Friday, October 30, 2009

John & Edward are Ruining Reality Singing Competitons (And I Love Them)

During the seven long months of the year where American Idol isn't consuming my every waking thought, I go through withdrawal. Although exhausting at the time, I feel at my most alive ranting and raving like a lunatic about this dumb singing competition. I may not be solving world peace, but damn it feels good. So, thank goodness Kameron at Kameron Aloud has turned me on to this season's X-Factor. It's just the fix I need to get me through to January and the new season of Idol. And I wasted no time judging the X-Factor's finalists (Apparently I was so harsh, Kameron basically told me to shut the fuck up. Ouch. I suppose I had a lot of pent up bitchiness left over from May). I must say, I'm a tad disappointed in this season's talent. For a show that's brought us both Leona Lewis and Same Difference, I have yet to see that level of potential from more than a couple of contestants. I loved Lucie's audition, but she was kinda blah during the competition until her flawless rendition of 'My Funny Valentine' last week. The Lloydster has had a rough road thusfar, most likely due to the fact that Cheryl has yet to really understand who he is as an artist and pick a song to show that, but his much maligned 'Bleeding Love' was actually quite well done up until that awful chorus (and this is coming from a mega-fan of Leona's original). As for the others, I can't say I've been impressed. Stacie is completely overrated (her ballyhooed version of 'The Scientist' was flat, dull and went absolutely nowhere), Danyl thinks he's already won the damn thing despite being completely dull (bitch please, you are not Jennifer Hudson and you're rendition of "And I Am Telling You" will never match hers, no matter what Simon says) and I want to smack Olly in his smug face every time he appears on screen. But amid these mediocre talents, there is one act that rises above the rest and makes each week an absolute joy to watch. You know them and probably hate them: John and Edward.

Just so you know, I do realize that John and Edward can't sing. Yes, their vocals are always the weakest aspect of their performance. I get it. But they are so damn funny and they definitely know how to put on a good show. Can you honestly watch their performance of "Oops! I Did It Again" and not laugh your ass off? If you didn't at least chuckle during their recreation of the spoken word section, you honestly have no soul.

As much as I like them, however, I honestly believe they deserve every piece of criticism thrown at them from the die hard X-Factor fans. I know how it feels to have a crappy singer invade the Top 12 and then dominate the screen time with theatrics instead of legitimate music talent. Remember people, we all lived through Sanjaya. Some people loved his little joke act and saw the humor in it, but I am so obsessed with Idol that I just couldn't take it. Every damn week I cursed my screen when America voted off a promising talent in favor of this talentless moron. So, Brits, I know exactly what you're going through and I totally sympathize. But I'm not a legitimate X-Factor fanatic yet so I'm not offended by John and Edward's lack of musical talent. At this point, I'm just hoping they stick around for a few more camptastic performances until we can find a true frontrunner this year.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Passion of Beyoncé

In case you haven't noticed, Beyoncé has had a hell of a 2009. With the 'Single Ladies' music video, her tour de camp performance in Obsessed, the insanity that is the 'Sweet Dreams' music video and then her "kindness" at the VMA's this year by allowing Taylor Swift to finish her acceptance speech when she won Video of the Year, there's on a short list of people who can come close to matching her accomplishments this year. What I love about Beyoncé though is that she can accomplish all of these amazing things and yet she's still the batshit crazy diva we all know and love. For instance, remember earlier this year when she said that she is motivated to stay in shape by placing a picture of an Oscar in front of her treadmill? Yup, that's my B! Ready to do whatever it takes to prove she's a real actress and obtain that elusive Oscar.

In yet another of random conversations, J.D. and I were talking about Beyoncé and we were trying to come up with the perfect film to win her the Oscar. Finally, we settled on a biopic about herself in which she does everything herself: writing, directing, cinematography, art direction, composing the original score, writing seven new original songs and, of course, starring not only as herself but also as every other character in the movie. Yes, you heard me: she's going to play her father, Jay-Z, Kelly & Michelle and Jennifer Hudson. When we tried to come up with a name, nothing was working until J.D. suggested The Passion of Beyoncé in reference to The Passion of the Christ, since B thinks she's Jesus and that the whole world is against her. Needless to say, it was a brilliant and appropriate choice.

