The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, January 26, 2009

The Beef Brigade

I noticed a little anomaly couple of days ago. Thinking back over the truth that Hollywood has more liberals than conservatives (as opposed to the lie that Hollywood is exclusively, or almost exclusively liberal) I thought about the high-profile, super-successful Conservative stars. The names that came to mind quickly: Clint Eastwood, Arnold Swarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone...

And then something hit me. Was it just an accident that every one of these guys is, very specifically, known for their macho roles? I mean...it might be pure accident, but isn't that kind of interesting? Furthermore, every one of them is known for specifically physical performances. Strange thoughts ran through my head when I was in my Yoga class yesterday. I was betting myself that a disproportionate number of practitioners would be considered "Liberal", compared to the general population. Especially if you compared them to the populations of the average, say, bodybuilding gym. Back to that sense of something going on between masculine and feminine ways of looking at the world. Of course, if I really wanted to make that comparison, I'd have to contrast, say, a body-building gym and a dance or aerobics class. Would that hold even more if it was, say, a powerlifting gym (almost pure objective performance) as opposed to an figure-skating school (almost pure aesthetics)? I really don't know, and this is all just B.S. speculation. But it is a little strange.

##

Speaking of Stallone, anyone who wants to see what hard work, great genes, and all the HgH money can buy will make you look at the age of 62, check this out:

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/39866

Yow! Sure fascinating to watch his career enter its third act. Or is it the forth? Or the mid-act climax?

##

Interesting to see what movie stars, male and female, put themselves through for screen image these days. Note the following look for Robert Downey Jr., as Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie's new film:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/24/sherlock-holmes-gets-a-ma_n_160548.html

Now, the re-imagining of Holmes as an action hero doesn't bother me a bit. Doyle made it clear that Holmes was a formidable physical specimen, an expert in boxing, sword, and "Baritsu" (a form of Jiu Jitsu being taught in London at the time) as well as being strong enough to unbend a fireplace power that had been bent by a huge, powerful man. The fact that Watson almost never chronicled a specifically physical case doesn't mean he didn't have them: hard to believe that a man who didn't know whether the earth circled the moon or vice-versa (because the knowledge was irrelevant to his profession) would spend the time and energy (and pain) necessary to become expert in martial arts unless these were, upon occasion, useful skills. Also, Holmes spent large amounts of time underground in the London underworld, it's docks and waterfront bars and opium dens. Shall we suggest that this would be folly, were he not a man of physical capacity?

So...creating an adventure that allows him to demonstrate these things seems perfectly reasonable to me. I like Downey's look here. He has that too-thin, wiry appearance. Clearly this was a very deliberate choice of appearance (note the difference between this and the fit but sensualistic Tony Stark body in Iron Man), and Downey is just an incredible actor. He and Gwenyth Paltrow MADE Iron Man for me...in truth, I liked it better than "Dark Knight."

##

I was driving last week, and caught a radio segment where talk show host Thom Hartman said that it had been documented that bad information harvested from tortured terror suspects had caused the death of American soldiers: either they had been sent into traps, or on wild-goose chases that resulted in fatalities. While I find this believable, I haven't seen documentation on the topic. Does anyone out there have any?

##

"Benjamin Button" crossed the 100 Million dollar boxoffice mark. Beyond a doubt, there is a mild but effective love scene between two black characters. While not meeting the real requirements of my sex-in-cinema questions (it wasn't the male star, and in fact I don't really remember the guy's name), there is clearly a positive trend happening here. I still feel optimistic that the line will be crossed by the end of June this year. We'll see.

##

And another thought on Button. For EFX hounds: there is no Brad Pitt for the first 52 minutes. It's all CGI stuff. For those who worry that CGI will replace actors: I think that's crap. In the history of Animation, I've never heard anyone applaud the "acting" of a human cartoon. People celebrate the "acting" of cartoon animals and teapots, but real human beings are another matter. CGI crowds? Sure. But that inevitable CGI character in a major film won't just be created in a computer: it will be a computer amalgam of movement artists, vocal artists, and actors all combined. What's the problem with that? That's still acting. People whose primary gift is talking to computers don't have much overlap with those who know how to reveal human emotion through voice, body language, and facial expression. We'll just have another venue for older actors, unbeautiful actors, and so forth. But the revelation of the human heart is tough, demanding stuff. Hmmm. Might "B" actors be in trouble? Those who are beautiful but not particularly gifted emoters? Would people react as much to a CGI Pam Anderson as the real thing? Interesting question. My guess: some will, but we'll react more to living, breathing humans we can fantasize about touching. What if we don't know who are the real ones and who are the CGI? Well, if the human factor is there...and it will be...studios will trumpet their "real, live actors" as part of their marketing. That's gonna feel weird, but just as fans complained about the CGI-heavy stuntwork in "Die Another Day" or loved the real-world tractor-trailer flip in "Dark Knight" might make a difference in the box office.

