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Everything posted by joelmarquez

  1. Anyone here going to see Monna Vanna?

    Hi Dave, I'm glad to hear it! Episode 8 has been posted to the play's blog, and it should be on iTunes as well, though it apparently takes a while to show up after being posted. In it, we talk again with Stephan Smith Collins, who plays Guido, about Act III. There are some minor spoilers, but nothing big. Over the weekend, we recorded two more episodes, this time with Robin Field, who will be playing Marco, Guido's father. They're very good episodes, if I do say so myself. Robin talks about some of the backstory he used to fill in some of the blanks in Marco's character, and I think Objectivists will find it very interesting. Also, is there anything you, or anyone else, would like to hear us talk about on the podcast? We will be doing another episode, or more this next weekend, and are actively looking for things to talk about. Here's a thought: If interested parties would like to post questions for us here, we'll try to answer them on the podcast. Thanks!
  2. Anyone here going to see Monna Vanna?

    Hi Dave, I've been telling everyone that this could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Like Brigadoon, it could easily disappear for another 100 years. It's unlikely that there will be a commercially available video. So treasure this while you can. (by the way, we had people drive down from Berkeley on Saturday. Others from the Bay Area will be coming down either next week or the week after. Most of the people at Sunday's show drove up from Orange County, and a few from San Diego.) Joel
  3. Is anyone on this forum planning on seeing the production of Monna Vanna, in Hollywood? Just curious.
  4. Anyone here going to see Monna Vanna?

    Just to give you an idea of how enormous an undertaking this was, when we put out our casting call, we received over a thousand submissions, and over 800 for Vanna alone. Out of that group, we -barely- were able to get fully cast with the caliber of actors required for these roles. And 3 of them were cast from personal networking. There was not one actress in that pile of 800 submissions that was remotely close to being Vanna. If I had to find another Vanna, I would despair of having to dive into another pile like that. Having the will to do the play is the first step, of course. But trying to find a cast for it is like herding cats. Even if you can find the actors you like, getting them to be on the same schedule is impossible if they're not getting paid. I'm biased, and I do think this could be a commercially successful venture. But it'll be more expensive to do this in the future, not less. If only to guarantee the time of the great cast we have now. I'm definitely not opposed to the idea, so if you know someone who would want to bankroll it, send them my way. But for now, enjoy this version. It won't be here forever. Joel
  5. Anyone here going to see Monna Vanna?

    Hi Ed, Thanks for that. I'm glad you liked it. I know that you know the play pretty well. How did the real-life performances match up with your expectations? Did anything surprise you? Joel
  6. Monna Vanna

    Thanks to all the well-wishers. We're just now into our 4th week of rehearsal and it's probably the most creative and fulfilling experience I've ever had. Our actors are crazy passionate about the material, and it's inspiring to see. It's hard to say whether this will happen. The only thing we know for sure is that there will be a three week run in Hollywood, and it could very easily be the only form in which this play will exist. We're trying to make this have a life beyond those three weeks, but there are no guarantees.
  7. Monna Vanna

    You might be interested to know that there is a new production of this play being staged in Hollywood and directed by yours truly. We open on November 29th at the Stella Adler theater on Hollywood and Highland and we're running for three straight weeks. Our cast is prodigiously talented, classically trained, and passionate about the material. Also, the 12/2 sunday 2pm show will be a benefit for the Ayn Rand Institute. You can find out more information at the following website: Keep checking back with the website, as we plan to have a behind-the-scenes podcast and a blog up soon.
  8. Funny Face (1957)

    While it's true that Fred Astaire was past his prime by the time Funny Face came around, there were a few numbers that still take your breathe away. That mock bullfight he stages in the courtyard of Audrey Hepburn's hotel reminded me a little of Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain. It still had Astaire's elegant style but was also athletic and masculine, like a Gene Kelly dance. Of course, the number wasn't continuous and had to be broken up into four or five cuts. In the old days, he would have shot the whole thing without a break. Pretty good for a 60 year old guy, though.
  9. Funny Face (1957)

    Just came back from seeing Funny Face at the New Beverly here in LA and I have to say that I liked the movie a lot more than my memory of it. It's the old Ugly Duckling story, sort of a 1950's version of The Devil Wears Prada. And of course, Audrey Hepburn is so good as the duckling who becomes a swan (even though she's fairly swan-like before her transformation). What I had forgotten is that it was directed by Stanley Donen, who directed Audrey Hepburn in Charade and Two for the Road, but more famously was the director of Singin' in the Rain, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Every time I see one of Donen's movies, I'm always struck by how thoroughly American he is, in the best way. He's optimistic and down to earth, full of vibrant, vivacious life. He's wise and cheerful and loves to mock phoniness. And what I had really forgotten about Funny Face is how, while it was a movie that loved Paris, the city, it was also a movie that loved to mock the French. Seriously. Some of the anti-french zingers in this movie had me laughing out loud in the middle of the theater. The Astaire/Hepburn romance was still a little awkward (he could have been her grandfather), but it was still a sweet, surprisingly witty movie, and a lot better than I remembered.
  10. Funny Face (1957)

