Bad Teacher – A Discussion

WARNING: Spoiler alert. The following discussion may “spoil” “Bad Teacher.” And may spoil films such as “Scrooge,” “A Christmas Carol,” and “Rocky” which are referred to in this discussion.

While I’ve often thought I’d be an excellent movie reviewer, I also believe that being a writer and an actor, constantly aspiring to get to the next level, no matter what that may be, the last thing I should do is criticize other people’s work. For after all, how many actors does it take to screw in a light bulb? Right? Right?

For those of you that don’t know it… The answer is ten… One to screw it in… And nine to sit there saying they could have done it better.

So, this isn’t a review, or a criticism, but more of a discussion of comeuppance, and if you don’t know the term, you know exactly what I’m talking about, as you’ve seen it on screen and on stage, and have heard it in stories all your life. It’s the Big Bad Wolf being boiled in a pot of water.

Well, here’s a spoiler, “Bad Teacher” has no comeuppance for the main character that I can see… she swears, gives bad advice, lies, does drugs in front of kids, wipes poison ivy on someone’s food, drives reckless, manipulates, uses sex, puts people in harm’s way, steals from kids, steals from a generous giving family… she does so many horrific things, many mostly for… wait for it… getting a big pair of FAKE BOOBS.

And, it’s not because she had breast cancer, or because she’s got a negative self image… She thinks she’s hot, knows she’s hot… It’s simply so she can TRAP and MANIPULATE some rich douche-bag, so she can spend his money and not have to contribute to society.

Now while you may point out that there was at one point of the film a fear of her getting her comeuppance, I would argue that that was only for the audience, as the main character was never out of control, as she had taken blackmail photos ahead of time (unknown to us).

Yes, except for perhaps a few minutes into the film, when her finance was convinced by his mother to dump the rotten seeded tomato… But even then, Diaz’s character didn’t fall very far… Or if she did fall far, she didn’t fall further than where most American’s live day to day… She had a car, which wasn’t too horrific… And she got her job back, which wasn’t too horrific (teaching in an affluent safe school)… I suppose the most “horrific” thing was that she had to live with a “craigslist roommate,” but even he wasn’t all that bad…  He seemed to stay out of her way, and even offered to help her at times.

The reason for this discussion is that the person I watched the DVD with, actually liked and rooted for the main character, and hated the antagonist… And I felt pretty much the exact opposite… I do feel that the antagonist, Lucy Punch’s character, the overly goofy and supportive rival teacher, was played or written or directed to be a bit too obnoxious… And personally I feel that the character may have had more impact if she were played non-malicious, non-manipulative, straight-forward and honest… But I didn’t write it, play it or direct it… And it’s the story by the people that contributed to it, NOT my story.

One could argue that Diaz’s character did however change in the last minutes of the film… But I’m not sure that’s true either. She turned down a rich guy, for reasons I’m not sure of, the only one that was semi-obvious was that he wasn’t good in bed… She got the gym teacher, because perhaps he challenged her, or he was too superficial to care that she was superficial… And she became a guidance counselor at the school, instead of being a teacher, which is possibly the worst possible scenario imaginable, but I suppose sets up an even more nightmarish sequel.

Here’s the discussion part…
If you saw it.

Did you like it?
Did you root for the main character?
Were you happy that Lucy’s character was continually on the losing end?
When she got posion ivy all over her face?
When she was busted for having drugs she didn’t know were there?
When she got transferred to a difficult school after 7 outstanding years of teaching at one school?

Or were you more like me?
Wanting to see the main character either fall far and then watch her recover, to become what I personally is a better human being?
Or watch her fall at the end, only to realize that her ways were indeed wrong, and that her karma created it?

For even Scrooge, as unsympathetic as he is, throughout the story he isn’t in control… He’s scared by ghosts. He’s made to see the errors of his ways. We see what caused his heart to shrink. And at the end, he makes wild amends.

Let me know what you think… It’s good that movies don’t all follow formulas… I love that when it’s done well. It’s good that we can’t predict everything that happens in them based on watching a watch… However, are you more satisfied when certain dramatic elements are achieved?

For even when Rocky loses at the end… He really doesn’t. Really really wins. He won love. He won respect. He won fame. He won self-worth.

Here’s a poll, but I’d actually also like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below… It can only help as I create, write and tell more stories…

By the way, both of us thought Phyllis Smith and many of the cast members gave awesome comic performances.

Bring It… Things I learned at Burning Man…

As some of you know this past year I attended Burning Man for the first time, not for three days, not for four days, but for a whole ten days. Ten days in the middle of dusty desert in Black Rock City, Nevada. And while I will never be able to explain everything thing I experienced, felt or learned… And by no means am I an expert on all things on the Playa, or anything “burner,” but I can share with you a bit here and there, and here’s one little bit that still makes me happy…

Now, while this information might seem insignificant, it’s something that I’ve continued doing, and feel great about doing each and every time I do it… Curious?

I bring a reusable/washable cup with me whenever I get my daily coffee, and I carry a reusable/washable water bottle with me all day long. Both help reduce the amount of trash I’m contributing to landfills, and the reusable water bottle reduces daily spending.

