Natalia Fallas ’14 reviews Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Bailey show, a potpurri of speeches, audience interaction and social media integration that, while loads of fun, had its share of off-putting moments.
Bailey Hall sparkled with camera flashes and red recording lights Sunday night as film and television actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, stopped in Ithaca on his “hitRECord On the Road” Tour. The show, sponsored by the Cornell University Program Board, was shrouded in mystery, as most of the audience came not knowing what to expect from the night beyond the “collaborative” aspect. One thing that everyone did know was how much they loved JGL, either from his days on 3rd Rock from the Sun or as the lovable, heartbroken Tom in (500) Days of Summer. But judging by the number of hands that went up when asked, not as many knew about his hitRECord project.
Launched in 2004 with his late brother, Dan, hitRECord.org started as a site where the two shared their own short films and projects. Then, in 2010, they opened the site to the public to collaborate on a plethora of projects that have since become short films, books, exhibitions, etc. Now, with the tour, Gordon-Levitt is taking the online experience of collaboration live. The show is a mix of screenings, discussion, creativity, and, as he later revealed, a prototype for a potential television show.
So, Joe started the night off with a call to arms. He called for everyone to record the show and take pictures from his or her seat to get more than the typical four angles of a television show. He even re-did his entrance so as to make sure that everyone was recording — really? This led to the first topic for discussion, which was the road. Throughout the show, a topic of discussion would crop up and Gordon-Levitt would have the audience tweet in their responses. He would pick his favorites (usually three of them) and bring those people on stage to elaborate on their answers. On the subject of the road, the top picks tended to reflect on the road less traveled based on “The Road Not Taken” poem by Robert Frost and individual aspirations. Other tweet-inspired discussion topics included loops and the Occupy movement. For the most part, Cornellians tended to be witty and insightful, even if they were secretly aiming to get on stage with the Hollywood star. At the same time, JGL did repeatedly interrupt them, even admitting that he likes to talk about himself. And, boy, did he do so throughout the night. Whether by mentioning his short stint as a student at Columbia University or his shameless plug for the films he has starred in over the past year, JGL never failed to remind us of who he is.
As for the true interactive element of the night, the audience participated in existing collaborations already on the website. Each segment began with a quick screening of some of the finished collaborations, such as Mademoiselle Noir for the Outsiders project. The film included art, story and music submissions from various artists on the website that was later edited by another. Right after each showing, JGL would take the stage and recruit individuals for a project. The first instance was a music video for the song “Electric Loss” by HitRECord collaborator, Metaphorest. In a Bailey Hall-wide dance-off, he picked some dancers who were talented and some who were simply more animated to get up on stage. He did not, however, have to call out those with bad moves — sorry to that “frat boy” who had to endure the audience’s “OOOOOHHH” in response to his putdown. I do have to commend JGL for trying to grab people from throughout the theater by calling out two dancers from the balcony instead of just those in close proximity to the stage. And nothing could top the dancing panda and duck that joined at the end of the video. We later found out that the panda was added to the rider (a contract listing the stipulations and equipment needed for the show) to make sure CUPB was paying attention. Good job, CUPB!
Other collaborative endeavors included acting out one of hitRECord’s Tiny Stories (that did not go as well as JGL had hoped) and singing a loop which called any and all to the stage to join in. The audience was even treated with his lesser-known music talents, as he played piano and sang to close the night. Who knew that the actor moonlighted as a singer? Unfortunately, not everyone could fit on stage and some were turned away. Regardless, the singing loop was impressive (some voices stood out among the rest) and you could still participate from your seat. And then, that was it. He just simply said his goodbyes and was out, pushing through the crowd on stage to get back, presumably, to his trailer.
In general, a night on the road with hitRECord was quite the artistic journey. This may have come as a disappointment to the more reserved — many of whom did not know that they would be called to participate in the show. Others took to the interactive show immediately; the chance to create and be silly with a big name actor is not something that most people can claim.
But while the project itself is unique, albeit ambitious, the actor himself fell flat. His rude or mean quips to certain audience members were unnecessary. He also seemed to think loftily about his project, as though everything that came out of it was so innovative or wonderful. There were a few duds, such as Strawberry Bootlaces which was made infinitely better with Stoner Bootlaces. Both told the same story of a binge on strawberry licorice but the latter from a funnier standpoint of a person extremely high.
His last minute addition of the Occupy movement discussion on its anniversary felt contrived and hypocritical. First, he is advocating this collaborative, creative movement through a website that the average person would not have the capital to create. And, if you research the website, you will find that the projects, which are eventually mass distributed, go 50/50 on the profit intake — that is 50 percent for the company and the other 50 percent shared evenly among the collaborators, which includes quite a few people. That seems a bit shady for someone advocating on behalf of the 99 percent. Second, although I tend to agree with the 99 percent as a concept rather than a financial tally, celebrities who talk negatively about the one percent always seem backward. Especially, when that celebrity admits that he does not know enough about the topic. Either way, it was a strange interjection to the evening. So, whether you liked the show, the host, etc., all is on record. That is, if you remembered to hit record.