Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Review

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sullivan's Travels

Sunday, March 27, 2016

What the Coen Brothers Missed

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

All the Videolicious Tips Most of Us Will Ever Need

from Videolicious Academy

A Music Review I Liked

Community comes to show at Blackbeard’s Delight

(nice *specific* lead – good scene)The speakers were breaking with ear crunching distortion, my feet stuck to a grimy glazed with spilt beer, the room was hot and moist, the vocals were overpowered by a constant sound of feedback , and the only thing that ran through my head was how good the show was.

Yeah, that’s right - I was actually impressed.

Snuggled in between a bar and an apartment, SubMission Art Space is located at 18the  and Mission in the Mission district. It’s (nice) quiet in size but loud in color and the events that usually take place there. (an insight based on experience which builds credibility)It is home usually to punk and hardcore shows that require less elegance and more room for the audience and the band. It wasn’t a surprise that on May 1, WAG, Hibbity Dibbity, Native and Plastic Villains decided to take over the space for a show titled Blackbeard’s Delight.

(nice) The show started late due with the usual, “band isn’t ready quite yet,” explanation. Crowds of college-aged students flooded the entrance of SubMission showing (a cynic would change this to “tickets and IDs,  not all of them fake”) their ID’s and tickets, he usual scenario that usually takes place at shows as small as these.

It wasn’t until the first band, WAG, came onto stage that I realized I had just stepped into a downward spiral of lo-fi music. The band consisted of four members who came onto stage playing a combined flavor of blues mixed with twangy folk – immediately recognized as a very odd genre for a space such as SubMission. Regardless of the odd combination of music against setting, the crowd chanted along with the ballad-sounding songs that Wag brought to the stage. Again, I was mildly impressed though more anxious for some harder music than really enjoying what Wag had to offer.

(I love the next two grafs. It is rich in detail. Among other things, it builds credibility. It takes the stale notion of 'been to a lot of  shows' and justifies its inclusion.) However, something interesting (let the 'interesting' be implicit in the detail) caught my attention during their set, and it wasn’t what was happening on stage Everyone in the audience was captivated. Every. Single. Person. Including the bands that were playing the rest of the night.

Now, I have to add that I’ve been a fair number of shows in my time. I have seen very different sights while looking around during bands’ sets; There have been people texting, people crowding at the bar,  few watching and the others talking amongst themselves, and so on. However, I have never seen such connection betweeen the band and the audience and – it became clear – the camaraderie between each of the bands that were playing that night.

Throughout each of the sets, there was a spark of genuine interest in???? for each person playing that night. After WAG’s set, Natives came on. Natives has a louder grunge sound. Distorted guitars and acid-rock vocals bring together a very swiftly moving sound that has enough rhythm to get people dancing, but enough vocals to still keep the lyrics relevant.

Right after, Hibbity Dibbity, a psychedelic garage rock group, went up to the stage and got people dancing and singing along to their 60’s style music. The crowd went wild, and I found myself dancing as well. Continuing with the same grungy feel, Hibbity Dibbity played through the horrible sound quality of SubMission with funk and ease.

However, the best part was seeing the audience so captivated and so involved with their music: the mass of heads bobbing and swaying to the sound of music, the heat (‘heat resonating’ - do I like your moving a ‘sound’ word into another context? You know, I think I do)resonating from bodies in the crowd, and the chorus of voices singing along to verses from each band. At one point, the singer for Hibbity Dibbity announced that it was May Day and to remember the importance of its meaning – (I’d love it if you right here included your interpretation of its meaning. To me May Day is international worker’s day, a *socialist*  holiday. Same for you???). Immediately, people yelled in celebration and rounds of drinks were ordered for everyone in the space.

This show embodied the communal value that the San Francisco Bay Area has (says who??? maybe you need to reiterate your experience) that does not exist in most places. These are the tight-knit scenes that begin to (you mean afterwards in memory???)fray in most people’s minds.  

