The Barefoot Bandit

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2010 by smcderm

Recently, I watched a news special on Kvue (I believe) about a nineteen year old kid who became a bandit on the run from the law for two years.  Impressively, he wore no shoes during those two years. During those two years, he robbed numerous small businesses and homes, and successfully hijacked several planes which he used to travel from the U.S. to Canada and the Bahamas. This reminds me of the movie Catch Me If You Can with Leonardo DiCaprio. I’ve never actually seen the movie, althought I do own it, but I know what the story is. This kid was younger than the guy in Catch Me If You Can, and what he did was equally as impressive. This kid was brilliant, he evaded authorities several times even when he was completely surrounded by the law.

I don’t know his whole background story, but I know that he was a high school dropout and that he ran away from a halfway house. He liked animals and was very good with technology. Throughout his two years on the run, he was able to maintain and update a facebook page, which earned him a loyal following. He stole thousands of dollars from small businesses and donated some of it to an animal shelter in a town he was passing through. Of course when you hear that, you think Robin Hood, but he didn’t exactly steal from the wealthy, he stole from whoever he could steal from.

I don’t think I approve of what he did, but I am thoroughly impressed that a nineteen year old kid could figure out how to fly a plane on his own and successfully hijack several planes in different cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Not to mention outwitting the law in three different countries for two years straight. The kid had a great, but terrible gift and lady luck on his side. Almost all of his landings in the planes he hijacked were crash landings in the wilderness and from all of them he walked away without any serious injuries. His lack of shoes could have caused him to contract all kinds of diseases, but alas, he seemed perfectly healthy when the authorities caught up with him.



How hard can it be to do an English accent?

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2010 by smcderm

Recently, Dick Van Dyke was listed as portraying one of the worst English accents ever. Even thoughthe magazine that put him on this list chided him for his attempt at a cockney accent in Mary Poppins, it still forgave him, because he was just too darn cute, and they very well should. Dick Van Dyke actually mentioned it in an NPR interview, saying that he still gets jokingly chided by English people for his poor attempt at an cockney accent. His response was that he couldn’t help it, because his acting coach, being Irish, was also very bad at doing an cockney accent. The magazine listed 13 notoriously bad English accents in total. Among them are, not surprisingly, Mischa Barton and Keanu Reeves. According to the article, Mischa Barton’s father is from England, and she herself was born in London. This makes sense, yet does not make sense to me. I can accept the fact that not everyone has an ear for accents, but I should think that if a person grew up hearing a certain accent, then they should be able to mimic it. I’m not going to comment anything on Keanu Reeves, because I’m just not surprised, at all.

Some actors that made the list that I was a bit surprised about were Marlon Brando, Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle because I understand them to be talented actors. Marlon Brando, who playing an English soldier in Muntiny on the Bounty, was described as sounding like a drunken member of the House of Lords. Well, if a drunken member of the House of Lords was what Brando was going for, I think he pulled it off very well. In my opinion, he did the best accent of the worst, because at least he got a drunken Englishman accent right. As for Don Cheadle, I felt sorry for him when I heard his attempt at an English accent. He worked hard on his accent, working with a dialect coach and going to London to practice speaking to people.

This brings me to wonder why performing a perfect English accent seems to be so hard for Americans. Is it because American actors are innately less talented in accents, or are people just really judgmental when it comes to an English accent?


From Big Screen To Small Screen

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 by smcderm

Today, most critics feel that Hollywood has lost its golden touch. Sales ratings determine what will be produced, not quality. The movies cater to a younger market, mostly teenagers and young adults, because they make up the bulk of ticket buyers. Why this correlates with the low creativity of Hollywood, I don’t know. Maybe it is because today’s youth is more concerned with the big car crash or high melodrama that will hold their short attention spans, and could care less about whether the film qualifies as art or not. I have often been asked to name one good movie that has come out in the past decade, one that could possibly be called a masterpiece in decades to come, and I admit that I can come up with little to none (although I believe that Little Miss Sunshine shows promise). I agree that Hollywood is not in its Golden Era anymore, and that current films are nowhere near the quality of the film noir period, but, regardless, there are still excellent films that come out.

