Sunday, December 31, 2017

What a Year: 2017 Review

As 2017 comes to a close, I want to acknowledge some of the highlights and low lights of this year that have happened to me. You know the saying, what doesn't kill you, just makes you stronger, and I end this year a stronger person!

I hated my former jobs.
I started this year off just being in Los Angeles for a couple of months. I had a starter job that I took just to be working in my new home state. It soon became a job I desperately wanted to leave, and thankfully, I was able to not only find a new job in late March, but at a place very close to home. You are extremely lucky to live in the Los Angeles area and have a short commute to work. It's a blessing really. But yet again, as I realized my first year in LA would be a year of transition, the second job wasn't much better, but at least it was more manageable than my first job. Knowing the job search in So Cal is like having a full time job because it takes so much time to look for suitable jobs to apply to, and make yourself available for job interviews, often at a distance to travel. The chess game of  thinking of persuasive excuses to come in later to work or leave early, or take a longer lunch, really tests one's level of creativity, and acting abilities. After wasting a LOT of time with interviewers/companies who played unprofessional games, and dead end/black hole interview processes, I was able to land a nice contract assignment at an employer I have been wanting to get into since I moved to LA. This company works exclusively with select agencies, and after a CIA level background check, once you are accepted for an assignment, you have your foot in the door to be hired permanently when the opportunity arrives. I have literally found the company that I want to retire from. Short of having a company that is part of the entertainment industry ring me up and offer me a job, I don't need to apply for another job at another company again. I'm set. So, thank you to the universe for throwing this opportunity my way.

Working on the periphery of the entertainment industry is fine with me.
Although my goal of getting a paid job in the entertainment industry did not pan out - far too many games and it being very competitive, I will be fine with continuing volunteer opportunities and participating in film festivals as side hobbies. In a blog post I'll write later this week, I have the Palm Springs film festival and gala that I'll be attending this week. Meanwhile, I'm waiting to hear back from the Film Independent people to see if I have been approved to be a volunteer with them this year, which will allow me to work at the Spirit Awards in March in Santa Monica. I worked with the group of people who will decide my fate at the LA Film Festival. I can be a part of the entertainment industry in a creative capacity that will allow me access to events that I could have only dreamed of when I lived in Michigan.

Another great thing that happened in 2017, in my new home of LA, are the concerts and events I was able to attend. I saw some great shows at the Hollywood Bowl and at the Rose Bowl. I saw U2 and Depeche Mode for the first time in 16 years! I last saw these two bands back in 2001 when I lived in New York City, way on the other side of the country! I also saw Coldplay give the best concert I have seen in years, and sadly, but fortunately, I was able to see Tom Petty for  the first and only time on September 23. He would die just a week later from cardiac arrest. This year also saw me achieve credit worthiness at a level which allowed me to open up much needed lines of credit so that I can have more flexible spending to meet personal and professional needs. A new credit card allowed me to buy a $650 Hamilton ticket for my birthday in September. Membership is indeed priceless.

Call Me By Your Name
I saw a lot of movies this year, and a few of them were at special screenings where Q&As occurred. My favorite film this year was Call Me By Your Name (CMBYN) - be warned, I will be writing a lot about this film this coming awards season. I have seen it three times so far, and in the new year, sometime in January, I'll see it for the 4th time. The last time I saw a movie at the theater three times was The Silence of the Lambs. CMBYN resonated with me and affected me personally in so many ways that it's hard to describe or share. All I'll say is that it's a beautiful love story that came at a time where I have been exhausted by all the evil that is going on in the world, everyday political news, and my own personal struggles with my mentally and physically exhaustive job search. Love does cheer a heart up and I'm so in love with CMBYN. 

1. Call Me By Your Name 2. Blade Runner 2049 3. Three Billboards in Ebbings, Missouri 4. The Shape of Water 5. Mudbound 6. Wonder Woman 7. The Big Sick 8. Logan 9. Lady Bird 10. Get Out

I will be very active here at Theatre of Zen in the coming months as I prepare to write about my volunteer experience at the Spirit Awards, my voting abilities for the Spirit Awards, and the upcoming Golden Globes and Oscars, and the awards between those two. It's pretty clear to me that I moved to a city that will allow me to fulfill my professional career and ambitions, as well as allow me to pursue my creative interests in support of the entertainment industry, and I'm excited to share my experiences with my readers!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Golden Globes 2018 Nominees

I was so excited this morning to learn that my two favorite films this year have been nominated for multiple Golden Globe awards. Call Me By Your Name (CMBYN) received three nominations in Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Picture. It's too bad that the Best Director ignored Luca Guadagnino, but I think the Oscars will recognize him, he really deserves that honor, even though he won't win. And why not? Because Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape of Water is the director I think should win this year, and his film received seven Golden Globe nominations.

