April 29, 2009

Two things about three things

On my commute this morning, in between waking up with ‘Newsies’ stuck in my head and spilling coffee all over my desk, I was reading Entertainment Weekly’s Summer Movie Preview. I know what you’re thinking: Ashley, you did your own version of that a couple weeks back – you don’t need professional journalists! That’s sweet. But I stumbled upon an interesting tidbit.

Alexis Bledel, better known as Rory Gilmore, has two new movies coming out.

One, ‘The Good Guy,’ is about Bledel’s boyfriend, a Wall Street guy, who takes a newbie under his wing and then watches his life spiral out of control. It debuted last weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival and appears to co-star Anna Chlumsky, from ‘My Girl’.

The second, ‘Post Grad,’ welcomes Michael Keaton back to the world, and is about that all-too-familiar quarterlife crisis. It comes out in August. (Jessica, should we make our plans now?)

Notice anything?

#1: A lot of sitting is going on in these movies.
#2: Her co-stars in both these movies play[ed] the quarterbacks that ‘Friday Night Lights’ centers around. Strange, no?

(At first, I thought Tyra was Tammy in this photo, and couldn’t figure out why she was so close to Smash. Where is Tammy? Also – what are they all looking at?)

If you’re interested, here’s the full trailer for ‘Post Grad’ – it appears to essentially pick up from where we left Rory Gilmore, as her character attempts to navigate post-college life. (I just remembered that Matt Czuchry, who played Rory's college boyfriend Logan on 'Gilmore Girls,' had a guest-starring arc on ‘Friday Night Lights’. Stop the madness!)



Two other things I have learned from the Summer Movie Preview:
  • The new gritty dramas are all about 2 powerhouse actors who barely appear together onscreen (Seen most recently with ‘American Gangster’, followed up this summer with the Johnny Depp/Christian Bale ‘Public Enemies’ and the John Travolta/Denzel Washington ‘Taking of Pelham 123').
  • Joseph-Gordon Levitt & Channing Tatum must be best friends: They starred in the not-really-underrated ‘Stop-Loss’ last summer together (Also known as: the film that broke up Ryan Phillipe and Reese Witherspoon), and now in the upcoming ‘GI Joe.’ They also apparently model in Esquire together.

April 27, 2009

Movie Review: Sunshine Cleaning

I’d been really looking forward to ‘Sunshine Cleaning’, so I was relieved the preview wasn’t better than the movie (I’m talking to you ’17 Again’).



‘Sunshine Cleaning’ is more melancholy than the title implies. Centered around a stuck woman, Amy Adams plays a single mom who never quite got to the life she expected after high school. She’s been meaning to take classes to get her real estate license, but she isn’t. She’s dating her high school boyfriend, who had (of course) been the quarterback to her head cheerleader – but he's married to someone else. Her son is mildly troubled (he does things like lick his teacher's leg) and needs to be sent to a private school. Private school requires money, so she ropes her slacker sister (Emily Blunt) into running a crime scene cleanup business (she's heard from the quarterback-turned-cop, Steve Zahn, that there's serious money to be made there). The slacker sister still lives at home and floats between crappy waitressing jobs. Their mom died when they were young, and we know she's got some unresolved issues because she wears black nail polish.

I challenge you to find a more likable person onscreen than Amy Adams. Seriously. She's pretty hard to not love. So while the movie had its issues, I care very little about them.

Issue #1: The kid part was pretty under developed. And short of not dying, didn't Alan Arkin play this same benevolent-grandpa-to precocious-child character in that *other* Sunshine movie?

Issue #2: Wear less eye makeup, Emily Blunt.

Issue #3: Unresolved love interest much?

Just like the trailer, the movie made me cry, but I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't seem like the whole thing been had shown in the preview. There were surprises (IE: new things to cry about), like Clifton Collins/Frankie Flowers as a friendly one-armed cleaning supply store owner. And, total bonus points for featuring Eric Stoltz’s kid sister from ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ in a bit part – she’s still got some teeth on her!

7 Twix bars!

April 24, 2009

Top 7 v2: Looking for some hot stuff

Sure. we're a little late with this week's 'American Idol' Guest Commentary, but isn't the wait worth it?

Disco Night was not totally what I hoped for—meaning that there was no evidence of cocaine use, bell bottoms, and DEFINITELY not enough sequins. Shout out to little Iraheta for wearing the spangly top…digging it. It did prove interesting on the performance front, which I guess I will have to settle for. Great improvements included a return to the Randy, Kara, Paula, then Simon judging order, no wasted time with mentors pre-judging a performance before it happens, and the return of the fire-y backdrop. (Just kidding about the latter, I hate that thing, and during Danny’s performance I had to overcome the worst case of motion sickness I’ve had since the first time I rode Superman at Six Flags.)

