WHY MOVIES “MOVE”

The next weekend, the folks at AMPAS, better known as The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will hold their annual awards ceremony in Hollywood, giving out their coveted award, The Oscar (registered trademark) for the best in various forms in movies, from the technical side (picture editing, sound design, etc.) to the acting part, the only category that the public at large really cares about!

The titles that are available for nomination are the ones that were standard movie award fodder: Film releases that offer lots of drama, tell stories that are written rather well for what they are, and feature performers that were able to do what they are supposed to do by playing a character that they are not in so-called “real life”.

Its been stated through a lot of media outlets that the movies that are called for an award or three are not necessarily titles that the movie going public, those that have nothing to do with being involved in movies on any professional stance, would be willing to pay in order to see. The films they are willing to pay for tends to be action/adventure titles with a super hero/comic book emphasis, animation that is geared toward all audiences especially kids, and those titles that are of the fantasy nature that take place in places and/or in time periods that doesn’t really exist, loaded with characters that are from somebody’s wild(er) imagination. The movie titles that were able to get an Oscar were movies that were more melodramatic, featured players that could be big time stars but not necessarily limited to, and films that were first available in theaters (or even “a” theater) after October 1st. Many of these same movies would play better through a video source since dramas are ideal for semi-distracted viewing purposes. A few movies noted even received wide availability through those video sources, making them more as a “TV movie” than a theatrical one!

Since video content is now available wherever one goes as long as there is an internet connection available and one has access to an electronic device that sports a video screen, it’s easy to tune in to see a feature. Granted, any video source that has a running time of 40 minutes or longer can be called a “feature” rather than a “short(er) subject”. However, for the sake of argument, any title, fiction or non-fiction, would be known as a “movie”. That is, unless the “movie” is an multi-part episode of a series of shorter programs that are interconnected with one another. In that case, then it’s known as a “TV series”.

A burning question does remain on what constitutes what is a “good” movie (or TV series) and what can be labeled as a “bad” movie/TV series, even if it’s a movie/TV series that is just “OK”. They were not “good”, nor were they “bad”. They were just tolerable for what they were.

Sticking to theatrical movies that were made available in the 2019 calendar year, there were titles that were popular to the paying general public, based upon how much money they made at the box office. Such titles as Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the remake of The Lion King, and a few others, were crowd pleasers.

Folks flocked to their local multiplexes and were willing to plunk down anywhere from $5.00 to as much as $20.00 per adult to sit inside of a theater loaded with perfect strangers for some 100 minutes or more to take part in viewing this movie that is big in scope, bigger in screen size, and performed the job they are suppose to do: entertain its audience! The movies themselves were made for one basic reason: To make money! After all, the movie industry is a business. And anyone that has a hint of business sense knows that a successful business is a business that earns a profit. That’s just part of capitalism. And anyone that wants to dive into the world of business holds a right to make some kind of money, be it a little or a lot!

So one knows why everyone enjoys movies! They make one laugh, cry, get scared, become aware, informed, educated, becomes thrilled, relaxed, and to make one feel good, or even bad! It’s an extension of the human nature and spirit that’s been around for over a century’s era worth of movies.

But if one views a movie title that doesn’t fulfill those above noted emotions, something is wrong! If a movie confuses an emotion, or makes one angry, irritable, bored, or even causes drowsiness, then it could be called a bad feature. After all, nobody in their right mind would pay good money to sit through a movie for any length of time to see something that makes them into a worse emotional state what they were before they even glimmered at the title in question.

One movie that has been getting a lot of flack for this aspect recently is the Universal release of Cats. This title was originally a stage musical that hosts a music score composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is based on the works of poet T. S. Elliot’s Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats, first published in 1939. It consists of a collection of poetry and prose that speak about cats in character and personality. There isn’t a “plot” toward these poems as many of them can stand alone as they are. What makes those poems appealing is the fact that they are whimsical, they enlighten, they’re a bit silly in nature, and they feature an animal that is a popular being that serves as a domesticated pet.

When Cats wound up as a stage musical that was slightly strange in nature, it because a hit first in its native Britain, and later on Broadway. Folks were flocking to the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway off 47th Street in midtown Manhattan to see this musical. Before long, touring companies have made this musical available around the nation and around the world. It still plays somewhere to this very day, usually presented through regional theater companies that can showcase this title with lavish costumes donned by dozens of players than can sing and dance, a massive stage size with a detailed stage set, along with a full orchestra providing the musical score. Those elements made this show what it is: A presentation that is enlightening and entertaining because it’s all done live!

The feature film really tried to present the same emotional appeal. Alas, it didn’t for a lot of reasons. Outside of the rather creepy looking outfits the main players wore (or didn’t because a lot of those costumes were created through computer based imagery), one elements that wasn’t fully understood was its plot. In a movie, people want to know what the story is all about. In a stage musical, the plot is nice to know, but isn’t the reason why people would attend a performance of the musical. They see it for its staging, performing, and for the music. If the musical offers an amusing story line that easy to follow, that’s all the better! However, one thing that overtakes everything that a movie can’t do is the fact that the stage show is performed right then and there, live and in living color. Movies are just moving images that was created long after the fact!

In order for this movie to be highlighted publicity wise, one must present a bi-line or a ‘slug” to tell in one sentence on what they movie is all about. Universal Pictures, the company that released the film, gave the plot line as “A tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life.”

