It’s nearly time to lock it down for season 2 of Orange Is The New Black. This award winning original series from Netflix, will be paroled on June 6, and the wait has felt like a jail sentence for fans. The new season trailer was released back in April but in case you missed it, we’ve posted it here, and it looks like s**t’s gonna get real!
SEASON 1 *SPOILER ALERT*
If you’re all caught up with season 1 you’ll know it ended in brutal fashion with Piper Chapman going all American History X on Pennsatucky. Between that and the new trailer we think it’s safe to assume she’s turned over a new leaf, but it’s looking decidedly rotten on the other side “I’m a lone wolf and a vicious one, don’t make me rip your throat out.” Has Piper, ahem, turned? I guess we’re going to find out if prison has changed her.
Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)
It appears most of our favourite inmates are still with us, although the fate of Pennsatucky is unknown. There’s a bit of fresh meat too, someone from Red’s past will challenge her on the inside, while Crazy Eyes has moved on from her Piper obsession and fixated on a new play thing. That should free up stalking space for Alex to win back the love of her life and one-time mule. Officer Bennett is back, but there’s no sign of his sensitive side as he starts rockin’ the asshole guard act. He could be taking up where ‘Pornstache’ left off. Poor Pornstache, we do hope he returns, he just brings so much gutter to the canteen.
The new season is looking mean, but with these nefarious yet charismatic characters, we just know there’s going to be plenty of hilarity too. At least we hope so. The show was placed in the TV comedy category last year where it must now remain. It will have the likes of Veep and Brooklyn Nine-Nine to contend with in the upcoming awards season but we’re confident that with good behaviour, or in this case bad, it will win its appeal.
The VIBE XIX Dance Competition has krumped, popped and locked it’s way into becoming a premiere hip hop showcase extravaganza. Founded in 1994, it is the longest running hip hop dance competition in the world. In partnership with Culture Shock LA, the collaboration also provides support to community youth programs. Held annually in California it continues to grow in popularity and competitor standards. This year was no exception. The 2014 venue, Segerstrom Hall, Costa Mesa, drew a capacity crowd who bore witness to the dance spectacular earlier this year.
VIBE XIX 2014: Segerstrom Hall, California
The fluid, synchronistic movement of the second placed team, The Company, made it difficult to comprehend a better performance on the night. If they were any smoother, they’d have slipped right off the stage and into the laps of the front row. Company can take solace in the fact their YouTube video has clocked up over 1 million hits. That’s more than the winning crew.
It was however a brilliant routine by Academy of Villains’ which would catch the judges eye. In traditional fashion their theme would be slightly morbid and incorporated a variety of performance art techniques. To that end, they would be crowned champions of VIBE XIX 2014. Villains already had pedigree, they were the Hip Hop International Champions of 2012 and America’s Got Talent Semi-finalists the same year. At the time of publishing this article Villains were performing on So You Think You Can Dance.
What these guys and girls do with their collective energy, their range of movement and the frenetic pace at which they write this poetry in motion, is spellbinding. You simply have to see it to believe it.
We’ve included clips of the top two placed teams from this years competition below. Whatever you do, don’t blink, there’s so much happening in these routines there’s a lifetime of dance in a heartbeat. It will blow you away.
Forget McConaissance, it’s bigger than one man. Think Iconaissance. A growing movement of big screen performing arts master craftsman, sweeping across our small screens, recruiting new generations of fans and breathing life back into fans of performances past. The list of silver screen lions switching to a more domesticated environment is impressive, growing, and making us purr with contentment. Here’s an example of those you’ve probably already had in your lounge room or soon will:
1. Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
2. Matthew McConaughey/Woody Harrelson (True Detective)
3. Kevin Costner (Hatfields & McCoys)
4. Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom)
5. Kevin Bacon (The Following)
6. James Spader (Blacklist)
7. Martin Freeman/Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)
8. John Malcovich (Crossbones)
9. Paul Giamatti (Downtown Abbey)
10. Claire Danes (Homeland)
11. Kiefer Sutherland (24)
But what’s behind the recent resurgence of some of our acting greats? Is it the ravenous viewer appetite for quality content and the emergence of new platforms? Maybe these ageing greats just need cash injections to supplement their retirement? Have these old dogs learned new tricks by embracing social media for self-promotion? The only thing I haven’t seen Kevin Spacey on is America’s Most Wanted. Spacey’s Oscar selfie alone won him marketing immortality and Matthew McConaughey is out-Starbucking Starbucks! Or could it be they have simply sat dormant in the cool shadows maturing like fine red wine waiting for a connoisseur like HBO or Netflix to throw an original content party and pop their cork? It might be a combination of some or all of the above. Perhaps we need to look to the past to find the answer.
