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Friday, March 16, 2012

Brave New World

The Andaz Hyatt had given my number, explained the caller. Could I see a member of their cast who was suffering an earache? Unfortunately, he was on location and wouldn’t return to the hotel until late evening.

She was delighted at my suggestion that I come to the film shoot, and I’m as eager as anyone to mingle with film people. On the downside, I live six miles from the Hyatt; the film was shooting at the far end of the San Fernando Valley, twenty-five miles away, and I’d quoted my fee before learning this.

The producers had taken over a run-down motel on a seedy suburban strip, painted it pink, and restored the coffee shop to its mid-twentieth century interior. I drove past warning “closed to the public” signs and parked among the cabins and scattered 1950s cars.

Several dozen people stood around, none over forty. You should realize that shooting a movie is dull work. Actual filming takes up perhaps two percent of the day. The remainder involves setting up, technical changes, errands, and standing around. Almost everyone spends most of the day waiting. Everyone looks forward to lunch. I also attracted attention, being far older and much better dressed.

Earaches are easy. I followed a young man into the empty 1950s diner, made the diagnosis, handed over medicine, and took my leave.

As usual, one aspect of the experience seemed strange. The assistant who had phoned and greeted me on my arrival was a young, attractive woman. Other attractive women were setting up the lunch buffet. Almost every actress in costume was beautiful; there were no exceptions for those in street clothes.

Who was hiring for this project…? Some creepy frat guy?

In fact, film sets resemble a Brave-New-World culture where every human is prefabricated. While a well-designed male has many features, everyone knows that the perfect woman is…well….

All this is essential because movies reproduce this bizarre world.

During an episode of the fine TV series, Breaking Bad, I blinked at the sight of a young prostitute, meth addict. She was skeletally skinny with bad teeth and a terrible complexion. She looked horrible, but I was delighted because that’s what a real-life hooker, meth addict looks like. Movie prostitutes, no matter how cheap or unhealthy, look pretty. Movie women dying of cancer remain beautiful to the end. Take your eyes off the action and observe the background of any movie – the passersby on the street, the revelers at a party, every student in the sorority, other customers at the restaurant – all the women are lovely. In a supreme irony, I read an article in which a TV star describes the agonies of makeup before each shoot. She plays “Ugly Betty,” but, of course, she’s beautiful.

My wife is beginning to “shush” me at the movies when I point out absurdities.

“There must be fifty women in that lecture hall. They all look like movie stars!!”

No one else seems to notice, so this is probably my own oddball perception.

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