Friday, November 16, 2012

(Melo)drama in Three Acts

This morning I learned that one of Matt's uncles has passed away. He's not someone that Matt and I were close to at all, but it's still a sad surprise for us, and plain awful for some of his family. Whenever something like this happens - whenever I know that people close to me are mourning or troubled - I never know what to do with myself, publicly or privately. I had written a good portion of a silly blog post about movies and opera before I heard about the death, and when I went to work on it some more after I knew about Uncle Dave, my subject seemed trivial to the point where it would be insulting to post it.

On September 11, 2002 I was a college student, a senior. I'm not sure if anybody had really assimilated the impact of 9/11 only a year later, but I was not quite 21 and was only just learning how big and unimpressible history was compared to any one event in history. The point is, I wore all black that day, mourning, and when I went to the student union around lunchtime, I saw a woman wearing rather outlandish flowered shoes and brightly colored ribbons in her hair.

At the time, I was disgusted. I thought she was extremely disrespectful for not sticking to muted colors on that day. I had a conversation with someone about this - I can't remember who - and the someone disagreed with me. A decade later, I disagree with myself. Sort of. I still think it's a good idea to show respect for what we lost that day, but I also think that if we tamp down any signs that life goes on, if we only allow for ONE reaction and ONE appropriate mode of dress on that day or any day, we lose something important as a nation and as a species. That woman might have just been oblivious to the anniversary of 9/11 and wore what she would have worn any day, but I'm going to choose to believe she dressed brightly on purpose. She was a flower growing out of blackened rubble.

This might partially be justification for not wanting to trash a post about fucking Twilight that I worked hard to make entertaining, but I do believe every word. And I mean no disrespect when getting on with my life, even when people I love are hurting. I want to do what I can, but when I don't know what to do, I'm going to do what I always do. Freezing everything I do so as not to be perceived as a jerk seems mostly like it's just paralyzing, rather than helpful at all.


Last night I went to Breaking Dawn Part 2 at 10:00, along with seemingly most of the 13-year-old girls in Northridge. When I first got there, I asked a little gaggle of girls whether I was in the right line, and they gave me a once-over and disdainfully ignored me. Oh yeah: middle school girls are kinda bitchy. I wanted to say something like "You can be as rude as you want, but I drove my own car here and you're wearing a fucking onesie pajama with Uggs." (Seriously, one girl was in a onesie. They were all wearing PJs of some kind for unclear reasons.) But then I remembered I was an adult with a happy life, and how shitty it felt to be 13, and instead just waited in line gracefully, even failing to react when a pair of girls edged and edged and edged until they were magically in front of me instead of behind me. I hate it when people do that.

Because I went by myself, I got a great seat, or so I thought until the movie started. Turned out I was right in front of a girl who I believe thought she was in 1964 and she was seeing the Beatles perform. Hearing damage, you guys. I missed the dialogue in one entire scene because she was shrieking so loud. Unbearable as this was anyway, she was Team Jacob. Idiot.

What? The movie? Oh, right. To my surprise, it was a straight-up decent movie. It cooked along at a nice pace, didn't have that many laughable set pieces or plot points, and inserted a wonderful innovation in order to have its cake and eat it too during the big climax. There was even one scene during which my brain said "Hey, this is actually well-written." Which is a first for this series. Vertigo it was not, but I think it'll bear rewatching a lot better than the other four.

--begin opera discussion, skip if not interested--

I also went to the opera on Wednesday: Otello. Matt asked me on Tuesday if I was looking forward to it, and I said eh, sort of. Othello is very far from my favorite Shakespeare play - it's so melodramatic, Iago is so plainly evil and everyone is too stupid to see it, Desdemona should really have a lot of agency and instead she's reduced to a shallow victim. The female lead in the opera was Renée Fleming, which I can't exactly complain about - she's one of the best singers in the world - but she's over fifty, which seems wrong for Desdemona, a blushing bride. The Otello role was sung by Johan Botha, a Caucasian playing the role in dark makeup, which makes me squirmy. After I explained all this, Matt said "Oh. Yay." Which was pretty much how I felt.

So, 1) The opera had the same issues as the play. 2) Both Fleming and Botha were maybe a little wrong for their parts physically, but in both cases, I think you take what you can get as a casting conductor, because I could tell the roles are absurdly, abusively difficult to sing. Botha's acting caused me to avert my eyes at times, but he has quite a powerful voice; I'm pretty sure you could have heard him on the street, maybe a couple of blocks away, on certain notes. Fleming was Fleming: moving, flawless, transcendent. 3) Dark makeup. Eeeuwww. Especially since Botha, bless him, is a large man and was sweating freely under the stage lights.

Also, the staging was unbelievably complex, with tall columns and multi-level platforms and actual (fake) trees for Desdemona and Cassio to walk around in. The performers were in full medieval garb. The opera was so voluptuous and fascinating that I thought this was all pretty unnecessary. The Iago part was musically the most satisfying, I thought, and the baritone who sang it, Falk Struckmann, was wonderful. He got a louder ovation than any performer I've yet heard during the, oh, dozen operas I've seen so far. I thought they were going to bring the ceiling down on him.

--end opera discussion--

In other news, I'm a couple of chapters into the second Patrick Melrose novel. (Read that. It's interesting.) I'm still on a razor's edge as to whether I'll read all five, because the characters are mostly despicable, and the purpose of the novels beyond recording delicious English wit is unclear. I'm not dissing the interior world and small stage of the books - I would be pretty much the last person on earth to do so - but they don't feel urgent.

Also, I got a dramatic bangs-oriented haircut yesterday. The last time I had bangs, I made Matt swear to talk me out of ever getting bangs again. (The ladies will know what I mean: growing out bangs is Turkish prison-level torment.) He tried. He failed. I think it's a cute haircut. My Facebook friends seem to agree. We'll see how I feel about it in a couple of weeks.

I've taken a break from writing, editing, and the secret project for a little while, so I can come back fresh (and so I can work exclusively on my dollaz job for a little while). I think today's the day I return. Maybe. We'll see how the morning goes.

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