Tuesday, March 17, 2009
ENGADGET -- BLOGGING LIVE FROM CUPERTINO
It's the next best thing to a live video feed. (Is there a live video feed?) Engadget has a gadget (that is, they've used their expertise to set up a very efficient technology) that is sending photos and quotes from the Apple iPhone announcement in almost real time.
It's pretty impressive reporting. (By Joshua Topolsky.)
At this point, (second hand live reporting), Apple is announcing improvements to the iPhone developer system which enhances purchasing and ties to iTunes. They've implemented discovery technology (an iPhone discovers suitable nearby iPhones) that allows peer-to-peer conversations (for example for game playing; or perhaps business card & phone number exchange; or medical applications). There's enhanced mapping services. Push. An API for streaming audio & video. An API for "in-game" voice. Improvements in search, cut/copy/paste, calendar and stock apps, and more.
The API's are available to developers now. The upgrade will be available on phones - free - in the summer.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Religulous is boring, confused, confusing, and not especially funny. It is kind of a mess of a movie.
Better than the movie are the outtakes (interviews with particular religious figures) and the monologs on the DVD. They are more focused, more consistent and more interesting.
Had that been the movie (just the interviews & the monologs), instead of the movie on the screen, of course the critics would have said: This is just a bunch of interviews and commentaries, not a real movie. But it still would have been better than the movie itself.
The first problem is that Bill Maher does not have a consistent set of religious beliefs, so he is confused.
Second, the movie features only certain religious figures, and seems haphazard in its choices.
Third, the movie concentrates mainly on just two aspects of religion -- on literal readings of portions of the Bible and on religious wars -- while omitting all the other facets of religion. Nor does the movie relate these aspects of religion to each other or to religion as a whole.
Fourth, the interviews in the movie are badly conducted, and Maher is not good either at provoking or inspiring the subject to say interesting things. He seems vaguely uncomfortable at almost all the places he goes.
Fifth, he is not very funny. Neither the interviews, nor his remarks during the interviews, nor his comments after are incisive, interesting or funny.
And it's poorly edited, and it's repetitive... we get the point in the first ten minutes and nothing much is added by the rest.
On the commentary track that overlays the movie (the "Special Features" menu), Maher does not seem like he takes the whole thing very seriously (or very humorously). I gave up after a while.
Religion is a very important force in the world of humans: what's good, bad, dangerous, hopeful, essential... and hilarious about religion deserves a better movie than this.
Friday, March 13, 2009
THE CAKE EATERS - AND MARY STUART MASTERSON
Director of THE CAKE EATERS
at the Tribeca Film Festival 2007
Photo by Eric Roffman for QPORIT
Mary Stuart Masterson's brilliant and sensitive film, The Cake Eaters (TCE) opens Friday the 13th at "selected theaters in selected cities".
I first saw TCE at the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) two years ago, where it was one of my favorite films. It features a great (award worthy!) performance by Kristen Stewart, who is soon to be one of our most important actresses. Kristen is beautiful, young, interesting to watch, extremely talented (with a wide range of roles), and almost ubiquitous (the mega-hit Twilight, the comedy What Just Happened, the action film Jumper, plus Panic Room, In The Wild, and five films in the works!).
Also notable about The Cake Eaters is -- well, it's a cliche, but even cliches can be true -- that the location is "almost a character." Shot in upstate New York, the physical environment has a reality that contributes to the mood and the substance of the film, in much the same way that environment was so important in Altman's films.
On a personal note, I interviewed Mary Stuart's father, actor/director Peter Masterson, many years ago, and he was very smart, and the nicest person; I saw Mary Stuart first, long ago, on location on her first film, when she was eight or nine; and I saw her, more recently, bouncing down the Red Carpet at The Tribeca Film Festival, and later I had the opportunity to speak with her on the phone and post about the film, before TCE opened at the Stony Brook Festival last year. She is charming, vivacious and friendly.
The Cake Eaters has a strong pedigree as an award winner at many film festivals (including Best Feature at Stony Brook), and is a very special film to see.
