Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Mind Is Strong, but the Body Needs a Minute

So, Frankenstein is underway, and, as usual, I've had a problem early on. It seems that it always happens to me, I get excited to dive into a rehearsal process, and then...something happens that spins me out of sorts for the first few weeks. In this case, I'm sort of in double crap.

First, this is a heavy fight show. I mean HEAVY. Almost every, single time I walk on stage there is some sort of violence. Wouldn't you know that my writ picks exactly this time to start hurting. I don't know if it's a sprain, or a twist, or what. I don't think it's carpal tunnel, which was my first, horrendous fear. I've done a couple of the quick checks reccommended online...looks like that's not it.

I think it's a sprain. Which at least should heal with some rest. I've been icing and using the heating pad at night, and wearing a brace all day and in rehearsals. Doing what you're supposed to do, but, the big problem is, with this much choreography, I can't just not do the fights. Man, I feel it every time my left hand turns just a tad too far the wrong way.

The worst part is, I have two lifts in the show, and, at this point, I simply cannot accomplish them. They're important to the story, and great character moments. Not doing them would break my heart.

Which, of course, I'm worried about. It's just a stupid sprain, right? Still, you mind races forward. What if I can't do it by the time we open? I'm not lifting weights right now, because of this. What if I get fat(ter)? What if it's like this forever!?!

Of course, I'm also just exhausted. I didn't even do cardio this morning, because I just wanted to sleep. Which is probably for the best, but you know how I get. Miss a day, and I start the guilt trip. It just reminds me that I should make it a priority to get in better shape than I am now. Not that I'm in terrible shape, but I could be better.

The worst part is I think this whole injury is making me paranoid about the whole show. I have started worrying about, well, everything. Is the mental growth of the Creature right? Am I going too far, emotionally? Not far enough? My Meisner work over the last year or so has pushed me even more toward the "listen and react" school, but rarely do you find a character who's given circumstances change and evolve so quickly. From a non-speaking, well, blank, if we get down to brass tacks, to a cunning and brutal strategist.

I find myself, each time we start a scene, trying to plot where the character is in his evolution. What that means for how he thinks and reacts. It's rare to have a character who's such a blank slate. In a way it would seem easier, and it honestly may be, once we start running the show in order. Now, however, with the scenes so out of context and order...It's just difficult.

Of course, I wanted this because it would be difficult. I just didn't really expect the physical toll. Use it, right? Use the pain.

Previews start September 28th.

So Brett Ratner Might Direct Justice League

*Blog inspired by a recent e-mail exchange*

At least according to io9: The Most Discouraging Justice League Rumor Imaginable.


Brett Ratner isn't a paragon of a human being, we know that. Honestly, I don't care. Lots of people are assholes and still make good entertainment.

He's not inspired, but he is a competent, no-surprises director who understands pacing. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Ratner was NOT the problem on X-Men: The Last Stand. His directing credits are all pretty watchable, high-concept fluff, with some high points. The Family Man is good, Red Dragon is (surprisingly) quite good (unless you insist on comparing it to Manhunter. I try to take each film on it's own terms), After the Sunset is fun, even if all of those films are clearly "it made money before, make something similar" studio films. And the Rush Hour movies are exactly the kind of high-value, slicky-made entertainments that Marvel is making right now.

The problem with The Last Stand (which is a good comparison, since it's his only other superhero credit) was that Fox was pissed that Bryan Singer (who's, to this day, the ONLY filmmaker who's had a handle on how to do the X-Men) for doing Superman Returns (far better than people give it credit for, but too beholden to Richard Donner's film) and dumped him. They went with a poor script, which Matthew Vaughan- yes, X-Men: First Class (which, it should be noted, had a script co-developed with Singer) Matthew Vaughan, oversaw putting together. A script that checked off fanboy "want list" crap over a cohesive vision. Ratner, was hired VERY late on that film...Fox had a script and a release date, and Vaughan freaked and quit.

I will never call The Last Stand the best X-Men movie, but it is watchable, and the set pieces are well executed and exciting. It also feels connected with Singer's first two films. Ratner understood what he needed to do with that script, not step on the toes of what worked before, what was expected, and keep the shit moving. He's not an auteur, he's not even a "great" director, but he is a workmanlike one. I imagine that if he had come up during the days of the studio system he'd be a "go-to" guy.

Compared to Joss Whedon (if we do a direct Avengers/JLA comparison)...Ratner can't touch him on concepts, scripts, writing, but there's already a script in play. What Warner's wants is a pure director, and on a pure technical level, the nuts and blots of filmmaking, I think Ratner's equal to, or even a bit stronger than, Joss (even if The Avengers was a big step forward for him).

