David Blaine

Welcome to The Water Cooler, a new weekly feature where the /Film staff is free to go off-topic and talk about everything except the movies and TV shows they normally write about. In our first edition: a David Blaine live performance, producer Brian Grazer’s book, the latest album from The New Pornographers, Ben Schwartz’s improv show, a wonderful Korean television series, and the joys of recording a movie podcast.

David Blaine Live

Peter Sciretta: I Saw Magician David Blaine Perform Live

On May 31st, 2017, I traveled two and a half hours (only 60 something miles, because Los Angeles) with my girlfriend to the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside to watch David Blaine perform live on the second night of his first-ever stage tour. I’m a huge magic geek/amateur magician and have been watching David Blaine’s magic specials for decades now and was excited to see exactly how his signature close-up magic would translate on stage in a 1,700 seat auditorium.

Unlike David Copperfield and other stage illusionists, Blaine’s tricks are usually very small and performed for small groups close-up. This is probably why he’s never done a stage show before now. But instead of adapting his magic to the stage, the stage adapted to his magic. The result is that the show felt more intimate than your typical magic stage show. Blaine mainly performed all of the tricks he did in his last two television specials, including the icepick under cups, icepick through hand, regurgitating water and frogs, touch connection, and a couple various card tricks (one which required him to stitch his mouth together with a needle and thread). All of the illusions required audience members to come on stage to participate and watch the magic (or is it real?) close-up.

I’ve mostly been a fan of David Blaine the magician, and not David Blaine the daredevil. So it was a big surprise to me that my favorite part of the performance was a daredevil stunt: Blaine submerged himself in a water tank in an attempt to hold his breath for as long as possible. This should have been boring. Writing that sentence, it sounds like it would be boring – watching a man do nothing in a tank of water for an extended period of time. But the way the show was produced made it riveting.

There was a large screen with a red count-up clock as Blaine give a pre-recorded voice-over discussing the backstory of the stunt, his method, and philosophy. Audience members were ushered up on stage to take a close look at the stunt. And at my show, Blaine made it nine whole minutes, which is far less than his former 20-minute world record and one minute less than his performance the night before in San Diego, but none less impressive when you’re actually there. You could feel the tension in the room, and the energy from the audience made it an amazing and unexpected communal experience.

I highly recommend you check out David Blaine’s 40 city tour if you have the chance.

a curious mind

Jack Giroux: I’ve Been Reading Brian Grazer’s A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life

Producer Brian Grazer credits a large part of his success to curiosity. In A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, which he co-wrote with Charles Fishman, he explains how “curiosity conversations” have impacted his personal and professional life. For the last 35 years, Grazer has been reaching out to musicians, CEOs, politicians, authors, and all sorts of people in different professions to sit-down for one of his “curiosity conversations.” He mostly asks questions for an hour and a half. The talks are never about a movie or a project. Whoever he’s talking to, he’s interested in what they do and how they do it, as he listens carefully and tries to widen his perspective of the world.

Ron Howard’s producing partner finds them hugely satisfying, both personally and professionally. They’re also very entertaining. Grazer recounts stories about meeting Princess Diana, the time Isaac Asimov and his wife stormed out of a curiosity convo, and even the lunch he had with former L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates when the LA riots started. It’s a fun book about some of the lessons Grazer learned from some fantastic discussions, going outside your comfort zone, and the wonderful benefits that come with curiosity and never being afraid to ask a question.

Jacob Hall: I’ve Been Listening to The New Pornographers’ Whiteout Conditions

The Beatles may be the best band of all time, but The New Pornographers are my favorite. This (mostly) Canadian power pop supergroup has released seven albums since 2000 and their latest is another winner, albeit one that quite a bit different than the records that made me fall in love with them for the first time.

Whiteout Conditions features everything you’d expect from a New Pornographers record: A.C. Newman’s sometimes inscrutable but always playful lyrics, Neko Case’s soaring, euphoric vocals, and a dense soundscape that rewards frequent revisits and grows more satisfying with familiarity. The only regular missing is Dan Bejar and if I’m going to be honest, I do miss his unique voice, both as a lead and as a background singer. Still, this is a strong record without a dud in the bunch, the kind of album I’d happily listen all the way through without skipping a single track. This is also probably the group’s most danceable album since 2003’s Electric Version. The title track, embedded above, would function as great club music…and then you slow down and listen to the lyrics themselves and realize just how deceiving that upbeat arrangement really is.

This record never reaches the highs of Mass Romantic, a perfect pop album where every single track is an ear worm that buries itself deep in your mind. Nor does it achieve the melancholic sophistication of Challengers, the kind of album that soothes a weary soul on a hard day. But it’s good stuff and evidence that, 17 years into their run, The New Pornographers are still evolving and still trying new things and still worth your time.

Continue Reading The Water Cooler >>

Pages: 1 2Next page

Cool Posts From Around the Web: