WTF is FYC?
STARDUST BY PROXY
A SERIES CONTINUING AFTER EMMY
If you use your wipers for a length of time to clear the view, be sure you have your lights on. Those of us living in Los Angeles need to be reminded of this law on the rare occasion that it's actually raining. It's more likely that our windshields are covered in dust and in need of water followed by a good wipe. Having a clear vision of what's ahead is imperative when operating a car and even more so when one is steering a specific narrative that elicits a flood of emotions, like Transparent. I attended tonight's FYC because I wasn't expertly familiar with this timely comedy about a family adjusting their lives after discovering that their father is transgender. Naturally, I wanted to be in an immersive environment to fully experience it for the first time.
TRANSPARENT TRANSFORMS THE DGA'S LOBBY
As soon as I enter the DGA's (Directors Guild of America) normally stark office lobby, I am transported into what feels like a spring garden party.
The "red carpet" media line is in full swing by the time the majority of the crowd is inside.
Even this space finds its true purpose ... something I've not seen in all the years I've been in this building for various industry events and screenings.
TRANSPARENT'S FYC SURPRISE GUEST: norman lear
I find my aisle seat and am told by a woman behind me, who's just returned from the ladies room, that a woman called Jeffrey Tambor out while he was in the stall next to her ... "I know you're in there." Seriously? People are somewhat busy at this time, but more to the point, what was he doing in the ladies room? Apparently, in the spirit of political correctness and being en pointe with topics of the day, the ladies and mens rooms are unisex for the evening. Just as I'm adjusting to feeling uncomfortable, knowing I will have to visit the unisex room in question sooner rather than later, Norman Lear walks out. The audience rises to its collective feet. He's 93.
As Mr. Lear states in the video link above, "the most splendiferous journey" he's talking about shoots mostly in order, often utilizing the film convention of very long takes. Like the one we witness in tonight's screening of Man on the Land ...
The Ep opens with the family attempting to gather for a wedding photo. As I watch the mayhem of such a seemingly simple task with no camera cuts to direct focus, no real dialogue leading a narrative, captured by a lot of jabber, movement, and confusion, my brain begins to make sense of who's who in the story. Long take = successful. But long. Early on, the wedding photographer asks the little blonde girl in the front to smile like Cindy Lou Who. I break out a nearly solo belly laugh. I'll tell you why later.
Man on the Land goes there: frontal nudity of women and lesbian S/M role playing. Yep, I wasn't expecting these extremes ... remember, I'd not actually watched a full episode yet. Of course, I'd seen images of Tambor dressed as a woman, and with Bruce Jenner becoming Cate, I intuited this show might be branded as some of that real-life-reality-TV-to-scripted-TV.
Jill Soloway, the show's prolific Director/Writer tells us that the location is supposed to be an Idyllwild Wimmin's Music Festival, just as the entrance sign reads in the episode, but they actually filmed at a farm in Ventura for several days. Jill went on to say that there were rules regarding nudity for the background players, with some paid more for more nudity. Hmm, so that's how Hollywood works! Wink-wink. The Indigo Girls apparently agreed to perform in the show, along with Peaches, Alice Boman, and Sia also making a cameo appearance. Even Soloway appears in the concert scene wearing a red T-shirt and singing about sweat. Music is everywhere in this episode, and pointedly placed in a cinematic flashback when Nazi soldiers raid a party, culling and executing those who are different, juxtaposing the discriminatory theme of history against similar present day practices. As I mentioned earlier, there's a lot of emotion to digest.
The moderator, who knew the series very well, makes the assumption the audience does, too. So the actors are guided to comment on various scenes. Of course, this is one of my peeves ... moderators and actors, assuming everyone in the audience knows every detail about every episode in a given serial.
Soloway explains that TV was her altar. As she rises from her chair, air-drawing an imaginary square and kneeling before it, Lear comments, "I wish I could do that." Of course, he means, kneel. Soloway reminds us that Lear actually did a transgender Ep on The Jeffersons.
Soloway returns to her seat, again stressing that she grew up worshipping at the Altar of Television. Her mother was active in the Civil Rights Movement and perhaps this is why she began thinking about love and finding a way to synthesize it. "We encounter an amazing gift with Transparent." She tries to find the funniest people she can and then provides the environment. "They're trying to create a space where emotion can flow. I am interested in beats and tonal shifts (just) like life."