The most prominent examples of this Iconaissance, Spacey and McConaughey, both flourished and thrived in the period known as the decade of drama: the nineties. Along with other seemingly lost stars, or those whose pace seemed to slow to a meander such as Edward Norton or Sean Penn, these gifted actors were all part of another movement; that of the American Indie Film. They rode the wave of the New World Order created by the likes of Soderbergh and Linklater, the Coen Brothers and Tarantino. The reinvigorated Sundance Film Festival provided the spotlight that brought the Indie out of the shadows. Check any “Top Ten”, or twenty five or one hundred film list and you’ll find most of the names I’ve mentioned so far, some are recurring favourites. In fact Spacey features most prominently and was voted actor of the decade by Empire. “And like that, poof. He’s gone.”
With the new millennium these icons of the industry disappeared from our theatres and subsequent collective conscious. The usual reasons for their Casper the Ghost impersonations spring to mind: Oscar curse, burn-out, tall poppy syndrome, fickle fans distracted by something shinier; the old “I needed to find myself” routine, catastrophic extinction event…
My opinion: technological advances enabling the blockbuster epidemic, pushed drama to the brink of extinction. Big budget movies laden with special effects and lacking in meaningful dialogue flooded the market. In 1993 Jurassic Park pioneered the use of Computer Generated Images (CGI) in film which would lead to the Pixar phenomenon that started in 1995 with Toy Story. In 1998 Saving Private Ryan made all kinds of headlines for its 27 minute, $12 million opening sequence. But these movies still had soul, the audience was invited to have an intensely personal relationship with their characters, there was depth in their narrative.
What was the price of this technological filmmaking revolution? Storytelling in cinema has become the exclusive domain of the indie film maker with the major studios channelling greenbacks into aesthetics. Classically trained actors, artists, writers, professionals and master craftsman met a metaphorical end at the hands of a creativity sapping, cerebral cortex crushing, pulse film apocalypse. Movies are about muscles not monologues, sequels, not substance. The advent of digital imagery, novelty of 3D and the attempt by comic book nerds to take over the world; mean aesthetically appealing “bling” flicks attract the inbetweener demographic. This is the group that’s too old for Disney but too young to understand the nuances of a Quentin Tarantino masterpiece. Buy-in from the inbetweeners and tapping into the inner Peter Pan of older demographics translated to Box Office (BO) cash and return sales on future instalments, enter the franchise. The addition of the lucrative merchandising revenue stream alone keeps the Benjamins trickling in long after the DVD is released. Hollywood has become a production line, critical acclaim and storytelling mean less to a major studio than its opening weekend projections. Yes franchises have always been around, and yes they have their place in the market, but we’ve reached saturation levels that only an aquatic animal can survive.
Network Television wasn’t fairing much better, chasing the advertising dollar like a tipped-off paparazzi, bombarding primetime with suburban garbage I could get Gladys Kravitz style in my own street. Whilst I can’t prove it I’m convinced reality TV, as it was coined, was responsible for Benjamin Buttoning the IQ of most of the First World Nations populous. The only small screen shining lights for drama of the noughties were the hard hitting The Sopranos and The Wire. The latter setting a Metacritic record in its fourth season with a 98% rating that would not be broken until seven years later by the fifth season of Breaking Bad with a 99% Metacritic rating. It should be noted both hailed from the HBO Original Programming lineup.
