In Summary: The Final Blog – Blog 10

Trying to condense this whole experience that I’ve had in the London semester into 20 blog posts is – nearly impossible. I found myself often picking and choosing, not just for space, but for interest, what I was going to write about with each post because it really isn’t all that self-explanatory. How do you convey the feeling of living in a foreign nation, grabbing your experience by the horns, and holding on for dear life without describing every minute of every day? And even then I feel like taking a camera and recording literally every second of my life would not be enough to accurately depict what’s in my head when I’m walking down Edgeware Road, or taking one last look at Hyde Park, or getting Fish and Chips at a local pub that I didn’t know served Fish and Chips until the very last week I was here. (The Lirrick Pub has the best Fish and Chips I had all semester). How do I capture this experience in 20 blog posts? Much less one final one?

I don’t. All I can say is “Go do it yourself.” Go to the U.K. Live here for three months (or however long your busy life allows you too). And I mean live here. Don’t stay in a hotel, get an Air Bnb (or a Hostel if money is tight). Walk around and interact with the locals. A lot of them keep their headphones in, but some don’t. And most people will talk to you if you talk to them first. And everyone around you will shake their head and cough and sigh, but if you talk to them too they will forget that they ever looked down on you for talking to them. Listen to the funny accents. Go up North, don’t just stay in London. This funny little Island only gets better when you go North. It’s like being in Westeros (gee I wonder why), the further North you go, the cooler it gets; pun absolutely intended.

Don’t make puns.

Listen intently when the locals talk to you about how stupid Trump is. Agree with them vehemontly. And if you don’t agree with them and think Trump’s the greatest, do yourself a couple of favors and don’t leave the US because you’re gonna have a bad time, and click away from this blog. You’ve already given me your ad revenue anyway. On this note, read the newspapers and recognize that foreign governments have equally as stupid elected officials as the United States does, usually minus the blatant racism and regressive tax policy. (And don’t even get me started on the name of God in the mouth of politicians, where He has no place).

I’ve found myself saying “lory” and “carpark” and “bin” and “crisps;” I find myself ironically saying “breky” and wondering why anyone with a functioning frontal lobe would call Breakfast “breky.” I’ve found myself thinking less about how this place and these people compare to home and now find myself using analogies from home to explain how things work here. The difference demonstrated in that sentence is this: I think of these places as their own, comparable to my homeland, but they are their own with their own history and culture that could never be translated – even if we speak the same language. 

If you’ve ever had a moment of clarity about the smallness of our place here (I hear often people have it while they’re on a plane, or astronauts have it when they are staring at Earth from Orbit) you’ll understand the feeling of being an American from a city maybe half of the population of Europe has heard of. About half of the time, if I say I’m from “Chicago,” people have never heard of it – or have, but have no idea why. I can’t blame them, aside from a few songs, Second City Improv, and the fact that Kim Jong Un’s favorite Basketball team is the Chicago Bulls, there really isn’t any reason for anyone outside of Chicago to know Chicago. And that’s the perspective you get abroad. It doesn’t matter that people have never heard of where your soul lives, because you probably haven’t heard of where theirs is. I say this recognizing that people from small town America, which is still roughly half of our population, and even more from smaller cities that no one has ever heard of, experience this problem more regularly than someone from Chicago would. But who said that studying abroad means I have to only understand “abroad” more?

And that’s really the point I’m trying to make here. Yes I understand the UK far better than I ever have. I understand Europe a bit more. I understand the complicated relationship the British Isles have with themselves, a little bit more at least. I understand that American news is just as significant here as most  Americans believe it is there. I understand that the rural/urban divide probably isn’t going away any time soon, but the solution isn’t moderate or conservative legislation, it’s proper education. I understand that my language, English, is the best one to be able to speak in the world, but also the worst one to grow up speaking. And when did I come to understand this? I’m not sure. It happened sometime between August and now, and I don’t think this understanding will ever leave me.

I’m going to come back here. I’m not sure when, and I’m not sure how. But I will. You can keep up with how and when and why I’m doing that on my main blog, which I’ve linked to here. Warning before you click: I tend use foul language and openly talk about sometimes uncomfortable topics.

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You are the Dragon in the National’s Saint George and the Dragon – Review 10

The Company of Saint George and the Dragon

Image taken from https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/saint-george-and-the-dragon#production-story . Notably this photgraph contains neither St. George, nor a Dragon.

I always have high hopes for the National. I have high hopes for the National because it’s THE NATIONAL. I would expect that this monolythic Island of culture and history would have the best plays I would ever get to see on display at it’s National Theatre. In addition, the air and energy surrounding the gigantic complex is so vibrant and enticing that I come to expect the same things from it’s Theatre. I wrote a whole blog about just this feeling. But, indeed, it would seem that I am almost dissapointed by the National for the second time I’ve ever seen a show there.

I think whatever it was St. George and the Dragon was trying to do, it seemed to have missed the mark. It didn’t seem particularly timely, despite being marketed as such. It didn’t seem to speak as a piece of art that had any real answers to give. And it really just wasn’t a grand show to see. Once again: I enjoyed myself at this show. But if I’m going to be critical I have to be honest: it simply wasn’t what I would have expected out of a show at the National Theatre. Or, perhaps it was exactly what I would expect out of a show at the National Theatre.

The actors were all lovely, and talented. And the spectacle was lovely and well done for the constraints of Theatre. The lighting was executed properly. And though I am dissapointed that the drum was not used to the full potential I knew it had, I still thought the set was quite clever and creative. The play just fell entirely short of speaking to “an uneasy nation,” as it’s marketing claimed it would. The most recent significant event in British History is the vote to leave the European Union, which is not something that SPOILER ALERT killing Saint George would represent. If anything, a dead Saint George being ressurected would I think speak to the whole of this country on this Island rather than killing him. Perhaps, though, it speaks to the cosmopolitan population of London – a not insignificant population to be speaking to – but it does not seem to capture the British spirit of going it yourself against all odds and, well, logic.

Perhaps, though, it’s brilliance is in its inability to capture any British spirit at all. It presents the Theatregoer with this uneasy ending that leaves you with more questions than answers and leaves you with a response, “Oh well I’m not quite sure that this really speaks to our nation.” I think, perhaps, that’s the point. A British citizen (which I am far from, but I feel like I’ve been surrounded by them for long enough to get a sense of their minds) would not feel any connection to St. George, nor these people who have slain him in favor of this Dragon who has become a part of their daily lives. And that’s because the Dragon manages to not just become integrated into the very being of the characters on stage, but into the Theatregoers themselves. Indeed, he is inside of all of them.

And though I am an American and I was freed just a bit from it’s clutches. Modern globalization and this age of information has sucked me right back into its reach. The (un)healthy distance the Dragon creates between self and those we should empathise with is demonstrated in this uneasy feeling that would lead ot a critic disapproving of this shows overall message. “We are in uneasy times. And you are part of the problem.”

“No I am not,” says the viewer.

And “That can’t possibly be what the plays about,” says the skeptical reader of this review.

Thor: Ragnarok – Review 9

This review is coming a week later because I wanted some time to digest what I’d seen. Thor is just the latest in the vast series of films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t enjoy myself when I go to see these movies. I really do. They are perfectly taylored to my generation and demographic, and really: who dislikes Marvel Superhero movies? Well critics do. And, I can’t really blame them. If I was going to a Marvel movie with the expectations that I’m going to be blown away with revolutionary cinematography (which is totally possible, and almost unimaginable on Disney’s budgets), and be given a unique and insightful tour of the human experience of course I’m going to be dissapointed.

Thor: Ragnarok was, as expected, neither of these things. Other than more vibrant colors than is typical in an MCU film, and a only slightly less unmemorable soundtrack than a typical MCU film, it was a very standard Disney Marvel movie. Of course the acting was what made these characters memorable, and fun to live with for around two hours of my life. Chris Hemsworth, Thor, brought a lot of the humor out of the fact that he is playing a god-turned-superstar in the 21st century, and provided a tasteful amount of fan service. (Gotta bring in that female demographic, eh Disney?) The film doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, providing us with only two named female characters, Hela [Cate Blanchett] and Valkyrie [Tessa Thompson], who never speak to each other. Once again I’m not complaining, and I’m certainly not attempting to make an argument for Disney Marvel to be the leader in gender equality in film. That would be against the never-be-risky policy that all of their movies follow.  I’m not even complaining about these elements that made Thor: Ragnarok and really all Disney Marvel films mediocre. Because it’s what I’ve come to expect.

Before I tear into the film as a stand in for all of Disney’s Superhero flicks. I will talk about the things that surprised me about the film.

