Wednesday, January 8, 2014

David Blaine and Criss Angel on TV

Hello all!

As promised, this blog will no longer ONLY be about magic trick reviews although I will have them. In reality, I want to make this more well-rounded, so with that in mind, one thing I wanted to touch upon in this was some random thoughts on Magic On TV.

I saw David Blaine's Real or Magic TV special a couple of weeks after it aired, online. Overall, I feel it was an OK special. Blaine continues to be very polarizing - some people love him as evidenced by the continued craze of "street magic" effects, props, routines, etc. that continue to crop up on magic product websites.

Blaine was a trailblazer in his heyday and really did usher in a new era for magic. Whether that's good or bad is up to you. Personally, I respect the guy for showing magic can succeed on TV without a multi-million dollar production like David Copperfield. Like other people, I thought Blaine's "levitation" on his first TV special was very dishonest, but that's TV.

In "Real or Magic," the hook this time was that the majority of the time his spectators were celebrities. Harrison Ford probably had the funniest reaction as he told Blaine to "Get the **** out of my house." Will Smith and his family were featured many times and it was startling to me just how much Smith's charisma came bursting through the TV even though it wasn't "his" show.

Nevertheless, with most of Blaine's effects, I had a feeling of "been there, done that." Blaine big effect was shoving a needle through his arm. If you haven't seen the special, it was NOT accomplished like Harry Anderson's version of the effect as this looked like it was so deep that it appeared to go through the bone. Was it real? Since Blaine does a lot of "endurance" stunts, his goal with this effect was to leave people guessing.

In my humble opinion, Blaine's biggest problem continues to be a lack of charisma. While he tries to come off as morose or creepy, I often just find him boring, even though he clearly has a great amount of skill.

I also recently caught a few episodes of Criss Angel's show "BeLIEve." To preface this, I've never been a Criss Angel fan. In particular, his Mindfreak episode with hypnosis made me angry as his use of it could have seriously injured people. Even if the hypnotized subjects were all plants, the show still showed hypnosis in a negative light, making it difficult for guys like me to convince clients that hypnosis is not evil, dangerous, etc. So I don't like Criss Angel for that reason.

On to "BeLIEve..."

The episode I caught the tale end of was the one where Criss is trying to literally raise the dead! There was a corpse wheeled into a room, a group of solemn-looking onlookers, psychics, doctors, etc. There was a death certificate, etc. People freaked out when the corpse's heart started beating and blood or some such oozed out of the the point that some people ran out of the room.

Was it in bad taste? Of course. But the whole premise (that a doctor of any kind would sign off on this) was so silly that I found it quite funny. Rather than being "edgy," I just found it laughable and pathetic. I love Bizarre magic as much as the next guy, but this was just over the top awful.

Another episode I saw was devoted to levitation and the big stunt was Criss was going to levitate retired NBA player Shaq. When it came time for the big levitation, Shaq not only levitated but he floated so high in the air that he was able to float OVER Criss' house and back down. There were close-up camera shots right next to Shaq as he crossed the roof, etc.

So now we're getting into a way of presenting "magic" that does not even try to hide that it's done in a way that could not be replicated on stage or in public. Blaine caused an uproar over using peoples' reactions to the Balducci self-levitation spliced in with shots of him floating in the air via cables by a crane, etc. I wasn't too fond of it myself.

But Criss' show is total fiction and it doesn't try to hide it as he presents "magic" that is far too fantastical to believe he could do it in the settings he presents it. Is this good for magic?

It depends on your view. Personally, I felt like I was watching special effects, like something from the "Avengers" or "Iron Man." If you enjoy it, great, but Iron Man only exists onscreen. My view of magic as an artform is that it should be performed for real people, not "in the know," whether that's a stage or on the street. Once you take that away and have everyone in the scene "in on it," you don't have a performance art you have special effects and while special effects are awesome, it's just not the same thing.

In the next blog entry, I will review the great MIB effect from Puck & Scott Alexander.

Don't forget - the 50% off sale on my stuff at ends at the end of January!

til next time...


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