I can see teams of people: body artists, vocal artists, choreographers, actors, etc., working together to make a "Synth-Actor" who appears in multiple films. But I think that it will be far easier to find an actor than it will be to find a computer maven who can also act.

On the other hand, it might be easier to find a computer maven who can act than a extremely beautiful person who can act. Not sure. Maybe Synth-Actors really will have a part in the future. Gonna be interesting to watch, that's fer shur.

Of course, when computers start writing scripts, I doubt I'll be amused.

##

Starting to record the CDs which will be part of the 101 Program. We've been listening to the comments from the participants, and want to set it up so that you "pop in" the first two CDs and in 90 minutes of driving/listening time, get the overview of the entire system. Sometimes I lose track of what information is easy to absorb, and what is tougher than hell. Here's the kicker: the most important information/techniques for people will often be the stuff that their brain looks at and says: "Huh?" or "What B.S!"

I have to be careful here, but also remember that this is Mark I of a project almost forty years in the making. Sigh.

##

I've sworn myself to a higher level of functioning this year, and as a result my meditations are like popping up through the ceiling from a clean living room into a musty, dusty attic. GAWD there's a lot of cobwebs and darkness. I can barely see a basic triangle, just glimpse or sense the corners thereof. Frustrating, and a little frightening. But once upon a time I was told that the only thing necessary to do to raise my energy was think about my daughter. I'll broaden that to include my family as a whole, and what's happening now is all about creating a higher level of safety and security for my family. So...I think I'll be able to do this, but there is fear and doubt galore associated. "I" don't know if "I" can pull this off. But then, what's Faith for, eh?

The question of the day is: what is the best, fastest way you've found of motivating yourself?

115 comments:

Adam Crafter said...

My fastest boost comes from singing aloud with full breathing. Is often an upbeat song.
-
If I am in a environment where this would attract undue attention, I sing it 'loudly' in my inside voice, while breathing deeply to the recalled song's rhythm.
Dance music on headphones will bring the good energy up, as well.
-
I'm out of my must-focus-on-career retreat, and eager to be working through Route101 to reintegrate my life across the boards.
Adam

Josh Jasper said...

My motivation needs a support network. I'm horrible at doing things on my own, but good at doing them when there's someone alongside me doing the same thing, or mentoring me.

Anonymous said...

"what is the best, fastest way you've found of motivating yourself?".

I find I have to make a whimsical game out of things. Seriousness just doesn't work for me. To me, the world only starts getting deep when you're six-feet under it so it's all fun and games until somebodies pronounced dead. Take jogging for example.

There was a time when I did six miles a day 4 or 5-days a week. Now days I'm doing good just to make 10-12 in the same period of time. Getting to cruise-control or what's AKA "a runner's high" seems to take longer. I can feel when it's about to kick-in, but I believe it's taking me longer to get there.

What I do when I feel like I'm going to drop dead and say screw it is that I get that extra push to make it by either envisioning a naked and willing Salma Hayek or Alicia Keyes just a few meters in front of me and mine if I can only catch up to them, or a 500 lb. gorilla just a foot or two behind me with a MASSIVE hard-on and I'm HIS if he catches me.

Marty S said...

Steve: I'm somewhat skeptical about the Stallone picture. I remember when Funny Lady with Omar Sharif came out and he looked just gorgeous. It was amazing how well he had aged. Then about a month later we played against him in a bridge tournament. Without his makeup and toupee he looked like just another balding old man.

On the motivating thing, either the task motivates or not. If it doesn't then nothing else usually does.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Darn it, Marty S, do you have to go and destroy my illusions? :-) On the screen (and when looking sufficiently young), Omar Sharif's on my short list of sexiest stars ever.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

This is the second time you've said that you think the Blacks in Love Scenes barrier will be crossed in June. What's happening in June?

Curious,
Kim

mjholt said...

"Yow! Sure fascinating to watch his career enter its third act. Or is it the forth? Or the mid-act climax? "

With "all the HgH money can buy" he will probably die younger than he should. Lots of cancer reported from taking it. It's probably his fifth act, and it will most likely be tragic.

The only Stallone movie I actually liked was Cop Land (1997). I looked on IMDB just to make sure.

Who are the macho star actors in their 30's today?

Frank said...

And then something hit me. Was it just an accident that every one of these guys is, very specifically, known for their macho roles?

But there are others such as Gary Sinese, Kelsey Grammer, and Jon Voight who are not know for their macho.

Bo Derek sure isn't.