Highlights of the show:
  • Allison on the steps with her broken down baby doll posing (thanks to Tyra) and her AWESOME rendition of Hot Stuff. Despite the toned-down red hair, she really kicked it up a notch this week, and deservedly got to stay with us as the token female and token racial minority.
  • Kris swoony-swoon-swoon cares about hard-workin' girls. And he isn’t amazingly cheesy when accompanied by a small band of drummers, which is hard to pull off. He also kicked butt with the arrangement, reminding me of the early days of John Mayer, someone I can see him growing to be like with the chances he takes and his interest in singing a story rather than just notes. Not to mention his slight Southern sex appeal.
  • Seeing Matt try to dance. Having the hat to cover his mole.
  • Wondering what the heck kind of spanks Lil was wearing under that bodysuit. Damn, girl! She looked amazingly curvalicious and her diva hair helped. Too bad the judges and America didn’t embrace her performance—I didn’t really think it was that bad, it was just more that everyone decided it was her time to go.
  • Anoop’s facial hair. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.)
Things that brought me utter despair and tormented sadness:
  • The judges using THE MOST clich├ęs and packaged phrases EVER. I didn’t take really specific notes, but it was ridiculous.
  • Lambert’s song. What is this? Who gives a damn? Next! (Oh, and I DID notice how he couldn’t resist throwing one of his crazy screams in there.)
  • Noopsie’s (my own little nickname for his fan group) dull dull dull performance of blah blah blah that just totally zzzz….
  • Dan. Ny. Go. Key. Paula’s insanity is unleashed when you do your hypnotic back-up singer dancing. She was totally entranced into spewing some nonsense about you having one of the sexiest male voices in the entire galaxy. Let me just tell you, you don’t. Also, she mentioned that women of all ages would enjoy you. Let me just tell you, I don’t. I really hate your entire tone. [Editor's note: He is Taylor Hicks, redux]
What I want next week (Oh my god, the theme is “Rat Pack Standards”. Not my genre, nor do I see it being a good area for any of the top 5? Should be interesting, yipes)
  • More of Paula’s choreography and Adam’s execution of it during the results show! That whole thing was AMAZING. Not the singing, just the show choir feel of it all. Oh, and the COSTUMES. I love it when they force them to wear really strange things like sunglasses indoors and go-go boots.
  • Keep the judging order.
  • Give us a little more insight into these people’s lives!
  • Fiberglass wall between Simon and Paula so they can’t touch each other.
  • Kris to dress up.
  • Mole removal for Matt.
  • Ryan to fall flat on his face when coming down those blue stairs.
  • Round trip airfare and deluxe accommodations so I can watch in person.
  • A pony.
  • World peace.
Until then, lots of love, elastic undergarments (from the women’s section), and age appropriate dance moves (thank you Allison, no thank you Gokey),

Jessica

Movie Review: Vicky Christina Barcelona

That Woody Allen – he sure does have some theories about relationships. 'Vicky Christina Barcelona' (heretofore to be referred to as VCB) tells the story of 2 friends – conveniently well-off enough to spend a summer in Barcelona – and their relationship with a Spanish painter, who himself has a complicated relationship with his ex-wife.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is pragmatic. She’s engaged to a respectable Wall Street type guy. She’s educated. She knows where her life is going. She wears khaki. Christina (Scarlett Johansson) has wavy flowy hair that’s made to blow in the wind. She has dreams. She envisions a life where, through creative work and intense relationships, she’ll experience real passion. Over three months in Spain, they both fall in love with the same man and are forced to re-evaluate the lives they’ve always planned for themselves.



Penelope Cruz doesn’t enter the movie until more than an hour in, but you’ve heard so much about her character that you don’t feel like you know her any less than the rest. Her Maria Elena is a great, powerhouse character and one that Cruz fits to a “t” – She’s all polarizing, fiery intrigue and it’s obvious from her first moments on screen why the Academy loved her.

I really enjoyed this movie. It feels different enough from a standard Woody Allen flick that I didn’t feel like I’d seen it before, while also having enough definitive Woody Allen moments to make it warmly familiar (think: rambling conversations about relationships, an established marriage that’s not what it seems...). Quintessential Woody Allen moveis deal with some pretty intense subjects (infidelity, suicide, drug abuse), while somehow staying light. They’re like fairy tales in this way, and the voiceover used in VCB only further served this. Sure, sometimes I felt like I was watching ‘Arrested Development’, but Allen loves characters that are just a little too ridiculous, a little too larger than life – characters that are easy to build a story around. And it’s even easier when you quite literally tell your audience the story.

Before the official Twix Bar rating reveal, three side notes:
  1. Considering how central Javier Bardem’s character is, I don’t have too much to say about him. Luckily, friendo, all frightening memories of ‘No Country for Old Men’ were erased. In fact, I felt more like he was channeling Denny Duquette.
  2. I’m not a huge ScarJo fan, but I wouldn’t debate that Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson are two of the most lusted after actresses around. So, I find it pretty shocking that the fact that they make out in the movie didn’t get more internet play. Has the world matured?
  3. This movie made me really want to drink red wine.
I think almost everyone would like this movie – if you haven't already (and you may have - it had a Very Long Wait for forever on Netflix) definitely check it out. 7.75 Twix bars!

I've been ruined

Typically, I don't "do" scary movies. Last summer I made an exception and went to see 'The Ruins,' because I'd read the book and felt prepared. There's a reason I typically avoid teen horror flicks - the movie was awful. But even worse than the serious creative liberties it took with the book's plot, it also gave me audio-visual context around some - for lack of a better term - pretty scary sh*t.

The book's about a group of friends who go to find a missing friend-of-a-friend at some off-the-beaten path ruins in the Mexican jungle. They wind up trapped there, because the ruins are controlled by and covered with an evil plant. Yes, it's ridiculous. But, see, the plant is smart, and it plays mind tricks with its new inhabitants. Like, imitating their voices so they fight and break down, or mimicking the sound of a cell phone to lure them down a well. And that really doesn't end well - please reference semi-painful movie clip here.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because the plants also imitate birds - I can't quite remember for what reason - and as I walked to the bus stop this morning, noting how spring is really here, with the sun shining, trees blooming and flip flops everywhere, I realized that I no longer get any pleasure from the sound of birds chirping.

April 22, 2009

When did it become Wednesday?

