Monday, February 28, 2011

Bigger Name - Part Deux

Back in January, when Liev and family were basking in the Australian sun, I posted about his good fortune at being out of town due to some severe scheduling conflicts he would have had back in NYC.

All dressed down and every place to go.

Now Liev and family are in Los Angeles and once again, the social calendar in his hometown is choc full of best buds. I don't have my New Yorker with me today so we'll see what more goodies I can come up with when I open my mailbox and find this week's issue in there tonight. But form what I can remember, Liev would be having another busy month, that's for sure.

Liev's best friend Fisher Stevens' one man play Ghetto Clown starring John Leguizamo is in previews at the Lyceum.

The Atlantic Theatre Company will be having their Annual Gala on March 7th. Gregory Mosher (A View from the Bridge), David Mamet (Talk Radio) and William H. Macy all sit on the Board of the fabulous organization which Liev has attended and supported in the past.

I don't know if Liev and Sandra Bernhard are friends, but that same night at Joe's Pub Arts's and Crafts: a Musical by Sandra Bernhard takes a lighthearted and darkhearted look at her own lips among other things.

Also, Robin Williams, (Liev's co-star from Jakob the Liar) will be making his Broadway debut on March 11th when Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo starts its run in previews.

Obviously Liev's motives would be different for going but with my 20+ year crush on John Larroquette (the only much-older-than-me man I find attractive) I could not be torn away from the opening of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying on March 27th at the Al Hirshfield Theatre.

I know Liev has lots of great reasons for being in Los Angeles, (least of all the weather) but must be bittersweet to know things are going on like gangbusters back home.

Friday, February 25, 2011


"There's hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half a year."
- William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

If I'm honest, sometimes this blog is more about what I want to write than about what I think you want to read.

Yesterday made me think about Liev and his proclivity for Shakespeare. The works can be a common denominator, linking together people from all walks of life. You may be at cross purposes with someone, and then BAM find common ground in a certain passage or a play. It's like what Liev has said about the sense of belonging that comes with being part of a continuum.

George, one of our seniors here, passed away yesterday. The part of me that somehow functions as its own entity took over, like a knee jerk reaction, and I set about doing what had to be done. The weird thing about working alongside a human life is you're trying to be professional while witnessing someone struggle to exist, day in and day out.

George has been afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy for the 8 years I've known him and long before. He got around in a motorized wheelchair. He was one of those sturdy British immigrants who could wear both flags with equal pride of ownership. But he always flew the Red Maple Leaf on a long, bendy stick off the back of his wheelchair. I got many complaints over the years about some reckless fool driving down the middle of the street and it was always the flag that gave him away.

George was an educated man. A medical doctor, he loved all cerebral pursuits. I remember on my first November 11th here, I put out a memorial wreath and printed posters of In Flander's Fields which I placed on all our notice boards. (We were built to house Veterans). Not sure if people from other countries know this poem but it is a fundamental part of our identity as Canadians. Anyway, George wheeled himself into the lobby and proceeded to berate me for ten minutes about this ridiculous poem and all the grammar errors it contained. I responded with a puffed out chest and all sorts of indignant disbelief at his gaul. I emphasized it being *actual* trench poetry, not to mention the fact that poetic license is what it is.

I think George realized he had met his match. Over the past 8 years we've sparred over many different issues, but always with an undertone of respect. You could almost feel the inferred bow at the end of each row. And yes, I won this particular battle. The poem stayed up that November and the posters go back up every year.

George knew his time was near. The Public Trustee and I entered his suite to find he had already laid out a suit and brand new shirt and tie, still in the box. I also put his silver pocket watch in the bag. They will place it in his casket. I was looking around for something to act as a companion on his journey and found a copy of Hamlet, dog-eared and in the midst of being read (probably for the 100th time) lying open on his nightstand. So, that went in the bag too.

I will never read the Danish Prince again without hearing George's voice, shaky and damaged but with a fortitude behind it that comes from eighty three years of knowing exactly who you are.

George also left something for me: a well read copy of Breakfast of Champions. I do appreciate Vonnegut but I haven't read this book. Those of you who have, please resist the urge to spill the beans. I have a feeling George is about unleash some sort of karmic last laugh from beyond the grave. Can't wait to find out.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Top Ten Tuesdays: A Madness to his Method?

"Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances."  
Sanford Meisner

What does it take to be a "gifted" Actor? I use comic book kerpow! type words like amazing and wonderous when speaking of Liev, but that lends a sort of immaculate conception quality which can detract from my point here: it's all about Liev's dedication, courage and commitment.

Did I ever tell you I acted as a child? It's true. I found it hilarious - hanging out with the other kids, even getting time off school. I loved the attention and camaraderie of it. But, to borrow a phrase from vocals, what happened was that I couldn't quite make that leap to "projecting from the diaphram." I was not ready to delve into the self exploratory part of the thing once I got to an age where my precociousness wasn't going to cut it anymore.

Besides, I was drawn to the exterior details. I just wanted to hang out in wardrobe, and try to spot continuity errors in the daylies. And pour over the script, of course. Did I miss a boat? Maybe. But on the other hand, stepping back did gave me a wider lens of the experience and my interests are now more in the creation of the story than the execution.

All this to say that the travails of an Actor, a really palpable Actor like Liev, are something I think about a lot. I admire the shit of their courage to rip off a scab *in front of everyone* and own whatever oozes out of that gaping sore.

My latest delve is: The Actor's Art and Craft: William Esper Teaches the Meisner TechniqueNow, I'm keeping my mind open to all philosophies. I've dabbled in Brecht and even tried to conceive of Meyerhold (a glass of wine helped, there). It would seem that while people have different exercises and techniques, the key here is to just use whatever works. We've heard Liev mention these schools of thought as well as others. He has said he's not especially a "sense memory" person, but that he has used his own memories to infuse his characters and their actions. Adaptability.