There’s a ton of actual information out there about Burning Man…
Here’s a place to start if you’re interested… http://www.burningman.com

And actual articles like this one about reducing your carbon footprint…

“No. Try not. Do or do not… There is no try.”

It seems completely ridiculous that words I first heard in 1980, and have heard countless times since then, still resonates so greatly within me. However, very recently, maybe the past three month or so, I have made a serious effort to eliminate the words “try,” “trying,” “attempt,” and “attempting” from my personal vocabulary.

It’s been a more challenging undertaking than I ever expected, though, thankfully, it’s easily identifiable when a slip up occurs.

“What’s going on?”
“I’ve been tryin — Scratch that — I’ve been moving projects forward.”

The change has energized several projects, and while I can’t announce any big news yet, I can honestly say that there is much more positive energy around me as of late.

Compare the two statements… Both are true.

“I’m trying to get projects to move forward.”
“I’m moving projects forward.”

Now, the funny thing about the Star Wars quote is that is what I’ve always remembered is the part, “Try not. Do or do not… There is no try.” But maybe what’s equally important is the thing Frank Oz, as Yoda says right before that…

“You must unlearn what you’ve learned… (Alright I’ll give it a try)… NO. Try not! Do… or Do not. There is no try!”

“You must unlearn what you’ve learned…”

Which leads me to another thing I’ve been working on in my personal life as of late, a challenge was initiated by one of my current acting teachers, Anthony Meindl…

To get rid of all assumptions.

Now while again, this is not a new idea… It certainly is an idea that I’m finding a ton of value in revisiting. More value in revisiting than ever before.

“Why don’t you have a literary agent…”
“Oh I sent out query letters three years ago, and got not one response…”

“Why don’t you put together a cabaret show…”
“No one will come. It’ll be just me and the musical director, and I’ll be out 500 bucks…”

“You should ask them to meet up…”
“They’re way too busy…”

Whatever the statement, over the years, over the months, even over the past few days, I’m guilty of thousands of them.  I’ve come to realize that assumptions are ways I protect myself from pain, humiliation, hurt, spending, feeling, risk… Assumptions are much more difficult to identify than saying “trying,” and correcting or navigating from assumptions is a challenge.

I remember these quotes and ideas being taught to my sales division by our district manager when I was selling pharmaceuticals all those years ago… And I’ve heard countless books on tapes… Or from coaches, teachers, mentors, writers…

“Don’t assume.”
“Do don’t try.”
“You make an ass out of you and me.”

All that stuff… But, here I am in the year 2011, nearly 2012, and I’m still dealing with those same principles. Maybe you are too. But as scary or costly as it is to face the chance of failure, rejection, pain, or loss… I know exactly what will happen if we do not do. We remain stuck in a swamp planet, with some mixed up talking green thing.

“Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” – Susan Jeffers

Here’s Anthony’s challenge… And if anyone is interested in studying with Anthony, let them know I sent you (I may be able to get a partial credit towards my tuition).

Thanks

I have always loved the holiday of Thanksgiving… And while I’m thousands of miles from my family (parents, siblings, nieces), haven’t yet created a family to call my own, and I’ve had so many different turkey-day experiences over the years… For me, Thanksgiving really has been boiled down the the purest essence of the holiday.

Focusing on giving thanks for everything I am fortunate enough to have… So while the markets may be down, jobs may be scarce, I might not have this or that… Man oh man, I have a unmeasurable amount of things to be thankful for…

Kind of makes me wish we had a day called “Forgiveness-day…” I could probably use one day a year to focus on that. Or do we already have that, and I’m just forgetting… Ah yes, another one, “Forgetting-day.”  It’d be kind of ironic to have a day of “forgetting” wouldn’t it? Bringing up things to forget.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” ~Meister Eckhart

-Quiche Out

Vlogs

In the past I’ve done a few video blogs, “vlogs,” to express or share something, or to answer questions that people have asked…

However, I think I prefer writing them out, more than just capturing them on video. I’ll embed a few past vlogs here. Course there’s always the mutant vlog/blog, like the very popular video I cut together and posted after a trip to Burning Man…

Do you have thoughts on this subject? Do you prefer one over the other?

Once More Unto The Breach… ?

Here I am again, once again considering blogging on a semi-regular basis…

As some of you know I blogged for Back Stage West for 21 months professionally, before moving on from that, and after building up quite a little following. Actually, coincidentally, or maybe not coincidentally, two weeks ago, while walking down Hollywood Blvd, my feet trampling the walk of fame, I was recognized by a young actor who told me he used to follow my blog.

However, back then, at the time, I started to find myself “living” to record events, or wanting to record the events while I was living them. I put a weird self-induced pressure on myself to live an “interesting life” and to book acting work because I felt I was being watched… So, while I loved blogging, it also became far too time and emotionally consuming.

Friendster, then Myspace, then Facebook replaced some of those good and negative elements of blogging, but each site eventually led to different sets of issues… Whether dealing with time management, creative output issues, boundary dilemmas, or just needing more person to person contact… And status updates are even more addictive than blogging, when it comes to recording a life instead of just simply living a life.

But here I am, contemplating the blogosphere once more…

-Quiche Out