Monday was Patriot’s Day here in Massachusetts, when tens of thousands of runners challenge themselves on the legendary 26.2 mile Boston marathon course. Even more tens of thousands of drunk college students line the streets cheering for them. In the midst of all this, for some reason, the Red Sox play a day game. But not just any day game. An 11AM day game. This means that people start lining up outside of bars at 9:30AM, and the game gets out right as the majority of runners make their way through the Fenway Park-neighboring Kenmore Square. It’s epic, that’s for sure, but the extra long weekend is also to blame for me being dreadfully backed up on blogging.

Coming soon:
  • Movie reviews! 'Sunshine Cleaning,' 'Vicky Christina Barcelona' and the first hour of 'I’m Not There.'
  • American Idol! Or not. Last night, the real American Idols were the Hundred Years War band members, who played an amazing show, organized by Ryan’s Smashing Life. Their fans were out in full force. This is code for We-Were-Out-Really-Late-and-Drank-Many-Beers-So-Don’t-Expect-an-American-Idol-Recap.
  • Craft beer! The Craft Brewer’s Conference is here in Boston this week, meaning there are all sorts of snobby and awesome beer events going on. What a great opportunity for me to force my opinions about Good Beer onto you!

April 17, 2009

Let’s make sweet music

Today is supposed to get up to 70 degrees. This, combined with the marathon on Monday and the realization that May is just 2 weeks away, it feels like the good weather might be here to stay, and that means I need some new music.

Come again?

Last year at this time, I discovered that I could circumvent the shuttle I typically rode to work, with its pesky limiting schedule, by walking from the train station to my office in the mornings, and back every evening. I was winding down my tenure at my old job at the time and had a lot going on, but I was committed to not being stressed out – creating my own schedule was key. It was 2.5 miles each way and would take about 35 minutes, and that me-time in the sun was a real gift. With decent weather here again, it's time to get back to that.

Mornings were great for NPR podcasts. Starting your day with some news and insight can wake you up even better than coffee. But the afternoon walks were all about the music. Last year’s steady rotation of Limbeck and the Raconteurs served me very well, but, it’s a new year, it’s a new walk, and I need some new music. Take a listen to some of my favorite songs by the bands that provided last year’s soundtrack, and send your recommendations my way. (Click on the blue Play button to listen from here, or follow the links to iLike for videos, etc.)

April 16, 2009

Short and Sweet

The buzz around the TV world these days is about short-term, high-concept series. Here’s why. High-concept shows often:
  • Are too niche to grab onto a large enough audience to make networks feel like they’re worth their timeslot (‘Think: ‘Pushing Daisies’)
  • After an initial rush of excitement, burn out quickly with lame, that’s-a-stretch plotlines that leave audiences running for the door and advertisers reeling (Sound familiar, one-time ‘Heroes’ fans?)
  • Don’t catch on quickly enough with a large enough audience to finance their costly production budgets (That would be Joss Whedon’s entire post-Buffy catalogue).
Instead of hoping every show has what it takes to go 9 seasons, short-term series would be specifically developed to be just that – short-term. Imagine: Plots and characters are introduced to tell one specific story. Creators don’t have to dilute their original idea. Networks don’t have to invest in shows they’re not certain have legs. And fans don’t have to worry about being left behind with a half-finished plot crossing their fingers for a DVD set.

By setting an end date to its wildly popular show years in advance, ‘Lost’ may have set the precedent for a short-term TV series. The creators are telling the audience that the show knows where it’s going, and the audience becomes extra devoted to every single episode, since each one offers a payoff leading to the final, what-can-only-be, mind blowing conclusion.

I think reality television also deserves some credit for the idea, because what else have 27 seasons of ‘Survivor,’ ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and ‘Biggest Loser’ taught us, if not that we can care about characters and developments that happen over only 6 weeks just as much – if not sometimes more – than any fictional show?

If it’s done right (and the first attempt by the major networks – 'Harper’s Island' – isn’t quite right), I’d be excited about getting some of these shows on my TV-watching schedule. I think it could lead to more unexpected actors appearing on TV, since they won’t feel like they’re signing their lives away, and I think that we could all benefit from smarter television, that isn’t watered down in an attempt to appeal to everyone or last forever.

So, what do you think? Would you latch onto a series that's designed to be short-lived, or would it not be worth your time?

April 15, 2009

Top 7- Take this sinking boat and point it home...

Last night's 'American Idol' had me wondering two things: 1) What will it take to get them to fit into an hour-long slot and stop messing up my DVR settings for 'Fringe'? 2) Could movie night redeem itself in guest commentator Jessica's eyes? See for yourselves:

Oh. My. GOOOODNESS!!! As Ryan would say, “We’re back on American Idol!”

Last night’s show managed to pull me back in. Was it the band being onstage? No. Was it Quentin Tarantino’s gosh-darn-ain’t-life-grand take on things? Maybe. Was it having a theme that allowed me and my roommates to belt out exceptionally cheesy movie song faves? Quite possibly. Was it seeing Gokey with no glasses? Almost definitely.

But what really made me happy was seeing these singers that have truly decided (in accordance with my belief, of course) that the judges don’t matter, and they are going to just go ahead and “do their thing.” And you know what? I enjoy that. Like I’ve always thought, the reason I like 'American Idol' is that it gives me a chance to watch singers: fairly good to great singers, doing something they really care about.

So, after my quavering last week, I’m back on board. Still hatin’ on the judges though (it’s not about you), and wishing that they could freakin’ figure out how to fit the show into an hour spot. (Which reminds me…is next week when everyone starts doing two songs? YES! I LOVE that!)

Instead of reviewing the performances chronologically this week, I’ve made three groups (in tribute to one of my recaps last year): Bleh, Meh, and YEAH!

Bleh:

Matty Matt Matt Boston A-Hole J.T. Wannabe Giraud: Wow, they really reamed you a new one. In a lot of ways. Ryan asking you about your confidence level? Rude. Not including castanets (thanks for pointing this out, Melissa) in the arrangement of “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” Thoughtless. Allowing you to pronounce love as “luuuu-uuurrve”? Yipes! The recovery from the falsetto was really rough, and Randy and Kara harped on it. All that “for me, for you, tonight” crap from Randy could be interpreted as they don’t really think you’re the shiz anymore. Even Kara, who only wants to say wonderful stuff about you and is your main champion, ooquestions why you tk away the core melodies and in turn ruined the song. Should have followed QT’s advice: Do the gravel and the soul, but don’t lose the song, and enunciate the lyrics.

Allison Muppet Hair that matches belt and tights Iraheta: Quentin “pushed her to a performance level” on her version of “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (which is soooo blah), and she didn’t do super poorly, but she did achieve boring. Paula didn’t make any comment on her actual performance, and Simon verified that she may have more confidence than before. (Who cares??) At least she was comfortable with her song, and not just because her outfit was an old mechanic’s jumpsuit turned rocker dress.

Danny “this touches my heart” Gokey: Looked like he was in pain during his performance. Maybe I am usually so distracted by his glasses I don’t notice that he’s always pulling faces? “Endless Love” seemed endless and hardly lovely, although Paula found “a magical place in the tambor of his voice” and Simon was disappointed but congratulated Danny on the emotional trial he went through to perform. So maybe it was real pain? I couldn’t be certain. Can I take this moment to comment on how MUCH I HATE GRAVELLY VOICES? It is not acceptable any longer, folks. I will not support grumbling as singing.

Meh:

Adam “does not look good in tight jeans, especially super faded gray ones, which is funny because he should look good in everything” Lambert: Oh where to begin. This guy is, as QT stated, the Real Deal and yes, all of us enjoy a taste of Adam too, 'tino. But how do I even react when I know what he can do? It’s so over-dramatic and I felt like it was “Born to Be Wild” from the musical version of 'Easy Rider,' which is not exactly the same as a movie song? Paula praised Adam for, get this, “daring to dance in the path of greatness” which means “daring to wear those pants and dance” I believe. Simon joked that Adam needs to learn to express himself, but was probably right in judging that this performance wouldn’t be as popular as last week. Which brings me to another point: Why do they compare week to week so much? Just tell me WHAT YOU THINK NOW. Judge. Simple, easy command, and your title, by the way. My thoughts: Adam, I want to support you morally, but every time you pull a stunt like this, I question if I would listen to your music, and often think I wouldn’t. You can honestly do anything…so impress me, don’t scare me away.

Lil “Takes it all in and gets it done” Rounds: I AM SO HAPPY FOR HER THIS WEEK. I loved it. Why is she not a "yeah!"? Well, all the talk back. It makes me fear for her. She sang a really well-known song, which I think is good, and tackled it in “her” way. And I really enjoy gospel, so it made me happy. I also loved how she took (once again, great one!) Quentin’s advice to commit to being simple in the beginning before the gospel break down. I thought that girlish innocence in the beginning was really great on her, and it showed a whole other side to her. I am not even going into the judges opinion—let’s just say it wasn’t at all on par with the performance. I hope Lil makes it past this week and gets to keep doing inventive stuff like this that is much more truly her than the Mary J. wannabe they are trying to create. You know what, she is definitely verging on Yeah for me. Woo!

On to….YEAH!

Anoop “do you have anything else to wear that isn’t from the college bookstore?” Desai: Boy, he gave me goosebumps last night with “Everything I Do”. He did everything RIGHT. Gave heart and soul, and even started sweating on his ‘stache with effort. Quentin instructed him to growl a little, much to our enjoyment, and he kicked it into gear as the song developed. And that’s the key—he made the song have a crescendo, something he could teach to a few of his colleagues. Very happy with him.

AND FINALLY...

KRIS “You made me run around the house like a maniac with your song choice and awesomeness” ALLEN!: I once told Ashley and Trevor that I believe Madonna is a genius [Editor's note: A statement that led to relentless mocking for years, mostly due to the incredible stress placed on the word: GENIUS]. Last night, by choosing “Falling Slowly” from 'Once,' Kris stepped into that musical genius realm that I reserve for artists that make awesome choices. First of all, it fits him. Second of all, it may not be well known, but it is a truly difficult vocal to perform. Don’t believe me? Try to sing that song and hit every note on pitch. It’s hard. Third, it’s romantic. Fourth, he is amazing!!! Okay, sorry, I will look at my notes and see true commentary, not just my silly reactions. Quentin said that Kris is “living up to the spirit of the competition” and “playing with the casino’s money” which are both awesome things to say. I thought that the key was a little too low in the beginning, but at the first chorus everything got adjusted. Randy and Kara didn’t totally glob on, but who really cares about them. It was a great choice, performance, and HE WAS AMAZING!!!

Hugs and kisses and lots of Glen Hansard’s deep sexy voice,
Jessica

April 14, 2009

Movie Review: Adventureland

While I would love to use ‘Adventureland’ as a study of movies about summer and the inherent romanticism in said plots (Romantic as in whimsical and daydream-inducing and lovely and lush and green, not romantic as in pink/hearts/love. Though, let's be honest - I married my summer camp sweetheart so there'd probably be a bit of that too.), I just can't, because in 2 months, I'll have forgotten I saw this movie and where would that leave my argument?



