Saturday, June 13, 2009
But it's hard for me to think of someone whose comedy today I'd describe as zany. Any thoughts?
Friday, June 12, 2009
- We vowed we would collectively succumb, yes we would collectively succumb
- 'Ere the clock strikes 12, I somnambulate
- Speak without forethought and one might discover that one's prior companions have vanished evermore
- Mon dieu! She is self-sufficient and might elect to be patient; she's quite avant garde
- One could opine that the cardiac muscle is largely fictitious
- Mais apres tout, je sais qu'il n'y a personne, personne qui puisse me sauver (oh wait, we didn't need Gwynnie to make that one pretentious)
(Name that tune, give the proper lyric, and offer your own selection from the collected works of Gwyneth's dear friend's husband, William.)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Alas, if it were only true, but having now sampled the pizza that GQ's Alan Richman deemed the best in America after an exhaustive search of 109 pizzerias and 386 pies (and as Adam first blogged about here), I fear I shall never enjoy another slice again quite like those I had at Great Lake Pizzeria in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood yesterday. This was pizza-making as art, not a pie for those who are looking for 30 minutes fast or free. Richman's description of the place is spot on, and really the pizza is every bit as good as advertised. In fact, it might be better, especially the mortadella and fresh green garlic pie, which was winning over skeptics the night we were there (I forgot to snap a shot of that pizza, so above is the last half of the more standard, but still transcendental fresh mozzarella pie). The whole experience itself is quirky from the painstaking waits to the fact that by the end of your meal you'll have become very close to the people sitting nearly on top of you, but it works because everyone is there for the same reason--to enjoy a slice or two or eight of heaven. If you live in the Chicago area or are just visiting head over on a Wednesday early (they open at 5) and you should be good to go (especially in the summer, since the sidewalk tables nearly double capacity). And order at least two pies per couple, you'll be tempted to finish it all, but the leftovers the next day were better than most pies fresh from the oven.
The summer before last, a mutual friend brought the lovely Katie Lee Joel and her husband William over for dinner. Much to my delight, she brought a fresh batch of these cookies with her. I adore the contrast of the dark chocolate and the cherries – heaven.You get the hatin' you deserve. ("Translation: Do you know William, William Joel? Oh, he is simply a delight. ... when William saw the piano he headed straight for it and played a few of his better-known ditties, 'Upper-Towne Girl,' 'It Remains Rocker And Roll To Myself,' 'Piano Gentleman.' Oh, it was quite an evening.")
As for "The Apology" itself -- the episode has been so lauded over the years that a lot of it doesn't evoke (in me, anyway) the same emotional reaction that it used to. But because it's Sports Night, there had to be one moment that got me misty all over again. And this time it was the mention of Isaac watching Danny on the broadcast wrestling with what he was going to say: "Come on, Daniel."
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
This first studio show is a long, long night of television -- twenty dancers doing ten dances does not go by quickly. And I didn't totally agree with all of the judges' assessments, so I had to go back and rewatch a couple of the dances to see what I'd missed -- man, I'm bushed, and I was just lying there on the couch!
- Randi (unitard girl) and Evan Kazprzak (I love the fact that I can just type "evan kzprzk" into google and it immediately tells me what vowels go where): This was by a country mile my favorite dance of the night. In all the prior coverage, Randi came across as young and chipper and not terribly womanly, while Evan was this little asexual Broadway leprechaun. But their dance was the most emotional, romantic, grown-up, even sexy routine of the night -- I had no idea that kind of connection was possible for either one of them. Just wow.
- Ashley (the one who looks like a brunette version of Jayma Mays from Glee/Ugly Betty/Heroes) and Kupono (formerly one seagull amid a flock thereof): We're talking about Ashley and her four auditions and Kupono and his job scrubbing mildew, and all of a sudden POW, it's Wade choreographing without any fanfare, and then there are these two utterly believable ghostly crash test dummies on the screen and it's the magic of Wade all over again. I thought Kupono in particular was astonishing -- the fluidity of his movements was so perfect and he never broke character for an instant. I don't think we can tell from this dance how Ashley and Kupono will do with any other style, but this was really fun to watch.