One day a little while later, I was bored so I decided to make some fake posters for this imaginary movie just for shits and giggles. I've had them for awhile, but I wasn't sure if I should post them because I thought other people might not find them as funny as I do. A couple days ago I couldn't think of anything to post about and I thought, "Hey, now might be a good time to whip these out" and here we go. I hope you enjoy them and will join me in urging Beyoncé to start working on this movie so she can get her Oscar.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Albums of the 2000's: Britney Spears Blackout

The end of the year is approaching quickly and, as 2009 marks the end of another decade, "Best of the Decade" lists are going to be popping up before you know it. I'm already planning ones devoted to films and singles that should be popping up eventually, but I had a tough time deciding what to do about albums. I felt confident I could pick out the best from the last couple of years, but the first half? Er, not so sure. Although you could debate the fact that I have "good taste" in music now, in the first half of the 2000's it was really off. I spent most of the time listening to generic Top 40 music from artists who either made better music later on (Britney) or who I'm embarrassed to admit I liked at the time (yes, I went through my phase where I thought Simple Plan was the greatest band on the earth). Then there were my high school years where I spent the entire time listening to roughly the same six or eight albums over and over again--half of which weren't even from this decade. How on earth can I make a definitive list from that limited of perspective? I could start catching up but that honestly would take too long. I need multiple listens to even decide if I like an album and I just don't have the time to do that over and over again. What am I supposed to do?

Then I realized that Nick's Flick Picks came up with this really ingenious idea for his Films of the 00's series: instead of picking out the best of the bunch, discuss works that really stick with you, good or bad, or ones that deserve a reappraisal. Needless to say, I loved this novel solution and thought it would work perfectly with my conundrum (Just to be clear, however, I'm not stealing from him exactly, just imitating--which is the sincerest form of flattery!). So, in the coming months or so, expect write-ups on my fave albums of the decade, ones that didn't work so well and ones I haven't listened to in ages (Jessica Simpson will be making an appearance here at one point). So, without further ado, let's get this started.

To kick things off, I thought I'd go straight for my favorite album of the decade: Britney Spears's electrodirtypop masterpiece Blackout. Sure, it's probably not as "accomplished" or "deep" as whatever crap Bob Dylan or U2 hocked this decade, but I can't think of another album released in the 2000's that I've analyzed in my head as many times as Blackout. Every time I press the play button on this CD, there's something about (1) the combo of Britney's trademark husky sex growl, (2) the layer upon layer of beats and sound effects used to highlight Britney's voice in its best possible way and (3) the intensely personal lyrics that serve not only as a mirror to the life and times of the former Mrs. Federline but also to our whole pop culture obsessed society circa 2007 that draws me in, without fail, for the entire 45 minute runtime.

To fully understand and appreciate Blackout, I think it's compulsory to remember the circumstances it was released under. In the fall of 2006, Britney divorced Kevin Federline and looked to be taking positive steps toward fixing her sinking career. But then she started hanging with Paris Hilton, going to clubs every night of the week and forgetting to put on underwear, which lead to three pussy photos in one week. This wasn't even the worst of it. There was also the umbrella incident, her adoption of a mutated British accent for a period of time and, oh yeah, the time she completely shaved her head. Britney was a mess and the media was all over it. She couldn't get a Starbucks frappaccino without hounds of paparazzi swarming her like a pack of locusts. As a nation, we were to blame for it. We loved living through her very public meltdown and hoped against hope that the latest story to emerge about her would top the last. Her new album was announced during the summer with her first single, 'Gimme More,' debuting during a comeback performance at the VMA's. As I'm sure you remember, that performance was a bit of a...mess and it looked like Britney's comeback had derailed before it even started. But then the album came out and literally stunned everyone who listened to it. Critics who were oh-so-ready to give it a quick and dismissive pan had to retract and admit that it was actually a very well-made album and easily the best of Britney's career.

