Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Miller Time

We watched the BBC Shakespeare series's King Lear, directed by Jonathan Miller. This is the last in the series that Miller directed. In all, it paled in comparison to my memories of the Olivier version, shot just six months after Miller's.
I mention this in a previous post, but I feel like here, Miller largely failed to use the tools of filmmaking in shooting this play. The camera was far too static for far too long. Michael Hordern's Lear played most of an entire scene facing "upstage". And in the storm, the framing was so tight and static that the Fool delivered a few lines completely off camera. Did the cameraman fall asleep?
It's easy to understand Miller's reluctance to cut from angle to angle, given his background in the theatre. And I'm sure the limited budgets and scheduling made one tempted to just "let it play" and "not interrupt a good thing" once it got going. But you can't just point cameras at a good play, and end up with a good film. It's a different medium altogether.
I think very highly of Jonathan Miller, and cherish the opportunity I had, however brief, to work with him in Houston Grand Opera's "Mikado" back in 1989. I'm quite eager to view his TV film of Alice in Wonderland, to see his approach to filmmaking when there's no theatrical precedent to follow.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Life's a Grouchy Song...

So, I hate to seem picky. Especially when there are Muppets involved. But in the new Muppet movie, there are lyrics in "Life's a Happy Song" that really bug me. And they've bugged me since the very first time I saw the movie. It's a very cute, bouncy song, with an infectious melody, and most of the lyrics are great. But there's a sequence of rhymes, leading up to a gag, and this is what really bugs me.

The pattern is:

Life smells like a rose
With someone to paint and someone to pose
Very nice indeed, we set up a happy comparison to life, and then explain how two people can fulfill it. Cool. Later on, we have:

Life's a piece of pie
With someone to wash and someone to dry
Also very nice. But then:

Life is full of highs
With someone to stir and someone to fry
Which...doesn't really rhyme, does it? The plural of "high" doesn't rhyme with "fry". Gee, how about "When someone stirs and someone fries"? Was that tiny change so hard to think of?

And then:

Life's a leg of lamb
With someone there to lend a hand
Really? Lamb/hand? Um, off the top of my head: "With someone to help you in a jam"?

But then, the capper. Now the street vendors are making the "Life is" comparisons, and Gary and Walter are responding with spontaneous rhymes. But then as a punchline, they get stumped:

Life's a fillet of fish
Uh...yes it is!
Okay, side issue, I'm wondering why they use the non-standard pronunciation "FILL-et" and not "fill-AY". But that's not the main problem. It's a funny gag and all, but:

A. If the gag is that they suddenly can't think of a rhyme, wouldn't it be better if, up to that point, they had been successful in thinking of ACTUAL rhymes?

B. What the heck's so hard about rhyming "fish"? "With someone to share your every wish" would work just fine. Or something with "dish". Instead, how about "Life's a juicy orange" or, I don't know, "Life's a dash of chutney" to set up the joke, using words for which rhymes don't IMMEDIATELY spring to mind?

It's like in "A Little Priest" from "Sweeney Todd". Mrs. Lovett is naming occupations (tailor, butler), and Sweeney is rhyming them (paler, subtler). All are perfect rhymes, of course. But then Mrs. Lovett says "locksmith", and Sweeney is stumped, and it's a funny moment because so are we.

Okay, while I'm at it, later in the same song Mary sings:
Everything's great, everything's grand
Except Gary's always off with his friend
Sigh. Two things:

A. "Grand" and "friend", of course, do not actually rhyme.

B. "Friend"? Seriously? Walter is Gary's BROTHER! I cannot think of any possible circumstance under which Mary would say "friend" instead of "brother". It's only there for the sake of the rhyme...which, of course, doesn't actually rhyme.

Okay, gripe over. I'm crawling back into my trash can now. I'll try not to let the lid bang.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Toot, Toot, Tucci

Last week we recorded the wonderful Stanley Tucci as the voice of the train engine in my forthcoming Weston Woods adaptation of Kate and Jim McMullan's I'm Fast!

Having just seen him as Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games, I am amused that in our film too, he will be both shiny and blue!