I plan to see Call Me and Shape of Water at least once more in the theater in the coming weeks. If I see CMBYN once more, it will be for the fourth time and that will be the most I have seen a film during its theatrical run. Another film I wanted to see that received several GG nominations today is I, Tonya. I had a ticket to see the movie on Saturday along with the cast Q&A, but Toyota in Pasadena found something broken on my car and thankfully the warranty covered it, but, it added on 3 hours to my already long visit at the shop. So I had to cancel the Q&A.

I'm so happy to have found some interesting films and performances to support this Oscar season. I am no longer focusing as much attention on another actor who seems to have put acting on hold, and this just allows me to enjoy the work of artists who deserve the praise for their brilliant hard work.

The Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) award nominations are this Wednesday, and if CMBYN does well there in the acting categories, it's safe to say that both Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer will receive well deserved Oscar nominations in January.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My Twitter Brand Change

I created my Twitter account way back in May of 2009. And since I'm a creature of habit, I have been using the same name handle (@FassFass) and an image of an actor all this time. As of today, I changed my Twitter to @Theatreof Zen and I uploaded my own personal picture. Now that I'm in LA and really exploring the world of film with a first hand perspective, I need my Twitter account to reflect a bit more professionalism, and correlate it to my actual hobby of being the editor of this blog. It's been a long time coming and it's a relief to finally make this change to focus on my branding. I will continue to focus on current events, politics, and the entertainment industry.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Reasons I'm Living in LA!

As the month of November is coming to a close, I find myself stopping and thinking to myself that one of the primary reasons why I moved to Los Angeles is to be a part of the machinations of the film industry. I have accepted the fact that I will not find a career job within the industry, but I could still enjoy it very much by being on the periphery and enjoying film screenings, celebrity Q&As, and attending film festivals. Just in the past week, I have made big decisions that will permit me to be a part of a fascinating world that is part of the entertainment industry.

Firstly, I went ahead and joined Film Independent at the Film Lover level so that I can vote in the upcoming Film Independent Spirit Awards. This is a big step in the direction I need to take to become even more active in the industry, meet people, and be exposed to more films via free screenings so that I can write more about the films I love. Additionally, at the Film Lover level, I will receive screeners of the films that have been nominated for Spirit Awards. This is a huge deal, and a lot of responsibility comes with this voting ability. So I'm super excited about this next venture in my hobby life. I have been so disappointed and stressed out with my job search and with my other blog in which the muse of my blog has taken a different turn in his life at the moment. But all that be as it is, I'm grateful for my love of cinema which has allowed me to escape the crap of life and enjoy beautiful films.

Timothée Chalamet

In recent weeks, I have seen the Justice League (B+), and The Shape of Water (A), and Call Me By Your Name ( Review: A) - a film that I will see for a third time this Saturday, which will be another Q&A with cute Timothée Chalamet and director Luca Guadagnino. I love this film so much, and with Timmy winning the highly coveted and influential NY Film Critic's Circle Best Actor on Thursday, he now seems to have a clear road to receiving an Oscar nomination, and with enough good will and luck for him, he could actually win. But that's a different blog post at the right time.

And another big event I'm looking forward to is driving to my beloved Palm Springs to attend the Palm Springs Int'l Film Festival Gala on January 2nd. As I write this article, the general seats are still available at $350 a pop. Trust me, this is a good bargain because when I attended the Gala in January 2016, I had to pay $1000 to attend, and I was squeezed in as a favor. But I got my ticket weeks earlier and I will be attending with my Canadian snowbird friends again. Timothee will be an honoree for the Rising Star Award - Actor, and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) will receive the Rising Star Award - Actress. More celebrities will be announced, but you can see the tentative list here. I consider myself to be so lucky to be able to attend an event like this. And then I will drive back to Palm Springs to watch a few movies Jan 5-7.

Being in LA is allowing me to live out my interests of participating in events that support the film industry. If I can't be in a paid creative part of the industry, I can be a spectator up close.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Film Review: Call Me By Your Name (A)

With the world in so much turmoil as of late, it takes a simple love story to give us a little hope about the world and humanity. Luca Guadagnino's adaptation of Andre Aciman's 2007 novel, Call Me By Your Name is that movie that we all need right now. Set in the early 80s in Northern Italy, a precocious gorgeous 17 year old American-Italian boy, Elio, played by Timothee Chalamet, is living with his family in a large villa when they welcome a guest archaeologist scholar into their home for six weeks. The scholar, named Oliver, played by Armie Hammer, is a very handsome, laid back American whom immediately stirs something deeply within Elio. Oliver takes note of this and begins to leave hints to young Elio of his interest, or is it an annoyance? The bohemian upper class lifestyle of Elio's family permits him to have a free spirit attitude towards life. And his interactions with his parents reveals that they respect his individuality, and encourage his creativity and self-expression, as well as exploring his sexuality. When Oliver invites Elio for a bike ride into town, it is a test for both of them to explore exactly what is happening between them, and they become honest with each other because their attraction to one another is palpable. The brewing sexual desire between Elio and Oliver is beautifully consummated one evening and they opened a door that will eventually have to be closed.

