Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Red Carpet Looks Say More Than Stars Think

We speak to one another with our bodies. You can picture it: arms across our chests, or hands on hips, or head down and turned away. All these postures say a lot. In fact, body language often belies the words that come from our mouths.

In a television drama titled Lie to Me, professionals were hired to determine the truth in a situation by observing body language. The first season was particularly good because it used photos of real celebrities to illustrate its point. 

I thought about that show on Sunday as I watched the Oscar red carpet. A lot of attention is focused on the female stars and what they wear. This public appearance is hard work. After hours of preparation, the women will be mercilessly critiqued if they made a bad choice and they don't want to win the Worst Dressed title.

This year, I paid more attention to body language than in prior years, probably due to remarks made by Adele and Jennifer Hudson about their desire to be comfortable. It was obvious that they were pleased with their choices. They stood erect and owned their space. Their smiles were relaxed and genuine. Whether or not you personally liked the Dior dress worn by Charlize Theron, it was obvious that she did. By contrast, watch Kerry Washington. Lovely dress but it didn't fit. On exiting her limo, she pulled the dress up repeatedly. Once in front of the cameras, she moved very carefully and there was often a worried look on her face.

Probably half the women made poor selections and they knew it. Dresses didn't fit properly, were too revealing, or had other design flaws. Folded in on themselves, arms clamped tightly to their bodies, shoulders rounded, these stars looked and sounded like they would welcome a "do-over." In a couple of cases, I felt sorry for them.

The Oscars red carpet is a light-weight example. The same observations apply to all aspects of our lives. Subliminally aware of body language, we react to it more than we realize. It might improve our communication ability if we became consciously attune to it, responding to what we see in a person in addition to what we hear from them. No doubt our relationships would improve as a result. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chainsaw or Gun - What Difference Does it Make?

In the trailer for a current movie hit, we see people being tortured.  An advertising spot for a television show shows patients beaten and abused. Is the violence on television or in film the same as going to the Coliseum and watching gladiators tear each other apart or lions shred Christians?

What does our obsession with violence say about us? What are we communicating to one another when we create entertainment that is centered on cruelty and brutality?  We decry the use of guns but give tacit approval to movies that feature brutal exploitation of children or television that showcases torture and abuse.  What sense is there in that?

Some years ago, we went to a James Bond film. A family of four sat next to us. The youngest child was a little girl about five or six years old.  In the opening sequence, Bond was in bed with a lovely (of course) woman. The actors were under the sheets and less skin showed than what we would see on any beach.  However, the father next to me covered his daughter's eyes.  Later, as Bond shot or knifed his way through various scenes, the little girl was allowed to watch.

What the father was telling his children, the daughter directly and his son by observation, is that sex is bad and killing is good.  How did we get to a place where we tell our children that killing is better than sex?

I don't get it. What a bunch of hypocrites we are.  Violence is violence.  Is slicing someone with a chainsaw any less violent than shooting that person with an assault weapon?
As the arguments about gun possession get louder, I wonder what all this violence says about us as a society. Where are we headed if sadism is a regular part of our lives?  Sociologists have compared our society to Rome and warn of our inevitable downfall. I hope they are wrong but I fear they are right.  If we tell our children that brutality and torture are OK, what difference does it make if they pick up a gun?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Differing Points of View

I recently compared two Miss Marple movies. It is something I've been meaning to do because I was curious about how similar or not they would be considering that they had identical source material but everything else associated with the productions was different.  Several actresses have played the role and the more familiar versions were produced by the BBC and telecast on Masterpiece Mystery.

Though they shared the same title, the script and performances in At Bertram's Hotel were so different that I headed to the Internet to refresh my memory of the plot.  Then I tried the same comparison with Hound of the Baskervilles and Sense and Sensibility.  The experiment works only with identical source material so the Batman films, for example, would not work because all those plots are different.

You may want to attribute the variances to the actors however I suggest that writer and director had things within the original story they wanted to stress. That influenced how lines of dialogue were written and how scenes were shot. Perhaps one version examines relationships while another stresses more action, as I found with the two Miss Marples.

The exercise demonstrates how personal interpretations of identical material can lead to very different films. It illustrates how two people can read the same news story and get entirely different things from it. Everything we read or hear is colored by our own history and viewpoint. That is what makes human communication so fraught with problems. Watching two or more films taken from the same book or story reminds us of that in an entertaining way.

At this time of year, when you may find yourself forced inside by the weather, try it yourself with some of your favorites.  There are plenty of other Holmes stories to use. All of Shakespeare's plays are available in multiple releases. If you want to make similar comparisons, be sure to select films/programs that use identical source material. 

It's a great way to spend a winter day.  Happy discovery.