I can see why Liev would not want to speak out in favour of a certain school, as people would then be looking for the how and not the what. I'm sure Sean Penn deeply regrets having revealed that his penchant for Method. His family is still fielding questions about what it was like to live with Jeff Spicoli, 30 years after the fact.

Whether Liev is a student of Esper/Meisner or not, there are some beautiful statements about dedicating yourself to being an Actor in this book.

Here are my Top Ten favourites:

- "Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circustances."  

I mean, let that one just sink in for a minute before you move on. That is the most all-encompassing definition I've ever seen. In French we say frissons - that's what this brings to me.

- "Truth is the blood of art. Without truth a piece of art fails to touch a human spirit."

- "Listen to a choir of angels singing above our heads. Try and make out the song... Now, who heard them? Does it matter if you heard them or not? No. It matters if you were really listening."

- "The reality of doing is the single most important principle of truthful acting. It is the key that allows you to unlock the door to the imaginary world, enter it and live there truthfully."

- "If you experience commercial success, fine. County yourself lucky. But that's not the reason we act! The only true reason to appraoch any art is because it's your passion."

- "Good acting - real acting - is impossible to spot."

- "You can't listen to Yo-Yo Ma play the cello without recognizing brilliance. But real acting can never be pegged because it cannot be differentiated from real life." 

- "It's true what Thoreau said: The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Because most people measure their lives by so called significant moments... Actors live with a different truth. To an actor, every moment is a peak moment. He may live an entire lifetime in two hours or less. An Actor knows that this thing we call life is nothing more than a series of moments."

- "An actor must know how he feels about everything. And I do mean everything. The development of this connection with your own true person is a major area of work in an Actor's development.

- Text is a very confusing element of acting. It can mask a great many problems. The fact that someone can memorize lines and speak them in more or less the right order might give people the impression they're acting, whereas they might only be reciting lines.

- The Actor knows that there is never an outcome and never an ending; only the ride." 


Sunday, February 20, 2011

It seems like just yesterday...

... that Liev's perfect voice (I like to call it the Velvet Hammer) brought the game of hockey to many new fans with HBO's Road to the Winter Classic.

Today, our own Heritage Classic (the original Canadian version of the Winter Classic) is taking place here in Calgary! With temperature approaching -20 I can tell you that I'm slightly relieved not to have tickets. The pull to go would be unmeasurable and I'm feeling pretty wimpy about the cold these days.

Besides, the indoor family talegateing event we're about to partake of will be second to none. My Calgary Flames are full of spirit and have risen from 14th place to 4th in the last 2 weeks. Things are looking up!

The only thing that would make this sunny Gameday any better would be if Liev were colour commentator of the events for us. I still get choked up thinking about the Winter Classic and the amazing job he did. He captured the heart and soul of the game - he really GETS it. Seriously, watch this for just 2 minutes and tell me you aren't an instant hockey fan:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lucky Kentucky ☼

"The thing that gets me through is the audience.
It's that ambiguous exchange of energy that I
still don't understand but that I've become addicted to."
- Liev Schreiber

It's just a Shakespeare kind of week, isn't it?

We started off wondering if Liev will be appearing in Measure for Measure at the Delacorte this summer (the jury's still out on that one). I got so caught up in our ponderings on said possibility that I forgot a confirmed appearance with regards to Liev and Shakespeare, which is Friday night in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Here's the official Event Site.

Hopefully some generous Liev Lover will attend and share their experience with us.

Fingers crossed! 


Brantley Dunaway, the MC for the evening, sent me this fabulous message. Not only did Brantley work with Liev on Love in the Time of Cholera, but they also apparantly share a love of the Bard. THANKS BRANTLEY! xo

Just thought I would share one of the comments posted on Kentucky Shakespeare's page about Liev's work on Shakespeare.....
"I've been listening to Shakespeare for the last 10 years, but last night was the first time I heard it. Thank you for such a wonderful evening!"  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Dare We Dream of Delacorte?

Thou art not thyself, For thou exists on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For, what thou hast, forget'st. Thou are not certain,
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects, After the moon.
If thou art rich, thou'rt poor; For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear'st thy heavy riches but a journey, And death unloads thee.
- Vincentio (The Duke)

In January, I write a post about Liev participating in a New Yorker Festival panel on Young Shakespeareans, in which Liev says that he would like to work on a production of Measure for Measure. HERE. 

Later on, choosing to be optimistic about said project, I elaborate on a little M4M for the Layperson, HERE.

On Sunday, Liev is quoted in an article as saying that he might do Shakespeare in the Park this summer. HERE.

Last night The Public Theatre website is updated with some details on two Shakespeare productions for their Summer Season at the Delactorte. One of them is Measure for Measure. HERE.

Our Survey Says?

In the hopes that Liev will fulfill his M4M wish and be on that stage this summer, I dug up this audio interview with Himself and the American Theatre Wing. Liev shares his feelings about what a unique experience it is for an actor to perform at the Delacorte.


Or, here are my Top Ten favourite bits:

- "It is as far as I'm concerned the greatest theatre space in the world."

- "I really love it."

- "You have the huge advantage of... it's just the most exquisite place to sit on a summer night."

- "People are very happy to be there."

- "It's an incredible tradition; it's an incredible gift from New York to itself."

- "That good will that comes with the space goes a long way."

- "It's a tough space, the physicality of it. I start working out about five weeks before just to get in shape." 

- "What I love about the Delacorte Audience is they're a little bit rowdy."

"Rain was coming down and we were all tired but the audience kept stomping their feet, wanting us to go on."

- "Film is a completely different animal than Theatre... gives you that chance to build a relationship with an audience like this."

Happy Valentines Day

God may be in the details, but the Goddess is in the questions.
Once we begin to ask them, there's no turning back.