A seed was sewn, and while we didn’t know it then, the Golden Age of Television was dawning. Many of the current crop of original programming hits claim to have looked to these noughties juggernauts as the Godfathers of episodic drama. When The Sopranos and The Wire finished in 2007 and 2008 respectively we were just getting our first taste of Breaking Bad. NCIS was starting to hits its stride and would become the number one scripted drama in America, a title it continues to hold despite being a Dramedy and not a traditional Drama. The downside being it has never really received any critical acclaim much to the chargrin of its regular 15 million plus viewership . DVD Box sets were also now starting to show up on household Christmas wish lists, another sign of things to come.
There are some from the era however who persevered. Tom Hanks is probably the standout, George Clooney and Matt Damon, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman are perennials; many of these though choosing to take up behind-the-camera roles. Others who seemed to simply vanish include Tim Robbins, Kevin Kline, Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes. Even Anthony Hopkins went dark. De Niro went from terrifying character to terrifying character to playing side-kick to up-start comedians. So, like any animal facing the destruction of their natural habitat, they evolve, move on; or die.
Now it appears they have followed the writing and the storytelling. Those who survived the destruction of their habitat are now gorging themselves on the rich, fertile plains, of television. It’s a landscape that has also undergone reformation due to tectonic plate shifting, the birth of the digital distribution, and the decay of appointment viewing. We’re in an era which has spawned a whole new generation of hungry content consumers, and a habit known as binging, taking content consumption and instant gratification to new levels. Spacey had this to say about the attraction of the small screen: “The people who want to make character-driven dramas are all working in television now.” And there is plenty of great television right now, with and without A-list stars, Mad Men, Game Of Thrones, Dexter; Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards, True Detective; you could go on for hours. The mobility of storytelling on multiple devices, cheaper access (Netflix subscription per month is cheaper than the cinema admission price), the complexity of the arcs and character development that true creatives crave and thirst for, the removal of the pilot model and appointment viewing by digital distributors; has all combined and conspired to lure in our most talented dramatic actors.
Once known as the “Idiot Box” the TV, and every other device that can access data, is now a playground for the industry’s creatives; and a feast for the viewer who has little interest in what a Kardashian is doing at any given moment. Just like in Jurassic Park, “Life found a way.” Our greats survived, they evolved, they found a way.
Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel has finally been bestowed with a title – Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. The logo was also released and has a Dark Noir vibe to it.
The shoot has officially started Stateside in Michigan, with other locations to include Africa and the South Pacific, before a worldwide release date of May 6, 2016.
The film boasts a stellar cast that would not look out of place in the front row of the Oscars. In fact, the credit list can lay claim to a total fifteen Oscar nominations for four wins. Ben Affleck, a.k.a Batfleck, leads the way with two statues under his bat-belt. Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane all reprise their roles from the Man Of Steel.
The fresh faces include Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Holly Hunter will appear in the film but her character is yet to be revealed. A controversial casting, second to Affleck of course, is that of Jesse Eisenberg; who will step into the role of the villainous Lex Luthor. Much has been made of his selection however, Art In Motion is happy to go on record in support of Eisenberg, we think it’s a bold and inspired choice. He gave a masterful turn in The Social Network and will be the surprise packet of this comic book blockbuster. The critical acclaim is not exclusive to the cast either with the film penned by Chris Terrio who picked up an Oscar for his work on Argo.
Snyder has also signed on to make a Justice League movie which this could be a prelude to even though plot details are yet to be disclosed. It’s expected that most of the cast will be on board for that instalment as well.
So this pulse film could go one of two ways: Godzilla proportions success or The Lone Ranger face plant. We’ll go out on a limb early and back the former. Curiosity alone should ensure a record breaking opening weekend. So if you’re a Superhero fan or just have a morbid fascination with seeing Batfleck in leather then this will be a film not to miss on the big screen.