As an extra bonus, Mary Stuart will be on hand for a Q & A after the screenings in New York:
Q&A with Director Mary Stuart Masterson
Cinema Village (NYC) – 3/13 after 7:25p show & 3/14 after 3p show
Cobble Hill Cinemas (Brooklyn) – 3/14 after 7:45p show & 3/15 after 3:10p show
THE CAKE EATERS starring Kristen Stewart, Aaron Stanford, Bruce Dern, Elizabeth Ashley, Jayce Bartok. Directed by Mary Stuart Masterson.
OPENS MARCH 13TH – New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Phoenix, Santa Fe…
Monday, March 02, 2009
THE PUBLIC - SHAKESPEARE LAB IS FREE! & OTHER NEWS
The Public Theater is making a lot of important news. The last few years have been one major initiative after another. Here are some important recent events.
THE SHAKESPEARE LAB IS FREE!
The Shakespeare Lab, the theater’s professional actor development program, a six week training program that is the gold standard for American Shakepeare studies, will be tuition-free in 2009!!!
“The decision to make the program free this year builds on The Public’s long tradition of free Shakespeare in the Park and the theater’s ongoing commitment to building a community of classically trained artists.”
Shakespeare Lab 2009 will run from June 15-July 24. Participants must be completely available for this entire period, plus the entire time through August 9 when they will be preparing and touring a one hour performance of Shakespeare at venues around the city.
“Under the direction of Barry Edelstein, The Shakespeare Lab immerses a carefully-selected company of professional, mid-career actors in a six-week intensive exploring the rigors, challenges, and joys of performing Shakespeare. The Shakespeare Lab is a unique opportunity for working American actors in mid-career to hone their craft and expand their classical skills. It aims to build a strong and diverse collective of classically trained actors which will expand The Public Theater’s community of artists.”
“This is a major step for The Shakespeare Lab, and stems from the ongoing democratic nature of the Public Theater,” said Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “We need to make the best training available to the most diverse group of artists, regardless of their ability to pay. I am proud that in this tough economic climate we are able to make this move.”
“The Lab’s workshops in Shakespearean performance are led by some of the most respected figures in American classical theater training, including Christopher Bayes, Lisa Benevides, Barry Edelstein, Robert Perillo, J. Steven White, Grace Zandarski, Janet Zarish and others. Guest artists, including eminent members of The Public Theater community and other leading Shakespeareans, will frequently visit the Shakespeare Lab.”
“The Shakespeare Lab was founded in 1995, and in the 14 years since, numerous members of the Shakespeare Lab Company have gone on to secure roles in the Park, at The Public Theater, on and off-Broadway, and in regional theaters, in addition to work in film and television. Past Shakespeare Lab participants include Elena Shaddow, Nana Mensah and Jennifer Kidwell, who performed in The Public Theater’s workshop of The Bacchae, directed by JoAnne Akalaitis; Ryan McCarthy, who appeared in The Public’s 2007 production of King Lear with Kevin Kline; Amir Arison, who will appear in the upcoming Public Theater production of Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them; Julio Monge, who has appeared in many Shakespeare productions at The Public, most recently Hamlet in Central Park; and Nancy Lemenager, who recently concluded a stint as Velma in Chicago on Broadway.”
Several years ago, I spoke with Amir Arison, when he was in a production sponsored by the Sloan Foundation at the Tribeca Film Festival, and he told me how vaulable the Shakespeare Lab program had been for him.
Membership in the Shakespeare Lab Company is by audition only. Requirements and other information can be found at www.publictheater.org, and more specifically at http://www.publictheater.org/content/view/34/110/.
But that's not all! The Public Theater does not just provide free Shakespeare training for professional actors...
There are two other Shakespeare training programs this summer, this time for school children, also both free:
- Shakespeare Lab Jr., a program of free, one-week Shakespeare workshops for New York City schoolchildren http://www.publictheater.org/content/view/131/226/
- and Summer Shake-Up, a one-day celebration of Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater for New York City schoolchildren and their families http://www.publictheater.org/content/view/144/246/
THE PUBLIC - TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN + PANELS
Photo: Native Earth Performing Arts.