An interesting point the article I read makes is that Hollywood may have lost its touch in film making, but that touch has been transferred to television. Paid for channels such as HBO have been proving that Hollywood still can produce quality work. Then again, a top executive at HBO says that the work produced is still not determined by quality, but the subscribers, who tend to be older adults who can afford to pay for channels like HBO.  I can see the difference between a paid channel, HBO, and a free channel, CW. Shows on HBO are more focused on the story and the reality of the story, while shows on the CW are focused more on how many thrills you can fit into one episode. Not to say that HBO absolutely does not do the same thing, they do, but it’s not their main focus. Shows on HBO also run 20-30 minutes longer than CW shows do, not to mention that main characters on HBO tend to be older than those on CW.



The Magical Movie Palace

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2010 by smcderm

Why are people so fascinated with the movies? What makes them so enticing? For  Gordon Brinckle, it wasn’t the movies themselves, but the magic surrounding them. The feeling that you got of being transported to another world, which is why he built his very own movie palace, The Shalimar, in his own basement. As a movie enthusiast, I would have to agree that there is a certain magical feel to the movies, you can’t miss it and you can’t duplicate it in anything else. By magic, I don’t mean the literal sort that witches and wizards perform. What I mean by magic is the unnamed feeling of inspiration you get when you encounter something special.

Nothing can inspire me like film and theatre, which is why I have chosen to make my career in them. Any theatre person can tell you of the strange feeling they get when they walk into a theatre, especially and old one. It has been described to me as the collective energy and passion of every theatre person who has worked in the space before. For example people who work in a film studio in L.A. that had been founded by Charlie Chaplin, claim that his spirit still resides in the studio, which makes for a peculiar magical feeling unique to that studio.

Kendall Messick, Gordon Brinckle’s neighbor, chose to write a biography about the Shalimar, because he feels that the theatre, “can be a metaphor for the wonderful life experiences and stories that people have, that if you take the time to listen, you’ll be able to discover.” People’s stories are interesting, and we can always learn from them, which is why, I think, theatre happens in the first place. People’s stories inspire theatre, which inspires people to tell their stories. I definitely agree with Brinckle that one of the main reasons I love film and theatre so much is because of the magic that surrounds it, but I also love it because of the inspiration it brings to create a story.


Reason vs. Truth(iness)

In Uncategorized on September 21, 2010 by smcderm

This past week, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert both announced pretty big announcements. Both comedians will be hosting rallies on October 30th in Washington D.C.  Stewart will be hosting his Rally To Restore Sanity and Colbert will be hosting his March To Keep Fear Alive. These rallies are in response to the Tea Party rallies which have been going on this past year. Both Colbert and Stewart have very convincing arguments, but only one of them will fully convince me to attend their rally.

Stewart really impresses me with his cleverness. He does bring up a good point about the moderate majority and the radical minority. The Tea Partiers, with their more radical antics, are getting all the media attention, painting blood on their hands and standing on the side of the road with signs that read “Teabagging For Jesus.” The moderates, which Stewart claims makes up 70-80% of the population, are not giving voice to their opinions. I agree that the Tea Party is a minority and that a lot of the nation does not harbor strong anti Obama sentiments, and that the Teabaggers could possibly take it down a notch. I can also logically see that Obama and extremist terrorist groups are in no way related, that Obama does not plan to create a Fourth Reich, nor is he trying to have vengeance upon the caucasian population of America for enslaving his ancestors. Yes, indeed Stewart almost convinces me to join in on his Million Moderate March.

On the other hand, Stephen Colbert has always encouraged me to follow my intuition, in other words, my truthiness. The respect he has for his extremist beliefs and the way he always stands by them, no matter what, has caused me to respect him as well as his beliefs. His campaign for fear makes sense to me, because my Catholic background teaches me that in order to love God, you must fear him, or else there will be chaos. I mean, if there were nothing to fear, wouldn’t you feel free to murder, pillage and covet? You wouldn’t care about making the world a better place or goodwill towards men, only about yourself…well that’s at least what I feel could happen. Yes, indeed Colbert could convince me to keep fear alive by appealing so elegantly to my psyche.