Loki [Tom Hiddleston], managed to show a level of character depth previously only achieved by – well – no major marvel characters. His character, who up until this point made the exact same choices film after film, to be evil and then get on Thor’s good side only to be evil again. This film actually managed to address the monotony of his character, and it seems like he’s made a genuine change for the better as a character. I have yet to see any other major Marvel characters have this much growth as people through their characters thusfar. Hopefully this sticks.

And that leads me to my first critique of this film: Thor is just as dopey as he always was. And though he now has a cool new eyepatch feature on his eye, he hasn’t seemed to change. Even Valkyrie loses any semblance of depth. With so much potential to be a Loki-like character, looking out for herself above this kind of absurd sense of duty that the heroes of these films exhibit, she became a prettier War Machine [Don Cheadle] (Iron Man’s [Robert Downey Jr.] sidekick). This is not to limit her ability to just another pretty face, I thought she was an incredibly well portrayed character – I blame the film’s writing for turning her into a potentially romantic figure, rather than the actress’ performance.

Thor’s jokes are this film’s major tonal issue. It’s really the major issue with the whole MCU. Tone. Each film is afraid to take itself too seriously. Marvel sees the failures of DC films like Suicide Squad and Batman vs. Superman and decides that the solution to making a superhero film good is to include ridiculous amounts of humor, so much that you’re left with nothing but to roll your eyes at the fact that Thor can’t seem to take any situation he’s in seriously. And it means you aren’t taking the film seriously. Which – makes the film a good time – but not something you run home telling all of your friends that it’s something you have to see.

It’s why Disney Marvel movies don’t get nominated/win any academy awards – because they really aren’t trying to push film anywhere. They are just products created by a studio to pump cash into the executives pockets. But of course. I’m still going to present $10-$15 at the box office the next time I see Marvel’s [Insert Movie Title Here] on the hypothetical Marquee.

Thor isn’t a bad time. It just reminded me why I don’t like pop music very much.

I Went to Bath – Blog 9

Pulteney Bridge, Bath, UK

Image taken from https://www.bugbog.com/gallery/england_pictures/bath-pictures-england/

I went to bath about a week ago. It wasn’t my first time in the ancient shopping town, it wasn’t even my first time this semester. But it was the most memorable experience of the town I think I’d have. I got there with my friends, after taking the GWR train there on a Sunday, around noon. We stayed for about six hours, my longest stay in Bath.

The first thing we did was check out a park just a minute’s walk away from where you could score the goregous shot that I used in this blog. We examined the carvings in the walls, avoided rain, and generally just took in this very british park. The park is not nearly as fun in the late fall as it is in the summer the first time I got to check it out. It was an uncommonly sunny day for Britain as well, so I really lucked out.

We did a bit of shopping, going through Christmas stores, shoe stores, etc. I’m not much of a shopper perhaps that’s because of my marxist leanings because I don’t like mindlessly spending money. But Bath is a place I can’t seem to help wanting to part with it. I don’t know if it’s the muted color of all of the buildings, the aesthetically pleasing arrangement of shops on the high street, or a weak constitution – probably a bit of all three – but I always come home from a trip to Bath with money out of my pocket, and another thing I have to worry about packing into a bag for the plane ride home. The first time I went I’d bought a copy of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, I think only because I had just finished at the time, and I was in a pretentious “Read only the greats” phase. I mean I’m still in that phase. For some reason it’s easier to find Thomas Pynchon, an American Postmodernist, on British shelves than it is on American ones.

I’ve bought a cheap watch here. I’ve bought Budhist prayer beads (which shattered, but that’s ok, that’s a good thing). I’ve bought varying colors of crystals. I’ve bought hats. I’ve bought a silly amount of tea. And on the subject of tea. There is nothing about Bath that I remember more than the tea I’ve had there. It’s not particularly known for it’s tea. But what it is known for is it’s posh tea rooms: The Reagancy Room at the Jane Austen center specifically. There I had my one and only high tea experience. Last weekend I had a bootleg version of that because I’m a student on an end-of-semester budget.

The posh vibe of Bath is inescapable, and if a city even remotely like this existed in the United States (I think of Aspen, CO as the closest equivalent, but also any major shopping center like Michigan Avenue in Chicago, or the Mall of America for the Twin Cities) I would (and do) stay far, far away. Shopping, as an activity that you just do, bores me (I also have a weak constitution so that’s really why probably). So I can’t figure out why I like it so much? Is it the Roman Baths (which is totally awesome, you should definitely listen to Bill Bryson’s recordings on it when you check them out)? Is it the fact that it’s foreign, so I automatically like it? What is it?