So, yeah...I understand why they're looking at him. I wouldn't even be upset if he got the job, because, if he does it, the chances of it actually getting made probably double. It'll be fun to watch, and probably faithful to what works. The real question is the script, which is what really made The Avengers memorable.

Do I wish they'd find somebody really exciting, with a non-corporate sensibility to really invigorate the JL? Oh. you bet! Justice League's current screenwriter, Will Beall's got a lot of heat coming off Gangster Squad, so I expect it's an exciting script (faithful, "good," or "the right script?" Who knows?).

Ben Affleck (who's a GREAT director waiting for the world to realize it) clearly didn't want it. The Wachowskis are NEVER going to do it. Zack Snyder apparently wants it, but that's because he's exactly what Ratner is, but with visual flair (even if it's cliche visual flair).

Although, that said...the Man of Steel teaser is really awesome.

Look at who Marvel's been using; Jon Favreau, who was fully B-list (if that) before Iron Man, really (and after Cowboys and Aliens, may be again). Kenneth Branagh, who was hardly known for this sort of thing. Joe Johnston, who I think is a fantastic, bordering on genius, workman director, but also has a "hack" label. Whedon, who we know is a genius, but he's a TV guy with one flop film and some internet stuff. Shane Black, a huge screenwriter from 15 years ago, who fell off the map, then made possibly the best film of the 2000's - that nobody saw. They all made great-to-fantastic films.

Honestly, I don't think you can do the shared universe thing with filmmakers with strong visions and things to say. Christopher Nolan, for example, wouldn't want to, and I think, flatly, he couldn't. He wanted to work with themes and psychological elements that would be completely invalidated the second Christian Bale's Batman walked into a JLA meeting room. The saddest thing, to me, is that kind of vision, that kind of pushing at the concept, thanks to Marvel, is dead and gone. Hollywood is fixated on "team 'em up" now.

Yes, Wheadon...who definitely had a strong vision, but what he wanted to say was "gee whiz! The Marvel Universe is neato!!" I think he looks at this like working on a TV can make very, very fun, exciting drama, but, except in VERY rare cases, you're not going to be transcendent. Which is probably the healthiest place to be, and those checks will pay for his Much Ado, and the Dr. Horrible follow-up.

So, yeah...the collective Internet groan may head off Ratner, but the ultimate choice is going to be in the same realm. What I really wish is that Andrew Stanton hadn't so quickly slunk back to PIXAR for Finding Nemo 2 after the pounding he took over John Carter (a top-ten movie for 2012 in my book...screw the box office). He would be an excellent choice for Justice League, or heck, what about Brad Bird? The Incredibles is still one of the best superhero movies ever made, and flat-out the Best fantastic Four movie. I think he proved himself completely with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. These are both mid-tier guys who might take the job as another stepping stone, and represent clear, strong visions of the properties they tackle.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Little Quiz for Tuesday

Of course, as I start this...I have no access to the answers, so....

But I do swear, these answers are just off the top of my head...No looking things up.

1- Frank Zappa
2- George Harrison
3- Slash
4- Jimi Hendrix
5- Keith Richards
6- Jimmy Page
7- Stevie Ray Vaughan
8 - Eric Clapton
9 - Mark Knopfler
10 - Brian May
11- Johnny Ramone
12- Jack White (ugh)
13- The Edge
14- Chuck Berry
15- Angus Young
16- Pete Townshend
17- Tony Iommi
18- Eddie Van Halen
19- David Gilmour
20- Ace Frehley
21- Ritchie Blackmore
22- Duane Allamn
23- Kirk Hammett
24- Carlos Santana
25- ??? (really generic looking - my first guess would be Chris Cornell)
26- Jason Becker (THAT is obscure)
27- Kirk Cobain
28- Gary Moore
29- Jerry Garcia
30- ??? (Maybe Steve Vai?)
31- Bo Diddley
32- Jeff Beck
33- Rick Nielson
34- Brian Setzer
35- ??? (First to mind is John Oats)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stuck In My Head 8.24.2012

After the last week or so of rehearsals...this song seems appropriate. I have bruises on bruises.

Broken, Beat & Scarred

by Metallica

You rise, you fall, you're down then you rise again 
What don't kill you'll make you more strong 
You rise, you fall, you're down then you rise again 
What don't kill you'll make you more strong  

Rise, fall down, rise again 
What don't kill you'll make you more strong 
Rise, fall down, rise again 
What don't kill you'll make you more strong  

Through black days, through black nights 
Through pitch black insights  

Breaking your teeth on the hard life a-coming  
Show your scars 
Cutting your feet on the hard earth running 
Show your scars 
Breaking your life, broken, beat and scarred 
But we die hard!  