From the album's opening words--the now iconic, "It's Britney, bitch"--it was immediately clear who was in control of this album and she'll be damned if she's going to let you forget it. The media circus surrounding her every move may still be in progress, but she's going to make you forget about it for the next 40 minutes and concentrate on reminding us while we fell in love with her in the first place. 'Gimme More,' the album's opener, proved just that; armed with nothing more than a two word chorus and a great beat, Britney crafted a club anthem that got people moving.

But Blackout has more on its mind than getting its listeners to dance--it's also here to give you a little insight behind the enigma of Ms. Spears, the woman you don't know or see behind all those tabloid covers. And it does all this disguised as an electropop dance album. The most damning song on the entire album is 'Piece of Me,' a dance track redhot on its intent to question and indict the entire crazed media industry for its treatment of not only her but other young female celebrities in the same situation. The entire song is full of perfect bon mots like "I'm Mrs. Most Likely to Get on TV for Strippin' On the Streets/When getting groceries, no, for real are you kiddin' me?/No wonder there's panic in the industry" that just sting with both their cleverness and clarity. Another almost painfully personal song is Blackout's closer, 'Why Should I Be Sad.' The song chronicles her relationship with Federline in insanely precise detail ("I thought what could separate us/But it just seemed that Vegas/Only brought the pimp out of you" she coos, almost offhandedly, about Federline) but it also serves to sever her ties from him completely. She doesn't feel sad about the end of the relationship and the "stupid freaking things" that he does, so why should she be forced to feel that way?

From this description, if it sounds like Blackout is full of nothing but excursions through Britney's personal life, that's a complete slap in the face to many of the stunning dance tracks on the album. My favorite among them, 'Break the Ice,' starts off with a spoken intro that apologizes to us for her absence ("It's been awhile/I know I shouldn't have kept you waiting/But I'm here now") and immediately lapses into the most killer hook on the entire album. If there's one song in the world that will get me to dance like an idiot in a club and not have anyone care, 'Break the Ice' might just be it. On 'Toy Soldier,' she wishes for a "really badass soldier" to take care of her instead of the measly toys parading as real men who have surrounded her for the past few years. 'Hot as Ice' informs us that, yes, she may be a walking oxymoron and may not always make sense, but you'll have more fun with her than anyone who may be completely rational.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, Blackout may not be the most "sophisticated" album of this or any decade nor will it solve the world's problems but it captures with exact precision Britney during her meltdown phase in all of her crazy, over-the-top glory. Circus, Britney's Blackout follow-up and first "post-meltdown" album, may be more polished overall, but it lacks the fun and spontinaiety of even Blackout's weakest tracks. Without a doubt, Blackout is Britney's finest moment as a music artist and a career height that she will have to try her damnedest in the years to come to surpass.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rants on Where the Wild Things Are

Before we get started, let's get one thing straight: I'm probably one of the few people around who has no childhood connection to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. I'm pretty sure I read it once when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, but I couldn't tell you a damn thing that happened in it. So, unlike a lot of other people who practically came in their pants with the first glimpse of a single promotional still, I wasn't as emotionally invested in Spike Jonze's adaptation. And that's probably a good thing because I would have been even more disappointed in this film than I already am. For a film with so much advance buzz and built-in anticipation, it's disheartening to see what a misguided and head-scratchingly odd film Where the Wild Things Are turned out to be.

The first major problem with Where the Wild Things Are is its presentation of Max as a misunderstood, ignored, almost tragic, figure when in fact he is actually nothing more than a spoiled brat. Constantly, Jonze uses the narrative to show us just how rough Max has it--his sister ignores him, his mother scolds him for trashing his sister's room, no one pays attention to him--but he truly doesn't have it that bad. His mother (the fabulously luminous Catherine Keener) pours lavish amounts of attention and affection on him after his sister rejects him in favor of her friends and even takes a break from her deadline-approaching work to listen to his dumb (most likely metaphoric) story about a shunned vampire. But, as soon as she (appropriately) yells at Max for trashing his sister's room or interrupting her date with an ADHD-induced temper tantrum, Jonze tries to make us feel sorry for this poor misfit. Not today, Spike. I'm sorry, but I just can't feel anything but bitterness and hatred for such a holy terror as Max. If I had bitten my mother, she would have slapped me so hard I would still be feeling it now. All that happens to Max is his mother asks him, "What did you do that for?" before he runs out the front door like he had just been beaten Joan Crawford-style. The little bastard got off easy so I can't buy Jonze's repeated attempts to make us pity Max like he's one of the slum kids in Slumdog Millionaire.