Call Me By Your Name is a beautiful love story that you will never want to end. There are moments that make you so nervous about which direction Elio and Oliver's journey will take you. But when Elio's father, played by Michael Stuhlburg, explains to Elio about how lucky he was to have the experience to love Oliver, and be with someone who makes you love yourself and life, and how much his father supports what he experienced, it is a heart warming moment that makes you wish all parents of gay children were as compassionate and loving of their child.

Being in Los Angeles has afforded me the opportunity to attend special screenings of films, and as a subscriber to the LA Times, I was lucky to attend the screening of this film, and the Q&A afterwards with the director and actors. Below are three short videos I recorded from the Q&A which reveal insights into the filming process, Armie's dance sequence, and Timothee talks about the fruit moment. I can't wait to see this movie again, and after it has received six Spirit Award nominations, I believe it will make it all the way to the Oscars with hopeful nominations for Armie and Timothee. Call Me By Your Name will seduce you into viewing it at least twice in the theater as I already purchased by ticket to see it again on Saturday afternoon at Arclight Hollywood.

Grade: A

Armie Hammer (Oliver) and Timothee Chalamet (Elio)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Film Review: Blade Runner 2049 - A+

It is extremely rare that I watch a film and want to see it again immediately. This is the case of Blade Runner 2049, the follow up sequel to the incredible Blade Runner (1982). I was completely mesmerized within minutes by the cinematography, music score, sound design... all the technical awards should just automatically start inscribing BR2049 on the name plates. Set 30 years after Blade Runner Rick Decker (Harrison Ford) disappears, an LAPD Blade Runner, Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is placed on a mission to find Decker because he's the literal key to an important missing link that was recently discovered, which could destroy the so called system of order, or rather, the wall, between humans and replicants.

The replicants are synthetic humans created strictly for slave labor, and there are older model replicants that need to be destroyed. They have been replaced by newer models that are more obedient to the demands of humans. After Officer K kills one of those Nexus model replicants, he uncovers a well hidden grave site that opens a pandora's box of world changing truths. However, the organization that creates replicants learn the truth discovered from those buried bones and are desperate to find Decker. Blade Runner 2049 explores the question, 'Do AIs have a soul'? We certainly see in BR2049 that they are more human that humans in this world, and yearn for the truth to come out so that they can use that information and take control of their own destinies.

Director Denis Villenueve's beautiful, almost meditative journey through an otherwise dusty and dreary landscape makes this 2 hours and 44 minute film go by so quickly because you lose yourself in its beauty, and the anxious moments watching the twists and turns to the climax of this fantastic exploration of human greed, abuse, and oppression over the artificially designed.

Grade: A+

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Film Review: mother! 4/5

I attended the screening of Darren Aronofsky's mother! yesterday at The Landmark in Los Angeles as this was a special sold out screening due to the Aronofsky Q&A after wards. As many of you know, I'm a sporadic novice film reviewer. I don't get paid to review films, and I buy the tickets to the films I plan to write a review on. So when I want to review a film, I have no bias and I really want to give my opinion about a film. With that said, mother! is the rare film that tests my ability to articulate myself about the perfection of a film that I believe is a unique cinematic treat, and should be seen by as many people as possible, although a mere faction of its audience will appreciate it.

mother! is an unconventional film as it starts off with a hint that it is not based in the realm that we humans live in, but instead, it feels like a stage play. Off the bat, you smell the elements of biblical allegories that tug at your sleeve of things you may remember from the bible. Jennifer Lawrence stars as the wife of her writer husband, Javier Bardem. They live in a remote... suspiciously remote, very large house that she remarkably has reconstructed all by herself. She loves to keep a beautiful, clean, bountiful house, and she yearns to have children one day. But her husband is curiously distant, but he plants her hugs and kisses at the appropriate time. He gives off sociopath vibes, but she loves him so much, and want to make their home beautiful and happy, she gives him his space. One day, a stranger comes by, played by Ed Harris, and he becomes too ill to leave. The husband, who never asks his wife to be part of any decision making, invites this strange man to stay. The wife is concerned, but obedient. Too obedient, maybe it's the age difference. Then the next day, the strange man's even stranger wife comes to be with him, and she is wonderfully played by Michelle Pfeiffer. This woman is immediately dismissive of the wife, as if the wife is intruding into her space, her life! Then things really start to unravel.

