year's LA Improv Fest, we were given paper programs detailing the events of the week. That became my sacred guide and record. I marked every show I wanted to see, and then marked what I actually did see. When I was done, I had a pile of ticket stubs and a worn, heavily marked-up program. It meant so much to me. I honestly don't know where it is now, but I'm certain I didn't throw it away. It's definitely around the apartment somewhere.

Unfortunately, this year they failed to make a program available. I was advised, on picking up my pass, to simply keep up with things via the schedule as it appears on the website, and I nodded as if that was good enough, but of course it was not. The paper map was a tactile experience. It satisfied as no digital map could, just as skyping with someone you love cannot satisfy as being present with them could. Is that oddly sentimental? Maybe.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Year's Journey

Today is the start of the LA Improv Fest. It's been going on for something like 12 years, and it amounts to a festival celebrating iO West specifically. That's a comedy theater in Hollywood. I've been around for a little of it a few years, but last year was the first time I experienced it very fully. That's because my one of my improv teams was accepted to perform. It was a wonderful experience in which I saw more live improv and sketch in a week than I'd seen before in my life.

I was anxious to return to the festival the following year, but the team that had taken me there hit the skids in the intervening period, and by the time submissions were being accepted, it had folded. I despaired that I would manage the festival this year, and wondered even whether I would be able to afford supporting friends in various contests that the festival holds. It was much more unpleasant to think of being left out after having been in.