Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

30 October 2005


Shopgirl would be a sweet little romantic comedy if it weren't so sad. This isn't a bad thing. It is essentially a positive, happily-ending story and I don't want to give it away or anything, but Shopgirl is not your normal romantic movie.
Don't trust the trailer. The film isn't really about Claire Danes choosing between the quirky, messy, always-borrowing-two-dollars Jason Schwartzman and the put-together, wealthy, way-too-old-for-her-but-in-an-intriguing-way-and-not-a-gross-way Steve Martin. Shopgirl, based on Martin's novella of the same name is really about what we need--or, rather--what women need--or, rather--what Steve Martin seems to think they need. Women, you'll find out from Martin's seemingly omniscient narrator, need to be protected and respected and loved completely, which is okay, I guess.
The film is decent, often quite funny, and beautiful. Claire Danes is lovely and gives a wonderful, standout performance of haplessness coupled with grace. Jason Schwartzman is fun and self-deprecating and I find him strangely hot. Steve Martin gives the second Bill Murray performance of the year, pained and a little sickly throughout. The script is overly long and gets distracted rather often, but the jokes are funny and the script's exploration of what a young man has to offer over an older one is very interesting. The narration is the film's largest problem; it bookends the film and also inserts itself peskily into parts of the film that director Anand Tucker evidently thought needed explanation. (After their first date Martin's character narrates Danes's characters thoughts. Don't ask me to explain how this is possible, because I don't really think it makes much sense.) Really, the narration is little more than annoying and rarely helpful. Things Tucker has decided are too difficult to show us, he chooses to tell us through a voice we come to trust less and less as the film continues.
I should also say I liked the score, which is quite beautiful if a little insistent.

How will it fare with Oscar? Danes could get some awards notice come year's end, but I wouldn't expect much else from this picture.
Cheers, mates.


I'm at home and my show has closed and none of my friends is answering their phone. This would normally be an okay thing, but I was trying to save myself from brooding and instead I think I will just give into it. I could spend time trying to remove myself from this pattern of self-pity, but self-pity can make a person feel really rather full and being full of melancholy is better than feeling empty.

I am so predictable. No show to work on... it's over for one day and I get myself into a funk. And I realize that all of this work is very good at killing loneliness and perhaps I ought to pay attention to that. I mean, I fill my life with work because I receive pleasure from it, but I'm also drowning out all of that time that I would be spending alone. I enjoy my solitude--at least I always thought I did--but I realize more and more that I am a lonely human being. I need to work at that.

29 October 2005

Directing Stuff; Hard Times; More Long-term Goals

So the story with Hard Times is that it--well, it has its troubled spots but seems to be appreciated by all who've seen it so far. The show was much better last night than it was on Thursday, the audience was accordingly more receptive and most of them stayed through the whole thing. The lines were down a lot better yesterday, too, and I think the performances are much improved from the terror I was feeling a week ago.
And the important people... that is, those whose opinions I value most in my life really liked the show. Tito truly loved the show; my boss (Bill, the chair of the Department of Theatre) thought the show was wonderful--he went on and on about what a great director I was and picked out his favorite directing moments. My parents and sister also really loved the show. This show really struck a nice chord with them. Aaron and Kim weren't quite so rhapsodic, and Wahima, well, Wahima is the hardest critic I know but they all thought the show was good.

As for me, I'm delighted that people are responding positively to the show. I'm not sure where it puts me. I mean, the show still isn't really my kind of thing. I wish it were shorter, cleaner in places, wish things about some of the performances were different. It's a beautiful show, and I've thought that for some time, but it isn't a show that I would ever choose to do in a million years: not enough cruelty or comedy or straight-talk I suppose, I don't know. Not enough deviance, perhaps, or shocking behavior. I'm not sure what I object to, really, except that maybe the show is just too traditional for me when it comes right down to it. On the other hand, it is nice, finally, to do a show where there is some production value--it was equally satisfying in that respect to do Valparaiso last year, though of course there were things I would change about that show as well. So I guess I continue ambivalent about the show. It seems a small thing to me still, no matter Hard Times' scope and length: it is the space that is small and my work that continues to feel small, even when we sell out, which we have done two nights in a row. And no matter how much Bill says he appreciates me and loves having me at the school and thinks I'm a wonderful director, there is the pesky matter of money and the lack of any permanent standing at the college. I have none and I don't expect to have any in the future. They don't want me there permanently and I what I have to offer is still very limited, I suppose. There is a restlessness in my heart, a longing to do bigger things... I'm not even sure what I mean by that, but I want to be able to innovate, to bring new things to the table, to explore theatrically. I can be counted on as a sturdy director; I can get up a two-and-a-half hour show in five weeks: we all know that now, I guess. I can teach dialects fairly well in that time and engineer and supervise a difficult piece like this one and bring it from an ungovernable mass to a watchable, mostly-interesting show. I'm not sure what more I want but I know I want more. I want to be given more time and more money and a larger pool of actors. Perhaps this is not the place where I will get that, and perhaps it will be a long time before I do, but right now, I think that's my goal with directing.