The wife is haunted by images in her home of past and future decay, a mysterious heart slowly corrupting, uninvited numerous rude stranger guests who are enthralled with her husband, and boy does he love the adulation by these selfish interlopers, and the blood shed by sibling violence which opens up a pathway to a source of power. But with all this going on, this leads to a crescendo of beautiful, crazy, audacious, funny, mindbogglingly, breathtaking, 25 minutes of Seriously, WTF?! Writing about it would be too spoilerish and it has to be seen to be believed! At the Q&A, Darren Aronofsky spoke about how this sequence brings a grin to his face. As the viewer, your mouth will be agape.

And that's not all! The final 10 minutes of mother! is super disturbing in a way that will offend those who are religious and concern those who are feminists. Birth, sacrificing for sins, cannibalism, a woman physically assaulted. All the horrors we read and see in the news of today's world events are captured in these two separate sequences of mother! And in the end, it starts all over and it makes eerie sense.

I've been reading about people walking out of the film, some having panic attacks, and I read on Twitter that the Academy screening had members standing out in the lobby during the last 10 minutes of the film. The real meat and potatoes of the film! Jennifer Lawrence deserves an Oscar nomination for mother! and the film deserves some tech noms as well, especially with cinematography, sound, and editing. This is a film that makes you think about the world today. How we treat mother Earth, how we treat women, how we become blinded by adoration and addicted to that adulation.

I'll go see mother! again, but I need time to still process the first viewing.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Home for Labor Day

I have been so busy that I can't even bother to update ToZ, but alas, since it's the end of August, I need to keep up the theme of one post per month. However, I'm even more compelled to post this blog article today because I learned that I lost a dear friend back in Michigan over the weekend. I worked at a not so good organization from July 2013 to October 2015. If it weren't for my friend Dana going through the same difficulties, and both of us using each other to be a source of support and private laughs, we would have lots our minds and been even more sad and frustrated.

Dana died suddenly this past weekend due to a rare and aggressive cancer that apparently was just only discovered in the past few weeks. She spent her final weeks at the University of Michigan hospital, where she died. Since the day I left that company in October of 2015, I've been in regular contact with Dana via text messages and phone calls. The last time we texted was on August 1st. She was just checking up on me as usual, and she told me that she was starting a real estate investment company. She wanted to hang in at the 'hell hole' for just a few more months, and then she would be all set to go work for herself. I last spoke with her on the phone back in April. What's so sad is that Dana was only 52 and still had so much to live for. She wanted so badly to leave a bad job that she had been at since 2013, but because of the bad economy in Michigan, and the stigma of the place she worked at, no one would hire her. Because I've lost so many lovely people in recent memory, I have some to accept that death is just a part of life, and it releases the person from the misery that was in their lives. Dana provided a great reference for me upon my move to California which helped me secure my first job. I never had a of friends in my life, just those select few cool people, and Dana was one of them. Dana is no longer sick and in pain, and she is not working at the hell hole anymore. God speed my dear friend, and thank you so much for being there for me. ♥

As I plan to go home to Michigan for Labor Day weekend. I think this particular weekend is going to be THE weekend when I go home to visit family from now on. I look forward to making a pit stop in Ann Arbor to get some U of M paraphernalia, and eat a meal at my favorite sushi restaurant! I'm happy to see family and a few friends again, and to get away from my current "job". I've been interviewing, but haven't found the dream job yet. I know I will soon, I've made it this far to California, I'm not giving up now. The weekend after next, I go see Eddie Vedder at the Ohana Music Festival, and the weekend after that, I'll see director Darren Aronofsky for a Q&A at The Landmark for his upcoming film, Mother! starring his girlfriend Jennifer Lawrence. Since I'm missing out on TIFF this year, I'm looking forward to seeing at least one film that is making the festival rounds that is highly anticipated. After getting the email that tickets were available, I went to the website and had a hell of a time trying to buy tickets. I was lucky finally getting a ticket to this film and Q&A as it sold out quickly for a convenient Saturday afternoon screening.

I want to update ToZ much more frequently moving forward. I miss writing for ToZ, and it's always been cathartic and a source of stress release when I update the blog.

Monday, July 17, 2017

First Summer in LA Update

I haven't updated my blog in a while because I've been so busy. Since my last blog post, I have treated myself to a weekend to Palm Springs; dedicated 24 hours of volunteer time to the LA Film Festival; participated in a short internship that was a dud; continued to have phone and in person interviews for jobs; continuing to learn more about the transition job I'm currently at; house sitting 4 cats and a dog for six weeks at a discount of rent; and preparing for my mother to come for a short visit this coming weekend.

