This rant begins with my praise for the National Tour of Oklahoma, recently closed at OCPAC (Orange County Performing Arts Center). The show was good. The costuming was less silly and more gritty than earlier productions, indicating a shift from traditional 50’s musical values. The dream ballet was much more interesting because the stars of the show were triple threats and could actually DO the ballet, which was very nice. There was also some very intriguing set design based on perspective. The show opens with miniature sets of the farmhouse, the windmill and the smokehouse, showing where everything is. Then, when they focus on the farmhouse, there was a miniature smokehouse in the distance, or vice versa. And during the transition to the train station, a miniature train rode across stage, which was just fun. The only other notable mention goes to Jud Fry and Ali Hakim, who both did fabulous jobs. Jud is supposed to be bubbling under with rage and ready to burst at any moment and Tom Lucca pulled this off beautifully. Ali’s character proves that Rodgers and Hammerstein (R&H) are excellent comedians. Colin Trahan was hilariously funny and provided much needed comic relief. This is important because R&H wrote some really bad songs. So bad that they stick in your head decades after you first heard them. But I’m starting to realize that as much as I hate R&H (I mean really hate) I am starting to enjoy their shows. As an example of how much I hate R&H, I came up with parodied names for their shows: South Pathetic (South Pacific), Choke-lahoma (Oklahoma), The Sound of Mucus (The Sound of Music), and The King Can Die (The King and I). But like I said, I’m starting to enjoy these previously un-enjoyable shows.
Now we move to the move focused and important part. I finally saw Shrek 2 (click for my review), but preceding it was a trailer for Shark Tale, which (based merely on the poster) had kind of scared me because it looked stupid, crazy and silly. But the movie (based now on the trailer) looks hilariously cool and enjoyable. Watching the trailer, there is a moment where Oscar (Will Smith) and Lenny (Jack Black) decide to stage a battle so Oscar can maintain the lie that he is a shark slayer and Lenny can disappear (he’s a vegetarian shark). This moment screamed of (at least, to me) “The Reluctant Dragon”, a story by Kenneth Gramme (author of “The Wind in the Willows”) where a pacifist dragon stages his death so that he can live in peace. The reason I know the story of the Reluctant Dragon is because there is a Disney cartoon for it (that’s the only way I ever really learn anything). The cartoon is part of a Behind the Scenes at Walt Disney Studio ‘film’ where Robert Benchley (old-timer stand up comedian / actor) tries to pitch the story of The Reluctant Dragon as an idea for Walt Disney’s next animated feature. He ends up getting a private tour of the makings of animated cartoons culminating in a private screening of the latest Disney feature, The Reluctant Dragon. This film was recently re-released as one of the Walt Disney Treasure DVD’s during the Second Wave in the Holiday season of 2002. The fact that I was able to look at one moment from a TRAILER and think of The Reluctant Dragon and the animated Disney movie is evidence enough that I have way to much knowledge stored on auxiliary subjects. I know so much about various cartoons, films, books, actors and writers that anything and everything is a story and I keep walking around telling those stories, sharing my wealth of knowledge. My life is like a giant stand-up comic routine except less people are laughing.
The flaw inherent in this vastness of knowledge is that there’s no practical application for it. With such a passionate hobby, I should be able to make money from it (do what you love?) but that just isn’t the case here. I mean, I could try being a critic, but we’ve seen how well that works with my movie reviews. So I’m stuck doing something that’s almost as fun (working with computer-incompetent people) for all the money I could need. Maybe this is just part of the problem of being mortal. Of course, you don’t need cartoons in heaven (but that’s a matter of opinion and I won’t fight anybody about that).
Shift: I don’t know if I can act. See, even though I went to an arts school and studied acting for four years…I don’t think I’ve got the hang of it. My teacher’s have all said that it’s about your eyes more than anything else, but every time I look in someone’s eyes, I am so scientifically minded that rather than seeing whatever emotion or feeling is being conveyed, I see the iris and the pupil. That’s why my movie reviews are more about what made me laugh, made me cry because I couldn’t tell you if the acting was good. I think I know when acting is bad (I think everybody does), but when it comes to good acting, I’m usually judging the whole product rather than the individual pieces. For example, I was watching Edward Scissorhands recently and at the conclusion, I was moved by the combination of Johnny Depp’s acting, Danny Elfman’s music and Tim Burton’s story, not just the acting (the dad in the movie is Alan Arkin, who among other things (obviously) played Peevy in The Rocketeer which is one of my all time favorite movies). Despite all this, I am told that I can act, despite my blatant disregard for the whole process of research. I know I can memorize lines with the best of them (by the end of a run of the play or musical, I usually know the whole show, or at least the general flow and memorable lines). This goes all the way back to junior high where I can remember being on stage and when my co-star stumbled on a line, I was able to feed her the rest of it. But when it comes to pure acting, I just don’t know. Oh well.
I would like to conclude by saying that Shark Tale looks like an incredibly enjoyable film. It’s also the first animated film for Will Smith, Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese, and Renee Zellweger. What sucks is they didn’t give the star roles to any of the really talented voice actors in the world (Jim Cummings, Jess Harnell, Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Tom Kenny, Rob Paulsen). But hey, star power always makes a great movie, right? Like Shrek? “Your honor, I move that I be disbarred for introducing this evidence against my own client” (Futurama). Actually, that’s been refuted by the success of Jimmy Neutron, because Paramount and Nickelodeon decided to keep star power at a minimum and go for real power. Then again, there’s the failure of the Powerpuff Girls film (which used the original cast members). I hope Tom Kenny (the Mayor of Townsville and the Narrator) can score a hit with the Sponge-Bob Squarepants movie (he IS SpongeBob).
This concludes my little rant, lets do a dance and sing a chant. No seriously, I want to hear some singing in the audience. NOW! Ah, fine. Just go home to your DVD’s and your Lego’s and your bubblegum records.