Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A New Feature: My Top Ten Obsessions of the Week (maybe TV related, maybe not)

10. My epic facebook TV debate with Rachael from "I watch movies then talk about them". Daily we exchange ideas on topics ranging from our favourite TV sidekicks to which female characters make the best case for feminism. 

9. Late Canadian stage legend William Hutt's performance of King Lear in the series finale of Slings & Arrows (seen here opposite Oscar nominee Sarah Polley's Cordelia) 

8. Re-reading the last installment of the Harry Potter series. The story only improves with age and attention. 

7. World Series winning manager Cito Gaston returns to the Toronto Blue Jays after the dismissal of the detestable John Gibbons. Gaston's first home game since returning to the Jays was a massive success as they crushed the Cincinnati Reds 14-1 with 22 hits and a well pitched game from AJ Burnett. 

5. The triple chocolate coconut caramel cookies I baked the other day. That's right, you heard me. 

4. Entertainment Weekly's latest issue featuring the "new classics" of TV, Film, Music, and more of the last 25 years. 

3. Tom Hanks in Big. Could he be any more charming?

2. Project Runway re-runs on Slice. I thought I'd missed out on all the fun of the first 4 seasons but Slice saved me by airing old episodes every night at 4am. My PVR is currently working on capturing season 3. 

1. Michael C. Hall. Making my way through season 1 of Dexter on DVD I can't help but mull over the incomparable genius of the man who flawlessly embodied the socially awkward but golden hearted David Fischer then flipped impressively to portray a charismatic sociopath. 

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Dancing Finally Sways Me

I think this week's episodes of So You Think You Can Dance deserve applause. After last week's disappointing turn and the uninspiring auditions that proceeded it I was sure that this would be the year I didn't care. I liked one couple (Twitch and Kherington) and admired one other (Joshua and Katee) but that was the end of it. The dances seemed slower and less challenging and there were more mistakes than I was used to seeing. The judges seemed to always be wrong. There was too much Dan. There was no Shane. They even sent home the wrong girl last week (though they got the right guy).

and then this week happened.

Last week's only truly successful dancers (Joshua and Katee) topped their spectacular hip hop performance with a wonderfully entertaining Broadway number. They also stepped up as people I actually want to cheer for.

Twitchington re-emerged as not only the most likable couple but stunningly beautiful and surprising dancers with a sentimental Viennese Waltz.

Odd couple Mark and Chelsie proved to be a hilarious pair who are genuinely likable each in their own right and who work as a seamless team.

The couple I thought got the least credit for their work last week didn't get much more this week but proved that they can bounce back and sparkle even under unfair scrutiny. Matt and Kourtni seem to have so much faith in each other and themselves that you can't help but have faith in them too. After this week's superb foxtrot and fun behind the scenes footage, they're near the top of my list

AND, the best news of all, this week not only did America get the bottom three right (Susie and Marquis, Comfort and Chris, Chelsea and Thayne) but the judges finally said sayonara to the one contestant I really couldn't stand, Susie. Her partner Marquis left as well, leaving all the couples in tact.

This week topped all the low expectations I had going into it. Even Gev (who I had thought to be this year's hip hop one trick pony) stepped up with a completely respectable contemporary performance while other poppers Joshua and Twitch defied the standard and blew the roof off the place with styles that weren't their own (Broadway and the Viennese Waltz respectively). Quirky Mark threw us a sexy Argentine Tango. Tall girl Kourtni proved that grace isn't always petite. Matt and Chris taught Nigel that they have personalities. Mia was on the judging panel. Shane choreographed the group number. Nigel demonstrated Krumping. Cat helped Chelsie with her shoes... all was right with the world again.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Dancing Finally Gets Going... slowly

I couldn't have been more excited for the first week of the real competition on So You Think You Can Dance. There are only so many trannies with bad lipstick and "I pulled a muscle" sob stories you can watch before you're aching for the top 20. I've been wishing for the start of the real competition for weeks and tonight I finally got my wish... well, sort of.
Though the talent on the show has been more and more impressive every season, tonight's episode left me feeling as though this group has nothing to offer that hasn't already been brought by the amazing dancers of years past (the breathtaking technique and complicated character of Danny, the optimistic energy and confidence of Sabra, the goofy and talented surprise of Neil, the sweetness and easy-going nature of Pasha, the exuberance and charisma of Benji, the strength and beauty of Travis, the courage and dedication of Donyelle, the growth of Ivan, Jaimie's smile, Dmitry's abs, Nick's pirouettes, Anya's outrageous outfits, Hok's entire being,... the list goes on and on).

This year's contestants are (to date) unimpressive and uninspiring. The routines were plagued with a monotony, lack of energy and lack of precision that seemed like a complete let down after last season's spectacular lot.That's not to say they won't prove me wrong, but at this point last year I was already standing up and cheering the dancers on as opposed to the yawning and fast forwarding. Early favourites Twitch and Kherington provide a breath of fresh air as the only contestants I really care about so far. Charismatic and jovial, what Twitch called "twitchington" is already gobbling up all my love and attention.

The show has even left behind fan favourite judges/choreographers Shane Sparks and Wade Robson (Robson will choreograph a group number for tomorrow night's results show but is not listed as a recurring fixture for the season) while choosing to premiere their top 20 with the worst choreographer/judge of the lot (Dan Karaty) sitting in the 3rd seat. And for the most part, this week, I thought the judging panel was entirely wrong. I never think this panel's wrong (Adam Shankman and Dan Karaty's foot-in-mouth existences aside). Nigel is always tough without being rude and is consistently constructive while Mary's crazy antics never fully distract from the fact that she knows exactly what she's talking about. Tonight, though, they were forthcoming with praise on routines that I thought completely unenlightening and sloppy (and let's not even get me started on their love affair with Susie the slutty school teacher).

