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Arthur Meiselman

Bits&Pieces: Lala in La La Land

Lala in La La Land
Hollywood's Academy Awards are like all film awards, Cannes included: political, emotionally off-handed, egoistically derivative. The screwy ending to Sunday night's ceremonies was redemptive rather than weird. That the "musical" was nominated in the first place and compared to the heralded Singin' in the Rain was simply outrageous and hilarious. The music is good and so are the production values. But, oh but, the two stars can't sing or dance! Their performances were, for lack of a better word, tasteless and menacing. That one of them received an Oscar was true to the milieu.

Here is the American Film Institute's ranked list of the top 25 Hollywood musical films (notice No. 1):

1 Singin' in the Rain 1952

2 West Side Story 1961

3 The Wizard of Oz 1939

4 The Sound of Music 1965

5 Cabaret 1972

6 Mary Poppins 1964

7 A Star Is Born 1954

8 My Fair Lady 1964

9 An American in Paris 1951

10 Meet Me in St. Louis 1944

11 The King and I 1956

12 Chicago 2002

13 42nd Street 1933

14 All That Jazz 1979

15 Top Hat 1935

16 Funny Girl 1968

17 The Band Wagon 1953

18 Yankee Doodle Dandy 1942

19 On the Town 1949

20 Grease 1978

21 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 1954

22 Beauty and the Beast 1991

23 Guys and Dolls 1955

24 Show Boat 1936

25 Moulin Rouge! 2001


Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds... RIP.


What's Happened to TV News?
I spend a lot of time abroad. Wherever I am, local news is local news, if you know what I mean. To get away from giddy cheese prices and who's Kardashianing whom, I turn to the international outlets. What usually follows me around is BBC, France24, Al Jazeera and the idiocy of Fox News. Slanted they are, beating the marimbas of their own agendas as they search for ways to make a buck, facing the mewling hunger of the 24-hour news cycle and filling it with mediocre journalism and mediocre writing. Case in point: BBC World News. Once the "New York Times" of the world, in a given hour, BBC now devotes as much as 15-20 minutes to advertising and in-house promos, often followed by frilly featurettes. The model is evidently Fox News. And Fox News' model? Why... he's now the president.

What If This Is All There Is?
What if we live on a planet, in this interminable, indeterminable universe, that is one and only one of a kind, unique?  What if what we can see with our eyes, the solar system and the constellations of stars, is the extent of the physical universe and the rest, the galaxies, the nebulae, the black holes, the endless points of light, is simply interpreted and interpolated digital illusion, cognitive dissonance (as Mr. Ford would say), special effects created by scientists and video game-makers? What if the ancients were right and Star Trek is wrong? What if Charles Darwin is right and the scribblings of frightened, mal-educated, small-minded people who created bibles and gospels and scriptures are wrong? Without gods and saviors and space-time and multi-universes and enlightenment and heavens and hells and spiritual this and that, what does that make our planet and we on it? Are we less with the awakening that this is all there is, or are we living gods with the desire and ability to extrude illusion, put it on film, and give it a life of its own? Is the arc of our story a full circle and are we headed forward to the beginning? And if this is all there is, what happened to all there was? Maybe it's all recorded in a book somewhere or even on a cassette tape.

Quick, Take Me to Your Leader
Yes, the Hubble telescope, comparatively speaking, is a magnificent piece of technology and there's better coming. We also popped a bunch of automatonic humans on the Moon some 50 years ago and haven't done it since. Now for heaven's and earth's sake, astronomers have confirmed the inevitable discovery of a nearby star system with seven earth-like planets in orbit around a fading star.

Think about it...

We take snapshots of little dots of light in the so-called universe, our so-called dimension and we take closeup snapshots of barren rocks that circle along with our rock around a small star. We speculate and agonize about the nature of things and try to emulate our brains in microcosmic boxes. And... we ask... why they out there don't contact us? Would you, if you were they?

True outer space is currently verboten to humans because human physiology cannot tolerate the rigours and mind-bending body alterations that occur in space travel. We are a thin-skinned species and cannot even extend our life spans to a measurable point in cosmic time.

But, a big 'But' among all the "big butts" that are now in vogue is... we may not be able to defeat the ISIS plague or the worldwide-cloned trumps because we have brought our planet to the distinct edge of collapse. That's you and me and our ancestors. It began only 600 years ago when the human population crossed over the line of sustainability. The oceans are dying, the air is dying, and our food supply is malingering. The clocks tick, the lips lick, and the dreams stick like fading decals on a transparent wall.

Why don't they contact us? If you knew who they are and you were they... would you?

To Own and Possess
I have a friend who owns a Picasso, and not much else. Which one? Don't ask, don't tell. He acquired this painting via less than legal and righteous means. It involved a married woman, a tawdry brother, a... never mind! He possesses it, it's his, and it's worth a Russian oligarch fortune.

What does it mean to own, to possess a Picasso? Think about it... You have in front of you an image that began in the Spaniard's head, followed the smoke plumes from his ever-present cigarette into his hands, covering his eyes, animating his body, and then brushed on to a canvas in private moments, intimate moments that could never be shared. It is an image that contains the invisible mystery of Picasso's feelings, that contains his breath, his drops of sweat, his skin cells, the lingering resonance of his grunts and moans. It is an image that "is" Picasso.

If you're not a painter, have you wondered what it is like for a painter to see a work he sold hanging on someone's wall or in an exhibition? There... is a piece of his memory, a piece of him, an image that expands into the remembrance of the emotions, the events, all of his life during the creation of the work, all of the dimensions of the world he lived in which no aesthetician or critic or scholar could possibly reconstruct and describe. It is not important to know any of this biographical, historical information to experience a painting, to feel it, to understand it, to love it. All of that biodegradable data is only voyeuristic vichyssoise for viewers who did not create the painting. Except for the painter, who sees the painting and steps back into it, becoming part of it again. For some, it must be a painful experience.

So what does it mean to own, to possess a Picasso? It means whatever it means to you, even if you know nothing about it other than what you see on the canvas. It also means... you possess a secret, an image of secrets that only the living Pablo can share.

My One and Only Regret
That I do not have the vision to see a pig fly, a cat's ninth life, a unicorn's breath, an omni-gendered human being, and a trans-human. But hope springs maternal... as the smoke meanders up my nose.

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Arthur Meiselman is a playwright, writer and the Editor of Scene4. He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for Aemagefilms.
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March 2017

Volume 17 Issue 10

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