- Gloria Steinham


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spelunking Liev

A sensible man will remember that the eyes
may be confused in two ways - by a change from light
to darkness or from darkness to light; and he will
recognize that the same thing happens to the soul. 
- Plato

I've been leading up to this for awhile now. I think back to just three short months ago, when I was aware of Liev's warm eyes, and had only a basic understanding of his genuinely surreptitious smile, which he guards and bequeaths with such discernment. What I was not aware of back then was all the heights and depths and places that studying Liev's career would take me.

Some talismans of this Liev journey have come to me easily, like finding out I actually own the entire Scream series (discovered as close by as my very own basement, along with my French Lit textbooks from University and a R.I.P Kurt Cobain poster). Others came from faraway, exotic places like the $1 PicMe pile at the Salt Lake City Public Library. (According to the sticker on my copy of Operation Filmaker).

The point is I've done lots of digging into Liev. And now, with the film screened, the book read, the doc reviewed and notes taken, I finally feel ready to comment. So, with my trusty Petzel Headlamp firmly in place over my third eye, I'm ready to be enlightened by what I've learned about Liev through Everything is Illuminated.

I always thought, since a feature film is typically 90 - 120 pages, the art of film adapting must be in omission. I see now that the delicate balance fostered also by addition is where the magic begins and where the Adaptor can claim ownership through full immersion. You must be completely cognizant of all that's being said in order to embellish with any kind of conviction. It's pretty clear that Liev inhaled this story and in making it his, he made it ours.

So, let's start with Liev's bravest and most significant omission: historic Trachimbrod. I see many reasons why this portion of JSF's book is its own journey. While supporting the depths of the book, it would have muddied the importance of the characters we got to know and care about on-screen. As for the task itself, how could anyone portray a three hundred year old shtetl and give it the ancient solemnity it requires and deserves, all the while showing the Kolker living with a steel circular saw blade embedded in his skull? I'm glad Liev chose not to take this particular Village in an M. Night direction. Although, I would bet Liev was tempted to show the Kolker's statue changing and taking on the faces of his surviving male ancestors with the passing of time. Some truly remarkable imagery, that.

Was there any better way to paint a picture of the selfish wall (which played such a significant role the Kolker & Brod's marriage) than by not spoon feeding us the gymnastics of the visual and sending it teetering towards some airport Men's Room urban legend?

And what of Brod, herself? To me, she started out gamine, a pre-Black Swan Natalie Portman. But as we grew to know her through the reactions of those around her, she became this ethereal creature. It's a Helen of Troy situation - who wants to try casting that role?   

The second and perhaps most dirigible omission was the epistolary narrative of the book. Liev shows us clarity through restraint, here. There are virtually no passages which take place in the present because even as Alex recounts the most recent events, he is actually reacting to Jonathan's written account of such events. This means that in the book, at any given time, we are never closer than four degrees to what's going on. By scaling back Alex's narration, Liev honours his prominent place in the present story, also giving Grandfather much more relevance. Instead of simply being a chauffeur who can verify the identity of Lista, he becomes our own guide as we get closer to the tale of Safran.

Now, let's look at where Liev gives of himself and puts his own stamp on the story.

Liev's changes to Grandfather serve the film well, bringing the story one step closer to us. Grandfather is transported back to the shtetl from the moment he first looks at the photo of Safran and Augustina. It's wonderful that through Liev's generous spirit the audience is brought in on the secret. Allowing us to understand through Lista and Grandfather's glances that he is in fact Baruch reveals his notch on the roster of the whole grand scheme of things. Also, Liev invokes a keen sense of urgency, with Grandfather's perpetual search for the moon serving two purposes: it acts as a clock in passing time, and as a compass that leads us to that spot on the river's edge.

Making Grandfather Jewish not only heightens his stake in the events, but it also increases the power of the back story as a whole. He was not just a neighbour trying to survive; he too was emotionally invested in the story of the desecration of the Torah. In addition, this cemented the relationship between Alex and Jonathan forever. No longer destined to be simple pen-pals or shtetl descendents, they now have a clear sense of lineage, albeit once removed.  

Many times Liev coaxes us gently away from often used, one dimensional film themes like hate and anger, to degrees of darkness and asks a bit more from us passive participants. He gives us Grandfather sitting in a bath of his own blood just moments after we've left the emotional high of Lista's home. It means now. Grandfather can finally rest with who he is. Book-Alex is so surprised that he punches his dead Grandfather, screaming in his face to try and rouse him. Liev has Film-Alex standing contemplatively in the hotel bathroom, choosing to find his Grandfather "contented where he was."  

While JSF uses a formatting device to foist us breathlessly through the tragic story of Herschel being murdered, Liev recognizes that such a flashback is not the necessary choice for this screen. This shows incredible control. Likewise for Augustine's death; the horror of seeing and hearing it through Listas's eyes serves us much better and makes the impact of her final question - Is the war over? – just that much more weighted.

Judaism is prevalent in this movie but not in the way that the Idiot (from the Documentary) thinks it is. He claims that it's a Jewish movie because the Director and some of the Cast and Crew may have a healthy reverance for the High Holidays. And one critic calls JSF's book a self-involved Holocaust story. Seriously? Is that really the best they can do? Yes, we see a Star-of-David or two and sure there are stones on graves. There's even something very Shabbat about the way Grandfather cuts the potato and hands out each piece. But is that what makes up the total content of this film? No.

For me the beauty of the film comes from the aspect of the story which JSF starts and Liev carries to fruition, like an infinite circle. It's the idea of belonging. All his life, Jonathan relentlessly seeks symbols to remind him of people who came before him. He is the Collector of false teeth, playing cards, stamps, buttons, keys, condoms and even a retainer. It's a compulsion that sets him apart. When he meets Lista, the Curator of Trachimbrod, he finds a kindred spirit. They realize together that Augustina's ring is not there because of him, but instead he is there because of the ring. He has a purpose. He is a cog in the wheel, not an island with himself.