Don't get me wrong. I liked the movie. It had an awesome soundtrack, a truly hilarious supporting cast (Bill Hader, Kristin Wiig and Martin Starr), and some really good one-liners (“I'm amazed at how tiny my paycheck is.”), but I left the theater feeling lukewarm. It boils down to this: I laughed, but I didn't cry. And a movie that ends with the promise of happily ever after that doesn’t make me at least tear up? Well, they did something wrong.

I partially blame Ryan Reynolds, who just didn’t fit his character at all. We're supposed to kind of hate him, while understanding his appeal (You know the one: The guys want to be him and the girls want to sleep with him), but I felt like he was just playing Ryan Reynolds. He really didn't fit the 80s slick/slacker mold. Which brings me to my final critique: As far as I can tell, there was no real reason for the movie to be set in the 80s. Any ideas?

All that said, I really did like the movie. But I think I liked that Ed Burns/Dustin Hoffman movie too. I just can’t be bothered to remember it anymore. In any case, I will grade it based on my feelings right now.

7 Twix bars!

April 10, 2009

What's my age again?

Courtesy of EW.com: Average Age of Main Cast Members Playing High Schoolers in These Shows' First Seasons:

Saved by the Bell: 14.8

Freaks and Geeks: 18.6

My So-Called Life: 18.7

Dawson's Creek: 18.8

Beverly Hills, 90210: 21.5

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 23.0

Friday Night Lights: 24.1

April 9, 2009

Does not compute.

Have you seen ads for that new NBC show “Southland”? I think it’s taking over ER’s old timeslot (For those living in a cave for the last 15 years, Trevor, that would be Thursday at 10PM). It’s available for free download on iTunes this week, and free TV shows from iTunes are perfect for the gym, so I checked it out this afternoon.

It was…meh. (I love Regina King, so I might be convinced to try it out a couple more times, but in general it was a little too procedural for me –crime shown. suspects investigated, decoy villain, mystery solved). But there was something to love.

The pilot revolved around a rookie cop’s first day on the job in the LAPD. The rookie cop has some friction with the cops around him because apparently he’s some big wig rich lawyer’s son. This rookie cop is played by none other than Benjamin McKenzie, also known as Ryan Atwood, the non-Seth Cohen character from 'The OC.' You know, the one from the wrong side of the tracks.

Behold: The same face, two very different reactions:

"Chino? Ew!"

"Your face has 90210 written all over it."

How is my mind supposed to process such mixed signals??

Wait, I know this.

SPOILER ALERT: This entry contains [very vague] information about last night's episode of 'Lost.'

I’ve never found myself watching ‘Lost’ before and thinking “Yeah, this has been done before.” But it happened last night, when Ben was in the temple. It was straight out of the ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ series finale.

I just wish I could find the right screencap. There was the rocky underground cave, the spiritual undertones, the lookalike who’s not who you think they are, the threatening violence. Even the way Ben had his vision, complete with swirling smoke and memory flashes, had the feel of a show on a WB-budget.

And while I loved it in ‘Buffy’ – the camp factor was key to that show’s amazingness – I’m not sure it fits with ‘Lost.’ Though, some disappointment has to be expected when they're trying to explain one of the mythology-heavy show’s most mythological mysteries.

Since I'm assuming most of y'all don't have that same kind of 'Buffy' frame of reference, I'm curious - what did you think about this Big Reveal?

April 8, 2009

Top 8: And that's why I love you....

Guest commentary from She-Who-Used-to-be-Idol-Fan-Numero-Uno.

Am I alone in questioning whether or not I want to dedicate so much of my time and energy to this show anymore? As I lay restless in bed last night, I was unable to figure out why I wasn’t falling asleep easily, why the hour-long (oh wait, it was actually longer if you wanted to see Adam’s performance!) show didn’t leave me satisfied and happy with the future of these select contestants and the often annoying, mostly ridiculous fools that we call judges. Like in the old days, where Chris Richardson crooning with a slight Southern twang could float me away on a dreamy cloudy pillow for 8+ hours of contentment, knowing that I could count on him being there to entertain me again the next week. Anyway, the result-- I have used last night’s show as a testing ground for my new theory: that American Idol is becoming a complete waste of time.

Hypothesis:

All the judges have no idea who they are supposed to be, so I can no longer take them seriously as judges of someone else’s talent and image.

Evidence:
  • Last night Randy told Kris, “YOU are in the competition, not the SONG.” SINCE WHEN?!!?! As far as I have been tracking, song choice has been everyone’s biggest point of debate this season, and suddenly we are supposed to disregard it.
  • I’m sure almost all of you have joined me in questioning Kara’s credibility and opinion on virtually everything. Her recent behavior has led to a confrontation with Megan’s brother, and from last night’s show, the strange discussion of Anoop’s supposed attitude that yielded an apology (which Simon did not approve of). She is getting under everyone’s skin, and not because she is providing criticism that people don’t agree with, but because she adds nothing to the show, which is sad as she could have become the resident expert on what makes a good recording artist.
  • Paula has become the most reasonable judge. This should never be. She is throwing around terms like chord substitution. Something is cosmically altered. I knew I was feeling slightly off-kilter as I brushed my teeth last night.
  • Simon. Has. Completely. Checked. Out.
Suggestions:
  • Please drop the use of the following terms: “singing competition”, “package artist”, “vocals”, and “standing ovation”. (The latter should never be said, just done?)
  • Go back to down the line judging—start with Randy and end with Simon.
  • Don’t continue spending so much camera time on the judges—no more watching them walk in, asking who’s going home, talking about the Judges’ Save—focus on the contestants. I am still shocked about how little I know about each of them! My total knowledge: Anoop is an only child. Adam’s dad is super cute. Danny is the ham of his family. Allison’s family was unfairly subtitled in the past, but not last night. Kris wanted to be a cab driver. That’s it. I should be forming permanent relationships with people’s moms and knowing the patterns of their couches by the top 8!
In addition to my hypothesis that explains the slow downturn of the show, I created a pro and con list to help me better explore my feelings.

Pros/Cons of watching AI Season 8:
  • Pro: I look forward to fresh performances of songs
  • Con: Blind-y keeps singing power ballads that absolutely suck, and America keeps pitying him and voting for him despite the true lack of pleasing notes sung
  • Pro: It’s amusing to watch the group numbers and see them pulverize pop music
  • Con: Song choice is constantly criticized yet greatly out of the contestant’s control
  • Pro: Phil Stacey returned in last night’s audience—maybe you saw the robotic bald man in the beginning?
  • Con: Matt Giraud (crowned by Melissa, Aimee, Robin and I as a Typical Boston Asshole [even though he’s not from here, he fits the part and would normally be the type that approaches you after the Sox game at Game On! after too many Jaeger-bombs]) seems like he may be around for awhile, despite his tight pants and so-so performing.
  • Pro: The first useful criticism of the year came last night regarding Lil—all the judges actually warned her in a way that could prove useful. Maybe there will be more of that as we move into the top contestants?
  • Con: The judges or producers have their favorites: Adam, Danny, and Matt, and are leaving little room for Allison and Kris to succeed by KILLING them with weird arrangements and comments about being only “likeable” or “cute” or “good” and not “AMAZING”, “AWESOME”, or “two words, STANDING OVATION” like their faves.
  • Pro: Paula saying, “magical” and “rainbow” repeatedly
  • Con: Anything Kara or Randy says anymore
  • Pro: I still think it’s a great platform for an emerging artist
  • Con: Sadly, the show is becoming not at all about the singers
It’s sad. I want to be in love with it. On Monday night, I was wishing Idol was on. I want to love them all! I want to be moved to vote for everyone! Let’s hope that things take a turn for the better soon, starting with a surprise reversal of the decision to send Alexis home. That would also help.

In closing, it is my theory that soon enough most Americans will join me in disdain of celebrity hogging, overpaid jerks that don’t really mold or shape future Idols (not artists or talents, we’re talking about POP STARS) through their critique. It’s time to take a step back, RKPS, and allow the contestants to speak for themselves. I’m going to give you one more week to improve, if I see no change, expect an angry letter in this forum.

Sincerely,
Jessica
A Fan Since Season 5 and Someone That Really Likes To Share Her Feelings About “Singing Competitions”

April 7, 2009

Cheers to that

Ever notice how repetitive ‘American Idol’ can get? How could you not? Use the predictability to your benefit with this totally non-sanctioned, not-patented American Idol drinking game:
  • Drink at any mention of a past ‘American Idol’ contestant.
  • Take 2 drinks at the mention of a past ‘American Idol’ winner.
  • Drink when a judge says the words “I like you” during his/her critique.
  • Drink when Ryan is shown in the audience.
  • Take a half-drink when Paula gives someone a standing ovation.
  • Drink when Simon critiques someone’s outfit.
  • Drink when the mentor is shown live in the audience.
  • Drink when someone is called the best of the night.
  • Drink when a contestant plays an instrument.
  • Drink when a contestant is placed on the stage in a somehow unique way (On the ground, in the crowd, etc.).
  • Drink when a contestant’s family and loved ones are shown.
  • Take a half-drink when song choice is critiqued.
  • Drink any time Ryan tries to incite a fight between Simon & Paula or Simon & himself.
  • Drink when you see a fan-made sign.
  • Drink again when a fan-made sign has a pun on it.
  • Drink when Randy mentions one of the “greats” – Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, etc.
  • Drink every time the words “this competition” are said.
  • Drink every time some kind of promotion or sponsorship is mentioned (iTunes, Ford, etc.)
We’ve never ever officially done the drinking game throughout a whole show of ‘American Idol’ – we’re often too busy recognizing other rules to add to the list – so this might need some tweaking to make it weeknight appropriate. But if nothing else, this can be used as a handy distraction to make Kara slightly more tolerable… Have fun!

April 6, 2009

A Weekend in Nashville

It had been over 5 years since I’d ventured South to visit my brother, sister-in-law and nephews. In fact, last time I went to Nashville, I only had one nephew. Now, I have two. And boy oh boy, are they adorable.

Matthew (Mattie) turned 2 on Halloween. He is incredibly blonde, loves school buses and circle shapes, and responds to both things with “Whoa.” Douglas (named after my dad; ring bearer at our wedding) will be 7 in July. I can hardly believe this. He is such a good big brother, played his first baseball game this weekend, and loooved Trevor (My brother: “Douglas, hold Aunt Ashley’s hand while you cross the street.” Douglas: “No! Trevor’s!”).



The trip itself was quite an adventure, because most of the East Coast was experiencing thunder storms Friday night when we were due to fly out. After a few hours of delays, our flight was cancelled. The only option to get us from Boston to Nashville before Saturday afternoon was to fly to Dallas, stay overnight in the airport (no comped hotels when the weather’s at fault) and then catch a 6AM flight to Nashville. So, we did that. Dallas airport employees walk around with cots for travelers stranded overnight – how nice:

We arrived in Nashville just before 9AM, and got to go straight to Douglas’s first ever baseball game.