Once Max gets to the island where the wild things truly are, a whole new set of problems arise. Although gorgeously shot by Lance Acord, the script flies completely off the deep end and loses any sense of structure or motivation that was present in the opening. The film truly goes from "Let's go be wild!" to "Let's sleep in a big pile!" to "Let's build a big house!" to "Let's get in a mud fight!" and it makes no bloody sense. But, you argue, it's all takes place in the the imagination of a child and it doesn't have to make sense. Okay, but what exactly makes it appropriate here and horribly, horribly wrong in a film like the Lindsay Lohan bomb I Know Who Killed Me, which, it has been proposed, actually takes place in the head of Lohan's character as she is being massacred and that's why it's so off-the-rails crazy? Just because Spike Jonze, our Lord and Saviour, is directing it? Not buying it. And then there's that awful, completely spaced-out dialogue that you definitely need to be high to understand or even enjoy. The only monster who is able to make any sense out of the nonsensical dialogue (and even manages to have fun in the process) is Catherine O'Hara and her bitchy and eternally distrusting Judith.

If it sounds like I completely hated Where the Wild Things Are, I didn't. I'm just sick of people praising this film for everything it's not. If you're looking for a real film about misunderstood youth, look no further than Truffaut's The 400 Blows. That film could eat Where the Wild Things Are and its $100 million budget for breakfast. C

Sunday, October 18, 2009

22 Reasons to Wish Zac Efron a Happy 22nd Birthday


'Without Love' from Hairspray.
I almost peed my pants.
I fell in love.

He has my shoes.

He knows the importance of personal hygiene, unlike another certain teenage heartthrob out there.


Guest Starring on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
He makes out with La Tisdale.
An unhealthy obsession with a fake celebrity couple begins.

He opened HSM3 sweaty and practically having an orgasm.

He's smart enough to tease us but not give away the goods.


'Bet On It' from HSM2
He had the courage to do this musical number with a straight face.
He sings to his reflection in the water.

There must be a lost version of Hairspray where Corny and Link got it on, right?

Sterling Knight is his son.


'Scream' from HSM3
Teen angst never looked so hot.

He looks like La Roux.


Interview with La Tisdale
He's a sarcastic asshole.
You don't know how attractive that is to me.

He looks good at the beach.

He's total cougar bait and Leslie Mann's best looking on-screen husband


'Ladies' Choice' from Hairspray
He basically sells himself to the highest bidder.
And the gyration. Oh, the gyration!

A roll in the dirt never sounded so good.


HSM4 Skit on SNL
He can take a joke and realizes the HSM trilogy for what they were.

He'd go to jail to tap that.

He gets mentioned on Sonny With a Chance
"Because it's my wall. And I like saying I banned Zac Efron. There will come a day when Zac Efron comes knocking on that door and he's like, 'Hey, can I come in?' And I'll be like 'Oh no. You're banned.'"

And 30 Rock
"He looks like Zac Efron. That's a thing, right?"


'You Are the Music in Me' from HSM2
He's La Tisdale's ideal "duet" partner.

Because he's a sexy bitch and my future husband.


Friday, October 16, 2009

I Don't Think They Can Handle This

With all the news of Leona Lewis getting punched in the face and Taylor Lautner showing off his abs again, this little tidbit passed through the interweb with hardly a mention anywhere. Yes, you read that right: BEYONCÉ AND LADY GAGA ARE GOING TO BE IN A MUSIC VIDEO TOGETHER.

Let me give you a second to digest that.