When Jonathan walks through the airport, he spots several employees wearing the faces of those who were once cold and brittle. As each one turns to Jonathan, we see they are responsive and warm, bordering on jubilant. I think Liev is making us understand that it is Jonathan who has acquiesced them. Liev bathes Jonathan in a beautiful, white-light cloak of ready acceptance.

I read somewhere that Liev’s original manuscript was much darker than the story he wound up choosing to tell. Apparently it included a scene in which our Hero gets rolled by a hooker. I think it’s interesting that Liev’s mind lead us to something less guttural, more symbolic - this time. Let’s just hope he chooses to direct again soon. No matter how deep and dark that alley looks, or which way the sunflowers are pointing, rest assured I’m in. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Knicks lost but we all WIN!

Liev was looking casually yummy at the Knicks game last night. Anna Wintour is charmed (of course) and obviously approved of his wardrobe choice.

Then the Cheerleaders appeared and, well, all that polyester did furrow a few brows. ;-)

New pics in our Gallery.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Malfunction at the Mamet Junction

There are few things I do as well laughing at myself. This gets easier as the opportunity to practice said skill grows at an increasingly alarming rate. It is what it is. So, if you get this right out of the gate, enjoy a chuckle (probably all day) at my expense. And if not, it's not worth looking up. Trust me.

In preparation for our first Valetines Day here on the site, I decided to veer away from the safety of Shakespeare as my lovely muse and try something different. An odd decision, especially considering the rapid rate at which I've been devouring his work of late.

Not sure what inspired me to search for something Fresh and Modern.

I was looking for a literary co-hort with which to bandy about the notions of love and sex all those elusive concepts we want for ourselves and our choice for soulmate, roommate or even nightmate.

And so...






Thinking it was going to be 48 pages of just what I need to write the perfect Cupid Blog, I turned to David Mamet's play Romance.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lyrical Liev - Songs that Send You

In our Lyrical Liev section of the Fan Forum, we seek songs which invoke Liev is some way for us. Often they're comical and very on-the-nose and other times you sort of have to dig, lyric by refrain, to find him.

Our new friend Blueorca just submitted this song and we think it's SO PERFECTLY Liev, we decided to feature it here.

Oooooohhh that man. ♪♫♪♫♪♫

You can also visit our Gallery to see His Hotness at the AMFAR Fashion Week Benefit in NYC tonight.

We love the new look, Liev!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Top Ten Tuesdays: Liev the Leading Man

You all know how strongly I feel about Liev's privacy and his right to preserve it.

That's why there's something about watching Liev as himself that feels intensely voyeuristic to me. I do struggle with it. When I watch an interview or see someone asking Liev a personal question, I almost feel like I should be looking the other way. Through not only general comportment but also via his commitment to projects, Liev makes it very clear that his feels his public purpose, his life's work, is to bring the journeys of others to light. He wants to slip into someone else's skin and show us that soul. I want to be respectful of that.

So when an interview comes along where he's not only welcoming the scrutiny but also eager to share his experiences, and you can see a brother-in-arms momentum to the thing, I'm able to ease up a little and enjoy it. Sofia ♥ sent me such an interview today (Thank You, Girl!) and I thought I would share it with you.

Liev is often generous with his time in projects like this, which support Theatre and the Arts. I have stolen my favourite moments because it's an hour long and that might stop some of you from watching it. In addition to the appeal of such illustrious guests, there are other reasons to watch this show. A lot of substancial and profound things are being said.

Here are my Top Ten Liev Quotes from this wonderful interview in 2007 by the American Theatre Wing.
  •  "I love rehearsing. It's the hour sitting in the theatre before you have perform that I personally find unbearable. That's when the effects of the ravages of time really start to show."

  • "The thing that gets me through is the audience. It's that ambiguous exchange of energy that I still don't understand but that I've become addicted to."

  • "The minute you step out there, for me, I feel this palpable... something in the air that is really remarkable and that is not only very satifying, but also informing and is probably why I got into acting in the first place. I feel connected to something. Also, connected to people which I struggle with sometimes."

  • "I think I'm sort of supercharged after a performance for an hour or two which is why there are a lot of stories about alcoholism in the acting world."

  • "I've never thought of myself as Method or... a Sense Memory person. But I'm learning about myself as I go on this play <Talk Radio>. I have physical associations, which I guess is Sense Memory but I don't intellectualize them and I don't psychologize them. I'll, like, ask my body to respond in a certain way and then place that with the character's psychology. And one thing I've been noticeing that's been happening recently - I think my body kind of owns things that I don't necessarily want it to own after the show is done. Like back pain or tension... there are odd little aches and pains and things that I do believe in the fact of... if there is body memory and you put your body in a toxic place." 

  • "Everyone knows that Shakespeare is sort of a galvanizing element of the Jewish Community. (Laughs all around). No, but seriously, I was thinking about this while you guys were talking because I was thinking what the... hell, have I done so much Shakespeare? I think probably a big part of it is that I was always attracted to musical language, rhythms, and in a very real way I think this thing that is Theatre, Literature, Theatrical film, all this stuff has been my education, you know? And I got the sense that there was something expansive about Shakepeare. That there was something that was going to push me farther. You have to find a way to let go of yourself to expand conciousness and reach these characters in a human way. And I just always thought that was not only so much fun but I was learning so much from it."

  • "It's probably evident from my film but I've always liked old things. Like, my favourite thing about the Seder... ultimately, at the end of the day, you're being reminded of your connection to ancient people and there's an immediacy to our sense of relatedness. I love being part of a continuum." 

  • "If the plays are good enough, the audience develops a very personal relationship to them. And so when you work on them, you feel that sense of intimacy ownership in that exchange of energy with the audience that is actually making them kind of more exciting. Great writers keep achieving intimate relationships with the audience and that's why they're fun to act, 'cause you get to be in a relationship with them when you do that play."

