Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"What Is Cinema?, Vol. 3: More Important Than Chocolate Chip Cookies"

Choral Reading / Speaking is an art which does not exist outside high school speech competition. For those unfamiliar with the practice, in its most basic form, the choral reading or unison reading involves the group chanting of poetry and chunks of prose. It is a performance-oriented variation on the antiquated schoolroom practice of choral speaking, intended to develop good, clear vocal habits, teamwork and literature interpretation. I understand English choral speaking is a bigger event in Hong Kong as it is a useful group excercise in articulation and pronunciation. Unless you're lucky (?) enough to be a parent, drama teacher, or speech competition judge, there aren't many places to witness this strange spectacle. Whether interpreting a Walt Whitman poem or original composition, any choral reading is an uncomfortable experience. Groups of ten to thirty people speaking simultaneously are unintelligible, no matter how much they rehearse; if musical choirs can sound like angels in robes, choral readers invariably sound like gibbering Boschian demons. The minor flourishes of physical choreography, intended to enhance the performance can only strip the performers of any remaining dignity.

"LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!": A CHORAL READING ABOUT THE MOVIES

I do not know from what school this team hails; even more sadly, I do not know their score. I do know that they have a lot to teach us about audience reception of popular motion pictures. Prepare for a faster course in film history than flipping through Bordwell and Thompson:



After watching "Lights! Camera! Action! Pt. I" a dozen times, I find the highlights to be:
Auteurism Conquered by Movie Star Culture:
-Though "L!C!A!" uses a caricatured "director"'s instruction to segue between scenes, the job of directing films is relegated to a nothing-spot in an endless list of technicians, passed over without even the elaboration allowed Best Boys and Key Grips. The key contributor to the film arts is clearly the A List movie star.
-Immediate points off for stumbling over Lauren Bacall's name and saying "Warren Bacall".
-Apparently actresses have begun to resent being called actresses, which is not the case with anyone I know, but I guess that's Women's Lib for ya!
-Girls cream over Brad Pitt, though the performers' tone imply it is ridiculous to call him a good actor.
-One girl creams over... MORGAN FREEMAN!

Sociology and World Film Studies:
Excited Girl: "Bobby just took me to see my first foreign film!"
Disgusted Girl: "How'd you like having to read the movie?!"
Excited Girl: "I didn't care, I was just happy to be with Bobby!"

Cinephilia Under Fire:
-Only fey nerds understand or care about the technology that enables motion pictures.
-Related: Groucho Marx was such a lisping nerd, and wore black sweatpants and white sneakers.
-Memorable moments from The Wizard of Oz: "Oh my, I know I'm not in Kansas anymore. How do I get to the Emerald City?"
-Yelling "movies!" makes you spontaneously squat.

The Epitome of Choral Reading Awkwardness:
-No performer could have less conviction, or be in a bigger hurry to finish a scene than the girl who must impersonate Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday". I have never been able to watch this without cringing and looking away.

"Lights! Camera! Action! Pt. II" furthers the thesis that authorship is best assigned to movie stars, and questions of artistry are ultimately meaningless to genre filmmaking:



Previously Unknown Facts About Movies:
-Star Wars is set in the future, despite opening with the title "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."
-Luke Skywalker had his left hand cut off, not his right as popularly portrayed in The Empire Strikes Back.
-All movies set in the past are Biblical epics.
-Disney animation history extends no further back than 1989.
-Austin Powers is not a parody of '60s spy entertainments, but a new action hero to replace the "old school" James Bond.
-Film crews do not know their work schedule in advance, and are informed at the end of daily shooting when they need to arrive on set.
-Patch Adams "makes you think."

Popular Opinion Is Always Right!:
-If you hadn't heard, no one likes the Matrix sequels. Despite the story only being one third completed, and no plot threads resolved, everyone wishes there were only the first film.
-No one likes foreign films because they are in another language, and the performances resemble silent movie melodrama.
-Sir Ian McKellan is best portrayed by a woman wearing a fake beard.

I Knew I Was Wasting My Life:
-Investigating the aesthetics and subtext of popular film is the laughable territory of hopeless dorks, and in no way relates to the reasons normal human beings go to the movies. Only a kid using a nerd voice and wearing novelty glasses from the 99 Cent Store would undertake any textual analysis, and he is to be dismissed in favor of hilarious Chuck Norris jokes. Jokes such as shouting Chuck Norris' name repeatedly.

Special thanks to my dear pal Paul Rust for pointing me to this video. I am no longer going to watch films, but will devote all attention toward choral reading reviews.

2 comments:

Richard said...

important! sigourney weaver can only be properly pronounced when one pretends 'sigourney weaver' is the name of a rural north carolinian girl for whom you lust in the summer of 1927.

also, if you love choral readings, we need a meeting of the minds. i've kept (since high school) tapes and scripts and how-to's and staging directions and costume mock-ups and props and everything else choral reading related.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for these movie facts, interesting read...And here are some facts about chocolate, you may look at.