That brings me to this whole semester. My next blog will get more into this. But what is it about this small Island that draws me to it? Is it entirely it’s foreign-ness? Is it really better than the United States? (The knee jerk reaction of me as a liberal is “duh,” but when I take a step back I retract that).

In any case. Bath is a place you should definitely consider checking out if you ever make it to this Island only a few miles off the cost of Europe. It’s no more than two hours train ride from London. And it’s absolutely worth your time, even if it will cost you the all the money you inexplicably feel completely ok parting with.

The Exorcist (Play) – Review 8

Photo taken from https://www.phoenixtheatrelondon.co.uk/the-exorcist/

I should say that though I am easy to scare (and the film freaked me right out) this play did a fantastic job of not scaring me. I don’t really think it was the intention of the play to scare anybody. Stepping just outside the doors, to the house, I could immediately tell that someone had placed gels or something on all the windows to give anyone peering through them the impression that there was blood caked onto the walls of the house, and they were cleaning up for the next performance. At least, that’s what I’d gotten out of it.

Then as the show time approached, and I sat in my chair, shivering a bit becuase I’m prepared to be scared, I noticed that the sound design was getting louder and louder. It was building, until all the lights went out and we were greeted with rock-concert like bump lights and thunder claps.

The entire first act of the show filled me with a sense of dread and despair about the world that I don’t think I’d ever felt before. But by the time the actors were bowing and grimly thanking the audience for their attendance, I felt ok with the way things are – and that everything would eventually be ok.

This play acted on a sense I had never before seen in Theatre before: my sense of smell. The stench of the fog machine (or hazer, perhaps) at the beginning of the show was confusing enough, and made me wonder if that was what I remembered sulfur smelled like. I quickly realized that I associated the smell of fog/haze with my High School’s production of Phantom of the Opera, and that’s why Hell was coming to mind. Immediately following that was the smell of Incense, which banished this confusing and disturbing smell and replaced it with one that you can only associate with Church if you grew up Catholic like me. The play didn’t make use of this too much – but this much was enough for me to be engaged on a level I never had been before.

Some effects were cheesy. Reagan’s head spinning around was a bit of a cheap trick, and Reagan “floating” off the bed was also rather boringly done, with only the top half of her body coming off the bed – her feet staying grounded, presumably by some contraption.

Speaking of Reagan, the actress playing her, Clare Louise Connolly, was phenomenal. Her ability to change characters on a dime in the way Pazuzu would was fantastic. And her adorable and heart melting performance made the Demon’s sick temptation of her all the more terrible in the end. Really, a great job on her part. Each actor deserves this praise. These are incredibly difficult roles to play, and ones that I’m sure will stay in their memories for years to come. I know their performances will stay in my memory for years to come.

If you can handle Demonic posessesion and the occult, and it’s understandable if you can’t – this is a performance for you to see. I absolutely reccommend it.

Scotland, Part Two – Blog 8

You can find part one by clicking here.

Before we’d even left Edinbrugh, Dave, our busdriver, informed us that it was in the terms and conditions that we totally didn’t read that he was technically allowed to say, in his words, “Whatever the f*** he wanted.” Which I guess he took as not only he can swear as much as he wanted, but he could take whatever creative licenses with history that he wanted. And he did. He told us all kinds of history about Scotland, really focusing on the Jacobites and how Scotland became a part of the UK at all. (And why Scotland should leave the UK the next chance they get). We went to, and I saw, Loch Ness (I did not see Nessy, sadly, but I am now thoroughly convinced she is real based on Dave’s apocryphal stories of her).On the way we saw some beutiful scenery. Breathed in the best cold air you will ever experience.

If I haven’t said it already, the cold air of Scotland is the best cold air you will ever breathe. 

We ended the day around six at night, it was dark, and it was about to get really cold, because we’re on the Isle of Skye, which might as well be the north pole for me, a temparate climated Chicago-boy. I stopped by a local pub and got their Fish and Chips. My friend got this demonic looking local delicacy – perhaps I’m being insensitive – but they looked like crayfish that were playing dead. You could see their eyes and everything still, some of them were covered in their eggs. Luckily I didn’t have to eat any of it.