  • "It gets annoying, I think, when you're a movie star, that there are a certain level of people who aren't even interested in the play. They're not there to see the play. They're there to see their image of you as the movie star."

  • "I am an actor. You know who I am. Does that make what I'm saying any less vital or any less important? And can I find a way to accept that relationship and work through it as an actor? That's my goal. How do I use that thing you think to open you?"  

I would also like to emphasize something Kevin Spacey said which flooded me with a sense of relief. Sometimes, when I'm writing my posts on here, I speak of the characters as though they're real people. That's because to me (in the moment) they are. If I didn't feel that way, if there was nothing at stake for me, I wouldn't be writing about them. But, I do worry sometimes that people think I cannot distinguish from reality, or that my Dork Ratio is a solid 10/10.

When I say "Paul looks at Reagan with disdain..." <Spring Forward> I do realize it's Liev as Paul.

Anyway, I know Liev didn't say it but I felt better hearing Kevin Spacey say:

"I come from a school of thought that there's way too much infotaynment and way too much information about people. I used to think the word celebrity meant you celebrated someone's work. I don't think it means that anymore. I'll tell you when I feel the most satisfied. It's when people refer to the character that I've played as three dimensional. When they talk about the character and use the character's name rather than my name. Then, I go, well, maybe I got close to doing my job that time because that character came through."

So, here's the SHOW. I urge you to make the time. If you like the Theatre, I guarantee you won't regret it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Liev Lets My Sun Shine In

Like a TOTAL DOPE I forgot to turn my alarm off last night. So I was awakened at the crack this morning by the grand swelling of this:

You could just say I woke up with Hair in my face! Or we could call it what it is: waking up not knowing when you are. Did that involve a little too much Pinot Grigio last night? YES. Do I feel badly about this? Nopers. (Husband was pouring). 

The only problem with today is, as of yet, it has not lived up to what my early morning harkening promised me. It's grey and gloomy and cold as a witch's tit out there. So, fingering my DVD library in search of some sunshine and warmth led me to what I think would have been a MOST fantastic role for Liev.

The film is called A Good Year and it stars Russell Crowe. Now, he did a very fine job but I was not (and truth be told I am very rarely, if ever) looking for Russel Crowe in my mind's eye. So, onwards and upwards and Liev it is.

This is one of those simple, quiet, charming little stories that creeps up on you when you have one eye on the TV and the other on your issue of this week's New Yorker. (Which BTW, can someone please explain to me what Woody Allen's incredibly facile analogy of Americans' real financial woes and the game of Monopoly was supposed to do for me? Is it really just about Mo' Money Mo' Problems?" Or am I missing something quintessentially New York here? I do not know any of the names and assumed they were fictional but maybe those are real people?) <insert light shedding here, please>

Okay, yes... back to the topic at hand. This is the story of a British man who learns that he's just inherited his old uncle's vineyard in Provence. In a series of sweet, whimsical, telling and decidedly non-cheesy flashbacks that are dotted throughout the film, we discover that in fact our hero, Max, spent much of his childhood there. At first he approaches this situation with the same hyperfocus as all his other concerns: business. But as he spends time there and aborbs the sun of the place, layers of his banal existance back in London start to peel away and his true self is revealed.  

This subtle and lovely transformation is so not forced that the introduction of a possible romance is sweet, but not at all crucial to the central narrative of the story (as the trailer would have us believe) - which is why it creeps up on us so sirrupticiously and why it makes so much sense. He's going there to pull up stakes, not build a foundation. The love story here is really between a man and his past. But you always find someone when you're not looking, so...

The beautiful Marion Cotillard did a very capable job as his petite-amie, but I think a slightly more damaged Sophie Marceau (my chou-chou and the poster child of my youth's tome, La Boum) would have been an intoxicating choice.    

I realize this is a classic Reluctant Hero role and that movies are full of them. But have we seen enough of Liev in this situation? I think not. Watch the trailer below and see what I mean. Liev would be PERFECT.

Soaking up the ebullient, French sunshine this morning was just what Monsieur le Docteur ordered. So, picturing Liev in the middle of this pleasing journey is the gift I give myself today.

Liev and the sun. La vie est belle. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Seeing Liev Speak at Yale--And Yes it's in the form of a ramble...

So, here's the story. Bear with me and my need to paint a picture! If it sounds like I'm rambling, well sorry, but this is how I feel I needed to write it all down! Anyway...

I got to New Haven hours before the talk was supposed to start. I was aimlessly walking about, since I wasn't familiar with the city or Yale campus, and while I was fiddling with my phone and walking on the snow-packed sidewalk, I sensed that two people were walking towards me. Since the sidewalk was tight, I shimmied over to the side to let them walk by me so I could then go on my way unrestricted. I glanced up from my phone for a split second and had an internal hysterical attack. I watched Liev walk past me with another gentleman, both sipping on coffee and chatting as they went down the block on their merry way while I internally freaked out. FUCK MY LIFE NOT AGAIN!!! I thought pathetically as I plopped down on the nearest stoop and internally berated myself. I mean christ, what the hell?! But for some reason...I didn't get bitter or angry—sure I was VERY upset and irritated with my sycophantic cowardice that constantly has gotten me to choke and not approach him...but yeah, I wasn't raging like all the other times. I just got up, went to the coffee shop I saw had the similar logo that was on his cup, which just so happened to be 10 paces up the block. I got a mocha, and it was pretty horrendous! Blargh. If you ever wanna get a hot drink on Yale campus, do NOT get it from Willoughby’s Coffee and Tea. It failed hard. Anyway, I digress…

So I wandered around the outside of the theater where Liev was scheduled to speak, and called a few friends to vent my frustrations. Then a Yale grad student flagged me down and asked if I was there for the event. I said yeah and we buddied up to find our way into the theater ahead of schedule. He insisted that Liev was set to speak at 3, and I disagreed and told him it was to start at 5. We found a nice janitor leaving the theater out the side entrance, so we asked about the event. He told us he wasn’t sure, but told us to go right in out of the cold and make ourselves comfortable. Once inside we found an usher and asked him what the deal was. He confirmed that I was right, and my poor Yale grad companion lamented his luck and said he would be unable to stay for the event. He peaced out and I was left alone in the theater’s lobby. I spent the next 2 hours waiting pretty much by myself—reading Oscar Wilde’s “The Decay of Lying” on the staircase before I was joined by a very awesome lady who I struck up a conversation with. 2 hours went by and we were allowed in the theater. The lady and I sat 3rd row on the interior isle from the stage, which was fortuitous because Live ended up sitting RIGHT across from us!