Yes, yes it is. After waiting for what felt like an eternity, my copy of NOW: In The Wings On A World Stage was finally made available for download from kevinspacey.com on 2 May. But selection of the 1080p download version, meant eternity was about to get a little bit longer, the irony of the unexpected cold snap that set in just a few hours earlier was not lost on me either.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been tormented, teased and titillated by my colleagues in the northern hemisphere as, one by one, they attended the various live screenings and Q&A sessions used to launch Kevin Spacey’s (House Of Cards) documentary film about a theatre company’s 10 month world tour. A tour that would span three continents and twelve cities for a grand total of 200 performances of Shakespeare’s Richard III. So what’s it like to be part of such a mammoth production? This film is going to tell me. The social media machine has been churning out promotional material and reviews in equal proportions, and some savvy marketing by Spacey himself has ensured his self distributed venture has received plenty of coverage, and kept his reputation for being “disruptive” in tact. The flagship launch was the Tribeca Film Festival no less, very savvy indeed.
As my download nears completion, I make myself a therapeutic hot drink, don my favourite hoodie, and assume the position in front of my 52” television for full effect. It’s my turn, winter is over, or at least locked outside and I can now see for myself what my friends have been swooning about and I’ve been restlessly waiting for. My expectations are high, a sudden wave of anxiety washes over me, what if it doesn’t live up to the hype? But this is a Kevin Spacey film, he IS performance art and never disappoints, so I remind myself I’m not launching ground-to-air missiles; and press the play button!
“The sense of anticipation, it’s like feeling the heart beat of the world.”
The film opens on a group of limestone steps and slowly pans out to reveal the spectacular Epidaurus Theatre in Greece, the most famous theatre in the world. With a seating capacity of between 13 and 15 thousand and acoustics that scientists have marvelled over for decades, I get a feel for the scale of the play and the ambitiousness of the company’s tour. This isn’t just any play and this isn’t just any company, this is Richard III and this is The Bridge Project Company, led by a man as driven as the protagonist he plays. There’s a stunning time lapse sequence which tracks the setting sun over the amphitheatre and a montage of preparations for the Epidaurus performance with narration by Director Sam Mendes (Skyfall). This is the first time Mendes and Spacey have collaborated since 1999 with Academy Award winning American Beauty, which was Mendes feature film directorial debut, like Spacey; Mendes was a student of theatre before the call of the celluloid. I find myself wondering why they haven’t teamed up more often a la DiCaprio and Scorsese, I hold onto hope that Mendes will bring Spacey in as the penulitimate baddie for Bond 25, but I digress…
The scene is set, you can almost see the energy of the audience cascading down the steps, funnelled to the waiting stage. For the company members who had never left home shores before now, the anticipation must have been palpable. So with the blessing of the Gods, their journey was about to begin and the world really was to be their stage. I exhale, the last of my anxiety subsides. Fade to black.
NOW: Epidaurus Greece
”Doesn’t matter where you’re from, doesn’t matter how you sound, you can make Shakespeare come alive.”
With the prologue out of the way we move into NOW proper. First up we discover the origins of the company, meet the cast, and work our way through 6 weeks of rehearsal at The Old Vic in London. The Bridge Project Company, was a trans-atlantic venture, bringing together British and American actors to perform classical work, in this case; Shakespeare’s Richard III. With the Bards work thought to be the exclusive domain of the British, this was to be an experiment of sorts to see if artistic passion and a modern reinterpretation, could transcend a geographic divide and beguile a global generation of millennial pulse film fiends.
The company’s membership is eclectic, there’s a cacophony of regionalism amongst the 20 strong cast. The ages, experience and backgrounds, are as varied as one of Forrest Gump’s boxes of chocolate. Many, like Andrew Long and Gemma Jones, are performing arts veterans; while for others this will be their first major foray into “blockbuster theatre” as it was coined by Bruce Gutherie, the production’s Associate Director. Some are old Shakespearean hands, while many including Spacey himself, have had limited exposure to bringing the pre-eminent dramatists extant works to life. Over the course of the film, many will recount their personal journey, their connection to theatre; why they do it, their desires and their struggles. For now, they spend 6 weeks getting to know each other, as individuals and as a company, exploring the text and developing their characters, “falling over and getting back up again”.
