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Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’

In Entertainment, history, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Religion, sociology on November 20, 2017 at 9:10 am

Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks was just honored with the National Archives Foundation Records of Achievement award. During the presentation event, he commented on the current state of American politics.

“People are upset about what’s going on today. They’re furious, they’re frustrated, they’re worked up,” Hanks said. “If you’re concerned about what’s going on today, read history and figure out what to do because it’s all right there,” Hanks spoke with hope for our country’s future and noted that what is needed today is dialogue, not destruction.

It’s unlikely anyone to the right will ever listen to a “Hollywood” type, but what Hanks said is absolutely accurate. The solutions to today’s problems may very well be found in the conflicts of the past. Often, history simply repeats itself in a different time and location. Every situation that has every arisen throughout human history has one common denominator – people.

Most social, religious and political conflicts in America are caused by a lack of knowledge, an ignorance that is either innate or self-imposed. Without an understanding of the person standing next to you, his trials and tribulations, his background and motivation, it is impossible to identify with him and that leads to conflict.

Taking the time to compare today’s issues with similar situations in the past might help better manage current conflicts and find possible solutions because we know how they were finally resolved. Obviously, we should be investigating any negative outcomes, like war or civil unrest, to see how they can be avoided.

How many times do people say, “Wow, if I’d only known then what I know now?” An insight apparently lacking in President Donald Trump’s character. If he would look backward he’d learn that there were several other presidents that faced the same kinds of situations and resistance. Herbert Hoover, for example, was, like Trump, a terrible communicator.

A closeup of the word HISTORY engraved on a war memorial.

President on the eve of the Great Depression, Hoover was seen by many as mean and uncaring as the economy collapsed because of his rigid adherence to conservative principals. While he made efforts to lower taxes and create public works projects that would help with jobs, he refused any sort of outright relief programs.

As a result, the economy sank even deeper into depression and the shanty towns where people were forced to live after losing everything were nicknamed Hoovervilles, in his “honor.” Hoover is largely regarded, though often not by his conservative disciples, as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. And Trump is on the road to the same end if he doesn’t learn from the past. Then again, it doesn’t seem like anyone who leans to the right these days is interested in facts unless they directly refute a democrat.

Trying to enact policy just because it defies the opposition seems to be how politics on both sides of the aisle runs today. At this point, no one at the legislative level cares about those of us down here in the real world, this kind of historical ignorance is simply ego and one-upsmanship.

You hear it every day in the news media. Some politician on the left will say something and everyone on the right refutes it, just because it came from the other side.

Imagine this exchange one sunny afternoon on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. “The sky is blue,” declares a Republican senator one day, stating a fact – something kind of new to him. While across the aisle, his Democrat opponent pops up from her seat and defiantly exclaims, “That’s a lie! It’s green!”

And it continues indefinitely, back and forth, with charts, graphs, testimony from non-blue-sky believers, and on and on. But neither will ever back down because to do so is weak, and the ego must remain intact, regardless of how idiotic they sound. Just resisting any other ideas but your party line is not only ignorant but potentially destructive.

The point is that we could solve a great many problems in modern politics if we just consider how history shows we dealt with some of the same kinds of people and issues. As poet and philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at gerydeer.com.

Hooper’s Les Miserables film may set a theatrical precedent

In Business, Children and Family, Economy, Education, Entertainment, Media, National News, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Technology, Theatre on January 2, 2013 at 11:20 am

lesmisDeer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Over the holidays, I was compelled to see the new movie, Les Miserables, based on the musical theatre version of the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo. In this big-budget film, director Tom Hooper’s version of Les Mis, as it is known colloquially, has set a precedent for helping to expose the masses to quality musical theatre without having to know that the word “gallery” is just rich people theatre speak for “nosebleed seats.”

In case you haven’t seen the show or read the novel, here’s the Reader’s Digest version. The story follows the plight of petty thief Jean Valjean the 1800’s when France was on the brink of revolution.

After breaking his parole, Valjean struggles to rebuild his life under assumed names as he is relentlessly pursued by police inspector Javert. He eventually winds up raising the daughter of a woman for whose death he felt ultimately responsible and finds himself tangled in the beginnings of the French Revolution.

Hugo’s novel was adapted into musical theatre in Paris in 1980 using music written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and original French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, as well as an English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer. Over the last 30-odd years, it’s been one of the most successful musicals of all time and the producers of this new film have made every effort to bring the sights and sounds of the stage show to the silver screen and to a wider audience.

Instead of having the actors lip-sync to a recorded track and overlay the vocals later, director Tom Hooper attempted something that hasn’t been done since the infancy of the industry. All of the singing parts were recorded as they were shot, right along with the video, just as if the audience was watching it happen live on stage.

The result was a wonderful mixture of visual and audio effects that brought the audience closer to the actors and the emotion of the story than could have ever been achieved before. But technical innovation was not the only potentially ground-breaking achievement demonstrated by this movie.

There is a direct correlation between the progress of a society and advancement in the arts. Unfortunately, in most countries including the United States, high quality theatre productions are often inaccessible but to the elite wealthiest few because of the staggeringly high ticket prices.

Occasionally, there will be lower-priced seating on lesser-known shows or locally produced events, but Broadway-quality performances are still usually out of reach of the average middle class, particularly once you factor in parking and other associated expenses.

Of course, organizers constantly tout that theatre should be available to everyone but the prices remain astronomical. However, Hooper’s Les Mis film may change that. For the price of one mezzanine seat at the theater, a family of four can go to a matinee movie or, later on, buy or rent the video of the production at a substantially lesser cost.

The challenge for filmmakers will be to create quality productions that mirror the stage show. In the case of Les Miserables, Hooper has captured the intent of the production and combined it with the grandeur available on the big screen and, in doing so, has the potential to reach millions more audience members than his stage-bound counterparts.

As so many people complain about the quality of today’s movies and television, Hooper’s version of Les Miserables provides a welcome respite from the violence and repetition in today’s mass entertainment industry.

As for my experience, it was fascinating. At the end of the movie when the final note was sung, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and the audience broke into applause, just as if all of the actors were there to hear them. It was really something to see.

Nothing will ever replace the experience of seeing a live production on stage. But, at that moment I realized that films like this could change the face of theatre in the digital age and bring high quality shows more accessible to everyone.