- Jeanine (who?) and Phillip (the heavily pimped popping wonder) v. Paris (Miss Washington) and Tony (it's my Nigel in a briefcase guy). I would need to go back and rewatch a lot of Tabitha/Napoleon routines from the last couple of seasons to make sure I'm right on this, but I feel pretty strongly that they are not the right choreographers to have on the show for the harder flavors of hip hop. They do great things with the softer side -- Jeanine and Phillip's "no sleep until we talk this thing out" dance was great, and solidly in the vein of good stuff T&N have done before. But the Paris and Tony thing in the Michael Jackson circa 1982 costumes just didn't work, and I don't think it's entirely the dancers' fault. Yes, yes, Tony's stank face was kind of like telling my six-year-old daughter to be more gangsta, but no one ever really knocks T&N "hard" choreography out of the park. That being said, both Phillip and Tony got enough early air time that I'd be surprised if any of this week's hiphoppers were in the bottom three couples.
- Kayla (the girl with the grandparents) and Max (this year's requisite Russian ballroom guy) vs. Karla (who?) and Jonathan (the guy who started dancing after watching Nick Lazzarini win Season One): I disagreed with the judges on the Karla/Jonathan cha cha immediately. It felt very amateur night to me, and Jonathan's constant grin seemed way more boyish than the sexy manly thing he was shooting for. (Plus, note to costumers, I do not want to see male nipples through clothing. Mesh is bad.) Contrast that with the pimp slot samba: I went back to watch this one a second time after the judges prostrated themselves before Max and Kayla, and while I didn't think it rose to the level of either Evan/Randi or Kupono/Ashley in terms of visceral impact, it had the kind of energy and power that I like watching in a Latin dance.
I Liked It Well Enough. Joining Jeanine/Phillip and Kayla/Max here in the second tier are:
- Caitlin (the blonde sister of the other blonde sister) and Jason (that guy who Shankman keeps telling us is the embodiment of SYTYCD): The judges on this show have a serious thing for Bollywood. I think it's partially that it's relatively new to them personally and that they're so damned proud of themselves for bringing Bollywood to the show, but I would be shocked if a Bollywood routine on SYTYCD ever got anything other than rapturous reviews from Nigel et al. And Jason deserved it -- he was fabulous and effortless and looked like he'd been doing it since his Mommy and Me Go to Bollywood class. Caitlin, on the other hand, while she looked positively breathtaking in the costume and the makeup and the jewelry, looked like she was thinking too much. Flex feet, extend fingers, slant head . . . you could practically hear her working through all the different teeny tiny movements in her head. But the smooch at the end with the little flirty look from Caitlin was pretty good, and they ain't going anywhere anytime soon.
- Melissa (elderly naughty ballerina) and Ade (the guy who fortunately didn't dance with the pick in his hair): I'm cheating here, I admit it. Melissa and Ade are in my second tier because the judges told me they were supposed to be. I thought it was pretty . . . but kind of boring. When the judges got all goopy and rhapsodic, I went back and watched it again to see what was so great about it. I see that it was hard, I see that they performed it technically well, I liked the big lift, but it just left me cold. Compared to, say, Evan and Randi, I didn't feel any emotional punch.
I Won't Remember You Tomorrow. This is where we find Paris/Tony's hippity hoppity hip hop and Karla/Jonathan's big smiley my baby loves to do the cha cha cha. Joining them are:
- Janette (dances salsa with her Cuban family) and Brandon (the guy who makes Mary cry but bores Mia and Li'l C): I feel bad about this. They danced their foxtrot reasonably well. But I always feel like the classical ballroom dances are at a huge disadvantage relative to the showier genres performed on the show because they're not as memorable unless they're danced really, really, really well. This was fine, but pulling foxtrot on your first week with a partner just isn't going to win you any new friends. Fortunately for Janette and Brandon, I think a lot of people will remember and gun for Brandon based on his extensive earlier coverage.
- Asuka (Asian ballroom chick) and Vitolio (Haitian guy): This came as a shock to me. Ordinarily, if there's one pick from the hat that is an almost definite crowdpleaser, it's Broadway. And it started off beautifully, with me sitting there goggling at the loveliness of Vitolio's lines. But then the tempo picked up, and the whole thing turned lead-footed. It's a shame, because I think Asuka and Vitolio are both great dancers. But it just never got rolling.
Bottom three couples should be: Asuka/Vitolio, Paris/Tony, and Karla/Jonathan. But I think Tony has a good-sized fan base willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest Ade and Melissa as a replacement on the "America never understood Will Wingfield" theory.