Lear replies with praise. "The show lifts me, inspires me, and teaches me." He goes on to say that he learned at the age of nine the foolishness of the human condition. His father went to jail and his mother was selling the furniture. "A man put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'You're the man of house now, and the man of the house doesn't cry.'" This stuck with him.
I LOVE DICK
Witnessing my theme throughout my blog posts of six degrees of separation and the world's similar six-degree connection with Kevin Bacon, I cannot leave out Soloway's directorial work in Amazon's TV movie adaptation of Chris Kraus' novel, I Love Dick. Set in Marfa, Texas, a self-contained-higher-purpose-in-hiding-catch-all kind of small town that draws all manner of quirky creatives into its all manner of quirky residents' lives, it brings a married couple with relationship issues, played by Griffin Dunne and Kathryrn Hahn smack against the raw attraction of our sex-degree leader ... yes, you read that correctly ... the big Dick, Kevin Bacon.
This movie comes off as contemporary, real enough in its quirky world, but it also comes off as quite simultaneously digitally transitionally friendly ... my words for: millennials will get this ... perhaps one of the reasons Amazon has ordered a series pick-up! This organic-only meat eater for one, admits to being drawn to the Bacon. And in this effort, Soloway seems to have found a work besides transgender-centric storytelling where she can apply her directorial interests. I can't wait to see this series!
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BACK TO THE PANEL
THE CAST OF TRANSPARENT ON THEIR CHARACTERS
For readers familiar with the show wanting to learn more about what the actors have to say about their characters ...
Jay tells us that his character wants to be a man ... and leaves it at that.
Amy Landecker explains that Sarah is the loneliest. She's seeking sex, searching to connect deeply with someone, but this only makes loneliness worse.
In Man on the Land, Jeffrey tells us that his transgender character is technically not allowed at the 100% women-only festival. "It was love denied. Love denied. Everyone's looking for that place (of love) that's why people connect with the show.
Judith Light tells us that her character has no way to connect. The longing of that. Her loneliness is why her daughter, Sarah, is lonely.
The moderator introduces Alexandra Billings, a trans woman, by saying she "uses social media very well." Billings tells us that she was sitting at a table in the green room with her wife, (her high school sweetheart) and saw the cast, turned to her left and saw Norman Lear. "And I thought, what the fuck is that!"For years, she's said nothing about herself out of fear and struggles to explain what it was like spiritually for her to sit backstage. Billings confides that she has been diagnosed with AIDS and told she would not live. "The fact that I'm breathing, alive, and on this particular journey ... there are no words for me."
Hoffmann shares that she doesn't know what she's doing or how to do it ... her character, not her, as she later qualifies under her breath. She shows up and listens and doesn't try to reason, tapping into something ... and sometimes it works. She feels she's playing something very true and very honest. Her character has grown up in a family that hasn't practiced loving outside of this family. "It's fun to do when it's hard. You just have to be there as a human being and the acting stuff figures itself out."
Cherry Jones, plays Eileen Myles, an actual writer and poet, and as of December 2015, real life girlfriend of Jill Soloway. "I've always been a Tomboy and openly gay, but I'm such s girl. I had to work on the swagger." Jones has long admired Tambor and Light for their Broadway and stage work, so she ordered Amazon Prime to watch the show and now she feels as if she's walked out of her living room and into the extraordinary world of the Pfeffermans. Jones isn't sure how long her character has on the show, but would like to come back as the family pet. Jones thinks this show is about bringing people into acceptance of one another and that it's is starting to infiltrate.
The reception is very comfortable with the re-imagined lobby set and the food and drinks are good. Nothing more needs to be said about it! The highlight for me was being able to say hello to Jeffrey Tambor, who recognized me right away, giving me a hug before rushing out. We worked on How the Grinch Stole Christmas together ... 16 years ago. And it feels like yesterday. I was in the Whoville Choir. Now you know why my experience tonight began with a belly laugh at the Cindy Lou Who reference.
COME BACK FOR PART 13: the path
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