Then, it was time for a quick shower/refresher, and off for lunch and play in Dragon Park.

Saturday afternoon meant a driving tour of Nashville, ice cream and naps all around. Then Trevor and I got to stay with the boys and dogs play lots of trains and checkers (plus, Trevor experienced his first ever Barney), while Stan & Sally went to a dinner party. When they returned, Stan, Trevor & I headed out for a night in downtown Nashville at the honky tonk bars.


We went three different places, saw 4 different bands (no covers anywhere, natch) and ended the night as I imagine most nights out in the South must:

Sunday meant coffee, more baseball and a tiny plane back to Boston. Rapid fire, but really a great weekend, y’all.

Movie Review: Marley & Me

Do you plan to see Marley & Me? Stop reading right now.

No, seriously, stop.

This was the worst movie ever. You remember the massive marketing campaign around this movie a few months ago? About how heartwarming it was going to be and how perfect it would be for the family to see at Christmas? Okay, well the only possible redeeming thing about this film is that I was not fooled by that marketing campaign. Because if I had been, it’s quite possible that Christmas would have been ruined. Forever.

I am, of course, exaggerating. But it was an incredibly painful experience. I watched it on a plane from Boston to Dallas, and had I tried to write this review immediately afterwards, I wouldn’t have been able to, because my eyes were literally swollen shut from all the crying. Buckets and buckets of tears.

Let’s see, how many things within this movie made me cry? We’ve got: a miscarriage, a marriage in trouble, a family growing and an unsatisfied career man. We have a puppy doing adorable things, and then a grown dog doing adorable things. We have a family settling into a happy life, children doing adorable things, wife encouraging husband on a career path, dog getting older, a health scare and family realizing he is dying. We have the silent exchange of ‘It’s okay, it’s time’ recognition between dog and owner, a vet’s office goodbye, and as if that weren’t enough, children reading letters to the dog at his graveside. Dear god.

Maybe the real problem is that, despite what the plot sounds like, the movie wasn’t overly sentimental. Jennifer Aniston & Owen Wilson are two of the most likable actors around, which might have made this even more painful.

I have to stop writing this now, because if I think in any more detail about how this movie ended, I will dissolve into a puddle of tears. Actual movie: 7 Twix bars. My emotional reaction to this movie: -3.5 Twix bars.

April 2, 2009

Man of the Month: April

Can you believe it’s already April? Winter’s almost gone, and so is the NBA season. It’s the latter that inspired the selection of Derek Fisher as April’s Man of the Month.

Don’t let the Boston residency fool you – I’m a Lakers fan through and through (as reaffirmed last year during the NBA Finals) – and Derek Fisher is a huge reason for that. It’s not just the .4 shot. Though, just for the sake of it, let’s revisit:



Yeah, that never gets old. Wait, what was I saying? Right, it’s not just that – there are many things to love about Derek Fisher. He actually spent 4 years in college and graduated with a degree. He does color commentary for LA’s WNBA team. He campaigned for Obama. He undertook a major career risk to move his ill daughter to a city that could treat her. He’s President of the Players Association and is, by all accounts, one of the nicest guys in the league.

Essentially, Derek Fisher represents what professional athletes can be like – all the talent, without the ego, arrest record, illegitimate children and salary disputes that have become commonplace. With those credentials, he certainly deserves the Man of the Month title, right?

A word about Paula

This year, I’m in love with Paula Abdul. Maybe it’s just compared to Kara, who has quickly become the worst thing ever added to ‘American Idol’ (worse than Puerto Rico auditions, parent interviews and Kevin Covais combined), but Paula has been strangely coherent this season on ‘American Idol’, offering actual constructive feedback more often than rambling poetry. Bonus points for the best – if slightly awkward in its over-preparedness – comeback I expect to ever see to a particularly sassy/interruptive Simon Cowell: Pulling out a coloring book and crayons and telling him to color so she could pay attention.

But the real reason I love her is that I feel like she’s actually interested and invested in these contestants – she doesn’t relish breaking them down, and she’s consistently the only one to make an effort to go on stage and wish the departing contestant well.

Now, one more word about Kara. All she cares about is easily definable artists - that ubiquitous “package artist” label. According to her – and increasingly Randy, who, as Jessica points out, is quickly wearing out his welcome – Lil should only sing Mary J. Blige, Megan should have only sung songs by raspy voiced Brits, Matt Giraud should stick with R&B and avoid rock, while Anoop should not try R&B because that’s not “who he is.” This is why she isn't big on Adam Lambert. Since he’s from theater, he can take on the character of any song and nail it, so Kara can’t figure out what box to put him in, and that makes her uncomfortable. Notice how she always tiptoes around her critique of him – she calls him "weird" and "interesting" and "unique," but she always stops short of the praise the other judges (rightfully) bestow on his Could-Sing-the-Phone-Book talent. I'm not sure I can handle two more months of her.

April 1, 2009

Top 9: I don't know what it is but it seems she's got me twisted...