Just as a reminder for the newer folks, after America picks the bottom three couples, each of the six dancers comprising the bottom three will individually dance for their lives and then the judges huddle in a corner during a commercial break and decide who's going home. Not knowing anything about who some of these dancers are, I can't imagine I'll get a prediction right, but here goes: Jonathan and Karla.
edited 6/11 to add: Lots of folks all around the internet are talking about SYTYCD. Here's a smattering.
- NPR (NPR!) offers eight reasons why you should be watching the show. #7: "Cat Deeley > Ryan Seacrest x 1 million. What do you want? It's math. Can't argue with math."
- Claire Zulkey of the LA Times likes the foxtrot more than I do.
- So does EW's Adam B. Vary.
- Liane Bonin (um, Adam?) over at hitfix thought the Bollywooders were a little overrated but eagerly hopped aboard the hot tamale train for Kayla and Max.
And how did I possibly forget to mention the fabulousness of Mary Murphy's frank explanation of her inability to move her eyebrows?
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
- Even though she's sold as country, her albums owe as much or more to pop and even musical theatre. She writes with a voice that's recognizable and authentic--yes, it's teenage girl heartache and break (though mixed with some fine "screw you" songs)--but it's universal. Seriously, if she can get into writing for characters, there'd be a fascinating musical for her to write, since she plays with genres so well.
- Country is one of the rare genres where it's rare to have singers write or cowrite their own material. Swift has cowritten every album track, and wrote on her own some of the best stuff, and at least live, plays guitar.
- As Kim observed about Cat Deeley, even though Swift is a six foot tall blonde, she's very much in touch with her inner dorky geek.
- Unlike so many artists, she knows the limitations of her voice. There aren't tons of glory notes in her songs, but still a lot of emotion. Unlike Mariah Carey, Swift knows how to emote without melisma.
- In the few interviews I've seen with her, she seems to be just a genuinely decent person, trying to keep a little bit of privacy despite her celebrity, and certainly seems to love performing--witness her trying "Pour Some Sugar On Me." While she's guarded, she doesn't come off as manufactured or artificial (I'm looking at you, Miley).
Early in his run on Saturday Night Live Farley played an aspiring Chippendale’s dancer opposite Patrick Swayze in a starmaking sketch. For Chris Rock and Bob Odenkirk the sketch was straight-up fat person minstrelry, an insult to Farley’s dignity disguised as a showcase for his skills. Odenkirk and Rock feel Farley should have turned the sketch down. But when you’re young and desperate to make an impression on a show you grew up worshipping projecting a fat-positive image is probably not high atop your list of priorities.Intrigued, I went to Amazon's "inside the book," and here's their [edited to be SFW&OHSAR] quotes, about which you may have something to say:
Odenkirk: "I didn't like the fact that the first thing he became known for was that Chippendales thing, which I hated. F---ing lame, weak bulls---. I can't believe anyone liked it enough to put it on the show. F--- that sketch. He never should have done it."
Rock: "'Chippendales' was a weird sketch. I always hated it. The joke of it is basically, 'We can't hire you because you're fat.' I mean, he's a fat guy, and you're going to ask him to dance with no shirt on. Okay. That's enough. You're gonna get that laugh. But when he stops dancing you have to turn it in his favor. There's no turn there. There's no comic twist to it. It's just f---ing mean. A more mentally together Chris Farley wouldn't have done it, but Chris wanted so much to be liked. I wanted to be liked, but I had no problem saying something was racist and I wasn't doing it. Imagine if they'd had me in that sketch and then said at the end, 'Oh, we can't hire you. You're a n-----.' Would I have done a sketch like that? If I had, ten years later I'd want to shoot myself."
I always used to love that sketch, but now I feel complicit in a crime.
But now we're in the studio with choreographers (including Wade Robson!) and an official panel of judges (including Cosmopolitan Family Fave and successful Season Five auditioner Adam Shankman!), and so this week is a whole 'nother ball game. We will of course be here to talk about the tamale express, the perils of the quickstep, and our views on hard versus soft hip hop.