The dawn, the death, the fight to the final breath 
What don't kill you'll make you more strong 
The dawn, the death, the fight to the final breath 
What don't kill you'll make you more strong  
Dawn, death, fight, final breath 
What don't kill you'll make you more strong 
Dawn, death, fight, final breath 
What don't kill you'll make you more strong
They scratch me, they scrape me 
They cut and rape me  

Breaking your teeth on the hard life a-coming 
Show your scars 
Cutting your feet on the hard earth running 
Show your scars 
Breaking your life, broken, beat and scarred 
But we die hard!  

Breaking your teeth on the hard life a-coming 
Show your scars 
Cutting your feet on the hard earth running 
Show your scars  

Braiding your soul in a hard luck story 
Show your scars 
Spilling your blood in a hot sun's foray 
Show your scars 
Breaking your life, broken, beat and scarred 
We die hard!  

We die hard! 
We die hard!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'm Sorry....Do You Know What "Scandal" Means?

I enjoy "top" lists. Top ten movies, albums, whatever. I find them interesting and food for thought, and sometimes I even pick up somethign new because of them.

But I also know what they really amount to, and that's nothing. They're opinion, sometimes amalgamated, sometimes not. Ultimately it's a bunch of people giving opinions, which usually conflict, and so the most generic, uninteresting thing comes out on top. There was a lot of talk recently about Vertigo replacing Citizen Kane as the best movie of all time in the BFI Sight and Sound poll. Over 800 "critics and experts" voted in that poll...

I bet relatively few of them would call either Vertigo or Citizen Kane their "favorite" film, ever. Are they universally recognized as quality? You bet. So they go higher, because everyone knows they're good (Even so...come on, everyone knows Rear Window is Hitchcock's finest hour). If Albert Criticism  of Mont Prospect thinks The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension is #1, with Kane at #2 and Vertigo at #3, well that drives up Kane and Vertigo, but it a futile gesture for Buckaroo, if you see what I mean.

Ultimately these lists become about the middle of the road. Nothing unexpected is gonna suddenly appear. This is especially true when you're talking about a public poll like Pitchfork's The People's List, which aims to, by public polling, find the "best albums of 1996-2011." The ultimate results of this poll are almost laughably predictable...Radiohead is all over it, Arcade Fire, The White Stripes. The bands that the "Pitchfork Crowd" has been told to like, voted on by the "Pitchfork Crowd."

I should let you know, I am no huge fan of this kind of music. I respect Radiohead, for example, but I can't bear to listen to a whole album. Makes me want to claw my eyes out. There's my intellectual knowledge that they are a talented group, slamming up against my utter lack of any emotional connection to them. Same with Wilco or The National. I'm also perplexed by the fact many of these groups claim Springsteen influences...not to these ears...but that's another rant.

The end point it...these folks picked EXACTLY the albums you would expect.

Yet somebody has to have a problem with it...and that someone is Jody Rosen at Slate. The title of the article says it all; 'Pitchfork’s “People’s List” Is a Scandal.'

Really, Jody? a "Scandal?" Can you tell me why?

Even so, “The People’s List” poll is a scandal. Even if we accept the inevitable narrowness of such an undertaking—even if we concede that, in a poll of indie-rock devotees, 24 albums by black people out of 200 is a pretty solid showing—even on its own parallel-universe Pitchforkian terms, the results are an embarrassment.

I’m referring to the list’s gender breakdown. If I’m not mistaken, there are just 23 records by women artists in the top 200, and only two in the top 50. And that’s a generous count, making room for co-ed acts like The xx, Beach House, and Portishead. Again, we can look to the self-selecting voting base. According to Pitchfork’s own stats, 88% of the poll respondents were men. “The Dudes’ List” might have been a more accurate title.

Y'know what, Jody Rosen? Please shut up. You're making Liberals look bad. I am 100% pro-women, I 100% support my feminist, strong wife...who I'm happy to say makes more than I do, by the way. I utterly reject your outrage at the fact that an online fucking poll didn't reflect enough female artists. I reject your feeling that any opinion poll MUST conform to some sort of gender or racial "check in" to be valid. Not to mention, as noted in the comments for your article, you're not counting bands like The White Stripes and Arcade Fire, who have female members.

And calling it a "Scandal?" ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

I also love some of her reasoning...