We love guest commentary (these days, it might seem more prevalent than home turf commentary!):

I’m referring, of course to Kara DioGuardi. Some factoids ripped from her Wiki:
  • She is of Albanian and Italian descent.
  • SHE IS A COUSIN OF REGIS PHILBIN!!!?!?!
  • She has worked with Celine Dion, David Archuleta, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Leona Lewis, Ashley Tisdale, P!nk, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears and Paula Abdul.
Some factoids ripped from my brain about Kara:
  • She is the perfect mix of uselessness and irritation.
  • She is like the lovechild of Randy and Paula: extremely mild and unwilling to offend, yet with none of joys of Paula’s poetry.
  • She may have the background to be qualified as a judge, but she sure as hell isn’t proving to be interesting enough as one.
Moving on to a new rant: Randy. Dude, you know, you’re kind-of just alright for me anymore. I mean, I know you make some interesting style choices and are representing a lot of people’s opinions (in never giving a meaningful one on anything), but I am just not feeling you so much. WHAT HAPPENED?! You used to get excited! You used to scream and whoop and yell words like, “Hot!”, “Dawg!”, and “Hotdog!”. I miss your personality. Did Kara steal it from you and mix in the part of Paula’s that was sucked out to make her cheekbones more exaggerated?

Okay, enough. For now. Paula and Simon are annoying the heck out of me too, but that would be at least five more paragraphs and it’s time to move on to last night’s business: Songs that are popular downloads on iTunes. My question: How popular do they need to be? I was looking for a little more clarity there, as I’m sure many of you were. I did like the visit of the contestants to Ryan’s radio show—I give him a listen every now and then, and definitely appreciate him as a disc jockey (He’s might be losing his flair as the host, but again, I won’t be sidetracked.). Let me just insert that I love Top 40 music, not because pop changes my life in any way, but because I like to stay connected to what’s popular and Casey Kasem’s voice always made me feel like I was dipping a spoon into a fresh bowl of chocolate mousse. Plus, we all have to support someone who supported 'Saved By the Bell', right?

Anoop started the show with a shouty and echoey “Caught Up” by Usher. I heart Usher and I don’t know, guys. Does it bother anyone else how Anoop looks so angry when he sings? During judging, the word “vocals” was used 7 times and during Anoop’s rebuttal he said “opinion” about 5 or 6 times. That’s all I got. After the break, Megan over-Winehoused “Turn Your Lights Down Low” but ended it beautifully—I just could cling to the last notes forever. It seemed like the women were actually giving her constructive criticism, but the men just criticized. We’ll see where Megan Joy (OMG I can’t even deal with THAT) falls—I’m betting on bottom three. Danny decided he “wanted to tone it down this week” so he sang “What Hurts the Most” (a song I can’t stand) by Rascal Flatts (men that look like fools). It was good, but I don’t really care? The judges went insane with praise and Danny shared that “when you got a heart” you must share it. Allison, dressed as Barbie of Barbie and the Rockers, did “her” version of 'Don’t Speak', and it was individualistic. Don’t take that as a compliment from me. The judges did all they could not to praise her because she is turning into a front runner and I think they want to knock her down a peg, so they only focused on her outfit and not the performance. Scott came out next and elicited a mental Ay! Ay! AY! from me (my favorite phrase from my trip to Puerto Rico) with his performance of 'Just the Way You Are' by B.J. [Editor's Note: Billy Joel is the absolute best. As Robin stated at my house last night, “It was definitely good, but the mullet is really distracting.” I agree wholeheartedly—they trimmed the sides but not the back? The text from a letter I overnighted to the studio today:
Dear American Idol Stylists, It is a cruel joke to give an Indian teen a Mohawk. It is a travesty to give a 21 year old mom pink hair. But it is to hell that you are bound when you give a blind man a mullet. Love, Jessica



Matt stood in the weirdest arrangement yet on Idol (and I am counting Kat McPhee’s barefoot sitting with congo drummer) at his keyboard surrounded by fans singsing the Fray’s “You Found Me”. I can’t stop disliking this dude. He dresses horribly, sings raspily (not a word) and CREEPS me out. I feel like he’s got a sketchy past—I can’t wait until something comes out about him. The performance: interesting but meh. Lil, clad in the wig of the week, brought her kids this week to see her sing “I Surrender” and she had to when the judges came down kinda hard on her. Her daughter volunteered to punch Randy on her behalf, but upon arrival just ended up in the most adorable hug. This endeared me enough to Randy to let him by with only minor insults this week. Still a warning: Bring back your personality, dawg. Moving on to…

Adam. Play That Funky Music. Crazy tongue. Insane dancing. Lots of falsetto riffing. Comparisons to Steven Tyler and Mick Jagger. Is that enough? It was insane-o yet again, but masterful? He will be just fine and I even think he’s gonna win, but I don’t know if I can actually embrace that! It’s just all soooo dramatic. Not that a musician shouldn’t be somewhat spectacular in the unique way he is. I don’t know. He needs to win me over. Like…..Kris has. Sigh. Even with what I refer to as a “grit-stache” he is so dreeeeeeeamy. Really putting his heart into “Ain’t No Sunshine”, he gave his definite best performance so far, and moved into what I would consider a more serious realm, not just a poppy sweetheart guy like Gavin DeGraw or David Archuleta. I of course fell asleep with happy dreams of him leaving his wife and taking me on the Idol tour with him this summer.

So—who’s in trouble? I think Anoop, Megan, Matt, and Lil are going to be among the lower vote-getters this time around. Good luck in the pool and more tomorrow with results!

Love and fake hair and LIVE! With Regis!,
Jessica

Back in action.

My loyal readers (Hello out there!) have certainly (hopefully) noticed a lack of blog posts over the last few days. Don’t fret, there is an explanation. That explanation is: Vacation. I’ve been in Puerto Rico for the last 4 days, joyfully internet free. I apologize that this has meant a lack of procrastination reading for you, but don’t worry, I’ll be back in the swing of things soon. Stay tuned for April’s Man of the Month, full vacation & American Idol recaps, as well as a mid-year report on the 19-step program I kicked off on my last birthday.