Currently, TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN is playing at The Public and, now, the Public LAB Speaker Series, held every Tuesday following Public LAB shows, will consist of conversations with the artists and notable panelists.
In addition, NBC Universal, in conjunction with The Public, will be holding Native American Talent Outreach events.
A part of The Public Theater’s Native Theater Initiative, TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN is written and performed by Darrell Dennis (from the Shuswap nation) and directed by Herbie Barnes (from the Ojibway nation), and will run through Sunday, March 15. Tickets are $10 for all performances and include free admission to Tuesday evening post-show discussions.
"In TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN, acclaimed Canadian playwright and performer Darrell Dennis tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a young Indian man, Simon Douglas. From living life on the “Rez” to navigating the mean streets of Vancouver’s east side, Dennis weaves a funny and stirring story of identity, discovery, choice and self-respect. A hit from The Public’s inaugural Native Theater Festival, this one-man play returns to make its U.S. premiere following a Canadian tour and two nominations for the Dora Mavor Award, the highest theatrical honor in Canada. "
Panel -- Tuesday March 3:
"The Tuesday, March 3 post-show discussion will focus on “Native Theater in New York City Today.” Panelists for this introduction to New York’s local Native theater scene, moderated by The Public Theater’s Literary Associate Liz Frankel, include Steve Elm of Amerinda, The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s Heye Center director John Haworth, Spiderwoman Theater’s Muriel Miguel, and Mixed Phoenix Theatre Group’s Danielle Soames."
Panel -- Tuesday March 10:
"Following the Tuesday, March 10 performance, Cherokee director Betsy Theobald Richards will join with artists from the formative years of the Native Theater movement to discuss “The Rise of Native Theater in New York City in the 1960s and 70s.” Panelists will include writer and advocate Suzan Shown Harjo, actor and producer Soni Moreno, and Spiderwoman Theater’s Muriel Miguel."
In addition to the Public LAB Speaker Series, The Public hosts NBC Universal’s Native American Talent Outreach in conjunction with TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN.
NBC Universal’s Native American Talent Outreach, March 9 & 10:
On Monday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m., NBC Networks executives will present a multi-network industry panel discussion of particular interest to Native actors, writers and directors. Tickets are free; to RSVP, please email email@example.com.
On Tuesday, March 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., NBC Universal will host an open casting call, featuring talent representatives from a variety of film and television projects who are in search of Native American actors for non-specific roles. This open call is designed to increase diversity across NBC Universal’s expanding talent pool. For more information on this event, please visit www.diversecitynbc.com .
"The goals of the Native Theater Initiative at The Public Theater, funded by The Ford Foundation, are to support the work of Native theater artists across North America; to create a forum for field discussion among Native theater artists and professionals; and to further raise visibility and awareness of Native theater artists for New York audiences and the greater field of American Theater. "
"The Public Theater’s Native Theater Initiative Advisory Committee consists of Sheila Tousey, Hanay Geiogamah, Terry Gomez, Alanis King, Daniel David Moses, Yvette Nolan, Jennifer Podemski, Randy Reinholz, and Edward Wemytewa. "
TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN will run through Sunday, March 15. The performance schedule is Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM; and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM.
The Public Theater is located at 425 Lafayette Street. All tickets are $10 and can be purchased at (212) 967-7555 or by visiting www.publictheater.org .
Here is some biographical information about the participants (supplied by The Public):
DARRELL DENNIS (Playwright and Performer) is an actor, writer, and comedian from the Shuswap Nation in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. He is a produced playwright and an award-winning writer for television. His script “Moccasin Flats” was accepted into the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. Darrell is a two-time Dora Award nominee for his one man show Tales of an Urban Indian. He is also an alumnus of the Second City National Touring Company. His playwriting credits also include Trickster of Third Avenue East.
HERBIE BARNES (Director) works as an actor, director, writer and teacher. His film credits include the television movie “Spirit Rider,” the feature film Dance Me Outside, and the television series “The Rez.” His theatre credits include Toronto at Dreamers Rock, The Rememberer, Boy in the Treehouse, The Illustrated History of the Anishnabe, The Hobbit, The Gap, Sucker Falls, The Epic Period, Sin City, and the Manitoba Theatre for Young's People's production of IMROVident: The Show Where Anything Can Happen.