Still—what the hell is wrong with these dudes? Did it escape their attention that for much of the past decade and a half, female artists have had a stranglehold on the popular music zeitgeist?

It's popular? So what? Limp Bizkit had gold records (maybe even Platinum), and had their own moment of "zeitgeist," and they suck ass.

Have they never heard of Missy Elliott? Can they really prefer The National to M.I.A.’s Kala, to Bjork’s Homogenic, to Joanna Newsom’s Ys?

Yes, they really can. I prefer Armored Saint's Symbol of Salvation to anything on the "People's List" AND what you listed. Can I say that that's a "scandal," too?

Where are politics in all of this? If you surveyed the roughly 24,600 men who submitted “People’s List” ballots, I wager you’d find nearly 100 percent espousing progressive views on gender issues. This would not be the case if you took a similar survey of pop, R&B, or country music fans—yet a “People’s List” of top recordings in those genres from 1996-2011 with a similar gender breakdown is unimaginable. The fact is, when it comes to the question of women and, um, art, the Top 40’s great unwashed—and even red state Tea Party partisans—are far more progressive and inclusive than the mountain-man-bearded, Fair Trade espresso-swilling, self-styled lefties of indiedom. Portlandia, we have a problem.

And here's your ultimate problem, and where you make yourself look like an Idiot, Ms. Rosen...(It's HILARIOUS you invoke Portlandia, because you sound like a character from theat show) This poll has fuck-all to do with politics. It's a list of albums that the people who voted liked, period. The directions didn't say "please consult your political beliefs before you vote." What I listen to has jack and shit to do with how I vote, or what I believe.

Nobody voting for this poll was thinking "gotta pick only male groups," they were thinking "what do I like to listen to." That's all they should be thinking! They also shouldn't be checking off a list of quotas to make everyone happy, no matter how politically correct those quotas may be.

What you, or I, personally, would like to see recognized, is UTTERLY irrelevant. I think Rush's albums in the same time frame blow everything on that list away...Mastodon's last two kill anything on the list, as well, but there's no metal at all.

That's OK...I still love them and I don't need a poll to tell me that's OK. I also certainly don't need anybody lecturing me that I'm not a good enough liberal, or supporter of women, or whatever, because I happen to like male musicians more, their music engages me emotionally. Art cannot be subject to the whims of politics, and so, too, neither can taste. So, while I appreciate that you think the amassed Pitchfork Nation didn't vote "correctly," they just don't have to check in with you, at all.

So, really, the only "scandal" seems to be that this amalgamated list, which doesn't mean shit anyway, put forth a result you don't like.

Get over it. You have your own albums to listen to.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Hello, faithful readers. You'd have to be faithful to still be checking my blog after things being quite less that "regular" around here. I've been off my game, in terms of wanting to write. The honest truth is that I've been off my game in a lot of respects.

I look at my guitar a ton...I need to record, I know it. Yet, I don't. I have songs and riffs ready, and I need to play around with them. I re-listened to the scratch recordings I did of two "songs" with a live drummer and Pauly C back in May, and I was struck that I really liked them. They need work, of course, but there's somethign nice going on. I am toying with getting an electric drum kit, so I can try to bash out some drum lines myself. Of course, I need to get some cards paid off, first.

I need to read more. I've kinda stalled out on reading Frankenstein, as research for the the show. It makes sense, I always have a hard time reading when I know I should be working on lines. Still, I need to get back in the swing of reading, because...damn it. I just enjoy it so much, especially with the kindle. Plus, new Chabon next month.

I need to get my ass in gear on lines. I really fell down on the job with the understudy gig I had in July/Aug. I never really got it in my head, but, then again, I never had to go on. So, I guess it's a wash. Still with three shows in rapid succession over the next 6 months, I need to get myself into the mindset of learning them early and well. I already feel a bit a sea, Frankenstein-wise. It'll pass, it always does, but I also have a TON of violence and physical work to deal with, and I'd rather have the text in my head and done. I wanted to be working on it earlier, but the understudy gig was sapping my worry and effort.

Honestly, all of this would probably feel easier if I didn't feel absolutely run-down right now. I shot a commercial in northern Iowa a week, or so, ago. 12 hour days that began at 3:00 AM  was pretty much the way of things. It was great, and far more rewarding and fun than I ever expected. That said...I don't think I've yet to recover from it.

I just feel tired all the time.

Again, it'll pass, I know it will. I just have to fight through it. Keep my eye on the ball, and not let things slide. Cowboy up, I guess.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Heya kids, long time no see.