(A judgment a confident, well-informed reviewer who knows ‘the scene’ is entitled to make. You write with authority and you support most of your judgments with detail. Thus, when you make a Big Statement, I figure you have been out and about enough to make it. Also, it comes late in the review after you have established such authority. You have 'earned' the right to say this.)This was a prime example that residents of the Bay Area like to keep things local and community based – including their music.

Hibbity Dibbity finished their set, and the clock showed the time where most people would be ready to head on home and call it a night.

But of course, this wasn’t an option for the attendees of Blackbeard’s Delight.

Plastic Villains, the final and most renowned band of the night, came on stage to the roar of applause and screams from the crowd.

“Don’t stop making music!” someone screamed from my right.

And like clockwork, the band started playing while the eyes of each and every (too much? First time I read this I intended to write, ‘Oh come on. Each one?’ But next graf shows you know exactly what  you are up to) audience member glistened while watching the band.

That was the beauty of this show. Each person was there in his or her (the old grammarian in me) entirety. Texting was at a minimum, people weren’t walled off into groups or standing by themselves. The crowd was engaged in the show to their full ability. And it felt like a community. It felt as if everyone knew each other before coming into SubMission and was spending time together as they usually do.

(Notice that I’m tightening this just a little. The fewer words, the stronger the point, I think)The best part of this show may not have been the venue, the music (dash for ‘haha’ emphasis)- or the alcohol. It was the people who took the time to make it out to the show and create an experience consisting of numerous conversations, indelible engagement, and lots of group singing.

I really like the way you give me the experience, the effect. Detailing the music is fine, but I like your taking me into the experience of the live show, which is so much more than just the music. It's mostly chronological, but your two-graf lead makes a strong general point before you 'start the clock.' Your point seemed to be that the evening worked as a whole, every part contributing to a total experience. I'll buy that.)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Some random thoughts about plays versus movies and TV

Movies are "hyper real" - generally speaking.

* close ups
* cuts that tell us where to look
* tracking shots that maintain the illusion we are watching reality from the most advantageous vantage point
* with the huge exception of CGI, set in the real world but a framed - and thus idealized - world in that almost every shot is composed
* a performance can be discovered on the cutting room floor

Plays are actually real - except obviously not (though 'fourth-wall' theater aims at that illusion - I assume Echo Brown will break the fourth wall)

* live and thus unique performance - play is created by actor and audience combined
* we have to decide what to pay attention to, though careful staging and acting can control our attention
* plays have a stronger sense of the now- though some jumping around is possible
* plays have a stronger sense of place - though some jumping around is possible as in the case of Shakespeare
* sets are clearly artificial, no matter how well done - the proscenium arch is a frame and a thrust stage drastically limits what can be done with setting
* for stage acting - as for daring circus acts - the possibility of error and thus disaster is always there

The goal of both (mostly) - to some degree a willing suspension of disbelief in which one becomes invested in the reality of the characters.

Some thoughts from playwriting class:

Dramatic writing is fundamentally about people. It is a way to understand people.

* Dramatic characters are people who WANT things. Consider: 1) What they want; 2) Who they want them from; 3) How badly they want them; 4) When they want them, which in a play is most often Right Now; 5) Their use of words as ammunition to achieve these ends. 6) We pay attention not primarily to what the character says but what the character is trying to do, to the subtext, to the motives, to the manipulations of others - or of self..

*Remember that desire leads to action. Find the action to reveal the desire

*People are in relationships: with whom and how strong to what end, to what desire. How do you show relationships? Plays are about "word acts," BUT actors use their entire body. Writers work from the neck up.

*You have to decide how much to trust characters. They can twist facts, distort, lack reliability.
*Show motivation. Let the audience discover. When the character "tells," we can choose to disbelieve.

In the case of one-person shows with multiple characters, it is always about virtuosity.

Here's the best review of a one-person show I could find. It deals with the power of one actor doing several parts. 

This is where the show’s solo nature proves so crucial to its appeal. Watching Jones demands a kind of triple vision: We’re aware of her as a performer, the character she’s playing, and, most important, all the other characters that have come before. By allowing so much difference to share the same space—the same body—she comes to personify her theme of peaceful coexistence.