Our next day, we were out on the bus by 8 a.m. and our first stop was at the Faerie Pool. There was a video taken of me dipping my head in (you are now reading the work of an immortal, btw), and that will be uploaded along with my “Scotland in One Minute” video when I get around to it. (I’m a full time student, I have other things to work on). I will be sure to link it to this post when it is, however.

I climbed a mountain, not all the way, but about 40 minutes up to touch a giant rock that was – to put it in a P.G. manner – phallic. Dave told us the entire mythological story behind what it’s doing up there at all involving a giant and three women who really wanted his gold, and corrected me when I claimed it was “God’s Phallus.” His response was, “It’s the Giant’s D***, idiot! Were you not paying attention to my story?” It was insanely windy up there. I’d never been so afraid I was going to get blown off the side of a mountain before than I was up there. But it was a beautiful sight to see.

We again ended the day after it had already been dark. There was a kind of costume party at the local pub and I was able to try some food I’d seen on the menu the night before that looked good.

We got back to Edinburgh the next day. And if I’m being honest, Edinburgh couldn’t compare to the Isle of Skye. I loved the wilderness and the cold and the freeness of all of it. It’s no wonder the show Game of Thrones uses Scottish Accents for the “Freefolk,” Scotland truly feels free. I would recommend anyone go there if they get the chance to.

Joseph Barnes-Phillips’s Big Foot (Via Live Stream) – Review 7

Having interviewed the lead, read the script, and seeing the play streamed via youtube (I wasn’t able to catch it the night it aired, so I’m watching it some weeks later) I am thoroughly excited to see the show. Here’s my experiential reaction and review of this stunning play by Black Theatre Live and HighRise Theatre: Big Foot. This is not my full review, which will come after I see it this coming Friday (November 3rd, 2017).

A story of one man’s struggle with, as Barnes-Phillips put it, “responsibility and having to – wanting to – change because you realize somebody else needs you.” Big Foot, the play, reads like a concept script for a Nas or MF Doom album. But watching the live stream, the first thoughts that come to mind were the very last things I would ever expect out of a play like this: “Performance Art” and “Theatre with a capital ‘T.'” Not that I think either of these things are bad, in fact I didn’t realize how much I would love a show like this. The subject matter of the play, about a young South Londoner struggling with growing up and parenting, manages to speak to audiences of all kinds with this style. And I think it’s genuis for that.

The live stream is the hardest thing to get past with this live stream. The audio is all off, and sometimes its hard to hear Joseph Barnes-Phillips. What I can understand through my screen and headphones I thoroughly enjoy. I also enjoy the grime. And I enjoy the way lights and audio are used throughout the play to create these scenes. I think Joseph Barnes-Phillips kills it in the movement and voice departments. He, without changing place or without changing costumes, transforms his entire being between Moon Gazer, and Rayleigh, and Spice Girl. But all of this gets taken away from by a mic that was either incorrectly placed or a space that wasn’t designed to handle a live stream or perhaps just a technically off performance. I will say this though: the live stream does the job of convincing me that I need to see the play live.

I’ll save a more in-depth analysis of the way Joseph Barnes-Phillips tugged at my heart strings after I see him live on Friday. But I will leave a reader with this: if you have the opportunity to see Big Foot before it closes. Do it. It is unlike anything I have ever read, seen, or experienced, before; and it is absolutely worth your time and your money. I’m excited to see it live this Friday.

The Scotland Blog Part One – Blog 7

I woke up at around 05:50 on Thursday morning after a restless nights sleep. I thought to go back and sleep for an extra ten minutes or so, but my body refused to get back to sleep so at 05:54 I was shooting up from my bed, regretting that decision because a bunch of blood rushed through my brain, and I was turning off my phone’s alarm and stepping into the shower to get ready to head to Scotland for the weekend.

This was scheduled at the start of the semester, but really all these weeks of theatre and moving around and eating food that really tastes vaguely like what it says it tastes like I was a bit too distracted to think about how exciting it would be to go to SCOTLAND. I didn’t think too much of it even when I did have time. I’ve been to Ireland, and I’ve been to places that aren’t London in the UK. I figured it would be colder, and perhaps the people would have harder to understand accents than in London, but I didn’t plan on stepping out of the train station (perhaps its the 4 hours of jerking and metal screeches and babies crying that created this effect) and breathing in the cold Edinbrugh air and shouting “Wow this is a fantastic country.”

