Being the random thoughts of Greg Tito, age 29.

Announcements for my standup comedy gigs are here at gregtito.com.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Larson knows what I'm talking about

"No day but today."
-Rent (2005)

For years, I did not really consider myself a musical guy. I mean, I liked the random songs of my childhood from "The Hills Are Alive" to a rousing Muppet Love Song. It didn't help that the only music I listened to in my room were the Disney movie soundtracks of The Jungle Book and Cinderella. I always liked the fast, witty songs with lots of clever rhyming lyrics. The "Spoonful of Sugar" (I must have some weird obsession with Julie Andrews) and the Dentist song. Any slow love song would bore the crap out of my 8 year old mentality and when the movie was on VHS, I would usually fast-forward.

Last week, Mephistopholes and I went to go see the movie verision Rent the day it came out. I found myself watching the film with tears in my eyes for most of its duration. Not because of it was sad and not because I was gay (well, maybe), but because it is so emotionally charged. I had the same feeling when I saw "The Lion King" on stage or the national tour of Superstar.

There is so much power in someone belting out exactly how they feel in song. Laying it all out in clever turns of phrase. The sheer performing of it is powerful too. The characters, more often than not, are singing to each other. Some people don't like musicals because it doesn't make any sense for someone to start singing when they should be talking. But that's exactly what makes musicals cool, the characters get say what they are feeling in somewhat poetic language. Sometimes it is the magnitude of having such a vivid stage picture with singing dancing and moving sets that makes my eyes well up with the beauty of it all. (I don't get it. I'm not a very emotional guy but nearly I every time I go to these shows, I end up sobbing like a little bitch.)

MINIREVIEW OF RENT THE MOVIE: I've never seen Rent on stage but I've had the original cast recording for years. The movie is set in 1989 New York, the dirty crime infested peak of the city's sordid past. It made sense to keep the original cast from the musical, even though most of them were too old for the roles, it didn't matter. The magic of movies is that a 26-year-old can play a teenager (Can't Hardly Wait) and nobody bats an eye. Anthony Rapp (better known as Tony from Dazed and Confused) was great as the dorky filmmaker and I liked the original Tom Collins and Angel. They kept most of the songs from the score, even though they "musicalized" the script a bit. Rent was actually an opera where all the words were sung. In the movie, they spoke some of the lyrics and added bits of dialogue and, sometimes, whole scenes. This works for the most part but I missed two moments. One is the "Christmas bells are ringing" medley that probably wouldn't work on film where all the characters have their different plotlines mingle right before Maureen's performance. In the movie, these events are stretched out over several days. But one song, or portion of a song really, that was wrongly cut was Mark's and Roger's fight near the end of Act Two. It's really the only time that anyone calls out Mark as being the only one who is A) not in love B) not gay and C) not dying of AIDS. Without Roger telling him off, we are left to question Mark's place in the whole movie. Why is he there? Why does he merely observe as opposed to actively participating? And the weird thing is, I'm almost positive that scene was shot and it ended up on the cutting room floor. The next scene is "Living in America" in which Mark and Roger sing about their fight (it also has a cheesy montage of intercut scenes of Roger on a butte in Arizona and Mark on the roof of a building in NY that is laughably lame). That song makes no sense if the previous fight is cut but yet they did it, probably for "pacing reasons." (How many director's commentaries have you heard where they describe a deleted scene was cut because of fucking pacing? Who cares about pacing?)

Anyway, the movie was good. And I like musicals. There I said it. Fuck off.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

There is a battle

I've spoken before about the wonders of New York City. I stand by my words, that NY is a city of superlatives. So many of its denizens are striving to succeed, like so many weeds spreading their leaves to catch a few rays of sunshine. The city is not easy to live in, but that is what makes its success stories so valuable. You can also argue (and I have told myself this over andover again) that merely existing here for so long (5.5 years) is an accomplishment in and of itself.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. Not really. I don't even know if the two subjects are necessarily related. Maybe they are a little. Can you tell I'm hving trouble starting this bitch?