The rehearsal period is fascinatingly insightful. Mendes reveals an introverted side I wasn’t expecting by disclosing a fear of addressing large groups, while Spacey discusses the psychology of a character with a deformity, what he surmises informs his portrayal of Richard III. The production is physically and mentally challenging long before the first lines are ever uttered to an audience, be it Spacey coming to terms with a deformed gait he will have to carry through 200 performances and then some, or a young actress trying to find the right level of sexual tension and voice pitch to make herself believe in her character so that others will as well. You see, it’s not just about remembering lines, it’s about understanding what the character is saying and the context in which it is being said. Rehearsal allows the actors to build and create, unlike a movie, the actor owns the stage and the character when the curtain raises; nobody gets to call “cut!”. This is theatre, it is immediate, and it is NOW.
“Any theatre company is a form of created society which you hope becomes a single unified organism…”
After six weeks of sell out performances at The Old Vic Theatre in London, it’s time to get the show on the road. The film takes us from the lap of the Gods at Epidaurus, to Istanbul and Naples, San Francisco, Beijing, Sydney and Doha; the curtain finally falls in Brooklyn, New York . Friendships develop, the travel bug bites and the logistics of the production come to light.
As the company makes its way around the world we’re treated to its wonders, the beauty, the mystery; it’s a veritable cultural feast and “spiritual catharsis” for some members. There are a few indulgences but there’s a reason for it, there always is with Spacey. I equate seeing him in anything other than a measured, self aware state, like finding a unicorn in a paddock of four leaf clovers. Jeremy Bobb, one of the American contingent who plays Catesby, manages to put the experience into an every-day-man perspective. At one point I think he even out f*bombs Spacey, which is likely to have been more of a challenge than the doing the play, given Spacey’s penchant for profanity. It’s Bobb’s quips and observations that give the rough edge to this romanticised gem.
But there are glimpses of the not so glamorous for anyone who cares to pay attention. There are cramped dressing rooms where the unappetising aluminium hot-box meal containers can be seen to litter the scant space, frenetic backstage mechanics, the physicality of the play itself; and the mental and physical drain resulting from sleepless nights in a hotel undergoing renovation. When you’re performing for three hours a day, weeks and months at a time; throw in more than just a few long haul flights and the homesickness that almost always sets in regardless of what wonderful place you’re in, this was not a tour to be scoffed at. But it’s all part of the experience that is taking a large scale theatrical production on an international tour.
NOW: Sets on the move
”I wanted us to share more than just the stage.”
With four sets on the move around the globe at any given time and timeframes tighter than Spacey’s hunch-back bodysuit, the logistics for the production would have been worthy of their own film. The amount of effort in moving, constructing then deconstructing and again moving the world of Richard III, looked exhausting without ever being privy to all the mechanics involved. There’s only so much you can cram into a ninety minute film but the thought of lugging those sets down long, narrow, corridors in Naples was enough for my back to start going out in sympathy. With a new backstage crew in each city to be trained and rehearsed, managing behind-the-scenes must have been as gruelling as everything happening on stage.
It’s not just the crew that changes at every port, we learn that the audiences engage differently as well, whether it’s through intense concentration or animated participation. All however enjoy being co-conspirators through the device of direct address, Spacey’s charisma is intoxicating and he has the ability to develop an immediate rapport with the audience, despite playing a murderous dictator.
I have to make special mention of the musical score here as well because it was perfect. It was a well paced accompaniment to the narrative and matched the tone of each destination so that I felt I was getting the full cultural experience as the company would have been.
”It’s been filled with what a year of life would be filled with.”
There are so many insights, hilarity, “corpsing” and precious little moments in this film that can’t and shouldn’t be revealed here. The film, like the play, like theatre; needs to be discovered by the individual watching. I personally feel like I’ve just had a deeply religious experience. If I’d seen this sort of film when I was staring down the barrel of my tertiary education and agonising over having a “real job”, or following my creative dreams into perpetual “unemployment”, according to a wise and gainfully employed elder statesman of my family; I’d have chosen the latter without question. The production itself was an amazing achievement for The Bridge Project Company. This film, is a credit to Spacey’s determination to ensure that theatre, not only survives; but thrives. He has provided us with an opportunity to go behind the curtain and understand why theatre means so much to performers known affectionately as “theatre rats”. *Applause*