The event was in honor of the 20th Elizabethan Club’s honors to a certain professor that evidently dominated all forms of dramatic academia at Yale. The moderator was Yale’s artistic director for the drama school—a heavyweight in his own right it seemed, by campus standards. Anyway, the talk was focused on Elizabethan theater, specifically Shakespeare, as that’s Liev’s training and theatrical start. The talk was insightful and riveting. I loved listening to Liev and see him so passionate and exuberant in his discussion of everything from scansion, to duality, antithesis, and rhythm in Shakespeare’s text. He did a wonderful deconstruction of one of (I believe, as I am not well-versed in Shakespeare myself) from Macbeth and showed us how it was basically written so if you know the form and verse, you don’t even have to be a professional to evoke the emotion you need to. It was amazing and enthralling to see him do it; gave me even more respect for his craft and his dedication to it. Now, at one point, Liev talked about something he’d mentioned a few times in the talks I’d seen him do last year. It’s a bit convoluted to go into it here, but basically he’s always said that his acting process is about finding the visceral, primal, and base sense memory emotions that can take over for him in a performance—like tapping into an objective but emotional subliminal self that takes Liev out of the equation of the performance and allows him to act from the gut. He talked about how this was the driving force for his theater acting, and that when combined with his absolute knowledge of the text, it makes him the actor he is—technically intuitive but yet evocative and relatable to the audience. He and the moderator discussed this primal “thing” as being the kinesthetic drive some actors need to be motivated to act on stage and keep it fresh. Liev really fixated on the word and said, “That word is perfect for what I’ve tried to riff on. ‘Kinesthetically,’” he smiled and toyed with the word, “Kin-es-the-ti-cal-ly! Yeah that’s the perfect thing to describe what I feel when I do my process!”

Now, I mention this section of the talk because that was the most striking and fascinating to me. So, when the moderator said there was a Q&A section, I practically materialized to the spot where there was a microphone across from Liev. Yes. The lady I met encouraged me on and let me ninja over her to get to where I had to go—which was the right side of front row behind the first Yale student who beat me to the microphone. The moderator encouraged the questioners to introduce themselves and mention their university standing—as in if they were freshmen, professors, etc. Now, I quickly realized while I was trying to reign in my nerves that I was NOT of any standing with Yale lol, so, when it was my turn up to the mic, I took a sobering breath and said, “Hi, my name is Sofia, and I’m actually not a Yale student, but I wanted to come here anyway, so yeah…” and gave my most genuine winning smile. The audience giggled goodheartedly at that and Liev smiled at me and the moderator chuckled, so I pressed on with my question:

“I was really fascinated by your discussion of the kinesthetic aspect of your process, and I was wondering if it is something that you’ve had to craft it anew for every single performance you’ve done, or if it’s something you’ve built along the way in your career, OR if it’s just a random occurrence when the situation has called for it?”

Now, I don’t mean to wax poetically about this, because I am genuinely still riding on the high. Liev pondered my question for a few seconds and answered (and I will be paraphrasing as my excited brain couldn’t absorb it all verbatim), “I guess when I first started really exploring how I could tap into that kinesthetic drive was pretty recently, considerably speaking. I mean there are techniques I liked to practice because they helped me break into the technical aspect of acting that I’ve always been into, but I guess the best way I can explain it is that it has kind of become a ritual of some sort before I go out on stage every night. One thing I do when I’m home, before I go to the theater, is fill up a glass of wine and stand in front of a mirror and my room. I just stand there for a while and stare at myself, until I feel like I don’t really see myself anymore. Then I raise my glass at my reflection and say, ‘To you, Alex,’ and I chug the glass. I know it sounds kind of gross—I mean who chugs wine?! But yeah, I do that, and…well the first time I did it...God it was years ago—I can’t even remember what I was doing at the time! Ugh—Oh! It was Hamlet, yeah it was Hamlet because it was a bit brutal for me to find that “thing,” you know? So yeah…I did that one night while I was playing Hamlet, and it’s stuck. When I did it the first time, I felt something sort of come over me. I kind of lost it. I got emotional and just…Alex was my grandfather. He meant a lot to me, and at the time I was still grieving his death—god just talking about him,” he paused because his voice started breaking, and I felt a lump grow in my chest. “I just talk about him and I start to tear up—shit I’m gonna cry now!” He paused again and cleared his throat, pondered on something, and then said with recovered strength in his voice, “I was reminded of this thing my grandfather would say to me. He’d say, ‘do you know why in the old country they call alcohol and wine spirits? Because people used to think that there were spirits or demons in the bottles, and when you drank, those spirits would possess you—take you over.’ That stuck with me that night, because I really did feel like something got into me and that I was possessed by this “thing,” and now I know it’s that kinesthetic feeling that I was using. Yeah…that kinesthetic “thing” is the guttural motivation I need in my process every night, because when I go out onstage and do a show over and over again, you need something to keep you locked in. Frankly I get bored with myself, and I’ll ‘go up’ sometimes during a run, and just as I feel the crowd buzzing, it feeds that kinesthetic “thing” inside me and I think, ‘Shit, this is awesome! This is great!’ But yeah, it’s always a work in progress, but there are things that will always be sense memory—or subliminally evocative that I can find in that “thing.” I also do this a lot,” he said and stood up to demonstrate. He locked his knees and bent forward to touch his toes, explaining, “A lot of theater actors do this. It’s sort of a technique to get you concentrated. I dip down like this, and I slowly stand up, but go vertebrae by vertebrae while I say something like, ‘it’s in me. It’s in my feet; it’s in my legs; it’s in my stomach; it’s in my chest; it’s in my arms…’” and he stood up straight with his arms out to the side and his eyes closed, adding, “and then I open my eyes and say, “'The beast has been released,'” he said in a deep rumbling voice. “It’s the feeling of danger. Something fucked up is going to happen and then I walk on the stage. Pardon my french, but yeah that's what it feels like. It’s kind of like letting yourself focus on the mantra and relaxation and allowing yourself to be taken over by the kinesthetic—it keeps you sharp!” Liev sat back down and kind of shrugged self-deprecatingly as he added, “It helps a lot, because it allows you to separate yourself from the feeling—it doesn’t matter what Liev feels about this, because the “thing” doesn’t give a shit about Liev or his feelings, you know? It’s there to help you, but you have to work hard to focus it just right, with the right amount of practice.”