It's been busy as hell in Mark world. Trying (in vain, oftentimes) to keep up with my responsibilities as a understudy for the uber-hit Moment at Steep Theatre. Working on scenes for my Meisner class at The Artistic Home. Traveling hours by plane and car to shoot a regional farm product ad in Iowa last week. Finally, beginning Frankenstein rehearsals last night.

I am exhausted. Completely, and I found myself utterly unable to come up with much to write about over the last few weeks. I just wanted to vegetate. That led to my watching a really, really wonderful little film on Netflix instant Saturday night after I got back from the shoot, while I was doing laundry.

Goon is a hockey movie, and hockey is just about the only sport I enjoy watching. There's something about the brutality of the play mixing with the gracefulness of the skating. It's the wonderful dichotomy of how those disparate parts of the game smash into each other. Screenwriters Jay Baruchel (from the short-live TV show Undeclared - he's also in the film) and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express) get this. They've created one of the best combinations of brutal violence and tender sweetness since Rocky.

I was utterly blown away by how good Seann William Scott, who usually grates on me like sandpaper, was as Doug Glatt, a local bouncer who effortlessly beats the crap out of a player who hurls a homophobic slur. "My brother's gay" he repeats as his fist cracks the player's helmet in half. It's a early, powerful display of how Doug's mind works, which I think it's safe to say isn't much, but loyalty drives him utterly. Family, friends, teammates, Doug appoints himself as protector to all, and his blatant ability to endure, and dish out, pain makes him very good at it.

What's uncanny is how well Scott rides the wave between honestly playing Doug as...well, I'd honestly have to say the character is almost functionally retarded...and making his clarity of vision and purpose, and his huge heart, shine even in the midst of some quite graphic fight sequences. And, make no mistake, the fights are brutal, blood flows liberally, and Director Michael Dowse makes it HURT. even moreso because Scott's Doug is so, so winning, so sweet and open that every bit of punishment he took shook me deeply.

See, when the local coach sees Doug bring down a fully padded player with two punches, he sees an opportunity. He brings our hero onto the team when he can't even skate (he first takes the ice in figure skates), and molds him into a full-fledged enforcer, a "goon," there to endure and inflict damage to protect the "real" players. Everyone treats him like a joke, an ape. Every time he tries to actually play, disaster strikes, and he faces scorn. There's also an extremely painful scene where Doug, proud of his accomplishments, takes his parents (Eugene Levy and Ellen David) to dinner, where they deride his career. After the loyalty we've seen this character display to everyone in his life, it's heartbreaking to see how blind his parents are to it, and he's left with only the loyalty of his brother.

Baruchel plays Doug's best friend Ryan, who hosts an insanely foul mouthed hockey call-in show. He's over the moon with his friend's rising fame. There's also Marc-Andre' Grondin as Xavier LaFlamme, a star player who was badly injured and now holds back from his full potential for fear of further injury. He's Doug's roommate, and spends his time in debauchery that rivals any rock star's.

Alison Pill is Eva, a local "slut" (her words), who is utterly shocked that Doug treats her with respect and love from the moment he meets her. Unfortunately, she also has a boyfriend, who she also apparently cheats on constantly, but something about Doug's unwavering loyalty makes her unable to just screw with him. When she does actually leave her boyfriend for Doug, and we see how our goon "makes it right," I have to admit I teared up. It was absolutely painful, and also absolutely right for the character.

But my favorite supporting performance was Liev Schreiber as Ross Rhea, a veteran enforcer who's career is winding down, and the player who dished out LaFlamme's injury. Schreiber is stunning in a role that could've been a pretty one-note villain. Rhea is much smarter than Doug, much more aware of what his life and job have cost him, and he tries, in his own way, to pass this to the kid.

But, of course....they are on a collision course for each other.

I feel in love with this film. It's violent, crude and unapologetic about it (oh, so NOT for kids), but it also has about the biggest heart I've seen in a film in a long while. The courtship between Doug and Eva is flat-out charming and lovely. The way that Doug almost unknowingly lifts up and inspires the people around him reminded me of the great Being There. The way that the film knits together the brutal and sweet is really impressive.

This is a film that debuted on video on demand, I believe, and only had  the briefest and perfunctory theatrical releases. It did play at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011, but I'm pretty certain it's earned itself a solid place in my top ten of 2012. It, and Seann William Scott's wonderful performance, won my heart.

Highly Recommended.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Favorite Looney Tunes Short, Ever

The High and the Flighty

And it's finally being released to home video (Blu-Ray no less!) with the The Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2 on October 16th!!

I couldn't be more excited!