The first thing we did was check into our Hostel, the group of 9 of us students. If you’re looking to travel to Edinburgh I can’t reccomend the Castle Rock Hostel highly enough. Comfortable beds, fluffy pillows, (shared bathrooms, but individual stalls and showers), wifi, 1 pound – fifty breakfast, this place has it all – and in such a cool enviornment. I have stayed in three hostels in my life (two of which in this weekend) and this one is by far my favorite.

My first night in Edinburgh consisted of standing outside a shoe store while my friend shopped (I would have stayed in, but the store was small) and getting some good pictures of the Royal Mile; searching far and wide for a scarf, or a kilt; wandering into a liquor store and [doing nothing, obviously]; trying Haggis (it’s ok); and getting the ba-jeebies (I have never tried to spell that word) scared out of me by a tour of the Edinburgh crypts.

Speaking of the crypts: if you have ever wondered what its like to be in a legitimate dungeon full of anger and sadness and feel like you just should not be there – that’s exactly what you’re getting out of that experience. I appreciated the effort our tour guide went through, and I appreciate the experience in hind sight. But I was angry. I was so angry that my friends were avoiding me out of fear, because – as one friend said – I “didn’t look like Mike.” Now perhaps that’s because we got a good scare, but I’m inclined to believe that it’s entirely the spirit that’s been trapped there for two + centuries and is pretty angry about being stuck there and used as a tourism commodity like a circus animal or a museum piece. Perhaps spirits aren’t your thing, and you think I’m buying into this whole witchcraft nonsense. But if you truly believe that I dare you to spend a night in those crypts, if you believe its fake.

I went to bed that night, angry and spooked out. Only to wake up to a warm (thank God) shower, a fulfilling breakfast, and a sick tour guide named Dave who had the most perfect globe-spanning accent ever. He was from Scotland, but moved to New Zealand as a youth, so he had a strong mix of Scotish and New Zealander and so was not only brilliantly easy to understand, but fascinating to listen to. He was our bus driver/guide for the Macbackpackers tour of the Isle of Skye – which I will get more into in the part two (and maybe part three if I find I have enough to talk about) of this blog.

I also captured the entirety of my trip to and around and from Scotland on video and plan on posting a 60 second video of my trip to Scotland on youtube, so I’ll probably link to that in multiple places when I’ve gotten around to making it. All in all it was a fantastic time, and I’ve just gotten back so I’m still a bit travel-logged from the 4 hour train ride back. So if my thoughts seem a bit incoherant, that’s why.

Much more to come!

 

The Kafkaesque Satire of The Death of Stalin – Review 6

Image taken from https://boingboing.net/2017/09/08/trailer-for-the-death-of-stali.html 

I went to see Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin, tonight. Going into it, I knew that it was a comedy comparable to the styles of Monty Python and that it is actually about Joseph Stalin and Soviet Russia – its not just a clever title. I also was fairly familiar with a number of the actors, particularly Steve Buscemi (who played Krushchev in the film) who for better or for worse will always be that unfortunate looking side character in the Adam Sandler movies I grew up on. Having seen the movie now, I can give you some potentially relevant prior information I had to set the mood. So, spoilers ahead I guess. First, I knew that Stalin was only sort of the lesser of two evils between himself and Hitler, which is really not a very high bar to set for a person to begin with. Second, I knew that the Soviet Union was a Kafkaesque nightmare (you only need to read the first page of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master & Margerita to figure that out). Thirdly, while I study primarily books and the words inside of those books and how they go about doing that annoying thing called “meaning” something, I do understand that there is a language of cinematography; and an expectation of a humorous scene is you as the cinematographer are not jerking your lens around when something funny is happening.

I will begin my review with this: I can completely understand why someone would not find this film funny in the slightest. The humor is irritatingly uncomfortable, the camerawork is that of a kitten’s, and the complete lack of coherency among dialect is entirely off putting. The whole movie is in English, yet some actors have a British accent, while others are distinctly American, and even further some actors will pronounce Russian names with a Russian accent – which took me out of every moment it happened. Oftentimes the camera lacked focus that I worried I was losing my own vision and tried squinting, but indeed the camera was just following Jeffrey Tambor (Malenkov) and Steve Buscemi at such mind-alteringly high speeds that it was no longer focusing. It was like watching a kitten attempt to imitate David Fincher on their Senior undergrad project. And there were so many moments where I cringed with secondhand embarrassment, like watching every episode of the Office on repeat.