Ready? Okay. Let's stop and consider just how amazing this video could be. Done correctly, it could be more epic than 'Single Ladies' and 'Paparazzi' put together. Not only are they incomparable musical talents with larger-than-life celebrity personas, but they are two of the few artists around these days who actually understand the purpose of the music video. Instead of wasting numerous videos just dancing in a superbly lit club with their girls, they both take chances by building up their mystique with off-the-wall set pieces, crazy outfits and highly charged choreography. Beyoncé has been embracing this lunacy ever since 'Ring the Alarm' and she has wisely built on it with both the Video of the Year-winning 'Single Ladies' and the reality-bending 'Sweet Dreams' (that gold corset/robot scene creeps me out every damn time). I wasn't a big fan of Lady GaGa's 'Poker Face' clip, but I will admit that her attempt to seduce the gay audience to instantly fall in love with her worked. And 'Paparazzi'...well, I think the video speaks for itself. If these ladies can do this much on their own, imagine what they can do together, joining forces to fight the good fight for well-made music videos.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bad Mommies

On Mother's Day 2007, I wrote this post "honoring" the ten worst mothers in film, TV and even a book. This was a couple months after I started Rants of a Diva and I'm not ashamed to admit that it's not one of the shining moments of my blogging career. I remember at the time having a difficult time trying to come up with ten and that shows in some of the weak choices (why the hell didn't I think of the ultimate bad mommy, Julianne Moore, in any of her numerous roles in this vein?). On top of that, the writing is just horrid, horrid, horrid. If anything, I'd like to forget that this post exists.

But some people out there won't let me. For some reason, this post is constantly the most viewed page on my blog and every three months or so, some anonymous twit makes a stupid comment about the fact that I picked the fabulous Joan Crawford over Catherine Roerva, the psychotic real-life mommy in Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It. Now, listen, by now I hope that anyone who reads this blog regularly knows my general likes and preferences. So, given these two options, which of them am I more likely to pick? Dave Pelzer's books were popular in my junior high and I, of course, read them so I remember all the horrific things she put that poor guy through. I realize that there is just no comparison between locking a child in a non-ventilated bathroom with obnoxious amounts of ammonia and forcing your child to eat a raw steak. If I was Oprah, I'd be shouting, "I get it, peopleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" But, anonymous commenters, if you had taken ten seconds to look around my site and notice it's name (Diva is in the f-ing title), my sexuality (I post about Zac Efron nearly every week) and my obvious love of Faye Dunaway (see this post), you would see that there is absolutely no way Roerva could beat the unstoppable force of nature that is Dunaway's Joan Crawford. It's not a definitive list of worst mothers ever in order of offenses; it's just a silly list ranked in an somewhat arbitrary order by my silly preferences. So, in summary, please stop e-mailing and commenting about this dumbass post. It's stupid and barely worth defending at this point when I've done other posts I'm so much more proud of.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Send It On, On and On

Over the past couple of weeks, I've become obsessed with Disney's attempt to cash in on this whole environmental awareness thing that's become hip in the past year or so: a power ballad called 'Send It On' and performed by all of Disney's largest commodities in a "We Are the World" sort of way. Together, for the first time, we have The Brothers Jonas, Miley, Demi and Selena ready to cash their paychecks save the world. In case you haven't heard it yet, here's the video for you to enjoy (it's a hoot!).

First of all, isn't the song itself hilarious? The lyrics are as inane as you can possibly imagine ("And love isn't love/Until you give it away"? Oy vey) but the real story is in the vocal deliveries. The song is kind of mellow throughout, with Nick & Miley, Joe & Demi and Kevin & Selena (?) taking turns with a verse each, but, by the end, it descends into some kind of vocal "powerhouse" match with Miley trying to out shout Demi's lovely strong voice (it's actually somewhat reminds me of the time Jennifer Hudson and Holliday dueted on "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" and the whole song was just them saying "fuck it" to the melody by shouting runs and making ridiculous faces to prove how emotional they are about it).