The only really great routine of the night was performed by likable though not memorable couple Joshua and Katee. The pair mustered lovely emotion and balanced it with perfect synchronicity and precise technique in their hip hop routine. The routine, a wonderful blend of sentimental and cool, was choreographed by the show's greatest assets at the moment: husband and wife team Napoleon and Tabitha. Perhaps the saving grace of an otherwise so far disappointing season, Napoleon and Tabitha proved to be excellent judges throughout Vegas week and have now proven themselves to be talented choreographers as well, easing slightly the pain of the loss of Shane.

So, as the season progresses I'm hoping to find that the contestants step up their game and give me something I've never seen before. For now, though, my thoughts are as such (in order):


Gev iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
Cat Deeley
Mia Michaels
Tabitha and Napoleon
Nigel Lithgow

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A TV Movie: Sex and the City hits the screen

I just saw the Sex and the City movie. I watched the whole series again in anticipation (a retrospect review to come shortly) and... (ALERT: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!) ... I had many of the same problems with the film that I had with the series; mostly that the men got a tough deal. My brother came home from the movie and the only thing he had to report was that the men got completely beat up for 98% of it.

For some part, I agree with him, mostly on the Big front. Just like in the TV series, every time Big (aka John James Preston) experienced a human moment of doubt or fear, Carrie would dump him and blame it completely on his "inability to commit". After the plentiful examples (given above) of this in the show, the movie managed to somehow embellish this annoying tradition with some turquoise feathers, a lot of white flowers and a dab of over-acting. Big was a villain in Carrie's, Samantha's, Miranda's, Charlotte's, (writer/director) Michael Patrick King's and the audience's eyes. Luckily, Carrie has a moment of realization when audiences are given hope that perhaps she has found a way to see Big as something other than a villain and herself as something other than a victim. This "I let the wedding get bigger than Big" moment of truth, however, is instantly drowned when Carrie finds a way to somehow blame Miranda for everything. It does allow for the inevitably predictable yet rushed "happy ending", but one brief and quickly forgotten moment of realization can hardly make up for Carrie's (and the film's)completely unfair treatment of Big. The man must really love her if he keeps coming back for more after that much blame being thrown his way.

As for the other 3 leading men, I didn't have a problem at all with how they were represented.

Yes Miranda overreacted to Steve's infidelity, but the film made it clear that she was overreacting and the other characters knew it. Carrie's response to Big's mistake was treated with the reverence of a judge handing down a life sentence to a heartless killer. Miranda's was acknowledged to be unfair and was a response very true to her character. Steve may have been put through the wringer but it came from an honest place.

I really liked how Smith came off in the film (not that he ever came off as anything other than perfect throughout the series). This is, I think, where my brother got the wrong idea. To the unfamiliar eye it may seem as though Samantha's feelings of unhappiness are being blamed on Smith. She resents that he has become the centre of her life. But Smith is never anything but sweet and considerate towards Samantha. In actuality, Samantha's antagonist in the film is Samantha; she's allowed herself to be pulled too far from who she really is. Sam knows this, and while she may resent Smith for being the centre of her life she never blames him for his being there, she knows it was her who put him there and it's her who has to change it. Samantha's is, I think, my favourite story-line in the film. She breaks Smith's heart but she does it not because she's blaming him for everything that's wrong with their relationship (like Carrie) or because she's afraid of trusting someone who's hurt her (like Miranda) but because she is being true to herself.

and as for Harry... well, Harry hasn't been anything but perfect since he got the tea bag situation under control and learned to put something between his ass and the white couch. In fact, Harry (though he is drastically under utilized in the film) is the sole voice cheering for Big. Harry doesn't say that Big didn't do anything wrong and he certainly doesn't say that Carrie did, but he does suggest that, perhaps, Big is worthy of a little forgiveness.

Now, on to my only other real pet peeve about the film... Stanford and Anthony. All I'm going to say is 1) why did bit player Anthony get twenty times more screen time than Carrie's final best friend and sidekick Stanford? and 2) the fact that they are the only 2 featured gay men on the show does not mean that they should be thrown together in the end. In fact, that is incredibly irresponsible character development on the part of a usually relationship-conscious show. Not only did Stanford and Anthony hate each other (as of the end of the series) but Stanford was happily dating the man of his dreams, they even had a summer home in the Hamptons together. If the writers felt the need to throw together the unlikely pair of Stanford and Anthony they should have at least given the story a little more time to be explained.

I didn't like the predictable nature of the writing. I didn't like the exposition and clips from the show at the beginning. I didn't like that Samantha had moved away. I didn't like Carrie (but I almost never do).

I DID like Carrie's apartment makeover.

I liked the callbacks to the series.

Jennifer Hudson? I liked her, and I usually don't like her. I liked St. Louise from St. Louis and I liked what she did for Carrie.

I liked Charlotte's storyline about feeling like she can't simply be happy when her friends' lives didn't work out as well as hers.

I LOVED the sequence when Carrie tried on old outfits from her closet. I loved the line "it took 4 friends 3 days to pack 20 years into 38 boxes".

I liked the wedding dress sequence for the photo shoot.

I liked seeing Enid (Candace Bergen) again.

I liked that there was meaty Miranda-Carrie stuff at the heart of the film.

I liked it, it worked. I loved seeing the girls again and knowing that they can still make me laugh and cry. I only wish that, after years of wishing this film into production, they could have found themselves a better script that could have really made a splash.