But I loved all of it. I think those elements which – on their own are atrocious in any film – came together to create this twisted Kafkaesque masterpiece that satirizes the life and times of these evil and atrocious Men. The camerawork was became a comment on just how much everyone was running around looking in every direction for a gun to their head or someone pointing them in the right direction for what to do next. The accents became a hilarious oversight on the side of the directors, which in and of itself could be a kind of meta commentary on the whole Soviet Union as a whole. And the uncomfortable humor, from the scene where the committee is carrying Stalin from his office to his deathbed to the ultimate downfall of Beria [Simon Russell Beale] to Vasily Stalin [Rupert Friend] wrestling with a guard for his pistol for way longer than was needed to get a laugh out of a viewer the audience gets a simultaneous sense of “Wow these guys are crazy,” and “the level of bureaucracy in this film is frightening.” There is easily an essay there, but I would bore a reader to tears with it.

I loved this film. It was hilarious. It was hilariously awful. It knew exactly what it was doing and what it was going for. And it delivered on it’s promise of a witty, absurdist, time. I would recommend anyone see this movie while it’s still in Theatres.

How to See the Best Show of Your Life – Blog 6

Photo taken from https://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/theatre/king-lear-theatre-review-gruff-battlescarred-lear-is-brisk-and-uncomplicated-a3613616.html

Assuming you’ve already collected your tickets for the event, which, if you haven’t, is the real step one: you get in line around five in the afternoon outside the Globe Theatre’s entrance. It’s located just to the right if you’re looking at the Thames from the Tate Modern, down a set of steps, and unless you’re looking for it it’s very possible you’ll miss it. 

Then you sit there. If you have friends with you, you each take turns grabbing a bite to eat from the EAT located just down the walk. You bring a book, or perhaps a journal if you keep one, maybe a copy of the Evening Standard (or the Metro if the Evening Standard isn’t out yet). You maybe look up occasionally to chuckle at the huge group of secondary school students on an after-school field trip who are far less interested in the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s GLOBE than they are in who among them is dating who. I suppose if I were a fifteen year old in the UK I would probably be less impressed with this round-ish building made of English oak and goat hair pretending to be cow hair than I am as a 21 year old who grew up in a house built in 1960 that I thought was old.

You help people who approach you who ask if this is the entrance to the box office, you point them to where it really is. You look around suspiciously at 6:25 when you (and potentially your friends) are completely alone in this line, which is odd because the first people in line are the people who get to stand at the front so you’d think there would be a longer line to see King Lear played by Kevin McNally front and center. But maybe Londoners are so used to being inches away from famous people (inches away from people in general) that again, only an American can get excited about that.

You let them check your bag; let them laugh at the sloth you have tucked away in there in case a cool photo op happens for you to send to your girlfriend back home. You take a seat on that fakeish log just outside the front entrance when they begin queuing you just outside the doors. You resist the temptation to have a cider before the show. It isn’t a school night and you really don’t have much responsibility but you know that if you do you will be fighting the urge to pee your pants rather than run away to the bathroom in the middle of the show – which you totally did when you saw Boudica at the same place just a week before.

Cider decidedly not in hand, you make your way to the center of the stage and lean up against it. You put your backpack just under the white tarp that disguises the under-the-stage area and wrap your foot into your backpack’s straps because you can’t escape that Chicagoan paranoia that someone wants to steal all of your things. (Like – what are they going to do, crawl under the stage and snatch stuff out of everyone’s bags? Absolutely.) You take one strategic, two strategic trips to the toilet – one more (a third) at intermission. You laugh when the other American guy standing right behind you asks if it’s cool if he can lean on you. You make some crack about this being like a rock concert anyway. You ignore how annoying this fellow American is. 

You watch the show. You enjoy it. You die a little inside when Lear’s flowers fall onto your head. You notice the guy standing to your right looks a lot like the guy who played Bob on Twin Peaks, but you’re too nervous to ask him if he knew that for fear that he had seen the show and would get offended because Bob is not necessarily the most attractive guy on that show.

You soak up the goodness of that show. You try to see if a production of King Lear is playing in Chicago so you could take your Grandpa when you get back. You decide to write a blog post in second person to encourage others to see a show at the Globe, even if it isn’t King Lear, but because it’s the best Theatre for the best playwright out there.