The whole time he spoke, by the way, he kept eye contact with me, and I with him. It was the most connected I’ve felt with others that weren’t friends or family EVER. And I’m not saying this because I’m a huge fangirl of his. I mean it. I felt the buzz of the crowd’s energy, I felt their encouragement in the air and felt like Liev was sharing something personal but inclusively-charged. It was substantial and wonderful—I felt like a human being having rapport with another human being.

Elated and buzzing with happiness, I thanked him and took my seat. The lady I befriended and the woman sitting behind us both said, “That was a great question!” I was beaming and proud of myself for keeping it together and for overcoming my bullshit nerves and neurosis! After several other questions, the talk was concluded and people began exiting. I said goodbye to the lady and before I knew it I was at the side of the stage, waiting for Liev to finish signing a few autographs so that I could make my big request. Now, the stage was a little past my hip, meaning it was something I could lean on, but not sit on without a good hop onto it lol So, Liev crouched down to sign these autographs and I waited while he was done for my moment. And WHAM, it happened. Liev handed the lady next to me her signed stuff and then he turned towards me and smiled. I could feel myself beaming as I said, “Hi!” He returned the greeting sweetly, so I said, “Could I possibly get a picture with you?” And gave him my big brown eyes of kindness lol

Now, Liev could’ve totally said no. Hell, he could’ve just walked off stage once things were concluded, but he didn’t. He considered my request and leaned in close to say, “Well, I’d have to hop off stage so it’ll work, but if I do, I’ll end up being here for a while!” He smiled and I managed not to pout too hard as I hummed and looked around at all the commotion. I was determined though dammit! So, I said, “How ‘bout if I meet you halfway?” and he quirked a brow at me as I attempted to hop my big ass onto the edge of the stage so that I’d be eye level with him for the picture while he remained crouched. I say attempted because it was ONE HUGE FAIL! I hopped up, and slid right off because I’m too short! Needless to say I felt like a huge moron in front of this wonderful man, and I managed to laugh at myself.

Liev must’ve thought it was funny (and probably sad as hell!) too, because then he said, “Well let’s do this. Come over here, try and stand as close as you can and I’ll lean in so you can take the picture.”

I felt my eyes widen with awe and I managed to chirp, “Okay!” and stood on my tippy toes while he leaned in on my right, put his arm around me, brought me close to his side so OUR CHEEKS WERE TOUCHING and my shoulder was pressed against his chest! I managed to lift my phone camera, angled it, and let him know I was snapping the pic. We both smiled (I could feel his smile against my cheek!!) and I took the pic. Once taken (and thoroughly blinded by the damned flash!) I stood back and he sat back on his heels and asked me, “Good?”

I managed to restrain the urge to squeal and throw my arms around his neck so I could give him the big smooch I wanted to give him on the lips, and instead said, “Yep! Thanks so much; it was really sweet of you!”

He smiled and said, “No problem. Thanks for coming out! Bye,” and waved at me when I returned the goodbye with a smile and my own wave.

Needless to say I floated away and sat down so I wouldn’t squeal my pants off from the excitement and happiness. I remembered that I hadn’t seen the picture, so I turned my phone on and found it in the folder. Yeah. The universe gave me a lot of awesomeness, but it cut it short at the actual evidence of the awesomeness, because evidently when I turned my phone around to point the camera and angle our shot, I must’ve unwittingly brushed my fingers along the zoom and so our glorious moment only documents from my brown eyes up and part of Liev’s face! Sigh. Shitty technology is shitty. But who cares!!!? I met Liev! I asked him a question! He answered and I felt a wonderful connectiveness occur, and then I had a little exchange with him, cozied up for a pic, and got said pic!! I think I made a memorable impression with all my silliness and stage-hop-failure lol So hopefully in the near future I’ll see Liev again and be able to say, “Hi! I’m Sofia, remember? I’m the non-Yale student who asked you about kinesthetics =p Now come here for a pic, kthanx~ <3” =P

Whew! Just sitting here and thinking about it (and rereading the articles that came out after the event) has made me feel all whimsical lol Yes, please ignore the dorky girl now~

But, not before you check out the pics!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Top Ten Tuesdays: If Liev falls in the forest...

I'm now getting about 20 - 50 messages a day, from various venues, on all topics and queries related to Liev. So, today I'm sharing with you the Top Ten questions posed to me about Liev.

Again, not Liev here, but I'm doing my level best.


1) Do Liev and Naomi....
- up pah pah pah let me just stop you right there. I do not comment on anyone's personal life. And while Liev occasionally mentions aspects of his relationships in interviews, they are not for me to unfold here.