Huh…?

To be quite honest, this is the first time this very writer finally became aware of the plot to Cats, long after yours truly saw it at the Winter Garden Theater in the spring of 1990. (I still have my program and the ticket stub to prove it!)

But now that movie awards season is over with for this season, it’s time to look forward to those summertime releases that will offer more action/adventure/superhero fodder, family friendly animation, fantasy tales, and other movie genres that will please its crowd and make a hansom profit to boot. Just check these pages of Accessibly Live Off-Line for selected review of those movies. In the mean time, make those memories of your own! And don’t forget to feed the kitty!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS

As part of the Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest 2020 series of single person monologue performances was Anzu Lawson’s DEAR YOKO, an Asian-American’s tale of living a life of existing in America and points beyond within the mists of the shadows of fame, emotional control, and the notion that her life parallels to another artist and musician–as well as to the artist’s connection to rock music’s most noted band.

Anzu tells her story of being an American born person of Japanese decent while growing up in the 1970’s, a time when anything Japanese was linked to expensive cameras, gas saving autos, and electronic devices. Her “tiger mom” made sure that she overachieved in anything she did in terms of being front and center of the limelight. She worked as a teen model, competing in so-called beauty and talent contests, as well as becoming a pop star in the “J-Pop” mode. And all of this occurred by the time she reached her middle 20’s! In spite of her mom’s attempt to make her young daughter famous in the era before social media was invented, she finds her personal life stressful, too-hurried, and downright depressing. She engaged in sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll–not necessarily in that order nor due to her own choosing! However, she later discovered that another woman of Asian decent went through a series of challenges. That woman was Yoko Ono, an artist whose major claim to fame was that she became the second wife of one John Winston Lennon, a musician and songwriter and a member of The Beatles, perhaps the most beloved rock band to ever exist–as well as the possible link to the band’s demise!

Granted, Anzu never achieved the fame and glory that Yoko obtained, but the two did go through the motions that not being blond and white became a nonconformity, long before diversity extended far beyond the state of existing as causation verses anything else!

This single act performance written and performed by Anzu Lawson, is a story that brings this talented young woman into a life that stated as a young girl, skipping childhood altogether, and thrusted her into adulthood whenever she was ready for this lifestyle or not! For its ninety minute running time, Anzu expresses her good times as well as those that were anything from bad to worse and back again! She encountered moments that would fit in to a “#MeToo” approach, and even to where she would want to end her life for good! (She did later learn how to shoot a gun!) But her shining light came from the words and wisdom of Yoko Ono. She wasn’t exactly the “Fifth Beatle”, but more as a wise(ass) woman that has a spouse that was just as wise (but no ass), and lived through that wisdom from up to his final moments.

Along with the words, physical motions, and emotional spirit that Anzu places for herself is a selection of visuals projected along a back screen as engineered by Brandon Loesser. Those visuals showcases Anzu and her bunch throughout her years, all synced within the verbal storyline Anzu emotes with her audience.

Jessica Lynn Johnson developed and directed this show as a highly informative and very tight production. The audience takes part as that every lovin’ fly on the wall(s), while Anzu captures the spirit and aura of Yoko, down to mimicking her through her words and actions.

This performance will be part of the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival, taking place in June of this year. This festival will consist on dozens of smaller theatre shows that will perform at various locations found along Hollywood’s “theatre row”-Santa Monica Blvd. rightly between El Centro from the east to La Brea on the west. More details on the 2020 Hollywood Fringe Festival can be found at http://www.HollywoodFringe.org

The Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest 2020 takes place at The Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd (at Sunnyslope), Sherman Oaks, on various days through the month of March. More details on Solofest 2020 can be found at http://www.WhitefireTheatre.com
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The 2020 Writers Guild Awards, presenting awards for the best in screenplay writing for feature films and television/video mediums, was held on February 1st at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Comic actress Ana Gasteyer of Saturday Night Live fame hosted the awards event that presented the best in writing for television/streaming video, feature films, and videogames. Among those awards were a selection of special awards for the achievement in script writing.

David N. Weiss was awarded the Animation Writers Caucus Writing Award for achievement in writing for a selection of animated TV shows and feature films including Sherk 2, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and the Rugrats franchise.

Charles Randolph was awarded the Paul Selvin Award for his script for the feature Bombshell. This award is presented for those witch “best embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties that are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere”, as dictated by the WGA.

The Valentine Davies Award, presented to an honoree for humanitararian efforts in the Writers Guild was awarded to TV writer-director-producer Brad Falchuk.

The Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement was given to Merrill Markoe for her four-decade-long career in TV comedy writing, and being a longtime writer for The David Letterman Show, both in daytime and in late night.

The WGA-West’s Laurel Award for Screenwriting went to Nancy Meyers for her screenplays of such feature films as Private Benjamin, Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated, The Holiday, and many other works. The award was presented to Ms. Meyers by Diane Keaton.

For feature lenght screenplays, Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won was awared for Original Screenplay for the title Parasite. Taika Waititi won an award for Adapted Screenplay for JoJo Rabbit, and Alex Gibney wan an award for Documentary Screenplay for the HBO presentation The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.

For a full listing of all award nominees and winners in the respected categories, visit the WGA website at http://www.WGA.org
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