Panelists (Parentheses denote tribal affiliation):
DARRELL DENNIS (Shuswap) is the writer and star of the two-time Dora Award-nominated Tales of an Urban Indian. He is best-known for his roles in such television series as “Northwood” and “The Rez.” His feature film credits include Leaving Normal, Shania: A Life in Eight Albums, and Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis.
STEVE ELM (Oneida) is an actor, writer, director and educator who has worked in the New York Native community for many years. He is Artistic Director of New York City based Amerinda Theatre, whose mission is to develop and present Native American theatre artists.
SUZAN SHOWN HARJO (Cheyenne & Muscogee) is a poet, writer, curator and policy advocate, who has helped Native Peoples recover more than one million acres of land and has developed key laws to protect Native nations, arts, cultures, languages, religious freedom, sovereignty and sacred places. A Founding Trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, she began work in 1967 that led to the NMAI, to repatriation laws and to museum reform.
JOHN HAWORTH (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) is Director of the National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. Mr. Haworth has an MBA from Columbia University, where he also was designated as a Revson Fellow on the Future of New York City in 1979.. He has written extensively on cultural and museum issues over the years, including articles for NMAI exhibition catalogues and magazines.
MURIEL MIGUEL (Kuna/Rappahannock) is a founding member and Artistic Director of Spiderwoman Theater, the longest running Native American women’s theater company in North America. Her stage credits include: Philomena Moosetail in The Rez Sister, Aunt Shadie in The Unnatural and Accidental Women, Martha in Buz’Gem Blues, Spirit Woman in BONES: An Aboriginal Dance Opera. She has created the one-woman shows Hot' N' Soft, Trail of the Otter and most recently Red Mother.
SONI MORENO (Maya, Apache, and Yaqui Nations) hails from California, studied at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, where she played the role of Crissy in the original San Francisco Cast of Hair. Aside from her theatre credits, she is the co-founder of the aboriginal women’s vocal group “Ulali,” Associate Producer for Native Roots in Rhythms Music Festival in Albuquerque and is on the Board of Directors for the American Indian Community House.
YVETTE NOLAN (Algonquin from Kitiganzibi Nation). Her plays include BLADE, Job’s Wife, Video, Annie Mae’s Movement, the libretto Hilda Blake and the radio play Owen. She is the editor of Beyond the Pale: Dramatic Writing from First Nations Writers and Writers of Colour. Directing credits include Death of a Chief, Tales of An Urban Indian, The Unnatural and Accidental Women, Annie Mae’s Movement (Native Earth), The Only Good Indian..., The Triple Truth (Turtle Gals). She is currently the Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts, and the President of the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance.
RANDY REINHOLZ (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) has directed close to 50 plays across the U.S. and Canada. He was the director and executive producer of Urban Tattoo and the critically acclaimed productions of Jump Kiss, The Buz'Gem Blues and Please Do Not Touch the Indians and was the executive producer of the 2005 world premiere of Kino & Teresa. Reinholz has co-sponsored showcases and Native American diversity workshops for ABC and NBC and is an annual guest artist for the FOX American Indian Summer Institute.
BETSY THEOBALD RICHARDS (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) joined the Ford Foundation’s Knowledge, Creativity and Freedom Program in 2003 as a Program Officer in arts and culture. She also serves as a chairperson of Ford’s worldwide Committee on Indigenous Peoples, is member of the Foundation’s Philanthropy Learning Group and serves as an advisor to Ford’s global Intellectual Property Initiative. Betsy, who has worked as a theater director and dramaturg, developing scripts by Native American writers, is proud to serve as the first Native American Program Officer at the Ford Foundation.
DANIELLE SOAMES (Mohawk). An actor, director, producer and now co-founder and artistic co-director of Mixed Phoenix Theatre Group, she has lived in NYC for the past 12 years. She is a contract cultural interpreter at the National Museum of American Indian. She writes a column in Eastern Door Newspaper and writes for Talking Stick, part of AMERINDA, regularly.