I have two people inside me. One is a recluse. He would like nothing more than to go home after work, play World of Warcraft, eat Ramen and tomato soup and never speak to anyone. He smokes and jerks off on a consistently disgusting pace. He drinks coffee and blackberry brandy. He stays up until 4am playing Civ4 and then sleeps until 2. He watches all the LOTR movies in one day, buys the Xbox 360 on Ebay, and satisfies his every nasty whim. He is selfish, never giving time to his wife or his friends. Just coasting on whatever makes him happy at that given moment. I am totally capable of turning into this person, sometimes for long stretches of time.

The other person in me is the acheiver. He is the guy who wanted to be a writer since he was a kid. He does everything he can to make something. He loves stage managing theater, but gave it up because it interfered with his dream. He is the guy who writes plays about writer writing plays. He has a great idea for a fantasy series. He produces movies and plays because he loves to create. He is married (to Mephistopholes, but that's a different story.) He goes to the gym. He plays basketball. He gets up in front of people and tries to make them laugh, because he likes it. He blogs. He puts too much on his plate, because he knows about the other guy.

These two parts of my psyche are always fighting. The acheiver feels guilty when I spend too much time as the Recluse. Perhaps it's my Catholic upbringing, but guilt is a big part of my motivation. And yet, the Recluse is the carrot held up before the Acheiver. "Just makes this movie, and you can spend some time as me." It's a weird, freaky relationship. It's one that I end up talking about often in my writing. I wrote a short film script in which the two characters are the two I'm describing. It sucks, but it clearly outlines this distinction.

Recently, I've realized that everybody fights this battle. I am not unique. My situation may be more pronounced than non-artists, if only becuase my chosen vocation (writing, art) is not the same job that I go to every day. I see Mephistopholes go through this battle when she talks about auditions. But I also see Rain Delay talk about it when he describes his cases at work. It's not easy to fight this battle, especially when you don't understand it.

It is crucial to grasp this concept though, because it is at the core of what makes us human. We are not content to just eat, sleep and live until we die. We must acheive something. Even if it is just to pass on one's genes to the next generation, we all have the need to create, to get that raise, to improve our lot. The choice to NOT create is the same as choosing death.

But you don't have to take my word for it. (Ba-da-bump!)

Andy Dufresne: Get busy living, or get busy dying.
-The Shawshank Redemption(1994)
Rob: I guess it made more sense to commit to nothing, keep my options open. And that's suicide. By tiny, tiny increments.
-High Fidelity (2000)

Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: [narrating] Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?
-Trainspotting(1996)

Monday, November 14, 2005

I hate to do this

I find the "Sorry I haven't posted in so long, I'm so busy," posts to be freaking annoying but it's been really true in my case. Here's an incomplete list of the crap I've had on my plate lately:
  • I have to write another videogame article that’s due tomorrow which I haven't started yet. (it's all in my head, I just ahve to get it down on paper)
  • I have to edit and send off a full-length screenplay by Friday for the second round of a screenplay competition
  • I have to keep up with producing the short film for Movie Making Madness 2005 which needs to be postmarked on Saturday.
  • I have to write a play by December 7th for a playwright's discussion
  • I have a basketball game tonight and if we win, we'll make the playoffs
  • My 2nd wedding anniversary tomorrow and I haven't bought anything for my wife yet.
  • I have a comedy show that noone is coming to on Wednesday (9:00pm New York Comedy Club , 241 East 24th St, bet 2nd and 3rd) and I haven't written any new material in weeks. Plus I have another show on Saturday (9pm, New York Improv , 318 West 53rd Street, bet. 8th and 9th) which no one is coming to either.

I’m freaking swamped. But I kinda like it. Thank God my Dungeons and Dragons game has been cancelled this week or I'd go crazy. (Yes, I realize the irony in that statement)