We are fortunate this year to have an in-house dance expert who will occasionally be chiming in to offer her thoughts on SYTYCD. Long-time lurker and occasional commenter Janet is the director of the ballet school affiliated with a highly-regarded dance company, and has volunteered to share her expertise with us. In this first installment, Janet shares what it is that enables some dancers to progress to higher levels while others of us (hi!) never make it past that first level of sparkly costumes and basic steps. She then goes on to offer her thoughts as to what exactly those darned Vegas judges were looking for. Enjoy!
Over the course of a dancer's life, there is a natural process of attrition that diminishes the numbers of dancers from the many who begin training as a young child to the very few who become professional dancers. This happens in all art forms and sports.
When you first begin dance lessons, you attend class, do what the teacher says and, except in rare cases, you can pretty much count on being promoted to the next level each year along with your classmates. And once you've been cast in your first production, you can pretty much count on having a role each subsequent year. The requirements for those early levels and roles have mostly to do with age, height, and natural or learned coordination.
At different points along the way, the requirements for a level or role will filter out those who are not yet or never will be qualified. The higher up you progress, the more stringent these requirements become. And on the dancer's side of things, some will decide they aren't willing to commit the required time and energy, or that the few rewards aren't worth the many disappointments. Others may find another activity that interests them more. This pyramid-shaped selection process even continues into professional dancers' lives.
The various attributes that a dancer must have, and that are evaluated at each point along the way, are:
- Physical: size, height, proportions, bone structure, muscle development, strength, flexibility. With the exception of strength and flexibility, most of this is genetic and out of your control.
- Technical: natural/learned coordination, understanding of and correct execution of the style's vocabulary, posture, and movement requirements. How quickly you learn and master new choreography and varied styles is also important (particularly for SYTYCD). For each level and role along the way, there are increasing minimum technical requirements.
- Work Ethic: how hard you work in and out of class and rehearsal, striving for excellence. If hard work and desire were all that was necessary to become a dancer, or a musician, or an artist, the world would be full of them. Every child who wanted to be a dancer would grow up to be one -- and would be ready for the same levels, roles, etc. all at exactly the same time. The world doesn't work that way in any area of endeavor, and dance is no exception. This dynamic continues into and throughout a professional career, where even years of commitment, admirable work ethic, and limitless desire do not always result in the roles and performance opportunities that each dancer desires.
- Artistic: ability to express emotions, portray characters, convey subjective qualities; musicality; creativity. Both facial and body/movement expression are important.
- Aesthetic: what you look like doing the steps, how closely you match the ideal lines and shapes of a dancer. Dance is an art form, not a craft or sport; there isn't a quantitative measure for aesthetics. What is deemed good, bad, desirable, etc, are subjective ideals, based on opinion, rather than a list of concrete facts. It's not just how high one jumps, or how many pirouettes, but how one looks doing them. The classical ballet (or jazz, contemporary, ballroom, hip-hop) aesthetic is difficult to define in words and it's impossible to achieve by following a simple list of instructions. In some casting, and certainly at the highest levels, aesthetics trump every other factor.
And now some comments specific to SYTYCD. By the time the dancers got to Vegas, they had already been weeded out by minimum Physical, Technical, and Artistic standards. The different rounds in Vegas showed the judges:
- Versatility of style
- Ability to learn quickly (which in the world of dance is the ability to look at new movement and replicate it without needing to have it broken down in parts or taught) and ability to remember new choreography (which is the speed in which one develops muscle memory -- to move without the brain's detailed direction): Although some dancers are cut in Vegas for not learning the choreography accurately or quickly enough, that's when some are given a chance to dance for their lives -- because what the dancer has artistically and aesthetically can outweigh how quickly he/she learns. In the weekly shows, there's a lot of choreography to learn and rehearse, but they have more time than the hour or so they get for each routine in Vegas.
- Work ethic: something we didn't see much on camera, but I'm sure is being evaluated.
- Cooperation/Attitude: how one works with choreographers, and how one works with peers in the group challenge.
- And increasingly in each round, artistic and aesthetic factors affect their decisions.
Many thanks to Janet, and see you all tomorrow night!
To commemorate, I asked each of my co-bloggers to suggest a post or two which they found noteworthy in some way.
Alex noted this post which led to this follow-up. "Basically," he writes, "Because of this blog I started watching Amazing Race, which led to me randomly Googling the contestants in Season 5, which led to me discovering eventual winner Chip McCallister's unpublicized past as an actor, which led to me landing a clip in small, but at least to me significant clip in Entertainment Weekly, one of my longtime favorite publications."