It's good to be very busy, but I'm trying to enjoy myself and also enjoy living in my new surroundings of LA County. I find myself trying to remind myself to pace my life and that all good things will come to me in time. It was an incredible life change just moving here on my own with not a lot of money and  no job lined up. But with all things considered, I'm lucky and doing well... but, I could be doing better: living my dreams. I created the image above with words of inspiration that just came to me. I think it's spot on. I often think about all the planning and hard work that got me to this point, and I look back on those crazy days with a sense of pride in myself. And I know that in a year's time, I'll look back at my challenges now and be even more proud of what I accomplished, but in my next step in life, I WILL have that dream job or at least be at the dream company that will allow me to pave a dream career.  But these things take time, and I'm in the most over populated city in the country, competing with people just as ambitious, educated and skilled as I am. So things are going to work out for me, I just have to keep at it and I'll get the job and home I have dreamed of for a long time.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Film Review: Wonder Woman - A+

When Gal Gadot was first announced as the new Wonder Woman, I didn't see her appeal, other than being a tall, pretty brunette. But when I saw her in the film I worked on as an extra, Batman vs Superman, she turned out to be a great Wonder Woman. As child, I loved Wonder Woman - I saw her as a symbol of the type of woman I wanted to be when I grew up: Strong, smart, independent, compassionate, strong willed, and a serious ass kicker. It was wise for DC Entertainment Inc. to have a woman direct this film. Patty Jenkins did a superb job in directing WW. This story of a Goddess, raised in a secret place that is exclusively women, needed a female director's perception, point of view, and attention to details. Princess Diana (aka, Diana Price) was born to be the one Goddess to destroy the God of Wars, the universal principal behind all the war mongering carnage in the world. Through a mere accident of meeting WWII spy, Steve Trevor, wonderfully played by Chris Pine, Diana is made aware of an active world war that is destroying millions of innocent lives.

With a perfect blend of her bravery to go into battle, and her sweet naivete, which is due to her being segregated from the rest of the world all her life, Diana boldly goes into the human world and is immediately disheartened by what she sees, especially the wicked deeds of humankind. But as she and Steve fall in love, she understands more about humanity and finds a reason to tackle a menace in a way that may kill her. Throughout the entire film, we see Wonder Woman engage in battle with the evil Germans and she destroys them in amazing ways.

Wonder Woman comes out in theaters in a very difficult time of our cultural and political landscape. We all need, especially women, to see the value of a strong brave woman going up against impossible odds, and come out on top in a blaze of glory. Wonder Woman may serve as a mere reminder to women like me that women are capable of extraordinary deeds that men are not only capable of achieving. And for the too many millions upon millions of people in the world, most of them men, who believe that women are weak, second class citizens that are not equal to men, they should see this to understand why WW exist, and how she helps reinforce that women are a unique force to be reckoned with.

Gal Gadot is just remarkable as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. She makes you feel so proud watching this film. It's not a girly film at all, at the most, it's an amazing action superhero film that is similar, but yet very different than all the rest. As stated before, this is the first female lead superhero film ever, and it's on target to earn over $100 million its first weekend! Gal Gadot is now on the map and surely she will be making a few more Wonder Woman movies because the world will certainly want more now! If you were suffering from superhero fatigue, then Wonder Woman offers the cure!

Grade: A+

Monday, May 22, 2017

U2 at the Rose Bowl!

Inside the Rose Bowl
I've been a fan of U2 since 1985, and I saw them for the first time in 1987! I since then have seen them in 1992, 1994, 2001 and now 2017 at the Rose Bowl where they are playing Saturday and Sunday. That is four decades of supporting this band! As I type this blog entry, I hear U2 playing tonight - right now, they are playing In The Name of Love. It was a fantastic concert and it reminded me of why I have loved their work for so long. Back in 1987, U2 toured for The Joshua Tree and I saw them at their ever first stadium sold out show at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. As U2 rose to more and more commercial fame, I fell to the side because their music changed to something more pop and significantly moving away from the heavier political messages of their earlier music. Their music post-1995 still had some political messages, but the style was stamp approved corporate pop music. I got more interested in the anti-corporate sound of the alternative rock scene from Seattle (Pearl Jam is my all time favorite band).  There was a special dedication to Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, and Audioslave, who sadly passed away this past week.

Since I live 4 miles from the Rose Bowl, there was no way I was going to pay $50 to park my damn car. Saving that $50 allowed me to buy a $45 t-shirt. So I found a side street to park my car for free, and it was only a 20 minute walk to the stadium. My seat was up in the heavens so I knew that in order to avoid the rush of fans at the end of the concert, I had to leave about 15 minutes before the concert was scheduled to end at 11pm and to avoid the 60k people in attendance trying to leave at the same time. I heard them sing I Will Follow, another of my old time great songs from U2, as I walked to my car. And it's a good thing that I got a head start because the concert ended on schedule, and I made it home at 11:10. No traffic headaches at all.

