Friday, March 5, 2010

The Weekends Are For Working

A week has come and gone, and I find myself still trying to finish the same blog entry. March has not started well for a season of writing. I suppose I have been rather busy of late, working when I can, rushing to auditions, trying to learn new music and read new plays, all the while attempting to avoid the McDonald's (mostly successful) and Chinese takeout (mostly not; one pint triple jade + 1/2 fried chicken w/sweet plantains = amazing) and find the gym. I am again settling into my weird nocturnal schedule, the reciprocal regimen of most everyone else. I feel like I am back on the ball, somewhat back to normal, making motions to move on with my life. Because of my non-traditional schedule, my world seems so bizarre sometimes, an uneven reality. Tuesdays have quickly become my favorite days. The past weeks have seen me working more often at Locale, while still trying to make it to auditions (there were over 400 people at the Spamalot open call on Monday, shoot me). Looking at another Friday, I grimace a little and hope the weekend is not too crazy at work (but crazy enough that we make some cash). As Sunday fast approaches, I have been doing my best to sneak in all the Oscar contenders before the actual ceremonies. This week's efforts have centered on the Best Picture race, a showdown between Avatar and The Hurt Locker, James Cameron and Kathyrn Bigelow, ex-husband and wife. It is interesting that this year's top contenders for Best Picture (including the dark horse Inglorious Bastards, and left field entry District 9) are all war movies, pictures mostly concerned with effects, camera shots, and mood rather than acting or dialogue (between the three films, there are only two acting nominees). While the two leading films are both about war, about strangers in a foreign place, they are not easily compared. For starters, the medium and look of each film is so different, Avatar utilizing groundbreaking 3-D and animation technology to create a futuristic, alien world, The Hurt Locker relishing in gritty, subtle camera shots, creating ugly, oftentimes disturbing images rather than fantastical, sweeping views. While Avatar centers around a soldier's journey into the unknown, a military juggernaut bent on exploiting a new world, the film also has a strong spiritual influence, a celebration of life, nature, and family. The Hurt Locker is a Nihilistic portrait of war, devoid of God, of hope, family, where all seems lost and your mission is to die. Avatar lives in a world of dreams, while The Hurt Locker is an inescapable nightmare. We experience Avatar through the eyes of young Jake Sully, while The Hurt Locker is a documentary-style film, watching the action, but never truly seeing inside the characters' heads. Who will win Best Picture? Your guess is probably as good as mine, though I am going with Avatar, the animated juggernaut that has earned more money than any other film in history. The 3-D glasses, the hype, the box receipts, it seems hard to pass up. The Hurt Locker's best bets lie in the Best Director and Best Screenplay categories, where artistry and ingenuity are valued over awe and award campaigns. Ms. Bigelow's intentions and craftsmanship (or womanship one should say) with the camera, are what shine most brightly in this dark, heavy, and at times troubled film. Surprisingly, her film is the most masculine, macho contender at this year's awards show (followed by Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards), clearly a different creature than the oftentimes girly, earthy work of fellow female directors Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers. Interestingly, Bigelow-engraved prize for Best Director, would make her the first woman to accomplish such a feat, and we know how much Oscar likes to make history. On the other hand, Avatar not only manages to cash in our lust for war, but also our fetish for the primitive and uncivilized. From their slender frames to the painted bodies and minimal clothing to the long dreads, the fictional Na'vi seem an obvious reference to Native Americans and Africans, people removed from their lands in order to siphon its riches. The Na'vi's version of the Holy Spirit, Ey'wah, seems a conspicuous mashup of Yahwe. For me, that is the defining flaw of James Cameron's work, his lack of subtlety and oftentimes tact (remember "I'm the King of the World!" let's hope he is properly muzzled and PR-ed on Sunday). However, in this case his broad strokes and excessive sensibilities have paid off, in creating a unique, thrilling, and original film. Its dazzling animation and inherit humanity make it the most universal of this year's films (except for possibly Up), while many of the other films feel compartmentalized, catering to its individual audience (i.e. Precious, Nine, Bastards, The Blind Side, etc). If I had my pick, I would probably opt for Precious, a simpler, grittier film, living in the world of Harlem rather than distant planets, desserts, or the sky. For Precious, its appeal lies mostly in script, cast, and characters, making it a serious contender in other categories, but small when compared to some of this year's more sweeping films. For me, it is also one of the movies I would easily watch again (along with Crazy Heart, A Single Man, and, of course, Julie & Julia). Yesterday, I was interviewed on the street for my Oscar picks (you can supposdely see it on, my choices coincidentally coinciding with amNY (Avatar, Bridges, Streep, Waltz, Mo'Nique). We shall see if I am right. Plans include making black bean soup with Katrina, lots of red wine, and hopefully lots of laughs at co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Due to one of the best film crops in recent memories, the newly instated 10 Best Picture nominees, and what seems like an especially epic awards season, this year's Academy Awards should be something to remember and enjoy. I am ready to celebrate the triumphs and finally know the winners, then lay to rest this year's awards season and my recent film infatuation.

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