Now comes the time when I have to choose whose arguments were the most convincing. It was a very hard decision to make, considering that both Stewart and Colbert have very powerful reasons for me to attend their rallies. For this one, I believe I will have to trust my woman’s intuition, my truthiness and Stephen Colbert…besides, I have a really good idea for a protest sign. I received inspiration from a Teabagger who had accidentally misspelled the word “socialist” on his sign, instead writing “socialest.” As soon as I saw that sign, I knew in my gut that Obama was molesting my freedom with his policies, so I decided to marry those two words together to form a word to more appropriately describe my feelings: Socialesting. So on October 30th, I will proudly sport my spiffy sign at Colbert’s rally which will read “Obama: Stop Socialesting Me!” After all, everyone is afraid of being molested, and by associating socialism with molestation, I will be fulfilling the purpose of the rally and keeping fear alive.

Good night, and good luck.


Pipeline To Broadway

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2010 by smcderm

Broadway is known to be the best of the best. All of the plays that make it to the Broadway stages are supposed to be fantastic and ingenious. But, where do these plays come from? Where do they begin? For this week’s post, I read an article on the NPR website about Broadway’s fascination with the London stage, and how it is easier to get to Broadway from a U.K. venue than from a U.S. venue. This article explained to me many of the reasons behind the choice to premier a show in London before moving to Broadway- It’s less of a risk, less expensive, and allows for more liberty in subject matter. The only thing the article did not explain to me was how these reasons came to be- Why is it less of a risk, why is it less expensive and why does it allow for more liberty in subject matter?

I would love to say that I know the answers to these questions, but unfortunately, I do not. I can speculate, though. Two vague answers the article gave were that American audiences love an English accent, even if an American cast is imitating one and that London has a steady theatre-going audience. I can certainly understand the first one, because being an American myself, I love hearing and English accent. There’s just something about it that really makes me want to sit in a theatre and listen to one for two hours. It makes the men and women who are speaking it seem so much more attractive, intelligent and witty. The second one is more ambiguous, but then again, I am only speculating, not lecturing. Myspeculation is that the U.S. markets to more than one type of audience, while the London stage only attracts a particular type of audience. The U.S. produces more commercially successful shows such as Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, which everyone is familiar with, due to the massive amount of movie adaptations that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. The U.K. seems to produce newer shows that not many people have heard of and many only appeal to a certain audience.

How do these two tie together? Well, the English and American cultures are so closely related, that it is easy to assume what English audiences like, American audiences will like as well, and if an U.K. produced play does well on Broadway, then it will become a commercial success, and possibly be translated into a movie. One example is History Boys. It started out in the West End in London where it was a smash hit, was brought over to Broadway where it was a smash hit, and then made into a movie. Well, that’s enough for my speculations…what are yours?


The Gowns Will Rise Again

In Uncategorized on September 5, 2010 by smcderm


Gone With the Wind is my all time favorite movie. I love the story, the characters and the actors, but what really ties all of these subjects together are the costumes. I mean, who doesn’t remember Scarlett’s deep green curtain dress? Ever since the movie came out, it has become a icon for the film. Carol Burnett even devoted a sketch to the curtain dress. This past week, my grandmother (another avid fan of Gone With the Wind) sent me an article from the Houston Chronicle about the gowns Scarlett O’Hara wears in the film.

The gowns were built aroud 1938 and were transferred to the Harry Ransom Center on the UT campus in the 1980s for display. Since then they have been hanging on unsuitable mannequins, which along with age, has caused them to deteriorate. Now, they are so fragile that they cannot be put on display anymore, and the dresses on display now are only copies. The only gown fit for display is a red one which Scarlett wears in Melanie’s birthday party scene.

It is clear that the gowns must be restored, but to do so would cost a grand sum of $30,000, so the Ransom Center is now creating a campaign in which to raise the money. If the money is raised, they plan to be able to exhibit the costumes again for the film’s 75th anniversary in 2014. Along with restoring the costumes, the sum will be used to construct custom mannequins for the dresses, because Vivien Leigh was a very small girl, several sizes smaller than the average mannequin. I believe that the restoration of these gowns is important, because they represent a major landmark in film history and in Southern history. Gone With the Wind is considered as one of the greatest films of all time and the costumes were painstakingly planned and built to fit the period, straight down to the authentic lace petticoats. The costumes reflect three important moments in Southern history, the antebellum period, the civil war period and the post civil war reconstruction period. To witness these costumes is like witnessing these three important eras in Southern history along with witnessing a great cinematic feat. Going to see copies of the gowns is nice, but to me, not the same as the real thing.