    It happens to be playing tonight at the New Beverly theater in Los Angeles, along with Breakfast at Tiffany's. I like Funny Face, but I'm not crazy about it. It's a lot of fun, and Audrey is just so pleasing to watch, but I can't stand that beatnik dance scene, the one that the latest GAP ads stole. I also like Kay Thomson, who's really funny, and Astaire is incomparable, as usual.
  11. On the other hand, there's this:
  12. The West Wing

    This is why I've always maintained that the West Wing, at least during the Aaron Sorkin years, was Romantic drama. You probably won't agree with Sorkin's ideas on what ought to be, but you can't accuse him of the slavish devotion to naturalism that drives most drama today. The West Wing depicts the presidency as he thinks it ought to be, in essentialized form. I also think that, because Sorkin wished to portray his ideal presidency, and because Sorkin the dramatist wants to test his ideal president against the best the opposition has to offer, those first few seasons of the West Wing were remarkably fair to Republicans. Unlike some parts of the later seasons, the opposition was portrayed by their best exponents, if only to make the president look better by comparison.
  13. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

    I just came back from seeing this movie and I agree wholeheartedly. It's a terrific, heartwarming movie. Anyone who complains about good movies not being made anymore should see this as a counter to that argument. Objectivists would be particularly interested because the movie makes a very good point that a conceptual approach to language gives you the key to understanding ideas, as against the approach of rote memorization. But a better reason to see it is that the heroine is a cute, plucky little girl who learns to embrace her own genius against all kinds of opposition. I'm also not sure how to rank this movie on the 1-10 scale because I gave Goal! an 8, and Akeelah is a better movie, but 9 is something that I reserve for great movies like On the Waterfront. I wish I could give it an 8.5.
  14. Goal! (2005)

    It really is quite shocking to me how benevolent this movie is. What makes it work for me is the pure joy of its hero for the thing he loves the most. He doesn't apologize and he isn't ashamed for wanting to be happy. The story allows him to demonstrate this by giving him an antagonist that opposes him with, not a physical obstacle (as is the case with a lot of sports movies), but the idea that he doesn't have the right to be happy, and he shouldn't have ambitions. I hope I'm not spoiling things by saying that pure joy wins.
  15. Goal! (2005)

    By the way, the trailer can be seen here:
  16. Goal! (2005)

    This might be the best movie I've seen this year. Really. (Which says more about the movies this year, than it does about this movie, but still...) It's rags-to-riches soccer movie that shamelessly copies from the Rocky template. You've seen it before. The young, hardworking kid who struggles against all odds to make a life for himself through his gift of sport. So yes, it's been done before, but not in such a refreshing way, devoid of cynicism and apology. Santiago Munez, the hero of this story, is a teenage illegal immigrant living in an L.A. barrio, having been brought to America by his dad, who supports his family by working as a gardener. Santiago has a gift, and more importantly, a joy for soccer, that he can't fully embrace because, as an illegal, he can't make himself known to the colleges. So, he plays for a small club in his neighborhood. By chance, a scout for one of the clubs in the top English league happens to see him play and offers him a tryout, if he can make his own way to England. And here we see the theme of the movie dramatized in conflict between our hero and his father. The father believes, in his bitterness, that one should never aspire to rise about one's station, because he believes it to be impossible and disappointment is the only result. But our hero loves his sport and his gift so much that he wants to try, at least. Beyond that, I can't say any more. This movie actually surprised me on several occasions, and in a good way. I was truly charmed by the goodness of this movie and of its hero, how his own goodness changes the people he meets. Ever since Rocky, we've seen a million of these underdog sports movies, to the point where it's a well established genre, with its own rules, conventions, and trite cliches. But this movie overcame my normal cynicism with its sweet nature, sincerity and love for its subject. It's not a great movie. The plot meanders a bit in the middle, and it's probably about 15 minutes too long. But any movie that can get me walking out of the theater with a big smile on my face is something that I'll be happy to tell others about.
  17. Goal! The Dream Begins

    Please add this movie, thanks.
  18. Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie in Atlas Shrugged movie?

