Although I wasn’t a fan of “Parks and Recreation” or “Master Of None,” I did enjoy Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix special, “Right Now.” I like the way, right up front, he handled the #MeToo situation he was ensnarled in last year, and then took the time to look back at some of his previous not-as-woke material and realize it has not stood the test of time. He’s easygoing, funny, self-deprecating, and a good storyteller.
What bothered me, though, was the way director Spike Jonze shot the show. As you can see above, he had one camera shooting Ansari from the side for extended periods, with a view of people in backstage doorways looking on. The problem was that the backlight coming from those entrances, and the bright bulbs above them, were a horrible distraction from Ansari, who should have been the only thing on screen we were paying attention to.
I’ve written before about this pet peeve. I hate it when I go to any concert where there are lights behind the performer that are pointed at the audience. I didn’t pay to be blinded temporarily. I paid to sit in the dark and have the spotlight on whatever’s happening on the stage, not the audience. The same applies when I have to experience the same annoyance on my home screen.
In the case of the Ansari special, it was a simple case of Jonze trying to be fancy when he didn’t have to be. In fact, I don’t know why anyone hired an auteur like Jonze to direct a standup show. We don’t need a preamble or set piece before the comic walks out, we don’t need cool new angles, and we don’t need dozens of extraneous shots of the audience laughing (which I know are used for edit points, but are often overused). Just get any good, competent television director — and there are plenty of them — point the cameras at the person with the microphone, and record it.
Let the comedy be the star, and keep the lights out of my eyes.