And I don't think Andy Garcia, Freddie Prinze Jr, Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, Catherine Bell, Danny Aiello, James Earl Jones or Ron Silver are either.

OTOH, I guess Sarah Michelle Gellar is one of the macho ones.

Steve Perry said...

Hollywood, remember, is not about reality. If Stallone looks good on screen, that's what counts.

He might kick off from stacking roids, but the numbers of serious iron pushers who drop dead as a result are much smaller than the anti-dope crowd would have you believe. Yeah, they are powerful chemicals, but I expect Sly has the top-of-the-line chem and as much medical expertise as can be had.

Lot more people are going to have serious problems with stuff that is given out like Halloween candy for a host of common ills. Ever listen to the warnings on the drug commercials? "Sudden unexplained death" and "Call your doctor if you notice a sudden decrease in hearing or vision ..."

Nancy Lebovitz said...

It's interesting that animation is a decent tool for art, but no one's figured out yet how to make an artificial voice that people want to listen to, let alone one that they want for acting. I have no idea why hearing is so insistent on the real thing while vision is so flexible.

I like the idea of a composite CGI actor, created by a team of irreplaceable people. I'm wondering what the best circumstances for the acting part of making the character, and if we'll get back to live drama for the template for each movie.

Only peripherally related to your Sherlock Holmes discussion, but the violence in Slumdog Millionaire seemed remarkably realistic to me-- fast, unfair, and not set up to be fun for the audience. I'm not speaking from experience, though. Afaik, it's very unusual to have a romantic movie where the hero would be much better off if he was good at fighting, but he isn't.

Motivation is a problem for me, but I think that working with feelings is much more effective than my default of talking to myself about what I need to do.

Has anyone tried Dawna Markova's Ideas? Her No Enemies Within has a complex theory about people needing to work with different sensory modes in idiosyncratic sequences, but I haven't figured it out.

Steven Barnes said...

Nancy--
Interesting point about visual and auditory accuity with artificial beings. Hmmm.
##
Re: June and black love scenes. Nothing special happens in June. I think something special happened in the early '70s with the passage of the voting rights act: America passed the 50% line in terms of believing blacks were fully human. Every generation after that takes that up another 10 points or so. Colin Powell could arguably have been elected in the 90's, but the death threats were through the roof. Obama's election implies that America is willing to hire a plumber of any goddam color when the toilet overflows. But the visual symbol of his acceptance simply accelerates change, so I figure that within 6 months of his election, those trend lines will all cross. Films in production 2 years ago will reach the screen, and one of them will contain the right set of elements to get across that line. We're watching a time-lag in human consciousness and commerce, and right now everything seems to be going in the right direction, racial acceptance wise.

Steven Barnes said...

Nancy--
Interesting point about visual and auditory accuity with artificial beings. Hmmm.
##
Re: June and black love scenes. Nothing special happens in June. I think something special happened in the early '70s with the passage of the voting rights act: America passed the 50% line in terms of believing blacks were fully human. Every generation after that takes that up another 10 points or so. Colin Powell could arguably have been elected in the 90's, but the death threats were through the roof. Obama's election implies that America is willing to hire a plumber of any goddam color when the toilet overflows. But the visual symbol of his acceptance simply accelerates change, so I figure that within 6 months of his election, those trend lines will all cross. Films in production 2 years ago will reach the screen, and one of them will contain the right set of elements to get across that line. We're watching a time-lag in human consciousness and commerce, and right now everything seems to be going in the right direction, racial acceptance wise.

cavyherd said...

Motivation:

Motivation comes easiest after a full, well-rounded meal. Food hits my bloodstream, and suddenly I'm looking for a project to dig into.

Also: if I happen to glance at a project and visualize the next steps that will reliably suck me into a project; very tricky if I have another, more "disciplined" task I'm "supposed" to be doing.

The key breakdown seems to be between "I want to figure out how to do this," versus "I know how to do this, I just need to buckle down and get it done."

There's a spectrum of visualization between "clueless, no idea how to do this" through "what happens if I try this?" to "Oh, ghods, not THAT again" that correlates closely with motivation. The strongest motivation comes in the "I want to know" range. Weakest motivation shading into active aversion comes at the ends of the spectrum.

First thing out of bed in the morning is a sweet spot for me. I wake up thinking about my day, pondering works in progress. Ideas are flowing easily; no invested momentum to break.

I also find fear pretty motivating. ("Ack!! I'm going to lose my house! I better get a job!")

:-)

##

Re: artificial human beings: Nobody's come up with artificial FACES that aren't cartoons that are entirely convincing. The state of the art is getting closer, but the human perceptual system is SO finely tuned that it's really really hard to satisfy it. I'll wager something similar is going on with voices.

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