Secondly, I can't be the only one would have murdered just to be a fly on the wall of that video shoot. There is enough tween drama between these six (er, five...poor Kevin is left on the sidelines yet again) to fill seven issues of Tiger Beat magazine. Just imagine their inner monologues when this group photo was taken:

Joe: People thinking I'm fucking Demi. Who's the man? I am!

Demi: Bitch please, why are people thinking I would fuck that disgusting scrub? I have the best show on the Disney Channel and the best album of the year; I don't need his talentless ass hanging around me anymore. Oh, and Miley's still totally a bitch.

Nick: I totally nailed two chicks on this set!

Selena: Why does Miley get to sing with Nick? I'm totally prettier than her. And he told me she was lousy in bed. Ugh, I wish people would stop thinking D and I made up with that country bumpkin.

Miley: Yee haw, y'all! I'm just totally happy to be here. I wonder when Demi and Selena will pose with me for pics for my Facebook. They're totally my new BFF's now. I mean, helloooooooooo, we are totally awesome together. Hopefully Nick and I can get some alone time together. I just hope he doesn't call me "Zac" while we're doing it.

Kevin: Hey guys, I'm back here!

I don't know about you, but I totally can't wait for the behind-the-scenes, made-for-Lifetime movie that's sure to come about in five years (probably in a double feature with one about the Grey's cast). Let's hope someone has a secret drug addiction just to make the drama even juicier!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Black Eyed Peas' Reign of Terror is Over!

For half a year, the United States has been living under a shadow of darkness. The Black Eyed Peas, a group formerly known for providing the world with such uncompromisingly and unapologetic masterpieces of pop trash like 'Don't Phunk With My Heart,' 'Hey Mama' and, most notoriously, 'My Humps,' unleashed upon the world 'Boom Boom Pow.' Originally, I thought this tuneless, surprisingly uncatchy and strutcture-lacking mess of random beats and Fergie wailing was never going to be a hit. So imagine my surprise when it hit number one. And then again. And again. And again. And again... 12 weeks in total. I thought America had lost its damn mind. Little did I know they were just getting started.

Then came the next single, 'I Gotta Feeling' and it quickly overturned 'Boom Boom Pow' as the new #1 hit in America. 'I Gotta Feeling' is a better song than 'Boom Boom Pow'--it actually has a chorus and a structure--but that's really not saying much. It's the John McCain to 'Boom Boom Pow's George Bush: a better choice given the two but I'd rather shoot myself in the foot than pick either willingly. One of the things that surprised me about 'Boom Boom Pow's long reign at the top was that no one I talked to even liked the song, let alone thought it was good enough to be that popular for so long. So you can imagine my surprise when 'I Gotta Feeling' was #1 for 14 (FOURTEEN) weeks in a row; by week ten, who the fuck cared enough about this song to buy it off iTunes? When the song prevented both Miley's 'Party in the USA' and a collaboration between Jay-Z, Rihanna AND Kanye West, it seemed like an unstoppable force of nature that we'd never get rid of.

But then an angel named Jay Sean came and changed everything. Kameron at Kameron Aloud first told me about him and his song 'Down' around a month ago. He absolutely loves it and while I didn't find it revolutionary, I think it's quite good for this type of Usher-ripoff song. Of course, there's an incredibly unnecessary rap from Lil' Wayne in the middle, but that's easily forgettable. 'Down' has been hovering in the Top 10 for a few weeks now but, finally this week, the song became this country's first non-Black Eyed Peas #1 in half a year. The darkness hovering over us has finally dissipated and all I see on the horizon are blue skies, white fluffy clouds and rainbows. Jay Sean, you are a gift from heaven.

And not that bad looking, I must add. Have you all seen the beginning of the 'Down' music video? Damn.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

People Who Can Suck It: Gwyneth Paltrow

Who Needs to Suck It: Gwyneth Paltrow, Academy Award-winning actress (you do not know how much it pains me to type that) and all-around stuck-up, pain in the ass.