    Actually, this is old news. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been rumored to be interested in this project for the last two years at least. The only thing new about this story is that Howard and Karen Baldwin got Lionsgate to pick up the distribution rights, and Daily Variety decided to put this news on their front page. That it's a front page story as far as Daily Variety is concerned is actually a really cool thing, and a sweet P.R. move for the novel (and the producers trying to get money for their budget) but there's not a lot of meat to this story. John Aglialoro has had the rights for years, along with Phil Anschutz' Crusader Entertainment, and he's still involved, although to what extent, the story doesn't say. The problem with making an Atlas Shrugged movie (not from the context of a fan hoping for a good adaptation but from the view of a producer trying to make it work) is that the source material is brutally difficult and so integrated that taking apart one piece makes the entire structure fall apart. That's why Atlas has never gotten past the script development stage. It's not the desire to make a faithful adaptation that makes producers give up, it's the fact that they need an even somewhat comprehensible narrative in order to get a greenlight and a budget. Any movie that comes out of this deal is years away. There's no final script, no budget, and most importantly, no director. My guess is that this will be just like all the other attempts to produce this movie. - Producers get/renew option on Atlas property. - Screenwriter hired. Press releases shoot through fax machines, Variety and Hollywood Reporter trumpet the news, which spreads to USA Today and the Drudge Report. - Screenwriter gets bogged down in the impossibility of the job, hands in completely useless or just bizarre script. - Lather/rinse/repeat. (you think I'm kidding about bizarre scripts, you should have seen the one about ten years ago where Galt rescues Dagny in a glass bubble and leads the young people of the world in revolution, and yes, I'm completely serious.) The only thing that will change this is a Peter Jackson like director who "gets it" and shepherds his vision from start to finish. Now I find it hard to imagine, you know, regular people that "get it" with respect to Atlas Shrugged. Hollywood directors, I find it -impossible- to imagine. It's murderously hard to make a movie, and the project will fail in the many many steps required to get it ready to go before the cameras, unless you have a director with a coherent vision. Oh wait, I just had a dreadful thought. The other thing that will change this cycle is an ironic Paul Verhoeven like director who, yes, has a clear and coherent vision, but he wants to subvert what he'll see as the fascism in Atlas by making it into a satire. Hope it's the first one.
  19. House (2004)

    anyone catch last night's episode? House has to treat a faith healer, which sets up a really interesting conflict between Dr. House, intransigent atheistic man of reason. vs. his complete opposite. (And just remember, the theme of House is: House is -always- right, and everyone else is -always- wrong.) This show just keeps getting better and better. It made my heart glad to find out that last week's episode came in third in the ratings, after two episodes of American Idol. So, they'll keep making this show, it seems.
  20. John Galt VS the other ideal men

    This is a very interesting statement that I keep hearing, and I must say, I've also thought myself at one time. But it's also an idea that's at odds with everything else we know about Ayn Rand as a thinker. Her primary contribution to philosophy was an epistemological method that unites concepts with the concretes that subsume them. By this method, there is no such thing as a platonic abstraction, an Ideal divorced from reality. And by all accounts, she was a thinker who practiced what she preached, so why would this one aspect of her life be exempt from a method that defined her like nothing else ever defined a person? Most of us come to know this by reading her explicitly works on philosophy, in the non-fiction, or even Galt's speech. But you can also see this method in action within her fiction. No conclusion is ever reached in a vaccuum. She always validates every conclusion by listing concrete details or actions, and then she abstracts the principle that unites those details. It's seamless, artful, and not at all didactic. Take any random narrative paragraph within her fiction and you'll see this method at work. So, that was all the setup. Here's the punchline. (And if anyone hasn't read Atlas yet, turn away because there are minor spoilers below.) I think Galt is one of the subtly drawn characters in all of world literature because he is portrayed not by the reader's direct experience with him (that is, the author presenting him directly to the reader, as she does with Dagny, Rearden, et al), but he is presented by the means of his impact on the characters that we do experience directly, as well as his impact on the rest of the world. Think about that for a second. The reader doesn't directly glimpse Galt until Dagny does, more than 2/3rds of the way into the story. But does that mean he doesn't exist as a character for us? On the contrary, he's everywhere! On the macroscopic scale, we can see that every single action or event that is in conflict with Dagny and Rearden is a result of Galt's will. I, of course, contend that Galt's character is revealed through this value-conflict with Dagny, and to a lesser extent, Rearden. But we also see him on the smaller, personal level. Everyone knows about the conversations with Eddie, but take a closer look at them. Eddie is the one doing the talking, but it's clear by Eddie's responses that the person he's talking to is expressing his values. He reveals passion, an agile mind, empathy, even a sense of humor. Remember Dagny in her office? The author is letting us experience Dagny's yearning for her ideal, but we're also finding out about Galt (which is something we only find out much later). This is, I think, a brilliant, revolutionary method of presenting a character. And yes, it is at a high level of abstraction. That's why people keep saying that Galt isn't concretized. Which isn't true. He's there, if you're looking for him.
  21. Midsummer Night's Dream Ballet