Oh, and why is it that a man of whom I am very fond felt the need to say to me... oh never mind. I'm such a Pisces sometimes. It's so funny.
I build up a thing so much in my mind.
Something so small: a little phrase, a drunken statement in the middle of a night can take me far away so easily.
Suddenly, I am ten years ahead, thinking of what I'll be doing then and how fulfilled I could be.
Dreams don't die so easily.
The emptiness that lurks inside of me sometimes yawns wide and I implode a little: fall back onto myself and my heart expands to find that there's not enough room for its new size.

21 October 2005

Improved Prospects

I feel better. Not about the show: rehearsal was pretty much as hard to sit through as ever tonight. But I feel better in my heart. I'm kind of letting it go... I can only do my work.

20 October 2005

Times Is Hard

Maybe I was a little unkind last night... It's just that the cast doesn't really know it's lines.
Well, in actuality, Joe knows most of his lines. But I feel so helpless about the whole situation. I mean, the show is in good shape, or would be if the lines were there. There are things I want to watch and fix and make better and more interesting. There is the musicality of the show to consider: when the show is quiet and when it should be loud and the different aesthetic things that I as a director am able to influence and shape. These are things to which I cannot pay attention because the lines just aren't there. The bare bones of the show just don't exist and there's nothing I can do about it! It's a difficult time. Oh well. I will hope for a better time tonight...


I'm so angry at my cast that I can't talk about it. I need to go to bed.
I have never been this pissed at a single group of people since I had a discussion about women's rights with my (crazy, right-wing) family.

16 October 2005

Just Keeping You Posted

I've seen a couple of good movies recently, and tonight I saw a truly excellent movie which I have since moved to the very top of my list for 2005. The list is a work in progress, of course. there are many more films to see before year's end, but Good Night, and Good Luck. is something special. Go see it.

Recent films in Boldface.

1. Good Night, and Good Luck.
2. Me and You and Everyone We Know
3. A History of Violence
4. Junebug
5. The Constant Gardener
6. Capote
7. Kingdom of Heaven
8. Thumbsucker
9. Downfall
10. The Beat That My Heart Skipped
11. Batman Begins
12. Millions
13. The Upside of Anger
14. In Her Shoes
15. 3-iron
16. Cinderella Man
17. Kung Fu Hustle
18. Wedding Crashers
19. Melinda and Melinda
20. 2046
21. Walk on Water
22. Mysterious Skin
23. Broken Flowers
24. Last Days
25. Heights
26. Proof
27. Monster-in-law
28. Sin City
29. All the King's Men
30. Ladies in Lavender.
31. Steamboy
32. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

14 October 2005


I guess I should thank Sarah Kane, because I feel like she has given me back something of a dialogue that I can have about theatre. After having such a strong reaction to the completely-in-French production of her 4.48 Psychosis, I've picked up her Complete Plays and been reading them. I've read three now this week and will read the other two in the next couple of days.
Now, I consider 4.48 Psychosis to be a good play. I didn't particularly care for Blasted or Phaedra's Love, as you can read here. But today at lunch I read her third play, Cleansed and boy, did I have a strong reaction to it. I haven't felt this strongly about a piece of theatre in a long long time.

Repulsed is probably the best word for it. I found Cleansed to be utterly revolting, indescribably disgusting and gratuitously violent. I am so completely turned off by this play that, though I obviously find it challenging, I won't recommend that any of you read it. Spare yourselves the images and sentiments delivered in this play. Honestly, you'll be doing yourself a favor by skipping this one. I could begin to describe the depravity that this play contains, but suffice it to say that the show is incredibly and graphically violent--unstageably violent, even--and that's before a field of daffodils sprouts up from the stage floor.

12 October 2005

What I Wanted to Post Yesterday

This is the poster for my new show, which, incidentally, opens two weeks from tomorrow:
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Oh yeah, and here's a fun photo that my friend Christina sent me. That's yours truly all the way to the left, my Vegas friend Christina in the center (it was her birthday) and our old teacher and dear friend Joyce on the right:
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Good night, everyone. I should be asleep now.

11 October 2005

Good Morning, Son

Hello again, it's me.

Hard Times is going, surprisingly, for the amount of time we've been rehearsing. I finished blocking the whole thing today and not a minute to spare. We're halfway through the entirety of the rehearsal period.

Oh, and we have a poster! To wit:

[Grr. I can't load it right now 'cause photobucket is down, but, perhaps tomorrow.] For now, you can go here to see it.