I look forward to seeing U2 in concert again, but I'll have to get used to the nosebleed seats as I'm not interested in joining their fan club for pre-sale tickets, nor do I have $3000+ to spare to buy a VIP ticket for access right at King Bono's feet. I love him, but I love Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam more. But I do see why U2 is the biggest concert attraction of all time; they put on an excellent show, very visually beautiful and fun. I'm proud to say I've been a fan of U2 for over 30 years. Maybe one day I'll be able to see them on their turf in Ireland!

Here are some pictures from the concert. It was a great experience and now I have one concert event under my belt from the Rose Bowl (I'll see Coldplay there in October).

About to get in line to enter the Rose Bowl. 

A view from my seat in Sec 9, Row 76, Seat 128.

My seat. I was lucky to get my bag through security.

The show begins. The Joshua Tree in lights!

Beautiful scenes on the screen behind the band as they play.

King Bono!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Got Tickets to Hamilton in September - Thanks to AmEx!

For a couple of months, I have been preparing for April 30th, the day the Pantages Hollywood tickets go on sale for Hamilton, the 11 Tony award winning Broadway play.  Knowing that tickets were going to be difficult to purchase, I knew that I had to zero in on a specific date, a Saturday, and a specific time. Weekend shows of plays usually have a matinee and an evening show. My birthday this year falls on a Saturday, so I wanted to shoot for a 2pm show on that day. About two weeks ago, I emailed a new local friend asking her if she was interested in going to see Hamilton with me if I got two tickets. I was aiming for the lowest prices between $75 to $125 naturally, and therefore, making it easier for me to get two tickets. However, I have not heard back from her so I reckon she's not interested.

The day has arrived and I logged onto my Ticketmaster account, and updated the payment information with my new Gold Delta Skymiles American Express card. And at 10am sharp, I clicked on the September 30th date, and I was automatically placed into a 40 minute holding pattern. I opened up another browser on my computer, and waited. I then logged onto my ipad, and waited. Then I figured I should call Ticketmaster while on hold online. I've been through many stressful ticket buying experiences before, but this one was strange. This is a FIVE month run for a play that has a show every day except Monday and I just thought that it would be a challenge, but not this much. I pushed the redial button at least 3 dozen times before I got through. Meanwhile, on the computer, a $650 ticket popped up. I clicked 'try again' to get lower priced tickets.

So as I'm on the phone, it took forever to have the 'system' find me a ticket, but at this time, I was still trying for 2 tickets at the lower prices. After they found two tickets and asked if I wanted to pay $1332, I said, 'hell no', try again, but this time, I just went for one. I was willing to buy two tickets up to the individual prices of $125, but not two tickets at $650 each! I'm not one for buying tickets only to resell at a profit to a person eagerly wanting to go to this show just like me. That's greedy and rude. So since this is a birthday gift to myself, and the ONLY way I was going to see Hamilton on my birthday was to splurge and buy the expensive $650 ticket, I bit the bullet and purchased it. Thank God I have this new American Express card - which was used for a true emergency, as in this case! I'll have my ticket mailed to me, and I was told that the ticket is in row H, so that's like 8 rows from the stage. AWESOME!!! (Click to see seating chart & prices)

I cannot justify paying this price for any other play, unless it's staring my favorite actor. But now that I have proven to myself that I am willing to pay at most $650, I should not trip out if in the future I need to consider buying a top ticket hovering around the $300-400 range for an excellent theater experience. But this will in no way be a habit. I don't anticipate being in the position of wanting a ticket with such high interest in the foreseeable future, so this is why I'm not too disturbed about paying this kind of money to see Hamilton.

What does irk me is that the tickets are priced in a way that scalpers buy all the cheaper tickets, and then go resell them at 4-6x the face value. So if someone really wanted to see this play on their birthday, and the only tickets that are available are through Stubhub or resold via Ticketmaster, that person will be paying through the nose for those tickets.

Case in point: The image above is for the September 30, 2pm performance, the same show I will be attending. The tickets listed for Mezzanine Left Center were bought by the seller at $95 each. The bastard is now selling these tickets for $415. I pity the desperate fool who buys those tickets, I really do.

I think the Hamilton theater company got wise about the horrible ticket pricing and scalping on Broadway, so they upped the tickets for the very best seats, knowing that those who really wanted to see the play and had the money to buy at that price, were set. But those who had to fight for the rest, risk possibly paying just as much if not more for the regularly priced expensive seats if they had to resort to the greedy, evil scalpers and resellers. You know what... let's just lump them all together. Someone deliberately buying tickets TODAY, with NO intention of going to that performance, and reselling at 5x the face value, is a damn scalper too.

