I am prejudiced. Biased. I have subjective opinions, and my arts coverage lacks objectivity. I use this paper as an outlet to talk about things and people that I like.

Well, duh.

Today’s unnecessary, overdramatic declamation is brought to you by a couple of recent events that shook my ethical sensibilities (such as they are). Mini-epiphany No. 1 came from the most unlikely of places: Encino Man. When Universal Orlando invited me to a Q&A with actor Brendan Fraser and a sneak peek of their new Mummy movie, I accepted with modest expectations. To me, the Revenge of the Mummy indoor coaster is better than any of the films that inspired it, and while I loved Fraser in Gods and Monsters, I’m not famished for his next franchise flick. At best I figured I’d get enough material for a snarky blog post.

An hour before show time, the streets surrounding the Mummy ride were thronged with thousands, and the heat off the blacktop press riser was burning through shoe soles. I hid in the nearby air-conditioned bar with another newspaperman, wondering why the bloggers were all standing outside. Through the window I could see master of ceremonies Kenny Babel (actor-writer-former Ghostbuster during my USF employment era) tossing trinkets to keep the restive crowd at bay. He should be commended (or committed) for deftly discus-ing DVDs without any reported fatalities.

Fraser finally appeared to introduce the advertised exclusive clip – featuring an unconvincing digital plane crash – followed by a handful of fan queries. He sidestepped an inquiry about his preferred leading lady (Maria Bello replaced Rachel Weisz as wife Evy) with a shout-out to his stunt-camel, and he gave a sheepish plug for his competing non-Universal movie (Journey to the Center of the Earth).

After the prize raffle drawing, I was about to bail out the back gate rather than be forced to face a sun-stoned semi-superstar. Promises of shade and bottled water convinced me to suppress my cynicism and stick around, biding beside a dozen fellow minor media minions while Fraser talked to TV reporters. But when our audience arrived, my expectations were unexpectedly exploded.

Fraser tossed off the obligatory on-set anecdotes (co-star Michelle Yeoh’s advice on stunt-fighting martial-arts legend Jet Li: “Hit him first, hit him hard and tell him I said to”), but he also shared thoughtful, candid answers far beyond the softballs being lobbed.

He had Inside the Actors Studio–worthy comments on making audiences care about artificial effects, comparing CGI-
centric acting to the horseplay that got him in hot water as a schoolkid; volunteered that the cast of Crash called it Trainwreck during the problematic production; and admitted that Orlando’s Mummy ride is superior to its Hollywood cousin. He shook hands, made genuine eye contact and appeared to be a guy you’d want to bullshit with over beers. I can still wait until Mummy 3 hits HBO, but I learned a lesson about not letting jaded presumptions override my journalistic open-mindedness.

Introspection-inciter No. 2 arrived soon after: dispatches expressing displeasure with last week’s coverage of My Illustrious Wasteland (see Comments, page 6, and also see review, page 54). While the phrasing was uncivil, the aspersions merit answering. For the record, last week’s article about Tod Kimbro’s new musical was emphatically a PREview, not a REview, and did not imply endorsement of the finished product.

Now that I’ve seen the show, I still vouch for its powerful potential, even if it isn’t yet completely fulfilled. The score is frequently fantastic, as are many of the performances, and the story is full of big bold ideas. Issues of balance and tone, especially in the ADD 1st act, threaten to throw things off, but it’s nothing a rewrite and workshop can’t cure. Since the songs are stuck in my head, I’d go again on my own dime; your mileage may vary.

More importantly, my associations with many of the production’s participants have been well-documented in these pages (though a disclaimer was regrettably edited out of last week’s print edition) and shouldn’t impugn the newsworthiness of this locally incubated endeavor. I don’t advocate for anyone’s art because he or she is my friend; without exception, I got to know these people first as an admirer of their work. Orlando is a cozy community, and if I couldn’t write about anyone I know, I’d have little to say.

My only qualification to critique is my decade of involvement in Orlando’s arts and the contacts that come with it. I reject claims to authority based on ethereal “objectivity”; I can offer only my opinionated opinions. If you find they match yours, great. If not, use my rantings as a reverse barometer, as I do with Richard Roeper’s film reviews.

Anyone who says arts journalism should be anything else is selling you a “Fair and Balanced” fairy tale.


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