SHEILA TOUSEY (Menominee and Stockbridge-Munsee Nation) has acted in movies, television and in theater in NYC and regional theaters across the U.S. Some of the directors she has worked with include Joanne Akalaitis, Joe Chaiken, Linda Chapman, Kennetch Charlette, Liviu Ciulei, David Esbjornson, Ron Van Lieu, Hanay Geiogamah (American Indian Dance Theater), Lisa Peterson, Betsy Richards, Sam Shepard, Tony Taccone, Paul Walker and Robert Woodruff. In 2006 Sheila was Artist-in-Residence at the Public Theater; she currently serves as The Public’s Native Theater Initiative Consultant.
The Native Theater Initiative Partners are Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, American Indian Community House, Amerinda, The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, The National Museum of the American Indian.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
THE READER -- THE TROUBLE WITH GOOD ACTING
Kate Winslet's performance in The Reader has been variously hailed (among other things) for showing the banality of evil, and finding humanity within a troubled character. It is also notable for being "centered" (whatever that really means), which is a way of bringing energy into a character while being fundamentally closed in. It is the power of subtext -- that hidden meaning that never is quite explicitly said.
But I believe there is another level of acting that this style of acting -- also practiced by Ralph Fiennes in the film (and of which Morgan Freeman in almost anything is the absolute master) -- seems almost incapable of. That higher level of acting includes the ability to be messy, open, truly evil, truly scared, truly natural.
The trouble with good acting is that it hides the messy, evil, uncontrollable inhumanity that lies behind evil deeds.
It is clear that Hanna Schmitz, Kate Winslet's character, is not a "good" person. However when you actually list what she is shown to have done, in this film, it is also clear that the full extent of her evil is obfuscated by the style of the film and the acting. I am not advocating being preachy. That is one step less than good acting, good writing, and good directing. I am advocating finding a way to be one step more.
- Regularly sent women to be killed
- Refused to rescue women who were burning to death
- Preferred to admit to killing people, than to admit to illiteracy
- Seduced an underage boy, tormented him with unexplained mood swings, and abandoned him suddenly without explanation -- effectively disturbing him for life.
The characterization of Schmitz in the movie seems to describe her as unaware, or as rationalizing her actions, as opposed to finding a center of true evil that allows this behavior. Indeed, the scene in which Fiennes' character declines to publicly admit his affair and defend Schmitz from accusations of leading the camp guards (which she admitted to in order to avoid disclosing her illiteracy), seems designed to reinforce the idea that simple cowardice is ubiquitous and more of a presence in people's lives than things like: prison for life and responsibility for murder.
I was also put off by the affluence at the apartment of the Jewish survivor. It was as if the filmmakers were saying: see, she survived and did very well after all (after all the looting and the murders) and it seems exculpatory.
While Fiennes and Winslet act with grace and that great centered, closed in-style (as much acting style as a portrayal of their characters), the boy, played by David Kross, performs in a much more open style, that I found in some ways more interesting than the major stars'. He has been awarded for his performance, but much less than Winslet.
Without taking away from Winslet's accomplishments, and the quality of the film, what both the film and her performance do lack is the additional, essential, central acknowledgement of evil at the heart of her behavior.
To appreciate my concern with the "centered" style of acting, it is necessary to watch real people unexpectedly ambushed by media in the middle of real catastrophes (or triumphs). The way they express fear and hurt... or relief or joy is very different from the way it is portrayed by most actors.
I would like to see acting that remains accessible while allowing evil, joy, hurt, fear, love to be fully open.
Indeed, Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight is the best recent example of this next level of acting. His tragic death soon after, however, may indicate the toll on the actor entailed in portraying this kind of truth.
Schmitz' evil was not of the open kind, like the Joker's. Indeed the point of the film is that her evil was the result of circumstance. But the bigger point is that circumstance is not all there is. There must be a predisposition to valuing literacy more than life, valuing order more than saving burning humans, indulging in seduction rather than taking responsibility for someone else's happiness in life. The behavior just seemed controlled. Controlled acting is not sufficient. What is needed to bring this film and this characterization to the next level is -- without being obvious and tiresome -- acting that makes the evil predisposition smoulder.