But alas, the theory of supply and demand for extremely popular events will always have scalpers reselling affordable tickets to good fans who could not buy them fast enough from scalpers. I'm lucky I was able to be in the position to buy a high priced ticket on my own, and not resort to buying a poor seat at premium seat prices. Those who do buy a mezzanine seat at a premium seat price need to have a better understanding of the value of their seat and experience, at the value they are willing to pay for it. Is it ok to spend over $400+ for a nosebleed seat instead of a superior seat at just $200 more? If they think that's fine, they are justifying the existence of scalpers.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

An Evening with Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey at Film Independent - April 20, 2017
I'm not the biggest Oprah Winfrey fan, but you have to give credit where credit is due. She's a remarkable, multi-talented/multi-hyphenated person who does a lot of good for the world. When I realized that she was going to appear at the screening of her new HBO movie, I had to be there! The latest thing Oprah has done was help bring the very important story of Henrietta Lacks to life. Based on a New York Times bestselling book by Rebecca Skloot, Oprah produced and starred in the HBO film (airing this weekend), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, directed by George C. Wolfe. I had the pleasure to attend the Film Independent screening for Immortal on April 20th, where Oprah and the director engaged in a lively conversation afterwards. Oprah admitted that even she wasn't aware of Henrietta Lacks, and it really saddened her. Ms. Lacks was a black woman who lived in Baltimore and was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She died in 1951, but Johns Hopkins hospital removed her cancer cells and used them for research and study that would lead to groundbreaking medical and scientific breakthroughs that have revolutionized all of humanity. Back in those days, it was protocol for human tissue to be used without consent for research. For those with a background and interest in science, you may be more familiar with the scientific name for her cells as HELA cells.

According to the wiki definition of HELA, it is described as, "A cell type in an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line." HELA is abbreviated for HEnrietta LAcks, the human donor of these important and immortal cells. Read up on Henrietta's legacy from this current article at CNN.

The conversation with Oprah was very engaging and informative. She's really proud to be a part of this film. She plays Deborah Lacks, Henrietta's daughter. Deborah had a life long crusade to bring her mother's story to life. Oprah explained that she was hesitant to take on the role, but when she heard one of the interview tapes of Deborah talking to the writer of the 'Immortal' book, Rebecca Skloot, which the movie in based on, Oprah learned that Deborah wanted Oprah to play her if a movie were ever made. Well, her wish came true.

I was able to get my autograph from Oprah and I thanked her for bringing this very important story to our attention, and she said, 'You're welcome'. I shook the director's hand and told him how much I enjoyed the film. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks airs on HBO this weekend. Please watch it, it's a very important film. We have all benefited from Henrietta in ways we can't comprehend.

Oprah deserves an Emmy nomination for 'Immortal'

Director George C. Wolfe and Oprah

Fans getting their autographs

Heading to the wine and cheese reception afterwards

A variety of wines to enjoy

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Personal Shopper at LACMA

In their second collaboration, Kristen Stewart and director Olivier Assayas go down a creepy American in Paris Gothic film road with Personal Shopper. I was in attendance Monday night at the Film Independent at LACMA screening where after wards, there was a Q&A. Kristen stars as Maureen, a young woman who is still mourning the death of her twin brother three months prior, and is driven to use her medium skills to contact him. She and her brother made a pact long ago that whoever dies first, must let the other one know they are ok on the other side. It’s been a few months since he died, and Maureen hasn’t heard from her brother. She lives in Paris as a personal shopper to a selfish and demanding fashionista/model name Kyra, but Maureen primarily communicates with Kyra through messages left on a dining room table. Feeling isolated in a city she hates and a job that is soul destroying, Maureen is compelled to remain in Paris, the city her brother died, to conjure up a conversation with him, but by doing so, she may have opened up another door.

While Maureen is trying to communicate with her brother in the vacant home where he last lived, she hears sounds and has a frightening experience that may or may not be from her twin. Did Maureen make contact with a different spirit, or did this thing manifest from something, or someone else more sinister? Whatever it is, she awakened something and it begins to stalk her. Soon, this entity, or someone possibly playing mind games with her, sends text messages to her encouraging her to explore the things she is forbidden to do, and one of those things are to simply disobey Kyra’s orders of not trying on her fancy designer clothes. By breaking this rule in secret, Maureen is forced to see how isolated life in Paris has made her feel, and by experience the freedom to do what she wants so she can feel alive and escape her mourning. But she still misses her brother, and is obsessed with contacting him. In a Hitchcockian twist, Maureen visits Krya’s apartment to find a bloody murder scene and she is soon enveloped in fear of the supernatural presence that has been haunting and taunting her.