Bob highlights this 2007 post on "music, baseball and family," with an honorable mention for his first Keltner List piece, which predates his formal addition to the roster here.
We nominated Isaac's by acclaim -- antitrust theory as explained by an episode of Friends, and his Lost previews known as Craphole Island Inventory (season two), We Must Never Speak Of This Again (season 3) and The Oceanic Six Speak (season five).
Kim is glad to have learned how to cook fiddlehead ferns. She is also glad that celebrities continue to give their children stupid names.
Kingsley checked in from the Ministry to force everyone to say Doodle von Taintstain one more time.
Matt enjoyed the math of "Seasons of Love" and your suggestions on titles for academic pieces on pop culture.
Phil suggested a bunch, and I do love the thing with the squid, the 4-1-06 piece on corporate adoption, his Pinter eulogy and SLAYER!.
The Pathetic Earthling says: The posts of which I have been most proud were those of last summer's Summer Cocktail Series, since we got to tap the rich vein of our commentariat for something fun and pointless -- the essential reason I love this blog. It's fun and pointless. You can revisit the cocktail series here (Dark and Stormy), here (the Combo Mah!), here (Maggie's Dad's Margaritas), here (Beer, served just so), here (Gins and Tonic), here (I Do Not Drink Beer), here (Pimm's Cup), and here (Improper Mint Julip). Cheers, all. And thanks.
And I was only going to cite 2003's Shaq v Nietzsche, but right above it is also my defense of Paul Verhoeven, and below is, well, you'll enjoy the picture at least. My Before The Law makes little sense now that the links are dead, but all our American Film Institute list-critiquing remains fresh. (I also need to note Shonda's crush on Samir Patel.) And I still believe in the audacity of Phillies hope.
Thanks for sticking around so far. We'll try to make the next 10,000 better.
A taste of his genius. Start quoting him now.
What are your favorite Cole Porter songs?
Monday, June 8, 2009
- #7--Next To Normal
- #19--Rock Of Ages
- #51--West Side Story
- #88--Billy Elliot: London Cast
ETA: The axe has also fallen for Guys and Dolls. I've never seen a production of the show, and will try and go this weekend.
- Those who apparently didn't submit and don't appear on the ballot (Jason Segel, Terry O'Quinn)
- The unusual or surprising categorization (Castle is running as a drama, Rob Lowe is running as a leading actor, Judy Reyes is running as a leading actress)
- The simply ludicrous (Christopher Gorham for Harper's Island!, Miley Cyrus for Hannah Montana, Leighton Meester lead actress, Fran Kranz for Dollhouse, Tristan Wilds for 90210)
- The surprising submissions (the smaller part casts of The Office and Chuck submitted in supporting comedy, as did the entire SNL cast, Regis Philbin as himself on HIMYM, Timberlake as a guest actor for SNL hosting, Jimmy Smits is merely a "guest actor" for Dexter, Tina Fey as guest actress for the Sarah Palin impressions on SNL)
- Is Sarah Palin or Michael Palin a more notable "Palin" for purposes of the "Palin" disambiguation page?
- A fight over whether a WWE match is a "Fatal Four Way" or a "Fatal Four-Way"
- Huge UK/American spelling fights, including battles over color/colour, flavored/flavoured, yoghurt/yogurt, and sulfur/sulphur.
- Fights over the heights of various pro wrestlers.
- Whether "Deelishis" from Flavor of Love should be referred to by her birth name or stage name.
- Whether hummus is properly classified as "Israeli cuisine."
- The nationalities of personages fictional (Niko Bellic, The Spy from Team Fortress 2), historical (Copernicus, Tesla), and contemporary (Jennifer Aniston, Werner Herzog).
"Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando," reports the article, represents "the first time in the history of the U.S.O. that a full-length nonnews show has been filmed, edited and broadcast from a combat zone." Both Mr. Colbert (hard "t") and Mr. Col-bare would want me to remind you to support the troops by supporting their children.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Dude. That's quite a roster for an opening number, and we haven't even seen NPH yet!
p.s. Liza too?
p.p.s. I also liked Brian D'Arcy James showing up during "Let the Sunshine In."
edited at 9:10 pm to add: Pretty sure that "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" is coming up. If you're not watching, sit down and turn on the TV.