I don't know. Not much going on. I'm still writing every morning, though it was frustrating to do so this morning and continues to be so occasionally. It is good to have a commitment in life that doesn't waver. I have so few.
Oh yeah, and after seeing 4.48 Psychosis on Friday, I have read two more of Ms. Sarah Kane's plays: Blasted and Phaedra's Love. Now, I really liked 4.48 Psychosis and perhaps I will like her other two plays, but I didn't particularly care for either Blasted or Phaedra's Love. Ms. Kane seems obsessed with a sort of unstageable, defiant brutalism. In Blasted, for instance, a man eats a baby after being fucked from behind by a soldier and having the barrel of a sniper rifle shoved up his ass onstage. The soldier also urinates all over the bed of a hotel room in the show as well as consuming two full breakfasts in the course of a few minutes. In Phaedra's Love, Hippolytus gets his genitals cut off by a mob of people and the genitals are then roasted on one of those little mini-barbecues. Then, after Theseus rapes and murders his step-daughter onstage, he slits his own throat and dies. Hippolytus is then gutted and his intestines are similarly removed and barbecued.
You get the idea. I know I am reducing what is supposed to be really interesting theatre to its bare unstageably ridiculous violence, but I can't help it. (It rather reminds me of Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and Fucking--a play I also think is mostly crap.) It all just seems so preposterous and I don't even understand what the point of all this brutality is.
Anyway, that's what I'm reading these days.

08 October 2005

Weird Theatre

I had a very strange theatrical experience this evening. I think it would have been strange if the whole thing had been in English, but as it was it was even stranger.

I went to the Freud Playhouse on the campus at UCLA tonight to see a production of late playwright Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychose. It was written in English originally, but it was performed (this was partly the reason I went) for this production in French by the famous film actress Isabelle Huppert, whom you might know from such movies as Entre Nous, Clean Slate, Merci pour le Chocolat, I [Heart] Huckabees, The Piano Teacher, 8 Women, Ma Mère--you get the idea: it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. So I decided to go. 4.48 Psychose has gotten good reviews of its own: last year UCLA live put up the original production of the show and everyone was talking about it then. I even bought the play and had it somewhere around the house to read at some (I thought distant) point in the future. I was informed that the show would have English supertitles. The opera always does and I expected no less from UCLA live.

The thing is, I knew nothing at all about the show except its title, that the author had killed herself very shortly after writing it, and a vague recollection of something I had read about the set. Boy was I unprepared. The supertitles were few and far between and the play is a two hour exploration of madness and psychosis without respite. They even announced it at the beginning: "The show is two hours long. There isn't an intermission. If you leave the theatre, you will not be allowed back in. Turn your fucking phones off." The staging was as follows. Ms. Huppert stood at the center of the stage in front of a silvery static-like scrim that was hung on the proscenium pipe. She faced full front and moved only her hands--not her arms, at all--the entire two hours. There was a second character: a kind of doctor-lover who stood always behind the scrim and always at an angle. We never saw his face until curtain call. The lighting was really cool and the play is about form way more than it is about content, so I think it was okay to see it first in a language I couldn't comprehend. See, I know barely any French at all. My French is limited to words in the titles of movies: huit, trés, trois, fort, femmes, les quatre cents coups.
Anyway, it was weird. Really cool, and very emotionally unsettling--quite haunting, really. I guess I have to read the play, now.

The next show in the UCLA live theatre festival they're having is a Polish company called Song of the Goat performing a play about mourning called Lamentation or something like that. It's based on the Epic of Gilgamesh. It's next week. I think I'm going to go to that too.

05 October 2005

Oh My, an Update

I guess I'm on schedule for Hard Times but it sure as Hell don't feel like it.

I'd love to write a whole long wonderful post, but I just haven't the time, folks. Perhaps I will hit you up with a remembrance of sorts on the weekend: oh that it were here already! It is Wednesday night and I have another night of rehearsal and two more days of work before I can rest. And even then... The weekend will be full. When one has no time during the week, one's friends make it a point to cram one's weekend full of non-negotiable engagements. Last week, my friend Linda had me out to see her in a show (The Tragedy of King John) in which she didn't perform after all, and this Saturday it is a friend's birthday (and I just got the invitation this afternoon!)

Speaking of Southern California Shakespeare's production of King John (this is the show that ran directly after Two Gentlemen), I didn't particularly care for it. I have a lot of gripes, most of which would not be half so important had the show not run over three hours. A three hour Shakespeare play is something I consider nearly unforgivable.

More when I have the time, friends. Drop me an email or leave me a comment in the mean time to let me know you still love me.

"I admit I've seen better days but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail and a salted peanut." - Margo Channing

(I bought peanuts today at the grocery, in case you wondered why Margo's voice popped into my head.)

01 October 2005

Oscar Season, My Friends!

Supposedly, Oscar Season doesn't begin until December the 1st with the announcement of the National Board of Review's awards, but the first For Your Consideration ads are out in Variety according to OscarWatch. This is so exciting! Plus, Justin and I went to see A History of Violence last night, (It Fucking Rocks) and it got me all excited about the Oscars and what's coming up!

At any rate, here is the first ad for the season: Junebug.
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And let me just jump on the bandwagon and push for a Supporting Actress nomination for the endearing Amy Adams in that film.