    I got to see the Meh-tropolis Dance Theater company put on their production of Midsummer Night's Dream last weekend, and I was quite pleased, charmed, thrilled, and astonished by it. Imagine... the chutzpah of turning a Shakespeare play into a dance presentation completely devoid of Shakespeare's dialogue. But the story was ably told by dance movement and pantomine. It was like watching a silent movie. I saw their modern version of Giselle last year where they used pop music in a contemporary context and I loved it so much that I was worried their classical music driven Midsummer wouldn't be as energetic, but I was wrong. If you're in the LA area, check it out. They're running for two more weekends. Also, here's an LA Times review:
  22. My favorite small ballet company, Meh-tropolis, is staging a ballet version of Midsummer Night's dream for the next three weekends. If you're in the Los Angeles area, check them out. I know that some of you took my recommendation and went to one of their shows last year and from what I've been told, this one will be back to more of the storytelling and narrative that they're known for, than the abstract experimental stuff they did for that one recital last year. I mean, it's Midsummer Night's Dream, after all.
  23. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

    I have terribly mixed feelings about this movie, but I can't talk about them without revealing the plot so... Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post. This movie is justifiably thought of as a christmas classic, something reliably shown on TV often enough that it has become as much a part of the American Christmas mythology as Santa and the Three Wise Men. I say "justifiably" because it uses shameless, but highly effective emotional manipulation to tell the story of a man who never achieved his highest ideals, but is ultimately redeemed by his good works. And that climax gets me every damn time. But what's the story -really- about? We first see the hero George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart in one of his quintessential decent American man roles, in such a despondent state of mind that he wants to commit suicide. Through the device of a conversation between angels, we see George's life up to that point. We see an adventurous spirit with a desire to see the world and leave the small town he grew up in. But then, over the course of this angelic flashback into George Bailey's life, we see some of the most exquisitely rendered spiritual torture ever rendered in film. We see George Bailey slowly giving up each and every one of his dreams. Not all at once, like a Mephistophelean bargain, but slowly, and over time. Like a Chinese water torture. The story does tell us, with great psychological honesty, that George becomes filled with self-loathing. After giving up all his dreams, he feels like he has nothing left. He's driven to that point because he's in debt, his business is failing, his house is falling apart, and he feels himself growing distant to his family. He has given everything up, and for what? But the angel shows him, in sort of a sideways Dickens kind of way, what the world would have been like had he never been born, and he becomes rejuvenated by his impact on the world, the lives he had saved by just being around, and the lives saved by those lives, etc. Ultimately, he's bailed out (pun sort-of intended) by the very people he's helped over the years in the final climax. Which, as I've said, gets me every damn time. But still. The toxicity of this movie is that it blends the American sense of life with the altruistic ideal. It uses the strength of American values, but puts them in the service of self-sacrifice. I can't bring myself to completely condemn this movie, even though I know that this mix of American vitality with altruist morality is particularly vile. Jimmy Stewart is very very good as George Bailey. And even so, I don't think I would have stayed with this character's journey if the incandescent Donna Reed, who plays his high school sweetheart and ultimately his wife, weren't with him. They're so good together, and you really want them to just be happy. But in the end, what do we have? George never left Bedford Falls, he never saw the world, and he never had his adventures. He has a loving wife, and beautiful family, a middling business on the brink of insolvency, and a crumbling house. But hey, we all have to make compromises in life and grow up. Right? Which, now that I think about it, might be why this movie has achieved its mythic status in this country. It gives some solace to the many people in this country whose birthright was that Can-do American sense of life, but they compromised it for the sake of altruism, the only moral ideal they ever knew. And that might be the most toxic thing of all.
  24. It's a Wonderful Life

    Please add.
  25. Band of Brothers (2001)

    My suggestion would be to rent or Netflix the first disc, and then you'll be hooked. It's like ballroom dance lessons. Or heroin, for that matter. By the way, it's interesting that we don't get this kind of heroism in pure fiction. Only in drama "based on real-events." Or in fantasy so distant from reality as to be unrecognizable.