2) Does Liev read this website?
We have had some lovely comments from people who claim to be Liev. What can I say?  I figure, even if it's not him, someone wants to make me feel good, right?  BUT I've also received very forward emails from some gutless shit-for-brains who is obviously not Liev. His tell? The most atrocious spelling you've ever seen. (Panties in the mail - seriously? Amateur!)

3) Which is Liev's greatest role?
This is a loaded question as it depends on what your needs are. I can tell you that for me Spring Forward, A Walk on the Moon and Defiance are always queued up in my mind and ready to go. Those are films that stick with you forever.

4) Will Liev be on CSI again?
How great would that be?? I cannot see his role as Mike Kepplar being reprised since he was killed - unless someone concocts some sort of grandiose flashback story. (We can only hope - OY!) Would love to see him on other shows, anything... Can you imagine? WEEKLY Liev?

5) Why isn't Liev involved in Scream 4 or the next Wolverines?
Liev has commented very little on this. There could be many factors. He might be tired of doing sequels. It could be a timing issue with family or other projects. This is something we'll never know and I look forward to seeing whatever he choses in their stead.

6) Has Liev been to Canada and does he like it?
He has. A Walk on the Moon was shot entirely in and around Montreal, as were small parts of Sum of All Fears. Repo Men and Spinning Boris were almost entirely shot in Toronto.
Bits of Xmen: Wolverines were shot in Vancouver, although I'm not sure what bits.
Goon was shot in Winnipeg and P le P, Manitoba.
I'm also thrilled to report that a portion of Sum of All Fears was shot in Ottawa, my hometown!!!  I'm not sure if Liev is in these scenes. I'll have to go back and review looking for mi barrio, essay.
Also, Liev attended TIFF in 2005.
I've never heard him say whether he likes Canada or not.  I do know that other than Walk on the Moon, he's always been here during colder weather so... good thing he likes hats.

7) Have you ever met Liev?
I have not (sobbing) but we have a friend who has. If we're real nice, she might just post her story here later.

8) Have you ever seen Liev on Broadway and is he doing a show this year?
Never had the thrill myself, but again, our friend saw A View from The Bridge and may choose to share that account with us, as well.
I get the New Yorker and the NY Times and scan many Broadway blogs every day to try and anticipate when this will happen. I promise to keep you in the know.

9) Does Liev work with friends?
You will often find Liev working with the same people more than once. Whether to define them as "friends" is not my place, but you have to figure spending that much time on set together would sort of polarize personalities and those who are likeminded would float to the top, yes?
He calls it a kind of shorthand.
Parker Posey (x3), Ned Beatty (x2), Julia Stiles (x2), Morgan Freeman (x2), Campbell Scott (x2) and there are others which I cannot think of right now.

10) Who are you and do you get paid and why do you do this site?
I'm a 42 year old womanchild who works in a place where tragedy is not a daily matter of if, but when. I need to function on many different levels in order to survive.
Liev is one of my soft places to land.
I do not want anything from this site but the peace it brings me.
My goal is to support Liev's career by raising awareness of all the amazing contributions he's made as an artist. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Liev does this because he must. It's a calling that he shares with us at all costs.

Once again, quoting David Mamet, "Talented Actors... are the recipient of a gift which must be respected and which is, in the largest measure, out of their control."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Kinesthetics of Liev

"There is no system. There is only nature.
My lifelong concern has been how to get
ever closer to the so-called system, that is,
to get ever closer to the nature of creativity."
- Stanislavsky

What brings you closer to creativity?

At last night's Yale Appearance, Liev gave his admirers what we've all been wanting: a  peek behind the curtain at the machinations of the man as an artist. How does he get there?

(SOB - And can I just say that I would have given anything to get there, myself?)

However, the next best thing is that I've heard from a girl who was there (Hi Rogue!). I've sent her a message asking for permission to post her account of the experience here. Until then, you'll have to suffer through my vicarious impressions.

APOLOGIES: I misunderstood Rogue's wonderful account of the Yale night and credited her with giving Liev the concept of Kinesthetics. In fact, it was the Moderator who supplied this much appreciated word. This was entirely my fault - I was so caught up in the excitement of Rogue's wonderful storytelling that the details skimed over me. And besides, I hadn't had my coffee yet when I wrote it. **BLUSHING PROFUSELY**

Rogue asked Liev a question to which he gave an enthusiastic answer. Again, I will let her tell you about it if she agrees to post here.

So... tactile learning...

We've always know that Liev was way beyond smart enough to understand a role and grasp its significance and impact on the project as a whole, no matter how much actual face-time he gets (Sum of All Fears, Repo Men, 100 Years, Painted Veil etc). We've seen his commitment, whether it's through intense preparation and study, (Everything is Illuminated, Woodstock, Defiance etc.) or just his generosity of spirit with a great desire for all projects to go well.

It's pretty clear that for Liev this is not just a job.

What I haven't seen is how he feels in a role; actually occupying it. What makes it hum for him? How does he crawl into the skin of Marty Kantrowitz with such peaceful conviction and then, later on, inhabit the gigantic presence that is Sabretooth with such unyielding power?

We know he loves research and learning and knowing. But what about he himself. When does the Liev in Liev give over? According to my lovely and lucky source, he stands in front of a mirror at home and guzzles a glass of wine while toasting his Grandfather, Alex. 

Were you ready for that endearing image? Were you ready for that kind of intimate peek-a-boo? I was not - which made it that much more thrilling for me. There was some talk of stretching, toe-touching and other manoeuvres which bring the "gym" into kinesiology for me, but this single act is what I loved hearing the most.

What this says to me is that Liev's goal in his work is to be honest. His dedication to the process comes from a place of honour and integrity - and those virtues were bestowed upon him by his Grandfather.

I'm sure Alex was watching the whole thing last night - a Great Spirit up there embibing his "spirits" and beaming with pride at the Grandson who pays homage to him and conjures up all the good before going out and doing them both proud.

Can you hear my heartstrings?  ♪♫♪♫♪♫