Finished Directing Plays by Don Taylor. Short book on how to direct plays. Fairly practical, but also has some fascinating history of the profession, how theatre has evolved, and some useful insights into how things work.
The book seems to be firmly aimed at professional directors. Might not be quite as useful for am-dram or student productions: he assumes there are trained actors and experienced designers and technicians around.
Taylor was a playwright as well as a director, and the book is elegantly and wittily written.
What I'm Watching
Saw Transformers 2 at the cinema. Better than I expected given the reviews. Certainly delivers in terms of explosions, hardware and robots punching each other. The sheer volume means that you don't get that glum feeling of having seen the best stuff in the trailer.
I got confused occasionally with the action scenes in the last one, but managed better this time: there was only one moment where I couldn't tell whether it was a goodiebot or a baddiebot being shot at. It helps if you try to remember the colour coding while they're vehicles. Also apparently the goodies have blue eyes and the baddies have red eyes. The three main villains are annoyingly similar however.
As you'd expect, everything except the action is at varying degrees of awfulness. Plot is only slightly awful: though the reviewers seem to given up, they do seem to be carrying out plans that make some kind of sense. Dialogue is utterly awful: even posh-voiced robots recite anatomical threats that would be excessively corny in a WWF bout. Acting and characterization is staggeringly awful: it's incomprehensible that the vacuous hero keeps getting told how great he is for things like giving his girlfriend the really dangerous thing to look after.
The effects team did a great job. The robots are pretty weighty by CGI standards, and not geometrically impossible.
Don't think it classes as really great action though. Bay isn't patient enough to ever let the tension build up, and you don't really have the pattern of calm to crescendo that you get with really good action scenes (say with Aliens for instance). For instance, the final battle between head goodie and head baddies doesn't feel particularly climactic: it seems much like the previous battles.
Overall though, I was fairly entertained throughout. I didn't check my watch once despite the two and half hour length: stuff gets blown up all the way through, and the boring bits don't last more than five or ten minutes before the next series of explosions.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw Blindness on DVD. Movie by "City of God" director Fernando Meirelles about an epidemic of blindness. The earlist sufferers are quarantined, but conditions inside start to break down.
Liked it a lot, though it's very harrowing at times: found one scene very hard to watch. Thought it was very powerful and tense, well worth seeing if you have a strong enough stomach.
The critics seems to have generally disliked it though: it's somewhat allegorical and deliberately generic in some ways, with unnamed characters in an unnamed city: that seems to have annoyed them. Or possibly they like to keep ethnic directors in their correct ethnocultural place. Apparently the voiceovers that annoyed them most were removed after their showing though.
Somewhat worryingly, for once I'm on Peter Bradshaw's side. Uh-oh.
Went to see the Walking in my Mind exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Various artists construct rooms in the images of their minds.
Wasn't expecting much since that's one of the laziest clichés of contemporary art: slap some wallpaper on some boards, bung a few sketches and retro toys and junk inside, seen it loads of times. But the pressure of competition seems to have got this bunch to actually pull their fingers out.
Thomas Hirschhor has a kind of brown parcel tape replica of the caves of Lascaux, you have to make your way through rounded, uneven tunnels. Posters and book page line some walls, and foil-covered mannequins stand around. Quite impressively done: reminds me of the warren at the end of the Raw Shark Texts.
Yayoi Kusama has one indoor room of cheerful white-on-red polka dots, and similar astroturfed outdoor space. Jason Rhoades has a kind of junkyard model of the brain, with desks to analyse sense impressions.
Overall it's a very dense exhibition, with more detail than you can possibly take in. Moreover there's a lot of aesthetic impact to many of the works: unlikely much of the worst conceptual art, which is all concept.
So, worth seeing if you're interested enough in contemporary art to pay £9.
Also dropped in at the Serpentine Gallery. They're showing a Jeff Koons exhibition at the moment: free to get in, though there was a short queue. I'm not that keen on Koons, or indeed much pop art. Seems a bit vacuous, but some might like it.
Had a look at this year's pavilion though, and really liked it. It's not one of those massive in-your-face jobs like the inflatable one a couple of years back; instead it's quite minimalistic, just a shiny steel-poled roof, in a winding... let's face it, serpentine shape.
Wouldn't mind getting one like if I had a palace with extensive gardens. More.
Oddly, due to various availabilities and unavailablities I'm due to go to the theatre three times in four days. Thursday it's Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. Saturday I get locked in a shipping container for an immersive performance about people-smuggling. Sunday I finally got around to shelling out a fiver to stand around as a groundling for Troilus and Cressida at the Globe, which could well be even more gruelling than the container. If it rains too hard I may just sod off back home though.
Still, at least afterwards I'll be in a position to decide if these innovative things called "seats" are actually worthwhile.
Socioeconomics. No segregation tipping point in practice? Objectification and Obama's ogling. Conflict more likely in closely related populations?
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