Personal Shopper reveals an intimate view of how each of us manage our grief, and how normal it is to grieve and yearn for some kind of sign for the dearly departed. And if you’re a medium wanting to use your innate skills to contact your twin, that grief can be compounded when you think you have failed; and Maureen gives up hope at a moment when all she had to do was turn around. In her most mature role, Kristen Stewart was marvelous as the tenacious grief stricken young woman. In their Q&A, Kristen and Olivier Assayas described their working relationship as Kristen making his directing more easy and organic, and Kristen says that working with Olivier is so comforting that she will do anything for him because his direction is so natural and inviting. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Film Review: La La Land (A-)

I'm not one for musicals, I usually cringe to the hokey dancing and singing of some musicals I have tried to watch in the past. So when they are released, I tend to ignore them. But in the case of La La Land, there was something magical about this film that really lured me in to it. Besides having a slight girl crush on the gorgeous and extremely talented Emma Stone, and having a grand appreciation for the sexy and somber Ryan Gosling, the story about two young people in Los Angeles struggling to realize their dreams resonated with me, because, I'm a new transplant to Los Angeles seeking my dreams too. The film was released in early December, and I purchased a ticket to see it on Friday, December 9th. But for the first time in my life, after buying an advanced purchase ticket, I actually forgot to go see the movie right after work that Friday because I was very tired and stressed from a busy week at work. It was my intentions to still see it, and the perfect time to watch La La Land was just a few days after it received 14 Oscar nominations!

La La Land has Mia (Emma) as an aspiring actress from Nevada living and working in Los Angeles at a coffee shop. She works at the Warner Brothers studio, right smack dab in the middle of all the action where she's constantly reminded about her dream to be a big star, but first, she has to get a call back from the gazillion auditions she's been going to. By chance, while caught in LA's infamous traffic, Mia has a road rage situation with mercurial Sebastian (Ryan), a struggling Jazz musician who has aspirations to be a successful old school jazz musician and jazz club owner. These two ambitious people bump into each other once more at the height of personal lows and over time, come to share the miseries of the pursuit of their dreams and support each other in obtaining their separate dreams.

La La Land is absolutely beautiful, charming, and fun. The chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is undeniable! It's not a perfect film because as an Angeleno, I was left wondering how could Mia and Sebastian afford their lifestyles and partake in some of the activities around Los Angeles under the guise of being struggling young artists. But that's where the suspension of disbelief takes over in many of the fantasy aspects of this vibrant film. The opening and ending singing and dance sequences were a joy to watch and really made me appreciate the artistic directing, editing, film score, choreography, cinematography, costumes, makeup, etc. of La La Land. The dancing and singing done by both Emma and Ryan were incredible, really demonstrating their abilities of being multi-hyphenated creative talents.

Just when you think La La Land would have a typical La La happy ending, the smart mind game twist at the end really is bittersweet and Mia and Sebastian's polite sad smiles really tugged at my heart and left me thinking about the film and these two charming characters for the remainder of the day. The moral of the story is, in the pursuit of one's dreams, don't neglect the rare magical event of true love - with ego aside, someone has to give up something to be with and support their loved one so that they both can enjoy their mutual successes together.

La La Land has been nominated for 14 Oscars, I will not be surprised if it won at least 8 or 9 categories, including Best Actress for Emma Stone, and I'm rooting for Ryan Gosling too. I believe the movie has Best Picture all locked up, no question at all! It's about Los Angeles, Hollywood, and actors/musicians, and the Academy loves films about themselves. However, as brilliant as director Damien Chazelle is, I think the Academy will spread the love and make the best director win an opportunity to make history and give it to someone else.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Changing of the Guard... for the Worse!

Next week, President Obama will not be the president anymore. Instead, a complete feeble minded, narcissistic, vile, greedy, sexist, ignorant old fool, who permitted the Russian mafia, lead by Putin who is afraid of Hillary, to help him "win" the election, will become president to THOSE who voted for him. I did not vote for him, and neither did the majority of voters, all 65 million of them, who voted for Hillary Clinton. I will not taint this blog with his name, a name I won't even capitalize or write in reverence. He's an anomaly that I hope is impeached soon and have the karmic forces give him severe whiplash. I'm proud to say that I have no friends who voted for him, I don't associate with people like that.

If you have a passport, make sure it's not expired or expiring very soon, otherwise, get it renewed asap. I have a nightmarish thought that many of us Americans who did not vote for this idiot, will need their passport and will book a one way flight to another country (or drive to Canada).

Good luck America, we'll be needing it! And to those of you who voted for him, you deserve every single bad policy he implements to affect you!