Why She Needs to Suck It: If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I've been known to randomly bitch about the one and only Mrs. Chris Martin whenever she pops into my head. First of all, I've never been a fan of her acting. She may have been "luminous" and "charming" in Shakespeare in Love but one thing she wasn't was interesting. An Oscar for standing around, pretending to be funny and wearing a mustache in a crappy, unfunny romantic comedy posing as "art"? Give me a break. If this was Twitter, I'd start a #montenegrowasrobbed tag right now. As for her other films I've managed to sit through, Proof was a hot mess (when I think of actresses who are capable of doing an internalized mental breakdown, Gwyneth is not at the top of my list) and I wasn't buying it for a minute that Gwyneth would slum it with a dirty looking Joaquin Phoenix in Two Lovers. The real turning point for me in my Paltrow-hating, however, was this clip from Kathy Griffin's Allegedly stand up special (Part 1, fast-forward to the 5 minute mark, and Part 2). Isn't she just the most awful person ever? What I find most irritating about her is that she thinks she is above us common folk and lords it over us every chance she gets. Nicole Kidman may be aloof, but she doesn't spend all her freetime like Gwynie making ridiculous newsletters about what people of the lower classes need to do to be just a little bit more like her (but you'll never equal her because, dahling, you just don't have enough money). Seriously, everytime I hear about a new GOOP newsletter on Just Jared and the contents of the latest issue I have to suppress an urge to punch my computer screen into next week. Who is she to think that her rich bitch, condescending rules of living are the best way of life for everyone? Am I seriously going to take advice from a woman who named her fucking kids Apple and Moses? And I could live with the fact that she did these as some kind of joke poking fun at herself (I can totally see Victoria Beckham doing something like that while also making fun of her celebrity at the same time), she is totally serious with this newsletter, like she is about every thing in her life. I still find it incredible that the charming and utterly hilarious Blythe Danner birthed this crabby, uptight twat.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tyler Perry's Taraji P. Henson's I Can Do Bad Good AMAZING All By Myself

Imagine this situation: a film by a well-known but not necessarily "respected" director is released and makes a typical but more-than-respectable $25 million over its opening weekend. Within a week, the film is rated low enough by the filmgoing public to appear in IMDB's Bottom 100 along with such illustrious titles as The Hottie and the Nottie and Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. But, when you ask anyone who has seen the film, their response to the movie ranges from "amazing" to "meh." So who exactly is rating this movie so low? Why, people who have never actually seen the movie or anything by this director but are so put-off by something in his work (his success, possibly, or the fact that he caters almost exclusively to the African American community with his work) that they rate everything the man's ever done as "WORST PIECE OF TRASH EVERRRRRRR" without giving it a fair chance.

Who am I talking about? In case you haven't guessed it, his name is Tyler Perry and the work in question is his most recent, Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself. And, contrary to what IMDb will have you believing, this is his best work to date. It's not perfect by any means and he still hasn't completely eliminated his Haggis-esque tendency to reduce some characters to simple good vs. evil stereotypes, but, undeniably, there's something beating inside this film (and his last two, actually) that's simply too alive and exciting to unfairly dismiss and ignore. The musical sequences, in particular, are simply stunning. The legendary Gladys Knight and Mary J. Blige are both on hand to perform stirring R&B numbers and Perry, opting to keep the camera pointed on the performers instead of maniacally cutting every which way, treats these musical numbers with the respect they deserve. He captures these artists doing what they do best and even manages to fit it in with the soulful bluesiness of the film. Nick's Flick Picks does a better job of describing Perry's musical sensibilities in the film, so I'll just leave you with one final thought/plea on my end: Oprah, Our Lord and Saviour, please let your new BFF Tyler Perry tackle the film adaptation of the The Color Purple musical. We already knew he has a great talent for bringing out the best in actresses over 30 (and black actresses at that!) but now we've found out he can do musical numbers as well. Besides, he'll have to work from someone else's story and can't we agree that his screenplays are usually his weakest link?

Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself is a generally good film in its own right, but the one person who needs to be given credit for taking it to a whole new level is Taraji P. Henson. Perhaps best known for her Oscar-nominated "mammy" in last year's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Henson first came to my attention as the loud-mouthed girlfriend to Don Cheadle in the underappreciated biopic Talk to Me and I've loved her ever since. Although I've yet to see her apparently stellar work in Hustle & Flow, nothing (not even her scene-stealing work in Boston Legal or subdued while typically strong wife in The Family That Preys) has come close to topping that initial impression. It's not entirely her fault--if you think great white actresses pushing-40 have a tough time finding worthy scripts, just ask Angela Bassett, Jada Pinkett Smith, Alfre Woodard and Viola Davis about finding a role that's not a supportive wife in an inspirational sports drama or sassy black friend to middle-aged white woman--I just wish Hollywood would take more chances with these women outside of Tyler Perry's filmography.

In case you are unfamiliar, Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself follows April (Henson), a misguided, selfish, alcoholic singer who is forced to look after her dead drug addicted sister's children when her mother, the children's sole source of support and love, winds up missing after going to work one day. The film and April's progression as a character often takes the expected path--let's just say that the ending doesn't exactly need a spoiler warning--but Taraji P. Henson plays every scene like it's all brand new. It is often astonishing watching her doing something countless other actresses before her have done and make it really come alive for us in the audience. Her entrance alone, fro-ed out, sashaying out to the rhythm of Aretha Franklin's 'Rock Steady' and propelling herself into the opening frames of the film like an unstoppable force of nature, speaks volumes about the direction Henson is taking with this character. She's going to be fierce, loud, in your face and if you don't like it, well you can suck it.

There are two back-to-back scenes that happen right before the inevitable moment when April sees the light that perhaps best show why Henson's performance is probably my favorite of the year thusfar. The first is a particularly intense moment when April's bad boyfriend tries to molest the oldest of her sister's children, the self-reliant Jennifer. The hot Latino handyman living with her stops it by punching him before anything happens. April then enters the scene and must quickly decide who to believe: her man lying on the floor telling her that she was coming on to him or her niece, crying and shaking after the traumatic situation that just took place. There's this look on Henson's face, almost a flash of remembrance of something in her past, which fades as she tries to decide who to believe. Eventually she goes with her man and suggests he goes upstairs to take a bath. April follows him up with her niece yelling after her all the way. Then, in what can only be described as the most insane scene this year outside of Obsessed, April decides to confront her man while he's taking his bath. She asks him what really happened and he continues to feed her a bunch of bullshit. Unsatisfied with his answers, she grabs a boombox, plugs it into the wall and holds it over the tub, demanding that he tell her the truth. He still lies, so April lowers it closer and closer to the water like she's in The Pit and the Pendulum or something. Finally, she drops it into the water just as he admits what he did but, unfortunately, he makes it out only slightly hurt. Crazy, huh? I told you! What makes this scene work so well for me is the fact that while the premise is extreme camp, Henson sells it enough that we start to buy it as a logical choice for the character. She's not taking any more bullshit from anyone, especially involving sexual abuse, so it's time to show that she really means business.

The next scene, after she apologizes to Jennifer and admits that she believed her the whole time, we find her drunk off her ass at the bar she sings at. The hot Latino hunk from before has followed her to find out what's going on with her. It's at this point that Henson recites this beautifully gin-soaked monologue about her own past with sexual abuse. She goes on about how men can't be trusted, especially ones that like to be around children. Then, the monologue takes a sharp turn as she starts aiming her dagger of hatred and suspicion toward the hot Latino who, at this point, has been the sole source of support for the children since their grandmother vanished. She questions his motives for spending so much time with them before, loudly, outright accusing him of molesting the children. April has been so damaged and jaded by all of the men in her life she becomes suspicious of anyone gets close to her; eventually they're just going to turn on her, so why bother? Henson does this monologue and scene a world of justice, sharply navigating the turnabout from one subject to another and making it all go together coherently.

April could have been a quick throwaway performance for most actresses since the high drama is alright built right in, but Taraji P. Henson does it better by connecting these scenes of outright craziness into the psyche of a crazed character. Henson is absolutely fearless in this film, giving the type of performance in it I think Bette Davis in all of her out-there, psychotic glory would have done had she been alive to do this film. And, for me, that's the highest praise possible. Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself: B, Taraji P. Henson's Performance: A